Our DIY Patio & Toasted Turkey and Mozzarella Subs

The overgrown, eye-sore before.

It’s really hard to make your summer to-do list when you’re not sure if you’ll be able to walk or not. I remember before surgery wondering what our summer would look like. After our difficult few months, we didn’t put high expectations on ourselves for this summer. One project, though, would not be put off any more. Our house came with an in-progress deck that needed to be ripped out instead of finished. There was a wood square in the middle of the yard that has served as a deck, but why is it in the middle of the yard? The world may never know.

So, last year my husband pulled out the in-progress part of the patio and it’s been a dirt pit ever since. A bug attracting, muddy, eye-hurting dirt pit. Last weekend, we had the joy and pleasure of installing ourselves a brick paver patio. Installing a brick patio yourself has definite pros and cons.

Pro: You save thousands of dollars by DIY’ing it!

Con: You have to install it yourself, on the hottest weekend of the summer.

Pro: There are tons of calculators online to help you estimate your materials!

Con: These will not accurately calculate the materials needed and you will, inevitably, make 3 trips for more gravel.

Pro: Carrying 500 bricks from the garage to the worksite is a great workout!

Con: No explanation needed.

The beautiful after! I can’t wait to put a dining table on it.

But the exciting part, is the project is done! We have a beautiful patio and now I get to decorate our new outdoor space!

Anyway. I wanted to share an easy, quick dinner recipe with you. While I was working my weekday schedule I needed some fast recipes that I had the energy to prepare after a day at work. I found this recipe in my America’s Test Kitchen cookbook The Best Simple Recipes, and have made it again several times. (By the way, you need to get a copy of this cookbook. I’ve made so many things from it and I would say 90% of them are a hit!)

These eat-with-a-fork sandwiches are an amazing combination of spicy tomato sauce, ooey-gooey mozzarella. and crispy toasty bread.

Also, can we just talk about the fact that I was ignorant to the beauty of pesto before this? Unacceptable. I use it constantly now, and I’m not sure what I would do without it.


This recipe starts with a quick tomato sauce concoction that includes garlic, red pepper flakes, diced tomatoes, and pesto. All the best things, right?


I usually use sub rolls for this, but brioche is what I had on hand, so we used it. First you spread some pesto on each roll, then layer it up!


The recipe calls for smoked mozzarella, but I usually just used sliced. I find it melts better.

Broil those sammies to a crisp and enjoy. I usually serve with a nice fresh salad and it’s a great weeknight meal! I think these would be a great way to use up some left-over turkey, especially after Thanksgiving!

Toasted Mozzarella Subs

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

6 garlic cloves, minced

1/4-1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (these make the sauce really spicy. We found it a little too spicy for our taste with 1/2 tsp, but if you need to clean out your sinuses, go for it.)

1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained

2/3 cup basil pesto

salt and pepper, to taste

4 sub rolls

1 1/2 pounds thin-sliced deli turkey

12 ounces mozzarella, sliced

  1. Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 500 degrees. Heat oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes in large skillet over medium-high head until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes and cook until mixture is dry, about 10 minutes. Off heat, stir in 2 tablespoons pesto and season with salt and pepper.
  2. Spread remaining pesto inside each roll, then layer with turkey, tomato mixture, and cheese. place sandwhiches on baking sheet and bake until edges of bread are golden and cheese begins to melt, about 5 minutes. Serve.



Carrot Streusel Muffins with Cream Cheese Glaze

It’s March 4, and we got three inches of snow today in Grand Rapids.

What is that? Seriously, what. is. that. I know, I know, usually it’s snowing until April, but I if spring could just go ahead and get a move on in here, that would be great.

In all seriousness, though, it’s been a relatively tolerable winter and I’m just being a brat because I’m super excited about cooking spring foods.

Spring foods, you say? Yes. There are foods that lend their light, airy selves to brunches, showers, and Sunday mornings when the sun is shining. These muffins, for example, are just crying for the snow to melt so they can go to Easter brunch.

I was out to breakfast with Ben a few weeks ago and the “muffin of the day” was carrot. I was intrigued, but heartily disappointed when I bit into a dry and bland corn-like muffin with some dried up carrots in it.

This isn’t doing carrots any good! I wanted a carrot cupcake without frosting, duh. So I set out to do a little better. I used a basic zucchini muffin recipe as my base, but altered it a little since carrot isn’t quite as moist as zucchini. To compensate, I added some canned pineapple tidbits.

And because the prettiest muffins have streusel, I did some of that too.

And because carrot cake has cream cheese frosting, I did some of that too. This medium, though, calls for a glaze. I’m willing to call a cupcake a muffin before 11 a.m, but c’mon. We can’t actually put frosting on it that early in the day.

A warning, these muffins are a little labor intensive and you’ll probably use every bowl you own. Clear that dishwasher so you can put those suckers right in there and get on with your day.

Hope you enjoy!

(I’ll ‘fess up and say that while I made these walnuts look pretty on the little PB tidbit plate, I completely forgot to add them to the batter.)

Measure your flour, baking soda, and spices into a bowl and whisk. I do like using cake flour in muffins, I think it gives them a better rise and a lighter texture. You can use AP flour, if you prefer. Certainly don’t go out and buy a whole box just for me, but it’s great to have on hand for cakes.

Mix all the wet ingredients for the muffins in a bowl. It’s important to make sure that your eggs are room temperature if your butter is to be used melted or softened, otherwise your eggs will scramble. It’s not the end of the world, though, especially if you’re pressed for time.

if you think that batter didn’t taste delicious, you’re wrong.

So now you can dump all your dry ingredients into the wet ones and mix just until combined. There might still be some flour that’s not mixed in and that’s ok. This is not the time to pull out your big mixer, trust me. Just use a wooden spoon.

I normally use liners to save the trouble of getting the muffins (or cupcakes for that matter) out of the pan, but I recently discovered how amazing Wilton Cake Release is. I just put a little drop in each of the muffin tins and used a paper towel to spread it around in each tin. Worked like a charm.

Go on and pour that batter in the tins about 3/4 full and set them aside. It’s time to make the streusel. Mix together the sugars and the spices, then add the butter and flour in alternating batches. It will go from a paste-like consistency to one you could easily pick up and crumble with your fingers.

This was the final, crumbly consistency.

And crumble it all on those muffins. You’re going to have plenty so add a lot.

Bake and let cool. While the muffins are cooling, you can make that delicious cream cheese glaze!

(Now you can get out your mixer.)

Whip up that cream cheese and add your confectioner’s sugar in alternating batches with the milk. Add your vanilla, and spoon this goodness over the muffins. Add a little or a lot, it’s up to you.

Yum-my. I will say that I had these both room temperature and cold and the glaze kept more of the cream cheese taste when cold.

Recipe below, please let me know how you like them if you make them!

For the muffins:

  • 2 eggs, well beaten and room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup butter melted and cooled to room temperature
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 1 cup grated carrots
  • 1/2 cup pineapple tidbits, drained
  • 1 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

For the streusel:

  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 tbsp butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp flour

For the glaze:

  • 3 tbsp cream cheese, softened
  • 3 tbsp confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 425. Place muffins liners in a muffin pan, or grease pan well. In a large bowl, mix flour, baking soda, and pumpkin pie spice. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, mix eggs, sugar, oil, butter, vanilla, carrots, and pineapple. Add the dry ingredients and mix until evenly moistened. Mix in walnuts until evenly distributed in the batter. Fill muffin cups 3/4 full with mixture. Set aside while you make the streusel.

In a medium bowl, mix the sugars, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Alternating in batches, add the flour and melted butter. Work the mixture together with your hands until it’s crumbly. Sprinkle topping over the muffin batter. Bake at 425 degrees for 5 minutes, then turn down temperature to 375. Bake for 12-15 minutes until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Allow muffins to cool completely, then make the cream cheese glaze. With an electric mixer, whip the cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add the confectioner’s sugar in batches, alternating with milk. Add the vanilla. Spoon glaze over muffins and allow to dry.