Tomato and Asparagus Salad It's a Keeper

Fresh Tomato and Asparagus Salad

There is nothing like the taste of fresh asparagus to signify that spring is here.  As one of the first harvests of spring, there’s a small window of time when asparagus is at its finest. This tomato and asparagus salad, topped with a tangy balsamic vinaigrette is the perfect way to welcome warmer weather.

This crisp, light salad showcases all that tender asparagus has to offer.  It’s almost like you can taste spring-time in every bite.   It’s truly a beautiful salad.  The red, juicy tomatoes contrasted with the bright green asparagus and ribbons of fresh basil.  The whole thing glistening from the vinaigrette.   It’s a sight, I tell you.

Hassleback Cheesy Potatoes It's a Keeper

Hassleback Cheesy Potatoes

Just what is a Hassleback Potato, you ask?  Fanned out like an accordion, these spuds were named after the Restaurant Hasselbacken in Stockholm, Sweden.  It was here that these delicious cheesy potatoes were created.

While these little gems may look intricate and difficult to make, they aren’t. They are just a few simple steps away from traditional, every day, run-of-the-mill baked potatoes.   All it takes is a few swipes of your knife (be sure to take note of the wooden spoon trick below) and some scrumptious toppings.  And viola!  Hassleback Cheesy Potatoes!

Lemon Blueberry Bread It's a keeper

Blueberry Lemon Bread

There is something magical about the combination of blueberries and lemon.  Just the thought of these two flavors together makes my mouth water.  When I came across this recipe for Blueberry Lemon bread, I couldn’t resist.

This bread is really more of a cake.  It has the consistency of a pound cake but with all of the added flavor a quick bread.   Plus it’s bursting with the bright, happy flavors of lemon and blueberry!

Italian Wedding Soup It's a Keeper

Italian Wedding Soup

In the winter, I have a love affair with soup.  It tickles my fancy and it warms my soul.  OK, I don’t know about the soul part, but it makes me feel good and I love it!

I especially love soups that are full of hearty goodness.  Lots of veggies.  Rich broth.  And, of course a little cheese doesn’t hurt either!

I have a particular affinity for Italian Wedding Soup.  Maybe it’s my Italian heritage coming through.  Or, maybe it’s because I love the little meatballs?  It’s probably the meatballs!  Until recently, I never made my own Italian Wedding Soup.  I thought it was too complicated.  You have to make a broth and then dozens of little meatballs.  It was one of the dishes that I would rather order out.  Until recently.

I took the best parts (according to me) of several recipes and combined them all to come up with this one.

Elf on the Shelf Food It's a Keeper

Elf Food (a.k.a. Peppermint Chex Mix)

Elf on the Shelf Food It's a KeeperWe’ve been very busy the past few weeks getting together with our good friends for some fun holiday parties!  First up was our Elf on the Shelf party!

This was the night that our Elf on the Shelf, Charlie, made his official appearance! He appeared on the roof of the car as we went to leave.  My 6 year old and his friends were ecstatic and ran screaming through the neighborhood!

We all got together with intentions of watching the Elf on the Shelf movie, but the kids had such a fun time playing with each other, we never got to watch the movie.  They also made a super cute hand-print snowman ornament.  Sadly, my son was so excited about Charlie that he tripped and smashed his ornament, so I don’t have the finished product to show you.

There were  also all kinds of fun treats, complete with a bag of Elf Food (a.k.a. Peppermint Chex Mix) for the kids to feed their elves. Try these fun cookies too. My Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies/

Weight Watchers Pork Tenderloin

Seasoned Pork Tenderloin: A Super Fast Supper

Everywhere I go, I find myself in conversations about food.  I also find myself scribbling down recipes on scraps of paper, backs of envelopes or, even napkins.  I can’t help myself.  I think I have an addiction.

This recipe is from one of those instances.  I was at church and, as usual, engrossed in a conversation about food.  We were going back and forth about our go-to recipes.  You know, the ones that you end up making about once a week!  My friend was telling me about a great pork tenderloin recipe that was super simple and packed with flavor.   That sure got my attention! 

