Cheerio Marshmallow Bars

Have you ever accidentally bought your kid PLAIN cheerios when they are on a steady diet of the Honey Nut kind? Well let me tell you what happens… toddlers toss those little oat rings right on the floor and demand the sweet goodness they deserve. Since I’m not one to waste food, I turned them into a tasty treat, using an updated version of everyone’s favorite cereal bar recipe. Score 1 for Mom.


3 tbsp. unsalted butter
10 ½ oz. bag mini marshmallows
5 cups plain Cheerios
½ cup chocolate chips
½ cup peanut butter chips

Line a 9×9 baking dish with parchment paper. In a microwave safe bowl, melt butter for 30 seconds at a time until fully melted. Add bag of mini marshmallows to melted butter and microwave on high for 1 minute. Mix butter and marshmallows together with a rubber spatula (marshmallows should be fully melted and smooth). Fold Cheerios into marshmallow mixture until combined. Allow to cool for 30 seconds, then add chocolate and peanut butter chips. Using spatula, press mixture into lined baking dish. Cut into squares when cool. Enjoy!

Confidencial Reserva Tinto 2014

Confidencial Reserva Tinto 2014
Portugal – Lisboa
13.5% ABV
My Rating: 88 points

In the past 2 years, Costco has been carrying more and more Portuguese wines, most of which are both budget and food friendly. Confidencial is bold enough to pair with most meat dishes, but really shines with roasted chicken or pork. Wine Enthusiast gives this wine an impressive 92 points and quotes its list price at $27! Costco gets such great deals on their wine purchases, that this gem is a budget friendly $7.99, making it a great choice for a casual night sipper.

Medium ruby, medium bodied, nice balance of fruit, acidity and tannins.

Pair with: roasted chicken

Recipe pairing:
Half Roasted Chicken
Bundt Pan Roasted Chicken

From the winemaker:
“This quality wine was produced from a selection of the best varieties of this region, using traditional fermentation techniques, long maceration and oak aging period. Very aromatic with notes of ripe wild berry fruits, in the palate it is a fruity and full bodied wine with some oak notes and an agreeably pronounced acidity.”

Instant Pot White Velvet Soup

Soups come together so quickly and easily in the Instant Pot, I hardly make them any other way. I was making soup for a friend recovering from surgery and wanted to bring over a few varieties. The only requirement was that they were pureed. I knew my Instant Pot Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper Soup would hit the spot, but I needed another idea! I saw a recipe on the Food Network for White Velvet Soup, but wanted to make a few adjustments to the ingredients and knew it would come together more quickly in the Instant Pot. The creamy, velvety texture of this surprisingly healthy soup is fantastic.

Ingredients (serves 6):
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 lb. parsnips, peeled and chopped into 1-inch pieces
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 bulbs fennel, trimmed and chopped into 1-inch pieces
2 teaspoons salt
¼ tsp. black pepper
½ teaspoon fennel seeds
1 bay leaf
4 cups water
½ cup heavy cream
Crispy cooked bacon, chopped, for garnish (optional)

Press sauté on Instant Pot. When display reads “Hot” add olive oil, onion, parsnip and celery. Sauté until vegetables are beginning to soften, 4-6 minutes. Add chopped fennel bulb, salt, pepper, fennel seeds, bay leaf and water. Give it a quick stir and then close the lid. Press “manual” and set timer to 8 minutes. When the timer is done, quick release pressure before opening the lid. Remove bay leaf and blend using an immersion blender. Stir in cream and serve. Enjoy!

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

There are certain kinds of cookies that I associate with Christmas; for me those are Anginetti Cookies, Spritz Cookies and Chocolate Crinkle Cookies.  I don’t know why I reserve making them for the holidays, they really should be made all year.  Each cookie is like the perfect bite sized soft, gooey center of a brownie.




