Date Night Board Games by Brohgan Dieker


Two player board games are a perfect Christmas present for parents of young kids. This list of board game suggestions are affordable, fun, and worth replaying again and again. Being a parent means that one thing is certainly true: you spend the majority of your evenings at home with children asleep.

While every couple should continue to go out on regular dates through any life stage, it isn't always realistic to get a sitter, especially in the winter. Inclement weather and cold/flu season can undo the best date night plans with little warning.

On a cozy night in, my husband and I pull out the two player board games! It's the perfect date night substitution!

Our collection of two player board games has slowly grown over the years.  We have now been married for eight and a half years, and almost every Christmas, birthday and anniversary has included a two player board game as a gift.

We love these games! We like games that include strategy, but not so much that we can't wrap our minds around the game's concept at the end of a long day. While we are competing against each-other, we aren't always in direct competition, which keeps the mood fun and laid back. Most of them take less than an hour to play.

Almost all of these games can accommodate more than two players! When our kids are old enough, they can join in the fun. When we have guests over, we often open the cabinet and pull out a game.


This game is our favorite! One tile at a time, taking turns, you build an entire map! You lay down cities, roads, monasteries, and fields with a strategy to score as many points as possible. You don't know your score until the very end, so the competition is there, but it's still casual. Adam and I are competitive people who both enjoy winning, but this game keeps the competition casual and fun.

Expansion packs have been a fun anniversary gift to give to each other over the years, and in addition to the original set, we also use the Inns and Cathedrals and Traders and Builders expansion sets, The River (which is included in newer editions of the original game but wasn't at the time when we purchased ours), and some of our favorite tiles come from the mini expansion sets. Over the years, with our specific expansions added, our Carcassonne game has become something that is very unique and specialized to our family.

You can also buy the entire Carcassone game with all the expansions at the same time for a fair price.

Banana Grams

I'm guessing that this is a game that you have probably heard of before, and might even own. Even with just the two of us, it's always fun to pull out Banana Grams. Many a Friday evenings in college were spent playing this game in various coffee shops. Even now, we still like to pull it out, partially for the nostalgia. (Also, our dog ate our banana bag probably five years ago, and we have never forgiven her!)

Code Names

You really can't argue against almost two thousand five star reviews on Amazon. In Codenames, you give one word clues to identify hidden "agents" in the cards on the table. This game is absolutely great with two people and with a bigger group, which is awesome! While it's not necessary to have a separate edition to play with two players, Codenames: Duets has been released recently, and it offers a new cooperative gameplay option for two players (and also still works for a party).


"You are a monarch, like your parents before you. Unlike your parents, however, you have hopes and dreams. You want a bigger and more pleasant kingdom, with more rivers and a wider variety of trees. You want a Dominion.

In all directions lie fiefs, freeholds, and feodum. All are small bits of land, controlled by petty lords and verging on anarchy. You will bring civilization to these people, uniting them under your banner. But wait. It must be something in the air, several other monarchs have had the exact same idea. You must race to get as much of the unclaimed land as possible, fending them off along the way."

We love this game! We were actually pretty obsessed with it for a while when we first were gifted it.  I actually own the first edition of Dominion, but the second edition has streamlined rules, and that seems like a big improvement.

Dominion has plenty of expansions, and you can customize it to your taste! We haven't explored this yet, but we've come close to buying expansions many times. Highly recommend!

Forbidden Island

Join a team of fearless adventurers on a do-or-die mission to capture four sacred treasures from the ruins of this perilous paradise. If you are looking for bang for your buck, this is it! This game is very easy on your Christmas budget, but we have always enjoyed playing it. Forbidden Dessert is very similar. Both have received terrific reviews on Amazon. My only complaint is that the replay value isn't great; it gets a little repetitive, and we will put it away for a few months or a year before we play it again. For the money, though, you really can't go wrong.

Love Letter

I'll play this with anyone who is willing, but my husband refuses to play anymore. (I always win.) This game was nice because it's very compact. I could carry it in my wallet. And, if I remember correctly, it was fairly easy to learn. The rules read like a fairytale storybook: the Princess has locked herself in the palace, and you must rely on messengers to give her love letters.

Love Letter is a game of risk, deduction, and luck, for 2–4 players. Get your love letter into Princess Annette’s hands while keeping other players’ letters away.

The Batman edition of this game looks really fun too!


I have to admit, I don't actually own this game, and I have never played it with my husband. But, this was the first two player board game I ever played. My brother and I were completely obsessed with it for a summer. I'm going to have to comb my parent's game closet during Christmas, because I would love to play it again this month!

