All you “knead” to know about marriage

“What time was our wedding?”

I’m lucky Scott didn’t freak out when I asked him that this morning. He doesn’t know, either.

“5 p.m. maybe?”

It makes sense. We had a sit-down dinner after the ceremony. The cake was good. There was dancing. Before that, I tried to put Scott’s wedding ring on the wrong hand. And my brothers smeared Oreo cookie filling on the windshield of my car.

That is everything I remember from our wedding. We planned it in six weeks, after knowing each other for less than a year. Fourteen years, two kids, three newspapers and several moves later, we’re still going strong.

I’m not a mushy person. Neither is Scott. Both of our anniversary Facebook posts make jokes about our marriage being a high school freshman or being eligible for its learner’s permit. That’s who we are.

But I did give him the middle roll for breakfast this morning. That’s love.

ORANGE ROLLSorange roll

For the dough:

  • 1 cup milk
  • 4 tablespoons butter, cut into chunks
  • 3¼ to 3½ cups all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1 (.25 ounce) package instant or rapid rise yeast (about 2½ teaspoons)
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg

For the filling:

  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons orange zest

For the glaze:

  • ¼ cup butter
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • Enough orange juice to reach desired consistency

For the dough: Place milk and butter in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat for 1 minute and 30 seconds on high. Butter should be at least partially melted. Stir and set aside.

Whisk together 2 cups flour, yeast, sugar, and salt in a large mixing bowl. When milk mixture has cooled to warm (not hot; about 105-110 degrees), add it to the flour mixture along with the egg. Beat until well combined, using the paddle attachment – about 1 minute.

Switch to the dough hook. Add the remaining flour only until dough barely leaves the sides of the bowl. It should be very soft and slightly sticky. Continue to knead dough with mixer for 5 minutes or turn dough onto floured surface and knead for 5 minutes by hand. Allow to rest about 10 minutes while to make the filling.

For the filling: combine ingredients in a small bowl.

To assemble: Roll dough into a rectangle about 12-by-14 inches. Spread filling mixture over the surface and use your fingers or the back of a spoon to gently spread around. Roll up from the longer side of the rectangle and pinch edges closed. Use a piece of dental floss to score the rolls into 12 equal pieces and then slip the floss under the “log” and cinch off each piece with the floss to cut into rolls. Place in  9-by-13-inch baking pan that has been sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Cover pan with a clean towel and let rise in a warm place about 30 minutes or until visibly increased in size. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

When the rolls have finished rising, bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until a light golden brown.

For the glaze: Melt butter in a small saucepan or in the microwave. Add the powdered sugar and enough orange juice to reach a smooth pouring consistency. Drizzle over warm rolls.

Recipe courtesy of: Savoring the Seasons with Our Best Bites by Sara Wells & Kate Jones


Going green. And red and white.

Day 2 of my increase-fruits-and-vegetable-intake experiment. I’ve learned that eating fresh means more prep time, but I am blessed with the two greatest kids in the world, so while I chopped green beans and peeled potatoes, they got everything ready for trash day and did their homework.

Then, while I was at a Girl Scouts meeting with Em, B took it upon himself to do the laundry.

Seriously. Best kids ever. They totally get a pass for trying only one bite of this meal. They both voted to top their pasta with spaghetti sauce instead.

Very good meal. Easy to make and great for lunch leftovers the next day!


  • 8 ounces green beans, cut into ¼-inch pieces
  • 8 ounces red-skinned new potatoes, peels and cut into ¼-inch pieces
  • 12 ounces dried linguine
  • 1 cup pesto (or less to taste)
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 6 ripe plum tomatoes, cut into ¼-inch dice
  • ½ cup slivered fresh basil leaves

Bring saucepan of lightly salter water to boil. Add the green beans and quick until just tender, about 1 minute. Using a skimmer, remove them from the pot to a colander. Rinse under cold water to stop the cooking. Drain, pat dry and set aside.

