Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Walnut Pesto

Here's the story...
A few days ago, our friends, Evan and Lisa, brought us a big, beautiful bag of basil from their garden.  I knew right away that I would be making pesto ASAP.  We had just run out of parmesan and I didn't have any pine nuts, so I went to Costco the next day to get what I needed.  As you probably know, pine nuts are not cheap. Like $25 for not-even-that-big of a bag.  So I went out on a limb and decided to try walnuts instead.  It was a success!!  We loved the walnut pesto!  Give it a try and see what you think.
2 cups packed basil leaves
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup grated parmesan
couple shakes of salt

*Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend until thoroughly combined.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Italian Meatball Soup

I love the Fall & Winter months because that means we can start eating soup again without wanting to melt!  This soup really is amazing and super easy too! I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

                  (sorry the photo isn't the greatest, it was taken with a cell phone)


1/2 pound ground beef                               1 teaspoon basil
1/2 pound sweet Italian sausage               1/2 teaspoon parsley
2eggs, beaten                                              1/4 cup dehydrated onion
1/4 cup plain bread crumbs                         1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan       1 teaspoon salt
cheese                                                         1/2 teaspoon pepper

Gently combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Shape into meatballs. Make as big or as small as you'd like. Place on a cookie sheet lined with foil. Broil for 7 to 10 minutes, or just until brown. They will continue to cook in soup.


1-2 tablespoons olive oil                               1(28 oz.) can crushed tomatoes
1 onion, chopped                                           1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
4-5 cloves of garlic, minced.                          2 carrots, peeled and diced
5 (14 oz. ) cans chicken broth                         1 cup small pasta
1 cup water                                                      2 cups spinach, thinly sliced
red pepper flakes (opt.)

Heat oil in a large stockpot. Sauté the onions and garlic until translucent. Add broth, water, tomatoes, and seasonings. Heat to boiling. Gently add the meatballs, carrots, pasta, and spinach. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes or until the meatballs are cooked through, the carrots are tender, and the pasta is al dente.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Award-winning Apple Crisp

Fall is in full force here in Albany.  It's my most favorite time of the year!  I love the cool, crisp air, the leaves changing colors and, of course, the yummy Fall desserts!  This is one of them.  The brown sugar topping is crunchy and sweet and the apple filling is delicious.  Topped with ice cream, this award winning dessert is most certainly a winner!

Award-winning Apple Crisp

1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup rolled oats
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup butter, softened
4 cups apples, peeled and sliced thinly
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine flour, oats, brown sugar and cinnamon in a bowl.  Stir then add butter and cut in until crumbly.  Take half of this mixture and press into a greased 2 1/2 quart baking dish or a 9 in. square pan. Top with apples.

Put sugar, water, cornstarch and vanilla in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil.  Turn heat to medium and cook and stir for 2 minutes.  Pour mixture over apples.  Top with rest of oat topping.  Bake at 350 degrees for 55 minutes.  Serve warm with ice cream.

Recipe from Taste of Home

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

Buckle up folks.  This cake is intense.
We are talking richer than rich, moister that moist, and beyond delicious.  I don't drink milk, but if I did, I would have wanted a big glass of it to go with this cake.
Our beautiful and extremely talented sister-in-law, Jen, made this the other night for my cute nephew's second birthday.  She got the recipe from her friend and neighbor, Heidi, whose husband, Jason, makes this cake for his family.  I am so happy that this cake has found it's way into my life.
(Jason also does an awesome job cleaning carpets and you can check that out here).

2 cups flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch process
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups water
2 Tbs. white vinegar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs

*Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter the bottoms and sides of three 8-inch round cake pans.  Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment or waxed paper.  Butter the paper.
*Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.  Whisk to combine.  Add the oil and sour cream and whisk to blend.  Gradually beat in water.  Blend in vinegar and vanilla.  Whisk in eggs and beat until well blended.  Scrape down sides and make sure batter is well mixed.  Divide evenly among the 3 pans.  Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Let cool in pans for 20 minutes.  Invert onto a wire cooling rack, peel off paper liners and let cool completely. (Cakes are very soft so you might want to freeze them for 30 minutes before assembling).

