Monday, November 3, 2014

Cucumber Boats

Cucumber Boats

Makes 2 boats.

What did you say?  An appetizer that won't ruin your appetite?  Found it.
Adapted from: Bite Delite

2 cucumbers (about 1 pound each)
2 ounces crumbled feta cheese
1/4 t. salt
1 t. fresh parsley or dill, chopped
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Cut the cucumbers lengthwise, and remove the seeds.  Then, cut a small strip off the bottom of one side so that cucumber will set level, without falling over.

Use the other half of the cucumber to dice into 1/4" pieces.  Combine the diced cucumbers with feta cheese, dill, salt and pepper.  Divide the mixture between the 2 cucumber "boats," then slice into 1-1/2" pieces.

Friday, October 31, 2014

One Pot Roasted Red Pepper and Sausage Alfredo

One Pot Roasted Red Pepper and Sausage Alfredo

Serves 4.

Delicious.  Easy.  Impressive.  Perfect for when friends come over!
Source: Host the Toast

¾ lb Italian sausage
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1½ cups milk, plus ¼ cup for the sauce
1½ cups chicken broth, plus ¼ cup for the sauce
1 (16 oz) jar roasted red peppers, drained and pureed (you can do this in a food processor or blender)
8 oz goat cheese
½ cup grated parmesan
Salt and pepper, to taste
3 handfuls fresh spinach
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
12 oz pasta of your choice

Remove the casing from the sausage and discard the casing. To do this, simply cut along the side of the sausage with a sharp knife and peel off the pierced casing with your fingers.
In a large pot or high-walled pan, saute the sausage meat with the garlic and olive oil over medium heat, until browned.
Stir in chicken broth, pureed roasted red pepper, milk and pasta. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat and simmer until pasta is cooked through, about 12 minutes. If the liquid has all been absorbed, add the additional milk and chicken broth.
Stir in spinach, 1 handful at a time, and cook until wilted and hot.
Stir in the goat cheese and parmesan. Continue to stir until melted. Remove from heat and serve.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Birthday Cake Batter Pancakes

Birthday Cake Batter Pancakes

Makes about 6 pancakes.

The kids loved these.  We used regular syrup instead of the glaze, but next time, I would try it, so I'm including it here.
Source: Happy Food Healthy Life

For pancakes:
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup yellow cake mix
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 to 1 cup milk
assorted sprinkles
whipped cream and additional sprinkles for topping, optional

For glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tablespoon milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
assorted sprinkles

To make glaze: Mix milk, extract and powdered sugar until glaze forms. You may need to add a little more sugar or water/milk to reach desired consistency. Mix into glaze and drizzle on pancakes.

Combine flour, cake mix, baking powder, sugar and salt in a bowl and mix. Add 1/2 cup of milk, egg and vanilla extract and stir until smooth. You want the batter to look like regular pancake batter; not too thin, not too thick. This will vary greatly on the brand of cake mix you use. Start with 1/2 cup of milk and add more if needed.

Preheat a skillet on medium heat. Fold desired amount of sprinkles into batter. Pour batter in 1/4 cup measurements onto skillet and let cook until bubbles form on top, about 2-3 minutes. Flip and cook for 1 minute more. Serve with vanilla glaze.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Chocolate Chocolate Cake with Brownie Batter Frosting

Chocolate Chocolate Cake with Brownie Batter Frosting

Serves 16?
A rich, chocolaty cake perfect for a birthday, special occasion, or just because.  A brownie layer is sandwiched between two layers of chocolate cake, and it's all wrapped in a delicious brownie batter frosting.  And who doesn't love extra chocolate chips on the outside?

