Holm Family Cookbook

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Cowgirl's Foodie Blog

It is a Small World After All

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on December 11, 2012 at 10:15 AM

Hachiya Persimmon Tree

Tis the season to see Hachiya persimmon trees around northern California looking like their bare branches have purposely been decorated with bright orange ornaments. People often move into homes with persimmon trees growing in the yards and have no idea what to do with the fruit. This happened to our cousin Wendy when she bought our grandparent's house several years ago. Last year she received a great recipe for a persimmon trifle. Settle in as I tell you the story about how she received the recipe.

My sister Susie attended San Jose State University in the 1970s. While living in the dorms there, she had a roommate named Candace who later in life moved to Chicago.

Fast forward to the early 2000s. Susie was staying with her friends, LouAnne and Lowell, who were living in the caretaker's cabin on our family's ranch in the Livermore Hills. One morning Susie walked down the long dirt lane to get the newspaper that was delivered at the bottom of the lane. While she was down there, a car driving by stopped. A young woman got out of the car to introduce herself as Melody, the new neighbor who had recently bought the ranch next to our family's ranch.

Susie was quite surprised to recognize Melody as someone she had once met in Chicago while visiting Candace. Needless to say, they were both quite surprised to meet again, so far from Chicago, and in such a rural location! Proving once again, that it is a small world. Since that day Melody and her husband, Steve, have attended many of our events at the party barn.

Our cousin Wendy lives about 1/8 of a mile from Melody and Wendy often shares the persimmons that grow at her house with Melody.  For years Wendy has been at a loss as what to do with the persimmons, so Melody shared a persimmon praline trifle recipe with her. Wendy made the trifle for our annual New Year's Day party and again recently when our cousins from Denmark were visiting. The first time she made it the pralines cooked a bit too long, however, they made a crunchy candy that Wendy chopped up and put into the trifle. I, personally thought the crunchy praline was fabulous in the trifle. Whether the pralines are crunchy or not, the persimmon trifle is very, very good.

Persimmon Trifle

Persimmon Praline Trifle

Ingredients for pralines

1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup half-and-half

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup pecan halves

Ingredients for trifle

8 ounces mascarpone

1 pint heavy cream

1/3 cup granulated sugar

6 tablespoons dark rum

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

6 medium wild Hachiya persimmons, very ripe

2 cups cubed pound cake (1/2 inch cubes)

To make the pralines:

Spray a nonstick baking sheet with cooking spray. Combine the sugars and half-and-half in a medium heavy bottomed saucepan. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat to low and cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in the butter, vanilla, and salt and continue cooking until the mixture reaches 260 degree F on a candy thermometer. Working quickly, remove the pan from the heat, stir in the pecans, then pout out the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet, spreading it as thin as possible. The mixture will start to harden quickly. Let the pralines cool completely, then chop into 1/4 inch pieces.

For the trifle:

Place the mascarpone, cream, sugar, and 2 tablespoons of the rum, and salt into a mixing bowl. Mix on low and increase the speed to medium high. Whip the mixture just until it holds a firm, creamy peak.

Place a medium-mesh strainer over a large bowl. Remove the stem ends from the persimmons. Squeeze the pulp out of the skins. Using a rubber spatula, press the pulp through the strainer. You should have about 1 1/2 cups of puree.

Place one-third of the mascarpone cream in the bottom of the dish, spreading it out to the sides. Top with one-third of the persimmon puree. Sprinkle with half the cake cubes. Brush the cake cubes with 2 tablespoons of the rum. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the praline. Repeat the layers, ending with the mascarpone cream on top, a final drizzle of persimmon puree, and a sprinkling of pralines. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 4 hours or overnight.


Feasting at the Party Barn

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on November 18, 2012 at 4:25 PM

Tom and Vibeke visting from Denmark

Yesterday our "cousins" Tom and Vibeke Hvilsted from Denmark came to the Party Barn for a visit. We wanted to treat them to a taste of fresh American food, and the family rallied! Merry made guacamole, a green salad with pears, candied pecans, and blue cheese along with her Dutch oven beer bread. Sandy Holm made her spicy Cranberry Salsa with fresh ginger and jalapenos (we'll post this family favorite in a future blog!), Whitney made a fruit salad with Fuyu Persimmons, grapes, pomegranate, pears and apple, and Troy, aka "Spud," mashed the 10 pounds of potatoes. Nancy with the help of cousin Kenny Calhoun and Alton Brown grilled a turkey using Ken Calhoun's Turkey Marinade, Wendy made her persimmon trifle and I made my aunt Vivian Brizee Calhoun's stuffing.

My sister Nancy manning the BBQ (rain and all)


The spread and Wendy's persimmon trifle

Aunt Vivian's stuffing has been a staple at the Calhoun Thanksgiving for many years. We always thought it was Uncle Ken's recipe! I enjoy it because it has celery, mushrooms and spinach in it. We had a lot of stuffing left over and my father plans to test a recipe he saw on "The Chew," stuffed bell peppers!

We had a wonderful visit with Tom and Vibeke, they shared many stories and snippets of our Danish family history. Also visiting were four deer and a covey of quail. The much needed rain did not dampen our spirits! We also used this opportunity to try the long awaited Danish pickles that my family made during the summer. The pickles passed the test! They tasted just like the pickles that our Granny used to make and the Danes said they taste just like the pickles you buy in Denmark.


Vivian's stuffing with sausage

Vivian Brizee Calhoun's Turkey Stuffing - Serves 10

I doubled this recipe for the 14 guests and there were PLENTY of leftovers.


1 pound ground sausage (I used the Jimmy Dean Reduced Fat Sausage)

2 large onions

5 stalks of celery

3/4 pound fresh mushrooms

1 package of frozen spinach

1 package of cubed bread

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1 tablespoon salt, or less

2 teaspoons poultry seasoning

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon sage

2-3 tablespoons butter


Brown and drain the sausage. Chop the onions, celery and mushrooms then sautee in about 1 tablespoon of butter. Cook the package of frozen spinach according to directions on package and then drain. Combine all above with 1 package of cubed bread, stir it gently in a large bowl.

Add the dry mustard, salt, poultry seasoning, pepper, and sage. Add enough hot water (plus some melted butter) to moisten the dressing. I used about 1 cup of water and melted the butter right in it using the microwave. Stir gently.

We did not stuff the bird, but cooked it in a covered dish at 300 degrees F for about 1 hour. Add a little more moisture when cooking in a covered dish. I added about 1/2 cup chicken stock with about a tablespoon of butter melted in it.




More Mini Desserts

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on October 17, 2012 at 9:40 AM


The assortment of mini desserts I served at Bunco

After Christmas dinner last year I served a tray of assorted mini desserts to my guests and they loved them (click here to read about them). What my guests loved about the minis was that they could say "I'll try one of each" and they would only be consuming the calories of one regular sized dessert, that they could eat one mini dessert and not feel too guilty about eating a dessert, and they loved having an assortment to choose from.

Recently it was my turn to host Bunco at my house. In my Bunco group the hostess is expected to serve dessert after the game. It was really hot that week, so I thought some refreshing minis would be the way to go.  I'd wanted to make lemon mousse for a long time, so I used this opportunity to make it.  Along with the mini lemon mousses, I made mini raspberry trifles using this recipe (click here) and I assembled the mini trifles in champagne glasses. I also served Trader Joe's mango ice cream in some mini dessert glasses that I bought at Pier 1 Imports. I topped the mini ice cream desserts with a dollop of whipped cream and a Trader Joe's coconut cookie.

Mini raspberry trifles made in small champagne glasses

Mango ice cream served in mini dessert glasses

Well, the Bunco group enjoyed the desserts, but they gave me some grief about setting the bar too high for the next Bunco hostess. No worries, she was happy to serve pies from Shari's.

There are so many desserts that you can make as a minis. I recently had a mini tiramisu at a luncheon and mini tarts are always fun and easy to make.

Lemon mousse in mini dessert glasses

Below is the recipe I used to make the lemon mousse. If you make this recipe, you will actually be making lemon curd first and then will make whipping cream to fold into the curd to make the mousse. For the best flavor, be sure to use fresh squeezed lemon juice.

