Thursday, December 20, 2012

Good Day for Soup!

Each week during Advent I've been bringing soup to the church soup supper before service. The first week was my Italian Tortellini, last week was black bean. This week, I got a bit creative and created a pot of pierogi soup. Now, for those of you with some Eastern European heritage, your ears will perk up and you'll say "huh? pierogi soup? how do you do that?" Others will say "what the heck is a pierogi?"

A pierogi is a dumpling of sorts. The pastry crust is made with sour cream, and it usually is filled with mashed potatoes and cheese, or onions, or sauerkraut. We have a restaurant here in Phoenix -- Pittsburgh Willy's -- that makes homemade pierogi each week. Alas, I forgot to run over there before the holidays, so the frozen Mrs. T's will have to do.

Barb's Pierogi Soup
1 link polish sausage, cut in half then cut into 1/2 inch pieces
one onion, sliced
3 T. butter
2 qt. chicken stock

1 t. caraway seed
one can sauerkraut, drained, rinsed and squeezed
one box Mrs. T's pierogies
1 c. sour cream

In a skillet, saute the sausage in a bit of vegetable oil until browned. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels. Wipe out skillet. Melt 1 T. butter in the skillet and saute the onion, sprinkled with a bit of salt, over low heat until caramelized, about 20 minutes, stirring often. In a large Dutch oven or Crock-Pot, get the chicken stock simmering. Add in the sausage, sauerkraut, caraway seed and onions when they are done. Wipe out the skillet again, and melt 2 T. butter and saute pierogi according to package instructions, about 8 minutes (I also add about 1 T. water, and cover pierogi for about half of that cooking time to steam and brown).  To serve, put 2 pierogi in bowl, ladle soup over, serve with a dollop of sour cream.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Thirsty Thursday: Bar La Grassa White Spider

In honor of the birthdays of our pals Gary Young and Janine Skinner, we're posting (again) a great gin drink they both enjoy and drank this summer during a trip to Minnesota -- the White Spider from Bar La Grassa in Minneapolis. You can find the "drink of the week" write up here. Seems like it's a simple, shaken concoction of Bombay Gin, Cointreau and homemade sour mix. Happy Birthday friends....Cheers!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Pears for the Holidays

courtesy of
Pumpkin and apple may be the standard stand-by when it comes to holiday desserts, but this is a great time of year for pears. Our friends at USA Pears have developed a great website for all things pears-- info on how to pick a good pear, how to cook with them, how to "pair" them with wine and cheese, and even how to decorate with them. Head over to to find all this great information.

For those of you planning out holiday menus, here's an easy but elegant idea for dessert -- Caramelized Pears with Hazelnuts. They serve it up with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, but we also thought it could be an interesting appetizer served alongside a dollop of goat cheese.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thirsty Thursday: Mapletini

Picture of Mapletini Recipe


 As we head into the holiday season filled with home entertaining, we thought we’d use this week’s Thirsty Thursday column to highlight a fun “fall-themed” cocktail you might consider serving as part of your Thanksgiving celebration.  The recipe was developed by Sandra Lee and is featured on








  • 2 shots Irish cream liqueur
  • 1 shot brandy
  • 1/2 shot cinnamon schnapps
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup
  • Ice
  • Cinnamon stick, for garnish


Place all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with cinnamon stick
Thursday, October 18, 2012

Thirsty Thursday: Drink Pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Month