Add the potatoes to the boiling water and cook until just tender, about 2 minutes. Drain the potatoes in a colander and run under cold water to stop the cooking. Drain, pat dry and set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the linguine and cook until just tender, about 8 minutes. Drain the pasta well and place in a serving bowl. Add the pesto and toss well. Season with pepper.

Sprinkle the green beans, potatoes and tomatoes over the linguine and top with the slivered basil. Serve immediately, tossing the pasta at the table.

Recipe courtesy of Celebrate! By Sheila Lukins

Do your homework, eat your veggies

There are days I feel like a hypocrite.

Here I am, a food writer, and I only made dinner twice last week. The other days were either leftovers, fend-for-yourself meals or something taken from the freezer.

I tell myself there’s no point in cooking when my husband is out of town for basketball since the kids’ reaction to something new is iffy. In reality, though, I was more likely distracted by a book, the season finale of “The Walking Dead” or even going for a run.

I ran out of excuses, though, when my son started talking about the report on Alzheimer’s disease he wrote for health class.

“Mom, there’s no cure for Alzheimer’s,” he said. “There’s only medicine to slow it down.”

We talked about why Alzheimer’s happens to some people and not others. Genetics plays a huge part, he said, but so does taking care of your body and mind.

“What should we do?” I asked.

“We have to be healthy,” he said. “We have to exercise and keep our brains sharp. We have to eat food that’s good for us, like fruits and vegetables. A lot of vegetables.”

I just looked at him. My son is my picky eater. There are some healthy foods he loves – oranges, fresh spinach, carrots and bananas – but there’s so much he won’t even try.

“Vegetables, huh?”

“Oh, man. Why did I write that in my report?”


  • 2 ciabatta rolls, split
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, halved
  • 3 ounces mozzarella cheese, thinly slices
  • 6 thin slices tomato
  • ½ cup baby spinach
  • A pinch each of salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Baked chicken, sliced (optional)

Preheat Panini grill to high.

Brush both the crust and sides of the rolls with a tablespoon of the oil. Place on a work surface, crust side down. Rub cut sides with garlic; discard the cloves.

On bottom halves, evenly layer with mozzarella, tomato and spinach. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and drizzle with remaining oil. Cover with top halves and press gently to pack.

Place sandwiches in grill, close the top plate and cook until golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Serve immediately.

Makes 2 servings.

Recipe courtesy of 200 Best Panini Recipes by Tiffany Collins

What do a brownie, tarter sauce and tomato jam have in common?

I have no idea. My friend Joanna would find a way to make them work, though.

I met Joanna of Midwestern Bite last year.

Well, not really met, per se.

I had written an article for the paper about the foodie penpal program which, thanks to the powers of the Internet, her husband found. He read it and sent me an e-mail saying how much his wife enjoyed the program. Joanna does this cool this in which she uses every edible item in her monthly foodie penpal gift to create a recipe.

(Wow. I mean, seriously. Everyone has recipes they’ve made up, but to find a way to incorporate all these crazy ingredients into something great? And to do it every month? I just snack on my gifts individually, eventually using up the non-snacking items — spice mixes, sauces, etc. — in other recipes.)

I spent an hour or so stalking Joanna’s blog before writing her husband back to say thank you — complimentary e-mails are hard to come by in the newspaper world, so I treasure them. I also e-mailed Joanna and the two of us exchanged e-mails back and forth for a few weeks, talking about the program, food, living in the Midwest, etc.

Juicing was big on my mind at the time when we first started communicating. I wanted a juicer, but wasn’t sure how Scott would react to another kitchen utensil. Joanna tried to warn me that buying a juicer would be a waste of money — she has one and said it was a pain to clean and that she rarely uses it — but I went ahead and bought one anyway.

I’ve used it once. Back in October. It’s been sitting in the pantry ever since. I don’t think I ever admitted that to her. Until now.

