Monday, October 23, 2017

Sharing a Book Review and The Weekly Menu

Hello everyone.  I hope you had a wonderful weekend.  Mine was glorious with lots of time spent with family and friends.

Saturday night we went to a 40th birthday celebration for my niece, Denise, at a local pub.  It was a great get together with most of my siblings and many of their children (the cousins) in attendance.  Denise is a sweetheart and deserved this birthday blast hosted by her sister, Stephanie.

Sunday, a group of us from choir got together and went to the Fisher Theatre for a showing of Love Never Dies, the sequel to Phantom of the Opera.  It was an amazing show and a wonderful afternoon and evening spent with friends.

We have a pretty quiet week ahead of us...typical stuff like meetings, watching the Angel Face and choir...nothing out of the ordinary.

Image result for jack of spades by james hankins

A week or so ago I finished listening to an audible book by James Hankins, Jack of Spades.  Frank also enjoys Hankins' work so he listened to it with me.  We would listen whenever we were in the car together.  We were nearly at the end of the story when we were driving home from a dinner out with Amy, Doug, Jen and Lili.  When we got home we poured ourselves another glass of wine and finished listening instead of turning on the television.  You know it's a good story when you don't want to stop listening.

The Jack of Spades is Detective John Spader, who is not at all happy with the nickname.  John is coming off of a bad streak that included divorce, trouble with his son, breaking up with his girlfriend and, worst of all, a bad guy getting let off on a technicality.

Now there is another bad guy out there committing very similar crimes and taunting Spader all the while...or is it the same bad guy come back to wreak more havoc?  Spader means to make sure that whoever it is that is dressing up in a cartoon alien mask and forcing people to make horrendous choices doesn't get away with it and is racing against the clock in the hopes of preventing any more people from being victimized.

Hankins has become one of my favorite authors.  The narrators chosen for his work on audible always do a great job.  Have you read any of Hankins novels?

Image result for before we were yours

I'm now listening to Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate, a novel based on the true life horror story of the Tennesee Children's Home Society founded by Georgia Tann.  I will be sharing my review of this story very soon.

Image result for the christmas cookie club book review

I'm reading The Christmas Cookie Club by Ann Pearlman.  I am enjoying this fun little novel but will probably wait to give you my review during Cookie Week in December when I share a recipe or two from the book as well.

No big blogging events going on for a while.  Phew, after Pumpkin Week and Choctoberfest I am ready for a break.  We are still doing the Instagram #FallFoodiePhotoChallenge but that is quick, easy and fun.

So that's about all I have for today.  I am posting our Weekly Menu and will be sharing recipes and photos so please stop back by and say HI.

Chile Colorado Burritos in the Instant Pot
Spanish Rice
Refried Beans

Dinner out before Love Never Dies

Meatless Monday
Herbed Mascarpone Ravioli in Mushroom Sauce

Toddler Tuesday
Chicken and Noodle Casserole

Smoked Sausage with Mushrooms and Onions
Fettuccine Alfredo
Steamed Broccoli

Leftovers before choir

Fish Friday 
Kung Pao Shrimp
Fried Rice

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Mummy Dogs #HalloweenFoodFun

We are all getting together today to have a little bit of Halloween Food n Fun, thanks to Carlee of Cooking with Carlee, who is hosting this event.

I got Ree Drummond's, Pioneer Woman Cooks a Year of Holidays, for Christmas a few years ago.  I love Ree and her cookbooks are just like her....down to earth, beautiful and uncomplicated.

Cover art

Each recipe contains tons of photos and step by step instructions.  The  cookbook starts with recipes for New Years Day and finishes with recipes for New Years Eve.  Each holiday in between has numerous recipes that are fun, simple and delicious.

Ree helped us out when Frank wanted to make Mango Margaritas.  I shared an adaptation of her Lemon Cupcakes with Lavender Frosting during a brunchweek event. I got my inspiration for Pumpkin and Cheese Ravioli from on of Ree's recipes.  I was very pleased with how this wonderful Orange Chicken turned out.  And I was proud to serve her Eggs in a Hashbrown Nest for brunch shortly after receiving this book.

