With only 5 simple ingredients, these No Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars are the perfect dessert to whip up for a party!
It’s been a little while since we’ve talked about books in this space, but I’ve actually been reading A LOT lately. I seem to go through spurts where I read like a T-Rex who can’t stop devouring every book in site, and then I hit a dry spell and don’t pick anything up for awhile. Luckily, the last few months I’ve been in full T-Rex mode, and have a few gems to show for it.
A couple months back, I picked up Kitchens of the Great Midwest. The book as a whole was not my favorite, but I really enjoyed the format. Each chapter is named for a food and tells the story of a person who is somehow linked to the main character, Eva Thorvald, a young and brilliant chef who we meet at the beginning of the book. Traveling around the midwest, each chapter gives us a glimpse into the foods and people that shaped Eva, including these Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars, made by Pat Prager, the epitome of a small town church lady.
Pat’s bars won first place at the state fair, but when she decides to submit them to a hoity-toity foodie bake-off, poor Pat finds herself having to defend her spectacularly simple and perfectly unhealthy bars to a slew of “enlightened” eaters.
Her bars contain only five ingredients, including horrifying grade A butter (the kind from actual cows!!), graham cracker crumbs (the gluten! Have mercy!), peanut butter (she couldn’t have at least used organic almond butter??), powdered sugar (good heavens!), and chocolate chips (not vegan. THE HORROR!).
I had to chuckle as I read. I have nothing against healthy food, of course, but there’s still something to be said for a good old fashioned dessert like this one. There’s not an ounce of fanciness or pretense here, it’s just an honest to goodness treat. If you love chocolate and peanut butter, these are going to be your new best friend. These are maybe the easiest desserts I’ve ever made. They’re completely no bake, and you can have them whipped up and ready to serve in less time than it takes to a watch an episode of The Good Place (which I’m loving, by the way).
These are pretty rich, so I like to cut them in small squares, but don’t be surprised if you find yourself reaching back for more than one small square! Save this recipe for one of those last minute dessert emergencies or put them on the menu for the Super Bowl. They will be a huge hit (as you can see), and, unlike Pat Prager, you won’t have to tell anyone they’re made with only five (very simple!) ingredients!
1 cup milk chocolate chips with 1 tsp. butter (I substitute semi sweet chocolate chips sometimes)
In a mixing bowl, mix together the graham cracker crumbs, butter, peanut butter, and powdered sugar. Press into a greased 9 x 13 inch pan.
Place the chocolate chips and butter in a measuring cup and microwave, stirring every 30 seconds, until chocolate is melted and smooth. Spread the chocolate over the peanut butter layer. Place in the refrigerator until set. Cut into bars and serve.
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Humble, hearty, and nourishing, these Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins are more than just a sweet way to start your day–they’re an offering of love.
2017 hasn’t started out quite like I imagined. I like to think of the start of a new year as a clean slate, a chance to start fresh, a bright and hopeful beginning. But sometimes life doesn’t deal us a fresh start. This year, a fellow blogger delivered her baby prematurely and had to say goodbye to him just a few short hours later. Another friend experienced a miscarriage. Other friends suffered personal tragedies—the loss of a grandparent, a frightening diagnosis. And while we didn’t suffer the brunt of any great tragedy this new year, our little family was taken down by a vicious cold, and we spent the better part of two weeks housebound, feverish, and generally rather miserable. The new year brought with it frozen temperatures, and while we didn’t exactly want to leave the house in our snotty states, the bitter cold also made me feel claustrophobic and trapped.
While a new year often brings with it excitement and opportunity, sometimes it also brings endings and sorrow, sickness and difficulty. I’m feeling the tension of this season more than any other year I can remember. I hold it all in my heart, the sadness and celebration, the loss and the blessing, the beauty in all of the mess.
I try to hold onto the hope of a new year, not because of the turn of a calendar, but because of a Jesus who offers hope in every season. I cling to the promise of a Kingdom that is here and not yet here, a God who came, and One who continues to visit us in our sorrow and in our joy.
When I don’t know what else to do, I light a candle for the ones who are brokenhearted, and then I make muffins. Baking is my prayer. My pouring out. A tangible way to work out my sorrow and my questions, my doubt and my fears. I keep my hands busy, whisking and stirring, so my heart can wander and be still. I always thought the phrase “baked with love” was a little trite, but I get it now. Sometimes baking is much more than flour and sugar, measuring and scooping. It is a working out of all our helplessness, all of our need to show the ones around us we care and we’re here. In a simple muffin, we pour out our love and hope those who need it will taste it in every bite.
I generally believe any kind of baked good can be a messenger of love, but I find these Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins work particularly well for this purpose. These are simple, hearty muffins, and they’re easily adaptable based on your mood or what you have on hand. Sometimes the need to bake happens at 10 PM at night, and when it does, I need a muffin recipe I can make with pantry staples. This is the one.
