What’s Cooking


One thing I do and do well is cook. Check out Studly’s waistline if you don’t believe me. Yet it has always frustrated me to read a delicious-sounding recipe and then have to figure out what to serve with it. Beans or peas? Fried or boiled potatoes? To salad or not. You get the idea. We’re not talking rocket science, but a clue or two from those big-buck chefs, whose books I constantly buy, would sure help.

So today don your aprons and grab those skillets because we’re taking a giant step to ease the burden of the overworked woman.

Every month a new menu will be posted. Please feel free to email me your thoughts, suggestions, or your favorite recipes. We’re all in this cooking thing together and might as well help out each other.

November’s Choice

This month we have an easy menu to help lighten your workload. Add a tossed salad and a bottle of Chardonnay for a relaxing meal.

• Easy Baked Chicken Breasts
• Rice in Chicken Stock
• Steamed Asparagus

Photo by Vitchakorn Koonyosying on Unsplash

Easy Baked Chicken Breasts

Cooking spray
4 chicken breasts, boneless and skinless
½ cup mayonnaise
5 tsp. Italian seasoned dry bread crumbs
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 425° F.

Spray an ovenproof dish with a light coating of cooking spray.

Rinse chicken and pat dry.

Mix mayo and bread crumbs together in a small bowl. Spread onto both sides of breasts.

Sprinkle the top of coated chicken with Parmesan cheese.

Bake 20 minutes.

This mouthwatering dish freezes well.

Serve with a decorative arrangement of asparagus and cherry tomatoes on the plate to spruce up your evening.


Select your favorite brand of rice and make it according to the package directions. Substitute half the water for chicken stock.

I like to make extra as rice freezes well, then it’s handy when I’m running late on another day.

Steamed Asparagus

½ cup chicken stock
¼ cup dry vermouth or white wine
1 bunch asparagus
2 tbsp. butter
Metal vegetable steamer

Add chicken stock and dry vermouth or wine to a medium-size saucepan. Insert vegetable steamer, then add water to just below the bottom holes.

Snap off the ends of the asparagus and trim spears to fit your steamer. Add spears and cover. Bring to a boil over medium heat, adjusting the heat to a strong simmer. In 4 – 5 minutes the asparagus should be crisp-tender.

Lay asparagus in a serving bowl. Spread butter over them and serve.

May you enjoy all the days of your life filled with laughter and seated around a well-laden table!


October’s Choice

Longtime friend Sharon Ledwith is in the kitchen this month with her amazing coffee cake recipe. This is a definite must bake. The kitchen is all yours, Sharon!

Face it, we all need breaks! A needed holiday a couple of times a year. A long weekend to unwind. A day off to recharge. Even when we’re working, we need to take at least fifteen minutes away from our jobs after we’ve been working non-stop for two or three hours. Hey, we’re not robots, and if our jobs require us to sit, stand, or walk around for any length of time, our bodies will eventually tire, and we lose our focus. And that could cause plenty of headaches for business owners, retail stores, and manufacturers.

Even when I’m writing a book, I make sure I include plenty of sequels between scenes. It’s kind of like a coffee break (or tea if you’re so inclined) for your reader. Scenes include plenty of activity and emotion, at times keeping readers on the edge of their seats. Sequels are devised to break the tension where there’s less activity, letting the readers’ emotions rest. I use this technique in both my young adult book series, The Last Timekeepers and Mysterious Tales from Fairy Falls. This way, there’s a balance between the calm and chaos in every tale I write and doesn’t leave my reader feeling exhausted at the end of the book.

Ready for a break? How about a slice of homemade coffee cake? It’s a twist on what you would think of as seasonal baking, and trust me, this cake is great for your anticipated time out, whether you’re at work or at home working on your next novel or artistic endeavor. With a prep time of 15 minutes and a total time of 1 hour, 25 minutes, this cake serves about 24 of your closest colleagues.

