Roasted Tomato and Pesto Grilled Cheese

Tomato-Pesto Grilled Cheese.

Tomato-Pesto Grilled Cheese.

This is day two of being snowed-in.  Sidewalk is shoveled, but driveway not plowed!   Go figure that one.  Snowplow guy seems to be busy elsewhere.  Well, there’s still plenty of food in the house, so no rush about going anywhere.

Under these house-bound conditions,  almost as soon as breakfast is over, I start thinking about lunch.   Wouldn’t you?  I’m imagining some kind of a grilled cheese sandwich.  Most folks love the combo of tomato soup and grilled cheese, so let me see if I can cram the two of them together in a knock-your-socks-off sandwich.  Get ready for an ooey-gooey delight.

First we’re going to go to our refrigerators to gather up all the delicious things we’ll need.  If those things should happen to be roasted, pesto-ed, or melty, that’s ideal.

Today I’m lucky, I have some good things.  This is not always the case.  Sometimes all I have in the fridge is skim milk and some bendy celery with brown tops.   That’s why there’s frozen pizza, right?  Skim milk and bendy celery are not allowed in this sandwich.   Absolutely not,  not when I see some precious Romano,  cheddar and pesto in there, not to mention some beautiful red tomatoes.


This is what it looks like to pack every delicious item in your refrigerator between toasted onion rolls.

(These are not the best photos I’ve ever taken, but I was too impatient to eat this sandwich.)

I’m the kind of person who likes to always have pesto on hand.  Quite some time ago I posted my recipe for homemade pesto(s), and I really recommend you make some for your refrigerator.  Made from herbs or spinach or kale (ignore that bendy celery),  you’ll thank yourself when you go looking in your refrigerator for some “good things”.  BTW, make lots–it freezes well, too.

On this sandwich we layer shredded cheddar, smeared pesto, roasted tomato puree, salty Romano cheese and mayo!


Roasting the tomatoes intensifies their flavor and sweetness.  The pesto adds a happy green, garlic-y kick.  Two kinds of cheese because we’re the kind of people who deserve two kinds of cheese on our sandwich.  Spread the top and bottom of the sandwich with mayo and grill on each side until the center is warm and melty.

The center gets melty and warm.

The center gets melty and warm.

Now the pay-off.   Take that sandwich to your favorite comfy place and settle yourself into coziness.  Sit down on the floor if you have to, just relax and enjoy it.  Now eat slowly and savor every delicious bite.    Relax.  Read your e-mails, or check out Pinterest.  Only move when the desire for some chips or a beverage motivates you beyond laziness.  Bendy celery, get outta here!



Yield:    Makes 2 sandwiches


  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
  • 4 plum tomatoes, halved and seeded
  • 2 garlic cloves, unpeeled
  • 1/2 tsp. dried basil
  • dash of salt and pepper
  • 4 tsp. canola mayonnaise
  • 2 Tbsp. pesto
  • 2 oz shredded sharp cheddar cheese, (about 1/2 cup)
  • 2 oz. Romano cheese, thinly sliced
  • 4 slices of whole grain bread or rolls of choice


1.  Preheat oven to 400*F.  Combine 1 tsp. oil, tomatoes, and garlic on a baking sheet.

Cut in half and seed tomatoes.

Cut in half and seed tomatoes.

Bake at 400*F. for 20 minutes.  Remove skins and discard. Squeeze garlic to extract the pulp, discard skins.

Roast with garlic.  Remove skins.

Roast with garlic. Remove skins.

2.  Combine tomatoes, garlic pulp, basil, salt and pepper in a mini food processor  pulse 10 times.

Place in mini processor and  chop finely.

Place in mini processor and chop finely.

3.  Spread mayonnaise on two slices of bread or top half of rolls. Spread pesto on remaining 2 slices bread or bottoms of rolls.

Spread mayo and pesto on bread slices.

Spread mayo and pesto on bread slices.

4.  Spread about 1 1/2 tablespoon tomato mixture on sandwich bottoms.  Cover with half the grated cheese on each bottom,  top that with thinly sliced Romano cheese.


5.  Cover with sandwich tops.  Lightly coat outsides of sandwiches with cooking spray.

6.  Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Add 1 teaspoon oil, swirl to coat.  Place sandwiches in pan; cook about 3 minutes or until lightly browned.  Flip sandwiches, and continue to cook until lightly browned and cheese is melted.  Cut in half and serve immediately.

