Engaging stories of love, joy, comfort and friendship with proven scrumptious, healthy recipes, we celebrate LOVE as the secret ingredient for wonderful food!

Cheese Straw Cornbread

Pile of Delta Bred cheese straws on a wooden cutting board.

Delta Bred Cheese Straws.


The buttery, cheesy, delicious Delta Bred Cheese Straws are totally awesome and addictive on their own or served with cocktails. These were one of the first talked about items in our spring box! Comments have come in like “these cheese straws are to die for” and “where can I buy more?” and “The cheese straws were a big hit and didn’t last long at all.” Break them in half and use them to garnish a gazpacho or add some brightness to any salad. Or, you can make this Cheese Straw Cornbread and go straight to heaven.

Putting the cheese straws directly in the cornbread adds a crunchy, cheesy surprise, elevating the humble bread. I made this for a Sunday morning breakfast and it was just divine. You could put some butter on it but honestly, nothing was needed with the extra punch of these cheesy bits. I know you’ll LOVE this!


Cheese straw cornbread on table with newspaper.


1 cup medium grind whole grain cornmeal (I used Bob’s Red Mill brand)
1 cup of multi-grain flour (or you could use white flour)
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbs. baking powder
1 egg
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup butter, melted 
1 cup Delta Bred cheese straws, each straw cut into 2 or 3 pieces

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Butter an 8″ square glass baking dish.

Whisk together all the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, buttermilk and butter. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and whisk just enough to combine. Then fold in the cheese straw pieces and let the batter sit for 10 minutes to let the baking powder do its thing.

Gently pour the batter into your prepared pan and bake for 20 – 25 minutes.

Serve warm with LOVE! Enjoy!!

The Delta Bred Cheese Straws were in our MARY’s secret ingredients spring box. The summer box will mail on June 25th. 

Cheese straw cornbread in pan on stove.

Chimichurri-ed Wilted Endives with Walnuts

Chimichurri roasted endive - finished dish.I love endive. I think it’s so elegant. I remember when we traveled to Egypt in the early eighties around Christmas time, we didn’t dare eat any fruits or vegetables for fear of getting really sick due to their fertilization practices. Now I am a huge fan of vegetables and fruit. I typically eat a ton of each everyday, and after being there for about four days, I was not a happy camper. But on Christmas Eve, we were at a party and they had endive on the buffet table. My husband leaned over and whispered in my ear, “Mary, you can eat this. It’s from Belgium.” And I was in heaven!! This recipe of Chimichurri-ed Wilted Endives with Walnuts, using the Samba Flavor Chimichurri pack from our latest MSI spring box, covers all the bases – different, delicious, elegant and easy. Sautéing the endive mellows the bitterness. I love it being crisp and warm all at the same time. Making the Chimichurri with lemon juice and walnut oil makes it extra special, plus the addition of the chopped walnuts to finish it off, adds texture, flavor and contrast. Make this as a side dish and be prepared for rave reviews.

The SambaFlavor Chimichurri folks are very proud of their spice combination and they should be, as it’s all natural, gluten free and has no MSG. They wanted to create an easy way to replicate dishes from home, (South America) with this pre-made spice and herb combination. With a touch of red chili flakes, this little mix, made just the way they suggest, has a myriad of uses. Dress up some roasted fish, grilled meats, chicken, grilled eggplant or zucchini. I even used it on some boiled Yukon Gold potatoes for a quick warm potato salad and it was delish. Heck it’s probably even good on over-easy eggs. Experiment and have fun! There won’t be a lot that you can’t pSamba Flavor Chimichurri Dry Mix.ut it on to perk up any dish and make it more special.


3 good-size heads of Belgian endive, wiped clean with a wet paper towel, ends trimmed and cut in half lengthwise
1 Tbs. Olive oil

For the Chimichurri:
3 Tbs. Samba Flavor Chimichurri spice mix
3 Tbs. hot tap water
3 Tbs. lemon juice
6 Tbs. walnut oil, plus a little extra for drizzling
Extra chopped walnuts for garnish

SambaFlavor Chimichurri in a bowl.Make the Chimichurri: Combine the Samba Flavor Chimichurri spice mix with the hot tap water and lemon juice and let it soak for 5 minutes. Whisk in the walnut oil.

Chopped walnuts on a wooden cutting board.

Chop the walnuts.

Saute the endives: Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Place endive halves in the skillet, cut side down. They should not be touching one another. Season with kosher salt and pepper and cover the pan loosely. Cook until golden brown on the cut side, about 5 minutes. Flip over and cook on other side, loosely covered, until crisp tender, about another 4 – 5 minutes.

