Cheese Balls

You know, I’m older than dirt per my children.  As a result, I have recipes that predate disco.  This one was in mom’s recipe box.  Cheese balls were a really big deal in the 80’s.  You could roll them into balls, logs or just serve them in a bowl (my personal choice).  I do like store bought cheese spreads, but this one is so creamy.  I also like that you can make it your own.  I like more garlic than the average person.  A dash of Sriracha totally changes the taste profile of this cheese.

This one calls for some ingredients you might not be able to find easily, but no matter, we can fake it.  I love having this in the freezer.  Whether you form it and roll it in nuts or keep it in a bowl, it’s so handy to have this.  I keep them in easy to defrost sizes.  You never know when someone is going to drop in and this makes a great nibble.  I like it on cheesy crackers or crustini, but it’s equally good on celery or sliced cucumbers.  You need to make some today.


1/2 pound butter

8 ounces cream cheese

1 5 ounce jar each Bacon, Roka, Olde English and Pimento cheese (Kraft makes these)

1 garlic clove

mix thoroughly and refrigerate overnight

Roll in into balls and then into finely chopped walnuts and parsley

Freeze until ready to use.

*  From the Recipe Box:

The Kraft cheese jars are becoming increasingly difficult to find.  I usually use what I can find and then replace the rest with a grated cheddar mix.  It still tastes wonderful.

I like a little more garlic than this, 2 to 3 cloves are my go to.

It really does freeze ever so well and keeps for several months.  Give it an hour or 2 to thaw out.

and remember:  You have to think anyway, so why not think big?  Big kiss, Lynn

Broccoli Pasta

I’ve discovered You Tube.  That’s not quite true, I’ve had several people knock me upside the head and say, “What, you’ve never looked at You Tube?”  The very brilliant G is the biggest You Tuber.  He uses it for everything from repairing the bathroom drain to finding a recipe for Gravlax, which he will be sharing soon.  I don’t know why I’m such a late bloomer when it comes to video learning, but I’ve jumped on the train now.

The current track I’ve been following (get it, train…track) is Tasty.   Now I can’t tell you if it’s a cookbook or simply a compilation; I don’t know my You Tube well enough yet.  I will do more research.  Promise.

This recipe really appealed to me.  I’m trying to include more and more broccoli into our meals.  I keep hoping these super food lists are true.

Ingredients for 4 servings

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste
  • ½ cup yellow onion, about half an onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, about 1 tablespoon, minced
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 3 cups water
  • 16 oz pasta shells
  • 4 cups broccoli, or one head of broccoli
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne powder
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese


Heat olive oil on medium heat in a large pot. Add chicken breasts, season with salt and pepper, and allow the chicken to brown on one side.

Flip chicken, then add onions and garlic as the second side browns.

Once the chicken has browned on both sides, add chicken broth, water, and pasta to the pot.

Stir all ingredients, cover the pot with a lid, and bring to a boil. When it begins to boil, uncover and stir. Bring the heat to low, stir, then cover and let simmer for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes has passed, uncover and add in the broccoli. Stir continually as the broccoli steams until the rest of the liquid evaporates.

Add milk and cheddar cheese and stir until the cheese melts and you have a smooth cheese sauce.

Add salt and pepper (to taste), cayenne, and nutmeg. Stir once more, then you’re ready to serve. Enjoy.

*  From the Recipe Box:

OK, lazy butt time.  You’ll probably notice in the picture that I used rotisserie chicken.  I heated olive oil in a Dutch oven sauteed the onions and garlic and then completed the recipe as written.

Both G and I gave it our seal of approval.

It was totally better the next day.  The pasta shells absorbed all the liquid.

and remember what Charles Bukowski said:  If you’re going to try, go all the way.  Otherwise, don’t even start.  Big kiss, Lynn

Faux Deep Fried Cheese

This one is totally weird and totally easy.  I love having the kiddos help me with this one.  While it is not fried, it will taste like it.  Everyone seems to have cheese sticks in their refrigerators these days.  It does not matter what brand or flavor, they all work.  Someone always orders cheese sticks when we’re out and about, so this is a good one to try.

