Roasted Vegetable Pasta

“I miss having a garden,” I recently said to my father-in-law. “I thought you hated the garden,” he replied. I went on to explain that I have a love/hate relationship with having a garden. I love walking out at about 4:00 in the afternoon to see what is fresh and deciding what I can use for dinner that night. I hate the fact that a garden refuses to follow my schedule. I can’t tell you how many nights — after I’ve gotten up at 4:30 to run so I can volunteer at school until 2:30 and then come home and work while Gray does homework, then make dinner, and while I am trying to clean up, Matt brings in 2 buckets full of purple-hull peas to be shelled, washed, blanched, bagged, and then frozen. That doesn’t fit my schedule at 7:30 at night after a long day. But yet somehow I still miss the first part of the whole garden thing.

Toward the end of every July, Gray and I visit my parents for a week. We grace them with our presence so that they can spoil us with lots of fun, good food, oh and my birthday party. More on that last thing next week.  A bonus for visiting this time of year is that the garden is really coming on. So a few weeks ago, I traveled back to Tennessee from Indiana with a backseat full of tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, and squash (plus homemade blackberry jelly). Gray quickly demolished the cucumbers, and I slowly worked on the other items, making my grilled cheese with tomatoes and having plenty of BLT’s. I made zucchini bread, grilled squash, and I still had quite a bit of stuff left. Produce from a parent’s garden is like gold — you should never let it go to waste, so Saturday night I put the remaining tomatoes, zucchini, and squash to yummy use.

First, I made homemade marinara sauce using this recipe.

marinara 2016

Next, I chunked up zucchini, squash, and onion; placed them on a cookie sheet; drizzled them with olive oil; seasoned them with sea salt; and roasted them at 400 degrees for 35 minutes.

zucchini squash mom and dads garden

After the vegetables were done, I cooked rigatoni pasta to al dente, then mixed it with about half the sauce, the roasted vegetables, a ball of diced fresh mozzarella, placed all of it in a casserole dish, topped it all with freshly grated parmesan cheese, and then baked it at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.

roasted veggie pasta


roasted veggie pasta 2

And sadly now the produce from my parent’s garden is gone……. Hey Mom and Dad, didn’t you say you felt like coming to Tennessee this weekend?

Chicken Thighs with Sun-Dried Tomato Cream Sauce

It’s been a while since we’ve had a true ‘dog’ meal.  This was the last one I made — nearly a month ago.  It was right before we were getting ready to leave for North Carolina, and I knew we would spend the next two and a half weeks eating every meal out.  And while it was fun, all that eating out, I was ready to come back home — and back to my kitchen where I knew what was really going into my food.

After being home just a couple of days, Matt turned around and headed back to North Carolina.  While I’ve been in the kitchen, it has been mostly for baking.  I’m looking forward to preparing and eating this weekend’s ‘dog’ meal….but in the meantime, below are the recipes from our last adventure.  All of these recipes were new to us (a Puttin’ on the Dog requirement), and I have to say I hit a home run with this meal.  Matt put it on his ‘this will go on my menu if I ever open a restaurant’ list.  That’s a big compliment.

Chicken with Sun-Dried Tomato Cream Sauce from

  • 8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
  • salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 t. red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup Julienne sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, drained
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1/4 t. dried thyme
  • 1/4 t. dried oregano
  • 1/4 t. dried basil
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chiffonade

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Season chicken thighs with salt and pepper.  Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large oven-proof skillet over medium high heat. Add chicken, skin-side down, and sear both sides until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes per side; set aside.  Melt remaining tablespoon butter (I skipped this part and actually drained a bit of the grease out of the skillet) in the skillet. Add garlic and red pepper flakes, and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Stir in chicken broth, heavy cream, sun-dried tomatoes, Parmesan, thyme, oregano and basil.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until slightly thickened, about 3-5 minutes. Return chicken to the skillet.  Place in the oven and roast until completely cooked through, reaching an internal temperature of 175 degrees F, about 25-30 minutes.  Serve immediately, garnished with fresh basil.