Gingerbread Bundt Cake

Gingerbread Coffee Cake

3 cups (750 mL) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
3 tbsp. (45 mL) cocoa powder, sifted
1 tbsp. (15 mL) ground ginger
2 tsp. (10 mL) ground cinnamon
2 tsp. (10 mL) baking powder
1 tsp. (5 mL) baking soda
½ tsp. (2 mL) each salt and ground nutmeg
¼ tsp. (1 mL) ground cloves
⅔ cup (150 mL) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1½ cups (375 mL) sugar
3 eggs
½ cup (125 mL) molasses
1 tsp. (5 mL) vanilla extract
2 cups (500 mL) sour cream

Preheat oven to 350 °F (180°C).

Grease 9 or 10-inch (23 or 25 cm) Bundt pan. Dust with flour.

In a bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, ginger, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and cloves. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, beat butter with sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes, with an electric mixer on medium speed. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Beat in molasses and vanilla.

Set mixer on low speed. Alternately beat in flour mixture and sour cream, making 3 additions of the flour mixture and 2 of sour cream and scraping down the side of the bowl as necessary.

Scrape batter into prepared pan, smoothing top.

Bake until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center of the cake, 50 minutes to 1 hour.

Let cool completely in pan on wire rack. Invert onto a serving plate. Prepare sauce to drizzle over cake.

Coffee Caramel Sauce

1½ cups (375 mL) firmly packed brown sugar
¼ cup (60 mL) brewed coffee (brew stronger than package directions)
¼ cup (60 mL) 35% whipping cream, at room temperature
2 tbsp. (30 mL) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¼ tsp. (1 mL) salt

In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine sugar and coffee. Cook over medium heat, without stirring, until sugar is fully dissolved and the mixture is foamy, about 12 to 15 minutes.

Remove from heat. Stir in cream, butter, and salt. Drizzle over gingerbread cake. Slice and serve.

So, now that you’ve baked to your heart’s content, it’s time for your break! Leave those dirty dishes in the sink, pour yourself a cup of your favorite hot beverage, and go curl up on the couch with one of my books. May I suggest a visit to Fairy Falls? Just remember to pack lightly.

Sharon Ledwith

Sharon Ledwith is the author of the middle-grade/YA time travel series, THE LAST TIMEKEEPERS, and the teen psychic mystery series, MYSTERIOUS TALES FROM FAIRY FALLS. When not writing, researching, or revising, she enjoys reading, exercising, anything arcane, and an occasional dram of scotch. Sharon lives a serene, yet busy life in a southern tourist region of Ontario, Canada, with her hubby, one spoiled yellow Labrador, and a moody calico cat.

Learn more about Sharon Ledwith on her website and blog. Stay connected on Facebook and Twitter.

Check out her Amazon Author Page for a list of current books.

September’s Choice

• Audrey’s Stuffed Peppers
• Boiled Potatoes
• Bakery Bread for Dipping
• Crisp White Wine – Pinot Grigio

Our friend Audrey Vasoli created this easy version of an age-old recipe that eliminates parboiling the peppers. Studs happily gives this dish 2 Thumbs Up. Don’t limit yourself to just green peppers. This recipe works great with every color pepper, including Hungarian peppers, and zucchini! Reduce the baking time by half if you do use zucchini.

A little pepper trivia – 4 bottom bumps are female peppers while 3 bottom bumps are male. So, when you’re shopping for the peppers, look for the ones with 4 bumps on the bottom. They are sweeter.

Stuffed Peppers

Image by Esther Merbt from Pixabay

Audrey’s Stuffed Peppers

6 lg. green peppers
2 lbs. ground beef
1 small onion, minced
Pepper to taste
6 cans condensed tomato soup
½ lb. American cheese, cubed
1 cup instant rice
4 soup cans of water

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Cut tops off peppers and clean out seeds and ribs. Set aside.

Brown beef and onion in a medium-sized skillet. Drain off the grease. Stir in pepper, 1½ cans soup (do not add water), cheese and rice. Set aside.

Combine remaining soup and water in a large bowl. Pour half this mixture into a 13 x 9-inch pan.

