Lasagna Soup

I have this sweet little 3 year old who has a zeal for life like no one else I’ve known. She’s passionate about everything {including her opinions}…except cheese. I can’t even begin to imagine life without cheese, and at times I find my cooking techniques to be somewhat creative to create a meal everyone will enjoy if a recipe calls for cheese. We even go as far as making her homemade pizza sans cheese. 

While I scratch my head a bit wondering how anyone could possibly not like cheese, I respect the difference in taste preferences. This meal is the perfect example of how I attempt to create something for everyone – but keep the option to maintain a standard ingredient the original recipe calls for. Lasagna without cheese:: epic fail…until now, anyway. 

Technically speaking this dish still can have the layer of ooey, gooey melted cheese sprinkled atop, and my husband and I certainly indulged in said way. But truthfully, the flavors in this soup leave little to be desired and can certainly be enjoyed on its own. Who doesn’t love a meal with options? It’s also quick and hearty; perfect for a winter weeknight meal.

Recipe yields approximately 4 servings. Serve with your favorite cheesy topping if desired. We used a combination of fresh mozzarella and parmesan because we aren’t ricotta fans – but the sky’s the limit. Go crazy.


  • 1 lb of ground Italian sausage or ground beef
  • large yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 1/2 tsp black pepper (use the first 1/2 tsp to season the meat)
  • 2 1/2 tsp garlic salt (use the first 1/2 tsp to season the meat)
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (more if you like heat!)
  • 1 tbsp Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 tbsp fresh basil, chiffonade
  • 26 oz box of diced tomatoes (I used Pomi brand)
  • 5 1/2 cups of organic chicken broth (I recommend Trader Joes brand!)
  • 1 cup organic beef broth
  • 7 oz elbow/macaroni noodles
  • optional fresh cheese for topping


  1. Finely dice the onion and sauté with the meat in a Dutch Oven until fully cooked. Add the tomato paste, minced garlic, red pepper flakes and 1/2 tsp each of garlic salt and pepper: sauté for 30 seconds.
  2. Add the tomatoes and sauté an additional 1-2 minutes.
  3. Add the chicken and beef broths, remaining 2 tsp. each of garlic salt and pepper, dried oregano, Italian seasoning and 2 bay leaves. Bring to a simmer and stir occasionally for 30 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, chiffonade your basil and set aside.
  5. Remove the bay leaves and turn the heat up to a low boil. Add the fresh basil and pasta and cook 7-10 additional minutes until the pasta is done per your liking. Serve hot and top with your favorite cheese if desired.

Baked Apple Fritters

 Apple fritters:: the one and only donut that truly trips my trigger. I love the spices, the fruit and the textures – and if I’m going to indulge in a donut, it’s going to be this one!
In my desire to keep knowledge of where my foods come from {from an ingredients standpoint} and minimize the surprises of additives, I wanted to try and create this favorite at home. I also wanted it to be a bit healthier (don’t panic! It’s still a delicious donut.} so I opted to bake rather than fry them. I was pretty pleased with the results, as were the other members of my sweet little family. The smell in the kitchen was worth the effort and everyone gave an enthusiastic thumbs up.
Make these for your favorite valentine or just to celebrate life. They pair perfectly with a hot cup of coffee {or a glass of milk for the littles.} Yields 15-18 donuts.


  •  2 cups unbleached, all purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tbsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp. melted butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups organic whole milk
  • 1 1/2 apples, peeled and finely diced into pea sized pieces

For the glaze:

  • 2 cups powder sugar
  • 3 tbsp. organic whole milk


  1. Preheat oven to 375. Peel and cut the apples into pea sized pieces.
  2. In a large bowl, combine and stir the dry ingredients.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the wet ingredients and mix well. Gently fold the wet ingredients into the dry mixture until incorporated. Do not overmix! Fold in the apples. 
  4. Spray your donut pan with cooking spray and fill with batter.
  5. Bake 13-14 minutes, gently flip the donuts over and bake an additional 3 minutes to brown the other side.
  6. Mix the glaze and dip the donuts while warm. Allow them to cool and the glaze to harden on a wire rack. Enjoy!


Spiced Apple & Oat Bread

Autumn in Minnesota is an incredibly beautiful time of the year. The colors, the smells, the crisp air…it leaves me in awe every year. It’s also a fantastic time to utilize the fresh apples that are bursting with flavor. One of my favorites is the Honeycrisp variety and we typically go through a dozen a week in our house.

This recipe is bursting with flavor and mimics the vibrance autumn in Minnesota so vividly boasts. My kitchen smelled amazing as it cooked – as mentioned on Instagram, it smelled like autumn sucker punched me in the face {and I kinda liked it.} The smell of apples, spices and oats wafting through the kitchen and a cool evening breeze from open windows; what more could a girl ask for?

These would be fantastic muffins. In fact, these were meant to be muffins as I created the recipe, only to remember we packed up our muffin tins since we are moving in just 2 weeks. Packing 6 years of life, kids and memories in 3 weeks is a wonderful feat we are conquering with gusto…until a girl needs a kitchen item. Improvising has become a new norm, and in this case it worked out quite nicely. These are also dairy free for those who run in that crowd. Enjoy and happy Minnesota autumn, friends!


