Roasted Italian Potatoes

Oh man, these potatoes were awesome. Crunchy and full of flavor on the outside and soft on the inside. I am already craving them again!  The recipe didn't exactly have ingredient amounts so I had to do some guessing.  The only error I made was only using half the potatoes and not the entire bag. My stomach is small and gets full pretty quickly, but even I was wanting more once they were gone. I wish I had a site to give credit to, but really the directions came from a pin on pinterest

Roasted Italian Potatoes
Serves: 1 bag of red potatoes should serve 3-4
Cook time according to Rachel: 50 mins
How difficult was this for Rachel? Easy!


1 bag small red potatoes
1 pkg zesty Italian dressing mix
2-3 Tbsp grated Parmesan
olive oil
1 large ziploc bag
Salt & Pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Cube red potatoes.

Put potato pieces, parmesan & Italian mix into ziploc bag. Drizzle lightly with olive oil. Add a little salt & pepper if you choose.
Shake bag around until potatoes completely coated.

Place potatoes on greased baking sheet. Spread apart somewhat evenly.

Bake potatoes for 40 mins. At the 20 min mark, take potatoes out and shuffle around so they don't burn.


Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cheesecake Bars

Photo compliments of J's phone. Not the greatest, but still looks amazing!  
I'd like to formally welcome my new Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer into my life. Lucky for me, my birthday and Hanukkah fall within a month of each other and family members are all too happy to get me one mega gift for both occasions. My sister, Jen, got this for me, and my world is now just a little brighter.

 knew the first time I used the mixer, it had to be for something big. Of course, I found a recipe that required me to use the mixer TWICE...and it was awesome. I almost didn't know what to do while it was mixing. I literally just stared in awe.

J and 2 of his friends were going on a weekend man-cation and what better time to make a super rich dessert that I can sample and then send off with the boys and OUT of my house. I knew these were a success when I got a text that night telling me how half the tray was already gone...and this was after I was told I wouldn't hear from J because he was with "the guys"...win for me!   Big thanks to Brandy's Baking for this awesome new recipe!

An important note, these bars need at least 3 hours-overnight of refridgeration. I didn't see that part until it was too late, so I had to send 95% ready bars off with the boys. This final picture came from J in the midst of them chowing down.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cheesecake Bars
Serves: 9-12
Cook time according to Brandy: 50-60 mins
Cook time according to Rachel: 55 mins PLUS 3 hours to chill in the fridge (or overnight)
How difficult was this for Rachel? Not too hard & worth the work!

1.5 cups graham cracker crumbs
(I used graham cracker pie crust & broke it)
Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
5 tbsp unsalted butter, room temp
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
3 tbsp granulated sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1tsp pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup flour
2/3 cup chocolate chips (I used mini)
Cheesecake Filling
10 oz cream cheese
1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325 F. Line an 8 inch square baking pan with parchment paper or fil allowing some overhang. Spray with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.

Mix the melted butter and graham cracker crumbs until thoroughly combined. 

Press the mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake in oven for 6 mins. Remove pan to a cookling rack. Leave oven on while preparing the dough.

While crust is cooling, prepare chocolate chip cookie dough. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, salt and vanilla until smooth and thoroughly combined. 

Mix in flour on low speed until mix is just incorporated. 

Mix in chocolate chips and set aside. Note: mix will be try. More like a crumble topping)

Clean bowl and using your mixer again (stand mixer, use paddle attachment) cream together the cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Mix in the egg and vanilla on low until just incorporated.

Pour cheesecake batter into prepared crust.

Cover the top with the cookie dough. Mash until top is completely covered using all the dough.
Bake for aprox 30 mins until the top feels dry and firm. Give pan a gentle shake; nothing should move.
Move dish to a cooling rack allowing to cool completely. Chill in fridge for 3 hours -over night.
Lift bars out by the overhang and cut into squares. Enjoy!


Spicy Chicken Rigatoni

Dear God...this meal was a NIGHTMARE. I will never make this again...and not because it wasn't delicious (it was!) but because I have a PTSD from this meal. This dinner took two nights to actually complete...and not because the recipe called for anything to happen overnight.

