Chicken and Dumplings

This is a recipe from The Pioneer Woman, so you know it has to be delicious :-). I couldn't resist trying this one, especially when I saw that I happened to have the exact apple cider in my fridge that she pictured. The ENTIRE family loved this meal...from my husband down to my 1 1/2 year old. I was thrilled that the dumplings actually cooked and held together in a "dumpling" shape :-).

* 2 Tablespoons Butter
* 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
* ½ cups All-purpose Flour
* 1 whole Chicken, Cut Into Pieces (cut Up Fryer)
* Salt And Pepper
* ½ cups Finely Diced Carrots
* ½ cups Finely Diced Celery
* 1 whole Medium Onion, Finely Diced
* ½ teaspoons Ground Thyme
* ¼ teaspoons Turmeric
* 6 cups Low Sodium Chicken Broth
* ½ cups Apple Cider
* ½ cups Heavy Cream
* Dumplings:
* 1-½ cup All-purpose Flour
* ½ cups Yellow Cornmeal
* 1 Tablespoon (heaping) Baking Powder
* 1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
* 1-½ cup Half-and-half
* 2 Tablespoons Minced Fresh Parsley (optional)
* Salt As Needed

Sprinkle chicken pieces with salt and pepper, then dredge both sides in flour.
Melt butter in a pot over medium-high heat. In two batches, brown chicken on both sides and remove to a clean plate.
In the same pot, add diced onion, carrots, and celery. Stir and cook for 3 to 4 minutes over medium-low heat. Stir in ground thyme and turmeric, then pour in chicken broth and apple cider. Stir to combine, then add browned chicken. Cover pot and simmer for 20 minutes.
While chicken is simmering, make the dough for the dumplings: sift together all dry ingredients, then add half-and-half, stirring gently to combine. Set aside.
Remove chicken from pot and set aside on a plate. Use two forks to remove chicken from the bone. Shred, then add chicken to the pot. Pour heavy cream into the pot and stir to combine.
rop tablespoons of dumpling dough into the simmering pot. Add minced parsley if using. Cover pot halfway and continue to simmer for 15 minutes. Check seasonings; add salt if needed. Allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Christmas and the New Year

After a delicious Christmas Eve dinner and Christmas morning brunch, I'm ready to ring in a healthier new year. It's super cliche I know, but I've really got to get this show on the road! Preston was born over 1 1/2 years ago now and I feel like I have still not gotten back into my healthy eating and working out habits. So, no more excuses, it's time to get to business. I know I feel better in more ways than one when I am treating my body well so I'm looking forward to it. I'm going to be on the lookout for more healthy recipes to add to our menus!
But in the mean time, here is our traditional holiday meal line-up...

Christmas Eve Dinner
Prime Rib and Grandfather's Creamy Horseradish Sauce
Mashed Potatoes w/ Gravy
Yorkshire Pudding (my grandma did little individual ones this year and they were the best ever!)
Creamed Corn
24 Hour Salad (my contribution)
Mom's Rolls
We had Pecan and Pumpkin Pies with Ice Cream for dessert
(I need to get some of the recipes! Since I'm never in charge of making the other items I don't worry about them, but I know I'll want them eventually)

Christmas Morning Brunch 
(this menu varies each year, but it always delicious!!!)
Southwestern Quiche
Mom's Overnight Egg Bake
Grandma's Eggs
Freshly Squeezed Orange Juice
Hot Chocolate with toppings
Gingerbread Waffles with homemade Buttermilk Syrup 
(my mom made these and they were to DIE for...seriously one of the best things I've ever tasted!)

Brownie Covered Oreos

My mom actually made these and then shared some with us, but they were SOOO good and festive I had to share them! She found the recipe on Picky Palate...You HAVE to try them!

1 Brownie mix (or use your own brownie recipe)
1 package Oreos, I used the Holiday ones
White chocolate, melted for drizzle, or Wilton White frosting pen works great
White nonpariels Sprinkles

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare brownie batter according to package directions. Leave in mixing bowl. Dip Oreos in brownie batter then place in bottom of cupcake tins that have been generously sprayed with cooking spray. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until brownies are cooked through (doesn’t take long). As soon as you remove, take a plastic knife and run along edges, (this is VERY important so you get the cookie out with brownies not stuck to pan :)
2. Let cool for 5 minutes, remove drizzle with melted white chocolate or the Wilton White icing pen, sprinkle with nonpariels and EAT! Enjoy :)
Makes entire package of Oreos

Country Chicken with Gravy

Sometimes I'm just in the mood for some classic comfort food and this totally hit the spot! I saw the recipe in an old Taste of Home magazine and was excited that a "fried" chicken and gravy recipe was nearly gluten free. I traded out the flour for cornstarch and served it up with Baked Parmesan Broccoli and mashed red potatoes and it was SO good. I LOVED the gravy most of all and next time I'll make some extra of it.

* 3/4 cup crushed cornflakes
* 1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
* 1/2 teaspoon paprika
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
* 1/4 teaspoon pepper
* 2 tablespoons fat-free evaporated milk
* 4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
* 2 teaspoons canola oil
* 1 tablespoon butter
* 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour (I used cornstarch)
* 1/4 teaspoon pepper
* 1/8 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 cup fat-free evaporated milk
* 1/4 cup condensed chicken broth, undiluted (I wasn't sure if this was different than a normal can of broth so I threw in a little chicken bouillon just in case :-)
* 1 teaspoon sherry or additional condensed chicken broth
* 2 tablespoons minced chives

* In a shallow bowl, combine the first six ingredients. Place milk in another shallow bowl. Dip chicken in milk, then roll in cornflake mixture.
* In a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray, cook chicken in oil over medium heat for 6-8 minutes on each side or until a meat thermometer reads 170°.
* Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, melt butter. Stir in the flour, pepper and salt until smooth. Gradually stir in the milk, broth and sherry. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 1-2 minutes or until thickened. Stir in chives. Serve with chicken. Yield: 4 servings.

Baked Parmesan Broccoli

I LOVE broccoli and was excited to try this new way to make it. It was very good and I'm sure it's even better with the bread crumbs on top giving it some crunch! (recipe from taste of home magazine)

* 4 bunches broccoli, cut into florets
* 6 tablespoons butter, divided
* 1 small onion, finely chopped
* 1 garlic clove, minced
* 1/4 cup all-purpose flour (I used cornstarch)
* 2 cups 2% milk
* 1 egg yolk, beaten
* 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/8 teaspoon pepper
* 1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs (I left off to keep it gluten-free)

* Place half of broccoli in a steamer basket; place in a large saucepan over 1 in. of water. Bring to a boil; cover and steam for 3-4 minutes or until crisp-tender. Place in a greased 13-in. x 9-in. baking dish; repeat with remaining broccoli.
* Meanwhile, in a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 4 tablespoons butter. Add onion; cook and stir until tender. Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer.
* Stir in flour until blended; gradually add milk. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Stir a small amount of hot mixture into egg yolk; return all to the pan, stirring constantly. Cook and stir 1 minute longer. Remove from the heat; stir in the cheese, salt and pepper.
* Pour over broccoli. In a small skillet, cook bread crumbs in remaining butter until golden brown; sprinkle over the top.
* Bake, uncovered, at 400° for 15-18 minutes or until heated through. Yield: 12 servings (3/4 cup each).

Green Bean Casserole

This recipe is from the always delicious Pioneer Woman. She posted this recipe right before Thanksgiving and I was dying to try it! It just looked SOOO much better than the traditional thanksgiving beans (which I don't love) and it is. In fact I ate it as my main meal by putting it on top of rice. It isn't super healthy of course, because most of PW's recipes are not super healthy, but definitely super tasty :-)! Definitely try this one...maybe when you are having people over for dinner so you won't eat all the leftovers like me!

* 2 pounds Fresh Green Beans, Ends Cut Off
* 4 slices Bacon, Cut Into 1/4 Inch Pieces
* 3 cloves Garlic, Minced
* ½ whole Large Onion, Chopped
* 4 Tablespoons Butter
* 4 Tablespoons All-purpose Flour
* 2-½ cups Whole Milk (I used 1 1/2 cups 1% milk)
* ½ cups Half-and-half (I used 1 1/2 cups cream)
* 1-½ teaspoon Salt, More To Taste
* Freshly Ground Black Pepper, To Taste
* ⅛ teaspoons Cayenne Pepper
* 1 cup Grated Sharp Cheddar Cheese
* 1 jar (4 Ounce) Sliced Pimentoes, Drained
* Extra Milk For Thinning If Necessary
* 1 cup Panko Bread Crumbs

Cut green beans in half if you like pieces to be a little smaller.
Blanch the green beans: drop them into lightly salted boiling water and allow green beans to cook for about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove them from the boiling water with a slotted spoon and immediately plunge them into a bowl of ice cold water to stop the cooking process. Drain beans once they’re cool and set aside.
Add bacon pieces to a skillet over medium heat. Cook bacon for two minutes, then add diced onion and garlic and continue cooking for 3 to 5 minutes, or until bacon is done (but not crisp) and onions are golden brown. Remove from heat and set aside.
In a separate skillet or saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Sprinkle flour into the pan and whisk immediately to evenly mix it into the butter. Cook for a minute or two, then pour in milk and half and half. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, while sauce thickens, about 2 minutes. Add salt, pepper, and cayenne then add the grated cheddar. Stir while cheese melts. Turn off heat.
Add pimentos to pan, then add bacon/onion mixture. Stir to combine. Pour over green beans and stir gently to combine. Pour into a baking dish and top with panko crumbs.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until sauce is bubbly and panko crumbs are golden.

Chorizo and Fried Egg Sandwiches

Do I really need to say anything about that sandwich?! It was delicious!!! An awesome combination of flavors and a great break from our standard dinner. The girls even ate the egg on theirs (and they are weird about eggs lately). I ate mine on ricecakes and still loved it :-)! Oh, and This recipe is one from Rachael Ray.

* 1 avocado, peeled and chopped
* 1 large tomato, chopped
* 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
* 1/4 cup cilantro, coarsely chopped
* 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
* Juice of 1/2 lime
* Salt and pepper
* 12 ounces fresh chorizo, divided into 4 patties
* 4 eggs
* 4 ciabatta or french-style rolls, split and toasted

1. In a medium bowl, combine the avocado, tomato, onion, cilantro, 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil and the lime juice; season with salt.
2. In a large nonstick skillet, cook the sausage patties, turning once, for 5 minutes; transfer to a plate. Add the remaining 1/2 tablespoon olive oil to the skillet, then fry the eggs; season with salt and pepper.
3. Divide the avocado salad among the roll bottoms. Layer with the sausage patties, fried eggs and the roll tops; serve at once.

Cranberry Pear Tossed Salad

I went looking on All Recipes for a new salad to make for my girls' night dinner and this is the one I went with. I really liked the dressing and thought it was a great compliment to the rest of our meal!

* 1/3 cup apricot nectar
* 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
* 1/3 cup canola oil
* 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 1/8 teaspoon pepper
* 2 tablespoons sugar
* 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
* 12 cups torn mixed salad greens
* 3 medium pears, sliced
* 1/2 cup dried cranberries
* 3/4 cup crumbled blue cheese

1. For dressing, in a bowl, whisk together the first six ingredients; set aside. In a heavy skillet, melt sugar over medium heat, stirring constantly. Add walnuts; stir to coat. Remove from the heat.
2. In a large salad bowl, combine greens, pears and cranberries. Drizzle with dressing. Add nuts and blue cheese; toss.

Cheese Cake Sheet Cake

This dessert, which I found on Taste Buds, looked too good not to try. It was absolutely delish...moist and spongy with a great glaze frosting. Not to mention easy enough that I didn't mess it up :-)!

1 cup butter, softened
8 ounces cream cheese, softened (I actually used 1/3 fat cream cheese, because that's what was in my fridge and it still was wonderful!)
2 1/4 cups sugar
6 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/4 cups cake flour

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter, cheese, and sugar for 3 minutes on high speed. Add vanilla then one egg at a time mixing well after each egg. Add flour and mix well. Pour batter into a greased 13 x 18 inch pan. Bake at 325° for 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Frost immediately with glaze.

Chocolate Glaze:

1 cup sugar
1/3 cup evaporated milk
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

In a medium sauce pan combine sugar and milk and bring to a boil over medium heat. Boil for 3 minutes. Do not stir! After three minutes add chocolate and butter and stir until blended. Pour and spread over cake. Place in freezer for 45 minutes.

Baked Ham in Dijon Cream Sauce

So, when it came time to figure out what to do with my ham for my girls' night dinner I went to Hormel's website first and when I saw this I thought it sounded absolutely delish! I think this sauce got more rave reviews that night than anything else and it was seriously so easy!!!

* 2 tablespoons butter
* 4 (1/2-inch-thick) slices Ham (I used 8)
* 2 cups whipping cream
* 3 tablespoons Dijon Mustard

1. Heat oven to 375ºF.
2. In ovenproof skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add ham; brown lightly on both sides. Remove ham to plate.
3. Add cream to skillet; whisk to release any browned bits from bottom of skillet. Whisk in mustard. Return ham to skillet. Bring to a boil.
4. Bake 20 minutes. If cream does not thicken, return to stove and gently boil 5 minutes or until thickened.
(I browned the ham in a skillet, and then placed them in a big baking dish. I whisked the cream and mustard together and then poured over the ham to bake it.)

Girls' Night with Foodbuzz and Hormel

This weekend I hosted a girls' night out dinner. Through Foodbuzz and Hormel I was given the opportunity to try out Hormel's new Cure 81 Ham and it was the perfect excuse to throw a little party. I had never cooked ham in my life, so I was a little nervous, but since the Cure 81 ham was already cooked it was super easy. I even found some of my recipes right off Hormel's website! Who knew :-)?
Here is the menu I planned, followed by the appetizer recipes (and the rest to come soon).

Brie Bites
Bacon and Blue Cheese Crostini
Devils on Horseback
Main Course:
Baked Ham with Dijon Cream Sauce
Individual Potato Gratins (which I made in one big 9x13 dish instead)

Brie Bites 
 (recipe from Big Red Kitchen)
Fill each mini fillo cup (found in freezer section) with a tiny cube of brie, a spoonful of blueberry fruit spread (I used a baby spoon), and top with a pecan half. Bake in 400 degree oven for 10 minutes or until cheese has softened and pecan is toasted. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Devils on Horseback 
(recipe also from Big Red Kitchen)
Wrap dried apricot halves with cooked bacon slices and secure with a toothpick. This is usually done with prunes but the texture of the apricots in this dish is fantastic. 
(I used Hormel's pre-cooked bacon, all I had to do was heat it up in the microwave...these were the easiest appetizer ever!)
Bacon and Blue Cheese Crostini 
(recipe from Hormel)
* 24 garlic crostini
* 1/2 cup crumbled Danish blue cheese
* 1 (2.1-ounce) package Hormel® Fully Cooked Bacon, coarsely chopped 
(I actually used their crumbled bacon, which meant NO prep!)
1. Heat broiler to 500ºF.
2. Top each crostini with 1 teaspoon cheese and generous pinch bacon; place on baking sheet. Broil 6 inches from heat source 5 minutes or until cheese is slightly browned and bacon is hot.

