Monday, December 23, 2013

David Meredith is in the kitchen

Today we have author David Meredith in the kitchen. He’ll be visiting through Christmas and New Years. He’ll share a few things with us to help with your holiday! Everyone, please, find a seat and let’s get cooking.

Mary: Tell us a bit about your background, your non-writing background. What your hobbies are, what you do to relax, that type of thing.

David: That’s honestly a hard question right now since nearly every spare moment of free time I have is spent promoting The Reflections of Queen Snow White. However, when I do have the time, I enjoy reading, of course. I especially like Tad Williams, Robin Hobb, and Neil Gaiman among others. I am an English teacher and have been for a very long while now with just under a decade of that experience coming in Japan. I am actually quite fluent in Japanese and still study it, though not nearly as religiously as I did when I lived there. I also spend most of my summers coaching swimming.

Mary: I hear from a very good source that you grew up helping out in your dad’s restaurant. How was that? Any fun kitchen stories?

David: I think the phrase which most succinctly describes that experience is “indentured servitude”. My job at his restaurant was basically to do whatever needed to be done that his other (non-related) workers did not want to. Anything nasty or gross generally became my responsibility. It was a buffet so I washed a WHOLE lot of dishes with some toilet scrubbing and other various types of icky mess cleaning thrown in for good measure. All snarky cynicism aside though, it wasn’t a bad experience, really. It was much easier to get my schedule adjusted there than at subsequent employers. I did end up learning a whole lot about cooking AND developed a much greater appreciation for the value of an education. At the end of it all, I was quite certain that I had no desire whatsoever to do hourly restaurant work for the rest of my life, so I’d better go out, work hard and make something of myself.

In terms of fun kitchen stories, an awful lot of the fun of working at the restaurant was really about the diverse personalities of the other people who worked there with me. There was one girl who was a hostess and went through boyfriends like most of us go through pairs of socks. She always had explicitly detailed accounts of her romantic exploits raring and ready to share with everyone (customers included). There was the 400 lbs. (28 and a half stone) cook who had bought a late 70’s Cadillac, painted it baby blue with a paint roller and house paint and then replaced the missing grill with chicken wire that he spray-painted gold. He talked constantly about that car like it was ready for a museum or hotrod magazine. Then there was the middle-aged guy who I washed dishes with regularly who kept the cremated ashes of his dead father in an urn that he carried around with him. I never saw it myself (by the time I got there my dad had already put his foot down about bringing it to the restaurant), but he’d always come in to work with stories about how he and his dad had watched such and such on TV the night before. Or he had taken his dad fishing with him the previous weekend. Or how his dad nearly got blown out of his car because his lid came loose and the windows were down. Once you got past the creepiness factor, they were actually pretty entertaining stories.

There were others too, but those three stood out the most to me. The crazy variety of interesting people made the job a lot more fun - in fact, maybe I should write something based on that.

Mary: What are your favorite holiday traditions?

David: Growing up my grandmother had a big collection of Christmas elves made out of pine cones that she only got out for Christmas. It was always mine and my brother’s job to put them out on the steps with all of their paraphernalia. Then of course, Santa was at the very top. We did it for years well into our early twenties and now that she has passed on, it’s a tradition that I miss.

Other than that, we still do all of the typical American stuff- The big, gaudy tree, lunch with my parents and dinner with my wife’s parents, Santa Claus for the kids on Christmas morning, etc.

Mary: Since you’ll be here in the kitchen over Christmas and New Years do you have a holiday recipe for us? And maybe a party favorite you’d use for a New Years Eve party?

David: One of my favorite dishes for Christmas is:
Roman Green Beans:
1lb of whole fresh green beans
1/2lb bacon (cut in approximately 1-inch by 1-inch squares)
1 table spoon minced garlic
1 package pinenuts
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt, pepper, and onion powder to taste

1. Pinch off green bean stems
2. Blanch green beans in boiling salt water but do not cook through (approx 3-5 minutes after water is boiling)
3. Heat olive oil on HIGH in a medium to large fryingpan or wok
4. Add bacon, minced garlic, and pinenuts - fry until slightly browned but do not crisp bacon, stir constantly.
5. Drain green beans and add to frying pan/wok
6. Add salt, pepper, and onion powder to taste and toss constantly with tongs or spatula for 5-7 minutes (beans should still be slightly crispy)
7. Remove from heat and immediately plate in a serving bowl or on a platter

TIPS: Because the beans must be constantly tossed a wok works best, but you can use a frying pan. Also at high heat it will cook VERY quickly so you must be extra careful not to burn it (pine nuts are especially suseptable to scorching)

I’m not exactly sure what about them makes them “Roman” per se, but they disappear quickly once they’re out on the table.

