Friday, March 30, 2012

Shepherd's Pie

Believe it or not, last week was the first time I've ever tried shepherd's pie. It was actually pretty good and definitely a good comfort meal. I know there's lots of variations for this traditional dish but I came across this particular recipe in an old Taste of Home magazine. I think it was the bacon inside that caught my attention!

For a weeknight meal it was pretty easy to pull off. The most time consuming step is the potatoes, but you could always make those up ahead of time and put in the fridge. I didn't measure out my potatoes and I think next time I will try not to use quite so much, but overall this was a really good, comforting meal. Does your family enjoy shepherd's pie? If so, I'd love to hear how you make yours!

Shepherd's Pie

1 lb. ground beef
3 bacon strips, diced
1/4 tsp. oregano
2 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 c. tomato sauce
3/4 c. frozen corn
hot mashed potatoes ( I used 9 potatoes, you could probably use a little less)
2 eggs
2 tbsp butter, softened
1 tbsp parsley
salt to taste
1 additional tbsp melted butter

In a large skillet, cook beef over medium heat until no longer pink. Drain and set aside. In the same skillet, cook bacon and oregano until bacon is crisp. Add in garlic, cook for 1 minute longer. Stir in tomato sauce, corn and reserved beef. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer for about 5-10 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine mashed potatoes with eggs, butter, parsley and salt. Spread half of potato mixture onto bottom of a greased 9-inch pie plate. Top with beef mixture and remaining potato mixture. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes. Brush with melted butter. Bake 10 minutes longer.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Kids in the Kitchen: Frozen Fruit Cups

After things slowed down last week, I decided to get the girls in the kitchen with me to make a fun snack they always love. These individual sized fruit cups are perfect for the warmer weather we've been experiencing and will be great to have on hand for summer time.

The recipe makes about 3 dozen so I had plenty of extras to stash in my freezer for when they want a cool treat. The girls loved helping dump the fruits into the bowl and stirring, and the best part of course was tasting their hard work! This is a very versatile recipe, you can substitute any of your favorite fruits or jello flavors. We're thinking cherry jello and pineapple juice would be good next time with some berries when they're in season. Give these adorable little treats a try, they're delicious and good for you all at the same time. What more could you want in a snack for your children?

Frozen Fruit Cups

2 packages (3 oz each) lemon jello
4 cups boiling water
1 can (20 oz) pineapple tidbits, undrained
1 can (14 oz) mandarin oranges, drained
6 oz. frozen orange juice, partially thawed
2 large firm bananas, sliced
Foil muffin cups


In a large bowl, dissolve gelatin in boiling water. Let cool for 10 minutes.

Add pineapple, mandarin oranges, orange juice and bananas to the bowl.

Stir all together

Doesn't that look good?

Line muffin pans with foil cups. Spoon fruit mixture into cups.You should get about 3 dozen fruit cups so make sure to evenly distribute the fruit. Freeze for a few hours or until firm.

Remove from freezer about 20 minutes before serving.

Store extras in the freezer.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Easy Drip Beef Sandwiches

Before I get into these awesome sandwiches, I feel like I have so much to catch you up on.  March has been a crazy busy month for me in general, but especially for my cake and cupcake business. Orders have been piling in and I'm loving it, but it's also a lot of work and I feel like I haven't had as much time to devote to my blog. So again, I really do feel bad when I don't post on a regular basis. I'm still learning how to balance everything and hoping to get back to posting more regularly. I really do appreciate each and every one of my readers!

So last weekend I had my very first wedding cake! Exciting, I know! It was for a friend but I don't think it made me feel less nervous about the whole experience. It's a pretty big deal to be in charge of one of the most important parts of a girl's special day. My friend Angie was married back in November out in California so this was just the reception part, she and her husband wanted to do a Super Mario theme for their cake. This was really a lot of fun to make!

This was their cake, I purchased a Mario and Princess Peach figurine set so they had a little keepsake for their special day. I forgot to take pictures of the back side of the cake so you can't really see all of the details, but you get the idea.

I also had a cupcake tower filled with a variety of cupcake flavors for the guests to choose from. I made fondant toppers for about half of the cupcakes and the other half were decorated like I would normally decorate them, since I know not everyone enjoys fondant. I made Red Velvet, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough (the bride's favorite!), Orange Dreamsicle and Puppy Chow. They were definitely a hit and I think everyone loved them!

