A Menu for You to Use at Your Table

One of the things I think I do well over here in my world is cook.  I love cooking. I love the chopping, the sautéing, the sizzle and the sauce.  I like to sneak tastes and nibbles.  I love the planning and the dreaming and shopping before.  I love setting the table and thinking of each guest coming.  I love thinking how the foods will play off of each other.

I love looking through my recipes and cookbooks- the tried and true and the new and unknown.

I like having people over and saying, ‘no, don’t bring a thing’, because honestly how many times do you get to just show up and eat?  Glory! I Love doing that for others.

I like the conversation around the table and the laughter and connection and stories, and I am reminded that this is the life.  This is where I like to be.

Sometimes I get busy and forget.  Then the cookbooks call.  The grocery list beckons.  The guest list starts, and I remember how much I love this.

I love sharing with you, too. The recipes I tried; the ways I tweaked them. What worked. What didn’t.

I like thinking that my cooking is good for you.  Your soul. Your tummy.  Your mind.  I want to be the kind of friend who shares what she is cooking and hope that it encourages you to step out and try something new.  To step out and invite someone over.  To share life around the table with your family,  your friends, your neighbors.

I know for myself, that I get into a rut, and it helps to hear what someone else is cooking.  Thus my love for cooking shows.  I get so inspired and learn new things and make a grocery list all at the same time.

May I inspire you by sharing what I have been cooking around here?

Recently I wanted to host a special dinner for friends.  We wanted to do something Italian and something a little different.

I made a list of recipes and one day, when Craig and I were in the car driving, I described the different courses and let him pick the menu.

He ended up picking three recipes from our Giada cookbooks.

Butternut Squash soup

Pumpkin Sage Pasta

Salmon with Citrus Verde Sauce

I served a small appetizer of cheeses- a soft, fresh Pecorino and an aged Pecorino from Italy and a spicy Manchego cheese from Spain, all served with crackers.  I also had my favorite almonds from Trader Joe’s in two small bowls, Truffle and Rosemary.  I used my cheese board and chalk to label them so folks would know what they were eating.

While folks were munching on cheese and crackers,  I served the Butternut Squash soup with the Fontina Crostinis.  I will just have to say that the Crostinis are a must.  Sorry all you gluten free people out there,  but these are the perfect accompaniment for this dreamy, creamy soup .  I made the soup the day before and warmed it up slowly while guests were eating appetizers.  Spoiler alert: I took the sage out of the recipe because the next course had sage in it.

I served this taste of fall in my small Le Crueset Coquettes.  Here is a shot of these darlings ready to go for the party!

They are a great Sursee I found in a Lexington cooking shop when we visited Ryan in college.  I bought eight in different colors and have so enjoyed them for desserts and appetizers.  They make plain ‘ol mac-n-cheese look gourmet.

Then I snagged a guest to help me with the next course.  While people were visiting and slurping soup, we plated  the Pumpkin Sage Pasta.

I have these fantastic large restaurant type soup/pasta bowls that make anything look amazing.

I did use the sage that was in this recipe, but I used toasted pine nuts as a garnish because I had a guest who is highly allergic to Hazelnuts.  The pine nuts were perfect. The pasta was divine.

When we had finished that course, I snagged another guest to help me clear the table and we served up the next course.  See, usually I miss all the conversation while in the kitchen, but this time I brought conversation into the kitchen with me!  Thinking ahead I was.

Halibut was on sale when I shopped so I used that instead of the salmon that the recipe called for.  It didn’t take long to sear the halibut on the stove top.  This is different from the recipe which says to grill the fish.

I made the marinade earlier that day, and it was ready to drizzle over the top of the fish when it was finished cooking.  I used my white plates with a pile of arugula in the middle and set the halibut right on top Then I drizzled the citrus verde goodness all over the fish.

It was amazing.  Let me just say.

And this is not hard stuff to make, but it looked hard.  Don’t tell.

You can serve anyone of these items on their own.  As an entree or not.