For New Years, I tend to think hors d'oeuvres. One thing that I really enjoy making for parties is stuffed mushrooms.
Parmesan & Shrimp Stuffed Mushrooms:
one small package of medium to large baby bella or white mushrooms
half a stick of butter (I like butter :) )
1 table spoon olive oil
ring of pre-cooked cocktale shrimp (ratio is approx. 1&1/2 shrimp per mushroom
1/4 cup freshly grated pamesan cheese
1 bunch freshly chopped parsely (minus stems)
salt and pepper

1. Wash mushrooms and remove the stems (this recipe only uses the caps, but in the interest of preventing waste I like to finely chop the stems and add them to something else I'm making like a turkey stuffing for example).
2. Preheat oven to 425
3. Heat butter in a frying pan on medium heat
4. When the butter is fully melted add the mushroom caps - salt and pepper to taste stiring often.
5. Cook mushroom caps thoroughly, but leave slightly firm
6. Remove from heat and arrange on a cookie sheet or baking pan - open side up.
7. Finely chop shrimp and parsely - put in mixing bowl
8. Add olive oil and parmesan cheese - toss thoroughly
9. Spoon mixture into mushroom caps
10. Put in oven until cheese is golden brown (generally 10 minutes or less - check often)
11. Serve (I think they work fine as finger hordevours, but for those worried about greasy fingers you can also serve them with tooth picks in the side of the mushroom caps - the top doesn't work very well)

These are a couple of dishes I really look forward to around Holiday time. I hope you enjoy!

Mary: I hear you have a new book release. Tell us a little bit about your book. Also, please share your Web site, buy links, and any social media links.

David: Right, I have recently released The Reflections of Queen Snow White on Amazon in the Kindle Store:

I’ve been really pleased with the reaction so far (all 4 and 5 star reviews on Amazon with more 5s than 4s) and everyone I’ve talked to who has read it so far has had no shortage of nice things to say about it.

Here’s the dust flap blurb:
What happens when "happily ever after" has come and gone?
On the eve of her only daughter, Princess Raven's wedding, an aging Snow White finds it impossible to share in the joyous spirit of the occasion. The ceremony itself promises to be the most glamorous social event of the decade. Snow White’s castle has been meticulously scrubbed, polished and opulently decorated for the celebration. It is already nearly bursting with jubilant guests and merry well-wishers. Prince Edel, Raven's fiancé, is a fine man from a neighboring kingdom and Snow White's own domain is prosperous and at peace. Things could not be better, in fact, except for one thing:
The king is dead.

The queen has been in a moribund state of hopeless depression for over a year with no end in sight. It is only when, in a fit of bitter despair, she seeks solitude in the vastness of her own sprawling castle and climbs a long disused and forgotten tower stair that she comes face to face with herself in the very same magic mirror used by her stepmother of old.

It promises her respite in its shimmering depths, but can Snow White trust a device that was so precious to a woman who sought to cause her such irreparable harm? Can she confront the demons of her own difficult past to discover a better future for herself and her family? And finally, can she release her soul-crushing grief and suffocating loneliness to once again discover what "happily ever after" really means?

Only time will tell as she wrestles with her past and is forced to confront The Reflections of Queen Snow White.

It’s an emotional journey and a number of people have told me that it made them cry. If you’re looking for a really uplifting tear-jerker with some serious romance too, this is it. I hope you’ll all buy it for the readers on your Christmas list through Amazon Gifts!

Again it’s available on Amazon here:
Also, please check out and “like” my Facebook page:
Or visit my web page!
You can also find reviews of The Reflections of Queen Snow White on Goodreads:
Follow me on Twitter! @davidmeredith2013
I’m also on Linked-In!

Thank you, David, for joining us it’s been a pleasure getting to know you better.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Harlequin author, Liz Talley, is in the kitchen.

Welcome, author Liz Talley, to the kitchen. No, we are not going to talk books. We’re going to find out a bit about what this southern girl likes to cook. Yes, Liz is from Shreveport Louisiana. Southern holiday food, what better way to celebrate the holidays?