Mistake #1: assuming this meal was going to be easy. Mistake #2: assuming your local grocery store will have boneless chicken breasts that aren't frozen. YEAH...has YOUR grocery store ever been OUT OF CHICKEN???!!!! Well, that was a first for me.  Of course, I discovered this after my cart was full of other items I needed. By this point, it was already 8:30pm and the thought of going to another store that night and THEN going home and making dinner was out of the question. We ordered in.  Mistake #3 getting home and discovering you bought  a small can of green beans when the recipe calls for peas. I mean...really?! (sad part? That isnt the first time I bought a can of green beans thinking they were peas. I now have 2 cans of green beans taking up space in my cupboard). 

So, night #2 attempting to make this meal, I chose a different grocery store that did in fact have chicken and I was able to get a can of peas. I wish this is where the mistakes ended...nope. Read through the directions to see what else I screwed up. I guess I can't blame Kerry from Tastebook because all these mistakes had nothing to do with her recipe.

An important note, it is possible to make the recipe not super spicy.

Spicy Chicken Rigatoni
Serves: 4
Cook time according to Kerry: Does not say
Cook time according to Rachel: On a normal planet? 45-50 mins
How difficult was this for Rachel? A nightmare...for a NORMAL person? Easy!

3 tbsp oil
1/2 tbsp crushed red pepper (I used 1/4 tbsp)
1/8 tsp salt
1 tbsp chopped garlic
2 boneless chicken breasts, sliced or cubed
3/4 cup Marinara sauce
1/4 cup Alfredo sauce
1/4 cup peas
Parmesan cheese for garnish
1 lb Rigatoni Pasta
Note: if you don't want to buy 2 sauces, Bertolli makes a Parm Rosa sauce that can be substituted. Use 1.5 cups.

Cook pasta according to package

While noodles are cooking, in a saute pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add crushed red pepper, salt and garlic. Saute garlic long enough to carmelize. The original recipe called for more oil, I felt like there was too much. Use your own judgement.

Do not knock the pan causing 1/4 of it's contents to spill on the floor. Mistake #4. I had a photo of J cleaning the floor, but he thought the photo was unflattering, so being nice, I won't post it.

Add chicken to oil mix. Be careful of splattering oil.

Add Marinara first and then add Alfredo and bring to a simmer. 

Cook until sauce thicken slightly and chicken cooks through. This was a fun part, telling if the chicken was done while covered in sauce.

I mean...really? Mistake #5. At this point, J was just about dying laughing. Me...not so much. You can take a guess who cleaned up my messes.

Turn off flame and add peas into sauce and mix through. Add noodles to pasta sauce. Mix through. 

If you're looking for more heat, garnish with red pepper flakes like J did. I added  Parmesan cheese.

Serve immediately.


Sweet Potato Souffle

Holy crap, these are DANGEROUS! My sister and I decided this year for Thanksgiving we were going to change things up and skip the traditional sweet potatoes topped with marshmallows that my family always serves. This soufflĂ© was sinfully delicious...and when you see the ingredients, you will see why!!  This recipe will definitely be saved for special occassions as it doesn't scream healthy...but it's the holidays, it's OK to splurge!

If you saw my Thanksgiving Post, you'll know that prepping the meal was, well, chaotic. This was essentially the only recipe I was able to actually photograph and the sad part is I took photos up until the dish was finished.  Lucky for me, Jen did a trial run of the recipe before Thanksgiving and took a final photo then. Big thanks Jen for finding this awesome dish on  All Recipes AND for providing me with a final photo!

Sweet Potato Souffle
Serves: 8-10
Cook time according to All Recipes: 1 hour 20 mins
Cook time according to Rachel & Jen: 1 hour 35 mins
How difficult was this for Rachel? Pretty simple, just follow directions!

6 sweet potatoes, peeled
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup skim milk
1/2 cup melted butter &
1/3 cup melted butter
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1 cup chopped pecans


Place peeled potatoes in large stock pot. Fill with water covering 1 inch above potatoes.

Recipe calls to boil for 20 minutes. Potatoes must be VERY tender or you run the risk of killing your Kitchen Aid/mixer. And no, the metal should NOT be bent that way. We boiled an extra 15 mins. Test by sticking a fork in a potato to see how tender it is. Drain water.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 2 qt casserole dish.

Place potatoes in a mixing bowl. Using either a stand mixer or handheld mixer and beat on low until potatoes begin to break up. Increase speed to medium until potatoes are smooth.
Reduce speed to low and add sugar, milk,  1/2 cup butter, vanilla, eggs and salt. Mix well.

Do NOT clean off the potato remains on the beater. Those are the "fibers" and should not get mixed in.

Pour sweet potato mix into casserole dish.

