September 30, 2012

Super Easy Ghost Decorations

Easiest decorations ever.  3 steps!  Saw these on Pinterest and while I just followed the instructions on the caption, instead of on the actual link, I still think mine look pretty great.  I made mine with tissue paper bells and tulle,  not the cheesecloth used in the picture.  Anyway, run yourself to a party supply store and you'll have everything you need for like, $10!


  • Tissue paper wedding bells (I used 15" bells)
  • Black construction paper
  • Glue
  • Scissors
  • Tulle or cheesecloth; about a yard for 4 ghosts


  1. Assemble wedding bells (unfold and glue, paper clip, whatever setup they use).
  2. Cut out eyes and mouths for ghosts from black construction paper.
  3. Glue to wedding bells.
  4. Cover in a single layer of tulle or cheesecloth for a wispy look.


September 29, 2012

Parmesan and Herb Baked French Fries

These homemade fries are amazing, and only took me a couple tries to find the tricks to making them really well.  For me, the trick was using my mandolin slicer instead of cutting the potatoes into wedges by hand.  I really liked the size and how well they cooked at the smaller size.  Love love love em!


  • 1 lb of potatoes (I used 2 large Idaho potatoes)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
  • 1/8 teaspoon rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese (store bought; freshly grated doesn't have the right texture)
  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  • Wash and peel potatoes.  Cut into fries using a mandolin slicer on the larger julienne setting.
  • Mix the herbs and Parmesan cheese in a small bowl.
  • Put the potatoes, olive oil, and herb mixture in a gallon-sized freezer bag.  Leave air inside when you seal the bag, so there is room for the ingredients to move around.
  • Shake the bag to evenly coat all of the potatoes.
  • Spray a large rimmed cookie sheet with nonstick spray.
  • Dump the potatoes onto the cookie sheet and arrange in a single layer.
  • Bake 30-45 minutes or until tender and golden brown.  Stir the fries with a spatula halfway through cooking time so they don't stick to the sheet.

Honey Cinnamon Pancakes

I came up with these pancakes a couple years ago and absolutely LOVE them.  I started with the Bisquick Supreme Pancake directions to make them super fluffy, and then added honey and cinnamon.  Aaahhhmazing.

  • 2 cups Bisquick powder
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Butter
Makes about 12 medium pancakes.

  1. Melt some butter in a large pan over medium low heat.
  2. Mix ingredients.
  3. Pour approx. 1/4 cup of batter into pan for each pancake.
  4. Flip pancakes when bubbles pop and edges begin to dry.
  5. Cook just a minute or so more on the other side, until golden brown and cooked throughout.

September 27, 2012

Decorating for Fall

Now that September is almost over and the weather has cooled down to where it no longer feels like summer, I felt justified in decorating the front hall to look happily autumnal.  I usually swap out a couple vases and bring in some fallen branches from the nearby woods, which I did again this year.  What's new, though, is piling up a stack of books without their dust jackets and my slightly tarnished candelabra that I haven't broken out for a fancy occasion in a few years.  Nice and moody!  I can't wait to do some crafts this weekend (assuming all goes well on that end) to get the front hall all finished!

September 26, 2012

Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole

I have Pinterest to thank for yet another recipe my husband told me I could definitely make any time I wanted to.  I am way jealous of the picture they used!  My only modification was to use thicker slices of Swiss cheese because we liked the casserole extra cheesy.

  • 6 oz package chicken flavored stuffing mix
  • 10 3/4 oz can condensed cream of chicken soup
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and cut into bite-sized pieces (I baked mine with salt and pepper)
  • 3 cups fresh broccoli florets, chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 cups cooked ham, cut into cubes (1 inch or smaller)
  • 8 slices Swiss cheese (thick cut for a cheesy casserole; thin for lighter casserole)
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Season chicken with salt and pepper and bake the chicken (10 minutes for thin chicken breasts, up to 30 minutes for thick).
  2. While the chicken is cooking, do your prep work cutting up the broccoli and ham.
  3. When the chicken is done, take it out of the oven and start to prepare the stuffing mix as directed on the package.  Let the stuffing cook while you cut up the chicken.
  4. In a large bowl, mix the soup and mustard.  Stir in the chicken, broccoli, and ham.
  5. Spray a 3-quart or 2-quart casserole dish* with cooking spray.  Spoon in the casserole mixture, top with the cheese slices, and then top with the stuffing.
  6. Bake 35-40 minutes or until heated through.

