Apple Cinnamon Pancakes

I don’t know what it is about Sunday mornings and pancakes for brunch.  For me it’s like peanut butter and jelly, or basil and tomatoes. It just goes together, man.

 This was a really easy breakfast that I wanted to show you guys. Apple cinnamon pancakes.  I used pre-made pancake mix, like Bisquick.  So buy your favorite kind.  Here’s a quick way to take ordinary pancakes and turn it into something more special.

What you’ll need for Apple Cinnamon Pancakes:

(Feeds 2, double recipe to feed more)

Pancake Mix



1 green apple, peeled

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp vanilla

If you’re using Bisquick: Mix 1 cup pancake mix, 1/2 cup milk and 1 egg.  Whisk together in a bowl then add the cinnamon and vanilla.

To get the apple rings, peel 1 green apple and then using a spoon, scoop out the core.  Then slice the apple into thin rings.

In a heated skillet melt some butter.  Add pancake mix by 1/4 cup amounts at a time.  Place an apple ring in the center of the pancake batter (shown above).  Cook for a few minutes on each side until the pancakes are golden brown.  Top with whatever you like. I like butter and syrup.

I really really really liked these pancakes.  They were sweet and tart and delicious.  The fiance wasn’t a fan but I think I scarred him with the last breakfast I made.  I made blueberry waffles and he got a little TOO many blueberries in his. Lately when I say I’m going to make us breakfast he asks “there’s no blueberries in it is there?” He’s not a huge fruit-in-the-breakfast-batter fan.

No matter.  More for me.


Spaghetti with a Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

Is there any person out there who doesn’t love a super easy dinner idea that can be thrown together 20 minutes before you’re wanting to eat?

 I didn’t think so.

I’m not that big of a fan of spaghetti.  Probably because growing up spaghetti was pretty underwhelming. My mom would over-cook the pasta and it would be mushy, which was not hidden from the blob of store bought pasta sauce dumped on top of it. (Sorry mama.)  Also I was told growing up that salting the pasta water made it boil faster.  Obviously this isn’t why professional cooks (or the more informed cooks) salt their water.  You salt the water to flavor the pasta.  Who knew?!

Spaghetti for me was only good because I used to love The Lady and the Tramp. My dad taught me how to do the spaghetti smooch!  It took me a couple practice tries because I kept biting the strand of spaghetti, but we eventually got it. That is a memory from childhood that is a funny father-daughter moment.

Spaghetti with a Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

3 jarred roasted red peppers, diced (seeds removed)

1 onion, diced

2 garlic cloves

1 tbs tomato paste

2 tbs basil pesto

1/2 cup white wine

1/3 cup heavy cream

1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (do 1/8 tsp if you want less spice)

olive oil

salt and pepper

Pasta (such as spaghetti, fettuccine, rigatoni, ziti, etc)

Cook pasta per box directions.

To make the sauce: Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion, crushed red pepper flakes, salt and pepper, and cook for a couple minutes until the onions are tender.  Add in the garlic, tomato paste, red peppers and white wine.  Cook for another 2-3 minutes.  Next place the mixture into a blender and puree until smooth.  Return the mixture to the skillet and add the cream and pesto.  Stir and taste. Adjust seasonings if necessary.

Toss the cooked pasta into the sauce and serve immediately.

That’s Amore.

Triple Berry Ice Cream

Nothing in life is free.

I promise you.

 I had a woman call me a couple weeks ago, telling me that I won a “free” Bridal Pampering Package from Mary Kay. Of course the offer sounded great but I was really skeptical about it. But I decided to go for it anyways. I agreed to it, and invited two of my girlfriends over to experience the pampering with me. We had an awesome spread with 4 different types of wines, and lots of nibbles to enjoy while the woman gave us a hand treatment, and did our make up.  It was a lot of fun.

But…remember what I said about nothing in life ever being free?  Yeah…by the time she left this so-called “free bridal pampering” event, we had each spent over $80 in make up and lotions. And not only that, the woman was really pushy and trying to tell me that if I just spend $100 on a start-up kit, I too can host my very own Mary Kay parties and start to sell the products. Oh and don’t forget that she has a brand new car outside, that I could surely have too! Yeah lady, I’m sure. 