Again. I have no photos.  I was in the moment which is the best place to be. Plus Giada has photos over on her site that are waaaaay better than what I could produce.

For dessert we had chocolate covered almonds, and I had some Sprinkles cupcakes cut in fourths so you could try a little piece of each. It was just the right amount of sweet for the ending of a delish meal.

I hope that these menu will help you this week!  Pick one thing to try.  Don’t be afraid to substitute for your own likes/allergies/sales at the store.  And please enjoy having a meal around your table. Nothing like it.




Sursee Gal’s Test Kitchen // Best Advice for Getting Dinner on the Table is to Start at Breakfast


Ahh, the dinner hour approaches, but before that comes the bewitching 5:00 O’CLOCK HOUR that was oh, so chaotic at times here.  Not always my best hour as a mom.  I had been good so long, all day in fact and then that dreaded hand hit the five on the face of my kitchen clock, and ugh, it all fell apart. Everyone was hungry, hangry and at the end of their rope.  Me, included. What to do?

I was thinking about this hour the other day as an Empty Nester, because some things never change.  I felt it all: the hangry thoughts about dinner and no idea where the time had gone.  The Five o’clock hour is still hard around here, especially when I have no idea what is for dinner. How does it sneak up on me?

I  have some advice for this little problem.  Advice that I remembered the other day and decided I needed to share it here and also remind myself!

Start Cooking Dinner at Breakfast.

What?  What are you talking about Sursee Gal?  I can’t start dinner in the morning, can I?

What I mean is,  start in the morning thinking about what you want to have for dinner.  Then the dinner hour won’t sneak up on you. You know the way it sneaks up on you- all of a sudden it is  5:00 o’clock,  and you have no idea what you are going to cook for dinner.  And the kids are hungry, and you are, too.  And there are no tortilla chips in the pantry to snack on…

I encourage you to Start at Breakfast, think about what you are having later, much later for dinner.  And take the baby steps to get things rolling that way.

You start in the morning. With something.  Maybe it is only the thought of “What AM I making for tonite?” or “Maybe, I need to go to the store to get the ingredients. Do I have a tomato sauce?”  True story:  Just the other day around 5 pm, I called four neighbors asking to borrow a can of tomato sauce. On the last call, I found the lucky winner. Maybe If I had looked in the pantry that morning before I set out the door, I would have known I did not have the can of tomato sauce that I needed for my yummy meat loaf.

Starting in the morning was especially helpful when the kids were young and under foot.  I learned that I needed to chop a little here and there.  Take the meat out to defrost.  Make sure I had the tomato paste needed for the sauce or not, so then I could work it in to get some at the store.  Or borrow from a neighbor.   Maybe I got the crockpot out at breakfast and plopped that pork in, revving up for some divine pulled-pork tacos later.

If  I waited til 5:00, dinner wasn’t going to happen.  I was tired and would reach for the unhealthy, the processed, the easy.

But, if I started in the morning, with at least a thought about what was going to be happening later,  I could prepare in chunks and break the process down.

I am also a firm believer in meal planning.

So every week I made a menu schedule and stuck to it- a little fudging allowed.

I would schedule in nights of left-overs when there was a game or a practice, and I would use the same schedule each week:
Chicken on Monday–
Pasta on Tuesday–
Burgers on Wednesday–
Leftovers on Thursday–
Pizza night on Friday.

Or some such pattern.  The pattern doesn’t really matter.  What mattered is, I didn’t have to reinvent the wheel each week.  I could use my go-to recipes for each category, but mostly I repeated.  The less decisions  I had to make, the more I cooked.  And I do love cooking- the chopping, the boiling, the  sautéing- it is all very therapeutic for me.  It is time to think and dream and memorize and reflect.

But it all started at breakfast.  Mostly.  Ok, a little.  But that little bit, that little defrost or checking the pantry or setting out ingredients was a life saver for me.  Have you tried this?  Does it help you? What does it look like for you to start cooking dinner at breakfast? I would love to hear.



