Sunday, December 23, 2012

Skillet Lasagna

You know those boxes of helper for ground meat that shall remain nameless?? Well, I wanted something quick for dinner without resorting to that and came up with the idea of using those quick cook lasagna noodles in an untraditional way. This is what I came up with. It was done in less than 20 minutes and that includes the time it takes to brown the meat. Definitely awesome for those times when you want a pasta dish and don't want the extra steps of boiling the noodles...

2tbsp evoo
8oz chopped mushroom
2tbsp minced garlic
1-lb ground meat
Seasonings of choice (I used italian herbs, pepper, and salt)
24oz jar tomato sauce
1 box oven ready lasagna noodles, broken into 1in pieces

1. Heat the evoo in a large skillet then add mushrooms and garlic. Sautee until fragrant and the garlic starts to brown.

2. Add in meat, season, and cook until brown. Add in pasta sauce plus 2cu water and noodles. Cover and stir every five minutes for about 15 minutes until the pasta is as tender as you like.

3. Serve and enjoy!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Pecan Studded Pumpkin Cupcakes

As I mentioned in my pumpkin cupcake with cream cheese filling recipe one of my coworkers suggested adding pecans to the cream cheese filling. I also added a sprinkle of brown sugar and pecans on top before baking for even more flavor. Delicious!

Healthy Brownies

One of my co-workers is a fitness and nutrition buff. I am always bringing baked goods in to work with me and as he's eating my brownies he talks about how he's going to get fat with me working there. His birthday is tomorrow so I figured I would be nice and bake a lowfat brownie. I wasn't sure how to substitute the 1 1/2 sticks of butter from my usual brownie recipe so after searching the web for a lowfat brownie recipe I decided to give these a try. Some reviews said they're very cakey and they did seem to rise more than my usual brownie recipe does. I put sprinkles on top for some birthday festiveness. I modified the recipe some and this is what I did. I can tell you they came out super moist, but I didn't taste them. I will let you know tomorrow how he likes them!

1/2 cup applesauce
2 small or medium bananas mashed
1 1/2 cup sugar substitute
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups finely shredded zucchini
1 cup all purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chunks

1. Preheat oven to 350* and lightly grease a 9x13 pan.

2. Blend applesauce, banana, and sugar substitute together. Slowly add in vanilla and zucchini.

3. Stir together all dry ingredients an add into wet ingredients. Fold in chocolate chunks and spread into prepared pan. Bake for 25min until they lightly spring back when touched.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Crock Pot Chicken Broth

As a working mom I rely on easy to prepare meals to get nutritious food into my kids without having to hit the drive-thru every night. One of my favorite things to do is cook well seasoned boneless, skinless chicken breast in the crock pot. I buy a large pack at Walmart (usually 8-10 breast), place them all into the crock with plenty of seasoning, and fill it to the top with water. The chicken is cooked and incredibly moist which is important when you're going to be further cooking it in other recipes. I'm also left with this wonderful broth to use as a soup base or in recipes later. Doing my chicken this way allows me to make 4-5 different meals from that one pack of chicken.

Coconut Rice Pudding with Mango

My boys and I go on dinner dates to an Asian fusion restaurant that serves a delicious sticky rice with mango. Personally I LOVE the flavor combination of coconut and mango. I also happen to LOVE rice pudding so this was an easy recipe to put together. The sugar crust is like the icing on the cake. There's no more satisfying way to end a meal than breaking into the crunchy sugar crust on a brulee. Sadly I have an electric stove and no kitchen torch so my sugar didn't brown as much, but it still had that nice crunch!

1 can pure coconut milk
1 cu milk
1/3 cu jasmine rice
1 egg
1/4cu brown sugar
1 tsp coconut (or vanilla) extract
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 cu diced mango
2tbsp granulated sugar

1. Combine coconut milk, milk, and jasmine rice in medium saucepan. Bring to a gentle boil, turn to low/medium and cook for 20 minutes slowly stirring.

2. Whisk together egg and brown sugar. Slowly add in 1/2cu of hot rice to temper (warm eggs without scrambling) the eggs. Pour egg mixture into pot with cinnamon and mix well. Continue cooking at least 10 minutes while stirring until rice is ideal doneness. You can add additional milk to keep the mixture creamy until it reaches the texture you want.

3. Pour into buttered casserole dish and top with mango. Sprinkle sugar on top and broil or torch for a few minutes until the sugar on top is browned like a creme brulee.

