Lemon Chess Bars

September 27, 2013

This is the first recipe I ever asked for. I was 12. I was at a Christmas party at my great aunt’s house. I remember being stopped in my tracks at the wonder of what I had just put in my mouth. It tasted like heaven. Creamy, buttery, gooey, with a delicate, crisp top. And an angelic, light dusting of powdered sugar.

She wrote the recipe down for me on a sheet of notebook paper. She called it Neiman Marcus Cake. I made it, following the directions exactly. It was not the same. I tried the recipe several times over a few months, thinking I was missing something. Maybe I didn’t beat the cream cheese correctly? Maybe forgot the egg? Years later, after overhearing some fellow mislead family members, I learned she was that recipe person. That sadistic creature that will give recipes to poor souls and leave out an ingredient so no one else can make the hailed dish quite like them.


So, a few years passed and the foodie world fell in a deep, buttery coated love with Mrs. Paula Deen. I found a recipe in one of her cookbooks that seemed very similar to my “great” aunt’s Neiman Marcus Cake. Paula called it Gooey Butter Cake. It called for 2 sticks of butter and was wonderful. It was close, very very close, but not quite it either.

Then several months ago I was reading through some recipes on Picky Palate. She throws some twists on the Gooey Butter Cake and one of them called for a can of sweetened condensed milk. I felt like I may have finally figured out the holy-grail-left-out-secret-ingredient. I pulled out that cursed, worn notebook paper, Neiman Marcus Cake recipe and followed it exactly -one last time- except added the can of sweetened condensed milk.


This. Was. It.

Prepare to have your mind blown. Here is the recipe.

The unabridged recipe.

24 years later…


Lemon Chess Bars


bottom layer:

1 stick melted butter

1 egg

1 butter flavored cake mix

top layer:

1 stick melted butter

1 pkg cream cheese, softened

2 eggs

1 can sweetened condensed milk

1/4 cup lemon juice

powdered sugar (for dusting)

Mix the ingredients for bottom layer and press into an 9 x 9 baking dish.

Mix the ingredients (except powdered sugar) for top layer and pour over the bottom layer. Use the same bowl (no need to wash out, this recipe is not finicky.)

Bake in 350 oven for about 30 minutes.

Allow to cool. And dust with powdered sugar. Yum!

*Oh, Hello again! I almost forgot. The Picky Palate gal makes her sweetened condensed milk a layer of it’s own. It seems like it would make almost a molten cake effect. A slightly runny layer. If you want to try that (I do!!), you would:

mix the bottom layer, press it into pan.

mix just the sweetened condensded milk and lemon juice and pour onto bottom layer.

mix the butter, eggs, cream cheese and 1 box of powdered sugar and pour over the top.

then bake as directed and dust with powdered sugar.

Spicy & Sweet Pulled Pork

September 26, 2013

I made this spicy, sweet, delicious pork roast in the crock pot yesterday. Won. Der. Ful. We toasted up some hoagies, spread mayo on one side, sliced gouda on the other, and piled the pulled pork on high. It was so good.

It’s a Pioneer Woman recipe, too. Every time I pull her cookbook down, I’m so glad I did. Every recipe I’ve ever made of her’s is amazing! 

Spicy & Sweet Pulled Pork



1 small pork shoulder roast (I ask the butcher to cut one in half)

2 onions, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

salt and pepper

1 – 11 ounce can of chipotle chilies in adobo sauce

2- 12 ounce cans of Dr Pepper

4 TBS packed brown sugar

Place the onions and garlic in the bottom of the crock pot. 

Put in the roast.

Pour the can of chipotle chilies over the roast.

Pour the Dr Pepper over the chilies.

Add the brown sugar and give the liquid a little stir.

Cover and set the crock pot on high and allow to cook for 7-8 hours until fork tender.

Shred the roast and let it sit in the swampy sauce.

Pile it on hoagies, nachos, pizza, or taco shells.


Spinach Salad

September 26, 2013

Since my little hens started laying eggs a few weeks back, I have been looking for new ways to use their eggs. (I have Easter Eggers, otherwise known as Amerucanas; they lay the cutest little blue, green, and light brown eggs. They break my heart!) I spotted this egg-y salad recipe in Pioneer Woman’s cookbook and gave it a whirl. It was so yummy. Glad I did. 

p.s. Pioneer Woman recommends a dressing using the bacon grease, red wine vinegar, mustard, and sugar. I have been digging Annie’s Asian Sesame dressing, so I just used that. 

