Cooking & Living in Small Spaces with Style


A Christmas Menu Idea For Two (or four)

Appetizers, Beef-Pork-Poultry, Holidays, Meats, Desserts-Snacksshirley byrdComment

Often after having experienced a very social Thanksgiving dinner (or not), I look forward to a quiet Christmas dinner. The menus for my Christmas dinner sometimes included ham baked with cloves and pineapples and a range of complimentary sides. Sometimes, . . .

Holiday Small Appetizer Tray Idea

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Assembling an appetizer tray is almost as much fun as sampling its delicious treats. Many appetizer trays are designed to host a large group of people.

Jumbo Pumpkin Creme Cheese Muffin

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These jumbo pumpkin cream cheese muffins are 4 inches across the top!! They’re very moist with a perfect sweetness, pumpkin flavor completed with soft texture of the cream cheese filling. Serve as quick breakfast with fruits and coffee or as a snack.

My Copy-Cat Wisconsin State Fair Cream Puff

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What's special about a Wisconsin State Fair cream puff?  It's extra large puff pastry and cold pile-high whip cream.  I was able to find a couple of recipes on the internet for the cream puff.  And that's what you'll find here, a melding of the two recipes with some tweaking on its preparation.

Peach Cobbler

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When you're a yankee reared by a southern woman, one of the many dishes you must learn how to make is peach cobbler.  It's most often served with homemade vanilla ice cream.  Family picnics always ended with the magical moment of eating peach cobbler and vanilla ice cream--memory making moments that last a lift time.

Guacamole With Sundried Tomatoes

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Gaucamole is a popular and most delicious dip for any occasion!  Adding sundried tomatoes to gaucamole amazingly lifts an already exciting flavor. 

How To Build An Ice Cream Sundae

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Ice Cream Sundaes are a favorite summer dessert.  They're versatile, fun to make, appetite please and just down right delicious.  In my life, anytime is . . . .

Homemade Lemon Curd

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Ever wanted to enjoy the refreshing tart taste of lemon curd right out of the jar?  You are not alone.  You can buy in the grocery store or just make it yourself.  It's easy to make.  Most important is that you can add to so many foods.

Mango Strawberries Cream Cheese Crostata

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First, I must say I love a crostata.  And I confess that's because they're easy to make, they have a rustic carefree presentation, and most important, they're delicious.  The filling in this one is a cream cheese, not too sweet with a brighten flavor from lemon zest.

If you're not into making your own crust, not a problem.  Just purchase a premade pie dough and you're all set to throw together a wonderful crostata.

Molten Lava Cake With Grand Marnier Liqueur

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Chocolate molten lava cakes are simply divine and quite easy to make.  This one, made with Grand Marnier liqueur, is particularly delicious.  Served with ice cream, raspberries, and a cup of java, it is the perfect ending to a wonderful meal. 

Easy Ginger Pear Crostata

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When looking for a quick dessert, I like turning to this Easy Ginger Pear Tart.  There are so many variations on it that I most often just purchase fresh bosc pears, a ready made pie crust and the rest is right out of the pantry and fridg. 

Thanksgiving Dinner Ideas For One

Food Talk, Desserts-Snacks, Beverages, Meats, side dish, Salads-Soups-Sandwichesshirley byrd2 Comments

Dining alone for Thanksgiving this year?  So am I.  And I shall enjoy my Thanksgiving Dinner to the max with my girl, Susie, a Portuguese water dog.

My Thanksgiving dinner menu depends on how I feel and is often based on one of three basic menus that I follow or alter.  Here are the three menus to inspire you.  Follow a menu or make a substitution with your own favorites. Most important is to just have fun!!   

Broiled Parmesan Cheese Oysters

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Oysters are a bit expensive where I live.  That makes broiled parmesan oysters a special treat at my table.  Whether these broiled parmesan cheese oysters are being served as appetizer or entree, the only downside is that there is never enough. 

The Making of Small Cheese And Meat Boards

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Beautiful cheese boards with their abundance of food items, color and textures are visual feasts.  You just wants to dive in and taste as many flavors as possible.  Such cheese boards are very large and relegated only to be enjoyed by a large group of people for special occasions. 

I make cheese and meat boards for guests or when I need something to take to a party.  But I also make them when I don't feel like cooking and just want to relax and munch.  Sometimes I make a cheese board when I want to make myself feel special. The making of a small cheese and meat board is easier than you may think.

