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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