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Parmesan Vegetable Tian

So we have a lot of readers. And we post a lot of stuff. Mostly totally tasty dishes that don’t break the bank, but also tutorials, tips/tricks, and crafts. But like I said, were mostly all about the food. And good food too, although not necessarily always good for you. So I suppose the question was inevitable, even though it still caught me a bit off guard.

The Sons look pretty healthy, so where are all the leafy greens? Where are all the yummy veggie side dishes I’m holding back?

well there are several answers. First, with four boys and busy schedules I heart a good casserole. It’s the kitchen equivalent of one stop shopping. The Sons also usually have a salad before or with each meal, so even on nights we’re not doing a casserole, I don’t always stress a ‘veggie’ per say. And then those nights that we do have a side of broccoli, or cooked carrots, or peas etc, I tend to keep it either pretty plain or just tend to pay it no mind.

But we have heard your request! And this tian is always an instant hit at our table. It’s a great way to brighten up your table and your meal with a pop of color. It’s also a totally tasty way to get your veggies in.

Parmesan Vegetable Tian

 Vegetable Tian

recipe adapted from The Comfort of Cooking

cooking spray
1 tbsp olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 large yellow onion, diced
3 tsp minced garlic
1 medium zucchini, thinly sliced (1/8″)
1 medium yellow squash, thinly sliced (1/8″)
1 medium baking potato, thinly sliced (1/8″)
2 medium Roma tomatoes, thinly sliced (1/8″)
heaping 1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
3 tbsp grated Parmesan


1. Use your cooking spray to lightly coat a pie pan or a small casserole dish.
2. Heat the olive oil in a small skillet. Once hot, add the chopped onion and garlic, and cook until the onions are soft, about 5-7 minutes. Transfer the onion mixture to the prepared baking dish and spread it out over the bottom of pan. Evenly arrange the sliced vegetables on top, alternating as you go. Once you get all the way around, continue layering to fill the middle until no open space remains.
3. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil all over the layered veggies and sprinkle generously with Italian seasoning, before adding salt and pepper to taste. Cover with aluminum foil and bake covered at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.
4. Remove the aluminum foil and sprinkle the mozzarella and Parmesan over top of the vegetables. Return the dish to the oven and bake uncovered for an additional 15 minutes, or until the cheese is golden brown.

Fruit Salsa with Cinnamon Sugar Tortilla Chips

Today I’ve just got to tell you guys about one of our favorite Summertime treats. I’m sure just about everybody has heard of chips and salsa, right? In the past few years, I’ve seen more and more interesting variations and takes on them. Well The Sons have their own take on chips and salsa. Except our versions twists the ‘average’ version into an interesting dessert that anyone can love.

Fruit Salsa & Cinnamon Sugar Tortilla Chips

Whatever ideas you brought to the table about chips and salsa, let em go. One bite and your taste buds will be blown. It’s full of fruit, oh-so-sweet, and coated with a light and tasty glaze.

Fruit Salsa & Cinnamon Sugar Tortilla Chips 2

And we’re not just bringing our new favorite summer salsa to the table. Nope, we didn’t stop there. We’re also pairing it with some Cinnamon Sugar Tortilla Chips.


Dessert. perfection.

Fruit Salsa with Cinnamon Sugar Tortilla Chips

Fruit Salsa & Cinnamon Sugar Tortilla Chips 3

recipe adapted from Spend With Pennies

For the Chips

10 (10″) flour tortillas
cooking spray
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

For the Fruit Salsa

2 granny smith apples
1 lemon
2 kiwis
1 lb strawberries
1/2 lb raspberries, optional
1 tbsp brown sugar
3 tbsp preserves, strawberry or raspberry


1. In a small bowl, stir the cinnamon & sugar together to combine and set it aside.
2. Working with three tortillas at a time, spray each side lightly with cooking spray and then sprinkle generously with cinnamon and sugar on each side. Stack the tortillas together and cut into 12 wedges using a pizza cutter. Repeat until all tortillas are done.
3. Place the prepared chips on an ungreased baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 11-12 minutes, or until crisp.
4. Peel and finely chop the apples. Squeeze two teaspoons lemon juice over the diced apples and toss to coat.
5. Finely dice the strawberries and the kiwis. Gently stir to combine all the ingredients, keeping in mind that (if using them) the raspberries will break up some but that’s ok.
6. You can either serve the salsa as is at room temperature or chilled. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Sous Chef Sunday: Kool Aid Milkshakes

Like most other kids, the Sons don’t always appreciate everything I do in the everyday. And like every other mom or dad in the world, at some point all that taken-for-granted-ness and the take take take, more, more, MORE build up and eventually busts. And when that happens, this mom puts herself in time out. And lo and behold a miracle happens. They get there little selves together. Miraculously, attitudes improve, they become thankful, or at least polite again. I’ll take it, even if it’s only for a little while until the natural order reasserts itself.

 Kool Aid Milkshakes

And once very very blue moon there’s a ray of light in the ‘ they’re being crapheads ‘ darkness. This was one. For the one always doing the feeding, there are times when it can feel like a chore. I mean as much as I love cooking, meal planning, the whole nine yards I’m not just doing it for my passion anymore. I have to, it’s expected of me. And like any other job, occasionally I get ‘burnt out’ and just need a break. Especially when I hear all day the ‘that this or that would be or is good, BUT’ s …

so while i was all alone in time out, the grown up version where there’s good reads and my hidden chocolates, and generally leaving the hubs and sons alone, they go and do something totally unexpected and right up my alley with the mush factor and Make me something sweet to eat ‘because I’m a sweetie’. And not just any sweets, one of their favorites. Milkshakes! Who cares that there’s a chance I was just a means to an end, an excuse to enjoy these creamy drinks because they were awesome. But they SHARED their shakes with me. Totally hit the spot. And they weren’t made by me ! And they even cleaned up the kitchen.

While those lovely little kool aid packets make a tasty little treat with the simple addition of a little water, add a dash to two other things you’ve probably got stocked in the fridge and you’re in for a deliciously sweet treat that’s ready to enjoy in under five minutes. Two, tops! And how often do we get to embrace instant gratification in the kitchen?!

Kool Aid Milkshakes

kool aid milkshakes 2

1 tsp Kool Aid drink mix, flavor of your choosing
1 1/2 cup milk
3 cups of vanilla yogurt


1. Put all 3 ingredients in the blender and mix them up until they’re fully blended and you’ve got milkshake consistency. That’s it. One step and done.

The key to making this milkshake is adding vanilla flavored yogurt. Trust me on this. Plain yogurt is just too tart. I tried, folks. But as long as you use vanilla flavored yogurt the recipe will be perfect.

Crispy Oven Baked Cheese Fries

So I have a thing for french fries. But not just ANY fries. You can’t just hand off a limp strip of under-cooked potato and call it a french fry. I’m talking about crispy, and I mean crisp, fries are my thaaang. When they’re the best of crispy and soft at the same time, and homemade with lots of love.

Like these incredible crispy cheese fries right here. So finger-lickin’-good! They’re like the new and improved potato wedges, 2.0 version or something. And they’re so easy too! Like I could do it in my sleep over and over and nail it every time.

And guess what? My particular favorite (and the most surprising) thing about them, they’re super crispy and yet they aren’t fried.  No sir-ee Bob. They are baked, oven baked to perfection, until they are crispy, crunchy on the outside and delightfully tender inside. Baked until they taste fried, but aren’t.

 So go get ready. Just a few simple steps and you’ve got yourself finger-licking heaven on your hands.

Crispy Oven Baked Cheese Fries

 Crispy Cheddar Oven Fries

6 medium red potatoes, scrubbed with the skin left on and any bad parts removed
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs
3/4 cup your favorite grated cheese, we prefer a sharp cheddar but Parmesan would also work really well
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tbsp Italian seasoning


1. Cut potatoes into wedges and put the cut wedges into a large bowl.
2. Add the olive oil, bread crumbs, grated cheese, and seasonings to the bowl with the potatoes.
3. Gently toss everything together until all wedges are evenly coated.
4. Lay the prepped potatoes out onto a baking sheet covered with aluminum foil (dull side up), parchment paper, or a silpat.
5. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes, or until they’re golden brown and crispy.
6. Cool for a few minutes before serving.

