Pasta di Mare con Focaccia with Basil and Olives

Tonight’s dinner took us to the coastal regions of Italy with pasta di mare, or pasta from the sea.  I made it with sea scallops, prawns and mussels.   I served it with a caesar salad and focaccia with basil and olives and a nice crisp fume blanc.  For a brief time, we felt like we were dining off the coast of Capri, Italy.    We had a friend over for dinner and he could not stop raving about how delicious the dinner was.  This is a meal meant to be shared with friends and loved ones.

Pasta di Mare

1 lb sea scallops

1 lb large prawns

1 lb mussels

1 large shallot, minced fine

2 TBSP garlic

5 whole tomatoes, large dice

7 or so mushrooms, sliced

1-1 1/2 cups dry white wine

olive oil

2 TBSP butter

fresh basil, oregano, thyme, parsley to taste

salt & pepper to taste

cooked fettuccini

Parmigiano cheese (optional)


Sautee the scallops and prawns in butter and oil in a hot skillet, for about 5-6  minutes or until the prawns turned a bright red and scallops were lightly browned on all sides.  Remove from pan and set aside.   Add the garlic, mushrooms and shallots and slightly brown, then add wine and tomatoes, salt & pepper and cook down for about 2 minutes.  Add the mussels and cook for about 5 minutes or until they have opened up.  Remove and set aside.  Add all the herbs and bring to a boil, the turn down the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes.  Dish up the cooked pasta, add some of the sauce, then place the seafood around the pasta and sauce.  Add more sauce as needed.  Top with chopped basil and parsely, and if you like Parmigiano cheese, add that as well.


Focaccia with Basil and Olives

I used olives I had marinated with fennel, orange juice and orange rind and red pepper flakes, but any olives will do.

4 cups flour + extra for dusting

1 TBSP salt

1/2 cup olive oil

1 oz yeast

1 1/2 cups warm water

1 cup olives

fresh basil, chiffonade or shredded very thin

salt water made from 1 1/2 tsp salt and warm water


Mix the first 5 ingredients together and form the dough into a ball.  Then roll it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 6 minutes.   Coat the dough with a little bit of olive oil, cover and let rise for about 2 hours at room temperature.   Add the olives and some of the basil and mix well into the dough.  Again, on a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to a rectangular shape and place on a piece of parchment paper on your baking pan.  Brush with the salt water mixture, and dimple the dough with your fingers.  Add the rest of the olives.  Cover and let rise again for about 1 hour.

Set your oven to 450* and let it get to temperatures before placing your dough in the oven.  Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown.   I used a dipping sauce made of olive oil, garlic, black pepper, dried onions, red pepper flakes and balsamic vinegar.  Delicioso!!











Not my Kitchen – Yet

We don’t go out to eat very often but every now and then we do.  Tonight we went out with some dear friends, so I was not in the kitchen today.  I used to run kitchens like this all the time, but not any more.  I would love to do it again; someday.  But for now, I am usually quite happy in my own kitchen, although, every now and then it is fun to go and and try something new and different.  We went to the Thirsty Lion in Downtown Denver after the Avalanche Hockey Game (Av’s won by the way, which made the meal even better).  We had a delicious meal of tapas, which included a ceasar salad, fried calimari, sliders, and bacon wrapped shrimp.   When we do go out, I use it as a learning experience – new ideas, new flavor combinations, new ways of presenting things.  So, in a way, it is like a field trip and I use the information as a learning opportunity to create something new on my own.






Mocha Swirl Cake

I am visiting with a friend today and I was always taught you never show up empty handed.  So with that in mind, I made us a wonderful mocha swirl cake.  It has two of the best things one could ask for, especially in the morning – coffee and chocolate.   This will brighten everyone’s day.

Mocha Swirl Cake

1 heaping tsp instant coffee

1 TBSP boiling hot water

3/4 cup mascarpone cheese

1 stick softened butter

1 cup sugar

3 eggs

1 2/3 cups flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp vanilla

2 TBSP cocoa powder

Mix the coffee with the water and set aside.  Mix all the other ingredients together except the cocoa powder and vanilla.  Separate the mixture into half.  Add cocoa powder and coffee mixture to half and add the vanilla to the other half.   Alternate spoonfuls of mixtures into a prepared baking loaf pan.  Once all the batter is in the pan, lightly drag around a butter knife through the batters to swirl the batters together.  Bake at 350*F for 1 hour.  Cool  completely before adding the icing.


