Friday, March 31, 2017

Creamy Garlic Butter Tuscan Shrimp

We our finishing our fourth week of Lent and making great progress I have to say.  It's been challenging, but so worth it.  Diligently fasting from all adult beverages for the six weeks and sticking to our no meat on Fridays has really been good for us.  Not just for the dietary reasons, but most definitely for the practice of restraining and holding ourselves accountable to a commitment, which is never easy under any circumstances.

This dish however makes it very easy.  I will make this one over and over again in the upcoming is amazingly easy and packed with incredible, rich flavors.

Creamy Garlic Butter Tuscan Shrimp
Courtesy of (and adapted from )

2 Tbl butter
6 cloves garlic, finely diced
1 pound shrimp, peeled, deveined, tails off and thawed
1 small yellow onion, diced
1/2 cup white wine (or chicken or vegetable broth)
5 oz jarred sun dried tomato strips in oil, drained (I substituted roasted red peppers here)
1-3/4 cups half and half, milk or heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste
3 cups baby spinach leaves, stems removed
2/3 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1 tsp. cornstarch mixed with 1 Tbl water
2 tsp. dried Italian herbs
1 Tbl. fresh parsley, chopped

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Melt the butter and add in the garlic and fry until fragrant (about one minute).  Add in the shrimp and fry two minutes on each side, until just cooked through and pink.  Transfer to a bowl; set aside.

Fry the onion in the butter remaining in the skillet.  our in the white wine or broth and allow to reduce slightly.  Add the sun dried tomatoes (or roasted red peppers) and fry for 1-2 minutes to release their flavors.

Reduce heat to low-medium heat, add the half and half and bring to a gentle simmer, while stirring occasionally.  Season with salt and pepper to your taste.

Add in the spinach leaves and allow to wilt in the sauce, and add in the Parmesan cheese.  Allow sauce to simmer for a further minute until cheese melts through the sauce. (for a thicker sauce, add the cornstarch mixture) and stir well to incorporate until sauce thickens.

Add the shrimp back into the pan; sprinkle with the herbs and parsley, and stir through.

Serve over pasta, rice or steamed veggies.

One Year Ago: Roy's Braised Beef Short Ribs
Two Years Ago: Blackberry Coffee Cake with Pecans
Three Years Ago: Beer Battered Fish and Chips

Monday, March 27, 2017

Blueberry-Raspberry French Toast Bake

Today we mark the countdown...60 calendar days until graduation.  It hit me this past weekend...OH MY GOSH, I only have 2 months to knock out everything that needs to be done before graduation!

Any other person would think, oh I have two months, that's plenty of time.  Well, true to my DNA and personality, you would think I am planning a wedding for royalty.  I started with "the list" that my family dreads (but secretly I know they do love and appreciate it) keeps them on track!

So in between life, pre-college meetings and orientations, Senior school events, and Prom we're taking on this list one line item at a time, in addition to a few grad surprises I am making for the twins.

One thing that I am always adamant about, just to put my mind at ease is menu planning for all our guests and the graduation luncheon.  My thoughts are if someone is taking the time and money to come visit you, the least you can do is make it memorable and no one goes hungry...not on my watch...never!

I have no doubt that this Berry French Toast Bake will make an appearance at some point during visitors week.  This is right out of a Bed and Breakfast morning buffet, so good, warm and comforting!

Blueberry-Raspberry French Toast Bake
Adapted from

1 tub Pillsbury Grands Jr. refrigerated biscuists (8 total)
6 eggs
1 cup milk
1 Tbl cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 Tbl powdered sugar
1 cup fresh berries (1/2 blueberries / 1/2 raspberries)
1 cup maple syrup

Optional Garnish:
Powdered Sugar
Whipped Cream
Fresh Berries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cut each biscuit into 8 pieces.  Set aside.

In a bowl, beat the eggs, milk, cinnamon, and nutmeg until combined.  Set aside.

In another bowl, mix the cream cheese and powdered sugar until smooth.

Slowly whisk the egg mixture into the cream cheese mixture until well combined.

Add the biscuits and berries and mix thoroughly.

Pour entire mixture into a greased 9x13 glass baking dish.

Drizzle maple syrup over the entire mixture.

Bake for 35-45 minutes, until biscuits are golden brown.

Serve with powdered sugar, whipped cream and/or fresh berries on top, and a whole lotta love.  Enjoy!

One Year Ago: English Pea Salad
Two Years Ago: Pear Salad
Three Years Ago: Peas Bon Femme

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Pesto Chicken Caesar Salad and Puppies

Last Spring when I was wallowing in my self pitty and feeling sorry for myself that my twin daughters were leaving me (in a year) to graduate high school and go off to some unknown place(s) husband did everything he could to console me.

