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Shrimp, Tomatoes, and Orzo with Basil


(Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart’s Cookbook, “One Pot Meals”)

Hello, my beautiful Friends!   I have really missed you!   

I am so excited to get back to blogging after this long hiatus I have been on.  I thought it would be simple to blog while my family lived in our tiny little apartment for the past 6 months, but boy was I wrong.  We were falling on top of each other all the time and adding blogging to that situation was a NO GO!  We just recently started liking each other again.  LOL!

I kept telling myself that one day I would be able to look back on this temporary decision and be happy I made it.  Honestly, I second guessed myself ALLLLLL THEEEEE  TIME!


I can finally say that the day came when I could finally say that the decision did actually pay off.  We couldn’t afford to build our home while still living in the home we had.  So, we sold first, then did a 6 month lease while it was built.

That is behind us now since we recently moved in.  (Everybody take a deep breath with me and exhale slowly now…………AHHHHHHHHHHH! )

Ok, enough jibber jabber!

In honor of the interesting Summer I had, I want to share a recipe that represents everything Summer to me!  Shrimp, basil, and tomatoes!

This recipe is both yummy AND light!




Recipe:  Shrimp, Tomatoes, and Orzo with Basil

•  3 Cups halved Grape Tomatoes, Halved

•  6 Garlic Cloves, Minced

•  2 Tablespoons Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

•  3/4 lb. Orzo

•  3  1/4 Cups Low-Sodium Chicken Broth

•  1  1/2 lbs. Large Shrimp, Peeled and Deveined

•  1 Cup Fresh Basil Leaves, Chopped


•  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Position rack in the top position.

•  In a large ovenproof skillet with a tight-fitting lid, heat 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons oil over medium heat.

•  Add garlic and cook until just beginning to brown, 1 minute.  Increase heat to high and add tomatoes;  season with salt and     pepper.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 6 minutes.

•  Add orzo and broth, and bring to a simmer.

•  Cover and bake until liquid is mostly absorbed, 10 to 12 minutes.

•  Toss shrimp with remaining teaspoon oil and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper.  Remove skillet from oven, and place shimp on top of orzo.

•  Heat broiler.  Broil until shrimp are opaque throughout, 4 minutes.

•  Sprinkle with basil and serve.



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Chicken Lasagna with Spinach


So, lately for some reason, I have had great “ideas” that haven’t been good realities.  (*Remember….. the chocolate cakes with ganache?   LAWRD  !!!! )

Well, I had to save those like I had to save this lasagna tonight.  *Just keepin it real over here!*

Well, tonight’s dinner started out with the intent on being Chicken Lasagna Roll Ups.  Then, it was dinner making time and I realized that I only had “oven ready” lasagna noodles.  I had bought them before because they are magnificent!  No boil, just layer those puppies in with the lasagna and you are good to go.  I’m talkin STRAIGHT FROM THE BOX, PEOPLE!


Well, I had never tried to actually boil them and because you need to boil the actual lasagna noodles in order to make them pliable enough to make the rolls, I was in deep doggy doo doo!  *SIDE BAR:  Anybody know whether or not you can actually boil these things?  I only had enough for the actual lasagna with none to spare, so I was terrified to take that chance.  Help a girl out, if ya know!

Instead, I decided to make my own version of Chicken Lasagna and prayed it turned out ok.



And now, because of my “almost possible maybe I might have had another EPIC FAIL”, I get to share that recipe with you!  The people I love so much!  🙂

So, my loves, here you go:


RECIPE:  Chicken Lasagna  with Spinach

*TIP:  I prepared this meal earlier in the day and just put it in the oven when I was ready!



•  1 medium size onion, chopped
•  1 (24 oz.) can tomato sauce
•  1 (14.5 oz.) can fire roasted tomatoes (* I used no salt added)
•  2 tbsp. italian seasoning
•  2 cloves garlic (minced)
•  1 tbsp. sugar
•  salt/pepper


•  1 (15 oz.) container part-skim ricotta cheese

•  1 1/2 cups reduced fat shredded mozzarella cheese, divided

•  1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, divided

•  1/2 teaspoon salt

•  1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

•  1/8 teaspoon ground pepper

•  10 oz. fresh spinach

•  12 lasagna (OVEN READY) noodles, you may need more depending on how big noodles are.  Make sure you make a layer each time.

