Another year's come and gone. 
Because of tradition (why we eat black eyed peas on New Year's Day), 
I had to make something with black eyed peas again. 

10 servings

6 C water
1 cube chicken or vegetable bouillon
1 lb dried black eyed peas, rinsed
1 diced onion (I used frozen whole pearl onions)
2 cloves minced garlic
1 green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and diced
1 can petite diced tomatoes
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
12 oz diced ham
1/2 t cayenne pepper
1 1/2 t cumin
salt, to taste
1 t pepper

Pour water in slow cooker, add bouillon cube and stir to dissolve.
Add rest of ingredients; stir to blend. 
Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours (or high for 3-4 hours) until beans are tender.

This is before it was cooked, just so I could get a picture up and posted.


about 10 servings

1 ham hock
3 qts water (12 C)
8-10 medium Gold Yukon potatoes 
salt & pepper to taste
1/4 C unsalted butter
a few sliced green onions
1 C flour
1-2 C milk
chives (optional)
shredded cheese (optional)
sour cream (optional)

Boil ham hock in water for 1 hour making a broth.
Meanwhile, peel & dice potatoes. 
Remove ham hock and let cool on cutting board. 
Add potatoes to broth.
Cut off meat on ham hock. 
Dice and be picky not to put in any gristle. 
Add to now boiling potatoes.
Boil until soft, then turn to low heat.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet, melt butter on medium heat. 
Add green onions to butter, sauteing for a couple of minutes.
Add flour and quickly stir with fork or back of wooden spoon, breaking up lumps.
Slowly add milk making a gravy or rue. 
When potatoes are done and heat has been turned to low, add gravy to potato soup. 
Stir well. 
Take a potato masher if desired and roughly mash potatoes a little. 
Salt and pepper to taste.
Cover, stirring every 5 minutes or so. 
Let the flavors meld for at least 20 minutes if not an hour. 
Serve with cheese, sour cream and chives. 


My dear friend Stephanie from Belen, NM gave me this recipe and I had to try it.
So the peanut butter mixture in the middle, I think I could eat just that until I was sick.


16 oz dry roasted peanuts
3 T butter
1 bag peanut butter chips
1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 C mini marshmallows

Grease a 9x13 pan.
Pour half the peanuts in the bottom of the pan.

Melt butter and peanut butter chip in a saucepan over medium heat.
When melted, add sweetened condensed milk.
Turn to low heat.
Stir in marshmallows, stir until melted.
Pour over peanuts; spread & pat down.

Pour the remaining peanuts on top; pat down.

Chill. When cooled, use a knife to loosen edges.
Turn upside down on cutting board and as Steph says, "give it a good bang."
You might have to pry it out a little. 
Cut into skinny rectangular bars. 


makes about 10 C

20 dried red chile pods
 8 C chicken broth
6 cloves garlic
1 diced onion or 1 C pearl onions

Slit each chile with a sharp knife and remove seeds and stem.
Place peppers in large saucepan and cover with broth. Add onion and garlic.
Bring to a boil over high heat.
Reduce heat and allow to simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.
Pour mixture into blender.
Or use a hand blender. 
Blend on low speed, increasing to high speed as the puree combines.

Store in refrigerator or in freezer. 

TIP 1: Meat lovers - add 1 lb diced pork, cooked at the end.

TIP 2: Great for Christmas presents for your neighbors.

TIP 3: Oh and one more thing, make sure to really wash your hands
and under your fingernails after you're done and don't touch
your eyes or face like I did.


So many of my friends and family know that I'm cursed with making cookies.
Seriously, I've tried all kinds of recipes over and over for over 33 years. 
But I've never given up.
I finally found the perfect recipe for me!!!

makes around 2 dozen

1/2 C butter
1/2 C sugar
1/3 C packed brown sugar
1/2 C peanut butter
1/2 t vanilla
1 egg
1 C flour
1 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
1/2 C rolled oats
1 C semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cream together butter, sugar and brown sugar until smooth.
Stir in peanut butter, vanilla and egg until well blended.
Combine flour, baking soda and salt; stir into batter just until moistened.
Fold in oats and chocolate chips until evenly distributed.
Drop by tablespoonfuls onto lightly greased cookie sheets or seasoned pizza stone.
Bake 10 - 12 minutes (or 25-30 minutes at high altitude) in preheated oven.
Cool on cookie sheets for about 5 minutes.
Transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Thank you to the Brown children in Temple, TX for making us this beautiful Christmas plate last year!

