Cheesy Zucchini Rollatini

I saw Valerie Bertinelli make this recipe on the Food Network and I thought I can make this and do a few little twists and turns to make it my own and according to my preferences. So thank you Valerie for the initial idea and know this recipe is my take on the basics of what she made.

Since I do not have a large family I am always looking for ways to scale down recipes in order to make them for two. Just recognize that you can double or triple this recipe according to the number of mouths you need to feed.

I was initially intrigued by how good this recipe looked but was even more pleased with how it tasted. It looks like it would be difficult to do but in actuality it’s really rather simple. All you need is a little patience, and I recognize that may be a challenge for some home cooks. But believe me, in this case, patience is well worth what you will receive in the end.

The original recipe was meatless but I like to put meat in my marinara sauce. I think it adds to the overall flavor. But rest assured, you can easily make this a meatless meal and it will be equally delicious.

So let’s talk cheesy zucchini rollatini…

Lesson Learned 1 – You will need a mandolin slicer for this recipe: In order to get even long strips to roll the filling in, you will need to use a mandolin slicer. When I first saw this on tv I thought it would be hard but it was actually rather simple. Just cut of the ends off the zucchini, set your slicer to cut a 1/8 inch slice, place the zucchini on the mandolin with the palm of your hand on top of the zucchini and move it slowly downwards to create the slice. Chances are the first slice you will need to discard as the bottom of the zucchini will be a little uneven, but beyond that you should get some great slices.

A couple of things to keep in mind: This recipe works better with larger zucchinis. You get larger and longer strips. Also it is very important to take your time during this step. Slowly move the zucchini over the blade with the palm of your hand on top. As you get closer to the top of the zucchini quit cutting and use another zucchini if needed. When I made this recipe I only needed 1 large zucchini but you should plan on two and go from there. I got five nice slices out of a large zucchini which was enough for us. Again I cannot stress enough the need to work slowly and carefully when moving the zucchini through the slicer. It really is an easy process but one you need to do with care.

Lesson Learned 2 – You will need to soften the zucchini slices before filling and rolling them: The zucchini slices will roll more easily if you soften them slightly. You can do this by filling a large skillet with a couple of inches of water and heat the water to simmering. Then put the slices in for a very short period of time (I put them in the water for a minute and a half). Then gently lift them out and place them on a paper lined plate to blot off any excess moisture. You will immediately notice a difference in the texture of the zucchini. It will be softer and much more pliable. Once they cool to the touch you will be able to fill and roll them.

Lesson Learned 3 – Make the cheese mixture first: I found it helpful to have the cheese mixture ready to go once the zucchini slices were ready to stuff and roll. When that process is done you can just keep them on the plate until your marinara sauce is heated and ready for them.

The hardest part, and believe me it isn’t really hard at all, is making the zucchini rolls. The rest is pretty basic but boy does it create one heck of a dish. Try this sometime with some garlic bread and a nice salad and you will have an impressive, delicious meal, one that you will make over and over again.

Cheesy Zucchini Rollatini...

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: Easy
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1 Italian sausage link, casing removed (or about 1/8 pound Italian sausage)

1-2 large zucchinis

1/2 cup ricotta cheese

1/2 tsp. fresh oregano, chopped

1 tsp. fresh basil, chopped

1/2 tsp. lemon zest

1 1/4 cups shredded mozzarella, divided plus some additional for final garnish

1 egg

1-2 cups marinara sauce

Kosher salt

Italian seasoning, to taste

Italian parsley for garnish, optional


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Add about 2 inches of lightly salted water to a large skillet and bring the water to a simmer.

Mix together the ricotta, oregano, basil, lemon zest and 3/4 cup of the mozzarella. Add 1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt. In a small separate bowl, crack open and beat the egg. Add 1 Tbs. of the beaten egg to the cheese mixture. Stir to combine. (You will either have to repurpose or discard the remainder of the egg).

Trim the ends of the zucchini and slice them lengthwise on a mandolin slicer to about 1/8 inch thick. Reserve the larger interior slices and save the rest for other uses.

Place the zucchini slices in batches into the simmering hot water and cook for about 1 1/2 minutes. Remove the slices and place them on a paper lined plate to drain the slices and remove any excess moisture. Continue this process with any remaining slices.

In an eight inch ovenproof skillet (I used a cast iron skillet), cook the Italian sausage until lightly browned. Add the marina and some Italian seasoning and cook until warmed through.

While the sauce is warming lay the dried zucchini slices out on a work surface. Spoon a tablespoon of the cheese mixture on one end of the slice and gently roll up the slice. Place on a plate seam side down. Continue with the remaining slices.

Add the slices into the warm sauce seam side down. Spoon a little marinara sauce over the tops of the slices. Sprinkle some shredded mozzarella on top. Sprinkle some Italian seasoning over the mozzarella.

Cover the skillet with foil and cook for 20 minutes. Remove the skillet from the oven after 20 minutes and set the oven to 400 degrees. Sprinkle some additional mozzarella on top of the slices and place the skillet uncovered back into the oven for an additional 10 minutes.

Remove the skillet from the oven and let it stand for 5 minutes. Serve with a salad and some garlic bread.


Homemade Pizza Bites…

This recipe came out of a kick I’ve been on lately of cleaning out the ingredients in my refrigerator and pantry. It was lunch time and I wanted something different for lunch but not something huge and filling. I started scrounging around and found I had some ingredients for a basic pizza, minus the pizza crust but I had a loaf of take and bake bread.

The wheels in my brain started spinning and I decided to try using the unbaked take and bake bread baguette loaf, cut it into a couple of 1/2 pieces, top it with my pizza toppings and throw it in the toaster oven. I absolutely could not believe how wonderful it turned out, and so I thought I’d share this very, very simple recipe with you.

These bites are great for a light lunch, a snack, or even a meal. For example, for over a year now some friends of mine and I have been playing cards and games every Monday. Each week we take turns hosting. We got into the habit of making lunch before we started our games and as you can well imagine that got my juices flowing as to how I could use these wonderful friends as guinea pigs for recipes for this blog. I let them know that was my intent and they said they were all in. So, last Monday I made these bites along with a side salad and a crudités plate of mozzarella sticks wrapped in salami and blue cheese stuffed olives. The lunch was a hit.

Mozzarella Sticks Wrapped In Salami And Blue Cheese Stuffed Olives

Simple Side Salad

Sausage Pizza Bites

Pesto and Pepperoni Pizza Bites

The most time consuming thing about this meal was assembling the pizza bites. The wrapped mozzarella and stuffed olives were store bought and there’s nothing to putting together a simple salad. And now, since I’ve had these bites both for a snack and a meal I thought maybe I should write about them.

So, with all that being said, let’s talk homemade pizza bites…

Lesson Learned 1 – Use whatever pizza ingredients you may have on hand: I used pesto, pepperoni, sausage, mozzarella slices and shredded mozzarella, grated parmesan, pizza sauce and Italian seasoning. One thing to be aware of, these bites only need 7-10 minutes to cook so if you add sausage it must be precooked. I thought about adding some green pepper but I didn’t this time. I probably will try it at some point, but I know I’ll need to cut the pieces very small so they at least partially cook. I like green pepper with a crunch on my pizza anyway.

Lesson Learned 2 – Forget measurements: You’ll notice this recipe doesn’t have any type of measurements for the ingredients. What you need will depend on how many bites you make and what ingredients you have on hand. I designed this recipe to be a way to use up ingredients you have laying around in your refrigerator or pantry.

Lesson Learned 3 – Use take and bake bread: The key, at least for me, was the take and bake bread. Take and bake bread is designed to be baked for about 10 minutes so it coincides with the overall baking time of the bites. Using this type of bread gave the bites a beautiful crispy crust which, for me, made it more like a Detroit style pizza which I just love.

Lesson Learned 4 – Make sure you bakes the bites on a wire rack: You want to make the bread nice and crispy. Baking them on a wire rack allows the bottom of the bread to cook and crisp up. Make sure you use a foil lined pan underneath the rack to catch any melted cheese that may run off the bread. That way you won’t have an oven mess that’s hard to clean up.

So give this throw together recipe a try. It only takes a few minutes to make a quick lunch. And if you’re making a bigger batch, count on about 20 minutes to prep them all. I know you’ll just love them. I know I do! Let me know what you think…

Homemade Pizza Bites

  • Servings: Varied
  • Difficulty: Easy
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Store bought or homemade pesto

Pepperoni, sliced thin

Mozzarella, slices and shredded

Precooked Italian Sausage

Homemade or Store Bought Pizza Sauce

Unbaked Take And Bake Baguette Bread

Italian Seasoning

Basil Leaves For Garnish, optional


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cut the take and bake bread into 1/2 inch slices cut on the bias. Top with either pesto or pizza sauce (you’ll probably need about a teaspoon for each slice). Put a slice of mozzarella on each piece of bread, pre-cut to size. Place two pieces of pepperoni on top of the bite that has pesto. Place crumbles of pre-cooked sausage on top of the bite that has pizza sauce. (Of course you can switch them around anyway you like, I’m just explaining what I did).

Top each bite with shredded mozzarella. Sprinkle each bite with some Italian seasoning. Add some grated parmesan over the tops of each slice.

Place each bite on a wire rack with a foil lined pan underneath it. Bake in oven or toaster oven for 7-10 minutes. Garnish each with some fresh basil. Enjoy!

Bread Slices With Pesto And Pizza Sauce

Oven Ready Pesto Bite

Oven Ready Sausage Bite

Vegetable Beef Barley Soup…

There is nothing like a good hearty soup during the cold winter months. If you’re looking to make one, this recipe wholeheartedly fits the bill. A hearty soup that mirrors a stew, it’s a great way not only to fill your tummy, but also to use any and all vegetables you may have in your refrigerator.

I am a big fan of soup during wintertime and I’ve found that making them is really quite easy and so much better for you than the canned varieties. This soup is a meal in itself and whether you decide just to serve it on its own or with a salad or some baked crusty bread (I love those take and bake breads you can find in the grocery store) this soup will be a hit with your family and friends.

So let’s talk vegetable beef barley soup…

Lesson Learned 1 – This recipe is not written in stone: I am posting this recipe as a guide. I would follow the basics of the recipe, namely the meat, seasonings, onion, garlic, barley, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, broth and wine but the rest is up to you and what you have available at the time. If you don’t have any potatoes you can still make the soup. Use whatever vegetables you might have. That’s the beauty of this recipe. I normally add mushrooms to just about everything, but since I was serving the soup with a spinach salad that had mushrooms in it I decided to leave the mushrooms out this time. I also had some asparagus spears that I knew I wouldn’t be using in a timely fashion so I cut them up and threw them in.

The only thing you need to remember is certain vegetables may not stand up to the initial longer cooking time. So after I simmered the soup for an hour I added the frozen corn, peas and asparagus and cooked it for an additional ten minutes. That way the asparagus did not get too mushy,

Lesson Learned 2 – For even richer flavor, make it the day before: If you’re like me you’ll want to dive into this soup right away. It looks and smells so luscious it’s hard to resist. But if you let it sit overnight the flavors intensity. So if you can practice some self control you’ll definitely be rewarded. But if not, the soup is still really good.

Lesson Learned 3 – Use tomato paste from a tube: Since this recipe calls for only a couple of tablespoons of tomato paste don’t buy it canned. Stores now sell tomato paste in a tube so when a recipe calls for only a small amount you can squeeze it out of the tube and refrigerate the rest until you need it again. This is a great way to minimize waste.

Lesson Learned 4 – I can’t say it enough: Better than Bouillon bases, be it roast chicken or beef, really enhance the flavor of the soup. Do yourself a favor and pick some up. You’ll definitely notice a difference in the depth of flavor of the broth.

This soup is so easy to make there is not a lot to tips I can give you other than following the basics of the recipe. I know you will love this soup. Give it a try and let me know what you think…

Vegetable Beef Barley Soup...

  • Servings: 10-12
  • Difficulty: Easy
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2 Tbs butter

2 Tbs. vegetable oil

1.5 pounds chuck (or beef stew meat) cut into 1 inch chunks

Salt and Pepper (to taste)

1 large yellow onion, diced

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes

2 Tbs. tomato paste

5 cups low sodium beef broth

2 Tbs. Better Than Bouillon roasted beef base

1 cup dry red wine (I used Merlot)

3 medium red potatoes, peeled or unpeeled (wash the skins thoroughly if unpeeled)

3 stalks of celery

3 medium carrots, cut in chunks or 1 inch rounds

1 cup quick cooking barley

1 cup frozen corn

1 cup frozen peas

10 asparagus spears, cut in chunks (optional)

Fresh parsley, chopped for garnish, optional


Heat butter and oil in a large dutch oven. Salt and pepper the beef cubes and brown on all sides. Remove the meat from the pan and set aside. In the same pan, saute the onion until translucent (you can add a little more oil if needed). Add the garlic and cook for one minute until fragrant. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the wine and deglaze the bottom of the pan, scraping up all the bits at the bottom of the pan. Add the diced tomatoes, broth, better than bouillon and tomato paste. Mix thoroughly to combine.

Add the meat (include any drippings) potatoes, celery, carrots and barley. Bring to a boil then cover and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour until the meat and barley are tender. Taste and add any needed salt or pepper.

Add the frozen corn, peas and asparagus (optional). Cover and cook for an additional 10 minutes. If you have time, let the soup refrigerate over night and warm it up the next day. If not, garnish with parsley, serve and enjoy!




Cider Braised Chicken With Bacon and Apples…

Finally Fall is in the air. I don’t know what it’s been like where you live, but here in Colorado it was unusually hot all summer long with 90 degree days still happening well into September. But now it’s starting to look like the weather is becoming more Fall-like and I couldn’t be happier.

This is my favorite time of year for a variety of reasons – the leaves begin to change into an array of gorgeous colors, the air is crisp and clean, and it’s finally time to think about Fall comfort food, of which this recipe is an absolutely perfect example.

Not only does this recipe scream comfort food but it’s also extremely easy to make. So let’s talk cider braised chicken with bacon and apples…

Lesson Learned 1 – Remove the fatty parts on the chicken thighs: I used boneless skinless chicken thighs in this recipe but even with that you’ll find pieces of fat are still on the meat. Make sure you use a sharp knife and remove, as much as you can, the fatty pieces. If you leave a little bit that’s fine. That will help flavor the sauce.

Lesson Learned 2 – You can choose whether you want to peel your apples or not: I made this recipe with the skins on but you can peel them if you prefer. Some people have a difficult time digesting the skins. The good thing is it doesn’t make any difference whether or not the apples are peeled.

Lesson Learned 3 – Make sure you reduce the sauce by half twice: Once you add the brandy you’ll need to reduce the mixture to half. Then when you add the cider you’ll need to reduce it again by half. This leaves you with a rich, luscious sauce. And if you don’t have apple brandy it’s no big deal. Just add an additional half cup of apple cider instead. Doing it that way will only require you to reduce the liquid once.  You can see by the pictures below that the reduced braising liquid is thicker and the ingredients much more visible.

The non-reduced braising liquid

The reduced braising liquid

Lesson Learned 4 – You don’t have to use a lot of dishes to make this meal: Once the chicken and apples have been cooked just lay them out on a sheet pan, making sure they are separated.  Then when the braising liquid is done put the meat back into the pot first. The apples will be added back a little later. (I recommend using an enamel coated cast iron dutch oven for this recipe). Combine all the ingredients after you simmered the chicken in the sauce for about 5 minutes and you’re basically done. You can also serve this family style in the cast iron dutch oven you used to make everything. That will give serving a nice rustic touch and it’s perfect for a Fall party or family meal. Just make sure you let your family or guests know that the pan will be very hot.

I just love this recipe. It is so flavorful and screams Fall comfort food. Try this one and let me know what you think…

Cider Braised Chicken With Bacon And Apples...

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Easy
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2 Tbs. vegetable oil

1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs

3 Granny Smith apples cored and peeled (peeling is optional)

5 slices of thick cut bacon sliced into 1/4 inch lardons

1 yellow onion diced thick

1 large or 2 small cloves of garlic, minced

1/2 cup apple brandy

2 cups apple cider

2 Tbs. whole grain mustard

1/4 cup heavy whipping cream

1 Tbs. finely chopped sage

Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste


Put the vegetable oil in a large dutch oven that has warmed over medium heat. Pat the chicken dry and generously season with salt and pepper. Add the chicken to the pan and cook until browned on both sides, about 5 minutes on each side. Once you’ve placed the chicken in the pan do not move it until it is ready to flip over. Place the chicken on a sheet pan.

Add the apples to the dutch oven and saute, stirring frequently until just softened and caramelized, about 5-7 minutes. Put the apples on the same sheet pan as the chicken, keeping the two separated

Add the bacon and onions to the pan stirring occasionally until the onions are tender and the bacon fat has rendered, but the bacon is not crisp. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Stir in the brandy and reduce the mixture by half. Stir in the apple cider and scrape the bottom of the dutch oven with a wooden spoon the de-glaze the pan. Bring to a boil and continue to cook until the mixture is reduced by half. Add the chicken into the pan, stir and cover. Simmer for about 5 minutes. Stir in the mustard, cream, sauteed apples and sage. Simmer uncovered for about 10 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.

Serve in the dutch oven but make sure you family or guests know that the dutch oven will be very hot. Or, divide the braised chicken and apples among 4 plates and serve immediately.


Slow Cooker Stuffed Shells…

It never ceases to amaze me what you can do with a slow cooker. Years ago it was just a tool you used to put in some meat, vegetables, some liquid (mainly canned soup) and let it cook for 8 hours or more. And generally that resulted in bland, dried out food. Well not anymore.

The slow cooker has not become a versatile tool for making a wide variety of things. Years ago I would never have thought about cooking pasta in a slow cooker and would never have thought to use the cooker for only three hours. My, how times have changed!

This recipe is insanely delicious. The combination of ricotta, cottage cheese and pesto makes a delightful creamy filling for the shells. And it also is fabulous as leftovers – so minimally you can get more than one dinner out of this recipe.

So let’s talk slow cooker stuffed shells…

Lesson Learned 1 – Cook the shells for one minute less than it says on the box directions: You boil the shells to get them somewhat softer and easier to stuff. There is no need to cook them through because they will still cook for another 3 hours in the slow cooker. So don’t boil them on the stove top for the recommended amount of time. If you do, by the time you’re ready to serve you shells will be mushy.

Lesson Learned 2 – You can add some additional veggies to the cheese mixture: I had some sweet red pepper in my refrigerator and so I decided to dot the top the cheese mixture with some sweet pepper morsels. But you could easily just mix the peppers in with the cheese – just make sure to dice the peppers small. Chopped mushrooms would also work well in the cheese mixture. Or you could slice the mushrooms and mix it with the tomato sauce and just let them cook that way. You could also add frozen spinach to the cheese mixture. Just make sure it is completely thawed and squeeze out all the water from the spinach so the cheese mixture doesn’t get soggy.

Lesson Learned 3 – Don’t precook the sausage all the way through: I suggest you cook the sausage in a skillet and when there still is some pink left in the meat, take the sausage out of the skillet and drain it on paper towels. The sausage will be cooking another 3 hours in the slow cooker so no need to cook it through on the stove top.

Lesson Learned  4 – Make sure you spray your slow cooker crock with cooking spray and line the bottom with a little tomato sauce: That way the shells won’t stick to the crock and clean up will be a breeze.

And that’s it – it’s basically soften the shells, stuff them, place them in the slow cooker and let the slow cooker do all of the work. What more could you ask? Enjoy!

Slow Cooker Stuffed Shells...

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: Easy
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15 large pasta shells, cooked 1 minute less than package directions

1 large jar of tomato sauce

2 links of Italian sausage, skin removed, partially cooked, crumbled, divided

12 ounces whole milk ricotta cheese

6 ounces cottage cheese

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

1/3 cup pesto

1/4 cup sweet pepper, diced small

2 tsp. of Italian seasoning, divided

1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

salt and pepper to taste

olive oil cooking spray

Chopped or sliced mushrooms, optional

Frozen spinach, optional


Cook the pasta shells one minute less than the package instructions. Drain and set aside to cool.

In a skillet, cook the Italian sausage, breaking it up while you cook it, leaving some pink color in the sausage. Do not cook the sausage completely through. Drain the sausage on paper towels and set aside.

In a medium size bowl mix together cheeses, pesto, sweet pepper and 1 tsp of Italian seasoning. Generously stuff each shell with the cheese mixture and set aside. Dot the top of each with pieces of sweet red pepper or combine the red pepper into the cheese mixture before stuffing the shells.

Spray the slow cooker crock with cooking spray. Lightly cover the bottom of the crock with a layer of tomato sauce. Sprinkle half the sausage on top of the sauce. Place the stuffed shells on top of the sausage and sauce. Pour the remaining sauce over the shells and sprinkle the remaining sausage on top of the sauce.

Sprinkle the mozzarella all over the top of the shells meat and sauce. Sprinkle the remaining teaspoon of Italian seasoning over the mozzarella.

Cover and cook for no longer than 3 hours.

NOTE: You can chop mushrooms small and add them to the cheese mixture or you can take mushroom slices and place them in the sauce lining the bottom of the slow cooker and then place the shells on top of them. A small box of frozen spinach can be added to the cheese mixture as well. Make sure it is thawed and all the liquid is squeezed out of it.