Chimichurri - sauteed endive.Remove from heat and transfer the endives to a platter, cut side up. Spoon about a tablespoon of Chimichurri on each half. (you will not use all of it – keep remainder in the fridge and use on roasted fish, eggplant, eggs, anything!!) Top with chopped walnuts and drizzle a tiny bit of extra walnut oil on top. Serve with LOVE and enjoy!

The SambaFlavor Chimichurri Dry Mix was in our MARY’s secret ingredients spring box. The summer box will mail on June 25th. 

Veggie Pho – Gluten-Free!

Savory Choice Veg Pho finished in a bowl.Savory Creations International, located in Northern California, is the company that makes this outstanding Veggie Pho. Savory Creations Veggie Authentic Pho.They make other pho’s too – chicken and beef – but I chose the vegetable one to include in our spring box because I thought it was so flavorful and I love the hint of cloves. This company supplies broths and demi glace for top chefs at very fine restaurants so they really know what they are doing, as all of their products are super delicious and just as good as homemade. Of course all of them are all natural, no MSG, naturally gluten-free with zero trans fats and come concentrated in these handy little packets where you dissolve each packet in 2 cups of hot water.

Savory Choice Veg Pho with sandwiches.

I made this Veggie Pho Gluten-Free and paired it with a grilled Provolone and tomato sandwich on whole grain bread (I know – I added glutens with the bread, but we are not sensitive to glutens!) for one of our weekly meatless meals and my husband asked me to make this dinner again. You know he usually complains about the one meatless meal per week but this one was a winner!

Pho is the Vietnamese national dish, typically consisting of rice noodles, onions, herbs, seasonings and thinly sliced beef or chicken in a clear broth.

Savory Choice Veg. Pho ingredients on a wooden board.

I chose to keep this pho vegetarian as well as gluten-free, using white rice noodles and a variety of vegetables. Of course you can use any combination of vegetables or add a protein such as shrimp, chicken or pork. Anything works in this broth. It’s super easy and quick to have a satisfying meal to put on the table in a jiffy. And remember to make it with LOVE – for best results! :)Savory Choice Vegetable Pho in a bowl with noodles.

Here’s what I did:


3 packs of Savory Choice Veggie Pho
6 cups of hot water
5 oz. gluten-free white rice spaghetti
2 radishes, thinly sliced
2/3 of a head of Romaine lettuce heart, cut in 1/4” slices
1/4 of a head of radicchio, cut in 1/4” slices
One handful of sugar snap peas, strings removed
1/4 cup oil cured, pitted black olives
2 scallions, white and light green parts, cut in 1/4” slices
Dash of Sriracha sauce to taste

Set a medium sized pot of cold water on to boil. When it comes to a boil, season with coarse sea salt and cook the white rice spaghetti al dente. Drain and reserve.

Prepare all the vegetables. Dissolve the Veggie Pho in the 6 cups of hot water in a medium sized pot. Bring it to a simmer and add the sugar snap peas. Simmer for 2 -3 minutes, until crisp tender. Add the noodles, the rest of the vegetables and the olives. Remove from heat immediately as you want to keep the rest of the vegetables crisp and tasty – do not cook them. Ladle pho into serving bowls. Garnish with scallions and serve. Use the sauce as you please for an added kick!
Making grilled Provolone cheese and tomato sandwiches.


4 slices of whole grain bread
Unsalted butter
6 – 8 slices of Provolone cheese
1 tomato, cut in 6 slices
fresh ground pepper

Assemble sandwiches as shown, cheese topped with the tomato slices. Grind pepper over the tomatoes. Close the sandwiches and butter one side of the bread.

Melt some butter in a non-stick skillet on medium heat. Swirl the butter around to coat the bottom of the pan. Put the unbuttered side of the sandwich down and cook for about 5 minutes until bread is nicely browned. Flip sandwich over and toast the other side for 4 – 5 minutes.Provolone grilled cheese and tomato sandwich cut in half.

Remove to a plate and cut in half diagonally to serve with the Veggie Pho. Enjoy!!

The Savory Choice Veggie Pho was in our MARY’s secret ingredients spring box. The summer box will mail on June 25th. 

Mother’s Day at Woman’s Day

The week before last I received an invitation to a Mother’s Day brunch at Woman’s Day magazine corporate headquarters. I said “Yes!” Not really knowing what to expect, it was a delightful few hours this past Tuesday morning. They had invited about a dozen bloggers and we got to “play”.

Mother's Day Women's Day.

Take a look at the cupcake I decorated to, ahem, “match” their cover cupcake. My bee looks a little distressed or crabby, don’t you think? I didn’t mean to make it look like that but the woman next to me accidentally hit my elbow while I was drawing on the face. Oh well! What was really fun was being able to meet some other bloggers in person. Previously we had only known each other through commenting.