 Needless to say I’m not THAT mad at myself. I really did need some of the stuff I bought, and not to mention it was a really fun night with good friends and good food. My fiance was a very good sport also. With a house-full of women talking about beauty. I could imagine that would be the equivalent of a house-full of fist pumping dudes talking about beer and babes. (I’m sure my time to endure that type of evening will come eventually.)

One of my friends brought over this huge bowl of a mixed berry salad. It had strawberries, blackberries, raspberries and blueberries.  By the end of the night however it was just a triple berry salad, because being that raspberries are my favorite, I picked them all out.  She left all the fruit here and I had no idea how to use it all before it went bad.  

Oh I know…lets take this healthy bowl of fruit and make it into a not-so-healthy-but-incredibly-creamy-and-delicious-ice cream.  Yep.

 Triple Berry Ice Cream

4 cups of berries (I used blackberries, strawberries and blueberries)

Juice of 1 lemon

1-1/4 cup sugar

1-1/2 cups half and half

1-1/2 cups heavy cream

5 egg yolks, room temperature

Add the berries, lemon juice and 1/4 cup sugar to a medium saucepan. Cook for 20-25 minutes on low, until the mixture has thickened and the berries have broken down.  Strain the berry mixture through a fine mesh sieve and set aside.

In a separate saucepan, heat the half and half with the remaining 1 cup of sugar.  Do not let this mixture boil. You are just heating it up.

In a medium sized bowl beat the egg yolks until they are pale yellow in color and a little thick.  While whisking, slowly pour in the warm half and half mixture.  Once you’ve added all of the half and half to the eggs, pour the mixture back into the saucepan, and continue cooking over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick.  You can test this by dipping a spoon into the mixture, and running your finger across it.  If your finger mark remains, it’s ready.

In a large bowl add the cream, and berry puree together.  Strain the egg mixture with a fine mesh sieve and add it to the rest of the cream and fruit.  Place the bowl with the ice cream base into a larger bowl.  Put ice cold water into the larger bowl, but be careful not to get any water into the ice cream base.  This just helps the ice cream base cool down faster.  Place in the fridge and allow to chill until it is very cold.  Mix ice cream according to your machine’s instructions.  Place in an air tight container and store in the freezer.


You’re welcome.

Crispy BBQ Chicken Balls with Cheddar and Caramelized Onions

I have been using my crockpot religiously this summer. It’s been unbearably hot in Chicago and the last thing I want to do is use the oven.

The crockpot is sooo easy.  This is how I make chicken.  I put the chicken (I like chicken thighs, bone in, skin on) into a crockpot, season with salt and pepper, put the lid on, set the crockpot to high, and let it cook for about 3-1/2 to 4 hours. The chicken cooks in its own juice, and will be falling off the bone tender.  When it’s done cooking, you can remove the bone very easily, and the skin.  Drain the liquid, then use tongs to shred the meat, which will be very easy to do at this point.  Then add your favorite BBQ sauce (about 1 cup), or tomato sauce, or whatever. Chicken is done! So simple right?  **If you want to use boneless meat, cook time will be about 2 to 2-1/2 hours.

I made this recipe with left over BBQ chicken that I had made in the crockpot.  It is similar to these chicken balls I made before, with just a few tweaks.  My fiance gobbled these up fast.

Crispy BBQ Chicken Balls with Cheddar and Caramelized Onions

2 cups left over BBQ chicken, shredded

8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature

1-1/2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded

1 onion, sliced and caramelized

salt and pepper

1 cup flour

3 eggs

1/4 cup cream, or milk, or half and half

1-1/2 cups panko bread crumbs

2 tsp smoked paprika

Combine BBQ chicken, cream cheese, cheddar cheese, and caramelized onions.  Allow mixture to chill for 30 minutes in the fridge.  While its chilling, get 3 medium sized bowls.  In one bowl add the flour, in a second bowl add the eggs and cream (or milk or half and half), and in a third bowl add the bread crumbs and paprika.  Mix the bread crumbs and paprika, and mix the eggs and cream.  Season the flour mixture with salt and pepper.

