Monday, June 30, 2014

Orecchiette Pasta with Roasted Tomatoes and Asparagus

This was lunch could something so easy to make be so delicious! If you enjoy pasta, you'll love this recipe. I use orecchiette pasta with roasted vegetables...then mix it with a basil infused olive oil that brings it all together. You get a robust flavor that you will enjoy even more the next day! This is a keeper my friends!

Orecchiette Pasta with Roasted Tomatoes and Asparagus

16 ounce box of orecchiette pasta
a handful grape or cherry tomatoes
one bunch of fresh asparagus
1/4 cup STAR Fine Foods Italian Cuisine Cooking Oil, divided

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare pasta as directed to al dente. Drain well and set aside. 

Toss the tomatoes lightly with the cooking oil on a sheet pan. Spread them out into one layer and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes, until the tomatoes are soft.

Break off the tough ends of the asparagus and place them on a baking sheet, drizzle with the cooking olive oil, then toss to coat the asparagus completely. Spread the asparagus in a single layer and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast the asparagus for 20 minutes, until tender but still crisp.

Toss the roasted tomatoes and asparagus with the pasta and drizzle with additional cooking oil. Sprinkle with fresh basil and parsley if desired.

Note: You can buy this oil at:    Albertsons (So. Cal), select Safeway and Vons stores and online at:

Photo and recipe are copyrighted and owned by Welcome Home ©2014.

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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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Butter Rum Muffins with Cinnamon Chips

Butter Rum Muffins with Cinnamon Chips

1 1/2 cups sugar
3 extra-large eggs
1 teaspoon butter flavoring extract
1 1/2 teaspoons rum flavoring extract
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup whole milk
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 oz. bag Cinnamon chips
2-3 tablespoons coarse sugar for topping

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place paper liners in muffin pans and lightly spray with butter flavored non-stick cooking spray.

With an electric mixer cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs 1 at a time, then add the rum and butter extracts, sour cream, and milk.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low speed add the flour mixture to the batter and beat until just mixed. Fold in the butterscotch chips with a spatula and be sure the batter is completely mixed.

Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin pans (using an ice cream or cookie scoop works well), filling each cup about 3/4 full. Then sprinkle with generous amount of coarse sugar and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the muffins are lightly browned on top and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Serve warm right out of the oven!

NOTE: If you use regular muffin tins, this will make about 2 dozen small (not mini) muffins. But if you want big fluffy more impressive muffins like mine, go with the jumbo muffin tins as I did and you'll get a dozen from this recipe.

Star Fine Foods Butter Flavored Olive Oil can be found at  Raley’s, Walmart, Stater Bros., Food Maxx and online at

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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Sunday the weather was just delightful and I had family and friends over to celebrate my Dad's 80th birthday. Wow! It doesn't even sound right to say he is 80 years old. He just doesn't seem that age to me. He is still the same Dad I've know since he came into my life when I was 8 years old. It was at a time when I was still suffering a broken heart and serious trauma from seeing a drunk driver hit and kill my biological Dad as he crossed the street.

Back then, a loss so significant and so traumatic in a child's life was handled only with time and patience. There was no money for psychologists or therapy. They just hoped time would heal and I would grow out of the problems with reading and learning at school. They thought time would make me stop clinging to my Mother and never wanting to leave her side. Time would heal the horrific nightmares every night, my refusing to eat, crying everyday and night and asking when he was coming home. My Mother was left with nothing and had to go to work to save our home and feed her two kids. That left more feelings of abandonment and fear.

But 18 months later, God chose the very man who would come into our lives and make us all who we are today. I like to say that my Dad was hand picked by God to come into my Mother's life. She had lived such a hard life and God wanted her to live out the rest of her life with someone who truly loved her with all his heart and would always take care of her. He was younger than her and at only 25 years old, he had no plans of becoming an instant father to two kids who were both a psychologically challenged by the events that had taken place less than two years earlier.

I can remember asking my Mom if I had to call him Daddy and before she could answer, he stepped in and picked me up and told me he would never take the place of my Daddy but he would love me just as much. He told me to call him whatever I wanted to call him. I decided to call him Gene because I didn't want to ever call anyone Dad again for the rest of my life. That was then....that was the very first day he become my new step-father.

He stole my heart soon after that. He became the Dad that I was supposed to have and spend the rest of my life with. There's no doubt in my mind that God intended it that way. He became my hero and I wanted to follow him everywhere! He became the teacher in my life who said I was so special and could do anything I chose to do in life. He believed in me and soon called me "Baby Girl" and I called him Dad.

Yesterday was his 80th birthday. He is a young and active 80 years old...still playing 18 holes of golf three times a week. He is so funny and witty and makes me laugh all the time. He hugs me when I need a hug and seems to have all the right words to say when I am sad. He prays for me every single day and there's no place I would rather be than in those prayers and in his heart. He is so active in his church and loves to read his bible and teach anyone who wants to learn God's word. He sings all the time. He enjoys music and leads the choir in his church. He has an intense love for God and doesn't hesitate to let anyone who will listen know how much.

