Category Archives: Tips and Techniques

The Secret to Awesome Grilled Cheese

Really- who doesn’t love a good grilled cheese sandwich? If you know someone, you should disown them.  You don’t need that kind of negativity in your life!  

This isn’t a recipe, really.  But it is a method.  A delicious, crispy, melty method.  One that takes a good grilled sandwich and makes it awesome.  

Hope you love this method as much as we do!

The Method

1. Gather ingredients.  Good bread, real butter, and your favorite melty cheese- cheddar, Swiss, Gouda, whatever.  And… Grated Parmesan. Not the stuff from the green can.  The GOOD stuff.

2. You know the drill- butter bread, put cheese between the two slices (butter side out) and grill until golden.  BUT WAIT! Before you put the butter side to the pan, sprinkle it with 1/2 to 1 tsp grated Parmesan. Grill slow and low until golden brown outside and melty inside.

3.  Please let it cool a bit before biting into your awesome grilled cheese.  Burned taste buds are duds!


Weeknight Mash

weeknight Mash

Spring has sprung in our neck of the woods.  We are experiencing a mixture of warm sunny days and cold/windy/rainy days.  When it’s cold, I like having something warm and comforting to eat.  And going outside to grill just doesn’t seem like a good idea.

On days like that, I want a comforting side dish.  The most comforting side dish I can think of is mashed potatoes.  But, I grew up in a small town in Idaho where our high school mascot is a potato.  So, if you don’t know how to make a decent mashed potato and you come from Shelley, Idaho, there is definitely something wrong.  Well, these potatoes are more than decent.  They’re delicious.  And QUICK!

The ingredients are the normal mashed potato ingredients: potatoes, milk, butter, salt and pepper.  It’s the method that makes these potatoes my go-to recipe.  And there’s enough for 6 to eat, with leftovers!

Sure, you can feed your family potatoes from a box.  Or spend close to an hour waiting for the huge pot of water and potatoes on the stove to come to a boil.  But, seriously, boxed potatoes taste kinda funny.  And who has time to wait for water to boil on a glass-top electric stove?  I swear, the stove we have is the SLOWEST thing I’ve ever cooked on.  Ever.

I hope you’re able to try this recipe, and that you love it as much as we do.

Weeknight Mash

  • about 5 lbs russet potatoes, washed, peeled and cut into 1-1/2 inch chunks
  • 4 quart glass (microwave-safe) casserole dish with lid
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  1. Place potatoes in the casserole dish with enough water to come half way up the sides.  Put on the lid and microwave on high for 10 minutes.  Check the tenderness of the potatoes with a fork – if they are soft and break easily, then they are ready to mash.  If not, give them a good stir, and microwave on high for another 3 to 4 minutes.  Drain potatoes.
  2. Place milk and butter in a microwave safe dish (I use my pyrex measuring cup) and microwave about a minute.  Watch it to make sure it doesn’t boil over.
  3. Place potatoes back into the casserole dish or in a mixing bowl.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  4. Using an electric mixer, add about half of the milk/butter mixture, and whip on low speed.  Keep adding the milk until your desired consistency is reached.  If you like thinner mashed potatoes than I do, you might need more milk.
  5. I whip mine in the same dish I use to cook it in, but you could also whip the potatoes in another dish and add back to the casserole dish.  I like to serve in that dish because it’s already warm!

You could also flavor these mashed potatoes with roasted garlic, sour cream and chives, sour cream and cheddar– whatever!  🙂

Taco Tip Tuesday!


Here’s a quick tip for your Tuesday.  And it just happens to involve a taco.  We were having tacos for dinner, and I only had one hand available to build my tacos.  I had to come up with a way to hold the shells upright while filling it with goodies.  So, I used a chip clip.

Hope you’re having a great Tuesday!

French Roll Pizza

Sometimes, I don’t want to cook.  I know, SHOCKING!  But there are those days that you really need to go to the store, but just don’t WANT to.  Or that you have things on hand that you could cook, but they’re still frozen.

