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February 2014

January 2014

Three ingredient challenge? No problem!

Because my fridge is normally filled with strange items that normally don't go together (right now we've got feta, banana peppers, and orange juice..?)  I challenge myself daily to see what can be put together to make a tasty dish.

I figured it might be fun to see what interesting foods my friends have in their pantries and fridges, too.  So yesterday I decided to try something new on the What the heck's a bonbon? Facebook page.  I asked everyone to give me three ingredients they have laying around their house to see if I could come up with a recipe using them.  It was so much fun!  

Here are some of the three ingredients recipe requests that came through:

Trish from Yoke said she had some cheddar crackers, pretzel crisps and chicken.  I told her to crush up those crackers and pretzels together in a bag.  Brush the chicken with either mayo or honey mustard depending on the flavor she prefers, then coat with the crushed mixture.  Bake the chicken in a 350° oven until the chicken is no longer pink.

Gina over at mom-blog had garlic hummus, celery, and chicken.  I immediately thought of a cold chicken salad.  Just bake the chicken, let it cool and then chop it along with the celery.  Mix it together with the garlic hummus!

The Vintage Mom's Lauryn had avocados, garlic, and sausage.  I thought this one would be hard, but then I thought it would be pretty easy to boil up the sausage links, then slice them into rounds.  Saute the garlic in a pan and add the sausage rounds to give them a little garlicky goodness.  Then top each one with a slice of avocado to give it a creamy finish.

Sarah who is always up for a challenge (She heads up the Made in USA Challenge) had black beans, couscous, and cheese.  Those ingredients remind me of beans and rice.  I think if I had them, I would make the beans and the couscous according to their directions, then mix them together with some cumin and butter.  Then I'd shred the cheese right on top.

Lindsey from Sister to Sons threw me a little with her ingredients: chicken, brussel sprouts, and quinoa.  However, after thinking about it for a bit, I suggested she shred and saute the brussel sprouts and set aside. Toast the quinoa lightly before cooking it according to the normal methods. It will give it a little more nutty flavor. Bake the chicken with some salt & pepper on it. Plate some quinoa topped with the sauteed shredded brussel sprouts and a few slices of chicken breast.

Linda (who is my go-to gal for awesome cocktails) at Giggles, Gobbles and Gulps challenge involved white rice, crushed tomatoes and broccoli.  Now these three ingredients I actually had in MY house as well.  So I decied to take the challenge to the next level and actually make it here, too.   This is what I suggested to Linda, so it's what I did, too.

Photo 1

Broccoli and Rice Cakes with Crushed Tomato Topping

    • 1 cup steamed white rice (I had Basmati)
    • 1 cup chopped cooked broccoli
    • 1 egg
    • 1 cup crushed canned tomatoes, drained
    • Spices (I used cumin, garlic powder, cayenne, salt & pepper)

Mix together the rice, broccoli, and egg.  Roll the mixture into little balls and form into cakes. Pan fry them in a little oil until they are set. Chop the drained crushed tomatoes and add some spices to fit your taste.  If you don't like the spice mixture I chose, experiment with your own combination. Put the tomato mixture in a saucepan on the stove or in the microwave until heated through. Top each cake with a little bit of the mixture.

I'll be honest, I was very curious to see how this would turn out.  I was VERY pleased.  In fact, my daughter and I both loved it.  

Hey, food is fun.  Don't ever limit yourself when it comes to trying new things.  You might be surpised at what tastes great together.  What do YOU have laying around your kitchen?


Recipes from another planet... er, I mean another blog

Recipes from another planet
Before I started What the heck's a bonbon?, I posted a few recipes on my blog Whatever Works.  It got a little busy-looking over there with all those recipes mixed in between the posts where I try to write about feelings and whatnot.  So I thought I'd start fresh over here with a brandy new blog just for those weird food concoctions I like to make and write about.

