Friday, December 30, 2011

Pizza Pasta Casserole Recipe


I was inspired to make this pizza casserole when I saw Tasty Kitchen member How to Pinch a Penny's recipe. I halved her recipe (as it served 8) and swapped in and out a few ingredients to suit my tastes. And I have to tell you--this was the best thing I've eaten in a long time. WOW! I'm not normally a casserole fan, but with piano lessons bumping into our dinner time, this was the perfect solution. My version of the recipe makes 4 servings, but honestly it only served my husband and I. We cleaned the dish. This was amazing! Your family will love you forever for this. I promise

Pizza Pasta Casserole Recipe
recipe based loosely off Tasty Kitchen recipe
Makes 4 servings

1/2 lb ground beef
1/2  onion, chopped finely
2 cloves garlic, chopped finely
Crushed red pepper
1 cup fresh baby spinach, finely chopped
4 cups short cut pasta 
2 cups pasta sauce 
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup pepperoni slices, halved

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. 

Bring water to a boil in a 2 quart sauce pan. Cook your pasta about a minute short of al dente, about 7 minutes. Drain the pasta.

In a large skillet, brown your ground beef over medium heat until nicely browned. Drain off the fat and transfer the cooked meat to a clean plate or bowl. Leaving a bit of the drippings in the pan will be fine. You are going to be sautéing the onion in a minute anyway.

Sauté the onion and garlic in the rendered beef fat till soft, translucent and slightly golden on some of the edges. Sprinkle in desired amount of crushed red pepper (a pinch or two). Add olive oil or more pan drippings if there is not enough to sauté properly. In the last minute of cooking stir in chopped spinach. 

To the skillet of sauteed onions/garlic/spinach add pasta, browned meat, pasta sauce, most of the mozzarella (reserving some for the topping), and pepperoni. Stir to combine.

Coat a deep dish pie pan or a 9x9 inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. 

Spoon in pasta mixture and sprinkle with remaining mozzarella cheese. 

Bake for 45 minutes at 350F or until heated through and bubbly.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Bittersweet Chocolate Chip and Toffee Cookie Recipe


This grown-up version of everyone's favorite chocolate cookie is just delightful. With the added bite of the bittersweet chocolate and the crunchy sweetness of the toffee, your guests will be amazed by how the plain-old-chocolate chip cookie was transformed into something memorable. Online baking and pastry classes offer aspiring chefs an artful outlet for creating updated versions of classic favorites.

Bittersweet Chocolate Chip and Toffee Cookie Recipe
Yields: 3 dozen cookies

1/2 cup margarine or butter
1/2 cup shortening
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla 
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk 
2-1/2 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt 
1-1/2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup toffee bits (brickle) 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

In a large mixing bowl, cream together margarine, shortening, brown sugar and sugar. Mix in vanilla and egg and egg yolk until combine. Add flour, baking soda and salt and mix on low speed until just incorporated. Stir in chocolate chips and toffee. 

Drop by tablespoonful onto a large cookie sheet (preferably lined with a silicone baking mat.) Bake 9-11 minutes or until edges and tops of cookies are just golden. Let rest on the cookie sheet 2 or 3 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. 

Monday, December 26, 2011

Creamy Broccoli, Chicken, and Penne Casserole Recipe


I was in need of a meal I could prepare in advance and have ready for our dinner at the end of my piano teaching hours. It was too late to start a crockpot meal. I don't normally go for casseroles, but when these ingredients popped into my brain, I knew I had a winner. This is quick and easy to throw together. It was amazing to come into the kitchen after teaching and find this meal ready to eat. Filling and nutritious, I recommend this to any family. 

Creamy Broccoli and Penne Casserole Recipe
Makes 4 servings

4 chicken tenderloins
2 cups dry whole wheat penne pasta
1/2 cup milk
2 cups frozen broccoli

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup fresh spinach, chopped
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning

1 - 14 oz can cream of chicken soup
Parmesan cheese for sprinkling

In a 2 quart sauce pot boil water and add 2 cups pasta. Cook to al dente. 

Defrost chicken tenderloins and cook in the microwave. (I never cook meat in the microwave, but because this was being combined into a tasty casserole, it worked out just fine.) Chop chicken into small bite-sized pieces.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

In a large skillet, add a splash of milk and cook the broccoli and garlic. Stir in spinach, Italian seasoning, and chicken pieces. Then add in cream of chicken soup and milk. Drain pasta and add to the skillet, stirring to combine. Pour casserole into a deep dish 9 inch pie pan or a 9x9 inch baking dish. Sprinkle with Parmesan. Cover with tin foil. Bake for 45 minutes, until bubbly. Serve with additional parmesan cheese.

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Saturday, December 24, 2011

Fresh Cranberry Scones Recipe


Cranberries are the perfect accent for the Christmas holiday, and these scones are exactly what your table needs to make your breakfast or brunch festive. I decided at the very last minute to try my hand at scones and this is the perfect recipe. It's simple and easy to pull together in 10 minutes, and the scones bake up beautifully. Impress your guests this holiday season!

