Perfect Veggie Spaghetti Pie

This Perfect Veggie Spaghetti Pie recipe uses frozen vegetables and a quick sauce in the crockpot to create two meals in one! This easy baked cheese casserole is one of our family's favorite comfort foods, and the leftover sauce creates an extremely easy freezer meal to save for later with no extra time. It makes two easy freezer meals for new moms!
Brohgan Dieker

Brohgan Dieker

Brohgan Dieker is dedicated to answering the "what's for dinner" question with healthy, quick recipes that can accommodate busy schedules. She is a devout Christian, a wife and mother, and a lover of words and books. She lives in the beautiful Flint Hills of Kansas and holds a degree in English from Kansas State University.
Brohgan Dieker

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This is a recipe that keeps on giving.

Do you ever feel the need to give a friend a freezer meal? Maybe they just had a baby? Or, they’re recovering from surgery? Or, they’re just having a hard time?

Or, when you sense a busy season of life ahead, do you wish to stock up your freezer with a few extra meals, but struggle to find the time?

There is a reason this is the perfect recipe: it is two huge, family sized meals in one easy recipe!

Just toss the sauce in the crock pot over lunch, and you’re only a couple of quick and easy steps away that evening from dinner for that night PLUS a bonus meal to stick in the freezer for later or share!

Even better, there’s no chopping involved!

This Perfect Veggie Spaghetti Pie recipe uses frozen vegetables and a quick sauce in the crockpot to create two meals in one! This easy baked cheese casserole is one of our family's favorite comfort foods, and the leftover sauce creates an extremely easy freezer meal to save for later with no extra time. It makes two easy freezer meals for new moms!

It’s a wonderful recipe to have in your back pocket in preparation for the holidays!

I chose an Italian mixture for my frozen veggies. It contained zucchini, yellow squash, carrots, cauliflower, and broccoli.

You can also easily use any fresh veggies that you may have in your refrigerator. I chose to use frozen to save time, but fresh would also be very tasty!

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Ingredients

Sauce

  • 1 lb bag of frozen mixed Italian veggies
  • 1 15.5 oz can cannellini beans white kidney beans
  • 2 oz cream cheese 1/4 block
  • 1 8 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1 c water
  • 1 tsp vegetable bouillon concentrate such as 'Better Than Bouillon' seasoned vegetable base

Spaghetti

  • 2 lbs spaghetti whole grain preferred
  • 1 tsp parsley
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 c mozzarella cheese grated
  • 1 1/2 c swiss cheese grated
  • 1 2.5 galleon freezer bag

Instructions

  1. These instructions are for 1 dinner to enjoy immediately and 1 dinner to freeze for later.

  2. Add first 10 ingredients (veggies through bouillon) to a 3 quart or larger crockpot, and cook on low for 4-5 hours.

  3. After veggie sauce has cooked 4-5 hours, prepare spaghetti per package instructions. Drain, and drizzle with parsley and olive oil. Mix well until parsley is distributed.

  4. Combine mozzarella cheese and swiss cheese in a bowl. Set aside.

  5. Line a 9x13 inch casserole dish with excess foil, to allow top of casserole to be completely covered in foil. (Or, you can use a 9x13 inch disposable foil pan and cover with foil.)

  6. Place half of the spaghetti in a foil-lined 9x13 inch pan (or disposable foil pan). Cover spaghetti with half of the veggie sauce from crockpot. Top with half of cheese mixture (1 1/2 cups). Cover with foil, refrigerate overnight.

  7. After removing half of sauce, stir the remaining pound cooked spaghetti into the remaining sauce in crockpot. Top with remaining 1 1/2 cups of cheese mixture. Cook in crockpot on low until the cheese is completely melted. Serve immediately.

  8. The next morning, transfer the foil package from the 9x13 inch pan (or entire disposable pan) into a large 2.5 galleon freezer bag. Write recipe name, date, and cooking instructions on bag. Store in freezer for up to 3 months.

  9. To cook freezer meal: Remove from freezer bag. Carefully transfer foil package to 9x13 inch pan. Thaw casserole 24 hours, or overnight, in refrigerator. Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit. Bake, covered, for 20 minutes. Remove foil covering from the top, and bake another 5-10 minutes until cheese is turning golden brown. (Allow for additional 10-20 minutes of covered baking time if casserole is not completely thawed.)

This Perfect Veggie Spaghetti Pie recipe uses frozen vegetables and a quick sauce in the crockpot to create two meals in one! This easy baked cheese casserole is one of our family's favorite comfort foods, and the leftover sauce creates an extremely easy freezer meal to save for later with no extra time. It makes two easy freezer meals for new moms!

