Saturday, December 26, 2015

Breaking From Tradition: Part 2

With our crazy schedules, my mom made a Christmas brunch for people to partake of as they came and went on Christmas day morning.


Kielbasa and Hash Brown Egg Casserole


1 package (14 oz) cooked Polska kielbasa
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 teaspoons chopped garlic
2 cups packed fresh baby spinach, coarsely chopped
6 cups frozen shredded hash browns, thawed (from 30-oz package)
2 cups shredded Colby-Monterey Jack cheese blend (8 oz)
10 eggs
2 cups milk
3 tablespoons country Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup sliced green onion
Prepared horseradish


Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray 3-quart oval or 13x9-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Slice Polska kielbasa in half lengthwise, then in 1/2-inch slices.

In 10-inch nonstick skillet, cook Polska kielbasa over medium-high heat 3 to 5 minutes or until browned; remove from skillet. Reduce heat to medium. In same skillet, cook onion and garlic 3 to 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until slightly softened. Add spinach to skillet; cook about 1 minute or until starting to wilt.

Layer half of the hash browns in baking dish. Add 1 1/2 cups of the cheese, the Polska kielbasa, spinach mixture, and remaining hash browns. In large bowl, beat eggs, and milk with whisk; beat in mustard, salt, and pepper. Pour over hash browns; top with remaining 1/2 cup cheese.

Bake 50-55 minutes or until golden brown and center is just set. Let stand 15 minutes; top with sliced green onions before serving. Serve with horseradish.

Source: Betty Crocker. You can find it here.


Grandma's Peach French Toast


1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 tablespoons water
1 (29 ounce) can sliced peaches, drained
12 (3/ inch thick) slices day-old French bread
5 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 pinch ground cinnamon, or to taste


In a saucepan, stir together the brown sugar, butter, and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, and simmer for a 10 minutes, stirring requently.

Pour the brown sugar mixture into a 9x13 inch baking dish, and tilt the dish to cover the entire bottom. Place peaches in a layer over the sugar coating, then top with the slices of French bread. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and vanilla. Slowly pour over the bread slices to coat evenly. Sprinkle cinnamon over the top. Cover and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.

Remove the dish from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before baking to come to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the bread is golden. Spoon out portions to serve.

Source:, submitted by SUDEMERS. You can find it here.

Notes: Oh, this was good stuff. Besides, I'm always a fan of canned or frozen fruit in recipes like this because it kind of kills me to use fresh fruit in a recipe that is just going to be cooked anyway.


Overnight French Toast


2 tablespoons corn syrup
1/2 cup butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 (1 pound) loaf French bread, sliced
5 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt


Combine the corn syrup, butter, and brown sugar in a small saucepan and simmer until the sugar has melted. Pour this mixture over the bottom of a greased 9x13 inch casserole dish. 

Place the bread slices over the sugar-butter mixture in the dish. In a bowl, beat together the eggs, milk, vanilla, and salt; pour this mixture over the bread. Cover the dish and let it stand in the refrigerator overnight.

The next morning, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Uncover the pan and bake for 45 minutes. Serve while hot or warm or French toast will harden in the pan. It can be reheated.

Source:, submitted by BOBSROAD. You can find it here.

Notes: BOBSROAD wasn't just whistling Dixie. This stuff really does harden in the pan if you don't consume it the point of making it really difficult to get out of the pan! However, it's super delicious and if you can eat it fast enough, it is worth it.

Breaking From Tradition: Part 1

This Christmas, people were pretty busy and had a lot of family visits to make. As a result, my mom changed up her Christmas dinner. Rather than doing a traditional turkey dinner, she had some turkey and ham on hand as well as these very non-traditional, but tasty, sides.


