Strawberry Cake

Strawberry Cake

Strawberry Cake

Makes one 9 x 13 cake

This is a beautiful cake and was a favorite with my boys growing up. It was often requested as their special birthday dessert. The recipe was given to me by a friend in Lincoln, Nebraska around 1962 and I’ve been baking it ever since – with a few modifications. Since you use frozen strawberries, it is available to enjoy year ‘round.  Note that the frozen strawberries in this recipe have some juice/liquid with them. They are not the sliced berries now available for smoothies. Also, I couldn’t locate a 10 oz package of strawberries and ended up buying a 16 oz. container. Just had to make sure I drained the berries very well, and had some juice left over (which I added to a dressing for fruit salad). You could also increase the amount of frosting and make it a layer cake if you want. Personally, I like the sheet cakes – easier to make and serve…


Cake Ingredients:

1/2 tsp baking powder

1 pkg. white cake mix (I like Duncan Hines)

1/2 cup Canola oil (or other vegetable oil)

10 oz. pkg. frozen strawberries in juice - defrost, drain well and reserve liquid – separate berries equally and set 1/2 of them aside. Divide the juice evenly, too.

1/2 cup liquid from frozen strawberries (add water if needed)

3 oz. pkg. strawberry jello

4 eggs



Heat oven to 350º. Grease/flour a 9 x 13” pan or use a baking pan spray.

Place cake mix into mixing bowl and whisk in the baking powder. Mix well.  Then add the remaining ingredients (using half of the strawberries) and mix very well.

Pour batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake until done. Check the cake mix box for estimated time – it can vary depending on the brand.. I baked mine for about 35 minutes.  Remove from the oven and allow cake to cool on a rack.  When the cake is cool, make the frosting.



1 cup butter (2 sticks at room temperature)

1 cup powdered sugar

2 Tbsp flour

1/2 cup strawberry juice +water (if needed)

2 Tbsp sugar

Remaining strawberries – pureed or thoroughly mashed with a fork.

Cream together butter and powdered sugar in a mixing bowl. Use a hand mixer or a stand mixer if available.

In small saucepan, make a paste of the flour, juice and sugar. Cook slowly over low heat until sugar is melted and mixture is thickened. Stir continually and be careful not to burn it. Set aside and cool thoroughly

Once the mixture has cooled, beat it into the creamed butter mixture. Puree the remaining 1/2 pkg. of strawberries and beat them into the frosting.  Frost the cake and allow it sit at least 20 minutes to set up.  If it is hot (like it is now) you can refrigerate the cake for about 20 minutes to help the frosting set up. Then serve and enjoy!

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Nana’s Kale Chips

Nana’s Kale Chips

Makes 3+ cups       At the local Farmer’s Market, I saw some rich green, ruffled kale and just couldn’t pass it up. Took it home to make kale chips and practically ate them all before dinner!  They are a tasty snack, good for a quick appetizer.



1 bunch curly/ruffled kale – washed and dried well

3-4 Tbsp good olive oil

1/2 -1 tsp Kosher salt

1/2 -1 tsp Lemon Pepper

1 tsp garlic powder

2 shakes Truffle salt (if available)

3 Tbsp Reggiano-Parmigiano – grated

Black pepper



Heat oven to 275 degrees

Cut out the thick spine from the kale and discard. Then cut up the remaining kale “leaves” into 2-3″ pieces. Place the pieces in a large bowl and drizzle the olive oil over it. Carefully stir the mixture to coat each piece as much as possible. Add the salt, lemon pepper, Truffle salt (if using) and garlic powder. Stir to mix well.


Place on a baking sheet and separate the kale pieces – you may need to do this in batches. Bake 20 minutes then remove from the oven and turn each piece. Return to the oven for an additional 12-15 minutes, until pieces are crisp. Be careful not to burn them. Remove pan from oven.


Line a plate with paper towels and use a spatula to transfer the kale to the plate. Sprinkle generously with the Reggiano cheese. At this point, I also like to grind some black pepper over the kale or sprinkle it with a bit of something spicy.  Enjoy! Any leftovers can be kept (carefully) in a ziplock baggie. That is if you have any leftover.

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Company Baked Potatoes

Company Baked Potatoes

Serves 4-6      I adapted this recipe from one I saw on Center Cut Cook food blog. It looked too good to pass up.  I do love baked potatoes but don”t serve them very often.  However, this dish is easy to make and can be done ahead and served to a group. They are also delicious the next day, warmed up for breakfast and topped with some scrambled eggs.



