Zucchini Boats with Bulgur

Everyone knows how much I love to read and try the recipes from Rufus’ Food and Spirits Guide. This sounds like the perfect summertime Meatless Monday meal!

Rufus' Food and Spirits Guide

Longer boats are coming to win us Longer boats are coming to win us

This is a fun and simple grain stuffing that works well for eggplant as well. I like a 50/50 mix of the grains but for those who want a little less bite then do 3/4 bulgur.

Romano can always be grated on top before and after baking for those who want a little bit of cheese.

Stuffed Zucchini

  • 2 large zucchini
  • 1/2 cup bulgur wheat
  • 1/2 cup cracked wheat
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/2 stick cinnamon
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh sage
  • 3 tbsp olive oil

In a three-quart sauce pan heat a tablespoon of olive oil and saute garlic and cinnamon stick over medium until fragrant, about two minutes. Add grains and quickly toast then add stock, bring to a boil and then cover and turn heat to low. Stir occasionally until all liquid is…

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CoffeeCon Chicago

CoffeeCon Chicago…               

I had no idea what that even meant before I had the opportunity to attend, but it involved coffee and I figured if “Con” meant convention, which it did, How could I possibly go wrong? I’m no coffee expert and I was looking forward to becoming, at least a little bit, more knowledgeable about it.                                   

I assumed that I would be in store for a great education on what make a good coffee bean. I mean, that’s what make good coffee, right? It took all of about 30 minutes for me to learn that there’s a lot more to great coffee than just a great bean.

Sure, the bean is essential, but like great wine or craft beer, the bean is really about what you like. What your taste buds tell you. Do you like a deep, dark roast? Or are you more of a bright, crisp flavor person? The varieties are endless.

What really struck me as soon as we walked in were the amazing varieties of preparation! There are so many methods for preparing a great cup of coffee! Unlike wine or beer that might get poured a certain way or have a particular shaped glass that highlight the flavor, coffee is your chance to actually create. Since I love to create in the kitchen, coffee was the perfect palette.

Counter Culture Coffee, a company originally founded in Durham, NC, has a history of educating people in the finer points of coffee making. Represented by Josh Dug at CoffeeCon Chicago, they presented on a variety of way to manually brew coffee.  Image

Not to say that your drip machine or your Keurig at the counter aren’t fine ways to prepare coffee, but whoa! I felt like I was back in college taking a chemistry class again! Knowing the conversions for volumes and weights, determining the best temperature to brew a particular coffee, depending on the method…did you know that lower brewing temperatures bring more acidity while higher temperatures will enhance the sweetness of your brew? Me either!

If you’re thinking about brewing some coffee, take the time to study a few methods like siphoning or Chemex. Look up the Aeropress online or a traditional French press. It really makes a difference when preparing a great cup of coffee.

Sound complicated? It really isn’t. Like anything the terminology sounds overwhelming because you aren’t used to it, but really once you get a feel for the different options available, it’s really just taking the time to understand why and how temperature, time, beans, grind, method and cup affect the taste and finding the one you love.

If you simply don’t want to learn all of that, there’s a great option out there that gives you the convenience of a fast brew cup while building on some of the important preparation techniques at the same time. It’s called iCoffee by Remington. Bruce Burrows, whom I was fortunate to meet at CoffeeCon, has patented a preparation method that takes advantage of the convenience of the machine while incorporating the importance of steam, time, and immersion in the process to create a better cup of coffee. Currently iCoffee is available at a variety of retailers in their original SteamBrew machine but soon, they will add the convenience of the K-Cup and you will really be impressed. We were treated to a great demonstration of his new machine and could instantly tell the difference. Look for it!         Image

At this point, I thought there wasn’t much more I could learn about coffee, but boy was I wrong. Probably the most interesting and impressive session I attended was by The Alliance for Coffee Excellence, about their Cup of Excellence program, presented by Anna Abatzoglou. First, Anna is passionate about their mission. Cup of Excellence is a competition conducted in 10 coffee producing countries to score and rate coffee, much like a wine rating, and auction the coffee; bringing great coffee to consumers around the world while improving the profit and incomes of local coffee growers.

I didn’t know there was a system for rating premier coffee, let alone one who’s mission it is to bring money back to local farmers. The Cup of Excellence competitions are designed with the mission statement in mind; “By discovering and supporting exemplary coffees worldwide the goal is to provide sustainable economic rewards to high quality farmers enhancing overall transparency, provide top notch education and build quality infrastructure in the global industry”. The level of scrutiny is unprecedented. From the pre-selection through the top ten, the competitors will go through 6 different levels and in each competition, as many as 9,020 cups of coffee will be analyzed! Thanks Anna, for being so passionate about your cause!        Image

Click here to read a bit about the winning farmers.

Of course, what would a convention be without taking a stroll through the vendor’s area and enjoying a few wonderful cups of coffee?

First up was Stone Creek Coffee from Milwaukee, where the motto is “It’s 7am somewhere!” Hailey Herriges, the Shorewood Café manager, was patient with my lack of knowledge and helped me understand the Aeropress, a method much like French press but with results that are more filtered and that uses air pressure to shorten the brew time and extract the flavors from the beans. She made me a cup of Guatemala Lot 20 and it was love at first sip! It had a rich full body, sweet with hints of cocoa, hazelnuts, and bing cherries. I loved the AeroPress so much, I came home with one.                 Image

During my adventure around the vendor area I met Anna Reuss, representing Big Shoulders Coffee. She and her interpreter (sign language) engaged us in great conversation and shared her story. Anna, who is deaf, wanted to attend CoffeeCon as a guest blogger but needed an interpreter for the day. Tim Coonan, owner of Big Shoulders Coffee, wanted to be represented but didn’t have the staff, so Tim paid for the interpreter and Anna represented Big Shoulders well. We were so impressed with the company that Mark and I stopped by on our way out of town for one more cup!      


It was a great pleasure to meet Kevin Sinnott, creator of CoffeeCon and to be included as a guest blogger to this great event. There is another event about to take place in San Francisco and who wouldn’t want to have a great cup of coffee by the San Francisco Bay!

And my sincere thanks to Jennifer Stinnet, who invited me to attend and write about the experience. I hope we get to do more!



CoffeeCon/Chicago 2014 and The 3 C’s of coffee

sf coffee vonnie

Some time ago I was asked to be a guest blogger at CoffeeCon Chicago 2014.

CoffeeCon’s event is about having a venue that conveys the largest coffee house environment while sharing, teaching and creating the perfect cup of coffee.

From the growers to the roasters to the baristas to the enthusiastic coffee consumers, all learning about the whole coffee experience.

For me, CoffeeCon Chicago 2014 is about The 3 C’s of Coffee

Crops, Concoctions, and Community.

Crops:  Coffee from the ground up.  What makes each coffee bean unique?

Concoctions:  The many exciting combinations you can create from a wide variety of coffees.

Community:  Cultures from all over the world coming together for the purpose of enjoying coffee in unconventional ways.

Each blog post I “ChallengeU2cook”  This weekend, April 12th, is about challenging me to create! And I would love if you would read along as I blog about my experience or better yet, join me!

I’m doing a little contest to give away two(2) tickets for CoffeeCon Chicago 2014 to one lucky reader!  Simply go to ChallengeU2cook’s facebook page and post a picture or quick video about your coffee creations.  I will select a random winner from your posts on Monday April 7th, so you have time to plan your visit to Chicago.  For everyone else, don’t despair, I have a $2 off ticket discount for everyone!  Simply go to http://coffee-con.com/#register and enter the promo code “VonCoffeeCon” to receive your discount! 

I can’t wait to see your coffee posts and you at CoffeeCon Chicago 2014

Opening Day Chili Dogs


It’s Opening Day here in Detroit!!  GO TIGERS!!

Growing up in NE Ohio, I was raised an Indians fan.  I used to love going to Muncipal Stadium with my Daddy.  No matter where we were or what we where doing my Dad would say’ “Listen, we can stay here or we can go watch the Indians play.”  I always chose baseball.  I remember being about 12 or 13 years old and our family was spending the day at Geauga Amusement Park. It was my dad’s annual company party.  We got up at the crack of dawn loaded up the stationwagon with baskets of food for the Potluck lunch and we were off.   Mid-day we we all gathered in the picnic area to have lunch and my dad said, ” Listen we can stay here until 7:00 this evening or we can get our stuff and go watch the Indians play.”  It was a great day for baseball!  Like I said, I always chose baseball.  Mark and I have carried that tration on with our children. They always choose baseball too!

Opening day is a day of hot dogs, peanuts and a soda. No recipe needed for that, but if you want to make a great chili dog today look no further. 

I hope you enjoy your day no matter what is going on Choose baseball.


Enjoy and Happy cooking,




1 large onion, chopped

2 pounds ground beef

16 ounce can of tomato sauce

1 cup beef broth

2 Tbsp molasses or honey

2 Tbsp sweet paprika

1 Tbsp ground cumin

1-2 Tbsp chili powder


Hot Dogs


Chopped onion, for garnish

Shredded cheddar for garnish



. Add chopped onions to a large skillet and fry over high heat, stirring often, until they begin to brown. Add in the ground beef and stir in well. Cook this, still over high heat and stirring occasionally, until the beef is browned.  Once the beef is well browned, add the tomato sauce, molasses and beef broth. Add all the spices and stir well. Bring to a simmer and taste. Add salt if it needs it.  Let the chili cook on a gentle simmer for at least 30 minutes before you start grilling the hot dogs. You can cook it several hours if you want to, adding a little more beef broth if the chili begins to get too dry.  Prepare hot dogs any way you prefer.  Top hot dogs with chili sauce.  Adding chopped onion and shredded cheese if desired.



Irish Bacon and Cabbage Soup

Legend of Saint Patrick
Good St. Patrick travelled far, to teach God’s Holy Word
And when he came to Erin’s sod, a wondrous thing occurred
He plucked a shamrock from the earth and held it in His hand
To symbolise the Trinity that all might understand
The first leaf for the Father
And the second for the Son
The third leaf for the Holy Spirit
All three of them in one.
I will be making this soup tomorrow! Along with some Irish soda bread.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!!


This is what I like to make on St. Patrick’s Day.  It is so satisfying and easy to make.  I always serve it with some homemade Irish Soda Bread and a Killians beer, but since I was traveling yesterday I didn’t get a chance to make it.  It doesn’t have to be St. Patrick’s Day to enjoy one of my favorite soups.  The next day works too!

Hope you enjoy and Happy Cooking,



1/2 pound Irish bacon, diced

2 large potatoes, peeled and cubed

1 large onion, chopped

2 celery stalks, chopped

2 carrots, peeled and chopped

1 (15 ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice

3 cup chicken stock

salt and black pepper to taste

2 cups thinly sliced dark green savoy cabbage leaves


Place bacon in a large, deep stockpot or saucepan.  Cook over medium high heat until evenly brown.  Drain off any excess fat.

Stir in potatoes, onions…

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Chicken and Noodles

chicken and noodles

This is one of my favorite Winter recipes to make when I have a little bit of time.  It is worth the extra work.

Your family will love this one!

Enjoy and Happy Cooking,

Vonnie (A cook in her kitchen)




  • 1 whole Cut Up Fryer Chicken
  • 3 whole Carrots, Diced
  • 2 stalks Celery, Diced
  • 1 whole Medium Onion, Diced
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon Basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon Pepper (more To Taste)
  • 1/4 teaspoon Ground Thyme or a couple sprigs of fresh
  • 2 teaspoons Parsley Flakes
  • 16 ounces Frozen Egg Noodles( I use Reames Brand)
  • 3 Tablespoons All-purpose Flour



Cover chicken in 4 quarts water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Simmer for 30-40 minutes.

Remove the chicken from pot and with 2 two forks, remove as much meat from the bones as you can, shredding meat as you go along. Return bones to broth and simmer on low, covered, for 1 hour.

Remove bones from broth, making sure to get all the small bones.

Add the carrots, celery, onions, garlic, herbs and spices to the pot. Stir to combine and simmer for 10 minutes.

Increase heat and add noodles and chicken. Cook for 10 minutes.

Mix flour and a little water. Stir until smooth. Pour into soup, stir to combine, and simmer for another 4-5 minutes, or until broth thickens a bit. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.  Enjoy!



Bacon Hearts

bacon hearts

I am in charge of our Staff breakfast this coming Friday, Feburary 14th and I want to do a light breakfast.

My thought was if I did a light breakfast of some yogurt, fresh fruit, scones, and homemade English muffins, I could make a big pot of hearty soup and homemade bread for lunch. 

My co-worker Lyn pinned this recipe on my Pinterest board and it seemed perfect for our Valentine breakfast and so easy to make.

Thanks Lyn for the great recipe!                                         

Happy cooking and Enjoy,

Vonnie  (A cook in her kitchen)


Brown Sugar Bacon Hearts
  • 12-15 slices of bacon
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons mustard


  1. Cut the bacon in half. Fold over two halves to create a heart shape.
  2. Lay these on a cooling rack on a foil lined baking sheet.
  3. Combine the brown sugar and mustard and spread over the bacon hearts.
  4. Cook at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes.