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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Recipe and Photos by DiAne Gates


Two times per year my husband refuses to eat out—Easter and Mother’s Day. He takes care of the Mother’s Day, but Easter’s my treat. And you all know what that means—company to feed after church and everybody’s starvin’ before you manage to get food on the table.


But not this year! I have a plan. This Easter meal will be put together on Saturday and it’s your choice whether to wait and cook it when you get home or cook it Saturday and reheat for Sunday. Either way, it’s delicious. I serve this dish with rice and a veggie. Asparagus, green beans, peas? What could be easier?

The side dish I chose today is zucchini. Raw, sliced ribbons of zucchini with your vegetable peeler. Quick and easy! Place sliced zucchini in bowl and add ¼ cup olive oil, the juice and zest of one Meyer’s lemon, 1 tablespoon of finely minced garlic, salt and pepper to taste and refrigerate. To serve, pile ribbons of zucchini in a heap and add curls of Parmigiana Reggiano, a sprinkle of chives, parsley, or cilantro—a little more salt and pepper and it’s gorgeous!


5 chicken breasts (I use skinned, boneless) salt and peppered on both sides

8 to 10 Baby Bella mushrooms sliced (optional)

½ cup olives halved (I use large green Sicilian olives – but you could use whatever your family likes and I often add more…’cause I love olives).

5 slices of lemon rounds


2 tablespoons butter melted (I use the real stuff—better for you, in moderation)

¼ cup olive oil

1 cup white wine (please use a wine you would drink)

Juice and zest of two or three lemons

3 tablespoons fresh thyme chopped

4 cloves of garlic minced

Wash and dry chicken. Pour marinade over chicken and cover in fridge for at least an hour. Place chicken in casserole dish and pour or spoon marinade over chicken. Scatter mushrooms and olives over chicken and top each breast with a slice of lemon. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 45 minutes until chicken and lemons are roasted. Serve over rice. Garnish with drippings.


You don’t have to wait ‘til Easter to try this one. I’m sure this will be one of your family favorites too! And if you simply must have bread, make it easy on yourself. Grab a couple of cans of Pillsbury Grands, cut ’em in fourths, roll them in melted butter, and mixed with some blue cheese.  Sprinkle with your favorite herbs and pop these little darlings into the oven according to package directions, but watch ’em, they don’t take long!





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Photos by DiAne N. Gates

Long as I can remember Mama’s pork chop and rice casserole was the standard go-to supper when Mama was busy, tired, and needed to get something on the table. Short prep time, so delicious, and is just as good if there are left-overs.

The next few weeks with shopping, wrapping, and entertaining you need a few go-to meals that satisfy yet are easy on your budget and schedule. This one is an old iron skillet favorite at our house.

Let me know how you like this comfort food!


4 center-cut pork chops (more if your family is larger)

1 cup white rice uncooked

1 onion chopped

3 cloves garlic chopped

3 15 oz. cans of tomatoes (I used a good brand of canned basil, garlic and onion tomatoes)

¼ cup green chilies or ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (or both if y’all like spicy)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Chop onions and garlic and set aside. Salt and pepper both sides of pork chops and brown them with 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large iron skillet. Remove chops from pan and sauté onions and garlic ‘til soft. Add three cans of tomatoes and green chilies and/or red pepper flakes and one additional cup of water. Salt and pepper sauce. Bring to a boil. Sprinkle cup of rice over the entire surface of tomato sauce. Do not stir. Place browned pork chops on top of tomato, rice mix and pour juice from plate over the mixture.

Place uncovered skillet in preheated oven and bake for 45 minutes. Check to see if you need more water as this cooks, add in ½ cup increments. Moisture should be absorbed by rice and chops browned.

I serve in the skillet. And oh, my goodness, this is heartwarming soul food!



