Carol’s Taco Dip

April 28th, 2016
  • Bar of cream cheese
  • 1 lb Hamburger
  • One pack Lawry’s Taco Seasoning
  • Salsa
  • Shredded cheese (eg Mexican mix)

In her words:
“Take a bar of cream cheese put on the counter to soften……cook one pound of hamburg and while cooking put in one pack of taco seasonings. Take cream cheese and spread over the bottom of a square pan…..drain one large jar of salsa while doing this….. then put cooked hamburg over the cream cheese then put the very well-drained salsa over the hamburg and sprinkle as much shredded cheese (any type) over all of that and put into 300* oven for maybe half an hour or until bubbling!”


Memere’s Turkey Salad

April 28th, 2016
  • Leftover Thanksgiving turkey, chop up very fine
  • Celery, chop up very fine
  • Add mayo to your liking
  • Don’t add salt! It will melt and the salad will become watery. Add after when serving.
  • Pepper is ok.
  • Shallots/onions optional (Memere didn’t add this, because her stomach could not digest them)


Easter Brunch Bloody Mary’s

March 27th, 2016



A tradition ion in our household – bloody marys, sunshine, and brunch!  These spicy bloody marys are a meal in of them self, but you can always garnish more lightly

This makes enough for 4 large individual portions once you add ice.  Season with more or less black pepper and tobasco to taste per your spicy level.

5 shots good quality vodka

8 shots Clamato

6 shots tomato juice

8 dashes Worcestershire (about 1tsp)

10 dashes tobasco

1 tsp horseradish

1/2 lemon, juiced

fresh black pepper

2-3 dashed celery salt



January 26th, 2016

Canasta is a super fun, complicated, fairly long but very rewarding game.  It has plenty of strategy and “you little shit” moments (as my Mom used to call me), but also is casual enough to play over cocktails and wine.  Play with two or more people.  Mom used to play a variant of this game called “Hand and Foot” where each individual was required to also get a canasta of 7’s and wilds.  It’s a bit more challenging if you want to try that.

What you need:

For up to five people:

  • 6 full decks of cards (leave the jokers in, total 54 cards/deck).   For each additional person above 5, add one deck. i.e. 7 people = 8 decks.  For more than 6 people, you might find Team Canasta to be more fun.
  • Paper and pen to keep score.
  • Wine!

Definition Quick Reference:

  • Hand: The first 13 cards you are dealt.
  • Foot: The second 13 cards you are dealt. You never look at your foot until you’ve played all of your hand.
  • Canasta: A set of 7 cards (i.e. 7 fours, 7 Kings).  Getting Canastas is your main goal – they count for a lot of points!
  • Wild:  2’s and Jokers are Wild.  A card that can be used as any other card to make a Canasta (i.e. A canasta can be made with 6 Kings and one Wild).
  • Meld: The number of points you need to put cards on the table at the beginning of the game.
  • Frozen: When a red 3 or a wild card is in the discard pile, the pile is frozen. See How to Play for more info. “Please freeze it so it’s harder for Shannon to pick up the pile”
  • Burnt: When another player gets a Canasta, they have “burnt” that Canasta.
  • Burned: If another player burns a Canasta, if you do not have those cards melded, you are BURNT on those cards and can no longer play them.
  • Natural Canasta: A Canasta with no wild cards. 500 points.
  • Unnatural Canasta: A Canasta with wild cards. 300 points.  
  • Ratio: When placing cards into a canasta, you must respect a 2:1 natural:wild ratio.  EG two Q’s and one Joker is OK.  Two Q’s and two Jokers is NOT ok!
  • “Dirty”: When you add a wild to an otherwise Natural canasta, you “dirty” it!
  • Wild Card Canasta: A Canasta consisting of only Wild Cards. The Holy Grail of Canasta and a game changer. 2,000 points. -2,000 if you get caught with 4 or more in your hand trying to collect! (honor system)
  • Base: The point total for just your Canastas

General Rules

Here is a list of general rules, see below for how to play.