The month of October affords us an opportunity to focus increased attention on the challenge of breast cancer and finding a cure.  So, in honor of all those who are battling this insidious illness now, those who have survived and those who lost their battle, rose wine pixand finally, those who will be diagnosed in the future, we’re devoting this Thirsty Thursday to drinking pink. 
  • Rosé wine – Don’t feel like you have to drink white zinfandel (not that there’s anything wrong with that) to drink pink.  Today’s rosé wines are not the saccharinely  sweet versions of years past.   For great dry and fruity taste, usually at inexpensive prices, try a Spanish rose (rosado) made from the Grenache grape.  
Barb also swears by La Ferme Julien, a rose from Rhone Valley Vineyards available at Trader Joes for a very modest price.
  • Pink Tickle – I first had this tasty cocktail at Table Three, a restaurant in West St. Louis County.  Just mix 2/3 champagne with 1/3 X-Rated Fusion Liquor and you’ve got a fabulously pink and tasty concoction!  
  • Pink Squirrel – Flash back to our parents’ cocktail generation!  The pink squirrel is a frozen cocktail made of equal parts of Crème de Noyaux, Crème de Cacao, and half and half.  Blend with ice and serve.  Yum!
  • Cosmopolitan – While not technically true pink, we think this one is close enough and it tastes good.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Thirsty Thursday: Fall is Here, Bring on the Pumpkin Beer!

courtesy of Zach Fowle 

For most of us, October brings a cool breeze, leaves changing, and thoughts of Oktoberfest gatherings and Halloween. For me? Pumpkin Beer.

I started drinking pumpkin beer back in September in my attempt to feel "fallish" as it's rather challenging to feel that way here in Phoenix when it's still 103 degrees. 

Back when I was in St. Louis last month I tried Schlafly Pumpkin Ale.
According to their website, "pounds of pumpkin form a malty foundation that supports the fall flavors of cinnamon, nutmeg and clove." It was a pretty tasty brew and I was sad to have to leave four of the six bottles in Sharon's refrigerator when I left. 

I came back to Phoenix and bought a six-pack of Uinta Punk'n. Tasty and refreshing, but VERY light on pumpkin flavor. 

Next up...headed to Four Peaks Brewery later this week to get some of their infamous Pumpkin Porter. 

For more suggestions on pumpkin beers from around the country, visit Chow Bella's Guide to Pumpkin Beer 2012.
Thursday, September 27, 2012

Thirsty Thursday: Light and Refreshing

It may be getting colder and "fall-like" where you are, but here in the Southwest, its still going to be triple-digits this weekend. So, I was thrilled to see Rachael Ray's hubby John, whip up a "cucumber mule" cocktail that is light and refreshing. We're excited to hear he has a new book coming out in November called "My Year in Cocktails" (yes, we'll be faithfully working our way through it....). Here's a link to how to make the drink, and the recipe is below. Cheers!

Cucumber Mule
Cucumber Ginger Mule
  • 1 1/2 ounces cucumber-infused vodka
  • 1/2 ounce ginger syrup
  • 2 lime wedges
  • A few slices of cucumber
  • Seltzer water, to taste 
  • Fill a rocks glass 3/4 of the way with ice. Over ice, pour vodka, ginger syrup, lime wedges and cucumber. Stir with a large spoon. Fill the glass the rest of the way up with seltzer. 
Thursday, September 13, 2012

Thirsty Thursday: Girl’s Night Out

Sometimes, there is absolutely nothing better than girlfriends getting together for a few cocktails and some great food. Last night, your fearless blog authors joined up with two old friends (okay, they are not old, they are younger than us, but we’ve been friends for a looong time) at a great St. Louis restaurant called Salt for drinks and dinner. The night evolved into constant chatter, laughter and some side-splitting conversation.

We arrived first. Sharon wanted the Salt Smash, a lovely bourbon, mint and peach syrup combo. Barb wanted something a bit more traditional – and the bartender happily made a house 1862 Manhattan using Buffalo Trace bourbon, orange curacao and bitters. Jen joined in with the aquavit-laced, slightly sour drink called “Momentary Lapse of Judgment.”  Then Sylvia arrived. She desperately wanted vodka but there wasn’t a signature cocktail on the menu that contained that particular spirit. We asked our awesome, patient waiter Katie that she request the bartender to concoct a personalized vodka drink for our friend. Sylvia listed that she wanted a fruity, summery, flirty, sparkly and fun cocktail. Moments later, the drink arrived…the cosmo-based but still unique concoction hit all of Sylvia’s requests. We love it when a bartender can use his/her creativity to make a patron happy!  

