Autumn in Every Bite – Apple Cider Cinnamon Bread made in the Bread Machine, Chicken & Rice Soup made in the Instant Pot

Now is the time to get cooking some comfort foods and when I get one of those busy days I like to use my Bread Machine and the Instant Pot. We just got back from a short trip away and stopped by our favorite cider mill farm stand. We always have to buy a gallon of freshly pressed cider on the drive home. A recipe I stumbled on last fall was an easy to make loaf of Apple Cider Cinnamon Bread that is easily made in the bread machine. It’s Autumn in every bite! I made French Toast for breakfast with it, ham sandwiches for lunch, as well as just good old buttered toast with tea or coffee. So next time you go to the cider mill save some to give this bread a try.

Then while you are easing into the cooler temperatures here is a weeknight Instant Pot Chicken & Rice Soup that takes very little time and will warm you and the family up quick. Easy to make while the kids are doing homework or a weekend meal after raking up leaves. I hope you enjoy both recipes.

Apple Cider Cinnamon Bread

Makes a 1.5 pound loaf. 

Use the basic or white bread setting.

1 1/4 Cups Fresh Apple Cider

2 Tablespoons Vegetable or Canola oil

3 Cups Bread flour (I prefer King Arthur Bread Flour)

2 Tablespoons Brown sugar

1 teaspoon Salt

1 teaspoon Cinnamon (Costco Ground Saigon Cinnamon is delicious)

2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast

Follow the instructions that came with your bread machine in terms of which ingredients to put in the bread machine first. It should be a smooth, round ball.  If it’s too dry add liquid a teaspoon at a time until it looks right.  If it looks too wet, add flour a tablespoon at a time until it looks right. It’s always a good idea to check on the bread after five or ten minutes of kneading as every bread machine is a bit different. 

Instant Pot Chicken and Rice Soup Recipe

Servings 8


  • 5 carrots peeled and sliced (bite size, not too thick)
  • 2 stalks celery sliced, I like to include the celery tops too.
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
  • 1.5 to 1.75 lbs. boneless chicken breast or thigh meat (about four thighs pieces)
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian Seasoning
  • 8 cups chicken broth (two 32 ounce cartons)
  • 1 1/4 cups Instant Rice


Turn your 6-quart Instant Pot and press the Sauté button.

Add the olive oil, the sliced carrots, celery, diced onion, minced garlic. Sauté until the onions are soft, about 3 minutes. Turn the sauté setting off.

Add the salt, pepper and dried parsley. Toss to coat the vegetables.

Add the whole chicken pieces to the Instant Pot and top with the Italian Seasoning. (No need to cut up the chicken)

Pour the chicken broth over the ingredients and stir with a spoon.

Place the lid on the Instant Pot. Make sure the valve is set to the sealing position. Press the manual button and set the pressure cooking time to 8 minutes.

After the timer beeps that the pressure cooking has finished allow to release naturally for 15 minutes. Now push the valve to the releasing position and wait for all of the steam to escape and the pin to drop. Hit the Cancel setting.

Use a slotted spoon or a kitchen tongs and remove the hot cooked chicken from the pot and to a bowl. Shred the chicken using two forks. Immediately return the shredded chicken to the Instant Pot.

Pour the instant rice into the Instant Pot and stir. Place the lid back on the Instant Pot and lock into place (your Instant pot should be off at this point) Allow the rice to cook in the hot chicken broth until tender, about 12-15 minutes.

Remove the lid once again and serve.  

Note: If you prefer noodles instead of rice, you can make your favorite style of noodles in a separate pot on the stove and then add them to the hot broth with the shredded chicken and serve immediately.

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Just a girl who loves Fall – The last of tomatoes and basil from the garden

Happy Autumn everyone! Well, in a few more day anyway. I love Autumn, Winter and Spring but not a fan of the Summer heat and humidity. Here in the Northeast we do have our nice days days and those I enjoy, but the hot days I just can’t seem to function very well. Once September arrives I begin to feel I can finally relax with the cooler temperatures slowly setting in, we now can open the windows and shut off the A/C and I feel like cooking again.

For those who may have some veggies and herbs left in the garden now is the time to use them up if you aren’t planning to can or freeze them. If you don’t have any homegrown take the time to visit some of your local farms or produce stands. Pick up some tomatoes, corn, squash or herbs, there are so many recipes you can make with them. Here I am sharing a family favorite at our house, plus another recipe for making homemade pesto and a chicken dish you can use both tomatoes and basil in.


A simple fresh tomato sauce where you can use the last of your tomatoes. I have used Cherry Tomatoes, Roma Tomatoes as well as Beef Steaks to make this sauce, they all work fine.

Fresh Tomato Sauce

Makes 2 cups, enough for 1 pound of pasta

To keep the garlic from burning, start the olive oil and garlic in a cold pan. Add a pinch of sugar to the cooked sauce if your tomatoes aren’t as sweet as you’d like. If the sauce seems too thick, toss the sauce and pasta with a little reserved pasta cooking water to help spread the sauce evenly.


