Wednesday, December 9, 2009

what to do about all the seeds...

You know...all the little white seeds, that seem to multiply while your back is turned, rinsing your knife. Here's a method I use when I have to slice, chop, dice, or otherwise de-seed these yummy veggies. First, wash it.
Slice off the top and bottom...just a thin slice so it has something flat to sit on, and so you can peep down through the top into the center part of the pepper, and keep your eye on those seeds.Align your knife with a section of flesh, and slice down through the connective parts, so you have removed one quarter-panel of the pepper.Keep slicing these quarter-panels away, until you're left with just a pod of those pesky white seeds. Dispose of them however you wish.Now if you've done it right, you don't have stray seeds all over your cutting board as in past incursions with bell peppers! Take one of your quarter-panels and cut it as required for making dipping sticks, fajita slices, or dices for many other dishes.
I made these into a yummy veggie dip. Mmmm....

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

red velvet cake

I like Red Velvet Cake. However, I did not like it when I was a child. The Eugene Field Elementary School cafeteria usually did a passable job preparing our lunches, but there was something mysteriously awry with their version of Red Velvet Cake. For some reason, I associated school lunch red velvet cake with all others. Gladly, I re-tried it as an adult, and found that I really do like the complex and deep flavor of this holiday gateau.

I happen to think that Paula Deen has some great cake recipes, not the least of which is her Red Velvet Cake. For those of you who shy away from anything with an ingredient list numbering larger than 5, this may not be for you. For everyone it is!
I like to butter and cocoa my cake pans when preparing a chocolate or dark cake. That way, when you un-pan the cakes, you don't have a dusting of white flour all over.It smells so good once you pour in the won't believe it!Frosted with marshmallow, coconut, pecans, and other yummies.

and the winner is......

Mary said... "Well, Carrie, right now I'm baking a baby so I think any other baking will be spur of the moment- I'm sure I'll do some sugar cookies for the older kids to decorate though!" Please email me to claim your prize...although, I won't worry if it's not too soon. I see you have more important things on your mind.

Congratulations to Mary and her husband, baby Madeline was born Monday, December 7, 2009 at 6:42 pm weighing 8 pounds 1oz and 21 inches long. (This is #5!)

For the rest of you that entered this drawing, check back another time for yet another prize drawing.

Thursday, December 3, 2009


I'm so thankful for all of my family and friends and for their support as my catering business takes off. To celebrate Thanksgiving and the coming Christmas season, I'm offering a prize drawing! Enter by Saturday at midnight for your chance to win a Penzey's Spices gift box.

Leave a comment about something you plan to make over the next few weeks, and you'll be entered. Good luck!

Coming velvet cake.

Monday, November 30, 2009

holiday treat plates

Need a plate of sweet treats for hostess gifts or entertaining drop-in guests? Allow me to hand-make and beautifully wrap your selection of goodies. Call or email me to place your order by December 18.

petite plate of one dozen treats ~ $25
popular plate of two dozen treats ~ $45
plentiful plate of three dozen treats ~ $60


  • Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • Chewy Double Chocolate Chip Cookies (Chocolate Cookie with Chocolate Chips)
  • Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies
  • Dark Chocolate Gooey Butter Cookies
  • Chewy Lemon Drop Cookies

Brownies and Bars:

  • Ree's Espresso Layer Brownies
  • Dark Chocolate and Peanut Butter Brownies
  • Gooey Butter Cake Bars
  • Double Chocolate Gooey Butter Cake Bars
  • Really Big Rice Krispy Treats

Gourmet Pretzel Treats:

  • Dark Chocolate and Peppermint Dipped Pretzels
  • Peanut Butter Dipped Pretzels
  • Peanut Butter Pretzel Pillows Drizzled with Dark and White Chocolates

Monday, November 23, 2009

julie and julia

This weekend, a friend asked if I had anything chocolate back at my house. 'No...but there's a chocolate cake I've been wanting to make.' And off we went to make Pioneer Woman's Best Chocolate Sheet Cake. Ever. I always thought it was called 'Texas Sheet Cake,' but I guess a rancher from Oklahoma would probably rather I didn't.

