Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Some Changes

So...I've been doing this little food blog for a couple of years now.  It started out as a place for my friends and family to find my favorite recipes and has since grown (not exponentially, obviously) to be something a little bigger.  I have followers!  I sometimes show up on page one of Google search results!  I get traffic from Pinterest!

As a result, I decided it was time to change to a custom domain name.  You can now find this blog at  You can still use my old blogspot address, but it will redirect you back here.  And anyone who follows me should also be redirected and shouldn't experience any trouble with that.  If you do, please let me know.

There may be some changes in the next few months.  Nothing drastic, I just want to freshen up the place a bit.  As I (slowly) figure out how to do stuff, you'll probably see something new here or there.  And I may even include some ads to generate a little income.  Ingredients aren't free and I could use a little more dough (ha, ha).

Anyway, thank you to my friends, family, and followers for making this teeny corner of the internet a little more popular.  I enjoy maintaining this blog and finding new recipes to try out and share.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Orange Sesame Chicken

This was very popular in our house the night I made it.  Even in spite of the fact that I served it with a side of broccoli.  I was surprised at how good it was and it's relatively easy and quick!  The recipe comes from a wonderful food blog called Jamie Cooks It Up that I discovered through (what else) Pinterest.  Jamie has lots of delicious recipes, all with beautiful photos - you should check her out.

Now this recipe calls for a few ingredients that not everyone has on hand (I do, but that's because I cook a lot of Asian-inspired food).  You'll need rice vinegar, sesame oil, and sesame seeds.  Personally, I think it's worth investing in these ingredients (they really aren't expensive) because I have a feeling you will add this recipe into your weekly or monthly routine.  And they are ingredients that can be used in lots of other tasty recipes like Chinese Chicken Salad, Teriyaki Chicken, and Korean BBQ Beef, to name a few.

from Jamie Cooks It Up!

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup flour
1/8 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. olive oil

1/2 cup fresh orange juice (from 2 large oranges)
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
3 Tbsp. rice vinegar
4 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. orange zest (1 orange should be enough)
1/4 cup cold water
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. sesame oil
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1 Tbsp. cornstarch

1Tbsp. toasted sesame seeds
sliced green onion, if desired

Mix flour and salt in a medium sized bowl.  Cut chicken into bite-sized chunks and toss in the flour mixture, making sure all sides are coated.

Mix together all sauce ingredients in a bowl and set aside.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over med-high heat.  Add chicken pieces to skillet (I did this in two batches) and brown on both sides.  Reduce heat to med-low and add sauce to skillet; stir to coat chicken and simmer for 5-10 minutes, or until sauce is thickened and chicken is cooked through.  Garnish with sesame seeds and green onions, if desired.  Goes well with steamed rice.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Cranberry Orange Salad

This is a new twist on an old recipe that I posted on here long ago: Cranberry Jello Salad.  The recipe is from my mother-in-law and it's my favorite gelatin salad to make for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  This year I wanted to change it up a little and decided to try it with some orange juice and a bit of orange zest.  I wish I had added a can of mandarin oranges instead of the zest because that would have added more color and better "orange" flavor.  The zest pretty much got lost in the cranberry sauce.  Next time I am definitely adding the oranges.  But even without them, I now like this salad better with the orange juice.

 adapted from Cranberry Jello Salad

2 boxes (3 oz each) cranberry Jello (raspberry or black cherry will also work)
1 (14 oz) can whole cranberry sauce
1 (20 oz) can crushed pineapple, well drained
2 (15 oz each) cans mandarin oranges, drained
1 1/2 cups orange juice
1 1/2 cups boiling water

In a large bowl, dissolve Jello in boiling water.  Add cranberry sauce and stir until well mixed and no lumps (other than cranberries) remain.  Add pineapple, oranges, and orange juice and stir until combined.  Pour into 2 qt. serving dish and refrigerate at least 4 hours or until set.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Pumpkin Cheesecake Pie

This is the other pie I made for Thanksgiving.  My daughter is in love with it and ate two pieces of it on Monday.  I love that it combines two of my favorite desserts: cheesecake and pumpkin pie.  Mine didn't turn out as pretty as the one on the King Arthur Flour website, but it still looks good enough to eat.

The recipe makes more pumpkin filling than will fit in the pie, so I just put the rest of it in a ramekin and baked it alongside the pie until it was done.  Who doesn't love a recipe that results in a bonus dessert?

from King Arthur Flour

9-inch deep dish unbaked pie crust

Cheesecake filling:
1 (8 oz) block cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp. vanilla

Pumpkin filling:
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. allspice
1 (15 oz) can pumpkin
1 cup (8 oz) evaporated milk
3 large eggs, lightly beaten

In a medium bowl, beat together cream cheese and sugar until smooth.  Beat in egg and vanilla until incorporated and pour mixture into the pie crust.  Refrigerate while making the pumpkin filling.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  In a large bowl, mix together the sugar, salt, and spices.  Add pumpkin, evaporated milk, and eggs and whisk gently until smooth.  Slowly and carefully spoon pumpkin mixture over the cheesecake filling (you may have some leftover - see note above).

Bake for 15 minutes at 425 degrees then reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for 40-45 minutes.  Pie is done when it looks set, but center is still a bit wobbly.  Cool to room temperature and then refrigerate until serving.

Note:  I like to wrap strips of aluminum foil around the edge of the pie crust before filling, then remove the foil about 20 minutes before pie is done baking.  This keeps the crust from getting too brown.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Blackberry Pear Crumble Pie

We had our Thanksgiving with extended family this year and their tradition is for everyone to bring a different pie (or two).  I was excited for the opportunity to try out a new recipe that I'd been thinking about for a while.  I found a recipe for Pear Crumble Pie on and thought it sounded different and yummy.  It has a custardy fruit filling and a crisp crumble topping - what's not to love?  But, as usual, I wanted to mix it up and decided to add some blackberries with the pears.

