This one ain’t pretty. My sister’s chicken salsa nachos are, to borrow a Chef Dave Chang term, “ugly delicious”. But they are ALSO a delish, fast, easy, and pretty healthy weeknight meal!
The exact ingredients and how you source them are pretty flexible, depending on what you have on-hand. This is the definition of a “pantry/freezer meal”. But I think this overall combination (corn, peppers, black beans, onions, and green chiles) works perfectly.
And because it’s even better when the flavors have melded and mellowed a bit, it makes a great make-ahead meal.
These were initially conceived as rotisserie chicken nachos (something my family tends to have around), since that’s the easiest and best option for flavorful, cooked chicken. But if you don’t have that you can also grill or bake chicken then finely chop or shred.
You can use either frozen or canned corn (drained) for this recipe. We prefer frozen, but either works fine. And I love to use my homemade taco seasoning rather than the preservative-laden store kind…it’s so easy to make, just as delicious, and much healthier!
My family has been on the super healthy breakfast bars train for a LONG time. It started after I’d moved out so I was a bit slower on the uptake, but then became a bit obsessed.
To the point that I can’t make them myself because having an entire 9×13 pan of breakfast bars in my house is incredibly dangerous. I steal a bite, maybe another bite later…and then somehow in like 24 hours the whole pan is gone!
[Also…after I posted this, my mom told me that this originated with one of my sisters. Such is the nature of family recipes! Though “Melissa’s Breakfast Bars” don’t have quite the same cultural cache]
You can easily make them gluten-free breakfast bars, and given my running list of food sensitivity challenges, that’s what I typically do.
In the ingredients list below you’ll see that I’ve noted a few different options and substitutions. I always make this with almond butter and the almond flour/oats substitution.
But this recipe is super flexible to whatever adaptations you need to make based on dietary needs (or whatever’s in your pantry). For instance if you need to sub or leave out different seeds or nuts, use a different nut butter, or just hate coconut, this recipe can go with the flow.
As a bonus, these are naturally unleavened, so make a great breakfast option during the Passover/Days of Unleavened Bread.
And, as noted above, it makes a huge pan, so if you’re only one or two people, you might consider halving the recipe (I feel like after a day or two, move to storing it in the fridge so it doesn’t start to do that slightly funky fermentation-smelling thing that banana-based bakes do).
Risotto always feels pure FALL to me, and that’s particularly true of this roasted butternut squash risotto with fragrant fresh basil. These flavors and ingredients really straddle summer and fall, making it a great transitional recipe.
Risotto has been one of my signature dishes pretty much my whole adult life, and I love how endlessly adaptable it is.
You take a basic recipe and fairly simple ingredients, a few techniques, and then can add just about any ingredients to make it whatever you want (roasted vegetables are a fave of mine).
There are three types of rice you can use for risotto, but two main ones Americans can generally get their hands on. The most common is arborio, which many mass grocery stores have. The other is carnaroli, which you can order on Amazon easily as well. You can learn more about why each works here.
The process of making risotto has always been kind of therapeutic for me. I learned to make risotto while studying abroad in Italy, and loved sitting with my host mom, Giovanna, while she patiently heated stock and added it bit by bit to her risotto con funghi.
For many years risotto was my dinner party staple, because while it takes quite a long time to make *right*, it is a simple dish. It’s the perfect thing to sit and stir (or have a guest stir) with a glass of wine while chatting and getting the rest of the food ready. It takes patience but not much else.
The #1 rule of risotto is NOT TO RUSH IT.
Waffles are my mom’s favorite thing for brunch, no contest. While I like to mix it up with pancakes, biscuits, scones, and french toast, she will ALWAYS want belgian waffles.
Problem was, when I was a kid our waffle recipe was kind of a pain in the rear to make because it required you to beat egg whites into a stiff meringue of sorts before gently folding them into the waffle batter.
And seriously, who wants to sit there for several minutes trying to get your egg whites to stiffen when you aren’t even properly caffeinated?!
Enter this recipe—the awesomest easy waffles I’ve ever made! My grandma has been making this for eons, but she has no idea where it came from…she was the first to stop using beaten egg whites, though, because our family is all about low-maintenance cooking (we also almost never do wet and dry ingredients separately, or chill cookie dough).
We’ve adapted it over the years to make it even better and healthier. It’s practically dummy-proof, and yields golden, crispy, fast waffles every time.
Any waffle iron will work with this, but I like to make them on a belgian waffle maker which makes deeper pockets and crispier outsides than a regular one (I’m absolutely in love with my new one!!).READ THE POST
It’s weird because I don’t really like caramel, and I’m not super into popcorn…but I’m ALL IN on this homemade caramel popcorn.
My mom’s been making it since I was a kid, and it’s a must-have on Thanksgiving for my family. It’s just SO GOOD! She makes a massive tub and we munch on it all afternoon while playing cards and watching .
It’s also so easy…caramel can feel quite daunting. I’ve watched approximately 1,250 hours of Great British Bake-Off and caramel is always tripping up the bakers.
But the caramel we’re making today is the opposite of fiddly. And the actual hands-on portion of this recipe is quite minimal.
Thanksgiving is a BIG deal in my family. And that includes the food…which is why I feel like I have some of the best Thanksgiving recipes around. You know, the tried-and-true ones that the family requests over and over.
See, I have a big extended family, and we spend the day before baking, cooking, and prepping. The morning of Thanksgiving is always insane—my mom’s up super early with the turkey, then leaves around 10:30 to get down to my grandma’s. I get up a little later, go for a run, finish up all the remaining dishes, and head down around noon.
