Southern Cookin' Makes You Good Lookin'

Random Rantings about Food and Such

Tortellini Caprese Bite Skewers

In anticipation for those of us who don’t have ripened tomatoes hanging on our vines yet and for those of you who are blessed to, this is a fantastic little number that works great as an appetizer, salad, party food, and some would say dessert!  It is yummy!  We had these at the Ladies’ Tea at our place and they not only tasted good, they made a cute display.  Because they’re on skewers, you could stick them into a styrofoam cube/ball and place that inside a container.  Since ours was a tea, we used one of the large teacup/saucer planters you see in stores.

If you have any trouble finding the fresh mozzarella, you can easily use a nice block of mozz and cut it into cubes.

Tortellini Caprese Bite Skewers

1  (9 oz) pkg refrigerated cheese-filled tortellini

3 cups grape tomatoes, halved

3 (8 oz) containers fresh small mozzarella cheese balls

Basil leaves (as many as the number of skewers you plan to make)

6″ wooden skewers

Prepare tortellini according to directions on package.  Drain and rinse under cold water.

On each skewer, thread a tomato half, basil leaf, cheese ball, tomato half, tortellini, and another tomato half.  Place skewers in a 9 x 13″ casserole dish.  Pour Basil Vinaigrette over skewers, turning to coat.  Cover and chill two hours or overnight.  Transfer skewers to a platter and discard the remaining vinaigrette.  Can be sprinkled with salt and pepper, if desired.

Basil Vinaigrette

1 cup olive oil

1/3 cup apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup honey

3 Tbs chopped fresh basil

2 cloves garlic, minced

Mix ingredients thoroughly.  If not used right away, refrigerate and shake before using.

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Potato and Ham Soup and Reese’s PB Cheesecake Bites

Look out!  i am a woman on a mission.  Not once but TWICE yesterday my three scoffed–pshawed–Holy Cow! ed my bookmarks.  Okay, i will admit that when it comes to things i see and bookmark on the interwebs, i’m a hoarder.  My Recipes and DIY (crafts, etc.) bookmarks are out of control, but shame on them for pooh-poohing me for it.  At least i keep my mess confined to a computer.  (Mmm hmm!  You got that right!  You tell ’em, honey.)  So…because of the snorts and raised eyebrows, i have decided to do one of two things.  I have to either try the recipe (if i have tried it and it’s a keeper, it can stay) or i have to delete it if it’s something that i really am not THAT interested in.

Tonight they got recipe number one: Potato and Ham Soup.  We have an absolutely wonderful Loaded Baked Potato Soup recipe that, of course, i got from Mama and have been using for years and you just can’t beat it.  This one is a little different and probably a little healthier.  However,…everyone but me ended up putting sour cream and shredded cheese on their soup anyway because it’s potato soup and you HAVE to have that on potato soup. ;0)  i liked it just as it was.  Very thick and creamy and the flavors were a nice combination.

Now the dessert was not in my recipes-to-try bunch.  It was just a wild hair.  Had the won ton wrappers and bought the Reese’s on sale (Halloween leftovers) and it was just a matter of putting together.  I will say, though, that they probably would have been better with less PB cup.  i know–sacrilegious, isn’t it?  They overpowered the cheesecake part, you see.  If you have those new little tiny guys they’ve come up with, that would probably be just right or instead of halving the regular Reese’s cup like i did, use a third or a quarter instead.  They still got the thumbs up.

Got tomorrow’s recipe-to-try in the crock pot now.  Will let ya know how it goes!

Soup in the soup bowls from the first "every day dishes" i remember from childhood

Potato and Ham Soup

3 1/2 cups peeled and diced potatoes

1/3 cup diced celery

1/3 cup finely chopped onion

3/4 cup diced cooked ham

3 1/4 cups water

2 tablespoons chicken bouillon granules

1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste (didn’t add any)

1 teaspoon ground white or black pepper, or to taste

5 tablespoons butter

5 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 cups milk

Combine the potatoes, celery, onion, ham and water in a stockpot. Bring to a boil, then cook over medium heat until potatoes are tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in the chicken bouillon, salt and pepper.

n a separate saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat. Whisk in flour with a fork, and cook, stirring constantly until thick, about 1 minute. Slowly stir in milk as not to allow lumps to form until all of the milk has been added. Continue stirring over medium-low heat until thick, 4 to 5 minutes.