You were right, Joanna! 🙂

I stopped participating in the foodie penpal program after my October exchange. I had received an awesome box of food — as usual — and I was proud of the box I had sent, but life was getting busy and I had to let something go. Joanna and I still communicate every now and then via e-mail or twitter, but that was it for a few months.

Then February — the longest, grayest, coldest month of the year — rolled around and the two of us reconnected on twitter. A back-and-forth conversation, in 140 characters or less, led to use deciding to be each other’s unofficial foodie penpals this month. Our theme was local eats, so I sent her a package containing some of my favorite Iowa goodies and she did the same.

It was fun putting together a box for a friend, although I’m not sure my items did make her personal challenge of using all of them in a recipe any easier. I just wanted to show off my part of the state. I wasn’t even thinking about how everything would work together.

You can read what she came up with here. I’m haven’t read it yet — I told myself I need to get my blog written first — but I did look at the photos and she did it again. I want to live at her house and eat her food.

My package from Joanna arrived days before our self-imposed deadline and, for future reference, all forms of chocolate will be accepted and are greatly appreciated.

Foodie pen pal -- joanna

Isn’t that a lovely box of goodies from Ohio? Personally, I prefer foodie penpal boxes that have a little of everything instead of a couple bigger items. Let’s discuss each item, shall we?

Tartar sauce: I laughed when I unwrapped this. We had just run out and it was on my grocery list. How’d she know?

Chocolate: Joanna sent this amazing Esther Price salted chocolate caramel and I cherished every bite, then got sad that there was no more. Luckily, she included an Esther Price chocolate sample pack, too.

(I’m not going to admit how long that DIDN’T last. I’m not ashamed, especially since the peanut butter cream chocolate egg is still in my freezer. It likely won’t be by the end of the day — because I forgot about it until I saw this picture — but I can do whatever I want in the comfort of my won kitchen. Except juice. I apparently don’t juice.)

The Killer Brownie from Dorothy Lane Market: The name is not a lie. So freaking good! I brought it to work and shared it with a couple of colleagues (That was stupid; why did I do that?) , which led to a discussion about supposed food allergies to walnuts. (My friend doesn’t have an allergy, but she thinks she does even though her parents and doctors say otherwise.) As someone who is usually anti-nuts in any baked goods, they worked with this brownie, which also had chocolate chips and caramel surrounded by an ooey-gooey fudge brownie.

I wonder if Joanna and I will ever exchange food packages again. And if we do, if she’ll just send me brownies.

Cupcake cookie: This claimed by E, who celebrated her birthday that week. When I asked if it was good, she said yes. I’m going to take her word for it.

Barbecue sauce: This will come in handy if it ever gets warm enough for Scott to grill again.

Photo of onions: This picture is at my desk at the office. I will find a better place to display it once we move to the new newsroom.

Tomato jam: This is a puzzler. I had never heard of tomato jam before. (I’m a bad food writer.) I used to be anti-tomato. I still avoid having them on burgers and sandwiches, but I make homemade pasta sauce, with whole tomatoes, all the time and will enjoy lots of bruschetta once fresh basil is available at the farmers market. Tomato jam, though? Hmm. Joanna says her grandmother used to make it all the time, so how can I not find a recipe to use it in support of her memories?

If you have any suggestions, though, I’m all ears!

Thank you, Joanna! I love, love, love my box!

Cheeseburger, cheeseburger, cheeseburger

My daughter’s birthday is tomorrow. She’ll be 12. The signs that she’s almost a teenager are everywhere.

The pile makeup in the bathroom.

The dings of her cell phone whenever a text arrives.

And her wish for a more grown-up-looking bedroom.

The newest hint happened last weekend. We were at Target, looking at shoes.

E: Mom, we wear the same size!

Me: Yes, we do.

E: Do you know what this means? More shoes!

Yes, she’s growing up.

Because this is the last year she’ll bring homemade birthday treats to school, we went all out and made 28 hamburger cupcakes. Walking down the hallway this morning with my cupcake containers filled with cupcakes, I had a taste (see what I did there?) of what it’s like to be a rock star.

