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Shrimp and Green Chile Corn Chowder

There was a cold snap to the air the night before Thanksgiving. The oven was busy baking delicious treats for the next day. We wanted something warm, yummy and quick with minimal effort. This chowder fit the bill! The whole family enjoyed it, and the small amount of leftovers were eaten for lunch the following day. I found this recipe on Epicurious and adapted it for our family, adding more shrimp and green chilis for a mild heat.


2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
3 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
1 6 ounce can chopped green chilis
2 14 3/4- to 15-ounce cans cream-style corn
1 16-ounce package frozen corn kernels, thawed
32 ounce box of chicken broth
1 cup whipping cream
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 pound uncooked shrimp, peeled, deveined, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro


Finely chop onion and celery in processor. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion-celery mixture and green chilies; sauté until soft, about 6 minutes. Add creamed corn and next 5 ingredients; bring to boil. Reduce heat. Whisk in butter-flour mixture and simmer 15 minutes to blend flavors. Add shrimp and 4 tablespoons cilantro; simmer until shrimp are cooked through, about 5 minutes longer. Season with salt and pepper.
Ladle chowder into bowls. Sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons cilantro.


Survive and Thrive: Embassy Duty!

It may not be about food, but this is a great viewpoint from a far flung friend and adventurer!

Pineapple Stuffing

Sweet, buttery, decadent, yet not too heavy. That is how I would describe Pineapple Stuffing. It is the perfect accompanyment to a savory dish such as a honey baked ham. It is delicious warm but just as delicious straight out of the refridgerator the next morning! It is so simple and easy to make that my kids have been flying solo with this one since they were about ten. I have a big family and usually make this for holidays or parties. The recipe as written serves about 20 and fits perfectly into a foil roasting pan. Scaled back to serve 10 it fits perfectly into a 9×13 pan and scaled back to 5 it will fit in a 9×9 square pan. I hope you enjoy it.


2 cups margarine

4 cups sugar

16 eggs

2 (20 oz can) crushed pineapple, drained

2 (20 oz can) pineapple chunks, drained

1 loaf white bread, cubed


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a foil roasting pan.
  2. Cream margarine and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then add the pineapple and bread cubes.
  3. Bake in a 350 degree oven for one hour. Let sit a few minutes to firm up before serving. If I am serving this for Thanksgiving or Christmas, I like to add a teaspoon of Cinnamon and a dash of Nutmeg!


Mississippi Mud Cake

I tried to cut back on the Thanksgiving feast this year. The family was not having it. I had the audacity to suggest that we only have turkey and not turkey and ham. I also wanted to stick with just savory sausage and mushroom stuffing instead of also making pineapple stuffing. You would have thought I wanted to start a revolution. Finally, I put my foot down and said that I would only make one dessert, not the five to seven I usually make. I let the kids pick. I was worried this would take days of tough negotiation as my two younger ones are not often known to agree on much. Surprisingly, they decided within a minute that they wanted Mississippi Mud Cake.

I cannot claim to have originated the recipe, or even to have tweaked it to perfection. How can one tweak a Southern classic dessert? I grew up eating this dessert at many a church pot luck. Now any person that has attended a church social or pot luck in the South knows that the church ladies take their baking seriously. Their reputation is on the line when they place a dish on the table and they never disappoint. Attending such pot lucks was one of the perks of being a preacher’s kid (PK) growing up. This recipe came from the Magnolia Mixin’ cookbook, originally published in 1977 to benefit the Magnolia Bible College in Kosciusko, Misissippi. Sadly, the college closed its doors in 2009, but the cookbook (which was passed on to me from my mother) lives on!


Cake Ingredients

4 eggs

2 cups sugar

2 sticks oleo (butter/margarine)

1 1/2 cups flour

1/2 cup cocoa

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup chopped nuts (my kids weren’t into them this year so we skipped them. personal choice)

1 bag miniature marshmallows

Frosting Ingredients

6 T milk

1 stick oleo

1/2 cup cocoa

1 box powdered sugar

1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

1 tsp vanilla

Mix together all of the cake ingredients and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes in a 9×13 pan. After removing cake from oven, cover with miniature marshmallows. Mix together frosting ingredients and pour over marshmallows. Allow to cool and then serve. This is a very sweet cake so you can cut into small pieces. This cake definitely takes me back to my childhood. I am glad that if my kids could only have one dessert this Thanksgiving, that they chose this one!


Citrus and Herb Turkey Brine

As Thanksgiving gets nearer, I am preparing for my big grocery store run to stock up on all the ingredients that I will need to make our feast. Every year I say that we are going to “downsize” our meal and every year the family agrees with me. But when it comes time to decide what dishes we cut from the line-up, everyone balks and insists that everything is essential. You should have seen the horror on the kid’s faces when I suggested we order our meal from a local restaurant. So much for making things easy on mom!