Mocha Icing

1 heaping tsp instant coffee

1-2 heaping TBSP mascarpone cheese

I added some shaved chocolate and a few mini chocolate chips on top.  Enjoy with friends and a good cup of Joe and you will be all set for the day.









Spring Salad with Cherries and a Cherry Vinaigrette

With Spring now here, it is fast becoming salad weather.  We eat a lot of salads when the weather gets warmer, and tonight’s dinner was our first salad of the season.

Yesterday, when I posted the Drunken Cherry & Chocolate Biscotti recipe, I also gave a little teaser about what to do with my leftover cherry and almendra or almond tequila mixture.   It was too good to just throw away, so with just a few simple additions, I made a cherry vinaigrette with it.  I served it over a spinach salad.  My husband likes cheese so his salad had bleu cheese crumbles, but no additional cherries.  I HATE cheese, particularly the bleu veined cheeses, and I LOVE cherries, so I had the opposite.


So as you see, I have 2 different versions of basically the same salad.   Making something completely different from the original version AND making things your own way, and how you like them is really why I started this blog.   Think of me as an inspiration, but put your own personality into cooking and make it personal, unique and fun.


Spring Salad with Cherries and a Cherry Vinaigrette

For the dressing, I used my left over cherry mixture I used to soak my cherries in for my  Drunken Cherry Chocolate Biscotti, or to make it fresh, the cherry juice from the cherries, 1/2 cup almendra or almond tequila (Amaretto or another almond liqueur will also work just fine), and 1/2 cup sugar

White wine vinegar

olive oil

black pepper

(When making a vinaigrette, you want a  good balance of oil and vinegar, usually it is about a 1:2 ratio, with 1 portion of vinegar and 2 portions of oil, but don’t be afraid to play with it.  You want the oil and vinegar to mix well.  If they are out of proportion, they will not blend well).

Fresh baby spinach leaves (remove the stems, since they make the spinach bitter)

toasted almonds (or any other nuts)

red onion sliced very thin

green onions, sliced very thin


bleu cheese crumbles (optional)


Mix the dressing well and put on the salad right before serving.

Fit for a Leprechaun

Happy St. Patty’s Day to you all.  I hope you enjoyed all the celebrations and festivities that come with this date.  With my last name being Jones, there is no doubt that there is more than just a wee bit of Irish and Celtic blood running through my veins.   Today is the day for me to show off some of my Irish and Celtic roots, and I decided to do so in the kitchen, of course, which is always my favorite place to be, unless I am in the water and scuba diving, but that is a whole different topic.

I know most people celebrate St. Patty’s day with Corned Beef and Cabbage.  That’s OK; there’s nothing wrong with that.  But for those of you who know me, you all know I make my own rules and never do what is expected.  I thrive on doing my own unique thing.  There are so many other great Irish dishes that get over shadowed by Corned Beef on St. Patrick’s Day, so I decided to showcase some of those dishes instead today.  We celebrated the Emerald Isle with Scallops and Mushrooms in a cream sauce, served over mashed potatoes, and sauteed Brussel sprouts, carrots and parsnips and potato scones.  YUM.  It completely skipped my mind until I was cutting the vegetables that they were the colors of the Irish flag, orange, white and green, making them even more fun to make for today.  My recipes were inspired by one of my many Irish cookbooks, The Complete Book of Irish Cooking.   Again, I say inspired by because I always add my own unique twist to things, n matter what recipe I follow.


Scallops in a Creamed Mushroom Sauce

1 1/2 lbs Sea Scallops

dry white wine



shallots, minced


heavy whipping cream

bacon, cooked and chopped

salt & pepper to taste

cheddar cheese

chopped parsely


Poach the scallops in a combination of 1/2 dry white wine and water for about 5 minutes.  Remove the scallops and set aside.  Reduce the liquid down to about 2 1/2 cups.  Cook the bacon to your desired crispness and remove, sauteing the shallots and mushrooms in the bacon grease until soft and tender.  Add the liquid from the scallops along with 3-4 TBSP flour and heavy whipping cream to make a thick creamy sauce.  Add the scallops and bacon and mix thoroughly.  Pour into a greased cooking pan, top with cheddar cheese and chopped parsley.  Bake at 350* for about 25 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and crusted over and bubbly.


