Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Suzi Q Cake

This cake has been a favorite around our house for many years.

My middle son would request it each year for his birthday cake and it is always a hit when I take it to potlucks and get togethers.

The photo above is when I made it for Big Al for Valentine's Day, so I had made it in my heart shaped pans, but any way you choose to serve it will be the right way as it is delicious ! It is also a semi homemade cake as it starts with a cake mix.


Your favorite brand chocolate, fudge or devil's food cake mix, baked according to package directions. (Either bake it in 2 pans, or bake in one pan, then separate into two layers after it cools.)

Mix together:
1 (8 oz.) pkg. softened cream cheese
1 10 oz. Cool Whip
2 cups powdered sugar

Mix till smooth.

*This is one of THE BEST TASTING FILLINGS that can be used in many recipes and we also use it as a delicious fruit dip. You gotta' try it!

Spread filling between layers and also on top of the top layer.

Then around sides only, spread a small can of MILK chocolate frosting (or your favorite homemade recipe).

Serve immediately and refrigerate leftovers. It is great cold too...for breakfast!
(Am I the only crazy person that enjoys cake for breakfast?)

Upper East Side Sloppy Joe's

Okay, you're probably wondering about the name of this sandwich.

Well, I created this recipe and I live on the upper East side of town, and one of the key ingredients in this sandwich is a BarBQ sauce made right here in a Market on the Upper East side of town called EAST MAIN MARKET!

The sweet and tangy Hickory Smoke Flavored BarBQ sauce is extraordinarily good. It will be a new staple when I shop there from now on.

I shop the EAST MAIN MARKET especially for the large selection of delicious freshly cut deli meats, and the owner Trevier Minton, also carries many of the products from THE HILL in St. Louis. (If you ever visit St. Lou and you don't go to THE HILL...well, you've missed out! It is an authentic Italian Village with THE BEST restaurants and little grocers this side of Sicily!

Anyway, this is not an Italian dish, but one I created for my sons when they still lived at home. Big AL and I still enjoy a good sloppy Joe every now and then, and it is a very affordable main dish when you must feed a crowd for an informal gathering.


2 T. ketchup
2 T. brown sugar
1 1/2 lb. ground beef or turkey
1/2 cup chopped onion (I used Vidalia, because that's my onion of choice)
1/4 cup finely chopped green pepper (you can use more but my fellas aren't lovers of green pepper)

Brown beef with onion and green pepper. Drain any grease. Add rest of ingredients and stir till mixed well and simmer about 20 minutes.

I served these with whole wheat hamburger buns, sprinkled with shredded cheddar and dill pickle slices. Corn on the cob and baked beans on the side.


*About the sauce: I paid $2.49 for my 21 oz. bottle at the market. I'm sure Trevior would ship a bottle or two if you would like to try it with you covering the shipping and handling ,of course.

His address is:

East Main Market
1006 East Main St.
West Frankfort, Ill. 62896

Phone # is 618-932-2438.

"Tell him Sherri sent ya'!"

Sunday, May 24, 2009

3- way Tex Mex Filler

This is a simple recipe that can be used to:

1. Fill a burrito or taco (just top with your other favorite ingredients).
2. Use as a dip (Scoop with tortilla chips).
3. Use as a soup base (add beef broth).

You will need:
1/2 lb. ground beef
1 can black beans, drained
1 can Rotel (green chilis and tomatoes)
1 pkg. taco seasoning mix
3/4 cup water
1/4-1/2 cup chopped onions (I used Vidalia because I like the sweetness of this onion to balance the other spicy ingredients)

Brown beef and drain. Add all other ingredients and simmer (stirring occasionally) till most of the liquid has gone and mixture is pretty thick.

Serve in your favorite Tex Mex recipe.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Tips for Tipping

Today is National Waitstaff Day.

Many people just don't treat their waitstaff properly, which happens to be a pet peeve of mine.

I never treat them as my servants, but as my helpers. I'm hungry- they are the people that can help me fix that!

In my mind, they deserve to be treated and tipped well for meeting one of my basic needs.

*Always keep in this in mind....NEVER offend someone who is preparing or handling your food behind close doors....for obvious reasons.

I found a list of tips for tipping from WIKIHOW.com, and thought that it would be appropriate to share it here.


Determine the "tippable" total.

