Caramel Brownies

Sweets! If I could survive on them and not gain a zillion pounds I could actually do it. I love anything chocolate and goes with a tall cold glass of skim milk. These brownies happened by accident as I was making sundaes for my nephews and thought wouldn't it be great to have the caramel in the brownies. Well, they turned out just spectacular.

1 box of brownie mix
16 caramel candies or a small jar a of caramel sundae topping
1 cup of chocolate candy bar chopped

Preheat oven as suggested on box. Prepare the brownie mix as indicated on box. You have two options to get the caramel in the brownies. First one is to dump the caramel candies into the mixture and blend well and pour into rectangle baking dish. The second choice is to pour brownie batter into baking dish and pour swirls over the batter in either circular motions or back and forth from side to side. Once you do that, take a knife and pull it through to make basically incorporate into the brownie batter. I have done both. Then top with chocolate chopped candy bar. The first choice you get bits of caramel in the brownies and the second choice it runs through the whole brownie. This time, I made the second way. They were just so good. I actually topped with vanilla ice cream and drizzled more caramel on top. Needless to say, this wasn't a low cal day, but there is always tomorrow. 

Eggs Benedict Florentine

Although this dish has been around for years, I have only recently ordered it. I love eggs, spinach, hollandaise sauce and english muffins, but for some reason I would it never appealed to me. I was in NYC and went to a place that I have eaten several times and decided to order it. It was so good. So here is my version. Hope you love it. This seems like a great deal of work and a bit overwhelming, but I promise you that once you do it, you will wonder why you never did it before. You will wow your family and friends when you serve this.

4 eggs for benedict
3 egg yolks for Hollandaise sauce
2 english muffins
6 slices of bacon
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 cup of frozen spinach
1/2 cup of sliced onion
2 sticks of melted butter
butter for english muffins
dash of cayenne pepper or paprika

To make the Hollandaise sauce, add the 3 egg yolks into your blender. Add in dash of cayenne or paprika. Slowly add in the melted butter and blend well for several minutes. Let sit while you are preparing the eggs benedict.

Place bacon on a plate wrapped in paper towels and cook for 6 minutes in microwave. Remove and let sit until its time to use the bacon. The intimidated part is making the eggs. Bring a large pot of water to boil. In the meantime, heat a fry pan with a 1 tsp. of butter and add in the onions and spinach. Cook this for about 3-5 minutes or until heated. Pop the english muffins into the toaster oven and remove when golden brown. When the water begins to boil I shut the heat off. Crack your eggs in little bowls so it is easier to drop in water. You might want to stir the pot of water to create a spinning effect. A lot of chefs do that, I do sometimes and others I dont. Bring the egg close to the water and drop in water. It will begin to cook. It will float to top when its done, but usually 2-3 minutes. You will need to remove with a spoon with wholes so that the water drains. Place on dish until ready to build the benedict.

Once all is prepared. Butter the english muffins, add the spinach mixture first, cut bacon in half and use 3 half slices on each benedict, the egg on top and pour over the hollandaise sauce. Some people love hot so they top with more cayenne or hot sauce. I just use paprika.

Fluff and Cream Cheese Over Strawberries

Something else, I never tried until the other night. I am 48 years old and have never eaten Fluff, you know the marshmallow topping. I am realizing I lived a very sheltered kids life. :) My cousin Kristina made this and it was so delicious and I couldn't stop eating it. So simple and simply delicious. Give it a try, another wow on taste!

2 quarts of strawberries, cleaned and sliced in half
1 stick of cream cheese, room temperature
1 jar of Marshmallow Fluff

In bowl beat the cream cheese and fluff and add in the strawberries. Refrigerate for 1 hour and serve. It cant get any easier than that!

Italian Hamburger

The first time I had this type of burger was in a little burger joint in NYC. They didn't give me the recipe, but it was called an Italian Burger, so I just used Italian seasonings and guess what, it tasted very close and was really very good. Another change up to the regular burger. 

1 lb. of chop meat
1/4 tsp. of thyme
1/4 tsp. of basil
1/4 tsp. of marjoram
1/4 tsp. of oregano
1/4 tsp. of rosemary
1 small red onion sliced
1 small tomato

All these spices are dried ones. If you use fresh, change the amounts to 1/2 tsp.