I may be wrong, but it seems that the combination of blackberries and pears is a British thing.  Almost every "blackberry pear" recipe I found on Google was from a British website and all measurements were in metric.  What gives?  Are we Americans just not hip to this fruit combination? 

Anyway, my husband and mother-in-law liked this pie and I think it's darn yummy, myself.  If you are looking to make something different for a potluck or family party this year, here's your pie!

slightly adapted from Pear Crumble Pie on

9-inch deep dish pastry shell, unbaked

4 ripe Bartlett pears, peeled, cored, and sliced
12 oz. fresh blackberries, rinsed
1 large egg
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. flour
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg

Crumble topping:
1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup sugar
3 Tbsp. cold butter
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  In a large bowl, whisk together egg, sour cream, 1/2 cup sugar, 2 Tbsp. flour, vanilla, and spices.  Fold in the pears and blackberries.  Carefully pour mixture into the pastry shell and bake for 40 minutes.*

While the pie is baking, make the crumble:  in a medium bowl, mix together flour, sugar, and cinnamon.  Cut in the butter with a pastry blender or fork until crumbly.  After the pie has baked 40 minutes, sprinkle the crumble topping on.  Return to oven for 20 minutes longer.  Let cool before serving.  Refrigerate leftovers.

* To keep the crust edge from over-browning, I like to wrap the edge in aluminum foil before filling.  Then remove foil when adding the crumble topping.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal

Here's a great way to use up that little bit of leftover pumpkin!  I discovered this little gem of a recipe last year and made this oatmeal quite often (for myself...).  The recipe is for an individual serving, but you could easily bump it up to make more.  Although, I would recommend cooking it on the stove top if you're making it for more than 2 people - I think you'd get a better result.  Just for reference: 4 Tbsp = 1/4 cup.

PUMPKIN PIE OATMEAL (individual serving)
slightly adapted from The Craving Chronicles

1/3 cup old-fashioned oats (I use a heaping 1/3 cup)
2 Tbsp. canned pumpkin
1 Tbsp. packed brown sugar
1/4 cup water
2 Tbsp. milk
1/8 tsp. vanilla
pinch of salt
dash of cinnamon, cloves, allspice, and ginger*
dried cranberries, optional
chopped pecans, optional

Stir together pumpkin, brown sugar, water, milk, vanilla, salt, and spices in a microwave-safe bowl.  Stir in oats and cranberries and/or pecans, if using, until well mixed.  Microwave on HIGH for 1-2 minutes, or until desired consistency.  Top with more pecans and cranberries, if desired.  Serve immediately.

* You could also just use a few dashes of pumpkin pie spice.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Cranberry Orange Shortbread Cookies

I saw these cookies on Pinterest and thought they looked really yummy.  Then I followed the pin to a food blog from Singapore and the entire recipe was in metric and I did not feel like converting it.  Lucky for me (and for you) I found a similar recipe from Southern Living (which pretty much ensured they'd be good).

Oh my, I love these little cookies!  Even my husband loves them, which is AMAZING because he is not a fan of Craisins (he even goes to the trouble of picking them out of my homemade granola bars).  The dough requires at least 4 hours to chill, which could be a hassle, but it's totally worth it because all that time in the fridge lets the flavor of the orange zest diffuse throughout the dough.  I just made my dough the night before and baked it the next day.

I made these without the almond extract because I was out (whoops) and they still turned out yummy.  So if you don't have almond extract either, no worries.

I gave some of these goodies to some friends recently and took a cue from rolling and wrapping the dough and rolled and wrapped the cookies in wax paper:

Cute for gift giving, eh?  If you don't eat them all first, that is.


1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup chopped dried cranberries
1 Tbsp. orange zest (from 1-2 oranges, depending on size)
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. almond extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. salt
wax paper

Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy.  Add powdered sugar, beating until smooth.  Stir in chopped cranberries, orange zest, vanilla, and almond extract until well blended.

In a bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, and salt.  Gradually add flour mixture to the butter mixture, beating at low speed until blended.

Shape dough into 2 (7-inch) logs and wrap each in wax paper.  Chill dough for at least 4 hours or freeze logs in a Ziploc bag for up to one month.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  If frozen, let logs stand at room temperature for 10 minutes.  Slice each log into 24 pieces (about 1/4-inch thick slices).  Place slices about 1 inch apart on lightly greased or parchment lined cookie sheets.  Bake for 10-12 minutes or until edges of slices are golden.  Remove cookies to wire racks and cool completely.  Store in an airtight container.  Makes about 4 dozen.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Chinese Chicken Salad

We've had this recipe in my family for years.  My mother got it from my aunt Renee, who was a wealth of yummy recipes.  This salad is always popular and can serve as a light main course or tasty side.

Traditionally, we've made this with iceberg lettuce, though romaine works as well.  I had to use greenleaf lettuce this time around because neither the iceberg nor romaine looked any good at the store recently.  I don't recommend it.  Greenleaf is way too flimsy to hold up to dressing for more than 10 minutes.  Wilty lettuce is very disappointing.

The best ingredient in this salad, in my humble opinion, is the fried wontons.  Usually we just fry up half a package of won ton wrappers and then break them into bite-size pieces, but lately I have discovered these beauties:
Pre-made crunchy won ton strips!  How cool is that?  Now I don't have to listen to my smoke detector go off while I fry won tons.  I found them in the produce section of my local Fry's (that's the same as Kroger or Smith's).  However, it was a miracle that I saw them because they were hanging up high, over the refrigerated salad dressing.  I mean, how often do you look up in the produce section?  There were even a couple of flavored varieties.  I thought the Ginger and Garlic sounded yummy.  If you can't find them, don't despair.  Here is a video that shows you how easy it is to make your own fried won tons (though I recommend using a pair of tongs instead).


