Friday, February 28, 2014

He wasn't a hero

He wasn't a hero, known by the world.
But a hero he was, to his little girl.

I knew his voice, before I could speak.
And loved it when, he would sing me to sleep.

 He taught me life's lessons, of right from wrong.
And instilled in me values, that I might be strong.

And so through the years, like a hero he stood.
Working to give me, all that he could.

And so it is, my best memory to recall.
Is the gift of his presence, the greatest gift of all.

~Rebecca Cook
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Acts Of Kindness

"The unclaimed and unknown acts of kindness done here on earth are well known in heaven."

~Anthony Douglas Williams
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Deep Fried Buttermilk Brine Drumsticks

I love fried chicken but I especially like the drumsticks when they are crispy on the outside and moist and tender on the inside. A buttermilk brine will give you that result every time! Sometimes I just fry up a big batch of chicken legs and then eat them hot or cold throughout the week. The price is right and the recipe is easy!

Deep Fried Buttermilk Brine Drumsticks

3 cups buttermilk (see note on how to make your own)
1/3 cup kosher salt
2 tablespoons sugar
3 pounds chicken drumsticks
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons paprika
A pinch of cayenne, optional (more if you like a kick)
3/4 cup buttermilk
Cooking oil

For brine, in a Ziploc bag combine the 3 cups buttermilk, the coarse salt, and sugar. Add all chicken legs to the brine and seal the bag. Turn bag to coat chicken with brine mixture and lay on its side in a large bowl. Chill for 2 to 4 hours and then remove chicken from brine. Drain chicken and pat dry with paper towels. Discard brine.

In a large bowl combine flour, the 1/4 teaspoon salt, pepper, paprika, and cayenne if you are using it.  Divide flour mixture evenly between two shallow dishes. Place the 3/4 cup buttermilk in another shallow dish. Dip chicken into flour mixture in the first shallow dish, turning to completely coat. Dip flour-coated chicken in the buttermilk, turning to coat. Coat again with flour mixture in the second shallow dish.

Meanwhile, in a deep, heavy cast iron Dutch oven or skillet, or a deep-fat fryer, heat 1-1/2 inches oil until hot and sizzling. Using tongs carefully add a few pieces of chicken to the oil. Fry chicken for 12 to 15 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink (180 degrees drumsticks), and coating is golden, turning once. Drain on paper towels. Keep fried chicken warm in a 300 degree oven while frying remaining chicken pieces.

For a real treat, make Pecan Buttermilk-Brined Fried drumsticks by preparing recipe as above except, reduce the flour to 1-1/4 cups and add 3/4 cup ground pecans to the flour mixture. Oh Yum!

Note: You can make your own buttermilk...Measure out 1 cup of whole milk or cream. Stir in 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar. Let the mixture stand at room temperature for 5-10 minutes. Use this substitute as you would buttermilk in any recipe.


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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Buttermilk Pound Cake

I really love pound cake...because sometimes you just want your cake without all that icing or layers of sweet filling. My Mom used to make the best pound cake and the house smelled so good when it was in the oven. She used to say, you know it's going to be perfect when you see that split down the center of the top. Later, after dinner she would slice it and serve it with Vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of chocolate syrup...or with whipped cream and strawberries. I add a little lemon to mine, but you can leave it out if you like.

Buttermilk Pound Cake

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 extra large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup buttermilk (see note on how to make your own)
Zest of 1 lemon, finely chopped or grated

Heat the oven to 350 degrees and line a loaf pan with parchment paper that has been sprayed with non-stick spray.
Mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Do not sift flour. In another bowl beat the butter until its pale in color. Add in sugar and beat until just light and fluffy.

Add the eggs one at a time and blend, beating until blended. Then slowly add in your flour mixture a little at a time and mix until almost combined. Next add the buttermilk and blend well. Finally add your lemon zest, and on low speed blend in slowly making sure you scrape the bowl’s bottom and sides.

Pour your cake batter into your loaf pan and bake for about 45 minutes or until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean Let the cake cool for about 10 minutes before inverting it onto a plate. Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream for a real treat!

