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Carol Shwanda chronicles her blended family's lives and experiences offering hope, guidance, wisdom, inspiration and humor to anyone who is in or about to enter into a blended family.

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I would like my blog to be a forum for my readers to share their stories and experiences and express their views and opinions about being a part of a blended family. I am working on a book tentatively titled:Blended Family Stories. It will be an in depth look at the real life challenges and joys of successful blended families. If you would like to be part of my research I'd love to hear from you.Take my Blended Family survey

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    One of the most frequently asked questions I hear, after “How did you meet your husband?’ is “Do you really cook for seven people?” Yep, I do. And its a challenge, especially since I am so busy with afterschool activities. Since I spend most of my afternoons carpooling, I rely a lot on casseroles, stews, one dish/ one pot meals and slow cooker and quick fix recipes that can be cooking while I am out driving and running errands. All of these dishes can be prepared ahead of time.

    However, not all of my cooking is geared toward our large brood. As a couple in a blended family, we get a lot of alone time  when our kids are with their other parents. I’ve included romantic recipes for two. I love to cook and I am a serious foodie so I really look forward to having more time to assert my culinary prowess.

    LOVELY CHICKEN  So named  after I served it the first time and my oldest daughter, then four, remarked, “Mom, this sure is lovely chicken.”


    8 boneless chicken cutlets, flattened

    16 oz sliced mushrooms (I prefer Crimini.)

    1 cup shredded Swiss or Gruyere cheese

    1 red onion, sliced

    1  cup Marsala wine (approx.)

    extra virgin olive oil

    Pour some olive oil in a skillet or saute pan and heat to medium high. Brown chicken on both sides. Cover with 1/2 cup of wine and let simmer until wine is evaporated , remove and place in a baking dish or casserole.  In same pan, add more olive and saute mushrooms and onions until soft. Add 1/4 cup of wine  and cook until wine is evaporated.  Cover with mushroom and onions and grated cheese. Splash on a little wine and heat in oven at 375 degree for 30 minutes or until cheese is melted. This entire dish can be prepared ahead of time and put in the oven when you get home from work. Serve with rice and salad.



    I adapted this recipe from Martha Stewart eliminating the complicated, time consuming steps. Hers called for husking tomatillos, washing them and pureeing them in a blender. Mine calls for buying a jar of salsa verde.


    16 oz jar of salsa verde

    olive oil

    4 lbs country style ribs (can substitute chicken)

    salt and pepper

    2 cans (4 oz) green chilis

    1 large onion, chopped

    fresh cilantro


    1 T dried oregano

    1 cup water

    a couple cloves of fresh garlic, crushed

    Chop pork or chicken into small bite size chunks. Pour a bit of olive oil into a heavy pot or Dutch oven, brown pork or chicken. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside and keep warm. Saute onions until wilted and add green chilis, chili sauce, oregano, cilantro, garlic and water until heated through. Add meat and let simmer for up to an hour. The meat gets really tender. Serve with rice and lime wedges. A tropical fruit salad with mango, avocados and black beans would be a great a accompaniment.


    I usually serve this French-styled stew in the fall when the weather starts to get a chill in the air. The first time I served this recipe for my husband was at the first birthday party I ever threw for him. We had been dating a few months and it was my introduction to his family and friends. My husband says they fell in love with me. If you want to make a good impression, serve this stew.  Don’t be intimidated by the long list of ingredients, it is pretty simple to make.


    olive oil

    3 lbs assorted smoked sausages such as kielbasa, bratwurst and andouille

    4 large leeks, thinly sliced

    6 large cloves of garlic

    1 large apple, peeled, cored and diced

    2 T chopped fresh rosemary

    1/2 cup brandy

    2 14 1/2  oz cans Italian style diced tomatoes with roasted garlic juice

    3 15 oz cans Great Northern beans (or white kidney beans)

    10 oz frozen baby lima beans

    1-2 cups canned chicken broth

    3 T tomato paste

    1/2 tsp. ground cloves

    Grill sausages and slice into thin rounds and set aside. In large pot, saute leeks and garlic in  olive oil. Mix in apple, rosemary and sage. Add brandy and let simmer until almost evaporated. Add tomatoes, canned beans, lima beans, broth, tomato paste and cloves. Add sausages. Season with a bit of pepper. Bring to a boil, cover and let simmer for up to hour or so. Serve with crusty French bread. Can be made a day or two ahead.


    You can assemble this dish in under ten minutes.


    Assorted chicken parts– drumstick, legs and breasts ( I remove the skin.)

    handful of pitted kalamata olives

    1-2 jars of marinated artichokes

    2 lemons

    several cloves of garlic

    chopped fresh rosemary

    new potatoes, scrubbed

    Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Arrange chicken and potatoes on glass baking dish. Pour on artichokes (with marinade) and olives. Cut lemons in half and squeeze onto chicken. Tuck lemons and garlic into the chicken and potatoes. Sprinkle with rosemary. Bake until chicken is done, about an hour. Serve with crusty bread and Ceasar Salad. 


    I serve this dish whenever I am throwing a party and have to serve a large crowd. I got the recipe from Susan Spungen’s Recipes: A Collection for the Modern Cook. She is a Martha Stewart disciple. This is my less complicated version. These ingredients are all approximate. I just kind of throw everything in together and it always seems to work.

    The first time I made this dish I doubled the recipe so I could give a casserole to the family of a dear friend of ours who was very sick. I found out later from his wife that it was the last real meal he was able to enjoy before he got so sick he couldn’t eat anymore. I didn’t know that rosemary was one of his favorite seasonings. When he passed away a few months later, his family distributed rosemary bushes at his memorial service. I planted mine in my herb garden and every time I use the rosemary for this dish and others, I always think fondly of our dear friend, Doug.


    1 lb rigatoni or penne pasta

    2 10 oz bags of precut butternut squash

    4 oz finely chopped pancetta

    3 garlic cloves, chopped

    2 lg red onions thickly sliced

    2 T chopped fresh rosemary

    1 1/2 cups chicken stock

    1 1/2 cups heavy cream

    1 1/2 cups grated parmesan cheese

    1/2 lb fontina cheese cut into 1/4 ” chunks

    butter, olive oil, kosher salt and pepper

    Cook pasta al dente according to package directions. Drain and set aside.  In a large skillet over medium heat, cook the pancetta until brown and crispy, about 10 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon and set aside.  Leaving the fat in the pan, add 1 T butter and saute garlic and onions until onions are carmelized. Transfer onions to a bowl and set aside. In same skillet, add 1-2 T. olive oil and saute squash until tender when pierced with a fork. Toss with 1T fresh rosemary.  

    Add stock, cover and simmer until most of the liquid is absorbed, about 10 more minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the cream and bring to a boil. Let boil for one minute and remove from heat. Transfer the squash to a large  bowl and cool slightly. Add the pasta, half of the onions, the pancetta, 1 cup of the parmesan, the fontina and 1T fresh rosemary.

    Stir to combine and transfer to large baking dish. Cover with remaining onions and sprinkle with the rest of the parmesan. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until the top is bubbly and the cheese is golden brown.

    Published on September 25, 2008 · Filed under: RECIPES;
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