Pumpkin Chili

Brohgan Dieker

Brohgan Dieker

Brohgan Dieker is dedicated to answering the "what's for dinner" question with healthy, quick recipes that can accommodate busy schedules. She is a devout Christian, a wife and mother, and a lover of words and books. She lives in the beautiful Flint Hills of Kansas and holds a degree in English from Kansas State University.
Brohgan Dieker

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When the winds begin to blow a little cooler, we know football season is near.

This vegetarian crock pot pumpkin chili recipe is perfect for autumn and football season! This hearty, budget friendly vegetarian chili recipe uses cans from the pantry. It is budget friendly and easy to keep on hand. It is a meal that is quick to make and easy to keep on hand. The black beans and the corn together create a complete protein, and the pumpkin puree in makes it thick and filling. It's perfect as a stand alone meal, or served over baked potatoes or chips.

We have been looking forward to football season all year! “Football” was one of my son’s first words, and for a long time, it was the only thing that he ever saw on tv.

No exaggeration: at only 11 months-old, he was completely devastated one evening when he asked for football and we had to explain that the season was over.

 

Home of the K-State Wildcats, my alma mater, Bill Snyder Family Stadium sits practically at the end of my driveway. There is no missing the excitement from our house. The neighborhood becomes packed with cars and purple fans.

In fact, in our location, we very easily can go from having no Saturday plans to having a crowd of hungry people over. That is why I like to keep a hearty, budget friendly vegetarian chili recipe on hand at all times.

This is one of those kinds of recipes that is cozy and filling, but you can make it without missing a single down. It is a recipe that is quick to make and easy to keep on hand.

Now a vegetarian recipe might not be the hearty football food that your family might expect. However, the black beans and the corn together create a complete protein, and the pumpkin puree in makes it thick and filling. It’s perfect as a stand alone meal, or served over baked potatoes or chips.

It also goes perfectly with this pumpkin cornbread recipe!

Print

Pumpkin Chili

Servings 8

Ingredients

  • 2 15 oz cans black beans rinsed
  • 1 15 oz can corn rinsed
  • 1 15 oz can pumpkin puree
  • 1 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder (or 1 small onion, diced)
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp better than bouillon vegetable base
  • 2 cups water

Instructions

  1. -Combine all ingredients in a large sauce pan
  2. -Cover, and simmer over a low heat for 20 minutes
  3. -Ladle into bowls. Top with favorite toppings and enjoy!

Recipe Notes

Can easily be cooked or kept warm in a crock pot! Just mix ingredients together about an hour before game time, and keep on a low setting. Turn to "keep warm" setting after 1 hour.

This vegetarian crock pot pumpkin chili recipe is perfect for autumn and football season! This hearty, budget friendly vegetarian chili recipe uses cans from the pantry. It is budget friendly and easy to keep on hand. It is a meal that is quick to make and easy to keep on hand. The black beans and the corn together create a complete protein, and the pumpkin puree in makes it thick and filling. It's perfect as a stand alone meal, or served over baked potatoes or chips.

Pumpkin Cornbread

Brohgan Dieker

Brohgan Dieker

Brohgan Dieker is dedicated to answering the "what's for dinner" question with healthy, quick recipes that can accommodate busy schedules. She is a devout Christian, a wife and mother, and a lover of words and books. She lives in the beautiful Flint Hills of Kansas and holds a degree in English from Kansas State University.
Brohgan Dieker

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This website uses affiliate links, which means that at no added cost to you, I get a small percentage of every sale. I do not endorse anything that I myself would not use. You can view my full disclosure policy HERE.Thank you.

Today, my son and I went on a walk just because we could. We had a few minutes before lunch with nothing to do, and it’s hard to spend a beautifully cool August day like today inside.

We counted leaves and dandelions. The seasons are already changing, and there were far more leaves than dandelions today.

After looking at the calendar ahead, I started experimenting with fall flavors a few weeks ago.

This was a great decision. I love autumn, and I look for ways to incorporate the wonderful flavors year-round.

My first success out of the oven: pumpkin cornbread.

I wish you could smell my kitchen right now! It smells like everything you hope for in autumn.

Pumpkin and spice all in a warm sweet bread. It bakes up like a savory cake.

These sweet little pumpkin cornbread muffins were gone within hours of pulling them out of the oven!

I added a little pat of butter on a couple, but it isn’t necessary. They are sweet and moist all on their own.

Simple enough to make on a weeknight, but also special enough to include with any fall get together. I anticipate making this recipe many more times this autumn.

I wish you could smell my kitchen right now! It smells like everything you hope for in autumn. Pumpkin and spice all in a warm sweet bread. It bakes up like a savory cake. These sweet little pumpkin cornbread muffins were gone within hours of pulling them out of the oven! Simple enough to make on a weeknight, but also special enough to include with any fall get together. I anticipate making this recipe many more times. Pumpkin cornbread would be a great addition to any Thanksgiving feast!

