Archive for Cooking

Spaghetti Squash Lasagna

HOLY COW! I’m here! I’m blogging! It’s astounding! (Maybe not the content, but the fact that I’m doing it at all.)

Bright Shiny Things has been on hiatus because we’ve had some big life changes here. About 6 months ago we were matched for another adoption placement, actually two. We were blessed to have 1 and 3 year old siblings join our family. And that’s really probably all I need to say. The hiatus is probably pretty self explanatory.

They are a delight, we love them, they are busy, and when you add homeschooling a 2nd and 4th Grader to the mix–it’s even more clear why this blog has taken a back burner.

But today. Today, I am going to attempt a post. I don’t know how long it will be before I have another one. I can’t even guarantee I will finish this one. It’s not that I don’t have ideas, it’s the time to sit down and write that seems to escape me.

I am writing this because I have a problem with vegetables. I love salad. I love baby carrots. I enjoy almost all raw vegetables. However, there aren’t a lot of cooked vegetables that I enjoy, and this has seemed to transfer to my children. In case you are unaware, it gets a little chilly here in Minnesota during the winter, and when it’s chilly I have a harder time enjoying salad and raw, cold, vegetables.

Enter spaghetti squash: a produce selection I have heard much about, but never made myself. So I decided to give it a whirl, and bake it into a lasagna type dish. And you know what? It turned out delicious, and as a bonus all of the solid food eaters in my house love it!

Now, let’s see if I remember how to write a recipe …


Spaghetti Squash Lasagna

1 Spaghetti Squash
15 oz of Ricotta Cheese (I use low-fat)
2 1/2 cups Shredded Mozzarella Cheese (divided)
1 cup Shredded Parmesan cheese (divided)
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon dried parsley
a dash or two of nutmeg
1 1/2 cups spaghetti sauce

Cut squash in half length wise and scoop out the seeds. Bake, cut side down, on a cookie sheet at 400 degrees for 30-45 minutes, or until the skin is easily pierced.

Allow to cool, and carefully scraping a fork across the squash, create “noodles”.

In a medium mixing bowl combine ricotta, garlic, parsley, and nutmeg. Add 2 cups of shredded mozzarella and 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan.

Place approximately 1/4 cup of sauce in the bottom of a large pie plate. Layer with approximately 1/4 of the squash, and 1/2 cup of the cheese mixture.

Repeat layering and place 1/2 cup of mozzarella and 1/2 cups of Parmesan cheeses on top of the final sauce layer. The layers should be like this: sauce, squash cheese, sauce, squash, cheese, sauce, squash, cheese, sauce, squash, cheese, sauce, shredded cheeses

Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until hot, bubbly, and slightly browned on top.

Tips, Tid Bits, and Photos

I didn’t want to do a whole write up about how to cook spaghetti squash, so if you don’t know how, and my directions aren’t clear enough, here is a nice tutorial.

Spaghetti Squash

And, if you’re short on time (like I often am) you can cook the a day or two before and put it in the fridge. I didn’t even shred it up until right before I assembled the dish–just cooked it and threw it in a Ziploc bag.

Whenever I make lasagna, or stuffed noodles, I add nutmeg to my ricotta. I don’t know why. I think I decided it was in a lasagna I ate once and I liked it so I always add it because it tastes good.  See the brownish stuff? That’s how much nutmeg I added on this day.

Spaghetti Squash Lasagna




I like to set up a little, neat assembly line, like this.

Spaghetti Squash Lasagna

You can layer it however you want, just is just how I like to do it. It’s not an exact science, and the measurements aren’t precise.

Spaghetti Squash Lasagna

I assembled this in the morning, and kept it in the fridge until it was closer to supper for baking. So, this is a great recipe to do in steps or make ahead.

Spaghetti Squash Lasagna

I often serve it with garlic bread, and salad, even though I kind of implied it wasn’t salad weather anymore. Sorry to send mixed messages.

Spaghetti Squash Lasagna

So there you are and I feel SUPER accomplished for getting this out. I have so many things I’d like to write about … we’ll see what I can get out in the next year.

Until we meet again,

Pinterest Success: Banana Cream Pie

I don’t know how many of you partook in the recent, and fairly geeky, observance known as Pi Day (3.14 or March 14th), but being slightly nerdy family we have adopted it as a tradition.  In case you’re unaware, many people celebrate the quasi-holiday by the making or eating of pie.