10 ounces cream cheese at room temp.
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temp.
5 cups powdered sugar
2/3 cup smooth peanut butter

*Beat cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy.  Gradually add powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, mixing thoroughly and scraping down the sides.  Beat for 3-4 minutes until light and fluffy.  Add peanut butter and mix until blended.
*To frost the cake, place one layer, flat side up, on a cake stand or large plate.  Spread 2/3 cup of the frosting evenly over the top.  Repeat with the next layer.  Place the last layer on top and frost the top and sides of the cake with remaining frosting.

Chocolate-peanut butter glaze:
8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 Tbs. smooth peanut butter
2 Tbs. light corn syrup
1/2 cup half-and-half

*In a double boiler or in a bowl set over simmering water, combine the chocolate, peanut butter, corn syrup and half-and-half.  Whisk continually until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.
*Pour glaze slowly over cake so that it coats the top evenly and drips down the sides in big drips.  Refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 30 minutes and then remove 1 hour before serving.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Peach Season is Here!!

Three cheers for peach season!!!  Hip-hip-hooray!
Below is a list of some of our favorite recipes involving peaches, including this salad which is my all-time favorite.  Enjoy!!

Spinach Peach Salad
Peach Smoothie
Raspberry Peach Jam
Peach Crisp
Mini Peach Pies
Peach Cobbler #1
Peach Cobbler #2
Peach Cobbler #3
Peach Cobbler #4

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Joe Joe Cookie Cookies

Holy cow it's been a long time since I have posted a recipe.  I don't even have a good reason like moving or having a baby or anything.  But I made these cookies yesterday and they were good!  And good cookie recipes need to be shared.  So here is the recipe and I hope you enjoy it!!
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup (2 cubes) butter, room temp
2 eggs
1 Tbs. vanilla
2 3/4 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 sleeves (about 20 cookies) Joe Joes or Oreos if you don't have Trader Joe's

*Mix sugars.  Add butter and beat a couple of minutes until light and fluffy.  Add eggs and vanilla and mix together.  Add dry ingredients and mix.  Smash up cookies in a big ziploc bag and add to dough.  Mix until combined.  Drop onto an ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes.  (11 minutes is perfect in my oven).  I use a medium cookie scoop so they are about the size of a golf-ball.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

BBQ RIBS (or "barby-yaki")

Even though it's only the middle of July--should be just the middle of summer, the kids here in AZ go back to school the first part of August! Whaaaaat? Seems like that's a gypped summer to me! There should still be at least another month of swimming, late nights and BBQs. I love BBQs.  Just the word makes me excited! Especially by the pool with watermelon and kids running everywhere. 

These pork ribs are so delicious and always have turned out "fall off the bone" for me. I helped cook for our church's girls camp and we did these ribs for one of our meals this year. When we were purchasing the ribs at Sam's Club,the clerk suggested we use Yoshidas Gourmet Sauce mixed with BBQ sauce.  He called it "barby-yaki".   I was a little skeptical that the girls might not be that fond of them--ribs sort of seem like "guy" food, you know. Well, was I EVER wrong. There was not even a sliver left! Those girls ate every single one and wanted more. I felt bad we ran out--and we had at least 3 ribs for each girl!  They are easy but take a little planning ahead.


Ingredients – Or use your favorite rub

4 lbs pork ribs 

3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon hickory smoke salt(I have just used regular sea salt)
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon ground red chile pepper (optional--I use)

Mix all rub ingredients together and set aside

Heat your BBQ grill to low and grill the bare rib slab for 6-7 minutes on each side. This is just to give them the BBQ flavor.

Preheat oven to 300.  Remove from grill and let cool a bit--so you can handle with your hands. When ribs are cool enough to handle rub the mixed rub ingredients well, all over the ribs.  Wrap loosely in foil and place on a baking sheet. Bake for approximately 3 hours.  Check ribs to make sure they are tender but not mushy.  Remove from oven and let cool a bit.

