April 30, 2012

Spanish Rice Recipe (by way of Puerto Rico and Philadelphia)

Once in awhile I am treated to a night off from cooking.  Yay!  I look forward to these nights.  Little unannounced surprises.  Often, my husband will whip up a pot of Spanish Rice, a recipe that his mother used to make when he was growing up.  
His father was a pastor and once mentored a young seminarian who had come to Philadelphia from Puerto Rico to learn the ways of the church.  The younger pastor's wife spent time in the kitchen with my husband's mother, teaching her to cook dishes that seemed very foreign and exotic.  His mother quickly adopted the Spanish Rice recipe as her own, knowing that it was delicious and that she could inexpensively feed her eight children.  

I am happy to say that she cooked her Spanish Rice recipe for me before passing away.  Now, when my husband reaches for his mother's handmade cookbook, we enjoy not only a great dinner, but a lovely remembrance of her.

These are ingredients we typically have on hand, making last minute dinner prep super easy.

mise en place:  [MEEZ ahn plahs]
A French term referring to having all the ingredients necessary for a dish prepared and ready to combine up to the point of cooking.

My husband is a firm believer in mise en place.  I need to work on that.



3 Tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic
1 large onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (or the equivalent - whatever's on sale)
1 1/2 lbs rice
1 can tomato paste
3 Tbsp capers, with juice (don't drain them)
1 cup green olives
4 cups water or chicken broth (we prefer chicken broth)
Salt to taste


Heat olive oil in large pot over medium high heat.  Saut√© garlic, onion and green pepper for 5 minutes.  Add chicken.  Add rice and stir for 3 minutes.  Add tomato paste, capers and green olives.  Add water or chicken broth.  Cover pot.  Simmer for 30 minutes or until rice is done.  Salt to taste.

Can also be made with ham.  Or, leave the meat out for a vegetarian version.

Dinner is served!

If you try this recipe, let me know what you think! 


© 2012 All photography, graphics, text and copy are the property of Ivy Lane Designs, LLC. 

April 24, 2012

2nd Annual Golf Outing to Benefit the Pottstown Cluster Charity

The 2nd Annual Golf Outing to benefit the Pottstown Cluster of Religious Communities will take place on Thursday, May 10, 2012 at Bellewood Golf Club, with a noon tee-off.

Includes:  lunch, golf and cart, cocktail reception and dinner.

This event will feature a shotgun scramble format, putting contest, prizes, lunch, reception and dinner.  Men, women, golfers and duffers are all invited to have a great time while raising funds for individuals and families in need in our community.  Remember, if you register your foursome under your church, you are eligible to compete for the “Church Challenge Cup,” won last year by Mercy and Truth Synagogue.  

Don't golf?  That's okay.  Come to the cocktail reception and dinner following the golf match for only $45.  Once there, you can enjoy chair massages by Anna Ellis of Picasso Salon and Day Spa and Cyndi Renard of Ahhh Massage for only $1.00 a minute. 

To register online, click HERE.  For a printable registration form, click HERE.  For more information, or to sponsor a hole or make a donation for the silent auction, contact George Bell at:  610-327-0206. 

Here are photos from last year's event:


April 23, 2012

Meatless Monday: Fresh and Fast Edamame Dip

This is a super fast (five minutes or less), easy recipe.  The perfect thing to throw together when friends drop by.  I made it with all ingredients that I had on hand.  Yummy and fresh tasting!  

  • 1 12-ounce bag frozen shelled edamame, thawed (I buy mine already shelled)
  • 8 ounces soft goat cheese (I bought mine at Costco, natch!)
  • 1/4 c. water
  • 1 t. lemon zest, minced (read about my favorite zester HERE)
  • 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp. minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 t. wasabi paste (comes in a tube in the Asian section of the grocery store - see photo below)
  • 1/2 t. black pepper
  • Pinch of salt (taste and add gradually)


Whizz all ingredients, except for salt, in food processor.  Taste and add salt as needed.  Scoop into bowl and serve with cut up veggies and/or crackers, pita chips, whatever strikes your fancy!  If you have a garden, you're made in the shade.  Enjoy! 