Spinach Salad

(serves 4)



4 slices bacon

1/2 red onion, thinly sliced

4 ounces mushrooms, sliced

1 clove garlic, minced

3 hard boiled eggs

6 oz baby spinach

oil and vinegar style dressing

Fry the bacon until crisp. Remove to drain and cool. Then chop into small pieces.

In the same skillet, saute the onions slowly, allowing to caramelize, for about 10 minutes. Remove and set aside

Next, add the mushrooms with a little salt and garlic. Saute until brown.

Peel and slice the hard boiled eggs.

Assemble the salad. Put the spinach in the bowl. Pile in the chopped bacon, caramelized red onion, sauteed mushrooms, and top with sliced egg. Drizzle the dressing of your choice and toss. Because of the warm toppings, this salad starts to wilt, so serve immediately.


Chicken Pot Pie

September 24, 2013

I’ve been seeing lots of Pinterest pins about Freezer Meals. You know, that one day kitchen frenzy, make a dozen meals at once, then freeze them for simple warm ups later in the week kind of thing? Well, I bought a magazine, saved some pins, made a list a mile long of the ingredients needed, went to the grocery store, and forgot my stinkin’ list. That’s how I roll, folks. (I also decided that maybe if a gal is too frazzled to get out the door with child, self, and grocery list-maybe she shouldn’t be attempting to bust out 12 meals in one day.) The clean-up alone sounds horrifying.

But I do have an idea. What about this? When you do actually have the time + energy to cook, if it’s freezer friendly, make an extra batch of whatever it is and VOILA! You just made your peeps a homemade meal with nothing but warming-up to do. That I can do. That I DID do! Last night, I made a double batch of chicken pot pie and froze one for later. Holla!

Chicken Pot Pie

(makes 2 pies, each feeds 4-6)


4 chicken breasts

2 lbs carrots

2 onions

4 cloves garlic

olive oil

salt (or *Herbamare) & pepper

whatever extra herbs & veggies you like

4 Tbs. canola oil

1/2 cup flour

2 cups chicken stock

1/2 cup half and half or cream

2 boxes refrigerated pie crusts (4 crusts total)

Heat oven to 375.

Dice (a big rustic cut is actually nice for a pot pie) onion, garlic, and carrots. Drizzle with olive oil. Place in bottom of a roasting pan. Lay out chicken breasts over the veggies. Season the lot with salt & pepper (and herbs).

Roast the chicken & veggies for 30-40 minutes (until carrots are soft and chicken is cooked through).

Remove the chicken & veggies and allow to cool. Cut chicken into bite sized pieces.

Heat canola oil in a skillet. Add flour and stir to make a roux. After slightly toasted, pour in chicken stock and half and half. Stir unil thickened. Add to chicken & veggie mix.

Roll out pie crusts into 2 pie dishes. Pour half of mixture into the 1st dish, the other half into the 2nd. Fit remaining pie crusts on top, seal edges, and cut small slits in top crust to vent.

Bake for 30 minutes. Remove one pie (crust should be blonde, not fully browned) and allow the other to finish browning in the oven for 10 minutes longer.

Serve golden brown pie for dinner tonight, the other should be double wrapped in foil and placed in freezer.

Thaw frozen pie completely and warm up in 350 oven for 20-30 minutes.  (If crust is browning too quickly cover with foil and remove the last 10 minutes to crisp.)

* K. A side note about Herbamare. It’s this 10 million (or so) herb and salt mixture I found at our local Health food store and it’s awesome. If you haven’t heard of it, think of it kind of like Mrs. Dash…but GOOD! : ) Try it!


Long Time, Friend.

May 7, 2013


So I had that baby I was talking about. Remember that? Totally have him.

He’s 2. And 1/2.

He’s suddenly into movies. Like watching Lady and the Tramp all the way through with only one juice break. 

And. Thus. I. Am. Able. To. Be. Here. (!!!!!!!!!!)

I am so glad you are still over there doing your thing too!

Thanks from the bottom of my pee-pickin heart for being here reading this. (I do mean literally about that pee-pickin’ thing; my sister has planted plenty o’ veggies in her garden this year and I plan to partake o’plenty in the harvest.)

Anyway, love is in the air big time from me to you, darlin’ dear. I am so touched you are reading my silly little rant on food and recipes and life. In fact, since you’re here. I have something that’s been on my mind lately…

I had recently decided I was going to throw in the dieting towel. I was going to stop worrying about weight. About calories. About “bad” food. Stop feeling guilty that I wasn’t counting calories close enough, that I didn’t work out enough, that I wasn’t thin. I decided that being chubby is in my DNA. I have lost and gained and wished and prayed and ran and walked and still…I have more pudge than I prefer. 

