I developed this recipe for my little guy, Cole, because he loves mac and cheese so much and I wanted to make him something with fresh ingredients. Now I can make this for him before school and put it into his Thermos whenever he wants for lunch, and I can have the leftovers myself! This recipe can be multiplied as you wish.
I have had my share of missteps while attempting to make the perfect lasagna. It seems so easy right? Just layer a ton of ingredients into a pan and bake it, and out comes oozy, cheesy, decadent Italian-Americana on a plate, right? Not for me! I have made too-dry lasagna, too-soggy lasagna, noodles undercooked on the sides and can’t cut them lasagna (that was on a Christmas Eve–I made them again), overflows into the oven and burns lasagna, takes all day and just tastes ok lasagna, and then I finally had a day when I made it just right. I took it out of the oven, let it sit for just a few moments, sliced into it, and there it was! Savory and flavorful, cheesy but not obscenely cheesy, with enough texture to hold its shape, I give this recipe to you and say, enjoy! It took many trays of disappointment for me to get here!
I love making soups! I think a soup is really the culinary equivalent of a hug, and over the years I have tried out dozens of soup recipes. This one is a winner–creamy, slightly smoky, filling but not heavy, and kid-friendly! There are other corn chowders that are heavier and have lots of cheddar cheese–and I love that too, but this is more of an “anytime” soup. Try this on a chilly evening or even for a casual dinner party, served with a nice salad and crusty bread.
This recipe is great because it doesn’t try to be a summer salad–it has robust winter flavors of bacon, cranberry, and apple with a dash of maple. I served a massive bowl of it for my son’s birthday party and when it almost all went along with everything else, I knew it was a hit! I bought a 4-pack of wide-mouth mason jars at the supermarket and use them all the time to shake up my dressings.
My family can’t seem to get enough pizza these days! And while we do order our fair share of it (Thank you, Domino’s!), we also love to make our own and have fun with the toppings. We have made black bean-cheddar-lime chicken and tortilla chip pizza, goat cheese- slivered potato-red onion and thyme pizza, and the latest fun one is zucchini-olive tapenade pizza. The fresh, light flavor of the zucchini is the perfect match for the briny, salty olives in the tapenade. If that pizza doesn’t appeal to you, this dough works well for anything you’d like to place atop your pie, and it is so easy, you just toss things in a bowl. So make like a Ninja Turtle and enjoy pizza time! (Shout out to Dylan, Happy 5th Birthday Mr. Charming!)
Adults take note: I made these one time thinking that the kids would gobble them up, and it turns out that Mike requests them now, so go figure! It is a genius recipe I adapted from The Baby Bistro Cookbook. It is actually really fun to do and there’s only a few other things I know as family-friendly as chicken nuggets! Serve with your favorite sides, I like to make sauteed mushrooms and peas and mashed potatoes. And of course, don’t forget a dipping sauce or two. For me, pass the Sweet Baby Ray’s bbq sauce.
Though I make pancakes all the time for the kiddos, I am really more of a savory breakfast person. When Mike and I were on vacation in Cancun years ago, we went every morning for a big breakfast, and I loved chilaquiles, corn tortillas as a foundation for beans, salsas, cheeses and crema (like our sour cream). Then my friend Lisa invited us over for brunch one time and served us breakfast nachos, which is our American version of chilaquiles, and so delicious and fun. Kids love topping the crunchy tortilla chips with their favorite things, and it just puts you in a festive mood. You can even use leftover chili or black bean soup, and you can top with scrambled eggs or fried eggs. ¡Ole!
I would like to let you in on a culinary secret…risotto is not hard to make, I promise! I first dabbled in risotto-making when a recipe for a saffron risotto (similar to this recipe) appeared in Ina Garten’s cookbook: Barefoot Contessa Family Style. I knew her recipe would be easy-to-follow and accurate, and it was! So here is my version of that creamy, smoky and slightly sweet risotto. The tricks to making perfect risotto are as follows: buy arborio rice and accept no substitute; heat up your stock and have it ready for you to ladle into the pan; keep your risotto at a slight simmer, not a rumbling boil; and taste the risotto before serving. The rice should be creamy but still with a little texture. It should not be stuck in your teeth–if it is, add more stock (or even hot water, you can always season it) and cook it longer. You do not have to obsessively stir, but you want to stay close by to adjust the heat as necessary. Here we go! Pay it forward after you make this and tell your friends how surprisingly easy it is.
Making fresh pasta is a pretty memorable experience. You take some of the simplest ingredients around, and with a little time and love, you create the quintessential crowd-pleasing food–but even better, because it’s fresh! Some of my favorite memories of making fresh pasta are with my mom and brother when my husband was working all weekend, and we made so much pasta that we couldn’t be bothered to cut all of it, so huge lasagna sheets abounded! Another time, my husband, friend Cristina and I made fresh pasta and three different sauces for a dinner party, and it’s safe to say we impressed everyone. And just recently, my sister-in-law reminded me how much I love to make it when she invited our fam over to try out her KitchenAid Mixer pasta rolling and cutting attachments–fancy! Whether you have the attachments or just a rolling pin and a knife, this recipe will work for you. I love to make the dough in my food processor, but you can also do it the old-fashioned way by making a pile of flour and a well with the wet ingredients in the center, gently working the wet ingredients into the flour with a fork. And to cut it, you can use a knife, a hand-cranked pasta machine, or one you attach to your mixer. Whatever way you get there, have fun and make some memories!
I think I first ate this dish when I was about 16 or so. My now mother-in-law would make this heartwarming, savory, stick-to-your-ribs dish pretty often for her husband and three hungry sons, and I was always happy to be around when it was served, or for the leftovers, which heat up perfectly in the microwave. Now that I cook it myself, I use ground turkey instead of beef and made a couple of other tiny changes, but it really is Di’s Shepherd’s Pie. The creamy mashed potatoes layered on top of seasoned and lightly caramelized onions, ground turkey and corn, with some creamy cheese to bring it all together…it’s comfort on a plate. Now that I have two growing boys of my own, it makes me laugh when they ask for it once a week.