Pesto Ditalini with Chicken and Portobello Mushrooms

If you are looking for a QUICK and easy dinner to prepare so you can take your little MONSTERS trick or treating this Halloween, this is it. They will LOVE it and so will you! It's full of flavor and PERFECT for little mouths. :)

Pesto Ditalini with Chicken and Portobello Mushrooms
2 1/2 to 3 cups ditalini pasta
2 uncooked chicken breasts, cut into chunks
1/3 sweet onion, finely chopped
4 ounces whole portobello mushrooms, finely chopped
1/2 cup pesto (or more if you prefer)
1/3 to 1/2 cup cream
Parmesan cheese

In a large pot, cook the pasta according to package directions; drain and set aside.

In a large frying pan, cook the chicken chunks in a little olive oil and season them with salt and pepper. When cooked through; set aside. Add the onion and mushrooms to the pan, with a touch more olive oil if necessary. Saute about 5 minutes or until everything is nice and tender.

Chop the cooked chicken into small pieces, about the size of the pasta. Add the cooked chicken and pasta to the pan with onion and mushrooms. Stir in the pesto and cream and warm through. Top with shredded Parmesan cheese to garnish.

TIP: Feel free to adjust measurements in this recipe—it is very forgiving! I think I would like even more onions and mushrooms, so next time I'm definitely adding more.


Creepy Crawly Spider Cake

Need a dessert for your HALLOWEEN party this year? Try making this CUTE little cake from my book, Easy Cut-Up Cakes for Kids (meaning it's so easy, your KIDS can make it for you!). I will say that I post this cake every year, and the hits it receives are overwhelming! I'm glad other people think it is cute too. :)

                                                                                            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 and black, try your own color combinations! 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. :)


Sweet and Tangy Meatloaf

I found this YUMMY recipe on Six Sisters Stuff, and I was not disappointed. The meatloaf was TENDER and moist as well as sweet and TANGY—just as promised! Even the kiddos enjoyed it, which is saying something because they have not been to keen on DINNER these days. :)

Sweet and Tangy Meatloaf (from Six Sisters Stuff blog)

1 pound ground beef
1 cup plain breadcrumbs
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/3 cup ketchup
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup apricot preserves
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup apricot preserves
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  In a large bowl, combine ground beef, breadcrumbs, egg, garlic powder, worcestershire sauce, ketchup, brown sugar and apricot preserves.  Place in a greased 9x5 inch loaf pan.  Cook for 40-50 minutes.  In a separate bowl combine ketchup, brown sugar and apricot preserves.  Remove meatloaf from oven after it has cooked, spread on glaze and cook for an additional 20 minutes.

TIP: I didn't have apricot preserves, but I did have peach freezer jam. It worked out great! I'm sure some chopped onions would also be a great addition. And if you have any leftovers, try heating up a slice and make a sandwich. Super yum!


Peanut Butter Chocolate Cupcakes

It's that time of year when the really DECADENT desserts start sounding extra appealing (or if you are me, that just happens year round). These CUPCAKES totally fit the bill and really are just the perfect dessert. They are also super cute with a SPIDER or other Halloween candy stuck on top, so try making them for your HALLOWEEN party this year! And don't feel bad if you eat more than one—they are just that good!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Cupcakes
1 box devil's food cake mix
Ingredients on box
1 small box chocolate or fudge instant pudding mix
1/3 cup sour cream (I used light)

Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Frosting
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, room temp (I used light)
1/3 to 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
3 to 4 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Dash of salt
Milk, if needed

Mix cake batter together according to package directions. Stir in the dry pudding mix and sour cream. Bake as directed for cupcakes. Let cool completely.

Mix together the frosting ingredients until smooth. Add milk a tablespoon at a time to desired consistency if the frosting is too thick. Frost cooled cupcakes.

TIP: Any chocolate cake mix will do, but I really like the devil's food. Also, if you are in a pinch you can leave out the pudding mix or sour cream, or both if you have neither. Adding them just makes the cupcakes extra moist and delicious.


Toasted Beet and Goat Cheese Sandwich

Over the last year or so I've been OBSESSED with beet and goat cheese salad. One night I decided it was time to make it into a SANDWICH. That turned out to be a really good IDEA! The cheeses melt together and make it GOOEY and warm, and the toasted buttered bread gives it just the right touch.

Toasted Beet and Goat Cheese Sandwich
4 sliced bread
Fresh mozzarella (I just break mine into little pieces)
Goat cheese (I just crumble this)
Sunflower seeds
Pickled beets, thinly sliced
Romaine lettuce (use the crunchiest parts!)

Butter one side of each slice of bread and put the butter side down on the counter. (Yes, it's messy, but way easier in the long run!) Layer the mozzarella, goat cheese, sunflower seeds, and beets on 2 slices of bread. Top with the lettuce and a little more cheese so the sandwich "sticks" together. Place on a medium heated pan with the cheese and beet layer on the bottom first (this way the lettuce won't get soggy!). Flip when bread is brown and brown other side. Cut in half and enjoy.

TIP: I think some yummy artisan bread of some sort would make this sandwich really fabulous as well.


Healthy Alfredo Sauce (AMAZING!)

Pasta is always a tasty and QUICK dinner at our house. But there are so many recipes loaded with calories—and they are DELISH, don't get me wrong! Now our new favorite is this much HEALTHIER version of an alfredo sauce. It really is yummy and can be eaten totally GUILT FREE!

Healthy Alfredo Sauce (AMAZING!)
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
2 tablespoons butter
2 to 4 cloves garlic
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup milk
Shredded Parmesan cheese
Angel hair pasta, cooked (I used around half a package, though it was pretty saucy!)

Boil the cauliflower florets in a pot of water until tender, about 8 to 10 minutes. While cauliflower is cooking, saute the garlic in the butter a minute or two and then set aside. Use a slotted spoon to drop cauliflower into a blender and add the garlic butter mixture, salt, pepper, and milk along with 1 cup of the cooking water. Blend until smooth. Pour mixture in a saucepan and add desired amount of Parmesan cheese and let simmer while you cook your pasta. (I added about 1/3 cup and topped with a little more to garnish along with some green onion).

TIP: The sauce tasted fab without the cheese added, so feel free to leave it out if you want to cut even more calories. I also still had zucchini from the garden, so I shredded it and added it to my angel hair pasta the last minute or two it was cooking. I drained it all in a colander and then tossed it in the sauce. (That's why you see green mixed in!) It was nummy!