12.30.2011

Garlic Blue Cheese Burgers

My husband and I have an OBSESSION with anything garlic and blue cheese, so obviously these BURGERS really hit the spot! Is there really anything better than a good JUICY burger to finish out this year's menu? :)


Garlic Blue Cheese Burgers
1 pound hamburger (I typically use 80/20 for burgers)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 to 2 large cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 to 2 tablespoons A1 Steak Sauce
2 ounces gorgonzola cheese crumbles, plus more
Onion, thinly sliced (but kept in rings)

In a bowl, mix everything but the onion. Divide the meat mixture into 4 equal parts and make into patties. Cook on a grill pan according to desired doneness. While cooking, throw circles of onion rings into pan to brown. Serve onion and more gorgonzola cheese on the burger (on a bun of choice!). Top with favorite burger condiments.

TIP: You can add more or less cheese to these burgers, if you prefer. Also, try using other cheeses for fun—I don't think you can go wrong. For hard cheeses, just shredded or cut into very small cubes. And try serving with some yummy Sweet Potato Fries!

12.25.2011

Sweet Pork Salad

MERRY! MERRY!

This yummy salad has become a CHRISTMAS dinner tradition with my extended FAMILY and we look forward to it every year. The BEST thing about this pork is that it's not only great on a SALAD, but it is also AMAZING in burritos, tacos, quesadillas, and even as a baked potato topping. The POSSIBILITIES are endless!


Sweet Pork Salad
1 1/2 pounds boneless country-style pork ribs
1/2 cup sweet barbecue sauce
1/2 cup brown sugar
4 to 6 tortillas, warmed
Grated cheddar cheese
1 (15-ounce) can black or pinto beans, rinsed and drained
Lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces
Cubed avocado, optional
Cilantro to garnish (optional)

Put the pork ribs, barbecue sauce, and brown sugar in a slow cooker for 4 hours on high heat, or 8 hours on low heat. When done, shred with two forks and keep on low or warm heat. Lay tortillas on individual serving plates and sprinkle with the cheese and beans. Top with the pork, lettuce, and avocado, if using. Serve with the super yummy dressing on the side (which is also great for dipping quesadillas).

TIP: For something totally different with the leftovers—try using any leftover meat (warmed) and dressing on a hoagie bun with a little lettuce and cheese (melted on top) the next day. It makes one yummy sandwich!

12.20.2011

Oreo Mint Truffles

This is one of the EASIEST and yummiest treats to make for the HOLIDAYS. You've probably seen recipes LIKE this one all over. Try it and take some to your neighbors!


Oreo Mint Truffles
1 package regular Oreos, crushed or blended to fine crumbs
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1 to 2 packages Andes Mints, unwrapped

In a bowl, mix together the cookie crumbs and cream cheese until well blended. (I use a big spoon at first and then move on with a fork to make sure it really starts sticking together.) Roll the "dough" in your hands to make 1-inch balls; set them on waxed paper on a baking sheet.

In a small pan, melt the Andes Mints over low heat and stir until smooth. Drop a ball or two into the chocolate and roll around with 2 forks until coated. Place back on the waxed paper. When done, place the tray of dipped balls in the fridge to harden. Makes 35 to 40 truffles. 

TIP: I like to fancy up my truffles with some melted green mint chips. Once they've set in the fridge, I melt about 1/2 cup mint chips in the microwave (stirring every 15 to 20 seconds until they are smooth) and then drizzle it over the truffles. It looks so pretty and festive that way!

BONUS TIP: Try other combinations with your favorite snack cookies! I also mixed a package of Nutter Butters with the cream cheese and dipped the balls in milk chocolate. Topped it with a drizzle of melted peanut butter chips and it turned out yummy! Obviously Mint Oreos would be great, but what about some lemon cream cookies mixed with the cream cheese and then dipped in dark chocolate? That could be REALLY good! :)

12.15.2011

Zucchini Bread

I just decided to use some of my frozen shredded ZUCCHINI from this last summer because I LOVE this bread so much! It is such a great COMFORT food . . .


Zucchini Bread
3 eggs
1 cup oil
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 cups shredded zucchini
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon baking powder

Combine all ingredients together in a bowl and then pour into 2 loaf pans. Bake at 325 degrees for 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

TIP: Add 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or 3/4 cup chocolate chips. Try serving with a little cream cheese spread over individual slices. It's yummy!

12.10.2011

Marshmallow Brownies

My sister-in-law, Amanda, made these brownies back when I was HUGE with child (or children). I loved these homemade little BEAUTIES! They are from this great little blog called SIX SISTER'S STUFF. Check it out!


Mom's Famous Marshmallow Brownies
1 cup margarine
2 cups sugar
1/3 cup cocoa
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 bag mini marshmallows

Soften the margarine and blend in the sugar and cocoa. Beat together and add the eggs, one at a time. Stir in the flour, salt, and vanilla. Spread mixture into a large greased cookie sheet (10 x 15 x 1). Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and top with 1 bag of mini marshmallows. Return to the oven for 3 minutes, or until soft and puffy. Cool and frost with your favorite chocolate frosting.

TIP: I used the chocolate frosting from my School Lunch Peanut Butter Bars. And, another great addition to these brownies would be some chopped walnuts sprinkled in with the marshmallows to make them into Rocky Road Brownies. Yum!

Veggie-Stuffed Meatballs

OK, so I know my PIC isn't that great, but these meatballs look a lot better in real life and are absolutely DELICIOUS! They are the perfect way to get your KIDDOS to eat some veggies, especially on a day like today.