If you used any coupons or discounts, calculate the tip based on how much you would've paid without it.[2] Otherwise, you're punishing the waiter for the restaurant management's efforts to bring you in the door.[3] For example, if you have a 2-for-1 coupon, you may only have had to pay for half of your meal, but the server still did the full amount of work.
If there is a tax on your bill, you should technically calculate the tip based on the pretax amount, since the the service you received has nothing to do with the tax.[4] But since the difference between a tip on the total (including tax) or the pretax amount isn't significant, it's not a recommended squabbling point.[5] If your order costs $30 and the tax is 8%, the total is $32.40. A 15% on your order, before tax, is $4.50. The same tip on the grand total is $4.86. That's only a difference of 36 cents. Even with an order of $1000, the equivalent difference is only $12!
Evaluate your service. The key is to objectively judge the service, and the service alone. If the food isn't good, the menu is sparse, the prices are outrageous, the decor is appalling...all of this affects your dining experience, but is not the waiter's fault. If you're unhappy with it, don't patronize the restaurant again, or write a negative review somewhere.

The service itself should be judged on:

how quickly your food was brought out to you
how the food matched with your order
how often the server checked on you
how quickly your empty dishes were taken away
how quickly it took to get your check and have your payment processed
how friendly the server was

Give the benefit of the doubt. If the service was not quite stellar, it may not be the waiter's fault. Unless your waiter was clearly rude, or neglectful, consider the following:

If the restaurant is busy and understaffed, that's a management issue. A waiter can only do so much.

If your food wasn't brought out quickly or cooked correctly, that could've been a mistake in the kitchen, not on the waiter's part.

If the waiter is forgetful, it might be that they're new. Waiting tables requires a lot of multi-tasking and for many, it's a steep learning curve.

Determine the tip.
The general guideline is 20% for excellent service, 15% for solid service, and 10% for bad service. On average, people tip 18%.

Even if the waiter was undoubtedly terrible, you should still leave at least a 10% tip. In many restaurants, tips are pooled and shared with other employees who might've done their job well. 10% is enough to avoid punishing people who might not be at fault, and to let the establishment know that you're not happy with their service on the whole.

"Punish" bad service with feedback instead of cutting the tip. If you skimp on the tip, you'll most likely just get the waiter and other people frustrated, especially if they're not all at fault. It's no guarantee that the service will improve because they probably don't know what you were unhappy with or who to blame for that. Instead, call or write a letter to the restaurant the next day, and be very clear about what you weren't happy with. Not only will the manager be able to correct the situation, but you might also get a gift certificate out of it!

If you occupy your table for an inordinate amount of time, especially during a busy period, you are preventing your server from seating additional guests. Increase your tip to allow for this, even if you don't require additional service during this time.

If you're eating with small children, remember that the servers will clean up the mess, and that this usually takes quite a bit of time. Try leaving servers a little extra for this big inconvenience. Also, a professional server recognizes that dining with small children can be stressful on the parents and will do his/her best to create an entertaining atmosphere for the kids so Mom and Dad can enjoy their meal in peace. If, through skilled service, you have a more relaxed experience, consider how much cheaper adding a few dollars to the tip is than hiring a babysitter would have been.
Calculate the tip. Now that you know what percentage you want to pay, it's time to actually crunch the numbers.

An easy way to figure a 20% tip is to move the decimal point of the cost to find 10%, and then double it. For example, if the bill is $35.00, 10% would be $3.50, and a 20% tip would be $7.00. For 15%, you would halve the 10% and add it to the original number. For $35.00 again, that would be $3.50 + $1.75* = $5.25.
Another way to figure out the tip is to remember:

10% = $1 for every $10
15% = $1.50 for every $10
20% = $2 for every $10
Pay with cash if you can. If you pay with credit card, the waiter might have to wait a week or two in order to pocket that money, whereas cash can be taken home sooner.[8] If you want to reward good service, it's more motivating to help the waitstaff take home their hard-earned tips sooner rather than later.

Round up. Don't leave pennies or excessive change on the table; waiters hate that.
Another reason to pay with cash is that if you pay with credit card, some restaurants subtract the credit card service fee from the tip.

TipsMany restaurants have curbside and carryout servers. If you order food to go, you are still expected to tip. Servers taking care of to-go orders generally make more per hour than regular servers, but part of their income still comes from tips. Just remember, when you place a to-go order, this "to-go server" is expected to take your order, package it correctly, and, in some cases, bring the food to your car. A small 10-15 percent tip is acceptable and greatly appreciated.
In a buffet restaurant, leave a 10% tip. The waiter is still doing some work, like clearing your plates, bringing water, and taking drink orders.
"Tip jars" are becoming more common at small take-out places, (e.g., coffee, bagel, and ice cream shops). These employees spend very little time with each customer but are usually not paid a reasonable wage by the business. Tipping here is not customary nor should it be expected. However, if extra friendly service is offered, or you receive special consideration for your order, a little something will certainly be appreciated.
Different parts of the world have different tipping etiquette. In most of europe, service is included in the price (and thus the waiters already have a decentish hourly wage), and a 10% tip is very generous. Basically, the above rules still apply, just subtract what you would tip for not-too-good service and tip the rest.

