Baking Tradition

One of my favorite things around the holidays is tradition. And one of the most delightful that has lasted is baking with the boys. As I have said before, this started when these two were 3 and 1 ½. Their mother, Laurie and I, thought it would be fun to have a baking day, so cut-out gingerbread cookies with decorative icing was our plan.

As I remember, it took us five or six hours to roll, bake and decorate with all the enthusiastic little helping hands we had. As the boys got bigger, became better helpers and we were all around more efficient, we baked as many as four or five recipes in our five to six hours.

This year the boys are 16 and 14 ½, and due to scheduling challenges we opted for just cut-out gingerbread cookies with decorative icing and those fabulous chocolate ginger with chocolate chip. The boys helped, the decorating is more creative and avante garde, and we did it all in just under three hours! Wow! What a different 13 years makes!


Tasty Thai at the Diner

This one bears repeating…
The first time I posted about Tasty Thai Chicken (or shrimp or tofu) was almost two years ago; probably the last time the Diner served it. I’m not sure why there is so much time in between its featured time on the menu, but that’s how it is.

This time it was served with some of those fabulous mandarin orange slices (so much easier when the cook peels and veins them – the mandarins, that is.) Look close; you can even see the steam rising from the dinner-in-a-bowl in this photo!

Tasty Thai Shrimp and Sesame Noodles

1 lb. medium shrimp, shelled and deveined (or chicken breast or tofu)
1 – 8 oz bottle Newman’s Own Light Italian Dressing (divided use) (any Italian will do)
2 tbsp chunky peanut butter
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp grated peeled ginger root (sometimes I used candied ginger because I always have that on hand)
1 – 8 oz package capellini or angel hair pasta
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 medium carrot, peeled and shredded (washing and grating will do)
1 cup chopped green onions (about 3 -4, depending on what you like)
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro for garnish (I always forget this, so…)

In medium bowl, mix shrimp with 1/3 cup Italian dressing. Cover and refrigerate one hour.
In small bowl, with wire whisk or fork, mix peanut butter, soy sauce, honey, ginger, red pepper and remaining dressing. Set aside.
After shrimp has marinated one hour, cook pasta according to package directions. Drain.
Meanwhile, in 4-quart saucepan over high heat, heat vegetable oil and sesame oil until very hot. In hot oil, cook carrot one minute.
Drain dressing from shrimp; discard dressing. Add shrimp and green onions to carrot. Cook stirring constantly, about 3 minutes or until shrimp turn opaque throughout.
In large bowl, toss hot pasta with dressing mixture and shrimp mixture. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro.


Mountain Mandarins

It just won’t be the holidays without some fresh, sweet mandarins. For a few years, this meant spending time in Auburn helping at the Mountain Mandarin Festival and packing as many mandarins as I could carry in my suitcase for the trip home.

Now a-days, it means a wonderful surprise special delivery from Nor Cal friends. This year’s special delivery was even better – it was in person!


Man Food - Simple Homemade Goodness

The other night required some special Man Food at the Diner. The Chargers had a night game, their previous month’s results had been dastardly dreadful and HH needed a pick-up. So I dug through the recipe book and came up with some simple homemade goodness, Holly’s Diner-style of course.

When HH called to say he was on the way to the Diner, he wanted to know what was being served for such an important night. Man Food and freshly baked bread, I responded.

What he didn’t know was that I had found the before-Holly recipe that he had of “One Pot Creamy Chicken and Noodles” that was about 12 years old, well seasoned and I’m sure he used to make for himself when dinner was up to him.

When he arrived at the Diner on this particular evening, he saw that the Man Food was in progress but looked nothing like any Man Food he was apparently imagining, especially when he saw a mound of grated cheddar cheese sitting, waiting. He really questioned what I was calling Man Food, and when I whipped out this recipe that called for canned chicken and bouillon cubes, it all came back to him. It would be a good night for a man. What was different was that the bouillon cubes were replaced with organic chicken broth, and the canned chicken was replaced with smoked turkey (another opportunity for leftover Thanksgiving turkey.)

HH was still a bit skeptical about the freshly baked bread I was “selling,” but after biting into the warm, buttery Pillsbury loaf(especially after my recent bread attempt), all was good with the world.  And look, it's a dinner in a bowl as well!  Cool!

The Chargers won this night, by the way.

So the moral of the story, sometimes simple homemade goodness in a Holly’s Diner-style way is all it takes to set the karma right in the world – and assure a Chargers win.

One Pot Creamy Chicken and Noodles – Holly’s Diner-style

3 cups chicken broth (organic if you have it)
8 oz egg noodles
1 cup mixed veggies (peas & carrots worked good, I used frozen)
½ cup chopped onions
1 – 10.5 oz can cream of chicken (or mushroom, if you prefer)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
½ cup milk
2 – 5 oz cans chuck chicken, flaked (or what smoked turkey you have stored in a sandwich sized ziplock bag)
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper

In medium saucepan, bring broth to a boil. Stir in uncooked noodles. Cover, simmer for five minutes, stirring occasionally. Add vegetables and onion. Cover, simmer for five minutes, or until noodles are tender and most liquid is absorbed. Add soup, cheese and milk, mix well. Stir in chicken and pepper. Heat through, serve.


Twelve Days of Brownies & Breads - On the Twelfth Day...

Looks pretty good
Vanilla Bean Brioche with Vanilla-Honey Butter – now here’s a decadent treat. I’ve never made Brioche, but if I can make Popover Rolls I’m ready to try Brioche.

Once again, it’s a Paula Deen so it has to be good.

And as the process progressed, the dough never looked exactly like I thought it should – but what do I know, I’ve never made Brioche. The baking smelled delicious with all that vanilla (by the way, I used vanilla paste instead of vanilla bean). And there was so much butter in it that by the time I got to the “tent and rotate” part, I was sure I needed to drain some of the butter the loaf was swimming in but I refrained.

You can see it didn't rise in the pan
The loaf came out REALLY NOT looking like the photo, but it still smelled good. It was flaky on the outside from all the butter, and plenty dense! The flavor was good, and even better with a dab of vanilla honey butter. HH was a bit skeptical, and doesn’t like all the hard crust around the edges, but with a bit of butter he smiled and sampled. Although I think I’ll be finishing off the loaf myself.

The final verdict – good tasting, substantial bread, but too bad the active yeast didn’t seem to activate. Next time perhaps I need HYPER-active yeast!

Vanilla Bean Brioche with Vanilla-Honey Butter
(Featured in Cooking with Paula Deen, May/June 2011)

3 vanilla beans, split lengthwise and divided
½ cup milk
1 (1/4 oz) package active dry yeast
3 eggs, divided
3 ¾ cups unbleached all-purpose flower, divided
2 tbsp sugar
½ tsp sea salt
1 ½ cups unsalted butter, softened and divided
1 tbsp milk or water
2 tbsp honey

Scrape seeds from 2 vanilla beans into milk, heat to 110º. Add yeast; let stand 5 minutes or until foamy. Lightly beat 2 eggs; stir into milk mixture.

In the bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixer, stir together 3 ½ cups flour, sugar, and salt. Using the dough hook attachment, gradually add yeast mixture, beating at medium speed until dough is smooth and elastic (about 5 minutes.)

Cut 1 cup butter into small pieces; gradually add to dough, 1 tbsp at a time, beating until combined after each addition (dough will be quite sticky). If needed, gradually add just enough remaining flour to make smooth, sticky dough.

Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, turning to grease top; cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 12 hours.

Divide dough into 6 equal portions, and form each into a 4 ½” cylinder. Arrange dough pieces crosswise in a 9” x 5” load pan; cover and let rise 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 375º. Whisk together remaining egg and 1 tbsp milk or water. Lightly brush over dough.

Bake bread for 25 minutes. Tent bread loosely with aluminum foil, and rotate in oven. Bake for an additional 35 – 40 minutes or until golden brown and firm. Cool in pan for 10 minutes. Remove from pan, and cool completely on a wire rack.

In a medium bowl, combine honey and remaining ½ cup butter. Scrape seeds from remaining vanilla bean into butter mixture. Beat at medium speed with a mixer until well combined and fluffy. Serve with brioche.



