Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Hashbrown Pancakes

Easy, filling, and tasty! Gluten free and the addition of meat is optional. Makes 4-5 pancakes. Be sure to read the tips at the bottom. I make these once a week now! Adapted from a recipe found on the back of the frozen shredded hashbrown bag.

2 cups frozen shredded hash browns (thawed)*
3 eggs (whisked with a fork)
½ cup shredded cheese
¼-½ cup crumbled cooked sausage, bacon, ham, or chopped pepperoni slices** (optional)
¼-½ teaspoon seasoned salt, like Lawry's (depending on saltiness of meat or salt preference level)
½-2 tablespoons oil (for cooking)
sour cream for garnish/topping (optional)

Heat oil in frying pan on medium low to medium heat (½-1 tablespoon should be enough if using a good nonstick pan)***. Besure to spread oil evenly over pan. Place a single shred of potato in the oil and when it sizzles then the oil is ready to cook in. Combine potatoes, eggs, cheese, meat, and spices in bowl.

Using a medium ice cream scoop (large cookie scoop), scoop out  onto your heated frying pan and press down a little bit to shape into a flattened circle. Cook with lid on for 2 minutes on first side and 1.5-2 minutes on second side, until golden brown and egg is cooked. I leave the lid on while cooking to create more steam to make sure the egg gets cooked quickly without burning the pancake.

Place on paper towels prior to serving to drain any excess grease. Sprinkle with kosher salt and/or black pepper prior to serving.  Garnish with sour cream.

*Thaw on counter or in microwave at 70% power for 30 second increments, stirring between.

**I cooked a bunch of crumbled sausage ahead of time and froze in little bags to have on hand for this recipe.

***My stove settings go from 1-10, I cook these pancakes on 4.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star Cake

Made this cake for my daughter's second birthday, after her very favorite song! Moon and stars were made out of my sugar cookie recipe. Then I brushed a powdered sugar and milk glaze over them and dipped them in gold or white sprinkles. Made cake from two layers of 6 inch round cake pans. Cake stand is from Hobby Lobby. Frosting is my cream cheese buttercream recipe.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Chicken Pillows - Chicken Stuffed Crescent Rolls

Rich puffy crescent rolls with a chicken and cream cheese filling, breaded in savory stuffing bread crumbs. Tasty comfort food that's perfect for a Sunday night dinner. Can also use leftover turkey after Thanksgiving. Makes 16 stuffed rolls. Serves 5-8 people.

2-8 ct. cans of refrigerated crescent rolls (16 total)
8-9 oz cooked, shredded chicken*
4 oz cream cheese, softened
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
cracked pepper to taste

6 oz box of stuffing (like Stove Top), will only use 3 oz
4 tablespoons of melted butter

1 can jellied cranberry sauce, for serving

Preheat oven to 350 and move oven rack to the middle of the oven. Line large cookie sheet with parchment paper. Crush stuffing in blender, food processor, or with a rolling pin in a zip top bag. Weigh out 3 oz and reserve other 3 ounces in the freezer for the next time you make this recipe.

Using an electric hand mixer, combine chicken, cream cheese, and spices in small bowl. Divide chicken filling among the 16 rolls (approximately 1-2 tablespoons each). You may need to flatten/stretch out the dough a little bit first so that the filling will fit. Fold the dough over the filling and pinch the seams together to seal.

Dip each roll in melted butter and then roll in stuffing mix crumbs. Place on parchment paper lined baking sheet. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve with cranberry jelly.

*Can use fresh chicken from split chicken breast or boneless skinless chicken breast, or 1 can of Sam’s Club canned shredded chicken, drained.

Adapted from a recipe I got from my mother-in-law ;)

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Chocolate Chip Muffins

A decadent variation of my fresh blueberry muffin recipe. Like a cross between a chocolate chip cookie and a chocolate chip pancake ;)  The course sugar sprinkled on the top is the secret to sparkly, sweet, crunch muffin tops! Also a great base muffin recipe for other add ins.