Emeril Lagasse Sweet Peas Au Gratin

Emeril’s Au Gratin Sweet Peas

Is it bad that I’m already thinking about Thanksgiving? Thanksgiving is “my” family holiday — which means it’s my turn to have the whole fam over. So, I’m always on the lookout of Thanksgiving dinner contenders.  I came across this recipe for Au Gratin Sweet Peas in the pile.  It was waaaay down on the bottom.  Probably because I printed it out in 2000!  This was back when Emeril Lagasse was the big star Food Network.  Pre Rachel. Pre Paula.  Pre (dare I say it…) Ina.

My mom makes the best creamy peas.  You know, the ones with the little pearl onions in a cream sauce.  Soooo good!  I was curious to see if Emeril’s recipe was as good.

Nepa mom

Guest Post: Making Life Easier with Bulk Cooking

I am so excited to introduce a special guest-blogger today! Megan from NEPA Mom is sharing how she makes her life easier with bulk cooking. Megan is a very busy stay-at-home mom/blogger who shares family-friendly activities, great deals, and reviews of products that make her life easier!   NEPA Mom is a great site to bookmark if you’re looking for things to do in northeastern Pennsylvania, or if you’re planning to visit.  It’s such a wealth of information-you’ll never search for something to do with the family again!

So with a big round of applause, let’s welcome Megan!

Burger with caramelized onions

Burgers with Caramelized Onions

Don’t tell my husband, but I’m having a love affair.  I’m obsessed.  I just can’t seem to get enough…..of onions!  Yes.  Onions.  It’s nothing that sordid, but oh, so wonderful, nonetheless!

I seriously, can’t seem to get enough.  I like them roasted, sauteed, grilled, raw.  Basically, any way imaginable.  So, it only makes sense that when I watched The Pioneer Woman a few weeks ago on Food Network, my mouth started watering when she made her sliders with caramelized onions!  I mean, c’mon!  A big pan full of golden-brown strands, glistening from the butter…all tender and silky.  I can almost taste them!  There was only one thing left to do…slap a pan on the stove and melt some butter…honey, we’re gonna caramelize some onions!

Peach Cake 1 It's a Keeper

Summer Peach Cake

The other night, my mother called and asked if she could come over…with dessert!  Uh, duh!  She had found a recipe in the newspaper for a fresh peach cake and, since her peach tree has produced a lot of fresh peaches she thought she would give it a whirl!

Our local newspaper, The Scranton Times Tribune, has a weekly feature where they select two recipes to showcase in Wednesday’s edition.  About a year ago, I was lucky enough to be selected and have my recipe for Braciole featured!  It was quite exciting — my 15 seconds of “fame”! So, I was excited to try a recipe from another local cook! The recipe below is from Marilyn Altomare.

Wegman's Grilled Orzo Salad

Grilled Orzo Salad

A few years ago I went to a cooking class at my local Wegman’s supermarket.  It was a great class on grilling.  I learned a log of great tips and techniques.  One of the recipes they made that night was a Grilled Orzo Salad.  I must have liked the recipe, because I found it buried deep in my recipe stash. 

Grilled Salad with Strawberry Balsamic Reduction

Grilled Salad with Strawberry Balsamic Reduction

During the hot, sticky summer months, I’m always on the lookout for new salad ideas. Maybe it’s because I’m not in the mood for heavy dishes. Or, maybe it’s because my garden is always so plentiful during the dog-days of summer. Whatever the reason, my recipe pile is full of contenders — everything from slaws, pasta salads and mayo-based concoctions to plates full of leafy goodness.

S'mores Bars

S’mores Bars

One of my favorite parts of summer is sitting by a roaring fire outside as the sun sets and disappears behind the mountains.  Maybe it’s the peepers and crickets chirping…or the cozy feeling of the warm fire and soft blanket around my shoulders.  Maybe it’s the conversation and storytelling?  Or, maybe….it’s the marshmallows! 