Lemon Mousse - Makes 6 regular sized servings or 12 mini servings

Ingredients for the lemon curd

3 large eggs

3 large egg yolks

1/2 cup sugar

Zest of 4 lemons (zest the lemons before you juice)

1/2 cup lemon juice (approximately five or six lemons)

Pinch of salt

2 sticks (8 oz) butter, cut up into small pieces

Ingredients for whipped cream

1 cup heavy whipping cream

1/4 cup sugar


To make the curd, you are going to use a double boiler improvised by using a medium pot filled with a few inches of water and a large glass bowl. Bring the water in the medium pot to a boil.  Do not place the glass bowl on it yet.

Pour the three eggs and three egg yolks into the large glass bowl. Add the 1/2 cup of sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and salt to the eggs and whisk.

Set the bowl over the pot with the boiling water.  Fast and furiously whisk the contents of the bowl. Keep the mixture moving or it will turn into scrambled eggs.  The mixture will become frothy and then creamy. Keep whisking until the mixture thickens. It will take about 10 or 11 minutes to get to this point.

Remove the bowl from the boiling water.  Start adding handfuls of the small pieces of butter to the thickened lemon mixture.  Keep adding the butter until it has all been mixed in.  If any lumps remain, put the bowl back on the pot with the boiling water until melted.

Push the curd though a fine mesh sieve to remove the stray bits of scrambled egg that may have formed.

Put a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the curd to prevent a skin from forming and refrigerate until cool.

To make the whipped cream, beat the cream and sugar together in a medium bowl until soft peaks are formed. Gently fold 1/3 of the whipped cream into the curd at a time. Take care that you don't completely deflate the cream, so the mousse is somewhat fluffy when served.

To fill small dessert glasses, fill a corner of a gallon Ziplock bag with the mousse. Cut the tip off of the corner of the bag and pipe the mousse into the glasses.

Garnish with raspberries and thin strips of lemon peel.

Have fun with it. Your guests will love them!


The Vieux Girls

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on September 21, 2012 at 10:30 AM

Glamour Gal Martini

My sister Susie and I have been friends with Brenda and Melanie Vieux for several years, and we've have had a lot of fun times with the Vieux girls, such as trips to Mexico, "sibling" dinners in San Francisco, trips to the beach, and just hanging out. Urban legend has it that their father Don Vieux, a well respected rancher in Alameda County, would make deliveries to our grandparent's ranch in the Livermore Hills and would spend time chatting with our grandmother Ione. Our grandmother was one of the kindest people you could ever meet and Don assumed the rest of the family followed suit, so he encouraged Brenda and Melanie to forge a friendship with us. Boy, did we have him fooled! :)

The Vieux family has lived and ranched in the hills high above Fremont since Brenda and Melanie's great grandfather Octavien Vieux immigrated to the United States from France in the late 1800s. Brenda and Melanie grew up in the house their grandfather built on the ranch that overlooks the San Francisco Bay and cities of Fremont, Newark, and Union City. Evenings at the Vieux ranch offers a view of beautiful sunsets and the twinkling lights of the cities below. 

Susie and I have been fortunate to attend many events and dinners at the Vieux's house. The meals are usually prepared by Brenda and Melanie's mom, Ralene, and complemented with salad, dessert, or cocktails made by Brenda and Melanie. Unfortunately, life has a way of complicating things, so we don't get together as often as we used to. We recently, however, made plans to get together for a potluck. Those plans then morphed into a dinner that was prepared by Ralene and complemented with dishes and cocktails made by Brenda and Melanie. As usual, the food and company was outstanding.

Melanie made some beautiful cocktails that night and if not metered, they can knock your socks off. I still can't find the socks I wore that night.  The recipe is below.

Glamour Gal Martini


2 oz vodka

½ oz fresh lemon juice

½ oz fresh lime juice

½ oz simple syrup or 1 tsp sugar

Drop of crème de cassis


Rim a martini glass with crème de cassis and sugar.* Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into the martini glass. Finish the cocktail with a drop of crème de cassis on top.

*To rim the martini glass, first dip rim of glass in a shallow dish filled with crème de cassis and immediately place rim in another shallow dish with sugar, rotating the glass to ensure the whole rim is covered.


Note to the Vieux's:  I'm still working on my thank you card.


Potato Breakfast Casserole

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on April 9, 2012 at 11:10 AM

Mushroom, bacon, and potato breakfast casserole

Instead of a fun spring break this year, my daughters and I got to experience "spring broke." My oldest daughter came home from college for spring break with a cough/cold thing she'd had for two weeks and the first Monday she had off, she went to the doctor to get a prescription for a sinus and ear infection. Towards the end of her spring break she started feeling a little better, but I got the cough/cold thing and she went back to school without getting to do anything fun. My youngest daughter started her spring break with a severe sore throat, swollen glands, chills, and a fever and the doctor told us it could be mono or strep throat. Fortunately it was neither, but she got to spend her spring break with me and my hacking cough and on and off fever, on the couch watching movies.

By the time Easter weekend rolled around, we were feeling better and were ready to entertain our cousins from Yuba City for the weekend.  We usually have a family event on the Saturday before Easter at the party barn and on Easter Sunday at cousin Wendy's house, so on Friday night my sister Nancy and I try to show them a good time in Livermore and fit in as many places as we can.

On Friday night we met Nancy in downtown Livermore a little after 5:00 and went straight to Demetri's for flaming saganaki and shots of ouzo. Demetri stopped working for a moment and had a shot with us. That ouzo is great for hacking coughs (Nancy has the same hacking cough as I do).  Next, we stopped at the First Street Ale House for salads (ok, I had a Paulaner hefeweizen too). The Black and Bleu Salad is our favorite. It has strips of thinly sliced marinated tri-tip on top and crumbled bleu cheese mixed with red onions, tomatoes, carrots, and mixed lettuce. After a bit of shopping, we headed out to the Underdog at Concannon Vineyards for dessert and wine. As usual, the desserts were fabulous.

On Saturday morning I planned to make apple French toast casserole, but discovered I did not have brown sugar, which is a required ingredient for that dish (note to my kids: when you use something up, put it on the shopping list!). So, I decided to improvise my favorite potato and ham bake casserole with a lower fat mushroom and bacon version.  I keep of bag of crumbled bacon in my freezer for moments like this. 

The bag of crumbled bacon from my freezer

The casserole can be made the night before and heated before serving in the morning.  I have provided my improvised recipe directly below and the original recipe at the bottom.

Mushroom, Bacon, and Potato Casserole - Serves 9

Non-stick spray or olive oil

1/2 to 3/4 package frozen hash browns, thawed

Salt and pepper to taste

1 8-oz. package fresh sliced mushrooms

1 chopped shallot or 2 tablespoons chopped onions

1 - 2 tablespoons of crumbled bacon

1 to 1 1/2 cup 2% milk shredded Mexican four cheese blend

4 eggs

1 1/3 cup non-fat milk

Cayenne pepper

Preheat the oven to 425˚F.  Sautée the mushrooms and shallot until brown in olive oil or in a skillet sprayed with non-stick spray .

Use the non-stick spray or olive oil to oil a 8 1/2 - by 11-inch baking dish. Season the thawed hash browns with salt and pepper.  Line the baking dish with the thawed hash browns, pressing them firmly into the bottom and up the sides of the pan as you would when making a graham cracker pie crust. Spray the hash browns with oil or brush with olive oil. Bake for 20 minutes or until crispy. 

While the hash browns are baking, whisk together the eggs and milk. Season the egg and milk mixture with salt and pepper and a dash of cayenne pepper.

Remove from the oven and put the sautéed mushrooms and shallot into the browned crust. Sprinkle on the crumbled bacon. Cover with the cheese. Pour on the egg and milk mixture.

Bake for 30 minutes, until golden and an inserted knife comes out clean.

The browned hash browns on the left, finished version on the right

Here's the original, fully loaded recipe

Potato and Ham Bake Breakfast Special - Serves 6

This recipe was given to me and my sister, Susie Calhoun, by Raelene Vieux. The Vieux family are local cattle ranchers who are used to serving large meals to many people. You can double the recipe to serve twelve people—use a 9- by 13-inch baking dish. When I make this dish, I use hash brown patties and omit the butter.