These muffins fall somewhere between extra healthy and extra decadent. I make them with oats and Greek yogurt, coconut oil and maple syrup, but you can always substitute with milk and butter and brown sugar if you like. The same goes for the flour. Use all purpose, or replace half with white whole wheat flour. I’ve had both, and they’re both delicious. I like my muffins to be positively bursting with blueberries, but if you don’t have any on hand feel free to use chocolate chips or dried cranberries or nuts or whatever else your heart desires.
The muffins themselves are simple, moist, and subtly sweet. They’re satisfying in a coming home kind of way. They feel familiar and cozy, like your favorite sweatshirt. They might not dazzle like giant bakery blueberry muffins, but they’re true and good and honest–a muffin you can count on when the going gets tough. Make these for the ones in your life who need to know they’re not alone. They’ll appreciate the muffin, but they’ll appreciate the love you poured into it even more.
2 cups all purpose flour (or sub white whole wheat flour)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1½ teaspoons cinnamon
1½ cups blueberries (tossed with a spoonful of flour), chocolate chips, or other mix ins
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line 2 muffin pans with 18 cupcake liners.
In a bowl, stir together the milk, yogurt, and oats and allow to soak for 15 minutes.
In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, soda, salt, and cinnamon.
Whisk the coconut oil, eggs, maple syrup, brown sugar, and vanilla into the oat mixture until well combined. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir gently until just combined. Gently fold in the blueberries or other mix ins.
Scoop the batter into the prepared pans, filling each cup nearly to the top. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pans for 10 minutes before removing. These freeze great! Simply cool completely then place in a ziploc freezer bag. Reheat in the microwave before enjoying!
If you’re looking for a great big bowl of healthy comfort food, look no further than this warm Turkey and Butternut Squash Curry.
A few days ago I was writing up my grocery list for the week and asked my husband what his favorite healthy foods are. He gave me a sort of vacant, blank stare and mumbled, “Uhhhh…salad?”
Unfortunately, I think that’s the response most people would give you if you asked them the same question. We associate a big bowl of greens with New Year’s Resolutions, and think “getting healthy” involves forking dry, bitter kale into our mouths for three meals a day.
Now, don’t get me wrong, salad can be wonderful (especially if it’s That Good Salad), but healthy food runs a much wider, more diverse gamut. When it’s cold and dreary outside, I don’t much care for salad. I want to come home to something warm and comforting, but perhaps a bit lighter than a casserole dish full of baked macaroni and cheese. Now, when I think of my favorite healthy foods, I think of this Turkey and Butternut Squash Curry.
I can’t believe it’s taken me almost six years to make a curry for the blog. I hope this rich, colorful curry will make up for the long wait. Here we have sweet butternut squash, ground turkey, and snappy bell peppers swimming in an earthy, bright coconut milk and curry broth. This dish has layers of flavor–garlic, ginger, cayenne, curry–each adding dimension and depth to the final dish. If you’re looking for healthy comfort food, this is it. A bowl of this curry will warm you from the inside out.
I love using ground turkey in saucy dishes like this, as the turkey really soaks up all the savory, spicy, sweet flavors. Turkey also happens to have more protein and fewer calories than chicken, which makes it ideal for healthy weeknight meals. You can serve the curry over rice if you like, but I find it’s plenty filling on its own, with a sprinkling of cilantro, and a generous dollop of Greek yogurt swirled in.
Speaking of yogurt, I’d never had full fat yogurt until I started buying it for little P, and OMG WHY DID NO ONE EVER TELL ME HOW AMAZING FULL FAT YOGURT IS?! Didn’t mean to yell, but someone dropped the ball here. I never understood the appeal of Greek yogurt until I tried full fat. Now, I’m dropping it on baked potatoes, blending it in smoothies, and swirling it into curries. The creaminess and tang is just right with all the warm spices of the curry.
This recipe was inspired by my recent trip to Virginia to visit a turkey farm with Honeysuckle White turkey. On a chilly fall morning, we drove to a family farm tucked into the valley, surrounded by tree lined mountains. There we met Glenn and Sheri Rodes, one of the 700 independent family farmers Honeysuckle works with. He shared with us his passion for raising healthy, happy turkeys and for helping supply our grocery stores with safe, fresh food raised without any growth-promoting hormones.
I always appreciate having the opportunity to see exactly where my food comes from and meet the people who work so hard to provide it for us. I have done a few farm tours now, and with each one I have been overwhelmed by the great care and pride the farmers take in their animals and their work. I love Honeysuckle’s commitment to supporting these family farms and providing affordable, quality meat to the public.
You can find Honeysuckle White in your local grocery store, or if you’re on the East coast, look for Shady Brook Farms. Next time you’re at the store, grab the ingredients for this simple one pot meal (don’t forget the full fat yogurt!), and treat yourself to a bowl of warm, healthy, comfort food!
