Old Fogey



I knew this day would come...I am officially a ma'am. I was at the grocery store yesterday and was having a nice little conversation with the young checkout guy. Then, I moved down to pick up my bags of groceries and the young kid bagging the groceries started up a conversation.

Him - "How are you today, ma'am?"

Me, always willing to chat with someone - "I'm good...how are you doing?"

Him - "Well...it is 6pm on a Saturday night, I've been working since 10 and have to work until 8pm."

Me - From somewhere deep inside me, comes the voice and wisdom of what must be a 90 year old woman..."Well, you have a job. That is a lot to be thankful for."

Him, looking at me like I am insane - "Ma'am...it is 6pm on a Saturday night. I am thankful for my job, but I am also 16 years old. Work is really one of the last places I want to be on a Saturday night."

End of conversation. 

I had a birthday a couple of weeks ago. I am now the ripe old age of 34. I've gone up in the survey age range (are you...age 21-33, 34-50, etc) which first kind of shocked me. Now, I'm getting called ma'am at the grocery store and telling teenagers that they should be thankful to be working, bagging groceries, on a Saturday night. Did I not remember what it was like to have all of my friends hanging out while I was stuck at work? Apparently not because here I am being all old and fogey and getting strange looks from 16 year olds. When did this happen? When did I start getting crows feet and varicose veins? When did I start hearing the words of my own mother coming out of my mouth..."Because I'm the mom and I said so!" Heck...when did going to the grocery store on a Saturday night become the highlight of my day?

Aging really is not that bad. There are just sometimes that it shocks me a bit that I have come to this point in my life. I love my boring, little life, crow's feet and all (however, I could do without those varicose veins!). One thing I do know about myself now compared to myself even 10 years ago...I couldn't bake a thing when I was younger. I had no desire to bake. I just didn't see the point of going to all that trouble for something you could buy at the store, or pop out of a Pillsbury can.

As a tribute to my aging self, I have decided to share with you a recipe that I make on an almost weekly basis at our home. I haven't shared this with you in the past because to be honest with you... it never lasts long enough for me to snap a photo for you. This bread is so incredibly soft and the flavor is fantastic. Easy enough for the old and the young to make. I hope you enjoy!

3/4 cup warm water
1 large egg
3 tablespoons margarine, cut up
3 cups bread flour
4 tablespoons sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  1. Add the water, the egg, the margarine, flour, sugar, salt & yeast to bread machine in the order recommended by the manufacturer.
  2. Set the machine to the dough cycle
  3. Once the dough cycle is complete, remove the dough from the machine and place in a lightly sprayed loaf pan.
  4. Cover and allow to rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.
  5. Place in a 350 degree oven and bake for 30 minutes or until brown on top and hollow sounding when tapped.
Posted on Sunday, October 28, 2007 at 08:17PM by Registered CommenterKristen | Comments24 Comments | References6 References

Taste of Home Equals Comfort Food



Written for Paper Palate on the Well Fed Network

Doesn't it seem like Taste of Home magazine has been around forever? I believe the magazine is in its 15th year of publication. That is quite impressive for a magazine that is ad free and is simply a magazine full of reader submitted and test kitchen recipes.

The October/November 2007 issues of Taste of Home is a great example of why this magazine has been so successful through the years. With down home recipes like Honey Glazed Spiral Ham and Zippy Chicken Mushroom Soup, in every issue you find recipes that make you remember growing up and sitting around the dinner table after a hard day of school and play. The fall and winter issues of Taste of Home magazine are always my favorite. These issues are full of recipes packed with comfort. Do you find comfort in the yummy vegetables of autumn? Turn to one of the bonus cards on page 41 and you'll find a tasty recipe for Rice-Stuffed Acorn Squash. Are you looking for a simple way to cook your turkey this year? Page 10 has a recipe for Turkey Breast with Vegetables that might just make my menu this year. Is soup your comfort food of choice? Apple Pumpkin soup, found on page 9, can be comforting and impressive. Serve it in a small hollowed-out pumpkin and you've brought autumn to your table in an impressive way!

Bread is one of my favorite cold weather staples, so in this issue of Taste of Home magazine I turned to the recipe for Soft Breadsticks. These breadsticks were incredibly simple to make and they had a nice, subtle flavor... a perfect accommpiment to the Baked Potato soup we had for dinner last night.

If you are looking for a great magazine full of comfort-food favorites and new recipes to try, pick up the October/Novemeber 2007 issue of Taste of Home magazine. Settle in and warm up your home with the delicious recipes.