1/2 (30 ounce) package frozen hash browns, thawed

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted

1 1/2 cups diced ham

1/2 (4 ounce) can chopped green chilies, drained

1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese (about 2 ounces)

1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese (about 2 ounces)

2 eggs

2/3 cup half-and-half

Preheat the oven to 425˚F. Line a 12-inch pie pan or an 8- by 8-inch baking dish with the thawed hash browns, pressing them firmly into the bottom and up the sides of the pan as you would when making a graham cracker pie crust. Pour the butter around the edges. (If using patties, omit this step.) Bake for 20 minutes or until crispy. Remove from the oven and arrange the ham, chilies, and cheeses in layers on the browned crust.

In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs and half-and-half and pour the mixture over the layers. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden and an inserted knife comes out clean.

Here's to a happy and healthier spring!


Super Bowl Leftovers = Super Nachos

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on February 7, 2012 at 11:55 PM

Super nachos made of leftovers from Super Bowl Sunday

On Super Bowl Sunday we had an impromptu party of 10 and as usual we had enough food for 20 or more people. There were pizzas, wings, veggies, chips and dips, a pot of chili, beer bread, brownies, BBQ beef, cupcakes, candies, turtle chex mix and more. Needless to say, there was a lot of food left over.

By the way, one of the favorite candies at the party were Hershey's Almond Joy pieces. My daughter picked them out as they met our criteria for the Super Bowl teams' colors (blue and white).  The Almond Joy pieces and the wings were about the only foods that were totally consumed.

We also had Patriot punch, which was made with fresh blueberries, blueberry flavored vodka, and lemonade. I'm not a fan of the Patriots--just thought it sounded better than Giants punch.

Since the room was full of Raiders and 49er fans, we were not as focused on the game as we could have been. There was a lot of talking and laughing, and when the commercials came on everyone quieted down and the sound went up.  One of my friends from elementry school is a movie/commerical editor and we watched for his commercials along with all of the other clever commercials that air during the Super Bowl. My favorite work of his this year was the Honda CRV commercial with Mathew Brodrick: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VhkDdayA4iA


Our Super Bowl fare included veggies, candies, scoop style tortilla chips, and chili


Artichoke dip, pita strips,  BBQ beef, turtle Chex mix, and sweet and sour chicken wings (click here for wing recipe)

To get rid of some of the leftovers I've been packing them to work the last couple of days for my coworkers to eat. Tonight I made some super nachos with the leftover chili, chips, cheese, and veggies. Below is my recipe.

Super Nachos


Leftover chili

5 oz. or more of Scoop style tortilla chips

1 cup or more of shredded cheese (cheddar, Mexican cheese, or cheddar/Monterey Jack mix)

1 tomato, chopped

1 avocado, scooped out of shell and cut into small pieces

2 tablespoons chopped onion (or more if you like onions)

1/2 lime or lemon

Salt and pepper to taste

Cilantro, chopped


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a small bowl, mix the avocado and onion. Squeeze lime juice over the top and mix. Salt and pepper avocado mixture to taste and set aside.

Place a layer of chips on the bottom of a cast iron frying pan or ovenproof pan with the scoop side up. Spoon half of the chili into the chips. Sprinkle half of the cheese over the top of the chips and chili. Place another layer of chips, chili, and cheese over the top. Bake for 7 minutes or until the cheese has melted. Sprinkle the chopped tomato over the top. Spoon the avocado over the top and sprinkle with the cilantro. Serve immediately.


"Men, I want you just thinking of one word all season. One word and one word only: Super Bowl." ~Bill Peterson, football coach

Tostada Dip - A Super Bowl Party Favorite

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on January 30, 2012 at 12:00 AM

Tostada Dip, a Super Bowl party favorite

Watching the 49ers play the Giants a couple of weekends ago reminded me of the playoff game and Super Bowl parties I attended in the 1980’s when the 49ers won the Super Bowl four times. I often brought tostada dip to the parties and the dip was just about as popular at those parties as Joe Montana was to Niners Fans. Long time Livermore resident, Eleanor Barbera, gave me the tostada dip recipe.

Eleanor Barbera was one of those people that I would like to see as she always had a big smile for me. When my sisters and I attended Fifth Street Elementary School (which was where the Del Valle Continuation High School is now), Eleanor was the yard duty lady. Later she worked as a teacher’s aid at Almond Avenue School and after that at Jackson Avenue School. When we were older and played softball in the LARPD women’s softball leagues with her daughter Susie, she would watch our games and practices. She was quite a baseball fan and after she passed away I learned she played on a semi-pro women’s team in Merced—like the team from the movie, “A League of Our Own.” I wish I could have heard some of her stories about her ball playing days. Eleanor was of Irish and Native American ancestry and had high cheekbones, dark hair and olive complexion. She was married to Siberio “Sib” Barbera of Italian ancestry and also an avid sports fan. Eleanor and Sib lived on Third Street in one of the charming craftsman style homes that share the backside of the block that Loard’s Ice Cream Parlor is on. For several years, Sib owned and operated the Atlantic Richfield Service Station on the corner of South L and Second Street in Livermore. He retired and sold it in the early 1980s.

Sib and Eleanor Barbera

Eleanor and Sib had three children, Katherine (Kathy), Thomas Joseph (Joe), and Susanne (Susie). Kathy, also known as Kitt Gilmour, worked as a 911 dispatcher at the Lab for several years. During the last years of his life, Joe lived in the caretaker cottage on our family’s ranch and owned and operated a precision machining shop in Livermore. Susie Barbera was in our sister Nancy’s class at Fifth Street and together they would torment the boys on the playground. Susie is now Susanne Ramsey and is a computer security officer at the Lab and the daughter-in-law of well-known Livermore artist Carolyn Ramsey.

Unfortunately, the Niners won't be playing at the Super Bowl this year, but I am providing you with Eleanor's tostada dip recipe so you can eat it while watching the two teams that do make it to the Super Bowl. Following the dip recipe are some tips to make the recipe a 2012-style dip.

Tostada Dip – Serves 12

1 16-ounce can refried beans

1 7-ounce can chopped Ortega chilies

3 tablespoons mild taco sauce

2 cups guacamole dip

1 small bell pepper, finely chopped (optional)

1 medium ripe tomato, finely diced

2 stalks of celery, finely chopped (optional)

1 pint sour cream

1 small head of lettuce, finely shredded (optional)

½ pound sharp cheddar cheese, grated

½ pound Monterey Jack cheese, grated

On a plate or shallow bowl, spread the refried beans. In this order, add additional layers of chilies, taco sauce, and avocado dip. In a small bowl, combine the bell pepper, tomato and celery. Spread on top of the dip. Add a layer of sour cream on top of the chopped vegetables. Top with the lettuce, and then the cheeses.

2012-style dip tips: Garnish the top of the dip with sliced olives, chopped cilantro, and tomatoes. Use preshredded Mexican taco style cheese instead of just the Monterey Jack and cheddar cheeses. Substitute the bell pepper with a chopped jalapeno pepper (be sure to remove the seeds). Serve with scoop style corn or tortilla chips, or tortilla chips made in your favorite team's colors.

Go San Francisco Giants! It's not too early to start cheering on our favorite baseball team, is it?!?

~merry carter~

The New Foodie Rage - Mini Desserts

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on December 28, 2011 at 12:55 AM

The tray of mini desserts that I served on Christmas Day

Mini desserts are the rage at restaurants, catered events, and parties these days. Most people want something sweet after dinner and don't want a large dessert. Many of us also like to try a few different things, so the minis are just perfect. I decided to serve mini desserts after dinner on Christmas day this year and my guests were excited that I served them.

To make it easy on myself I bought two premade mini desserts and my daughter, Whitney, and I made one. One of the desserts that I bought was a box of mini cheesecakes from Costco. There were actually three flavors of cheesecakes in the box, which brought the number of different desserts up to five. The second dessert that I bought were mini chocolate dipped vanilla ice cream cones from Trader Joe's. These were a hit. My guests were thrilled to get the ice cream cones.

