Friday, July 1, 2016

Football Deviled Eggs and More Tailgate Favorites

For me, tailgate parties and deviled eggs go hand in hand. Here's my family recipe for deviled eggs. Caroline, my daughter came up with the idea to add rosemary and paprika to make them look like mini footballs. We also substitute Greek yogurt for the mayonnaise to make them healthier.

Mini-Football Deviled Eggs
6 hard-cooked eggs
1/4 cup plain greek yogurt
1teaspoon mustard
1 teaspoon vinegar
fresh rosemary

Halve hard-cooked eggs lengthwise and remove yolks. Place yolks in a bowl and mash with a fork. Add yogurt, mustard, and vinegar. Mix well. Season with salt and pepper. Stuff egg white halves with yolk mixture. Sprinkle with paprika; garnish with rosemary

Another fun idea for a football party is "Football Field" Guacamole Dip. 

Guacamole Dip
2 medium very ripe avocados, seeded, peeled, and cut up
1 tablespoon of lime juice
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
A dash of Texas Pete

In a bowl, combine avocados, lime juice, garlic, salt and Texas Pete. Mash with a fork until no longer lumpy.

Spread guacamole dip on a pan. Pour salsa on one side of the pan. Place shredded cheese or jar of cheese sauce on the other. Spoon plain greek yogurt in a ziploc and trim the corner of bag. Outline the field. Add tomatoes and black olives. Serve with Tortillas.

If you're not a fan of guacamole, this Pulled BBQ Chicken Nachos is a delicious alternative. Elizabeth, my other daughter, came up with this original recipe for a Superbowl Party.  Place chicken, skin side down, on a broiler pan. Broil about 20 min. Brush with margarine. Turn chicken and broil for 5 to 10 mins or until no longer pink. Remove from oven and allow chicken to cool. Remove skin. Brush with BBQ sauce and broil for another 5 min. Allow to cool again. Shred with fork (or clean little fingers). Spread over nachos with shredded cheddar cheese and lettuce.

January 2013

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Hotel Roanoke Peanut Soup with a Side Dish of "Hello Trolley"

I just finished writing and illustrating my first children's book, Hello Trolley! The book follows the approximate route of Roanoke's Starline trolley system. The writing is geared for preschool and elementary school students. But many adults might enjoy it, too. It uses rhyme/rhythm/repetition, visual cues, and high predictability. It also introduces ordinal numbers. My goal is to make emergent readers feel successful in developing their reading skills. I had so much FUN creating Hello Trolley. It's now available on Amazon.

Other than a plug for my book, you might be wondering: What does this have to do with recipes?

In my book, the last stop is the Hotel Roanoke. The main character, Conductor Charlie (who just happens to be an elephant) has good reason for stopping here. 

In honor of "Conductor Charlie" and all the people who enjoy Hotel Roanoke's signature dish, I would like to share this recipe. For many years, Chef Fred Brown and the "Grand Old Lady" wouldn't publish the recipe. But eventually, the hotel released the "Peanut Soup" recipe to the public. Some guests believe that it still tastes better when eaten at the elegant historic hotel. What do you think?


2 quarts chicken broth

1 pint peanut butter

1 small onion diced

1/2 cup ground peanuts

1/4 pound butter

1/3 teaspoon celery salt

2 branches celery diced

1 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons flour

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Melt butter in cooking vessel and add onion and celery. Stir for 5 minutes but not brown.
Add flour and mix well. Add hot chicken broth and cook for a half hour. Remove from stove, strain and add peanut butter, celery salt, salt and lemon juice. Sprinkle ground peanuts on soup just before serving. Serves 10.

Enjoying a signature dish and bountiful buffet at the Hotel Roanoke

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

What's my Family's Favorite Recipe?

What's my family's favorite recipe? I'd have to say "Homemade Pesto Pizza Bites." Everyone can customize their own pizza (meat-lover vs. veggie). And, dough + kids=FUN!

You only need 5 ingredients to make dough (flour, water, yeast, oil, and salt). One of our favorite kitchen appliances is the bread machine. I gave it to my husband as a Christmas present almost 20 years ago. Amazingly, it still works and makes great pizza dough. Adding fresh pesto gives the pizzas a "gourmet" touch. But, you can also make the pizzas with cheese, sauce, and traditional toppings.

To make the pesto, I usually enlist my girls to pick the basil from our garden. Basil is an easy plant to grow. It doesn't require much watering and tolerates full sun.  In mid-spring, we go downtown to Walter's and select the biggest basil plants. Usually, we buy 4 or 5 different types. The faster they grow, the sooner we can make our pesto. In early summer, we add 3/4 spinach with 1/4 basil to allow the plants to grow more.

