Sunday, October 30

Pumpkin Dog Bones

While my husband and I were on vacation our dog, Bella, turned 6.  We always do something special to celebrate her birthday.  One year we took her to our friend’s restaurant, Bella Italia, in Ann Arbor and she dined outside on meatballs and scrambled eggs.  If you’re not a pet owner you probably don’t understand, but if you’re a pet owner keep reading as I’m sure you can relate. 

Bella entered our lives 4 years ago when we adopted her.  We wanted a dog that was house trained and a few years old as we knew we didn’t have the time required for a puppy.  That’s how we found Bella on, at a no-kill shelter.  She was 2 years old at the time and the lady at the shelter ensured us she was very calm and would be a great house dog.  Exactly what we were looking for!  Bella came with a story, like many of the animals who end up at shelters.  Her previous owners dropped her off in the country and just left her.  They left a note attached to her collar that read…Hi, my name is Leah.  I’m a very good dog.  I have all my shots and I know basic commands like sit.  Unfortunately my owner can no longer care for me.   I’m hoping to find a country home.  If they were smart, they would have surrendered her to a shelter so that she could find a good home and be cared for in the interim.  Luckily she managed to survive on her own for a few months before the shelter picked her up. 

We went to meet Bella at a dog fair that featured many local shelters and their adoptable animals.  When we saw Bella for the first time she was quite skinny and her coat was dull and sprinkled with dandruff.  Her eyes were droopy and a little bloodshot too.  The pictures of her that we saw on were taken at a distance of her playing, etc.  At the fair we were surrounded by many beautiful dogs and Bella was definitely what you could consider ‘a diamond in the rough’.  In all honestly it’s probably good her pictures were taken at a distance because Bella is a very large dog (very tall and long).  At the time we both had apartments and were looking for more of a medium sized dog.  If we had known how large Bella was we might have ruled her out right away.  But luckily everything happens for a reason.

We ended up adopting ‘Leah’ the same day we met her.  We were able to look past her beauty flaws and heavily relied on the shelters recommendation that she would be a great house dog (house trained, no chewing, etc).  On our way home we decided the name ‘Leah’ definitely didn’t fit her.  Somehow we both agreed upon the name Bella.  After some proper care and love, Bella gained some weight, developed a shiny coat, and became stunning.  Whenever anyone meets Bella, one of the first things they say is how beautiful she is.  Little did we know we picked the perfect name for her as ‘Bella’ means beautiful in Italian.  Beyond her looks she truly is an amazing dog and I’m so glad we found her.

Now that you know a little about Bella, since we were couldn’t be there for her 6th birthday she celebrated with grandma and grandpa.   She was in good care at their house and on a little ‘vacation’ of her own you could say.  They celebrated her special day and even bought her some fun dog doughnuts from the pet store. 

After we came back from vacation I still wanted to do something for her.  In the past I’ve made homemade dog bones and she LOVED them.  What better time to make these then now!  And as you can see these biscuits are made with pumpkin.  Bella loves pumpkin!  She even likes to eat pumpkin guts as we carve Halloween pumpkins.  And did you know that pumpkin has many health benefits for cats and dogs?  Vets recommend it for upset stomachs and to promote a healthy digestive system.   With Thanksgiving right around the corner, if you have any canned pumpkin left over, give your dog a treat.  I add a few dollops of canned pumpkin on top of Bella’s food and she goes crazy.

This recipe is super simple to follow as there aren’t many ingredients.  The dough will be crumbly after all the ingredients are mixed together and you’ll need to put in some elbow grease by using your hands to form a large dough ball.  After that, it’s simply rolling out the dough and using some dog bone or holiday cookie cutters to make the biscuits.  One batch will make about 35-40 small/medium sized bones.  If you don’t want to have that many in your house, share them with your friends that have dogs!  I like making small batches and putting them in clear cellophane bags with a label and a festive tie/ribbon.