Fresh Cranberry Scones Recipe
recipe adapted from

Makes 10-12 scones

3 cups flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 Tbsp orange zest
1/2 cup unsalted cold butter, cut into small pieces
3/4 cup 2 % milk 
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat, set aside.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl. In a small bowl, rub the sugar and orange zest together with your fingers. Whisk into the flour mixture.

Add cold butter pieces to the flour mixture. Cut in butter using a pastry blender, fork, or your hands. I prefer to use my hands. Mix until you have pea size chunks of butter.

In a small glass measuring cup, whisk the half and half, eggs, and vanilla extract together. Pour over dry ingredients and mix with a spatula until moist. Gently stir in the fresh cranberries. Transfer dough to a floured countertop and knead until dough comes together.

Shape dough into a large circle. Use a floured rolling pin to roll out the scone dough. Cut dough into wedges and place on the prepared baking sheet. Brush each scone with half and half and sprinkle generously with turbinado sugar. Bake for 15-17 minutes, or until scones are golden brown. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.

*Note-these scones are best eaten the day they are made. Serve with jam, butter, or enjoy plain.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Peppermint Bittersweet Chocolate Fudge Recipe


If you're anything like me, you LOVE fudge. :) I never imagined making my own would be so easy. This delicious chocolate fudge came together in less than 5 minutes. Can't beat that. And the mix of semi-sweet and bittersweet chocolate a more distinct flavor. Less overwhelmingly sweet and more cultured. :)

Peppermint Bittersweet Chocolate Fudge Recipe
Makes 64 pieces (2 pounds)

2-1/2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
1/2 tsp salt
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 candy canes, finely chopped or crushed

Line an 8x8 inch baking dish with wax paper. Set aside. 

In a 3 quart sauce pan (or using a double boiler*) combine the chocolate chips, salt, and sweetened condensed milk over low heat. Stir continuously until chips are melted and smooth. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract. Transfer to the 8x8 inch dish and spread evenly. Sprinkle with candy cane bits and gently push into the fudge. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours, until hardened. 

Remove the fudge from the dish by pulling out the wax paper liner. Place on a cutting board and pull back the edges of the wax paper. Cut into 64 squares. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Spicy Pumpkin Pie


Because it's not too late to enjoy another pumpkin pie.
Because Christmas deserves pumpkin just as much as Thanksgiving does.
Because I love this pumpkin pie.

I'm pulling it out of the archives and sharing it with all of you once again.

originally written November 2009
I love a good piece of pumpkin pie. For me this means, a melt in your mouth crust that is not at all soggy and the perfect spice-to-pumpkin ratio. This recipe hits the nail on the head and bakes up beautifully.

Spicy Pumpkin Pie
recipe adapted from the can of pumpkin 
Makes 1 pie

3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 large eggs
1 can (15 oz.) Pure Pumpkin
1 can (12 fl. oz.) Evaporated Milk
1 unbaked 9-inch (4-cup volume) deep-dish pie shell (Never Fail Pie Crust, people!)
Whipped cream (optional)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Mix sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg in small bowl. Beat eggs in large bowl. Stir in pumpkin and sugar-spice mixture. Gradually stir in evaporated milk.

Pour into pie shell.
Bake in preheated 425° F oven for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350° F; bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until knife inserted near center comes out clean.
Cool on wire rack for 2 hours.
Serve immediately or store in a cool place. Top with whipped cream before serving.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Tasty Kitchen Feature

You all know about the awesomeness that is the Tasty Kitchen website, right? It's Pioneer Woman's recipe sharing website. It's amazing. Everyday cooks--like me--get to share their recipes with the world. If I need recipe ideas, it's my first stop. And I love the Oven Mitt Rating system. Viewers and try recipes and come back and review them--giving each recipe 1-5 "Mitts" along with specific feedback in the comments section. Cool, huh? 

The reason I'm sharing Tasty Kitchen with you on this particular day? 

I'm the Featured Member!!

On the homepage of the website you'll see my face! How cool is that?! I feel a little bit famous. :) 

Thanks TK, for featuring me. You guys rock! 


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Rolo Blossom Cookie Recipe


For a fun and tasty take on the original "peanut butter blossom," try these rolo blossom cookies. The creamy caramel Rolos are a beautiful and delicious addition to your peanut butter base. Adults will love these, and I'm betting many kids will too.

Rolo Blossom Cookie Recipe
Makes 3-4 dozen cookis

48 Rolos, unwrapped
1/2 cup shortening
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 egg
2 Tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
Sugar, for rolling 

Preheat oven to 350. Remove wrappers from chocolates.

Cream together shortening and peanut butter with sugar and brown sugar in a large bowl until fluffy. Add egg, milk and vanilla; beat well. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking soda and salt; gradually stir into peanut butter mixture.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls (using a 1 Tbsp cookie scoop if possible). Roll in sugar; place on ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned. Immediately press a Rolo into the center of each cookie. The cookies will crack around edges. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sweet Cherry Pie Recipe


I was commissioned by my grandma to make a cherry pie. I learned there are two types of cherry pie--tart and sweet. I choose the sweet variety this time and can't wait to try the more traditional tart cherry pie at the next opportunity. The filling couldn't be any simpler and with that never fail pie crust, you've got a real winner here.

