Category: Food & Wine

A good measurement of how well a recipe is received is by the sheer number of people asking for it. My husband wants me to make my lasagna on the weekly dinner rotation, and friends request it for events and get togethers. I promised this recipe to a dear friend, and here it is with a picture and everything. So sorry it’s taken me this long.I think anyone is capable of having success with this recipe so long as you have three things. Don’t start this recipe without these, or you will more than likely regret it:

  1. A dedicated time, a time you can settle in, maybe have a glass of wine, and enjoy the process of preparing a good dish. This is not a recipe you can whip together in under an hour, so time-you need it.
  2. A deep 9×13 pan. The Bobby Flay deep lasagna pan sold at Kohl’s is fabulous. It’s SO fabulous that I went out and bought a second one. When I take the time to prepare this, I make two and freeze one.
  3. The willingness to use quality marinara sauce. Why spend the time preparing this if you are going to use stink cheap marinara. Don’t skimp on any of the ingredients. Get nice cheese, get quality sausage, and fresh tomatoes. You will not regret it.
  • 2 pounds mild Italian sausage
  • 1/2 cup minced onion
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 4 Roma Tomatoes sliced (as thin as you can manage)
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 (14 ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 (6 ounce) cans tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 Jar mariana sauce (*or a quarts worth of homemade)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (or 1/2 cup dried)
  • 2 boxes of lasagna noodles, cooked
  • 16 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 16 ounces cottage cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 pound mozzarella cheese, sliced
  • 6 cups mozzarella cheese shredded
  • 2 cups five cheese Italian blend shredded cheese
  • 1/4 cup olive oil


  1. Brown sausage, onion, and garlic over medium heat. Stir in crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, and water. Season with salt and pepper, and simmer, while the noodles cook approximately 15 minutes.
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine ricotta cheese, cottage cheese, the shredded five italian cheese blend, the egg, parsley, basil, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
  3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
  4. Cook lasagna noodles in boiling water for 8 to 10 minutes. It’s better to have slightly undercooked noodles. Drain noodles, but keep enough water in noodles so they are playable. Cut noodles to fit 5 across in pan.
  5. To assemble: Coat deep lasagna pan with a thin layer of olive oil. Spread a thin layer of marinara sauce on the bottom lasagna pan. Add first layer of noodles: coat with meat mixture and lightly sprinkle with shredded mozzarella cheese. Second layer of noodles: and add marinara sauce with 2 cups shredded mozzarella. Third layer noodles: spread ricotta cheese mixture. Fourth layer of noodles: add marinara sauce, can of diced tomatoes and 2 cups mozzarella. Fifth layer of noodles: Top with sliced roman tomatoes and sliced onion and sliced mozzarella cheese. Cover with foil: to prevent sticking, either spray foil with cooking spray, or make sure the foil does not touch the cheese.
  6. Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes. Remove foil, and bake an additional 25 minutes. Cool for 15 minutes before serving.


My quest to make a really good Cashew Chicken at home, lead me to start using Hoisin sauce on a regular basis. Like ketchup or mustard, not all Hoisin sauces are equal when it comes to quality or taste.  When I fell in love with the Hoisin sauce sold by Wildtree (you can find it HERE), I had to shamelessly promote it. I like the taste of this Hoisin sauce more than what I bought before, and for a bonus I get close to four ounces more for almost the exact same price. This sauce is a keeper, and so is the crock pot recipe I’m posting today. All four of my kids will eat this dish, which gives this recipe a solid endorsement as a kid friendly food worth trying.

Hawaiian Style Country Ribs

  • 3 lbs boneless pork or beef ribs
  • 8 oz can of pineapple chunks (not drained)
  • 2/3 cup (6oz.) Hoisin Sauce
  • 1 ½ TBSP Sesame Oil
  • ½ tsp ground pepper
  • 6-8 Cups of rice cooked
  1. Place contents of bag in crockpot. Cook on low for 6-8 hours.
  2. Prepare rice per package directions (may substitute canned coconut milk instead of water when making rice).
  3. Serve ribs with rice. Top with sauce & pineapple chunks from Crock Pot.

* This recipe can be successfully prepped and frozen to be cooked in a crock pot on a later date.