4 slices of mozzarella cheese
a bunch of arugula (I use 3 pieces for each burger, but use as much or little as you want)

I made these on the grill, so you will want to start your grill before you begin to prepare. In a medium bowl, combine the meat and all the spices. Make into 4 patties. The experts say to push down in the middle, so you don't get a ball burger. I usually just squish as they cook. Cook them as you like. I also toast my buns. When bun has a nice barbecue marks, place on dish, give a good squeeze of ketchup, top with burger, red onions, cheese, arugula and tomato. Simply delicious.

Spaghetti with Crunchy White Clam Sauce

Crunchy white clam sauce you say? Spaghetti and white clam sauce is a real favorite of mine, but I never eat it out because its so messy. As I was making it one night I came up with this idea totally by mistake. Of course like many of you I was doing 33 things at once and as I was about to bread some fish I had a lapse in memory and threw the bread crumbs into my white clam sauce. I figured for sure, this was going to be awful, but it was so good that I have made it several times for myself, family and friends. 

1 can of white clam sauce (I use Progresso)
1/2 cup of bread crumbs
2 tbsp. butter
1 lb. of spaghetti

Bring pot of water to boil and begin to cook spaghetti. In medium sauce pan, heat the butter and add in the bread crumbs. Let the bread crumbs begin to brown lightly and add in the white clam sauce (drain the oil from can first). Let heat for 10 minutes. Drain your pasta and pour over the white clam sauce, toss and serve. So good!

Twice Cooked Chicken

My girls and I are big chicken eaters and sometimes we just need a change up from how we have been eating it. I combined a few of my favorite ingredients and created this chicken dish.I am big on cooking my food all day. I am not sure if I just love the aromas of the food or I just like to have something to do. Haha, like moms have nothing to do all day. Either way, I do think that slow cooking your food is a great way for the flavors to combine with each other.

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 boneless, skinless thighs
1 small to medium red pepper, diced
1 cup of feta cheese
1 tsp. of garlic powder
1/2 tsp. of salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 small onion sliced
1 small can of tomato sauce
3 tbs. of olive oil

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees and in shallow baking dish add the chicken. Season with salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder. Bake for 30 minutes and remove. In large fry pan heat oil and add in onions and peppers. Saute them for 15-20 minutes. When the onions begin to caramelize, add in the tomato sauce. Let that heat for 10 minutes on low and then add in chicken. Do not let sauce burn. If you need to add in 1/2 cups of water at a time, do this. You do not want there to be a broth or gravy, but a thickness to the sauce. Let this simmer for 40 minutes and serve. I served this with white rice topped with the red gravy sprinkled with feta cheese. I love feta cheese, but some do not like my daughter, so she ate hers without. You can substitute for gorgonzola or bleu cheese if you wish. I love cheese. It was incredible tasty and added a new twist to our chicken.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Cupcakes

The first time I ever had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich was when I was 30 years old. My mother didn’t feed it to me. She didn’t like it, so it was something she didn’t serve me. She would send my sister off with it as well as my dad and my dad ate it did she. I did eventually acquire the taste and wanted to incorporate my love of cake with a new love. The peanut butter and jelly cupcake. I used strawberry jam, but you can use any type of jelly or jam if you want.

1 box of yellow cake mix
1 jar of strawberry preservers
1 cup of peanut butter
1 container of white frosting

Make batter as indicated on box and pour into cupcake tins with no paper. Do this because you will need to slice the cupcake in half and there is no reason to have to pull the paper off first. After the cupcakes are cooled through, empty the white frosting into a medium sized bowl and add in the peanut butter. With a blender mix the 2 together well. Slice the cupcakes in half making it a sandwich. Take the jelly or jam and spread on to the bottom portion of the cupcake. Take the other half of the cupcake and put it back. Frost the top of the cupcake with the peanut butter frosting and top with a dollop of the strawberry preserves. You will knock the socks off your kids and the adults too!

Ravioli with Roasted Vegetables

I am doing my best these days to get vegetables in to my diet and too me, just eating them as a side can get very boring.