•  2 cups shredded white meat chicken (*I used rotisserie)


•  To prepare sauce:  Add first six ingredients to a medium size sauce pan.  Season with the salt and pepper and bring to a slight boil on medium high heat.  Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

•  Meanwhile, to prepare filling:  Combine ricotta, 3/4 cup of mozzarella cheese, 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, and oregano in a bowl.  Mix until well incorporated and set aside.

•  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

•  In a 13 x9 in. pan, spread about 1 – 1  1/2 cup of sauce on bottom of pan.  (just enough to really coat the bottom of pan).  Then, top sauce with enough lasagna noodles to make a layer.   *This could take 3-5 noodles depending on your noodles. I ended up using 5 on each layer.

•  Top noodles with half of spinach.

•  Crumble/Spread half of ricotta cheese mix over spinach.

•  Spread half of shredded chicken on top of mixture.

•  Repeat layers once more.  *You may need to press down on layers as you go in case lasagna gets too full.

•  End with one last layer of lasagna noodles on top.

•  Spread remaining sauce over top of noodles.

•  Sprinkle with remaining 3/4 cup of shredded mozzarella and 1/4 cup grated parmesan.

•  Cover with aluminum foil that has been sprayed with non stick cooking spray (to prevent foil from sticking to lasagna).

•  Bake, covered with the foil for 50 minutes.

•  Remove foil, and bake for an additional 5-10 minutes until cheese is golden brown.

•  Remove lasagna from oven and allow to cool and set for 5-10 minutes.


XOXO, Esther 

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Chocolate Trifle w/ Raspberry Buttercream Frosting

Chocolate Trifle

This is the sweet I made for my sweets today.

This was also not what I had intended to make for them.  On Valentine’s Day, we tend to make it more about the kids than ourselves anymore.  So, the plan this year was to do steak, potatoes, asparagus, and a great dessert.  We thought it would be fun to watch the movie, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.  (Did I Say that right?  I never do……..)

Little did I know how much that movie would impact my dessert making skills.

I had this great idea to fix these individual chocolate cakes with this great ganache topping with little Wilton sugar flowers on top.

Everything was going great until I got to here:


I was all like, “Oh yeah!  I got this!  Came up with this on my own.  Going to rock this and my family is going to think I’m a rockstar!”

Yeahhhhhhhhhh……. not so good after that.  Everything went wrong!


First, this happened………………





Thank goodness I still had this.  FYI:  I used a boxed cake mix.


I heart boxed cake mixes.

Not a stinkin thing wrong with boxed cake mixes.

Just sayin………..   When people say, “oh my goodness!  This is the best cake I have EVER had!”

You simply say, “Awe!  Thank you!” And leave it at that.   😉


So, I went with Plan B.  Start stuffing wine glasses and make a trifle.


I stuffed with left over cake and fresh raspberries, with some of the raspberry buttercream icing I made earlier for the cakes.

Wanna know how I made the frosting?

This is what I did:


I took two sticks of softened unsalted butter and using a hand mixer, beat for 2 minutes until light and fluffy.  Then, I slowly added 6 cups of powdered sugar, alternating between 1/8 cup of skim milk in between when the mixture got too dry.



I added a 1/4 cup of raspberry puree to the frosting, which I made by first…………


taking a pint of fresh raspberries and 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar and pulsing in a blender until it was


smooth.  Since I had little left over (approx. 1/4 cup) , I used it again later in assembling the trifle.


It made the BEST tasting Raspberry Buttercream Frosting.  I often use fresh berries to flavor and turn icing a pink color instead of using red food dye b/c I have an allergy to it myself.  Needless to say, I have never had Red Velvet Cake and I often dream of how it may taste.  But alas, I shall never know.   Oh well.

Anyway, back to the trifle!


Like I mentioned earlier, after layering in no particular order, the cake, fresh raspberries, and the frosting…….. I added a dollop of raspberry puree and then some more cake and frosting.


Then, I added some more frosting ( I know!  Enough already with the frosting!) and berries and finally, the Wilton sugar flowers.

It could have been a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day with the catastrophe that was my cake making skills, but a very wise Pastor once told me, “Never compare your Behind the Scenes to someone else’s Highlight Real”!

So, here I am.  Melted cakes and all,

telling you that you can turn a mess into something beautiful and tasty  afterall.


I wish y’all a Happy and Sweet Valentine’s Day, from my







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Lee’s Lemon Cupcakes

Lee's Lemon Cupcakes-2

So, my oldest turned 11 today………………  11 , y’all!

It breaks my heart…………..  mostly because it means I’m getting old.


It doesn’t break my heart to share the cupcake recipe I made for her birthday.

A little while back, I shared a recipe of a cake that was my cake version of this very cupcake.  Confusing?  Hopefully not.

We bought some cupcakes that were called “Lemon Bliss” Cupcakes at Sam’s Club.  They were instantly a HIT!  Problem is, they are a seasonal item and you can’t get them all the time.  One of my favorite things is to try to recreate foods that I have tried and put my own twist on them in the process.  The cake was awesome and we had it for her birthday last year.  You can check that post out here.

This year, we decided to do the actual cupcake version so we made a few adjustments.


With the cake I made, I used whipped cream as the “icing”.  This time, I decided to go with buttercream and lemon pudding in the middle and also filled the inside of the cupcake with the pudding like a hostess cupcake.

The result was pure AWESOMENESS!  The great thing is this cupcake is not heavy at all!  I didn’t say it was’t fattening, just not heavy.  So, I guess you might want to be careful since you could probably eat a few without blinking an eye.  😉



Have fun and let me know how your’s turn out!

Recipe:  Lee’s Lemon Cupcakes

NOTE:  It may be helpful to read entire recipe before starting.

Makes 24 Cupcakes (filled half way) or 20 Cupcakes filled 2/3 way high


– 1 Boxed Lemon Cake , plus additional items needed for cake such as eggs, oil, water (etc.)

– 1 Box Instant Lemon Pudding, plus 2 cups milk needed for Pudding instructions.

– Lemon Buttercream Frosting (Recipe Follows)

– Cupcake Liners

– 1 Cupcake filler tip

– 1 Tip for Buttercream Frosting

– 2 Large Freezer Ziplock Bags

Lemon Butter Cream Frosting:

– 2 Sticks room temperature softened unsalted butter

– 6 Cups Confectioners Sugar

– 1/2 Cup Milk (I use Skim)

– 1   1/2  Teaspoons Lemon Extract


– Line Muffin Pan with liners and mix and bake cupcakes according to cake instructions.  Allow to cool completely.

– Meanwhile, make Lemon Pudding according to package instructions and put in fridge for 15 minutes to allow to “set up”.

– Make Buttercream frosting by beating 2 sticks butter with a hand mixer until smooth (about 2 minutes).  Slowly add confectioners sugar and alternate between milk and confectioners sugar until all has been used.  Add lemon extract and beat until completely smooth and all lumps from sugar are gone.

– Once cupcakes have completely cooled, take a large ziplock bag, snip one corner of bag at an angle and insert large long decorating tip for cupcake filling into bag.  Fill bag with Lemon Pudding Filling.  Seal bag and set aside.

– Take other large ziplock bag and snip a corner of bag at angle and insert another large decorating tip of your choosing for Butter Cream frosting.  Fill bag with Butter Cream Frosting and set aside.

– Take cooled cupcakes and inserting the tip of the Lemon Pudding bag into center of cupcake, gently squeeze bag until you can see the lemon pudding filling come out of top.  Finish filling remainder of cupcakes.  You should have left over.  Do not throw away!  We will use at end.

– Take Butter Cream Frosting back and make a swirl around top outer edge of cupcake twice, allowing for a “circle” to remain on center of cupcake.  Finish frosting remainder of cupcakes.

– Take remaining lemon pudding filling bag and fill remaining center “circle” on cupcake until pudding is level with butter cream frosting.

– Your done!  Enjoy!

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