We eat a huge lunch, then graze all afternoon and have leftovers for dinner. We play football, watch football, play cards, and talk. Chase the kids around.
When you’re cooking for a big crowd (anywhere from 25 to 50 in past years; usually around 25-30 these days), there are some realities in the kinds of dishes that make sense. Anything super time-intensive that doesn’t yield a lot of servings is automatically out.
So these are some of my favorite relatively easy Thanksgiving recipes that I’ve contributed over the years, and it’s all about the sides, breads, desserts, and cocktails. Turkey just…exists. Hope you enjoy and everyone has a safe, happy (American) Thanksgiving with family and friends!
What are basted eggs, you ask? Well, friend, prepare to fall in love. It is a super fast and easy way to cook eggs, but strangely flies under the radar. It’s somewhere between fried (which I never ate growing up) and poached (which is complicated and challenging). Basting eggs takes like five minutes total, and you can choose whether the yolks are runny or firm. So let’s talk how to baste eggs.
And then I’ll share a “recipe”…which isn’t really a recipe so much as a meal combination that I stumbled upon many years ago in the throes of desperation, trying to avoid yet another meal of cereal and wine.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that…
I’ve already shared my love of brussels sprouts, including this delicious, easy caramelized shredded brussels sprouts (and much faster than roasting them in the oven!).
So one night, I had a few brussels sprouts sitting in the fridge I knew I could make up, but that wasn’t going to cut it for dinner. So I decided to baste up some eggs for a protein kick. What was great was how the egg yolk (I like mine on the runny side) mixed in with the brussels sprouts. Think of these brussels sprouts like you would a vegetable hash, a wonderful base for eggs.
Too lazy to shred?? Try this roasted brussels sprouts “rubble”
The very first time I made this recipe was many years ago, when the leaves were turning all shades of fiery red and orange, signaling a gorgeous Georgia fall. There was a chill in the air, co-workers arguing over SEC football, and comfort food cravings were haunting me.
You know what else says “fall”? Apple butter. Well, technically anything apple + cinnamon, but apple butter is definitely high up on the list. My mom had shared a homemade apple butter recipes from our family friend, Louise, and I decided to give it a try…and it’s become one of my favorite recipes of all time.
Since that time many years ago, making this apple butter has been a rite of fall. I’ve made it, without fail, every single year for going on a decade. I share jars with friends, co-workers, family…this stuff is legendary. And all the better because it’s so easy.
One of the best parts?? No peeling necessary–you keep the peels on your apples, because the pectin in the peels helps it thicken up. The combination of spices and brown sugar makes for a complex and warm flavor, completely adaptable to your own preferences. This is one of those great things that bubbles away on the stove, but takes very little hands-on time and effort.
I’ve posted the original homemade apple butter recipe as I was given it below, but when I make this I make one major tweak—the amount of sugar it called for seemed extreme, so I decrease it significantly. It lets the natural sweetness of the apples as well as the spices shine through, and makes it healthier overall.READ THE POST
Y’all, this is probably the best bread I have ever made. One of the best breads I’ve ever eaten.
I know, I know—that’s a bold statement. But I’m being completely serious. As I’ve said previously on this blog, I’m not a huge bread person. I can take it or leave most bread, and would rather have dessert or wine or even a good veggie side dish. But this bread changed my mind.
I first tested out this rosemary olive oil bread many years ago on Thanksgiving weekend, trying to come up with new ways to feed a bajillion people. It’s become a family favorite and staple at Thanksgiving and even normal weekend family events.
One thing I like about it is that it’s really flexible. The first time I made it, I was under the gun time-wise and so had to cheat and force the timings a bit for both the first and second rise. But it’s a very forgiving recipe and has always turned out well. What I’ve laid out here are ideal timings, but don’t be put off by them.
I’ve made a few tweaks to the original recipe, like adding sea salt on top (rather than the dried rosemary it called for). I do believe that fresh rosemary in the dough makes a huge difference, so strongly recommend you use it if at all possible.
The bread flour called for is nice and adds a great chewy texture, but if you don’t have bread flour then just substitute more regular flour. I quite like this using mostly white whole wheat flour, but that’s your call…all-purpose works fine as well.
I love pie. Pie is the best. But for a holiday where pie plays a major role, I don’t really love Thanksgiving pies. Thanksgiving’s a big deal in my family. We always come home. We get together not only all day on Thanksgiving, but pretty much every other day that weekend. We play football. We play cards. There are glorious sunsets. There is SO much food. This year I think we actually set a record.
[Note: I edited and republished this in December 2019 with refreshed photos]
Every year I make a fruit pie or two, because pumpkin, German chocolate, and chocolate chip pie are just not for me. There’s usually a pear-apple pie with streusel topping, or some similar combination (I’ve been on a roll with this bourbon pear crumble pie). A couple years ago, though, I was really at a loss for what else to make, and then my mom found a bag of dark cherries in the freezer.
After looking up a number of recipes on Pinterest, I had to basically make up the recipe and hope it would work (I had visions of it just being this giant pool of juice, the soggiest pie ever). It was actually super simple and so easy to throw together.
This bing cherry pie ended up being my favorite dessert that year, and I had it for lunch, dinner, breakfast the next morning, and the tiny sliver that was left the next morning as well. This pie is my everything. I have no idea why, but it’s amazing.
I’ve been on a kick of re-making some of my all-time favorite recipes, many of which I’ve (inexplicably) never posted on this site. Completely on a whim this week, I whipped up this pear-apple pie (and proceeded to entirely eat it myself over the course of a few days…) and fell in love with it all over again. I made up this recipe several years ago and it definitely holds up over time.