Mary: Now, I’ve got everyone excited about southern cooking, I’m going off in a different direction. Don’t worry I’ll get back to the cooking. First, Liz, do you have any southern holiday traditions that have been passed down through your family, generation to generation?

Liz: First, thanks for inviting me to blog with you today about one of my favorite things – eating. Yeah, books and food are my favorite things to gab about. Truly delicious.

Some of my favorite holiday traditions revolve around time in the kitchen. Every year my mother and I get together to make pecan pralines. We usually do three or four batches, along with a few batches of fudge. My mother’s pralines, handed down for generations, are truly, truly delicious. I savor that time with my mother, gathering up all the ingredients, testing texture and dipping up the candy quick as we can before it sets.

Mary: Do you have any traditions that are just yours?

Liz: Because I have boys who aren’t too interested in playing in the kitchen with me, one of the fun traditions I started is a cookie bake with my nieces. Usually we try for a Sunday afternoon, and we set up the kitchen for baking and decorating Christmas cookies. It’s a fun, messy afternoon I wouldn’t trade for anything.

Another tradition is our Christmas Eve karaoke cocktail party…in jammies. We have the neighbors, friends and family over to sing, drink martinis and usher in Christmas day. We have an awesome time being silly. I call it my Christmas present to myself.

And finally a Christmas day tradition. Every Christmas morning I make Christmas breakfast casserole and we bake cinnamon rolls to eat after we unwrap our gifts. After a leisurely morning, we get dressed and head to the Christmas Love Feast at our church where we serve the homeless Christmas dinner. It’s truly a blessing to be involved in a something that reminds us about what Christmas truly means – celebrating the birth of a savior among “the least of these.” Words really aren’t enough to portray the profound gift of service in His name.

Mary: Can you share with us a traditional southern holiday dish or two?

Liz: Of course. I’m including the recipe for my favorite breakfast casserole, featuring a Southern favorite – grits! And I’m also including the recipe for pecan pralines. Hope you enjoy them and have a fabulous holiday.

Mary: Thank you so much. Of course, I will be trying this/these. I’m sure just because we’re in the kitchen doesn’t mean no one wants to hear about what you write. So, please tell us a bit about what you write and please share your web site, social media etc.

Liz: I write sassy, sexy Southern contemporary romance for Superromance and Amazon StoryFront (How’s that for alliteration?) I have a new novella releasing on January 1st - Hotter in Atlanta – and a February Superromance – His Forever Girl – coming out February 1st. So I’m starting off the new year with some hot stories to warm readers up.  You can find more my visiting me at or finding me on Facebook under www.facebook/liztalleybooks.

Jane’s Pralines
3 cups of sugar (divided)
2 Tbsp of butter
1 tsp of vanilla extract
½ cup of canned evaporated milk
¼ cup of water
1 cup of chopped pecans

In a small skillet, melt 1 cup of sugar. At the same time in a large pot, bring 2 cups of sugar, ½ cup of milk and 1/4 cup of water to a boil. When the milk mixture reaches boiling, pour the melted sugar in the small skillet into the milk mixture. Stir well, cooking until the mixture reaches soft ball stage (will form a sticky ball when dropped into cold water). Once stage is reached, remove pot from fire and add butter. Allow to cool. When mixture is not longer hot, add vanilla and nuts and beat mixture until the candy is creamy and starts to set up. Dip onto waxed paper by the spoonful.

Cheese Grit Breakfast casserole
1 pound sausage
1 tbsp onion
6 large eggs, beaten
1 cup of milk
1 cup of grits cooked in 4 cups of water
1 (6 ounce) box of Jiffy cornbread mix
1 tsp herb seasoning (Mrs. Dash/Spike)
¼ cup of butter, melted
½ lb. of shredded Colby cheese
½ tsp of paprika

Sauté sausage and onions until cooked. Set aside. In a large bowl beat eggs and add milk. Mix in cooked grits, corn muffin mix, seasoning and butter. In a greased baking dish, spread the sausage and onions to cover the bottom. Add the grits/egg mixture and then top with cheddar cheese. Sprinkle with paprika and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until middle is set. Allow to stand a few minutes before serving.

Thank you, Liz, for joining us in the Kitchen today, I hope you drop by again soon. Happy holidays!

