Wild Mushroom Lasagna


I will not lie…. this recipe is time consuming but so WORTH IT ! 

I make this lasagna every Thanksgiving and it’s perfect with a roasted turkey. Enjoy.


Wild Mushroom Lasagna
Serves 10-12
For mushroom filling
3 cups water
2 ounces dried porcini mushrooms
2 pounds fresh white mushrooms, quartered
2 large zucchinis, peeled and diced
1 large onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
6 tablespoons cooking Sherry
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, chopped
2 ½ teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
For sauce
½ cup unsalted butter
½ cup all-purpose flour
5 cups whole milk
1 ½ cups Parmesan cheese, grated
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 ½ teaspoon salt
You will also need
18 (7×3-inch) no boil lasagna sheets (about 1 pound)
2 cups mozzarella cheese, grated
½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
To make the filling; In a small saucepan bring the water to a boil and remove from the heat. Add the dried porcini mushrooms and soak for 20 minutes.  Lift out the porcini, squeezing out the excess liquid, reserving the soaking liquid.  In a strainer, rinse the porcini to remove any grit and pat dry.  Chop the porcini and place in a large bowl. Simmer the reserved soaking liquid until reduced until ¼ cup.  Line a strainer with a paper towel and pour in the reduced liquid to remove any grit and add to the chopped porcini.
In a food processor, pulse in three batches the white mushrooms until finely chopped. In a large sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon of butter over medium heat and 1/3 of the white mushrooms, add 2 tablespoons of sherry and cook for 2-3 minutes.  Add to the porcini mixture and continue in the same manner with the remaining mushrooms in two batches using 1 tablespoon butter and 2 tablespoons sherry for each batch. Add to the porcini mixture.
In the same pan, heat 1 tablespoon of butter and zucchini and cook until tender, add to the porcini mixture.
Next, add the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter and onions and cook until tender.  Add the thyme, salt and pepper and cook for 30 seconds until fragrant.  Stir into the porcini mixture.  Filling may be made one day ahead and chilled, covered.
To make the sauce; In a 3-quart saucepan melt butter over low heat and whisk in the flour and cook for 3 minutes then whisk in the milk and bring to a boil, whisking constantly then bring to a simmer until the sauce has thickened.  Stir in the parmesan, mustard and salt. Remove from the heat and cover the top of the sauce with wax paper.
Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.  Butter a 13×9-inch baking dish.
To assemble; spread 1 ¼ cup of the sauce in the buttered baking dish and cover with three pasta sheets, making sure they are not over lapping. Spread with one third of the filling over pasta sheets and top with three more pasta sheets, gently pressing down on layers to remove air pockets. Top pasta sheets with one third of the mozzarella cheese. Continue layering in the same manner with the sauce, pasta sheets, filling, pasta sheets ending with the mozzarella. Top with remaining sauce and parmesan cheese. 
On a foil-lined baking sheet place lasagna in center and bake for 45-60 minutes until bubbling and golden.  Let stand 20 minutes prior to serving.


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Caramel Apples


Caramel Apples

6 small apples
6 sticks
1 bag (14 ounces) caramels
2 tablespoons water
Parchment paper
1 teaspoon butter
Optional: chopped nuts or sprinkles

Wash apples, clean and insert each apple with a stick, set aside.

Spread the butter on a large piece of parchment paper.

In a small sauce pan heat the water and caramels and cook over medium-low heat.  Stir until melted.  Dip each apple and place on the parchment paper and cool in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

Optional: After dipping in caramel, roll in chopped nuts or sprinkles.

When ready to serve, remove from the refrigerator for and let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes.


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Chinese Five-Spice Pork Wraps



This slow cooked pork is amazing!  It takes a while to cook but well worth it and only 15 minutes to prep.  Perfect for tailgating or having friends over to watch a football game.