Cut ribs into serving sized portions of 2-3 ribs. Arrange on a broiler pan and brush with a mixture of:

2 cups favorite BBQ Sauce (Sweet Baby Ray's is our favorite)
1 cup Yoshida Gourmet Sauce (teriyaki--original flavor--Sam's Club or Costco or even grocery has now)

 Broil on high for one or two minutes until sauce is cook and bubbly and begins to carmelize.  Turn the ribs over and brush additional sauce and do the same. Be generous with the sauce before you broil.  Save extra for adding later.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Dr. Pepper Pulled Pork

I admit, I'm a total Dr. Pepper addict, so when I came across this recipe (found at Crockin' Girls) I knew it had to be good!  It definitely did not disappoint and what is even better is I didn't have to heat up my kitchen because you  make it in your crock pot. :)


  • 1 Bone-in Pork Shoulder
  • Seasonings for pork (Season salt, garlic powder, pepper etc)
  • 3/4 Cup BBQ Sauce
  • 1 Can Dr. Pepper


  1. Step One

    Season the pork (the night before or the day of) and place it in the slow-cooker. I used Lawry's Season salt, pepper, dried onion flakes, cayenne pepper & some minced garlic.
  2. Step Two

    Then add the BBQ sauce and soda, and turn the heat to low.
  3. Step Three

    Let it cook for about eight hours, or until you return home.
  4. Step Four

    Shred it with two forks, remove any skin/bone/gross bits, and let the remaining meat soak up all the sauce.
I served it with homemade rolls and veggies with ranch.  Hawaiian sweet rolls would be really good too.

Julia Child's White Sandwich Bread

I had this genius idea that I wanted to start making my own bread instead of buying it from the store, but the trick was finding a really good/easy recipe that I could make every week.  After SEVERAL failed attempts at some recipes, I tried making this recipe (which I found over at Dinner With Julie) and it was super easy and super yummy.  The first time I made it, we noticed that it was really missing needed more sugar, so the next time I made it, I added 4 TBS and it was perfect.  So now, I guess you can say that we are homemade bread snobs. :)

Julia Child’s White Sandwich Bread

2 1/2 cups warm water
1 Tbsp. active dry yeast
4-5 Tbsp. sugar
7 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup butter, softened

Pour 1/2 cup of the water into a bowl (preferably that of a stand mixer) and stir in the yeast and sugar. Let sit for 5 minutes, unit foamy. (If the yeast doesn’t do anything, toss it out and buy fresh yeast.)

Add the rest of the water and 3 1/2 cups of the flour. Stir until well blended. Add the rest of the flour, the salt and butter and stir with the dough hook (or by hand) until well combined and shaggy.

Continue to knead (I let the dough hook go for about 8 minutes, poking it down once in awhile) until it’s smooth and elastic. You could do this by hand, too. If you used the dough hook, turn the dough out onto the countertop and knead a few times to make sure it’s evenly smooth.

Shape it into a ball and put it back into the bowl. Cover with a tea towel and let it sit for 1 – 1 1/2 hours, until it’s doubled in size.

Butter two 4″x8″ loaf pans. Punch the dough down (love that part!) and pat each piece into a rectangle that’s about 9″x12″ – or a bit bigger than a standard piece of paper.

Starting at a short end, fold it in thirds, like a letter. Place seam side down in the loaf pans, tucking the ends in. Cover with the tea towel again and leave them for an hour, until they puff right up out of the pan.

Preheat the oven to 375°F and put the rack in the middle of the oven. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the loaves are honey brown. Immediately turn the loaves out of their pans and onto a rack to cool.

Makes 2 loaves.

Starbucks Banana Walnut Bread

I had some bananas sitting on my counter that just kept getting more ripe by the day and I finally got around to making some banana bread.  I went looking on Pinterest to find a yummy new recipe and I think I found one that I will keep making over and over.  I found the recipe on Heidi Bakes and the struesel center she uses is beyond amazing.  I don't think I'll ever make banana bread without it!

Starbucks Banana Walnut Bread

  • 3 ripe bananas, peeled and mashed
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons buttermilk or milk
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees and grease one loaf pan
  2. Mix sugar, oil, egg, vanilla, buttermilk, and bananas in a mixing bowl. Combine completely.
  3. Add in flour, soda, and salt, and 1/2 cup of the walnuts.
  4. Pour into the pan, sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup walnuts over the top of the batter slightly pressing in the walnuts.
  5. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes. Use a tester to check if it is cooked internally.
  6. Cool and remove from the pan.