Inspired by: Baby Gizmo and Beyond Frosting

Chocolate cake mix, any chocolate flavor
Brownie mix (13x9 family size)
5 eggs (to be used for the cake and brownie mix)
Vegetable oil
One 12-oz. package of semi-sweet chocolate chips
Two (or three) 8" round pans

2 tsp Pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup + 1 tbsp  Unsweetened dark cocoa powder (I used Hersey’s Special Dark)
1 cup powdered brownie mix (from a box)
2 tsp Milk
3 heaping cups Powdered sugar

8 oz. dark chocolate chips
  • Cake Layers:
  • Make the chocolate cake according to the box. Pour batter evenly into two lightly greased 9″ round pans and bake at 350 degrees for 32-37 minutes. Cake is done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes before transferring to a plate to cool completely.
  • Brownie Layer:
    Make the brownie mix according to the package. Pour entire brownie batter into one (1) lightly greased 9″ round pan. Make sure the brownie pan is the same size as the cake pans that you used!  Bake the brownie at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes. Watch the brownies carefully as not to overcook them but make sure they aren’t completely doughy in the center.Cool in pan for 15 minutes before transferring to a plate to cool completely. I found it was easiest to remove the brownie carefully using a wide spatula underneath.

    Using a stand mixer, combine the softened butter and vanilla extract, beating on a medium speed until smooth.
    In a separate bowl, sift cocoa powder and brownie mix together. Yes, you must sift this! The fine powder ensures it will properly mix into your batter. I prefer to use the special dark cocoa powder because I love how the dark chocolate flavor enhances the brownie taste. Add your butter and mix on medium speed until well combined.
    Next, add 2 tsp of milk and beat into the frosting. I added the milk because it adds a real creaminess to the frosting. The frosting will be a little grainy, which is very reminiscent of actual brownie batter. I tested this frosting will several different amounts of milk, the more milk you add, the creamier the frosting will be, but it will dilute the taste of the brownie batter.
    Continue to slowly add your powdered sugar while beating on a medium speed. Your batter will be come very thick. Once you have added all of your powdered sugar, quickly add your corn syrup and continue to beat until well combined.
    Lastly, add 2 tsp hot water and increase speed to medium-high for 30 seconds until well mixed. I like to increase the speed at the end to help make the frosting a little bit lighter.
    Frost the top of the brownie layer with about 1/6 of the frosting. Sprinkle a handful of chocolate chips on that layer. Carefully place the 2nd cake layer on top of the brownie layer. Carefully frost the top and sides of the cake with the remainder of the frosting.

  • BEFORE THE FROSTING SETS, you need to apply the chocolate chips to the outside. Take a handful of chocolate chips at a time and firmly press against the side of the cake until most of the chips stick. Some chips will fall to the plate and you will use those to fill in the holes.
    Repeat this process around the entire cake. Take the fallen chips and the chips that you have left and fill in the holes and sprinkle on top.
Pick the plate you want the cake to be displayed on and start with one (1) cake layer. Frost the top of the cake layer with about 1/6 of the frosting . Sprinkle a handful of chocolate chips on that layer. (Note: Any chopped up candy – Reese’s, M&Ms, Heath Bits etc can be substituted for the chocolate chips to add another flavor!) Carefully place the brownie layer on top of the cake layer.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Peanut Butter Cheesecake Cookie Bars

Peanut Butter Cheesecake Cookie Bars

Makes 8x8 pan.

Oh boy.  Sinfully yummy.  Excuse the poor photo and just trust me on this one.
Source: Inside BruCrew Life
For the Cookie Dough:
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 1/2 cups flour
1 cup Reese's peanut butter chips
1 cup Hershey's baking melts

For the Cheesecake:
1 package cream cheese (8 oz.)
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup peanut butter