Stir the milk mixture into the stockpot, and cook soup until heated through. Serve immediately.  (Add more milk if soup gets too thick.)

Reese’s Peanut Buttercup Cheesecake Bites

16 won ton wrappers

16 Reese’s Mini Reese’s Peanut Butter cups or 1/4 or 1/3 of a regular Reese’s cup

1/4 cup cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar

In a bowl, beat cream cheese until creamy.  Add confectioner’s sugar and beat until thoroughly mixed.

Place one won ton wrapper on a board or plate.  Spoon 1 tablespoon of cream cheese filling in center of wrapper and place Reese’s cup on top.  Fold opposite corners across the middle, using a little water on finger as the glue to hold them together, forming a pillow or square.

Spray a cookie sheet with cooking oil spray.  Place wrappers, fold side down, on sheet and spray with oil.

Bake at 425 degrees for 10–15  minutes.

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Corn and Cheese Chowder

Boy, has this house been smelling gooood today!  It wasn’t all planned but you do what ya gotta, right?  They’re saying it’s going to dip into the frosty digits tonight (boo!), so today was drag-in-the-plants/harvest-the-last-of-the-peppers/pick-wash-dry-and/or-freeze-herbs day.  The next time i have to buy bottled spices and start to gripe about the price, i’ll remember today!  Very time consuming but really cool and the house did smell like an Italian restaurant.

Oregano...not catnip

With the weather starting to cool, everyone is talking soup.  One of my very best friends from high school, Paul, asked if i had a recipe for Corn Chowder.  Unfortunately that is one recipe that was not in my recipe box or my folder of  goodies, but he’s a wonderful person so you better believe i was gonna search for one.  Actually, if you would, say a prayer for my buddy.  He’s been going thru some very, very tough times with his health and he could sure use some prayer…and some corn chowder!

If you are food blog lover, you won’t have a difficult time guessing where i found an absolutely WONDERFUL recipe.  Ever heard of Ree Drummond aka The Pioneer Woman?  If not, treat yourself and check out her site (  This is just how fortuitous my trip there was–guess what her post for yesterday just happened to be?  Yep, Corn and Cheese Chowder!  How cool is that?!?  Now, i’ll have to tell you–she outshines me in every way.  Her website is way cooler.  Her photos are beautiful.  Her writing is funny and fantastic.  Shucks, you’ll probably never come back here after you’ve seen her stuff.  But that’s okay.  I’ll be reading her right along with ya’. ;0)

We had the Corn and Cheese Chowder for supper and, boy, did it deliver!  The only things i did differently were 1) i used frozen corn because i didn’t have fresh and 2) skipped the bread bowls.  The frozen corn was just fine (i let it thaw before i added it) and we didn’t need the bread bowls anyway.

Hope you and my com padre’ enjoy Ree’s Chowder!  It’s definitely a keeper in this household.

Corn and Cheese Chowder

4 Tbs. (1/2 stick) butter

1 onion, chopped

3 slices of bacon, cut in pieces

3 bell peppers, finely diced (if you can use various colors, it looks really pretty)

5 ears corn, kernels sliced off (or 1–16 oz bag of frozen corn, thawed)

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

3 cups chicken stock or broth

2 cups half and half

1 cup (heaping) Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

1 cup (heaping) Pepper Jack cheese, shredded

1/3 cup sliced green onions

Bread Bowls

In a large pot, melt butter over medium-high heat. Cook onions for a couple of minutes. Add bacon and cook for a couple minutes. Add diced bell peppers and cook for a couple of minutes. Finally, add corn and cook for a minute.

