09 September

Fried Grits Cake

September 22: National Grits for Breakfast Day

Having lived in Oklahoma and now in Texas, we have found grits to be on many restaurants’ breakfast menus. Grits are corn that has been ground into a coarse meal and boiled. They are very popular in the South and Southwest of the United States, having originated from the Native Americans who ate maize-types of porridges. We would eat grits for breakfast instead of oatmeal as a change but they were kind of bland and boring to us. But when fried into cakes, grits are great!!! Serve as a side dish with eggs and bacon or sausage for a Southern-style morning meal on National Grits for Breakfast Day.



  • 4 cups cooked grits (including water)
  • 4 cup Parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • flour
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
  • oil for frying


Cook grits according to the package instructions, reducing the water by about ½ cup. When done, stir in the cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Line an 8×8-inch square pan with foil, leaving a little overhang for the “handles”. Grease the foil with butter or cooking spray. Pour in the cooked grits and spread evenly. The grits should be no thicker than ½ inch. Cool completely (may be refrigerated) to solidify.

Lift the foil from its handles and place on cutting board. Slice the solidified grits into squares (may use circle or cookie cutters for different shapes). Dredge a piece into flour that has been seasoned with salt and pepper. Then dip into the beaten egg and back into the flour. Press lightly into the panko, shaking off excess.

Fry in hot oil on one side until brown and crispy. Carefully flip to brown and crisp the other side of the grits cake. Drain on paper towels. Serve hot for breakfast.


Apple Dumplings

September 17: National Apple Dumpling Day

When we lived in Illinois, we would visit the apple orchard at Kuipers Family Farm in Maple Park, and attend some of the fall events there. When we lived in San Antonio, Texas, we took fall road trips with our friends to Lost Maples in Vanderpool then stopped by Love Creek Orchards Cider Mill and Country Store in Medina for a snack. We enjoyed eating desserts at these places made with fall’s quintessential fruit—the apple.

We have several apple recipes on our blog, but here is an easy glazed dumpling dessert we made especially for National Apple Dumpling Day. Apple dumplings are like mini apple pies but when apples are encased in rich puff pastry and served warm à la mode with vanilla ice cream, they become a fancier fall treat!

Celebrate National Apple Dumpling Day, three National Apple Months (September, October and November) and the autumn season with apple dumplings.


(Adapted from Food Network)

For the apple dumplings

  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons raisins
  • 2 tablespoons pecan chips
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • 4 small apples (we used Granny Smith)
  • 1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
  • 2 teaspoons butter (divided into 4 pieces)
  • 1 egg + 1 tablespoon water (for the egg wash), beaten


In a bowl, combine the sugar, raisins, pecan chips and ground cinnamon. Stir in the lemon zest and juice. Mix till moistened.

Peel, core and slice the apples in half. Unfold the thawed puff pasty onto a lightly floured surface. Roll to about 12 inches square. Cut in quarters (6×6 inches). Place the apples on each square.

Spoon filling into the middle. Place butter pieces on top of the filling. Take the corners of the puff pastry square and fold towards the middle to seal the dumplings. Place them seal-side down on a lightly greased baking pan.


Brush with egg wash. Bake in a preheated oven at 375 degrees F for 30 minutes. The pastry should puff up more, turn golden brown and soften the apples inside. Transfer to a wire rack.

For the glaze

  • 1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • ½ teaspoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon butter


In a small pan, combine the powdered sugar, lemon juice, water and butter. Simmer over medium low heat, stirring until the butter has melted and the liquid is slightly thickened. Remove from heat. Brush over the apple dumplings. Serve in individual dessert plates with vanilla ice cream (optional).


  • Search our blog for more apple recipes.

Arepas con Carne Mechada

September 15- October 15: Hispanic Heritage Month

A few years ago, we sponsored the marriage of Danielito and Elaine L. at a neighboring Catholic church in our area. The groom grew up in Venezuela and wanted to bring something special to share as an appreciative gesture at one of our marriage preparation dinner sessions. What a nice break for us from cooking and what a treat to try a new cultural food. He cooked a typical Venezuelan dish called arepas (corn cakes) filled with carne mechada (pulled beef), which is their version of a hearty sandwich. Before bringing the final food to us, he and his fiancé/now wife had practiced preparing it in his apartment several times until Danielito felt it was just right enough to share his recipe. It is also nice to know that this couple worked as a team to cook together, which bodes well in their married life.