Add some meat and sauce to the bottom of the slow cooker…

Add the stuffed shells…

Cover with remaining sauce and meat…

Top with mozzarella and Italian seasoning…

After three hours you have…


Chicken, Carrot and Fried Onion Casserole

I just love casseroles. During the winter months there’s nothing better than having a casserole baking away in the oven. The smells, the hot and bubbly goodness and the combination of flavors is simply comfort food heaven. And, if you know me, you know I also love chicken. So what can be better than a chicken casserole? Well, there is one thing and that’s a chicken casserole topped with fried onions – yummo!

I really do try to balance what I eat and so I’ll warn you up front this recipe has the potential to be an artery clogger. But I also know that the key to good living is moderation so every once in a while you can walk on the wild side with something like this. Plus this recipe is versatile, especially where adding vegetables is concerned. And making this is a good way to get come of those vegetables into your children – they are beautifully masked in the deliciousness of the casserole and fried onions.

So let’s talk chicken, carrot and fried onion casserole

Sauteed Carrots

Lesson Learned 1: I used carrots but you can be creative where the vegetables in this recipe are concerned: My husband prefers eating carrots, butternut squash, acorn squash and cauliflower – that’s why you’ll see me using a lot of them in my recipes. But you can use a variety of vegetables.

I chose fresh baby carrots and chopped them into 1/4 inch coins. You can add them to this recipe as is, but I chose to saute mine in butter before adding them to the other ingredients as my husband likes his carrots soft. The cooking time for this recipe will not achieve soft carrots (they will be crisp tender) so I had to give the carrots a head start. But if you like your carrots crisp tender just add them to the other ingredients and skip the sauteing part. The key is cutting them small enough so they’re not rock hard when the casserole is done baking.

You can also use frozen vegetables. Using frozen carrots or frozen mixed vegetables would work very well with this recipe in the allotted cook time. So do what your family loves or what you want your family to eat.

Shredded Chicken

Lesson Learned 2: This is a great recipe for using precooked chicken: Whether you’re trying to think about how to use some of your leftover cooked chicken, or buying a rotisserie chicken at the grocery store, using precooked chicken makes this recipe a breeze. My grocery store actually sells portions of precooked white meat chicken and I used that a lot in my recipes. You can either cut up the chicken into bite size pieces or shred it like I did. Either way will work.

For a quick and delicious week night meal you can’t beat this recipe. You can even assemble it the night before or before going to work and pop it in the oven when you get home. If you do that, I would recommend taking the casserole out of the refrigerator asap and letting it sit on the counter for about a half an hour before putting it into the oven. That will remove some of the chill. You’ll have a better chance of cooking the casserole in the allotted time if it’s not ice cold when you put it in the oven.

Ready For The Oven

Enjoy this one. It’s a keeper!

Chicken Carrot And Fried Onion Casserole...

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print


4 cups cooked shredded chicken

2 cups sliced carrots (cut into 1/4 inch coins)

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1 cup sour cream

1 cup mayonnaise

1 can cream of chicken soup

1-6oz. can of french fried onions

1 Tbs. butter, melted

Salt and pepper to taste

Cooking spray


Preheat oven to 350 (365 high altitude)

In a large skillet melt the butter and saute the carrots for about 10 minutes, flipping them at regular intervals. Remove them from heat and set aside.

While the carrots are sauteing, mix together in a large bowl the cheese, sour cream, chicken soup and mayonnaise. Once the carrots are cooked and slightly cooled fold them into the sour cream mixture along with the chicken until combined. Taste and add any salt and pepper as needed.

Spray a 9 inch square pan with cooking spray. Add the mixture to the pan and bake for 35-45 minutes. Once the casserole is hot and bubbly add the fried onions on top and continue to bake for an additional 10 minutes.

Let the casserole stand for 5 minutes and serve.

The Cooked Casserole

Creamy Chicken And Cauliflower Casserole…

I love casseroles, especially during the winter time. I find them to be the true definition of comfort food. And this particular recipe is definitely a throw back. It features all of the ingredients your grandma used to make a quick but delicious meal. And this meal is versatile – you can serve it with pasta or as the main feature in a loaded baked potato or even with rice.  Anyway you look at it, if you want something fast and delicious this is the recipe for you!

What I particularly like about this recipe is that it’s quick to throw together and it’s a great way to use leftover chicken, and there always seems to be a lot of that in my refrigerator. As a matter of fact, I bet you already have all of the ingredients in this casserole in your pantry.

So let’s talk Creamy Chicken And Cauliflower Casserole…

Lesson Learned 1: The ingredients in this casserole are not written in stone: Not only is this casserole easy to put together but it can be made with a wide variety of ingredients. Think of the recipe I’m providing as a base for your imagination. But you can certainly add other things.  You can add some sliced mushrooms if you like. You can substitute frozen broccoli for cauliflower or include a little of both. Frozen peas and carrots would be a great addition as well. Wherever your imagination and pantry take you – this will always be a scrumptious comfort food casserole.

Lesson Learned 2 – If using frozen cauliflower (or broccoli) make sure it is slightly (or completely) thawed. You only bake this for 35-45 minutes and you want to make sure your vegetables are warmed all the way through. Smaller frozen vegetables such as pearl onions or peas and carrots can be added frozen. They will cook through within the allotted time. And if you used frozen chopped cauliflower or broccoli you can simply add them as well since the pieces will be smaller.

Lesson Learned 3 – Use more chicken than you think: I will suggest a certain amount in the recipe since I found that after I made mine I wound up adding more chicken to the leftovers. I initially used a pound and a half of cooked chicken pieces that I got at my local grocery store. But I felt the recipe needed more. I am going to recommend getting a rotisserie chicken from your grocery store and shredding the whole chicken for this recipe. You want to be able to see and taste chicken as the main ingredient and when you shred chicken it just seems to be a lot less for some reason.  If you don’t use a rotisserie chicken then I recommend using 3 large chicken breasts.

There are not a lot of lessons learned to impart on this one as this recipe is super easy. And the extra added bonus is the leftovers are equally scrumptious. You can’t go wrong with this one. Enjoy this easy to make winter comfort food!

Creamy Chicken And Cauliflower Casserole...

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: Super Easy
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1 store bought rotisserie chicken, cut up and shredded

2 cans cream of chicken and mushroom soup

1 cup mayonnaise

1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

1 cup colby and monterey jack cheese, shredded

1 1/2 cups frozen cauliflower, thawed

1 cup frozen pearl onions

Salt and pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Mix all the ingredients (chicken, soup, mayo, cheeses, cauliflower and onions) together. Add salt and pepper as needed.

Transfer the ingredients to a lightly greased 2-3 quart casserole dish. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until the casserole is bubbly.  Serve.

Easy Homemade Pizza…

If you’re anything like me, pizza is something you either eat at a restaurant or order for delivery. I never really thought about making homemade pizza until recently. I was wandering around Trader Joes, saw some pizza dough in a bag and thought I should give this a try. So I bought some. After leaving it in the refrigerator for a few days I decided to use it before it went bad. And the rest was just pure joy.

Pizza is pretty elementary. It consists of the dough for your crust, your sauce, your toppings and cheese – yep, that’s pretty much it. But not really. How thinly do you roll out the dough? How much sauce and toppings do you put on? At what temperature do you bake it so the bottom crust gets done before the sides get too brown? What I found is there are some basic things to keep in mind when making pizza so your results will be perfect. So let’s talk making homemade pizza…

Lesson Learned 1 – Tips for working with pizza dough: Pizza dough, like most other types of dough, likes to rest before you roll it out. One common mistake with using store bought pizza dough is to take it out of the refrigerator and immediately start working with it. Doing that will result in a tough crust. Let the dough rest on your counter for about 20 minutes before you begin rolling it out. That way the glutens in your dough won’t get overworked and you won’t have a tough crust.

The dough that I bought made a 12 inch round pizza about 1/8 inch thick. That’s probably the thinnest you want to go with the crust. I rolled it out on a silpat non stick silicone mat. My mat gives me circular as well as linear dimensions that helps when I’m working with dough that needs to be rolled out to certain specifications. If I have a cookie recipe that says I need to create a 9 inch roll, I can measure that on this mat. I was also able to roll out my pizza dough to a perfect 12 inch round. And even though the mat is considered non-stick, you still need to use flour when working with bread/pizza dough. Most of the time you don’t need it for cookie dough.

Pizza Crisper

Lesson Learned 2 – If at all possible, use a pizza stone or crisper: Pizza stones are designed to bake pizzas in commercial brick ovens although they also can be used at home. Pizza crispers are designed for “regular” ovens. They are perforated to let air circulate under the crust to cook the bottom of the pizza more evenly. Being that I don’t make homemade pizza on a regular basis I just bought an aluminum pizza crisper at the grocery store. It worked beautifully. Plus I can reuse it a few times before having to get another one. Use either a pizza stone or crisper if you want to ensure that the bottom of your crust is not soggy when the rest of your pizza is fully cooked.

Also when using an aluminum pizza crisper (as shown in the picture) you should lightly oil it  before putting the dough on it. I recommend using canola oil because it has a very high smoke point. I also recommend that after you brush on the oil to take a paper towel and go over the crisper and remove any excess. I am very serious about only lightly oiling the bottom. I’d start with about an 1/8 of a teaspoon and go from there. That amount of oil and a paper towel to spread it and soak up any excess should be more than sufficient. You don’t want the bottom of your pizza to be greasy. You just don’t want the dough to stick to the crisper.

Lesson Learned 3 – Don’t drench the pizza with sauce: I used the smallest jar of marinara I could find, 14 ounces, and I still didn’t use all of it. Now you may ask should I use pizza sauce or pasta sauce. I don’t think it really matters. Some make pizzas with alfredo sauce. I don’t think there is a hard fast rule. It’s really all up to you. What’s more important is to make sure you don’t drown your dough in sauce. Just spread it on to lightly and evenly cover it. You don’t want to create soggy dough.

Lesson Learned 4 – Should toppings be put on cooked or raw: That depends. If you want to have Italian sausage on your pizza definitely cook it beforehand. I cooked mine about 75% done (just a little pink – see below) knowing that the time the pizza cooked in the oven would cover the rest. I did not cook my green peppers ahead of time, but I did cut them into smaller diced pieces. Same thing with my mushrooms. They went on raw but I sliced them thin and they were cooked perfectly in the time allotted. I also put on some pepperoni slices, as is, since they can be eaten right out of the package.

Partially Cooked Italian Sausage

Another mistake common in making homemade pizza putting the toppings on too thick. Now don’t get me wrong, I like lots of toppings on my pizza. Just be careful not to create a huge mound. What happens when putting too much toppings on is the crust will get done before your toppings are cooked or even warmed through. You don’t want that.

Lesson Learned 5 – Cook your pizza at a high heat: I looked over many different pizza recipes and saw a wide variety of recommended cooking temperatures. One recipe even called for the pizza to be cooked at 350 degrees. With the research I did I found the prevailing thought to be that pizza should be baked at higher temperatures. I baked mine at 450 degrees. It was done in 15 minutes and the crust was perfect. Our local take-and-bake pizza store recommends you bake their pizzas at 425 degrees. You could probably do that as well but it will take a little longer for your pizza to cook. If you pile on your toppings it might be better to bake your pizza at 425 to give more time for the toppings to bake. I would guess baking at 425 might add on an additional 5-10 minutes, depending on your oven. The choice is yours, but I would not go under 425 degrees.

It sounds like a lot but it’s actually pretty simple. If you keep these tips in mind you should have a perfect pizza the very first time. This was my first time making it and it turned out perfectly. And how often can you say that about a recipe you’ve tried only once? I really like the fact that I can control what goes on my pizza and so I will definitely make a homemade pizza again. Try this and let me know what you think…

Easy Homemade Pizza...

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print


1 bag of pizza dough (I got mine from Trader Joes – Whole Foods also has them)

1 14 ounce jar of pasta or pizza sauce (there will be some leftover)

1/2 pound sweet Italian sausage cooked almost through and crumbled

pepperoni slices, as desired

1/3 cup green pepper, diced small

2-3 medium sized cremini mushrooms, sliced thin

Mozzarella cheese

Parmesan cheese

1/4 tsp. Italian seasoning (you can add more if you like)

1/8 tsp. canola oil

Flour for dough preparation


Preheat the oven to 450. Take a large pizza crisper and lightly oil the bottom. Remove any excess with a paper towel.

Flour your surface for working the dough.  Roll the dough to a 12 inch circle. Wrap the dough around your rolling pin and transfer it to the crisper. Cover the surface of the dough with pizza sauce leaving about a half inch around the edges uncovered. Arrange the pepperoni slices on the dough. Arrange the Italian sausage crumbles on the dough.

Sprinkle the meats with mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. Arrange the mushroom slices and green pepper pieces on the dough. Top them with more mozzarella and Parmesan cheese.  Sprinkle the Italian seasoning over the top.

Bake for 15 minutes or until the crust cooked and the cheese is gold brown and bubbly. Slice and serve.


The Best Sausage And Onion Quiche…

I only started making home made quiches recently. Normally I would just pick one up at the grocery store and heat it for either breakfast or dinner. But I found that not only could I control what goes into the quiche, but also the texture and flavor of the quiche is so much better when I make it.  And it really isn’t all that hard if you know a simple few tricks which I will share.

The best thing about quiche is it can be a great dumping ground for leftovers. And there isn’t just one way to make one or only certain ingredients you can use. Making quiche is like painting on a blank canvas – create what you want and it will all be good.

This recipe is about as basic as you can make it. But even with that, my husband said that my homemade quiche is so much better than the fancier ones I’ve been buying at the store. So, I think it’s pretty much home made quiche from now on. But that doesn’t bother me because it really is so simple to make.  So let’s talk easy sausage and onion quiche…

Lesson Learned 1 – Frozen pie crust shells work perfectly for this recipe: Now I’m not saying that you can’t make crust from scratch but why go through all that work when the frozen shells work equally as well. But you definitely have the choice. You can make your crust from scratch, or use the packaged pie crust rounds or get the pie crust shells that are pre-made and frozen. All will work.

Lesson Learned 2 – Cook the breakfast sausage until you see only a little light pink: Remember the quiche is going to bake for an hour so the sausage will continue to cook during that time. I like to cook my sausage first, mix it with the cream cheese and let it sit a little before I put it in the pie crust. I normally use that time to put the egg mixture together.

An 8 oz. tube of breakfast sausage is more than enough. You can go a little lighter on the sausage and only use 4 ounces at a time. We like a lot of sausage in our quiche so I prepare the whole tube and use the leftovers to put in my scrambled eggs for breakfast during the week. But just a warning, if you cook all 8 ounces there will be leftovers.

Also, make sure you drain the sausage on paper towels to get all the grease out before adding it to the quiche. It’s important that the sausage is as dry as possible.

Lesson Learned 3 – Beat the eggs really well: I found if you want the fluffiest quiche you need to beat the egg mixture until it foams. This may take a couple of minutes but it is definitely worth it. When the eggs are that light and airy, so is the quiche.

Lesson Learned 4 – Use a good melting cheese: You can use a wide variety of melting cheeses in a quiche. I like this particular recipe because it pairs a little cream cheese with another melting cheese. I used muenster in this recipe but you can also use cheddar, gruyere, swiss, or mozzarella. That’s the beauty of making a quiche. The choice is yours!

Lesson Learned 5 – I used pearl onions for an extra pop of flavor: You can definitely chop and saute some onions and add it to the quiche. I prefer using frozen pearl onions. You can drop them in frozen and they give a noticeable pop of flavor when you bit into one. Pearl onions are quick and easy.

Lesson Learned 6 – Let the quiche stand for 10 minutes when it comes out of the oven: For ease of cutting you need the quiche to set before you serve. Once you take the quiche out of the oven cover it with foil and let it sit for 10 minutes. The consistency will be perfect and cutting the quiche will be a breeze!

And that’s it. Pretty simple actually – simple but oh so good! Try it and let me know what you think.

The Best Sausage & Onion Quiche

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print


1 9 inch frozen pie crust

1 – 8 oz. tube of breakfast sausage (I used Jimmy Dean)

1/2 cup frozen pearl onions

4 oz. of cream cheese, room temperature

1 cup shredded melting cheese (I used muenster), divided

4 eggs

1 cup heavy cream

2 Tbs. sour cream


Preheat the oven to 350. In a skillet, cook the sausage until only slightly pink breaking up the sausage as you cook it. Drain the sausage thoroughly. Combine the sausage and cream cheese. Set aside.

In a medium size bowl beat the eggs, sour cream and heavy cream thoroughly (at least a minute).

Place the sausage and pearl onions in the bottom of the pie plate. Cover with 1/2 of the cheese. Pour the egg mixture over the sausage, onions and cheese. Add the remaining cheese on top.

Bake for 1 hour. Check the quiche about half way through to make sure the cheese on top is not getting too brown. If it is, loosely cover the quiche in foil for the remainder of the cooking process.

IMPORTANT: Allow the quiche to rest covered in foil for 10 minutes before serving.



Garlic and Rosemary Balsamic Roasted Pork Loin and Potatoes…

The one thing I really love about Fall is cranking up the oven again. I do a lot of grilling over the Summer and I love that too. But those smells in the house when something is roasting in the oven just can’t be beat. It makes a house a home.

So I decided to crank up the oven the other day. I haven’t had pork in a while and I thought I’d try that. More often than not when I make a pork roast I use a pork loin. The meat is so tender and I perfected roasting it so that it’s cooked but not dried out. And if you want my secret for roasting a perfect pork loin every time just click on my blog’s tips and tricks post and you’ll never have a dry pork loin roast again.

But although pork loin is moist I find it always needs a little help in the flavor department. And whether you marinate it or use some sort of rub, that’s usually enough to up the flavor factor. And that’s exactly what this recipe does.

I also like this recipe because for all intents and purposes it is a one pot meal. You can also make your potatoes and carrots in the same roasting pan and I’ve always liked that convenience. You just have to follow a couple of tips in order to make sure they cook properly.

So let’s talk garlic and rosemary balsamic roasted pork loin and potatoes…

Lesson Learned 1: Slightly par boil your potatoes before roasting them: I don’t know about you but I’ve found that roasting potatoes can be tricky. I usually wind up with hard or semi hard potatoes that are not cooked through. In this recipe it is important to cut the potatoes as evenly as possible (mine were approximately one inch squares). Once I do that I put them in a pot with water, bring the water to a boil and boil the potatoes for about 5 minutes or just until they start to turn tender around the edges. Then I drain the potatoes and let me cool slightly in the strainer. I’ve found when I do this my potatoes come out perfectly when making this recipe. After I strain off the water I transfer them into a bowl so that I can coat them with the balsamic mixture before putting them in the roasting pan. It’s a little extra work, but definitely worth it.

The same rule applies for when I use sliced potatoes in a casserole. I used my mandolin slicer to get even slices. Then I par boil them just for a couple of minutes before adding them to a casserole dish that is ready to go into the oven. Try this little trick and you’ll have beautifully roasted potatoes all the time.

Lesson Learned 2 – This recipe roasts the carrots to crisp tender: Carrots are also tricky to cook and although I prefer mine to be crisp tender, some people prefer their carrots to be soft. If soft is your preference roasting them this way will not give you that consistency unless you either cut them into thin rounds or use small baby carrots. I cut my carrots into about 2 inch chunks, cut each chunk into half and then half again. This produced a somewhat softened crisp tender carrot, which I love.

You can also do the par boiling trick described above for larger carrots if you want them to be soft. That might be a little too much muss and fuss for one recipe. But it’s totally up to you. Just something to think about…

Lesson Learned 3 – Browning the pork loin is totally your preference: Some recipes call for browning your pork loin before roasting it. It helps to seal in the juices. The reason I say this is totally your preference is that if you cook your pork loin according to my directions you will always get a juicy pork loin without browning it ahead of time. Plus when you add the balsamic mixture you cannot tell if the roast has been browned or not. So why bother. The choice is yours.

Lesson Learned 4 – Make the balsamic mixture in your mini food processor: This is really the easiest way to ensure all the ingredients are well combined. Combine them in the processor until the mixture becomes paste-like as seen below. Then you’re ready to go…

And that’s it. This recipe is a Fall classic. Try it and tell me what you think…

Garlic & Rosemary Balsamic Roasted Pork Loin & Potatoes...

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Print


1 1/2 pound boneless pork loin

3 large russet potatoes, peeled and diced into 1 inch square pieces (can also use 2 pounds of baby reds)

3-4 large carrots cut into chunks, then halved and halved again (or 1 bag of small baby carrots not cut)

1/4 cup good olive oil, plus 1 Tb. for the carrots

3 Tbs. balsamic vinegar

5 large garlic cloves (or 10 small), smashed

1/2 cup fresh rosemary leaves

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste

1 tsp. Herbs De Provence

Cooking spray


Preheat the oven to 375. Peel, chop and par boil the potatoes for 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Combine olive oil, vinegar, garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper in a food processor until it forms a paste.

Coat the pork loin on all sides with the balsamic mixture. (You will have some left over for the potatoes). Lightly grease a large roasting pan with cooking spray. Place the pork loin in the center of the roasting pan. Coat the potatoes with the remaining balsamic mixture. Place them on one side of the pork loin.

Coat the carrots with olive oil and season them with salt and pepper and Herbs De Provence. Place the carrots on the other side of the pork loin.

Roast for 1 hour. Remove from the oven and cover with foil for 5 minutes. Transfer the roast to a cutting board, slice and serve with the potatoes and carrots.




Easy Peasy Chili…

There are certain meals that just become necessary to make once the weather gets cooler – pot roast, beef stew, roast chicken… And one of my all time favorite cooler weather meals has to be chili. It is so easy to make and I serve it with shredded cheddar cheese and diced sweet onion and boy or boy, does it ever stick to your ribs! Chili is the ultimate in comfort food on a crisp Fall evening.

