April 29, 2014

Spinach Artichoke Pasta with Peas and Chicken

This is one of the recipes I've put together using my Tastefully Simple purchases!  Using their Artichoke & Spinach Warm Dip Mix with some typical pasta dish components adds a ton of flavor and makes this more of a special meal than "I tossed things in a pan."  I'm not getting anything from Tastefully Simple for this, just sharing a yummy recipe idea for one of their products.  Enjoy!


  • 1 prepared packet's worth Artichoke & Spinach Warm Dip Mix from Tastefully Simple, along with required ingredients
    • I always use Swiss cheese when I prepare mine
  • 1 chicken breast
  • 1/2 pound (1/2 box) short pasta
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 375°.  Season chicken with salt and pepper and bake for 25-30 minutes, until cooked through.
  2. Bring a pot of generously salted water to a boil.  Add pasta and cook according to package directions.
  3. While pasta is cooking, prepare dip according to package directions.  Set aside.
  4. Heat frozen peas according to package directions
  5. Remove chicken from oven and dice into bite-size pieces.
  6. Drain pasta when done cooking and return to pot.  Stir in dip and chicken, and mix until well combined.  Gently stir in peas.

April 27, 2014

Mochaccino Brownies

I really love all things coffee, and definitely low brownies, so when I saw this recipe from The Curvy Carrot years ago I pinned it without thinking twice... and then forgot it.  I finally made these brownies yesterday, with a couple modifications to make the frosting work, and omg were they good.  I also can't wait to find more uses for the espresso buttercream, because it comes straight from Heaven.

For the Brownie Layer
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 ounces (1/4 cup) bittersweet chocolate chips
For the Espresso Buttercream Frosting
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder (you can buy it in cans in the coffee aisle)
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature (yes, I promise that's all you need)
For the Chocolate Ganache
  • 1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
Optional Garnish
  • Chocolate-covered espresso beans

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°.  Grease an 8 x 8" baking pan with butter or cooking spray.  Set aside.
  2. In a large pot over low heat, melt the butter and the unsweetened chocolate pieces until smooth, stirring frequently.  Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
  3. Stir sugar into chocolate mixture until well incorporated.  Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.  Stir in the vanilla.
  4. In a small bowl, mix the flour and baking soda.  Add to the chocolate mixture and stir until just combined.  Stir in the bittersweet chocolate chips.
  5. Pour brownie batter into prepared baking pan and spread evenly.  Bake about 30 minutes, until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let cool completely.
  6. For the chocolate ganache, heat the cream and chocolate chips in a small pot over low heat, stirring frequently, until smooth and thickened.  Set aside to cool to room temperature.
  7. For the frosting, first dissolve the espresso powder in the cream and set aside.
  8. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed 2 minutes until pale and fluffy.  Turn down speed to low and add the powdered sugar, 1/2 cup at a time.  After all sugar is incorporated, mix at high speed for 10 seconds to aerate the frosting and make it fluffy.  Turn speed back down to low.
  9. Pour in the espresso and cream mixture and mix on low until incorporated and smooth, adding more cream if necessary for desired consistency.
  10. Spread frosting evenly over cooled brownies.  Spread room-temperature chocolate ganache on top.  If desired, sprinkle chocolate-covered espresso beans on top for garnish.  Let brownie layers set at least 10-15 minutes.
  11. Cut into bars and serve at room temperature.
What a nice looking treat to bring with you for any gathering.  I mean, in addition to your great smile and winning personality.

Brownie extreme close up!!!

April 26, 2014

Baked Cheesy Pasta with Prosciutto

Once again, Giada delivers on her promises of tasty recipes that, with just a little bit of something extra, take normal pasta dishes into something amazing.  She called her recipe Baked Rigatoni with Bechamel Sauce, and I just have to say that it's a disservice when she doesn't mention the prosciutto!  Talk about burying the lead.  Anyway, you can have this great dish all wrapped up and ready to serve within 45 minutes.  Add garlic bread and a salad, and you've got a killer weeknight meal here.

Saucy hammy goodness right there.

I usually halve these recipes because I only need 2-3 servings, but here's the full size which will easily serve 4-5.

  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup and 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 quart (4 cups/32 ounces) whole milk, room temperature
  • Pinch ground nutmeg
  • Sea salt and white pepper to taste (I cheated and used black pepper)
  • 1 cup grated Fontina cheese
  • 1/2 pound thinly sliced prosciutto, julienned
  • 1 pound (box) dry rigatoni or other short pasta.
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
  1. Preheat oven to 425°.  Grease a 9" x 13" baking dish and set aside.
  2. Set a large pot of generously salted water to boil.  While waiting for water to boil, make the cheese sauce.
  3. In a large pot, melt the butter over medium heat.  Whisk in the flour until smooth and cook until golden, about 2 minutes.  Stir continually and slowly add the milk, whisking until smooth and creamy.  Simmer until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 7-10 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in the nutmeg, 1/2 cup of the fontina, the prosciutto, and salt and pepper to taste.  Set aside.
  4. Your water should be boiling by now.  Add your pasta and cook just 5 minutes.  Because you're baking the pasta, it will cook the rest of the way in the sauce in the oven.  Drain the pasta and transfer pasta to the pot with the cheese sauce.  Stir until the pasta is generously coated.
  5. Pour the pasta and cheese mixture into the prepared baking dish.  Sprinkle with the remaining fontina, then dot with the diced butter.  Bake at 425° for 25 minutes or until golden and bubbly.