Sweet Cherry Pie Recipe

Top & Bottom pie crusts from the Never Fail Recipe 
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp cornstarch
6-8 cups sweet cherries (thawed, if frozen)

In a large bowl, combine sugar, cornstarch and cherries. Let sit 15 minutes. 
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 
Place bottom crust in your 9 inch pie plate. Pour in cherry filling. Top with second crust and flute edges. 
Bake 45 minutes to an hour, until filling is bubbling and crust in lightly golden. (Cover edges of the pie crust with tin foil if needed.) 
Cool completely before serving.  

Friday, December 16, 2011

Deep Dish Apple Pie Recipe


This apple pie is perfect year-round, but in this dessert-centric holiday season, I thought it needed to be brought to the forefront. The hardest part of this pie is peeling all the apples. If you can handle that, you can make a delicious apple pie. 

originally written February 20, 2009
This recipe is a specialty for me.  Every time I've made it using these recipes, the reviews have been fantastic!  The crust is the perfect combination of flaky, moist and spicy with just a bit of crispness. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

Apple Pie Recipe
Makes 1 two-crust pie

1/2 batch of Never Fail Pie Crust (for 2 crusts)
6-8 cups cooking apples*, peeled and thinly sliced
2/3 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp butter, cut into 4 pieces
Lemon juice, optional

*Granny Smith, Macintosh, Paula Red, Golden Delicious, Braeburn, Rome Beauty

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. 

Line 9 inch deep-dish pie pan with the first crust.   

Peel and slice apples into an extra large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, mix sugar and cinnamon. Pour cinnamon-sugar mixture over the apples and toss to coat thoroughly.  Add the apples to the bottom pie crust, heaping in the center (be sure to pile in more apples than it should look after cooked--apples will cook down). Dot with 1 Tbsp. butter.  (Add 1 Tbsp. lemon juice if apples are not tart.  Add 1 Tbsp. flour if apples are too juicy.)  Put on top crust and seal edges.  Flute the edges with your fingers or with a fork..  Prick top crust (or cut out a shape in the center or cut the letter "A" in the top or whatever you want...)

Place pie plate on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes.

Lower temperature to 350 degrees and continue baking for 40-45 minutes or until apples are cooked through when pricked with a fork.

Cool completely on wire rack. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Peanut Butter Blossoms Recipe

It was time to dig this recipe out of the archives in time for the Christmas cookie exchanges, the holiday gatherings, and the potlucks a-plenty. If you're like me and you look forward to seeing these classic Peanut Butter Blossoms on cookies trays, this is the perfect recipe for you!

originally written December 2009
These have always been a favorite cookie of mine, but for some reason (probably the cost of those blasted delicious Hershey kisses) I've never made them myself. My mom asked if I could make a bunch of cookies for her to have around for the holidays and when she mentioned these little buggers I knew this was my chance. I think they turned out beautifully. Thanks to Michelle and her mom at Brown Eyed Baker for the recipe!



Peanut Butter Blossoms Recipe
(Source: BrownEyedBaker's Mom)
Makes about 4 dozen

48 Hershey’s kisses, unwrapped
1/2 cup shortening
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 egg
2 Tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
Sugar, for rolling

Preheat oven to 375. Remove wrappers from chocolates.

Beat shortening and peanut butter in a large bowl until well blended. Add 1/3 cup sugar and brown sugar; beat until fluffy. Add egg, milk and vanilla; beat well. Stir together flour, baking soda and salt; gradually beat into peanut butter mixture.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls (Michelle used a small cookie scoop from Pampered Chef and got exactly 48 cookies. I used a 1.5 Tbsp scoop and got just over 2 dozen.) Roll in sugar; place on ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned. Immediately press a chocolate kiss into the center of each cookie; cookie will crack around edges. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Sweet Potato Casserole Recipe


originally posted November 2010

I remember eating this casserole as a child and thinking the only good part was the marshmallows. Now, as an adult, I wanted to stay away from the marshmallow version of the casserole. You know, cause it's the "mature" thing to do. But I'm so glad I didn't listen to my inner adult. This dish rocks. The crispy, toasted, sweet marshmallows are the perfect topper to this nutrient rich root vegetable mash. Yum!

Sweet Potato Casserole Recipe

Recipe adapted from
Serves 8

3 pounds sweet potatoes (about 8), peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1/2 cup whole milk
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups mini marshmallows or chopped regular marshmallows


Note: This can be made up to one day in advance and refrigerated. If you do this, do not add the mini marshmallows until you are ready to bake the dish.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Place sweet potatoes in a large saucepan, and cover with cold water by 1 inch. Bring to a rolling boil, then turn the heat down to low. Simmer until potatoes are cooked through (they should be fork tender – this will probably take 10-15 minutes). Drain off the water and return potatoes to the pan. Add milk, butter, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Mash until creamy.

Transfer sweet-potato mixture into a 2-quart baking dish. (At this point, if you want to make it ahead you can refrigerate it for up to 1 day. If you’re refrigerating it overnight, take it out of the fridge at least 30 minutes prior to baking.)

Top casserole with marshmallows. Bake at 375F until the center is warmed through and marshmallows are lightly browned, 15 to 20 minutes.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Crescent Rolls Recipe


Thanksgiving was a relaxed occasion for us this year. We weren't eating until 5pm, so we took our good old time getting around to baking. Thanks to the extra time, I decided to try my hand at homemade crescent rolls. I love me some Pillsbury rolls from the cans that scare the crap out of me when they POP, but there is nothing like homemade bread. I like that you can control the amount of butter and sugar by making your own rolls. And this recipe really isn't that challenging. There are a lot of steps, but I promise--You can handle it!  



Crescent Rolls Recipe
recipe adapted from Tasty Kitchen
Makes 16 rolls


1 Tbsp dry active yeast
1/4 cups warm water
1/4 cups butter
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cups sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1-1/2 whole beaten eggs
2-1/4  cups flour,  Up To 1/2 Cup More If Necessary


Dissolve yeast into 1/2 cup warm water (110-115 degrees). Set aside and allow yeast to activate.

Heat butter and milk until butter is melted. Allow to cool.

Add sugar, salt, eggs, and yeast mixture to the milk mixture.

In a stand mixer, combine 2-1/4 cups of flour and the milk mixture. Mix until smooth and mixture begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl. If mixture is to sticky, slowly add up to 1/2 cup of flour while the mixer is running. The dough should be slightly sticky, but workable. Remember, a soft dough makes a light roll.

Cover the mixer bowl, and allow to rise until double, approximately an hour.

Divide dough into 2 equal pieces and form into balls.

Turn first ball onto a large floured board or clean counter. Using a rolling pin, dusted with flour, roll out ball into a 16″ to 17″ disk. (optional--at this point, you can spread butter across the dough before rolling. Yum.)

Cut like a pizza into 16 pieces. (Cut it into quarters, and the quarters into half, and then half again. This keeps the size of the rolls even.) Each piece of dough now looks like a long triangle. Taking hold of each end of the bottom of the triangle, stretch the dough gently and roll up to the point.

Place each roll onto a cookie sheet, curving it into a crescent shape. Make sure to tuck the end under the bottom of the roll (otherwise it will pop up and burn). 

Allow to rise for about an hour. 
Preheat oven to 400 degrees and bake for 10 minutes or until lightly golden.
Brush the tops of the hot rolls with butter. Best served warm.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Fresh Cranberry Sauce Recipe


That jellied cranberry sauce from a can has always weirded me out. I might take a bite or two just to be polite, but that was it. My life has been changed by this fresh cranberry sauce, though! SO easy, perfectly tart, and the best compliment to those turkey dinners and hot panini sandwiches. I'm never going back. It is easy and fun to learn to cook  with fresh ingredients, and the taste will knock the pants off pre-packaged and processed meals.  

Fresh Cranberry Sauce Recipe
recipe adapted from Ocean Spray
Serves 6-10

1/2-1 cup sugar (depending on taste and tartness)
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup orange juice

1-12 oz bag fresh cranberries, rinsed

In a 2 quart sauce pan, combine sugar, water and orange juice and bring to a boil. Add in cranberries. Maintain a slow boil, stirring frequently. Cook approximately 15 minutes or until desired consistency is reached. Serve warm or refrigerate and serve chilled. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Baking Powder Biscuits Recipe


It was Sunday morning. There was a potluck brunch after the early service and I had nothing prepared yet. Oops! Quick, Mel, think fast. What could I make in less than 30 minutes? Fresh biscuits, of course! This was the first time I had used this biscuit recipe, but it was so fast and easy I hope to return to it again and again. 

These biscuits are perfect moist and peel-apart flaky. They are great served fresh from the oven, topped with butter or honey or your favorite jam. I'd love to do a sausage gravy and biscuits breakfast with these sometime as well! Yum!


Baking Powder Biscuits Recipe
from Betty Crocker Cookbook
Makes 12 biscuits

2 cups flour
1 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup shortening
3/4 cup milk

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

In medium bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut in shortening with pastry blender 9or by pulling 2 table knives through ingredients in opposite directions), until mixture looks like fine crumbs. Stir in milk until dough leaves side of bowl (dough will be soft and sticky).

Place dough on lightly floured surface. Knead lightly 10 times. Roll or pat 1/2 inch thick. Cut with flour 2 to 2-1/4 inch round cutter. Place on ungreased cookie sheet about 1 inch apart for crusty sides or touching for soft sides.

Baking 9-11 minutes or until golden brown. Immediately remove from cookie sheet. Serve walrm.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Cranberry Bread Recipe


I was a fresh cranberry newbie. I don't know what it was about these beautiful berries, but I had kept my distance. After receiving a baking order for cranberry bread, I thought it was about time to start incorporating cranberries into my holiday baking. I bought 3 bags of berries--so don't be surprised if there is a surprising number of cranberry-ful recipes in the near future!   

