Cheesy Polenta Keeps on Giving!

So, the Cheesy Polenta that I made the other night to go with the Oven Baked Cranberry Maple Crusted Chicken was so good and I had leftovers. Yay!

The polenta was really soft and creamy when I served it for dinner. I knew that it wouldn’t reheat and have the same creamy texture so I smashed it into a loaf pan, covered it with plastic wrap, and stuck it in the fridge.

The next morning I had a beautiful loaf of polenta that was the perfect consistency to slice and fry up in a little butter with an egg on the side.

Not the lowest calorie breakfast but SO good!

Here is the recipe for the Cheesy Polenta. Enjoy!

Cheesy Polenta

Serves 4-6

1 clove  garlic, minced

1 T avocado oil (I like to use avocado oil for sautéing as it has a higher smoke point than olive oil)

1 cup polenta

1 cup milk (I suggest using whole fat milk or heavy cream or a mixture of both. Non fat milk will not result in a creamy mouth feel)

1-2 cups chicken stock

2/3 cup Parmesan cheese*

In medium saucepan  sauté  the garlic for one  minute. Add the milk and one cup of the chicken stock and bring to a boil.

Add the polenta and whisk until polenta is thick and bubbly. Continue whisking and adding stock as needed until polenta is soft and creamy.

Stir in the Parmesan cheese.

*You can substitute any cheese of your choice to suit whatever you are serving it with. This is a pretty versatile recipe!


Oven Baked Cranberry Maple Crusted Chicken with Roasted Veggies

I am loving finding ways to use Cucina Antica Cranberry Sauce in my cooking. It has such a fresh taste and is so so pretty!

I pulled some ingredients out of the pantry, fridge and freezer to come up with this tasty meal. The combination of the savory breading on the chicken and the tart cranberry sauce and the sweet maple syrup was scrumptious. Oven roasted veggies are one of our favorites also. If you haven’t tried roasted broccoli, get on it! Ah-maze-ing! We gobbled it up pretty fast.

Roasting the veggies on the same pan as the chicken made clean up a breeze. The Hubs likes that since we sort of have an understanding. I cook, he cleans up! Win/win. He was used to doing dishes when he was working in the fire station so he doesn’t mind. (Or I like to think he doesn’t mind!)

I hope you enjoy this meal as much as we did. Let me know if you make it.

Oven Baked Cranberry Maple Crusted Chicken with Roasted Veggies

Serves 2


2 chicken breasts

1 egg

1/3 c milk

1/3 c flour

1/3 c pinko bread crumbs

1/2 Tbsp Malibu seasoning



Granulated garlic

Salt and Pepper to taste

Cucina Antica Cranberry Sauce

Maple syrup for drizzle


Preheat oven to 400º.

Mix egg and milk with a fork in a small bowl.

Put flour in another small bowl.

Mix bread crumbs and Malibu seasoning in a third bowl.

Lay out carrots and broccoli on a sheet pan. Drizzle with olive oil and granulated garlic. Season with salt and pepper.

Dip a chicken breast in the egg/milk mixture to coat. Move to bowl with flour in it and coat with flour. Put back in the egg/milk mixture to coat again. Dip in the Panko/Malibu seasoning mixture to coat.

Drizzle some olive oil on the part of the sheet pan where you are putting the chicken and lay chicken in pan. Repeat with second chicken breast.

Place sheet pan in oven and bake for 30 minutes or until chicken registers 165º on instant read thermometer. Stir the veggies halfway through the cooking time.

Top with Cucina Antica Cranberry Sauce and a drizzle of maple syrup.

Serve with Cheesy Polenta.





Supporting Your Community Events – Murrieta Firefighter’s BBQ

We are a fire department family. The Hubs is a retired fire captain. My middle son is a fire captain. We know the drill. Days at a time away from the family. Missing kids sports games and school events. And the holidays……. Let’s just say that we are very flexible regarding what day we actually celebrate Christmas, Easter, birthdays, etc.

We gave up a long time ago trying to plan everything on days when everyone could make it. With a fire family, teachers, and a blended family in the mix we rarely get all 16 of us together at the same time.

So when the Murrieta Fire Department has their annual BBQ for the community we like to get as many of us together to attend as possible. It gives us a chance to see our son when he is working, even if he has to leave a few times on emergency calls!

A portion of our gang.

This year was the 70th annual Murrieta Firefighter’s BBQ. The event is a great way for the department to interact with the community and show off their mad grilling skills at the same time! You could purchase a plate with a very generous portion of tri tip, a super soft and fresh sandwich roll, potato salad, beans, and a drink for $10. Oh my gosh! The meat was so so good. We were even able to purchase a whole, fully cooked tri tip for $20 to take home. Someone is going to have a fabulous dinner tonight. They also offered a child’s hot dog plate for $5. Perfect for the littles.

It’s fun to visit Daddy at work!

The Hubs and our youngest son spent some most of the time in the beer garden. They competed in the corn hole tournament and came out somewhere in the top eight. The beer garden offered local beers for $5 each or 5 for $20. The money raised in from the beer garden goes to the Murrieta Firefighters Association and is used by them to support multiple local causes. A good reason to have a beer!

There was also an area with local vendors. Everything from Hawaiian shave ice to essential oils to bouncy houses! My granddaughter’s favorite vendor was Funny Faces Face Painting. Lorraine Amaya did an awesome job on my granddaughter’s face and their were so many options to choose from. You can find her on Facebook here.

Look at that sweet face!

I love supporting our community and this is definitely a fun way to accomplish that. Great family time and great memories!


Da Bomb Lemon Cake

This cake is absolutely my favorite thing to make with the lemons from our trees.

I never know what to do with all the lemons from our tree. I know…. make lemonade. But we just don’t drink lemonade that much. I use them a lot in cooking fish and making vinaigrette but there are still a ton left over.

So I was excited when an internet search turned up this recipe for Nathan’s Lemon Cake. I can’t tell you how many times I have made this cake since I found the recipe. I did not change the recipe one bit because it is perfect. Plus, it is super fun to make. So many good smells!

Look at that beautiful lemon zest. Smells so good!
Love this lemon juicer. So pretty!

I don’t think that there has been one person that I have served this to that has not loved it. (Or if there has, I have conveniently forgot them!)

Check out the recipe for this cake here at I promise, you will not be disappointed!

When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemon Surprise Pudding

After making the Lemony Asparagus, Orzo and Ham salad a few nights ago for the Hubs to take to his card game, he came home with a huge bag of lemons from one of the guy’s orchard.

Looks how beautiful these lemons are!

Today I got on my trusty MacBook Air and searched for something to make with them. The criteria was that I had to have all of the ingredients on hand. I found lots of recipes for Lemon Surprise Pudding. I had never heard of it before but it was all over the place.

This is all I needed to make this recipe.

I don’t even know who to credit with this recipe because there were so many posts with the same recipe. Well, whoever came up with it, THANK YOU! This pudding is so easy and so good. It is light and reminiscent of lemon meringue pie.

The recipe that I used called for caster sugar. What? Never heard of it. I looked it up and it is just superfine sugar. I just happened to have some in the back of my pantry that I had bought for when I made 40 cremé brûlées for my DIL’s birthday party. Score!

Caster sugar. Who knew?

This recipe is a keeper for sure! Have you every made Lemon Surprise Pudding or do you have any variations on it that you love? Let me know!

Lemon Surprise Pudding

Serves 8-10

7 T butter, softened

2/3 cup superfine sugar

Zest of 2 lemons

1/2 cup lemon juice, about 3 large lemons juiced

4 large eggs, separated

1/2 cup all purpose flour

2 cups whole milk

Whipped cream for topping

Place oven rack on the second to the bottom rung in the oven. Preheat oven to 350º.

Cream butter and sugar using stand mixer (or hand mixer) until creamy, white and fluffy. Add lemon zest and juice. Mix well. (The mixture will curdle at this point. Not to worry)

Beat in egg yolks one at a time.

Gently beat in flour and milk until combined. The mixture will be thin.

In a clean bowl beat egg whites till they stand in snowy peaks. (Picturing “Frozen” in my head right now! Let It Go!) Fold egg whites into the lemon mixture.

Pour mixture into well buttered 8×8 baking dish.

Put the baking dish in a larger dish and fill larger dish with cold water, make sure the water comes halfway up the sides of the 8×8 dish. (I placed the 8×8 dish into the larger one and then put in oven and filled the water up while dish was in the oven.)

Bake for 50-60 minutes. If the top is getting too brown cover with foil for the last 10 minutes.

Serve topped with whipped cream right when it comes out of the oven. Yum yum!


Lemony Asparagus, Orzo and Ham Salad

Still have leftover ham from Easter! And leftover uncooked asparagus as well. Fridge is bulging.

Good thing the Hubs has his weekly card game tonight because it is time to use this stuff up. This salad is what I came up with.

This salad looks super fresh and pretty. Beautiful colors in it. Look at those lovely little bits of red pepper peeking out! The lemon vinaigrette that I found online gives it a nice zingy taste.

You really could add anything you like to this salad, making it the perfect “clean out the fridge” salad. I’m thinking broccoli and chicken, asparagus and salmon, make it vegetarian by leaving out the meat. Whatever your little heart desires!

I like to use DeLallo whole wheat pasta in cold salads because it has a little nutty flavor and it stands up to sitting in the dressing. It keeps that nice little bite. But, you could use any pasta you choose.

The toasted pine nuts add a nice little crunch and the avocado finishes it off perfectly. Yum yum!

Hope you enjoy this salad. It really is a “no-brainer!”

Lemony Asparagus, Orzo and Ham Salad

1 1/2 c  DeLallo whole wheat orzo

1/4 c finely chopped red onion

1/2 c medium chopped red pepper

1 rib celery finely chopped

1 lb asparagus, woody part removed, chopped into 1 in. pieces

1 c chopped ham

This dressing. Use the entire amount made. (The only thing that I changed on the dressing recipe is that I just dumped all of the ingredients in a mason jar and gave it a good shaking. So easy!)

One avocado cubed

1/3 c toasted pine nuts

Lemon zest for garnish if desired.


Bring 3 quarts lightly salted water to a boil. Add orzo and bring back to a boil. Cook orzo for 8 min then add chopped asparagus and cook two more minutes.

Remove from heat and drain.

Mix orzo and asparagus mixture in large bowl with all other ingredients except for the avocado. Let chill in fridge for at least 4 hours. Gently stir in avocado  and pine nuts just before serving. Garnish with lemon zest.

We Play Games

We are game players. All of our kids are game players. We are teaching our grandkids to be game players.

There are two types of families. Avid game players and not-so-much game players. Our family is definitely in the former category. Give us a table and we will play a game.

One of the best memories that I have of my childhood was playing canasta on summer evenings on my next door neighbor’s screened-in patio. She was a little Italian gramma who we loved just like our own gramma. I loved playing games with my own children as they were growing up. We spent many a summer afternoon playing cards. Often we would have tournaments that would last all summer long.

Now that most of my grandkids are old enough to play games we spend frequent Sunday afternoons playing. I play Farkle two mornings a week with my nine year old grandson who stops by for breakfast on those days. We have lots of fun and we are both pretty competitive. The Hubs and I play Hand and Foot sometimes almost every night after dinner. Games, games, games!

Right now there are so many new games that the kids are into. I love to learn a new game that they enjoy. Quite a few of them are games that all the players are playing as one team to beat the game. Those are my favorite.

I bought the Harry Potter Hogwart’s Battle game for two of my grandsons for Christmas and we are having so much fun playing it. It is a cooperative deck building game. Aren’t you proud of me that I know what that even is?! We really enjoy it because those two grandsons and I are are fans of the Harry Potter book series.

I encourage you to get involved in some of the newer games that are out. I find that it gives me common ground with the grandkids (and even my sons who like these games). Even if I don’t totally “get” all the games I still enjoy the time spent together. And that’s what its all about for me!

Another favorite game we recently bought and enjoy playing is Codenames. This is a very fun, quick playing game that sparks lively discussions.

For a lot of laughs we play Blurble. Oh my gosh! This one is super lively and super funny. It is a fast game that can be played by all of my grandkids. We just change the rules a bit for the younger ones who don’t read yet.

Our tried and true games are Mexican Train Dominoes, Gin Rummy, Hand and Foot, Hearts, Spades, Phase 10, and 5 Crowns.

Play games! Make some memories! You will be glad you did.



Drunken Split Pea Soup in the Bella® Electric Pressure Cooker

It’s the day after Easter and in our house that means just one thing: split pea soup! The Hubs and I love it but I only make it twice a year. I make it after our annual Christmas open house and after Easter. Those are the two times a year that I buy the fabulous spiral sliced ham at Costco.

I got a Bella® Electric Pressure Cooker earlier this year and I am just discovering the wonderful things it can do. Steel cut oats cook perfectly. Pinto beans are a snap. Beef stew? Ah-maz-ing. And soup….. 20 minutes!

I found this recipe online and adapted it a bit to suit my tastes. I substituted organic chicken broth for the water and sautéd the veggies before adding the other ingredients. I think it added a nice depth to it.

I read different recipes online and got conflicting instruction regarding quick release vs natural release. I choose to use the quick release because one site said that the quick release results in a creamier soup. I was not dissappointed.

I also switched the sherry to Marsala wine because that is what I had and that is how I roll! Trust me. You will want to add the splash of Marsala. It takes split pea soup to a whole other level. From everyday to “could be in a restaurant” good.

Ready to cook!

Be sure to clean your pressure valve as soon as it is cool enough as split peas can dry hard quickly, impacting your pressure next time you cook.

Hope you enjoy this soup as much as the Hubs and I did. Let me know in the comment section.

So creamy and delicious.

Drunken Split Pea With Ham Bone Soup in the Pressure Cooker

Serves: 4 meal size bowls or 8 cup size servings

1 lb split peas, rinsed and sorted

1 Tbsp avocado oil (or olive oil if desired)

2 carrots, chopped

2 ribs celery, chopped

1 small onion, chopped

1 1/2 tsp dried thyme

4 cups chicken broth

1 ham bone with some ham still attached

Splash of Marsala wine

Sour Cream or plain Greek yogurt to garnish

Turn pressure cooker to sauté function and let heat up a few minutes.

Add carrots, celery, and onion and sauté for 3-4 minutes until onions are translucent. Turn off pressure cooker.

Add split peas, dried thyme, broth, and ham bone.

Press the “Pressure Cook” button and set timer for 20 minutes.

Once pressure cooker beeps do and instant release. I always put a dish towel over the release valve so as not to have the steam spray all over.

Remove ham bone to cutting board and cut off meat. Chop meat and return to soup.

Ladle into cup or bowl, add a splash of Marsala wine and garnish with sour cream or plain Greek yogurt.







Grilled Turkey, Swiss and Balsamic Onion Sandwich


Balsamic Onion Relish. What?!? I bought this. I needed it for a recipe and after scouring Amazon I found it. I only needed a little bit so I stuck the jar back in the fridge and forgot about it. Didn’t really know what to use the rest of it for.

Today I was making lunch for the Hubs. My plans were for a plain old turkey and cheese sandwich. Then I got the idea to grill it. He loves any kind of grilled sandwich. Who doesn’t? Bread, butter, crispy grilled goodness. Oh yeah!

Me, being the kind of person who likes to use up what is on hand, searched the shelves of the fridge to see what I could add to the sandwich to make it pop. Lo and behold I found this little jar of goodness just waiting to add some of that pop to said sandwich. I spread some of it on both sides of the bread, put turkey and Swiss cheese in and then grilled it.

Oh my! Such a simple addition but such a big taste. The Hubs described it as “delectable”! Sweet and savory at the same time. And….. grilled cheese!

This Piaz Balsamic Onion Relish is is made by the Apex Food Company in Apex, NC. The company was founded by two American women of Indian origin. You can read about their story here. The Piaz Balsamic Onion Relish is low calorie, has no trans fat, no added colors, no MSG, no artificial flavors, no preservatives and no high fructose corn syrup. What is there not to love here?

This is not your mother’s relish! It is definitely going to be a staple condiment in my house from now on. I can’t wait to come up with more ways to add flavor to everyday food. I’m thinking  pizza, burgers, steaks, flatbreads. Who knows where my tastebuds will lead me!




Strawberry Mango Salsa – Sweet or A Little Bit Savory. You choose!

I made this strawberry mango salsa yesterday for my nieces’ wedding shower in the Temecula Wine country. It was so delicious and so perfect for a gorgeous spring day. 

I made the sweet version of it for the shower but I made the “little bit” savory one for Easter today.  The sweet one can even be dessert like served with cinnamon sugar tortilla chips. I think it looks so pretty and will dress up any table. 

It seems that it is the time of year for everything strawberry! We even had strawberry mango pancakes for breakfast. (Not with the salsa though!) The grandkids were here for breakfast and we always dress up the pancakes with a little bit (a lot) of whipped cream and a few (a lot) sprinkles. Maybe that is why my grandkids say I make the best pancakes!

Here is the recipe for the salsa. Enjoy!

 3/4 cup finely chopped strawberries

 3/4 cup finely chopped mango 

 2 Tbsp finely chopped red onion 

 1/2-1 finely chopped jalapeño pepper seeds and ribs removed              

Juice of one lime                

NOW, here is where you decide if you want sweet or a little savory:

Add honey to taste for sweet 


Add sea salt to taste for a little savory                       
Serve with tortilla chips or you can also serve it as a garnish for chicken, fish, or pork