It’s pretty awesome.

Happy birthday, Em!

HAMBURGER CUPCAKEShamburger cupcake

  • 1 box Duncan Hines Classic White Cake Mix
  • 1 box Duncan Hines Devil’s Food Cake
  • White frosting (store-bought or homemade)
  • Red, yellow and green food coloring
  • Sesame seeds, optional
  • Decorative toothpick, optional

Grease and flour cupcake tins. Do not use cupcake liners! Fill the tins two-thirds full with batter and bake as directed in the recipes.

After cupcakes have cooled, slice the white cupcakes in half. Slice off tops of the chocolate cupcakes and set aside. (You will not need the bases of chocolate cupcakes, so you can munch on them or use them for another project.)

Separate the frosting equally into three mixing bowls. With food coloring, make one bowl of green, one bowl of yellow and one bowl of red frosting.

Place one white cupcake bottom on a flat surface for the hamburger bun bottom. Frost it with the yellow frosting (this can be either the mustard or the cheese), then add one chocolate top (rounded side up) on top of the bottom half of the bun to make the burger.

Spread red frosting on top of the chocolate for the ketchup.

Frost one of the white cupcake tops with green to make the lettuce. Place it on stop of the burger. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and add a toothpick, if desired.

Continue with the rest of the cupcakes. You should have 24 cupcakes, unless you make bigger cupcakes, like I do.

Recipe adapted from the Duncan Hines website (

Game on!

I’m a planner.

I like making lists, I like doing research and, yes, my family’s vacations include an itinerary.

That’s why my kitchen table was covered with paper and cookbooks the other day. We were having some friends over for Game Night and I was looking for snack ideas. This wasn’t a formal dinner or even a potluck, but I think get-togethers, no matter how casual, are all about the food.

Over the years I’ve hosted Thanksgivings, a wine tasting, Memorial Day cookouts and Super Bowl parties. I had a get-together for the Olympic Games opening ceremony and presented an awesome spread for a Halloween party.

The pumpkin cheesecake was made to look like a Jack-O-Lantern.

Before each event, my husband asks me not to go overboard. (I think he’s having a hard time letting go of the 96 mini cupcakes I made for a friend’s baby shower.) My friend Cecelia has been known to text an hour before the party with two words: Stop cleaning.

I love them both, but I know myself. I decide on an idea and I go with it. And yes, I usually go overboard, but it’s a great way to try new recipes. If it doesn’t work out, I open a bottle of wine and everyone still has a good time. Most of the parties I host end up with everyone in the kitchen, sitting around the table and munching on olive and rosemary focaccia, red-eye deviled eggs or miniature fried tacos.

Bonus: My family dines on leftovers the next day.

Miniature food was the theme for Game Night. I made tiny cupcakes, mini cheesecakes, individual pizza and – because it’s National Peanut Month – Baby BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwiches. Roasted peanuts added to the coleslaw give the sandwiches an added crunch.


Ingredients for the pulled pork

  • 1 2-pound pork butt or shoulder
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup root beer
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds, lightly crushed

Ingredients for the fixings

  • ½ cup chopped dry-roasted peanuts
  • About 2 cups BBQ sauce
  • 12 Hawaiian rolls, sliced in half
  • About 1 cup coleslaw

Put pork, broth, root beer, onion, bay leaves, and mustard seed in a slow cooker on low heat for about 6 hours or until the pork is tender.

Remove meat and discard liquid. Using 2 forms, shred the meat. Return shredded meat to the slow cooker and keep on low heat for 10 minutes or until you’re ready to serve.

Toss pork, peanuts and BBQ sauce together in a large bowl until combined. Fill each roll with about ¼ cup pulled pork and 2 heaping tablespoons of slaw.

Makes 12 sandwiches

Recipe courtesy of Tiny Food Party!: Bite-sized Recipes for Miniature Meals by Teri Lyn Fisher and Jenny Park

Happy food holiday times three!