Click HERE to check out all of my Meatless Monday recipes.


April 21, 2012

The Kindness of Strangers: Josh

Recently I went stand to stand at Zern’s Farmers’ Market, asking for donations of food for the Pottstown Cluster of Religious Communities, a non-profit organization that helps individuals and families in need.  During the evening, I met a young man, Josh, who was working at a produce stand.  Josh had been the Pottstown Cluster’s client and had eaten many a community meal.  He had been homeless, living in abandoned houses or in a tent city under the South Washington Street Bridge in Pottstown.  He was in a bad place.  The Pottstown Cluster provided him with hot meals through the Community Meals program and clothing and food through the Emergency Food Pantry. 

When I asked Josh for a donation, he immediately spoke with his boss.  The Cluster now has 150 lbs. of potatoes and 30 lbs. of romaine lettuce, thanks to the kind generosity of Deb and Tiny who manage Stand 143 in the Center Court.  Josh’s life has completely turned around.  He has a new apartment, is making smart decisions and has a good job at the produce stand where he is a responsible and reliable employee.  He and his girlfriend, Sarah, are expecting their first child in October.  The Cluster helped him through an exceedingly hard time.  Now, he and his employers are giving back to the Cluster.  Thank you, Josh, Deb and Tiny.  


April 20, 2012

Happy Autism Awareness Month!

In our house, every month is Autism Awareness Month.  Our sweet son, Justin, has full-blown autism and we are happy.  Not happy that he has autism, but thrilled with each and every one of his accomplishments.  For example, he can jump!  It took us over four years to teach him, but, by Golly, both of his feet can leave the ground.  Yay!  It may not seem like a huge accomplishment, but to us it means everything.

Justin went from jumping to running, and now participates as an equal member of our high school's track team.  When he runs, everyone cheers, even the parents who are rooting for the opposing team.   I cheer, and I cry.
If you know someone who works with children who have autism, thank them and consider giving them a hug and a cookie.  Hillary Clinton said, "It takes a village."  She wasn't kidding.

If you know a parent of a child or adult with autism, offer to give him or her a hand or make them a sandwich.  Be sure to mean it and be specific.  Not, "let's have lunch sometime," or "why don't I care for your child sometime so you and your beloved can have a break?"  Say something more like:

  • "How about if I come over this Friday or Saturday night and hang out with your child so that you can go out to dinner?  Which night works better for you?"  
  • Or, "We would like to take your son/daughter to (fill in the blank:  the movies, dinner, a walk, bowling, a football/baseball game, the mall, etc.) with our family.  Would Saturday work for you?"

We would like to thank Bryan and his family for including Justin in various community activities, including church and the movies.  It means more to us than you know.  Thank you, Bryan, Tim and Debbie.

We parents don't often talk about the stressors involved in raising a severely disabled child.  We just don't.  Not even with our closest friends.  Instead, we cook, eat, exercise, craft, garden, read, sing, laugh and, of course, dance in our socks in the kitchen.   

Happy Autism Awareness Month, from our family to yours.


April 18, 2012

Childish Enthusiasm and Unicorn Crayon Party Favors

I want to be a kid again!  My friends and family could successfully argue that, in a lot of ways, I am a big kid.  I have the energy of a two-year-old, sing with gusto (more often than not the wrong words, much to my sister and daughter's dismay), dance in my socks in the kitchen and laugh often.  And, I make up my own words, not just to songs, whenever it pleases me.  Yippy skippy! 

I was contacted by a customer requesting unicorn crayon party favors.  I had never made unicorn crayons so spent yesterday evening in creativity mode.  The end result: SUPER DUPER CUTENESS!  I am as pleased as Punch.  Unicorn crayons in every color of the rainbow and then some, available in my Etsy shop HERE.

Never lose your childish enthusiasm.

© 2012 All products, photography, graphics, text and copy are the property of Ivy Lane Designs, LLC.