7.  If you have a panini pan, sandwiches may be cooked in that instead of a skillet.



SOURCE:  Carolyn’s Originals



Lasagna Soup

IMG_9054       IMG_9053

Here in Ct. we’re having what has been predicted as “the Blizzard of the Century”, although at the half-way-point it seems to have lost some of its strength, at least where I live. The snow is no longer falling, but there is a lot of it out there.  On such a day as this I’m making soup for dinner.  That should come as no surprise, as my mind and taste buds turn to a good hot soup on a cold and wintery day, as many of you well know.

Lasagna Soup

Lasagna Soup

In my opinion there is no  better way to keep warm than with a bowl of steamy, hot soup!

Within the past few days two different recipes for Lasagna Soup have come to my attention, so I feel that I was destined to make this soup.  It’s so nice when you decide on the spur of the moment to make something and find everything that’s needed right in your refrigerator or cupboard.  Lucky me, since cars are forbidden on the roads, no trips to the grocery store are allowed.


In a bowl of this soup, you will find everything you love about lasagna….sausage, lasagna noodles, marinara and cheese.   It’s filling, easy to make, and hearty.  Everything you want in a soup and perfect for a cold winter’s night.  It’s also family friendly–kids will love it.  The dollop of cheese on top really makes it.  You can use regular Italian sausage, sweet or spicy, or chicken sausage, any of which will give it great flavor.


Two other benefits of this soup;  there are fewer calories than eating “for real” lasagna, and it’s all made in one pot.


Yield:  Makes about 8 servings


For the soup:

  • cooking sprayIMG_9049
  • 14 oz.- 1 lb. Italian sausage, pork or chicken, casings removed
  • 1/2 a large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  •  4 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
  • 3 cups low-sodium, fat free chicken broth
  • 2  1/2 cups water
  • 2 cups jarred marinara sauce
  • 2 bay leaves
  • fresh black pepper
  • 6 oz. broken lasagna noodles, regular, whole wheat, or gluten free

For topping:

  • 6 Tbsp. part skim shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup part skim ricotta cheese
  • 3 Tbsp. parmesan cheese
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
  • basil leaves for garnish, if desired


1.  Heat a large soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, spray with cooking spray and add the sausage.  Cook until browned, breaking it up as it cooks with a wooden spoon, about 4 to 5 minutes.


2.  Add the chopped onion and crushed garlic and cook 2 to 3 minutes.


3.  Add the broth, water, marinara sauce, parsley, bay leaves and black pepper.  Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer about 30 minutes.


4.  Add the broken lasagna noodles and cook uncovered according the package directions.



While noodles cook, make topping:

In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, parmesan, and parsley and stir to mix well.

To serve:  Ladle soup in bowls, and top each serving with 2 Tbsp. ricotta cheese mixture, some mozzarella, and fresh basil on top.


SOURCE:  adapted from  Skinny Taste

Here’s  a selection of some other easy, healthy soup recipes that are in the recipe index:

Steak and Tomatoes with Roast Potatoes


Steak and  tomatoes with roast potatoes.

Steak and tomatoes with roast potatoes.


Despite what I might say, I do my best cooking on the weekends.  I get no special pleasure out of week night cooking.  Usually it consists of something I can put together in under an hour or it grows out of planned leftovers.

Ideally cooking should be relaxing, a way to unwind at the end of a busy day, with maybe someone in the kitchen with you who enjoys cooking too, and likes to help out, or who might offer to wash the dishes.  Is my end-of-day-cooking like that?   No way!

So in an attempt to find that place where cooking is a pleasure, and I have lots of time to devote to meal preparation, on the weekend I try to plan something a little extra special.  A meal that we can linger over and perhaps enjoy a glass of wine with.   Granted this doesn’t happen as often as I would like it to, but once in a while I can pull it off.


The post today includes a complete menu for just such a meal.  I prepared this on a weekend not long ago.  It took about an hour from when I started prepping the vegetables until it was ready to be served;  not a large investment in time, but a hugh payoff in pleasure.  The steak was perfectly rare, and the tomato topping was exactly right with it.  In addition I made seasoned roast potatoes, and broccoli rabé as side dishes.