Cheers to friendship, cool cocktails, and a fun time! 
Friday, August 31, 2012

Great Summer Salad: Cantaloupe Carpaccio from The Chew

As part of our food fest in Phoenix, we made a recipe Barb spotted on The Chew.  We didn’t change a thing.  It’s absolutely perfect!  Yum!

Mario Batali’s Melon Carpaccio
1 Cantaloupe or Honeydew Melon (thinly sliced)
1/4 pound Spicy Salami (julienned)
1/4 cup Parmigiano Reggiano (shaved with a vegetable peeler)
2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 cups Arugula
2 Limes 

Thinly slice the melon and arrange on serving plate. (We used a cheese slicer to make the thin cantaloupe slices.) Sprinkle the salami & cheese over the melon.  Artfully arrange the arugula on top.  Finish with lime juice, olive oil and freshly cracked pepper.  (You’ll note in our photo that we placed the cheese on the top instead). 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Thirsty Thursday: Cocktail Chemistry

Last night, we found ourselves in the back alleys of Scottsdale, seeking a local speakeasy, Citizen R+D to immerse ourselves in a fun, new trend in cocktails.  In true speakeasy fashion, we called the phone number listed on a clipboard hanging by a nail and then awaited our burly gatekeeper, Tony, to enter the intimate, swanky club.

This particular night, mixologists Kris and Tara, prepared for us three drinks we selected from an extensive list of 27 options -- this particular night's rotation of choices.  First up, was the Shell Shock, which tasted fabulously similar to the Pusser's Painkillers we wrote about last week.  This version was a concoction of rum, vanilla ice cream, pineapple juice, the coconut milk from the fresh coconut our drink was served in, all topped with a sprinkle of nutmeg. 

Next up, the Black Blazer.  Prepared table-side, this flaming combination of Jameson Irish whiskey, Blackmaker root beer liqueur, Stroh black strap molasses high-proof rum, maple syrup, topped with whipped cream and toasted orange peel, packed quite a wallop.  And, yes, before you exclaim that we ordered another drink, please note that there were three of us in attendance.

Our third, and final selection, was the La Flama Blanca, another table-side flaming creation (we like fire), this time with Patron XO Cafe, Stroh black strap molasses high proof rum, espresso, grated Mexican chocolate, and whipped cream on the top.  Similar in some respects to the Black Blazer, but it evoked a completely different flavor profile. 

Among the other concoctions we spotted in the club, were paint can punch (literally served in a paint can), and dry ice charged drinks that brought to mind a witch's brew.

Speakeasies are a hot new trend, with establishments like this popping up in cities across the country.  These aren't the old-fashioned speakeasies where you could get yourself a tumbler full of moonshine.  Back in the day, bartenders were forced to try to find innovative ways to hide the awful taste of the hooch.  Today, these modern speakeasies are the dens of creative mixologists who are taking old-fashioned drinks and reinventing them with unique ingredients and a flair for the dramatic.  While clearly not illegal in modern times, their hidden locations, nondescript entrances,  and limited capacity, make you feel like you just might be doing something illicit.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A Peach Dessert Beyond "Just Peachy"

It's not too often that we (Barb and Sharon) have the chance to cook together in the same kitchen, but when we do, you can be sure that there will be a bounty of mouth-watering foods.  The other night was no exception (and we'll be sharing some more of the recipes we made in future blogs), but the piece de resistance had to be the original peach dessert Barb concocted.  The elements were simple, but they came together in a most amazing way!

Here's the recipe for you to try for yourself.  You won't be disappointed. 

Caramelized Peaches with Mint Mascarpone (serves 3 or 4)
4 oz. mascarpone
mint, leaves removed from two large sprigs, and chopped fine

1/2 stick butter
3 T. brown sugar
two peaches peeled and cut into eighths
1/8 cup pistachios, finely chopped

In a small bowl, combine mascarpone and mint. set aside. In a medium skillet over medium heat, melt the butter and add the brown sugar. Cook, stirring often until thick and bubbly, about 3 minutes. Add peaches and toss with caramel, about one minute.