1.5 cups white flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup canola oil (or grapeseed)
1 large egg
milk (up to 1 cup volume with egg and oil)  
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup chocolate chips, regular size
coarse sugar (for topping muffins)

Preheat oven to 400. Whisk dry ingredients in mixing bowl. In a large measuring glass add oil, egg, and milk up to one cup total volume, add vanilla. Stir with fork to break up and mix in the egg. Pour liquid ingredients into dry ingredients and stir with fork until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips with a spatula. Spoon into approximately 8-10 muffins cups. Sprinkle tops with coarse sugar. Bake at 400 for 17-20 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm with butter.

The secret to large muffin crowns is to measure the batter in to the muffin tins and let sit at room temperature for 10-25 minutes. Then sprinkle with course sugar just prior to putting them in the oven. The longer they sit, the larger they will rise and crown!

Adapted from my Fresh Blueberry Muffin Recipe

Friday, March 9, 2018

Kristi's Pretty Dang Good Chocolate Chip Cookies

Rarely do I include a long introduction to my recipes … but this one deserves an exception, as I believe there are many of you out there that will relate! For over eight years, I've been longing to conquer a good chocolate chip cookie recipe, and in those eight years I haven’t made ANY progress. Why is the most classic and simple American cookie recipe so complicated to make?!?!? About once a year I decide I’m going to try again and I try a new recipe which is perfect pictures online and then every time it fails and they get worse and worse. They usually turn out flat, with greasy burned edges … and then I get mad and swear off trying again. Every time I come to the conclusion it’s a mystic voodo art that I will never achieve success at.

Well, a few weeks ago I got the urge again. While buying chocolate chips at Aldi, I ran into my friend Alice, dumped my cookie making woes on her, and she told me it took her about 18 years! She gave me some tips and encouraged me to keep trying. So at that moment I was fully motivated and decided the biggest problem with every recipe I’ve tried is that they never call for enough flour, but I didn't know what that magic amount of flour was.

Also, I am very picky. The perfect chocolate chip cookie will not only taste perfect, but look perfect, and it has to adhere to my standards for ingredients. It must be crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside, no flat edges, and uniformly thick with lots of nooks and crannies It must be made with butter (absolutely no shortening or Crisco sticks), the dough should not require refrigeration before baking, not make a huge batch, and not have weird numbers of measurements for the ingredients.

I started with the "Joy of Cooking" cookbook’s recipe, and after it turned out to make the worst, flattest, most greasy cookies ever, I literally had to double the amount of flour. I have no earthly idea how everybody (including every recipe I've tried from the internet with decent pictures) is making chocolate chip cookies with so little flour!!!

It took me about two weeks and over a dozen batches. I also gained 5 pounds in the process ... so you are welcome for that! Besides the flour, I tweaked the ratio of sugars, the amount of salt, and added a touch of cornstarch to stabilize the cookie and give it a little lift without adding too much flour. I feel that I have now achieved the best possible cookie that my hands and my kitchen can make, using unsalted butter as the only fat. I sure hope this recipe works for others too, because it is quite simple and easy to memorize.

If you can, please try this recipe out in your kitchen! Please follow it "to the T" the first time you make it (including ingredients, directions, and equipment), send me pictures, and let know how they turned out. If you have to make any changes, including type of pan or oven, higher altitude, etc., let me know those details too! I really want to know if this recipe is repeatable in other kitchens and altitudes. Please carefully read the entire recipe including all the instructions, notes, and thoughts. Chocolate chip cookie baking really is a science and there are so many variables, so I am trying to control for as many as possible with my instructions. Let the great chocolate chip cookie making challenge begin! 

Kristi's Pretty Dang Good Chocolate Chip Cookies  

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, naturally softened to room temperature
⅔ cup light brown sugar, packed
⅓ cup white sugar

1 large egg
½ tablespoon salt (1.5 teaspoons)
½ tablespoon vanilla (1.5 teaspoons)

2 cups unbleached flour (presifted is preferable)***
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cornstarch

1 cup regular size semi-sweet chocolate chips, chilled or frozen

Preheat oven to 375. Whisk together flour, cornstarch, and baking soda in a small bowl and set aside. In a medium bowl use hand mixer to combine butter and sugars on low speed until well creamed together, 1-1.5 minutes.