If you know someone who loves a good meat and potatoes meal,  make this one for them and watch them swoon first, then praise you for your genius.   ” Oh, it was nothing,  I just threw it together”


Yield:  Serves 4


  • 1 pound fingerling potatoes, halved (Yukon Gold potatoes make a good substitute, cut into wedges.)IMG_8898
  • 2 Tbsp; olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, divided
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper, divided
  • 3 tsp. ground oregano, divided
  • 1  (1-pound flank steak)
  • 2 Tbsp. finely chopped shallots
  • 1 tsp.  minced garlic
  • 2 cups chopped tomato
  • 1/2 tsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. balsamic vinegar


1.  Preheat oven to 425*F.

2.  Combine potatoes, 1 Tbsp; oil, 1/4 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper in a baking sheet, tossing to coat.


Bake at 425*. for 25 minutes or until tender, stirring after 10 minutes.  Sprinkle with 2 tsp. oregano and toss to coat.

3.  Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Rub steak with 1 tsp. oil;  sprinkle evenly with remaining 1/4 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper.  Add steak to pan, cook 4 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness.  Place steak on a cutting board; let stand 5 minutes.  Cut across the grain into thin slices.  Cover with foil to keep warm.




4.  Return pan to medium-high heat.  Add remaining 2 tsp. oil to pan; swirl to coat.  Add shallot and garlic to pan; sauté 30 seconds.


Stir in tomatoes, remaining 1 tsp. oregano and sugar.  Cook 1 minute.


Stir in vinegar.  Spoon tomato mixture evenly over steak.  Serve with potatoes.


For the Broccoli Rabé:

1.  Cut a 1 pound bunch of broccoli rabe into 1-inch pieces.


Add to a pot of boiling water and cook for 3 minutes or until crisp-tender.  Drain.

2.  Combine the broccoli rabe,  2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil, 2 tsp. balsamic vinegar, 1/4 tsp. kosher salt, and 1/4 tsp. black pepper in a large bowl;  toss to coat.    Sprinkle with 1 Tbsp. shaved Parmesan cheese.




Baked Black and White Doughnuts

Baked Black and White Doughnuts

Baked Black and White Doughnuts

Ah, yes…..doughnuts!   Do you love them?   Strangely enough, I can’t say that I do.  I’ve always thought of doughnuts as greasy, fried, blobs of sweetness without many redeeming qualities.  But then about a year ago I got introduced to baked doughnuts. Up till then, I had never tried them.   Now, they may not suit everyone, especially those of you who crave your daily doughnut from the doughnut shop, but I hope you will agree with me that they are good….like, really, really good.   OK?


Baked doughnuts are the drama, whereas fried doughnuts are the comedy of life, sort of like little emojies 🙂   These doughnuts in your hands, in your life, are like magic.  That’s it,  that’s all I’m saying.

These doughnuts are a take-off on those black and white cookies, we all love.  They’re for when you can’t decide it you want a chocolate glazed doughnut or a vanilla glazed one with sprinkles.  See, I’ve solved that problem for you!   Donut ignore this recipe.  (Pun intended.)


I like the way these doughnuts come together,  mostly because it’s so simple.  No electric mixer involved, just two bowls and  a few measuring and mixing tools.   And since I’ve become completely captivated by browned butter and the flavor it adds to baked goods, I’ve used it here too.


They’re basically made with flour + sugar + spice + everything nice, (i.e., buttermilk, egg, vanilla, and browned butter).


Browned butter adds a lovely depth of flavor and nuttiness to the cake-y doughnuts, and lots of freshly grated nutmeg takes them over the top.

Dry ingredients are whisked together to fluff and blend them well.


Wet ingredients are whisked up just so, and added to the dry.  Wet + dry, that’s how you do it.  It’s called cooking math.



Baked up, these doughnuts are soft, tender and sweet.


Chocolate and vanilla glazes are thick enough to be just spreadable.  Colored sprinkles never hurt.

Glaze one side of each doughnut with the chocolate glaze, then do the other side with vanilla glaze,  Don’t forget the sprinkles.  It will take a bit of will power to do this without taking a bite out of one of them.   I wish you luck.


I’m sorry to tell you, but the final decision is yours here….will you bite into the chocolate side, or the vanilla side first????




Yield:   Makes 6 doughnuts


  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter (but you will use only 2 Tbp. of it in the recipe)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

For the chocolate glaze:

  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • 2 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • pinch salt
  • 2 to 3 Tbsp. milk
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

For the vanilla glaze:

  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • 2 to 3 Tbsp. milk
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract


1.  Preheat the oven to 350*F.  Lightly grease a doughnut pan and set it aside.

2.  In a small saucepan, over medium heat, melt butter.  Butter will begin to crackle and pop as it melts.  That’s the water cooking out of it.  Once the water has evaporated out, the butter will quiet down and begin to brown.  Keep an eye on it as it browns quickly.  It will begin to smell nutty.  Remove from heat and immediately pour into a small cup or bowl to cool.