2 pounds yukon gold potatoes – washed, peeled, and cut into quarters

2-4 cloves garlic – rough chop

Enough water/chicken broth to cover the potatoes in a large stock pot

1/2 of an 8 ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature

1/2 stick butter (4 tablespoons) at room temperature

1/4 cup sour cream 

1/4  cup milk (or half-half if you’re feeling decadent)

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1 cup sharp cheddar cheese or mixture of cheddar and gruyere  – divided

3-4 slices bacon, cooked, drained well and crumbled  – divided

2 green onions, sliced – divided



Preheat oven to 375º

Butter a 9 x 13 casserole dish, or other dish deep enough to hold the mixture and set aside


In a large stock pot, arrange the potatoes and garlic. Add enough water or chicken broth to cover the potatoes. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until the potatoes are fork tender. Use a ladle to remove about 1/2c of liquid from the pan and set it aside. Then drain the rest of the liquid from the potatoes (try not to lose the garlic pieces) and cover pan with clean kitchen towel and let it rest for about 5 minutes. (This makes the potatoes mealy and easier to mash)


Add in butter, 2011/29598/ giochi /Ltt del 26 novembre 2013 – approvazione interfaccia di gioco "Il tombolone on-line"associata alla lotteria con partecipazione a distanza "Sfida la sorte"30-11-2013 – Bollettino Ufficiale Concorsi pronostici sportivi Totocalcio n. cream cheese, sour cream, salt, black pepper, and garlic powder. Using a potato masher, mash the potatoes until most of the lumps are removed.


Alternate adding in the milk and the potato liquid, a little at a time, and continue the mashing until the potatoes are smooth and fluffy. You don’t want the mixture to be too stiff  since you will be baking it again but you also don”t want it soupy.  You can also use a hand or stand mixer to get the potatoes extra fluffy and smooth. but I prefer mine with some “character” (also known as lumps). Correct the seasoning.


When the potato mixture is at the desired consistency, fold in 1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese and half of the cooked bacon crumbles and green onions. Mix carefully to combine. Spread the potatoes into the casserole dish. Top with the remaining cheese and bacon.  If you are not going to bake this right now, cover it with saran wrap and put it the refrigerator. Take it out about 30 minutes before you”re ready to put it in the oven.


Bake, uncovered,  for 20-25 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Garnish with remaining green onions and serve.


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Spinach Salad w/Warm Bacon Dressing

Spinach Salad w/Warm Bacon Dressing

Serves 4        Who knew it was so easy to fix a fresh spinach salad with warm bacon dressing? I like the salad and have even tried the bottled dressings – but wasn’t happy with any of them. Then I ran across this recipe somewhere online, printed it and set it aside. For a while. Now I don’t even recall where it originated….but I can’t take credit for it. I’m sharing the basic recipe, although some people also like to add chopped hard boiled eggs and/or chopped nuts to their salad. Sometimes I do too.



4-6 cups fresh spinach leaves – washed and dried well

1 small red onion – cut in half, lengthwise and sliced thin

1 Tbsp olive oil

2-4 pieces of thick bacon, cut into 1/2” slices

3 Tbsp red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar (I like Katz/Gravenstein cider vinegar)

2 tsp sugar

1/2 tsp Dijon mustard

pinch Kosher salt



In saute pan, heat the olive oil and slowly cook the red onions until they are soft and nearly caramelized. Remove from heat,  and set aside.


In a heated larger skillet, cook the bacon until it is crisp. Remove pieces from  the pan and place on a paper towel to drain. Reserve about 3 Tbsp of the bacon grease for the dressing. Add olive oil if needed.


Add the sugar, Dijon, and salt and *whisk over med-low heat until the mixture starts to bubble, then cook it for about 1 minute more. Stir in the onion mixture, including any liquid, and mix well. Adjust seasoning as needed. Too tart? Add a bit more sugar. Too flat? Add a bit more salt. Then let it cool a little while you build the salad. (You don’t want the dressing to be too hot or it will wilt the spinach instead of dressing it.)


Put spinach and bacon pieces in a large salad bowl. Pour the warm dressing with onions over it and toss well. Serve immediately.


*Note:  I use a flat whisk for this. Something I picked up at Sur la Table years ago and find I use a lot. It is especially nice for making gravy.


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Company Corn

Company Corn

Serves 4-6      Fresh corn is one of our summer staples. I like it roasted on the grill, or off-the-cob in salads or salsa or as a side dish to just about anything. I usually use white corn, but yellow corn will work too. I accidentally discovered that adding a mixture of white wine and Madera to sauteed fresh corn kernels, made a delicious dish. Depending on the amount of corn you have, you might want to increase the wine/Madera mixture. Try it and see what you think.



3 -4 ears fresh white corn, shucked with kernels removed from the cob*

1 Tbsp butter

1 Tbsp olive oil

3 Tbsp white wine

3 Tbsp Madera wine or sweet sherry wine

1/4 tsp dried tarragon

generous pinch Kosher salt

pinch black pepper



In saucepan, slowly melt the butter, then add the corn kernels and gently cook over med-low heat until heated through – usually about 3 minutes. You do not want to cook the corn too much at this point.


