Honey Lime Sweet Potato, Black Bean and Corn Tacos

Honey-Lime Sweet Potato, Black Bean, and Corn Tacos

Honey Lime Sweet Potato, Black Bean and Corn Tacos

Orange-tinted meat, diced tomato, and a few lettuce bit were my singular conception of the taco from age one to something-teen. Anyone else? Oh, I forgot something. The crunchy shell. The tooth-cracking yellow case—well, let’s not talk about that anymore.

I am so glad that at some point real tacos were introduced into my taco-impaired schema. You know, the kind with slow-simmered shredded meat, slathered in cheese, guacamole, and pico de gallo or garden salsa? And wrapped in a lovely, soft, flour tortilla? THAT kind of taco. (PS, if your idea of the idea of the exalted taco is still ground beef hidden in a yellow crunch-crunch, you might want to leave before I reveal this recipe. It’s probably not for you.)

Nothing will ever supplant a legit shredded-meat-cheese-and-salsa taco. But, the tacos I am about to share with you are a really fantastic way to change up your Taco Tuesdays. The flavors make for a fabulous fresh meal that will have you wondering why you never thought to put sweet potatoes in a tortilla before. (PPS—if your idea of sweet potatoes is still those squishy canned yams smothered in marshmallow soup, the idea of sweet potatoes in a taco is probably abhorrent. We need to fundamentally change your ideas about how sweet potatoes can look, smell, and taste. No mush, no marshmallows. Amen)

Honey Lime Sweet Potato, Black Bean and Corn Tacos

In this recipe, you’re going to peel and dice your sweet potato, coat it with some oil and spices, and place it on a tray in the oven to roast. Meanwhile, you’ll sauté a chopped onion to caramel-y perfection, add in the garlic, beans, and corn, and toss them in honey and lime juice. Then pull the sweet potatoes out of the oven and toss them into the skillet along with a little chopped cilantro. Serve with your favorite toppings (I’m thinking avocados plus some cotija/queso fresco or crema), and you’re done.  Once you’ve made this a couple times, it will become one of the fastest fresh meals you can make. It takes me only 20 minutes to get it on the table, largely because the recipe is easy to memorize and hard to mess up!

I never guessed the textures and flavors of honey, lime, sweet potatoes, black beans, corn, and caramelized onions could make such a delicious taco. Tell me what you think!

Honey Lime Sweet Potato, Black Bean and Corn Tacos

Honey-Lime Sweet Potato, Black Bean, and Corn Tacos


  • 1 ½ lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into 1/2 –inch pieces
  • 4 TBS oil, divided
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • ¼ tsp ground coriander
  • 1/8-1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
  • ½ tsp salt (more to taste)
  • ¼ tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped (1 cup)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup corn, drained (about ½ can)
  • 3 Tablespoons honey
  • 3 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (or more to taste)
  • Flour tortillas
  • Optional toppings: Diced avocados, cheese (such as cotija, queso fresco, feta, Monterey, pepperjack), fresh salsa or pico de gallo


Preheat oven to 425* F. Line a baking sheet with foil.

Place sweet potatoes on foil-lined sheet. Drizzle 3 TBS of the oil over the sweet potatoes and toss them with your hands until coated. Sprinkle the paprika, cumin, coriander, cayenne, and salt and pepper and toss with your hands again until coated evenly. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until tender.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1 TBSP of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté until they turn golden-brown and taste sweet. Add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds more. Reduce heat and add in the black beans, corn, honey, and lime juice. When everything is heated through, remove from the heat and stir in the sweet potatoes and cilantro. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve in warm tortillas with your favorite toppings.

Recipe adapted from Cooking Classy



Lemon Ricotta Blueberry Quesadillas

Lemon-Ricotta Blueberry Quesadillas

Lemon Ricotta Blueberry Quesadillas

“Mama, you made a REALLY AWESOME breakfast today!”

Those are words I do not hear often, my friends. 4-year-olds are not the easiest to please when it comes to food! It’s not surprising that blueberries evoked this response though. Blueberries are never, ever turned down by my purple-faced children.

