Thursday, December 29, 2011

Andes Mint Cookies

How is it possible that something so simple can be so amazingly good? I made these cookies for a Christmas cookie exchange party and they were a hit. I needed something fast since we had a busy day with no time to slave over cookies, and I never expected them to taste like I spent 2 hours on them.

But they did. Wow, did they!

Even though they've got more of a holiday taste to them, I may just be caught making these all year round.

Andes Mint Cookies

1 Devil's Food Cake mix
1/2 cup oil
2 eggs
1 package of Andes Mints, unwrapped

Mix cake mix, oil, and eggs together. Drop spoonfuls of dough onto baking sheet (I smashed mine down slightly with the palm of my hand for a little bit flatter cookie). Bake at 350 degrees for 6-9 minutes. Don't cook any longer than that or they will be overdone.

Take sheet out of oven and while the cookies are still very hot, place an Andes Mint on top of each cookie. In about 5 minutes, the mint will be melted. Take a spoon and smooth out each mint like frosting, swirling slightly as you go.

I personally thought these tasted best when they were cooled off a bit. But delicious either way.

Original recipe from here.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Merry Mint Fudge

We've been really into mint desserts this holiday season. I've got another easy one coming up in a week or so as well. We made this one for a party at my husband's work and it was gone fast. It's just a basic fudge recipe, but the addition of the Keebler mint patties added just that subtle mint hint and made it that much better.

I'm not sure if you can get the Keebler mint patties called for in the recipe after the holidays, but any kind of mint cookie (I'm thinking Grasshoppers or Thin Mints) would probably work too.

Merry Mint Fudge

1 7 oz. jar marshmallow creme
1 1/2 cups sugar
2/3 cup evaporated milk
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1 12-oz. package (2 cups) semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips (I prefer milk chocolate when it comes to fudge)
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup Keebler Merry Mint Patties, chopped into small pieces

Line and 8 x 8-inch pan with aluminum foil, extending foil over ends of pan.

Lightly coat with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside. In a heavy 3-quart saucepan, combine the marshmallow creme, sugar, evaporated milk, and butter. Cook, stirring constantly, over medium heat until mixture comes to a full boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Gently boil for 4 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in chocolate chips and vanilla until melted. Fold in mint patties. Spread in prepared pan. Cool. Refrigerate until firm. Cut into squares and serve.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Lasagna Soup

Another Pinterest find! This one I consider fully dumped in the "score!" category. It. was. awesome. What makes this recipe stand out, by far, is the "cheesy yum" (the original recipe creator's term, not mine - but isn't it fun to say? cheesy yum, cheesy yum.) at the bottom of the bowl. It really does make the soup taste like lasagna.

I'll be making one big change next time I make it, though. The red pepper flakes have got to go. Even just a teeny little half teaspoon made this sucker spicy. My kids wouldn't even touch it after the first bite because, as my 3-year old kept saying, "it makes my throat hot!" And my husband and I agreed that heartburn is definitely in the forecast tonight. I guess we're all just wimps at our house. :) If you like a little heat in your food, by all means, add away!

I also made a few adjustments from the original recipe. I didn't have some of the ingredients, so I had to make do a bit. Still tasted awesome. So whether you decide to stick with the original recipe or go with my (let's admit it, cheaper) adjustments, you're definitely in for a treat.

Lasagna Soup

2 tsp. olive oil
1 lb. Italian sausage
1 C chopped onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
2 T. tomato paste
1 28-oz. can fire roasted diced tomatoes (I used regular)
2 bay leaves (didn't use, 'cause I couldn't find them :))
5 C chicken stock
8 oz. mafalda or fusili pasta (I used farfalle, a.k.a. bow tie!)
1/2 C finely chopped fresh basil leaves
Salt and pepper, to taste

For the "cheesy yum:"
8 oz. ricotta
1/2 C grated Parmesan cheese (I used the powdered stuff and it was still awesome)
1/4 tsp. salt
Pinch of pepper
2 C shredded mozzarella cheese

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add sausage, breaking up into bite-sized pieces, and brown for about 5 minutes. Add onions and cook until softened, about 6 minutes. Add garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes (optional). Cook for 1 minute. Add tomato paste and stir well to incorporate. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the tomato paste turns a rusty brown color.

Add diced tomatoes, bay leaves, and chicken stock. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Add uncooked pasta and cook until al dente (about 10-15 minutes). Don't over cook or pasta will get mushy! Stir in basil and season to taste with salt and pepper.

While the pasta is cooking, prepare the "cheesy yum." In a small bowl, combine the ricotta, Parmesan, salt, and pepper.

To serve, place a dollop of the cheesy yum in each soup bowl, sprinkle some of the mozzarella on top, and ladle the hot soup over the cheese. Sprinkle a bit more mozzarella over the top and serve.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Over the Top Cookies

No, they really are over the top! But that's not why they're called that. Apparently there's a cookie shop in Salt Lake called Over the Top Cookies and this is a copycat of one of their cookies. I've never had the original version, but I do know these are good. Better than good! Light, crispy outside, soft, gooey inside...not to mention they're quite a bit bigger than normal cookies. I know. Perfect cookie, right?

We tried them with both Reeses Peanut Butter Cups and M&Ms and I liked the M&Ms a lot better. Both are yummy, though.

Over the Top Cookies

3/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup peanut butter
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cup milk chocolate chip
M&Ms (medium-sized bag should work) OR other candy bar, chopped into bite-sized pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine butter, sugar, brown sugar, peanut butter, eggs, and vanilla. Sift baking soda, salt, and flour together, then add to peanut butter mixture. Mix in chocolate chips.

Using an ice-cream scoop or large tablespoon, scoop dough. Press dough with palm of hand until slightly flattened. Cook for 12 minutes.