Sprinkle flour evenly over the top and stir to combine. Pour in broth and stir well. Allow this to thicken for 3 or 4 minutes, then reduce heat to low. Stir in half-and-half, then cover and allow to simmer/thicken for 15 minutes or so.

april’s note: at this point, i put the chowder in the crock pot on warm until just before we were ready to eat.

Stir in cheeses and green onions. When cheese is melted and the soup is hot, check seasonings. Add salt and pepper as needed.  (We didn’t need any.)

Ladle into hollowed out boules (or bowls) and serve immediately.

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Lasagna Soup

Today is the perfect kind of day for soup.  It’s chilly (bleh).  It’s rainy (which, actually, i love rain just not so much when it’s on the cold side of the spigot.)  It’s October, so i guess we spring/summer-lovers may as well give in and say that fall is here.  Soup time!  Last night i got smart (for a change) and cooked two meals at one time.  Combined my sausage for last night’s Dirty Rice and hamburger for today’s Lasagna Soup together, so it made putting the meals together easier.  Also gave a little different flavor to the Rice and the Soup by having both types of meat, so that was a bonus as well.

Now, i don’t know about you, but it’s hard to think of lasagna and not think of Garfield.  Ah, Garfield.  Everything that i as a human am or wish i could be–fat (got that covered), lazy (ditto), outspoken (eh, not so much), and completely comfortable with himself (definitely got to work on that one.)  Oh, and a lasagna lover–got that one down too, although maybe not quite so well as Garfield.  Do you remember when the comic strip first came out?  I was still in school, so obviously Mr. G is on his 8th or 9th life.  Loved his sarcastic wit from the start.

Another witty character who is obviously completely comfortable with herself is Paula Deen.  Love her too!  She’s my kind of cook.  Now, to be honest, i do try to be a little more careful on a regular basis and cut back on salt, sugar and what-not; but i also believe you should enjoy life too.  Cake is not just a once-a-year-on-your-birthday food.  If you only celebrate your life once a year, you are a poor person indeed.  Anyway, off my soap box.  Paula.  Ran across her recipe for Lasagna Soup and knew it was a must-try.  I’ll tell you this: it swells.  What i cooked last night and what i pulled out of the refrigerator this morning to throw into the crock pot were two different-looking dishes.  If you want it soupy, cook it right before you consume it.  If you don’t mind it being thicker and more like lasagna, make it the day before and reheat it.  It tastes wonderful no matter what!  I did add some tomato juice and water with extra seasoning this morning to liquify it, but it was still thick.  But you  know what–no problem!  It was just exactly what the weatherman ordered.

Think i’ll take a page out of Garfield’s book and order up a siesta.  Before i go, here are some Paula quotes to add a little more spice to your day.

“Bein’ rich is having leftovers. Good leftovers make yo’ tongue fly outta yo’ mouth and smack yo’ brains out.”

 “Nobody better get between a fat girl and her food, ‘specially if the girl’s me.”

 “Oh I would be so teed off if I didn’t put butter on my biscuit one mornin’ and I walk out there and a truck hits me. And there my (rear end) is, lyin’ out in that street to die healthy. Oh, nooo, darlin’.”

Paula Deen

Lasagna Soup

1 lb. ground chuck (i added about another pound of sausage with this)

1 onion, chopped

1 bell pepper, chopped

2–3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp. thyme

1 Tbs. packed brown sugar

32 oz. chicken broth

2 (14.5 oz) can petite diced tomatoes

1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce

2 tsp. Italian seasoning

1/2 tsp. salt

2 cups broken lasagna noodles (didn’t measure–just used the whole box)

5 oz. grated Parmesan cheese

2 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese

Cook meat, onion, pepper and garlic over medium-high heat for 8 to 10 minutes.  Drain well.

Stir in thyme, sugar, broth, tomatoes, sauce, and seasonings.  Boil over medium-high heat; reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes.  Add noodles; stir until tender.  Add Parmesan cheese.

When serving, add Mozzarella cheese on top.  Serve with crostini or a warm, crusty bread.