1 lb. chicken breast, cooked and diced
1 large head of lettuce (iceberg or romaine), rinsed and chopped
3-4 green onions, sliced
1/2 cup sliced almonds
3 Tbsp. sesame seeds
1/2 pkg. of won ton wrappers, fried and broken in pieces
     (or a 3.5 oz bag of crunchy won ton strips)

Marinade for chicken:
3 Tbsp. soy sauce (I like the low-sodium variety)
1 Tbsp. sugar

4 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1/2 cup vegetable oil
6 Tbsp. rice vinegar (found in Asian food section of grocery store)

In a medium bowl, mix together the soy sauce and 1 Tbsp. sugar for marinade.  Add the chicken and toss to coat.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour to soak up flavor.

Combine dressing ingredients in a jar or plastic container with a tight-fitting lid.  Shake until well mixed.

In a large bowl, combine chopped lettuce, chicken, green onions, almonds, and sesame seeds.  Pour on the dressing, a little at a time (you probably won't need all of it), tossing the salad to coat.  Mix in won tons just before serving.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Frostbite Cookies

Don't these look good?

This recipe comes from Southern Living magazine and calls for peppermint extract in the white chocolate.  Personally, I have a hard time imagining these cookies tasting good with peppermint, but I may be wrong.  I do like them without it, and I also like them chewier than the original recipe's baking time permits.  I think the cornflakes add a nice crispy texture that fulfills the crunch factor for me.  But if you want a truly crunchy cookie, follow the original bake time.

If you are not a fan of vanilla almond bark, these cookies probably aren't for you since that ingredient is what really makes these cookies stand out.

slightly adapted from

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup shortening
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 1/2 cups cornflakes
12 oz. vanilla (white) almond bark
2 Tbsp. shortening
1/2 tsp. peppermint extract, optional

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt until well blended.

In a large mixing bowl, beat shortening with sugars; add eggs and vanilla.  Add flour mixture and beat just until combined.  Mix in oats and cornflakes.

Drop dough by heaping tablespoonfuls (or use a medium-sized cookie scoop), 2" apart, onto lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheets; flatten slightly.  

For chewy cookies, bake for 8-10 minutes or until a light golden brown.  Let cool for 3-4 minutes on the cookie sheet before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

For crunchy cookies, bake for 12-14 minutes or until an even golden brown.  Cool slightly on cookie sheet before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

In a medium-sized, microwave-safe bowl, heat almond bark and 2 Tbsp. shortening on HIGH for one minute.  Stir until smooth.  Add extract if using.  Dip the bottom of each cookie in the melted bark, letting excess drip back into the bowl.  Place cookies dipped side up on wax paper and let stand for 1 hour or until bark is set.  You can speed this along by putting the cookies in the fridge or freezer.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.  


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Baked Spasagna

I saw this recipe on Pinterest; the pin was from the blog Plain Chicken, who got the recipe from, where the recipe is touted as a copycat for an entree at Cheddar's restaurants.  Got that?  Lol.

Anyway, I really like this recipe because it's like a lazy man's lasagna: all the lasagna taste without all the work.  Easy and yummy?  Sold.  That said, I've tweaked the recipe because the original was a little excessive on the amounts of ingredients.  And even with my changes this still fills up a 9x13 and should be enough to feed a family of 6 or more.

adapted from recipe on Plain Chicken

16 oz (1 lb.) uncooked spaghetti
16 oz (2 cups) shredded mozzarella
8 ounces (1 cup) ricotta cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup half-and-half (fat-free is fine), or milk
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, divided, plus more for garnish
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. basil
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. minced garlic
1/2 tsp. salt
1 jar (26 oz) spaghetti sauce*
1 lb. Italian sausage or ground beef

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.

Cook pasta according to package directions; drain.

In a large bowl, stir together sour cream, ricotta, half-and-half or milk, mozzarella, oregano, basil, pepper, garlic, salt, and half the Parmesan cheese.  Add spaghetti and toss until well coated.  Pour mixture into prepared pan and press even.  Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese.

Cover dish with foil and bake for 40 minutes.

While pasta is baking, prepare meat sauce: brown sausage or ground beef in skillet; drain.  Add spaghetti sauce and simmer.

Remove pasta from oven; let stand about 10 minutes.  Cut pasta into squares and top with meat sauce.  Sprinkle more Parmesan for garnish, if desired.

*My favorite jarred spaghetti sauce is Prego's Italian Sausage and Garlic, but it only comes in a 23.5 oz jar, so I used that and added a 14.5 oz can of petite diced tomatoes.  Turned out good!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Pumpkin Spice Granola

My husband thinks I'm on a granola kick.  Maybe I am.  I have made a lot of granola bars lately....  But this is my first time making good, ol' fashioned granola.

I saw a recipe for Pumpkin Spice Granola last year on The Baker Chick.  I thought it sounded good but in all the hubbub that is the holidays, I never got around to making it.  This year I'm starting the pumpkin goodness early, partly to give my readers time to try it themselves and partly because I love pumpkin and usually don't get enough of it before the holidays are over.

As usual, I wasn't content with the recipe as-is and decided to tweak it a bit.  I wanted some Rice Krispies and sliced almonds mixed in for variety.  I've also changed the cooking directions a bit, more closely following this similar recipe.  And if you want to "walk on the wild side" and try cooking your granola in a slow cooker (yes, it can be done!), try following these directions.

adapted from The Baker Chick

4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
2 cups crisp rice cereal
2 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice*
3/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
1/4 cup applesauce (not chunky)
1/4 cup maple syrup or honey
1 tsp. vanilla
1/3 cup sliced or slivered almonds, optional
1/4 cup pepitas, optional
1/2 cup sweetened, dried cranberries, optional

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine oats and rice cereal.  In a medium bowl, whisk together pumpkin pie spice, salt, brown sugar, pumpkin, applesauce, maple syrup, and vanilla.  Pour wet ingredients into the oat mixture and stir until evenly coated.  Evenly spread the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet.