Couscous Salad with Cucumber, Red Onion and Herbs


1 cup couscous
1 1/4 cups boiling water
1 cup loosely packed cilantro, finely chopped
1 cup loosely packed Italian parsley, finely chopped
1/2 English cucumber, cut lengthwise and very thinly sliced
1/2 red onion, cut in half and cut extremely thin
1 lemon, zested and juiced, about 3 tablespoons
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon honey or agave syrup, warmed
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
3 ounces feta cheese, optional
Salt and pepper, to taste


Put the couscous in a large bowl and pour the boiling water over it. Cover with a lid or a plate and set aside for 5 minutes. Then remove the lid and fluff with a fork.

Toss the finely chopped herbs with the couscous, as well as the sliced cucumber, onion, and lemon zest.

Whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, honey, chili powder, and cumin, then toss this dressing with the couscous. Stir in the pine nuts. Crumble the feta and stir that in as well. Taste and season generously with salt and pepper.

Serve immediately, or refrigerate until ready to serve. Store leftovers in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Source: The Kitchn. You can find it here.

Notes: This was a nice and bright change of pace in the midst of winter.


Spaghetti Salad


1 pound thin spaghetti, broken into 3-4" pieces
3 Roma tomatoes, diced
1 medium zucchini, diced
1 medium yellow zucchini squash, diced
1 green pepper, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 red onion, diced
1 cucumber, diced
2 (2.25 oz) cans sliced olives, drained
 8 oz cheddar cheese, cut into small cubes


1 (16 oz) bottle Italian dressing
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder


1 teaspoon Salad Supreme or Johnny's Seasoning, optional


Cook spaghetti according to package directions, then rinse in cold water and drain. Set aside and let cool. 

Place tomatoes, zucchini, squash, peppers, onion, cucumber, olives, and cheese in a large bowl. Add cooled spaghetti noodles and mix well.

In a small bowl, mix together dressing, Parmesan cheese, paprika, and garlic powder. Pour on top of the spaghetti and vegetables and mix until completely combined. Sprinkle the top with Salad Supreme.

Let sit in the fridge for at least 2 hours before serving (this salad gets better with time, as the flavors meld together).

Source: Six Sisters' Stuff. You can find it here.

Notes: We broke our spaghetti into shorter pieces, but the longer pieces would work better for this pasta salad. Be sure to check the Six Sisters site to see their picture so you can see what I mean.

Cold Noodle Salad with Creamy Peanut Sauce


6 cups low-sodium beef, chicken, or vegetable stock.
1 tablespoon kosher salt
12 ounces Chinese wheat noodles or other flat-style noodles
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
Red pepper flakes, to taste (optional)
1-2 bell peppers, cut into thin slices, divided
1/2 cup roughly chopped peanuts, divided
Cilantro leaves and lime wedges, for garnish


In a large pot, bring the stock and salt to a boil. Add the noodles and cook until al dente, according to package directions. Reserve two cups of the cooking broth before straining. Run the noodles under cold water and shake to remove excess liquid before returning them to the empty pot.

In another bowl, combine the peanut butter, soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, and 1/4 cup hot cooking broth and whisk vigorously until mixed. (It will be quite thick.) Toss the peanut sauce with the noodles until coated. Stir in additional hot cooking broth--a few splashes at a time--until the dish is smooth and creamy. (You will probably not need all of the reserved broth.) Taste and season with red pepper, additional soy sauce, and rice vinegar, if desired.

Fold in 2/3 of the bell peppers and 1/4 cup peanuts. Transfer noodles to serving dish and garnish with remaining peppers and peanuts. Garnish with cilantro leaves and lime wedges. This can be served warm, cold, or at room temperature.

Recipe Notes: You can use a combination of stock and water, if desired.  A mixture of green, yellow, and orange bell peppers work great. However, you could also use carrots, cucumbers, and green onions equally well.

Source: The Kitchn. You can find it here.

Notes: I thought I had taken a picture of this, but it appears that if I did, I no longer have it. So be sure to check out The Kitchn site to see those pictures.

