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Cinnamon Roll Cake

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I’m not really sure why, but rainy days always seem to put this urge inside of me to bake.  I don’t mean like the “through eggs, oil, and brownie mix in a pan and stick it in the oven” type of baking.  I mean the “let’s make something from scratch” type of baking.

Well, I’d say that yesterday definitely counted as a rainy day.  While the intensity of the rain changed throughout the day from a drizzle to a steady rain to a storm back to a drizzle and so on, it was definitely raining in some form for the entire day.

This is a picture of the Market downtown that someone sent to our local news channel. I also watched a video of somebody wakeboarding down the street. Crazy!

So I definitely was in a baking mood yesterday, but there were a couple of problems.  The first was that I still had work yesterday…I’ve found that a downside to working from home is that you can’t claim bad weather and the commute to be reasons for not getting your work done.  😉  The second problem was that I was out of yeast, so even if I had time to bake some homemade bread or rolls, I was still missing an essential component.

My solution was to try out this recipe.  I adapted it from Cookin’ Up North, and I was so excited to try it out!  With the taste and smell of freshly baked cinnamon rolls and the texture and density of a made-from-scratch cake, how could I possibly go wrong?  Well, I couldn’t.  It was absolutely delicious!



  • 3 c. flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 1/2 c. milk
    • I used vanilla soy milk.
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 c. butter, melted
    • I used a combination Fleischmann’s Unsalted Margarine and Blue Bonnet Light Margarine.


  • 1 c. butter, softened (My first thought was Wow, that’s a ton of butter! Then again, this is a cake, so I don’t know what I was expecting…)
    • Again, I used Fleischmann’s Unsalted Margarine and Blue Bonnet Light Margarine.
  • 1 c. brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. flour
  • 1 Tbsp. cinnamon


  • 2 c. powdered sugar
  • 5 Tbsp. milk
    • Again, I used vanilla soy milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp. salt


Mix all of the cake ingredients together except for the butter.  Then, slowly stir in the melted butter.  Pour the batter into a greased 9x13in pan.  Mix all of the topping ingredients together until they are very well blended.  Drop the topping by small spoonfuls evening over the batter, then swirl it with a knife.  Bake at 350 for 28-34 minutes.  Mix the glaze ingredients together.  After you have completed the baking time, but while the cake is still warm, drizzle the gaze over the cake.

A piece of delicious cinnamon roll cake! Yum!

This cake gave me the satisfaction of baking something from scratch, and yet it was quite easy to make and didn’t take long at all.  It’s definitely something you could throw together at the last minute is you need to bring a dessert for something, because you will likely already have all the ingredients you need.  I also think it’d make a great dessert for a brunch event, like a bridal or baby shower or something.  Delicious!


Slow Cooker Honey [Sesame] Chicken

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Slow Cooker Honey [Sesame] Chicken

So I found one version of this recipe last year on Pinterest, but I wanted to look into some other recipe versions before I committed.  Well, I realized that all the recipes are essentially the same, or very similar, so it really didn’t matter which one I used.  The only real difference is whether you like more or less of the sauce with a given amount of chicken.  My personal opinion is that you can never have too much.  If you end up having leftover sauce after you have eaten all the chicken, you can just pour some on rice later on as a tasty leftover…and I am ALL ABOUT making leftovers stretch as long as they can.  🙂

This recipe is so easy and insanely delicious.  It has definitely become a slow cooker staple in the McKinney household!


  • 1 1/2 lb chicken breasts
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup diced onion
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 2 Tbs canola/vegetable oil
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 4 tsp cornstarch dissolved into 6 Tbs water (You don’t need this until the end.)
  • sesame seeds (optional)


Season  both sides of the chicken with the salt in pepper, and place in the slow cooker.  In a small bowl, combine and mix the honey, soy sauce, onion, ketchup, oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Pour honey mixture over the chicken and cook on low for 3-4 hours (I do 3 hours) or high for 1 1/2 – 2 1/2 hours (I do 1 1/2 hours).  Remove the chicken from the slow cooker, leaving the sauce. In a bowl, dissolve 4 tsp of cornstarch into 6 Tbs of water.  Combine this with the sauce in the slow cooker.  Shred or cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces and put it back in the slow cooker to mix in with the sauce for a few minutes.  Serve over rice or noodles, and sprinkle some sesame seeds on top if you wish.