What I like about chili is it’s so easy to make. There are a couple of hints to making a chili that suits our needs that I will share. But bottom line, the chili pot is your canvas and you can make chili basically any way you want. I will share with you my go-to recipe.

So let’s talk chili…

Chili Ingredients

Lesson Learned 1 – The onions: I use a large sweet onion when I make my chili. I dice the onion and use about three quarters of it in the chili itself. The rest I set aside and use as a raw topping when I serve the chili. I’ve found the best way to use these onions to enhance the flavor of the chili is to caramelize them. That takes a little time. The pictures below show how I dice the onions and the onions when they first become translucent. The photo below them shows when they are caramelized. Technically you can use them either way but I’ve found if you take the extra time and let them caramelize they add more flavor to the chili.

The challenge when you caramelize onions is the extra time. Normally I can get them the way I want them (as pictured below in the bottom photo) in about 15 minutes. If you want to cook your chili faster that may not be an option. But if you can take your time with this first step you will definitely taste the benefits of doing so.







Lesson Learned 2 – The importance of seasoning during the initial stages: I find if I season the onions and the meat with salt and pepper each time during the first two steps the flavor of the chili is greatly enhanced. Besides is their anything better than the smell of onions seasoned with salt and pepper cooking on the stove? So after I season the onions and let them caramelize I add the meat and season the meat with salt and pepper as well. It may seem like a lot of seasoning but it actually is not.

After that I don’t add any more salt and pepper until the very end after all the ingredients have been added and combined. At that time I taste the chili to see if it needs anymore salt and pepper. Very seldom do I have to add any at the end. Seasoning the first two layers and then adding the other seasonings makes a big difference in the end result. Don’t forget to do this.

Lesson Learned 3 – When to add the garlic:  I’ve tried adding the garlic a couple of different ways and have landed on a preferred choice when I make chili. You can always add the garlic once you caramelized the onions but I prefer adding them to the ground beef just before I start adding the other ingredients. I allow them to cook in the meat for a minute or so until fragrant and then I continue adding the rest of the ingredients. I find this totally prevents the garlic from burning and better infuses the garlic into the chili.

Lesson Learned 4 – Chopping the green pepper: I guess I don’t actually chop the green pepper – it’s more like dicing. I like the pieces small so that they add flavor to the chili but aren’t necessarily highly visible. The green pepper flavor, in my estimation, balances some of the heat of the chili and adds a nice freshness to it. The pictures below show how I prepare the green pepper:







Lesson Learned 5 – Chili seasoning: I’ve experimented with a lot of different ways to season my chili and finally chose my preferred method. I use McCormick Mild Chili Seasoning Mix because we prefer our chili on the mild side but you can make it has hot as you like. McCormick has a few varieties of seasonings and if you can’t find a seasoning mix that gets you the heat you crave you can always add red pepper flakes. This seasoning mix contains a blend of chili pepper, paprika, cumin, onion salt and garlic. I also add about a teaspoon of chili powder and this combination of seasonings gives us the kind of chili we prefer.

Lesson Learned 6 – The mushrooms: I am a big fan of fresh mushrooms especially now when you can buy them in bulk. This time I had a jar of canned mushrooms in the pantry that I wanted to use so I went that route. Either way, add the mushrooms at the very end so that they don’t overcook. Generally I add fresh sliced mushrooms to my chili.

Lesson Learned 7 – A little bit of tomato paste helps thicken the sauce: Here’s a handy dandy little trick. Add about a tablespoon of tomato paste to the ground beef before you add the seasonings. This will help thicken the sauce. Look for tomato paste that’s sold in a tube. That way you’ll have no waste and can use it whenever you need versus wasting a whole small can.

Lesson Learned 8 – Simmering the chili: I’ve found the best way to meld all the flavors in the chili is to let it simmer for about an hour. Put your heat on very low and stir the chili occasionally making sure none burns on the bottom of the pan. Then the chili is ready to serve. And, of course, if you have the luxury, you can always let it sit overnight to let the flavors meld.

So that’s basically it. Once you’ve browned the ground beef and added the seasonings it’s just drop in and stir from there…

Stir in the diced tomatoes

Drop in the beans

Add the mushrooms and green pepper


Stir and simmer for about an hour and you’re done. I serve this chili over rice, my husband’s preference, or over elbow macaroni, my preference. Or you can serve it plain. I add shredded cheddar and raw diced onion to mine, but you can top it with sour cream, guacamole, diced jalapeños, or whatever you like. I’ve been making this recipe for years and have it down to a science. It is unbelievably easy to make and so good. Try it. I know you’ll love it!

Easy Peasy Chili...

  • Servings: 8-10
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


2 Tbs. butter (or 1 Tbs. butter and 1 Tbs. olive oil)

1 large sweet onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 pounds ground beef, 85% lean

1 Tbs. tomato paste

I pkg. McCormicks mild chili seasoning

1 tsp. chili powder

1 28 oz. can of diced tomatoes

1 20 oz. can of chili beans in chili sauce

1 10 oz. can of sliced mushrooms, drained

1 green pepper, diced

Kosher salt

Freshly cracked black pepper

Serve with rice or elbow macaroni, optional

Toppings can include: Shredded cheese, raw onion, sour cream, guacamole, sliced jalapeño peppers, or whatever your preference


In a 5.5 quart dutch oven melt the butter. On a medium heat add the onions and cook until caramelized, approximately 15 minutes. Season the onions with salt and pepper while cooking. Push the onions to the side and add the ground beef. Layer the cooked onions on top of the beef. Break up the ground beef with a spoon and cook through, seasoning the ground beef at the beginning with salt and pepper. Once cooked, stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, approximately 1 minute.

Stir in the tomato paste and thoroughly combine. Stir in the chili seasoning and chili powder. Add the diced tomatoes. Stir to combine. Add the chili beans. Stir to combine. Cook for about a minute. Add the mushrooms and the green pepper. Gently stir to combine. Taste to see if any additional salt and pepper is needed.

Cover and simmer for one hour. Serve with desired accompaniments.






Slow Roasted Chicken And Rice…

My last blog was about my favorite carb “taters”. This blog is about my favorite protein, chicken! I kid you not, I could eat chicken every single night of the week. Nothing tops it in my book. So, as with “taters”, I am always on the lookout for new chicken recipes and the easier the better.

Let me tell you, nothing can be easier than this one. It is pretty much a retro classic and so good to make when you have little time to prepare something. The only glitch is it takes 2 1/2 hours to roast in the oven, but it’s one of those recipes where you prep it and forget it.

This recipe relies on canned soup, cream of chicken and cream of celery, and with a little water, rice, poultry seasoning and carrots you have an entire meal in one pan ready to serve all at the same time. Plus it creates a fabulous aroma in your kitchen. You can’t beat that.

So let’s talk slow roasted chicken and rice…

Lesson Learned 1 – Buy chicken breasts with skin and ribs and debone the chicken yourself: You want to do this for a couple of reasons. First it is much less expensive to buy chicken this way. Second by leaving the skin on it keeps the breast nice and moist during the slow roasting process. Invest in a good boning knife and regularly maintain it with a hand sharpening tool like the one pictured to the left. It is surprisingly inexpensive and will keep your knife nice and sharp for a long time and boning the chicken breasts will be a breeze. These days it’s pretty hard to find boneless breasts with the skin still on so this may be the only way to do it.

Lesson Learned 2 – Use a rice mixture for an extra flavor boost: Go ahead, be adventurous and use a rice mixture instead of just plain white rice. You can use wild rice, basmati rice or the mixture that I use which is a combination of white, brown, wild and red rice and pictured to the right. You’ll be amazed at how it punches up the flavor volume and makes the dish even more interesting.

Lesson Learned 3 – If you use thick carrots cut them in half lengthwise: I found the best way to make sure that the carrots are soft roasted is to cut them in half lengthwise if they are an inch or more thick. If they’re thick and you simply cut them in chunks they will not be as tender. If you like a little more body to your carrots you can certainly roast them without cutting them in half. With this recipe I prefer the carrots soft roasted and found the best way to achieve that is cut any that are overly thick. The decision is totally yours.

There are not a lot of lessons learned to share on this one as it is so darn easy to make. I love this recipe because it is a great blend of convenience and good flavor and cooks in one pan. Try this one and I know it will become a staple in your home…

Slow Roasted Chicken And Rice...

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print


1 10 ounce can cream of celery soup

1 10 ounce can cream of chicken soup

5 – 10 ounces of water (the more water the creamier the rice)

3/4 cup of rice

1 Tbs. poultry seasoning

4 small or 2 large boneless chicken breasts with skin on

4-6 carrots sliced lengthwise and cut into chunks

1 tsp. McCormick Perfect Pinch Rotisserie Chicken Seasoning


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium sized bowl combine the soups, water, rice and poultry seasoning. Chop carrots into chunks.

Spray a 9  x 13 pan with non-stick cooking spray. Spread the soup mixture across the bottom of the pan. Place chicken breasts on top of soup mixture. Arrange carrots around the chicken breasts. Sprinkle the top of the chicken breasts with the rotisserie chicken seasoning.

Cover with foil and roast in the oven for 2 1/2 hours. Do not remove the foil during the entire roasting process. Remove from the oven and uncover. If using large breasts, cut them in half before serving. Serve immediately.

Soup Mixture Ingredients

Arrange The Ingredients In A Prepared Pan

Cover With Foil And Roast

Serving Suggestion

Slow Cooker Honey BBQ Pulled Chicken Sandwiches…

If you are looking for an easy, and I do mean easy, meal to prepare look no further. I served this meal a couple of times now and it always turns out perfectly and it’s always super delicious. I have to admit I was initially skeptical about how this would turn it, but it was absolutely fabulous. When you know you’re going to have a busy day and you still want to have a good meal at dinnertime, this recipe is the answer to that dilemma.

So let’s talk slow cooker honey bbq pulled chicken sandwiches…

Lesson Learned 1 – Try to use chicken breasts with the skin on: I normally buy chicken breasts with the skin on and rib portions attached. First they are cheaper when purchased that way and second it’s easy to remove the rib portion and you’re left with a skin-on breast. Chicken can dry out very easily in a slow cooker and often can get overcooked. With the skin on it gives the breast meat more moisture during the cooking process and that is what you’re looking for. But sometimes you just can’t find them that way and that’s ok as well. Both times I made this recipe I had skinless breasts in the freezer and so I used them. But in my experience with other recipes, skin on breasts are preferred when cooking them in a slow cooker.

It’s also important to season them as well. I seasoned mine with kosher salt, pepper and McCormick’s Perfect Pinch Rotisserie Chicken seasoning blend. I really like this blend as it gives the chicken a great rotisserie chicken flavor. Try it and I’m sure you’ll agree.

Lesson Learned 2 – Use a slow cooker liner for this recipe: The sugar and honey in the bbq sauce can cause a mess that is very hard to clean up if it burns into your ceramic crock. Personally I am not a fan of slow cooker liners but I use them for this recipe. If you use one, clean up is a breeze and you don’t wind up with burnt bbq sauce all over your crock.

Lesson Learned 3 – Don’t overcook the chicken: I know, easier said then done, but most people overcook chicken breasts no matter what cooking method they are using. Chicken breasts can be moist as well as cooked through but there is a fine line between when that occurs and dried out chicken.

My rule of thumb is I never cook half breasts (and the ones I used were quite large) for more than 6 hours on low in my slow cooker. A lot of recipes say to cook chicken between 6-8 hours. In my opinion a two hours difference in cooking times is huge. Whenever I’ve cooked chicken in a slow cooker for 8 hours it always turned out dry. But the other variable is your slow cooker. Not all slow cookers are created equal. Know your slow cooker and if for some reason you can cook chicken for 8 hours and it does not dry out that’s fine. But I bet if you cook it for only 6 hours you’ll get a much better result.

Lesson Learned 4 – You can cook a veggie with the chicken if you want to: The first time I made this recipe I only cooked the chicken in the bbq sauce mixture. The second time I added carrots. When it came time to shred the meat I just pulled out the carrots, put them on a baking sheet lined with foil and sprayed with cooking spray and kept them in a warm oven until dinner was served. Make sure you use cooking spray on the foil as the remnants of the bb sauce on the carrots will stick to the foil and you don’t want the carrots sticking. Also make sure you don’t use overly thick carrots – they won’t cook through in six hours.

Lesson Learned 5 – Serve the chicken on good sandwich rolls: The sandwich rolls are also important. I served my chicken on brioche buns. I found them at Whole Foods and I have to admit they were a little pricey, $4.99 for six rolls, but boy were they worth it. They were just the perfect compliment to the bbq chicken. I’m not saying you need to invest that much in dinner rolls, but make sure they are fresh and soft. It makes a difference. I served the sandwiches with cole slaw and sliced tomatoes and the meal was a hit!

An easier, more delicious recipe you’d be hard pressed to find. Try it and let me know what you think…

Slow Cooker Honey BBQ Pulled Chicken Sandwiches...

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print


3 large chicken breasts, skin on preferred

1 18-ounce bottle of bbq sauce (I used Sweet Baby Ray’s)

1/2 cup Italian salad dressing

1/4 cup brown sugar

2 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce

1-2 Tbs. Perfect Pinch Rotisserie Chicken seasoning

2-3 large carrots, peeled and cut into 2 inch logs (optional)

Salt and Pepper to taste


Line the slow cooker with a slow cooker liner. Place chicken in slow cooker. (Place veggies in with the chicken). Season with salt, pepper and rotisserie chicken seasoning.

In a separate bowl combine bbq sauce, Italian dressing, brown sugar and Worcestershire sauce. Pour over chicken. Place lid back on top of the slow cooker.

Cook on low for 6 hours. If cooking veggies, remove them onto a foil lined baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray. Keep in a warm oven until serving.

Remove chicken, take off any skin and shred the breasts using two forks. Place shredded chicken back in the slow cooker and cook on high for 15 minutes to 1/2 hour. Serve on dinner rolls.

Prime Rib Roast…

Happy New Year! I hope your new year is filled with good health and happiness. Mine started off with a bang as I finally ventured into making a prime rib roast. It’s been on my list of “ok, now you have to try this… you betcha can do this” and I decided to jump into the deep end of the pool on the first day of 2017 and tackle this one.

I’ll admit now I was a little nervous. After all prime rib, even when it’s on sale is expensive. And the last thing you want to do is ruin an expensive cut of meat. So you see, even the cooks who have been at it for a while can still get nervous in the kitchen.

And talk about expensive… I decided to check out a prime rib roast at Whole Foods. I only needed a small one, just enough for me and my husband. So, I asked for a two rib roast, between 4-5 pounds. That would give me enough for two people with one dinner of leftovers. The butcher handed me a package for a 4.4 pound roast and the price tag on it was $68.00! I almost choked. As I walked through the store I had many internal conversations with myself trying to see if I could rationalize spending $68 on a cut of meat, albeit prime. When I finally got to the cash register I handed the roast to the checker and said I was sorry but I just couldn’t rationalize spending that much for a roast for two people. She couldn’t have been any sweeter. She said not to worry, it was no big deal and that Whole Foods wants its customers to be comfortable and satisfied with what they purchase. She was great. She took all my guilt away.

Two-Rib Rib RoastI finally worked with a butcher at Safeway who cut me a two rib roast and tied the bones to the bottom as I requested. The roast coast $44 for a 4.3 pound roast. Still expensive, and choice but not prime, but I could rationalize that for a special meal more than $68.00. In the end the roast was fabulous so I was glad I opted for the less expensive cut. My next step was researching various cooking methods and determining what I felt would work for me. So I have some really good lessons learned to share with this blog…

Lesson Learned 1 – Let the roast sit out and get to room temperature: Many people are afraid to do this as they think the meat will spoil. Nothing can be further from the truth. In order to ensure that your roast cooks evenly you have to get it to room temperature. For my 4.3 pound roast I let it sit on the counter for 4 hours. Obviously the larger the roast the longer the time. I spoke with a co-work who made a 9 pound roast over the holidays and she kept hers out for 6 hours. Don’t be afraid to do this. You will be rewarded with an evenly cooked roast and it is perfectly safe.

Lesson Learned 2 – Choose the roasting method that is right for you: When I researched various roasting options, two methods seemed to be most prevalent. Both required cooking the roast at a very high heat for about 20-30 minutes. The difference was the next step. Some recipes suggested turning off the heat in the oven and letting the roast sit in there for several hours, making sure not to open the oven. Others suggested lowering the heat and cooking the roast at a lower heat for a certain amount of minutes per pound. Since everything takes longer to cook in high altitude, I chose the latter. I just didn’t see my roast cooking to medium rare with the oven turned off.

Lesson Learned 3 – Make sure your oven is clean: I cooked my roast at 450 degrees (some recipes call for 500 degrees) for the first 25 minutes. I have a brand new oven and it is really clean. I still set off my smoke alarm. (I forgot to put on the hood fan). My point is, at this high heat the roast will smoke and if you have a dirty oven everything baked on to the walls of your oven will smoke as well, just adding to the problem. So don’t forget to turn on your hood fan and make sure that oven is clean.

Prime Rib With A Garlic, Rosemary & Thyme RubLesson Learned 4 – A rub on the roast makes a difference: I used a rub consisting of olive oil, fresh garlic, fresh rosemary, thyme, and salt and pepper. What I found is the rub creates a delicious crust when cooked at those initial high temperatures. It added a fabulous flavor to the meat. I highly recommend the rub in this recipe. It tasted divine!

Lesson Learned 5 – Use a meat thermometer: The only way to truly know what’s going on with your roast is to use a meat thermometer. I like mine medium rare which means an internal temperature of between 130 – 135 degrees. Keep in mind when you take the roast out of the oven it will continue to cook as it rests, at least another 5 degrees. So if you want medium rare, take the roast out at 130 and you will be fine. This time I chose to make it rare as my husband likes it that way. That is an internal temperature of 120-125. You can easily just put a rare piece in a pan on the stove and heat it gently to bring it up to medium rare. Just keep an eye on it, as it will not take long to get it to medium rare.

Lesson Learned 6 – Let the meat rest: The roast looks so good when it comes out of the oven but you need to give it time to let its juices redistribute before you slice it. Otherwise all the juices will be on your plate and not in the meat. So let the roast sit for 20 minutes. Cover it with foil during that time and after 20 minutes it will be a perfect temperature for serving with the juices redistributed.

Lesson Learned 7 – Make your horseradish cream sauce to taste: Is there any better combination than prime rib and horseradish sauce? If you’ve never tried it you simply must. I will provide some basic guidelines for making this cream sauce but I found when I made mine that I needed to add a lot more horseradish. The jarred horseradish that I had was not overly spicy and so I needed more to get the flavor combination that I liked. But start out with a little horseradish and add from there. Depending upon the type of prepared horseradish you are using, a little may be enough. That was not the case for me.

As you can see there are many things you need to consider in order to make the perfect rib roast. But if you follow these lessons learned you will wind up with a flavorful roast cooked to perfection. Don’t be afraid to do a prime rib roast. You betcha can make this!


  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Medium
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Prime Rib Roast1 4-5 pound rib roast, bones tied to the bottom

1 cup red wine (I used merlot)

1 cup beef broth

2 Tbs. garlic, minced

2 Tbs. garlic infused olive oil (you can use plain olive oil)

2 Tbs. fresh rosemary, minced

2 Tbs. fresh thyme, minced

1 Tbs. kosher salt

1 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper

Horseradish Sauce:

1/4 cup sour cream

1 -2 Tbs. prepared horseradish


Remove the roast from the refrigerator and let stand for at least 4 hours. Preheat the oven to 450 and arrange the racks so that the roast will be in the center of the oven. Add the beef broth and wine to the bottom of the roasting pan.

Mix together the olive oil, garlic, rosemary, thyme salt and pepper. Spread the mixture on top of the roast. Place the roast on a rack on top of the beef broth/wine mixture. (At this point if you have an oven safe meat thermometer you will want to put it into the center of the meaty part of the roast making sure to avoid contact with the bones. If you only have an instant meat thermometer you will need to check the roast at various intervals at 1 1/2 hours after lowering the temperature of the oven).

Roast at 450 for 25 minutes. Turn the oven temperature down to 350 and continue to roast for approximately 15 minutes per pound (at high altitude I found I needed 20 minutes per pound). For medium rare remove the roast when the internal temperature is 130 degrees. Let the roast stand covered with foil for at least 20 minutes.

While the roast is resting place the roasting pan on a burner with the rack removed. Heat the beef broth/wine mixture and remove any fat from the drippings. This can be used as au jus for the roast or gravy for mashed potatoes if you are serving them as a side dish.

For the horseradish sauce, mix the ingredients together, tasting the sauce to ensure you have the right amount of horseradish. Add more if necessary. Chill the mixture until it’s time to serve.


rub ingredients








beef broth and wine bath

Prime Rib Roast

Prime Rib Roast

prime rib dinner

Lemon Red Snapper With Herb Butter…

A couple of weeks ago a new Whole Foods store opened near my home. I’m not particularly a big fan of Whole Foods as some of their prices, in my opinion, are completely outrageous. But I do like the fact that if I need something, especially something out of the ordinary, I can always find it there. I also like the fresh seafood they carry. They often carry varieties of fish I can’t find in my local grocery stores. And the fishmongers will filet and debone any whole fish for you on the spot.

I went to the store on opening day and it was crazy. The place was packed but there were so many great things to see and sample. At one point they were cooking lobster tails and giving away samples of them. I actually found yellow grapefruit, which is my favorite. Most stores only carry pink grapefruit  and I prefer the tanginess of the yellow.