Muchas gracias to Danielito for sharing his recipe with us! Venezuelan-style arepas con carne mechada make a good meal, especially during Hispanic Heritage Month.


From Danielito L.

For the carne mechada (pulled beef)

  • 2 ½ – 3 pounds flank or skirt steak
  • 1 white onion, diced + 3 tomatoes, seeded + 1 bulb of garlic
  • 2 tablespoons of onion/tomato/garlic mix
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon cumin powder
  • 1 tablespoon adobo power
  • 1 tablespoon annatto powder


Prepare the beef by boiling the steak in water for about an hour or until it is soft enough to be pulled by hand. Use just enough water to cover the steak. Take the beef out, drain and let cool, reserving the beef froth for later. Shred the beef by pulling each individual strand.

In a blender, puree the diced white onions, seeded tomatoes and bulbs of garlic until it is a paste-like consistency. Save this combination when making the beef filling.

In a large pan, stir-fry the second diced onion with minced garlic until lightly brown. Lower the heat and add the shredded beef in the pan. Add the “onion/tomato/garlic” mixture. Stir in the tomato paste.

Sprinkle the meat with cumin, adobo and annatto powders. Mix everything together thoroughly. Add enough beef broth to cover the bottom of the pan. Stir and simmer in low heat, checking periodically to make sure the beef is not dry. Adjust spices to taste. Keep warm while making the arepas.

For the arepas

  • 1 cup arepa flour (precooked corn meal) [see Notes]
  • ½ – 1 teaspoon salt (optional)
  • 1 ¼ cup water
  • oil for cooking the arepas
  • shredded cheese (optional garnish)
  • chopped cilantro (optional garnish)


In a mixing bowl, place the arepa flour and salt (if using). Slowly mix in the water and stir well, making sure everything is absorbed. Let stand for five minutes. Divide into 6-8 pieces and roll into balls. Flatten to no more than ½ inch thick.

Under medium high heat, coat the bottom of a skillet with oil. To avoid splattering, carefully slip in a few pieces of the flattened dough and brown each side (takes at least five minutes). Flip over and continue to brown the arepas. Drain on paper towels.

When ready to serve, slice in the middle but do not cut all the way to the other end. Open and fill with carne mechada. Serve with shredded cheese and chopped cilantro (optional garnish).


  • Arepa flour (also known as masarepa or harina precocida) is precooked corn meal and should not be confused with masa harina. Find this in the Latin aisle of the grocery store or in Latin markets.
  • Search our blog for other Latin-inspired recipes for Hispanic Heritage Month.

Almond Cross Cookies

September 14: Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (Holyrood Day)

We visited the Palace of Holyroodhouse when we honeymooned in Scotland more than two decades ago. It is the official residence of the British monarch when in Scotland and the site for state occasions and official entertaining. On the palace grounds are the ruins of an Augustinian abbey dated from the 12th century and named as Holy Rood/Black Rood by King David I, son of Queen Margaret, a Scottish saint, who was believed to own a relic of the True Cross on which Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ was crucified. Holyrood is a special place to Highlander because this is where one of his ancient ancestors signed the chapel charter in 1127, the first official record of his clansman.

In the medieval Christian liturgical calendar, today is the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, also known as Holyrood Day. We commemorated this feast day with almond-flavored cross-shaped cookies. When it was celebrated as a religious holiday, work was not permitted except for the gathering and collecting of nuts (thus, the almond flavor in these cookies). The 1709 edition of “Poor Robert’s Almanack” reads:

The devil, as the common people say,

 Doth go a nutting on Holy-rood day;

 And sure such leachery in some doth lurk, 

Going a nutting do the devil’s work.

Cross cookies can be made for christenings/baptisms, holy communions, ordinations, Lent/Easter and many other Christian celebrations, especially for the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.


(Adapted from Kitchen Lane)


  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 3 cups flour (all purpose white)
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • white fondant
  • powdered sugar for dusting the surface
  • clear piping gel or water
  • purple or other food coloring
  • white tube frosting
  • green tube frosting


In a bowl, mix the butter with sugar until creamy. Beat in the egg and milk. Add the almond extract.

