World’s Best Appetizer – Ranch Stars

December 30, 2010

If you are having a holiday party and you need a fun appetizer, then look no further. I have the world’s best appetizer–Ranch Stars.  Now I like to give credit where credit is due.  I admit, I didn’t come up with this recipe.  An old friend brought them to one of our annual Christmas parties.  I’ve changed it up a bit since she first brought them, and that is what is so great about the recipe, you can add your own personality to them.  So Nicki, wherever you are…every time I make these I fondly think of you.

RANCH STARS

1-2 lbs  good quality sausage (I like Whole Foods Italian, spicy mixed with mild or whatever good sausage they have come up with that day) – browned well, cooled and drained

1 lg. red bell pepper minced

1 lg. green bell pepper minced

*Add or substitute yellow or orange bell peppers too.

1 med. jar of pitted green olives minced (remove pimento)

1-2 Jalapeno fresh peppers minced* (optional)

2 cups shredded cheese (mix Sharp Cheddar with Monterey Jack)

1+ cups of prepared Ranch Dressing (I like a Peppercorn variety)

1 pkg. Wonton Shells

Brown sausage, cook well, drain all fat, let cool.

Clean, core and de-seed the peppers. Slice into strips. Mince fine – 1/8-1/4″ pieces.

Mince olives.

Mix all ingredients in a bowl.  Slowly add dressing until mixture is moist, depending on how much sausage/peppers you use, you may need more or less dressing, don’t over-coat.

In a pre-heated 350 degree oven, place wonton shells in a dry muffin tin, creating a little cup.  Bake for 9-10 minutes until lightly browned.  Repeat until all shells are cooked.

Fill shells with mixture, a good heaping spoonful will do.  I make a plate full at a time. Microwave for 1-2 minutes until cheese melts, serve immediately. These will go fast so be sure to have a second plate ready to go into the microwave.

This is a great recipie to play with.  You can add mushrooms, black olives, tomatoes or go Tex-Mex and add corn, black beans and jalapenos. Add your favorites to make them unique.

I make these for my family at Christmas, in fact, I’m not allowed to even come to Christmas unless I bring them.

These make a great appetizer to bring and share.  Can be made ahead of time, travels well.  Keep meat mixture in sealed container.  Will keep for up to 5 days.  Keep baked wontons in a separate air-tight container until ready to fill.

This mixture is versatile too.  The next day you can make ‘Ranch Star Omelets”, simply warm a couple tablespoons of the mix and place it in the center of your cooking eggs. Or, make “Ranch Star Quesadillas”.  Place in a tortilla shell and brown.  Or “Ranch Star Nachos” spread across your favorite chips and melt. Because of the versatility I tend to make enough mixture so we have left-overs, 2 lbs of meat and an extra pepper does the trick and keep a small bowl aside for us at home.

As appetizers go they are fairly healthy.  Using a good quality lean sausage and a variety of vegetables gives them a fair amount of protein and nutritional content.  Ok the cheese and the Ranch dressing is a little fattening, but hey, if you don’t over-do it they won’t hurt you.

Allow a good hour for prep-time.


Great Soup! Chicken Barley Sweet Potato with Dill

September 26, 2010

I’m not the world’s greatest cook.  Mostly because I don’t really have time to cook. But when I do cook, it’s actually pretty damn good.

For the last two days it has rained.  In some areas of the state we got 12″ of rain. Today was one of those days that the wind just went right through you. Fall is here, temps are dropping like a rock and it just seemed like the perfect kind of day for soup.

On today’s menu: Chicken Barley Sweet Potato Soup with Dill

I made this once before and it was de-lish!  Of course I’ve strayed from the original recipe, but my theory with soup is, it really doesn’t matter what you throw in that pot, it’s probably going to come out ok.

2-1/2-3 Qts of Chicken stock  (use about 2-1/2 and save a little for the next day in case the soup gets thick)

3-4 stalks of celery – coarsely minced

2-3 carrots chopped – or a 1/2 bag of mini carrots cut

Lg onion – minced

3-4 cloves of garlic – I like to grate garlic

1 lg. Parsnip – Grated – I don’t know what this does exactly, but it adds alot

2-3 tablespoons of Olive oil

a bit of butter

2 Cups cooked chicken or Rotisserie Chicken – cubed

1-1/2 Cups barley

2 Sweet Potatoes – cut in cubes – I like the white sweet potatoes, not as sweet but either will do

Fresh Dill – about a half or more package, cut

Sea Salt and Pepper

Add olive oil/butter to pan along with onion, garlic, celery and carrots – cook about 8 minutes to soften.

Add parsnips, chicken, barley and chicken stock – bring to a boil then simmer for 30 minutes.  Add sweet potatoes and cook for another 30 minutes or so.  In the last 15 minutes add the fresh dill.  The dill makes all the difference in the world to this recipe.

This is kind of one of those soups that is better then next day, but it might thicken up. Use some reserved stock if it does, you may need to adjust the seasoning.