Carrot Cake Pancakes

Carrot Cake Pancakes

Uh, did I read that right?  Carrot cake for breakfast?  YESSSS!!!!  I think carrot cake is my all time favorite dessert.  It’s got sweetness.  It’s got spice.  It’s rich and decadent.  Seriously, folks, what’s not to love?!?  I stumbled across this recipe on the Tasty Kitchen Blog and it looked deeeee-licious!

Chocolate Covered Strawberry Pie

Chocolate Covered Strawberry Pie

A few weeks ago, Mrs. Happy Homemaker linked up this delightful recipe. The minute I saw it, I had to give it a try. I literally dropped everything, threw my son in the car (well not really threw, but quickly ushered him) and headed to the grocery store to pick up the ingredients I didn’t already have.

Once I got home I was able to whip this pie up in no time flat! And, it’s a good thing. Because I had a peanut gallery that was drooling over my shoulder!

Pioneer Woman Chili

Simple, Perfect Chili

I read cookbooks like other people read romance novels — cover to cover, absorbing every delicious measurement and instruction as if it were the feud between Edward and Jacob (sorry, I had to throw in the Twilight reference).

As soon as I received my copy of The Pioneer Woman Cooks by Ree Drummond (thank you, Mr. UPS guy), it was no different.  As soon as my son was in bed, I settled down on the couch with a cup of tea to read my new book.  Bliss.

As I was reading through P-Dub’s (cute, huh?!) recipes, artfully intertwined with great stories of her transition from big-city girl to a pioneer woman who works a ranch, I came across her recipe for Simple, Perfect Chili.  Ding! Ding! Ding!  I just found my recipe for the cookbook review!

King Ranch Chicken Casserole

King Ranch Chicken Casserole

For months now (maybe even years), I’ve come across recipes for King Ranch Chicken Casserole in various magazines, cookbooks, websites, and blogs.  I even saved a few in my pile to make a later time.  But, for some reason, I’ve never made it.  I don’t know why.

I decided it was time to try this recipe.  I was in the mood for a casserole — there’s something about casseroles and comfort food — so I thought, “what the heck?!”

Is It a Keeper?

Why, oh why, did I wait so long to make this recipe?  Everyone loved it!  It was creamy and cheesy with just a little hint of heat.  Mmmmm!  I really loved the flavor that the corn tortillas added.  There was even a debate about who got to take the leftovers for lunch the next day!

It's a Keeper Recipes

Roasted Cinnamon Pear Bruschetta

When I came across this recipe in my in-box, I don’t know what I liked better — the “cinnamon pear” part or the “bruschetta” part!  Put both of those things together and it sounded like bliss!   The recipe came from The Pioneer Woman blog — if you’ve never checked it out, I highly recommend it!  She does a great job — great recipes (like this one!), great photos, just plain awesome! Oh, and check out her photo for this recipe…I had a camera mishap and don’t have a photo for this recipe. 

Apple Bundles

While I enjoy the long, lazy summer days, it’s the cool, crisp days of fall that I really crave!  I wait all year long to enjoy the few short weeks, where the mountains are covered in orange, yellow and red patches and the days are cool and sunny.  You know…when you need to wear a sweatshirt but you can still get a sun burn!

This was the perfect autumn weekend!  Bright sun, colorful leaves, two whole days with nothing to do but visit the pumpkin patch and the apple orchard!  Bliss!

This weather always inspires me to cook and bake!  And, since we had just left the Ritter’s Cider Mill with all of our favorite finds (buckets of Jona Gold, Macoun and Gala apples, apple cider donuts and, of course, apple cider), I wanted to find some new apple recipes.

Mashed apples used to make apple cider

Pressing the mashed apples to make cider

Bread and Butter Pickles

For those of you that have been following my blog, you know that I’ve been dying to learn how to can!  A few weeks ago I sent out a plea for a little old lady to teach me!  I have to say, I was shocked (and touched) at how many people offered up their grandmas and aunts to me!

