French Toast Casserole

This was our Christmas morning breakfast...and it was perfect. Prepared the night before. Popped in the oven morning of. Ready to be devoured as soon as presents were open.

Lucky for me I had some homemade Challah bread - - we enjoy eating it with clam chowder on Christmas Eve. You can find the recipe here if you want. It is delicious!

French Toast Casserole

Adapted from Virginia Willis’ “Bon Appetit, Y’all”

In a perfect world, you’ll be able to find brioche or challah for this recipe, but if your world isn’t so perfect, go with what you can get your hands on – French bread, country loaf, Texas toast, even cinnamon-raisin bread.

Serves 8

  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar ( I thought this was a lot of brown sugar - you could definitely go with less!)
  • 1 loaf brioche or challah, sliced 1 1/2 inches thick (about 1 1/2 pounds)
  • 8 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • Accompaniments: confectioners’ sugar; sorghum, cane or maple syrup
  1. Combine the melted butter and brown sugar in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.
  2. Arrange the bread slices in the dish. (It’s fine if they overlap.)
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger and salt. Pour the mixture over the bread, and let it soak in.
  4. Top the bread slices evenly with the pecans.
  5. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 3 to 12 hours.
  6. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In the meantime, take the casserole out of the refrigerator, and let it sit at room temperature for 20 minutes.
  7. Bake the casserole until it’s browned and set, 30 to 45 minutes. Let it cool slightly on a wire rack. Sift confectioners’ sugar over the casserole, and serve it with sorghum, cane, or maple sugar.
(as found on Ezra Pound Cake.com)


Cheese Garlic Bread {Pizza Dough}

This one here is a total keeper ladies. I came across this recipe on Pinterest and knew I HAD to try it out. I am a total lover of pizza but even more...BREAD STICKS! Yum! You will NOT be disappointed in this one. The Pizza Dough recipe was great too. Only one thing, if you have a big bosch, I would maybe try to double this recipe, there just wasn't enough dough to mix well enough. I had to take it out and transfer it to my smaller bosch.

Basic Pizza Dough:
Yield: 2-12 inch pizzas, approximately 1 lb. of dough

1 C. warm water
2 1/4 tsp. yeast
1 Tbs. honey {or sugar, but go for the honey if you have it}
2 tsp. salt
2 Tbs. olive or canola oil
3 C. bread flour {give or take 1/2 c. depending on heat, humidity, and altitude}

In mixer, stir yeast and honey into warm water. Sit for 5-10 minutes or until bubble form and mixture starts to foam. Add salt, oil, and half of the flour and mix.

Once flour has been incorporated, start adding flour in bit by bit until you get the pizza dough to the consistency you want: slightly tacky, but when you touch ti it doesn't stick to your hands.

Once you reach this state, turn the mixer on high to knead for 6 minutes. Turn a timer on and walk away. Resist the temptation to stop earlier than 6 minutes. Once done mixing, the dough should be smooth and easy to work with and the bowl should be clean.

Lightly grease the bowl and the dough so it doesn't dry out, cover with plastic wrap (or a clean towel) and let it rise 1-2 hours. Done!

We made our own version of Margarita Pizzas on the grill. Fabulous! I love the Classico Tomato and Basil Sauce, Mozzarella cheese and a little Parmesan because I love it so much, chicken pieces and some basil straight out of my beloved garden. Yummers. Oh yes, and we cook it on the grill which is so much better than the oven!

So, I used half the the dough to make two smaller pizzas and the other half to make some Cheesy Garlic Bread...keep reading.

Cheese Garlic Bread Sticks
Yield: 1-12 inch pizza

1/2 recipe Pizza Dough (above)
2 Tbs. softened salted butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese (use the real stuff)
1/4 lb. grated mozzarella cheese
{salt and pepper, if desired}

Preheat oven to 500 degrees with pizza stone inside. Mix butter and garlic in small bowl and set aside. Roll dough out into 12 inch circle. Spread butter and garlic mixture over dough and top with Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses. Top with a light sprinkling of salt and pepper, if desired. Bake 9-10 minutes or until bubbly and golden. Remove from oven and cool 1-2 minutes before cutting. Serve hot with marinara.

{Recipe from www.laurenslatest.com}


Fabulous Zucchini Bread

Just in time for the harvest people. I came across this recipe the other day and with a few minor changes (simply because I didn't have the right ingredient) to the original recipe, this has been something I have made quite a few times and will yet make a few more times until I use up all that Zucchini in my fridge! :) It was wonderful...truly wonderful.

The original recipe is for one loaf of bread baked in a 9-inch by 5-inch size loaf pan. However, I made multiple smaller loaves. I like to share the goodness around, you know. Plus, it makes it so that I can't eat as much. :)

Zucchini Bread

1 lb. Zucchini (about 1.5 cups zucchini once is has been shredded and wrung through a towel to rid of excess liquid.
2 C. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. allspice
1 1/2 c. sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 c. vanilla yogurt (not fat free)
1 tbs. sour cream
6 tbs. butter, melted

Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat to 375. Generously coat and flour bread pan(s)

Chop the ends off zucchini and finely shred zucchini, peel and all. Place shredded zucchini in a clean kitchen towel, wrap the towel and wring the ends to squeeze out all the excess water. You will need about 1 1/2 c. dry zucchini. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, allspice, and salt. In a smaller bowl, whisk the sugar, yogurt, eggs, sour cream and butter until combined.

Gently fold in the yogurt mixture and zucchini into flour mixture, using a rubber spatula to fold the ingredients together until just combined. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan(s). Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with a few crumbs attached, 45-55 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes then turn out onto wire rack to cool for at least 1 hour. Store well-covered for up to three days.

Notes: I used a couple different sizes of pans. A double batch will yield you 4- 5.75x3-inch pans cooked for about 30-32 minutes and 6-3.5x2.25-inch pans cooked for about 25 minutes.

I should also note that the original recipe came from My Kitchen Cafe.


Chinese Chicken Salad

My husband requested this salad this week. And when my husband actually wants to eat a salad, you better believe I jump at the request. This tasted fresh and delicious...just what he wanted.

Chinese Chicken Salad

2 green onions
1 carrot, grated
1 celery stalk, diced
1 cucumber, diced
1/2 head cabbage, chopped (or you can do a cole slaw mix, whatever)
romaine lettuce (I added about a cup to mine)
chow mein noodles
cooked chicken, diced or cooked
Asian dressing (I went with store bought because we had some)

Toss everything together and enjoy! Simple as that.


Chocolate Cake with Fresh Strawberry Frosting

My baby turned one this week. I wanted something fun, flavorful and colorful to help introduce her to the magical world of desserts. This did just the trick.

Chocolate Cake

2 eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 1/4 cups flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups boiling water
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Set oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a 9x9 cake pan.

Combine eggs, sugar and oil until smooth. In a separate bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Add to egg mixture while alternating with boiling water. Stir in vanilla extract.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Completely cool before frosting.

