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Author: Michelle

A Girl in Love

A Girl in Love

Get ready to fall in love…

Katya had the chance to go with her Sunday school teacher to see a litter of the sweetest, fluffiest Golden Retrievers ever!!  She was so thrilled, and had a wonderful time soaking in the puppy wonderfulness.

As if that wasn’t enough to fill her nearly-9-year-old girl heart, the dog breeder also let her visit the horse and hold the Ragdoll cat.


Thanks to her teacher for arranging this special outing, and to the dog breeder for filling this little girl’s love bucket!  (Can you tell that these photos just make my heart happy?!)

Cherry Pie Bars

Cherry Pie Bars

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Cherry Pie Bars
Cuisine Staff Lunch
Servings
Ingredients
Cuisine Staff Lunch
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13 by 9-inch baking dish.
  2. In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt, set aside.
  3. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip together butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Mix in eggs one at a time, then blend in vanilla and almond extracts.
  4. With mixer set on low speed, slowly add in dry ingredients and mix until combined. Set aside 1 cup of batter and spread remaining evenly into prepared baking dish.
  5. Top with cherry pie filling spreading into an even layer. Crumble the remaining batter evenly over top.
  6. Bake in preheated oven about 40-50 minutes or until crust is fully done. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely on a wire rack before cutting into squares.
Recipe Notes

This recipe was adapted from the one I found at http://www.cookingclassy.com/cherry-pie-bars-aka-cherry-kuchen-bars/

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Raspberry Chocolate Chip Squares

Raspberry Chocolate Chip Squares

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Ridiculously Good! Raspberry Almond Chocolate Chip Squares
Easy and attractive, these are good crowd pleasers. It is also a nice way to use up several complimentary flavors of jam, if you have a few half-eaten jars cluttering up your fridge.
Cuisine Staff Lunch
Servings
Ingredients
Cuisine Staff Lunch
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Combine the flour and sugar in a large bowl.
  2. Cut in the butter until crumbly.
  3. Add in the egg and the almond extract. Mix well.
  4. Leave 1 cup of this mixture in the bowl and press the rest into a lightly greased 9X13 pan.
  5. Spread the jam over the pressed dough.
  6. Take the chocolate chips and sliced almonds and mix in with the reserved dough.
  7. Sprinkle this mixture over the jam layer in the pan.
  8. Bake at 350°F for 35-45 minutes. Let cool completely
  9. Slice into squares and enjoy!
Recipe Notes

This recipe was found at http://howdoesshe.com/ridiculously-good-raspberry-almond-chocolate-chip-squares/ and slightly adapted by me.

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Lasagna Soup

Lasagna Soup

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Lasagna soup is a crowd pleaser!  The delicious flavors of lasagna are all here, without the hard work and long baking time.  It also makes good leftovers, and as the noodles soak up the broth the mixture gets more and more like the texture of actual lasagna.  I often serve it for staff lunch.

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Lasagna Soup
This easy and satisfying soup might even be better than regular lasagna. It is certainly something I look forward to eating!
Course Soup
Servings
Servings
Ingredients
Course Soup
Servings
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil in soup pot over medium high heat. Add beef or sausage and diced onions. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring occasionally until browned. At the end of the cooking time, stir in minced garlic to saute.
  2. When the meat is well browned, add chicken broth, diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, and herbs. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook at medium-low for 20 minutes.
  3. While soup simmers, mix mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese, ricotta cheese, and parsley together in a mixing bowl. Set aside until serving time.
  4. When serving time is about 15-20 minutes away, put lasagna noodle pieces into the pot. Cook until noodles are tender, adding additional broth or water if needed. Adjust seasonings as desired.
  5. To serve, ladle soup into bowls. Top each bowl with a spoonful of the cheese mixture. Stir the cheese into the soup as you eat it to make everything melt together. Yum!
Recipe Notes

Recipe is adapted from this one at Cooking Classy: http://www.cookingclassy.com/lasagna-soup/

 