Pioneer Woman's Chicken Pot Pie

I love a good old fashioned comfort meal every now and then and this definitely fit the bill! I made 3 pot pies (I added extra of each ingredient to have extra filling), one for us and two to take to people, so it was a good thing it turned out so yummy :-), but I knew the Pioneer Woman wouldn't let me down! I only wished we'd had more leftovers!

3 celery stalks
3 medium carrots, peeled
1 large yellow onion
4 T butter
1/2 c frozen peas
3 c cooked chicken
1/4 c all-purpose flour
3 c chicken broth
1 chicken bouillon cube
1/8 c white wine, optional (I did use white cooking wine)
1/4 c heavy cream
1 t ground thyme
1 t kosher salt, or more to taste
black pepper to taste
1/2 recipe Perfect Pie Crust

- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Finely dice celery, carrots and onions.
- Melt butter in a large pot or dutch oven over med heat. Add the onion, carrots, cleery and peas. Saute until the vegetables start to turn translucent, a couple of minutes.
- Add chicken and sprinkle the flour evenly over and stir to combine Cook e for a couple minutes, stirring gently.
- Pour in chicken broth, stirring constantly. Stir in teh bouillon cube and wine. The flour will combine with the chicken to create a gravy.
- Pour in the cream and stir. Allow the mixture to cook over low heat, thickening gradually. Season with the thyme, salt, and pepper. Remove from teh heat. Taste and adjust the seasonings as needed.
- Pour the chicken mixture into a deep pie pan or small casserole dish.
- Roll out the crust so that it's 1 inch larger that the pan. Place the crust on top of chicken mixture and cut small slits in the top. Press the crust gently into the sides of the dish to seal.
- Bake for 30 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbly. Cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Pioneer Woman's Perfect Pie Crust

I made the Pioneer Woman's version of chicken pot pie this week from her cookbook, but it's not posted on her website, which means I can't just copy and paste it :-). So, here's the pie crust recipe and I'll get around to the really good part later tonight or tomorrow. I am challenged as a baker and thought the pie crust turned out pretty tasty. It took me a little while to be able to roll it out and lift on top of my pie without it ripping, but eventually I succeeded. I divided this batch into thirds to top 3 pies (because in the book she says it makes think crusts and you can), but I think next time I would just use it for 2 so I have a little more to work with at the edges. It was tasty and I'm sure just as good as the bottom of a sweet pie as well!


* 1-½ cup Crisco (vegetable Shortening)
* 3 cups All-purpose Flour
* 1 whole Egg
* 5 Tablespoons Cold Water
* 1 Tablespoon White Vinegar
* 1 teaspoon Salt


In a large bowl, with a pastry cutter, gradually work the Crisco into the flour for about 3 or 4 minutes until it resembles a coarse meal. In a small bowl, beat an egg with a fork and then pour it into the flour/shortening mixture. Add 5 tablespoons of cold water, 1 tablespoon of white vinegar and 1 teaspoon of salt. Stir together gently until all of the ingredients are incorporated.

Separate the dough into thirds. Form 3 evenly sized balls of dough and place each dough into a large Ziploc bag. Using a rolling pin, slightly flatten each ball of dough (about ½ inch thick) to make rolling easier later. Seal the bags and place them in the freezer until you need them. (If you will be using it immediately it’s still a good idea to put in the freezer for about 15 to 20 minutes to chill.)

When you are ready to use the dough to make a crust, remove from the freezer and allow to thaw for 15 minutes. On a floured surface roll the dough, starting at the center and working your way out. (Sprinkle some flour over top of the dough if it’s a bit too moist.) If the dough is sticking to the countertop use a metal spatula and carefully scrape it up and flip it over and continue rolling until it’s about ½ inch larger in diameter than your pie pan.

With a spatula, lift the dough carefully from the surface of the counter into the pie pan. Gently press the dough against the corner of the pan. Go around the pie pan pinching and tucking the dough to make a clean edge.

Greek Salad (and a Giveaway!)

My sister Kayley posted this recipe and then brought it to a family dinner and it was AWESOME!!! I tend to get stuck in a salad rut, making the same thing over and over and this has been a great salad to throw in the mix.


* Romanine lettuce (chopped) - 6 cups
* Tomatoes (chopped) - 3 cups
* Red onion (chopped) - 1 cup
* Cucumber (chopped) - 1/2 cup
* Green pepper (chopped) - 1/2 cup
* Feta cheese (crumbled) - 3 oz
* Olives - 16 to 20
* Olive oil - 3 tbsp
* Fresh dill (chopped) - 3 tbsp
* Fresh parsley (chopped) - 1/4 cup
* Lemon juice - 1 tbsp
* Garlic (minced) - 1 clove
* Oregano - 1/2 tsp
* Salt - 1/4 tsp

1. Mix together the olive oil, lemon juice, oregano, parsley, dill, garlic, and salt.
2. Mix the lettuce, tomatoes, red onion, cucumber, green pepper well.
3. Add the dressing to the salad mix and top off with feta cheese and olives.

 And on to the GIVEAWAY!!! (my first one!)
When I made the salad it was SUPER easy because I used a bag of Fresh Express romaine hearts...all cleaned and chopped up and ready to go! 
Through Food Buzz and Fresh Express, I was given the opportunity to try out some of their new bagged salads. The good news is they are awesome (the Asian salad kit has been my personal favorite) and the great news is that they gave me coupons to share with you!
One lucky reader will win 5 coupons, each good for a FREE bag of Fresh Express!
To enter, follow my blog through Blogger or Networked Blogs (Facebook) and leave a comment here telling me how you are following me AND your favorite salad you prefer strawberries, feta and spinach or a classic caesar?
I'm always looking for new ways to spruce up my salad and can't wait to see your ideas!
One winner will be selected at random at 9pm CT Wednesday, October 27th.
Good luck :-)!

Chicken Salad Piccata

This recipe is another hit from my Rachael Ray magazine. It was flavorful and light but still filling. The chicken was the highlight of the dish, absolutely delicious! I suggest tossing the green beans and potatoes in the sauce right away so they absorb the flavor while you make the chicken (I did them first so I could use the same pan to cook the chicken in and have less dishes to clean up afterwards). I added garlic salt, kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to the final product. I can't wait to eat leftovers for lunch today :-)!!!