WHAT'S FOR DINNER? TEXAS CHILI on the stove or in slow cooker

I know, I know! But I love beans in my chili.
If you want it traditional, just don't add the beans.

Serve over cornbread, Fritos, hot dogs, 
baked potatoes or with tortillas or crackers.
Some favorite toppings are sour cream, onions, 
red onions, tomatoes, cheese, cilantro, etc.

On the stove:
10 servings

2 lbs lean ground beef
1 - 46oz can tomato juice
1 - 29oz can tomato sauce
1 - 15oz can kidney beans, drained
1 - 15oz can pinto beans, drained
1 1/2 C chopped onions
1/4 C chopped green bell pepper
1/8 t ground cayenne pepper
1/2 t white sugar
1/2 t dried oregano
1/2 t pepper
1 t salt
1 1/2 t cumin
1/4 C chili powder

Cook beef in a large skillet over medium high heat until evenly brown. Drain.
In a large pot over high heat combine all ingredients.
Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low.
Simmer for 1 1/2 hours.

In a slow cooker:
10 servings

2 lbs lean ground beef
1 - 46oz can tomato juice
1 - 29oz can tomato sauce
1 - 15oz can kidney beans, drained
1 - 15oz can pinto beans, drained
1 1/2 C chopped onions
1/4 C chopped green bell pepper
1/8 t ground cayenne pepper
1/2 t white sugar
1/2 t dried oregano
1/2 t pepper
1 t salt
1 1/2 t cumin
1/4 C chili powder
1 C water

Cook beef in a large skillet over medium high heat until evenly brown. Drain.
In a slow cooker set on low, combine all ingredients.
Cook 8 - 10 hours.

WHAT'S FOR DINNER? SPLIT PEA & HAM SOUP (slow cooker recipe)

serves 8

16 oz dried split peas
2 C diced fully cooked ham
1 C diced carrots
1 chopped onion
2 cloves minced garlic
2 bay leaves
1/2 t salt
1/2 t pepper
6 C boiling water
1 C hot milk

In your crockpot, layer the first nine ingredients in order listed. 
Do not stir. 
Cover and cook on high for 4-5 hours (low: 7-8 hrs) or until vegetables are tender.

Stir in milk.
Discard bay leaves before serving.


This is an all time favorite holiday snack. 

18 servings

9 C any Chex cereal
1 C semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 C peanut butter
1/4 C butter
1 t vanilla
1 1/2 C powdered sugar

TIP: if you run out of Chex you can always add some puffed rice, millet or other cereal.
I did run out so the little balls you see are puffed millet cereal.
Canaan likes the "lil' balls" the best.

In a large bowl, place cereal and set aside.
In a microwaveable bowl, cook chocolate, PB and butter uncovered on high for 1 minute. 
Stir. Cook about 30 more seconds or until mixture is stirred smooth.
Stir in vanilla.
Pour mixture over cereal, stirring until evenly coated. 
Pour into 2 gallon Ziploc bag.
Divide evenly into gallon size bags for each child allowing them to help.
Add powdered sugar.
Seal bag and shake until well coated. Spread on waxed paper to cool. 
Store in an airtight container in refrigerator.


When it's cold outside, I crave soup.
My macho brother loves my loaded mashed potatoes,
I bet he'll love this soup too. 

serves 4

3 diced bacon strips
1 small chopped onion
1 clove minced garlic
3 T flour
1 t salt
1 t dried basil
1/2 t pepper
3 C chicken or vegetable broth
2 large baked potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 C half & half
1/2 t Tabasco sauce
shredded cheddar cheese
minced chives
sour cream

In a large saucepan, cook bacon until crisp. 
Drain, reserving 1 T drippings.
Set bacon aside.
Saute onion and garlic in drippings until tender.
Stir in flour, salt, basil and pepper; mix well.
Gradually add broth.
Add potatoes.
Bring to boil.
If you like your soup thinner, add more water at this time.
Boil and stir until potatoes are tender.
Turn down to low heat.
Add cream and hot sauce. Heat through but do not boil.
Garnish with bacon, cheese, chives and sour cream, if desired.


You know it's a good day when the worst argument you get in with your
2 year old is when he doesn't want potato soup, he wants broccoli soup.
You win, dude!

