Apple Blondies

When life (or your co-worker) hands you apples, make apple blondies!

My co-worker picked a pile of these fabulous fresh apples for me and I couldn’t figure out what to do with them.  I was looking for something sweet but also a little different, so when a pinterest search brought me to this fabulous recipe from Nums The Word I was sold.

I’m a huge fan of blondies – they are usually fluffier/fudgier textured than a true “bar” and generally super easy to make.  Light a pumpkin candle while making these and you will check all of the fall boxes 😉



Apple Blondies

Recipe by Nums the Word

 – 3/4 cup butter, melted
– 1 1/2 Cup packed brown sugar
– 1 1/2 Cup white sugar
– 3 eggs
– 3 tsp vanilla extract
– 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
– 3/4 tsp salt
– 3 tsp baking powder
– 3 Cups flour
– 3 Cups chopped apples (peeled, tart apples work best)
– Topping: 1 Tbl white sugar & 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

– Prehead oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9×13 inch pan with cooking spray
– Mix the butter, brown sugar, and 1 1/2 cup white sugar in a large bowl
– Add the eggs, vanilla, cinnamon, salt, and baking powder (mix well)
– Mix in the flour – not the batter will be thick, that’s OK!
– Add apples and mix well (batter should begin to thin-out)
– Spread evenly in a pan and sprinkle remaining sugar / cinnamon on top
– Bake 45 minutes or until cooked, let cool and enjoy!



Best Chocolate Cake in All the Land

Now I know this title is bold, but there is some research to back this claim.  Way back when my friend asked me to make a cake for her.  Some back-story on said cake: her dad had tried a bunch of different chocolate cakes in an effort to find the BEST one, and behold this amazing Bundt cake recipe!

I used to think Bundt cakes were weird old-people cakes that lacked the best part: frosting, but my first white chocolate raspberr bundtini from Nothing Bundt Cakes and this recipe proved me wrong!  They are extremely moist (sorry for those who hate that word) and don’t need to disguise themselves in frosting because they are just that good!

It is my mom’s birthday this weekend and she likes chocolate cake, so with some creative gmail searching I found this gem from old e-mails!


Thanks to Emily and Lee for sharing with me 🙂

Now quick to make the cake before I have to head to work – and note I had the cutest little helper this morning, all dressed in her Gopher Football sweatsuit in honor of homecoming weekend 😉

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Chocolate Bundt Cake


 – 3 Eggs
– 8 oz. sour cream
– 8 oz. heavy whipping cream
– 1/2 bag mini chocolate chips
– 1 large package Jello pudding mix (not the instant, cook and serve)
– 1/3 cup butter flavored Crisco, melted; plus additional to grease the pan
– 1/2 tsp almond extract (optional, gives cherry-like flavoring)
– 1 Box fudge cake mix
– powdered sugar to sprinkle on top


 – Preheat oven to 325 degrees
– Grease a bundt cake pan with crisco until fully covered
– Melt the 1/3 cup Crisco and put into a large bowl
– combine all remaining ingredients except the powdered sugar
– pour into greased bundt cake pan and spread until even, then bake for 55 – 60 min.
– Let the cake cool at least 30 minutes, then remove from the pan and sprinkle top with powdered sugar (if you sprinkle too early the powdered sugar will melt and it won’t look as fancy)
– Enjoy!


4th of July Trifle

So first to address the obvious…I’ve been 100% MIA.  I’ve barely been cooking and any photos I do take are of my sweet baby girl.  Month one was spent in the NICU, month one and-a-half was spent getting to know one another, and month two was spend wondering what demon had possessed my baby and how to make her stop crying.  BUT we have turned a big corner and my sweet little girl is back.  We had a neighborhood party a few weeks ago which was a perfect excuse to get back into recipe-ing!

My sister introduced me to this lovely trifle from Skinnytaste a few years ago and it is the best – easy, refreshing, and beautiful.  The perfect summer dessert and even better for the 4th of July!  I made this along with a chocolate version (made-up recipe below) for the party and both were a hit!