Ticket To Ride

I have to admit, I saw this game on shelves at Target for a long time before I owned it, and I expected it to be a little over-hyped. I was wrong. This is really fun with a big group, but we also really enjoy it at home with two players! Each time we play it, it's a little bit different.


I'm saving the absolute best for last on this list, but it's also by far the most expensive. They have improved the manufacturing process, and it has come down in price over the years, but it is still one of the most expensive games on this list. And, in our opinion, it was worth it!

Each time we play this game, it's very different. The strategy changes from game to game. It takes time to figure out how to play, and it takes at least an hour to get through, but we have always ended feeling very satisfied. A game for 1-4 players ages 12 and up; play time is 30 minutes per player. Amazing replay value!

My Wish List

I have an ongoing list of 2 player games that I have never played. If anyone would like to get me these for Christmas, I would not be upset!

The Flops

We're really not too picky, but there are just a couple of games that we probably won't reach for in the game cabinet unless someone else is asking to play it.

  • Pandemic -- our biggest beef with this game is that we have NEVER won! Because of that, we always end feeling a little the world is about the end and it's our faults.
  • Rivals for Catan -- we borrowed this from a friend and brought this on vacation once, but it just really made us miss our games at home. If I'm in a mood for Catan (which requires at least 3 players) and I don't 'have a big enough crowd, there's an ipad app that I enjoy more than this game.


This post contains affiliate links but only for things I have used and love. This means that at no added cost to you, I get a small percentage of every sale. I do not endorse anything that I myself would not use. You can view my full disclosure policy here. Thank you.

Two player board games are a perfect Christmas present for parents of young kids. This list of board game suggestions are affordable, fun, and worth replaying again and again. 

3 Ways to Keep Your Kitchen Cool in Summer by Brohgan Dieker

This website uses affiliate links, which means that at no added cost to you, I get a small percentage of every sale. I do not endorse anything that I myself would not use. You can view my full disclosure policy HERE. Thank you.

Summer is officially here! Beat the heat by using some strategy in the kitchen!

Enjoy these three quick tips! Your electric bill will thank you later...

1. Avoid the oven and stovetop! Use countertop appliances instead!

Small countertop appliances like the microwave, rice cooker, and slow cooker are your best friends this time of year! Give the range a break, and plan your meals for the week around these smaller appliances.

I particularly like to use a rice cooker with a steamer basket (aff) this time of year! I load rice in the bottom, meat and veggies in the top, and let it all cook at the same time! It's quick and versatile for healthy weeknight dinners!

[irp posts="1100" name="Summer Vegetable Ravioli Salad"]

2. Serve cold meals!

Salads, sandwiches, Current favorite at my house: a kid friendly version of an antipasto platter. On a hot day, a variety of our family's favorite fruits, vegetables, cheeses, hummus, and/or deli meats make for a really fun meal! You can make it as healthy as you desire by being choosy about what you include!

3. Take it outside!

Keep the house cool by cooking on the grill! Then, when you are done, come back in and enjoy the A/C!

3 Things That Are Not In My Grocery Cart by Brohgan Dieker

It's been a few days since I released the FOREVER Grocery List.  Have you had a chance to check it out yet? Take one look at that list, and I think you will realize that I'm WEIRD when it comes to grocery shopping.  It's true, and I admit it. I'm very fine with my own weirdness in this area.

I graduated from college in the height of the recession. After turning in about 200 job applications, a family connection landed me a job as a cashier at a grocery store.

I'm picky about what I buy, because I've seen what people buy.

I really don't care if you make a million dollars a year or if you have to dump a jar of pennies on the counter to pay, BUDGETING IS IMPORTANT.  It's the only way to get ahead and make your money work for you. I don't throw away money at the store; instead, I try to go in with a plan and stick to it.  I'm a careful shopper, and I make sure that every dollar I spend is on nutrient-rich foods that give me my bang for my buck.

That being said, I don't always buy the cheapest or easiest option.  We are all voting with our dollars, and there are some highly unethical practices that appear on grocery store shelves today.

The biggest issue has recently been cleaned up, but only just this year: we were purchasing goods made by slaves in other countries.  That just baffles my mind! Another: we have been purchasing items where the farmer/rancher in another country was not fairly compensated or in an unsafe environment. So many items are available through fair trade certified route: alchohol, beans, grains, chocolate, coffee, fruits and veggies, spices, honey, nuts, sugar, tea. The products that are not fair trade certified are probably corrupt.

