22 Ways to Expand your Easter Menu


I love Easter. Spring has finally arrived, and it’s a special day I get to celebrate with family–and good food of course! Easter dinner is so special for us, and I love having a table filled with a feast of good food! But sometimes planning an Easter Menu can feel complicated. Or sometimes I just want a fresh twist on the classic Easter Dinner ingredients to change things up a bit.

If you are looking for some ways to change up the usual Easter fare a little, or just need some good ideas to expand and round out your Easter Menu, I’ve got 22 easy recipes that are the perfect addition to any Easter Meal. From some main course ideas, to sides and some desserts, hopefully these recipes will give you some new inspiration as you plan your Easter Meals this year. And because you know I’m all about easy cooking, none of these recipes are super complicated or overly time consuming. But they are all delicious! Plus, if you end up with too much left over ham on Monday, two of the ham dishes are perfect for turning leftovers into some great dinners.   [Read more…]

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80/20 Rule of Christmas Baking (The Law of the Vital Few)

8020 rule of Christmas baking

Do you ever think about all the things you have to do to get ready for Christmas and begin to feel overwhelmed?  Some years I’m excited and ready to get started with all the holiday fun.

And other years are more of a struggle.  Whether it’s because of sickness in the family (mine or a child’s) or some other reason, the holiday season can get overwhelming.

I’m a big believer in the 80/20 rule.  This principle states that 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.

It’s also been called The Law of the Vital Few.

About 20% of the things we do are vital for moving our goal forward.  The rest may be important, but 20% of the effort is going to create 80% of the results.

What’s your family’s “vital few” when it comes to Christmas baking?  When you think of the memories you’re building in your family, which foods are the most important?

If you find yourself in a place where you just can’t do everything this year, focus on the vital few.  For my family, that includes Peanut Butter Balls, Fudge, and Frozen Fruit Cups (I left these out last year and I heard about it!).

Maybe for you it’s your grandma’s Nut Bread recipe.  Or the country ham dinner.  Or the evening of cookie decorating.  Focus on those memory filled dishes and keep everything else simple.

And if you’re just now building traditions for your young family, consider making a couple of them super simple.  One of our vital few Christmas breakfast items is canned Grand’s cinnamon rolls.  The only time we have these is at Christmas, so they stay special.  It doesn’t get easier than popping open a can.  On difficult years, we add scrambled eggs and Frozen Fruit Cups.  On years with more energy we add something like Western Omelette Casserole and homemade hot cocoa.

I’d love to hear about your vital few recipes in the comments.

And I know we’ve been talking about Christmas baking, since this is a food blog.  But you can adapt this line of thinking to any type of holiday tradition.  Focus on the vital few and add in other things as time, budget and energy allow.

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3 Pink Desserts for Valentine’s Day

3 pink desserts for Valentines Day


Valentine’s Day is one of my favorite holidays.  I like it because there’s no pressure to celebrate.  After all, we’ve been married 26 years now and we celebrate our anniversary just 6 weeks before Valentine’s each year.

That leaves February 14 as a simple, no expectations day.

A pink, chocolate, heart doodle day in the middle of a bleak winter month.

What’s not to like about that?

It doesn’t take much to make this day special.  For our everyday dinners, I rarely set the table with a table cloth and candles, but sometimes on Valentines, I pull out a white table cloth.  Our dishes are red, so that makes decorating easy.  Add a pack of heart shaped confetti and a few candles and suddenly the family dinner just got fun!

And sometimes I make a special dessert too.  Chocolate is always a hit, but pink is prettier.

Here are three simple pink desserts for Valentine’s Day.   [Read more…]

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21 Hot Sandwich Recipes for Super Bowl plus 1 Snackadium

21 Hot Sandwiches for Super Bowl plus 1 Snackadium

Hot sandwiches and Super Bowl go hand in hand.  Maybe you’re like me and don’t really care much about football.  But even non-football fans can appreciate the food!

Here are 21 hot sandwich recipes, many of which make use of the slow cooker.  Plus, there’s 1 easy snackadium too.  I promise, this is an easy project to put together.  And it makes a big impression!  Not to mention, it feeds a crowd.

Snackadium for Super Bowl_edited-1 [Read more…]

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Super Bowl Food

You don’t have to know me very well to know that I’m not a big time football fan.  But that doesn’t mean I don’t like the food!  My plan for Sunday is to make a few of these recipes, have a fire in the fireplace and conk out on the couch with a good book.  If someone turns on football, that’s fine but I’ll enjoy the day whether there’s a game or not.

If you’re having a Super Bowl party, you’re going to want to check out how to make the Easy Snackadium.  It will feed a small crowd and it’s lots of fun!

Our recent Bacon-fest party has a ton of Super Bowl worthy recipes linked up.  It’s definitely worth looking over.

Thai Chili Chicken Egg Rolls are a crowd pleaser.

If you’re looking for a hearty soup or chili try:

Cheesy Hamburger Soup

Mel’s Diner Chili

Velma’s Chili from the Mitford Cookbook

What are your plans for Super Bowl Sunday?


