Caramelized Onion, Baby Kale and Goat Cheese Pizza

baby kale pizza

Hooray!! It’s another weird pizza! I’ve had some pretty fabulous pizzas on the blog. I absolutely love experimenting with pizzas, mostly because it’s so easy it’s stupid, but also because a store-bought pizza crust is the PERFECT blank canvas to try interesting flavor combinations. I would argue that any of your favorite flavor combos would make a good pizza. Are you a fan of truffles, gruyere cheese and garlic? Throw it on a pizza! What about a cheeseburger with mustard, lettuce and special sauce? Think In-N-Out. Why couldn’t that be a pizza? Oh my goodness, In-N-Out Burger Pizza coming soon to a blog near you. Wow, I’m excited!

This little pizza pie really took BJ by surprise. I took some of my favorites…caramelized onions, goat cheese and pine nuts…and added a few newcomers to create a perfect bite. Fresh baby kale and a sweet balsamic drizzle give it enough green to ease your guilt over the cheese and buttery onions, and enough acid to cut through the richness. De-lish. This would be a fabulous holiday party appetizer. Cut it into rectangles and call it a flat bread. People will “oooh” and “ahhhh” and think you’re a secret celebrity chef or something. If you want to serve it as a quick lunch or dinner, throw some bacon into the mix and call it day. Protein, veggies, dairy. Done.

slices of baby kale pizza

Happy cooking!

Caramelized Onion, Goat Cheese and Baby Kale Pizza

1 lb. mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 whole wheat Boboli pizza crust
2 large red onions, sliced
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 oz baby kale
5 oz goat cheese, crumbled
Red pepper flakes, to taste
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted

Balsamic Drizzle

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
salt and pepper, to taste

  1. Heat the butter over medium-low heat. Add the onions and slowly caramelize, approximately 10 to 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, bring balsamic vinegar to a simmer in a small saucepan. Stir in honey and salt and pepper. Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes until thickened. Remove from heat.
  3. Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the pizza crust on a pizza stone or cookie sheet, and top with mozzarella cheese, caramelized onions, goat cheese crumbles and red pepper flakes. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the cheese in melted.
  4. Remove from the oven and top with baby kale, pine nuts and drizzle with the balsamic drizzle. Slice and serve.

Caramelized onion and baby kale pizza with goat cheese

Brown Butter Cheesy Potatoes and Brussels

brown butter brussels and potatoes

My favorite winter-time pasta dish is Orecchiette with Brown Butter Brussel Sprouts. It is the BEST. The flavors of  sautéed leek, shredded brussels, nutty pine nuts and rich browned butter meld together to create a dish that literally makes me happy from the inside out. I could eat it every night, no problem. Honestly, I would probably even talk myself into thinking it’s healthy because of the brussels sprouts. But it’s not. No, chalk this one up as a loss in the healthy-eating department, as you generally can with anything that calls for a stick of butter. It’s ok though. ‘Tis the season to indulge!

I planned to make my all-time favorite pasta dish last week but when I got home from the grocery store I realized I hadn’t put any pasta in my basket. UGH. How does a meal planner leave things off her list? Good grief. I scoured the pantry looking for any kind of pasta I could find…I saw a box of no-boil lasagna noodles and briefly considered what that would come out like. Eh. Then I saw the potatoes on the counter. Tiny, beautiful, golden potatoes that practically begged to be doused in brown butter and all of the other brussels “fixins”. Sure thing teeny potato. Today is your lucky day.

So the dish went the same way it always does…leeks and brussels sprouts sautéed in olive oil and a splash of white wine, seasoned liberally with salt and pepper. Butter, (much less than a stick as I wasn’t making a butter sauce for pasta, but a light glistening for the spuds0, slowly browning in a saucepan. The only difference in prep was instead of boiling orecchiette pasta I roasted the potatoes in a 375 degree oven for approximately 50 minutes. When the potatoes were cooked to perfection I tossed the whole thing together and took a fork straight to the serving dish. Ahhhhhhh.

Just in time for Thanksgiving, I’ve found a new, delicious side dish. I mean let’s be real, this combo screams Turkey Day. If you’re looking for something a little different this Thanksgiving, yet still a timeless classic, this should be your go-to. It’s definitely a new favorite in my house!

Happy cooking– and Happy Thanksgiving!

brussels and potatoes

Brown Butter Cheesy Brussels and Potatoes

5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 lb. small yukon gold potatoes, halved or quartered to the same approx. size
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium to large leek, quartered and chopped
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 cups Brussels sprouts, shredded
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Toss the potatoes with extra-virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for approximately 45 to 50 minutes, or until cooked.
  2. In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat and continue to cook, swirling occasionally, until butter turns golden brown, Skim foam from top, and remove from heat. Pour into a bowl to stop the cooking, leaving any burned sediment behind; set aside.
  3. In a large pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and leek and cook for 2 minutes. Add the brussels sprouts and cook until tender, about 5-7 minutes. Add a splash of white wine and deglaze the pan. Simmer until the wine is mostly absorbed. Stir in the potatoes and pine nuts. Pour browned butter over the mixture and combine. Stir in the Parmesan cheese and season with salt and black pepper, to taste. Serve immediately.

Ten-Course Thanksgiving Day Meal Plan


I love Thanksgiving!! Of course I do, as it’s a holiday almost completely centered around food. What’s not to love? Since I love it so very much I wanted to share with you my complete 10-course dinner meal plan complete with tried and true family recipes. Use the whole thing or use just a few recipes and incorporate them into your family’s tradition. I imagine you in the kitchen with someone very near and dear to you, chopping and mixing and cooking your heart out. Perfection. I’ll be with my mom and sister, talking through Chelsey’s wedding plans as we cook, our fellas hanging out with Kellan and Allie and watching football. Pure perfection, indeed. Enjoy the holiday, your loved ones and some really great food. Remember all you have to thankful for and simply take the time to soak in your many blessings.

Happy Thanksgiving!

1o-Course Dinner

Short Rib Chili

short rib chili

Halloween has come and gone and we somehow forgot to schedule our annual late-October chili night potluck. I guess that’s what happens when life is no longer just about a fun night with friends, but is completely centered around your kids’ Halloween costumes, scouting out the best neighborhood for trick-or-treating, and making it out to the Pumpkin Patch before the moment passes. Check, check, and check. Chili night? No check. Bummer.

To cheer myself up, I decided we would have our very own little chili night, Purvis party of four, three, make that two. Allie’s still on the bottle and Kellan is boycotting food, so BJ and I were left to ourselves with a giant pot of chili. It’s ok though, because this was gooooooood chili. I started with a friend’s already awesome recipe and made some minor changes and one MAJOR addition. Short ribs. Yep. So now we’re talking a three-meat chili made with ground beef, bacon, and beer-braised short ribs. Holy. Cow. Literally.

three meat chili

Take out your calendar, phone, day planner, or if you’re like my husband, a sticky note, and plan a day to make this chili. You’re going to want to get this on the books ASAP. Pick a day when you have nothing else to do because you’re going to want to babysit this one. Low and slow wins the chili race. Add ingredients, taste, add more, cook more, taste again. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Great chili is very much a personal preference, so I don’t want you  to limit yourself to my suggested measurements and time frames. Take these ingredients and methods and make them your own. If something sounds like too much heat to you, leave it out. If the idea of honey in your chili weirds you out, skip it. (Actually please don’t skip the honey, it really rounds the whole thing out. Unless you must. Sigh.) Let me know how your chili turns out, especially if you have a delicious addition that I absolutely MUST know about. Happy cooking!!

Short Rib Chili

For the short ribs:

3 lbs. beef short ribs
2 red onions, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
light Mexican beer
tablespoon oregano
salt and pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons canola oil

  1. Season short ribs with salt and pepper. Heat canola oil in a large braiser or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Sear each side until brown, approximately 3 minutes per side. Remove the short ribs and add in onions and garlic. Cook until softened and beginning to brown.
  2. Add short ribs back to pan and pour in beer until the liquid comes a little over halfway up the sides of the meat. Bring to a boil and stir in oregano. Reduce heat to low and cover.
  3. Cook on low heat for 3 hours. After 3 hours remove the short ribs and pull the meat off the bone and shred. Try to keep the fat separate and discard.

For the chili:

1 lb. bacon
1 lb. lean ground beef
1 yellow onion, diced
4 shallots, diced
2 cans El Pato Mexican tomato sauce
1 can red kidney beans, drained
1 can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons chili powder, plus more to taste
1 teaspoon cumin, plus more to taste
2 teaspoons garlic powder, plus more to taste
1 teaspoon onion powder, plus more to taste
salt and pepper, to taste
3 poblano peppers
1/4 cup yellow mustard
1 tablespoon honey
large can light Mexican beer

  1. Preheat an oven to 375 degrees. Bake the bacon for 25 to 35 minutes, or until crispy. Finely chop.
  2. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and shallots and cook for 5 minutes, or until softened. Add ground beef and cook until crumbled, browned and cooked through.
  3. Reduce heat to medium low and add bacon, El Pato, beans, spices, and half of the can of beer. Stir, cover, and cook on low for 2 hours.
  4. Meanwhile, set the oven to HIGH Broil. Spray the poblano peppers with cooking spray and put on a baking sheet. Broil for 5 minutes or so per side, until skin is charred and blistering. When the entire pepper is charred, remove from the oven and place in a glass bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit 15 minutes. Next, remove blackened skins. Seed and finely chop.
  5. After 2 hours, add the poblano peppers, yellow mustard and honey. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed. If it needs tang, add more mustard. If it needs something to take some of the heat out, add more honey. If it needs thinning out, add more beer. Let your tastebuds be your guide.
  6. Lastly, add the short rib. Stir to combine and serve. You can top with shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, or cornbread croutons. Enjoy!

short rib chili

Brussels and Kale Winter Salad with Cranberries, Goat Cheese and Walnuts

This delicious salad needs to be on your Thanksgiving menu. If not Thanksgiving, definitely Christmas. It’s brussels sprouts and cranberries, so it screams Thanksgiving! It’s also green, red and white- so it absolutely has some Christmas flair. Regardless of which holiday dinner you choose, this hearty winter salad will be a hit.

winter salad

Brussels and Kale Winter Salad with Cranberries, Goat Cheese and Walnuts

1 bunch brussels sprouts, thinly sliced or shredded
1 bunch kale, shredded
1 package shredded white cabbage (angel hair shred)
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
3-4 oz. goat cheese, crumbled

Citrus Vinaigrette

2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
juice and zest of one orange
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon, ground ginger
salt and pepper, to taste

  1. For the vinaigrette, whisk together all ingredients in a bowl. Season to your taste with salt and pepper.
  2. For the salad, combine brussels, kale and cabbage in a large bowl. Toss with as much or little of the vinaigrette as desired. Add in the cranberries and walnuts and toss. Top with crumbled goat cheese.
  3. This salad can sit in the refrigerator overnight, but is best served within 12 hours.

brussels and kale winter salad

The BEST Chicken Noodle Soup

chicken noodle soup with dill

It’s that time of year again. I dread it like the plague and do all I can to keep my family from being hit by it, often to no avail. That’s right, it’s cold and flu season. Ugh. Last year Kellan got the flu the day after Christmas. Miserable. He went from being the happiest little boy playing with all his new things from Santa Claus, to running a 103 fever and looking pitiful in a few short hours. Oh well, what can you do? These things happen, and I try to not be crazy-hand-sanitizer-helicopter-mom…at least not in front of strangers.🙂 As I type this I think of a friend who would probably like to call me out on that since I chased Kellan down with hand sanitizer after every ride at the Harvest Carnival last week. Like I said, I do what I can to prevent the ickiness, but try not to freak out when we get hit.

My husband came home from a conference last week with what he called a conference cold. He said he heard that when you go to these conferences you inevitably leave with a cold from being inside all day and then going from really cold indoor air temps to really warm, So Cal outdoor temps. I’d like to call the BS card on that one. You leave with a cold because you’ve been around a few thousand people with germs. Period. Can I get an amen, doctors? So he came home sniffling and I made a bee-line to the grocery store for all things pomegranate, acai, and green tea. Who knows if those things actually work but it’s nice to feel like you’re doing something to combat the virus. I also loaded up on everything I needed to make my homemade chicken noodle soup. I personally think this soup is amazing. It’s so fresh, so yummy, and feels so good going down a sore throat. My secret ingredient is fresh dill, the more the merrier. You can’t have too much fresh dill in this soup- it’s the superstar.

Remember this soup next time a loved one falls victim to the conference cold (chuckle). There’s nothing quite as comforting as a huge pot of homemade chicken noodle soup simmering on the stovetop. The smell alone makes me feel better, but there’s nothing but goodness in fresh vegetables, good chicken stock, tender breast meat and perfectly cooked noodles. And the dill…can’t forget about the star. Actually, don’t wait until you’re sick to enjoy this recipe. It’s good all of the time and might even taste a little better if you’re able to eat without sneezing, hacking or blowing your nose!🙂

Happy cooking and stay well!

chicken noodle soup


2-3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 small onion, finely diced
1 small leek, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced
2 carrots, finely diced
2 celery stalks, finely diced
½ cup fresh dill, minced (plus more if you want!)
8 cups no salt added chicken stock
8 oz. orzo pasta, cooked al dente separate from the soup
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil

  1. In a slower cooker or crock pot, cook the chicken with water filled a little over half way up the chicken, on low for 4 to 6 hours. Shred and set aside.
  2. Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large dutch oven or stock pot. Once hot, add carrots and celery. Sauté 2 minutes. Add onion and leek and continue to cook until they are beginning to brown, another 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Add chicken stock and bring to a low simmer.  Add chicken, cover and simmer for at least 30 minutes to meld the flavors, but longer if you have the time. The lower and slower it cooks, the tastier it will be.
  4. Meanwhile in a well-salted pot of boiling water, cook the orzo according to package directions.
  5. Add dill to finish the soup. To serve, put about a 1/2 cup of orzo in the bottom of a soup bowl and ladle the chicken soup over the top.

Crazy Good Meal Planning Discount

I love a good bargain, don’t you? Things that are on sale are just better. They taste better, smell better, look better…just better! Call me crazy, but I think it’s time to make Menu Therapy meal planning an even better bargain than it already is. For a very short time I’ll be offering an INSANE discount on an annual membership to Menu Therapy.

Using the discount code “dinnerforoneyear”, you can receive access to Menu Therapy weekly meal plans, shopping lists, and one-on-one access to your very own personal chef- Me!- for just ten bucks. I’m not sure how long I’ll keep this deal available, but I’m feeling super generous as the holiday season nears.🙂  Give it a shot, tell your friends, and happy cooking!



Olive Oil and Chardonnay Pound Cake

Olive Oil Chardonnay Cake

I recently had the opportunity to visit Round Pond Estate in the Napa Valley. Round Pound is a gorgeous property in the heart of Rutherford, CA, flanked by beautiful vineyards on all sides and unbelievable views from its outdoor patio. I was lucky enough to enjoy an amazing lunch on that patio, complete with an olive oil and red wine vinegar tasting. It was such a fun experience! Round Pond presses its own extra-virgin olive oil using olives picked from their very own trees. Our guide told us that these olives are rarely off of the tree for longer than forty minutes before they make their way to the olive press. Now that’s fresh olive oil! We tasted the Italian Varietal Extra-Virgin Olive Oil as well as their signature flavored oils including Blood Orange,  Meyer Lemon, Garlic, Basil, Lemon Pepper, Rosemary and Chili. Heeeeaaaa-vvvvennnnn. We were taught how to inhale and essentially slurp the oil down in order to get the right taste. So fun. I could have grabbed a loaf of bread and gone to town and that would have been enough for me, but it got even more interesting when we started tasting their red wine vinegars and artisan syrups. So much goodness.

We were served a beautiful lunch from Round Pond’s on-site garden, each course highlighting the olive oils and vinegars we had just tasted. It was divine. The main course was nothing more than a BLT, but when you have a garden-fresh BLT in Napa made with sweet heirloom tomatoes, peppery arugula and slow cooked pork belly, you’ll never look at that simple sandwich the same way again. It was slap-your-sommelier-good. The meal ended with olive oil pound cake and vanilla bean ice cream drizzled with blood-orange olive oil. Holy yum. One bite in and I knew I would be making it in my kitchen the first chance I got.  I may not have Round Pond’s garden in my backyard to recreate that entire lunch, but by golly I can have a jar of their Extra-Virgin Olive Oil. I found a few recipes for Olive Oil pound cake online and played with them until I had a version that sounded like it would produce the tangy, super-moist, subtly sweet cake from the Estate. I LOVE the way this cake turned out. Some may think it doesn’t rise enough, but I really like the way it comes out because it’s perfect for a delicate little slice of cake in the afternoon.

If you don’t have a chance to get to Napa, bring Napa to you. Get the best extra-virgin olive oil you can get your hands on- maybe even try Round Pond’s Italian Varietal– and make yourself this cake. It will do the trick; instantly transporting you to a breezy patio overlooking grapevines as far as the eye can see. Now that’s a happy Monday!