Using a small dessert place (or perhaps a small bowl would be better) divide the mascarpone evenly between the dishes. Top with peaches and some of the sauce, and sprinkle with pistachios. Serve immediately.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Cooking for Two: Bacon, Tomato and Corn Pasta

Well, it has happened. Hubby and I are now "empty nesters" as our one and only went off to The University of Arizona. I worried a bit about cooking for two, as I'd heard many of my friends just "gave up" cooking when the kids left. But I LOVE cooking and enjoy providing hubby with a home-cooked meal.

After a few days of experimentation, I think I'm getting the knack of it. Some of it requires planning, and some of it requires math skills (eek!).

So, from time to time I'll share my recipes, tips and tweaks as I head down this new culinary path challenge.

Bacon, Tomato and Corn Pasta
(revised from The Chew's Michael Symon)

1/2 pound of pasta
salt for pasta water
1/4 lb. thick-sliced bacon, diced
1 ear corn, cut from cob
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1/2 pint grape tomatoes
1/2 bag baby spinach
1 t. mint, chopped
2 T. butter
parmesan cheese -- grate for garnish

Bring a large pot of water to boil. When at boil, salt liberally and add in pasta. Cook one minute less than box calls for.

In a large saute pan, heat the EVOO and cook the bacon until crisp over medium high heat. With a slotted spoon, remove the bacon to a paper towel. Remove all but 1 T. grease from the pan. Add in garlic, tomatoes, and cook and saute for one minute. Add in spinach and cook another minute until wilted.

When pasta is done, drain, reserving one cup of the pasta water. Add pasta to saute pan. Add in mint and butter and 1/4 c. of pasta water. Continue to cook for one minute, adding in pasta water as needed to make a sauce but not make it soupy.

Garnish with parmesan, and cracked black pepper if desired.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Thirsty Thursday: Pusser’s Rum Painkillers

Back in a previous life, Sharon and I both found ourselves on the British Virgin Island of Tortola -- she on her honeymoon in 1991, and me with my hubby and friends during a cruise in 1996. There's not a lot to do on this island, other than go to Pusser's Bar and enjoy their (in)famous Painkiller cocktail. I don't remember much about that day after a few of these tropically tasty beverages, other than the fact that we DID make it back to the ship on time.
Sharon & Dan on Honeymoon circa 1991
Flash forward to last weekend, we went to Beckett's Table, an excellent restaurant here in Phoenix, and lo and behold, they offered up a Painkiller on their cocktail menu. Hubby ordered one immediately. One sip took us back to our Caribbean adventures. They were so good he had a second.
So, there's a holiday weekend coming up next week that marks the "end" of summer. Go get yourself some Pusser's Rum (here's a link that will help you locate it in your town) and whip yourself up a Painkiller (or two or three -- the website has a recipe on how to make them in batches) and lounge by your pool, lake or sprinkler. Cheers!
The Painkiller® is a blend of Pusser's Rum with 4 parts pineapple juice, 1 part cream of coconut and 1 part orange juice served over the rocks with a generous amount of fresh nutmeg on top. You have a choice of numbers 2, 3 or 4, which designate the amount of Pusser's Rum! Cheers!
  • Painkiller #2 ... 2 parts Pusser's Rum
  • Painkiller #3 ... 3 parts Pusser's Rum
  • Painkiller #4 ... 4 parts Pusser's Rum

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Product Review: Robert Welch Signature Knives



Many moons ago, my dear husband Dan made what conceivably could have been a fatal mistake.  Having grown up in a household where “practical” gifts – aka anything related to household chores – was unacceptable, imagine my surprise when I opened my birthday present from him and it was a set of knives.  I was torn.  Should I use them to stab him, or should I gratefully admit that I had secretly been longing for better knives for some time.  I chose the latter when I saw that he had indeed purchased good knives – Wusthof knives.  These knives made cooking an even more pleasurable activity and I’ve put them to good use ever since. 