If you would like to see those other recipes I previously posted, here are the links that will bring you directly to them:

I like to call this stroganoff 

Breadless cheesy garlic bread

Italian hot dogs

Potato salad with Greek yogurt and chives

Really good chicken fingers

Spicy Roasted almonds and walnuts

On the fly chicken tortilla soup

Bacon and cheddar stuffed mushrooms

Steak bites

Butternut squash soup

Grilled cod with almonds

Roasted garlic and cauliflower soup

Spicy sausage and arugula pasta

Sweet & spicy dry rubbed pork ribs

Bruschetta Panzanella

I was also very fortunate to guest post over at my friend Noelle's An Opera Singer in the Kitchen where she let me invade her beautiful blog with my clunky recipe for shepherd's pie.

All this recipe-posting craziness started after I had written a post on about why I make vegetable lasagna even though my family hates it.  After I hit publish, my friend and fellow'er Joan Oliver Emmer suggested I add my recipe to the post.  I took her advice and am very glad I did!  It's really fun posting all this stuff, even though I don't really know what I'm doing.  

I hope you will try some of these recipes and give me your feedback.  And like always, I LOVE hearing about your modifications, substitutions, ditching of ingredients, whatever!  Food is fun.  Do what you want with it.



Beef Braciola (not pronounced brock-ee-o-lee) with arugula pesto

When I was a kid, we had this awesome dish every once in a while that we always called brock-ee-o-lee.  It was stuffed rolled meat that was simmered in a sauce all day long.  

Sound familiar?  

Yes, it's braciola.  However, being that we are so not Italian, my mom pronounced it as it looks on paper like she was straight out of the Christmas Story winning a major fra-gee-lay award.

That would have been OK except when I went on to work at a butcher shop, I was rudely awakened to the correct pronunciation (which is bra-zhol).  I was reading an order out loud to the butchers as we would do when I came across the word braciola.  I yelled out:

"3 pounds of brock-ee-o-lee!  Sliced extra thin!"

..and then the record scratched followed by crickets...and then laughter.  LOTS of laughter.  

Anywho, I love the stuff no matter how you pronounce it.  Here's how I like it: Photo 2

Beef Braciola with Arugula Pesto

For the pesto:

      • 2 cups of arugula
      • 2  cloves garlic
      • 1/2 cup Marcona almonds
      • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
      • 1/3 cup olive oil

For the braciola:

      • 1/4 cup olive oil
      • 4 slices of sharp provolone about 1/8 inch thick
      • 1 cup arugula pesto
      • 4 slices of top round london broil about 1/6 inch thick
      • 1/2 cup dry red wine
      • 2 cups of your favorite marinara or tomato sauce.  I like using Giada DeLaurentiis's simple tomato sauce 
      • butcher's twine- or as I like to call it 'unwaxed dental floss'. Hey, it works.

Pulse all the pesto ingredients together in your food processor until fairly smooth.

Lay out your pieces of meat.  Layer a piece of provolone on each piece.  You may have to trim the edges to fit.  Spread about 3-4 Tbsp of pesto on top.  Roll up each piece and firmly secure each roll with a few pieces of butcher's twine. Photo 2

Add the olive oil to a pan heated on medium heat.  Brown all 4 rolls on all sides (about 6-7 minutes total).  Add the wine and bring to a boil.  Add a little bit of the tomato sauce and scrape the pan to get all the flavors mixed.  Transfer the meat to a casserole pan and cover with the wine/tomato mixture and the rest of the tomato sauce.  Cover lightly with foil.

Cook in a 350° oven for about 1:45 to 2 hours.  Spoon some of the sauce over the meat occasionally so it doesn't dry out.  Take the foil off for the last 15 minutes or so.

 Remove the rolls and slice into 1/2 inch pinwheel pieces.  Top with a little more sauce.

 You can try this with other types of meats, different fillings, whatever.  Just make sure you have patience and cook it slooooowwly.  It will be worth the wait.

Last night we tried it without the provolone and all agreed that it needed it.  It was a little bland without it.  I also tried cooking it in the crockpot instead of the oven, and do not recommend it.  The meat turned out a bit too dry.  But hey, try making it however you want.  It's YOUR family that will be eating it!  Have fun with it.