Peach Raisin Bread Pudding

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Bread pudding is an old fashion dessert that saved many old breads.  My grandmother saved the ends and edges of white bread, they were the parts I hated.  She never told me that children were starving in other parts of the world when I had complained.  She simply made bread pudding rich with spices, milk and eggs--which I greedily ate!

How To Pan Grill Peaches

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Learn how to easily remove pits from and then how to pan grill peaches.

Honey Blue Cheese Stuffed Endives

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This honey blue cheese spread offers a sweet and salty flavor tamed by cream cheese.  A little crunch is added with the walnuts and the endives.  The endives also provide a perfect foil with its sweet but gentle bitter taste.  

Sausage Cheese Stuffed Mini Sweet Peppers

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Warning!  You'll need a plate or large napkin held close under the chin while eating these juicy sausage and cheese stuffed roasted sweet mini bell peppers.  

Inside each pepper is a spicy sausage mix with the nutty flavors of Gruyere cheese and Parmesan cheese. Another layer of Gruyere cheese tops the pepper and is then sent back to oven for melting. 

Sausage cheese stuffed mini sweet bell peppers

Sausage cheese stuffed mini sweet bell peppers

A great substitute for the Gruyere cheese is provolone cheese which also melts and pulls like a stringy cheese.  Just remember, Parmesan with it low water content doesn't melt well.  Carry it with a cheese that does melt will still allow you to enjoy it.


About mini sweet bell peppers

Vine sweet mini bell peppers are hybrids of bell peppers. But they have fewer seeds and are sweeter. The flavor is mild and not hot. They range in sizes 1-1/2" to 4" in colors of yellow, orange and red. The peppers have a wonderfully crunchy texture, a delicious snack to just eat raw. On the other hand, they're great in almost any dish. Usually available year round, I found a bag of them at a Costo Store.

Check out this You Tube Video and see just how easy it is to make these sausage and cheese stuffed sweet mini bell peppers:

The Recipe (yields 12)

Primary Kitchen Tools:  6-cup cupcake pan, 6 - 4-1/2" square parchment paper sheets, Skillet
Pre-heated oven 400 degrees


  • 12 mini sweet bell peppers, washed and each approximately 2" long

  • 8 ounces spicy bulk sausage

  • 1 shallot, minced

  • 1 very large garlic clove, minced

  • 1 Tablespoon butter

  • 1/2 cup Gruyere cheese, grated

  • 1/3 cup Gruyere cheese, grated (reserved for topping off mini peppers)

  • 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

  • 1 Tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley

  • 1/4 cup flat-leaf Italian parsley, chopped

  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional if you want more heat)

  • Salt and pepper to taste (optional)


Mini Bell Peppers:  Line each cupcake holder with one square parchment paper.  Fill each cupcake holder with two mini sweet bell peppers.  Place the filled cupcake pan on the center rack of the pre-heated oven and bake for 15-20 minutes until the bell peppers are soft.  (15 minutes should yield a soft bell pepper but with some firmness.  Twenty minutes will of course yield much softer bell peppers but not mushy.) When peppers are cooked, set the pan aside and allow the peppers to cool.  

Onions and Garlic:  While the peppers are baking, melt butter in a skillet, then sautée onions and garlic until the onions are transparent, about 1-1/2 minutes.  Set onions and garlic aside on a dish.  Add sausage to skillet, turning and breaking it up into small pieces while cooking.  Remove sausage to a bowl when done.

Cheese mix:  Mix the 1/2 cup of Gruyere cheese and the 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese in a bowl.

Bringing It All Together:  To the sausage, gently mix and stir in each ingredient, the onions and garlic; the cheese mix; and the parsley.  Cut off the top for a cap and scrape out any seeds, as well as the inside ribs.  Using a small narrow spoon, stuff each pepper up to about a 1/8" of the top.  Using the reserved Gruyere cheese, add about a teaspoon or more (or just use your fingers) to the top of each pepper.  Put the caps back on each pepper.


038 MSL Mini-Bell-Pepprs-Sausage-V6-Enjoy-Resized1920-0630.jpg

You may also be interested this snack/appetizer:

Olive Muffalata Stuffed Hard-Boiled Eggs

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Wanting a different take on the classic stuffed hard-boiled eggs, I rummaged through my refrigerator (door wide open!) and spied a jar of olive muffalata.  