NOTE: Make your own buttermilk by pouring 1 tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice in a 1 cup measure. The fill to the 1 cup mark with Whole Milk. Allow to sit for 5 minutes and then stir. You just made buttermilk?

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Pan-fried Fresh Haddock

I love seafood and every now and then I just like to pull out my cast iron skillet and sear whatever fresh fish I got on sale that week. I especially love haddock quick seared in butter and this new Star Olive oil for fish that I found recently. And of course seasoned with Old Bay because I'm a Maryland girl and it goes on everything that even looks like seafood! You will love this simple recipe with such rich and savory flavors and that flaky moist fish.

Pan-fried Fresh Haddock


1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil for Fish and Poultry
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon dried basil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
4 Flounder or Haddock fillets (or any white fish fillet)

Make a marinade first by adding the Star olive oil, minced garlic, basil, and the and lemon juice to a Ziploc bag. Then add your fillets and let them sit for about 20 minutes. Remove fillets and shake off liquid.


3 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon dried parsley
2 teaspoons Old Bay Seasoning (or a pinch of cayenne)
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons more olive oil for frying

Mix together the flour, parsley, salt and pepper, and Old Bay seasoning. Dredge the fish in the flour and then shake it off, so that only a very light coating remains.

Heat oil and butter in large skillet over medium high heat until shimmering and starting to smoke. Add fillets and pan-fry in hot oil until golden on both sides and fish flakes easily with a fork.

Photographs are copyrighted and the property of ©Welcome Home.  

Disclaimer: I have an ongoing relationship with STAR Fine Foods for my recipes and photography using their wonderful products. This post is sponsored by STAR. I am compensated for my time and work and I am sent products as I request them. However, all opinions of the product stated in this post are 100% my own. I truly love their products!
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Friday, February 21, 2014

Mom's Coconut Cake

Every year before my Mom moved to heaven I made her favorite Coconut cake. In total I probably made 67 of these cakes and each and every time I lit the candles and presented it to her, she would go on and on about how her daughter could make the best coconut cake in the whole world. She was the one who taught me how to make it when I was young and yet she insisted I made it better. I would light up as brightly as she did over that cake. To know my Mom thought I was the best cook was quite an accomplishment in my life. I miss making this cake for her each year... and I cry each time I make it.

Mom's Coconut Cake

1 and 1/2 cups (3 sticks) butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
3 cups cake flour
5 eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole milk
4 ounces sweetened shredded coconut

♥ Buttercream Frosting:

16 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 box confectioners’ sugar, sifted
6 ounces sweetened shredded coconut for for topping

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease two 9-inch round cake pans and line each with parchment paper. Grease paper and dust with flour.

Mix butter and sugar on medium-high speed of an electric mixer until light and fluffy (about 3-5 minutes). Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add extracts and mix. The mixture will look a bit lumpy.

Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Turn the mixer on low speed and add dry ingredients, alternating with milk, in three parts. Mix just until combined. Fold in coconut.

Pour batter evenly into prepared pans. Smooth the tops of each. Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until tops are browned and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pans for 30 minutes. Then, remove from pans to finish cooling on wire racks.

♥ Frosting:

Using an electric mixer on low speed, combine cream cheese, butter, and extracts. Add confectioners’ sugar and mix just until smooth.

Spread frosting on first layer. Place the second layer on top and frost the top and sides. Sprinkle top and sides with coconut.

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Crab Macaroni and Cheese

I love seafood...being from Maryland we put crab and shrimp and lobster in everything! I also love mac and cheese so you can imagine how much I love this recipe! I make it often and it is always a big hit...let me know how you like it!

Crab Macaroni and Cheese

10 ounces elbow macaroni
8 ounces of fresh lump crabmeat

3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups whole milk or half and half
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning (more if you want a kick)
4 ounces cream cheese
6 ounces Cheddar cheese, grated
6 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, grated


1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons melted butter for topping

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Boil pasta in salted water until tender, drain well in colander, then return to pot and set aside.