Twelve Days of Brownies & Breads - On the Eleventh Day

I struggled for a final brownie recipe, because goodness knows one can only eat so many brownies! Then it came to me, it was right under my nose all the time, how could I have forgotten it?! Oatmeal Brownie Gems.

Oh, and these are my favorite brownies – a girl can have two favorites, can’t she!?

Oatmeal Brownie Gems are a tradition at the annual cookie baking day with my friends. Laurie found this recipe and we have never looked back! (Thankfully, because if you eat too many of these you really don’t want to look back!) We have been baking them for over ten years, oh my, has it really been that long?

Anyway, these are delicious and chocolaty and gooey, especially when they are warm. But be warned, they do crumble pretty quickly so eat them fast, share them and enjoy!

Oatmeal Brownie Gems

2 ½ cups oatmeal, uncooked
1 cup flour
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup butter, melted
1 12 oz package M&M mini baking bits (or regular size chopped up)
1 19-21 oz package fudge brownie mix (batter prepared as directed on box)

Preheat oven to 350ºF. In large bowl combine oats, flour, sugar, nuts and baking soda; add butter until mixture forms coarse crumbs. Toss in M&M bits until evenly distributed. Reserve 3 cups of this mixture. Pat remaining mixture onto bottom of 15” x 10” x 1” pan to form crust. Pour prepared brownie mix over crust, carefully spreading into thin layer. Sprinkle reserved crumb mixture over top of brownie mixture. Pat down lightly. Bake 25 – 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs. Cool completely. Cut into 48 bars (that never happens!!) Store in tightly covered container.



Twelve Days of Brownies & Breads - On the Tenth Day...

My DiAnne shared this recipe, too. The recipe is for Banana Blueberry Muffins, but I modified it for bread. Please do as you wish, either would be delicious and so good for you.

DiAnne’s Banana Blueberry Muffins

2 ripe bananas
2 eggs
1 cup packed brown sugar
½ cup butter – melted
½ cup frozen blueberries, thawed
1 tsp vanilla
2 ¼ cups flour
2 tbsp baking powder
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp salt

Mash bananas. Combine bananas, eggs, sugar and butter until well blended. Stir in blueberries and vanilla. Combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add liquid mixture. Mix until blended. Pour into bread pan.

Bake at 350º for 25 – 30 minutes.



Twelve Days of Brownies & Breads - On the Ninth Day...

THESE are my favorite brownies, for a number of reasons.

I found these Katharine Hepburn’s Brownies in Saveur – The New Comfort Food cookbook. There are many wonderful things in this cookbook, but this is the first recipe I tried.

These brownies are more like a flat chocolate cake or torte, so dense and chocolately and decadent! You must try them!

Katharine Hepburn’s Brownies
(From Saveur - The New Comfort Food cookbook)

A version of this recipe accompanied an interview with the actress Katharine Hepburn in the August 1975 issue of The Ladies' Home Journal. This brownie recipe, which calls for the smallest amount of flour, produces incredibly chewy bars with a full but mellow chocolate flavor.

8 tbsp. unsalted butter,
plus more for greasing
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1⁄2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup roughly chopped walnuts
1⁄4 cup flour
1⁄4 tsp. fine salt

1. Heat oven to 325°. Grease an 8" x 8" baking pan with butter. Line the pan with parchment paper; grease the paper. Set the pan aside.

2. Melt the butter and the chocolate together in a 2-quart saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Remove the pan from heat and stir in the sugar. Add the eggs and vanilla and stir to make a smooth batter. Add the walnuts, flour, and salt; stir until incorporated. Pour the batter into the baking pan and spread evenly. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 40–45 minutes. Let cool on a rack. Cut and serve.




Twelve Days of Brownies & Breads - On the Eighth Day...

So I got the original recipe for Popover Rolls from The Food Network Magazine and Alton Brown. Although HH coined them “Popover Pockets” after a few other unflattering names were nixed. Then I found one from Melissa D’Arabian and found the Popovers had more substance – you be the judge.

Either is a great vehicle for a dab of butter or dollop of peach jam.

Basic Popover
Recipe Courtesy Alton Brown, Food Network
Serves:6 large popovers

• 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus 1 teaspoon room temperature for pan
• 4 3/4 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 1 cup
• 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
• 2 large eggs, room temperature
• 1 cup whole milk, room temperature

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Grease a 6-cup popover pan with the 1 teaspoon of butter.
Place all of the ingredients into a food processor or blender and process for 30 seconds. Divide the batter evenly between the cups of the popover pan, each should be about 1/3 to 1/2 full. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 40 minutes. Remove the popovers to a cooling rack and pierce each in the top with a knife to allow steam to escape. Serve warm.

Foolproof Popovers
Recipe courtesy Melissa d'Arabian, Food Network
Serves:8 popovers

• 3 tablespoons melted butter, divided
• 2 eggs
• 1 cup milk, warmed for 30 seconds in the microwave (should be lukewarm to warm)
• 1 cup all-purpose flour
• 1 teaspoon kosher salt

Special equipment: muffin tin
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Using a pastry brush, coat 8 muffin cups with 1 tablespoon of the melted butter and put the tin in the oven for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, mix the eggs in a blender until light yellow. Add the warmed milk and blend. Add the flour, salt and remaining melted butter, and blend until smooth. Pour the batter into the warmed muffin tin and return it to the oven to bake until golden, about 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve warm.



Twelve Days of Brownies & Breads - On the Seventh Day...

My DiAnne (that’s her name around the Diner) shared this recipe with me. She told me it is the most sought after brownie at the dog agility trials in Southern California! That’s my exaggeration, not hers.

Anyway, the brownies were good, but maybe the running around makes them better to her and her group of friends – my favorite is still to come…

Pecan Pie Brownies

Pecan Topping:
1/2 cup butter or margarine
¼ cup Gold Medal® all-purpose flour
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
2 eggs
½ teaspoon vanilla
3 cups coarsely chopped pecans
1box Betty Crocker® Original Supreme brownie mix (with chocolate syrup pouch)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons water
2 eggs

Heat oven to 350°F. Grease bottom only of 13x9-inch pan with cooking spray or shortening.

In 2-quart saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat. Stir in flour until smooth. Stir in brown sugar, corn syrup and 2 eggs until well blended. Cook 2 to 3 minutes, stirring constantly, until mixture just begins to boil. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla and pecans.

In medium bowl, stir brownie mix, pouch of chocolate syrup, oil, water and 2 eggs until well blended. Spread in pan. Spoon pecan topping evenly over batter.

Bake 35 to 38 minutes or until center is set. Cool completely, about 1 hour. For 36 brownies, cut into 6 rows by 6 rows. If desired, garnish each brownie with a pecan half.



Twelve Days of Brownies & Breads - On the Sixth Day...

Well, instead of the traditional gingerbread cookies, how about some gingerbread bread, or loaves? Miss Audrey Rose helped me with these and SS and I thought they were great. We did make only half the recipe, 12 loaves is a LOT of bread even if they are minis!

These loaves are gingery, taste like a fall harvest and are ever so dense.

Gingerbread Mini Loaves
From Paula Deen’s Holiday Baking 2011 – Special Issue

Makes one dozen mini loaves

10 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp ground ginger
4 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp baking soda
2 cups molasses
2 cups water
2 cups butter
1 ½ cups sugar
4 eggs
1 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger

Preheat oven to 350º. In a large bowl, stir together flour, ground ginger, cinnamon, salt, allspice, and baking soda. In a small saucepan, combine molasses and 2 cups water; cook, stirring occasionally, over medium heat until well combined.

In the bowl of a heavy-duty sand mixer, beat butter and sugar at medium speed until creamy; add eggs, one at a time, beating until well combined. Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture alternately with molasses mixture, beating just until combined. Add crystallized ginger. Divide batter among 12 (3” x 5”) loaf pans. Bake for 30 – 35 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out with a few crumbs attached. Cool completely on wire racks.



Twelve Days of Brownies & Breads - On the Fifth Day...

Blondies - how appropriate for Holly’s Diner, and these have chocolate chips. HH wasn’t so sure about these at first, “blonde brownies?” How’s that supposed to work? When I “sold” them as chocolate chip cookies in a bar, he was all about the Blondies.

These are a Paula Deen recipe, too. I under cooked mine a little too much, but they were still delicious!