In a large skillet, heat a teaspoon of the oil over medium heat. Add the ground turkey and cook, stirring often, until no pink remains. Remove the turkey to a plate.
Heat the remaining oil in the skillet and add the onion, bell pepper, and squash. Saute until the onions start to soften--3-4 minutes. Stir in the garlic, ginger, and spices and saute until fragrant, another minute or two.
Add the turkey back to the pan along with the tomatoes and coconut milk. Season with salt and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to a steady simmer, cover, and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the butternut squash is softened.
Serve the mixture with a swirl of Greek yogurt, a sprinkling of fresh chopped cilantro, and rice, if desired.
This post is sponsored by the wonderful people at Honeysuckle White Turkey. As always, all opinions are my own. Thanks for supporting the brands who keep NeighborFood running!
There’s just something about That Good Salad. This much-requested recipe has everything a good salad needs–fresh greens, crunchy nuts and croutons, a bright garlic dressing, and bacon, of course!
I was standing in line at Carter’s doing a little Christmas shopping when I got a text from my husband: “I just cat-called a lady on the sidewalk outside Carter’s that I thought was you. I’m staying in the car.”
Well, that certainly explained why he hadn’t joined me inside yet. Being the gentleman that he was, he had dropped me off in front of the store 10 minutes earlier then went to find parking. Unfortunately, as he circled back around the over-crowded parking lot, that same gentleman happened to spot a woman who looked shockingly like me (especially in our matching puffy, black, fur lined winter coats) and proceeded to let out an exuberant “owww owww!” in her general direction. When the woman turned to face him with an expression that was clearly annoyed (and clearly not me!), my husband shrank into the seat of his car and immediately signed up for the witness protection program.
When I got the text, I couldn’t help letting out a little yelp of laughter. I love that I’m married to a man who still wants to cat call his wife but is also genuinely mortified at the prospect of ever cat-calling a random stranger. He’s a good one.
We’re kicking off the new year with a salad. I know. I’m so basic. But guys, this isn’t one of those dumb salads you force yourself to eat because it’s good for you, and you made that pesky resolution to eat salad every day in 2017. There’s no “forcing” when it comes to this salad, only asking for seconds. I got this recipe from my best friend, who brought it to a dinner party a few months ago. It was go good, I texted her immediately after she left, begging for the recipe. She texted me back a few minutes later with a picture of the recipe in her family’s cookbook. The title? “That Good Salad.” No other description needed.
Of course, I’m a food writer, so I feel the need to give you a little more description. Let’s start with the lettuce–a simple mixture of romaine and curly kale. I slice it into thin strips, which is ideal for soaking up dressing and giving you a fresh crunch in every bite. Then there are the toppings–halved grape tomatoes, mozzarella and Parmesan cheese, toasty slivered almonds, crumbled bacon, and croutons. It’s all you ever needed in a salad–fresh, crunchy, creamy, and bacony. That’s like the four food groups of salad, right?
Everything is tossed in the easiest ever lemon garlic dressing. The dressing is bright, but subtle, hanging out in the background and letting all those amazing toppings shine. If I’m feeling feisty, I like to add an extra clove or two of garlic to the dressing for a big pop of flavor. One note about the croutons–I like to rough em up a bit so they’re in small crumbles instead of big honking squares. This evenly distributes the crunch factor and also keeps you from cutting the roof of your mouth on a giant crouton. Win-win.
This year, resolve to eat deliciously…and maybe to avoid cat calling people other than your spouse, too. Just a little word of advice from a guy I know.
Soft, chewy Overnight Cinnamon Rolls will make you the rock star of Christmas morning. We like to eat them warm with plenty of cream cheese frosting!
For about a decade of my life, I refused to eat cinnamon rolls. It all started with the stomach flu, as so many bad stories do. I was about 12 years old and was spending the night at my best friend’s house while my parents got away for the weekend. It had been the most glorious day. We had played and ate ourselves silly, indulging in two of our favorite treats: boxed macaroni and cheese and Cinnabons. Everything was going along swimmingly until the middle of the night, when I woke up with the worst stomach ache of my life. I will refrain from sharing the gory details, but let’s just say cinnamon rolls were effectively ruined for me that fateful night.
For the next few years, I always felt a tinge queasy when I smelled the chemical-tinged cinnamon scent of giant Cinnabon rolls being piped through the mall. The strong aversion eventually subsided, but by that point I had convinced myself I didn’t like cinnamon rolls. And just like that, an entire cinnamon swirl lacking decade passed.
In my early 20s, I rediscovered my love for cinnamon rolls, and I now consider that time of my life “the lost years.” Think of all the gooeyness I missed in those years! The last few months I’ve been trying to make up for lost time by testing out ALL the cinnamon roll recipes. Someone should come test my blood, because I’m pretty sure it’s just rivers of cinnamon and butter by now. I’ve tried a copycat Cinnabon recipe, the Pioneer Woman’s cinnamon rolls, and a few “best ever” recipes from cookbooks I own.