In a large bowl, stir together flour, baking powder and salt. Gradually add the flour mixture into the other ingredients and blend well to form a dough. Divide dough in thirds and roll into a ball. Then flatten each ball into a disc and place between sheets of waxed or parchment paper. Roll out to about ¼-inch thick (we used ¼-inch thick acrylic sticks as guides). Stack them on a baking sheet and refrigerate until firm (about 30-45 minutes). They may also be frozen for 15-20 minutes.

Take one stack of flattened dough out of the refrigerator or freezer. Peel away both front and back to loosen, leaving the dough on one sheet of the waxed or parchment paper. Cut out the cross shapes. Place on foil-lined greased cookie pan about 1 ½ – 2 inches apart. Refrigerate the cookie pan. Re-roll scraps of dough and cut more shapes, refrigerating if the dough gets too soft. The dough needs to be cold and firm in order to retain its cross shape. Bake the cookies in a preheated oven at 375 degrees F for 10-15 minutes or until the sides are very lightly browned. Remove from the oven when done and let sit on the pan for about five minutes. Transfer each cookie on a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container until ready to decorate.

Using the same cross-shaped cookie cutter, cut out shapes on white fondant (roll out to 1/8-inch thickness on a clean surface that has been dusted with a bit of powdered sugar to prevent from sticking). Use a fondant impression mat, if adding decorative texture to the fondant is desired. Cover the fondant cross cutouts with plastic wrap to avoid them drying out while working on assembling the cookies.

Brush water or piping gel on the cookie (see Notes). Position the fondant on top of the cross cookie and smooth out the edges with warm fingers. Repeat for all cookies. Set aside to dry. Tint some white fondant with purple or other food coloring. Roll out to 1/8-inch thickness on a clean surface that has been dusted with a bit of powdered sugar to prevent from sticking.

Use a small flower cutter to cut small flowers. Brush piping gel or water and position the flower in the middle of the cross cookie. Use the white tube frosting to pipe a round center in the middle of the fondant flower. Use the green tube frosting and a leaf tip to pipe leaves on the flowers. Let dry. Serve cross cookies on a platter.


  • For a nuttier taste, brush almond extract on the cookies in place of piping gel or water before positioning the fondant.
  • We used a fondant imprint mat from Wilton called “Graceful Vines”, which may be purchased online. If available in local craft stores, use a coupon to get a good discount like we did.
  • The cross is the iconic symbol of Christianity. Find “Glory in the Cross” from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association’s web entry. The “Prayer of the Day” is appropriate for Holyrood Day and every day.


Easy Cheesy Pizza Pockets

September 5: National Cheese Pizza Day

Ah…mini pizza rolls and pizza pockets were one of our favorite afterschool snacks. They bring back childhood memories of coming home from school, settling down to relax/play and then snacking on them before tackling homework. Sure, the store-bought brands made it more convenient and quick for our moms to feed us hungry school kids. But homemade ones are just as easy to prepare ahead of time together as a family. Pizza pockets can be stuffed with favorite fillings that are not available from boxed brands, stored frozen and reheated in the oven whenever anyone wants a little something savory to eat. For National Cheese Pizza Day, we stuffed our snacks with plain shredded pizza cheese and waxed nostalgic about our childhood and the memories with our moms (dads and siblings) with whom we partook pizza pockets!



  • Thin pizza dough (we used Wewalka brand)
  • Pizza sauce (we used Ragu brand)
  • Pizza cheese (we used Kraft brand)
  • 1 egg mixed with 1 teaspoon water for the egg wash


Unroll chilled pizza dough. Cut into 4×4” inch squares (we re-rolled the scrap to make five total squares).

Spread a little pizza sauce on each square, leaving about half an inch to the edge. Generously pile on the cheese (it will look bulky but melts down). Fold over and seal tightly with the tines of a fork.

Place on a sheet of waxed paper misted with cooking spray (or use parchment paper). Beat the egg with water and brush on the tops of the pizza pockets. Bake in a preheated oven at 425 degrees F for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve hot. Be careful when biting into the pizza pockets as the hot cheese might ooze out and cause a burn.