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Buttermilk Scones

Buttermilk Scones

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Buttermilk Scones
This recipe was given to me by a long time friend, back in our "newly married-let's have a tea party" days. I've made it for baby showers, wedding showers, and plenty of breakfast and brunch occasions. I have included some flavor variations at the end, but the original cranberry white chocolate version is the one I'm sharing here.
Servings
dozen small scones
Ingredients
Servings
dozen small scones
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375. Lightly grease a cookie sheet.
  2. Put dry ingredients into a bowl or the bowl of a food processor. Stir briefly to combine.
  3. Using the food processor or two knives, cut in the the 6 Tbsp. of butter. Pulse or chop until mixture forms coarse crumbs. If using a food processor, move the mixture into a mixing bowl.
  4. Gently stir in buttermilk, egg, and vanilla. Only mix until combined. Sometimes I have to add a bit of extra buttermilk at this point (about 1 Tbsp. or so).
  5. Fold in cranberries and white chocolate chips.
  6. Scoop scones onto prepared baking sheet--I use my standard sized cookie scoop and end up with about 2 dozen scones.
  7. Bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes, or just until scones become firm and begin to turn golden around the edges.
Recipe Notes

Flavor variations: (Use these in place of the cranberries and white chocolate)

Mocha: 1 tsp. instant coffee granules and 3/4 cup mini chocolate chips

Toffee: 1/2 cup toffee baking bits, sprinkle scones with brown sugar before baking

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Lettuce Wraps

Lettuce Wraps

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Lettuce Wraps
This is easily one of my most requested recipes. It is a very popular staff lunch choice, and I always look forward to eating it as well as making it. Colorful, flavorful, unusual, fun to eat, good leftovers, easy to freeze and reheat--what's not to love?!!
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Staff Lunch
Servings
Servings
Ingredients
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Staff Lunch
Servings
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. In a large skillet, heat 1 Tbsp. oil on high. Add ground chicken, diced onion, and grated carrot. Cook until chicken is nearly done, stirring often to break up the meat.
  2. Meanwhile, in a microwave safe bowl or glass mixing cup, combine sesame oil, soy sauce, peanut butter, honey, rice vinegar, and chili garlic sauce. Microwave for 30 seconds to soften the honey and peanut butter, then stir until well mixed.
  3. Add minced garlic and ginger to the chicken mixture and cook a minute or two more or until fragrant. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Pour peanut butter mixture into the skillet and stir well to coat the chicken mixture.
  5. Add red pepper, green onion, and water chestnuts to the skillet and cook for 2-4 more minutes or until everything is heated through.
  6. Rinse the lettuce leaves, pat dry, and put on a plate or in a bowl. Put chopped peanuts in a separate bowl, and chicken mixture in a third serving bowl.
  7. To eat, scoop chicken mixture onto a lettuce leaf and top with peanuts. Top with more chili garlic paste if desired. Wrap "burrito style" and enjoy the messy goodness! (I often serve rice with these too, either to put into the lettuce wrap or to catch all the tidbits that fall out on the plate!)
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Pasta with Sausage and Fennel

Pasta with Sausage and Fennel

Another random holiday photo share, and another recipe at the end.  Today’s pictures feature our gingerbread construction.  First, the gingerbread items arrive in the mail.  They are safely stored away until the ideal moment arrives.

On a calm afternoon, it’s time to pair off and go to work.  Two teams, two gingerbread projects, and the last of the coloring tablecloth to catch all the crumbs!

The finished products are proudly displayed for quite a while (although the jelly beans start disappearing remarkably quickly…)

Good work, builders!

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Pasta with Sausage and Fennel
This pasta recipe isn't that hard to assemble, and the fennel and fun pasta shapes make it a good meal for entertaining guests. Don't be afraid of fennel's licorice-y reputation. Its flavor mellows nicely when cooked, and no one at our table was bothered by it. This dish is also surprisingly good as a leftover, which is unusual for pasta.
Course Main Dish
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Course Main Dish
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions. Drain.
  2. Heat olive oil in a skillet or electric frying pan over medium high heat. Add sausage and brown, breaking up large pieces with a wooden spoon.
  3. Cut thick stalks off the fennel bulb (reserving leafy fronds for garnish). Remove the core of the fennel bulb and slice the rest into thin strips. Slice the onion half thinly as well. Halve the cherry tomatoes or chop regular tomatoes.
  4. Add fennel and onion to sausage. Cook 6 minutes and reduce heat to medium.
  5. Stir in chopped tomatoes. Cook 3 minutes or just until warmed. Garnish with fennel fronds if desired.
  6. Serve immediately with plenty of Parmesan cheese.
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Pork and Veggie Enchiladas

Pork and Veggie Enchiladas

We enjoyed so many good dinners with friends over the holiday season!  This recipe was requested by one of our guests, and I am happy to share it.