April 16, 2012

Pennsylvania Dutch Pork Roast, Sauerkraut, Mashed Potatoes and Gravy, Green Beans and Apple Sauce for 100

I have my friend and workout partner, Dee, to thank for serving as my advisor on this recipe, as I am neither Dutch or from Pennsylvania.  Dee convinced me to roast the pork and serve it with sauerkraut (on the side), mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans and apple sauce.  I followed her suggestions and the meal was a huge success!  Thanks, Dee. 

Every third Monday, I prepare a hot meal for those in need through the Pottstown Cluster of Religious Communities.  The Cluster addresses the spiritual, social and basic needs of persons within the Greater Pottstown community.  To learn more about the Cluster, visit their website HERE.

Fr. Terry, of Christ Episcopal Church, blessed the food and the hungry.  Christ Episcopal is hosting the homeless every night, overnight, again this month.  There are at least four families who come seeking shelter who have children.  Homeless children.  The fact that a church in my town cares this much for those who are less fortunate gives me goose bumps.  How wonderful!  If you are looking for a church to call your own, I would visit this one as they are practicing what they preach.  Thank you, Christ Episcopal

Bev, Barb, Charlotte and Bob are the best volunteers EVER!  Bob's favorite restaurant is Henry's Cafe (see t-shirt).  Frank, the owner of Henry's Cafe, agreed to volunteer his time to help me cook my community meals.  Not only is he super nice, his food is out of this world delicious!   

  • Pork roast/s (I used four roasts, total weight around 30 lbs. - *pork loin top loin roast boneless* is what it said on the wrappers)
  • Olive oil
  • Whole garlic cloves, peeled
  • Salt and pepper
  • Apple juice
  • Beef stock
  • Apples, cored and sliced
  • Onions, peeled and sliced
  • Bay leaves


Using paper towels, blot roast (I'll be using singular *roast* to prevent confusion) so it's thoroughly dry.

Using a small, sharp knife, stab about 12 holes in each roast.  Insert one clove of garlic in each hole (all the way so no garlic is sticking out).

Using your hands, spread olive oil all over roast, including ends.  Sprinkle salt and pepper liberally over roast, including ends.

[Don your apron, if you haven't done so already].  Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in large cast iron pot.  Add roast and brown on all surfaces, including ends.  No wimpy browning.  Really brown it!  Much of the flavor comes from the browning so take your time and sear every surface.

Remove roast from pot and place in deep baking pan.  Pour juices from pot over roast.

Pour apple juice over roast (I divided about 1/2 gallon between two pans, each pan containing two roasts). 

Then pour beef stock over roast (I used about 4 cups between two pans, each pan containing two roasts).

Add bay leaves (I used about four or five leaves per pan).

Add sliced onions to pan (I divided about 8 large onions between two pans).

Add sliced apples to pan (I divided about 8 large apples between two pans).  Give your beloved a big hug and a kiss if he or she sliced all of the onions and apples (mine did!).

Cover pan with aluminum foil and bake at 325 degrees for 3 1/2 hours, or until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees.  

Remove roasts and let rest before carving. 
GRAVY:  To make gravy, strain pan juices into pot, reserving cooked onions and apples.  Over medium high heat, bring to a slow boil.  Add beef broth, if needed.  Mix corn starch with cold water and slowly add mixture to pot.  Stir until thickened. 

Slice pork and place on serving platter.  Top with cooked apples and onions, and a bit of the gravy.  Reserve most of the gravy for the mashed potatoes.

Serving suggestion:  Serve with mashed potatoes and gravy, sauerkraut (heated in a pot with caraway seeds), green beans and applesauce. 



April 14, 2012

Gluten-Free Coconut Layer Cake

A recent family celebration called for a special dessert.  A coconut layer cake, for my coconut-loving family.  My son follows a gluten-free diet, so I whipped up a gluten-free version that was moist and delicious!


