Sunday, March 20, 2016

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

If someone were to ask me to list my top 20 favorite foods, poppy seed muffins would surely be on the list....even somewhere near the top. They are sweet, slightly tangy and oh so lemony. While many think they are a spring and summer muffin, I make them all year round. Especially in winter, because once you bite into these muffins, you'll be transported to warm weather and sunny days!  

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

2/3 c sugar
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 c all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 c sour cream
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 tbsp poppy seeds

Preheat to 400 degrees. Butter or spray a regular-sized muffin pan with non-stick cooking spray. Fill the pan with paper liners, if you would like. I prefer to put the batter straight into the pan. Place pan onto a baking sheet.

In a large bowl, rub the sugar and lemon zest together with your fingertips until the sugar is moist and the fragrance of lemon is strong. Whisk in the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a large glass measuring cup or another bowl, whisk the sour cream, eggs, vanilla, lemon juice and melted butter together until well blended. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and, with a whisk or rubber spatula, gently but quickly stir to blend. Don't worry about being thorough, a few lumps are better than over mixing the batter. Stir in the poppy seeds. 

Divide batter among the muffin cups so that each is about 3/4 full. Cups should be almost, if not totally, full.  Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until the tops are golden and a thin knife inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean.  

After muffins are done baking, transfer the pan to a cooling rack and let sit for 5 minutes before carefully removing each muffin from its mold. If not using paper liners, run a knife around the outside of the muffins to separate from the pan and tilt the pan slightly to allow muffins to slide out. Cool muffins completely before drizzling with a small amount of glaze. 

Photography is the property of and copyrighted to ©Welcome Home.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Mushroom Artichoke Puffs

I love making these little bites of goodness for any party.  These are so tasty and they don't last very long.  I simply make a dip using my favorite Cara Mia Artichoke Hearts and baby bella mushrooms but instead of serving it in a bowl with chips, I fill buttery puffed pastry! These little bites are savory and delicious! 

Mushroom Artichoke Puffs

2 Puff Pastry sheets, thawed
1 egg yolk, beaten
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 jar Cara Mia Grilled Artichokes, finely chopped
1 lb. fresh baby Bella mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup mayonnaise
3/4 cup sour cream
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/4 cup grated Gruyère cheese
1/4 cup shredded Mozzarella

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Add butter to skillet and sauté mushrooms over medium heat for about 5 minutes until moisture is gone. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, mix mayonnaise, sour cream, artichoke hearts, and cheeses until well blended.  Mix in mushrooms and set aside.
Roll out puffed pastry dough until smooth, making sure seams are closed. Cut each sheet of puff pastry into 3 equal strips. Cut each strip into 3 squares for a total of 6. Arrange pastry squares on baking pan 1-inch apart. Brush egg yolk all around the outside edge of each square.

Divide filling in the center of each square. Next fold pastry over filling by pulling up each side and pressing corners together to meet in center. Cover puffs and chill in freezer for about an hour.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Brush each pastry with remaining egg yolk. Bake until pastry is golden brown and puffed, about 25 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack; let puffs cool in pan for 10 minutes. 

Photography is the property of and copyrighted to ©Welcome Home. 

Cara Mia Grilled Artichokes are available at select Walmart, Schnucks, Stater Bros., Bashas, Shop 'n Save, and Randalls stores in the canned vegetable aisle or produce section and online at:

Star Fine Foods now has a promo code for all Welcome Home fans that will give you a 10% discount on anything you order online. Just enter WELCOMEHOME10 at checkout!

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!  

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Classic Corned Beef on Rye

So you plan to celebrate St. Paddy's day with that beautiful corned beef brisket you bought along with some cabbage, carrots and potatoes.  But what are your plans for leftovers?  Just like Ham after Easter and Turkey after Thanksgiving....You make sandwiches! Here's my delicious classic corned beef sandwich on Rye just like you get at your favorite Deli.