Mini cheesecakes from Costco

Mini chocolate dipped vanilla ice cream cones from Trader Joe's

The dessert that Whitney and I made was a chocolate mousse layered with crushed Oreo cookies that we topped with fresh whipped cream, chocolate sprinkles, and a Hershey's Kiss all made in shot glasses. Most dessert recipes can be prepared in mini containers.  I purchased the shot glasses that I served them in at World Market. Pier 1 Imports currently has a nice selection of mini glasses and other serving dishes for mini desserts and appetizers. If you stop by the store, Pier 1 Imports has a pamphlet about tasting parties that includes ideas and some recipes. The Pier 1 Imports website has a beautiful display of photos and recipes - click here to check them out.

Chocolate mousse layered mini desserts that my daughter and I made for after dinner on Christmas Day

Mini martini glasses available at Pier 1 Imports stores

Mini sampler set available at Pier 1 Imports

The mini desserts can be easy to make. Whitney and I really did not follow a recipe. We made a packaged mousse recipe, crushed Oreos, and made some whipped cream. To get the mousse and the whipped cream into the glasses without making a mess all over the sides of the glasses, we put the mousse and whipped cream into plastic zip-lock bags with a hole cut into one corner of each bag and piped the mousse and whipped cream into the glasses.  I put a frosting tip into the hole in the bag with the whipped cream so that the whipped cream looked a bit more decorative. We sprinkled some decorative candies on top of the whipped cream and topped the dessert with a Hershey's kiss.

Surprise your guests this New Year's Eve with some mini desserts. Go crazy with them!


Inexpensive Table Decorations That Look Expensive

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on December 26, 2011 at 6:05 PM

Tablecloths like this red one can be purchased for just a few dollars at the after Christmas clearance sales

I think it is imperative to have beautifully decorated tables when you are entertaining and one of the primary reasons for this is if you have a cooking disaster, your guests are less likely to notice it if the table is well decorated and the food is presented well. It is possible to have a beautifully decorated table and spend very little money.  At the after Christmas sales I purchase candles and other decorations that I can utilize at other times during the year if they don't look seasonal or for Christmas the following year. Garage sales are also great place for finding items to use for table decorations.

Last year I bought some beautiful red tablecloths and silver glass candlesticks at the Target after Christmas clearance sales and used them to decorate this year. The tablecloths and candlesticks were 90% off.  I have some strands of crystal beads that I purchased for 50% off at our local craft store that I wove in and out of the candlesticks. Years ago I purchased some plastic ice chips and glass shaped like diamonds at a discount store that I sprinkled throughout the centerpiece.


 Strands of crystal beads were woven in and out of candlesticks in my Christmas centerpiece

The only thing I purchased for my Christmas table centerpiece this year were some white hydrangeas that I placed in some ice cream sundae glasses that my aunt discarded several years ago. I purchased the hydrangeas at Costco. Trader Joes is also a great place to find inexpensive fresh flowers and plants. 

In my centerpiece this year I also used other candlesticks that I had in the house and used white tealight candles and white cloth napkins to tie it all together. The white cloth napkins can be purchased at World Market and can be used time and time again.

Discarded ice cream sundae dishes with white hydrangeas and silver glass candlesticks added a touch of elegance to our table this year

If you are planning a dinner party for New Year's Eve, you might want to shop for the decorations now at the after Christmas clearance sales. The prices can't be beat!


Hey, what are you waiting for!?! Get out there and shop the after Christmas sales!

Clam Dip -- Still Tasty After All These Years

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on December 20, 2011 at 11:25 PM

For nearly 50 years clam dip has been served at my parent's parties and family events

When I was a kid in the 1960's my parents belonged to two dinner clubs. Each month the members of the clubs would take a turn hosting a dinner party at their house. When it was my mother's turn to host "club" it was quite a production getting the house ready. I can remember using the electric floor polisher to polish the hardwood floors in the living room. The polisher was taller than I was. It had two rotating felt pads on the bottom and a long pole with handles to hold to control the polisher.  There was an electrical cord attached to the top portion of the pole and the other end would be plugged into the wall. I can remember polishing the floors a few times with no parental supervision. At least twice I lost control of the polisher (I think I may have lost control when I tried to ride it). It spun wildly around and around, the cord wound around me and the polisher. I don't remember how the polisher was stopped. Apparently I did not get hurt, but I have to wonder why as a small child I was operating it in the first place.

An Electrolux floor polisher just like the one I used to polish the living room floor

Another big job that needed to be done for the dinner parties was polishing the silver. My mother had a set of Wallace Grand Baroque sterling silver flatware that would always be tarnished when it was time to entertain. We would use silver polish and cloth diapers to polish the silver. The silver polish would always get into the ornate handles and it would take some work to get it out. While this job was tedious, it was much safer than polishing the hardwood floor.

Wallace Grand Baroque sterling silver flatware

Prior to the guests arriving, ashtrays would be set out around the house and a silver cup with cigarettes in it would be placed on the coffee table in the living room so the guests could help themselves to a cigarette. I really can't remember what my mother would serve for dinner for "club," but I do remember that a lot of highballs were served along with clam dip and ridged dip chips before dinner was served.

A cup like this would be filled with cigarettes for the guests

Highballs made of whiskey and carbonated water were served

While the highballs aren't flowing nowadays like they used to in the 60's and you won't find cigarettes at my parent's parties or our family events, clam dip is still being served. On Christmas Eve our cousin Lori usually makes clam dip for us to eat while we wait for Santa to arrive and sometimes two family members bring it to our Fourth of July family reunion. The clam dip is almost always served with ridged dip chips and is gone before you know it. Below is Lori's recipe from our cookbook.

Clam Dip


1 6-ounce can of minced clams

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened

1 tablespoon mayonnaise

1/2 teaspoon finely chopped green onion

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon garlic salt

1/8 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Dash of Tabasco


Drain the minced clams, reserving some of the clam juice in case it is needed later. In a medium bowl combine the cream cheese, mayonnaise, green onion, lemon juice, garlic salt, Worcestershire sauce, and Tabasco. Add the clams and mix thoroughly. If the dip is too thick, add some of the clam juice and stir well. Serve with chips or crackers.


So I have a confession to make. In the morning after "club," I would take sips of the highballs that were still on the coffee table and end tables. The highballs with the cigarette butts floating in them really didn't taste that great.


The Cookie Exchange: Year Three

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on December 12, 2011 at 9:40 AM

A sample of the wide variety of cookies and candies from this year's exchange: chocolate crinkles, double orange, snickerdoodle biscotti, shortbread, English toffee, lemon drops, chocolate balls

Three years ago I blogged about a Christmas cookie exchange 11 of my coworkers and I started that year at work. At the first exchange we were wowed by the French chocolate bark our coworker Louella brought for the exchange. She neatly packed the bark into twelve small green glass bread pans. The wife of another coworker brought chocolate Christmas mice, which were also a hit.  Click here to read about the first exchange

That year I brought the spritz cookies that my family and I make at a yearly spritz cookie making party. To read about the cookie making party and see the recipe, click here. 

Last year, I was not into making cookies for the exchange, so I made homemade peanut brittle. Believe it or not, peanut brittle is quicker and easier to make than cookies. Click here to learn how to make it and get the recipe.

I spent some time this past weekend prepping for the third annual cookie exchange. I made muddy buddies, a snack mix, instead of cookies. And, as I am writing this blog, it is 6:30 a.m. and I have potatoes baking in the oven for the luncheon we have in conjunction with the cookie exchange. The first year we had a taco and taco salad bar at the luncheon.  I made easy picante chicken in a crockpot for the tacos and salad. Click here for the recipe.  Last year we had a baked potato bar. When the call went out this year for ideas for the luncheon some people wanted tacos again, others wanted baked potatoes. There were no suggestions for anything new, so we are having a taco and baked potato bar.

It's now 9:30 p.m. and I'm feeling a bit queasy from all of the decadent sweets that I ate today. The variety of cookies and candy that my coworkers made for today's cookie exchange was incredible. There were snickerdoodle biscotti, lemon drop cookies, shortbread, English toffee, oatmeal raisin cookies, double orange cookies, chocolate mint chip cookies, and chocolate crinkles. Louella wowed us again this year with some chocolate balls made from an Ina Garten recipe. Besides the wide assortment of cookies and candies, there was also a variety of packages that the cookies were packed in.