Baked Gnocchi with Zucchini & Tomatoes

Have you started planting your garden yet? Are you already picturing the multitude of fresh veggies you’re going to enjoy in just a few months? Now that we’ve seen the last of Winter and the warmer weather is here to stay, I can’t wait to get my hands on some fresh vine ripened tomatoes and a ton of summer squash. And those are two things I just love.

I could lived off of tomato sandwiches on toast. I remember every summer growing up and going to Grandma’s house and her serving us up tomato sandwiches with ones fresh picked from the garden and so juicy they’d drip right down your chin if you weren’t careful. There wasn’t any delicacy better. It’s still my favorite summer time treat. Although tomato pie has become a close runner-up. And squash? I never thought I’d get my guys to willingly, and eagerly consume something like squash. I was not a very enthusiastic squash eater growing up, but that was because back then I didn’t know you could do anything with it beyond a microwave and a little bit of salt and pepper. My, my, my how things have changed.

 Baked Gnocchi with Zucchini & Tomatoes

Let’s talk recipes that take your summer squashes to the next level for a minute. Here’s the short dish list of some of the sons’ favorites:

Pimento Cheese Stuffed Squash

Zucchini & Squash Au Gratin

Cheesy Zucchini Rice

Zucchini Fritters with Chili Lime Mayo

We love taking such an old staple as squash and upgrading it from the country cottage table level and giving it that fancy city-fied attitude.

Baked Gnocchi with Zucchini & Tomatoes 3

And while those recipes were all well and good, something was still missing for me. I felt I hadn’t quite achieved the zenith of squash and tomato perfection. Close, but no cigar. And then I had a thought. Zucchini and tomatoes paired together in one perfect side dish. Add in a little gnocchi, fluffy little potato pillows of perfection, and we were more than in business. We were booming.

The flavors in this dish meld into one perfect ‘ah-ha’ moment in your mouth. We love the texture and just the over all cheesiness that the mozzarella adds, but feel free to leave it off if you’re trying to go for lighter fare.

Baked Gnocchi with Zucchini & Tomatoes

Baked Gnocchi with Zucchini & Tomatoes 2

recipe adapted from Chew Nibble Nosh

3 cups zucchini, sliced and halved or quartered
1 cup onion, roughly diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 (14.5 oz.) can diced tomatoes with Italian spices (basil, garlic, oregano)
1 (17 oz.) package gnocchi (potato dumplings)
2 cups sliced mozzarella cheese, divided


1. In a large skillet, sautee the onion and garlic in the olive oil over medium high heat. Saute about 5 minutes or until the onions are soft, and then add in the zucchini. Cook, stirring occasionally, for another 5 minutes. Add the can of tomatoes, stirring to combine. Cover the pan, reduce the heat to medium low, and then let the mixture simmer while the gnocchi cooks according to it’s package directions.
2. Drain the gnocchi when it’s done cooking.
3. Add salt and pepper, to taste, to the zucchini mixture and stir. Gently stir the gnocchi into the zucchini mixture and let everything simmer together for about a minute. Remove the skillet from the heat.
4. Spoon half of the gnocchi mixture into a 8 or 9 inch square baking dish that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Take half of the mozzarella cheese and sprinkle it on top of the gnocchi mixture. Layer the remaining gnocchi on top of the cheese and then arrange the remaining cheese over that layer of gnocchi.
5. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Turn the broiler of your oven on and broil, watching carefully, for 2-3 minutes until the top begins to brown.

