Category: Uncategorized

Root Of The Problem

Here is the “Problem”:

Time slipped away with work and I have NO idea what to make for dinner!

So, at 5:30 pm last night, I dig around in the pantry and find some potatoes and onions. Have a package of Italian sausage in the fridge that I have to use before it goes bad and found a bag of spinach with the same issue. By 6:30 I had the wine poured and dinner on the table. Not bad not having a plan! Carrots, whole garlic cloves, parsnips or even whole shallots can be added. I hope you enjoy this dish and let me know what variations you have used.

Winter is a great time to use fabulous root veggies and flavorful sausage. I love placing the hot roast directly over a bed of fresh chilled spinach. The heat from the roast softens the top layer of spinach leaves but also leaves some crunchiness with others giving you some fabulous textures to experience. Use a peppery extra virgin olive oil to drizzle on the salad.

Root Veggie Roast With Sausage

1-2 large sweet potato, cut into large chunks

1-2 large russet potato, cut into large chunks

1-2 large onion, quartered

1 pound Italian sausage, approximate weight, cut in 3” chunks or cut links in half

2 tsp. dried rosemary

1 bay leaf, gently broken up

Olive oil for drizzling – about 3 Tbs.

Kosher salt and plenty of black pepper


Preheat oven to 375F; if your oven has a “roast” option – use it!

Place veggies, sausage and seasonings in large casserole pan; drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper – toss.

Roast in middle of oven for 20 minutes; toss. Roast for 15-20 longer or until sausage and potatoes are brown and crispy.

Remove from oven and serve. Makes 3-4 servings


Winter Root Veggie Garden Salad

Root Veggie Roast (see above recipe)

Baby spinach

Olive oil

Red wine vinegar


Place large handful of spinach on dinner plate; top with a large spoon-full or two of warm Root Veggie Roast. Drizzle with Olive oil and just a shake or two of vinegar.

Note: Very forgiving recipe. The above recipe can make 3-4 nice salads for dinner. Perfect with a glass of red or white wine. The quantities are estimates and actually recipe is more fun when fewer measurements are used.

Christmas Morning Easy Eats

Some people put out a huge spread on Christmas morning. Others keep it simple and save their energy for the Christmas feast later in the afternoon. Still, there are others who need to make many visits throughout the day seeing aunts, uncles, cousins, grandmas, grandpas, nieces, nephews and let’s not forget to stop home and let the dog out in the middle of this “running around”. We have done all of the above and I know you have too. Here is a fun little idea to make an easy breakfast special. Enjoy your Christmas and savor the family time as much as the food you eat on this very special day!

Pancakes Christmas Morning Style
1 cup Bisquick mix (low-fat works great)
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1/2 cup 2% milk
1 large egg
1 Tablespoon molasses

  1. Simply whisk the dry ingredients into the Bisquick mix in a large bowl.
  2. In a separate small bowl whisk milk, egg and molasses.
  3. Combine wet into the dry ingredients and mixing just until incorporated.
  4. Cook on griddle with melted butter. Yes, butter – it’s Christmas and everything tastes better with butter! Enjoy!

It’s Always Something

I have been meaning to write for the past 2 weeks and every time I sat down to do so, something else seemed to be more urgent.  Moving son home from summer internship, daughter applying to grad schools and many many essays to edit, picking up husband from car dealership when car broke down, girl friend needing help packing and loading her moving van (within 2 days…), and most recently daughter fainting in the bathroom and rushing her to ER (she is fine by the way).

What is good about this time of year is the abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables available to whip up quick dishes. Ones you can leave in the fridge and everyone can take a bite, a dip, or a handful of something to keep them full and satisfied.

Here is a quick fool-proof method for cooking corn-on-the-cob.  You may already know the technique, but some may not.


Corn-On-The-Cob Foolproof/Easy/Quick

4 ears of fresh corn – leaving husks on until ready to submerge in water

Large pot

  1. Husk corn and break in half
  2. Place corn in pot and fill with cool water until corn is submerged
  3. At this time, you can leave on counter for up to 4-6 hours
  4. Place over a high heat and bring to a boil
  5. Turn off heat and place snug fitting lid on pan
  6. Corn is ready to eat anytime you are ready.  It will keep for up to 2 hours
  7. Refrigerate corn at this point for up to 3-4 days.  Re-warm whole or cut off cob to use in salsa’s, soups, stuffings, soufflés, salads or side dishes

Blueberries baby!!


When July and August roll around I get beyond excited about all the fresh garden goodies that are available to me…tomatoes, grapes, cantaloupe, watermelon, sweet corn, zucchini, beats, swiss chard, green beans, raspberries and blueberries to name a few. Just the other day we went to the beach and on the way was a “U-Pick” sign. Of course I stop and inquire what is available to pick. We are in the middle of Blueberry season people! Yes, blueberries, that beautiful little round orb packed with sweetness and tartness all in one bite. We picked blueberries until our buckets were full. Once home, I made enough jam to keep us through the winter (I know it sounds like Little House On The Prairie, but it’s true – I made a lot!). Still with more berries in the fridge, I made blueberry buttermilk pancakes, blueberry muffins and topped cereal and yogurt for the past 3 days. Before freezing the remainder, I dug up an old recipe my mother-in-law gave me while dating my husband. I love this cake. This is one of her many infamous go-to recipes when we come to visit. It’s simple to make and needs no frosting. Always a hit and never much left in the pan by the end of the weekend!



