Library of Cookbooks – My Reading Passion

I frequently mention a cookbook I have when posting a recipe. I’m from the old-fashioned school as I like books; I like to hold them and flip through the pages and marvel at the pictures. I learn about the author, the cuisine and frequently stories about the region.  Maybe because I have always loved books is why I probably  became a teacher/librarian (retired).

My office is full of “cookbooks” and other interests such as gardening, autobiographies of women, odds and ends… Having just moved 9 months ago I did a lot of “cleaning” and donated a number of books to local agencies or there would be a lot more.

My kitchen library with a few of my favorites…

I like to decorate with books…

Overflow – not much space left. Note the container on bottom shelf – full of recipes to try. Oh, and I have a file drawer too of recipes I would like to make, organized by holiday and subject!

Reading material for guests – you won’t find many novels, fiction, thrillers and such.

Yes, I do use the internet but it will never replace my love for books. Things are too easy for people now with all the media sources such as Pinterest and the internet. Me, lean back in a comfortable chair, maybe with a cup of coffee or glass of wine (depending on the time of day) and enjoy reading one of my many cookbooks. The weather is turning nicer and there is nothing better than enjoying the sun while reading about faraway cultures and all the good recipes I could make 🙂

Linking to Fiesta Friday #215 and the two co-hosts  Laurena @ Life Diet Health and Alex @ Turks Who Eat

Colcannon Potatoes for St. Paddy’s Day

Colcannon comes from the Gaelic term “cal ceannann” which means white-headed cabbage. The Irish tradition is to serve this as the main dish for Halloween festivities and is known as “Colcannon Night”. The introduction of this classic potato and cabbage dish in America has been served more commonly on St. Patrick’s Day.

I looked at a number of “colcannon” recipes in my cookbooks and online. These potatoes can vary in the ingredients used such as savoy versus green cabbage or even spinach and kale, red and russet versus Yukon gold, leek versus green onion and any seasonings. I love to compare recipes and often will pick out ingredients I like, and not necessarily traditional, whatever that is!

I decided on two sources and the The kitchn used 2 kinds of potatoes (the russets peeled and the reds unpeeled); also I thought I would give savoy cabbage a try. It seems I always lean towards green cabbage and wanted to try something new – it’s prettier too with its crinkly leaves. Fiestafriday included bacon and I am all about bacon! They both used browned butter – how good is that!!! I chose to use a leek instead of green onions just for a change as it seems I use green onions in so many recipes.

I obviously loaded up the colcannon, just add the ingredients you like to taste!

Colcannon Potatoes for St. Paddy's Day, Adapted

  • 1 lb. russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 lb. red potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • kosher salt
  • 2-4 slices Applewood bacon, optional
  • 6 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 2 cups savoy cabbage, shredded and chopped (try to use the tender part of the cabbage and not the hard core)
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced and separated or 1 small leek, white and light green sliced and chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3/4 cup whole milk (might need more), heated
  • 1/4 cup low sodium chicken broth
  • parsley to garnish

Place the two potato varieties in a saucepan with a little salt. Bring  to a boil and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until tender. Drain and return them to the cooking pot. Add the milk and mash – you want a few lumps for texture. I used a potato masher and not my electric mixer because I left the peel on the red potatoes.

Cook the 4 slices of bacon until crisp; crumble and set aside.

Brown the butter in a stainless steel skillet over medium-high heat. Cook until it browns lightly and smells nutty, about 5-7 minutes. Watch carefully and tilt the pan to see the color. Pour off 1/4 cup of the browned butter and set aside.

Return the pan with the remaining browned butter to medium heat and add the cabbage,  whites of the scallions and or leek. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until tender and lightly browned, about 8 minutes.

Add the chicken broth to the cabbage pan and cook until the broth has reduced, about 3 minutes.

