Potato Smashers for Easy Potato Recipes

Looking for some easy potato recipes?

Potato Smashers are like Potato Skins, covered with crisp bacon and sharp cheddar cheese…but on a grander scale!  You can make these in about 15 minutes and your family and friends will rave!

Print the recipe here:

Potato Smashers
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Side Dish
Serves: 4
  • 8 small new red potatoes, about 2 inches in diameter
  • ½ cup water
  • 4 slices bacon
  • 2 tablespoons Zesty Italian Salad Dressing
  • ½ to 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  1. Place potatoes and water in 2 quart microwavable bowl. Microwave, uncovered, om HIGH for 10 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Let stand a couple of minutes to cool slightly.
  2. Meanwhile, cook bacon in large skillet 8 minutes or so..until crisp, turning frequently. Drain on paper towels, leaving the grease in the skillet.
  3. Drain the potatoes, press each potato with the bottom of a small bowl or saucer to flatten to ½ inch thickness.
  4. Heat Italian dressing in the skillet with the bacon grease. Add potatoes; cook 4 minutes or until bottoms are golden brown.
  5. Meanwhile, crumble bacon. Turn the potatoes over; sprinkle with the cheese and bacon.
  6. Cover skillet with lid and cook an additional 2 minutes or until the cheese is melted.

Potato Smashers Ingredients 

Place potatoes and water in 2 quart microwavable dish.  Microwave, uncovered on HIGH for 10 minutes…

Microwave Potatoes

Cook the bacon…and save the grease!  You are going to brown the cooked potatoes in that grease in a few minutes!

Cook Bacon


Drain the potatoes and “smash” each one with the bottom of a small bowl or saucer..

Smash Potatoes


Heat the dressing in a large skillet with the bacon grease..add the potatoes. 

Add Italian Dressing to Potato Smashers


Use kitchen scissors to crumble the crisp bacon.

Crumble Bacon with Kitchen Scissors


Cook the potatoes 4  minutes or until the bottoms are golden brown.  Turn the potatoes over.

Flip Potato Smashers


Top with bacon and cheese.

Top Potato Smashers with Bacon and cheddar Cheese



Potato Smashers

This is one of my favorite potato recipes!

Video: Potato Smashers

Potato Smashers are loaded with bacon and cheddar cheese.

Home Organization Tips by Joan Lunden

Joan Lunden Family Picture

Joan Lunden shares her Home Organization Tips in this Interview by Make Life Special.

Home organization tips are really not complicated.  

On getting your kids involved in the kitchen…..

Joan:  I have a set of twins who are  seven and a set of twins who are nine years old.  Every night one of them gets to be the sous-chef and they love it!  They fight to get their night.  We involve them a lot.  They help go to the store and buy the products.  They participate in really most every step of food preparation.  You know, you have to realize how old your child is….My 9 year old daughter Kate is going on 16 and I can have her do any step of a recipe.  Whereas my 7 year old Jack –  not so much. Ha Ha.  I don’t know if I’d give him a sharp knife … Ha Ha.  But, according to their age,  get them involved.


On getting your kids to try new foods….

Joan:  I’m not one of these parents who think their kids should only eat chicken fingers.  I think it’s our job to train them to eat  a wide variety of foods and to have a good palate for a lot of different foods.  Otherwise, you’re always strapped when you go out to dinner…..and what are they going to eat?  I’ve actually had people come over to my house for dinner and they bring their little box of the certain kind of Cosco chicken fingers because that’s the only thing their kid will eat.  And I look at them and say, “Really?”.

My kids will eat Chinese, Japanese, ..you name it!  Fresh fish with mango Salsa….Teach them to eat a variety of foods when they are little.  Sometimes I have found that if you get one of them involved and they then come to the table and they are telling the other kids about it then the other kids are way more inclined to eat that food than if I was telling them about it.  I think one of their peers kind of making that presentation sometimes will open their minds to trying a new food.

Vickie:  Do you have any other time management tips you would like to share?

Joan:  Sure, I have other time management tips!  I had to learn them for survival over the years!