Blueberry Banana Applesauce Cake
2 1/2 cups white flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter softened
2 cups sugar
1 large egg
1 cup mashed banana (2 medium)
2 cups applesauce (16 ounces)*
1 pound (16 ounces) blueberries (fresh or frozen)**

1. Preheat oven 350 degrees F. Coat 9×13 pan with cooking spray.
2. Combine flour, powder, soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt; set aside.
3. Cream butter and sugar in a mixer. Add egg beat until fluffy; 1 minute.
4. Combine banana and applesauce in small bowl; set aside.
5. Add 1/3 flour mixture to creamed butter mixture just until incorporated, then half the banana/applesauce, then another third of flour, then rest of banana and finish off adding rest of flour mixture just until incorporated.
6. Add blueberries and mix by hand gently until berries are simple covered with batter; no more than 6-8 turns of the mixing spoon.
7. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 40-45 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

* Note: I have made this recipe with as little as 1 cup of applesauce and added another egg. This cake is fairly forgiving.
**Note: If using frozen blueberries, toss them with 2 tablespoons flour before mixing in the batter.

Hello world…the food diva is here

Yes, I call myself a food snob and proud of it.

No, I haven’t tasted every kind of food on the planet and don’t plan too.  I’ll leave that up to those crazy people like Anthony and such on the Food Network to do that for me while I watch them at the gym while I’m on the treadmill running off the last few calories from the night before…

Yes, I can irritate some people with my comments and suggestions.  Especially when I’m in an Italian restaurant and I correct the waiter when he/she pronounces marinara “merry-nera”, or when they say biscotti “bizz-goaty” or “biz-cot-ie”  You see, I’m Italian, and it really bothers me when a so called “Italian” restaurant serves so called “Italian” food and pours so called “Italian” wine and they don’t have a clue what they are doing, saying or serving!

I am excited to get started on this blogging journey and hope you will travel with me through food, preparations, tidbits of info, history and general “Food” for thought discussions.

I’ll be “dishing-up” soon!


Husband cooking dinner?

Lying on my back right now wondering when I will feel better…more importantly though,what will I eat for dinner?  I was just diagnosed with some kind of virus that worked its way into my inner ear causing dizziness to the point where I can’t move my head from a horizontal position.  I was assured the perpetual roller-coaster feeling will subside 3-14 days from now.  Not much consolation considering I have a very hard time sitting still.  I was given some medication…one of the warnings on the labelstates – “May cause dizziness”…What?  Isn’t that what the medication is for?  Needless to say I must be patient and let the virus run it’s course. 

Now for the more important details – dinner!  My husband is on his way home from work and must be wondering the same thing.  “What can I make Kathleen and myself; something that will satisfy her bordem and my starvation.”  I know he is concerned about this dilemna since he would easily just make buttered noodles for himself, but I don’t approve (food snob I must be).

So I will suggest the following – I roasted a cajun turkey breast in the Crockpot yesterday and chilling in the fridge right now.  It turned out fabulous.  I think if he takes a whole wheat type flat bread (lavash, tortilla etc.), spreads a bit of mayo on it, lay some spinach leaves on top, then slices of cajun turkey topping with slices of blue cheese .. he will have one great roll-up.  Side of oven roasted potatoes and a small green salad and I think I just came up with a “yummy dinner”! 

I don’t have much choice on where I will be eating and relaxing tonight – it will be infront of the TV watching the NCAA Basketball finals!  I hope my team wins and good luck to your favorite team.  Will let you know how dinner turns out!

Oops…forgot to make dinner

Has that ever happened to you?  I work from home and I was sitting at the kitchen table yesterday and before I knew it – it was after 6:40and my husband was walking in the door from work.  Nothing on the stove, nothing in the oven, and nothing delivered to the door (referring to the pizza guy ringing the doorbell).  I was so wrapped up in my work that I completely forgot the time.  So here is what I did and it worked great!  First I have a nice large container of Whole Grain Master Mix in my pantry.  With this I made basic pancakes; no optional add-ins since there was very little in the fridge to begin with and I wanted to keep the pancakes more savory than sweet.  Then found 4 eggs, some left-over corn salsa, the endings of ricotta cheese, a container of left-over roasted onions and green peppers, and a tablespoon of pesto.  So, I got my husband on pancake duty (can’t really ruin that part) and I made the rest.  I warmed up the vegetables and salsa in a large non-stick skillet with a bit of olive oil, added the eggs and pesto and scrambled it around (I stink at making omeletes so scrambled eggs work).  Then, when the eggs were almost cooked I placed a few globs of ricotta cheese over the then top and sprinkled lightly with sea salt and fresh ground black pepper.  By the time I was done – so was my husband and the pancakes.  It was a great meal and the left-over pancakes were a perfect snack for my husband today.

Here is my Whole Grain Master Mix recipe to make pancakes – enjoy!

Whole Grain Master Mix

2 cups all-purpose un-bleached flour

2 cups whole wheat flour

¾ cups nonfat dry milk powder

½ cup old-fashioned rolled oats

½ cup cornmeal (white or yellow)

2 tablespoons baking powder

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon salt

½ cup canola or vegetable oil


1.      Combine flours, dry milk, oats, cornmeal, baking powder, sugar, and salt in a large bowl.  Using a pastry blender, cut in the oil until a coarse meal forms.