Happy Birthday Dad....thank you for giving me the greatest gift anyone could give another person, you believed in me. You've never told me how to live; you lived and let me watch you do it. You are one of the most knowledgeable men I've ever known and your wisdom and knowledge has guided me through life. You taught me the value of education. You taught me the value of hard work and dedication to my goals. Through your example, you taught me the value of honesty and integrity.

Most importantly, you taught me that God loves me and hears my prayers. You taught me to trust that he will always be there to help me overcome any hardship. You are, and always will be, the best and most enduring teacher and mentor in my life. I love you more than words can say and I thank you for coming into my life when you did. Thank you for the profound love you had for Mom while she lived with us here on earth and while she waits for us at her new home in Heaven. 
Happy Birthday Dad.  From your Baby Girl.
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Wednesday, June 04, 2014

♥ Chocolate Meringue Pie

My Mom could make incredible meringue pies. She made lemon meringue pies, chocolate meringue and coconut custard meringue pies to die for. I learned very young how to make a meringue that stood firm and tall on any kind of pie and now I will share those tips with you at the end of this recipe. This one is a keeper my friends!

My Mom's Chocolate Meringue Pie

Pie Shell:

1 1/3 cups sifted all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter, chilled, cut in small cubes or slices
1/4 cup Shortening (I use Crisco)
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
3 tablespoons ice water


3 eggs
3 cups milk
1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons vanilla


1/2 cup water
1 cup super fine sugar
4 large egg whites
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Crust: In a large bowl, combine the flour and salt. Cut in the butter, lard and zest until mixture resembles coarse meal. Sprinkle the ice water and toss with a fork to blend. Gather the dough into a ball. If excess flour remains, add a few drops more ice water. Shape into a disk and wrap in plastic. Chill for 1 hour in refrigerator.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roll out pastry into a 12 inch circle. Fit into a 9 inch pie pan and fold edge under. Then line the pastry shell with a sheet of foil and fill with dried beans or pie weights. Set pie pan on baking sheet and bake 10 minutes. Remove weights and foil and bake another 5 minutes until bottom firm and light golden, Cool on a rack. I usually brush my unbaked crust with an egg white and a little water before I put it in the oven to keep it from getting soggy.

Filling: In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring 2-1/2 cups of the milk almost to simmering but make sure you watch it so that your milk doesn't boil. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, with a 12-inch or larger whisk, stir remaining 1/2 cup milk into the 3 egg yolks. In a second bowl combine 1 cup sugar, the flour, cocoa powder, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt; whisk in egg yolk mixture until smooth. Gradually whisk in hot milk; return the mixture to saucepan.

Over medium-high heat cook and stir mixture until it comes to a full boil. Boil for 30 seconds and remove from heat. Whisk in chocolate and butter until melted and smooth. Stir in 2 teaspoons vanilla. Strain mixture through a sieve, pushing it through with a spatula as needed. Pour in baked cooled pie shell and cover just the filling with plastic wrap to prevent skin from forming. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before adding meringue.

Meringue: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine water and sugar in small saucepan. Bring to vigorous boil over medium-high heat. Once syrup comes to rolling boil, cook 4 minutes (mixture will become slightly thickened and syrupy). Remove from heat and set aside.

With electric mixer, beat egg whites in large bowl at medium-low speed until frothy, about 1 minute. Add salt and cream of tartar and beat, gradually increasing speed to medium-high, until whites hold soft peaks, about 2 minutes. With mixer running, slowly pour hot syrup into egg whites. Add vanilla and beat until meringue has cooled and becomes very thick and shiny, 5 to 9 minutes.

Using rubber spatula, mound meringue over filling, making sure meringue touches edges of crust. That's an important step so that meringue does not begin to shrink and pull away from crust, leaving a gap. 

Use spatula to create peaks all over meringue. Bake at 325 degrees for about 25 minutes or until peaks turn golden brown. Transfer to wire rack and cool to room temperature. YUM!

♥♥ Tips for making the perfect tall meringue

Always make sure your bowl and beaters are free of any grease or oil. The tiniest speck of oil causes great volume loss.

Always use eggs that are a few days old and make sure they are at room temperature before you use them. If you have to start with cold eggs, put them in a bowl of warm water to bring their temperature.

Don’t use your hands to separate the egg yolk from the whites. I know its the most convenient way for most of us, but oil can wreck a good meringue too! Just use the shells, transferring the yolk back and forth between the two and letting the whites fall into one bowl and the yolks into another.

Use glass or metal bowls and keep your hands out of the bowls and away from any surface that would touch the egg whites. You want no oil whatsoever. Plastic bowls often retain oils from foods and the slightest oil from your hands will not help your meringue.

Add the sugar after the whites have reached the soft peak stage when they're fluffy and when you lift the beater the peaks fold over the beater edge). Superfine sugar works the best when making meringues. (Don’t worry if you don't have this in the pantry because you can make your own using your food processor or blender by pulsing your sugar a few times to break the crystals up into smaller ones).

Your meringue is done when you lift the beater out and the whites stand at attention! Don't stop and take a break during the beating process, start it and work it through and you'll have the perfect mile high meringue for your pies!

By the way, don't put a meringue pie in the refrigerator. Store at room temp under a glass or metal bowl. If you store in the fridge, you'll have leaky, weepy meringue. Enjoy!

Photographs are the property of and copyrighted to Welcome Home 

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