Add egg, salt, and vanilla. Mix with hand mixer on low for 20-30 seconds or until well combined. Add flour mixture and mix on low speed until all flour is incorporated and dough starts to pull together, about 20-30 seconds. Stir in chocolate chips by hand with a wooden spoon. Dough should not stick to your hands at all.

Measure 1.5 tablespoons of dough for each cookie (I have a small springed cookie scoop that measures 1 tablespoon, so I just overfill it a bit). Shape into rounded ball between hands, and place area with most chocolate chips clustered together on top. If there isn't an area with at least 3-4 chocolate chips clustered together, pull some chocolate chip from bottom, stick them next to some other ones, and reform the rounded ball.

Place on parchment paper lined aluminum baking sheets and bake one sheet at a time at 375 for 8-10 minutes, until tops just barely start showing blushing spots of golden brown. My oven take 9-9.5 minutes. Remove from oven and they will still be a little puffy. Let cookies sit on the tray for 3 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack, and they will flatten out with some nice nooks and crannies.

  • ***When you measure the flour be sure to stir the flour container well, spoon it into your measuring cup with a dinner or soup spoon, then level off the top with the handle of the spoon. This will ensure that your flour is measured correctly and you aren’t adding too much. 
  • Let butter sit out on counter until room temp, soft. Place out night before or morning of if needed. Do not try to gently microwave it, just be patient and let it slowly soften itself on the counter. 
  • Use chilled or frozen chocolate chips 

  • Refrigerate dough balls at cookie sheets for at least 10 minutes if kitchen is warm. (Since it is Spring right now, I have not made this recipe during the summer months yet). 
  • If you want to make the cookies larger, use approximately 2 tablespoons of dough, roll into rounded ball, and flatten slightly after putting on baking sheet. 
  • I have read that different flours may vary in their protein content, and that it could affect the outcome of your cookies, so that is something to keep in mind. I have read that King Arthur flour is very consistent, though I have not tried it yet. I used Walmart brand all purpose unbleached, presifted flour for these cookies. 
  • These taste best about 15-20 minutes after coming out of the oven :)
  • Try baking 1 or 2 cookies first, let them cool completely, evaluate, and then add more flour if needed. If they are too dry or thick, or don't flatten properly after cooling, try making them again and omit the cornstarch or reduce the flour by 1/4 cup. 

  • 2 beater hand mixer 
  • Electric oven (no convection capabilities). 
  • Pans I used, so if you use a different type of pan they may turn out vastly different: Large jelly roll style aluminum cookie sheets (13x18 - 18 gauge aluminum). 
  • Cookie sheets were lined with good quality parchment paper (Sam’s club brand). 

  • Kitchen temperature was around 71 degrees. 
  • I have a regular electric oven (no convection capabilities). 
  • Elevation approximately 700 feet 
  • Cookies were cooked one sheet at a time with the rack set in the middle of the oven. 

  • Sub semi-sweet chocolate chips for butterscotch, white, etc. 
  • Add ½-¾ cup chopped pecans 
  • For large bakery style cookies, measure out 3 tablespoons of dough. Roll it into a ball and flatten it into a hockey puck shaped disc. Bake for 9-11 minutes.

My lab mate Melissa in grad school who got me started on this quest! My husband, kids, school teachers, bus drivers, neighbors, and friends that were "forced" to eat the test batches. My friend Alice who gave me tips and encouraged me on that fateful day in the baking aisle of Aldi. And my friend Apple, who ate the very cookies that are featured in these pictures ;) 

Inspired by Joy of Cooking, 75th Anniversary Edition, Chocolate Chip Cookies, page 766.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Sugar Cookies (Perfect Cutout Sugar Cookies)

This is the perfect dough, not sticky at all, doesn’t need to be refrigerated, and the cookies hold their shape when baked. They bake perfectly without browning. See notes below for extra tips. Also, one batch of my cream cheese buttercream frosting is just the right amount to frost this recipe.