Women's Day magazine - Mother's Day cover.The team at Woman’s Day is so impressive. These editors are top notch – all young, beautiful, super organized and as the Editor in Chief, Susan Spencer said, “they get it done!” The magazine is so deep with ideas on food, fashion, crafts and projects, books to read, you name it!

Do It Yourself (DIY) projects are very big with their readers, so another thing we learned is how to make your own salt or brown sugar body scrub. I’m a salt person myself so I made a lemongrass salt version. It’s so simple, it’s stupid and to think I spent all this money on scrubs from Bliss in the past and I could have made this in my kitchen? Who knew? Estee Lauder started in her kitchen and look where that got her!

So let me share this recipe with you. Make this and use it, as it won’t last too long. They say it will keep for about a month in a closed jar in a cool dark place. So all you moms out there should make this for yourselves and give yourself a spa day Mother’s Day!

Mother's Day Lemongrass scrub.

Homemade Body Scrub – from Woman’s Day magazine

3 rounded Tbs. Kosher salt
2 Tbs. olive oil
5 – 6 drops of any essential oil – lemongrass, lavender, peppermint, you decide!

Place salt in a small clean glass jar. Drizzle in olive oil and stir with a wooden stick or chopstick. Add in the oil and stir again.

Store in a cool dark place and use within a month.

My boy are coming over to cook me a surprise dinner for Mother’s Day. (It’s my favorite holiday!) I can’t wait!!

Hope you all have an awesome day on Sunday!

Eggplant, Mozzarella and Oil-cured Black Olive Spaghetti

Eggplant mozzarella and oil-cured black olive spaghetti in a white bowl with blurred edges.

I have been wanting to tell you about this dish for some time now and I thought I’d better get it to you before we get deep into grilling season. You know my husband is not fond of my one meatless meal per week, (although last week I snuck in two and he didn’t notice!) One night I threw together this dish and it was so satisfying, rich, delicious and different too! With the oil cured black olives and fresh fennel, each adding their own distinctive flavor, the sweet fresh tomatoes added at the end, along with the creaminess of the mozzarella, this is a recipe you will want to repeat. Give this eggplant, mozzarella and oil-cured black olive spaghetti dish a try and your meat lover will not complain. Mine asked me to make it again!

With this recipe, I also discovered some new things. I don’t know about you, but every time I cook eggplant, I feel like I run the risk of using way too much olive oil as the eggplant will absorb and absorb forever, if you know what I mean. So here, I used a reasonable amount for a whole pasta dish, 1/3 cup, but sautéed it on low heat covered, with the fennel, which also gave off some moisture. This made everything juicy and tender, needing no additional oil. I added the tomatoes at the very end, not to cook them into a sauce but to have them add their fresh burst of color and flavor. The 1/2 cup of pasta water is essential to make the sauce adhere to the noodle better. Did you know that that is true for all pastas?

The three small zebra striped eggplants seem sweeter to me. If you can’t find the zebra striped, use the small Italian solid purple eggplants. And do be sure to buy the best, fresh salted mozzarella you can find. Happy healthy eating!!
Eggplant, mozzarella and oil cured black olives in a skillet.


3 small zebra striped eggplants, washed, trimmed and sliced lengthwise in half and then in 1/2 slices
1/2 of a large fennel bulb, cut into 1/4” thick slices, then in 1/2” pieces
1/3 cup olive oil
5 large cloves of garlic, minced
2 plum tomatoes, cored and chopped
Heaping 1/2 cup of oil cured, pitted, black olives (the wrinkled ones)
7 oz. mozzarella cheese, cut in 1/4” slices, then 1/4” strips, then cut each strip in half again
Course sea salt for pasta water
1/2 lb. spaghetti
1/2 cup pasta water

Fill a large pot with cold water and bring to a boil. Salt with the coarse sea salt and add the pasta. Cook till al dente. Remove and reserve at least 1/2 cup of pasta water.

Meanwhile, warm the olive oil in a large skillet, add the eggplant and fennel and cook on low heat, covered while stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes. Add the minced garlic, cover and cook another 15 minutes.

Add the chopped tomatoes and olives. Stir and cook for 5 minutes, uncovered.

Stir in your cooked pasta, pasta water and the cheese to combine and toss thoroughly to finish cooking your pasta.Eggplant mozzarella and oil cured black olive spaghetti finished in a bowl.

Check seasonings – it may need some pepper but not much else. At least I didn’t need anything else, except to serve with LOVE! 

Angel Food Cake with Strawberries and Whipped Cream and Our MSI Spring Box Winners!

Angel food cake with whipped cream and strawberries.