Olive Oil Cake

Olive Oil and Chardonnay Pound Cake

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. kosher salt
2 large eggs
½ cup granulated sugar
zest of 2 lemons
⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 ½ tablespoons half and half
¾ cup Greek yogurt
¼ cup good chardonnay
3 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 F. Line the bottom of 8 ½ x 4 ½ inch loaf pan with parchment paper, butter the pan and the paper.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  3. In a bowl of an electric mixer, combine the egg yolks, granulated sugar, and lemon zest. Beat at medium speed until the mixture thickens, is pale yellow, and forms ribbons when the whisk is lifted, 3-4 minutes. Allow to sit.
  4. In a separate bowl, beat (or, whisk) the egg white to stiff peaks. Set aside.
  5. Meanwhile, in another bowl, whisk together the extra virgin olive oil, milk, Greek yogurt, and chardonnay. Slowly drizzle in the oil mixture with the mixture in the electric mixer with the machine running. Reduce the speed to low, add the flour mixture, and mix just to combine. Add in the butter and mix just to combine.
  6. Remove the mixing bowl from the stand mixer and fold in the stiff egg whites.
  7. Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan. Bake, rotating the pan once after 25 minutes, until the top of the cake is golden, the center bounces back when touched, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (about 45 minutes.)
  8. Carefully remove the cake from the loaf pan and let it cool completely on a wire rack.
  9. Serve.

Adapted from

Chicken BLT Mac and Cheese

Chicken BLT Pasta

More pasta to talk about, and this is a really good one. Anything with bacon usually is. And cheese. And leeks. Yum! This is the kind of thing I crave on a gloomy, rainy day, so it’s a good thing I live where it almost never rains or I would be eating this far too often. But guess what? Yesterday it rained! I had been promising Kellan for weeks months that the next time it rained we would go outside and play in it, so we did just that. We splashed around in puddles, got soaking wet, and pretty much had the best morning ever. So fun! If you see rain often, you might not think to go outside and enjoy it. But Kellan has been waiting for a while, (tough life, kid), so you would have thought he hit the lottery or something. I love the simple fun a three year old can have; if only all adults were so easily elated!

After about an hour of soggy fun, we came inside, dried off, and starting looking for lunch. Luckily, I had seen the forecast so this Chicken BLT Pasta was already made and hanging out in the fridge. I reheated the whole thing and we dug right in. Best move ever! This one-pot-wonder is pasta perfection. It smells so insane while you’re cooking it, and even better once the whole thing comes out of the screaming hot broiler. Of course, bacon can again take a lot of the credit for that, because there are few smells better than bacon. I’ll admit, sautéing leeks in bacon fat is an easy second. We have that here as well. Ahhhhhhh!!



Put this on your list for the next time the weather takes a crappy turn. It will make the sun come out in your kitchen, for sure!

BLT Pasta with Arugula

Chicken BLT Mac and Cheese

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
1 lb. rigatoni pasta
2 leeks, cleaned and sliced
8 slices of bacon, chopped
3 T tomato paste
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1-2 cups pasta cooking water, reserved
2, 3 oz. bricks cream cheese
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling

  1. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large oven-proof skillet over medium heat. Toss chopped bacon in and slowly render fat (cook!) until crispy. Remove the bacon from the pan using a slotted spoon. Reserve.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare pasta according to package directions and reserve 2 cups of the cooking liquid.
  3. Add leeks to the pan with the bacon fat and sauté until softened and beginning to caramelize. Add crushed red pepper. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste for 1 minute. Stir in the cream cheese until melted. Stir in half of the grated parmesan, then the reserved pasta cooking water as needed to create a sauce.
  4. Add the pasta and shredded chicken to the sauce and toss until well coated. Stir in diced tomatoes and crispy bacon. Top with remaining parmesan cheese and bake for 7 to 8 minutes or until browned on top.
  5. Enjoy!

BLT Pasta

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Balsamic Mushroom and Leek Penne Pasta

Balsamic Mushroom and Leek Penne Pasta

Yay for Fall!!! Cooler weather, cuter outfits, and a wonderful excuse to start eating heartier dinners. I was all about the salad this summer, and honestly, I’ve been eating the Chopped Thai Salad at least 3 nights a week since I posted it on the blog. It was too hot to really cook this summer and I credit this salad with helping me bounce back to pre-baby weight. Yippee! But now it’s Fall and I’m my normal self, so I can start cooking and eating like my normal self. That means one word. Pasta. I’ve said it before, but pasta is without question my favorite thing to cook and eat. It’s so much more than spaghetti and meatballs. Pasta is a blank canvas for whatever you’re in the mood for. It can be light, rich, loaded with veggies, loaded with cheese, full of protein or completely meatless. It’s basically the best. I love that you can easily find whole-wheat AND gluten-free pastas in your regular grocery store, so it’s not too difficult to amp up the health factor when you want to. I really love whole-wheat pasta. It’s rich and nutty and holds up really well against bold flavors, and this Balsamic Mushroom and Leek Penne is a great example of that.

There are a lot of bold, fall flavors in this pasta. Mushrooms are a quintessential fall ingredient. I love their earthiness and the perfect umami they bring to things. Balsamic vinegar, heavy cream and parmesan cheese melt into an unbelievable sauce that soaks into the ridges of the penne pasta. Throw in some butter-caramlized leeks and shallots and you have yourself a delicious plate of autumnal comfort. If you’re anything like me, you’re breaking out the fall decor this weekend.  This pasta would go great with that! Grab yourself a pumpkin spice latte in the morning, grab a few pumpkins at the farmer’s market, plant some mums in the front yard, take a stroll through a park showcasing the changing leaves, burn a cinnamon candle or twelve, and whip this up as the finale. That sounds like one pretty amazing day to me. Let me know how it goes!🙂

Happy fall y’all! …And happy cooking!


Balsamic Mushroom and Leek Penne Pasta

16 oz. whole wheat penne pasta (can use regular if you prefer)
8 oz. crimini mushrooms, sliced
1 leek, trimmed, washed and sliced
1 shallot, minced
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Cook pasta al dente according to package directions. Reserve.
2. Heat butter and olive oil over medium high heat until butter is melted. Add leeks and shallot and sauté until beginning to caramelize, about 4 minutes.
3. Add mushrooms and cook until softened, about 4 more minutes.
4. To the mushroom mixture, add balsamic vinegar and heavy cream. Stir until combine and simmer over low heat as it thickens, about 2 minutes.
5. Toss in parmesan cheese and stir. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Top with a sprinkle of chopped fresh parsley.
6. Serve.

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Happy 3rd Birthday, Kellan!


This weekend we celebrated three whole years of the fabulous, Kellan Christian Purvis. I can’t believe he’s already three. It seems like only yesterday  we were at the hospital anticipating his arrival. Crazy!


There is so much to love about this little boy. He has a HUGE heart for other people and loves to be around friends and family. He’s the most considerate kid I know, always asking others how they are, how they slept last night (Ha, funny kid!), and loves bringing imaginary surprises to make people “feel better.” Sometimes I just want to pinch myself because I can’t believe how blessed BJ and I are to be chosen by God to be his parents.

Happy Birthday, K-Bug! Everyone who knows you loves you, and we celebrate you every single day!


Perfect Mornings- Breakfast Burritos

Breakfast Burrito

There are few things in life that my husband loves more than his “perfect morning”.  Yes, me and our little love bugs are absolutely those few things, but BJ can get energy for weeks from just one, seemingly ordinary, perfect morning. He and I have differed on our idea of a great morning since we got married nine years ago. I want to stay in my pjs, hair all askew, and slowly sip a strong cup of coffee on my couch. I don’t want food, and I certainly don’t want to have to look presentable. Just give me my mug, my uggs, and the Food Network. Ahhhhhh. BJ is the opposite. He wants to go to breakfast…always. The man LOVES going to breakfast. Of course, BJ looks just as great when he gets up in the morning as he did when he hit the sheets the night before, so that might have something to do with it. But I kid you not, he would happily go out to breakfast every single day. However, breakfast alone does not a perfect morning make. No, you have to add surfing to the mix to make it to nirvana. This is how it goes down…

5:30 am- Alarm goes off. My alarm, which is unfortunate for me but just always happens to be the case. 

5:40 am- Board shorts on and surfboard loaded onto car. Do I actually know this is what happens when he stumbles out of bed? No. No way! I’m already snoring again, but I imagine that’s what goes on downstairs at those ungodly (WEEKEND!!) hours.

6:05 am- Rolls into San Onofre State Park and waits in line behind a bunch of other crazy people who woke up that early on at Saturday to go hang out in ICY cold water. The line probably isn’t too long, so he’ll be in soon.

6:15 am- Wetsuit is on and he’s paddling out into the surf. He’s still half asleep, but it only takes one splash of 68 degree water in the face to wake him right up.

6:20 am- He sits on his board, feet dangling in the water, facing the purple hills of Camp Pendleton. He watches the sun come up over the mountains and thanks God for the beauty, majesty and peace of it all. This I know. This he’s told me.

6:21 am- Paddles into his first wave and enjoys a long ride to the shore.

6:35 am- Repeat….repeat….repeat….repeat….listen to old surfers talk about the good ‘ol days…catch another wave….repeat….repeat….repeat….witness a young surfer go irate on someone who cut him off, laugh about it because “good grief this is San Onofre”…ride his last wave to the shore.

8:30 am- Loads back up in the car and heads to breakfast. Not any breakfast, of course, he goes for a breakfast burrito.

9:00 am- Takes burrito and a cup of coffee from his favorite shop in San Clemente to a bench by the pier. Eats. Sips and huddles around his cup of joe- his own personal fireplace. Breathes in the salt air and takes a few more minutes to just sit.

9:20 am- Arrives home. Opens the door to see his wife, with her Uggs and her mug, sitting on the couch with a shaggy headed toddler and an already-napping baby girl. Gives her a kiss when she says, “How was it?”

“Perfect,” he says.

Wow. Just writing that make me want to take up surfing! Not really. I’m afraid of deep water. And sharks. Actually all fish to be honest. But man! I think BJ has the perfect morning pretty well perfected. No, it doesn’t happen all that often anymore. Two kids later and all the responsibility that comes with being a 32 year old man providing for his family, those mornings are hard to come by. But that doesn’t mean I can’t give him a small part of his happy place…I can make him food!

I tried my hand at recreating BJ’s favorite breakfast burrito. It’s a simple one really…a thin layer of refried beans, fluffy scrambled eggs, cheddar cheese and a few slices of avocado. That’s it! Wrap it all up in a large tortilla and you’re done!

Give these breakfast burritos a try. Who knows, maybe they’ll become a part of your perfect morning too!

Breakfast Burritos

4 large flour tortillas
1 can refried beans, warmed in microwave or on stovetop
2 avocados, sliced
8 eggs, scrambled
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
salt and pepper, to taste
salsa or pico de gallo, for serving

The trick to perfect at-home burritos is to steam your tortillas. The best way to do this is to place a colander over a pot of simmering water and put a few tortillas down inside it. Cover with aluminum foil and allow to steam for 1 to 2 minutes. You end up with this super stetchy, soft, and pliable tortilla JUST like what you would get at a place like Chipotle. Best trick ever! Probably the most important information you’ll get from this post.🙂

To assemble:

Taking a steamed tortilla, spread a thin layer of refried beans on one side. Top with about 1/4 cup scrambled eggs, 3-4 avocado slices, and a small handful of cheddar. Begin to roll, tucking the ends under after one time around, and continue rolling until you’ve formed a burrito. Lay seam side down until serving. Repeat with remaining tortillas. Serve burritos with fresh salsa or pico de gallo.

Mix it up with whatever your favorite breakfast items are. These would be great with home-fried potatoes, bacon, or sausage. You can also add your favorite Mexican accompaniments and cheeses.

Happy cooking!

It’s a Funfetti Celebration!

soft bake funfetti sugar cookies

What a great weekend! My sister’s boyfriend surprised her with a trip to visit us for her birthday. He told her about it Wednesday night, they were on a plane 24 hours later and ENGAGED 24 hours after that! What a whirlwind!! It’s crazy how your life can change in a few short hours. Chelsey went from planning to spend the weekend hanging out in Atlanta, to being sent on the scavenger hunt of a lifetime that led her to a gorgeous cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, where she would find her future husband waiting to propose. It was seriously one of the sweetest moments I’ve ever gotten to witness and I’m so grateful that he let us be a part of it.



Did I mention that on top of all of that fun it was also Chelsey’s birthday weekend? Lucky duck! I considered baking her a cake but Chelsey’s a little bit of an oddball when it comes to cake. The girl doesn’t like icing. I know, I know. Who doesn’t like icing? When she was little, our mom would bake her an icing-less funfetti cake straight from the box. And while a little bit of vanilla icing wouldn’t have hurt anyone, I have to admit, funfetti cake is pretty fabulous all by itself. Good call, Chelsey.

stack of funfetti cookies

funfetti cookies on cooling rack

So no, I wasn’t feeling a cake for this particular birthday celebration. Instead, I thought a few dozen Softbatch Funfetti Sugar Cookies would be even better! Chelsey loves sugar cookies, soft batch cookies, shortbread cookies and…you guessed it…funfetti. Naturally, these cookies were perfection for her. I sent her a photo of them as she boarded the plane and she sent me back an enthusiastic, “OMMMMGGGGGG!!!” I love welcoming people to our home with fresh baked goods. There’s just something about a plate of warm cookies waiting on the table to make people feel special and celebrated, and we had a lot to celebrate this weekend! Congratulations Chelsey and Seth!! We are all so excited for you to begin this new adventure together and can’t wait to celebrate this and all of your other special moments in life!

stack of funfetti cookies

Funfetti Cookies (makes approximately 28 cookies)

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
3 teaspoons clear imitation vanilla extract (real vanilla extract may be substituted)
3 teaspoons almond extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons corn starch
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
pinch salt, optional and to taste
1 1/2 cup rainbow sprinkles

  1. To the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter, sugar, egg, extract, and beat on medium-high speed until well-creamed, light and fluffy, about 5 minutes (or use a hand mixer and beat for at least 7 minutes). Do not shortcut the creaming process; make sure dough is very light in color and fluff, stop to scrape down the sides of the mixer as necessary.
  2. Stop, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and add the flour, cornstarch, baking soda, optional salt, and mix until just combined, about 1 minute.
  3. Add the sprinkles and beat momentarily to incorporate, less than 1 minute, or fold in by hand.
  4. Using a cookie scoop, form heaping two tablespoon mounds. Place mounds on a large plate, flatten mounds slightly with your palm, cover with plasticwrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to 5 days, before baking. Do not bake with warm dough because cookies will spread and bake thinner and flatter.
  5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, line two baking sheets with silpats or spray with cooking spray. Place mounds on baking sheets, spaced at least 2 inches apart (I bake 8 cookies per sheet). Bake for 8 minutes, or until edges have set and tops are just beginning to set, even if undercooked, pale, and glossy in the center. These cookies should not turn golden or brown at all and should stay white. Do not bake longer than 9 minutes for soft cookies because they firm up as they cool. Allow cookies to cool on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes before removing and transferring to a rack to finish cooling.
  6. Store cookies airtight at room temperature for up to 1 week, or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Alternatively, unbaked cookie dough can be stored airtight in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, so consider baking only as many cookies as desired and save the remaining dough to be baked in the future when desired.

Recipe from Averie Cooks

inside of funfetti cookie

Family Heirlooms- Grandmothers and Tomatoes

tomato tarte tartin

My very first memory of tomatoes is with my Grannie. I was a tiny little girl, sitting at her big kitchen table with a plate of beautifully red, juicy, and perfectly ripe sliced tomatoes. She sprinkled them with salt and pepper and encouraged me to eat up. At the tender age of five, I was in love; I was in love with tomatoes. From that time on Grannie and I have shared our love for tomatoes like it’s our own special secret that no one else is privy to. When she gets her hands on some good tomatoes, she always shares them with me. Growing up, she would come over to our house for no other reason than to drop off a tomato for her Sweet Loryn, while always reminding us all that she would bring them for her Sweet Chelsey too, if Chelsey liked them. She’s always fair, that Grannie. When I was in college, I would show up at her house for lunch as often as I could, and the menu was often the same. A plain ol’ tomato sandwich that was anything but plain. White bread, good mayonnaise, juicy sliced tomatoes. Perfection. Sometimes she’d throw some roast beef and provolone cheese on there, but the tomatoes were always the star.

Fast forward ten years and I still don’t see a tomato sitting on the counter without thinking of my Grannie. I’m not sure there’s another person in the world who understands the delicious simplicity of a salted, sliced, fresh-off-the-vine tomato. I recently found myself with a couple pounds of hideously malformed, but beautifully bright and juicy heirloom tomatoes. Those things…seriously so ugly, they’re cute! I saved a few for slicing up for lunch, but wanted to put the rest to use in a fun way. How about a Tomato Tarte Tatin?

Sounds fancy…

Sounds hard…

It’s not!

A tarte tatin is simply and upside-down tart. Where as a regular tart would be baked with all of the toppings sitting atop puff pastry, a tarte tatin is the opposite. You put all of the goodness- in this case tomatoes, butter, onions, cheese- in an oven-safe skillet, top with puff pastry and bake. To serve, you say a quick prayer and invert the whole thing on a plate. It looks super impressive but is actually quite simple. You can do it with anything really, but it’s classically done with butter, brown sugar, apples and puff pastry. That would be PERFECT as fall really begins to roll in. But today, I’m making a tarte tatin with a few of my favorites.

Using a combination of olive oil and butter, I caramelized a small red onion. To that, I threw in a few tablespoons of fresh dill and crumbled goat cheese, and topped that goodness with a gorgeous layer of sliced and seasoned heirloom tomatoes. Sprinkle the tomatoes with a thin layer of breadcrumbs and roll the puff pastry out on top of it all. Bake until the pastry is brown, crisped up and cooked through. I let it cool for a few minutes and then ran a silicone spatula around the edges to loosen everything up, and then inverted the whole thing on to a plate.

