Monthly Archives: October 2011



You’ve just been seated at an American fare-type restaurant. Menu in hand, you’re trying to decide what sounds good… then a server walks by with a fajita platter. The sound of the juices sizzling on the hot cast iron platter, plus the aroma of marinated chicken, onions and peppers wafting all around you, make your meal decision a quick one. “I’ll have the chicken fajitas, please!”


*recipe adapted from the

photo credit:


3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil, divided
2 bell peppers, any color
2 sm. onions
2 tsp. minced garlic
Salt & pepper to taste
1 Tbs. water
1 tsp. chili powder
2 Tbs. lime juice
2 Tbs. freshly minced cilantro
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. Splenda Brown Sugar Blend
   (or regular brown sugar of course)

Soft taco sized tortillas


  • Slice peppers and onions into thin wedges, set aside.
  • Slice chicken into thin strips (about 3-in. long).
  • Heat skillet with 1 Tbs. olive oil; add in garlic and saute for a minute.
  • Add in chicken, sprinkle on salt & pepper to taste, and cook on medium heat until no longer pink.
  • While chicken is cooking, mix together the marinade. In a large bowl, mix 1 Tbs. olive oil, chili powder, lime juice, cilantro, Worcestershire sauce, and Splenda.
  • Add cooked chicken to marinade, mix well, and set aside.
  • Add peppers & onions to same skillet, and cook until peppers & onions turn soft enough to your liking. Remove from heat and add chicken into skillet to mix all together.

Serve in tortillas with your favorite taco toppings (i.e. shredded lettuce, diced tomato, shredded cheese, sour cream, guacamole and salsa).

(Post note: I first posted this on my work blog, but need to transfer my recipes to my personal blog. This recipe can also been seen at, and possibly on my Blogspot blog at, as I’m trying to see which blogging format I like best.)


Baked Chicken Penne with Alfredo-Marinara Sauce


There is just something about pasta. It’s versatile, delicious both hot and cold. It’s also a comfort food for many, including me! I recently returned from a week’s vacation in Washington/Idaho, for my oldest nephew Marco’s wedding (Steph, welcome to the Nuthouse!). A bunch of the cousins decided to head to dinner together the night before, and we walked to Cyrus O’Leary’s from the hotel. When the Goulds & Strecks come together, much fun is to be had!

I decided on O’Leary’s Baked Chicken Mostaccioli, and WOW, that was a good choice. Tender roasted chicken breasts sautéed in homemade alfredo & marinara sauces, tossed with mostaccioli, then topped with mozzarella & parmesan and baked until golden brown. I decided on a 2-to-1 marinara-alfredo ratio. When you make them equal, the sauce is pink (also called a pink sauce). Here’s my version of that yumminess, substituting Ronzi Garden Delight Penne Rigate for mostaccioli. I always have Garden Delight on hand. It tastes great, and has one serving of vegetables in each serving portion. Those parents with picky eaters might relate to my sneaking veggies into meals however I can! I portion this into 6 large servings, and each has 2 1/2 servings of vegetables. *The photo shows a serving of green beans off to the right, a common accompaniment to our pasta meals. Green beans are one of the three veggies that said 18 year old picky eater (daughter) will eat!

Baked Chicken Penne with Alfredo-Marinara Sauce

Servings: 6-8 (depending on portion sizes)
Total time: 40 minutes


1 (12-oz) box Ronzoni Garden Delight Penne Rigate
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, halved & sliced into chunks or strips
1/4 cup diced onion
3 tsp minced garlic
1 Tbs EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup shredded parmesan (NOT that powder junk)
2 cups prepared marinara sauce
1 cup prepared alfredo sauce
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tsp dried basil (or 1 tbs freshly chopped)
1 tsp dried oregano (or 1 tbs freshly chopped)
1 tsp dried rosemary (or 1 tbs freshly chopped)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and bring water to boil for pasta.

At the same time, add pasta to water to cook and get chicken started. Drain pasta when done, return to pot and set aside.

To a heated skillet with EVOO, add onion, garlic and chicken. Sautee on a med/med-high setting until chicken is no longer pink. Sprinkle on the pepper & herbs while cooking. Drain and add to the pot with pasta.

Mix in the marinara and alfredo sauces. Transfer to a 3-qt baking dish, and top with parmesan and mozzarella cheeses. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes.

Nutritional Information (each serving, portioning the dish into 6 servings):
480 calories; 35g protein; 6g fiber; 7g saturated fat

Okay, so the calorie & saturated fat contents are high, but when you want comfort food, who cares? At least that’s what I tell myself when I step on the scale. : )

(Post note: I first posted this on my work blog, but need to transfer my recipes to my personal blog. This recipe can also been seen at, and possibly on my Blogspot blog at, as I’m trying to see which blogging format I like best.)

Roasted Balsamic Strawberry Bruschetta


I ran across this recipe on a blog several months past. The blogger got it from the original source on the Reluctant Entertainer. I made it for a family reunion over Memorial weekend, and it was SO FABULOUS! The following is Sandy’s recipe and photo.

Roasted Balsamic Strawberry Bruschetta

photo & recipe courtesy of Reluctant Entertainer

2 cups sliced fresh strawberries
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 loaf ciabatta bread (I bought mine at Costco)
1-2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup soft goat cheese
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
salt and white pepper

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Slice the strawberries into a bowl and gently mix with the balsamic vinegar. Spread strawberries out on a baking sheet and bake for five minutes. Remove and let cool.

Cut the ciabatta into equal slices, coat with olive oil, and broil on each side until toasted and crisp.

Spread goat cheese on hot bread, top equally with the roasted berries and juice.

Head out to the herb garden and pick fresh basil; chop finely. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with basil.

A frightful time to be had at The Scareatorium!


My daughter is a paid costume actor at The Scareatorium in Dublin, Ohio. They are a class-act venue, with very talented makeup artists and actors. I volunteered on night, and worked as a zombie along side my daughter. Apparently I’m ‘a natural’ at being a zombie, and was quite scary & believable! LOL, me a quiet 40 year old single mom who has no social life. Becca’s zombie character is great. She will start out underneath a funeral carriage, and when she sees guests coming, she starts crawling out and jerkily (is that a word?) standing up and coming toward them snarling and growling. It’s quite a site, let me tell you!

I don’t know if I’m supposed to actually say this, but her face prosthetic? It was cut from a sheet used in the making of Dawn of the Dead. Pretty cool, huh?

I'ma come getcha

Omm nomm nomm nomm

Her 'wound' glistened with 'blood & gore'.

Can you see the black teeth? She also had a black tongue!

Lenticchie, an Italian lentil stew


An Italian tradition is to serve Lenticche at midnight on New Year’s Eve, to bring good fortune and hope that you will not want for cash in the following year. The lentils symbolize little coins. Italian dishes tend to be seasonal, so this is an obvious choice for late fall/early winter.

My sister Cheri was a young bride when she married Mario V. in 1980. A few years later they moved to Ostia, Italy. She learned some of her Italian cooking by watching her mother-in-law, but mostly by tasting and recreating what she tasted. The first time she had Lenticchie was on New Year’s Eve at their friend’s parent’s house in Ostia. It was served at midnight, and this was when she learned about the tradition.

Traditionally, Lenticchie is made with cotechino or zampone (this American girl shivers at the thought…Google it and you may too). Being a bit squeamish, Cheri makes her’s with Hillshire Farms’ smoked sausage instead. I don’t blame her one bit! A soffrito starts as the base, and your kitchen will smell absolutely delicious while it’s cooking! Soffrito is a sautéed mixture of carrot, celery and onion, that is very common in Italian dishes. The Latin Americans, Spanish and French do this too, with little variations to the ingredients.

Cheri & Mario lived in Italy for about 2 years. They moved back stateside during my senior year of high school. What a neat adventure, to have the chance to live abroad! Anyway, Cheri introduced me to Lenticchie one evening at her home, and I now make it because it’s just so wonderful.

I took the liberty of adding garlic into her recipe, as well as rosemary. They don’t care for garlic, and Cheri will toss in whatever herbs she has on hand as a given, not needing to include it in the recipe. I always use fresh, chopped rosemary when making Lenticchie (and much of my cooking). So tasty. *Note: I don’t have a personal photo of Lenticchie yet, so I’ve used one from another blog until I next make it and photograph it (see photo credit).


Photo from Flavor of Italy blog

Photo from Flavor of Italy blog


1 (16 oz) package smoked sausage (can use beef or turkey), diced
1 bag lentils, rinsed & picked through
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1/2 onion, finely chopped
2 potatoes, peeled & diced
6 cups chicken stock (maybe a little more)
3 Tbs. olive oil
3 Tbs. butter/margarine
2 bay leaves
2 tsp. minced garlic (or 2 cloves, finely minced)
2 Tbs. fresh, chopped rosemary (or 2 tsp. dried rosemary)
Salt & pepper to taste


In a large pot, melt butter and oil together over medium heat. Add diced carrots, celery and onion to make the soffrito. Cook for 3-4 minutes, then add in minced garlic and cook until carrots are softened.

Add sausage and about *4 cups chicken stock. Next add lentils, potatoes, rosemary, bay leaves, salt and pepper.

Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook about 45 minutes, or until lentils are soft and potatoes are cooked through. Taste to adjust salt and pepper as needed.

*Important Note: Watch the liquid levels as the lentils soak up the stock, and add more chicken stock as needed to acheive a stew consistency (not too thick, not too soupy).

(Post note: I first posted this on my work blog, but need to transfer my recipes to my personal blog. This recipe can also been seen at, and possibly on my Blogspot blog at, as I’m trying to see which blogging format I like best.)

Girl. On a mission.


Tightwad. Cheap. Scrooge. Penny-Pincher. Prudent. Frugal.

I prefer Frugal. Being a single mom without a college education as of yet, I’ve learned how to stretch my dollars out of necessity. At the beginning, I was a young mom (left Ex when my daughter was 1 1/2 years old) and very inexperienced in the kitchen. I had my same handful of recipes to make, or I would prepare Hamburger Helper & Tuna Helper. Today, 16 1/2 years later, I’ve broadened my culinary abilities enough to be able to create tasty meals from scratch, without a recipe.

Now don’t get me wrong. I love recipes. I’m always on the hunt for a new recipe or meal idea, and belong to several online groups where I get tons of inspiration. I started blogging for work, and added some recipes there. Since that isn’t on par with what my company does (kitchen and bath design-build-remodel), my boss has decided to nix that part of the blog. The first few recipes I’m going to post here, are the ones I had posted on my work blog.

On a side note, the meals I would love to prepare are not necessarily the ones I end up serving at home. My daughter, Becca, is an extremely picky eater. When she transitioned from pureed to table food as a baby, that’s when things came to a screeching halt. It was a texture thing, and she wouldn’t touch most of the foods she had previously eaten. Being a busy struggling single mom, solo-parenting from the day I left the Ex, I chose to cater to her pickiness instead of work through it. Hind sight and all that aside, trying to change her pickiness at this late stage would be a fruitless endeavour. Becca just turned 18 a month ago. I do frequently encourage her to try a bite of something new or different, and she’s finally choosing to try a tiny pea-sized taste. Maybe she’ll grow out of her pickiness. You know I’ve got my fingers crossed!