Bake for 30 minutes.  Remove pan from oven and stir the granola.  Sprinkle with almonds and pepitas, if using.  Bake for 10 minutes more or until granola is golden.  Depending on the size of your pan and the thickness of your granola layer, the center may not dry as quickly and you may need to remove the outer edges to cool on waxed paper and bake the center another few minutes until it's done.  Cool in pan or on waxed paper.  Break up granola as desired and store in an airtight container.

*If you don't have pumpkin pie spice, you can use 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. ginger, 1/4 tsp. nutmeg, 1/8 tsp. cloves

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Pumpkin Spice Almonds

So, I've made homemade Smoked Almonds and Cinnamon Sugar Almonds before for my husband who loves nuts.  When I found raw almonds on sale for $2.99 a pound at a local store, I thought I'd make him some more.  And then I wondered if they would be good with pumpkin pie spice and ... they are!  But I think the vanilla in this recipe is what sends these nuts over the top.  Even my daughter can't stop eating them and tells me they taste like pumpkin pie.

These make a great snack and would be a yummy gift for someone over the holidays.

slightly adapted from Cinnamon Toasted Almonds on Taste of Home

4 cups raw almonds
2 egg whites
2 Tbsp. vanilla
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice*

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Line two rimmed baking sheets with foil and spray with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, whisk the egg whites until frothy; whisk in vanilla.  Stir in the almonds until evenly coated.  In another bowl, mix together sugars, salt, and pumpkin pie spice until thoroughly mixed.  Add spice mixture to almonds and toss to coat.

Spread almonds in a single layer on each baking sheet.  Bake for 15 minutes, then stir.  Bake 15 minutes more and then let cool.  Store in an airtight container.

*Substitute for 2 tsp. of pumpkin pie spice:
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg

Monday, November 5, 2012

Pumpkin Ginger Cookies

These cookies are FABULOUS.  They are chewy, moist, and spicy - the top three things I love about a cookie.  They are essentially a chewy gingersnap with a pumpkin twist.  My husband and daughter can't stop eating them and neither can I, frankly.

This recipe comes from Two Peas & Their Pod; a blog full of fantastic cookie recipes (you should definitely check it out).  Maria calls them Soft Pumpkin Gingersnaps, but I'm a weirdo and have a hard time naming a soft cookie a "snap."  So I'm going with Pumpkin Ginger Cookies.  I've only made one alteration and that is to reduce the amount of ground cloves.  Cloves are a delicious but strong spice and I felt that a full teaspoon kind of covered up the pumpkin flavor too much, so I've reduced the amount to half a teaspoon.

The molasses makes the cookies chewy, the pumpkin makes them soft.  And they STAY soft - up to a week (though they usually don't last past the first day or two).

And stay tuned:  these cookies only use 1/2 cup canned pumpkin.  I'll be posting more recipes soon to use up the rest of the can.  :)

slightly adapted from Soft Pumpkin Gingersnaps on Two Peas & Their Pod

1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
1 cup sugar (plus more for rolling)
1/2 cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
1/4 cup molasses
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. salt

In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar until creamy.  Add the pumpkin, molasses, egg, and vanilla; mix until well combined. Add remaining dry ingredients and mix until completely combined (dough will be very sticky).  Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate dough at least one hour.

When ready to make cookies, preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment or Silpat.  Add about 1/2 cup of sugar to a small bowl.  Roll tablespoon-size balls of dough (I used a medium-sized cookie scoop) in sugar until well coated and place about 2 inches apart on cookie sheet.  Bake for 10-12 minutes or until edges are set and cookies look cracked.  Let cool for 2-3 minutes on the cookie sheet before transferring to a wire rack.  Makes about 3 dozen, depending on size.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Homemade Granola Bars

This recipe comes from the Pioneer Woman.  Does she make anything that isn't delicious?  I've made these bars twice now and my family loves them.

The first time I baked them for the full 20 minutes stated in the recipe and they turned out crun-chy!  Very similar to the original Nature Valley granola bars.  However, these homemade ones turn out thicker, so being thick and crunchy can be more time consuming to eat.  I don't mind it so much, but I do think it's hard work for little ones with small teeth and small mouths.

The second batch I only baked for 8 minutes and they turned out delightfully chewy.  I think this batch will get eaten a lot faster.  I know I can't stop eating them!

slightly adapted from the Pioneer Woman's recipe

6 cups rolled oats (old-fashioned - NOT quick oats)
4 Tbsp. butter, melted
1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
1 tsp. salt
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup apple juice
1 tsp. cinnamon, optional
1 Tbsp. vanilla
2 cups Rice Krispies
1 cup wheat germ
1/2 cup finely chopped almonds or pecans
1/2 cup sunflower seeds or pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1 cup raisins, Craisins, or chopped dried fruit (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a bowl, toss the oats with the canola oil, melted butter, and salt.  Spread the mixture in a large, rimmed baking sheet lined with heavy-duty foil and toast in the oven for 15-20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so to make sure they don't burn.  Remove from the oven and set aside.

**Reduce the oven heat to 325 degrees.**  In a medium saucepan, combine the brown sugar, honey, molasses, apple juice, and cinnamon (if using).  Heat the mixture over medium heat, just until it starts to bubble.  Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla.

In a large bowl, toss together the toasted oats, rice cereal, wheat germ, almonds, sunflower seeds or pecans.  Pour in the sugar mixture, stirring as you pour.  Toss in raisins, if using, until evenly coated.