3.  In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and sugar.  Set aside.


4.  In a small bowl, whisk together egg, buttermilk, and vanilla extract.  Measure out 2 tablespoons of browned butter and whisk into the wet ingredients.


5.  Add the wet ingredients all at once to the dry ingredients.


Lift and fold as you stir until no flour bits remain and all of the ingredients are well combined.  Try not to over mix the batter.  This is what makes a tender cake.


6.  Use a small spoon to dollop batter into the prepared pan.  Smooth out and fill each doughnut cup in the pan three-quarters full with batter.



7.  Bake for 8 to 10 minutes.  Check for doneness at 8 minutes, tops should spring back slightly when touched.  Do not over bake them.  Remove from oven and allow to cool in the pan a few minutes before inverting onto a wire rack to cool completely.



When the doughnuts are cool, make the glazes.

1. For chocolate glaze:  whisk together the sugar, cocoa powder, and salt.  Add 2 tablespoons of milk and vanilla extract.  Stir to combine.  Add more milk as necessary to create a thick but still just pourable glaze.

2.  For vanilla glaze:  whisk together powdered sugar, milk and vanilla to create a thick put still pourable glaze.

3.  Spread half of the doughnuts with chocolate glaze, and remaining half with vanilla glaze.  Place back on the wire rack and sprinkle the vanilla side with colored sprinkles while the glaze is wet.  Allow to set for about 30 minutes before storing or serving.  These doughnuts are best within 2 days.



SOURCE:   Adapted from Joy the Baker


Winter Immunity Boost: Roast Parsnips and Sweet Potatoes

Honey-Mustard Glazed Parsnips and Sweet Potatoes

Honey-Mustard Glazed Parsnips and Sweet Potatoes

Flu season is upon us.  Am I going to get it?  Nope!  Not going to do that.  Cold season?   No, get outta here with that stuff.

Feeling achy?  Sniffles?  Congestion?  Don’t have time for it!

There’s no guarantee, of course, but I’m doing everything I can to keep the sickness ‘bugs” away from our door.  How, you might be asking?  I’m preparing as much healthy produce as I possibly can and shoving it into our mouths 2-3 times a day.

In the morning it could be a green smoothie,  for lunch a salad with both cooked and raw veggies, throw in some citrus for good measure; and for dinner at least two veggie side dishes per meal.   I haven’t  fallen in love with every combination I’ve put together, but there have been several that I will be making again.  This is one of them.


Parsnips are a late fall vegetable, harvested after frosts have set in, as they need the cold weather to convert their starches into sugar.  They are not a vegetable that I cook with any frequency, since up until now, I hadn’t found a way to prepare them that was terribly appealing.  In this dish, however, the parsnips are combined with sweet potatoes;  two vegetables that each have their own kind of sweetness.  Roasting them concentrates and blends their flavors, and then just before serving you pour a simple glaze of honey and Dijon mustard over them and toss to coat.  Well, that sauce is the magic that makes this dish sing.

I went from “not sure I’m going to like this” to “Wow, I love these”.  As I write this, it’s two days since I made the original dish and this evening  I’m making it again.  That’s how much I loved these veggies.  And Mr. D. loved them too!!  So I know I’ve got a winner in this dish.  Won’t you try it and see if you agree?


Yield:  Serves 6


  • 1  1/4 pounds parsnips  (about 3 large or 4 medium)IMG_8954
  • 1 1/4 pounds sweet potatoes
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. honey
  • 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • chopped parsley (optional)


1.  Preheat oven to 425*F.  Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper.

2.  Prepare the vegetables.  To cut parsnips:  Trim tops and bottoms; peel, and slice in half crosswise to separate thick and narrow parts.  Halve or quarter thick parts lengthwise, until all parsnip pieces are roughly the same size. Then cut on a diagonal into 1/2-inch-thick pieces.

Cut the narrow end from the thick end, then quarter the thick end.

Cut the narrow end from the thick end, then quarter the thick end.

 To cut sweet potatoes:  quarter them lengthwise so they are about the same thickness as the parsnips, then cut crosswise into 1/2-inch thick pieces.