Serves 6

3 - 10oz packages frozen chopped broccoli
5 1/2 C chicken or vegetable broth
6 T butter
1 chopped onion
1/2 C flour
2 C milk
1 1/2 lbs cubed Velveeta OR 4 cans Campbell's cheddar cheese soup
1/2 t pepper
salt, to taste

In a large pot over medium heat, simmer broccoli in broth for 10-15 minutes.
In a skillet over medium heat, melt butter, add onions and saute for 5 minutes. 
Add flour to onions and stir well, forming a paste. 
Gradually add milk and stir until thick.
Add mixture to broccoli mixture and stir well.
Add cheese, stirring until melted.
Finally, add pepper.
Be careful not to let the soup boil or the cheese will separate. 


Sometimes it's more of a special gift when you make it yourself and it's affordable.
I was able to accomplish just that at under $4.

metal wreath frame
wine corks
a few red buttons
ink pads
glue gun


Some of my favorite memories growing up is going to get fruit or sausage kolaches with my family on a trip or on a Saturday morning. Houston and other areas of Texas like the Hill Country have large German and Czech communities so it seems that you can find kolaches on every corner like it seems that there's a Dunkin' Donuts on every street corner in Boston.

Today I made a homemade cream cheese-lemon filling, homemade blackberry preserves and homemade strawberry-rhubarb-orange preserves.

Kolache dough
makes 24

2/3 C and 1 T and 1 t warm milk
1/2 package dry yeast
2 T and 2 t white sugar
2 T and 2 t shortening
1 t salt
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 C and 3 T flour

Pour milk over yeast and let dissolve. Add sugar, shortening, salt, egg, yolk and flour. Stir until well combined. Remove dough to a well oiled bowl and turn once to coat the surface. Cover and place in a warm spot. Allow to rise until doubled in bulk, about an hour.

Prepare Fillings and topping desired and set aside until ready to use.

Dish out dough with a tablespoon and roll into bolls. Let rise until doubled in bulk. Flatten balls and make a depression in the centers. 

Fill with filling. You can use the filling recipes below or use fruit preserves. 

Allow to rise. 

Bake at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until lightly browned. 

Cream Cheese Filling - my favorite!
16 oz cream cheese
2 egg yolks
1/2 C sugar
1 grated lemon rind
1 t vanilla

Soften the cream cheese.
Beat remaining ingredients together with cream cheese.

Posypka Topping

1 C sugar
1/2 C flour
1/2 t cinnamon
2 T melted butter

Mix all ingredients together until mixture resembles coarse meal.

Poppyseed Filling
1 1/2 C poppy seeds
1 C sugar
2 C milk
2 T butter
1 T flour

Combine poppyseeds, sugar and milk, and cook over medium heat until mixture begins to thicken.

Add butter, then flour which has been dissolved in a little bit of water.
Cook, stirring constantly until poppyseed is done, at least 30 minutes.
Allow to cool before use.
Leftover filling can be frozen.

Cabbage Filling
3 C grated cabbage
1/8 t pepper
1 oz butter
1/2 C sugar or more
1/3 t salt
1 t flour

Fry the cabbage in the butter until soft.
Add the salt, black pepper, sugar and flour, and fry until golden brown, being careful not to burn.

Prune Filling
12 oz dried pitted prunes
1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 C sugar
1/2 t grated lemon or orange rind

Place the prunes in a bowl and cover them completely with boiling water.
Let them sit overnight (or at least 6 hours) to rehydrate.
Drain the liquid off and mash prunes thoroughly with a fork or run them through a food processor.
Add the cinnamon, sugar, and lemon zest.
Mix thoroughly.

Apricot Filling
10 oz package dried apricots
1 1/2 C sugar or more

Cook a 10 ounce package of dried apricots slowly in enough water to cover until fruit is soft and water is cooked out. Do not cover or fruit turns dark. Add 1 1/2 cups sugar or more to taste and mash with a potato masher until well blended.

Cottage Cheese Filling
1 pint dry curd cottage cheese
8 oz cream cheese
pinch salt
1 egg yolk
1/2 C sugar
1 grated lemon rind
1/2 t lemon juice

Mix all ingredients together until blended.
If cheese is too moist, add very finely rolled crackers, about 10 or 12 to absorb liquid.
If using country-style cottage cheese, cream cheese can be omitted or used for added flavor, according to taste.
If using cottage cheese as a filling, be sure to enclose cheese in the dough.
Spread dough balls out, place cheese in the middle and pinch all sides together to seal completely.
Place sealed side down on the greased pan and butter the pastry.
Let rise until light, sprinkle with posypka topping and bake.


We Texans (especially homesick Texans) love (and miss) the comfort food we grew up with. Although I'm not big on casseroles, I sure do love King Ranch Casserole. 