A sample of the cookie packagings

Muddy buddies

Muddy Buddies


9 cups Corn Chex, Rice Chex, Wheat Chex, or Chocolate Chex cereal (or combination)

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup peanut butter

1/4 cup butter or margarine

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar


Measure the cereal into a large bowl and set aside. In 1-quart microwavable bowl, microwave chocolate chips, peanut butter and butter uncovered on high for 1 minute; stir. Microwave about 20 seconds longer or until mixture can be stirred smooth. Stir in the vanilla. Pour the mixture over the cereal, stirring until evenly coated, and taking care to not break the cereal. Pour into a 2-gallon resealable food-storage (Ziploc) plastic bag. Add powdered sugar. Seal the bag; shake until well coated. Spread on waxed paper to cool. Store in an airtight container in refrigerator.

NOTE: If you don't have a 2-gallon resealable Ziploc bag, use two 1-gallon bags. Put 1/2 of the cereal mixture and powdered sugar into each bag. Rotate shaking the bags.


Christmas cookies and happy hearts, this is how the holiday starts.

Apple French Toast Casserole with a Surprise Ingredient

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on November 27, 2011 at 8:00 PM

Apple French Toast Casserole with apple syrup spooned over the top

If you are like me and like to entertain, you are probably always looking for the perfect recipe to feed to guests. Last week I found the perfect breakfast/brunch recipe on the Tasty Kitchen Website (you should check out the Tasty Kitchen Website, there are a lot of great looking recipes there). The ingredients, description, and photo of this Apple French Toast casserole made the recipe sound and look fantastic, so I made two batches of it the Wednesday before Thanksgiving just to make sure it was as good as it looked. I took one batch to work and left the other for my kids and their friends to eat. I received rave reviews from both groups. We were leaving on Thanksgiving Day to stay at my cousin Becky's house in Yuba City for a couple of days, so I made another batch before we left. I figured we could pop it into the oven when we got back from our early morning shopping escapade on Black Friday. 

The two batches that I made the day before Thanksgiving were made with pre-sliced Texas toast. The batch I prepped on Thanksgiving was made with sourdough bread. While the casserole was good with the Texas toast bread, it was exquisite with sourdough bread.

Now about the surprise ingredient . . . It's Jack Daniels Whiskey. The original recipe called for bourbon, which I did not have, so I used the closest thing to bourbon that I had on hand. Just in case you're thinking Jack Daniels is bourbon whiskey, it's not. The Jack Daniels website set me straight: Jack Daniel's is not a bourbon - it's a Tennessee Whiskey.  Anyway, about the Jack Daniels in this recipe--it complements the butter and adds richness to the flavor. However, if you don't have or can't have whiskey or bourbon, I think the recipe would be fine without it.

Jack Daniels is the surprise ingredient in this decadent French toast casserole

This dish can be made the day before and refrigerated overnight or you can make it the day you plan to serve it. You do not need to serve it with syrup; the apples and brown sugar make a syrup that you can spoon over the top of each serving.

On Black Friday when we returned from shopping we did pop the casserole into the oven and it sure hit the spot for us hungry shoppers! By the way, I want to set the record straight about the shopping--Becky, Laina, and I were not some of the bad shoppers you might have seen in the news on Black Friday. We were on our best behavior and did not shoot, pepper spray, push or shove, or rip anything out of the hands of any of the other shoppers . . .

Apple French Toast Casserole - Serves 6 to 8


½ cup butter (one stick)

1 cup brown sugar

2 Tablespoons Jack Daniels Whiskey

4 to 6  baking apples (e.g., Granny Smith), cored, peeled, and sliced

1 loaf sour dough or French bread, cut into 1 inch slices

4 eggs

1 cup milk

1 Tablespoon vanilla extract

1½ teaspoons cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

Dash of salt


If you are making this dish the day you are serving it, preheat the oven to 350ºF.

Melt the butter and sugar together over medium heat in a small saucepan. Whisk to combine. Cook until slightly thickened. Add the whiskey and whisk again. Continue to cook for about 1 minute.

Spray a 9″ x13″ pan with cooking spray. Pour the butter and whiskey mixture into the bottom of the pan. Arrange the sliced apples on top.

The butter, brown sugar, and whiskey mixture covering the bottom of the pan

Sliced apples arranged in the pan

In a medium or large mixing bowl, beat together the eggs, milk, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Dip each side of the bread into the egg mixture and arrange the bread on top of the apples. Pour the leftover egg mixture over the bread. 

Sour dough cut into 1-inch slices works best for this recipe

Dip both sides of the bread into the milk and egg mixture

If you plan to serve this dish the following day, cover the dish and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, preheat the oven to 350ºF. Place the uncovered casserole dish in the heated oven. Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until apple slices have softened and bread is golden brown (one of my casseroles took about 70 minutes to cook). 

The casserole is cooked until the bread is browned and apples soft

To serve, use a large serving spoon or spatula to remove a slice of the bread and the apples below. Flip it over onto a plate and spoon some of the apple syrup from the casserole over the top.

I'm planning on serving this Christmas morning.


The last time I turned down a whisky, I didn’t understand the question.  ~Unknown

For a Fun Time, Boo Your Neighbors or Coworkers!

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on October 8, 2011 at 10:15 PM

A "BOO!" bag

Several years ago I was in the kitchen fixing dinner and the doorbell rang. It was still light outside and the kids and I went to the front door and opened it. No one was there. We looked up and down the street, but did not see a soul. However, sitting on the doormat was a black bag and attached to it was a piece of paper with a ghost and the word "Boo!" printed on it. We opened the bag and inside there was a piece of paper that said:

The air is cool, the season fall,

Soon Halloween will come to all.

The spooks are after things to do . . . . .

In fact, a spook brought this to you.

"Boo" is a shield from the witching hour,

Just hang it up and watch its power.

On your front door is where it works,

It wards off spooks and scary jerks.

The treats that came with this crypted note,

Are yours to keep--enjoy them both.

The power comes when neighbors like you,

Will copy this and make it two.

Just a short day to work your spell,

Or a big zap will strike your tail.

And don't forget a nifty treat,

Like something cute and something sweet.

Please join the fun, let's really hear it,

And spread some treats and Halloween spirit!

The bag was also filled with candy, some wax teeth, and temporary Halloween tattoos. We followed the cryptic note's instructions and put the picture of the ghost on our front door, made two bags filled with Halloween treats and surprises, and copied the picture of the ghost and the cryptic note. We left the bags on two unsuspecting neighbor's doorsteps and rang the bell and ran. Days later, nearly every house in the neighborhood had a ghost on the front door or window.

We lived in a newly developed area and the following year we had lots of new houses and neighbors in the neighborhood, so as soon as October rolled around we booed some of the new neighbors. We've never figured out how the first person that booed us was out of sight so quickly in the daylight. My daughters would wait until dark, always dress in black, and had a plan of where to hide after running from a house they had just booed so they would not be seen.

Some of the things that we've put in the boo bags over the years have been candies (usually well wrapped so that people don't think this is a plot to poison them), Halloween decorations, glow necklaces for the kids to wear trick or treating, pumpkin candle holders, Halloween tea towels, pumpkin carving kits, pumpkins with the names of each child painted on them, and a bottle of wine for mom and dad (wouldn't want them to miss out on the fun!).  I've also used plastic buckets and plastic pumpkins instead of bags.

For years it's been our tradition to boo the neighbors and then every night until Halloween we would walk around the neighborhood to see how far and quickly the boo's spread. This year sadly for me, my oldest daughter is away at college and the younger one isn't thrilled with the thought of going without her. So, I decided to boo my workplace. The people that I work with like to have fun, so I'm hoping that they will all have a great time with it.

On Thursday I made my two boo bags and left them in front of a couple of coworker's doors before they got to work. One of the coworkers promptly put up the decorations that were in the bag and posted the ghost. I saw the other one take his bag home, I assume to show his small children.

The items for an office Boo! included pumpkin pie flavored candy corn, pumpkin carving kit, candies, flashing spider, candies, and window stick-ons

The bags stuffed and ready to Boo!