Fresh Strawberry Frosting

1 cup strawberries, finely chopped
about 1 lb of powdered sugar
4 T. butter, softened

In a large bowl, combine butter and (2 cups) powdered sugar. With a hand mixer on medium speed, mix the butter and powdered sugar. Add the strawberries and mix on low for about 2 minutes, or until the frosting is smooth. Continue to add powdered sugar until it is the desired consistency.

{recipes modified from Rookie Cookie}


Flag Cake

My mom's bday is the 24th of July...which is super fun. This year I wanted to try something special for her cake and found this divine recipe from the Barefoot Contessa. It was so patriotic and really really yummy.


  • 18 tablespoons (2 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 6 extra-large eggs at room temperature
  • 1 cup sour cream at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

For the icing:

(I totally didn't want to use 4 sticks of butter or that much cream cheese. I used maybe a 1/2 stick of butter and half a stick of cream cheese. Do what you want...)

  • 1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 pounds cream cheese at room temperature
  • 1 pound confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

To assemble:

  • 2 half-pints blueberries
  • 3 half-pints raspberries


Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Butter and flour an 18 by 13 by 1 1/2-inch sheet pan.

Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on high speed, until light and fluffy. On medium speed, add the eggs, 2 at a time, then add the sour cream and vanilla. Scrape down the sides and stir until smooth.

Sift together the flour, cornstarch, salt, and baking soda in a bowl. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture to the butter mixture until just combined. Pour into the prepared pan. Smooth the top with a spatula. Bake in the center of the oven for 20 to 30 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool to room temperature.

For the icing, combine the butter, cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mixing just until smooth.

Spread three-fourths of the icing on the top of the cooled sheet cake. Outline the flag on the top of the cake with a toothpick. Fill the upper left corner with blueberries. Place 2 rows of raspberries across the top of the cake like a red stripe. Put the remaining icing in a pastry bag fitted with a star tip and pipe two rows of white stripes below the raspberries. Alternate rows of raspberries and icing until the flag is completed. Pipe stars on top of the blueberries.

I serve this cake right in the pan. If you want to turn it out onto a board before frosting, use parchment paper when you grease and flour the pan.

{From Ina Garten}


Grilled Chicken Fajitas

A few things to mention before I get into telling you how great these fajitas are. First, I don't know who started this lame trend but I read it in some article the other day that New Mexico and another State (can't remember the other one, but remind me to never consider moving there) primarily use Swamp Coolers as a means to cool their houses. BARF! Did you know a Swamp Cooler basically only cools your house 15 degrees? Yeah, do the math...it's been 95 degrees out there, which means, I still sweat inside my house too. With that being said, I am on an oven strike. I have not used my oven in almost two months and refuse to use it until October when it starts to cool down a bit. It is getting really hard to do you know. How many dinners can YOU make without an oven? I am not even making bread!!! ARGH!

This had lead me to the Internet and lots of attempted creativity. We were given a bbq a few weeks ago, which has allowed me to branch out in my non-oven cooking...or rather, allow GARY to do some cooking! The other night we made grilled pizza, something I am most likely going to be making again tonight as well. :) I'll have to post that one soon too. But last night, we had the missionaries and another member in the ward over for dinner and I attempted a new recipe (I like the missionaries to be my guinea pigs for new recipes) on the grill.

The other thing I ought to mention is this: I don't know where it started but without my permission, there has been some sort of 'reputation' started among the missionaries who serve in our ward. Every time a new one comes to dinner for the first time, he says something like this "Oh, Sister Fears, I've been looking forward to coming to your house for dinner, I've heard so many wonderful things about your cooking" - HUH?! Seriously? I guess it doesn't take much to please a 19 year old boy who is on his own to cook for himself right? But, its like this talk they have behind my back and so now I feel all this pressure every time they are coming over to make sure they get a yummy meal and that it meets their expectations for a good dinner! It is causing stress people! And without an oven?!?!

Anyhow, I decided to try fajitas out on the grill yesterday and boy did they turn out! I will NEVER be making fajitas on the stove again. Honestly! Now, quick...go start thawing some chicken and try this out, you'll LOVE it!

Here is what you need:

1 Onion (I used a red onion) sliced and then cut into 1-inch strips
1 Red Pepper sliced into 1-inch strips
1 Yellow Pepper sliced into 1-inch strips
1 Tbs. McCormick Grill Mates BARBECUE Seasoning (and more to season fajitas if desired)
Olive Oil
Italian Dressing to marinade chicken in - Our FAVORITE is Ken's LITE Northern Italian with Basil and Romano. YUM!
3-4 Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts, cut into thirds lengthwise
Flour Tortillas (Of course, the Costco kind you cook on the stove)

Toppings: Sour Cream, Shredded Lettuce, Tomatoes, Salsa, Avocados, Shredded Cheese, etc.

So, the night before or morning of, take your chicken strips (breasts sliced into thirds) and drop them in a zip lock back with enough Italian dressing to cover and marinade well. Let it sit in the fridge all day. Every time you open the fridge, just see that chicken and let your mouth water for the delicious meal you are going to make a few hours from then! :)

When the time comes to start dinner, preheat the grill on to HIGH for 10 minutes. Clean grill with wire brush. Using a soft cloth, coat grill grate litely with vegetable oil. Toss your peppers and onion slices with 1 Tbs. BBQ seasoning and 2 Tbs. olive oil. Pour into a disposable 9x13 inch foil pan. Cover pan tightly with foil, seal well. Reduce heat to MEDIUM. Place pan on grill; close lid.

Cook 10 minutes, shaking pan occaisionally. Remove from grill and set aside. Return grill heat to HIGH.

Lay chicken pieces on grill for about 2 minutes or until it has started to change color about 1/4 the way up from bottom. Turn over, and sear another 1-3 minutes. Turn chicken back over again. Reduce heat to MEDIUM and cook 12-15 minutes until internal temp. reaches 165 degrees. When chicken is getting close, put veggies back on the grill just to get them warm again.
Remove chicken from grill and chop into thin bite sized pieces. Remove veggies from grill and stir chicken into veggies.

Eat up!

Might I mention that last night was the first time in my entire life that I actually grilled dinner? Gary has always done it and he ended up having to work late and wouldn't be home in time. If I wasn't having company for dinner, I would have just waited. After a small panic attack, I decided to try my own hand at this and hope it didn't get ruined. I have to say, it all turned out quite nicely! :)

Oh, and if you have any other grilling recipes that are to die for, send them on my way. I will most definitely be using them in the next two and a half months!


Orange Rolls

This is totally not my recipe and although I do love a good orange roll, I have to admit that I have never made orange rolls before in my life. This recipe will absolutely be made many more times in the very near future! These were fabulous. AND, they were still really yummy and quite fresh tasting even two days later, which I am VERY picky about. Of course, nothing beats an orange roll right off the pan out of the oven, but just know that they store quite well for a few days.