I had decided this and stuck with that resolution for a few weeks until I read a blog called CanYouStayForDinner.com . It’s written by this beautiful, sweet faced young woman who has lost 135 lbs. (half her weight) and kept it off for 6 years.

It was in her DNA. She had wished and prayed and ran and walked and yet she, one day, made up her mind, maybe MADE UP HER MIND. is more appropriate, until she finished what she set her mind to. She didn’t stop until she hit her goal weight. She wrote she would ‘think, in fear, about never having a Hostess treat again’. Then realized all she had to do was not have a Hostess treat today. I loved that. I’m not that into Hostess treats, but I know what she means. I know what it’s like to be dieting and imagining a tower of wonderful creamy, buttery, gooey, crunchy treats that are going to be out of reach until this overwhelming amount of weight is lost. But, when you remember the more accurate truth: I only have to get through today- it’s manageable. I can get through this moment without ______.

So, You see where I’m going. I’m back on the bandwagon. Sort of. I’m on a quest to get a little fitter. Eat a little wiser. Be more mindful. Less negative self-talk. And get on a track that is healthy, but maintainable. I’ll be back to let you know how it’s going. 

And you know I’ll have recipes to post and talk about. That’s the fun part.

Thanks for listening/reading. You are the best.

See you soon,




Pork & Pasta

February 28, 2011

I don’t make a lot of pasta. I think of pasta as one of those dishes that just tastes better when someone else makes it. Preferably someone that works in a restaurant kitchen. And then some friendly waitress brings it to your table. That’s pretty much exactly how I like my pasta…

Until I tried this! It tastes very much like a restaurant dish. It’s that good, truly.

I don’t have a lot of time to muse over all my feelings about this recipe. (It’s easy, tasty, and quick.) (Oh, and I do want to point out that there are banana peppers in the sauce. It’s a weird ingredient, I know. But TRUST me. It’s a wonderful, creamy sauce you are going to LOVE!) Baby is napping and I only have about 20 minutes left. I’m just gonna throw it at ya and let you decide. Here goes:

Pork & Pasta

See, I don’t even have time to come up with a clever name for this pasta dish. It’s pasta. With pork. Period.

And absolutely no time to take a photo. Next time, I promise.

for the pork marinade:

  • 3/4 cup jarred sliced pickled banana peppers (cut the stems off)
  • 1/2 cup Dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 4 (1-inch thick) center cut boneless pork loin chops
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


  • for the pasta:
  • 1 lb. pasta of your choice (I used spaghettini)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons reserved marinade
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley

In a blender or food processor combine banana peppers, mustard, and honey. Blend until smooth. This is your pork marinade. Set aside 3 tablespoons for the pasta sauce.

Pour the remaining marinade into a re-sealable plastic bag. Season the pork with salt and pepper and add them to the bag. Seal and distribute the marinade equally on the pork. Marinate at least 2 hours.

Preheat the grill (or a grill pan) over medium-high heat.

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil for the pasta. Cook the pasta in the boiling water about 12 minutes.

Remove the pork medallions from the marinade. Place on the grill or grill pan. Let cook 4 minutes per side or until cooked through. Remove from the pan and allow meat to rest.

In a medium saute pan on medium heat, heat the oil. Add the onions. Season the onions with salt and pepper, and sweat until tender (about 5 minutes). Add the garlic and cook another minute. Add reserved marinade and stir. Once combined, add the heavy cream and stir until slightly reduced and thickened, about 8 minutes. Stir in the grated Parmesan, and parsley.

Drain the pasta and add to sauce, coating well. Serve alongside pork.

Chocolate Bread Pudding

September 8, 2010

This chocolate bread pudding forces you to close your eyes and moan a deep ‘mmmm’ from the moment you spoon it into your mouth. It’s sweetened with brown sugar and deep, rich chocolate. The bread remains just a slight bit crisp on the edges from toasting for a little buttery crunch. Top with sweetened whipped cream.

Chocolate Bread Pudding

1 cup whole milk
6 Tbs. packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/8 tsp. table salt
1 oz. (2 Tbs.) unsalted butter
5 oz. crusty bread, cut into 3/4-inch cubes (4 cups)
4 oz. milk, semisweet, or dark chocolate, broken into small pieces or chopped

Heat the broiler on high.

Melt 1 Tbs. of the butter skillet over medium heat. Add the bread and cook, tossing often, until toasted and golden-brown in spots, about 5 minutes.

In a large bowl, whisk the milk, brown sugar, eggs, vanilla, and salt. Add the bread to the milk mixture, toss to coat, and let soak for at least 5 minutes.