The last issue I am going to bring up: the average food travels 1500 miles before it lands on our plate, and that's just not ok. It's contributing to environmental issues and global warming, and consumers have no idea what they're actually putting into their bodies. I buy from local farmers and ranchers whenever possible. And know what? The quality is AMAZING! Gotta love life in Kansas!

So here are a few things that are typically not in my shopping cart.

Here's a disclaimer: I'm no nutritionist.  I took one class in college, and I read, but I don't know your specific circumstances, and I'm not at all qualified to give you nutritional advice. If you have questions at all, I would advise that you speak to a medical professional.

Here are 3 things that are not in my grocery cart:

1. Snacks!

No chips, no crackers, no cookies. Or at least, very sparingly.


(1) These foods are typically high in sodium. Did you know that 90% of Americans are eating WAY TOO MUCH and it's probably killing us? These foods are also high in calories and low in actual nutritional value.

(2) These foods are EXPENSIVE.  You can easily spend $20 or more and with 30 minutes of mindless eating, it's all suddenly gone. And you're hungry again an hour later.

2. Foods containing high-fructose corn syrup.

I have a fear of high-fructose corn syrup (and yes, it's different than the corn syrup you can buy in the baking aisle, btw).

While the rest of America is fretting over our new clown epidemic, the thought of high-fructose corn syrup hiding out in my kitchen cabinet watching me has my knees knocking.

It's in our juice, our soda, our breakfast cereal, our yogurt, our salad dressings, our bread, our candy, our energy snacks, our tomato sauces including ketchup, our peanut butter.

Basically, our society is consuming toxic levels of this stuff, but it's not allowed in my house.

3. Meat.

Here's a famous, old headline for you: the U.S. could feed 800 million people with the grain that livestock eat.  But, it's true.  It's much more efficient to eat plants than the animals who eat plants.

I'm picky about meat.  I don't eat chicken that is injected with saline (paying $1.50/package for salt water, btw).  I don't eat beef that wasn't grass fed.

I actually barely eat meat at all!

Bonus: Yogurt.

Ok, this is a bonus, because I haven't actually made my own yogurt before, but I plan to very soon!

Did you know that you can make yogurt?  Apparently it's easy, but I haven't tried yet!


Reflections over Tea by Brohgan Dieker

This is the last post in a week long series titled The Tea Party.  This series was a collaboration between Non-Chef and Non-Baker.  Non-Baker.com is a food blog by my lovely sister, Anna Grace.  Please, visit her site! Her yellow cake is honestly one of my favorite deserts now after this tea party. And she's one of my favorite people and favorite writers. You won't be disappointed. The tea party is over.  The leaf has been taken out of the table, and the standard lace over green tablecloth has been returned to its rightful place. The decorations have been taken down.  The girls are playing the Headbands game on somebody's phone in the living room.  Anna and I are washing grandma's delicate tea things in the kitchen.



White tea plates and clear glass tea cups are carefully stacked in the dishwasher.


The platters, each with it's own unique story, are gently washed and put back into their cupboards.


The one that carried the egg salad sandwiches and the one that bore the custards were my favorite.


The tea set needs to be completely dry before it is stored.  Who knows the next time it will be used.  When was the last time it was used?  Maybe long before I was born. Not many people are making time for tea parties these days.


I hold a degree in English literature, and I did not shy away from any of the English major stereotypes. Most of my college studying was essentially me reading a novel very closely over a cup of tea or coffee.  Or gathering with other people who liked to talk about novels and writing over cups of tea or coffee.  Lots of tea and coffee and words.

But, I have never been to a tea party before. Actual tea cups, an actual tea set.  We brewed the tea in the teapot.  We spooned in sugar as desired. An array of delicate sandwiches and lovely desserts. Flowers were everywhere.


The tea party wasn't perfect, but it was significant.

There are a few things that I have fond myself reflecting on as I wrote about this event this week.  Firstly, the portion sizes.



Small cups and small plates meant we collectively indulged on less, but it certainly didn't feel that way!

We only used one pot of tea.



I went to the party with two small containers of lemonaid believing we would run out.  It was 100+ degrees outside.  We filled the pitcher twice, but I still went home with one and a half containers of lemonaid.



For 10 people, we only ate a half a loaf of bread.  That's not even a full sandwich each.


I know we had plenty of leftover dessert, because we enjoyed it again at the next family gathering. At least a half of all the desserts were left.

Yes, we indulged. We partied. But it wasn't overdone.


The other thing I realized as I chose pictures: we truly made memories at this tea party.  You can just see it in the girls' faces. Actually, you can see it in all our faces!  The tea party was surprisingly significant.


I was busy bustling around, because when I wasn't preparing some food or taking pictures, I was taking care of the baby.  But when he finally dozed off, and I sat down and just enjoyed myself sans camera, I realized how precious that moment of coming together really was.  I'm glad I sat and just enjoyed for a bit, because that was the best part.

I can't wait to do it again sometime.

When grandma started talking about moving, one of the first things she started fussing over was the collection of copper kettles.  She finally decided that each of the eleven copper kettles would be matched with the eleven branches that make up our family tree, meaning every family gets a copper kettle.

I don't think the copper kettles mean nearly as much to any of us as they do to grandma.  Some of my relatives are probably rolling their eyes right now at the thought of the copper kettle that is about to be  shipped to them. I brought mine home with me the other day and wondered what on Earth I would do with it.  I finally plopped it on top of a bookshelf because there was a space there, not really knowing what else to do with it.

But I've started looking at that copper teapot a little differently this week as it stands guard over my Norton Anthologies, my Bible, and my other favorite books.

Has anyone ever used it? Should I try and use it?

I caught myself imagining if someday I would take the kettle off the shelf and pull out those tiny white teacups and saucers that grandma gave me as a wedding gift, all mismatched whites like I specifically asked for, and replicate a special tea party with some other important women I love. I have a long list of people I would invite.

It's not at all about the things or even the place or the table.  It doesn't have to be perfect looking or tasting.

This tea party is significant because it brought together women, and women-in-training, who have dedicated decades to investing time and love in each other, in me.

There is power in matching words of gratitude with the good in your life.

That's why I want to speak a bit about these exceptional women and their adorable girls. They just happen to be related to me, and it's very special. Thank you all for attending a party with me! I am so thankful to be surrounded by the kind of women who make time on a whim for a tea party just because.

Maybe we'll even let the boys come next time, if they promise to use their manners. ;)


PB&J Heart Sandwiches by Brohgan Dieker

This post is the fourth in a five day collaborative series with Non-Baker titled The Tea Party.  Go to Non-Baker to read about the delicious cakes and custard that we enjoyed at our Tea Party and about how to find happiness in the kitchen! DSC_1072

Yesterday I wrote about kid-approved "Deviled" Egg Salad Sandwiches.


Today, I am going to write about the other finger sandwich that I contributed to our tea party: peanut butter and jelly hearts.




Remember, I was aiming for simpleKeep it simple, and bring people together.


Use a cookie cutter on your bread.  I found if I cut it out just right, I could get three hearts out of a single piece of bread. (Don't worry, I saved the crusts for a breakfast casserole recipe that I will be posting next week after the series is over!)



Peanut butter first, and then top with jelly.  Keep it simple, and bring people together.


I put the jelly in a sandwich bag and clipped the corner to make it go on more easily.  It's certainly not anything like decorating with frosting, because it's essentially made out of very stretchy chunks, but it worked well enough.  In other words, I had to squelch my inner control freak and go with the flow. Keep it simple, and bring people together.DSC_0978IMG_0827

It all worked out to be lovely in the end.

Cheers from the farm,


Please go to Non-Baker.com to view additional contributions to the series The Tea Party!

The Tea Party by Brohgan Dieker

There is power in matching words of gratitude with the good in your life.  

That's why I want to speak a bit about these exceptional women.  They happen to be related to me, and I am so thankful to be surrounded by them.


We are turning the page into a new chapter in our family.  I have mentioned before that my grandma is in the middle of preparing to sell the family farm.  We've come together over the last several months to tackle the huge job of preparing the property to go on the market.  It has been exciting to see the farm come back to life in preparation for its next chapter, and exceedingly sad, because this place is full of fond memories and radical hospitality.



It has been a gathering place not only for multiple generations of my family, but also many others.  In fact, most people I know have probably partaken in a Cassel-role dinner at the farm at some point. And if not, join us for Sunday dinner. It's that kind of place.

As my grandmother, mother, sister and I carefully cataloged each of the collectable or antique items in the house over the summer, we had an idea: a tea party. Girls only. No boys allowed. (Although, we made an exception for the baby.)

How could we resist one more party at grandma's house.



My sister Anna, the Non-Baker, and I offered to cater.  We thought it would be a fun photo shoot for our blogs.  Grandma graciously donated her beautiful delicate things.  My cousins and their daughters and a few teddy bears and dollies were invited.  Everyone dressed in their tea party clothes.


I have to stop and say here that we were severely missing the members of our family who live too far to attend a tea party on short notice!  We wish you could have joined us too!


Posts will be published throughout the week containing the tea party recipes.  Please, stay tuned!


At the beginning of the year, a few friends and I picked a word to focus on for that year.  I picked community.  And on January 5, I printed this page and put it up on my fridge:


I've accomplished a few things on the list: I have gone outside, I have visited my local library, I have given LOTS of hugs, I have bought food at farmer's markets, I have hosted parties, I have made friends with my neighbors, I have read books with my child, I have supported local artists.  But there are plenty of community building activities I still should do.


Being hospitable, for instance.  Building a community also includes my own hospitality.  Just look at #6 on the list.  Nobody, nobody is more hospitable than my grandparents.  I myself have eaten there at least once a week for the majority of my life.  Even when it's not perfect, the door is always open.



Hospitality is not about being perfect.  It's about the coming together.  At the farm, it typically happens over pot-luck dinners and paper plates, but today it happened over tea and flowers.  Let's celebrate tea parties this week!


This is one of ten posts in a series called The Tea Party. Please check back this week for additional recipes and tea party tips!

Also, check out Non-Baker for their delectable contribution to the series!

Chickpea Curry Over Brown Basmati Rice by Brohgan Dieker


Something magical happens as the onion and the curry powder bloom over the heat. Flavors come to life, and the stress of the world melts away. These vegan curried chickpeas over brown basmati rice feed body, mind, and soul. It's one of my favorite recipes, in case you can't already tell. I was on the fence about writing about this.  Google chickpea curry and a TON of identical recipes will come up, and mine isn't all that different.  One of those was what inspired me to cook this for the first time several years ago, but as time passed, the recipe changed.  Now I use fewer ingredients and have upgraded to brown basmati rice (which you can now buy at Aldi grocery stores!).


Chickpea curry is one of our favorite recipes, and it served to be a huge inspiration to writing about food in the first place.  I clearly remember the day: screaming fussy baby and we're STARVING.  My husband volunteered to do the cooking for the evening (he was that hungry haha), so I'm calling instructions over the partition between the living room and the kitchen while doing the mom-things that needed to be done.

Me: "Are the onions in the skillet opaque yet?"

Adam: "Yes. Now what do I do?"


I shout off the next several ingredients off the top of my head, including where to find them in the kitchen, reminding him to shake the can of coconut milk.  I ended up coaching him through the entire dinner process off the top of my head from the other room.

Now maybe that's something that lots of people can do.  I know several of the women in my family could probably cook a favorite recipe blindfolded.  Adam, however, was apparently impressed.


After seven years of marriage, I managed to surprise him by doing something unexpected. And that's a pretty good feeling.

There's something about getting encouragement from someone you love, someone who knows you better than anyone else, that's just the little push you need to try something new 

Both Non-Baker and my site broke triple digits in views this month.  We've moved beyond just the friends and family who feel loving obligation to read what we write into a small community of kind readers who happened to stop by.

(In case you didn't know, my sister, Anna, and I realized that we were both flirting with the idea of starting very different food blogs, so we started at the same time.  Check out Anna's blog sometime!  It's great!)

So why do I share a recipe that's been done before on the internet?  Because sharing a recipe is also showing a little piece about who I am.

So enjoy chickpea curry.  Its texture is absolutely perfect, not to mention its flavor.


  • 1 C brown basmati rice
  • 2 1/4 C water
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • 1  14 oz can coconut mil
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp hot chili paste (sriracha or other  brand)
  • 2 14 oz cans chickpeas (garbanzo beans)


  1. Cook the rice per package instructions.
  2. Start the onion cooking in olive oil over a medium heat in a large deep skillet.  Stir occasionally.
  3. When onion is opaque, add curry powder.  Allow curry to cook with onion for about a minute to meld the flavors.  Add the cayenne pepper.
  4. Give the can of coconut milk a shake, as it naturally separates.  Pour into the pan.
  5. Add the honey and chili paste.  Let the sauce bubble for a minute or so. (Taste and adjust flavor as needed. Some curry powder and chili paste is more mild than others.)
  6. Drain cans of chickpeas and dump into curry sauce.  Stir to combine.
  7. Serve curry sauce over rice in bowls.  Enjoy!

Something magical happens as the onion and the curry powder bloom over the heat. Flavors come to life, and the stress of the world melts away. These vegan curried chickpeas over brown basmati rice feed body, mind, and soul. It's one of my favorite recipes, in case you can't already tell. -Brohgan

Fajita Tacos by Brohgan Dieker

A combination of fajita'd veggies and ground beef, this fun, single pan recipe is perfect for a weeknight dinner. Quick to make and quick to clean up!  The lightly seasoned meat allows the flavor of grassfed beef to shine through.  Top with any of your favorite taco or fajita ingredients! Call this Kansas girl naive, but I still can't believe that I bought this ground beef from an actual bow-legged cowboy.