This was a view of the whole cake table. I also made a Star Wars themed cake for the groom and of course cream cheese mints. Overall, I was very pleased with how my first wedding went and I'm excited for my second in June.

Now, onto these sandwiches. I made these last Thursday for dinner, things were starting to get really busy since I had to start baking the cakes. I knew if I didn't put something in the crock pot for dinner there would have been a big possibility of us ordering out and I didn't want to do that.

This recipe actually comes from the fabulous Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond herself. I've fallen in love with her new cookbook. Have you gotten your hands on this? I had some gift cards to Barnes and Noble from Christmas to use up so I made sure to pre-order this one. It's taken me a week but last night I finally finished up reading through it. I have found so many recipes I want to make, it's definitely one I could see myself cooking my way through.

Really there's not much to this drip beef, you literally can just dump everything in your crock pot and go about your day. PW cooks hers in a heavy pot over the stove for several hours but I had no problem at all adjusting this to the slow cooker. It was full of wonderful flavor and the meat was so tender. Even the hubby ate a couple sandwiches and he doesn't normally like meals made in the slow cooker. That is what I call a winner!

Easy Drip Beef Sandwiches

2-to-3 pound chuck roast
Salt and Pepper to taste
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups beef broth
1 tablespoon dried rosemary
1 jar pepperoncinis (found right by the pickles and olives in your store)
6-8 toasted hoagie buns or deli rolls
Sliced red pepper to top sandwiches with


Season chuck roast with salt and pepper. Melt butter and oil in a large skillet over high heat. Sear both sides of the roast until very browned, about 5 minutes all together. Pour broth and 1 cup of water into a slow cooker. Add in the chuck roast, along with all the juices and drippings from the pan. Add in rosemary. Pour in the jar of pepperoncinis along with their juice. Cover the slow cooker and cook on low for 7-8 hours or until the meat is tender and falling apart.

Remove roast from slow cooker. Using two forks, shred the meat completely. Return meat to the slow cooking and keep warm. To serve, top buns with the meat mixture and spoon some of the liquid on top if desired. You can even serve a little dish of the liquid alongside your meal for dipping. Top your sandwich with a couple peppers from the slow cooker, I added some red peppers to mine for extra color. I'm the only one in our family that will eat onion so I don't often buy them, but onions would be a fabulous addition to these. Enjoy!

Adapted from: Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food From My Frontier

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

I found these adorable mini peanut butter cup candies at a local specialty foods store a few weeks ago and knew they would be perfect for these cookies!

Chocolate and peanut butter are one of my favorite food combinations and these cookies certainly deliver.. They're nice and chewy, especially good right from oven. This batch makes about 4 dozen regular sized cookies so I froze half for a later use. Just scoop your dough balls onto a cookie sheet, freeze for about 30-45 minutes and then transfer to a Ziploc bag. When you're craving a homemade cookie, pull out what you need, let thaw and bake. Simple as that!

The original recipe calls for adding chopped Reese's on top of the cookie during the last couple minutes of baking. I'll definitely have to try that out next time to make for an even more decadent treat!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

3/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup creamy peanut butter
2 eggs
2 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup milk chocolate chips
1 cup mini peanut butter cups or chopped mini Reese's

In a large bowl cream butter, both sugars and peanut butter using an electric mixer. Add in eggs and vanilla and mix well. In another bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Gradually add to the creamed mixture. Fold in chocolate chips and peanut butter cups.
Using a medium cookie scoop, drop dough onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten dough slightly using your hand or a glass.  Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on a cooling rack. Store in an airtight container. Makes about 4 dozen.

Adapted from: Real Mom Kitchen

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Crispy Southwestern Chicken Wraps

These have got to be my new favorite way to prepare wraps. I love crunchy textures so when I spotted these on Pinterest, I knew I had to make them. These were definitely a winner in my book! I think they'll be great to have during the warmer months when I don't want to heat up the kitchen too much and as a bonus, they're quick and easy to make.

You really can just add in your own favorite ingredients, that's what great about a recipe like this. Truly make it your own.

Crispy Southwestern Chicken Wraps

2 boneless chicken breasts, cooked and chopped into small pieces
1/2 red or green pepper, chopped
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 tomato, chopped
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 cup salsa
Shredded cheese, cheddar or monterey jack
Sour cream, if desired
Burrito size tortilla shells

In a medium bowl combine chopped chicken with chili powder, cumin and salsa. Add in chopped pepper, tomato and cilantro. Sprinkle cheese over tortilla shells leaving about a 1/2-inch border around edges. Arrange the chicken mixture down center of shell, topped with a little sour cream if desired. Roll stuffed tortillas just like you would a burrito. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Place wraps seam-side down in pan and cook for 2-3 minutes per side. Transfer to plate and repeat with remaining wraps. Serve with additional salsa and sour cream. Makes about 6 large wraps.