I promise not to make this a Julie and Julia blog site, but if you're in the mood for a chocolate sheet cake, try it. It's yummy!
Lucky for you, PW takes lots of pictures.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

toffee apple dip

We are getting to the time of year when it's common to be asked to bring something. Here's one of my favorite 'bring-able' treats.Allow 8oz. cream cheese to soften. Then place in a bowl and stir. (If you want to use lower fat or no fat cream cheese you can, but you may have some lumps.) Add 1/2 cup packed brown sugar and 1/4 cup granulated sugar. Stir again. Add 1 teaspoon (or more!) of the best vanilla you can put your hands on. Stir again. Now the pièce de résistance...
Unless, for some strange reason, you don't like chocolate, make sure you get a package that looks like this one. Heath makes a product very similar to these Milk Chocolate Toffee Bits, but is without the chocolate. (I know, why bother at all, right?!?) Make sure your package is labeled 'Milk Chocolate Toffee Bits'...or it won't have the chocolate.
Now, open the bag and dump the WHOLE thing into your bowl. (The one with the sugars, vanilla and cream cheese already in it.) I say whole thing so that you are not tempted to try the toffee bits by themselves. (wink, wink) Stir again, and voilà is your toffee apple dip.

Serve with sliced apples or pretzel sticks, and you will be the hit of the party!
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 c. brown sugar
  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 package Milk Chocolate Toffee Bits

Stir ingredients one at a time, until all are combined. Chill before serving.

Friday, November 20, 2009

garlic and bananas

I love to use fresh ingredients. Produce that does not require refrigeration gets put on a certain platter in my kitchen. Today, what I have on my platter is garlic and bananas. That can only mean one thing for dinner...

We're going out!!!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

pioneer woman

Any of you follow Ree Drummond, also known as the Pioneer Woman? My interest in this lady began a few months ago when I started chronicling my adventures in the catering kitchen. I wanted some tips on taking good photographs of food. Take a look at her cooking section. Each entry is filled with beautiful photos...demonstrating the different steps in each recipe.

Anywho...between my husband and myself, we became intrigued by her stories and tutorials, and found out that she would be visiting our fair city. So we made plans to attend her book signing and purchase her new cook book. Apparently, so did several hundred other people. And although it's always good to add to the fun quotient, we probably should have found alternate care for our toddler-daughter. The line for getting your book signed was not going to be any shorter than one hour, and the evening was already getting late for us.

Well, one of Ree's sons was roaming the rows of seating, offering to write his name near one of his photos in the book. Since it was a book signing, I asked if he would sign my book... ...and that's the only name that got signed in my book tonight. But that is OK.

Friday, November 13, 2009

try something new

Last evening our family tried a new restaurant, Oishi, in Chesterfield. I say new because it is new to it turns out, it has been there for several years. I wanted to order the vegetarian hibachi meal, but I hesitated because it included tofu. So I thought I'd order it, and say something silly like, 'hold the tofu, please'. Then I realized my almost-three-year-old daughter was watching...imagining what she might order following my lead: 'chicken nuggets, please'. (EEEEK! In her defense, we had to pass by Chick-Fil-A to get to this new restaurant, and the place is so well lit that every toddler notices and tells their parents, 'I want to go THERE!') So, I decided against making my order complicated, and just ordered the vegetarian meal. The hibachi chef came to our table and cooked our meal, tossing knives, eggs, chicken pieces and spice containers into the air. It was quite entertaining. But then I tasted my tofu. It was so yummy, I made my husband eat a piece of it. I'm so glad I tried it! Maybe next time I'll really go out on a limb and try sushi. (Maybe.)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

how to chop an onion

First, take off any papery or blemished outer layers, so you're left with a pearly outer layer.