Enjoy your holiday and cheers to another year ‘Murica 😉

Red, White, and Blueberry Trifle from Skinnytaste

– 1 Angel food cake (roughly 10oz) cut into pieces
– 2 Pints strawberries, sliced
– 2 Pints blueberries
– 1 1/2 cups cold water
– 1 4oz package white chocolate or cheesecake instant pudding
– 12 oz light cool whip

*note the recipe called for sweetened condensed milk, I skipped that to keep it lighter and couldn’t tell!

– Whisk the pudding and cold water for 2 minutes until thickened, then fold-in the Cool Whip
– Arrange half of the cake pieces in the bottom of a large bowl or trifle dish if you are fancy 😉
– Add half of the blueberries then spread the pudding mixture on top of the blueberries
– Top with a layer of strawberries
– Repeat with the remaining cake, pudding mixture, then blueberries/strawberries
– serve cold!

And here is a made-up chocolate version:

Chocolate Trifle

 – 1 box of your favorite brownie mix, baked and cut into chunks
– 1 12oz container of light Cool Whip
– 1 4oz package sugar free chocolate pudding
– 1 1/2 cups cold water

 – Whisk together the water and pudding for 2 minutes and fold-in Cool Whip
– Place a layer of 1/2 of the brownies, then spread with 1/2 of the pudding mixture
– repeat with a layer of brownies, pudding, and finally topping with a light layer of brownie crumbs
– serve chilled!

Mini Date & Goat Cheese Cups with Bacon

Bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with goat cheese are one of my favorite appetizers/party tricks.  They are the perfect combo of sweet and savory plus who doesn’t love goat cheese?  I’ll admit many people aren’t too pumped about trying a date, but everyone loves them once they try them!  The only down-side to these tasty treats is that they can be a bit putsy (and messy) to make – you have to slice each date, stuff with goat cheese, wrap with bacon, and bake for several minutes.

In looking for new recipes for a party I found these little gems from Well Plated and thought they would be much easier but still provide the same flavor.  I was right, these are my new thing, and I LOVE mini fillo cups so they were even better!

If you are looking to impress people but not go to a ton of work I’d recommend these!

Mini Date & Goat Cheese Cups with Bacon


  • 4 slices bacon, cooked and chopped
  • 1 1/2 Cups dry red wine
  • 1 Tbl honey
  • 5 ounces (or one package) dried, pitted dates
  • 2 boxes Athens mini fillo cups (in the freezer section)
  • 8 ounces goat cheese
  • fresh thyme (optional)


  • Cook the bacon however you prefer (I bake mine at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes) and chop when cooled
  • Meanwhile, heat the wine and honey in a saucepan over medium heat until combined
  • Add the dates and bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes until they begin to plump-up, stirring occasionally
  • Remove the dates with a slotted spoon and dice when cooled (they become a bit of a paste which is fine)
  • Keep the fillo cups in the plastic package and fill the bottom of each cup with goat cheese using a spoon (or your fingers)
  • Top with date mixture and sprinkle with bacon
  • Garnish with thyme (optional)
  • Serve immediately or refrigerate up to 4 hours

Sidebar Jammie enjoyed watching me cook 🙂



3 Perfect Sides for Summer

Spring is in the air in Minne – this weekend we were graced with 60+ degree sunny weather and it was glorious.  The neighborhood was buzzing and the smell of grilling filled the air – I think it is finally safe to put the winter coats away (knock on wood)!

I was invited to a wine club BBQ on Saturday with a fantastic group of women I met at work (shout-out Beth and Jamie for hosting!) and was asked to bring a side to share.  My sides as of late have all been butternut squash based or comfort foody so I had to dig into the recipe book to pull-out some of my summer go-to’s!

Below are 3 summer-friendly, (relatively) healthy side dishes.  I ended-up making two sides for the party, and one to just have around to bring to work.



1.) Buffalo Chicken Quinoa Salad

I feel like buffalo anything was kind of a “thing” for awhile, and this was my go-to side dish about 4 years ago.  Well cool or not I’m still a huge fan of buffalo chicken and love that this recipe from Half Baked Harvest is a bit different but still fairly healthy!  I pulled this guy out from the bottom of my Pinterest board and it was a hit!