Most Texans have their own version of King Ranch Casserole
like any other regional dish. 
Mine even differs a little from my mother's recipe
because I added some ingredients and make it a tiny bit differently.
To me, eating other's King Ranch Casserole usually only differs from spice and thickness/dryness.
But regardless of who makes it and how different it is from my own,
it's just plain comfort food and always reminds me of home.

While the origin of this Texas casserole is clouded with myths and speculation,
there is a true King Ranch that it mostly likely got it's name from.
The King Ranch is one of the largest ranches in the United States,
located in South Texas between Corpus Christi and Harlingen.
It's actually larger than the state of Rhode Island!
I was born in Harlingen and if driving, have always driven through The King Ranch
to get to and from Harlingen to see family.

serves 4-6

4-5 boiled chicken breasts, chopped
1/4 C chicken broth (use the water the chicken was boiled in)
1 can of cream of mushroom, chicken, etc.
1 can Rotel, drained
1/2 C corn
3 T chopped onions
12-18 corn tortillas
1 1/2 C shredded cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix soups, chicken broth, rotel, onions and corn together well.
Add a layer of tortillas in the bottom of a greased casserole dish.

Spread a layer of chopped chicken on top.

Then layer with the soup mixture then the cheese.

Repeat layers one last time ending in cheese.

Cover with foil.
Bake for one hour.
Then remove foil and bake an additional 20-30 minutes. 


Make this snack for all of Santa's helpers during the Christmas season.
Instead of popcorn, munch on this during all those Christmas movies.

Makes 12 C

2 C bite size square shaped rice cereal like Chex
2 C thin pretzel sticks
1 C salted cocktail peanuts
1 C dried cranberries
1 C M&Ms
12 oz white almond bark or other vanilla flavored candy coating

In a very large bowl, combine cereal, pretzels, peanuts, cranberries and M&Ms. Set aside.

Chop bark. In a medium microwave safe container, melt according to package instructions.
Pour over cereal mixture and toss to coat.

Spread mixture on a large piece of foil.

Let stand until set, about 30 minutes. 
Break into bite size pieces.

Idea to keep your kids busy at a restaurant

Carry a few crayons in a small Ziploc bag in your purse just in case the restaurant doesn't have them.
At the restaurant, ask for a paper or styrofoam to go cup.
Allow them to color on the cups.
It kept my 2 year old busy for a little while. 


makes 8 wreaths

1/2 C pizza or pasta sauce
4 whole wheat bagels, cut in half
1 C shredded mozzarella cheese
1 1/2 C steamed broccoli florets
cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
3 oz jarred roasted red bell peppers

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Spread 1 T pizza sauce on each bagel half.
Top each with 2 T cheese then arrange broccoli and tomatoes on top to resemble a wreath.
Cut the jarred red bell peppers into thin strips to make the bow for each wreath.
Place wreaths on a foil lined baking sheet or seasoned pizza stone.
Bake for 10 to 12 minutes.


This is perfect for a family that has different tastes or even a sleepover. 
Allow kids to decorate their own square.

makes 12 slices

1 T olive oil
1 lb whole wheat pizza dough (recipe below)
1/2 C tomato sauce
2 C shredded mozzarella cheese
red onions, green beans, mushrooms, pineapple, cherry tomatoes, 
artichokes, pepperoni, basil, spinach, olives, green onions, pesto, corn, etc.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Lightly brush 15x10 pan with oil or us a seasoned pizza stone.
On a lightly floured surface, roll dough out to a 15x10 inch rectangle.
Transfer to pan or stone stretching if necessary to fit.
If it's too big, just cut it to fit.

Spread tomato sauce evenly over dough; sprinkle evenly with cheese.

Use a knife to score the pizza into 12 sections.

Ask everyone to decorate a piece or two with their favorite toppings.

Bake 15 - 18 minutes.

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough

1 C warm water
1 pkt dry active yeast
2 3/4 C whole wheat flour
1 t sugar
1 t salt
2 T olive oil

Place water in a small bowl and stir in yeast. Let stand 5 minutes.
In a large bowl, whisk together 2 1/2 C of the flour, sugar and salt.
Make well in the center and add the yeast mixture and olive oil.
Stir until dough comes together and forms a ball.
Turn out onto a well floured surface and knead for 5 minutes,
adding as much of the remaining 1/4 C flour as needed.
Form into a disk and place in a bowl that has been lightly coated with olive oil.
Turn disk over and cover bowl with plastic wrap.
Allow to rise in a warm place for 2 hours.
Remove dough from bowl and punch down.
Roll out into desired diameter.