  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 pounds ripe beefsteak tomatoes (about 4 large), cored, peeled (see related How to Cook), and cut into 3/4-inch chunks
  • Table salt
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • Ground black pepper


  • Stir oil and garlic together in large skillet. Turn heat to medium and cook until garlic is sizzling and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring to rapid simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, reducing heat if sauce begins to stick to bottom of pan, until thickened and chunky, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in basil and season with salt and pepper to taste.


I love making fresh Pesto with Basil from our small herb garden. This is a delicious Chicken Thighs with Pesto Recipe you might want to try.

Basic Pesto Recipe

2 cups fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup pine nuts, walnuts or pecans
3 cloves of garlic, sliced
1 tsp. salt
1/3 cup good quality olive oil
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp. lemon juice
1/2-1 cup fresh parsley
Freshly ground pepper

In a food processor, or blender, combine all the ingredients except the cheese. Process the mixture in short bursts until it is smooth. It should not be soupy. If it is too oily, you can add more basil. Scrape down the sides as you work. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and stir in Parmesan cheese. Place in a covered container and chill. It will last up to a week in the refrigerator. The optional ingredients are up to you-I’ve seen many recipes without them, but quite a few that include them.

Notes, Additions and Tips

Ingredients: Pesto is SO varied! Some people insist on pine nuts, others hate them. I always go with the concept of using what you have on hand and what you can afford at the time. Substitute walnuts or pecans if you wish! You can also use Pecorino or Romano cheese for a change. Salt and pepper should be used to taste. If you are on a low salt diet then leave it out. If you love garlic then try adding more, less if it’s too much for your taste. You can also toast the nuts in the oven, or in a skillet before using.

Pesto freezes well in ice cube trays. Store the frozen cubes in a plastic freezer bag to use in the off season. Add a cube to soups, stews or tomato based sauces.

Toss fresh pesto with hot pasta, rice, or steamed vegetables. Spread on toasted French Bread, use a dip for bread sticks, or spread on pizza crust in place of tomato sauce.

Baked Pesto Chicken Thighs

My husband loves the juiciness of chicken thighs, so this recipe was a winner with him. Baked Pesto Chicken Thighs is a fast chicken dish made with boneless thighs, pesto, tomatoes, mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. It can be even made on a week night. This recipe is easily doubled.


4 Boneless, skinless chicken thighs

Kosher salt and fresh pepper to taste

1 jar ready-made Pesto or homemade if you prefer

1 Medium tomato, sliced thin

1 Cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese


Wash chicken and dry with a paper towel. Season lightly with salt and fresh cracked pepper.

Preheat the oven to 400° F. Line baking sheet with foil or parchment.

Place the chicken thighs on prepared baking sheet.

Spread about 1-2 teaspoons of pesto over each piece of chicken, depends how much pesto you like.

Bake for 20 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink in center.

Remove from oven; top with sliced tomatoes, sprinkle Parmesan cheese, and mozzarella cheese on top.

Bake for an additional 3 to 5 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Serve over cooked white rice or pasta.

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Ricotta Gnocchi in Sauce

I haven’t been making much this summer, just focusing on home projects. We often ate easily prepared meals to beat the heat mostly but I know September is around the corner where I’ll be cooking more than chicken or making salads. I did manage to throw in a few Instant Pot dinners here and there.

Well, this past weekend Hurricane Henri was supposed to land in our area. I wanted some comfort food for all of us so I decided to make a dinner of ricotta gnocchi with marinara sauce served on the side with some Italian sausage with peppers and onions. Thankfully the storm downgraded and did not hit us head on. All we had was basically a rainy day and a comforting dinner to look forward to.

Ricotta Gnocchi is actually easy to make. The tiny dumplings once cooked are a bit heavier than your standard pasta so a small portion goes a long way. I made ours with a simple marinara sauce however depending on the season or meal you can serve them with melted butter and herbs or your favorite Bolognese. I also love making a simple soup with sausage, gnocchi dumplings and spinach, kale or escarole.

Ricotta Gnocchi in Sauce

Servings: 8 people


1 ¾ cups to 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour plus extra for kneading and dusting. Spoon flour into the measuring cup, don’t pack it down

    16 ounces whole milk ricotta cheese drain the excess liquid

    1/2 cup Parmesan cheese freshly grated

    2 large eggs, beaten

    1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

   Marinara tomato sauce or

   3 Tablespoons of melted butter and Sage leaves or Rosemary sprigs (see option


    Add extra grated Parmesan cheese for serving


In a large bowl, add the flour. Make a well in the center and add ricotta cheese, Parmesan, eggs, and salt. Mix until combined. Turn mixture to a well-floured board and begin gently kneading. Add a bit more flour as needed until the dough stops sticking to your fingers.

