Sunday, November 27, 2011

Game Day Snack Week 12 - Chocolate Chip Cinnamon Mini Cakes

I got the recipe for this week from a coupon circular a few weeks ago. It was called Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake, but after making this and eating it, my husband and I can't figure out why it would be classified as coffee cake (unless since the instructions say to serve with coffee brings in the coffee part..), but they sure were tasty little afternoon treats. So, I am calling them mini cakes.

The recipe was very easy to make. It took me about 10 minutes to put all the ingredients together, and then 24 minutes to bake them.

They are easily transportable too!

I also had all of the ingredients in the house so I didn't have to buy anything special. That was great!

Here are the ingredients:

Non-stick cooking spray
2 1/2 cups Buttermilk pancake mix OR 2 1/2 cups light pancake mix
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup walnuts, finely chopped (optional, we did not use)

Here are the directions:

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F.

Coat an 8 or 9 inch square pan with non-stick cooking spray.

Combine the pancake mix, 1/3 cup sugar and chocolate chips in a medium sized bowl. Add in the water, sour cream and vanilla extract.

Blend well.

Using a cake scoop or an ice cream scoop, shape dough into 16 2-inch balls.

Place in 4 rows of 4 each in prepared pan.

Combine the topping ingredients in a small bowl and sprinkle over the dough.

Bake 24-26 minutes or until golden brown.

Cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Enjoy a sweet game day treat!

** Also, remember! For those of you sports fans who play fantasy baseball, is having a sale this weekend on its annual draft guide! This is the 3rd year this draft guide is being sold and it gets rave reviews! For just $6 you get a comprehensive draft guide electronically, with updates every 2-3 weeks until the baseball season starts. $5 through Monday night so hurry!!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Day Pancake Breakfast!

Every year my husband and I switch off families. When we eat with his family, we drive a few hours to Albany and get there around noon and eat in the middle of the afternoon. When it is my family, we only drive 10 minutes down the road and we eat around 5 pm.

So on the years when it is my family, we eat a bigger breakfast, then just a little mid-day snack and then a BIG dinner! This happens to be my year. Two years ago we went to i-Hop for pancakes since they had a gingerbread pancake I wanted to try and something else that my husband wanted to try for their special holiday pancakes.

This year we decided to budget and make our own pancakes at home since 1) we are just trying to budget in general, 2) we have to save for the little one coming and 3) black Friday deals for things we actually NEED break our budget a little. So instead of going out, we spent $2.19 for pancake mix (yes, we were going to cheat and just flavor up the mix instead of starting from scratch) and we used ingredients we had in the house.

And, it WORKED! We just ate a HUGE breakfast and it was delicious. My husband decided to use some of my blackberries I snack on and make cinnamon sugar blackberry pancakes. I decided to replicate the gingerbread pancakes I had two years ago. (And my pancakes turned out WAY more successful than his!!) We also made some tater tots and oatmeal. Yum!

So for the blackberry pancakes, all my husband did was mix up the pancake mix, then put blackberries on the pancakes once he dropped them on the griddle and sprinkled some cinnamon sugar on each pancake.

They were good, but needed a little more spice - so we either needed to mix the cinnamon sugar into the batter or add some stronger flavor like straight cinnamon or nutmeg or something. But we liked the tart blackberries with the pancakes.

Here is the (general) recipe I used for my gingerbread pancakes.
- One cup boxed pancake mix
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp ground ginger
- 2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
- 7 tsp brown sugar
- 3/4 cup water

Mix well and drop spoonfuls onto a griddle as usual.

To me, they tasted AMAZING! I was so proud of my effort to throw it together. I read two similar recipes online so I kind of combined them and winged it and it worked. And we have a bunch of pancakes leftover for the rest of the weekend! Yay!

I decided to add whipped cream and sprinkles to my gingerbread pancakes because that is how I was served at i-Hop and man, it was delicious. :-)

All in all, it was a great Thanksgiving morning. Next year, we will be eating on the road as we trek to Albany with an 8 month old.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Side Note for Those Who Play Fantasy Baseball!