Paula Deen's Blonde Brownies
Adapted from The Lady & Sons Savannah Country Cookbook


2 eggs
¾ cup butter
2 cups brown sugar
2 cups self rising flour
2 ½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
1 tbsp. vanilla
12 oz. semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Beat eggs and butter together and add sugar. Gradually add flour and mix well. Stir in vanilla. Fold in nuts, coconut, and chocolate chips. Bake in greased and floured 9x13 pan for 25 to 30 minutes. Allow to cool, cut and serve.



Twelve Days of Breads & Brownies - On the Fourth Day...

It’s banana bread time, but let’s do something special for the holidays – Chocolate Banana Bread, mmmm! And it’s a Paula Deen recipe, so you know it’s going to be delicious.

This was good stuff, and HH was sorry there wasn’t more – I was sharing the bread with others so the Diner didn’t end up with all of it, and my exercising didn’t have to be endless!!

Chocolate Banana Bread
(Featured in Cooking with Paula Deen, September/October 2010)

1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
¾ tsp baking soda
¾ tsp salt
¼ cup butter, melted
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 ½ cups ripe mashed banana (about 4 bananas)
1/3 cup plain yogurt
1 tsp vanilla extract
6 oz chopped bittersweet chocolate.

Preheat oven to 350º. Spray a 9” x 5” baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. In a large bowl, combine flours, sugar, baking soda and salt. In another large bowl, combine butter, eggs, bananas, yogurt and vanilla, whisking until smooth.

Fold flour mixture into butter mixture until well incorporated. Stir in chocolate. Pour into prepared pan. Bake 50 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.



Twelve Days of Brownies & Breads - On the Third Day...

I discovered these Outrageous Brownies from The Barefoot Contessa on the Food Network. How could I resist an outrageous brownie?

As good as these brownies were, I have to confess, and I don’t know that I would make them again anytime soon – once was enough, just look at what is in them!

1999, The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook This was adapted from a recipe for chocolate globs in the Soho Charcuterie Cookbook.

• 1 pound unsalted butter
• 1 pound plus 12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
• 6 ounces unsweetened chocolate
• 6 extra-large eggs
• 3 tablespoons instant coffee granules
• 2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
• 2 1/4 cups sugar
• 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 tablespoon baking powder
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 3 cups chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Butter and flour a 12 x 18 x 1-inch baking sheet.

Melt together the butter, 1 pound of chocolate chips, and the unsweetened chocolate in a medium bowl over simmering water. Allow to cool slightly. In a large bowl, stir (do not beat) together the eggs, coffee granules, vanilla, and sugar. Stir the warm chocolate mixture into the egg mixture and allow to cool to room temperature.

In a medium bowl, sift together 1 cup of flour, the baking powder, and salt. Add to the cooled chocolate mixture. Toss the walnuts and 12 ounces of chocolate chips in a medium bowl with 1/4 cup of flour, then add them to the chocolate batter. Pour into the baking sheet.

Bake for 20 minutes, then rap the baking sheet against the oven shelf to force the air to escape from between the pan and the brownie dough. Bake for about 15 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Do not overbake! Allow to cool thoroughly, refrigerate, and cut into 20 large squares



Twelve Days of Brownies & Breads - On the Second Day...

I know Zucchini bread is normally a summer thing, with the fresh zucchini picked off the vine. But really, zucchini bread is good any time and this recipe from HH’s Mom’s neighbor is a Diner favorite.
Zucchini Bread – Holly’s Diner Style

Mix together –
3 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt (sea salt)
1 tsp cinnamon

Mix together –
3 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 cup Olive Oil
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp lemon zest, if you have it

2 cups shredded zucchini (heaping)
1 cup chopped walnuts

Add flour mixture to egg mixture. Beat until blended. Add zucchini and walnuts. Pour into two loaf pans.
Bake at 325º for 55-60 minutes or until toothpick inserted near center comes out clean.

Cool for ten minutes before removing from pans.



Twelve Days of Brownies & Breads - On the First Day...

It’s that time of year - time for baking and indulgence and deliciousness.

This year I decided to do a combination of sweet and savory, so it’s brownies and breads. The brownies are all sweet (obviously), and the breads are sweet and savory. Get ready for the ride, here we go!

I was in the mood for something a little spicy and found these Mexican Brownies. The recipe was easy, the brownies were yummy (yes, were!) But remember, brownies are always better a little under done, at least I think so.

Recipe courtesy Aaron Sanchez for Food Network Magazine

• 2 sticks unsalted butter, plus more for greasing
• 2 cups sugar
• 4 large eggs
• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
• 2/3 cup good-quality unsweetened cocoa powder
• 1 cup all-purpose flour
• 1 teaspoon ground Mexican cinnamon (canela)
• 1/4 teaspoon pequen chili powder or cayenne pepper
• 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
• 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on two sides. Press the paper into the corners of the pan and lightly grease the paper with butter.
Melt the 2 sticks of butter in a nonstick saucepan over medium-low heat; do not boil. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly. Add the sugar, eggs and vanilla to the saucepan and stir with a wooden spoon until combined.
Add the cocoa, flour, cinnamon, chili powder, salt and baking powder and mix until smooth. Spread the batter in the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out fudgy, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool in the pan on a rack, then use the parchment paper to lift out the brownies before slicing.



Grandma Helen's Enchiladas

I’m not quite sure what has happened to enchilada sauce in the market place, or maybe a better question is, I’m not quite sure what has happened to the taste buds at the Diner.

I used to be able to make enchiladas with a mild canned enchilada sauce, but lately that hasn’t worked out and HH can’t take more than two or three bites and he’s done – too spicy. I don’t think it’s just him because even though I think they taste good, I have to admit they are a bit spicier than I might choose – if I’m breaking a sweat while eating them they are too spicy.

Anyway, I was talking to Anna about this a few weeks back and she said, “What about your Grandma’s enchiladas?” I had forgotten about them. I have to confess I don’t really remember Grandma Helen making them, but I remember Anna making them. Anna said that Grandma Helen’s enchiladas were one of five “recipes” or meals she had to take lessons from my grandmother in order to cook them properly for my dad – homemade tacos also one of the five.

Knowing that I had Grandma Helen’s recipe box, I started thumbing through her recipes when I got back to the Diner and viola! The enchilada recipe card! This card is just like I like them - pre-seasoned, written in pencil in my grandmother’s handwriting with notes in pen, and the big batch recipe if needed.

Well, last night was Grandma Helen’s enchilada night at the Diner. I constructed them as best I could from a somewhat ledge able recipe card (probably older than I am!) that leaves a lot of room for error. They were not as familiar as I was constructing them, but worth a try since they were Daddy’s favorite. I simply told HH that I was trying a new recipe, he said, “Oh boy! I get to be the guinea pig again.” When the timer went off and I opened the oven, the memories came flooding back! The smell of these enchiladas was as familiar as though Anna (or my grandma) had cooked them just yesterday, and it’s probably been 15 - 20 years or more since I have smelled these enchiladas.

HH and I sat down to test them. HH loved them! They were the best enchiladas ever! Now remember, I’ve cooked Paul Deen’s enchiladas, a version of my own enchiladas, and those fabulous mole enchiladas – but these, according to HH, are the best. I told him they were my dad’s favorite; he looked at me and said, “Your dad and I would have gotten along really well.” Yes, they would have.

Grandma Helen’s Enchiladas
(Slightly modified for today’s cooking and Holly’s Diner)

1 package of 10 corn tortillas
1 lb ground beef, seasoned to taste (Worcestershire sauce, steak seasoning, ancho chili powder)
2 cans Hormel Chili no beans
1 cup water
½ an onion, diced
A grated box full of cheddar cheese

In a pan combine Hormel chili and water, heat. In a separate pan brown and season ground beef.

Form an assembly line of tortillas, chili, ground beef, onions, cheese, and rectangular baking pan.

Dip one tortilla in chili, turn over so both sides are wet then place in baking pan. Scoop in some ground beef, sprinkle of diced onions and pinch of cheddar cheese and fold over tortilla with fold side down in pan. Repeat for all tortillas.

Pour remaining chili sauce over enchiladas, top with remaining onions and cheese. Put in oven for 35 minutes at 350º. Serve hot.



A Homemade Life

I just had to share…
I ran across this book while in Alabama at the Alabama Booksmith – better late to the party than not at all.