Struesel Layer
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
(these are approximate amounts. add more or less struesel, depending on your taste)

Mix together & sprinkle the mixture over a thin layer of batter in a prepared loaf pan. Cover with additional batter and bake.

The best homemade ice cream. Ever.

Whenever we get together with Bo's family, it is always mandatory that my brother in law make his famous homemade ice cream.  Nothing beats homemade ice cream, but this recipe takes it to a whole new level.  You will seriously be the talk of the party if you make this for your next get together. :)

For 1 gallon of ice cream:

3 cups milk
2 cups sugar
1 large box instant vanilla pudding
1 tsp vanilla
1 quart 1/2 & 1/2
1 pint heavy whipping cream

Mix all together and then add what ever flavoring you are wanting to make (i.e. 4 bananas & walnuts or 1 1/2 cartons of frozen sweetened strawberries. We also love the mint oreos!)

Pack ice around the canister and add rock salt to the ice and let the machine work its magic.


Wednesday, June 12, 2013


It's summer and that means BBQ time--and here in AZ that means 100+ temps--today 115, no joke!! However, we endure this heat so we can brag about our weather from Oct-May.  No shoveling or sliding off the roads!

This is a great variation to the normal corn-on-the cob and can be done on the grill or in the oven under the broiler.  You can even boil the corn first if you don't want to grill it, then just slather on the mixture.  Delicious either way. My daughter-in-law found this recipe and it reminded me of the street corn I ate as I grew up as a child (in Mexico).  I know there are lots of you who don't like mayonnaise so there is an option to use Mexican "crema". You can buy it in most grocery stores--it's a slightly sweeter version of sour cream.  Also, the Mexican "cotija" cheese is sometimes hard to find--it's crumbly and salty, thus you can use feta or goat. I use goat--it's a little milder.  

6 ears of fresh, sweet corn, shucked and silk removed
1 T. olive oil
1/2 c. mayonnaise or Mexican crema
1/2 cube softened butter (1/4 c.)
2 T. minced fresh cilantro--I use more
1 oz. of crumbled feta, goat or Mexican cotija cheese
1 T. fresh lime juice
1/2 clove fresh garlic, minced very fine
1 t. mild red chili powder

If grilling the corn, place on your outdoor grill and cook just until done and lightly browned.  If broiling in oven, place rack 5 inches from top broiler and coat all the ears of corn lightly with the 1 T. olive oil.  Broil for 10 minutes, turn and broil for 10 minutes more, just until beginning to lightly brown.  If boiling corn, add to boiling water for 5 minutes and remove.  

Mix mayo (or crema) softened butter, cilantro, cheese, lime juice, garlic and chili powder together in a bowl.  I actually pulsed all this in a food processor for just a few minutes.  Brush onto hot corn with a pastry brush.  Serve with extra lime wedges if you like.  So delicious!! 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013


I have more than one obsession in life and mangoes are one of them. I could eat them on anything --well almost, I think. Strawberry mango is a great combination.  This recipe makes 8 half pints or 4 pints. I find that making jam in smaller batches works better than trying to make a lot at once. I have never had great success trying to do too much at a time.

I used fresh strawberries, but you can use frozen (unsweetened) if you don't have fresh. Just let them thaw--and use the juice. 

I like the smaller champagne variety mango the best. They are sweeter and less stringy. You can also use frozen mango if you don't have fresh. I went to a local "farmer's market" type store today for strawberries (3# for $1) and they happened to have these mangoes 5/$1. I was so excited and went a little crazy with buying strawberries and mangoes. Then I had to come home and take care of all of it.  It was just right ripe and wasn't waiting until tomorrow.  


Large pan big enough to hold 6 half pint jars or 4 pint jars
  (This will be filled with water and jars submerged and heated to almost boiling to sterilize them)
Small saucepan
Canning rings for jars
Canning lids for jars
Tongs for removing hot jars
Clean, wet cloth for wiping rims of jars after filling
Large dutch oven size pan for cooking jam

Place clean jars in large pan and fill with water enough to cover jars. Place on stove and bring to just almost boiling--heat the water slowly to prevent jars from breaking. Keep the water at just a simmer while you cook your jam.

