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.”