Kitchen sink crispy potato and vegetable cakes

Making these beautifully crispy little delights is one of my favorite things to do when I'm trying to clean out the fridge.  You can add almost any type of vegetables you have laying around to the base recipe so the possibilities are endless.  

And being that my overall track record of having all the right ingredients for recipes is not very good, this particular recipe is quite popular in my house.   I hope you will give it a try.

Photo 2

Kitchen Sink Crispy Potato and Vegetable Cakes

Base recipe:

    • 2-3 cups of your favorite frying oil (I like canola)
    • 2 large russett potatoes grated- Place the grated potatoes in a bowl of ice water that is seasoned with 1 tsp salt.  Make sure they are fully covered with water so they don't turn brown.  Let them sit while you prepare the rest of the recipe.
    • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
    • 1/2 tsp baking powder
    • 1/4 tsp salt
    • 1/8 tsp garlic powder
    • 1 small onion grated
    • 2 eggs

 Now this is where all the vegetables come in.  You can omit or add any diced vegetables you want.  Just use about 1/4 cup of whatever vegetables you choose.  You will want to stick with vegetables that do not have a lot of water in them.  Some suggestions: spinach, jalepeno peppers, mushrooms, parsnips, cauliflower, taro, green beans, even diced apples for a different taste.  

This is my favorite combo: 

    • 1/4 cup shredded carrots
    • 1/4 cup frozen sweet corn kernels- thawed
    • 1/4 cup chopped kale
    • 1/4 cup green and/or red bell pepper- diced
    • 1/4 cup chopped broccoli
    • 1/4 cup shredded zucchini

Photo 1

Add oil to a shallow pan and heat to 400°. 

In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt and garlic powder together.  Place the onion, eggs and your combination of vegetables (minus the potatoes) in a large bowl and lightly stir them together.  Stir in the flour mixture.  Drain the potatoes squeezing out as much water as possible and stir them into the vegetable/flour mixture.  

Using your fingers, an ice cream scoop or  a spoon, scoop a small amount of the mixture and very carefully place it in the hot oil.  You can press it down slightly with a spatula, but I like to leave it as loose as possible to give it a more crispy texture.  Add about 4 more cakes to the oil (depending on your pan size) in this manner stirring the mixture in the bowl between each scoop so you get a good combo in each one.  

Flip the cakes in about 4-5 minutes or when you notice that they are starting to turn golden brown. Fry them for an additional 3-4 minutes or until they are golden on both sides.  Remove from oil and drain on paper towels.  Repeat in batches until all your batter is gone.

If you love to dip just about everything like I do, here's a great dip that tastes awesome with these cakes.  Mix the following ingredients together: 1 cup plain Greek yogurt, 1 Tbsp onion flakes, 1 tsp chopped chives, 1/4 tsp garlic powder, 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper, salt and pepper and you will have a slightly spicy yogurt dip to serve along side these beauties.

You can serve these warm or at room temp which makes them great for big parties.  They freeze very well, too, so make some now to have for next that Big Game coming up on February 2nd.  Please be sure to check out all the other awesome recipes my blogging buddies are sharing for the Big Game, too.  Between us all, we have come up with 14 recipes to make sure your tailgating (or couchgating) party has all the right stuff.

Hot sausage and kale soup- a happy and delicious failure

Whenever we are in a restaurant and I have a dish I like, I always try to copy it at home.  Sometimes I do alright while other times I just fail miserably.  

But here's the thing: sometimes those miserable failures are AWESOME.

They may not taste anything like the dish from the restaurant, but they taste darn good on their own merit.

 That's the beauty of cooking.  You can find new and wonderful things to eat by simply experimenting.  You can take any recipe out there and make it your own.  Sure, not every recipe will turn out great.  But some will.  

And it will be glorious.