We've not only experimented with different types of basil but also a variety of nuts: pine nuts, macademia nuts, pecans, walnuts, slivered almonds. All work well and give the pesto a distinct  "nutty" flavor. I'm proud to announce that every member of my family is an "expert" pesto maker!

My husband and I were "proficient" pizza makers before the girls were involved in the cooking. But their ideas raised our pizza skills to the next level. About three years ago, they decided to make pizza "bites." They artfully arranged the toppings and made 2-in circles of dough. Not only did the pizzas look better but they also baked better. Plus, they're easier to get off the pan.

1/8 cup Olive Oil
2 cup basil (and/or spinach mix)
1/4 cup nuts
1 TBS garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
Grind in a mini-food processor

3 1/2 cup flour
1 cup water
2 1/4 tsp yeast
2 TBS oil
1/2 tsp salt
Set bread machine on dough mode for an hour
Some people use their Kitchen Aid mixer with the white blade to make dough, too.  

Place small circles of pizza dough on non-stick cookie sheet. I sometimes use parchment paper or aluminum foil to minimize clean up. Spread tomato sauce. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese, pesto, and whatever toppings you desire. Bake at 400 degrees for about 10-15 min.

A batch of the first ever "Homemade Pizza Bites"

Freezing tips: This year I was organized enough to harvest my "bumper crop" of basil and make several batches of pesto. I used small ziplock bags, pressed out all the air, and tossed in the freezer. I've also heard that ice cube trays work well. Now, we can have the "taste of summer" all winter long.

"Christmas Tree" Bites: Instead of small circles, cut dough into small triangles. Decorate with red sauce, pesto, and a variety of toppings. And "Voila"...a festive appetizer for your holiday party!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Elizabeth Setzler's Dunbar Macaroni

I often reflect on my grandmother, Claudia "Elizabeth" Setzler and her superb Southern cooking. She knew so many recipes by heart. Sometimes she didn't use measuring cups and would calculate dry ingredients by how much she was holding in her hand. And her baked goods always turned out deliciously perfect. But, just because I share her first name doesn't mean that I inherited her natural culinary talent. I'm more of a "foodie" and love to eat.

Cooking is sometimes a challenge for me. I've exploded hotdogs in the microwave, burned many pre-made cinnamon rolls, and often get so lost in the deluge of interesting recipes that I end up ordering a pizza. But I'm learning! I'm enthusiastic! I'm experimental! I'm proud that in college I tried to make homemade French Onion soup in my dorm room. I also baked a great spinach lasagna in the "bare bones" kitchen of the Language House (which I spent an hour cleaning up before I even started). When my young family was going through an "egg" phase, I was ecstatic to discover how to scramble an egg in the microwave with just a paper bowl and towel. Many years ago, when I was living with my older sister, who is a gifted chef and did the majority of the cooking, she was impressed by my homemade marinara sauce--which I relied completely on the memory of how my mom made her sauce. To this day, I love making sauces. Though I do often enjoy trying out sauces from jars. For me, mindful cooking has become practical way to express your creativity and nourish your family. Since these are high-priorities for me, I continue to pursue developing my cooking skills. Though I enjoy taking many breaks and eating out, too. And, on some busy school nights, I've resorted to high-quality frozen microwavable meals.

What really helps motivate my cooking at home is when family members share their enthusiasm in meal-planning, prep work, appreciation AND clean-up. It's a major BONUS when I find a food that my whole family likes. Which, at last, brings me back to my wonderful late grandmother. She could prepare dishes that pleased the palate of a huge family. Which, I'm sure, was not always an easy task.

She made some sophisticated dishes but one that has lingered most in my "palate memory" was a simple, spaghetti casserole. It appealed to her 12 grandchildren (and adults, too). Last winter, I longed for this "comfort food" and searched for it online. I came across a reference to Dunbar Macaroni by the author, Pat Conroy. He attended his friend's funeral in Newberry, SC and tried it there. When I read the ingredients, I knew it was very similar to my grandmother's. However, there was no mention of adding any liquid to keep the casserole moist. My grandfather raised turkeys in Newberry County and I'm guessing that she probably added turkey broth. I made a few other modifications and here's what I believe to be a fairly good representation of her version of Dunbar Macaroni.

Setzler Farm (Elizabeth and Carl with their children and turkeys) in 1956

Elizabeth Setzler's Dunbar Macaroni

1 box of spaghetti
2 large onions (diced)
1 28 oz can of whole tomatoes
1/2 cup to turkey broth
3 cups of shredded sharp cheddar cheese
4 TBS of butter
Salt and pepper to taste
20-30 saltine crackers

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Boil the spaghetti, drain, and set aside.

Saute the diced onions in 2 TBS of water
Cook for about 10 min.