Soft Breadsticks from Taste of Home Magazine

  • 3 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 2 cups warm water (110° to 115°)
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 4-1/2 to 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • Poppy seeds, sesame seeds, Italian seasoning, coarse salt and/or shredded Parmesan cheese, optional
In a large mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add sugar; let stand for 5 minutes. Stir in the oil, salt, whole wheat flour and enough all-purpose flour to form a soft dough.
Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
Punch dough down. Let rest for 10 minutes. Divide into 14 portions. Roll each portion into a 9-in. x 1-in. rope. Place 1 in. apart on greased baking sheets. Cover and let rise for 20 minutes or until doubled.
Whisk egg and water; brush over dough. Sprinkle with toppings if desired. Bake at 375° for 15-20 minutes. Serve warm. Yield: 14 breadsticks.
Posted on Thursday, October 25, 2007 at 12:12PM by Registered CommenterKristen | Comments20 Comments

Superstitious Baking



Are any of you superstitious? Do you have certain socks you have to wear when you are watching or playing a sport or you are convinced that your team won't win? When you spill salt, do you toss it over your left shoulder to ward off evil things from happening to you? Do you keep your fires roaring on New Years Eve so that you will have good luck in the new year? How about this one... do you cut your hair on Good Friday to prevent headaches in the coming year?

I have never been very superstitious. I have had black cats cross my path. I have spilled salt and forgotten to toss. I am sure I have walked under my share of ladders and have opened umbrellas indoors. Overall, I would say I haven't had an unlucky life. Maybe I have had some unlucky things happen once or twice, but nothing horrible has crossed my path yet. Hopefully writing about my lack of misfortune won't bring me misfortune!

I do have one minor superstition and it has to do with baking. I have a cookie sheet that is very, very old. It is a clean cookie sheet, but it does not look clean. It is discolored, warped and not pretty at all. The thing is, this cookie sheet... I'm sure of it... is the reason my cookies always turn out so good. I think it is seasoned just perfectly, which results in the most perfectly baked cookies every time I use it. My husband, who apparently was disgusted with the cookie sheet, went to Bed Bath and Beyond awhile back and purchased the exact same cookie sheet for me, yet in a new version. I refuse to use it. I know that my beloved cookie sheet works wonders and I know that the new cookie sheet couldn't possibly achieve the same results! 

Take these yummy Soft & Chewy Vanilla Butter Cookies for example. They are the simplest of cookies, but having them baked through for the perfect amount of time is why they are so delicious. One minute over or one minute under...or using the wrong cookie sheet... and you have a cookie that did not live up to its fullest potential. I tried these on a different cookie sheet one time and I got crispy, crunchy cookies instead of the soft and chewy cookies this recipe typically yields. See? My superstition is true.  

Grab your favorite cookie sheet and give these deliciously simple cookies a try. They can't promise to bring good luck, but share them with others and good fortune is sure to come your way.

Soft & Chewy Vanilla Butter Cookies
30 min 20 min prep
1 cup Butter Flavor Crisco
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon butter flavor extract (optional)
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. (You will have to chill the dough for 30 minutes, so you may want to do this when you put the dough in the fridge to chill).
  2. In a large mixing bowl, beat together Crisco, sugar, brown sugar, eggs, water, vanilla and butter-flavored extract until well mixed.
  3. Add the flour, baking soda and salt to the mixing bowl and mix well.
  4. Cover and refrigerate dough for 30 minutes.
  5. Roll dough into 1 inch balls; slightly flatten and place on ungreased cookie sheet.
  6. Place in preheated oven and bake for 8-10 minutes or until very light brown. (I always take my cookies out right before they look like they are done. I then allow them to sit on the cookie sheet for a couple of minutes to firm up.)


Posted on Monday, October 22, 2007 at 09:40PM by Registered CommenterKristen | Comments26 Comments

Fall Into Flavor



First of all, I have to chuckle a bit this morning as I sit down to write my first blog entry since October 9th. My first blog entry since the blog entry in which I wrote that I would put writing on my blog and visiting your blogs back up on my list of things to keep in priority, because I so enjoy doing it. It is now October 21st (can you believe that??) and I am finally taking some time to write an entry. The truth of the matter is, I haven't been cooking, so I haven't had a whole lot to blog about. My parents came into town from south Texas on October 1st and left this past Thursday. My husband and I went on vacation during that time, then we all went to Chicago for a long 4 day weekend and then back to life...back to reality...back to the craziness that is our life. I loved having my parents here and my kids loved it too. A day hasn't gone by since they have left that someone in the family hasn't asked where Grandma and Grandpa are. So, now we are trying to find our routines again and to settle back into...LIFE.

For those of you in the US and who have the four seasons, can you believe that we are knee deep into Fall now? Where in the world does the time go? As much as I love all the summertime flavors, with fresh veggies and cool treats, I do love the comforting flavors of Fall. The spices, the root veggies, the simmering pots of stew on the stove, the outdoor firepits, the hot chocolate...all of these things I love. Oh - and if I had the time...the snuggling up on the couch with a good book and my favorite quilt.

One of my favorite fall flavors is pumpkin. It is one of those flavors that I didn't like as a child, but as I have grown and ended up marrying a man who loves pumpkin, I have learned to appreciate it as well. Pumpkin Cake Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting has become a favorite of mine over the years. I first had a pumpkin bar several years ago at a work bake sale. I had one bite and knew I needed to find a recipe similar to it. I tried to find the person who made the bars, but no one knew who it was. I can't remember exactly where I ended up getting this recipe, but it is one of those that gets made many, many times during the cool season at our home. Rich with flavor and topped with a generous amount of frosting, you will love tasting every last calorie in this delicious recipe. Try this recipe out and fall into the flavors of Fall.