It can be served as a side or the leftovers are perfect for lunch as well 🙂

*Note I skipped the cabbage, and I used a food processor to break-down the carrots.  I’ve found shredded carrots can be too tough and big in the salad.

2.) My Family’s Famous “Healthy Salad”

I’m not exactly sure where this recipe came from (I think my aunt’s friend Kathy?) but has been a staple summer side at the lake since I was a kid.  I’m sure it at one time had a different name, but the recipe card I have literally says “healthy salad.”  It is super flavorful, colorful, easy to make, pretty healthy (hence the name) and the beauty is that it stays good for 2-3 weeks in the refrigerator!

I love to eat it over spinach as a salad for lunch at work 🙂


  • 1 15 oz can peas
  • 1 15 oz can white (shoepeg) corn
  • 1 15 oz can french-style green beans
  • 2 oz pimentos (they come in 4 oz jars)
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 chopped green pepper (yellow or red works as well)
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper


  • Drain corn, peas, green bean, and pimento then set aside in a medium bowl
  • Chop onion, pepper, and celery and combine with canned vegetables
  • In a small saucepan, stir together red wine vinegar, olive oil, sugar, salt, and pepper over low to medium heat until sugar is dissolved
  • Take off of heat and pour over vegetables, cool and refrigerate
  • Salad stores in refrigerator for 2-3 weeks

3.) Whole Wheat Veggie Mac & Cheese

I am a HUGE mac & cheese lover and for this recipe mixed some tricks from my Aunt Honey and some veggies into this creamy recipe from Macaroni and Cheesecake.


  • 2 cups dried pasta (I used whole-wheat elbow noodles)
  • 2 1/2 cups skim milk (I used almond milk and it turned-out fine)
  • 1/4 lb american cheese, cut into chunks*
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1/2 red pepper, diced
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1 cup broccoli florets, chopped


  • In a saucepan add pasta and milk, bring to a simmer and cook until noodles are soft, around 20-25 minutes – be sure to stir frequently and make sure the milk never comes to a boil
  • While the pasta is cooking, saute the veggies with a drizzle of olive oil (and a sprinkle of garlic powder) over medium heat for 2-3 minutes until soft
  • Remove the pasta/milk from heat and add the cheese a little at a time, stirring until creamy.  Add the salt, dijon, and veggies and mix until combined.  You can add more milk as needed based on your creamy-ness preference

*the recipe called for 1 cup loosely shredded cheddar cheese, but as a trick from my Aunt, I used 1/4 lb yellow american cheese.  You get it at the deli counter, and just ask for it in a block vs. sliced (they look at you a little weird but it is worth it).  It melts so much better!



4th of July Brunch Win – Fruit and Cream Cheese Tarts

I grew-up in a lake town “up North” and the 4th of July is kind of a thing for my family.  In case you aren’t sure where “up North” actually is, it is how Minnesotans essentially describe anywhere north of about Alexandria and general lake country.  Or maybe best described by the photo below:


My dad once said that the 4th of July was his favorite holiday – food, drinking, and good company without the pressure of gifts or formal entertaining.  I have to say I agree with him (although Christmas will always have a special place in my heart).

We have a pretty decent crew getting together to celebrate freedom and I opted to take-on Sunday brunch.  I have no shame in over-doing the red/white/blue food theme and in general (as I’ve said over and over) love bite-sized food.  So when I found these cute fruit and cream cheese pastries from Just a Taste I had to give them a try!

Fruit and Cream Cheese Tarts


  • 6 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 2 Tbl sugar
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 sheets (one package) frozen pastry sheets (like these)
  • 1 1/2 cups fruit of choice
  • 1 large egg


  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  • With a mixer, combine the cream cheese, sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest, and vanilla until creamy
  • Unfold the pastry sheet, and using a glass or cookie cutter (depending on what size pastries you want) cut-out circles **I used a glass that allowed 9 per sheet
  • Place the circles on a parchment-lined cookie sheet, around 2 inches apart
  • Lightly cut a border into each pastry near the edge and poke the center gently with a fork **The scored border is key to help the tart rise or “puff” properly along the edges
  • Spread the cream cheese mixture on each pastry and top with the fruit of your choice  **Be sure the fruit is properly dried so it doesn’t bleed
  • Mix together the egg and a spoonful of water (to create an egg wash), and brush the exposed edges of each pastry
  • Bake 15-18 minutes, until golden brown and puffy

Enjoy, and happy 4th!