Rice with Mushroom and Asparagus from

  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups mushroom, diced
  • 1 cup asparagus (cut the spears on a diagonal into 2 inch pieces)
  • 2 cups cooked rice
  • 1 t. fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 T. feta cheese

In a medium-sized skillet, heat olive oil over medium high heat.  Add garlic and cook for about 30 seconds.  Add mushrooms. Cook and stir about 5 minutes or until lightly browned and tender. Don’t cover the skillet or you will steam the mushrooms instead of sauté them.  Add asparagus. Cook and stir about 3 to 4 minutes or until tender-crisp.  Add the rice, salt and pepper. Stir to coat the rice with the mushroom and asparagus.  (My rice had gotten a bit sticky, so I added just a touch of chicken stock here to loosen everything up a little.)  Cook for about 2-3 minutes.  Garnish with fresh parsley and feta cheese before serving.

chicken thighs with sundried tomato cream sauce

Peanut Butter Chocolate Pie from the

  • 1 package Oreos
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 4 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1 container Cool Whip, thawed
  • 1 & 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, chopped

Process the Oreos in a food processor until they become fine crumbs.  In a large bowl, combine the crushed Oreos with the melted butter. Press this mixture evenly into a 10 inch pie pan sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Place in fridge until ready to use.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the peanut butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer until well blended. Add the cool whip and stir with a spatula until mixed. Spread this mixture on the crust and place in the freezer for 30 minutes.

Place chocolate chips in a medium heat-proof bowl.  In a small pot over low heat, heat the heavy cream until just before boiling.  Pour the heavy cream over the chocolate chips. Allow the mixture to stand for 1-2 minutes.  Use a spatula to stir the mixture until smooth.  Allow the ganache to cool a bit before adding it to the top of the pie.  Top with chopped peanut butter cups.  Refrigerate the pie for 1-2 hours before cutting and serving.

pb cup pie

(I might have gotten a bit carried away with the peanut butter cups.)

Braised Brisket with Mushrooms

To say my friend Bonnie’s husband Paul loves meat is an understatement.  His philosophy is that no meal is complete without a lot of meat, so I’m guessing they don’t do “Meatless Mondays” in their house.

I just had lunch with Bonnie, and of course, the conversation eventually turned to food.  We talked about how our Pinterest pages are mostly consumed with recipes, and she had the same problem I now have — making something from Pinterest, loving it, and then not being able to find the recipe.  So, she gave me a great tip on how to better organize all my ‘already made’ recipes.

She mentioned that she liked following my blog (Which I consider a huge compliment.  After all, I thought only my mom read this thing.), but she did remind me that she doesn’t bake much — that’s because both her sister and her friend Anita keep her well supplied with desserts, but she loves to cook and experiment.  And then there’s Paul with his love of meat.  I told her about this brisket recipe, and she requested that I share it soon.  So, this one’s for Bonnie:


Braised Brisket with Mushrooms

Braised Brisket with Mushrooms from Mel’s Kitchen

  • 2-3 pounds brisket roast, fat trimmed to 1/4-inch
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 T. vegetable oil
  • 8 ounces button mushrooms, quartered
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 T. packed brown sugar
  • 3 T. AP flour
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 t. dried thyme
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup low-sodium beef broth
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 t. balsamic vinegar


  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Pat the brisket dry with paper towels and cut it in half crosswise into two roasts. Season each roast with salt and pepper.
  2. In a large dutch oven, heat the oil over medium or medium-high heat until rippling and hot. Brown the brisket on both sides, working with one roast at a time, about 3-4 minutes per side. Remove and set aside.  Repeat with the second roast.
  3. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat from the pan. Add the mushrooms and 1/8 teaspoon salt and cook over medium heat until the liquid evaporates and the mushrooms are golden brown, about 6-8 minutes. Add the onions and sugar. Cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 8-10 minutes. Add the flour, garlic, and thyme and cook, stirring constantly, until golden and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Slowly whisk in the broths and bay leaves, scraping up any browned bits. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until thickened, about 6-7 minutes.
  4. Place the brisket back in the pan and place the lid on top.  Bake the roasts in the preheated oven until very tender, 4 1/2 to 5 hours. Remove the dish from the oven and let it cool, covered, for 30 minutes to 1 hour, flipping the roasts and recovering the dish halfway through cooling.
  5. Transfer the roasts to a cutting board and trim any extra fat off, if the roasts are excessively fatty. Strain the sauce from the pan through a fine mesh strainer into a fat separator; reserving the mushrooms. Let the liquid settle and then pour into a microwave-safe bowl, leaving the fat behind. Stir in the vinegar and microwave the sauce for about a minute. If the sauce is too thick, thin with chicken or beef broth. Slice or shred the brisket roasts and place on a serving platter with the reserved mushrooms. Pour the warmed sauce over the meat. Serve immediately.

