Category Archives: Comfort Food

Sweet Italian Sausage Stuffed Pork Chops


Some days just call for comfort food…real, hearty, stick to your ribs comfort food. On those days – days where the snow continues to pile up and we begin to doubt that spring will ever come – stuffed pork chops just seem like the right thing to make.


This recipe looks fancy, and it is. It’s definitely a “company’s coming” sort of dish, and it does take some prep time. But it’s not all that tricky. Spoken from a girl who was afraid to attempt anything so fancy or tricky until recently.

The truth is: I cook from scratch every single day now. So much so, that it takes a really impressive dish to truly wow my family. Homemade dinners from scratch, whether it’s pizza, or mac and cheese, or calzones have become commonplace rather than intimidating. But this one, albeit initially intimidating, turned out to be fun to make and really delivered the wow. Continue reading

Easy, Fast, Creamy Mac & Cheese from Scratch


Hunting season is upon us here in Minnesota. The air is crisp; the leaves are falling, and our extra freezer is bare – ready to be filled with a fresh batch of wild game.

Meanwhile, I’ve been on the hunt for a homemade mac and cheese recipe… Continue reading

Cheddar Jalapeno Popper Pasta with Crumbs


Lesson learned: never chop jalapeños and then rub your eyes. Trust me. Ouch.

I’m growing jalapeños in my garden this summer and have been looking for new recipes to try so that we can use them up.

Tonight I made a recipe I found while searching for jalapeño popper recipes. It combines the zing and flavor of traditional jalapeño poppers with pasta and crunchy breadcrumbs…perfect for a quick and easy meal. Continue reading

Slow Cooked Whole Chicken and Blueberry Buckle

In early August, we spent a weekend at the family cabin to celebrate Grandma’s 65th birthday.

As chief chef, a title I’ve happily bestowed upon myself, I was in charge of the birthday meal and thought it would be nice to roast a chicken for the Saturday night birthday feast. The only problem was that summer Saturdays at the lake are primarily spent boating, tubing, canoeing, and 4-wheeling…activities away from the cabin that make supervising a roasting chicken a bit of a challenge.

Fortunately, I’ve had this recipe bookmarked on my recipes to try list for awhile, and this was the perfect occasion to do so: Best Whole Chicken in a Crock Pot


For the chicken, I used a 4 lb all natural bird from Trader Joe’s. I switched up the spices to what we had on hand but otherwise followed the recipe as written, and it worked perfectly. While we were enjoying our day on the lake, the chicken was slow-cooking away, and when I transferred it to a serving plate, it did indeed fall right off the bone. We served it with a batch of garlic mashed baby reds and gravy made with the slow cooker juices. Delish!


For dessert, I made blueberry buckle using this recipe I found online: Allrecipes Blueberry Buckle

The boys definitely preferred this version to the Gerber Blueberry Buckle they used to eat when they were babies.

The Oldest: Circa 2005

The Oldest: Circa 2005

After our feast, we lounged in the gazebo, and while we watched the sun set over the lake, we were greeted by this little visitor. His name is Fred.


Two new recipes that got thumbs up by the fam to file away for the future, and we had plenty of chicken left over for chicken quesadillas the next day. Success!


Smokin’ Hot Buffalo Chicken Calzones

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If you like Frank’s buffalo chicken dip, then you’re going to love this recipe. It’s basically Frank’s buffalo chicken a la calzone…or as I call it: smokin’ hot buffalo chicken calzones.

The soft, pillowy dough works wonders to tame the spicy, cheesy chicken mixture. We use our versatile pizza dough recipe for calzones. One batch of dough is enough for two calzones.

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For the boys: pepperoni pizza calzones. For the adults: buffalo chicken calzones. Both varieties were a hit.


Smokin’ Hot Buffalo Chicken Calzones
¼ cup Frank’s hot sauce
1/8 cup ranch dressing
½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
2 cups cooked, chopped boneless chicken
4 oz. cubed cream cheese
½ recipe of pizza dough

Pizza Dough
3 cups flour
1 tsp sea salt
2 tsp yeast
1 cup warm water
2 Tbsp olive oil

Prepare pizza dough a few hours in advance to allow it to rise. Use half for this recipe and save the other half for another calzone or pizza crust.

