The Cookbook Series with “Make It Ahead” by Ina Garten – Part 1: Blueberry Bran Muffins


Welcome to my second featured cookbook of the cookbook series with Ina Garten’s “Make it Ahead” cookbook.  If you recall I started this series with “The Can’t Cook Book” by Jessica Seinfeld. “The Can’t Cook Book” is a great cookbook for beginners or for people who are just starting to hone their cooking skills. This was the first cookbook I bought for my daughters because it has handy cooking prep instructions and the recipes are easy to follow and are tasty too. For more on that cookbook go to my Menu on my Home page, go to Food and use the drop down to see The Cookbook Series. Or, to get you started on the very first installment of the cookbook series go here.

I’m a huge fan of Ina Garten: the Barefoot Contessa. She constantly inspires me to want to learn more and more culinary and baking skills. She makes it look so effortless and the outcome always looks delicious. Her gorgeous kitchen is a chefs dream and that garden on her farm is something I aspire to have myself someday.  Can you tell I’m a huge fan! To my surprise I realized that the only recipe I had tried of hers was her basic vinaigrette (which I will post about later). So I knew that I would have to feature one of her cookbooks for my next cookbook series so I could try some of the  recipes I’d seen her make on her show. If you haven’t ever watched The Barefoot Contessa please check it out, it’s completely addicting and you can learn so much from her.

I have a few of her cookbooks but the one I chose is “Make It Ahead” because it has recipes that work for a busy schedule and I don’t know a single person who is not busy all the time. I’ve been on a mission at my house to make everything homemade lately (due to reading “The Daniel Plan”) and had never tried muffins made from scratch. Ina’s Blueberry Bran Muffins looked delicious so I gave them a try first.

(Notice I’ve tabbed the heck out of it, like I do most of my books)



This recipe is packed full of healthy ingredients including blueberries, Greek yogurt, honey and wheat bran. These muffins were a cinch to make and came out perfectly. I was tickled pink to have such great success with my first Ina recipe. The only thing that was tricky to find was the wheat bran, my local grocery stores did not have it but I did find it at Sprouts and I’m pretty sure Whole Foods would also carry it. Here’s a quick step by step but a printable recipe will be linked at the end.

Ingredients: vegetable oil, all-purpose flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, ground cinnamon, Greek yogurt, sugar, honey, eggs, vanilla extract, wheat bran and fresh blueberries.


Stir together flour, salt, baking powder, and cinnamon.


Whisk together the yogurt, sugar, vegetable oil, honey, eggs and vanilla. I used my Kitchen Aid mixer but that was unneccessary, a hand mixer is all you need.


Add the dry ingredients. When adding the dry ingredients use a wooden spoon, not the mixer, this is noted in the recipe I’ll link to but not in the cookbook, good to know though so make a note of this if you have the cookbook.


Gently stir in the wheat bran and blueberries. The batter should look like this, it’s moist but has a grittiness from the bran.


Scoop into prepared muffin pan.



This is exactly what you want your batter to look like.


Bake 25 to 30 minutes. I started to check at 23 minutes but 25 minutes was perfect for my oven.

They smell so good when they’re cooking.

Right out of the oven…


Cooked to perfection, lightly golden brown on the outside and nice and moist on the inside.


Serve warm or save for later and serve room temperature.




Unfortunately these are not gluten-free so I couldn’t try them, but my taste testers (my husband and kids) loved them. They said they were so fresh and moist but had a nice heartiness to them and they smelled oh so good as they were baking. This recipe is a definite keeper. What a great breakfast to eat on the go when you’re trying to get your kids out the door. I was so happy with the results. After making these I will no longer buy the boxed muffins, this is so worth the little bit more effort.


For a printable recipe go here, but please note that they did not list the amount of vegetable oil. You need 1/2 cup vegetable oil, plus extra for greasing the pan.


I’m looking forward to trying lots more recipes from this cookbook, I’ll be doing at least one recipe a week through September and October, so follow along.

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Great buys for my kitchen from Target and Pier 1 Imports

I found some great deals at Target and Pier 1 for my kitchen. I really enjoy having my kitchen stocked with all the proper tools, flatware, serving utensils, and dishware. The kitchen is the most important room of the house to me. It’s where a house becomes a home. Everyone gathered together cooking and eating. Most of our favorite family memories are from meals and celebrations in our home.

Come see some fun stuff I found this weekend and at great prices. Most are from Target but a couple are from Pier 1, I’ll link all buys.

Love these measuring cups and measuring spoons in gold from Target.



The gold with the wood is so pretty.

12″ wood/gold whisk and 8″ wood/gold whisk

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Gold Masher


I’m always on the lookout for pretty serving spoons.

Porcelain Serving Spoons


Urban Farm Salad Servers


And because I’m the Boss Lady (at least in my own mind) and it’s pink (it also comes in black), I got this cute mug.

Strawberry Street Boss Lady Mug


Although these are not exactly for the kitchen I really loved the blue marble and they will look great on my kitchen table or on the counter with some nice flowers from my garden.

Marbled Vase Medium and Marbled Vase Small

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That’s everything from Target now I’ll show you what I purchased at Pier 1 Imports.

I was so sad when I broke my salt container. It was almost exactly like the one pictured only it didn’t say “salt” on it. Luckily I had seen these at Pier 1 recently so I ran out and bought them. I’m glad I did because they only had 2 left. I actually like these better because they are labeled. I’ve gotten lots of compliments on the old ones.

Marble Salt and Pepper Cellar Set


Lastly I needed a new paper towel holder. I have a marble one that I like but I saw this one at Pier 1 and liked it even better. It’s bigger and heavier, so I put the old one in the laundry room (which is where I needed one) I put the new one in my kitchen. Unfortunately they don’t have it on the website but maybe they have it in their stores, it was $19.99 at my Pier 1. Here’s a picture of mine (sorry not the best shot).


That’s all the fun buys I found this weekend. It always makes me happy to spruce up my kitchen. I know I haven’t been posting much on our remodel, I still owe you pictures of my completed home office. My youngest Skye is applying to colleges right now and if any of you have had the pleasure of going through this process, you know it is all-consuming, so our projects are being fit in and not too well for the time being. Our girl comes first though. After we wrap up this college stuff I promise I’ll have my home office reveal, guest bath reveal and I’ve got everything to start on my pantry refresh. Look for my Cookbook series to start-up this week, probably Friday due to our busy week with Skye having lots of tennis matches. It’s really fun to follow, with lots of yummy recipes.

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Costco Series – Part 2 Healthy Snacks and Grocery Staples

Although I just did a Costco Series post last week, I wanted to do another one because I found lots of new healthy snacks that are wonderful and I also wanted to share a few staples that I always buy. If you’d like to see the healthy and organic choices from last week go here.

Let’s get right to this weeks finds…


 1. Toasted Natural Sesame Seeds ~ I love the flavor sesame seeds brings to dishes and it will go well with the stir-fry veggies I bought (#2 of this post).

2. Stir-fry Vegetable Blend ~ Costco sells another stir-fry blend that comes with its own sauce, sesame seeds and cashews but the sauce is not gluten-free, so I can never eat it with my family. I bought these so that I can add my own gluten-free sauce, sesame seeds (#1) and cashews. It’s always nice when I can make one meal and not have to make a separate one for me.

3. Shredded Cheddar and Jack Cheese ~ This is an absolute must at our house at all times. We use it for quesadillas, omelettes, nachos or anything that we want to melt cheese on.

4. Cauliflower Florets  ~ Another staple in our house, because by now you must know how many veggies we eat.

5. Red Potatoes ~ This variety of potatoes are one of my favorites, I make them many different ways. I’m looking forward to trying a new recipe for smashed potatoes by Ina Garten which I will be sharing on my Cookbook Series starting this week.

6. Stacy’s Organic Pita Chips ~ We usually buy these every week. We like to eat them with hummus. I’ve decided to try to make fresh hummus, I have a few different recipes to try. I’m thinking once I have fresh hummus I won’t want to buy it premade again. I’ll let you know.

7. Fresh Lemons ~ I bought this for the hummus that I’m going to make but I use lemons in lots of different recipes and we also like slices in our water. My lemon tree I just planted this summer has lots of lemons but they’re not ripe yet. I’m so excited to have my own lemon tree and never have to buy lemons anymore.

8. Pecorino Romano Cheese ~ We like freshly grated cheese on pasta and I also have a new recipes that is calling for freshly grated Parmesan, so I’m using this.

9. Pace Picante Sauce ~ This has to be in my house at all times if I want a happy household.

10. Campari Tomatoes ~ Really delicious and a nice size to slice for sandwiches.

11. Albacore Tuna in Water ~ My husband LOVES my tuna fish sandwiches and tuna casserole, so I always keep this in my pantry just for him.

12. Chinese Chicken Salad ~ Or should I say Chinese NO Chicken Salad. My vegetarian daughters love this salad but we never add the chicken. It’s actually great without it, just add lettuce and it comes with everything else. There are  2 complete salads in each pack. If you haven’t tried this it’s really good and a complete meal all on its own.

13 Finlandia Cheese Slices ~ I keep this as a staple at all times for sandwiches or served with crackers. My family loves this.

14. Hadley Pitted Dates ~ We use dates a lot in smoothies but I’m also trying to eat these when I need something sweet in lieu of candy or cookies.

15. Crispy Crunchy Organic Chickpeas ~ OK this is it!!! These roasted chickpeas are the most wonderful snack, packed with protein which is great for my little vegetarians. I can’t stop eating them. Skye and I like to eat them with Gouda cheese and strawberries. The combo is really good. So glad I found these, run out and get them right now.

16. Super Seeded Multi-Grain Gluten-Free Bread ~ This is a really nice gluten-free bread. As with most gluten-free bread, it’s better toasted. This is really close to regular bread. I like the heartiness and the seed flavors are delicious.


17. Kettle Brand Sea Salt & Vinegar Chips ~ I love the Kettle brand but honestly not a fan of salt and vinegar chips but the rest of my family loves them.

18. Boudin Organic Seeds & Grain Sourdough Bread ~ I’ve got a family that are big fans of Boudin Restaurants and really love the bread. This one is new and my husband said it’s so great. Not gluten-free though (insert sad face emoji here).

19. Organic Fruit Stretch ~ This is a great take-a-long snack, for your kids lunches or if you’re snack mom. All natural and organic ingredients. Just fruit. Love it.

20. Organic Blueberry Pomegranate Squares ~ 100% addicting and oh so good!!!

21. Organic Fruit, Seed & Nut Clusters ~ These look amazing and all natural ingredients. I can’t have them because they are not gluten-free but they look so good.

22. Quinoa & Brown Rice with Garlic ~ This is a quick side dish to have on hand, pop it in your microwave for a healthy side dish or top it with some veggies. I like this but to be honest it’s got too much of a garlic flavor to it, I never thought I could ever say that since I love garlic but I know lots of people who love it. It is really easy and it’s good, just not great. Worth a try though.

23. Organic Black Bean & Corn Salsa ~ Cannot wait to try this, looks so yummy. All fresh and organic ingredients.

24. Organic Long Grain Brown Rice ~ I love the convenience of the frozen brown rice which I showed you in my last Costco post, but Costco is sometimes out of it. This is a great staple to keep in your pantry. You can always make some ahead of time and keep it in your refrigerator for convenient meals.

25. Organic Garden Medley Tortilla Chips ~ Great alternative to regular tortilla chips.

26. Brown & Red Rice with Chia & Kale ~ Same brand as #22 and it doesn’t have garlic, so I’m going to give it a try. This seems like a good and healthy side dish to keep in the pantry for a quick meal.

27. Organic Raw Honey ~ Always like to keep honey on hand for many recipes, but my favorite is gluten-free toast with peanut butter, banana slices and honey, okay sometimes I leave off the bananas.  Yummy!

28. Green Pea Crisps ~ A nice alternative to chips. Great for kids lunches too.

29. Hemp Heart Bar ~ Can’t wait to give these a try. All natural ingredients for a healthy snack.

30. That’s It Fruit Bar ~ Just like it says, that’s it, only fruit in each bar. Gluten-free, vegan and raw. Hope these are good because I love finding healthy snacks.

31. Nutella ~ Another family staple. We use it on toast, as a dip or in recipes but the family favorite is on a crepe with strawberries, bananas, whip cream and chocolate sauce. Amazing!!!

32. Corn Tortillas ~ Simply a must in our household at all times. We love vegetarian tacos or just with melted cheese.

So that’s it for this Costco run. As you can see I found lots of healthy snacks and I find lots of my staples there. You can’t beat the prices and with the large sizes, it keeps my pantry and refrigerator full of healthy choices.

Thanks for stopping by and look for my Cookbook Series to start again this week. I will be sharing recipes from Ina Garten’s Make It Ahead Cookbook. I’m a big fan of Ina’s and everything she makes looks so good. Can’t wait to make my way through this cookbook. I hope you come along for the ride.

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