Adapted from: Mel's Kitchen Cafe

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Strawberry Muffins

I know it's not officially strawberry season, but I had some on hand and just couldn't resist making them for breakfast on Sunday. I always take the kids out to a local strawberry patch each June to pick our own strawberries. From the time they can walk, they each have their own container in hand and help pick tons of this juicy fruit. Of course they probably eat just as many as they put in the container, but who's counting?

We usually end up with around 10+ pounds and then comes my favorite part! I search through all of my recipes deciding which ones I have to make, usually realizing that I don't have near enough fruit or time to make everything on my list. Last year we made 3 trips out there and it still wasn't that made me determine I simply need to grow my own haha!

These strawberry muffins are one of my favorite to make and made a few appearances at my farmer's market booth last year. Each time they were an instant hit! They are super easy to make, you should even have all the ingredients on hand and I love that they make 2 dozen so I can stick the extras in the freezer for mornings when it's hectic. I think you'll also love the addition of the cinnamon, it's just enough for you to taste and compliments the strawberries.

It won't be long and strawberry season will be in full swing! I can't wait, if you've never taken the time to go pick your own; you need to! It's so much fun for the kids and there's nothing that beats fresh, locally grown produce; it tastes so much better!

Strawberry Muffins

3 c. flour
2 c. sugar
1 tbsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 c. strawberries, chopped finely (although I haven't tried it, I'm sure you could use frozen strawberries as well, just thaw and drain before adding them to the batter)
1 c. vegetable or canola oil
3 eggs

In a large bowl combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. In another bowl mix strawberries, oil and eggs. Stir in dry ingredients just until moistened. Fill greased muffin cups (or use paper liners) 3/4 full. Bake at 350 for 18 minutes or until muffin tests done.

Makes about 24. Store leftovers in an airtight container or freeze for later use.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Maple Walnut Blondies

I apologize for being MIA the past few days. I spent Friday with my girls, we went with our 4-year-old's preschool class to see The Lorax; what a cute movie! The remainder of the weekend was spent helping our nephew celebrate his birthday and preparing for our little girl's birthday. I can't believe my baby turned 2 on Sunday! How time flies!

During our celebration on Sunday, we noticed she developed a croupy sounding cough. She seemed fine until the middle of the night when she started having difficulty breathing and was running a fever. So needless to say, we went to the doctor first thing on Monday morning. Unfortunately she caught a nasty virus that's going around and spent most of Monday and Tuesday not feeling well. I was happy to see her wake up in a much better mood this morning and feeling more like herself! It's no fun having little ones sick, especially when there's multiples. Our 4-year-old ended catching the same thing on Monday. I spent most of the last two days laying on the couch with both of them, not exactly productive.  Anyways, everyone seems to be on the if we can just keep it that way for more than a week!

Okay, moving onto these blondies. These are said to be just like the maple walnut blondie dessert served at Applebee's, but only better. I can't really vouch for that since I've honestly never tried them, but they were pretty darn good! Really, who ever has room for dessert when you go out to eat?

I made these for dessert one night and thought they would be a good treat, especially served with ice cream. Thankfully they only made a small pan because let's be honest here, I did eat more than one. They're just as good without the ice cream and maple butter sauce served on top.

Maple Walnut Blondies

1 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup butter, melted
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup white chocolate chips

1/4 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 tbsp maple syrup

Preheat oven to 350. Line an 8x8 inch baking dish with foil and spray with nonstick cooking spray. In a bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and walnuts; set aside. In a large bowl mix melted butter and brown sugar with mixer. Add in egg and vanilla, mix well. Gradually add in flour mixture and mix to combine. Stir in white chocolate chips. Spread into prepared pan (batter will be thick) and bake for 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. They may seem a little gooey but once they cool they will set up. Serve warm with ice cream and maple butter sauce.

For the sauce: In a bowl combine butter, powdered sugar, cream cheese and maple syrup. Blend with mixer until smooth. Heat sauce in microwave for about 30 seconds when ready to serve and pour over ice cream and blondies.

Slightly adapted from: The Girl Who Ate Everything
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