* 1 1/2 pounds small red potatoes, quartered
* 1/2 pound green beans, halved crosswise
* 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
* 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped capers
* 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
* Grated peel and juice of 1/2 lemon
* Salt and pepper
* 1 large egg
* 1/4 cup flour
* Two 6-ounce skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, lightly pounded
* 1/4 cup chicken broth

1. In a large saucepan, add the potatoes and enough salted water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to a boil and cook until almost tender, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a colander. Add the green beans to the boiling water and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Drain in the colander with the potatoes; let cool slightly.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup olive oil, 1 tablespoon capers, 3 tablespoons parsley, the lemon peel and half of the lemon juice. Add the potatoes and beans and toss; season with salt and pepper.
3. In a shallow bowl, beat the egg. In another shallow bowl, season the flour with salt and pepper. In a large nonstick skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Coat the chicken breasts with the seasoned flour, then dip in the egg, allowing any excess to drip off, and coat with the flour again, shaking off the excess. Add to the skillet and cook, turning once, until golden, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and cut into strips.
4. Add the chicken broth to the skillet; cook over medium heat, scraping up any browned bits. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining 1 tablespoon capers, 1 tablespoon parsley and lemon juice. Top the salad with the chicken and drizzle with the pan sauce.

Candy Corn Cupcakes

These were super cute and sooo tasty! In fact, I had 3 little plates of them ready to take to friends and they were so good, that I only delivered one of the plates and we ate the rest! I'll have to make more to deliver :-). This recipe was with some Kroger coupons I got in the mail last month.
1 box plain white cake mix
1 c regular sour cream (I used light)
1/3 c vegetable oil (I used canola)
1/2 cup milk (I used 2%)
2 eggs
food coloring (yellow and orange...we made our own orange)
whipped topping (I bought a tub of whipped white frosting)
candy corn to top them

-Preheat oven to temperature on your cupcake mix box (I think mine was 350 degrees).
-Combine cake mix, sour cream, vegetable oil, milk and eggs in a large bowl. Mix according to package directions.
-Divide batter evenly into 2 separate bowl. Color half of the batter with a few drops of orange food coloring (I just used yellow and red until I like the color it was). Color the other half with yellow food coloring.
-Place cupcake liners into cupcake tins. Fill each cupcake liner with 1/4 cup yellow batter and then top with orange batter until the liner is 1/2 full (I always overfill, but they turned out still,just didn't make as many).
-Bake according to package directions.
-Cool cupcakes completely, frost and top with a piece of candy corn.

Nuevo Cubano

YUM! These were sooo good! I saw these in my Cooking Light magazine this summer and have been really excited to give them a try. What a great twist on a grilled cheese sandwich! The leftover beans have been equally as delicious in quesadillas for lunch too :-)!

* 4 whole-wheat sub rolls, cut in half lengthwise (I just used our regular whole wheat bread)
* 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
* 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
* 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
* 2 garlic cloves, minced
* 1 (15-ounce) can no-salt-added black beans, rinsed and drained
* 1/4 pound thinly sliced reduced-sodium deli ham
* 1 peeled mango or 2 large tomatoes, thinly sliced (I thought the ones with mango were better!)
* 1/4 pound thinly sliced provolone cheese
* 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1. Hollow out top and bottom halves of bread, leaving a 1/2-inch-thick shell; reserve torn bread for another use.
2. Combine cilantro, lime juice, chili powder, garlic, and black beans in a food processor; process until almost smooth and spreadable, adding a few drops of water, if necessary. Spread bean mixture evenly on bottom halves of the prepared rolls. Layer rolls evenly with ham, mango or tomatoes, and provolone cheese; replace top halves of rolls.
3. (I used our George Foreman grill) Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add 2 sandwiches to pan; place a cast-iron or other heavy skillet on top of sandwiches; press gently. Cook 2 to 3 minutes on each side or until sandwiches are golden brown (leave cast-iron skillet on sandwiches while they cook). Remove sandwiches from pan; repeat procedure with remaining 1 tablespoon oil and 2 sandwiches.

French Toast Casserole

This recipe came along with some coupons from one of my favorite local grocery stores, Kroger. In their description they say it is "perfect for Easter" so I've been hanging on to it for awhile :-). I decided to make it for our breakfast this General Conference Sunday and it was a HUGE hit with the family. I have been doing a lot better at sticking to my gluten-free diet, so I only tried a little bite, but the kids and Mike ate ALL the rest of the 9x13 pan. That definitely says something about how good it is!!! I really loved that you make it they day before you will be serving it and then just pop it in the oven the next day.

2 t butter, softened
8 slices white bread, cut in 1-inch cubes
7 large eggs
2 cups milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup maple syrup (I used our cheap sugar-free syrup)
4 T granulated sugar, divided
3/4 t cinnamon
1/4 t nutmeg
1/4 t cardamom (I didn't have this)
1/2 c toasted pecans, chopped
maple syrup, for serving

Grease a 9x13 baking dish with butter and fill the dish with bread cubes, distributing evenly.
In large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, cream, maple syrup, 2 T sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom.
Pour this mixture over the bread cubes, and press down over the surface of the casserole with a spatula to help the bread soak up the liquid.
Sprinkle the top with the remaining sugar.
Cover tightly with aluminum foil, and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and place the casserole, still covered with foil, in the oven for 30 minutes.
Uncover, and bake an additional 30-35 minutes, until the casserole if puffy and brown.
Let cool for at least 10 minutes before slicing into squares and topping with the chopped pecans and warmed maple syrup.
Refrigerate all leftovers.

4 Packet Roast

There is nothing like a roast easy and so delicious! I saw this one recently on The Sister's Cafe and I had to try it. It was unbelievably flavorful and the gravy it made while cooking...YUMMY!!!

1 packet ranch dressing mix
1 packet brown gravy mix
1 packet Italian salad dressing mix
1 packet onion soup mix
1 roast of choice
1/2-3/4 cup of water
assorted veggies if desired (I threw in some baby carrots)

Place roast in crockpot.  Arrange vegetables around the roast if being used.  Sprinkle the mix packets over the roast.  Pour water around the roast.  Cook on low for 6-8 hours.

Coconut-Crusted Chicken with Mango Salsa

This was a recipe I had saved to try from an old issue of Rachael Ray's magazine. I loved the combination of flavors (and colors) and thought it was perfect served with some chicken rice. It was a great end of summer meal :-)!

1/2 pound frozen mango, thawed and chopped (about 1 1/2 cups) (I used 1 large fresh mango)
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/3 cup chopped red onion
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
Salt and pepper
1 egg
1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
Four 6-ounce skinless, boneless chicken breasts
3 tablespoons vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a shallow bowl, beat the egg with 1 teaspoon water and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Place the coconut in another shallow bowl. Dip the chicken in the egg, then in the coconut. Press to coat.
In large, ovenproof skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook, turning once, until golden, about 3 minutes. Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake until cooked through, about 12 minutes. Serve the chicken with the mango salsa.

Olive Garden's Zuppa Toscana

(this pic courtesy of Favorite Family Recipes, it's much better than the one I took!)
I have only eaten at Olive Garden a handful of times and have never tried this soup there so although I can't vouch for how similar it is to the orginal, I can tell you it is DELICIOUS! When I saw the recipe on Favorite Family Recipes The ingredients sounded intriguing and I am always up for a new soup recipe. I'm so glad I tried it! I loved it and even my husband, who is a soup skeptic, loved it.