Monday, November 25, 2013

USA Today's Best Selling Author Tiffinie Helmer is in the kitchen

Welcome to the kitchen, Tiffinie, a USA Today's best selling author. We’re excited to have you here. Especially knowing that you’re going to share some Alaskan secrets. Many of you may know Tiffinie Helmer from her books, all set in Alaska. If you do not, please check her website. Now, everyone settle in because we’re going to start things a cooking in the kitchen.

Mary: Tiffinie, can you give us a brief bio about you and Alaskan fishing?

Tiffinie: I grew up in Alaska and have commercial fished for salmon since I was a little kid. Now my kids fish with me. If you've seen Deadliest Catch that will give you an idea of what we do. It's wild, and dangerous, and absolutely thrilling.

Mary: Does Alaska have any special holiday traditions that you’ve brought home with you? If so will you share?

Tiffinie: Most of the Alaskan holidays revolve around the sun. On June 21st there are all sorts of Midnight Sun celebrations. Nobody sleeps and we eat like we'll never eat again. There is usually a huge salmon bake with all sorts of fish and seafood. Golden Days is another unique holiday in Fairbanks, during July 17th – 22nd where we dress in period clothing and celebrate the gold rush days. We also celebrate December 22st since that is when we start gaining more daylight, but that one is usually accompanied with lots of drinking. Don't judge, it's really cold outside.

Mary: Now to the good part, can you share a holiday recipe that your family loves?

Tiffinie: I have to do a salmon recipe. Fisherman, remember. This is one of my favorite salmon recipes and we always have salmon during Thanksgiving and Christmas. I've even tried this salmon recipe smoked and it's amazing.

Wild Alaskan Salmon fillet (don't do the farm fish that stuff is nasty)
½ c cup Soy Sauce
½ cup Brown Sugar
¼ cup Sriracha Sauce (also known as Rooster Sauce and found in the Asian isle of the grocery store)

Cut the salmon fillet into 1 to 2 inch strips after pulling the pin bones out with pin bone tweezers or pliers. I put the salmon in a gallon Ziploc bag and add the marinade. I leave this in the fridge overnight or up to 48 hours. The longer you leave it, the more marinade gets into the meat of the salmon. You can grill or bake this or even smoke it if you have a smoker. For baking, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place salmon on an aluminum covered baking sheet (for easy cleanup) and bake for 10 minutes.

I love fish prepared this way and eat it like candy. The leftovers (if there are any) are my favorite. I don't even bother to reheat it and eat the salmon cold with my fingers. Amazing!

Mary: That sounds awesome. My husband loves Salmon, so I will be making it! One more thing before I move on. I know that you do something awesome! No, I don’t mean your books, although they’re awesome. And no, I do not mean your great recipes. I mean your pottery. Can you tell us how you got started and give us a bit of background about the process.

Tiffinie: I began my love affair with pottery in high school. I studied in college and then had 4 children, and everything I wanted to do was put aside until they were older. About 10 years ago I took a community class and that was it. I fell in love all over again and was surprised with how much I had retained. Kind of like riding a bike. I was mentored by a local teacher and when he retired, he sold me a lot of his equipment. I now have my own studio in my garage (who really parks cars in their garages anyway?). I supply the local coffee shop (ArtCity Coffee in Springville, Utah) and sell to a growing list of customers. You can check out some of my art here:

Mary: Okay last, but not least, will you please tell us about your latest or upcoming book? Please share where people can find you, web site, social media, etc.

Tiffinie: DEATH CACHE is my latest book out and will be released November 29th, Black Friday. This is the 4th book in the Romance on the Edge Novels but can be read as a stand-alone. It’s also my most thrillerish book with a really hot romance.

She shouldn't have played…
Gallery owner Tern Maiski has always had a way with men, but the one she gave her heart to disappeared without a word. Now he's competing alongside her and four others in a high-tech treasure hunt, and her pride isn't the only thing on the line. So is her life.

He doesn’t play by the rules…
Geophysicist Gage Fallon's relationship with Tern has been cataclysmic from the beginning. He cared too much, too fast and their passion threatened to consume him. Now he's back on firmer ground and competing in a game that will risk more than his heart.

Once their group is dropped off in a remote area near the Arctic Circle, it quickly becomes clear that instead of hunting for treasure, they're the ones being hunted. And the killer is dead serious about caching them in.


Thank you, Tiffinie, for joining us today! I hope you can join us again soon.