This year I found a great website that has a poem and a picture of a ghost. The website also includes a poem and ghost that can be used for the office. Downloading the poem from this website is perfect, because you don't have to find a copier to make copies of the ghost and poem--you can just download and print! The poem also mentions the website so that the people that get booed can download and print too or find out more about what just happended to them. There are also links to other blogs and stories about booing. Here is the website: http://www.beenbooed.com/

On Monday I leave for a couple of business trips, so I will be gone for two weeks. I'm looking forward to seeing how far the boos have gone when I get back!

NOTE:  Booing is not recommended for all neighborhoods, especially if you are dressed all in black and running from someone's house in the dark. Please use caution.


The Going Away Luncheon

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on August 18, 2011 at 11:25 AM

Strawberry shortcake

Throughout my career in IT I have had the opportunity to host and mentor interns. Several years ago I participated in a program that brought native Hawaiians to the mainland to learn a variety of technologies, such as networking, computer hardware repair, and vacuum technology. I really enjoyed working with the Hawaiians. I learned a lot about the islands and the Hawaiian culture. Also, most of the Hawaiians would bring me macadamia nut shortbread. If you have not had these cookies before, you ought to try them. They are awesome.

This summer I had the opportunity to mentor a student named Whitney from a small college in South Carolina. She is the sweetest and most polite young lady I think I have ever met. I'm hoping some of her southern manners rubbed off on me.

The time Whitney was here just flew by--it seemed like she had just arrived and it was already time for her to go back to South Carolina. To send her off, I hosted a luncheon at my house.  Since the luncheon was during a workday, I had to make things that were quick to make, but  I also wanted the food to be good. I ended up serving chicken Marsala (click here to go to the recipe. I am telling you folks, this chicken Marsala rocks!), baked potatoes, Caesar salad, fresh fruit display, strawberry shortcake, and Trader Joe's tiramisu.

Chicken Marsala

When it came to the strawberry shortcake, instead of making individual shortcakes, I made one large cake. In the interest of time, I used canned whipped cream instead of whipping my own. I found the recipe on-line and it looked beautiful when served. Unfortunately it looked a lot better than it tasted. The cake was heavy, hard, and I could taste the shortening.

Since this cake looked so nice when it was ready to serve and was fairly easy to make, I was determined to tweak the recipe to make one that tasted as good as it looked and I think I succeeded.  Here is my tweaked recipe:

Strawberry Shortcake


3 to 4 cups sliced strawberries

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup sugar, plus 4 tablespoons of sugar

1/2 cup butter

1 egg

2/3 cup milk

2 cups heavy whipped cream

1 tsp vanilla

2 tablespoons sugar


Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Grease and flour one 9 inch round cake pan.

Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of sugar onto the strawberries. Mix in and let the sit. 

Into a medium sized mixing bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add 1/3 cup sugar and mix. Cut the butter into small pieces and add to the flour mixture. Use a pastry blender to cut the butter with the flour until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs. 

Break the egg into a small bowl and beat the egg.  Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the milk and beaten egg. Use a fork to mix the ingredients. Mix until nearly all of the flour is mixed in. Roll up the mixture and kneed two times, while still in the bowl to mix all of the flour in.

The egg and milk poured into the "well" in the center of the flour

Spread the batter into the greased and floured cake pan. Sprinkle a bit of sugar on top. Bake at 425 degrees F for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown.  Cool for about 15 minutes on a wire rack.  To remove the cake from the pan, place a platter that is larger than the cake pan over the top of the pan. Hold the plate onto the pan and turn the pan upside down. The cake should drop onto the plate. Cut the cake in half, making two layers. If part of the shortcake breaks while you are cutting it, no worries. You can use the whipped cream to hold it together.

The dough spread into the cake pan

Shortcake baked to a golden brown

Pour the whipped cream into a mixing bowl. Add the vanilla and sugar. Whip the cream until you can form peaks.

Spread 1/3 of the whipping cream on the bottom layer of the cake. Spread half of the strawberries on top of the whipped cream. Place the top layer of the cake on top of the bottom layer. Spread 1/3 of the whipping cream on the top layer of the cake and spread the rest of the strawberries on the top.

Serve each piece of shortcake with a dollop of whipped cream.


Good Friends + Fine Food = Fun

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on July 19, 2011 at 12:09 AM

A toast to the retiree

Six friends and I recently gathered at Holm Family cookbook recipe tester, Sue Mears', home in Incline Village on Lake Tahoe's north shore. All teachers, we were gathering to celebrate Sherri Vares’ retirement. Our usual routine during our get togethers is to have a light breakfast, go out for lunch and return home for cocktails, appetizers, dinner and dessert. This visit was no different.

We started with fresh berries, yogurt, cinnamon toast, coffee and juice. Some headed out for a morning walk around Incline Village – beautiful day! Next stop was the Hyatt Regency’s Lone Eagle Grille restaurant. It has a beautiful bar that looks out over Lake Tahoe. The mountain style décor in the dining room gives it a warm feeling.  We all were pleased with our choices, mine being a venison quesadilla. I just can’t pass up something different!

The beautiful view from Lone Eagle Grille's bar at the Hyatt Regency

In the late afternoon the group of four retired teachers and three working teachers loaded up snack bags and headed to the movie theater. The movie Bad Teachers was playing and we saw it only fitting to see the movie. On the drive up to Lake Tahoe I had heard a review on NPR and from the review it didn’t sound bad – I must not have listened very well – I guess I was distracted by the snow covered Sierras. Fortunately, we had some Mandarin Martinis waiting for us after the movie.

Mandarin Martinis were a welcome sight after watching the movie, "Bad Teachers"

Sue loves to cook, so she has guests bring breakfast, appetizers, and beverages and she does the rest. Linda Andrade brought breakfast, Stephanie Beard, Fran Rebello, Janet Berglund and I brought appetizers. For this meal, Fran Rebello, also one of our recipe testers, got us primed with her Mandarin Martinis. Stephanie Beard brought an appetizer she had tasted at Whole Foods – ricotta cheese, with sweet onion marmalade and crackers. I made a Prosciutto and Pear Pizza from a recipe I found one holiday season in Raley’s, Something Extra, magazine.

Sue made the entrée and salad; beef burgers on whole wheat buns and Orzo with Roasted Vegetable salad. She had prepared the beef burgers stuffed with lemon herb butter ahead of time. Before going to the movie she had roasted the vegetables for the salad. This strategic move allowed her to enjoy the appetizers and Mandarin Martinis! Sue’s husband, Al, was allowed to come home to grill the burgers and of course enjoy our company. We accompanied the meal with a Wente Riva Ranch Chardonnay and a Heritage Oak Zinfandel.

To end the evening we had Sue’s Blackberry Buttermilk Cake and Sherri’s Graham Cracker Brittle with ice cream. It was a delightful way to end the evening with some of my closest and dearest friends.

The recipe from the evening I would like to share, and believe me there were many delicious recipes, is the Orzo with Roasted Vegetables. Sue found this recipe in the Barefoot Contessa Parties cookbook and changed it a bit. I have also made it and left out the feta cheese adding one pound of cubed roasted chicken. For me it is the dressing, fresh basil and toasted pignolis that put it over the top!

This recipe is a slight variation of a wonderful summer dish invented by Sarah Leah Chase in her book, The Open House Cookbook.

Orzo with Roasted Vegetables


1 pound of asparagus cut into 1 inch pieces

2 red bell peppers, 1-inch diced

2 yellow bell peppers, 1-inch diced

1 red onion, peeled and 1-inch diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/3 cup good olive oil (I’ve used lemon olive oil with good results)

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 1 cup orzo or rice-shaped pasta  

For the dressing:

1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)

1/3 cup good olive oil

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper  

To assemble:

1/4 cup pignolis (pine nuts), toasted

3/4 pound good feta, crumbled

15 fresh basil leaves, cut into julienne


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Toss the asparagus, bell peppers, onion, and garlic with the olive oil, salt, and pepper on a large sheet pan. Roast for 40 minutes, until browned, turning once with a spatula.

The toasted vegetables

Meanwhile, cook the orzo in boiling salted water for 7 to 9 minutes, until tender. Drain and transfer to a large serving bowl. Add the roasted vegetables to the pasta, scraping all the liquid and seasonings from the roasting pan into the pasta bowl.