Warnings: The U.S. Government taxes servers, bartenders and baristas based upon an assumption that they made a certain percentage of their sales in tips. If you do not tip a server or a bartender in America at least 8%, you are actually costing your server money.
Keep in mind that in many U.S. states, waiters and waitresses are paid a base wage that is significantly lower than the regular minimum (usually around $2.00/hour) because it's assumed that tips will make up the difference. Thus, unlike some other countries, tipping is expected in the U.S. if you receive service that is at least satisfactory.
Check to see if the tip is already included in the bill. Some restaurants will tack on a service charge for large groups and many restaurants outside the US include the tip as part of the bill. If you are unsure, ask a member of staff whether tips are already included.

~~~~~~~~ So go ahead, make their day!
Tip big!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Mini Popcorn Balls on a stick

Here is the recipe for the Miniature Popcorn Balls on a stick that my cousin made for the " She's About to Pop" baby shower we held recently.

The original recipe for regular popcorn balls came my friend Debbie. (Thanks Deb!)


7 cups popped popcorn
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup light corn syrup
1 tsp. salt
1/4 cup butter
1 tsp. vanilla
(for drizzling)
Pretzel sticks
Milk chocolate chips
White chocolate chips

In saucepan, mix sugar, water, syrup, salt and butter. Cook till 250 degrees on a candy thermometer or until a few drops form a hard ball when dropped into cold water.
Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla , by pouring a thin stream over the corn, stirring constantly to mix.


Take a small amount and form (make them golf ball size) around pretzel stick. Place them on a greased cookie sheet. Drizzle melted milk chocolate chips, melted white chocolate chips, and melted caramel. It doesn't take much, (half a coffee cup is what I used.) I then poured the Chocolate and caramel in a zip lock baggie (place it in a cup to stabilize )cut off the corner, then drizzle. I bet you could also sprinkle chopped nuts on them before the chocolate sets up. Pretty simple.


Monday, May 18, 2009

Party Caramel Corn

Butterscotch Popcorn

Yesterday I shared about the popcorn themed baby shower my cousin and I threw for a relative pregnant with twins.

I shared the cupcake recipe yesterday, the Miniature Popcorn Balls recipe will be posted tomorrow and today I will share the recipes for a variety of caramel corn flavors that were prepared by my cousin Angie.

This popcorn themed party was a blast, and I think would also lend itself nicely to a Circus themed party as a well as a Movie Night theme.

You don't need a theme, party, or even a good reason to enjoy caramel corn though.

So, here are a few of my cousin's recipes you can make and enjoy anytime.

Butterscotch Caramel Corn

10 C. cooked popcorn
1 C. salted peanuts
10oz pkg. butterscotch chips
3/4 C. lt. corn syrup
2 Tbsp. butter

Spray a large roasting pan with cooking spray. Place popcorn and peanuts in pan. combine chips, syrup and butter in saucepan. Over medium heat, cook until mixture boils; stirring constantly. Pour over popcorn and nuts. stir to coat. Bake 250 for 30 minutes, stirring every 5 or 6 minutes. Remove from oven, stir every 2 minutes until slightly cooled. Dump onto wax paper. Cool completely.

Toffee Almond Crunch

1 C. butter
2 C. firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 C. lt. corn syrup
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla extract
5 quarts popped corn
1 1/2 C. slivered almonds
1 1/2 C. heath bar chips

Place popcorn and almonds in a lg. greased roasting pan. in a medium saucepan over medium heat, add butter, sugar, syrup, and salt. bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil without stirring 4 minutes. remove from heat and stir in soda and vanilla. pour over popcorn and nuts, stirring to coat. Bake in a preheated 250 oven, stirring every 15 minutes, for one hour. remove from oven. Pour onto greased cookie sheet or wax paper sprinkle with crushed heath bar chips. Cool completely, break into pieces.

(OOPS! Forgot to add baking soda and extract....still came out great.)

Maple Spice Crunch

1-1/3 C. granulated sugar
1 C. butter
1/4 C. maple syrup
1/4 C. lt. corn syrup
1/4 sp salt
1 tsp maple extract
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
10 C. popped corn
1 1/2 C. chopped pecans

Place popcorn and nuts in a large greased roasting pan. In a medium saucepan on medium heat, bring sugar, butter, maple syrup, corn syrup and salt to a boil; stirring constantly. Boil another 4 minutes. remove from heat, stir in maple extract. pour over popcorn and nuts; stir to coat. Bake 250 degrees for 1-hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Pour onto lightly greased cookie sheet or wax paper. Break into bite-size pieces.


Sunday, May 17, 2009

She's about to pop!

Saturday, my cousin Angie and I hosted a baby shower for a relative, Cheryl, who is pregnant with twins.

We didn't want it to be an ordinary shower, and wanted a clever theme other than NOAH'S ARK for a twins shower.

We found an idea for a theme we liked, and then tweaked it to suit our tastes, and came up with one of the most fun and unique showers either one of us has attended!