Then, cut off the non-stem/root end. (Cut off the end toward the right in the picture above.)
Next, you will want to bisect the onion from end to tip, through the root section. The onion will lay nicely on your cutting board because you've made a flat bottom for it in the previous cut.Take one of the halves and slice almost all the way from root to tip again, this time making radiating cuts out from the center. Another view.Finally, rotate the onion half 90 degrees, and make small vertical slices from the tip toward the root. Stop slicing when you are somewhat near the root end, and you don't have much for your fingers to grasp. Please use caution as you are chopping, so as not to injure yourself with the knife.
As you can see, you have a beautiful finely chopped onion. If you want to be technically correct about terminology, what you see pictured above is a minced onion. A diced onion would be more medium sized cuts, and chopped onions are the largest cut at about 1/4" chunks.

Some believe that keeping the root end of the onion mostly intact will reduce the amount of irritation to the eyes. Others say you must wear goggles. Others chew spearmint gum while chopping. Some chop their onions under running water. Other ideas: use a fan to blow the irritants away from the cutter, use a very sharp knife blade, chill onions before cutting, get some other guy to do it. Really, some people try to pawn it off on some other poor soul. Try each method, and see what works best for you.

Here are a few interesting tid-bits of onion trivia.

By the way, my model onion above was used to make black bean enchiladas tonight, somewhat as described here. ¡Buen provecho!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

waiting in line at the spice store

Yes, you read that right. I had to wait in line at the spice store. Fortunately for me and my toddler-daughter, they were prepared for us with a coloring station for little ones. Meanwhile, I was free to roam the displays of herbs, spices and salts...and to smell all of the different vanillas. My purpose for going into the store was to purchase vanilla. But which one to choose: regular, Mexican, or double strength Mexican? hmmm.... Or do I get the vanilla bean sugar? Or just a bottle of vanilla bean? Well, since my most pressing baking project was chocolate chip cookies, I settled on the single strength Mexican vanilla. So I took my selection to the rear of the store to pay, and to my surprise discovered no less than eight other customers waiting to do likewise...on a sunny Friday afternoon in early November. But then again, it was Penzeys, and soooooo worth the wait!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

wednesday family night out dinners - winter 09/10

As always, please call or email Ellen ( by the end of the business day on Monday to make your reservation for Wednesday evenings.

December 2 - Breakfast for dinner: scrambled eggs, biscuits, gravy, fruit salad
December 9 - Pizza, salad, dessert
December 16 - Christmas chicken casserole, market vegetable, salad, dessert
December 23 - No meal due to Christmas break.
December 30 - No meal due to Christmas break.
January 6 - Homemade pot pies, salad, dessert
January 13 - Baked potato and salad bar, dessert
January 20 - Pot roast, mashed potatoes, market vegetable, dessert
January 27 - Pasta primavera, garlic bread, salad, dessert
February 3 - Chicken and cheese enchiladas, beans, rice, dessert
February 10 - Baked rosemary chicken, au gratin potatoes, market vegetable, dessert
February 17 - Fettucine Alfredo, steamed broccoli, garlic bread, salad, dessert
February 24 - Orange chicken, vegetable fried rice, egg rolls, dessert

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

chili weather

With the changing of the leaves and the temperatures dropping outside, it seems like it's getting to be chili making season. There's nothing like stewing some beans, beef, tomatoes and seasoning to celebrate the falling of the leaves and mercury. One of my favorite fall activities is to attend a chili cook-off fundraiser for the National Kidney Foundation. All kinds of competitors bring their best pots to hopefully earn bragging rights for the best chili. We've sampled chili from firehouses, local restaurants, and even chefs-in-training, and they all bring some good stuff, although some of the ingredients make me wonder...'what were they thinking?!?' What would you think of chili with venison or buffalo meat? How about pepperoni? Celery? Cashews?