So, when faced with this challenge, I went right to my bookshelf, pulled down this book and started looking for ideas.

Ree shares 8 different recipes for Halloween in this publication: Petrifying Pumpkin Pancakes, Broccoli-Cheese Soup, Mummy Dogs, Caramel Apples, Popcorn Balls, Platter of Darkness, Cheese Ball of Death and Eyeball Cake Balls.

I  decided to go with the Mummy Dogs because I thought they would be fun to make on Toddler Tuesday when we have our Little Miss Melody.

It started out okay.  She had a lot of fun, helping me to roll out the dough to make the "rag" coverings for the hot dogs.

Then, things got very confusing for her.  I had told her we were making Mummy Dogs.  When we started wrapping the dough around the dogs she said "wait, Mummy's not here yet".  She is such a smart little thing that sometimes I forget she is only 3 years old and, of course, does not have a clue what a Mummy is other than the woman who takes care of her each and every day.

This led to disappointment that she wasn't going to see Mummy until tomorrow and me trying to explain what a Mummy was.  I finally just had to break down and admit that we were just making hot dogs for dinner tonight.  That seemed to satisfy her and into the oven they went.

My Mummys didn't turn out near as perfect as Ree's but I figure she didn't have a toddler, who had no idea what a Mummy was, helping her.  We put on a couple of mustard eyes.  "Why, Grammy?"  "Why are we putting eyes on hot dogs"?  "Just so I can take a picture honey, put on the eyes and then we can eat".

Oh well, if nothing else, I will have a cute story to share with her when she is old enough to know what  a Mummy is and then perhaps we will try this little experiment again.

I will be sharing this review of Ree's Cookbook over at Foodies Read. Stop by and see what the others are reading and creating this month.

Ree's recipe uses 1/2 batch of basic dough and makes 16 Mummy Dogs.  I pulled two frozen dinner rolls and let them thaw to make 5 Mummy Dogs for Melody, Grampy and me.  You can use my dinner roll recipe, your own favorite recipe or you can buy frozen rolls or refrigerated biscuit dough at the grocers.

Mummy Dogs
inspired by The Pioneer Woman Cooks a Year of Holidays

Dough for two dinner rolls or biscuits
5 hot dogs
1 egg
Mustard for eyes

Roll out the dinner roll dough until very thin.  Cut into thin strips with a sharp knife or pizza cutter. Hold a hot dog in one hand while you wrap a strip of dough around it, leaving a space for the eyes. Wrap a second strip around, crisscrossing the first strip to nearly cover the hot dog.  

Beat the egg in a small bowl with a Tablespoon of water. Brush the egg wash over the top of each hot dog.  Bake in a preheated 375* oven for about 20 minutes, until the dough is cooked a golden brown. Add a couple of dots of mustard for the eyes and serve.  Print Recipe

More Halloween Food n Fun

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Celebrating Languedoc with Cassoulet #FrenchWinophiles #MadeinFrance

We are celebrating Langeudoc with The French Winophiles this month.  This party is hosted by Jason and Jill over at L'Occasion.  You can see their Preview Post here.

This party came on the tail of our #Made in France event.  You can read all about how this event came about in my Wine and Cheese post.  I also wrote about it in this post and then in this pairing with venison in which I linked to the posts that my fellow Winophiles had written.

I had received a dozen wines from Whole Foods for the Made in France event.  One of them was this bottle from Languedoc. I knew that we were celebrating this region later in the month so I set it aside to share with you now.

While this wine was given to me as a sponsor gift for the purposes of the Made in Wine event all opinions voiced in this, and all my posts, are strictly mine.

Since I already had the wine from this region chosen I needed only decide on the food pairing.  I did some research and the dish that came up time and time again to represent the Languedoc area of France was Cassoulet.

Cassoulet is a slow cooked stew originating in the south of France.  Many versions contain duck.  Some contain pork skin.  All contain white beans, meat and tomatoes.