Soft Pretzel Bites & Beer Cheese Dip

Last night my amazing neighbors got together for a progressive dinner!  What is a progressive dinner you might ask?  Here is the definition according to Wikipedia:

A progressive dinner (US) or safari supper (UK) is a dinner party with successive courses prepared and eaten at the residences of different hosts. Usually this involves the consumption of one course at each location. Involving travel, it is a variant on a potluck dinner and is sometimes known as a round-robin.

Basically it is a fun spin on the classic Midwestern potluck and a great way to spread the hosting love across different people!  Also from now on I am going to refer to it as a safari supper, because that sounds more wild 🙂


The neighborhood crew!

I was designated by my husband to make appetizers (which I was pumped about)!  I had been traveling all week for work so I needed something not too crazy, but the rest of the crew was stepping-up their food game so I also didn’t want to just buy chips and salsa.

I have been craving pretzels and beer cheese dip so I decided to give it a whirl!  I combined two recipes on trusty-old Pinterest (because ain’t nobody got time to home-make the pretzels).  The pretzel recipe was from the Pillsbury site and the beer cheese dip from Fox and Briar.  They turned-out great, and were even good for breakfast Sunday as a hangover snack 🙂

Pretzel Bites


From Pillsbury

  • 1 can refrigerated pizza dough
  • 1/3 Cup baking soda
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 2 tsp sea salt



  • Heat oven to 450 degrees
  • Spread dough on a lightly floured surface until flat
  • Using a pizza cutter, slice about 1/2 inch by 3 inch strips (roughly 9 width-wise and 4 length-wise)
  • Roll each strip until it is skinny and slightly lengthened
  • “Tie” each strip into a knot and set aside
  • In a medium saucepan, bring the water to a boil and add the baking soda
  • Drop the knots into the water (5-6 at a time) for about 30 seconds or until they start to puff-up
  • Remove the knots from water with a slotted spoon and place on a greased cookie sheet
  • Sprinkle with the salt, and bake 10-12 minutes until golden brown

Beer Cheese Dip


From Fox and Briar

  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 3/4 cup grated white cheddar
  • 3/4 grated mozzarella, divided
  • 1/4 Cup beer of choice (I used Wisconsin’s finest Spotted Cow so I could finish it while cooking :))
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • a few dashes of hot sauce


  • Heat oven to 350 degrees
  • Combine the cream cheese, white cheddar cheese, 1/2 cup of the mozzarella, beer, garlic powder, and hot sauce (using a mixer is the easiest)
  • Transfer to an oven-safe baking dish and top with the remaining 1/4 cup mozzarella
  • Bake 15 minutes or until top is melted and started to brown


Five Summer-Friendly Freezer Meals

Ahh, summer is finally in the air here in Minne!  Which means the grill is going and our typical weeknight meal consists of grilled chicken and whatever frozen vegetable I can find in the freezer.

Typically my husband and I eat healthier in the summer, but ever since I got back from a long work trip I’ve been eating horribly.  Basically whatever I can find in the cupboard/eating out/just plain old unhealthy-ness.

Essentially I’ve been a super slacker in the cooking department lately, so when two of my friends had babies I figured it was the perfect opportunity to dust-off my imaginary apron and get back in the kitchen!

Quick side bar – you are probably wondering why babies lead to food.  Essentially I don’t know what people need with newborns so I just cook since that is more in my comfort zone.  I received some good feedback from my friend, Steph, when I delivered these meals to her – she said they got a bunch of food the first week the baby was born but then ran-out.  So if possible try to provide food maybe a couple weeks into the pregnancy (and of course freezer meals give them more flexibility).

Alright back to food – My go-to for freezer meals are usually a healthy take on comfort food.  So given the warm weather my goal was to find food that would seem fresh but was still freezer friendly.

