Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Bliss, thy name is Chocolate

I have come to the conclusion that God was in an exceptionally good mood the day He created chocolate. I don't know if He felt like rewarding Himself for a job well done on that first day of rest or what, but He couldn't have made anything more perfectly sinful (note the irony) than chocolate. Just the word itself causes the salivary glands to go into overdrive. I am pretty positive this is how it happened;

God (speaking to Jesus, the Holy Spirit and any angels hanging out): "Pardon me for tooting my own horn here, but I didn't do such a bad job creating that whole earth, skies, seas, man thing.....oh who am I kidding, It's PERFECT! I'm worn out. I deserve a treat. Something that will melt in my mouth and make my eyes roll back in my head."

The heavens rejoiced!!!

Chocolate was born. We eat chocolate on the day we celebrate the resurrection of Christ....coincidence? I think not my friend.

The fact is chocolate is full of anti-oxidants, has about as much caffeine as 1/2 a cup of coffee or a cola. Antioxidant-rich diets have been linked to a lowered risk of heart attacks, stroke, cardiovascular disease, cancer, high blood pressure, cholesterol problems, arthritis, asthma, Alzheimer's and more. So it stands to reason that if chocolate is chock full of antioxidants, it's actually good for you...that's all I'm sayin'. True, chocolate can be addictive, maybe not physically but certainly mentally. It's not surprising that so many people choose chocolate as a sacrifice to give up for Lent every year. Also, I can count on both hands and feet the number of people I personally know who, when stressed, turn to a bit of the chocolately goodness as a mood enhancer and a deterrent to killing anyone within arms reach. We all know someone who should wear a medic alert bracelet reading: In case of emergency, administer chocolate immediately!

My friend Michael is a self-described chocolate addict. The man eats a Hershey bar for breakfast every morning. He's also an Executive Chef. So, when I made him my "Make You Slap Yo' Mamma" Chocolate Cake and he raved about, I felt honored. I'm sharing it with you so if, in fact, you are one of the people who have given up chocolate for Lent, let me apologize now. If not....stop wasting time and get baking!

Shelley's "Make You Slap Yo' Mamma" Chocolate Cake

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup boiling water
1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans.

2. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pans.

3. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost with chocolate frosting (recipe follows). 10 to 12 servings.

Chocolate Frosting

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine
2/3 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Melt butter. Stir in cocoa. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency. Add small amount additional milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla. About 2 cups frosting.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Chinese on the Cheap

Alot of people these days are having a hard time making ends meet. I don't know if you've heard or not but we're in, what economics experts call, a R-E-C-E-S-S-I-O-N. Yeah. I was shocked to hear it too. (note sarcasm) Everyone is having to really evaluate what's most important in life, paring back on things not deemed necessities. I remember reading the Little House series when I was young and how hard life was for families back then. No matter how hard it was they never seemed to complain so, that's what I've been telling my daughter. What must be done should be done cheerfully. She's no different from any other teenager. She's used to eating pre-packaged foods to some degree, getting ice cream whenever the craving takes hold. Heck, my child could go through a gallon of apple juice in a day if I let her. Those days are no more. She's feeling the crunch just like the rest of us. I've taken this on as somewhat of a challenge. She and I are now forced to use our noggins to come up with inexpensive meals that are going to last more than just one sitting. Thank God my child is pretty open to anything food-wise. She LOVES sushi, was eating raw oysters by the dozen at age 4 (ugh! snot in a shell if you ask me!) and likes to try new things. One of her favorite meals happens to be one of the cheapest and it makes alot. It also is one of those meals made of things you usually have on hand and really, you can add to it with anything you think would taste good. So....without further delay......

Nicole's Noodles

1 Lb Linguini
1 Lb Sirloin (or any type meat you prefer, tofu works too)
1/2 Head of Cabbage, sliced or shredded
2 Carrots, sliced
1 Lg Onion, sliced
2-3 Cloves of Garlic, minced
Kikkoman's Stir Fry Sauce

Slice your meat into very thin slices. It's easier to do this if you place it in the freezer for about 30 mins before slicing. Heat a large pot or wok on high. Add oil and then meat. Saute until meat is done and remove to the serving bowl. Add more oil to the pot/wok and turn heat down to med to med-hi and add the veggies and saute until done stirring almost constantly. When veggies are just about done add the garlic. Remove veggies to the bowl with the meat. In another pot (or this one washed out) boil linguini until al dente. Drain. In the same pot add all the cooked ingredients (noodles, veggies and meat) and add Stir Fry Sauce to your liking. I usually use about 1/2-3/4 Cup. Mix all together, move to serving bowl and serve.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

A salad dressing that's lite AND tastes good?? Right, and I'm engaged to Bigfoot...