First, have a family calendar in the kitchen.  Everything goes on it!  Every doctor’s appointment, every birthday party, every soccer lesson, everything!  School  pictures….everything that you’re going to have to have something for – have it on the calendar and at the beginning of the week – anticipate it.  It makes it a lot easier if you plan out a week and you plan ahead of time.

We let the kids have input into what’s for dinner during the week.  It’s much easier to let them vote for their favorite foods instead of going to battle with them every meal.  I also don’t believe in a short order kitchen.  Dinner is what we make.

Another time saving tip –  Think about me, I’ve got two sets of twins, that’s four different classrooms.  There are at least 20 kids in each classroom so that’s a lot of birthday parties!  And a lot of Moms have this issue that when you are working, there’s nothing worse than coming home and all of a sudden, its Saturday morning and there is a birthday party and you need a card,  and you need a gift… and you are rushing out to try and do this.  These are those stress points for Moms.   So, I say when you go to the toy store to buy a birthday gift,  buy a whole bunch of them , preferably right after Christmas   – again, look for the sales!  Buy a bunch of them, have them wrapped, and put stickies on them .

And, whatever day you are going to the drug store, if you have a little extra time, spend 20 minutes in the card isle – buy 50 cards!  I have a card file. I can go right thru may card file…you want a birthday card?…a Christmas card?…a Thank you card?….a Get Well card?….they are all there!  And, every now and then, I refill it.  But I never get sent into a tizzy when I’ve got to walk out of the door to go to someone’s party because I know I’ve got a card ready to go.

So again, its just certain things —- and everyone knows what stresses them out —  To me, it’s that last minute OMG….what am I going to do… when I have to go to a party and I don’t have a card or I don’t have a gift.

So, again, it’s just anticipating what you know is going to stress you out in life.  I think that’s the best way to manage all of the things in life we have to do.

Vickie:  I’m just curious, how old is your oldest?

Joan:  My older girls are 25, 29 and 32.  We had two weddings during the past 6 months…..Just to throw in there!  And they are wonderful sisters to my little ones…. They are around a lot.  We cook for a lot of people at our house!

Vickie:  Did any of your older daughters follow in your footsteps with a career in broadcasting or news?

Joan:   Well, my 25 year old daughter is the assistant to the president of Bravo TV.  She came right out of college, went into the NBC page program and then went into television production.  My 29 year old daughter works with my company , travels all around the country with me .  she has really seen firsthand how I have this very unique platform by virtue of being in everyone’s bedrooms and kitchens every morning for almost two decades….I can go out and inspire and motivate.  I have that opportunity…it’s a great opportunity.  She works hard with me to try to make a difference in the lives of women everywhere.  It’s been wonderful having her really be a part of my passion.  My oldest daughter, who is 32, is in the PR end of it.  She works with companies to help them figure out how they can get  the media bites.

Joan Lunden Family Picture on Couch

Be sure to check out Joan’s website for lots of great recipes and tips for healthy living:



Part four – Joan talks about getting physically fit

Easy Entertaining Tips From Joan Lunden


Looking for some easy entertaining tips?  Here are Joan Lunden’s tips for success:

Here is the segment from my interview with Joan Lunden about entertaining in your home with ease .  Joan shared lots of great ideas!

Joan:  I love to entertain in my home.

Vickie:  I do too.

Joan:  And everything is at our house.  Everyone’s birthday, every holiday …you name it… it happens at our house.  And part of that is because I love to do it. Also, all of my aunts and my mother-in-law…everybody…they all come in the door and they say, “ I don’t know how you do this!  You WORK!….You’ve got little kids….and  how do you do this!”   “ How do you put together 5 tables for 36 people …they are all decorated! “   I can do this because I anticipate it.  I go out after a holiday when things are on sale … you know…just some Saturday when I don’t have to go to three soccer games.  Ha Ha! I look for those times and I go out and I buy little things .

I’ve got this incredibly organized pantry and I can pull out me little baskets .  If you told me I had to do a party tonight,  and you gave me a theme, I could do it!  But the only reason why I can do it and be so undaunted about it and have it be fun and not streeful is because I anticipate it and I make sure to go out and get all of these little things and I have all of them there and they are all labeled.