 Add the can of tomatoes to the onions. Cook for another 10 min (until most of the liquid is cooked off). 

Put the drained spaghetti back in a large pot. Add the tomato and onion mixture, sharp cheddar cheese, turkey broth, and butter. Stir. Salt and pepper to taste.

Pour mixture in a casserole dish. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 40 min.

Remove foil and place saltines on top. Bake for another 10 min.

Serve with a smile (and sweet memories of my grandmother)!

Healthy substitutions:
Panko crumbs for saltines
quinoa pasta for spaghetti
zuchinni slivers for spaghetti
fresh stewed tomatoes (or "canned" tomatoes in a box)
veggie shreds for sharp cheddar cheese

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Happy National "Peanut Butter & Jelly" Day--Celebrate with a Smoothie!

When we moved into our new home, my mom gave us a smoothie maker as a house-warming gift. I was intrigued by this new appliance. I've tried out a bunch of recipes. This Peanut Butter Berry Smoothie is one of my family's favorites. It makes a delicious nutritious breakfast or an afternoon snack. I've even shared it with Scott Jurek, ultra-marathoner/smoothie fan. This must have been his secret to setting the new record. 😉

Peanut Butter Berry Smoothie

1 cup unsweetened Vanilla Almond milk
1 cup Vanilla Lowfat Yogurt
1 cup of frozen mixed berries
1 banana
1/4 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup of crushed ice

Add peanut butter, banana, mixed berries, almond milk, vanilla yogurt, and crushed ice in a processor.

Pour the smoothie mixture in a fancy glass and, if desired, add a banana for garnish.

Happy National "Peanut Butter & Jelly" Day!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Easter Weekend Menu

From the brass-blasting, worship at our church to the aquatic egg hunt in our pool, Easter weekend will be a memorable celebration. Besides these joyous activities, there's always the question: "What will we eat?" Here's the menu that I prepared a couple of years ago when we hosted my in-laws.


Easter Peeps S'mores'mores-With-Peeps

Fruits of the Spirit

Saturday Breakfast

Egg in a Basket of hash browns

Saturday Lunch

Downtown Dining
Roanoke City Market

Saturday Dinner

Homemade Pasta
Easter Basket Cupcakes and mini pies from

and/or (depending how much energy we've got left)

Sunday Breakfast
Bagels and assortment of pastries

Sunday Lunch
Buffet at HHCC

Welcome to our Home at Easter

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Hamptons: The place that seems to attract people like bees to a hive!

Okay... I'm guilty... I stole the quote from the back of a Tate's cookie package from the Hamptons. But, something about the imagery reflects my attitude about the Hamptons. The place is sweet, rich, and magnetic. A few weeks ago, when I found out that my family and I might go, I felt like someone was telling me that I was going to the moon. I just never thought the possibility existed. I grew up in northern New Jersey and now live in a small city in Virginia. And, I know it's shallow, but I couldn't wait to tell people that we were going!

Coming from the South, getting to the Hamptons was a haul. We followed our "Garmin girl" like cult members and ended up taking an extensive tour of Brooklyn. Then, before reaching Montauk Hwy, we spent miles of traffic lights on Sunrise Highway. We were ecstatic to reach our destination (and would definitely be taking an alternate route back)!

We were meeting up with our extended family. The Southampton house was spacious, grand and "homey" with eight bedrooms, a modern kitchen, vaulted-ceiling family room, and a library. The backyard included a pool, tennis and basketball court. This beautiful space would be our home for the next few days.

Some might disagree, but the area where we stayed reminded me of my hometown--Upper Saddle River (but at the beach). The roads were windy. The lots were wooded. And the houses were impressive. As you approached downtown, some of the land became lush pastures. Once you reached the quaint downtown of Southhampton near the ocean, the roads became grid-like. It was like a "quilt" of estates, surrounded by majestic borders of hedges.

The Southampton beach was spectacular and unspoiled. Because it was April, I wrapped myself in a cozy towel to ward off the chill. But, my husband and twin daughters, didn't seem to notice and merrily collected sea shells. So, this is what we did:

Tuesday: Southampton Beach and lunch at "The Golden Pear"
Wednesday: Duck Walk Winery, Munn Point, "Tate's Bakery" and North Sea Harbor
Thursday: East Hampton, Montauk, and dinner at "World Pie"
Friday: Southampton Beach, lunch at "Townline BBQ", Wolffer Winery

In the words of my daughters: "It was the BEST Spring Break ever!" And, I'll put it like this: The Hamptons set the stage, but it was the company that we kept that made the experience special. Probably my lasting memories will linger around the homecooked meals shared around the long Tuscan table at the Southampton house, conversations on the front porch, and fireworks on the tennis court.