I found this book in the soft back edition, since it originally came out in 2009, and I recognized the author Molly Wizenberg who also writes orangette.blogspot.com.

I originally ran across Molly’s Orangette blog when I was trying to figure out how/what Holly’s Diner was going to be in its pre-Holly’s Diner phase. I thought Orangette was clean, elegant, warm, welcoming and probably above my ability – but I loved it. If you look at Orangette, you will see that Holly’s Diner looks nothing like it but the idea of stories and memories and food and having something to say are very similar.

As I started reading A Homemade Life I found that I connected with Molly in the introduction when she said “I wanted a space to write about food.” I was hooked. I also started to do two things that I NEVER do with a book – underline in pen and turn back the corners. I must have 15 pages turned back and have sentences and paragraphs underlined all over the place.

As I continued Molly’s journey of stories and recipes that made a different in her life, I found myself laughing out loud, seeing a better way to talk about recipes that are not mine but important and properly acknowledge the creator, and reaffirming that my voice at Holly’s Diner as I “talk” to SS is definitely the way to go.

Then I got to the middle of the book, and over a few chapters I found myself putting the book down so I could recompose myself (on an airplane) as the stories of her Dad struck such a cord and brought back so many memories that I was crying enough that I couldn’t see the words on the page!

I really need to write a letter to Molly and thank her. I should let her know how her blog and book impacted me. In the meantime, I encourage you to pick it up, read a little and hopefully enjoy. You may not connect with A Homemade Life like I did, but it’s worth a few heart-felt stories and delicious recipes.

Oh! And SS and I are using A Homemade Life for our current book club; I wonder what recipe we will pick to share on Skype?


Thanksgiving Recap

Ahh, the big day is over and the pressure is off – both in the kitchen and on our tummies.

We cooked, we eat, we cleaned, we slept. And the leftovers began this morning.

The meal was delicious, although not perfect which leaves room for a do-over next year.

The table consisted of a wonderful smoked turkey, compliments of HH. This meant a special “bird bath” the night before with molasses, orange slices, onions, garlic, peppercorns and bay leaves. The turkey was delicious and moist and smoky.

Then there were the homemade popover rolls and special Tarte Tatin (French apple tart). The popover rolls were better with a different recipe then the first attempt a few weeks ago, but the Tarte Tatin caramel was over cooked. Oh well, that’s why I bought a chocolate cake for HH earlier in the week.


There was sweet potato casserole, stuffing (I went astray from my usual recipe and need to get back on track for next year), mashed potatoes, gravy, deviled eggs, Anna’s cranberry Waldorf salad and for the “green” dish a wonderful fall salad with baby Bibb lettuce, arugula, pomegranate seeds and mandarin orange slices.

The big faux pas of the day was mine. I was so focused on getting the popover rolls and Tarte Tatin in the oven and not opening it so the popover rolls didn’t fall, that I forgot about heating the sweet potatoes and stuffing! So once the popover rolls and Tarte Tatin came out of the oven, they had to sit for about 20 minutes in order to warm the others – that meant the popover rolls fell and got cold – not their best presentation, but still better than the first attempt.

Oh well, as I said, there is room for a do-over next year. And don’t worry, HH didn’t go hungry, he managed to fill his plate with all kinds of tasty treats!


Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Details tomorrow, now for some rest.


One Day to Turkey

There’s one day left, and not as much cooking as I thought today but still stuff to do. There was one last trip to the market (even though I said I was done) – not as many craisins on hand as I thought, so I needed more; some sliced up “gourmet” bread strips (since there is not quite enough left over corn bread for stuffing); and a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting for HH – very un-Thanksgiving if you ask me, but he is not a big fan of apple pie so I want him to be happy.

Ironed the linens and set the table, made the Thanksgiving arrangement (which is more than I do some years), laid everything out for the brining of the turkey tonight, making the sweet potato dish, assembling everything for the stuffing, and maybe I’ll attack the deviled eggs. See, not much at all!

Ahh, but it’s all worth it for the biggest and best eating day of the year – and the cooking is still my favorite part!


The Countdown to Turkey

It’s time to start Thanksgiving Cooking Week. The cornbread is baked, sitting on the counter to dry out for stuffing. The eggs are hard boiled, and cooling, getting ready for peeling and separating to become deviled eggs. The yams are cooking for the “sweet potato” whip. Checked on the star of the show to make sure it was thawing in time to be brined.

Things are looking good!


Are You Ready for Some Turkey?

Well? Are you?

It’s that time of year, my favorite cooking holiday of the year! The planning began about two weeks ago with the start of “the list.” Last week I confirmed recipes and did most of the shopping, then came a few adjustments, and yesterday (hopefully) the last of the shopping.

I’ve been quite inspired this year and a few of the things I get pre-prepared, I’m going to make myself (I’m sure HH is very excited about that!) For rolls, instead of Hawaiian sweet rolls I’m making a revised Popover roll. Instead of Mrs. Smith’s Deep Dish Apple Pie, I’m going to make Julia’s Tarte Tatin, inspired by A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg (more on that in a few days).

How is your planning going? How’s your list coming along? Remember, a check mark to the right indicates the ingredients have been purchased. Check marks on the left happen when the item is prepared and ready to go, finally a strike-through of the item when it is on the table, served and ready to go.

I talked to SS the other day, she wondered if “the list” had begun – I did not disappoint!


Detour - Sacramento

HH and I spent a few days in Sacramento recently.

On the “our time” agenda was the Thursday night Chargers game and a Charger-friendly place to watch the game. We found it at Players. But that’s enough said about that game. Oh, the turkey bacon cheese burger was really good.

Then there was the Farmers Market on a rainy morning. What beautiful produce!

And look, SS, they had cranberry bean!

Too bad this stuff was not suitcase friendly, I really thought about stocking up for the Diner.



Man Food

After a week of trying to get HH healthy, it was a week of homemade soup - Ancho Chili Corn Chowder with fresh/frozen corn from the summer, Albondigas, Potato & Leek soup with ham and cheddar cheese.

(The Corn Chowder and Potato & Leek Soup are camera shy, plus they taste much better than they photograph!)

To help him feel a little better, it was Grandma Baker’s Mayonnaise Cake on Saturday - here's the mini version.

And finally it had to be Man Food on football Sunday. Good thing it was comfort food, too, after a Charger loss.

Thankfully the Diner is back up and running!

PS - HH is feeling better, too!


Last Stop, Downtown Homewood

My last day in Alabama, I spent the morning in downtown Homewood. I walked downtown (after dropping off Miss Audrey’s lunch at school, which she forgot since she was distracted by an episode of Toddlers and Tiaras.) It was a beautiful, brisk fall morning, the last day of October. The fall colors were the best they have been of all my visits, the leaves were falling; being bundled up in my field coat and scarf was just right.

I passed the Piggly Wiggly, went past the mortuary and turned right at the top of the hill that led to the village of Homewood. I window shopped, browsed through the stores, reminded myself not to fritter any money and thought about what would actually fit in my suitcase for the flight home.

In the end it was Savage’s Bakery that was calling my name – no harm in Halloween cookies, they would be gone before my flight the next AM. 

And then down to Sam’s Sandwich Shop.

John and I were supposed to meet at Sam’s, but I got done with my window shopping before the appointed time. So I called John to see what he wanted from Sam’s – a Slaw Dog, no onions with chips and a Coke. After much deliberation (I thought the chicken salad sandwich looked good until I noticed the pickles and that was out; the Super Dog looked interesting but upon inquiring, it was just a hot dog with extra meat on top, not my style) I settled on a Chili Dog, “with everything?” I was asked. What is everything? Chili, onions, mustard - I opted for their tradition and a sweet tea (of course!)

John picked me up at the back door of Sam’s, told me about the latest breaking news on the sports radio station – the Kardashian/Humphries divorce – and we went back to the house to enjoy dogs from a Homewood institution (not to mention hole-in-the-wall).

The chili dog was delicious. The sweet tea was fabulous. And spending time chatting with a southern “boy” from Auburn was a fitting way to conclude this year’s Southern culinary tour.

I’m already looking forward to next year.


Holly's Diner at Shannon Sue's

While visiting SS’ I wanted to contribute so I brought some recipes along, got some help and everyone loved the menu. By the way, for those of you wondering what Alabama looks like, this is what it looks like to me – green, cozy, warm, welcoming, such a beautiful place.