Once the chicken mixture is chilled slightly, using an ice cream scoop for 2 inch balls and set on a plate. Next dredge the chicken balls through the flour, then egg mixture, then ending with bread crumbs.  Set on a cookie tray, and drizzle with olive oil.  Once you’ve dredged all of the balls, place them in the oven at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes, or until the balls are hot, the cheese is melted and the bread crumbs are golden brown.

Serve along side ranch or blue cheese dressing for dunking.

Look at that gooey bite!

Homemade Big Hunk Candy Bars

Sometimes I get a craving for a very specific item. Specific and random. I haven’t had a big hunk since I was a kid. They were always delicious but really hard on my teeth. I would often settle for their softer cousin, the Payday. Which instead of nougat it has soft caramel. And of course the salty peanuts.

I found an awesome website ( that has recipes for homemade versions of all the delicious candy we’ve grown to love…Twix, Snickers, Kit Kats, and of course Big Hunks.

This was super easy to make and tasted exactly like the original candy bar that you can buy in stores.  However, it was slightly softer. Which made my teeth happy. Yummy.

This recipe makes a lot of candy. I haven’t tried cutting the recipe in half, but I’m sure it would yield similar results if you wanted to try. I cut the candy into smaller sized pieces, and wrapped them each individually. Which took forever, but it was worth it. It makes it easier to just grab a couple to snack on, or give them away.

Homemade Big Hunk Candy Bars:

3 small jars (about 21 ounces) of Marshmallow fluff

2 1/4 cup corn syrup

2 1/4 cup sugar

6 tbs unsalted butter, melted

2 tsp vanilla

1/4 tsp salt

1 jar (16 ounces) roasted peanuts, salted

In a large bowl add the marshmallow fluff and set aside.  Butter a large cookie sheet and scatter the peanuts across it, and set aside.  In a small bowl combine butter, salt and vanilla, and set aside. In a large saucepan add the corn syrup and the sugar.  Set over medium to medium high heat, stirring constantly until the mixture comes to a boil.  When it starts to boil, STOP stirring.  Add a candy thermometer and watch the mixture.  When the mixture reaches 280 degrees Fahrenheit, or the “soft crack” stage, remove from heat, and allow it to sit for 2 minutes.  After 2 minutes, add the corn syrup and sugar mixture to the bowl of marshmallow fluff. Stir to combine, then add the butter mixture, and incorporate that in.  Once combined, drizzle the mixture over the peanuts on the cookie sheet.  Let candy sit at room temperature for a couple hours until it has hardened enough for you to cut into pieces and wrap.

Penne Rigate with a Chunky Basil Pesto Sauce

I realize my posts have been few and far between lately.  I’m sorry for that.  I completed the first semester of my third year of grad school (yay me)!  I’ve also been a busy bee planning my upcoming wedding, which will be next spring.  And amazingly enough, I found “THE DRESS”.  I have been looking and looking at hundreds of dresses and all have been good, but none of them great.  I would like the top of one dress, but the bottom of another. The dress would be too plain, or it would be too blinged out. I was beginning to worry that I wouldn’t find “the one” that fit every need I had. But luckily I found it and couldn’t be happier.

 I’ve also taken on the extreme challenge of cleaning out my closet, which is proving to be more difficult than I realized.  You know that favorite pair of jeans you’ve had for the last 10 years but can’t get rid of because you love them too much, they fit perfectly, and you mistakenly didn’t buy two pairs when you should have, and even though there is a gigantic hole in the crotch you find ways to justify keeping them? Yeah..I’m having that problem. Or I keep saying to myself, oh I’ll wear that again someday…(even though it’s been sitting dormant in your closet so long it has permanently stuck in the shape of the hanger).  Letting go is hard, man.

This recipe came to me in my sleep, oddly enough.  If you were to look in my freezer right now you’d find nothing but ice cubes, nuts, and butter.  In my fridge some water and some condiments are all that fill the shelves.  And in my pantry, soup and pasta.  It was amazing that I could make a complete dish.