Spray foil-lined baking sheet (the one you used to toast the oats) with cooking spray.  Press the granola into the pan (very firmly for chewy bars - so it really sticks together).  Bake for 8 minutes for chewy bars, 20-25 minutes for crunchy bars.  Remove from the oven and let cool completely.  Remove from pan and cut into bars with a sharp knife.  Store in an airtight container.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Crispy, Chewy Peanut Butter Bars

When I saw these on I knew they would be a hit with my husband.  He loves anything with peanut butter, especially chunky peanut butter.  They are super simple to make and require very few ingredients.  Just be careful not to overcook the peanut butter mixture or they will turn out really, really chewy.  Double the recipe if you want to fill a 9x13.

slightly adapted from No-Bake Chocolate, Peanut Butter, Corn Flake Bars on

1 cup crunchy peanut butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
3 cups corn flakes, crushed (measure, then crush)
1 cup chocolate chips (semi-sweet, milk, or mixed)
1/2 Tbsp. butter

Line an 8x8 baking pan with foil and spray with cooking spray.  In a saucepan, heat peanut butter, sugar, and corn syrup over low heat until sugar dissolves.  Stir in cereal.  Pour mixture into prepared pan and pat smooth.

Melt chocolate chips with butter over low heat or in the microwave; spread over peanut butter mixture.  Cool until firm.  Remove from pan and cut into squares (makes 16).

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Split Pea Soup

When I was a kid I thought split pea soup was disgusting.  I couldn't get over the color and texture.  Thankfully, I grew up and now appreciate this filling comfort food.  And so does my 8 year old daughter, surprisingly.  She tells me it's her favorite soup!

If you want soup with a thinner texture add more water.  I like to stay conservative in the recipe because you can always add more water, but you can't take it away (well, not very quickly).  And remember, the soup thickens as it cools.

adapted from

1 lb. bag split peas, rinsed and drained
1 quart (4 cups) chicken broth
3 cups water
1 1/2 - 2 lb. ham bone (or diced ham)
1 onion, chopped
1 bay leaf
1/8 tsp. marjoram (optional)
3 celery stalks, chopped
3 carrots, peeled and sliced
salt and pepper, to taste

Combine peas, chicken broth, water, ham bone, onion, bay leaf, and marjoram (if using) in a large stock pot.  Bring to a boil over high heat; reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 1 1/2 - 2 hours.

Remove bone, cut off meat, and return to pot with carrots and celery.  Continue to simmer another 30-40 minutes, uncovered, until veggies are tender.  Remove bay leaf, add more water if desired, and season with salt and pepper.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Black-Bottom Banana Bars

I got this recipe from my friend Carrie.  She originally found it in a Taste of Home magazine and now it's on the website.  She made them for a church gathering and I ate two and wanted more!  My husband is also a fan of these puppies, and he is not big on sweet stuff.

By the way, I am now sticking to name brand chocolate chips like I do with marshmallows.  The bargain brand chips I used in this recipe had a chalky texture once heated and were a total rip off.  Stick with the good stuff.  It's worth the extra 50 cents!

slightly adapted from Taste of Home

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups mashed ripe bananas (about 3-4 medium)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup cocoa
3 Tbsp. mayo
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in egg and vanilla.  Stir in the bananas.  Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; add to creamed mixture and mix well.

Divide batter in half.  Add cocoa and mayo to one half; spread into a greased 9x13 baking pan.  Spoon remaining batter on top and swirl with a knife.  Sprinkle with chocolate chips.

Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Toasted Coconut and Toffee Cookies

At first I was hesitant to post another cookie recipe (I just did the chewy chocolate chip cookies!) but these were too good not to share.  I first found inspiration from this recipe on Two Peas & Their Pod.  I made them and they were definitely tasty, but they turned out a little dry for my taste.  I wanted something chewier and crispier.  So I went Googling and found something that was a little closer and decided I would just sorta combine and adapt the two recipes and hope for the best.  And it worked! 

These are crispy on the outside, chewy in the middle and have the subtle toasted coconut flavor mixed with the gooey melted toffee....  Soooo good.  Next time I will use the mini semi-sweet chocolate chips so that the chocolate is spread out more evenly in the dough, but other than that I think these cookies are perfect.

For the toffee, I chopped up some Heath candy bars, but you can also find bags of toffee bits in the baking aisle.  I know Walmart has carried it (my local Fry's store didn't have them).

You definitely want to line your baking sheets with parchment paper (or grease them) because the melted toffee will stick to the sheet otherwise.  This is also part of the reason why the cookies should cool on the sheet for a few minutes before removing to a wire rack (it also keeps them chewy).

combined and adapted from here and here

1 cup unsalted butter, softened (or 1/2 cup butter, 1/2 cup shortening)
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. coconut extract, optional
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 cups coconut, toasted*
1 cup min semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups toffee bits

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugars.  Beat in eggs and extracts.  Add flour, salt, and baking soda and mix until combined.  Fold in toasted coconut, chocolate chips, and toffee. 

Drop by tablespoonfuls on parchment-lined cookie sheets, about 2 1/2 inches apart (cookies will spread).  Bake for 9-11 minutes or until lightly golden.  Cool on cookie sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack.  Makes about 3 1/2 dozen cookies.

*To toast coconut:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spread sweetened, flaked coconut evenly on parchment-lined cookie sheet and bake for 4-8 minutes, checking often and stirring occasionally.  (Once the coconut starts to brown, it can burn quickly.)  Remove it from the oven when it's a light golden brown and let cool.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Apple Cinnamon Butter

In many parts of the country (unfortunately not in my neck of the woods) it's the beginning of the beautiful fall season.  Boy do I miss it - the cooler weather, the changing leaves - but just because it's still 100 degrees here in Arizona doesn't mean I can't enjoy the food that signifies autumn! 

I found this little gem of a recipe on Tasty Kitchen and loved it so much I just had to share.  I think it would be a great neighbor gift to go along with a fresh loaf of homemade bread!  A 4 oz. mason jar or small Ziploc container would do the trick.

from Nancy on Tasty Kitchen

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 Tbsp. applesauce
2 Tbsp. sugar
3 pinches ground nutmeg

Add all ingredients in a mixing bowl.  Whip on high using the whisk attachment of your mixer (or you can beat with a hand-held mixer).  When done, it should be light and fluffy.