He realized that my "little girls" would be leaving and I would be sad and home alone with 3 boys (my husband and 2 male dogs).  He decided that I would need another little girl to get me through this empty nest transition.  Out of the blue, we heard about a litter of Labrador puppys that had just been born and would be ready for adoption in late Summer.

We went for "the visit"...Strike 1.  We found out she was born on our wedding anniversary...Strike 2. She curled up in our arms and started giving us the sweet puppy breath kisses on our cheeks...Strike 3.  You're done...SOLD!

I have yet to meet one person who can go on "the visit", cuddle a ball of soft, fuzzy fur, put the puppy back in the litter and say "no thanks, not interested" and walk that even possible?  Not in our world...not ever in our world!

Her name is Brinkley Grace...Brinkley from Tom Hanks' dog in the movie "You've Got Mail" and Grace (because we were wishful thinking)...honestly I don't know what we were thinking.  We have either gotten too old to raise a puppy or this child is like no other Labrador out there.  All I can say is she's lucky she's so cute and still gives sweet kisses...otherwise she'd be out.

Her latest venture was discovering the family workout area in our basement.  She tried to steal my daughter's punching bag gloves and destroy them in the backyard.  Then she jumped on, punched a hole with her giant 10-month old teeth in my husband's exercise ball and then tried to shred their yoga mat.  All of this takes place in about 3.7 seconds while I am on my computer.  I no sooner get that under control, sort of and I hear her tossing the 5 pound weights down the steps, which by the way is super loud at 11:30 at night.  So cute...right??!!

This salad ended up being one of those mid-week refrigerator cleaning dinners.  I have no fancy measurements or culinary was basic, easy and perfect for a night of chasing the new puppy.

Pesto Chicken Caesar Salad

prepared Pesto sauce
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
8 ounces button mushrooms, cleaned, sliced
1 head romaine lettuce
bottled Caesar dressing (your favorite brand)
shredded Parmesan cheese
4 cooked slices bacon, crumbled

Grill chicken breasts on outdoor grill or on stovetop in grill pan.  Right before chicken is cooked through, "shmear" a spoonful of pesto sauce on each side of chicken breasts and give a quick sear. Set aside and cover to let juices redistribute.

While chicken is grilling, saute mushrooms in a little butter and garlic salt.  When mushrooms are done, set aside and cut cooked chicken into bite size cubes.

In a large salad bowl add the romaine lettuce, Parmesan cheese, bacon crumbles, sauteed mushrooms and chicken breasts. Toss with Caesar dressing.

One Year Ago: Bunny Bark
Two Years Ago: Pear Salad
Three Years Ago: Honey Ham Biscuits

This is when we love Brinkley the most... ;)

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

20-Minute Skillet Tuscan Tortellini and Sun Dogs

Last week as I was rushing around running errands after work, I rolled up to a stop sign.  I looked over and saw a gentleman at the gas station with his phone, taking a picture up towards the sky.  I couldn't figure out what he was looking at.  I proceeded after my stop and then glanced up to see...the most glorious vision I have ever witnessed.

I saw a rainbow of clouds like no other with the sun peeking through in such a way that it looked like a silhouette.  Well, photos of these colorful clouds went viral and I learned they are called Sun Dogs. This whole time I thought my dog Theo was the only sun dog out there!

I'm just so happy that I stopped to take a breathe and a moment to relish in this beautiful scenery for that short time.  It reminded me that even in my hurried, crazy world my family and I are living in now as we are two months from high school graduation, I need to remember to pause and cherish these special gifts.

Which leads me back to the hectic times right now...this dinner is quick, easy and oh so flavorful.  It reminds me of something out of an authentic Italian restaurant...old world rustic.  Mangia!

20-Minute Skillet Tuscan Tortellini
Adapted from

2 Tbl. olive oil
1 bell pepper (color of your choice), seeded and chopped
1 small onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 lb.bulk Italian sausage (no casings)
1-1/2 cups pasta sauce (Marinara works great)
1 (14 oz.) can Italian diced tomatoes, with juices
1/2 cup Kalamato olives, sliced
1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 cup half and half
19 oz. bag frozen cheese tortellini
3 cups baby spinach, torn to bite size
freshly ground pepper
freshly shaved/shredded Parmesan cheese

In a very large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat until hot.  Add bell pepper, onion and garlic.  Stir constantly until fragrant, 30 seconds.  Push mixture to the edges of pan and add sausage into the center of pan.  Cook and break up sausage; once it's half-cooked, stir together with the vegetable mixture and continue cooking until browned.