Of course, the ultimate recipe ended up being in the most obvious place–an old Mennonite cookbook. The recipe intrigued me from the very start. First off, it was made with bread flour. I don’t know why I never thought to make cinnamon rolls with bread flour before, but it makes so much sense! Bread flour makes the rolls extra chewy and gives them that dreamy, pullable texture I was longing for.
The recipe also adds eggs, butter, and milk to the cinnamon roll dough. All of these ingredients help keep the dough nice and soft and also gives the dough a lot more flavor than a simple yeast, flour, and water roll.
The cookbook gave me a great place to start making my own cinnamon roll recipe, but, like most of my Amish and Mennonite cookbooks, it left out some key details, including the quantities and ingredients for the filling! I eyeballed my first batch, and it was good but not quite right. Luckily, the second batch was exactly what I was looking for–fluffy, chewy rolls around a buttery brown sugar filling with plenty of spicy cinnamon flavor.
No cinnamon roll is complete without frosting, and for me, it’s gotta be cream cheese. I like to keep my frosting on the thick side so it melts a bit into the cracks and crevices of the roll, but you still have a nice slather on top.
I know everyone’s taste in cinnamon rolls is different, but let me tell you why these check all of my boxes. They’re chewy and soft, but still have a nice brown exterior. They’re sweet, but not in a cloying, my fillings are begging for mercy kind of way. They have a whole lot of cinnamon flavor, and most importantly, I can make them the day before I want to bake them.
Let’s be honest, this was a must for me. There is no possible way this girl is getting up at 5 AM to make cinnamon rolls. I love you, family, but no. I will, however, make these at a reasonable hour the day before Christmas and then look like a rock star when I pull fresh cinnamon rolls out of the oven on Christmas morning. You can thank me by making coffee and doing all the dishes.
One last note about these rolls. They make A LOT. Approximately 2 dozen generously sized rolls. This is fantastic if you’re having everyone over for Christmas, but perhaps not so wonderful if you’re making rolls for your tiny family of 3. Luckily, you can also freeze pans of cinnamon rolls to pull out whenever the craving hits. OR, you could become the best neighbor/coworker/customer ever and distribute pans to everyone you know. Either way, no one has ever thought having too many cinnamon rolls is a problem.
¾ cup (1½ sticks, 12 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3½ Tablespoons cinnamon
For the frosting:
½ cup (1 stick, 8 tablespoons) butter, at room temperature
12 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
2½ cups powdered sugar
Splash heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla
½ teaspoon salt
Add the water to the bowl of an electric mixer then stir in the sugar and yeast. Allow the mixture to sit for 10-15 minutes while you prepare the milk. The mixture should foam up quite a bit. If it doesn't froth or foam, your yeast might be bad, and you'll want to start over.
Meanwhile, heat the milk to just below boiling, then stir in the butter, allowing it to melt. Allow the mixture to cool to warm.
Stir the beaten eggs into the yeast mixture. Pour the cooled milk mixture into the yeast mixture in a steady stream, whisking constantly. Whisk in the remaining ½ cup of sugar and the salt.
Add half of the flour to the bowl, using a spatula or spoon to combine. Add the remaining flour (up to 8 cups) and stir, then switch to the dough hook and beat until well combined. Continue to beat with the dough hook until the dough is soft and springy, about 6 minutes. If the mixture is still very sticky, add up to another cup of flour to the dough. The dough should be tacky but shouldn't coat your finger when you touch it.
Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover loosely with saran wrap, and place in a warm spot to rise for 40 minutes to an hour, or until doubled in size.
Punch the dough down and turn it out onto a floured surface. Roll or press the dough out into a rectangle approximately 12 inches by 24 inches long. Pour the melted butter over top, spreading it evenly. In a small bowl, whisk together the sugars and cinnamon and then sprinkle that evenly over the top. Cut the rectangle in half so there are two 12 x 12 inch squares. Either roll each square into a tight log and then cut it into 12 slices using dental floss OR use a pizza cutter to slice the rectangle into 24 long strips, and roll each strip individually into a slice. Once the rolls are sliced, place them in a buttered dish, approximately 8 in a 9 x 13 inch pan or 6 in a 9 inch pie pan. Cover the rolls loosely with saran wrap. Refrigerate the rolls overnight, for 8-12 hours.
In the morning, take the rolls out and allow them to rise in a warm place for 30-45 minutes, or until puffed.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the rolls in the oven and bake for 20 minutes, or until tops are golden and set. I recommend under baking just slightly so the rolls stay nice and soft.
To make the frosting:
Combine the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat on high speed until smooth. Beat in the powdered sugar, cream, vanilla, and salt. If you're serving immediately, the rolls can be frosted while still warm. Otherwise, store them unfrosted, then frost and reheat the rolls for a few minutes before serving.
