BLT Salad

Today seems like a good day for a nice Big salad for dinner. Make a little extra for lunch tomorrow!
You can use your favorite bacon for this recipe. I have fallen in head over heels for Wright Brand bacon. You will love the dressing!
Enjoy and Happy cooking,



1 pound bacon, cooked and crumbled
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
salt to taste
1 head romaine lettuce – rinsed, dried and shredded
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
2 cups seasoned croutons, favorite flavor

Place bacon in a large, deep skillet. Cook over medium high heat, turning frequently, until evenly browned. Drain, crumble and set aside.
In a blender or food processor, combine mayonnaise, milk, garlic powder and black pepper. Blend until smooth. Season the dressing with salt.
Combine lettuce, tomatoes, bacon and croutons in a large salad bowl. Toss with dressing.

Strawberry Blossoms

There is nothing I love more than when June rolls around and the local strawberries become available.  All the expert farmers here in Michigan are saying our strawberry season will be short, but maybe some of the very best berries in years.  That said, I thought I better get moving on my recipes and cooking!  Last night my son and his girlfriend make the most beautiful chocolate covered strawberries. All Taylor and Courtney did was melt some good milk chocolate and dipped!  It was fun watching them “cook”.  We talked, we laughed, and we certainly enjoyed a great dessert.


Today, I thought for my strawberry dessert I would make Strawberry Blossoms. This is a very simple recipe that was given to me by a dear friend and co-worker.  Sally is the Librarian I work for during the school year.  She is always encouraging my cooking and giving me ideas and recipes.  Her mother and I shared the same birthday and a passion for cooking.  Since Jackie’s passing,  Sally has been so generous with recipe and cookbooks that were Jackie’s favorite. I have loved reading  all them and her notes. She was an amazing woman.

So this one is for you Sally.  In honor of your mother. Love you both.     

Enjoy and Happy Cooking,


8-12 large strawberries washed and dried

3 ounces cream cheese, softened

2 Tablespoons powdered sugar

1 Tablespoon sour cream

chopped chocolate (optional)

chopped mint leaves (optional)


Remove the stems from the berries forming a flat base.  Place berries pointed end up.  With a sharp knife, carefully slice strawberry  in half vertically through the center to within 1/4 inch of the base.  Cut each half into 3 wedges forming 6 petals. do not cut though base.  Pull petals apart slightly. In a small bowl, beat cream cheese, sugar and sour cream until light and fluffy.  Fill berries with mixture.  If desired, top with some chopped chocolate or mint leaves.

Deb’s Brown Butter Gnocchi with Spinach

This is a recipe that was given to me by my dear friend Debbie and fan of Challenge. She is a food-aholic just like me! We are always emailing one another with recipes we have tried, created or read! I’m not sure which this recipe falls into, but if I had to guess she created it! I love how simple everything comes together, even her salad recipe at the end. When I opened the email I knew it was perfect for Meatless Monday. You can always add some leftover grilled chicken or a little ham for your meat lovers.


Here’s Debbie’s email:

Hi cooking buddy. I had to share this delicious recipe with you so you can in turn pass to all your Challengeu2cook fans!

Hope you love as much as we all did. I made 2 batches. One meat-free and one with grilled chicken. I LOVED both! Hope you do too!

Love ya,                                              




PS…Tell me if you like the salad. I fell in love with it and the dressing is so good We need to start bottling our dressings!

  • 1 (16-ounce) package vacuum-packed gnocchi
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 (10-ounce) package fresh spinach, torn
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) finely shredded Parmesan cheese
  • leftover grilled chicken, sliced  or cubed ham


  • 1. Cook gnocchi according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain.
  • 2. Heat butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add pine nuts to pan; cook 3 minutes or until butter and nuts are lightly browned, stirring constantly. Add garlic to pan; cook 1 minute. Add gnocchi and spinach to pan; cook 1 minute or until spinach wilts, stirring constantly. Stir in salt and pepper. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
  PS   Prepare a quick salad to accompany the gnocchi: Combine 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, 1 teaspoon brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a large bowl; stir with a whisk. Add 6 cups gourmet salad greens, sliced tomatoes and cucumber chunks  to bowl; toss gently to coat.

Meatball and Macaroni Soup and Grilled Three Cheese Italian Sandwiches

This is the perfect meal for anyone’s crazy schedule. It seems at this time of year everyone I know is going in three different directions all at this same time!  I made these recipes years ago, when I first started watching Rachael Ray.  She had me hooked after how great everything tasted . I love how easy the soup comes together and it tastes like it was simmering for hours,  but it takes less than 30 minutes to make.  The sandwiches are, as she says “Delish”.  You will be very pleased at how it gets the whole family to the table.  A chance for everyone to gather and share their day.  And a tradition that should be savored for generations to come.

Hope you enjoy and Happy cooking,                                                                      

Meatball and Macaroni Soup


  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 bay leaves, fresh or dried
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound ground beef, pork and veal combined
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Romano
  • 1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated or ground nutmeg
  • 6 cups chicken stock 
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups dried small  pasta, macaroni or  ditalini
  • 1 pound washed fresh spinach, coarsely chopped


In a deep pot over medium heat add oil, chopped carrots, celery and onions and bay leaves. Season with salt and pepper. Cover pot and cook veggies 5 or 6 minutes, stirring occasionally.

While the veggies cook, combine meat, egg, garlic, grated cheese, bread crumbs, salt, pepper, nutmeg.

Uncover your soup pot and add broth and water to the pot. Increase heat to high and bring soup to a boil. When soup boils, reduce heat a bit and start to roll meat mixture into small balls, dropping them straight into the pot. You are making meat dumplings that will cook in the broth. When you are done rolling the meat, add pasta to the soup and stir. Cover and simmer soup 10 minutes. When pasta is tender, stir in chopped spinach in batches. When spinach has wilted into the soup, the soup is done and ready to serve. Adjust your seasonings. Serve soup with crusty bread or grilled 3 cheese sandwiches

Grilled 3 Cheese Sandwiches                                                                                          


  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 clove garlic, cracked away from skin
  • 8 slices crusty Italian bread
  • 1 cup shredded provolone
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Romano


 In a small skillet over medium low heat, combine oil, butter and garlic. Cook garlic in butter and oil gently for 2 or 3 minutes. Remove garlic butter mixture from heat.

Place a large nonstick skillet on the stove over medium high heat. Using a pastry brush, brush 1 side of 4 slices of bread with garlic oil and place buttered side down in skillet. Top each slice with equal amounts of the 3 cheeses, distributing them equally over the 4 slices. Top each sandwich with another slice of bread brushed with garlic butter, buttered side up. Flip the grilled cheese sandwiches a few times until cheeses are melted and gooey and bread is toasty and golden.

Spaghetti Squash with Spicy Saffron Marinara and Cheese

It’s Meatless Monday and what better way to start your week than with a fabulous dinner. This meal is the perfect in every way.  Let it be the BEST part of your day!

Enjoy and Happy Cooking,                                                                                  




2 large spaghetti squash

4 tablespoons butter

1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1 cup chicken stock or water

A generous pinch of saffron, about 24 threads

2 tablespoons Olive Oil

1 medium onion, very finely chopped

1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped or grated

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated

1 red-hot cherry peppers, sliced with seeds for extra-spicy sauce or seeded and finely chopped for milder heat level

1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes

1 teaspoon dried oregano

A handful of flat-leaf parsley, chopped 

A handful of basil leaves, torn


Yields: Serves 4



Heat oven to 425°F.


Split squash lengthwise and place cut-side down on a baking sheet. Roast 45 minutes-1 hour, until the squash flesh is very tender.


Meanwhile, heat stock or water in a small pot with the saffron threads to bloom the saffron and infuse the liquid with flavor.


While squash roasts, heat olive oil  in a pan over medium heat. Add onions, carrot, garlic and hot pepper, and season with salt and pepper. Cook 8-10 minutes then add saffron stock and tomatoes to the pan.  Add oregano, parsley and basil, and simmer to thicken, 20-30 minutes over medium-low heat.


When the squash is done, melt butter in small pot. Flip squash over and shred the squash into spaghetti-like strands with a fork, leaving the flesh in the squash shells. Dress evenly with melted butter, cheese, salt and pepper.


Top each half-squash with sauce and more cheese.

 Serve with a simple salad and some crusty bread.


Kick Off to Summer Salad

I am almost certain the warm weather is here to stay in Metro-Detroit.  Our winter was brutal and spring wasn’t any better. We had record amounts of snow and rain. Last week we had worst rainfall in the history of Plymouth.  I couldn’t get my car out of our garage for 3 days because of the 10 inches of water that flooded our streets.  That said, I am the eternal optimist. I just  know summer is going to be beautiful!  This salad is a great way to kick off the picnic season. It is super easy and very pleasing. If you want to make it a meal add some grilled chicken or pork tenderloin sliced and served on top.

Enjoy and Happy Cooking,



1 pint strawberries, sliced
1/2 red onion, sliced thin
1-1 1/2 cups red grape, halved
1 cup prepared poppy-seed Dressing
Romaine lettuce, washed, patted dry and chopped

Grilled chicken or pork tenderloin, optional


In a large bowl, combine lettuce, sliced strawberries, thinly sliced onion, and halved grapes.

Pour dressing over top and toss just before serving.
If making a meal, top with grilled meat.

Italian Sausage with Mussels and Pasta

What I love about this recipe is there are no real set ingredients. Can can adjust the vegetables to your liking and the flavors of the sausage. If you don’t like mussels, you can use clams. there are endless possibilities. I use homemade Italian hot sausage from my local grocery store. They have wonderful favors and always fresh. Any flavor would work in this recipe. I also get my mussels from there. When you are buying mussels have the seafood specialists rinse them. Sometimes they open up and rinsing them closes them and that’s what you want. Any that stay open, toss. When you bring them home, refrigerate until you are ready to cook. They should have a salty ocean air smell.
Enjoy and Happy Cooking,                                                                                                   
Ingredients:1 # Italian Sausage grilled and sliced1 bag of mussels
1 28 can of diced tomatoes with juice
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 large onion, diced
2 bell peppers, any color and diced
red pepper flakes
parmesan cheese, freshly grated
olive oil

1# angel hair pasta, cooked el dente
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup olive oil
fresh basil, chopped
parmesan cheese, freshly grated
black pepper, to taste

Directions:Coat a large deep skillet with olive oil and heat to medium. Add peppers, onions, and garlic. Saute for 3 minutes. Add can of tomatoes with juice, Stir. Cover and simmer for 3-5 minutes. Add red pepper flakes and stir. Add mussels and stir. Cover and cook for 5 minutes. Keep lid on the whole 5 minutes without peeking! Stir and cover. Cook for another 3-5 minutes. Mussels should be opened . Any that don’t open, discard. Stir in Italian sausage and parmesan cheese. Serve on top of pasta.Pasta:
Heat oil over medium heat and add garlic. Watch closely and stir. When garlic get to a golden color, add to cooked pasta. Toss and add pepper, parmesan cheese and fresh basil.

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