Photos by DiAne N. Gates

2 bunches greens (I use turnip and mustard greens)

1 meaty ham hock

½ onion chopped

3 cloves garlic chopped fine

1 carrot, peeled and sliced

1 fresh tomato cubed

1 can chicken or vegetable stock

¼ cup sugar

¼ cup balsamic vinegar


Sort and wash rough chopped greens—three times. In other words, place chopped greens in a sink full of cold water. Swish and remove them by handfuls into colander. Drain water from sink, rinse, and refill sink and place greens back into the water. Repeat this process two more times. Else your greens will be gritty and that’s just plain nasty.

Place ham hock in soup pot and sauté with 1 tablespoon olive oil ‘til a bit browned. Add onions, garlic, tomato and carrot. Salt and pepper to taste and cook ‘til soft. About three or four minutes. Pour can of chicken stock over the onions and hock and fill soup can to brim with water and pour that into the stock/onion mix too. Add greens, salt and pepper, and sugar over the top of greens and stir. Add balsamic vinegar. Give one more stir. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to medium low and cook for 45 minutes to an hour.

Makes a great accompanying veggie for the pork chops. If you have a moment to spare grab a cornbread mix and make some muffins according to package label. Your children will rise up and call you blessed! I promise. And while all that’s cooking you can wrap a few packages, fold a load of clothes, or just sit and have a nice glass of wine.


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Photos by: DiAne Gates

Tired of pumpkin pie? Here’s a do-ahead dessert with a twist that takes a little time to prepare, but if you follow the recipe ingredients you can make this one up to two days ahead. No cheating with the whipped cream or it won’t work. However, you can take some short cuts—won’t be as good—but it’s quicker. You can substitute a store bought pastry shell and a big package of store bought pudding mix. But please use the cook and serve mix…no instant stuff.  And you could use Reddi-Wip, sigh. (But I hope not!)

Here’s my recipe, please enjoy.



1 ½ cups flour

½ teaspoon of salt

6 tablespoons of cold, real butter (cut in small cubes)

2 tablespoons of peanut butter (I like the chunky kind)

4 to 5 tablespoons of cold water

Mix flour and salt, add cold butter cubes and peanut butter, Use either your fancy Cuisinart, a pastry cutter, fork, or your fingers.  This mixture should be blended to a coarse, crumbly one. Add water one tablespoon at a time and stir ‘til water is absorbed and dough sticks together.

Wrap flour mixture in a sheet of plastic wrap (after wrapped form into a small, flat circle). Place in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Remove and place dough on floured surface. Cover dough with sheet of plastic wrap large enough to cover the size pie crust you’re going to roll out. Roll out the crust. Plastic wrap prevents the pie dough from sticking and breaking apart.

Place dough in pie pan, finish edges, and prick unbaked shell over the bottom and sides with a fork. Bake 10 to 12 minutes in a 450-degree oven. Set aside.


½ TO 2/3 cup of peanut butter (either smooth or crunchy)

½ cup powdered sugar

½ cup chopped peanuts

Mix ‘til peanut butter absorbs sugar and spread over the bottom of hot pie crust. Sprinkle with half cup of the chopped nuts.


1/2 cup sugar

3 tablespoons cornstarch

3 cups heavy cream

4 large egg yolks

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Combine sugar and cornstarch in a sauce pot over medium heat. Gradually stir in the cream, making sure all cornstarch dissolves.  Stir continuously until the mixture begins to thicken.

Whisk eggs in bowl. Mix a spoonful of the hot cream mixture into the eggs to warm them without scrambling the eggs. Add warm egg mixture to the cream, then add butter and vanilla. And if you want to be Chef de la Wonderful—scrape a fresh vanilla bean and mix in this pudding. To die for!  That’s what those little dark specks are in the filling. Stir until the butter is melted. Remove from heat and pour over peanut butter mixture in the cooked pie shell.


Cover pudding mixture with a clean sheet of plastic wrap, allowing the wrap to press against the pudding. Set aside to cool. Then place in refrigerator ‘til completely chilled.



1 ½ cups of heavy cream

1/3 cup of Mascarpone cheese (softened)

½ cup of confectioners’ sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

Chill mixing bowl and beaters. Pour heavy cream in cold bowl and whip ‘til cream begins to thicken. Add confectioners’ sugar and vanilla. Then add softened Mascarpone just ‘til blended. This should not take long in a cold bowl. Careful that you don’t beat the cream to butter.