Pumpkin Cake Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting

12-24 servings

45 min 20 min prep


large eggs

1 2/3

cups white sugar


cup vegetable oil

1 (15

ounce) can pumpkin puree


cups all-purpose flour


teaspoons baking powder


teaspoon salt


teaspoon baking soda


teaspoons ground cinnamon


ounces cream cheese


tablespoons butter , softened


cups confectioners' sugar

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Grease and flour one glass 9 x 13 inch pan.
  3. In a mixing bowl, beat together the eggs, sugar, oil and pumpkin.
  4. Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda, salt and cinnamon; add to wet ingredients and mix thoroughly.
  5. Spread into prepared pan.
  6. Bake at 350° for 25 to 30 minutes.
  7. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
  8. For the frosting: beat together the cream cheese, butter and confectioner's sugar.
  9. Evenly spread over bars after they have cooled.
Posted on Sunday, October 21, 2007 at 10:52AM by Registered CommenterKristen | Comments21 Comments | References1 Reference

Lack of Focus



My husband and I just returned from a wonderful kid-free vacation getaway with some of our very best friends. Several days of sunshine, good restaurants, great scenery, yummy beverages, beautiful company, and as always when we get together with these friends...fun and memorable times. Jan, Rob, Stacy and Bryon...we love you guys and miss you already!

While we were traveling to see some sites one day, we got to chatting and someone asked the question "If you could change one thing about yourself right now, what would it be?". My answer was that I wish I could find my ability to focus again. I know I keep rambling on about this throughout my blog lately, but I feel like I am doing a ton of things but really not accomplishing any one thing well. I'm not complaining... I love everything I am doing. Of course, I LOVE being a mom and everything involved with that. I also really enjoy the recruiting I am doing...it is such a nice change of pace from my old recruiting job. Writing for the magazine (which, by the way, published its first issue this past week! If you want a pdf copy, e-mail me) is a dream come true and I love it as well. I love it all, but feel like I am going in a thousand different directions. I completely lack focus. For the first time in my life, I have a stack of library books sitting on my island that are way overdue at the library.  I have piles of folded laundry in my room that I cannot seem to find the time to put away. I have e-mails to send, late birthday cards to get out, bills to pay, groceries to shop for, friends to call, budgeting to do, projects to complete, etc....and nothing is getting done.

When I started thinking about my focus, one thing that I really began to realize that I missed doing was cooking and blogging like I used to. I have not been the best at keeping up on my blog and I have been horrible about planning and cooking our meals lately. I have also found zero time to visit my favorite blogs out there and to comment on your comments left here, and I hate that. I don't think of blogging as an obligation. I think of it as something I enjoy doing and come hell or high water, I've decided to put blogging and visiting your blogs near the top of the list. It is a stress reliever for me...just like cooking.  I am determined to find my focus again. It may take a little time and some schedule/priority changes, but I will be the organized, focused individual I once was.

Speaking of lack of focus...while on vacation, Nick and I decided to make dinner for our friends one night. We had the menu all planned out and then at the last minute, right before heading to the grocery store, the cover of the October 2007 issue of Family Circle magazine caught my eye and my plans changed for dessert. On the front cover was a picture of a delicious looking triple layer cake. The chocolate-glazed maple spice cake seemed like the perfect dessert for a fall day (even though it was 90 some degrees where we were at). Our friends agreed to be the guinea pigs for this recipe and I set out to make the cake. Due to lack of tools, we only made a double layer cake. Taking it out of the oven, it smelled fantastic and I couldn't wait to get it frosted and to give it a try. By the time dinner was over and we had made some room for dessert, I was practically salivating. Salivating to taste a bite of this cake, only to taste it and to be completely disappointed. Yep...this cake did absolutely nothing for me and my taste buds. I believe, in all honesty, that the problem with this recipe was the lack of focus. It had so many flavor combinations going on with the chocolate, the maple and the pumpkin that it just missed the mark. I will make this again, but next time instead of adding the additional maple flavoring, I will skip that piece and add vanilla instead.

If you try the recipe, let me know what you think. There are people out there who rave about this cake, so don't just take my word for it. Also, if you have any tips on staying/keeping/gaining focus, please, oh please, pass them on!

Choclate-Glazed Maple Spice Cake

Makes: 12 servings. PREP: 20 minutes. BAKE: at 350 degrees for 28 minutes. REFRIGERATE: 15 minutes.

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup solid vegetable shortening
1 cup packed dark-brown sugar
3/4 cup maple syrup
3 eggs
1 teaspoon imitation maple flavor
3/4 cup milk

8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 teaspoon imitation maple flavor
3 cups confectioners' sugar

1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Whole walnuts, to garnish

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Coat three 8 x 2-inch round layer-cake pans with shortening; dust with flour, discarding excess.
2. Cake: Whisk flour, baking powder, pumpkin pie spice and salt in bowl.
3. Beat shortening in second bowl until smooth and creamy. Beat in sugar and maple syrup. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each. Add maple flavor; beat until smooth. On low speed, beat in half of the flour mixture, then milk, then remaining flour mixture. Spread batter in prepared pans, dividing evenly.
4. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 28 minutes, until golden brown. Cool in pans on rack 10 minutes. Remove cakes directly to rack to cool completely.
5. Filling: Beat cream cheese, butter and maple flavor in bowl until smooth. Add sugar; beat until good spreading consistency. Place cake layer on serving dish. Top with 1 1/4 cups filling. Place second cake layer on top, then remaining 1 1/4 cups filling. Top with third layer.
6. Frosting: In saucepan, heat cream just to a simmer. Pour over chocolate in a small bowl; whisk until smooth. Cool 5 minutes, until thicker but still pourable. Pour over cake, spreading to allow some to dribble down sides. Top with walnuts. Refrigerate 15 minutes before serving.

