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Spring Ahead

I’m so over winter that I don’t even care that I lost an hour of sleep to “spring ahead” yesterday.  I lost count somewhere along the way but I think this will be the second (or first?!) full Monday of school that M and O have had since the winter break ended.  Our front walkway is a never-ending battle of ice vs. salt, and ice is the reigning champion. I’m looking forward to seeing daylight when I leave instead of shuffling across a minefield of slush and ice in the dark. I will gladly give up one hour of sleep to have some more daylight (and if you know me personally you know how much of a sacrifice that is right now).

Winter means we’re home and indoors more often.  That means we have more time to cook up home improvement schemes, and for me to pore through my cookbooks to cook up some new recipes.  I have made chicken Parmigiana many different ways. Up until now, my favorite way was the one I previously shared here, which involves breading the chicken and pan-frying it in olive oil.  Then Lane gave me The Skinnytaste Cookbook for Christmas and the chicken Parmigiana recipe there is a game-changer.  The chicken is baked instead of fried but you’d honestly never know it.  I served this with homemade spaghetti and it was a complete crowd-pleaser.

skinny chicken parm

Skinny Chicken Parmigiana


for the chicken:

  • non-stick cooking spray or oil mister
  • 3 (8 oz. each) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, fat trimmed
  • 3/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 C. seasoned whole-wheat bread crumbs
  • 3 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tsp. melted unsalted butter
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 9 Tbsp. part-skim mozzarella cheese

for the sauce OR use your favorite sauce:

  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 5 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 2 28-ounce cans crushed tomatoes
  • 3/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 C. roughly chopped fresh basil


Heat the oven to 450 degrees.

Lightly spray a large baking sheet with oil or non-stick cooking spray.

Slice each chicken breast in half horizontally to make 6 cutlets.

Sprinkle each side of each chicken cutlet with salt and pepper.

In a shallow bowl combine the bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese.

Combine the olive oil and butter in a small bowl.

Brush the butter mixture onto both sides of the chicken cutlet, then dredge the cutlet in the bread crumb mixture and place it onto the prepared baking sheet. Repeat until all cutlets are on the baking sheet.

Lightly spray the top of the chicken cutlets with oil or non-stick cooking spray.

Bake the chicken for about 20 minutes, until it is golden on the bottom.

Turn the chicken over and bake for 5-6 minutes until the chicken is cooked through and the bottom is golden.

While the chicken is baking, make the marinara sauce.

To make the marinara sauce, heat a medium-large saucepan over medium heat.

Add the oil and garlic and tilt the pan to one side so the garlic is covered in oil, then return the pan so it is flat on the burner.

Add 1/4 C. of water, the tomatoes, the salt, and black pepper to taste to the skillet.

Cover the pot, bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low.

Simmer for 10 minutes, until the sauce is heated through.

Remove from the heat, stir in the basil, and adjust seasonings to taste if needed.

To finish the chicken, spread 2-3 Tbsp. of sauce onto each cutlet and sprinkle the mozzarella evenly onto each cutlet.

Place the cutlets under the broiler for a few minutes, until the cheese melts, bubbles, and starts to brown.

Remove from the oven and serve with additional sauce and, if desired, over pasta.

Makes 6 servings.

Source: adapted from The Skinnytaste Cookbook by Gina Homolka.

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Everything is Awesome

Today’s 12 Days of Oscar installment brings us to this year’s nominees.  The Lego Movie has been nominated for Best Original Song (“Everything is Awesome,” a song we like so much we made sure to play it at our wedding).  The Lego Movie tells the story of minifigure Emmett Brickowski who seems to be an ordinary guy . . . until he goes on an adventure to save everyone from evil President Business.   Many agree that The Lego Movie was snubbed by the Academy this year when it wasn’t nominated for Best Animated Film.   I agree with that assessment, and I love Director Philip Lord’s “It’s okay, made my own” reaction.