Adding the Mascarpone gives more body to the cream and prevents  weeping when the pie is refrigerated overnight.

Smooth the whipped cream over the cooled pie. Or if you have a pastry bag fill with the whipped cream and exercise your creative genius. Refrigerate. This pie gets better the longer it sits. Hmm, reminds me of the piece in the fridge marked with my name!





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shrimp-and-pasta-green-2Photos by: DiAne Gates


With Thanksgiving and Christmas speeding toward us on the calendar, we need a few easy, but delicious main course meals to make our lives easier. And my spicy fiesta shrimp salad definitely fills the niche!

You can do all the prep work in the morning or even the night before, then boil the pasta and grill the shrimp at the last minute—wave your magic wand and ta-da! Dinner’s served. Slices of buttered garlic French bread popped on the grill with the shrimp would be a delicious accompaniment.

And a side green salad would complete this beautiful dish—a banquet for your eyes, just before you quiet that turmoil in our tummy!


1 to 1 ½ pounds of fresh shrimp

1 bag of your pasta of choice (I use swirls or bow-tie)

6 cloves of garlic, rough chopped

½ cup apple cider vinegar

Olive Oil


1 red pepper, chopped

1 red onion, chopped

1 large jar of marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped

1 jalapeno, seeded, deveined, and chopped fine

½ cup mild green chilies chopped

¾ tall jar of Queen Anne olives, sliced (black olives are good too)

Zest and juice of one lemon

1 avocado chopped

Salt and Pepper to taste



8-ounce container of sour cream

½ envelop Hidden Valley Fiesta Ranch dip mix

Scant ¼ cup apple cider vinegar

(The dressing can be mixed the day before, but wait to dress your salad just before serving.)

Boil pasta according to package directions. Be sure to salt water well and include your rough chopped garlic with the pasta. Drain pasta and garlic and immediately sprinkle with apple cider vinegar and then drizzle with olive oil.

Toss all chopped ingredients with the pasta and garlic. Pour dressing over mixture and gently toss again. Salt and pepper to taste. (We love coarse ground pepper) I add shrimp which I have either roasted in the oven or cooked on the grill. If you’re not a shrimp lover, you can add chicken and roasted corn, or serve as a hearty side to burgers or ribs.

And just to be naughty, if you like all things spicy, add a light sprinkle of red pepper flakes. Serve warm or refrigerated. Not for the faint-of-taste.


Grilled Shrimp

Peel and devein shrimp, rinse and pat dry.  Place on skewers and squeeze the juice of one lemon on raw shrimp. Salt and pepper to taste and drizzle with olive oil.  Place oven on broil and cook just ‘til pink and firm. Same with grilling. Lay shrimp skewers across grill and cook on one side ‘til they begin to turn pink. Flip and cook other side ‘til pink. You can cut the shrimp in chunks to use in the salad or leave them whole. Looking at the picture, you can see I prefer them whole. Enjoy!

I’ll be sharing a few more easy holiday meals. Let me know how the family likes this one.

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Our fifteen-year-old grandson, Noah, spent Spring Break with me and Papa.  And I found out public schools have reinstated what us old folks called Home-Ec. Yep, they’re teaching the kiddos to cook and many other life-use-trades, calling these classes in Texas, Family Consumer Science.

Hooray! Finally, a high school grad who won’t starve when he or she leaves the nest!

Noah wanted to test his new-found skills on some hand-me-down recipes from his Mimi and great grandmother, Nana. He cooked dinner—all by himself for Papa and me. And now I’ll brag, he conquered a recipe that took me years to perfect—peppercorn gravy. Not a packaged mix—from scratch. And his oven fried chicken, green beans, and mashed potatoes were lip-smackin’ luscious!