3.  Put the parsnips and sweet potatoes in a large bowl, and add the olive oil, salt and pepper.  Toss to coat evenly.  Spread in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet.

Spread seasoned veggies on a baking sheet.

Spread seasoned veggies on a baking sheet.

Roast until tender and golden, tossing once or twice, about 30 minutes.  Transfer into a serving bowl.

4.  In a small bowl, stir together honey and mustard.

Whisk together the honey and mustard.

Whisk together the honey and mustard.

Pour over vegetables, toss to coat.  Sprinkle with parsley, if desired.  Serve immediately.


Isn’t this dish brightly colored and beautiful?   I mean… vitamin C,  vitamin A…..   There’s no way a cold is getting us down.   Knock on wood!


SOURCE:   Martha Stewart Living



Cincinnati – Style Chili

Cincinnati-Style Chili

Cincinnati-Style Chili

Wow!  What an interesting spin on traditional chili recipes.  The idea of serving the chili over spaghetti was new to me and I loved it, especially loading it with add-ons at serving time.

I was definitely intrigued by the use of chocolate and sweet spices in chili, but they were indistinguishable in the finished dish and provided a depth of flavor that was so good.

Grated chocolate and sweet spices are added to the mixture.

Grated chocolate and sweet spices are added to the mixture.

This recipe is low in sodium if that is a concern for you, and it is also flexible in that you can add red kidney beans to the chili, or use them as a topping along with the cheese and green onions.  So if there are folks who would prefer not to have  beans in their chili, it all works to everyone’s satisfaction.

The next time I make this I will add a little extra broth, so it is more “saucy” for the spaghetti.  Other than that I wouldn’t change a thing about this great recipe.   Oh, and did I mention it’s made in the slow-cooker,  so you can start this early in the day and let it simmer, filling your kitchen with an aroma of what’s for dinner.   At dinner time all you have to do is boil some water and cook the spaghetti.


The recipe makes 10 servings–a lot for two of us–so I cut the recipe in half, and there was enough for us to have it twice.  I also added the kidney beans to the slow cooker during the last hour of cooking time.



Yield:  10 servingsIMG_8439


  • 2 pounds lean ground turkey
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cans (8-ounces each) no-salt-added tomato sauce
  • 1 can (14.5 0z.) reduced sodium beef broth
  • 2 Tbsp. cider vinegar
  • 1/2 ounce unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 3 Tbsp. chili powder
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 package ( 16 oz.) whole wheat spaghetti


  • 1 can ( 16-oz.) red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1  1/4 cups shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese
  • 2 green onion, chopped


1.  In a nonstick skillet, coated with cooking spray, cook turkey, onions and garlic until turkey is no longer pink.  Transfer to a 3-qt. slow cooker.

Cooking the ground turkey with the onion and garlic.

Cooking the ground turkey with the onion and garlic.

2.  In a large bowl, combine tomato sauce, broth, vinegar, chocolate and seasonings; pour over turkey mixture.

Making the tomato sauce mixture.

Making the tomato sauce mixture.


Cook, covered, on low 6 – 8 hours.

Add kidney beans during last hour of cooking time.

Add kidney beans during last hour of cooking time, if desired.

3.  Cook spaghetti according to package directions; drain.  Remove bay leaf from chili.  For each serving, place 3/4 cup spaghetti in a bowl.  Top with about 2/3 cup chili, 3 tablespoons kidney beans, 2 tablespoons cheese and 1 tablespoon chopped onion.


 My first bowl of Cincinnati-Style Chili, but certainly not my last!

SOURCE:    Taste of Home

Skillet Lasagna with Butternut Squash

Skillet Lasagna with Butternut Squash

Skillet Lasagna with Butternut Squash

Talk about being predictable…..during December we bloggers were all writing about cookie swaps, peppermint flavored this or that, drinks to cheer the season, pine cones, Santa hats, and jungle bells.  Well, all that sugar and spice is nice but…..

Come January and we’re talking about salad, diets, smoothies and working out.  I don’t think we’re allowed to mention fudge in January at all.  In fact it may even be against the law. (Let’s save that for V-tine’s Day).

With this recipe I’m breaking out of the mold of predictability.  What I have to share with you today is a one-dish meal that is so comforting, you’ll swear it’s baked lasagna.  Only it’s not baked.  Lasagna cooked on the stovetop?  I can see you shaking your head in disbelief.  But it’s true.