And when I walked by the seafood department I was so impressed with the variety of fish they had. For months I had been looking for red snapper filets and there they were, beautiful specimens, right in front of my eyes. I was so excited that I was finally going to be able to try out this recipe.

Now if you’ve not made a lot of fish and are unsure of your skill in this area, I would not start by making a recipe like this using red snapper as the fish. Not that this recipe is all that difficult but snapper is expensive (it cost me $20 for two filets). You might want to hone your fish making skills on less expensive types of fish like tilapia or cod before you venture into making red snapper. This recipe would work very well with either of those types of fish.

But lets talk about lemon red snapper with herb butter…

Lesson Learned 1 – Cut the lemon slices at least 1/4 inch thick: I cut my lemon slices about 1/8 inch thick and they cooked down more than I would have liked. They still infused the fish with great flavor, but you also use the lemon as a garnish when you serve the fish. By cutting the lemons 1/4 inch thick they will have more body after the cooking process.

Lemon Red Snapper With Herb Butter

Lesson Learned 2 – Not all filets cook the same: It’s never one size fits all when cooking fish filets. Some may be longer and thinner while others are shorter and thicker. The trick is to try to get filets that are similar in size so that they all cook for the same amount of time. The last thing you want to do is overcook an expensive cut of fish like red snapper.

My filets were longer and thinner but still about 1/4 inch thick at the center. When I researched how to cook the snapper the overall consensus seemed to be at 425 for about 13 minutes. But you can’t always follow that. It is important when making fish to develop an eye for determining when the fish is cooked. I judge my fish by looking at the thickest part. It will start to look opaque at each edge and as the fish cooks the opaqueness fills in. When it is almost completely opaque on the side I know my fish is done. These particular filets only took about 10 minutes. So learn how to develop that eye. The filets you choose may have to cook for 13 minutes. I can only tell you that it will take time as well as trial and error to get good at cooking fish.

Lemon Red Snapper With Herb Butter

Lesson Learned 3 – Don’t be afraid to make fish: I think the key to making fish is to err on the side of underdone. You can always put the fish back in the oven but you can’t do anything with an overdone dried out piece of fish. Be prepared to do that a few times.  It’s no big deal. I guarantee you that after a while you will develop that eye and become a master at cooking fish.

If you are looking to add more fish in your diet, this is a great recipe to start you on your way. Try it and let me know what you think…


  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Print


2 lemons

Lemon Red Snapper With Herb Butter

Lemon Red Snapper With Herb Butter

Non-stick cooking spray

4 (6 ounce) red snapper filets

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. paprika

1/4 tsp. garlic powder

1/4 tsp. freshly cracked pepper

2 Tbs. butter, softened

2 Tbs. fresh thyme, chopped

1 Tbs. lemon zest (the zest of a medium sized lemon)


Remove the filets from the refrigerator and let them stand for about 20 minutes. (this will take the chill off of them and make the cooking time more true. It is completely safe).

Zest one lemon and set aside. Cut lemons into 8 quarter inch pieces. Place slices in pairs on a rimmed baking sheet covered in foil and coated with cooking spray.  Place 1 filet on top of each pair of lemons. Combine salt, paprika, garlic powder and pepper and sprinkle over the filets. Bake for 10-13 minutes or until the fish flakes easily when tested with a fork.

While the fish is in the oven, combine the butter, lemon zest and thyme in a small bowl.

When fish is done, plate fish and lemon slices. Top each filet with the herb butter, spreading it to allow it to melt. Serve immediately.

Herb Butter Mixture

Herb Butter Mixture

Herb Butter Mixture

Herb Butter Mixture

Lemon Red Snapper With Herb Butter

Lemon Red Snapper With Herb Butter

Holiday Breakfast Casserole…

I’m so sorry I haven’t posted in a while. The holidays are always hectic and it is tough to sit down at the computer and document the things I’ve been making. The good thing is there will be lots to come after the first of the year! And just in case you didn’t see it on my home page, the picture below is a link to some of my all time favorite holiday recipes (mostly cookies but there are other things as well). Just click on the picture and you’ll have some great recipes to try this holiday season.

17 Favorite Holiday Recipes

17 Favorite Holiday Recipes

The recipe I’m sharing today is one I made the other night for dinner. After I made it I thought, wow – this would make a great Christmas morning breakfast. You can make it the night before, refrigerate it and just pop it in the oven in the morning. It is very flavorful and it couldn’t be easier to make.

So let’s talk lessons learned when making this holiday breakfast casserole…

Cooked breakfast sausageLesson Learned 1 – You probably will not need an entire tube of breakfast sausage: This recipe is made in an 8 x 8 pan and serves four. Double it if you want to make it in a 13 x 9 pan. In the smaller pan you probably will not need the entire tube of sausage. Use as much as you like and if you are a true meat eater use the whole thing. We only needed about three quarters of the tube. We froze the rest to use later.

Lesson Learned 2 – Get the hash browns nice and crispy: The hash browns will soften in this recipe. By getting them crispy you add a nice flavor. If you don’t crisp them up they will get too soggy on the bottom of the casserole.

Crispy Hash Browns

Lesson Learned 3 – Substitute for fresh whenever you can: The recipe I based this on called for both onion and garlic powder. If you are in a rush you can certainly use them, but I used minced fresh garlic and chopped green onions instead. I think it made a world of difference in the flavor of the casserole.

Lesson Learned 4 – Add more cheese if you like: I made this recipe with a cup of shredded Jarlsberg. Next time I will use a cup and a half as I wanted it to be just a little cheesier. A cup works just fine. This is something you can experiment with and see what works best for you. But don’t use any less than one cup.

This casserole couldn’t be any easier, and as I mentioned earlier I actually made this for dinner but I felt with the holidays coming this recipe might be a good trick to have up your sleeve. Happy Holidays!


  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print


1 pound breakfast sausage

1 20 oz. bag of unfrozen hash browns (I used Simply Potatoes)

1 large garlic clove, minced (you can use 1/4 tsp. garlic powder as a substitute)

2-3 green onions, chopped (you can use 1/4 tsp. onion powder as a substitute)

1 cup shredded cheese (use any good melting cheese – I used Jarlsberg)

4 extra large eggs (use 5 if they are small)

1 cup milk

Salt and pepper to taste


Preheat the oven to 375. In a large skillet cook the breakfast sausage until it is no longer pink. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant. Set sausage mixture aside.

In the same pan cook the hash browns until slightly crispy. Place them in the bottom of a lightly greased 8 x 8 pan. Top with sausage and cheese.

In a separate bowl combine the eggs, green onions and milk. (If using onion and garlic powder you would add them into this egg mixture). Pour over the hash browns, sausage and cheese. (Cover and refrigerate at this point if you plan on making this the next day.)

Bake for 35- 40 minutes or until the top is set and the edges start to brown. Let the casserole sit for 5 minutes and serve.

The Hash Browns Layer

The Hash Browns Layer

The Meat Layer

The Meat Layer

The Cheese Layer

The Cheese Layer

The Egg Mixture

The Egg Mixture

Ready To Go Into The Oven

Ready To Go Into The Oven

Holiday Breakfast Casserole

Right Out Of The Oven

Holiday Breakfast Casserole

Holiday Breakfast Casserole

Holiday Breakfast Casserole

Holiday Breakfast Casserole

Gnocchi Italiano…

I really try to experiment with meals that are quick and preferably only need one pot. This meal fits the bill to a tee. The most difficult part of this meal is the prep, and I’m a prep kinda gal so I enjoy that to the max!

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, we are remodeling our kitchen and this was the first meal I cooked on my brand new stove. I posted a picture of it online and got a ton of oohs and ahhs… one person commented on how beautiful it looked and wondered if that comment was apropos when referring to a stove – well all I can say is of course it is! Here’s my new baby – hello gorgeous!

my new stove

When we moved to a condo, I told my husband I would never move into a place where I could not have a gas stove or cook top. We moved into the model of the development we’re in and of course they had upgraded appliances in the model. The cook top that was is pictured below…

original cooktop

Although the cooktop was sleek looking, I just could not imagine myself cooking on it. Besides not being gas, I couldn’t get over the fact that it looked like I was cooking on Mickey Mouse! We removed it right away. Someone had lived in this condo before. The builder bought it back from the original owners and upgraded it to the model as there were still a few more buildings in the development plan and they needed to be able showcase what one of the units looked like. As part of the sale negotiations we asked the builder to leave the old gas cook top that had been replaced. We used it until we began the process of remodeling and finding our new stove. This is what we used in the interim:

the old cooktop

Our new stove is an LG. What’s interesting about it is the inside is purple.

The inside of the stove

Supposedly this color provides maximum heat transfer as opposed to a dark interior. I’m not sure that is the case, only time will tell. What I am sure of is I cooked two meals on/in it already and it seems to work perfectly. So I am a happy camper!

Now, let’s get back to the recipe. This meal combines ground sweet italian sausage with mini potato gnocchi, fresh mozzarella an your favorite marinara sauce. It couldn’t be simpler but it is oh so good. So let’s talk gnocchi italiano…

sweet italian sausageLesson Learned 1 – I used ground italian sausage but you can also use prosciutto: My husband needs to eat foods that are easy to chew and so I used ground italian sausage. If you choose to use prosciutto, use about 5 thin slices. Add them to the onions once they are translucent and cook them until they are crisp. Then follow the remainder of the recipe as is. I guarantee it will be equally as good.

Lesson Learned 2 – Pay attention to the type of marinara sauce you use: I used a tomato basil sauce. The brand I used was more expensive, but gnocchi and marinara saucewhen I looked at the ingredients they were all natural. There were no names that I couldn’t pronounce. Natural and organic foods are much higher in cost. That is unfortunate as I hate to think about all these chemicals we can put in our bodies every day. But heck, before I was born my mother drank and smoked and I’m still here. I guess the idea is why tempt fate. The better you take care of yourself the better your chances are of living a longer healthier life.

This recipe is pretty straightforward so there’s not many lessons learned to share. Start it off on the stovetop, finish it off in the oven, and enjoy an easy, flavorful meal!


  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Gnocchi Italiano

Gnocchi Italiano

1 small onion, diced

1 Tbs. basil infused olive oil (can use plain EVOO)

1 pound ground sweet italian sausage

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup tomato basil sauce

1 one pound package potato gnocchi  (I used the mini sized gnocchi)

1 tsp. italian seasoning

1/8 cup grated parmesan

1/4 lb fresh mozzarella, sliced

Sliced green onions for garnish, optional


Preheat the oven to 375. In a large oven proof skillet heat the olive oil. Add the onions and cook until translucent. Add the italian sausage and cook through, about 5-7 minutes. Meanwhile, cook gnocchi according to package instructions.

Add the garlic to the cooked italian sausage and let cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Drain the gnocchi and add to the italian sausage mixture. Stir in the tomato basil sauce, italian seasoning and parmesan. Mix well.

Add the mozzarella slices to the top of the mixture. Place the oven proof pan in the oven and cook until the mozzarella has melted and the gnocchi mixture is bubbly, approximately 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and garnish with green onions. Serve immediately.

Add the cooked gnocchi to the sausage mixture

Add cooked gnocchi to the sausage mixture.

Gnocchi, sausage and sauce mixture.

Gnocchi, sausage and sauce mixture.

Add the mozzarella slices.

Add the mozzarella slices.

Ready to serve

Ready to serve

Gnocchi Italiano

Gnocchi Italiano

Grilled Rosemary Garlic Lamb Chops With Roasted Italian Potatoes…

I know I have been remiss in posting recipes. As I’ve stated many times, my goal is one new recipe a week. Well, there is a very good reason that I’ve not been able to keep up. My husband and I downsized and moved from a house to a condo in July. It didn’t take us long to figure out that the look and functionality of the kitchen were not what we wanted. And so it began… shopping for granite, replacing appliances (stove top, microwave, oven and dishwasher – the refrigerator is ok so it may get a reprieve for a while). And now we are in the midst of taking it all apart and putting it back together again. You’ll feel my pain when you look at the picture below.

my torn apart kitchen

The good news is that I’ve lived through these types of remodels before and my husband always does a fabulous job. It was hard for us to move away from the home we lived in for over 15 years but it was a smart move. And once we tried to settle in we knew there were some things  preventing us from feeling like this was home. By making these changes our condo will definitely become our home with the kinds of conveniences and appliances we like.

One last thing about the remodel. The condo had quartz on the island and countertops. Although quartz is nice, we are granite people. We loved the granite that we had in our previous home. It was called Crema Bordeaux. When we went granite shopping we decided to be open to new possibilities. We walked through aisles and aisles of various types of granite. Wouldn’t you know it, we kept coming back to the slab of Crema Bordeaux. We decided not to fight it and went with what we’ve loved for a long time. The slab (which weighs 2 1/2 tons by the way) is pictured below.  The templates for the granite will be drawn at the end of this week with installation to occur right after Thanksgiving. Thank goodness we are going out to dinner on Thanksgiving! We should be up and running for Christmas. After all, there are cookies to be made!

Crema Bordeaux

So, this has been a very long winded way of saying that I’ve had to rely on my grill, built in oven (that will be removed when my gas stove is installed) and microwave to do the heavy lifting for meals.

My preferred way of cooking lamb chops is on the grill so this was a no brainer. With a hot grill you get a great sear and the chops take less time to cook. The potatoes are made in the oven and are so easy to prepare and they taste divine!  So here are a few lessons learned making the lamb chops and potatoes…

Lesson Learned 1 – The longer you can marinate the lamb chops the better. I always use loin chops and I find them meatier and juicier, but you can also use rib chops. I found that I can get between 6 – 8 one inch thick chops at a really great price at either Sam’s Club or Costco.

When buying lamp chops, try to pick ones that have a substantive tenderloin. Obviously, that is the most tender part of the chop. Marinating them overnight is optimum, but you can marinate them for as little as an hour as well.

Marinated Lamb Chops

Lesson Learned 2 – Don’t forget to let the lamb chops rest after you cook them: Lamb like beef needs to rest when your done grilling so that the juices can redistribute. Although they will look divine resist the temptation to cut into them right away. Cover them with foil and let them rest for 5 minutes and you will have tender, juicy chops.

Mint JellyLesson Learned 3 – If you’ve never had it, try some mint jelly with your lamb chops: I was introduced to lamb chops with mint jelly when I was a kid. I was at a friend’s house for dinner and this is what was served. I never had lamb before and didn’t know what to think. At the time I was not all that enamored with the flavor but was afraid to say anything to my friend’s mom so I just said it was fabulous. Because of that, she made lamb with mint jelly every time I came over for dinner. I learned to love it, and now it is one of my all time favorites. Just use a little jelly with a piece of lamb. The flavor combination is to die for!

Lesson Learned 4 – Not all types of potatoes cook at the same rate: I’ve found that if I am roasting yukon gold or red potatoes they take less time to cook than russets. In this recipe I used small yukon gold potatoes and halved them. At 425, these potatoes were fully cooked and beautifully crisped in one hour. They were heavenly.

Roast Italian Potatoes

So, if you want a quick, easy meal without using your stovetop this one’s for you. I roasted some cauliflower florets in the oven with the potatoes (I only roasted them for 1/2 hour) and had a fabulous meal. So try this one and let me know what you think.

Grilled Rosemary Garlic Lamb Chops...

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print


8 one inch thick loin lamb chops

4-6 cloves garlic, minced

1 Tbs. fresh rosemary, chopped

Zest of one small lemon

1/4 cup garlic infused olive oil (you can also use plain EVOO)

Salt and Pepper


Salt and pepper both sides of the chops. In a small bowl, combine garlic, rosemary, lemon zest and olive oil. Put the chops in a bag and pour the marinade over them. Seal the bag and turn it over several times to make sure the chops are coated on both sides. Marinate for at least one hour up to overnight, turning the bag at regular intervals to make sure both sides of the chops are evenly marinated.

Heat your grill to medium high heat (I have a Webber gas grill). Remove the chops from the marinade and sear them for 2 minutes on each side. Lower the temperature of the grill to medium heat and continue to cook for 5 minutes total. This cooking time will give you medium rare chops. Let the chops rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Roasted Italian Potatoes...

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print


15 small yukon gold potatoes, halved but not peeled

6 whole cloves of garlic

2 Tbs. dried oregano

1/4 cup basil infused olive oil (you can also use plain EVOO)

Flat leaf parsley for garnish, optional

Salt and pepper


Cover a large baking sheet with foil and spray the foil with cooking spray. In a large bowl, combine the halved potatoes, whole garlic cloves, oregano and olive oil. Spread the potatoes and garlic cloves on the baking sheet making sure not to crowd the potatoes (they won’t crisp if they’re crowded). Salt and pepper the potatoes.

Roast at 425 for one hour turning the potatoes half way through the roasting time. Serve immediately.

Grilled Rosemary Garlic Lamb Chops

Grilled Rosemary Garlic Lamb Chops With Roasted Italian Potatoes

Whatever You Like Quiche…

Quiche is a great way to clean out your refrigerator. It seems you can add whatever you like to a basic quiche recipe and get a fantastic entree. Whether it be meat, vegetables, herbs or  a combination of any or all of them, you can always come out with a great meal.

I’ve added many things to quiche like broccoli, carrots, peas, spinach, pearl onions, cauliflower, ham, chicken – it just seems the combinations are endless. So last week I looked in my refrigerator and I had some bacon, butternut squash cubes and chives and I thought, ok quiche!

There are a few things you need to think about in order to have a perfect quiche. But it’s not hard and once you figure it out your quiche will turn out perfect every time. I have a full proof recipe for the custard/egg part, it’s the crust and what you add to the filling that you need to think through. So, let’s talk about making quiche…

Beans used for blind baking a pie crustLesson Learned 1 – Whether you use a home made or store bought pie crust you need to blind bake it: Blind baking means you partially bake the pie crust before adding the custard mixture to it. That way the crust does not wind up soggy. The procedure is rather simple. Now I’ve mostly used store bought pie deep dish pie crusts. I take the crust out of the freezer and with a fork make some prick marks all over the bottom and sides of the crust being careful not to stick the fork all the way through the dough. This helps keep the dough from rising too much during the baking process. In order to ensure it stays flat I also cover the crust with parchment paper and weigh down the parchment paper with some uncooked beans I keep in mason jar in the pantry just for this purpose. You can also use pie weights. You can find those in most any store. Whatever you use, make sure the bottom and side are weighted down.

Bake the crust for about 20 minutes and then remove the parchment paper and weights and bake for another 10 – 15 minutes. If you use beans you may see a little moisture on the bottom of the crust after you remove the parchment paper. No worries, the moisture will be gone when you bake the crust for the additional 10-15 minutes. The blind baking process is done when the crust is just starting to turn brown.

If you use a home made crust you should set it up in a pie plate and then put it in the freezer for about 30 minutes before you do the blind baking. You want the dough to be a little stiff when it goes into the oven.

Cooked Butternut SquashLesson Learned 2 – To precook or not precook your ingredients before adding them to the egg/custard mixture: This is where you may have to learn by trial and error. Some ingredients you can just add but others need to either be cooked or partially cooked before you put them in the batter. I mentioned I decided to make a bacon, butternut squash and chive quiche. Bacon needs to be fully cooked, drained and cooled before adding it to the batter. The squash, if cut in small pieces about 1/2 inch square, can be cooked until the edges are just slightly turning soft and then drained and cooled before adding it to the batter. Chives you can just chop and drop in. I cooked the bacon first and then I cooked the squash in the bacon grease until it just started to soften. The result was perfectly cooked squash when the quiche was finished.

Bacon, cooked, drained and cooled

With cauliflower I found that if I cut the florets into bite-sized pieces I can just add them to the batter and I get perfect al dente pieces when the quiche is done. Carrots you will need to cook. I just add frozen pearl onions and they turn our perfectly. If you decide to use diced onion you will need to cook them. Ham is generally precooked so you can just cube it and add it. Spinach should be wilted and drained. Mushrooms should be cooked to release their moisture and drained. So you see, not one size fits all when it comes to adding ingredients to the egg/custard mix. But I know you’ll get the hang of it.  Just remember, you don’t want hot things or a lot of moisture going in to the egg/custard mixture.

Lesson Learned 3 – Let the quiche rest for about five minutes after you take it out of the oven: By doing this you give the custard a change to get a little firmer and the quiche will be easier to cut. Resist the temptation to cut it right away, no matter how great it looks!

Bacon, Butternut Squash and Chive Quiche


  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: Easy
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1 nine inch frozen deep dish pie crust

2 cups filling ( I used 1 1/2 cups butternut squash, 1/2 cup bacon chopped and  2 Tbs minced chives)

2 cups good melting cheese, grated  (I used jarlsberg)

4 large eggs

1 cup milk

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/2 tsp. salt


Preheat the oven to 350. Prick the bottom and sides of the frozen crust with a fork. Cover with parchment paper and weigh down with beans or pie weights. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, take off the parchment paper and weights and bake the crust for another 10-15 minutes or until it just starts to turn brown. Remove from oven and let cool.

Prepare the filling while blind baking the crust. Cook the bacon until crisp. Drain on paper towels and cut into pieces when cooled. Cut the squash into half inch squares and saute in the bacon grease. Remove the squash when it just starts to soften and drain on paper towels. Mince the chives.

In a large bowl crack 4 eggs and slightly whisk to break the yokes. Add the milk, cream and salt and whisk thoroughly. Add your filling and stir to combine.