1 cup butter, softened to room temp
1.5 cups powdered sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups flour

Combine butter and sugar with paddle in stand mixer or with hand mixer until smooth. Add egg, vanilla, baking powder, and salt and mix until combined. Add flour and mix until dough starts coming together and forming a ball.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll out dough on lightly floured parchment paper. Thinner cookies will be on the crunchier side, thicker on the softer side. Cut out and transfer to parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 9-10 minutes at 350. Cool on cookie sheet or transfer to a cooling rack.

Makes 24-32 cookies (approximately 2.5 inches in diameter). Once cooled, frost with one batch of my cream cheese buttercream frosting

- Be sure the butter is at room temp, set out the morning or night before to ensure it softens sufficiently.

- When measuring the flour be sure to stir the flour, spoon it into the measuring cup, and level it off to make sure you are adding the correct amount of flour.

- The final dough should not be sticky at all and should roll out easily on parchment paper with only a small amount of flour on the paper and rolling pin. If your dough turns out too sticky, something went wrong and if you have to add a lot more flour the cookies may turn out brittle.

- To keep cookies soft, store frosted or unfrosted in an airtight container. To make them crunchy leave them open on the counter for a day or so (that's how I like them ;))

Slightly adapted from Sugar Cookie Recipe.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Whole Wheat Yogurt Pancakes

Tender, tasty, and filling. My favorite pancake recipe yet!

1 cup whole white wheat flour

1.5 cups all-purpose white flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ tablespoon salt

1 cup milk minus 2T, plus 2T vinegar (let sit 5 minutes)
1 cup plain yogurt (Greek or regular, whole fat works best)
2 large eggs
1/2 cup canola oil
1/4 cup water* (or more if needed)

In a quart measuring glass add 2 T white vinegar, add milk up to 1 cup total volume, add rest of wet ingredients and combine with a fork or whisk. Let sit for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, mix dry ingredients in large bowl. Make a well in the center. Pour wet ingredients into the well. Stir with a fork until just combined. *Depending on the consistency of the yogurt you are using, you may need to add some additional water if the batter is too dry or thick. Use a spring handled scoop to measure out batter onto griddle.  Makes 12-18 pancakes.

Inspired by: and

Monday, October 2, 2017

Savory Maple Breakfast Sausage Seasoning Mix

Amount of mix will season up to 6 pounds of sausage. Mix spices together and store in airtight container.

1 T ground sage
1 T marjoram
1 T crushed red pepper flakes*
1 T black pepper
2 T seasoned salt (like Lawry’s)

Real maple syrup
Plain pork sausage or ground pork**

To make 4-5 patties:

With ½ pound plain pork sausage, combine ½ tablespoon of mix with 1 T of real maple syrup and mix it into the sausage with your hands until just combined (don’t over handle or the sausage may turn out tough). Form into 4-5 patties and cook on nonstick pan over medium low to medium heat, turning occasionally, until well browned and they reach an internal temperature of at least 160 degrees F.

 *Can reduce to half if you want to reduce the heat, and then use just under ½ tablespoon when making the sausage.

 **I use the pork sausage roll from Aldi (Appleton Farms brand) which doesn’t have much seasoning besides salt. You can also use plain ground pork but I found the texture to be different as it wasn’t ground as fine as the sausage. Also, If you use ground pork that isn’t salted you may need to add up to ¼ teaspoon of salt for each half pound.

Adapted from

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Whole Wheat Banana Oat Muffins

⅓ cup canola oil
½ cup honey
2 eggs
1 cup mashed ripe banana
¼ cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

1 ¾ cup whole white wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
⅓ cup oats (quick or old fashioned) + more for sprinkling on top
1 teaspoon coarse sugar (for sprinkling on top)

Preheat oven to 325. Combine wet and dry ingredients separately. Stir wet ingredients with dry ingredients and until just combined.  Divide into 12 muffin cups. Sprinkle oats and coarse sugar on top of each muffin. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until inserted toothpick comes out clean. Serve warm with butter.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Energy Bar Cookies

Perfect for healthy snacking. I keep mine in the freezer and take out a couple when I'm about to run errands, etc. Makes 24 cookies. Cook time: 20 minutes.