An Old Family Christmas Tradition


We used to make this dessert most Christmases and sometimes we would make it on the holidays. It just has that holiday feeling to it and brings back good memories. It's tasty stuff to boot! Oh, and while the name of the recipe may say otherwise, this is no salad.

Pretzel Layered Salad


2 cups pretzels, crushed
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup melted butter
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
12 oz. Cool Whip
6 oz. raspberry Jell-O
3 cups boiling water
8 1/4 oz. crushed pineapple, well drained
1 pkg. frozen raspberries, unthawed


Mix pretzels, sugar, and butter. Press into 9x13 pan. Bake 400 degrees F. for 5 minutes. Cool. Mix cream cheese, sugar, and Cool Whip. Fold in pineapple. Spread mixture on crust. Dissolve Jell-O in boiling water. Add frozen berries. Let set until syrupy. Pour over cream cheese mix. Refrigerate until set.

Source: Who knows? I've seen this just about everywhere. So many people have some version or another of this recipe. Most recipes use frozen strawberries and strawberry Jell-O, but we prefer raspberries in this recipe.

Notes: This is just so good. It is best the very first day. It's still good the second day, but after that, the pretzel crust starts to get soggy and it goes downhill fast...but it's good while it lasts!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Gifts for the Neighbors


This year, I didn't have much time on my hands to go crazy with cookie plates or homemade fudge or candy. However, this recipe was an old favorite of mine and I felt that it would be a quick and easy alternative.

Sweet and Salty Corn Puffs


1 cup sugar
1/2 pound butter (2 sticks, or 1 cup)
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon corn syrup
8 ounces corn puffs


Stir first four ingredients together in a saucepan and heat on high heat until mixture reaches 250 degrees.

Meanwhile, pour corn puffs into a large bowl. When the butter/sugar mixture reaches 250 degrees, pour mixture over corn puffs and stir to coat. Spread onto waxed paper to cool.

Source: My mom got this recipe from her friend, Karrie. I found a very similar recipe online here.

Notes: This sweet and salty mixture is so addicting. It is also really quick to make. So, if you need to make neighbor gifts in a hurry, this is the recipe you're looking for.

Above: This is a 3 1/2 ounce bag. It's not a small bag, but those little corn puffs are light! 

Above: Here are two bags poured into my big metal bowl.

Above: For my first batch, I used two 3 1/2 oz. bags, but if you wanted more candy coating on them, you could do one batch of the sugar/butter mixture for each 3 1/2 oz. bag of corn puffs. I tried it both ways, and it is totally up to you depending on how much sugar/butter coating you want on the corn puffs. All in all, if I remember correctly, I used six 3 1/2 ounce bags and ended up with about 12 neighbor treat bags.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Perfect Christmas Cookies


I wanted to make soooo many kinds of cookies this Christmas, but I didn't because I'm still trying to lose weight from my last pregnancy. Maybe next year. I did get the opportunity to make these (actually, a few weeks after Christmas, but I'm posting it here because it makes more sense). These are so good. They are almost like little tarts. The cookie dough is more like a cream cheese based pie dough. The only sweetness comes from the apricot jam and the powdered sugar sprinkled on top, but they are just right.


Apricot Kolaches


8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, sifted; plus more for rolling
1 jar (12 oz.) good-quality apricot preserves (about 3/4 cup)
1 large egg, beaten
Confectioner's sugar, for dusting


Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat cream cheese and butter on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. With mixer on low, gradually mix in flour until a smooth dough forms. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and gently form a ball. Divide the dough into thirds, wrap each in plastic wrap and flatten into squares. Refrigerate at least 4 hours.

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line 3 cookie sheets with parchment paper. Remove 1 piece of dough from the refrigerator and roll it out on a lightly floured surface into 1n 1/8-inch thick rectangle. Using a sharp knife or pizza cutter, trim the rough edges of the dough so the sides are straight, and then cut into 2-inch squares. Spoon about 1/2 teaspoon of the preserves onto the center of each square. Fold one corner into the center, dab with the beaten egg, and then bring the opposite corner into the center and pinch firmly together to seal the corners. With a thin spatula, transfer the cookie to the prepared cookie sheet. Repeat the process with the remaining dough.