Orange Sweet Rolls

*Makes 12 rolls/twists


¾ cup buttermilk, warm (I pour the buttermilk in a glass liquid measuring cup and microwave for 1 minute on 50% power)

6 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled

3 large eggs

4 ¼ cups (21 ¼ ounces) flour

¼ cup (1 ¾ ounces) sugar

2 ¼ teaspoons instant yeast

1 ¼ teaspoons salt

Orange Filling:

1/2 cup softened butter

1 cup sugar

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice

Grated orange rind/zest from two large oranges (reserving 1/2 teaspoon grated rind for the glaze below)

Orange Glaze:

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice from about 1 orange

1/2 teaspoon grated orange rind/zest reserved from the filling above

For the dough, whisk the warmed buttermilk and butter together in a large liquid measuring cup. Combine 4 cups of flour, sugar, yeast and salt together in a standing mixer fitted with dough hook (or you can use a large bowl and mix with a wooden spoon or electric handheld mixer). With the mixer on low speed, add the buttermilk mixture and eggs and mix until the dough comes together, about 2 minutes. Increase the mixer to medium speed and knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes (knead for 15-18 minutes by hand). If after 5 minutes of kneading, the dough is still overly sticky, add 1/4 cup flour 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough clears the sides of the bowl but has a slight tacky feel when pressed between your fingertips.

Place the dough in a large, lightly greased bowl and cover the top tightly with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise in a warm place until doubled, around 2 to 2 ½ hours, depending on the warmth of your kitchen.

For the filling, combine all the filling ingredients (reserving 1/2 teaspoon orange zest for the glaze) in a small bowl and mix well. Set aside.

When the dough is ready, turn it out onto a lightly floured counter (I use my roul’pat for this step--ya'll need one of these babies!) and press it into about a 16 by 12-inch rectangle (if you have doubled the recipe, split the dough in half and roll out one half at a time). Gently brush the filling mixture over the rectangle, using an offset spatula or rubber spatula.

Lift the longest edge closest to you and begin rolling the dough into a tight log. Pinch the seam closed and roll the log so it is seam side down. Using dental floss, slice the log into 12 evenly sized rolls, more or less. You can slice them thinner or thicker as you like. For a traditional cinnamon-roll-look, arrange the rolls cut side down on a lined or lightly greased baking pan. If you want to try the twist method (see the pictures below), one at a time grab each sliced roll and holding on to either end simultaneously pull and twist the roll into a figure eight and place it on the prepared pan. Cover the rolls with lightly greased plastic wrap. Let the rolls rise in a warm place until doubled, 1 to 1 ½ hours.

Bake the rolls at 350 degrees for 22-25 minutes, until the rolls are lightly golden on top and cooked through. While the rolls are baking, mix together the glaze ingredients. Drizzle the glaze over the warm rolls. (I used a brush and brushed it over the entire roll instead of just drizzling it)

Grasping each side, gently stretch the roll…

…and twist it before placing on the baking sheet.
Place the rolls about an inch to two inches apart. Bake and devour!

Recipe Source: {My Kitchen Cafe}

Homemade Mint Oreo Ice Cream

Get excited everyone, this one was fabulous!!! Can I just have a proud moment and let you all know that I am the one that came up with this recipe? I mean, obviously, I started somewhere...but with about six different recipes. Needless to say, after tasting this, (and sharing it with a few friends who have all said it was the BEST homemade ice cream they have ever tasted) I am a bit proud of myself.

Sorry, no picture...but don't let that hinder your desires to make this beauty. Just know that the ice cream didn't last long enough to get a picture!

Mint Oreo Ice Cream
3 C. whole milk
3 C. skim milk
6 C. heavy whipping cream
3 C. sugar
1.5 tsp. salt
3 tsp. vanilla extract
3 tsp. peppermint extract
Oreo Cookies - I just estimated, but I would say I probably used between 30-40 cookies

**Note: I'm sure you could probably just use 6 cups of 2% milk. I don't buy 2% milk and so I used the combination of the milk that I do buy. It was wonderful, but I'm sure 2% would be wonderful too!

On stovetop, heat up the milk until it is warm (do not boil). Add sugar, salt, vanilla and peppermint and stir until the sugar has dissolved.

Pour into a bigger bowl and add the whipping cream. (You don't have to cook all the milk if you don't have a pot big enough. Just heat up enough that you can dissolve the sugar and then put it all in a bigger bowl and add the rest of the milk and whipping cream)

Put this in the fridge to cool. This makes quite a bit of ice cream (probably about 6 qts.) so if you need to make less, go ahead and split the recipe. If you have a small 1.5 qt. ice cream maker, you can just make it in batches as well and keep the rest in the fridge.

Mash oreo cookies with a potato masher in a bowl to the consistency you like and set aside until the VERY end of the ice cream making process.

Make ice cream according to the directions on your home made ice cream maker. When the ice cream is very close to being done, stop it and put the oreo cookies in. You want the ice cream to be quite thick at this point. If you do it too early, the cookies will just become mushy because the ice cream isn't frozen enough yet.

I really like to eat home made ice cream when it is soft and just finished in the maker. But if you like it harder, take it out when it is done and put it in smaller containers and freeze it for at least another couple hours to harden.


Another option instead of oreo is to use mini semi-sweet chocolate chips. Probably about 3 cups. And if you want to make it green, add 9 drops of green food coloring.


Stuffed Breadsticks

A few weeks ago we went out to Magleby's Fresh for lunch here in Provo. My husband got the stuffed breadstick...and about passed out. It was delicious. I of course went in search of a comparable recipe on line and found this beauty. They are really really yummy and a fun alternative to pizza with the same ingredients. You could also shape these into larger personal-sized breadsticks if you wanted to be just like Magleby's. We opted for the smaller puff versions (more kid-friendly).

Stuffed Pizza Rolls

1 recipe pizza dough
marinara/pizza sauce
2 T grated Parmesan cheese
1 T olive oil or melted butter
1/2 t garlic powder
1 t dried Italian seasoning
mozzarella cheese
Pizza toppings of your choice: ie, ham and pineapple, pepperoni slices, sausage, etc.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Unroll your pizza dough onto a lightly floured surface. Pat or roll the dough so it’s about 12″ by 8″. Cut it into squares about 2" by 2", or however big you want your puffs to be.

Place cheese and desired toppings on each square. (Note that you’re not putting the marinara sauce on the dough- it’s for dipping after) Just eyeball how much. You just need to be able to enclose the toppings in the dough so keep that in mind.

When all of your dough squares have cheese and toppings on them, carefully lift up each square and wrap the dough around the toppings. Pinch to make sure each ball is sealed shut and then place them seam side down in a lightly sprayed pie pan (or similar sized dish).

Brush the tops of the dough balls with olive oil or melted butter (I’ve used both and there’s not much difference in result) and then sprinkle with the garlic and Italian seasoning and top with Parmesan cheese.

Cook them in the oven for about 15-20 minutes or until golden brown on top.

Serve with your favorite marinara sauce for dipping!

