..it's about food, family, friends, and fun….it's about life.
Author: Viki D
I'm a wife, mother, and a nurse. I love to cook, craft, and create. I am a Christmas fanatic and love entertaining and cooking for my friends and family. Follow me on Pinterest at Around the Butcher Block / VikiD
Admittedly, it’s been a while since I have posted anything. We are back in Aruba and I’m feeling nostalgic since this is where I began my blog in 2017. I have actually been working on my cookbook. I also have a new career after retiring from nursing. I have set a goal of April – May of this year to finish it. It’s been a work in progress.
We are once again with our Connecticut friends that we met in Aruba. We have so much fun together. Distance doesn’t allow us to see one another as often as we would like. However, we pick up where we left off. It doesn’t seem as though any time has passed between us at all.
Sun, beach, and good food are never at a loss here. There is rarely ever any rain and always a nice breeze. The beautiful turquoise water just rejuvenates your every being. We left home just in time to miss a snow storm. Did I mention that my husband hates cold weather? I myself enjoy a good snow. Seems we only get one good one a year where we live now.
We have eaten some awesome food at some great restaurants. I have taken photos of some of our dishes. Others didn’t make it because I ate before I clicked……sometimes you just have to dive in. The food on this desert island is truly amazing, but so are the people. They truly make you feel at home and have your vacation interests at heart. It’s one of the reasons why we continue to come back every year.
If you’ve never been to Aruba it comes highly recommended. I can promise you won’t be sorry you took the time to explore this happy little island.
I hope you enjoy the pictures! I want to give my site a facelift! I also want to do some affiliation with a few folks that I enjoy. Stay tuned! I’m moving up! Stay safe and healthy too!
It’s cloudy and rainy here, and it’s Monday. I was in the mood for something warm and yummy. I haven’t made this lasagna in a while. I have, however, been making this particular recipe for about 30 years. I found it years ago and over the years I have tweaked it to my taste.
It’s very simple to make and takes no time at all. There is a little trick to the noodles which are generally the biggest pain; you’re going to love it! No, it’s not the oven ready noodles. Fill a very large bowl with the hottest tap water possible. Take your noodles and put them in the hot water while your are prepping your filling. By the time your done making your filling the noodles are ready. Pretty simple and they come out perfect! Nobody likes mushy noodles!!!!
Frozen spinach is used in this recipe. All you have to do is thaw it out and squeeze out the excess moisture. The only way I know how to do this is with a clean, lint free, cotton dishtowel. Put the thawed spinach in the center and squeeze the heck out of it. Don’t worry, your dishtowel will come out clean when you wash it. It’s amazing the amount of moisture that comes out of it! Add the rest of the ingredients to the bowl and mix well. In minutes you’re ready to assemble, and then to the oven.
If you have picky eaters or difficulty getting them to eat greens, give this one a try. My kids always loved it and never knew there was an onion in there. My husband just walked through and said “I don’t know what’s in the oven but it smells amazing. Can we eat now?”
With that said, it’s time to crisp up some Italian bread and make an olive oil dipping sauce. Hope this one finds it’s way to your table. I know your gonna love it!
2 (9-oz) packages of frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1/2 C finely chopped sweet onion (you can add this raw or caramelized to take it to another level)
1/4 C fresh parsley chopped, or 3 t of dried parsley
1 (24-oz) carton of cottage cheese
4 oz goat cheese, crumbled
1 (8-oz) container of chopped Baby Bella mushrooms (optional)
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper
1/2 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
2 eggs, beaten
3 C shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 C grated Parmesan cheese (I use Parmeggiano/Reggiano )
Fill a very large bowl with the hottest tap water possible. Put your noodles in the bowl and let them sit while you prepare the filling. For at least 20 minutes. Remove and lay flat on foil, or a silpat, or a cutting mat.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a medium bowl combine, spinach, onion, parsley, cottage cheese, goat cheese, mushrooms, garlic powder, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and eggs and mix well.