Below are five Summer Friendly Freezer Meals (plus a couple of sides/desserts) that I gave a shot!  I spent $200 on groceries – but that made 3+ batches of each dish plus sides, so 15 complete meals (with at least two meals per batch) plus 4 batches of bars.  boom.  Here they are:

1.) Almond-Apricot chicken with Cherry Tomato Crisp

These are two recipes I was super into a few years back but haven’t made in awhile.  The chicken is a nice change of scenery (and who doesn’t love goat cheese?!) and the cherry tomato crisp is a colorful yet easy side dish.

I didn’t take the best pictures, but I promise both are tasty!

Almond-Apricot Chicken


  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 3/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 2 ounces goat cheese
  • 1/2 cup dried apricots, cut into small pieces (about 1/2 of a package)
  • 1/3 cup plain breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil


  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  • In a small bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, 1/4 cup of the almonds, goat cheese, and apricots.  Season with a dash of salt and pepper.
  • Lightly beat the egg and place in a small bowl
  • On a plate, combine the breadcrumbs and remaining almonds
  • Create an assembly line of sorts with the chicken breast, apricot mixture, egg, and finally the plate with the bread crumb/almond mixture
  • Cut a slit into one side of each chicken breast, deep enough to fill but making sure to not cut through the chicken breast
  • Stuff each breast with 1/4 of the goat cheese mixture
  • Dip each breast into the egg, then dredge in the breadcrumb mixture
  • Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat
  • Transfer each breast to the skillet and cook until golden, 3-4 minutes on each side
  • Bake for about 15 minutes until heated-through

**If you want to freeze, place chicken in a plastic bag and place in freezer.  To prepare, thaw and cook according to directions.

Cherry Tomato Crisp


  • 2 slices white sandwich bread
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 Tbl fresh parsley flakes
  • 1 Tbl olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp minced garlic
  • 5 cups cherry tomatoes


  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  • In a food processor, combine the bread, Parmesan cheese, parsley, olive oil, and garlic (season with salt and pepper)
  • Pulse until bread is chopped
  • In an 8×8 inch baking dish, arrange the cherry tomatoes in a single layer
  • Sprinkle with the bread crumb mixture
  • Bake until the crust starts to brown and tomatoes are tender, 20 to 25 minutes

**If you want to freeze, cover pan with cling wrap then tinfoil and place in freezer.  To prepare thaw and cook according to directions.

2.) Garlic-Marinated Chicken with Red Potatoes and Asparagus

This was my grill meal – nothing in this recipe is hard or crazy, but pre-marinating and cooking the potatoes just makes it easier!

Garlic-Marinated Chicken with Potatoes and Asparagus

Chicken Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 pounds chicken breasts (about 6)
  • 1 Tbl olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic (or 1 1/2 tsp minced garlic)
  • 2 Tbl white-wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 Tbl fresh thyme leaves, chopped

Chicken Directions:

  • Whisk together all marinade ingredients and combine with chicken
  • Let the chicken marinade for at least 10 minutes
  • Grill until browned or bake 350 degrees for about 30 minutes or until cooked-through

**To freeze, place the chicken in a plastic bag and place in freezer.  To prepare, thaw and cook according to directions.

Veggie Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 pounds small red potatoes, halved or quartered
  • 1 1/2 pounds asparagus
  • 1 1/2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp homemade Vinaigrette
    • 1/4 Cup white-wine vinegar
    • 1 Tbl dijon mustard
    • dash of salt/pepper
    • pinch of sugar
    • 3/4 Cup olive oil

Veggie Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  • Place the potatoes on a pan with a drizzle of olive-oil and a dash of salt and pepper and bake for about 30 minutes, flipping half-way through
  • In a large bowl combine the asparagus with 1 1/2 tsp olive oil.  Cook in a skillet over medium heat, 4-5 minutes until cooked through, stirring occasionally.  Once cooked, toss with 1 Tbl of the homemade vinaigrette.

**I cooked the veggies then froze with the vinaigrette on the side, serve with the chicken


3.) Crockpot Jambalaya

Ever since I had Jambalaya at a restaurant in Asheville, NC (at Mayfel’s, check it out!) I have been craving it.  It is comfort food but with plenty of spice, flavor, and protein.