Cranberry Bread Recipe
Makes 1 - 9x5 loaf

2 cups flour
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1 egg, beaten
3/4 cup milk
3 Tbsp vegetable oil
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups fresh cranberries
raw sugar


Grease a 9- by 5-inch loaf pan. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Meanwhile combine egg, milk and oil in a small bowl. Beat in sugars. Add dry mixture to the wet ingredients and combine thoroughly. Gently stir in cranberries. Pour batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle with raw sugar. Bake until golden brown and a cake tester comes clean, about 55 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes in the pan. Run a knife around pan to loosen bread. Turn onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Puffy Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe


Ever since I saw this recipe tweeted about a few days ago, I have been dreaming about these cookies. I don't know what it is that made my brain incapable of forgetting about these images, but I just couldn't get past it. I'm so glad I finally gave in to my cravings. You should have seen (and heard) my husband and I as we took our first bites of these thick and chewy peanut butter cookies. 


Perfection in cookie form. Everything I love all wrapped up into four heavenly bites. 


Puffy Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies Recipe
adapted from
Makes 2-1/2 dozen cookies

2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
8 Tbsp butter, melted and cooled
6 Tbsp creamy peanut butter, melted and cooled
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg + 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Add butter and peanut butter to a microwave safe bowl, and heat in 30 second increments until melted. Let cool completely.

Mix the flour and baking soda in a bowl and set aside. 

In another bowl, mix the cooled butter/peanut butter and sugars until they are combined. Add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla and stir until mixed. Gradually add flour and mix until a dough forms – it may look crumbly at first, but it will come together. Stir in chocolate chips.

Scoop dough into large tablespoonfuls and roll. Place on a baking sheet two inches apart and bake for 10-12 minutes or until the edges are slightly brown. The centers should be soft and puffy. Do not over bake. Let cool completely then dig in!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Spicy Barbecue Skillet Chicken Recipe


It just so happened to be a Friday night when we didn't want pizza. I know, I can't believe those Fridays even exist. (I think it probably had a lot to do with the fact that I didn't plan ahead for the pizza dough and defrosting the frozen mozzarella, but let's not split hairs.) I had no idea what to make for dinner, despite my freezer and pantry full of food items. 

Suddenly, I had a desire for chicken and potatoes. Sounded plain and simple. But as I started defrosting the chicken this brilliant combination of spicy and sweet barbecue sauce occurred to me. PERFECT! Kevin and I loved this meal. It was fast and easy to prepare, and will have you to the table with 20 minutes. 

Spicy Barbecue Skillet Chicken Recipe
Serves 2

2--4 oz boneless skinless chicken breasts (or 4-6 chicken tenderloins)
2 Tbsp ketchup
2 Tbsp barbecue sauce
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp Sriracha hot sauce 
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp chili powder

Heat a large skillet to medium heat on the stove top.
Pound out chicken breasts to even thicknesses. 

In a small bowl, stir together remaining ingredients. Using a pastry brush, brush both sides of each piece of chicken with the barbecue sauce. Once the skillet is preheated, add chicken to pan and cook 5-7 minutes on each side, or until insides are no longer pink. 

Serve alongside skillet potatoes and steamed broccoli. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Spinach, Pepper, and Onion Omelet Recipe


Omelets are perfect for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. They are totally versatile and customizable to your flavor preferences. They can include any variety of meat--ham, sausage, bacon--or vegetables--peppers, onions, spinach. I love this about omelets. 

This particular omelet is most certainly nutritious--loaded with protein and filled with fresh veggie nutrients. I omitted cheese and meat to keep calories low. 

Whether you're feeding your family or you're home alone, this is the perfect meal option. 

Spinach, Pepper, and Onion Omelet Recipe 
serves 1

2 large eggs
1 Tbsp milk
4 strips green pepper, chopped
2 Tbsp chopped red onion
1 cup fresh baby spinach, finely chopped 
1 garlic clove, minced

Heat a large skillet to medium heat. Spray with non-stick cooking spray. 

In a medium bowl, beat eggs until foamy. Beat in milk. Stir in vegetables and garlic. Check to be sure the pan is preheated by sprinkling with water. If the water sizzles, you're good to go. Pour the egg mixture into the pan, rocking the pan around to distribute eggs evenly. Cover with the skillet's lid or tin foil. Cook 3-5 minutes. Now, you have 2 options. Once the majority of the omelet is set, you can 1) flip the omelet over to finish cooking the other side or 2) lift an edge of the omelet and tilt the skillet to allow any remain liquid egg to run to the underside of the omelet. Cover with the lid or foil once again and cook until egg is no longer runny. Remove to your plate. Eat. 

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Sugar Free Cinnamon Applesauce Recipe


You may have seen the other applesauce recipes I've posted in the past. Those are all delicious, but this one takes the cake because it has the fewest ingredients and absolutely no sugar. It's fast and easy, and amazingly delicious--especially during apple season.

Sugar Free Cinnamon Applesauce Recipe
Makes about 7 cups 

10-12 medium apples (Ida Red are perfect
2 tsp cinnamon
2 cups water

Peel and core apples. Cut into quarters (or smaller for a faster cooking time.) Add to a 5 or 6 quart pot and stir in cinnamon and water. Turn burner to high and bring to a boil. Stir and reduce heat to medium. Stirring occasionally, cook 5-10 minutes. Begin breaking apart apples with a potato masher or spoon. Reduce heat to low and simmer for another 10-20 minutes, stirring now and again, continuing to break down apples. (Secret tip--Using a wire whisk will result in a smoother sauce. Love it.) Cook until your desired consistency is reached.   