Ingredients (Makes 24 cookies):
¾ cup cocoa powder
1 ½ cup white sugar
⅓ cup canola oil
3 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
160 grams (1 ½ cups) flour
1 ½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
½ cup confectioners’ sugar

In a large bowl, mix together cocoa powder, white sugar and canola oil.  Beat in eggs, one at a time, then add vanilla.  In a separate bowl, mix together flour, baking powder and salt.  Fold into the sugar mixture and stir until well combined.  The batter should resemble a thick brownie batter.  Put into refrigerator for 2-4 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Form batter into 1” balls and roll into confectioners’ sugar.  Bake on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper for 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and let sit on cookie sheet for 2 minutes before transferring to wire rack to cool.


Paul Dolan Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

Paul Dolan Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2015
California – Mendocino County
14.5% ABV
My Rating: 90 points

It can be hard finding a robust California Cabernet in the sub $20 range, but Costco has been getting in several cabs from Mendocino County that are terrific values. Big and bold, Paul Dolan has the drying tannins that pair nicely with a marbled ribeye. At this price, it’s worth stocking a few bottles for grilling steaks at home.

Deep ruby, cherry, cedar, drying tannins.

Pair with: grilled ribeye, braised short ribs, sharp cheeses

Recipe Pairing
Perfectly Seared Steakhouse Steaks

From the winemaker:
“Paul Dolan Vineyards is located in the heart of Mendocino County, Northern California, a secluded land of rich biological diversity and unique microclimates. Grapes are sourced from meticulously tended vineyards, and our balanced winemaking practices support each bottling’s expression of terroir for wines of unforgettable character.

Instant Pot Ham Hock and Lentil Soup

I’ve been trying some new recipes with lentils in my Instant Pot Duo 60, (see Instant Pot Sausage and Lentil Soup (Carraba’s Copycat) for another great lentil soup option!) and I couldn’t be happier. They are delicious, inexpensive, and my 1 year-old (who prefers most of his meals in the form of grilled cheese) loves these lentil and veggie soups. The ham bone adds savory smoked flavors; it’s a great way to use up holiday leftovers, or you can pick one up inexpensively from the grocery store.


Ingredients (serves 4-6):
1 tbsp. olive oil
3 carrots, cut into bite sized pieces
3 celery sprigs, diced
1 onion, diced
Ham hock
190 grams (1 cup) lentils
32 oz. chicken broth
1 cup frozen corn, thawed
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper
⅛ tsp. garlic powder

Press sauté on Instant Pot. When display reads “Hot” add olive oil, onion, carrots and celery. Sauté until vegetables are beginning to soften, 4-6 minutes. Add ham hock, chicken broth, lentils, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Give it a quick stir and then close the lid. Press “manual” and set timer to 18 minutes. When the timer is done, let pressure release naturally before opening the lid. Stir in thawed corn until heated and serve. Enjoy!

Mano a Mano Tempranillo 2014

Mano a Mano Tempranillo 2014
Spain – Tierra de Castilla
14% ABV
My Rating: 87 points

If you can count on only one thing from Costco, it’s that you will find some unbelievable bargains on Spanish wines. I have been impressed with most of the Spanish reds under $10, and at $7.99, this Tempranillo is a great deal. They carried the 2013 vintage of this wine in the fall of 2016, and when I went back to stock up, it was gone. I didn’t make the same mistake this year. As soon as I saw it, I grabbed a case, because I know it won’t last long. Mano a Mano is an easy drinking wine to enjoy with or without food.

Full bodied, earthy, vanilla, blackberry, with a hint of mint and drying tannins on the long finish.

Pair with: grilled meat, pork dishes, lamb, serrano ham

Recipe pairings:
Instant Pot Carnitas
Grilled Lamb Chops with Yogurt Sauce

From the winemaker:
“A hand-made wine created in the spirit of collaboration. Hand-harvested grapes are selected from the best vines in “Tierra de Castilla”, then passed on to the agile hands of our winemaker. The result is a carefully made wine: long slow fermentation is followed by gentile aging in French oak to create a balanced “tinto” with vanilla, spice, robust red fruit and a rich finish.”

Instant Pot Root Vegetable Mash

The fall weather settled in this weekend in Austin, and has me thinking All-Things-Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving dinner is the best meal of the year, hands down! With the southern tradition of frying our turkey, I am trying out some lighter side dishes, and I love that my Instant Pot Duo 60 allows me to free up some precious oven space. If you don’t already have one, you can grab a Vegetable Steamer Basket on Amazon. Root vegetables, like potatoes, parsnips and rutabaga need to be steamed outside of the cooking liquids so they don’t get dense and gummy. I also use this basket on the stove top for veggies, dumplings and pot stickers.