I think streusel topping is totally underrated as a pie topping. I’m a sucker for the crumbly-crunchy-spiced-sweet texture and flavor it adds, and it’s so much easier than putting a pie crust topper on. I have a basic streusel formula I use and adapt as needed for different recipes, and it couldn’t be simpler.
I almost always make this for Thanksgiving when I go home to visit my family (and we eat on it for several days), so I have a strong association with the flavors here and fall in Kansas. In particular, the beautiful (and chilly) sunsets, quiet runs on our dirt road, and a breakfast of pie and coffee the next morning.
I also love that this recipe is reasonably healthy (as desserts go) and super easy to make. Other than dealing with pie crust dough (something I’m not terribly skilled with), the filling and topping are crazy simple and don’t require any special skills. You can throw this together while making dinner or doing other things, and it’s pretty forgiving if you don’t do something exactly right. In fact there isn’t really an “exactly right” with this recipe. You do you.
I moved away from home when I left for college, and only get back to Kansas once or twice a year. Usually that’s around Thanksgiving, but on the rare occasions it happens to be during the summer, my mom invariably asks if there’s anything in particular I want to eat, and I invariably answer “grilled chicken and steak with fried baby potatoes”.
It’s our thing.
It’s nice that some things in life are consistent 🙂 This is barely a “recipe”, but I’ve never really had these quite the same anywhere else so I wanted to share how we do this. The reason that summer is key is because we want to get fresh new potatoes if possible (red is best), and the key is SMALL. Yes, you can make regular potatoes this way, but it’s only with smaller potatoes that you get the right ratio of buttery crispy goodness and soft fluffy innards.
Pretty much anyone you talk to will tell you what their non-negotiable Thanksgiving dish is. For some it’s pumpkin pie or mashed potatoes. For me it’s Stovetop stuffing (original recipe).
And for my mom it’s this sweet potato pudding.
And I have to admit, it’s pretty doggone good. None of those nasty marshmallows here. No, sir. This is creamy and warm but not too sweet—the only really sweet part is the topping, which has a great crunch to it. It’s really easy to put together and is always a crowdpleaser. No question that it’s on my list of 14 never-fail Thanksgiving recipes.
It’s kind of crazy that I’ve never made banana cake before, because it’s something that my extended family made quite a bit when I was growing up.
But it was always with cream cheese frosting, and then a few years ago my sister had a brainwave and threw this caramel frosting on instead. And a legend was born. (I may be being melodramatic)
Now don’t get me wrong, I really like banana cake with cream cheese frosting (pretty much anything with cream cheese frosting, for that matter). But there is something about this sugary, crackly caramel frosting that just adds the perfect depth and complement to the moist, dense cake. The fact that it’s crazy easy is just the icing on the cake…so to speak.
This is also a cake that is perfect to make the night before, because this frosting really seals in the moisture of the cake. And, of course, use up the billions of browning bananas sitting on your counter.
I haven’t eaten a banana in probably six months, but I still buy them like clockwork, with the best intentions. This is a thing everyone does, yes?
Humor me…READ THE POST
This slightly-sweet unleavened bread is a new family classic for the Passover season. My sister tried it out when we went to their house for Passover Thursday night, and we loved it so much that I made it again the next day (and again when I got back to Atlanta).
Most years I try to make it home for Passover and the first Day of Unleavened Bread. It’s nice to spend the time with my parents and sister, bro-in-law, and their squidlets. Plus, I have the cutest little baking helpers…
I love this unleavened bread. It’s dense but not dry, hearty and satiating (due to the whole wheat flour and butter), and has a hint of sweet from the brown sugar and honey. It was also just as good leftover as fresh out of the oven.
Even better—you can mix it up by hand, pat out on the baking sheet, and it’s ready in half an hour, from start to finish!
One thing before we dive in: I keep the Days of Unleavened Bread (the week following Passover) as laid out in the bible, so I avoid leavening (sometimes called a rising agent). This can be things like yeast, baking powder, etc. (definition here). My understanding is that some Jewish people (particularly Orthodox Jews) may keep these days differently and also avoid flour and certain grains. I can’t speak to that in any way, and only you know how you keep the Passover season. YOU DO YOU. But please don’t send me angry comments, you have been warned 🙂READ THE POST
Somehow I totally forgot about this recipe. Which is bananas, because for a number of years I probably made this pasta with spinach, tomatoes, and feta…once a week???
I started making it in college, and pretty soon it was my go-to. I made it at least once a week while I was doing my internship, and later once I moved to Atlanta. Sometimes multiple times a week.
It was easy and cheap, came together in the time it took the pasta to cook, and felt kind of fancy. Before I started this blog I basically had a 3-recipe rotation…
[Editor’s note: photos updated in July 2021]
Then somehow I totally forgot about it once I started trying out lots of recipes for this site.
But when I was at the grocery store last weekend trying to figure out what to do for dinner (since my Kroger was totally out of avocados, which I’d kind of needed), I saw some beautiful heirloom tomatoes and this recipe popped into my mind.
It’s very forgiving, the veggie amounts aren’t super exact and neither is the feta amount. I recommend this for a night where you just need something on the table fast, and want fresh, healthy ingredients.
Sometimes I get obsessed with things.
Sometimes that’s just obsessed with eating something. Sometimes it’s creating something that I can’t find. Other times it’s finding the perfect version—which may mean making it a TON of times. Homemade pad thai. Black bean brownies. Dreamy scones.