To make the topping, in a small mixing bowl, combine brown sugar, 1/3 cup melted butter, flour and pecans. Pour mixture over the top of the potatoes.
Bake for 40 minutes. Serve immediately!


Happy Thanksgiving!

Michigan bound!

What a whirlwind of a week! I love the holidays, but living across the country from my entire family can be hard, especially this time of year. Luckily, I work for a show that breaks for Thanksgiving, so I was able to go back home (sans laptop...GASP!) for 5 days.  There was so much prepping, cooking, eating, drinking, catching up, shopping, playing with puppies and and meeting Magic Johnson, I am exhausted! I could definitely use a vacation from my vacation.

Yep, that's right! Magic!

Love seeing these two faces when I go home! Duke does too!

For the first time, I was actually trusted enough to help plan and cook Thanksgiving dinner with my sister, Jen.  I thought this would be a great opportunity to work with a Thanksgiving dinner veteran to get some new dishes on the blog. I had this  great idea that I was going to blog and document every dish we made.  Yeahhh...was I ever clueless as to how much work went into making this  feast and completely oblivious as to how incredibly busy we were going to be! 

Once family members started to arrive and it began to get chaotic, in an effort to salvage the blog, I thought I would just take final photos. Before I knew it, pies were being put in bedrooms because there was no room in the kitchen! I'd like to say I decided to just set the blog aside and focus on the food, but in reality, I just got so in the zone, I forgot.


Overall dinner was a HUGE success...minus the part when I had to microwave some of the turkey because it got cold. BUT I blame my family for spending longer on appetizers than my sister and I anticipated. Whoops!! Luckily, it was still delicious and everyone enjoyed.  I was able to get some photos of one new dish my sister and I tackled together, Sweet Potato Souffle. That post detailing how we almost broke my sisters Kitchen Aid Mixer to come later this week.

Waiting patiently for droppings

I wanted to share a very sweet and touching toast my Grandpa Irv gave at dinner. As the head of the family, you can tell just how proud he is of all of us. I hope you all got to have as great of a holiday as I did!


Great Aunt Bea's Sweet & Sour Brisket

Well, who would have thought that making a brisket so tender and full of flavor was easy??!! Not me! The hardest part of this meal was actually finding a grocery store that carried beef brisket.  After Googling from the parking lot of the 2nd grocery store I went to, I found Mr. Kosher Meats who supplied me with this 4.6lb all beef brisket. Yes, this was the smallest one they had. 

I make a lot of chicken and a lot of dishes that have ground turkey as the main meat source. It was time to finally learn how to make something more challenging and what better than my Great Aunt Bea's  brisket recipe?  This meal did require a trip to Bed Bath & Beyond because a roasting pan, I did not have.  I also bought an electric carving knife, but low and behold, this brisket was so tender, J was able to use a regular carving knife to slice it.

My sister, my aunt and I when we went to see the Statue of Liberty.
Check out the Twin Towers behind us...crazy!
My great Aunt Bea was an amazing woman who just recently passed away at the age of 99. She lived in NYC and her brisket was always a staple when we went to visit. I was lucky enough to spend the summer of 2011 in NYC for work and I got to spend a lot of time with her. I'd give anything to be able to call her now and tell her what a success the brisket was. I know she would be proud. 

I also owe a BIG thank you to my sister, Jen, and my mom for all their help and guidance while making this. I might have called & texted them A LOT.

Great Aunt Bea's Sweet & Sour Brisket
Serves: 4-6 (depending on the size)
Cook time: 3 hours 
How difficult was this for Rachel? Surprisingly easy!

1 all beef brisket, flat cut (recommended 4 lbs)
1 bag small carrots
2 Russet potatoes, sliced

2 large yellow onions
2 garlic cloves
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white vinegar
1 cup ketchup
salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Combine all ingredients under sauce in a blender. Blend until completely smooth.

In a very well greased roasting pan, place carrots &  potatoes evenly along the bottom.

Pour 1/3 of the sauce over potatoes & carrots and mix well so your potatoes don't burn in the oven.

Place brisket on top of carrots & potatoes.
Please ignore our leftover Halloween candy that made it into the upper right hand corner of the photo.

Pour the rest of the sauce over the meat. Make sure to completely cover.

Cover the pan in tinfoil and bake for at least 3 hours. 

Our oven cooks quickly, be sure to check your meat before carving, hence the slice in the middle.
Your potatoes and carrots should also be very tender.
Carve going against the grain, you may have to cut corner to corner.

Serve immediately!