Fast forward, to the present.  A colleague hooked Barb and I up to test run a line of high-quality knives, cooking utensils and kitchen accessories by UK designer Robert Welch Designs.  His lines were recently introduced in the United States, and can be found, among other locations, at Crate & Barrel.

Wow.  Sorry Wusthof.  My heart now belongs to Robert Welch.  His knives actually give me goose bumps.  Not only are they incredibly sharp (sort of a must-have for a good knife), but they fit so beautifully in my hand and the weighting between blade and handle is superb.  And, they’re beautiful!  SIG Knife Cooks 14cm moodThe past few days, I’ve been choosing things to cook that require a lot of knife work, just so I can use these knives. 

I test drove three different knives from Welch’s Signature line – a vegetable paring knife, an 8” chef’s knife, and a 5 1/2” Santoku.  The latter sliced so effortlessly through a cantaloupe, my friend Sylvia actually gasped.  She used the paring knife to cut up veggies for kabobs the other night and kept commenting on how wonderful the knife felt in her hand.   

The Robert Welch Signature line not only features a broad range of hand-crafted knives, but also utensils that are as beautiful as they are functional, and they include those wonderfully lipped ends on the comfortably round handles for storage/display on kitchen utensil rails.  Even his salt and pepper grinders are aesthetically pleasing – almost like setting a piece of contemporary art on your counter.


I couldn’t agree more. I too have a knife set of Wusthofs, but after putting these Robert Welch Signature knives in my hand, I packed up those old knives to give to my daughter when she moves into her apartment. The Robert Welch Signature knives felt heavier in my hand, but not too heavy to cause arm fatigue. I’ve been using a Wusthof Santoku knife for a few months but the Welch one sliced effortlessly through everything I cut. The paring knife was a dream to use…my old Cutco had given up the ghost long ago. Wow, so nice to use great knives.



Thursday, August 9, 2012

Thirsty Thursday: Tales of the Cocktail 2012 Trends

Profile PictureIn our far-reaching and never-ending quest for the latest, greatest and most delicious cocktails, we stumbled upon a recent Food Network blog post on the Top 5 Trends in Cocktails, based on the writer's experience at Tales of the Cocktail 2012, an annual event that FeedingFrenzy aspires to attend -- perhaps next year? 

One of the highlighted trends is barrel-aged spirits.  You'll increasingly find barrel-aged options appearing on drink menus at the best cocktail bars.  Why should you say yes to a barrel-aged option?  Because the aging process changes the cocktail's character and flavor, mellowing and creating new subtleties that, like a good wine, are fun to sample and dissect.  Barrel-aging can take a traditional cocktail to a whole new place.  

So, next time you're out, give barrel-aging a try and let us know if you can taste the difference!  


Thursday, August 2, 2012

Thirsty Thursday: Super Horse!

Our friends at Seviche, A Latin Restaurant, in Louisville posted this absolutely delightful looking drink today. Made with yummy Buffalo Trace Bourbon, it's sure to please on these super hot summer days.

Super Horse Cocktail:
Buffalo Trace
muddled ginger
fresh lime

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Well, shucks, thanks!

Chow Bella, the online food forum from Phoenix New Times, has been running a segment called "Tastemakers." They've identified 100 folks in Phoenix who have some influence/interest in food. We were thrilled when our own Barb Harris was asked to take part. Here's the link to her post:

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Thirsty Thursday: Saguaro Hotel's Summer Cocktail

Our friends at the Saguaro Hotel in Scottsdale have us all figured out -- it is just way too hot to go outside. The only reason to go out would be to head to the Saguaro to hang out by one of their cool pools, or move inside to have John the Bartender take care of you.  Here's an excerpt from their e-newsletter sent out this week:

If the vampire lifestyle is your MO then head in to Old Town Whiskey for a craft cocktail in a sexy, dark bar. Ask John (our incredible bartender) to whip you up a De Riguer, my favorite summer cocktail. Or you can make it at home with this recipe that I managed to coerce out of him (and all I had to do was threaten to shave his sideburns off)!