*The original recipe said to use a 2-quart casserole dish, but I've been using a 3-quart casserole dish.  I'd say the smaller dish will probably give you a more saucy casserole, that will take longer to cook, than the 3-quart dish would.  Choose whichever method gives you the kind of food you prefer!

September 23, 2012

Pork Chops with Apples and Shallots

Martha Stewart does it again, providing yet another amazing recipe that I'll now cook until the day I die.  This meal just tasted like fall, through and through.  It so hit the spot tonight.  Served with a fresh salad of spinach, cranberries, chow mein noodles, and sweet onion dressing (to tie in with the pork chops), this was the such a good dinner.  I also think it would fare just well in a crock pot.  I looked up recipes with similar ingredients and found one easily- the only modification is to sear the pork chops before putting in the slow cooker with all of the other ingredients.  Easy enough!  If you try this in a crock pot, let me know how it goes.

Pork Chops with Apples and Shallots

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 medium shallots, quartered lengthwise
  • 2 granny smith apples, peeled, cored, and sliced into eighths
  • 1/2 cup white wine or apple cider (I used the white wine)
  • 4 bone-in pork chops
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

  1. Move oven rack to top slot, and preheat broiler.
  2. In a large skillet, melt butter over medium high heat.  I allowed some of my butter to brown, which added a great flavor to the dish.  Add shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned (about 3-5 minutes).  Cover pan and reduce heat to medium.  Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until shallots are soft (about 3-5 more minutes).
  3. While shallots are cooking, line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with Pam.  Lay out the pork chops, and season generously with salt and pepper on both sides.  They will cook better if not refrigerator cold.
  4. When shallots are soft, add apples and wine and stir thoroughly, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.  Cover, and cook until apples begin to soften (about 4 minutes), stirring occasionally.  Uncover and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until most of the liquid has evaporated and apples are tender (2-4 minutes).  Remove from heat and cover to keep warm.
  5. While apples are cooking, broil pork chops until cooked through, 3-8 minutes per side.  I had gigantic pork chops, so they took 8 minutes per side while Martha's recipe said some could get away with just 3 per side.  The best advice I can give is to keep an eye on them!
  6. Serve pork chops with warm apples and shallots spooned over top.

Leaf Art

The weather was absolutely gorgeous today, so I took my son for a walk in the woods with a little bucket.  We picked up leaves, twigs, acorns, pine cones- whatever was determined to be special along our walk.  When we got home, we converted these fun things into some pretty great artwork.  Googly eyes also have the ability to transform anything from "fun" to "amazing."  ;-)  My husband watched the very serious craft work laughing pretty much the whole time.


A little hedgehog and a bird go for a stroll...

while a wolf and a lynx prowl the forest...

at the edge of which is a beautiful glen, where there were butterflies, snails, and a friendly woodpecker.

Thanks to a site in Russian and Disney for inspiration!

Pumpkin Dip

I'm a couple days late in posting this, but wanted to document the making of the Pinterest phenomenon: Pumpkin Dip.  I first pinned it months ago with a hope I would remember it come fall, and over the last few weeks have seen it pinned a ton.  So I made it for my guinea pigs coworkers, who loooved it.  Big tip: serve with ginger snaps and apple cider.  That extra bit of spiciness made the pumpkin dip perfect.
For the pictures, I've shown just a single serving of the dip with graham crackers and ginger snaps.  It makes a LOT of dip, so don't be mislead by the pictures!

Pumpkin Dip

  • 15 oz can of pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling- just canned pumpkin)
  • 5 oz box of instant vanilla pudding powder (you don't prepare the pudding; just use the powder)
  • 16 oz container Cool Whip
  • 1/2 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 tablespoon cinnamon
  1. In a large bowl, use a spatula to mix pumpkin, pudding powder, Cool Whip, and pumpkin pie spice.
  2. Chill in the refrigerator for several hours.
  3. When ready to serve, stir again, sprinkle with cinnamon (though I would consider just stirring it in when making the mix to begin with), and serve with nilla wafers, ginger snaps, graham crackers, or any other treat that seems good to you! The original recipe used apple slices, which I opted not to do, though I did like it with apple cider.  I also think this could be great as a dollop on a pumpkin spice latte!
One comment about how to serve the dip.  The original post carved a pumpkin and served the dip directly in the pumpkin, which kind of grossed me out when it got to be time to make the dip.  I bought a small pumpkin as the post directed, but there was no way the dip would fit in it.  LOTS of dip would require a normal-sized pumpkin.  If you did want to serve it in a pumpkin, I'd recommend getting a large one, carving it out, and actually placing a clear plastic or glass serving bowl with the dip inside the pumpkin.  You'd still get that really pretty serving display without the dip actually touching the pumpkin on the inside.

