Spooky Frankenstein Rice Krispie Treat Pops


Of all the holidays, Halloween is my favorite for making festive treats. There are so many cute ideas floating around the interwebs and I find many of them so irresistibly charming. These spooky Frankenstein Rice Krispie treat pops were no different. I was particularly drawn to them because of the ease and I had romantic ideas of my little rump roast helping me make them. As usual, the reality of situation was far different from my expectation and Smith was more interested in putting his toy tractors in my salad spinner. But I had lots of fun doing it myself and my little laddy enjoyed eating them. It was a win-win situation.

I used melted chocolate chips to dip the pops in and it worked pretty well. However, I recently learned, from my binge-listening of America’s Test Kitchen podcast, that the chocolate chips aren’t the best option for melting and dipping/coating confections because of the addition of emulsifiers in the chips themselves. You see, chips are designed not to fully melt as they are most commonly used in baked goods. In the future I will use a chocolate bar, but I had to use what I had on hand this time around. Just a little fun fact for you.

If you are looking for a last minute Halloween treat, I would highly recommend some spooky Frankenstein pops. If nothing else, you will enjoy the classic flavors of one of the most beloved treats.

Here are some more downright petrifying ideas to get you in the Halloween spirit:

Spider Web Cupcakes

Spooky Marshmallow Ghosts

Chocolate Skeleton Cookies

Harry Potter Butterbeer Cupcakes


Frankenstien Rice Krispie Treat Pops

Yield: 9  3″x4″ pops


  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus extra for utensils, pan, and your hands
  • 10 oz bag of marshmallows, regular or mini
  • 6 cups Rice Krispies
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2- 2 cups semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
  • Green food coloring (I prefer AmeriColor)
  • Sugar eyes (available at most craft stores or on Amazon)
  • Popsicle sticks (available at most craft stores)


  1. Grease a 9×13 baking dish with butter. Set aside. Melt the butter in a large pot (I used a Dutch Oven) over medium-low heat. Add the marshmallows and stir and fold gently with a buttered scraper (so the scraper wont stick to the marshmallows). Continue this process until the marshmallows are fully melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove from heat and add the vanilla. Stir to combine. Add in 2-3 drops of green food coloring and stir well until color is evenly distributed. Add in the cereal and gently fold until well-coated. Transfer the mixture to the greased pan. Use  your buttered scraper or your hands (careful it could be hot!) to gently press the Rice Krispies into the pan. Allow to cool for at least one hour.
  2. After the treats have cooled, use a buttered knife to cut into roughly 3″x4″ rectangles. Transfer to parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Carefully insert a popsicle stick into the base of the rectangles.
  3. Place chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat in the microwave, stirring after 30 second increments until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Pick the pops up by the popsicle stick. Turn upside down and slowly dunk top about 1/2 inch into chocolate. Pull straight out and slowly twirl pop as to remove excess chocolate. Place on parchment or baking mat and repeat with remaining treats. Transfer remaining melted chocolate to a piping bag fitted with a small round tip or a plastic sandwich Ziploc bag with the tip cut off. Pipe a mouth onto the treats. Pipe two dots where you want to place sugar eyes and then place eyes onto the dots so that they will stay. Allow chocolate to harden and enjoy!

Source: Adapted from Rice Krispies

Apple Crumb Coffee Cake


A good coffee cake is an underrated baked good. Most recipes are easy to make, they can be fixed ahead of time, they are great for crowds, and best of all they transform a standard cup of joe into a quaint occasion. Our friends from college visited us last weekend and I decided a seasonal version of apple crumb coffee cake would be wonderful shared with some of our favorite people.

This particular recipe is from the gregarious Emeril Lagasse. A brief side note about Emeril: I will always hold a special place in my heart for this man. When I was in middle school, The Food Network was added to our cable package and I became obsessed with Emeril Live. One of the big highlights of my day was watching his show at night after I finished my homework. It was so fascinating watching him entertain the studio audience with his catchphrases “BAM!” and “let’s kick it up a notch!” and I tried to start incorporating a similar narrative into my detailed construction of nighttime snacks.  I was a pretty wild child, if you can’t tell. I think even my parents lovingly teased me about my infatuation with my boy, Emeril. I eventually stopped watching his show and replaced it with more age-appropriate social activities; but it was fun while it lasted.