Ina Garten’s Oven-Roasted Vegetables

  • 2 small fennel bulbs, tops removed
  • 1 lb small potato
  • 13 cup olive oil
  • 2 t. kosher salt
  • 1 t. black pepper, freshly ground
  • 1 lb French string beans
  • 1 bunch fresh asparagus, ends removed, cut diagonally into 3-inch pieces
  • 14 cup fresh parmesan cheese
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Cut the fennel bulbs into 6 wedges each, cutting through the core to keep the wedges intact. Place on a sheet pan. Cut the potatoes in half length-wise and place them on the pan with the fennel. Drizzle the olive oil on the vegetables, then sprinkle with 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Toss with your hands.
  3. Roast the vegetables for 25 – 30 minutes, until the potatoes are tender, tossing once while cooking. Toss the string beans and asparagus with the roasted vegetables and roast for another 10 – 15 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Sprinkle on the Parmesan cheese and roast for another minute or two until the cheese melts.

Paula Deen’s Garlic Cheddar Biscuits

  • 1 1/4 cups Bisquick
  • 1/2 cup grated sharp Cheddar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 t. garlic powder
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1/8 t. dried parsley flakes


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Combine the biscuit mix and cheese in a small bowl. Add the water and stir just until combined. The dough will be slightly moist. Drop the dough by tablespoonfuls onto the prepared baking sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes, until the biscuits are firm and beginning to brown.
  3. While the biscuits are baking, make the garlic butter. In a small bowl, combine the butter, garlic powder, salt, and parsley flakes. Mix well. As soon as you bring the biscuits from the oven, brush them with the garlic butter using a pastry brush.

Creamy Mexican Chicken Skillet

There are all kinds of foods I could live without — pizza, burgers, french fries, and Chinese among them, but ask me to give up Mexican food and you’d have a mutiny on your hands.  It used to be that I only thought about eating Mexican food out, but over the last few years, I’ve taken to trying to cook as many recipes as possible.  Mexican food makes a great weeknight meal.  It’s quick, and many times requires few pots and pans.  This recipe is no exception — a skillet for the chicken, a pan for the rice, a cutting board, a knife, two service spoons, three bowls, and three forks.  Clean up took no time at all.

Creamy Mexican Chicken Skillet from Sweet C’s Designs

Creamy Chicken Mexican Skillet

  • 3 chicken breasts, diced into 1″ cubes
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 bell peppers, diced
  • 1 8 oz can diced tomatoes with green chili
  • 1 jar green chile sauce
  • ½ package cacique oaxhaca
  • ½ cup shredded cheddar cheese

In a large pan, heat 1 tsp of olive oil on medium high heat until shimmery. Brown the chicken, about 10 minutes. Then add onion and pepper, brown another 8 minutes. Add green chili sauce and cheese. Stir well to incorporate cheese, and let the cheese melt fully.

I served it over Cilantro Lime Rice.

  • 1 cup long grain white rice
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 Tablespoon canola or vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • 3 Tablespoons chopped cilantro

Cook the rice according to the package directions.  When ready, simply stir in lime juice and cilantro.

Super yummy one bowl weeknight meal.