**You can substitute regular yeast for the fast rise yeast, but your baking time may increase by up to 40%. **If you would rather bake the cinnamon rolls right away instead of leaving them to set overnight, follow the instructions through step 6, then immediately set the rolls in a warm place to rise for 40 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and bake for 20 minutes or until golden.
“Oh sweet heavens, that’s good.” I believe those were the exact words I uttered when I took my first bite of this Skillet Bread and Spinach Artichoke Dip. I was all by myself in the little studio where I take pictures, hovered over the skillet like a momma bear protecting her young. I thought I was only going to sample a small bite, but two rolls disappeared before I knew what was happening. This stuff is good. Really good. Dangerously good.
I’ve been wanting to make a dip and bread skillet for awhile. What could possibly be more wonderful than a warm skillet of puffy, soft bread surrounding a molten, cheesy puddle of dip? It sounded divine, but it also sounded like a lot of work. This time of year, I hardly have time to put pants on every day, let alone make homemade yeast rolls and spinach dip. When the Christmas party schedule is in full swing, I need appetizers that can be whipped up in that 20 minutes window between wrapping a white elephant present and throwing on my ugly sweater.
Friends, would you believe me if I told you this appetizer fits the bill? Thanks to frozen yeast rolls and La Terra Fina’s Spinach Artichoke Parmesan Dip, this dish only requires about 15 minutes of hands on time. You may think you’ll be sacrificing flavor by not going homemade, but in this case, you’d be wrong. La Terra Fina’s dips are made with fresh ingredients and taste just as good as homemade. Really truly.
I spiced up the two main ingredients with a little garlic butter for the yeast rolls, an extra layer of melty mozzarella for the top (because WHY NOT??), and a sprinkling of poppy seeds for a subtle crunch. Grab a hunk of the soft, pillowy bread, dip it in the cheesy artichoke dip, and before you know it you’ll be uttering “oh sweet heavens” too.
The hardest thing about this recipe is remembering to take the yeast rolls out 3 hours before you want to bake the dip. You’ll line them up in a buttered skillet with a bowl in the center, and let them rise all afternoon while you attend to more important matters, like watching Elf again. Once they’re puffy, you brush them with butter, scoop the dip in the center, and pop the whole thing in the oven for 20 minutes until golden and bubbly.
I served this dip at an ugly Christmas party this weekend, and, not surprisingly, it was gobbled up in no time. This skillet is about to be on everyone’s Christmas wish list.
1½ containers La Terra Fina Spinach Artichoke and Parmesan Dip
¼ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
2 Tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon poppy seeds
About three hours before you would like to bake the dip, remove the bread dough from the freezer. Thoroughly grease an 8 inch cast iron skillet with butter. Place the rolls in a ring around the outside of the skillet, spacing them about 1 inch apart. Find a bowl that is similar in size to the center circle. Grease the upper rim of the bowl with butter then place it upside down in the center of the rolls. Cover the pan with saran wrap (be sure to spray it with non stick spray if it will be touching the rolls), and allow the rolls to rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 2-3 hours.
Once the rolls are doubled, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove the saran wrap and the center bowl. Whisk together the salted butter and garlic powder then lightly brush it on top of the rolls. Scoop the dip inside the center ring then sprinkle with the mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle the rolls with the poppy seeds. Bake for 15 minutes or until the rolls are puffed and golden brown and the dip is hot clear through.
Tip: If you're looking for a warm place for the rolls to rise. I often turn on the oven to 200 degrees for a few minutes then turn the oven off and place my rolls inside the oven to rise.
This post is sponsored by the wonderful people at La Terra Fina. As always, all opinions are my own.
This Banana Ginger Bread Loaf is the antidote to all your tired, frantic holiday preparation. Start your morning with this moist, spiced loaf and a cup of coffee and that stack of Christmas wrapping will seem much more manageable, I promise.
This week, little P had one of the worst night’s sleep he’s had in months. Somewhere around 1:30 AM the sound of his vague, troubled yelps entered my consciousness and sucked me back to the land of the living. I dragged myself out of bed and into his room, only to be greeted by an ornery grin and a boy who apparently just wanted some company while he played in his crib for a few hours. If computer keyboards had emojis, I’d be inserting all the eye rolls and angry red faces here.
Parenting takes on a different meaning in the middle of the night. During the day, my child can drive me absolutely bonkers. He can whine. He can cop an attitude. He can repeat the same inappropriate behavior over and over, but at least in the light of day I can still see him. I can take in his sweet face and silly grins, the tender, tiny human-ness of him, even as I stop him from wildly shaking the Christmas tree for the fourth time in an hour. But things look different at 2 AM. In a pitch black nursery, you don’t really see cute. You see a faceless monster who is trying to steal your sleep.