2 ripened bananas, mashed
1/3 cup natural peanut butter (or sunflower butter)
2/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups quick oats
1/2 cup chopped nuts (or 1/4 cup sunflower seeds)
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips (or raisins)

Preheat oven to 350. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper. Mix wet ingredients and salt. Stir in oats. Add a few tablespoons of milk or water if the batter is dry. Stir in nuts and chocolate chips until combined. Use small cookie scoop and flatten slightly with the back of a spoon or your fingers. Arrange three chocolate chips on top of each cookie (optional). Bake for 20 minutes. Eat within 2 days or freeze.

I cook two cookie sheets at once (12 cookies on each sheet) and switch them after 10 minutes for even cooking.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Skillet Chicken Cordon Bleu

  Quick and easy version of a fancy dish. Serves 3-5 people. Cook Time 10-15 minutes. 

4-5 small chicken breasts, tenderized
1-2 T olive oil

4 oz cream cheese, softened
¼ cup monterey jack cheese, shredded
¼  cup cheddar cheese, shredded
¼ teaspoon garlic salt

½ cup panko
1 T Italian seasoning
¼ teaspoon garlic salt
4 teaspoons olive oil
3 slices ham, diced (I like Hormel Natural Choice Ham)

  1. Preheat oven to 400. Prepare chicken breasts by placing in a zip top bag and pounding them on each side with a meat tenderizer.
  2. Combine cream cheese, shredded cheeses, and garlic salt in small bowl.
  3. Combine panko, seasonings, oil, and diced ham  in a small bowl.
  4. Heat olive oil in oven proof  non-stick skillet over medium heat. Cook chicken breasts for 1 minute on each side. Remove skillet from heat.
  5. Move chicken breasts to center so they are touching each other. Spread cheese mixture over chicken breasts. Sprinkle panko/ham mixture over the cheese.
  6. Bake at 400 (in middle of oven)  until chicken breasts reach an internal temperature of 165 F (about 6-8 minutes).

If you don’t have a meat tenderizer you can use the back of a cookie scoop or a rolling pin. You can use any type of shredded cheese to mix with the cream cheese, including swiss or parmesan. If your skillet is not oven proof, just transfer the chicken to an oven-proof casserole dish before topping and baking.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Layered Tres Leches Cake

Easy but fancy dessert. Perfect for summer dinner parties and potlucks.

5 eggs, separated
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup milk (2% or whole)
1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup flour
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

1 can evaporated milk
1 can sweetened condensed milk

 1 cup heavy cream
2-3 tablespoons sugar, to taste
fresh chopped strawberries (or other berries)

Preheat oven to 350. Generously spray 2 - 8 or 9 inch round cake pans with cooking spray (I use silicon pans). Beat egg whites on high until stiff peaks form, set aside. Beat egg yolks and sugar on high until pale yellow. Stir in milk and vanilla.

Stir flour, baking soda, and salt together and add to the yolk mixture, stir to combine. Gently fold in egg whites to rest of batter until just combined. Gently spread into the two pans. Bake for approximately 20-25 minutes or until golden brown and inserted toothpick is clean. Remove from oven, let cool, and poke holes all over each cake with a fork.

Combine evaporated and sweetened condensed milk in a pourable measuring glass and stir. Pour half of it over each cake (about 1 1/4 cup for each cake). Let cakes sit for about 20 minutes or until all the milk is absorbed. At this point you can also cover the cakes with plastic wrap and store in the fridge for up to one day.

Meanwhile, beat heavy cream and sugar on high until stiff peaks form. Spread layer of whip cream between the two layers of cake and on top. Sprinkle chopped strawberries over the whip cream. Serve immediately (room temperature is preferred).