Thank you, Mary, for having me. It's always a joy!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Spicy Sweet Potato Casserole

Spicy Sweet Potato Casserole Serves 12

4 Med Yams or sweet potatoes, sliced
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp Oregano (fresh if possible)
2 tsp Kosher salt
1 tsp Black pepper
1 tsp ground chipotle chili pepper
4-8 cloves Garlic (depending on size), minced
1 bunch Green onions, chopped
1 Jalapeno seeded and chopped
1 cup fat free half and half

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

In a large mixing bowl, toss yams/sweet potatoes with the olive oil and coat well. Then
add the spices, garlic, onions, and jalapeno and mix thoroughly. Arrange the sweet potatoes in a 9 1/2-inch oblong baking pan, arrange in layers. Scrape out any chopped veggies over the top. Cover with foil and bake until tender about 30 minutes.

Remove the foil and pour the cream over it evenly. Return to oven and continue baking uncovered for approximately 20 minutes. Serve warm.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Vacation food

My husband and I just returned from our anniversary trip. Now, I'm all about the food and our resort had several restaurants to choose from. I was so excited. However, the Italian was sort of Italian and the French was sort of French, etc. If you get what I mean. So the food was good but not great. I had really wanted to bring back a new recipe to share. Alas, that did not happen.

We were able to sample some Dominican food on our excursion to a small village in the mountains. It was rice and beans, yucca, and something that looked like, well it was spaghetti and meat sauce. Tasted good but I thought, huh?

Anyway, I'm going to experiment with some recipes for Dominican food and if they turn out I'll share. Meanwhile, I'm trying to line up some authors who like to cook and will share their secret recipes with us. So, stay tuned.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

More Tailgating

One of our favorite tailgating meals is when we have our annual chili cook off. My husband Ron makes the hot chili con carne and I decided to share it with you. We make it hot, but you can tone it down by using **mild or medium where I have 'HOT'.

Ron's Halftime Chili (5 quart Crockpot)
2 lbs Meat (1 lb hot ground sausage, 1lb ground beef) Browned.
4 Lg. Cans (26 oz) Kidney Beans (Drain 2 cans)
4 small cans Diced green chili
4 cans Rotel Hot** Diced Tomatoes
1 Lg can (12 oz) Tomato Paste
1 Lg. Yellow onion

Add all ingredients to the Crockpot. Season with black pepper and Add either Cayenne or Hot chili power --to your taste.

Cook on low for about 10 hours or high for about 5 to 6 hours. Serve in bread bowls.

Great with fresh chopped onion and grated cheddar cheese sprinkled over the top. We had this last Saturday at our Anniversary tailgating and I believe it turned out the best ever!

When it's snowing outside, this is great to have!
Re-posted from a Mary's Garden Post 10/25/10

Monday, October 14, 2013

It's tailgating time.

It's that time of year for tailgating. Cool weather, fall colors, and football! GO UTES! Anyway we're always trying to come up with something different each year. This year we had a tailgating party at work. I took some slider sandwiches, mostly because they were easy to put in an aluminum pan and carry on the train. Anyway, I thought I'd share this with you today.

Chicken Salad Sandwiches – Serves 24

24                  Buns/rolls
9 (3 oz) cans  Chicken drained
1 ½                Tomatoes seeded and then finely chopped
1 stalk            Celery finally chopped
1 whole          Shallot finally chopped
Equal Parts: Miracle whip and mayonnaise – approximately ½ cup each
2 Tsp              Limejuice
Salt and pepper to taste

In a bowl, add chicken, use fork to break apart. Make sure all vegetables are finely chopped add to chicken. Stir in miracle whip and mayonnaise, depending on how moist you want it you can add more of each if necessary. Add limejuice, salt, and pepper and stir until thoroughly mixed. Add about two tablespoons to each small bun/roll and serve.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Porter Gingerbread Cake

Porter Gingerbread Cake

1 Pkg Angel Food Cake Mix (16 Oz)
¾ Tsp Ground ginger
¾ Tsp Ground cinnamon
1 Egg
¼ Cp Canola oil butter
½ Cp Molasses
½ Cp Porter beer
4 Pkts Sweetener

Pre-heat oven to 350, spray non-fat cooking spray on a 9x9 pan. Make sure you get the sides because it will stick. If you want a thinner bar more like a cookie use 10x13 pan (which is what I did).

Add cake mix, then spices and sweetener, then egg, oil, molasses, and last beer. Mix together. It will be a bit foamy, continue to stir until creamy. Pour into baking pan. Bake 30 to 35 minutes depending on oven. Let cool. Makes 12-16 servings.