3 cans (14oz) Chicken Broth
2 cups whipping cream (I used 1 cup cream, 1 cup whole milk)
red pepper flakes (to taste) (I left out since I used spicy sausage)
salt and pepper (to taste)
1 small onion, diced, sauteed
1/2 pkg. bacon (cooked and crumbled)
4-5 cups chopped kale
3 to 4 potatoes scrubbed and cut into slices or small chunks (skins left on) (I used red onions)
1 lb Johnsonville mild Italian sausage (shaped into small rounds, browned, and put on paper towels to de-grease... or if you are in a rush, just brown the sausage like you would ground beef). (I used 2 small links spicy Italian sausage)

Put everything together in a large crockpot and cook on high for 3 to 4 hours. (they suggested not putting the potatoes in until the last 40-60 minutes, but I put mine in at the beginning and was glad I did...they took awhile to cook)

Lemon Zucchini Mini Muffins

When I saw these little guys on My Favorites I was excited to try them. I have never made my own zucchini bread, muffins, etc. but they were one of my favorite treats growing up. These were super kiddos LOVE them!

(I doubled the recipe for the batter, but not the icing)
1/2 cup butter softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup finely shredded zucchini (I used my food processor)
lemon zest from 2 lemons plus lemon juice from one of them
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
Lemon Glaze:
2 cups confectioner's sugar
2+Tbsp lemon juice (I had to use WAY more than that to get my icing creamy)

In a mixing bowl cream butter and sugar. Beat in egg, zucchini and lemon zest. Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt; gradually add to the creamed mixture. Drop by Tbsp into mini muffin pan. Bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove to wire racks to cool.
For glaze, combine sugar and enough lemon juice to achieve a thin spreading consistency. Spread drizzle over cooled muffins.

Ham and Sweet Potato Hash

I haven't tried any recipes from My Kitchen Cafe in awhile but when she posted this one recently it definitely called out to me :-)! It was sooo good! I loved the addition of sweet potatoes and the chipotle flavor definitely gave it that special something. A perfect breakfast for dinner! Next time I'll be sure to have some Monterey Jack cheese on hand to sprinkle on top....YUM!!!

3 russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
3 small sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 onion, minced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 teaspoon minced canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
3 tablespoons heavy cream
10 ounces thinly sliced deli ham, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
6 large eggs (I used 5)

In a medium microwave-safe bowl, toss the potatoes with 1 tablespoon oil, salt and pepper. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a tight-fitting microwave-safe lid and microwave for about 6 minutes, until the potatoes are tender but not overcooked – they’ll cook a bit more in the skillet later. Stir the potatoes halfway through cooking. Drain the potatoes of any excess liquid and set aside.

Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until the oil is hot and rippling. Add the onion and bell pepper and cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are tender, about 4-5 minutes. Stir in the chipotle and cook for about 30 seconds.

Stir in the drained potatoes and the cream. Using the back of a spatula, pack the potatoes into the pan, pressing them into a somewhat even layer. Let the potatoes cook without stirring them for about 2 minutes so they can start to get nicely browned. Flip the potato hash mixture, one portion at a time, and lightly repack into the skillet to let the potatoes brown on the other side. Continue this flipping process every few minutes until the potatoes are nicely browned, about 8-10 minutes.

Stir in the ham and lightly repack the hash into the skillet. Using a large spoon, make 6 shallow divots about 2 inches wide in the surface of the potato mixture. Crack one egg into each indentation. Season with salt and pepper and then reduce the heat to medium-low and cover the skillet. Let the mixture cook until the eggs are set to your liking, about 5-7 minutes. Serve.

Chicken Enchiladas with Tomatillo Cream Sauce

When I saw this recipe on Fabulously Delicious (originally from Cooking with Paula Deen), I knew I had to try them...because I can never turn down an enchilada recipe. With my new found love of tomatillos I just knew they would be delicious and it helped that Kirsten had given them such a great review too. They were much simpler to make than the roasted tomatillo enchiladas I love so much, but still had TONS of great flavor. LOVED them!!!

3 cups chopped cooked chicken (I used 2 cans chicken)
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened (I used 1/3 fat)
1 (8-ounce) container sour cream (I used light)
1 (8-ounce) package Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (I used a mexican mix of cheddar and pepper jack)
1 onion, chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
24 (6-inch) corn tortillas
Tomatillo Cream Sauce (recipe follows)
1 (8-ounce) package Colby and Monterey Jack cheese blend, shredded
Sliced green onions (optional)

Tomatillo Cream Sauce*
1 (28 oz.) can of tomatillos, drained
1 (14 oz.) can chicken broth
1 (4 oz) can of chopped green chiles
2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup heavy whipping cream
*I didn't find canned tomatillos at my grocery store, so for the sauce I used 24 oz. salsa verde, 1 cup heavy cream, and a little bit of chicken broth to thin it out a little bit.

In a large skillet, combine tomatillos, chicken broth, chilies, cumin, chili powder, and salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat; reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Pour mixture into a blender or food processor, and pulse mixture several times until smooth. Return to skillet; stir in cream and cook over low heat for two more minutes.

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease two 13x9-inch baking dishes.
2. In a large bowl, combine chicken and next 8 ingredients. Spoon 2 tablespoons chicken mixture down center of each tortilla. Fold sides over, enclosing filling. Place filled tortillas, in a single layer, seam side down, in prepared baking dishes. (I debated over whether to fry the tortillas to soften them first or not, but decided not to since it makes them waaay worse for you. I just heated them in a paper towel in the microwave to soften them and they still turned out so yummy)
3. Spoon Tomatillo Cream Sauce evenly over enchiladas. Sprinkle with shredded cheese. Bake 35 to 40 minutes, or until hot and bubbly. Garnish with sliced green onions, if desired.

Macadamia Fudge Torte

My friend brought this for dessert to our girls' night last week and it was sooo good. I didn't get a great picture of it though so you'll have to trust me that it was delicious...especially served with vanilla ice cream and the caramel sauce on top! I think I need to make something with macadamia nuts soon, they were my favorite part of the dessert!

1/3c low-fat sweetened condensed milk
1/2c semisweet chocolate chips

1pkg. pudding-included devil's food cake mix
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup oil (I used canola)
1 (16oz) can pears in light syrup, drained
2 eggs
1/3 cup chopped macadamia nuts
2 tsp water

1 jar caramel ice cream topping
1/3cup milk (I used skim)

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 9 or 10 inch springform pan with nonstick cooking spray. In small saucepan, combine filling ingredients. Cook over medium-low heat until chocolate is melted, stirring occasionally.
2. In large bowl, combine cake mix, cinnamon and oil; blend at low speed for 20-30 seconds or until crumbly. (Mixture will be dry).
3. Blend pears until smooth in blender or food processor.
4. In another large bowl, combine 2 1/2 cups of the cake mixture, pureed pears and eggs; beat at low speed until moistened. Beat 2 minutes at medium speed. Spread batter evenly in sprayed pan. Drop filling the spoonfuls over batter. Stir nuts and water into remaining cake mixture. Sprinkle over filling.
5. Bake at 350 for 45-50 minutes or until top springs back when touched lightly in the center. Cool 10 minutes. Remove sides of pan. Cool 1 1/2 hours or until completely cooled.
6. In small saucepan, combine sauce ingredients. Cook over medium-low heat for 3-4 minutes or until well blended, stirring occasionally. Just before serving, spoon 2 tbs warm sauce onto plate. Top with torte and garnish with ice cream, if desired.

Mexican Chicken with Jalapeno Popper Sauce

This recipe originally comes from Mommie Cooks, but I saw a link to it on Cassie Craves. This sauce is sooo good, I LOVED it! I would eat anything with it...seriously. So, try it, you won't regret it :-)!!!