This is one of those things. I love fruit crisp, but sometimes it’s not worth the effort to make a whole pan (plus, then I eat the whole pan, which…).
I first got the idea when I made a sweet dark cherry pie for Thanksgiving last year. I’d never really worked with cherries before, always sticking instead to apples, pears, and peaches. I kind of winged it (wung it?) and made up the recipe after reading a few different ones, and it turned out great. And then one night recently I was jonesin’ for something sweet, and the idea of fruit crisp hit me (I wasn’t in the mood for chocolate for some reason). All I really had, though, was a bag of frozen cherries for smoothies. I decided to give it a go, and made two—one in the oven and one in the microwave. Shockingly, I liked the microwave version and it took WAY less time.
Since then I’ve made it several more times because I couldn’t quite get the flavors exactly like I wanted. This is a pretty fluid and forgiving recipe. You can add a little honey or sugar to the filling if you feel it needs it (or are using tart cherries), but mine is plenty sweet. Also, you could make it gluten-free by using a flour alternative like oat flour, coconut flour, almond meal, etc. I tried a few different spice combinations in the filling and topping (cardamom, ginger, etc.), but ultimately found that simpler was better—cinnamon and some almond extract.READ THE POST
Let me start by saying that this cake is way easier than it sounds. There’s something about “ganache” that sounds so fancy and unattainable.
This was the birthday cake I picked out this year, something kind of fancy but also quite simple—just good chocolate and good beer. (Although I’m sensing a theme of chocolate + alcohol birthday cakes…).
This is a Smitten Kitchen recipe and it’s basically perfect. The cake itself has a dense richness, a little bittersweet from the combination of the stout and the darker Dutch-process cocoa.
I also went a little scant on the sugar so the sweetness wasn’t overwhelming. I went ahead and frosted mine right away, which made the inside moist and fudgy, which is how I prefer my cake.
I’d never made a ganache before and thought it was going to be complicated and temperamental, but it was really quite simple and very fast. You want to use good quality chocolate to get the smoothest, creamiest texture and rich flavor. (I now have a more detailed post on how to make ganache, including two different easy methods.)
Overall, I would make this cake again in a heartbeat!
And then there was this gloriousness. That’s right, my co-worker wrapped my birthday wine bottles with the one and only James Alexander Malcolm Mackenzie Fraser. They get me. They really get me.
Okay, back to this chocolate stout cake…READ THE POST
Any time I’m home to visit my family, we’re always feeding a big crowd. Generally we stick with what we know—grilled burgers or chicken, taco salad or nachos, soup and chili, or something similar. But every so often my sisters and mom and I put our heads together and come up with something different.
Enter these delicious slightly spicy Thai peanut noodles with chicken!
When I was home in July, we had one night where we were only going to have like 15 people—a considerably smaller crowd than our usual 25 or more.
My sister and I decided we were really craving Thai food, so quickly had Mom poke through her cabinets to see if we had the makings for a Thai peanut sauce with noodles. Since my mom’s cabinets are better stocked than most small grocery stores, we had almost everything we needed.
Beyond the basics of the peanut sauce recipe, we totally winged it (wung it??), adding all the delicious flash stir-fried veggies we could find, chicken, and whole wheat noodles.
This dish was meat, carbs, and veggies in one, so we knew we had to make enough to get the whole hungry horde through dinner.
And it was definitely a hit! There wasn’t even a spoonful left after supper, the pan was scraped clean. Combined with the moist strawberry shortcake I made for the big group, I think everyone was stuffed.
Does this picture not just epitomize summer?
I was back home in Kansas a couple weekends ago with my family for a memorial service, which involved a LOT of people and a LOT of cooking. Friday night we had a smaller get-together (maybe 15 people?), and we needed to figure out a dessert to feed the masses.
Strawberry shortcake is my go-to summer dessert when I have people over.
It’s basically perfect—juicy strawberries, just a hint of sugar, fluffy cake, pillowy whipped cream. Healthy(ish). And the easiest thing to throw together for an impromptu get-together.
They’re not hard to make, but they’re not good for big groups and are not as great when you make them ahead of time—like biscuits, they’re great fresh but get tougher and stale once cool.
When I started thinking about dessert for a bunch of people (plus getting dinner on the table), I knew that individual shortcakes would be too much trouble. I knew I wanted something that made a lot, and something that would stay moist so we could make it several hours ahead.
After quite a bit of digging, I discovered this recipe, and was quite pleased with the results.
It literally took less than five minutes to mix the ingredients together and throw it in the oven, and it was super moist, not too sweet, and basically perfect for soaking up strawberry juices.
My brother-in-law gave it his stamp of approval, and finished off the leftovers the next day. While it’s not quite as pretty as the traditional shortcakes, it’s got great texture and is delicious!READ THE POST
I don’t like banana bread. There—I said it. Cue the shock and hand-wringing and exclamations of my lack of humanity. I’ve heard it all. But I still don’t like banana bread.
THIS chocolate chip banana bread, however, is pretty freaking awesome.
I got the chance to fly out to eastern Washington in late January with my dad to visit my Grandma and some other family on his side. I see most of them maaayyybe every decade, often longer, so it was a great chance to catch up and reconnect.
My grandma had baked some banana bread that I ended up snacking on all weekend. It was dense and moist, like a flat little cake, and studded with chocolate chips. I loved it.
She gave me her recipe and I played with it a little, including using all whole wheat flour, leaving out the coconut (partly because I forgot), and using dark chocolate chips.