Luckily, on this particular evening, we still had some things left over from making pizza and sandwiches earlier in the week.  I wasn’t in the mood to make a crust from scratch, so I used the next best thing.  Bread.

I am not a big fan of thick crust pizza.  I like my crust to be crispy and crunchy.  When I take a bite of pizza, I want to taste all the wonderful toppings, not a hunk of too soft dough.  These french rolls were the perfect solution.  They were slightly stale and dried out, which meant that they really crisped up in the oven.  Hooray!  Happy Josie!

I did a little trick with the Pepperoni.  My husband sometimes complains that his pepperoni pizza is too oily.  To solve that problem, I put pepperoni slices in a paper towel and cooked it for 30 seconds.  A lot of the oil soaked into the paper towel and his pizza was less oily.  Happy T!

I hope you enjoy this quick weeknight recipe.  What do you cook on busy nights?

French Roll Pizza

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Serves 4

  • 2 French Rolls, split
  • 4 Tbsp tomato sauce or spaghetti sauce
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 1 large mushroom, sliced thin
  • 6 black olives, sliced thin
  • 4 slices Canadian bacon, sliced into strips (fits better on the roll that way)
  • 8 slices pepperoni
  1. Place pepperoni on half of a clean paper towel.  Fold paper towel over the pepperoni, and microwave on high for 30 seconds.
  2. Preheat oven to 425°F.  Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and place rolls on the sheet, cut side up.
  3. Spread 1 Tbsp tomato sauce or spaghetti sauce on each roll half.  Layer with meats, mushrooms, and olives.  Divide cheese evenly over the top of each roll.
  4. Bake 10 to 15 minutes.
  5. Let cool slightly and serve.

No Mess Mushroom Burgers

As picky as the Hubby is, he loves mushrooms.  He loves Mushroom Swiss burgers.  I hate it when I take a bite and mushrooms go all over the place– usually landing right in the middle of my white shirt coated in ketchup.  This generally sends me into a laundry-stain-panic.  Well, NO MORE!!  I’ll teach those pesky mushrooms.  Plus, if you have kids, this is a sneaky way to get veggies into one of their favorite things. 😉

I dug out my handy dandy food chopper to chop the mushrooms.  I learned the hard way that it is a very good idea to take the chopper apart and coat the blades and inner parts with PAM before chopping.  Those little mushroom pieces are a bugger to get off later.

I like to boost my ground meat (beef, pork, chicken or turkey) with mushrooms in just about anything– meatloaf, spaghetti sauce, burgers, etc.  Its healthy, keeps the meat moist, and adds more protein.  Did you know that mushrooms are a complete protein when they are cooked?  Cooking them breaks them down enough so all the nutrients can be absorbed by your body.  Cooked mushrooms don’t have to be paired with anything else to provide your body with all the amino acids it needs.  Isn’t food science fun?  And mushrooms are fun.  Fungi.  You know…

See those lovely potatoes next to the burger?  They’re the new Ore-Ida Grillers and they are super-cool.  You make them on the grill and they only take about 15 minutes.  I like the seasoned ones.  You should try them.  This weekend.  Tonight.  NOW.  🙂

Mushroom Burgers

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For 2 burgers (can easily be doubled, tripled, etc.)

CLICK HERE for the printable recipe

  • 2 oz. Mushrooms, chopped fine (about 1/2 cup, button mushrooms or cremini)
  • 1/2 lb. 90% lean ground beef (you can also substitute turkey, chicken, or pork)
  • 2 Tbsp hamburger seasoning (McCormick Grill Mates or Amazing Taste are good ones, or you can make due with a sprinkling of salt and pepper)
  • 2 buns
  • 2 slices cheese (Optional, we used cheddar here, but Swiss would have been great)
  • Burger toppings (ketchup, mayo, mustard, pickles, tomatoes, lettuce, onions, relish, etc.)
  1. Place chopped mushrooms in a small skillet over medium heat.  Cook until they release their moisture and are dry again.  They should shrink quite a bit.  Set aside to cool for about 5 minutes.
  2. Preheat the grill over medium-high heat.  In a medium bowl, combine cooked mushrooms, ground beef, and half the seasoning.  Be gentle when handling the meat.
  3. Divide in two equal pieces and shape into a patty that is about 1/2 inch thick.   Sprinkle one side with seasoning and place, seasoned side down, on the preheated grill.  Cook for 2 minutes, flip, and cook for 3 minutes.
  4. Serve on the bun with your favorite cheese and toppings.  Enjoy your mostly-mess-free burger in your white shirt. 😀

My favorite hamburger topping is dill pickles.  What’s yours?