Since I am not a food photographer, I will also add some unrelated photos to this post just to make it more interesting.  One of the fun things we sometimes do in a busy entertaining season is print up a large coloring tablecloth to be enjoyed by guests both young and old.  Here’s what the Christmas one looks like:

I think the adults have even more fun than the kids, sitting around with pencils and markers, doodling and shading while they talk.  It’s a great way for different ages to hang out together.

If we are careful, the coloring might even survive more than one dinner party.  We never get it totally finished, but it is fun to watch the colors and patterns grow over a few days before it is time to say goodbye.

(If you want more info about the tablecloth, here is the website where I purchased the file: http://caravanshoppe.com/  I’ve gotten lots of really good printables from them!)

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Pork and Veggie Enchiladas
These tasty enchiladas prove that you can hide all kinds of interesting veggies in a dish. As long as it is smothered in enchilada sauce and cheese people will love it! I started with a Penzey's recipe and modified it significantly to fit my tastes and what I had on hand. Don't be afraid to experiment!
Course Main Dish
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course Main Dish
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 9x13 pans, or one 10x15 and one 9x9. (I use a big one for company, and then freeze the little one for a later dinner).
  2. Brown the pork in a large skillet or electric frying pan over medium heat until no longer pink, about 8-10 minutes. Drain well.
  3. Add onion, bell pepper, carrot, celery, and Southwest Seasoning or other herbs. Cook until the veggies are softened, about 8-10 minutes.
  4. Add the beans, zucchini and corn. Add 1/2 cup of the enchilada sauce. Stir to combine thoroughly. Cook over medium heat until everything is heated through, about 10 more minutes.
  5. Spread a thin layer of enchilada sauce over the bottom of each baking dish.
  6. Microwave the corn tortillas wrapped in towels or plastic wrap for 1 minute or until steaming hot. (If they break when you try to bend them, heat them up some more!)
  7. Put a few spoonfuls of pork and veggie mixture in the center of each tortilla and roll as tightly as possible. Place seam-side down in prepared baking dishes. Continue until your pans are full, you run out of tortillas, or you run out of filling.
  8. Pour the remaining enchilada sauce over the enchiladas. Sprinkle evenly with shredded cheese.
  9. Bake enchiladas at 350 degrees for 35-45 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and beginning to brown around the edges.
  10. Serve with desired toppings--we like sour cream, avocado, lime wedges, and cilantro.
Recipe Notes

When I made this recipe, I ran out of tortillas before I ran out of filling, so I froze the rest of the filling for later use inside quesadillas or on top of nachos.  If you are freezing half the batch, cover the assembled enchiladas well with foil and plastic wrap.  A disposable square aluminum cake pan works great, and after covering it with foil it slides easily into a 1 gallon ziploc freezer bag.  Label and freeze!  When you are ready to use them, thaw as much as possible (overnight in the fridge is best).  Cook covered for 25-35 minutes, then uncover and cook 20-30 minutes more or until browned and bubbly.

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Twas the Night Before School Started…

Twas the Night Before School Started…

After titling this post, I briefly considered writing it in the style of Clement Moore’s famous poem, and then quickly discarded the idea as involving entirely too much thinking.  Sorry, my creativity didn’t make it past the title!  But, now that my “children are nestled all snug in their beds” I decided to take a quick moment to share some Christmas memories before life lurches back to full swing in the morning.

Our break has been delightfully full of an excellent mix of events and relaxation (and sometimes both at the same moment.)  The first week was more crowded with holiday festivities including various groups of family and friends, while the second week was more laid back with lots of game playing, playdates, and hanging around home.  Here are a few of my favorite pics:

Nathan and Katya are now professional Christmas card assemblers.  Keep them in mind for next year’s holiday mailings!

One child was Gabriel in the annual Christmas pageant, and the other was a sheep.  Can you tell which was which?  (We will be hosting private viewings of the DVD for any and all interested parties, popcorn and hot tea included in the price of admission)

Our annual light-looking drive is always a highlight.  Eating drive-through fast food in the car while roaming in search of some of the best lights Than can find is always an evening I look forward to 🙂  We enjoyed sharing the trip with a few extra guests, and by the end Katya just had to give up and go to sleep beside me.

SO MANY kind boxes arrived in the mail from various loved family members, and we spread out the fun by opening each one at a separate time.  Love it!!

Our Christmas Day gathering was a simple and cozy one, featuring baked potato soup, yummy extras brought by my aunt and cousin, and good time with various people from both sides of the family.  I am so grateful for each year I get to celebrate with these beloved people.

Our holiday time has been a season of joy, family, warmth, and hope.  There is so much to be grateful for, and all of it is God’s rich and undeserved grace.