Add pasta sauce, tomatoes with juices, chicken or veggie broth, Kalamato olives and half and half.  Stir and bring to a simmer.  Add frozen tortellini, stirring to submerge tortellini in the sauce.  Cover and simmer unti ltender, about 7-8 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Add spinach and stir just until wilted.  Add 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper.  Serve immediately with freshly shaved/shredded Parmesan cheese.

One Year Ago:  Portillo's Chopped Salad

Friday, March 10, 2017

Julie & Julia's Tomato Bruschetta

As we are in the season of Lent...I have a confession.  I have been making Bruschetta for over twenty years and it turns out I have been making it wrong this entire time.  I thought I knew what Bruschetta was but I have been completely off my game, until I had this version of Bruschetta!

We all know what a good movie does for me, especially when there is beautiful food involved!  I had forgotten about Julie & Julia and it was playing the other weekend.  I of course had great intentions of watching it while folding laundry.

My intentions fell to the wayside as I became engrossed in all the cooking scenes of course.  Next thing you know, I am plopped on my bed, curled up in my favorite blanket with daughter by my side, Labrador on my feet and we fall into movie land (with three foot piles of laundry surrounding us, waiting to be loved).

This Bruschetta is one of the earlier recipes in the movie and they did an amazing job making it look worked!  I hit the search engines and found this recipe...I am so in love with this appetizer/side dish, I cannot get enough of it.  The beauty of it, pairs so nicely with a salad or hearty bowl of soup and a nice bottle of red wine.  Bon Appetit!

Julie & Julia's Tomato Bruschetta
Adapted from

2 pints (or 15 ounces) heirloom cherry tomatoes (or red and yellow)
5 Tbl balsam vinegar
1 ciabatta loaf
2 Tbl oregano
2 Tbl thyme
3 Tbl fresh basil leaves, cut chiffonade
1 clove of garlic
4 Tbl olive oil
4 Tbl butter (the real stuff)

Take your ciabatta loaf and make some diagonal cuts along the loaf, outlining your slices of bread.  Don't make the slices too thin, as they will need to be thick enough to support the tomatoes.  You want to make some deep cuts but don't cut them all the way through.  Now brush some olive oil on the top and the bottom of the ciabatta loaf and try to rub it in between the slices as well.  This way you get a crispy crust on the outside or the bruschetta.  Place bread on a cookie sheet and put in a preheated oven at 180 degrees until the top and bottom are crispy (around 8-10 minutes).  Remove loaf and slice bread completely.

While bread is in oven, prepare your tomatoes and basil.  Cut the tomatoes in half and chop the basil finely, put them all in a bowl and add the vinegar, mix well.  Set aside.

Heat up some butter in a drying pan (cast iron, even better) and add your oregano and thyme.  Divide ingredients accordingly, as you will have to do this in batches.  By adding the spices to the butter, they'll be able to melt in the bread.  Fry the bread in butter/spices until both the top and bottom are crispy as well (on both sides).

When bread is done, rub the clove of garlic on top of every slice of bread for some extra flavor, and then add your tomato-basil mixture on top.  Serve while still warm.

One Year Ago: BBQ Glazed Meatloaf
Two Years Ago: 24 Hour Salad
Three Years Ago: Chile-Cheese Egg Bake

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Lemon Chess Pie and Creek Closet

As mentioned in a December post last year, I shared with all of you about the Silver Creek Leadership Academy program that both our daughters have been involved in during their high school career.

One daughter has taken on and created "Creek Closet" to provide a confidential pantry within the school for students and their families who have needs.  Her goal is to fill this pantry from top to bottom to help make a student's life a little bit better and brighter, even if it's just for one day.

Her time spent volunteering in the Rescue Missions at a young age, really made an impact in her life and she continues to reach out to help others.  Upon her graduation this May, her vision is to have a senior from next year's class continue her dream of Creek Closet.

If you or someone you know would like to donate to this wonderful project, you can reach out to her on Twitter @CreekCloset or contact Silver Creek High School, Colorado directly and ask how you can get involved with Creek Closet.  They are looking for anything from a can of non-perishable food, school spiral notebook, a pair of socks or even corporate donations (if you have any connections).

It's unfortunate that this cheesecake pie could not be a candidate for the Creek Closet pantry (it barely lasted in our kitchen) it was so good...and although it may not change the world, it may just actually make your day a little better and brighter too.  Have a great day!