Okay enough about New Orleans’ favorite chef; and back to this coffee cake. I was very pleasantly surprised how well it turned out. I am often so swept up in the pumpkin mania that surrounds this time of year, that I forget how delicious apples are in baked goods. This cake is well-spiced and scattered with generous chunks of apples and then topped with a crumb topping that balances the whole concoction. Don’t be deceived by the homely appearance of it. It really is anything but ordinary. Luckily I sent the majority of the leftovers home with our friends so I wouldn’t end up eating most of it.

If you are looking for a seasonal treat to jazz up your weekend morning, may I suggest this gem from my childhood friend, Emeril?


A few snapshots from Autumn in Amish country:








 Apple Crumb Coffee Cake

Yield: 12 servings


For the cake:

  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar, packed
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups apples, chopped (I used 3 medium honey crisp apples)
For the crumb topping:
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9 inch springform pan with butter and line with a circle of parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. Cream together the stick of butter and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Add the eggs 1 at a time, mixing well after each addition and scrape down the sides. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. In a third small bowl stir together the sour cream and vanilla. Add to the flour mixture to the butter mixture, alternating with the sour cream mixture. Stop the mixer, remove bowl and carefully fold in the apples just until evenly distributed. Pour the batter into the prepared springform pan and spread out evenly.
  3. Next, make the topping by combining the sugar, flour, salt, cinnamon, and butter in a medium-sized bowl. Mix using your fingers or a fork until it resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle the topping over the cake and carefully press into the batter. Bake until golden brown and set, 50-55 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes. Remove from pan and serve.

Source: Emeril Lagasse


How to Make a Well-Balanced Smoothie


Let me go ahead and preface this post by saying that I am not a licensed dietitian or nutritionist. I am a mere mortal, who has learned a lot about making well-balanced smoothies through the wisdom of dietitians, reputable podcasts, and reading over the past few months.  As a result, I’ve been able to experiment with a lot of different ingredients and discover the combinations needed to create a smoothie with nutritional staying power. Smoothies and protein shakes have become pretty popular in the last few years and, unfortunately, just because something sounds healthy, doesn’t always make it so. A lot of these drinks are essentially sugary milkshakes in disguise and they lack the nutrients necessary to keep us properly fueled. This may lead to a shameful run-in with cinnamon rolls, hypothetically speaking- maybe.


When building my morning smoothie, I try to incorporate three main components: carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fat.

The carbohydrates are complex and come from the fruits and vegetables.  The need to add in extra sugar is eliminated if you use extra ripe fruit. I also always add in a generous handful of spinach (and sometimes kale) as a way to kick start my vegetable intake for the day. Don’t worry- when you blend it all together, you can’t taste the spinach. As for the kale, you have to blend that extra well or you will be tasting “spinach with hair” as Jim Gaffigan so lovingly describes this green. I’m sorry, I love vegetables, but it’s true.

I’ve included a list of the fruits and vegetables I have personally used and loved. You may notice I didn’t include raspberries on the list because I have found they tend to make the smoothies too tangy and gritty for my liking.  Also, I typically use frozen fruit to make the smoothies thicker and more scrumptious.


Fruits- About 1 cup

  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • Peaches
  • Mango
  • Pineapple
  • Bananas

Leafy Greens: 2 generous (and well-washed) handfuls

  • Spinach
  • Kale

For the protein portion, I prefer using a good quality whey protein powder. It turns out we don’t get nearly as much protein as we should and this is the component that helps keep our hunger at bay. I have also used cottage cheese and plain Greek yogurt when I don’t have the former option available.


  • High quality whey protein powder (>15 grams of protein per scoop/serving)
  • Greek yogurt (1/2-3/4 cup)
  • Cottage cheese (1/2-3/4 cup)

Adding healthy fat is necessary to help stabilize blood sugar and increase our good (HDL) cholesterol. Contrary to my previous belief, nut butters count as a healthy fat and not a protein. Incorporating a healthy fat also makes the smoothie extra delightful.