Store the mix in a covered container at room temperature or in the refrigerator of up to 2 months.  Measure as you would flour; do not pack into measuring cup.


Morning Glory Pancakes

3 cups Whole Grain Master Mix (pack lightly)

1½ cups water, or slightly more for a thinner batter

1 egg

½ granny smith apple, diced

½ carrot grated and chopped, 2-3 tablespoons

½ cup shredded coconut

½ cup chopped pecans


1.      Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl, whisking just until blended and lumps barely disappear, 10-15 seconds.  Proceed to make pancakes on griddle.


Christmas at the Hanna’s

You have to believe me that when the month of July roles around – our son begins his countdown for decorating our house with Christmas lights.  On the hottest of days he scurries down the basement and digs out multiple boxes of lights and tests them all.  He then makes diagram after diagram – plans, elevations, and 3-D sketches of the house and front/side yards scheming up new ideas that will WOW the passerby.  ‘Self-control’ I try to stress when he goes off the deep end with some farfetched idea that requires the use of a cherry picker from the neighborhood rental store or an additional electric meter to help sustain the power usage.  It takes all my energy to reel him in sometimes.

Our daughter, of course, is less interested in the outdoor wiring diagrams and more interested in re-decorating our house.  To her, Christmas decorating is an invitation to glitz the indoors to the max.  She takes out every thread of decoration that finds a home in the nine holiday storage bins for 11 months.  On Thanksgiving weekend she quickly takes inventory of the holiday storage boxes and prances around the house for 3 days draping every lamp, table, chair, doorway, and doorknob with ornaments, wreaths, garland, figurines, angels, village displays, and ribbon.  ‘Self-control’ I stress when she asks to decorate the furnace room in the basement.

I must confess being preached to by my own husband, many times, to practice more ‘self-control’ when it comes to planning the holiday meals.  My past menus listed enough dishes to feed an army; heavy on the starch and fat, light on the veggies and nutrition.  Over the years I have been ‘trained’ (through the watchful eyes of my husband) to cut back on the quantity of food and balance my menu with healthier nutritious choices without taking away the fun of creating a wonderful Christmas or New Years feast.

It is actually easier than I thought and everyone still leaves the table full and satisfied…even having leftovers for a few days…not months.  Over the years I have recorded and saved many holiday menus.  Listing all the facts about the recipe/cookbook/page number helps in organizing the meal and is a great reference in the future.  Below are a few menu ideas and recipes from my files that will help you create balanced, healthy, filling meals in celebration.  Enjoy your holiday with your family – Kathleen

Previously written for and printed in Healthy Fit Magazine – December 2007 issue

Christmas Eve Dinner:

Goat Cheese spread (see recipe below)

Lettuce leaves stuffed with shrimp salad

Marinated Mediterranean olives

Caesar salad

Linguine with clam sauce

Crusty bread

Christmas cookies


Christmas Morning Breakfast:

Organic granola – Trader Joe’s makes a fabulous praline-pecan flavor

Vanilla yogurt – store bought

Sliced grapefruit halves

Fresh bakery muffins with honey butter


New Years Day Brunch:

Baked French toast soufflé (see recipe below)

Turkey sausage or bacon

Fresh fruit salad with yogurt dipping sauce



Baked French Toast Soufflé

1 (16 oz.) loaf whole-grain baguette

8 eggs

3 cups milk

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

¼ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon nutmeg


1 cup brown sugar

1 cup chopped pecans

½ cup butter, softened

2 tablespoons light corn syrup

½ teaspoon each cinnamon and nutmeg

1.      Preheat oven 350 degrees.

2.      Coat 10×15” baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.

3.      Cut bread into 20 equal slices; arrange in one layer, overlapping if necessary.

4.      Combine eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg, whisk.  Pour over bread; cover and chill 1 hour or overnight.

5.      Combine topping ingredients with fork.  Crumble/spread over bread.

6.      Bake 35-40 minutes or until browned.  Slice and serve.


Goat Cheese Spread

8 oz. fresh goat cheese

4 oz. low-fat cream cheese

6 tablespoons minced fresh chives or parsley

1 garlic clove, crushed

1 French bread baguette, sliced

1.      Bring ingredients to room temperature.  Combine (except bread); mix well with fork.  Shape into square and refrigerate overnight.  Can be made up to 2 days in advance, keep refrigerated.  Serve with bread slices.





Wow, what a month it has been, college football home game every weekend, bad case of bronchitis, kitchen casualty (knife cutting finger), and 4 large book presentations.  Just to make this perfectly clear…I am no busier than any one of you!  The point is – we are ALL busy – everyone’s “busy” has its own definition, but always the same “busy”.  With that being said, Thanksgiving is literally 2 days away and guess what?  Yep, you guessed it; we are having a houseful of guests including my mom and dad from Cleveland and my son’s college roommate from Shanghai China!  We have a football game planned in the morning at a friend’s house, with over 20 in attendance, whose family will also attend our Thanksgiving feast.

Our feast tends to be loose, casual and not “stuffy”.  We serve an array of dishes that compliment the turkey.  I consider these side dishes “friends” of the turkey…you see this turkey has many kinds of friends.  He (yes, our turkey is a “he”), has Italian, Greek, American, Irish, Asian, and even German friends.  The dishes that surround our turkey are as unique as the list of backgrounds listed above.  I can go on and on about the types of dishes we serve…but remember…I’m busy today so let’s just say…Italian sausage and even pizza will be on the menu as appetizers. 