Pumpkin cupcakes with cream cheese filling

 FALL HAS ARRIVED!!! This is one of my favorite seasons because it's not too hot and it's not too cold. It's the best time of year for produce because you still have a lot of the summer seasonal veggies and fruits available, but the heartier items are available now as well. Pumpkin is one of my favorite fall squashes, but it's not a flavor everyone loves. These pumpkin cupcakes with cream cheese filling are perfection. You could put the cream cheese on top as a frosting, but I personally love having it as a center. I took these to work and one of my coworkers recommended adding pecans to the filling. I think I will try those next!

8oz block lowfat cream cheese, softened
1/4cu sugar
1tsp vanilla

1. Blend all ingredients together and allow to chill overnight.

1 box spice cake mix
1 small can pure pumpkin puree

1. Preheat the oven to 350* and line cupcake pan with liners.

2. Blend all ingredients together until well combined. This will be a very dry dough and not what you're used to when you think cupcake dough.

3. Fill 1/3 of the cupcake liner with dough and create a small indention. Add a small amount of cream cheese and cover with more dough so the liner is only about 2/3 full. I used my cookie scoop for the cream cheese and put half a scoop into each cupcake.

4. Place into oven and bake about 20 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the side comes out clean of dough. Don't overbake as these cupcakes can get dry quickly.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

It's been a while....

Sorry it's been FOREVER since I last posted on the blog. There were a lot of really crazy things going on in my life. New job, the end of a relationship, and a major adjustment period. It's just my boys and I so you will see a lot more of the comfort food classics I enjoy cooking. Be prepared for many crock pot, one pot or casserole meals as well. It's just so much easier on me after a long day of work to have dinner already waiting for us or ready in the time it takes for us to settle down once we're home...

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Crafty Roxy

By far my favorite pattern to make for babies would be this star shaped blanket. It comes together quickly and is a unique gift. I especially like it for time spent at daycare because its so different there's no worries someone else can take it and claim its their own...

Monday, July 2, 2012

My lunch today...

I started a new job where it's easier to pack my lunch each day, so stay tuned for what I'm having.

Today I'm having the tuna salad I made last night on a toasted bagels thin with spinach, pineapple chips, and green grapes. The tuna salad is water packed tuna that was drained, chopped hard boiled egg, shredded carrot, diced bell pepper (red, orange, and yellow), chopped yellow onion, chives, mayo, and mustard.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Crockpot Beef Stroganoff

The temperature here in North Carolina has been over 100* for the last weeks which makes standing in front of a hot stove or baking something almost unbearable. That's why I haven't posted much because we've been having leftovers and simple foods. I decided though to try a new recipe I've made from a few different beef stroganoff recipes floating around the internet. This is usually served over egg noodles, but would be just as good over mashed potatoes.

2-3lbs beef stew meat
1-2 cans golden mushroom soup
1 envelope onion soup/dip mix
1 small onion, chopped
1 cup frozen corn kernels
8oz sliced mushrooms
2tbsp worchestershire sauce
4oz cream cheese
1/2cu sour cream

1. Place all ingredients except cream cheese in slow cooker and cook on low for 8hrs. If you like a thicker sauce only add one can of soup. I used 2.

2. Stir in cream cheese and sour cream just before serving.

Monday, June 25, 2012

What's for dinner? Monday Edition...

Tonight, against my better judgement in this 80* weather, I made teriyaki country ribs with potatoes and steamed broccoli for dinner. I basted the ribs every 30 minutes with my favorite teriyaki sauce. They baked an hour at 350* and 30 minutes at 425*. You can cook them at 350* the whole time, but it will take much longer to get that fall off the bone tenderness...

Friday, June 22, 2012

Spinach Artichoke Dip

This is one of my favorite dips ever. I don't think I've been to a restaurant that serves it where I haven't tasted it. It's surprisingly easy to prepare at home and can even be low fat with a few modifications. I used an artichoke dip that was just like marinted artichoke hearts except already chopped. I will give you my regular and lowfat recipes as they cook the same.