For those of you who like the Game Day snacks, they were inspired a long time ago on my husband's fantasy sports website,

He does a draft guide every year for the baseball season and sells it for just a few dollars and it gets updated electronically every 2-3 weeks until the season starts.

So if you play fantasy baseball, head over to the Rotoprofessor and check out the coming draft guide - this is the 3rd year it is being released and it gets rave reviews! There will be a black Friday sale for the guide this year, so get yours now!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Molten Chocolate Surprise - A Kraft Recipe

The other day while I was at work, my husband sent this recipe to me that he got from the Kraft page on Facebook.

These little chocolate morsels looked delicious! We also had everything in the house already, so I knew I wanted to try and make them over the weekend.

That's just what I did Sunday right before dinner. I made these little molten chocolate cookie/cake things.

Being the craptastic baker I am, I was a bit worried, but these turned out fine except for two things. 1) Mine don't look as pretty as the ones in the picture on the link website because the batter leaked under the cookie in the muffin tin and covered some of it, so you can't see the cookie as well because they look browner from the batter, and 2) I managed to bake them for like, 1 minute too long so the center of my cookie was not as molten-y. Live and learn.

My husband better get back to baking soon because he is much better at it and I need him to be the baker for when our son needs stuff for school! I refuse to send him with embarrassing mess-ups! (Granted, he's not even born yet and we're talking a few years down the road but still, my husband can bake way better than I can. I need to stick to cooking).

The recipe was REALLY easy though, and takes less than a half hour to do. So it's perfect to surprise kids with after school or to whip up for right after dinner. And, it's just delicious!

So here's the recipe, straight from the Kraft website - I made no substitutions except using semi-sweet chips instead of squares of chocolate, but only because I had chips in the house.


4 squares BAKER'S Semi-Sweet Chocolate
1/2 cup butter or margarine
2 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
1 cup powdered sugar
1/3 cup flour
12 CHIPS AHOY! Cookies
1/2 cup thawed COOL WHIP Whipped Topping


Heat oven to 425°F.

Microwave chocolate and butter in large microwaveable bowl on HIGH 2 minutes or until butter is melted.

Stir until chocolate is completely melted.

Beat whole eggs, yolks, sugar and flour with whisk until well blended. Gradually beat into chocolate mixture.

Line 12 muffin pan cups with paper liners; spray with cooking spray.

Place 1 cookie, upside-down, on bottom of each cup; cover with batter.

Bake 8 minutes or until cakes are firm around edges but still soft in centers.

Cool in pan 1 min. Carefully remove cakes from pan.

Invert into dessert dishes; remove paper liners.

Serve topped with Cool Whip.

There is a little hint at the bottom of this recipe on the website that says you can make the batter ahead of time and refrigerate it for up to 24 hours. When you are ready to bake, just pour the batter over the cookies - so this makes it really easy to do during a dinner party!


Game Day MEAL Week 11 - Hearty Mac n Cheese Bake

Sorry for the delay, but with our team on at 8:30 pm (EST) tonight, my husband found no reason to hurry me along in making a snack for while he was watching football. So instead, we have something we can eat for dinner! A hearty Mac n Cheese bake - yum!

It's definitely very easy and it could be even easier depending which route you go. I cheated today (after cleaning up our backyard and getting all our patio furniture into the shed for winter) and used Kraft Mac n Cheese as my base.

If I wasn't feeling so lazy, I probably would have made the Mac n Cheese from scratch - so if you do that, just start with making your favorite recipe with nothing else in it besides the noodles and cheese.

The other ingredients we used were frozen mixed vegetables, chopped up turkey pepperoni (Hormel!), mango chicken sausage (from Trader Joe's, my favorite, but you can use whatever sausage you like), breadcrumbs and a little shredded cheddar.

Once the Mac n Cheese was done, we used half a bag of frozen mixed vegetables that we nuked slightly in the microwave to get them a little softer and mixed it into the noodles. Then we added the chopped pepperoni and sliced sausage and mixed everything until it was evenly distributed.

Then we sprinkled some breadcrumbs on the top, along with some shredded cheddar and baked it at 350 degrees F for about 20-25 minutes, until the breadcrumbs looked golden and crunchy.