I wasn't making this dish during a long leisurely weekend when I had hours to spend creating this wonderfully rich stew.  So I did what every busy person does when faced with this dilemma.  I turned to my trusty slow cooker.

It took me an hour to layer all the flavors but then once it was in the slow cooker I could walk away and not think about it again until dinner time.

I cooked the bacon to a crisp and set it aside.  Then I browned the country ribs in the bacon fat until they had a nice sear.  Removed them from the pan and pulled up all the brown crispy bits stuck to the pan by deglazing with white wine.

When that was reduced by half, I added the tomatoes and chicken broth and let that warm through and reduce a bit before putting everything into the slow cooker on low for 6-7 hrs.

About a half an hour before we were ready to eat I pulled out the bottle of wine from Mas Cavalier de Lascaux.  Frank opened the wine and poured while I put the finishing touches on dinner. This winery has been in the Cavalier family for 13 generations.  It is nestled in the foothills of Cevennes.  You can learn more about the winery and the wines it offers at their website.

And what a wonderful dinner it was.  We started off with the wine.  We took a sip and were simply unimpressed.  Often French wines are too soft for our palate that is used to the bolder,  harsher new world wines. 

Then we had a bite of the stew and another sip of wine. Oh.....there it is...the light in the distance.  Another bite and another sip and then we understood why the rule about wine and food from the same regions exists.  The wine and the stew were average on their own and brought to the next level when shared together.

Slow Cooker Cassoulet
adapted from Thomas Keller

2 lbs. boneless country style pork ribs
salt and pepper, to taste
1 T. olive oil
1/2 c. panko bread crumbs
3 slices thick cut bacon, diced
1 onion, coarsely chopped
1 c. dry white wine
2 T. tomato paste
1 (28 oz) can Italian plum tomatoes
1 c. chicken broth
2 (15 oz) cans, white beans, drained and rinsed
7 oz. smoked sausage, cut into chunks
3 garlic cloves, smashed
handful of parsley, chopped

Cut the ribs into chunks, season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Place the olive oil and bread crumbs in a large skillet over med high heat.  Cook and stir until bread crumbs are golden brown, 4-5 minutes.  Remove to a small dish and set aside.

Place the bacon into the skillet and cook until crisp, 4-5 minutes.  Remove to a paper towel lined plate. Set aside.

Add the seasoned pork to the bacon fat in the skillet and sear until browned on all sides.  Remove and place in the bottom of a slow cooker.

Add the onions to the skillet, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally until golden brown and softened.  Add the wine and tomato paste.  Cook and stir until reduced by half, scraping up any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pan.  Add the tomatoes and chicken broth. Heat to a boil, roughly chopping up the tomatoes.  Pour over the pork in the slow cooker.

Add the beans, sausage and garlic cloves. Stir to combine.  Cover and cook on low for 6-7 hrs or until the pork is falling apart.  Remove crock from heat source.  Remove the garlic cloves and stir in the breadcrumbs and parsley. Add more salt and pepper, if needed.  Print Recipe

More Wines from Languedoc

Whitefish Bisque #SoupSaturdaySwappers

Our friend, Ashley of Cheese Curd in Paradise, chose the fun theme of  Soups From Your State (Regional and Local Soups) for this month's Soup Saturday Swappers.  What a fantastic theme!!

Soup Saturday Swappers is a group of wonderful people that join together on the 3rd Saturday of each month to share recipes inspired by a theme chosen by one of our members.  

We would love to have you join our group.  If interested, please leave a comment along with the name of your blog in the comments below or email me at  

I live in Michigan.  Considered the Midwest but located more Midnorth.  We are about as far north as you can get unless you cross the river into Canada.  Our State was first explored by the French who came over via Canada.  Most of our cities were named by them, often using the names they had for the Native Americans who lived on our shores.  

We are surrounded by the Great Lakes that began as oceans until the ice age arrived and turned them into fresh lakes.  All those icebergs came up onto land creating the terrain that is our State.  Our State Stone is Petoskey, which was obviously ocean coral at one time.   

