real life test kitchen: parmesan and root vegetable lasagna

Cooking Light magazine offers a delicious twist on traditional lasagna. This dish layers roasted butternut squash and sweet potato with a creamy white cheese sauce, lasagna noodles and shredded mozzarella. Though the prep time isn’t quick, it is certainly easy. If you roast off the veggies the night before like I did, the rest of the dish can be prepped in under 30 minutes. Serve with a lightly dressed salad or simple green vegetable to counter the sweetness. Click below for the full recipe. — Erica P.


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real life test kitchen: pizzelle cookies

Every Christmas my Great Aunt Jean makes hundreds of delicious pizzelle waffle cookies. Each one is perfectly crisp, slightly golden and has just a hint of anise flavor to it. After much coaxing, she finally passed along the recipe, which it turns out, is quite standard when it comes to pizzelles. I bought myself a a pizzelle press — a piece of equipment I won’t need 364 days of the year. But this past Sunday, I was a pizzelle-making machine and loved it! I still have a few things to learn about how to place the batter on the pan so they become more symmetrical rather than lopsided, but they turned out rather nicely. I packaged a bunch up and am merrily distributing them among friends.

Click through to the next page for the recipe…. and tell me, what’s your favorite holiday cookie recipe? Last year, I made a whole assortment from my mom’s Betty Crocker’s cookbook but this year I’m keeping it simple with just pizzelle! (more…)

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real life test kitchen: red lentil soup with kale

My favorite thing about the weather turning colder is the excuse to eat a lot of soup. December through March I usually have a bowl a day. This pot comes together in about 30 minutes, and the kick from the spice warms you from the inside out. Enjoy! — Erica P.

– 2 Tbsp. olive oil
– 1 large onion, diced
– 1 bell pepper (any color), diced
– 3 garlic cloves, minced
– 1 Tbsp. tomato paste
– 1 Tbsp. ground cumin
– pinch kosher salt
– pinch black pepper
– 1 tsp. cayenne pepper
– 1/4 tsp. chili powder
– 4 cups vegetable broth
– 1 cup red lentils
– 1/2 bunch kale, cut into ribbons
– 1 Tbsp. lemon juice

1 Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook until translucent. Add the diced bell pepper and cook 3 minutes, then add the garlic. Cook 1 minute, stirring often to prevent garlic from burning.
2. Stir in the tomato paste, cumin, salt, pepper, cayenne pepper and chili powder. Add the broth and lentils and simmer 10 minutes.
3. Add the kale and simmer until lentils are tender, about 10 more minutes. Remove pot from the heat and mix in the lemon juice.

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real life test kitchen: sweet potato pancakes

And Other Leftover Experiments

As the rest of the holiday season sneaks up on us rapidly (it seems especially so because Thanksgiving was later than normal), I thought I’d share some of the things I did with our leftovers after the big feast. There were only four of us — well, three with teeth — so we had waaaaay too much food. No fears! I found some great things to cook up, my favorite being these sweet potato pancakes that I found on Just reading the ingredients in the recipe, you know it’s gonna be good: pumpkin pie spice, vanilla, dark brown sugar. But don’t worry, these babies weren’t too sweet for breakfast. And with some nuts (we had walnuts, not pecans, handy) and maple syrup, they were pretty blissful.

A couple other things I did:
Turkey Shepard’s Pie — kinda made this one up, loosely based on this idea from Real Simple. I layered shredded roast turkey mixed with gravy, brussel sprouts, peas and carrots and mashed potatoes in a casserole dished and baked at 400 for about 20 minutes. The ultimate comfort food! Another dinner I milked from leftovers was also from Real Simple: Stuffing meatloaf with an orange-mustard glaze. It was great. A real surprise — the glaze makes the dish.

Now…. time to think about Christmas! I’m always torn about to cook. I love turkey so much, but maybe we’ll try something less conventional. What are you doing this year? Share! — Angela M.

From our partners

what's the proper food gift etiquette?


Nearly every time my mom offers to bring a dish to a party, she plans to leave the serving piece with the host. On her way home from picking up ingredients at the grocery store, she’ll stop at the discount store and pick up a cheap (but cute) plate to give as a hostess gift along with the prepared food. I am under the impression that the food item should be gift enough, but I do appreciate her tradition of adding a little extra something. It does make for a nicer presentation than packing everything in tupperware or disposable containers. Plus, it avoids any awkwardness inherent in asking the hostess to clean off your plate so you can take it back home. I’m curious to hear your opinion. What is the best way to bring food to a party? –Erica P.

Mary T. knows all about bringing food to a party — in that photo is one of the two Buche de Noel cakes she made for holiday parties last year. (And no, she didn’t leave the plate.) Click here to see how easy it is to make.

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