Posted on Tuesday, October 9, 2007 at 11:54PM by Registered CommenterKristen | Comments30 Comments

Busy Times Call for Simple & Delicious Meals


Written for Paper Palate on the Well Fed Network

Like most mom’s out there, I am in awe each and every day of how fast time seems to slip by. I wake up in the morning and between the three kids, their school, my work, housecleaning, post-school activities, time with hubby, I am one busy woman. By the time I get the chance to sit down and breathe for a moment, the day is done. This is why Simple and Delicious magazine by Taste of Home is on my list of top magazines that I subscribe too. I love to cook, but I do not always have time for a meal that will keep me in the kitchen for hours. Simple and Delicious magazine offers recipes that can be put together in 30 minutes or less with simple ingredients that I usually have on hand. A subscription to Simple and Delicious magazine is one gift that I include in all new bride presents and new mom presents.
The October 2007 issue of Simple and Delicious magazine is full of wonderful recipes that fit their simple and delicious criteria. I have several recipes dog eared for future use, but the one recipe I had to try the day the magazine arrived in the mail was for Smoked Sausage Primavera. Luckily, I had all the ingredients on hand and I was able to put a wonderful meal on the table in less than 25 minutes. The family gobbled this meal up, and because I was able to spend such a small amount of time in the kitchen and the meal required minimal cleanup, we were able to spend some quality time together in the evening as a family.

We are all busy and unfortunately we cannot stop time. With Simple and Delicious magazine in our arsenal, we can at least better manage the time we do have in order to spend the most time on what is really important to us… our family.

Smoked Sausage Primavera

· 8 ounces uncooked spaghetti

· 1-1/2 cups frozen broccoli cuts

· 1/2 cup julienned sweet red, yellow and/or green pepper

· 1/4 cup coarsely chopped onion

· 1/2 pound smoked sausage, cut into 1/2-inch slices

· 1/4 cup water

· 3/4 cup evaporated milk

· 2 tablespoons butter

· 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning

· 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

In a large stock pot, cook spaghetti according to package directions, adding broccoli, pepper and onion during the last 4 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet, bring sausage and water to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 7-8 minutes or until heated through. Add milk, butter and Italian seasoning; cook and stir until butter is melted.
Drain spaghetti and vegetables; return to the pan. Add Parmesan cheese and sausage mixture; toss to coat. Yield: 4 servings.

Posted on Sunday, October 7, 2007 at 11:01PM by Registered CommenterKristen | Comments8 Comments

Southern Comfort



My very best friend is moving out of state on Friday. Ami and I have known each other for 13 years... we met during my Freshman year of college and have been great friends ever since. She has been there for me through a lot and has always been one of the constants in my life.

When Ami called only two weeks ago to tell me that her and her family were moving south, I immediately felt choked up. I was so excited and jealous that they were leaving on such a great adventure, but I also knew I was going to miss Ami, her husband and my goddaughter dearly.  

The final days are winding near, we have said our goodbye's, and I feel comfort in knowing that she is just a quick plane ride away.  

I decided over the weekend to make a Paula Deen recipe. As I was making the recipe, I couldn't help but hear Paula's voice reading the ingredients to me in my head. "Ya'll...this dish needs lots of butter. Sweetie...you know me... might as well not cook if you aren't going to use lots of butter!" Everything I did, Ms Paula's voice was in my head. It was then that I knew Ami would do well in the South. How could she not? Being surround by friendly Southern ladies, offering her sweet tea and warm chats. Also, if this lovely cake recipe is any indication of the kind of delicious food she'll be having, I know that she will quickly embrace the Southern Comfort and hospitality, and at the very least, be eating very well.

Recipe courtesy of The Food Network and Paula Deen

Savannah Chocolate Cake with Hot Fudge Sauce

Chocolate Cake:
2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted
3 eggs
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Hot Fudge Sauce:
1 (4-ounce) bar German chocolate
1/2-ounce unsweetened chocolate
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter
3 cups powdered sugar
1 2/3 cups evaporated milk
1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

To make the cake, cream the brown sugar with the shortening in an electric mixer. Add the buttermilk and vanilla then the melted chocolate. With the mixer running, add eggs, 1 at a time. Sift the flour with the baking soda, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the sugar mixture and beat for 2 minutes.

Grease and flour a 13 by 9 by 2-inch rectangular cake pan. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake until the cake is springy and a toothpick can be inserted and removed cleanly, about 40 minutes. Allow the cake to cool for 10 minutes then turn it out onto a rack to finish cooling.