Card Points – for melding and for counting points:

  • Jokers (wild): 50 Points
  • 2 (wild): 20 Points
  • Aces: 20 Points
  • 3 black: 5 Points – black 3 is a useless card – it can’t be melded, put into a Canasta,or picked up
  • 4 – 7: 5 Points
  • 8 – King: 10 Points
  • 3 red: 50 Points (see next section: red 3 placed on top of a Canasta adds 100 points to your Base only).  A red 3 on the pile cannot be picked up – see Frozen.

Canasta Points – for counting Base only:

  • Natural Canasta (no wilds): 500 Points
  • Unnatural Canasta (up to 2 wilds): 300 Points
  • Wild Card Canasta (all wilds): 2,000 Points. Note: If you meld a wild-card Canasta but do not burn it (are short of 7 wilds), you get -2,000 points! If you are caught with 4 or more wilds in your hand when someone goes out, then you will also get -2,000! If you’re afraid someone will go out, play those wilds!
  • Red 3 placed on top of a Canasta adds 100 points to your Base only

Hint: You’ll learn later that you must have two Canasta’s to go out, at least one of which must be natural.  Don’t dirty them all with wilds!

How to Play


Cards are dealt counter-clockwise. For each person, two sets of 13 cards are dealt. The first set is called the Hand, the second the Foot. Place your Foot on the floor (hence the name), or somewhere out-of-the-way. The remaining cards are put into a pile in the middle of the table; this is your Draw pile. If you run out of cards in the Draw pile, the game is over. Turn the top-card over and place it on the table. This is your Discard Pile. If the top card was a 2, Joker, or Red 3, turn over another card.

If the dealer picks up from the stack and deals the exactly correct number of cards, +/- the number of players, they get an additional 100 pts.  For example if there are 4 players, and after dealing hand+foot for each player I have <= 4 cards left in the stack I picked up, I get 100 pts.

Freezing the Pile

If a player discards a Red 3 or a Wild, that freezes the pile.  See Picking up #2 below.  Generally speaking, you want to freeze the pile if you want to make it more challenging for others to pick up the pile.  You don’t want to freeze the pile if you think YOU want to pick up the pile.

Picking Up

Each turn begins with a pickup. The player can do one of two things:

  1. Pick up two cards from the draw pile. You’ll need to discard ONE at the end of your turn, unless you’re going out.
  2. Pick up the discard pile. To pick up the discard pile, you must always be able to play the top card. To be able to play the top card, you must be able to meld or have already melded (see next section).
    1. If the pile is not frozen, you must play the top card in order to pick up the pile.
    2. If the pile is frozen, you MUST have two of the top card in your hand, no exceptions.

Hint: Picking up the pile can (and often does) reap points and sometimes Canastas.  But watch the pile to make sure you’re getting what you want!  Sometimes there is a bunch of crap in there (3’s, things you’re burnt on or other things you don’t want) and picking up can make it difficult to get into your foot!  


Melding means to put cards in sets onto the table. To meld a set of cards, you must have a minimum of 3 of a kind. When using wilds, you must always use a 2:1 ratio of cards to wilds. (i.e. 2 Q’s and 1 wild is ok, 2 Q’s and 2 wilds is not ok). For your first meld, you must lay down a minimum number of points, shown in the table below. This is to help players that are behind catch up.

Melding ranges:
Total Score / Meld
Any negative / 15
0 – 2000 / 50
2000 – 4000 / 90
4000 – 6000 / 120
6000 – 8000 / 150
8000 – over / 180

Getting a Canasta

Once you have 7 of the same cards down on the table, you have a Canasta. Put these cards in a stack and turn them sideways, this indicates to other players that you have burned that Canasta. If another player does not have those cards melded yet, they may no longer play them.

When you get a canasta, you can add a red 3 on top to get bonus points (see Card Points and Canasta Points above)

If you already have a Canasta, you can always add more natural cards to the canasta.  For example, I can add the Ace I just picked up to the Unnatural Canasta of Aces.  I cannot add wilds to a Canasta, unless it is a Wildcard Canasta.