Merry Rein-beers!

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This idea came from Pinterest.  I saw it and I HAD to make them for my boss’ Christmas party.  They are SO CUTE!!  I think using white M&Ms with a sharpie kinda makes them look like Homer Simpson.  Don’t you?

Merry Reinbeers can be made non-alcoholic.  Just use bottled root beer instead!

Merry Rein-beers

  • Six pack of bottled root beer or beer
  • 12 pipecleaners (can use holiday colors or brown)
  • 12 white m&ms or googly eyes
  • 6 red m&ms or small pom-poms
  • Glue gun

1.  If using M&Ms, draw a black dot in the middle with a sharpie.  Allow to dry completely so the dot doesn’t smudge.

2.  Apply the eyes and nose to the top of the bottles using a small dot of glue for each.

3.  Carefully twist one pipe cleaner around the top of the beer bottle in the groove just below the cap.  Cut the second pipe cleaner in pieces and twist around the ends of the main pipe cleaner to resemble antlers.


Sandwiches- Tips and Tricks

Hey there!  How are you?  Are you feeling ok?  How was lunch?

What?  You haven’t really thought about it?  With all the hectic things going on, you couldn’t find the time to put a quick lunch together before darting out the door?  You ate some expired pretzels that you found in the bottom of a file drawer?  Oh dear….

Let me help you.  When things get hectic around here, I turn to a lunch staple– the sandwich.  What?  You think sandwiches are boring?  THIS coming from someone who just ate pretzels that expired TWO YEARS AGO?  Well, here are some tips and tricks to make your lunchtime sandwich fresh, not soggy, and not-so-boring!

1.  Only put meat and cheese on the bread.  This will prevent the bread from becoming soggy from veggies or condiments.  Don’t worry, we’ll get to those.  Just put your meat and cheese on the bread and put it in a baggie. 

2.  Package veggies/toppings in a separate baggie.  Again, this keeps the bread from becoming soggy.  Experiment with all kinds of things:  lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, olives, bell peppers, avocados, cabbage, spinach, onions (if you must), etc.

3.  Put condiments in a snack size baggy, one Tbsp per corner.  When you’re ready to condimize, just rip off the tip of the corner and squeeze.  It’s like a homemade condiment packet!  I like mustard, so that’s what I included in my condiment baggie.  I packed mayo in one corner and mustard in the other for my hubby.  Other good choices are: chutney, jellies, jams, nut butters, thai peanut sauce, salad dressings, etc.  Just make sure they are thick enough that they won’t run together.  If it looks like they will run, put a bobby pin or large paper clip between the two and fold the baggie over. 

4.  Put it all together right before you eat it.  There.  FRESH homemade sandwich that tastes 10-times better than that sandwich shop named after an underground transit system. Who would WANT to eat something that was made/ found in the underground transit system.  It STINKS down there!

Favorite Combinations:

  • Ham and Swiss, lettuce and tomato, mustard and/or mayo
  • Roast beef and cheddar, lettuce and tomato, horseradish sauce
  • Turkey and havarti, spinach, spicy chutney
  • bacon, lettuce and tomato, mayo (DUH!)
  • Pepperoni and salami with provolone, lettuce and thin onions, Italian dressing
  • Almond Butter, honey, thinly sliced apples

Remember to experiment with bread too!  There are a ton of options out there.  White, wheat, sourdough, rye, multigrain, baguette, tortillas, naan, pitas, etc. 

The possibilities are endless!

Happy Lunching!!