July 4th

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Make these...your kids will thank you!!

My kids love Pop Tarts.  Love them.  Will can eat them anytime, day or night! I found this recipe while Stumbling (if you don't Stumble you are missing out) one morning before anyone was up.  I was quite skeptical but decided to whip them up.  Will was in love! He just looked at my computer and said, "You HAVE to make those again! Please! Right NOW!" He is still begging! 

They are so easy and versatile.  I made cherry, grape, strawberry and even chocolate! We had a blast making and decorating them.  Give them a try! I promise you will love them!


Refrigerated or homemade pie crust (I always use the Pillsbury rolled crust, its easy to work with and I always have it on hand)
Jam, Preserves or chocolate chips (any flavor)
Glaze (see recipe below)
Sparkling sugar, sprinkles or other edible decorations


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Unroll one of the pie crusts and square the edges. Cut into rectangles. Place 1 tsp of jam in the center of a rectangle and top with another piece of crust. Crimp all four edges. Repeat until all of the pie crust is used.

Bake the pop-tarts for about 7 – 8 minutes or until slightly brown. Once cool, pour glaze over and decorate with sugar.


1 Cup powdered sugar, sifted

Place powdered sugar in a mixing bowl and whisk in enough milk to make a very thick syrup like consistency. 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Puppy Love!

I love my dog.  She is always with me.  She is like my little furry shadow.  Even when she is hogging the bed and making me sleep curled up in a knot, I love her.  I like to reward her with the best food and treats I can find.

Recently I discovered that some of the ingredients we feed our beloved pets are far from nutritious, and are actually harmful.  Living an hour away from our favorite pet food store, Give A Dog A Bone, I went on a search for homemade dog treats for my girl.  I found so many interesting recipes and ideas.  Ava loves being a taste tester! These little treats were a huge hit with her. I always have the ingredients on hand so these are quick and easy for me to throw together.  You can add extra pumpkin or peanut butter.  Add extra spice, or leave it out completely.  These recipes are very versatile and can be changed up to suit your pups preference.  It is important to use the whole wheat flour and organic (or natural) peanut butter.  

Whole wheat flour is a great, nutrient dense, natural food. Whole wheat contains Vitamin B and Vitamin E, both of which help promote a health immune system and heart. Selenium, potassium, and Zinc are also in this flour, making it a great nutritional resource!

Natural peanut butter and peanuts are a wonder of nature- for both people and our pets! There are many health benefits offered from the nut, whether in whole form or as peanut butter. Just a few of the great benefits included are: A healthy, shiny coat - created from the omega fatty-acids and Vitamin A and E found in the peanut oil. And a more healthy immune system, supported by the naturally occurring Vitamin E in the peanut butter.

Canned pumpkin (in its pure form, with no added sugar or spices) is an excellent source of Vitamin A, potassium, and fiber. The nutrients found in pumpkin help to keep a dog's immune system strong, thereby strengthening resistance to cancer and other disease.  Pumpkin puree can help remedy both constipation and diarrhea, making it a useful tool for dogs with digestive issues.

Cinnamon is a natural anti-inflammatory, which helps with painful joints and arthritis; as well as improving circulation (healthy heart), digestion, and calms upset stomachs. Cinnamon is also a great natural food preservative, which helps keep your dogs' treats fresh longer!

You can add fresh, chopped parsley or a touch of mint oil to help fend off that dreaded dragon breath too! 

Try these little treats and I promise you you pooch will thank you!!

Peanut Butter Pumpkin Treats

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup 100% pure pumpkin
1 cup old fashioned oats
1/4 cup natural smooth peanut butter
1/4 cup water
2 Tablespoons canola oil
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon, allspice or a combo of the both


Preheat the oven to 325°F.  Lightly grease a baking sheet with baking spray.  

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, oats, baking powder and spice(s).

In a medium sized mixing bowl, stir the oil, pumpkin and peanut butter together until smooth.

Make a well in the flour and pour in the peanut butter mixture.  Mix on low speed to combine the wet and dry ingredients.

Slowly pour in the water and mix together on a medium speed until the ingredients are thoroughly combined.

Turn the dough onto a floured surface and kneed for approximately one minute until its no longer sticky.

Roll out the dough to ¼ inch thickness and cut into shapes with your favorite cookie cutter.  I always re-roll the leftover dough once to get a few more treats!

Bake for 12 minutes, then turn the oven off and leave the cookies in the oven for 30 minutes.

Leave cookies on the baking sheet for 10 minutes then remove and cool on a wire rack.

Store in an airtight container once completely cooled for up to 2 weeks.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Soups on!!