Melt the remaining 1 Tbs. butter until just browned and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Pour into bottom of baking dish (or, if using an oven safe skillet, just use it). Spread the soaked bread mixture out evenly in the pan. Nestle the chocolate pieces into the bread. Cook until the pudding is browned around the edges and just set in the center, 4 to 5 minutes.

Transfer the skillet to the oven and broil until golden-brown on top and completely set, 1 to 2 minutes more. Scoop the bread pudding into bowls and serve warm.

Cherry Cream Cheese Pie

September 8, 2010

You’ve had this pie a million times. Your grandmother and aunts probably have this recipe clipped off a cream cheese package from a thousand years ago. It was good then, and it is good now. Not to mention easy-greasy. The phrase ‘simple as pie’ probably got it’s meaning from a recipe just like this one. It’s creamy with the slightest hint of tartness, but sweet as the canned cherries dobbled on top. It’s a sure-fire crowd pleaser.

Cherry Cream Cheese Pie

2 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, at room temperature

2 cans (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk

1/2 cup lemon juice

1 Tbs. vanilla

1 can cherry pie filling

1 graham cracker crust

Beat cream cheese until fluffy. Beat in sweetened condensed milk. Add lemon juice and vanilla and beat until smooth and creamy.

Pour into a prepared graham cracker crust.

Dollop cherry pie filling over top of pie and refrigerate for at least 8 hours.

* If you use a store-bought graham cracker crust, you may half the recipe to fit the smaller crust.

Creamy Braised Chicken with Garlic & Mushroom Spaghetti

September 8, 2010

We love garlic.

This recipe calls for 10 cloves, which is about a whole head of garlic. Braising it this way mellows and slightly sweetens its flavor. Allowing it to simmer in the broth for several minutes after the quick saute tenderizes the cloves and lends flavor to the mushrooms and broth. This is really quite an easy and hearty supper and a perfect late summer meal.

Creamy Braised Chicken with Garlic & Mushroom Spaghetti

2 Tbs. butter

1 Tbs. olive oil

1 onion, chopped

10 garlic cloves, halved

1 carton fresh button mushrooms

2-3 chicken breasts, pounded thin and chopped into bite-sized pieces

1/2 cup white wine

1 cup chicken broth

12 oz. dried spaghetti

1/2 cup cream

1/3 cup parmesean cheese

chopped parsley

Heat butter and oil in a skillet over medium heat until butter has melted. Add onions, mushrooms, and garlic and cook until softened. Add chicken pieces and cook until begins to brown.

Add the wine and simmer until reduced by half. Add chicken broth and bring to simmer. Allow to simmer and reduce for about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook spaghetti until desired tenderness. Drain.

Stir cream into chicken and mushroom mixture. Stir and cook until mixture thickens slightly. Add cooked pasta and toss. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Sprinkle cheese and parsley over dish and serve warm.

Quick Egg Breakfast

August 18, 2010

I woke up a little early yesterday morning and thought I would be a nice little wife and make my husband breakfast and coffee before he left for work. June Cleaver would be proud!

While turning the egg for  this quick little breakfast sandwich I suddenly had the realization that in my very near future this task would no longer be a spur-of-the-moment nicety to amuse my husband, but one of the many daily responsibilities of a mom.

Breakfast. Everyday. Expected. From me. For the next 18 years.

In homage to all those breakfast-makin’-mommas out there I offer up a couple of quick eggy recipes to get your kiddo’s off to a tasty start.


1 slice of whole wheat bread


1 egg

salt and pepper

cheese, optional

Heat butter in a skillet. Press out and remove hole in the center of bread with a biscuit cutter or cookie cutter. Lay bread in skillet to toast. Immediately crack egg over hole. Toast for several minutes.

Turn bread to toast opposite side until golden brown. Salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle cheese over top of bread to melt.

Egg Sandwich

1 whole wheat english muffin

pat of butter

1 egg

1 slice cheese

couple of fresh spinach leaves

1 slice tomato

2 slices bacon, cooked crisp

Cook bacon until crisp. (I like to bake bacon. It’s easier for me. I always seem to get splattered by hot grease in the eye when frying it in a pan. And that’s no fun.So I just bake it – 400° for about 20 minutes until crispy.)

Heat a little butter in a skillet. Split and toast english muffins until golden brown.

Fry egg to your liking (We like the yolk a little runny).

Assemble sandwich. Layer spinach and tomato over bottom of muffin, then bacon, egg, and cheese. Top with other half of muffin. Dig in.