Did you know that nearly every day on the calender is a food holiday?

Chocolate covered peanut day. Pie Day. Clam chowder day. I’m not kidding — nearly every day of the calendar is dedicated to a food.  It isn’t always clear who or what decided on these non-official-but-entertaining holidays, but seeing as this is more entertaining than scientific, it doesn’t really matter.

That being said, some food holidays days are more fun than others, depending on your culinary preferences. Feb. 27, however, just might be the greatest food day of all.

It’s National Chocolate Cake Day.

And National Strawberry Day.

And National Kahlua day.

To celebrate this most joyful of holidays, I made a chocolate Kahlua cake with a strawberry compote and Kahlua buttercream frosting.

Nothing like cake, and alcohol, to put you in the holiday spirit!


For the cake:

  • 1 chocolate cake mix
  • 1 package instant chocolate pudding
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup oil
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup Kahlua
  • 1/4 cup vodka
  • 3/4 cup water

Preheat over to 345F

Combine all liquid ingredients in a bowl, then add the cake mix and chocolate pudding mix. Grease two 9-inch cake pans, or one 9-by-13 pan, and split the batter between the two pans. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 25 to 30 minutes.

For the strawberry compote:

  • 1 pound strawberries, sliced
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • Vodka, to taste (I used about 1/8 cup)

Put sliced strawberries in a bowl and mix the sugar into it. Let sit for about half an hour to release all the juices.

Strain the strawberries and put the juice in a saucepan. Bring it to a simmer with the lemon juice and vodka, and keep on a low simmer for about 20 minutes until it is reduced to a syrup. Pour the syrup back on the strawberries and put in the fridge to cool until you need it.

For the frosting:

  • 1/3 cup butter, softened
  • 2 1/4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 2 tablespoons Kahlua
  • 2 tablespoons instant coffee
  • 1 tablespoon hot water

In small bowl dissolve instant coffee in hot water.

Beat butter at medium speed in a mixing bowl until creamy. Gradually add powdered sugar, Kahlua and hot coffee mixture. You can add more Kahlua if you want a stronger coffee flavor frosting.

This recipe makes enough frosting for a 9-by-13 cake.

Recipes to create this cake came from,, and

Just pin it!

I love Pinterest. I’ve killed many hours pinning ideas for dinner, my daughter’s birthday party and future vacations.

Like many fans, I’m guilty of pinning first and … well, what happens after pinning?

I started a board to identify all the things from Pinterest I actually tried. There aren’t many things pinned to that board – yet – but I love moving a pin from one board to the “I did it” board. It’s like an illustrated “To do” list – with yummy results!

I had a few friends over last weekend and needed some simple snack ideas. This appetizer may just be the most popular recipe in Pinterest, considering the number of re-pins its received. I only had two Lit’l Smokies leftover, so they’re be on to something!


  • 1 pound Bacon, cut into thirds
  • 1 pound Lit’l Smokies
  • 1 stick Butter
  • 2 cups Brown Sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut the bacon into thirds and wrap each Lit’l Smokie.

Place all the wrapped Lit’l Smokies in a single layer in a baking dish. Then melt the stick of butter and then 1 cup of brown sugar and stir until mixed well. Pour the butter and brown sugar mixture on the Lit’l Smokies and bacon. Then take the other cup of brown sugar and sprinkle evenly over the Lit’l Smokies.

Bake them for about 15 to 20 minutes and then turn the heat up to 400 degrees for about 5 minutes or longer until the bacon becomes crispy.

Recipe courtesy of via Pinterest

Cake for breakfast? Heck, yeah!

I made my first-ever Bundt cake in October, in the middle of the 2012 Apple Challenge.

It was a stressful experience and my brand-new Bundt pan has since been banished to my pantry, stored on the bottom shelf behind a stack of cooking magazine so I can’t see it.

That’s why it took me a few minutes to find it yesterday, but I was a girl on a mission.

It was a snow day.

I was working from home.

I needed to update this blog.