To prepare dough, stir yeast into the warm water. Add flour and salt to a food processor with a dough blade in place. Turn on the dough setting on the food processor and stream the yeast water into through the feeder tube into the food processor. Then, stream in the olive oil. Turn off as soon as the dough ball forms. Remove, dough ball and place in a large bowl coated in olive oil, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise for at least a few hours.

To prepare calzone, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Mix the chicken, cheeses, hot sauce, and ranch. Divide the pizza dough in half, and set the other half aside for another use. Toss a spoonful of cornmeal or flour on a sheet of parchment paper, and then use a rolling pin with a bit of olive oil on it to roll out the dough into a rectangular shape. Top the dough with the mix to form a line of mix down the middle. Cut slits in the dough on either side of the mix, and criss-cross the dough slices over the mix. If you’re really feeling crazy, slather a bit of melted butter over the top of the dough. Oh yes we did!

Bake for 30 minutes or until dough is browned and cheese begins to ooze out of the slits. Leftovers reheat great for lunch the next day…that is if there’s anything left over. Not in our house.

Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf with Chipotle Cheddar


It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. We had our first big snowfall of the season this weekend. Over a foot of snow fell in the course of 24 hours.

I have to admit, I was probably even more excited than my kids to go play in the snow.


We bundled up in our snowpants, jackets, hats, mittens, and boots and headed out for some winter fun. The snow was light and fluffy…perfect for sledding and making snow angels…but not quite ideal for snowmen.

So, what do we make for dinner on a snowy, weekend evening? Comfort food, of course. Meatloaf and mashed potatoes.


I came up with this concoction based on what we had on hand. Most meatloaf recipes call for crushed crackers or breadcrumbs to bind everything together. I thought…why not try rolled oats??? And, instead of just ground beef, since we like a little kick, I used a combination of ground beef and hot Italian sausage.


I also replaced the typical cheddar cheese with chipotle cheddar. And, for the piece de résistance, I layered a few strips of bacon on top.


Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf with Chipotle Cheddar

1 lb ground beef
1/2 lb hot Italian sausage
1/4 cup BBQ sauce
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 egg
1 cup shredded chipotle cheddar cheese
2 Tbsp Frank’s hot sauce
1 small onion, diced
1/4 cup green pepper, diced
2 cloves of garlic, pressed
Dash of salt and pepper
A few strips of bacon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients except the bacon in a large bowl. Line a loaf pan with plastic wrap. Dump mixture into loaf pan and press down with a fork. Invert loaf into a 9 x 13 baking pan. Discard plastic wrap. Cut bacon slices in half and layer over meatloaf. Bake for 60 minutes or until temperature reads 170 degrees. Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes before slicing.


Serve with garlic mashed potatoes and salad. The salad in this picture is super simple: spinach, apples, almonds with lemon olive oil dressing (equal parts fresh lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil whisked with a dash or sea salt and pepper).

Warm Apple Pear Crisp with a Scoop of Vanilla

We made one last trip to our favorite apple orchard this weekend before they closed for the season. In the crisp, early November air, we greeted the chickens, petted the goats, and then headed inside the toasty, warm barn to scarf down a bag of sugary, apple donuts and load up on apples. Our fridge is now fully stocked with about 15 pounds of the most adorable, little round “lunchbox” size Haralson apples…all for the incredibly reasonable price of $10. That should keep us eating fresh, local apples hopefully through Christmas.

I say hopefully because…well, let’s just say if you could catch just one brief whiff of the apple crisp we just made, then you’d understand.

Pears and apples make the perfect pair. Sorry, had to say it. And, since we had a few ripe pears on hand, I modified my usual crisp recipe to incorporate them. One word of caution, though. Don’t try peeling and coring a ripe pair on an apple machine. Yep…turned to mush before my eyes.

Haralson apples are native to Minnesota. They are crisp, tart, and perfect for baking. That is…if you don’t eat them all first.

The best part about this recipe is that you can throw everything together in a few minutes time while you’re preparing dinner, and then set it in the oven to bake while you linger over family dinner. If your family doesn’t typically linger, believe me, this dessert is worth it.

Warm Apple Pear Crisp

1 pear
3 small apples (I used Haralson – lunchbox size)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 1/2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp honey
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup butter, softened

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prepare an 8 inch square baking dish by spraying with cooking spray.

Peel, core, and slice the pear and apples, and put them in the baking dish. Sprinkle 1 Tbsp flour, lemon juice, and honey over the sliced fruit, and stir slightly to coat evenly.

In a bowl, mix 1/2 cup flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, rolled oats, and butter until the butter is incorporated. Sprinkle over the fruit in the baking dish.

Bake for 40 minutes or until fruit is bubbling and top is golden brown. Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.

Golden Potato and Shrimp Chowder with Egyptian Onions

‘Tis the season for chowder. As soon as the days begin to grow crisper and the leaves start to fall, my mind often transitions into chowder mode. Today was one of those days. Today was a day built for comfort food. I woke up with one thought in my head: chowder. Ok, well maybe two thoughts: spend time with my boys, and then….make some chowder.

So, we read books, played games, built a fort, and did all the fun, relaxing things there are to do on a lazy, chilly, October-y, Saturday…in our pj’s (of course). And then, while the boys were fully engrossed in their activities, I snuck away to the kitchen to cook.

This chowder is a variation on my older, tried and true version. I used to use cream of this and cream of that soups in my chowder, which certainly helped to thicken it up, but it also added plenty of “extra stuff” in the way of ingredients that I couldn’t pronounce. On our quest to eat more whole foods and limited ingredient foods, I ventured into the unknown of making this completely from scratch.

If you’ve never heard of Egyptian onions, here’s a little background for you, and a bit of a warning. I first learned about them when I attended a gardening class taught by a master gardner from the University of Minnesota. Not only did I learn a great deal in the class, but I also went home with a handful of Egyptian onion sets. I planted them in my garden, and before long, I had onions everywhere. They are also known as walking onions or topset onions, because they grow large, tall green shoots, with bulbets on top. The bulbets make the onions top-heavy, so they tip over, and whereever the bulbets land, they sprout a brand new plant. So, you have to be very diligent with these little guys, or they will take over.

Both the green stems and the bulbets are edible. I prefer to dice the green stems and use them in recipes just as I would with green onions.

Golden Potato and Shrimp Chowder with Egyptian Onions

1 lb golden potatoes – peeled and diced
1 medium white onion – chopped
1 quart organic chicken broth
8 oz medium cooked shrimp – peeled and deveined
1 cup corn
4 large cloves of garlic
1/2 cup diced Egyptian onions
4 oz cream cheese – cubed
1 Tbsp butter
2 cups milk
2 Tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp pepper

Melt butter in a large stockpot. Add white onion, Egyptian onions and garlic, and saute for a few minutes until tender. Add chicken broth, potatoes, sea salt, and pepper. Cook over medium heat for 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Then, add corn and shrimp. Continue to cook over medium heat for 5 minutes.

Add cubed cream cheese to stockpot, and whisk to incorporate.

In a large bowl, whisk cornstarch into the milk. Slowly pour into stockpot, and mix thoroughly. Place a cover on the stockpot and simmer for another 10 minutes, stirring frequently. If chowder is too thin, add more cornstarch to thicken.

Ladle chowder into bowls. Top with additional Egyptian onions, and serve with sourdough bread.

Mozzarella Smothered Chicken with Mushroom Gravy

SO…I’m thinking I should have named this blog “How I Bribe My Kids To Get Them To Eat Well”…catchy, isn’t it? Before I get to the recipe, let me just start by saying we were mighty impressed by the deal that was brokered between the Youngest and the Oldest tonight at dinner, with the end result of dessert earned by all.

But, let me back up. You see, today was a busy day. It started with BACON. Yes, crispy bacon frying up in the pan. This morning. I know what you’re thinking: wait…it’s not even the weekend? Who has time to make bacon on a WEDNESDAY… on a workday??? Well, that, my friends, would be this crazy food blogger…yours truly…who got up an extra 15 minutes early to make some bacon for the Oldest as a special treat. Bacon is by far the Oldest’s favorite breakfast food. Not that he’d only eat it at breakfast. He would eat it noon or night, in the dark and in the light, with a fox, in a box…you get the point. And, it’s the only meat he will happily eat.