I also baked it in two shallow dishes instead of making a regular-size loaf, which I think actually was the best thing I could have done for even cooking and keeping everything moist.
Let’s be honest, chili is just an excuse to eat corn chips.
When the weather is cold, I always start getting the urge to make chili. Here’s the thing I realized this year, though. I’m much more into the *idea* of chili than in chili as its own thing.
I end up making a huge batch and then have gobs of chili leftovers, which I have to eat for a solid week to get through (yes, I realize I could freeze it, but I don’t like the texture when it’s thawed).
So once I year I make a big pot, a tradition I can’t seem to break. My recipe isn’t necessarily earth-shattering, but it’s delicious and mellow and hearty and comforting…it’s what I consider the best chili ever. READ THE POST
As the whole country knows, Atlanta has had some winter weather troubles lately. A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough not to get stuck in the 24-hour city-wide traffic jam—only took me an hour and a half to get home (vs. 20 minutes usually).
I hadn’t had the foresight to check the weather ahead of time, so I ended up being stuck at home for a few days with only the food I had stocked up in my pantry and fridge. (I did have wine this time…a few years ago I got snowed/iced in for five days without wine. #neveragain)
I started poking around to see what I could make. I was craving comfort food but knew I needed to eat somewhat healthy. Unfortunately I hadn’t bought many fruits and veggies, but I found a butternut squash in the fridge and had some wilted kale, so I figured I could make something work.
This is a true McGyver meal, but I think it came out pretty darn good. It was creamy and warm, with the salty sausage and the kale adding different textures. It’s since become one of my go-to comfort food dishes.
So BEHOLD, I give you the best mac & cheese with kale, roasted butternut squash, and chicken sausage!
Can you tell I’ve been craving comfort food? Seriously, I could have chosen to make a quinoa casserole or something, but instead I ended up with a steamy, creamy mac & cheese.READ THE POST
I am so obsessed with this pear torte. SO OBSESSED.
You’ll recall that I made Smitten Kitchen’s take on a famous plum torte recipe, which was amazing—lightly sweet, with a slightly crunchy cinnamon-sugar topping, and the plums turning into these pockets of soft, sweet, gooey goodness.
And I remember wondering at the time whether pears would do the same, because I love them dearly. I finally got around to giving this a try, and yes, it’s just as good—pear torte FTW!
You can either eat this straight out of the oven, or let it sit overnight and the juices from the fruit and the skin become even more entrenched in the cake. It’s hard to wait that long, but totally worth it.
Lasagna is a very personal thing. In general, most people think their mom’s/grandma’s/wife’s/pick your relative’s lasagna is the absolute best thing in the world, and all other lasagnas are vastly inferior.
I certainly fall into this camp. I’m don’t think I even ate any other lasagna except my mom’s until I was…in college? And then I was so disappointed by it that it only reinforced my opinion.
I stand by that opinion, and have had friends reinforce it over the years. When I make this, I often get exclamations of “This is so good! It’s even better than my mom’s…though don’t tell her I said that!”
This lasagna recipe is really easy to put together, and it gets its awesomeness from a couple ingredients that are outside the norm.
Instead of a homemade marinara or a jarred tomato sauce, it uses a specific Hunt’s canned four-cheese sauce, which gives it a special flavor. And rather than the traditional ricotta, it uses cottage cheese.
Yeah, I know it sounds weird. I think we started doing that when I was a kid and I didn’t like ricotta and my mom wasn’t too crazy about it either. But what we discovered is that the little curds in the cottage cheese end up melting and take this to a whole other level of gooeyness (instead of the graininess of ricotta).
The result? Tangy, cheesy, fragrant, spice-filled awesomeness. I love it fresh out of the oven, with the steam still coming off it.
My dad loves it as leftovers, when the cheese and sauce have had a day or two to hang out and get married in the fridge. Either way, it’s out of this world. [My mom informs me that it was originally my Aunt Susan’s recipe that we tweaked over the years, so kudos to her as well!]READ THE POST
2013 was a pretty crazy year for me on several fronts…including major hip surgery, an insane year at work, and buying my first home, which was a huge learning experience and has been pretty amazing. (Also stressful…I mean, when my garbage disposal threatens to go out, I have to fix that nonsense myself. Ugh, being a grown-up.)
And then there’s this blog, which blew my mind this year by growing exponentially. Seriously, visits grew over 1200% in 2013 (that’s insane!), without me doing anything that different. What was surprising is that some of the most popular recipes in 2013 were some of the ones I posted back in 2012. So in case you missed some of these, here are the top 10 recipes everyone seemed obsessed with in 2013. Excited to see what delicious goodness 2014 has in store!
I don’t accept soup as an actual meal, but this stuff is amazing and easy and healthy. Also, bacon garnish.
Again, easy (check), fairly healthy (check), crockpot (check), bacon (check)…I’m sensing a theme here.
Mmmm, okra. Tastes just as good as fried, and okra’s surprisingly awesome for you.
You can never go wrong with no-bake. Or a peanut butter-chocolate combo.
Paaaaaaancakes! Specifically, buttermilk pancakes. When they’re good (and not that terrible IHOP pre-fab stuff), they are one of my favorite foods. Hot and fluffy, a little gooey center, nutty whole grain taste, and slathered in peanut butter and syrup. It pretty much doesn’t get any better than that.
They’re also one of the easiest things in the world to whip up, and endlessly versatile.