These muffins were delicious, but even sweeter was the opportunity to use my grandma’s cast iron cornbread pan. I’ve been looking for an excuse to pull it out, and it won’t be the last time! (Here’s a link to a similar pan.)

But, if you don’t have a cornbread pan, a muffin tin will do. I also included instructions on how to make this in an 8×8 pan below the recipe.

5 from 1 vote
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Pumpkin Cornbread

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter melted
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 large eggs
  • butter or honey optional

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a muffin tin.
  2. Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Mix gently until combined.
  3. Using two spoons, gently fill each muffin cup until half full to allow room for the cornbread to expand.
  4. Bake for 12 minutes. Using a fork, gently check the center for doneness.
  5. Cool and enjoy.

Recipe Notes

If you would prefer a single cornbread loaf over muffins, pour batter into a greased 8x8 pan and bake 25-30 minutes. Check center for doneness before removing from oven.

I wish you could smell my kitchen right now! It smells like everything you hope for in autumn. Pumpkin and spice all in a warm sweet bread. It bakes up like a savory cake. These sweet little pumpkin cornbread muffins were gone within hours of pulling them out of the oven! Simple enough to make on a weeknight, but also special enough to include with any fall get together. I anticipate making this recipe many more times. Pumpkin cornbread would be a great addition to any Thanksgiving feast!

 

Royal Orange Chocolate Scones

Brohgan Dieker

Brohgan Dieker

Brohgan Dieker is dedicated to answering the "what's for dinner" question with healthy, quick recipes that can accommodate busy schedules. She is a devout Christian, a wife and mother, and a lover of words and books. She lives in the beautiful Flint Hills of Kansas and holds a degree in English from Kansas State University.
Brohgan Dieker

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Simple chocolate scones sweetened with just enough orange juice. Easy recipe that will leave you and your family feeling like royalty!

Tonight, while listening to a thunderstorm build outside, I quietly go through the motions of making a favorite scone recipe.

The house is quiet. My husband busy in the other room, my son is asleep. It’s just me, alone in the kitchen. Not even the dog peeks in.

These scones were first baked for me by a lovely co-worker in a stressful part-time job in college. On Monday, she filled the afternoon by describing a craving she was feeling for these simple chocolate scones her family made, sweetened with just enough orange juice. On Tuesday morning, I found a batch of scones on my desk.

Years later, remembering orange juice as a key ingredient, I googled until I found a recipe that looked similar, described as “royal” scones.

Tonight, I’m making these scones for the second time this week. These scones graciously used the ingredients already found in the pantry, sans one small personal-sized bottle of orange juice.

While the scones are being gracious, I am not. In my thoughts, I have a full list of complaints and wants: more money, more space, more success.

Here I am again, going down this endless spiral. Be affluent. Be important. Be worthy. Be more.

That’s really where the struggle begins, isn’t it? Inside of us?

I take a look at the recipe, and realize suddenly that I have been quadrupling the amount of chocolate in these scones for years! It’s not one and one thirds cup of chocolate chips (leaving the perfect amount remaining in the bag for those desperate parenting moments that require chocolate). No, the recipe calls for one thirds of a cup!

And, BAM, just like that, I’m reminded of how sweet life really is.

In my family, we have health, each other, shelter, plenty of choice homemade foods.

Simple chocolate scones sweetened with just enough orange juice.

Rich enough to enjoy scones made for royalty.

My petition goes silent, as I pray a thankful prayer for the extra chocolate over the years.

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Royal Orange Chocolate Scones

Simple chocolate scones sweetened with just enough orange juice.

Servings 8

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 5 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups miniature chocolate chips semisweet
  • 1/4 cup orange juice plus more to form dough

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheight. Grease a cookie sheet.

  2. Wish first 4 dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl.

  3. Cut butter into small pieces and then, using a fork or a bladed dough blender, cut the butter into dough until it resembles a course crumbs.

  4. Add remaining ingredients until dough will hold shape. Add additional orange juice as needed. (Sometimes I need to add a couple more tsp of orange juice.)

  5. Press dough evenly into the bottom of the mixing bowl, then overturn onto the greased cookie sheet.

  6. Use a large knife to cut into 8 scones (slice, like a pizza). Gently separate scones to allow space to bake evenly.

  7. Bake for 12 minutes until golden brown.

Recipe Notes

I almost always add additional orange juice to help the dough hold together, but the amount required depends on how well the butter was cut into the dough.

Simple chocolate scones sweetened with just enough orange juice.