  • Search our blog for other pizza recipes.


One-Pan Baked Paprika Chicken

with Vegetables and Herbs

September: National Chicken Month

Winner winner, chicken dinner! Life is hectic so if we can make a meal quickly, the more time for us to rest and relax after a long day. This recipe for herbed paprika-seasoned chicken is baked in one pan along with sides of vegetables for a complete dinner. We especially like the colorful combinations in this hearty dish. For National Chicken Month, try this one-pan baked paprika chicken with vegetables and herbs.


(Adapted from Simply Recipes)


  • 4-6 pieces chicken thighs, trimmed of extra fat
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided use
  • 1 red onion, peeled and cut into 8 wedges
  • 1 ½ pounds baby potatoes, cut in half
  • 6-8 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • ½ pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half (we used the whole pint)
  • thyme sprigs
  • parsley leaves (optional garnish)


Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper. In a separate bowl, mix together the mustard, lemon juice, paprika and 2 tablespoons of olive oil to make a marinade. Add the chicken and coat well. Set aside.

In another bowl, combine the onions, potatoes and garlic cloves. Place these vegetables in a 9×13 inch baking pan or casserole dish. Season with salt and pepper and add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Arrange the chicken on top of the vegetables and pour the marinade over everything.

Top with a few thyme sprigs. Bake uncovered in a preheated oven at 400 degrees F for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and scatter the cherry tomatoes over everything. Return to the oven and bake for another 20-25 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Remove from the oven. Spoon the juices over the chicken and vegetables. Discard dried thyme sprigs. Garnish with additional fresh thyme sprigs and parsley flakes. Serve hot.


  • Try the traditional Hungarian recipe for paprika chicken.
  • Search our blog for more chicken recipes for National Chicken Month/National Poultry Month.


Curried Quinoa Patties

Curried Quinoa Patties

September: National Whole Grains Month

Islander’s brother likes to eat quinoa as an alternative to rice but was getting tired of the same old side recipe. He had some quinoa already cooked so Islander used the leftovers to experiment with a new recipe and make something interesting. She cooked curried quinoa patties with a lime-cilantro dipping sauce. He liked them so much that he started making these healthy snacks to feed his finicky housemates. They enjoyed them, too, and this recipe now has become a regular appetizer at their home.

Try a new recipe with a super seed this September. Cook curried quinoa patties as a healthy snack in observance of National Whole Grains Month.


(Adapted from Epicurious)


  • 2 ½ cups quinoa, cooked
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • ½ teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • 1/3 cup green onions or chives, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1+ cup dry breadcrumbs
  • olive oil (for frying)


Cook the quinoa and let cool for easier handling. Beat the eggs. In a large bowl, combine the quinoa and eggs. Season with salt.


Add the chopped green onions or chives, onions and minced garlic.


Stir in the curry powder, cheese and bread crumbs. Wait a few minutes for the mixture to be absorbed. Shape into 2-inch patties. Place on a cookie sheet lined with waxed paper. Refrigerate until firm.


When ready to cook the patties, heat a little olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Slip some patties into the pan but do not overcrowd. Cook one side until browned, about 5-8 minutes, then flip it over and continue browning for another 5-8 minutes. Drain the patties on paper towels. Serve hot while they are still crisp with a dollop of lime-cilantro dipping sauce. Yield: Approximately 2 dozen.


Bonus Recipe: Lime-Cilantro Dip


  • 1 cup sour cream or plain yogurt (low fat or fat-free)
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1 teaspoon cilantro leaves, chopped finely


In a bowl, mix the sour cream or yogurt with the lime juice. Add the cilantro. Refrigerate for a few minutes to allow the flavors to meld. Serve a dollop of the dip with the curried quinoa patties.



  • If the patty mixture is too dry, add a little water at a time to moisten. If it is too wet, add more bread crumbs.
  • We use a big ice cream scoop to measure out the mixture in our hand and simply flatten it into a patty.
  • Curried quinoa patties can be made ahead of time. Place uncooked patties on a baking sheet, layering wax paper sheets in between. Cover until ready to cook.


« Previous PageNext Page »