Here's a recipe that worked out pretty well for me after trying and failing to copy Olive Garden's Zuppa Toscana.  It is much lighter and well, we like it:


Hot Sausage and Kale Soup

  • 1 lb hot Italian sausage- loose
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 1 carrot grated
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 3 large yellow potatoes sliced thin
  • 3-4 cups chicken or vegetable broth plus a bit more depending on your preferred consitency 
  • 1 large bunch of kale cut into bite size bits
  • salt & pepper to taste

Break apart the sausage and brown it in a large pot on medium heat.  Add the onion, garlic, carrot and potatoes and toss to coat everything a bit.  Cook on medium for about 3-4 minutes.  Add broth and bring to a short boil.  Turn down to low and simmer with a lid stirring occasionally until the potatoes break apart easily.  Add kale a little at a time stirring into the soup.  Simmer on medium  low until kale is cooked to your liking (about 30- 40 minutes).  Add salt and pepper to your taste.  You may also need to add more broth at this point if the soup is too thick.

You can also make this soup in the crockpot.  Just brown the sausage in a pan first and then add it along with the rest of the ingredients to your crockpot.  Either cook it on low for about 5-6 hours or on high for 3-4 hours.  Have fun with it!



Something I like to call Cauli Slaw

Once again, I found myself craving something.  And once again I didn't have all the ingredients.  

You may start to notice a pattern here.  And you may be asking yourself, "Why in the world does this strange lady never have all the ingredients she needs and yet have all these other weird ingredients just laying around her kitchen..?"

The answer is simple.  I am a terrible shopper.  

I will go to the store with a million meal plans in my head and then forget them all when I get home with all the groceries.  But, I make a point to use every single thing I buy regardless.

This time, I wanted cole slaw, but was missing the main ingredient: cabbage.  So I looked through the fridge and decided to use cauliflower instead.  What ended up happening was beautiful.  The cauliflower not only tasted good, but it made the slaw look so pretty.  Check it out.

And I must give credit where credit is due.  My husband came up with the punny name for this dish.  He's a keeper.


Cauli Slaw


  • 3 Tbsp white vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • salt & pepper to taste

Mix above ingredients together and set aside.

  • 1/2 head cauliflower sliced very thin
  • 1 small stalk celery minced
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrots
  • 1/8 cup onion minced
  • 1/4 cup yellow bell pepper minced

Toss vegetables together in a large bowl with the prepared dressing. Refrigerate for about an hour to blend the flavors.  

 It's good on its own, but even better on your favorite sandwich.  Give it a whirl!


Swedish-ish turkey meatballs

My grandma on my mom's side was Swedish.  But you know what I realized recently?  I don't remember ever eating even one meatball at her house.  That caused me to question my whole existence as a 1/4 Swedish woman.  Am I really Swedish if I didn't learn how to make Swedish meatballs from my Swedish grandma?  And what makes a meatball Swedish anyway?

Well, I do know how to make meatballs and I did learn to cook other things from my grandma.  So if you put it all together like a word problem in math class, I think it is fair to assume that I formed this recipe from my experience with my awesome Swedish grandma.

Are these meatballs?  Yes.  Are they Swedish meatballs?  I don't know.  But they taste good.  So here's my recipe for...


That's parsley, not cilantro

Swedish-ish Turkey Meatballs

  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1 Tbsp minced onion
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 Tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup instant potato flakes
  • 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/8-1/4 c half & half
  • Garlic salt and pepper to taste

Mix all above ingredients starting with only 1/8 c half & half.  Increase the amount if the mixture seems too dry.  Form the mixture into 1 inch balls.  Brown all sides on a medium stove in a frying pan.  Don't worry about them cooking all the way through, just get a nice brown coat on the outside.  Add a small amount of water and cover the pan to steam the meatballs through. Remove the meatballs to a serving tray and keep them warm.


  • 3 cups beef broth
  • 1/2 tsp soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 Tbsp flour + 1/2 cup cold water

Add the beef broth, soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce to the pan scraping the sides and bottom.  Bring to a slight boil.  Stir flour and cold water together to make a paste and stir it into the broth.  Stir constantly until it boils.  Turn off the heat.