Whether or not I put sesame seeds on top really just depends on whether I remember or not.  I clearly forgot tonight.  We usually have ours over rice, with either broccoli or peas as a side.  Tonight, we followed it up with some delicious peanut butter chocolate chip cookies for dessert.  What a delicious evening!

Squash Casserole

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When I think of dinner at my mother-in-law’s house, I think of squash casserole.  Craig tells me that his mom actually never really made this delicious side-dish until he and his brother were both adults, but it has been a regular dish since I began hanging around.  Honestly, she probably makes a point to make her squash casserole when Craig and I visit specifically because of how much I always say how much I love it, but that is perfectly fine with me.

There are a few reasons that I particularly love this casserole.

  1. It is a casserole that Craig can eat.
    • So many casseroles contain cream-of-[insert whatever] soup, and Craig can’t eat those.  Of course, I could create some sort of dairy-free version of those ingredients from scratch and then attempt all these otherwise-un-Craig-friendly recipes, but I don’t have that type of time on a typical evening.  One day, I would love to have an extra freezer so that I can make all these dairy-free basics from scratch and then freeze them to use in casseroles and other meals when I need them, but we don’t have that kind of room right now.  If I want to whip something together quickly for dinner, it’s going to have to be dairy-free (or easily altered to be dairy-free) from the get-go.
  2. It has a vegetable in it, and Craig likes it.
    • Now it’s not that Craig isn’t willing to eat vegetables at all.  He’s almost always willing to try something at least once, and he has definitely taught himself to like some vegetables way more than he used to.  Still, it’s hard to find vegetable-focused foods that Craig really loves.
      • Before anyone has an urge to comment and tell me how having a casserole with a vegetable the title doesn’t mean it’s healthy because of the high caloric content, there is no need to waste your time.  I am well aware that a squash casserole has way more calories than plain squash, and honestly, I’m thankful for that.  Yes, I definitely have to be aware of my portions so I don’t consume more calories than I should, but Craig’s metabolism is so insanely fast!  And it’s not the “You-have-a-fast-metabolism-because-you-are-young-and-active” type of fast.  It’s the “You-have-amazing-calorie-obliterating-genetics-and will-always-have-to-consume-WAY-more-calories-than-a-norml-person-no-matter-what” type of fast.  I literally have to ALWAYS keeps baked goods in our kitchen so that Craig has them available to eat some calorie-dense food when he needs it.  If he only consumed what we would consider “healthy and nutritious” food, Craig literally could not consume enough calories to keep from losing weight.  Yeah, I know.  It’s simply unfair.  My dad, my twin brother, Craig’s mom, and Craig all have these metabolisms.  In my family, we (being the less metabolically-blessed family members) call them H.M.F.s…standing for High Metabolism Freaks.  But I digress…  My point is, if I can find something that includes a vegetable and is a little higher in calories than just the vegetable itself, that’s even better for Craig.
  3. I like it!
    • Yeah, I’m well aware of the fact that I just listed “I like it” as a reason that “I love this casserole.”  It seems redundant, I know.  However, my goal of Craig-friendly recipes is not to create something that someone who never has any dairy would like.  My goal is to create something dairy-free, but that anyone who eats dairy-filled recipes on a regular basis would still enjoy eating.  This falls into that category.