Man, this thing is good. It reminds me of a tomato salad served with a buttery breadstick. YUM!! My Grannie would be pleased with this dish. She would love the caramelized onions, the flaky puff pastry, and especially the heirloom tomatoes. She would taste and nod and tell me how delicious it was, as she does with everything I cook. But I have a feeling, a tiny hunch in my heart, that she would secretly prefer a plate of sliced and salted heirlooms, served in her home with a very eager little girl sitting across the table. I have a confession…I would too. There is nothing better!

Tomate Tarte Tatin

1 lb. heirloom tomatoes
1 red onion, sliced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
2-3 oz. crumbled goat cheese
1/8 cup panko bread crumbs
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
salt and pepper, to taste

  1. Preheat the oven to 425ºF.
  2. On a sheet tray lined with a cooling rack, arrange the tomato slices. Season both sides of the tomatoes and allow to sit for 30 minutes to remove moisture. After 30 minutes, blot both sides of the tomatoes with a paper towel to soak up any remaining moisture.
  3. In the meantime, gently roll out the puff pastry to fit the diameter of a 12-inch sauté pan.
  4. Place a nonstick, 12-inch sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add oil and butter. Once the butter has melted, add the red onion and a pinch of salt. Sauté until the onions begin to turn golden-brown, about 5 minutes. Add the dill to the onions. Remove pan from heat.
  5. Sprinkle the goat cheese evenly on top of the onions. Arrange the tomato slices on top, in a circular pattern, overlapping them slightly. Season the tomatoes with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the panko breadcrumbs on top in an even layer and place the puff pastry on top. Place in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown, puffed and crisp.
  6. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes before inverting the tart onto a plate. Slice into 6 pieces. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Dinner Parties, Good Friends and Olives

marinated olives appetizer

Dinner parties, good friends, and olives…just a few of my favorite things. I LOVE having people over for dinner. The more the merrier! It can be a challenge to wrangle all of my favorite people together at the same time, but the stars aligned this weekend and we had ten wonderful friends slated to eat dinner at our home.

When I’m cooking for a lot of people, I try to keep it simple. I like to choose a meal that can be mostly prepped and cooked in advance, and then reheated as my guests arrive. This works well for a lot of reasons, but my favorite reason is because my kitchen can be all cleaned up with no dishes in the sink when the party starts. Always a plus! When cooking for more than four to six people, it’s way too stressful to try to serve a meal that has to be cooked and served immediately. That’s even tough to do for a weekly family dinner, but throw in wanting to socialize with friends and keeping your kitchen  moderately presentable, and it’s nearly impossible.

So for our little dinner party I made my Mega Meaty Pizza Lasagna, caprese salad, arugula tossed with a quick vinaigrette, butter-charred crusty bread, marinated kalamata olives, and a simple ice cream dessert. With just a little planning, I was able to do almost all of it HOURS before the party started. So easy!

One of the surprises from the night was how much everyone liked the marinated olives. Really? The two-minute, simple, no-recipe-needed appetizer was the show stopper? Figures. So! Whenever something is REALLY easy and yet REALLY yummy, I always feel compelled to share it with you so you can wow your crowd as well. This is a great appetizer to make when you want to stretch a dollar yet make a big impact. Kalamata olives are marinated with minced rosemary, garlic and the zest of one lemon and one orange. That’s it! It’s great for holiday entertaining- especially at Christmas. I chuckle as I type that because ever since my best friend, Haley, told me that rosemary tastes like a Christmas tree, I always pair the herb with that holiday. I mean, she’s right after all, so why not go with it? (She also thinks goat cheese tastes like a farm, but I’m not yet willing to only serve the delicious cheese when I’m having a hoedown…which is never.)

bowl of marinated olives

This is a really great dinner party menu. It helps you, the host, have the best of both worlds- a delicious spread of food and plenty of time to enjoy your friends. And the olives…yum! Give them a try soon; even if you aren’t having a dinner party. They’re easy and inexpensive enough to make for absolutely no reason. Enjoy!

Happy cooking!

Marinated Olives

2 jars kalamata olives, pitted
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced
zest of 1 lemon
zest of 1/2 large orange
drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil

Mix all of the above ingredients together. Cover with plastic wrap for an hour or up to overnight. Serve with crostini, crackers, or alone.

marinated kalamata olives


Nacho Mama’s Nachos- College Football Week Two

baked nachos

Is everyone still pumped about football season? I’m guessing that depends on how your team fared in week one…or how much fun you had at the big get-together. For those who need something besides your team to keep you happy while watching the game this weekend, check out these nachos.

This is more of a nacho strategy than a recipe. It’s a fool-proof method for a one-pan wonder that you can pop in the oven, pull out in 15 minutes, and plop down on the coffee table in front of your hungry friends.

When I’m making nachos for a crowd, I like to do all of the prep work hours before, or even the night before, I plan on serving them. Brown and season your ground beef, chop the tomatoes, shred your cheese; that’s the kind of stuff you can get done in advance. And while we’re talking about cheese, please don’t buy the stuff that comes already shredded. They coat that cheese in something that keeps it from sticking together in the plastic bag, which also keeps it from melting properly. Plus, you get a much better bang for your buck if you buy your cheese in block-form.

When it’s almost time to eat, preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil for easy clean up, and then cover the sheet with a single layer of tortilla chips. Top chips with the ingredients you would want to eat warm, like refried beans, ground beef, green chiles, and lots and lots of cheese. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the cheese is bubbly and melted and the chips are starting to brown on the edges. Remove from the oven and top with the cold toppings like tomatoes, sour cream, and guacamole.

Ever since I started doing nachos like this instead of a build-your-own nachos bar, I’ve really enjoyed them so much more. There’s something to be said for using warm tortilla chips as the base. They keep everything else warm and it’s an all around yummier experience.

Give these a shot this weekend and let me know what you think. Have fun with the toppings and let me know what combination you come up with, I would love to hear from you!

Happy cooking!

Oven-Baked Nachos (my version)

1 lb. ground beef
taco seasoning packet
1 can vegetarian refried beans
1 can fire roasted green chiles
2 avocados (combine with lime for quick guacamole)
1 lime
4 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
8 oz. block cheddar cheese, shredded
8 oz. block Monterrey jack cheese

(See directions in blog)



Goodbye, Dog Days of Summer

fun hot dog toppings

I feel like I was just saying HELLO to summer and already it’s time to bid farewell. It goes by so fast doesn’t it? Like a long-awaited vacation or a three-day weekend, good things always come and go so quickly!

Our friends have been staying in an awesome house on Balboa Island this summer, and we’ve enjoyed many Friday nights with them. They have a little boy only a year younger than Kellan, and the two love playing together while the grown-ups hang out. We always eat something fabulous, watch the kiddos destroy the house, clean it all up, and then walk to get dessert somewhere on the island. We’ve had balboa bars, donuts, cookies, and cupcake sundaes. It’s been a great summer.

Reed is an excellent cook. I’ve bragged on him before and probably will again. Every time we come for dinner he grills something delicious and whips up some amazing homemade sauce to go with it. A few weeks back we were greeted with one of my favorite smells of all time- bacon. Is there anything that smells or tastes better? My eyes quickly found a pan of super crispy, hot-from-the-oven bacon, and I practically tripped over my feet trying to get to it. Reed had decided to candy some bacon. I know. It was as delicious and wonderful as it sounds, and I ate more than a few of the men.

This past Friday I decided I should probably be the one to cook the main course. I’m a chef after all, and can’t stay on the sidelines for too long. I decided to go with hot dogs. Fancy, right? I know you’re thinking that I took the easy way out, but hot dogs have been on my mind for a while. I’ve been wanting to try out a bunch of new topping combinations, so making them for a crowd seemed like the best idea. I mean how many hot dogs could BJ and I go through on our own?

We had grilled dogs with four different toppings to choose from. There was cherry pepper BBQ sauce, Caper-Dijon Butter garnished with fried capers, Banana Pepper Ketchup with Caramelized Onions and Reed’s skillet BBQ sauce with chicken-fried IPA onion rings. Yep, another Reed speciality.

hot dog toppings

hot dog toppings

We had such a great time coming up with these combos and an even better time eating them. I may or may not have seen one of the guys throw all of the toppings on a pile of onion rings, just to “finish it all off”. I won’t name any names but they know who they are.🙂 Doing hot dogs this way is a really easy, really delicious way to celebrate Labor Day and summer’s last hurrah! You could even encourage everyone who comes to your get-together to bring their own fun topping idea. The possibilities and yumminess are endless!

Happy Labor Day!

Cherry Pepper BBQ Sauce

Combine chopped cherry peppers (from a jar) and your favorite store-bought BBQ sauce. Stir to combine and serve on hotdogs, hamburgers, or use as a dipping sauce.

Caper-Dijon Butter

In a food processor, combine a stick of butter, 1/2 cup dijon mustard, 1/4 cup capers, salt and pepper, 1/4 cup parsley, zest and juice of 1 lemon, and 1 teaspoon of honey. Pulse until everything is combined and mixed well. Serve on a hotdog, hamburgers or use as a dipping sauce.

Banana Pepper Ketchup

Combine ketchup and chopped banana peppers. Serve with caramelized onions as a hotdog or hamburger topping.

It’s Football Season- Time to eat Hot Wing Sliders!

Hot Wing Sliders

Summer is on its way out and it’s time for my favorite season of the year. I’m not talking about Fall, although Fall is pretty awesome in its own right. No, my favorite season has less to do with great weather and falling leaves, and more to do with an increase in trash talking, wearing a particular set of colors every Saturday, and eating some delicious, nerve-calming food. That’s right, it’s FOOTBALL SEASON!! We made it!

Football season is not great for eating healthy food, but when your nerves are shot watching your team go for it on 4th and inches during a tied ballgame, who wants to be dipping celery in some ranch? Not me, certainly not my husband, and I’m guessing not you, either. I laughed as I overheard BJ giving our little boy a heads up last weekend.

“Kellan, next weekend starts the beginning of staying inside all day, yelling at the TV, and eating lots of yummy food. Are you ready?” Kellan is. Granted, he will be over it in about ten minutes and I’ll be the bad mom who puts Mickey Mouse Clubhouse on the iPad to babysit him for a few, but I’m confident he’ll still turn out alright.

BJ and his brothers always use football season as an excuse to ask their mom to make her famous hot wings. They are so good. They will set you on fire and have you begging for a gallon of milk to guzzle, but that’s the point of hot wings, isn’t it? The only problem is, it can be a drag to make hot wings. It is A LOT of work unless you have an indoor deep fryer. Masterbuilt makes some incredible fryers that make everything, including clean up, easier. If you love making hot wings, you need one!

But let’s say you don’t have an indoor fryer, you don’t want the mess and hassle of homemade hot wings, but you DO want the delicious, melt-your-face off, I’m-crying-real-tears, essence of a hot wing. That’s when Hot Wing Sliders become your new best friend.

Three Hot Wing Sliders

These little gems are super easy and will give you EXACTLY what you’re looking for in hot wing flavor. Honestly, I think I like them just as much…maybe better.  I’m a girl after all, and the idea of gnawing on a chicken wing, especially given my dislike for chicken in general, is kind of unappealing. Especially when there are other people around, which there inevitably are on game day. Yep, this is easier. Easier to make and easier to eat. You can feed an army with this recipe, just double or triple it as your crowd grows. You can even toss it all in a slow cooker if you really want a hands-off experience. I love that idea on a busy game day!

Give these Hot Wing Sliders a try this weekend. Win or lose, at least you’ll be eating well.

Happy football season!

Happy cooking!

Oh– and WAR EAGLE!

Hot wing slider on a plate

Hot Wing Sliders (makes 12 sliders)

2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breast
18 oz. Lousiana Hot Sauce
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 packet ranch dressing seasoning
Ranch dressing or blue cheese dressing, for garnish
Pack of 12 Hawaiian Rolls, halved into slider buns

  1. Season chicken with salt and pepper. In a bowl, mix 1/4 cup hot sauce and garlic powder with 2 cups of water. Set aside.
  2. Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large, heavy-bottomed pan like a Dutch oven or braiser. Sear chicken, about two minutes per side. Reduce heat to low, and hot sauce-water mixture until it goes a little over half way up the sides of the chicken, cover with a lid and let cook on low for 1 to 2 hours, depending on how much time you have.
  3. Meanwhile, combine remaining hot sauce and dry ranch dressing seasoning. Remove chicken from pot and shred. Drain cooking liquid from pot. Add chicken back to pot and pour in hot sauce-ranch mixture. Cover and keep on low heat.
  4. To serve, top one side of Hawaiian bun with a heap of chicken mixture. Top with ranch or blue cheese dressing. Top with other side of Hawaiian bun. Eat!!!

holding hot wing slider

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Cheesy Chicken Mexican Lasagna

cheesy Mexican lasagna

Can I appoint myself Loryn the Lasagna Queen, or is that bad form? I really love making lasagna! The more I make it, the easier I find it to be.  Make a sauce of some kind, layer it with no-boil noodles and cheese, and bake until it’s bubbly. Simple. No-boil noodles are the secret. They remove an annoying step from the whole process, and I don’t think anyone can tell the difference. You just have to make sure the sauce you are using has enough liquid to cook the noodles, and make sure you take that sauce all the way out to the edges so you don’t end up with a crispy, uber-al dente edge. That would just be a pity. I’ve made several delicious lasagnas using this method, and they are always crowd-pleasers. Check them out on the blog if you haven’t already…Tuscan Lasagna, Buffalo-Ranch Chicken Lasagna, and Mega-Meaty Pizza Lasagna. Today I took my love for lasagna in a new direction and tried my first Mexican version. It was incredible. Cheesy, spicy, and tangy…all of the flavor profiles you expect from Mexican food, but all wrapped up in a lasagna. So fun!

mexican lasagna

This Cheesy Chicken Mexican Lasagna could not have been easier to throw together. It really took me only 20-25 minutes to have the whole thing in the oven. You can’t beat that when it comes to homemade lasagna!


I boiled three chicken breasts until they were cooked through, and then shredded them up. Combined the chicken with a jar of salsa verde, fire-roasted green chiles, queso quesadilla cheese, garlic powder, chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper. Then I layered that Mexicany-goodness with the no-boil noodles, Crema Mexicana, more queso quesadilla cheese, and Monterrey jack cheese. Repeat, repeat, and keep repeating until you run out of the chicken mixture. Then top the whole thing with all of the remaining cheese and bake. Now you can call yourself the Lasagna Queen…or King. Serve this next time you have a hankering for Mexican but are over tacos and burritos. It has all of the flavors of your favorite Mexican restaurant, but with an unexpected twist. You’ll love it!

Happy cooking!

mexican lasagna slice

Cheesy Chicken Mexican Lasagna

3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed of ickiness
1 jar of salsa verde
10 oz. can fire roasted chiles (could substitute Rotel if you want some tomatoes too)
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, minced
1 teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder
salt and pepper
no-boil lasagna noodles
2 cups shredded Cacique Queso Quesadilla, shredded
2 cups shredded Monterrey Jack cheese
15 oz container Cacique Crema Mexicana

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 9×9 baking dish with nonstick spray.
  2. Season chicken with salt and pepper and boil until cooked through. Shred.
  3. In a bowl, season shredded chicken with cilantro, cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper. Stir in fire roasted green chilies, salsa verde and one cup of the Queso Quesadilla and 1/2 cup of jack cheese. Combine well.
  4. In the bottom of a baking dish, spread a small amount of the chili-chicken mixture.
  5. Top with layer of lasagna noodles. Spread with another layer of the chicken mixture, making sure to go all the way to the edge with the liquid. Pour Crema Mexicana over the entire layer, again paying close attention to the edges. Top with a layer of shredded jack and Queso Quesadilla.
  6. Continue building casserole alternating between layers of lasagna noodles, green chili-chicken mixture, Crema Mexicana and shredded cheeses.
  7. Cover with aluminum foil and bake in a preheated 375(F) oven for 30 minutes. It’s a good idea to spray the bottom side of the foil with nonstick spray so that the cheese doesn’t stick to it.
  8. After 30 minutes, remove the foil and continue baking another 5-10 minutes until cheese on top has melted and the entire casserole is bubbling and hot.
  9. Allow the casserole to rest for at least 15 minutes before serving. Serve alongside sliced avocados and a sprinkle of cilantro.


Banana Chocolate Chip Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

banana chocolate chip cupcakes

These cupcakes have been on my to-do list since I was on bedrest with Allie. After a doctor’s appointment one day in February, BJ took me to our favorite bakery in the world, Susie Cakes. You see we used to only visit Susie Cakes when we were already up in north county. Now however, they have opened up a location right down the street from us. BJ goes twice a week. It might be a problem. But back in February it was still a real treat to stop in, so we did.