I found this crockpot recipe on Pinterest from Spicy Southern Kitchen (can’t have a freezer meal blog without a crockpot meal!) and after some taste-testing I think it is a keeper!

4.) Spring Risotto with Peas, Mushroom, and Zuchinni

My lovely friend, Leigh, once told me that Risotto is the adult’s Mac & Cheese which is a fantastic description.  I usually don’t make risotto because honestly I think it takes way too long but multi-tasking while making it definitely helped and it was worth the time!

Spring Risotto with Peas, Mushroom, and Zucchini


  • 28 oz. reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 3 Tbl butter
  • 1-2 large zucchini cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 Cup chopped mushrooms
  • 1/2 Cup chopped onion
  • 1 1/2 Cups Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 1/2 Cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish


  • Heat broth and 2 1/2 cups water in a saucepan over low heat to keep warm
  • In a large skillet or pot, melt 2 Tbl of the butter over medium heat
  • Add the zucchini and mushrooms (season with salt/pepper), and cook until veggies are softened 8-10 minutes
  • Remove the veggies with a slotted spoon and set aside
  • In the same pan, reduce the heat to medium-low and add the onion.  Cook until soft about 5 minutes seasoning with salt and pepper.
  • Raise the heat back to medium and add the rice, cooking until translucent around the edges stirring continuously
  • Add the wine and cook until absorbed, about 2 minutes
  • Cook the rice by adding 1 cup of hot broth at a time (stir until the broth is absorbed before adding more).  This process will take 25 to 30 minutes
  • Add the zucchini, mushrooms, and peas until combined
  • Remove from heat, and stir-in the remaining 1 Tbl of butter and the Parmesan cheese

**To freeze, place in a plastic bag and place in the freezer.  Simply thaw and re-heat to prepare!

5.) Chicken and Broccoli Casserole

This is a recipe my mom used to make and one of the first recipes I made in college (which means anyone can do it)!  This one isn’t crazy healthy but good comfort food and the curry adds some good flavor!

Chicken and Broccoli Casserole


  • 2 packages frozen broccoli (I substituted a broccoli/cauliflower/carrot medley)
  • 6-8 cooked boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 cans cream of chicken soup
  • 1 Cup mayonnaise (I substituted Greek yogurt)
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp curry powder
  • 1/2 Cup cheddar cheese
  • 1 Cup croutons or bread crumbs


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Cook the chicken breast – place a small amount of water in a skillet and heat with the chicken breast around 45 minutes until tender (flip halfway through).  Once cooked chop into 1″ pieces
  • Cook the vegetables according to package directions, and spread in the bottom of a greased 9×13 inch baking dish
  • Place the chicken breast on top until the pan is covered
  • Mix together the soup, mayonnaise, (or Greek yogurt), lemon juice, curry powder, cheese, and croutons
  • Spread over the chicken until pan is covered
  • Bake about 1 hour (covered)

**To freeze, cover with cling wrap and tinfoil then place in the freezer.  To prepare, thaw and remove cling wrap, then re-cover with foil and bake according to directions.

OK finally onto the desserts!  In true Minnesota fashion I made two pans of bars.  When I lived in DC for a few years I realized that the term “bar” is not universal and the more I thought about it kind of doesn’t make sense.  Here is the description according to Wikipedia:

“Dessert bars, or simply bars or squares, are a type of American “bar cookie” that has the texture of a firm cake or softer than usual cookie. They are prepared in a pan and then baked in the oven. They are cut into squares or rectangles.  They are staples of bake sales and are often made for birthdays”

I chose a couple of bars that have been on my Pinterest board for awhile and they were great!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Bars from Bake or Break – they have a nice mild peanut butter flavor and are super soft/chocolate-y too!

Funfetti Gooey Bars from Crazy for Crust – these are basically a combination of funfetti cake with vanilla frosting and sugar cookies.  Super sweet but SO GOOD!

*Note the batter at first was super crumbly, but just stick with the mixing and it gets a bit thicker.  You still need to kind of “clump” (or press) it together.



Peanut Butter Cheesecake & Chocolate Brownie Mousse Dessert “Boats”

Ahh, spring is in the air in MN which means the Gopher Football spring game is right around the corner.  To celebrate and take advantage of the great weather our fabulous Gopher tailgate crew got together for a mid-season tailgate BBQ!