{as found on Our Best Bites.com}


Whole Wheat Buttermilk Pancakes

When my husband isn't around for dinner, you better believe I make breakfast for dinner - usually pancakes. Why? Because my kids devour them. I like to try new recipes to switch things up a little and this week, I tried this one from Our Best Bites.com. It was good. They are healthier than many options, but didn't taste like "healthy overload" (if you know what I mean.) Yum yum.

Whole Wheat Buttermilk Pancakes

adapted from Cooking Light

3/4 C whole wheat flour
3/4 C all-purpose flour
3 Tbs sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 C low-fat buttermilk *
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbs canola oil
1 large egg
1 large egg white
Cooking Spray or butter for pan

*As a substitute for 1 C buttermilk, place 1 Tbs lemon juice (or vinegar but I prefer lemon juice) in a 1 C measuring cup and then fill the remainder with milk. This recipe calls for 1 1/2 C buttermilk, so do the same thing with 1/2 Tbs lemon juice and remaining 1/2 C milk.

Combine flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a mixing bowl and whisk together. In a separate bowl combine buttermilk, eggs, oil, and vanilla and whisk well. Add the wet ingredients into the dry and mix just until moistened and combined.

Heat a nonstick griddle or skillet to medium heat. Coat pan with non-stick spray or a little butter and then pour on pancake batter. Use about 1/4 C batter for large pancakes (5-6″) and 2 T for kid-sized ones (2 /2-3″). Wait until bubbles form and edges are set and then flip.

Makes 12 large or 24 small pancakes.

Freezer Instructions: Just lay out pancakes in a single layer on a baking sheet or other pan. Freeze until solid and then place in a zip-lock bag. To serve, just warm up in the microwave or toaster.

{As found on Our Best Bites.com}


Hummus and Pita Chips

I have a crush on hummus. It only developed recently. I used to think it was gross. Turned my nose up at it. And then, I gave it a chance. It had something to do with the 3 months straight where they had hummus samples at Costco...and that was when I fell. I love it. It is a healthy yummy mid-afternoon snack! Especially with some home-baked pita chips. Just so you know, it doesn't smell that great. But it tastes delicious!!

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

1/2 a red pepper
3 T lemon juice
1/4 cup water
6 T tahini (found by the peanut butter in the grocery store. Or try a health food store)
2 T olive oil
1 can chickpeas
1 garlic clove
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne

Turn your oven broiler on. Slice your red pepper into 3 or 4 wedges and place them on a baking sheet with the inside of the pepper facing down. Broil for 3-5 minutes, until the skin begins to blacken. Set aside to cool.

Combine lemon juice and water. In another bowl, whisk the tahini and olive oil.

Process the chickpeas, garlic, salt, cumin, and cayenne in a food processor. Slowly add the water mixture. Slowly add the tahini.

Once the pepper has cooled, slide the skin from the meat of the pepper and discard it. Add the remaining pepper wedges to the food processor and process until smooth.

Chill for 30 minutes. Serve with pita chips!

For homemade pita chips, buy a bag of pitas (I love the whole wheat kind!). Slice the pockets open and cut each pita into wedges. Drizzle with olive oil or spray with Pam and shake garlic salt over the top. Cook in a 300 degree oven for 20-30 minutes, until they are as crispy as you like.



Chicken Teriyaki

2 boneless chicken breasts, sliced into thin slices
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 medium garlic clove, minced or pressed
2 tablespoons mirin
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch

Combine soy sauce, sugar, ginger, and garlic in a small saucepan. Stir together mirin and cornstarch in a small bowl, then stir the mirin into the saucepan. Bring the sauce to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce forms a syrupy glaze.

Heat a small amount of olive oil in a frying pan. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat until nicely browned.

Put chicken on serving platter or bowl and cover with teriyaki sauce. Serve with rice and steamed vegetables.

{Modified slightly from America's Test Kitchen:2006}


Cream Cheese Chicken Potato Soup

Just made this soup tonight and it was fabulous!!! With easy, normal ingredients. My kind of meal! I thought I'd just put a link to the blog in case any of you want to check out any of her other recipes. They're mostly desserts.


French Onion Soup

There is something so delicious and wonderful about this soup. My husband, who hates onions, even likes it. This recipe was fast and easy.

To make it even easier, instead of sticking the whole soup bowl in the oven I just put the baguette slices covered in cheese on a cookie sheet and put that in the oven. That probably helped it be a little healthier as well because I don't know about you, but I have a weakness for cheese and tend to engulf my soup bowl with it before sticking it in the oven.

French Onion Soup

1 Tablespoon butter
5 medium onions ( a mix of yellow and red)
1/2 tsp salt
2 bay leaves
6 cups beef broth
4 or 5 sprigs fresh thyme (optional)
Freshly cracked pepper

Sourdough baguette bread, sliced
1/2 cup shredded swiss cheese (I also used jalapeno monterey jack cheese, which was divine)

Heat the butter in a large pot over low heat. Add the onion and salt. Cover the ot and cook over low heat until very soft, about 30 minutes.

Add the bay leaves, broth, and thyme. Simmer on low heat for at least 15 minutes. Season with pepper. Discard the bay leaves.

Preheat the broiler. Divide the soup among 4 oven-proof bowls. Top each with a slice of baguette and cheese. Broil until the cheese is melted and bubbling, about 3 minutes.


Honey-Mustard Salmon

I know that fish is usually a love it or hate it thing. I love it. And you might hate it. That makes me feel sorry for you, because this salmon was delicious. And so easy!!

Honey-Mustard Salmon

1 Tablespoon butter
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 Tablespoon honey
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 Tablespoon olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
4 salmon fillets, 6 ounces each

Preheat the oven to 400F. Combine the butter and brown sugar in a bowl and microwave for 30 seconds, until they have melted together. Stir in the mustard, honey, and soy sauce.

Heat the oil in an ovenproof skillet over high heat. Season the salmon with salt and pepper and add to the pan flesh-side down. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes until fully browned and flip. Brush with half of the glaze and place the pan in the oven until the salmon is firm and flaky (before the white fat begins to form on the surface) about 5 minutes. Remove, brush the salmon with more of the honey mustard and serve!

{From Cook This, Not That}


Stovetop Chicken Fajitas

2 tsp canola oil
2 red bell peppers,stemmed, seeded, and sliced thin
1 red onion, halved and sliced thin
salt and pepper
4 (6 ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed, pounded if necessary
1/2 cup orange juice
3/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
1 TB Worcestershire sauce
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp minced canned chipotle chile in adobo sauce
1 tsp yellow mustard
1 tomato, cored, seeded, and chopped, medium
3 scallions, sliced thin
8 whole-wheat flour tortillas, warmed

1. Heat the oil in a 12 inch skillet over medium high heat until just smoking. Add the bell peppers and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and well-browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, season with salt and pepper to taste, and cover to keep warm.

2. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Combine the orange juice, 1/2 cup of the cilantro, Worcestershire, garlic, and chipotles in the skillet. Add the chicken and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat, about 5 minutes. When the liquid is simmering, flip the chicken over, cover and continue to cook until the chicken registers 160 to 165 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, 10 to 12 minutes longer.