2 8oz packages cream cheese, softened
12oz bag chopped frozen spinach, defrosted and drained
10-13oz jar or can marinted artichoke hearts, chopped if needed
6 slices cooked bacon, crumbled
2cu shredded white cheese, swiss or parmesan are good divided into 1 1/2cu and 1/2cu
Red pepper flakes

1 8oz package low fat or Neufatschel cream cheese, softened
1 can navy beans, rinsed and mashed
12oz bag chopped frozen spinach, defrosted and drained
10-13oz jar or can marinted artichoke hearts, chopped if needed
2cu low fat cheese, divided into 1 1/2cu and 1/2cu
Red pepper flakes

1. Preheat oven to 375*. 2. Combine all ingredients using 1 1/2cu cheese. Season to taste. 3. Sprinkle remaining 1/2cu cheese on top and place into oven. Bake for 15-20 minutes until bubbling and browned on top. 4. Let sit for 5 minutes. It can be served warm or cold with a choice of dippers.

Blue Moon Shandy

Typically a shandy is a mix of beer and lemonade. You can use any combination of citrus and beer, but I have found that a light wheat ale is best. I like the mix of this sweet yet tart Trader Joe's pomegrante limeade and Blue Moon. If you really like beer do a 3 to 1 beer to lemonade ratio. If you're easing into brews do the opposite. I usually have a half and half mix that's perfection on a warm night like we're having!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Oatmeal Scotchies

This is a favorite recipe I got years ago from Nestle. It can be made with quick or old fashioned oats. Sometimes I toss in walnuts, but these quick baking cookies are delicious without. As with all baking recipes, I suggest you leave the eggs and butter out overnight. They won't spoil and they come to room temperature so they're perfect to bake with. If its hot where you live like here in North Carolina the butter will be soft enough to easily cream by hand!

1 1/4 cup all purpose flour 1 tsp baking soda 1/2 tsp salt 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon 1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine, softened 3/4 cup granulated sugar 3/4 cup packed brown sugar 2 large eggs 1 tsp vanilla extract or grated orange peel 3 cups quick or old fashioned oats 1 2/3 cups (11oz bag) butterscotch chips 1. Preheat oven to 375*. Combine flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a small bowl. 2. Beat butter, both sugars, eggs, and vanilla or orange peel in large bowl. Slowly beat in flour. Using a rubber spatula fold in oats and butterscotch chips. 3. Drop rounded tablespoons onto ungreased (or parchment lined) cookie sheet. Bake for 7-8 minutes for a chewy cookie or 9-10 minutes for crisp. Cool on sheet for 2 minutes before moving to wire racks to cool completly. *I cook mine for 8 minutes. The cookies will be brown around the edges and look slightly under done in the center. When they cool they're perfection!*

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Frosty berry lemonade

Today my boys and I were going to go to the pool to cool off, but it was closed for repairs. Instead we washed my car and played in the water. When we came inside I wanted something refreshing to drink and immediately thought of the strawberry lemonade you get at restaurants with the berries floating in it. I put a twist on that by blending everything together using a Mic of blueberries and strawberries. It was a bit tart and sweet. Plus you get in some fruit servings from using whole berries. Delicious!

1/2 cu lemon juice
2cu water
2cu frozen berries
Sweetener to taste

Place all the ingredients into your blender until well combined. Serve immediately or freeze in ice pop molds for a refreshing warm weather treat!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Crock Pot Curry

Today I decided to take a flavor trip to Asia with a crock pot curry. I used chicken thighs because they were the cheapest meat and the deep flavor of dark meat is great in a curry. This will be served over brown and jasmine rice cooking in my small crock pot. I also got some naan bread which is kind of like a pita without the pocket.

8 boneless skinless chicken thighs
6 small red potatoes, cut into eigths
1/2 bag frozen California blend veggies
6oz sliced okra
1 jar curry sauce

1. Layer potatoes, okra, and frozen veggies in crock pot. Add half the jar of sauce.

2. Place chicken on top, pour over rest of sauce, and allow to cook for 6-8hrs.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Mark's Tacos

For as long as I can remember my dad has made his tacos like this and they're DELICIOUS! You fry the meat right onto the shell so there's no fear of the meat falling out while you dig in. I have made these tacos with pork, beef, chicken, and turkey so it's up to you what to use!

1lb seasoned ground meat
Corn tortillas

1. Place about 2tbsp of meat onto one half of a tortilla and use a fork to press it down to form a thin layer.

2. Heat 1/2cu of oil in a large skillet and add in your tortillas so they lay in the oil just past the meat part of the tortilla. Let cook for one minute and fold in half.

3. Allow to continue to cook, flipping frequently, until desired crispiness is achieved. Place upside down on a paper towel lined plate to drain, stuff with your favorite toppings, and enjoy!