Classic Corned Beef on Rye
4 ounces thinly sliced corned beef
2 slices rye or pumpernickel bread (I used marbled rye)
2 slices Swiss cheese
sauerkraut, well drained
1 tablespoon Thousand Island dressing

 Top each bread slice with half the corned beef, a slice of cheese, a little dressing, and some sauerkraut. Microwave on low until meat is warm and cheese has melted.  Add top slice of bread.

Classic Reuben:

Lightly spread butter on one side of each bread slice. Heat large nonstick skillet over medium heat until hot. Place 2 bread slices, butter side down, in skillet. Top each bread slice with 2 slices cheese, 1 tablespoon dressing, 3 ounces corned beef and 1/4 of the sauerkraut. Top with 2 bread slices butter side up.

Cook sandwiches 4 to 6 minutes or until bread is golden brown and cheese is melted, turning once. Repeat with remaining sandwiches. Serve with additional Thousand Island dressing, if desired.

Photography is the property of and copyrighted to ©Welcome Home.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Cream Cheese Mints

 So easy to make and so good! Use different food coloring to change them up for the holidays or leave them white!

Cream Cheese Mints
4 oz cream cheese, softened at room temperature
1 pound (16 ounces) powdered sugar
⅛ – ¼ teaspoon of mint, spearmint or peppermint extract
Food coloring of your choice (optional)

Using a hand mixer, soften the cream cheese until smooth.  Next add in the extract and food coloring if using, and continue to mix until light and fluffy. Slowly add in the powdered sugar a little at a time and mix until smooth.

Scoop about a teaspoon and roll into balls.  Place balls on parchment paper and use a fork to flatten them.  Dip fork in powdered sugar to make sure it doesn't stick. 

Continue making balls until all the dough is used up. Let mints air dry and serve. 

Note:  You can make these any color or leave the food coloring out completely for a nice white winter mint.  I used 1 drop of food coloring to get this swirl effect.

Photographs are the property of and copyrighted to ©Welcome Home

What's to Come

"What have you been doing today"......a Homie asked.
"Oh just hanging out," I said.
"In the kitchen", I said. 
"Just making goodies for all my friends."

 These new Amaretto Brownies will be featured in the next issue of the Welcome Home Magazine.  Here's how you can subscribe today.....

Homie:  a name we give to those who follow Welcome Home.

Monday, March 07, 2016

KATIE UPDATE: March 7, 2016

Well I guess it's time to do a Katie Update. I have been avoiding posting much lately other than we take one day at a time with this terrible disease. Mostly because she has been doing so well that I am afraid I might jinx it. So I have been hoping you all would think, "no news is good news." And it has been.

Katie has been doing very well. Our last visit to the cardiologist was in fact the announcement of a miracle in that the doctor found that her enlarged heart had actually reduced in size....something that doesn't happen with Congestive Heart Failure that often. It took about a week for me to stop smiling and feeling that we had somehow gotten ahead of this thing.

But with this disease, it is very much one day at a time. It can turn on a dime. I can actually say that over the last few weeks I had just put it out of my mind and was simply going through the routine of giving her meds and keeping up with her diet. She has been so happy and so vibrant that you actually put the past behind you. You block out that memory back in October when they told me to take her home and love her and that she would more than likely not make it through the end of last year.

It's funny how your mind goes into survival mode and it becomes very selective at what it wants to face and what it wants to hide. Katie has been making it very easy for me to put all the bad stuff out of my mind and only face the happy girl that has been greeting me every morning with kisses and lots of tail wags and wiggles. Until yesterday morning.

She woke up shaking. She was coughing and gagging and so weak. She has not coughed much at all during all this. It is a symptom that comes near the end when the meds cannot control the fluids anymore and they actually drown because they can't breathe. The lungs and heart fill with fluid and the heart can't do its job to pump it out anymore. But not with Katie. The cardiologist even commented on how she is just not like other dogs with CHF. She seems to get by a lot of the bad stuff and we've been so blessed that she is such a fighter that responds well to treatment.