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Cranberry Mousse

Yes, i can see you shaking your head.  Cranberries?  In the summertime?  Cranberries are a fall food, you protest.  They make you think of Thanksgiving and Christmas.  True.  But what if you took cranberries and made them light and fluffy and…summery?  Hmm?

Now if we were to ask Justin and Henry, the guys in the middle of the cranberry bog in the Ocean Spray commercials, if cranberries were just for fall, they’d have something witty and sarcastic to say, i’m sure.  So open your mind and then open your mouth to this wonderfully creamy flavor explosion.

My family would look at me cross-eyed if i served plain cranberry sauce.  We’ve been using this recipe since the girls were pups.  Somewhere i probably have a photo of little faces covered in cranberry mousse.  It is awesome!  So easy to make and goes with more than just turkey!  If there’s any left over after a meal, you’ll find someone eating it for breakfast. :0)  If i’m lucky, it’s me.  (Lucky is NOT my middle name.)

So, make room, chocolate!  There’s a new mousse in town.  

Cranberry Mousse

1 cup Ocean Spray® Cranberry Juice Cocktail

1 (3 ounce) package raspberry-flavored gelatin

1 (14 ounce) can Ocean Spray® Jellied Cranberry Sauce

2 cups frozen non-dairy whipped topping, thawed (or be really adventurous and make your own)

Heat cranberry juice cocktail to boiling in a saucepan. Remove from heat and stir in raspberry gelatin until dissolved; transfer to a large mixing bowl. Using an electric mixer on high speed, beat cranberry sauce in a small bowl for 1 minute. Stir into gelatin mixture. Chill until mixture begins to thicken, but isn’t set.

Just before serving, add whipped topping and blend thoroughly.

Happy Birthday shout-out to my 10-year-old nephew, Cameron!

 Happy Birthday, SuperCam! 

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Creamy White Chili

Some people are just timeless.  Have you ever wondered if J.M. Barrie modeled Peter Pan after someone he knew?  I know a few Pans myself (but will refrain from naming names…unless given proper motivation.  I’ll set up that Paypal account as soon as i’m finished.)  However, i will list one timeless person for free.  My buddy Lisa.  The gal is a kid at heart.  She is a child’s best pal.  She will take them places that would cause most adults to start perspiring just thinking about; do crazy stuff with them no matter how messy or silly; and will love them no matter how badly they need their rear ends swatted.  That’s Lisa Pan.

She also loves to cook and is rather adventurous too, so i’ve been bugging her to do a guest post on here.  This isn’t exactly her taking over for an entire post but she did send us a recipe and some personal observation!  So, thank you, Lisa Pan, for the chili!  And the fun times.  The world is a happier and crazier place because of you.

Creamy White Chili

1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts cut up in cubes (I used tenders)
1 medium onion, chopped
1-1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tbsp oil
2 cans (15-1/2 oz ea) Great Northern Beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (14-1/2 oz) chicken broth
2 cans (4 oz ea) chopped green chilies
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp Mexican Chipotle Pepper
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup heavy cream

Saute chicken in oil in large pot til chicken is no longer pink.
Add onion.  Saute til onion is transluscent.
Add next 7 ingredients.  Bring to a simmer and heat for 30 minutes.
Turn off heat and add sour cream and heavy cream.

I am trying to watch our calories so I doubled the amount of chicken broth and used whole milk instead of the heavy cream and I added a bag of frozen white corn at the very end of the simmer.  It was still very rich and I like the sweet crunch of the corn.  Just had some for lunch and it was better today than yesterday.  I also buy the prefrozen chicken tenders.  I just tossed them in to the pot whole and broke them apart as it all simmered.  It was a “very last minute throw together quick Johnny’s on his way home what’s for dinner” meal.