Place clean rings and canning lids in small saucepan and bring to a simmer--turning down heat after water simmers.  The hot water will soften the red rubber seal that will seal the jam for storage. Keep lids and rings also at a simmer while fruit is cooking.

You're now ready to cook your fruit.

To large pan big enough to hold 5.5 cups pureed fruit and 5.5 cups of sugar add:

2 cups mashed mango (I pulse in food processor leaving small chunks)
2.5 cups mashed strawberry (same as above)
*Note:  If you are using frozen fruit, thaw first and mash, blend or process the same, using juice.

Add 1 1/3 boxes of Sure Jell (1/3 box is 5 teaspoons--random, I know)

Stir well to dissolve Sure Jell and bring fruit and Sure Jell to a boil.  Immediately add 5.5 cups of sugar and stir well to dissolve the sugar.  Bring back to a good boil and cook for one minute.  Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  There will be some foam at the top of the jam.  That's OK--as it cools a little and you stir it, it will incorporate.  

After 5 minutes cooling time, remove one jar from hot water at a time and fill with hot jam, filling only to the ring threads. I use a 1/4  cup measuring cup for the smaller 1/2 pint jars.  Wipe the top and edges of the jar with the clean wet cloth.  Make sure tops of jars are clean as they won't seal if they aren't. This will cause spoilage. 

Remove a canning lid from hot water with tongs, place on top of jar and place ring on jar as well.  Screw tightly, using wet cloth in your hands to prevent burning.  Set aside to cool.  Repeat until all jars are filled.

Like I said before, this recipe makes 4 pints or 8 half pints.

Let jars sit until cool.  You will hear the "ping" of each jar as they cool and seal themselves.  There is no need to "cold-pack" this jam, as you have sterilized the jars, rings and lids in the very hot water.  No need for refrigeration if stored in a cool dark place.  Refrigerate after opening.  

Whew--long post and happy jamming!!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Chicken Sausage Pasta

A year and a half ago, Brett and I flew to New York to visit Holly and see some sights in Palmyra and NYC.  On part of our flight, we sat next to a really nice man who we found out is the CEO of a natural and organic meat company called Bilinski's.  He told us all about his company and what they make and who sells it.  One of their products is chicken sausage and I had seriously never heard of such a thing.  (I don't get out much).  In my mind I was thinking, "ew that sounds gross," but I told him I would have to try that some time.  
Fast forward to last week when I was in Trader Joe's and I sampled some chicken sausage and it was good!  I decided I needed to give it a chance and make something with it for my family to try.  This is what they suggested at Trader Joe's and we loved it!
1 16 oz. bag of Farfalle pasta (I used about 3/4 of the bag)
1 jar pasta sauce (TJ's creamy tomato basil is our fave)
3 links chicken sausage, cut into bite-sized pieces (I used Italian flavored)
Mozzarella cheese, shredded

*Boil pasta according to package directions.  Drain pasta and then pour into a casserole dish.  Pour in the jar of sauce and mix together.  Sprinkle in sausage and mix again.  Top with some shredded mozzarella and bake at 350 for 25 minutes.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


I was looking for a chocolate cookie recipe I used to have and can't find. Thought maybe the internet could help me --because after all you can find ANYTHING on the internet, right? I didn't find my recipe, but ran across this from the Yahoo chef (didn't know there was such a person) and thought they sounded interesting.  His name is Fabio (yes, it really is) Viviani.  The recipe is small and only has 5 ingredients, so I tried them.  They really are good and easy and oh so tasty!! The reason:  NUTELLA!!! I only know one person (my very own daughter) who doesn't love it! I think she might have been adopted--JK--love you Megs!!  Here goes

1 c. Nutella
2 T. brown sugar
1 egg

Preheat oven to 350. Mix above ingredients  on low for a few minutes and slowly add 3/4 c. flour just until well mixed.  Scoop with spoon or small cookie/ice cream scoop onto parchment lined cookie sheet--about walnut size.  Sprinkle the tops with a small amount of coarse sea salt.  Salt enhances the sweetness of baked goods.  Bake for 10 minutes.  Remove from cookie sheet and cool on baking rack.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Bars