Here is a great recipe we have made in the past that really takes brussels sprouts to a fabulous level of flavor.  I highly suggest that you do not double this recipe…peeling and slicing shallots can take a fair amount of time!  I wish you all a fabulous Thanksgiving holiday weekend – whatever you may have planned – and enjoy the simplicity of each other around your dinner table tonight, tomorrow night and always. kathleen


Warm Brussels Sprouts Shallot Salad

1 1/2 pounds brussels sprouts, bottoms trimmed

4 Tablespoons olive oil

1 Cup low-sodium chicken broth

4 Tablespoons butter, divided

1Tablespoon olive oil

1/3 – ½ pound shallots, minced

1 Tablespoon sugar

2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar

Freshly ground black pepper


1.   Slices Brussels sprouts into thinly – as close to 1/8” as possible.  Set aside. (Can be done 1 day in advance and stored in a Ziploc bag with all air removed and refrigerated).

2.   In medium skillet warm oil over medium heat; add sprouts and sauté until brown; about 8 minutes. Season with freshly ground black pepper.  Add chicken broth and sauté until liquid evaporates and sprouts are bright green and fork tender.  Remove from heat and place in serving bowl.  Can be made 1 day in advance and refrigerated.  Re-warm in microwave before continuing.

3.   In same medium skillet (wiped out with paper towel)** warm 2 tablespoons butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat; add shallots and sauté until soft and slightly brown – about 8-10 minutes depending on how thin you were able to slice the shallots.  Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

4.   Add sugar and vinegar stirring until glazed; about 2-3 minutes.  Can be made 2 days in advance stored in refrigerator in air tight container. Re-warm in microwave before continuing.

5.   Add shallot mixture to sauted sprouts and toss gently – serve hot or warm.



Note: * Extra Virgin Olive Oil

** Trying to keep the clean up to a “low roar”


Cold on a Saturday

I have a cold..and it’s cold out side.  There are leaves everywhere in our yard and I have no energy to rake them.  Thank goodness it’s an away football game and our two kids decided to come home for the weekend.  I think my husband will recruit them to help rake the leaves…that is if they don’t have too much homework.  Today “SCREAMS” a hot bowl of soup!  I am planning to make my BLT Soup today.  It is fun, easy and everybody loves it!  I think after relaxing and sipping on this soup, I will feel better – kids home, yard raked and a hot bowl of soup!  The only thing that can make it better is a “W” in the win column for the home team!  I hope your day Saturday is filled with football game wins and warm thoughts!



This is something my kids just love when served with a big chunk of crusty bread.  It tastes just like a BLT sandwich.


Prep time: 10 min.                   Cook time: 15 min.     Quantity: 4-6 servings


8 slices bacon, cut into 2-inch pieces

1 medium onion, chopped

1-2 stalks celery, chopped

3 cups less-sodium beef broth

1 can (14.5-ounce) diced tomatoes

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

¼ – ½ teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon dried parsley

½ teaspoon dried thyme

½ teaspoon black pepper                                                                                                                    

Dash of hot sauce (optional)

2 cups shredded lettuce


1.      Cook bacon until crisp in a large pot over medium heat.

2.      Remove bacon and set aside; discard drippings except for 2 tablespoons.

3.      Sauté onion and celery in drippings until soft, stirring frequently; about 8 minutes.

4.      Add broth, tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, parsley, thyme, pepper, and hot sauce (if using); bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes.

5.      Serve hot in bowls, topping soup with shredded lettuce, and reserved bacon.


Quick Tip:  Adding a sprinkle of sharp cheddar cheese and a slice of avocado with the lettuce adds a new twist.  I have also added shredded beef, chicken, or pork on occasion.


For Keeps:  Make this soup up to 2 days in advance.  When ready to serve, just re-warm and top with shredded lettuce and reserved bacon.  Soup can also be frozen for up to 2 months – freeze the reserved bacon in a separate freezer storage bag and tape to the top of the soup container.  Thaw in refrigerator or microwave before re-warming and serving.


Has Bean Saturday

We all just arrived home from a very long and busy day.  Both our kids are members of a Big Ten Marching Band, so after the game (we won!), they decided to come home for the night (of course with roommates and friends).  Not because they miss me terribly…but because they miss a clean bed, free use of the washer and dryer, and knowing they will get somepretty good home-cooked meals.

After spending extravagant dollars on tickets, tailgating, parking and $4.00/bottle of water in the stadium, I was a bit frugal and decided to cook dinner instead of spending any more cash on food and the like.  Being exhausted, it had to be quick, easy and accessible.  So I found some chicken fillets in the freezer which thaw quickly, whipped up a pot of Jasmine rice in the rice cooker and found a bag of fresh green beans in the fridge.  It was a success and within 45 minutes of walking in the door, we had food on the table…complete meal…and pretty tasty too!


¼ cup Dijon mustard

¼ cup maple syrup

½ teaspoon chili powder

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

4 chicken breast halves, cut in half lengthwise (or 8 chicken breast fillets)

8 bacon strips


1.      Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2.      Combine mustard, maple syrup, chili powder and cayenne in medium bowl.