Combine the cabbage, greens of the scallions (or leek) and crumbled bacon if using,  to the mashed potatoes. Move to a large serving bowl and make a well in the middle of the potatoes. Pour the reserved 1/4 cup brown butter into the well and  serve. Serve extra butter on the side…

Comment: I saved the  bacon grease and used it to cook some “bangers” and onions to go along with the  colcannon; a shortened version of Dublin Coddle. I was going to make a corned beef and decided on these sausages instead……toes-and-cabbage/

Here are some other St. Patrick’s Day recipes:

  1. Irish Lamb Stew
  2. Cabbage and Noodles
  3. Irish Coffee
  4. Chocolate Stout and Irish Cream Liqueur Cupcakes
  5. St. Patrick’s Day Pistachio Cookies
  6. Weight Watcher’s Corned Beef and Cabbage
  7. Stuffed Cabbage Rolls – Weight Watcher’s Version
  8. St. Patrick’s Day Breakfast Casserole
  9. Irish Soda Bread with Apples, Guinness and Cheddar
  10. Shamrock Pesto Puff Pastry
  11. Dublin Coddle
  12. Stuffed Cabbage  Rolls – Slow Cooker
  13. Weight Watcher’s Kielbasa, Cabbage and Potato Stew
  14. Corned Beef Hash
  15. Reuben Panini

Savoy cabbage on the left and green cabbage on the right…


Linking to Angie @ Fiesta Friday #215 and the two co-hosts  Laurena @ Life Diet Health and Alex @ Turks Who Eat


Spicy Mexican Refried Beans with Onions, Garlic and Jalapenos

All good Mexican meals need a side of refried beans, not just from the can but “kicked up”. This recipe originally came from Chef Rick Bayless (whose specialty is Mexican), and then adapted from fellow cook Josette @ thebrookcook. I further adapted Josette’s recipe and you can go here    for her original recipe.

This dish can be made as spicy as you want. I used spicy refried beans and also added a jalapeno to add more great flavor. It is delicious and a sure winner with your next Mexican meal!

Spicy Mexican Refried Beans with Onions, Garlic and Jalapenos

  • 1-2 tbsp. vegetable oil or bacon grease
  • 1 onion, chopped small (to taste)
  • 1-2 jalapenos, minced small
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced (to taste)
  • 4 cups undrained, seasoned cooked beans (I chose Rosarita Organic Refried Pinto Beans Spicy Jalapeno with coconut oil),  2 (16 oz.) cans
  • 1/2 cup (or more – I love cheese) crumbled queso fresco for garnish
  • cilantro for garnish, (optional – I used parsley)

In a large nonstick skillet heat the oil; add the onion (and jalapeno if using – I highly recommend) and cook for about 5-10 minutes stirring frequently. Stir in the garlic and cook another minute or two.

Add the refried beans and cook until heated through. If needed, mash the beans. Add just enough water  to have a rather thick consistency.

Sprinkle the queso fresco and cilantro/parsley if desired. Not being a cilantro fan I use parsley.

You can keep the beans warm in a slow cooker – check consistency and stir in a little water, if necessary.

Serve a bowl of queso fresco on the side.

Comment: You can use canned pinto beans (or any bean you choose) and mash the beans good, adding water as needed. Then you can season the beans to your liking!…nions-and-garlic/ 


Za-atar Chicken Cutlets and Lemon-Parsley Salad

What a delightful and tasty salad  and one I enjoyed a few times. When I am trying new ingredients I often will cut a recipe in half, or even thirds, just in case I don’t like it. No problem with this recipe – the chicken was so flavorful with a  za’atar/Aleppo pepper/flour mixture rubbed on the thin breasts before frying. Then the salad was topped off with a light lemony and parsley dressing. A lovely pomegranate molasses was drizzled  over each salad and garnished with toasted walnuts – delicious!

Za-atar is a new spice blend for me that I have seen in a number of Middle Eastern recipes. It can mean a couple of things; a dried herb as well as an herb blend that contains it. The blend can differ from area to area but most varieties contain the za’atar herb as well as spices such as sumac, which I happen to love.

The best source for me was to go online and see what’s available. This is where it gets confusing but I chose a product from Israel. You just have to do a little research as I am certainly not an expert on this. The ingredients: hyssop (Majorana Syiriacal), sesame, Elm-leaved sumac, lemon acid and salt.

I found another version and you can see the difference between the two when you first look at them. The one from Israel definitely has more sesame seeds and the blend gave a green tint to the chicken. The Spice Way blend contains: hyssop, sesame seeds, sumac, olive oil, lemon salt and canola oil.

I’ve heard that it is much easier and better to make your own blend – I’ve added two recipes for homemade za’atar even though I have not made it before.

Another ingredient that I just love is pomegranate molasses.

Narsh which is a product of Azerbaijan contains concentrated pomegranate, sugar and salt. It has a darker color, a red tint to it, thicker and is a tad sweeter. Since the molasses was drizzled over the salad I prefer this brand with the added sugar and salt. If the molasses was mixed together with other ingredients I might use the 100% pomegranate juice – kind of depends on the recipe.

Al Wadi Al Akhdar pomegranate molasses is a Lebanese product and is 100% all natural pomegranate juice without any additions. Obviously, this is the healthier product…

This recipe comes from Christopher Kimball’s (America’s Test Kitchen) new magazine “Milk Street”.

Za-atar Chicken Cutlets and Lemon-Parsley Salad, Adapted

  • 1-1/2 lbs. boneless and skinless chicken breasts; 4 cutlets pounded to 1/4-inch thickness
  • kosher salt (look at your za-atar ingredients as there might be plenty of salt and you can avoid adding more)
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tsp. za’atar, divided
  • 3 tbsp. flour
  • 3/4 tsp. Aleppo pepper – the heat can vary (you could substitute a few pinches of paprika and cayenne)
  • 2 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. olive oil, divided
  • 3/4 cup lightly packed fresh parsley leaves
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced on a bias
  • 1/2 tsp. lemon zest, plus 1 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp. pomegranate molasses, drizzled (more to taste – for this salad I preferred the Narsh brand which does have a little sugar added to it)
  • 3 tbsp. walnuts, finely chopped – I toasted them; Candied Pecans or Walnuts would be delicious too!

Season the chicken liberally with kosher salt; place in a shallow baking dish. Combine 1/4 cup of za’atar, flour, and Aleppo pepper and rub into the chicken breasts.

Heat 2 tbsp. oil in a skillet (I used a cast iron but the author suggested using stainless steel) and add the cutlets; cook about 3 minutes per side depending on the thickness, turning once.

In a small bowl combine the parsley, scallions, lemon zest and juice, 1 tsp. olive oil and a pinch of salt; toss to coat. A really light, nice dressing…

Drizzle the molasses over the chicken, then mound the greens over the cutlets. Sprinkle with walnuts and 1 tsp. za-atar.

The Spruce Za’atar:

  • 1/4 cup sumac
  • 2 tbsp. thyme
  • 1 tbsp. sesame seeds, roasted
  • 2 tbsp. marjoram
  • 2 tbsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. coarse salt

Combine the above ingredients in a spice blender.

Fine Cooking Za’atar:

  • 3 tbsp. dried thyme
  • 1 tbsp. toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 tbsp. ground sumac
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano or marjoram
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt

Combine above ingredients in a spice blender.…on-parsley-salad/  


Homemade Edible Bread Spoons for Appetizers

One good thing when you downsize and move you discover things you forgot you had. Even though it has been nine months since I moved I still have boxes I have not unpacked – basement kitchen overflow. These edible bread spoons are fun to make and fill!

The Oscars are tomorrow night and I’ve provided a unique way to serve a bunch of different appetizers. There are links to 12 different toppings that would be perfect for these tasting spoons made out of bread. No waste and nothing to clean!

This nice little kit comes with 12 tasting spoons, a spoon mold cutter, simple instructions and suggestions for serving. Also, it is made in the UK @  I bought this quite awhile ago and I checked and the company is still around!

Of course you can find other “tasting” spoons online to use as molds (they need to be ovenproof)  and if you have a creative “Jack of all Trades husband”  he can make you a form to fit your spoons 🙂 My hubby would have welcomed the challenge!