I have been attempting to use local meats and produce, and the grass-fed beef tent at my local farmer's market caught my eye.

I have been aware of the benefits of grassfed beef for a while. First off, it's leaner. So lean, I ended up with a burned layer stuck to the bottom of the pan. Secondly, it's nutritious! Who knew grass was the key to antioxidants and nutritious omega 3's? Lastly, our family doesn't eat much meat. In the end, we felt that it was worth the $6/lb price, since we only needed that one pound for the week.  That's right, we typically only buy about a pound of meat or less a week, and we're completely fine with that.

So we gave grassfed a try. I'm actually pleased with my $2 investment. This ground beef was an entirely different product!  I can't wait to pat this stuff down into a burger patty someday. But for now, I settled on some simple one pot fajita tacos. Perfect solution to our Tuesday hunger pains.

Ok, honesty time, because I have a big confession. I don't like grocery store taco seasoning. AT ALL. I find it a little overpowering in all the wrong ways and unnecessarily high in sodium.  I just sprinkled a bit of cumin and chili powder on the meat.  And I seasoned the heck out of the peppers while they sautéed. Even added a bit of this. Love this stuff!


The Chipotle Chile Pepper seasoning is an impulse buy gone right.  I picked it up when the store was completely out of cayenne once, and it has served me well for years (and is the secret ingredient in many a spicy dish).

When the peppers were almost cooked, I added a fresh clove if garlic, crushed. There is nothing sadder than burning the garlic, in my opinion. So wait until you think the peppers are about done.

Top with your favorite taco toppings. We went with romaine lettuce and salsa.  We're experimenting with a dairy-free diet for now (oh the joys of breastfeeding). Otherwise, we may have added a few more toppings. Do not use the "C" word around us! We're still going through withdrawal.


Honestly, the texture was perfect, and I didn't miss those toppings.

Enjoy! Let me know what you think!


  • 1 lb hamburger
  • 3-4 small bell peppers
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp Chipotle spice


  1. Brown the hamburger. Slice the green peppers into strips.
  2. Set hamburger aside and dust with cumin.
  3. Add oil and peppers to the skillet. Cook over a medium to medium high heat. If you are using corn fed beef, you probably want to cook this in a separate pan. Or embrace the choleaterol-y goodness of cooking peppers in the ground beef grease. I would be tempted to.
  4. When the peppers are softer but not quite done, add garlic to the pan. Toss tortillas into the microwave to warm per package instructions.
  5. Fill tortillas with beef and peppers, top with your favorite things, and serve immediately. Recipe serves 3-4.



Handmade Pierogies by Brohgan Dieker

These happy little dumplings filled with potato originally hail from Pre-war Poland (now the Ukraine).   The types of filling can vary, but potato, onion, and cheese are common.   This versitle dough can be baked, boiled, or fried from its frozen state. Perfect for holidays or make ahead for a quick and impressive side to any meal. When a member of the University Christian Church Solid Rock Youth Group asked me to submit something for their silent auction, how could I say no? My alma mater just as much as my high school, this is the place where I met my high school sweetheart, now my husband of 7 years. Their leader married us. The trips--the summer camps, CIY conferences, missions trips to Mexico and New Orleans and Alabama--greatly influenced who I am today. It feels like just a summer or two ago, not a decade ago. I wouldn't be surprised if my R.A.M. letters are still tucked into a box somewhere.

So, really,  how could I say no?


I had made and donated pierogies before, so that was what I offered.  I mean, who wouldn't want little smile-shaped pockets of mashed potato?

These little dumplings take a little more effort than my standard recipe, but Pierogies are my love language, so I find that it's worth it.  And, since you do all the work ahead of time, it only takes a few minutes to enjoy this terrific side dish on a busy evening.


They're just my favorite.  You can tell because in this digital age, I actually took the time to write down the recipe on a card.


Just ignore the fact that I misspelled vegetable here, please.  *face-palm*

Start with the dough.  A large bowl and a well of flour filled with the liquid ingredients.  Go slowly; the best things in life cannot be rushed.


I took a chance, and used my dough hook on my Kitchen-Aid stand mixer to handle the kneeding of this dough.  I was nervous because I had never used that feature before, but it worked like a charm!  And watching it go was more than mildly satisfying.

While the dough rests, start peeling and boiling potatoes to make the filling.


I've never met a flavor of pierogi that I didn't like.  Green onion and cheddar are my favorites, but today I made cheddar and onion.

Roll out the dough to about 1/8 of an inch thick, and cut into circles using a biscuit cutter or an upside down cup.  Stuff with about a tablespoon of potato in each.  Seal the edges with loving attention to detail -- nobody wants a watery pierogi.

Most importantly, lay flat individually on a wax paper lined cookie sheet and leave in the freezer for 24-48 hours until frozen.


I tried to rush this process once.  I bagged a bunch of half-frozen pierogies and proudly walked into Thanksgiving dinner, unaware of the catastrophe that awaited.  Skip to the end of the story: me in tears, all the pierogies stuck together, most of them ripping open while they boiled.


A few people politely ate raw, watery pierogi dough that year. I am so sorry.

Ok back to today, because I've mastered this process now, and I'd rather repress that memory.  After freezing this batch for a day, of course I had to taste test!  Obviously I've learned SOMETHING from the Thanksgiving Day fiasco!



I boiled them first, 5 minutes, but then I fried them up in a skillet with a little olive oil.  Ya know, for my health.  Butter would be even better.

Soft and freshly boiled is fine, but that little bit of brown, crispy crust just puts them over the top.


So please, if you are attending the UCC Silent Auction tonight, bid some $$$ on my pierogies, because it's for a good cause.



  • 3 C all purpose flour
  • 1 C water
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp salt

Potato Filling:

  • 1 1/2 lbs russet potatoes
  • 6 oz grated cheddar
  • 1 tbsp garlic salt


  1. Put flour in a large, shallow bowl, and make well in the center.  Add water, egg, oil, and salt.  Carefully beat together with a fork, not to disturb the flour.  Continue stirring, gradually incorporating flour until a soft dough forms
  2. Transfer dough to a floured surface and kneed about 8 minutes, or use a dough hook and kneeding setting on a stand mixer.
  3. Dump dough onto clean counter top.  Invert bowl over dough and let sit at room temperature for 1 hour.
  4. While dough stands, peel potatoes and cut into 1 inch pieces.  Boil potatoes about 8 minutes.  Drain, add cheese and garlic salt, and mash (feel free to use a stand mixer here too!).
  5. Let potatoes cool, and scoop with a cookie scoop to make uniform rounded balls.  Refrigerate until dough is ready.
  6. Half the dough, and roll out to 1/8 inch thick.  Cut 24 rounds with a floured cutter.
  7. Place a single round in the palm of your hand, add a potato ball in the center, and use your fingers to close the dough around the ball.  Pinch the edges firmly and seal completely.
  8. Freeze for 24 to 48 hours.  They can remain in the freezer for 3 months (if they last that long).
  9. When ready to eat, boil pierogies for 5 minutes or until they float.


Optional: drain and fry in a small amount of olive oil until a crust forms.

Vegan "Kartoffelsalat" (German Potato Salad) by Brohgan Dieker

Kartoffelsalat, or German potato salad, is traditionally served warm.  Fresh dill, sautéed onion, and a hint of vinegar makes this salad delicious while still being light and nutritious. This salad is a great vegan option and dairy and egg free, perfect for any social gathering or potluck. Break free of the gelatinous supermarket potato salad, and enjoy the freshness of the ingredients that brings everyone back wanting more. Kartoffelsalat, or German potato salad, is traditionally served warm. Fresh dill, sautéed onion, and a hint of vinegar makes this salad delicious while still being light and nutritious. This salad is a great vegan option and dairy and egg free, perfect for any social gathering or potluck. Break free of the gelatinous supermarket potato salad, and enjoy the freshness of the ingredients that brings everyone back wanting more.

One of my favorite local restaurants here in Manhattan, KS is the Little Apple Brewing Company.  They are known for their beef, and I challenge you to find a better burger than theirs.  Even if you can find a better burger (doubt it), I know you will not find a better combo than a big juicy burger and a side of German potato salad.  Ordering a side of German potato salad with a LABCO burger is how I was introduced to this amazing dish in the first place, and it's one of my all-time favorite dinners out, which is saying a lot.

This recipe is no copycat of the LABCO German potato salad, and it doesn't try to be.  Traditional German potato salad uses bacon and its grease, and I imagine the restaurant has no qualms including similar high fat and sodium content in their decadent side dish. Instead, this recipe is much lighter and uses no animal by-products; it's vegan and allergy friendly!


For some reason, I recently confidently volunteered to bring potato salad to a dinner function even though I knew some people who couldn't eat dairy and eggs.  It wasn't until later that I realized that all my potato salad recipes relied on ranch, sour cream, or mayo.  You know the feeling??

Yup. Gob understands.

I studied vegan potato salad recipes without finding anything that struck my fancy, mostly because I struggled to imagine a non-fried potato in any form not being paired with dairy!  (Baked potatoes without sour cream OR butter OR cheese??! Shudder!)

Inspiration came in the form of a gift from an old man at my community garden.  My garden neighbor generously offered some fresh dill that he was thinning out anyway.  Not really familiar with how to even use fresh dill, I initially took it to be polite, but the dill completely inspired this recipe.  It has never even crossed my mind to grow dill, but I really enjoyed finding ways to use it!  Now I can't wait to get the stuff in the ground to use again!

I confess, when I made this salad, I didn't realize until JUST before it was time to leave for dinner that I didn't have any apple cider vinegar in the house. With no time to buy any, I tasted and eventually served the salad without the vinegar because it was SO GOOD.  I later added the vinegar on another attempt, and the result was a completely a different salad, and both versions are absolutely delicious and very enjoyable!



  • 3 lbs yukon gold potato, cubed
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1/4 C olive oil
  • 1/4 C apple cider vinegar (optional)
  • 2 tbsp fresh dill, chopped
  • Salt and pepper


  1. Cover the potatoes in water in a large pot and bring to a boil.  Cook until completely tender. Drain and transfer to a large bowl.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil and the onion in a skillet over a medium-high heat, stirring often, until the onion is soft and translucent.  Add vinegar to skillet and remove from heat.
  3. Pour the skillet contents over the potatoes, add the dill, and mix until distributed evenly and potatoes are slightly crushed.  Salt and pepper to taste.  German potato salad is traditionally served warm, but this salad is also yummy cold.

Extra note: Vinegar is the quintessential ingredient when making German potato salad.  However, the vinegar is optional and can be adjusted to taste.  If the hint of vinegar is not a flavor you enjoy, I would recommend only adding a couple of tablespoons or eliminating it altogether.  The salad without the vinegar is still absolutely delicious!  I can't say it enough!



Savory Blackberry Basil Pizza by Brohgan Dieker

The mild flavor of blackberries sings in perfect harmony when paired with mozzarella,  parmesan, and ricotta cheeses.  Green onion and fresh basil add interest to this unusual savory pizza. The soft, baked berries act as both the sauce and and as a topping, and their hint of sweetness combined with the salty and creamy cheeses and tangy green onions creates a memorable, delicious flavor. This simple pizza recipe results in complicated flavor using healthy, fresh ingredients. Have I mentioned that we have a new baby?  A new, very cute baby who turned life, including dinnertime, upside down?

I have to say, I was stuck in a deep rut before I made this pizza.  Every meal was about what made me think the least. My creativity was nonexistent. I was in pure survival mode.

That is what life with a newborn does to you. You live completely in the moment. You walk around constantly looking like you're in shock or in the middle of some sort of trauma.

Parenting is wonderfully rewarding, but it's completely exhausting.

In the midst of newborn craziness, I saw this pizza on Pinterest, and I couldn't get it out of my head. I couldn't quite inagine what it would taste like. Was it sweet? Was it savory? Was it creamy? I HAD TO MAKE IT.

It literally took weeks before I managed to accomplish my goal. So worth the wait! It's mostly cheese and blackberry, so there is really no going wrong!  A hint of sweetness, like pineapple or sweetened tomato sauce, combined with traditional white pie toppings. All flavors I love on a pizza!

The ricotta was honestly my favorite part. And the berries. And the onion. Ok, all of it.

After having my life dictated by an infant, this pizza just felt like the most adult-like thing I had done in a long time.  And it only took less than 10 minutes to toss together.


-your favorite pizza crust (I cheated and used a store bought crust because, well, remember how I mentioned that new baby earlier?)

-1 tbsp olive oil

-1 C fresh blackberries, divided

-1 C shredded parmesan

-1 C mozzarella cheese

-1/4 C chopped green onion

-2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped


  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Drizzle olive oil over your pizza crust and spread evenly using a  brush or the back of a spoon.
  3. Use a fork to mash up 1/2 C blackberries. Spread evenly over the crust. (This is the pizza sauce.) Top evenly with the parmesan and the mozzarella cheeses.
  4. Use a spoon to generously dollop on the ricotta cheese over the top. (And my mouth is watering again. This was my favorite part!)
  5. Sprinkle on remaining whole blackberries, green onions, and basil.
  6. Bake 8-10 minutes or until the cheese begins to brown.
  7. Serve immediately.