And since you're thinking you might want to break out that old family chili recipe, check back soon for a tutorial on chopping onions quickly and without tears!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

playing with your food

Momma always said don't, but I say go right ahead! Coffee beans, limes, lemons and pineapples all make wonderful decorations for your tabletop. They even smell wonderful! So, the next time you are perplexed as to your table decorations, think outside the box, or maybe inside the fridge.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

peel an avocado...from the inside out

Here is my first tutorial, and it happens to be on avocado peeling. Which, in reality, occurs more from the inside-out rather than the outside-in, as you would be lead to believe by the term 'peeling'. Regardless, our finished product is the flesh of the fruit without a pit or peel. This is a great project for a taco night, when you need to add fresh guacamole to your repertoire (and thus, need to peel lots of avocados). You will need a large knife, a spoon, and the obligatory avocado for this project. To begin, hold the fruit in the palm of your hand with the narrow end at 12 o'clock and the wider end at 6 o'clock. Carefully, press the knife vertically into the fruit until the blade stops at the pit. Rotate and separate the fruit to create two equal halves. (You may need to gently turn the halves in opposite directions to loosen the fruit from the pit.)
Now comes the fun (read dangerous and thrilling) part. If you do it the right way, all of your friends will say, 'ooh,' and 'aah,' if you do it the wrong way, they may ask, 'where do you keep the band-aids?' or 'which way to the nearest ER?' I must caution you to err on the side of too little effort, rather than risking injury with too much effort. Gently, but swiftly, embed the mid-section of the knife blade into the pit of the fruit. (You won't be able to push the knife in, it is really more of a 'hack'...a gentle, safe 'hack', that is.) After a few attempts, you will discover the amount of effort required to lodge the blade firmly into the pit of the avocado. The trick is to get the blade to stop approximately half way through the pit. Too far, and the pit cuts in half and the little trick doesn't work. Too shallow into the pit, and the outer layers of the pit will break off during the next step...and that is essentially like stripping a screw. Once you have perfected the science of gently, but firmly hacking your knife's way into the pit of your avocado, the rest is the proverbial piece of cake. Rotate your knife (as though it were the hands on a clock), until the pit becomes dislodged from the flesh of the fruit. Gently push the pit off of the knife (remember it is pretty well stuck on there, you may have to push firmly). Always push away from the blade. A little pinch behind the pit will usually work. Without cutting through the skin of the avocado, score it in slices or cubes (depending on how you are serving the avocado).Then, take a large spoon (my soup spoons are the perfect size) and slide it between the peel and the flesh of the fruit. Scoop out any remaining morsels of fruit that are usable for your purpose, then discard the skin. You now have a peeled avocado, with very little waste, and nary a mess to be found. (That is of course unless you were a little gung-ho on the hacking part, and you left the avocado and knife on the counter while you made your trip to the ER!) All that's left is to enjoy the 'fruit' of your labor in your favorite salad, guacamole, or all by itself. mmm....

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

hors d'oeuvres wedding reception for 50

One colloquialism I find really entertaining is, "the wedding went off without a hitch." If there's no hitch, are they really married at the end?!? Last weekend I provided hors d'oeuvres for 50 of a special couple's closest friends and family. Here are some photos of the buffet.

Crudite Shooters. Parmesan Flatbread.

Twice Baked Baby New Potatoes. Antipasto Skewers.

Tomato, Basil and Feta Pizzettes. Chicken and Bacon Brochettes.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

what is it about the fries?!?