I started off with gingerbread loaves (more on those during the Twelve Days of… next month). This is Miss Audrey Rose admiring the baking.

Then we had decided on a recipe for pasta and lentil soup. As we were buying ingredients, SS paused and said “is there meat in this?” No, that’s what the lentils are for. She said that wouldn’t fly with John and we needed some meat, so we added ground turkey. By the way, all this cooking was done in SS’ fabulous new oven – look at all those burners! Especially the elongated middle one which was perfect for the grill pan and the grilled cheese sandwiches for the Halloween party.

Madge made an appearance at that party, by the way, to help Miss Audrey Rose with her “Toddlers and Tiaras” make-up and hair.

Back to the soup, which turned out to be stoup (stew/soup)…we served the delicious fall dinner on SS’ Daisy and Dot dishes, these were our grandmother’s. I remember when we were younger I thought those dishes were just boring, brown dishes. Now I think they are folksy and homey and perfect for fall. How times change, and oh how that soup was delicious!

By the way, one of the things that is an added bonus during my Alabama fall visit, we celebrate my birthday since it is just a few weeks away! This year it was all about the South. There was the apron from the Piggly Wiggly, a wonderful necklace that has a cut-out from one of the pages of To Kill a Mockingbird and references Boo Radley (just perfect for Halloween), and a new magazine SS discovered – Garden and Gun with a cover story of “50 Best Southern Foods”. So cool!


Alabama Booksmith

One of my favorite stops while visiting Birmingham is the Alabama Booksmith, and this year was no exception.

Fortunately, I found a few food related books like the Southern Living Off the Eaten Path. I had been looking at this one online and found it at the Alabama Booksmith signed by the author. Having first edition books signed by the author and having a whole room dedicated to authors with southern voices is the niche that Alabama Booksmith has found – and it works!

After a visit one day, SS and I went back a few days later for a special author remembrance and signing by some friends of hers. During that visit, I found A Homemade Life by the author of the Orangette blog page – one of the first one’s I discovered when starting Holly’s Diner.

If you are ever in Birmingham, you must stop by the Alabama Booksmith and say “hi” to Jake, I always do. In the meantime, just stop by their website (alabamabooksmith.com) and discover something you may not be able to live without!


Southern Treats

It must be fall, and better yet Halloween, with a trek to Birmingham. When I tell diners I’m headed to Alabama for the weekend they look questioningly at me and say “Really? One purpose?” Yes, really and most definitely on purpose. Birmingham is were SS and John are, where Miss Audrey Rose is, where Bodie is and my whole Southern extended family – thanks to SS.

My first night in town and I was given the option, a new restaurant SS had heard good things about or Saw’s BBQ. I’m always looking for something new, so Ollie Irene’s it was. Ollie Irene is a cute little place in Mountain Brook Village, sandwiched between Smith’s Variety (a wonderful gifts and notions store) and Western Grocery (a gourmet influenced market).

Ollie Irene had a great down-to-earth décor with a welcoming feeling, although I wasn’t sure my jeans, tennies and sweatshirt were going to cut it on attire. This is the South and gentlemen still wear a coat out to dinner occasionally. Anyway, I ordered shrimp bisque and make your own crostini; SS had gnocchi and mixed southern peas; John had slow cooked pork and mashed potatoes; Miss Audrey was a bit deflated when she learned there was no kids meal so she settled for “fries” (pick you battles, SS always says!)


After a bit of a delay, we decided John’s slow cooked pork must have been slow cookin’ indeed, dinner was served. At first glance we thought we might leave hungry, but quickly learned the portions were just right it was just that our expectations of the portions were a bit more based on the price.

Well, two nights later, with the travesty of the Auburn home game against Ole Miss NOT televised (OMG!), I suggested Saw’s BBQ (one of John’s favorites) since he had to listen to the game on the radio. SS had introduced me to Saw’s last year and I was a bit taken aback by the vinegary sauces. This time I ordered the pulled pork sandwich and cole slaw with a sweet tea. The sandwich was great; it really didn’t need sauce with such tender and flavorful meat. The cole slaw was still too vinegary for me (SS says it’s because of my bad pickle experience as a kid – she was there, she would know!) and the sweet tea was great.


So the Southern indulgences were off to a great start, with more to come.


Drum Roll Please.....

Well, finally the results! (Sorry for the delay, a little travel immediately following the big chili cook-off.)

After entering the DMF Chili Cook-off for the first time, after being so indecisive that I entered the Mole Mole Chili and the Spicy Buffalo Chili (more excited than indecisive), after the judges judged and the “people” sample, it was apparently a tie! Being that this was at the fairgrounds and American system of judging applied (meaning a definitive winner had to emerge), it was a second place (and $50!) for the Spicy Buffalo Chili!! Woo Hoo!!

It was very exciting, a few people asked for the recipe and of course I referred them to the Diner – the more the merrier! Try it yourself and let me know what you think – it is delicious.


Chili Cook-off Prep

So the big Chili Cook-off at the DMF is tomorrow. Now I have organized and/or judged a number of Chili Cook-off competitions, but I have never entered. And being that I have been exposed to so many delicious chili recipes, it was hard to narrow down the field not counting the modified recipes that I have. Therefore, I have settled on two chili recipes and neither have beef.

There is the Mole Mole Chili that you have seen before at the Diner, and the Spicy Buffalo Chili that I experienced at the first BFF Chili Cook-off.

Both recipes are in the recipe listings to the left hand side. I’ll let you know what happens.

Stay tuned…


Cappellini al Forno

So I saw cute little Giada De Laurentiis fixing this on TV during the summer and wanted to try it. But it is pasta and that just didn’t seem like a summer dish to me, it meant turning on the oven and I avoid that during the summer. So with Bowl Season in full swing, I thought the time was ripe for Cappellini al Forno.

As I was fixing Cappellini al Forno, it struck me how much it was like the Spaghetti alla Carbonara I made not too long ago. Hmmm, I’m either getting old and forgetting what I’m making, or I’m starting to have themed weeks – I’m going with the themed weeks theory. Calzone and homemade hot pockets, chili and chili, Spaghetti alla Carbonara and Cappellini al Forno – you get the picture.

This dish reminds me of that wonderful looking Timpano from The Big Night, one of my favorite movies. Anyway, as I was reading Giada’s recipe I realized there may not be enough guests at the Diner that evening to validate a full order, so a half size Cappellini al Forno it was.

Although I basically had all the ingredients, like many recipes at the Diner, it had to fit the kitchen. For Cappellini al Forno that meant the 9” non-stick springform pan became a smaller greased up casserole pan, the cappellini was angel hair (technically the same thing), the prosciutto became thinly sliced deli ham, and the smoked mozzarella was low-fat mozzarella.

I cooked everything up, sliced and grated, stacked and pushed, even with a half recipe I should have used a bigger dish. Oh well, it worked out.

When HH arrived at the Diner, I told him we were trying something new and with his best smile and enthusiastic voice he said “Another new recipe?” I told him it was similar to his favorite baked spaghetti, although with a few additional embellishments and sauce on the side if he didn’t want it.

In the end, HH said he liked it, how about that! Not to worry, HH, its back to meat and potatoes on tonight’s Blue Plate Special.



Chicken Salad Sandwich

During the start of Bowl Season, the weather changed. Suddenly the Diner was back up to 95º+ and the prospect of cooking over the stove or having the oven on for any length of time was not my fondest wish! I was actually dreaming of the yummy chicken salad I had had a Costco but heaven knows I can’t serve that at the Diner! Invention (or experimentation, however you want to look at it) became the key in the kitchen that day.

The featured item that night at the Diner was Chicken Salad with Sweet Potato Fries. (Seriously, if I was going to cook fries at the Diner they needed to have some redeeming nutritional value to them!) It was delicious, if I do say so myself and HH thought it was great too!

Here’s the recipe for a delicious Chicken Salad with very Diner-style measurements.