Well, I never did complete a canning apprenticeship with a little old lady.  But, this past weekend, my mother and I decided we were going to take the bull by the horns and teach ourselves! 

Chicken Orzo Salad with Goat Cheese

I’m always on the lookout for dishes that I can pre-make for my work lunches.  So when this recipe popped up in my inbox I thought I would give it a try. 

Open faced chicken caprese sandwich

Open Faced Chicken Caprese Sandwiches

My husband works a swing shift as a crime fighter so some nights, it’s just Joey (my 4 year old) and I for dinner.  Tonight was one of those nights.

Grilled Garlic Corn on the Cob

I just got home from my friend Jill’s house tonight and, not only did we have great conversation but she had the BEST corn on the cob that I’ve ever had!

They say that a great hostess makes her guests feel right at home and gives the impression that nothing is too much trouble for her guests.  This is Jill.

It was a simple cookout.  The kids swimming in the pool.  Hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill.  Big wedges of watermelon on the table.   And, corn on the cob.   A perfect, warm June evening. 

Creamy Coleslaw and Remembering Bingham’s

Coleslaw is one of those foods that I either love or hate.  If it’s made well (translation: to my particular liking), I can’t enough of the stuff.   I think the best coleslaw I have ever tasted was at Bingham’s Family Restaurant in Lenox, PA.  It was perfectly creamy with a hint of sweetness and a little kick.  Of course, I’m not surprised that their coleslaw was fabulous.  Everything I’ve ever ordered from Bingham’s was wonderful.

Birdseed Biscuits

I was looking for a fun project that Joey and I could make for his grandmothers and great-grandmother for Mother’s Day.  I came across this recipe for Birdseed Biscuits in Family Fun Magazine. Since our families love our feathered friends, I thought this would be the perfect hand-made gift!

And, since we had to mix the “biscuits” and bake them, I thought I would share our experience on my blog!

Copycat Ruth's Chris Vanilla Cream with Berries

Copycat Ruth’s Chris Sweet Vanilla Cream with Berries

A few weeks ago, I had a wonderful birthday dinner at Ruth’s Chris Steak House.  The food was absolutely to-die-for!  I remember feeling a little bit sad when I took my last bite of filet mignon.  It was heavenly!  Just when I thought I couldn’t eat another bite, the waiter brought our dessert.  It was a small dish of vanilla cream with fresh berries on top.

Oh…my…god!  Words cannot describe how good that stuff was!  I knew I had to figure out to make this for myself! 

Roast Chicken with Balsamic Bell Peppers

Photo by Jim Hitchcock

I found this recipe in one of the many cooking e-newsletters that I receive.  It sounded and looked great so I thought I would give it a try. 

Cherry Jubilee Cheesecake Squares

My sister-in-law, Cathy, make this dessert for Easter dinner.  She found the recipe on the back of a cake mix box.  While I didn’t make the recipe, per se.  I was an active taste-tester! And, that’s what this blog is about.

Raspberry French Toast Bake

I’m always looking for new recipes to make breakfast more special.  When I came across this recipe, it looked divine!  I couldn’t wait to try it!  So, I assembled everything and took it over to my parent’s house for Sunday brunch.

The Chili Test

I’ve been looking for a great chili recipe.  In the past I’ve just used the pre-packaged seasoning mixes and added it to ground beef, onions and green peppers.  The other day,  I came across a recipe that looked good so I’m giving it a try!

Chicken Stew with Balsamic Roasted Vegetables

Photo taken by my husband!

For this week’s taste test, I pulled out a recipe that I’ve been dying to try for some time — Chicken Stew with Balsamic Roasted Vegetables.  I came across this recipe in a Taste of Home magazine (October/November 2009) and it found its way into “my pile”!  It appeared that this recipe would take a bit of time to make since I had to roast the vegetables before making the stew.  My plan was to have this as a weeknight dinner so I did a little prep work on Sunday afternoon.