I know his Nana, Great Aunt Tommie, his mom Michelle, and Grandma Marge are looking down from Heaven shoutin’, “Glory be! Look at that boy.”  But his step-mom Lori, Uncle Michael, and me speculate this is probably the results of a collective gene pool! Someday—in the far distant future—Noah’s gonna give some lucky gal lots of help in the kitchen.

So all you grandmas and papas, dust off and drag out those family recipes, and next time your old-enough-to-cook grandchild visits give ‘em your apron and be their assistant.



Marinate fresh chicken tenders in a southwest salad dressing or dressing of your choice for several hours.

Mix two or three cups of Panko breadcrumbs with 1 cup shredded Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese. Add 1 heaping teaspoon of salt and pepper to taste. Dredge tenders in Panko mix and press crumbs into meat. Place on greased baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil or spray with Pam Cooking Spray. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes.


4 large baking potatoes, peeled and cubed

6 to 8 cloves of garlic, peeled and rough cut

1 teaspoon salt

Place chopped potatoes, garlic, and salt in large pot of water and bring to a boil. Boil till fork tender, but not falling apart, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain in sieve and return potatoes and garlic to pot.

1 stick real butter

1 teaspoon salt

Coarse ground black pepper to taste (we like lots of pepper)

1/2 cup of sour cream

Whip above ingredients with electric hand mixer until smooth and fluffy. If mixture is too thick, add ¼ cup of milk. Top with a generous pat of butter. Yummy! And if there are any leftovers, potato pancakes would be on the menu at our house next meal.


1 stick real butter

1/3 cup of flour

2 teaspoons salt

1 to 2 teaspoons coarse ground black pepper (to taste)

A large iron skillet makes the best rue, which is what you call the cooked flour/butter mixture.  Melt butter over medium high heat and sprinkle flour over melted butter. This is a constant care preparation. No multi-tasking here. Stir with a whisk until smooth but not brown. Pour one-half cup of milk into flour mix, stirring continually. Lower the heat and add another half cup of milk, still stirring and cooking the mixture.  For a thinner gravy add additional small amounts of milk, cooking between each addition, until you achieve the consistency your family loves.

If you like onions and garlic, chop and sauté them in a separate skillet, then add as a final ingredient to your perfect peppercorn cream gravy. Serve over mashed potatoes and/or as a dipping sauce for this guilt-free oven fried chicken.


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Christmas Gifts

Last year my good friend and neighbor, Barbie Galofaro, knowing how much I love antique glass, purchased a beautiful old cake plate complete with a lemon bundt cake for my Christmas present and I love it!


So this year I determined I would repeat her gift to all my friends. I purchased the different sized bundt cake pans and set out to visit the local antique shops. What fun! Digging through antique glass–what could be better? For days. Until I had purchased and decided who would receive which piece.

DSCF7774Now those of you who know me, know baking isn’t my most stellar accomplishment. My daughter referred to most of my cakes as volcano cakes…they always erupted upon upon being turned out of their pan onto the platter.

But I searched for recipes, purchased the ingredients, and began the baking process a week ago–in stages.





Don’t know when I’ve ever had more fun! Sugar ants moved into my kitchen, enjoying the crumbs of my success and my house smells delicious. Today I have only two baking projects left…Aunt’s Christmas cookies for the Galofaro family and peppermint meringue kisses for another dear friend.






Once the delicious cakes…brown sugar cake with a caramel rum sauce, or lemon cake with a confectionery sugar glaze, or a rum cake with a rum glaze are devoured the cake or cupcake container is left to become a family treasure.


And I love to share recipes! Wish I could also share the added pounds I’m enjoying from sampling. Praying a Merry Christmas for all of you and a joy filled New Year!

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Silent Night, Holy Night

DSCF7709             From our house to your house Merry Christmas!




I love Christmas Trees and this is our new, slimmer, smaller tree. Decorated and gracing our living room with beautiful ornaments–a history of our family.





This crystal embossed ball given by friends over ten years ago.






Three of my favorites, the bottom left-hand ornament painted by my BFF and artist Pat Farmer in 1981. And finally our table set and ready for a holiday meal. Blessings to you and your family. May the joy of Jesus fill you to capacity this year!



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