Parenthood messes with all of your most primal instincts. You read books and rock and sing songs and dang it, you even manage to make some convincing airplane noises, all while your body is screaming for sleep. It’s hard. Really hard. But those midnight hours have given me some of my sweetest (albeit a bit hazy) memories. Our last moonlight session ended with him tucked in my arms, rocking on the recliner (a treat he rarely allows these days), with Dixie Chick’s Sweet Dreams crooning softly in the background. I rocked and I cried, heart full of all the overwhelming difficulty and joy of being a parent. In that moment I wanted nothing more than to be curled up in my own bed, but I also knew I wouldn’t trade that time with my baby for all the sleep the world can offer. How is it possible to feel so incredibly annoyed and also ludicrously happy at the very same time? Answer: parenthood, man.
The morning after a wild night, you need coffee and sweet, sultry Banana Ginger Bread. This bread is the love child of a hot affair between banana bread and gingerbread. Thankfully, this baby won’t keep you up at night, but it might cause you to be filled with thoughts of undying love and affection. Honestly, I love my sour cream banana bread, but this is my new favorite. This bread is darker, more complex, more serious. It’s sweet, but not too sweet, spiced but not spicy, and it makes your house smell like Christmas. I like to eat it warm with a smear of butter and a side of quiet that only an episode of Daniel Tiger can bring. This is an incredibly moist bread so it’ll keep for days, and it happens to make a great gift for tired parents, not that I know anything about that. It’s ideal for the holidays, but don’t be surprised if you find yourself craving a slice year round. This bread is good for the soul, no matter the month or season.
Grab your favorite people and treat them to this rich, creamy Cottage Cheese Lasagna. It’s the tastiest way to say “I love you.”
Early last month, I found myself squished in a tiny counseling room at our local hospital, surrounded by my closest family. We were waiting. My mom was undergoing a heart cath and the surgery had already dragged on longer than expected. My stomach had the requisite knot that seems to be standard for any hospital waiting room. The room was tense, broken up by nervous laughter and the welcome distraction of a happy, clueless one year old.
The Dr. finally walked in, and we all took a moment to search his face for clues. With kind eyes and a warm smile, he informed us mom was recovering after an unusually long and difficult surgery. What was supposed to be a routine heart cath to check for a blockage they weren’t even sure existed had turned into an arduous 3 1/2 hour effort to repair three severe blockages. Our family sat, relieved and stunned, as the Dr. told us he was shocked my mom hadn’t had a heart attack weeks ago. She was an anomaly–a patient whose blood work came back normal, who almost passed two stress tests, and who would’ve been sent home that morning were it not for the unease and intuition of one of the doctors.
Instead, she had surgery. A difficult surgery, but a successful one. I consider it nothing short of a miracle that she didn’t have a heart attack, that they found the blockages when they did, and that they were able to be completely repaired. Holding my mom’s hand that night in the recovery room, I thought of all the cliche phrases you hear in a moment like that, and I felt everyone of them. Life is short and precious. Don’t take it for granted. It’s a gift, and not one we get to keep forever.
No one wishes for these kind of scares, but they do provide you with a conscious gratefulness, the kind you decide to practice rather than just passively feel. The next time you sit at the table together with your family, there’s a little more intentionality, a little more paying attention. Dad’s voice breaks during prayer, and when you raise your head, there’s a sheen in everyone’s eyes. You relish the smell of the dishes being passed, the easy conversation, the light in your mom’s eyes when your son gives her one of his rare, genuine, wet and sloppy kisses.
This Christmas, we’ll be serving mom’s cottage cheese lasagna, a dish she’s been making and sharing for many years. I believe it’s the best lasagna in the world, and that’s not just the post-crisis nostalgia and gratefulness talking. Mom’s lasagna has two things that set it apart from the rest of the pack, and of course, it’s all about the cheese. In this case, cottage cheese and Swiss cheese.
I know you cottage cheese haters are holding back a gag right now, but I promise there’s nothing offensive about cottage cheese lasagna. You don’t really taste the cottage cheese, but it gives the filling a less mushy, more creamy texture, which is something everyone, even the haters, will appreciate.
And then there’s the Swiss cheese. It’s a far cry from traditional, but it works really well. A blend of Swiss and mozzarella has all the sweet, nutty, meltiness a lasagna needs. Even if you’re a teensy bit weirded out by Swiss in your lasagna JUST DO IT. I don’t mean to yell, but it’s important.
Lasagna isn’t exactly known for being easy to make, but this one is definitely manageable for the holidays. I always think of the simmering, stacking, and sprinkling as a labor of love. A casserole dish full of meaty, cheesy lasagna always feels special and extravagant, first because it takes some effort to make and second because it’s unbelievably delicious and comforting. This is the kind of meal that makes you want to gather your loved ones close, hold hands, say grace, and eat together. It’s the kind of dish that fills your belly and your heart. I’d love for you to share mom’s lasagna with your family, and come to the table this holiday season with eyes wide open to the blessings of being together.