Draining the orzo

For the dressing, combine the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper and pour on the pasta and vegetables. Let cool to room temperature and add the pignolis, feta, and basil. Check the seasonings and serve at room temperature.

Cutting a chiffonade of basil

"Food is not about impressing people. It's about making them feel comfortable."

~Ina Garten, 'The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook'

And that my friend, is what Sue Mears does!




Breakfast Burritos for a Crowd

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on July 9, 2011 at 8:41 AM

Several years ago I would occasionally make breakfast burritos for a group of people that I supervised and I served the burritos at our Wednesday morning meeting. My group members loved them, but as my group grew to 30 plus people and our meetings were scheduled in the afternoon, I phased them out. Over the years a few of my group members would remind me how much they loved the breakfast burritos and that they would sure like to have them again.  I supervise a smaller group again and decided to surprise them with the burritos last Friday morning. This new group loves to eat, so they were happy to get them.

Breakfast burritos can be made the night before and reheated before serving. They are also a mobile food that someone can grab as they are running out the door and eat in transit. They are great to make when you are camping. They are also a good choice to serve to a crowd of people.

As for the breakfast burrito filling, eggs, potatoes, cheese, and meat are the core ingredients. I use linguica, a Portuguese sausage, in my burritos, but you can use chroizo, any other breakfast sausage, or even bacon. In the interest of time I used frozen hash browns last Friday, but you can use fresh potatoes that you boil or sauté. A lot of people use bell pepper in their breakfast burritos, but bell peppers and I don't get along, so you won't find them in mine.

Breakfast Burritos - Serves 10 (double, triple, or quadruple the recipe depending on the size of your crowd)


2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 onion chopped

1 32 oz. package of frozen hash browns or country potatoes

12 eggs

2 sticks of linguisa or 13 oz. of any breakfast sausage

10 flour tortillas

8 oz. Mexican four blend shredded cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

Taco sauce or salsa


In a large skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the chopped onion to the olive oil and sauté until translucent. Break the eggs into a large bowl and add a pinch or two of salt and pepper. Whisk the eggs until they are evenly colored. Add the eggs to the sautéed onions. Scramble by cooking on medium heat and using a spatula to push egg mixture towards the center of the skillet. Tilt the skillet to distribute the runny egg, allowing it to cook. Continue pushing and tilting until the eggs are cooked.

Scrambling the eggs with sautéed onions

Cook the frozen hash browns according to instructions on package.

Hash browns

Quarter the sticks of linguisa lengthwise and then cut the strips into bite sized pieces. Sautee the linguisa until slightly browned around the edges.


Mix the hash browns and linguisa with the scrambled eggs.

Eggs, hash browns, and linguisa

To heat the flour tortillas, wet two paper towels and squeeze out the excess water. Place one paper towel on a plate. Place the tortillas on top of the paper towel and then place the other paper towel on top of the tortillas. Microwave on high for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes.

Place a heated tortilla on a plate. Place a large scoop of the egg, sausage, potato mixture in the middle of the tortilla. Sprinkle on the shredded cheese. Fold the left and the right sides of the tortilla towards the middle. Fold the bottom of the tortilla towards the middle and roll towards the top.

A large scoop of the egg, potato, sausage mixture in the middle of tortilla

Cheese sprinkled on the top

The left and right sides of the tortilla are folded towards the middle

The bottom of the tortilla folded and then rolled towards the top

The finished breakfast burrito

The breakfast burrito wrapped in foil

The burritos can be wrapped in foil or placed unwrapped in a large covered casserole dish until ready to serve. To keep burritos warm, store in a 150 to 200 degree oven.

Serve with salsa or taco sauce.


Buenos dias!

It's a Boy! Baby Shower

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on June 27, 2011 at 9:00 AM

The moment our sister Nancy hears that a family member or close family friend is getting married, the first words out of her mouth are, "We'll have to throw you a shower!" I'm sure she got this from our Granny as over the years Granny hosted dozens of showers at her house. So, it came as no surprise to us when we became the co-hosts of a baby shower for our cousin Jeff's future grandson.

The shower was to be held at my house and the five of us co-hosting it would all provide food. I was also in charge of games, which became tricky as everyone provided input as to which games they hate and did not want to be played at the shower. The "don't play" list left me with only the "guess the girth of the mother-to-be" game. The rules of this game are to have the guests cut string or toilet paper the length of what they think will wrap around the stomach of the mother-to-be. The person with the length of string or TP that  comes closest to fitting around the mother-to-be wins. I also passed out raffle tickets and had a drawing for door prizes as everyone loves to win a prize.

Leslie, the aunt-to-be, was in charge of the invitations, which she had printed. I used the color scheme from the invitations for the food table and floral arrangements. I was able to find a blue tablecloth and napkins at Kohl's on clearance that matched the blue on the invitation. I got 5"x5" square white plates from World Market for the appetizers and cake, and a dark brown tray to hold the forks and plates. I love these plates and have already used them a few times since the shower.

White plates and dark brown tray from World Market

We served a variety of appetizers at the shower. We had dates and blue cheese wrapped in bacon, spinach dip served in a sourdough bread bowl, spring rolls, egg rolls, a south of the border shrimp cocktail, jalapeno hummus, mini quiches, fresh strawberries, and crackers and cheese. We had a serve yourself appetizer table, but passed most of the hot appetizers. Our local Safeway makes a great strawberry and whipped cream cake, so grandma-to-be Vicki picked the cake up on her way into town. I served a punch made with Hawaii's Own passion orange concentrate and ginger ale. This punch often has people asking for the recipe.

Dates and blue cheese wrapped in bacon

Spinach dip in a sourdough bowl

Coctel de Camarones, a south of the border shrimp cocktail

As usual we had enough food for about 4x the number of people at the shower. Fortunately, we were having a family gathering at the party barn that night, so after the shower we packed up the extra food and headed for the hills.

Below is the recipe for the shrimp cocktail, which really has a great flavor. The avocado, garlic, and cilantro really complement the shrimp.

Coctel de Camarones - Serves 8

(Shrimp Cocktail from South of the Border)


Juice of one fresh lime

1/2 cup finely chopped green or red onion

3 cloves chopped garlic

1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

4 ripe tomatoes - chopped

8 ounces cocktail sauce (regular or spicy)

2 pounds cooked shrimp, peeled and deveined

2 ripe avocado – peeled, pitted and chopped

Salt and pepper to taste 


In a large bowl mix together lime juice, onion, garlic, cilantro, tomatoes and cocktail sauce. Mix in shrimp, and lightly toss in avocado. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If you like more of a kick, add in a dash of fresh horseradish, minced jalapeno or hot sauce. Cover and chill for 2 to 3 hours. Serve in martini or wine glass and garnish with a sprig of cilantro or lime wedge. Serves 8.

Happy Monday to you!


Cowgirl Up

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on June 3, 2011 at 7:55 AM

June happens to be Western Heritage Month here in Livermore, kicking off tonight as the CattleWomen present cowboy entertainer Dave Stamey. The big guns come out tomorrow with Downtown Livermore’s Chili Shooters Stampede, a chili cookoff between downtown Livermore restaurants where you are guaranteed to have a rootin’ tootin’ good time!!

Each of the restaurants come up with a personal culinary or ethnic twist on classic chili. Last year was the event launch, and a couple of the ethnic restaurants understood “chili” to be chili sauce, and were serving up their finest, and of course, blistering, chili sauce! Our station was just a couple doors down, and a few of the chili tasters came in with fried palates and tears in their eyes! We had lemonade to help cool their tonsils before they tasted the Cookin’ Cowgirls chili, we were serving our Granny’s Cowboy Beans recipe. It was the first time I had to convert a recipe to 8 times over, using an excel spreadsheet, as we had to cook for about 250 expected chili judges.

Some of this year’s contenders include: Habenero Heaven Chili, Calabrese Chili (at the just-opened Milano Joe’s, who also happen to own El Charro!), Casbah’s Rockin’ Chili, Mediterranean Greek Chili, Sansar's Spicy Chili made with Lamb and Chicken, Zephyr's Sideways Chili, and many more. Round up your posse, pull on your Wranglers (unfortunately mine don’t fit anymore) and head downtown between 11am and 4pm to pick up your commemorative shot glass at the flagpole and cast a vote for your favorite chili!