To make the sauce: Melt the 2 chocolates with the butter in a saucepan over very low heat. Stir in the powdered sugar, alternating with evaporated milk and blending well. Stirring constantly, bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer until the mixture becomes thick and creamy, about 8 minutes. Stir in the vanilla. Serve slices of cake topped with warm fudge sauce.

Note - In my opinion, a big scoop of vanilla bean ice cream is a must for this recipe. It is the perfect compliment to the rich fudge sauce!


Posted on Wednesday, September 26, 2007 at 10:06AM by Registered CommenterKristen | Comments30 Comments

Consistent Giada



Did I mention something last week about cool weather? Really? Because since that post, I think I have jinxed things. The temps were back up in the warmer ranges and the cool days we were were having are long gone for awhile again. Ahhhh.... you have to love Kansas. If you don't like the weather one day, just wait. It is bound to change!

Kansas weather is not consistent at all. Giada's recipes? Consistently good. So far, every recipe I have tried out of her cookbook, Everyday Pasta, has been great. Her recipe for Turkey and Artichoke Stuffed Pasta Shells was no exception. This recipe was simple and delicious! I felt miserable because of my allergies the night that I made this for dinner for my best friend and her husband. Even through the sniffling and watery eyes, the constant sneezing, and the allergy medicine drug induced coma I was about to be in, I managed to make this recipe and was still able to taste by the time it was ready. Everyone loved it, including myself.

If you are looking for consistency, do not move to Kansas. If you are looking for consistency, turn to Giada's cookbooks. You will find consistently great recipes every time.

Turkey and Artichoke Stuffed Pasta Shells (from Everyday Pasta) 

1 (12-ounce) box jumbo pasta shells (recommended: Barilla)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 large yellow onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 pound ground turkey
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus 1/2 teaspoon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus 1/4 teaspoon
1 (8 to 10-ounce) package frozen artichokes, thawed and coarsely  (I used canned)
1 (15-ounce) container ricotta cheese
3/4 cup grated Parmesan
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
5 cups Arrabbiata Sauce, recipe follows
1 1/2 cups grated mozzarella (about 5 ounces)
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and partially cook until tender but still very firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 4 to 5 minutes. Drain pasta.

Meanwhile, in a large heavy skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and the garlic and cook until the onions are soft and starting to brown, about 3 minutes. Add the ground turkey, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is slightly golden and cooked through. Add the artichoke hearts and stir to combine. Remove from heat and let cool.

In a large bowl combine the cooled turkey mixture with the ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, eggs, basil, parsley, and the remaining salt and pepper. Stir to combine.

To stuff the shells, cover the bottom of a 9 by 13 by 2-inch baking dish with 1 cup of Arrabbiata sauce. Take a shell in the palm of your hand and stuff it with a large spoonful of turkey mixture, about 2 tablespoons. Place the stuffed shell in the baking dish. Continue filling the shells until the baking dish is full, about 24 shells. Drizzle the remaining Arrabbiata Sauce over the shells, top with the grated mozzarella. If freezing, cover tightly with plastic wrap and place in the freezer for 1 day and up to 1 month.

To bake, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Bake until the shells are warmed through and the cheese is beginning to brown, about 60 minutes (20 minutes if shells are unfrozen.)

Arrabbiata Sauce:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 ounces sliced pancetta, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
2 garlic cloves, minced
5 cups jarred or fresh marinara sauce
Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the pancetta and saute until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute until tender, about 1 minute. Add the marinara sauce and red pepper flakes and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and let cool until ready to use.

Yield: approximately 6 cups

Posted on Monday, September 24, 2007 at 12:09AM by Registered CommenterKristen | Comments18 Comments | References1 Reference

The First Cool Day of the Season Chili


We had our first really cool day of the season on Monday. It was in the high 60's by the time dinner time came around and I was in the mood for my annual pot of "first cool day of the season" chili. Of course, I had no idea it was going to be that cool on Monday so I did not have all the ingredients on hand to make chili. You can bet that on Tuesday, I was at the store ready to buy the ingredients to make us some chili. It was not nearly as cool on Tuesday night as it was on Monday, but I had chili on my mind and nothing was going to stop me from making it. I typically make the traditional chili with red beans, ground beef, etc. This year, however, I decided to make my good friend Sara's White Bean Chicken Chili. If you were the family side of Dine and Dish back in the beginning, you might recall that I wrote about having this chili on Christmas Eve at Sara's house. This chili is best if simmering on the stove all day. I, being the slacker mom that I am, started it at 3pm for a 6pm dinner time. It was still fantastic (although not as fantastic as Sara's. I need to find out what her secret is!)

Oh - and doesn't this beautiful bowl holding the chili just scream "soup" to you? I've used it for ice cream in the past, but it really is my new favorite soup bowl. My dear friend Jody of The Devils Cloth made this gorgeous bowl. She is super talented. Check out her store and while you are there snatch up one of her hot and highly demanded by boutiques everywhere, Arm Candy bags

Is it cool where you are yet? What is your traditional "first cool day of the season" dish to make?  