Cut string cheese into bite sized pieces, 3 to 4 from each stick.

Dip each piece in milk and then bread crumbs.  I use Panko, because I like Panko, but seasoned bread crumbs are equally nummy.

Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment.

Bake at 425 degrees for 5 to 7 minutes

Serve with Marinara sauce or a good chunky salsa.  I also like sweet chili sauce or a red pepper jelly.

You’re going whoa, these don’t look like cheese sticks.  I have to give you a heads up about this one.  I got a phone call, as can happen and instead of toasted rounds, I ended up with crispy flats.  They still taste good, but I couldn’t in good conscience not admit my error.  This one has sweet chili sauce on it and it was lip smacking good.  I still feel like a maroon, but I always make the recipe right before I post it, so what you see is what you get.

*  From the Recipe Box:

You can use any bread crumbs.  I originally used Italian seasoned bread crumbs and thought they were fabulous until Panko came into my life.

Leave them in the milk for a moment and then immediately roll them in the bread crumbs.

These aren’t going to stay soft for long, but if you have some hang around, they taste great in tomato soup.

and remember what Tom Bodett said:  “They say a person needs just three things to be truly happy in this world: someone to love, something to do, and something to hope for.”  I hope you get all 3.  Big kiss, Lynn

Croque Madame

Did I ever mention that the Hunka-hunka and I have yearly Nancy Meyer film marathons?  I also can’t ignore one of her movies if I see it on TV.  For myself, her interior design is incredible, and except for the crying, her women are on the most part strong, and the food, yes, the food.  I still haven’t forgiven Diane Keaton for dumping Keanu Reeves for Jack Nicholson though; what a maroon.

But I digress, again.  The first time I saw a Croque Madame was in It’s Complicated.  So simple that it became elegant.  Good food done perfectly is the height of class to me.  Since then, I’ve seen Ina and Jeffery have them at a bistro in Paris while sharing a bottle of champagne.  When I grow up I’m going to be this classy.

They couldn’t be any easier to make.  You’ve basically been making them for years without the bechamel sauce.  The Croque Madam has an egg and the Croque Monsiuer does not, other than that they are identical.  They are incredibly rich, so I often cut down on the cheese.  To make 2 sandwiches assemble:

For the Bechamel Sauce:

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • ¾ cup of milk
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan
  • salt and pepper to taste

In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and whisk in the flour for a minute or 2.  Slowly add the milk until thickened.  Add the Parmesan.  Season and set aside.

For the Croque Monsiuer or Madame:

  • 4 Slices sandwich bread (good solid rustic white or sourdough bread)
  • 4 slices good quality ham
  • 1 cup grated Gruyere cheese (my favorite)

Grill the bread.  I can’t grill bread without butter, but it’s entirely up to you.  Place 2 slices of the grilled bread on a baking sheet.  Add a tablespoon or 2 of the bechamel sauce to each stack.  Top each pair with a couple slices of ham.  Mix together half of the Gruyere cheese and the bechamel sauce and spread on the ham.  Top with the remaining cheese and grill until toasty.

For the Croque Madame:

  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 egg per sandwich
  • freshly cracked pepper

Be frying your eggs in the meantime, low and slow.  Serve on top of bechamel sauce.

*  From the Recipe Box:

I usually serve these open face, so only 1 slice of bread each.

This is breakfast, lunch or dinner at my house.  I love an arugula salad with it.  Just arugula tossed with good olive oil and S & P.  Bon Appetit as Julia would say.