Veggie-Stuffed Meatballs
1 egg 
1/3 cup shredded carrot
2/3 cup shredded potato
1/3 cup shredded zucchini
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 pound ground beef
1 can cream of mushroom soup, condensed
1 can cream of chicken soup, condensed
1 1/4 cups milk
Warm mashed potatoes

In a large bowl, combine the first eight ingredients. Crumble beef over mixture and mix well. Shape into 1 1/2-inch balls.
In a large skillet, brown meatballs in oil in small batches; drain. Put into a greased 9 x 13-inch baking dish.
In a large bowl, combine the soups and milk; pour over meatballs. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes or until bubbly. Serve with mashed potatoes.

TIP: If you don't like one of the veggies used in the meatballs, just increase the amount of another veggie you do like! Also, these would be great served over rice as well. 

12.05.2011

Layered Enchilada Casserole

Just after I had the twins, a great neighbor brought a CASSEROLE over for us to have for dinner one night. We LOVED it so much, I decided to come up with my own version. YUM!


Layered Enchilada Casserole
1 can cream of chicken soup, condensed
1 cup sour cream
1 can diced green chiles
White corn tortillas
1 bag taco blend or Mexican shredded cheese
1/2 to 1 cup corn
1 green onion, thinly sliced
5 to 6 chicken tenders, boiled and shredded (or more if you want it extra meaty)

In a bowl, combine the condensed soup, sour cream, and green chiles. Spread a spoonful of the mixture in the bottom of an 8-inch square glass pan. Top with the tortillas to cover, overlapping where necessary. (I broke my tortillas in half and placed the flat edges around the outside of pan.)

Sprinkle a layer of cheese over the tortillas, followed by half the corn and some of the green onion. Top with half of the chicken and then cover with half of the sauce mixture. Top with more tortillas and repeat layers (leaving a little of sauce and onion for the top). Do one last layer of tortillas and spread the reserved bit of sauce over top. Sprinkle with more cheese and green onion. Bake, covered, at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until bubbling around the edges.

TIP: You can leave out the green onion and corn if you don't have it and the recipe will still be delicious. Also, feel free to add other ingredients that would make it your own. Oh, and we topped ours with some fresh chopped cilantro for a bit of color.

11.30.2011

Pumpkin Cookies with Chocolate Chip Cream Cheese Frosting

These cookies are the perfect TREAT for fall and winter! For me, PUMPKIN is the ultimate comfort food "flavor" this time of year. I'm OBSESSED and just can't get enough!


Pumpkin Cookies with Chocolate Chip Cream Cheese Frosting
1 stick butter, room temp
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 cups pumpkin
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ginger
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt


Frosting
4 ounces cream cheese
4 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
Dash of salt
2 to 3 cups powdered sugar 
1 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

With a hand mixer, beat together the sugar and butter until combined. Add the pumpkin, egg, and vanilla and beat to combine. Add the dry ingredients and beat until just mixed. Use a tablespoon-sized scoop and drop dough onto a cookie sheet, keeping cookies about 2 inches apart. Bake for 11 to 14 minutes and then cool on a wire rack.

To make the frosting, beat together the cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add the vanilla and salt. Slowly add the powdered sugar until the desired taste and consistency is reached. Fold in the chocolate chips and then frost the cooled cookies with a nice thick layer! Store in the refrigerator until ready to eat.

TIP: You could add the chocolate chips to the cookies instead of the frosting, but having them in the frosting tastes extra good for some reason—and its just different from the same old pumpkin chocolate chip cookies!

11.25.2011

Cheesy Leftover Turkey Bake

This is a great recipe that will use up your LEFTOVER turkey! I found a recipe like this in a COOKBOOK I was recently looking at, but made quite a few changes to make my FAMILY happy. It turned out to be winner!


Cheesy Turkey Bake
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 onion, chopped or diced
1/2 cup thinly sliced celery
1 cup uncooked rice
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
2 cups cubed leftover turkey (you can also use rotisserie chicken)
1 can cream of celery or cream of chicken soup
1 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 to 2 cups grated cheddar or colby jack cheese

In a saucepan, brink the broth, onion, and celery to a boil; reduce heat. Add the rice and cover, letting simmer for 15 minutes. Put rice in the bottom of an 8 x 8-inch square pan. Sprinkle the peas and turkey over top.

In a bowl, combine the soup, milk, and salt and then spread over casserole. Top with the cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes or until bubbly around the edges. Makes 4 servings.

TIP: Cover the casserole when baking to avoid burning the cheese on top. You can remove covering about 5 to 10 minutes before casserole is done. Also, feel free to change out the peas for other yummy veggies like chopped up broccoli! And, if you want to freeze this meal, layer it all in a foil pan, wrap in plastic wrap, and freeze. Just thaw and bake to eat later.

11.23.2011

Pumpkin Pie with Pecan Streusel

I posted this recipe before, but this pie is so SCRUMPTIOUS it deserves a shout out for the HOLIDAY season! I make it for Thanksgiving, but it's so good, I always want to make it AGAIN for Christmas. Everybody likes sweet CRUNCHY streusel, right? Well, it's even better on top of PUMPKIN pie!


Pecan Streusel Pumpkin Pie
1 (16-ounce) can pumpkin
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 unbaked 9-inch pie crust


Pecan Streusel
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup firm butter
2/3 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a large bowl, stir together the pumpkin, condensed milk, eggs, spices, and salt until smooth. Pour into the pie crust and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce oven to 350 degrees and bake for 25 minutes more. 