Optional--crème for top: One serving, 2 Tbsp, Half and Half with a pkt of sweetener and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Heat for 25 seconds on high in the microwave, pour over the top of two servings, garnish with a mint leaf. 20 calories.

Nutrition: Per serving cake only, calories 199, total fat 1.2g, saturated fat .5g, cholesterol 17.1mg, sodium 345.6mg, carbohydrates 42.9g, sugars 30.8g, protein 3.5g.

This is a yummy treat for family and friends. We have our grandkids over and do some pumpkin decorating. No need to worry about knives. We get the mini-pumpkins and bring out all of craft stuff we've collected for the year. Paint, colored pipe cleaners, glue, sparkles, stickers, and the list goes on. Sit the kids at a table and say go for it.

Then for desert the adults have the Porter Gingerbread Cake and the kids have cookies from the store. Everyone is happy!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Caprese/prociutto bread

Do you need something easy and quick for a party? Well try this. You can take it ready to pop in the oven and broil. I'm sure the host won't mind.

Caprese / Prosciutto Bread - 4 - 6 people
1/2 loaf French bread
1 tomato cut into 8 slices
1/4 lb mozzarella -- cut into 8 slices about 1/8" thick.
8 slices thin prosciutto
Balsamic vinegar
8 leaves of fresh basil cut into half

Bread can be garlic bread, sour dough, or french. Slice it in half then cut each half into four square pieces. Drizzle balsamic vinegar over the bread--this is personal taste of how much you use. Place a slice of prosciutto on each with a tomato slice on top. Then place one piece of mozzarella on top of each. Broil approximately 5 minutes, until the cheese is starting to brown. Remove and place on tray. Garnish each with two half leaves of basil. I drizzled a bit more vinegar on top of the cheese before I broiled. Again this is up to personal taste. Pairs well with Presecco sparkling wine. Enjoy!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Lobster and cheese penne rigate

Welcome back to the After Work Cook Blog. I'm going to revisit an old recipe of mine. The idea was not mine. This scenario started back in 2010 when my husband and I visited Temecula, CA and found The Pinnacle Restaurant at Falkner Winery. We had a fabulous dinner and I fell in love with their Lobster Mac and Cheese. After we returned home I contacted the manager and asked for an interview. He said yes! This was all in a tricky attempt to find out their recipe. It didn't work.

I tried to figure out the recipe on my own and came close but no cigar. Then a few months ago we visited again. I asked the waitress if chef Gianni was still there and, indeed, he was. He came to the table to chat and I asked him again for the recipe. He didn't give up the recipe but he answered a question. I asked him if I was on track with the four cheeses. I had three out of four correct and he told me what the fourth was.

Today, I tried the recipe again with the different cheese and it turned out wonderful. Maybe not the same because I used my own idea of spices, etc. But not bad, if I do say so myself. I will share it with you now!

Lobster and cheese penne rigate (4-6 servings)
2-3 lobster tails - boiled, shelled, and crumbled.
Penne rigate pasta - follow directions for 4-6 servings.
1/2 cup Asiago Cheese shredded.
1/2 cup Romano Cheese shredded.
1/2 cup Provolone Cheese shredded.
1/2 cup Pepper Jack Cheese shredded.
3/4 cup Half and Half - fat free.
2 tbsp light butter (land of lakes with canola oil)
2 cloves Garlic finely chopped.
1 tsp Basil (fresh if you have some on hand)
1/4 tsp Celery Seed
1/4 tsp Sage
1/4 tsp Marjoram
1/4 tsp Black Pepper
1/4 tsp Tarragon
1/4 tsp Thyme

Make sure the shredded cheese is firmly packed into measuring cup when measuring. Add all four into a bowl and set aside. Set Crock-Pot to high, add 1 tbsp butter, garlic, spices, (use pestle to grind the spices together) and 1/4 cup of the Half & Half. Blend 1/2 cup of shredded cheese at a time, until all is mixed in the pot. Stir in the last of the butter, cook for another 30 minutes or until bubbling along the edges. Stir in the crumbled lobster and then the pasta, let cook another five minutes.

Serve a salad as a side and pair with a Presecco sparking wine.

If you like less sauce, then use this recipe for six servings. If you'd rather have your pasta well coated, then serve as four servings. If there are only two of you you'll need to cut the recipe. This dish, while delicious, is very rich. Enjoy!

