Manicotti & a NEW Pasta Sauce

I recently had the chance to sample a jar of Galassi Pasta Sauce. Galassi Foods is a family owned and operated business based in Coralville, Iowa. I am always excited when I have the chance to try an Iowa-based product in my kitchen.

Founder and Owner Lisa Galassi explains, “Galassi Foods manufactures a line of fine gourmet pasta sauce. The sauces all derive from our Italian family recipes.

All our sauces are all natural, and certified GMO and gluten free. We carry our original Galassi Pasta Sauce, Galassi Parmesan Cheese Pasta Sauce, Galassi Sweet Tomato Basil Pasta Sauce and Galassi Pasta Sauce With Mushrooms.

Galassi Foods products are available in Hy-Vee, Fareway, Whole Foods, Costco, Kroger, Central Markets, Lucky’s Market Door To Door Organics, and many more.”

I decided to use the sauce to make a favorite Three-Cheese Turkey Manicotti recipe from Taste of Home. I combined the pasta sauce with ground turkey for this hearty dish. I was impressed with the consistency of the sauce and the delicious flavor.

Cooking Tip: Ever struggle to fill manicotti? I cut the pasta tubes open with my kitchen shears and lay them flat. Then, I spoon on the filling, roll up the manicotti, and then place them seam side down in the baking dish. It is much quicker and reduces the

Once my husband, Scott, and I tried the completed dish, we both agreed the sauce was excellent. It has great flavor and worked perfectly in this recipe. We will be purchasing more in the future.

Here is the recipe for the manicotti if you’d like to give it a try. If you don’t care for ricotta cheese, you can substitute cottage cheese.

Three-Cheese Turkey Manicotti

TOTAL TIME: Prep: 30 min. Bake: 35 min.

YIELD:6 servings


12 uncooked manicotti shells

1 pound ground turkey

1 large sweet onion, chopped

1 jar (24 ounces) three-cheese spaghetti sauce

2 teaspoons sugar

2 teaspoons Italian seasoning

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

2 cups (8 ounces) shredded cheddar-Monterey Jack cheese

1 carton (15 ounces) ricotta cheese

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided

1 large egg, beaten


1. Cook manicotti according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook turkey and onion over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain. Stir in the spaghetti sauce, sugar, Italian seasoning, onion powder and garlic powder. Place 1 cup meat sauce in a greased 13×9-in. baking dish.

2. Drain manicotti. In a large bowl, combine the cheddar-Monterey Jack cheese, ricotta cheese, 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese and egg. Stuff into manicotti shells. Place shells over meat sauce. Top with remaining sauce. Sprinkle with remaining Parmesan cheese.

3. Cover and bake at 350° for 35-40 minutes or until bubbly.
Freeze option: Cover and freeze unbaked manicotti casserole for up to 1 month. To use, thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before baking. Bake as directed. Yield: 6 servings.

Nutritional Facts

2 each: 647 calories, 34g fat (18g saturated fat), 158mg cholesterol, 937mg sodium, 49g carbohydrate (18g sugars, 5g fiber), 40g protein.

© 2017 RDA Enthusiast Brands, LLC

Life Lately

This summer we celebrated my Mom’s 80th birthday. Milestone birthdays make me stop and reflect on how thankful I am to have both of my parents. Here is a shot of them in their younger years. Such a sharp looking couple!

Mom and DadTheir life together has spanned more than 50 years now, and they have raised four children. They have built a lot of memories over those years.


At the beginning of 2016 I made the decision to step away from my Taste of Home Cooking School travel. Several things contributed to that decision. One key factor was that my Mom has been dealing with memory loss. I felt I needed to be closer to home.

Since that time, I took a break from my work and did some regrouping of my own. I joined a fitness center and started getting myself into shape. I feel better than I have in years and actually ran my first 5K race (something I never thought I would do).

Karen - Dam to Dam

During this time I also re-evaluated what I want to do moving forward. There’s nothing like sitting at home in your sweat pants to put life into perspective. Ha ha! I have decided that I still love giving cooking classes and working with food.

So, when Taste of Home asked if I would consider coming back for a handful of Fall 2016 cooking schools, I took some time to give it serious thought. I was hesitant at first, but they are willing to limit my schedule to a handful of shows so I am still available for my parents.

I look forward to this fall. I enjoy the adventure of traveling to new places, and this season’s Taste of Home will allow me to do just that. I’ll be in Madison, SD; Fort Smith, AR (for two shows); Clovis, NM; and Grand Junction, CO.

My husband, Scott, may join me for at least one of these trips. He’s my favorite travel partner. Here is a shot of us on a Mississippi river boat dinner cruise we took a few weeks ago.


As far as my Mom, she’s had a good summer. She may not be remembering many of her day-to-day experiences. But, the thing is — I AM remembering these moments. So I’m trying to cherish the memories every chance I get.

I hope you’ve all had a great summer!

April 30th Cooking Class Tickets – ON SALE NOW!

Taste of Home -Karen with eggsClick here for tickets –> Cooking Class Tickets

Celebrate spring with me! I am hosting a demonstration-style cooking class on Saturday, April 30th from 11 AM to 1 PM in the Mills Civic Hy-Vee “club room” which is located on the second floor of the store at 555 S. 51st Street, West Des Moines, IA 50265. There is an elevator available to reach the classroom. The store is located just a few minutes from Jordan Creek Mall.

Bring your sister, mother, daughter, friend, husband, or wife, and join in the fun. You can attend the class during lunch time, and then enjoy the afternoon shopping and exploring the area. The cost for the class is $27 and includes samples of each recipe.

Click here for tickets –> Cooking Class Tickets 

The Hy-Vee classroom includes a kitchen island, cooktop, ovens, and an overhead mirror for easy viewing. Class members will be treated to samples of each recipe.

On the menu:
Apricot Glazed Pork Tenderloin
Honey Dijon Potato Salad (Lightened Up Version)
Grilled Romaine, Corn, and Tomato Salad
Strawberry-Rhubarb Shortcake

April 30th Cooking Class!

whiskI’m excited to announce that I will be teaching a cooking class on April 30, 2016 at the Mills Civic Hy-Vee in West Des Moines, Iowa. The class will be held from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm in the store’s “Club Room” which is located on the second floor (above the shopping area).

Why do I love this location? The room has a built-in kitchen with an island, a cooktop, ovens, and an overhead mirror for easy viewing. Plus, it has tables and chairs for all the attendees. This will be perfect for our demonstration-style class and the food samples I’ll be sharing with each recipe.

I will be putting tickets on sale Monday, April 4th, along with details about how to purchase. I hope you will consider bringing your sister, mother, daughter, friend, husband, or wife, to join you! The store is just a few minutes from Jordan Creek Mall. You can attend the class during lunch time, and then enjoy the afternoon exploring the area.



Slow Cooker BBQ Beef

Hold & Go Slow CookerAs a food consultant, I have tested small (and large) kitchen appliances throughout my career. One of my most memorable experiences was toaster testing. I toasted so many slices of bread, bagels, English muffins, and waffles, I ended up with several garbage bags full of the leftovers!

Testing a product before it hits the market is an important step to make sure it performs well for consumers. And, I really can see a difference when testing products side by side.

You can imagine my excitement when the makers of the Hold & Go™ Slow Cooker contacted me to try out their product in my home. Here is their Web site – (I’m not getting credit for purchases; I just wanted to share this product with you because I like it.)

Since this product is already on the market, my “testing” in this case was not technical testing. Rather, I had the pleasure of informally trying out the slow cooker in my own kitchen with some of our favorite recipes.



Have you seen this slow cooker? I spotted it on the Rachael Ray show a few months ago.

It features a built-in handle, making it perfect for carrying hot dishes to potlucks. The oval-shaped, removable 5-quart ceramic crock helps makes clean up easier. The control knob on the front offers settings for Keep Warm, Low, and High. Slow cooker recipes typically call for the Low or the High setting. Keep Warm is only used after a recipe is fully cooked.

Chuck roast in slow cookerThe handle is attached to the slow cooker and clamps into place over the lid. To open, you simply release the clips and slide the handle back. From there you can remove the lid. I was a little hesitant the first time I clamped down the handle (for fear of damaging the lid), but it worked really well.

Overall, I was impressed. I felt like the slow cooker cooked my favorite recipes as expected, and the addition of the smart handle design is a bonus. I will reach for this slow cooker often — especially whenever I am going to a church potluck or carrying a meal to a family gathering.

I typically use my slow cooker for slow simmered recipes such as soups, pulled pork, and pot roast. Once in awhile I make desserts or drinks, such as mulled cider. It is so nice to start a recipe in the slow cooker in the morning and have a warm meal ready when you walk in the door in the evening.

Recently I made my sister, Sharon’s, Slow Cooker BBQ Beef. It is one of my favorite recipes for feeding a crowd.

cooked roast & drippingsshredded BBQ beef



When the roast is cooked and ready to be shredded, I use my stand mixer with the flat beater to quickly shred it. It literally takes 15 seconds. So easy! 

When I make this recipe for just my husband and me, it yields enough for three meals. I love that! Usually, we serve our BBQ Beef 3 Ways

Day 1:

Sandwiches – We enjoy eating our BBQ beef in a classic sandwich. Traditional hamburger buns or hoagie buns work well. Sometimes I butter the buns lightly and toast them under the broiler before serving. Recently, we’ve also been enjoying the 100 calorie multi-grain pita pockets.  

Day 2: 

Pizza – Simply spread a little of your favorite BBQ sauce over the pizza crust instead of pizza sauce, and then add a generous layer of BBQ beef. Top with shredded Colby-Jack cheese and bake. Before serving, sprinkle on some chopped cilantro or parsley.

Day 3: 

Quesadillas – Place some BBQ beef on half of a soft flour tortilla and add some chopped roasted red peppers, if desired. Sprinkle with Cheddar cheese and fold the unfilled side of the tortilla over the filled side (creating a half moon). Brush the outside of the tortilla with vegetable oil. Toast both sides of the tortilla in a skillet until lightly browned and the cheese it melted. Cut into wedges to serve.

What is your favorite thing to serve in a slow cooker?

Here is the Slow Cooker BBQ Beef recipe (below) if you’d like to give it a try. I used a 2.3 lb. beef chuck roast the last time I made this, and I kept the amount of sauce the same. It was a bit saucer but we just used a slotted spoon when serving it.

Slow Cooker BBQ Beef

Slow Cooker BBQ Beef
  • 1
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  • 5
Votes: 2
Rating: 5
Rate this recipe!
Thank you to my sister, Sharon, for sharing this recipe! It is one of our family's favorite recipes for serving a crowd. If you have leftovers, they can be used to make quesadillas or pizza.
Servings Prep Time
20servings 15minutes
Cook Time
Servings Prep Time
20servings 15minutes
Cook Time
Slow Cooker BBQ Beef
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Votes: 2
Rating: 5
Rate this recipe!
Thank you to my sister, Sharon, for sharing this recipe! It is one of our family's favorite recipes for serving a crowd. If you have leftovers, they can be used to make quesadillas or pizza.
Servings Prep Time
20servings 15minutes
Cook Time
Servings Prep Time
20servings 15minutes
Cook Time
  • 4lbs. beef chuck roast
  • 1cup chopped yellow onion(or 1 TB minced onion flakes)
  • 1/2cup sugar
  • 1cup ketchup
  • 1/2cup vinegar(apple cider or white)
  • 2tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2cup water
  • 1/2teaspoon ground black pepper
Servings: servings
  1. Spray slow cooker with nonstick spray. Add beef roast. (No extra liquid is needed. The roast will simmer in its own juices.) Cover and cook on low for 8 hours. Drain the fat and shred the beef. Return shredded beef to the slow cooker.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the remaining ingredients. Add sauce to the shredded beef and stir to combine. Cover and cook on low for 4 hours. (See "Recipe Notes" about preparation below.)
Recipe Notes

My sister usually cooks the beef in the slow cooker overnight. Then, in the morning, she drains the fat, shreds the meat, adds the sauce, and continues cooking the barbecue beef in the slow cooker until lunch time.

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Making Life Changes

Taste of Home -Karen with eggsAfter nearly 10 years as a Culinary Specialist with the Taste of Home Cooking Schools, I am stepping away from my role as we head into the spring 2016 season. I love what I do, so it was a tough decision. But, I am at a stage of life where I need to be closer to home, especially to offer more support to my aging parents.
I will be pursuing freelance food-related work in my home state of Iowa, and I look forward to these new experiences. If you want to follow along with me, I will be posting regular updates and recipes on this blog at and also on Facebook at

And, now that I’m not of the road with Taste of Home (which was demanding of my time), I am available to take on new freelance projects. You can check out more details about that HERE

Perfect Potato Pancakes


Are you a fan of potato pancakes?

Have you ever wondered how to make homemade crispy hash browns?

Today I have a post featured on the Taste of Home Cooking School Blog, which includes my top tips for making PERFECT POTATO PANCAKES.

When I searched the Taste of Home web site for potato pancakes, a 5-star recipe called Perfect Potato Pancakes popped up at the top of the list. Like latkes made for Hanukkah, they are made with shredded potatoes.


Perfect Potato Pancakes 

TOTAL TIME: Prep: 20 min. Cook: 10 min./batch

YIELD: 8 servings


4 large potatoes (about 3 pounds)

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup finely diced onion

1 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

Oil for frying

Maple syrup or applesauce


1. Peel and shred potatoes; place in a bowl of cold water. Line a colander with cheese cloth or paper towels. Drain potatoes into cloth and squeeze out as much moisture as possible. In a large bowl, combine the potatoes, eggs, flour, onion, salt and pepper.

2. In an electric skillet, heat 1/4 in. of oil over medium heat. Drop batter by 1/4 cupfuls into oil, about 3 in. apart. Press lightly to flatten. Fry until golden brown, about 4 minutes on each side. Drain on paper towels. Repeat with remaining batter. Top with maple syrup or applesauce.

Yield: about 16 pancakes.

© 2015 RDA Enthusiast Brands, LLC

My Norwegian Grandma, Javerne

Grandma JaVerneI was blessed with two wonderful grandmothers. Each was extra special to me in different ways. Today, I’m sharing about my Norwegian Grandma, Javerne Kalsem, who lived just down the road from where I grew up.

I learned to LOVE cooking and baking from her. She paid special attention to every detail while making meals, and you could just feel her joy in serving guests.

To honor Grandma, I decided to feature her in my “Cooking with Karen” column for the June/July 2015 issue of Our Iowa magazine. I’m sharing an excerpt from that column here, along with some details we didn’t have room to share in the magazine.

While growing up, I felt like a sponge trying to soak up Grandma’s every move. She followed recipes, but also went by “feel”. For instance, when she mixed together crushed crackers and melted butter to top her scalloped corn, she used her fingers to know when it was just right.

She took time to carefully spoon flour into her measuring cups and level them. I think I’m cut from the same cloth, because I am pretty precise, too. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy experimenting with recipes, but I especially like the science of baking.

I grew up on a farm just down the road from my grandparents, so it was easy to ride my bike over to their big white farm house for a visit after school. The men were usually outside getting ready to feed the livestock, and Grandma was working away inside.

Kalsem farm house

I vividly recall walking into her kitchen as the back door creaked open and then banged shut behind me. (Below is a photo of Grandma with my Grandpa Orville.) As soon as I stepped inside the back door I could smell what was baking in the kitchen. Grandma would often be standing near her wall oven peeking inside to keep an eye on her work.

Grandma and Grandpa on the farm

As soon as she spotted me her eyes would light up. She had the same twinkle in her eye as my Dad, and I loved that about her. Usually soft spoken and always humble, she downplayed her skills in the kitchen and brushed aside compliments with a shy smile.

When she was around her family, I saw her humor shine through. She loved to tease back and forth with my Dad, and I remember her swatting him playfully with her lefse stick (see below). She was eternally optimistic, and her strong faith was a cornerstone to her life.

Grandma and DadHere is a photo from the day Grandma taught me how to make Norwegian lefse. If you’re not familiar with lefse, it is sort of like the Norwegian version of a tortilla. I’ll write more about lefse in a future post, but here is a photo that shows some lefse.

Lefse making with GrandmaLefse platter


My favorite visits to Grandma’s kitchen were when she baked cookies. Over on her countertops, she would have tea towels laying out (you know, the ones with the hand embroidery sewn in the corner) as well as a few cooling racks. Her array of cookies would be cooling on the towels.

Grandma's towelsAs soon as Grandma realized she had a visitor, her focus immediately shifted from baking to hostessing. She would look up with a smile and ask “Would you like a cookie? How about a glass of Pepsi?” Then, she would pull out a chair and sit down to visit with me.Continue reading