Spicy Oyster Crackers

Recently, I shared with you about Tomatensoep with open-face Boere Kaas sandwiches. I thought it would be fun to add some spiced oyster crackers to the soup. We are big on “soup-tons” in our house, so this seemed like a natural addition to an already delicious meal. This crackers are easy to make, plus they are fun to eat as a snack the next day!

Spicy Oyster Crackers


1/4 cup Canola Oil
4 TBLS unsalted butter, melted
1/2 TBLS red pepper flakes
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp fresh ground pepper
1/2 tsp granulated garlic
1/2 tsp granulated onion
2 tsp Italian Seasoning
1 (16-ounce) package oyster crackers

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

Combine oil, melted butter and spices together in a large bowl. Add oyster crackers and stir gently to coat the crackers. Pour crackers out on a large, parchment-lined sheet pan. (Trust me on the parchment paper, it makes clean-up a breeze!)

Bake for 25 minutes, stirring gently after 15 minutes.

Let cool. Store in an airtight container.

Use to garnish your favorite soups! They taste great on clam chowder, potato soup and of course, tomatensoep!

Boere Kaas & Tomatensoep!

Being married to a Dutchman means two things; One, they are stubborn! Two, they have great cheese! I’m not kidding. They are very stubborn. Great cheese is a given.

When we were first married and my darling groom made me an open-face cheese sandwich with a cup of dutch tomato soup. I may have fallen in love with him all over again from that single meal. The sandwich was fantastic and the soup… we are not talking an “out of a can” tomato soup. Nope. This is out of a box tomato soup. 🙂 It’s put out by a company called Honig. This is the best tomatensoep I’ve ever had. The first time I made it on my own, I had to ask my Father-in-law to translate the directions on the box. Thankfully it was very easy to make. Once you try it, you will never be able to eat the can version again!

But we were talking about cheese too! That delightful open-face cheese sandwich! We are lucky to have a Dutch bakery near our house that sells all the soup mixes, rice mixes, seasonings, bread, cookies and treats my husband grew up eating. They also carry cheese. Glorious, wonderful, delicious dutch cheese. You can buy anything from a full wheel (pretty awesome to see sitting in their fridge) to smaller sections. We buy Boere kaas for open-face sandwiches. It has a rich, nutty flavor that pairs perfectly with the tomato. Boere kaas is a farmhouse variation of Gouda, but it has a gold rind compared to the red rind of traditional Gouda. Boere kaas is a unpasteurized “farmers cheese.” Half the milk for the cheese has to come from a single farm and the rest can only come from two other farms. It is a true artisanal cheese. At the Dutch bakery it comes in mild, medium, aged and well aged. It’s fascinating to see the differences in the same cheese, sitting side by side in the case. They also carry Gouda and Komijnekaas – cheese that includes cumin as an ingredient. Komijnekaas has a lower fat percentage (30 to 40%) than Gouda and gives a great spice to cheese dishes!

Tonight for dinner we had tomatensoep and Boere Kaas sandwiches. I’d wager my children would say it is one of their favorite meals of all time. Simple. Delicious. Made even better by the rich tomato taste and the warm, nutty flavor of fantastic Dutch cheese. This is comfort food at it’s very best!

Chocolate Chip Cookie & Oreo Brownie Bars

Here is how it all began…

I was online searching for bowling snack recipes. The internet is a wild and wonderful place to entertain your secret (not really secret) chocolate fantasies!

I happened upon Kevin & Amanda’s blog, where they have incredible pictures (and a recipe of course) of their Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie n’ Oreo Fudge Brownie Bars.

My heart skipped a beat.

Chocolate chip cookies with…


AND Fudge Brownies?

All in one recipe?


I couldn’t wait to get started! If you follow my posts on Facebook, you know I made these bars and they ended up on the floor. How is THAT for an Imperfect Kitchen? 🙂 I think my floor tiles were hungry and convinced gravity it should pull the pan off the counter and land face down on the floor. At least that’s the story I’m going with… it couldn’t possibly be because I’m a bit of a clutz. HA!

Not to be defeated, I made another batch! THIS version came out even better than the first and not just because it didn’t end up on the floor! I cut the recipe in half and modified it for my chocolate-loving self… err.. my bowling team’s tastes. Yes. That’s what I meant. I’m doing this for my bowling team. 🙂

Start with all this stuff…

Put the butter in a bowl…

Add sugar, vanilla and an egg…

Mix in the flour, baking soda and salt. When it’s all combined, toss in the chocolate pieces. Don’t forget “quality control” and take a chip for yourself! Mmm… chocolate!

Spread the cookie dough in the bottom of an 8×8 pan, that’s lined with wax paper and sprayed with cooking spray.