3.      Place chicken in mustard mixture; mix gently until all chicken is coated.

4.      Remove one piece of chicken at a time; wrap 1 bacon strip around each piece of chicken. If any remaining mixture, drizzle on top of wrapped chicken pieces.

5.      Place on prepared baking tray with bacon ends down.  Bake for 25-30 minutes or until bacon is crisp and chicken is not longer pink in center.



1-2 tablespoons peanut oil

1 pound green beans, rinsed and ends trimmed, drained well

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 teaspoon dark soy sauce

1 teaspoon sesame oil


1.      In a medium skillet warm peanut oil over medium-high heat.

2.      Add garlic and stir for 30 seconds.  Immediately add green beans and stir to coat with oil and garlic; reduce heat to medium-low and cover stirring every few minutes.  After 10 minutes sprinkle with dark soy sauce and drizzle with sesame oil; toss to coat.   Replace lid and check beans every few minutes until crisp tender.

3.      Remove lid and increase heat to medium-high to remove any excess moisture that may have gathered.  This step is optional.

Vietnamese cooking

I had aunique and interesting opportunity offered to me.  A few months ago the Grand Rapids public library asked me to do a cooking presentation/demonstration on Vietnamese cooking in August!  I was a bit concerned since I am the least bit Vietnamese…actually I am 100% Italian!  But the program director knows me and I have done a number of presentations and cooking demonstrations for the library in the past – she likes my energy and knowledge of food and loves the fun way I present to the audience.

Well, I decided to take on the challenge and did alot of research on the subject (for 3 months) learning alot about Vietnamese culture, history as well as learning about their cuisine.  My biggest concern when presenting was having the right knowledge and representing the Vietnamese culture correctly.

I made friends with a fella at our local Asian Market who ended up being Vietnamese and his uncle owns the best Vietnamese restaurant in the city!  His knowledge and the resources of the market was invaluable.

The presentation happened this past Wednesday evening and I was quite nervous going into the presentation…especially when I saw some patrons of the library from the Asian culture in the audience…(seated in the second row).  Well, the presentation ended up going very well and I had such a fun time presenting the material.  The audience (over 35 of them) was very responsive and asked a lot of questions…the best part was when I couldn’t answer some of the questions…two of my Asian “friends” in the audience helped me.  After the presentation was over and guests came to the front to taste the food, I was complimented on how much fun they had and when my two Asian friends specifically complimented me on the dishes prepared and told me I was “spot-on” with the taste, texture and selection of historic significance related to their cultural food – I was so happy!

I ran out of copies of the recipes to hand out so I have included them below for those who attended the presentation and were unable to taste all the food or not able to recieve a copy.

My advise to everyone reading this blog is if you are lucky enough to have an Asian market in your town; take some time and visit!  Try some of the different rices and noodles, explore the sauces and vegetables.  Ask questions and I am sure the people who work there will be willing to help.  They like sharing knowledge about their culture and types of foods they eat – it truly will be an experience and have fun doing it!

Enjoy culture at your dinner table tonight!  Have fun eating – Kathleen


Vietnamese dipping sauce

2 cloves garlic, sliced

1 teaspoon ground chili paste

1 fresh thai bird chili, chopped (optional)

2 Tablespoons fish sauce

2/3 cup hot water

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, no need to strain

¼ cup sugar

2 tablespoons shredded carrots for garnish


1.      Make paste with garlic, chili paste in mortar.  Pound with pestle into a paste.

2.      Combine with remaining ingredients; mixing until sugar is dissolved.

3.      Garnish with shredded carrots.


Hoisin Peanut Sauce

1 cup hoisin sauce

½ cup water

¼ cup rice wine vinegar

¼ cup finely minced onion

½ tablespoon ground chili paste

2 tablespoons chopped roasted/salted peanuts for garnish


1.      Place hoisin sauce, water vinegar and onion in sauce pan and bring to boil; reduce and let simmer for 5 minutes adding a bit of water if too thick.

2.      When cool stir in chili paste and garnish with peanuts.


Rice paper-wrapped salad rolls

12 medium raw shrimp peeled

½ pound pork shoulder trimmed

8 (12-inch) round rice papers (extras may be needed in case some tear)

8 small leafs of lettuce, romaine, red leaf, or iceberg folded into 5”x 1” rectangles

¼ pound rice vermicelli, cooked in boiling water 4-5 minutes, rinsed and drained and tossed     lightly with vegetable oil.

1 cup bean sprouts

18 fresh mint leaves


1.      Cook pork in a medium sauce pan of boiling salted water until tender; about 30 minutes.  Cool and then slice into ¼” x 1” pieces.

2.      Cook shrimp in boiling salted water until just done, about 2 minutes.  Drain and refresh in cool water; cut in half lengthwise; set aside.