This is a composite of several different recipes.  They are all fairly similar.

and remember what Charles Bukowski said:  We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that death will tremble to take us.   Big kiss, Lynn

A New Year Hash Tradition

We are tradition rich in this family.  I love a good tradition.  New Year’s Eve and Day are pretty quiet for the Hunka-hunka and I.  We reflect, plan and putter.  We’ve decided to add a new wrinkle to our tradition list:  corned beef hash.  I know we just discussed this in March, but can one ever spend too much time on hash.  I don’t think so.

Gluten-free girl was up and you know how she loves meat, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to begin the tradition.  I used Aunty Noma’s Corned Beef recipe.  As if I’d use any other.  It turned out incredibly as always.  We ate the roast and saved the leftovers for New Year’s Eve.  We did have one little hiccup.  I was trying to be fancy and I used some purple carrots.  We ended up with purple potatoes.  So, here’s the question I want you to ponder.  If purple carrots turn potatoes purple, why don’t orange carrots turn potatoes orange?  Things that make you go “hmmmmm”.

These were the ingredients below.  I didn’t want anyone to accuse me of cheating, so I divided everything evenly and then let G pick his bowl first.  We each got one of the purple carrots.  I swear I’ll never include them again.

I was much happier with my hash this time.  I cubed the carrots and potatoes in a 1/2 inch dice and browned them nicely.  I shredded some of the corned beef and cubed the rest.  What you see in the bowl is what I used in the hash:  no onion, no ketchup, no water.  Oops, not true.  I did add salt and pepper, of course.

You’re probably noticing a lack of comments on G’s hash.  Awkward, but his did not pass muster and he’ll be the first one to admit it.  He added Worcestershire sauce and it was a big boo-boo.  He’ll never make that mistake again.  We are already planning for next year when there will be another hash off.  I may buy a trophy to award to the winner.  Picture the bragging rights.  There will be further updates next year at this time.

*  From the Recipe Box:

We like pur hash on the dry side and very crispy.  And obviously from the picture above, very steamy.

and remember:  Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful.  Big kiss, Lynn

Spaghetti Sauce ala Thomas

I started making spaghetti sauce many years ago.  The Hunka-hunka loves it thick and cooked on the stove for hours.  I’m not a fan of that style as much as I used to be.  I like a fresher flavor, lighter.  G wants the meat to sauce ratio to be about 50/50; I’d be fine if there were no meat in the sauce at all.  What to do, what to do?  I’m not an Italian grandmother no matter how much he wants to pretend.

We have learned the art of compromise here at the cabin.  Today it was G’s turn to have the sauce he loves.  I’m not sure when I became less than delighted with it.  It does seem odd how our taste buds change over the years.  This sauce was the base for half the things I would make my family, everything from lasagna to stuffed shells.  Now, I often pretend I don’t hear G when he requests it.  My bad.  I’ve got a bit of a bug so G did the actual mixing enabling me to write down what went into the Dutch oven.

1 to 1 1/2 pounds hamburger

1 to 1 1/2 pounds Italian sweet sausage

1 large onion, chopped

2-29 ounce cans of tomato sauce

1-12 ounce can tomato paste

1-28 ounce can diced tomatoes

1 teaspoon dried garlic

S & P

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1 tablespoon dried basil

1/2 cup sugar

Brown the hamburger, sausage and onions.   Add the tomato sauce, tomato paste and diced tomatoes.  Add all the spices and sugar.  Simmer for several hours on low without the lid, tasting periodically.  Season up to the last minute.

*  From the Recipe Box:

If I told you I actually use about a 1/4 cup each of the dried oregano and basil would you go no way?  I do, but I’m always afraid to tell anyone for fear that they will hurl.  I love the intense flavor they add.  Would it be as good with fresh?  I don’t think so.  I do rub the heck out of the loose leaves to release the oils.

The sauce freezes beautifully.  It makes a wonderful base for lasagna.