Enjoy!


Wearing Many Hats

September 12, 2010

I used to wear hats.  Fun, funky, stylish hats. Some had big flowers, some were more of a fedora. Now they are hanging in my closet gathering dust.

Once upon a time I turned heads in my hats. Why don’t I wear these statements of style anymore?

Am I too old for hats now?  Or have I traded in my physical hats for metaphorical ones?

I guess the latter.

At work I do everything.  From Sales to Graphics, from Admin to Research…and then some. I wear many hats every day.  I’m good at juggling many tasks.  But I have to admit, it wears on you too.

As I changed my work clothes today I looked at my hats for the first time in a long time.  It was kind of sad to see them, dusty, a little flattened.  A little like me really, a little dusty, my spirit a little flattened.

I think they are desperately in need of some attention and a night on the town.

Come to think of it, so am I.

I think I want to trade in my work hats for my funky hats again.


Rock On Girlfriends

August 4, 2010

I’ve had my core group of girlfriends since high school.  And over the years we have had many girlfriend weekends.  In our younger days we’d go camping, to a cabin, spend weekends at some one’s apartment or go to softball tournaments and bars. We were young and crazy with no real commitments or time constraints.

In our 30’s we kind of lost touch with each other.  Everone was settling down, raising families and establishing roots. And unfortunately, the girlfriend weekends bacame farther and further between.

Now that we are all in our 40’s there seems to be a resurgence in interest for getting together with the girls.  the kids are growing up and more self-sufficient, and us girls, as mother’s, are realizing that we need to take some time for ourselves again– for sanity sake.

Just after our 20th class reunion we really started to connect again.  And during one lovely dinner with a few of the girls, a new tag line for our group was derived. Now mind you, conversation goes anywhere and everywhere when you are with a bunch of women.  From love and sex to careers and politics.  And one night during a particularly feisty conversation my one hilarious girlfriend, in an effort to break the tension, exclaims “well, rock on with your bad self then”.  We all stopped talking,  looked at her and started to laugh.

 became our mantra.  And of course, with me being in the promotional business, I knew I had to make a tee shirt to commemorate that moment.

The girls loved the shirts!  We all proudly wore them that first weekend and we’ve kept that mantra going all this time.  As rock loving girls of the 80’s it fits us. It reminds us that we still have a party side, a side that is not a Mom or a wife.  A side that doesn’t have a 9-5 job or a mortgage and bills to pay. It reminds us that even though the years have changed our faces, inside we are still young, effervescent and cool.

So readers, what is your mantra?

If  you are interested in purchasing these shirts or other designs, please send me an email with your email address and I will send you the details.  You can see past posts in Girlfriend section for other design examples.


Most Versatile Salsa

July 8, 2010

1 red bell pepper minced

1 green bell pepper minced

*Add or substitute yellow or orange bell peppers too.

1 jar of pitted green olives minced (remove pimento)

1-2 Jalapeno peppers minced

3 Roma tomatoes – remove juicy innards and use outer meat only, minced (you can also leave out the tomatoes)

2-3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

2-3 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil

2-3 cloves of garlic, minced or grated preferred (fresh works best)

Pinch of sea salt

*Chopped fresh oregano, parsley and basil optional

Clean, core and de-seed the peppers/tomatoes. Slice into strips. Mince fine – 1/8-1/4″ pieces.  Add vinegar/oil a little bit at a time, the more veggies you add you may need to increase your liquids and spices – do it to your taste.  This is not meant to be a juicy salsa.

This is great on tortilla chips or Triscuts, in salads, on scrambled eggs, or in Quesadillas or nachos. Mix with cooked Orzo pasta and minced carrots/cucumbers/broccoli for a light Italian pasta salad. Or jazz up your guacamole or tacos.  It’s a great topper to pizza or bagels and cream cheese.  Or mix this salsa with cream cheese to create a whole new dip sensation.

I make a batch of this once every week or so and use it on practically everything. It’s low-cal, versatile and a great way to get more veggies into your diet. It’s also loaded with anti-oxidents and good fats.  

It’ll keep great in a covered dish for a good week.  ENJOY!


Girlfriend Tee Shirts

July 2, 2010

"Well Behaved Women Rarely Make History"

Going on a girlfriend get-away?

Having a reunion or special party?

Need a fun gift for a 40th Birthday?

Outfit yourselves in matching tee shirts!  It’s a great way to commemorate a special Girlfriend gathering!

Custom screenprinted designs in bright shimmery silver ink. Black 100% cotton tee comes in relaxed or fitted (shown) cut.  Sizes from XS-XXL.

Other shirt and ink colors available.

The more you order, the lower the price!

Just one of many designs

 

 

Choose one of my stock designs or let me design something custom just for you.

For further information send me a comment with your email address.


Growing More Beautiful with Age

June 15, 2010

I spent last weekend with my Girlfriends.