Layer Oreo cookies on top of the cookie dough. I used Double Stuff Heads or Tails Oreos.

Now, whip up a batch of your favorite box brownie mix. You could use your own recipe too. I am a “Ghirardelli Girl” and used their Triple Chocolate Brownie Mix for this batch. Kevin and Amanda recommend adding a 1/4 cup hot fudge topping to boxed brownie mix to give in an extra chocolate boost! Since I was already using Triple Chocolate Brownies, I left it out of this batch. When the batter is ready, pour it over the cookie dough and Oreos. Goodbye beautiful Oreo…

Cover them completely and smooth out the top!

Bake at 350 degrees for 45-55 minutes.

This is what they look like when they are done! YUM!

Now let’s take a peek inside at the Oreos!

It looks like some of my Oreos tipped over during the baking process. At least this batch didn’t end up on the floor! Thankfully, they taste incredible, even with crooked Oreos!

Here is my version for you to try at home. (Because I know you want to!)

Chocolate Chip Cookie and Oreo Brownie Bars

1 stick butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
5 TBLS light brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 TBLS vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups All-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup Chocolate Chips
1 pkg Double Stuffed Oreos
1 box regular brownie mix (or use your favorite recipe)
1/4 cup hot fudge topping

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream the butter and both sugars in a large bowl with an electric mixer until they are well blended, about 3-4 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla and mix well. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt, then slowly add into the mixer until the flour is just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips. Spread the cookie dough in the bottom of an 8×8 baking dish that has been lined with wax paper and prayed with cooking spray. Top with a layer of Oreos. Mix together brownie mix, adding an additional 1/4 cup of hot fudge topping. Pour the brownie batter over the cookie dough and Oreos. Bake at 350 degrees for 45-55 minutes.

If you are making brownies for a crowd, you can double this recipe!

I had extra brownie mix left-over, so I broke in my new mini-muffin pan! You can not let brownie mix go to waste. Ever.

It’s a double win! I have brownies AND chocolate chip oreo brownie bars. It doesn’t get any sweeter than that!

Baked Rigatoni with Spicy Italian Sausage

A month or so ago, my husband and I went to dinner with friends at Buca di Beppo.  We ordered Baked Rigatoni with Spicy Italian Sausage. It was so good, it was all we talked about on the way home!  I had to make my own version just a few days later.  This is what we came up with!  I hope you like it!  Side note: they have a Chef’s table in the kitchen at Buca di Beppo I would love to reserve for my birthday dinner next year… HINT HINT!

  This dish is warm, filling and goes perfectly with my Focaccia bread!

Baked Rigatoni with Spicy Italian Sausage


  • 1 (16 ounce) package Rigatoni pasta
  • 1/2 pound mild Italian sausage
  • 1/2 pound spicy Italian sausage  (You can use all mild, all spicy, or a combination of both.  It’s up to you!)
  • 1 large yellow onion, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly cracked pepper
  • 4 basil leaves, shredded (or 1 tsp dried basil)
  • 1 medium jar spaghetti sauce ( I used Ragu )
  • 1 cup Mozzarella Cheese, shredded and divided in half
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly spray a 9×13 inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted water.  Stir occasionally, until the pasta has cooked through, but still firm. (about 8 minutes)  Drain well.
  3. While pasta is cooking, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the sausage, and cook until brown.  Remove sausage from the skillet, but leave drippings in the pan.
  4. Add the minced onion to the pan with the sausage drippings and cook until the onion is soft, about 10 minutes.  Add the minced garlic and cook two minutes longer.
  5. Return the sausage to the skillet with the onions and garlic.  Add all the seasonings to the meat and onion mixture.  Stir well.
  6. In a large bowl combine pasta with the spaghetti sauce, basil leaves and half the shredded mozzarella.  Add the meat mixture.  Stir to combine.
  7. Pour everything into the 9 x 13 dish. Cover with remaining cheeses. Cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil.
  8. Bake until heated through, about 20 minutes. Uncover; return to the oven and bake until cheese is melted and lightly browned, about 5 minutes.

While the Rigatoni is resting, make your Focaccia Bread (follow the link above to the posted recipe!)  When it’s ready, call me so I can come over for dinner!


Next weeks bowling snacks!