We shared a slice of their seasonal special, Banana Chocolate Chip Cake with Cream Cheese Icing. It was decadent and delicious. I’m a sucker for banana-flavored anything, and just so happen to have one of the best banana bread recipes around, so I knew this would be something I would want to recreate.

banana cupcakes in pan

banana chocolate chip cupcakes in pan

I took my recipe for banana bread and merged it with another great cupcake recipe. Perfection! These could have passed as muffins and been eaten with no frosting at all…but where’s the fun in that? I piped on some homemade cream cheese frosting, topped the whole thing with a sprinkle of mini chocolate chips, and died and went to heaven. These jokers are good! The banana bread-cupcake-muffin-whatever-it-is, is lovely; not overly sweet with nice warmth from the cinnamon swirling around in the background. I love the addition of chocolate chips and fluffy cream cheese frosting, because they both serve to pull it all together and take the cupcakes from good, to spectacular. Who doesn’t love a melty, chocolatey, surprise in their banana bread? I mean cupcake. Same thing, right?

banana chocolate chip cupcakes

banana chocolate chip cupcakes with cream cheese frosting

So if you have some bananas that are quickly passing their prime on the countertop, go through your pantry and gather up everything else you’ll need to make these happen. Your friends and family will thank you. I took them to our Life Group last night and watched proudly as my two preggo friends devoured two each. I love feeding pregnant girls, they are the best! If there’s another time when a girl can eat two cupcakes without batting an eye, I’m not sure when it is. Unless I suppose you’re alone with your thoughts, two napping babies, and a cup of coffee. I’m not confessing anything here, I’m just imagining that a girl could get away with it then too. Especially if no one was watching.😉

Happy baking!

cupcake garnished with banana slice

Banana Chocolate Chip Cupcakes

1 stick unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
½ cup packed light brown sugar
¾ cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
3 to 4 large very ripe bananas
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste (if you haven’t used this yet, please do ASAP!!)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup whole milk
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
mini chocolate chips, for garnish

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line a muffin pan with cupcake liners. This recipe will yield twelve to eighteen cupcakes.
  2. Whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  3. In another bowl, mash the bananas until smooth and stir in milk and vanilla. Set aside.
  4. Using a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the softened butter and sugars together until light and fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes. With the mixer on low, add in the eggs one at a time, beating well between additions.
  5. In three or four batches, slowly add in the flour mixture, careful not to overmix but beating until just combined.
  6. Stir in the mashed banana mixture and chocolate chips by hand. Batter will be lumpy.
  7. Fill the muffin pans two-thirds of the way full and bake for 18 to 22 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the cupcake comes out clean.
  8. Allow to cool before adding frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 stick usalted butter, softened 
1 teaspoon salt
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
4 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  1. Using an electric mixer, beat together the butter and the cream cheese. Slowly blend in the powdered sugar. Be careful to have the mixer on very low speed so that you don’t end up covered in powdered sugar. Add in vanilla and then beat until smooth and well-combined.
  2. Side note- the longer you beat the mixture, the lighter and fluffier your frosting will be!
  3. Assemble the cupcakes by topping each with cream cheese frosting and a sprinkling of mini chocolate chips.

many cupcakes

More Chicken I Don’t Hate…Who Knew?

Buffalo Lime Chicken

I kind of knew that the moment I went public with my hatred for chicken, chicken recipes galore would flood my brain. I was right. So maybe I don’t hate chicken at all. Maybe I just hate chicken done wrong. Yes, we’ll go with that. Chicken done wrong is gross, but THIS chicken was done right!

Say hello to buffalo-lime chicken. This is perfect for a quick weeknight meal and yet tasty enough for a weekend cook-out. The key to chewy-piece-free chicken is to cut away all of the icky-ness before you ever begin cooking. That’s right, don’t just pull the the chicken out of the plastic wrapped styrofoam and cook it as is. Yuck! That’s how you end up with the yucky bite that makes you want to dump the whole breast in the trash. It’s happened to me one too many times- usually at a restaurant. Maybe that’s why I tend to like chicken I prepare a little better. I can control it. I’m a bit of a control freak anyway so that makes sense. For this recipe I used three chicken breasts to make enough for three people. First cut away all of the slimy, nasty, stringy bits, then slice the breasts into 3 tenders each. Season the tenders with salt and pepper, marinate in the hot sauce-lime mixture, then simply grill to perfection. So easy and so yummy!

Happy cooking!

Buffalo Lime Chicken 

1 cup of your favorite hot sauce (I prefer Louisiana)
2 teaspoons garlic salt
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

  1. In a bowl, combine hot sauce, garlic salt, lime juice and extra-virgin olive oil. Stir to combine.
  2. Toss trimmed chicken tenders with hot sauce mixture and let marinate one hour or overnight.
  3. Heat a grill to medium-high heat. Oil the grates to keep chicken from sticking.
  4. Grill chicken for 3 minutes per side or until cooked throughout. If need be, place seared chicken on the top rack away from direct heat to keep outside from burning while allowing the inside to cook.
  5. Serve with a squeeze of lime juice and hot sauce, ranch dressing and/or blue cheese dressing for dipping.

Buffalo Lime Chicken Tenders

What Gazpacho Taught Me About My Tastebuds

green gazpacho

It was a fun week experimenting with my Farmer’s Market goodies. I enjoyed only having to throw everything into a blender and then TA-DA…dinner was served! All of my summer produce was showcased so nicely in its raw state. Nothing beats summer veggies at their freshest, and using them in a crisp, bright gazpacho served before the main dish is the perfect way to highlight their awesomeness. So get out to the Farmer’s Market and see what you can find. Use these recipes only as a starting point, and let whatever bounty you score be the star of your dish.


white gazpacho


Gazpacho week has taught me something I had long forgotten about my tastebuds…they don’t like raw onion. And guess what? Gazpacho is packed full of raw onion. Raw everything, right? Next time I make gazpacho I think I’m going to cheat a bit. I’m going to sauté whatever onion, shallot or leek the recipe calls for before I chunk it into the blender. Problem solved. If you’re not a fan of raw onion I encourage you to do the same when you play with these two recipes. You’ll be happier with the results and will still only have to do minimal cooking. However, if you’re not worried about that strong taste and resulting strong breath, give the recipe a whirl as is.

Happy cooking!

Green Goddess Gazpacho

green goddess gazpacho

3 spring onions
1 small clove garlic, peeled
1 green pepper, cut into a few chunks
2 cucumbers, cut into large chunks
1 avocado
5 tbsp fresh basil
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
fresh dill or dried dill weed, for garnish
Salt and pepper, to taste

  1. Throw everything in the blender and puree until smooth. Garnish with dill, a dollop of plain greek yogurt, and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil. Serve.


Nutty White Gazpacho

nutty white gazpacho

1/2 medium head cauliflower, cut into 1-inch florets
2 slices of crustless white bread
1/4 cup pine nuts (1 1/2 ounces)
2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 large shallot, coarsely chopped (optional to saute)
1 1/4 cups blanched slivered almonds
1/2 medium seedless cucumber, peeled and coarsely chopped, plus 1/4 cup finely diced cucumber
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
salt and white pepper, to taste

  1. In a large saucepan of boiling salted water, cook the cauliflower until tender, about 8 minutes. Drain, rinse under cold water until cool and drain well.
  2.  In a blender, combine 1 1/2 cups of cold water with the cooked cauliflower, bread, pine nuts, chopped garlic, sherry vinegar, chopped shallot, 1 cup of the slivered almonds and the coarsely chopped cucumber; blend until smooth. Add the olive oil and pulse just until incorporated. If necessary, add more water to thin the gazpacho. Season the soup with salt and pepper and refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour.
  3.  Preheat the oven to 350°. Spread the remaining 1/4 cup of slivered almonds in a pie plate and toast for about 6 minutes, until fragrant and lightly golden. Ladle the gazpacho into bowls. Garnish the soup with the toasted almonds and the finely diced cucumber and serve.


Classic Red Gazpacho

classic red gazpacho

After our Farmer’s Market run last weekend, I set out to try my hand at three very different gazpachos, starting first with this classic red one. The best thing about gazpacho is that it’s a breeze to pull together. If you can do some basic chopping, mostly slicing off the root ends of the different veggies, and you can hit the “start” button on your blender, you can make gazpacho. The next best thing about it is that it requires no heat, meaning it could be your go-to dish during the blazing-hot summer months.

I once heard someone describe eating gazpacho as like eating a bowl of finely pureed salsa. They were not wrong; that is exactly what it’s like. So if you’re a fan of salsa, you’ll be a fan of this! When you keep produce raw you are preserving every wonderful nutrient it has to offer. How great is that? The flavor will also be brighter and each ingredient will shine like the star it is. In this classic red gazpacho recipe, it really is hard to say which ingredient is the superstar since they all come through so strongly.

Don’t eat this dish on a date. Really bad idea. You’ll be a exhaling onion for the next few hours, so be warned. I actually felt for my husband as I was eating…apparently onion comes through my skin for days. Whoops!

This is a really awesome take on a classic gazpacho. If you’ve never ventured into trying a raw, chilled soup, this is a great place to start. Happy pureeing!

spoonful gazpacho

Classic Red Gazpacho

3 lbs. very ripe tomatoes, cored and cut into rough 1-inch chunks
1  cucumber, peeled, seeded, and cut into rough 1-inch chunks
1 small red onion, peeled and cut into rough 1-inch chunks
1 green red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into rough 1-inch chunks
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into rough 1-inch chunk
2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, plus more to taste
2 slices French or Italian bread, crusts removed, torn into rough 1-inch pieces
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar, plus more for serving
2 tablespoons finely minced chives
Freshly ground black pepper

  1. Combine tomatoes, cucumber, onion, pepper, garlic, and salt in a large bowl and toss to coat thoroughly. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Drain juices into a large bowl and add the bread. Transfer the drained vegetables to a rimmed baking sheet and place in freezer until vegetables are frozen, about 30 minutes.
  2. Remove vegetables from freezer and allow to sit at room temperature until mostly thawed, about 30 minutes. Transfer vegetables and all their juices from the pan to bowl with soaked bread.
  3. Working in batches as necessary, blend vegetables, juice, and bread at high speed, slowly drizzling olive oil and sherry vinegar into blender as it blends. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Serve, drizzling each bowl with olive oil, a few sprinkles of sherry vinegar, extra cracked black pepper, and chives.

Grilled Clams in Chorizo, White Wine Butter Sauce

Grilled clams and chorizo

Another fabulous Sunday Grill-Day is in the books. This has become such a thing in our house and I really love it. I LOVE that BJ does all of the planning and most of the cooking. I love that we eat outside under the beautiful white lights BJ hung for me last Mother’s Day. And I really love that the food always tastes really, really good.

This week we ventured WAY outside of our usual comfort zone and really went for it. We grilled clams. They were awesome!! It turns out that clams might be the easiest thing in the world to grill. You literally do nothing but light the grill, put the clams on, and wait for them to pop open. So easy, and yet, so impressive. The only real work is in the white wine butter sauce.  You know, the decadent sauce you dip your crusty bread in when you’re eating shellfish? Yes, that sauce. This one is particularly yummy. Made with chorizo, shallots, fresh tomatoes, butter and a lot of white wine; it not only imparts a wonderfully layered flavor into your grilled clams, it gives you something to do with that gigantic french baguette you’re going to buy. So, so, so good…and fun! We had a lot of fun watching the clams open on the grill. Kellan stood on a chair nearby, waiting and watching, and we cheered each time a shell popped open. Disclaimer: If they don’t open up, toss them out. They’re icky.

clams on the grill


clams in white wine butter sauce

I hope you’ll join us outside of our grilling comfort zone and give this one a go. You will not be disappointed!

Grilled Clams with Chorizo, White Wine Butter Sauce

36 littleneck clams
1 lb. ground chorizo
2 shallots, sliced
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 stick unsalted butter
salt and pepper, to taste
french baguette or other crusty bread

  1. Put clams in a bowl of cold water and let stand at least 30 minutes to an hour. Remove the clams one by one and place in a colander. Don’t simply dump the water and clams into the colander or the dirt will just end up on top. Scrub each clam clean.
  2. On one side of the grill, heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a heavy bottomed skillet, preferably an enamel one.  Add the chorizo and cook until cooked through, approximately 6 to 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the chorizo and leave approximately 2 tablespoons of the chorizo fat in the pan.
  3. Add shallots and sauté for 2 minutes. Add in the white wine, tomatoes, smoked paprika, garlic, unsalted butter, salt and pepper. Let simmer for 8 minutes.
  4. Bump the heat up to 500 degrees on the grill. Add the clams and cook for about 6 minutes, until the shells pop open. As they open remove from the grill grate and toss into the sauce.
  5. When all of the clams are in the sauce, stir to coat. Serve with crusty bread.
  6. Enjoy!!

Grilled clams in chorizo white wine sauce


Why I’ll Leave the Hummus-Making to my Friends

spinach artichoke hummus

BJ and I have been a part of a wonderful Life Group for more than five years. During that time some of those dear friends have since moved out of state, but we’ve always been really fortunate that the new couples who join in their place are really awesome. We’ve hit the life group jackpot for sure…five solid couples, most with children and the rest with babies on the way. Super fun girls, great guys, and the best part…a bunch of amazing cooks. We eat well every time we’re together and we eat A LOT of hummus. Of the group, half are Armenian and I’ve learned the Armenians know their hummus. They know their food in general. I’ve been introduced to some of the most delicious food because of these sweet friends…

Yalanchi (stuffed vegetarian grape leaves), Cheese Boureg (baked cheese in phyllo dough), Pilaf (my friend Ani still can’t believe I called it Armenian Rice-a-roni), Shish kabobs, Armenian string cheese and Soujouk (Armenian cured meat), and hummus.

Oh yes, the hummus. It’s straight forward enough, right? I mean, we can all make hummus. Combine chickpeas, tahini (ground sesame seed paste), garlic and lemon juice and let it go for a spin in the food processor. Done.  And we’ve all seen the variations…roasted red pepper hummus, roasted garlic hummus, spinach hummus, etc. You’ve seen the hummus trios on restaurant menus, right? So I had the grand idea to whip up my own variation, Spinach-Artichoke Hummus. I thought it would be so smart to take that super fattening, but super delicious dip, and lighten it up a tad.

So I made a traditional hummus and started adding stuff. I added spinach, artichoke hearts, I roasted an entire bulb of garlic, and threw in a handful of parmesan cheese. Ta-da!! Spinach Artichoke Hummus. I was impressed and thought it was quite tasty. BJ came home and asked what I made.

“Hummus!” I answered.

“That’s hummus? It doesn’t taste like hummus.” He argued.

“Well it’s my spin. It’s Spinach-Artichoke Hummus.”

I was annoyed. I didn’t think it would warrant an explanation after he tasted it. Wasn’t it so obvious?

Hummus with pita

He reassured me that it tasted wonderful but maybe not like hummus. I still thought he was wrong and I packed it up to take to the beach where we were meeting our friends Reed and Ani. Ani is Armenian. She’s Armenian and she’s honest.

I proudly whipped out my fresh pita triangles and my hummus. She tasted it. She liked it. Then she called to her husband, “Reed, do you want some dip?”

“Dip??” I asked, “It’s hummus.”

Ani replied thoughtfully, taking care not to offend me, “It’s really good, but I wouldn’t call it hummus. I mean, it has the consistency of hummus…but…is there parmesan cheese in there?”

We laughed and I thanked her for making this blog really easy to write. This blog for Spinach-Artichoke Hummus-like Dip. Whatever you want to call it, call it your snack next time you rent a movie or throw a party. It’s very tasty; full of all of the flavors you love in Spinach-Artichoke Dip, but with half of the fat and calories. It’s a snack you can feel good about. We gobbled it up and I’ll absolutely be making it again soon. Give it a shot and let me know what you think. Hummus…or dip?

Spinach Artichoke Hummus

Spinach-Artichoke Hummus (Dip)

15 oz. chick peas, drained
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons tahini, plus more to taste
1 bulb of garlic
2 cups fresh spinach
1 cup frozen artichoke hearts, thawed
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
salt and pepper, to taste

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Slice the top 1/4 inch of an entire garlic bulb off. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and salt and pepper. Wrap in aluminum foil and place on a baking sheet. Roast for 30 to 45 minutes or until garlic is soft.
  2. To remove garlic cloves, simply squeeze the entire bulb into the bowl of a food processor. Garlic will slide right out, leaving the peels behind.
  3. Add remaining ingredients to the food processor and process. Drizzle in olive oil while the machine is running until it reaches your desired consistency and taste.
  4. Serve with pita chips or raw veggies.

Special Saturdays

farmer's market peaches

There is nothing I love more than a good Farmer’s Market. Saturday mornings and farmer’s markets go together like grilled cheese and tomato soup. Sure, one is fine without the other – enjoyable even. But put them together and you have something special, and this past Saturday was just that – special.

It’s rare that we are able to do anything last-minute these days. With a rambunctious two-year old boy and a very scheduled three-month-old girl, outings take advanced planning. Who am I kidding? A shower, a bathroom break and even a moment to brush my teeth in the morning all take advanced planning! However, the stars aligned this Saturday morning and when both babies had been fed and BJ and I had downed our first round of caffeine, we loaded up the car and headed into the Village for our first trip to the Laguna Beach Farmer’s Market since Allie came along. It was a gorgeous summer day- blue skies, warm air, cool breeze. Tourists were still asleep and had yet to descend on the tiny town, which meant there were plenty of parking spots. God was smiling down on our gutsy little adventure for sure.

After pulling into a fabulous spot, BJ loaded both kiddos into the stroller and I hit the ATM so I would have plenty of cash. Everyone at the market was in a lovely mood; how could they not be with the aroma of perfectly ripe peaches, succulent basil and sweet tomatoes wafting through the air? Oh take me back!