There are numerous options for filling the bread spoons – see links below. I decided to  make shrimp cocktail, caramelized onions and blue cheese, potato chorizo with guacamole, fruit appetizers and pico de gallo to give you an idea of how they look when filled.

Homemade Edible Bread Spoons for Appetizers

  • metal spoons and spoon cutter kit
  • slices of white bread (I used a thin white sandwich bread – Pepperidge Farms)
  • heavy duty rolling pin
  • toppings for your appetizers (see my suggestions and links to recipes)

Roll out each bread slice with a rolling pin using lots of pressure, turn and repeat the action to get a thin slice. The fresher the bread the thinner it can be rolled out. Use the cutter to cut out spoon shapes. You need to press very hard to cut through the bread – I had to use a sharp knife in some places. I was able to get 2 spoons out of each slice.

After you have made each bread spoon place each on a former and press well in the bowl part and handle so that they are molded in.  Place bread spoons on a baking sheet.  If you would like an extra crispy finish brush with a little olive oil before baking – not really needed.

Bake in a preheated 350°F oven for 15 to 20 minutes until slightly brown. I took the spoons out after 10 minutes so watch carefully that they don’t overbrown!

Use the leftovers to make breadcrumbs. The spoons will keep for a few weeks unfilled – just keep in a covered container.

The following are some examples of what you can serve on these edible bread spoons. Be creative as the possibilities are endless…

  1. Shrimp cocktail with seafood sauce
  2. Caramelized onions with blue cheese (or goat cheese) and a drizzle of honey
  3. Ricotta Vegetable Carpaccio
  4. Fruit appetizers with an orange/cream cheese base and your choice of fruit, small dice
  5. Potato Chorizo with Guacamole or Avocado Crema
  6. Tomato bruschetta with red onions
  7. Bacon Jam with Applewood smoked bacon and maple syrup
  8. Cold veggie pizza bites with a cream cheese base and your choice of veggies, small dice
  9. Marinated goat or feta cheese with fresh herbs
  10. Mango Salsa with red and jalapeno peppers
  11. Pico de Gallo with fresh tomatoes, jalapenos, onions and lime
  12. Queso Dips Nine Ways…s-for-appetizers/ 

Linking to Fiesta Friday

Pico de Gallo and Edible Bread Spoons

I love salsas of all kinds because of the different veggies, herbs/spices and fruits you can use. A tomato based salsa is best when fresh tomatoes are available. I made this recipe during off season and used Roma tomatoes. You can see the tomatoes are not very red but when you add the lime, jalapeno, onions and cilantro it tastes pretty good. At least I did not have to “salt” the tomatoes as they were not very juicy.

This salsa is sometimes called salsa fresca, salsa picada, salsa Mexicana, and salsa bandera.

Pico de Gallo and Edible Bread Spoons

The following ingredients are combined according to your taste:

  • tomatoes, small dice; seeded and sometimes I will peel the tomatoes
  • red or white onion, small dice
  • garlic clove, minced (optional and to taste)
  • jalapeno peppers, seeds and membranes removed (optional for less heat); finely diced
  • cilantro to taste (I am not a big fan of cilantro so sometimes I add parsley instead)
  • fresh lime juice to taste (if the tomatoes are very flavorful you might not need this) – you could also use red wine vinegar
  • salt to taste

If the tomatoes are in season salt them a little and allow to drain for 30 to 60 minutes. This is important if you are making bruschetta or my edible bread spoons – you don’t want the bread to get soggy.

Combine the above ingredients – the pico de gallo will stay fresh for a few days.

See also Pico de Gallo using fresh and canned tomatoes. For the bread spoons go to Homemade Edible Bread Spoons


Baked Cauliflower Hot Wings with a Dipping Sauce

A favorite vegetable becomes an appetizer dipping the florets in a  flavorful batter, baking them,  drizzling  with hot sauce and crisping them up under the broiler.  I do have to admit you do not get the crispy texture when you deep fry but they do have that great “hot wings” flavor and it is all about the “hot sauce”.