TIP: Make ahead and place in freezer in 1 lb balls wrapped press n seal wrap or in Ziplocs.
Defrost before each use.

Question #8: Why oh why does my beautiful cheesecake crack?

This question comes from Nancy M. in Texas: Why oh why does my beautiful cheesecake crack???

Answer: Cheese cakes are hard! Sometimes they crack for no apparent reason.
Here are a few tips to help prevent them from cracking/

When the internal temperature of the cake rises beyond 160 degrees while baking, it will always crack.
To prevent this from happening, use an instant read thermometer to test its doneness.
Take it out of the oven when the cheesecake reaches 150 degrees at the center to avoid over baking.

Even a wonderful looking cheesecake with no cracks can crack as it sits on the cooling rack because the cake shrank during cooling and clung to the sides of the spring form pan.
To avoid this from happening, cool the cheesecake for only a few minutes, then using a paring knife, free it from the sides of the pant before allowing it to cool completely.

When all else fails, fill in the cracks with sour cream, cream cheese or whipped cream.


Last year I gave you some of my favorite Holiday punches along with Eggnog.
Here are a few more with virgin & adult versions for each.


Stir together 4 oz apple juice, t t fresh lemon juice & 1/2 t grenadine syrup.
Pour over crushed ice and garnish with an apple slice.

Sub 1 oz of apple juice for light rum.


In a shaker, mix 4 oz cranberry juice, 1 oz orange juice and 1 t honey. 
Shake then pour over ice. 
Top with a splash or two of chilled club soda and a cherry.

Sub champagne for club soda.


Combine 3 oz low fat milk, 2 oz French vanilla 1/2 & 1/2, a drop each of peppermint extract, 
vanilla extract and green food coloring. Shake and strain into a class rimmed with crushed candy cane.

Sub 1/2 oz vodka and 1 1/2 oz Bailey's Original for the 1/2 & 1/2.


This is a great alternative to the big turkey. 
Your guests will be so impressed with how everyone gets their own 
little "turkey" on each of their plates.

My husband said this is a great alternative to stuffing for people that don't like traditional stuffing like him. Of course you can always add your own stuffing recipe in place of this one.

makes 4

3 T butter
1 C chopped onions
1/2 C chopped celery
1 1/2 C diced, peeled & cored apples
2 t chopped fresh sage
1/2 t salt
1/2 t pepper
4 C 1/2" cubed cornbread
1 lg egg, beaten
1/2 C packed shredded sharp cheddar cheese (optional)
6 T apple cider or apple juice

Melt butter in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. 
Add onion and celery; sauté until beginning to color, about 5 minutes. 
It will smell aromatic.

Not it's really about to smell aromatic and delicious!
Add apples; sauté until beginning to soften, about 3 minutes. 

Oh yum! I love fresh sage.
Mix in sage, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper; transfer to large bowl. 
Let stand until almost cool, about 10 minutes.

Mix cornbread into vegetables. 

Add egg and toss to blend. 
Mix in cheese (optional), then enough apple cider by tablespoonfuls 
to form stuffing that is moist but not wet.

Cornish game hens:
4 Cornish game hens, rinsed & patted dry
1 T chopped sage
2 t salt
1 t pepper
1 T olive oil
4 bacon slices, each halved crosswise

Sprinkle cavity of each hen lightly with salt and pepper. 

Pack 1 cup stuffing into each 
(place any leftover stuffing into buttered ramekins and cover with foil). 

Skewer cavities closed with toothpicks or turkey lacers. 

Tuck wing tips under; tie legs together to hold shape. 
Mix sage, coarse salt, and pepper in small bowl; sprinkle over hens.

Preheat oven to 400°F. 
Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. 
Place 2 hens in skillet. 
Sauté until brown, turning often with wooden spoons 
(to prevent tearing skin), about 10 minutes. 
Transfer to rimmed baking sheet, breast side up. 
Place hens in a soaked clay pot. Do not preheat the oven.

Repeat with remaining hens. 
Drape 2 bacon strip halves over breast of each hen. 
If desired, use kitchen string to tie bacon strips in place. 

(Place any ramekins of stuffing on baking sheet with hens.)

Place hens (and extra stuffing) in oven. 
If using a clay pot, only start the cold oven after you have the pot inside the oven.

Roast hens until cooked through and juices run clear when thigh is pierced, about 45 minutes. on baking sheet OR bake approx 60 min in a clay pot after it reaches 400 degrees then remove lid and bake another 10-20 minutes to brown the tops. 
Only roast stuffing 30 minutes.

If used, cut off string.
Transfer hens to plates.