I make this on my stove at home on a regular basis, however the recipe went with my family on a road trip we made last summer.  We had just finished eating this in Grand Teton National Park, when a Grizzly Bear walked through the picnic grounds. It was one animal sighting I really did not want to have. Fortunately our van was close by, and a family in the next picnic area over spooked the bear into leaving.  The chili was really good, and I liked the local Moose Drool beer too.

Servings: 6
Yield: 6 servings
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 celery ribs chopped
  • 4 cups beef broth
  • 2 (15 ounce) can diced tomatoes with garlic and onion
  • 2 (15 ounce) can dark red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (8 ounce) can of tomato sauce
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons shredded Cheddar cheese (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon sour cream (optional)


  1. Heat vegetable oil in a large pot over medium-high heat and stir in the ground turkey. Cook and stir until the turkey is crumbly, evenly browned, and no longer pink. Drain and discard any excess grease. Stir in the onion and celery; cook and stir until the onion is tender, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the beef broth, tomatoes, tomato sauce, kidney beans, garlic, chili powder, paprika, salt, and black pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Sprinkle each bowl with a teaspoon of Cheddar cheese, if desired.


I found this recipe in All You Magazine last year, and with a few adaptations, made this a regular dinner on the menu.
Mini Penne with Italian Sausage
Servings: 6
  • 1 lb. Mini Penne Pasta
  • 1 lb. bulk mild Italian sausage
  • 1 small onion minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced or 1/4 tsp garlic salt
  • 2 (14.5 ounce cans) diced tomatoes with juice
  • 1 tsp dried crushed basil
  • 1 tsp dried crushed oregano
  • 1 (5-6 oz. bag of spinach)
  • 1 small package Bel Gioioso Fresh Mozzarella
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese


  1. Cook pasta al dente according to package directions and drain.
  2. Rinse and dry spinach with a salad spinner.
  3. In a large skillet over medium high heat sauté onion in olive oil before adding the sausage to brown. Cook sausage until no longer pink then stir in garlic, basil and oregano and cook for only an additional 30 seconds.
  4. Stir in tomatoes with juice and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 min.
  5. Stir sausage mixture into pot with the drained cooked penne pasta. Add spinach and mozzarella cooking over medium heat, just until the spinach wilts. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

Ever since a trip to Ireland in 2001 I have wanted to recreate a leek soup I enjoyed in a small village restaurant. This is what I came up with and even my husband thinks I nailed it. The most exciting thing about this recipe is that it’s my first published recipe on If you make it and like, please leave me a review HERE.

Creamy Potato, Carrot & Leek Soup

  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 6 large potatoes
  • 4 leeks-chopped
  • 4 stalks celery-chopped
  • 5 carrots chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup cream
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  1. Melt butter in stock pot and soften leeks and celery for approximately 3-5 min over medium high heat.
  2. Add chicken and vegetable broth, potatoes, carrots, bay leaf and salt. Boil until the potatoes and carrots are soft, 20 minutes.
  3. Remove bay leaf. Use an immersion blender and blend until smooth. Add cream and simmer until the soup has thickened, about 20 min.


My husband is not a fan of chicken. It all stems back to time he spent on an itty bitty base during the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom. It’s been several years since then, but he still gives me dirty looks if chicken is on the menu. Which makes me getting a Ronco Rotisserie for Christmas one year amusing.  It also means anytime I find a chicken dish he does like, it’s a keeper-AND this recipe is a keeper.

Easy Chicken & Dumplings

  • 8 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp chicken seasoning
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 (10.75 ounce) can condensed cream of chicken soup
  • 1 (10.75 ounce) can condensed cream of celery soup
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 4 celery ribs diced
  • small bag frozen peas
  • 2 (10 ounce) packages refrigerated biscuit dough, flattened and cut into strip pieces


  1. In a small bowl combine paprika, pepper, garlic powder, and chicken seasoning. Coat chicken breasts with seasonings and then place in slow cooker.
  2. In a frying pan on medium heat melt 2 TBSP butter and soften onions and cellery.
  3. Add wine, soup, onion, celery, remaining 2 TBSP butter, and peas to the slow cooker. Fill with enough chicken broth to cover the mixture.
  4. Cover crock and cook for 6 hours on low. Cook on high another 2 hours. About 1 hour before serving, place the strips of biscuit dough in the slow cooker. Cook until the dough is no longer raw in the center.

