Pasta Minestrone soup

Cooler weather encourages me to find my best slow cooker recipes and get ready for several months of comfort food.  I love a fresh pot of homemade soup.  There is no comparison to soups that simmer in a crock pot to any can or mix in the market.  This soup recipe is very low-cost and will make six generous servings.  It freezes well and can be warmed up quickly for another meal another day.


A minestrone soup is a classic Italian favorite and this recipe includes any type of shell pasta currently in the pantry.  I love to try different shapes of noodles in this one, but the classic would always be the shell shapes.

Gather these ingredients along with your favorite slow cooker and begin:   1 large carrot chopped, 1 large celery stalk chopped, 1/2 cup frozen peas, 2 small potatoes cubed, 4 sliced green onions, 28 ounces of chicken broth (made from stock base), 1 teaspoon Italian herb seasoning, 2 medium cans of diced tomatoes, red pepper to taste, 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, 1/2 cup chopped romaine lettuce, 1/2 cup shell pasta, 1/2 cup fresh parsley or parsley flakes, and Parmesan cheese for the topping.

Combine all of the ingredients EXCEPT the lettuce, pasta, parsley and cheese in a crock pot.  Cook on low for at least 6 hours or on high for 5 hours.

During the last 20 minutes of cooking time, add the lettuce to the top as well as the dried pasta noodles.  Allow to cook for the last 20 minutes.  Serve in large bowls topping with parsley and cheese.  A side salad and crusty bread completes this comfort meal.

I love the taste and the hearty feel to this vegetarian soup.  If chicken broth is not desirable, this recipe will also work with vegetable broth.



All kinds of apples

Apples are everywhere.  The season was perfect again for a great harvest in Michigan.  We usually take a trip to several apple farms during apple season in September and October.  I love to see baskets of fresh apples and plan my apple desserts for the coming weeks.

We took a trip just before the weekend to check out the apples locally, and it was so much fun.  And besides trying to decide what variety of apple to purchase, I was reminded about apple usage while I was shopping.

Here is a sign that was posted to help shoppers make the correct selection for their apple purchases.

The apples were plentiful and I purchased a bag to make my crock pot ginger apple crumble.   I will be posting that recipe later this week.

So much fun for a Fall day.  

Mini Hand Pies

Fall is here.  Today it is has been raining in Midland, Michigan.  So I came across a recipe that I had wanted to share that was very easy and fun to make.  This recipe for mini hand pies can be adapted to the flavor profile of choice.  This was a recipe I made back in August, but it could equally be used now that the temperatures are beginning to drop.  Besides, the days going forward are perfect for baking.

The recipe begins with one sheet of thawed puff pastry dough straight from the freezer section of the market.  Using a rolling-pin, adjust the dough to make it square.  Slice into nine smaller squares.  Top each with one tablespoon of jam, any flavor, or use Nutella.

Fold each square into a triangle, sealing the edges with a ribbon of water to seal. Or, a simple egg wash could be used. (1 egg mixed with 1 tablespoon water) I also use a fork to press the edges together so none of the contents will leak out.  This is an old-fashioned method.

Bake the hand pies at 400 degrees for at least 17 minutes up to 20 minutes or when they begin to brown.  Cool.  Top with powdered sugar. So yummy.


Fall Rice Krispie treats

School is back in session.  Labor Day is past, and it is time to celebrate with the ever popular Rice Krispie Treats.  I have made a couple of different versions of these over the years, and this one seems to be my favorite now. I used Fall sprinkles to decorate the treats this week.  And, of course a few Hershey bars of chocolate.

This is a very easy recipe when using the microwave to melt the marshmallows.  The whole recipe takes about 10 minutes to complete.  Easy to make and even easier to distribute, as everyone seems to always be ready for a soft and tasty treat for celebrating Fall.

Here is a variation on the recipe:  I used one bag of jet puffed marshmallows, 10 ounces.  Place them in a glass bowl with 3 tablespoons margarine and microwave for 2 minutes.  Remove from the microwave and stir to blend.  Add 6 cups of rice krispies.  Mix well.  Using a 13 by 9 by 2 glass pan, spray with Pam original spray oil. Next, scoop the mixture into the dish. Using a piece of waxed paper sprayed with Pam, press the mixture into the pan until it is flat.

Then, melt 5-6 Hershey candy bars over a double boiler until smooth.  Spread onto the treats until the tops are covered.  Sprinkle with decorations based on the season of the year.

Allow to cool and harden in room air for at least 4-6 hours.  Slice into bars and store in covered containers.  The treats will stay fresh for one week.