From Southern Living Magazine and my friend Sara

White Bean Chicken Chili

1 medium onion, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
8 skinned and boned chicken breast halves, cut into bite-size pieces
3 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano
4 (15-ounce) cans cannellini or great Northern beans, rinsed, drained, and divided
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can chicken broth
1 (16-ounce) package frozen shoepeg white corn
2 (4.5-ounce) cans chopped green chiles
3 tablespoons lime juice
 Garnish: fresh cilantro sprigs

Sauté chopped onion in hot oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat 7 minutes; add garlic, and sauté 2 to 3 minutes.

Stir in chicken pieces, and cook, stirring constantly, until chicken is lightly browned. Stir in 3 cups water and next 5 ingredients; reduce heat, and simmer, stirring often, 10 minutes or until chicken is done.

Place 2 cans of beans in a blender; add broth, and process until smooth, stopping to scrape down sides.

Stir bean pureé, remaining 2 cans of beans, corn, and chiles into chicken mixture in Dutch oven; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat, and simmer, stirring often, 30 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Stir in lime juice just before serving. Garnish, if desired.

Note: Use a handheld submersion blender to pureé the beans and broth, if desired.

Posted on Wednesday, September 12, 2007 at 11:11PM by Registered CommenterKristen | Comments36 Comments | References1 Reference

These Aren't Kansas City Style Ribs



If you are from Kansas City, like I am, then you can attest to this. One can't go anywhere in the city and talk about food without someone bringing up barbecue. The debate typically is who has the best? Is it KC Masterpiece, Arthur Bryants, Jack Stack, etc? My favorite Kansas City barbecue, by a long shot, is Oklahoma Joes. I love everything about that place and their ribs are seasoned and cooked to perfection. The meat literally melts in your mouth. My second choice for great Kansas City barbecue is a little joint not many have heard of. It is a place where you can find the most delicious pulled pork sandwiches, fall of the bone tender ribs and great company. This little place is called....my house. Yep. I can get fantastic Kansas City style barbecue without even getting out of my PJ"s, courtesy of my husband and his mega smoker.

It is great to have a husband who can cook such great barbecue. It eliminates our need to go out and face all of the restaurants with three kids in tow. There is one problem with it though. My husband has one perfected barbecue rib recipe, and being the creature of habit that he is, he refuses to change it up at all.

A few months ago when I was browsing through the recipe section of Food & Wines website, I stumbled across a recipe for Asian style ribs. The recipe sounded fantastic, but I am not the rib cooker in the family so I figured that I would never get to try ribs this way. I held on to the recipe though, just in case. Last weekend my husband announced that he was going to make ribs on Saturday and when he did, the Asian style rib recipe popped into my mind. Could I somehow convince my husband to stray from the norm, to branch out and try something new? Long story short, with a lot of nudging, begging and cajoling, I was able to convince him to try something different. We had all the ingredients on hand to make the Asian ribs from Food & Wine and my hubby set out on his adventure of trying something new.

These ribs, although not even close to comparable to Kansas City style barbecue, were phenomenal. The flavor was perfectly "Asian"...they were exactly what I hoped they would be like. I am thankful too because if my husband would have had to stray from his "perfected" recipe to have the ribs be awful, I would be the one to blame.

If you are looking for a different way to make your barbecue ribs, this recipe is a must try. A complete hit from Food & Wine.

Asian Ribs with Five-Spice Rub and Hoisin Glaze


  • 4 pounds pork spareribs
  • 1/3 cup Asian Five-Spice Rub
  • 1/2 cup hoisin sauce
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • Vegetable oil, for brushing
  1. Using a sharp knife, make 1/4-inch-deep slashes in the rib meat between the bones, without cutting through. Spread all but 1 tablespoon of the spice rub over the ribs and into the slashes and let stand for 5 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine the hoisin sauce, ketchup and the remaining 1 tablespoon of spice rub and bring to a boil. Cook for 1 minute, then transfer to a bowl.
  3. Light a grill. Lightly brush the ribs with oil and grill over a moderately high fire, turning frequently, until the ribs are sizzling and cooked through, about 25 minutes. Brush the ribs with half of the hoisin glaze and grill for 2 minutes longer. Transfer the ribs to a cutting board and cut in between the bones. Serve the ribs with the remaining hoisin glaze on the side.
Asian Five-Spice Rub



Chinese five-spice rub is a bold mix of cinnamon, clove, fennel seed, star anise and Sichuan peppercorn. Grace Parisi loves the way these exotic, fragrant spices flavor fabulously sticky spareribs glazed with sweet hoisin sauce.

  • 3 tablespoons Chinese five-spice powder
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  1. In a small bowl, combine all of the ingredients, pressing out any lumps of brown sugar.
Posted on Saturday, September 8, 2007 at 04:36PM by Registered CommenterKristen | Comments25 Comments | References37 References

Turn Your Head



OK - here is the warning right up front. Those of you who turn your noses up at convienence foods, boxed mixes, full of preservatives and sugar packaged snack foods, etc. I am giving you the warning to skip this post all together. What you are about to see will most likely make you want to call Child Protective Services on me. If the Kool-Aid slushes got your goat, this dessert is going to make you wonder what the heck this world is coming to. So, to avoid any unnecessary stress on yourself...just turn your head, plug your ears and yell "La, la, la, la, la" and you can pretend like you never even read this far.