My mother-in-law told me that she’s basically had this recipe forever, and that she originally found in an old Southern Living recipe book.  I tried to find it again online, but they pretty much have ten million squash casserole recipes, so oh well.  I did my best to give them credit.  🙂

Squash Casserole Recipe*

  • 1/4 cup mayonaise
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup cracker crumbs (divided)  –>  I didn’t crumble my crackers very small because I like the bigger chunks, but the originally recipe has the crackers really crumbled.
  • 1 egg (beaten)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 cup shredded cheese (which I obviously omitted)
  • 1(-ish) pound yellow squash

*I actually made just under a double-batch, so if you are thinking to yourself that what you see in the pictures is more than I have listed above, that’s because you’re right!


  1. Clean the squash and cut off the ends.  Then, cut up, boil and mash the squash.
  2. Combine mayo, onion, 1/4 cup of the cracker crumbs, egg, sugar, salt, & pepper.
  3. Combine the mayo mixture to the mashed squash, and mix well.
  4. Pour into a lightly greased 1 quart casserole dish.
  5. Sprinkle the other 1/4 of the cracker crumbs on top.
  6. Bake, uncovered at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.I used whole wheat crackers, so don’t expect your crackers to be this brown when your casserole is done if you are using regular crackers.  At that point, the crackers would probably be burnt.
  7. (If using cheese) After the casserole is baked, sprinkle the 1/4 cup of cheese on top, and stick the casserole back in the oven until the cheese is melted.

We enjoyed our casserole with a deliciously marinaded london broil, rolls from the Publix bakery, a glass of Malbec, and a salad with mixed greens, craisins, slivered almonds, goat cheese, and a little bit of balsamic vinaigrette.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel Bars

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Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel Bars

One of the toughest parts of Craig’s dairy allergy is the realm of desserts.  Most desserts that you can buy from the store ready to eat or buy and just stick in the oven are not Craig-friendly.  We do have a few basic dessert staples that we use (like Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Brownie Mix), but most desserts that I can make Craig-friendly require an entire free day to make from scratch…and I rarely have an entire free day to make something from scratch.

However, chocolate peanut butter pretzel bars are simultaneously one of the easiest and most delicious desserts I have EVER made. They take the unbeatable combination of chocolate and peanut butter, and…dare I say it…step it up a notch.  The saltiness of the pretzels cuts through the sweetness of everything else with sharp perfection, and I love the crunch it adds to the otherwise smooth texture.  And guess what else!  This is a NO BAKE recipe.  That’s right!  You don’t have to turn on your oven!  The bonuses of this recipe just go on and on.

I found this recipe through Pinterest, on a blog called Bakerlady.  She adapted her recipe from a blog called The Craving Chronicles.  And now here is my adaptation, as simple and delicious as can be, ready for you to make!


  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter or margarine
  • 3/4 cups peanut butter
  • 1 1/2 cups pretzel crumbs*
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ (powered) sugar
  • 3/4 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter

*Now about making those pretzel crumbs…The blog where I first found this recipe said to pulse the pretzels in your food processor until most of them are finely ground, but there are still some pea-sized pieces.  However, I don’t own a food processor, so I took a slightly different approach…

It really didn’t take long at all to make my pretzel crumbs.  I could have easily crushed them to be more fine as on the website where I originally found this recipe, but I preferred it to be a good mix of finely ground pretzel and little pretzel chunks to add that crunch I love.


Line an 8x8in pan with foil.  Spray with cooking spray.

In a medium microwave bowl, melt butter in the microwave (about 30-ish seconds). Mix in the pretzel crumbs, peanut butter, and confectioners’ sugar.  It’s going to be very thick, and kind of turn into just one big clump, so just try to make sure the clump is mixed well with all the ingredients.Spread your pretzel mixture evenly into your prepared pan.  Refrigerate for at least ten minutes while you throw together your ganache topping.

Combine semi-sweet chocolate chips and peanut butter in the microwave, stirring frequently until the mixture is melted and smooth.  Then pour over pretzel mixture, and spread evenly.Refrigerate for at least one hour.

Remove from the pan, cut into squares, and enjoy!