Sursee Gal’s Test Kitchen // Lady Di’s Egg Casserole

Lady Di egg casserole-2


Y’all this is it.  The best of the best. A great egg casserole recipe to have on hand for breakfast or for a party.  It is a great recipe to cut in half, too.  Or, you can make the whole recipe and use custard cups to make individual portions and freeze them after baking and cooling.

This is an amazing egg casserole to serve at a special shower for a bride or a mom-to-be; it is a casserole that everyone who samples- loves.

It will soon become your go-to recipe for breakfast, the most important meal of the day.

A serving suggestion I have is to make it in individual custard cups; then pop out onto a bed of spinach. I also garnish with a half of an avocado and some cherry tomatoes, sliced on top.  Divine.  xoxo


Lady Di’s Egg Casserole

Lady Di’s Egg Casserole


  • 10 eggs beaten lightly
  • 1/2 c. flour,
  • 1 pint cottage cheese
  • 1 lb. of mozzarella cheese grated
  • 1/2 c. melted butter
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1 t. baking powder
  • Optional ingredients:
  • 1 lb sausage browned
  • 1/2 chopped onion
  • 1 8 oz pkg mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 5 oz box of spinach
  • You can also add any other veggies you like-


  1. In a large bowl mix the first 7 ingredients.
  2. Brown the sausage and drain on paper towels.
  3. Sauté onion, mushrooms, and spinach and add it to the egg mixture with the sausage.
  4. Pour all of this into a greased 9x13 baking dish. Bake at 350 for 40-60 minutes.
  5.  You can also use different cheeses if you like. In the past I have used parmesan, romano, asiago in addition to the mozzarella. You can use whatever cheese you like as long as the amount is the same.
  6. I also half this recipe if making a smaller amount. You can also bake this in small, glass Pyrex custard cups for individual servings. Can be frozen after baked.


12 Sursees I Discovered When I Visited a Friend

I love traveling and visiting friends in other places. It helps me to stay fresh. It mixes things up for me and helps me think new thoughts and it just plain encourages me.  Oh, the Sursees I See!

I get new recipes.

New decorating tricks.

New ways to think about Jesus.

But, the best part of visiting a friend is the after, when I get home, and I put into practice some of the hospitality tricks I learned, or try the decorating tips I saw, or I  just take a different spin in my day.

My other favoritest thing is now, when I picture my friend in her home, I can really see her in my mind.  I see her  standing at her kitchen sink, and now I know what that looks like.  Or I see her in my mind, sitting down at her dining room table reading her scripture with her big, white mug full of her morning coffee.

Ter and Les

I recently visited my friend, Terri.  I have known her since college days.  She remembers me asking her after a YL meeting to sit down on a bench on the UT campus and tell me her whole life story.  I remember thinking I wanted to get to know that gal with the red hair.  I saw something in her that I wanted to know and know.  She did not disappoint.  We are coming up on 34+ years of friendship with some ebb and flow in there when we had our kids and were so, so busy.  There is still much to know.

I thought of you reader when I was out there. I thought, I need photos of all the goodies in this gal’s home to share with my readers.  So here is a tour of my weekend.  Here are the SURSEES  I found to delight you.

New recipes and ways to eat

roasted veggies

She roasted veggies for our dinner, and I loved the combo she used.

Red Onion + Green Beans + Sliced Mushrooms + Asparagus + Olive Oil + S&P

Bake at 375 till the veggies look good and done in a roasting pan.  Around 20 minutes.  Yummy.  Easy.

Pretty Dish Below A Soap Dispenser

Soap dish and soap


She had cool soap dispensers in the bathrooms with little dishes under them.  I am putting fun soap on my list. She also had some of her soap in an old mason jars with the pump top you can find at Target.  Making something useful beautiful = Sursee time.

Glass Canisters to Show Off What I am Storing

glass canisters

I love that my sugar packets or granola bars can become a decorating item.  I love the way it looks and how it helps keep things tidy.