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Chicken Imperial Recipe


This is one of those recipes that I can't believe I haven't posted. It is one of my favorite recipes my mom used to make. It was the first dish Kevin and I cooked together, on our first Valentine's day together, just three months into our dating relationship. It's fast, it's easy. It's so incredibly moist and flavorful. I can't imagine anyone not loving this chicken. 

And yet, it's been a few years since I made it for the two of us. I was so thankful to be reminded of this recipe when a friend was asking for good ideas for chicken. I hope you try it and love it as much I have all these years.

Chicken Imperial Recipe
recipe passed on from my mom and Mrs. S 
Serves 2 (easily multiplied)

2 - 4 oz boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
2 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp parsley flakes 
1 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a small baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. 

In a small bowl, stir together bread crumbs, Parmesan, parsley, garlic, salt and pepper. 
In a second small bowl, beat egg. 

Working in assembly line fashion, coat each chicken breast with egg, then dip into bread crumbs being sure to cover on all sides. Place in baking dish. 

Bake for 40 minutes, until juices run clear and no pink remains. Serve alongside baked potato and your favorite steamed vegetable.  

and yes...we served ours with Blue (purple) Potatoes! Fun!


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Whole Oven Roasted Turkey Recipe [The Best Turkey EVER]

photo taken November 27, 2011

Originally posted November 29, 2010.

Unfortunately, I have no photos of the perfectly roasted turkey. We were all a bit too eager to dig into it, to stop and think about photography. I snagged one snapshot of the platter of poultry, but that's as good as it gets. 

But seriously, I have never heard so many people oooh and ahhhh over turkey ever before. I have eaten a lot of turkey in my day and I have to be honest---it was THE BEST turkey I have ever eaten. The flavor was perfect. It was so tender. And I didn't know a turkey could be that moist. Melt in your mouth, people. 

Don't be afraid of the turkey. Conquer it. You'll be glad you did. 

Whole Oven Roasted Turkey Recipe 
serves 6-10 people 

13-15lb frozen turkey (defrosted in the refrigerator one week in advance)
1/4 cup softened butter
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp Italian seasonings 
2 whole onions 

These directions are specifically for a frozen turkey, as that's what I worked with and had enormous success with at Thanksgiving. I investigated brining (salt water) recipes, but they were all for fresh turkeys. Most frozen turkeys have been injected with a sodium solution for preserving it, meaning no need to soak in salt water. :) 

Defrost your packaged frozen turkey in the refrigerator one week prior to your dinner. The night before your event, remove the turkey from plastic packaging and pull out the bags of innards. (You may discard these.) Prepare your roasting pan (or 9x13 inch pan) by placing a roasting rack in it. Rinse your turkey under running water. Dry off thoroughly with paper towels and place in the roasting pan, breast side up. 

In a small bowl combine the dry seasonings. 

Using your hands, spread the softened butter over every surface of the turkey--and if you want it to be extra good, rub the butter underneath the layer of skin covering the breast meat. Then, using your hands again, pat the spice mixture onto the buttered turkey. Be sure to get the underside and the crevices around the legs and wings. 

Peel the onions and chop into half. Place onions inside the turkey. 

Cover with tinfoil and refrigerate. 

One hour prior to baking time, remove the turkey from the fridge to bring to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Bake time is 10 minutes per pound. (I had a 13 pound turkey, so it baked from 10:45am to 1pm.) THEN increase oven temperature to 375. Melt a few tablespoons of butter and brush over the surface of the turkey. Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh near the joint. Bake another 30 minutes or until temperature has risen to 170. (Note: if, at any point during baking time, skin is getting closer to over-browning, drape loosely with foil.) 

Once the turkey has reached 170 degrees remove from the oven and tent with foil, allowing it to rest for 30 minutes before carving (this will redistribute juices and make it melt-in-your-mouth delicious.) 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcake Recipe


Once again I sought out Annie's awesome cupcake collection for Kevin's birthday dessert inspiration. After giving him 5 or 6 to choose from, he immediately chose these pumpkin spice latte cupcakes. I was excited to try them! I had all of the ingredients on hand except the heavy whipping cream. About the whipped cream--1) it is so worth it to whip your own cream for these! and 2) I really don't enjoy making frosting so I was totally stoked about the simplicity of the whipped topping. 

Kevin brought enough cupcakes to his seminary class for everyone to enjoy one. They were a HUGE hit. (I even heard of someone eating three of them. wow. That's impressive.) 

Perfect for the fall holidays and birthdays or just because I love you and I love pumpkin spice latte days


Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcake Recipe
recipe from
Yield: about 2 dozen cupcakes

For the cupcakes:
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
3 Tbsp espresso powder (or extra finely ground coffee)
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp grated nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp salt
1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin puree
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup canola or vegetable oil
4 large eggs
1/2 cup coffee or espresso, for brushing

For the whipped cream:
2-1/2 cups heavy cream, chilled
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar

For garnish:
Ground cinnamon
Caramel sauce

To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350°F.  Line cupcake pans with paper liners.  In a medium bowl, combine the flour, espresso powder, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt.  Stir together and set aside.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, blend together the pumpkin, granulated sugar, brown sugar and oil. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  With the mixture on low speed, add the flour mixture in two additions, mixing just until incorporated.