Last night most of the bowling teams in our league (including half of ours!) went to a local amusement park for a Halloween Fright Fest.  Mr. Kitchen and I didn’t go.  I didn’t want to bake for just the two of us, so we were sans bowling snacks for the very first time.  I think my scores are worse without snacks.  I didn’t break 100 once.  Tonight, I’ve been searching the web for next weeks Bowling Snack inspiration. Chocolate and peanut butter always make things better right?  Why should bowling scores be any different!  There are some fantastic food blogs out there, filled with wonderful recipes!  I now have a list of things I want to make (and several different things I’d like to change about this blog.  More on the blog later!) Next week, I’m breaking out Kevin & Amanda’s Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie & Oreo Fudge Brownie Bars.  The link will take you to the delicious photos and the recipe!  If you can wait a week, I’ll be posting my version.  I can hardly wait!

Grilled Cheese at LAFW!

As you know, last weekend, we attended two events at the Los Angeles Food and Wine Festival.  I already shared the Brew B’Que, but our first event was the Grilled Cheese and Great Wines demo with Laura Werlin.  We didn’t know what to expect, but we were excited to be there!  Two foodies at our first Food (and Wine) Festival. We were in heaven!  We even walked the Red Carpet at LA Live  How cool is that?









TA-DA!  That’s right, we’re (almost) famous!











After we relaxed a little at The Cosmopolitan VIP Lounge, had free bloody mary’s and took ridiculous pictures in their photo booth (Don’t worry Marie, there are some things I WON’T publish! LOL!) we headed to the “Event Deck” for our demo.  We were early, so it gave us a chance to look around.  “Dan Dunn’s Booze, Blues & BBQ” demo was prepping their food, so we watched them cook for a while. Everything smelled so good! (Quick note to Baby Blues BBQ in Venice – I am in-love with your cornbread – please send the recipe ASAP.  Thank you.)  Just beyond the BBQ demo was our demo tent!









We found seats in the front row and settled in!  In front of us were four wine glasses, a tasting mat and a bottle of water to wash it down.  Nice!









How is this for a display to put you in a cheesy mood?









Dana Cowin of Food & Wine Magazine was there to introduce Laura Werlin.






THAT was exciting too!  Dana Cowin!  WOW!  🙂

The first plate of cheese was served and we were ready to go!









Well, almost ready to go… after serving us this plate, they took it back.  Apparently, one cheese was wrong.  This is the second plate they brought to us.  Can you see what’s different?









If you guessed the cheese at the top of the picture, you’re right!

Laura Werlin is a such a professional! After the wrong cheese plate came out (and was changed) they served the first sandwich.  Turns out, that wasn’t supposed to be the first sandwich, but the third.  She was gracious and rolled with all the mistakes.  I’m certain she was irritated at whomever was in charge of plating her sandwiches, but she didn’t show it.  They didn’t even serve her until she asked for a plate.  The group was a bit rowdy in the back and at times it felt like things were out of control.  That was disappointing, but not Laura’s fault.

Regardless of the mistakes, the food was fantastic.  I’m glad we were in the front row.  Laura was funny and engaging and I learned a lot about grilled cheese sandwiches.  Who knew they could be so diverse?  Sweet. Spicy. Tangy.  Endless possibilities!

This was the first sandwich served.  Double cheddar with Tomato Jam.  Like a grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup all rolled into one!  There was toasted cheese on the outside of the bread as well as melting in the middle.  YUM!








“The Californian” was next up.  It is Humboldt Fog Cheese on Cinnamon Raisin bread with Jack cheese, chipotle en adobo sauce and toasted almonds on top.  Interesting combination of spicy and sweet.  I’ve never heard of Humboldt Fog Cheese.  It’s a bit like a goat cheese.  It was soft and creamy with a thick, buttery feel across your tongue.









Next was Camembert and Comte with Mushrooms on a baguette.  This was my favorite. It had shallots and garlic, thyme, fresh cracked pepper and of course those delightful cheeses.  I can’t wait to try this one at home!









Last on the menu was Gruyère and Gorgonzola with Hazelnut Butter.  This was done on Italian bread with honey.  It was a sweet treat, perfect for dessert.  Can you imagine serving a grilled cheese sandwich for dessert?  Why not!   It would certainly be different.  🙂









We had great wines to pair with our cheese plates and sandwiches.  I was happy to discover how similar wine tasting is to coffee tasting. Working for that famous coffee company, we do tastings and pairings all the time.  Pairing food with coffee completely changes the profile and flavor of the coffee, compared to just drinking it alone.  Different cheeses do the same thing with wine.   A great pairing enhances the wine, while a not-so-great pairing dulls the flavors and subtleties of the wine.









Grilled Cheese, Please.  50 Scrumptiously Cheesy Recipes” is Laura’s new book, so of course we had to get her to sign our copies. Now I have TWO autographed cookbooks in my collection!









I can hardly wait for LAFW next year!  We’ll be back to meet the Chefs, sample great food, learn new techniques and of course, walk the red carpet again!












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