Hint: If you’ve already burnt a Canasta, you can keep collecting those cards and make another Canasta!  For example, I burnt Aces above .. and rather than adding the Ace I just picked up, I could wait until I have three Aces and Meld a new Canasta of Aces!

Going Into your Foot

Once you have played or discarded all the cards in your hand, you may pick up your Foot. If on your last turn you don’t discard, you may play your Foot immediately. If you had to discard the last card in your hand, you must wait for your next turn to play your Foot.

Going Out

The first player that goes out gets an additional 100 points. To go out, you must have two Canastas, at least one of which must be natural (no wilds). You must play all the cards in your Foot. Your last card you may play or discard to the pile.

Counting Points

Once a player has gone out, the game is over. Now the players must count their cards to determine a point total. Here is a simple process to do this:

1) Count your Base. To do this, add up the point total for only your Canastas. Natural: 500 pts, Unnatural: 300 pts, Wild Card: 2,000 pts, Red 3 on top of any Canasta: 100 pts.

Example: If I have 3 Naturals and 1 Unnatural, with Red 3’s on top of two Canastas, then I have:

500 x 3 = 1500 300 x 1 = 300 100 x 2 = 200 Total = 2000 points.

2) Subtract any leftover cards. Cards left in your Hand or Foot count as negative. Subtract these by taking out equivalent positive cards.

Example: If I have 1 Ace leftover in my hand (-20 pts), then I must take out +20 pts from what I have melded on the table, i.e. two 9s. (2 x 10 = +20pts)

3) Count out your total. Easiest method is to group your cards into sets of 100 pts, then count the sets of 100.

Winning – The first person to 10,000 points wins the game!!


Karen’s Apple Pie

November 20th, 2014





It’s holiday time – the time of the year where you try to show your loved ones that they are special and mean the world to you.  Thanksgiving, Christmas, holiday parties, family, friends.  SANTA!!! This time of year is amazing, and adds a hop to all of our steps.  But it can also be particularly hard for me as it brings back memories of my mom passing just before the holidays last year.  Those memories get amplified by olfactory senses … that part of your brain hooked up directly to your nose that smells something and jolts back memories.  We all have them … for me it brings back memories of playing Legos on the floor in St. Louis, running around the neighborhood playing kick-the-can or Laser Tag, and most of all cramming my face with every dish my mom put on the table.  Holiday dinner was never about moderation – a mantra my mom always followed the rest of the year.  I’m pretty sure my mom felt holiday dinners were about adding a layer of fat for the brutal midwestern winters 😉

My mom, Karen, was the person that inspired me to cook.  She loved it, and watching her always amazed me.   I guess that happens after raising three hungry boys!  Here is her famous Apple Pie recipe.  As long as I can remember, mom’s friends would ask her to make it for their holiday parties.  It will blow you away.  Don’t substitute any ingredients – keep it genuine.


Karen's Apple Pie


Preheat oven to 425.


Crust (alternative Vodka Crust)

  • 1 1/2 cups flour (scant)
  • 1/2 cup Cristo (generous)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 Tbls water

Mix the ingredients in a bowl with your hands, roll out on a wooden board using a rolling pin to the size of your pie dish.  Don’t fret it being perfect, and it should be maybe 1/8″ thick.  Place in the pie dish and press into the corners, fold over and ruffle the edges a bit.  Remove any serious excess.


  • 6 cups apples – halved and then thinly slides
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Prep the apples, add the ingredients in a large bowl and mix until well absorbed.  Spread evenly into your pie dish.


  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (packed)
  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts

Mix in a bowl, and spread topping evenly over the pie up to the edges of the crust.

Bake in the preheated 425 degree oven for 15 minutes.  Turn down oven to 325 and continue baking for 30 minutes.  



Karen’s original recipe card – this one got some love didn’t it?


Mom was never big on the details.

Recipes , , , , ,

Hungarian Goulash

August 24th, 2013

oven 400 degrees

put in a heavy wide mouth pot, no lid. I use a large Le Cruset.

slice up several onions, chop up a shit load of garlic, and cube up a nice sized chuck roast into 2″x2″ hunks.