You want the sugar; it mellows out the tomatoes.

and remember:  Focus on the powerful, euphoric, synchronistic, beautiful, “fuck yes” parts of life and the Universe will keep giving them to you.  Big kiss, Lynn

Tuna Noodle Casserole

I was raised by a woman from Minnesota, as a result my food memories include many, many casseroles.  We ate them a couple of times a week.  This is one that was part of my children’s upbringing as well.  I was fortunate they all liked it.  Being a stay at home mom for a very long time, making a couple of cans of tuna feed 5 people was a big deal.  I worked very hard on my frugality, but I didn’t want the family to feel totally deprived.  This was even requested for birthday dinner on occasion.

This was something my dad liked.  Now this is where it gets crazy.  He really didn’t like spaghetti even with meatballs, and if you made tuna casserole with spaghetti, he would not look happy.  He’d eat it, but only due to upbringing.  But, if you made any pasta dish with curly Rigatoni pasta, he’d be happy as a little clam.  What childhood memory do you suppose that was hiding?

This recipe is for everyone who over spent on Christmas or you just like tuna.

Bring to a boil enough heavily salted water to cook 12 ounces Rigatoni until al dente.

1/2 yellow pepper, chopped

1/2 red pepper, chopped

1/2 cup celery, sliced

1/2 cup onion, chopped

Saute the vegetables in 2 tablespoons butter until soft, approximately 3 to 4 minutes.

In an 8 x 8 pan, add 1 to 2 cans flaked tuna, 1 can Cream of Chicken or Mushroom soup, the sauteed vegetables, 1 cup milk, 1/2 cup peas or mixed vegetables, 1 cup grated cheese, the drained pasta, S & P to taste.  I usually put a few slices of American cheese on top for a nice crunchy topping and some dried onions, if I haven’t eaten them all.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 to 40 minutes.

This is a trip down memory lane.

From the Recipe Box:

There is a wonderful tuna casserole recipe in Chrissy Teigen’s first cookbook Cravings.  It might be even better than mine.  There’s jalapeno potato chips on top!

Remember, I told you how much we love pepper.  Don’t be thinking you need to be a liberal as I am with the pepper grinder.

This might be better warmed up the next day.

Mix up the veggies however you wish.

and remember:  The sign of intelligence is that you are constantly wondering.  Idiots are always dead sure about every damn thing they are doing in their lives. Big kiss, Lynn

Scalloped Oysters

I’m not a fan of oysters.  I want to be, but I simply cannot get past the mouth feel.  Each summer I try to eat one.  The operative word here is try.  I live near some of the best oyster beds in the world.  I can’t get enough clams and mussels, so what’s the difference?  I can’t figure it out.

This dish is a holiday tradition in my family.  It was always on the buffet every Christmas eve and it was always eaten to the last crumb.  What I find amusing is my mother who originally made it would not eat it, I took over and do not eat it and this year C the MP made it and won’t eat it.  What a bunch of maroons!

We use oysters in a jar for this recipe.  Shellfish is very seasonal in our area and we’re total rule followers when it comes to fish and game regulations.  Since you will be baking them, you won’t notice the difference.

1 pint oysters

4 tablespoons oyster liquor

4 tablespoons cream

½ cup dry bread crumbs

1 cup cracker crumbs (Ritz or something equally light and buttery)

½ cup melted butter

S & P

Mix together bread and cracker crumbs.  Stir in butter.  Put a thin layer in the bottom of a shallow baking dish, approximately 8 x 8.

Mix together the cream and oyster liquor.

Put a layer of oysters on the crumbs.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Add ½ of the oyster liquor mixture.  Sprinkle with some of the bread crumbs.

Repeat layers and cover with the remaining crumb mixture.

Bake 30 minutes in a 400 degree oven.

*  from the Recipe Box:

Mom would make this every Christmas for Dad, P, and L once she joined our group.  You either love oysters or you don’t, but everyone who does loves this dish.

Oyster liquor is the liquid in the jar with the oysters.  Drain and save to use in the recipe.

and remember:  You are only going to be as good as the people you surround yourself with, so be brave enough to let go of those who keep weighing you down.  Big kiss, Lynn

Sausage Balls

You know by now how much I love a party.  And you simply can’t love a party without the love of a good nibble.  I’ve had this recipe forever, and I don’t know why I haven’t shared it.   Mom used to make these back in the day, only she always had a mustard dipping sauce.  I’m using a sweet chili dipping sauce, because G doesn’t like mustard.  I know, what a maroon.

Anytime you have a recipe that only calls for 4 ingredients, you are on the right track for the perfect hors d’ oeuvres.  These come together so easily.  I will warn you about the mess though.  I used my hand mixer.  The sausage mixture crawled up the beaters and did not want to leave.  My sous chef, the great and glorious G, cursed me for about 30 minutes while he was trying to clean the holes the beaters go in.  Next time I won’t be such a lazy butt and I’ll get out the Kitchen Aid.

So what makes these sausage balls so tender and moist?  Probably the cream cheese.  I know, who’d a thunk it?  The cheese does not ooze out while baking.   I don’t know why; I certainly thought it would.

1 pound Jimmy Dean’s Hot Sausage, uncooked

8 ounces cream cheese, softened (I usually use Neufchâtel cheese, because it always seems creamier)

1 to 1 1/4 cups Bisquick (I usually use Jiffy Baking Mix, I just prefer it for some reason)

4 ounces grated cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Mix all the ingredients until well combined.  Roll into approximately 1 inch balls.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes.

They can be frozen after forming and then thawed and cooked within the next few months.

*  from the Recipe Box:

Baking them on parchment paper means no sticking and no mess.

If you keep some water handy to splash on your hands during the shaping of the balls, they won’t stick to your hands as badly.

I usually add salt and pepper and a dash of pepper flakes.  I like them a little spicier.

Mom always served them on a platter with dipping sauce and toothpicks.

and remember:  Girls who love bourbon are not weird.  They are a rare gift from God.  Those girls get bigger diamonds.   Big kiss, Lynn

Polenta and Eggs

I think I’ve mentioned before how we sold our house and moved to our cabin a few years back.  The big house had bookcases for days and I kept them all filled.  Now I’m a regular library user.  Fortunately we do have the best library in the world here on the Island.  But there are some things I want for my very own and that’s cookbooks.  I have a rule now:  I check out the book twice and if I love it after two check-outs, it’s OK to buy it.  And trust me, it’s got to be good because the cabin is small and does not have a lot of bookcases.

Another digression, sorry.  This is all about Chrissy Teigen’s new cookbook:  Cravings: Hungry for More.  I loved her first book.  She cooks the way I do, easy squeezy.  Her new book came out this year and I’ve checked it out from the library the required two times and it’s so good, I bought it last week.  There’s some really good looking, laid back recipes that I can’t wait to try.  Gluten Free Girl was up today and I decided to feed her the Polenta, mushrooms and eggs.  Nummy!

I didn’t actually use Chrissy’s recipe; I have a polenta/cornmeal mush/grits recipe I really like that I shared last month.  Basically, I used her picture and that’s why I have to break down and buy cookbooks.  I would never have thought about using polenta as the base for my eggs.  It really did need a kick up though.  Just an egg would have been kind of boring.  The mushrooms were just the right addition.  Due to the amount of starch the cornmeal provided, no one needed toast or the like.

  1. cook your polenta
  2. saute the mushrooms
  3. fry eggs
  4. assemble

We all voted after eating them.  G was a little reluctant to try them at first; he was not convinced it would be something he would enjoy.  After he cleaned his plate, he offered to finish off mine.  What a nice guy.  Unfortunately, I got busy multitasking and my egg pictures aren’t as pretty as they should be, but that did not affect the taste at all.

Thanks, Chrissy

and remember:  Be a mess.  It’s fine.  The universe is a mess.  Galaxies are drifting all over the place.  To be tidy is to be out of tune with the cosmos.  Big kiss, Lynn