Form into a large ball and quarter the dough into four sections. Roll each section into 1/2-inch-thick rope. Cut each rope in 1-inch pieces.

To make the ridges, roll each piece down the tines of a fork or gnocchi board.

Spread them out on baking tray lined with parchment and sprinkled with flour to prevent sticking. Allow the gnocchi to rest a bit while you heat the sauce and boil the water.

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil over high heat.

Gently add the gnocchi to the boiling water and cook until they float to the surface, about 3 to 4 minutes.

Remove the gnocchi with a slotted spoon and place into a large serving bowl. Spoon tomato sauce over gnocchi and stir lightly until mixed.

Serve with extra tomato sauce and grated Parmesan cheese or toss the gnocchi in Butter and Herb Sauce.

Butter and Herb sauce option

Put the 3-4 Tbsp. butter in a large skillet over medium heat. When it’s melted, add the fresh herbs. Use about 5 washed Sage leaves or a full sprig of Rosemary and heat through in the melted butter.

When the gnocchi rise to the surface, remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to the skillet. When all the gnocchi are tossed, taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary, and serve immediately.

Sausage, Baby Spinach and Gnocchi in Chicken Broth for a chilly day
Sausage, peppers and onion with Ricotta Gnocchi in Marinara sauce

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Please share this site with your family and friends and ask them to join Recipes from a Small Kitchen to see what my next cooking adventure will be. I hope my recipes will inspire you to take some time to cook in your kitchen no matter what size your kitchen is.
Please Like and leave a comment, I would love to hear from you and hear what you are making.

The Year of the OX 2021 – Shrimp with Lobster Sauce and Chinese Spare Ribs

Our family loves getting Chinese Take-Out. A couple of times a month we might treat ourselves on a Friday or Saturday night when we had been too busy to cook dinner and just want to relax. Several years ago I jumped in and decided I would learn to create some of our favorite take-out dishes. So with wok in hand I have managed to find some very good recipes that made my attempts pretty successful. Years ago the first take-out recipe I tried was Pork Fried Rice. I managed to make a decent version and then from there I created what some restaurants call their “House Special Fried Rice” with added chicken and shrimp. Through the years I made many copycat dishes, sadly before I had a phone that took pictures so most were never documented. I’m slowly playing catchup, so I hope to post more of my copycat take-out dishes in the months ahead.

So this Chinese New Year which begins on February 12th it will be the year of the OX. My plan is to make Char Siu Pork. So today the pork will marinate and I’ll cook it tomorrow. I’ll post my results in a future post.

Until then one of my favorite take-out dishes is Shrimp with Lobster Sauce. It’s a simple dish to make and so satisfying. I’ll share the recipe here.

Shrimp With Lobster Sauce

Serves: 4 PEOPLE

• 12 ounces (340g) raw large shrimp, shelled and deveined
• 1/3 lb ground Pork (Optional – I used it in the meal above but you don’t have to)
• salt and sugar to taste
• 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
• 1- inch piece ginger, peeled and thinly sliced or thinly grated
• 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
• 1 cup chicken broth
• 1/2 tablespoon Chinese cooking wine, Shaoxing wine (see note)
• 3/4 cup store-bought frozen peas
• 3 dashes white pepper
• 1/2 tablespoon light soy sauce
• 1 tablespoon cornstarch
• 2 tablespoons water
• 1 egg white, lightly beaten


  1. Lightly season the shrimp with salt and sugar to taste.
  2. In a wok or large sauté pan, heat up the oil on medium heat. When the oil is hot, add in the ginger and garlic. Stir-fry until aromatic, about 2 minutes.
  3. Place the ground pork in the wok or large sauté pan.
  4. Stir fry until the pork is about 3/4 cooked.
  5. Transfer the shrimp into the wok and stir-fry until half-cooked or surface turns opaque. Pour in the chicken broth and Chinese cooking wine. Let it boil.
  6. Add the frozen peas and stir to combine. Add the white pepper, soy sauce, salt and sugar to taste.
  7. Prepare the cornstarch mixture by adding the cornstarch and water, mix well. When the chicken broth is boiling, gently pour in the cornstarch mixture while stirring.
  8. Bring it back to a boil, swirl the beaten egg and immediately stir 3 times with a pair of chopsticks. When the egg white begins to form into silken threads, quickly turn off the heat.
  9. Dish out to serving plate. Best served with warm rice.

Another favorite for many is Chinese Spare Ribs and you can make these at home too.

Chinese Spare Ribs
Serves 4–6

• 7 Tbsp hoisin sauce
• 2 Tbsp ketchup
• 2 Tbsp honey
• 1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
• 2 Tbsp soy sauce
• 2 tsp lemon juice
• 1 Tbsp ginger, chopped
• 1 Tbsp garlic, chopped
• 1/2 tsp five spice
• 2 tsp red food coloring
• 2 tsp sesame oil
• 2 (1 lb) baby back rib racks, cut into individual ribs

• In a mixing bowl, whisk together all of the ingredients, except the ribs and potstickers, to make a marinade.