If you are not sure of what is olive muffalata, it's a spicy (just a little) pickled olives--and so very delicious!  You can purchase it in the grocery store in a jar, online or the grocery store deli.

Orange And Berries Shortcake

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A shortcake is really just sweet biscuit dough.  Add oranges, berries and lots of whip cream and voila, you have a classic delicious dessert.  

This is a favorite in my household, especially when fresh fruits are in season. As for the shortcake, I make it a little sweater than most shortcake recipes because I also love to eat the shortcake as is.   

Make your own whip cream using the recipe below or if in a pinch, buy ready-made whip cream.  

So let's get started on the recipes which consist of making the shortcakes, making the orange and berries sauce and the whip cream.  Serves 4-6 (depending upon how large you want your shortcakes.

The Recipe:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Ingredients for shortcake:

  • 2 cups of all-purpose flour

  • 4 teaspoons of baking powder

  • 3 Tablespoons granulated sugar

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1/4 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

  • 1-1/4 cup of half and half milk

Preparation for shortcake:

Spray a cookie sheet with a non-stick bakery spray or cover the bottom with parchment or wax paper. 

Sift dry ingredients in a large bowl:  flour, baking powder, sugar and salt.  (Although your flour may come pre-sifted, often it settles into clumps from just sitting on a shelf.  So it's best to just sift it though a strainer.)  


Using a spatula or a dough mixer, cut the butter pieces into the mix until it reaches a grainy consistency.  Create a well in the center and pour in the half and half milk.  Lightly stir the milk into the mixture.  You should end with a wet dough.

Using a very large serving spoon, scoop a heap of the dough and drop it onto the cookie sheet.  If necessary, gently form the sides to make them a bit more round.  Dab a little melted butter on the tops.

Bake for 12 minutes.  Test for doneness with a tooth pick.  (If you want the top to be a little more brown, zap it under the broiler for about 30 seconds.)  The inside of the short cake will be soft and moist with outside a bit crunchy. 


Ingredients for orange and berries sauce:

  • 2/3 cup of sugar (If you want to cut back on the sweetness, add only 1/4 cup of sugar)

  • 2/3 cup of orange juice, preferably with pulp

  • Juice from half a lemon

  • 1 large navel orange, peeled and segmented (save the juice)

  • 10 ounces of fresh strawberries, washed, stem leaves cut off and then cut into quarters

  • 6 ounces of fresh blackberries

  • 2 teaspoons brandy or Grand Marnier (optional)

Preparation for orange and berries sauce:

Add sugar, orange juice and lemon juice to a large heavy skillet over medium high heat.  Continuously stir ingredients for about 10 minutes or until it caramelizes.  Be careful at this step.  Once sugar starts to melt, it is very hot and can burn quickly.  

Remove from heat, add the brandy and fold in the fruits.


How to make your own whipped cream!  It's easy!

Place a metal bowl and wire whisk in the refrigerator for about 15-20 minutes.

Ingredients for whip creme:

  • 1 cup of whipping cream

  • 1-2 Tablespoons powder sugar

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Add powder sugar, vanilla and whipping cream to the chilled metal bowl.  Using an electric blender with the chilled wire whisk on a medium high speed, whisk ingredients until whipping cream becomes stiff enough to form peaks, approximately 4 minutes.  Be careful not to over whisk.  The whipping cream may loose its nice smooth look and look a bit lumpy.  If you're not using it right away, store in a tight container in the refrigerator.  It will keep for one day.  Should you decide to use it at a later time, liquid may have separated.  Not to worry.  Just lightly whisk it again.  Yields 2 cups.  

How build the shortcake with oranges, berries and whip cream.

There are two options for serving this orange and berries shortcake: 

  • The first is described in this recipe which is to fold the fruits into the caramelized orange sauce.

  • The second option is to just layer the shortcake with the fresh fruits, pour the sauce on top and then add the whip cream.

Whichever method you choose, cut the shortcake in half, lengthwise.  Set the top half aside.  Add a layer of fresh fruits and juices, add whip cream. place the top half on the whip cream.  Add another layer of fruits and juices and top with whip cream.



I would love to hear from you should you try the dessert.  Of course, go ahead and share with other readers and me how you make your shortcake dessert.