In true MN sports fashion the last few months have been a roller coaster for Gopher fans.  Our team boycotted their bowl game over a horrible assault incident, our new coach was fired for backing the team, then we hired the crazy coach that is Mr. PJ Fleck!

PJ seems to be bringing positive attention to Minnesota, and Gopher fans (like myself) have a new enthusiasm for the 2017 season.  However you can’t help but laugh at some of his puns.  I mean the guy literally said he “eats difficult conversations for breakfast!”


Alright you are wondering how this all relates to desserts – so back to our tailgate party.  I offered to bring a dessert and knowing two of his most common phrases are “oars in the water” and “row the boat” I decided I needed to somehow figure out a way to make a boat-shaped dessert.  Challenge accepted (let’s be clear almost 100% of the time I am competing with myself).

My Google and Pinterest searches kept bringing me back to this site using Old El Paso mini soft shell tortilla boats as the base.  I didn’t want to do ice cream, so I brought back the peanut butter cheesecake and chocolate brownie mousse desserts I made for one of my engagement parties!

They received comments like “flecking fantastic” and “elite” so I’m calling it a success!  See the recipe below – of course you could fill the boats with any of your favorite dessert fillings 🙂

Cheers, and Go Gophers!

Dessert Boats

“Boat” Base:


  • 20 (roughly two and a half packages) of Old El Paso regular or whole wheat soft shell mini taco boats *I found these at Super Target
  • 2 Tablespoons melted butter
  • One package chocolate almond bark
  • Optional: one cup chopped peanuts


  • Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees
  • Line cookie sheets with aluminum foil
  • Brush melted butter over each soft shell “boat” and place on the cookie sheet
  • Bake 5-8 minutes until “boats” are a bit crispy and the edges browned
  • Let stand to cool 10-15 minutes
  • Melt almond bark according to instructions and spread chopped peanuts on a plate
  • Once the “boats” are cooled, grab them carefully and dip the top edges into the almond bark then into the peanuts
  • Set upright and allow to set (10-15 minutes)

Boats are now ready for their filling!!

No-Bake Peanut Butter Cheesecake Filling:


  • 8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2/3 Cup creamy peanut butter
  • 2 Cups powdered sugar
  • 2 Cups whipping cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • Optional: chopped peanuts & melted chocolate for garnish


  • Beat whipping cream with a mixer until it starts to thicken and soft peaks form
  • fold-in peanut butter and cream cheese, mixing until combined
  • Add powdered sugar and finally vanilla, mixing until combined
  • Place filling in a piping bag or large plastic Ziplock bag
  • Pipe the filling into the “boats” (batch makes 8 to 10)
  • Top with crushed peanuts and drizzle melted chocolate (I used the leftover almond bark from dipping!)

Chocolate Mousse and Brownie Filling:


  • 1 Box of your favorite brownie mix, baked and cooled (you will need oil, eggs, etc. to bake it)
  • One box instant chocolate pudding mix
  • 1 1/2 Cups 2% milk
  • 1 Cup heavy whipping cream
  • Optional: top with melted chocolate


  • Bake the brownie mix according to package directions, set aside to cool
  • Beat the pudding mix and milk on medium speed until it is a pudding consistency
  • In a separate bowl, beat the whipping cream until it thickens and soft peaks form
  • Fold the whipping cream with the pudding mixture and put into a piping bag or large Ziplock bag
  • Crumble the brownies into “chunks” and place in the bottom of the boats (makes 8-10)
  • Pipe the mousse over/in between the brownie chunks
  • Drizzle with melted chocolate (again I used the left over almond bark)

*This recipe is also really good if you add 2-4 ounces of cream cheese!

Now you have your two types of boats!

For the “Oars”:


  • Pretzel sticks (32 – 40, two per “boat”)
  • Gummies (I used spiced gummies, 32-40 two per “boat”)
  • Almond Bark, melted according to package directions


  • Stick the pretzel into the gummy
  • Then dip the gummy into the almond bark until covered

Set on the the sides of the “boats” and you are ready!