• Take half of the marinade and coat the ribs completely. Place marinated ribs in a container. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

• Preheat the oven to 325°F.

• Place the ribs, bone-side down, on a baking rack. Place the baking rack on top of a roasting pan lined with aluminum foil. Bake the ribs in the oven for 1 hour. Using a pastry brush, baste the ribs. Continue baking for an additional hour. Baste the ribs another time and turn on the broiler in your oven. Broil for about 5 to 10 minutes, until you achieve a little charring on the ribs (watch carefully so they don’t burn).

Note: What is Shaoxing wine? Chinese cooking wine

Shaoxing wine, is a type of Chinese rice wine that comes from Shaoxing, a city in China’s Zhejiang Province. It’s a key ingredient in many dishes and will create that authentic restaurant flavor you may have found difficult to replicate at home. You can find this in the International food isle in some larger grocery stores or in Asian Grocery stores like H Mart. It’s not expensive approximately about $2-3 for a large bottle. Should you not be able to find this substitute with Dry White Sherry from your liquor store. Don’t use the cooking wines on the grocery shelf as they contain a lot of sodium and may ruin your dish.

A Northerner’s take on Biscuits and Sausage Gravy

When there is 6 to 8 inches of snow on the ground I crave comfort foods. I have a few dishes that I only make once every so often and Biscuits with Sausage Gravy is one of them as it not a very “figure friendly” meal. Biscuits and Sausage Gravy is a popular Midwest and Southern dish. We eat it here in the North East as well but I don’t think it has the same popularity. I’ve eaten this dish in restaurants and diners between New York and Virginia and have always enjoyed it.

I did find though that sometimes the sausage gravy was a bit on the bland side when making it at home using the original ground pork sausage in the round plastic tube; so I decided to change up the standard recipe of ground pork sausage, and use Sweet Italian ground sausage meat. (If you like something more spicy you can use Hot Italian sausage meat). So here is my version of the classic along with the easy biscuit recipe that I use. Serve it for Breakfast or dinner especially on a snowy day. I hope you enjoy it.

Easy Biscuit Recipe

Servings Approx. 8 biscuits depending on the size cutter you use.


  • 2 cups self-rising flour 
  • 1 ½ cups heavy cream, cold (don’t substitute milk, heavy cream is a must!)
  • 1 tsp fine salt


  1. Keep the heavy cream in the fridge until you’re ready to use it.
  2. Add flour to a medium bowl. Pour in cold cream and stir with a heavy wooden spoon until mixed. Preheat oven to 475 degrees.
  3. Dump bowl onto a counter and scrape out any remaining dough or flour. Pat into a rectangle about 2″ thick. Fold into thirds, turn 1/4 and fold again, continuing 3 times.
  4. Cut biscuits with a 3″ biscuit cutter. Press down and bring straight up. Do not twist biscuit cutter. Pat excess dough out, cut, and repeat process again.
  5. Place biscuits on a cookie sheet about 2″ apart. Bake for 12 minutes, until golden.
  6. Brush with melted butter. Serve warm.

Sausage Gravy


  • 1 – 1 1/2 lb. Sweet Ground Italian Sausage, casing removed if you have Italian sausage links
  • 2 Tablespoons Butter
  • 1/3 Cup Flour
  • 3 Cups Milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon Garlic Powder
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon Seasoned Salt, to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper, more to taste


  1. Brown the sausage in a large skillet over medium-high heat until no longer pink.
  2. Add the butter to the pan and stir it around until melted.
  3. Sprinkle the flour over the sausage and stir for 2 minutes to cook off the flour.
  4. Pour the milk slowly onto the sausage and flour mixture, slowly mixing and stirring constantly until the sauce becomes smooth and thickens.
  5. Stir in the seasonings. Taste the gravy and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
  6. Serve immediately over split or crumbled biscuits. I love it topped with fresh cracked pepper.

Thank you for visiting!
Please share this site with your family and friends and ask them to join Recipes from a Small Kitchen to see what my next cooking adventure will be. I hope my recipes will inspire you to take some time to cook in your kitchen no matter what size your kitchen is.
Please Like and leave a comment, I would love to hear from you and hear what you are making.

Finding My Roots and British Fish and Chips

I’ve always wanted to take a trip across the pond and visit the countries in the United Kingdom. Maybe one day I’ll have that opportunity, but until then I’ll try and bring a bit of those places home through food.

While growing up I was told my family heritage is Italian, Irish and German. In these days of Ancestry DNA and trying to learn a bit more about my ancestors I learned a few things. Yes, I’m still Southern Italian/Sicilian on my father’s side but the slight difference is in my mother’s side. She thought her ancestors were Irish and German. The German side still definitely sticks from her mother’s side but the Irish side from her father now has a twist. There is the strong possibility we are also 31% Scottish, 12% English, 2% Welsh and nothing turned up in Ireland. Now that was a bit of a surprise. So in the months ahead I hope to learn more about the UK ancestry of my family. This has been the most difficult side of my family to research thus far as I don’t have any living relatives from my maternal grandfather’s side.

So to celebrate my UK ancestry I made a version of British Fish and Chips that was so delicious. Growing up I remember Arthur Treacher’s Fish & Chips was the place to go. Crispy fish and you added a few dashes of malt vinegar. It was something totally new and delicious back then. The fish was the crispiest batter dipped fish I ever ate. Any fried fish made at home was made with a coating of flour then egg and bread crumb then fried. This was also delicious but Arthur Treacher’s was something special. The restaurant has come and gone over the years and on a rare occasion I’ve had fish and chips while eating out, but I never quite made it the British way at home until now.

This recipe is from a terrific website called the Spruce Eats. I enjoyed many of their recipes and this one did not disappoint. It takes a bit of planning and work but the end result was amazing, my family loved it and I hope you enjoy it too.

Classic British Fish and Chips

  • Total:40 mins
  • Prep:20 mins
  • Cook:20 mins
  • Rest time for batter:30 mins
  • Servings:4 servings

Classic fish and chips are a British institution and a national dish that everyone can’t help but love. You can buy them from one of the thousands of fish and chip shops all over the country, including the world-famous Harry Ramsden’s—or you can make them at home.

Use a thick white fish for this recipe; sustainable cod, haddock, or pollock are preferable. The fillets are dipped in a flour batter that includes both dark beer and sparkling water, and the carbonation ensures a light, crispy fried fish. The “chips” are simply freshly cut fried potatoes. Use one pot to fry the chips, then the fish, then the chips again (for that crisp exterior and fluffy interior) to ensure both fish and chips are ready to eat at the same time. Serve with a pint and bring the pub home.


  • For the Fish:
  • 7 tablespoons (55 grams) all-purpose flour (divided)
  • 7 tablespoons (55 grams) cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Sea salt (to taste)
  • 1 pinch black pepper (to taste)
  • 1/3 cup dark beer (cold)
  • 1/3 cup sparkling water (cold)
  • 4 (7-ounce) fish fillets (thick, white fish)
  • For the Chips:
  • 2 pounds potatoes (peeled)
  • 1 quart (1 liter) vegetable oil (or lard; for frying)

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.
  2. Set aside 2 tablespoons of flour. In a large, roomy bowl, mix the remaining flour with the cornstarch and baking powder. Season lightly with a tiny pinch of salt and pepper.
  3. Using a fork to whisk continuously, add the beer and the sparkling water to the flour mixture and continue mixing until you have a thick, smooth batter. Place the batter in the fridge to rest for between 30 minutes and 1 hour.
  4. Meanwhile, cut the potatoes into a little less than 1/2-inch-thick slices, then slice these into 1/2-inch-wide chips. Place the chips into a colander and rinse under cold running water.
  5. Place the washed chips into a pan of cold water. Bring to a gentle boil and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes.
  6. Drain carefully through a colander, then dry with paper towels. Keep in the fridge covered with paper towels until needed.
  7. Meanwhile, lay the fish fillets on a paper towel and pat dry. Season lightly with a little sea salt.
  8. Heat the oil to 350 F in a deep-fat fryer or large, deep saucepan. Cook the chips a few handfuls at a time in the fat for about 2 minutes. Do not brown them. Once the chips are slightly cooked, remove them from the fat and drain. Keep to one side.
  9. Place the 2 tablespoons of flour reserved from the batter mix into a shallow bowl. Toss each fish fillet in the flour and shake off any excess.
  10. Dip into the batter, coating the entire fillet.
  11. Check that the oil temperature is still 350 F. Carefully lower each fillet into the hot oil. Fry for approximately 8 minutes, or until the batter is crisp and golden, turning the fillets from time to time with a large slotted spoon.
  12. Once cooked, remove the fillets from the hot oil and drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with salt. Cover with greaseproof paper (parchment paper) and keep hot.
  13. Heat the oil to 400 F, then cook the chips until golden and crisp, or about 5 minutes. Remove from the oil and drain. Season with salt.
  14. Serve immediately with the hot fish accompanied by your favorite condiment.


  • When making this classic version, be sure to use the freshest cod, pollock, or haddock that you can find for the best results. Frozen fish is also fine, but make sure it is thoroughly defrosted and dried with paper towels first.
  • Prepare the batter and only dip the fish at the last moment before plunging into hot oil to fry. This way you will always have a light and crisp snap to the batter.
  • Use a floury potato for the chips. The best varieties are King Edward, Maris Piper, Sante, and Yukon Gold.

Why Is Simmering the Potatoes Important?

