Baked Ziti

18 Jan

By Joy Hirdes

We’ve got your Mardi Gras Parade Party covered with this jazzy pan of Baked Ziti! Throw in rolls and a green salad and your BYOB party is complete!

1 pound ground beef

1 pound Italian sausage

1 pound Rigatoni or Penne Pasta

1 yellow onion

Salt and Pepper, to taste

1/4 pound Provolone

1 1/2 cups Sour Cream

26 ounces Marinara or your favorite Tomato Sauce

Freshly shredded and grated Parmesan

Boil Pasta in lightly salted water. Drain. Set aside.


Brown sausage and beef, with an onion, in a large skillet. Salt and pepper to taste. Drain if necessary, add marinara, and allow to simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.


In a 9 x 13 baking dish, layer half of the pasta, cover with the sliced provolone, next layer with the sour cream and then add half of the meat/marinara mix.


Layer with remaining pasta and top with freshly shredded Parmesan.


Add remaining meat/marinara mix and top with grated Parmesan.


Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes! Spoon into paper bowls with a plastic fork.


Hey, throw me something, mister!



17 Jan

It was a rare snow day in Houston, Texas, when Stavo and I went to the kitchen to prepare this delicious Naan Bread!

We both had returned home from a week of travels and our pantry selection was quite thin.

We sought a warm bread capable of many different things; I also needed warm crumbs to feed the adorable cardinal and several blue jays who were visiting our back patio in the frigid cold.

Naan is very simple to prepare; we even filled a dough ball with pinto beans and jalapeños for a delicious snack. Stavo sautéed garlic and topped other pieces of Naan with olive oil and garlic.

Ideas are limitless; have fun making this, you may find Naan can replace your loaf of sliced bread!

2 teaspoons active dry yeast, I keep a jar in the refrigerator

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 cup water

2 1/2 to 3 cups flour, we used half all purpose and have bread flour, add only what’s necessary

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup olive oil

1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt, I love 2 percent

1 large egg

In a medium bowl, combine yeast, sugar and warm water. Stir to dissolve then let sit for a few minutes or until frothy on top. Once frothy, whisk in olive oil, yogurt and egg until evenly combined.

In a separate bowl, combine 1 cup of flour with salt. Pour wet ingredients into the flour/salt mix and stir until well combined. Continue adding flour, a half cup at a time, until a dough ball comes together, about 1 to 1 1/2 cups later.

At that point, turn the ball of dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 3 minutes, adding small amounts of flour as necessary to keep the dough from sticking. You’ll end up using between 2 1/2 to 3 cups flour total. The dough should be smooth and very soft but not too sticky. Avoid adding excessive amounts of flour as you knead, as this can make the dough too dry and stiff.

Loosely cover the dough and let it rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour. After it rises, gently flatten the dough into a disc and cut it into 8 or 9 equal pieces. Shape each piece into a small ball, lightly flour fingers and hands, if necessary, to work with dough.

Heat a large, heavy bottomed skillet over medium heat. Working with one ball at a time, roll it out until it is about 1/4 inch thick and about 5 inches in diameter. Place the rolled dough onto the hot skillet and cook until the bottom is golden brown and large bubbles have formed on the surface, similar to a pancake. Flip the dough and cook other side until browned. I was proud to flip each Naan in the pan by flipping my wrist!

Naan cooks very quickly.

Stack cooked flat bread on a plate and cover with a towel to keep warm as you cook the remaining pieces. Serve plain or brushed with melted butter, garlic and sprinkled with herbs!

For the most bubbles, roll out each ball of dough just before placing in cast iron or Teflon. Medium heat works best!

Joy’s Jambalaya

16 Nov

By Joy Hirdes

I smothered a couple chicken thighs in olive oil and garlic for one hour today. Stavo deboned the yummy tender chicken thighs and added a plethora of leftovers we had in the fridge to make the most delicious Jambalaya!

After all, that is what jambalaya is – adding everything you have on hand to make a one dish wonder!

We added to the chicken pieces broccoli that had been boiled in water and Cajun seasoning.

Bits of smoked sausage, a handful of grape tomatoes, cooked black beans and cooked wild rice.

Add everything to a sauté pan or pot, drizzle with olive oil and toss until heated through.

We added pita chips and white cheddar and our dinner was delicious! And we cleaned out the refrigerator in time for a weekend road trip!