24 ounce jar your favorite pasta sauce (I like a marinara)
1 teaspoon oregano
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon Kosher salt
For the filling:
1½ cups full fat small curd cottage cheese
½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon dried parsley
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
For the lasagna:
12 lasagna noodles
3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
2 cups shredded baby Swiss cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 x 13 inch baking dish with cooking spray.
For the sauce and noodles:
Combine the ground beef, Italian sausage, and onion in a large, deep sauce pan. Cook over medium high heat, breaking apart the meat with a spatula, until no pink remains. Drain any excess fat off the pan, then stir in garlic, pasta sauce, oregano, pepper, and salt. Heat through then reduce heat to low. Allow the sauce to simmer while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add a fat pinch of salt and swirl of oil (this helps keep the noodles from sticking.) Add the noodles to the pot and cook for about 2 minutes less than the package directions. Drain noodles then lay them out on aluminum foil so they'll be ready to go later.
For the filling:
In a medium bowl, stir together the cottage cheese, egg, Parmesan cheese, parsley, salt and pepper. Set aside.
Spread a very scant layer of meat sauce on the bottom of the pan. Top with 4 noodles laid lengthwise in the pan. Spread half the cheese on top followed by 4 more noodles. Spread half of the remaining sauce over the noodles. Spread all of the cottage cheese mixture on top of the sauce, followed by 3 more noodles. Finish with the remaining sauce and cheese. Bake in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes or until cheese is melted and browned.
If you’re looking for a stress free, budget friendly meal for the holidays, look no further than this Red Wine Pot Roast with Mushrooms. It’s a family favorite and I’m sure it’ll be a favorite of yours too!
One of the unexpected bonuses of getting married is that you inherit an entirely new catalog of family recipes. A few years ago, my mother-in-law gave me a thick, gray binder stacked with all of their favorites. I always find it fascinating to leaf through and get a picture of what their family ate and loved over the years. While I grew up eating Tater Tot Casserole and Green Bean Chili, my husband was feasting on Pumpkin Cream Cheese Pinwheels and this Red Wine Pot Roast.
I don’t remember eating much pot roast in my house growing up, but it’s definitely one of my mother-in-law’s specialties. Back in college, my husband used her Crock Pot Beer Pot Roast to win my heart (and the hearts of all my roommates). That recipe is a go-to for us, but this version, which is filed under the name Burgundy Beef in the gray binder, might be my absolute favorite. This is the recipe we make on special occasions, and the one we eat when the whole family is together in Dallas. This is classic comfort food, gussied up just a bit for the holidays.
It’s no surprise this recipe is everyone’s favorite. The first steps involve frying bacon and then browning your roast in the rendered fat, and it only gets better from there. This ingredient list reads like a greatest hits album–pearl onions, mushrooms, garlic, red wine, thyme–these are the best of winter’s offerings, all cozied up together in one pot. I confess, this is actually the first roast I have ever made in the oven rather than the slow cooker. While oven roasting does require slightly more hands on time, I have to admit browning and then roasting everything together in one pot yields incredibly rich, layered flavor and the most tantalizing smells.
Once the beef is done, and by done I mean it falls apart when you glance at it, I remove it to a cutting board, and then add a little cornstarch to what’s left in the pot to make a nice thick, glossy sauce. That sauce, along with tender hunks of the roast beef, is then ladled over egg noodles, another brilliant tradition I learned from my in laws.
This, my friends, is how you do the holidays on a budget. Grab an economical roast (look for Round Tip, Top Sirloin, or Eye Round), let it bathe in a medley of wine and aromatics for hours, and then serve it over noodles for a meal that feels special without the stress on your budget or your time. Trust me, you cannot go wrong with this combination of silky noodles and tender beef and mushrooms. Your guests will leave with warm and happy bellies, and if you’re lucky, there’ll be enough leftovers to make some Pot Roast Sandwiches.
There are 17,000 beef farming families in Ohio, and 98 percent of them are family farms. As the winter chill sets in and we all hunker down with comforting meals like this, Ohio beef farmers are also taking special care to keep their animals safe. You can watch this video to see how farmer’s routines change in the winter months, and visit Ohio Beef on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, for more cozy winter meal ideas.
3 pounds chuck roast (I used bone-in, also known as a blade roast)
8 ounces pearl onions
3 cloves garlic, minced
12 ounces baby portabello mushrooms, quartered
Salt and Pepper
1 cup beef broth
1 cup red wine
½ teaspoon dried thyme
¼ teaspoon marjoram (or sub Italian seasoning blend)
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
16 ounces egg noodles
Parsley, for serving
Preheat the oven to 275 degrees. In a Dutch oven or other large oven safe pot, fry the bacon over medium heat until crispy. Remove the bacon to a paper towel, leaving the fat in the pan.