Nacho Potato Soup and Tortilla Soup

After last week’s guest post by her “Uncle Steve”, Persi the kitten was inspired and decided to take over today.  Unfortunately two insurmountable problems arose.  One, I can’t decipher Cattran or HTKT or whatever cat computer language she was using (if you can, this was the first thing she typed:  434r34r434).  Two, I’m just not sure the viewership is ready for Catnip Surprise.  So off she went to do whatever it is she does.  We’ll just stick to the chunky chick giving you a recipe or two surrounded by nonsense.  That being said, and Catnip Surprise aside, Persi’s musings (mewsings) might have been much more intelligible.

First, I must put out a disclaimer or two or three.  These are the recipes as they were originally published.  Yes, they use products that you could make/concoct yourself which would save you calories/fat/sodium/whatever.  Yes, you could save money by not using packaged products.  Whatever other objections you might have, okay.  Got it.  All good.  I probably agree.  Now that we have that out of the way….

These are recipes for two super soups.   You know what popped in my head when I first thought of super soups?

“Where is my Super Suit? Where-Is—My-Super-Suit? “  Great movie.  You have to appreciate super heroes who aren’t perfect.  The world has only known one true, flawless Superman.  Gives hope to the rest of us that we can be heroes albeit imperfect ones, doesn’t it?  But I digress.  Here are my heroes of the day: Super Soups.

Nacho Potato Soup and Tortilla Soup are the quintessential “fast food”s.  Quick to put together.  You can fix them right before you need to eat at the end of a long and/or busy day or you can fix them ahead and let them par-tay in the crock pot all day until you’re ready to consume them.  Easy peasy lemon squeezy.  Or in this case easy cheesy it’s-a-breezy?

Nacho Potato Soup

1 pkg (5 1/4 ozs) au gratin potatoes

1 can (11 ozs) whole kernel corn, drained

1 can (10 ozs) diced tomatoes and green chlies (aka Rotel), undrained

2 cups water

2 cups milk

2 cups cubed process American cheese (or Velveeta)

In a saucepan, combine the contents of the potato package, corn, tomatoes and water; mix well.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15–18 minutes or until potatoes are tender.  Add milk, cheese and hot pepper sauce, if desired.  Cook and stir until cheese  is melted.  Yield: 6–8 servings (2 quarts).

Tortilla Soup

1 pound ground beef, browned and drained

1 large can tomatoes

1 can whole kernel corn or hominy, drained

1 can kidney beans

1 can pinto beans

1 can chopped green chilies

1 can chicken broth

1 can Rotel tomatoes

1 package Hidden Valley Ranch seasoning

1/2 package taco seasoning

Cook all together until heated through.  Serve over tortilla chips.

Not Persi


Annie’s Fruit Salsa and Cinnamon Chips

Oh, joy!  Fresh fruit has arrived!  First the strawberries, now the cherries and next week…blueberries!  My girls are about the fruitiest…okay, fruit-eatingest gals i know, so this is a wonderful time of year for them.  You wouldn’t believe how many cherry pits have made their way into the garbage can in the last 24 hours.

When  our dear friends Steve and Sharon were expecting their baby last year, we had the pleasure of having a baby shower in our home.  One of the hits of the party was the following recipe for Fruit Salsa.  This stuff truly is ambrosia!  And you don’t feel guilty consuming it.  It’s so easy to make your own Cinnamon Chips but you could find them in some stores or also use graham crackers for those who don’t like cinnamon (yes, i somehow gave birth to the one person in the world who doesn’t.) ha  By the way, feel free to try variations.  I also added blackberries to  mine and hope to try it with blueberries and cherries very soon!

Annie’s Fruit Salsa and Cinnamon Chips

2 kiwis, peeled and diced
2 Golden Delicious apples – peeled, cored
and diced
8 ounces raspberries
1 pound strawberries
3 tablespoons fruit preserves

10 (10 inch) flour tortillas
butter flavored cooking spray
2 cups cinnamon sugar

In a large bowl, mix all of the fruits with preserves.  Cover and chill for at least 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Coat one side of tortilla with cooking spray.  Cut into wedges as you would a pizza.  Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and spray with oil again.  Bake for 8 to 10 minutes and allow to cool.



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