Apricot Bars

15 Nov

By Joy Hirdes

A had just enough dry apricots to make this early morning treat.

And several of these delicious, decadent apricot bars makes for a very nice hostess gift any time of year.

Walnuts are optional and any dried fruit may be used .. like figs!

— Prepare the buttery bottom crust first –

1 stick butter, softened

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup all purpose flour

— Next the Apricot Filling

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 cup boiling water

1 cup dried apricots, chopped

— The Crumbly Oat Topping

1/4 cup all purpose flour

1/4 cup brown sugar, packed

3 tablespoons butter, softened

1/4 cup oats

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare with softened butter a 9 x 9 inch baking pan.

In a small bowl, beat softened stick of butter with the granulated sugar and the vanilla. Beat with an electric mixer until well blended.

Add the cup of flour slowly while continuing to beat on low speed.

Press the dough into the bottom of the baking pan. It may stick to your fingers but it’s ok. Just do your best.

Place in oven and bake for 10 to 15 minutes until the center is set.

Now, in a small saucepan, add the filling ingredients – sugar, water and chopped dried apricots – and over a medium high heat cook and stir until fruit is tender and most of the liquid is gone.

Pour this over the pre baked crust.

Now, in a small bowl, mix the flour, oats, brown sugar and 3 tablespoons of chilled or soft butter and blend with a fork until crumbly.

Sprinkle over the pre baked crust.

Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until edges are bubbly and topping is a light golden brown. Your home will smell amazing.

Cool about 1 hour. Cut into bars or spoon a generous portion into a dessert dish and top with ice cream.


White Chocolate Cream Frap

7 Nov

By Joy Hirdes

Nathan’s favorite after school treat just got even more cool when we prepared it ourselves!

Yes, our Starbucks hack!

In our bullet, we placed six ice cubes, 1/4 cup half and half (or whole milk) and 2 ounces of melted white Chocolate or white Chocolate syrup. Also add tablespoon of sugar!

Blend until ice cubes are gone!

If you wish to add a shot or two of espresso or 1/2 cup of room temp brewed coffee, do so! Also, adjust ice to your preferred thickness.

Pour into two fancy glasses and top with a generous portion of whipped cream. Add white Chocolate shavings, or, an Oreo! Or, Lola’s favorite, a NutterButter!

You’re welcome!

Cheers to after school happiness!

Will this stop us from visiting Starbucks? Definitely not! But it sure is fun to make this ourselves!

Cauliflower Chowder

7 Nov

By Joy Hirdes

Warm those tummies this holiday season with a bowl of this nutritious Cauliflower Chowder.

Easy to prepare and a sure crowd pleaser when served in mini mugs as an appetizer.

Garnish your own way .. oyster crackers, crumbled bacon, pork belly pieces and fresh grated cheddar.

Here’s our version!

6 strips of bacon, chopped

1 yellow onion, diced

2 carrots, diced

2 stalks celery, diced

1 tablespoon garlic, chopped

1 cup half and half

4 cups chicken broth

2 tablespoons butter

1 bay leaf

1 head cauliflower, rough chopped

1/4 cup all purpose flour

In our cast iron dutch oven we began browning six strips of bacon, chopped, until crisp. Remove to a paper towel -lined dish to dry.

Leave a heaping tablespoon of bacon grease in the dutch oven and add butter, onion, celery and carrots. Cook about four minutes. Add entire head of cauliflower. Cook another 4 minutes.

Add flour and chicken broth and half and half. Stir well and slowly bring to a boil, then lower heat to simmer for about 12 minutes.

Add salt, pepper and Cajun Seasoning to taste.

Add more flour to achieve more thickness or more half and half to thin. Chowder should be creamy and thick.

We added two cups of an aged shredded cheddar to the pot of Chowder at the end. Adds thickening power and delectability!

Spicy Gingersnaps

25 Oct

1 cup dark brown sugar

3/4 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup molasses

1 egg

2 cups all purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 cup granulated sugar for rolling dough balls prior to baking

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Mix first four ingredients together until smooth. Add dry ingredients and blend well, until a dough ball forms.

Roll 1 inch to 1 1/2 inch balls, roll in granulated sugar and place two inches apart in baking sheet.

Bake for 10 to 11 minutes. Removed and allow to cool until firm. Enjoy!

%d bloggers like this: