My family enjoys delicious aromas coming from the oven, especially when the meal includes Baked Ziti, Pretty Layered Salad, Breadsticks with Parmesan Butter and Chocolate Chunk Cookies.

We spend a lot of time in the kitchen and dining room. Daughters Elizabeth, Emily, Isabelle and Olivia all love stirring, rolling, mixing and measuring. My husband, Dave, enjoys the results after a busy day. He works at the airport as an air traffic controller.

Dave really likes my Baked Ziti, and the kids say it is the best meal ever (but they’ve also said the same thing about cereal!).

I first had ziti at my sister-in-law’s when I was younger and liked it very much. After trying quite a few different recipes with this tube-shaped pasta and adding other ingredients, I’ve settled on this hearty version.


Nice to Make Twice

Often, I double the ziti recipe and freeze half for later. Or I may give one dish to a family in need of a meal because of illness or arrival of a new baby. I really enjoy sharing the dishes I prepare…and I’m pleased that the recipients seem to enjoy eating them, too!


Leeway with Salad Layers

Although I’m giving you a specific recipe for Pretty Layered Salad, we seldom make it the same way twice.

Our oldest, Elizabeth, loves to make this salad and think up new layers. I’ve used so many variations that I can’t even remember them all.

But here are a few of them you can try: Use iceberg lettuce instead of romaine. Vary the type of cheese. Add a layer of chopped tomatoes, red pepper rings on top or enough cubed chicken to make it a main-dish salad.

Breadsticks with Parmesan Butter are tender and tasty. They are also excellent with other casseroles or soups. When we have them with pizza, we like to dip the breadsticks in pizza sauce instead of using Parmesan butter.

Baking for the family was a job I loved while growing up in Erie, Pennsylvania. My mother taught me to bake and cook. She canned everything she could from our gardens and froze some, too. We picked berries and made jams and other preserves.

My dad raised chickens (and still does), so I learned a lot about cooking chicken for Sunday dinner. I have five older brothers and a younger sister, so we had plenty of people to eat everything. We all helped out with meals and other chores.

Now there are 20 grandchildren, and Mom often cooks for the whole bunch!


Best Cookie in the Jar

Cookies are our favorite treat to make and eat. Of the many kinds we bake, Chocolate Chunk Cookies are right at the top of the list. If we’re in a hurry, we might not add the drizzle. But it makes the cookies look fancy when they are served on a tray. They also make a fun gift.

I often make two batches of the cookies and freeze some to have on hand when we need them later.

It was hard for me to cut down on baking large quantities when Dave and I were first married. So I often took cakes, cookies and breads to neighbors and family.

A few years ago, we started selling cookies at a nearby farm market in the summer and fall as an outlet for my baking surplus.

Through this venture, we have made some nice new friends. And now, my daughters are baking and delivering and learning to manage money. People call us “the cookie ladies”!

I taught elementary school in Erie and also in Virginia before Dave and I moved here and started our family. We home-school our daughters and do a variety of activities together. Dave’s schedule at the airport means he’s often home during the day.


Sweet Hobbies

Field Editor Elaine Anderson

Last year, he built a sugaring house and we made maple syrup together. We hope to have our own beehives and honey this year. We have chickens, pigs, cats, a dog and a bunny, and we plan to add other animals.

Things around here are busy but joyful. I often rely on Taste of Home’s recipes to decide my menus. The magazine really simplifies things for me when it comes to meal planning. My issues are so worn out! But I keep taping them back together and plan to pass them on to my children one day.

We also enjoy having guests in our home for dinner. I’ve found that the family-favorite meal I’m sharing here is also fine when company comes. I hope these recipes will be popular at your house, too!


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