Using a 13×9 ungreased pan, layer 1/3 of the noodles, 1/3 of the spinach mixture, and 1 C of Mozzarella, repeat the layers twice more.
Sprinkle the top with the grated Parmesan.
Bake at 350 degrees for 35-45 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Let stand for at least 10 minutes before cutting.
Garnish with some additional parsley and a sprinkle of paprika if desired.
Well, 2020 has really been one for the books. I don’t know about you but I am looking forward to 2021.
Here we are, and it’s Christmas time once again. There’s something about putting up a tree and decorating the house that makes life a lot more tolerable. My favorite thing to do is bake cookies and make goodies for friends and family.
This year is no exception! So far I’ve made sugar cookies, Russian tea cakes, chocolate chip, and raspberry thumbprint cookies. I have also made chocolate covered pretzels. The one thing I love to make this time of year is homemade marshmallows. Just to step up my game, they also get dipped in chocolate and embellished with crushed candies or Christmas sprinkles. I have a friend that is a chef. He said “I don’t even know what’s in a marshmallow”. It’s pretty easy, basic stuff.
For years I was intimidated by having to use a candy thermometer. I got over it really quickly because I just had to try my hand at marshmallow making. Boy, am I glad that I did. Once you’ve had homemade you will never want store bought again. They make great gifts and are a definite crowd pleaser. Licking the bowl and the beater are an absolute must! I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do.
3 packages unflavored gelatin
1 1/2 C granulated sugar
1 C light corn syrup
1/4 t kosher salt
1 T pure vanilla extract (you can use other flavorings if you like)
Confectioners sugar, for dusting and to prevent sticking together
Combine the gelatin and 1/2 cup of cold water in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk. Let this sit while you make the syrup.
Combine the sugar, corn syrup, salt, and 1/2 C of water in a small saucepan fitted with your candy thermometer. Cook over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. (you will be able to see the mixture becoming clear). Raise the heat to high and cook until the syrup reaches 240 degrees or soft ball stage on the candy thermometer. Remove from the heat.
With the mixer on low slowly pour the sugar syrup into the dissolved gelatin. Put the mixer on high speed and whip until the mixture is very thick, about 15-20 minutes. Add the vanilla or other flavoring and mix throughly.
With a sieve/or wire strainer generously dust an 8×12 inch glass baking dish (no metal) with confectioners sugar. Pour the marshmallow mixture into the pan, smooth the top and dust with more confectioners sugar. Allow to stand uncovered overnight until it dries out.
Turn the marshmallow onto a board dusted with confectioners sugar and cut them into squares. Don’t panic, you will have to pull them out of your pan, they will not just fall out. You can make them any size you like. Dust them with more confectioners sugar to prevent them from sticking together.
Use a good melting chocolate like Merckens or melting wafers. (We like dark chocolate). Melt your chocolate and using a fork, sit the marshmallow on top of the tines and put the marshmallow into the chocolate, covering all areas. Bring it up and tap the marshmallow against the side of the container to remove excess chocolate and help with sheeting. Move to a pan lined with parchment paper, using a chop stick or toothpick just to guide it off the fork in a sliding motion, add sprinkles or crushed candy of choice. Once all the marshmallows are prepped put in the refrigerator to harden the chocolate.
Store in an airtight container after the chocolate is completely hardened and keep in a cool dry place.
Note: when melting chocolate I like to do it in the microwave. I set it to half power and melt at 30 seconds and stir after each with the fork that I use to dip them with. I use a plastic container with a lid so if I have chocolate left over I can cover it and save if for the next time.
It’s finally here….October! It’s fall and it’s my favorite time of year. In truth, I am just a cooler, cold weather person. I love the briskness and the scent of clean air. Not to mention I have always liked winter recipes much more than summer recipes. Let’s face it, comfort food is at it’s best in cooler months.
The past few days in Maryland have been beautiful. Nice cool breeze, sunshine, and a hint of what fall will bring. This weather always puts me in the mood to cook. So far this week I have made cornbread, fresh lima bean soup, shrimp tacos with a chipotle slaw and I just made some awesome apple cider doughnuts.