3 Chicken Breasts
A Sprinkle of Cumin per Breast
A Sprinkle of Chili Powder per Breast
A Sprinkle of Salt per Breast
2 Cloves of Garlic, Minced
3 Jalapenos, Seeded and Chopped
8 Oz. of Cream Cheese
2 Cups of Chicken Broth
3 Slices of Bacon
3/4 Cup of Shredded Cheddar or Colby Jack
1 Tbsp of Fresh Cilantro, chopped + more for garnish

Fry bacon until crisp. Remove to paper towel-lined plate.
Sprinkle chicken with seasonings while the bacon crisps. Add the chicken to the hot bacon fat in the skillet. Cook chicken, turning every few minutes, until juices run clear and no longer pink. Remove from skillet and keep warm.
Add chopped jalapenos to the skillet and cook for a couple of minutes. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds to a minute more, until fragrant.
Add chicken broth, deglazing pan. Bring to a boil.
Add cream cheese and stir until melted and smooth. Add in shredded cheese and bacon, stirring until the cheese in melted. Turn off heat and stir in cilantro.
Serve chicken on a bed of Mexican or Taco rice (I made cilantro lime rice) and topped with sauce. Garnish with additional cilantro if desired.

Rice Meatballs

Using rice to make meatballs? It sounded gluten free already, so I couldn't pass up this recipe from Melissa's Bargain Blog! Although Ella was confused as to why we were having meatballs with rice instead of noodles the whole family liked them. I think you could even make them and cook them in spaghetti sauce instead and then serve them with noodles as an easy gluten-free meatball alternative!

1 cup uncooked minute rice
1 lb ground beef
1 egg, slightly beaten
2 t. grated onion
1 t. salt
1/8 t marjoram
dash pepper
2 1/2 cups tomato juice (or two 8 oz cans tomato sauce mixed with 1/2 cup water)
1/2 t sugar

Combine rice and all other ingredients except tomato juice and sugar. Form balls and arrange in skillet. Pour tomato juice & sugar over meatballs. Bring to boil. Reduce heat & simmer uncovered 15 minutes.

Harvest Salad

This was my other contribution to our Labor Day BBQ. I loved the combination of flavors from the ingredients...nothing like a good green salad! (and it's from All Recipes)

1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 bunch spinach, rinsed and torn into bite-size pieces
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 avocado - peeled, pitted and diced
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons red raspberry jam (with seeds)
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/3 cup walnut oil freshly ground (I used olive oil)
black pepper to taste
salt to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Arrange walnuts in a single layer on a baking sheet. Toast in oven for 5 minutes, or until nuts begin to brown.
In a large bowl, toss together the spinach, walnuts, cranberries, blue cheese, tomatoes, avocado, and red onion.
In a small bowl, whisk together jam, vinegar, walnut oil, pepper, and salt. Pour over the salad just before serving, and toss to coat.

Potato Salad

I found this recipe on All Recipes (submitted by cheftini) and I've decided this is going to be "my" potato salad recipe :-). I loved it! It has enough of the core potato salad ingredients that it gives you that classic potato salad taste I love, but also enough variation to give that little something special to set it apart.

6 eggs
10 red potatoes
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup ranch dressing (I used light, it helps, right :-)?!)
1/3 cup dill pickle relish
2 tablespoons prepared yellow mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons salt (I used kosher salt)
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon celery seed
1 onion, chopped (very finely)
1/4 cup pepperoncini

Place the eggs into a saucepan in a single layer and fill with water to cover the eggs by 1 inch. Cover the saucepan and bring the water to a boil over high heat. Remove from the heat and let the eggs stand in the hot water for 15 minutes. Pour out the hot water; cool the eggs under cold running water in the sink. Peel and chop the cooled eggs.
Place the potatoes into a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain and refrigerate until cold. Peel and cube once cold.
Stir together the mayonnaise, ranch dressing, relish, mustard, salt, pepper, paprika, and celery seed in a mixing bowl. Add the eggs, potatoes, onion, and pepperoncini; stir until evenly mixed. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving. (I made it the night before to make it even better!)

Pioneer Woman Meatloaf

I've never been a meatloaf fan, I mean they just don't really look appetizing, you know? However, I have been meaning to try this one from my Pioneer Woman Cooks cookbook (from my sweet mom :-) for awhile and finally got to it this weekend. I really, really loved it. It was moist and super duper even if you don't think you like meatloaf, give it a try! Oh, and did I mention it was easy to make too?!

1 cup milk
6 bread slices (I used whole grain)
2 pounds ground beef
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt
ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup minced parsley
4 eggs
8 to 12 thin bacon slices
1 1/2 cups ketchup
6 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon dry mustard
couple dashes of hot sauce

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees
- Place the bread slices in a bowl and pour 1 cup milk over the top. Let it soak in for a few minutes.
-Put the ground beef, milky bread, cheese, salt, seasoned salt, pepper, parsley, and beat eggs into a large mixing bowl. Now combine everything together using your hands. You will find everything combines nicely.
-Next, form into into a "loaf" and place on a broiler pan. By using a broiler pan, the fat will just drip to the bottom pan. For easy clean up, put some tinfoil on the bottom pan. Then just wrap bacon around the loaf and tuck the ends under the loaf.
-Now it is time to make the sauce that will cover the top. In a small bowl add the ketchup, brown sugar, dry mustard, and a couple dashes of hot sauce. If you like it hotter you can add more hot sauce. Mix it all together well.
-Pour 1/3 of the sauce over the meatloaf.
-Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes.
-Take it out and pour another 1/3 of the sauce over the top again. Put it back in the oven and bake for another 15 minutes or until done.

Cheesy Mac and Trees

My girls have been loving mac n cheese lately, but since I'm trying to feed Preston as little gluten as possible right now it's hard for him to see them eating it and not get any. I saw this recipe in Rachael Ray's magazine and was excited to give it a try...I could use gluten-free noodles AND it has broccoli, one of my favorite veggies. We all loved it and will definitely be making it as a replacement to the standard mac n cheese!

Salt and pepper
1 pound whole wheat or whole grain rotini or penne rigate pasta (I used gluten-free penne)
1 large head broccoli, trimmed and cut into small florets
3 tablespoons butter
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
3 tablespoons flour (I used cornstarch)
2 cups low-fat milk
1/2 cup chicken stock
2 1/2 cups shredded yellow extra-sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives or 2 scallions, thinly sliced (optional)

Preheat the broiler.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt it, add the pasta and cook until al dente (about 10 to 12 minutes, depending on the brand).
When the pasta has been cooking for a couple of minutes, add the broccoli to the water and finish cooking everything together. Drain and return to the pot.
Meanwhile, in a saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for 2 to 3 minutes.
Whisk in the flour and cook for 1 minute, then whisk in the milk and stock.
Cook until the sauce thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon.
Stir in 2 cups cheese and season with salt and pepper.
Toss the pasta and broccoli with the sauce. Adjust the seasonings to taste.
Place in a large casserole dish and top with the remaining 1/2 cup cheese and the chives or scallions, if using.
Place under the broiler until bubbling and browned.

Yolanda's Famous Chicken

This is another recipe from my Cooking Light magazine (July 2010) and this was an absolute hit! Addie ate almost an entire chicken breast...and that is saying something :-)! It was deliciously flavorful and crispy, but pretty healthy too!

2 bread slices
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 1/2 teaspoons dried rosemary, crushed
1 1/2 teaspoons dried marjoram
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon 2% reduced-fat milk
1 large egg
Cooking spray
4 teaspoons olive oil, divided
4 lemon wedges

1. Preheat oven to 375°.
2. Tear bread into pieces. Place bread in a food processor; pulse until breadcrumbs measure about 1 3/4 cups.
3. Place each chicken breast half between 2 sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap, and pound chicken to 1/2-inch thickness using a meat mallet or small heavy skillet.
4. Place flour in a shallow dish. Combine breadcrumbs, cheese, and next 4 ingredients (through pepper) in a second shallow dish. Combine milk and egg in a third shallow dish, stirring with a whisk. Working with 1 breast half at a time, dredge chicken in flour, shaking off excess. Dip into egg mixture; dredge in breadcrumb mixture, pressing to coat evenly on both sides. Place chicken on a large plate. Repeat procedure with remaining breast halves, flour, egg mixture, and breadcrumb mixture; refrigerate for 30 minutes.
5. Heat a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray; add 2 teaspoons olive oil, swirling to coat. Add 2 breast halves to pan; cook 3 minutes on each side or until browned. Place on a broiler pan coated with cooking spray. Lightly coat chicken with cooking spray. Repeat procedure with remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil and remaining breast halves. Bake at 375° for 12 minutes or until a thermometer registers 165°. Serve with lemon wedges.

Summer Squash and Corn Chowder

Mike took the girls out to dinner at Cici's last night (a pizza buffet if you have never heard of it), so I took advantage of the dinner alone to make something I knew only Preston and I would truly appreciate...a meatless, veggie soup :-). I found the recipe in Cooking Light and I loved it was fast to throw together!

2 slices applewood-smoked bacon (just leave it out if you want it truly meatless)
3/4 cup sliced green onions, divided
1/4 cup chopped celery
1 pound yellow summer squash, chopped
1 pound frozen white and yellow baby corn kernels, thawed and divided
2 1/4 cups 1% low-fat milk, divided
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese

1. Cook bacon in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan, reserving 2 teaspoons drippings in pan. Crumble bacon, and set aside. Add 1/2 cup onions, celery, and squash to drippings in pan; sauté 8 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
2. Reserve 1 cup corn; set aside. Place the remaining corn and 1 cup milk in a blender; process until smooth. Add remaining 1 1/4 cups milk, thyme, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper to blender; process just until combined. Add pureed mixture and reserved 1 cup corn to pan. Reduce heat to medium; cook 5 minutes or until thoroughly heated, stirring constantly. Stir in 1/8 teaspoon salt. Ladle about 1 1/2 cups soup into each of 4 bowls; top each serving with about 1 tablespoon bacon, 1 tablespoon remaining onions, and 1 tablespoon cheese.

Spicy Sausage Sheperd's Pie

I've been seeing all kinds of interesting twists on shepherd's pie recently and I love it! This one was in the last issue of Rachael Ray and I was drawn to it because they had a pretty picture and by looking at the ingredients I knew Mike would like it (and I do try to pick one thing a week that I know for sure he will be excited about :-). We both LOVED this...the kids not so much. The spicy sausage and cabbage combined to create a great flavor that was both surprising and delicious. The other great thing was that you don't have to bake it (just broil it a few minutes) so it keeps your kitchen relatively cool in the summer. Definitely a keeper!

* 8 baking potatoes (2 1/2 pounds), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (I used red with skins on)
* 2 cups chicken broth
* 6 tablespoons heavy cream (I used whole milk)
* Salt and pepper
* 1 pound hot italian sausage, casings removed
* 1/2 head green cabbage, cored and thinly sliced
* 1 onion, chopped
* 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
* 1 tablespoon jarred horseradish
* 1/2 bunch flat-leaf parsley, chopped

1. Preheat the broiler. In a pot, combine the potatoes and enough salted water to cover by 1 inch. Cover and bring to a boil, then uncover and cook until fork-tender, about 10 minutes; drain. Mash in 1/2 cup chicken broth and the cream; season with salt and pepper.
2. Meanwhile, in a large, ovenproof skillet, cook the sausage over medium-high heat, breaking it up, until browned, 5 to 7 minutes; using a slotted spoon, transfer the sausage to a bowl. Add the cabbage, onion and garlic to the pan, season with salt and pepper and cook until golden, about 5 minutes. Stir in the remaining 1 1/2 cups chicken broth and the horseradish. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until the liquid is reduced, about 10 minutes. Stir in the cooked sausage and the parsley, reserving 1 teaspoon for sprinkling.
3. Spoon the mashed potatoes onto the sausage mixture and broil until the potatoes are golden, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with the reserved parsley.

Tortilla Soup

I just got a copy of this recipe from my friend Mckell, who knows that I LOVE a good tortilla soup...and well, food in general :-). After she told me about how it had a different flavor than the typical tortilla soup recipe thanks to the worchestershire sauce I was excited to give it a try myself. It is really, really good! Ella told me it is her favorite tortilla soup and Mike gave it his thumbs up too. I'm excited to have a new variation to work into my soup rotation :-)!

1 lg onion, chopped
1 jalapeno (roasted in 375 degree oven for 15 min and then chopped)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 T oil
2 lbs diced cooked chicken (I used 2-12 oz cans chicken)
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
5 oz Rotel tomatoes and green chiles (this is 1/2 a can)
1 can beef broth
1 can chicken broth
1 can tomato soup
1 1/2 cans water (tomato soup can)
1 can tomato sauce (little can)
1 t ground cumin
1 t chili powder
1 t salt
1/2 t lemon pepper
2 t worchestershire sauce
1/2-1 t Tabasco
toppings: crushed tortilla chips/tortilla strips, grated cheese, sour cream, avocado, etc.

-Saute first 5 ingredients in large pan
-Add remaining ingredients. Simmer for 1 hour.
-Top as desired.

Strawberry Layer Cake

I was looking for dinner ideas for the week and then I saw this cake on The Recipe Club and knew I had to make it. We had it for dessert at our Back to School dinner and it was a hit. I LOVED it! It has the same strawberry yumminess The Pioneer Woman's Strawberry Shortcake Cake, but less rich, making it perfect for a smaller group. I'm giving part of it away today so I'll stop eating it!!!

1 butter cake mix
2 TBSP flour
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
2/3 cup frozen sweetened sliced strawberry
1 small box strawberry jello

In a large bowl combine cake mix, flour, water, oil & eggs. Beat with an electric mixer for 2 minutes. Add frozen strawberries & strawberry jello. Beat well.
Pour into 2 greased & floured 8 or 9 inch round cake pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes. Cool 10 minutes in the pan & the turn out & cool completely on a wire rack. Frost between layer, sides & top of cakes with strawberry glaze.

Strawberry Glaze
1 stick butter, softened
1 pound powder sugar
2/3 cup sliced frozen strawberries with juice
1/2 tsp salt

In a medium bowl cream together butter, sugar & salt. Whip until light & fluffy. Beat in strawberries & juice.

Mint n' Chip Ice Cream Brownies

When I saw these Strawberry Ice Cream Brownies on My Kitchen Cafe I book marked them immediately. They looked SOOO good! For Ella's birthday I made them with Mint n' Chip ice cream because it's her favorite. They were delicious, but a little messy to eat. Next time I try them I think I'll make mini-cupcakes that are bite-size...or just make regular brownies, top them with the ice cream and the ganache in a bowl, because really they all taste the same and that is a lot less work :-).

*Makes about 24 cupcakes
For the brownies:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons butter, cut into 8 pieces
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 large eggs plus 1 egg yolk
1 1/8 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the ice cream:
1 quart mint n' chip ice cream, slightly softened
For the ganache:
1 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup heavy cream

To make the brownie bottoms, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two cupcake pans with foil liners (and using foil makes a difference, I only had 14 left so I used paper liners for the rest and they were hard to get off).
Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl; stir together and set aside. In a heatproof bowl combine the butter and chocolate. Microwave on 50% power for one minute. Stir. Repeat until the chocolate and butter are melted and well combined (be careful not to overheat).
In a large mixing bowl combine the eggs, egg yolk, sugar and vanilla extract. Whisk to blend.
Stir in the warm chocolate mixture, and then the dry ingredients, mixing just until incorporated.

Scoop 1 tablespoon of batter into each cupcake liner. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs attached, 6-8 minutes. Don’t overbake or the brownies will be dry. Leaving the brownies in the cupcake pans, cool on a wire rack to room temperature. Freeze for at least 30 minutes. Top with strawberry ice cream until the cupcake liner is full. Return the cupcake pans to the freezer for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

To make the ganache, place the chocolate chips in a small bowl. Bring the cream to a simmer in a small saucepan. Pour the cream evenly over the chocolate, let stand for 1 minute. Stir until smooth with a rubber spatula. If the ganache is too thin, allow it to stand at room temperature to cool and become more easily spreadable. Once the ganache is thick but still pourable, scoop it by the teaspoonful on top of the ice cream cupcakes and spread over the tops. Return to the freezer.

Remove the cupcakes from the freezer about 10 minutes before serving.

Shredded Lime Chicken Tacos

I was looking for a good shredded chicken recipe to make so we had another taco option for Ella's birthday. I found this marinade on All Recipes, changed a couple ingredients and threw it in the crock pot instead of of dicing and cooking the chicken. I was a little nervous serving a brand new recipe for a party, but luckily this chicken was great! I froze some of the leftovers and plan to use it in enchiladas or tortilla soup in the future...can't wait!!!

* 1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast meat - cubed
* 1/8 cup red wine vinegar
* 1/2 lime, juiced
* 1 teaspoon white sugar
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
* 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
* 1/2 white onion, chopped
* 2 cloves garlic, minced

Mix together vinegar, lime juice, sugar, salt, pepper, onion, garlic and cilantro. Put in crock pot with chicken and cook on low 6 hours. Shred chicken apart with forks and serve in tacos with toppings of choice!

Re"Fried" Beans

In addition to tacos and queso, Ella loves refried beans, so I decided to try making my own instead of doing one of my typical black bean was her birthday after all :-). I loved how the beans turned out! They were easy and healthy and had a great flavor to them. In the midst of hosting the party I forgot to get a good picture of them, so just trust me that they tasted much better than they look here! (I found the idea on All Recipes and adapted slightly)

* 1 onion, peeled and halved
* 3 cups dry pinto beans, rinsed
* 1/2 fresh jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
* 2 tablespoons minced garlic
* 5 teaspoons salt
* 1 3/4 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
* 1/8 teaspoon ground cumin, (I used 1/2 teaspoon)
* 9 cups water

1. Place the onion, rinsed beans, jalapeno, garlic, salt, pepper, and cumin into a slow cooker. Pour in the water and stir to combine. Cook on High for 8 hours, adding more water as needed. Note: if more than 1 cup of water has evaporated during cooking, then the temperature is too high. (I cooked mine on low overnight and then waited until closer to serving time to drain and mash them)
2. Once the beans have cooked, strain them, and reserve the liquid. Mash the beans with a potato masher, adding the reserved water as needed to attain desired consistency.

Grilled Tomatillo Chicken

This recipe also comes from Taste of Home. I have really liked all the recipes I've made recently with tomatillos so I was ready to try this one out! It was really good. Easy to make since you grill the chicken. I did puree the sauce and was glad I did...I thought it made the texture more appetizing, more like a salsa. It was a very summer-y dinner and hit all around!!!


* 4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
* 4 slices provolone cheese
* 1 medium onion, chopped
* 1 tablespoon olive oil
* 6 tomatillos, husks removed, chopped
* 1/4 cup lime juice
* 6 pickled jalapeno slices, chopped
* 1 garlic clove, minced
* 1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
* 1 teaspoon ground cumin
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/4 teaspoon pepper
* Hot cooked rice
* Sour cream, optional

* Using long-handled tongs, moisten a paper towel with cooking oil and lightly coat the grill rack. Grill chicken, covered, over medium heat or broil 4 in. from the heat for 4-7 minutes on each side or until a meat thermometer reads 170°. Top with cheese; cook 1 minute longer or until cheese is melted.
* In a large skillet, saute onion in oil until tender. Add the tomatillos, lime juice and jalapenos; cook 3 minutes longer. Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer. Stir in the cilantro, cumin, salt and pepper. (I pureed the sauce a little because I didn't think the chunks of tomatillos looked very appetizing) Serve tomatillo mixture and chicken and with rice; dollop with sour cream if desired. Yield: 4 servings.

Curried Chicken Sheperd's Pie

This recipe was in the June/July issue of Taste of Home and was really great! I love sheperd's pie and also love chicken and curry so this recipe had me curious. It ended up being super tasty and a nice easy meal to make too!


* 1 large onion, chopped
* 2 celery ribs, chopped
* 3 tablespoons butter, divided
* 1 cup frozen peas and carrots (I used 2 carrots diced instead)
* 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
* 1 teaspoon curry powder
* 1-1/2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
* 1/2 cup 2% milk
* 2 cups cubed cooked chicken
* 2 tablespoons dried parsley flakes
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 teaspoon pepper
* 2 cups mashed potatoes (with added milk and butter)
* 1/4 teaspoon paprika

* In a large skillet, saute onion and celery in 1 tablespoon butter until tender. Add frozen vegetables and remaining butter(I added diced fresh carrot in with onions and celery instead); cook 2 minutes longer.
* Stir in flour and curry powder until blended; gradually add broth and milk. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 1 minute or until thickened. Add the chicken, parsley, salt and pepper.
* Transfer to a greased 2-qt. baking dish. Top with potatoes; sprinkle with paprika. Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 25-30 minutes or until heated through. Yield: 4 servings.

Sirloin and Summer Vegetable Kebabs with Chimichurri

This recipe came from the latest Martha Stewart magazine. I've been craving my favorite beef kabobs from a local restaurant, but haven't had the chance to go get any, so I decided to make my own to hold me over :-). I loved the flavor of the meet and the chimichurri was really good. I put a little less oregano than called for and would put even less the next time around (I felt like it overpowered the other flavors a little). Kebabs just always look so pretty and are a fun way to eat your veggies. I made a wild rice blend to go with it and loved it...I'm really loving wild rice lately!
1 lb. beef sirloin tips, cut into 1 1/2 in pieces
2 T balsamic vinegar
1 T soy sauce
1/2 t freshly ground pepper
1 med zucchini
1 small yellow summer squash
1 onion
1 red bell pepper
For Chimichurri...
Whisk together:
1/2 c fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1/2 c fresh oregano, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 t fresh lemon juice
3/4 t coarse salt

Marinate beef in vinegar, soy sauce and ground pepper for 30 minutes (also soak 4 wooden skewers in water during this time).
Slice veggies into 1 inch pieces.
Heat grill to med-high.
Thread beef onto skewers alternating with vegetables.
Grill for 7-8 min per side.
Drizzle/Dip with Chimichurri.