Stuff the peppers, mounding the meat a bit. Fill the peppers, but don’t pack them or they won’t cook right.

Set peppers in prepared pan. Spoon remaining sauce over peppers. Bake uncovered 1½ – 2 hours or until peppers are a pale green which means they are tender.

May you enjoy all the days of your life filled with laughter and seated around a well-laden table!


August’s Choice

I’m happy to introduce Chris Pavesic, my longtime author friend who frequently turns her creative talent to the kitchen. This month Chris shares her amazing cheesecake recipe.

Hi everyone,

This is a quick and easy recipe that is perfect for summer. There is very little preparation involved in this 4-ingredient dish and you have a beautiful looking dessert for your family and friends.

Reverse Strawberry Cheesecake

1-quart fresh strawberries
1 8 oz. package cream cheese
1 tbsp. vanilla
1 package of Animal Crackers, my family likes the chocolate ones
1 icing decorator

Wash the strawberries and then cut off the stem/leaves. Use the largest berries for the containers, reserving the smaller ones for the filling. Cut the bottom off of the berries so they sit flat on a plate and hollow out the center so it can hold the filling.

Place the “container” berries on paper towels. This helps to dry them a bit so the juices do not run onto the plate after they are filled.

Blend cream cheese, vanilla, and small strawberries well in a bowl. Put the mixture into the icing decorator and fill the container berries.

Place the filled berries on the plate and top with an animal cracker of your choice.

Serve immediately.

Chris Pavesic is a fantasy author who lives in the Midwestern United States and loves Kona coffee, steampunk, fairy tales, and all types of speculative fiction. Between writing projects, Chris can most often be found reading, gaming, gardening, working on an endless list of DIY household projects, or hanging out with friends.

Learn more about Chris on her website: chrispavesic.com.

Stay connected on Facebook, Twitter, and her Amazon Author Page.

July’s Choice

I always love when friends drop in, especially if they bring gifts like homemade ice cream. Introducing HL Carpenter, longtime friends who love to cook, be sassy, and are a terrific writing team. The kitchen is yours, ladies.

We have a confession to make. Sometimes…sometimes here in Carpenter Country we are not actually sitting at our computers all day working diligently on our next book. That’s right. Sometimes we…we go OUTSIDE! Into the SUNSHINE!

One of those special occasions took place in early May when we headed out to the u-pick field. Because we are serious blueberry pickers, we brought home enough berries to enjoy a few bowls fresh-from-the-field, to put a couple of handfuls on top of cereal, and to make biscuits, bread, buckles, cheesecake, coffee cake, crumbles, cobblers, donuts, muffins, pies, pancakes, scones, and ICE CREAM!

Are you screaming yet for blueberry ice cream? Us too. In fact, we’re going to take a break and sample a bowl. Here’s the recipe in case you want a break from your own busy day. You will need an ice cream maker (ours makes about 1½ quarts) and a blender or food processor for this recipe.

Homemade Blueberry Ice Cream

1½ cups fresh blueberries, washed and dried (slightly less than a pint of fresh, or you can use frozen berries if you drain them well)
1 pint (2 cups) heavy whipping cream
1 cup milk (whole or reduced fat, your choice – coconut milk is a delicious substitute)
½ cup sugar (more or less to suit your own sweet tooth — or teeth)
½ tsp. vanilla extract

Place rinsed blueberries in the blender or food processor and process for a minute or less.

Add the whipping cream, milk, sugar, and vanilla extract to the pureed blueberries in the blender.

Process 10-20 seconds, just until mixed – not too long, or you’ll have whipped cream.

Pour the mixture into the ice cream maker and churn for 20 minutes.

If you like soft, milkshake-type ice cream, pass out the spoons and dig in. For firmer ice cream, scoop the ice cream into a container and freeze two hours.

Okay, break’s over – back to work!

HL Carpenter is a mother/daughter author duo who write family-friendly fiction from their studios in Carpenter Country, a magical place that, like their stories, is unreal but not untrue.

When they’re not writing, the Carpenters enjoy exploring the Land of What-If and practicing the fine art of Curiosity. Learn more about HL’s multi-genre books, enjoy gift reads, excerpts, and find out what’s happening in Carpenter Country on their website.

Stay connected on Pinterest, Google+ and Twitter.

June’s Choice

Some people claim breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I believe that’s true, but it doesn’t mean you have to stuff yourself with mountains of borderline healthy food. This menu is satisfying, delicious and won’t cause a coronary. For a more festive morning or brunch add Mimosas. The recipes are gauged for two people. The amounts are easily adjusted if you are serving more.

• Scrambled Eggs with Feta and Chives
• Fresh Fruit Salad
• Croissants
• Jam or Jelly
• Orange Juice
• Coffee, Tea, or Milk

Scrambled Eggs with Feta

Scrambled Eggs with Feta and Chives
4 large eggs
2 tbsp. feta cheese, crumbled
Freshly ground pepper
1 tbsp. butter, you may need a little more
2 tbsp. fresh chives or 1 tbsp. dried

Crack eggs into a medium-sized bowl. Scramble well with a fork.

Stir in the feta and pepper.

Add butter to a medium-sized frying pan. Melt over medium heat. Pour in egg mixture and then carefully scramble. Be sure to flip the eggs so the cheese melts.

Sprinkle on the chives. Heat through and then serve.

Fruit Salad

Photo courtesy of Brenda Godinez Unsplash

Fresh Fruit Salad

1 apple, cored and sliced
1 pear, sliced
1 banana, peeled and sliced
Lemon juice
1 kiwi, peeled and sliced
10 seedless red grapes, cut in half
Small handful blueberries
Small handful raspberries

In a glass serving bowl, combine the apple, pear, and banana. Sprinkle with lemon juice to prevent the fruit from turning brown. Gently stir. Add in the remaining fruit.

Cover with plastic wrap then set in the refrigerator to chill until time to serve.

May you enjoy all the days of your life filled with laughter and seated around a well laden table!


May’s Choice

I like to mix up our meals with foods from different countries. Not only adds variety, but sparks dinnertime conversation. This menu is a traditional Polish meal farmers and hill people enjoyed. You know, sometimes peasant food really is the best!

• Polish Sausage Studs Style
• Sauerkraut
• Boiled Potatoes
• Bakery Rye Bread
• Butter
• Horseradish
• Cold Beer

Polish meal Kielbasa and sauerkraut

Polish Sausage Studs Style

4 pounds fresh Polish sausage links*

Remove sausage from the refrigerator at least 1 hour before cooking.

Fill a stockpot approximately three-quarters with cold tap water. Bring to a boil over high heat.

Add sausage and cook for 10 minutes once the water starts to boil. The sausage should rise to the top in about 5 minutes. Transfer meat to shallow roasting pans. Clip the connecting casing.

You can stop here and finish cooking the sausage the next day. Be sure to cover and refrigerate the meat.

Preheat oven to 325° F.

Allow the sausage to rest 10-15 minutes so the juices are reabsorbed into the meat.

Cut the links into 1½ – 2 inch pieces. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove pan from the oven. Turn sausage pieces and then bake for another 15 minutes.

*When shopping, calculate ¾ pound raw sausage per person.


1 jar or bag sauerkraut
5 slices bacon, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
½ tsp. ground thyme
2 cups chicken stock

Preheat oven to 325° F.

Pour sauerkraut into a colander. Rinse in tap water several times. Squeeze out most of the moisture and fluff with a fork.

Fry bacon until crisp in a 3-quart saucepan over medium heat. Set pieces on a paper towel.

Add onion to the pan and sauté until translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Do not brown the onion, it will be bitter. Be sure to scrape in all the bits that cling to the side and bottom of the pan.

Return bacon to the saucepan. Add sauerkraut. Sprinkle thyme over the mixture. Mix well. Cook 3-4 minutes over moderate heat.

Stir in stock. Cover and bake in the oven 30 minutes or until sauerkraut is tender, but still has crunch. This could take as long as 2 hours, depending on the brand you use. Add more stock if necessary, to keep the sauerkraut moist.