For the topping:
1/4 cup Reese's peanut butter chips
1/4 cup chocolate chips
1 teaspoon shortening
In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter, shortening, and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, vanilla, and salt and cream again. Sift together the baking soda and flour. Slowly add to the butter mixture until incorporated. Stir in the peanut butter chips and baking melts by hand. Press half the dough into the bottom of an 8" pan. Set aside.
In another bowl, beat the cream cheese and sugar until creamy. Add the egg and peanut butter and beat until smooth. Pour on top of the cookie dough.
Press small pieces of cookie dough onto the top of the cream cheese layer. Continue until all the dough has been used and the cheesecake has been covered. Bake at 350* for 30-40 minutes. Remove and let cool completely. Cut into 16 bars.
In a small bowl, combine the peanut butter chips and 1/2 teaspoon shortening. Heat for 30 seconds in the microwave. Stir until melted and smooth. Spoon into a plastic bag that has one corner cut off. Drizzle over bars. Repeat with chocolate chips. Keep refrigerated. Makes 16 bars.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Banana Crumb Cake

Banana Crumb Cake

Makes (2) loaf pans, (2) 8x8's or (1) 13x9

My good friend Cheryl turned me on to this recipe.  Easily the best banana crumb cake I've ever eaten.  So flavorful and moist, and the crumb filling/topping is to die for!
Source: Southern Plate

For the crumb cake:
2 c. sugar
1 c. milk
1 c. chopped nuts (optional)
2 c. self-rising flour
1 stick margarine
2 eggs
3 bananas
1 t. vanilla

For the crumb topping:
1 stick (1/2 c.) margarine
1 c. brown sugar
1 c. flour (self-rising or plain)

Spray two loaf of 8x8 pans with cooking spray (you can also use a deep 13x9).  Place peeled bananas in mixing bowl, add sugar.  Mix until bananas are liquefied.  Add margarine, mix until creamed together with banana mixture.  Add all other ingredients and blend well.

In medium bowl, place all topping ingredients.  Cut together with a long-tined fork until well blended.  Pour 1/4 of batter into each pan, top with 1/4 crumb mixture.  Pour remaining batter over and top with remaining crumb mixture.  (If you are using a 13x9, pour 1/2 batter, than 1/2 crumb.  Then remaining batter and remaining crumb.)

Bake for 45-60 minutes for loaf pans or 8x8s.  For 13x9, bake for 50-70 minutes.
Cake is done when a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Grilled Chicken with Avocado Salsa

Grilled Chicken with Avocado Salsa

Serves 6

A deliciously fresh meal.  Easy, yet visually appealing.  A good meal for entertaining.
Sources: Avocado Salsa comes from Better Recipes 

3 avocados, seeded and chopped
3 medium roma tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped
6 T. finely chopped onion
1-1/2 t. minced garlic
4-5 T. lime juice
salt and pepper

Grill or bake using your favorite standard seasoning. 

Cook chicken. Top with salsa.  Serve over saffron rice.

Gnocchi, Sausage, and Spinach Soup

Gnocchi, Sausage, and Spinach Soup

Serves 4-5.

Delicious.  I will make this again and again!
Source: Cinnamon-Spice and Everything Nice

1 yellow onion, diced
1 roasted red pepper, diced
olive oil, for sauteing
sea or Kosher salt and fresh black pepper
1 pound Italian sausage, ground or removed from casings, hot or sweet
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried basil, crushed between fingers
32 ounces low-sodium chicken broth
1 pound potato gnocchi
2 cups fresh baby spinach leaves, rough chopped
3/4 cup half & half or heavy cream (light is ok)
1 heaping tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
fresh grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

In a large sauce pan or soup pot saute onion and red pepper in a couple of tablespoons olive oil over medium-low heat until tender. Season well with salt and pepper. In a separate, large skillet brown the sausage, breaking it apart as it cooks. Add garlic to onion mixture and saute until fragrant.
Drain sausage and add to onion mixture along with the basil and chicken broth. Season with salt and pepper, simmer for 20 minutes.
Add gnocchi and spinach, bring to a simmer and cook until gnocchi puff up and start to float (check package for cooking time). Add half & half and fresh basil, bring to a simmer for three or four minutes. Serve with Parmesan cheese.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

BBQ Chicken Chopped Salad

BBQ Chicken Chopped Salad

Serves 2

A delicious, healthy, fresh option for lunch or dinner.
Source: me

romaine lettuce, chopped
1 large chicken breast, grilled and chopped
1/2 cup corn, cooked and chilled
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1/2 avocado, chopped
6-7 cherry tomatoes, chopped
4 baby carrots, chopped

To make dressing: combine equal parts Ranch dressing and BBQ sauce

Cover lettuce with toppings, then serve with BBQ Ranch dressing.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

20-Minute Applesauce Breakfast Cookies

20-Minute Applesauce Breakfast Cookies

Makes 36.