Now, for the rest of you, I am sure that once you saw the picture of this dessert and saw how cute it was, you got right away why I would want to try it out. I just could not resist the sliced up Little Debbie swiss cake rolls and the cuteness factor this dessert has all together. No, it isn't a complicated, gourmet recipe, but it is a lot of fun. Besides the fun-ness factor, this little recipe is really quite delicious. If Child Protective Services does happen to be called on me for feeding my children such preservative and sugar laden foods, I'm sure I can influence them to let me keep my children by bringing out this tasty dessert.

From the most recent issue of Simple and Delicious magazine.

Chocolate Swirl Dessert

  • 1 package (13 ounces) Swiss cake rolls
  • 2-3/4 cups cold milk
  • 2 packages (3.9 ounces each) instant chocolate fudge pudding mix
  • 2 cups whipped topping
Cut each cake roll into eight slices; set aside any chocolate coating that separates from rolls for garnish. Line a 9-in. springform pan with cake slices, completely covering the bottom and sides.
In a small bowl, whisk milk and pudding mixes for 2 minutes. Let stand for 2 minutes or until soft-set. Pour over cake. Spread with whipped topping; sprinkle with any reserved chocolate coating. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving. Yield: 12 servings.



Posted on Saturday, September 1, 2007 at 11:05PM by Registered CommenterKristen | Comments36 Comments

How to Win Friends and Influence People


I am sure many of you are familiar with Dale Carnegie’s best selling book How to Win Friends and Influence People. His book is one of those books that is a must read for business professionals. In this best selling book, Dale Carnegie lists six ways to make people like you. Those six things are:

  1. Become genuinely interested in other people.
  2. Smile.
  3. Remember that a person's name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
  4. Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
  5. Talk in terms of the other person's interests.
  6. Make the other person feel important - and do it sincerely.

As much as I love this book, I cannot help but think that Mr. Carnegie is missing a key point. My number one way to win friends and to influence people is to bake for them. If I want to make a good impression on someone or if I want to influence someone to do something for me, I simply bake him or her a treat of some kind and typically, I get what I want. It is very simple, really, and I do not have to do a lot of talking or listening. I simply present them with the baked good item and upon consumption, we are instant friends and they are putty in my hands.

One way that I influence my kids around the house is by baking them what they call "cupcakes" for breakfast. They are really muffins, but if they think they are getting dessert for breakfast, who am I to correct them? My husband is traveling in New York again this week so I knew I was going to need some extra help around the house from my little people. This morning, I decided to make a batch of my mini-banana muffins. My kids love these and beg for them all day long. Every time they asked for one I would say, "After you do ______, you can certainly have another muffin." They were doing chores like mad around the house today, simply to be rewarded with another mini banana muffin.

So, the next time you need to influence someone, try my suggestion of the 7th step and bake for them. You are certain to win them over in no time at all.

Julianne's Mini Banana Muffins

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup shortening

1/2 cup applesauce

2 eggs

3-4 bananas, peeled and smashed

1/2 cup water

2 cups flour

1 tsp soda

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

Combine the sugar and shortening until smooth. Add the applesauce, eggs, bananas and water and mix on medium for 2 minutes. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Once combined, slowly add to the banana mixture and mix until incorporated completely. Bake in sprayed mini muffin tins on 350 for approximately 12 minutes (or until toothpick in the center comes out clean).

Makes 48 mini muffins

Posted on Monday, August 27, 2007 at 11:14PM by Registered CommenterKristen | Comments30 Comments | References4 References




I am so unoriginal. I know that many of you out there are great creators of recipes. Yes - I throw things together and create some yummy meals, but when I do that I never write it down or would not be able to recreate exactly what I did to perfection. I have always been amazed by people who can create recipes. Me...I'm a follower. I love those of you who create the recipes because then I can come along and follow in your footsteps and the hard work has already been done for me. I get nervous to switch things up too much because beyond recipe following, I am not so confident in my abilities.

Last week, the talented Deborah over at Taste and Tell posted a recipe for homemade teriyaki sauce. She created a delicious looking grilled chicken teriyaki dish. Myself, being the copycat follower that I am, decided to make her teriyaki dish this week for dinner. I copied her recipe for the teriyaki sauce exactly, but I stir fried some shrimp and pineapple in with the sauce instead of chicken. Thanks to Deborah posting the recipe, and me being an absolute follower, I will never be buying jarred teriyaki sauce at the store again.

I am not going to post the recipe here. I'll lead you to Deborah's site to be a copycat for yourself.


Posted on Saturday, August 25, 2007 at 11:21PM by Registered CommenterKristen | Comments22 Comments




If it wasn't completely obvious by my last post, I had myself all worked up about Kindergarten over the weekend.  In my mind, I had imagined every "worst case scenario" and had cried buckets of tears stressing about the "First Day of Kindergarten Event". I told myself to hold it together this morning...no matter what, I could not ruin Jacob's excitement by crying today.