Healthy Fat:

  • Natural peanut butter: 1 tablespoon
  • Natural almond butter: 1 tablespoon
  • Coconut oil  (unrefined, cold-pressed is best): 1 tablespoon
  • Canned coconut milk: 1/4 cup
  • Avocado: 1/4 cup

To provide the right consistency for drinking, I always add a liquid base to my smoothies. Using milk will add a little extra protein; but I often mix and match depending on my mood. Here are my favorites:

Liquid Base: 1/2-1 cup total depending on your preference

  • Unsweetened almond milk
  • Unsweetened coconut milk
  • Milk
  • Water
  • Cold-brew coffee

To top off my scrumptious breakfast, I usually add in a little extra jazziness to brighten my day.  I’ve listed my favorites below:

Extras: Usually between 1 teaspoon and 1 tablespoon

  • Ground flaxseed
  • Chia seeds
  • Espresso powder
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Fresh lemon or lime juice
  • Orange zest
  • Canned pumpkin (it is that time of year)
  • Cinnamon or any other spices you fancy :)


Some of my favorite combinations are:

  • Banana- spinach-peanut butter-coffee-almond milk-cocoa powder-chia seeds (inspired by one of my favorite local restaurants Zest)
  • Blueberries-banana-spinach-coconut cream-coconut milk-ground flaxseed-fresh lemon juice
  • Mango-pineapple-coconut cream-coconut milk-fresh lime juice
  • Strawberries-banana-spinach-avocado-almond milk

The possibilities are endless and delicious depending on your personal preference. Again, I am only sharing what I have learned and not intending this information to be dietetic law. Wishing you all a happy and healthy day!

SourcesNutritional Weight and Wellness, Nutrition Diva





Savory Butternut Squash Bisque


That distinct Ohio Autumn crispness has floated into the morning air the past two days and it has sparked in me a fierce urge to cook and bake. The summer humidity always dampens my desire to be in my kitchen, but my oven and stove were working overtime this past Sunday afternoon.  Our house temperature rose to a stifling 76 degrees, but whatever. It was fun, albeit steamy.

One of my weekend projects was this soup.  I had scooped up a hefty butternut squash at the grocery store without any recipe in mind last week. This, unfortunately, tends to result in me throwing out a rotting squash because no plans come to fruition and I always vow to waste less “next time.” But then the vision of a silky and earthy butternut squash soup danced in my head and I was researching recipes in no time.


I have a personal preference for savory spices with starchier vegetables like sweet potatoes or butternut squash. They are already sweet to begin with and I think adding spices like cinnamon and nutmeg makes these types of dishes seem more like a dessert. As a result, I added thyme to this bisque instead. The addition of flavorful leeks and sherry really make this soup extra lovely. Sherry is one of the best ways to take a creamy soup up about 50 notches. It adds a whole new dimension and richness. I highly recommend using it if you can; plus- it lasts forever! I think the sherry I have was originally my great grandmother’s and my mom gave it to me when my parents were moving.

If you are in the mood for soups and you are in the autumn spirit, I highly recommend making this soup. It makes a great side dish and is wonderful topped with crème fraiche and good balsamic vinegar. You could also make it a main dish and jazz it up with a few crumbles of thick bacon. Either way, I don’t think you can go wrong.

Happy Tuesday, everyone.


Looking for more soup recipes? Here are a few of our favorite soup recipes from the archives:

Wedding Crab (or Lobster) Bisque- the beloved soup recipe served at our wedding (sherry is in this recipe, too!)

Sweet Potato Chili– a healthy and hearty soup with no added sugar

Copycat Panera Broccoli Cheese– creamy and rich

Corn Chowder– all of the flavor of summer before we say goodbye

Crab and Corn Chowder– shellfish and corn go together like peas and carrots

Sweet and Spicy Chili– a little sweet and a little heat make for a classic soup

Cream of Mushroom– earthy and satisfying

French Onion Soup– let’s be real, the best part is the cheesy bread on top

Chicken Tortilla Soup– for those who want a little extra spice in their lives

P.S. We have three new ladies in our family: Ruth, Idgie, and Sipsey. They are Rhode Island Red laying hens and we love getting fresh eggs every day. Fresh eggs are so much richer and more flavorful than those found in the grocery store and one of our girls is a double-yolk-laying machine.


Savory Butternut Squash Bisque

Yield: About 6 side dish servings


  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 large leek, white and light green part only, chopped and rinsed well (about 1 cup total)
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cubed
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup dry sherry
  • 3cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • Crème fraiche and balsamic vinegar for topping, optional


  1. Melt the butter in a Dutch oven. Add in the leaks and cook until softened, about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
  2. Add in the squash, thyme, black pepper, and salt. Stir and cook for an additional 5 minutes, continuing to stir frequently. Add in the sherry and cook for about 2 minutes longer to allow the liquid to reduce.
  3. Pour in the chicken stock, stir and bring to a boil. Reduce hit to a simmer, cover, and cook for about 20 minutes or until squash is tender.
  4. Using a hand blender or regular blender, blend the soup until desired texture is achieved  (I personally like a few chunks and bits left). Return the soup mixture to the Dutch oven. Add in the milk, cream, and any additional salt or sherry as your personal taste indicates. Stir to combine and reheat to desired temperature.
  5. Ladle soup into bowls. Top with a dollop of crème fraiche and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Enjoy!


Source: Slightly adapted from Merrill Stubbs at Food52

Aunt Khaki’s Crispy Sugar Cookies

I’ve written of my beloved Aunt Khaki many times before. Though we have lived on different sides of the country for over two decades,  I feel particularly close to her.

There was a brief stretch of time when she and my cousin, Camille, resided in Ohio and It was so much fun. Khaki always led us on exciting adventures.  She’d take us swimming and camping, we went to the local high school musicals, and she always threw the best birthday parties long before the creators of Pinterest were probably even born. Remember that Nickelodeon show, Double Dare, where contestants had to complete a challenge or get pied in the face? Khaki used that as the premise for Camille’s 6th birthday party and I remember thinking it was the most incredible event I had ever experienced. The point is, I have looked up to my aunt from an early age. She has instilled in my a love of exercise, food, photography, party planning and the confidence to experiment with recipes. It’s always so much fun when we can get together and this past holiday weekend was no different.

Naturally, Khaki brought along an ohio cookie cutter in her suitcase (because who wouldn’t?!)  and she decided to whip up a batch of some of her delicious sugar cookies. The recipe is from Alton Brown and it’s one she has been using for a few years. She usually throws in some extra flavoring extracts and rolls the dough fairly thin (about 1/8-1/4 inch) so that the cookies are extra crispy. They are so scrumptious that it took all of my willpower not to bring a handful home with us when we left because I knew it would get ugly.

If you are looking for a fantastic crispy sugar cookie, this is a recipe for you. Happy Friday, all!


 Aunt Khaki’s Crispy Sugar Cookies


  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon praline extract, optional
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • Powdered sugar, for rolling out dough
  • Sanding sugar or crystals, optional


1. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. Place butter and sugar in large bowl of electric stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Beat on medium-high until light and fluffy, about five minutes. Add egg and milk and beat to combine, scrapping down the sides with a spatula as necessary. Add in the vanilla and praline extract and mix until well-mixed.  Turn the mixer speed to low and gradually add flour mixture until just combined.. Divide the dough in half, wrap in parchment paper, and refrigerate for 2 hours.

2. After the dough has chilled, preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. Sprinkle surface where you will roll out dough with powdered sugar. Remove 1 wrapped pack of dough from refrigerator at a time, sprinkle rolling pin with powdered sugar, and roll out dough to 1/4-inch thick. Cut out cookies using desired cutter. Place cookies on baking sheets, one inch apart, and sprinkle generously with sanding sugar. Bake for  7 to 9 minutes or until cookies turn lightly brown on the edges.  Remove from oven, allow cookies to cool on sheet for about two minutes, and then transfer to baking rack to cool completely.  Store in an airtight container for a few days or freeze for a few months.

Source: Slightly adapted from Alton Brown

Crumb Coffee Cake



Mother’s Day is upon us and I wanted to kick off the celebration with a delicious coffee cake recipe. The flavorful cinnamon crumb layer is extra thick and sits atop a fluffy piece of vanilla-buttermilk cake.  It’s a special treat that goes well with breakfast, brunch, or as a dessert. Another bonus is the coffee cake is even better the day after it’s baked, establishing it as a great option for a make-ahead menu item.


My mother actually introduced this recipe to me shortly after I had Smith. She stayed at our house for several days to act as a private chef, housekeeper, and grandmother extraordinaire as we adjusted to our new life as a family of three. We were so grateful for all she did for us in those first few weeks as new parents and I remember experiencing a feeling of homesickness when she left, the kind of homesickness I used to feel when I was eight years old and at a slumber party.

It turns out we never stop needing our mothers. I still talk with my mom nearly everyday and seek her advice on several occasions. Now that I am a mother myself, I have an even greater respect for my mom. She is determined, independent, intelligent, and friendly to all she meets. My mother is also fiercely passionate about politics and she can turn a simple conversation about bananas into something involving the government in less than five seconds. But above all that, what I love most about my mother is her fantastic wit and sense of humor. She can always make us laugh until it hurts. Thank you, Mom, for being the best mother to us. Your children and grandchildren love you so much.

Happy Mother’s Day!


Crumb Coffee Cake

Yield: 8-12 servings


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup + 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 10 Tablespoons (1 and 1/4 stick) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into pieces
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk, at room temperature1
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature2
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch springform  with butter. Sprinkle the bottom of the pan with 1 Tablespoon of flour and tap out the excess. Set aside.
  2. In a bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, stir the flour, sugar, and salt together. Add in the pieces of butter and stir on medium-low speed until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Set aside 1 cup of the flour mixture.
  3. Mix the baking powder and baking soda into the remaining flour mixture. Add the room temperature buttermilk, egg, and vanilla and mix everything together until the batter is smooth, fluffy, and resembles frosting – about 2 full minutes. Transfer the batter into the prepared springform pan and spread evenly.
  4. Add the brown sugar and cinnamon to the reserved flour mixture. Mix with a fork until well blended. Sprinkle the crumbs over the batter and use your fingers to press them lightly into the batter. Bake the cake until the center is firm, about 55-60 minutes. Place on a baking rack and cool for 10 minutes before removing the sides of the springform pan. Allow cake to cool completely before serving.

Source: Sally’s Baking Addiction, who adapted it from Cook’s Illustrated

Local Love: Covered Bridge Creamery


Tucked away on the back roads in Charm, Ohio is a place called Covered Bridge Creamery. It’s owned and operated by the Robert Mast family and is home to our favorite source of local milk. I first discovered the milk when the gallons appeared on the shelves of the grocery store where I shop. It happened to coincide with Smith’s transition from formula to cow’s milk and I was intrigued. I purchased a gallon and we were very happy with the product we received.

Then, a few weeks later, Jayne from Honeyrun Farm left a comment on one of my Facebook pictures and informed me that she and her family make special trips to the Masts’ dairy farm just to stock up on milk. With her enthusiastic endorsement, I excitedly suggested that Robert, Smith, and I go to check it out. I’m so glad we did.


It turns out Covered Bridge Creamery is less than five minutes from our house. It’s also very close to where my childhood Amish babysitter, Tina, lived when we were young. She was the babysitter my sister and I purposely locked out of the house. We made her cry and ended up in big trouble from our parents. Poor thing. Wherever you are, sweet Tina, I hope you are doing well. I’m sorry we were awful to you. 


But back to the creamery. It’s nestled in a quiet and picturesque location. Not surprisingly, there is a covered bridge on the land where the animals traverse. The milk is produced from only 20 cows, all of whom happily graze on the grass of the multi-acre pasture and are fed non-GMO feed as well. The milk is processed using vat pasteurization. According to the UC Berkely Wellness Page from December 2014, “In regular pasteurization—the standard method used by large dairy operations—milk is heated to high temperature for a short time (161°F for 15 seconds). In vat pasteurization, milk is heated in small batches to a lower temperature for a longer time (145°F for 30 minutes) and then rapidly cooled. Flavor is better preserved, and usually the milk is not homogenized, so that a layer of cream coats the top.” This means the milk is perfectly safe to drink and it also means you have to shake up the milk before you drink it or you may end up with chunks of cream in your glass.


On site, the Mast family has a refrigerator with gallons, half-gallons, and pints of their whole milk along with chocolate and strawberry-flavored milks. They operate on the honor system and have an empty coffee can where you can leave cash and take what you wish.  I have been to the farm a handful of times and I usually see Mr. Mast. He is a friendly and hard-working man and is patient with my barrage of questions.


The Covered Bridge Creamery seems to be doing very well, both locally and outside of our region. Their milk appears in the Granville farmers’ market and he informed me they are expanding their processing space as well. It’s pretty neat to be able to see exactly where the milk we consume is coming from. Especially when it’s a place like Covered Bridge Creamery.

If you are in the Holmes County area, do yourself a favor and visit this lovely operation. The address is 4568 T.R. 370 Millersburg, Ohio.


Full Disclosure: This post was not sponsored. It is part of my effort to highlight my favorite local places because I think they should become your favorites, too. :)

Baked Blueberry Lemon French Toast with Fresh Blueberry Sauce


This past weekend, I had a few of my very dear childhood friends over for brunch. It was really lovely catching up with these ladies and I am always amazed to see how we each have embarked on our own paths and yet that bond we once had still remains strongly intact.

Now that I have a child of my own, I often wonder what the most important factors are in determining the type of person an individual becomes. Parenting? Siblings? Birth order? Peers? Geography? There are several variables, that is certain; but I know that the group of friends a person surrounds themselves with has to have a significant role in development.


I was very fortunate to have had a great group of girlfriends when I was young. They were (and still are) very kind, compassionate, and empathetic human beings. We went through those awful and awkward middle school years together and had very immature moments; but we sincerely cared about one another.  I can recall a particular instance, in seventh grade, when a group of us were on a hayride and one of the boys on the tractor trailer said something mean about how I looked and Andrea swooped right in and put that kid in his place and then reassured me that he was “such a jerk.” She may not even remember this event now, but I am eternally grateful.  While most 13 year old girls would have been more concerned with fitting in, Andrea didn’t stand for that kind of rudeness. I think that’s why my parents always loved her so much. There are countless other warm memories the group of girls and I share and some of those were recounted as we dined together. It makes my heart happy and very thankful.


Robert was working on Saturday morning so I tried to prepare most of brunch in advance because it’s sometimes challenging cooking while Smith pulls dirty diapers out of the Diaper Genie or uses my eyeliner pencil as a crayon on our bathroom floor. One of those items I prepared in advance was this baked blueberry lemon French toast with fresh blueberry sauce. I used day-old sandwich bread because stale bread is the best type of bread to soak up the custardy goodness in this type of dish and assembled the French toast the night before. All I had to do the next morning was preheat the oven and pop the dish in the oven.  I also made the blueberry sauce to accompany the French toast the day before. Perfectly simple.

In addition to this recipe, I also served:

I had a wonderful time reuniting with these wonderful women and I think they did, too. Have a great weekend everyone!


Baked Blueberry Lemon French Toast

Yield: About 8 servings


  • 6 eggs
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 3/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • 1 loaf of day old French or Amish sandwich bread
  • 2 cups (12 ounces) fresh or frozen, thawed, and drained blueberries
  • Cinnamon sugar to sprinkle over mixture (1 tablespoon ground cinnamon plus 3 tablespoons sugar)


1. Butter a 9 by 13-inch baking dish. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, beat the eggs until frothy. Add the milk, maple syrup, cinnamon, salt, and lemon zest. Add the bread cubes and mix until coated. Stir in the blueberries. Pour the mixture into the prepared dish. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar over the top of the French toast. Cover and refrigerate overnight to allow the bread to soak up the custard mixture.

3. The next morning, when you are ready to bake the French toast, remove the dish from the fridge and preheat the oven to 350 degrees (putting a refrigerated casserole dish directly into a hot oven can shattered the dish!). Bake until the top is golden and the filling is set, about 60 minutes.

4. Place onto serving plates and top with blueberry sauce.

Fresh Blueberry Sauce

Yield: About 2 cups


  • 2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice


1. Place the blueberries and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Heat, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes, or until the berries have plumped and released their juices.

2. In a separate, small bowl stir together water, cornstarch, and lemon juice. Whisk this mixture in the blueberries and stir until mixture is thickened, about 2-3 more minutes.

3. Remove from heat and serve over French toast, on yogurt, or over baked brie.

Source: Blueberry Lemon Baked French Toast- Giada De Laurentiis, Fresh Blueberry Sauce- Annie’s Eats, who adapted it from David Lebovitz

Food Memory Friday: Blackened Chicken with Black Bean and Corn Salsa


The summer Robert and I were married, I was finishing up my physics pre-requisite for graduate school and my schedule allowed me extra time to cook for us each night. Those were the days. I was able to work out every morning and I happily perused cookbooks and magazines for menu ideas. I also consulted with my mother a lot as I tried to figure out my way around the kitchen and she introduced me to this recipe. She’d made it a few times before and it was a delicious hit. Feeling confident, I collected the ingredients I needed. I was happy to find that I already had everything in our apartment. The chicken breasts I was using were frozen, but I figured if I allowed them to thaw for a few hours, I would be in good shape by the time I was ready to make dinner.

Fast forward a few hours and I followed the recipe to a tee. The kitchen smelled wonderful as the food baked in the oven and it looked gorgeous as I ceremoniously placed dinner on our table. We each served ourselves a piece of chicken and dug in. A few bites in, Robert turned his fork upside down and examined the piece of chicken pierced through its prongs closely. “This chicken is really chewy,” he said, “is there something different about it?” I assured him that it was the usual chicken I always purchased and I took his plate to check it out myself. I cut the chicken in half and scraped the salsa away to reveal a delightfully raw piece of chicken. The center was still cold and nowhere near the safe temperature recommended. My heart sank and I apologized profusely. Bert reassured me we could just pop the chicken in the microwave, which we did, but we both had not-surprisingly lost our appetites by that point. On the bright side- neither of us ended up with any food-borne illnesses and I learned a very valuable lesson in defrosting chicken that day.


Here we are nearly eight years later and I still make this dish a few times a year. Every time I do,  it seems like one of us will bring up that chewy chicken I served just a few weeks after we became a family. We laugh and then we both furtively check our chicken to make sure it is indeed cooked through.


Blackened Chicken with Black Bean and Corn Salsa

Yield: 4 generous servings


  • 15 oz can (1 1/2 cups) black beans, drained
  • 15 oz can (1 1/2 cups) corn, drained
  • 1 cup salsa
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • Olive or coconut oil
  • Sour cream, green onions, avocado, tortilla chips (optional)


1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the black beans, corn, and salsa in a 9×13 inch casserole dish. Set aside.

2. Combine the chili powder, garlic, salt, and cumin in a bowl and pour into a thin layer on a plate. Dip each of the chicken breasts in the spice mixture and use your fingers to “massage” the rub evenly on each piece of chicken.

3. Heat olive or coconut over medium-high heat in a large saucepan until hot. Carefully add each piece of chicken to the pan and sear the chicken on each side, until blackened, about 2-3 minutes each. Transfer the pieces of chicken to the casserole dish with the black bean and corn salsa. Bake for 40 minutes. Remove from oven and top with shredded cheese and other toppings, as desired.

Source: Taste of Home


How to Make Delightful Hard-Boiled Eggs


With Easter right around the corner, it seemed like the perfect time to talk about hard-boiled eggs. They are fun to decorate and they are even more delightful to eat. Since we’ve moved from Columbus to the country, I’ve gotten into the habit of purchasing fresh. local eggs because they are readily available and scrumptious. Though the fresh eggs are fabulous, I quickly noticed they are very difficult to peel if I hard-boil them.

With a little google research, I discovered this is likely due to their freshness compared to eggs commonly found in grocery stores. In very fresh eggs, the inner shell membrane adheres tightly to the egg white, making it trickier to peel away the shell without puncturing the cooked white. As the egg is exposed to air for longer periods of time, it loses some of its protective coating and that bond between the shell and the white becomes weaker. Translation: older eggs are easier to peel.

But what if you can’t wait around for a few weeks to allow those eggs to age before you need to cook up a batch of hard-boiled beauts? Fear not! I have successfully used this method for the past 2 months. The key is to place the eggs in already boiling water. This instant high heat allows the egg white to separate from the shell right away for easy peeling. The reduction of heat to a gentle boil prevents the whites from getting too tough.  It results in beautifully-cooked eggs and peeling is a breeze.


Here’s what you do:

1. Bring a pot of water (about 2 inches high, or enough to  completely cover the eggs) to a full, rolling boil.

2. Carefully place the eggs into the boiling water (I like to use a soup ladle to ensure I don’t burn myself with boiling water).

3.  Turn down the heat to medium to a gentle boil and cook for 11 minutes.

4. Drain the eggs and place in a large bowl of ice water for 15 minutes.

5. Peel and enjoy!

Source: Serious Eats