I don't know about you but I always try to trim calories, fat and carbs out of my diet whenever possible. A couple things I can't stand, however, are lite, creamy-style salad dressings and mayonnaise. While I'm still on the hunt for a lite mayo that tastes decent enough to put on a sandwich, I have found the Holy Grail of lite ranch dressings. I kid you not this stuff tastes exactly like regular ranch dressing. I totally don't believe me. Well I gave it to my daughter with a bunch of celery to munch on and she couldn't tell the difference. In fact she even told me how good it was . Now that's all she eats! My supervisor in the 911 call center I work for can be really picky and she refused to even look at the stuff. Well she snuck some in the kitchen one night at work and actually came in to tell me that I was right. It's called Naturally Fresh Lite Ranch Dressing. I buy mine at Food Lion but it's carried by other stores as well. Here's the link to their website:

Am I being paid to endorse this stuff? Ha! I wish! I'm just some poor shmuck who feels that if I find something that's as good as this it's only fair to let others, who are suffering by eating that white stuff in a bottle that tastes like garbage, know about this treasure. Try it and let me know what you think. Also...if you have found something that is healthier and tastes good share it so we can all feel the love.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Get your typing fingers ready.....

My girlfriend Gretchen came over last night and during our little munching on Utz Dark Pretzels (which are phenomenal!) and gabbing session, presented a great idea to me. She and our friend Neil, who are both great cooks, would like to contribute to the blog. Not only that, but Neil is a big proponent of doing all his cooking a week or so in advance. That way, when he comes home after a long day, all he has to do is grab something ready to heat from the freezer and pop it in the microwave. Two minutes later, din din is done. So, what we've decided to do once a week, is get together and make one meal, only enough for all three families. We're going to take pictures and post them along with the recipe we're using. We're going to start with just one meal to see how it works out with three of us in one kitchen and to see what any readers feedback may be. Neil is really big on using the freshest ingredients possible. Now I know what you're's a recession....fresh means $$. Before you get your knickers in a twist just know that I'm on your side. I can't afford alot of money these days but I promise you, whatever we use fresh is going to be economical too. Plus, fresh means more nutritious and tastier. So the gauntlet has been thrown down for Neil to come up with inexpensive, tasty and fresh recipes. May he/she with the largest slotted spoon win.

Now a challenge for you! I want to see what we together can come up with for a list of inexpensive casserole recipes. You can use anything you want but preferably things that are easy to come by and won't require me to go to an Indonesian specialty shop just to buy a can of some little known fruit that only 5 people in the world eat. I don't care how good it may taste. Send in your recipes by hitting the comments button. I'll post all the recipes on Monday, Feb 23. Then, I'd like to see everyone try at least one of the recipes and write in to tell me what you thought. I'll post those reviews as they come in. Just to start, I'm giving you probably the easiest Hamburger Casserole recipe ever. It's ridiculous it's so simple. My 18 yr old daughter Nicole has been eating this since she was little. My mom made it for us as we were growing up and it's great for anyone on a budget. Oh and by the way, for some unknown reason my daughter insists my mom's is always better than mine. Little brat. LOL Brace yourself.....

Carol Mills' Hamburger Noodle Casserole

1 Lb Pasta (egg noodles or any small shape desired)
1 Lb Hamburger (ground turkey can be used just as well)
1 Small Onion, chopped
2 Cloves Garlic, minced
3 Cans Reduced Fat Cream of Mushroom soup
1/2 Soup Can of Water
1 Lg Can of Sliced Mushrooms
Salt and Pepper
Parsley, chopped

In a medium size pot, brown hamburger, garlic, mushrooms and onion over medium to medium high heat, being careful not to burn the garlic. Drain grease and add back to pot. Add soup and Water and stir to mix. Boil your pasta. Drain pasta and add to the soup mixture. Salt and pepper to taste and add parsley for taste and color.

*I have also added fresh sliced mushrooms, canned fried onions and have sometimes substituted sour cream for the milk to give it a slight tangy flavor. This is one of those base recipes that can be altered with anything you think would taste good.

Friday, February 13, 2009

What's with the blue box anyway??

Ok, it's winter. The the air is cold and crisp and everyone is all snug inside the house.....driving each other nuts. LOL. This weather makes me think of comfort food and waaaay up on my list of comfort food is macaroni and cheese. I'm not talking the stuff that comes out of that blue (why always blue??) box and tastes of cheese that has come from a synthetic cow. What I'm referring to is the kind of macaroni and cheese that Grandma made. Piping hot and out of the oven, not from the stovetop and so chock full of gooey, goopy, stringy cheese that it looks like a cheese spider made a web from the casserole dish to your plate. Yeah...I'm salivating just thinking about it. They say Duct Tape is the fixer of all things. I say that a gooey cheese-filled mouth is the best way to get a bunch of cabin-fever struck kids to shut their little pie-holes for at least 30 minutes of peace and quiet. I've noticed something though. I've noticed that alot of people don't know how to make that creamy cheese sauce that the blue box has made us accustomed to. I know, I're thinking "Do you have any idea how fattening that is??" Why yes, yes I do and guess what..I'm eating it anyway!! Let me tell you something, there are some things in life that you just can't skimp on and mac n cheese is one of them. I do make a small effort to reduce the fat and calories in this classic dish. I don't use cream for one, nor do I use whole milk. I also use either low-carb or whole wheat pasta. As far as the cheese goes, sorry, I'm a cheese snob and you must use actual honest to goodness cheese.

For anyone who is new to cooking and wants to really impress someone for dinner...this is the dish! You can easily dress it up with bacon or chopped ham or add some veggies, maybe asparagus or peas. Try it and let me know what you think!

Shelley's Mah-velous Mac n Cheese

1 lb of Pasta (penne, elbow or bowtie)
1 qt 1% Low-fat Milk
1/2 C Butter
1/2 C Flour
2 C Sharp Cheddar Cheese
2 C Monteray Jack Cheese
2 C Swiss Cheese
1/2 tsp Nutmeg
Salt and Pepper to taste
1/2 C Bread or Cracker Crumbs

Boil your pasta until it's al dente or has just a little resistance when you bite it. Drain and set to the side. In a large, heavy bottomed pot melt your butter over low heat. When melted, whisk in your flour (for the fancy-schmancy readers, this is called a roux....roll eyes here). Cook for about one minute. This will cook out the raw flour taste. Continue whisking and add your milk. Turn the heat up to medium. As you whisk you'll notice it will start to thicken. After cooking and whisking for about 3 minutes start adding the cheese. This will now turn into the most awesome cheese sauce. Add your nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste. Mix in the pasta and then transfer to a buttered casserole dish. Top with your bread or cracker crumbs and top with small bits of butter. Bake for about 20 minutes at 350 degrees. Once browned remove from oven and let cool for about 10-15 minutes. Serve.

Hope you like it!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Soup's on!

When my 2 brothers and I were sick as kids, there was always two things we could look forward to; Staying home from school and mom's Chicken Corn Soup. I grew up in Amish Country, Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and the Amish are known for their incredible self-reliance and for their cooking. The area I grew up in was farming country and almost everywhere you went outside of town you passed acres and acres of corn growing. I remember being about 8 years old and walking through the tall rows of corn with my brother Jimmy who was 6. The stalks were so tall and the golden tassels at their tops glowed in the sunlight. The smell of the dirt and the sweet smell of the corn curled together and made the most delicious, warm aroma. Many times my brother and I would remove an ear of green corn, not quite ripe yet, and sit under the shade of an apple tree that grew, oddly enough, in the middle of the field, and munch away. There were times when the corn was ripe and the Farmer's Markets were overflowing with the harvest that my grandfather, affectionately known as "Pop," would bring a huge bag of it home and we'd have nothing but that for dinner, dripping in butter and sprinkled with salt and pepper.

Chicken Corn Soup is an old Amish Recipe. It's actually a very healthy one with few ingredients and incredibly easy to make. Some recipes call for noodles, another thing the Amish are famous for, but my family always makes it without. It's really good both ways so it's up to you whether or not to "noodle." Also, strange as it sounds, a peanut butter sandwich totally rocks as a go along. Why? I have no idea, but that's what they always served with it in school and the slight sweetness of the peanut butter offsets the savoriness of the soup. Mmm, mmmm.

Chicken Corn Soup

One 3 lb Chicken or the skinless/boneless chicken of your choice
3 cans Whole Kernel Corn, with juice
3 cans Cream Style Corn
2 eggs (optional)
Salt and Pepper to taste

Put chicken in a stock pot and cover with water. Add salt to the water and bring to a boil. Boil until meat starts falling off the bone, approximately 1 hour. While this is boiling add the eggs and cook for 5 minutes until they are hard boiled. Remove chicken and eggs from the newly made chicken stock and set aside to cool. To the stock add all 6 cans of corn making sure to use the juice and all. Remove the skin and bones from the chicken, adding all the meat to the stock/corn mixture. Peel and chop the eggs into small pieces and add them back to the soup. I usually throw away one of the yolks to eliminate some of the unnecessary fat. Salt and pepper to taste and add parsley for color.

Now....grab a bowl of soup, put on your PJ's and prepare yourself for a little comfort.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Hello Mom?....I'm in love! His name?....Salami! No, no...he's not an Arab

You heard it here first gang, I'm in love with food. Food, glorious food! What other delight in this world can bring together people from every walk of life and unite them in wonderful ecstacy? Food combines the senses of smell, taste, sight and touch into a serendipitous symphony for the soul. Just the mention of some foods evokes fond memories of childhoods past, moments in time that could have been long forgotten are brought back by the simple aroma of something simmering on the stove or baking in the oven. In this day and age of healthful lifestyles, we have been taught somehow that food is a bad thing. I take great issue with this. Food in and of itself is not a bad thing, it is how it is used or prepared that can be bad. No more than guns are bad....guns are not bad, it's what you do with it. Weapons have been used since the beginning of time for the hunting of food to fill the bellies of hungry families. *For all those who have issues with guns...that subject is a whole other blog so please don't comment me with a tirade of angst. I'm simply saying that anything in excess or used in a way other than what was intended can be harmful. I say it's time we change our thoughts on the subject of food. I used to weigh 302 pounds so when I say food can be harmful, I know firsthand. Food was my friend and my enemy, My comfort and the source of my despair. I turned to food when I was happy, sad, angry, joyous, get the point. I believe we all do this to a degree. How many get togethers have you gone to where there wasn't food? It's a bonding agent, the one thing that we all can relate to in times of happiness and times of sorrow. We have a feast after a wedding and take food to grieving loved ones after a funeral.

My goal with this website is to celebrate the foods that make me happy and bring back memories and to share them with anyone who wants them. I want this to be an interactive thing. I want to share the foods that you have made a part of your life and family. It's a little cyber-bonding if you will. I also want to see if you and I can come up with healthful alternatives to some of our favorites by tweaking and experimenting with recipes without making them taste like cardboard or something that you would have eaten on a commune in the 1960's. Let's do this together and see if we can have some fun. Have a recipe? Share it! Tried a recipe from here? Comment on it and if you did something to make it better....tell me! By the way, if you have nutritional info on the recipe please post it as well. Let's have some fun! Here's my first one:



  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the peanut butter, butter, honey, brown sugar and egg until smooth. Combine the whole wheat flour and baking powder; stir into the batter until blended. Roll into small balls, and place on a greased cookie sheet. Flatten slightly using a fork.
  3. Bake for 13 to 15 minutes in the preheated oven, or until cookies are slightly toasted at the edges.

Nutritional Information
Whole Wheat Peanut Butter Cookies

Servings Per Recipe: 36

Amount Per Serving

Calories: 107

  • Total Fat: 6.4g
  • Cholesterol: 13mg
  • Sodium: 70mg
  • Total Carbs: 11.3g
  • Dietary Fiber: 0.9g
  • Protein: 2.6g