Abby’s Friendship Zucchini Gratin

Abby's Friendship Zucchini Gratin: Cozycakes Cottage

A few months ago my husband was out of town and I was having a rough day.  My thoughtful friend Abby asked me if she could drop dinner off for me, but I said no thanks, I was fine.  I should have known she wouldn’t listen to me.  A bit later I got a text from her saying she’d left dinner on my front porch.  That’s what best friends do.  They often know what you need even when you haven’t a clue what you need.  🙂  And it’s one of the reasons I love that girl.  I was actually hungry and I scarfed the meal down in no time at all.

This zucchini side dish was part of that comforting meal.  I love zucchini and though I generally grill or sauté it simply with onion, garlic and olive oil, this is a slightly more indulgent way to prepare it for yourself or guests.  Abby’s recipe is perfect as is, but I made a few changes only because I didn’t have all ingredients on hand and I had oodles of mushrooms.  Hers included yellow squash.  If you’re a zucchini/squash fan, you’ll enjoy this.  {Dear Abby, I love ya! ♥ Thank you!}

Abby’s Friendship Zucchini Gratin


  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, diced or sliced ( I used half a medium onion)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 medium zucchini, sliced about 1/2 inch thick
  • 1/2 cup mushrooms, sliced (we love creminis)
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1/2 cup cream or half and half
  • 1 cup panko crumbs or breadcrumbs
  • kosher salt
  • fresh ground pepper
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan

Preheat oven to 450°.  Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium heat.  Add onion and garlic.  Cook for about a minute.  Add zucchini, mushrooms, and shallot.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Cook for about 5 minutes.  Add cream or half and half and cook for another 5 minutes.  Mix in 1/2 cup panko and half the parmesan .  Mix until combined.  Place in an 2 quart (square or oval) baking dish.  Top with the rest of the panko and parmesan.  Bake for 10 minutes or until top is lightly browned.

Enjoy ♥


Tomato Feta Orzo Salad

Orzo salad 904 2nd

I ate about 2 cups of this with my dinner the other night.  That’s a lot.  Especially since the 2 cups was consumed with 2 BBQ drumsticks, corn on the cob, potato salad, and asparagus.  And French bread.  With butter.  I never said I was a light eater.

However, this is a light side dish (or light lunch) that tastes especially fresh with garden fresh tomatoes and cucumbers and is so easy to make ahead and chill.  I change it up depending on what I’m in the mood for (or whatever is in my fridge)….red onion, kalamata olives, fresh mozzarella, spinach, basil, nuts, avocado.  The dressing is very light so the fresh ingredients shine.  We like it fully chilled.  Just change it up to suit your tastes!

Enjoy! ♥

Tomato Feta Orzo Salad


  • 1 lb. orzo, cooked and drained (I cook it just barely al dente so it doesn’t get too soft when it soaks up the dressing)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (I use Meyer lemons)
  • 1 heaping Tbsp. honey
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • 4 Tbsp. chives, chopped
  • 1/2 an English cucumber, diced
  • 2 cups sugar-plum tomatoes, halved
  • 1 can black olives, halved
  • 1 12-oz. jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained and cut in quarters (mine are Trader Joe’s brand and are already quartered)
  • 5 oz. feta cheese, crumbled (add more or less to taste)

Whisk the oil, lemon juice, honey, salt, pepper, and chives in a small bowl until thoroughly combined.  Set aside.  Combine remaining ingredients in a large bowl.  Pour the lemon dressing over pasta mixture and mix/toss until thoroughly combined.  Cover bowl and refrigerate until fully chilled.  I like to make it early in the day so it is completely cold for serving.  Toss again before serving.

Twice-Baked Mashy Mashed Potatoes

twice baked mashed 1

My husband could eat twice baked potatoes every night if I made them that often.   He loves the cheesiness and the slightly chewy potato skin–we eat our twice baked potato skins around here.  🙂

When I have a lot of leftover mashed potatoes or when I don’t want to mess with actually twice baking potatoes, I make this dish.  It’s really all the filling without the skin.  Mmm!

twice baked mashed 5

This is especially quick and easy if you have a bunch of leftover mashed potatoes taking up room in your fridge.  You could also boil potatoes to make mashed ones–do what you need, folks!  Sometimes I kick it up a notch by adding sautéed cremini mushrooms or crumbled bacon to it.  You can also prepare this early in the day and refrigerate it to bake later.  My little one calls them “mashy mashed” potatoes.  Cutie.