The surprise was that the said preschooler actually ate non-disguised ricotta cheese for the first time ever. I guess today was just a good day.

Quesadillas are my no-brainer lunch. When I have no leftovers and I’m too brain-dead to think of anything else—which is frequently—I make quesadillas or peanut butter sandwiches. And yet, I had never thought to make a sweet quesadilla for breakfast. It is a seriously good idea folks. Once that tortilla is stuffed with honey-sweetened, lemon-infused ricotta and ripe blueberries, you’ll feel like almost like you’re eating blueberry cheesecake or sour cream & blueberry pie for breakfast. The butter-grilled tortilla adds a unique twist to otherwise classic flavors.

The best part is, like any good quesadilla, these blueberry quesadillas take only a few minutes to make. You can use any type of ricotta you please, but we use this fresh homemade ricotta, which tastes fantastic and is much more budget-friendly than commercial tubs.

I hope you will find lemon-ricotta blueberry quesadillas to be a worthy addition to your quesadilla repertoire. (Nothing quite beats my sister’s mushroom quesadilla, but we’ll leave those for another time.)

Lemon Ricotta Blueberry Quesadillas

Lemon-Ricotta Blueberry Quesadillas


  • 4 whole wheat flour tortillas
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1-2 Tablespoons honey (or more, to taste)
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 12 ounces fresh blueberries
  • butter to grease griddle


Heat a skillet or griddle over medium-high heat.

In a small bowl combine the ricotta, honey, and lemon zest.

Spread ¼ cup of the ricotta over a tortilla. Drop ¼ box of the blueberries over one half of the tortilla, then fold the other half of the tortilla over the blueberries, forming a half-circle. Repeat with the remaining tortillas.

Butter the hot griddle. Grill the quesadillas until the first side is golden brown, then flip and cook the other side. If the quesadillas are browning before they are heated through, reduce the heat. When both sides are golden and the filling is bubbly, remove from the griddle and enjoy.

Soft & Chewy Peanut Butter Cookies

Soft & Chewy Peanut Butter Cookies

Soft & Chewy Peanut Butter Cookies

When you are the designated chef in a home inhabited by cookie-lovers, you need an arsenal of awesome and reliable cookie recipes. Not being a real cookie aficionado myself, I require both variety and quality if I am going to labor over cookies. There’s no way I want to be eating chocolate chip every time one of my cookie monsters comes rooting through the kitchen and begging for a fresh dozen.

A few months ago I posted our favorite sugar cookie recipe. Those are some seriously good cookies! These Coconut-Lime & White Chip cookies are great if you’re craving something a little out-of-the ordinary.

But some days just require peanut butter. Everyone needs a great peanut butter cookie recipe. (Unless you’re allergic to peanuts, obviously). And guess what, I have one for you today (yeah, I know you saw it coming…).

Soft & Chewy Peanut Butter Cookies

These cookies are straight-up peanut butter, crackly on the outside and thoroughly soft and chewy on the inside. As my kiddos will inform you, mama doesn’t make crunchy cookies. You will have to look elsewhere if crunchy cookies you seek. We also love a good peanut butter and oatmeal cookie with chocolate chips, but those are for another day.

I used my favorite peanut butter, Adams Natural, for these cookies. I love Adams peanut butter because it is just that, pure peanut butter with a pinch of salt. You won’t find any added sugar or oil in there, unlike other brands of “natural” peanut butter. The Adams product is bold and still tastes sweet without the added sugar. It’s not the cheapest stuff, but I figure I’m paying for simple peanut butter instead of oil and sugar mixed in there. It works great in these cookies, but feel free to use any brand of peanut butter you like. Your results will just be a touch sweeter with most other peanut butters.

There aren’t any fancy tricks to this recipe. It’s just your typical cookie process, so if you’re craving some chewy peanut-buttery goodness and you have 15 minutes, go whip them up and tell me what you think!

Soft & Chewy Peanut Butter Cookies

Soft & Chewy Peanut Butter Cookies


  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • ¾ cup sugar, plus more for rolling cookies
  • ½ cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 Tablespoon milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt


Preheat oven to 350*.