Serve soft right after making or put in a resealable container and store in the refrigerator.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

I'm one of those people who primarily make chocolate chip cookies in order to snack on the dough.  Believe it or not, I'm not the biggest fan of chocolate chip cookies.  I prefer spicy cookies like Oatmeal Raisin or Honey Spice or something chewy and smooth like Peanut Butter Cookies or Soft Drop Sugar Cookies.  I guess I'm weird.  But to my mind, if I'm going to the trouble of making the dough, it might as well make a decent cookie since I really can't eat that much dough without hospitalization.  And I've tried lots of recipes over the years, never really caring for the Nestle Toll House recipe on the back of the chip bag.  Lately my go-to recipe has been the Secret Ingredient one since it makes soft, pretty cookies, but I was really hoping I could find the ultimate big, thick, chewy chocolate chip cookie.  And I think this is it.

I found this recipe on the blog Brown Eyed Baker.  She got it from America's Test Kitchen's book Baking Illustrated.  Michelle goes on to explain that the key to chewy cookies is melted butter and an extra egg yolk.  There's more scientific stuff to it, but I just care about the flavor and texture.  And these delivered.  They even look good just dropped from a large cookie scoop!  If you want yours to look more bakery-like, don't roll them into smooth balls before baking.

from Baking Illustrated via Brown Eyed Baker

2 cups plus 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
12 Tbsp. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled until warm
1 cup packed brown sugar (light or dark - both work well)
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper or spray them with nonstick cooking spray.  Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl; set aside.

Either by hand or with an electric mixer, mix the butter and sugars until thoroughly blended.  Beat in the egg, yolk, and vanilla until combined.  Add the dry ingredients and beat at low speed just until combined.  Stir in the chips.

Drop by scant 1/4 cupfuls (or use a large cookie scoop) 2 1/2 inches apart.  Bake for 15-18 minutes or until edges are set and golden brown yet centers are still soft and puffy.  Do not over bake!  Cool the cookies on the sheets before removing with a metal spatula.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Cheesy Zucchini Rice

Another great dish I never would have known about if not for Pinterest!  This comes from the blog Buns in My Oven and her photos are definitely better than mine, but I'm doing the best I can with a beat up point-and-shoot.  This is a great side for chicken or pork and even my picky daughter ate this all up - mostly because you don't taste the zucchini.  I told her it was in there to make the rice look pretty.  This is a fresh alternative to the sodium-laden Rice-a-Roni.

from Buns in My Oven

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 cup long-grain white rice (not instant)
2 cups chicken broth
2 Tbsp. butter
1 med or 2 small zucchini, grated
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
salt and pepper, to taste
milk, as needed

Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over med-high heat.  Add the rice and stir to coat.  Toast the rice, stirring often, just until it starts to turn golden.  Slowly pour in the chicken broth, bring to a boil, turn heat to low and cover.  Cook for 15-20 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed.  Remove from heat and add butter, zucchini, cheese, and garlic powder.  Stir until well incorporated.  Cover and let sit for 5 minutes.  Stir again and add salt and pepper to taste and a splash of milk for a smoother texture, if needed.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Jell-o Popcorn

Yeah, the name sounds a little weird, but this stuff is good.  You can make it any flavor you want (I prefer cherry) and it makes a lot.  We got the recipe out of my old elementary school's fundraiser cookbook and my siblings and I inhaled the stuff.

As you will see from the ingredients, this is not health food.  And your dentist would absolutely frown upon it.  But sometimes a body needs the odd combination of sweet, sticky, crunchy, fruity bliss.  This is seriously sticky stuff.  By the next day it is sure to remove any loose fillings in your teeth.  If you are looking for something less sticky, try this recipe from Our Best Bites.

And one last note: be sure to use yellow popcorn kernels, not white.  White popcorn kernels are smaller and pop smaller and are, in my humble opinion, an absolute waste of money.  Always buy yellow.


1 cup un-popped yellow popcorn kernels
1 small box Jell-o (any flavor)
1 cup sugar
1 cup light corn syrup

Pop popcorn in an air popper; remove any unpopped kernels (we're trying to rot your teeth, not break them) and place popcorn in a very large bowl.  Combine sugar and corn syrup in a small saucepan; heat to almost boiling over med-low heat, stirring frequently.  Whisk in dry Jell-o and boil for 1 minute.  Quickly pour syrup mixture over popcorn and stir to coat using a wooden spoon (and oven mitts for safety).  Let cool until warm before eating!

Monday, August 27, 2012

New Year's Day Bean Soup

I know this is an odd time of year to be sharing a recipe for something with "New Year's Day" in it's title, but I love this soup and make it year-round.  The name comes from the idea that you will make this soup with the leftover ham bone from your Christmas dinner.  Certainly that is a good plan, but what about the rest of the year when you just feel like some ham and bean soup?  Well, I simply buy a ham steak and dice it up.  Or you can get some ham hocks (which will add more flavor, but are more work to remove the meat).

My grandmother got this recipe from a co-worker a few decades back when you had to buy individual bags of each type of bean and then mix them together.  Now you can just purchase a bag of fifteen bean soup.

If you've never cooked with dried beans before, there are a few things you should know.  Most dried beans (legumes) need to soak before cooking to soften and plump them, but more importantly, soaking dissolves some of the sugars that can cause...negative gastrointestinal effects.  We all know the song about the "musical fruit," right?  Well soaking helps alleviate some of that. 

There are two methods for soaking: the long method and the short method.  The long method involves soaking the beans in a bowl, covered with cold water, for 8-24 hours (or overnight).  I recommend the long method because I think it's more effective and I've found the beans don't seem to get as mushy.  But if you forget to soak the beans the night before, all is not lost.  The short method is as follows (and quoted directly from my Betty Crocker Cookbook):  Place dried legumes in a large saucepan; add enough water to cover them.  Heat to boiling; boil 2 minutes.  Remove from the heat, cover, and let stand for at least 1 hour before cooking.  Drain, then cook in clean, cold water.