The dough will be crumbly

Use your favorite cookie cutters to make all different shapes & sizes
Trust me your dog will love these.  Bella lays directly across from the oven while these bake and she’s very antsy while they’re cooling.  They will be hot when they come out of the oven so make sure to let them cool completely before giving them to your dog. If you decide to make these bones remember that they have fresh ingredients and no added preservatives like the kind you would buy at the store.    Don’t worry though, they can last for up to 2 months if stored in an air tight container in the refrigerator.  Enjoy!

Enjoying her birthday bones!

Pumpkin Dog Bones
Makes 35-40 small/medium bones
Prep Time:  15 mins.
Total Time:  45 mins.

  •     2 eggs
  •     1/2 cup canned pumpkin
  •     1/2 teaspoon salt
  •     2 tablespoons dry milk
  •     2 1/2 cups wheat flour


   1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
   2. Blend eggs and canned pumpkin together. Add salt and dry milk.
   3.Slowly add flour (about a cup at a time), stirring with electric mixer.
   4.The dough will be dry, stiff, and crumbly.  This is normal.
   5.After using the mixer, combine the dough crumbs with your hands, working into a large ball of dough.
   6.Roll dough to a 1/2-inch thick.
   7.Use cookie cutters and cut into desired shapes.
   8.Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 30 minutes.

Sunday, October 23

Amazing Dishes from our European Vacation

I took a little break from my blog as my husband and I recently went on vacation.  We went to attend a close friends wedding in Oxford, England.  Before the wedding we decided to do a little traveling and visited London and Reading (England), as well as Cinque Terre (Italy).  Since I love to cook and try new foods, I thought I’d share with you some of the meals we enjoyed. 

I have to say Europeans not only know how to prepare great dishes but they know how to enjoy them as well.  One of the main differences my husband and I noticed while eating at restaurants is that there are no time constraints like here in the U.S.  You may be thinking but we don’t have time constraints.  What about when your waiter/waitress stops by to drop off the bill while you’re still eating and explains “no rush, whenever you’re ready”?  This never happens in Europe.  In both England and Italy we would wait on average a half hour or more after we finished our meal before our check was delivered.  At first it felt like an eternity, almost as if our waiter had forgotten about us.  That’s when we took in the scenery around us and noticed this was the norm.  Compared to America where eating out is commonly associated with convenience (eat and go, go, go), dining in Europe revolves around having great conversation with friends and family while enjoying phenomenal food.  Let’s just say Europeans know how to savor life’s moments.

While in England we enjoyed some amazing potpies.  One of the potpies even had cider gravy!  BRILLIANT!  This has inspired me to see if I can find a recipe and learn how to make this gravy.  Unfortunately I don’t have a picture of these as it was too dark inside the pub for a good photo.  Or maybe I should say fortunately?  The pubs in England are truly magnificent.  Sure, there are commercialized pubs, but when you go to an authentic pub, the atmosphere is one that you will not want to leave.  One of the pubs we ate at was like finding a dimly lit house with many small, cozy rooms.  Each room had a fire place with rich colors such as burgundy, gold, and brown wrapping the room from the floor to the ceiling.  Without knowing anyone at the pub, I felt like we were dining at our best friend’s house.

Of course at many pubs you will find what England is known for… fish and chips.  In America, ‘fish and chips’ seems to be a good, safe dish that you can order off any menu and always be pleased with.  The fish and chips are good here but the fish and chips in England are better.  I can’t describe so much as to why except the batter might be lighter (not as in healthy, but in texture) and not as crispy.  Sometimes we tend to overdo things here, but trust me the fish and chips in England is perfect.  And wow, I do enjoy ketchup with many things, but while in England I decided not to be that American.  I ate my chips with malt vinegar and boy was it good.  Hopefully none of the English locals noticed how much vinegar I was using because I guarantee it was more than they do!

Fish & Chips with Mushy Peas & Tartar Sauce
Next we moved onto Italy.  Before even tasting the food, I knew it was going to be good.  I am not joking when I say that I had a chocolate croissant every day for breakfast.  Why not live it up, right?  The croissants in the U.S. do not even compare.  These are nice, flaky, and buttery with chocolate in the middle that is just slightly melted.  YUM!  Ryan had a cappuccino every morning.  Sometimes he had 2 and sometimes he’d have them for breakfast as well as after dinner.  But you know what?  There are a lot, and I mean A LOT of stairs and steps throughout Italy.  I’m actually glad he stayed caffeinated with the cappuccinos because I think they helped him become like superman while needing to glide up flights and flights of stairs (to our hotel room, to the train station, etc) carrying our luggage.  

Chocolate Croissant

Lemon Crepes
Beyond breakfast, I think we had pizza every day at some point.  Their pizzas have a nice thin/medium crust with homemade sauce, fresh mozzarella and toppings like pesto or prosciutto or anchovies.  The pesto sauce was great and it’s something Italy is known for since it’s produced from olive oil, pine nuts, and basil.  

Pizza Topped with Pesto

Another Pizza slice topped with Pesto - Eating on the street :)

For dinner we tried many different pasta dishes.  I am actually not a fan of spaghetti and never have been.  So while at a restaurant I ordered seafood linguine because I love seafood and I was envisioning an amazing Alfredo sauce in my head.  When the waiter brought my meal I noticed it had a red sauce to my disappointment.  I decided to try it any way and OH MY GOD it was the best sauce I’ve ever had.  First off, the noodles were cooked ‘al dente’.  I know this is how pasta is supposed to be cooked but I don’t think I’ve ever had pasta cooked to perfection like this in the U.S.  I ate every last bite of my meal and if I had thrown my pride out the window I would have licked my plate clean.  Mean while, as we ate, Ryan and I polished off a full bottle of red wine that one of the local winemakers sold at the restaurant.  We felt quite wonderful when we walked out of that restaurant.  Oh, but don’t worry, our night didn’t end there.  We went on to order dessert at another restaurant.  The desserts in Italy are truly exquisite and you can’t help but order one after each meal.    

Pre Dinner - Bruschetta Appetizer

You’re probably thinking that we must have gained a lot of weight on this trip with the way we ate.  Trust me, I was quite worried, especially one night when we decided that dinner was so good to have a 2nd dinner only a few hours later.  I’m very happy to say we didn’t gain any weight. We walked everywhere, and especially in Cinque Terre, we hiked some extreme paths between the cities.  I’ve never gone up and down so many stairs (and rocks) in my life.  But at least it paid off I guess you could say!

Tuesday, October 4


I love making homemade pizza, but this week I thought I’d try something a little different…homemade calzones!  Calzones are pizza dough that is folded over and stuffed with cheese and your favorite pizza ingredients.  If you’ve never tasted one, then you need to try one pronto!

I thought I was making calzones, however there’s one distinct difference between calzones and Stromboli that I never knew about until today.  Calzones are served with sauce on the side whereas Stromboli has the sauce baked inside.  I set out to make ‘calzones’ but in actuality made Stromboli.

For this recipe I wanted to experiment with making my own dough and marinara sauce.  If you take the long route and make everything from scratch, like I did, this will take an hour and a half to complete.  Given that the Stromboli bakes for 35 minutes I didn’t find this to be too time consuming.  If you feel this is more time than you’d like to spend in the kitchen, make it easier on yourself and buy store bought dough and marinara sauce.  By choosing this route, the recipe will only take 30 minutes from start to finish!

Cover dough & let rise

What I learned when making this recipe is that the dough will be sticky.  Don’t worry as this is normal.  Just make sure your work surface is floured, as well as your hands.  Also, be sure to use parchment paper (different than wax paper).  It’s a wonderful way to line your baking sheets and easily remove food that would normally stick.   This works great with the Stromboli, by not only keeping your pans clean but also helping to easily transfer them.  I discovered that laying the parchment paper on my counter, assembling the Stromboli on top, and then transferring it to a baking sheet worked best.  Don’t try picking up the uncooked Stromboli and moving it.  It’s very hard to do as the filling weighs the Stromboli down and the dough will become misshapen upon transferring.   I found this out the hard way after I could barely move my first Stromboli to the baking sheet.  I was finally able to move it, however my perfect shape became distorted.  I used parchment paper for the rest of my Stromboli and transferring them was a cinch!

Choose your favorite ingredients for the filling
The dough does not need to be a perfect circle.  This is how mine looked.  Good enough!
Brush with egg wash & make slits to vent

The Stromboli came out great!  I chose to add ricotta cheese to the inside mixture which gave it a rich creaminess.  I highly recommend adding ricotta to yours.  The homemade marinara sauce was addicting.  We liked it so much that even though the sauce was in the filling, we ate the Stromboli with a side of sauce for dipping as well.   Each individual Stromboli was quite large and I found that one half was filling for me.  Ryan loved them as well.  We found these to be a nice lunch option on the weekend while we watched the football games.   Enjoy! 

Adapted from Calzone recipe by D. Adams, 
& The Best of Vegan Cooking,by Priscilla Feral (Amazon Affiliate link)

Serves: 4-6 people
Prep Time: 
  • 60 minutes (IF making dough & marinara sauce from scratch)
  • 10 minutes (IF using store bought dough & marinara sauce)
Total Time:
  • 95 minutes (IF making dough & marinara sauce from scratch)
  • 30 minutes (IF using store bought dough & marinara sauce)



  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon dry milk powder
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast

  • Your favorite pizza toppings such as pepperoni, mushrooms, etc.
  • Shredded Mozzarella cheese
  • Ricotta cheese (optional)

Marinara Sauce
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic (minced)
  • 4 tablespoons fresh basil (chopped)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 2 cups crushed canned tomatoes



  1. In a large mixing bowl or KitchenAid Mixer add water and sprinkle yeast on top.  Let stand 5 minutes or until yeast is slightly foamy.  Then add salt, dry milk, sugar, and bread flour.  Mix until a ball of dough begins to form.
  2. Cover bowl and place in a warm spot (such as a microwave).  Allow dough to rise for 30 minutes.
  3. While dough is rising, make the marinara sauce.  Add the olive oil to a large pot and heat over medium heat.
  4. Add garlic next cooking for 1-2 minutes (allowing garlic to slightly brown, but not burn).  Then add the crushed tomatoes and herbs.  
  5. Simmer marinara sauce until ready to use.
  6. Pre-heat oven to 350˚F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  7. After dough has risen, knead and break apart into 4 even portions.  Roll each portion out one at a time on a floured surface.  Roll/shape into a medium to large size circle.  The circles do not need to be perfect shapes.
  8. Transfer dough circle to the parchment lined baking sheet.  Spoon marinara sauce on one half of the circle leaving a ½ inch space from the edge of the circle. 
  9. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese on top of marinara sauce.  If you opt to also add ricotta cheese, place 2 or 3 dollops on top of the mozzarella cheese before adding pizza toppings.  Now top with your favorite pizza toppings.
  10. When the filling is complete lightly sprinkle with mozzarella cheese before pulling/folding the other half of the circle over the completed side.  You should now have a half moon shape.  Lightly pinch the ends to seal.  Take a fork and use the tines to press down on the sealed edges.
  11. Create an egg wash by combining 1 egg plus 1 teaspoon of water.  Lightly brush over the whole stromboli and edges. 
  12.  Repeat process to make all 4 strombolis.  When all have been assembled, use a sharp knife to make 2 to 3 slits on top as this will allow steam to escape while cooking.
  13. Bake for 35 minutes or until golden brown (cooking times will vary depending upon the size of the stromboli).  If desired, top with parmesan cheese before serving.

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