I’m kind of a spazz at the market. There is no method to my madness- I just pick what looks good at each stand, not wanting any one vendor to be left out. Sometimes I legitimately sympathy-buy. That’s when I go for the onions. I could have shopped for days but knowing we will be heading out of town this week, I tried to be sensible and only buy what I would actually have time to cook. I also tried VERY hard to stay away from the flowers…So hard! I did come away with a ton of tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers the size of baseball bats…ok maybe t-ball bats…purple basil, mint, cauliflower, almonds and some gorgeous bunches of scallions.

farmers market tomatoes


farmers market cucumbers


I’m ready to cook! Except I’m not. It’s been getting hot in the afternoons and when I turn on my stove or oven the house heats up like no one’s business. So I’m not going to cook. Instead, I’m going to let all of this glorious produce speak for itself and make three beautiful gazpachos. A classic red, a lovely green, and a fun white one. I’ve never made gazpacho so I’m excited! I’m also excited that this trip to the farmer’s market is not going to sabotage my weight-loss plan. Oh speaking of weight loss and sabotage, did I mention the prosciutto empanada BJ and I shared while strolling through the stands? Holy buttery, flaky, salty goodness. Yum. I cried a little when it was gone. But how fun is that? Not only can you get ridiculously fresh and fabulous fruits and vegetables, you can hit up an emapanda stand or the tamale cart and EAT while you shop. Kellan’s favorite is the popsicle cart. He may or may not have enjoyed a strawberry lemonade popsicle at 9am. Don’t judge.

I’ll let you know how it goes with the gazpachos and will share the three recipes in the next week or so. Hopefully BJ will humor me. I suppose I can always hand him some tortilla chips and call it salsa. We shall see!🙂

Asian Meatball Lettuce Wraps

Asian Meatballs

In my quest to shed any and all remaining baby weight, I’ve been looking for lighter weeknight meals. Last time I wrote about my weight loss goals, I still had ten pounds to go. Today it’s a much friendlier number– four measly pounds. Something tells me these four will try their darnedest to stick around as long as possible; I’m a pretty accommodating host and a lot of fun to be around after all. But I’m doing all I can to kick them to the curb. Well…all I can except maybe eat the occasional Bourbon Bacon Burger with Pimento Cheese, but I ran an extra two miles to even the score on that one.

These Asian Meatball Lettuce Wraps made their way to our kitchen table this week. The original recipe called for chicken, but I’m just not a fan (See ‘I Hate Chicken’). So I switched out the ground chicken for extra-lean ground beef, and felt very good about my choice. The meatballs were really delicious, bathing in the sticky Hoisin-Blackberry glaze. I also really love butter lettuce, and don’t really see how serving the meatballs in this way is any kind of sacrifice. It’s just smart and yummy!

I hope you’ll try these soon. They will absolutely be on next week’s meal plan, so get ready! Don’t forget- we’re running a HUGE special on annual subscriptions until August 1st. I’ve gotten such a big response, there are clearly a TON of people out there who need some help planning their weeknight dinners and I’m so happy to be the one to help them. If you’re interested in giving Menu Therapy a shot there’s never been a better time to sign up. Use the coupon code “ocladiesnightout” for an ANNUAL subscription and it will only cost you ten bucks for an entire year. Woo hoo! Remember, you only have until August 1st!

Happy cooking!

Asian Meatball Lettuce Wraps

Asian Meatball Lettuce Wraps

1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup Panko breadcrumbs
1 1/2 pounds extra-lean ground beef
1/4 cup finely chopped green onions (white and green parts)
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
2 Tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
1 squirt Sriracha, to taste
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup hoisin sauce
1/4 cup blackberry preserves
2 tablespoons Sambal (optional for added heat)
1 head butter lettuce, leaves separated
toasted sesame seeds, for garnish

  1. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. In a bowl, mix together the milk and the breadcrumbs and let stand 5 to 10 minutes.
  2. Using only your fingers, gently combine beef, breadcrumb mixture, green onions, garlic, soy sauce, Sriracha and egg until just mixed.
  3. Roll into 24 equal sized meatballs using approximately 3 tablespoons of the the mixture per meatball.
  4. Place on a lined baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes or until the meatballs are cooked through.
  5. Meanwhile add hoisin sauce, blackberry preserves and Sambal to a small saucepan over medium heat. Let simmer for 10 minutes and then finish with salt and pepper, to taste.
  6. When meatballs are out of the oven, coat each one with the Hoisin-Blackberry glaze and top with toasted sesame seeds. Top separated butter lettuce leaves with two or three meatballs and serve.

Meatballs with Hoisin Blackberry Glaze

Bourbon Bacon Burger with Pimento Cheese

CAUTION: Things may appear fuzzy after eating this burger…or even after just looking at this burger. It’s the bourbon! …Only kidding. The camera played a mean joke on me and not one photo of this gorgeous burger came out in focus. My apologies!🙂


I have two words for you– Bacon. Jam.

Make that three words– BOURBON. BACON. JAM.

Let’s pause for a moment to reflect…

BJ dreamed up this burger last weekend as we were in the mood for something out-of-the-ordinary and fun.

“Have you ever had bacon jam?” He asked from the kitchen.

I had, and he had too, he just didn’t remember. We had bacon “marmalade” atop a tiny mason jar of pimento cheese when we dined at Hugh Achenson‘s Empire State South in Atlanta. It was a scrumptious little appetizer, as anything served in a mini mason jar usually is. I reminded BJ of that date night almost a year ago now, and then these burgers happened. He was inspired and my mouth was watering in anticipation. BJ came up with every component of these Burgers- the bourbon bacon jam, the pimento cheese, and the pretzel bun between which it would all be nestled. I helped him carry it out by flying to the nearest grocery store during the kids’ naps, then coming home and furiously grating cheese, crisping bacon, and basically completing all of the prep work so he could throw it all together. The results were AHHH-MAZING!

Bourbon Bacon Jam needs to live in your refrigerator, perhaps in a cute little jar, for the duration. Yes, you will be tempted by it on a daily basis. Yes, it’s likely definitely not the healthiest condiment in the world. But man…it’s good. As Joey Tribbiani from FRIENDS would say,

“Bacon? Good!”

“Shallots? Good!”

“Brown sugar? Good!”

“Bourbon? Goooood!”

Slather it on a cracker, a biscuit, or some toast. Use it to add some oomph to your next grilled cheese, or maybe stir it into some polenta or grits. However you eat it, you’re going to be glad you know how to make it.

On a side note, this pimento cheese recipe is no slouch either. Inspired by the recipe from Husk in Charleston, SC, this little bit of goodness took me less than 5 minutes to prep and really hit the mark. The original recipe called for bourbon as well, but I wanted it to be kid-friendly and there was already enough bourbon in the bacon jam to go around. Feel free to keep it in there if that’s your fancy.

To pull all of these components together, don’t skimp on the pretzel bun if you can help it. We found ours at Whole Foods, but I’m sure some of the other higher end mainstream stores carry them as well. The bun was almost my favorite part, probably because I just thought it was so smart of my hubby to suggest it. We’ve had a lot of fun picking out special buns for our burgers lately. It really takes a ho-hum burger to a whole other level. Even if all you can find is King’s Hawaiian Buns, it makes a huge difference!

You’re going to love this burger! It’s a winner on every level and will undoubtedly be the star of your next cookout. I’m not going to put this burger on next week’s meal plan…I think it might be too much for a weeknight dinner. However, since the recipe is posted here you can make that call for yourself!🙂 If you need help with other dinner ideas, meal plans and shopping lists there has never been a better time to subscribe. As part of a Ladies Night Out event happening in Orange County this week, I’m running a HUGE discount on annual memberships. New members get 80% off with the coupon code “ocladiesnightout”. That’s just ten bucks for an entire year! Crazy, I know. The code is good until August 1st. Happy cooking!

Bourbon Bacon Burger with Pimento Cheese (4-5 servings)

1.5 lbs. ground beef (I use 85% fat for juicy burgers)
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
salt and pepper, to taste
canola oil, for brushing
butter lettuce, leaves separated
Bourbon Bacon Jam (recipe to follow)
Pimento Cheese (recipe to follow)

  1. Using your hands, gently mix beef, eggs, breadcrumbs, Worcestershire sauce, liquid smoke, salt and pepper until just combined.
  2. Divide beef into 4 or 5 equal portions and shape into patties. I like to flatten mine out as much as possible and then press a small well into the center of each to keep them from turning into burger meatballs on the grill.
  3. Brush a small amount of canola oil on each side of the burger patty and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  4. Heat and oil a grill to high heat. Once it’s screaming hot, lower the heat to medium and add the burgers. Close the grill. After 4-5 minutes, flip the burgers and cook for another 4 to 5 minutes. Check for desired doneness and move to a top rack to finish cooking if needed.
  5. Build the burgers by topping the bottom of the pretzel bun with the patty, some butter lettuce, 2 tablespoons (AT LEAST!!) of bourbon bacon jam, and 2 tablespooons (AT LEAST!!) of pimento cheese. Serve. Swoon.

bourbon bacon jam

Bourbon Bacon Jam

1.5 lbs. good bacon
1 cup of shallots, finely chopped
2 cups sweet onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
½ cup bourbon
½ cup pure maple syrup
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
½ cup brown sugar

  1. Preheat an oven to 375 degrees. Lay a wire rack inside a sheet pan and line the rack with the bacon. You may have to do this in batches or use two pans.
  2. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until bacon is extra, extra crispy. Set aside and reserve a few tablespoons of the bacon drippings from the bottom of the pan.
  3. Once bacon has cooled, chop it up finely.
  4. Heat reserved bacon fat in a large skillet or sauté pan on medium heat. Add shallots and onion and cook until caramelized. Add the garlic and cook for a minute or so longer.
  5. Carefully deglaze the pan with the bourbon, scraping up any bits that have formed along the bottom of the pan. Add the maple syrup and balsamic vinegar. Bring to a boil and cook for 2 minutes.
  6. Add the brown sugar, chili powder, smoked paprika and chopped bacon. Continue to cook for about ten minutes or until the mixture starts thickening up and looks like jam.
  7. Drain any excess fat off and pour into jars. Store in the refrigerator. Can be served cold or warmed up in the microwave and slathered all over anything that looks like it needs a slathering.🙂


Pimento Cheese


Pimento Cheese

3/4 cup mayonnaise
4 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup jarred sliced pimiento, rinsed and finely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons bourbon (optional)
1 teaspoon chile powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
6 cups freshly grated sharp Cheddar cheese
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

  1. Beat cream cheese until smooth. Add all other ingredients and combine.
  2. Store in the refrigerator.

pimento cheese crackers

What else can I do with this ricotta?

So now that you have a nice batch of homemade ricotta in your fridge, let’s figure out how to use it! I’m assuming you have some left over after making the roasted cherry tomato bruschetta, and that’s a bold assumption because I definitely didn’t. But good news– even if you’re out, you now know how  easy it is to make more.

Like I said, I ran out post-parent picnic, but I had already brainstormed all of these wonderful ways to cook with it so I’m seriously making more tomorrow. Good thing I have a steady supply of cheesecloth in my pantry. So here are my thoughts and some useful links that will help you get the most out of that creamy, wonderful goodness just lying in wait in the refrigerator. Let me know which ones you use and always let me know if you come up with something totally awesome that I haven’t thought of…I would LOVE to try it!

(More) Uses for Homemade Ricotta Cheese 

  1. Pancakes
  2. Stuffed Shells
  3. Summer Vegetable Tart
  4. Scones
  5. Muffins
  6. Cheesecake!! duh
  7. Pizza- See my “weird pizza” OR this one!
  8. Gnocchi!!!!!!! (I’m excited about this one!)
  9. Cookies
  10. Stuffed and Fried Squash Blossoms

Need a few more dinner ideas? Check out this Food 52 article that will inspire you to squeeze 6 dinners out of one batch of ricotta. Or if you’re ready to move on from our cheesy friend but still need some dinner ideas, become a Menu Therapy subscriber for just $5. We will plan your dinners, write your grocery lists and help you become a superstar in your kitchen.🙂

Roasted Cherry Tomato Bruschetta with Shallots and Thyme

roasted cherry tomato bruschetta

This might be my favorite way to make bruschetta. Scratch that– this is definitely my favorite way to make bruschetta. I serve this as an appetizer every time we have someone over for dinner, and it’s usually gobbled up so quickly that I only get to sneak a bite or two.

Assorted cherry tomatoes roasted with shallots, thyme, extra-virgin olive oil, salt, pepper and a pinch of brown sugar. Di-vine. I usually put the tomato yumminess in a bowl and serve it alongside toasted crostini and a log of goat cheese topped with lemon zest and red pepper flakes. So good! I love goat cheese, even if my best friend Haley thinks it smells like a farm. She’s kinda right. I ‘ve actually noticed lately that the goat cheese has such a strong presence that the subtle sweetness of the roasted tomatoes can be overlooked, and that’s just a shame. To remedy that and to help the tomatoes shine like the star they are, I served it up with…you guessed it…the homemade ricotta from a few days ago.

roasted tomato crostini

One bite and I’m pretty sure I heard angels singing the Hallelujah chorus. Hello match made in heaven! The creamy ricotta with its mild hint of saltiness is the perfect base on which to serve the bright tomatoes bursting with sweetness and flavor from the shallots and thyme. We took these little cuties to our sunset picnic at the beach with my mom and dad, and they ate them up long before the sun dove into the Pacific. My mom referred to them as “crack”. I double checked and confirmed that was a compliment.

If you heeded my advice and made yourself a ton of ricotta, let this be one of the ways you enjoy it. It will be hard, but don’t use it all up because I have a few more suggestions coming your way soon. Once I started brainstorming it was hard to turn it off! There are apparently an infinite amount of ways to cook with ricotta, each more delicious-sounding than the next. What’s a girl to do? I guess I’ll go curdle more milk!


Roasted Cherry Tomato Bruschetta

4 cups assorted colors of cherry tomatoes, halved
2 shallots, thinly sliced
4 sprigs of thyme, leaves removed from stem
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
salt and pepper, to taste

  1. Preheat an oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Prepare a sheet tray by lining with aluminum foil. This will make clean up easier and keep all of the goodness from sticking to the pan.
  3. Scatter halved cherry tomatoes, shallots and thyme on the tray and lightly drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle with brown sugar, salt and pepper and toss to coat tomatoes evenly.
  4. Bake at 425 for 15-20 minutes, until tomatoes are bursting and shallots are softened and beginning to caramelize.
  5. Remove from oven and spoon everything into a serving bowl.
  6. Serve alongside toasted crostini and ricotta cheese.

If you like this recipe, let me help you plan and cook dinner every night. I’ll do the hard part and you do the cooking  Become a subscriber for just $5. Happy cooking!


I’ll have the house made ricotta, please!

homemade ricotta cheese in cheesecloth

Have you ever been to a restaurant that offered house made ricotta cheese as an appetizer? Why would you order that, right? Can it really be worth the $12 price tag when you can get a 16 oz. tub at Trader Joe’s for $2.99? Yes, friend. Yes. I promise you, yes. I order it at one of our favorite places in Laguna Beach. It’s served alongside a honeycomb and always makes me feel super fancy. It’s something about house made anything that will make you feel that way. I’m a sucker for the chipotle ketchup, house made crackers, sausage ground and stuffed in the back of the house, or butter that was just churned up that morning by the prep cook. Homemade cheese makes me giddy as well…in a restaurant and especially in my own kitchen. I love when something sounds daunting when in reality, it’s a breeze.

Homemade ricotta cheese is the easiest thing you’ll ever make.

Bring milk and cream to a light boil.
Add vinegar.
Watch milk curdle.
Strain with cheesecloth to separate the curds from the whey (yep, this it where that came from).

Cheesecloth in strainer

Cheesecloth layered on top of strainer, awaiting the goodness that is to come!

Milk and cream begin to curdle when vinegar is added.

Milk and cream begin to curdle when vinegar is added.

Curds of cheese being strained of as much liquid (whey) as possible.

Curds of cheese being strained of as much liquid (whey) as possible.

Delicous, creamy, homemade ricotta cheese. You will never go back!

Delicous, creamy, homemade ricotta cheese. You will never go back!

You barely cook, but friends and family will think you are a culinary genius. Homemade cheese??!! That’s so impressive! Impressive until everyone finds out how insanely easy it is, then it’s just smart. Why would you buy the grainy, flavorless excuse for ricotta cheese you can get at the store when you can make twice as much, twice as cheap, that tastes twice, no, let’s say INFINITELY better? You wouldn’t– and you never will again!

This is too easy not to try, and I promise you will find a ton of uses for it after it’s made. You can use it in lasagna, pancakes, gnocchi….hmmm…I feel another blog coming on. My favorite use for it is to smear it on a crostini and call it a day. See ya, butter. There’s a new girl in town and her name is Ricotta. She’ll be slathered on my toast until every last creamy bit is gone. And then I’ll make some more. Why not? It’s too easy and too delicious not to!

Homemade Ricotta Cheese

4 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar (this is NOT white “cooking” wine)
kosher salt, to taste, about 1 teaspoon

  1. Combine milk, cream and salt together and bring to a gentle boil in a heavy enamel pot, like Le Creuset.
  2. Once boiling, remove from the heat and stir in white wine vinegar. Let sit untouched for 2 minutes or so until it begins to curdle.
  3. Cover a fine mesh sieve with two layers of cheesecloth and set over a bowl. Pour curdled mixture into cheesecloth and let stand for 25 minutes until the curds and whey have been separated and most of the liquid has drained into the bowl. What remains in the cheesecloth is your ricotta!
  4. Pat yourself on the back and find the nearest crostini, lasagna recipe, or whatever!

Need some cheesecloth to get this job done? Menu Therapy now offers cheesecloth via Order a pack today so you can be eating cheese tomorrow!

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Summer in a Salad


It’s almost the 4th of July! How did that happen so fast? July 4th is always so much fun in California, and this year it will be almost perfection as my parents are making a last minute trip to join us. I’m so excited! I’m quickly learning that two grandchildren is twice the lure of one. I guess that may seem obvious but we already got a good amount of visits from the grands with just Kellan; but now that Allie is here too we recently got a fun surprise visit from BJ’s mom and dad and now my parents are coming again! I’m loving it! I can’t wait to share all of the July 4th festivities with Nonni and Papa. We’ll go to the beach, grill something tasty, and cap it off with fireworks in Dana Point. I also cannot WAIT to dress my littles in their red, white and blue outfits…there’s going to be a lot of cuteness going on!