1 (20 oz) bag fifteen bean soup
1 - 1 1/2 lbs. ham bone, ham hocks, or ham steak (diced)
1 large onion, chopped

3 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 large can (29 oz) crushed tomatoes (pulse in a blender if you don't like chunks of tomato)
1 tsp. chili powder
2-3 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. minced garlic

Soak beans (see above); drain and add 2 quarts (8 cups) water and ham bone, hocks, or diced ham steak.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 2 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.  Add remaining ingredients and cook for another 30 minutes.  If using a ham bone or hocks, remove from pot, shred meat and return meat to pot.  Season with salt and pepper.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Peanut Butter Cookies

I've tried several different recipes for peanut butter cookies but always come back to our family recipe.  I like my cookies soft and chewy and this recipe delivers time after time.  I have noticed in the last few years that the cookies bake up flatter than they used to and I suspect it's because there's been some change in the quality of the peanut butter available.  Who knows?  All I know is this recipe works great with crunchy and smooth alike.  Sometimes I roll the dough balls in sugar before flattening, but that's a tedious step that isn't necessary, just pretty.

This recipe makes a little over 4 dozen cookies, but is easily halved if you want to make less.


1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter or shortening
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 cup peanut butter
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups flour

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugars.  Add the eggs, peanut butter, salt, baking soda, and vanilla until smooth.  Slowly mix in the flour until combined.  Roll dough into balls (about the size of a walnut) and place on ungreased or lined cookie sheet.  Press with a fork to make a criss-cross shape.  Bake for 8-10 minutes or until lightly golden.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Drop Biscuits

I used to keep a box of Bisquick in my pantry, but since I've started making pancakes from scratch, I find I don't need it anymore.  Except when I want to make quick drop biscuits to go with soup!  Luckily the internet has once again saved me and I found a recipe that was pretty close to what I wanted. 

These are quick.  And easy.  No kneading or cutting!  And now I prefer them to the ol' Bisquick.

adapted from E-Z Drop Biscuits on

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) melted butter
1 cup milk

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Lightly grease a cookie sheet (or line with parchment).  In a bowl, combine the dry ingredients.  Add the melted butter and milk and stir until moist.  Drop by rounded tablespoons (or use a large cookie scoop).  Bake for 8-12 minutes or until lightly golden.  Serve warm.  Makes about 1 dozen.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Danish Goulash

I saw this recipe on Pinterest and thought it sounded interesting.  Goulash is typically a Hungarian dish (see my recipe here), but this one is more like your typical beef stew.  For more of the story, visit the blog  It's delicious served over mashed potatoes and even my 8-year-old loves it.

slightly adapted from

2 lbs. stew meat, cubed
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 pkg. onion soup mix
3-4 c. beef broth
4 carrots, peeled and cut (or 2 cups baby carrots)
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/3 cup milk
salt and pepper
mashed potatoes

Heat oil in skillet over med-high heat; brown meat on all sides (I usually do this in two batches for optimal browning).  Remove meat from skillet and set aside.  Add onions to skillet and reduce heat to medium.  Cook onions until translucent.  Transfer beef and onions to a large pot and add beef broth and onion soup mix; bring to a boil then cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 1-2 hours (the longer, the more tender the beef).  Add the carrots and simmer another 30 minutes.  Just before serving, mix cornstarch and milk in a small container until smooth.  Slowly add cornstarch mixture to beef, stirring constantly to avoid any lumps.  Once thickened, add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve over hot mashed potatoes.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Country Griddle Cakes With Blueberry Compote

Don't you hate it when a restaurant stops serving one of your favorite dishes?  That's what happened to me when IHOP stopped serving their Country Griddle Cakes.  I was so mad and I still don't understand what their problem is.  It took me years to find a decent copycat recipe and this one is the closest to the real thing.  It comes out of a cookbook that is made up entirely of copycat recipes of popular restaurant dishes.  If you want to purchase the book, you'll find it here

The recipe calls for instant Cream of Wheat.  I take this to mean the 1 minute kind that comes in a cream colored box:
I've had better success with this variety over the 2 1/2 minute kind in the red box.

from Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2

1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1/3 cup instant Cream of Wheat (dry)
1 egg
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 tsp. salt

Preheat griddle over medium heat (325 degrees).  Spray with non-stick cooking spray.  In a medium bowl, mix the dry ingredients, then add the egg, oil, and buttermilk.  Beat with an electric mixer at medium speed until smooth (do not over mix).  Pour the batter by 1/3 cup-fuls onto the hot griddle and cook for 1-3 minutes on each side or until browned.

adapted from

2 cups fresh blueberries
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp. lemon juice (fresh is best)

Combine 1 cup of blueberries, water, sugar, and lemon juice in a small saucepan.  Cook over medium heat for 8 minutes.  Add the remaining blueberries and cook for 8 minutes more (reducing heat if mixture thickens too quickly).  Serve warm. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Cheddar Garlic Mashed Potatoes

These mashed potatoes are very creamy and have great flavor on their own, which makes them a great side dish for main dishes that may not have gravy to carry over.  I like them with Barbecue Meatballs or Slow Cooker Meatloaf.  For the best flavor, use sharp or extra-sharp cheddar cheese.

adapted slightly from Ben's Garlic Cheddar Mashed Potatoes on

4-5 large russet potatoes, peeled and diced
2 Tbsp. butter
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
2/3 cup milk
1 cup shredded sharp or extra-sharp cheddar cheese
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
sour cream, to taste
chopped parsley or chives, optional

Place potatoes in a medium saucepan and cover with water.  Bring to a boil over high heat; reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 10-12 minutes or until potatoes are tender.  Drain.

Meanwhile, melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Add garlic and cook for 1 minute (do not brown the garlic).  Add milk and bring to almost boiling.  Remove from heat and whisk in cheddar until melted.

Combine hot potatoes and cheese mixture in a large bowl with salt and pepper.  Beat or mash, adding sour cream until desired consistency.  Garnish with chopped parsley or chives, if desired.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Banana Pudding Pie

I actually made this for our Easter dessert, so it's taken me quite some time to post this recipe!  My mother emailed it to me a while back thinking I'd be interested (naturally).  She got it from a family member over 20 years ago.  Some recipes stand the test of time.

Since this calls for fresh bananas it's best served the day it's made.  I took this photo the day after Easter and you can see that the bananas were already starting to darken.  It will still taste delicious but won't be as presentable after a day or two.  And the recipe makes a lot (it fills a 9x13 baking dish to the brim) so I'd save it for when you have to feed a crowd.


1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter*
5-10 bananas (depending on size)
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 (16 oz - the large size) tub Cool Whip
1 large or 2 small boxes instant vanilla pudding
3 cups cold milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a bowl, cut the butter and flour together until crumbly; press into 9x13 baking pan.  Bake for 15 minutes; cool completely.

Slice the bananas evenly onto crust.  In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and powdered sugar until smooth.  Fold in half of the Cool Whip and spread over the bananas.  Chill for 15 minutes.

In a medium bowl, whisk pudding into milk, stirring constantly until thick (about 2 minutes).  Spread evenly over cream cheese mixture.  Top with remaining Cool Whip and refrigerate until read to serve.

*If using unsalted butter, I recommend adding just a dash of salt.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Orange Dream Salad

I discovered this gem of a recipe in a family cookbook.  It's now my favorite Jell-o salad to make for holidays and get-togethers.  The flavor is creamy and mellow; the combination of orange and vanilla reminiscent of a Dreamsicle.

I've made this with both name brand and store brand puddings and gelatin and I strongly recommend sticking with name brand.  The flavor and texture really is superior.


1 small box cook & serve vanilla pudding
1 small box cook & serve tapioca pudding
1 small box orange Jell-o
2 large cans Mandarin oranges, drained
1 (8 oz) tub Cool Whip, thawed

In a medium saucepan, bring 3 cups of water to a boil.  Add the puddings and Jell-o and cook for 3 minutes stirring continuously.  Pour mixture into a bowl and refrigerate until chilled.  Fold in Cool Whip and oranges.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Slow Cooker Taco Pasta

Sorry it's been so long since my last post.  My daughter and I went out of town for 6 weeks to visit my family this summer and I'm just now getting back into the swing of things.

We ate a lot of chicken this week and I was hankering for something with ground beef.  Maybe Mexican?  But I didn't have any flour tortillas or taco shells on hand (or lettuce for that matter) so tacos and burritos were out.  I found a beef enchilada recipe I want to try but didn't have 3 of the necessary ingredients, so that was off the table.  Finally I thought of chili mac and figured there must be an easy Mexican-flavored twist to it.  So I Googled "taco pasta" and found a couple of recipes that sounded close to what I wanted.  I've sort of combined two of them here.

The nice thing about this recipe is you can fix it (well, most of it) and walk away.  It was very popular at dinner tonight, getting two thumbs up from everybody.  And I have to think this would be a great freezer meal!


1 lb. ground beef
1/2 an onion, chopped
1 (15 oz.) can tomato sauce
1 (14.5 oz.) can diced tomatoes
1 (7 oz.) can diced green chiles
1 (15 oz.) can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 pkg. (or 1/4 cup) taco seasoning
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
16 oz. uncooked mini pasta shells
shredded Mexican cheese blend
sour cream

In a large skillet, brown ground beef with onions; drain and let cool a little.  Combine beef and onion mixture, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, green chiles, beans, taco seasoning, and garlic in the slow cooker.  Cover and cook on low for 4-6 hours.

Cook pasta according to package directions; rinse and drain.  Stir pasta into beef mixture and serve with cheese and sour cream.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Fluffy Pancakes

I have to admit, I think this is the first time I've made pancakes from scratch. I usually rely on a box mix, but the other day I wanted pancakes for breakfast and we were all out of mix. So I did a quick search of the recipes I'd saved on over the years and found one that fit the bill. Simple, quick, and easy. I may never buy a box mix again!

It's very important that your griddle is preheated. You want to start pouring those pancakes as soon as you're done mixing the batter. Otherwise, the batter will start to get real thick and you won't see as good results.

adapted from Good Oldfahsioned Pancakes on

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 1/2 cups milk (you may want a little more if you like thinner pancakes)
1 egg
3 Tbsp. butter, melted
1/2 tsp. vanilla, optional

Preheat griddle to med-high heat.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Make a well in the center and add the milk, egg, butter, and vanilla, if using; mix until smooth. Pour by 1/4 cupfulls onto griddle. Once bubbles stop popping, flip and brown other side. Serve hot. Makes about 12-14 pancakes.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Sweet and Spicy Chicken

Here is a recipe I've been using for a couple of years now. You can make it as spicy as you can handle. I have an 8-year-old daughter so I don't make it very spicy at all. It's great served over steamed rice.

adapted from Sweet, Sticky and Spicy Chicken on

1.5 - 2 lbs. chicken breast tenders (or b/s breasts, cut into strips)
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
1 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger (or 1 tsp. ground ginger)
dash or two of hot sauce (or more if you like it spicy!)
salt & pepper, to taste
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 green onion, sliced - optional

In a bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, honey, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, and hot sauce. Sprinkle tenders with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large skillet over med-high heat. Brown tenders on both sides and remove to a plate. Reduce heat to medium and add sauce to skillet. Once it begins to boil, whisk in cornstarch mixed with 1 Tbsp. water, until desired consistency. Return chicken to skillet and stir to coat. Continue to cook until chicken is no longer pink. Garnish with sliced green onion, if desired.