3. Transfer the chicken to a plate and shred it into bite-sized pieces when cool enough to handle. Meanwhile, continue to simmer the sauce over medium heat until slightly thickened and reduced to 1/4 cup, about 5 minutes.

4. Off the heat, stir in the mustard, tomato, scallions, remaining 1/4 cup cilantro, and shredded chicken. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve with the pepper-onion mixture and warm tortillas.

From America's Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook

Ultimate Spicy Beef Nachos

1/2 small red onion
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
1 TB fresh lime juice
1 garlic clove, peeled
2 TB canned pickled jalapeno chile, drained
1/4 tsp salt
1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes drained

1/2 cup canned refried beans
1 ounce pepper Jack cheese, shredded (about 1/4 cup)
1 TB chopped canned pickled jalapeno chile

2 tsp vegetable oil
1 small onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 TB chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
12 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp salt
1 pound 90 percent lean ground beef
2 TB tomato paste
1 tsp brown sugar
1 medium canned chipotle chile, chopped
plus 1 tsp adobo sauce
1/2 cup water
2 tsp fresh lime juice

1 9 1/2 ounce bag tortilla chips
16 ounces pepper Jack cheese, shredded (about 4 cups)
2 jalapeno chiles, sliced into thin rings
Sour cream (optional)
Diced avocado (optional)
cilantro sprigs (optional)

1. For the Salsa: Pulse the onion, cilantro, lime juice, garlic, jalapeno, and salt in a food processor until roughly chopped, about five 1 second pulses. Add the tomatoes and pulse until chopped, about two 1 second pulses. Transfer the mixture to a fine mesh sstrainer and drain briefly; place in a small bowl and set aside.

2. For the Beans: Pulse all the ingredients in the food processor until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap.

3. For the Beef: Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Cook the onion, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic, chili powder, cumin, oregano, and salt and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the beef and cook, breaking the meat into small bits with the wooden spoon and scraping the pan bottom to prevent scorching, until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Drain grease if there is any. Add the tomato paste, sugar, chile, and adobo sauce and cook until the paste begins to darken, about 1 minute. Add the water, bring to a simmer, and cook over medium-low heat until the mixture is nearly dry, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the lime juice and transfer the mixture to a plate lined with several layers of paper towels. Use more paper towel to blot up excess grease.

4. To assemble: Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 400 degrees. Spread half of the chips on a large, oven-safe serving platter or a 13 x 9 baking dish. dollop half o the bean mixture over the chips, then spread evenly. Scatter half of the beef mixture over the beans, top with 2 cups of the cheese and half of the jalapenos. Repeat with the remaining chips, beans, beef, cheese and jalapenos. Bake until the cheese is melted and just beginning to brown, 12 to 14 minutes. Top with the salsa and garnish with sour cream, avocado, and cilantro leaves if desired.

From Best of America's Test Kitchen, 2008


Everything Bread

This bread is delish. And beautiful.

1 Tbsp. active dry yeast
3/4 cup warm water
1 cup warm milk
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 egg yolk
1 1/2 tsp salt
4 to 4 1/2 cups flour
1 egg white
2 tsp water
1 tsp sea salt or kosher salt
1 tsp dried minced onion
1 tsp each sesame, caraway, and poppy seeds

In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add the milk, butter, sugar, egg yolk, salt and 2 cups flour. Beat on medium speed for 3 minutes. Stir in remaining flour to form a firm dough.

Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic (6-8 minutes) (or just use your Bosch). Place in greased bowl. Cover and let rise until doubled.

Punch dough down. Turn onto lightly floured surface; divide dough into thirds. Shape each into a 20-inch rope. Place ropes on a large greased baking sheet and braid; pinch ends to seal and tuck under. Cover and let rise until doubled.

Combine egg white and water; brush over dough. Combine the salt, onion and seeds; sprinkle over bread. Bake at 375 for 22-28 minutes or golden brown. Remove from pan to a wire rack to cool.

{From Taste of Home magazine}


Ultimate Oatmeal

And yes it is ultimate indeed! It is a little more time consuming than just regular oatmeal but trust me, it is well worth it.

Ultimate Oatmeal
3 C. water
1 C. 1% milk (do not use skim milk here)
1 Tbs. unsalted butter
1 C. steel-cut oats
1/4 tsp. salt

1. Bring water and milk to a simmer in large saucepan over medium heat. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat, then add the oats and toast, stirring constantly, until golden and fragrant, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. 

2. Stir the toasted oats into the simmering liquid, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer gently until the mixture is very thick, about 20 minutes. 

3. Stir in the salt and continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until almost all of the liquid has been absorbed and the oatmeal is creamy, about 10 minutes longer. Let the oatmeal stand for 5 minutes before serving.


Ultimate oatmeal with cranberries and walnuts
Add 1/3 c. dried cranberries, 1/4 c. toasted walnuts, chopped, 1/4 c. packed light brown sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon with the salt.

Ultimate oatmeal with apple cinnamon and raisins
Use a sweet cooking apple here such as Fuji, Jonagold, Pink Lady, Jonathan, or Macoun.
Add 1 peeled and grated sweet apple, 1/3 c. raisins, 1/4 c. maple syrup, and 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon with the salt.

Ultimate oatmeal with bananas
Add 2 mashed bananas and 1/4 C. packed light brown sugar with the salt. 

Recipe Source {America's Test Kitchen}


Baked Apple Dumplings

Half an apple, stuffed with raisins, sealed in dough, smothered in cinnamon and sugar served with ice cream and cider sauce. Sound yummy? It is.

These took a little time to put together. I made the dough and the cider sauce early in the day and it made it a little faster to assemble. Just pretend you are Snow White while you work away in the kitchen...you know, the seven dwarfs start salivating when she says she will make them apple dumplings??

Never mind. You obviously don't have 3 small children like I do :)

Baked Apple Dumplings

{serves 8}

2 1/2 cups flour
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces and chilled
5 tablespoons shortening, cut into 1/2 inch pieces and chilled
3/4 cup cold buttermilk

6 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3 tablespoons raisins, chopped
4 Golden Delicious apples (you can also use Braeburns or Galas)
2 egg whites, lightly beaten

1. For the Dough: Process the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a food processor until combined. Scatter the butter and shortening over the flour and pulse until the mixture resembles wet sand. Transfer to a bowl. Stir in the buttermilk until a dough forms. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured counter and knead briefly until the dough is cohesive. Press into an 8x4 rectangle. Cut in half crosswise, wrap each half in plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm {1 hour}.

2. For the Apples: Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 425 degrees. Combine the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. In a second bowl, combine the butter, raisins, and 3 tablespoons of the cinnamon sugar mixture. Peel the apples and halve them through the equator. Remove the core of the apple with a spoon or melon baller. Pack the butter mixture into each apple half.