Asian Chicken Wraps

Spring has sprung which, for the sons and I, meant another Spring Break sprung (up) upon us and just as sneakily slipped away. Everybody enjoyed themselves for the most part. A few days were touch and go though. Son # 4 has developed a case of motor mouth. If he’s awake, it’s running. It’s pumpking out questions. Everything is why? And he’s a repeater. It doesn’t matter how fa into a sentence or a story he is, if he gets interupted by anything, he begins again. From the begining, repeating every words just the same, whether it’s the third or fifteenth try. And I mean interrupted by anything. By me, by another thought, but a bird chirping when he’s trying to talk. The whole world must stop and give their full attention to every. single. word. Aside from that he doesn’t talk. He spells. Everything. He asks to spell everything. It’s like having a conversation in textlish. ‘I W-A-N-T … … Mama, how do you spell lunch again? L-U-N-C-H.” Most days it’s cute, but by day 4 I had pulled out the plug. Ear plugs, a great investment for any parent.

But speaking of lunch, with a whole week of everyone home for all their meals I do try to ‘spice’ things up a bit, after all it is Spring Break. Even if we’re staying home we can still pretend we’re on vacation right? We don’t have to be as responsible, and that’s reason enough to celebrate. So plain old, ho hum lunches just wouldn’t do. Sandwiches just scream ‘school day’. We want lunches that loudly proclaim, we’re home for a week full of sleeping in, binge watching tv, and lots of fort building in the woods. I don’t know about you, but we’ve found wraps are a good way to transform a boring sandwich into something that’s so much more. It’s ok to break away from the loaf and leave the boring sandwich behind.

This east meets west, easy wrap idea is perfect for lunch, or even a lighter dinner. And doesn’t an Asian Chicken Wrap sound way more exciting than a sandwich? Chock full of flavor with a perfect chow mein noodle crunch these were the perfect way to say ‘School’s out for Spring Break’.

Asian Chicken Wraps

 Asian Chicken Wraps

4 medium sized tortillas
2 chicken breasts, cooked and thinly sliced into strips
2/3 cup General Tso’s sauce
1/4 cup Teriyaki sauce
romaine lettuce, or other lettuce variety of choice
1/2 cup shredded carrots
4 tbsp chow mein noodles


1. In a small skillet or pot, add both sauces and stir to combine. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and allow the sauce to simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened.
2. Add the cooked, sliced chicken to a medium sized bowl and pour the prepared sauce over top. Stir to toss the chicken with the sauce until all the chicken is well coated.
3. To make each wrap, add about 1/3 cup lettuce, 1/2 cup chicken slices, 1/4 cup carrots slices, and 1 tbsp chow mein noodles down the center or each tortilla.
4. Fold in the top and bottom of each tortilla and then roll it up. Enjoy!

Apple Pie Cupcakes

Apple Pie. It’s a regular old American dessert. In fact it’s the sweetheart of American desserts. While it’s tried and true and a classic hit on dessert tables everywhere, it’s not all that easy to make. And it’s time consuming. And ain’t nobody got time fo that. At least not most days.  But then I got to thinking, and it occurred to me that cupcakes, especially ones that come from a box like the one sitting in my pantry, however are hardly any work at all AND they taste great.

 Apple Pie Cupcakes 2

And a beautiful old meets new, brand new spin on the old fashioned stand by emerged. Apple Pie CUPCAKES. Genius, right? From the outside you’d never guess it was anything other than an average cupcake, but one bite reveals it’s moist, cinnamon infused cake and surprise apple pie filling in the center.

Gimme, gimme, gimme!

Apple Pie Cupcakes 3

 All the same flavors, in a snap, with a lot less fuss and a lot less mess.  Top em with a hearty dollop of whipped cream or really splurge and throw on a decadent scoop of your favorite rich & creamy vanilla ice cream and dig in.

Apple Pie Cupcakes

Apple Pie Cupcakes

1 box of white cake mix
eggs, water, etc required on the back of the box to make said cake mix
1 tsp cinnamon
1 can (22 oz) apple pie filling
whipped cream, or ice cream, for topping


1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a cupcake pan with cupcake liners.
2. Make cupcake batter according to the package directions. Add in the cinnamon, mixing to evenly incorporate.
3. Chop apple pie filling into bite sized pieces.
4. Add 3 tbsp of cakes batter to each cupcake liner. Place one heaping tablespoon of pie filling on top of the batter in each cupcake liner.
5. Bake 18-20 minutes.
6. Top with whipped cream or ice cream.



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