In The Lego Movie, Lord Business plans to lure all of the citizens out for Taco Tuesday where they will be given a free taco.  His real plan is to freeze the citizens in place with his special weapon, “The Kragle.”  Considering the frequency with which Moe’s manages to lure me out to one of their establishments I’d say the plan would have had a pretty good chance.  Lately we’ve been staying home for dinner and I was glad to have taco Tuesday right at home by making this really easy taco pie.  This takes less than an hour from start to finish, and you can top it with your favorite taco toppings.  I make my own version of Bisquick and I also make my own taco seasoning but you can use store bought versions and they would work just fine.  If you need to you can also make this up to 24 hours ahead of time, cover it and refrigerate it.  Remove the pie from the refrigerator while the oven preheats and allow additional baking time.

impossibly easy taco pie

Easy Taco Pie


  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. taco seasoning (or 1 envelope of store bought taco seasoning)
  • 1 4.5 oz. can of chopped green chiles, drained
  • 1 C. milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 C. Bisquick mix (or a homemade version)
  • 3/4 c. shredded Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese
  • optional- salsa, sour cream, or any other taco toppings you enjoy


Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Grease a 9 inch pie plate.

In a 10 inch skillet, cook the ground beef and onion over medium heat.  Stir occasionally and cook until beef is brown.

Drain the beef mixture.

Stir in the taco seasoning.

Spoon the beef mixture into the prepared pie plate and top with the green chiles.

In a small bowl, stir together the Bisquick mix, milk, and eggs.

Pour the Bisquick mixture into the pie plate (pour it over the beef mixture, it will settle to the bottom on its own).

Bake for 25 minute or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.

Top with the shredded cheese and bake for 8-10 additional minutes.

Cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Top with your favorite toppings.

Makes 6 servings.

Source: slightly adapted from Betty Crocker

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The Way We Were

Today’s installment of 12 Days of Oscar brings us the last Oscar winner in this year’s lineup.  The 1973 film The Way We Were tells, mainly in flashbacks, the story of Katie Morosky (Barbara Streisand) and Hubbell Gardiner (Robert Redford) who meet in college and despite their immense differences are drawn to each other.   Their differences continue to put a wedge between them despite numerous attempts at making the relationship work.  Finally they part ways and ultimately realize that all they really share are the memories.  The Way We Were won two Oscars: Best Original Song (“The Way We Were”) and Best Music, Original Score.  The Way We Were was also nominated for four additional Oscars: Best Actress in a Lead Role (Barbara Streisand, lost to Glenda Jackson for A Touch of Class), Best Cinematography (lost to Cries & Whispers), Best Set Decoration (lost to The Sting), and Best Costume Design (lost to The Sting).

Hubbell calls Katie during World War II, unable to find a hotel room in New York City and asking if he can stay at her place for a few days.  She excitedly agrees and when she gets home after rushing through a grocery store, Hubbell is leaving her apartment.  Bags of groceries in hand, she calls to him and then explains that she planned on making dinner.  Excitedly she explains that she has planned on baked potatoes, and steak, and salad, and fresh baked pie and that she would have made a pot roast but didn’t know if Hubbell had ever had pot roast, or if he liked pot roast and how anyway there wasn’t time for pot roast and so she bought steaks.  Later in the movie, Katie tells Hubbell “Tell me I’m not good enough. Tell me you don’t like my politics. Tell me I talk too much. You don’t like my perfume, my family, my pot roast.”

Unlike Katie, pot roast is simple and uncomplicated. Actually it’s a very basic dish and there isn’t much fuss to making a perfect pot roast. Season the beef, sear the beef, add it to the pot with some vegetables and let your oven do the rest.  When it’s so tender it falls apart, it’s ready to serve.  I like to serve this with some mashed potatoes because they soak up the pan sauce so well. Some recipes call for the potatoes to cook along with the meat and the carrots and while that isn’t wrong, I do find that I like it much better with the mashed potatoes instead.  Be sure to choose a well-marbled roast, and allow plenty of time.

pot roast

Pot Roast


  • 1 4-5 pound chuck roast
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 whole onions
  • 6-8 whole carrots or 1 1/2- 2 C. baby carrots
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 C. red wine or beef broth
  • 2-3 C. beef stock
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 3 sprigs fresh rosemary


Heat the oven to 275 degrees.