Since poor Cheryl still has about a month to go and is already pretty miserable (bless her heart), our theme for the shower was perfect..."SHE'S ABOUT TO POP!"

The entire shower was designed around a POPCORN THEME and was a big hit!

The invitations were designed by Angie on the computer and included a popcorn bucket with a couple of kernels with the babies' names in the kernels, inviting everyone to come and shower these babies because, Mamma's about to POP!

The shower decor consisted of white tablecloths, red plates/cups/napkins with red white and yellow balloon bouquets on each table with a bucket of homemade caramel corn for snacks. Each table had different flavors in their bowls and guests enjoyed swapping out the treats with others from different tables.

A POPCORN BAR was the big hit of the party.

Angie had popped a very large bucket full of plain popcorn. We then set out different "topping" that guests could choose from to make their own popcorn concoctions.

We purchased white paper bags for guests to put their popcorn creations in, or they could use plates.

Different toppings included:
Milk Duds, M & Ms and Reece's Pieces.

White Cheddar
Cinnamon and Sugar
Garlic Parmesan.

We also had butter flavored oil for the more traditional popcorn lovers.

Angie also made these adorable miniature popcorn balls on a stick, that had been drizzled in caramel and chocolate.


I thought they turned out really cute and I even had some help decorating from my little cousin Hannah, so this would be a fun treat to make with kids.

I baked two different flavors; Lemon, and chocolate with some help from my good friend Betty (as in Crocker), but of course, you could make your favorite homemade recipe.Then iced them with homemade butter cream frosting, ( or you could use a store bought variety)topped them with miniature marshmallows (it took two bags!) and sprinkled them with yellow sugar sprinkles. They were really cute baked inside the red/white striped liners.

They did resemble little popcorn containers.
I think these would be cute to serve at any child's party or a movie themed party.

Cheryl was a great sport, and of course received many nice gifts for her upcoming arrivals.

Tomorrow, I will share the recipes to the popcorn mixes.

Today was just a teaser for those!

*This is the icing recipe I used on the cupcakes.


1 lb. confectioners' sugar
1/2 c. butter, softened
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 tbsp. milk

In large bowl, beat together sugar, butter, vanilla and milk until smooth. If necessary add more milk until frosting is spreading consistency. Mix everything well. Spread on cooled cake/cupcakes.

Tune in tomorrow for the delicious caramel corn recipes!

Monday, May 11, 2009

I'll Be Back!

My area has been hit by what the National Weather service is calling an Inland Hurricane. Kind of strange when you live several states from the coast in Southern Illinois!

Due to over 100 mile per winds, we did not have power for a couple of days, and a big mess to clean up, but we were very lucky. Over 65,000 homes were without power all weekend and some still will be waiting many days before theirs is able to be turned on.

There was one fatality, and 50 injured, and massive amounts of destruction, but cleanup is now the largest problem. And the electricity.

My home was not damaged, just left very "messy". (More so than usual!)

My Internet service is coming and going, so I may not be able to post for a day or two. But we are fine.

Thanks to those who emailed me concerned for our safety.

Please offer up a prayer for those injured and for the family of the man who passed away.

If you live anywhere nearby and love to volunteer your time and service, nearby towns of Marion ,Illinois (where my brother lives) and Carbondale (SIU UNIVERSITY town) could certainly use your help. They received the most damage and are more populated. LOTS of trees and debris to be cleaned up. Roof repair/replace, etc.

You can google this storm to read more articles and see photos. Google INLAND HURRICANE, SOUTHERN ILLINOIS.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Mexican Soup

Another delicious soup that would be perfect to help you celebrate Cinco de Mayo or any time you feel like you need to spice up your recipe rotation.

I made this for supper and everyone at the table had a second bowl!

That's my gauge of the success of a recipe.

You will need:

1 lb. ground beef
1 c. chopped onion
2 garlic cloves. minced
2 16 oz. cans light red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15 oz.) can diced tomatoes with mild green chiles (rotel), Undrained
1 (14.5 oz) can petite diced tomatoes and jalapenos, undrained
1 (14 oz.) can beef broth
2 c. yellow and white frozen whole kernel corn
1 (1oz.) envelope taco seasoning mix
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 T. chopped fresh cilantro

Sour cream
chopped fresh cilantro


Brown ground beef, onion and garlic in lg. dutch oven over med-high heat. Stir in beans, and next 8 ingredients., and 4 c. water. Bring to a boil over med. high heat. Cover, reduce to low and simmer 30 minutes. Stir in cilantro just before serving.

*I served this with Thin Mexican Cornbread, with totilla chips and dip for an appetizer.

I'll feature the recipe for Mexican cornbread tomorrow.