This is a meatless pasta dish, but I found it to be hearty enough without.  It would be good with some chicken breast tossed in, or some bacon.  Mmm bacon.  

Penne Rigate with a Chunky Basil Pesto Sauce:

12 ounces (or 3/4 of a 1 pound box) Penne Rigate

1 tomato, seeded and diced

1 small red onion, chopped

1 roasted red pepper, diced

1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed 

3/4 cup prepared Basil Pesto

Parmesan cheese

olive oil

salt and pepper 

In a large pasta pot, bring water to a rapid boil.  Salt the water generously then dump in the pasta, cooking until tender but with a bite to it still (about 8-10 minutes).  Meanwhile in a saute pan, drizzle in a few tablespoons of olive oil.  Once the oil gets warm add the onion and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Saute the onion for a few minutes over medium to medium high heat until the onions are soft.  

Next to the mixture add the red pepper and the tomatoes.  Again season with a little salt and pepper, and allow to cook for a few minutes until everything becomes soft.  Next add in the pesto.  The mixture will be thick.  So, take a ladle full of the pasta water and add to the pesto mixture.  Add by the ladle full until you get the desired thickness that you want.

Once your pasta is done cooking, drain and return to pot.  Pour the pesto mixture over the cooked Penne and toss.  Sprinkle with extra Parmesan cheese.  Eat hot, or at room temperature.

Cream Cheese Chocolate Chunk Cinnamon Oatmeal Cookies

What a name for a cookie huh? I could have shortened it, but for some reason I wanted you to know exactly everything that went into this cookie.

If you’ve never had this candy before you should really try it. It’s super creamy and has specks for honey and almond nougat running throughout.  I chopped it up and put it into my cookies.  It was really yummy.

It’s always a problem for me when I make sweets because the Mr. isn’t much of a sweets person.  He’s more of a pizza and beer person. So, as a way of not eating the entire batch of whatever sweet thing I have made, I take some to co-workers, but more often then not I am driving them over to my dear friend Carol’s house. She’s so sweet. She always likes everything I bring, and she doesn’t get mad that it’s always sugar I’m bringing.  It’s a win-win situation really.

These cookies started out as just a regular oatmeal cookie.  I added some cinnamon for a little pizazz, and it was better, but not great yet.  So I added some chocolate chips, then decided I wanted it a bit more chunky.  So I cut up a almond nougat filled candy bar and added that in.  Oh, and don’t forget the cream cheese.  These cookies are so soft, even days later. And maybe this is just me, but I feel like these cookies must be healthy, because they have oatmeal in them.  Yep. So go ahead and eat 5 or 6 for breakfast. 

Cream Cheese Chocolate Chunk Cinnamon Oatmeal Cookies

2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature

8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature

1 cup chocolate chips

2 Toblerone candy bars (3.5 oz. each) cut into chunks

1 cup brown sugar, packed

1 1/2 cups flour

3 cups oats

1 egg

2 tsp. vanilla

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Beat butter, cream cheese and sugar until creamy.  Add egg and vanilla, mix well. Combine flour, soda, salt, cinnamon and mix well.  Add to butter mixture and blend well.  With the mixer on low, stir in the chocolate chips and Toblerone pieces, just stirring to combine.  Drop by rounded tablespoons 2″ apart on baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes.  Leave in pan to cool for 2 minutes.  Put cookies on wire rack to finish cooking.  Store in airtight container at room temperature.  Makes 2 dozen cookies.

I’m going to have some for breakfast now.

Toasted Coconut Icebox Cake with Blueberries

When I was a little girl, I used to pretend that I was Mary Poppins. Not only did I pretend to be her, I made others pretend as well. I can remember walking around my pre-school classroom saying my name is not Joanna it’s Mary Poppins! Silly I know…but I wanted so badly to jump through side-walk chalk drawings, and ride a carousel horse around a park, eat candied apples and dance with penguins in tuxedos.  Ahh the life of a child.  Where imagination is not overrated.  I miss those days.

My love for cooking stems from childhood as well.  For anyone who has read this blog for longer than 5 minutes, you know I often talk of my grandmother and how I used to stand on a kitchen chair next to her, helping her make home-made noodles. Some of my fondest memories are spent with my grandmother.  Her, and Mary Poppins.

This icebox cake is super easy, and might I add healthy. It’s a light dessert, perfect for these upcoming hot summer nights.

Toasted Coconut Icebox Cake

2 sleeves graham crackers

16 ounces lite cool whip

1 cup coconut flakes, toasted

1-1/2 cups blueberries

In the bottom of a 9″ spring form pan, place a layer of graham crackers.  Break into pieces in order to help them fit.  Spread 1/3 of the whipped cream over the crackers then sprinkle 1/2 cup blueberries.  Repeat 2 more times.  Once you’ve used all of the ingredients, sprinkle the top generously with toasted coconut.  Refrigerate overnight, and by the next morning the graham crackers will have softened into a perfect cutting consistency.  Slice and enjoy.

Cheddar Broccoli Soup

I am really not a fan of broccoli. I’ve tried eating it many ways…in a QUICHE, raw in a salad, stuffed with ham and Swiss cheese into pastry, and in a soup.

I think food has to be better than “just edible”, and for me, broccoli is “just edible”.  I don’t know why I always buy it. I guess because as I’m wondering the isle of my market with a shopping cart full of ingredients to make yummy sweets, I had to throw something green and healthy in there also.

On a brighter broccoli note, cheese really does make everything taste better. So please folks, load this soup with your favorite sharp cheddar cheese.  And have lots of crusty bread on hand for dunking. Cheese and bread now that’s my kind of meal.

Cheddar Broccoli Soup

1 stick butter

1/4 cup flour

1 onion, diced

1 head broccoli, florets chopped and stems peeled and chopped

2 cups chicken broth or stock

2-3 cups half and half

2-3 cups milk

3 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated

salt and pepper

In a large pot add the butter and onions.  Saute for a few minutes until the onions soften.  Add a tsp of salt and pepper.  Add in a heaping 1/4 cup of flour and stir, cooking for about a minute.  Add in the chicken stock and let the mixture come to a boil.  It should thicken up.  Next add in 2 cups of milk and 2 cups of half and half, along with the broccoli florets and stems.  Let everything simmer for 20 to 30 minutes.

Now depending on how thick or thin you like your soup, you can add more milk or half and half until you reached your desired thickness.

After 20 to 30 minutes, and the broccoli stems are softened, give the soup a taste and adjust the seasonings if need be.  Pour half the soup into a blender and puree or use an immersion blender.  I only blended half the soup and left half of it chunky for some texture.

Add 2-1/2 cups of cheddar cheese, stirring to mix everything together.  Ladle soup into bowls and top with crusty bread and more cheese. Eat hot.

3 Ingredient Pineapple Cobbler

This was really good. I mean reallyyyy goooood.

 Summer is here in Chicago. It’s been dreadfully hot lately and I just haven’t had it in me to turn on the oven. My poor baking has gone to the way-side while I attempt to remain cool in my poorly-insulated-money-sink-of-an apartment.

It dropped in temperature the other night before bed, so the windows flew open to let the cool breeze circulate, and I decided that it was my chance to make something yummy.

I used canned fruit for this cobbler. You need the juice. But I’m sure frozen berries would work if you added a little liquid.  The awesome thing about this cobbler is you can literally use any kind of fruit or cake mix you want. Peaches, pineapple, apples or pears with white cake, or cherries, raspberries, blackberries with chocolate cake. Mix it up and create something that is perfectly perfect for your own sweet tooth.

Pineapple Cobbler

1-28oz. can pineapple chunks with juice

1 box white cake mix

1 stick unsalted butter, cubed

In a baking dish, dump in the fruit along with the juice.  Next, dump the cake mix on top of the fruit, spreading it out evenly over the top.  Then dot the top with the cubed butter.  Bake cobbler in 375 degree oven for 20 minutes or until it is bubbling and golden brown.  Serve with some whipped cream on top.