Bake one sheet at a time until golden and very lightly browned and puffed, 10-12 minutes. Transfer to a rack to col completely and then dust with confectioner's sugar. Store in an airtight container.

Recipe Notes: Prep time: 45 minutes, Bake time: 10-12 minutes, Total time: 57 minutes, plus 4 hours refrigeration time, Makes: about 4 dozen.

Source: I had seen nearly identical recipes in a bunch of my cookie cookbooks, but the one I ended up using was from the Holiday 2015 Smith's MyMagazine mailer. I can't seem to find it online. This recipe was submitted by a shopper called Craig L. and it is a recipe that his mother, Rose, used to make.

Notes: I might try this without refrigerating the dough next time. After refrigeration, the dough was almost impossible for me to roll out, so I let it come back to room temperature before rolling and it worked out fine. These were really delicious. They would make a very pretty addition to any holiday cookie plate. Good stuff!

Above: Fresh out of the oven and before sprinkling with powdered sugar. Be sure to pinch the corners shut really well when you apply the beaten egg, otherwise the sides will flip open during baking (see the very top row?). Sadly, I had to eat the "ugly" cookies since they weren't pretty enough to present to anyone. ;)


Above: Separate each layer of cookies with a sheet of waxed paper (parchment paper would work too) when storing or transporting.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Not the Healthiest Side, but One of the Tastiest


Yeah, this isn't a light side dish, but it sure is delicious! Serve it when you are in the mood to splurge.

Cream Corn Like No Other


2 (10 ounce) packages frozen corn kernels, thawed
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese


In a skillet or pot over medium heat, combine the corn, cream, salt, sugar, pepper, and butter. Whisk together the milk and flour, and stir into the corn mixture. Cook, stirring over medium heat until the mixture is thickened, and corn is cooked through. Remove from heat, and stir in the Parmesan cheese until melted. Serve hot.

Source:, submitted by Diana Yockey. You can find it here.

Notes: Five stars and over 1,000 reviews says it all. This is good stuff.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Who Doesn't Love Meat and Potatoes?


When you think of Sunday dinner--especially in the winter--it's pretty easy for roast and mashed potatoes and gravy to come to mind. Here's one of our favorite and easiest versions. Oh, and if you don't have time to make mashed potatoes, maybe you should make them in a slow cooker. Check out that recipe below too.

Spade L Roast Beef


1 beef roast (2-4 lbs)
Spade L Ranch Beef Seasoning
1/2 cup of water

Side dish suggestion: Serve with mashed potatoes. Use the roast drippings to make a gravy to pour over the roast and mashed potatoes.


Place meat in slow cooker. Rub Spade L Ranch Beef Seasoning onto the roast, according to your taste. The more you use, the spicier your roast and gravy will be. Cover, and cook on low for 8-10 hours.

Source: I don't know. This is a recipe that my Mom has been making for years.

Notes: If you would like to use the roast drippings to make gravy, simply use 1-3 packaged beef gravy mixes and substitute the water called for on the package with the beef drippings. If you don't have enough drippings, supplement with water to get the amount of liquid called for on the gravy packet. This makes some spicy and tasty gravy!

I usually find Spade L Ranch Seasonings easily in the grocery store (I usually shop at Smith's). But if you can't find it, check out their website here.

Slow Cooker Mashed Potatoes


2 pounds red potatoes, cut into 2-inch pieces (peeled or unpeeled, your preference)
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup milk
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper


Put potatoes into your slow cooker. Cover and cook for 2-3 hours on high or 5-6 hours on low.

