Tuscan Macaroni and Cheese Bake

12 ounces precooked smoked chicken sausage, halved lengthwise and sliced 1/4-inch thick (or substitute Italian sausage – cooked and drained)
2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
8 ounces cream cheese, cubed and softened
1 cup sliced olives
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 1/2 Tbsp. butter
1 1/2 Tbsp. flour
1 tsp. dried sage
1/4 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 1/2 cups milk
1 tomato, sliced thinly
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

  1. Cook elbow macaroni according to package directions but under-cook the pasta by 1-2 minutes since it will continue baking in the oven. In a large bowl, combine the sausage, cooked pasta, cream cheese, olives, and mozzarella cheese. In a small bowl, mix flour and spices together.
  2. In a medium saucepan melt the butter, then whisk in flour and spices. Allow the flour/butter mixture to cook without browning for about 30 seconds while whisking/stirring. Slowly add the milk and stir until slightly thickened, this may take about 5-6 minutes. Stir constantly to prevent scorching on the bottom of the pan. When slightly thickened, pour the milk mixture over pasta mixture and mix well.
  3. Pour into an 11×7-inch lightly greased casserole dish. Bake covered at 350 degrees for 35 minutes. Remove cover and add tomato slices on top then sprinkle Parmesan cheese over and bake uncovered for 10 minutes more. Let sit for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Classic Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 cups flour
2 3/4 cups oatmeal
2 cups chocolate chips

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cream together the butter and sugars.
  3. Add eggs and vanilla. Beat until light and fluffy.
  4. Add baking soda, powder, and salt and mix.
  5. Add flour, oatmeal and chocolate chips. Mix until combined.
  6. Bake for 10-12 minutes.

Source: Mel’s Kitchen Cafe

Coconut and Peanut Butter Balls

1 cup nut butter
1/4 – 1/2 cup honey or agave
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup raisins
Any other add-ins (seeds, nuts, flax seed, etc)
unsweetened coconut

  1. Mix nut butter, sweetener, vanilla and raisins.
  2. Spread coconut on wax paper.
  3. Drop butter mixture onto coconut and roll.
  4. Chill for 1 hour or longer.

Hot Cocoa Syrup

2 cups sugar
1 cup cocoa powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/3 cups hot water
3 tsp. vanilla

  1. In a medium saucepan, add sugar, cocoa powder, salt and hot water. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil.
  2. Boil and stir for 2 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat and add the vanilla.
  4. Stir into warmed milk and enjoy!

*Note: For creamier hot cocoa, add cream or evaporated milk.
Yield: 4 quarts

Source: Loretta Willis