Sometimes you just don't have time to make 4 dozen cookies.
Your intentions are good and your butter is sitting out all soft and ready to go.  Then you look at the clock and realize that it's just not happening.
Cookie Bars to the rescue!  Same great taste in only 18-20 minutes.  These are even kind of healthy-ish.  Relatively speaking.
You will love this cookie alternative!!
1 cup butter, softened to room temp.
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
1 Tbs. vanilla
1 3/4 cup white wheat flour
2 cups oats
3/4 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1 bag milk chocolate chips (Ghirardelli is my fave)
1 bag mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

*Mix butter and brown sugar for a few minutes until light and fluffy.  Add eggs and vanilla and mix until combined.  Add the next four ingredients and mix until combined.  Add chocolate chips and mix.  Spread into an ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 350 for 18-20 minutes.  18 minutes is perfection in my oven.  Cool for 30 minutes or so before cutting.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013


I tasted this version of orange rolls for the first time a few weeks ago.  My new friend Jackie who is our son and daughter-in-law's sweet nanny is the BEST cook (and takes great care of our grand-son).  I immediately put the recipe in my "favorites"!!  I love that there is orange juice in the dough.  Most orange rolls only have the juice in the frosting. Betcha can't eat just one!!

1Tbl. Yeast dissolved in 1/4 cup warm water and 1 tsp. sugar
1 cup warm orange juice
1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 tsp salt
4 cups flour
Mix all ingredients, except flour, together. Add the 4 cups flour. Mix and knead until all flour is moist. Let raise until almost double. Knead slightly on floured surface and divide in half. Roll into a circle and brush with melted butter mixed with a little orange juice and a Tablespoon of sugar. Cut into
wedges, 12 per circle. Roll up wide end first. Let rise until double. Bake 375 10 minutes.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Super Soft Sugar Cookies

There are two treats that I will never turn down.  Ever.
Homemade cinnamon rolls and homemade sugar cookies.
If either of these treats is ever available to me, I have no choice but to eat it.  I don't even try to resist because it's useless.
My son has been wanting to make sugar cookies since Halloween.  And although I love eating them, I don't really love making them.  So it only happens once or twice a year.  Last night we made egg-shaped sugar cookies and decorated them for Easter.  I tried a new recipe out of one of my favorite cookbooks, which coincidentally, is called, "Favorites."
They turned out really soft and yummy and I think this recipe is definitely a keeper.
1 1/2 cups butter, softened (3 cubes)
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1/4 cup sour cream
3/4 tsp. almond extract
3/4 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
5 cups flour

*Beat butter and sugar for a few minutes until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, sour cream, almond and vanilla extracts, and mix well.  Add soda, salt and flour (gradually) and mix on low until combined.  Don't over-mix.  Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 3-4 hours.  Roll out on a floured surface to about 1/4 inch thick.  Cut into shapes and bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes, depending on how big your cookies are.  Our small cookies took about 8 minutes and the big ones took a little longer.  You don't want them to brown.  Cool on racks before frosting.  


8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
16 oz. powdered sugar
dash of salt
1 tsp. vanilla
cream, half and half, or milk

*Beat cream cheese and butter until no lumps.  Slowly add powdered sugar and mix until smooth.  Add a little salt and the vanilla and then add a little cream (or whatever you have) until you like the consistency.  Add food coloring if you want to different colors and decorate until your heart is content!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Homemade Dark Chocolate Brownies

I used to think that box brownies were just as good as homemade brownies.  That was a few years ago before I really started looking for good homemade brownie recipes.  Turns out, there are a lot of good brownie recipes out there that are way better than the box.  Not that I won't bust out a box of Ghirardelli brownies now and again, though, because those are still really good.
But if you have a little extra time and want to go the "from scratch" route, here is a winner of a brownie recipe.  This came from Mel's Kitchen Cafe and we all know that we can count on her for jackpot recipes every time.
2 sticks (8 oz.) butter
8 oz. good-quality semisweet chocolate
2 cups sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
5 eggs
1/3 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2/3 cup flour