Remove cookies from oven and lightly press candy into tops of cookies. Return to oven for 2 more minutes. Cool on baking sheet for 2 more minutes before moving to cooling rack.

Original recipe from here.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Chicken Noodle Soup

I have really been slacking off on this recipe-posting thing! I'm hoping to do better in the coming months. It is officially the holiday season, after all. And that means one thing...GOOD FOOD!

This recipe is my go-to recipe for fast homemade chicken noodle soup. It's really, really simple (and that's how we do things around here!) but really good. I'm sure there's fancier versions out there, but I'm all for throwing a few ingredients in the Crock Pot to get the job done.

This recipe comes from my 101 Things To Do With a Slow Cooker book, but I've adjusted it - mostly because the full recipe doesn't actually fit in my slow cooker. This feeds the four of us perfectly, though, with leftovers.

Slow Cooker Chicken Noodle Soup

3 cups hot water
1 Tbsp. instant chicken bouillon granules
1 large can (46 oz.) or 3 (14 oz.) cans chicken broth
1 1/2 cups cooked chicken
1 tsp. salt
15 baby carrots, cut in thirds
2 stalks celery, diced
3 cups egg noodles, uncooked

Combine all ingredients except egg noodles in greased slow cooker. Cover and cook on low heat 4-6 hours. 15-20 minutes before serving, stir in egg noodles. Cover and cook on low heat until soft. Do not overcook or noodles will be mushy!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Up until recently, I've been one of those people who thinks sweet potatoes (and yams) are for Thanksgiving dinner only. Not anymore! This recipe was SO good. And simple, which is always a plus in my book. And did I mention healthy? The only downside is that they smell like cinnamon rolls while they're cooking away in the oven. My husband was a little disappointed when he peeked and realized they were just potatoes. :)

The recipe idea came from Pinterest, and the actual site I got the recipe from is here.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes

3 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into bite size cubes
2 tsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp of brown sugar (more if you want it sweeter)
1 tsp of ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp of ground nutmeg
Pinch of ground ginger
Salt, to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat a small baking dish with cooking spray. Peel and dice the sweet potatoes into bite-size cubes and place in the baking dish. Melt butter in the microwave and pour over the potatoes along with the olive oil, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and salt. Add more sugar or cinnamon if desired. Toss to coat evenly.
Bake for 60 minutes. Stir potatoes once or twice to ensure they cook evenly.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Potato-Chip Chicken

Yes, you read that right. Potato chips. And chicken. It may sound a little weird, but it's goooo-oood. I love a good crunch to my chicken sometimes and potato chips are the perfect solution. And if you're thinking this sounds like a really fatty, unhealthy meal...well, you may be right. :) It could be worse, though. At least we didn't fry the chicken!

The other unique thing about this recipe is the dipping sauce. Maybe it's just me, but I thought it sounded like a random assortment of ingredients. But once again...turns out really good. (Promise.) It's basically just a creamy honey-mustard sauce. 

So break out the potato chips, people!

Potato-Chip Chicken

1 cup mayo
1/4 cup honey
2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp. creamy peanut butter
4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves, cut into strips (I just used chicken tenders, since I had them on hand)
1 1/2 cups finely crushed potato chips

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Mix mayo, honey, mustard, and peanut butter. Remove 1/2 cup of mixture; set remaining aside.

Dip chicken in mayo mixture first, coating thoroughly, then coat with crushed chips. Place on greased cookie sheet. (I suggest laying down a piece of tin foil, then spraying it. Cleaning up burned-on chicken is never fun.)

Bake for 7-9 minutes. Turn chicken and bake for an additional 5 minutes or until lightly browned. Serve with remaining dipping sauce.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Raspberry Crisp

Mmm...raspberries. I love raspberries, especially as a fruit filling in pies and such. When raspberries went on sale at our grocery store, we immediately bought a flat. Most of those beauties were used to make raspberry jam (which is a must-have around here - my family loves it), but there were three containers left over. Just enough to make Pioneer Woman's raspberry crisp.

It's a simple recipe - crisps aren't anything fancy - but oh my, was it good! Especially topped with icy-cold vanilla ice cream. Rave reviews all around!

Raspberry Crisp

2 1/2 cups raspberries
1 Tbsp (heaping) corn starch
2/3 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup oats
1/4 cup pecans, chopped (optional)
Dash of salt
6 Tbsp butter, cut into small pieces
Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, for serving

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium bowl, combine rinsed raspberries, corn starch, sugar, and vanilla. Stir and set aside.

In a separate bowl (or food processor) combine flour, sugar, brown sugar, oats, pecans (optional), dash of salt, and butter pieces. Cut together with a pastry cutter (or pulse in food processor) until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Add berry mixture to a small baking dish or pie pan. Sprinkle topping mixture all over the top. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until topping is golden brown.

Allow to sit for ten minutes before serving. Scoop out with a spoon and top with sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Monday, August 1, 2011

McD's Frozen Strawberry Lemonade

The homemade version, of course.

We discovered McDonald's frozen strawberry lemonade a few weeks back and both my husband and I have been completely hooked. I mean, have you tried those things?! Lemonade perfection! I'm normally not a big McDonald's fan, but they really scored big with this one in my book.

But, of course, heavenly lemonade doesn't come free. $1.80 (for a small) doesn't sound like much, but like I said...we've kind of been hooked and our "lemonade trips" have started to add up. So I set out to discover if a homemade version really could measure up. I basically followed this recipe, with a few changes. The Smuckers strawberry sauce I got ended up being chunky. I'm not the type who likes big chunks in my drink (and the McD's version definitely doesn't have chunks), so I adapted by throwing a few spoonfuls in the food processor and blending it. PERFECT strawberry smoothness.