3.      Set up a prep station before making rolls by arranging all ingredients in separate bowls and in order of filling.  Work on a large clean counter.

a.       Fill a large bowl with hot water

b.      Line up ingredient as given: rice paper, sliced shrimp, pork slices, lettuce, vermicelli (1 tablespoon/roll), sprouts (1 tablespoon/roll), and mint leaves (3 per roll)

c.       Dip one rice paper disc into bowl; count to 5 and remove; place on counter

d.      Place filling in order given above neatly on top of each other at top third of rice paper working as quickly as you can

e.       Roll top edge of rice paper over ingredients and roll over once.  Then pull sides in together to create a package and then continue rolling making sure you press down on the ingredients and while you roll to ensure a tight package

4.      To serve, slice the rolls in 2 to 4 equal pieces passing Vietnamese Dipping Sauce and Hoisin Peanut Sauce.




Pho (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup)

2-2 ½ pounds beef chuck roast, trimmed of any visible fat, cut into 4 pieces

3 quarts water

1 ½ tablespoons salt

1 (5-inch) piece fresh ginger, unpeeled

2 large yellow onions, peeled and quartered

5 whole star anise

4 whole cloves

1 ½ tablespoons fish sauce

2 ½ tablespoons sugar


Noodles: ½ pound dried small rice sticks, soaked in hot water for 20 minutes; drain



Finest quality top sirloin (raw) (optional)

Yellow onion, sliced paper-thin

Green onion, chopped

Fresh cilantro, chopped

Bean sprouts

Fresh Thai basil sprigs

Limes cut into wedges

Fresh red or green chilies, sliced

Fish sauce


1.      Fill large stockpot with water and bring to a boil; add beef pieces and boil for 5 minutes; remove meat from water and discard water.

2.      Return beef to pot and fill with the 3 quarts of fresh cool water; add salt and bring to a boil.

3.      While stock simmers, dry-roast ginger and onion in fry pan over high heat.  Turning occasionally so skins are evenly charred but not cooked, about 5-8 minutes; remove from heat and add to stock.

4.      Add star anise, cloves, fish sauce, and sugar and continue to simmer until meat is tender, about 1½ hours.

5.      Remove 1 piece of beef from pot and set aside to cool; simmer stock with the remaining meat to create a rich broth, about 30 minutes more.  Remove spices, ginger and onions at this time.  Broth may seem salty but will balance with remaining condiments and noodles.

6.      Arrange condiments on a platter and set aside.  Cut reserved beef into thin slices and serve with condiments.  If using sirloin beef (refrigerate the raw meat until ready to serve), slice into very thin strips and arrange on platter; pour boiling hot broth over top of beef and other select accompaniments and serve immediately.

7.      Serve soup in large soup bowls to hold generous amounts of steaming broth along with noodles (1 part noodles to 4 parts broth) and any accompaniments.




Curried Rice with Lime

3 tablespoons butter

1 yellow onion, chopped

2 cups jasmine rice

1 ½ tablespoons curry powder

½ teaspoon turmeric

½ tablespoon salt

2 ½ cups water

2/3 cup unsweetened coconut milk

Zest of 1 lime (optional)

2/3 cup frozen peas, thawed


1.      Heat butter in saucepan over medium heat; add onion and sauté until tender; about 5 minutes.  Add rice, curry powder, turmeric, and salt.  Toss for 2-3 minutes to evenly coat the rice. 

2.      Place water and coconut milk in the rice cooker with the rice mixture.  Stir to combine; cook.

3.      When rice is done stir in peas and lime; replace lid of rice cooker and let sit for 3 minutes; serve.





Siagon salad


5 cloves garlic

1 cup loosely packed chopped cilantro

1 red chili

3 tablespoons white sugar

1/4 cup fresh lime juice

3 tablespoons fish sauce

1 (12 ounce) package dried rice noodles

2 carrots, julienned

1 cucumber, halved lengthwise and


1/4 cup chopped fresh mint

1-2 cups shredded lettuce

1/4 cup unsalted peanuts

4 sprigs fresh mint



Mince the garlic with the cilantro and the chili. Transfer the mixture to a bowl, add the lime juice, fish sauce or salt and sugar; stir well. Let the sauce sit for 5 minutes.


Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the rice noodles; boil them for 2 minutes. Drain well. Rinse the noodles with cold water until they have cooled. Let them drain again.


Combine the sauce, noodles, carrots, cucumber, mint and lettuce in a large serving bowl. Toss well and serve the salad garnished with the peanuts and mint sprigs.


July 4th! 2010

Hope all of you are planning to have a great day today!  My yard looks like the movie “Caddie Shack” with all the trenches and piles of dirt.  The sprinkler system project is in full swing and I am trying to stay as far away from it as I can.  Yes, I did have some success yesterday with my previous posted plans, today I plan to explore making Gnocchi with some fresh ricotta I made the other day (technically it is called Manaci – for any who might care).  If the recipe turns out, I will try to remember to post it..and take some pictures too! 

We were invited to an inpromptu picnic later on today and I am making my old standby 4th of July Jello salad – I know it is old-fashioned and probably not good for you…but it is totally American and what we secretly yearn for on holidays like today.  I thought I would share with you and hope you enjoy!

Happy 4th – Kathleen

Sparkler Jello Salad

6 ounce package strawberry jello

1 1/2 cups boiling water

8 ounce package cream cheese

24 ounce package frozen strawberries

1 small container Cool-Whip

  1. Combine Jello and boiling water in blender; blend 10 seconds.
  2. Add cream cheese, blend until combined.
  3. Add strawberries and blend until smooth.
  4. Pour into large serving bowl and fold in Cool-Whip.  Refrigerate until firm.  Serve with fresh blueberries and an additional dollop of Cool-Whip for a festive presentation if you choose!

Independence Day Weekend

So our daughter was invited “Up-North” for the holiday weekend by her boyfriend. 

Side Note: Those of you not from Michigan; “Up-North” means any where north of Lansing/Detroit/Grand Rapids that is breezy, warm and sunny during the day, cool at night, close to water, sand, trees, grass, lake, stream, puddle, golf course, forest, or campsite.  Anywhere quiet and restful.

