my, oh my, apple apple pie

I got a special request to make these. My Uncle saw it and posted the link on my wall for Thanksgiving, which we wouldn’t be home for. I thought it was cute and forgot about them, but as Christmas got closer my mother informed me that my Uncle had hinted that he sure would love to try one of those apple pie apples….wink wink, nudge nudge. Of course, after looking them up to find the directions, the first thing that pulled up was a link to a “pinterest fail” with a picture of how it looked on pinterest (perfect little apples, browned and round) next to the “my attempt” picture, which looked more like the poor girl put mini bombs inside of each apple because they had literally exploded into a big mushy mess. Needless to say, I was a little worried as I embarked on making these myself. Luckily, they came out beautifully and were delicious (plan to put a scoop of vanilla on top if you have the chance!) although they don’t keep well so cook them accordingly so they can be eaten within a few hours of being out of the oven. Rumor is you need to keep an eye on them and don’t over bake, I believe that’s when the explosions occur, as the apples get too soft and you’ll end up with apple sauce.

The recipe is per apple, which gives you the flexibility of picking the number of apples you want to do. We did 8, 4 granny smiths and 4 fuji apples. The best types of apples for pies are granny smiths, braeburn, fuji, and pink lady apples. Some less easily available but delicious choices if you can find them are jonathan, jonagold, pippin, and gravenstein apples. Some to avoid are red delicious and golden delicious, gala, and cortland, since they tend to become mealy in pie fillings.

I baked these right after flying in to my mom’s house the night before Christmas Eve, so I opted for a premade pie dough in the refrigerated section and it made this recipe even easier and was delicious. If you have the time, try out making your own dough which I will post below as well.

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the perfect blueberry muffin


I love blueberry muffins. They are the all pleasing breakfast treat, always welcome and always yummy. Recipes vary here and there but overall they end up with the same basic result. This recipe is the recipe you’ve been looking for. The recipe I always wanted but never found. It’s the kind of muffin you’d want to make if you owned a bakery because it’s better than JUST a blueberry muffin. It’s a blueberry muffin with swirls of homemade blueberry jam and a lemon sugar crust to top. It’s simple yet grand, soft yet crunchy. It may seem like a lot more work than your typical muffin recipe but really it’s just an extra 10 minutes. And I will let you in on the modifications to make it a healthier option as well—using some applesauce, splenda, and wheat flour. It’s now the only blueberry muffin recipe I use, and I get rave reviews every time. And to really impress or for a great gift, make them jumbo size.

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not your mama’s spaghetti


I saw this and knew we would love it. The idea of this recipe is simple and brilliant. It’s everything lovable in a simple Italian meal, all in one beautiful presentation. Pasta, sauce, cheese, and delicious garlic bread. One of our favorite recipes is also a crescent roll style braid, and I love the variability in these types of meals because they are easy to change up to fit different tastes or what you have on hand. This was easy and delicious, I made it without any meat to save some time, but some sausage or ground beef/turkey would add something extra as well.

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the perfect summer sweet

THIS is the perfect summer cupcake. PERFECT. My favorite by-the-pool drink is a pina colada, and this captures the mood and flavor perfectly. It’s a delicate balance of creamy coconut icing and a moist pineapple cake. These are a must at any picnic, by the pool, at the beach, in a dark closet by yourself….whatever the occasion. They are on the top of my list for favorite cupcake recipes by far. Give them a try, and don’t forget to top them with true pina colada flair!

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barely barley

I’ll admit, I wasn’t looking for a risotto recipe when I stumbled upon this little gem. We had stopped at a great little seafood restaurant out of town and my husband ordered a side of black eyed peas and rice. I had some and then some more and then I ate pretty much all of it  we shared the rest evenly between us. I’m not sure that I’ve had black eyed peas many times but they are delicious! I knew right when I got home I’d have to find some excuse to fit them in a meal—the alternative to me eating an entire can on its own. This twist on traditional risotto using barley sounded fun. It came out hearty and comforting, and reheated really well. We ate it with some gourmet style chicken apple sausages which made for a great meal. I can’t wait to try it out on a cold winter day—excuse me, I mean our one winter day here in FL—it was perfectly tender, warm, and could be a nice deviation from chili in the colder months. And it’s versatile–switch the type of broth, beans, and veggies to make the perfect flavor for you.

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what rhymes with tortilla?