Whoa sorry, that was not where I intended to go with this blog. I wanted to talk about Summer. Summer is in full swing and it is absolutely glorious. Warm nights, beautiful sunsets, fun beach days…I LOVE Summer. I also love this salad. Watermelon, heirloom tomatoes, basil, feta cheese and lemon juice- this salad embodies all that is good about Summer. It’s all about seasonal bounty; it’s simple, lightly dressed and a little flirty. If ever Summer were found in a salad, it would be found in this one. There’s no real recipe here, just take as much as you like of those ingredients, throw it in a bowl and toss it in olive oil and lemon juice. Easy. You won’t even have to break a sweat in the kitchen for this one, and isn’t that always a happy thing?

Happy 4th!


Watermelon and Heirloom Tomato Salad

seedless watermelon, cut into bite sized pieces
heirloom tomatoes of all sizes and varieties, chopped or halved accordingly
feta cheese, crumbled
basil, chiffonade
pine nuts, toasted (optional)
lemon juice
extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl. Mix gently and serve.


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Another Weird Pizza


What can I say, I’m a sucker for a weird pizza. Pizza day, which also happened to be sandwich day, was one of my favorite days of culinary school. Did you know pizza is a sandwich? I didn’t. I suppose it makes total sense really, as a pizza is nothing more than an open-faced sandwich. Interesting, huh? A little pizza/sandwich trivia for your Sunday. Anyway back to weird pizzas…

I believe this will be the fourth pizza to make the blog. I must REALLY like pizza. This is actually kind of news to me, I wouldn’t have pegged myself as a such a pizza-lover. Then again, maybe it’s not the pizza as much as it is all of the fun things you can do with it. Topping options are endless and I always have a lot of fun coming up with new combinations. In the past I’ve raved about my Brussels Sprouts Pita Pizzas and my Meyer Lemon Pizza, and both are out of this world! Save the Brussels until next winter, but definitely put the Meyer Lemon Pizza on your to-eat list ASAP. It’s fun. Add this one to the list as well…Roasted Broccoli and Red Grape Pizza with Ricotta and Pine Nuts. Whoa that’s a lot going on. Too much? No, I don’t think so. Is there ever too much of a good thing?

Roasted Broccoli? Good.

Roasted Grapes? Gooooood. (I can hear you doubting this, but I promise, it is!)

Ricotta cheese and pine nuts? Double good.

Put it all together on a store-bought crust and call it a pizza. I did, and it was yummy! Actually, I made mini pizzas which was even better because everything mini is more fun. Kellan loved it! Truthfully, he just pulled off all of the “broccoli trees” and ate them, but I still consider that a win.

This pizza is a really great meatless meal that will still leave the family feeling satisfied and full. It would also make a fancy little appetizer for your next dinner party or get together…your friends and family will be so impressed, as it’s just as pretty as it is tasty. I hope you’ll try it soon!


Roasted Broccoli and Red Grape Pizza with Ricotta and Pine Nuts

1 bag broccoli florets
2 cups red seedless grapes
extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
salt and pepper, to taste
2-3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, to taste
zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
16 oz. part skim ricotta cheese
3 mini Boboli pizza crusts or 2 regular size

  1. Preheat the oven to 425.
  2. On one sheet pan, drizzle broccoli florets with extra virgin olive oil and salt and pepper. On another sheet pan, drizzle the grapes with extra-virgin olive oil, salt and pepper and a splash of balsamic vinegar.
  3. Add the broccoli to the oven and roast until it starts to char, 20-25 minutes. When there are approximately 10 minutes left for the broccoli, add the sheet pan of grapes to the oven and roast until they start to wither and burst.
  4. Meanwhile, spread the ricotta over the pizza crust(s) in an even layer, leaving a 1/2 inch around the border.
  5. Remove broccoli and grapes from the oven. Toss broccoli with the lemon zest. Top pizzas evenly with the broccoli, grapes and pine nuts. Bake for approximately 5 minutes to warm cheese and crust.
  6. Slice and serve.

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I hate chicken.


I wish I liked chicken. People who like chicken have an easier life. Their restaurant orders are easier, the bill is cheaper, and they’re eating healthier than me by default. I’m never going to go for the chicken on the menu, (unless of course I’m at Chick-Fil-A or Zaxby’s, that’s a whole different kind of chicken). I’m going for the steak, the king crab legs or the pasta. In my humble opinion, ordering chicken at a restaurant is giving up on the meal before it has even begun. Ick. Chicken is boring. Bland. Dry. And there’s always a fear of landing the mysterious chewy piece that you have to spit out into your napkin and hope no one saw. Gross. Nope, no chicken for me please. I do, however, make it for my family all the time, and I always put a chicken dish or two on each week’s meal plan since most people do, in fact, like it. I also ALWAYS try the dishes that I’m asking others to eat so I run into a chicken preparation that I actually like every now and then. What kind of cook would I be if I didn’t? This recipe is one such preparation.

Maybe it’s the Italian inspiration behind this Chicken Marsala with Pan Roasted Cherry Tomatoes that makes my tastebuds sing, or perhaps it’s simply the umami-richness of the mushrooms and marsala wine sauce. Whatever it is, this dish is a winner. It will please the chicken-eaters and the chicken-haters in your life, although it’s quite possible that of the latter I am the only one. It’s quick, easy and tasty…perfect for a weeknight dinner. I served this chicken alongside parmesan smashed red potatoes that were par-boiled, smashed down onto a baking sheet, drizzled with olive oil, salt and pepper, and roasted in the oven. YUM!

Chicken Marsala with Pan Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

16 ounces fresh crimini mushrooms, sliced
3 tablespoons butter, divided
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup dry Marsala wine
1 teaspoon cornstarch dissolved in 1 tablespoon cold water
2 tablespoons heavy cream
½ teaspoon salt (more to taste)
6 chicken cutlets
1 tablespoon olive oil
⅓ cup flour
salt and pepper, to taste
2 cups cherry tomatoes
fresh parsley

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon butter in a medium or large saucepan over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and saute for 8-10 minutes, until golden brown.
  2. Add the garlic and wine – let the mixture simmer gently to reduce the wine, stirring occasionally. After 15-20 minutes, add the cornstarch, cream, and 1/2 teaspoon salt to the marsala mixture – it should start to thicken slightly
  3. Combine the flour, salt and pepper in a shallow bowl. Toss the chicken in the flour mixture until coated. Shake off excess.
  4. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Pan-fry the coated chicken for a few minutes on each side, until golden brown and cooked through.
  5. Add sauce and mushrooms to the skillet with the chicken. Top with tomatoes and simmer until the tomatoes are beginning to burst. Sprinkle with fresh parsley and serve.

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Chopped Thai Salad with Kale, Basil and Peppers


It’s another pretty salad, and this time of year, you’ve got to love another pretty salad. It’s swimsuit season, people! Time to put the pasta away and focus on some veggies. At least for a week. A few days. Ok maybe just once. Well whatever you decide, it’s time for me to focus on veggies. Eight weeks ago I had a baby in my belly, and now that she’s outta there, I have to get healthy. Healthy is the key. I’m also extremely excited to start exercising again. Really exercising. I went back to yoga this weekend and went for my first run today. It was awesome…and embarrassing. I was feeling so good! My favorite song was playing, the air was crisp and the sun was shining. Perfect morning. I was feeling all, Look at me up and running before people are heading out to work. Look at me wearing my pre-preggo workout clothes. Look at me already a mile down while my kiddos are still fast asleep. Look at me…tripping and falling flat on my face. Yep, that happened. Flat. On my face. Pride comes before a fall? Consider me humbled.

So yes, time to get healthy. I’m not necessarily on a quest to get skinny, although shedding these last 10 lbs. will be a happy bonus. I’m on a quest to lay off the pizza, ice cream, and all of the other super unhealthy foods I craved during my pregnancy. See ya later bad stuff!

Yes, I realize I am quite possibly completely full of it, and a big fat chocolate cake will show up on the blog next week. That’s ok. What is that saying, “Eat a little of everything and a lot of nothing”? I can totally do that! Chocolate cake, here I come! Next week. Today we’re eating salad; and this salad is a good one. It almost makes you not miss cake. Almost.

This salad is seriously yummy. It has everything you need to feel full and satisfied without having any meat. I love that. Sometimes you don’t need meat. Am I right? If you’re a man you likely disagree, so feel free to add some diced grilled chicken. That would be ok. I won’t do that, but you totally can. Have fun chopping and shredding the veggies for this salad. I’m totally serious, isn’t it so much fun to chop and shred and dice? I love it…free therapy!

So here’s to another pretty salad! It tastes as good as it looks, and looks pretty darn awesome. Enjoy…happy swimsuit (salad) season!


For the salad:

16 ounces shelled edamame, cooked
5-6 cups kale, shredded
1/2 cup basil, chopped
1/4 cup mint, chopped
3 large carrots, shredded
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
¾ cup cashews, chopped

For the dressing:

2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon water
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon- 1 tablespoon sriracha (to your taste)
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1 lime, juiced
salt and pepper, to taste

  1. Using a food processor, puree all of the ingredients for the dressing. Set aside.
  2. In the same food processor, pulse all but a 1/2 cup of the edamame until finely chopped.
  3. Combine all of the ingredients for the salad, except the cashews, in a large bowl. Toss with the dressing, top with chopped cashews and serve.

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It’s Thanksgiving in June!

turkeyburger Are we seriously already closer to THIS Thanksgiving than we are LAST Thanksgiving? That’s crazy to me! I swear the holidays just passed, didn’t they? Well apparently not because my calendar says June 3rd and everyone is talking about what to cook on the grill and what to drink on a hot summer day. I guess I’ll jump on board. BJ and I are still on our healthy-ish eating kick, so the other night when a burger craving hit we decided to only half way indulge by grilling up some turkey burgers. Turkey burgers are an awesome alternative to beef. Done correctly they can still be juicy and flavorful with much less fat. A friend of ours grills up the most delicious turkey burgers I’ve ever had, but they are HOT, HOT, HOT! He uses, chipotle peppers, pepper jack cheese and more chipotle peppers. They are super juicy and yummy but they will set you on fire! Since I’m breastfeeding and not hoping to set my six week old’s tummy on fire, I thought we should go a different route this time around. That’s when BJ suggested Thanksgiving turkey burgers. Intriguing. You could really go all out with this theme, but we just used what we already had on hand. The burger patties were mixed up with fresh parsley, thyme and caramelized shallots. They were topped with smoked provolone cheese, fresh arugula and a delicious pepper jelly-cranberry sauce spread. It was just enough kick to wake up your tastebuds balanced with the right amount of sweetness from the cranberry sauce and smokiness from the provolone cheese. Thanksgiving on a bun! If you’re feeling the need to channel Thanksgiving in June, give this one a shot!

Turkey Burgers with Cranberry-Pepper Relish

1 lb. ground turkey
1/2 cup fresh parsley, minced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced
2 T olive oil
1 shallot, minced
1/2 cup red pepper jelly
1/2 cup cranberry sauce
4 slices smoked provolone
2 cups baby arugula
4 Kings Hawaiian hamburger buns
salt and pepper, to taste

  1. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Sauté shallot until softened and beginning to caramelize. Set aside.
  2. Combine ground turkey, parsley, thyme, shallots and salt and pepper, mix gently with your hands. Divide into four equal parts and form four patties.
  3. Heat a grill to high heat. Oil the grates to keep meat from sticking. Once grill is smoking hot, reduce heat to medium and put patties on. Grill for 5 to 7 minutes per side, flipping only once.
  4. Towards the end of cooking, top each patty with a slice of cheese and let melt.
  5. Meanwhile, combine pepper jelly and cranberry jelly. Set aside.
  6. To build burgers slather cranberry-pepper relish on bottom bun and top with turkey patty. Add another small amount of relish to the top of the patty and then top with arugula. Top with bun. Serve.

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What does Strawberry Shortcake mean to you?


I love a good strawberry shortcake. If I see one on a dessert menu it’s always a given that I will be ordering it.  Make that any fruity dessert. I know I’ve said this before but when a dessert has fruit in it I feel like it’s practically healthy. Please don’t burst my bubble, I know I’m dreaming. Back to shortcakes.

When I was a little girl it was a real treat when my mom served strawberry shortcake after dinner. She usually made hers with the little round sponge cakes that can be found in the produce aisle by the berries. She would slice the strawberries, toss in some sugar to sweeten them up a bit, and pile them on the sponge cake topped with a dollop of cool whip. I loved it! It usually signified that summer time was here. Just imagining those little treats takes me back to warm southern evenings, playing with my little sister in the yard, drinking water from the hose pipe, and watching lightning bugs flicker in the twilight sky. Now that’s some yummy nostalgia for you.

It seems that everyone has a different idea of what strawberry shortcake looks like. For many it’s that yellow sponge cake, but for others it’s a slice of angel food cake or even ladyfingers. All are delish. Somewhere along the way I discovered another version of shortcake, one I’d like to argue takes the…cake…although it’s much less cake and much more biscuit. That’s right, my favorite version of Strawberry Shortcake is made with a crumbly, buttery, slightly sweet, drop biscuit.

A drop biscuit is a biscuit that has NOT been rolled out and cut into circles, it’s simply dropped (plopped, kerplunked, spooned) onto a baking sheet and baked. It’s free form; no fuss, no muss. It’s also easy. There are tons of recipes for these shortcakes out there, but I’ve included the easiest one I’ve used here. Don’t tell anyone, but I use Bisquick for mine. Who cares if it’s fancy, it’s tasty! I also like to mix it up with my strawberries and toss them with brown sugar instead of granulated sugar. I like the subtle caramel flavor the brown sugar imparts, and to me the syrup created with brown sugar is thicker and richer in flavor than when regular granulated sugar is used. Want to take it even a step further? Add in a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar to your berries. There’s your fancy!

So what’s your favorite version of Strawberry Shortcake? I’m eager to hear what you love because who knows, it might become my new favorite down the road!

Strawberry Shortcake

2 1/3 cup original Bisquick mix
1/2 cup milk
3 Tbsp sugar
3 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1 quart strawberries, hulled and sliced
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons powdered sugar

  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Stir bisquick mix, milk, 3 tablespoons of sugar, and the melted butter until a soft dough forms.
  3. Drop by spoonfuls into 6 biscuits onto a greased sheet pan. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned.
  4. Meanwhile, combine strawberries and brown sugar. Mix and let sit 15 to 20 minutes or until a syrup forms.
  5. With an electric mixer beat heavy cream on high speed until it begins to thicken up. Add the powdered sugar and continue to whip until soft peeks form. Chill.
  6. To assemble shortcakes: Slice the biscuits in half. Top bottom half of one biscuit with some strawberries and syrup, and a dollop of whipped cream. Put top half of biscuit on top like a sandwich. Top with another dollop of whipped cream and then more berries and syrup. Serve.

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Asparagus’ Last Hurrah!

aspargus tart

I’m a big asparagus fan. I eat it year-around because I like it and because let’s face it, I can. We live in America and can get our hands on pretty much any produce any time of year, we just might pay a pretty penny for it. That’s the beauty of seasonal eating though. If you eat what’s in season it will not only taste better, it will cost less. So that’s why this dish is asparagus’ last hurrah…of the season.

I love how versatile asparagus is. It aims to please; making it easy for any cook to accomplish something wonderful with it. Grilled, roasted, battered and fried, sautéed, served raw in a salad, pureed into a soup…there is truly something for everyone. There’s not much I haven’t done with asparagus, and now I can mark even one more preparation off the list. Please marvel at this gorgeous tart with me. I mean, how yummy?!


Flaky, buttery puff pastry is the perfect vehicle to house nutty gruyere cheese, caramelized leeks and bright green asparagus. This tart is a cinch to put together, taking very little time and effort but looking like a million bucks. You could cut it up into squares and serve it as an app at your next get together or dinner party, but it would also be a nice alternative side dish to a grilled steak. Starch and veggie in one bite, throw it in the oven and tend to the grill. Done.

However you serve it, just serve it. It’s pretty to look at and even more pleasant to eat. A fun alternative to what you’ve probably been doing with Spring’s favorite veggie.

Asparagus Tart with Gruyere and Leeks

2 sheets frozen puff pastry, defrosted
8 oz. Gruyere cheese, freshly grated
1½ pounds medium asparagus, trimmed
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 leek, trimmed, cleaned, sliced lengthwise and chopped

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prep a parchment lined baking sheet and place the two puff pastry sheets on the baking sheet, overlapping them about an inch to connect them. Using a sharp knife, lightly score the pastry dough 1 inch in from the edges all around to mark a rectangle for the outer crust. Then, using a fork, pierce the dough all around in the center, not the edges. Bake the pastry dough until golden, about 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the leeks and sauté until caramelized, approximately 10 to 15 minutes. Set aside.
  3. Remove the pastry shell from the oven, sprinkle with Gruyere cheese and caramelized leeks.
  4. Arrange asparagus spears in a single layer over the Gruyere cheese, alternating ends and tips. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool slightly.
  5. Slice and serve. Enjoy!🙂

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Easy ways to save HUNDREDS on your grocery bills…

Saving money is pretty awesome, especially when you’re saving money on things you have no choice but to buy. Groceries are one of those things. You have to buy them, so why not make each trip to the store a little less painful on your wallet?