I make a big turkey and a ham every year. The kids used to like to look at the turkey but they always ate the ham first because they liked how juicy it tasted in comparison to the turkey. Well that all changed once I started brining my turkey in this delicious concoction. When I brine my turkey the day before cooking, every bit of the turkey comes out juicy and filled with flavor.

Brining is really pretty simple business. It is essentially salt and water. I like to add juice and citrus flavors along with some sugar to balance it all out. Before we can get to the brine, however, it is important to make sure that you clear off the bottom shelf in your refridgerator for the very large pot that you will need for your turkey. I buy a large turkey bag by Reynolds Wrap and line my large canning pot with it. If you are cramped for space in your fridge, you could put your turkey in the brining bag and put it in a cooler surrounded by ice.


  • 2 gallons water
  • 3 cups apple cider
  • 3 oranges
  • 2 cups salt (or 3 1/2-cup Kosher salt)
  • 2 cups packed brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons fresh rosemary (2 tablespoons dried rosemary)
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons peppercorns
  • 5 whole bay leaves


Heat apple cider in a two gallon pot. Dissolve sugar in cider. Cut oranges into quarters and add to pot. Add remaining ingredients except for the water and stir to combine. Cover and set aside for 20 minutes. Pour the 2 gallons of cold water into the container to be used for brining. Add apple cider mixture and stir well to combine. Set aside and let completely cool. Pour into bag lined pot. Add turkey, turning to remove any air bubbles. Refrigerate and brine for a day.
When you are done brining your turkey, it is important to completely rinse and pat dry your turkey before roasting so it isn’t too salty. I like to rub my bird down with fresh sage, rosemary, salt and pepper before popping in the oven. Yum!Image

Chicken Tortilla Soup

This is one of my absolute favorite soups. It is full of tender shredded chicken, colorful peppers, corn, beans and lots of spices in a delicious broth. I like to make a batch and eat half of it for dinner and freeze the other half for later. Our family is so busy during the week between work and the various sports the kids play, it is imperative that I stock up on quick and healthy meals like this soup. Lately, I have been making it with homemade pico de gallo and corn from the farm down the road, but I am going to list ingredients that you can find in your pantry. Feel free to get creative on your own. There is little that is hard and fast with any of my recipes. I definitely owe my mother for that. It was a huge frustration when I was first learning to cook, but now I know her pinches, dabs, and handfuls taught me to cook by taste and consistency rather than exact measurements.



  • 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 8 cups chicken broth (I use the water from the cooked chicken)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 15 oz can corn
  • 1 15 oz can creamed corn
  • 1 15 oz can black beans
  • 1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes with green chiles (I use Rotel)
  • 2 tablespoons roasted cumin powder
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt


  1. Boil 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts in 8 cups of water for about 10 minutes. Remove chicken from water and shred with a fork. Skim fat off the chicken broth and return shredded chicken to pot.
  2. Add in cans of corn, Rotel, and black beans. It is important to rinse the black beans well first or they will change the color of your soup to an unattractive blueish grey!
  3. Add spices and cook for an additional 30 minutes.

Serving Suggestions

I place a few tortilla chips on the bottom of the bowl, pour in soup, and then garnish with Monterey Jack cheese, avocados, cilantro and a dollop of sour cream. Delicious!

Doubletree Doubletakes

If you have ever stayed in a Doubletree Hotel, you are probably enamored with their delicious cookies. I tried for years to tweak my recipe to get it just right. In my mind, these are pretty darn close. My husband and the kids have given it their gold star stamp of approval and last night I was told they were the best cookies I have ever made. Let me know what you think!



1/2 cup oats
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
3/4 white sugar
2 tsp vanilla (I love vanilla)
1/2 tsp lemon juice
2 large eggs
2 1/4 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 3/4 cup chopped walnuts


In an ideal world, you have a food processor that you can pulse the oats in until they are semi-fine. I did not so I chopped them with a knife. Sounds crazy and definitely took longer, but after three minutes I had semi-fine chopped oats. The oats are the secret to the texture of the cookie.

Add butter, sugars, vanilla and lemon juice in a large mixing bowl. Mix until creamy. Add eggs one at a time and mix until it is nice and smooth.

In a smaller mixing bowl, add oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Mix ingredients together. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix with a spatula, being careful not to over mix. If you do, you cookies will be flat and runny or will have a cake like texture. Add in the chocolate chips and walnuts and stir in evenly.

Now comes the hard part: put your dough in the fridge for two hours. Delayed gratification is so worth it because it keeps the cookies from spreading. Scoop the cookies out onto a cookie sheet with a large cookie scoop or use a 1/4 cup measuring spoon if you want a really big and decadent cookie.

Bake at 350 for 14 minutes and cool on a wire rack.