Chicken Salad – Holly’s Diner-style

1 chicken breast, skinned and boned + mayo and seasoning to taste
Palm full of chopped pecans
Palm full of chopped almonds
Palm and a half full of sunflower seeds
Handful of frozen peas
Palm full of chopped craisins
Two tbsp (heaping) mayo
1 tsp (heaping) sour cream
Pinch of sea salt
Dash of ground pepper
Smidgen of Old Bay Seasoning

Slather chicken breast in mayo and chicken seasoning, baked for 35 at 350º, cool
Break up chicken by hand into small pieces
Add pecans, almonds, sunflower seeds, peas, craisins
Mix in mayo and sour cream, then add salt, pepper, Old Bay to taste.

Makes about three sandwiches or two salads




Calzone or Homemade Hot Pocket?

Recently inspired by the arrival of the Food Network Magazine October 2011 edition, I decided to see what the difference in technique was between a homemade hot pocket and a calzone.

The difference between the yummy insides was obvious – red sauce in the calzone. The difference in exterior called for refrigerated French bread dough vs. refrigerated pizza crust dough, but the process was very much the same.

So off I went to serve homemade ham and cheese hot pockets one night and homemade calzone just a few nights later. The homemade hot pocket was definitely easier, simply because there was less in it. Although the pizza dough was far superior to the French bread dough – the pizza dough didn’t pull apart on me before I could really get things going!

The verdict – they both tasted great and HH said “yes” to serving either anytime soon! The only problem…I can’t put my hands on the pesky recipe! I had it just a few weeks ago and now it’s disappeared into the recipe black hole! Son of a biscuit! Well, it will turn up soon, I’m sure.


• 1 cup grated gruyere cheese (about 3 ounces)
• 1 cup deli-sliced ham, chopped (about 4 ounces)
• 2 teaspoons dijon mustard
• 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
• Pinch of cayenne pepper
• Vegetable oil, for brushing
• All-purpose flour, for dusting
• 1 11-ounce tube refrigerated French bread dough
• 1 large egg

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Mix the gruyere, ham, mustard, nutmeg and cayenne in a bowl until combined. Squeeze the mixture together with your hands to make it compact.
Brush a baking sheet lightly with vegetable oil. On a floured surface, roll out the dough and fill the dinner pockets.
Place the pockets seam-side down on the prepared baking sheet. Beat the egg and 1 tablespoon water in a small bowl; brush the pockets with the egg wash. Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes.

Serves 4


From Blocked to Bowls

Even though my writing “bug” has been blocked, my cooking “bug” has been in full swing. HH will verify that since it’s his favorite time of year…Bowl Season!! Okay, so maybe he likes cookie baking season during the holidays a little more, but he still likes Bowl Season (although he may protest a bit occasionally, since meat and potatoes aren’t usually served in a bowl.)

In the past few weeks at the Diner, HH has enjoyed Beef Stroganoff

Chicken Pasta Alfredo with Broccoli

Heart Pasta with Artichoke Parmesan Sauce

And Spaghetti alla Carbonara.

I’ve been waiting to make the Spaghetti alla Carbonara for a while, even thinking about serving it for breakfast but I wasn’t sure HH would go for pasta for breakfast. With pancheta, egg yolks and parmesan I knew this would be creamy, delicate and rich. And it was. HH even liked it.

I saved the leftover for the next morning and was looking forward to having them for breakfast. I heated them up, got ready for the first bite and all of a sudden the creamy richness of the evening before was heavy and thick and the aroma was overwhelming – not appetizing at all. I don’t know what happened. I guess this is just meant as a dinner option for the Diner, or certainly not one that is meant for leftovers.

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

To make this dish the traditional Roman way, mix the cheese, eggs, pepper, and pork in a bowl to create a thick sauce before tossing it with the pasta. This recipe appeared in "Eternal Pleasures," author Anya von Bremzen's tribute to classic Roman dishes (Saveur Magazine - April 2010)

4 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
4 oz. thinly sliced guanciale or pancetta cut
into 1⁄2" pieces
2 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper, plus more
to taste
1 3⁄4 cups finely grated Parmesan
1 egg plus 3 yolks
Kosher salt, to taste
1 lb. spaghetti

1. Heat oil in a 10" skillet over medium heat. Add guanciale and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, 6–8 minutes. Add pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, 2 minutes more. Transfer guanciale mixture to a large bowl and let cool slightly; stir in 1 1⁄2 cups Parmesan and egg and yolks and stir to combine; set aside.

2. Meanwhile, bring a 6-qt. pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta; cook until al dente, 8–10 minutes. Reserve 3⁄4 cup water; drain pasta and transfer it to guanciale mixture. Toss, adding pasta water a little at a time to make a creamy sauce. Season with salt and pepper; serve with remaining Parmesan.




Dear Diners,

I apologize for the month long delay of a new post, I’ve just been blocked – writer’s block that is.

I’ve been trying new recipes, HH will tell you Bowl Season has begun (then taken a bit of a hiatus with warm weather) and baking for the Twelve Days of…

I’ve entered a Chili Cook-off in two weeks so maybe that will inspire some creative writing. In the meantime, thank you for your patience and I encourage any topics you might be interested in “tasting.”


San Diego Vacation

HH and I indulged in so many delicious San Diego treats, it was almost hard to keep track of them all! Although I’ve highlighted some of them in recent posts, I thought I would share a list of all of our stops in San Diego just in case you might like to try one (or two or three) out on your next visit.

Here it goes:

Hob Nob Hill
C Level
Blue Water Seafood Market & Grill
Grove Pastry Shop
Valley Farm Market
Point Loma Seafood
The Godfather’s
Ramona Café
Pizzeria Luigi
Mr. Fish and Chips

And now it’s time for lean meats and lots of greens at Holly’s Diner for awhile!



We Will Remember
New York   Pennsylvania   Washington DC


Diner Drivin - Part 14 and 15

On our San Diego vacation, HH had a few old haunts he wanted to share – The Godfather’s Restaurant, and Mr. Fish and Chips. He has been telling me about these two places for at least eight years.

So he picked The Godfather’s Restaurant for our anniversary this year. We don’t normally go to Italian places since Italian food (mainly red sauce) is not HH’s favorite. (Boy, he must really love me since one of my favorite things is making Art’s Special Sauce and using it for lasagna, pasta, pizza, etc.)

Anyway, he told me where it was and that is was kind of deceiving – well that was the truth! This place is stuck back in the corner of a strip mall off of busy Clairemont Mesa Blvd. After we parked and started walking toward the front, the fountain helped some, but one would normally still be skeptical – I wasn’t, I was with HH.

Anyway, the door opened and it was another place. The host met us and seated us right away. Then there was a procession on mature, male servers all in black suits, white shirts and ties.

We were in our own gazebo-type booth with a photo of The Godfather on the wall.

They started us off with fried zucchini spears.

HH ordered what he had been sooo waiting for – a sautéed chicken liver in white wine and onions, as that dish is NOT served at Holly’s Diner.

I had the ravioli in red sauce.

Oh my gosh, everything was so delicious. And when they finally figured out that the big obnoxious candle at our table was our anniversary candle (from our wedding), they sent us home with a piece of raspberry cake – oh so good.

HH’s other stop was a few days later, but also in Clairemont. It was Mister Fish and Chips. As we drove up, he started to panic; it wasn’t where it was supposed to be! But I saw it right way – the grocery store had taken the space there the original restaurant was so they just moved over a few doors.

I ordered a piece of fish and onion rings, HH ordered two pieces of fish and zucchini.

Although the baskets didn’t look that diverse in color, texture or variety they were absolutely delicious. After our fish and chips “tour” last year in Seattle, and trying fish and chips all around town when we can, this stuff is definitely worth returning for.

The tempura batter was so light and crispy. Not oily or greasy, just deep-fried deliciousness. We will definitely have to stop again – after vacation.


Diner Drivin - Part 13

Point Loma Seafood.  This is one of my favorite places in all of San Diego.

Some of it is the incredibly fresh fish, some of it is the casual atmosphere, some of it is the fact that it means taking our culinary treasures just a few minutes down the road to feast at Shelter Island.

So I had heard that Point Loma Seafood was closed (hard to believe).  I found out that it had closed for a few days in May so they could temporarily transfer the place to a building just behind the previous building.  This is allowed them to tear-down the original building and new construction has begun.  Apparently the new two-story place will be up and running in January – can’t wait!!

Anyway, on this fine San Diego vacation evening, HH and I got a bunch of sushi and a cod sandwich to share.

Although it looked like a lot of food, we had no problem polishing it all off. 