In the meantime, prepare the streusel. In a bowl, combine the sugar, flour, and butter with a pastry blender until crumbly. Stir in the chopped pecans.

Sprinkle the streusel over the pie (after the 25-minute "baking round") and then bake for 15 to 20 minutes more, or until golden brown and the filling is set. Let cool about 2 hours and serve or refrigerate until ready to serve.

TIP: You can cut down on the brown sugar in the streusel topping if you prefer, but I wouldn't do less than 1/3 cup. Also, when the pie comes out of the oven, it's going to look puffy and like it's overflowing your crust. Well, once it cools it settles and looks fabulous, so don't worry!

11.20.2011

Ham and Broccoli Cheese Soup

This is another great soup recipe from Jenny Stanger's FREEZER MEALS cookbook. It's nice and creamy, and SUPER easy to make. My family polished it off with no problem!


Ham and Broccoli Cheese Soup
2 cups cubed potato
1/2 cup chopped celery, optional (I added this to the recipe because I had some on hand)
2 cups water
1 1/2 cups cubed fully cooked ham
1 onion, chopped
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3 cups milk
2 cups finely shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup frozen chopped broccoli

In a saucepan, bring potatoes, celery (if using), and water to a boil. Cover and cook for 10 to 15 minutes or until tender; set aside.

In a large saucepan, saute the ham and onion in the butter until onion is tender. Stir in the flour and pepper until smooth and a nice roux has formed. Gradually stir in the milk. Add the potatoes and their cooking liquid and bring to a boil. Cook for 2 minutes or more and stir until thickened. Reduce heat to low and then stir in the cheese and broccoli until cheese is melted and soup is heated through.

TIP: Eat now or let cool so you can freeze for a meal sometime down the road!

11.15.2011

Pasta with Pumpkin Cream Sauce

A few weeks back I made and posted about a YUMMY pumpkin trifle—and ended up with leftover canned PUMPKIN. Well, this is what I came up with! SUPER easy, and pretty delish if I do say so myself!



Pasta with Pumpkin Cream Sauce
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup fresh grated or shaved Parmesan cheese
Thyme (I did a few hefty pinches of dried)
Garlic salt
Pasta of choice, cooked according to directions

In a pan, melt the butter. Stir in the flour until well combined, then add the milk gradually while stirring. Continue stirring and heat the mixture a few minutes more. Gradually stir in the pumpkin. When completely incorporated, add the cheese and stir until melted. Season with thyme and garlic salt according to taste and then serve over pasta with more Parmesan sprinkled over top. Yummy!

TIP: This is also great the next day if you have any leftover. You can just reheat in the microwave slowly, in 30-second intervals until warm. If it is a little thick, add some more milk, a little at a time. Also, if you'd like this to be EXTRA good, try using cream or half-and-half instead of milk!

BONUS TIP: I also browned some chopped onion and served that over the pasta, then topped with the pumpkin sauce. Sooooo good!

11.10.2011

Raspberry Lemon Muffins

This is a recipe I found in a neighborhood cookbook. We LOVE muffins at our house and these are EXCELLENT! Spread some butter on one straight from the oven—its HEAVENLY!



Raspberry Lemon Muffins
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup cream or whole milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1 1/2 to 2 cups fresh or frozen raspberries

Combine all ingredients in a bowl except raspberries. Gently fold in the raspberries. Spoon into muffin tin and bake at 400 degrees for 18 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

TIP: This would be delicious with other types of berries—strawberries, blueberries, you name it! You could also try using different flavored fruity extracts to mix things up as well.

11.05.2011

Bacon, Beef, and Barley Soup

This is the perfect HEARTY soup to serve one of these lovely FALL days! I would almost call it a STEW because its very thick and rich. I bet your FAMILY will like it as much as mine did. :)


Bacon, Beef, and Barley Soup
4 bacon strips, chopped
1 1/2 pounds stew meat, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 medium onion, chopped
4 medium red potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 1/2 cups fresh baby carrots, cut in half lengthwise
1 cup frozen corn
1/4 cup medium pearl barley
2 cans beef broth
1 can diced tomatoes with basil, oregano, and garlic, undrained
1 (12-ounce) jar home-style beef gravy
1/2 teaspoon pepper

In a large skillet, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp. Using a slotted spoon, remove to paper towels to drain. In drippings, cook beef and onion until meat is no longer pink.
In a 5-quart slow cooker, layer the potatoes, carrots, corn, and barley. Top with the beef mixture and bacon. Combine the broth, tomatoes, gravy, and pepper and then pour over top. Cover and cook on low heat for 8 to 9 hours or until meat and vegetables are tender. Stir before serving.


TIP: Serve this with some yummy crusty bread for a very rounded and fulfilling meal!

10.30.2011

Pumpkin Trifle

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

It's FALL and obviously time for some yummy PUMPKIN recipes! We love pumpkin at our house, and this DECADENT trifle really deepened our LOVE!


Pumpkin Trifle
1 spice cake mix
4 eggs
1/3 cup oil

1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup pumpkin
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
2 (3-ounce) boxes Jell-O pumpkin spice instant pudding mix
2 (8-ounce) containers Lite Cool Whip (or non-lite if you prefer)
1 bag Milk Chocolate Heath Pieces (or crush some bars)
Caramel ice cream topping

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 9-inch round pans and set aside.

In a bowl, mix together the cake mix, eggs, oil, sour cream, and pumpkin. Once combined, stir in the chocolate chips. Divide batter between prepared cake pans and then bake for 28 to 32 minutes, or when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool completely and then crumble into small chunks.