Zero Waste Dinner: Chinese Hamburger

Brohgan Dieker

Brohgan Dieker

Brohgan Dieker is dedicated to answering the "what's for dinner" question with healthy, quick recipes that can accommodate busy schedules. She is a devout Christian, a wife and mother, and a lover of words and books. She lives in the beautiful Flint Hills of Kansas and holds a degree in English from Kansas State University.
Brohgan Dieker

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Once,  I listened to a podcast about a working lunch which was served to a group of 40 world leaders who were gathering at the UN. Sam Krass, who had served as the Obama family’s personal chef, along with a team of other chefs, served these world leaders, most of whom were presidents of their respected countries, a dinner made of trash.

That’s right, the entire meal was made out of perfectly good food that was intended to be thrown away out of NYC restaurant kitchens.

We, as a culture, waste a lot of food. This includes my own kitchen.

This week, I have been noting ways to use Zero Waste Cooking strategies in my kitchen.

Are you familiar with Zero Waste Cooking? This is an term I encountered while pre-reviewing Erin Odem’s book, More Than Just Making It, which will be released in bookstores in September (affiliate link).

As far as I know, I haven’t encountered this exact term before, but the idea behind it is very familiar to me. Zero Waste is a strategy that my mother and grandmother often used in their kitchens to stretch the weekly food budget. It’s actually very common in kitchens around the world, although not so much in the U.S. these days.

The idea behind Zero Waste Cooking is to use every food to its fullest potential.

For instance, this lettuce. It’s not bad or rotten, but it’s wilted after spending several long days in the fridge. It would make a very sad salad.

What do you normally do with lettuce like this? Do you just chop it into a chewy salad?

I normally just do what my mom did: make Chinese hamburger for dinner. And soon, before the lettuce goes bad!

The really nice thing about this dish is that it’s easy to keep the other ingredients on hand. Frozen ground turkey, a box of beef Rice-A-Roni, butter, and water.

Isn’t it nice to have a back up plan for wilted lettuce??!

Of course, there are considerations to be made when trying to elimate wasted food in your kitchen. The first consideration is food safety. (And, food safety has changed over the years as the bacteria changes. For instance, you can’t rely on your grandma’s method for thawing meat on the counter anymore, folks.)

But, at least you can stretch some overlooked lettuce from the back of the fridge instead of throwing it away!

Print

One-Pot Chinese Hamburger

This easy recipe is a great Zero Waste Cooking strategy for using wilted lettuce!

Servings 4

Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1 box Beef Rice-A-Roni
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1 head lettuce
  • reduced-sodium soy sauce optional

Instructions

  1. Heat ground turkey in large skillet over medium heat until cooked.

  2. Add butter and rice-vermicelli mix and sauté over medium heat until vermicelli is golden brown, stirring frequently.

  3. Slowly stir in water and 1/2 bag seasonings (to lessen sodium), and bring to a boil.

  4. Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer 15-20 minutes until rice is cooked.  Chop lettuce into bite sized pieces.

  5. Turn off burner, but keep pot on stove. Stir lettuce into pot and cover. Leave 1-2 minutes to allow lettuce to wilt.

  6. Plate, sprinkle with soy sauce, and enjoy!

This easy recipe is a great Zero Waste Cooking strategy for using wilted lettuce!

Chinese Restaurant Green Beans

Brohgan Dieker

Brohgan Dieker

Brohgan Dieker is dedicated to answering the "what's for dinner" question with healthy, quick recipes that can accommodate busy schedules. She is a devout Christian, a wife and mother, and a lover of words and books. She lives in the beautiful Flint Hills of Kansas and holds a degree in English from Kansas State University.
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These green beans with a sweet garlic ginger Chinese restaurant glaze are always a crowd pleaser, but they’re also great to eat at home, because they’re also terrific reheated!

We have an ongoing debate in my house: what cut of green beans is best?

French style? The skinny whole bean? The squat cut version?

Each member of the family has their own preference. (Skinny whole is mine!)

But no matter who wins the green bean cut debate, we always ALWAYS want green beans to taste like the magical green beans at a Chinese restaurant.

Do you want to know what the secret is to the magical Chinese restaurant beans?

No, really, do you want to know?

SUGAR.

So. much. sugar. (It’s like the owners of these restaurants know the way to our hearts, or something!)

So, I use honey. I try to lighten up my version of the beans at home a little, although it still is pretty sweet. We really don’t need more sugar in our lives!

I try to keep this recipe fairly casual. I taste and taste again until I like the flavor. I find that the flavor can vary greatly depending on the quality of ingredients you buy, especially the soy sauce, the fish sauce and the ginger.

 

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Chinese Restaurant Green Beans

A lightened up version of those Chinese buffet green beans you love!

Servings 4

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil or more, depending on if beans begin to stick to the skillet
  • 1 lb bag of frozen green beans any cut
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic approx 4-5 cloves fresh
  • 1 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
  • a dash of fish sauce This is a magical ingredient! Can be purchased at any Asian grocery store.
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp dried ground ginger Fresh ginger would also be great! I just usually don't take time to mess with it.