Chinese Five-Spice Pork Wraps
Serves 10-12
7-8 pound bone-in pork shoulder, trimmed
2 tablespoons Chinese five spice
1 ½ tablespoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons blended oil
1 yellow onion, roughly chopped
1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped    *(see my short cut tool below for garlic)
1/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/3 cup hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons Sriracha hot chili sauce
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
In a small bowl, mix together the Chinese five spice, salt and pepper.  Rub all over the pork, set aside.
In a large Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat and cook the seasoned pork for 1-2 minutes on each side then remove the pork.
In the same Dutch oven over medium heat, add the onions and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add the ginger and garlic and cook another 1-2 minutes.  Next, add the soy sauce, hoisin sauce, sriracha and chicken broth.  Remove from the heat and place the pork on top of the onion mixture.
Cover and cook 1 hour, then lower oven temperature to 275 degrees and continue cooking another 4-4 1/2 hours.  Baste every couple of hours.
Remove the cooked pork and place on a cutting board to rest until cool enough to shred the pork.
For the wraps
Butter lettuce leaves
Hoisin sauce
3 green onions, chopped
½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
Lime wedges
Place your lettuce leaves on a serving plate, spread with a little hoisin sauce. Add the warm pork and top with the green onions and cilantro. Serve with a lime wedge.

*Pampered Chef Garlic Press, this is one of my kitchen favorites.

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Pasta with Pesto


The summer season is ending so I wanted to use my remaining fresh basil in my herb garden to make pesto.  My family loves this pasta and I hope you do as well.

Fresh Basil Pesto
3 cups fresh basil leaves (packed)
1-2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/3 cup pine nuts
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup Parmesan or pecorino cheese, grated
In a food processor blend all ingredients together until well combined.  To store, add a little olive oil on top to keep green.

Pasta Dough

3 ½ cups sifted all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
4 eggs, room temperature
1 tablespoon water
In an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook, add the flour, salt, eggs one at a time and water.  Continue to mix until it forms a ball. Lightly sprinkle some flour on a dry surface and divide the ball into thirds. Let rest for 20 minutes. 

Press the dough into a rectangle and roll it through a pasta machine, 2 or 3 times, at widest setting. Fold in half each time before passing through the machine. Reduce the setting and run the dough through again, 2 or 3 times. Continue until your desired thickness. Continue with the remaining dough then lay the sheets of pasta out to dry for 15-20 minutes.

Run the pasta sheets through the pasta machine using the desired pasta cutter.  Let dry another 10 minutes then cook in salted boiling water until done.

If you don’t have an electric mixer, combine the flour and salt on a flat work surface; shape into a mound and make a well in the center. Lightly beat the eggs and water and add to the center.  Gradually fold in the flour from the wall of the well. Continue to incorporate all the flour until it forms a ball.  Divide the ball into thirds. Let rest for 20 minutes. 

Lightly sprinkle some flour on a dry surface.  Using a rolling pin, roll out the pasta until thin and cut into desired strips.  Let dry another 25 minutes then cook in salted boiling water until done.

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Roasted Tomato Basil Soup


Roasted Tomato & Basil Soup


This soup pairs perfectly with rustic grilled cheese sandwiches!




3 Lbs ripe plum tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise

3 Tablespoons olive oil

1 Tablespoon kosher salt

1 ½ Teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

2 Tablespoons blended oil (I use Smart Balance)

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter

1 Large yellow onion, chopped

6 Garlic cloves, finely chopped

¼ Teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

28 Ounces canned plum tomatoes with their juice (Imported Italian brand)

1 1/2 Cups fresh basil leaves, chopped

1 Teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

1 Quart Homemade Chicken stock (for store bought use reduced sodium)

Parmesan cheese, shaved


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.


Toss together the tomatoes, 3 tablespoons olive oil, salt and pepper.  Spread the tomatoes in one layer on a baking sheet and roast for 45 minutes.


In a 8-quart stockpot on medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of blended oil and the butter. Add the onions, garlic and pepper flakes and sauté for 10 minutes until the onions start to brown.  Add the canned tomatoes, basil, thyme and chicken stock.  Add the oven roasted tomatoes, including the liquid. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 40 minutes. Using an immersion blender, blend until smooth or blend in a food processor.  Serve with shaved Parmesan cheese.

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Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Sandwiches


Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Sandwiches
¾ butter flavored shortening
1 ¼ cups firmly packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons whole milk
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 egg
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon baking soda
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Vanilla ice cream
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix first four ingredients with an electric mixer, then add egg and mix.  In a separate bowl stir together the flour, salt and baking powder.  Add the dry ingredients to the shortening mixture mix well then fold in the chocolate chips.
Drop large rounded tablespoonfuls of dough mixture onto baking sheet.  Bake for 10-12 minutes.
Let cookies cool then place a scoop of ice cream between 2 cookies and press together.  Freeze until ready to serve.