The word "cookie" is used loosely here.  Let's not get carried away and think that these taste like true cookies.  But if your toddler likes them, call them cookies as much as you'd like.  
Adapted from: Shape

3 ripe bananas
2 c. rolled oats
1/3 c. applesauce

2 T. honey
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 c. dried cherries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using a fork, mash the bananas in a bowl. Stir in oats, applesauce, honey, dried cherries, cinnamon and vanilla extract. Mix batter well. Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto a lined cookie sheet. Bake for 20 minutes.

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Book Thief

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Better read this before the movie is released!  Great book.

School Library Journal review from

Starred Review. Grade 9 Up–Zusak has created a work that deserves the attention of sophisticated teen and adult readers. Death himself narrates the World War II-era story of Liesel Meminger from the time she is taken, at age nine, to live in Molching, Germany, with a foster family in a working-class neighborhood of tough kids, acid-tongued mothers, and loving fathers who earn their living by the work of their hands. The child arrives having just stolen her first book–although she has not yet learned how to read–and her foster father uses it, The Gravediggers Handbook, to lull her to sleep when shes roused by regular nightmares about her younger brothers death. Across the ensuing years of the late 1930s and into the 1940s, Liesel collects more stolen books as well as a peculiar set of friends: the boy Rudy, the Jewish refugee Max, the mayors reclusive wife (who has a whole library from which she allows Liesel to steal), and especially her foster parents. Zusak not only creates a mesmerizing and original story but also writes with poetic syntax, causing readers to deliberate over phrases and lines, even as the action impels them forward. Death is not a sentimental storyteller, but he does attend to an array of satisfying details, giving Liesels story all the nuances of chance, folly, and fulfilled expectation that it deserves. An extraordinary narrative.–Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Sugar Cookie Dip

Sugar Cookie Dip

Makes about 2 cups.

Wow.  I could eat WAAYYY too much of this.
Inspired by: Cooking with Christine and My Honeys Place

1 package sugar cookie mix
1 (8-oz.) block cream cheese, softened
1/2 stick (4 oz.) butter, softened
1 T. flavored coffee creamer (I used brown sugar and vanilla flavor)

Combine all ingredients with a mixer or efficiently by hand.
Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Serve with pretzels, vanilla wafers, animal crackers, or whatever tickles your fancy.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Baby Spinach and Cheddar Quiche

Baby Spinach and Cheddar Quiche

Serves 8.

I used a store-bought crust... a refrigerated one, not a frozen one.  But either would work.
Source: Big Flavors Tiny Kitchen

Store-bought frozen deep dish pie shell
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon shallot, minced
4 ounces baby spinach
Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
5 large eggs
3/4 cup milk
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 350°F. Place frozen pie crust on a baking sheet and set aside.
Heat oil in a large, non-stick skillet over moderate heat. Add garlic and shallot and sauté until soft. Add spinach, season with nutmeg, salt and pepper, and cook until the spinach wilts down, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.
While the spinach mixture is cooling, beat eggs and milk in a large bowl. Stir in cheese.
Place spinach mixture in the bottom of the pie crust, spreading it out in an even layer. Pour egg mixture on top and bake for 45-50 minutes, until eggs are set. Remove from oven and let stand a few minutes before diving in. Enjoy!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Chocolate M&M Cookie Cups

Chocolate M&M Cookie Cups

Makes about 30.