I realized a while back that—while I had posted whole grain pancakes, healthy apple cinnamon pancakes, ricotta pancakes, gingerbread pancakes, cinnamon polenta pancakes, and bourbon banana pancakes—I had never posted the recipe that started it all, my awesome basic buttermilk pancakes.
Does anyone else put peanut butter on their pancakes and waffles? We always did it, and I assumed everyone else did.
But going to summer camp growing up, I found out that this was considered somewhat weird. It’s so good, you have to try it! It’s my goal to convert the entire Southeast to the gospel of peanut butter on pancakes.
In all my focus on trying and posting new recipes, I’ve neglected some of my tried and true favorite recipes, so I’m working on rectifying that. My mom’s lasagna, simple coffee cake, buttermilk Belgian waffles, chocolate chip cookies, and our family buttermilk pancake recipe.
It’s not an exaggeration to say we made these the majority of my sabbath mornings growing up. Occasionally we’d throw in some waffles, french toast, or biscuits, but mostly we made delicious, fluffy pancakes!READ THE POST
Sometimes I forget how much I love these chocolate haystacks. When I mentally flip through desserts I want to make, somehow I never think of these.
Maybe it’s because the first couple times I made them, they never set up. I had this delicious, totally liquid, gooey mess, but no actual cookies. I finally figured out that I wasn’t boiling the mixture for long enough, which meant it would never set up.
Gooey cookie mess is all in the past, and these chocolate no-bake cookies are glorious and delicious and chocolate-y and peanut buttery and awesome.
I made them last weekend because some friends had just bought a house and were moving, so I wanted to contribute to the “moving day lunch” but couldn’t actually help them move due to my bum hip.
It was gross and humid this weekend, so turning the oven on didn’t sound fun, and a few of the people were gluten-intolerant, so I needed something gluten-free.
After thumbing through and discarding a bunch of recipes, I all of the sudden thought of these. They were perfect for the occasion, and a great blast from the past as well.READ THE POST
These no-bake peanut butter bars may change your life.
No, really. They’re the best thing ever. And they’re perfect for the summer heat.
This recipe has been in my family for as long as I can remember. It’s the perfect chocolate-peanut butter-graham cracker combo. The only way you wouldn’t like them is if you don’t like peanut butter, and then I just don’t know what to do for you. Because peanut butter is the best.
On a complete tangent, I was doing some research for work on Cinnamon Toast Crunch—CTC in my world. I seriously lived on CTC and other crazy, terrible things my freshman year of college, though it’s been years since I’ve let myself buy that kind of cereal. But in the course of my research today I learned that they have PEANUT BUTTER Cinnamon Toast Crunch. It was all I could do not to run across the street to Kroger and buy it immediately.READ THE POST
My family LOVES salsa. Well…I should say that my dad and sisters LOVE salsa. My mom and I? Meh. Largely because we’re babies and find it too spicy. And my mom isn’t into tomatoes. But I digress…
The thing is, I really WANT to love salsa. It looks so good! It has tomatoes! You eat it with chips! All of these things indicate I should love it, but somehow I dip the corner of my chip in it, shake it off, and call it good. However, the crowds go wild for this homemade salsa.
Seriously, it’s crazy. I was back in Kansas visiting my family last month for various graduations, and my mom made a big batch to take to my cousin Janelle’s party.
We got there, set it out on the counter next to another big Tupperware container of salsa, started going through the line. And in LITERALLY FIVE MINUTES it had been totally devoured. I’ve never seen anything like it. So if you’re looking for a foolproof fresh salsa recipe I’ve got you covered.
The best recipes are handwritten…
So rest assured, this is not just me saying it’s the best salsa, it’s a whole bunch of salsa-crazed outsiders.
I’ve long said that if I *had* to choose one scent and be able to smell only that for the rest of my life (who’s making me choose? why? don’t think about it that hard), I think it might be fresh basil. Fresh basil is one of the BEST smells in the world!
As I mentioned back in my tiramisu post a few months ago, I studied in Italy during college on a language immersion program, and I lived with this awesome couple named Pietro and Giovanna.
Giovanna was an amazing cook and made us three- and four-course dinners every night, and also imparted a few of her family’s recipes to me. This authentic Ligurian pesto pasta recipe and the tiramisu are the two that have become a permanent part of my recipe book.
I make this every week or two during the summer when fresh basil is plentiful and high-quality. It’s my #1 go-to recipe because it literally takes 15 minutes from start to finish and is AMAZEBALLS. Basically, as long as it takes to boil pasta, that’s how long this dish takes.
As you’ll notice in the pictures below, I’m actually showing you pictures from two different times I made this dish (don’t be confused!), because there are two ways you can do it—the real way, and a slightly modified way with fewer ingredients. Both are really easy, it just depends on if you want to go to the trouble of buying two extra things.
Try this next: How to Make Ligurian Trofie Pasta by Hand (with Fresh Pesto)
First, I’m going to show you the weird secret to the best pasta con pesto.READ THE POST
Oh man, guys, it has been one heck of a week! Last Wednesday we closed on my first home, started painting our faces off, moved, and it’s been a whirlwind ever since. I haven’t had much time for cooking, but I am excited to get started again. I just might have to change my blog heading, because “adventures in a tiny kitchen” doesn’t really fit anymore—my kitchen is so much bigger and nicer! Can’t wait to put it through its paces.
I made this a few weeks ago, and absolutely loved it. As I mentioned a long time ago, chocolate cornstarch pudding is one of my family’s secret recipes, a summer go-to for me when I’m craving something cold and a little sweet. I particularly love that recipe because it doesn’t require any kind of gelatin or anything like that, just simple cornstarch. But a while back I got to thinking about it and how, in theory, that recipe could be adapted a million different ways.