British “chips” are the same as french fries, and restaurants use a few tricks to make really good and crispy fries. The most important of those are blanching and double frying; the same method used in this recipe. Simmering and the cold water rinse leaves you with blanched potatoes that contain less moisture and will result in crispier fried chips.

Why Do Fish and Chips Get Soggy?

A few factors may result in soggy fish and chips. The first is that the fish and potatoes need to be dry. Removing moisture produces crispier fried food and reduces oil splatter. Oil temperature is also key: If it’s too cool, the food needs to cook longer, will soak up more oil, and become soggy. You also don’t want it too hot because that can lead to a burnt batter or undercooked fish and potatoes. When deep-frying in a pan, use a thermometer to monitor and maintain the oil temperature. Avoid overcrowding the pan, which will lower the temperature as well.

Credit to website:

New Cooking Adventures for 2021 – Shabu-Shabu

I hadn’t been on in a while. No real reason, the motivation just wasn’t there. I did manage to make a few dishes to mix things up on my break. We have been home more than we normally would be this past year and things had gotten a bit humdrum in the kitchen.

The holidays had come and gone, I found myself not feeling so enthusiastic this past season. Christmas was a simple meal of Cranberry Roast Pork which the family enjoyed but things just didn’t feel the same as I’m sure many have experienced as well. It is just hard to feel joyous during a pandemic.

I spent some of my time off baking breads, rolls and biscuits, and found an amazing recipe for homemade English style Fish & Chips that was over the moon. We turned out some pretty nice homemade pizza and even made some old time candy too. I’ll share these in the weeks to come.

For New Year’s Eve we decided to start a new cooking adventure. Something I had wanted for quite a while we purchased a Hot Pot. We really enjoy making Asian style dishes at home. I guess the recipes are not necessarily traditional and are probably more American versions but we enjoy it just the same.

My husband and I went to the Asian grocery store, purchased the Hot Pot, an assortment of vegetables, and thinly sliced meat (beef) for shabu-shabu, tofu and small dumplings for the soup.

It was an evening of fun for the both of us. I know we will be planning more Hot Pot dinners in the future.

Here is the list of Ingredients I used:

The beef based broth used was from a packet purchased at the Asian Market

  • Napa Cabbage
  • Baby Bok Choy
  • An assortment of Enoki, Oyster, and Shitake Mushrooms
  • Snow Peas
  • Green onion
  • Beef specially sliced for quick cooking in the Hot Pot

Firm Tofu

An assortment of small frozen dumplings

I hope you will have your own cooking adventures in 2021

Wishing everyone a Happy and Healthy New Year!

Cozy Soups for those Blustery Days

Autumn is in full swing here in the Northeast. The leaves have changed color and are falling, and the winds are picking up a bit. The nights are a bit chilly that even the heat turned on the other night. These are the days that I especially love having soup though I could eat soup most any time of year. It doesn’t matter if the soup is completely made from scratch cooking down a whole chicken and vegetables for a wonderful stock or an easy version made in the Instant Pot with stock purchased at the grocery store. Both are satisfying and delicious.

I previously posted my recipes for a good hearty basic chicken stock. Here is the link just incase you missed it.

Basic Chicken Stock Recipe

So here are a few different recipes you can try. All having that tummy warming goodness we crave this time of year. Enjoy!

Mini Meatball Soup

Total Time:47 min
Prep:20 min
Cook:27 min

Yield: 4 big servings

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 2 turns of the pan in a slow stream
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2 bay leaves, fresh or dried
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound ground beef, pork and veal combo or ground turkey or ground chicken
1 egg, beaten
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Romano
1/2 cup plain bread crumbs, a couple of handfuls
6 cups chicken stock or broth
2 cups water
1 1/2 cups dried pasta, rings, broken fettuccini or Ditalini
1 pound triple washed fresh spinach, coarsely chopped


In a deep pot over medium heat add oil, chopped carrots, celery and onions and bay leaves. Season with salt and pepper. Cover pot and cook veggies 5 or 6 minutes, stirring occasionally.

While the veggies cook, combine meat, egg, garlic, grated cheese, bread crumbs, salt, & pepper.

Uncover your soup pot and add broth and water to the pot. Increase heat to high and bring soup to a boil. When soup boils, reduce heat a bit and start to roll meat mixture into small balls, dropping them straight into the pot. You are making meat dumplings that will cook in the broth. When you are done rolling the meat, add pasta to the soup and stir. Cover and simmer soup 10 minutes. When pasta is tender, stir in chopped spinach in batches. When spinach has wilted into the soup, the soup is done and ready to serve. Adjust your seasonings. Serve soup with crusty bread or grilled cheese sandwiches.

Amish Beef Barley Soup

The Pennsylvania Dutch people take advantage of their gardens whenever possible, and this easy version of a classic hearty Amish Beef Barley soup is chock full of veggies for a healthy stick-to-your-ribs main dish soup.