Lasagna cooked in a skillet.

Lasagna cooked in a skillet.

Layered up with sauce, noodles, cheeses and butternut squash just like the real thing, because it IS the real thing, and dang, is it ever good!   Now, making lasagna is pretty close to rocket science, so I want you to pay close attention here.

Remember to cut the squash into small cubes, or if unsure about size, use a package of frozen squash that’s been thawed.

Marinara sauce does not contain meat, so this will be a meatless meal!!!!


Pretend you don't see meatballs here.  Mr. D. wanted them!!

Pretend you don’t see meatballs here. Mr. D. wanted them!!    🙂



Yield:    Serves 4


  • 1  (12-ounce) package frozen chopped butternut squash. thawed.  (I used fresh butternut, cubed, and precooked in the microwave to soften)IMG_8734
  • 1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup grated parmesan and /or pecorino romano cheese (about 2 ounces)
  • 1 tsp. chopped fresh chopped rosemary
  • pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
  • 2 cups jarred marinara sauce
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 6 no-boil lasagna noodles
  • 2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella (about 8 oz.)


1.  Combine the squash, ricotta, 3/4 cup parmesan, the rosemary and nutmeg in a medium bowl.


In another bowl, combine the marinara sauce and basil.  I took a shortcut here by using a marinara sauce that included basil, and added a little more dried basil to it.

2.  Spread 1/2 cup of the marinara in a large nonstick skillet.  Cover with 2 lasagna noodles.  Spread half of the ricotta mixture on top of the noodles, then sprinkle with one-third of the mozzarella.  Add another layer of noodles the remaining ricotta mixture, 1 cup marinara and half of the remaining mozzarella.


3.  Top with remaining marinara and mozzarella.  Sprinkle with the remaining  1/4 cup parmesan.


4.  Cover and cook over medium-low heat until the pasta is tender and the cheese is melted, about 20 minutes.  (Check halfway through, if the edges seem dry, add up to 1/2 cup water.)  Let rest 5 minutes before serving.



SOURCE:  Food Network Magazine

Banana Cranberry Bread

I love the beginning of the New Year.  There’s nothing going on that makes demands on me.  It’s when I can slow down, do some thinking and planning, and recalibrate my brain.

Banana Cranberry Bread

Banana Cranberry Bread

Whenever I need to get “centered” I turn to my oven, and usually what I want to put into the oven involves fruit in some way.   In the fruit bowl on my kitchen counter or in the crisper drawer of my refrigerator there is usually some fruit or other that needs to be eaten or used up.   In most instances that would be several black and pretty far-gone bananas in the fruit bowl.


It’s embarrassing when someone stops by, and there are the bananas on the counter wearing their black skins, with maybe a few fruit flies visiting them.  You know what I mean, I’m sure.  Who doesn’t buy a bunch of bananas every time they go to the grocery store.  Come on, that can’t be just me.

So like everyone else in this predicament, I make banana bread.   Familiar, reliable, sweet.  It’s a home run.

My favorite recipe for Banana Bread was my starting place for this recipe.   The yogurt in the recipe, in addition to the bananas, makes a nice tender bread, plus the texture it brought to the finished bread was amazing.   I added some whole fresh cranberries for some bright spots of color and a zing of tartness amongst the sweetness.  They are still appropriate for the season.


OK, let’s take a deep breath and relax as we make this bread.  This will not be stressful at all!

We will get out flour, spices and salt and whisk them together well.  Nice fluffy flour, with no lumps.  From the refrigerator, take out eggs, yogurt and butter.


Now about the butter….why add plain butter when you can add browned butter that’s nutty, fragrant, and has an almost caramelized flavor?  Yes, let’s do that!

What else so we need?  Brown sugar and the mashed banana.   This is turning into something special in spite of myself.

Stir it all together:  flour and spices plus all that banana goodness.

Last, throw in the cranberries, pretty little gems.  This is the festive part, the bells and whistles.

It makes a lot of batter for one 9″ x 5″ pan.   This can be one tasty loaf of banana bread plus 1 or 2 banana bread muffins; or divide into 2 smaller loaf pans, one for now, and one to freeze.

Don’t even think of baking this bread without some crumbly topping.  It’s the decorative ending, or beginning, as that is what you will see first, and tempt you to sample this yummy bread.


This bread can do no wrong.  It’s moist and soft.  Perfect for breakfast and snacking.  Studded with cranberries and topped with a crunchy topping.   I think you should make a loaf as soon as you have some black bananas,  maybe next weekend?