On the other hand, the Youngest hates bacon. Knowing this, I made something else that…I assumed…both would happily devour. Parfaits. Yogurt, Cheerios, and sliced berries. The Oldest chowed down his breakfast in less than 60 seconds. No lie. The Youngest gave me a look of disgust, announced that he no longer liked parfaits, gave his parfait to his brother (which the Oldest happily gobbled down, too) and proceeded to grab a cereal bar from the cupboard. Well, one out of two isn’t bad, right? Oh yeah, and the Youngest was also upset because bacon usually means pancakes (well, sure, on the weekend it does) and pancakes are the Youngest’s favorite breakfast food. This is when I threw up my hands and admitted defeat…at least for the morning.

Which brings me back to dinner. Fast forward through a hectic work day, topped off by an even more hectic rush to make it to swimming lessons, followed by a mad dash to get something on the table thereafter.

So, I made this:

Mozzarella Smothered Chicken with Mushroom Gravy

4 thick boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 package mushrooms, sliced
8 thin slices mozzarella cheese
2 Tbsp butter
½ cup milk
1 Tbsp cornstarch
Salt and pepper, to taste

Slice chicken breasts in half width-wise to make 8 thin breasts. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Brown over medium-high heat. Once breasts are cooked through and browned, transfer to baking dish. Top breasts with sliced mozzarella. Turn on oven to broil setting. Then, prepare gravy by melting butter over medium heat in same pan that chicken was cooked in. Use a fork to scrape the brown bits from the pan to incorporate with the butter. Add the mushrooms and sauté for 2 minutes. Mix the milk with the cornstarch and add to pan. Mix and cook for another few minutes until sauce thickens and bubbles. Pour sauce over the top of the mozzarella covered chicken and broil for just a few minutes until cheese and sauce begin to bubble. Serve with garlic mashed potatoes.

Ok, so now that you’ve got the recipe, back to the deal that was brokered over dinner. The boys plates consisted of a few bites of chicken, a mashed potato volcano, a handful of sugar snap peas, and a mountain of sliced strawberries. The strawberries were the first victims to leave the scene. Next went the potatoes. Then, the two voracious eaters just stopped and stared. The Oldest loves veggies but DETESTS chicken. The Youngest likes chicken but is not a huge fan of peas. Before either of us parents knew it, the Youngest…bless his clever little heart…had negotiated a peas for chicken swap. In a blur of motion, food was shared, and two plates were empty. Amen.

I guess I should mention that the chicken was delicious. This is one of my favorite ways to prepare it, smoothered in the creamy moz and gravy mix. Comfort food to the max. We paired it with a delicious 2002 Beaujolais. Just another ordinary day in our extraordinary life.

Garlic Lime Shrimp Fettuccine

Garlic and lime are wonderful, tasty additions to virtually any pasta dish. This delish recipe pairs them with shrimp and fettuccine for a light, yet filling, meal.I created this dish as a lower fat substitute for our favorite shrimp fettuccine alfredo recipe. You still get the texture of the thick fettuccine noodles combined with the delicate shrimp, without the heavy, calorie-laden cream sauce. So, why not go ahead and have dessert, too? Maybe some key lime pie…
Garlic Lime Shrimp Fettuccine

12 oz. cooked tail-on shrimp
3 cloves garlic
1 lime
16 oz. fettuccine
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
olive oil
sea salt

If frozen, thaw shrimp, and then remove tails. Cook pasta according to package directions. When pasta is almost finished, heat a few tablespoons of olive oil over medium high heat in a large skillet. Add shrimp to skillet, squeeze in half of the lime, add a dash of sea salt, and cook for 2 -3 minutes. Finely chop garlic cloves, or use a garlic press, and add to the skillet. Cook for an additional minute, and then remove from heat. Add drained noodles to the skillet, along with the parmesan cheese. Squeeze in remaining half of the lime. Toss noodles to mix everything together, and serve.Amy’s Notes: If you have extra time, thaw the shrimp in advance, and marinate in a bit of lime juice and sea salt just before cooking to help infuse the shrimp with extra tangy lime flavor.