Remove the pan from the stove, add the salt, pepper, tarragon, white wine and Madera and stir to mix well. Return pan to the stove and cook over medium heat, stirring,  until the liquid is reduced by half. This won’t take long. Adjust the seasoning to taste and serve.


Note: *You could use a good frozen corn that is crisp or canned Green Giant Niblets. But the fresh corn is the best for this dish, if possible.

Also, they have fancy gadgets that remove the kernels from the cob, but I prefer a good sharp knife. I place a small prep bowl upside down in the bottom of a much larger mixing bowl. Then I cut the bottom of the corn cob so it is flat and stable. Hold the top of the cob in one hand, place the flat bottom on top of the smaller bowl and start to carefully remove the kernels in small sections. They should drop nicely into the larger bowl.

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The Cheese Shop – OC Mix

The Cheese Shop – OC Mix

The Cheese Shop is located in the OC Mix building in the SOCO center off Hyland and the 405 Freeway. The cheese offerings are great, the staff is very helpful and very knowledgable. Some of the favorites I’ve found are the Tintern, from Scotland, a truffle and saffron flavored cheese from Italy and Lamb Chopper a mellow but flavorful cheese that melts beautifully. At one point I needed a nice Bleu cheese that was sturdier than the one I usually buy (Point Reyes) and they recommended one that proved to be an excellent choice. Check out this delightful shop next time you are in the area. And there is so many other small shops in the OC Mix building – We Olive (for olive oil), Savory Spice Shop (for everything herbal/spicy), a great iced tea vendor and other food purveyors. And that is just inside the building. Once you’re outside, it’s another story — and another post.


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Cinnamon Sausage Brekkie

Cinnamon Sausage Brekkie

Serves 4-6      I’ve watched my husband eat pancakes with maple syrup that got all over his sausage and eggs for years. Then I decided to make a savory breakfast dish that incorporates some of those tastes together and posted it back in November. However, this latest version leans more to the sweet side, using good maple syrup and cinnamon bread. The result got good reviews from my volunteer tasters (thanks Christy and Pat) so I’m putting it on my next brunch menu. In fact, we almost ate most of it before I could a photo. Use a good, high quality maple syrup , if possible. The real thing, not one that is simply maple “flavored”, really does make a difference.



5 eggs

3/4 cup half & half or whole milk

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 cup sugar

1 Tbsp good maple syrup

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 Tbsp melted butter

1/2 lb. regular ground sausage, broken up, browned and cooked through

1 Tbsp olive oil

6 pieces of Cinnabon® Cinnamon bread (*see note) – preferably day old

Maple syrup



Preheat oven to 350º     Generously butter a casserole dish big enough to hold the bread/egg mixture comfortably. You will also need a large pan to set the casserole dish inside while baking.


In a skillet, heat the olive oil and then brown the sausage. Break it into chunks with a spoon or spatula and cook until the meat is cooked throughout. Remove the meat with a slotted spoon and place on a plate lined with paper towels.


Tear slices of bread into chunks and place as evenly as possible in the casserole dish.


In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, half & half, cinnamon, sugar, maple syrup, vanilla and melted butter. Mix them well, then carefully pour the mixture over the bread. With the back of a large spoon, hold the pieces of bread in the mixture until each piece has absorbed it. This doesn’t take long.


Then gently stir in the sausage to distribute it throughout. Drizzle the top with some maple syrup – about 1 Tbsp or so.

Set the casserole into the larger pan and carefully add about 1” of water. Then cover both pans with a piece of aluminum foil and seal it. Tent it as needed so it doesn’t touch the bread pudding. Cut 3 slits in the top of the foil. Place all in the oven at 350º for 40 minutes.  Carefully remove the foil and continue to cook it uncovered for another 25-40 minutes — until the top is puffy and the custard is set. How long it takes depends on the casserole dish you use and your individual oven.


Remove it from the oven and then carefully remove the casserole dish from the water bath. Allow it to cool for about 10 minutes or so. You can serve it hot or warm.


Note: *You could also use cinnamon raisin bread, or regular bread and increase amount of cinnamon used by 1/2 – 1 tsp. depending on your preference.

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Split Pea Soup Plus

Split Pea Soup Plus


Serves 4-6      I always have a package of split peas in my pantry. They make a great soup and since you don’t have to soak them first, they are easy to use. This is a heartier version of my usual split pea soup recipe. It has chunks of potato, onion and carrot and is great served as a meal with a salad and some garlic bread. Perfect for colder weather.