Last year I made a French Silk Pie, but I also made a Pizza Pi for dinner. This year Pi Day kind of snuck up on me so I only had time to make our pizza pi. I did also find time to sing, “When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pi…that’s a pi day!” while I  formed the dough. I know. I’m weird.

Pizza Pi-BrightShinyThings

(BTW Pizza Pi, super easy, just form your pizza dough into three strips and make it like usual, of course you have to use dough for it, although you could probably cut up a frozen pizza. 😀 )

Not making a dessert pie left me kind of wanting. I really enjoy making pies, I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because I really like my pie crust recipe (found here) and usually have some crust in the freezer waiting to be used, so it’s a pretty simple dessert.

Missing Pi Day pie, combined with spare crust waiting to be used, and the fact we were having people over tonight, was reason enough to get baking.

I had some bananas, and it made me realize I had never made a real banana cream pie. So I headed to Pinterest and searched for a good recipe. I wanted something that I already had most of the ingredients for and I wanted to get it done early in the morning.

Enter this Banana Cream Pie from The Girl Who Ate Everything . It was delicious perfection.

Banana Cream Pie
I’m sorry I don’t have any more pictures of it, but I was busy slicing, and serving, and then so excited to eat it that I forgot. There are some great photos on the post I’ve linked to.

It’s a great pie, good, rich, old-fashioned ingredients. I didn’t change much, I used my own crust recipe and I doubled the amount of whipped cream. My pie plates are 9.5 inches, so doubling the whipped cream made the pie a little more full. I also used 1 cup skim milk, and 1 cup half and half for the filling. I was just afraid skim might be a little too thin.

I didn’t have whipping cream in the morning, when I wanted to make most of the pie, so I did the crust, and filling, chilled and then added the whipped cream later, after I had been to the store. It worked just fine to do it in two steps like that.

This pie is a winner, a keeper, and another Pinterest success!



In case you missed it in the post, this recipe can be found here.

It is also featured on my Pinterst Success: Food board.

Sweet and Salty Party (Playoff) Mix

It’s playoff time for the NFL. Our family’s team, the Dallas Cowboys, played the Green Bay Packers this weekend and we decided to get together with a Packer family and watch the game.

I made my Slow Cooker Chicken and Black Bean Soup, because it was easy to have cooking while at church, but I wanted to experiment and come up with a new munchie-type sweet treat for after lunch.

Sweet and salty is a great combination for football games–symbolizing how the sweet taste of victory mingles with the salty tears of defeat. (My team lost by the way–here’s our sweet and salty moment.)

Sweet and Salty Faces
This recipe is so easy, and so tasty that it’s really hard to stop nibbling on. I decided to step up the fun-factor of this treat by splitting the batch in two and adding team colored sprinkles to batch.

Sweet and Salty Party Mix--cereal, pretzels, and peanuts are coated with white chocolate and peanut butter to make a sweet party mix.

You can make this party mix fun by adding any colored sprinkles you want. Take two bowls to a Super Bowl party, one to represent each teams colors. Sprinkle seasonal colors on the mix–pastels in the spring, oranges in the fall. The sprinkles don’t really impact the flavor, so you could go without them all together.

Sweet and Salty Party Mix


6 cups Crispix cereal
4 cups mini pretzels
2 cups salted peanuts
2 cups white chocolate chips
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup butter


Combine Crispix, pretzels, and peanuts in a large mixing bowl and set aside.

In a microwave safe mixing bowl combine peanut butter, white chocolate chips, and butter. Microwave for 1-2 minutes, in 30 second increments, until ingredients are melted. Stir every 30 seconds.

When chocolate is mixed together pour over cereal mixture. Stir until coated. Spread onto a cookie sheet covered with waxed paper and allow to harden.

Store in an airtight container until serving.

Tips, Tidbits, and Photos

I always pull out my biggest bowl for these kind of recipes so I have lots of room for stirring.

Sweet and Salty Party Mix--cereal, pretzels, and peanuts are coated with white chocolate and peanut butter to make a sweet party mix.

I melted the chocolate mix for 1 1/2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds. White chocolate will burn very easily so it’s best to take it slow.