Melt butter over medium heat in a large saucepan. Add flour and whisk until smooth. Continue stirring butter and flour mixture over medium heat for 2 minutes until it lightly browned. Slowly pour in milk or half and half while whisking and whisk until smooth. Cook while stirring constantly for 2-3 minutes until mixture thickens. Add salt, pepper, and a pinch of Old Bay seasoning.

Add cream cheese and whisk until smooth. Remove from heat and add the grated cheddar and Monterey jack cheese. Stir with a wooden spoon until smooth. Stir in pasta and gently fold in crab meat. Spray a 9 x 13 casserole dish with non stick spray. Pour in filling and spread out evenly.

Mix panko with oil and butter and sprinkle all over top to completely cover. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown and bubbling around the edge.

 Photograph is copyrighted and the property of ©Welcome Home 2014.
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Thursday, February 20, 2014

French Silk Chocolate Pie

French Silk Chocolate Pie

1 cup heavy cream, chilled
3 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons water
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and softened
1 (9-inch) pie shell, baked and cooled (see note)

Whip cream: With electric mixer on medium-high speed, whip cream to stiff peaks, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer whipped cream to small bowl and refrigerate.

Beat eggs: Combine eggs, sugar, and water in large heatproof bowl set over medium saucepan filled with ½ inch barely simmering water (don’t let bowl touch water). With electric mixer on medium speed, beat until egg mixture is thickened and registers 160 degrees, 7 to 10 minutes. Remove bowl from heat and continue to beat egg mixture until fluffy and cooled to room temperature, about 8 minutes.

Beat, fold, cool: Add chocolate and vanilla to cool egg mixture and beat until incorporated. Beat in butter, a few pieces at a time, until well combined. Using spatula, fold in whipped cream until no streaks of white remain. Scrape filling into pie shell and refrigerate until set, at least 3 hours and up to 24 hours. Serve.

NOTE: You will need a fully baked pie shell for this recipe. Use your favorite pie dough or a pre-made refrigerated or frozen crust.
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Strawberry Cream Cake

Pretty cake isn't it? I made this one for a friend who's anniversary fell on Valentine's day so she and her husband of 35 years could come home from a nice dinner and have dessert and coffee. I love the way it turned much so that I made another one!.

Strawberry Cream Cake


1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/4 cups milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare one 9 x 13-inch pan by lining with parchment paper and then spraying with non stick spray. I like to leave an overhang of paper on each end so I can use it as handles to lift the cake later..

Use a hand mixer or stand mixer to beat the softened butter and sugar together until fluffy and light, then add the eggs and beat until fully incorporated and light. Beat in the flour, salt, baking powder, and finally the milk and vanilla. Beat everything together for 3 minutes. Immediately pour into the prepared pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the tops spring back slightly when pressed. Let cool on wire racks for at least 30 minutes

Once cooled, you can cut your cake in half if you want smaller cake as shown in the photo. Then with a long serrated knife, cut both halves into two layers to make a three layer cake. You will have a layer left over. You can choose to make an additional layer or save it for another time! Set aside your layers.

Strawberry Puree Filling:

1 (20 ounce) bag frozen unsweetened strawberries or 3 cups of fresh strawberries
1/3 cup sugar, more if you like it sweeter

Place the unsweetened frozen strawberries in a large bowl and thaw for a few hours. Once thawed, put the strawberries and their juice in a food processor or blender and process the berries until they are pureed. Pour the puree into a 2 cup measuring cup. You should have about 1 1/4 cups of puree. Add 1/4 cup of the sugar to start and stir until the sugar dissolves. Taste and add more sugar if needed. Set aside.

Cream cheese filling and frosting

3/4 cups sugar
2 packages cream cheese (8oz each), at room temperature
1 cup heavy whipping cream

In a large mixing bowl, combine cream cheese and 3/4 cup sugar. Using an electric mixer, whisk the mixture until smooth, then slowly add heavy cream and whisk until fluffy. Set aside.