Baked turkey meatballs with tomatoes


Here is another recipe for turkey meatballs, however; this one has a great sauce of tomatoes, onions and peppers.  I have been working with this recipe and have adapted a couple to make this one my own.  Earlier on the blog, I had made a recipe from Giada’s cookbook for turkey meatballs. Her recipe uses eggs and sausage for flavor.  This recipe does not require eggs and uses Parmesan cheese.

I have included a recipe for the sauce, as the sauce builds on the flavor of the meatballs. These meatballs are delicious and moist and are a wonderful entrée without pasta.

To make the meatballs:  First, assemble these ingredients.  1 chopped white onion, 1 pound of ground turkey, 1/2 cup Parmesan shredded cheese, just under 1/4 cup of Panko breadcrumbs, 1/4 teaspoon Herbs de Provence, kosher salt, ground black pepper, 2 tablespoons olive oil, dried basil flakes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  In a bowl, mix together all of the meatball ingredients. Form into 20 meatballs using a standard size round coffee measure.  Place on a sheet pan prepared with Pam oil spray spaced evenly for baking.  Bake for 30 minutes.

While the meatballs are baking, prepare the ingredients for the sauce.  On the stove-top, mix together the following and begin to cook–1 pint cherry tomatoes halved, 1-2 other medium-sized tomatoes for additional flavor, minced garlic to taste, 1 chopped white onion, 1/4 green pepper, chopped and season all with sea salt and ground black pepper.  Add dried oregano during the cooking process.  Cook until the tomatoes have softened, at least 30 minutes.

Remove the meatballs from the oven and turn over while placing into a ceramic dish.  Add the sauce around the meatballs and return to the oven, baking for 30 minutes at a reduced temperature of 350 degrees.

Remove from the oven as the sauce is bubbling.  Garnish with parsley flakes or additional dried basil flakes.  Serve with crusty bread and fresh salad greens.


sunshine baked eggs

A great way to make eggs has always been to bake them in the oven.  Especially when preparing for a large breakfast, this technique has to be the easiest.  The eggs can be made in advance while other side dishes are finishing up or being plated.  Sunshine baked eggs are similar to eggs in a hole, but are baked instead of prepared on the stove-top.  Again, this allows for better and easier planning during the entire breakfast preparation schedule.

Baked eggs are perfect served with fruit, toast, muffins, breakfast meats or breakfast potatoes.  Often a very attractive presentation, the eggs hold their place on the plate without looking messy or less than neat.  To make sunshine baked eggs, begin by pre-heating the oven to 350 degrees.  Place 2-3 tablespoons of margarine on a baking sheet and melt in the oven for a couple of minutes.

While the margarine is melting, use a round cookie cutter to remove a circle of each slice of ciabatta bread to be baked.  Butter each piece of bread and the circles and when the sheet pan is ready, place the bread and circles on the pan to bake.  Bake for 10 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven and flip the toast. Crack eggs into the holes of the slices of bread.  Top with pepper, parsley flakes or herbs of choice, and shredded Parmesan cheese if desired.   Bake for 9-10 more minutes until the egg whites are done.

Serve with other breakfast selections.  This is a fun way to serve baked eggs that your guests should truly enjoy.

a visit to the Twisted Olive


Do you ever have a day where you just feel like taking a drive to try out a restaurant in a nearby city?  Well, we thought yesterday was that day to take a leisurely  drive up North to Petoskey.  The weather was warm, but the roads were pretty clear since we had not yet entered the Labor Day weekend rush to Northern Michigan.


On many of our trips, we never seem to have enough time to check out all of the suggested places to dine.  So, this one was on our radar from a couple of months ago.  The Twisted Olive is a very small establishment located on Bay Street with a view of the water.  It is advertised to have a coastal Mediterranean menu with a Northern Michigan twist.  I would say that is a very good explanation of what to expect when visiting.


They have several menus to choose from based on the time of day when visiting.  The cafe menu starts the day with typical breakfast offerings, then the bistro menu follows, with an afternoon refresco menu beginning at 3 p.m., and then finally an evening menu.  We dined from the bistro menu and truly enjoyed our lunches.

The salad greens were delicious topped with a roasted garlic balsamic house vinaigrette and sliced grape tomatoes.  Our sandwiches were also tasty–the whitefish puttanesca and the turkey club with lemon basil aioli each were served with an orzo side dish.  Everything was presented well and with the view of the water, it made for a relaxing lunch.

The Twisted Olive also offers some bakery items which we displayed under glass domes as we walked to the back area of the restaurant past the open kitchen.  The presentation was quite lovely.

This lunch inspires me to try more Mediterranean flavors when cooking at home.