…The family owns a lovely cottage on Lake Huron, with long stretches of beach and beautiful sunsets.  She will have a great time!  On the other hand, my husband and son are getting all geared up to install a sprinkler system in our backyard this weekend.  They are so excited about the project.  Great father/son time! That leaves me contemplating exactly what to do with myself for two days.  I want to come up with something fun and exciting too!

I could wash the cars, sweep out the garage, shampoo the rugs, or clean out the spare room, but I have decided not to – not much fun.  I can start sorting through the hundreds of thousands (literally) of recipes that I have collect and have been given over the past 30 years – this is a great idea…the only problem is I get so wrapped up in the recipes…I drop everything and start cooking and then never finish the sorting (maybe I should lock my pantry first).

I can finish all the sewing projects I have piled up on top of my sewing machine…but who wants to be inside sewing when the weather is so beautiful?  I can finish one of the 3 blankets that I am crocheting…hmmm same problem…who wants to be covered with an afghan when the weather is 80 degrees and sunny?  Maybe I will dig out my water color set and try to paint the pictures I have been wanting to paint for at least 3 years now…the frames have been sitting in my closet that long- this is a viable option.

But wait! I just received a text from my girlfriend…she wants to go shopping, have lunch and/or meet for happy hour on Saturday- what a great idea!!!  Her husband is working all weekend and her kids are at camp.  Now this sounds like fun.

I got it…I will sort through my recipes early in the morning, make a trip to the farmers market and then make a few recipes to share over lunch with my girlfriend, do a bit of shopping and then have her over for a cold beverage afterward…then if I am lucky, my husband and son will order out pizza and rent a movie…and we will call it a day.  On Sunday, I just might take the “paint-by-number” set out and paint some masterpiece!

Thanks for listening and helping me sort out my Independence Day Schedule.  I will leave you with one of my silly ideas.  While shopping for S’more ingredients today I thought of a great alternative to the standard “recipe”.  I love peanut butter and chocolate, so instead of using Hershey chocolate bars in our S’mores, we will use Reese’s peanut butter cups instead – YUMMMM!!!!!  Try it – you will love it!!

Hope there is sparkle in your beverage this weekend! Happy 4th! Kathleen

Vacation of a different kind

I took a “blog” vacation.  Not a great idea when you have a blog and people want to read your material.  But I have an excuse (I think it’s a pretty good one).  The four of us (my husband, son and daughter) took a trip to Italy.  It was a graduation gift, visiting relatives, and long overdue vacation all rolled into one.  It might be one one of the last trips we will take together as a family since both kids will be leaving for college this fall (more on that later…)

We connected with some of my Italian family we have never met before (except for email correspondence in the last 6 months), saw some of the most beautiful art and architecture, rode on trains that I thought would fall off the side of cliffs, hauled luggage up and down 5 million stairs, and ate the most amazing food on the face of this earth.  The most interesting aspect of our trip was how much everyone walked in this country and the state of physical fitness the majority of population is in.

I have been spending this past week dealing with jet lag, missing this beautiful country and cooking my way through an Italian cookbook I picked up while in Florence…of course it is practically all in Italian and measurements are all weighed by grams… 

I shall close now and get some laundry done.  I will be back in the next day or two.  I just wanted to assure everyone I am still alive.  I have pictures, some very interesting recipes and stories to share with you!  Please stay tuned!  Ciao, Katarina

The Bowl of Wisdom

I love bowls – I have many of them.  My kids and husband tease me all the time about the quantity of bowls I have stashed in the kitchen cabinets; all different shapes and sizes.  I had a garage sale last weekend and had a hard time selling any of my bowls even though I had plenty not in use that I could have sold.  Maybe I need to go to “bowl re-hab”…

In the summer we make a lot of salads – big bowls are great to serve salads from.  Nice round high sides to toss the ingredients and then scoop out.  We made homemade pizza the evening before the garage sale so the next evening I whipped up a salad from left overs in the refrigerator.  Italian salami (sopressata), fresh mozzarella, red onion, steam green beans, artichoke hearts, green olives, roasted peppers, cherry tomatoes, cheese, etc… Tossed with some romaine and drizzled with a bit of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  Finished with some coarse ground sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and we had our selves one delicious salad … in one very attractive ceramic bowl I might add!

I have some pictures of the salad – in the bowl.  btw – I did not sell the bowl you see in the picture, it’s just too pretty.  Enjoy the beginning of your summer by tossing your cares aside this Memorial Day weekend and relaxing.  Enjoy a salad full of delicious fresh ingredients tossed in your own bowl of wisdom.

Garage Sale Saturday

It is 6 O’clock on a Saturday morning and I have been at this garage sale stuff for almost a week now!  Hauling “stuff” out of the basement, spare room, closets, bedrooms, workshop, backyard, storage closets, and attic, then finding enough tables to set this “stuff” on and pricing it all.  I have not had a garage sale in over 12 years so you can imaging the “stuff” we have collected here at the Hanna House!  I even recruited my daughter and her boyfriend to help  price it all.  At times this week, I have asked myself – “Who’s idea was this?”.  Then I remember it was all mine – ughh.

