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Sam Says...

You can always tell the best recipes by the condition of the paper they are written on, can't you?  I first tasted this recipe at a friend's house and it was love at the first spoonful.  Lynn is one of the best cooks I know. I have a few recipes from her,  but this is one of my faves.  It's the perfect springtime soup--if the sun is shining but it's still pretty chilly outside--make this!  This soup is easy to prepare and can stand alone as a meal if served with hot, hard Italian rolls baked in the oven while the soup cooks.  I am sure this Tortellini Soup will become a family favorite for your crew, too. Original recipe appeared in Cooking Light; no idea of the year (sorry :( )


1 Tablespoon Olive Oil

Carrot and Onion to taste

5 garlic cloves; thinly sliced

1/2 cup dry white wine

3-14oz cans fat-free less sodium chicken broth (I use chicken stock)

2-9oz packages fresh three-cheese tortellini

1 1/2 cups chopped plum tomatoes (substitute drained diced tomatoes with basil and oregano

1-6oz bag of baby spinach

1 tablespoon of butter

Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add carrot and onion; saute; add garlic; saute 30 seconds. Stir in wine and broth; bring to a boil.  Cook 2 minutes.  Add tortellini; cook 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in drained tomatoes and spinach; cook 2 minutes or until spinach wilts.  Add butter; cook 30 seconds or until butter melts, stirring constantly.  Serve immediately.  Yield: 6 servings (serving size 1 1/2 cups)

One of the silver linings of our current situation has been the great recipes my friends have been texting me.  Even though my jeans may not fit quite as comfortably as they did BC (before covid), my recipe collection is definitely getting better. This one is from my friend Kristin...she mentioned she is a better cook than a baker...but I beg to differ. Thanks to Butter with a side of Bread for the recipe ingredients and directions. Find substitutions and variations there. Enjoy!


5 very ripe bananas about 1 2/3 cup

(you can ripen bananas in the oven: heat oven to 350 degrees; line a baking sheet with parchment paper; place bananas in peel on sheet and bake for 30-40 minutes; peels will turn black and shiny. Let cool for 1 hour and your now- very- ripe- bananas are ready to make the magic happen)

  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup oil any type- I use coconut
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup mini chocolate chips divided


  • Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 15×10.5 pan with non-stick spray.
  • Peel bananas and mash well. Stir in brown sugar, oil, milk and eggs until combined. Add in dry ingredients and stir. Fold in 1/2 the chocolate chips.
  • Spread the batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle remaining chips on top. Bake 18-22 minutes, until  wooden toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely and cut into  24 squares

Covid-19 has me searching for new recipes in cookbooks I haven't looked through in quite some time. And in order to minimize trips to the store, I plan a menu on Sunday; put on gloves and a mask and hit the aisles of the Giant Eagle I go to most time to dilly dally looking for things in unfamiliar stores. The taco quesadillas made the cut for this week!  If you are on schedule for taco tuesday...give these a try! I made them even easier by using a packet of taco seasoning and store bought salsa to top them off!  And definitely use the yellow corn tortillas...makes them crunchy. They were delicious.The Pioneer Woman's original recipe follows with my adjustments in parenthesis.  Enjoy!


1 1/2 pounds ground beef

3 tablespoons tomato paste 

2 tablespoons chili powder 

1 teaspoon cumin 

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, or more to taste

1/2 teaspoon cayenne 

Butter, for frying 

8 corn tortillas 

12 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, grated 

Your favorite taco toppings for serving


  1. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, brown the ground beef, 5 to 8 minutes. Drain the excess fat. Add the tomato paste, chili powder, cumin, salt, cayenne and 1 cup water and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer and simmer until thickened, 8 to 10 minutes. Keep warm. (This is where I used the taco seasoning packet and I skipped the tomato paste because I thought I had some but I didn't)
  2. Heat a separate skillet over medium heat. Smear butter on the bottom and place a tortilla in the skillet. (I used Mission Brand Yellow Corn Tortillas)Top the tortilla with some of the cheese and a second tortilla and cook until the bottom side is brown and the cheese begins to melt, about 2 minutes.(I put the ground beef on top of the cheese and then added a little more cheese on top and then the second tortilla) Flip and cook the other side another 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate and keep warm. Repeat with the remaining tortillas and cheese, adding additional butter as needed. (I buttered both the top and bottom tortilla because at this point, why not?)
  3. Top each quesadilla with a generous helping of the beef mixture, then top with some lettuce and Pico de Gallo. (See No. 2...I put the meat in between the tortillas and I used Giant Eagle Brand salsa)

Pico de Gallo:

  1. Chop the tomatoes, jalapenos and onions into very small dice (leave the seeds in your jalapenos for a hotter pico, or remove for a milder pico). Next, chop up a nice-size bunch of cilantro. Just remove and discard the long leafless stems before chopping. No need to remove the leaves from the stems completely. Place all of these ingredients together in a bowl and give it a good stir. Squeeze the juice of the lime half into the bowl. Add salt to taste and stir again. (or buy Giant Eagle Brand Salsa :))


"How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

I love thee to the depth and breadth and height

My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight

For the ends of being and ideal grace..."

-Elizabeth Barrett Browning

  Well, February is finally upon us. And amidst the ample snowfall, extreme temperatures and repeated school delays, the holiday devoted to love and affection is poised to defy the odds and arrive, right on schedule, and remind the world that somethings won’t let a little polar vortex dim their warmth.

  Although the actual holiday doesn’t fall until Thursday after next, I’ve been contemplating it for weeks now. Valentine’s Day is one of those amazing holidays that allows us to revel in the most powerful force for good in existence: love.

  Love lets us show the best of ourselves, but also allows us to reveal the best in other people.  Who doesn’t step a little lighter and smile a little more when they’ve been loved by someone else? Love brings out what is most beautiful in the world.

  Everyone feels loved in different ways; a thoughtful gift, an extra hour of time spent together, or even a simple thank you note can mean the world to someone and make them feel loved.

  Have you ever taken the love languages test? I have and ironically enough, gifts are one of my top love languages. So I, in the spirit of the holiday, thought I would share some of my top giftable finds from our shop. I braved the plentiful snow still blanketing our parking lot to snap some pictures in our shop today and I will say it was definitely worth it! I hope you and your loved ones enjoy these finds as much as I enjoy the already warming temperature :)

The lovely, floral notes in Lollia's "Breathe" fragrance suggest love, beauty, and a tasteful choice for someone special. My sister Caroline (who I will say has amazing taste) actually has the "Breathe" hand creme and loves it. So, sister approved! :)

Lollia "Breathe" Bath Salts {$14},"Breathe" Shower Gel {$22}, "Breathe" Eau De Parfum {$55},  and "Breathe" Perfumed Luminary Candle {$34}

Chive Porcelain Rose in Pink {$22}

Locally made with love, these wood-block decorative hearts add a homemade touch to any Valentine's Day gift selection. Use them to add a touch of sentiment to your home decor or to remind a loved one that they have your heart. Each piece is hand signed by the artist!

 Small Heart Block {$36}, Large Heart Block {$54}

With an array of lovely scents and unique styles, a hand-picked candle is a great way to remind your loved ones how special they are to you. Whether they prefer bolder scents like currant or watermelon mint or the classic floral charm of peony, all candles have a lasting burn time and make a thoughtful gift for someone special. 

Archipelago Botanicals "Currant"  Candle {$32} & "Peony" Candle {$32}, Simpatico Home Watermelon Mint Candle {$32},  Illume "Peony" Candle {$22}

And, in the spirit of the holiday, how could I not mention the classic Valentine? What better way to remind your loved ones that you than with good, old-fashioned snail-mail! Choose the perfect card, write your heart, and send it off with love!

Rifle Paper Co. Blank Cards and Matching Envelopes, Package of 8 {$18}, Rifle Paper Co. Holiday Postcards, Package of 10 {$10}   Curly Girl Design Notepad {$6.50}


All My Love,


Customer Service & Social Media Assistant at The Great Gift and Paper Co. <3


Quotation from Elizabeth Barrett Browning's poem "Sonnets from the Portuguese 43: How do I love thee? Let me count the ways" via The Poetry Foundation 

Last week, my mom was sent a Visiting Angel that fell straight from heaven--she is a lovely woman from Italy...yes, Italy.  Can you imagine?  Not only does Tizianna speak the same language, but the connection in terms of culture are simply indescribable. And the added bonus is that she loves to cook! Tizianna was kind enough to make this delicious dinner for my mom. She shared this quick recipe with me. It was a hit all around.   Dinner doesn't get much easier than this deliciously simple lemon chicken recipe. Thanks to for the recipe directions and ingredient list.

Lemon Chicken



  • 4 skinned and boned chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 lb.)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 8 lemon slices
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • How to Make It

    Step 1

    Cut each chicken breast in half lengthwise. Place chicken between 2 sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap; flatten to 1/4-inch thickness, using a rolling pin or flat side of a meat mallet. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Lightly dredge chicken in flour, shaking off excess.

    Step 2

    Melt 1 Tbsp. butter with 1 Tbsp. olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Cook half of chicken in skillet 2 to 3 minutes on each side or until golden brown and done. Transfer chicken to a serving platter, and keep warm. Repeat procedure with 1 Tbsp. butter and remaining olive oil and chicken.

    Step 3

    Add broth and lemon juice to skillet, and cook 1 to 2 minutes or until sauce is slightly thickened, stirring to loosen particles from bottom of skillet. Add 8 lemon slices.

    Step 4

    Remove skillet from heat; add parsley and remaining 2 Tbsp. butter, and stir until butter melts. Pour sauce over chicken. Serve immediately. Garnish, if desired.

    I served this with a cold Italian potato salad and a few sliced tomatoes and black olives dressed in olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  Mike loved it--that's what I call  job security :)