Adapted from

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Pad Thai

This baby of mine has been a long time coming, but I finally have it perfected. This is one of my favorite Thai dishes and now I can make it at home! It requires a good amount of prep work but it only takes a short time to put it all together at the end. Most of the ingredients can be obtained from any grocery store. You may have to go to an Asian store to find the tamarind concentrate or order it online. I use a food scale to measure some of the ingredients in this recipe, but I put the approximate volume equivalents in here too for those that don't have one yet. Serves 2-4 people. Adapted from

Prepare Noodles
7 oz Thai Kitchen Brand Stir-Fry Rice Noodles* (½ of box, can find at Walmart)

Bring large saucepan of water to boil. Remove from heat, add noodles, cover with lid and let soak for 2 minutes. Drain off hot water and cover noodles with room temp water. Cover with lid and let soak for 20 minutes. Drain off water, rinse noodles with cold water, and set colander of noodles aside. Noodles should be soft but not mushy.

Sauce - makes ⅔ cup*
60 grams Kikkoman soy sauce (reduced sodium is best) (¼ cup)
80 grams white sugar (5 ½ T)
40 grams brown sugar (3 T packed)
50 grams tamarind concentrate (2 ½ T) (I use this brand)

Bring to boil in small saucepan, stirring until sugars are dissolved. Cover and set aside.

Prepare ahead or while noodles are soaking, and set aside
4 tablespoons canola oil
1 large carrot, julienned
¼ small onion, minced or grated
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 eggs, scrambled and chopped
100-200 grams small extra firm tofu cubes* or 4 oz of cooked cubed or shredded chicken
large handful freshly chopped cilantro
large handful of chopped or crushed peanuts
lime wedges or lime juice

Final Steps
Add 4 tablespoons of canola oil to deep nonstick skillet (mine is 3.5 quarts) or wok . Heat over medium heat until piece of onion sizzles. Add onion, garlic, and carrot, reduce heat to medium low or low (if garlic starts to burn), stirring frequently for 5 minutes. Onions should be tender and carrots should be at least half cooked.

Raise heat to medium and add noodles, sauce, eggs, and tofu/chicken. Stir frequently over medium heat for 3 minutes. Serve immediately. Garnish individual servings with chopped cilantro, chopped peanuts, and a squeeze of lime juice (optional).

*Be aware that not all rice noodles cook the same, my instructions are specifically for this brand
*Optional - increase amount of sauce to serve extra on the side.
*To prepare tofu, dry with towels and brown in a little bit of oil over medium heat in a non stick skillet. It can take awhile to get the moisture out.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Oatmeal Butterscotch Cookies

These cookies were my favorite growing up and remind me of my childhood. If yours don't turn out perfect, adjust the amount of flour by 1/4-1/2 cup. Adapted from Betty Crocker's Cookbook, Bridal Edition, "Oatmeal-Raisin Cookies" (page 150.) Makes 3-4 dozen cookies.

1 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup white sugar
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups old fashioned oats
2.5 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1.5-2 cups butterscotch chips

Preheat oven to 375. Combine softened butter, sugars, eggs, and vanilla until smooth, with hand mixer or stand mixer (fit with paddle attachment). Combine dry ingredients in medium bowl. Add half of dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix until just combined, continue with rest of dry ingredients. Gently stir in butterscotch chips. Drop rounded spoonfuls onto parchment paper lined baking sheet. Bake at 375 for 9-11 minutes, or until edges are just started to brown and there are a few golden spots on top (my oven takes 9.5 minutes). Remove from oven and let sit on tray for 3 minutes. Transfer to cooling rack. Store in airtight container. Makes 3-4 dozen cookies. Store in an airtight container.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

White Bean and Bacon Vegetable Soup

Adapted from Pioneer Woman Bean With Bacon Soup. Tastes like a homemade version of Campbells Vegetable Soup but with white beans instead of alphabet pasta. Pairs well with cornbread muffins! Also, it's a savory dairy free, gluten free, and low carb recipe. Perfect if you need to take a meal to someone with those needs.