Add sour cream, milk, garlic, salt, and pepper. Use a hand mixer to blend together all ingredients (but be careful not to over mix). Or you can smash the potatoes for a chunkier texture. Season with additional salt and pepper, if necessary.

Serve plain, or with any favorite toppings such as gravy, or cheese and bacon.

Source: Creme De La Crumb. You can find it here.

Notes: These are really easy and such a time saver. My personal suggestion is that most slow cookers will take longer than 2-3 hours on high to fully cook your potatoes to the point where they are soft enough to mash. I would suggest cooking these potatoes on low for 6-8 hours and adding in a little liquid (for instance, one can of chicken broth) to keep them from drying out or becoming rubbery.

We served ours as smashed potatoes rather than mashing them until they were smooth.


Above: Of course, you can top these however you like! Top them with gravy, or with shredded cheese and huge pieces of bacon!

Friday, December 11, 2015

It's Getting Thick Real Quick


Above: Look at how thick that is! This smoothie really holds up under pressure.

So, my husband LOVES The Fast and the so much. However, "It's getting thick real quick" is a quote from one of the many Fast and Furious movies that we like to quote a lot. Here's a thick smoothie that will keep you full for breakfast.

Above: This is a great on-the-go breakfast. 

Strawberry-Orange Smoothie


2 cups orange juice
1 pkg. (16 oz) frozen whole strawberries
1 pkg. (3.4 oz) Jell-O Vanilla Flavor Instant Pudding


Blend ingredients in blender until smooth.

Serve immediately.

Recipe variations:

Strawberry-Orange Sherbet: Prepare as directed; freeze until firm. Scoop into dessert dishes to serve.

Creamy: For a creamier smoothie, substitute milk for the orange juice. (I tried this, and personally, it wasn't my favorite combination. Without the orange juice, the pudding has a different aftertaste in the smoothie)

Not as thick: If you don't like things so thick, change it from a three ingredient recipe to a two ingredient recipe and omit the pudding. Frozen strawberries simply mixed with some orange juice makes for a super tasty breakfast too!

Source: Kraft. You can find it here.

Notes: The pudding really thickened this smoothie up nicely. In fact, it thickened it to the point of being spoon worthy. I would suggest adding additional orange juice in order to be able to drink it through a straw! I loved the flavor of the strawberries and orange juice together. I also loved simply blending strawberries and orange juice. I haven't tried the sherbet variation yet, but it would be delicious!

Above: Two ingredient smoothie version. Honestly, this was my favorite. Omit the pudding and just blend frozen strawberries and orange juice together. 

It's Got a Kick!


This is a meal with a kick to it. It was too spicy for my boys, but my husband and I liked it a lot.

Peppery Chicken with Potatoes


1 pound red potatoes (about 6 medium), cut into wedges
1 large onion, chopped
2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 broiler/fryer chicken (3 1/2 to 4 pounds)


Place potatoes and onion in a 6-qt. slow cooker. In a small bowl, mix seasonings. Tuck wings under chicken; tie drumsticks together. Rub seasoning mixture over outside and inside of chicken. Place chicken over vegetables.

Cook, covered, on low 5-6 hours or until a thermometer inserted in thickest part of thigh reads 170-175 degrees F. Remove chicken from slow cooker; tent with foil. Let stand 15 minutes before carving.

Transfer vegetables to platter; keep warm. If desired, skim fat and thicken cooking juices for gravy. Serve with chicken.

Yield: 4 servings.

Source: Taste of Home. You can find it here.

Notes: As I said, this was pretty spicy. Not for little kids. I used a packet of chicken gravy mix and replaced the water called for on the gravy mix for the cooking juices.

Above: Not spicy enough for you? Sprinkle some more salt and pepper on top before serving!

They Won't Turn This Down


My boys can be picky eaters, but (so far) this is one of those dinners that they eat every time I make it. In fact, the first time I made it, I didn't think they would even try it...and the whole thing got gobbled up and they asked for I made it again about a week later. I always double this recipe now! I am going to share the recipe with my changes and a link to the original recipe. I increase the bacon and double most of the rest of the ingredients.

Baked Tortellini with Bacon


1 pkg. sliced bacon (12 or 16 oz pkg., depending on how much bacon you want)
1 medium yellow or white onion, diced medium or 2 tbsp. dried minced onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
Coarse salt and ground pepper, to taste
3 tbsp. all-purpose flour
4 cups whole milk
2 (19 oz) packages frozen cheese tortellini
1 cup grated Parmesan


Cook tortellini according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

Cook bacon. (I like to cook my bacon in the oven at about 400 degrees F for 15-20 minutes, or until crispy. Or you can slice the bacon beforehand and cook over medium heat in a pan on the stove top until brown and crisp, about 10 minutes, stirring frequently.) Drain bacon on paper towels, reserving bacon fat.

Saute onion and garlic in 2-3 tablespoons of the reserved bacon fat in a pan over medium heat and season generously with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft, about 8 minutes. Add flour and cook, stirring, 30 seconds.

Slowly add milk, whisking constantly. Bring to a boil over medium-high, stirring occasionally. Reduce to a simmer; cook, stirring often, until liquid has thickened, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in tortellini, half the bacon, and 1/2 cup Parmesan. Transfer to a broiler-proof baking dish and top with remaining bacon followed by 1/2 cup Parmesan. Broil until cheese is melted and top is lightly browned, 1-3 minutes.

Source: Martha Stewart. You can find it here.

Notes: As mentioned before, I made some changes. I increased the bacon because my boys love it. Four strips of bacon in the original recipe was not nearly enough. The first time I made this, I used dried minced onion because I had just used my last fresh onion the day before. The dried minced onion gives it such a punch of flavor. I wouldn't use more than 2 tbsp. though because that stuff is really potent! A little goes a long way. I have made this with fresh diced onion too...and I almost preferred the dried minced onion. The dried minced onion makes this dish so flavorful. It works great both ways, but the dried minced onion is just so easy. However, what I like best is a combination of one fresh diced onion and a sprinkle, to taste, of the dried minced onion. I simply doubled everything else.

Above: Here's the first batch I made. Delicious, but not enough! 

Above: Here's a nice doubled big batch of tortellini. Enough for my boys to have all they want and still have leftovers the next day.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Other White Meat


Pork tenderloin is hard to screw up...but pork chops? They are pretty easy to mess up. They can get tough and overcooked so easily...but not if you cook them in a slow cooker!

Slow Cooker Pizza Pork Chops


6 pork loin chops, 1 inch thick (about 2 1/4 pounds)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped (1/2 cup)
2 cups tomato pasta sauce
4 cups cooked orzo pasta
1 cup (4 oz) shredded mozzarella cheese


Remove excess fat from pork. Sprinkle pork with salt and pepper. In 12-inch skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add pork, cook about 5 minutes, turning once until brown.

Place pork in 3 1/2 to 4 quart slow cooker. Sprinkle onion over pork. Add pasta sauce.

Cover. Cook on low heat setting for 4-6 hours. Place orzo on platter. Top with pork and sauce. Sprinkle with cheese.

Nutrition information: 510 calories per serving.

Source: Betty Crocker website. You can find it here.

Notes: This is just such a nice, easy dinner. It makes a great weeknight meal.



Yes, this one has also been posted before, but it is such a great pantry dinner, and it is so quick and easy to throw together that I wanted to share it again.

Laurie's Lemon Linguine with Chicken



8 ounces uncooked linguine
3 tbsp butter
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp lemon pepper
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded


4 boneless, skinless, chicken breasts
1 tbsp canola oil
1 can cream of chicken soup
1/4 cup fat free milk
2 tsp lemon juice
1/8 tsp pepper
4 lemon slices



In medium saucepan, cook linguine in boiling water for 8-10 minutes. In a measuring cup with a spout, combine melted butter, lemon juice, basil, garlic, and lemon pepper. Drain linguine and return to the pot. Add the butter mixture. Add Parmesan and toss until well coated.


Cook chicken in oil until browned. Meanwhile, in small saucepan, combine soup, milk, lemon juice, and pepper. Heat through. Serve over chicken. Top with slices of lemon and serve with linguine.

Source: I got this from my sister, Laurie. But I don't know where she got it.

Notes: You can also pour the sauce over the chicken while it is in the saute pan and cook the chicken in the sauce for a few minutes to incorporate the flavors prior to serving.

One of the Best Soups Ever


This is an old favorite. Every time I have it, I think to myself, "This is soooo good! Why don't I have it more often?" We originally posted it here, but it just needed to be posted again.


Chicken Tortilla Soup


2-3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into cubes
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 tsp. fresh, chopped garlic
2 tbsp. butter or olive oil
2 cans chicken broth
1 small can tomato sauce
1 pkg. taco seasoning
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 can stewed tomatoes
1 can Mexican-style stewed tomatoes
1 pkg. frozen corn
1 small bunch fresh cilantro, chopped


Saute chicken breasts in butter until done. Add onion and garlic and saute a bit longer. Add chicken broth, tomato sauce, stewed tomatoes, Mexican-style stewed tomatoes, taco seasoning, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. Simmer for 1 hour. Add cilantro and corn and cook a bit longer (just until corn is warmed). Serve with toppings of choice.

Suggested toppings:

Shredded cheddar and/or Monterey Jack cheese
Tortilla chips or baked corn tortilla strips (see notes below)
Sour cream
Additional cilantro
Cubed avocado

Source: I got this from my Mom, but I'm not sure where she got it from. I believe it was from a church activity.

Notes: I usually double this because it makes great leftovers. Tortilla chips are nice because they taste great and they are very easy. However, I think with this particular tortilla soup, I like the taste of baked corn tortilla strips. To do this, use kitchen shears to cut corn tortillas into strips. Toss tortilla strips in a plastic zip top bag with enough vegetable oil to lightly coat the tortilla strips. Or, you can spray the tortilla strips with cooking spray for a lighter version. Then, place tortilla strips on a foil lined baking sheet in a single layer. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 10-20 minutes, until lightly browned and crispy.

Also, I like to use kitchen shears to roughly chop the stewed tomatoes (I usually chop them with the shears right in the can before pouring them into the soup). I chop the tomato slices into quarters. Otherwise, you get some really large tomato pieces in your soup. But if you like your soup really chunky, keep the tomatoes whole.

Not Just for the Holidays


Despite the name of these dessert bars, these are wonderful at any time of the year.

Holiday Fruit Bars



2 pouches (1 lb. 1.5 oz each) Betty Crocker sugar cookie mix
2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 eggs


1 can (21 oz) cherry pie filling (any flavor of pie may be substituted)


1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon milk
1/4 teaspoon almond extract


Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray bottom and sides of 13x9-inch pan with cooking spray.

In large bowl, stir base ingredients until soft dough forms. Press half of dough in bottom of pan.

Spread pie filling over dough. Drop remaining dough by teaspoonfuls over filling.

Bake 45-50 minutes or until golden brown. Cool 10 minutes.

In small bowl, stir glaze ingredients until smooth. If necessary, add additional milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, until thin enough to drizzle. Drizzle glaze over warm bars. For bars, cut into 6 rows by 4 rows. Store covered at room temperature.

Source: Betty Crocker. You can find it here.

Notes: Holy cow, these were so good. My mom made these and brought them to a family gathering. As my mom does, she provided lots of options. She made cherry bars, mixed berry bars, blueberry bars, and lemon bars. For the lemon bars, she substituted the almond extract for vanilla extract. These are also really easy to make.

Above: Cherry.


Above: Lemon.


Above: Mixed berry. 

Above: Blueberry.

The possibilities are endless! I mean, how many flavors of pie filling are out there? Cherry, Lemon, Mixed Berry, Blueberry, Raspberry, Peach, Apple...yum!

Thanks, Neighbor!


One of the fun things about recipes is sharing them with others and having others share them with you. My son had a play date with one of the children from his preschool, and we were invited over for lunch. My neighbor shared this wonderful sweet potato soup with me. I made it shortly afterward myself and it really makes such a nice, comforting lunch. I think you will like it too.

Curried Sweet Potato Soup


1 red onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, mimnced
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 lb. sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped (7-8 cups, or about 2 medium-sized sweet potatoes)
1 lb. butternut squash, peeled and chopped (7-8 cups, or one medium-sized butternut squash)
6 cups chicken stock
2 tsp. curry powder
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1-2 tsp. salt, to taste
1 tsp. lemon juice
Plain yogurt or sour cream
Chopped cilantro for garnish


In a large pot over medium high heat, saute onion, garlic, and celery in olive oil until soft, about 5 minutes. Add sweet potatoes, squash, broth, curry powder, turmeric, and salt and bring to a boil. Simmer until sweet potatoes and squash are tender, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat, cool slightly, and in batches, transfer to a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Stir in lemon juice and serve topped with yogurt or sour cream and cilantro.

Source: This came from my wonderful neighbor, Janis Gilbert.

Notes: This is such a good soup. A nice healthy option to have around for lunch. It freezes well too. Oh, and the more cilantro, the better! Don't skip the cilantro! It enhances the flavor so nicely.

It's Different Living Up On a Mountain


My sister-in-law has the most fantastic sugar cookie recipe that we have nicknamed "Cugar Shookies" (because my mom kept mispronouncing it one particular day). We originally posted it here. However, I live up on a mountain and whenever I make these cookies, they come out of the oven fluffy and puffy...and then they deflate. Darn altitude!

This recipe, on the other hand, works up here on my mountain. It is also a fantastic sugar cookie recipe which was originally shared on the same post as the Cugar Shookies. I'm sharing it again here because it is officially the only kind of cookies I have made this Christmas. I'm trying to lose my baby weight and having all sorts of Christmas cookies lying around won't help me in that endeavor.

Besides, we've had a lot of holiday fun this Christmas just decorating these sugar cookies with all sorts of fun sprinkles and candies. This recipe makes a LOT of cookies, so you will have plenty for your own family as well as plenty to give to others.

Karrie's Sugar Cookies


2 cups sugar
2 cups butter or margarine, softened
6 eggs
2 tsp vanilla (or almond flavoring)
1 pinch salt
7 cups flour
3 tsp baking powder


Cream sugar and butter. Add eggs and vanilla. Add flour mixed with baking powder and salt. Roll out the sugar cookie dough and cut out cookies.

Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Do not overbake (in fact, you don't even want these cookies to start to brown).

Source: My Mom's friend, Karrie. When we got the recipe from her, she called them "John's Sugar Cookies." I don't know who John is, but he knows how to make a good sugar cookie.

Notes: Who doesn't love sugar cookies? These are awesome.

Sugar Cookie Frosting


4 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup shortening
5 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or you can substitute almond extract)
Food coloring, optional


In a large bowl, cream together the confectioners' sugar and shortening until smooth. Gradually mix in the milk and vanilla with an electric mixer until smooth and stiff, about 5 minutes. Color with food coloring, if desired.

Source:, submitted by Kathy Brandt. You can find it here 

Notes: I like my frosting to be creamy, smooth, and easily spreadable, so depending on the consistency, I sometimes add a little more than 5 tablespoons milk. I start with 5 tablespoons and add additional milk, if necessary, a tablespoon at a time until I reach the consistency I want. This is my go-to sugar cookie frosting recipe. It's perfect.