Traditionally you serve a blue cheese dip along with “hot wings” but because everyone does not like blue cheese I served it with my homemade ranch dressing. You actually can use your favorite dip or dressing for these hot and spicy cauliflower wings.

The cauliflower batter comes from Ayesha Curry – the wife of basketball star Steph Curry. Actually their oldest child, Riley, who is 5 years old (I think) is the star as she always steals the show at press conferences –  just adorable and what a personality!

Cauliflower Hot Wings with a Dipping Sauce, Adapted

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • cauliflower florets, broken into nice bite sized pieces
  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup hot sauce, Frank’s Red Hot is a good choice or Sriracha
  • Serve with other veggies such as celery and carrot sticks and red pepper strips
  • try my dipping sauces Ranch or Blue Cheese
  • blue cheese crumbles and sliced scallions to serve or sprinkle with celery leaves

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Spray parchment lined baking sheet(s). I found the batter stuck to the parchment and was difficult to turn the florets so I would suggest lightly spraying the parchment. Combine the flour, paprika, garlic powder and salt. Mix the buttermilk and water together and whisk into the dry ingredients until you have a smooth batter. Add the cauliflower and stir to coat each floret well.

Spread out on a parchment lined baking sheet that you have sprayed. Try to let any excess go back into the bowl. I actually changed the parchment paper as there was too much excess batter on the baking sheet. Bake for at least 15 minutes until the batter is set.

Meanwhile, heat the butter and hot sauce. After the batter is set drizzle half of the sauce mixture, then turn the florets over and drizzle with the rest of the hot sauce. You may not need it all – don’t put too much on.

Turn your oven to broil and brown the cauliflower. CAUTION: The parchment paper charred and could have caught fire. I recommend (as well as others) to remove the parchment paper before broiling which Ayesha did not.

Remember, the cauliflower is not crisp like it would be if you deep fried them. Lower in fat but you pay for it some times; great “hot wings” flavor though! Allow to cool and serve with assorted veggies and your favorite dip.…-a-dipping-sauce/

Cabbage and Noodles

Krautfleckerl, Haluski or just plain cabbage and noodles, this is a popular, simple, quick recipe which is easy on the budget and can be made to your taste. Different countries, regions within those countries and even individual families have their own recipe.

There are basic ingredients such as cabbage, egg noodles, and onions (you could always add some garlic too). Salt and pepper and of course butter are important ingredients – need to saute those onions! Additional veggies can be added such as peas or carrots; caraway is a spice that is optional. If you want to make it heartier add some sliced kielbasa or sausage. Dollops of sour cream sometimes finish off this simple dish.

See also Kielbasa and Cabbage Stew for another simple cabbage recipe – it’s Weight Watcher’s too!

Cabbage and Noodles

  • butter and or oil (enough only to saute the onions)
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • garlic, minced (optional and to taste)
  • cabbage, chopped (about 6 cups)
  • carrots, diced or peas (optional to taste – I like to add carrots for color and more nutrition)
  • 8 oz. of egg noodles (I like Kluski or a yolk free noodle)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • caraway seed (optional to taste – I didn’t add)
  • cooked kielbasa or sausage (optional and to taste – I like the skinless kielbasa), bacon would be another good choice
  • dollop of sour cream (optional)

Cook the noodles according to package directions; drain and set aside.

If you want you can brown the sliced kielbasa and set aside.

Saute the onions (and carrots if using)  in a little butter/oil until tender. Add the chopped cabbage (and garlic if desired) and cook for about 15 minutes.

Stir in the cooked noodles and season to taste with salt and pepper. Now is the time to add peas or any cooked meat (if using) stirring until combined and heated through.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream if desired. 

Baked Brie With a Praline Sauce

Brie is a beautiful cheese to melt (or serve at room temperature) and add different toppings to. After leafing through a small collection of recipes I decided on this sweet one with maple syrup and pecans – two ingredients which won me over.  Plus I served it with apple slices (pear slices would be good too) and not just crackers.