**Note, these don’t taste very good – spiced gummies dipped in chocolate – my husband recommended using rolos instead and I would do that for future “boats”!

For the Sail:


  • Toothpicks
  • Paper
  • Hot glue or left over almond bark


  • Cut the paper into triangle or “sail” shapes
  • Hot glue (or I just used left over almond bark!) to stick the toothpick to the sail
  • Stick into the boats and you are good to go!

Dessert Boats



Freezer-Friendly Turkey and Veggie Enchiladas with Tex Mex Quinoa

A combination of craving Mexican and playing the “what’s in my fridge/pantry” game gave me the idea to make enchiladas!  I had several left-over veggies to use-up so I figured they would be a good way to put a twist on some enchiladas.

While I didn’t realize this until after the fact, these enchiladas give me the perfect opportunity to share an important public service announcement with you – you are likely folding your tacos/enchiladas/whatever-you-make-with-tortillas wrong!

If you didn’t know, there is an art to folding tortillas.  No one wants to pick up their taco or enchilada and have all of the filling fill out (ain’t nobody got time for that)!  I learned the “proper” way to fold a taco/enchilada from my friend Kayla!  Her family owns a fantastic Mexican restaurant in my home-town of Detroit Lakes called Miguel’s (pronounced Mi-gells, not mi-gwells FYI).

I couldn’t write this post with an enchilada that falls apart, so I called her mid-fold and ensured I got the details down to share with you.

So without further ado, here is the correct way to fold your tortilla (Kayla don’t judge, I’m sure I didn’t do it Miguel’s justice):

Step 1: Fill your tortilla and fold-in the “butt” side 1/4 way up the filling (and all this time you have been starting with the side…)


Step 2: Fold the top of the tortilla 1/4 of the way over the filling (for tacos you usually leave the top open)


Step 3: Fold the right-side of the tortilla all the way over the meat filling and use it to “scoop” or “slide” the filling to the right/center of the tortilla so it is nice and secured in there (can’t have your enchilada falling apart!)


Step 4: Roll the tortilla tightly to the left until it is fully rolled

Congrats folks you now know the inside scoop on enchilada folding from Detroit Lake’s finest Mexican establishment, and you are welcome 🙂

OK back to the recipe.  It really isn’t anything fancy but hit the spot and went really well with the freezer Quinoa I had made a double batch of for my friend – a great week-night meal and not crazy unhealthy!

Enjoy 🙂

Ground Turkey and Vegetable Enchiladas

Makes: 6-8 Enchiladas
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes


  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 3-4 mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • 3-4 green onions, chopped
  • 1/2 packet taco seasoning
  • 1 10 oz. can enchilada sauce
  • 1 10 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 7 oz. can diced green chiles, drained
  • 6-8 whole wheat taco shells
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup shredded cheese
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped (optional, for garnish)


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Heat ground turkey in a skillet over medium heat until browned then add taco seasoning (I only use 1/2 of the packet so the flavor doesn’t take-over).  Set aside
  • In a small skillet heat a drizzle of olive oil and add the onions – cook until translucent, 1-2 minutes then add the tomatoes and mushrooms, cook for 1-2 additional minutes until softened
  • In a large bowl combine the cooked vegetables with the cooked ground turkey and add the green onions, drained/rinsed black beans, and drained green chiles

Now get ready to get your hands dirty!

  • In the same saucepan you used to cook the vegetables, heat the enchilada sauce on low


  • Create a station with your enchilada sauce skillet, tortillas, and the meat filling readily available
  • Dip each side of the tortilla in the enchilada sauce so both sides are covered, then “wipe” some of the excess back into the saucepan


  • Lay the sauce-coated tortilla on a plate/working surface and fill with 1/4 to 1/2 cup meat and veggie mixture
  • Roll-up tortilla so all sides are closed (the “proper” way to do it above!)
  • Place into a baking dish and top with any remaining sauce and desired amount of cheese
  • Bake 10-15 minutes until bubbly and heated-through (*Option, cover and freeze – just thaw and re-heat when ready!)
  • Serve with your favorite side or this awesome Tex Mex Quinoa and enjoy 🙂