Based on 6 servings (Pasta calories included) - 1 serving;
Calories 521, Total Fat 23g, Saturated fat 14g, Cholesterol 117mg, Sodium 819mg, Total Carbohydrates 48g, Dietary Fiber 7g, Sugars 4g, Protein 33g. Vitamin A 9%, Calcium 68%, and Iron 12%

Monday, August 19, 2013

Stir-fry after work style!

One day after work I had a craving for stir fry over rice, not just white rice but ham fried rice. But I didn't want to take the time to do it the traditional way. Here is what I did, and it turned out dang good and was very easy.

Stir Fry 2 servings
1 tbsp Sesame Seed Oil
1 tbsp Teriyaki sauce
1/8 yellow, red, and orange bell peppers cut into strips and then halved. (Green if you have any would be good)
1/4 onion cut into rings then in half
3 cloves garlic minced
4 oz shrimp cooked (frozen)
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp chili pepper (more if you like it spicy)
Add oil and sauce in pan, then the garlic and after that all the veggies and shrimp and cook for about 10 minutes on medium low.

Brown ham fried rice 2 servings
1 1/2 cup brown minute rice follow directions on package and then drain
1/4 cup ham chopped
1 egg scrambled
1 tbsp oil
1 tbsp soy sauce
1/4 tsp black pepper
Once rice is done and drained of any excess water add oil and soy sauce stir in ham and egg and pepper and fry for 5 minutes. Serve with stir fry. Pairs well with a mild white wine. Enjoy.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Sausage and Shrimp Pasta

Sometimes you need something for company. And so most the time you don't worry about calories, and this is one of those recipes. It's enough for about six to seven people depending on how big of eaters, mainly how many guys. And as with everything when you simmer for a few hours, the flavor is so much better.

Blanch in boiling water for about 1 to 2 minutes
The most time consumer part of preparation is blanching the tomatoes and then peeling them.

Peel and cut add to sauce.

Sausage & Shrimp Pasta (Six servings)
3/4 lb ground hot sausage--browned and crumbled (hot is optional)
5 tomatoes - blanch and peel, then cut into small pieces.
3 cloves garlic minced
1/2 shallot chopped
5 - 6 full leaves of fresh basil chopped
1/2 cup light virgin olive oil
1/4 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
3 - 4 large brown mushrooms chopped
6 oz shrimp (tail off)
Set aside mushrooms and shrimp. Everything else add to a 2 quart sauce pan and bring to a boil, let boil approximately 20 minutes. Lower to simmer for approximately 2 hours.

When it's time to boil water for the pasta add shrimp and mushrooms to sauce and let simmer.

Boil water and add appropriate amount of thin spaghetti pasta. When al dente, drain, put back in pan add sauce, toss, and serve. Pairs with a nice rich Cabernet. Add a salad and rosemary bread and you're set.

Sound good but you do not have enough time for preparation? You can make it and cut out the blanching and peeling of the tomatoes. Though the sauce will not be as thick you can actually just bring to boil and simmer while the pasta cooks.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Idea for a quick summer dinner.

It's hot here. And sometimes it's hard to come up with a dinner idea when you're just not that hungry because of the heat. I asked my husband if he wanted to go out and he said he'd rather grill something. But we still didn't know what we wanted so he went with me. We went to the meat counter and the minute I saw the seafood I walked to that section and there it was; catfish. I said to my husband I have my Cajun mix, we can have blackened catfish. And it was decided. Quick, easy, and delicious.

Cajun Catfish
Put fillets in a shallow dish and lightly cover with olive oil (4 fillets about 1 tbsp). Then sprinkle and rub in Cajun Spice (about 1 1/2 tbsp) (recipe below). Then grill. Easy. And low calorie.

I am a big fan of pre-package organic spring mix salad greens. Then I just throw in some golden cherry tomatoes, purple onion, mushrooms, avacado, or whatever else you like.

Rice is always a good side for fish. And because you have cajun spices, you want something light in the seasoning department. So I boil a can of low sodium chicken broth, add about a cup and a half of fast cooking rice. Add pepper and a bit of basil and you're set to go.

Then any kind of bread goes with it. But we like roasted garlic bread.

And because of the spice we usually pair it with a glass of Presecco or Riesling. Calories, a 4 oz fillet of Catfish is about 153 calories, add the bit of oil you used and the spice: approximately 200 calories. A cup or rice 160 calories, throw in about 5 calories for the broth. The salad about 40 calories plus whatever dressing you use, add 150 calories for 2 oz of bread. The wine is about 120 per 5 oz. A fast dinner for about 630 with includes your wine. Enjoy!