Sautee Brussel sprouts, carrots and parsnips in honey butter (yes, my left over honey butter from my festival), adding salt & pepper to taste.  Sautee until the veggies are to your desired outcome.  I like mine with just a slight crunch to them.


Make enough mashed potatoes to serve with the meal and to also use for the potato scones.


Potato Scones

1 cup cooked mashed potatoes

2 cups flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

3 oz soft butter

chopped green onions,



milk to dough if to thick; it depends on how thick your mashed potatoes are

egg wash


Prepare an 8 1/2 in cake pan and line with parchment paper.  Combine  all the ingredients together except the egg wash and form a thick dough.   Make sure not to over mix your dough or it will come out tough.  Add milk as needed.  Form the dough into a ball and then flatten into the cake pan.  Brush with egg wash (I use egg and a little dash of heavy whipping cream, but water or milk is fine too).  Bake at 400* for about 25  minutes or until golden brown and an inserted toothpick comes out clean.








Drunken Cherries and Chocolate Biscotti

Although I love to bake and try everything, I have a real weakness for cookies – any kind of cookies.  Hands down, cookies are my favorite dessert.   I still had some of my cherries left from my friend’s generous gift, and thought let’s combine these with chocolate again.  You can never go wrong with cherries and chocolate.  This time, I made cherry chocolate biscotti.   What made them even better was that I soaked the cherries in almond tequila.  Amaretto works just fine too.




 Cherry Almond & Chocolate Biscotti

1 3/4 cups cherries

1/2 cup almond tequila or Amaretto

1/2 cup sugar + 1 cup

3 cups flour, plus more for the surface

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

4 TBSP (1/2 stick) soft butter

4 eggs

2 tsp vanilla

3/4 cups toasted almond slivers

3 TBSP coarse sugar

white chocolate, melted

semi-sweet chocolate, melted


Preheat the over to 325*F.

Soak the cherries in the almond tequila and 1/2 cup of sugar.  Set aside.  Combine all the dry ingredients and blend well.  Set aside.  Whip the butter and the remaining 1 cup of sugar until light and fluffy.  Add 3 of the eggs, 1 at a time and mix well in between.  Add the vanilla.  Add 1/2 of the dry mixture and mix well, then add the remaining flour mixture and mix well.  You want a nice, thick dough.  Fold in the cherries, along with 2 TBSP of the cherry liquid.  Save the juice for something else (You will be surprised at what I am using the remaining liquid for later) and the almonds.  Cut it in 1/2 and roll out to a log about 12″ long on a lightly floured surface and flatten the cookie log.  Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Repeat with the other cookie log.  Make an egg wash with the last egg and brush the surface of the cookie logs completely covering themso the biscotti will brown nicely.  Sprinkle the coarse sugar on top of the cookie logs.

Bake for at least 40 minutes, rotating the cookie sheets at about 20 minutes.  Reduce the oven temperature to 300*F and bake for another 16-20 minutes, once again, rotating them at about 8-10 minutes, or until the cookies come out light and crispy.  Cool the cookies completely, then slice at a diagonal.  Once the cookies are cooled, dip them in the melted chocolate.  Dip 1/2 the cookie in the white chocolate and then dip the other half in the semi-sweet chocolate.  Melt the chocolate in a double boiler so it doesn’t burn.  If you need to make it a little thinner, add a splash of milk.  If you don’t have a double boiler, you can make one by placing a smaller sauce pan on top of a larger sauce pan filled with boiling water.  Stir the chocolate consistently until it melts completely and is to your desired thickness.  Enjoy them on their own or dip them in coffee; your choice, but either way, you are going to love them.

Don’t worry if you have broken pieces.  Just use them for a topping for ice cream or put them in the food processor to make them small crumbs and you can add to a cake.   In my kitchen, everything gets used.  Nothing goes to waste, except my own and everyone that I love to feed.