I’m sure it’s no surprise that lemon was the first flavor that came to mind. Adapting it into a lemon cornstarch pudding was incredibly simple, just leaving out the cocoa powder and adding fresh lemon zest, juice, and a TINY bit of lemon extract to make it extra…lemon-y.
The resulting flavor was so fresh and sweet and tart, I wanted to make gallons of it. As it was, I devoured it in a few sittings! Now I want to try orange, lime, all the flavors!READ THE POST
So, cookies. Cookies are the perfect fast, easy dessert, something you can just whip up if company comes over unexpectedly. And my mom’s chocolate chip cookie recipe is endlessly adaptable. One of our favorite versions over the years has been this healthy peanut butter oatmeal chocolate chip cookies version.
You can add any kind of chips, make the cookies regular or peanut butter or chocolate, add oatmeal or nuts, or pretty much tailor them to your exact specifications. We’ve also made a lot of small tweaks over the years to make it as healthy as possible. But this particular combo is a classic.
I am all for dessert, but if I have the opportunity to make it healthier, I’ll totally take that bet. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, we have a fair amount of diabetes and such in my family, so we started making a lot of healthy swaps when I was a kid, like honey instead of sugar, whole wheat flour instead of regular, that kind of thing.
But interestingly, our cookie recipe stayed mostly the same until only five or so years back, when we started playing around with substituting oil for the butter-flavored Crisco it called for. It’s taken some experimentation, but it’s a lot better for us and I think we’ve got it down!
Bookmark this baby, because this recipe will be your new best friend.READ THE POST
Since I was such a tease with the leavened cake the other day, here’s a real unleavened treat—cottage cheese rolls. Though we’re close to the end of the Days of Unleavened Bread, there are still a couple days left to make this DOUB classic. I know some people already use this recipe (because I’ve seen them talk about it on Facebook), but if you haven’t then you must immediately!
This was my mom’s go-to recipe during this season. I never could understand why people would want to eat matzo, because it’s like eating cardboard. These, on the other hand, are moist and buttery and chewy and flavorful and FULL OF AWESOME.
This recipe is really versatile. You can make it as-is, substitute whole wheat flour for part, add savory or sweet flavors, make rolls or roll out flat. I mixed it up a lot this week, using some rosemary, some cinnamon-sugar, and some whole wheat flour.
READ THE POST
Tiramisu is possibly the best food in the world.
Sweet, cold, creamy, with the bite of coffee and liquor. But I rarely have it, and almost never make it. I’ve found that restaurants in the U.S. get something wrong (not sure what it is—too bready? flavor’s off?) and while actually making tiramisu isn’t difficult, finding the right ingredients IS.
My host mom from when I studied abroad, Giovanna, was the best cook and gave me her family’s recipes for her pasta con pesto and homemade tiramisu. And all of the sudden last Saturday night, I got it in my head that I HAD to make it for dinner the next evening. However, none of the stores had lady fingers (I called around), so I made my own homemade ladyfingers. It was surprisingly easy. Or you could substitute madeleines or pound cake or angel food cake (the first would be better than the other two).
I even made myself my own little personal-size serving in a cute little ramekin that I could eat that night! READ THE POST
This is the #1 recipe in my family. Forever. Always.
In some families, if you say “we’re having Mexican”, they might mean tacos one day, enchiladas another, and quesadillas another. But in my family, we only mean one thing—meat and beans. Yes, we might make taco salad or soft tacos or nachos, but it’s always meat and beans.
This is the easiest meal ever, quite healthy, full of protein, fiber, and antioxidants. And it makes great leftovers that can be used in a myriad of ways.
Taco salad. Chili-cheese omelette. Nachos. These are just a few ways you can use the meat and beans. They’re delicious, and keep at least a week in the fridge.READ THE POST
When I meet people who don’t love pie, I’m not quite sure how to relate to them. I mean, what’s not to love? Flaky pie crust? Check. Completely versatile filling that can change to your heart’s desire? Check. But here’s my secret…I actually love healthy pie crust the best. You can take your butter and lard crusts, your white, flaky layers. Because my Aunt Kristy’s oil and whole wheat pie crust is the bomb.
This is basically the only pie crust recipe I ever use. It’s a little finicky only because it’s crumbly, but ultimately it’s very forgiving so you can patch it easily when you have breakage. The whole wheat flour adds such a depth of flavor to all my pie recipes, kind of a nuttiness and a great texture.
The pictures below have very simple directions with them, but if you scroll down to the bottom I’ve provided VERY detailed instructions, including for different sizes of pie pan (or 9×13 if you’re making a pot pie) and topless or covered pies. I’ve also included a link to download a Word document you can easily download and print as well.READ THE POST
My mom’s homemade donuts are one of those fleeting, kind of mythical things that only comes around once in a blue moon. I’m pretty sure they are my mom’s favorite thing to make, but she only does so like once a year. I love that they’re not insanely sweet (*coughKrispyKremecough*) and actually aren’t horrible for you either. I mean, they’re not kale, but they could be worse.
The secret? It isn’t a donut recipe at all. It’s a recipe from the Joy of Cooking cookbook from eight million years ago, for panettone (an Italian Christmas treat, though not as light as these are typically), and the glaze is made up.
It’s funny, only as an adult have I become obsessed with donuts. Good, locally-made donuts, not Dunkin or Krispy Kreme nonsense. But doggone are good donuts amazing?!
Here’s the other really important thing—you have to eat these right away. Yes, you could eat them as leftovers, but it has been scientifically proven that homemade fried doughnuts are 927% better if eaten within the first 24 hours, and are absolutely best within the first few hours. So consider that permission to devour.READ THE POST
In my world, soup is not a meal. Don’t get me wrong, I love soup, but it’s a prelude to a meal or something you eat *with* your meal. Except this soup.
My mom’s baked potato soup is hearty and healthy and delicious and the best dang soup you’ve ever had. Even better? You make it in the crockpot, so it’s practically hassle-free.
[Note: I’ve edited below, I don’t use bouillon anymore, so I just replaced the water and bouillon with chicken stock instead; but you can use bouillon or stock concentrate too]
It’s no secret I love desserts, always have. But most of the desserts I love aren’t all that rich or overly sweet. I’m weird that way—I’ll pass over fudge, red velvet cake, and store-bought brownies to get to lime cookies, peach ice cream, and dark chocolate cake. People think I’m weird, but that may be a function of how I grew up.
Due to a preponderance of diabetes and such in my extended family, my mom and aunts have tweaked a lot of our family recipes over the years, making them healthier. This includes things like using whole wheat flour (which—let’s face it—we were on a wheat farm, so that just made sense) and substituting honey for sugar and oil for butter or shortening. I have no idea exactly when this healthy fruit crisp recipe evolved to this point, but it’s been one of my summer go-to desserts for years. My mom tends to make it with apples, sometimes cherries, but I’m partial to peaches. Ripe, juicy, Southern peaches.
Today we talk healthy peach crisp 🙂
Isn’t this picture the perfect encapsulation of summer?!
Like much of the country, Hotlanta has been living up to its name lately, with temperatures soaring over 100 every day and like 90%+ humidity. You feel like you’re being broiled every time you walk outside (get in the car, wake up and get out of bed, etc.). The humidity is especially killer, it steals your breath and your will to do anything.
Suffice to say, I have been trying to turn on the oven as little as possible, since it makes my little 600-square-foot apartment feel like a hot yoga studio. So I was racking my brain this past weekend for something easy and cold, and then had the perfect idea: chocolate cornstarch pudding.
[Note, I’ve updated this post with new photos as of January 2022]
I have no idea where the recipe originally came from, but it’s been a staple in my family since I can remember. Look at that awesome cold, creamy, sweet awesomeness.
What’s especially great about this healthy chocolate pudding is that 1) it’s super fast and easy, 2) it uses ingredients you already have on-hand, and 3) it feels indulgent without being too sweet.
I have made hundreds, if not thousands, of cookies in my life. But if I think back on it, snickerdoodles were probably like .01% of them. I just never think about them for some reason. While I enjoy them, they’re not my favorite cookie. But then I realized—that’s why they’re perfect to make, because I won’t be as tempted to chow down 24/7.
Other thing I realized? That other people LOVE them. They rave about them, write odes to them, and break diets to devour on them. Also, they’re kind of like coffee cake in cookie form—or at least that’s what I told myself when I was eating one with my morning espresso last week.
Also, I got to thinking about it and I could probably count the number of homemade snickerdoodles I’ve ever had on my hands. Or hands and toes now that I’ve made them. For some reason, all I ever get is store-bought snickerdoodles. So it’s time to change that.
I’m pretty sure I didn’t even know chicken salad existed when I was growing up (now, TUNA salad I was familiar with…).
But when I moved to Atlanta and began having catered rep lunches, I fell in love with it. The best part is how many variations there are. There’s regular, Southern-style, with mustard, with curry, Waldorf, just about anything really.
We were in Texas visiting family four or five years ago, and my Aunt Tina (who has other amazing talents, like cake baking/decorating) made this chicken salad. It’s in the
(Blair) Waldorf family, and is the best chicken salad I have EVER had in my life. The combination of cider vinegar, honey, and white pepper in the dressing is the secret, I think.
It’s like crack. Sweet, tangy, mayo-covered crack.
In college, I was known as the Cookie Fairy. Seriously.
I would go on these baking rampages, making two or three batches of cookies and then packaging them up and randomly leaving them in people’s mailboxes (so as to not gain 800 pounds myself).
See, I’ve always loved baking but had really only tried simple recipes like my mom’s cookies or the occasional 9×13 cake, so I made those A LOT. Now I’ve branched out a lot, and somehow just never get around to cookie-making anymore, which is sad. Because I’m going to let you in on a secret—these soft ginger molasses cookies might be the best cookies EVER.
These jam diagonals are one of my all-time favorite family treats. My family’s made them forever during the spring holy days, but they’re also the perfect spring or summer treat for brunch, a baby or wedding shower, tea party, or any special occasion…they’re just so pretty!
And even better, they’re super easy.
These are always a treat because we typically only had them during the Days of Unleavened Bread (the week following Passover), when we’re supposed to eat unleavened bread, so we look for recipes that don’t have yeast, baking powder, etc. [Editor’s note: this is not true for certain types of Jewish people, since their definition of leavening includes wheat flour.]
Usually these are some of the prettiest treats around…my most recent batches didn’t live up to the delicate pastel beauty of my mom’s!
See, I’ve been having trouble recently with the dough’s texture, and I played around with it a little. It’s still a little more delicate than I’d like (and hard to get into pretty “ropes”), but still absolutely delicious and quite easy.
In terms of flavors, the sky’s the limit. I’m partial to strawberry, grape, and apricot jam myself. My sister has made this with lime curd and used a lime glaze instead of lemon. I also just tried it with passionfruit jam and it was amazing.