Aunt Lisa's Pizza



1 pkg. yeast

1 tsp sugar

1 cup warm water

2.5 cups flour

2 Tablespoons olive oil

1 tsp salt


Dissolve yeast in warm water, add sugar, cover, and let rest until foamy.

Combine flour, olive oil and salt in mixer, add yeast mixture.

With dough hook mix slowly at first, then turn mixer on high until dough does not stick to sides.

Leave dough in mixing bowl, cover with plastic wrap and a towel, let rise in warm place for 1 hour.

Cut dough in quarters for very thin crust, or in half for thicker dough.

Flour a sheet pan, place dough you will use immediately on sheet and cover to rise a second time (45 minutes).

Place remaining dough in a freezer bag to be used another day. Remember when using the frozen dough, let it thaw, then rise…I leave mine out most of the day.

After the 45-minute rising time, roll out dough and place on stone if you have one or on baking sheet.

I pre-heat my oven to 500 degrees.



1 large can of tomatoes (I use whole or pieces – Cento Brand)

Garlic (fresh or powder)

Basil (fresh or flakes)

Italian Spice

Sugar to taste (I use 2 teaspoons)

Red wine

Red Pepper flakes (according to your family’s tolerance to heat)

Kalamata olives

Salt and Pepper to taste

Place all ingredients in a food processor, blend.


This mixture will make way more than enough for one pizza. If I’m making spaghetti and meat sauce the next week, I use the remainder of this mixture with the sauce. Also, any Italian chicken dish you make, combine the remainder of this sauce with your regular mixture. It’s great!


Toppings…Your Choice! But I use:


Black olives sliced

Bacon baked and crumbled

Red Pepper, sliced

Mushrooms, sliced

Shallots, sliced

Monterey Pepper-Jack Cheese

Crumbled Goat Cheese

Marinated artichoke hearts


Aunt Lisa and Uncle Mike like their crust thin, with a small amount of sauce. They also don’t like the all the supreme junk we put on ours. I use more sauce and for a regular sized pizza I bake it—fully loaded about 15 to 20 minutes, depending on how much crunch you like in your crust. Be creative! Prosciutto, Italian sausage, bacon…all good choices. Be sure to cook any raw meat, onions and garlic you use before putting them on the pizza. Enjoy ~







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 Pasta Yummy

Pasta (I used a small amount of angel hair pasta)

¼ cup butter

¼ cup olive oil

2 thin slices of deli ham rolled and sliced thin

A handful of fresh green beans

1 tomato cubed

½ red bell pepper

2 ears fresh roasted corn on the cobb

2 shallots sliced

4 cloves fresh garlic chopped

Fresh cilantro chopped

Zest of one lime

Juice of two limes

Parmesan Cheese (optional)

1 tablespoon dried orange peel

1 teaspoon ground ginger root

1 teaspoon coarse ground pepper

Salt to taste

Roast ears of corn in shucks in a 425-degree oven approximately 20 to 30 minutes. Remove and cool.

Rinse, string green beans, and chop in half. Chop red bell pepper in short strips. Cut corn from cob. Slice shallots and chop garlic and tomato. 

Place olive oil and butter in large skillet. (I use my cast iron one for any stir fry.) Add green beans, tomatoes, red peppers, shallots, garlic, and corn. (Or use your family’s favorite green veggie.) Sauté ‘til tender. Add dried orange peel, ginger root, salt and pepper, and the zest of one lime. Add ½ cup of good white wine and stir.

Drain cooked pasta (I used angel hair…any pasta will be yummy!) Add pasta and sliced ham to sautéed mix and squeeze juice of two limes then stir to combine. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro and dust with grated Parmesan Cheese for a delightful finishing touch. Enjoy! 

Inexpensive. Quick. Easy. And delicious! What more could you ask for on a hot summer evening?


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The doctor’s announcement of hubby’s new low sodium diet sent shock-waves through my tummy and then my kitchen! Then I wandered through the grocery store, dumb-founded–salt saturates everything. This ole’ Southern Side of Flavor gal can’t tolerate bland food.

If you are facing the same dilemma, grab a pencil and a pad stay tuned–we’ll learn together. Here’s my first low sodium meal and it was full of flavor. Recipes are listed below.

Hamburger steak, potato dinner

Meet my four new friends…

My four new friends

Herbs, spices, and zests will join these four to keep delivering a zing and zap those of us from the Southwest love. Hope you’ll try these two new recipes and the icing on the cake? Hubs and I have each lost ten pounds these past two weeks. High-five!!!



2 ears corn roasted in husks

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 chopped red pepper

½ large red onion chopped

3 cloves garlic minced

1 ripe mango, peeled and cubed

1 or 2 ripe avocados, peeled and cubed

3 Tablespoons of chopped cilantro (optional)

1 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper

Zest of 1 lime

Juice of three limes

¼ cup olive oil

Corn, black bean, avocado salad


This delicious relish, salad, or salsa…whatever you want to call it…is a delicious, colorful accompaniment to most any summer meal. And it’s even better the next day. And the best thing is, I didn’t use any salt. If you have no salt problems, GO FOR IT! But it’s just as good without.

Roast corn in husk, at 425 on your oven rack for about 25 minutes. Cool, pull off husks and silks and slice off the cobb. (I stand the ear of corn on end on a cloth dish towel to slice—keeps the corn from rolling all over the kitchen.) 😊

In a large bowl place chopped avocado and cover with the juice of one lime to preserve the freshness and color of the avocado. Mix all other veggies and fruit. Add the zest of one lime and the remaining lime juice and olive oil and toss.

Add 1 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper and 2 teaspoons of Mrs. Dash’s Southwest Chipotle Seasoning Blend.

This yummy dish can be served at room temperature or cold…your choice. Enjoy!





Bunch of fresh, crisp green beans

2 or 3 shallots sliced

3 or 4 cloves of garlic chopped fine

Sliced, fresh mushrooms (optional)

Zest and juice of one lemon

1 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper (more to taste)

1 to 2 teaspoons Mrs. Dash Lemon Pepper Seasoning Blend

1/3 cup balsamic sauce

2 Tablespoons olive oil


Fresh Greens Beans with balsamic dressing

Here’s a tasty, quick option for a vegetable that’s in great supply during these spring and summer months, and is sure to please. Wash and dry green beans. Snap off stem end, but leave the bean whole.

Sauté shallots, garlic, and mushrooms in olive oil. Add green beans and stir. Add zest and lemon juice, black pepper, and balsamic vinegar. Lower heat, stir, and simmer with lid on pan for ten minutes.

Add the lemon pepper seasoning, toss, and serve! Another tasty, sodium free side dish. If you are the specimen of great health give that salt shaker a few shakes and sprinkle with crispy bacon bits…’til the doctor tells you to shape up!

Southern Side of Flavor TIP:  Vinegar contain no salt and there are many flavors that produce tasty substitutes. Zests from oranges, lemons, and lime pack a wallop of flavor. Add their juice to vegetables, fruits, and salads and you’ve got a winner, winner, chicken dinner as the Guy from Diners, Drive-Inns, and Dives proclaims.

‘Til next time…happy cooking!





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Guess what’s main-course-popular these days? Even when company’s comin’… why, mac ‘n cheese, of course!

For a do-ahead-favorite try this and wait for the raves!

Company Mac 'N Cheese


1 box macaroni of choice. Cook according to package directions. Drain.

1 onion chopped

1 red bell pepper chopped

1 jalapeno seeded and chopped (optional)

2 or 3 cups of ham chopped (I use left-overs from a Cure 81 Hormel Ham)

5 or 6 cloves of garlic minced

2 cups shredded Monterey Jack Cheese

2 cups of good quality shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese

1 ½ cups of shredded Parmigianino Reggiano Cheese

2/3 box Panko Italian Bread Crumgs

1 stick butter (not margarine)

1 Tablespoon salt

2 teaspoons pepper

2 ½ to 3 cups milk

4 eggs beaten

3 Tablespoons prepared mustard (yellow or Dijon)

Red Pepper flakes (optional, according to your family’s heat tolerance)

Return drained macaroni to pot. Add butter.

Sauté onion, red pepper, jalapeno, garlic, and ham. Add to macaroni and stir. Add Monterey Jack and Cheddar Cheese, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes if you wish and stir.

Combine milk, eggs, and mustard. Pour over macaroni mixture. Stir and pour into one large greased or sprayed casserole dish.  Cook loosely covered 30 minutes in 350 degree oven.

Remove foil and cover macaroni with combined Panko Bread Crumbs and Parmigiano Cheese. Drizzle with a little olive oil or cooking spray, return to oven and cook uncovered until bread crumbs and cheese mixture are browned…probably another 20 minutes.

Use your imagination, you could add your favorite sausage or if you’re attempting real elegance…broiled lobster or shrimp rather than the ham. You could also add fried bacon crumbles to the topping! What’s not to like about anything bacon?

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Pimento cheese? My answer was always a sour face and a blah! Mama drowned hers in mayo with no kick—what’s to like? But when I was the mama, I made some changes to that dreaded PC, but my kids still didn’t like it. I think it’s just a kid-thingy, don’t you?

Warning you folks, this ain’t your mama’s pimento cheese! And wait ‘til you see what we do with the left-overs, if there are any.

Might want to make a double batch just to be sure.