I don't usually take pictures of my ingredients, but in this case I thought it might be helpful to see exactly what brands I used:

Frozen Strawberry Lemonade

3 cups Tropicana's Simply Lemonade (or make your own!)
3-4 heaping Tbsp. Smuckers strawberry topping, pureed in food processor

Pour lemonade in an ice cream maker and pack with rock salt/ice according to manufacturer's directions. Allow to run for 15-20 minutes or until desired consistency is reached.

To assemble, pour 1-2 tablespoons of strawberry sauce in bottom of each cup. Add frozen lemonade on top. Serve.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Spinach Mandarin Poppy Seed Salad

The recipe may be stolen, but the picture is by yours truly (as are all my other pictures). See? I'm not ALL thief. :)

I haven't been in much of a "cooking new recipes" mood lately. It's summer - I'd rather play than spend an hour slaving in the kitchen before dinner!

So I'm (once again) presenting another one of my favorite recipes I've gleaned from the Our Best Bites cookbook. I know it's easy to just go get it from there, but at least this way, I may point someone (and by that I mean the two people that read this blog) to the easiness and yumminess that is this salad.

Our family is small (three of us that eat big-people food), so I pretty much halved everything in the recipe below. The original makes 8-10 side dish servings. I also substituted chopped up mini cucumbers for avocados since my hubs doesn't like avocados. Like I said, it was really easy to throw together (especially if you just cook the bacon in the microwave), and tasted just like I expect summer foods to taste. Sweet. Tangy. Crisp. Light. Perfect. :)

Spinach Mandarin Poppy Seed Salad

8 ounces (1/2 bag) baby spinach
1/2-1 head Romaine lettuce, chopped
1/2 thinly sliced medium red onion
1 large avocado, cubed
8 oz. mozzarella or Swiss cheese, shredded
1 (12-oz.) package bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 (12-oz.) can Mandarin oranges, drained
Poppy seed dressing, to taste (I made it from scratch, but it would be just as easy to buy a bottle of the pre-made stuff)

Combine all ingredients except dressing in a large bowl. When ready to serve, toss with desired amount of salad dressing and serve immediately.

If you anticipate leftovers, just let your eaters dress their own salads because the dressing will make the greens wilt.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Taco Pizza

This recipe was posted on Pioneer Woman a while back. We tried it one night using my favorite homemade pizza dough recipe and loved it. I really like the idea of taco ingredients on a pizza! I think what really made this recipe, though, was the fried corn tortilla strips. It gave it an extra bit of crunch and reminded me a bit of the tortilla strips on Cafe Rio/Costa Vida's salad. In fact, now that I think about it, this recipe would me amazing with Cafe Rio/Costa Vida/Our Best Bites (phew!) Creamy Lime-Cilantro Dressing drizzled on it instead of the sour cream.

Yep, I just may have to remake this recipe this week using the salad dressing. (I just happen to have half of a batch in my fridge just waiting to be used.) mouth is watering just thinking about it...  :)

Taco Pizza

Favorite pizza dough recipe, prepared and rolled out
1 can (14-oz.) black beans
1 tsp. taco seasoning
4 whole corn tortillas, sliced into thin strips
½ cup canola oil, for frying
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese
1 head green leaf lettuce, sliced/shredded thin
2 whole ripe tomatoes, diced
½ cups cilantro leaves
¼ cups sour cream
3 Tbsp. hot sauce
(Or substitute the two previous ingredients with your favorite creamy salad dressing. :))

Monday, June 20, 2011


Fajitas always remind me of the restaurant Chili's. Usually I've ordered something safe and boring - like chicken - and then immediately regret my choice when a waiter walks by with a sizzling pan of fajitas, the smell wafting over our table. Then, by the time we go back again, I've forgotten just how good those fajitas look and smell, so I do the same thing over again. Solution: make my own at home!

This recipe came from one of my husband's co-workers years ago and it's definitely become a keeper in our family. I made a few changes to the original recipe (and I like my changes much better, if I do say so myself). I simply added some honey into the marinade and used a lime instead of a lemon at the end. It makes a difference, trust me.

And just because the recipe calls for good old chicken doesn't mean you couldn't mix it up a little bit. Have fun with the toppings, too, of course.


1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp. vinegar
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. honey
1 tsp. chili powder
1 clove garlic, minced
1 dash hot pepper sauce (I didn't include this because I'm a spice-wimp and I think the chili powder gives it enough kick)
1 1/2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into strips
1 Tbsp. oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 green bell pepper, sliced
1/2 lime, juiced

In a medium bowl, combine Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, soy sauce, honey, chili powder, garlic, and hot pepper sauce. Place chicken in sauce, and turn once to coat. Marinate for 30 minutes at room temperature, or cover and refrigerate for several hours.

Heat oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add chicken strips to the pan, and saute for 5 minutes. Add the onion and green pepper, and saute another 3 minutes. Remove from heat, and sprinkle with lime juice. Add additional toppings of your choice (we added some cheddar cheese and sour cream and it was perfect).