April 20, 2014

Ham and Cheese Sliders

YUM.  A friend made these for our last Pinterest party, and I knew immediately that my husband would love them.  The warm gooey cheesy ham middle with the mustard sauce is just awesome.  This is the recipe she used, and I adapted it just by halving everything because I was making it as a quick dinner to use some of our Easter ham, not as an appetizer for a party.  Easy, quick, and super tasty, this recipe is all around win.

Ingredients (makes 12 sliders; enough to serve 3-4)
  • 12 dinner rolls (I used mini kaiser rolls)
  • 12 pieces honey ham
  • 12 small slices Swiss cheese
  • Mayonnaise (about 1/3 cup will be enough for all 12 sandwiches)
Poppy seed sauce
  • 1/2 tablespoon poppy seeds
  • 3/4 tablespoons yellow mustard
  • 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) butter, melted
  • 1/2 tablespoon minced onion
  • 1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Spread mayonnaise onto the inside of both halves of each roll.  Assemble sandwiches with a slice of ham and cheese on each roll.  Place snugly in a baking dish or rimmed cookie sheet (I used a 9x13 baking dish).
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the poppy seed sauce ingredients.  Pour evenly over all of the sandwiches.  Set aside 10 minutes or until butter sets slightly.  Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350° 12-15 minutes until cheese is melted.  Uncover and cook 2 additional minutes until tops are slightly brown and crispy.  Serve warm.

Super Easy Rainbow Cake

I'm sure we've all seen the rainbow cake/cheesecake pins all over Pinterest, which often don't actually link to a recipe.  After investigating a few and some Google searching, I realized the "recipe" is really all about the technique of laying your dyed batter so you get the rainbow look in the end product.  That lesson learned, you can do this with any cake recipe, including simple boxed cake mix!  Keep it simple with white (premade) frosting and sprinkles, and this cake can lead you to crazy impressive results for minimal effort.  BINGO.

Look at that beauty!  Full on double rainbow across the plate.

So the trick here is that you mix your cake batter, separate out into 6 equal portions in bowls, mugs, whatever you have on hand, and dye each portion a different color.  You layer the batter by pouring into the center of your cake pan, and then pour the following colors in the center one by one.  This approach spreads out the layers below evenly.


What's fun is deciding how to layer or change up your rainbow.  My cake is kind of reversed/upside down.  I poured in the purple first, then did the rainbow in reverse.  This gave me the fun red center spreading out to a thin purple edge, but had I started with red as the first color and flipped my cakes upside down, you can see how I'd have perfect Rainbow Brite style rainbows going on.  Bottom line?  Be creative, don't overthink it, and just have fun with the colorful result.


  • 1 box yellow cake mix and required ingredients (likely eggs and vegetable oil)
  • 1 container frosting
  • Food coloring (at least red, yellow, and blue)
  • Sprinkles

  1. Prepare cake batter according to package directions.  Divide equally into 6 different mugs/containers- probably ~2/3 cups in each.
  2. Dye each portion a different color of the rainbow.
  3. Prepare cake pan(s).  I used two 9" round nonstick pans, which I coated with butter.  Pour half of your first batter color into the center of one pan, and the other half into the center of the other, to have identical cakes.  Pour half of the second color slowly and evenly into the center of your 1st batter color in pan 1; repeat in pan 2.  This should slowly spread out the first color, with the 2nd color making a circle in the middle.  Repeat with remaining colors.  When done, wiggle and/or tap your batter if it isn't filling the pan fully or is lopsided.  I did, and it wiggled the whole mixture well without making the colors bleed.
  4. Bake according to package directions.  Cool completely.
  5. Optional- trim the rounded top off of each cake to get a more professional look, not the rounded look I have.  In my opinion, though, rounded makes sense for a rainbow cake!
  6. Frost the top of one cake, layer on the 2nd, and cover the entire cake in frosting.  Add sprinkles and you're done!  

April 6, 2014

Egg Carton Bouquet of Flowers

This is the perfect weekend craft with a toddler.  Fine motor skills not needed from your helper, and pretty much no matter what you get an adorable result.

For our display, I first cut the cups off an empty egg carton, cut and shaped in different flower styles, and then let the painting rumpus start.  Once dry, a quick slit with an x-acto knife in the bottom of each cup made it easy to slide the flowers onto their popsicle stick stems.  A quick rummage through the recycling bin turned up our vase- an empty Morton's salt container.  We covered with scrapbook paper my son picked out (I am in love with this notion of having a huge pad of scrapbook paper on hand!), plopped in our flowers, and we were golden!
The beauty of this, though, is that you can really use any supplies you have on hand.  The egg carton flowers are light enough that I think you could use pipe cleaners or even twisted and painted newspaper for your stems.  Any empty container can be your vase.  I liked ours because I could cut slits with the x-acto knife to position our popsicle stick stems, but you could do the same with an empty oatmeal container turned upside down, or even a plastic tub like a yogurt cup.  To decorate the vase, you can use wrapping paper, construction paper, or just continue to break out the paints if you don't have scrapbook paper.