My mother used to make this cake often for birthdays or for our Sunday dessert. It was my brother Greg’s, always requested birthday cake for his July 30th birthday. It never misses an ooooh or ahhhh when brought to the table. The towering presentation, light and refreshing coolness, was always a hit, particularly in late July in steamy St. Louis.

My mother would use Dream Whip in those days, (remember that dry packaged stuff you added milk and vanilla to?) along with Duncan Hines Angel food cake mix. Ah the ‘60’s – the introduction of time saving mixes entered our lives, the beginning of processed food creeping into every aspect of our eating. Although my mother often talked about making the cake from scratch, the thought of a dozen egg whites was daunting. And then what do you do with all those yolks? (I am asking the same question now.)

When our boys were little, I continued the tradition of making this cake on Sundays with (yes, don’t judge) a boxed cake mix, but real whipped cream. Then my oldest asked for this for his recent big birthday. Only this time, I made the cake from scratch. There is a difference. Light, fabulously fluffy, not too much almond, this is sweet in so many ways. It is worth the effort. Be sure there is no butter, grease or olive oil even nearby and have your egg whites truly at room temperature – no kidding. Separate your eggs first and put your yolks back in the fridge right away, but leave those whites out. I probably let mine sit out for over 2 hours before attacking them to whip.

Be sure to use fresh cake flour too and don’t forget to cut through the batter with a knife to remove the air holes before baking and have a good liquor bottle around to turn that cake upside down on to cool, as soon as it comes out of the oven, otherwise you will watch it sink back into the pan. Find the right sized bottle first, before you even start making the cake.

Huge piece of angel food cake with whipped cream and strawberries.

The birthday boy’s first piece!

This really isn’t hard and it is so pretty, so light and so delicious!! The birthday boy had one piece the size of three plus then another regular sized piece.

Yes, he was pretty happy.

ANGEL FOOD CAKE – serves 12
1 cup cake flour
3⁄4 cup sugar
2 Tbs. sugar
12 large egg whites, MUST be at room temperature
1 1⁄2 tsp. cream of tartar
1⁄4 tsp. salt
3⁄4 cup sugar
1 1⁄2 tsp. vanilla
1⁄2 tsp. almond extract

For the filling:
2+ cups heavy cream
1 rounded Tbs. powdered or confectioner’s sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
12 -16 oz. fresh strawberries, washed and dried. Save 5 – 6 perfect berries for the top decoration, hull and slice the others.

Note: For those not used to making angel food cakes, do not get any yoke in the whites. If you do, throw it out and start over. A good thing to do is to separate the egg in a glass first. Then if no yoke, pour into your clean, totally grease-free bowl to whip.

DO NOT GREASE PAN. Use a two-piece angel food cake pan.

Pre-heat oven to 375°.

Sift the cake flour and 3/4 cup + 2 Tbs. sugar; set aside.

Combine the extracts in a small bowl; set aside.

Beat egg whites, cream of tartar and salt until peaks form.

Add the other 3/4 cup of sugar slowly, then beat on high until stiff peaks form. Remove bowl from mixer and fold in flour mixture and extracts slowly. You will add the flour in 5 or 6 additions, folding after each one. Make sure you fold in the sides and bottom of your mixing bowl.Angel food cake batter in pan.

Spoon batter into an angel food cake pan. Move a knife through batter to remove air pockets.

Bake 30-35 minutes or until top springs back when touched lightly with finger.

Angel food cake done in pan.

Remove from oven and invert pan onto a liquor bottle to cool completely.

To remove the cake from your pan take a flat metal cake spatula and insert it perpendicular in up an down motions around the rim of the cake pan just to get the ‘crust’ away from the pan.Then firmly spank the sides of your pan. Invert onto your serving plate then take the knife to the now top which was the bottom of your pan and gently cut cake away from the pan insert, using the same back and forth motion with the flat metal spatula. No need to cut around the center tube as you can just give the cake a gentle but firm tap or downward shake on to the plate. Or you can pick up plate while holding onto the pan insert with your thumbs and firmly strike the bottom of the plate onto a folded towel. (Just give it a slam down on the towel/table).Angel food cake cut with whipped cream and strawberries.

Cut the cake into 3 layers.

Whip 2+ cups of heavy cream – lightly sweeten with a Tbs. of powdered sugar and a little vanilla. Ice each layer with the cream and cover with sliced fresh strawberries. Top with whole strawberries and serve right away, with LOVE!

And now our MSI winners of our spring box giveaway are:

Carol Ezovski
Chelsea W
Stephanie Gee
Dominick Costa
Christina Bauer

Congratulations to all of you and I know you’ll love your spring box, which due to some growing pains over here, is mailing out this Friday, May 1st. Enjoy!!