Category Archives: Recipes

Caramel Pretzel Blondies

If you’re looking for a dessert to bring to a 4th of July picnic this weekend, might I suggest these Caramel Pretzel Blondies?

Yum.  That's a layer of caramel in there!

Yum. That’s a layer of caramel in there!

Sweet and salty, chewy with a pretzel crunch, these things are AWESOME!

It’s not my recipe and I didn’t make any changes to it, so I don’t want to reproduce it.  You can find the recipe here.


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Girls, Reading Book Club Ideas

A few weeks ago it was my turn to host a meeting of the Book Club of which I am a member.

The book I chose was Girls, Reading by Katie Ward.  The book is a novel that reads like a collection of short stories, each inspired by a different work of art depicting a girl or woman reading.  The first story is set in Medieval Italy, the last in the not so distant future.  Some of the stories have minor connections to previous chapters, and the final chapter helps to tie it all together.  There are issues you might think of in a book about women- independence, sexuality, love, motherhood- as well some larger themes having to do with the experience and definition of art.

I know some people were put off by the short story aspect of this book, but I knew in advance what to expect, and enjoyed the different chapters- trying to find the connections to previous chapters.  The final chapter, with its examination of the intersection of art and technology, as well as the emotional aspects of being a working mother, was possibly my favorite story.

There was a lot in there, and it was a good pick for a group of mothers- not everyone could finish the book, but because of the structure, they could participate in discussion of the stories they had read (and some skipped to the end and read the last chapter when they were running out of time and knew they couldn’t finish the entire book).

The menu I chose was inspired by the settings and foods mentioned in the book- Italy, England, Japan, The Netherlands.


I served ‘sushi’- veggie rolls and California rolls, inspired by the last story in which a Japanese family goes out to a sushi restaurant, with the mother attending ‘virtually’ because she’s traveling for work.  There were mini-quiche, inspired by the omelets made by the Gwen character in another story.  Some Dutch Gouda from The Netherlands, where a chapter about a deaf maidservant is set.  Some dates and olives as well as tomatoes and mozzarella cheese with balsamic vinegar, for Medieval Italy- the olives, in particular, featured prominently in the first story.  Also, some merengue cookies just because they looked yummy.  I also put out some typical pub food (popcorn, nuts, wasabi peas) inspired by the British pub in the second to last story.  There was also wine (imbibed in several of the stories), and hot tea (because, hello, England) as beverages.

On Katie Ward’s webpage, there are links to images of the works of art that inspired her stories.  I put together a little slideshow of the works, and played it on a loop on the television, so we could all see them (not everyone had looked them up as they were reading) and discuss.  It was very helpful to see the artwork as we talked.

At the end of the night, before everyone departed, we gathered with our books, and I had my husband take a few photos of us girls, reading.

As usual, it was a lovely evening with lots of chatting, both about the book and about other things.

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DIY Prego tomato sauce

I am a fan of Prego (“It’s in there”) spaghetti sauce.  However, it is loaded with salt and sugar and whatever else, so I don’t have it often.

However, I make tomato sauce pretty regularly and try to replicated Prego’s sweetness.  Problem- I never follow a recipe, so when it comes out really well, I can never replicate it. (Bad scientist!  Bad!)

The other night I made spaghetti and meatballs.  The meatballs were premade, but I made the sauce- and I wrote down the recipe right away, because it came out well!

This is my rendition of Prego spaghetti sauce.


Homemade/DIY Prego Spaghetti Sauce


Actually picture of left-over sauce on tortellini from a few night later.


1Tbsp Olive Oil

1 large onion, diced

3 cloves minced garlic (or as much as you want- I like it garlicky)

1 24oz can pureed tomatoes

1 24oz can diced tomatoes (with the liquid)

1 cube chicken bouillon (you can substitute vegetable)

2 bay leaves

1tsp marjoram

1tsp oregano

1/2tsp rosemary

1/2tsp thyme

1/2 tsp paprika

1Tbsp sugar


Heat oil in pan/pot.  Cook diced onion and minced garlic until soft and starting to brown.

Lower heat and add the rest of the ingredients, except sugar (hint:  break up the bouillon cube when you add it).

Cook on medium to low heat for as long as you like (I think I did only about 30min, while the pasta was cooking).

Before serving, add sugar and stir to incorporate.

Serve over whatever pasta you like.

Notes:  Prego from a jar isn’t chunky; however, I like chunky sauce, hence all the onion and the diced tomatoes.  If Mac wasn’t so pepper-averse, this would also have half of a green pepper diced up and fried with the onion (I miss peppers).  Chicken bouillon has plenty of salt for the entire recipe, I don’t add any additional.  You can substitute vegetable bouillon, which has less sodium.  The bouillon really helps to make the sauce savory without diluting it.  When you add the cube, break it up so it dissolves easily.

You can add whatever you like to this sauce- I sneaked in some mashed butternut squash- other ideas would be chop meat/ground turkey/ground chicken, mushrooms, zucchini, spinach, peppers, etc.


Super simple.  Yummy, a little sweet, plenty savory, and with a miniscule fraction of the sodium and sugar in real Prego.

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Repost in honor of Saint Patrick’s Day: Irish Soda Bread French Toast

In case you are looking for a yummy Saint Patrick’s Day breakfast, or something to do with all that stale Irish Soda Bread you’ll have a week from now, thought I’d repost my Irish Soda Bread French Toast!

Irish Soda Bread French Toast

Irish Soda Bread French Toast

Read about it here!

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Spinach and Fontina Strata

Thought I would share this great recipe, again from Martha Stewart.  It combines several things I really like:  Spinach, fontina cheese, and Challah bread.

strata mcphd

Spinach and Fontina Strata

Since I didn’t change much for the original, here’s the like to the recipe:  Spinach and Fontine Strata.

Mine came out a little different from Martha’s- I cut the bread into cubes instead of slices. and I didn’t have Parmesan cheese on hand.  It still came out nicely (the parm probably would have made it even better).  However, if I make it again, I’ll leave out the nutmeg.  I’m not a fan of it in non-dessert recipes.

Mabel was resistant to trying it (as she is with pretty much everything), but Nemo chowed down on this and Mac and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I made it the night before, and then put the last of the eggs on top and baked it after work one evening.  So even though it’s traditionally a breakfast dish, we had it for dinner.   It worked out well, since I could do all the prep in advance.  We had it that night, and it last for several more meals (breakfasts, lunches, or dinners).

Definitely a recipe that I’ll add to my collection.  A great vegetarian option for a brunch!

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Pumkin Butter Cake

This recipe is another favorite at my house.  However, I’ve only made it twice because it is heart disease in cake form.  It’s a Paula Deen recipe and she calls it BUTTER cake for a reason.

Pumpkin Butter Cake

Pumpkin Butter Cake

It’s nothing pretty look at in the pan, but it is like a soft pumpkin cheesecake because it includes cream cheese.

You can find the recipe here.

I just Googled to find the link to the recipe, and that link about includes variations like peanut butter, banana, and pineapple!  Those sound awesome and I want to try all of them.

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Apple Blondies

I LOVE this recipe.  It’s another from Martha Stewart.

Apple Blondies

Apple Blondies

I’ve made it twice now and it turned out nice and moist both times- once for a snack for lab meeting at work, and the second time for Mabel’s pre-school Christmas party (which I missed).  The recipe was a hit with both audiences.

It’s quick, easy, and doesn’t require any ingredients that we don’t always have on hand.

Since it’s from Martha, and not something I made up, I’m linking to her site.

Recipe HERE.

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