We have a huge conglomeration of second and third generation immigrants born here after their parents came to find work in the auto industry.  We had Polish, Greek, Irish, German, Italian and Mexican communities downstate while our Upper Peninsula attracted miners from Norway.  

We are known for our fresh fish, including perch, walleye and white fish.  Our crops include corn, sugar beets, apples, peaches, and soybeans. We hunt venison, ducks, geese, bear and wild mushrooms and berries.  We grow cattle, pork and chickens.  We have Jiffy, Kelloggs, Vernors, Faygo, Better Made and Sanders.  We have wineries, breweries, dairies and cider mills.

And I was stumped.  I mean, there are a lot of soups that I could (and have) shared from the fine State of Michigan. Corn Chowder, Venison Chili, Dill Pickle Soup, Morel Mushroom Bisque. The list goes on and on.  

Image result for savor michigan cookbook

My problem wasn't thinking of a soup from Michigan, it was finding one that I hadn't already shared. Luckily, for me, I love living in Michigan and I love eating and cooking locally. This means I have a slew of Michigan Cookbooks.  

The recipe that I'm sharing today is from Savor Michigan Cookbook.  This cookbook contains recipes from "Michigan's Finest Restaurants, Their Recipes & Their Histories".  It is an interesting read.  The book is divided by cities, and features recipes from the best restaurants in each one.  I loved reading the histories of restaurants that I have visited or that are on my list to visit.

I have had the privilege of staying and dining at The Grand Hotel, located on the pristine and unspoiled Mackinac Island.  One of the recipes being shared from them was Whitefish Bisque.  Our clear, cold, fresh northern lakes provide us with wonderful whitefish.

I served this as the soup course at a dinner party for some of our diving friends.  I adapted the recipe as the original used coconut milk and one of my guests is allergic to coconut.  I also deleted the lemongrass as I thought that flavor profile was more fitting with the coconut.

It was an elegant, beautiful and delicious first course, especially topped with the smoke trout and fennel ragout.  I was proud to serve it to my friends and pleased when more than one requested seconds.

Whitefish Bisque with Smoked Trout and Fennel Ragout
adapted from Savor Michigan Cookbook, submitted by The Grand Hotel

For the Bisque:

1 T. butter
1/2 an onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 carrots, scraped and diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 lbs whitefish, cubed
1 c. white wine
8 c. vegetable stock
2 t. dried thyme
5 baby red skin potatoes, scrubbed and diced
salt and pepper, to taste
2 c. heavy cream

For the Ragout:

1 T. olive oil
1/3 c. smoked trout
1 small fennel bulb, diced
1 tomato, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 c. jagermeister liqueur 
1 T. chopped chives


Melt butter in large soup pot over low heat.  Add the onions, celery, carrots and garlic. Sauté until softened and fragrant, 4-5 minutes.  Add the whitefish and sauté a few minutes more.

Add the wine, vegetable stock, thyme, potatoes, salt and pepper and bring to a simmer.  Let cook until reduced by half, 30 minutes or so.  Pour into a heavy duty blender and puree until smooth. 

Return to pan and stir in cream.  Cook gently until heated through. Do not allow to boil.  Garnish individual bowls with Ragout before serving.


Heat olive oil in sauté pan over medium heat.  Add the fennel and cook for 1-2 minutes until softened.  Stir in the tomato, trout, and garlic. Cook for another minute or two then add the liqueur and chives.  Cook and stir for another minute.  Remove from heat and set aside.  Print Recipe

I am sharing this recipe and cookbook review over at Foodies Read.  Check out what the others are reading this month

More Regional/Local Soups

Friday, October 20, 2017

3 Ingredient Spaghetti with Crab Sauce #FishFridayFoodies

Wow, busy day today in the blog world.  I am posting three separate recipes today for three separate events.  I normally try to combine events but it wasn't happening today.

You will find my recipe for Adult Hot Chocolate in my final post for this year's Choctoberfest.  It was a fun week but I was ready for a cocktail.  This is a perfect drink for you to enjoy when you prepare to unwind for the weekend.