You know what I have discovered? The anticipation of today was ten times worse than the actually event. We have been talking about Kindergarten for so long, and my fellow Kindergarten mom's have been talking about not crying and keeping our happy faces on, etc. Today, when we actually walked up to school and then Jacob confidently walked right into his classroom without even a bit of hesitation, I realized we had jumped over a huge hurdle. Yes - he will never again have a first day of Kindergarten, but he will have many more wonderful other days of Kindergarten. The anticipation of today was completely blown out of proportion... I survived, he survived and we are on with the future.

Another thing I have been anticipating for quite some time is the Devil's Food White Out Cake from Dorie Greenspan's cookbook, Baking: From  My Home To Yours. I have been drooling over this cake since I first got my copy of this cookbook almost a year ago. I drooled some more when several of you made this cake and posted about it on your blogs. I could not wait to try it, and I could almost imagine how delicious it would be.

Now - please don't kill me, but I kind of feel the same about this cake as I do about the first day of Kindergarten. I had imagined for so long how wonderful this cake would be, and I have to say when I tried it I was slightly disappointed. It is a really good cake, and honestly, after this much anticipation, there is no way the cake would have lived up to my expectations. The cake makes a "Wow!" presentation, and it tastes good...just not out of this world fantastic like I was hoping. 

The friends I made this cake for enjoyed it, so it was a success. I also will make it again but this time I may adjust some of the ingredients a bit to better suit my picky chocolate palate.  

For your viewing, drooling, and anticipating pleasure visit the following blogs for more about this cake:

Other People's Food

Baking Bites

Fresh From The Oven 

Simply Anne's 

Jumbo Empanadas 


Posted on Monday, August 20, 2007 at 09:27PM by Registered CommenterKristen | Comments37 Comments

Comfort Me


My baby starts Kindergarten tomorrow. At one point recently, I did not think that Kindergarten was going to be that big of deal. The school we go to still has half day Kindergarten, so I get my boy back every afternoon. As the time has neared, and as we have gone to the Kindergarten Round-Up and School Open House, I am really starting to not be able to hold it together. What is it about Kindergarten that stirs up such emotions? He has gone to preschool for the past three years. We have been apart before. He loves school and has zero anxiety about it whatsoever. For me, I think the emotions stirring are from the time we have had over the past five years. Have I spent enough quality time with him? Did we build memories that he will look back fondly on? My friend Sara, whose daughter started full day 1st grade this year, summed it up perfectly. "I feel like I have just wasted the past 6 years with her." I know that I haven't wasted the past five years with Jacob, but I cannot help but feel like we could have done more. I should have worked less and played more. I should have scolded less and hugged more.

I know that I am a good mom and I know that Jacob and I have a great relationship. I also know that he is going to be exposed to things that he has never been exposed to...kids and people that I have been able to protect him from in the past. The real world is inside those school doors, and I don't think I am ready for him to face that.

As you can imagine, there is going to be a lot of baking going on in our household over the next few weeks. Baking is my comfort activity and comforting is what I need.

I'm going to go grab a tissue. In the meantime....enjoy these comfort inducing Parker House Rolls.

Parker House Rolls
Recipe courtesy Omni Parker House Hotel, Boston, Massachusetts

6 cups all-purpose flour (about)
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 packages active dry yeast
1 cup margarine or butter (2 sticks), softened
1 large egg
In a large bowl, combine 2 1/4 cups flour, sugar, salt, and yeast; add 1/2 cup margarine or butter (1 stick). With mixer at low speed, gradually pour 2 cups hot tap water (120 degrees F to 130 degrees F.) into dry ingredients. Add egg; increase speed to medium; beat 2 minutes, scraping bowl with rubber spatula. Beat in 3/4 cup flour or enough to make a thick batter; continue beating 2 minutes, occasionally scraping bowl. With spoon, stir in enough additional flour (about 2 1/2 cups) to make a soft dough.
Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes, working in more flour (about 1/2 cup) while kneading. Shape dough into a ball and place in greased large bowl, turning over so that top of dough is greased. Cover with towel; let rise in warm place (80 to 85 degrees F.) until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours. (Dough is doubled when 2 fingers pressed into dough leave a dent.)
Punch down dough by pushing down the center or dough with fist, then pushing edges of dough into center. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface; knead lightly to make smooth ball, cover with bowl for 15 minutes, and let dough rest.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
In 17 1/4-inch by 11 1/2-inch roasting pan, over low heat, melt remaining 1/2 cup margarine or butter; tilt pan to grease bottom.
On lightly floured surface with floured rolling pin, roll dough 1/2 inch thick. With floured 2 3/4-inch round cutter, cut dough into circles. Holding dough circle by the edge, dip both sides into melted margarine or butter pan; fold in half. Arrange folded dough in rows in pans, each nearly touching the other. Cover pan with towel; let dough rise in warm place until doubled, about 40 minutes.
Bake rolls for 15 to 18 minutes until browned.

This recipe was provided by professional chefs and has been scaled down from a bulk recipe provided by a restaurant. The Food Network Kitchens chefs have not tested this recipe, in the proportions indicated, and therefore, we cannot make any representation as to the results.


Posted on Sunday, August 19, 2007 at 02:02PM by Registered CommenterKristen | Comments25 Comments | References2 References