Place the bottom layer on your serving plate cut side up. Spread a nice thin layer of the strawberry filling on it. Next, on one of your other layers, spread a thin layer of the cream cheese filling. Place that layer on top of the first layer so that the cream cheese side is facing down. The strawberry filling and the cream cheese filling are touching each other. Repeat with the next layers. So the order from the bottom up is: cake, strawberry filling, and cream cheese filling ...then cake, strawberry filling, and cream cheese filling again...ending with the final layer of cake and then a thicker layer of cream cheese filling on top of the cake.

Decorate the cake as you like on top. I added a few dollops of Reddi-wip real whipped cream and topped with some cherries and strawberries and then drizzled some chocolate sundae syrup on top!

Photograph is copyrighted and the property of ©Welcome Home 
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Chocolate Mint Cookies

Chocolate Mint Cookies

1 package Classic Devil's Food Cake Mix
2 large eggs
¼ cup + 2 tsp. vegetable oil
1 (4.67 oz.) package of chocolate mints 28 mini chocolate treats....
1 can Frosting Creations Frosting Starter
1 packet Frosting Creations Mint Chocolate Flavor Mix

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine cake mix, eggs and oil in large bowl. Stir until thoroughly blended. Mixture will be stiff.
Using a tbsp., Scoop the dough and place an unwrapped chocolate mint in the center. Press the mint to level the cookie and roll the edges to seal. Place 2" apart on prepared baking sheets (parchment paper or non-stick foil).

Bake at 350°F for 10 minutes until cracked on top. Cookies will look moist. Do not over bake.

Cool 2 minutes on baking sheets. Remove to cooling racks. Cool completely. Store in air tight container.

To decorate: prepare the frosting as it is stated, sandwich each cookie with the Mint icing and press together.®/chocolate-mint-cookies/
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Monday, February 17, 2014

Blackberry Delight

This was an experiment this past weekend. And while it didn't turn out to be the prettiest dessert I have ever made, it certainly was way up there on the list of one of the best! This summer I plan to make this with the fresh blackberries from my garden, but for now I just used a can of blackberry cobbler filling or pie filling. You can use blueberries for this one too! Any berry will work.

Blackberry Delight

For the crust:

1 pkg. (16.6 oz.) Oreo cookies, divided
1/4 cup butter, melted

Chop 15 of the cookies coarsely. Set aside. Finely crush the remaining cookies. Put into a bowl and then mix together with the med butter. Press into the bottom of a 13 by 9 inch pan. Place into the refrigerator to chill while preparing the filling.

For the filling:

2 cups heavy cream
16 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
2 cups sifted confectioner’s sugar

Whip the heavy cream until thick and set aside. In a separate bowl, combine cream cheese and confectioner’s sugar. Fold whipped cream into cream cheese mixture until just combined. Spread filling onto crust.

Top with a layer of blackberry pie filling. Refrigerate 1 hour or until set.

NOTE: If you have fresh blackberries, here is the recipe to make your topping

3 & 1/2 cups fresh blackberries, divided
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/8 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon + 1 & 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon + 1 & 1/2 teaspoons water
3/4 teaspoon lemon zest

In a large pot, combine 1 & 1/2 cups fresh blackberries, granulated sugar, and brown sugar. Cook on medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Stir until sugar is combined, Your blackberries will begin to break down and the mixture will come to a boil. Dissolve your water and cornstarch and add to mixture. Stir until mixture becomes thick. Remove from heat. Stir in remaining 2 cups blackberry and your lemon zest. Cool to room temperature and refrigerate until ready to use. Makes one quart. 

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Sunday, February 16, 2014

Black Forest Pie

Black Forest Pie

1 1/2 cups finely crushed graham crackers
1/3 cup butter, melted
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 pint vanilla ice cream (2 cups)...
1/2 ounce of an 8-oz. cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 8 -ounce container frozen whipped dessert topping, thawed
2 cups Cherry Pie Filling, chilled
Hot fudge ice cream topping or chocolate syrup

In bowl, combine crushed grahams, melted butter and sugar. Press onto bottom and up sides of un-greased 9-inch pie plate. Bake in 350 degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden. Cool.

In chilled bowl, stir ice cream with spoon just until softened. Spoon over cooled crust. Cove; freeze 4 hour or until firm.

In large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese with electric mixer until smooth. Add powdered sugar; beat well. Gently fold in dessert topping; spread over ice cream. Using back of a spoon, make 8-inch-wide well in top layer. Cover; freeze 3 to 4 hours.

To serve, spoon the cherry pie filling into well in top of pie. Serve drizzled with fudge topping.
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Caramel and White Chocolate Pretzel Covered Apples

I've been busy this afternoon making my treats for those special Valentines in my life. I decided to make these pretty apples this year. My Dad likes white chocolate, so I made his apples dipped in caramel followed by another dipping in white chocolate. Then I rolled them in crushed pretzels bites. Think he'll like it? I made my friend Randy and my brother their own specials ones too...those are coming up next. 

Caramel and White Chocolate Pretzel Covered Apples

4 extra large Granny Smith Apples
4 wooden skewers
14 ounces (1 bag) soft caramel candy (I use Kraft caramels)
2 tbsp water
1 bag of Ghirardelli White chocolate chips
2 tbsp shortening
2 cups of pretzel bites, coarsely chopped

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Spray it with a light layer of cooking spray, if desired, to prevent the apples from sticking. Wash and dry apples and remove stems. Insert your skewers or pop sticks. Set aside.

Place the unwrapped caramels and the water in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 1 minute, then stir, then microwave for and additional minute or until completely melted. The caramel should be smooth and liquid by the end.

Hold an apple by the skewer and dip it in the caramel, tilting the bowl at an angle and rotating the apple to cover it completely with a smooth, even layer. Bring it out of the caramel and twirl it upside down to remove excess, then set it on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining apples. Place the caramel-covered apples in the refrigerator to set for at least 30 minutes.

Combine the chocolate and the shortening in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave until melted, stirring every 45 seconds. Dip the caramel-covered apple in the chocolate. If necessary, spoon some chocolate over the top to ensure the apple is completely covered with white chocolate. Immediately dip the apple in crushed pretzels and roll until covered.

Place back on the baking sheet and drizzle on extra chocolate, allowing it to run down the sides. Simply take a spoonful of your white chocolate and drizzle while holding it about 6 inches above your apples.Repeat with remaining apples. Chill apples in refrigerator until completely set, about 45 minutes. Tie with a pretty bow. Store apples in the refrigerator.

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Oven Roasted Smoked Sausage and Potatoes

Love this simple little recipe from my Friend Marie over at the English Kitchen, who also has another blog called Recipes From My Blue Binder.... these flavors are just wonderful!

Oven Roasted Smoked Sausage and Potatoes

1 package of smoked sausage, sliced into rounds
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
5 large potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch cubes
olive oil
fine sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
sweet paprika
dried thyme
1 cup of grated sharp cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a large baking tray (with sides) with several sheets of foil, and drizzle with a bit of oil. Spread the oil out over the pan. Set aside.

Put the sausage rounds, onions and potatoes into a large bowl. Drizzle with a couple tablespoons of olive oil and season to taste with salt, pepper, paprika and dried thyme. Toss together with your hands until everything is evenly distributed. Pour this out onto the baking tray, and spread it out as much as you can.

Place into the heated oven and roast for 45 minutes to an hour, stirring every 15 minutes or so, until the potatoes are golden brown and tender. Turn off the oven. Scatter the cheese over top of the cooked meat and potatoes, Pop back into the oven a few minutes to melt the cheese. Serve immediately.
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Brownie Bites with Cream Cheese Frosting

I love these little brownie bites because you can change them to just about anything you can think of. Sometimes I sneak a Rolo Candy in the center and then frost them with caramel icing. I've also put a Kraft caramel candy or some peanut butter chips in the center. And I change the frosting all the time too. I make these a lot with just a bit of mint frosting on top. But this time I decided to just enjoy a brownie bite with some cream cheese frosting. Be creative and surprise your special valentine with whatever you want! 

Brownie Bites with Cream Cheese Frosting

1 box Ghirardelli fudge style brownie mix, plus whatever ingredients are called for on the box.
4 TBS. butter, softened at room temperature
4 oz. cream cheese, softened at room temperature
1 cup confectioners sugar

Pre-heat oven to 325F. Prepare brownies according to package directions. Grease a 24 cup mini muffin tin with cooking spray and fill each cup 3/4 full with batter. Bake for 15-20 minutes until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool for a couple of minutes then carefully remove the brownie bites from the pan to a cooking rack. Allow to cool completely.

To make the frosting, whip the butter and cream cheese together until smooth. Add the confectioners sugar and whip until creamy. Add frosting to piping bag or a plastic bag with the corner snipped out and squeeze a dab of frosting on each brownie.

Need a mini cupcake or brownie pan? I got mine at Amazon for a great price. Click on the link below to see the one I use:

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Cheesy Potato Casserole

I'm a meat and potatoes girl and this is one of my favorite side dishes. It's not actually scalloped potatoes and it's not Au Gratin potatoes. I call it Potato Casserole and it's delicious.

Cheesy Potato Casserole

2 cups mashed potatoes (you can use leftover made with milk or cream and butter)
1/2 cup sour cream
1 onion, sliced thin
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter
2 cups grated Cheddar Cheese
4 medium whole potatoes, cooked and sliced 1/4 inch thick
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread mashed potatoes evenly on bottom of casserole dish. Layer sour cream evenly over top. Sprinkle with a little garlic powder, salt and pepper between each layer. Saute onion in butter and then evenly layer the slices of onion and the butter on top of the sour cream. Next, layer with 1/2 cup of the cheddar cheese. 

Add a layer of your cooked sliced potatoes over the cheese until you have completely covered the top with sliced potatoes. Next add the remaining cheese. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Remove from oven and for a real treat crumble bacon over top.

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Whipped Cream Éclairs with Strawberries

Last year I wanted to make my Valentine something special. It had to be wonderful and decadent...but light and airy and not too heavy. I wanted to make something beautiful and memorable. Something he might even want to take a picture of before eating he does with his birthday cakes I make each year. So I made this special dessert for him and the first thing he said was, "Baby girl that thing is too pretty to eat. Let's take a picture!" The dessert and it's picture went to that special man in my Dad.

Whipped Cream Éclairs with Strawberries

1 cup water
1/2 cup butter
Pinch of salt
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
5 eggs, room temperature
1 tablespoon water
3 oz. bitter sweet chocolate
honey and nuts optional
powdered sugar for dusting

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan set over high heat, bring water, butter, and salt just to boil. Remove from heat and add flour all at once, stirring vigorously with wooden spoon until mixture comes away from sides of pan, making a smooth ball.

Reduce heat to medium-low and cook flour mixture, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes or until coating begins to form on bottom of pan. Turn into large bowl; stir for 30 seconds. Make well in middle of dough and, using electric mixer, beat in 4 of the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Continue beating until mixture is smooth and shiny and holds its shape when lifted.

Place dough into piping bag fitted with 3/4-inch wide tip. On parchment-lined baking sheets, pipe fingers of dough about 4 inches long and 1 wide. In bowl beat together remaining egg and 1 tbsp water; brush each bun lightly, being careful not to drip down sides.

Bake in 425 degree oven for 12 minutes; reduce heat to 375 degrees and bake for 5 minutes longer or until golden brown. With sharp knife, pierce side of each éclair twice. Turn oven off and let éclairs stand for 5 minutes, then remove and cool on rack.

Slice the éclairs lengthwise. Brush tops lightly with honey and sprinkle with nuts if desired. Add filling and dust with powdered sugar just before serving.

Pastry Cream

2 cups half-and-half (half whole milk/half cream)
½ cup sugar
Pinch salt
5 large egg yolks (save whites for another day)
3 tablespoons cornstarch
4 tablespoons cold butter, cut into pieces
1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Heat the half-and-half, 6 tablespoons of the sugar, and the salt in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Whisk the egg yolks in a bowl until thoroughly combined. Whisk in the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and whisk until the sugar has begun to dissolve and the mixture is creamy. Next whisk in the cornstarch until combined and the mixture is pale yellow and thick.