For the Apples 

  • 2 Honeycrisp apples, peeled and diced into small cubes
  • 1.5 tbsp. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

For the Bread

  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup Almond milk
  • 1 tbsp. organic Maple syrup
  • 1 egg
  • 1.5 cup unbleached all purpose flour (I used King Arthur)
  • 3/4 cup oats
  • 1.5 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 Graham crackers – crushed well for topping
  1. Preheat Oven to 350. Spray a loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.
  2. If making muffins, line muffin pan with liners.
  3. Peel and dice apples so the pieces are consistent in size. Add the sugar, cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice and stir to coat the apples. Let sit for 5 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile in your Kitchen-Aid mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together wet ingredients well.
  5. Add dry ingredients until combined. Do not over mix. Stir in seasoned apples and transfer to your loaf pan.
  6. Crush the graham crackers and sprinkle atop the batter. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  7. Let cool 15 minutes before removing from pan.

Mojito Shortbread Cookies

There’s something about a mojito that takes me back to the pre-kids years and traveling with my hubby. Warm sandy beaches, a beautiful ocean kissing the horizon and sitting hand in hand sipping a mojito: these are a few of my favorite things. Call me fräulein Maria.

These cookies are the confectionary equivalent of a mojito. The whole house smelled like sugar cookies and mojitos as they baked in the oven. Bring these to your next cookie exchange and you’ll be a crowd favorite; or serve at a cocktail party. {With a mojito, of course.}
Yields 2 1/2 dozen depending on how thick you roll out the dough.
• 3 sticks of room temp butter
• 1 cup of sugar, plus another 1/4 cup for sprinkling
• 1.5 tsp pure vanilla extract
• the zest of 2 limes
• 20 mint leaves, chiffonade
• 3.5 cups unbleached all purpose flour (I used King Arthur)
• 2 tbsp clear rum (I used Bacardi Silver)
• 1/4 lime, juiced
  1. Preheat oven to 350. Line baking sheets with silpat liners or parchment paper.
  2. Cream together the butter and 1 cup sugar. Then add the vanilla, mint leaves, lime zest and rum. Add flour and salt and mix until combined. The mixture will be crumbly.
  3. Using a sharp knife, slice the log into 1/4-1/2″ thick slices and place onto lined baking sheets. Mix remaining 1/4 cup sugar and 1/4 of the juiced lime together and sprinkle atop each cookie prior to baking.
  4. Bake 13-15 minutes.

Peach Oatmeal Muffins

I don’t know about you, but peach season makes this girl pretty happy. My family loves them too, and right now we go through about a dozen per week.

Breakfast is a hard meal around here…it’s always hurried and quite frankly outside of bacon, my oldest daughter and I aren’t really breakfast food fans. So anything that is a grab and go or quick option is a good choice. These muffins are so good! Moist, packed with flavor from fresh peaches and just the right amount of sweetness. They’re also packed with a lot of that “peachy-ness” my family loves. May you enjoy them as well!
• 1.5 cups unbleached AP flour (I used King Arthur)
• 3/4 cup rolled oats
• 1/2 cup brown sugar
• 2 tsp. baking powder
• a pinch of salt
• 1 tsp. cinnamon
• 1 egg
• 1/4 cup canola oil
• 1/2 cup applesauce
• 3/4 cup almond milk
• 1 tsp. vanilla
• 2 small to medium sized peaches, diced
  1. Preheat oven to 400.
  2. Line muffin pan with liners.In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients and stir. Add wet ingredients and stir until combined. Don’t overmix, the batter will still be lumpy.
  3. Dice peaches into small pieces.
  4. Line the bottom of each muffin liner with just enough batter to cover the bottom. Add diced peaches into each muffin (enough to cover the initial layer of batter.)
  5. Pour an additional small amount of batter atop the peaches and bake for 12-15 minutes. Yields 12 muffins.

Cranberry Apple Sharlotka

I don’t have any Russian heritage, but there are many things I love about Russian cuisine. Sharlotka is one of them. {And vodka. I appreciate a good vodka as well.} Sweet, airy cake and fruit combine together so delicately yet so easily; what’s not to love? 

This cake would be a lovely alternative to the classic apple pie on Thanksgiving. It has the spices and apples – but I added beautiful, fresh tart cranberries to brighten the flavors. The sweet apples, combined with the classic cinnamon pair perfectly with the cranberries. I also added some pumpkin pie spice and a hearty dose of homemade vanilla extract. The smells in the kitchen were fantastic and the end result didn’t disappoint either. 

The prep was minimal and cook time just under an hour. The cake can be made in advance for ease – but this really is the best served warm from the oven. Finish it with powdered sugar and you’ll be loved for bringing something new to the table {but not bucking the system completely.}

Happy Thanksgiving, friends! I am blessed to be able to share my passion of cooking with you. Cheers to you and yours.


  • 3 Honeycrisp apples (or a similar tart variety) peeled, cored and thinly sliced
  • 2 cups fresh cranberries
  • 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour (I used King Arthur)
  • 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1.5 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • powdered sugar for dusting


Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 9″ springform pan and set aside. Slice the apples into thin pieces and add with cranberries into a bowl. Stir in the lemon juice and 2 tbsp. of sugar. Let sit for 15 minutes.

In your Kitchen-Aid mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, mix the eggs, vanilla extract and remaining 3/4 cup of sugar for 8 minutes until the mixture thickens and forms yellow ribbons or coats the back of a spoon.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon and salt. Fold the dry mixture into the wet mixture until incorporated.

Add the fruit to the bottom of the springform pan and pour the batter atop the apples and cranberries. Spread the batter atop the fruit and gently tap the pan to allow the batter to settle into the fruit and reach the bottom of the pan.

Bake 45-60 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean from the middle of the cake. 

Let the cake sit 15 minutes and remove the springform. 

Transfer to a serving plate, sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve warm.

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