Instructions

  1. Pour about a tbsp of olive oil into a large skillet or wok. Warm over a medium heat.
  2. Dump green beans into skillet, and stir occasionally. (If the skillet is hot, this may spit!)
  3. Cover with cookie sheet or lid until beans are warmed. Stir occasionally to avoid sticking and encourage even cooking.
  4. When beans are no longer frozen, turn the burner down to medium-low and add the remaining ingredients. Stir to combine ingredients evenly, and then stir occasionally so that the sauce doesn't burn.
  5. Remove from heat and serve warm.

Pesto Ricotta Pita Pizzas

Brohgan Dieker

Brohgan Dieker

Brohgan Dieker is dedicated to answering the "what's for dinner" question with healthy, quick recipes that can accommodate busy schedules. She is a devout Christian, a wife and mother, and a lover of words and books. She lives in the beautiful Flint Hills of Kansas and holds a degree in English from Kansas State University.
Brohgan Dieker

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Personal pita pizzas smothered in a garlic three cheese mixture (ricotta, mozzarella, parmesan) and topped with a thin decadent layer of pesto. Such a simple recipe. This personal pizza only takes minutes to assemble and bake. Perfect for a quick meal or even as a snack!

There are days when you just need to partake in something distinctly adult.

(Especially when you are a stay-at-home parent.)

Some people turn to wine. Some people turn to coffee. Some people turn to chocolate.

On this particular day, I chose to make myself a personal pita pizza. (Just look at those pretty little colorful tomatoes from my produce co-op! LOVE!)

These pizzas never fail to amaze me with their simplicity and their elegant flavor.

Plus, pizza = fun. I need more fun in my life, always!

Smothered in pesto and a ricotta-mozzerella-garlic mashup, this pizza is a recipe passed down from my mother to me. On busy days, these are a must make for me.

After my last final of college, I remember coming home to an empty house and quickly making myself one of these. It’s really the ultimate comfort food! Especially when things are feeling rushed or stressful.

It only takes minutes to assemble and uses ingredients that are often already stocked in my fridge. And, if you use foil like me, making this only dirties one bowl.

ONE BOWL. How often are you able to quickly make yourself a warm, cheesy comfort food without leaving a trail of dishes behind??! ALMOST NEVER.

Pop it in the oven until the garlic-y cheese ooze and the pesto glistens. Then enjoy as slowly as life allows!

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Pesto Ricotta Pita Pizzas

Personal pita pizzas smothered in a garlic three cheese mixture (ricotta, mozarella, parmesan) and topped with a thin decadent layer of pesto. Such a simple recipe. This personal pizza only takes minutes to assemble and bake. Perfect for a quick meal or even as a snack!
Servings 2

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup Mozzerella
  • 1 tbsp fresh Parmesan plus additional for topping
  • 1 tsp minced garlic jarred
  • 1/2 cup fresh Ricotta
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 2 pitas
  • 2 tsp jarred pesto
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. Combine first four ingredients in a medium sized bowl with a fork until combined.
  3. Line a baking sheet with foil, and set pitas out on pan.
  4. Using fork, place half of the cheese mixture onto each pita and gently smooth evenly across surface.
  5. Spoon a tsp of pesto onto the middle of each pita. Gently smooth across cheese until there is an even coating.
  6. Bake in oven for 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted.
  7. Allow a few minutes to cool, add salt/pepper/parmesan as desired, then enjoy!

3 Cookbooks to Save Time in the Kitchen

Brohgan Dieker

Brohgan Dieker

Brohgan Dieker is dedicated to answering the "what's for dinner" question with healthy, quick recipes that can accommodate busy schedules. She is a devout Christian, a wife and mother, and a lover of words and books. She lives in the beautiful Flint Hills of Kansas and holds a degree in English from Kansas State University.
Brohgan Dieker

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As much as I love to cook, I do have a few cookbooks which remain on the shelf gathering dust.

Here are some of my FAVORITES over the years! I own all of these suggestions, and I am recommending them to you!

Most of these I own a physical copy, but I’ve started buying the Kindle version instead! Why?

  1. With the invention of Pinterest, I am always cooking from my phone or my ipad. Why not keep my cookbooks there too?
  2. It saves space. I have a small kitchen!

The following post uses affiliate links, which means that at no added cost to you, I get a small percentage of every sale. This allows I do not endorse anything that I myself would not use. You can view my full disclosure policy HERE. Thank you!

These cookbooks have saved me tons of time in the kitchen!