Hot chocolate not your thing?  Well then head on over to my #MerlotMe post and find out how a glass of Decoy Merlot can be enjoyed with our Crazy Ingredient Challenge.  A delicious, rustic, skillet dinner and a glass of wine is perfect for this Fall weather.

Now.....right this post.....We are celebrating Fish Friday with all of my Foodie friends.  Fish Friday Foodies was started by me to assist me in adding more fish/seafood protein to our diet.  I asked a few of my friends to join me and they all stepped up to the plate.  They created the graphic that you see above and they assist me each month by taking turns hosting and choosing a theme.

This month our host with the most is Claire of Sprinkles and Sprouts who chose the theme Fish/Seafood Pasta.  I am hosting next month with a theme of is not just for Turkey.  Should you like to join our fun and friendly group just leave your blog name in the comment section below and I will send you an invitation or you can email me at

I had served a lovely Crab Ravioli in Shallot Cream Sauce as the fish course at a dinner party several months ago, so when Claire chose this topic I smiled and was pleased as punch that I would be ahead of the game.

So imagine my surprise and disappointment when I went to write this post and was unable to locate any of the photos I had taken of that amazing dish.  I know that they are in this computer somewhere but I'll be darned if I can figure out where.  I spent a couple of days looking through all my old files (there are hundreds of photo files) before I started to panic.

Ok, I said to myself, just have time to make another batch of the ravioli.  I decided I would, again, serve it as the fish course at a dinner party celebrating our eldest's birthday.  Then I promptly put it out of my mind and started concentrating on other events in which I was participating.

Last Sunday, I began preparing for the dinner.  I was very excited as all of our kids who live locally were going to be able to attend.  It is very rare for us all to be available on the same is way too busy for that.

I plastered my beef tenderloin roast with herbs and olive oil and put it aside to marinade a bit.  I started baking the apple pie and whipping up the chocolate cream pie.  I put the potatoes on to boil for the loaded mashed potato casserole. I pulled the corn chowder out of the freezer to thaw and I washed the romaine, spun it dry and put it in the refrigerator so it would be all ready for the Caesar salad.

Then I sat and relaxed, very pleased with myself. An hour before guests arrived I put out an appetizer tray, put the soup on to warm and preheated the oven.  Suddenly it occurred to me that I had never made the ravioli. Aargh...not only did I not have a fish course for the dinner but I was running out of time for this event too.

I felt like I was on chopped.  I had 50 minutes left to create a pasta dish containing fish or seafood.  To the pantry, I ran.  I had canned crab that was to be used in the ravioli, I had some dried spaghetti and I had a jar of prepared creamy tomato sauce.

It doesn't get much easier than that.  I added a little extra heavy cream to the sauce to thin it out a bit and then incorporated the crabmeat but if you don't have cream on hand you can always use the cooking water from the spaghetti.  I put a large pot of  water on to heat so that it would quickly come to a boil when the time was right.  When I served the soup, I turned the water to high and brought it to a boil.  

While the soup bowls were being removed, I put the pasta on to boil.  We served the salad and when the pasta was finished it needed only be drained and tossed with the sauce  It was enjoyed by all and nobody was the wiser.

3 Ingredient Spaghetti with Crab Sauce

1 lb. dried spaghetti
2 (6 oz) cans white crab meat, drained and picked through for shells
1 qt. prepared creamy tomato pasta sauce

Boil the spaghetti according to package directions, drain, reserving 1/2 c. of the cooking liquid. 

Meanwhile heat the sauce in a large pot over med low heat, thin with the reserved cooking liquid (or cream or milk) and stir in the crab.

Add the cooked pasta to the pot and toss to coat. Print Recipe

More Pasta Recipes for Fish Friday Foodies

Kielbasa Apple and Onion Skillet #CrazyIngredientChallenge #Merlotme

Disclosure:  I received free samples of wine to participate in the #MerlotMe event taking place during the month of October.  All opinions posted on this blog are completely my own.

This month's Crazy Ingredient Challenge asked us to combine Apples and Rosemary, two ingredients that I am crazy about.  See what I did there?  Crazy Ingredient Challenge/Ingredients I'm Crazy About.....sigh....never mind.....