1 lb. of large ravioli
12 asparagus stalks
large handful of basil
1/2 cup olive oil, plus 1 tbs.
4 cloves of garlic
1/2 cup pine nuts
1/2 pint of grape tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste

Bring large pot of water to boil for ravioli and cook until your liking. On cookie sheet place tomatoes and asparagus and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Bake for 15 minutes. In food processor, add in garlic, basil and nuts. Give it a pulse and begin to drizzle in the olive oil. When it becomes smooth, remove and set aside.

After ravioli is cooked, drain and add in pesto mixture and vegetables and serve nice and hot. If you do not want to make your own pesto you can buy in a jar as well. An alternate version would be use spaghetti sauce.

Pink Lemonade Cocktail

My ex-boyfriend's dad made this for me about 10 years ago because I loved lemonade and not a big drinker. This one is delicious and probably could get you really drunk as it goes down very smooth. No hard liquor tastes and so refreshing. Make it in batches and serve at a shower, bbq, birthday party or any other type of gathering. Your guests will love it.

1 12 oz. can of pink lemonade
12 oz. of water
12 oz. of vodka
1  can of beer, light is ok, just not dark beer

In large pitcher add ice and all the ingredients. Mix well and serve. Its that easy. Make sure you have plenty of it, because they will be coming back for more.

Chicken Piccata

I had dinner at my sister's the other night and my mom made us Chicken Piccata. Although, I make this all the time, she put a twist on it and wanted to share with you. She made this for 8 servings. Another quick and easy recipe that is so delicious. Anything tastes better with gravy.

8 chicken cutlets
1/2 cup of flour
1 large lemon
2 tsp. of capers, drained
3 cups of chicken broth
1 tbsp. of flour in 1 cup of water
2 tbsp. of gravy master or kitchen bouquet
1 stick of butter and 3 tbsp. of olive oil

Add flour to a dish and begin to coat the chicken cutlets. Heat a large fry pan with the oil and butter. Once it begins to bubble, add in chicken and cook on both sides until golden brown and remove from pan and place on dish. Add in broth and give a good stir and let heat. Once you can see the steam, add in capers, lemon and gravy master. Place the 1 tbsp. of flour in the cup of water and blend well with a fork. This mixture will help thicken the gravy you are making. Add it in to pan and again, give a good whisk and lower heat. Add back in chicken and let simmer for 10-12 minutes to incorporate flavors.

My mother served with big noodles; which was a great idea to soak up all the gravy.

Chocolate Cake with Lavender Frosting

I am not sure if colors make things taste better, but they sure are prettier. I am going to my sisters tonight for dinner and to celebrate my birthday and thought I would make the cake. Chocolate cake with Lavender color frosting. Remember back in art class when we mixed the paint to make different colors. Its the same concept and so easy! Give it a try.

1 cake mix of your choice (I chose devils food)
1 white frosting container
20 drops of blue food coloring
24 drops of red food coloring

Make the cake as indicated on box and let stand until cooled all the way. Empty frosting into bowl and add the drops of blue and red food coloring. You might think it looks like a mess, but I assure you, it will come out lavender. I use my hand mixer until blended to a nice shade of lavender and frosted. Edible art!

Crunchy Broiled Shrimp

Shrimp is a one of those things that cooks in minutes. It could be pricey, but if you buy the frozen, cleaned and deveined shrimp when its on sale, you could have a dinner for little money. This recipe can be used as a main course for dinner or as an appetizer as well. Either way you will wow your guests.

1 1 lb. bag of shrimp
1 cup of chopped peanuts
1 cup of Japanese breadcrumbs, Panko
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 beaten egg

In large bowl place beaten egg and add in shrimp. Coat all well. In another bowl, bag or dish place the bread crumbs, pepper and peanuts. Add in the shrimp. Make sure all pieces are coated.

Heat oven on broil. Place shrimp on baking dish. Broil on each side for 1 minute. If you prefer to bake, heat the oven to 400 degrees and bake for 3-5 minutes.

Serve with any type of dipping sauce. I was making this for my brother in-law so I used a hot bbq sauce.