1 pkg split peas (I like Ralph’s house brand but any will work) – check for tiny pebbles

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 medium onion – peeled and chopped fine

1 small onion – peeled and rough chopped

2 cloves garlic – minced

2 carrots – peeled and cut into cubes

2 yukon gold or red potatoes – cut into bite sized cubes

1/2 cup chopped cooked ham or 2 slices bacon, chopped

2 cans Swanson’s Chicken Broth

1 cup water

2 tsp poultry seasoning

dash cayenne (optional)

1 tsp Kosher salt

1/2 tsp pepper



Heat olive oil in a medium-large saucepan. Saute the finely chopped onion until translucent, then stir in the ham pieces (or bacon) and cook until lightly browned. Now add the garlic and cook until fragrant – less than 1 minute.  Add the chicken broth, water, seasonings, salt, pepper and split peas. Stir well to mix.


Bring to a boil over med-high heat, then quickly reduce the heat, cover pan and simmer for about 25 minutes. Stir several times and make sure the mixture is at a simmer and is not sticking on the bottom.  Add the chopped carrots, rough chopped onion and potatoes and continue cooking for another 20-24 minutes until the carrots and potatoes are cooked through. Remove the pan from the heat and mash lightly with a fork if you want.  We like ours chunky so the carrots and potatoes have distinct flavor.


Adjust the seasoning as needed.  Add more chicken broth if it is too thick – or cook a bit longer with the lid off if it is not thick enough.

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Sweet Potato Mixup

Sweet Potato Mixup

Serves 4    I’m in love with roasted veggies and look for different ways to serve them. I use both sweet potatoes and yams in this version, but you can always just use one or the other instead. This dish is tasty and goes well with grilled or roasted chicken. 


2 sweet potatoes – peeled and cut into 1” pieces

1 yam – peeled and cut into 1” pieces

1 med white onion, cut in half, peeled and thinly sliced

1 Tbsp butter

2 Tbsp olive oil

Juice of 1 lemon*

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1 Tbsp finely chopped rosemary leaves or 2 tsp dried rosemary



Heat oven at 425. Prepare a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or non-stick spray.

Melt the butter in a heavy skillet over medium heat and saute the onion until translucent. Then set it aside.

Place the pieces of sweet potatoes and yams in a large bowl.

In a separate bowl whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper and rosemary.

Pour the mixture over the yams and gently mix to coat well.


Place the sweet potato/yam mixture on the prepared baking sheet in a single layer. Do not crowd them. Roast for 20 minutes, remove the pan from the oven and carefully turn over the pieces. Then roast them another 20-30 minutes until sweet potatoes/yams are tender but not too soft. I suggest you start checking after about 15 minutes. The amount of time this takes will depend on the size of the yam pieces and your individual oven.


Remove from the oven and mix together in the serving dish with the hot sauteed onions. Correct seasoning if needed and serve.


*Note: When lemons are in season I stock up by juicing them, then pouring the juice into ice cube trays and freezing them. Once frozen I remove them and place the lemon cubes in freezer baggies. Each cube is approx. 1 Tbsp of juice and it is easy to access just one or two from the bag.  Now I have fresh lemon juice throughout the year. It’s easy to do and so much better than the bottled version.

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Cran-Apple Crunch

Cran-Apple Crunch

Serves 8-10       This is a great festive dessert especially suited for the holidays. Why? Because it’s colorful and best of all, it can be made a day ahead. We are all so busy at this time of year, it’s nice to have dishes that are not only delicious but somewhat carefree. It’s decorated our holiday table for several decades. I like to use my own cranberry sauce when making this dish since mine is not too sweet and adds some nice flavors.



3-4 cooking apples (Granny Smith) – peeled (or leave unpeeled), cored and sliced into 1/4” thick slices

1 can whole cranberry sauce – or use your own sauce

1 tsp cinnamon

1 cup “quick cook” oats

3/4 -1 cup brown sugar (depending on the sweetness of your cranberry sauce)

1/2 cup flour

1/2 cup butter at room temperature

1/2 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)



Preheat oven to 350º  Generously butter a 9 x 12 baking dish

Slice peeled (or unpeeled) apples to even thickness (about 1/4 “) and layer them in the baking dish.

Sprinkle the cinnamon over them as evenly as possible.

Spoon the cranberry sauce evenly over the apples.


In a bowl, mix the oats, sugar, flour and butter together until crumbly. I use a pastry cutter for this. Add the walnuts (if using) and mix in. Spoon over the top of the apples and press lightly.


Bake at 350º for 45 minutes, until topping is lightly browned. Cool. Cover and refrigerate to serve the next day if you want. Then bring it to room temperature – or pop it in the oven for a couple of minutes to crisp up the topping.

This dish can be served warn or at room temperature.

Cran-Apple Crunch 1

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