Little Pitchers Collected and Displayed and Really Used

white pitcher collection

Terri collect these and also really uses them. She sets out a pitcher each night when she closes up her kitchen and then fills it in the morning with her Half and Half.  Love that little Sursee.

Little creamer

She also writes beautifully and she named her blog after these White Pitchers…go check her out .  You will love her writing style and the things she thinks and writes about; they are a feast for the eyes and the soul.

Loving Cups

loving cup collection

Yes.  Loving these.  All by themselves.  Loads of stories in these.  I also have a friend who uses her Loving Cup to store silverware on her buffet line.  Brilliant.

Small cloche with a scene


Terri had several of these, but this was my favorite.  Sitting on a little shelf in the bathroom.  Nice.

Porch swing with a twist

porch swing

I sat on this extra deep swing and chatted with Terri on a beautiful April afternoon.  Heaven.  Want one.  I guess I need a covered porch first.


Urns on a silver tray


I love how Terri displayed the things she loved.  I don’t have any urns. But now I want some!  I loved the little globe nestled into the urn in the back.

Lamp Love

I love lamps and all the color and texture and light they add to the room.  Terri had a bunch; everywhere I looked there was a lamp or a pair, lighting up the corner or the table or the hall.  Thought you might like to see them.

Lamp 4

 lamp 3 lamp 5 lamp in hallway Lamp sursee Lamps 2

A Great Way to Display Loads of Photos

cute way to hang loads of pics

I love this on so many levels.  First it was fun to look at all of her pics.  Second, I want one of these so I can hang loads of pics in one fell swoop. Beauty! She even used cute clothes pins. AHHH>

A Great Way to Display Kids’ ArtHow to hang kids' art

Teri just bought frames from Target and framed pieces of her kids’ art.  She took samples and snippets and placed them on a unifying background color.   Love how she smushed all the frames together to make one gigantic art piece.  Memories and snippets of great art- how awesome is that?

Paint Color Ideas

Island paint color

Check out this gorgeous blue on her island. She used to have a black base and wanted to add some blue-

Loverly.  When I am thinking about painting, it always helps me to see it live and in person in a friend’s house.  The pumpkin color in my den- My friend, Lisa.  The Silver sage in the bathroom-saw in Restoration Hardware.  I love this Sherwin Williams Moody Blue, and it just might show up in the great remodel of 2016.

What do you learn when you go visit a friend?  She doesn’t have to be far away- maybe she lives across town or across the street.  We can learn from one another.   What hints do you come home with and put into practice?

Do share, I would love to hear. And oh, may I come visit you?  I would love to see your digs, too.  xoxo


Sursee Gal’s Test Kitchen // Cheesy Baked Sliders

Sursee Gal's Test Kitchen I thought of a new series I could do.  I am always finding new recipes and because I love finding things and telling you about it, I thought of a new series.

Sursee Gal’s Test Kitchen

This way when I find a new recipe or make something that is finger-licking good or I find a new way to make cooking a Sursee, I am going to share it here.

I know that when someone shares a no-fail meal idea with me, it is like winning a prize. Sometimes we get in a rut and need a little encouragement to try something new. So today, let me tell you about this most awesome recipe.

I have heard and made these dinner rolls with sandwich meat, but was intrigued when I saw that this version was actually little hamburgers.  Craig showed it to me on a Facebook post someone made about Super Bowl Sunday food and thought it looked good, so I tried it.  And it was good.  I shared it with some gals at Creative Night recently, and it was a hit with them too.

In fact the picture below is from one of my friends who sent it to me after making these yummy sliders for her high school senior’s Mock Trial Team.  Yes! SuccessCheesy sliders

Sursee Gal’s Test Kitchen was born and will be raised right here in this little corner of the blogging world.

So now and then I will share tried and true recipes I have made and throw in some new ones I find on my cooking shows,  in my cookbooks and from my gal pals.  We all need a little inspiration sometime.


