Stevie Food!

The other day, my brother Steve said he wanted to go grocery shopping and bring over food to cook dinner for all of us! (I swear he really was mean to me when we were kids, although he says it’s not true and he’s so sweet now that the kids won’t believe me!) Anyway, I was excited because he said he was going to make a recipe he hadn’t cooked for me in eons.

As Steve started cooking, I pulled out notes I’d taken at his house in Charlotte, NC back in 1999 when he first cooked this for me and our older brother Hal. I tried re-creating it a couple times over the years. The Pickapeppa sauce is the critical ingredient!

It’s unbelievable. You just have to try it.

Here’s a picture of my sweet girl Leah watching Stevie cooking – just because she’s adorable and this picture is so her and she’s growing up so stinking fast that I am going to blink and she’ll be driving back to college from a weekend home. <sigh> I love this girl. ❤

I love my sweet brother, too!

Forty five

We celebrated Bryan’s birthday in style – twice! First, Bryan’s parents who treated us all to a hibachi dinner…


Then we went home for a birthday cake that Leah made from scratch! I was a little concerned because she didn’t really have a recipe – she had jotted down notes while watching an episode of Farmhouse Rules on Food Network – but her cake was delicious!

Not to be outdone, Michael wanted to cook Bryan a special birthday dinner. Michael is a great cook for a 7 year old. He can make scrambled eggs all by himself, but a full meal would be a challenge. I encouraged him to make spaghetti and let his big sister help. Success!

Michael boiled the pasta. (Mommy poured out the boiling water.) Leah made turkey mini-meatballs and added a jar of Ragu sauce.

Michael also made the dessert. We went round in circles over his top secret chocolate pie recipe because he wouldn’t tell me what was in it and I’ll just say there have been some creative combinations in the past. Turns out, if you load a pie crust with chocolate chips and chunks of cookie dough and bake it, you get a top secret chocolate pie that’s pretty decadent!


The kids gave Bryan sweet cards and one of his favorite board games so they can play together.


The game is in almost daily use! It came in handy on this snowy day…

Homemade Tortellini Soup in 15-Minutes

Sunday night, Bryan looked up from some ball game on TV and said, “Hey, what’s for dinner?” And I said, “Hmmmm… what IS for dinner?” It’s practically an existential question in our house. I really do like to cook, but I do not like to ‘meal plan’ or grocery shop which presents challenges at dinner time.

Bryan said he wanted soup. I knew we had fresh tortellini so I googled “tortellini soup recipes” and read through 3-4, all of which required ingredients we didn’t have on hand. I needed to get creative with what we had in the pantry and I’d gotten some ideas from the recipes I saw… I didn’t have any cream, but I did have Cream of Chicken Soup, etc.

This tortellini soup that was so good that we ate it all up – and I made another pot the very next night! Warm soup on a cold night is hard to beat! It’s really flavorful and creamy without being heavy.

You are going to have to trust me. Here’s how you make it…

Homemade Tortellini Soup in 15-Minutes

  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 box chicken broth
  • 1/2 jar of tomato basil pasta sauce
  • 10 oz. fresh cheese tortellini

Whisk first four ingredients together in a soup pot over high heat. Bring to a boil, add tortellini, lower temperature to medium for a low boil and cook for 9-10 minutes. Makes 4 big bowls.

You cannot mess this up.

I do think it matters that I used a good tomato basil sauce. The basil and other herbs added great flavor to the broth. I used half of a 20 oz. pack of Buitoni Three Cheese Tortellini and threw away the package before deciding to take a picture, so here’s what to look for in the refrigerated pasta section of your store…

BUITONI®  Three Cheese Tortellini


My brother Steve came over the second night I made this soup. He’s a very good cook and balked at my recipe. Soup in 15 minutes? With what? He rolled his eyes…

In a “Hey Mikey! He likes it!” moment, Steve tasted it and had to admit it’s really good!

Feliz Año Nuevo!

Our friends Yesy and Alfonso (a.k.a. “Ms Jessy” and Alfonso) invited us to hang out with them on New Year’s Eve! I’ve never liked New Years and have a broad policy of staying in, but it was time to make an exception. The last time I recall being out until midnight on New Year’s, some friends and I were ringing in 2000 under Big Ben in London. Ha! It had been a while… And we only stayed out until about 9:30 this time. 🙂

Alfonso and Yesy just finished a renovation/addition on their home and wanted to give us the tour. Everything was beautiful! Alfonso does great work. (He’s a contractor.) Yesy has an incredible eye for decorating and she’s super organized! I walked through every room thinking, Maybe the next room will be messy… Nope.

As much as we enjoyed visiting their home, the plans for the evening took us to the home of Feliz, one of the men who works for Alfonso. Feliz was busy cooking the pig Alfonso bought from a Mexican grocery store…

The barbecue.

I loved that Feliz was using a board to stir the meat!

Alfonso and Bryan

The meat was cooking on the bone along with orange and pineapple juices.

Inside, Emma was making refried beans and a pico de gallo that was different from what I accustomed to eating in Mexican restaurants. Emma chopped the veggies into big chunks and included cucumber then squirted lime juice on top. Everyone ate it like a salad/side dish. Everything she made was from scratch and it was all amazingly delicious!

Yesy was born in Honduras, so she was telling me some ways these dishes are alike and different from the way her mom cooked for her.

Muy delicioso!

I speak Dora The Explorer Spanish, which is to say, I can roll off quips like, “Muy delicioso!” (Very delicious!) But I can’t say much else! Between that and muchos gracias (thank you very much) we were pretty well covered, but I kept thinking I really should learn Spanish. It would have been nice to visit more with Emma and her children instead of just watching and having Yesy translate for me occasionally.

We grabbed forks out of habit, but I noticed other guests using used a corn tortilla to scoop up bites.

Michael was happy to get a Fanta.

Vegas is safe – Michael’s poker face is worse than mine! Yes, the whole experience was a little odd for him – but that’s a good thing. I told the kids to use their very, very best manners and they did. They ate everything on their plates but didn’t ask for more which was perfect – especially for 7 and 10 year olds being introduced to new things.

This is my new buddy Abraham. I held him all night and Bryan reminded me – jokingly – to leave the baby with his mama when we left. Ha! I love babies – especially when they’re little and sweet and cuddly like this guy!

Cooking Club: Shrimp and Grits

I dropped out of my Cooking Club several years ago, but every once in a while, one of the girls will call to see if I want to pop in. This month, my friend Kimberly was hosting. The hostess picks an elaborate menu, provides recipes to the group, and we each pick one to bring. It’s mostly an excuse to have dinner together and talk – but it’s also a fun way to try something new. I made shrimp and grits and they were so good that I made them again for my family this Saturday when we watched the Iron Bowl. (What a game!!!)

This is Tatum, Megan, Kristi, Emily and Kimberly (our hostess).

This is Jennifer (preggie!!), Julie, Farrah, Kristi and Kristen.

Yes, we have two Kristis and a Kristen!!

I followed this recipe for Shrimp and Grits with two exceptions: I upgraded the artificial/overly-processed ingredients (so real half and half and real stone ground grits) and I used real bacon (because I don’t think Canadians eat shrimp and grits and therefore their bacon is out of place – HA!).

This recipe is easy and FAST and a crowd pleaser! I tried it with Asiago cheese this weekend and it was amazing.