Modern Meals in Melbourne

My nephew and his wife bought me this fabulous cookbook, Flavours of Urban Melbourne for Christmas.  It is chockerblock full of fantastic recipes and ideas, featuring recipes from 120 different restaurants, bars and cafes in the urban Melbourne area.  My niece was pointing out some of the restaurants they’ve been to, which makes it even more special.  Next time we go back, I’ll have to go visit as many of these places as time allows.  My dad was from Melbourne, and I still have a lot of family and friends there, so we go back fairly often.

I don’t normally have pork side and pork belly on hand, but oddly enough, this time around I did.  So I made pork belly with an apple butter I made quite awhile ago (apple sauce is fine too), served with white cannelinni beans sauteed with spinach, garlic, red onions and apples.  It was very, very tasty.  I served it with an light, crisp chardonnay.


2 lbs Pork belly or pork side




salt & pepper

olive oil


I coated all the pork with the spice rub and and the olive oil.  Cover tightly in foil and roast in a shallow baking pan at 350* for  about 2 hours.  The coating comes out nice and crusty and the meat inside is very tender.

Spread the apple butter or applesauce on the plate and place the pork on top.   The flavors of the pork and the apple butter just melt in your mouth.




Good-bye to an Old Friend

Today is a very sad day for me. I am down to my last Diet Coke with Lime. The Coca-Cola Company has decided once again to take away a beloved product to replace it with something totally inferior. Diet Coke with Lime has been my friend for so many, many years, with me through good times and bad. What am to do now? What am I to drink now? Coca-Cola, if you are reading this, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE rethink this and bring back my dear friend, Diet Coke with Lime. 😢😢😢


Hail to the Queen – of Leftovers That Is

Our fridge had a lot of a little of this and a little of that, so it all got combined to make our dinner tonight.  This is actually how I got the title of “The Queen of Leftovers”.   People seem to be amazed at how I creatively throw things together to make something totally different than how I originally plated them.  Up until recently, I guess I just thought that was how everyone cooked.  But I soon found out that is a truly unique way of cooking.  If I had to describe tonight’s blend, I would still categorize it in the Caribbean mode, even though it had a very definite Indian flair.  We travel to all parts of the Caribbean on a regular basis, since we are avid scuba divers, and there is a very large Indian influence and population all throughout the Caribbean Islands.  So, tonight, we went back to St. Lucia through our dinner.  It was very similar to the Caribbean dish called Roti.

Chicken Curry

My curry sauce consisted of these ingredients.  I never measure, so make it to taste.  If you like it sweet, add more honey.  If you like it spicy, add more Cayenne pepper.

Coconut milk

lime juice


curry powder


cayenne pepper







The main ingredients were the leftover veggies from last night (Brussel sprouts, carrots and parsnips sautéed in honey butter); and then I added some red onion, sliced very thin; garlic; ginger; red bell pepper strips; and chicken cut in strips.  I cooked the raw veggies in olive oil first for about 3-4 minutes, then I added the cooked veggies from last night to heat them up.  Once those were cooked, I removed them from the heat and cooked the chicken strips in more olive oil.  Next was the lime juice that I cooked down for a few minutes, and then I added the rest of the ingredients.  To thicken the sauce, I took some of the sauce out and mixed in about 2 tsp of cornstarch  Once that was all mixed together, I added it to the mixture.  Bring to a boil and then reduce down to a simmer for about 3-4 minutes.  Add chopped cilantro right before serving.  Serve over rice.  White, Jasmine or Basmati rice probably work best, but brown rice would be fine too.  If you use brown rice it won’t allow the flavors of the curry to pop as much, but it will still be good.  You can also substitute shrimp for the chicken or add a combination of both if you prefer.



My empanada dough was my go-to dough for a lot of dishes; just a regular “master pie” dough, without any added sweetness.