Rich and chocolaty, with extra chocolate bursts from the M&Ms.
Adapted from: The Daily Dish

1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 c. sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1 t. pure vanilla extract
1 t. baking soda
1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 c. unsweetened cocoa
1 12-oz. pkg. M&M’s 
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. In medium bowl, combine the baking soda, flour and cocoa. Gradually add the dry mixture to the wet, stirring until combined. Stir in the M&M’s.
Drop by heaping teaspoonfuls into a mini muffin pan. Place baking sheet on the middle rack in oven and bake for about 10 minutes. Remove sheet from oven and let cool in pan for about 10 more minutes. Remove cookies from sheet and transfer to a wire rack to cool. Store in an airtight container.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Snow Child

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

The perfect read for a cold, snowy day.  This is a fantastical book that will leave you wondering for days after you close the back cover.  A great book club choice too!

Book description from Amazon:

Alaska, 1920: a brutal place to homestead, and especially tough for recent arrivals Jack and Mabel. Childless, they are drifting apart--he breaking under the weight of the work of the farm; she crumbling from loneliness and despair. In a moment of levity during the season's first snowfall, they build a child out of snow. The next morning the snow child is gone--but they glimpse a young, blonde-haired girl running through the trees.

This little girl, who calls herself Faina, seems to be a child of the woods. She hunts with a red fox at her side, skims lightly across the snow, and somehow survives alone in the Alaskan wilderness. As Jack and Mabel struggle to understand this child who could have stepped from the pages of a fairy tale, they come to love her as their own daughter. But in this beautiful, violent place things are rarely as they appear, and what they eventually learn about Faina will transform all of them.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Overnight Egg Nog French Toast

Overnight Egg Nog French Toast

Serves 8.

Adapted from: Chef in Training

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
  • 2 Tbsp. light corn syrup
  • 2 loaves French bread, sliced into 1" slices
  • 1 cup egg nog
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 10 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnmon
  1. Lightly grease a 9x13-inch baking dish.
  2. Heat the brown sugar, butter, and corn syrup in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook and stir until the mixture begins to boil; remove the mixture from heat, and pour into the prepared baking dish.
  3. Place slices of french bread on top of the sugar mixture.
  4. Combine egg nog, half and half, eggs and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Whisk together until completely combined. Pour evenly over bread slices.
  5. Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil, and refrigerate 8 hours to overnight.
  6. Once it has refrigerated for designated time, Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  7. Bake at 325 degrees F for 35 minutes. Then, remove foil and raise oven's temperature to 375 and bake for another 5-7 minutes or until french toast has started to brown on top.  Serve with syrup.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Egg Nog Coffee Cake

Egg Nog Coffee Cake

Serves... a lot.

A dense coffee cake with a hint of egg nog flavor... and a thick, rich, crumbly crust.  Perfect for Christmas morning!
Source: Gonna Want Seconds

For The Coffee Cake:


  1. Make the Cake: Preheat oven to 350. Spray a tube pan generously with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time. Beat in eggnog, sour cream, nutmeg and vanilla extract.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  4. Add half of the dry ingredient into wet ingredients and blend just until mostly combined. Add the rest of the dry ingredients and blend just until combined.
  5. Spread batter into prepared pan. Tap pan on counter to remove air bubbles. Set aside.
  6. Meanwhile make the Crumb Topping: In a medium bowl blend sugars, spices and salt into melted butter until mixture becomes smooth. Add flour and combine thoroughly.
  7. Crumble crumb mixture into big pieces over top of unbaked coffee cake.
  8. Bake Coffee Cake for 35-45 minutes in preheated oven just until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
  9. Cool on rack for 10-15 minutes. Place a plate on top of the cake and flip the cake over onto the plate. Place a serving plate on the bottom of the cake and flip the cake over to right-side up. Cool cake completely before icing it.
  10. Make Icing: Whisk together the butter and eggnog in a small saucepan over low heat. Bring mixture to a simmer and simmer for 2 minutes, whisking constantly. Cool slightly and whisk in powdered sugar until mixture is smooth with no lumps. Drizzle icing over completely cooled cake.