I can not take credit for the recipe but I am here to tell you, it’s one of the best doughnut recipes I have ever tried. The doughnut is tender and cake like. Hints of cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg add to the warmth of this doughnut. The apple cider is boiled down into a thick syrup and added to the batter. Once they are done they are rolled into a sugar concoction that screams fall. I ask you….is there anything better than a warm doughnut???? I think not, especially with a good cup of coffee.
It’s a bonus that this doughnut is baked, not that there is anything wrong with a fried doughnut. I like that I don’t have to fool with hot oil. Honestly I can’t see the difference between baked and fried. It must be that this doughnut recipe is that good. In fact, our dog “Toby”, won’t let my husband get a bite because he likes them too….haha!
If your looking for a good recipe this is the one. You can find it at …. cakewhiz.com/baked-apple-cider-donuts/.
I wanted to bring this recipe back around. Eggplant is readily available this time of year. As luck would have it I was gifted a sackful of them. They can be found at most farm-stands or your local grocer. They can be white or purple skinned. I prefer those gorgeous, purple skinned, beauties.
This recipe has a few steps, but well worth the effort. It’s an impressive meal to serve to guests, if they like eggplant that is. Crispy baked eggplant, with a creamy goat cheese filling, topped with a smokey tomato chutney, and caramelized onions.
I recently made a roasted vegetable lasagna with some of my eggplant. I am also making a Middle Eastern dip today known as, baba ghanoush. Tonight we are going to have these lovely baked stacks and a bib lettuce salad. I can not wait!
Eggplant, (Solanum melongena), also called aubergine or Guinea squash, tender perennialplant of the nightshade family (Solanaceae), grown for its edible fruits. Eggplant requires a warm climate and has been cultivated in its native Southeast Asia since remote antiquity. A staple in cuisines of the Mediterranean region, eggplant figures prominently in such classic dishes as the Greek moussaka, the Italian eggplant parmigiana, and the Middle Eastern relish baba ghanoush. It is also frequently served as a baked, grilled, fried, or boiled vegetable and is used as a garnish and in stews. The plant is closely related to the tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) and the potato (S. tuberosum) as well as to several poisonous nightshades. (excerpt from Encyclopedia Brittanica)
We are at the Cambridge house this weekend. Prepping and planning and getting her ready for sale. It’s been a great house with a lot of memories. I am sure our next home will be just as memorable. Although, this one will be difficult to beat.
We built some garden planters at the back of the shed a couple years ago. We haven’t really used them for the past two years. Anyway, we came home one weekend to find a basil plant under all the weeds. How lucky am I? I plant basil every year and love to cook with it. Somehow the wind or a bird was kind enough to take a seed to one of the beds. It is huge and healthy plant; it appears happy there.
Here on the shore it’s another steamy, hot, unbearable, day. There is no relief outside, the pool water is like a bath. So what’s a girl to do? I decided to stay in the kitchen today and cook. That basil plant was screaming pesto. This recipe calls for 5 cups of packed basil leaves. That’s a lot of basil! Even after taking all of that from the garden there is still a ton left. It needed a good prune to continue to grow and get bushy. Mission accomplished on both fronts.
Pesto is such a versatile sauce. It’s very easy to make; using the food processor makes quick work of it. I use both pignola or pine nuts, and walnuts in mine. I have used all walnuts or all pine nuts and the results are just as good. This recipe also calls for good olive oil and a good cheese. I love aged parmeggiano / reggiano. It’s a little pricey but the taste is outstanding. No sense in making a tasteless sauce.
Pesto is good on pasta, pizza, chicken, or tomato salad, or other vegies. I love making paninis with fresh mozzarella, roasted peppers, caramelized onions, and pesto. You can also freeze this sauce. I like to put it in small 2 oz containers, cover it with a thin film of oil and put the containers in the freezer in a freezer bag. It’s a great way to have the fresh taste of basil all year long. It brings summer into your kitchen even in the coldest months.