Yield:  (1) 9″ x 5″ loaf + 1 or 2 muffins, or (2) 8″ x 2″ loaves

For the bread:

  • 6 oz. unsalted butter, melted and browned to measure just over 1/2 cup
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (make part of it white whole wheat if you like)
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup lightly packed brown sugar
  • 1 1/4 cup mashed banana ( about 3 medium bananas)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup plain yogurt
  • 1  1/2 cups whole fresh cranberries


For the crumble:

  • 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cold
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 3 Tbsp. lightly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. salt


1.  Preheat oven to 350*F.  Spray pan(s) with non-stick cooking spray and line with parchment paper leaving about two inches of paper to hang over the long sides of the loaf pan.

2.  Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat.  Butter will begin to foam and crackle as it melts.  When the crackling subsides, the butter will begin to brown.  Swirl the pan as the butter cooks.  When the butter browns and begins to smell nutty, remove from the heat and transfer to a small bowl.  Taking the butter out of the hot pan will stop it from overcooking and burning.  Set aside to cool.

3.  In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt , cinnamon, ginger, and cardamom.


4.  In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar, mashed bananas, vanilla extract, and yogurt.


When butter has cooled, whisk in the browned butter.

5.  Add the wet ingredients all at once to the dry ingredients.


Fold together, making sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl to incorporate any hidden pockets of flour.  Fold together the ingredients, taking care not to over stir.


Fold in cranberries.



6.  Make the crumble:  Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and rub together with your fingertips until crumbly. (or cut in the butter with a pastry cutter.)

7.  Spoon batter into prepared pan(s).  Sprinkle the crumble over the top.


Bake the loaf for 50 – 60 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.  Remove from the oven and allow to rest in the pan for 15 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack to cool completely.


8.  Bread will last for 4 days, well wrapped at room temperature.  This loaf also freezes well.



SOURCE:    adapted from Coffee Cakes and Quick Breads




Mushroom Barley Soup

Mushroom-Barley Soup

Mushroom-Barley Soup

Here I am in my kitchen on the first really frigid day we’ve had.  The wind is blowing and  there’s a light cover of snow on the ground. We’re in for some bitter cold weather…..the Canadian Clipper has arrived.  (Canadian friends, thanks a bunch!).   I’m going to indulge myself today and wear my warm leggings, a sweater, heavy socks and slippers. And as you can probably guess I’m making…..soup!

This is excellent, excellent soup.  If you like mushrooms and you like barley, this combination in a soup can’t be beat. It’s very easy and economical to make and only takes about an hour.


This is a hearty soup with rich depth of flavor.  It’s even better the next day.  If it thickens up too much you can always add a little water or more broth.  I used two kinds of mushrooms;  baby bella(s) and porcinis that I cut rather thick, so biting into them is like eating meat.  The flavor is outstanding!!

Be sure to taste before adding salt as broth will have some salt in it, even if it’s lower in sodium.  I thought that the 1/4 cup olive oil was a bit too much so only used about half that amount, and the veggies sautéd just fine.  If you use regular barley instead of pearled, it will cook quicker if you soak it overnight.  Pearled barley cooks in about an hour or a little more.  When making soup it’s always best to plan a little extra time, but keep it 98% covered so the broth doesn’t evaporate away while it simmers.



Yield:  Makes about 6 servings


  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3/4 cup sliced carrots
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 6 cups beef broth  ( Vegetarians use vegetable broth.)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1 pound sliced fresh mushrooms (use 2-3 different kinds if possible)
  • 3/4 cup pearl barley, rinsed
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme



1.  Heat oil in a large soup kettle over medium heat.  Add the onion, carrots, celery and garlic;  cook and stir until onions are tender and transparent.

Saute the veggies in a little olive oil.

Saute the veggies in a little olive oil.

2.  Stir in mushrooms and continue to cook for a few minutes longer.

Add in the mushrooms.

Add in the mushrooms.

Pour in the beef broth and add the barley and thyme.


3.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low.  Cover and keep at a low simmer until barley is tender, about 50 – 60 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper as needed before serving.

Hearty and delicious.  Full of umami flavor!

Hearty and delicious. Full of umami flavor!


SOURCE:   Slightly modified from

Loaded Nachos

Loaded Nachos

Loaded Nachos

Around here we take our nachos very seriously.  Very, very seriously.