Lemon Chess Cheesecake Pie
Courtesy of

1 (9-inch) deep dish frozen pie crust
1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
1-1/4 cup sugar, divided
3 eggs, divided
2 Tbl butter, melted
2 Tbl milk
2 tsp grated lemon rind
2 Tbl fresh lemon juice
1-1/2 tsp all-purpose flour
1-1/2 tsp cornstarch
1/8 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Beat together cream cheese, 1/4 cup sugar, and 1 egg at low speed of an electric mixer until smooth.  Spread cream cheese mixture into bottom of pie crust.
Whisk together 1 cup sugar, 2 eggs, butter, milk, lemon rind, lemon juice, flour, cornstarch and salt.  Pour over cream cheese mixture.
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until set.  Remove from oven and cool completely on wire rack.
Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Two Years Ago: Spicy Asian Beef
Three Years Ago: Tapenade Pasta Salad

Friday, March 3, 2017

Nicoise Salad and No Meat Fridays

Today is the first Friday of Lent and although a lovely rib eye steak to share sounds perfect tonight, we are trying to be steadfast and good this year.  Fish Friday it is.  Our church hosts a Fish Fry, every Friday during Lent and I do like a good Fish'n Chips...we will definitely have to try it out another week.

Tonight, we go a little French and fancy with the fish and this take on a Nicoise Salad.  I originally got the idea during a blizzard binge movie weekend and my favorite Eat, Pray, Love.  Julia Roberts sad down so elegantly, on the sun room floor, in her slip gown, reading the paper (in Italian of course) and ate this beautiful plate of freshly made hard boiled eggs, asparagus, olives and prosciutto.

Truth be told...I will most likely be in my sweats, hair up in a messy bun with three dogs lingering in the kitchen with me for scraps. Not quite as glamorous as Julia's version, but a girl can fantasize, right?

Nicoise Salad
Adapted from Delish
Serves 4

2 Romaine hearts, sliced
8 oz. green beans, trimmed and halved
4 large eggs
8-10 oz. salmon, cooked (to your liking) cut into pieces
1/2 cup Kalamato olives, sliced
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved

For the dressing;
1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tbl Dijon mustard
2 Tbl red wne vinegar
kosher salt
black pepper

Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to boil over medium-high heat.  Cook green beans until crisp-tender, 1 minute.  Remove with a slotted spoon and run under cold water, then transfer beans to a paper towel lined plate to dry.  return water to a boil and gently lower in eggs with a slotted spoon.  cook eggs 9 minutes, then drain and run under cold water.  Peel eggs and quarter lengthwise.

Whisk oil, mustard, vinegar, and a pinch each of salt and pepper in a large bowl.  Add romaine and toss to combine.  Divide between serving bowls and top with salmon, tomatoes, olives, green beans, and eggs, dividing evenly.

**I used my Traeger Salmon recipe for this and the result was amazing! Enjoy!

One Year Ago: Prosciutto Wrapped Chicken
Two Years Ago: Spicy Asian Beef
Three Years Ago: Tapenade Pasta Salad

Image result for scenes from eat pray love

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Twix Thank You Cookies and The Sharing Plate

On this first Day of Lent, it is a time for reflection, rebirth and renewal.  My family has chosen their individual sacrifices to give up for the next 40 days.  One thing that we try to give more of is thanks and gratitude by giving in some way or another.

I recently found this "Sharing Plate" that I absolutely fell in love with and give to someone whenever I bake them a "thank you gift".  They have the option of keeping the plate, or sharing it with someone else. After it leaves my hands, I have no idea if the plate ends up staying or moving on.  I do however have a friend that told me, "it's so cute, I just can't let it go".  I think I know where I will always find hers!

During our last blizzard wind storm, we lost a tree in our backyard...a really big tree...a very tall tree that split in the center.  One half of the tree lined the back fence and the other half lined the side fence (the entire fence). As a result, we needed to chainsaw the tree away and cut up for removal.

We borrowed a chainsaw from a co-worker...this said co-worker is addicted to Twix candy.  What else do you give someone as a thank you...Twix Cookies!

Twix Cookies
Courtesy of Life's Ambrosia

2-1/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) room temperature butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
1-1/2 cups chopped Twix candy bars (about 3 packages)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper.  Set aside.

Sift together flour, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.

In another bowl cream together butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar until creamy.  Bet in vanilla.  Bet in eggs 1 at a time.

Slowly mix in dry ingredients until well combined.

Fold in chopped Twix.

Scoop a tablespoon of dough into your hands and roll.  Bake 8-10 minutes or until edges start to brown and cookies are set.


One Year Ago: One Pot Chili Mac and Cheese
Two Years Ago: Chicken and Dumplings
Three Years Ago: Original Peanut Coleslaw