2 tablespoons canola oil (or olive)
1 small onion, grated or minced
1 teaspoon minced garlic
4 cups beef broth (1 box)
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 large carrot, diced
1 cup thin frozen green bean, cut into bit size pieces
2 (15-ounce) cans white northern beans (drained and rinsed) (or 1 can white and 1 can pinto) 
cooked bacon, crumbled

Heat oil in soup pot over medium low to medium heat. Saute onions and garlic over medium- low to medium heat until tender (5-7 minutes). Pour in a enough broth to cover bottom of pot and whisk in the tomato paste. Add rest of broth and bring to a simmer. Add white beans, green beans, and carrots. Simmer covered for 15 minutes or until carrots are tender. Top individual servings with crumbled bacon.

For thin clear both, leave as is. For thicker broth dissolve 1-2 tablespoons of cornstarch in water and whisk into broth. Simmer for 3 minutes.

Kid Friendly Variation:
Roughly chop onions and sautee as directed with garlic. Transfer to blender and add tomato paste and half of the broth. Blend until smooth. Pour back into pot. Use rest of broth to get any remaining mixture off the sides of the blender and back into the pot.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Tool Box Cake

I made this cake for my son's birthday as he is obsessed with Bob the Builder and anything associated with building. He also loves tape measures. I included a picture collage below of how I assembled it. I used a loaf pan for the main cake, froze it, and trimmed the sides off. Then I made the sides of the tool box, the tools, and the tape measure with sugar cookies. I used this recipe which makes a nice firm cookie that will hold up well. I used a sharp steak knife to saw off the ends because they were a little too tall. I free handed the cookie shapes with a sharp paring knife. I used wilton gel to dye the frosting. I used a plastic straw for the handle.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Decorator Cream Cheese Buttercream - 5 variations

I optimized this recipe recently and now I use it for everything from sugar cookies to cakes. I think traditional buttercream is too strong and most cream cheese frosting recipes are too soft for decorating. This has just the right amount of cream cheese and as long as you add the right amount of milk it's also perfect when using a piping bag. I prefer to use a hand mixer with this recipe instead of a stand mixer. It provides better control and you won't have to scrape down the sides. 

Basic recipe below is vanilla (originally posted here), These updated variations include chocolate, peanut butter, lemon, and strawberry (or other freeze dried fruit).

1/4 cup salted butter (room temp)
2 ounces cream cheese (room temp)
1/8-1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (white or dark)
300 grams powdered sugar
1-2 tablespoon milk

In a medium mixing bowl, whip butter and cream cheese together with hand mixer until smooth. Mix in salt and vanilla. Add powdered sugar and mix with hand mixer at high speed until it clumps together and a stiff ball starts to form. Mix in milk in teaspoons or drops to achieve desired consistency. I always check my consistency with a butter knife. Since this frosting has cream cheese in it, it should be refrigerated if not consumed the same day.

Variations (may omit or reduce vanilla, according to taste preference):

Chocolate - Add 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder
Peanut Butter - Replace 2 tablespoons of the butter with 2 tablespoons of peanut butter
Lemon - Add 1/2-1 teaspoon lemon zest and use lemon juice instead of milk.
Strawberry (or any other freeze dried fruit) - Add two tablespoons of crushed freeze dried fruit powder (use a rolling pin or meat tenderizer to crush the freeze dried fruit in a ziptop bag). 

Monday, July 18, 2016

Fresh Blueberry Muffins

The perfect summer recipe during blueberry season!

1.5 cups white flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup canola oil (or grapeseed)
1 large egg
milk (up to 1 cup volume with egg and oil)
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
6 ounces fresh blueberries 
coarse sugar (for topping muffins)

Preheat oven to 400. Mix dry ingredients in mixing bowl. Add oil, egg, and milk up to one cup total volume in measuring glass, add vanilla. Stir to mix in egg. Pour liquid ingredients into dry ingredients and stir with fork until just combined. Fold in blueberries with a spatula. Spoon into approximately 8-9 muffins cups. Sprinkle tops with coarse sugar. Bake at 400 for 18-20 minutes or until golden brown.