* If you want to have these cookies at the ready all the time, scoop your dough out onto your cookie sheet and put in the freezer instead of the oven. Once they are frozen, pop them off and put in a freezer bag that is labeled with the cookie name and cook temp and time. You can take them straight from the freezer to the oven.


Jambalaya is one of my signature dishes. I love it because it is warm and comforting on a cold day. Don’t be intimidated by the long list of ingredients. Jambalaya is perfect for adapting to the ingredients that you prefer or have on hand. Don’t have ham? leave it out. Really like seafood? Double up on the shrimp, cut down on the chicken, and even throw in some crab. I frequently mix up the sausage based on what I have on hand. I have used both andouille sausage or polish sausage in the past. Go with what you love. You will need to add more or less chicken stock based on how your pot conducts heat and how wet you like your jambalaya. We like it pretty dry. One word of caution is that you do not want to use a super starchy rice like Calrose or it will turn your jambalaya to a mushy mess. I hope you love it as much as my family does!



  • 3 tablespoons and 1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 2-1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1-1/4 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1-1/4 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 3 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 3 slices bacon, cut into small pieces
  • 1-1/2 onions, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon and 1/2 teaspoon all-purpose flour
  • 16 ounces chorizo, sliced into chunks
  • 16 ounces cooked ham, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can peeled and diced tomatoes with green chiles (Rotel)
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1-1/4 cup uncooked white long grain rice
  • 1 pounds medium shrimp – peeled and deveined


  1. Boil chicken until done (about 10 minutes) and chop up into 1/2 inch pieces. I use a cup of the water the chicken cooked in for my broth in step three.
  2. Coat chicken with soy sauce, thyme, cayenne pepper, paprika, and black pepper.
  3. Saute bacon in a Dutch oven over medium heat until brown. Add the onion and garlic. Continue to cook 5 minutes. Mix in flour and sausage. Cook 5 minutes more; stirring frequently. Add the ham, thyme, cayenne, chicken stock, tomatoes, reserved juice and green peppers and bring to boil. Stir in rice and cover. Cook for 25 minutes.
  4. Add shrimp to pot and let cook an additional 3-5 minutes until shrimp turns pink.

Serving Suggestions

I love to serve this with some iced tea and corn bread on the side. It helps cool the heat if needed!


Seafood Pasta with Garlic Lemon Butter Sauce

This is a dish that reminds me of our time in Bosnia. It is simple and very fresh. Don’t cheat on the lemon zest. It really lifts the flavor profile. If you wanted to add a bit more, I think 8 oz of mushrooms sautéed in the sauce or 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts sprinkled over the top would be great as well. Let me know what you think. Three out of four available Tui’s loved this dish and there were no leftovers. That is a stamp of approval for me!



  • 12 ounces dried pasta (your choice!)
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 3 to 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Grated zest from 1/2 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 lb seafood combination (squid,shrimp, mussels)
  • 3 ounces (about 3 cups) baby arugula leaves
  • Shaved parmesan cheese for garnish


  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain cooked pasta.
  2. In the same large pot over medium heat, melt the butter and cook an additional 1 to 2 minutes. If you want browned butter, cook until it has a light brown color. Add the garlic and thyme, stir, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Be careful not to over-brown the butter or garlic.
  3. Remove the pot from the heat. Add the olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, and salt. Stir to combine. Add the pasta, arugula, and pine nuts and toss to coat with the sauce. The arugula will wilt.
  4. Transfer pasta to a serving bowl, platter, or individual plates. Top with shaved parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.

Potato Corn Chowder

Are you in the mood for something warm and comforting to have for dinner? This soup makes it into our regular rotation of meals as soon as the leaves start turning and the air begins to have a snap to it. I have been making this Potato Corn Chowder for my family for years. It is an easy and quick meal that is great in a pinch because the ingredients are almost always in my pantry. It is thick and creamy and sticks to your ribs. The last time I made it I used sweet corn I had picked up from the farmer’s market and the contrast of the sweet corn with the heat of the green chile was delightful.



  •                     2 tablespoons margarine
  • .                    1 cup chopped onion
  •                     2 (14.5 ounce) cans chicken broth
  •                     2 large potatoes (peeled, and cubed)
  •                     1 (15 ounce) can whole kernel corn
  •                     1 (15 ounce) can creamed corn
  •                     1 (4 ounce) can diced green chiles
  •                     1 (2.5 ounce) package country style gravy mix
  •                     2 cups milk
  •                     2 cups shredded cheese


  1.  In large saucepan, melt margarine over medium high heat.  Add onion and cook  until translucent.
  2.  Add chicken broth and bring to a boil.  Add potatoes; cook over low heat for 20 to 25 minutes or until potatoes are soft, stirring occasionally.
  3.  Stir in corn and chiles; return to boiling.  Dissolve gravy mix in milk; stir into boiling mixture.  Add cheese; cook and stir over low heat until cheese is melted.

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