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

S'mores Cookies

I was looking for something different to take on our road trip to Yellowstone last week. I probably could have just stuck with a traditional chocolate chip cookie, but I saw this recipe on The Girl Who Ate Everything and thought, "Bingo!" We usually have S'mores when we camp with my husband's side of the family and they're, of course, a favorite treat. But there were no campfires this time around. The weather sentenced us to hotel stays, and hotels really aren't conducive to cooking around a fire. Enter: S'mores Cookies! The crunchy graham cracker bottom and little pockets of melted marshmallows were the perfect combination with a plain old classic chocolate chip cookie. They were almost as good as the real thing. :)

S'mores Cookies

11 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup chocolate chips (I used milk chocolate because they're my favorite)
1 cup mini marshmallows
3 regular-sized Hershey bars, broken into pieces
1-2 pkgs. graham crackers, broken into squares

Line baking pan(s) with waxed paper. (I used one 12x16 cookie sheet and I had less than a cup of cookie dough leftover. I could have used it up in a second pan, but I really didn't want to bother. Plus the dough was really yummy, so it may have disappeared soon after anyways.) Lay out graham crackers side by side as close as possible. I could fit 24 graham cracker squares on mine, with a bit of extra room around the edges.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon to combine. Set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix until combined. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and combine on low speed. Fold in chocolate chips and marshmallows. Cover dough and chill in refrigerator for 1 hour or overnight.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place a heaping tablespoon of dough on each graham cracker. Press down slightly with fingertips.

Bake for 5 minutes, then remove from oven and press one Hershey bar piece on top of each cookie. You could also break the Hershey bar into smaller pieces and place 2-3 on each cookie, depending on how much chocolate flavor you want.

Bake for 5-7 more minutes or until dough turns golden brown at the edges. Let cool for 1-2 minutes, then cut between graham crackers to form separate cookies and remove to wire rack (this is important - if you let them cool all the way, the marshmallow gets stuck together and makes them kind of hard to get apart).

Friday, June 3, 2011

Creamy Chicken and Noodles

I was flipping through my Better Homes and Garden cookbook a couple of weeks ago and discovered that there's a previously-unknown "crockery cooking" section right smack in the middle of the book. WHY I didn't know about it beforehand, I'm not quite sure - I've flipped through that cookbook dozens of times. I actually think the "crockery" bit threw me off. I mean, who calls their slow cooker a crockery cooker anymore? It's a Crock Pot, people. Quit trying to be all technical. :)

Anyways, I found this recipe for Creamy Chicken and Noodles and it sounded just right to make for the dreary, rainy Sunday we had last week. (Sigh. Summer, where are you??) It turned out pretty good, so of course, I had to share. I made a few adjustments to the original recipe, which I've included below.

Creamy Chicken and Noodles

1 1/2 cups sliced carrots
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup sliced celery
1 Tbsp. snipped fresh parsley
1 bay leaf (I used about 1 tsp. of the dried bay leaf I had in my spice cupboard)
3 medium chicken legs, skinned (I acutally used 3 chicken thighs because they shred really easily - and they're conveniently boneless)
1 can cream of chicken soup
1/4 cup water
1/2 tsp. dried thyme, crushed
1/2 tsp. salt (The original recipe didn't call for any salt and I thought it was a little bland, so this is my addition)
1/4 tsp. pepper
10 oz. wide egg noodles (about 5 cups)
1/2 cup frozen peas

In a 3 1/2- or 4-quart slow cooker place carrots, onion, celery, parsley, and bay leaf. Place chicken on top of vegetables. In a bowl stir together soup, water, thyme, salt, and pepper. Pour over chicken and vegetables.

Cover and cook on low for 8-9 hours or high for 4-5 hours. Remove chicken; shred and place back in cooker. Discard bay leaf (if you used a whole one - I obviously just left the flakes intact). Meanwhile, cook noodles according to package directions; drain. Stir peas into soup mixture in cooker.

To serve, pour chicken mixture over hot noodles; toss gently to combine. Season with additional salt and pepper.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

No-Bake Peanut Butter Cookies

There's a famous chocolate version of no-bake cookies out there that I think just about everyone has tried. While I really like that version as well, there's something about straight peanut butter that makes me choose this recipe almost every time. Of course, I should also mention that I'm a peanut butter-aholic. (Is that a word? It should be.) I love peanut butter. Like, eat-it-straight-off-the-spoon-for-a-snack kind of love.

If you're anything like me (and I know there are others out there!), this is the recipe for you. Even if you just like peanut butter without having a strange love affair with it (ahem.), you'll probably still think these are good.

But be warned: You will most definitely need a big, tall glass of milk with these babies!

No-Bake Peanut Butter Cookies

2 cups sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup margarine or butter
1/8 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup creamy peanut butter
3 cups oatmeal (I prefer the quick oats because they grains are much smaller, but any kind will work)

Spread a piece of wax paper or aluminum foil out on a flat surface. You'll need about 2 feet.

Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Add sugar, milk, and salt and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Boil for exactly one minute, then remove from heat. Add vanilla and peanut butter; stir until smooth. Mix in oatmeal.

Immediately drop in rounded tablespoonfuls on wax paper or foil. Let cool completely and enjoy.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Classic Baked Macaroni and Cheese

This is one of my mystery recipes. I wish I knew where it came from because it's really good and someone deserves credit for it. I know I found it after I got married, but it was back when I just jotted down recipes without thinking I'd ever need to know where it came from. It's one of my husband's favorite meals, that's for sure. If you like your mac and cheese more soupy, though, this probably isn't the recipe for you. It requires baking, which means the finished product is thicker. And cheesy. And creamy. And did I mention it's most definitely not low fat? :)

Classic Baked Macaroni and Cheese

6 Tbsp. flour
6 Tbsp. butter
4 cups half & half
1 lb. elbow macaroni
3 cups sharp cheddar cheese
1 1/2 cups grated parmesan cheese, divided
1 cups fresh bread crumbs

Cook macaroni according to package directions and set aside. In a sauce pan, melt butter; stir in flour to form a roux. Slowly whisk in warmed half & half, whisking until mixture comes to a boil. Add salt and pepper. Let sauce simmer about 2 minutes. In a large bowl, combine sauce, cooked macaroni, cheddar cheese, and 1 cup parmesan cheese. Pour mixture into 4-quart casserole dish. Combine bread crumbs and remaining 1/2 cup parmesan cheese; sprinkle over mixture.

Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Stacked Tacos

I got this recipe from the archives of Real Mom Kitchen. I was bored with our normal Taco/Burrito/Taco Salad rut and was hunting for a new twist on some easy Mexican food. I think I hit the jackpot with this one. We all loved it - including my 3-year old. The sauce reminds me of the sauce on Taco Bell's Mexican pizza. It's tomato base makes it really unique and delicious.

We ate it the first night on these stacked tacos and still had enough for Navajo tacos another night AND my daughter and I made quesadillas with it for lunch one day. I  especially recommend using it on Navajo Tacos. Wow it was good!

Okay, on the recipe. Oh, and ONE more thing. In this recipe, it says to fry the tortillas one at a time. This took me forever, so I recommend maybe experimenting with other options. I was thinking that brushing the tortillas with oil and broiling them until they're crispy might work. That way you could do a few at a time. Okay, now it's on to the recipe. :)

Stacked Tacos

1 lb. ground beef
1 (8 oz.) can of tomato sauce
1 (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes (Mine had lime juice and cilantro in them and I could definitely taste the difference. Yum!)
1 cup salsa
1 can condensed tomato soup
1 Tbsp taco seasoning
15 fajita-sized flour tortillas
Toppings of your choice

Brown ground beef in a skillet and drain.

In a large soup pot, combine tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, salsa, tomato soup, and taco seasoning.  Stir well.  Add ground beef and allow mixture to simmer for about 30 minutes to blend flavors.

Heat a small amount of cooking oil in a skillet.  Pan fry each tortilla in hot oil until brown and crisp.  Drain on paper towel.

To serve: Place a tortilla shell on each plate. Add 1/4 cup of saucy meat mixture on each tortilla. Sprinkle with cheese. Repeat two more times. You should now have a stack of 3 layers. Add desired toppings and serve! Makes 5 stacked tacos.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Strawberry Cheesecake Squares

We tried these last night and oh my word, they were delicious! We needed to use up the strawberries we bought on sale, so I searched Our Best Bites for some ideas and found this. My husband was a little reluctant at first (he's a cheesecake purist), but we both agree now that they were well worth the trip to the store at 6:00 at night to get the extra ingredients we needed.

If I were rating these recipes, this would receive 5 stars. Definitely.

Strawberry Cheesecake Squares

1 package Pecan Sandies Cookies, divided
1 1/2 Tbsp. butter, melted
11 oz. cream cheese (1 8-oz. package + 3 oz. of another package, not low-fat), softened
2 eggs
2/3 cup sugar
pinch salt
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. almond extract
2 cups sour cream
1 1/4 c. strawberry sauce - recipe found below (you can also use strawberry jam, jarred strawberry topping, or canned strawberry pie filling)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Spray a 9×13 pan with non-stick cooking spray. In a food processor, process 3/4 of the Pecan Sandies (reserve 6). Mix with melted butter and lightly press onto the bottom of the pan. Set aside.

In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, combine cream cheese, eggs, sugar, salt, vanilla, almond extract, and sour cream. Beat on high for 4-5 minutes. Spread half of the cheesecake batter onto the bottom of the 9×13 pan. Pour 3/4 c. of the strawberry sauce over the batter, spreading gently to cover the surface (it doesn’t have to be perfect). Spread remaining cheesecake batter over the strawberry layer and then spoon remaining 1/2 c. of strawberry sauce over the batter. Being careful not to cut into the surface of the cookie crust, swirl the strawberry mixture with a butter knife.

Bake for 25-35 minutes or until center is jiggly but not liquid. While baking, process remaining 6 cookies. During the last 10 minutes of baking, sprinkle the cookies on top of the cheesecake. Chill for at least 8 hours and cut into squares. If desired, drizzle remaining strawberry sauce over the individual squares.

Serve and wonder if you have, actually, gone to heaven.

Strawberry Sauce

1 pint (16 oz.) strawberries
1/3 cup white sugar
1 tsp. almond extract or vanilla extract
Wash strawberries and remove stems. If strawberries are really big (or if you don't think your blender can handle them), chop into smaller pieces.
Add ingredients to a blender* and pulse until smooth.
That's it!
*The original recipe actually says to add the ingredients to a saucepan first and cook for 5 minutes, then let the mixture cool before adding to the blender. I kinda didn't see that part and just put them straight in the blender. It still turned out yummy.

Saucy Chicken Italiano

I've been a pepper and onion despiser my entire life. Until my second pregnancy last summer, when I craved this dish all the time! I remember finding the recipe on Kraft Foods and thinking it sounded soooo good. I tried it and became addicted. I still love it, in fact. I guess I have pregnancy to thank for resolving my aversion to peppers and onions. :)

Saucy Chicken Italiano

4 small boneless skinless chicken breast halves (1 lb.)
onion, thinly sliced, separated into rings
1 red pepper, cut into thin strips
1 cup fat-free reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup Caesar dressing
1 cup Italian Five Cheese Blend
Pasta of your choice, cooked according to package directions (fettucini is usually best, but in the pictures we substituted "bow tie" pasta)
Heat large nonstick skillet sprayed with cooking spray on medium-high heat. Add chicken; cook 5 min. on each side or until cooked through.

Add vegetables, broth and dressing; cover. Cook on medium heat 6 to 8 min. or until vegetables are crisp-tender.

Spoon cooked pasta onto platter. Add vegetables, then top with chicken, sauce, and cheese.

BBQ Chicken & Bacon Stuffed Pizza Rolls

I've heard of pizza rolls, but have never tried them. Then, when I was browsing Our Best Bites, I saw these ones and decided to give them a whirl.