There is beer in this recipe. I want to put that out there up front so those sweet, apple pie stay at home mom’s out there reading this don’t get all the way to the grocery store before realizing that there is—oh no not that!—beer on the ingredients list. I’m sure you can substitute chicken broth to make this more kid friendly, but for those of you adults who just don’t normally drink beer I challenge you to be bold—just trust the recipe. You don’t really taste the beer outright, but I think it adds something to the flavor that really makes it complex and delicious (and it smells amazing!). And of course the chicken breasts, cooked in the crockpot for several hours, are as always fall apart tender and moist. It’s always, hands down, the best way to cook chicken. In fact, at the end of this recipe you are supposed to remove the cooked chicken breasts, place them in a bowl, and shred. Well I tried to stick them in the middle with a fork and lift them out and they literally fell apart. It was beautiful. The best kind of cooking failure, when you can’t shred your chicken in a bowl as the recipe calls for because it shreds itself. And wonderful, moist chicken aside, this was just delicious. It definitely climbs to the top of my slow cooker recipes. It’s cheap and simple and makes SO much food. My husband and I literally have been eating it for a week, which is okay with us because its delicious and reheats like a dream. Add a dollop of sour cream and tortilla chips–crunched or used to scoop–and you’ll be set. I’d recommend this recipe for when you’re having people over for a quick and easy solution. And if you’re going to tortilla chips anyway, do it right and get the ‘hint of lime’ chips. So delicious.

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robust, a must!

Lasagna is quite a varying food. There is the frozen kind (“homemade”), the basic ricotta-and-marinara-from-a-jar lay up, the extreme homemade-noodles-sauce-and-expensive-cheeses, and then variations in between (see my white mushroom lasagna and then make it and die happy). This recipe is from the all hailed Pioneer Woman, and you can bet anything out of her kitchen is going to be good. This recipe is so unique in that it is one of the most hearty, robust, flavorful lasagnas I have ever tasted—the kind that makes you want to hide away on the couch with a bowl full and watch the snow come down (says the Floridian-ha!). It comes across as a complex recipe that I would never make on my own because its too much work. BUT the amazing thing is that this recipe uses every short cut and canned item it can, much to the dismay of many food snobs. But all the reviews speak loud—all the chefs were skeptical, even wagged a finger or two but admitted in the end that it is truly a spectacular lasagna. And THAT is my kind of lasagna (also it filled my 9×13 dangerously to the brim so it will feed a lot of people or last for quite a few meals).

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a loaf to love

This was a product of the all-too-often post work dinner scramble. I I have a ridiculously tall stack of Real Simple magazines that have boundless recipes tucked into their pages and I rarely take the time to dig through them use them so so much….yeah. So I decided to dive in and found this little gem in their little section where they list “10 ideas for”—this time was ground turkey. The main appeal was that recipe was succinctly summarized in a mere 3 or 4 sentences, ingredients and all. I knew it’d be quick and was surprised by the impressive taste. It’s not the biggest loaf, serving 4-6 people with sides. But it’s just what I needed in a tight fix and and was too simply delicious to be true–and wallet friendly. Whip up some homemade mashed potatoes (if you have the time—they will beat the pants off of instant every time!) and a veggie and enjoy a great, healthy dinner.

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carrot top

I was raised on ‘I Love Lucy’. I remember rummaging through row upon row of VHS tapes, reading the backs to see which one held the 3 episodes I desperately needed to watch right away. Lucy getting into mischief, Ricky finding out and furiously shouting at Lucy, Lucy doing her classic diagonally slanted moan as she realizes she’s in trouble…..and the classic kiss-and-makeup ending.  At the hub at this Lucy frenzy is my mother, who’s recent 50th birthday party prompted the purchasing of the entire I Love Lucy series on DVD, which takes up the space of a cereal box. That box of VHS tapes is still in my mom’s garage in case nostalgia kicks in and we have to watch it the good old fashioned way, the same way this cake was a nostalgic nod to so many years spent cuddled up on the couch, talking and laughing with Lucy. And what other way to celebrate my mom’s love for Lucy, the famous carrot top, than with a classic carrot cake. I searched for a cake that would cut clean and not crumble, something with a bright flavor (thank you orange juice and golden raisins) and some depth to it (ginger steps up to the plate!). And I’ve had this icing recipe on the shelf just waiting for a reason to try it out—-it pairs great with the cake and has a light, creamy texture that is less sugary and heavy than traditional cream cheese icing. So next time you crave a classic carrot cake, give this recipe a go. It’s a classic amped up a notch, both in presentation and flavor.

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the un-coleslaw



My husband doesn’t like coleslaw. I am not one to go out of my way to stick it on a menu or wrestle my way to the bowl when I see it at a barbecue, but I do eat it and normally enjoy it alright now and then. Recently I’ve been exhausted everyday after work and found this wonderful recipe for slow cooker bbq pork, which meant the lovely crock pot fairy would be cooking dinner instead of me– God bless her! I wanted a fresh, healthy side to go with to keep in light and summery since the pork would be so savory. Coleslaw is a traditional topper of pork sandwiches at bbq places, but since we’re not coleslaw crazy I went a less traditional route. Broccoli slaw, which I’ve seen in stores but never known what it’s for, was the perfect answer. We love broccoli and it was so crisp and fresh, perfect for summer. The big difference was the avoidance of the standard mayo and vinegar that really gives coleslaw its flavor. Instead, I did a light honey-dijon dressing which gave it the coleslaw feel but with a totally different and delicious flavor.  I highly recommend trying out this new twist on a classic summer side dish—it is sure to please everyone, coleslaw lovers and not-so-lovers alike!

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