Season the roast on all sides with Kosher salt and pepper. Place the roast in the the pan and brown on all sides. Remove the roast to a plate.
Add the onions and mushrooms to the pan and saute until browned. Stir in the garlic. Pour the beef broth and red wine into the pan, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom. Return the roast to the pan and sprinkle with thyme and marjoram.
Cover the pot and cook for 3-4 hours, flipping the beef over every hour. The beef is ready when it is fall apart tender. When the beef is done, remove it to a plate or cutting board. Shred or leave it in big chunks.
Make a slurry by mixing ¼ cup of the liquid from the pot and 2 Tablespoons of cornstarch. Place the pot over medium heat and whisk in the slurry. Bring to a boil and cook for 2 minutes then reduce heat to low. Continue to cook until thickened slightly then remove from heat. Return the beef to the pot.
Meanwhile, cook the egg noodles according to package directions. Ladle beef and sauce over cooked egg noodles to serve. Sprinkle with parsley if desired.
**To make this gluten free, ensure the beef broth is gluten free and serve over gluten free noodles. **You can also make this in the crock pot. Follow the directions in step 1, then place the roast along with the bacon and all the ingredients except the cornstarch and noodles in the slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hours or until roast is tender.
Next time you make roast, be sure to save some for this Leftover Pot Roast Sandwich piled high with beef, caramelized onions, and melty Swiss cheese.
We have had the most wonderfully long and unseasonably warm fall. I loved it. LOVED it. For once, I actually feel like we’ve squeezed the most out of the season. We’ve visited pumpkin patches and apple orchards, jumped in leaves, and drank cider like it’s our job. But the last few weeks as the temperature hovered in the 50s and 60s, I found myself gazing longingly at the big, cozy sweaters in the back of my closet. For the first time in a long while, I actually feel ready for winter.
I’d be lying if I said my longing didn’t have something to do with the prospect of eating pot roast once a week again. Roast is one of our family’s favorite meals, but it rarely makes an appearance on the menu from March to November. Once the sweaters come out, the Dutch oven does too. It’s time to get our roast on.
Over the years, I’ve experimented with several variations of this meaty, one pot meal. My husband grew up on this Beer Soaked Crock Pot Roast, but this Balsamic and Onion Pot Roast also has a special place in my heart. Whatever version we make, we almost always have leftovers, which is the best possible “problem” to have. I never mind reheating leftover pot roast, but I’ve found an even better solution to using up those leftovers: Pot Roast Sandwiches.
These sandwiches are enough to convince anyone of winter’s merits. Imagine it with me: tender, savory pot roast piled on fresh baked La Brea rolls and smothered in caramelized onions, Swiss cheese, and horseradish mayo. Are you drooling yet? I like to wrap the prepared sandwiches in foil and pop them in the oven or toaster oven for a few minutes so everything melds and melts together into one impossibly savory, meaty, melty, comforting sandwich. The Mr. and I gobbled these up, taking care of that leftover problem in record time.
Feel free to use your favorite roast recipe for this or check out one of our favorites above. You can include the veggies from the roast if you want, or just use the meat. Even if the roast recipe has onions in it, I still recommend adding the caramelized onions. Trust me, that hint of sweetness really puts them over the top!
I have used La Brea breads for my recipes for years (check out The Best Veggie Sandwich), so I was thrilled when I discovered their Take and Bake French Dinner Rolls in the freezer aisle. These soft, chewy rolls with a crackly crust are a great accompaniment for your holiday spread, but they’re also a nice option if you want to bake a few rolls for soup dunking or little sliders like these. You can find the new rolls, along with their mini french baguettes, in the freezer aisle of your local Walmart. To find the rolls near you, just use this store locator, and be sure to visit the La Brea website to get a $1 off coupon! Happy roast season, friends!
4 La Brea Bakery Frozen Take and Bake French Dinner Rolls
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, sliced
1½ cups leftover pot roast, warmed (I used this recipe)
4 slices swiss cheese
¼ cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon whole grain mustard
1 teaspoon prepared horseradish
Preheat the oven to 385 degrees. Place the rolls on a baking sheet and bake for minutes. Remove from the oven.
In the meantime, heat the oil in a non-stick skillet over medium low heat. Add the onion slices and toss to coat with the oil. Cook for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and golden brown.
Slice the rolls in half. Pile each one with the pot roast, caramelized onions, and Swiss cheese. In a bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, horseradish, and mustard. Slather about a Tablespoon of sauce on each sandwich. Wrap the sandwiches in foil (or just cover the baking sheet tightly with foil) and return to the oven for 5-10 minutes, or until cheese is melted and sandwiches are hot. Serve immediately.
This post is sponsored by La Brea Bakery. As always, all opinions are my own. Thanks for supporting the brands that help keep NeighborFood afloat!