  1. I Can’t Believe It’s Not Fattening! Over 150 Ridiculously Easy Recipes for the Super Busy (affiliate)

Also available on Kindle. (affiliate)

Despite the buzzword laden title, this book could be found open on my kitchen counter from the years 2010-2013 (when I had finally memorized our favorite recipes by heart). The Mexi Mac-n-Cheese and the Scoopy Joes are still in rotation. The author, Devin Alexander, is both a nutritionist and a comfort food lover.

What I like:

  • It’s full of recipes for healthy comfort food! What’s not to love??
  • All of the recipes take less than 20 minutes to make, in my experience.
  • Ingredients are simple and commonly sold in most stores.

What I don’t like:

  • Not every recipe is pictured. That always bugs me a little.
  • Occasional use of processed ingredients. I’m fine with this once in a while, but I try to keep it fresh whenever possible.

Another book by her that I own and have used many times (but not as often, personal preference) is The Biggest Loser Family Cookbook (affiliate).

2. Dinner: The Playbook (affiliate)

Also available on Kindle. (affiliate)

I know, I keep recommending this book over and over! I reviewed it once already (bonus recipe!) But, as a busy parent, it is WORKING for me. It is the new book that lives on my countertop, and I have loved every recipe so far!

What I like:

  • It’s so strategic and easy to follow!
  • I really appreciate how this book is organized! It contains both quick and easy recipes and more challenging recipes. Each type are contained in their own section, so there’s no getting mixed up!
  • I just appreciate Jenny’s voice. She’s sarcastic yet encouraging, and it’s really keeping this dinnertime thing going on difficult/impossible evenings.

What I don’t like:

  • The pictures. I like that they’re included with every recipe, but they look like polaroids from the early 90’s. They’re not really mouth-watering to me. (I’m really just being super picky here! I genuinely like just about everything in this book.)

Another bonus book by Jenny Rosenstrach is Dinner: A Love Story (affiliate). This book is also working well for me right now, and it has a special place in my heart, but it’s just not getting used as often. I think it’s because of the way it is organized. The Gameplan is much more “down to business.”

3. The Southern Pantry Cookbook (affiliate)

Also available on Kindle. (affiliate)

This is another book that I use often (and reviewed here). This cookbook very much inspired my own FOREVER Grocery List, as it sticks to a pantry list of ingredients.

What I like:

  1. It has both simple, delicious dinner recipes AND special holiday recipes. I already know that I will be pulling it out around Christmas to make the Chocolate and Peanut Butter Bars for my family!
  2. The southern-style recipes are introducing my family to some new flavors and styles of food! I love when cookbooks inspire you to try new things!
  3. It reminds me of my grandma’s cooking.

What I don’t like:

  1. Not all the recipes are quick and easy. In fact, some take quite a bit of time.
  2. Many of the recipes are very much “stick to your ribs” style food. Definitely not diet friendly and intended to be enjoyed in moderation!

What did I miss?

Do you have a favorite time-saving cookbook that isn’t mentioned here? Mention it in the comments below!

Toffee Chocolate Pretzel Cookies

Brohgan Dieker

Brohgan Dieker

Brohgan Dieker is dedicated to answering the "what's for dinner" question with healthy, quick recipes that can accommodate busy schedules. She is a devout Christian, a wife and mother, and a lover of words and books. She lives in the beautiful Flint Hills of Kansas and holds a degree in English from Kansas State University.
Brohgan Dieker

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These Toffee Chocolate Pretzel Cookies are the perfect thing to satisfy that sweet/salty craving. It’s my favorite cookie recipe. After the recipe mysteriously disappeared off the internet, I was able to recreate it! I am so excited to share it with you!

Cookies were one of the first things I was allowed to bake in the kitchen all on my own.

(My mother was just reminiscing the other day about a batch of cookies some friends and I made in late elementary school. The amounts of sugar and salt called for in the recipe were switched.)

I imagine that for some people baking cookies is a way to express love, and maybe I am like that. Often I select a cookie recipe because I have a specific person in mind who I think would enjoy it.

But the act off baking is for me. Baking cookies is how I  mark special days on the calendar and prepare for holidays.  A little ritual to embrace whatever needs celebrating in life and make the day a little bit sweeter.

It doesn’t really feel like a special day until the house smells like vanilla, sugar, and butter, does it?


I push the resulting cookies into the hands of the people I love, but the act of baking is mostly selfish because I lose myself in it.

I just love that smell. Once I take off my rings and get over the initial ick factor, digging my hands into dough to form balls makes me feel more youthful and alive. I relax into the rhythm of spacing rolls of dough and trading out for the cookie sheet as soon as the timer goes off.

Somewhere between the nerdy science of baking and the creative outlet of flavor is my happy place.

But, as much as I appreciate all the little joys found in baking cookies, I hold them in moderation. They are reserved for special days and holidays. There is too much of a good thing.