The first try, about a month and a half ago, did NOT turn out well. For some reason, I started late so I was a little stressed about getting them done and turns out the little buggers are kind of time consuming. But even though they were a little dry and I had mixed up the seasonings to sprinkle on the top so they tasted very strongly of Parmesan cheese, I recognized potential. A week or so ago I finally worked up the courage to try them again. Much better this time, but still not very pretty (as you can tell). I think they take practice.

My problem was fitting all those yummy fillings onto the teeny-tiny squares. Just about every one was overflowing. I guess I need to make the square bigger?

Also, the first time we made them, we thought they were a little dry. The second time, I added a little BBQ sauce and it really made a difference (thus the name change from the original recipe). They're really good, which is why they deserved a second chance!

BBQ Chicken & Bacon Stuffed Pizza Rolls

1 roll refrigerated pizza dough*
1 packet Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing mix
2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp. olive oil or melted butter
Sharp cheddar cheese
8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
About 1 cup shredded, cooked chicken
About 1/4-1/3 cup BBQ sauce
3/4 cup mayo
3/4 cup milk

First take 1 teaspoon of your ranch dressing mix and combine it with 1 1/2 T parmesan cheese. Set aside. Combine the remaining ranch mix with 3/4 C mayo and 3/4 C milk and place in the fridge to chill.

Preheat oven to heat specified on pizza dough package.

Unroll your pizza dough onto a lightly floured surface. Pat or roll the dough so it's about 12" by 8". You're going to want to cut it into 24 squares, so just eyeball it if you need to. Use a pizza cutter to slice the dough into 24 squares.

Place a small (about 1/2 tsp.) dollop of BBQ sauce each square. Then place cheese, chicken, and bacon on top of sauce on each square.

When all of your dough squares have cheese and toppings on them, carefully lift up each square and wrap the dough around the toppings. I grab the four corners first and then squeeze the seams shut. (This is the frustrating part, but don't worry about it looking pretty. I just kind of mushed the dough until everything was covered.)
Place the dough balls seam side down in a lightly sprayed pie pan (or similar sized dish). Brush with melted butter or olive oil and sprinkle with the parmesan-ranch mixture.

Place your rolls in the oven. Set your timer for 10 minutes and check on them after that. They may take up to 15 or 20 to be done. Take them out when they're lightly golden on top.

Serve them warm with a side of freshly made ranch dressing for dipping.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Paprika Chicken

This simple little recipe comes from my good friend Melissa, who also happened to be my roommate my freshman year of college. I'm pretty sure I stole this recipe from her sometime in the duration of that year. :) Melissa probably doesn't know this, but her little Paprika Chicken recipe has become a family favorite in the 5-plus years my husband and I have been married. There was a time when we found excuses to make this almost every week. It probably wouldn't come as a surprise that we also got a little sick of it after making it so many times and needed a break.

However, I broke out the recipe again the other day and rediscovered my love. This recipe will forever remind me of being a newlywed (with a teeny tiny budget - this baby is very inexpensive), cooking together with my new hubby in our miniscule little first apartment. Ah, good times. :)

Paprika Chicken

4 chicken breasts
2 Tbsp. butter
1/8 onion, chopped
1 cup chicken broth
1 tsp. paprika (I usually just sprinkle it generously over the top without measuring)
8 oz. sour cream
2 Tbsp. flour
Spaghetti noodles or rice

Melt butter. Add onion and saute until golden brown. Pour in broth, then add chicken and paprika. Cover and cook for about 15 minutes, turning chicken occasionally until cooked through.

In separate bowl, mix sour cream and flour together. Add to chicken mixture; stir and cook until thick.

Serve over cooked noodles or rice.

Chicken Enchilada Soup

This probably lands a spot as my #1 favorite soup recipe right now. I couldn't say it tastes exactly like an enchilada, but it's still amazing in its own creamy, mexican-styled soup way. It's also another easy, throw-it-in-the-Crock-Pot recipe - always nice on those Sundays when I need to let something cook while we're at church for three hours.

My mom recommended the recipe to me (I think she may have gotten it from Studio 5?), and I'm pretty sure Real Mom Kitchen has a version close to, if not exactly like it.

Chicken Enchilada Soup

1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can diced tomatoes (better with the "petite diced" version, in my opinion)
1 pkg. frozen corn OR 1 can corn, drained
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup bell pepper, chopped (I think red tastes better, but green is prettier :))
2 chicken breasts
1 can red enchilada sauce
1 can condensed cream of chicken soup
1 1/2 cups milk
Shredded Pepper jack cheese

In a slow cooker, combine beans, tomatoes, corn, onion, and pepper. Place the two chicken breasts on top of mixture. In a large bowl, whisk together enchilada sauce, soup, and milk until smooth. Pour sauce mixture over ingredients in slow cooker.

Cover; cook on low for 6 to 8 hours or on high 3 to 4 hours. Remove chicken and shred into bite-sized pieces. Add chicken back into soup and stir.

Serve and sprinkle individual servings with Pepper jack cheese. Also good with avocado, sour cream, and/or crushed tortilla chips.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Fruit Dip

I'm pretty sure everyone has a favorite fruit dip recipe. This one is definitely mine. I've never met another recipe like it anywhere. I often describe it as tasting like frosting, it's that sweet. Basically, it's a little slice of sweet, fluffy heaven.

I also personally like it best on strawberries, but it works great on other fruit, too. It does, however, go better with fruits that are a bit more "tart." I tried it with really sweet grapes once and it was a little too rich. Did I mention this stuff is really sweet?  ;)

Fruit Dip

1 can sweetened condensed milk
4 oz. vanilla pudding mix (They don't sell pudding mix in 4 oz., so I buy a 5 oz. box and just pour most of it in)
1/2 cup cold water
1 8-oz. tub Cool Whip

Whisk milk, pudding mix, and water together in medium bowl until well blended. Refrigerate for about 10 minutes to let pudding set up a bit. Stir in Cool Whip. Serve!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Pulled Chicken Sandwiches

Pulled Chicken Sandwiches

1 lb. boneless skinless chicken thighs
1 onion, sliced
3/4-1 cup barbeque sauce
1/4 cup water
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 French bread baguette,  16 to 20-inches long (I usually just buy hard rolls)
4 slices of cheese

Cook chicken and onions in skillet on medium-high heat 8 min., stirring occasionally. Add barbeque sauce, water, and sugar; stir. Reduce heat to medium; cover. Cook an additional 7 min. or until chicken is cooked through.

Remove chicken from skillet. Shred chicken with fork or chop into small pieces. Return to skillet; stir until evenly coated with sauce. Cut baguette crosswise into four pieces. Cut each piece lengthwise in half. Fill with chicken mixture and cheese.

Ham Fried Rice

This recipe comes from my good friend, Melinda. She's an awesome cook and I asked her permission to steal this off of her family recipe blog. (Thanks Melinda!) It's another one of my very favorite recipes. We make it all the time. It's easy and so, so tasty. My favorite part about it is that it's just a little bit sweet, giving it kind of a teriyaki flavor or something. You'll love it!

And I have a confession to make. Melinda's original recipe says specifically to NOT use Minute - or instant - rice. And....errrrr....I do. I'm a complete spaz when it comes to cooking the real stuff (it comes out crunchy every time), so I cheat. And since I don't know what it tastes like with "real" rice, I can't really compare, but I still think it tastes pretty amazing. :) So do whatever you're comfortable with.

Ham Fried Rice

4-5 cups cooked long grain white rice (I actually use half brown and half white rice... a little more healthy :))
4 eggs
6 green onions
1 cup diced, cooked ham
3 Tbsp. oil
3 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 Tbsp. sugar

Place oil in preheated frying pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper; add eggs. Break yolks and cook until firm, then cut into shreds. Add ham, rice, and green onions. Season with soy sauce and sugar (may adjust amounts to taste). Stir and cook over moderate heat for about 5 minutes, turning carefully.

Smoky Honey Mustard Pork Chops

Another recipe from Our Best Bites. It probably won't be the last, either. There are tons of recipes on there that I want to try! This one was way easy. I'm kind of loving pork chops lately (they're a lot cheaper than I had in my head, plus I think they're yummy) and this recipe caught my eye.
I didn't have liquid smoke, though, so I substituted some steak seasoning we had in the cupboard. I think it's called "Spade L Ranch" seasoning. Anyways, I think any kind of meat seasoning would work fine. Of course, maybe the liquid smoke is simply amazing and I'm totally missing out. You're welcome to try it, of course. :)
Smoky Honey Mustard Pork Chops

4 4-6 oz. pork loin or sirloin chops
Salt and pepper
Liquid Smoke (or meat seasoning)
3 Tbsp. Dijon or whole grain mustard
1 1/2 Tbsp. honey
2 cloves minced garlic

Sprinkle pork chops with salt and freshly ground pepper. Give them a liberal dousing of liquid smoke (you can usually find this either near the seasonings or the BBQ sauce/condiments in the grocery store). Set aside.

Heat oven broiler to high or preheat grill. Combine honey, garlic, and mustard. Place pork chops on broiler pan/grill and cook for 4-5 minutes. Turn and cook another 4-5 minutes. You want the internal temperature to be at least 165 (that's a little pink inside), but you also don't want to overcook them because they'll become tough. So you may need to adjust your cooking times a little, bearing in mind that they have two minutes to cook after the initial 8-10 minutes.

Baste with honey mustard mixture and cook an additional minute. Turn and baste other side; cook for one additional minute. Remove from heat and allow to stand a few minutes to seal in the juices.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Buttermilk Caramel Syrup

Once again, the picture isn't great. Sorry. :)

This is another recipe I got from Our Best Bites. And oh boy, is it good. I honestly felt a little guilty eating it for breakfast because it definitely tasted more like dessert. Of course, normal maple syrup is pretty sugary-sweet too, so it shouldn't have. Basically, it's like pouring caramel sauce on your French toast (or pancakes, or whatever). It was so good.

Buttermilk Caramel Syrup

3/4 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 stick (1/2 cup) real butter (I cheated and used margarine and it still tasted divine)
2 Tbsp. corn syrup
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla

Combine buttermilk, sugar, butter, corn syrup, and baking soda in a large pot. (I used a huge 5 quart pot and it was a little bit too big. Make sure it's at least a 3 quart, though, I would say.) Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to low and cook, still stirring frequently, for 8-9 minutes. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Skim the foam off the top (optional - I just stirred it in really well) and serve.

Refrigerate any leftovers.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Creamy Chicken Taquitos

I just discovered the Our Best Bites website a couple of weeks ago. I'm in love. So is everyone else in the food blog kingdom, I think, because they're crazy popular. And I can see why. I tried this Creamy Chicken Taquitos recipe from their site and am seriously impressed. They're so, so good! The hubby and I both love frozen taquitos but they're expensive and let's face it... I really have no idea what really goes into those babies. This homemade version is actually quite healthy. And they don't taste healthy - the best part. :)

The only downer was that they do take a bit of time to make. Of course, I cooked and shredded my own chicken, so that may have been the problem. If you used canned chicken, it would probably be much easier.

Oh, and the corn tortillas? Total pain. Make sure you microwave them the whole 30 seconds AND use the paper towel method. Those babies will crumble if you don't.

Creamy Chicken Taquitos

1/3 cup (3 oz) cream cheese
1/4 cup green salsa
1Tbsp fresh lime juice
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp granulated garlic, or garlic powder
3 Tbsp chopped cilantro
2 Tbsp sliced green onions
2 cups shredded cooked chicken
1 cup grated pepperjack cheese

small corn tortillas (the recipe says flour ones work good as well)
kosher salt
cooking spray
Heat oven to 425. Line a baking sheet with foil and lightly coat with cooking spray.

Heat cream cheese in the microwave for about 20-30 seconds so it's soft and easy to stir. Add green salsa, lime juice, cumin, chili powder, onion powder and granulated garlic. Stir to combine and then add cilantro and green onions. Add chicken and cheese and combine well.

You can prepare up to this step ahead of time. Just keep the mixture in the fridge.

Work with a few tortillas at a time and heat in the microwave until they are soft enough to roll without cracking. It helps to place them between damp paper towels. Usually 20-30 seconds will do it. (30. Do 30... trust me on this.) If you find yours are cracking when you roll them or are coming unrolled right away, just try heating them longer and try the paper towel thing.

Place 2-3 Tbsp of chicken mixture on the lower third of a tortilla, keeping it about 1/2 inch from the edges.
Then roll it up as tight as you can. Place seam side down on the baking sheet. Lay all of the taquitos on the baking sheet and make sure they are not touching each other. Spray the tops lightly with cooking spray and sprinkle some kosher salt on top.

Place pan in oven and bake for 15-20 minutes or until crisp and the ends start to get golden brown.

Great dipped in salsa, sour cream, or guacamole.

Red and White Pasta

This is another really easy throw-together dish from Real Mom Kitchen. And since it only requires five really simple ingredients, chances are good I'll have what I need in my pantry.

The only change I made from her original recipe was to use less cheese. Three cups total seemed like a lot to me (although I'm sure it would have been nice and gooey and cheesy). I reduced it to just dividing the two cups of mozzarella and it still turned out really good.

Red and White Pasta

4 cups penne (or similarly sized) noodles
1 (15 oz.) jar Alfredo sauce
1 (24 oz.) jar marinara sauce
2 cups mozzarella cheese
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese (optional)
Fresh parsley (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Cook and drain pasta according to package directions.
3. Mix Alfredo and marinara sauces together in a large mixing bowl. (By the way, don't use a white plastic bowl for this... it stains big time. I may or may not speak from experience. :))
4. Add mozzarella cheese (I did about 1 1/2 cups) and combine. Add drained pasta
5. Pour into a 9x13 casserole dish and bake 25-30 minutes until bubbly. Sprinkle Parmesan (or the remaining 1/2 cup of mozzarella) on top and bake for another 5 minutes.
6. Sprinkle with fresh parsley. Serve and enjoy!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Ooey-Gooey Caramel Corn

I'm kinda picky when it comes to my caramel corn. The crunchy stuff just doesn't do it for me. It's probably because I grew up eating this recipe, which is about as ooey-gooey, sticky, and messy as you can get.

Basically, it's awesome.

(It also makes a ton. I have a giant mixing bowl that I use just for this that says it holds 32 cups. The bowl is about 3/4 full when it's finished, so you do the math. :) It might be good to half the recipe if you're just making it for a few people.)

Ooey-Gooey Caramel Corn

3/4 cup unpopped popcorn kernals*
1/2 cup butter
1 can evaporated milk
2 cups brown sugar
1 cup corn syrup

Pop kernals in a popcorn popper, making sure you use your largest bowl; set aside.

In large saucepan, combine butter, evaporated milk, brown sugar, and corn syrup and heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Let boil until mixture reaches soft-ball stage - about 235-245 degrees. (Or, if you don't have a candy thermometer - like me - just place drops of the liquid in a cup of cold water. If they form into any semblance of a soft little ball instead of just dissolving into the water, it's done.)

Drizzle over the popcorn, mixing well until kernals are coated.

Serve immediately. (It's definitely yummiest when it's fresh - still pretty good for a day or two after, though, if you keep it covered.)

*I have a hot-air popcorn popper that is perfect for this. However, if you don't have one of those, you could use another method or just microwave popcorn. You'll just need about 15-20 cups of unsalted, unbuttered popped popcorn.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Nat's Famous Banana Bread

Okay, maybe famous is a bit of an exaggeration. But out of all my recipes, this one has probably sparked the most compliments. (Of course, that totally might be because I give this one away and people are just being nice - but let's just pretend that's not it, shall we? :))

I think what sets this recipe apart from normal banana bread recipes is the streusel topping. Yum. It's crumbly and sugary and just... yum. But enough of the rambling. Here's the recipe (from the Better Homes and Garden cookbook - in case you were wondering):

Banana Bread

2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
2 beaten eggs
1 1/2 cups mashed bananas (about 5 medium)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup oil OR melted butter
1/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional - I don't put them in because I don't like nuts in my bread)
1 recipe streusel topping (below)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease bottom and 1/2 inch up the sides of one 9x5x3-inch pan; set aside. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Make a well in ceter of flour mixture; set aside.

In a medium bowl combine eggs, bananas, sugar, and oil/butter. Add egg mixture all at once to flour mixture. Stir just until moistened (batter should be lumpy). Fold in nuts. Spoon batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle streusel topping over batter.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 55-60 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. If necessary, cover loosely with foil to prevent overbrowning. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan. Cool completely on a wire rack. Wrap and store overnight before slicing. (Yeah, right. I eat this baby just as soon as it looks like it won't fall apart. Warm, fresh banana bread... heaven!)

Streusel Topping

In a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup packed brown sugar and 3 tablespoons flour. Using a pastry blender, cut in 2 tablespoons butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in 1/3 cup chopped walnuts (again, I don't use the nuts. I like it better without, but it's a personal preference.)