When I need some comfort food and a quick meal I think of Chicken Parmesan.  You can’t beat the taste of crispy panko breaded chicken with melted mozzarella alongside spaghetti topped with the tastiest marinara sauce.  Most marinara sauces are made from canned tomatoes but I like to use fresh tomatoes when I can.  There’s just something special about fresh tomato sauce with fresh herbs.  This is also a frugal meal as I can make a meal for 4 using just one chicken breast.  Don’t worry, no one goes away hungry.  A hunk of french bread and a salad makes this a complete meal.


Any chocolate lover will love this rich lava cake.  It’s one of the most decadent desserts I’ve ever tasted.   So rich with chocolate and a molten center that tastes like a thick gooey brownie.  The Espresso Whipped Cream is like the ultimate exclamation point!  I found a great recipe from “Dulce Desserts from Santa Fe Kitchens”.  There are so many decadent chocolate recipes in this cookbook to choose from but the lava cake was calling me.  If you can’t find Mexican chocolate locally you can order online through Taza or Amazon.  Taza has a variety of flavored Mexican chocolates and I can’t wait to try some new recipes using the flavored chocolate discs.


Have you ever wanted to send a care package to a friend or someone in your family?  It can be a special treat to those who are far away, to let them know you are thinking of them and that you miss them.  I often think of my friends who have sons and daughters in the Military who are far from home and how they would enjoy a care package of homemade treats made specially just for them.  I found that for me, sending cookies is the easiest choice.  Cookies tend to stay fresh longer than other treats so they can travel a few days and still be yummy when they arrive for that special someone.  I picked up some cookie wrappers from Wilton with pretty twisty ties so that they would stack together nicely and hopefully not crumble.  They also make nice treats to give to your neighbors when you have extra cookies to share.  I had a lot, I mean A LOT of extra Halloween candy so I made use of the extra candy bars to make these cookies.


If you’ve ever been to Detroit you know that there is a Coney Island restaurant located every few blocks.  You never have to look far to find one, just go down any street and you will eventually run into one.  Each diner has an extensive menu with every kind of hot dog you can imagine plus a full breakfast menu and family style entrees too.  The great thing about it is that the food is good and cheap.  At least it was during the time that Joe and I lived there.  My favorite thing was the Detroit Coney with Cheese Sauce.  Oh, that gooey cheese sauce was so good!  And finally I’ve found a recipe to make a homemade cheese sauce that captures that smooth and creamy taste. I’ve tried to make it with different cheeses and thickeners but it always came out with a texture that was gritty or chalky. The recipe posted on Serious Eats breaks down the science of how cheese melts.  They also tested different variations like milk, cream cheese and mayo to make the perfect cheese sauce.  They figured out the components which makes cheese sauce creamy like you might find at a Fuddruckers restaurant.  You will find none of the background graininess in this sauce because it doesn’t require flour to thicken it.  The scientific key has much to do with the concentration of milk fat.  They discovered that evaporated milk is more concentrated with much of its water content removed.  Combined with cornstarch to thicken the sauce makes the cheese melt silky smooth. Thanks to Serious Eats I can now make the perfect cheese sauce!


This year Joe and I have gone to several fall festivals around town.  We’ve been to Irish Fest, the Plaza Art Fair and Old Settlers Day.  It’s a great way to spend a day at any of these events.  We’ve had some great festival food which got me craving a NM favorite Frito Pie.  Frito Pie is a staple at most festivals in NM.  We eat it straight from the bag and the chili has to be New Mexican. It’s traditionally served with grated cheese and onions upon request.  When I make it for myself, I like to add some shredded lettuce and diced tomato to the mix.  It’s Muy Bueno!  I’d like to give a shout out to the ladies at the Desert Rose Center in downtown Tucumcari, thank you for the beautiful Route 66 swatch of material.  It goes perfect with my NM Frito Pie!


Bread pudding is one of my favorite things on earth.  In fact, I’ve never met a bread pudding I didn’t like.  I had my boys over for dinner and made this especially for them.  They showed up about the time this came out of the oven and as soon as the pictures were taken it was devoured!  Normally, I would take the time to make a loaf of brioche myself, but I found this great brioche bread at Sprouts that is so good!   If you have a Sprouts store, you must try this bread.  It’s already sliced and perfect for french toast and easy to cube for a pan of bread pudding.   Adding just a hint of lemon juice to the sweetened whipped cream turned out to be a big hit.  Another reason I chose this dessert is because this is my 300th post of An Inspired Cook.  I thought this would be the perfect dessert to mark the occasion!


Recently I cleaned out my freezer and found a little bit of this and a little bit of that.  I had a small amount of shrimp, lagostino tails and an odd package of chicken thighs.  So I decided to put it all together in a spicy gumbo which is one of my favorite one pot wonders.  It makes a complete meal ladled over sticky rice with a crusty slice of french bread on the side.  Traditional gumbo includes a holy trinity consisting of chopped onion, celery and green pepper, however I make mine with a duo of onion and red bell pepper.  I’m just not into celery and green bells. However if you like them, throw them in too and just cut back on the onion and red bell.  It’s hard to find the Southern tastes of New Orleans here in KC but having a bowl of gumbo takes me there!


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