In a mixing bowl or stand mixer, cream the butter and peanut butter until smooth. Add the sugars and beat until combined. Mix in the egg, followed by the milk and vanilla.

In a separate bowl combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients until well-combined.

Place a few tablespoons of sugar into a small bowl. Using your hands or a cookie scoop, form the dough into balls (about 1 ½ inches) and roll them in the sugar. Then place them on a baking sheet, allowing room for the cookies to spread.

Bake for 9-12 minutes, or until the cookies flatten and begin to develop cracks, but still look a bit doughy in the center. Take them out before they brown around the edges or they will start to become crispy.

Yield: 2 to 2-1/2 dozen

Butternut Curry Coconut Soup

Butternut Curry-Coconut Soup


Butternut Curry Coconut Soup

I don’t know why kids are so opposed to eating soups with, you know, pieces. Maybe it’s just genetic. My mom’s magic solution to getting us kids to eat her (delicious) soups was to puree them in the blender before filling our bowls. This applied to any kind of soup–be it beef stew, lentil soup, Italian, clam chowder, or vegetable, it went in the blender. Honestly, the thought of eating pureed beef stew or vegetable & noodle soup is pretty repulsive to me now. I can’t bring myself to puree my own kids’ soups because it just sounds so–ugh. Yet I can’t deny that my offspring seem to favor smooth, uninterrupted bowls of soup.

Fortunately there is a way to compromise. Occasionally I serve a soup that is by nature silky-smooth and completely tantalizing that way. This butternut curry-coconut soup probably has the most depth and full-bodied flavor of any soup I have had. I’ve tried a number of butternut or pumpkin and curry soups, but none of them quite made the cut. I think it is the variety of vegetables that make this one stand out, particularly the addition of a sweet potato (i.e. yam).

I try to avoid making the whole “even people who don’t like–insert food–will love this” claim on my blog because I think that is just asking for trouble. I see that said a lot, I actually think it has the effect of making people want to prove to you that they don’t like said food and you can’t make them. (Because not liking a food makes you superior? Beats me!) But that said, if sweet potato isn’t your thing, I will comment that you would be hard-pressed to detect sweet potato in this at all. It doesn’t taste like sweet potato, and the sweet potato is truly indispensable in giving the soup its rich, sweet, enticing flavor. It’s like it fills in a gap in the overall taste of the soup that just can’t be filled any other way.

If you already have roasted squash in the freezer, this recipe comes together very quickly. If you don’t, this post for directions on how to roast a  squash. If you don’t want to turn on your oven, you could use pre-cut squash from the store and add it along with the sweet potatoes.

Enjoy this creamy, fresh soup with rice, cilantro, shrimp, and/or roasted squash seeds as desired. And if you love soups made with winter squash, be sure to try another favorite, Roasted Winter Squash and Ham Bisque.

Butternut Curry Coconut Soup

Butternut Curry-Coconut Soup


  • 2 TBS oil
  • 2 medium-large onions, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, coarsely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 TBS mild curry powder
  • 2 quarts (8 cups) low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 TBS brown sugar
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 large butternut squash, roasted or peeled and chopped into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 teaspoon sriracha chili sauce
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 20 ounces coconut milk (about 1 1/2 cans)
  • Additional chicken broth as desired


Heat the oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add the onions and celery and saute until soft and translucent. Add the garlic, ginger, coriander, and curry powder and cook for 2 more minutes.

Add the chicken broth, brown sugar, sweet potato, squash, sriracha, salt, and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer until all of the veggies are tender, about 40 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.

Use an immersion blender to process the soup until smooth, being careful not to splatter yourself with hot soup. Or transfer to the jar of a blender and process in batches, being careful to vent the steam.

Stir the coconut milk into the soup and cook just until heated through. If you want the soup thinner, add additional chicken broth.

Serve with rice, cilantro, shrimp and/or toasted squash seeds if desired.

peanut butter granola

Peanut Butter Granola

peanut butter granola

Peanut butter and honey–a match made in heaven. I make no apologies to you, jelly. And thank goodness we don’t have peanut allergies in our house because peanut butter is pretty much its own food group.

I love granola, but it hasn’t had a regular place in our cupboard until recently, when I discovered this peanut butter granola. Given our student-family status, the reason isn’t hard to figure out. Granola is super-dee-duper expensive, like $10 per pound or more. I’ve even bypassed homemade granola because it usually calls for other expensive or specialty items like flax, chia seeds, hand-plucked acorns of a truffula tree…you get the picture. Nuts come at a minimum of $7 per pound, and as dearly as I love them, I just have to say no at this point in life. Dare to resist food the price of illegal drugs. Yep, that’s my motto…

When I stumbled upon a recipe for this peanut butter granola through one of my favorite bloggers, I had it in my oven ten minutes later, no kidding. It uses ingredients I almost always have in the pantry. I adapted the recipe a bit to suit our tastes and to be more college-budget-friendly. The result is a golden, crunchy, peanut-buttery granola sweetened with honey that warms your mouth with hints of tropical coconut and cinnamon.

Literally nothing could be better with bananas than this peanut butter granola (okay, except homemade hot fudge sauce). Bananas and yogurt, banana milk, banana ice cream, we’ve tried it all. It’s also great on its own with milk. As in, ten-billion-times-better-than-frosted-corn-flakes good.

If you want a simple, inexpensive yet terrifically tasty granola, this is for you!

Peanut Butter Granola

Peanut Butter Granola


  • 4 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • ¼ cup canola oil
  • ¼ cup butter
  • ½ cup creamy peanut butter
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon salt


Position two oven racks in the center-most positions in the oven. Preheat to 325*. Line two baking sheets with foil.

In a large bowl stir together the oats and coconut. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, heat the oil, butter, peanut butter, honey, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt over medium heat. Stir and heat just until everything melts together. Immediately pour over the oats and coconut and quickly stir until everything is coated.

Divide between the two prepared baking sheets and spread the oats into a flat layer on each pan. Sprinkle with a little additional salt for added flavor if desired.

Place both sheets in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, stir the granola, and return to the oven, trading the position of the baking sheets so that the one from the lower rack is now on top. Bake for an additional 5-10 minutes until the granola is golden and fragrant. If it is under-cooked the coconut will not be fully toasted and will be chewy.

Let cool completely before breaking apart. Store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

Makes about 5 cups of granola.

cheese crazed garlic breadsticks

Cheese-Crazed Garlic Breadsticks

cheese crazed garlic breadsticks

My daughter was born with lovely full cheeks and softness everywhere. I credit those cheeks to the chocolate shakes, and to these breadsticks.

We lived for a time in the basement of my aunt and uncle’s home, and one of my cousins would make these ridiculously good breadsticks. After we moved out, I just kept thinking of those breadsticks…my breadstick fantasies went on for months…and then finally I was smart enough to ask her for the recipe.

Smooth, dry breadsticks have never been my thing. But I love the airy, chewy pull-apart variety. Don’t be scared by the mayonnaise in the topping. It’s part of what makes these breadsticks so moist and flavorful. You can choose your favorite combination of cheese to put on top; I like any mixture of mozzarella, cheddar, Parmesan, and/or feta. You can also adjust the proportions and spices in the topping until you create your ideal breadstick.

One of the best parts about this recipe is that it’s easy to prepare, as breadsticks go. You don’t have to do any forming or twisting or rolling of individual breadsticks. Much like a focaccia bread, you just press the dough into a greased cookie sheet. Then you spread on the cheese topping, and use a sharp knife or pizza cutter to slice through the dough, forming breadsticks that you can pull apart when they are done.

Use these breadsticks as an indulgent side to any soup or salad—they’re perfect with this lasagna soup! If you’re really feeling indulgent, double the cheese topping on the breadsticks. The effect is amazing.

cheese crazed garlic breadsticks

Cheese-Crazed Garlic Breadsticks


  • 1 Tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 ½ cups warm water
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 3 ½-4 cups all-purpose flour
  • Cheese Spread:
  • ¼ cup butter, softened
  • ¼ cup Mayonnaise (NOT Miracle Whip)
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ cup shredded cheese (any combination of cheese--parmesan, mozzarella, cheddar, feta, etc.)
  • Optional: other Italian spices as desired


In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, dissolve the yeast and sugar in warm water. When yeast is dissolved (about 5 minutes) mix in the salt and 3 ½ cups flour. Gradually add the rest of the flour until you have a soft, sticky dough that is just starting to pull away from the sides of the bowl. Cover the bowl and let the dough rest for 10 minutes.

While the dough is resting, combine the butter, mayonnaise, garlic powder, and any additional spices. Stir in the shredded cheese.

Grease or spray a rimmed baking sheet and your hands. Transfer the dough to the baking sheet and use your oiled hands to press the dough out to the corners of the baking sheet. If the dough resists stretching far enough, let it rest for a couple minutes and then press it the rest of the way to the corners.

Spread the cheese topping over the dough.* With a sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut the dough once lengthwise down the middle of the pan, and several times across the width of the pan. This is where the breadsticks will pull apart after baking.

Cover and let rise until almost double, 30-60 minutes.

Uncover and bake in an oven preheated to 400* for 12-17 minutes or until golden on top.

Let breadsticks cool slightly before gently pulling apart. Serve warm. These breadsticks are best the day they are made.

Makes about 16 breadsticks.

*If you're really feeling indulgent, double the cheese topping!

Lasagna Soup

Lasagna Soup


Lasagna Soup

Need a special meal to cook for your Valentine? Or just a no-fail staple recipe? I have one for you today! This one never, ever fails to please family and friends, and while it looks and tastes fancy, it doesn’t require any Herculean efforts in the kitchen.

Not a fan of lasagna? You may still want to give lasagna soup a try. It’s just tastier, I say… Let me tell you a little story about lasagna.

A few years ago I went on a trip with a school group. We were very graciously fed by a variety of thoughtful hosts throughout this trip, which lasted about 2 ½ weeks. And nearly every dinner consisted of lasagna, spaghetti, or pizza. Especially lasagna. Although I dearly love variety in my food life, this dietary monotony would normally pose only a minor annoyance.

Lasagna Soup


I was about 2 months pregnant and in the height of morning sickness. As many of you know, finding anything to eat that won’t hit the puke reflex is difficult in these circumstances. It was a little difficult to ride on a bus all day long as well as have almost no control over what I ate. And then there was lasagna. Every. Single. Day. Now don’t mistake me—I did everything in my power to hide my discomfort from my hosts, who were wonderful. I would never be so rude as to insult food that someone had graciously prepared for me. But honestly, by the end of the trip I was hiding in the bathroom at the scent of lasagna/pizza/spaghetti. Bless the family who served us a roast and potatoes on the last day. You are my heroes.

Not surprisingly, I avoided the lasagna (and its comrades-in-arms pizza and spaghetti) for the duration of my pregnancy. Although I no longer have an aversion to lasagna, you’ll never find it on my meal plans. Pizza yes. Spaghetti yes. And lasagna soup, YES!

Somehow the classic flavors of lasagna—sausage, tomato, garlic, basil, oregano, and melty cheese—are just more appealing in a savory, broth-y bowl than in cheese-pasta-meat slabs. I’m not suggesting you should take lasagna off of your menu if you love it—but then, if you love lasagna, all the more reason to try lasagna soup!

Serve lasagna soup with a side of breadsticks or focaccia and a green salad and you’ve got a classy and crowd-pleasing meal. Hint: I’ve got a knock-out breadstick recipe for you coming right up 🙂

If you’re worried about squeezing ricotta into your budget, go check out my post on how to make it fresh for a fraction of the cost. Or sub in cottage cheese, whichever you prefer.

Lasagna Soup

Lasagna Soup


  • ½ lb Italian sausage
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 heaping teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 Tablespoon dried basil
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional
  • 1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
  • 4 cups (or 2 cans) chicken broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup small, uncooked whole grain pasta
  • 2 cups roughly chopped spinach leaves, loosely packed
  • 8 oz. ricotta cheese
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste.
  • Optional: shredded mozzarella for garnish


In a soup pot, brown sausage until cooked through and drain any excess fat, returning sausage to the pan. Add the onions and sauté for a few more minutes until the onions are softened. Add the garlic, oregano, basil, and red pepper flakes. Cook for a minute more, until the garlic is fragrant.

Add the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, broth, water, and bay leaf to the pot, stirring to combine. Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

While the soup is simmering, cook the pasta according to package directions; drain and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the ricotta and Parmesan cheese along with a pinch of salt and pepper.

When the soup is done simmering, remove it from the heat and add the spinach, stirring until the spinach wilts. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To serve, place a generous spoonful of the cheese mixture in each bowl along with some of the cooked noodles.* Then fill the bowls with hot soup. Sprinkle with mozzarella if desired.

*If you wish, you can add the noodles to the soup before serving. The drawback to this is that if you have leftovers, the noodles will soak up most of the broth in the soup.

Serves 4-6.

Amish sugar cookies

Amish Sugar Cookies

Amish sugar cookies

I have so many fond memories of flouring, rolling, and carefully cutting (and eating) cookie dough as a kid. My siblings and I would each have a personal pile of flour to repeatedly dust our cutters, but we’d always end up prying the dough off anyway.

Then of course there was the frosting and sprinkling. And the eating. I’ll be honest, the eating is the least prominent in my memory. That is probably due to the fact that with all the flour involved, those sugar cookies were always crunchy.

Incidentally, I avoided eating sugar cookies for years. They were always at the bottom of my cookie list because they were either crunchy and tasteless, or they were the thick, crumbly kind from the store with garish frosting—and also tasteless.

I have on occasion sampled really good soft, thick sugar cookies at other people’s homes, but regrettably I don’t have a recipe for those.

Then I met Amish Sugar Cookies. Now sugar cookies are back at the top of my list. Not only are these practically impossible to stop eating, they don’t require chilling, flouring, and cutting. My poor children don’t have those flour-covered memories because when I make sugar cookies, it’s always this kind.

amish sugar cookies

I don’t know what relation the cookies have to Amish folks, so don’t ask. If they were in fact invented by the Amish, I commend them for their taste in cookies.

The texture of Amish sugar cookies is not what you’d probably expect from a sugar cookie. They’re more akin to a snicker doodle (thanks to the cream of tartar) but not as chewy. They are slightly chewy but light and melty at the same time, almost like a butter cookie. The cookie and the sour cream frosting (which is like, 10 times better than buttercream) halve a decided salty note that contributes to my uncontrollable cookie consumption.

Instead of chilling, rolling, and cutting these cookies, you’ll spoon the dough like a drop cookie and then press each ball of dough gently with a sugar-dusted glass. The dough is not sticky, so chilling is optional, however chilling does result in a thicker cookie. I usually bake one batch right away and then put the rest of the dough in the fridge for the next day.

One drawback to the sour cream icing is that it needs refrigeration, so you’ll need to refrigerate the cookies after you ice them. Or, you can store the unfrosted cookies in an airtight container but refrigerate the icing, and ice them just before eating or serving. That’s what we do—we just grab the bowl of icing out of the fridge and smear some on just before enjoying our cookies.

You can of course use food coloring to dye the icing any color you want. With Valentine’s Day this weekend, these cookies would make a special treat in pink!

Amish sugar cookies

Amish Sugar Cookies

Adapted from Our Best Bites


  • 1 cup room-temperature butter
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup sifted powdered sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. table salt
  • 1 tsp. cream of tartar
  • ½ cup sugar
  • Sour Cream Icing:
  • ¼ cup softened butter
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 2 ¾ cups sifted powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • Food coloring as desired


Preheat oven to 350*.

In a large bowl, beat butter and oil until thoroughly combined. Gradually add 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of powdered sugar, mixing well. Mix in eggs and vanilla.

In another bowl combine flour, baking soda, salt, and cream of tartar. Gradually mix flour mixture into sugar mixture, beating at low speed until combined.

If desired, chill dough 30-60 minutes. Otherwise, scoop the dough about 1 tablespoon at a time onto a cookie sheet. Take a glass and gently press one of the cookies to moisten the bottom of the glass, then dip the bottom of the glass in the ½ cup sugar. Press the glass gently onto the cookie again. Dip the glass back in the sugar and press the next cookie, and so on until each cookie has been pressed with the sugar-dusted glass.

Bake at 350* for 9-12 minutes, removing from the oven when the edges are just beginning to turn golden. Allow cookies to cool completely.

To make the icing:

Beat together the butter and sour cream, then add the powdered sugar, salt, vanilla and food coloring and beat until smooth. Ice the cooled cookies as desired.

Refrigerate iced cookies until ready to serve, or store un-frosted cookies in an airtight container and refrigerate the icing, then ice cookies prior to serving.

Makes about 4 dozen cookies.


Homemade Ricotta

fresh homemade ricotta

I’ve always either avoided recipes calling for ricotta, or swapped the ricotta out for cottage cheese. The reason is probably not surprising—at $4 to $5 for a little cup, ricotta cheese just isn’t easy to smoosh into the budget.

Then I found out you can make your own ricotta, and it isn’t complicated at all. You only need three ingredients: whole milk, vinegar or lemon juice, and salt. That’s it. The result is a creamy fresh ricotta to use in all of your favorite recipes.

A gallon of whole milk produces roughly 4 cups (32 ounces) of ricotta. Since I buy milk at $2 per gallon or less, that puts one cup of ricotta at only $0.50. Now that I can fit in the budget! Now that ricotta can be a regular in our refrigerator without breaking the bank, I’ve found that there is a whole world of recipes opened up to me. Ricotta can be used in desserts, Italian dishes, baked goods, with fruit, well, it seems like almost anything!

Traditionally ricotta was made with fermented whey, which produced something a bit different, but many varieties of commercially-made ricotta cheeses are created using a similar method as the one I will describe. The biggest difference between homemade ricotta and store-bought is that yours will be fresher!

As with yogurt, you can technically make ricotta using lower-fat milks, but the yield and quality will vary. I like to make yogurt and ricotta from whole milk for both quality and quantity, so I have not tested homemade ricotta from low-fat or skim milk. Feel free to experiment on your own milk if you wish. We like our whole-milk products here 🙂

What you need:

A mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth or several paper towels

8 cups whole milk

1/3 cup vinegar or lemon juice

½ tsp salt

First, line a mesh strainer with cheesecloth or several paper towels and set it over a bowl. Set it aside for now.

Pour the milk into a large saucepan or double boiler. Heat the milk to 185* F. At this point it will look foamy and steamy but it won’t be boiling. If it does boil, just remove it from the heat. If you happen to burn the milk on the bottom of the pan, don’t fret. As long as you don’t scrape it up into the milk you can still have perfectly good ricotta.

When the milk reaches 185*, remove it from the heat and add the vinegar or lemon juice and salt. Give it a gentle stir, just enough to distribute the vinegar. Then leave it undisturbed for 5-10 minutes until you see the milk separate into white curds and clear yellow whey. If the mixture still looks milky or not distinctly separated after 10 minutes, sprinkle in a couple more tablespoons of vinegar.

how to make ricotta cheese

When your milk has clearly separated into curds and whey, use a slotted spoon to scoop the curds out of the whey and place them in the lined strainer until only the whey is left in the pan. Let the ricotta strain for 5-20 minutes depending on how firm or dry you want your cheese. I usually only let mine drain for about 5 minutes. If you let it get drier than you want, just whisk some whey back into the cheese.

how to make ricotta

If there are any small curds remaining in the pan, carefully pour the whey into your lined strainer to strain them out.

homemade ricotta

Use your fresh ricotta immediately or keep in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.


Homemade Ricotta


  • 8 cups whole milk
  • 1/3 cup white distilled vinegar, or lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp salt


Line a mesh strainer with cheesecloth or several paper towels and sit it over a bowl. Set aside.