When the half-and-half mixture reaches a full simmer, gradually whisk the simmering half-and-half into the yolk mixture to temper. Return the mixture to the saucepan, scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula; return to a simmer over medium heat, whisking constantly, until a few bubbles burst on the surface and the mixture is thickened and glossy. Remove from heat and whisk in the butter and vanilla. Strain the pastry cream through a fine-mesh sieve set over a medium bowl. Press plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent a skin from forming and refrigerate until cold and set, at least 2 hours.

For the Whipped Cream

1 1/4 cup heavy cream
1 1/4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar

Chill your mixing bowl and beaters by placing them in the freezer for 10-15 minutes before using. When ready, remove the bowl and beaters and pour in the cream and sugar. Using a mixer, begin by beating the cream on low speed for about 30 seconds and then increase speed to high, continuing to beat until soft peaks form. Add your vanilla and beat until blended. Serve right away or refrigerate.

Once the éclairs have cooled completely, slice them in half with a serrated knife, making sure to leave the tops and bottoms of each éclair together so that they match up. Fill the bottom half of each éclair with a layer of pastry cream. Then line your strawberries on top. Then top off with a layer of the whipped cream. Place the top of each éclair back on, and dust with powdered sugar. Serve immediately, and enjoy!

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Blueberry Lemon Bundt Cake

It is a snowy day here in Maryland and a perfect time to bake. I made this wonderful cake this morning...just for you! So rich and moist and perfectly sweet with just a touch of lemon. So good!

Blueberry Lemon Pound Cake

1 3/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup low fat cream cheese, softened
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon of lemon zest
1/4 cup squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons pure vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour, divided
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 (8 oz) non-fat vanilla yogurt

Lemon Vanilla Drizzle

1/2 cup sifted powdered sugar
4 teaspoons fresh squeezed lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl beat the sugar, butter and cream cheese at medium speed with a mixer until well blended. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla, lemon juice and then add
your zest.

In a different bowl measure out your 3 cups of all purpose flour. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of it all over the blueberries and gently stir to coat. Mix the remaining flour with the baking soda and baking powder and salt. Add four mixture to the sugar mixture a little at a time just until blended. Then lightly blend in the yogurt until combined. Next fold in your blueberries very gently. You do not want to stir too much or your cake will be blue!

Pour the batter into a 10-inch tube pan or a bundt pan that you have greased or sprayed non stick spray. Sharply tap the pan once on the counter to remove air bubbles. Bake at 350 degrees for an 1 hour to an hour and 15 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan for 10-20 minutes on a wire rack then remove cake from pan. Cool an additional 15 minutes on a wire rack.

Combine the powdered sugar and lemon juice in a small bowl and whisk until smooth. Drizzle over the cake.

Want a new bundt pan like the one I use? Go to this link and get it from Amazon and the proceeds will go to my Animal Rights group!

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Monday, February 10, 2014

Support For Animal Rights

I want to thank those of you so far, who have purchased my newest cookbook and have helped me support a cause that means so much to me. Most of you know that I put a lot of time and effort into writing and publishing cookbooks so that I can help support Animal Rights here in this country.

I made a commitment a long time ago to support various No Kill groups in their efforts to save the lives of dogs and cats who are killed unnecessarily while waiting for a new home. I definitely need your help as do our furbabies out there who do not have a voice and cannot defend themselves. I speak for them here and YOU speak for them by purchasing anything here at Welcome Home. This page can be quite expensive with all the cooking I do and sending out free recipes to all my friends and followers. I can really use your help so that I can continue to support my cause through this page.

You might ask what is done with the money that goes to these No Kill groups. Let me make something perfectly clear.... I do not support these big agencies like the SPCA or Humane Society or the NO KILL Advocacy Center. I make sure every penny goes directly for the care of dogs and cats and not for other expenses that these big agencies incur. I need to personally see where your money goes and what it is used for. I DO NOT want to make donations to big agencies for their marketing campaigns or for fund raising or their administrative costs.

