Category Archives: Recipes

Crock Pot Peanut Clusters

peanut clusters imageAs we welcome the season of gift giving and neighborly greetings, a good friend shared this recipe with me last year. You may have seen this before, but if you haven’t tried it, please do! I found it to be the easiest way to make these delicious treats. No mess, no worry about scorching ingredients, and with the exception of the time it “cooks” in your crock pot, you’ll spend 20 minutes of your time to produce about 8 dozen clusters. Great return on your time investment!


  • 2 lb. dry roasted, salted peanuts
  • (1) 12 oz. package semi-sweet chocolate morsels
  • 2.5 lb. white almond bark
  • 4 oz. package of German’s Sweet Baking Chocolate

Spray inside of crock pot with cooking spray, then layer (in order) peanuts, chocolate chips, dark chocolate, and almond bark. Do not stir, and cook on low for 3 hours.

Photo clusters in the makingThen stir, and drop tablespoon-sized drops (smaller if you prefer) on waxed paper. Allow to cool completely before serving. These freeze well.

These make a great gift! I fill cellophane bags (available at the craft store) and tie with a festive ribbon.

Clusters in bag

Queen Bee’s Shells & Cheese

QueenBeeShellsCheeseHere it is, a long-time favorite and one of my mother’s specialties.

Queen Bee’s Shells & Cheese

This recipe will fill a 4 quart casserole dish (15x10x2)

  • 1 package original Velveeta
  • 2 – 3 cups Half & Half
  • ¾ cup real butter (1 ½ sticks)
  • ¼ tsp. garlic powder
  • 8 oz. package of shredded sharp cheddar cheese (hold back 1/3 of the package for topping)
  • 4 oz. fresh grated Parmesan or Romano cheese (or a combination of the two)
  • Your choice of the following: 2-4 oz. of smoked cheddar or gouda cheese, 4 oz. pepper jack. or 4 oz. of Colby (this gives you the opportunity to add a little kick to your dish. I personally love the smoked Gouda, but go easy as it can be strong)
  • One package shells

Prepare shells as directed. Coat casserole dish with cooking spray and fill with prepared shells. While hot, use ¼ cup butter to coat shells. (I just dot them and it melts quickly, then I give it a quick stir.) Set aside.

In a large saucepan on low to medium heat, combine ½ cup butter, Velveeta and 2 cups of Half & Half.  Stir frequently to keep it from scorching on the bottom. As this becomes smooth, add the other cheeses and garlic. Stir until smooth.

Pour over the shells and fill to just below the top edge. Sprinkle the remaining 1/3 package of shredded cheddar over the top, and sprinkle with course black pepper if you wish. This should appear very moist. If not, add a little more Half & Half.

Note: I usually prepare this a day or two in advance as it seems enhance the flavors. Then I remove from the refrigerator about an hour before baking.  I pierce the top in several places with a fork, then pour about ¼ to ½ cup Half & Half over the top. Don’t be afraid to add liquid. It will bake in and be very moist.

If you end up with too much cheese sauce, it can be frozen and used at a later date.

Bake at 350◦ for 1 hour, or until top becomes golden.

Key West Key Lime Pie

key lime pie 2For years, I’ve been spending late January in the Florida Keys, and during those years, I’ve indulged in a quest to find the perfect Key Lime Pie. (And thanks to this quest and a few others, I’ll never find my way into my “skinny” jeans, again…) Ahh, to quote Wynonna Judd–I’m so much more than the size of my jeans…

There are so many twists and variations, from the frozen bars covered in chocolate at the Blonde Giraffe, Kenny Chesney’s favorite at Blue Heaven, and a truly decadent version at the Hot Tin Roof.

I’ve made friends with a few of the chefs in Key West and the following is a combination of three of my favorite recipes. The crust from one, the coconut topping from another and the filling from a third.

Hope you enjoy, and I hope you have an opportunity to take a Key Lime Pie tour of Key West sometime soon! Let me know how you like this version!



4 large egg yolks
1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
2 teaspoons grated Key Lime zest
1/3 cup Key Lime juice
Dash of salt
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

6 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 whole graham crackers, broken
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1/2 cup salted cashews (may substitute macadamia nuts)

Coconut Whipped Cream:
1 1/2 cups very cold whipping cream
1/4 cup Coco Lopez
2 heaping tablespoons sifted powdered sugar
1/8 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1/2 cup swettened coconut, tightly toasted for topping

For pie:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Combine yolks, zest, milk, juice and vanilla in bowl and whisk for about 2 minutes. Mixture will become smooth and will thicken slightly. Cover and set aside at room temperature for 20 minutes.

For crust:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Combine graham crackers, cashews and brown sugar in food processor and process to fine crumbs, add melted butter until mixture just comes together. Press onto the bottom and sides of a greased 9-inch pie dish. Place on baking sheet and bake until lightly golden brown (about 10 minutes). Remove from oven arand set aside until filling has finished setting.

Pour thickened filling into warm crust and return to the oven. Bake at 325 degrees F until the center of filling is firm, but jiggles slightly when shaken (about 15 minutes). Remove from oven and let cool to room temperature (about 1 hour), then cover the surface and refrigerate until chilled and set (about 3 hours).

For whipping cream:
Combine whipping cream, Coco Lopez, powdered sugar and vanilla bean paste in bowl for stand mixer set with whisk attachments. Whip until soft peaks form.

When ready to serve, top filling with whipped cream and sprinkle with toasted coconut. Additional garnish of lime twists add a festive appearance.

key lime pie