Soup.  There is nothing better on a dreary winter night.  The smell that fills the house while it bubbles away on the stove.  The steam rising from the bowl as you sit down to eat.  The warm, filling feeling you get after eating it.  My family loves soup.  We have gone so far as to do a whole "thirty days of soup", we ate nothing but homemade soups! I worried we would get tired of eating soup, that I would get sick of making soup or that I would not be able to find 30 different recipes.  I was so wrong! It was so much fun and we discovered some new and tasty favorites!  Here is one of those favorites! I hope you enjoy it as much as my family does!

Italian Sausage Tortellini Soup

1 20 oz. package link sweet Italian sausage,
casings removed
1 cup chopped onions
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 cups beef stock
1/3 cup water
1/2 cup red wine
4 tomatoes - peeled, seeded and
chopped (I use canned tomatoes in the winter)
1 cup chopped carrots
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 cup tomato sauce
2 small zucchini, chopped
8 ounces cheese and spinach tortellini
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
Grated Parmesan cheese for topping
Place the sausage in a large pot over medium high heat and saute until well browned. Drain the fat except for about 1 tablespoon, add the onions and garlic and saute for 10 more minutes.  Next add the beef stock, water, wine, tomatoes, carrots, basil, oregano and tomato sauce. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes, skimming any fat that may surface.  Add the zucchini, tortellini, green bell pepper and parsley to taste. Simmer for 10 minutes, or until tortellini is fully cooked. Pour into individual bowls and garnish with the cheese.   


Friday, January 21, 2011

That house...

This. Drives. Me. Crazy.  If I had my way my house would be spotless at all times.  I like order.  I like things to smell nice.  When I go to get something I like to know exactly where it is.  But...I live in a frat house.  Full of men (I was told in a not so nice way that I wasn't allowed to call them boys).  Messy, stinky men who seem to attract other messy, stinky men to our house.  It seems that the combination of teenage/ pre-teenage boys (add the occasional gaggle of girls too) and a house in the middle of town equals constant mess and craziness.  I run around picking up shoes, hats, clothing, cleaning up mud and messes.  I go through a ton of snack food and drinks, but never seem to have a Diet Mt. Dew when I am really craving one.  With that said...I wouldn't change a single thing.  I love being that house.  The house where any kid who comes here, they don't seem to want to leave.  I love to listen and watch them act like silly little kids.  There have been times when I go to bed with just one "extra" here and wake up with 6.  I've had parents tell me that they wouldn't put up with all the kids running in and out of their house...personally, since I've been accused more than once of being a "helicopter" parent, I would rather clean up a little mud and a few crumbs than to worry myself sick not knowing where my sons are or what they may be doing.  So for now, I'll keep loving cooking for the small army of frat boys that come through my doors!!

Tonight I'm making them Cheeseburger Sliders, mac and cheese and fries.  Nothing fancy...just like they like it!! Truthfully, I enjoy an easy throw together meal every once in a while too!! More time to enjoy these boys...they will be grown and gone far too fast!

Adapted from Big Red Kitchen

Ground chuck (80/20) 2 pounds for a 9 x 13 pan, 2-1/2 pounds for a 10 x 15 pan
Dried, minced onion
Seasoning salt
Sliced cheese
Sliced dill pickles
Dinner rolls (We like the Sara Lee Mini Sandwich Rolls)

Sprinkle dried minced onion on the bottom of a 9 x 13 or 10 x 15 pan.  Use as much as you like.

Press ground chuck into pan, on top of onions until it completely covers the bottom.  Use two pounds of ground chuck if you are using a 9 x 13 pan or 2-1/2 pounds of ground chuck if you are using a 10 x 15 pan.  Sprinkle the meat with seasoning salt.

Place in a 400 degree oven for 25 minutes.  (Make sure you use an 80/20 mixture of ground beef, otherwise your burgers will be dry.)

The meat will shrink in the oven.  After 25 minutes remove and cover with six slices of cheese.  Place meat back in the oven for two minutes until the cheese is melted.

With a pizza cutter or a knife, slice the meat into as many square pieces as you have rolls.

Place the meat in between the bun with some of the onion and pop on a few dill pickles.  You are ready to serve.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Love Biaggi's Focaccia Bread??

My boys could eat pounds of bread from Biaggi's! It is almost embarrassing when we go there to eat because these two, underweight kids keep asking the wait staff for another basket of bread.  I honestly think they would inflict bodily harm upon one another for the last piece! We have, on more than one occasion, had a waitress sneak extra focaccia and olive oil in our to go box!! We live an hour away from the closest Biaggi's so I made it my mission to find a "copycat" recipe so that I could make this tasty treat at home.  I finally came across this recipe and it is spot on!! Serve it with the Biaggi's butter made of  high quality olive oil, grated Parmesan cheese and cracked black pepper.  