Photo by DiAne Gates


1 8-ounce package of shredded, sharp cheddar cheese

1 small jar of stuffed Spanish olives drained and chopped

1 small jar of pimentos drained and chopped

2/3 cup of walnuts chopped

Two quick shakes of red pepper flakes

½ teaspoon salt and pepper

½ to 2/3 cup of mayonnaise

Blend all ingredients and refrigerate. Great for a salad trio or a good old fashion pimento cheese sandwich with a tingle to your taste buds. For those of you who have a little “foodie” in your gene pool, add 2/3 cup of Jack Cheese or Parmesan Cheese, grated, of course. Yummy~

Next time: Fixin’s with the left-overs!

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Strawberries are luscious anytime of year, and just name a person who doesn’t like ‘em. So let’s make a surprise dessert for Valentine’s Day that shouts I LOVE YOU and doesn’t require much time to prepare.


Photos by DiAne Gates

Rather than making your pie crust, let’s pick up a chocolate pre-made crust. Chocolate and strawberries! And you’ve just saved yourself more than thirty minutes. But here’s the secret to preventing that ready-made crust from becoming soggy. Beat one egg with a few drops of water and brush the pie crust, then slip into a 350-degree oven for about ten minutes. Set aside to cool. Crunchy yummy crust!


2 quarts’ fresh strawberries, rinsed, dried and sliced long ways

1 cup sugar

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 cup boiling water

1 (3 ounce) package of raspberry Jell-O

¾ cup of roasted nuts of choice (Almonds, walnuts, pecans, etc.)


Mix together sugar and cornstarch until smooth.

Add boiling water, mix, and cook over medium heat ‘til thickened

Remove from heat. Add Jell-O and stir ‘til smooth. Set aside to cool to room temp.

Sprinkle roasted, chopped nuts over the bottom of the cooled pie shell

Arrange dry, sliced berries on top of nuts in pie shell

Pour cooled Jell-O mixture over top of berries.

Refrigerate several hours to allow Jell-O to set.

And yes, I didn’t make a mistake, I meant raspberry Jell-O. Strawberry layered on top of strawberries doesn’t speak to me. You could use either, but I like the punch raspberry brings to the party! Try both to see which you like best.


You can decorate the top with drizzles of chocolate and Reddi-Wip, but remember Reddi-Wip won’t hold up like fresh made whipped cream. Refer to my Peanut Butter Pie recipe for the real stuff…and don’t forget the mascarpone…makes the whipped cream remain fresh for a couple of days. Time for a piece of this scrumptious pie! But if you’re in a hurry, Reddi-Wip will do the trick, add after slicing and before serving.




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Photographs by DiAne N. Gates

The holidays are over, evenings are still long, and what better way to finish the day than cookies and milk, or cookies and coffee, or cookies and a dish of ice cream?

January is ready to turn into February and what special Valentine doesn’t like to receive something homemade and sweet?

You can double-hit Aunt’s Christmas cookies for Valentine’s Day too! Just pop a chocolate kiss in the middle of each cookie, or a candy heart, or…And they are delicious, different, and downright yummy!



1 package yellow cake mix

1 egg

4 1/2 ounces Cool Whip thawed

Cherries or Chocolate Kisses or Candy of choice

Stir cake mix and thawed Cool Whip. Add beaten egg and stir ’til mixed. Mixture will be thick. Roll into balls then roll is powdered sugar. Bake at 350 degrees for 12 to 14 minutes. While still warm top with half a cherry, or chocolate kiss, or candy of your choice.

And if you’re a chocolate fan, use a chocolate cake mix instead. Who doesn’t love chocolate and cherries?

If you have any left-over,  please ship them to me…never enough cookies at our house!



Friend Noreen Collins brought these oh so pretty cookies to our Bible study last week and each bite demanded another! And they make at least five dozen cookies, so they’re great to share or take to a pot luck.


I must admit I doctored Noreen’s recipe just a tad by adding cinnamon to the mix. Next time I’m going to add either lime or lemon zest and grated ginger. I’ve also thought about adding coconut flavoring rather than vanilla…perhaps even peppermint flavoring. But be careful with the peppermint…a little goes a long way.

2 cups quick oats

2 cups sugar

3 tablespoons flour

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup softened butter

2 eggs

1 tablespoon vanilla (or flavoring of choice)

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup finely chopped nuts (I used a pecan/walnut mixture)

Place all ingredients, but nuts, into mixing bowl and beat on medium speed ’til blended. Doesn’t take long. Add minced nuts and gently mix.

Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Use 1/2 teaspoon of mix per cookie…that’s right, I said 1/2 teaspoon! The cookie will spread as it bakes. So give them plenty of room… I place nine cookies per cookie sheet. Cook at 350 ’til lightly browned. This only takes a little over five minutes. Be sure to watch during that last minute lest you have toasty roasties.

Let sit for several minutes to cool before removing them from cookie sheet onto cooling rack. These cookies keep very well for several days and are delicious with a cup of coffee for breakfast…shame on me!


Store in covered jar with parchment between layers. I’m sure you’ll love these dainty wafers.













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