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5 Tips for Holiday Entertaining

The holidays mean getting together with friends and family.  And that often means that you’re the host of the gathering.  Here are my top 5 tips for Holiday Hosting:

1.  Keep it simple.

I’m not a perfectionist.  I’m not fancy.  But I don’t let my lack of themed decorations and perfect place settings get in the way of having friends and family over.  I just keep it simple and relaxed.  And I’ve found that most people really enjoy a time to kick back and laugh together, without worrying about anything more.

2.  Set up a buffet.  

Whether you’re doing desserts or a full meal, buffet style is easier to pull of than a sit down dinner.  Guests can serve themselves, go back for seconds and generally find what they need when a party is set up as a buffet.

3.  Ask about special diet restrictions.

It’s always nice to know and plan for guests who may avoid sugar or who eat gluten free.  They’ll appreciate your extra effort for them.

4.  If you have kids coming, make it kid friendly.

Kids love munching bite-sized fruits and cheese cubes.  Parents will appreciate if you keep the cookie and chocolate trays up high so toddlers and preschoolers can’t help themselves.

5.  Think through the cooking time of your recipes.

If you’ve got two ovens, you’re in luck.  You’ve got plenty of flexibility.  If you only have one, you’ll have to plan well.  Try using slow cookers for some of the dishes.  I recently found this Breville Smart Oven and it’s now on my wish list.  It can do anything from make toast to bake bread to make crispy pizza.  It will even roast a chicken.

Breville has released new, time saving products such as the Smart Oven, just in time for the holidays! Take the guess work our of holiday cooking with the Smart Oven, the oven that does the thinking for you. Check out their website for more information on this product and other great gift ideas. 

And don’t forget to reply below for two chances to win your choice of amazing Breville products either for yourself or as a gift to a loved one: YouBrew, Tea Maker and Smart Oven products ($250 ARV)

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Breville. The opinions and text are all mine. Official Sweepstakes Rules

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Homemade Gifts from the Kitchen

I’m having trouble wrapping my head around the fact that Christmas is getting close.  I see the lights and decorations.  I hear the music. I’ve even started shopping.  But I just can’t convince myself that it’s really December.  A whole week into December.

I’m going to be caught by surprise again.  Even though I know it’s coming and I try to prepare.  Anyone else feel like this?

I do have a few quick and easy gift ideas you can make in your own kitchen.  These posts are from last year, but I wanted to pull them back up to the top so they aren’t forgotten.

First up, the snack mixes you see in the photo above.  Fun to make and to give.  They’re super quick too, so if you need to do a lot at once (teacher gifts, maybe?) this is an idea for you.  There’s even a free printable for the black and white Hollywood Mix.

Two more quick mixes – Homemade Seasoned Salt and Homemade Italian Herb Salt.  These are both great for anyone who likes to cook.  You can mix up a big batch and make several jars at once.

Finally, Apple Butter in the Slow Cooker would make a great gift.  This one does need to be kept refrigerated, so keep that in mind when thinking of who to give it to.  It’s really easy to make though, because it starts with store-bought applesauce.


There are two giveaways going on right now that you still have time to enter.

Win a $50 Sam’s Club card from Beneforte Broccoli by entering here.

And I’m giving away a programmable Crock-Pot too.  You only have about 1 day left to enter this one!

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Holiday Dinner Menu Ideas

Since Thanksgiving is later this week, I thought I’d share some recipe ideas instead of the regular Menu + Grocery list.


Pie crust tutorial

Spicy Pumpkin Pie

Gingerbread with Lemon Sauce

Cranberry Braid Bread

Cranberry Nut Bars

Cranberry Upside Down Cake

Pumpkin Sheet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Old Fashioned Spice Cake with Caramel Glaze

Side Dish/Salad/Vegetables   [Read more…]

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Prep & Planning: Steps to a Peaceful Holiday – Free Printable Holiday Meal Planner

I had a great time cooking on Saturday and hanging out with some of you who were also getting things done in the kitchen.  We gathered on Facebook for a Virtual Cooking Party.  It was a lot of fun and now I’ve got a freezer full of cooked chicken, soup, meatballs and more.

If you missed the party on Saturday, but would still like to do a little virtual baking, plan to be part of Liz’s Virtual Baking Party on Wednesday morning.  We’ll be gathering on the Hoosier Homemade Facebook page to talk, bake and share ideas.

Today, I’ve got a free printable Holiday Meal Planner for you.  If you’re the cook for a Holiday feast this year, this will come in handy.  I’m a big believer in using lists when I’m cooking a big meal.

Lists keep me from forgetting to make the sweet tea or finding a fruit salad in the fridge after the dinner is over and everyone has gone home.

To print your Holiday Meal Planner, click here:  [download id=”120″]

Last week, we talked about make ahead party food.  Liz posted this cheese ball recipe that can be frozen.

For the first week of the series, I posted 4 snack mixes that require no baking and no cooking.  Liz shared Hot Cocoa and Tea gifts in a jar.

How will you celebrate Thanksgiving?  Are you the main cook for the day?

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More No Bake, No Cook, No Time Gifts – Homemade Seasoned Salt and Italian Herb Salt

I like keeping these seasoned and herb salts on hand to cook with.  I’ve shared the recipe for homemade seasoned salt before.  This version makes a larger batch and is tweaked just a bit.

Use the seasoned salt just like you would any other seasoned salt.  I like using it in pasta dishes, on grilled meats and even on zucchini.

[Read more…]

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