While often I bake certain cookie dough recipes with other people in mind, these cookies are all about me. Sweet and salty combos are my favorite!  I do share, of course, but the act of baking and the final product is all Brohgan. Thankfully, other people are willing to enjoy the things I like with me!

I first tried a chocolate, toffee, pretzel cookie at a favorite deli lunch counter located on my town’s main downtown street. I sniffed out these cookies through their plastic packaging before I saw them! I ate the cookie before my meal (of course!), and I was already googling chocolate toffee pretzel cookie recipes on my phone before I finished my lunch.
I found the PERFECT recipe! It tasted exactly like the cookies from the deli. As a fan of sweet and salty snacks, it quickly became my favorite cookie recipe. I even looked it up online before a Christmas cookie exchange this last December and took honorable mention in a contest out of about 40 cookies!

BUT THE RECIPE DISAPPEARED! It was nowhere to be found on their internet! The blog that originally published it allowed the url to expire, and extensive searching led nowhere.

I had no choice to recreate the recipe, and I am so excited to share it with you!

Lesson learned: if you like a recipe on the internet enough to make it more than once, write it down!

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cups plus 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 (12-oz.) packages semisweet chocolate morsels
  • 1 (8-oz.) package of Heath Milk Chocolate Toffee Baking Bits (or substitute 2 full sized toffee chocolate full size candy bars, crushed)
  • 2 cups coarsely crushed pretzel sticks
  • Parchment paper (optional)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Beat butter and sugars at medium speed with a heavy-duty electric stand mixer until creamy. Add eggs and 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla, beating until blended.
  2. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl; gradually add to butter mixture, beating just until blended. Beat in chocolate chips, heath bar pieces, and crushed pretzel sticks just until combined. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto parchment paper-lined baking sheets.
  3. Bake at 350° for 10 to 14 minutes or until desired degree of doneness. After taking the pan out of the oven, immediately move cookies to wire racks to cool.
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Toffee Chocolate Pretzel Cookies

These Toffee Chocolate Pretzel Cookies are the perfect thing to satisfy that sweet/salty craving. It’s my favorite cookie recipe. After the recipe mysteriously disappeared off the internet, I was able to recreate it! I am so excited to share it with you!

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup butter softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cups plus 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 12-oz. packages semisweet chocolate morsels
  • 1 8-oz. package of Heath Milk Chocolate Toffee Baking Bits (or substitute 2 full sized toffee chocolate full size candy bars, crushed)
  • 2 cups coarsely crushed pretzel sticks
  • Parchment paper optional

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Beat butter and sugars at medium speed with a heavy-duty electric stand mixer until creamy. Add eggs and 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla, beating until blended.
  2. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl; gradually add to butter mixture, beating just until blended. Beat in chocolate chips, heath bar pieces, and crushed pretzel sticks just until combined. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto parchment paper-lined baking sheets.
  3. Bake at 350° for 10 to 14 minutes or until desired degree of doneness. After taking the pan out of the oven, immediately move cookies to wire racks to cool.

These Toffee Chocolate Pretzel Cookies are the perfect thing to satisfy that sweet/salty craving. It's my favorite cookie recipe. After the recipe mysteriously disappeared off the internet, I was able to recreate it! I am so excited to share it with you!

Cold Brew Coffee

Brohgan Dieker

Brohgan Dieker

Brohgan Dieker is dedicated to answering the "what's for dinner" question with healthy, quick recipes that can accommodate busy schedules. She is a devout Christian, a wife and mother, and a lover of words and books. She lives in the beautiful Flint Hills of Kansas and holds a degree in English from Kansas State University.
Brohgan Dieker

Latest posts by Brohgan Dieker (see all)

Have you tried cold brew coffee yet? The cold brew method is much less acidic than iced coffee, which allows notes of the sweeter dark chocolate flavor to shine through. My cold brew coffee recipe is quick and easy enough for a busy weekday morning. Perfect for daily coffee drinking, this only takes a few minutes to throw together the night before, about the same amount of time it takes to set the programmable coffeemaker. In the morning, just filter and enjoy cold over ice.

Oh coffee, should I compare thee to a summer’s day?
(…except it’s February, so how about I compare thee to the hope of a spring morning?)
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.

But how thou rough grounds in cold water doth create terrific cold brew,
which I enjoy very most after the rough winds of May have blown through.

(Uh I think I just heard Shakespeare roll over in his grave. Sorry, Billy.)

As a warm chinook blew through Kansas at the end of January and melted all the snow, I started dreaming of mornings on the back porch (I don’t have a back porch) with my feet up (with a one year old, ha) and with a glass of smooth homemade cold brew coffee in my hand (I didn’t know how to make cold brew).

So I thought I would maybe try to bring about this dream in the one area I have control over, and thus began my journey to achieve the perfect glass of cold brew coffee. In February.