*Preheat oven to 350 and line a 9x13 pan with foil.  Spray with cooking spray and set aside.  Melt butter and chocolate in a heavy saucepan over low heat, stirring until smooth.  Add 1 cup of the sugar to the mixture.  Remove from heat and let cool to lukewarm.  Whisk in the remaining cup of sugar and the vanilla.  Whisk in eggs, 1 at a time, until mixture is glossy and smooth.  Whisk in salt and cocoa powder, then add flour and stir until it disappears.  Do not over-beat.  Spread in pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out with crumbs, about 25-35 minutes.  (Mine took 35).  Cool to room temp and then chill for an hour or more.  Lift from pan and cut into squares on a cutting board.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Sprinkles Strawberry Cupcakes

I don't think I know anyone who doesn't love a cupcake from Sprinkles.  Their strawberry cupcake is probably my favorite out of all of the flavors they have and since it really isn't convenient (thank goodness) to go get cupcakes all of the time, we just make our own. :)


2/3 cup strawberry puree (puree fresh or frozen strawberries)

2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour, sifted

2 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup whole milk, room temperature

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 cubes butter (1 Cup)

2 cups sugar

2 large eggs, room temperature

4 large egg whites, room temperature


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 24-cup muffin tins with cupcake liners; set aside.

Place fresh or frozen and thawed (about 1 1/3 cups makes 2/3 cups) strawberries in a small food processor; process until pureed. Add a few more strawberries if necessary or save any extra puree for frosting; set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In a small bowl, mix together milk, vanilla, and strawberry puree; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter on medium-high speed, until light and fluffy. Gradually add sugar and continue to beat until well combined and fluffy. Reduce the mixer speed to medium and slowly add egg and egg whites until just blended.

With the mixer on low, slowly add half the flour mixture; mix until just blended. Add the milk mixture; mix until just blended. Slowly add remaining flour mixture, scraping down sides of the bowl with a spatula, as necessary, until just blended.

Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups. Transfer muffin tin to oven and bake until tops are just dry to the touch, 22 to 25 minutes. Transfer muffin tin to a wire rack and let cupcakes cool completely in tin before icing.



6 T. strawberry puree

1 cube butter

pinch of salt

6-7 c. powdered sugar

1/2 t. vanilla

Mix butter and strawberry puree with mixer. Add vanilla and mix well.  Add powdered sugar just until spreading consistency.  Add a little milk or cream if it's too thick.  Pipe or spread onto cooled cupcakes.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Basil Cous Cous Salad

Basil Cous Cous Salad

Yet another recipe from my friend Susie.  I get all my good ones from her.  This salad will knock your socks off.  Throw some grilled chicken on it to make it a meal or keep it as a side.  Sorry for my phone pictures.

Basil Cous Cous Salad

1 large package spinach
1/3 cup craisins
1/3 cup asiago cheese
2 cups white corn
1 pkg. couscous (olive oil and garlic flavor - prepared per package instructions

1 cup fresh basil leaves roughly chopped
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 shallot
1 cup buttermilk
2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
Add ingredients in blender and blend well.  Salt and peper to taste.  Toss with salad just before serving.

Friday, March 8, 2013


I know its not summer yet, but it is spring and I am loving our warm/coolish AZ weather! And I LOVE MANGOES!! I grew up eating them year round, just like most of us do bananas. We often took trips to the beach in Mexico and sat on the beach with ripe mangoes, a knife and some limes.  The drill was:  Peel one, squeeze lime juice on it and eat that sweet messy fruit down to the pit! Then jump in the ocean to wash all the mess off your arms and face! Heaven, I tell you. 

 Anyway--I'm off on a tangent, but here is a great recipe. I was organizing some recipes and found it--haven't made it in a long time and wanted to share.  Oh, and avocados--another FAVORITE!!