• 1 ½ oz Bulliet Rye
• ½ oz lemon juice
• ¾ oz Aperol
• ½ oz honey syrup
• ¾ oz grapefruit juice

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker, shake and double strain into a martini or coupe glass, garnish with a mint leaf, enjoy.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Viva Mexico! Easy and Tasty Mexican Dinner

Last week, we headed south of the border to Puerto Penasco (Rocky Point to the Gringos) with friends for three days of fun in the sun. After a bit of a delay due to a flooded bridge, we enjoyed several days of cool breezes, cold drinks and great food. These are two of our standard recipes we create and take with us each time we go down there, so that the first night's meal is a snap. They may not be authentic, but they're pretty tasty.

Black Bean Salsa
6 servings

1 15 oz can black beans (low sodium if you can find), drained and rinsed
1 11 oz can Green Giant super sweet or white shoepeg corn, drained and rinsed
Juice of ½ lime
1 t. ground cumin
½ t. ground coriander
½ t. garlic powder
½ t. onion powder
¼ t. salt

Mix. Let sit for 30 minutes and serve with “scoop” tortilla chips

1/4 c. diced red onion
½ diced jalapeño
½ diced mango

Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas

3 chicken breasts
1 t. garlic powder
1 t. onion powder
1 t. salt

1 jar Salsa Verde (Safeway brand is great)
1 lb. container cottage cheese
24 oz. sour cream (low fat is fine)
1 large bag Monterey Jack shredded cheese
10 flour tortillas
½ container cherry tomatoes, cut in half

In pot of water, add chicken and spices. Let chicken poach in simmering water for 20 minutes. Remove from water, let cool and cut or shred into bite-sized pieces.

Heat oven to 350. Spray 9x13 casserole dish with non-stick spray.

In large mixing bowl, combine cottage cheese, ¾ of the sour cream (save rest for garnish) and ¼ of the cheese. Add shredded chicken and mix well.

Pour a light layer of the salsa over the bottom of the casserole dish. Spread the filling evenly among the 10 tortillas and roll them up, placing them side by side in the dish. It’s okay to pack them in. Cover with rest of salsa, then cheese, then tomatoes.

Spray a large piece of aluminum foil with nonstick spray, and place over the casserole. Place in oven and cook 20 minutes until bubbly. Remove foil and allow to brown for 10 minutes. Allow to sit for 5 minutes before serving.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Thirsty Thursday: Getting Busy Drinking With IZZE

One of my favorite "sodas" these days is IZZE sparkling juice.  It's natural.  It's fizzy.  It's refreshing.  So, as this Thirsty Thursday rolled around, I got to thinking that IZZE would make a great base for summer cocktails.  I did some surfing on the net and found The Bachelor Guy, which features some great options, shown below. I tried the “Get B’IZZE” because I’m a particular fan of IZZE Sparkling Grapefruit. I didn’t have any Silver Rum on hand, so I used Pusser’s Rum (a story for another day) and the result was delicious!  Can’t wait to try the rest of these concoctions!  Already thinking about creating some new ones of my own, too.  Cheers!


Courtesy of Rhumba Cafe Caribbean - Boulder, CO
1 (12 oz) bottle IZZE® Sparkling Grapefruit
1.5 oz Silver Rum
Pineapple juice
Combine the IZZE Sparkling Grapefruit and silver rum with a splash of pineapple juice. Stir and serve in a tall glass with ice.

Orange Crush
Courtesy of Jax Fish House - Boulder, CO
1 (12 oz) bottle IZZE® Sparkling Clementine
1.5 oz Mandarin-flavored vodka
Mix mandarin-flavored vodka with IZZE Clementine and serve over ice in a chilled glass and enjoy.

The Rize 
Courtesy of W Bar, W Hotel - Seattle, WA
1 1⁄2 oz white rum
1⁄2 oz orange-flavored triple sec
2 1⁄2 oz IZZE® Sparkling Pomegranate
Splash of lime juice
Mix all ingredients in a tall, ice-filled glass. Stir gently.