Our family loves to spend time at the pool. They have a great kids' play area with hoses, buckets, rope ladders and slides. They also have a concession stand. My husband is crazy about their french fries. He will make sure to have his $1.25 in order before we get in the car to head to the pool. Last night, he ate two batches. Of course, each one was consumed alongside copious amounts of ketchup. I'm fairly certain that these are your garden variety frozen crinkle cut spuds, which begs the question...what is it about the fries? I'd like to think that I have a slightly more sophisticated palate. My favorite fries are at AT&T Park (formerly Pac Bell Park) in San Francisco. They are the famous garlic fries...served with chunks of freshly crushed garlic. They are so garlicky, you're likely to smell them in the air when you arrive at the stadium, and on your breath a week after cheering your team on to victory. Now, those are some yummy fries! Perhaps the thing that makes food taste so good is the circumstance surrounding its consumption...summer vacation, a victorious ball game, a family gathering, etc. I hope you have a chance to share some good food with great company over the next few weeks.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

st. louis all-stars

So, I'm sitting back, watching St. Louis show off its new Busch Stadium (and NL MVP Albert Pujols!) in the 2009 All Star Game, thinking about some All Star foods from St. Louis. Perhaps the oldest and most recognized consumables native to St. Louis are the bubbly adult beverages from Anheuser Busch. The AB brewery was started waaaay back in 1860, and is still a St. Louis icon! A few foods made popular in the Louisiana Purchase Exposition (a.k.a. the St. Louis Worlds Fair) in 1904 are: Dr. Pepper, iced tea, hot dogs, hamburgers, peanut butter, cotton candy, and waffle cones (for ice cream). More recently, St. Louis favorites have come to include toasted ravioli, gooey butter cake, and crunchy-thin-crust pizza (of course, topped with provel cheese). What's the only way you can make these specialties any better? Make them chocolate, of course!

Here is my favorite Double Chocolate Gooey Butter Cake recipe (thank you, Marla) for you to try at home.
  • 8 TBSP (1stick) butter, melted, plus
  • 8 more TBSP (1 stick) butter, melted , plus additional butter for greasing pan
  • 1 (18.25-ounce) package chocolate cake mix
  • 1 egg, plus 2 eggs
  • 1(8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 3 to 4 TBSP cocoa powder (the more the merrier!)
  • 1(16-ounce) box powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Lightly grease a 13 x 9-inch baking pan.
  • In large bowl, combine the cake mix, 1 egg, and 1 stick melted butter, and stir until well blended. Pat mixture into prepared pan and set aside.
  • Beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the remaining 2 eggs and the cocoa powder. Lower the speed of the mixer, and add the powdered sugar. Continue beating until ingredients are well mixed.
  • Slowly add the remaining 1 stick melted butter, and the vanilla, continuing to beat the mixture until smooth.
  • Spread filling over cake mixture in pan.
  • Bake for 40 to 50 minutes. Be careful not to overcook the cake; the center should still be a little gooey when finished baking.
  • Let the cake partially cool on a wire rack before cutting into pieces.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

shopping lists

I am a list person. I keep lists of everything. 'To do', 'To make', 'Bills', etc. I am just shy of the lists of lists (except for the brief example above!) kind of person. I have a computer program which will generate a shopping list from my menus for the week, or any given event, and I love, love, love it!

Well, this week is a big week as far as grocery shopping shower on Saturday, wedding reception on Sunday, and a family to feed in the meanwhile. So, I entered all of the things I'll be making this week from turkey sandwiches at lunchtime to cheesecake for one of the events desserts. The computer generated list is 3 pages and 100 items long! The beauty of it is this: the computer has arranged the list according to departments in the grocery store. I had better get started!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

wednesday family night out dinners - fall 2009

West County Assembly of God Church Wednesday Family Night Out Dinners are open to anyone, provided you have made reservation. Please email Ellen in the church office to do so. All adult meals include an entree, side, vegetable and/or salad, and dessert. Children's entrees are often available and junior-sized adult meals are available each week. The costs are $5 per adult (over age 12) and $2 per child (ages 3-11, children aged 2 years and under are free). First time visitors will receive complimentary meals as guests of the church (please make a reservation). Meals are served each Wednesday from 5:45-6:15PM.