Put half the cheese on the bottom of the pie crust. Pour in the filling. Put the other half of the cheese on top of the filling.  Place the dish on a foil lined baking sheet. Bake in the oven at 350 for 40-45 minutes. Let stand for five minutes. Slice and serve.

Bacon, Butternut Squash and Chive Quiche

 Bacon, Butternut Squash and Chive Quiche

Meatballs With A Surprise Inside…

My “Best Ever Meatballs” is my go-to recipe for an hors d’oeuvre but I wanted to experiment with a meatball recipe that could serve as a entree and not an appetizer. I definitely wanted them to taste differently from the appetizer version and I also wanted to have some fun with them. So I decided to make these meatballs and I think they’ll be my go-to entree recipe.

This is a great recipe for a variety of reasons. I love it because the meatballs are easy to make, they’re delicious, they cook quickly, the cheese inside is a delightful surprise and it makes great leftovers! I have to say I cheated when I made these, I used pre-made mashed potatoes instead of making them from scratch. But by doing that I could have dinner on the table in 30 minutes. So it was worth the short cut.

So let’s talk meatballs with a surprise…

ground beef mixtureLesson Learned 1 – It doesn’t take many ingredients to make the meatballs flavorful: basically you’re mixing the meat with an egg yolk, some panko, minced onion, worcestershire sauce and dijon mustard – that’s it. Combined with the cheese inside and the beef gravy you get flavorful meatballs without a lot of work! The key is to make sure you combine all of the ingredients but not over work the meat. If you do you’ll have tough meatballs and you don’t want that.

Cheese Inside the MeatballLesson Learned 2 – A little bit of cheese goes a long way: You can use any kind of good melting cheese in the center of your meatballs. I chose one called Buttrekase, a cheese that originated in Switzerland and now produced in Wisconsin. It’s American name is “butter cheese” although it has no butter in it. It melts luxuriously and has a mild buttery flavor. This was a perfect choice for these meatballs.

You will get approximately 15 meatballs out of one pound of ground beef. You don’t want your meatballs to be too big, maybe an inch to an inch and a half in diameter. Make sure you cut pieces of cheese that are small enough to support a meatball that size. Then just take the meat mixture and wrap it around that cheese, pressing the meat together to try to minimize any holes. But don’t worry if cheese leaks out when you bake them. There will still be more inside.

Lesson Learned 3 – Don’t over bake your meatballs:  Although the meatballs look large, remember that there is a good amount of cheese inside them. So I would not bake them any longer than 15-18 minutes. Keep in mind you will also be simmering them for a few minutes in the gravy once you take them out of the oven, so they have plenty of time to get cooked through.

The amount of meatballs you get with a pound of ground beef.

This has got to be one of the easiest recipes ever and produces a great meal in a short amount of time. I love topping a mound of mashed potatoes with these meatballs and then drizzling the beef gravy on top. Add a sprinkling of fresh cut flat leaf parsley and you’ve got a meal that looks as good as it tastes. Enjoy!


  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Easy
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(For The Meatballs)

1 pound 93% lean ground sirloin

2 Tbs. minced onion

1 egg yolk

3 Tbs. panko bread crumbs

1 Tbs. worcestershire sauce

1 tsp. dijon mustard

4 oz. good melting cheese (I used Butterkase cheese)

Chopped flat leaf parsley for garnish

(For The Sauce)

4 – 6  cremini mushrooms, sliced

1 small onion sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 Tbs. unsalted butter

2 1/2 cups beef stock, divided and unsalted

2 Tbs. corn starch

2 Tbs. ketchup

2 Tbs. worcestershire sauce

Salt and pepper to taste


Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a lipped baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray.  Cut the cheese into about 15 small pieces. Combine onion, egg yolk, minced onion, bread crumbs worcestershire sauce and mustard until well combined. Add the ground beef and mix until just combined.

Divide the ground beef mixture into about 15 equal sized pieces. Flatten each piece, add a piece of cheese into the center and roll the meat around the cheese sealing it to the best of your ability.

Bake 15-18 minutes. While the meatballs are baking, make the sauce.

Melt the butter in a large skillet. Add the onions and mushrooms and cook until tender (5-8 minutes). Add the garlic and cook until fragrant (approx. 1 minute). Pour all but 1/4 cup of the beef stock into the pan. Mix the remaining stock with the cornstarch, making sure that the cornstarch is completely absorbed into the stock. Add that to the pan along with the ketchup and worchestershire sauce. Cook until thick. Salt and pepper to taste.

Take the meatballs out of the oven and add them to the sauce. Simmer them in the sauce for about 3 minutes. Serve warm.

Cooked onions and mushrooms

Simmer Meatballs In The Sauce

Meatballs With A Surprise

Meatballs With A Surprise Inside

Chicken, Cauliflower and Mushroom Casserole…

Casseroles can be deceptive. On the outside what you see is a one dish meal – couldn’t be easier right? But upon closer inspection you see a wide variety of ingredients that have to be “bake-off” ready in order to assemble the casserole. And if you don’t have those ingredients on hand, there’s a lot of work involved in putting a casserole together.  Just be aware of that, especially if you are prepping ingredients from scratch. Let’s face it, casseroles are basically designed to help you use your leftovers – sort of a “fooled you, you ate this the other night for dinner and here it is again, just dressed up differently!” But whether you are using leftovers or preparing ingredients from scratch there is nothing as comforting as a casserole. And besides, I’d rather be relaxing an hour before the meal than scrambling right up to the last minute before you put the meal on the table. For me, that is the beauty of a casserole.

Casseroles also feed my love of prepping things. So I’ll admit I made this the other day without using any leftovers. This was a from scratch casserole. But if you’re a prep nut like me who gets satisfaction out of chopping, mincing, dicing and slicing than it really is no big deal.

So let’s talk about making a chicken, cauliflower and mushroom casserole…

Casserole IngredientsLesson Learned 1 – Get all the individual ingredients prepped first: This is pretty much a rule of thumb for almost any recipe, but since there are so many different types of ingredients in a casserole I’ve found the best thing to do is to get everything “assembly ready” first. That way you’re much more organized and the casserole assembly process is a breeze. That means have the chicken cut up or shredded, slightly steam the cauliflower, sauté the mushrooms, either use leftover rice or cook your rice, and shred all of your cheeses.

And by the way, it is always better to shred your own cheese. Packaged pre shredded cheese has an “ingredient” in it, cellulose, designed to keep the shreds of cheese from sticking together. And guess what – cellulose is made from wood pulp. So unless you want to have a regular amount of wood pulp in your diet, I’d recommend shredding your cheese by hand. It’s not that hard and obviously healthier for you.

Lesson Learned 2 – A chicken casserole’s best friend – store bought rotisserie chicken: You can always roast the chicken you need ahead of time in your own oven, but it’s so much simpler just to buy store bought rotisserie chicken and use that. I bought a small chicken, removed and discarded the skin and shredded the meat. It saved a lot of time and believe me, no one knew the difference.

Lesson Learned 3 – Use any melting cheese you have on hand: I had gruyere and havarti on hand so I just combined those two for this casserole. To top the casserole I found a specialty cheese called buffalo wing artisan cheddar cheese. That cheese was great because it had a nice kick to it and added a unique flavor to the top of the casserole. Really, you can be inventive with your cheeses. You just want to make sure that whatever cheese(s) you use it is good melting cheese.

Lesson Learned 4 – Just slightly steam the cauliflower: I steamed mine for about 5 minutes. Really all you want is for them to just show the first signs of cooking. Remove them from the heat. No need to shock them. Just don’t feel that you have to steam them for a long time. All you really need to do is give them a little nudge.

Lesson Learned 5 – Once everything thing is prepped, assembly is a snap: Here is what the assembly looks like in pictures.

Line the bottom of a pan treated with non stick cooking spray with rice

Line the bottom of a pan treated with non stick cooking spray with rice

Put the cauliflower florets on top of the rice

Put the cauliflower florets on top of the rice

Spread the chicken mixture on top of the rice and cauliflower

Spread the chicken mixture on top of the rice and cauliflower

Spread chicken mixture over the rice and cauliflower

Top with cheese

Top with cheese and pop into the oven

And there you have it. Forty-five minutes to an hour later you will be in casserole heaven. So try this one, play with the ingredients and as always let me know what you think…


  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: Easy
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1  Four pound rotisserie chicken, skin removed, cubed or shredded

1 small head of cauliflower cut into florets and slightly steamed (4 cups of florets)

8 large cremini mushrooms, sliced and sautéed in 1 Tbs. of  butter

1 1/2 cups cooked rice (cooked in low sodium chicken broth for additional flavor)

1 ten ounce can of condensed cream of mushroom soup

1 cup of sour cream

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice

2 1/2 cups shredded melting cheese (I used a combination of havarti and gruyere)

1 – 1 1/2 cups shredded buffalo wing artisan cheddar cheese (for the top)

Salt and pepper, to taste


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 6 quart casserole dish with butter or spray it with cooking spray. Line the bottom of the dish with the cooked rice. Arrange the cauliflower florets on top of the rice.

In a large bowl combine the chicken, sautéed mushrooms, mushroom soup, havarti and gruyere cheeses, sour cream, mayonnaise and lemon juice. Salt and pepper to taste.

Spread the chicken mixture on top of the rice and cauliflower. Cover the casserole with the buffalo wing cheddar cheese.

Bake in the oven for 45 minutes. If need be, cook up to an additional 15 minutes longer. Casserole is done when the cheese on top is melted and the casserole is bubbly. Remove the casserole from the oven and let it stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Chicken, cauliflower mushroom casserole

Chicken, cauliflower and mushroom casserole

Chicken, cauliflower and mushroom casserole

Chicken, Cauliflower and Mushroom Casserole



Baked Honey Mustard Salmon…

Once again I apologize to my readers and subscribers. I’m in the process of moving and have not been able to devote the time I would like to my goal of one new recipe a week. Hopefully within another month I will be back on track. Until then, I will publish when I can.

Today I want to write about honey mustard salmon. I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ll eat just about anything that’s honey mustard. To me that combination of flavors is second to none. I’ve often made chicken with it. So why not try marinating and baking one of my favorite types of fish, salmon, in a honey mustard sauce.

I like flavorful and simple recipes. I truly believe that the more simple the ingredients the better. This particular recipe fits that mold. One of my most popular posts these days is my recipe for Pan Fried Cod In Lemon Butter Sauce. I bet this one will become a reader favorite as well.

So let’s talk baked honey mustard salmon…

Remove the skin from the salmonLesson Learned 1 – Cut the skin off the back of the salmon: Salmon has a very thick skin that will prevent the marinade from completely permeating the filet. You need to remove it to get the best results. Because the skin is so thick it can be easily removed but you’ll need a very sharp knife to do the job. Don’t try removing the skin with a dull knife. You’ll wind up getting very frustrated and could potentially hurt yourself. Remember most knife accidents occur because of dull knives. Sharp knives are actually much safer to use and cause less kitchen accidents.

Honey Mustard MarinadeLesson Learned 2 – It’s best if you can marinate your fish for at least 3 hours: Although you can marinate this fish for a minimum of 30 minutes, I found that the honey mustard is better absorbed by the salmon the longer you marinate it. So if you can marinate the salmon for 3 hours.

Mix the marinade in a small bowl. Then take a gallon sized plastic bag, place the salmon filets in the bag and pour the marinade over the fish. Seal the bag, place it on a small plate and refrigerate. REMEMBER to turn the bag over several times while it’s in the refrigerator to insure the fish gets uniformly coated on both sides.

Marinate Salmon In A Plastic Bag

Lesson Learned 3 – Prepare your baking dish so that the salmon doesn’t stick to it: Keep in mind that this marinade contains honey and some of it will get dark and thicken during the baking process. If you ever tried to remove baked on honey from a baking dish you know how difficult it can be. That’s why it is so important to pretreat your pan. I usually line the pan with foil and then spray the foil lightly with olive oil cooking spray. That way the fish will lift off the pan without any trouble.

Let the salmon bake in the marinadeLesson Learned 4 – Use the marinade as a baking sauce: Once you put the filets on the baking sheet, cover them with the marinade. That way the marinade becomes a delicious sauce you can spoon over your filets before serving them. DO NOT use the marinade as a sauce directly out of the bag since it has been sitting over raw fish. But if you spoon that marinade over the filets and let it bake in the oven with the salmon, it thickens beautifully and becomes a safe and great sauce.

Don’t be afraid of making fish. The key is not to overcook fish. Follow this recipe cooking time to the letter and I guarantee you will have wonderfully moist and flavorful salmon filets. And as alway, why don’t you try this and tell me what you think…


  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Easy
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4 six ounce salmon filetsHoney Mustard Salmon

4 cloves garlic, chopped

6 tsp. dijon mustard

6 Tbs. honey

4 Tbs. dry white wine (I use Chardonnay)

1 small pinch of salt

1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (you can use a little less if desired)

Chopped chives for garnish, optional


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. If the salmon filets have skin, remove the skin and set aside. Whisk together the garlic, mustard, honey, wine, salt and pepper until smooth. Place the salmon filets in a gallon size plastic bag. Pour the marinade over the filets and seal the bag. Massage the bag with your fingers to make sure all of the filets are covered. Place the bag on a small plate and refrigerate for up to 3 hours (30 minutes minimum), remembering to turn the bag over in the fridge every once in a while during the marinating process.

Prepare a baking pan by lining it with foil and lightly spraying the foil with olive oil cooking spray. Place the filets on the baking sheet and pour the marinade over the filets. Bake for 12 – 15 minutes. Plate the salmon. Pour any of the remaining sauce (baked marinade) over the filets. Garnish with chopped chives and serve.

Baked Honey Mustard Salmon

Serving suggestion: salmon with southwestern rice and oven roasted butternut squash

Serving suggestion: salmon with southwestern rice and oven roasted butternut squash

Honey Mustard Salmon

Juicy Oven Baked Pork Chops…

For a very long time I had not idea how to cook pork chops. When I was a child my mother would make a roast pork dinner and she always wanted to make sure it was cooked thoroughly so of course her roasts were always dried out. (sorry Mom…) That’s the way I grew up thinking how pork should be cooked. Needless to say, I was not a big fan of pork at the time – too dry and tasteless.

It’s only been within the last couple of years that I’ve learned how to cook pork. Most people think the meat has to be opaque white which is a fallacy. Once it gets to that point it is overdone and will most likely be dry and tasteless. When pork is done perfectly it should look like the picture below…

Juicy Oven Baked Pork Chops

Look at how juicy this piece of pork is. Pork that is done correctly will have a little bit of pink marbling in the meat as you can see in the picture. Most people, including myself, used to think that pork was not cooked thoroughly when it had a little pink in it. That couldn’t be further from the truth. I tested these chops in their thickest part with a meat thermometer and it read 140 degrees which is ideal. Let me tell you this pork chop was melt in your mouth delicious. And preparing it this way was not all that difficult. I want to share this recipe because it is so easy and I guarantee perfect results every time. But there are a couple of little secrets you need to be aware of and I’ll share them in my lessons learned.

So let’s talk juicy oven baked pork chops…

lodge-cast-iron-skilletLesson Learned 1 – Take my advice and buy a cast iron skillet: Recently I’ve been doing a lot of cooking in my cast iron skillet and I’ve learned to  love it! Cast iron is your best method for cooking. It may take a little longer to heat up (and really not all that much longer) but once it does it provides even heat that will not dissipate quickly. Plus it moves seamlessly from stove top to oven. And if that isn’t enough it is also one of the cheapest skillets you can buy. Depending on what size skillet you get you’ll pay somewhere between  $15 – $30. Now that’s a bargain! The main downside to a cast iron skillet is that it’s heavy to lift. But in my mind that does not outweigh the benefits. Just look at it as building up your upper body strength while preparing an absolutely delicious meal!

I have a 10 inch skillet and that is big enough for two pork chops the size required for this recipe so I’m writing this recipe for two. If you get a larger skillet you can easily do four chops. Nothing else in the recipe has to be adjusted significantly. Just make sure you know how many chops will fit in your skillet without crowding them.

You need to use center cut bone-in chops for this recipe. They should be about 1 inch thick. Chops of that size take up quite a bit of room in the skillet. So if you want to do more than two chops in one skillet get a skillet larger than 10 inches.

Handy Trick: One other trick I learned was to put the skillet in the oven and leave it there while the oven is preheating. Once the oven has reached 400 degrees you take the skillet out of the oven (make sure you use mitts because the pan will be hot) put it on the stove over medium high heat and then sear the chops one one side before turning the chops over and putting the skillet back in the oven. It’s a pretty nifty trick.

Lesson Learned 2 – Try brining your chops: If you’ve never tried brining you really should. Brining basically is marinating meat in a salt based liquid that has optional ingredients you can add to enhance the flavor of the meat. The purpose of brining is to break down the fibers in the meat ergo making it more tender. I recommend brining your chops for at least 4 hours, but even if you can only do it for 30 minutes it will make a difference in the meat.

Brining Your Pork Chops

Depending on the type of dish you use to brine the chops you may need more water than I suggest to make sure they’re covered. The chops need to be completely covered for the brining process to work. If you need to add more liquid than what I specify in the recipe just remember to add a tablespoon of salt for every additional cup of water. Also make sure that the salt is completely dissolved in the water before putting it over the chops.

The rest of the recipe is so simple it’s almost funny. This is quick and easy way for making the most unbelievably moist and tender chops you’ll ever have. Try it and tell me what you think.

Juicy Oven Baked Pork Chops…

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: Easy
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Juicy Oven Baked Porch ChopsFor the Brine:

3 cups water, divided

3 Tbs. Kosher Salt

2 Garlic cloves, smashed

1/2 tsp. black peppercorns

1 bay leaf

For The Pork Chops:

2 center cut bone-in pork chops, 1 inch thick each

1 Tbs. olive oil, optional

Salt and Pepper


Approximately 4 hours ahead of time brine the chops. Take 1 cup of water and bring it to a boil. Add the salt, garlic cloves, peppercorns and bay leaf. Stir continuously until all the salt is dissolved. Take the mixture off the heat. Add the remaining two cups of cold water. Do not put the pork chops in the brining liquid until the liquid has come to room temperature (this make take about 5 minutes or so). Place the chops in a shallow dish and cover them with the brining liquid. (the liquid should completely cover the chops). If you need to add more liquid refer to lessons learned above. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until time to cook.

Put the cast iron skillet in the oven. Close the oven door and preheat the oven to 400 degrees. While the oven is heating remove the pork chops from the brine and pat them dry. Salt and pepper both sides of the chops.

When the oven has preheated remove the skillet and place it on top of the stove. Turn the heat under the skillet to medium high. At this point you can add a little olive oil to the pan if you desire. (I have a well seasoned skillet and did not need to add any olive oil. If you’re not sure how well seasoned you skillet is, add a little olive oil so the chops won’t stick to the pan). Sear the chops on one side for 3-4 minutes.

Turn the chops over and put the skillet back in the oven. Continue roasting the chops for an additional 7-9 minutes (the chops should register 140 -145 degrees in the thickest part of the meat). Remove the chops from the pan and place them on a plate to rest for about 5 minutes. Cover the chops with foil during this resting period. Serve immediately after the resting period.

Juicy Oven Baked Pork Chops

Juicy Oven Baked Pork Chops

Parmesan Crusted Halibut…

My husband and I have been trying to eat fish more regularly and so I’ve been experimenting with various methods of cooking different types of fish. Not all fish are created equal. I have to admit that it can be a little unnerving trying to master the art of cooking fish as it can go from underdone to overdone in the wink of an eye. But this particular recipe is very easy and if you follow the instructions you will have a delicious mouthwatering piece of fish.

Most of the work in this recipe is in the prep (that seems to be a recurring theme for me, doesn’t it). Creating the breading station and preparing the fish is what takes up the most time. But bottom line, within 20 minutes you can go from prep to table and that’s pretty quick. Your side dishes may take more time than it does to make this halibut recipe.

So let’s talk parmesan crusted halibut…

Lesson Learned 1 – Halibut is expensive: Compared to talapia, cod and catfish, halibut can be pricey. The filets I use in this recipe are frozen and between 5 and 7 ounces. They cost about $10 each. So depending on your budget halibut may be a special treat versus a dinnertime staple. I usually buy them when they go on sale at my local supermarket. Every once in a while they go on sale for 20% off and I stock at that time. Halibut freezes nicely so you don’t have to worry about getting it fresh which also tends to be more expensive than frozen. My advice is to check the specials at your local supermarket. Every once in a while halibut goes on sale and that is definitely the time to buy it.

Lesson Learned 2 – Follow the directions in this recipe: Although halibut is more expensive than other types of fish it has a nice meaty texture and is very flavorful if prepared correctly. That is why I cannot stress enough to follow the directions in this recipe. The overall tendency with fish (or maybe it’s just my tendency) is to cook it longer than you should. If you’re not sure it’s done, take a fork and try to flake off the end of one piece. If it flakes (as seen in the picture below) it’s done. Trust me, after you make fish more often you’ll be able to eyeball it to see if it’s done.  You can always put it back in the oven if it’s not but you don’t want to spend $10 for a piece of fish and overcook it.

Parmesan Crusted Halibut

If you’re planning on serving fish to company and are concerned about presentation make sure you are adept at cooking that type of fish so you don’t have to do the fork test. I can’t tell you how many times my husband got a piece of “forked” fish but never minded because he knew it would be cooked appropriately.