Then HH did some fishing and I did some walking and swinging (the kids had evacuated the play area, so I took the opportunity!)

The perfect San Diego evening at the bay.


Diner Drivin - Part 10, 11 and 12

Well, our San Diego vacation continued to be quite the food fest!

HH and I finally visited Hodad’s in Ocean Beach. HH got the Guido Burger with pastrami, grilled onions, Swiss cheese and more.

I opted for the single cheeseburger. HH always gives me a hard time about the height of my build-a-burger at the Diner; this one far exceeded my burger! So much so that I had to remove two of the three tomato slices and one of the two onion slices just to get it in my mouth!

We arrived at 11:20 AM, and it was a good thing as the place was packed with locals and out-of-towners (you could tell) by 11:45 AM.

The burgers were good, the fries were big, the problem – we both had unsettled tummies a few hours later. I guess we will stick to build-a-burger Holly’s Diner-style.

Next we went to the Ramona Café. I honestly didn’t think we would make it on our San Diego vacation; it is just a little out of our way. But we went to Safari Park that morning do a drive to Ramona wasn’t too bad.

HH ordered the turkey sandwich dinner. HH, are you sure that’s just a lunch portion?! Wow! He said it was delicious.

I had the veggie sandwich, sans mushrooms, with coleslaw. It was delicious! Although there was so much I had to save half for dinner later. The bread had a grilled parmesan coating, so yummy.

We decided to take the famous cinnamon roll home for the next morning; after heating it up it lived up to the hype.

They did have a table card about a recipe contest; the problem was it was so new there was no info yet. No flyer, no details, no nothing. So I left my Holly’s Diner card to have them send me some info, we’ll see what happens.

Finally, on our Diners Drive-Ins and Dives excursion, we visited Pizzeria Luigi – their new location on El Cajon Blvd.

HH and I got an assortment of slices to take with us to the San Diego Harbor. We enjoyed our Mona Lisa (pep, saus, bell peppers, mushrooms, onions and black olives), The Capone (pep, saus, meatball), Margherita (tomatoes, garlic, no tomato sauce) and traditional pepperoni. They were all delicious, and we had a few folks stop and ask where the pizza was from.

Next dining stop, our picks for vacation (or otherwise) in San Diego – stay tuned…


Diner Drivin - Part 9

HH and I made our second stop on our San Diego vacation to Blue Water Seafood (right next door to El Indio, who knew!) This was another stop on Diners Drive-Ins and Dives in our hometown that we wanted to try.

We arrived just before 11:30 AM with a line, but definitely at the right time! HH got a Hawaiian Tuna sandwich and I got tacos – shrimp and Ahi. We sat out on the enclosed patio, waited a little for our lunch but there was a sign that warned us that this was no fast food joint. Blue Water Seafood is all about fresh food, and very delicious at that!

The hunk of Ahi that was in my fish taco was unbelievable; I would have been very satisfied with just this one taco. But moving on to the shrimp taco was amazing too!

We really enjoyed our visit to this very established place with a definite following right in our own backyard. Yummy.


Diner Drivin - Part 8

HH and I are vacationing in San Diego! What a great place to visit, and we rarely do – in our hometown.

The first stop for culinary deliciousness – Hob Nob Hill. Guy Fieri covered this San Diego institution on Diners Drive-Ins and Dives, but I remember it as the “ladies luncheon” place Nana used to visit with her lady friends. I think I visited it on perhaps one occasion, much to my chagrin. Why would a teenager want to visit this place that her grandmother and her friends visited after church or before a bridge tournament?!

Anyway, I thought I would give it a try. Hob Nob Hill definitely looked like I expected on the outside – a institution in uptown San Diego. On the inside, it had all the features of the ‘70’s I thought it should – wallpaper, chandeliers, heavily upholstered chairs and booths, a small counter, stainless over the kitchen and waitresses in matching “waitress” uniforms of the time with hose and tennis shoes. What surprised me was that all these expected features were fresh and updated, in a sense. The place felt very established, yet fresh and clean.

HH and I found what we wanted although I am not sure the selections were from the longtime, traditional menu from Hob Nob Hill. We picked Machaca and Huevos Rancheros – not a big surprise for us. We both enjoyed our breakfast, but it wasn’t the very best we have had although certainly acceptable. Next time perhaps I should try Eggs Benedict, that sounds much more Hob Nob Hill-like!

The wait staff was very friendly and accommodating, and I loved this sign I spotted on our way out.

Hob Nob Hill, a fresh trip down memory lane.



There have been some griddle issues at the Diner lately.

We have been using the griddle that HH had for a long time and the non-stickness pretty much was no more.

We started with a cast iron griddle that needed to be seasoned, and somehow that didn’t go so well. Plus it just wasn’t big enough, we couldn’t lay a piece of bacon across width-wise let alone that it didn’t quite cover two burners. So much for the fantastic bargain on-line.

Next we did research, hit the stores to see the griddles in person and find one that we liked. There are all kinds of griddles out there – big ones, small ones, thin ones, cheap ones, expensive ones, handled ones and the list goes on…

We settled on this one.

It is nice and big and wide like HH wanted; it has great handles, a trough to catch grease like I wanted. And it was a great price (on sale) like we both wanted.

The first thing we cooked, pancakes. Look how perfectly golden they are! We haven’t seen pancakes that beautiful at the Diner in quite a while. The pancakes are delicious. Now to find a cupboard that will hold this fantastic new piece of equipment.


Cheese Straws

 So SS have a number of things in common, besides family history. Two of them, in particular, are reading and trying new things to eat. It’s a tad bit difficult to do them together since she’s in Alabama and I’m in California, but we try.

For her birthday this year I sent her The Book Club Cookbook, and got one for myself too. Given the timing of things, we just had our first book club get-together a few days ago. We chose The Optimist’s Daughter by Eurora Welty, a wonderful southern story that won a Pulitzer Prize in 1973.

We both figured out how to Skype in order to “meet,” enjoyed talking about this book and others, and snacked on Southern Cheese Straws. The cheese straws were delicious! I’m not sure they look quite as they were intended, but they tasted good. And with a glass of sweet tea, it was perfect! We are looking forward to our next book club meeting…in Alabama.

Cheese Straws

¾ cup grated cheddar cheese
4 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1-2 tbsp ice water
¾ cups flour
1/8 tsp sea salt
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

Stir the cheese and butter together. Add the ice water and blend.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, salt and cayenne. Stir into the cheese mixture until blended. Wrap the dough in plastic and chill until very firm, at least two hours.

Preheat oven to 350º. Cut the dough into four equal parts. Using your hands, on a lightly floured surface roll each piece of dough into1/4” diameter cylinders. If the tubes get to long, cut into more sections. Cut dough into straws 7 – 8” long.

Place the straws on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 12-15 minutes until golden brown.

When cool, store in airtight container.



Chewy Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

HH needed a treat the other day. After working 15 hours, I baked him these cookies but knew there would have to be a note attached since they are not the normal chocolate chip cookies. So I attached a note that said “Oatmeal Chocolate Chip – Quite Delicious!”

He had four and a tall glass of milk.

In case you are interested, here’s the recipe:

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup packed light brown sugar
½ cup sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 ¼ cups flour
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp sea salt
3 cups quick-cooking oats
2 cups chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325º.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, and sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs one at a time, and then stir in vanilla. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt in separate bowl; stir into creamed mixture until just blended. Mix in the quick oats and chocolate chips. Drop by heaping spoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheets.

Bake for 12 – 15 minutes. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for five minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.



Summer Baking

When isn’t baking wonderful? HH says, “Never! When’s the next batch?”

Gotta love a man who thinks my homemade cookies are the best!


Tomatoes for Saucing

This year’s tomato harvest has already been fruitful, yielding so many delicious tomatoes of different sizes it has been hard to keep up – which is good for Friends of the Diner.

A few days ago, I harvested just the full-sized tomatoes to sauce. After removing the stems, washing, scoring the bottoms, blanching, peeling, coring, seeding and cooking for four hours this counter full of tomatoes yielded 48 ounces of sauce. Freezing was just easier than canning this time around – at least for this amount.

HH can’t wait for this to turn into dinner-in-a-bowl!


Bevilacqua Bistro Recipe

Garlic Gal was generous enough to share the recipe for her delicious lasagna. You remember the one with won ton skins instead of pasta noodles.