Fall quarter menus:

  • August 26: Oven Fried Chicken, Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Cucumber and Tomato Salad, Dessert
  • September 2: Made to Order Pizzas, Salad Bar, Dessert
  • September 9: Barbequed Beef Brisket, Baked Macaroni, Broccoli Salad, Dessert
  • September 16: Shredded Chicken Nachos, Corn and Black Bean Salad, Dessert
  • September 23: Pasta Prima Vera, Garlic Bread, Caesar Salad, Dessert
  • September 30: Baked Potato Bar, Salad Bar, Dessert
  • October 7: Pot Roast, Mashed Potatoes, Market Vegetables, Salad, Dessert
  • October 14: Spinach Lasagna Rolls, Market Vegetables, Garlic Bread, Pasta House Salad, Dessert
  • October 21: Balsamic Herbed Chicken, Aunt Bev's Rice, Market Vegetables, Salad, Dessert
  • October 28: Chili with beans and meat or White Chicken Chili, Salad Bar, Dessert
  • November 4: Baked Penne with Roasted Vegetables, Salad, Dessert
  • November 11: Taco and Burrito Bar, Salad, Dessert
  • November 18: Potato Chowder and Spicy Black Bean Soup, Salad Bar, Dessert
  • November 24: (TUESDAY) Creamy Mostaccioli, Garlic Bread, Caesar Salad, Dessert

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

a few of my favorite things...

Although my fellow shoppers at Homegoods were well aware that the excursion was not among my toddler-daughter's list of favorite-things-to-do-today, they may not have known that it is one of my all time favorite places to pick up odds and ends for the kitchen. I shopped for all of ten minutes, and fully eight of them were spent trying to console and shush my sobbing kiddo. But, all of you with toddlers know, shopping must be quick and to the point (no meandering allowed) the two minutes were productive, and I found the perfect plates! I'll post pictures when I dress them up with some delectables after the wedding reception next weekend. Another favorite is an online party supply site, Smarty Had a Party. I love all of the unique disposable (but washable and reusable) party ware. I ordered some square plastic shot glasses this morning. And the part that I think is the best, is they are based in St. Louis, so to forgo the shipping, I am going to go to the warehouse to pick up my order (and perhaps get a few more ideas while I'm there!). Here's hoping all of your shopping is a little less eventful than mine!

Monday, July 6, 2009

a new venture

Just in case you think I may have tried a fabulous new recipe for dinner, and want you all to do the same, my new venture today was in the realm of computer-speak...not food! My kiddo and I re-heated leftovers for dinner (gasp!), and I was determined to enhance your experience while viewing my blog. If you would kindly take a moment and locate the lovely links (Gallery, Experience, Menu, Reservations) at the top of my blog (immediately under the 'header' if you want to be technical about it), you will know what consumed the free portion of my day. I must say a huge thanks to the author of for translating the thought into HTML. And for those of you who cannot believe that I did it're right. I had just about everything set, except for one little snag, and my hubby comes home and says, 'you have to remove the /*'. Done and done. Thanks, honey.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


Greek Cucumber Rolls
Chicken Salad on Cucumber

Raspberry Brie and Mint Tartlets
Antipasto skewers
Red velvet cake
Festive buffet

Veggie platter

Spinach salad with warm bacon vinaigrette

Assorted cheeses and flatbreads

Fresh vegetable and mozzerella salad

Fruit Kabobs

Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

Julie's Yellow Cupcakes with Pink Buttercream and Marshmallow Polka Dots

Assorted Sandwiches

Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Stacks, Loaded Carrot Cake Bite with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting, New York Style Cheesecake with Raspberry Monogram


Fruit Kabobs

Chicken and Bacon Brochettes

Tomato, Basil and Feta Pizzettes

Twice Baked Baby New Potatoes

Fruit Kabobs

Parmesan Flatbread

Crudite Shooters