Liberally sprinkle the roast all over with salt and pepper.

Heat a large oven-safe pot or Dutch oven over medium high heat.

Add 2-3 Tbsp. of olive oil to the heated pot.

Slice off the end and the tip of each onion, peel off the outer layer, and cut each onion into two halves.

If using whole carrots, cut them into 2 inch slices (large chunks).  You can peel them if you want to but just rinsing them is sufficient.

When the oil is hot but not smoking, add the halved onions and let them brown on one side (1-2 minutes). Turn them and let them brown on the other side, and then remove them to a plate.

Put the carrots into the same very hot pan and stir them around for 1-2 minutes until they’re slightly browned.  The idea is to add some color, not to cook the carrots.  Remove the carrots to the same plate as the onions.

If necessary, add a little more olive oil to the hot pan.

Place the meat in the pan and sear it for about 1-2 minutes per side, until the roast is brown all over.

Remove the roast to a plate.

With the burner still on medium-high pour either red wine or beef broth into the pan and deglaze the pan, scraping the bottom of the pot to pull up the flavor.

Place the roast back into the pan and add about 2-3 C. of beef stock- enough to cover the roast halfway.

Add the onion and carrots to the pan, along with the rosemary and thyme.

Put a lid on the pot and roast for 3-4 hours (3 hours for a 3 lb. roast, 4 hours for a 4-5 lb. roast).

To serve, remove the roast from the pot (as best you can, it will be falling apart) and roughly slice it or shred it with two forks.  Serve with the carrots and onions (and if desired, some mashed potatoes).

Source: The Pioneer Woman

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Ring a Ding Ding

The next film in this year’s 12 Days of Oscar series is the 1960 Oscar winner The Apartment.  In the film, Bud Baxter (Jack Lemmon) allows his superiors at work to use his Upper West Side apartment for their extramarital affairs.  He finds himself sharing a love interest, Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine), with personnel director Jeff Sheldrake (Fred MacMurray). The Apartment won five Oscars:  Best Picture, Best Director, Best Writing (Story and Screenplay Written for the Screen), Best Art Direction, and Best Film Editing.  The Apartment was nominated for five additional Oscars: Best Actor in a Leading Role (Jack Lemmon who lost to Burt Lancaster for Elmer Gantry), Best Actress in a Leading Role (Shirley MacLane who lost to Elizabeth Taylor for Butterfield 8), Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Jack Kruschen who lost to Peter Ustinov for Spartacus), Best Black and White Cinematography (lost to Sons and Lovers) and Best Sound (lost to The Alamo).

In The Apartment, Bud makes spaghetti for Fran and ever the sterotypical bachelor he doesn’t have a strainer and so he strains the spaghetti with a tennis racket.  “You’re pretty good with that racket!” Fran tells Bud, to which he replies “Wait ’til you see me serve the meatballs!”  While I recommend more conventional ways for straining pasta, making your own pasta doesn’t have to be completely conventional at all.  There is no need to make a well of flour and knead in eggs by hand if you have a food processor.  Making pasta dough in the food processor takes about a minute.  If you are lucky enough to have a pasta attachment for a Kitchen Aid stand mixer then fresh homemade pasta is easy enough for a weeknight meal. Even using a manual-crank pasta maker, the time you save making the dough will help. No pasta machine? This dough is still easy to roll out into sheets for lasagna or to roll out and cut using a pizza cutter or sharp knife.


 Food Processor Pasta Dough and How to Turn it Into Spaghetti


  • 2 C. all-purpose flour
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 tsp. salt


Combine the flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a blade (I use my dough blade but the steel cutting blade has also been fine when I used it accidentally).

Pulse a few times to combine.

Crack the eggs on top of the flour.

Put the lid onto the food processor and process for 30-60 seconds until the dough comes together into a rough ball.

If the dough is dry (if it doesn’t come together and resembles small pebbles) add a tsp. of water and process for 30 seconds.  Repeat the process until the dough comes together.