In a large saucepan or a double boiler, heat milk over medium heat until it reaches 185* F. It will appear foamy and steamy but shouldn't be boiling. If it begins to boil, remove it from the heat.*

When the milk reaches 185*, remove from the heat and immediately add the salt and vinegar or lemon juice. Give it a gentle stir, just enough to distribute the vinegar. Then let it sit undisturbed for 5-10 minutes.

After resting the milk should have separated into white curds and clear yellow whey. If it still looks milky or not distinctly separated, add a few more tablespoons of vinegar.

Use a slotted spoon to skim the curds out of the whey and place them in your lined strainer. Let the cheese drain for 5-20 minutes until your ricotta reaches the consistency you want. The longer you drain it, the thicker and drier your cheese will be. If you let it drain longer than you want, just whisk some whey back into the curds.

If there are small curds remaining in the whey, pour it through the lined strainer to separate them from the whey.

Use the ricotta immediately or store in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.

Yield: About 2 cups.

*If you burn the bottom of the milk, don't scrape it up. Your cheese will be fine as long as you don't scrape the burned part up into the heated milk.

Chipotle Southwestern Salad

Chipotle Southwestern Salad

Chipotle Southwestern Salad

I absolutely love a salad that is a full meal, independent of anything else. Salads offer so much variety of color, flavor, and texture all in one place. A full-meal salad is a fundamentally different experience than those namby-pamby cafeteria salads with their bits of iceberg lettuce and carrot shreds that you have to drench with a quart of ranch to make worthy of consumption.

This salad is of course one of the former. It stars this chipotle-lime chicken and this creamy avocado-lime dressing, and it’s hearty and flavorful enough that you can omit the chicken if you want a fresh meatless meal. The array of flavors here work perfectly together. The chipotle-lime chicken and roasted sweet potatoes are somewhat spicy on their own, but combined in the salad with the creamy dressing, they create a great mild-medium heat. Sweet corn, smoky black beans, and green onions round everything out over a bed of crisp lettuce.

Chipotle Southwestern Salad

I wouldn’t have guessed my 3-year-old would be into salads, but surprise, he not only wanted thirds, but chose it as his snack the next day. The chipotle roasted sweet potatoes were definitely the favorite item!

Another great feature of this salad is that the ingredients can all be prepared in advance. You can cook a couple pounds of chicken ahead of time and use half for one meal (or freeze it) and save the other half for this salad later on. You can also roast the sweet potatoes and whip up the dressing ahead of time. Then all you have to do is open a can of beans and a can of corn and you’re ready to go.

It seems like everyone on the web is working on some diet or another. I’m not, but I do look for nutritious meals that don’t sacrifice taste. This is one of them! High in lean protein and veggies, this chipotle southwestern salad is a winner on our table–speaking of which, I’m (very) happy to report that our family now has a dinner table! As in, an actual hardwood-not-cardboard dinner table. Complete with chairs. Woot!

Chipotle Southwestern Salad with Creamy Avocado-Lime Dressing

Chipotle Southwestern Salad

Inspired by Pinch of Yum


  • 1 head romaine lettuce
  • 1 lb sweet potatoes
  • 2 TBS oil
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • ½ tsp coriander
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp chipotle chili powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can corn, drained
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions
  • 1/2 recipe chipotle-lime chicken
  • 1 recipe avocado-lime dressing , cut into bite-sized pieces
  • cotija or queso fresco cheese, optional


Preheat oven to 425* and line a baking sheet with foil.

Peel and chop sweet potatoes into bite-sized pieces and place on the foil-lined baking sheet. Toss with 2 TBS oil and spices, using your hands to ensure they are evenly coated. Spread into a single layer on the pan and roast at 425* for 15 minutes. Flip/stir the sweet potatoes on the pan and roast for an additional 10-15 minutes or until they are beginning to brown. Set aside to cool.

Arrange lettuce on salad plates and top with sweet potatoes, beans, corn, chicken, green onions and cheese if desired. Serve with avocado-lime dressing.

Serves 4-6.