I’ve been making a potato-parsnip mash for years, but decided to invite a rutabaga to the party because it’s just so darn healthy. They are a member of the turnip family, so they have a bit of the bitterness a turnip has, but they are milder and balanced nicely by the sweetness of the parsnips. Did you know that rutabaga has less than HALF the calories and carbs of potatoes? Here is how they stack up –

Rutabaga – per 100 grams: 38 calories, 9 grams carbs, 2.3 grams fiber
Parsnips – per 100 grams: 75 calories, 18 grams carbs, 4.9 grams fiber
Potato – per 100 grams: 79 calories, 18 grams carbs, 1.3 grams fiber

As you can see, using a root vegetable medley (over plan potatoes) substantially reduces calories and carbs while adding a healthy dose of fiber.

Ingredients (serves 6-8):
1 rutabaga, peeled and cubed
1 large russet potato, peeled and cubed
4 parsnips, peeled and cut into chunks
¼ cup milk
2 tbsp. butter
½ tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper
Chives or green onions (optional garnish)

Add 1 ½ cups water and Vegetable Steamer Basket to Instant Pot. Add peeled and cut rutabaga, potato and parsnips. Close lid, press “manual” and set timer to 8 minutes. QPR after timer is done, transfer vegetables to a large bowl and add milk, butter, onion powder, salt and pepper. Mash using an electric hand mixer. Garnish with chives, if desired. Enjoy!

Best Italian Style Meatballs

I’ve made spaghetti and meatballs hundreds (thousands?) of times, but there really is something to be said for the perfect meatball. They seem easy enough, but the perfect ratio of meat to egg to breadcrumb to seasonings needs to be just right to keep them from tasting like dense little hamburgers. This recipe balances the perfect amount of ground sirloin, spice and flavor from Italian sausage, seasoned up right to simmer away in a big batch of Sunday sauce. These come out great every time.



Ingredients (makes 24 meatballs):
2 lbs. 90/10 ground sirloin
6 oz. Italian sausage, removed from casing
2 eggs
¾ cup breadcrumbs
¼ onion, grated
1 oz. parmesan cheese, grated
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
¼ tsp. black pepper
1 tbsp. canola oil (for frying)

Add all ingredients except canola oil to a large bowl. Combine with hands, being careful not to overwork. Roll into 24 equal sized meatball. Preheat a heavy bottomed or cast iron skillet on medium-low, then add oil. Working in batches, brown meatballs on all sides until a nice crust forms. Continue cooking browned meatballs in your favorite tomato sauce for at least one hour, preferably 2-3 hours. Serve with pasta. Enjoy!

Montecillo Rioja Reserva 2010

Montecillo Rioja Reserva 2010
Spain – Rioja
13.5% ABV
My Rating: 89 points

If I’ve ever spoken to you about Costco’s wine department, you know that if I see a Rioja Reserva for under $10,  I snap it up immediately. There are some great bargain wines coming out of the Rioja region of Spain, especially if you know what to look for on the label. Riojas fall into one of four categories; Rioja (under a year aging), Crianza (2 years aging, at least 1 of which is in oak), Reserva (3 years aging, at least 1 of which is in oak) and Gran Reserva (5 years aging, at least 2 of which are in oak), and prices tend to go up the longer its aged. Many of my favorite Riojas are Reservas; they have a great oaky finish and pair well with red meat and aged cheeses.

Deep garnet, tobacco, oak, nice cherry acidity.

Pair with: lamb chops, sharp cheese

Recipe Pairing:
Grilled Lamb Chops with Yogurt Sauce

From the winemaker:
“Just fill your glass and enjoy this smooth and round wine, elaborated with Rioja’s native grapes following a century-old tradition. Aged for more than 3 years, with at least 18 months in oak barrels.
Its spicy and fruity flavors are a perfect match to cheese, red-meat dishes liked grilled lamb chops and smoked food. Serve at 64F
Fall in love, again, with an authentic Rioja”