Cheesy Baked Sliders

 Cheesy Baked Sliders


  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp mustard powder
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 cup finely diced onion (about 1/2 onion or more if you like)
  • 2-3 garlic cloves finely diced
  • 1 (15 oz) can diced Cento Italian tomatoes/drained
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 12 Dinner rolls- I used the King's Hawaiian rolls, but you can use any dinner roll
  • For the sauce:
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds


    For the Meat sauce
  1. Brown the ground beef in a skillet.
  2. Drain the grease off.
  3. Add the salt and pepper, cumin, mustard powder and paprika and the onions.
  4. Cook until the onions are soft and translucent.
  5. Add the garlic and cook, stirring.
  6. Add in the tomatoes and cook a few minutes.
  7. Separate the rolls and place in the bottom of a 9x13 pan
  8. Top with the hamburger mixture
  9. Sprinkle the cheese over all the rolls
  10. Place the roll tops on
  11. For the glaze
  12. Melt the butter in a small saucepan
  13. Add the mustard, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce and sesame seeds and stir until melted and combined
  14. Pour over the tops of the rolls
  15. Bake in a 325 degree oven for 20 minutes until browned and heated through.

Flip-Flop :: Loving the Home You Have

flip flop a room

I love the word flip-flop.  It is so active and fun and celebratory.  I used it in this post about doing the hard things first in my day, and how that clicked with me.

Today I am going to use it to show an active way you can love your home.  Our little homes need our loving. And embracing.  We have been thinking about remodeling around here and of course like all good DIYers have been watching Fixer Upper.  Ack. Joanna is wonderful at coming in and blowin’ out those walls and making one great, big room.

I, for one, am not a fan of that.  I like my separate living room and den/kitchen area, but lately I have been thinking I might blow out the wall between said rooms. But then I had a Lightning Bolt moment and had this idea.

Why not Flip-Flop my dining room and my living room area?  

before flip flop

The before look as I had my Lightning Bolt Moment

I mentioned it to Craig and BAM! the next thing I knew we were flipping and flopping.  It didn’t take long to move the rug and the furniture, and it made so much sense.

flip flop (2)

Before whenever we had people over to eat, we had to put another table up, and the extra table would squish out of the dining room into the bigger living area.  Now, my little cozy circle of chairs is all snuggly in the smaller room, and I have room to put more tables up when we throw a big bash in my new Dining Room.

cozy room


I love it.  It makes sense.  Looks great. I was also able to add all my chairs to the chair wall.

chair wall

I am about to have my first big party with the flip-flopped rooms, and I think it is going to be dreamy to have all this room for extra tables.

more room for entertaining


The other big plus is I get to keep the separation the wall provides.  Different things can happen at the same time, and it won’t be so loud.  My little cozy circle just feels more inviting with the coffee bar behind it and lamps ready to glow in the early morning hours.


coffee bar

So my Sursee for you is, how can you love your home with a flip-flop?  Maybe it is a table you take from one room and put in another.  Maybe you flip a lamp with another.  Maybe, like me, it is a whole room or a kid’s room or hey,  you tell me.  I would love to hear.  Inspire me with the flip-flopping  you try.  xo


Sursees for the Soul

I am cleaning out my house Marie Kondo style right now. And of course I am coming across so many funny and poignant things and also some ridiculous things like these.

Hulk hands

I love these Hulk Hands- yes, there are two.  Not sure why I saved them.  They were a jokey fun Sursee for one of the boys and made a grunty noise when you smashed them together.  Everyone needs these, right?

Any who- I have been finding some lovely things as I clean out Haji-Kari style-our name for it.

I found notes from a cooking class that my friend and I sold on our school auction way back when.  The winners for the Cooking with Friends class came over and we did a little class and demo complete with a tip sheet and lots of conversation and, of course, great food.  I had forgotten about how much fun that was.  We made the recipes and then ate and handed out a packet of the recipes.  In the packet was a sheet with this title:

Food for the Soul

Here is what was on it, and I think it is a great Sursee for today.

Food for the Soul

The Word of God

Beauty- Music, Art, Literature and Nature

A Really Good Book

A Good Night’s Sleep

A Great Meal Eaten Slowly with People Who Love You

Worshipping God

So feast on the above.  Instead of Food for the Soul, can we call them Sursees for the Soul?