Becoming a Menu Therapy subscriber is guaranteed to save you money each week. How? The meal plans you’ll be shopping for are always seasonal, meaning ingredients will be at their best price as well as at their peak flavor. Also, going to the store with a list in hand helps you stay on track and saves you from making impulse purchases on foods you won’t use or don’t need. Another major plus! Click here to find out how to become a subscriber.

As summer approaches and you have more fun and exciting things to spend your hard earned money on, check out these other 33 tips from POPSUGAR Smart Living to help you save BIG on your groceries.

For the quinoa haters…


My husband and I are on a healthy eating kick. I bet you’re thinking that’s ironic since my last post was about cake, but trust me, we’re all salads, smoothies and lean proteins around here. Sure we cheat…enter hummingbird cake…but we’re really trying to get ourselves ready for summer.

The problem I run into when trying to prepare healthy dinners for BJ and myself is that we don’t really see eye-to-eye on what those dinners should look like. BJ would like grilled chicken or steamed fish and I would rather eat an old shoe than live off of that kind of sustenance. I prefer salads made with tons of fresh veggies,  interesting vinaigrettes and meatless proteins like quinoa. Herein lies the problem…BJ hates quinoa. He says it tastes like plastic and absolutely despises it. No matter how I dress it up, he’s not a fan. Bummer. It’s so easy to make and always satisfies my carb craving while being super high in fiber and protein. I hope your husband likes it. If so, please cook it for me!

This recipe was birthed from BJ’s quinoa strike. Tired of grilled chicken and lettuce, I really wanted to make a salad that would trick me into thinking I was eating a plate of pasta, or at least give me the mouthfeel of it. Having always wanted to try farro, I picked up a pack at Trader Joe’s and decided it would replace the quinoa in my Southwest “Quinoa” Salad. One cup of farro contains a whopping 14 grams of protein and 7 grams of fiber. You’ll be feeling full for a long time after eating which is exactly what we’re trying to accomplish!

I made this salad while my mom was still here helping with Kellan and Allie. She really liked it and we both gobbled up our helpings. I have a feeling BJ is still on the fence. More grilled chicken and fish for him this week while I help myself to these leftovers. Happy eating!

Southwest Farro Salad with Honey-Cilantro Vinaigrette

1 cup farro
1 can black beans, drained
1 cup frozen corn, thawed
1 avocado, chopped into ½ inch pieces
2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
zest of ½ lime
salt and pepper, to taste

For the Honey-Cilantro Dressing:

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons honey

  1. Prepare farro according to package directions.
  2. Combine all of the ingredients for the cilantro dressing in a small bowl. Set aside.
  3. Combine beans, corn, avocado and tomatoes and gently toss with dressing.
  4. Toss cooked farro with the dressed avocado and tomato mixture.
  5. Serve.

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Let us eat cake!


I am so excited to be back in the kitchen!! Actually, I’m so excited to be anywhere other than the couch. Baby Allie has made her debut and all is slowly getting back to normal in the Purvis house.

After a brief stint in the NICU which resulted in one extra day at the hospital for us both, we came home on a sunny Monday afternoon. It was a really wonderful wheelchair ride through the hospital with my baby in my arms. When Kellan was born I was wheeled out in tears as I was forced to leave him behind in the NICU. I literally went home, showered, and immediately returned to the hospital to be with my baby. It was depressing. This time I was wheeled out in tears again, but they were tears of joy that my prayers had been answered and we were all heading home together. To God be the glory!

We were greeted at the driveway by both grandmothers and Kellan jumping up and down and cheering for us. There were balloons and flowers; quite the little celebration, and boy was I ready to celebrate! I knew friends and family would be coming to the house to see our new bundle and I wanted it to be a party…and no party is complete without cake.

So yes, 5 days post cesarean section and 1 day post hospital discharge, I baked a cake. It was awesome. The cake and the actual baking process, that is. If you’ve never had Hummingbird cake you need to remedy that as soon as possible. It is perfect for this time of year, overflowing with banana, pineapple, pecans and decadent cream cheese frosting. I can see it on the dessert table at Easter and Mother’s Day, or even at your Memorial Day festivities.

For me, it was the perfect cake to celebrate our sweet little girl’s arrival. It’s delicate in flavor, but makes a strong impact. Delicate and strong, just like a hummingbird and just like our little one.




For the cake:

3 cups flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup fresh pineapple, crushed (see below)
2 cups very ripe bananas, mashed (approximately 4 large or 6 medium-small)
1 cup chopped pecans

For the frosting:

1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, chilled
3, 8 oz. packages of cream cheese, chilled
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 ½ cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 ½ cups finely chopped pecans

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Peel bananas, place in a small mixing bowl and mash. Set aside. Leave the oven heated to 350 degrees.
  3. Butter and flour 3-9 inch round baking pans. Trace the bottom of the pan (for all three pans) onto parchment paper, cut out circle and place in the bottom of each pan.
  4. In a sifter over a large mixing bowl combine the flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Sift into the bowl. Set aside.
  5. In a second large mixing bowl combine the granulated and brown sugar; stir to combine. Add the eggs and stir briskly by hand to combine all ingredients into a smooth mixture.
  6. Whisk the oil and vanilla into the sugar/egg mixture until combined and smooth.
  7. Add the flour mixture all at once and hand stir (do not beat) to combine the mixture fully.To crush the pineapple: Place 1 cup of finely diced fresh pineapple in a medium mixing bowl and using a potato masher, crush the pineapple. Add the fruit and juice to the batter. Also add the mashed banana and the pecans. Stir just until combined; do not over stir.
  8. Divide the batter evenly between the three pans. Tap the pans on the countertop to release any air bubbles and place in the 350 degree oven for 25-30 minutes until cake bounces back to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean.
  9. Allow to cool in pans on racks for 5 minutes then turn out onto cooling racks to fully cool before frosting. Be sure to peel off and discard the parchment paper.
Instructions for Cream Cheese Frosting:
  1. Cut sticks of chilled butter into 1 inch pieces and place in the bowl of a standing mixer (can use a hand held mixer if needed). Beat on low speed, gradually increasing speed to medium until the butter is still cool but has softened together (about 3 minutes).
  2. Cut the cream cheese into 1 inch strips and add to the butter. Mix at medium speed until fully combined, and smooth.
  3. Add the vanilla and slowly add the sifted powdered sugar. Beat until well blended, increasing speed to beat on medium-high for 3 minutes or until the frosting becomes light and fluffy.
  4. Fold in pecans by hand.
Instructions for Cake Assembly:
  1. Place the first layer of cake upside down (the bottom of the cake will be frosted) on the serving plate. Cover with 2/3 cup of frosting. This will be a thin covering.
  2. Place the second layer of cake right side up (flat cake bottom onto the frosting) and frost the top of this layer with 2/3 cup again
  3. Place the last cake layer with cake right side up and use the remaining frosting to cover top of cake and the sides.
  4. Allow cake to stand at room temperature 30 minutes before serving and store any uneaten cake in the refrigerator. Cake best when made the day prior to serving!

Adapted from Boulder Locavore


Introducing Allie Paige Purvis…


BJ and I welcomed Allie Paige Purvis to the world on April 16th at 5:36am. After worrying and worrying that I wouldn’t know when I was actually in labor since I had been having regular contractions since January, my water broke at 1:30 in the morning and sent us scrambling to the hospital. It was a very exciting morning followed by a few stressful days of our baby girl spending some time in the NICU with breathing difficulties. We are very grateful for the excellent care she was given by the doctors and nurses at Hoag Memorial Presbyterian hospital and are thrilled that she was released to go home with me when I was discharged a few days later. Huge answer to prayer!!

We are over the moon with this beautiful new addition to our family. Kellan absolutely adores his little sister and we feel our family circle is perfectly complete. In addition, I am so happy to be off the couch that I can hardly stand it. C-Section recovery is a piece of cake compared to how miserable I felt over the past few months. I literally came home from the hospital and organized the house and baked a cake…blog to follow!

I’m excited to get back in the kitchen and hope you’ll join me as I try out and share new recipes!

Kicked Up Beef Dip Sandwiches


BJ hit another home run cooking dinner last night. He’s gotten REALLY good at choosing awesome recipes that pack a major flavor punch. I would argue that choosing a good recipe to prepare is an important key in being a good home cook. Not everyone has that ability. If you don’t choose a good recipe to follow the end result won’t be tasty no matter how well you foliow it. You can’t always trust every recipe you see, and some basic knowledge of flavors and combos that work well together will take you far in the kitchen. That’s where BJ is. He is a total amateur cook, but he knows what sounds good and he can follow directions. More often than not this translates into a successful dinner, which is exactly what we had last night.

The Food Network is almost always on the TV in our house. Especially right now. I’m not exactly watching it all day long or anything, but it’s our background noise. BJ’s grown pretty accustomed to it and even catches himself paying attention from time to time. That’s how he discovered this recipe and decided he wanted to give it a whirl. Ree Drummond calls them Drip Beef sandwiches but I’m not a fan of the “drip” part. Sounds kinda gross to me. So since this is my blog and I just totally gave her the credit for the yummy goodness, let’s call them Kicked Up Beef Dip sandwiches. They’re delicious and super easy to get on the table. Perfect for BJ. He seared a chuck roast and then cooked it low and slow for five hours in a Dutch Oven with beef stock, fresh rosemary and chopped pepperoncini, with their juice. Just four ingredients. Pretty amazing. He let them cook for five hours, then shredded the beef and piled it high in deli rolls. We didn’t top the sandwiches with caramelized onions like the recipe calls for, although I’m certain it would have taken it to a whole other level. These are so good you will definitely want to add them to your rotation. You can’t beat a four ingredient recipe that tastes like you spent a ton of time perfecting it. It absolutely hits the spot at the end of a busy day.


Kicked Up Beef Dip Sandwiches

One 4-pound chuck roast
Salt and black pepper
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 cups beef broth
2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary
One 16-ounce jar chopped or sliced pepperoncini, juice and all
2 yellow onions, sliced
10 to 12 toasted, buttered deli rolls

  1. Sprinkle the chuck roast with salt and pepper.
  2. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter and the canola oil in a heavy pot over high heat. Sear both sides of the chuck roast until very browned, about 5 minutes in all. Pour in the beef broth and 1 cup water. Add the rosemary, and then pour in the pepperoncini with their juices. Now cover the pot and simmer until the meat is tender and falling apart, 4 to 5 hours.
  3. Meanwhile, heat a skillet over medium heat and add the remaining 1 tablespoon butter. Add the onions and sauté until light golden brown. Set aside.
  4. Remove the roast from the pot and shred the meat completely using two forks. Return the meat to the cooking liquid and keep warm. To serve, slice wedges out of the tops of the deli rolls. Heap a generous portion of meat on each roll, and then spoon some of the cooking liquid over the meat. Top with a few peppers from the pot and plenty of caramelized onions. Top the sandwiches with the wedges of roll and serve.

For more delicious recipes, weekly meal planning and grocery lists, become a Menu Therapy subscriber.


Strawberry Fields


Last weekend I desperately needed to get my two year old out of the house for a little while. Kellan needed to burn some energy and Mom’s belly needed a break from being his drum set, landing pad, and pillow. Trust me I usually love having his attention and affection in whatever form it comes, but baby Allie needed some quiet time in utero.🙂

On Saturday morning I did some research to find out what was going on in South Orange County and I ran across a U-Pick Strawberry Field a mere four miles from our house! Perfect! It looked super quaint and off the beaten path…much better that the strawberry field we pass from time to time that is flanked by freeways on both sides. This little local strawberry field is at South Coast Farms and boasts a backdrop of picturesque rolling hills. Not only does it have u-pick strawberries on weekends during strawberry season, it’s an organic farm and farm stand offering on site fruits and vegetables for purchase seven days a week. There’s even a CSA program (Community Supported Agriculture) where locals can subscribe to receive bountiful baskets of seasonal produce grown in the community. I’m really excited to give it a go after the baby comes as I imagine it will be the perfect inspiration for the healthy eating plan I’ll need to get back into pre-baby shape.

I was so excited for BJ to take Kellan to pick strawberries! Of course I so wish I would have been able to go with them, but it’s really all about the experience for Kellan and he always has the best time with his daddy! I sent them out the door with two empty baskets and anxiously awaited their return. Two hours later a very proud little boy marched through the door carrying a basket full of beautiful strawberries and sporting a huge smile.

“Look what I brought for you!” he beamed.



BJ followed behind with the second basket of bright red berries. I could smell their sweet scent from the couch! We quickly washed up a few and tasted the treasure. They were so juicy, sweet, and soft enough to easily bite right into, but not mushy. I doubt there’s a more simple pleasure than the taste of freshly plucked strawberries. I knew right away what we needed to do with them. It was an unseasonably warm weekend so homemade strawberry ice cream seemed like it would be a winner…and it was!


From my seemingly permanent perch on the couch, I coached BJ through the homemade ice cream making process. We started out with an ice cream base made of half and half, sugar, a vanilla bean, egg yolks and finished with heavy cream. I’ll admit, I jumped up off the couch and tackled the yolk-whisking part as I was less than confident that BJ’s effort was getting them to the fluffy state they needed to be in. (Whew! That was a work out for a girl who has been sedentary for two months!)

Once the base chilled, we stirred in about a pound of pureed berries and then let the ice cream maker do its thing. After only a half hour of churning it was ready to go into the freezer. This is the KEY to good homemade ice cream. Sure, you can go for it right out of the maker. That’s what most people do. But that’s also why most people’s homemade ice cream is really soupy and never makes it to the creamy, firm texture you expect from ice cream. We let ours freeze overnight but if you can’t wait that long, I would suggest at least 3 to 4 hours for better results.

This was some seriously good ice cream. I enjoyed a small bowl every night until it finally ran out, and even shared bowls with our Life Group. It got rave reviews…especially the texture. They couldn’t believe it was homemade!

You may or may not have a strawberry field from which to pick your berries, but I bet your grocery store is starting to stock some good looking berries. Give those a shot or use this same ice cream base with a fresh fruit that does grow in your neck of the woods. I promise it won’t disappoint!



3 cups half-and-half
2 cups sugar
1 whole vanilla bean
9 whole large egg yolks
3 cups heavy cream
1 lb. strawberries, hulled
2 tablespoons sugar

  1. Stir half-and-half and 2 cups sugar in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Split the vanilla bean, scrape out goodness inside, and add it in. Heat the mixture until it’s hot but not simmering or boiling.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks vigorously with a whisk until they start to lighten in color and get fluffy. You can use an electric mixer but be careful not to overdo it.
  3. Using a ladle, slowly drizzle a bit of the half-and-half mixture into the egg yolks, whisking continuously. This is called “tempering” the egg yolks and will bring them up to a warm enough temperature so that when you add them to the hot half and half the eggs don’t scramble. You can do this again for good measure if you’d like.
  4. Pour the tempered yolks into the saucepan with the rest of the half and half mixture and stir gently with a wooden spoon for 2 to 4 minutes, cooking it slowly until it’s thick enough to coat the spoon.
  5. Pour the entire mixture into a bowl through a fine mesh strainer. This will get rid of any eggs that might have accidentally scrambled. Nothing is worse than ice cream with bits of scrambled egg mixed in!
  6. Add the heavy cream to the bowl and stir gently to combine. Refrigerate this mixture for 2 hours.
  7. Meanwhile, combine the strawberries and 2 tablespoons of sugar in a blender. Puree until smooth. Pour the pureed strawberries into the chilled custard mixture and stir to combine.
  8. Now pour this mixture into your ice cream maker and churn according to the manufacturer’s directions. Transfer it to a freezer-safe container and freeze it for at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight.

For more delicious recipes, weekly meal planning and grocery lists, become a Menu Therapy subscriber.


Cooking Your Way to a Better Marriage


Cooking your way to a better marriage? Well, that might be a little bit of a stretch  but I thought it sounded better than eating your way to a better marriage. That probably wouldn’t end well, unless your idea of a better marriage is two sluggish, unhealthy people accompanying one another to the cardiologist. Yeah, let’s stick with cooking. The thing about cooking vs. eating is that eating can be done alone, while cooking brings people together. When you cook, you generally end up sharing your creation with others, usually at a communal table. Enter family dinner. You know how I feel about family dinner…it’s the glue. Great conversations are had over family dinner. Questions are asked and answered, details are discussed and each family member is given a chance to be heard. I love it!

Family dinners don’t always look exactly the same. It can be a family of four or a young, newly married couple enjoying a meal together at the end of the day. No matter what, it’s just the idea that time spent together at the dinner table has the power to solidify and strengthen relationships.

This is why I’m so excited about Menu Therapy rekindling a relationship with a really cool nonprofit called Foundation Restoration. Foundation Restoration is the brain-child of my friend, Ashley, whose passion it is to help marital relationships thrive. She is Marriage and Family Therapist Associate who has spent the past five years writing, counseling and growing her nonprofit from the ground up. I hope you’ll check out the Foundation Restoration website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. I believe you’ll find some great resources and encouragement you can use in all of your relationships.

Also, be on the look out for some Menu Therapy recipes to be featured in the Table for Two column. I’m excited to share some yummy recipes with the Foundation Restoration readers, as well as give away some free monthly AND year-long subscriptions to the Menu Therapy meal planning service. I think this will be the beginning of a beautiful marriage…pun intended!🙂

To learn more about Foundation Restoration, check out the video below.