Since part of the “flavor” of this recipe exists in the well-seasoned notes, I’m going to try to add the recipe as she sent it to the Recipe page.

Thanks Garlic Gal!



Breakfast of Champions - At the Garlic Festival

One of the biggest challenges at the Gilroy Garlic Festival is getting a good breakfast. When you are on-site at 5 AM, with donuts and coffee arriving by 5:30 AM, you indulge a bit but by 10 AM it’s time for something more substantial.

I solved this challenge a few years ago, although I don’t always get the opportunity to have my “breakfast of champions.” This year it worked out. All it takes is a friend at Sauce City, which would be Dave, and grabbing the plain cake donut from the box of three dozen when the delivery arrives.

This year Dave brought me a plain cake donut with granulated sugar as a back-up, just in case. So after enjoying the fresh red sauce with my plain donut, there was still some sauce left so I decided to go ahead and try the plain cake with granulated sugar. Oh my gosh! A new and more delicious discovery than before!

The little sprinkle of sugar made all the difference and I have a new breakfast of champions to look forward to for next year!


2011 Gilroy Garlic Festival

This year’s Garlic Festival – great weather, wonderful breeze, awesome food with something new, lots of talk about “snarky,” time to spend with wonderful festival friends and the discovery of the Sauce Goddess (more on that in future posts.) Oh, and a little bit of work too.
Bill Strange, the official festival photographer, took a lot of great photos, he shared these with me.

Find more of Bill’s photos at billsphotography.zenfolio.com.


Reservations at the Bevi Bistro

A visit to Gilroy for the annual Garlic Festival has also turned into a reservation at the Bevi Bistro, and this year was no exception.

I got my “Any Bozo Can Cook” cookbook signed by Chef Don (his white sauce is in the book.)

Then it was time for dinner, Garlic Gal’s fabulous wonton-skin lasagna. This special lasagna has been a family favorite at the Bistro for 20+ years, and it was so delicious I had seconds! The lasagna was served with a delicious eggplant dish.

The dinner was finished off with a flourless chocolate cake; of course I had seconds of that!

One can always tell how good a meal was by how much is leftover – not much on this visit.

Garlic Gal said she would share the recipe, when I get it I’ll pass it along, a new twist on a traditional favorite definitely worth a try!


Ralph's Berry Tri-Fold

This is a rare and unusual treat…a picture of Ralph!

Ralph made this delicious Berry Tri-Fold as a treat during this year’s San Diego Co. Fair. He cleaned the berries, whipped the cream, and assembled this delicious concoction!

We loved it! Thank you Ralph, for letting me post your photo too!


Deep Fried Kool-Aid

Deep Fried Kool-Aid was the most popular new item at Chicken Charlie’s at this year’s San Diego County Fair. Charlie sold over 100,000 orders! This new item was not lost on me; of course I had to try them! I did decide to share an order, not indulge completely on my own.

The first bite of the Kool-Aid was a bit surprising; there was Kool-Aid powder sprinkled over the top! Boy, was that a shock! Assuming you are not five years old, when was the last time you tasted Kool-Aid powder? I just remember it being more enjoyable when I was five.

Once the powdered Kool-Aid dissolved on my tongue I was able to taste the Kool-Aid treats. Not bad. Sweet, tender dough. Although one was enough for me.

And how does Charlie do it? He mixes the Kool-Aid with water that gets added to the batter so the Kool-Aid treats take on the flavor and subtle color of cherry Kool-Aid!


Brie En Croute

I was inspired by this recipe seven years ago. By inspired, I mean running across it, printing it and putting it in my recipe binder.

I was inspired again last November when I found it in a magazine. I clipped it out and, again, put it in my recipe binder.

Then a few weeks ago HH and I went to a house warming and there it was…a Brie En Croute! My mouth watered the moment I lifted the lid on the chafing dish and saw it. I cut a piece, added a few crackers and purposely walked away. (“Walk away from the Brie En Croute!”) It was as delicious as I anticipated and I was inspired to make my own.

After a visit to Costco and scoring a 16 oz. wheel of brie for a little over $5, I was inspired again.

The next visit to the grocery store sent me on a search for puff pastry sheets and I ended up with a package of phyllo dough.

Then last night was the night. I decided at the last minute that Brie En Croute was going to be the featured item on the menu at the Diner that night. Just Brie En Croute, who would need more? Well, maybe some homegrown yellow pear tomatoes to round things out.

So I pulled out the recipe. HH asked how long. And my first stumbling block. Always remember to REALLY read the recipe a day or so before the intended service. The phyllo dough takes five hours to thaw, preferably in the frig.

Okay, no worries, plan B and off to the store HH and I went. I got cresent rolls since I knew there would be now thaw time. Back to the Diner we went. Wrapping the brie in the cresent roll wasn’t as pretty as the photos I’ve seen but it would still work. Hmm, and the recipe calls for an 8 oz. brie wheel and I have a 16 oz. brie wheel, well no problem, just a little more baking time and part of it covering the pastry so it doesn’t turn black.

After 30 long minutes the Brie En Croute was done. I took it out, it was beautiful with the shiny egg wash and soft to the touch – not the pastry but the insides. Good sign, so the brie was melted. I let it sit. Waiting, waiting, waiting…

After about 15 minutes (that’s all the waiting I had in me!) I cut into it. And the hot molting lava of brie came flowing out!! With my mouth watering and my stomach grumbling I sat down with my dinner. It was everything I had hoped for – delicious, creamy, warm, flaky pastry, worth the wait.

HH tried it too, he liked it. Next time he might indulge when I do (instead of waiting to see the outcome) so the brie is a bit softer and more spreadable.

Next time, though, I would cut the 16 oz. brie in half; I would buy the puff pastry sheets in the freezer section that I saw but didn’t think were right; I would add some caramelized onions and some herbs (rosemary or thyme, perhaps)between the brie and pastry.

If you are so inclined to try, here’s my recipe for a savory version.

Brie En Croute
1 package of cresent rolls dough
1 16 oz brie wheel, cut in half (save the other half for next time)
1 tbsp freshly chopped rosemary
¼ sliced onion, caramelized in olive oil
1 egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 375º.

Cover cookie sheet with aluminum foil, spray foil with non-stick cooking coating. Roll cresent dough out on foil, place ½ of brie wheel on dough. Top brie with rosemary and caramelized onions. Fold cresent dough over top of brie and coat generously with egg wash. Place cookie sheet in oven and bake for 15 minutes, pull out cookie sheet and cover pastry with additional piece of foil, cook another 10 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes. Cut and serve with crackers and slices homegrown tomatoes.



National Lollipop Day

What fun! Sing along, “Lollipop, lollipop, ooh lolli-lollipop!”


Summer Dinin'

Ohhh, what could be better…Outside on the patio, HH’s famous homemade tacos and a spectacular summer evening. Ahhh.


Summer at the Diner

The Diner seems to be open for business once again.

This weekend’s Summer Special – zucchini bread and lemonade. What a combo and so delicious!

One day of shredding and squeezing, and two days of baking. There will be plenty of zucchini bread for the summer and into the fall, thanks to Patty’s garden across the street.

HH even took some slathered in butter zucchini bread fishin’ this morning, a great way to fortify the day.

Zucchini Bread – Holly’s Diner Style
Mix together –
3 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt (sea salt)
1 tsp cinnamon

Mix together –
3 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 cup Olive Oil
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp lemon zest, if you have it

2 cups shredded zucchini (heaping)
1 cup chopped walnuts

Add flour mixture to egg mixture. Beat until blended. Add zucchini and walnuts. Pour into two loaf pans.  Bake at 325º for 55-60 minutes or until toothpick inserted near center comes out clean.

Cool for ten minutes before removing from pans.

Lemonade – Holly’s Diner Style

2 cups sugar
1 cup water
1 cup lemon juice
10 cups water

Bring sugar and water to a boil; boil 30 seconds. Remove from heat and add lemon juice. Cool to room temperature. Put mixture in ten cup pitcher, add water to fill pitcher, chill.

When serving, fill cups with lemonade mixture half way and fill rest of way with chilled water, stir, serve.



National Gummy Worm Day

This just reminds me of all the Gummy Worm Contests I used to do. Ahhh, those were the days…