If the dough is sticky (it will smear on the sides of the food processor bowl), add a Tbsp. of flour and process again.  Repeat until the dough comes together.

Remove the dough from the work bowl and knead it against the counter a few times until it is a smooth ball.

Dust the dough with a little flour and place it into a small mixing bowl.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rest at room temperature for 30 minutes before rolling it into pasta.

To make the dough into spaghetti using a Kitchen Aid pasta roller:

Remove the work bowl from the stand mixer, and attach the pasta roller attachment to the mixer.

Take a small portion of dough (a little smaller than the palm of your hand) and flatten it into a rough disk.  Feed the disk into the pasta roller attachment while the mixer is running on medium speed (I use “4”).

You may need to lightly flour the piece of dough if you find that it doesn’t go through the roller smoothly.  I like to put each piece through each setting twice before moving to the next setting. If the dough doesn’t come out smooth, fold it up and run it through again.

Turn the dial on the attachment to “2” and feed the dough through.  If the dough seems sticky flour both sides before feeding it through.

Repeat the process until the dough has gone through setting “4.”

When the dough has been rolled to the “4” setting, you can either put it on a parchment lined baking sheet, sprinkling liberally with flour on both sides (you will stack pieces of dough on top of each other and you don’t want them to stick together- I do not recommend this method), OR you can hang them on a pasta drying rack (Lane built mine, but you can order one of your own), OR you can lay a broom handle or long stick with each end on the back of a chair (like a limbo stick) and hang the pasta over that (line it with plastic wrap first).

Repeat this process until all of your dough has been run through the pasta roller at setting “4.”

Remove the pasta roller attachment and attach the spaghetti attachment.

Feed one piece of rolled pasta dough through the spaghetti attachment while the mixer is running on the “4” speed.

Collect the spaghetti as it comes out the bottom of the attachment and either arrange it into nests while you work with the rest of the dough, or hang it up.

Repeat with all of the dough until it is spaghetti.

To cook, heat a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil and add the pasta.  Pasta is done when it floats to the top (about 2-3 minutes).

Source: dough recipe from The Kitchn

cooked homemade spaghetti

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Anyone Else But You

Day four of 12 Days of Oscar brings us the first film in this year’s feature that did win an Oscar.  Diablo Cody won an Oscar for Best Writing, Original Screenplay for the 2008 film Juno.  Juno stars Ellen Page as Juno MacGuff, a snarky sixteen-year-old who discovers she is pregnant with her longtime friend Paulie Bleeker’s (Michael Cera) baby.  Juno makes a series of decisions throughout the course of the film including how she really feels about Paulie. Juno was also nominated for Best Picture (lost to No Country for Old Men), Best Actress in a Leading Role (Ellen Page, who lost to Marion Cotillard for her role in La Vie en Rose), and Best Director (Jason Reitman who lost to the Coen brothers for No Country for Old Men).

Juno’s hamburger phone or the jugs of Sunny Delight she chugs could have been some inspiration here but I had a better idea. At the end of the film (spoiler alert!), Juno describes Paulie as the cheese to her macaroni.  Macaroni and cheese are great together, and so are Juno and Paulie.  I love a good, classic macaroni and cheese that starts with a roux and gets baked with buttery bread crumbs on top.  I don’t always have time to do all of that, and when I’m pressed for time I make a simple stove top version instead. This is a quick mac and cheese but if you have a little extra time it does hold up to being topped with bread crumbs and baked.  Use whatever cheese you have on hand (I used smoked Gouda because I had some to use up and it was a little stringy but OMG so good), and while I suggest shells or elbow macaroni to really soak up the cheese sauce, you can go ahead and use penne or ziti or whatever else you have on hand.

stovetop gouda mac and cheese

Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese


  • 1 lb. pasta, any shape
  • 1 1/2 C. whole or 2 % milk
  • 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 2-3 C. shredded cheese (cheddar, Monterrey Jack, or C olby are best but I used Gouda here and it was great)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. powdered mustard


Bring about 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot.

Add pasta and a tablespoon of salt to the boiling water.

Cook for about 8 minutes until the pasta is al dente.

Drain pasta and set aside.

When the pasta has finished cooking, warm 1 C. of the milk in the saucepan over medium heat.

Whisk together the remaining 1/2 C. of milk and the flour until there are no lumps.

When steam starts to rise from the warming milk, whisk in the milk and flour mixture.

Continue whisking gently for 3 to 4 minutes until the milk thickens slightly to the consistency of heavy cream.

Turn the heat to low and begin mixing handfuls of cheese into the milk.

Stir in the salt and mustard.

Stir until all of the cheese has melted and the sauce is creamy.

Taste and adjust the seasonings as desired.

Remove the sauce from the heat.

Combine the pasta and 1/2 of the cheese sauce in a large bowl and stir to coat the pasta evenly.

Add the second half of the sauce and any add-ins you like (cooked ham or cooked bacon are two of my favorites).

Serve warm.

Source: The Kitchn

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Catch and Escape

Happy Valentine’s Day if you’re celebrating!  In the spirit of the day, it seemed only fitting that the fourth film in this year’s 12 Days of Oscar would be something romantic in nature. Today’s film, the 1984 romantic comedy Splash was nominated for Best Writing, Screenplay written directly for the screen (and lost to Places in the Heart). Splash stars Tom Hanks as Allen Bauer who, while visiting Cape Cod with his family as a boy, jumps off of the ferry into the water where he is saved by a mermaid (Daryl Hannah). Years later, the mermaid comes ashore and is placed in Andy’s care telling him she will be visting for six days.

There are a lot of memorable scenes in Splash as Madison the mermaid visits New York.  She learns English watching game shows on the televisions at a department store, she names herself Madison after seeing a street sign for Madison Avenue, and perhaps my favorite is when she eats lobster at a fancy restaurant by biting through the shell. If you’ve never eaten a lobster, Real Simple has a handy video.  Eating lobster is a pretty messy affair whether you eat it like Madison does (which I really can’t recommend) or as the video suggests, so I’m a big fan of having lobster at home.  Steaming a lobster doesn’t have to be difficult but you do have to get over tossing a live lobster into a pot of steam so there’s that. I can’t help you get around that part; I’ll be the first to admit that I get someone else (my very brave husband) to handle it.  I use a stock pot with a steamer insert, but I have seen sources indicate that you can steam the lobsters using this method without the steamer insert.

steamed lobster

Steamed Lobster


  • 1 lobster per guest (I like to stay around 1- 1 1/4 lbs)
  • enough water to put 2 inches of water in a 4 to 5 gallon pot
  • 1 Tbsp. salt (optional- stir into the steaming water if using)


Fill a 4-5 gallon pot with 2 inches of water and insert the steamer insert.

Bring the water to a rolling boil over high heat.

You can either remove the rubber bands from the lobsters claws or leave them on.  I personally leave them on but it’s a matter of preference/ bravery.

Add the lobsters one at a time, head first, until the pot is full. A  4-5 gallon pot can hold about 6-8 lbs. of lobster so you might have to do this in batches depending on the size of your lobsters or your crowd.  If you can’t see to the bottom of the pot, use a second pot or steam them in batches. Do not overcrowd the pot.

Cover the pot and steam for 10 minutes for 1 lb. lobsters (12 minutes for 1 1/4 lb. lobsters, 14 minutes for 1 1/2 lb. lobsters). The cooking time is total time, not per pound of lobster.

Halfway through steaming, very carefully lift the lid so the steam exits away from you and shift the lobsters around so they cook evenly.

The lobster is done when cooked to an internal temperature of 180 degrees. Do not use the color to determine done-ness.  Lobsters will turn bright red before they are completely cooked.  If you don’t have or don’t wish to use a thermometer, you can check for done-ness by tugging on one of the antennae or small walking legs.  If the lobster is done, either one will come off easily.

Source: Tips from too many places to remember, and many steamed lobsters bravely prepared by my husband Lane.


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