Roasted Beet Salad

After last week’s indulgent meal, I thought that this week we should exercise some restraint.  Saturday night’s ‘dog’ meal was rather simple — grilled ribeye steaks, roasted asparagus, and salad.  But a ‘dog’ meal requires at least one new thing, so I kicked the salad up a notch.  I always thought I didn’t like beets.  What I don’t like is anything pickled; I actually do like beets.  I discovered that a few summers ago when Matt planted his mega garden.

picking green beans

I complained that entire summer.  It seemed like every time I turned around, he was bringing in buckets of produce for me to either cook, freeze, or can.  Now, I’d give anything for that mega garden.  We won’t have one again this summer because of both his travel schedule and the fact that he wants to tear down his shop and rebuild it.  I’ll just have to look forward to next summer for a garden.  In the meantime, I will be happy with my potted tomatoes and herbs, but missing that garden made me think about some of the fantastic things I discovered that summer — like roasted beets.  I decided to purchase a few and try out this recipe.

Ina Garten’s Roasted Beet Salad

Here is my modified version:

3 medium-size beets, tops removed and scrubbed
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces mixed greens
1/4 cup toasted walnuts
2 ounces soft goat cheese, crumbled

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Wrap the beets individually in aluminum foil and place them on a sheet pan. Roast them for 50 minutes to 1 hour, depending on their size, until a small sharp knife inserted in the middle indicates that they are tender. Unwrap each beet and set aside for 10 minutes, until cool enough to handle, and then peel.

Whisk together the vinegar, olive oil, mustard, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and set aside. While the beets are still warm, cut them into slices and place them in a large mixing bowl. Pour half the vinaigrette over the beets and toss.

Place the greens in a separate bowl and toss it with enough vinaigrette to moisten. Put the them on a serving platter and then arrange the beets, walnuts, and goat cheese on top. Drizzle with additional vinaigrette, if desired, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and serve warm or at room temperature.

Roasted Beet Salad

There’s no way I would serve any Saturday night dinner without making a new dessert.  This isn’t exactly new — I make variations of peanut butter brownies all the time.  I’ve also made a chocolate peanut butter frosting using Reese’s spread.  But this time, I took my peanut butter buttercream recipe and added cocoa and finely chopped Reese’s cups and spread it on a batch of brownies.  Then I sprinkled chopped Reese’s cups on top and drizzled the whole thing with a peanut butter drizzle.  Sinful!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Frosting

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
½ cup creamy peanut butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 cups powdered sugar
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
¼ cup heavy cream
12-15 miniature Reese’s cups, finely chopped

In large bowl, cream butter, peanut butter and vanilla extract until smooth. Gradually add in powdered sugar and cocoa powder. Slowly beat in heavy cream. Cream with a mixer at least two minutes until light and fluffy.  Stir in Reese’s cups.  Smear away on whatever makes your heart content — for me it’s brownies.

chocolate peanut butter reese frosting

Gourmet Burgers and Chocolate Cream Sodas

There’s a burger joint in Greensboro that Matt used to like to frequent.  I say used to because TripAdvisor named Hops Burger Bar the best burger in the nation, and now it is impossible to get a table — or even a seat at the bar.  Matt stopped by on a Thursday night at 8:30 for dinner a few weeks ago, and he said the place was packed.  He ended up eating somewhere else.

Hops has a daily special, and on that particular day it was the ‘smoke ring’.  It had Matt’s name written all over it — a juicy burger with red pepper aioli, brandied mushrooms, smoked gouda, and onion rings.  He showed me a picture of it from Facebook when he got home to which I said, “I could make that.”  And so I did.

Barb’s Version of the Smoke Ring Burger

I used 80/20 ground chuck.  Made them into patties and seasoned them with salt and pepper.  Matt grilled them for me, placing a slice of smoked gouda on each right before removing them from the grill so the cheese would melt and ooze over the sides.  While he grilled, I worked on the rest of the items.

Red Pepper Aioli

  • 1 cup mayo
  • 1/4 cup jarred, drained roasted red peppers
  • 1/2 teaspoon white wine vinegar
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper

Blend in blender until smooth.


Brandied Mushrooms

  • 1 pound button mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup brandy
  • salt and pepper

Melt the butter in a non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Add the mushrooms and shallots and saute until tender.  Add the garlic and saute another minute.  Pour in brandy, season with salt and pepper.  Let the mushrooms cook down until the liquid cooks out.