California “Barbecue”

We’ve lived in California for 5 years and have certainly learned a lot. We’ve learned that responding, “I’m good,” when asked if we want a drink refill at a restaurant will get us a puzzled look from the server, and likely more drink in our glasses. It’s also apparently not appropriate to give driving directions by saying, “At the third red-light, make a left.” My friend responded to those instructions, “How do you know the light will be red?” OK…at the third traffic light? That sounds weird. No one but my husband eats “supper”, and I’ve gotten quite a few giggles when referring to starting my car engine as “cranking” the car. Whatever. I can make a few concessions on this list and admit that it’s possible a few of my southern phrases don’t make perfect sense, but there’s one thing I will not back down on no matter what. You know that big metal machine you keep outside in the backyard to cook your food on when the weather’s great? It’s a GRILL, people! It is used to GRILL food. Yes, you can certainly finagle (quite possibly another deep South word) your grill to act as a smoker, slow-cooker, or even an oven, but it’s number one purpose in life is to grill. It is not a barbecue and you certainly don’t use it to barbecue hamburgers, hot dogs, or gasp…veggies. I’ll never forget being invited to a pool party where barbecue was promised. I headed outside and inhaled deeply, eagerly anticipating that smoky, been-cooking-overnight aroma of pork. I looked around and saw my friend flipping burgers and weenies on the grill. He saw me and yelled over, “Hey, do you want a barbecued hamburger or a barbecued hot dog?” I’m sorry, what? Is this burger you speak of slow cooked for hours, steaming in its own juices and slathered in a delicious sauce? No? Then I have news my friend, it’s not barbecued. That was the day I learned that while Californians may be right about some things…like traffic lights…they are most certainly incorrect on the looseness in which the term barbecue is used. Okie doke, stepping down off my grandstand now. However, score one for California when we were introduced to the wonder that is Tri Tip. If you haven’t heard of it, which is probably the case if you’re anywhere on the east side of the country, Tri Tip is the triangular piece of meat from the bottom sirloin subprimal cut of the cow. Until the 1950’s it was typically made into ground beef or cut into steaks, until it was introduced into an Oakland, CA meat market as its very own cut. Its popularity spread throughout the state and it is now becoming increasingly popular in other parts of the country. Slowly, but surely. BJ tried his hand at making Tri Trip for me, my mom and Kellan last week.  He and Kellan had a great time outside grilling together. If ever a little boy wanted to be just like his daddy, this little nugget does! IMG_1636   IMG_1634   This was BJ’s second attempt at the mysterious cut of meat; as the first go-round fell a little flat in the texture department. This time he used the method of our good friend Reed, a life-long Orange County boy and avid “barbecuer”. He massaged a yummy dry rub into every square inch of the tri tip and let it hang out in the refrigerator for about 8 hours. He gave it a quick sear on both sides over very high heat, and then wrapped the meat loosely in aluminum foil, lowered the grill temperature down to 275 degrees, and let it slow cook on the top rack of a closed grill for about an hour. This was the closest thing to BBQ, the cooking method that is, that I’ve seen since living on the West Coast. BJ opened the foil and let the meat rest for about 5 to 10 minutes, carefully reserving the super flavorful jus that had formed in the bottom of the packet. This was perfect for pouring over the sliced meat once it was arranged on the serving platter. This tri tip was absolutely melt in your mouth delicious, extremely tender, and had a very bold flavor from the spice rub. Below is the recipe and photo as given by my husband. He’s no food photographer, but I think he did a great job capturing the tender, juicy Tri Tip, and an even better job making all of our bellies extremely happy! The meal was completed with my mom’s buttery fingerling potatoes and a raw asparagus salad I actually got to throw together while sitting at the kitchen table. Hooray for another successful family dinner together around the table while the resident chef is still very much on bed rest. If I wasn’t so stir crazy I could really get used to having these delicious meals prepared by other people! Sometimes it tastes even better when someone else did all the work! tritip California BBQ (Dry Rubbed Tri Tip)  2.5 lb. tri tip, trimmed of extra fat Dry Rub: Lawry’s seasoning salt brown sugar ground ginger garlic powder salt and pepper, to taste

  1. Combine the dry rub ingredients together in a bowl to your taste. It should yield about 1 cup of rub.
  2. Massage the rub into the tri tip. Wrap with plastic wrap, put on a plate, and let hang out in the refrigerator for 8 hours or overnight.
  3. Oil the grill grates to prevent sticking and preheat grill to very high heat.
  4. Sear the tri tip on both sides to get good grill marks. Approximately 2 minutes per side.
  5. Remove from the grill and wrap loosely in aluminum foil. Lower the heat to 275 degrees and place the foil-wrapped tri tip on the top rack. Let slow cook for 1 hour.
  6. Remove meat from the grill and let rest 5 to 10 minutes before slicing. Carefully reserve any jus that had gathered in the bottom of the foil packet to drizzle over the sliced meat.
  7. Slice the meat into thin, 1/2 thick slices. Pour jus on top. Serve as is or make sandwiches using Hawaiian rolls and your favorite BBQ sauce.
  8. Thank California for introducing you to their brand of BBQ.

Checking off the list! 

It’s been a wonderful two weeks! My dad was here for a nice long weekend and my mom has been here for two weeks and counting. So much has gotten crossed off my list, it’s unbelievable.

  1. Wash the baby’s clothes. I hung them all up without washing them first. Rookie mistake. Done! Thanks Mom!
  2. Organize the baby’s closet. Again, courtesy of my mother!
  3. Make sure Kellan’s baby book is up to date. (You know, before I never have time to update it ever, again!!) Turns out his only goes through Age 1, I caught a break. 
  4. Begin baby Allie’s baby book. It’s staring at me from the kitchen table and has been since my baby shower. Check!
  5. Pack my hospital bag. This seems like a luxury task as last go ’round I simply left for church and never came home. Somehow everything I needed ended up at the hospital when I needed it. That’s what husbands are for. I feel super accomplished having this done!
  6. Make photo books of Kellan’s 1st AND 2nd birthday. For BONUS points, do his 1st and 2nd Christmas as well! HA! I concede. 
  7. Complete our taxes. Ugh. Come on refund!
  8. Put the Mamaroo swing thing and double stroller together. Stat.  Let’s be honest, I can’t do this. BJ? Dad? Swing and monstrosity of a stroller are ready for duty, thanks to my dad and hubby. 
  9. Write at LEAST six weeks of meal plans for Menu Therapy. Do I only have seven weeks MAX to do that? Yikes! Subscribers, you’ll be eating well!
  10. Kellan needs an Easter outfit! I’m from the South and this is a MUST. Whether I make it off the couch to church with BJ and Kellan, he WILL look like a pastel Easter egg if it’s the last thing I do. BONUS points if I can get him and BJ to match (insert snicker…BJ would not approve).  Nonni and BJ hit the mall today. 
  11. Get a present to Kellan from baby Allie. After the meltdown Kellan had building a bunny for Allie this weekend, we will be going the Amazon route for this one. Done. One gigantic, squishy stegosaurus coming right up. Good choice, Allie. 

Kellan has been spoiled in the BEST way possible, with more love, attention and fun outtings than BJ and I would have been able to do on our own. Of course he’s always pretty well covered in the love department since we basically spend every waking minute letting that boy know how absolutely cherished he is, but there’s something about grandparent love that’s just extra special. 



I feel super accomplished and I’ve barely left the couch. It’s pretty awesome. Since my dad left to get back to work, my mom has cooked, cleaned, shopped, organized, done mountains of laundry, chauffeured BJ and myself to doctor visits, and has taken exceptional care of Kellan. However, of all of the amazing ways she has helped out over the last two weeks, my favorite has been what she’s done in the kitchen. She’s whipped up some delicious home-cooked meals including the Cinnamon Roll Cake and Brussels Sprouts pizzas I whined about last blog, and has kept us enjoying a nice family dinner around the kitchen table every night. To me, that’s the best way to keep things normal; family dinner around the table. Like church on Sunday morning and date night with my husband every week, family dinners are something to count on when everything else is spinning chaotically out of my control. I believe that gathering around the table for a delicious (hopefully!) dinner plays a central part in keeping families together, which is really where the idea of Menu Therapy came from to begin with! Being able to sit with my family and enjoy dinner each night has made bed rest more bearable. It’s given me something “normal” to look forward to each day…and an excuse to let Kellan pull his mommy off the couch every evening.

34 weeks down…only a handful to go until we trade our current chaos in for another kind. Two kids! Call me crazy, but surely that will be easier, or at least more manageable, than our current situation. At least I’ll be up and at ’em and able to contribute, even if I have a newborn strapped on!

What I Would Cook, If I Could Cook

It’s almost been two weeks, but it feels like 20. I despise sitting on the couch. I want to go, go, go! I love to go grocery shopping, run errands, take walks, clean my house, play with my son, and cook. Oh how I love to cook! I like to use my son’s nap time to whip up dessert or start prepping for dinner. Chopping, mincing and slicing is like therapy to me. Free therapy that not only leaves me feeling refreshed and relaxed, but productive. This girl thrives on productivity and bed rest is so NOT productive; at least not in my sense of the word. I suppose I am being productive in keeping baby Allie cooking as long as possible, but I have so much more I need…and want…to do. Here’s just a taste of my mental to-do list…

  1. Wash the baby’s clothes. I hung them all up without washing them first. Rookie mistake.
  2. Organize the baby’s closet.
  3. Make sure Kellan’s baby book is up to date. (You know, before I never have time to update it ever, again!!)
  4. Begin baby Allie’s baby book. It’s staring at me from the kitchen table and has been since my baby shower.
  5. Pack my hospital bag. This seems like a luxury task as last go ’round I simply left for church and never came home. Somehow everything I needed ended up at the hospital when I needed it. That’s what husbands are for.
  6. Make photo books of Kellan’s 1st AND 2nd birthday. For BONUS points, do his 1st and 2nd Christmas as well! HA!
  7. Complete our taxes. Ugh.
  8. Put the Mamaroo swing thing and double stroller together. Stat.  Let’s be honest, I can’t do this. BJ? Dad?
  9. Write at LEAST six weeks of meal plans for Menu Therapy. Do I only have seven weeks MAX to do that? Yikes!
  10. Kellan needs an Easter outfit! I’m from the South and this is a MUST. Whether I make it off the couch to church with BJ and Kellan, he WILL look like a pastel Easter egg if it’s the last thing I do. BONUS points if I can get him and BJ to match (insert snicker…BJ would not approve).
  11. Get a present to Kellan from baby Allie. After the meltdown Kellan had building a bunny for Allie this weekend, we will be going the Amazon route for this one.

Whew! That’s a lot of stuff I have to get done from the couch, and those are just my “musts”. If I can add some pipe dreams to that list they would all involve food. There’s so much I’d like to cook it’s ridiculous. I mean let’s be honest, I have had plenty of time to binge-watch the Food Network, scroll through Pinterest and read every Bon Appetit mag I own cover to cover…twice. I have been inspired! So, since the chances of me getting up and cooking anything before this baby comes are slim to none, I thought I’d leave this list with you. This is what I would cook if I could cook. Some of the recipes just sound fun to tackle while others sound fun to eat. Maybe some will look good to you too and you will be inspired. If so please let me know how it goes and send me a photo…I would love to live vicariously through you!



I always want sushi when I’m pregnant, it’s such a bummer. During one of my afternoons watching Giada at Home my mouth was watering as I watched her prepare and throw a sushi party. How fun! Making your own sushi rolls is not nearly as daunting as you would think. All you really need is a bamboo roller and a sharp knife, and you can save a ton of time by getting pre made sushi rice from a local restaurant. Check out this tutorial from Hello Hue.

Rigatoni with Lemon-Chile Pesto and Grated Egg


I’ve confessed my love of pesto many times so of course this recipe called my name when it hit my inbox. This recipe is just interesting and I’m a pasta fanatic just like my husband and son. We would all three be in heaven with this on our dinner plate. I would probably sub in parmesan cheese because I’m not a huge fan of pecorino, but you make the call. Get the recipe at

Brussels Sprouts Pita Pizzas

Brussels Sprouts Pizza

This is one of my favorite recipes from last winter and I’m so sad I didn’t get to make it before the unfortunate bed rest. It’s delicious and even made my Brussels Sprouts hating parents and sister jump on the bandwagon. Shredded brussels, caramelized onions, sautéed leeks, bacon, and goat cheese…what’s not to like? See the old blog post for the recipe…and make sure to make enough for me!

Cinnamon Roll Cake


My parents are flying in this week! YAY!!!!🙂 Normally I would have a list a mile long of all of the fun things we could do and places we should go eat, but looks like they’re just going to be helping out with Kellan while BJ works and I continue to hang out on…you guessed it…the couch. I found the recipe for this Cinnamon Roll Cake a few months back and thought it would make for a delicious breakfast next time we had overnight company. I’m going to try to talk my mom in to tackling it while she’s here. At least then I can get a pretty pic of it and enjoy a slice or seven with my morning coffee. Mmmmm, sounds amazing! You can get the recipe and a whole lot of other yummy goodness from this baking blog, Crunchy Creamy Sweet.

So that’s it. What I would cook if I could cook. It all looks delicious and sounds like fun to make…let me know if it is!

Dadgum! That was FUN!

A few weeks ago I had the great honor of filming a cooking/electric grill demo with John McLemore of Masterbuilt. We had such a great time and it was an all around amazing experience. John and his awesome wife, Tonya, prepared a delicious lunch for us to enjoy before we got to work and they made me feel right at home on the set. As I’m sure you can tell just by watching a few minutes of the video, John’s personality is larger than life! He’s always having fun and cracking jokes, and is just a really pleasant guy to be around. As soon as I walked in, he gave me a huge high five and said, “Look, you know what the most important thing is, right?” I of course assumed he was trying to calm my nerves so I responded, “Have fun?” He looked at me with a very serious look on his face and said, “No. Don’t screw up.” Everyone, John leading the way, burst out laughing and then proceeded to give me the rundown on all of his latest filming bloopers. So funny!

We had a great time talking about the food as we were prepping for the demo. He asked a lot of great questions about my recipe and I really enjoyed getting to share some of my food knowledge and inspiration with someone who already knows so much. We talked about the proper way to cook a skirt steak, a cut of meat that has been on the scene for a while at some of my favorite restaurants. It’s a cheap cut that goes a long way to feed a crowd, and it’s always cooked the same way…high heat for a really short amount of time. To finish it, let it rest and then thinly slice it against the grain to ensure that it doesn’t get tough.

It was also really great to sit back and listen to him enthusiastically describe different Masterbuilt products, especially the electric grill that he has been perfecting for many years. John is proud of his products and he absolutely should be. They make outdoor cooking so much more fun and easy, and always yield great results.

I hope you enjoy this little demo of the recipe I shared in John’s latest cookbook, Dadgum! That’s Good- and Healthy! It’s a great recipe for an outdoor dinner and is a breeze to throw together. Also, if you’re loving the electric grill we used, it is the special value on QVC today…check it out there or on

What’s for dinner?

I’m the last person who has to ask the age old question, “What’s for dinner?” I’ve spent the last year and a half creating weekly meal plans for Menu Therapy subscribers, so my recipe repertoire is packed full of dinner ideas. With the click of a button I can search through the recipes on my computer by keyword and find something that hits the spot that night, and that’s only if I’m not already following the weekly meal plan I planned out for others! Our options are endless.

So what happens when the meal planner becomes the meal…plannee? I don’t think that’s the right word but you get my drift. What happens when the wife, mama, meal planner and meal preparer gets put on bed rest? Chaos, that’s what!

I kinda knew it was going to happen. I could feel it in my bones, or in my uterus anyway. I had a positive attitude, I tried to take it easy, I drank more water than a marathoner and yet it still happened. Seven months pregnant, way too much amniotic fluid in my already fussy uterus, 2 visits to labor and delivery, and doctor’s orders to take up permanent residence on my couch. Ugh. Definitely not the worst thing in the world and I’m counting my blessings that our baby girl is healthy, but definitely not the easiest thing in the world either. During a normal week I take care of our two year old, grocery shop, keep the house in order, write meal plans, cook and photograph meals, clean up an insane amount of toddler messes, and ALWAYS put dinner on the table no matter what. Now I can do none of that. Nada. My husband has picked up the slack in a major way, taking on all of those tasks while continuing to excel at his full-time job. He’s my hero. My parents will be here in a week and that will be a well-deserved break for BJ and lots a fun for Kellan. Poor buddy, he will finally have some undivided attention and so much action and excitement that maybe he’ll actually start napping again. (Please God, let him start napping again, now is not the time!)

I’ve been chilling on the couch for a week now and I want you to know I have not had to ask, “What’s for dinner?” one single time. Not once! Until my parents can get here and fill in the gap, my absolutely amazing friends who live in GEORGIA have taken care of our dinners. That’s right…they are feeding my pregnant self and family across the country in California by the simple click of a button on their computer. Isn’t that amazing? First of all it’s amazing that I have such loving and generous friends who would be so thoughtful, but secondly it’s amazing that it’s apparently such an easy thing to do. Who knew? They have used this awesome website called Restaurants on the Run, where they can find participating restaurants in our area and pre-order meals to be delivered to our home on specific days. How awesome is that? Every night around 5:00pm our doorbell rings and the same delivery guy is out there with another delicious dinner.


It’s seriously the best thing ever. I’m so excited to know about this because I can see it being super helpful in the future when I get the chance to return the favor. In fact, I have a friend in Atlanta who is expecting TWINS in April and I can’t wait to take care of her and her sweet family in this way when the little babes are born.

So now, I hope you’ll cut me some slack if the food photos and recipes are less frequent over the next few weeks, although I will do my best to stay in touch. You can see I have a pretty legit excuse.🙂

Menu Therapy Meal Planning