2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 1/2 c. brown flour
2/3 c. potato starch (not potato flour)
1/3 c. tapioca flour 
1/2 t. salt
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 t. xanthan gum 
1 c. canola oil
1 c. unsweetened canned coconut milk (not light)
1 t. pure vanilla extract
1 t. coconut extract
1/4 c. sweetened flaked coconut
coconut frosting (recipe follows)

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Position rack in center of oven.  Line two round layer cake pans with parchment or wax paper (trace bottom of pan and cut out using scissors) and spray with nonstick cooking spray.
  • Beat sugar and eggs for one minute.  Add flours, salt, baking powder, xanthan gum, oil, coconut milk, vanilla and coconut extracts and flaked coconut.  Beat at medium speed for one minute.
  • Pour batter into pans.  Place in oven and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until center springs back when touched.
  • Cool cake layers in pans for 5 minutes.  Use a small knife to cut around pans' sides, loosening the cakes.  Invert cake layers onto cooling racks.  Peel off papers and allow to cool completely.
  • Place one layer on a cake plate or platter.  Spread 1 cup of frosting over top and sides.  Place second layer on top and repeat with remaining frosting.  Pat sweetened coconut onto the top and sides of cake.


1/2 c. butter, room temperature
4 oz. low-fat cream cheese, room temperature
3 c. confectioners' sugar
1/4 c. unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 t. pure vanilla extract
1/2 t. coconut extract
1/2 to 3/4 cup sweetened flaked coconut (do not mix in frosting)

  • Beat butter and cream cheese in large bowl of electric mixer until light and fluffy.
  • Add confectioners' sugar, coconut milk, vanilla and coconut extracts and beat at low until well blended and smooth.

SERVING SUGGESTION:  Serve slightly chilled or at room temperature.  Store frosted cake in refrigerator.


April 11, 2012

How Can You Mend a Broken Heart? Why, Crafting, of Course!

The Bee Gees crooned, "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?"  That was 1971 and we are still asking the same question today.  My answer, crafting (good friends and good food help, too).

My friend, Katherine, is recovering from a broken heart following a breakup with her longtime boyfriend.  She's sad and needs cheering up.  Although she is attending law school in Minnesota, she is a native Texan through and through.  She is also a fellow crafter and blogger (or, is it bloggess?), talented baker (her monster cookie recipe is the bomb!) and a genuinely kind person.  

Shh, surprise!  I decided to make Texas-shaped crayons to bring a little piece of home to Katherine.  Texas, in every color of the rainbow, and then some.  I dropped a set in the mail to her with high hopes they will lift her spirits.

For your very own nifty set of 15 brightly colored Texas-shaped crayons, click HERE

Follow Katherine's fun blog, The Duchess of Plumewood, HERE.

UPDATE:  The Texas crayons were a huge hit with Mlle Katherine.  Read about it HERE.


April 9, 2012

Meatless Monday: Panang Curry

This recipe is off the hook delicious!  Let me say from the get-go that although I made mine using tofu {Meatless Monday, natch!}, one could easily substitute shrimp or chicken.  If you are up for the tofu challenge, I can honestly say that you will never miss the meat <pinkie swear>.  If you have never cooked tofu, fear not.  I have included instructions on how to show tofu who's boss!

I am convinced that most everything tastes better cooked in coconut milk.  Mmm...


3 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 14-oz. container of organic firm tofu, drained and dried, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1 large onion, chopped
2 large red bell peppers, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 Tbsp. fresh ginger
4 garlic cloves
1/4 c. peanut butter
2 t. turmeric
1 t. ground cumin
2 t. chili paste (sambal oelek is the best, in my opinion)
1 c. chicken broth
1/2 t. corn starch
1 can light coconut milk
3 kaffir lime leaves (click HERE for mine, or you can order fresh leaves HERE and store in your freezer)
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. fish sauce (I prefer Squid brand)
2 large zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch pieces


Tofu is like a sponge and, when dry, will absorb all of the flavors of a yummy sauce.  Drain tofu.  Line a cookie sheet with paper towels.  Sandwich tofu between the paper towel lined cookie sheet and another on top.  Press down.  Stack a few heavy cookbooks on top (such as, Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volumes I and II).  Remove cookie sheet and books and blot with paper towels to remove remaining moisture.  The goal is for your tofu to be completely dry.     


  • Cut tofu that has been dried into 1/2-inch cubes.  Heat 1 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat.  Brown tofu.  Remove from heat and transfer to bowl for later use.
  • Heat remaining 1 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add onion, red pepper, ginger and garlic and cook until veggies are tender, about 6 minutes.  Stir now and then.
  • Add peanut butter, turmeric, cumin and chili paste.  Stir until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Whisk chicken stock with corn starch and add to skillet.  
  • Add coconut milk, fish sauce, lime leaves and brown sugar, bring to simmer.
  • Add zucchini and browned tofu and continue to simmer for 20 minutes.  Give it a good stir once in awhile.   
  • Season with salt to taste.  The fish sauce is salty, so you won't need muchTaste before adding salt.  Add, if needed.  Then taste again.  Repeat.  Think:  baby steps.

 Serving suggestion:  Serve over brown or jasmine rice.

If you try this recipe and like it, let me know.  Enjoy! 

Click HERE to check out all of my yummy Meatless Monday recipes.  


April 8, 2012

Easter, Autism, Good Deeds and The Lorax

Happy Easter, everyone!  It has been a whirlwind of a day, putting the finishing touches on Easter baskets, helping the bunny hide eggs, cooking and baking and, of course, dyeing eggs.  The best part of the day was spending time with my family.

I love a story with a happy ending.  My sweet son, who happens to have autism, does not ask for much.  This year he wanted a stuffed Lorax from the Easter Bunny.  I googled, made phone calls,...to no avail.  I asked for help on Facebook and my high school friend, Dave, came to the rescue.  He found the last Lorax baby on the planet and mailed it to me.  What an incredibly kind thing to do.  Thank you, Dave! 

Someone ate all of his candy in three-and-a-half minutes.

My amazing daughter surprised me with lovely yellow roses.

Finding the first egg is the best feeling!

Realizing there is money inside all of the eggs also feels pretty darn good.

 Taking inventory.

We punched out different shapes from full-sheet adhesive labels that we applied to the eggs before dyeing.  We then removed the stickers after dyeing.  Nifty!

 World's best Easter egg decorator.

Happy Easter to all!


April 5, 2012

World's Best Chicken Pot Pie

I am pleased as punch to share with you that I fed my family three dinners this week using one chicken.  First dinner:  Moistest roasted chicken ever.  Read about it HERE.  Second dinner:  Chicken soup, HERE.  Third dinner: Our personal favorite, the world's best chicken pot pie!  My beloved described it as being out of this world!   

Keep in mind that this is one of those clean-out-the-refrigerator types of recipes that we all love.  Pretty much whatever you have, goes.  For instance, I still had a leek from when I made pumpkin risotto with goat cheese.  I had never added leeks to chicken pot pie, but thought, "Why not?"  It was great!

You can add most any combination of diced, sliced and chopped fresh vegetables.  And, if you are in a real time crunch (running to soccer, track, band, whatever), you can use canned mixed veggies.  Rinse the heck out of them first because they are so full of sodium that it's not even funny.

Here are examples of vegetables that go nicely in a chicken pot pie:  onions, shallots, leeks, mushrooms, potatoes (red, white, whatever - peeled or unpeeled), carrots, celery, even corn (the corn mention's for you, Delana), frozen green peas, etc.  Yank open that veggie drawer in your fridge and go crazy!  You want to end up with about four cups of WASHED cut up veggies.  


  • 1 pie crust
  • 7 Tbsp. Butter, divided (2 to cook veggies, and 5 for the sauce) 
  • 4 cups of diced, chopped sliced vegetables (see list in paragraph above) 
  • 1 smidgen of garlic (if you like garlic a lot, add more smidgens)
  • 5 Tbsp. flour
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup half and half (or heavy cream)
  • 1/4 cup white wine (do not fear - all of the alcohol burns off and leaves a nice flavor - USE IT!)
  • 1 Tbsp. tarragon (If you don't have any, buy it.  This recipe's deliciousness depends on it)
  • 1 1/2 t. salt
  • 1/2 t. black pepper
  • 3 to 4 cups of leftover cooked chicken, diced/cubed (skin and icky parts removed)
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 Tbsp. water
  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees. 
  • Melt 2 Tbsp. butter in large skillet over medium high heat.  Add vegetables and garlic.  Stir, stir, stir.  Cook 7 minutes.  Transfer to a bowl for later use.
  • Melt remaining 5 Tbsp. over low heat.  Add flour and stir constantly for 2 minutes.  You want to prevent it from burning.  Low heat, stir, stir, stir.  (You're making a roux, which is the thickening agent in three of the mother sauces of classical French cooking).
  • Add broth and cook, stirring constantly, until thickened
  • Add half and half and cook over low heat for about five minutes, stirring constantly.
  • Stir in tarragon, salt and pepper, and simmer 1 minute
  • Add chicken and vegetables.  Stir to fully incorporate.
  • Pour into deep pie pan or casserole.  I used a 2.5 liter casserole dish as I was concerned it would overflow in my oven.  Place pan/dish on cookie sheet to prevent oven spillage mess.
  • Cover with crust.  Pinch edges.  Brush egg wash (beaten egg white and 1 Tbsp. of water) over entire crust, including edges.  Cut vents in crust.
  • Bake at 425 for 20 to 25 minutes.  Remove from oven.  Allow to rest as long as you can stand it (+/- 5 minutes in our house).   
Dig in and enjoy!  If you try it and you like it, give me a shout!


April 3, 2012

Creativity: Chicken Soup *Muffins* and SMASH!

I am a little sad because the guy with the caterpillar eyebrows left Debra Messing last night on SMASH.  Granted, she should never have had an affair (or affairs, as the case may be) with Joe DiMaggio.  I do hope they reconcile.  So, chicken soup to lift my apr√®s SMASH spirits is in order.   

Earlier this week, I roasted the moistest chicken ever (learn the secret HERE).  My beloved used part of the leftovers to make chicken soup because he knows it's one of my favorite lunches.  There was such a big pot that I decided to freeze some for later enjoyment.


This is the easiest thing ever!  You'll need:  homemade soup, a silicone muffin pan (I chose cheery hearts), a cookie sheet and a ladle or large spoon.  Oh, and a freezer.  That is it! 


1.  Place silicone muffin pan on cookie sheet.  If you try to do this later in the process, soup will undoubtedly slosh all over your counter.  Nobody wants to clean up sloshed soup. 

2.  Ladle soup into muffin pan.

3.  Carefully place cookie sheet with filled muffin pan on level shelf in freezer and wait.  Whistle while you wait (or, is it work?) if you like, but I typically craft nifty gifites (HERE) while I wait.  Note to self:  Learn to whistle.

4.  Once frozen solid, remove *muffins* and place them in freezer zippered bag.  

5.  Freeze for later use.  When you have a hankering for homemade soup (Alton Brown recommends avoiding canned soups at at all times.  Read about it HERE), pop a frozen soup *muffin* or two into a bowl or mug and microwave, stirring every so often.  Easy and good.  Enjoy!

Now that I have my bowl of comforting soup, back to SMASH.  I stumbled upon the awesome TV series while cruising the OnDemand offerings.  I watched one episode, then another, then had a SMASH marathon and am now completely hooked!  It's wonderful!  It's all about the development of a Broadway show centering around the life of Marilyn Monroe.  There is much more drama behind the scenes than on stage.  

Katherine McPhee (from American Idol fame) and Angelica Huston are my favorites, so far.  Katherine has a beautiful voice.  Really.  If you haven't heard her sing, you must.  Angelica Huston is a gifted actress (and, I really hope she gets together with the dreamy bartender).  I am trying to decide if Derek, who plays the director, is scrumptious in real life or if it's just his British accent that makes me look twice.  Click HERE to learn more about the show.  It airs Mondays at 10:00 pm on NBC.  And, the soundtrack is coming out May 1.  Mother's Day gift, perhaps? 

Make soup.  Eat soup.  Freeze soup.  Eat more soup.  Love life.  Watch SMASH.