Add the meatballs back to the pan to coat them and serve over buttered noodles, mashed potatoes or rice.  We like having French cut green beans on the side as well.


Moravian spice cookies- or something like them

If you have ever had Moravian spice cookies, you know that they can be addicting.  They are like a ginger snap's beautifully delicate, flaky cousin.  They aren't too sweet and they go perfectly with a cup of tea.  

It snowed here today and it got me craving those little gems, so I jumped online to see what I could find recipe-wise.  I found a few really great looking recipes, but of COURSE I didn't have one of the main ingredients each one called for: molasses.

So I scrapped all the recipes I saw and improvised like I seem to always do and made something that resembled Moravian spice cookies.  They turned out pretty darn good, if I do say so myself.  Here's what I came up with:


 Moravian Spice Cookies- or Something Like Them

  • 1 1/4 c all purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 3/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 pinches of cayenne pepper
  • 4 Tbsp softened butter + 4 Tbsp melted butter
  • 1/4 c light corn syrup
  • 4 Tbsp light brown sugar

Mix together the flour, salt, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, cinnamon, ginger, and cayenne pepper in a separate bowl.  Use a whisk to get all these ingredients mixed evenly without squishing down the flour.

With a mixer, cream the 4Tbsp softened butter.  Add the corn syrup and brown sugar and mix well.  Slowly add in the flour/spice mixture.  The dough will be very coarse.  You may have to scrape down the sides a few times.  Melt the remaining 4 Tbsp butter and add a little to your mix at a time.  Keep adding until your dough is soft, but still a bit coarse.

Form the dough into a ball, wrap it in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge for about 2-3 hours.

When you are ready to bake, line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil.  Preheat your oven to 350°.  Split your dough into 4 pieces and only work with one piece at a time. Put the rest back in the fridge until you are ready to use it.

Flour your work space and your rolling pin well.  Roll out your dough until it is 1/16 in thick.  Yes, 1/16 in.  That's seriously thin and will take a lot of elbow grease and patience.  Your dough will not look very uniform and will probably crack on the sides, but that's ok!  Keep going.  Once you think you have it thin enough, give it another couple rolls with your pin just to be sure.  

Using a round cookie cutter (which I don't have so I used the top to my cocktail mixer.  Cheers!) cut out as many circles you can from the dough.  You can always re-roll the dough you have left over, but I just put those scraps right on a different cookie sheet and baked them up.

Bake the cookies for 8-9 minutes or until they are slightly brown.  They can overbake very easily, so keep an eye on them towards the end. Cool them on a wire rack and enjoy with your favorite cup of tea.

 I hope you will try this recipe, modify it, substitute ingredients, or just love it as is.  Let me know what you think!  


What the heck's a bonbon?

Turkey, cole slaw and cranberry sauce on a stuffing cake

I cook a lot.  I think you should too.

But here's the thing: I don't know much about fancy shmancy cooking terms.  Or what utensils are proper to use while cooking.  Or why certain dishes are called certain dishes.  Like, what makes a truffle different from, say, a bonbon?

In fact, I had never even HEARD of a bonbon until I became a stay-at-home mom and someone cracked a joke about "sitting around eating bonbons all day" which prompted me to immediately ask the question: 

What the heck's a bonbon?

In case you are curious, it's a little chocolate thingy that apparently stay-at-home parents are supposed to love...while they do nothing but sit around all day... um...?

Anyway, I thought 'What the heck's a bonbon?' would be a great name for my new blog that will be filled with recipes and tips for all of us wannabe chefs who love to cook, but seldom have all the ingredients we are supposed to and don't really like to follow a recipe exactly.

Everything I post here will have been tested by my guinea pigs family and will have their seal of approval.  

I encourage you to use these recipes as guides to making your own wonderful creations.  Modify them like crazy so that your family will gobble them up.  Don't like cilantro?  Me neither.  So you can bet that you won't find any cilantro laden dishes here.  But if you DO like it, by all means add it to any of the recipes you find!

I hope you enjoy this!