I have spent a lot of money on cold coffee over the years, for better and for worse.  My problem is that I’m a bit of a coffee snob.

I have always been a picky coffee drinker.  I like it very strong and fresh and prefer it to be made with filtered water instead of our hard mineral water in Kansas. And with my face hidden, I admit that I don’t drink coffee at our local beloved roastery because I think that the flavor is inconsistent, and it bothers me.

New York City is one of my favorite places in the world to wander, but I have to tell you that I had nothing but horrible iced coffee on my last summertime trip there.  I dragged my family into every deli advertising iced coffee just to spend $2 on yet another stale, extremely bitter slosh that I inevitably tossed after just a couple of sips. I eventually came to realize that what I was buying was probably yesterday’s unused coffee poured over ice. Ew.

I do like Starbucks iced coffee. I have a friend who is a professional barista at Starbucks, and I asked her about why the Starbucks iced coffee is so yummy. The reasons? First, it only has a shelf life of 12 hours. If it sits any longer than that, they toss it. Second, Starbucks brews the iced coffee double strength to account for the ice melting.

But this post isn’t about iced coffee.  It’s about cold brew.  What’s the difference you ask?  Well, essentially, just the temperature it is brewed at and the length of time it takes to make.

Iced coffee is brewed hot, normally in a drip coffee maker, and it’s much more acidic but can also have a fuller body taste due to the hot brew processes. Cold brew coffee is never hot. Instead, the cold brew process allows the water and coffee grounds to come together over time (12 hours or so) in a cold refrigerator, which results in a much more caffeinated and sweeter coffee with notes of dark chocolate.

 

And now that I’ve successfully made it myself, I am OBSESSED with cold brew. I can’t believe how easy it was!

I will admit, I was completely intimidated by the process at first! I remember when the Pioneer Woman wrote about Perfect Iced Coffee back in 2011. I loved the idea, but I took one look at her gigantic 12 quart container and her cheese cloth filtering system, and I thought NOOOPE. Way too hard. I’ll just drop grab one on my way to work.

That was years ago! Think about all the times I was seriously craving awesome homemade cold brew coffee just to be at the mercy of all those cups of yesterday’s slush over ice. I could have easily made it for myself this entire time!

Alas, it was reading this account of drinking horrible iced coffee in NYC on Jamie Oliver’s site, in his charming accent of course, that finally made me brave enough to give at-home cold brew a chance. I completely identified with that story!

I pulled out a trusty mason jar, my mesh strainer, and a regular coffee filter. I bought the cheapest coffee in the store. I actually just used water from the tap.

And the results were AMAZING. I was so pleased! The cravings of this coffee snob were completely satisfied!

I do have to admit, that this coffee didn’t store well.  I LOVED LOVED LOVED it when it was fresh the first day, but when I tried a sip on the second day it was drinkable but stale. I think that making this in small batches for the next day is best.

Print

Cold Brew Coffee

Have you tried cold brew coffee yet? The cold brew method is much less acidic than iced coffee, which allows notes of the sweeter dark chocolate flavor to shine through. My cold brew coffee recipe is quick and easy enough for a busy weekday morning. Perfect for daily coffee drinking, this only takes a few minutes to throw together the night before, about the same amount of time it takes to set the programmable coffeemaker. In the morning, just filter and enjoy cold over ice.

Ingredients

  • -Coffee coarsely ground
  • -Water
  • -Cream or sugar optional to taste

Instructions

  1. Add coffee to the bottom of a mason jar(or other tightly sealing container) and cover in warm water in a 1:4 ratio. For instance, 2 oz coffee per 8 oz water, 4 oz coffee per 16 oz water, and 8 oz coffee per 32 oz water. (I prefer my coffee very strong. You can adjust this ratio to your tastes. In his post, Jamie Oliver recommends a 1:8 ratio.) TIP: measurements are printed on the side of the mason jar!
  2. Stir contents of the jar to ensure that they are well mixed. Or, shake it up!
  3. Place in refrigerator for between 12 and 24 hours to allow it to brew.
  4. Once brewed, strain using a mesh strainer lined with a basket shaped coffee filter. (This process takes a few minutes, almost as long as brewing hot coffee.)
  5. Drink over ice black or with cream or sugar.

Have you tried cold brew coffee yet? The cold brew method is much less acidic than iced coffee, which allows notes of the sweeter dark chocolate flavor to shine through. My cold brew coffee recipe is quick and easy enough for a busy weekday morning. Perfect for daily coffee drinking, this only takes a few minutes to throw together the night before, about the same amount of time it takes to set the programmable coffeemaker. In the morning, just filter and enjoy cold over ice. Oh coffee, should I compare thee to a summer's day? (...except it's February, so how about I compare thee to the hope of a spring morning?) Thou art more lovely and more temperate.