And also, if there is a holiday coming up, I’ll prepare my tables at least days in advance. …Sometimes a week or so in advance.  By doing it that way, I can do it when I’m not stressed out… I don’t get that last minute stress.  And, if I’m missing something, it gives me time.

If I have a dinner party on Friday night, I’ll start thinking about it on the weekend before.  And, as I come up to the day of the party, I go into my pantry and I pick out what I need.  If I’m making bread pudding for example, I get all of the ingredients out and see what I don’t have.  Do I want to make a Green Bean Casserole or do I want to make a Broccoli Puff?  Do I want to do Butternut Squash Soup ?  let me make sure I have all of the ingredients… and I’ll put them in little piles.  Again, that give me the chance to go out and get what I need ahead of time and not get caught short at the last minute.

So, I think that planning ahead  is the most important advice that I can give to people.  And, try to continue to make this whole thing fun.

Vickie:  I think you have touched on another important thing.  You know, people will come to my home when we have dinner parties or family events and marvel at my serving pieces or table settings.  But, you know, you don’t have to spend a lot of money.  I have special serving pieces, casserole dishes, etc, that I feature at different times of the year…but I did not spend a lot of money.  If you plan ahead, and you shop  after the holiday is over for next year…it’s not that expensive  to be able to entertain in style if you plan ahead.  That’s really the whole point.

Joan:  You walk into any big box store and you’ll see right after the holidays all the sales of all the Halloween stuff…then all of the Thanksgiving stuff…..and, you know, it’s a good idea to buy it then.  When you come home, go the next step – get a couple of organizer boxes and put it all there.  If its just here, there, and everywhere….its still hard to do.  But when you organize it, it realy does make entertaining  a breeze.  And, you’ll spend a lot more money going out to dinner, I think, than if you put together a dinner in your home.  You’ll never have the same atmosphere as when you get everybody together in your home.  And, if you have kids like me….I think it’s really important to get kids involved in the cooking process.


Part Three – Joan talks about her kids and living an organized life with a busy schedule.

Also, be sure to check out Loan Lunden’s website for lots of healthy living tips and recipes!



Christmas Cookie Contest in a Box: Everything You Need to Host a Christmas Cookie Contest


Gift Guide Age Recommendation:­  18+



            Takes the classic Christmas cookie exchange to a whole new level of friendly competition! Christmas Cookie Contest in a Box has everything you need to host your own contest. 

This kit includes scorecards, judge badges, place cards, and a handbook. The handbook includes recipes along with photos of the cookies and personal stories behind these special cookie recipes. Showcasing  a dozen winning Christmas cookie recipes, along with cookie swap tips from an expert baker, the book has chapters on a brief history of Christmas cookies, how to run the cookie contest, the art of judging a contest, baking tips, and a cookies tunes playlist.

Recipes include Berlinerkranser, Pistachio Butter Cookies, Chai-Spiced Meltaway, Vegan Orange Ginger Cookies, Smile Cookies, Gingersnap Thumbprints with Cranberry-Apricot and Minty Chocolate Rounds.

Christmas Cookie Contest in a Box would make an excellent gift for teachers, Girl Scout leaders, girl’s sports coaches and moms of all ages.  This would also be a good gift for the young ladies in your life who are part of a sorority or club. 

Where to Buy

            This item can be purchased at Amazon!           


Reviewed by: Nicole


Note:  Razonia PR graciously supplied me with one Christmas Cookie Contest in a Box for review.  No other compensation was received.  The review in this post is honest and my own.

How to Rim a Martini Glass with Peppermint Candy

Here is a fun cocktail garnish for a Martini glass!

Garnish a martini glass

Garnish a martini glass with crushed peppermint candy!

 Celebrate in style with this easy Martini garnish.  This will make your cocktail more memorable. Remember that drink garnishes should complement or contrast the flavor of the drink.   I recently made White Chocolate Mint Martinis and a festive rim is crushed peppermint candy……but how do you get the crushed peppermint candies to stick to the glass????

Video: How To Rim a Martini Glass With Peppermint Candy

Have some fun making a martini! Learn how to rim the glass with peppermint candy!


Here is my Success Secret…..

Put some Kraft Marshmallow Creme on a saucer.

Dip the edges of the glass into Marshmallow Creme.

Place the peppermint candy or candy canes into a large zip lock bag and pound with a mallet until crushed.

Dip the coated edge of the glass into the crushed peppermint candies and viola! …. They stick to the edge of the glass!

I love to use this garnish when I serve White Chocolate Mint Martini‘s.  The creamy marshmallow cream and the sweet peppermint candy is the perfect complement to this martini.   I use Dove Chocolate Discoveries White Chocolate Mint Martini Mix.  Be sure to check out my review for that product.  

Remember, “Let’s Make Life Special by sharing great food with our family and friends!  Enjoy!” 



Robust Risotto

Risotto originated in Italy and is a rice dish that is cooked in broth to a creamy (dreamy!!)  consistency.  Risotto can be served as a first course – with some crusty bread – as we are doing  here.  As a first course, it is great paired with a Brut Champagne.  Check out this great pairing at Velvet Palate.

Risotto is typically cooked in a meat, fish or vegetable based broth.  This recipe uses chicken broth ( low sodium) .  Many types of Risotto contain Parmesan cheese, butter and onion.  This recipe uses Parmesan cheese, butter and shallots.  Then we ramp it up to robust by adding 1/4 pound diced asparagus, 1/4 pound sliced shiitake mushrooms and Prosciutto (which is a type of Italian bacon).

You have to use a high starch rice to make risotto and this recipe uses Arborio Rice.  This type of rice has the ability to absorb liquids and to release starch and so it is stickier than the long grain rice varieties.  

While there are many variations on Risotto, the basic preparation remains the same.  

  • The rice is first cooked in onion ( or shallots ) and butter or olive oil to coat each grain in a film of fat.  
  • Then, red or white wine is added and has to be absorbed by the grains.  This recipe uses white wine.
  • When the wine is absorbed, the heat is raised to medium and very hot stock ( I used chicken stock in this recipe) is added in small amounts while stirring gently, almost constantly ( this process is what creates the smooth creamy-textured liquid).  
  • At this point, it is removed from the heat and the finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese is vigorously stirred in to make the texture as creamy and smooth as possible.  
  • This recipe adds the cooked asparagus and mushrooms at this point and is then topped with the scrumptious cooked prosciutto for a robust and over the top risotto!             

Robust Risotto
Serves: 4
  • 6 cups low sodium chicken broth, heated
  • 4 ounces diced prosciutto
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • ¼ pound asparagus spears, trimmed and cut into small pieces
  • ¼ pound sliced mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1½ cups arborio rice
  • ½ cup dry white wine, heated
  • 1 cup to 1½ cups shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  1. Simmer the broht in a saucepan. Keep warm.
  2. Heat the wine in a separate saucepan and keep warm.
  3. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to large pan and heat. Saute the prosciutto for 3 to 5 minutes or until tender. Remove from skillet and set aside.
  4. Add the asparagus and saute 2 minutes. As they begin to get tender, add the sliced mushroom and cook an additional 3 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and the liquid is removed. ( do not include any of this liquid or the risotto will not be creamy!). Remove from skillet and set aside.
  5. Add the additional 1 tablesppon of olive oil to the skillet and sweat the shallots and garlic until translucent, about 3 minutes. Stir in the DRY rice and saute until each grain is coated in oil.
  6. Deglaze the pan with the warm white wine and stir until completely absorbed, 1 to 2 minutes.
  7. Now, start adding the hot broth to the pan in ½ cup increments; simmer and stir frequently until each addition is almost completely absorbed before adding the next, about 45 minutes total.
  8. Lastly, stir in the cooked asparagus, mushrooms and the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Season with salt and pepper, top with cooked prosciutto.
  9. Enjoy!!

Be sure to check out Nicole’s Mushroom Risotto which is a more delicate risotto recipe with a creamy cheesy texture.

This Robust Risotto is a little more time consuming than my other Make Life Special recipes but I was requested to feature this recipe.  I think it is really worth the effort because the layers of flavors in this dish are outstanding.  This really is very easy to make.  Here are the how-to photos:



Crisply cooked Prosciutto ….


Heating the liquids….


Saute the asparagus and then add the mushrooms….


Ladle the broth into the rice…


Grate the cheese…


Ingredients ready to add to the Risotto mixture….


Risotto after it has absorbed all of the liquid…


Stir in the cheese, asparagus and mushrooms….

Risotto is great to serve as a first course with crusty bread or as a side dish with pork.

Remember,” Let’s make life special by sharing great food with our family and friends!”  


Fall Tablescape


Fall Tablescape Idea

Here is a Fall Tablescape idea.  The round table was covered with a black round tablecloth and then topped with a square paisley suede fabric ( rust color) that was trimmed with rust and green fringe.  I used green napkins with burgundy and rust beaded napkin rings.  The eggplant plates with burnished metal charger plates completed the look.  



Back to the Roots Gourmet Mushroom Kit


To watch our video review of this product, click here:  Back to The Roots

Back to the Roots Gourmet Mushroom Kit Gift Guide Age Recommendation:  3+



I do not have a green thumb. I do my best and sometimes it works out, sometimes it does not. I always apologize to any plant I buy as we head home. There are a few things that always make my “safe” list. These are the things I know I can grow successfully: Tomatoes, Basil, Dill, Chive, Parsley, Oregano, Mint and now… Oyster Mushrooms!

I was doubtful that I could grow mushrooms. I am happy to report that I was wrong! The kit tells you that you can harvest in as LITTLE as 10 days. I am on day 10 and they are not ready to harvest, but they are well on their way! I think my family and I will be dining on these mushrooms within a week. I’m thinking a mushroom risotto is in order…. Check out my Recipe!   Nicole’s Mushroom Risotto

Here are the kit’s stats: You can grow 2-3 harvests of oyster mushrooms. You only have to mist 2 times per day after the initial soaking. The kit grows up to 1.5 pounds of fresh gourmet mushrooms total. The mushroom garden will last in the box before opening – there is no shelf life! Oh, and you can grow the mushrooms at any time of the year.

The soil is made 100% of recycled coffee grounds (I love supporting safe & sustainable products)! Also, the cardboard of the garden box has tomato, basil and kale seeds! When you are done with the mushrooms, just plant the box and grow an entirely new garden!

And, here are pictures of my mushrooms thus far:

Let’s get started….. 






Day 4…


Day 5……..


Day 6…..


Day 7……


Day 8…..


Day 10….


I think this is a fantastic gift for the young child in your life. It is very educational and gives kids the opportunity to learn a bit about where their food comes from. My son is only 1, but he loved helping me! I can’t wait to see his reaction when he is older and can mist the mushrooms. This would also be a great gift for older kids and adults who enjoy gardening. Or, if you have a friend or family member who likes to cook with fresh ingredients (and is always complaining about the selection at your local grocery store) then this would be the perfect gift for them!

To learn more about this product, and their other products, please visit their Website:  Back to the Roots    or the  Back to the Roots Facebook Page  

Oh!  I almost forgot!  Whenever you post a photo of your grown kit on the Back to the Roots Facebook Page  , they will donate a kit and sustainability curriculum to an elementary classroom of your choice! I’ll be posting mine when it reaches full maturity and will have them donate to one of our local elementary!

Where to Buy

For $19.95, plus shipping and handling (free shipping if you buy 2), you can order the mushroom kits directly from their Website:  Order Back to the Roots   

Or, you can find a retailer near you by using their Store Locator!   Back to the Roots Store Locator

Reviewed by: Nicole


Note: Back to the Roots, Inc. supplied me with one Gourmet Mushroom Kit for review. No other compensation was received. The review in this post is honest and my own.

Gourmet Gift Basket

Make your own Holiday Gift Baskets for any cooks on your holiday gift list!  This basket is full of useful and delicious items that are sure to please.  I featured Colman’s Dry Mustard, Colman’s Prepared Mustard, Fischer & Wieser Texas Pit BBQ Sauce and Fisher & Wieser Pomegranate & Mango Chipotle Sauce, and Mom’s Garlic & Basil Spaghetti Sauce.  

It’s so easy to assemble gift baskets and they are great for holiday gift giving!  To see the YouTube Video on assembling the holiday gift basket, click here:  Gourmet Gift Basket 

Colman’s Mustard creates spicy prepared and powdered mustards that take ordinary culinary creations to the next level.  Colman’s has been making mustard for over 200 years and the flavor is wonderful.  Here is a great recipe for Mustard Sauce for Meat that you might want to tuck into the gift basket:


Mustard Sauce for Meat Featuring Colman's Powdered Mustard
Prep time
Total time
Recipe type: Sauce
  • ⅔ cup sour cream
  • ⅔ cup mayonnaise
  • 2 Tablespoons Colman's Powdered Mustard
  • 4 green onions, finely chopped
  1. Combine ⅔ cup sour cream, ⅔ cup mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons Colman's Powdered Mustard and 4 finely chopped green onions.
  2. Cover and chill until serving time,

To view the YouTube Video on making Mustard Sauce for Meat featuring the Colman’s Powdered Mustard, click here:  Mustard Sauce for Meat 

You can prepare the Mustard Sauce a day or so ahead of time to let the flavor really develop.  This Mustard SAuce is great on pork tenderloin or prime rib.  If you want to tone down the flavor, just use less dry mustard.  I love the flavor so I make the sauce exactly as I have it here.  Enjoy!

You can get more recipe ideas from the Colman’s Mustard Website by clicking here:  Colman’s Mustard


Fischer & Wieser offers a variety of gourmet grilling sauces, marinades, salsas, pasta sauces, jams and even pie filling.  I featured the Texas Pit BBQ Sauce and the Pomegranate & Mango Chipotle Sauce in this gift basket.  To get some great recipes or to order these  products, visit their website:  Fischer & Wieser   They also offer premade gift assortments with next day air delivery options that are perfect for last minute shoppers.

The last item I’ve included in this gift basket is Mom’s Garlic and Basil Spaghetti Sauce.  Mom’s uses juicy sweet California tomatoes and fresh garlic and fresh basil to create this wonderful  sauce.  If you can’t find it locally, you can purchase Mom’s Garlic and Basil Spaghetti Sauce from Amazon:   Amazon.com  

Happy Holidays!

Note:  Christie Communications provided us with samples of Colman’s Mustard, Fischer & Wieser Texas Pit BBQ Sauce, Fischer & Wieser Pomegranate & Mango Chipotle Sauce and Mom’s Garlic and Basil Spaghetti Sauce to use in this review.  No compensation was received.  These are my true and honest opinions.  





****Contest Closed*****”It’s Not You, It’s Brie” Book Giveaway

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Kirstin Jackson, author of  ” It’s Not You, It’s Brie:  Unwrapping America’s Unique Culture of Cheese”.   I had a lot of fun chatting with Kirstin.  It could be because I love cheese.  I love to shop for cheese, I love to smell cheese as its cooking, I love to eat cheese, I love pairing cheese with wine….you get the idea.  Right?  I LOVE cheese.  But, I discovered something else about myself recently.  I also love reading about America’s cheese culture.  And, I think you will too.

I have one (1) copy of “It’s Not You, It’s Brie:  Unwrapping America’s Unique Culture of Cheese” to give away. Would you like to provide it with a new home?


To enter the giveaway, just answer the following question in the “Speak Your Mind” section at the bottom of this post:

“What is the best cheese you have ever eaten?”

Are you one of those souls who enjoy a simple, aged cheddar?  Or do you – like me – prefer warm brie on a gourmet cracker?  Perhaps you are a squeeze cheese enthusiast ( I won’t judge!) or a cheese gourmand who has a cheese monger on speed dial.  Any way you slice it, I want to know the best cheese you’ve eaten!

Note:  If you are lactose intolerant, or just don’t like cheese, no problem!  Just say something along the lines of “hello” and you’re good to go.


One entry per person, please.

Giveaway begins Monday November 5, 2012 and ends Thursday November 15, 2012 at 8 pm CST.

The winner will be chosen by Random.org and announced on Friday November 16, 2012.

Winner must email MakeLifeSpecial@gmail.com with their name and mailing address.

Note:  Giveaway sponsored by Penguin Group.  Thank you!




Make Life Special
2 Cypress Rd Litchfield, IL 62056 US
Phone: 217-556-8297 Website: http://www.makelifespecial.com