Servings: 8 

Yield: 8 servings

I think my all time favorite cold weather food is Beef Barley Soup. This is a great 8-10 hour cook on low crock-pot meal you can start in the morning and have waiting for you at dinner time. You can brown the meat and onions, and package this as a freezer-crock meal so long as you omit adding water until it is ready to go in the crock-pot.

Beef Barley Soup

  • 2-3 lbs chuck roast (cut into 2 inch chunks and discarding any large bits of fat)
  • 2 cups carrots diced
  • 1 cup celery diced
  • 1 lg onion diced
  • ¼ cup dried parsley
  • ½ cup uncooked barley
  • beef broth cubes for 6 cups
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 TBSP ketchup

Cut chuck roast into 2 inch chunks and brown remove from pan. Soften onions and celery in pan the roast was browned in. Add to crock pot and add carrots, parsley, uncooked barley, beef broth cubes, salt, bay leaf, ketchup, and six cups of water.

If preparing from freezer: thaw bag in fridge. Place contents of bag in crockpot add 6 cups water.

Cook on low for 8-10 hours, high for 4-6 hours. Serves 8

Crockpot Cooking: Wildtree Pollo Asada Rice Bowls

I am often asked, “Where do you find the time?” I’m never sure how to answer this. I can think of several things I do and don’t do that maybe contribute to my ability at garnering more time. Menu planning is one of my time savers, and it combats the frustration of figuring out, “What’s for dinner?”

The crock-pot is another one of my time savers, and it is by far my favorite household appliance. I’ve been using one for several years now, and it’s made me a bit of a crock-pot recipe snob. When a friend of mine invited me to a Wildtree Freezer to Crockpot workshop, I thought I’d give it a try. I love finding new crock-pot menu’s to add to my menu rotation. The workshop was in early December, and I went home with ten meals ready to freeze and throw in the crock for dinner. I love the concept of prepping ten meals, and even better, my family and I really liked each of the meals.

I’m sharing the recipe I liked the best. Pollo Asada Rice Bowls, easily became a favorite because they reminded me of a chicken Chipolte burrito. You can find out more about Wildtree and their products on their website HERE.

Pollo Asada Rice Bowls

  • 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs
  • ½ medium onion diced
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 15 oz can of diced tomatoes (not drained)
  • 15 oz can of black beans (drained & rinsed)
  • 2 TBSP Wildtree Spicy Carne Asada Seasoning
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ TBSP Lime Juice
  • ¼ cup water

Serve with:

  • 8 cups cooked rice or quinoa
  • 8 oz shredded cheddar cheese
  • ¼ cup cilantro (chopped)
  • 2 avocado’s (optional)
  • sour cream

NEED: 2 cups uncooked rice or quinoa, 8 oz shredded cheddar cheese, sliced avocado (if desired) & ¼ cup cilantro, chopped (optional). Thaw bag in fridge. Place contents of bag in Crock Pot. Cook on low for 8 hours. Near the end of Crock Pot cooking time, prepare rice/quinoa according to package directions. When making the rice/quinoa, substitute 1 cup of water with 1 cup of liquid from the Crock Pot. (This will add flavor to the rice/quinoa.) After 8 hours of cooking, use fork to shred chicken. Serve by placing rice/quinoa on plate then add chicken mixture. Top with shredded cheese, avocado slices & chopped cilantro

I bumped this recipe up to 3lb’s of chicken, and added an extra can of diced tomatoes and can of corn. The taste was not affected, and this garnered more for leftovers.

Fruit Cake is something that evokes happy memories of Christmas for me. I remember the excitement my dad and I shared when the heavy round tin of Fruit Cake arrived. My father hoarded it, and the two of us rationed it until February. We would eat it before bed and my father, who rarely drank alcohol, would occasionally indulge and have a bit of Brandy or dessert wine with it. The tin took up the entire bottom shelf of the refrigerator and the rim was always copiously wrapped in tape. The sweet, alcohol-infused smell when the lid was removed gave a hint at the red wine or brandy my grandmother used to cure the cake.