This dish is best if prepared a day in advance and reheated in 325°F oven for 20 minutes.

Boiled Potatoes

1 red potato per person
1 tsp. butter per potato
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Fresh parsley, chopped

Peel a strip of the middle of the potato. Drop in a saucepan and add water to cover the vegetables. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Lower temperature so the water is at a medium boil. The potatoes are done when fork tender.

Drain water. Stir in butter, pepper, and parsley before you serve.

May you enjoy all the days of your life filled with friends, laughter, and seated around a well laden table!


April’s Choice

Another quick and easy meal that is sure to impress your family and friends. Serve with sliced tomatoes and orzo. Be sure to drizzle plenty of sauce over the pasta.

Photo courtesy of Allen Pixabay

Sauteed Sea Scallops

1 lb. sea scallops
1 ½ tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. butter
2 tsp. garlic, chopped
Freshly ground pepper to taste
¼ cup dry white wine
1 tsp. chives, snipped for garnish

Have everything measured and ready to go before you start cooking. This recipe only takes a few minutes so you must be prepared.

Preheat oven to 210° F.

Rinse and pat dry the scallops.

Add olive oil and butter to a frying pan set on medium-high heat. Add the scallops when the foam subsides. Sear 2 – 4 minutes per side. Make sure they are golden edging into brown before you turn them.

Add garlic when you turn the scallops.

When they have reached the proper color, remove the scallops to a bowl and set in the oven to keep warm while you make the sauce.

Spoon out the garlic from the frying pan. Skim off some of the fat that has floated to the top. Carefully add the wine, all the while scraping in any browned pieces on the sides and bottom of the pan. Cook until the mixture reduces by about ⅓.

Lay the scallops on a bed of orzo either on a platter or individual plates. Lace the sauce over the dish, top with chives and serve.

May you enjoy all the days of your life filled with laughter and seated around a well laden table!


February’s Choice

A meal fit for a king that takes a little time, but is well worth it. Add a chilled bottle of Riesling for a festive evening.

• Stuffed Pork Chops
• Steamed Asparagus
• Homemade Applesauce

Pork Chops

3 loin chops
1 tbsp. olive oil
½ cup chicken stock, maybe a little more

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Slice a large pocket in each chop. Pack in stuffing. Use toothpicks to hold pocket closed as much as possible.

Heat oil in a medium-sized skillet until it shimmers over medium-high heat. Add chops and brown on each side 2 -3 minutes.

Add a little stock to an ovenproof dish. Lay chops in dish. Cover tightly with aluminum foil. Bake 35 minutes.


This recipe may be prepared a day or two in advance. Stop at the baking point, cover with foil, and refrigerated.

1 package bread stuffing cubes plain or seasoned
½ pound breakfast sausage in a tube or bulk
8 tbsp. butter, melted
1 rib celery, chopped
½ medium onion, chopped
1 egg, lightly beaten
1½ tsp. dried sage
1½ tsp. dried thyme
2 cups chicken stock, maybe a little more

Empty bread cubes into a large bowl.

Fry sausage, breaking into small chunks, until lightly brown.

Melt butter in a medium size skillet. When the foam subsides add the celery and onion. Sauté 3-4 minutes, be careful not to let it brown.

Add sausage and vegetables with all their juices to the bread cubes. Mix well.

Beat egg in a small bowl. Pour onto stuffing. Sprinkle sage and thyme across the top. Mix well.

Stir in chicken stock until mixture is very moist, but not soupy.

The following is your stopping point if you prepare this recipe in advance.

For Stuffed Pork Chops:
Spoon the mixture into a dish, cover and refrigerate no longer than 2 days.

To Bake as a Side Dish with Another Meal:
Spoon the mixture into a baking dish, do not pack in, and cover tightly with foil. Refrigerate the stuffing until you are ready to bake it but no longer than 2 days.

To Freeze:
Spoon the mixture into freezer bags, label, and pop in freeze no longer than 3 months. I use several small bags that will serve 2 at a single setting.