This appetizer is perfect from the Cooking Channel, courtesy of Nealey Dozier with a couple of changes. For the next time I will reduce the amount of nuts from 1/2 to 1/3 cup. I also added 1/2 tsp. vanilla. I cut the original recipe in half as my Brie baker fits an 8 oz. wheel of cheese. It’s really a nice baker as the baked Brie stays warm in the ceramic dish, keeps the ingredients contained and also has a lid.

Brie is a soft, creamy cheese with an edible rind and it can be baked or served at room temperature. It lends itself to quite a few toppings such as  fruit preserves with a little zip or one of my favorites; hot pepper jelly. You can bake it in puff pastry with all kinds of flavored jams/jellies or preserves – your choice. Another version I want to try is with cranberries, pecans and bacon!

Would you like more ways to use Brie? Check out Brie Puffs with Michigan Dried Cherries or Flower Garden Brie.

Baked Brie with a Praline Sauce, Adapted

  • 8 oz. wheel of Brie
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp. brown sugar packed
  • 1/6 cup maple syrup ( 2 tbsp. + 2 tsp.)
  • I added 1/2 tsp. of vanilla
  • 1/2 cup toasted and chopped pecans (next time I will only use 1/3 cup) – walnuts are fine too
  • 1/2 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper
  • serve with plain crackers such as water crackers, baguette slices or even some pear or apple slices

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Freeze the Brie for about 20 minutes. Shave off the top rind of the Brie leaving 1/4-inch border around the edges. I used a cheese slicer and a knife to get the rind off. You can see from  the picture I was a little sloppy in doing this. Place in a small baking dish and bake for 15-20 minutes until warm. Remove and allow to cool for another 15 minutes before serving.

While the Brie is cooking make your praline sauce. Melt the butter; add the brown sugar, maple syrup and pecans. Cook until all of the ingredients are combined for about 5 minutes. Stir in the black pepper, remove from heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes; it will thicken. Pour the warm sauce over the Brie and serve.

You really don’t need this much sauce but I used it all anyways – the more goodies the better! 

Ina’s Rigatoni with Sausage and Fennel

Doesn’t this pasta dish look delicious with sweet sausage and anise flavored fennel? In my recent Food Network Magazine this was one of the recipes and feeling the need for some comfort food I knew this had to be on my menu soon.

This pasta dish is rich but you can use lower fat cream or even milk. The fennel makes up for the fat, right? It’s a nice veggie to incorporate into this recipe – I like the addition of this licorice-like flavor with so many health benefits!

Ina's Rigatoni with Sausage and Fennel

  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 cups fennel, chopped (1-2 bulbs) (keep the stalks and leaves to add to soup stocks)
  • 1-1/2 cups onion, chopped
  • 1-1/4 lbs.  sweet Italian sausages, casings removed
  • 2 tsp. garlic, minced (add to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp. fennel seeds, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes, crushed (add to taste)
  • 2 tsp. Kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2/3 cup half and half
  • 2 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 lb. rigatoni
  • 1/2 cup freshly parsley leaves, minced
  • 1 cup Parmigiano Reggiano , divided (or more)

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven and add the fennel and onions. Saute for about 8 minutes until tender. Break up the sausage into small pieces and add to the fennel mixture. Cook another 8 minutes until nicely browned. Next, add the garlic, crushed fennel seeds, red pepper flakes, 2 tsp. salt and 1 tsp. black pepper; cook for a minute.

Pour in the wine and bring to a boil; then add the heavy cream, 1/2 and 1/2 and tomato paste. Bring back to a boil, then simmer for 20 minutes or until the sauce has thickened.

Cook the rigatoni according to package directions with 2 tbsp. salt. Drain and save a little water (just in case) and add the pasta to the sauce, stirring to coat. Cook for about 5 minutes. Stir in the parsley and 1/2 cup Parmigiano.

Serve with the remaining 1/2 cup Parmigiano.

You can make this ahead for up to a day; spoon into a baking dish, bring to room temperature and bake for about 20 minutes at 375°F.

Recipe by

Fennel bulbs and the chopped fennel cooking with the onions…