Since none of the Cookin’ Cowgirls had the fortitude to enter again (it involves a County Health Permit), and rodeo weekend is right around the corner, we thought it was an appropriate time to share Granny’s Cowboy Bean Recipe. During round-up season she used to make a large batch of the beans, wrap it up tight in a big pot for the windy drive up Mines Road to the Circle H Ranch, and head way back up into the hills to feed the hungry cowboys. The recipe has become a mainstay in our house, and a family favorite, even when we aren’t wearin’ our chaps and spurs!

Gladys, Grace and Granny on the Circle H Ranch


1½ pounds ground beef

1 bell pepper, diced

1 large onion, diced

2 or 3 stalks celery, diced

2 (28-ounce) cans kidney beans

1 quart stewed tomatoes

1 teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

Dash chili powder (optional)

In a large skillet over medium heat, brown the beef, bell pepper, onion, and celery. Transfer the beef and sautéed vegetables into a large pot. Add the kidney beans and tomatoes, and season to taste with salt, pepper, and chili powder. Simmer for 2 to 3 hours or until the beans are cooked and the flavors have melded. Serves 8 (or 4 hungry cowboys!).

Cowgirl up!!  Nancy

Community Tap and Table

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on April 26, 2011 at 12:40 AM

Troy Bowers serving beer to Darin Michaels and Emily Baime of the Community Tap and Table Cooking Club

Beer and food rate very high on my list of favorite things. I was watching Sacramento and Company one morning when I heard, "beer and food"--that really caught my attention.  Emily Baime and Darin Michaels were talking about their Community Tap and Table Cooking Club cooking classes, which are designed to build your culinary knowledge focusing on seasonal, local foods paired with beer. With excitement I visited their website and shared it with fellow Brew Angel, Rick Reineman, an accomplished home brewer. Rick contacted Community Tap and Table regarding pairing some of his homebrews with food. The three of them gathered, tasted Rick’s brew and then Emily and Darin created a menu to pair with the beers. The date was set, beers and food chosen.

There were seven pairings. Rick had brewed five of the beers, Troy Bowers, my husband brewed one beer and one commercial beer was used. Troy and I joined Rick and Marilyn Reineman, Judith Sanderson and Robert Hershenow in Emily and Darin’s kitchen. The kitchen was set up with different stations for preparing the meal. We were all given a menu that included the recipes. From this we chose the dish we would prepare. Cooking in front of people is not really in my comfort zone, however, Emily provided a very friendly kitchen. I chose the salad. Some drank their beer, others worked on their dish, some did both.

The salad station

Shrimp, avocado, citrus salad dressed with an olive-miso vinagerette

 After preparation, we had the opportunity to taste all of the pairings. First to cross our palates was Rocky Racoon’s Light Honey Lager (an American premium lager) paired with a shrimp, avocado, citrus salad under an olive-miso vinagerette. This is the dish I had chosen to prepare--how could I mess this up?! Marilyn prepared the Baked Brie with Salted Clove Caramel. This was then passed amongst ust. We enjoyed the brie with sliced apples and Pilsner Urquell, which was our lone commercial brew.

Caramel station


Apples, brie, and caramel

Emily had prepared a corn beef to be served with Swiss cheese on marble rye – in the form of a Panini. Robert spread mustard, precisely placed the corn beef and cheese then pressed them in the Panini grill. On the same platter we were served Emily’s homemade jalapeno pickles . . .  “guaranteed to curl your eye lashes!” Heat frightens me, so I cut a small piece of the pickle – delicious! Paired with the Panini was a California Common, an amber hybrid. Most of us would recognize the commercial version, Anchor Steam. This pairing rated high on my palate.


The panini station

Next on the menu was Bacon Asparagus Soup, paired with German Altbier. This was refreshingly tasty! The soup was served in large shot glasses. Included in the asparagus soup were tarragon, parsley, and green peas. These ingredients are what gave it the refreshing quality. The altbier beer by style is crispier and hoppier which complimented the soup.

Troy’s Vienna Lager was served with Small Bites. The Small Bites were squares of pumpernickel with chopped marinated mushrooms. A nice transition to what I call “The Big Daddy.” This was a Brasciole filled with raisins, dried fruits, and aged cheddar paired with English Barleywine. Judith prepared the Brasciole by flattening the ground pork and dried fruit, covering it with greens, prosciutto and then cheddar. Emily carefully rolled the meat into a large log. This was roasted and then served in slices with Rick’s award winning Barleywine. This brew, with 10% alcohol, uses English hops giving it an earthy, musty flavor. This beer was awarded the Best of Show at the 2009 California State Homebrew Competition.


The brasciole station

Judith cutting the brasciole

To end our afternoon of food and brew, we were treated to Kobaisc’s Candies. Cinnamon and ginger chocolates paired with Belgian Triple. Another fine pairing! Kobasic’s Candies is located right down the street from Community Tap and Table. Rick’s Triple is based with coriander, chocolate, vanilla, citrus, black pepper and orange rind. The triple is high in alcohol – 13%, but very smooth and complimented the chocolates well.

Rick's brew container from Deschutes

I recommend visiting Community Tap and Table. All of us enjoyed the company of our fellow cooks, the superb pairing of food and brew. Emily and Darin make you feel very comfortable while sharing their knowledge of food and brew… I left VERY satisfied!

~Susie Calhoun

The Disorganized Potluck

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on April 16, 2011 at 10:31 AM

The green bean and shrimp salad served at the disorganized potluck

A few weeks ago we had a potluck and wine tasting at the family party barn. I decided it was going to be a disorganized (–adjective 1. functioning without adequate order, systemization, or planning; uncoordinated 2. careless or undisciplined; sloppy) potluck with no coordination whatsoever. If anyone asked what they should bring, I told them to bring whatever was easiest for them or one of their favorite dishes. I really dislike it when I'm invited to a potluck and the host wants to know weeks or days in advance, exactly what it is I'm going to be bringing. I usually don't plan in advance and don't decide until the last minute, so needing to provide an answer weeks or days in advance can be daunting for me. As I expected, it turned out fine with plenty of very good food and quite a variety of it.

The only area that was maybe a little short was the dessert area. The dessert table at the party barn is usually overflowing, but this time there was probably just the right amount. There were brownies, a s'more pie, and Norwegian cookies.

The entree that was gone before eveyone made it through the line were the chicken and beef enchiladas made by Mary Chapeta. Lesson learned, put the enchiladas near the end of the line, not the very front of the line. Another Mexican themed entree that had people asking for the recipe was Teri Tith's chili relleno casserole.

Our friend Kim Bonde brought a baked potato bar along with a table to set it up on.

Kim Bonde's baked potato bar

Another one of my favorite dishes at the potluck was a green bean and shrimp salad that was brought by Lani Hernandez. I just love green beans. I love them hot and I love them cold. I could go into a lengthy commentary right now telling you about all of the different ways one can prepare green beans just like Bubba did in the movie Forrest Gump when Bubba told Forrest about all of the ways one can prepare shrimp. But, I'm going to spare you this time.

Lani provided me with the recipe for the green bean and shrimp salad--she either got it from familycircle.com or food.com, she can't remember which as the recipe is posted in both places. I'm posting it here for you. Lani said this salad is great served warm or cold. With summer approaching I'm sure I will be making this for a few events in the next few months.

Green Bean & Shrimp Salad - Serves 4


1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon honey Dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons snipped fresh chives

1 pound green beans, trimmed

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1-1/2 pounds large shrimp, shelled and deveined

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

Snipped chives for garnish (optional)


1. Vinaigrette: In a small bowl, whisk vinegar, mustard, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Gradually drizzle in 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, whisking continuously until dressing is emulsified. Add chives; set aside.

2. Green beans and shrimp: Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add beans and simmer for 5 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain and place in a large bowl. Toss with dressing; set aside.

3. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and shrimp. Season with salt and pepper and cook for about 2 minutes per side or until cooked through.

4. To serve, toss tomatoes with the beans. Place on a serving platter. Scatter shrimp and feta over the top. Garnish with snipped chives, if desired.

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