No matter which route you take, remove stuffing from the refrigerator/freezer early in the day to allow it to come to room temperature.

To cook the stuffing as a side dish, preheat the oven to 350°F. Bake for a half hour. Remove foil and continue to bake until the top is brown.

Steamed Asparagus

1 bunch asparagus
½ cup chicken stock
¼ cup dry vermouth or white wine
2 tbsp. butter
Metal vegetable steamer

Add chicken stock and dry vermouth or wine to a medium size saucepan. Insert vegetable steamer, then add water to just below the bottom holes.

Snap off the ends of the asparagus and trim the spears to fit your saucepan. Add spears and cover. Bring to a boil over medium heat, adjusting the heat to a strong simmer. In 4-5 minutes the asparagus should be crisp tender.

Lay asparagus in a serving bowl. Spread the butter over them and serve.

Homemade Applesauce

6 lg apples cored, peeled, and coarsely sliced*
1 cup sugar
4 tbsp. water
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1½ tbsp. soft butter

Combine all ingredients except butter in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat, cover pot, and simmer 15 – 20 minutes or until apples mash easily with a fork.

Stir in the butter.

Mash with a potato masher. For a smoother texture pour the sauce into a blender or food processor and puree for a minute or so.

Turn into a serving bowl, cover, and refrigerate until ready to serve. This recipe also freezes well.

*Mix it up with a variety of apples to improve the flavor. Use six different types.

May you enjoy all the days of your life filled with friends, laughter, and seated around a well laden table!


January’s Choice

January is National Soup month. Far be it from me to let this month fly by and not share one of my favorite recipes with you. So, enjoy a lovely bowl of hot soup with fresh bread and a glass of wine. An ideal start to a good evening.

Asparagus Soup

Photo Courtesy of Monovareni Pixabay

Cream of Asparagus Soup

2 lbs. fresh asparagus
6 cups chicken stock
7 tbsp. butter
1⁄2 cup flour
1⁄4 cup dry sherry
3 tbsp shallots or scallions, chopped fine
2 egg yolks
3⁄4 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp. butter, softened
White pepper to taste*

Slice off the asparagus tips and set aside. Trim off 1⁄4 inch or so from the bottom ends of the stalks and discard. Chop the rest of the spears into 1⁄2 inch lengths.

Use a medium-sized saucepan to bring the chicken stock to a boil. Drop in the tips and lower temp to medium-low or soft boil. Cook tips until just tender, 5 – 8 minutes. Drain the stock into a bowl and spoon the tips into another one.

Melt 5 tablespoons of butter in a 4 -5 quart saucepan over moderate heat. Stir in the flour. Lower heat and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Be careful not to let this roux brown or the soup will be bitter.

Remove pan from heat, let cool 30 seconds or so. Pour in stock. Stir constantly with a whisk to thoroughly blend the stock and roux. Return pan to moderate heat and stir until this soup base comes to a boil, thickens, and is smooth. Lower the temperature and simmer gently.

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet. When the foam subsides, stir in the stalks and shallots. Toss them in the butter over low heat for 4 minutes or so. You only want to soften them so don’t allow them to brown. Stir this mixture into the soup base, add sherry, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes or until asparagus is tender.

Purée soup in a blender or food processor. Pour into a strainer set over the pot. Stir with a spoon or spatula to extract soup from the pulp. Discard pulp.

Whisk the egg yolks into the cream. Stir in 5 tablespoons of hot soup at a time until you’ve added about 3⁄4 cup. Reverse the process and slowly whisk the now-warm mixture into the soup. **

Bring soup to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the softened butter 1 tablespoon at a time. Taste and season with pepper if necessary. Add the asparagus tips.

Serve from a tureen or in individual bowls.

This recipe makes 6 bowls.

*No need to buy white pepper if you don’t have it. Use black pepper only a little more as it is not as strong as white pepper.

**This may seem like extra work, but if you don’t do it the yolks and cream will curdle.

May you enjoy all the days of your life filled with laughter and seated around a well laden table!