An acquired taste, my grandmother only made the cake for those who enjoyed it. The short list included my uncle David, my father and myself. When I went off to college, I graduated to getting my very own Fruit Cake. After my grandfather’s passing it got more difficult for my grandmother to continue the tradition. I was deployed to Bosnia during the Christmas of 2003 and in one of my letters home I offered to take over the tradition of making the Fruit Cake.

My grandmother mailed me the recipe and informed me it was top secret — she had never shared the recipe with anyone. The recipe was given to her when she worked as the house girl for the Fort Benjamin Harrison Post Commander in the late 1930’s. It was a magazine recipe.  The Commander’s wife had my grandmother use it to make Fruit Cakes as gifts. While some people hate the idea of getting one, Fruit Cake is a luxury gift because they are so expensive and time consuming to make. My grandmother began making Fruit Cake with the recipe after that until I took over the tradition in 2004. I have been making Fruit Cake every winter for nine years. It’s one of the last remaining ties I have to my dad’s family.

2014 would mark my tenth year making them, but I’ve decided against it. The decision was difficult, emotional, and made me examine my beliefs and myself. To explain this, I need to provide a short description of where things stand with my Dad’s side of the family.

The connection between my dad’s family and mine has been lacking for a long time. Who is responsible for that? Good question. Yet I’m certain the finger is pointed at me.  I won’t deny that I’m comfortable with the current level of communication. In my opinion, if anyone on that side misses me, they know where to find me. We all have access to the post office, email, telephones, and Internet. Of the forty some relatives on that side of the family, four were at my wedding, one was at my father’s funeral, and none were around after the birth of my children. I’d enjoy more frequent contact, but I don’t pine for it or let my feelings get hurt by their lack of interest in my family or me.

My sister and I are fifteen years apart and not very close.  But a few years ago she had no place to live.  My husband and I took her in and let her live with us, drive our car, all rent free.  Within a few months there was a falling out and she had to leave. Last spring my stepmother asked me for the fruitcake recipe so she could give it to my sister with whom I still had no  contact. She told me my sister wanted to enter it in a heritage recipe baking lot at the Minnesota State Fair. I told my stepmother no, it’s a tradition and a secret recipe. This summer my sister reconnected with me briefly on Facebook. There were no apologies, but we were speaking again. This past Sunday she messaged me and I got a knot in my stomach. I knew the only reason she was reaching out to me was because she wanted something from me and I suspected it was the fruitcake recipe. I admonished myself for thinking the worst of her.  Why was I jumping to conclusions? I needed to think the best and not the worst.

Unfortunately, my gut instinct was right and she wanted the fruitcake recipe. I was conflicted.  Our grandmother had guarded this recipe, never given it out, and gave it to me only when I agreed to take on the tradition. Was it really mine to give to whomever, or was it my responsibility to honor and respect my grandmother by keeping it secret?

Our grandmother is still alive and I told my sister to ask her for it. I decided if Grandma wanted her to have it she would give it to her. My sister said she had asked for it and according to her, Grandma doesn’t know where it is. My sister insisted I give it to her saying, “Why is this such a big deal?”

What an excellent question.

I was angry as this was the only reason she contacted me. I felt protective and suspicious of her and her motives. My selfish pride was chanting, “No! It’s mine, it was given to me, and you will never, ever, never get this recipe from me!” Knowing this was pride, I wanted to cave and just hand it over and humble myself. Then I was hit with an overwhelming sadness that handing this over would equal me handing over the final tie I had to my Dad’s family since his death. The one consistent thing we shared. A tradition I loved and one which brought back happy memories of my father.

Thoughts and emotion overwhelmed me and so I did the one thing I knew I should, I prayed about it. The answer was simple and came quickly. My actions need not be a reaction to the past or what happened, they needed to be acts of love and reflect God’s grace. I needed to let go of the tradition, forgive the past, and move on. Then a passage jumped out at me this past Tuesday during Bible study and reinforced what was put on my heart:

Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye. – Mark 7:13 (KJV)

It was what I needed to hear. It was a clear reminder that my focus needs to be on God. I needed to think about love and forgiveness and not be ruled by tradition and jealous sentiment.

I’ve enjoyed the fruitcake tradition and now I am letting it go. My sister can take on the tradition, enter the recipe in the state fair, or do nothing at all with it. I will not let a tradition or a cake recipe wrestle away my peace of mind.

Here is the original recipe my grandmother sent to me in 2004: