Lasagna Soup

Lasagna soup

Our weather has been flip-flopping between warm and chilly.  For a while there, the days and nights were really beginning to feel like proper fall.  I even had to break out the down comforters for the beds, because I was getting cold at night.  The air was smelling so crisp and clear.  Sigh… I love Fall.

But, now, we are back to late summer temperatures again.  Muggy, and somewhat warm.  Thank you New England!  Be as it may, I still am craving soups.  I thought that a great way to kick-off soup season would be with this killer looking lasagna soup.  I mean really.  Tomatoes, noodles, hamburger and cheese?  You can’t go wrong!

Lasagna soup

My husband thoroughly dislikes ricotta cheese, so I opted not to put in the cheesy mixture.  Instead, I did a mixture of cheddar, mozzarella and parmesan cheese, served along side a hunk of crusty bread.  It was fabulous.  The kids loved it, we loved it.  It was a great, hearty dish for a chilly evening.  I look forward to making this again this winter.

Lasagna Soup

Yield: 8-10 servings

For the soup

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 lbs. hamburger
  • 2 large onions, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons. dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 28-oz. can fire roasted diced tomatoes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 cup chicken stock
  • 8 oz.  fusilli pasta
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh basil leaves
  • salt and pepper, to taste
Cheese topping
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar
  • 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese


Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add hamburger, breaking up into bite sized pieces, and brown for about 8 minutes.  Stir in onions and cook until softened, about 6 minutes.  Then, stir in the garlic, oregano, red pepper flakes, italian seasoning, and red pepper flakes.  Cook for 1 minute. Add tomato paste and stir until hamburger is coated.  Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the tomato paste turns slightly brown.

Add diced tomatoes, bay leaves, and chicken stock. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Add uncooked pasta and cook until al dente.  Stir in the fresh basil, salt and pepper to taste.  Remove the bay leaves, and serve in individual bowls, and top with a sprinkling of each cheese.

Source: Adapted from 300 Sensational Soups, via A Farmgirl’s Dabbles


Baked Chicken Fingers

baked chicken fingers

Right now, my son is going through a bit of a non-eating phase.  All he ever wants is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, despite our best efforts.  (P.S- that is because all I ate/craved while pregnant with him were peanut butter and jelly sandwiches!)  The rule in our household is, you eat what is put in front of you, or go hungry until the next meal.  No special, separate meals here!  Once in a while, I will gear a dinner toward the kids just to be fun and knowing that they will clean their plates.  It’s a win-win!

baked chicken fingers

This recipe is definitely for those chicken finger lover/picky kids.  I don’t usually like chicken fingers, although my kids definitely will devour them anytime.  But, when I tried these chicken fingers, I was converted.  They lack the sinking gut feeling of heavy grease, thanks to baking them instead.  The panko makes a wonderful crunchy exterior, but still holds in the moisture in the chicken to make it nice and tender.  Serve alongside a salad and your favorite dipping sauce, and any picky eater will be happy!  (Or non-picky too!)

Baked Chicken Fingers

Yield: 4-5 servings

  • 2 cups panko
  • 2 Tablespoons grapeseed oil, or canola or vegetable
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 3 large egg whites
  • 1 Tablespoon water
  • 1 Tablespoon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into 3/4-inch strips
  • salt and pepper


Preheat the oven to 475ºF.

In a large skillet, combine the panko and oil over medium heat.  Cook until golden brown, stirring often, about 8-10 minutes.  Transfer to a shallow dish.  In another shallow dish, combine the flour, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.  In a third shallow dish, whisk together the egg whites, water, mustard and thyme.

Spray a wire rack with vegetable spray and place over a rimmed baking sheet.  Season the chicken lightly with salt and pepper.  Dredge a piece or two of chicken in the flour until coated, then dip into the egg whites, then, press in the breadcrumbs to adhere to all sides.  Place on the greased wire rack.  Repeat with remaining chicken strips.

Spray the tops of the chicken lightly with vegetable spray, then place in the oven.  Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until cooked through.  Serve with desired dipping sauces.

Source: Barely adapted from America’s Test Kitchen, Healthy Family Cookbook

Spiced Red Lentils with Rice

Dal with rice

So, you know those meals that aren’t exactly a showstopper, but taste amazing?  This is definitely one of those dishes.  It really doesn’t look very pretty, or maybe even appealing, but man oh man, it tastes soo good.  And, it makes the house smell amazing.  The red lentils become creamy, perfectly spiced, and just downright delicious.  I love to serve it over cooked white rice.

I have been trying to find recipes to use my fresh garden tomatoes that seem to just keep coming. (I am not complaining!)  This was a perfect way to incorporate many small ones.  This dish is a great, healthy, and quick meal for those busy weeknights.  And, it makes killer leftovers.  Win win!

Spiced Red Lentils with Rice

Yield: About 8-10 servings

For the spice mixture

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes (if you like spicy, use more)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger

For the lentils

  • 2 Tablespoons coconut oil (or grapeseed, or canola oil)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup red lentils, picked through and rinsed
  • 12 ounces tomatoes, chopped (I used a combination of small romas and cherry tomatoes)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 Tablespoons salted butter
  • salt and pepper
  • cooked white rice


In a small bowl, mix together the spice mixture.  In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat until shimmering.  Stir in the spice mixture and cook until fragrant, about 10 seconds.  Mix in the onion and cook until softened, 5-8 minutes.  Stir in the garlic, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Stir in the water and lentils and bring to a simmer.  Reduce the heat to low and continue to simmer until the lentils are tender and resemble a thick purée, 20-25 minutes.

Off the heat, stir in the tomatoes, parsley, tomatoes, butter, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper.  Stir gently until combined.  Adjust seasonings if necessary.  Serve over rice.

Source: Adapted from The America’s Test Kitchen, Healthy Family Cookbook

Farfalle with Bacon, Toasted Corn, and Tomatoes

Pasta with toasted corn, tomatoes and bacon

I seriously can’t believe it’s September 1st today.  Where did the summer go!?  I am already looking forward to cozy sweaters and warm cups of coffee.  But, I am not really ready to move on to pumpkin and Halloween like the stores are insisting upon.  My daughter started her first day of first grade today, and my son started his first day of his last year of pre-school.  OMG!  They are are growing up way too quickly.  But, I must say, I secretly did a little mental dance in my head after my daughter got on the bus.  Isn’t that horrible?  Maybe a little selfish, but I always look forward to the times I get just with baby.  The house is actually quiet for more than 30 seconds when it’s just her and I at home…

Our tomatoes are just now turning ripe.  I must say, I am pretty excited.  I was so afraid, that after the deer snipped a lot of the tips, that the tomatoes weren’t going to produce.  Alas, they look pretty happy still!  Now that I have several different kinds of vegetables ripe in the garden, I am trying to take advantage of them to their fullest.  That means, lots of vegetable dishes.  Especially since I seem to have monstrous zucchini every time I go out the garden. I am serious.  I swear they magically grow between the morning and the evening, because I go out there usually twice a day.

Moving on.

Pasta with toasted corn, tomatoes and bacon

This pasta dish is the perfect way to enjoy fresh, in season vegetables.  Pasta and vegetables are my favorite combination.  Oh, and cheese!  That is very important.  So is bacon.  I mean really, you can’t go wrong with chopped bacon with pasta.  Chop up some fresh herbs, and you have yourself a quick and easy meal.  But definitely not lacking in flavor.  I can’t wait to make this again.

Farfalle with Bacon, Toasted Corn, and Tomatoes

Yield: about 6 servings

  • 8 slices of bacon, chopped
  • 5 ears corn, husked and kernels cut from cobs
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 pound farfalle
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan, plus extra for serving
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil


Cook the bacon in a medium skillet over medium-high heat until crisp, about 5 minutes.  Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.  Reserve about 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat, discard the rest.  Add the corn to the skillet with the reserved fat, as well as 1/4 teaspoon salt.  Stir well and cook until spotty brown, about 10 minutes.  Stir in the tomatoes and cook until slightly softened, 3-5 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot.  Add the pasta and 1 tablespoon salt.  Cook until al dente.  Reserve 1/2 cup pasta water, then drain the pasta and return it to the pot.  Add the bacon, corn mixture, grated Parmesan, and basil.  Toss to combine.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and add reserved cooking water as needed to adjust consistency.  Serve immediately with extra grated Parmesan.

Source: Adapted from Pasta Revolution by America’s Test Kitchen

Penne with Zucchini, Tomatoes, and Boursin Cheese

Pasta with boursin

Summer is the time when I embrace pasta loaded with fresh vegetables.  Fresh zucchini, tomatoes, basil- yes please!  I love how zucchini and tomatoes are so versatile.  You can cook, roast, grill, or even leave them raw!  And they taste so dang good.  Needless to say, they are the perfect addition to any summer meal.

Pasta with boursin

Boursin is one of my favorite, very rare indulgences.  My mom introduced it to me as a kid, and ever since, I have been hooked.  It is so creamy, seasoned with my favorite herbs and garlic.  It’s like the upgraded version times 100 of cream cheese and chive dip.  My dad always served chive dip with crackers and carrots when I was a kid- it was my all-time favorite snack.  (He now serves that to my kids as a snack when they visit and they totally love it.)  So, when I saw this recipe that has melted Boursin cheese with pasta and fresh veggies, I put it on the weekly menu immediately.  No questions asked.

My husband, who isn’t a big cheese person still enjoyed this dish, but definitely not to the extent that I did.  Maybe even boarder-line obsession.  I can’t help it, I love cheese!  The Boursin cheese melted when mixed into the pasta dish, so it covered everything.  Swoon!  This is a wonderful dish to incorporate fresh summer vegetables and your love of cheese all into one, easy meal!  The perfect week-night meal.

Penne with Zucchini, Tomatoes, and Boursin Cheese

  • 1/4 cup olive oil, divided
  • 1 lb. zucchini, quartered lengthwise and sliced about 1/2-inch thick
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 lb. penne pasta
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 (5.2 oz.) package Boursin Garlic and Fine Herbs cheese
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil


Adjust an oven rack 4 inches from broiler element and heat broiler to high.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with tinfoil and brush with 1 tablespoon of oil.  Toss zucchini in a large bowl with 1 tablespoon oil, season with salt and pepper, then spread evenly onto the prepared baking sheet in a single layer.  Place in the oven and broil, stirring occasionally until lightly brown around the edges but still firm in the center, 10-15 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let cool slightly.

Meanwhile, bring 4-quarts of water to boil in a large pot.  Add the pasta and 1 tablespoon of salt and cook, stirring occasionally until al dente.  Reserve 1 cup of cooking water, then drain pasta and return it to the pot.

Add the tomatoes, Boursin cheese, and 1/4 cup reserved cooking water to the pasta and toss well to combine.  Carefully stir in the zucchini, basil and remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and add remaining cooking water as needed to adjust consistency.  Serve with additional chopped basil if desired.

Source: Adapted from The Pasta Revolution by America’s Test Kitchen

Roasted Zucchini and Tomato Sandwiches

Roasted Zucchini and Tomato Sandwich

It’s amazing how quickly summer is passing by.  I feel like I have been in a whirl wind.  I feel so busy, but at the same time, I wonder what I am actually doing.  Do you ever feel like that?  I guess it’s maybe because cleaning/washing dishes, cooking, baby care, running errands, shuttling kids back and forth between day care and camp, and more cleaning seem to consume my entire day.  Oh wait, we can’t forget about laundry!  That is something that never stops.  Well, maybe that and dishes.  Especially since we don’t have a dishwasher right now.

My two girls just had birthdays.  Baby just turned one!! Ahh, where did the time go!  She has been on the brink of walking for probably two months now, but doesn’t want to walk unless I am on the other end encouraging her.  So cute.  And my eldest just turned six.  Say what?!

Enough of my life, and on to these mouth-watering sandwiches.  So, remember how I told you to make those hoagie rolls?  Yeah, well now, you need to make these sandwiches.  That is my request.  It would be even better if you used your garden vegetables! Speaking of which, I went out to weed my garden this morning, and the deer had a field day last night.  Bye bye broccoli!  Needless to say I cursed them the entire time I was weeding.  Darn deer. Ah, I digress.

Roasted Zucchini and tomato sandwich

This sandwich is pretty simple actually.  I seasoned some zucchini and tomatoes, then roasted them until they were tender.  Next, I slathered the bread with homemade hummus (my favorite kind), made a bed of spinach for the zucchini and tomatoes, then finished with a slice of cheddar and Monterey jack cheese.  Fab-u-lous.  And, these make killer leftovers the next day.  These would be awesome to take on a picnic.  Or to work.  Any way you eat these, or any meal, you will love them!

Roasted Zucchini and Tomato Sandwiches

Yield: about 4-5 sandwiches

  • 2-3 medium zucchini
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 large tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • garlic powder or granulated garlic
  • rosemary, fresh or dried
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • hummus, store bought or homemade
  • hoagie rolls, store bought, or homemade
  • cheddar cheese and/or Monterey jack cheese
  • spinach


Slice the zucchini about 1/4-inch thick.  Place in a bowl with the 2 teaspoons salt and toss to coat.  Let sit at room temperature for about 20-30 minutes to allow the salt to extract the excess moisture.

Preheat the oven to 400ºF.  Remove the zucchini from the bowl and place on a paper towel or clean cloth.  Press another paper towel over the zucchini to blot away moisture.

Place the tomatoes and zucchini on a rimmed baking sheet.  Lightly drizzle with olive oil.  Sprinkle granulated garlic, salt and pepper over each slice.  Sprinkle rosemary over the tomatoes.  Place in the preheated oven and roast for 20-30 minutes, or until softened, turning the zucchini half way through cooking.  Remove from the oven and let cool.

To assemble the sandwiches, slice rolls in half, length-wise.  Spread hummus on both cut sides.  Place a handful of spinach on bottom slice, layer on a few slices of tomatoes and zucchini, then top with cheese and remaining slice of bread.  Serve immediately, or refrigerate for several hours.  Store any unused tomatoes or zucchini in an air-tight container in the refrigerator up to 3 days.

Island Bakes Original

Grilled Tuscan Chicken

grilled tuscan chicken

Now that it is sometimes warm, we have broken out the grill for the season.  I am super pumped to be grilling again.  Chicken is one of my favorite things to grill.  The possibilities are endless.  Marinades are my favorite.  I am alway trying different recipes.  This marinade is a particular favorite.  It is so easy, but so delicious.  You can’t go wrong with rosemary and lemon!

grilled tuscan chicken

I usually mix up the marinade late morning, or early afternoon, then let the chicken sit in it, rotating every hour or so, until dinner.  The longer it marinates, the stronger the flavor will be.  And, even better, you can use any part(s) of the chicken!  I have marinated legs and thighs, and I am sure chicken breasts would be fabulous as well.  This is definitely something you want to throw on the grill this weekend!

Grilled Tuscan Chicken

Yield: about 4-5 servings

  • 3-4 pounds of desired cuts of chicken (you can do a mix or all of the same cut)
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary, or 1 Tablespoon dried
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • salt and pepper


Combine all of the ingredients, except the chicken, in a large measuring cup.  Whisk until thoroughly combined.  Pour into a large bowl or ziplock bag.  Submerge the chicken and place in the refrigerator.  Let marinate for at least 2 hours, or up to 6 hours, turning every hour or so.

When ready to cook, heat the grill to medium heat.  Remove the chicken from the marinade, saving the remaining marinade to baste the chicken with.  Cook the chicken, basting with the reserved marinade until the chicken is completely cooked through, about 20-30 minutes.  Serve immediately.

Source: adapted from Great Food Fast, by Martha Stewart