While I support various No Kill Advocacy groups, I DO NOT support the large agency called the NO KILL Advocacy CENTER or any other large agency with NO KILL in it's name. I DO support smaller groups for Animal Rights and various No Kill groups and I make sure that every single penny goes to making sure these babies are fed, and sheltered and given blankets, toys and healthcare.

I make sure the money goes for spaying and neutering and vaccinations and getting them ready for their new foster or permanent homes. I do this by always pre-paying for veterinary care and buying gift cards from Petsmart and Petco or other retailers that are near the shelters. This way I am certain that my donation goes entirely to feed and shelter and get medical care for dogs and cats and not for marketing, advertising and fund raising.

Don't get me wrong, a big agency like the No Kill Advocacy Center is working hard for animal rights, but they focus exclusively on institutional reform of shelters through legislation, litigation, and similar strategies. They only accept credit card or Paypal or check donations and would not be interested in the format I choose. I do encourage you to continue to support their efforts as they need our help at a higher level. I just advise you to be careful that you are not in anyway funding any agencies that are still funding Kill shelters. Do your homework before you donate to any animal rights organization.

With that being said, I want you to know that your donation is well spent and I have seen many dogs and cats go to a good home. If you have not read some of the stories I have shared here at Welcome Home, I encourage you to do A search and read about my brother's adoption of Casey or my friend's adoption of Glory.
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Sunday, February 09, 2014

Chicken Pot Pie Soup

Here's that soup I made this morning. Not the prettiest soup I've ever made but out of this world delicious! I topped it off with some buttery flaky puffed pastry and it tasted just like a chicken pot pie!

Chicken Pot Pie Soup

4 medium russet potatoes, peeled and diced...
1 store bought rotisserie chicken
6 cups chicken broth
4 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup onion, diced small
1/2 cup celery, diced
1/2 cup slice mushrooms
1/2 cup carrots, chopped
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1 cup heavy cream
Pinch sea salt
1 sheet of Pepperridge Farm Puffed Pastry

Add diced potatoes to a large bowl filled with cold water. Set aside. Shred or chop chicken to the size you prefer and set aside 2-3 cups.

In a large skillet, heat the oil and butter over medium-high heat. Add the onions, mushrooms, and the celery cooking until just tender...about 2 minutes. Stir in the flour and whisk until it forms a paste or roux. Add the Italian seasoning and pepper; cook for 2 more minutes.

Whisk the roux into the chicken broth and bring back up to a boil. Drain the diced potatoes and add them along with the carrots and the diced or shredded chicken to the broth. Cover and turn the heat down to low to allow to simmer until potatoes and carrots are tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in cream and a pinch of sea salt and cook for 5 more minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and lay one sheet of puffed pastry on baking sheet. I usually cut it into small squares but you can leave it whole and break into pieces later. Bake for about 10-12 minutes until golden brown. Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with the puffed pastry squares. Oh yum!

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Shrimp Purses

I love these little snacks and I serve them often as appetizers at parties or when my friends and I get together. They are so good....soft on the inside and crispy on the outside. You and your guests will love them.

Shrimp Purses

3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
2/3 cup green onions chopped fine
1/2 tablespoon of Old Bay seasoning
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 pound uncooked shrimp
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/3 cup milk
1 (16 ounce) package of wonton wrappers
1/2 cup butter

Add whole uncooked shrimp to a bowl and sprinkle with Old Bay seasoning. Set aside for at least 30 minutes. Chop shrimp as finely as possible. Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat, and add the canola oil. Sauté garlic until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the green onions and salt; cook and stir until onions are wilted, about 3 minutes. Stir the flour, finely chopped shrimp, ricotta cheese, and milk into the mixture; cook and stir until the shrimp turn pink, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and cool.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Melt 1/2 cup butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Brush the inside of two wonton wrappers with butter and lay one buttered wrapper them on top of the other. Add a teaspoon of the shrimp mixture. Gather up all sides of both wrappers to form a purse and pinch the tops together. Repeat for the rest of the wrappers and mixture. Brush the outsides all filled wrappers with butter and place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.

Bake in preheated oven for about 10-15 minutes until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.

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