What might you add that feeds your soul and brings unexpected joy? Do tell.  Share with us or with a kindred spirit…xoxo

PS— I think I also need to post soon about all the StUfF that I have been getting rid of- unbelievable really.  But, it feels really good.  More soon. Ciao.

Yummy Pomodoro Sauce


Realized I have not written a recipe blog in awhile. So, here goes. When we were in Italia we never ate spaghetti like we had here.  It was so much better.  Real tasting.  Real tomato tasting, a silky yummy sauce that tasted so fresh.

I searched the internet for a recipe that tasted like what I had eaten and I think I found one on Bon Appetit.  Made a little change to it and voila here it is.

Yummy Pomodoro Sauce. So yummy. Can be made in larger quantities for big, big parties! Or made and frozen for later use.  So silky and tomatoey.  Tastes like Italia!

Make sure you buy good canned tomatoes like these…

new tomato can


Craving Authentic Friendships :: Sursee Gal on the God Centered Mom Podcast

attracting an audience

Happy New Year!  What better way to start out 2016 than talking about friendships and connecting and mentoring and parties and hospitality and trusting in our great big GOD! The above picture is a fun Sursee Party we had for my friend Heather when she was pregnant with her fourth boy! A pink parade!


Heather MacFadyen


Heather is over at the God Centered Mom and had me on her podcast segment called, ” That’s Me,” and we discussed friendship and hospitality and other fun stuff.  I hope you will be encouraged by it.  Heather is so real and funny and easy to talk with- she makes even me sound good!  Heather talks with a young mom, Libby, and me and weaves our conversations together seamlessly.  Pass this podcast on if you know a young mom who needs a little encouragement.

Go listen to the podcast on Heather’s site or listen here.  Would love to hear what you think or what ways you creatively practice hospitality and connect with friends.




Five Sursees for the last few days before Christmas

It is the final count down around here and life is in high gear.  I wanted to share with you some Sursees for the last few days before Christmas that have made my life richer.

An easy, beautiful salad.  Used this salad last night for the Birthday Celebration we had for Craig’s mom.  It is one of my go-tos for a party because it is easy and yummy.  And you can make it for a big, big crowd.  See the recipe here…

Label your dishes and gather your serving spoons.Label2 

A hospitality trick I use is getting all my serving dishes out the day before and thinking through where all the dishes I have prepared will land.  I put little post it notes or paper in each serving dish to label.  At one of my recent parties I was so glad I labeled the appetizer dishes because I would have forgotten what I was going to put in that dish. OLIVES!

I also do a search and find all my spoons, tongs, servers because I know those last few minutes before guests arrive is Cray-Cray and I might not have time to find them…Be Prepared.

Let go of something.  This is easy, yet hard.  I am practicing letting go left and right to simplify these days.  Buy something for Christmas Morning breakfast. I love the yummy coffee cake that Corner Bakery sells. Serve waffles and bacon for Christmas Eve or order Chinese take-out.  Or pizza. Stop thinking you have to do everything, every year.  Pick the thing or two that means something and let the rest go. Embrace the quiet moments. Sit down and listen.  Be.

Put this in your stocking. 

Frasier Fir candle

I love this candle.  Frasier Fir by Thyme.  Get one now.  The best smell evah and makes me go to a happy place when it is burning.  You need one.  I am on my second one this season. Ask for it for your stocking.

Spend time in the Word of God.  Try to find time in the first part of your day to soak in the Word.  This morning when I was reading in my Chronological Bible, I was reminded that:

the Word of God is living and active.  Sharper that any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

Hebrews 4:12

By doing this first thing in the morning, you set the tone for your whole day.  It says right there that His word will penetrate my soul and help me with my crazy thinking- the Word is living and ACTIVE.  Thank you, Lord.  That truth is a SURSEE for my Christmas and yours.

What are some of your Christmas Sursees that help in these days before Christmas? Do Tell.