Prepare the pudding according to package directions and let set. When set, gently fold in 1 container of Cool Whip. 

In a trifle bowl or glass dish, add about 1/3 of the cake crumbles. Top with a third of the pudding mixture. Add a few dollops of Cool Whip over top, sprinkle with the Heath pieces, and then drizzle with a little caramel topping. Repeat layers until all ingredients are used, making sure to spread out the last layer of Cool Whip to seal the edges. Refrigerate at least 4 hours before serving. Serves around 12 to 16.

TIP: When I made this, I used only half the cake, pudding, and Cool Whip and did it in individual cups because I only need about 8 servings. I just cut one cake round into 8 pieces and used one piece for each cup (and I froze the other half of the cake to use again later!). And then I only used one box of pudding and one container of Cool Whip. It was perfect!




10.25.2011

Creepy Crawly Spider Cake

I've posted this cake before, but it's so darn CUTE for this time of year, I figured it wouldn't hurt to post it again! This "SCARY" little cake is from my book, Easy Cut-Up Cakes for Kids. 

                                                                                            Photo by Zac Williams

Creepy Crawly Spider Cake
1 cake mix, any flavor
Black frosting
Purple frosting
8 pieces black licorice
1 large marshmallow

Bake cake in two 8- or 9-inch pans according to package directions. When cool, place one cake layer in the center of a plate or foil-wrapped board. Frost the top with black or purple frosting, and then place second layer on top. Frost entire cake with a thin layer of black or purple frosting.

Using a decorator's bag with a star tip, make black spider hair by slightly squeezing the bag to create each piece of hair. Squeeze pieces of hair close together all over the entire spider body, but don't worry about making them touch, as the spaces will be filled in.

Using another decorator's bag with the same star tip, fill in any open spaces with the purple frosting to give the spider some "highlights."

On each side of the spider, use a round frosting tip to create four rounded mounds of purple frosting. These will be the spider's feet. Gently press 4 pieces of black licorice into each side of the cake and place the loose ends in the frosting mounds to make his legs.

Finally, cut the marshmallow in half and place as the spiders eyes. You may need to use toothpicks to secure. Use a dot of black frosting to make the pupils.

TIP: If you don't like purple, try green or orange for you second color of frosting. Either way, just make sure you use a good homemade buttercream frosting recipe. Also, I've found that the only way for me to get a good black frosting is to use Wilton frosting coloring. It's totally awesome! You could make a gray spider instead though. :)

10.20.2011

Tomato Bisque

This is a recipe I've posted BEFORE, but I wanted to make sure it wasn't forgotten! This is a fabulous recipe that is definitely one of my all time FAVORITES. It really is amazing and, of course, super EASY.


Tomato Bisque
3 (32-ounce) cans diced tomatoes (or stewed) and liquid
1 large sweet yellow onion, cut into chunks
3 to 4 good-sized cloves garlic, crushed 
1 to 2 packages fresh basil (or a couple handfuls)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Extra virgin olive oil
1 pint whipping cream

Combine the first 5 ingredients and pour into a 9 x 13-inch baking pan. Drizzle the olive oil over top, lengthwise, side to side . . . basically a good drizzle. Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 2–3 hours (I think 3 hours is best!). After baking blend with an immersion blender or in batches in a blender until smooth. Pour into a soup pot on the stove and keep warm. Slowly stir in the whipping cream until heated through and serve. Serves around 8 people.

TIP: Serve with some sort of crostini. I like slicing a baguette, brushing it with garlic butter, and then toasting in the broiler with some fresh Parmesan cheese grated over top!

10.15.2011

Choco Chip Banana Muffins with Coconut Streusel

All I'm gonna say is that these sweet muffins are to DIE for! I hope you can handle them. :)


Choco Chip Banana Muffins with Coconut Streusel
Streusel
1/4 cup flour
1 tablespoon sugar
3 to 4 tablespoons coconut, chopped
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons cold butter

1 3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 ripe bananas, mashed
3/4 cup chocolate chips

Mix together the streusel ingredients using a fork or pastry blender and set aside.

To make the muffins, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and soda, and the salt. Add the egg, oil, sour cream, and vanilla. Fold in the bananas and chocolate chips. Spoon into muffin cups and top with a spoonful of the streusel mix. Bake for 22 to 25 minutes at 350 degrees. Cool for about 5 minutes in pan and then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

TIP: Use milk or semisweet chips, though these are really sweet, so I suggest going semi. Also, if you want a little more uuuumph to your streusel, add a tablespoon of chopped pecans or walnuts!

10.10.2011

Baked Chicken Lasagna Rolls

This is a YUMMY recipe my mom made for us on one of our recent VISITS. It is very tasty and actually a very PRETTY dish. Perfect to serve any company you might have!



Baked Chicken Lasagna Rolls
2 cups part skim ricotta cheese
1 1/4 cups grated mozzarella
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 cups shredded chicken
9 cooked lasagna noodles
2 (8-ounce) cans tomato sauce
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix together the first eight ingredients, reserving 1/4 cup of mozzarella cheese; set aside.
Lay a large piece of plastic wrap on counter top. Lay the cooked noodles flat on the plastic wrap and then top each noodle with a layer of ricotta mixture and 1/4 cup chicken. Starting at one end, roll one noodle at a time.
Mix the tomato sauce with Italian seasoning and pour 1/2 cup in the bottom of a baking dish. Lay rolls seam side down, cover with remaining tomato sauce, and sprinkle with reserved mozzarella. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes and then serve!


TIP: Some other great additions would be chopped or sliced black olives, or some sliced mushrooms. 

10.05.2011

Creamy Banana Brownie Cake

After having the twins, a super SWEET neighbor brought us this yummy dessert and we fell in LOVE with it. I hope there are still some FRESH strawberries at your grocer that you can make this with. If so, I would do it TONIGHT!


Creamy Banana Brownie Cake
1 box "chewy" brownie mix, prepared in a 8 x 8-inch pan and cooled completely
1 small box instant vanilla pudding, prepared
1 small container Cool Whip
1 or 2 bananas, sliced
Strawberries, sliced
1 Heath bar

After baking and cooling the brownie, prepare the pudding mix with milk according to directions and let set. Stir in desired amount of Cool Whip; set aside. (I probably used about half of the container, if not a little more. Just do it to your taste!) Place the banana slices over the cooled brownie to completely cover and then top with the pudding mixture. Lay strawberries over top and then shave the Heath bar over all. Let set in the refrigerator at least 4 hours before serving.

TIP: I like the brownie to be thick, so for a 9 x 13-inch pan I used 1 1/2 boxes of brownie mix even though it said it was for the larger size pan. I'm sure you could double it for some extra goodness! Also, the combinations are endless for this recipe. If you love banana, try using banana pudding for a really strong banana flavor (though when you serve it with the vanilla, everyone will think it's banana pudding already). You could also do chocolate pudding and it would delish!

10.01.2011

I'm Back! Now How About Minestrone Soup?

In trying to prepare some MEALS to freeze before my cute little twins arrived, I found this recipe in a "freezer meals" type COOKBOOK written by Jenny Stanger. It was DELICIOUS and I'm so glad we were able to try it. Thanks Jenny!


Easy Minestrone Soup
8 cups water
2 (15-ounce) cans diced tomato (I pureed both cans to eliminate chunks for my fam)
1 (15-ounce) can red kidney beans
1 (15-ounce) can green beans
1 (15-ounce) can corn (I used about 1 cup frozen)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 carrots, thinly sliced (I used about 1 cup of baby carrots, sliced)
4 ounces polish sausage, sliced
2 tablespoons parsley
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
6 ounces large egg noodles

Pour all ingredients except noodles into a large stockpot and bring to a boil. Boil for 14 minutes. To serve immediately, add the noodles and cook for another 10 minutes (or until noodles are done). To freeze, let cool and put in plastic zip-lock bags (I split mine in two gallon-sized bags). To serve after freezing, let defrost and then cook 10 minutes or until heated through.

TIP: If freezing this recipe, I would hold off on adding the noodles until after you thaw it and reheat. This way you avoid getting mushy noodles. Also, don't forget to label if you are putting this meal in the freezer. Just write on the baggy what it is and how to heat it up. It works like a charm having dinner already done!

8.01.2011

Taking a Break!

I think I've mentioned a few times that I'm pregnant with twins and they will be here very soon! That means I'm now to the point where I need a break. I just wanted to let all of you know that for the month of August and September, that's exactly what I'll be doing (well, if taking care of 3 kids ages 2 and under is a break . . .). Come October 1, 2011, I'll start posting new recipes again. Until then, enjoy the ones that are already listed!

Thanks so much,

Melissa

7.30.2011

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes Salad

We FEASTED on this fine salad at my sister-in-law's house a few weeks ago. It was so AMAZINGLY good and refreshing! I'm not sure where she got the RECIPE, so I hope whoever created it will FORGIVE me for passing it on to you!


Attack of the Killer Tomatoes Salad
Creamy Basil Dressing
1/2 cup mayo (I used light)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup oil (I used the oil from the marinated mozzarella)
1/3 cup white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
Pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 to 1/2 cup fresh basil

Spring Mix salad
Cherry tomatoes, halved
Marinated mozzarella balls (from Costco)
Fresh basil, chiffonade

Blend all of the dressing ingredients together until smooth. Taste and adjust as necessary.

Lay some salad mix on a large platter, top with the tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil. Drizzle dressing over top as desired.

TIP: I made this recently with some cold chopped up rotisserie chicken layered on top as well so it could be our main course for dinner. It was delicious that way too!

7.25.2011

Scotcheroos

These are ALWAYS a hit at family parties, or ANYTIME. The great thing about them is that they are SUPER easy to make and taste DELICIOUS!


Scotcheroos
1 cup sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup peanut butter
6 cups Rice Krispies
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup butterscotch chips

In a large saucepan, heat and dissolve the sugar into the corn syrup. Stir in the peanut butter until smooth. Stir in the Rice Krispies until well coated and then press mixture into a 9 x 13-inch pan. Gradually melt the chocolate and butterscotch chips in the microwave at 30-second intervals and then spread over the treats in the pan. Yummy!

TIP: When melting the chips in the microwave, make sure to stir after each 30-second interval. The chips will eventually be melty enough that you can just keep stirring to melt them all. (If that makes sense . . .) Also, for a more chewy bar, gradually add the Rice Krispies until you reach the texture you desire.

7.20.2011

Strawberry Shortcake Trifle

Another great dessert to take to a FAMILY gathering! This is so easy, but always looks ELEGANT and tastes fantastic. It's like SUMMER in a bowl (or trifle dish)—am I right?


Strawberry Shortcake Trifle

1 box Strawberry Danish, prepared according to “Fruit Sauce” directions
4 cups sliced strawberries
1 loaf angel food cake, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 (8-ounce) container Cool Whip

Combine the Danish and prepared strawberries and refrigerate for 1 hour. 

In a large glass bowl or trifle dish, place half the cake cubes. Top with half the strawberry mixture and half the Cool Whip. Repeat layers. Refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

TIP: Make sure to dig all the way down when serving so everyone gets strawberries, cream, and cake! 

7.15.2011

Chicken Curry Salad

Need a refreshing SUMMER lunch? Well, this is the ticket! If you like curry, you'll LOVE the taste of this yummy salad—eaten by the SPOONFUL or as a filling in a wrap or croissant!


Chicken Curry Salad

1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
Dash of paprika and salt
1 large chicken breast, cooked and cubed
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup diced celery
1 cup seedless red grape halves
3/4 cup shredded or matchstick carrots
1 green onion, sliced

In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, curry powder, paprika, and salt; set aside.

In a bowl, combine the remaining ingredients and then stir in the dressing mixture. Let chill for 30 minutes and then serve. Great wrapped in large lettuce leaves, tortillas, or croissants. Makes 4 servings.

TIP: If you want stronger curry flavor, feel free to add a little bit more curry powder. Just remember to go easy and add it gradually. Also, if you don't like almonds, cashews would be a great substitute!

7.10.2011

Tropical Smoothies

Who doesn't want an ice COLD smoothie for breakfast? Try this YUMMY combo and you'll be HAPPY, I promise!



Tropical Smoothies
1 to 1 1/2 cups milk
1 (6-ounce) container pina colada or pineapple yogurt
1 ripe mango, cut into pieces (and peeled)
1 banana
3 to 5 strawberries
1/2 cup (or so) fresh pineapple
Couple handfuls ice

Blend all ingredients together in a blender until smooth. Enjoy with some yummy muffins for a tasty breakfast!

TIP: Feel free to add more or less of certain ingredients or switch out some of mine for something you prefer! I think some kiwi would be a great addition, along with a touch of coconut or coconut milk. Mmmm!

7.05.2011

Spinach Artichoke Dip Salad

I've always LOVED the dip, so I figured it had to be good as a SALAD! And, if you've got lots of spinach on hand, this is a TASTY way to get everyone to eat their greens. :)


Spinach Artichoke Dip Salad

1 (6- to 8-ounce) bag baby spinach
1 (7.5-ounce) jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 1/2 cups Italian-blend cheese
1 to 1 1/2 cups crumbled garlic cheese croutons
1 bottle Hidden Valley Creamy Parmesan dressing

In a bowl, combine the spinach, artichoke, cheese, and crouton crumbles. Gradually drizzle some of the dressing over top and toss to coat. Add more dressing to reach desired consistency. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

TIP: I think adding some cooked and crumbled bacon would be delicious, or you could get really creative and try tossing in some chopped cooked shrimp or crab meat like some restaurants add to their dip!

6.30.2011

Strawberry Pudding Cups

Try serving these easy and FESTIVE pudding cups at your Independence Day celebration! I searched and searched for STRAWBERRY pudding as a special treat for my toddler (she LOVES strawberries!), and it's nowhere to be found. Soooo, I came up with this SIMPLE version of my own . . .

Strawberry Pudding Cups
1 large box Jell-O vanilla instant pudding mix
3 cups strawberry milk
1/2 to 1 cup Cool Whip, plus more for garnish
Sliced fresh strawberries

Prepare the instant pudding as directed on box, but use the strawberry milk in place of the "regular" milk called for. When the pudding has set, gently fold in desired amount of Cool Whip and spoon into cute glasses or pudding cups/bowls. Top with strawberries and a dollop of Cool Whip; refrigerate until ready to serve! Makes 4 servings.

TIP: This would be really yummy and cute served parfait style with some granola or sponge cake in between the layers as well! Or make it really "4th of July" and add a layer of fresh blueberries.

6.25.2011

Lemon Chicken Pasta Salad

We had a SALAD similar to this one at a local restaurant that was DELICIOUS, so I tried making my own VERSION. It's very light and refreshing, perfect for a nice SUMMER meal!


Lemon Chicken Pasta Salad
Lemon Tarragon Dressing
1/2 cup olive oil mayonnaise
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1 tablespoon minced or grated shallot
1 heaping tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon or 1 teaspoon dried
Dash of salt and paprika

3 cups uncooked large shell pasta, cooked and drained
2 chicken breasts, cooked and cubed
1 cup sliced celery
1 cup cashew pieces
1/2 cup sliced green onions
1 to 1 1/2 cups seedless red grape halves

In a small bowl, combine the dressing ingredients and refrigerate until ready to use.

In a bowl, combine the cooled cooked pasta, chicken, celery, cashews, onions, and grapes. Toss with the dressing and refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

TIP: Feel free to add more of any of the ingredients to this recipe. I think if you add extra tarragon to the dressing, it is VERY refreshing!

6.20.2011

Spence's Chip Dip

This is a great DIP created by our friend (Spence, obviously) that can be used as a SNACK, appetizer, or MEAL. My husband and I usually down a plate of it for lunch or dinner. It's easy and YUMMY!


Spence's Chip Dip
1 can refried beans (we like the chile lime kind)
1 can Rotel diced tomatoes (or chunky salsa works fine too)
1/2 can diced green chiles, optional
1/2 can chopped or sliced olives, optional
Grated cheddar cheese
Sour cream
Shredded or chopped lettuce

Spread about a 1/2-inch layer of beans on a dinner plate, 8 x 8-inch glass pan, or 9-inch pie dish. (You might not use the whole can.) Top with a layer of tomatoes. (You might not use this whole can either!) Top with desired amount of chiles and olives, if using. Heat in the microwave until the cheese is just melted and everything is heated through. Spread sour cream over the top and sprinkle with the lettuce. Serve with your favorite chips!

TIP: If you want this to be more hearty, try adding a layer of leftover taco meat—beef or chicken. Also, another great addition is cubed avocado over the lettuce.  

6.15.2011

Fresh Avocado Omelet

I love AVOCADOS and almost always have a couple on hand. I made these for DINNER one night and they were FAB. If you like avocado, you'll love this easy MEAL!


Fresh Avocado Omelet
1 tablespoon minced or chopped onion
1 tablespoon minced or chopped red bell pepper
Cooked crumbled sausage (or slice some cooked sausage links
2 eggs, beaten
Milk
Salt and pepper
Grated cheddar cheese
Sliced avocado

In a small frying pan, saute the onion and bell pepper until tender. Add the sausage and warm through. Remove mixture from pan and set aside. 
In a bowl, combine the eggs with a splash or two of milk and season with salt and pepper. Pour egg mixture into a warm frying pan and cook like you would an omelet. When the egg is partially set, sprinkle the sausage mixture over half and then top with some cheese. Let cook until cheese starts to melt and omelet is mostly set. Lay avocado slices over other omelet filling and then fold egg over top. Slide onto a plate and enjoy. 

TIP: Again, use whatever ingredients you would like in your omelet, but be sure to add the avocado. A combo of bacon and mushrooms would be another great combo with the avocado!

6.10.2011

7-Layer Bars

I don't care if you THINK you don't like coconut—these bars are HEAVENLY! I swear if there's one thing you would like with coconut, these AWESOME dessert bars are it! And, as a side note, they are super EASY to make!


7-Layer Bars
1 stick butter
1 cup crushed graham crackers
1 cup chopped nuts (I usually use walnut, sometimes pecans, sometimes a mixture)
1 bag milk chocolate chips
1 bag butterscotch chips
1 cup coconut
1 can sweetened condensed milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put the stick of butter in a glass 9 x 13-inch pan and stick in the heating oven until melted. Pour the graham cracker over top and spread out evenly. Sprinkle the nuts, chocolate and butterscotch chips, and coconut over top. Evenly pour the sweetened condensed milk over all. Bake for 30 minutes and let mostly cool. While still slightly warm, cut the bars in the pan. (This makes it way less messy this way!)

TIP: You can probably try other kinds of chips and have a similar yummy result. White chips and semisweet chips would probably be good, as well as mint and chocolate. Ooooh, and peanut butter and milk chocolate would also be yummy!

6.04.2011

Banana Sour Cream Cupcakes

I made these to celebrate a BIRTHDAY not too long ago. They are super MOIST and have just the right hint of banana. If you're looking for NEW ways to use your ripe bananas, this one is killer!


Banana Sour Cream Cupcakes
1 white cake mix
2 large or 3 small bananas, mashed
1 small box cheesecake pudding mix
3 eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a bowl, combine the cake mix, bananas, pudding mix, eggs, sour cream, water, and oil, stirring for 1 minute. Batter will be lumpy. Scoop equal amounts batter into a muffin tin lined with cupcake liners. (I use an ice cream scoop or small measuring cup so they all are equal in size.) Bake for 18 to 23 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the tops are lightly browned. Top with your favorite frosting!

TIP: I'm a sucker for cream cheese frosting, so that's what I usually use. Other great choices would be a regular vanilla buttercream or chocolate buttercream. And if you're feeling adventurous, trying stirring a few mini chocolate chips into the batter!

5.30.2011

Sweet Potato Taco Casserole

After looking at some other FOOD blogs, I found a recipe for Sweet Potato Tacos on the On My Menu blog. It sounded delicious, but I wanted to make a few CHANGES and turned it into a casserole instead. The result—DELICIOUS!


Sweet Potato Taco Casserole
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed into 1/2-inch (or so)
Olive oil and season salt
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
1 pound lean ground beef
Taco seasoning
1 (4-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes (or more if you prefer)
1 (4-ounce) can diced green chiles
Grated cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Spray a 9 x 13-inch pan with nonstick spray and put the prepared potatoes  in pan. Drizzle with a touch of olive oil and sprinkle season salt over top. Toss to coat. Sprinkle the cilantro over top and toss to coat again.

In a frying pan, cook the beef until done. Add taco seasoning (I have a bulk size container and just add a little at a time until it tastes good to me!) and tomato sauce and stir. Stir in the beans, tomatoes, and chiles until just heated through. Layer over the potatoes in the pan and then top with cheese. Bake, covered, for about 25 minutes. Serve with torn lettuce, salsa, sour cream, and cubed avocado pieces. Serves around 6.

TIP: You can also make this with ground turkey and it will still taste amazing, I promise! Also, try experimenting with different cheeses as a topping too. A pepper jack or Mexican blend would taste yummy. The addition of sliced olives would probably be pretty good too!

5.25.2011

Chinese Chicken Salad

This is a recipe that has been around for AWHILE, but this version is by far my FAVORITE. We always eat it with some sort of YUMMY bread and have a big bowl of it for DINNER.


Chinese Chicken Salad
Dressing
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup rice vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
1 cup sugar
1 seasoning packet from ramen noodles

1 head cabbage, chopped or thinly sliced
1 to 2 stalks celery, halved and sliced
2 cups cooked and shredded chicken
1 package Oriental ramen noodles, broken up
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup sunflower seeds

In a bowl, combine the dressing ingredients and set aside.

In another bowl, combine the salad ingredients and then toss with the dressing. Refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving.

TIP: You can leave out the chicken if you'd rather this be a side dish. Also, feel free to add another package or ramen noodles and even some finely diced onion or thinly sliced green onion. Either way, it's gonna be good!

5.20.2011

Lemon Cream Cheese Pie

This is a family FAVORITE, and the best thing is that it's super SIMPLE to put together. If you are looking for a quick and delicious DESSERT, this is it!


Lemon Cream Cheese Pie
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, room temp
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1 (9-inch) graham cracker pie crust

In a bowl, beat together the cream cheese, condensed milk, and lemon juice until smooth. Pour into the crust and spread out evenly. Chill for at least 2 to 3 hours before serving.

TIP: This is great topped with whipped cream and cut up fresh strawberries or other seasonal fruits. Also, you can use lime juice instead of the lemon and it also tastes amazing!

5.15.2011

Gooey Caramel Corn

My cousin Julie gave me this EASY and yummy recipe for the best kind of caramel corn around—GOOEY!!! Thanks for sharing Jules!


Gooey Caramel Corn
1/4 cup butter, melted (I usually use a little less and it still tastes great)
2 1/4 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
Dash of salt
1 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 quarts plain popped popcorn

In a saucepan, combine the butter, sugar, corn syrup, and salt. Turn on the heat and then slowly add the condensed milk and vanilla, stirring while adding. Bring mixture to a boil for 1 minute and then remove from heat. Pour the caramel over the popcorn in a big bowl and stir. Serves lots!

TIP: This really does make a TON of caramel, so I just pop enough popcorn for my family and use whatever amount of caramel I need. Then I usually have a jar of caramel leftover for another quick batch of caramel corn, or to use over ice cream or other yummy desserts.

5.10.2011

Creamy Chicken Fajitas

I got this simple recipe from KRAFT! It uses their new cooking creme made out of cream CHEESE. It's an easy, quick-to-put-together dinner, so hopefully you'll ENJOY it like my family did.


Creamy Chicken Fajitas
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into thin strips
1 cup sliced onion
1 cup sliced bell pepper (I used red and green)
1 (10-ounce) tub Philadelphia Santa Fe Style Blend Cooking Creme
Flour tortillas
1 cup grated Mexican or cheddar cheese

Cook the chicken and vegetables in a large nonstick skillet for 6 or 7 minutes, or until chicken is done. Add the cooking creme; cook and stir for 2 minutes. Spoon warm mixture down the center of the tortillas and top with some cheese; fold over and enjoy!

TIP: We topped ours with lettuce, mainly because the cooking creme is VERY creamy, and the lettuce helps balance it out!

5.05.2011

Red and Green Enchiladas

Mmmmm! El Cinco de Mayo! These little BEAUTIES are one of my many experiments that seemed to TURN out! When we have these for DINNER, man, it's hard to STOP at just one!


Red and Green Enchiladas
2 to 3 cups shredded or cubed cooked chicken
1 can red enchilada sauce, divided
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
8 to 10 flour tortillas, warmed
Grated cheddar cheese
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can green enchilada sauce
1/2 to 3/4 cup sour cream
1 (4-ounce) can diced green chiles

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

In a bowl, mix together the chicken, half the can of red enchilada sauce, and the softened cream cheese until well combined. Pour the remaining red sauce into the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch pan prepared with nonstick spray; spread around the pan and set aside.

Lay out the tortillas on a clean work surface and equally spoon the chicken mixture down the center of each. Sprinkle with a little cheese and then roll and place in the prepared pan seam side down.

In another bowl, or rinse out the one you already used, mix together the cream of chicken soup, half of the green enchilada sauce, sour cream, and half of the green chiles. Once combined, pour over the enchiladas in the pan and top with more cheese. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until sauce is bubbling and everything is warmed through. Serve with toppings of choice!

TIP: You can add more green enchilada sauce and the whole can of chiles if you want! Just add gradually to make sure you like the outcome. Another great addition to the creamy green sauce is a couple tablespoons of finely diced olives. It really gives the recipe a whole new taste. Try it, you'll see!

4.30.2011

Lime Cream Cake

I found this recipe in a Taste of Home magazine from several years ago and had to try it because I'm obsessed with anything LIME. It was so light tasting and REFRESHING! Hope you like it!


Lime Cream Cake
1 box butter-recipe yellow cake mix
3 eggs
1/2 cup butter, softened
7 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons lime juice
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup lime juice
2 cups whipping cream, whipped and slightly sweetened

Combine the cake mix, eggs, butter, water, and lime juice with a hand mixer for 2 to 3 minutes. Equally divide thick mixture into two greased 9-inch round pans. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes in pans, then cool completely on a wire rack.

In a bowl, blend together the condensed milk and lime juice until smooth; fold in the whipped cream. Split the cooled cake layers in half so you have 4 layers of cake. Place bottom layer on cake plate and put about 1 1/4 cups lime cream between each layer of cake, topping with the remaining cream. Serves 10 to 12.

TIP: I think cake mixes tend to turn out a little dry, so try adding a box of vanilla pudding mix to your cake batter before baking. It will be super yummy! Also, you could definitely use different cake mixes or cake made from scratch if you prefer. I think a lemon cake mix would be amazing!