Happy Valentine’s Week!

Longaberger Valentine Basket

Looking for an opportunity to spread some love to those in your circle? No better time than Valentine’s Day to let people know you care about them. When my children were small, I made cut-out frosted sugar cookies for nearly every holiday. I have cookie cutters in all shapes – hearts, snowmen, trees, stars, pumpkins, and more. My favorite frosting is straight out of the red 3-ring Betty Crocker cookbook, the cookbook I grew up using when teaching myself how to cook. Most every day after school I would peruse the pages trying to find something new and different to make, but of course always had the favorites. I was asked recently whether I use a royal icing or a buttercream and honestly, this buttercream has never failed me. Not only do I love the flavor, but it hardens perfectly remaining soft, but not messy when decorating a plate of cookies.

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

Whether cookies, cake, or cupcakes this is no-fail frosting recipe!


  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1-2 tbsp milk


  • In a medium bowl, mix powdered sugar and butter with spoon or electric mixer on low speed. Stir in vanilla and 1 tablespoon of the milk.
  • Gradually beat in just enough remaining milk to make frosting smooth and spreadable. If frosting is too thick, beat in more milk, a few drops at a time. If frosting becomes too thin, beat in a small amount of powdered sugar.
  • Frosts 13×9-inch cake generously, fills and frosts an 8- or 9-inch two-layer cake, or frosts one batch of homemade sugar cookies.

As I dig through the pantry and consider this year’s Valentine options, I see bag after bag of open chocolate chips. I have semi sweet, milk and white chocolate chips, plus full bags of my absolute favorite, Guillard (mega) milk chocolate chips. I have nearly 60 students between 3 classes (sorry to my 25 additional online students) and that’s more than a single batch of cookies, especially if anyone needs more than one cookie. Therefore, we’re mixing things up a bit!

I made one batch of triple chocolate cookies by measuring all my “leftover chocolate chips” on my digital food scale. I came up with at least 11 oz. of white, milk and semi-sweet chocolate chips which I deemed to be as close to one single bag of chips as possible. I don’t have a secret ingredient when it comes to chocolate chip cookies, just what I would deem to be the most frequently used recipe out there. I do have one rule that I have perfected in the last year – one must use Irish butter! It is truly the most creamy and delectable butter on the market. The second batch, shown below, are made with the Guillard milk chocolate chips.

Chocolate Chip Cookies


  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened preferably Irish butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1-2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 bag (12 oz) chocolate chips


  • Preheat oven to 375°.
  • Mix together butter, eggs, sugars & vanilla.
  • Add salt, baking soda and flour. Mix well before folding in the chocolate chips.
  • Using a cookie scoop, drop evenly measured, rounded scoops onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
  • Bake for 10-12 minutes until golden brown edges. Remove from pan to a baking rack to cool.
  • Cookies freeze well and will help you avoid eating the whole batch in one setting!
Triple Chocolate Chip Cookies
Happy Valentine’s Day!

May your Valentine’s Day be filled with love and kindness in every direction. You don’t need a “sweetheart” to take advantage of the opportunity to extend a helping hand, leave an imprint of kindness and encouragement, or to extend a compliment. I like to bake, so if you’re in my circle, chances are you’ll find a sweet treat.


Copyright © 2019 Montana Mountain Maven / Tina R. Cusker. All rights reserved.


Korean Beef Bulgogi Bowl

I have been lacking when it comes to my blog, posting only photos and ideas via social media and I apologize for the long absence. First it was the craziness of finishing the semester and then the holidays, but I was also struggling behind the scenes with the format of my posts. I really wanted to find a print-friendly plug in to make it easier for you, my audience, to take advantage of my recipes. If only I had just sat down and looked it up, I would have realized how incredibly easy that task would be. Instead, I avoided it. I prefer it when things come easy and can be quickly ticked off my to-do list. I had convinced myself that it would be hard, or expensive, or just plain time consuming. In the meantime, recipes are piling up, waiting to get some recognition. And who would have thought in less than 30 minutes this evening, I would be off and running?

Read More

Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

ingredients for chicken soup

When recently hosting a small family meal, my husband requested a “beer can” chicken. I was, after all, looking for a gluten free meal that required a minimal amount of prep so I could enjoy our company as well. While I didn’t really roast it on a can of beer (which is pretty darn good, I might add), I do have a ceramic baking dish with a cavity for a half can of beer and a basin for the chicken to rest upside down while it bakes. Rub some ghee butter over the chicken skin, and sprinkle with poultry seasoning, salt and pepper and roast in the oven for 1 1/2 – 2 hours. You have a very moist full-size bird that only needs a bit of carving and some flavorful vegetables and a salad to make a healthy meal.

Read More

Coq au Vin

6 slices bacon, cut into 1 inch pieces
1/4 cup flour
salt and freshly ground pepper
3 chicken breast halves, skinless
3 chicken thighs, skin on, bone in
3 chicken drumsticks
3 tablespoons caramelized garlic olive oil
1/4 cup brandy
2 cups red wine
1 tablespoon tomato paste
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 lb button mushrooms, white or portobello, brushed clean & quartered
10 oz. frozen baby or pearl onions, thawed
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

In a large Dutch oven over medium heat, cook the bacon until crisp, 4-5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, drain on paper towels. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of bacon fat from the pot.

Read More

Miriam’s Mashed Potatoes Waiting

A fabulous complement to Coq au Vin, meatloaf or any dinner celebration.

6 large Yukon gold potatoes, 8-10 medium
2 tbls butter
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup whipping cream
4 tbls shredded white cheddar cheese
1/2 cup whipping cream, whipped

Peel potatoes and cook until done. Drain and mash, adding the butter, milk and cream. Beat until fluffy.

Spoon into a greased casserole dish, beat the whipping cream until stiff and spread over the potatoes. Scatter the shredded cheese on top and dash paprika over the cream.

Bake at 350° until topping is golden brown.

*Recipe adapted from Best of Friends, Too!

Copyright © 2019 Montana Mountain Maven / Tina R. Cusker. All rights reserved.

Un Fabuleux Dîner Français

A themed dinner party can be loads of fun and doesn’t have to be expensive. I decided to get creative with decorations, linens and recipes I already had on hand as we sought to celebrate and remember our trip to France this past summer. With a small group of 6, an embroidered tablecloth I had purchased in Provence, my pretty white and silver china, and three mini pots of autumn mums, my table was ready for a decadent dinner.

One of my favorite cookbooks is Williams-Sonoma’s FRENCH because it takes me back to the years of living in Europe and the fabulous French inspired meals we ate frequently. While out of print, used copies can be found on Amazon for a very reasonable price. Planning the menu, of course, had to begin with this treasure.

While on our tour in Provence this year, we attended two cooking schools, one at Le Cordon Bleu and the other courtesy of Anne Sophie Pic, a Michelin star chef. The plating class included the appetizer for tonight’s menu, Tomato Chutney with Poached Egg – which I found to be delightful and so flavorful. It absolutely was a must to include! Mashed potatoes are traditionally served with Coq au Vin, and this recipe will give you undoubtedly the creamiest mashed potatoes you’ve ever tried. From start to finish, the flavors in this meal are delectable and highly complimentary! The presentation will wow your guests, and then they can impress you with audience participation with the crêpes bar for dessert.

The Menu

Appetizer: Tomato Chutney with Poached Egg
Wheat French Bread
French Wine

Entree: French Country Salad with Lemon Dijon Vinaigrette
Miriam’s Mashed Potatoes Waiting
Coq au Vin

Dessert: Fresh Sweet Crêpes Bar with strawberries, banana slices, chocolate and caramel sauce, fresh whipped cream

I hope your French dinner is as beautiful and enjoyable as ours. After all, no matter what you serve, it starts with a guest list of fabulous friends!


Copyright © 2019 Montana Mountain Maven / Tina R. Cusker. All rights reserved.