My husband absolutely loves this recipe and I think you will too. Try it and let me know what you think…


  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Medium
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Parmesan Crusted Halibut4 five to seven ounce halibut filets, skin removed

1 extra large egg

1 Tbs. water

1 cup panko bread crumbs

1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated

1 Tbs. fresh thyme (just take the leaves off the stem – no need to chop them)

1/2 cup all purpose flour

Zest of one lemon (you can cut the remainder of the lemon into wedges and serve with the fish)

2 Tbs. olive oil


Preheat the oven to 350. Make a three part dredging station. Part 1 is the flour. Part 2 is the egg and water whisked together. Part 3 is the panko, parmesan, lemon zest and thyme combined.

Dredge a filet in the flour on both side. Shake off the excess flour. Dredge the filet on both sides in the egg mixture. Place the filet onto the bread crumb mixture and cover both sides pressing down on each side to ensure the breading adheres to the filet. Repeat this process with the other three filets.

Heat an ovenproof pan (preferably a cast iron skillet) over medium high heat. Once the pan is heated pour the olive oil into the pan and make sure the bottom of the pan is completely coated. The pan is sufficiently hot if the oil smokes. Place the filets into the oil and brown them for 3 minutes. Turn them over and put them in the oven for an additional 5 – 7 minutes depending upon the size of your filets.

Remove the filets from the pan and serve immediately.

Parmesan Crusted Halibut

Parmesan Crusted Halibut


Chicken Shepherds Pie…

After having made a delightful roast chicken (check out my roast chicken in a cast iron skillet recipe) I was faced with how to use the leftovers. Quite often I make a simple chicken salad consisting of cut up chicken, scallions, grapes, mayo and seasonings, but this time I wanted to do something different.

I’ve always liked the concept of shepherds pie. You basically take your leftover meat and mashed potatoes and create a pie that is oh so good – the true definition of comfort food. Most recipes I’ve seen suggest using frozen vegetables and if you’re in a hurry that will certainly work. But I like to use fresh vegetables whenever I can so I decided to do that instead. I also did not have any left over mashed potatoes so I just whipped up a batch. I’ve tried shepherds pies with store bought pre-prepared mashed potatoes or with instant mashed potatoes but I didn’t think the consistency was as good as when you use homemade mashed potatoes. But you can still use them if you want to.

I guess what I’m trying to say here is the beauty of this recipe is you can make it as simple or as intricate as you like. I still think taking the time to use fresh ingredients and home made mashed potatoes produces the best results. But the choice is yours.

So let’s talk chicken shepherds pie…

Sauteed vegetablesLesson Learned 1 – Use whatever vegetables you want or have on hand: This time I used the “trinity”, onions, celery and carrots along with some frozen peas. But really you can use anything you have. You just have to make sure that you sauté the vegetables to crisp tender before putting them into the pie dish. Next time I’m going to try using some broccoli and cauliflower heads chopped on the smaller side along with onions and carrots. I may even try adding pearl onions instead of chopped onions. It is important to cut the carrots small as they will take the longest to soften. I halved my carrots lengthwise and then halved them again before chopping them. That way they softened right along with the celery and onions. And if you’re using frozen peas (which I did) don’t add them until the very end. They thaw very quickly.

Lesson Learned 2 – Add the chicken at the very end: The chicken you use in this recipe is already cooked so your goal is to warm it through and not cook it to the point that you dry it out. All you really need to do is mix the chicken with the vegetables and then put the mixture into the dish(es) you will be using. The time the pie spends in the oven will be more than enough to warm the chicken through. You might want to take the chicken out of the refrigerator about a half hour before using it in the recipe. That way you will get the chill off of it and it will warm nicely in the oven.

Shepherds Pie FillingLesson Learned 3 – You can use individual pie pans or one 9 inch pie pan: I prefer giving everyone there own little pie but you can certainly bake this as one big pie as well and spoon out individual servings. Either way will work.

Lesson Learned 4 – Put the pie(s) on a foil lined baking sheet before placing them in the oven: I guarantee you, the pie filling WILL LEAK OUT of the pie dish. In order to avoid the filling dripping all over the bottom of your oven make sure the pans are resting on a foiled lined rimmed baking sheet. That way you’ll save yourself a lot of mess and clean up time.

Lesson Learned 5 – Use russet potatoes when making mashed potatoes: Russet potatoes have a lot more starch in them and hold up better in the baking process than other types of potatoes (at least that’s my opinion). Use russet potatoes and don’t make them too runny. Although I will write out some ingredients for making the potatoes use common sense when making them. If they already appear very soft after you mash them add very little liquid to them. If they are stiff, add a little bit of liquid at a time and see how they turn out when you mix them. Remember you can always add more of an ingredient if you need to. I think you get the best results when the potatoes have a slightly firmer consistency. If they’re too soft they will get even runnier in the oven, and you don’t want that.

Also another trick I learned is to add an egg yolk at the end of the mashing process. That gives the potatoes a richer color and more depth of flavor. Just make sure your potatoes are not hot to the point that they scramble the egg yolk. Chances are that will not be the case.

Also if you want to be fancy you can use a pastry bag and pipe the potatoes on the top of the pie. I chose not to. I used a frosting knife and after I dolloped some potatoes on top smoothed them over the vegetables. Try to create some peaks with your potatoes. The peaks are what will brown in the oven and give the eye pleasing look as seen in the second picture below.

Ready To Go Into The Oven

Ready To Go Into The Oven

Fresh Out Of The Oven

Fresh Out Of The Oven

This recipe is the epitome of comfort food. Try it and tell me what you think… Enjoy!


  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Easy
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2 large russet potatoes, peeled and chopped

1 medium onion chopped

2 stalks of celery, chopped

1 cup of carrots, chopped small

4 cloves of garlic, divided: 2 whole and 2 minced

4 Tbs. unsalted butter, divided

3 Tbs. flour

1 1/2 cups unsalted chicken stock

1 1/2 cups roasted chicken, cubed or shredded

1/3 cup frozen peas

1 1/2 cups loosely packed emmenthaler cheese (a good melting swiss)

1 large egg yolk

1/4 cup heavy cream

2 tsps. dried oregano

Salt and pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Put the potatoes and two peeled cloves of garlic in a large pot and cover them with cold water (the water should be about an inch over the potatoes. Add a generous pinch of salt and bring the potatoes to a boil. Cook until tender about 20-25 minutes (the cooking time will vary depending on how large or small your cut the potatoes). The potatoes are done when they are fork tender.

Meanwhile in a large skillet melt 3 Tbs. of butter. Add the onion, celery and carrots. Salt and pepper to taste. Cook until crisp tender, approximately 5 minutes. Add the remaining 2 cloves of minced garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the flour and stir for about a minute to remove any “floury” taste. Add the chicken stock and continue to cook until the liquid thickens about 10 minutes. Add the cheese and oregano and stir until the cheese is melted. Taste the mixture and add any additional salt and pepper as needed. Add the chicken and peas. Stir to combine. Turn off the heat and let stand.

Drain the potatoes and put them back into the pot. Add 1 Tbs. of butter and cover for a few minutes until the butter is melted. Using a hand masher or electric hand mixer, mash the potatoes until most of the lumps are gone. Add the heavy cream (you may want to add it incrementally instead of all at once so that the potatoes don’t wind up to runny) and finish mashing. Separate an egg and put only the yolk into the mashed potatoes. Stir until completely combined. Add any additional salt as needed.

Place the vegetables mixture into the pan(s). Top with the mash potatoes. Smooth the potatoes over the top of the vegetables until they are completely covered. Place the pan(s) on a foil lined rimmed backing sheet. Bake until the potatoes are lightly browned and the vegetable mixture is warm and bubbly, approximately 20-30 minutes.

Chicken Shepherds Pie

Chicken Shepherds Pie

Hearty One Skillet Dinner…

I’m always looking to make something different but sometimes it needs to be different and fast. For those wanting that too, this recipe is for you. I was actually amazed how flavorful this was given the simplicity of the recipe. This recipe accompanied by a small salad and some crusty bread can be just what the doctor ordered.

There is nothing particularly fancy about this recipe. Probably the most unique thing about it is it contains both potatoes and rice. Surprisingly enough, the rice gives the dish a creamy texture and the potatoes, carrots and onions give it depth and bulk. There’s not even a lot of prep work involved and once everything is combined you just simmer everything for thirty minutes and voila, dinner is served!

Hearty One Skillet Dinner

So let’s talk hearty one skillet dinner…

Lesson Learned 1 – It’s important to cut the carrots and potatoes into small pieces: You want to make sure that the carrots and potatoes cook through and so they need to be diced a little smaller than usual. With the carrots I peeled them, cut them in half lengthwise and then each piece in half lengthwise again. Then I diced the carrots into about 1/4 inch size pieces.

With the potatoes I also tried to cut them into 1/4 inch sized chunks. It’s not necessary to drag out the ruler to make sure you have the correct size. Just know that you want the pieces small but not too small that they disintegrate during the cooking process.

Lesson Learned 2 – Check on the dish for moisture during the simmering process: You want to make sure that the beef stock reduces completely when you’re done but not so quickly as it causes the rice not to cook through and the rest of the mixture to stick to the bottom of the pan. Check on the liquid during the simmering process. If the beef stock has completely reduced and you still have more time to cook add some more stock. The amount of additional stock you add will depend on where you are in the 30 minute simmer process. I would start with a couple of tablespoons to a quarter cup and go from there. The main point is you don’t want the dish to dry out during the simmering process nor do you want to be left with soup after 30 minutes.

Lesson Learned 3 – If you want to shorten the overall time for this recipe prep most of the ingredients ahead of time: You can prep the onions, garlic, and carrots ahead of time – even the night before. Keep them in air tight containers or covered tightly in plastic wrap. I would wait until you begin cooking the meal to chop up the potato. The only way to keep the potato from oxidizing once it is cut is to put it in cold water. I’m not sure you’re going to want to have your potato sitting in water overnight or all day. Prepping ahead of time will take a good 15 minutes from the total time to make this dish.

Not only is this dish delightful the first time around but it is also great reheated. Try this one the next time you are short on time but still want something good. I think it just might become one of your go to favorites.

Hearty One Skillet Dinner…

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: Easy
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Hearty One Skillet Dinner1 1/2 pounds ground beef, preferably 93% lean

1 medium onion, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 cup chopped carrots

1 medium russet potato, diced

1 cup reduced sodium beef stock

1/2 cup uncooked long grain rice

1 Tbs. soy sauce

1 Tbs. olive oil (I used garlic infused olive oil)

salt and pepper to taste

flat leaf parsley, chopped for garnish, optional


Add the olive oil to a large preheated skillet. Saute the onions until they are slightly translucent. Salt and pepper the onions while they are cooking. Once the onions are translucent, use a wooden spoon to push them to the side of the pan and add the ground beef, separating the beef with the spoon. Spoon the onions over the ground beef while it is cooking. Salt and pepper to taste.

Once the ground beef is no longer pink drain any excess fat, if necessary. Stir the garlic into the beef and onions. Cook until the garlic becomes fragrant – approximately one minute. Stir in the carrots, potatoes and rice. Pour the beef stock over the mixture and stir to combine.

Lower the heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until the rice and vegetables are tender. (Make sure to check the level of moisture and add a little extra beef stock if it has completely reduced before the end of the cooking process). Stir in the soy sauce. Taste. Add any additional salt or pepper as needed.

Hearty One Skillet Dinner

Hearty One Skillet Dinner

Hearty One Skillet Dinner

Balsamic Chicken and Vegetables…

Once again, another chicken recipe. What can I say, I love chicken. I like this recipe because it is quick, colorful and ever so delicious. Just one half hour and you’re putting a great meal on the table.

So let’s talk balsamic chicken and vegetables…

The ingredients.

The ingredients.

Lesson Learned 1 – Preparation is the key to success in this recipe: This recipe cooks relatively quickly. It is important to have everything prepped ahead of time so that you can move seamlessly through the steps.

I got everything ready and had the ingredients in prep bowls so that I could add things systematically. Because this recipe cooks so quickly it would be difficult, if not impossible to prep things as you went along.

Lesson Learned 2 – Cooking with shredded carrots: Boy, did I learn my lesson on this one. When carrots are cut that thinly they cook very quickly. I added them in with the asparagus and tomatoes and they overcooked. If you decide to add shredded carrots to this recipe add them at the end when you put the chicken back in the pan.  That gives them only a couple of minutes to get warm which is what you want. As you notice in my final pictures you don’t see the carrots. They got so overdone that I just tossed them. True lesson learned.  (you see, even cooks that have a lot of successes can have failures too – it’s all part of the process).

Lesson Learned 3 – Use cherry tomatoes and keep them whole: You can use any kind of tomato in this recipe, but I found that if you use cherry tomatoes and keep them whole they cook in the same amount of time as the asparagus. The cherry tomatoes were just starting to burst at the time the asparagus became crisp tender.

Chicken TenderloinsLesson Learned 4 – Use chicken tenderloins for this recipe: You can buy prepackaged chicken tenderloins or you can cut your own from boneless skinless chicken breasts. Chicken tenderloins are slightly thicker than chicken cutlets (about a quarter of an inch or so) and they cook very quickly, I found cooking them for 3 minutes on each side and then adding them back to the pan at the end for a couple of minutes was more than enough time. The tenderloins were cooked and still juicy.

Lesson Learned 5 – Be careful how much oil you use: I cooked this in a well seasoned cast iron skillet so I only used about a tablespoon of garlic infused olive oil. You can use two tablespoons of oil or a combination of one tablespoon oil and one tablespoon butter but if you do, measure it and don’t eyeball it. You don’t want the end result to be greasy and if you’re not careful that’s what will happen. Less is more where the oil is concerned in this recipe.

This is a great recipe for a quick meal that tastes special. Try it and let me know what you think!


  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Easy
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Balsamic Chicken and Vegetables1 Packet Italian Dressing Mix (make according to directions on the packet)

3 Tbsp. good balsamic vinegar

1 1/2 Tbs. honey

1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes, optional

1 – 2 Tbs. olive oil (no more than 2)

1/4 cup shallots, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

6-8 chicken tenderloins

1 pound asparagus, trimmed

1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, left whole

1 cup shredded carrots, optional (see lessons learned above)

Salt and pepper to taste


In a large prepare the salad dressing mix according to the instructions on the packet. Add the balsamic vinegar, honey and red pepper flakes. Set aside.

Heat oil in (preferably) a large cast iron skillet. Pat chicken tenderloins dry with a paper towel. Season one side with salt and pepper. Place the tenderloins seasoned side down in the heated oil. Season the other side of the tenderloins. Cook for three to four minutes on each side. Remove the tenderloins from the pan and cover them with foil to keep them warm.

Add the shallots and garlic to the pan. Cook for only a minute. Add half the salad dressing mixture to the pan. Add the asparagus and tomatoes. Cook for about 3 minutes or just until you see slightly cracking on the skins of the tomatoes.

Remove the veggies from the pan and cover them to keep them warm. Add the remaining salad dressing mix and cook stirring constantly until the liquid begins to reduce and thicken. Turn down the heat and the chicken and veggies back into the skillet. Cook for another two minutes. Serve immediately.

Balsamic Chicken and Vegetables

Serving Suggestion: Balsamic Chicken And Vegetables With And Individual Sweet Potato Casserole

Serving Suggestion: Balsamic Chicken And Vegetables With An Individual Sweet Potato Casserole

Roast Chicken In A Cast Iron Skillet…

Anyway you slice it, I like chicken. I don’t think there’s a chicken recipe out there that I don’t love. And I’m always looking for new ways to prepare chicken. Never in a million years did I ever think I’d find a new way to roast chicken. But I’m always learning new things in the kitchen, and this roast chicken recipe has quickly become my go-to way of making chicken.

This recipe is so easy and I say this, without reservation, it produces the best roast chicken ever! The most time consuming part of the process is making the rub and cutting the vegetables. The rest of the work is done by the cast iron skillet. Amazing!

So let’s talk roast chicken in a cast iron skillet…

Roast Chicken In A Cast Iron SkilletLesson Learned 1 – Cut the butternut squash and russet potato into large pieces: This recipe is designed for two with plenty of chicken remaining for your favorite leftover recipes (I used my leftovers to make chicken salad). The thing to remember is the chicken will be roasting at a high temperature, 400 degrees, for an hour to an hour and a half. If you don’t cut your squash and potatoes into large chunks they will become mush. I cut my squash into squares a little less than an inch thick and they turned out perfectly. I cut the potato in half lengthwise and then in inch and a half sized half moons and again they were perfectly done.

Lesson Learned 2 – Resist the urge to baste the chicken: In the past I would baste my chicken all the time thinking it would create a crispy skin. In actuality it does quite the opposite. Because you roast the chicken at a high heat all you need to do is brush the skin with some melted butter before you put it in the oven. Then leave the chicken alone.

At the half way mark baste the squash and potatoes with the liquid in the pan. That worked well and helped to soak the bacon and chive seasoning I used into them. But remember to leave the chicken alone.

Lesson Learned 3 – Once the chicken has reached an internal temperature of 160 degrees, remove the skillet from the oven, cover it with foil and let is rest for 20 minutes: With chicken, turkey, steak, etc., it is so important to let it rest once the meat has reached its desired cooking temperature. That allows for all the juices to redistribute into the meat and not wind up running all over your plate. The chicken will carve easily if you let it rest.

I don’t think I will roast a small chicken using any other method than this one ever again. I was so amazed at how simple everything was and how delicious the chicken, squash and potatoes were. If you love chicken the way I love chicken, you simply have to try this recipe!

Roast Chicken In A Cast Iron Skillet…

  • Servings: 2 With Leftovers
  • Difficulty: Easy
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1 five pound roasting chicken (I roasted a 5 1/2 pound chicken)

1 1/2 tsp. garlic, minced

1 tsp. kosher salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

1/2 tsp. dried thyme (or you can used dried sage)

Butternut squash cut into large chunks (one small squash should be more than enough)

1 russet potato, halved and cut into 1 1/2 inch half moons

1 1/2 Tbs. bacon and chive seasoning

4 Tbs. melted butter, divided

1 tsp. garlic infused olive oil (you can use plain olive oil as well)


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Clean and pat dry the chicken. Mix together the garlic, salt, pepper and thyme to use as a rub. Using your fingers, slide your hand between the breast skin and the chicken. Take the thyme mixture and rub it between the skin and the meat. Any remaining mixture can be rubbed onto the surface of the outer skin.

With a pastry brush lightly brush some melted butter on the bottom of a 10 or 12 inch cast iron skillet (I used a 10 inch skillet). Place the chicken in the skillet. Baste the top of the chicken with some butter.

In a large bowl cut up the squash and potatoes. Sprinkle them with olive oil and stir until the squash and potatoes are coated. Add the bacon and chive seasoning and stir until coated. Place the squash on one side of the chicken and the potatoes on the other. Pour the remaining melted butter over the squash and potatoes.

Roast for an hour to an hour and a half or until a meat thermometer stuck into the thickest area of the chicken between the breast and leg reads 160 degrees. (My chicken needed to roast for 1 1/2 hours. A smaller one should take about an hour). Half way through the roasting process baste the squash and potatoes with the juices that have accumulated in the skillet.

Once the chicken has reached an internal temperature of 160 degrees, remove the skillet from the oven, cover it with foil and let it rest for 20 minutes. Carve and serve.

Roast Chicken In A Cast Iron Skillet

Roast Chicken In A Cast Iron Skillet

Roast Chicken In A Cast Iron Skillet

Salisbury Steak Smothered In A Mushroom Onion Sauce…

Want a meal that is a step up from just a regular hamburger? Try making salisbury steak. The key to the flavor in this recipe is the ingredients mixed in with the ground beef and the wonderfully decadent sauce. This recipe doesn’t take much longer to make than just a plain old hamburger and it adds a little flair to serving ground beef. So jazz it up next time. I’m sure your family will love it.

I first saw the Pioneer Woman make Salisbury Steak on her television program and she has a recipe for it in one of her books. I looked at her recipe and changed a few things up and both my husband and I said this was the most flavorful ground beef we’ve had in a long time.

So let’s talk making Salisbury Steak.

Lesson Learned 1: I found two secret weapon flavor enhancers – in her recipe, the Pioneer woman uses beef bouillon cubes in her ground meat and Kitchen Bouquet in her sauce to add depth of flavor. I found this stuff called “Better Than Bouillon” which is a roasted beef sauce made with seasoned roasted beef. It has a gel-like consistency. I used it instead of bouillon and I really believe it boosted the flavor – tons! I now use it even when I make hamburgers to kick the flavor up a notch. I think it’s great stuff. You should try it.

Flavor Enchancers

I used Country Bob’s original all purpose sauce to enhance the flavor of the sauce and the sauce was divine. I guess what I’m trying to say here is try different substitutions in recipes you make. You might find that you like the recipe with the substitutions even better than the original.

Lesson Learned 2: Try using seasoned panko bread crumbs instead of just regular seasoned bread crumbs: I think the panko gives the meat a nice texture as well as flavor and I found I could use a slightly lesser amount than regular bread crumbs.

IMG_9180You want to be careful not to overload your ground beef with bread crumbs. You’ll dry it out. After making hamburgers and meatloaf for years and now salisbury steak, I know how the beef should feel so that it will not be overly dry. It should feel moist but not overly sticky. This is something you’ll get a feel for over time. Don’t worry about it.  I always add about half the amount of bread crumbs the recipe calls for to begin with and add more from there. You can always add more and you don’t want to wind up with too much bread crumbs in the mix.

Elongated PattiesLesson Learned 3: Make sure you sufficiently elongate the patties:  Just like a hamburger, these patties will shrink and rise in the center if you don’t elongate them sufficiently and then put an indentation in the center to prevent them puffing up. You can see by my pictures that I didn’t quite nail that process. It doesn’t matter from a flavor perspective, just from a visual perspective. And visually you want to create a different look than that of just a plain old hamburger.

Lesson Learned 4: Used a cast iron skillet for this recipe if you have one: Cast iron provides you with the most even heat which I think is important when you’re cooking everything on the stove but especially ground beef patties. Invest in a basic no frills cast iron skillet. Depending on the size you choose, it could cost you between $15-$25 and will probably be one of the best cooking investments you’ll ever make that you will hand down to your grandchildren.

Patties cooked in a cast iron skillet

This recipe is a nice way to dress up ground beef. Try it and let me know what you think.

Salisbury Steak Smothered In A Mushroom Onion Sauce

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Easy
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1 pound ground beef

1/2 cup panko bread crumbs (I used parmesan herb)

2 Tbs. heavy cream

2 tsp dijon mustard

1 Tbs. Better Than Bouillon Roasted Beef Base

1 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce

1 Tbs ketchup

Salt and pepper

1 Tbs. butter

1 Tbs. garlic infused olive oil (you can substitute plain olive oil)


1 medium onion, sliced

2 cloves of garlic, minced

6 – 8 baby bella mushrooms, sliced

2 1/4 cups beef broth (save 1/4 cup to mix with the corn starch)

1 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce

1 Tbs. ketchup

1 Tbs. Country Bob’s all purpose sauce (or you can substitute a different steak sauce)

2 Tbs. corn starch

Salt and Pepper


Make the patties by combining all of the ingredients for the patties except the butter and olive oil. Make sure to sufficiently flatten the patties into an oblong shape and make an indentation in the center so they keep their shape.  Add the butter and olive oil to a cast iron skillet. Cook the patties on both sides. about 3 minutes per side.

Remove the patties to a plate and cover them with foil to keep them warm. In the same skillet (you can add a little more butter or oil if you feel you need it) sauté the onions and mushrooms until the onions start to brown slightly. Add the garlic and sauté another minute until the garlic becomes fragrant. Whisk together the two cups beef broth, worcestershire sauce, ketchup and all purpose sauce and add it to the onions and garlic. Cook for a couple of minutes.

Whisk together the remaining beef broth and corn starch until there are no lumps. Add to the sauce. Cook on higher heat until the sauce bubbles and starts to thicken.

Put the patties back in the pan and cover them with the sauce. Let them simmer for a couple of minutes. Serve immediately.

Salisbury Steak Patties Smothered In Sauce

Salisbury Steak Patties Smothered In Sauce

Salisbury Steak

Serving Suggestion: With Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Peas and Carrots

Serving Suggestion: With Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Peas and Carrots






Quick And Easy Baked Lobster Tails (no lie)…

I don’t know about you but for years I lived in fear of making lobster tails. Everything you read warns you not to overcook them because they will turn rubbery (much like calamari and shrimp) but because they tend to be pricier the fear factor increases exponentially.

Well no more! I decided over the holidays that I would tackle my fear of making lobster tails. In the past, I tried to make lobster tails mostly by broiling them. Sometimes I would be successful and other times not. But this time I tried baking them and I can tell you it will be my preferred method from now on. It is soooo easy and takes out almost all the guesswork (I wish I could say it takes out all of the guesswork but I would be lying) that you need not fear making lobster tails anymore. All you need is your oven set to 350 degrees and a good instant read thermometer.

So let’s talk oven baked lobster tails…

  1. What most people think is the hardest part – getting the tail out of the shell: This used to be one of my biggest challenges. All I can say is thank goodness we have YouTube – I found this video about removing the lobster meat from the tail and it was the absolute key to my success. I encourage you to watch it because this method works and is so easy. I baked my tails on top of the shell and this video shows you exactly how to get the meat out and rest it on the shell.

2. Let the lobster meat rest on the counter for about 15 minutes before baking: First and foremost it is absolutely essential that the lobster tail be completely thawed if frozen. I put my lobster tails in the refrigerator the night before and that did the trick. Most people are afraid to let fish rest a little on the counter like red meat. Of course you would never leave fish out to get to room temperature, but I found if you take the fish out of the refrigerator and let it sit on the counter for just 15 minutes before you cook it, it really helps the cooking time hold true. Don’t leave it out any longer than that, just enough to take the cold edge off the fish.

Baking lobster tails is so easy you’ll want to make them more often. Keep this recipe in your back pocket for when you want to impress, because impress you will!

Quick And Easy Baked Lobster Tails (No Lie)…

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Medium
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4 six ounce lobster tails

1 stick butter, melted for seasoning and dipping

Old Bay Seasoning


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove lobster meat from tail and rest the meat on the tail. Brush lobster meat with melted butter. Lightly sprinkle the seasoning on top of each tail.

Bake in oven for 15 – 20 minutes. (Check the tails at 15 minutes with an instant read thermometer. If the temperature reads 140-145 degrees, the tails are done). My tails baked in 17 minutes but I live in high altitude and food generally takes slightly longer to cook.

Serve immediately with drawn butter.

Lobster Tail

Lobster Tail and Filet Mignon








Creamy Shrimp and Cauliflower Casserole

My goal with this blog is to make one new recipe a week. Sometimes that can be an arduous task and other times I can make a few in the same timeframe. I made this recipe a couple of weeks ago and absolutely loved it. I had a taste for shrimp and decided to try a different way of preparing it.

Casseroles can be deceiving. We tend to look at them as the convenience of a one dish meal with lots of different ingredients, and that’s true. What one forgets is that normally there is a lot of prep that goes into making a casserole, and so if you are not a prep person like I am, casseroles may not be the ticket for you.

So let’s talk creamy shrimp and cauliflower casserole:

Fresh uncooked shrimpLesson Learned 1 – Is your shrimp really deveined? Most people like to buy shrimp that is deveined with the shell removed so that they don’t have to do as much prep. But is shrimp marketed as deveined really completely deveined?  What I didn’t realize early on is shrimp has veins on both sides, the top and the bottom and when you purchase “deveined” shrimp only the top vein is removed. Next time you buy deveined shrimp check out the bottom and you will see that little black vein running through the bottom as well. Some people leave it in, I remove it. That adds to the prep time but then I’m not eating this disgusting vein once the shrimp is cooked.

For this recipe I got fresh shrimp from my fishmonger that was deveined on top but still had the shell, tail and bottom vein. I removed all of that before adding the shrimp to the other casserole ingredients.

Steamed CauliflowerLesson Learned 2 – This is what the prep entails: Not only do you have to prep the shrimp, you need to cut up and steam the cauliflower, cut up the spinach, melt the butter, grate the cheese and chop the parsley. It doesn’t sound like a lot but it does take a little time. My advice here is to grate your own cheese versus using prepackaged shredded cheese. Prepackaged shredded cheese has an additive in it that prevents the cheese shreds from sticking together. Anytime you can eliminate any additives in your food the better. Sure it takes a little more time, but consider the cumulative effects of those additives in your body over several years. Isn’t it worth a couple of extra minutes to grate the cheese yourself and eliminate those additives?

Lesson Learned 3 – Like most casseroles, you can decide what cheese works best for you: When I made the casserole I used a combination of gruyere and pepper jack cheeses along with the romano. I wasn’t sure if using just pepper jack alone would overpower the casserole. Next time I’m only going to use pepper jack and romano. I like the tang pepper jack gives the casserole and I don’t think it will be too much. Experiment with the cheese you like. Just make sure you are using a good melting cheese.

All Casserole Ingredients Mixed Together

I really liked this casserole, and it was a new way for me to serve shrimp. Try it and tell me what you think.

Creamy Shrimp and Cauliflower Casserole

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Easy
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Creamy Shrimp and Cauliflower Casserole1 small cauliflower cut up and steamed until fork tender

1 cup fresh baby spinach, chopped

1/3 pound shrimp, peeled, deveined and chopped in large chunks

1/4 coconut milk

3 Tbs. melted butter, slightly cooled

1 extra large egg, beaten

4 baby bella mushrooms quartered

1/2 cup grated Romano

1 cup grated cheese (I used a combination of gruyere and pepper jack)

1 tsp. italian parsley, minced for the casserole and an extra tsp. or so for garnish

1 tsp. garlic powder

1/3 cup seasoned bread crumbs

Salt and pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 1 quart casserole dish and set aside.

In a small bowl combine the egg, coconut milk, garlic, parsley. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Put the cauliflower in another bowl and add the grated cheeses and egg mixture. Stir until the cauliflower is evenly coated. Add the shrimp, spinach and mushrooms and stir to combine.

Pour into prepared pan. Top with a light dusting of bread crumbs (you may not need the entire 1/3 cup). Bake for 25 – 35 minutes. (You want the cheese to be melted and the shrimp to be pink. I live in high altitude so it took me 35 minutes. At sea level I would start checking the casserole at 25 minutes).

Transfer to a plate and garnish with some additional chopped italian parsley and serve.

Ready for the oven

Fresh out of the oven

 Creamy Shrimp and Cauliflower Casserole

Chicken Meatballs In Cheesy Tomato Cream Sauce…

I was in search of somewhat quick comfort food meal that was a little bit out of our ordinary faire. My husband suggested trying to make meatballs with ground chicken and I took it from there.

Meatball IngredientsI’d never made meatballs with anything other than ground beef so I was interested to see how they would turn out. They were fabulous, but I have to admit they still tasted like a regular old meatball to me. It was fun experimenting with a different spin on meatballs and the meal was absolutely divine with very little fuss.

So let’s talk chicken meatballs in cheesy tomato cream sauce…

The meatball mixtureLesson Learned 1 – Although in the end they may taste similar, working with ground chicken is different than working with ground beef: Because ground chicken is leaner you have to be careful how you mix it and how much you cook it. Otherwise you will be stuck with dry, tasteless meatballs.

First of all, to keep the mixture moist I added a tablespoon of sour cream and 1/4 cup milk along with an egg. I will warn you now, the mixture will be very moist as seen in the picture to the left. I started out with 1/2 cup of panko bread crumbs and wound up adding about 1/4 cup more. Keep in mind you do want the mixture to be very moist, probably more moist than you think. Although it seemed a little strange at first, this consistency produced tender, juicy meatballs.

You also want to make sure you don’t overcook the meatballs. I formed the meatballs using a well rounded teaspoonful of the mixture and rolling them in my hand. I arranged them on a pan lined with foil and sprayed with cooking spray. They went under the broiler for about 6 minutes and then I cooked them through in the simmering tomato sauce. The pictures below show the meatballs before and after going under the broiler.  There appears to be only a slight difference. You put them under the broiler to “set” them so when you take them out they are only somewhat cooked. But trust me, the tomato sauce will do the rest of the work and you’ll have fabulous and tender meatballs in the end.

Meatballs Before Going Under The Broiler

Meatballs Before Going Under The Broiler

How The Meatball Should Look After Coming Out From The Broiler

How The Meatballs Should Looking Coming Out From Under The Broiler

Lesson Learned 2 – Use good ingredients: I always remember Ina Garten saying that you need to use good ingredients in order to have the best outcome. I am especially referring to the tomato sauce you use. With this particular recipe I used a tomato basil sauce. Now you may turn up your nose on “organic” but I actually spent time reading the labels on many sauce jars and was surprised by some of the ingredients in them. I finally settled on a little known organic brand that had only fresh clean ingredients and no chemical sounding names. It was a little more expensive, but I felt good about what I was eating and the sauce was divine. It’s your choice. I just get a little uncomfortable putting ingredients into my body that I cannot even pronounce.

Mozzarella PearlsLesson Learned 3 – Use only a small amount of mozzarella pearls: I was happy to discover that you can buy mozzarella in a size called “pearls”. They are much smaller than mozzarella balls and just the perfect size for this recipe.

You may think you want to put in more than what is called for in the recipe but I would advise against it. Too many mozzarella pearls and your sauce will get overly thick and gloppy. You want the flavor of the mozzarella and a slight texture of melted stringiness in the cheese. In this case a little goes a long way. If for some reason you add too much and your sauce gets too thick, simply add some of the pasta water to the pot to thin the sauce. Or you can use chicken broth and get the same result.

You can find mozzarella pearls in the dairy case next to the fresh mozzarella. This was quite a find for me as I can envision using them in a lot of other recipes.

Adding Mozzarella Pearls To The Sauce

Mozarella Pearls Added To The Sauce

The biggest part of the work in this recipe is assembling the meatballs. If you are pressed for time prepare the mixture the night before. It takes no time to roll them up and put them under the broiler. The rest is basically adding them to the sauce, heating the sauce while cooking the pasta and adding the mozzarella at the end. My husband gave a two thumbs up to this recipe, so you know it has to be good!

Chicken Meatballs In Cheesy Tomato Cream Sauce…

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: Easy
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1/2 – 3/4 cup italian style panko bread crumbsChicken Meatballs In A Cheesy Tomato Cream Sauce

1/4 cup whole milk

1 lb. ground chicken

1 egg

2 Tbs finely grated onion

1 Tbs. fresh parsley, minced

1 Tbs. sour cream

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

1/4 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper

2 cups pasta (I used a pasta called orecchiette)

Pasta water, if necessary to thin out the sauce

1 jar organic tomato basil sauce

1 Tbs. tomato paste

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup mozzarella pearls

Fresh parsley or basil, chopped for garnish.


For the meatballs: Set your oven rack in the center of the oven and put the broiler on high. In a large bowl combine 1/2 cup panko, milk, chicken, egg, onion parsley, sour cream, salt and pepper. The mixture will be very moist. If too moist add a little more panko being careful not to make the mixture too dry. Take rounded teaspoonfuls of the mixture and roll into meatballs approximately one inch thick. Spray a foil lined pan with cooking spray and arrange the meatballs on the pan. Broil the meatballs for 5-6 minutes until very lightly golden.

Cook the pasta according to the package instructions. While the pasta is cooking put the tomato sauce in a deep pan, and heat. Once the sauce is warmed through add the tomato paste and stir until combined. Add the cream and simmer for a few minutes. Add the meatballs and simmer for an additional five minutes. Add the cooked pasta to the sauce. Add the mozzarella pearls and stir until melted. If pasta sauce is too thick, add some of the pasta water to thin it.

Sprinkle with fresh herbs and serve immediately.

Tomato Basil Sauce With Orecchiette Pasta

Chicken Meatballs In A Cheesy Tomato Cream Sauce

Chicken Meatballs In Cheesy Tomato Cream Sauce…

Grilled Salmon In Foil Packets

It’s getting close to the time when grilling food will be less and oven prepared food will be more. Well, this recipe gives you that grilled look from being baked in the oven in a foil packet. What I like about this recipe is it’s so easy to prepare and cook, so even if your a novice at cooking fish this recipe will turn you into a pro!

So let’s talk about grilled salmon in foil packets…

Two Six Ounce Salmon Filets

Two Six Ounce Salmon Filets

Lesson Learned 1 – The portion size for salmon: I had a butcher tell me that the correct portion size for salmon is eight ounces. I don’t agree with that. I think it is six ounces. If you’re feeding big eaters get eight ounce portions, but for most six ounces is more than enough. Both six and eight ounce portions cook for approximately the same time, give or take a few minutes for the larger size portion. Stick with a 6 ounce portion and the cooking time in the recipe and the salmon will turn out perfectly every time. I have a wonderful grocery store nearby that always has large pieces of salmon in the meat case. I get the butcher to cut them fresh for me every time. I also ask the butcher to cut the piece from the center and not from the ends.

Lesson Learned 2 – Removing the skin from the salmon: This is probably the most time consuming part of the entire recipe. You need to remove the skin of the salmon before baking it. Now you can always ask a butcher to do that, but I prefer doing it myself as I like to make sure that I am removing the skin with the least amount of flesh attached to it. But if you’re afraid to do it or feel like you don’t have the time, just ask your butcher.

Removing the skin from the salmonTo remove the skin you need to work with a very sharp knife. I use a boning knife. Start at the thick end of the filet and see if, by hand, you can slightly lift up part of the skin. Normally you can. Then place the blade of the knife up against the skin and slowly begin to move the knife down the skin. While your moving your knife, try to get as much of your hand holding the skin and pull toward the thin end of the filet as you move the knife.

This process may take a little time and you want to make sure you are removing mostly skin and not flesh. That is why you need a very sharp knife for this. Otherwise you may sacrifice a lot of the salmon to the skin. Take your time and don’t get frustrated. Just continue to methodically move the knife down the skin will pulling the skin toward the thin side of the filet.

That grilled look from baking in the ovenLesson Learned 3 – Getting the grilled on the salmon filet by using a foil packet: Once the salmon has marinated you just put it in a foil packet on a baking sheet and roast it in the oven for 15 minutes. No need to prep the foil in any way. Since the marinade has brown sugar in it, the bottom of the salmon will slightly caramelize. When removing the salmon from the packet simply flip it over when you put it on the plate and the salmon will look like it was made on the grill. It’s so easy and such a neat trick!

This is my go to salmon recipe. I love it because it is quick and easy and, by the way, did I tell you it’s pretty darn delicious. So try this one and tell me what you think…

Grilled Salmon In Foil Packets…

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Easy
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4 six ounce salmon filets, skin removed

1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1/3 cup soy sauce

1/3 cup water

half of a third of a cup of vegetable oil

2 medium-large garlic cloves, minced

1 Tbs. fresh thyme leaves, slightly chopped (I used lemony thyme)

1 tsp. lemon pepper


Put the brown sugar, soy sauce, water, oil, garlic, thyme and lemon pepper into a bowl. Whisk completely making sure to incorporate all of the brown sugar into the liquid.

Place the salmon filets into a resealable bag. Pour the marinade over the filets. NOTE:  You may need to use a spatula to get the residual brown sugar from the bottom of the bowl into the bag. It is important that as much brown sugar as possible is in the marinade mixture while the filets are marinating. Marinate the filets for 3-4 hours.

Preheat the oven to 425. Line a baking sheet with foil. Using a piece of additional foil for each filet, loosely wrap the filet in the foil folding the edges up at the ends to make a packet. Place all the packets on the foil lined pan.

Bake for 15 minutes. When removing the salmon from the foil, make sure to flip it over so the caramelized side is on the top when serving. Serve immediately.

The Marinade

The Marinade

Marinate Filets In A Resealable Bag For 4 Hours

Put the salmon and marinade into a resealable plastic bag…

A Foil Packet

Salmon in a foil packet…

Serving Suggestion: Grilled Salmon with Panko Crusted Tomatoes and Roasted Baby Red Potatoes...

Serving Suggestion: Grilled Salmon with Panko Crusted Tomatoes and Roasted Baby Red Potatoes…

Pork Medallions with Marsala Mushroom Sauce…

There’s almost nothing that beats a good pork tenderloin. I’ve mastered the art of cooking this very tender cut of meat and am always looking for new ways to prepare it. I made this recipe the other day and it hit the spot. It’s a shining example of what comfort food is all about.

You can easily find pork tenderloins in the grocery stores packaged in a variety of marinades or plain. For this recipe I chose a lemon pepper marinated loin. You can choose whatever you want. Just make sure whatever marinade you choose will blend nicely with the marsala mushroom sauce.

What’s also great about this dish is it’s pretty easy and quick to prepare, so instead of having the same old boring thing for dinner you can make this and get it on the table in half an hour. I served it over store bought pre-made mashed potatoes (I like the Bob Evans brand the best) with a side of marinated grilled zucchini. it was fabulous!

So lets talk pork medallions with marsala mushroom sauce…

Two Inch Thick Medallions...Lesson Learned 1 – Cut the tenderloin into 2 inch medallions: Two inches is the perfect thickness to cook in the allotted time. Remember pork tenderloin is just like a boneless, skinless chicken breast. Both can be extremely flavorful and tender but most people tend to overcook them. A slight pink in the center of the pork is perfectly fine. Overcooking a piece of meat that has minimal to no fat like this can be a little tricky. If you cut the medallions to two inches in thickness, three minutes on each side should do the trick (you will also simmer them in the sauce for a couple of minutes at the end).

Make sure you start with a hot pot. That is why you use a combination of both butter and oil in the pan. Butter has a lower smoke point and the oil offsets that so you can get the pan warmer without burning Nicely Seared Medallionthe butter while still getting the butter flavor. You want the pork to get a nice sear. At about three minutes you should easily be able to turn the medallion over without it sticking to the pan. If not, let it cook a little while longer. Don’t force the meat from the pan. When the meat is adequately seared it will automatically release itself from the pan and you will be able to turn it over easily. The picture on the left shows the type of sear you want to get on your medallions. Don’t worry, the pan will do all the work for you if you are patient. The second side should cook within 2 -3 minutes.

Simmer the medallions in the wine sauce for a few minutes before servingLesson Learned 2 – Don’t crowd the medallions while searing them: If you have to, cook the medallions in batches. If you overcrowd them in the pan they will steam instead of sear. Once you return the medallions to the sauce you will simmer them for a couple of minutes to complete the cooking process (picture to the right). Searing will insure that you keep all those wonderful juices in the meat.

Lesson Learned 3 – Shut off the heat and take the pan off the stove when adding the Marsala and white wine to the pan: Recipes quite often forget to mention this, and this is an important safety tip. Any type of alcohol added over a heat source can cause a fire flare up. You want to avoid burning yourself or setting the house on fire. So be on the safe side. Take the pan off the heat source, add the wine and then return the pan to the heat. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

I cut the entire tenderloin into medallions used six for this recipe and froze the rest. This recipe is designed to serve two bigger or three smaller appetites but you can easily increase the ingredients to serve more.

Pork Medallions With Marsala Mushroom Sauce

  • Servings: 2-3
  • Difficulty: Easy
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INGREDIENTS:Pork Medallions in a Marsala Mushroom Sauce

2 Tbs. unsalted butter

2 Tbs. olive oil

6 two inch thick pork medallions (I chose a lemon pepper marinated tenderloin)

1 large shallot, minced

1/2 cup Marsala wine

1/4 cup chicken stock

1/4 cup dry white wine (I used chardonnay)

2 Tbs. heavy cream

1 Tbs. cornstarch

Salt and pepper to taste

4 ounces baby bella mushrooms, sliced


Heat olive oil and butter over medium – high heat. Add pork medallions and brown on both sides – approximately three minutes on each side. Remove medallions from pan to a plate and cover with foil to keep them warm.

Add shallots and mushrooms to the pan and stir until coated with the pan drippings. After the mushrooms have slightly softened, remove the pan from the heat. Add the Marsala wine, chicken stock and white wine. Place back on the heat and continue to cook until the liquid has reduced by half. Combine heavy cream and cornstarch. Mix until thoroughly combined.

Add the cream mixture to the pan and whisk into the sauce until it starts to thicken. Taste the sauce to see if it needs salt and pepper. Season to taste. Return the pork medallions to the pan an simmer in the sauce for about 3 minutes. Serve immediately.

Serving Suggestion: Pork Medallions Over Mashed Potatoes With Grilled Zucchini

Serving Suggestion: Pork Medallions Over Mashed Potatoes With Grilled Zucchini…

Pork Medallions With Marsala Mushroom Sauce: so easy and great for any week night meal!

Oven Baked BBQ Ribs…

The Fourth of July is less than a week away and that normally means outdoor parties and lots of barbecuing – hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken wings and ribs. And quite often if Mother Nature decides to rain on your parade, you’re left with a conundrum of how to get that great barbecue taste without using the grill –  especially for those ribs. Fear no more. I have a great recipe that can be made all year round. This recipe provides great barbecue flavor without the use of a grill (if you so choose).

My oven baked barbecue ribs are made in the oven and finished off either on a stove top grill, broiler or outdoor grill. I guarantee you, you’ll think these cooked on the grill the whole time. The trick to getting that barbecue flavor without cooking on the grill is pretty simple, liquid smoke. And cooking the ribs low and slow in the oven keeps them moist and tender. Try this recipe and you’ll enjoy barbecue ribs all year long!

Rub Ingredients

Rub Ingredients

Lesson Learned 1 – Less is more with liquid smoke: Liquid smoke is what gives the rub for these ribs that barbecue flavor. But be careful because it can be an overpowering ingredient. I get pretty heavy handed with it because I love a heartier flavor and smell, but be aware that might not be your preference. I would try 2-3 drops initially with the rub ingredients. After mixing all the ingredients together take a test whiff. If you cannot smell smokiness or you want more smokiness then add a little more. I use about 6-8 drops but I would not recommend it for everyone initially, especially if you’ve never used liquid smoke before. You can always add more.

You can also brush the ribs with liquid smoke before applying the rub. This will give them an even deeper smoky flavor. Either way be careful until you are comfortable with the amount of liquid smoke that is right for you to use.

Lesson Learned 2 – Peel off the tough membrane that covers the bony side of the ribs: You may not readily see it but you will know it’s there when you try to eat the ribs. I am referring to the tough membrane that covers the bones. I’ll warn you up front, it can be a challenge to remove it. For me, there are times it comes off easily and other times I have to fight with it. Take a sharp paring knife and start at the large end of the bones. Insert the paring knife between the membrane and the bones working it back and forth until you get enough membrane that you can easily grab. You can also use the end of a spoon or kitchen sheers to loosen the membrane. First try and loosen the membrane all the way across the top. Then begin pulling it downwards over the bones until you’ve removed it.

If you buy your ribs at a butcher shop you can ask the butcher to do this for you. Some butcher shops do this automatically before putting the ribs in the meat case. Make sure you ask the butcher if the membrane has been removed. If it hasn’t have the butcher do it for you. That should be an expected service. If you buy your ribs prepackaged you’ll have to do this yourself. Can you leave it on? Certainly, but you will get a crispy tasteless substance on the bottom of your ribs. If you encounter a stubborn membrane just leave it on. You don’t have to eat it. It’s just a slight nuisance when you’re eating your ribs.

IMG_5753Lesson Learned 3 – Foil is your best friend while making this recipe: Besides making the foil packet for the ribs I recommend you also line the jelly roll pan you bake them on with foil. That way if any liquid leaks out of the packet it will not burn into your pan. Remember you are working with a brown sugar rub, and if the brown sugar leaks out it will create a baked on nightmare. If you line your pan with foil clean up is a breeze.

Lesson Learned 4 – You have three ways to finish off this recipe: Once you remove the ribs from the oven you can either finish them off on a grill, under the broiler or on a stove top grill. I always finish mine off on the grill because I have a gas grill and it’s easy to use on short notice. If you finish them off under the broiler or on a stove top grill remember to protect your pans. Either use foil (if you’re finishing them off under the broiler) or cooking spray if you’re finishing them off on a stove top grill. At clean up time you’ll be glad you did.

Oven Baked BBQ Ribs…

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: Easy
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4 lbs. of pork ribs

3/4 cup brown sugar

Liquid Smoke, to taste (I use 6-8 drops)

1 Tbs. paprika

1 Tbs. garlic powder

Your favorite barbecue sauce


Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Peel the tough membrane off the back side of the ribs (see lessons learned above). Mix together the brown sugar, liquid smoke, paprika and garlic powder. Apply the rub to both sides of the ribs.

Lay ribs on a sheet of foil (with substantial overlay) shiny side out and meat side down. Lay another layer of foil on the top of the ribs. Join the top and bottom pieces of foil together and crimp. Crimp the edges all the way around the ribs facing up. Line a jelly roll pan with foil. Place the ribs packet(s) on the foil lined pan.

Bake for 2 – 2 1/2 hours or until the meat starts to shrink away from the bone. Remove from oven. If using a grill, during the last half hour of oven baking light your grill and get it up to a temperature not exceeding 375 degrees. (If using a grill you might leave the ribs on for a little less time than if using a broiler. You don’t want the ribs to burn). If using a broiler, set it on high with the oven rack a good 10 – 12 inches from the heat source.

Place ribs on the grill bony side up. Brush on the sauce. Cook for a couple of minutes. Turn the ribs over. Brush on sauce. Cook for another couple of minutes. Take off the grill and serve.

The Ribs Right Out Of The Oven

The Ribs Right Out Of The Oven

Oven Baked BBQ Ribs

Oven Baked BBQ Ribs

Ground Beef and Crispy Potato Casserole…

Lately I have been posting a lot of baking recipes so I thought this time I’d go for something savory. I had some ground beef in the refrigerator and I started to think about how I could prepare it in ways other than more traditional faire like burgers, meatloaf or tacos. Then I thought about Shepherd’s Pie. I’ve made Shepherd’s Pie with left over pot roast (the traditional recipe) and I’ve also made a Turkey Style Shepherd’s Pie but I didn’t have any left over mashed potatoes and didn’t feel like making some.

What I did have was a bag of frozen diced potatoes and a bag of frozen vegetables and the recipe grew out of that. I also had a hodgepodge of shredded cheeses in my refrigerator and I decided to try to incorporate that – sort of a clean out your fridge and freezer type of recipe. I never could have imagined how tasty this would be. After we had this for dinner my husband was already looking forward to eating the leftovers.

The most time consuming part of this recipe is assembling the ingredients but once that’s done, like any other casserole, all you do is pop it in the oven and wait for it to do its thing. This recipe requires using two pots and a casserole dish but believe me the end result is worth it. Try it out and see what you think!

IMG_4961Lesson Learned 1 – There is some prep to this recipe: But tell me now, what from scratch recipe does not require some prep. You brown the onions, add the meat and seasonings, add the veggies and cook thru till warm while in another pot you make the homemade cheese sauce. But at least this way you know every ingredient that is going into the recipe and that’s the beauty of making it from scratch – you control all of the ingredients.   There are ways you can shorten the prep time by perhaps using a prepared cheese sauce but  now that I’ve mastered making my own sauces and gravies I very seldom, if ever, revert to buying them packaged or jarred. And really, you have to admit, homemade tastes so much better. So take the time to do the prep – it’s worth it.

kicproductimage-120658Lesson Learned 2 – It’s easy to adapt this to a meatless recipe: Quite often I post on my Facebook page a picture of the next recipe I will blog as a teaser for what’s to come. This time when I posted a picture for this dish I got two very specific comments. The first was that I should write a recipe book and I am seriously thinking about doing an ebook. (Have any of you done that – would love to hear your story). The second was that you could substitute veggie crumbles for the ground beef in this recipe. To be honest, I had never heard of veggie crumbles before and I wondered why you would substitute the meat for veggies when veggies are already included in the recipe. But I was thankful to learn about this. A few of my friends who are not carnivores say they use these crumbles when making chili or tacos and they tell me it’s a great substitute. So I wanted to offer that piece of information here. This is definitely the kind of recipe that could use the crumbles as a substitute for the ground beef. I am not recommending any particular brand. Both MorningStar Farms and Boca make the crumbles. I just wanted to give you an example of what you might consider.

Lesson Learned 3 – Any frozen vegetables will do: I had some frozen broccoli, cauliflower and carrots and I add them to the recipe. You can also use frozen mixed vegetables (peas, carrots, green beans and corn). Just remember to make sure the pieces are not too large. I found I had very large cauliflower pieces so I cut them in half to make sure they would cook. You can also add fresh vegetables. I would cook them until slightly softened and then put them in the casserole. I think I am going to try fresh vegetables the next time I make this. Regardless, my husband told me that this recipe is definitely a keeper!

IMG_5019Lesson Learned 4 – This recipe makes great leftovers: The recipe as written serves 6 and my husband and I could not eat the whole thing the first time. We had it two days later as leftovers and it tasted equally as delicious as when it was first made. The best way to reheat this is to first take the casserole out of the refrigerator and let it sit on the kitchen counter for an hour. That takes the chill off. Then reheat at 375 for 45 minutes. (maybe 30 minutes at sea level). Make sure you reheat it covered in foil as the cheese will burn if you don’t. The ends result is piping hot and just as delicious as the first time around. This recipe is a winner out of the gate and as leftovers.

Ground Beef And Crispy Potato Casserole…

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: Easy
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1 1/2 pounds ground beef

1/2 large onion, diced

1/2 tsp. oregano

salt and pepper to taste

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 1/2 – 2 cups frozen vegetables

3 Tbs. butter, divided

2 Tbs. flour

2 cups milk

1 cup shredded cheese (I had a white cheddar and gruyere blend)

1/c cup sour cream

1/4 cup fresh chives, chopped

Frozen, diced potatoes (enough to cover the top – not quite a full 32 oz. bag)

Flat leaf parsley, chopped for garnish (optional)


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spray a 10 x 10 casserole dish with cooking spray. Set aside.

In a large skillet heat 1 Tbs. of butter. Add the onions and cook until they start to become translucent (about 5 minutes). Salt and pepper the onions during this process. Add the ground beef and oregano. Cook until the meat is mostly cooked through. Add the garlic and vegetables and cook until the vegetables are slightly heated. Taste the mixture and add salt and pepper if needed. Once the vegetables are slightly heated, remove the mixture from the heat and set aside.

In another skillet melt the remaining 2 Tbs. of butter. Add the flour and whisk for about a minute. Add the milk and continue to whisk so the mixture stays smooth. Once the milk heats it will start to thicken. When the milk reaches a desired thick consistency (this takes about 5 minutes), turn off the heat and add the cheese. Whisk until the cheese melts. Once the cheese is incorporated into the milk mixture add the chives and stir to combine. Taste the cheese mixture and add salt and pepper, if needed.

Add the sour cream to the meat mixture and stir to combine (You need to do this when the meat has slightly cooled so the sour cream does not curdle). Spread the meat mixture into the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Cover the meat mixture evenly with the frozen diced potatoes. Pour the cheese mixture over the potatoes.

Bake for 45 – 60 minutes. For the first 20 minutes cover the casserole with foil, then remove the foil and bake for the remaining time. Remove the casserole from the oven and let it rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Add the sour cream to the meat mixture and spread in the bottom of the dish...

Add the sour cream to the meat mixture and spread in the bottom of the dish…

Arrange an even layer of frozen potatoes over the meat...

Arrange an even layer of frozen potatoes over the meat…

Pour the cheese sauce over the potatoes...

Pour the cheese sauce over the potatoes…

Fresh out of the oven...

Fresh out of the oven…

Ground Beef and Crispy Potato Casserole...

Ground Beef and Crispy Potato Casserole…

Pan Seared Halibut With Sweet Pepper and Mushroom Relish…

I never thought the day would come when I became more adept at cooking fish, but it has and there’s no one happier about it than me. The challenge now is to find a variety of ways to make fish more interesting. And I think this recipe does the trick.

Cooking any kind of fish can be tricky because there is a fine line between the fish being underdone and overdone. It takes time and experience to get a feel for cooking fish but it is a skill that is well worth the energy. We try to have fish a couple of times a week now and I am constantly researching creative but easy ways to serve it. I really like this particular recipe for its flavor, and the relish is easy to prepare and can accompany just about any kind of mild white fish (or even grilled chicken).

IMG_4276Lesson Learned 1 – When pan searing fish, use a combination of butter and olive oil to cook the fish: You use this combination for a reason. Olive oil has a higher smoke point than butter and by combining them you can cook the fish at a higher temperature without burning the butter and you’ll still be getting that rich butter flavor. For this particular recipe I had pieces of halibut that were 1 inch thick and about 2 inches by 1 1/2 inches in length and width. Obviously the thicker the piece of fish the longer the cooking time. These particular pieces took between 9 – 10 minutes to cook.

IMG_4266Lesson Learned 2 – You can be creative with the relish ingredients: I chose a relish that was a combination of a yellow sweet pepper, Roma tomato, shallots, baby crimini mushrooms and minced garlic. I liked the combination of flavors and colors. But really you can make it out of anything you have on hand. I decided to cook the relish and the fish in two separate pans versus cooking the fish and keeping it warm in foil while I made the relish in the same pan as the fish. This particular relish took about 10 minutes to cook so it closely matched the cooking time of the fish filets. I started out sautéing the peppers and mushrooms for about 4 – 5 minutes. Then I added the shallots and garlic and last the tomatoes. I was able to time it so that the fish and the relish were done almost at the same time. The trick is to know your relish ingredients and how long they take to cook so you can cook them in the proper time and order. If for some reason you can’t time them to be done closely together, my recommendation would be to cook the relish and keep it warm and cook the fish so that it can be served immediately.

If you think you’re not a fish lover then you definitely have to try this recipe. I’ve written this recipe to serve two but you can certainly adapt it for more servings. The relish is a great enhancement to the fish and will make you think differently about serving fish regularly. Give it a try and tell me what you think!

Pan Seared Halibut With Sweet Pepper and Mushroom Relish…

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: Medium
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2 (6 ounce) halibut filets

3 Tbs. olive oil, divided

1 Tbs. butter

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1 -2 tsp. garlic powder

1 – 2 tsp. Old Bay Seasoning

salt and pepper (to taste)

1 shallot, sliced

1 – 2 cloves of garlic, minced (again to taste)

1/2 cup sweet pepper, any color

5-6 medium sized baby crimini mushrooms, sliced

1 medium – large size Roma tomato, seeded and chopped

1 Tbs. sherry cooking wine

1 Tbs. flat leaf parsley, chopped


Combine flour, garlic powder and Old Bay Seasoning. Dredge the fish filets on both sides in the flour, shaking off any excess. Set aside.

Heat 2 Tbs. of olive oil in a pan. Add peppers and mushrooms and sauté for approximately 3-5 minutes. Once you’ve started cooking the peppers and mushrooms, heat the remaining olive oil and butter in another pan until the butter is melted. Season the fish filets with salt and pepper and add them to this pan seasoned side down (I also added a touch of Old Bay Seasoning on top along with the salt and pepper). Season the other side of the filets with salt and pepper (and Old Bay, if desired). Let the filters cook for approximately 4-5 minutes before turning. Cook on the second side until the fish flakes easily when tested with a fork (approximately another 4- 5 minutes). Keep in mind that the thickness of the filet will determine the cooking time, obviously the thicker the filet the longer the time.

Once the peppers and mushrooms in the other pan have softened add the shallots and garlic and cook for an additional 2- 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and sherry cooking wine and cooking for another couple of minutes. Turn off the heat, stir in the parsley and serve over the fish filets.



Lasagna Roll Ups

I recently came across a recipe for lasagna roll ups. The recipe intrigued me because one of the go-to recipes I regularly make and really enjoy is chicken roll ups, so I thought making a lasagna version might be interesting. I particularly liked the idea of rolling the noodles with a ricotta mixture instead of layering them flat as in traditional lasagna. The original version of this recipe was for veggie lasagna which I knew would probably not be a big hit with my husband so I decided to work with the concept and create a recipe that would appeal to the carnivores of the world. But you can certainly make this a veggie dish and it will be fabulous.

Lesson Learned 1 – There is a lot of prep work to this recipe: If you’re not a prep person, this might not be the recipe for you. I find it cathartic to chop, mince, slice and dice but not everyone feels that way. You also have to cook the lasagna noodles ahead of time and arrange them individually on wax or parchment paper so they remain straight and don’t stick together before you roll them up with the cheese. The key to this recipe is making sure everything is prepped up front, including cooking and separating the noodles. If you do that, assembling it is a breeze. All I can say is that regardless of the work, this recipe is worth it.

IMG_3630Lesson Learned 2 – Cut all the veggies for the sauce to a similar size: This is important so that you don’t overcook or undercook any of them. Don’t throw them all in at the same time. Saute the onions, peppers and mushrooms first, then add the garlic followed by the squash. By the time the squash is crisp tender everything else will be ready as well.

Lesson Learned 3 – Use fresh mozzarella and shred it yourself: I think fresh mozzarella tastes better and it definitely melts better giving you that gooey consistency that we all love. It takes a little extra time but it’s worth it. Then again, if you don’t have the time or want to shorten the prep process you can always use shredded mozzarella.

Lesson Learned 4 – Establish a process for assembling this: You can organize cooking and assembling this recipe any way you want but the key is to be organized when you make it. Think through what process might work the best for you before making this dish. That way you won’t feel overwhelmed by all of the various steps.


Lasagna Roll Ups

This recipe is enough to serve six. And although the lasagna noodles look small when you take them out of the package, they plump substantially when you cook them. One noodle roll up is more than enough for the average appetite.

The original recipe was designed to be frozen once assembled and baked off frozen at a later time. You can certainly do that but if you do make sure to use a meat thermometer to test the temperature of the center of the lasagna to ensure it’s heated all the way through.

My husband REALLY liked this recipe. In order to make it more carnivore friendly I added my homemade meatballs on top when I served it. I cooked the meatballs separately and just heated them through before I served them on top of the lasagna. If you don’t have time to make meatballs you can add partially cooked ground italian sausage to the sauce or just do what I did and use a sauce that already had sausage in it. Or you can simply leave it as a veggie dish. Any way you adapt this recipe, I know you will like it.

Lasagna Roll Ups…

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Print



6 lasagna noodles cooked according to packaged instructions


2 Tbs. olive oil

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 small onion, diced

1 small sweet pepper, diced

4-6 large cremini mushrooms, chopped small

1/2 medium size zucchini, diced

1/2 cup white wine

1 24 ounce jar of pasta sauce (I used Classico with sausage)

1 6 oz. can of tomato paste

16 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese

Grated parmesan for sprinkling on top

2 tsp. Italian seasoning

Salt and pepper to taste


16 oz. ricotta cheese

1/4 cup grated parmesan

1 egg

1 TBS. flat leaf parsley, chopped

Salt and pepper to taste


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cook the noodles according to the package instructions. Drain them and place them flat on a wax or parchment paper lined sheet pan. Make layers of individual noodles as needed separating each layer with a sheet of wax or parchment paper. Set aside.

In a large skillet heat the olive oil. Saute the onions, mushrooms and peppers for about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant (about 30 seconds to a minute). Add the zucchini and cook for a few minutes. Pour in the wine and salt and pepper the mixture to taste. Pour in the jarred sauce. Add a can of tomato paste. Stir until combined and warmed through. Turn off the heat and set aside.

Combine all of the ingredients for the ricotta filling. Taste before adding salt and pepper as the parmesan is salty. Salt and pepper to taste. Line up the flat lasagna noodles and divide the ricotta mixture into six equal portions. Spread the mixture over each flat noodle. Roll each noodle tightly with the filling.

Pour 1/3 of the sauce on the bottom of a 2 quart casserole dish. Sprinkle some mozzarella and parmesan over the sauce and top with a teaspoon of Italian seasoning. Place the rolled lasagna noodles on top making two rows of three each. Pour the remaining sauce over the noodles. Generously top with mozzarella and parmesan. Sprinkle the remaining Italian seasoning on top of the cheese.

Tent the casserole dish with foil and bake for 45 – 50 minutes. Remove foil and bake for additional 5 minutes or until the cheese on top is browned and bubbly. You can also turn on the broiler for the last 3 – 5 minutes and put the casserole dish under the broiler. If using the broiler, keep an eye on the casserole so as not to burn the cheese on top.

Let sit for 5 minutes and serve.