Sweet and Salty Party Mix--cereal, pretzels, and peanuts are coated with white chocolate and peanut butter to make a sweet party mix.

The sprinkles will stick on better if you stir them into the mix. I didn’t want to dirty another mixing bowl so I split the batch onto two cookie sheets and sprinkled them. I also stuck these pans in the freezer and they were ready to eat in about 10 minutes.

Sweet and Salty Party Mix--cereal, pretzels, and peanuts are coated with white chocolate and peanut butter to make a sweet party mix.

So tasty, so easy, no matter your team–everyone wins with this recipe!


Sweet and Salty Party Mix--cereal, pretzels, and peanuts are coated with white chocolate and peanut butter to make a sweet party mix.

Slow-Cooker Chicken and Black Bean Soup

Well, winter is here.

It’s so cold and wintry that the powers-that-be (weatherbug app) have even declared it to be igloo weather (although the grass in the background sends a mixed message).

Brrr! Minnesota!

I like the cold. Well, actually, I like having a good reason to stay home, feeling cozy, drinking tea, and making soup. And, for me, winter is to soups as summer is to salads.

I came up with this soup when we had our first ridiculously cold snap back in November. I wanted to make an easy slow-cooker soup. Something that you could throw in the pot, let simmer all day, flooding your home with aromatic goodness.

This soup has only seven ingredients–seven healthy ingredients. (Perfect for January, right?)  It’s full of protein, fiber, and other good things, plus minimal prep is involved. It’s got pumpkin in it, but you’d hardly notice–which is why I didn’t list it in the title. Its mostly for nutrients, color, and thickness.

Chili powder gives it southwest vibe so I serve it topped with sour cream, cheese, and tortilla strips. My entire family likes this soup–it’s made its way into our menu rotations as a winner.

Slow-Cooker Chicken and Black Bean Soup-seven easy and healthy ingredients are all you need for this simple crock pot meal.

Crock-Pot Chicken and Black Bean Soup

(serves 4-6)

2 cups pumpkin puree (or one 15 oz can)
1 can black beans, drained (15 oz)
1 cup of salsa
1 cup chopped onions
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups chopped chicken (raw)
2 tsp chili powder

Place all contents into slow cooker. Stir to combine and cook on high for 2 hours. Reduce to low and cook and additional 2-3 hours.  Or, cook on low for 6-8 hours.

Tips, Tidbits, and Photos

I’m sure you could use cooked chicken in this but I like slow-cooker recipes that don’t require you to cook anything before putting it in the pot. That always seems to defeat the point a bit. Here’s everything in the pot before I gave it a stir.
Slow-Cooker Chicken and Black Bean Soup-seven easy and healthy ingredients are all you need for this simple crock pot meal.

If you like things a bit more spicy you could add a dash or two of cayenne pepper, or use a hotter salsa. We keep it mild because not all of us appreciate spicy food.

And that’s it! So simple, so tasty, and so in my slow-cooker right now. It’s simmering away making me already look forward to dinner. You can leave it in the crock pot longer if you need to as well.

Here’s to starting the new year warm, and healthy! 😀


Slow-Cooker Chicken and Black Bean Soup-seven easy and healthy ingredients are all you need for this simple crock pot meal.

Christmas Tree Pancakes

Every once and a while I decide to be a fun mom. Today was one of those days. Now, don’t get me wrong, non-fun mom came out today too (she broke up a pillow fight). Hey, it can’t be all fun, all the time.

But while fun mom was here, she managed to make a special Christmas-break treat. I thought I’d share it with you in case you are looking for a last minute, simple idea for Christmas break or even Christmas morning. Behold, fun mom’s Christmas tree pancakes!

Christmas Tree Pancakes--a fun and simple breakfast
All that’s needed is a little green food coloring, whipped cream, cherries, and sprinkles…or whatever you want to decorate your trees with.

Simply add food coloring to your pancakes then make them smaller and smaller, stacking them into tree shapes. It’s really easy but had some serious wow factor for my kids. Really, they literally said, “Wow!” and “How did you do that?”

If your pancakes are warm, the whipped topping melts fast so make sure your kids are near by if you want a big reveal. I wanted them to be surprised so I made them play in their room, so they couldn’t see what I was doing, but called the out as soon as the trees are ready.

Merry Christmas!

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