Chicken, Roasted Red Pepper, and Goat Cheese Lasagna

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Chicken, Roasted Red Pepper, and Goat Cheese Lasagna

A couple of years ago, Craig and I had a realization.  While he may have an intolerance to cow dairy protein, the proteins from goat milk are not at all the same thing.  That means that Craig can eat goat cheese!  Now don’t get me wrong, because this was obviously great news, but there is definitely a downside to it: Goat cheese is WAY more expensive than cheese made from cows’ milk.  So even with the knowledge that Craig can in fact eat goat cheese, we really don’t splurge on it that often.  It is mostly reserved for special occasions.  Luckily for Craig, I was a wonderful enough wife to put his 24th birthday into the “special occasion” category…especially since I made certain that my 23rd birthday was in the category.  😉

The truth is I’m really not what you would call a “cheese person.”  I mean, cheese is alright, and I like it on some things, but if I’m ordering a sandwich somewhere, I will most likely make a point to ask for no cheese.  For me, it really doesn’t add too much to life (except for macaroni and nachos!), and I’d survive just fine without it.  Craig, on the other hand, LOVES cheese.  He would have probably been more willing to give up just about any other food in the world than cheese.  So he was of course thrilled when I gave him a few goat-cheese-filled meal options that I was willing to try to make Craig-friendly, and he took his time deciding exactly which one would make the perfect birthday dinner.  Finally, Craig decided on chicken, roasted red pepper, and goat cheese lasagna.

I found this recipe on Pinterest, and it is from a blog called Closet Cooking.  Of course, as with most meals I prepare, I had to make some changes in order to make this lasagna Craig-friendly.  I was pretty nervous when I began, because I’m really not a big fan of trying “Ashley-edited” or “Ashley-created” recipes out for the first time for a special occasion…I’m still not entirely confident in my cooking abilities.  Thankfully, this turned out AMAZINGLY…I mean it was absolutely splendid!  I know that some people think that goat cheese tends to overpower other flavors in some dishes because it is so strong, but the spices and other ingredients in this recipe balanced it out perfectly.  It was so delightful, and I would absolutely recommend this recipe (regular or Craig-friendly version) to anyone!


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion (diced)
  • 2 cloves garlic (chopped)
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 (14 ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups chicken (cooked and shredded)
  • 1 handful parsley (chopped)
  • 6 lasagne noodles
  • 1/4 cup butter or margarine
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 cups milk
    • I used almond milk, but I also think regular soy milk would probably work well.
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (optional)
    • I definitely say you should add it if you have it!
  • 6 ounces goat cheese
  • 3 large roasted red peppers
    • I used two 12oz jars of roasted red pepper from the store, but if you are interested in roasting your own, you can check out some directions here from the original author of this recipe.
  • 1 cup feta (crumbled)
    • I just used a little extra crumbled goat cheese.
  • 1 cup mozzarella (grated)
    • I used the mozzarella type of Daiya Cheese Alternative.  It is vegan, gluten-free, nut-free, and soy -free.  It tastes good and melts pretty well compared to other fake cheeses…and I am quite particular about not eating nasty smelling, weird textured fake cheese, so it’s saying a lot if I am willing to eat this without a problem.


  1. Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat.
  2. Add the onion and saute until tender, about 5-7 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute
  4. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, balsamic vinegar, oregano, salt and pepper and bring to a boil.
  5. Reduce the heat and simmer until the sauce starts to thicken, about 15-20 minutes.
  6. Mix in the chicken and parsley and set aside.
  7. Start cooking the noodles as directed on the package.
  8. Heat the butter in a saucepan over medium heat until it is bubbling and it has turned a light golden brown.
  9. Mix in the flour and let simmer until it returns to a light golden brown.
  10. Mix in the milk, nutmeg and goat cheese and heat until it thickens.
  11. Lightly grease the bottom of an 8 inch square baking dish.
  12. Place a layer of noodles* followed by 1/2 of the tomato sauce followed by 1/2 of the feta followed by 1/2 of the roasted red peppers followed by 1/3 of the bechamel sauce. Repeat a second layer in the same fashion and top with a final layer of noodles, the remaining bechamel sauce and top with the mozzarella.
  13. Bake in a preheated 350F oven until the top is golden brown and the sides are bubbling, about 30-45 minutes.