I had to bake something.

I had everything I needed to make Chocolate Chip Cappuccino Coffee Cake, so that’s what I chose – even though it used a Bundt pan.

(Cue dramatic music.)

I’m happy to report my second attempt with this baking dish went well. I didn’t even have to watch a YouTube video on the proper way to grease and flour a Bundt pan.

That’s progress.


For the chocolate chip streusel:

  • 1 lightly packed cup of light brown sugar
  • ¾ cup finely chopped pecans (I chose not to include these)
  • ½ cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted

For the cake:

  • Vegetable oil spray, for misting the pan
  • Flour, for dusting the pan
  • 1 package (18.25 ounces) plain yellow or vanilla cake mix
  • 1 package (3.4 ounces) vanilla instant pudding mix
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • ½ cup strong brewed coffee or water
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the topping:

  • 1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Make the streusel: Place the brown sugar, pecans, chocolate chips, flour, cinnamon, 2 teaspoons of cocoa powder and the melted butter in a large bowl, and stir to combine. Set the streusel aside.

Make the cake: Lightly mist a 12-cup Bundt pan with vegetable oil spray, then dust it with flour. Shake out the excess flour and set the pan aside.

Place the cake mix, pudding mix, sour cream, coffee or water, eggs, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer on low speed until the ingredients just come together, about 30 seconds. Stop the machine and scrape down the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat until the batter is thick and smooth, 1½ to 2 minutes longer, scraping down the side of the bowl again if needed. Pour two thirds of the batter into the prepared Bundt pan and sprinkle half of the streusel mixture on top of the batter. Pour the remaining batter on top of the streusel and, using a rubber spatula, spread the batter to reach the side of the pan. Sprinkle the remaining streusel on top. Place the pan in the oven.

Bake the cake until the top springs back when lightly pressed with a finger, 45 to 50 minutes. Transfer the Bundt pan to a wire rack and let the cake cool for 10 to 15 minutes. Run a long, sharp knife around the edges of the cake, shake the pan gently and invert the cake onto a serving plate so that the streusel stays on the bottom of the cake. Let the cake cool completely, 25 to 30 minutes.

Make the topping: Place the confectioners’ sugar and 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder in a small bowl and stir to combine. Sift the mixture on top of the cake, and slice and serve.

Recipe courtesy of The Cake Mix Doctor Returns!: With 160 All-New Recipes by Anne Byrn

Think spring

I have cabin fever.

Big time.

I love the first few weeks of winter. I love using the weather as an excuse to curl up on the couch and read all weekend. It’s a great excuse for being lazy. But now that’s I’ve soaked up a whole bunch of nothing, I’m ready to do something.

Unfortunately, Mother Nature isn’t cooperating.

When nothing else to do last Saturday, I decided to clean out the freezer. I found a bag of frozen asparagus and decided to incorporate it in my dinner. Thank goodness the Groundhog didn’t see his shadow on Saturday. I’m ready for an early spring. Until that happens, though, I’ll make do with cooking meals that look like spring.


  • 2 large skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 4 asparagus spears, trimmed – divided
  • 2 slices cheese (I used cheddar)
  • Your choice of seasonings (I used Mrs. Dash Extra Spicy)

Preheat an oven to 375 degrees. Grease an 8×8-inch baking dish.

Place each chicken breast between two sheets of heavy plastic on a solid, level surface. Firmly pound the chicken with the smooth side of a meat mallet to an even thickness of about 1/4 inch. Sprinkle each side with salt and pepper.

Place 2 spears of asparagus down the center of a chicken breast. Break a slice of cheese in half and place it over asparagus. Repeat with the other chicken breast, and roll the chicken around the asparagus and cheese to make a tidy, compact roll. Place the rolls seam sides down in the prepared baking dish, and sprinkle each with spices of your choosing.

Bake in the preheated oven until the juices run clear when pricked with a fork, about 25 minutes. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the center should read at least 165 degrees.

Recipe adapted from