Kyle and I have only moved cities a couple times but one of the first things on our list to find is a mom and pop’s style Italian restaurant.  You see we grew up with this great little Italian restaurant in our hometown, it has been said that Kyle used the pizza crust as a teething biscuit when he was little.  So needless to say, this restaurant is near and dear to our hearts and has set the bar pretty high.  The other night I had a craving for Mt. Dora Pizza’s chicken parmesan that just would not go away so I set off to find the perfect recipe.


I stumbled across a blog called Food Wishes authored by Chef John, it not only had a great recipe but it had a You Tube video which showed him preparing the dish step by step.  I’m sure I am a dork, since I thought the video feature was VERY cool.   He has great tips and is really easy to follow.  Because of his awesome instructions I will only list the needed ingredients and encourage you to watch the video!  This was a wonderful dish which lived up to my very high expectations!



4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 cups “Panko” Japanese style bread crumbs
3/4 cup grated parmesan
1/2 cup grated provolone
4 oz fresh mozzarella
salt and pepper to taste
red pepper flakes to taste
olive oil for frying
1/2 cup prepared tomato sauce
1/4 cup fresh shredded basil, or pesto, or dried Italian herbs of your choice, or omit


Source: Food Wishes

Yummy, yummy, yummy!  That pretty much sums up how I felt about this recipe.  Not only did it taste great in the form of pork nachos but it was great as BBQ pulled pork sandwiches a few nights later after a long day at school.  Contrary to the name, the spicy element seemed to be pretty mild so don’t let that stop you from trying it tonight! 



And a few nights later mixed with your favorite BBQ sauce…




Spicy Shredded Pork



4-7 lb. pork shoulder

1 onion, quartered

1 tsp. chili powder

1 tsp. dried oregano

1 tsp. ground cumin

¼ cup brown sugar

3-4 garlic cloves

1-2 tbsp. salt


1-2 tbsp. olive oil

2-3 tbsp. white wine vinegar

2 cups water



Rinse and pat dry the pork shoulder.


Combine the onion, spices, brown sugar, garlic, salt and pepper to taste in the bowl of a food processor.  Add the olive oil and white wine vinegar.  Blend mixture until totally combined.  Pour over the pork shoulder.  Rub over the whole surface of the pork, being sure to cover any folds or crevices. 


Place the pork in a Dutch oven or roasting pan and add water to the pan.  Cover tightly and roast at 300° for several hours, turning once every hour.  When it is fork tender turn the heat up to 425°, remove the lid, and roast skin-side up for 15-20 more minutes until crispy.  Let rest 15 minutes.


Shred the pork shoulder using two forks.  Pour some of the juice from cooking over the shredded meat to keep it moist.  Serve with warm tortillas, lime wedges, sour cream and pico de gallo.


Source: Annie Eat’s, The Pioneer Woman


I’ve never been a big fan of cheesecake but this recipe may in fact convert me!  I will however give you this warning: DO NOT and I repeat DO NOT make this cheesecake unless you have a rather hungry crowd of friends to share it with.  Not only will they love you but your hips and thighs will thank you too!  There are quite a few variations listed in Dorie’s book but I chose to keep it simple and classic, opting for the vanilla flavor with graham cracker crust.  But of course I had to add a little flare and decided to substitute vanilla bean paste for the extract which gave it those cute little black flecks which I adore and also made a caramel sauce to drizzle over the top.  It was heavenly! 




Tall and Creamy Cheesecake

Serves 16-20


For the crust:
1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
3 tablespoons sugar
Pinch of salt
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted

For the cheesecake:
2 pounds (four 8-ounce boxes) cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract (I used 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste)
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups sour cream or heavy cream, or a combination of the two

(I ended up using 1 cup heavy cream and 1/3 sour cream)

To make the crust:
Butter a 9-inch springform pan—choose one that has sides that are 2 3/4 inches high (if the sides are lower, you will have cheesecake batter leftover)—and wrap the bottom of the pan in a double layer of aluminum foil; put the pan on a baking sheet.

Stir the crumbs, sugar and salt together in a medium bowl. Pour over the melted butter and stir until all of the dry ingredients are uniformly moist. (I do this with my fingers.) Turn the ingredients into the buttered springform pan and use your fingers to pat an even layer of crumbs along the bottom of the pan and about halfway up the sides. Don’t worry if the sides are not perfectly even or if the crumbs reach above or below the midway mark on the sides—this doesn’t have to be a precision job. Put the pan in the freezer while you preheat the oven.

Center a rack in the oven, preheat the oven to 350°F and place the springform on a baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Set the crust aside to cool on a rack while you make the cheesecake.

Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F.

To make the cheesecake:
Put a kettle of water on to boil.

Working in a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the cream cheese at medium speed until it is soft and lives up to the creamy part of its name, about 4 minutes. With the mixer running, add the sugar and salt and continue to beat another 4 minutes or so, until the cream cheese is light. Beat in the vanilla. Add the eggs one by one, beating for a full minute after each addition—you want a well-aerated batter. Reduce the mixer speed to low and stir in the sour cream and/or heavy cream.

Put the foil-wrapped springform pan in the roaster pan.

Give the batter a few stirs with a rubber spatula, just to make sure that nothing has been left unmixed at the bottom of the bowl, and scrape the batter into the springform pan. The batter will reach the brim of the pan. (If you have a pan with lower sides and have leftover batter, you can bake the batter in a buttered ramekin or small soufflé mold.) Put the roasting pan in the oven and pour enough boiling water into the roaster to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan.

Bake the cheesecake for 1 hour and 30 minutes, at which point the top will be browned (and perhaps cracked) and may have risen just a little above the rim of the pan. Turn off the oven’s heat and prop the oven door open with a wooden spoon. Allow the cheesecake to luxuriate in its water bath for another hour.

After 1 hour, carefully pull the setup out of the oven, lift the springform pan out of the roaster—be careful, there may be some hot water in the aluminum foil—remove the foil. Let the cheesecake come to room temperature on a cooling rack.

When the cake is cool, cover the top lightly and chill the cake for at least 4 hours, although overnight would be better.

Remove the sides of the springform pan— I use a hairdryer to do this (use the dryer to warm the sides of the pan and ever so slightly melt the edges of the cake)—and set the cake, still on the pan’s base, on a serving platter. The easiest way to cut cheesecake is to use a long, thin knife that has been run under hot water and lightly wiped. Keep warming the knife as you cut slices of the cake.

Wrapped well, the cake will keep for up to 1 week in the refrigerator or for up to 2 months in the freezer. It’s best to defrost the still-wrapped cheesecake overnight in the refrigerator.


Source:  Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan




I had high expectations for these cookies, since I love, love, love oreos.  I was slightly disappointed by the taste of the filling, a little to buttery for my liking.  I did however, enjoy the chocolate wafer cookie.  They would defiantly be great with ice-cream or frozen yogurt filling.  On my next attempt with these babies, I am thinking about potentially flavoring the filling with a little strawberry or raspberry jam since these flavors pair nicely with chocolate. 







Makes 25 to 30 sandwich cookies



For the chocolate wafers:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 to 1 1/2 cups sugar [see recipe note]
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) room-temperature, unsalted butter
1 large egg


For the filling:
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) room-temperature, unsalted butter
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract



Set two racks in the middle of the oven. Preheat to 375°F.


In a food processor, or bowl of an electric mixer, thoroughly mix the flour, cocoa, baking soda and powder, salt, and sugar. While pulsing, or on low speed, add the butter, and then the egg. Continue processing or mixing until dough comes together in a mass.


Take rounded teaspoons of batter and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet approximately two inches apart. With moistened hands, slightly flatten the dough. Bake for 9 minutes, rotating once for even baking. Set baking sheets on a rack to cool.


To make the cream, place butter and shortening in a mixing bowl, and at low speed, gradually beat in the sugar and vanilla. Turn the mixer on high and beat for 2 to 3 minutes until filling is light and fluffy.


To assemble the cookies, in a pastry bag with a 1/2 inch, round tip, pipe teaspoon-size blobs of cream into the center of one cookie. Place another cookie, equal in size to the first, on top of the cream. Lightly press, to work the filling evenly to the outsides of the cookie. Continue this process until all the cookies have been sandwiched with cream. Dunk generously in a large glass of milk.


Note:  If you want your cookie closer to that original, you can take out a full half-cup of the sugar. If you want to make the cookie by itself (for ice cream sandwiches) go ahead and use the full amount.



Source:  Smitten Kitchen

This is another week night favorite!  It’s fast, simple, and most of the ingredients can be found hanging out in our pantry and freezer on any given night.  This is also my submission for this month’s Tasty Tools event featuring measuring devices, hence the pretty picture of my All-Clad measuring cup filled to the brim with sour cream.  Head over to Joelen’s Culinary Adventures to check out the other submissions! 






Chicken Bowtie Pasta

Serves: 4-6



1-1 ½ lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into cubes

¾ -1 lb. bowtie pasta

1 can cream of chicken soup

2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated

½ cup milk

1-1 ½ cups sour cream

Olive oil

Garlic powder

Salt & Pepper



Begin by bringing a pot of water to a boil and cooking the bowtie pasta according to the package directions.  While the pasta is cooking, season the cubed chicken breasts with garlic powder, salt and pepper.  In a large skillet over medium high heat, sauté the chicken breasts in a little olive oil until browed and cooked thoroughly.  In a small bowl mix together the cream of chicken soup, milk, and sour cream.  It should be slightly soupy.  Next, toss the soup mixture, cheese, and cooked bow ties into the skillet with the chicken.  Heat over medium to low heat until the cheese is melted and it is heated through.  You can thin the sauce with a little more milk if needed. 


Source: My wonderful mother-in-law Susan


This recipe has been in the back of my mind for months now.  When we received numerous jars of homemade jelly for Christmas I knew this would be the perfect bread to accompany the yummy jelly.  This is a great recipe for first time bread bakers, as the directions were easy to follow.  The only pitfall was that on the day I decided to make this our house was cold so the loaves did not rise as much as I had hoped and I ended up with short, squat loaves.




Whole Wheat Bread

Yield: two 9-inch loaves



2 1/3 cups warm water (about 100°)

1 ½ tbsp. instant yeast

¼ cup honey

4 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

2 ½ tsp. salt

¼ cup rye flour

½ cup toasted wheat germ

3 cups whole-wheat flour

2 ¾ cups unbleached all-purpose flour



In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix the water, yeast, honey, butter and salt with a rubber spatula.  Mix in the rye flour, wheat germ, and 1 cup of each of the whole-wheat and all-purpose flours. 


Add the remaining whole-wheat and all-purpose flours, attach the dough hook and knead at low speed until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes.  Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface.  Knead just long enough to make sure that the dough is soft and smooth, about 30 seconds.


Place the dough in a very lightly oiled large bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Let rise in a warm, draft-free area until the dough has doubled in volume, about 1 hour.


Heat the oven to 375°.  Gently press down the dough and divide it into two equal pieces.  Gently press each piece into a rectangle about 1-inch thick and no longer than 9 inches.  With a long side of the dough facing you, roll the dough firmly into a cylinder, pressing down to make sure the dough sticks to itself.  Turn the dough seam-side up and pinch it closed.  Place each cylinder of dough into a greased 9 by 5-inch loaf pan, seam-side down, pressing the dough gently so it touches all four sides of the pan.  Cover the shaped dough; let rise until almost doubled in volume, 20 to 30 minutes.


Bake until an instant-read thermometer inserted at an angle from the short end just above the pan rim reads 205°, 35 to 45 minutes.  Transfer the bread immediately from the baking pans to a wire rack; cool to room temperature.


Source: Annie Eat’s


Crockpot Roast


This is by far one of our favorite weeknight go-to recipes; I absolutely love coming home to the smell of this in the Crockpot.  Nothing screams comfort food like this easy and versatile roast.  It can even be jazzed up for company by stirring in sour cream, peas, or mushrooms during the last 30 minutes.  We generally serve it over rice, pasta, or a bake potato.  I hope you enjoy this as much as we do! 






Crockpot Roast


Boneless chuck roast

2 10 ¾ oz. cans of Cream of Mushroom soup

Garlic powder

Salt and pepper



Spread one can of cream of mushroom soup in the bottom of a crockpot.  Thoroughly sprinkle both sides of the chuck roast with garlic powder, salt and pepper.  Place the chuck roast into the crockpot.  Next, spread the remaining can of cream of mushroom soup on the top of the chuck roast.  Add about ½ can of water, cover and cook on low for 4-5 hours.