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Chicken Panang Curry with Rice


I LOVE curry dishes… red curry, green curry, yellow curry… all of them!  When we lived in Cary, NC we would dine often at a Thai place and I almost always ordered this dish.  I asked a few questions from the chef and here’s my version – tastes just like theirs!  Enjoy.

Chicken Panang Curry with Rice
Serves 4-6
3 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, trimmed and sliced into 1-inch strips
1 cup string beans
1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced
4 ½ tablespoons Panang curry paste
2 cans lite or regular coconut milk, divided (use 1 cup for soaking the chicken)
2-3 teaspoons sugar
Juice form ½ fresh lime
1 teaspoon fish sauce (optional)
2 cups white or brown rice
In a medium bowl soak the chicken strips in ½ cup of the coconut milk for 1 hour.
Prepare rice according to directions.
Heat a large non-stick sauté pan over medium heat, and add the chicken and cook for 5-7 minutes.  Next add the string beans and red bell pepper and continue cooking for another 5 minutes.  Add the remaining ingredients.

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Mexican Chicken Salad – Lunch – Salads


Mexican Chicken Salad
Serves 4
3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, sliced lengthwise
3 tablespoons olive oil plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
Mexican spice blend (recipe below)
2 romaine hearts
2 fresh ears of corn, grilled
fresh salsa (recipe below)
fresh quick guacamole (recipe below)
1 lime, quartered for garnish
In a shallow dish place sliced chicken and rub with 3 tablespoons of olive oil, coat with the Mexican spice blend to marinate.  Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Heat grill.
Brush corn with 1 teaspoon olive oil and cook on grill for 8-10 minutes. Remove and let cool then slice off the kernels, set aside.
Grill marinated chicken breasts until cooked, about 12-15 minutes.  Remove and slice.
On serving plates, divide the lettuce then top with sliced chicken, grilled corn, salsa and guacamole.  Garnish with lime wedges.
Mexican Spice Blend
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 ½ teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon black pepper

Blend ingredients together and store in an airtight container until ready to use.

Quick Guacamole

2 avocados, large diced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/4 cup red onion, small diced
juice from 1/2 fresh lime
1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
In a food processor add all the ingredients and pulse until combined. 
Hint:  If storing, leave one of the avocado pits in your mixture and place plastic wrap directly on top of mixture to prevent turning brown.

1 large tomato, quartered

1 clove of garlic, minced
1/4 cup yellow onion, small diced
1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced

2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
In a food processor add all the ingredients and pulse until combined. 

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Mojito – Drinks



2-3 ounces light rum
Juice of 1 lime
2 teaspoons sugar
3-4 fresh mint sprigs
Soda water

Slice of lime

Place the mint and sugar in a tall cocktail mixer, add a splash of soda water and lightly mash until the sugar has dissolved. Squeeze the lime juice into the glass, add the rum and shake with ice. Strain over ice in a tall cocktail glass. Top with soda water. Garnish with mint sprigs and a slice of lime.

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Budget Friendly Flower Arrangements – DIY Projects


Budget Friendly Flower Arrangements

I was at my local grocery store this morning and they had beautiful bunches of flowers on sale for only $1.00 each, what a bargain!  Instead of just placing them in vases I decided that I would add some filler accents from plants, herbs and shrubs from my own yard.

Now I have gorgeous flower arrangements that not only look amazing but only cost me $2.00 that will last for up to two weeks (just change the water every third day and they will stay fresh).  If any of the filler accents begin to wilt, just go out to your yard and replace those stems.

I placed this arrangement in the master bathroom and every time I pass by them I can’t believe this arrangement only cost $2.00 and will last for up to two weeks!

I placed this flower arrangement in my kitchen and because it’s in the kitchen I added some fresh rosemary and mint — it smells so fragrant and looks so pretty!  Because this arrangement all came from my existing outdoor herb garden, plants, shrubs and annuals (that I planted five years ago) the cost was zero!

Making budget friendly flower arrangements:





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