Serves: 8
Cooking Time: 1 hr 10 min

•2 tablespoons vegetable oil
•1 pound beef stew meat, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
•1 onion, chopped
•8 ounces sliced fresh mushrooms
•3 carrots, coarsely diced
•1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, not drained
•8 cups beef broth
•1/2 teaspoon salt
•1/2 teaspoon black pepper
•3/4 cup quick-cooking pearl barley

1. In a soup pot over high heat, heat oil. Add beef, onion, mushrooms, and carrots and sauté 6 to 8 minutes,
or until they begin to brown. Add diced tomatoes including the liquid, beef broth, salt, and pepper;
bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer on low 30 minutes, or until beef is tender, stirring occasionally.

2. Add barley and simmer an additional 15 to 20 minutes, or until barley is tender. Serve immediately.

•This is great to serve after a bone-chilling afternoon of raking leaves.


Makes 8 Servings
5 medium carrots sliced
2 small ribs celery sliced
1 cup diced onion
1 heaping tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
1.5 lbs. chicken – skinless boneless breast or skinless boneless chicken thighs
1 teaspoon dried thyme
6 to 8 cups chicken broth/stock or Better than Bouillon
3 cups cooked rice or follow directions for using 2 cups of instant rice. You can also use previously cooked noodles or favorite small pasta.


  1. Turn a 6-quart or 8-quart Instant Pot on and press the Sauté button.
  2. Add the sliced carrots, celery, diced onion, minced garlic and butter. Sauté until the onions are soft, about 3 minutes.
  3. Add the whole chicken pieces to the Instant Pot. Add fresh or dried thyme & parsley.
  4. Pour 6 cups of the chicken broth over the ingredients. Stir with a wooden spoon.
  5. Place the lid on the Instant Pot. Make sure the valve is set to the sealing position. Press the manual/high pressure cook button and set the pressure cooking time to 7 minutes.
  6. After the timer beeps alerting you that the pressure cooking has finished allow the steam to release naturally for 15 minutes. Then push the valve to the releasing position and wait for all of the steam to escape and the pin to drop.
  7. Carefully twist off the lid.
  8. Use a slotted spoon or a kitchen tongs to remove the hot cooked chicken from the pot and place it in a bowl. Allow the chicken to rest for about 5 minutes before shredding the chicken with two forks.
  9. Return the shredded chicken to the Instant Pot soup. You can now add the cooked rice, cooked noodles, or small cooked pasta. Allow the rice/pasta to warm through for 5-10 mins and serve. If the rice has absorbed too much of the chicken broth add the remaining 2 cups of broth and stir.

(If using Instant Rice do as follows…)

  1. Pour the 2 cups of instant rice into the Instant Pot and stir with a wooden spoon. Replace the lid on the Instant Pot and lock into place. No setting needed, just allow the rice to cook in the hot chicken broth until tender, about 15 or 20 minutes.
  2. Remove the lid once again and stir the cooked rice into the chicken soup. If the rice has absorbed too much of the chicken broth add the remaining 2 cups of chicken broth and stir. Serve

Serve any of these with your favorite dinner rolls and a side salad perhaps or maybe a favorite sandwich.

Keep Warm and enjoy the Autumn weather. Have a mug of warm apple cider or tea and watch a cozy movie, because before you know it we will be planning Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Stay healthy and Safe Everyone.

A Taste of Apple Season

Autumn, it’s a season of memories for me. It’s time to stop by our favorite orchard for apples and cider. I enjoy remembering taking our kids to go apple and pumpkin picking every year. We would eat apples as we walked along the orchard and they would try and pick the biggest pumpkin they could find, such fond memories. Today seeing families pushing their large wheel barrels loaded up with apples and pumpkins against a backdrop of crimson and orange leaf trees as their tired little ones trail behind reminds me of those early years.

All these years later my husband and I still enjoy stopping by a wonderful orchard we know of for a bag of apples and a gallon of fresh cider. One of my favorite apples is Honey Crisp. To me it’s the kind of apple that you can actually taste the Fall. It’s not too sweet or tart but a balance of both and a wonderful crispness as you take a bite like the Autumn air.

Here are a few recipes for you to try.

Apple Cider Cinnamon Bread for the Bread Machine

Makes a 1.5 pound loaf. 

Use the basic or white bread setting. Makes a great French toast with some cooked sliced cinnamon apples on top or the side.

1 1/4 Cups Fresh Apple Cider

2 Tablespoons Vegetable or Canola oil

3 Cups Bread flour (I prefer using King Arthur Bread Flour)

2 Tablespoons Brown sugar

1 teaspoon Salt

1 teaspoon Cinnamon (Costco Ground Saigon Cinnamon is delicious to have on hand)

2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast

Follow the instructions that came with your bread machine as to which ingredients to put in the bread machine first.