Coffee Frosted Chocolate Cupcakes

Two of my favorite flavors are coffee and chocolate so I decided to try and make my own coffee frosting for my chocolate cupcakes and it worked. Give it a try, it’s a quick and easy fix to dazzle your cupcakes.

1 package of chocolate cake mix
1 container butter cream frosting
1/4 cup of black coffee

Make your cupcakes according to the directions on the box. Remove and let cool thoroughly. Remove the frosting from the container and place in a medium size bowl. Begin to whip the frosting on low with a blender. Add in 1 tsp. at a time of the black coffee to get the color and flavor that you wish. All you really need is 2 teaspoons to make it coffee flavored, but some coffee drinkers might like it more robust in flavor. I use 3 teaspoons of the black coffee. Once it is all incorporate let sit in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to an hour so that it gets to a more dense consistency again. Don't worry if it gets watery, just let sit and it will get back to where it needs to be. Frost the cupcakes and decorate if  you wish. I placed a tiny chocolate dipped cookie on mine, but just plain is fine as the taste is big. 

Tuscan Chicken

4 boneless/skinless chicken breasts
1/3 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon minced garlic  
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary leaves
Freshly ground black pepper
1 lemon, halved

Sprinkle the chicken with 1 teaspoon salt on each side. Combine the olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, rosemary, and 2 teaspoons pepper in a small bowl.
 Place the chicken in a ceramic or glass dish just large enough to hold it flat. Pour the lemon marinade over the chicken, turning it in the dish. Cover the dish and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight. Turning the chicken at least once while marinating.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place breasts in baking dish and bake 40-50 minutes or until chicken juice runs clear. Garnish with lemon slices to serve.
Too make it light serve over cut tomatoes.

Chocolate Mousse Cake

Today is my birthday! So I wanted to share my favorite birthday cake recipe. It is a chocolate mousse cake. Its kind of a mock version, but when in a rush, this is the way to go.

1 devils food cake mix
2 containers of chocolate frosting
1 small container of whipped topping
1 8 oz. jar of hot fudge

Make the cake according to directions, but bake in 3 rectangles. When the cake is cooled, remove first cake and place on cookie sheet or cake plate so that you can begin to frost. In large bowl empty whipped topping and 1 container of frosting. With mixer combine the 2 ingredients until the texture is fluffy. Place a big dollop of this mousse mixture in the middle of the first layer and smooth to edges, but do not do sides. Place 2nd layer and do the same thing. You must use a good amount, do not spread like a frosting, but place about a 1/4-1/2 of an inch between cakes. Now place last layer on and begin to frost cake as you would with the other container. Take the hot fudge and heat in microwave or pot of water you want this hot fudge to become liquidy. When at the consistency you are comfortable with begin to pour over cake. Use as much or as little as you want. Garnish as desired. Serve with ice cold milk! This is a good birthday cake for someone who loves chocolate.


My first encounter with guacamole was in 1982 right after high school graduation. I had moved from Long Island to San Francisco to go to Law School. That immediately changed when my now ex-husband asked me to come home to marry him. Needless to say, no law school, but 2 amazing daughters. My aunt and uncle who I had moved in with had taken me to a party and I remember seeing the green stuff on the table thinking what are they trying to get me to eat. Those California people and their crazy, healthy food! I tried it and it was delicious, but never really ate it again when I returned to the East Coast until the last 6 years. I have tried many variations and of course in tons of Mexican restaurants. This recipe doesn’t call for many ingredients, so it seems perfect to me.
4 avocados, if you don’t know if they are ripe or not ask someone. 
That’s what I usually do.
1 pint of grapes tomatoes, sliced in half and seeds scooped out
½ to 1 tsp. of salt and pepper
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
1 small red onion, finely chopped
If you like your Guacamole spicy, you can add hot sauce
2-3 tbs. of Lemon juice (usually one lemon)
Cut the avocados in half, remove pit and scoop out in to small bowl.  Mash the avocado up, but leave lumps, don’t make it like mash potatoes. Add in all the ingredients and blend well. Add in salt and pepper sparingly and add more if needed. Delicious!

  Recipe By The Gourmet Mom
Lisa Montalva
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