But yesterday it was different. So it was off to the emergency room again to find out what was happening. What could have changed in only one day after weeks of doing so well? I dreaded the trip. Katie shakes and trembles and pants and her little heart beats so hard. She has always been afraid of the vet even though I never leave her the whole time. So I usually cry the entire drive to the ER.

This time it was different. She was calm and relaxed. She was kissing the technicians and the doctors. She was wagging her tail and not panting at all. It was a phenomenon and I really think God wanted to make it a little easier this time. We waited in the treatment room and she insisted on sitting in a chair by herself and not on my lap. She sat there like a little person listening to the sounds she could hear of other dogs barking in the background. After a few minutes the door opened so slightly and we looked up to see no one there.

It took a few minutes until we both looked down to see this big black and white cat walk quietly in the room and proceed to jump up in the chair and curl up next to Katie. Katie just sat there and listened to Johnny the cat purr and cuddle next to her. Neither moved an inch. Johnny was determined to stay and make Katie his new friend. Katie was okay with that. It actually seemed to make her feel better and she began to get her energy back. Eventually Johnny moved over to the other side of the room and laid on a bench and they stared at each other as if they were communicating in a language that only they knew.

Long story short. We went through all the expensive tests and x-rays, with a lot of poking and probing and trying to figure things out. What had made her so sick so suddenly? And we found it. The cough came from the small pocket of fluid that has begun to build up around her heart. We could take care of that right away with an injection of Lasix. The cough should subside she said in a few hours and we would up the dosage on one of her meds a little to keep it away.

The real problem was not her heart at all. It was the extreme gastric upset in her tummy. The meds will do that sometimes. So on one hand they are saving her life. On the other hand they are causing a very upset stomach and she gets diarrhea and cramps just like a person does. So we got medicine for that and hopefully it will soothe her belly and things will be okay again. Today she is doing much better however, the cough is still there and I am praying that the increase in the one medication will help that.

The good news: Her blood work came back and everything is not good....It is perfect! No kidney problems, no liver issues, potassium is good, proteins and enzymes are great. Other than that little pocket of fluid around her heart, she has no fluid in her lungs or belly or any place else. Her heart is strong and beating soundly and the murmur is still the same as it's been for the last 5 years. And Katie made a new friend....Johnny Cat.

I love this crew at the ER. They are so wonderful and loving and so compassionate. I think Katie felt the same comfort that I did when I got there yesterday. There is just an overall warmth there. A feeling that she is in good hands with people who sincerely love her and want to help her. These doctors are so smart and so thorough and you just know that they are going to work as hard as they can to make her better as quickly as possible.

And they are compassionate with the parents of these fur babies too. The pain I see in the waiting room is sometimes unbearable. People are crying and huddled together while they wait for the news. The doctors are there right in the middle of those huddles crying with them and helping them get through it all. And there is also laughter and happy celebrations that things are going to be okay. It is a place where you share your emotions with total strangers that all have a common bond. These babies are a part of our families. They are our children and these doctors understand that. It is unlike a visit to the local vet's office. This is a place where you find comfort and compassion unlike any place you have ever been.

Expensive? Oh yes. Typically a visit like this will cost about $700 to $800 for all the x-rays, blood work, and other test they have to do to get your baby back to health. Insurance? Nope. There are caps on pet insurance and things they don't Congestive Heart Failure. But how does one define cost when the love of your best friend is truly priceless? How do you say that saving your best friends life is expensive?

I can say this. If it wasn't for you my friends and the donations you have made to the "Save Katie's Broken Heart campaign on Go Fund me, I would not have been able to save her life. Without the expensive medicines that keep her heart strong and keep the fluids from drowning her heart, she would not be here with me today. Without the supplements, the special diet and the love and care from the doctors that treat her, I would not have my her now and there would be no hope that we could prolong her life and beat the odds on this terrible disease.

How can I ever thank you enough for giving me such an incredible gift? Your generosity and kindness will never be forgotten and I will hold each one of you close to my heart for a long time.