Enjoy! ♥

Twice-Baked Mashy Mashed Potatoes


  • Leftover mashed potatoes (I use about 5 cooked Idahos peeled and mashed with about 6 tablespoons of melted, unsalted butter and a few tablespoons of milk: if your leftover mashed potatoes contain no butter or milk, add them for this recipe)
  • 4 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 8 oz. sour cream
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 cup green onions or chives, sliced/chopped plus extra 2 tablespoons for garnish
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • optional add-ins: sliced & sautéed cremini mushrooms, crumbled & cooked bacon, parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350°.  Lightly grease a 2-3 quart baking dish.  In a large bowl, whip the mashed potatoes, cream cheese, and sour cream with a hand blender until smooth.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Add more melted butter and milk if you feel it needs it.  Mix in 3/4 cup of the cheddar cheese and 1/2 cup green onions.  Place in the baking dish and top with remaining 1/4 cup cheddar cheese.  Bake for about 25-30 minutes until cheese melts and potatoes are completely heated through.  Top with remaining green onions.

Cooking with Gooseberry Patch: Dilly Casserole Bread

Dilly Casserole Bread: Cozycakes Cottage

I woke feeling a little off today.  Kind of an earache, kind of a throat scratch, kind of icky.  To ward off the cold that was lurking, planning to attack if I plopped on the couch, I drank lots of hot water with honey and lemon, and kept busy.  I still feel icky, but not worse.  No complaints here (for now).

I craved a basic soup meal so made this bread to go with veggie chowder.  It’s easy, soft, and perfect with a bowl of hot soup.  We spread a bit of dill butter on top and enjoyed a slice pre-dinner.  We like dill rolls, but I decided to try this simple bread instead and it’s another keeper from Gooseberry Patch.

Here’s the recipe shared by Margie Schaffner of Altoona, IA.  Thanks, Margie!

Dilly Casserole Bread

101 Homestyle Favorites contributed by Margie Schaffner of Altoona, IA.


  • 1 env. active dry yeast
  • 1/4 c. warm water
  • 1 c. cottage cheese
  • 2 T. sugar
  • 1 T. dried minced onion
  • 2 T. butter, softened and divided
  • 2 t. dill weed, divided
  • 1-1/2 t. salt, divided
  • 1/4 t. baking soda
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2-1/4 to 2-1/2 c. all-purpose flour

Soften yeast in very warm water, about 110 to 115 degrees.  Combine cottage cheese, sugar, onion, one tablespoon butter, one teaspoon dill weed, one teaspoon salt, baking soda, egg and yeast mixture in a medium bowl.  Add flour to make a stiff dough.  Cover and let rise until double in size, about 40 minutes.  Stir dough down; place in a greased 9″ x 5″ loaf pan.  Let rise again for 40 minutes.  Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes, or until golden.  Brush with remaining butter; sprinkle with remaining dill weed and salt.  Makes one loaf.

Enjoy! ♥

Cozycakes suggestions: I was out of dried minced onion so I used 1/2 a tablespoon of granulated onion instead of the 1 tablespoon dried minced.  Also, my house was COLD today so my dough took longer to rise.  For the second rising, I placed the dough (in the pan) in a warmed oven (I let the oven heat to about 175 degrees then turned it off ) with the door open and it rose quickly. 

Joined the fun at Feeding Big’s In and Out of the Kitchen Party and Walking on Sunshine and Foodie Friends Friday.

Cinnamon Pecan Sweet Potatoes

pecan sweet potato 2

For me, sweet potatoes are perfect when they’ve been pricked with a fork several times, baked in an oven, and eaten without any fancy adornment.  I love them this way for breakfast without butter (gasp!) or sugar (what!).  Granted, you’ve got to have a good sweet potato to enjoy it like that.  Sometimes they’re out of season and tasteless.

On the other hand, I can scarf down sweet potato casseroles like nobody’s business.  Even the kind with marshmallows on top.  More, please.

Here’s one of my favorite ways to make sweet potatoes for holiday gatherings or…for me.  I made this for dinner last week and decided to skip my entrée portion to make room for a triple serving of potatoes.  In the morning, I made my little one a huge bowl of oatmeal with flax & wheat bran…and heated up a huge portion of the potatoes for myself.

You can do that when you’re the mom.  It’s your right.

This is great for a holiday potluck or as a side dish to a comforting winter meal.  ♥

Cinnamon Pecan Sweet Potatoes


  • 2.5 to 3 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes.
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp milk
  • 2 Tbsp orange juice
  • 1/4 tsp grated orange zest
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 3 Tbsp butter, chopped


  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 3 Tbsp cold butter
  • 1/2 cup pecans, chopped

Preheat oven to 400°.  Grease a 13×9-in. pan.  Peel and cut potatoes; set aside.  In a large bowl, combine brown sugar, vanilla, milk, orange juice, orange zest, salt,cinnamon, and ginger.  Add potatoes.  Toss and coat all potatoes.  Place in greased pan and dot with butter.

*At this point you can cover and refrigerate until ready to bake.  I prepare it to this point in the morning so I have one less dish to worry about come late afternoon.  Then simply pull out of the fridge and bake as directed below.

Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.  Make the topping:  Mix flour, sugar, and cinnamon in a bowl.  Cut in the butter until the mixture becomes crumb-like.  Add the chopped pecans to the bowl and sprinkle topping evenly over the potatoes.  Return potatoes, uncovered, to oven and cook an additional 25-30 minutes (should bubble and potatoes should be tender when tested with a fork).


Slow Cooker Chicken Caesar Sandwiches

Many of the recipes I share are simple and easy.  Although I generally spend a bit more time in the kitchen than a lot of my shared recipes require, I like to share the ones I think might help you out on a very busy day or when you can’t or don’t want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen.

This is yet another one of those recipes.  It takes almost no time to prep, requires only a few ingredients, and you don’t do the cooking (ha!).  Add a couple of side dishes and your family can sit down to a home cooked meal with little effort on your part.  Whee!

If you’re a fan of Caesar salads, I think you’ll enjoy this simple sandwich.  I do try to use as few bottled and canned items as I can, but there are days when such items are a great help.  Such is the case with the dressing in this recipe.  Not going to feel guilty about that!

I like to serve it with summery sides like a corn basil salad and our favorite pasta salad.  It’s hot here after all.  Like middle-of-summer hot.  Tomorrow is October, by the way…


Slow Cooker Chicken Caesar Sandwiches

Adapted from Betty Crocker


  • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts (or boneless skinless chicken thighs)
  • about 1 cup of water
  • about 1/2 to 1 cup your favorite bottled Caesar dressing (you can make your own, but that takes away from the extreme ease of the recipe), adjust amount to your taste
  • 1/3 cup shredded or shaved Parmesan Romano Asiago mix (or shredded Parmesan)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley ( a couple teaspoons of dried parsley works in a pinch)
  • ground pepper
  • romaine lettuce
  • hamburger buns

Place chicken in slow cooker with water.  Cover and cook on low heat for 4-6 hours.  Check on chicken a few hours in as slow cookers vary and you don’t want to dry out the chicken.  When chicken is done, remove from slow cooker and drain the water.  Shred chicken–I do this on a cutting board with two forks or tongs and a fork.  Place chicken back in slow cooker and add dressing (begin with less and add more to taste.  I use only 1/2 a cup), cheese, parsley, and a few turns of freshly ground pepper.  Mix well and cook for another 30 minutes to heat up.  Serve on warmed or toasted hamburger buns with romaine lettuce and additional Parmesan if you like.

Recipe: Slow Cooker Applesauce

A few weeks ago I made my first batch of slow cooker applesauce.  Yum.

Scented candles?  Mais non.  Just get some applesauce cooking and you’re all good.  To top it off, you can freeze it.  Word to your mom.

Next time I’ll make a large batch.  Then my sampling won’t be so obvious.

Wanna know my simple & tasty recipe?  Here, I’ll show ya. Continue reading

Slow Cooker French Dip Sandwiches

My husband loves himself a French dip sandwich.  Loves.  I’ve wanted to try making it in the slow cooker and yesterday I finally tested it out.  It was a hit!  I basically winged it, worked with what I had on hand.  Ya gotta do, what ya gotta do.

I started with a nice chuck roast.  Why?  Because chuck roast is my friend.  I get them at Costco where they’re good quality and come 2 in a pack.  One for now, one for later.

I salt and peppered the meat lightly, sprinkled a bit of garlic powder on it, then splashed Worcestershire on it.  I ♥ Worcestershire.  splish.  splash. Continue reading

Parmesan Pesto Grilled Cheese Sandwich

I love how every day is a holiday these days.  It feels like anyone can just declare a day National Clip Your Kid’s Toenails Day or National Clean Your Oven Month.

And you better believe I like that April is National Grilled Cheese Month and today (ahhh) is National Grilled Cheese Day.  Can I get a Cheese Please!

I saw this over at Two Peas & Their Pod yesterday and had to make it today.  Love those Peas.  Continue reading

Quinoa verdict

I’ve read about the wonder of quinoa for years and listened to my sis and friends rave about it for months.  The looks of it kind of scared me (insect eggs?) even though I kept hearing that I’d probably enjoy it since I love couscous.  I didn’t try it until yesterday.

Herbed Quinoa Beet Salad

While my little one was at preschool, I was able to spend some quality time with my friend Sandi from All the Good Blog Names are Taken.  I laughed so hard at one point that I almost felt myself float out of my body and hover above us to watch the good times.  Continue reading

Veggie Tian

Simple and tasty.  That’s how I like my food.  Nothing wrong with healthy, too.  When summer hits, we eat a lot of grilled veggies.  Since it has been a tad chilly in the evenings, I decided to roast the good lookin’ summer squash my favorite little market already carries (how I adore my little market and the folks who run it).  I love this easy veggie tian because it’s versatile and yummy. Continue reading

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