First throw in the onions (should just about fill the pot) w some olive oil once the pot is hot. stir them around for a sec to coat and close the oven. give it a few mins, open back up stir again. Be speedy, you’ll let out all the heat! (I’d never make this in the summertime)

Once the onions have softened a little and begun to get translucent, throw in the garlic. stir around, back in the hot ass oven. Give it a few mins and bring it back out, stir around quick, back in. Now your kitchen is smelling good, throw in the beef and LOTS of paprika. Everything should be well coated w that stuff. Nows a good time for salt n pepper too. Once everything is tossed nicely, pour in chicken stock to cover meat a little over half way, and put in back in the oven.

NOW, leave it alone til it’s done. The meat will brown on top, and it should be fork tender. Check on it every 30 mins or so but DO NOT STIR, you’ll fuck up the browning thats trying to occur. you may have to add a little chicken stock along the way as well, I always do, and once the meat is nice and dark, if the meat’s not falling apart yet, cover with the lid for the rest of the cooking.

In the end you have nicely browned, falling apart beef sitting in a delicious sauce that goes beautifully over buttered egg noodles w some parsley on top and IMO at least twice as good the next day for some reason. I like this method because it’s like making stew upside down and in reverse sort of. I do like the dollop of sour cream on mine, but I’m just a dumb redneck, what do I know? I’ve also used lamb and pork in this recipe, both turned out great. C



Bonnie’s Brazillian cheese balls

December 28th, 2012

Original recipe makes 6 large cheese balls – probably 20 small ones (?)

  • 2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

  • 2 beaten eggs

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
  2. Pour olive oil, water, milk, and salt into a large saucepan, and place over high heat. When the mixture comes to a boil, remove from heat immediately, and stir in tapioca flour and garlic until smooth. Set aside to rest for 10 to 15 minutes.
  3. Stir the cheese and egg into the tapioca mixture until well combined, the mixture will be chunky like cottage cheese. Drop rounded, Tablespoon sized balls of the mixture onto an ungreased baking sheet.
  4. Bake in preheated oven until the tops are lightly browned, 10 to 15 minutes.


Round Rye Bread Dip

December 28th, 2012


1 lb sour cream

8oz cream cheese

1 round rye loaf

garlic powder

dill weed

Tear out middle of loaf.  Mix all ingredients and fill loaf.  Use torn out section for dipping.  Can dip veggies etc too.



Rum Balls

December 28th, 2012


3 c crushed vanilla wafers (11oz box)

2 c powdered sugar

4 T cocoa

4 T corn syrup

2 c ground nuts (walnuts)

10 to 12 T rum

Put all ingredients into a bowl except for powdered sugar and knead by hand.  Roll into balls about quarter-size in diameter.  Put balls into big zip lock with powdered sugar and shake.  Store in air tight container.


NYE Finger Foods

December 23rd, 2012


Smoked Salmon Kettle Chips

There was a recipe not too long ago in Bon Appetit that I made and loved (as did my guests). And it’s ridiculously simple. Salt & black pepper kettle chips. Layer individual chips with a piece of smoked salmon. Top with lemon creme fraiche. (just add lemon zest to creme fraiche to taste.) I usually top with chives. Easy. Great texture and taste. And totally addictive. Great with champagne.


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Devils on Horseback

* You can call them devils on horseback: Wrap pitted dates (replacing the pit with an almond if you like) in bacon. Skewer with toothpicks and broil, turning once, until bacon is done. See also Nigella Lawson (she uses prunes)

Smoked Salmon Pate

  • 150g smoked salmon , trimmings are fine
  • 200g tub soft cheese
  • 1 tbsp crème fraîche , only if you have some
  • juice half a lemon
  • small bunch dill or chives , chopped
  • breadsticks or granary toast, to serve

26 Even jazzier: Cut just-ripe pears in 1/2-inch cubes; sprinkle with a little salt, sugar and cayenne. Spear with bacon.


37 Toss peeled shrimp with lots of minced garlic, pimentón or paprika, cayenne, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Broil until done, turning once, about five minutes.