I found this recipe on The Sister’s Cafe blogspot and was intrigued by the combination of seasoning packets that were used. I put it into my “I wanna try this recipe” folder. And then while grocery shopping this week, I picked up a nice thick chuck roast, and some of the seasonings that I didn’t have in my pantry.

This morning I put the roast into the crockpot, peeled and cut up some carrots, chunked some celery, sliced two onions, and placed them around the roast along with some canned button mushrooms. Then with a lot of hesitation I dumped each of the packets of seasoning onto my beautiful roast. I kept going back to look at the roast through the glass top of the crockpot and I could have kicked myself because I thought I was wasting a perfectly great looking piece of meat. However, as the hours went by and the aroma of the roast was wafting through the house, I started to think, okay, so how bad could it be if it smells this good?

It is fork tender delicious!! I served it with some mashed potatoes, some nice crusty bread and I was in heaven.

It’s an odd combination for sure, but one that will delight and everyone is sure to be crazy over this meal (unless of course they are vegetarians that is).

4 Packet Roast
Adapted from The Sister’s Cafe

1 packet of Ranch Dressing
1 packet of Italian Dressing mix
1 packet Brown Gravy mix
1 packet of Onion Soup mix
1 4-5 pound chuck roast, or use wild game meat if you want
2 medium onions, sliced
2 ribs of celery sliced into thick pieces
4 carrots, peeled and sliced into thick pieces
3/4 cup water
2 small cans of button mushrooms

Place roast into the crockpot, arrange vegetables around the roast. Sprinkle the seasoning packets on top of the roast, and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours.



Everyday I read blogs that I have saved in Google Reader. I can’t remember how or where I found For the Love of Cooking but boy am I glad I did. Another thing I do is save recipes in a folder called Recipes I want to try. Yesterday Pam posted this Penne with Sausage, Peppers, and Homemade Marinara recipe and as the day went on I just could not get it out of my mind. So I made a grocery list and after work last night I stopped at the grocery store and picked up the ingredients for this dish. And boy oh boy am I glad I did. I’m sitting here right now having a plate of this goodness and savoring every bite. I started the marinara sauce this morning, the smells wafting through the house were heavenly!!

I made a few adjustments as everyone does with their cooking styles, I forgot to put the fresh basil in at the end, and even though I forgot, it’s still delicious. I also used a mild Italian pork sausage instead of turkey sausage and a pound of penne instead of a 1/2 pound. This is a YUM recipe and one I will be making again in the future! Thanks Pam!

Penne with Sausage, Peppers and Homemade Marinara

Marinara Sauce:
6-7 miscellaneous tomatoes, quartered (I used 8 patio tomatoes from my garden)
Large handful of cherry tomatoes (I used a pint of them from my garden)
1 head of garlic, DO NOT REMOVE THE SKINS (I used two cloves from a giant head of garlic that I have, I like lots of garlic)
1/2 sweet yellow onion, cut into chunks (I used a whole small onion, I like lots of onion)
1 tbsp olive oil plus 1 -2 tsp divided
Dried basil, to taste
Dried oregano, to taste
Pinch of crushed red pepper (more if you want a spicy sauce)
Sea Salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste

Other Ingredients:
5 Italian sausages, cooked then sliced into chunks
4 baby bell peppers, sliced (I used one large red pepper)
1/2 sweet yellow onion, sliced (I used the whole onion, I like lots of onions)
Fresh basil, chopped
Parmesan cheese for topping

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees; line a baking sheet with tin foil then coat with cooking spray. Quarter the tomatoes, cut the onions, and break up the head of garlic (KEEP SKINS ON SO THEY DON’T BURN). Spread the tomatoes (except for the cherry tomatoes), onions and garlic all over the lined baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil over the top, then sprinkle the dried basil and oregano as well as sea salt and freshly cracked pepper. Toss to coat.

Place in the oven and roast for 15-20 minutes; remove from the oven and add the cherry tomatoes. Roast them for another 15-20 minutes or until vegetables are really soft and the tomatoes are still juicy. Remove from the oven and let cool.

Once they have cooled, carefully peel the skin off the cloves of garlic. Spoon the tomatoes, onions, garlic and juices into a small Dutch oven. Using an immersion blender, blend the vegetables until smooth, making sure there are no chunks. Simmer for 1-2 hours.

Cook the sausage in a skillet over medium heat until they are cooked through. Remove from the pan. Add 1-2 teaspoons of olive oil to the same skillet and cook the peppers and onion until soft and tender, about 5-7 minutes. Season the peppers with sea salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste. Slice the sausage.

Cook the pasta per box instructions, then drain. Add the marinara to the drained penne along with the sausage, peppers and fresh basil then toss until evenly coated with marinara sauce. Top with Parmesan cheese and serve.

Fall is sneaking in slowly and it’s now time for those comfort foods that I never make during the summer. One of those dishes is Sheppard’s Pie. My sister-in-law Dottie goes to England several times a year for her job, and she brought home a recipe that we Americanized. It makes a wonderful meal all on it’s own or served with a salad and crusty bread.

Sheppard’s Pie

1 lbs. ground beef (lamb, veal, pork mixture can also be used)
1 small onion, chopped
3 tbsp. butter or oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/4 cup beef stock
1 tsp. tomato paste (optional)
1 cup frozen peas (or if you prefer, mixed vegetables)
1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
2 lbs potatoes
1 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Wondra (this is a fine flour, which makes a wonderful gravy)

Boil potatoes, mash with milk and butter. Add shredded cheddar cheese and stir until melted. Set aside.

Saute onion in butter until soft. Add meat and garlic, brown. Add the beef stock and Worchestershire sauce and boil gently for 5 minutes. Sprinkle Wondra on top of mixture and stir, adding more until you have a nice rich gravy. Add frozen peas and simmer until heated through.

Put meat mixture in a caserole dish. Spread mashed potato mixture on top of meat. Brown top under broiler.

Makes 4 servings.

I make 4 of these little casserole dishes, eat one for dinner and then freeze the other three right in the casserole dish. The next day I pull them out of the freezer, pop them out of their dishes, then put them into a Food Saver bag and seal them up. They last in the freezer for a long time, and I always have a wonderful meal on hand when I’m rushed for time.

My niece Ally lives in Hoboken, NJ and when she comes home to visit she would always brings a container of banana pudding from Magnolia Bakery in Manhattan for my Mom. My Mother raved about how wonderful this pudding was and of course I had to find a way to make this dessert for her so that Ally wouldn’t have to pay $8 for a small cup of this sweet goodness. A quick search on Amazon and I found the complete Magnolia Bakery cookbook recipes from the World-Famous Bakery and Allysa Torey’s Home Kitchen. I ordered a copy of the book for both my Mom and myself, and as soon as I gave her copy to her she promptly gave it to my niece Ally so she would have a copy. So I gave my Mom my copy and told her that I would get another copy for myself. Before I could order my copy, she gave that second copy to my sister Michele, which meant I needed to order more copies because my baby sister Stacey needed a copy also. I think all-told I ordered something like 6 copies that were distributed to family members.

Anyways after finally getting all the copies ordered I finally made the recipe for my Mom on Mother’s Day. It was a huge hit, so much so, I didn’t even get a taste of the stuff, nor did I get a picture of it to put here on the blog, nor did I get a picture of the pudding the second time I made it, but I did get to taste it, heaven, absolutely heaven. For yesterday’s family party, I made this pudding and made sure not only to get a taste of it, but also a picture of it so I could post the recipe on my blog.

Although the pudding recipe is wonderful as written, of course I’ve had to tinker with it, my slightly modified version is below.

Magnolia’s Famous Banana Pudding

1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 cups ice cold water
1 (3.4-ounce) package instant vanilla pudding mix (preferably Jell-O brand)
3 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 (12-ounce) boxes Mini Nabisco Nilla Wafers (no substitutions!)
8-9 ripe bananas, sliced

In a small bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, beat together the sweetened condensed milk and water until well combined, about 1 minute. Add the pudding mix and beat well, about 2 minutes more. Cover and refrigerate for 3-4 hours or overnight, before continuing. It is very important to allow the proper amount of time for the pudding mixture to set.

In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, whip the heavy cream until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the pudding mixture into the whipped cream until well blended and no streaks of pudding remain.

To assemble the dessert, select a large, wide bowl (preferably glass) with a 4-5-quart capacity. Arrange one-third of the wafers to cover the bottom of the bowl, overlapping if necessary, then one-third of the bananas and one-third of the pudding. Repeat the layering twice more, garnishing with additional wafers or wafer crumbs on the top layer of the pudding. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and allow to chill in the refrigerator for 4 hours – or up to 8 hours, but no longer! – before serving.

* * * NOTE: we’ve found that the longer this pudding sits, the mushier the vanilla wafers get, and by Gawd are they yummy, so don’t be afraid to make this food of the Gods a day before your gathering, because contrary to what the recipe says, the pudding is still beyond delicious even though it’s sat in the fridge for a day or two.

To die for…it’s the only way to really describe these jalapeño puffs.

I usually make homemade jalapeño poppers for family gatherings, but the jalapeño peppers at both the farmers market and all of the grocery stores looked beat up and not fresh and I needed a ton of peppers because well, there were going to be a lot of people to feed. So I had to find something else to make and it had to have jalapeño peppers in it, because we likes us some hot stuff for appetizers.

Off to the internets I go in search of jalapeño pepper appetizer recipes. I found a recipe on allrecipes.com called Puffs and of course I modified the recipe and made some yummy appetizers. My modified recipe is below. I made 8 dozen, 96 Puffs, and there was nary a one leftover for this mornings breakfast.

Jalapeño Puffs

12 oz. Cream Cheese, softened
1/2 pound thick sliced bacon, cooked and chopped
1 – 7.75 oz. can Green Jalapeño Wheels, drained and chopped
1 – 8 oz. bag Mexican Blend Cheese
2 pkg. Won Ton wrappers (4 dozen wrappers per pkg.)

Pre-heat oven to 350°.

In a small bowl, mix the cream cheese, bacon, jalapeño peppers and cheese until nicely combined. Place approximately 1 tsp of filling onto the middle of a won ton wrapper, wet two sides of the wrapper, fold into a triangle and press edges down with the tines of a fork. Place on a cookie sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray, then spray the top sides of the puffs with the cooking spray prior to putting them into the oven. Bake on one side for 5 minutes, turn puffs and bake an additional 5 minutes until puffs are golden brown.

Because I had to make the puffs ahead of time, I cooled them on a rack, then tossed them into a container and put them into the refrigerator. I was going to heat them when I got to the party, but hands started going into the container so I didn’t have time to heat. Everyone loved them just the same, and as I said, there was not one left over…thank goodness I had the presence of mind to take a picture of the puffs prior to taking them to my family gathering.

Claremont Salad

I’m busy in the kitchen this morning, making tons of food for our family gathering tomorrow. Cousins from both the Philadelphia and Scranton area are coming up to visit with my Mom and we decided to turn it into a family party. Family party means lots and lots of wonderful food. One of the dishes my Mom wanted me to make is Claremont Salad. It’s a salad that I normally buy for her at Wegmans, but there is no way I can afford the massive amounts of salad from the deli to feed this crowd. So off I go on an internet search for the perfect recipe, and it had to be one that tasted as good or better than the salad that I purchase at Wegmans.

The salad needed to have cucumbers, peppers, carrots and red onion in it, even though I knew that I would in some way or another tweek the recipe, and I did. The recipe for Claremont Salad that I chose is one from allrecipes.com. My altered version is below, and mind you, I am giving you the proportions I used to make a HUGE amount of salad for our family gathering.

Claremont Salad

3-16 oz. bags finely shredded cabbage (or 1 large head of cabbage, shredded)
6 mini cucumbers, thinly sliced
3 carrots, thinly sliced
1 Bermuda onion, thinly sliced
6 stalks of celery, thinly sliced
1-1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
1-1/2 cup white sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
8 tablespoons water
6 teaspoons salt

Combine the cabbage, cucumbers, carrots, celery and onion in a very large bowl. I used my food processor to thinly slice everything, got some rounds and then some long thin slices…makes an interesting look for the salad.

In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar, vinegar, oil, water and salt. Pour over the cabbage mixture. Refrigerate for at least 12 hours. When serving, drain extra juices, or not if you like… and then totally ENJOY this wonderful salad!!

P.S. That small bowl of salad that I used to take the pictue…yum, yum in my tummy is goes!!

P.S.S. Edited to add, the salad was a big hit at the party. My cousins all asked for the recipe, and my Mom said it tasted better than Wegmans salad.

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Zucchini Bread

I scored four zucchini squash from friends and family this week, and I’ve made another batch of zucchini bread, this time from a different recipe in which my friend Marilyn gave to me last year. I had never used ground cloves in zucchini bread recipes I’ve followed previously, but I now notice when I make it without the ground cloves, I feel like I am missing something. The following recipe is very versitile, as you can substitute carrots, bannana, sweet potatoes, or even pumpkin for the zucchini. I’ve only made the zukkie bread thusfar, but I’m thinking a pumpkin raisin bread is begging to be made. For the batch that I made today, instead of pecans, I used walnuts because I had them here in my kitchen, and I like walnuts in zukkie bread. I also sprayed 8 mini pans with cooking spray instead of greasing the bottoms only, and because I made mini loaves, I set the timer for 25 minutes, checked them, then added an additional 5 minutes baking time for a total of 30 minutes.

Zucchini Bread

1/3 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup shredded zucchini (can substitute carrots, bananas, sweet potatoes, or pumpkin)
1/3 cup water
1-1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Combine flour, soda, powder, salt, and spices in a med. bowl; set aside. Cream shortening at med. speed w/ electric mixer; gradually add sugar, beating well. Add eggs, zucchini (or substitutes) and water; mix well. Gradually add flour, soda, powder, salt, and spices to the creamed mixture; mixing until completely moist. Fold in pecans.

Add batter to a loaf pan which is greased *only* on the bottom. Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the middle of the bread.

OMG, this bread is absolutely delicious!!!

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