I posted a picture of a yellow variety of mango instead of the green and red ones that are usually found in the grocery.  This variety is sweeter and less stringy. In AZ you can always buy them at Lee Lees Market (aka Lee Lees "stinky" Market--smells like fish).  Sometimes Costco and Sams have them in a six pack. Let them sweeten on your counter until they are soft and even a little wrinkly. The flesh will be like candy!! Anyway--here is the recipe!! Great with fish tacos (which I don't like) or just eat it with a spoon!!

mango avocado salsa
1 roma tomato, chopped
1 jalapeño, seeds removed and finely diced
1/2 mango, peeled and chopped
1/2 avocado, chopped
1/4 cup freshly chopped cilantro
1/2 lime, juiced
a pinch of salt + pepper

Mix and chill.  You can adjust the jalapeno for your desired heat preference.  

Monday, March 4, 2013


Thanks to my cute friend, Loni, this is a delicious and easy way to make lasagna! We had it for "Sundee" birthday dinner yesterday and it was a hit! Mrs. Sam's Club and Mrs. Costco sure can make cooking a breeze! Sam's Club carries the Artisan Fresh brand of ravioli and it comes in a 2 pack.  Costco carries a different brand but they both taste the same. They are stuffed with chicken and cheese and some herbs. The two pack will make a 9x13 pan of "lasagna" but if you want a smaller amount, only use one pack and make it a 9x9 pan.  You could actually use any ravioli! A good idea for taking a quick meal to someone (especially if you forget and it's 4 o'clock)! I may or may not have done that a few times!!

1 two pack of stuffed ravioli (see above)
1 small container Ricotta cheese 
1 container shredded Parmesan cheese (or a blend)
Mozzarella cheese
Your favorite marinara sauce 

Spoon a small amount of marinara sauce in bottom of 9x13 pan.  I used a bottle of Ragu mixed with a little leftover sauce I had from spaghetti last week. Lay one of the two packs of ravioli in a single layer on top of sauce.  Spread Ricotta cheese on top and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.  sprinkle with a layer of Mozzarella cheese.  Spread with a layer of marinara sauce.  Repeat the next layer without the Ricotta. (There is only Ricotta in the middle). 

 I actually made two of these yesterday and left Ricotta out of one of them--some in my family don't like it.  Bake at 350 for 30 min.  Serve with a nice green salad and garlic bread.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Brown Butter Snickerdoodle Cookies

Snickerdoodles are one of my absolute favorite cookies.  Ever.  One of my friends told me about a recipe she had found on Pinterest for snickerdoodles and I knew I had to try it.  I have to admit that it was more time consuming than the recipe I usually use, but boy was it worth it! The recipe is from Ambitious Kitchen.  If you go to her blog, she has step by step instructions on how to brown the butter.

Brown Butter Snickerdoodle Cookies
  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon of salt
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter
  • 1¼ cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon plain Greek yogurt
  • For rolling mixture:
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon

  1. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, and salt in a bowl and set aside. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. The butter will begin to foam. Make sure you whisk consistently during this process. After a couple of minutes, the butter will begin to brown on the bottom of the saucepan; continue to whisk and remove from heat as soon as the butter begins to brown and give off a nutty aroma. Immediately transfer the butter to a bowl to prevent burning. Set aside to cool for a few minutes.
  2. With an electric mixer, mix the butter and sugars until thoroughly blended. Beat in the egg, yolk, vanilla, and yogurt until combined. Add the dry ingredients slowly and beat on low-speed just until combined.
  3. Chill your dough for 3 hours or as long as possible in the refrigerator (important!), or place in freezer for 30 minutes if you are super eager, although I cannot promise the same results if you do this. Fridge is always best! You want the dough VERY cold. If you desire a ‘puffy’ cookie, place them in the fridge overnight.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Once dough is chilled measure about 2 tablespoons of dough and roll into a ball. Meanwhile mix 1/4 cup sugar and the 2 teaspoons cinnamon in a bowl. Roll balls in cinnamon-sugar mixture. Place dough balls on cookie sheet, 2 inches apart.
  5. Bake the cookies 8-11 minutes or until the edges of the cookies begin to turn golden brown. They will look a bit underdone in the middle, but will continue to cook once out of the oven. Bake longer if you like crispier cookies. Cool the cookies on the sheets at least 2 minutes. Remove the cooled cookies from the baking sheets after a few minutes and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough.
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