*Note: I set myself up a little prep station by the stove when I'm doing these as they don't take very long to cook. That way I can prep tacos as there are some in the oil cooking while keeping an eye on them.

Chicken Bacon Ranch Casserole

This meal combines  two of my favorite meats chicken and bacon. Frozen veggies, a cream sauce, and canned biscuits round this out for a delicious casserole sure to please the whole family! The biscuits on top and bottom are crunchy, but those that are touching the chicken stay doughy like dumplings.

3 chicken breast, diced
6 slices cooked bacon, crumbled
2cu cheese sauce
1/2cu ranch
16oz bag frozen mixed veggies
2 cans refrigerated biscuits
1/2cu shredded cheese

1. Preheat oven to 375*. Sauté chicken in a pan until cooked through, about 15min. Put chicken and next 4 ingredients in a large bowl. Mix well. 

2. Open one can of biscuits and press to cover bottom of baking pan. Spread chicken mixture over biscuits. Tear the other can of biscuits into pieces and cover the top of the casserole. 

 3. Sprinkle with cheese and place into oven. Bake for about 15 minutes until the top biscuits are browned and its bubbling. Cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Carraba's Chicken Bryan remix

For date night a week ago we went out to Carraba's to eat and my boyfriend had their chicken bryan. It was a chicken breast topped with basil, sundried tomatoes, goat cheese, and a lemon butter sauce. I got one bite of it and decided it definitely needed to be made again at home. I marinated my chicken overnight with Italian seasonings, a little oil from the sundried tomatoes, and lemon juice. This chicken starts in a skillet and finishes in the oven. Mine was served over whole wheat angel hair pasta with steamed veggies.

4 boneless skinless chicken breast
Extra virgin olive oil
Basil cut into thin strips
Sundried tomatoes in oil
Goat cheese cut into thin disk
1/2 cu butter or margarine
1tbsp flour
3tbsp lemon juice
2 garlic cloves minced

1. Preheat the oven to 425*. Put a small amount of EVOO into a skillet and cook the chicken on medium high for 10 minutes each side. You don't need to move the chicken around in the skillet. Just allow it to brown up nicely. Transfer the chicken to a baking dish.

2. Put the butter into the skillet you cooked the chicken in and melt. Add the garlic cloves and sautee for a minute before sprinkling in the flour. Allow this to cook for a minute then whisk in the lemon juice. Pour over the top of the chicken breast. Place into oven and bake for 10 minutes.

2. Layer the goat cheese and sundried tomatoes on top. Place back into the oven until the cheese is bubbly. Remove and immediately top with basil. Allow to rest for 5 minutes and serve.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Country style ribs

I baked these ribs low and slow for over 4 hrs on 325*. They were dry rubbed with McCormick bourbon brown sugar and chipotle seasoning packets overnight. I placed them on a parchment lined cookie sheet (I would have used foil, but I was out).  I flipped them every 30 minutes while basting with some hickory brown sugar Jack Daniels bbq sauce. Cooked until falling off the bone tender and that slight charring I love in a rib. I also roasted corn in the husk for about 30 minutes until it was done. The corn steams in the husk. Nothing special done to it. Just tossed it right in the oven on the rack.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Homemade trail mix

I travel to different stores daily for my job and hate eating fast food when I'm feeling munchy. I bought craisins and a deluxe nut mix (aka the one with no peanuts) today. When I got home I used snack sized baggies to make my own trail mix baggies with about a 1/4cu of each in a baggies. You could add in mini chocolate chips if you have Jo worries about them melting or mini pretzels. They're easy to just grab and go for light lunch with fruit and milk.

Sunday morning breakfast

Waffles with honey goat cheese, strawberries and a drizzle of syrup, eggs, and a 4 berry banana smoothie...

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Lunch for the kiddos

A tortilla spread with pb and rolled around a banana, orange, vanilla yogurt with strawberries, and snack mix of cherrios, craisins, and sesame cashews...

Monday, May 21, 2012

Crock Pot Chili

One of the best parts about cooking chili in the slow cooker is you can start with dry beans and frozen meat, but a delicious meal is ready come dinner time. It's much more affordable than cracking open cans and you control the seasonings used. I like to use a bagged 15 bean mix so I get variety of beans, peas, and lentils without buying a bunch of different kinds. This recipe can be used for any combination of meats and beans. Today I used some cubed beef chunks that I bought on sale. If you want to use ground meat I would suggest you brown it off before adding to the crockpot. You don't have to cook it through all the way. Just enough so it starts to crumble or you will end up with one big chunk in the pot come dinner time. I always season my meat and allow it to marinade then add additional seasoning once the food hits the crockpot. I don't have much room in my kitchen for a full array of cooking supplies, so the convenient seasoning packets you find in most stores are my favorite.

1lb of meat
1 1/2cu frozen corn kernels
1 small sweet onion, diced
1/2 red, yellow, and orange bell pepper, diced
1/2 20oz bag of 15 bean soup
2 10oz cans of tomatoes and chile, undrained

Add all of the ingredients to the crock pot and turn on to your desired time. I suggest using a slow cooker liner for easy cleanup. The beans DO NOT have to be soaked overnight and the meat doesn't have to be unfrozen. If you prefer your chili to be thick no additional liquid is needed. Add up to 1cu of liquid to the chili if you like it to be a bit thinner. You can always thicken it up by boiling off some of the liquid later.

Before cooking

After cooking

Surf and Turf Dinner for 4 less than $15

I'm doing a simple surf and turf dinner tonight for the family. Chuck steaks, salmon fillets, steamed veggies, and a quickie scallopped style potatoe. The steak and salmon were each less than $5 a pack for four pieces at Walmart. For the potatoes I scrub them, pricked all over and nuked until just tender. Then I sliced them, placed into a buttered pan, topped with bechamel sauce, and sprinkled with cheese. My bechamel (white sauce) recipe is below. You could add in about a cup of shredded cheese to make your own cheese sauce as well. The meat and potatoes both baked at 450* for 10 minutes before being served. The steak and salmon was perfectly cooked. The potatoes had a slight browning around the edges as well...

Bechemel Sauce
2tbsp butter
2tbsp flour
1 1/2cu milk, warmed
herbs and seasonings

1. Melt the butter in a small saucepan and add in the flour. Cook while stirring for 1-2 minutes until well combined.

2. Add in your herbs/seasonings and slowly whisk in the warm milk. Cook for another 5 minutes or until thickened making sure to stir regularly. I used two whole basil leaves, three smashed garlic cloves, salt, and pepper to season my bechemel sauce. I removed the basil leaves and garlic cloves before pouring over the potatoes for a hint of flavor. If the sauce is too thick just whisk in a bit more milk. If it is too thin cook it down some more.

These are the steaks and salmon fillets. Just simple seasonings on the steaks. The salmon is brushed with honey mustard and sprinkled with seasonings before they're both baked right on the same sheet.

Make enough potatoes so that you have an even layer in the pan you're baking them in. Normally you'll spend about an hour making scalloped potatoes, but these are ready in 20 minutes or less.

After you pour the bechemel sauce over the cheese and potatoes it's ready for the oven!

Less than 20 minutes and this dinner is served!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Bacon Wrapped Chicken Tenders

BACON!!!! Now that I have your attention, join me for a delicious dish that features a meat which has inspired countless products that should not taste or smell like it (bacon scented bandaids anyone?). Bacon wrapped about bonless skinless chicken breast tenders are great to serve for dinner with the family or at your next party. They're also super easy to make. You can get away with just two ingredients, but I'm all about punching up flavor, so I take it a step further.

3 boneless skinless chicken breast cut into 24 pieces
8 slices of bacon cut into thirds
Brown sugar
Spicy seasoning of choice

1. Preheat oven to 425* and fit a baking sheet with a baking rack. If you don't have one, that's ok. You can still bake straight on the sheet, but you might want to drain the chicken on a paper towel before serving to remove excess bacon fat.

2. Wrap each piece of chicken in a piece of bacon. If the pieces are smaller you can just wrap it right around the piece and place into the pan loose ends down. If the chicken is longer wrap it around spiral style and place with both loose ends down. Sprinkle with seasoning if using. I left the seasoning off the pieces I was feeding my anti-spicy kids.

3. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes and flip over. Sprinkle brown sugar and more seasoning. Rotate pan and place back into oven for another 15 minutes. The bacon should be nice and crispy. Enjoy!

These are the three spicy seasonings I have in my cupboard. I used my Jim Beam Spicy Bourbon tonight.

This is how big I cut the chicken and bacon.

You can see the smaller pieces at the top have the bacon just wrapped around them. The larger pieces have the bacon going around in a spiral style.

This is what the chicken should look like after 20min when you're ready to flip. The ones in the bottom left do not have spicy seasoning on them.

Flip them over and sprinkle with brown sugar and more seasoning if using.

All done!