Cajun Spice Mix
Mix the following pour into a jar with a tight lid and store in dry place. 1 TBSP servings (13 calories)
1 Tbsp Oregano
1 Tbsp Coriander
1 tsp Cayenne pepper
2 tsp thyme
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp white pepper
1/3 cup Kosher Salt
1/4 cup Chili Powder
1/4 cup Paprika
1 Tbsp Onion Powder
1 Tbsp black pepper
1 Tbsp basil

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Stuffed Mexican Squash

Welcome to The After Work Cook!
July 15, 2013 is here! Yeah. Let me introduce myself. I'm Mary Martinez, you probably know me from Mary's Garden. Like most of us out there I'm a working stiff. Yes, I dream of someday making the NY Times Best Seller list and then I can quit, stay home, cook to my hearts content and write. My two favorite things. Well that is other than my grandkids (and all the family too), eating fabulous food, traveling, and wine. Not in any particular order.

That day is a long way off, so meanwhile I cook when I can. Most the time I have to save time. Oh, and a bit of backstory here, I started doing my own recipes so I could control my calories and still have great food. You see, I have all those strikes against me. I'm a woman, plus I'm over 40 (50 but don't tell anyone), I've had the hysterectomy, and to top that off I have had my thyroid removed. When you have no thyroid you have to cut back drastically on the calories. And that is why I compiled a cookbook, I had so many fun recipes and most are low calorie. Now, I do have some guilty pleasure for those special occasions.

I knew I needed to lose weight, most my life actually I've struggled trying to keep those pounds off my butt. So on top of being a woman all the other things came up to strike against me. Until one day I just thought, oh I'll just do the best I can. I have too many things going against me. Then I went to NYC and had a blast. Ordered the 1000 pictures I took (not exaggerating) and that's when it hit me. I wasn't a bit heavy, or even pleasantly plump I was LARGE! I needed to lose 78 lbs. I couldn't believe I'd let myself gain so much weight. I called my doctor and cried. So she agreed to give my blood tests every six weeks to monitor my thyroid and I agreed to eat 1200 calories a day. But I refused to eat what I felt was diet food. So I had my wine and my good food. I just had to adapt my recipes. Soon The After Work Cook will be out with a lot of my recipes. Some are very simple, maybe you've tried something very simple. And maybe you've even seen something similar in a cook book. But what I have placed in the book are ones that I've hand written and cooked on my own. Do I use ones that I've heard about? Yes, but I make them my own.

P.S. it took me almost a year but I lost all of the pounds needed. I reached my goal in 2010. I have kept it off since. Yes there have been some up and downs.

I'm going to share today a recipe that I've made up on the fly. As I do so often I look in my kitchen and go with what I have. We went to the farmer's market yesterday and picked up some Mexican squash and a little round zucchini looking thing. I had never encountered these before but we bought a couple and today I decided to stuff them.

Dinner is served!
Stuffed Mexican Squash 4 servings
2 medium squash split down the middle. Hollow out the middle as you scoop all the seads out.
2 German Brats Grilled to almost done (can substitute ground sausage) slice in thin slices.
1- 14 oz. can diced spicy tomotoes
1/4 small onion chopped
1/2 Jalapeno chopped (seeded if you don't like it too spicy)
2 cups cooked rice.
Salt and Pepper to taste.
Sautee onion and pepper for a few minutes, add 1 cup (some of it can be juice from the tomatoes) bring to boil add 1 cup dry rice. Stir in tomatoes and sliced brats. Salt and pepper. Scoop into the squash. Place on baking pan and cook at 350 for 35 to 40 minutes until squash is tender.

4 Servings
1 Serving: 270 Calories, Total Fat 11 grams, Saturated Fat 4 grams, Cholestoral 38 mg, Sodium 813 mg, Total Carbohydrates 28 grams, Dietary Fiber 3grams, Sugars 5 grams, Protein 14 grams. Vit. A 43%, Vit C 32%, Calcium 3%, and Iron 14%.
Best served with a white crisp wine.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013


Welcome to The After Work Cook!
This is my new adventure. I'm leaving Mary's Garden to the writing side and venturing to my cooking side for The After Work Cook. You'll find all my recipes here beginning
July 8, 2013. I hope you stop by!