3. On a lightly floured surface, roll each dough half into a 12-inch square (my dough was quite sticky so I had to use quite a bit of flour on this step). Cut each 12-inch square into four 6-inch squares. Working 1 at a time, lightly brush the edges of each dough square with the egg white and place an apple half, cut side up, in the center of each square. Gather the dough 1 corner at a time on top of the apple, crimping the edges to seal. Using a paring knife cut a vent hole in the top of each dumpling.

4. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange the dumplings on the prepared baking sheet, brush the tops with egg white, and sprinkle with the remaining cinnamon sugar. Bake until the dough is golden brown and the juices are bubbling, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes or so and serve with cider sauce and ice cream.

Cider Sauce

To make the sauce in advance, reduce the cider mixture until it measures 1 1/2 cups, then refrigerate. When ready to serve, return the mixture to a simmer and whisk in the butter and lemon juice off the heat.

1 cup apple cider (I used apple juice with good results)
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Bring the cider, water, sugar, and cinnamon to a simmer in a saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until thickened and reduce to 1 1/2 cups, about 15 minutes. Off the heat, whisk in the butter and lemon juice. Drizzle the sauce over the dumplings and ice cream and serve.

{Best of America's Test Kitchen 2011 Cookbook}


Sauteed Pork Cutlets with Mustard-Cider Sauce

This was incredible.

I was interested in this recipe because of the mustard/cider combination. America's Test Kitchen knows what they are doing. It was the perfect combination of sweet and interesting flavors that paired perfectly with the pork.

Just wait until you see what we had for dessert (I'll post it tomorrow!!)

Sauteed Pork Cutlets with Mustard-Cider Sauce

1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/2 pounds boneless country-style pork spareribs, cut lengthwise into 2 or 3 cutlets about 3/8 inch wide each
4 1/2 teaspoons unsalted butter cut into 6 equal pieces
1 small shallot, minced
1 teaspoon flour
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 cup chicken or beef broth
1/4 cup apple cider (or I used apple juice and it worked great)
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh sage (or dry)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons whole-grain mustard

1. Dissolve 1 tablespoon salt and the sugar in 2 cups water in a medium bowl. Gently pound each pork cutlet until 1/4 inch thick (I had a hard time getting mine this thin, so I had to adjust the cooking time accordingly in steps 3 & 4). Submerge the cutlets in the brine, cover, and refrigerate for 30 minutes (DO NOT OVERBRINE!).

2. Meanwhile, melt 2 pieces of the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook until softened, about 1 1/2 minutes. Stir in the flour and dry mustard and cook for 30 seconds. Gradually whisk in the broth, smoothing out the lumps. Stir in the cider and sage, bring to a boil, then reduce to a gentle simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, cover, and set aside.

3. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 200 degrees. Remove the cutlets from the brine, dry thoroughly, and season with pepper. Heat the olive oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 more piece butter, let it melt, then quickly lay half of the cutlets into the skillet. Cook until browned on the first side, 1 to 2 minutes.

4. Using tongs, flip the cutlets and cook until browned on the second side, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer the cutlets to a large plate and keep warm in the oven. Repeat with remaining cutlets and 1 more piece of butter.

5. Return the empty skillet to medium heat, add the reserved broth mixture, and bring to a simmer. Cook, scraping up the browned bits, until the sauce is slightly thickened and has reduced to about 1/2 cup, about 2 minutes.

6. Off the heat whisk in the whole-grain mustard and remaining 2 pieces butter. Season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste, spoon it over the cutlets and serve immediately. It is delicious with mashed potatoes!!

{The Best of America's Test Kitchen 2011 Cookbook}


Spaghetti with Garlic and Olive Oil

Another America's Test Kitchen recipe. I make this to go with the Parmesan-Crusted Chicken Cutlets and they went together fabulously. Spaghetti with Garlic and Olive Oil
Serves 4

1/3 C. extra-virgin olive oil
4 medium garlic cloves, pressed through garlic press
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes (optional. I used half the amount)
Table Salt
1 pound spaghetti or linguine
1/4 C. minced fresh parsley leaves (optional. I actually sprinkled dry parsley on at the very end)
Ground Black Pepper

1. While preparing/cooking noodles according to directions on box, heat oil, garlic, pepper flakes, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in small skillet over medium-low heat. Cook stirring frequently, until garlic turns golden but not brown, about 5 minutes; remove pan from heat.
2. When draining pasta, reserve 1/4 C. cooking liquid, drain pasta and return to pot. Add garlic mixture, reserved pasta cooking liquid, and optional parsley; toss well to coat. Adjust seasoning with salt and ground black pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Parmesan-Crusted Chicken Cutlets

In honor of Valentines day, allow me to share with you the menu tonight. Not sure if you've figured out that Jess and I are pretty much in love with America's Test Kitchen...but uh, we are. And my entire meal consisted of their recipes, including dessert. It was fabulous...so, enjoy! And next time you're standing in the checkout line at the grocery store and you see a magazine called "Cook's Illustrated" - it will be the best $8.00 you ever spent! :)
Parmesan-Crusted Chicken Cutlets
Serves 4 (can easily be halved to serve two or doubled to serve 8...can I come?)

-2 Boneless, skinless chicken breasts, tenderloins removed, breasts trimmed of excess fat and halved horizontally (see note)
-Table Salt & Black Pepper
-1/4 C. plus 1 Tbs. flour
-1/4 C. Parmesan cheese, grated (I used the powder stuff you get at the grocery store, or you could grate some fresh stuff on a mircoplane rasp grater. Either way, it needs to be very small)
-3 large egg whites
-2 Tbs. minced fresh chives (optional. I did not use this tonight)
-2 cups Parmesan cheese, shredded (buy a block and grate it like you would cheese on the largest holes of the grater. )
-4 teaspoons olive oil
-1 lemon, cut into wedges

Note: chicken breasts are easier to slice into cutlets if you freeze them for 15-20 minutes until firm but not fully frozen. To slice in half, place one hand on top of the breast to secure it, hold a chef's knife parallel to the cutting board, and slice through the middle of the breast horizontally.

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat to 200 degrees.
2. Set a oven safe cooling rack on a rimmed baking sheet. Whisk together 1/4 c. flour with 1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese in a pie plate. In medium bowl, whisk egg whites and chives (if using) together until slightly foamy. Pour into a pie plate. In third pie plate, combine shredded Parmesan and remaining Tbs. of flour.
3. Using tongs and working with one cutlet at a time, coat chicken in flour mixture, shaking off excess. Transfer chicken to egg-white mixture; coat evenly and let excess run off. Coat chicken with shredded Parmesan mixture, pressing gently so that cheese adheres. Place on wire rack. Continue with the rest of chicken cutlets.
4. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Place 2 cutlets in skillet and reduce heat to medium. Cook until cheese is pale golden brown, about 3 minutes (I actually cooked 4 minutes on each side). Carefully flip cutlets and continue to cook until cheese is pale golden brown on second side and meat is no longer pink in center, about 3 minutes. Transfer chicken to wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet and keep warm in oven. Wipe out skillet with paper towel and return to medium heat. Add remaining 2 teaspoon oil and cook remaining 2 cutlets. Serving immediately with lemon wedges.