September 16, 2012

Breakfast Panini with Blueberries

I came across this recipe on Pinterest yesterday, and loved the idea so much I couldn't wait to try it.  I made it for breakfast this morning and YUM.  The recipe doesn't provide measurements so my first try was just a stab in the dark at proportions, which I've shared below.  I'm sure I could have been more generous with the cream cheese and powdered sugar, so feel free to adjust as you like!

Breakfast Panini with Blueberries

  • Cream cheese (about 1 tablespoons per sandwich)
  • Powdered sugar (about 1 teaspoon per sandwich)
  • Bread
  • Blueberries (I used a lot- enough to have a single layer cover the slice. About 1/3 cup?)
  • Butter
  1. Heat panini press.
  2. Microwave cream cheese in a small bowl for just a few seconds to soften.
  3. Mix powdered sugar with cream cheese.
  4. Butter outside of sandwich.
  5. Spread sweetened cream cheese on inside of one side of sandwich.
  6. Place buttered side down on panini press. Top with second slice, buttered side on top.
  7. Grill for about 1 minute.
  8. Serve warm

September 14, 2012

Vegetable Lasagna

There used to be a restaurant called Spinnakers that I loved as a kid.  They had flower pot bread, and the best veggie lasagna I'd ever had.  I finally found a recipe that, when edited, came close to the magic of that restaurant that hasn't been around since I was in high school.

Vegetable Lasagna


8 ounces dried lasagna noodles (9 noodles)
2 beaten eggs
30 oz ricotta cheese
2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning, crushed
1 cup chopped onion (1 large)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups milk
1 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and thoroughly drained.  The spinach can be very watery, so be sure to squeeze it out well in colander.  However, stir up the spinach to loosen it up before adding to sauce in step 3.
1 10-ounce package frozen chopped broccoli, thawed and thoroughly drained
1 cup shredded carrot (2 carrots)
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (3 ounces) (divided)
1 8-ounce package shredded mozzarella cheese

  1. Cook lasagna noodles according to package directions.  Drain; set aside on cookie sheet sprayed with nonstick spray.
  2. In a medium bowl combine eggs, ricotta cheese, and Italian seasoning. Set aside.
  3. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat.  Cook the onion and garlic until tender (2-3 minutes).  Stir in flour and pepper; add milk all at once.  Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly (several minutes).  Remove from heat.  Stir in the spinach, broccoli, carrot, and 1/2 cup of the Parmesan cheese.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  5. To assemble, grease a 3-quart rectangular baking dish (I use 9 x 13 inch).  Layer 3 of the noodles, folding or cutting to fit (they fit perfectly in the 9 x 13).  Spread with 1/3 of the ricotta cheese mixture, then 1/3 of the vegetable mixture, and 1/3 of the mozzarella.  Repeat the layers two more times.  Sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese.
  6. Bake, uncovered, in a 350 degree oven for 35 minutes or until heated through.  Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

September 11, 2012

Baked Old Bay Fish and Parmesan Garlic Knots

Tonight we had one of my easier meals: fish, macaroni and cheese, and rolls.  But this is no blah fish, and these are no ordinary rolls.  Not by a long shot.

Parmesan Garlic Knots

I found this recipe on Pinterest, and I'm pretty sure I could make these every night with no complaints from the peanut gallery.  A few modifications, and we're off.