Fill the cupcake liners about three-quarters full.  Bake until the cupcakes are golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 18-20 minutes.  Transfer the pans to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes, then remove the cupcakes from the pans.  While the cupcakes are still warm, brush them two or three times with the coffee or espresso, allowing the first coat to soak in before repeating.  Let cool completely.

To make the frosting, place the heavy cream in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Whip on medium-low speed at first, gradually increasing to high speed.  Blend in the confectioners’ sugar gradually.  Whip until stiff peaks form, being careful not to over-beat.  Use a pastry bag fitted with a decorative tip to frost the cooled cupcakes.  Sprinkle with ground cinnamon and drizzle with caramel sauce.  Store in an airtight container and refrigerate.

Friday, November 18, 2011

How to {Pie Crust}

It's my favorite season of all--pie season! Ok, so maybe that's not an official season, but Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations usher in pies of every kind--pumpkin, apple, pecan. Pie, glorious, pie! 

A few weeks ago, a friend from college gave me a call and wanted a bit of pie crust advice as she was baking up my Apple Pie with Streusal Topping. It occurred to me that I had a large whole in my pie recipes--the step by step pie crust directions. The pie crust is what keeps many people intimidated by pies. I consider pies one of my specialty and certainly one of my favorite forms of dessert. Everyone always raves about my pie crusts, so I am excited to equip of all you with the confidence you need to make awesome pies this holiday season! 

First of all, check out my Never Fail Pie Crust recipe. It seriously lives up to its name. 

Now, pull out your flour, the rolling pin your grandma passed on to you, and the completed pie dough. Roll up your sleeves, and let's get started!

1) Dust your working space or (clean!) counter top with flour. You'll want your hands and rolling pin lightly dusted as well. 


2) If you made the full Never Fail Pie Crust Recipe, you'll want to divide the dough into four equal parts (the recipe makes 4 single-crust pies or 2 double-crust pies.) Form each dough ball into a round flat-ish disc. (see how scientific I am about this?! flat-ish.)


see?! everything (even the dough ball) is lightly dusted. You don't want too much extra flour or the dough will start falling apart. The perfect amount of flour, however, will keep the dough from sticking and tearing.


3) Gently begin to roll out the dough, working your rolling pin at every different angle to achieve a mostly-round pie crust. Don't be too freaked out if some of the edges begin cracking. You should have a wide enough circle to get rid of any mistakes. Roll out the dough to a 1/4 inch thickness.


4) Then comes the tricky part--the board to pie plate transfer. It's a risky move, but you can handle it, I promise! (and don't beat yourself up if it falls apart a time or two. It's good to have a few mistakes along the way to help you perfect your technique.)

There are two methods for transferring your pie crust. First, you can gently fold your crust in half, then in half again. (this is the way store bought crusts come.) Then, just pick up the little pie triangle and transfer it to your pie pan and unfold.

The second method that I prefer is the rolling pin transfer. It takes a bit more gentleness, but it keep those fold marks from occurring (more important in top-crusts than bottom-crust, of course.)

Lay your rolling pin at the edge of your crust and gently fold the crust over the rolling pin, peeling it slowly off of the rolling surface.


You can either roll the crust around itself OR just hang the crust over the rolling pin like this--


5) Once the transfer is complete, gently press the crust into the edges of your pie plate.




6) Now, work around the edge of the crust and remove the additional crust pieces (Save these for later--you can either bake them with a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar for a tasty snack OR make a small/mini pie crust out of the leftover crust pieces.) You should still have enough crust to cover the lip/edge of your pie plate and enough to flute.


7) Now for the fluting! (If you're doing a two-crust pie, return to step 1 with your top crust and flute once both crusts are in place.) Don't take this too seriously--just have fun! You can simply use a fork and press it into the edges of your crust or you can have some fun and give fluting a try.

I am 99% sure I don't flute the "right" way--but it works for me.

I fold the "rough" edges underneath and then use my though to press a small section of dough in between my index and middle fingers. Like so:


Work all the way around the pie.

flute, flute flute.


8) and VOILA! You'r done! Now fill your crust with your recipe of choice, bake and enjoy! (I don't bake my crusts before filling unless the recipe instructs otherwise.)


10) Now, this particular pie crust was an extra so I decided to freeze it. Very simple, and very awesome to find an already made crust when you want a last-minute pie. Simple cover the pie crust with aluminum foil and freeze. (For not much more than a couple months.)


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Strawberry Banana Apple Smoothie Recipe (no sugar added)


For an insanely healthy afternoon snack, a speedy breakfast, or even a tasty dessert, this frozen fruit combination is the perfect solution. 

Strawberry Banana Apple Smoothie Recipe (no sugar added)
Serves 2 to 4

1 whole frozen banana
2 cups frozen strawberries
1-2 cups apple juice 

In a powerful blender or food processor, combine all ingredients until smooth. Serve immediately. 