I served this with Spagheti with Garlic and Olive Oil. - I'll post this quick fix too.
For Dessert we had the recipe that Jessica posted today. Fallen Chocolate Cake. Oh heavenly.

Individual Fallen Chocolate Cakes, or the perfect Valentine's Dessert

I got this amazing recipe book for Christmas called "The Best of America's Test Kitchen: 2011." Every recipe we have tried has been delicious.

But this is the crowning jewel. I can't even begin to tell you how much I loved these. We made these last week and I am already craving them again.

They are just like Molten Lava cakes, if you have ever had those. If you haven't, they are amazing little cakes where the outside is like a brownie and the inside is underbaked and saucy. I have wanted to try making them for awhile but I was intimidated. They seem sensitive and hard to get just right. But these were really easy and there are not many ingredients! They are so light and fluffy and are paired perfectly with a scoop of ice cream and berries. And with only 2 tablespoons of sugar, go ahead and help yourself to two!!

Trust me, your Valentine will love this dessert.

Individual Fallen Chocolate Cakes for Two

Cocoa powder, for the ramekins
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
Pinch salt
1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
Confectioner's sugar, for dusting (optional)

1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 400 degrees. Butter two 6-ounce ramekins and dust with cocoa powder.

2. Combine the butter and chocolate in a medium-sized microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high until melted, 1 to 3 minutes stirring often. Stir in the vanilla.

3. In a large bowl, whip the egg with an electric mixer on medium speed until foamy (about 1 minute). Increase the speed to medium-high and whip until soft, billowy mounds form (about 1 minute). Gradually whip in the granulated sugar and salt; continue to whip the egg until very thick and pale yellow, 5 to 10 minutes longer.

4. Scrape the egg mixture onto the chocolate mixture, then sift the flour over the top. Gently fold the mixtures together with a rubber spatula until just incorporated and no streaks remain.

5. Divide the batter between the ramekins, smooth the tops, and wipe any drops of batter off the sides. Place the ramekins on a rimmed baking sheet and bake the cakes until they have puffed about 1/2 inch above the rims of the ramekins and jiggle slightly in the center when shaken very gently (about 10-13 minutes).

6. Run a small knife around the edges of the cakes. Gently invert each ramekin onto an individual serving plate and let sit until the cakes release themselves from the ramekin (about 1 minute). Remove the ramekins, dust with confectioners' sugar (if using), and serve immediately.

{The Best of America's Test Kitchen 2011}


Fruit Soup

My mom has made this 3 times now and every time we are licking the bowl. It is that good.

You might think this is "chick food" because it is a fruit dish. But guess what? Boys like it, too.

Fruit Soup

¾ c. sugar (we have used as little as 1/4 cup without noticing a difference!)
1 c. water
1 c. peach juice (or another cup of water)
3 Tb tapioca (be sure to use the “minute brand” quick cooking tapioca!)

6 oz orange juice concentrate
1 ½ c. water

2 cans mandarin oranges (with or without juice)
1 quart sliced peaches - (you can use 1 large can of peach slices, but I would not add the heavy syrup – I always try to use Lite peaches that have been bottled with pear juice and water, in which case I add the juice. Also, cut up the slices so they are bite-size.)
2 c. fresh strawberries, sliced, just before serving
2 bananas, just before serving
1 bag frozen raspberries, thawed but still cool and firm (or an equivalent amount of fresh) or other berry mix (raspberries give the juice a red tint, without raspberries it is an orange color. We used the tri-berry mix from Costco which includes raspberries, blueberries and blackberries.)

Bring sugar, water, peach juice and tapioca to a boil. Continue boiling on medium high for about 10 minutes, stirring often. Some tapioca will be clear and other granules will have a white center. Take off heat. Let sit for 30 minutes. (This is when the tapioca will become more clear.)
Add 6 oz orange juice concentrate and 1 ½ c. water. Chill overnight.

Add mandarin oranges and peaches. Before serving add strawberries, bananas, and raspberries.

{from Sister's Cafe}


Quick and Easy Breadsticks

This recipe is so fast and goes delicious with pizza, pasta, salad, soup, fruit...you get the idea. They literally come together in 5 minutes and cook in 10, which means I make them weekly. I usually sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top but this time we were out, so I tried mozzarella and LOVED it. The cheese got all crunchy and delicious.

Just try them and you'll see what I mean.

Quick and Easy Breadsticks

3 to 3 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon yeast
1 tablespoon honey
1 1/2 cups warm water
melted butter
cheese (parmesan, mozzarella, cheddar...whatever you want to try!)

Add 3 cups flour, salt, yeast, and honey to a bowl. Slowly mix while adding warm water. Knead until shiny and smooth. If you need to add more flour, do so until the dough isn't sticky.

Roll into rectangle. Put dough on cookie sheet and slice with pizza cutter.

Spread melted butter and sprinkle grated cheese (I love mozzarella!) on top.

Bake at 400 degrees for 10-14 minutes until golden brown.


Baked Penne with Chicken, Broccoli, and Mozzarella

This fit the bill for dinner tonight - I could make it ahead and stick it in the fridge, pop it in the oven when we were ready and it turned out delicious.

I have a love/hate relationship with sun-dried tomatoes. Sometimes they are yummy. Other times they really turn me off. I added them this time, but this would still be really good without them.

Baked Penne with Chicken, Broccoli, and Mozzarella

{serves 4}


3/4 cup bread crumbs (store-bought or make your own)

2 tablespoons butter, melted


1 bunch broccoli (about 1 pound), stalks cut off, florets trimmed into 1-inch pieces

8 ounces penne pasta

1 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 medium onion, minced

3 medium garlic cloves, finely minced or pressed through a garlic press

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1/2 cup heavy cream (or half-and-half worked fine for me)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 2), trimmed and cut into bite-size pieces

3 ounces mozzarella, grated

4 ounce jar oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and chopped into pieces (optional)

In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs and butter and set aside. Lightly grease an 8X8-inch baking dish and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and make sure the oven rack is placed in the middle of the oven. In a large pot, bring the water for the pasta to a boil. Stir in some salt and the broccoli. Cook the broccoli for 1 minute, until it is bright green. Quickly remove the broccoli with a slotted spoon to a plate. Return the water to a boil and add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 1-2 minutes less than how you would eat it normally (it will cook a bit more in the oven while baking). Drain the pasta in a colander and toss with 1/2 tablespoon olive oil. Leave it in the colander and set it aside.

Wipe the pot dry. Add the remaining 1/2 tablespoon oil and return to medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and cook until softened and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and thyme; cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until golden, about 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the broth and cream; bring to a simmer, whisking often. Add the chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until cooked through, about 6-7 minutes. Stir in the sun-dried tomatoes.

Add the cooked pasta and broccoli to the sauce; stir to combine. Transfer the pasta mixture to the prepared baking dish and sprinkle with the cheese and the bread crumb topping. Bake until the casserole is bubbling and the crumbs are lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Serve immediately.