Well, I have done what I set out to do – make a few bucks to buy a new patio set and have a little spending money for our summer vacation…  But in the mean-time, my family has practically gone hungry since I was not available to make dinner this past week.  Don’t get me wrong – they are all very capable of preparing their own meals but not quite like what they are used to on a daily basis (not to mention their own busy schedules this past week).  Here is my solution: Pizza- I always have the number programmed into my cell phone and call when these types of emergencies occur.  This is one recipe I can’t prints…since my pizza number might be different than yours.  So to all my friends out there garage sale-ing and selling “stuff” at garage sales – enjoy the fun of this late spring mid-west ritual and always remember, “one woman’s junk is another man’s treasure!”

Garage Sale Fury

I used to go to garage sales when my kids were itty-bitty; finding little sun dresses, over-alls, toy fire engines, duplo’s, lego’s and miscleneous “stuff”.  During this time, my mom would comevisit, driving all the way from Cleveland in her mini-van filled with her garage sale “stuff”, and we would set up our own garage sale at our house selling “stuff”.  As the years passed, I still occasionally visited garage sales buying “stuff” here and there while slowly filling up my basement with my own “stuff” that I no longer need…but someone else might want.

So here I am – finally having our garage sale tomorrow – ONE DAY ONLY!!!  And started to haul the “stuff” out of the basement.  OH-MY-GOSH…we have accumulated ALOT of “STUFF”!  I don’t even think I will have enough tables and it will take me all day and most of the eveningto sort and price everything.  I am sellingeverything from camp gear, snorkel masks, kites, Christmas decorations, comforters, window treatments, antique dresser, ping-pong table, pots and pans, utensils, books, beenie babies, and the list goes on and on and on!

Of course, while pricing 10,000 articles of “stuff” today, I have to think about feeding my family too so I made this black bean soup the other week and decided to make it again since it was so easy.  It’s made in the crock pot, takes all of about 10 minutes to throw together   The weather has been aweful – cold, wet and rainy so it will be perfect.  I serve it with a loaf of french bread which I tear in large chunks and set in a basket (this makes for a pretty neat presentation – like a cookbook photo) and a green salad on the side.

Here is the recipe and I hope you enjoy.  This soup is great chilled and served with a dollop of sour cream too!  Happy garage sale-ing this weekend!

Black Bean Soup – Crockpot Style

Serves 6-8


1 pound dry black beans, soaked overnight or 3-4 15.5 oz. cans

1 tbs. chopped jalapeno peppers

6 ½ cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 med. carrot, diced

1 med. onion, diced

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1 tbs. chili powder

1 tsp. ground cumin

¼ tsp. cayenne pepper

½ tsp. ground black pepper

½ cup sour cream (optional)


1.      Drain black beans; rinse.

2.      Combine beans, and remaining ingredients except sour cream in a Crockpot.

3.      Cook on High 4 hours. Reduce heat to Low, and continue cooking for 2 hours.

4.      At this point the soup can be eaten as is, pureed with a hand blender for a creamy texture or served chilled with a dollop of sour cream.


Friday night at the Hanna’s

Friday nights here at the Hanna house are always interesting.  Phone ringing, cell phones buzzing, girlfriends calling, neighbors stopping by, 12 yards of mulch delivered (who ordered this?), husband walks in the door early from work (a rarity, but exciting when it happens on a Friday!), friends over for dinner…  Uh oh..dinner, I almost forgot!  I run to the store and grab a couple pounds of lean beef, bag of buns, bunch of asparagus for roasting and a couple pounds of potatoes.

Then I put everyone to work – even the friends…One makes the patties, someone else preps the asparagus, another sets the table and my husband loves to do the potatoes.  They are the best oven baked potatoes ever! 

Chris’s Oven Baked Potato Chips

4 large premium russet potatoes, scrubbed (peeling optional)

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1/3 cup seasoned bread crumbs

1/4 teaspoon each garlic powder, salt and pepper

1/4 teaspoon lemon zest

Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees.  If your oven has a roasting option – use it.  Coat 2 large baking sheets with a thin coat of cooking spray.  Combine vegetable oil, bread crumbs, seasonings and lemon zest in large mixing bowl; mix well.  Slice potatoes 1/4″ thin if possible – and place in mixing bowl with oil and seasonings; toss well.  Place potato slices in a single layer on prepared baking sheet and roast for 25 minutes or until potatoes are crisp and golden brown.  Serve immediately – serves 4-6.

Being Efficient

I have taught many cooking and kitchen technique classes over the years.  One of the most common mistakes a lot of new cooks make is not using the sauté pan to its full potential.

Let’s start with the basics – sautéing onions.  Chop, dice, slice – whatever it is – spread them out in the pan; not in a pile in the middle of the pan.  (See first photo.)  Pans are designed to distribute heat throughout the bottom of the pan and on some types – up the sides.  spreading the vegetables (in this case onion) over the entire bottom of the pan will insure 1) even cooking, 2) quicker softening and browning, and 3) less chance of scorching bottom of pan.

Now make sure you don’t have the heat on high…and don’t turn it all the way down to low…there are many degrees of heat other than “high” and “off”!  An average saute with onions in a pan as above with a few tablespoons of olive oil works well on medium-high.

Now stay close to the pan and move things around a bit every few minutes.  Within 5-8 minutes, your onions will be perfect – now.  Walla! you are ready for anything now; wine, tomatoes, garlic, broth for soup, cream etc…  Have fun in the kitchen! kathleen