Monday, November 14, 2011

Caramel Peanut-Topped Brownie Cake Recipe


Talk about an indulgent birthday dessert! I always know where to look when I want a sweet treat that will WOW our guests--Annie's Eats. I mean, the girl is amazing! Most of the wish-list birthday desserts I've wanted to make are from her list of cakes. Yum!

This particular dessert was for an early-birthday celebration for Kevin & his brother Brian when his family came to visit us at the beginning of October. There were 7 in our family plus the 6 in the Pastor's family that we invited to join us--and there were still 2 pieces of cake leftover. I served the brownie cake with homemade vanilla ice cream--the perfect compliment.


Caramel Peanut-Topped Brownie Cake Recipe
recipe adapted from
Serves 14-16

For the brownie cake:
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
8 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
5 oz. bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 large eggs
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
3 Tbsp light corn syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

For the topping:
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1-1/2 Tbsp light corn syrup
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup honey roasted peanuts

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350° F.  Butter an 8-inch springform pan, dust the inside with flour, tap out the excess and line the bottom of the pan with a piece of parchment paper.  Place the springform pan on a baking sheet.

To make the cake, combine the flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl; whisk together and set aside.  Add the butter and chocolate to a heatproof bowl set over simmering water.  Heat, stirring occasionally, until the ingredients are just melted – do not let them get so hot that the butter separates.  Remove the bowl from the heat and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugars until well blended.  Whisk in the corn syrup, followed by the vanilla.  Add in the melted butter and chocolate mixture, and whisk until combined.  Gently whisk in the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are just incorporated.  The batter should be thick, smooth and shiny.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan and jiggle the pan a bit to even out the batter.

Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a thin knife inserted in the center comes out almost clean.  Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 15 minutes, then run a thin knife between the cake and the pan and carefully remove the sides of the springform.  The cake may have puffed up during baking, but don’t be concerned if it develops a crater in the center while cooling.  Allow to cool to room temperature.  When the cake is totally cool, invert it, remove the base of the pan and peel off the parchment paper.  Turn the cake right side up onto a serving platter.

To make the topping, combine the sugar, water and corn syrup in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, stirring just to combine the ingredients.  Place the pan over medium-high heat.  Heat, without stirring, until the caramel turns deep amber, 5 to 10 minutes depending on the size of your saucepan and the intensity of the heat.  As the sugar is caramelizing, wipe down any splatters on the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water.  To test the color of the caramel, drop a bit onto a white plate.  Don’t be timid about the color – if it’s too pale, it won’t have much flavor.

Lower the heat a bit and, standing back from the saucepan, add the cream and butter.  When the spatters are less vehement, stir to calm down the caramel and dissolve any lumps.  Stir in the peanuts and pour the caramel and peanuts into a 1-quart Pyrex measuring cup or a heatproof bowl.

You will have more caramel than you need, but you want to get all of the peanuts onto the cake, so spoon all of the peanuts out of the hot caramel and onto the top of the cake.   Pour or spoon enough caramel to cover all the nuts, drizzling a bit over the edges of the cake for presentation.  Allow the topping to set at room temperature, about 20 minutes, before serving.  Keep the leftover caramel at room temperature and save for another use.


Saturday, November 12, 2011

Butternut Squash Pancakes


I really am lucky that I married Kevin. There aren't a whole lot of guys out there who would be ok with (and even excited about) breakfast when I announced these "butternut squash pancakes." But my husband is a trooper and he dove in fork first. We both really enjoyed these pancakes. 

The butternut squash puree is so similar to pumpkin with a bit more sweetness, that no sugar is needed! With an abundance of butternut squash in the "cellar" and leftover puree in the fridge I thought these pancakes would be the perfect addition to a Friday morning brunch. I'm so glad I was right. ;) 

Note: I recommend making these pancakes after using squash puree for another recipe such as this pie or butternut squash soup. 

Butternut Squash Pancakes
recipe adapted from Tasty Kitchen
serves 4

2 cups flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ginger
1-1/2 cups non fat milk (I used Soy Milk)
1/2 cup butternut squash puree*
1 whole egg
1-1/2 Tbsp canola oil

to make the butternut squash puree: 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash butternut squash and place on a plate. Microwave 2 minutes or until just soft enough to run a knife through. Cut squash in half lengthwise. Place cut side down on a baking sheet and add a small amount of water. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until fork tender. Remove from oven and let cool completely--1 hour.

Scrap out the seeds of the squash and discard. Using a spoon, scoop out the flesh of the squash, getting as close to the skin as possible without breaking through. Spoon into a food processor. Process until pureed and smooth. (I didn't need to add water, but you can if the squash isn't moving in the food processor.) 

to make pancakes:
In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients and whisk to combine. In a small bowl whisk together the milk, pumpkin, eggs and oil. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir just until combined, being careful not to over-mix. The batter will be thick! Ladle batter in desired portions over a hot nonstick pan or griddle and flip when bubbles begin to break on the tops. Cook another few couple of minutes and remove from griddle.

Serve with butter, syrup and an extra sprinkle of cinnamon!