* To form one layer of noodles in the 8 inch square pan, cut two noodles 2/3 of the way down and use the 2 1/3 noodles to make a full row.

I recommend letting it sit for about 15 minutes or so before trying to cut and serve it, or it will fall apart like this: However, it tasted equally good either way, and Craig and I were SO ready to eat by the time I finally finished (I got a late start on dinner that night).  Yum!

You have GOT to believe me when I say that my sorry camera did not even come close to doing this meal justice.  It was amazing! I also wouldn’t be surprised if Craig began making up a lot more “special occasions” in the future so he can have more goat cheese delightfulness like this!  😉

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

What good is a delicious dinner without a delicious dessert?!  I let Craig choose Saturday’s dessert, and he chose peanut butter chocolate chip cookies.  A great choice, I must say!

As someone who absolutely LOVES any chocolate and peanut butter combination, I think it’s pretty dang hard to go wrong with any peanut butter chocolate chip cookie recipe.  Still, this is the one I used, and they turned out spectacularly!

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or marine, softened
1/2 cup chunky or smooth peanut butter (I went with smooth since the chocolate chips would add texture, anyway.)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 egg
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375°.  Cream the butter, peanut butter, and sugars until light.  Add the egg, and mix until fluffy.  Blend the flower, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together.  Mix these dry ingredients into the butter mixture.  Mix in the chocolate chips.  Drop cookie dough by overflowing teaspoons onto a lightly greased cookie sheet.  Bake for 9-12 minutes at 375°.  Let them cool long enough that you won’t scald your mouth, and enjoy!



Garlic Brown Sugar Chicken

To my excitement, this weekend was one of very few since Craig’s and my marriage that it was really just us and Jada.  No company in town and no traveling.  While we love seeing our family and friends, it’s nice to get a little down time every now and then so we can take a deep breath and simply enjoy each other’s company.  Of course, a weekend alone never really means a weekend alone, as Craig’s med school studies are absolutely determined to be our third wheel everywhere we go, but we know that’s just the way it’s going to be for quite some time.

Craig had to be up before 7:00am on Saturday to get an early start on studying before the Gamecocks game, so I decided to get up with him and make myself productive, as well.  While I did not get nearly as much cleaning done as I had hoped, I did get the chance to try a new slow cooker recipe: Garlic Brown Sugar Chicken!

I found one version of this recipe at Slow and Simple, and I think what made me want to try it is the interesting combination of ingredients.  I really did not know what to expect, but I was excited to try something new!  I made a few changes based on reviews and to suit Craig’s and my taste.  Craig and I both thought it was pretty good.  We enjoyed this chicken over rice and with some broccoli on the side.  It has a bit of a tangy taste to it, and maybe a tiny bit of a kick.

2-4 chicken breasts – whatever suits your family’s needs (We used 4 so we could have leftovers.)
1 cup packed brown sugar
2/3 cup vinegar
1/4 cup lemon-lime soda (We used Sprite.)
2-3 Tbls minced garlic
2 Tbls soy sauce
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1+ cups cornstarch

Place chicken in crock pot.  Combine everything else, except the corn starch.  Mix well, and then poor over chicken.  Cover crock pot and cook on low for 6-7 hours.  I cooked it for 6 1/2 hours and then turned the crock pot to warm while I prepared everything else.  I’ll probably try to cook it for closer to 6 hours next time.  Remove the chicken and add cornstarch crock pot to thicken the juices to your liking.  Mix well, and then poor the juice over the chicken and rice (if you have it with rice) and enjoy!

Now all I have to do is wait!

Dinner time!

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