I was initially going to make a dessert of some sort but we are just finishing up Choctoberfest and I was craving something savory.

I had planned on making a skillet dinner for us and had pulled out some fresh kielbasa, red skin potatoes and onions for this purpose.  I thought, "hey, rosemary goes great with roasted red skin potatoes and apples pair perfectly with pork, why not incorporate these ingredients into my skillet?"

I was also still celebrating #MerlotMonth and Duckhorn Vineyards had provided me with 2 bottles of their Decoy line out of Sonoma County.  As you know the Napa and Sonoma areas of California have been devastated by fires.  One of the ways you can help is by buying their products and since it is October you may as well make it Merlot and join in the movement to bring this varietal the respect it deserves.

I decided to serve the Decoy Merlot up with this meal.  The Decoy is a wonderful, reasonably priced, every day wine.  Perfect for a casual home cooked meal before heading out to choir practice. And we had half a bottle left to enjoy after that's what I call a win/win.

I loved the earthiness that the rosemary added to this and it complemented the sweetness that the apples added.  It is not a beautiful dish but it was a fast, easy and delicious dish.  The wine is flavorful, fruity and dry it matched well with the fattiness and spice of the kielbasa.

Kielbasa, Apple and Onion Skillet

4 Fresh Kielbasa Links (1 lb total weight)
1 T. olive oil
4 Red potatoes, parboiled to fork tender and diced
2 apples, peeled, cored and diced
1 small onion, diced
leaves of 1 stem rosemary, minced
salt and pepper to taste

Brown the kielbasa, in a skillet, over med high heat for 5-7 minutes per side.  Remove to a plate and set aside.  Add the olive oil to the skillet.  Once heated, add the onions, cook and stir for a minute or two then add the potatoes.  Season with salt and pepper.  Let cook without stirring or flipping for 5 minutes, until bottoms begin to brown. Flip and add apples and rosemary to the pan.  Cook and stir until apples start to soften.  Add the kielbasa to the skillet, turn the heat to med low, cover and cook until the kielbasa is warmed through and reaches an internal temperature of 145*   Print Recipe

Join us each month over at Crazy Ingredient Challenge as we vote on 2 subsets of ingredients and combine the winners into creative and fun recipes.  Here is what we came up with using Apples and Rosemary.

Adult Hot Chocolate #Choctoberfest

And here it is....The Final Day of Choctoberfest.  I have had so much fun playing with all of the great sponsor gifts and I hope that one of my readers is a lucky winner in the giveaway that can be found in my Welcome Post.

I so much enjoy getting sponsor gifts but I want to let you know that, as much as it is appreciated, I would never write anything in my posts that were not my true feelings.

You have until tomorrow at Midnight to enter so please make sure you head over and get your name in the drawing.  I want to thank the ladies over at The PinterTest Kitchen for all of their hard work on this event.  It is truly appreciated.  I also want to thank all of our sponsors, Imperial Sugar, Rodelle and Barleans for their support during this event.

I am ending this event with a well deserved and delicious cocktail.  This chocolaty and spicy hot chocolate is the perfect ending to a hectic week.

Whether you are spending your Friday evening in front of a bonfire after the local high school football game or kicking off your shoes and curling up on the couch with a good book, make sure you have this mug of chocolate deliciousness in your hand.

Featuring Chocolate Silk Greens and Omega Swirl Essential Woman from Barleans this hot chocolate also offers some nutritional value.  If you want to make it without the cinnamon whiskey you will still get a nice minty taste from the Omega Swirl.

Adult Hot Chocolate

1 c. milk, heated
2 scoops Chocolate Protein Powder (I used Barleans Greens)
1 T. chocolate mint syrup (I used Barleans Omega Swirl)
1 shot cinnamon Whiskey

Place the milk, protein powder and syrup into a blender and mix well.  Place a shot of cinnamon whiskey into a mug, add the blender ingredients and enjoy.  Print Recipe

More Choctoberfest Deliciousness