What this means is that we really do love nachos, and both Mr. D. and I agree we like them loaded with as much stuff as I can get my hands on.

When making nachos, it’s a little like building a house.  First you start with a good foundation (tortilla chips), then you build up the structure, a tower of multi layers of  seasoned beef, beans, crisp waffle fries, and cheeses.  Then you top it all off with some pico de gallo, that you made yourself; savory, colorful, and so delish.


When you look at the ingredient list for these nachos, it looks like a lot, but really it isn’t.  It all comes together when you experience that first perfect bite that contains a little bit of everything.  Yes, indeed!

I made these for New Year’s Eve.  They served as our supper, but you can serve them as an appetizer, or a snack.  (Think Super Bowl coming up.)  Once you start on them it’s hard to stop so take my advice and make a lot.


Yield:  Servings:  4


  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 lb.  ground beef
  • 1/2 tsp. chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 1 can (14.5 oz.) pinto beans, chili beans, or ranch style beans
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • tortilla chips
  • frozen waffle potato fries
  • 1 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 1/2 cup Mexican Blend, Taco blend or Monterey Jack cheese
  • 3 – 4 plum tomatoes, diced
  • 1 whole jalapeño, finely diced (optional)
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped (or use parsley)
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 avocado, pitted and diced
  • sour cream, (optional)


Start by cooking the waffle fries.  Follow package directions for oven temperature and length of time needed to get them  crispy on the edges.  Once cooked, remove from oven and set aside. If you prefer you may omit the waffle fries and use all tortilla chips throughout.  I prefer the fries because I like the texture contrasts in the finished nachos.


Next, dice up half the onion….


Heat up a non-stick skillet with a little olive oil….


and add in the chopped onion.


Cook the onions for a minute or two, then add in the ground beef.


Break it up and let it cook until the meat is browned.  Drain off any fat that has accumulated in the bottom of the pan.


Open the beans and add them to the pan along with the seasonings.    Stir it around to mix in the spices and blend the flavors.

Pour in the hot water to make it a little more saucy.  Reduce the heat to Low and let it simmer while you get the rest of the ingredients ready.


Next, chop up the rest of the onion, making a fine dice.


Next up,   chop up those tomatoes.  This is how I do it:  cut off the tops, then cut them into slices, then cut the slices into strips.  Now cross-cut the strips to dice them.  If you are using a jalapeño, use the same technique to dice it.


Peel and seed the avocado, cut into strips, then crosscut into cubes.

Now, throw the onions, tomatoes, avocado and jalapeño into a bowl.  Tell them to get acquainted, you’ll be right back.


Tear the leaves off half a bunch of cilantro (or parsley) and chop roughly.   Throw that into the bowl.

Cut a lime in half, and squeeze in the juice.  Add a little salt and pepper.


And  stir it all together.  That’s your Pico de Gallo!!

We like it a little chunky, but if your family likes it more finely chopped, that’s great.  It will all taste the same.

Finely, the cheese 🙂  I grated a yellow cheddar and used a package of Taco Blend.  I did not mix them together.  You’ll see why in a minute.


To assemble the nachos, make a single layer of chips on a platter or large plate.


Scoop up a big ole spoonful of the beef/bean mixture and sprinkle it all over the chips.  Messy is good, so let it be!


Sprinkle on a layer of cheddar,


This is where the goodness-level jumps up a notch:  Put on a layer of waffle fries….


And another layer of beef and beans…


Then a nice layer of Taco blend, and another layer of waffle fries.


Now use up the remainder of the beef/bean mixture to top it all,  and a final layer of Taco blend or cheddar (your choice).


I put mine back into the still warm oven (turned off), and let the cheese melt.  Alternately, you could nuke the whole shebang for about 45  seconds until the cheese is perfectly melted.


Spoon the Pico de Gallo on top of it all.   Why?   Because this is the roof on the house, or the flowers in the garden.   It’s the finishing touch that keeps you going back for more.   And it looks so pretty!

AND, because it’s all the veggies that makes this platter of nachos healthy.  I know for sure it’s what makes them so delicious!


I hope you enjoy my approach to making nachos.  Try them real soon, and of course, you can add whatever extras you like:  sour cream, chopped black olives, chopped green onions–anything.  My favorite part are the chips on the bottom that start to soften under all the gooey ingredients, while the waffle fries stay crisp.  Divine!

SOURCE:   Adapted from The Pioneer Woman Cooks