Beer Battered Onion Rings

  • 2 large red onions
  • 1 cup AP flour, plus additional for dusting
  • 1 12 ounce beer
  • 2 teaspoons corn starch
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Mix flour, cornstarch, and salt in a mixing bowl.  Whisk in enough beer to make a smooth batter.  (I found this to be an experiment.  I ended up using the whole beer but adding more flour too.  You don’t want it to be too runny but you don’t want it to be too thick either.)  Slice your onion into large rings.  Place a few inches of vegetable oil in a heavy skillet on medium-high until it reaches 375 degrees.  Dredge your rings in some flour first, then into the batter, then place them in the hot oil.  Fry until golden brown.  Remove and place them on a cookie sheet lined with paper towel and sprinkle with salt immediately.


Hops used brioche buns, but of course this is Columbia, Tennessee.  Kroger doesn’t carry brioche anything, so I used Pepperidge Farm potato buns, and they worked nicely.  To assemble, smear the aioli both on the top and bottom bun, place a burger on the bottom half, top with the mushrooms, two onion rings, and then the top half of the bun.

smoke ring burger

This was probably one of the best hamburgers I’ve ever eaten, and Matt thought the same.  The combination of flavors was amazing, plus it was so satisfying on so many levels for me.  Mostly because it was the first thing I’d bitten into since the gum graft surgery experience.

No whopper of a burger could be served without a special drink.  When I sat it in front of Gray with his burger he asked, “We get to have this with dinner?”  When I responded with a ‘yes’.  He then said, “I absolutely love you, mom!”

smoke ring burger with soda

Chocolate Cream Soda

  • Chocolate syrup
  • Half and half
  • Soda water
  • Vanilla ice cream
  • Redi-whip
  • Sprinkles

To make one soda, take a tall glass and pour in 3 tablespoons chocolate syrup and 2 tablespoons half and half.  Mix well.  Pour in enough soda water to fill roughly 2/3 the way full.  Add 2-3 scoops of vanilla ice cream.  Top with whip cream and sprinkles.

Golly, what an awesome and fun dinner!  Totally worth the calories and the running required the next morning.

Chicken Pot Pie

Most 3 year old kids say their favorite food is something like peanut butter and jelly or macaroni and cheese.  When Gray was 3, he told everyone his favorite food was chicken pot pie, and that still holds true today.  Every year for his birthday, he requests chicken pot pie and Brussels sprouts for dinner.  Here’s the thing — I’ve made chicken pot pie from scratch, including the crust, but the way he and Matt like it is with Campbell’s Cream of Chicken Soup and Pillsbury Pie Crusts.  At first it bothered me to make it this way, but my Aunt Joyce once told me that it was okay to use the pre-made pie crusts, so I let that one go.  I still struggle with the cream of chicken soup thing.


This was my Aunt Joyce; she passed away about a year ago.  Our hearts still hurt like it was yesterday, but I know she is in heaven right now hanging out with my Grandmother.  Oh the things they must be talking about…..

So I share this recipe with some hesitation.  It’s total cheating.

Chicken Pot Pie the way the Mitchell Men like it

1 package boneless, skinless chicken breasts cooked and shredded

Set the chicken to the side.  Now take:

3 baking potatoes, medium dice

4 carrots, peeled and diced medium

2 stalks celery, diced medium

Place them in a pot, cover with water, add a good pinch of salt, and bring to a boil.  Cook roughly 10 minutes so a fork can easily pierce through the vegetables but not so long that they fall apart.  Drain the water then gently stir in:

3 cans Campbell’s Cream of Chicken Soup

1 small bag frozen peas, defrosted

1 small bag frozen corn, defrosted

the cooked chicken

season with salt and pepper

This should make 2 pies, so place crusts into the bottom of 2 9″ pie pans.  Spoon filling into each bottom crust.  Top with second crust, crimp edges, and cut a slit in the top.  At this point you can bake the pies at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes or wrap them in plastic wrap and foil and freeze up to a couple of months.  If you do freeze them, then make sure they are completely thawed before baking.  And there you have it — Chicken Pot Pie al a Mitchell Men.

chicken pot pie

If you’d like to make a version that’s suited more toward my taste, check out this link.  After the Mitchell Men complained about the homemade version, I threw away the recipe.  But this one is really close to the one I used to make.