1 1/2 cups flour

6 oz COLD butter, cut in small chunks

1 tsp salt

1 egg

4-5 TBSP heavy whipping cream

oil for frying, canola or vegetable oil are probably the best since they have a higher smoke point

I blend all the dry ingredients and butter together in the food processor for about 30 seconds, then I add the egg and the cream.  Blend together and mix until dough forms into a ball.  Remove and place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.  Cold butter is the key to a really nice, flaky crust.  Once the dough has chilled, remove it and roll very thin onto a lightly floured area.   You can make them any size you want, but I rolled and cut mine into thin circles that were about 3″ in diameter.  Fill with your filling.  My filling this time was the last of the red beans & rice you’ve all seen before in other meals and posts.  But you can use whatever type of filling you like.  Place about 1-2 Heaping TBSP of filling in the center of your circle and bring the ends together and pinch them tight.  Make sure your empanadas are completely sealed or you will lose your filling when your fry them.  If you need a tiny bit of water to use to seal the edges, that’s fine, just use a tiny, tiny amount though otherwise your dough will get really messy and won’t work.  We have a deep fryer, so that is what I use to fry, but a skillet with hot oil works just as well.  Before putting your empanadas in the oil, make sure it is very hot.  If you do not know how to tell just by looking at, it, splash a dab of water in the oil (STAND BACK though so not to burn yourself).  If it sizzles immediately, your oil is hot enough.  Fry for about 3 minutes or until golden brown all around.







Fit for a Leprechaun

Happy St. Patty’s day to you all.  I hope everyone enjoyed today’s festivities and fun.  With my last name being Jones, it’s pretty obvious that I have more than a wee bit of Irish and Celtic blood running through my veins.  I am celebrating my Irish and Celtic roots from the kitchen, of course, one of my most favorite places to be.  Most people celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with corned beef and cabbage.  That’s fine.  There is nothing wrong with that.  But there is so much more to Irish cooking than just corned beef and cabbage.  I am celebrating today with  scallops in a creamy mushroom sauce; sauteed Brussel sprouts, carrots and parsnips; mashed potatoes and potato scones.  It dawned on me as I was cutting the vegetables that they represented the colors of the Irish flag, green, orange and white.  I did not plan it that way, but that’s just how it worked out, which is kind of fun.  Make enough mashed potatoes to serve and to use again for the potato scones.  My recipes for today were inspired by one of my many Irish cookbooks, The Complete Book of Irish Cooking.   I say inspired by, because anyone who knows me knows that no matter what, I will ALWAYS put my own spin on things and make it uniquely my own.  That’s just how I roll.  It must be the creativity that comes with my Celtic bloodlines.  Erin Go Braugh and Enjoy!


Scallops with Creamy Mushroom Sauce

1 1/2 lbs Sea scallops


shallots, minced


heavy whipping cream


dry white wine

salt & pepper to taste

cheddar cheese

chopped parsley


Poach the scallops in a combination of 1/2 water and 1/2 white wine for about 5 minutes.  Remove the scallops and set aside.  Reduce the scallop liquid to about 2 1/2 cups.  Cook bacon to your desired crispness and remove.  Cook shallots and mushrooms in bacon grease for about 3-4 minutes.  Add reduced scallop liquid, 3-4 TBSP flour and heavy whipping cream.  Mix thoroughly then add scallops and bacon.  Pour the whole mixture into a prepared baking pan, top with cheddar cheese and chopped parsley.  Bake at 350* for about 30 minutes.


Brussel Sprouts, carrots and parsnip

I sauteed these all together in honey butter (yes the same honey butter you were introduced to with the festival).  Add enough honey to give it a little sweetness.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Cook until your desired outcome is reached.  I like my vegetables with just a slight crunch left to them.


Potato Scones

1 cup cooked mashed potatoes

2 cups flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

3 oz softened butter



green onions, chopped

milk as needed if dough is too thick.

egg wash


Preheat oven to 400*  Grease an 8 1/2 in baking pan and line with parchment paper.  Combine all the ingredients together and form dough into a ball.  Roll it flat and fit it into the baking pan.  Make an egg wash and brush on top of the dough.  I usually use 1 egg and heavy whipping cream, but water or milk is fine too.  They just all have slightly different browning qualities.  Bake for about 25 minutes or until it comes out golden brown and the inserted toothpick comes out clean.  When cooled, cut into 8 wedges.







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