Slightly adapted from Inspired Taste.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

No Cook Vegetarian Taco Salad

This is my favorite summer go-to dinner recipe. Black beans replace ground beef for as an easy and healthy variation. No cooking required! Keeps the kitchen cool and is ready to serve in just 15 minutes!

mixed greens, torn into bite size pieces
1 (15-ounce) can black beans (rinsed and drained)
1/2 package taco seasoning mix (.5 oz)
tortilla chips (plain or flavored)
shredded cheese
avocado (sliced or diced)
sour cream
salsa, or catalina dressing

Combine taco seasoning mix with black beans. Top torn lettuce with beans, crushed tortilla chips, shredded cheese, sliced avocado, etc. Serve with sour cream and salsa or dressing. 

Monday, April 18, 2016

Easy Restaurant Style Salsa

1/4 small onion
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons chopped jalapeno (from jar or fresh)

1/2 tablespoon sugar
2-4 tablespoons RealLime brand lime juice (or fresh)
1/4 teaspoon cumin

1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes, cores removed and well drained* 
1 cup cilantro leaves (stems removed)
1/4 teaspoon salt (more or less to taste)

Add onion, garlic, jalapeno, sugar, lime juice, and cumin to food processor and process until everything is well minced. You may need to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula a few times. Add the tomatoes and cilantro and pulse about 10-15 times, depending on how chunky or smooth you like it. Salt to taste. Eat or freeze within one week. Best to refrigerate before serving.

*I use a small pairing knife or kitchen shears to cut out the stem ends of the tomatoes. I prefer to use Hunt's brand No Salt Added Whole Tomatoes.

Adapted from Pioneer Woman Restaurant Style Salsa.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Spanish Rice

2 tablespoons olive oil or canola
1 1/2 cups white rice (jasmine works well)
1 small onion, minced or grated*
2 chicken bouillon cubes, crushed
1 beef bouillon cube, crushed
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce + water up to 3 cups total volume

Heat oil in large saucepan over medium to medium high heat. Add rice and onion. Brown rice and chopped onion until about half of the rice grains are turning light brown. Stir frequently to prevent burning/sticking. You don’t want to burn them but you want them pretty toasted. This is important for the final texture of the rice (slightly dry and not sticky). Add bouillon cubes and water/tomato sauce mixture and stir. Bring to boil, reduce to low simmer, cover, and cook for 18 - 25 minutes, or until most of the liquid is absorbed and the grains are tender. Fluff rice and serve.

*I like to chop my onion really small in a food processor or grate them with a cheese grater so I get the flavor but mask the texture. 

Monday, March 14, 2016

Lasagna Soup

This soup tastes exactly like lasagna but you can make it in a fraction of the time and it uses a lot less cheese. Cooking the noodles separately will give you a clearer broth and thinner soup. If you cook the noodles in the soup they tend to soak up too much of the broth. Serves 4-6 people.

1/4 pound lean ground beef, cooked and drained
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, grated
2 teaspoons minced garlic
4 cups beef broth (1-32oz box)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 (14.5-ounce) can petite diced tomatoes
1 (14-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
2 tsps dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
6 ounces noodles, lasagna noodles broken into bite size pieces or bowtie pasta 
8 ounces ricotta cheese
1/2 cup finely shredded parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
shredded mozzarella cheese

Brown ground beef, drain, and set aside. Bring pot of water to boil for the noodles. 

Heat olive oil in large soup pot over medium heat. Saute onion and garlic, over medium to medium-low heat, stirring frequently, for 3-5 minutes or until onions are tender and just starting to brown. Add enough beef broth to cover bottom of pan and tomato paste and whisk until smooth. Add remaining broth, entire can of petite diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, and ground beef. Add basil, oregano, and sugar and stir well. Bring to low simmer and cover for 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile boil noodles, in prepared pot of boiling water, until al dente; drain, rinse with cold water, and set aside.

Combine ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese, and Italian seasoning in small bowl and set aside. Add noodles to soup, stir, and serve immediately. Garnish individual servings with a dollop of the ricotta cheese mixture and a sprinkling of mozzarella cheese.

Adapted from: