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.


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!


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.  


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
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!


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!


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!