Courtesy Nathan Lane, chef at Biaggi's

Start to finish – 2 hours (including proofing)
Serves 10 to 12 people

Red onions, small dice 1/2 cup + 3tbsp
Whole milk 3/4 cup
Olive oil 1 tbsp
Kosher salt 2 tsp
Whipped mashed potatoes 1 1/4 cup
Fresh yeast 1 tbsp + 1 tsp
Warm water, 105 degrees 1/2 cup
Olive oil 1 tbsp + 1 tsp
Unbleached flour 3 cups

Equipment needed: Kitchen mixer with dough hook attachment, mixing bowl, sheet tray (13 x 18 inches), whisk, parchment paper, small sauce pot (6 quart), thermometer

Cut onions to small dice and place into 6-quart sauce pot with milk, oil, salt, and mashed potatoes. Turn on low heat, and warm to 100 °F (exactly).

When the mixture is heated, place the fresh yeast, warm water (105 °F exactly), and oil into a large mixing bowl and whisk until yeast dissolves.

Next, combine the flour, heated mixture, and dissolved yeast and place in the kitchen mixer bowl. Mix on low speed using the dough hook for 1 minute to incorporate the flour. Once incorporated, mix on medium for 2 minutes until a ball has formed. (Note: Check dough for consistency; you may have to add more water or flour depending on the temperature and humidity in the kitchen.)

Remove dough hook attachment and allow bread to proof until it has doubled in size. Remove dough from mixer and place on a pre-oiled sheet tray and spread it out evenly by lightly pressing down on the dough. Top the focaccia with a light coating of oil and the topping of your choice (salt, onions, fresh herbs, tomatoes, etc.).

Let the dough rest for the second proofing, allowing the bread to rise 1 inch (approximately 1 hour).

Lastly, bake in an oven at 350 °F for 10 minutes, rotate bread to ensure even cooking, and continue baking for an additional 10 minutes until golden brown or as needed by your oven. Let rest for 5 minutes, cut, and enjoy.

Rigatoni Pie

If you are looking for something fun and tasty to serve for dinner look no further! This impressive pasta pie is easy to put together and your family will be so impressed when you serve it.  I also made a wedge salad with homemade blue cheese dressing.  So good!! Hope your family enjoys this as much as mine did!

Rigatoni Pie

1 pound rigatoni
2 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 pound ground beef
(I used ground chuck)
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 can (28 ounces) good quality crushed tomatoes (I use San Marzano tomatoes.  If you can't find them just add a pinch of sugar to the canned tomatoes)
Butter, for pan
1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
8 ounces coarsely grated mozzarella

In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook pasta until slightly underdone.  When done, rinse in cold water and drain again.  Toss pasta with 1 Tablespoon olive oil to coat.  Set aside.

Heat remaining 1 Tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add ground beef.  Cook, stirring occasionally until browned.  Add garlic, 1 teaspoon salt and pepper.  Cook 2 minutes more.

Add crushed tomatoes; simmer until thickened, about 20 minutes.

Toss pasta with Parmesan cheese.  Butter a 9-inch springform pan.  Tightly pack pasta into pan, standing each piece on end.  Spread meat sauce on top of pasta.

Push the meat sauce into the pasta holes filling each one up.  The easiest way I found to do this is to spoon some meat sauce onto the pasta and using the back of a wooden spoon gently smash it around.  It does take a few minutes to get all the pasta filled but it will be worth it!

Place in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes.  Sprinkle mozzarella cheese on top and bake another 10-15 minutes until cheese is golden.  Remove from oven and let stand for 15 minutes.  Run a knife around the edge to loosen and then unmold. 

Cut into wedges and serve with any remaining meat sauce you might have.

Blue Cheese Dressing Wedge
2/3 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup buttermilk (not lowfat)
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 clove of garlic, crushed
3 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
Kosher or sea salt

Place the sour cream, mayonnaise, buttermilk, lemon juice, crushed garlic in the bowl of a food processor.  Add the blue cheese last.  Pulse until combined, making sure to keep the mixture slightly chunky.  (Alternatively, stir the ingredients in a bowl with a wooden spoon or whisk.)  Season with kosher or sea salt, pulsing or stirring gently to maintain the texture.  The consistency should be thick but pourable.  Stir in more buttermilk if the dressing is too thick.

Spoon the dressing into a bowl and refrigerate for one hour or up to three days.  Remove 30 minutes before serving.

Slice one head of iceberg lettuce into four wedges and dollop dressing over top.  Sprinkle with crispy, fried bacon and freshly ground pepper.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Cupcakes for dinner!!!!

Well sort of!! Every cooking momma (and daddy) is faced with the age old question..."What's for dinner?" I like to let the boys tell me what they are in the mood for, I get tired of fighting with them to eat!! I asked them this morning and they said they wanted cupcakes for dinner!! I told them we had a deal! Cupcakes for dinner! I remembered seeing an actual cupcake made to look like a tv dinner in one of my cake books.  I thought why not make dinner food into a cupcake! This was my creation and it was a hit with the boys and daddy!! I made my meatloaf and pressed it into a foil lined cupcake tin.  I made some creamy mashed potatoes for the icing.  I served them with creamed peas and yeast rolls! 
Meatloaf Cupcakes
  • 2 pounds ground chuck
  • 2 cups bread, torn into small pieces
  • 8ounces shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • ¼ cups tomato sauce
  • ¼ cups ketchup
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
Meatloaf Sauce
  • ½ cups tomato sauce
  • ½ cups ketchup
  • 2 tbsp yellow mustard
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar

Creamy Potatoes
  • 3 pounds potatoes peeled and cubed
  • ½ sticks butter
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoons black pepper
  • ¼ cups sour cream
  • ¼ cups evaporated milk (use more if needed to make potatoes creamy and smooth)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Line cupcake trays with 24 aluminum foil baking cup liners.
Mix ground chuck, bread pieces, cheese, onion, eggs, salt, pepper and tomato sauce.
Fill each cup with meatloaf mixture. Press into aluminum baking cups and fill tops above the liners in a mounded shape simulating the finished cupcake shape since the mixture won’t rise.
Bake for 1hour or until done.
About halfway through baking, mix together ingredients for the sauce and spoon it on the tops of the meatloaf cupcakes.
While meatloaves are baking, prepare potatoes.
Boil peeled and cubed potatoes for 20 minutes or until tender. Drain completely.   Add butter, salt, pepper, sour cream and evaporated milk.  Mix until completley smooth and creamy. 

When meatloaves are done, remove from the oven and cool for a few minutes. Remove the foil liners from the trays. The meat will have shrunk a little and some grease will be in the bottom of the liners so be careful.
Spoon potatoes into a large ziploc bag with the corner cut off and pipe potatoes on top of meatloaves in a swirling motion.
Use leftover sauce when serving if you like.

Creamed Peas

2 cups frozen green peas, thawed
2/3 cup water
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon white sugar
 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

In a medium saucepan, combine peas, water, and salt. Bring to a boil, then stir in butter.

In a small bowl, whisk together cream, flour, and sugar. Stir mixture into peas. Cook over medium-high heat until thick and bubbly, about 5 minutes.  Stir in Parmesan cheese.  Serve hot.

Mmmmm...Comfort food!!

This is one of my favorite winter night recipes! Bill and I are not big fans of chicken pot pie (too many of the icky frozen type from our childhood) but this recipe is so special with the taste and presentation, its a new favorite! It does take a little time to put together but it is so worth it.  Enjoy!!

Chicken Pot Pie

 2005, Ina Garten, All Rights Reserved


  • 3 whole (6 split) chicken breasts, bone-in, skin-on
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil 
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 2 chicken boullion cubes
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 2 cups yellow onions, chopped (2 onions)
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups medium-diced carrots, blanched for 2 minutes
  • 1 (10-ounce) package frozen peas (2 cups)
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen small whole onions
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley leaves

For the pastry:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1/4 pound cold unsalted butter, diced
  • 1/2 to 2/3 cup ice water
  • 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
  • Flaked sea salt and cracked black pepper


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the chicken breasts on a baking sheet and rub them with olive oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, or until cooked through. Set aside until cool enough to handle, then remove the meat from the bones and discard the skin. Cut the chicken into large dice. You will have 4 to 6 cups of cubed chicken.

In a small saucepan, heat the chicken stock and dissolve the bouillon cubes in the stock. In a large pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter and saute the onions over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until translucent. Add the flour and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Add the hot chicken stock to the sauce. Simmer over low heat for 1 more minute, stirring, until thick. Add 2 teaspoons salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and heavy cream. Add the cubed chicken, carrots, peas, onions and parsley. Mix well.

For the pastry, mix the flour, salt, and baking powder in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add the shortening and butter and mix quickly with your fingers until each piece is coated with flour. Pulse 10 times, or until the fat is the size of peas. With the motor running, add the ice water; process only enough to moisten the dough and have it just come together. Dump the dough out onto a floured board and knead quickly into a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic and allow it to rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Divide the filling equally among 4 ovenproof bowls. Divide the dough into quarters and roll each piece into an 8-inch circle. Brush the outside edges of each bowl with the egg wash, then place the dough on top. Trim the circle to 1/2-inch larger than the top of the bowl. Crimp the dough to fold over the side, pressing it to make it stick. Brush the dough with egg wash and make 3 slits in the top. Sprinkle with sea salt and cracked pepper. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 1 hour, or until the top is golden brown and the filling is bubbling hot.