We have these Girlfriend Gatherings on a somewhat regular basis. One of my friends has a lovely house that she graciously opens up to us a few times a year. She spoils us with her culinary delights. She gives us an escape to nature that most of our suburban lives don’t offer.

I always look forward to these visits. I think I need the laughter we share more then anything. As I’ve written before, my world is fairly small. I work in a small office, I have the same routine day to day, week to week. So escaping once every few months gives me a chance to break free and let go.

It’s hard for some of the girls to commit each time as they still have young kids at home. But I can tell that when they do get the chance to get away, how much this time is needed. On Sunday morning everyone looks so…released. Released from the stress, the chores, the computer, the errands, released from being a Mom even if it’s just for one night. They’ve taken time to relax, to drink and eat, to connect and to laugh.

I’ve shared a lot of years with these women. Some good, some bad. Some distant, some close. I’ve seen them go through puberty and marriage. I’ve seen them have babies and lose parents.
And I’ve noticed lately that my friends are more beautiful to me as we have aged. Oh sure, we are starting to show some wrinkles around the edges… Most of us need cheaters to read these days, a few grey hairs are starting to show, some of us have a few more pounds then we once did.

But none of that matters.

What’s beautiful is the concern that’s expressed for each other; and the generosity of spirit and soul that shines through each of us in our own little way.

We all have crows feet when we laugh now, and knowing I was a part of some of those laugh lines makes them all the more appreciated.

“Rock on with your bad selves” girls…..


Girlfriendship

May 30, 2010

There are some people that are meant to be in your life for just one day, some for years. There are others that are there for when times get rough and others just for the party.

I’ve been blessed to call a few good women my friends. They are the kind of women I’m pretty sure I will know all of my life. Some I’ve had since childhood, most since high school. They’ve all drifted in and out of my life over the years, some times very present, some times gone for years at a time. But I would like to believe that if I needed them they would be there.

I’ve had one close friend since I was in 2nd grade. We spent afternoons after school together watching Gilligan’s Island and the Brady Bunch re-runs. We played Yatzee and card games and climbed trees. She even tried to kill me on a skateboard once, but I forgave her, after all she did piggyback me into her house and have her mom fix me up. We’ve had our tiffs over the years, but I think the friendship of our youth kept us friends even when our adolescence said otherwise. She’s one of those people that I can call, even if we haven’t spoken to each other in a year, and pick up where we left off.

Another gal I hold dear I’ve been friends with since the summer after 6th grade. We were neighbors; I lived just down the hill from her. I spent so many days at her house that her parents actually considered me one of their kids. I am #5. The feeling is mutual. I always thought of her house as my second home and called her parent’s Ma and Dad. We’ve had some great times to say the least. We slept in her yard with tents made of blankets and close lines. We snuck both in and out of her house upon occasion. And I know deep down in my heart, that she is the kind of person that I will always be able to count on, no matter what, no matter when, she’ll be there. I expect to one day have to sneak in or out of the nursing home with her and I know it will be a blast.

Then there’s this other gal; she is hilarious. I can always count on her for great conversation. We have a lot in common, a lot of laughs, and she’s there if I just need to vent about something and bitch for a minute. She’s drifted in and out of my life from time to time and lately it’s been hard for us to hook up, but I know in my heart she’s on my team.

The other girls in my group are the party gals. They are the ones that gather 3 or 4 times a year for Girls weekends, garden parties and Christmas. Not to downplay their friendship, because Lord knows we’ve been through a lot together; weddings, births, sicknesses, and deaths. They are the ones that throw you a shower, invite you to their kid’s graduations and are there when your parents are sick. They are my home-girls and I will always hold them dear to my heart.

Then there are the people who come into your life briefly, for a day, a month, maybe a year. They are the kind souls that helped you when you had a flat tire, the gentle nurse that comforted you when your Dad had an operation or a co-worker that listened and offered advise when you were stressed. Maybe you only knew them for a short time, but their kindness and actions left an imprint on you. They may not be someone you will ever talk to again, but that doesn’t mean they had any less impact on your life. I choose to go through my life believing that all people are good at heart. That if you show kindness to a stranger they will some how pass that kindness on to others. So I open doors for busy Moms and sweet little old ladies. I buy the next person in line a cup of coffee now and again. I let others merge in front of me on the highway and I wave in gratitude when they let me merge in.

I think that if we treated strangers like friends that people would begin to believe in the goodness of other’s instead of the bad. And maybe, just maybe, the world would begin to change.


  • All my life I've waited for things to be right in the universe before I could really start living my life. If only I had the perfect job, the perfect home, was the perfect weight or had the perfect partner... then my life could begin.

    What I've realized now is that these challenges I faced were not obstacles holding me back, they were the steps in the journey that is my LIFE.

    Life has it's ups and downs, heartaches and joys. We need to appreciate each day, and do our best with what we have been given.

    It's not the destination, it's the Journey.

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