The end result was deeeeelicious! (We stole some bites since it is for dinner). The pepperoni we have has a slight kick so it added that, while the sausage gave it a sweet element. It's definitely a heartier way to eat Mac n Cheese that will keep you full for a long time.

Although quick and easy, this turned out well and we'll definitely be making it again. Though I might try making my macaroni and cheese from scratch next time when I am not feeling so lazy!

Enjoy and happy game day!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Turkey Meatloaf - 2 Ways!

Yeah, Thanksgiving is a little over a week away and I chose to make turkey meatloaf this week. Timing is everything! Well, I actually made 2 turkey meatloaves; one stuffed with stuffing and one stuffed with tater tots!! At least I can freeze these if I think we're going to start getting too turkey'd out.

We had ground turkey in the freezer that we needed to use, and we just purchased a bunch of Stove Top stuffing boxes thanks to a great sale at one of our local grocery stores and a fantastic coupon making each box under $1. So my husband and I knew we wanted to combine one of the stuffing mixes with the ground turkey - so I started my research for recipes.

I found a few basic turkey meatloaf with stuffing recipes so I used one and just changed it a bit to make it more of my own.

I also found a recipe using hash brown potato patties (no stuffing in this meatloaf, just the potatoes), and both my husband and I were intrigued. I knew I could substitute tater tots since we had a huge bag of them in our freeze that needs to be used as well.

So I split the package of ground turkey in half and used half for each recipe. We both sampled a piece of each for dinner and they turned out great! My husband favors the tater tot loaf over the stuffing one and I am the exact opposite. But the important thing is - they worked. And we have dinners for a few nights...or lunches if we make a meatloaf sandwich!

Each recipe will be listed below. I will include the links with the original recipes, but will post my versions with the changes I made.

Turkey Meatloaf with Stuffing Inside! (Based on original recipe here).


1 1/2 lbs ground turkey
1 box stuffing mix (I used Stovetop Sage flavor)
2 eggs
1/3 cup milk (water
1/2 cup onion (diced)
1/2 cup celery (diced)
1/2 cup dried cranberries
black pepper
dried parsley


Prepare stuffing according to directions on the box. Set aside when done.

Combine eggs, turkey, breadcrumbs, onion, celery, milk and cranberries in a large bowl. Mix well. (I didn't include an exact measurement of breadcrumbs, it is used as a binder so use just enough that the meatloaf will hold together).

Transfer half to a greased loaf pan, and form into a meatloaf shape.

Spread stuffing on top of that half of meatloaf mixture.

When covered, take the remaining half of the mixture and put it on top of the stuffing. Form into a meatloaf shape and make sure to seal the edges so the stuffing is completely inside the turkey.

When formed, sprinkle the pepper, nutmeg, paprika and parsley flakes on top. (Season to taste).

Bake uncovered for 50-60 minutes in a preheated 350 degree oven.

Remove from heat and allow to rest for ten minutes before slicing.

Tater Tot Turkey Meatloaf! (Based on original recipe here).


1 lb ground turkey
12 cup diced onion
10 3/4 Oz cream of mushroom soup (divided)
1 egg
2/3 cup breadcrumbs (I used panko)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder
tater tots (I used 14 of them)
shredded cheddar


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large mixing bowl, add ground turkey, onions, 1/3 cup cream of mushroom soup, egg, breadcrumbs, salt, pepper and garlic powder.

Mix together by hand until all ingredients are well blended.

Coat an 8 x 13 or 10 x 13 casserole dish with non-stick spray.

Press half of the meat mixture into a long rectangle in the dish.

Position the tater tots from the center out. There should be an inch or at least a half inch of meatloaf all around the edges, and you can add meatloaf where needed.

Spread the rest of the cream of mushroom soup evenly over the tater tots. Try not to get the soup on the meatloaf.

Carefully press the rest of the meat mixture flat between your hands and place piece by piece over the tater tots until completely covered.

Bring the edges of the meatloaf together, pinch and smooth out bumps. No soup should peek through.

Sprinkle a small amount of shredded cheddar over the top if desired.

Place casserole dish uncovered in oven. Bake for 1 hour.

Let the meatloaf rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Since both recipes baked at the same temperature and for the same amount of time, I was able to prepare both and then bake them together, which made it easy to do 2! I would say preparation for each only took about 10-15 minutes, so it was about a half hour total of prep and then baking. Definitely something to do when you are home for a good few hours and not trying to throw together dinner after work.

All in all they turned out well and we'll be making them again! I could see the stuffing one being used for Thanksgiving as an alternative to a regular turkey for those who opt for a "different" Thanksgiving!


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Game Day Snack Week 10 - Cranberry Habanero Cheese Spread

Today's recipe is, if I do say so myself, absolutely delicious. I decided to make it somewhat Thanksgiving themed since Thanksgiving is coming up and people may also be looking for good appetizers to serve before the big feast. So I found a list of things I could make with what I had in the house with only having to purchase one or two things, since my husband and I are trying to budget this month and buy only what we really need.

My husband picked this recipe, which I got from the Taste of Home website. This recipe was originally called Cranberry Jalapeno Cheese Spread, but it became my own creation and renamed Cranberry Habanero Cheese Spread with the substitutions I made on a few of the ingredients, which I will discuss below.

I will be posting my version of the recipe, so if you want to go with the original version, use the link provided above.

This recipe is also very, VERY easy to make and takes about 20-25 minutes, plus a little cooling time. It is a fantastic dip for crackers, chips, celery or whatever you like using. It can be served warm or cool, and is great for tailgating or a party appetizer. (I myself am thinking about making this for Thanksgiving this year!)

The substitutions I made were because I didn't have an exact ingredient in the house, or because I don't like something, like jalapenos. That is my husband's thing. He likes spicy peppers. So instead, we decided to use the Mango Habanero jelly I have in the house to cook with from Really Good Foods. It was a good compromise because 1) I didn't have to go buy a jalapeno, 2) I didn't have to force myself to try and eat something with fresh jalapeno in it and 3) we both love this jelly which is sweet with just the right amount of kick, and when you mix it with the cheese, it cools it down a bit.

I also substituted Trop 50 Mango Pineapple juice for the regular orange juice that the recipe calls for, but only because that was the only citrus juice we had in the house. We debated buying a small travel bottle of OJ but in the end, decided the juice we had in the house would mesh better with the mango habanero jelly.

Otherwise, I used what the recipe called for. The end result was seriously, fantastic. I loved it! My husband and I ate it with some home made pita chips and celery, and we have a little left over which I will definitely be using for a snack at work this week. It's also a HEALTHY recipe! 2 tablespoons only equals 88 calories! So it's delicious, filling with celery and healthy. Can't beat that.

I think we'll be making this again in the future for sure. I liked it too much not to!


And now, the recipe (remember, my version, not the original!)


1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup Trop 50 Mango Pineapple juice
2 teaspoons Mango Habanero Jelly from Really Good Foods (or a spicy fruited jelly if you have one!) ** use more teaspoons for a spicier treat!
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated orange peel
1/4 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
1 package (8 ounces) reduced-fat cream cheese
Assorted crackers or vegetables


In a small saucepan, combine the first seven ingredients.

Bring to a boil.

Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes or until thickened. (This could take less than 10 minutes, it did for me).

Remove from the heat; cool completely.

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese until fluffy. Beat in cranberry mixture until blended.

Serve with crackers or vegetables.

Yield: 2 cups.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Spinach and Artichoke Lasagna Roll-Ups

After my first lasagna ever, the butternut squash lasagna, that I made last week, I had a bunch of leftover lasagna noodles. I cooked the whole box, not knowing what I would need. So I knew that I would be making another lasagna before they went bad.

I stumbled across the website, Beth's Journey, while searching for spinach & artichoke lasagna recipes. I was looking for one that would use red sauce - I didn't really feel like going to buy a creamy Alfredo type sauce and that is what most of the recipes used. But this girl Beth, she used red sauce, and her post about these little roll-ups was so cute! Read it here!

I sent the recipe to my husband and we decided we would try them. At first, I was just going to make a simple spinach and pepperoni lasagna, but these looked more interesting and the pepperoni could be used another time. So I set about making them.

I did make some changes - as the original poster recommended, I used the sauce from the get-go. I also chopped up the spinach, artichoke hearts and cheese in my blender instead of just hand mixing them. I also added some oregano and crushed red pepper for some extra taste, since my husband and I tend to like things a little more seasoned. I also didn't tie the bundles together with a scallion string as she did, so I will omit that from the recipe I post below, and add the things I used. Please see the link above for the original recipe. I also added some Parmesan cheese, because I can't eat anything Italian without Parmesan!!

The recipe turned out well! My husband really enjoyed dinner and it was a good way to use up the rest of the noodles and ricotta cheese we had in the house from the butternut squash lasagna.

This was also pretty easy to make. I didn't have to take time cooking the noodles since I had already made them last week, I just gently soaked them in water to loosen them up. Blending the ingredients only took a few minutes and the assembly was a snap. It probably took me no more than 25 minutes to put these together and then about 25 minutes in the oven.

We also have some leftovers, so at least I know we have another dinner this week! Yum!

Here is the recipe! (My version - I didn't really use measurements)


lasagna noodles
about 1/2 cup part-skim ricotta
about 1/2 cup thawed chopped spinach
frozen artichoke hearts, chopped (not sure how many I used, a handful)
garlic powder (to taste)
marinara sauce
a sprinkle of light shredded mozzarella
a sprinkle of shredded Parmesan
crushed red pepper


Preheat your oven to 350ยบ F.

(If you have to cook your noodles, put a pot of water up and cook them for the minimum recommended cooking time)

Combine ricotta, spinach, artichoke, and garlic powder for filling. You can either hand chop everything, or mix it in a food processor or blender. I chose the latter for the quickest way to get this going. (I may have added a dash of oregano to the mixture after I blended it and decided it needed a tad more taste).

Once noodles are cooked, lay them out and sprinkle a tiny amount of crushed red pepper on the noodle, then evenly divide filling and place 2 inches from the bottom of each noodle.

Fold bottom of noodle up over filling and then roll the rest of the noodle around the filling, placing seam side down. Repeat for all noodles you are using.

Place bundles in a greased Pyrex or whatever vessel you are cooking them in. I also coated the bottom of the Pyrex dish with a layer of sauce.

After the bundles are in the dish, cover evenly with more sauce, oregano, shredded Parmesan and shredded mozzarella.

Bake for 25 minutes until cheese is melted and starting to brown.

Serve hot and enjoy!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Game Day Snack Week 9 - Sweet Potato Biscuits (a Paula Deen recipe)

My November Food Network Magazine was FULL of yummy things that I want to try. But one stood out for a game day recipe and that was Paula Deen's Fluffy Sweet Potato Biscuits.

I love sweet potatoes, and I love biscuits, and biscuits can easily be a fantastic game day snack. You can eat them plain, you can put spreads on them or you can dip them in things like flavored dip or chili.

The recipe was relatively easy. It took me about 40 minutes from start to finish, and I only had a little trouble at the end working with the dough (as usual, doughy products usually are my downfall but I succeeded today, just had a bit of trouble). And the only other "issue" was that for some reason, I do not have a round cookie cutter. I could have used a glass to form the biscuits, but decided to use my Star of David cookie cutter instead. Hey - it worked and now we have fun star-shaped biscuits!

The biscuits turned out delicious and my husband and I both really enjoyed them. Part of me wonders if I used too much milk (I think I did, if I didn't second guess myself at one point I think my biscuits would have been a tad fluffier).

All in all, we were excited to eat these today (in addition to my husband's favorite game day creation from last season, the Pepperoni Cheese Fries), and we are excited to eat the extra biscuits with dinner this week.

I could also see making these for Thanksgiving!

I am happy to say this recipe was a success after last week's meringue disaster...

And now... the recipe (from I did not alter this in any way but next time I might just to add my own spin :-)


3/4 cup cooked mashed sweet potato (about 1 large sweet potato)
1/3 to 1/2 cup whole milk, as needed
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small bits


Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 425 degrees F. Grease a baking sheet (with butter, oil or cooking spray).

In a small bowl, whisk together the sweet potato and 1/3 cup milk. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut in the butter with your hands, a pastry blender or two knives until the mixture resembles coarse meal.

Add the sweet potato mixture and fold gently to combine.

Add the remaining milk a little at a time until all the flour is moistened. The amount of milk you will need will depend on the moisture of the sweet potato. (This is where I second guessed myself. I poured in some of the remaining milk and mixed and wondered if I needed more. Thinking back, I think I shouldn't have poured the rest in...oh well!)

Sprinkle a small handful of flour on a work surface. Turn the dough out onto the surface and knead lightly 2 to 3 times with the palm of your hand until the mixture comes together. (This was the only part that gave me trouble because I suck at working with dough. At least the recipe turned out okay!)

Pat the dough out into a 1/2-inch-thick round.

Using a 2 1/2-inch-round biscuit cutter, cut the dough into biscuits. (Or Jewish Stars, haha!)

Gently re-roll the scraps and cut out more biscuits.

Place the biscuits on the prepared baking sheet and bake until light golden brown and firm to the touch, 12 to 14 minutes.

Serve these fluffy biscuits warm or at room temperature.


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Roasted Butternut Squash Lasagna - My FIRST Lasagna ever!

I didn't think I liked butternut squash. I don't like green or yellow squash so why would I? But when my husband and I were in Las Vegas last week, one of the buffets had butternut squash ravioli and I decided to try it. Guess what? It was delicious!

So this past weekend, when my husband and I were food shopping, one of the grocery stores had butternut squash on sale for 49 cents a pound. Despite our goal for the month of November to not spend much on groceries and finally clear out all of our cabinets from the stockpiles of food we have, we decided to go ahead and purchase a small butternut squash, lasagna noodles (I really wanted to make ravioli but I couldn't find wrappers for those) and a small container of ricotta cheese that luckily, was on sale.

I had my goal for Wednesday, the day I was off work. Make my very first lasagna ever. And a butternut squash one at that! I am glad I did it on a day off too...while easy, the recipe took time with all the oven time needed and it is not something that can easily be done after work.

I started my task around 2:30 pm. I didn't follow a true recipe (which I am super proud of because this is MY creation!) but I did look up briefly just how to form the lasagna and how to roast the butternut squash to make a puree.

I wanted to use a butternut squash puree instead of chunks of cut up butternut squash because I was trying to recreate the ravioli from Las Vegas.

So, I started. First I halved the butternut squash and scooped out the little area of its "guts." I fed my gerbils some of the butternut squash seeds and they went bonkers so I ended up saving most of the seeds, washing and drying them, and putting them in a baggie so they have some special treats for a little while.

Then I put the squash halves on a baking sheet with a little water and put it in a pre-heated oven at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes, until the squash was fork tender.

Then I scooped it out of the skin and put it in a blender with a blend of spices/seasonings (which I will write about below).

After that was ready, I started to assemble my lasagna. I can say it wasn't the prettiest lasagna ever made, but it was my first and I was darn proud of it. And my butternut squash puree came out pretty darn tasty if I say so myself!

I know the recipe was a success because my husband gobbled it up in no time. The one change we can both agree on for next time is maybe only using one layer of ricotta cheese instead of two because it overshadowed the butternut squash just slightly, but we could still very much taste the squash as well. But for a more stand alone butternut squash taste, I will probably use just one layer of cheese and two layers of the squash next time.

Now that I know I can make a lasagna, I just have to work on how to use the noodles for efficiently to make it look a little nicer. I got the taste part down!

And now, the recipe...


1 butternut squash
ricotta cheese
lasagna noodles
marinara sauce (whatever is your fancy, store bought, homemade, whatever!)
garlic powder
dried parsley flakes
Parmesan cheese


Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Half the butternut squash and scoop out the "guts" and seeds. Place the squash halves face down on a baking sheet and pour some water on the tray.

Roast for about 45 minutes or until fork tender.

** While this was going on, I had to cook my lasagna noodles because I did not buy the no boil kind. If you have the kind you need to cook, do this while the squash is roasting, drain and set to the side.

When tender, scoop the squash out of its skin and into a blender. I also added salt and pepper to taste , garlic powder to taste and a tiny pinch of nutmeg (no more than 1/8 teaspoon). I pureed the mixture for 20 seconds, then added some dried parsley flakes and pureed it until all mixed together and smooth.

Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Take whatever dish you are using to cook the lasagna in and put some sauce on the bottom. Put a layer of noodles on top of the sauce and then a layer of ricotta cheese and a layer of the butternut squash puree on top of the cheese. Follow with a small amount of sauce and a light sprinkling of oregano.

Add another layer of noodles, cheese and butternut squash. You can either stop with that layer or add a third. (Note, I only used oregano after my first layer, none of the others until I was finishing off the top).

Once finished layering, add your final topping of noodles and cover with sauce, a light sprinkling of oregano and a light layer of shredded Parmesan cheese.

Bake covered at 375 degrees F for 25 minutes, then remove cover and bake uncovered for about a half hour.

Serve hot and enjoy!!

If you want to make this to freeze, prepare it and do not bake it - freeze it after it is assembled. This can last for about 2 months. When ready to cook, thaw for 24 hours and bake as directed above.

Like Tapas? Try Julian Serrano at the Aria in Las Vegas!

Back in July, I wrote about a local Tapas restaurant near where my husband and I live that we really enjoyed.

But last week, when my husband and I took a quick jaunt to Las Vegas, we ate at an AMAZING Tapas restaurant in the Aria hotel called Julian Serrano. It was seriously delicious and it is a good thing we live across the country from there or else we'd be gaining a ton of weight monthly eating there.

Of course we looked at the menu before heading to Las Vegas, and we already knew we would be ordering my husbands favorite, which is Brava Potatoes, served with a spicy tomato and alioli sauce. It was a tad TOO spicy for me but overall, delicious. My husband loved it.

We also knew we'd be getting one of my favorites, traditional Spanish chicken croquetas. There was a béchamel in the croquettes which made them very creamy. They were delicious, but the ones I had while in Barcelona weren't AS creamy and I liked them a little better that way. I am such a croquette fan.

The last thing we KNEW we would order when at the restaurant was another favorite we discovered in Spain - Churros!! MMM...Churros served with chocolate. The difference between the thick chocolate that came with these churros and the chocolate served in Spain, is that this restaurant makes it spicy by adding paprika into the chocolate. It's not super spicy, or else I wouldn't be able to eat it, but it is enough to warm your throat. It was pretty good! Also, the churros here came lightly dusted with powdered sugar while the churros in Spain are coated with regular thick sugar granules. But we ate every last bite of these churros.

We needed some other plates to share, so we also ordered a Spanish tortilla, which was potatoes, eggs and onions. It was more potato to me than any egg, so I asked my husband to try it since he hates eggs and of course he swore it was too eggy (it wasn't). And once again, this plate did not disappoint.

We also ordered the Grilled Angus Flat Iron Steak which came with Japanese eggplant and a mushroom demi. This was one of our favorites for the night - seriously tasty and probably one of our top recommendations for anyone going to eat here.

Lastly, in addition to our churros with dessert, we ordered something called buñuelos, which are Spanish doughnuts served with a butterscotch caramel sauce. OMG, these were SO FRIGGIN GOOD. We were so full, but managed to also eat every single little doughnut. We couldn't leave anything behind!

The website suggests reservations, which we made, but we were seeing a 7:00 p.m. show at the Aria so we were eating relatively early. We made reservations for 5:30 p.m., but showed up around 5:00 p.m. on a Tuesday night and they had plenty of room to accommodate us early. More people came the longer we sat there and we left a little after 6:00 p.m. The service was fantastic - our waitress was so nice and answered every question we had and even just talked to us about our experiences in Spain a little.

The prices are definitely reasonable, unless you are like the table of 4 business colleagues next to us who ordered at least 20 or more plates. I kid you husband and I were cracking up because they just kept bringing out more and more. And at one point, one man asked "is this it?" and another man answered, "let's get through this and then we'll see!" HAHAH! I wish I was dining on their tab!

It's also casual since the restaurant is open to the lobby of the hotel. We had a fantastic time and hope that whenever we get back to Las Vegas, it is still there. In the meantime, anyone in the Vegas area or visiting the city of sin should definitely check it out.