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...plus it was fast to throw together!

Ingredients:
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

Directions:
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!

Ingredients:
* 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

Directions:
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 :-)!

Ingredients:
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.

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

Hearty Rice Casserole

I haven't made a real casserole in quite awhile and let's face it, casseroles are super easy to throw together. I saw this recipe is in an old church cookbook and adapted it slightly. I thought it sounded like something Preston would like (and I'm working hard to get him to eat more food), not to mention it uses beef which I struggle to find recipes for. This came together quickly and was pretty good with some salt and pepper on top. Preston definitely ate his serving, so I'm counting it as a success!

Ingredients:
1 lb. lean ground beef
2 medium onions
1 can cream of chicken soup (I used 98%FF)
3/4 c. uncooked rice
1/2 t pepper
1 1/2 c warm water
1 T soy sauce

Directions:
Brown hamburger and onions; add remaining ingredients.
Mix and place in a large casserole dish.
Bake covered at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

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!!!

Ingredients:
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

Directions:
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
Ingredients:
1 stick butter, softened
1 pound powder sugar
2/3 cup sliced frozen strawberries with juice
1/2 tsp salt

Directions:
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

Directions:
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

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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!!!

Ingredients:
* 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

Directions:
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 sides...it 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)

Ingredients:
* 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

Directions
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.

Ella's Birthday Menu

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Ella's two favorite meals are spaghetti and taco bell tacos, so when I talked to her about about what she wanted me to make for her family birthday dinner I wasn't surprised when those were the two things she mentioned. She also LOVES queso, and since I LOVE all Mexican style food, we went with that theme. So, for today's party we are serving up...
Restaurant Salsa
Queso
Fancy Guacamole
Re"Fried" Beans
Cilantro Lime Rice
Shredded Lime Chicken Tacos
Ground Beef (aka:Taco Bell Style) Tacos
and for dessert
Mint N' Chip Ice Cream Brownies

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!!!

Ingredients:

* 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

Directions:
* 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!

Ingredients:

* 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

Directions:
* 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!
Ingredients:
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

Directions:
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.

Mexican Lasagna

I found this recipe on Annie's Eats, but it originally comes from Pioneer Woman. I think this may be the best version of Mexican Lasagna I have tried so far. It makes TONS too, so next time I will prepare it in 2 8x8 dishes and freeze one for later. I also think it would be great with shredded chicken instead of the ground beef (although the whole reason I picked this recipe was to use some ground beef). It had a little spice to it, but not too much and was packed full of great flavors. Even the kiddos loved it...especially Preston who kept wanting more and more!

Ingredients:
2 cups unprepared rice
3-4 cups chicken broth
2-4 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1-1 ½ onions, chopped
4-7 cloves garlic, minced
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
taco seasoning (or chili powder, paprika and cumin)
1-1 ½ lb. ground sirloin
1 (16 oz.) jar salsa verde
8-12 small flour tortillas (I used 12 corn tortillas)
12-16 oz. shredded Mexican cheese
4-8 oz. enchilada sauce
1 can corn, drained
sour cream and cilantro, for garnish

Directions:
Cook the rice according to package directions with chicken broth in place of water. Salt to taste. In a large skillet, melt a ½ tablespoon of butter over medium-high heat. Add the tomatoes, onion and garlic to the pan and sauté until onion is tender. Add in chili powder (approx. 1 ½ tablespoons), paprika and cumin (approx. ¾ tablespoon of each), or taco seasoning to taste. Stir to combine. Add the can of beans and stir to combine. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and add cooked rice. Stir to mix well.

In the now empty skillet, brown the ground sirloin. Mix with chili powder (approx. 1 ½ tablespoons), paprika and cumin (approx. ¾ tablespoon of each) and salt to taste, as well as 2 oz. of water to create the taco beef.

To assemble the lasagna, pour half of the jar of salsa verde in an even layer over the bottom of a casserole dish. Layer evenly with flour tortillas to cover. Spread approximately half of the rice mixture evenly over the tortillas. Sprinkle with a layer of shredded Mexican cheese. Add another layer of flour tortillas. Pour a thin layer of enchilada sauce over the tortillas. Spread taco beef evenly over the enchilada sauce. Layer one can of corn over the beef. Top with the remaining rice mixture in an even layer. Spread the remaining salsa verde evenly over the rice, and sprinkle with a layer of shredded cheese to finish.

Bake at 375° for 25-35 minutes, or until the cheese has melted and begins to brown a bit. Allow to sit 10 minutes before serving. Top individual servings with sour cream and fresh cilantro, for garnish.

Szechuan Chicken

I LOVED this chicken from Favorites!!! I know when I'm excited to eat the leftovers the next day for lunch, that I really loved a meal...and I couldn't wait for these ones! I served it with Jasmine rice and our trusty zucchini method. Awesome meal!!!

Ingredients:
1 lb chicken
1/4 cup cornstarch
1-2 Tbsp oil (I used 1 T Canola, 1 T Sesame oil))
1 1/2 Tbsp minced garlic
3-5 Tbsp Soy Sauce
1-2 Tbsp White Wine Vinegar (I only had red wine vinegar on hand and used that)
1 Tbsp Sugar
1/4 cup water
3 diced green onions
dash of cayenne pepper

Directions:
Cut chicken into 1 inch cubes and lightly coat with corn starch (I do this by putting the chicken in a ziploc bag with the cornstarch and mixing it all around until it's covered). Heat oil in a frying pan and add minced garlic. Add chicken and fry until all sides are white. Add soy sauce, vinegar and sprinkle with sugar. Add the water--more or less depending on how strong of a flavor you want and how runny you want the sauce. Add diced green onions and cayenne pepper. You can make it as spicy as you want. Serve with rice.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Rice Krispie Treats

So, last week I stopped by Picky Palate to look for dinner ideas and saw these instead. Who needs dinner, anyway?! These little guys are definitely rich, but oh so tasty too. I L-O-V-E them!
Ingredients:
6 Cups rice krispie cereal
1 large bag mini marshmallows
1/4 Cup butter
2 Cups creamy peanut butter
50 mini Reeses Peanut Butter Cups, quartered
1 1/2 Cups melted chocolate to drizzle

Directions:
1. Place cereal into a large mixing bowl, set aside. Place marshmallows and butter into a large bowl and microwave until puffed up, about 3 minutes. Remove and pour into cereal, mix to combine then pour into a greased 9×13 inch baking dish and press to make even. Melt peanut butter until nice and runny, about 45 seconds. Pour in quartered peanut butter cups, stir gently then pour over treats. Drizzle melted chocolate over top and refrigerate to harden. When set, cut into squares and serve!

Cafe Rio Tortilla Soup

I have had an insanely awful sore throat this week so when I was planning the menu I went looking for a new soup recipe to try. I came across this one on A Bountiful Kitchen and couldn't wait to try it. I can't vouch for how close this is to the real Cafe Rio soup, since I always picked one of the pork dishes when I went there, but I can tell you this soup was super delish and I'll definitely be making it again!

Ingredients:
1-2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 chicken breast halves, skinless, boneless (I used 1 can chicken)
3 cups water
1 whole large sweet onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups chopped carrots
1 small can mild green chilies
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon cumin
1 can Rotel brand tomato, lime juice and cilantro
1 can small white beans
1 quart carton chicken broth
3 teaspoons chicken flavoring or bullion cubes
1 cup frozen corn
1/2 fresh lime, juice and zest
topping options: cilantro, avocado, crushed chips, sour cream, cheese

Directions:
Heat olive oil in pan. Add chicken and cook until light brown on both sides. Season with salt and pepper. Add 3 cups water to pan, cover and simmer chicken on medium high heat until cooked through, about 10 minutes.
(since I used a can of chicken, I used the 1 quart broth to simmer the veggies and added 1 c water and 1 t bouillon when I added the chicken, undrained, back in later)
Remove chicken and set aside. In same pan, add onion,carrots, chilies, garlic, cumin and Rotel to juices, and add enough broth from carton until vegetables are covered. Simmer for 10-15 minutes, until vegetables are tender. Chop the chicken. Add chicken, beans, corn and lime juice to vegetable mixture in pan with all remaining broth. If additional chicken flavor is needed, add some chicken flavoring to taste.
Salt and Pepper. Garnish with fresh cilantro. 8 servings.