Kneading: It should be a smooth, round ball.  If it’s too dry add liquid a teaspoon at a time until it looks right.  If it looks too wet, add flour a tablespoon at a time until it looks right. It’s always a good idea to check on the bread dough after five or ten minutes of kneading as every bread machine is a bit different. 

Apple Cider Donut Cake


  • Yellow box cake mix – your favorite 
  • 3/4 cup fresh apple cider
  • 1/4 cup water
  • ½ cup apple sauce (Homemade if you have made some would be great)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • ⅛ cup cinnamon 
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup melted butter


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, beat the dry cake mix, apple cider, apple sauce, water, and eggs. Add in the brown sugar and vanilla to the cake mix batter.
  3. Pour mix into a well-greased Bundt pan.
  4. Place Bundt pan on center rack and bake for 45 minutes. Test with a toothpick by sticking into the middle of the cake, if it comes out clean it is ready. Remove from heat and allow to cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes.

Autumn, My Favorite Time of Year – Cottage Pie


I have to admit I am not much of a Summer person, heat and humidity are not comfortable for me. Yes, I do love the bright sun, vegetables growing in the garden and longer daylight hours but when the temperatures get into those 90+ degree days I’m pretty unhappy and hide out in the air conditioning and just throw together some simple dinners that require very little cooking.

I love Autumn, the feel of the cool breezes and crisp air. The softness of long sleeve sweatshirts and sweaters again my arms. We are just getting started in this wonderful season here in the Northeast. By this time I have grown tired of the lighter dishes of Summer and start to crave comfort foods. The temperature was only in the high 60’s yesterday and I decided to celebrate and make Cottage Pie.

What is Cottage Pie? Many people also call it Shepherd’s Pie. Both use ground meats but the difference is the Irish specialty Shepherd’s Pie normally uses lamb while the English Cottage Pie uses beef. The names are pretty much interchangeable for most people though. But what ever you choose to call it it’s comfort food at it’s best. Here is the recipe I use, I hope you enjoy it.

Cottage Pie

Baked in an oven-to-table casserole or 9 x 13 pan, this dish will be very hot when it comes out of the oven, so be sure to let it cool for several minutes before serving.

Meat Filling:

1 1/2 cups frozen corn kernels
2 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 1/4 pounds ground beef
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup beef broth
1 cup diced canned tomatoes or crushed tomatoes in puree
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper to taste

Mashed Potato Topping:

6 cups peeled and chopped potatoes
2 teaspoons salt, plus salt to taste
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 to 1/2 cup milk
1 to 1 1/2 cups grated white or yellow Cheddar cheese

Step 1
Cook the corn according to the package instructions. Drain and set aside.

Step 2
Start the potatoes for the topping. Put them in a large pot with enough water to cover them by a couple of inches. Add about 2 teaspoons of salt to the water. Bring the potatoes to a boil, uncovered, over high heat. Cook them for 10 to 13 minutes. Meanwhile, make the meat filling.

Step 3
Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Sauté the onion and celery in the butter, stirring often, for about 5 to 6 minutes.

Step 4
Add the ground beef to the pan and break it up with a wooden spoon as it browns. Remove the skillet from the stove and, resting it on a heatproof surface so it won’t feel so heavy, tilt the pan so that the excess fat runs to the side. Carefully spoon out the fat and discard it (this will make the dish leaner and healthier, as well as lighter tasting).

Step 5
Put the skillet back on the burner and set the heat to medium low. Stir the garlic and flour into the beef mixture. Stir in the beef broth, then the canned tomatoes, then the herbs, reserved corn, and Worcestershire sauce.

Step 6
Gently simmer the mixture for several minutes, partially covered, then add salt (1/4 teaspoon, give or take a little) and pepper to taste. Transfer the mixture to a large buttered casserole. Set the oven to 400°, and while it heats, check to see if your boiling potatoes are done.

Step 7
To test the potatoes, use a slotted spoon to transfer a cube from the water to a cutting board and allow it to cool for 30 seconds or so. If you can slice through the chunk easily with a butter knife, the potatoes are done.

Step 8
Set a large colander in the sink and drain the potatoes in it (this job can generate a lot of steam, so it is best done by an adult or under adult supervision). Transfer the drained potatoes to a large mixing bowl and scatter the butter pieces over them. Spoon the sour cream here and there over the hot potatoes as well. Wait several minutes for the butter to melt and the sour cream to warm so the ingredients will be easier to blend, then partially mash the potatoes with a hand masher.

Step 9
Switch to an electric mixer set at medium speed and continue to mash, adding enough milk to make medium-soft mashed potatoes. Don’t make them too soft, however; you want them to have some body.

Step 10
Salt the potatoes to taste and spoon them evenly over the filling. Sprinkle the cheese over the top, then sprinkle on some paprika (be sure to wash your hands right afterward so you don’t accidentally rub any of the spice in your eyes). Bake the pie on the center oven rack for about 20 minutes, until the top is golden brown. Cool for several minutes before serving. Makes 5 to 6 servings.