*The casserole can be prepared in advance with the following steps: after the broccoli is removed from the boiling water, plunge it into a bowl of ice water and cool completely. Assemble the casserole following the directions in the recipe. After the casserole is spread in the prepared baking pan, let it cool for 5-10 minutes before covering with plastic wrap and refrigerating for up to 8 hours. To bake, preheat the oven to 375 and bake uncovered for 30 minutes.

{Modified from Mel's Kitchen Cafe}


Classic Italian Lasagna

In a way I see it kind of pointless to copy a recipe from another recipe blog just to put on my own recipe blog. What do you girls think? Well, The only reason I'm going to do it here is because next time I'm going to do a few things differently (and there WILL be a next time) I make this. It was fabulous and I thank Mel from mykitchencafe for posting this recipe from wherever she got it from. Here it is...make it. I don't even really love Lasagna but this was fabulous! I made two 8x8 pans and froze one and we had one for dinner two nights in a row...can't wait for the frozen one!

Classic Italian Lasagna

Red Sauce:
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 Tbs. butter
4 cloves fresh garlic, finely minced
1/2 large onion, diced (about 1/2 cup)
8 oz. mushrooms, chopped (omitted these, thanks but no thanks)
2 (8-ounce) cans tomato sauce
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
2 tsp. Italian seasoning (or a mix of dried oregano and basil)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper

White Sauce:
3 cups milk (not skim)
5 Tbs. flour
4 Tbs. butter
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper

9 lasagna noodles, boiled for half the time on the box. - I used the no-boil noodles (Barilla Brand) obviously don't boil these...skip the boiling step.
1 pound ground turkey
1 pound mozzarella cheese, shredded (I would use a little less cheese next time, there was plenty of cheese)
8 ounces Parmesan cheese, shredded

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9x13 baking pan and set aside.

In a large skillet, brown the turkey. When cooked through, drain. (I like to put it in a strainer and run hot water over it to get as much grease off as possible) Set aside.

In a medium-size saucepan over medium-high heat, add 2 Tbs olive oil and 1 Tbs butter. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. When oil/butter is hot, add the garlic, stirring constantly. When garlic is lightly browned, but NOT burned, add the onion and mushrooms. Continue cooking on medium-high heat until the vegetables are soft and browned and the fluid has mostly cooked out. Remove from heat and blend vegetables into a paste-like mixture - because I did not use mushrooms in this recipe, I opted to NOT blend my onions. Return the pot to the heat (pour the pureed vegetables back in pot) and add the tomato sauce and tomato paste. Stir to combine. Then add the diced tomatoes, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. Stir. Cover and let the sauce simmer for 30 minutes over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally. Right before using the red sauce in the lasagna, stir in the reserved ground turkey. - NEXT time I make this I think I'll 1.5 this red sauce and meat part of the recipe. I could have used just a little more of this when I made (and ate) my lasagna.

While the red sauce simmers, boil your noodles if you need to. Once cooked (for half the amount of time on box) drain but do not rinse. Add a dab of olive oil to keep them from sticking together. If you are using no-boil noodles, you can skip this step.

Also, while the red sauce is cooking, melt the four Tbs. butter and when melted, add the flour, stirring constantly to combine and letting the mixture cook, while stirring, for a minute or two. Gradually add in the milk, whisking constantly. Add the salt and pepper. Slowly whisk he shite sauce, ensuring it doesn't burn on the bottom of the pan, while cooking it over medium heat. Continue slowing stirring or whisking while the white sauce cooks and thickens quite a bit, about 5-7 minutes. Add a pinch of mozzarella for good luck, if you wish! (Oh yes I wish!)

To begin layering the lasagna, keep in mind that you'll have three layers of noodles as well as three layers of the sauces and cheese - so plan on splitting all the sauces and cheese into thirds so you don't run out at the end! On the bottom of your lightly greased baking pan, layer three pre-boiled noodles or four no boil noodles, slightly overlapping the no-boil noodles. Layer the red sauce, white sauce, Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses, spreading all to the edges and top with another layer of noodles. Again, layer the red sauce, white sauce Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses and top with the final layer of noodles. Layer the sauces and cheeses again.

Cover the lasagna with a greased layer of aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Removes the foil and let the lasagna sit for 15 minutes before cutting and serving.


Tomato Basil Soup with Orzo

Imagine standing in line at Zupas waiting to order your favorite soup - Tomato Basil. Oh wait, you no longer have to go wait in line for soup at Zupas (although, if I was ever in town, I still would because that's a fun place to eat) because you can make it in your very own home!!! You heard me folks! I made this today for dinner and Gary said "Put it on the docket" - that always means he likes and wants to have it again really soon. In this case, it will most likely be this week because I had leftovers! Yeah!! Or maybe I'll freeze it for another meal another day. I served it with yummy buns I made but next time I think I'll put a little grilled cheese on the griddle as well! Enjoy! (You can thank me later!)

Tomato Basil Soup with Orzo

1 tsp. olive oil
1/4 C. apple juice
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped **see notes at the bottom
2 cloves garlic, minced (I used 4 because I love garlic)
1/2 C. diced red bell pepper
4 C. chopped fresh or canned tomatoes. (I used 42 oz. - a 28 oz. can and a 14.5 oz. can of whole tomatoes)
1 C. vegetable stock (I used chicken broth)
1/3 C. Orzo pasta - (because I love this and used more tomatoes than it called for, I used more Orzo too)
1/4 C. chopped fresh basil - (If you have it totally use it. NOTHING replaces fresh basil, but in my case, I didn't have it and didn't want to run to the store for one thing...so I used a small amount of dried. Can't wait to make it with fresh though)
1 pint heavy whipping cream
1/4 C. butter

In soup pot, heat oil and apple juice over medium heat. Saute onion, garlic and red pepper 8-10 minutes, stirring frequently, until onion is soft but not brown. Add small amounts of water if mixture becomes dry). Remove from heat. Add tomatoes and broth. Stir. Puree in blender and return to the pot. Add Orzo pasta; cook on medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add butter and cream. Stir. Simmer 15 minutes stirring as often as possible. DO NOT BOIL. Add basil and serve immediately.

**yes, I use my Vidalia chopper EVERY.SINGLE.DAY and if you don't have one, go buy one right now! They are only like $19.00 and it will be the best $19.00 you ever spent in your whole entire life! :) I like to buy a big bag of onions at costco and then chop them up and freeze them, one onion at a time, in small sandwich freezer bags. It's AWESOME! I do this because 99.9% of the time I need a yellow onion, it is going to be cooked and put into something and I don't need it fresh. So, to save time and make my life just a little more simpler, I chop and freeze. Plus, I LOVE my Vidalia chopper and try to get as much use out of it as possible because it makes me happy! (and yes I used it on the red pepper too)

Recipe Sourse: I googled it because I wanted that Zupas soup and found this on a website about family cookbooks. Random...but thank them very much!