1 tube (12 ounces) refrigerated biscuits (I use the Pillsbury Grands original flaky layers biscuits)
Nonstick cooking spray
Little bit of flour
1/4 cup butter (4 tablespoons)
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese (I grate mine fresh, but store bought is fine, too!)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes

Makes 8 knots

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees (425 if baking the fish at the same time).
  2. Spray a cookie sheet with nonstick spray
  3. Lightly flour work surface,  roll each biscuit into a rope (about 10-12 inches), and tie into a knot. Tuck the ends under and press against another piece of dough so they stay in a knot.  Place 2 inches apart on the baking sheet.
  4. Bake at 400 degrees for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown.
  5. In a small bowl, melt the butter in the microwave.  Then stir in the Parmesan, garlic powder, oregano, and parsley.  You can make this while the knots bake, but will need to stir again before brushing the knots because the ingredients will separate.  Brush the warm knots with the mixture.

Baked Old Bay Fish

I found this one in my love for Old Bay and giving random seasonings a try whenever I made fish a few years ago.  Hence the very imprecise measurements.

Fish fillets (I usually use tilapia with this recipe)
Nonstick cooking spray
Onion powder
Freshly ground black pepper
Old Bay seasoning

Makes as many fillets as you use

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with nonstick cooking spray.
  3. Sprinkle both sides of the fillets with a tiny bit of onion powder (only a couple shakes), a bit of salt and pepper (a few shakes), and generously with Old Bay to evenly coat the entire filet as shown in picture.
  4. Bake in oven for 15-18 minutes.  I often use frozen fillets that I haven't even thawed (they come out just fine!) so those may take closer to 17/18 minutes.  Fresh ones may be more on the 15 minute side.

September 8, 2012

Pasta with Sausage and Peppers

I really love Martha Stewart's Great Food Fast cookbook.  I've made just about every recipe in it and they've almost all been fantastic.  This one in particular has been a staple dish in my house for the last couple years.  I made it tonight and my son even went for seconds.  That's high praise.  So here's my modified version of the recipe.  Enjoy!

1 medium red bell pepper, sliced
1 medium yellow bell pepper, sliced
1/2 lb (1/2 box) orecchiette or other short pasta (I always use the orecchiette)
1 tsp olive oil (optional)
1 lb ground sausage
1/4 cup water reserved from pasta water
1/2 tablespoon butter, cut into small pieces
1/6 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (plus more for garnish)

Serves 6

  1. Set a large pot of salted water to boil.  When the water boils, add the pasta and cook  according to package directions.
  2. While the pasta cooks, heat a large frying pan at medium heat.  If desired, add oil.  Cook the sausage, breaking it up with a spoon, until browned (7-10 minutes).  Add the peppers and cook 3-4 more minutes until heated through.
  3. When the pasta is cooked, measure out 1/4 cup of water from the pot and set aside. Drain the pasta and transfer to a large bowl.  When the meat and peppers are cooked, also drain.  In the large bowl, mix the pasta, sausage mixture, butter, Parmesan, and as much of the reserved pasta water as you want to get a light saucy texture.  Season with salt and pepper if desired (I don't).  Top with freshly grated Parmesan.

September 5, 2012

Mini Frittatas

I came across this recipe from Giada De Laurentiis, one of my favorite Food Network people.  It was an instant hit with both my husband and 2-year-old son: the magic sweet spot of culinary pleasure.  As usual, though, I can't make it exactly as the recipe says.  One, I don't have mini muffin tins, and two, I don't always have fresh parsley.  So here are my modifications:

Nonstick cooking spray
8 large eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (or until you feel like "meh, that's enough")
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup thinly sliced ham, chopped
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves (or 1 tablespoon dried parsley)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Spray 1 muffin tin (with 12 muffin cups) with nonstick spray.  Whisk the eggs, milk, pepper, and salt in a large bowl to blend well.  Stir in the ham, cheese, and parsley.  Fill prepared muffin cups with about 1/4 cup egg mixture each.  I like to use a measuring cup to scoop up the mixture, scraping against the bottom so I get a good bit of egg, ham, and parsley in each scoop.
Bake until the egg mixture puffs and is just set in the center, about 10-12 minutes for the regular-size muffin cups.  Using a rubber spatula or spoon, loosen the frittatas from the muffin cups and slide onto a platter.  Serve immediately.

3-4 servings

I like to use a spoon to loosen and scoop things like this because it can actually curve under the frittata, unlike the spatula.

These are a great breakfast for dinner meal, served with toast and honey like I did tonight.  I've also had them with hash browns, sausage, or bacon.  It's the perfect amount for the three of us on a weeknight, and only takes about 15 minutes to make.