Monday, April 30, 2012

Freezer Cooking Session

This was how I spent most of my Saturday morning. My husband was leaving for the day for a bowling tournament, I didn't have any other cake orders for the weekend and I'd been itching to get in the kitchen to do some freezer cooking. I still had the two little ones to tend to but they were actually really well behaved and played so well together while I got things done.

I spent about 3 hours all together making what's pictured above. I know it wouldn't have taken me quite that long but the kiddos needed some snacks in between and well, hey, you know how it goes. I try to stock our freezer with meals and snacks whenever possible, especially with summer coming and the kids starting softball/t-ball now, our days are getting incredibly busy and this is just one way for me to ease the stress of mealtimes.

We like to have fresh baked cinnamon rolls occasionally but let's face it, they are a little time consuming. So this is how I solve that problem. I made up a double batch, let the dough rise and then prepared them like I normally would with the brown sugar/cinnamon filling. Instead of letting them rise a second time I placed them in baking dishes, covered and froze for about 2 hours until frozen solid. Then I transferred the rolls into large freezer bags to store. Now I can pull out as many as I need, let them thaw, rise and bake. Simple as that!

Here's another simple tip: cook up a few chicken breasts, let cool and then shred with a fork. Store the shredded chicken in freezer bags to use for salads, wraps, tacos, enchiladas, quesadillas, casseroles, whatever you want! Again, it's something that doesn't take much time at all but will cut down the time I'm spending in the kitchen.

I don't always have time for a bigger cooking session like this, many times I'm just doubling pancakes or waffles when I'm already preparing them for the family. I'm hoping to try to do more of these and I'll make sure to post some pics and recipes when I do. In a couple weeks I'm getting together with some friends and we're doing a large cooking session. We've each chosen 2 recipes to prepare, we'll make enough of our meals to swap with everyone so that we all leave with a variety for our freezer. I can't wait and I'll be sure to share all the details with you!

Here's a quick recap of what I made on Saturday:

Cinnamon Rolls (a little over 2 dz.)
Shredded Chicken (enough for 2 meals)
Zesty Grilled Chicken (2 meals worth)
Ground beef Burritos
Chicken Salsa Roll-ups (recipe coming soon)

Do you like to do any freezer/batch cooking? If so, what are some of your favorite recipes or things to make? I'd love to hear your responses!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Oreo Pistachio Dessert

It's getting to be that time of year again, the summer months always seem to be filled with lots of potlucks, birthday parties and family gatherings in general. I tend to always be the person who brings dessert and I rarely ever bring the same thing twice because I have this never-ending list of recipes I can't wait to try.

I made this last weekend for my husband's family, we had to postpone our Easter celebration because I had surgery a few days before. We all sort of failed to communicate about who was bringing dessert so we all showed up with something. There was my dessert, cookies and cupcakes, but I don't think anyone was complaining! More dessert, the merrier in my book.

I first tried this a few years back when (again) one of my brother's girlfriends brought this to dinner one night at my parents. I remember trying to ask her for the recipe but I never did get a copy. I've been thinking about it ever since, I searched online and found several recipes but all included vanilla ice cream. I don't think hers had ice cream in it so I sort of just winged this dessert last weekend and figured I could make it work using instant pudding and whipped topping. It was really good and literally only took me about 10 minutes to make! 3 easy steps and I was all done, can't get any better than that.

This summer when you need something quick and easy to bring to a potluck or gathering, this should be your go-to dessert! Be prepared to bring home an empty dish!

Oreo Pistachio Dessert

1 whole package Oreo cookies, crushed
5 tablespoons melted butter
2-3.4 oz boxes instant pistachio pudding
2 cups cold milk
1-8 oz. tub whipped topping, thawed

Mix about 2 1/2-3 cups of cookie crumbs with melted butter and press into bottom of 13x9-inch pan. Refrigerate while you mix up pudding mixture.

 Meanwhile beat pudding mixes and milk in a medium bowl with whisk for 2 minutes. Fold in thawed whipped topping and spread over crust.

 Top with remaining crushed cookie crumbs. Cover and refrigerate for 3-4 hours or until set.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The recipe that started it all: Macaroni Salad

This recipe right here is probably what gave me that push to actually start on my blogging journey. The idea had been in the back of my mind for awhile but when I couldn't figure out where I'd placed this recipe one day; it was then that I thought "What the heck, let's give this a go."

I did end up finding my written copy....after digging around through the cupboard where I store my cookbooks and recipe cards. I first tried this salad at one of my brother's old girlfriend's graduation open house several years ago. I immediately had to ask her mom for the recipe, I've had traditional macaroni salad before and liked it but I really loved the slightly sweet dressing plus it contains a lot of my favorite veggies!

This makes a lot of macaroni salad! It's perfect for potlucks, graduations, showers, anything where you need to feed a crowd. So it only makes sense that I make it a couple of times each year; but each time I do, I savor each bite and enjoy any leftovers I might have. I'm actually having a small bowl right now, enjoying some peace and quiet while the kiddos nap.....pure bliss I tell ya!

Macaroni Salad

1 lb. elbow macaroni, cooked according to package
2 c. mayonnaise, I use Hellmann's
1/4 c. vinegar
1-14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
3 large carrots, grated
1 large onion, chopped
1 large green pepper, chopped
3-4 celery stalks, chopped in small pieces
1 cucumber, chopped


Mix mayonnaise, vinegar and sweetened condensed milk in a bowl and set aside. In a large bowl combine cooked pasta (drain and rinse under cold water) and veggies. Pour mayonnaise mixture over pasta and veggies and stir well. Refrigerate for at least a few hours until ready to serve.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Lemon Crumb Muffins

I came across a whole section of lemon recipes in a Taste of Home magazine from a few years ago. I love lemon so I knew I had to give one of these goodies a try. Yesterday morning the family requested waffles of course, and I made up a batch of these babies for myself to enjoy and share with my sister-in-law who also loves all things lemon.

These are one of my new favorite muffins! I think they scream spring, don't you? They have a cake-like texture, lots of fresh lemon flavor and I love the crumb topping. They were absolutely delicious warm right out of the oven but I also enjoyed one today and it was just as good. I didn't change much of the original recipe but I did certainly cut it in half, I don't know what I would have done with 4 dozen muffins. I did however store the extras in the freezer so I can grab one to enjoy whenever I feel like having one.....we'll see how long they last!

Lemon Crumb Muffins

3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 cup melted butter
Zest from 1 large lemon
Juice from 1 large lemon

Crumb topping:
1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup sugar
4 tablespoons cold butter

1/4 cup sugar
1/8 cup lemon juice (use more or less to get the desired consistency)


In a large bowl combine flour, sugar, baking soda and salt. In another bowl, whisk together eggs, sour cream, melted butter, zest and juice from lemon. Stir in dry ingredients just until moistened. Fill paper-lined muffin cups 3/4 full.
In a small bowl combine flour and sugar for crumb topping, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle over batter.
Bake at 350 for 18-20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pans. In a small bowl, whisk glaze ingredients and drizzle over muffins while still warm. Makes 24 muffins

I've got a couple of good recipes lined up for you this week: the recipe that sort of started this blog- my favorite macaroni salad and an Oreo pistachio dessert, seriously this is a 3-step treat that you'll love! Stay tuned!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Easy Homemade Waffles

My family loves waffles for breakfast and I have to admit I didn't always make my own; we used to buy those frozen boxes of waffles a lot for a quick breakfast in the morning. Until I received a waffle maker for Christmas a few years ago and discovered making my own homemade waffles taste so much better and are a lot cheaper!

Now it just seems to be routine on the weekends to make up a double or even triple batch of these and put the extras in our freezer for a quick meal in the mornings. It really only takes about 10 minutes at most to whip up a batch, after everyone's ate their fair share I put the extras on a cookie sheet and flash freeze them so I can later transfer them to large ziploc baggies.

The recipe I like to use comes from the Better Homes and Garden cookbook, you know the red and white checkered one that I'm sure everyone has in their kitchen. No fancy ingredients, I'm sure you always have everything needed on hand. We like to top ours with warm maple syrup and fresh berries. What's your favorite waffle topping? Do you have a favorite waffle recipe?

Homemade Waffles


1 3/4 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 egg yolks
1 3/4 cups milk
1/2 canola oil
2 egg whites


Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a medium sized bowl. Add in egg yolks, milk and oil and stir just until moistened. In a small bowl beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Gently fold egg whites into flour and egg mixture. Do not overmix, make sure to leave a few fluffs of egg whites. Pour about 1 cup of batter onto grids of a preheated, lightly greased waffle maker. Close lid and don't open until done. When done, use a fork to lift waffle off grid. Repeat with remaining batter. Makes 12 individual waffles. Serve warm with desired toppings.

* If you're in a hurry, you can choose not to separate the eggs and put everything together in one bowl. They'll turn out just fine, I think these are a little more fluffy but they'll still taste great!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Mexican Lettuce Wraps

We had a pretty nice, relaxing weekend, how about you? Did you do anything fun? Friday we had kindergarten roundup for our 4-year-old. Gosh where does the time go?  I can't believe in the fall I'll be sending her to school full-time, it will definitely be a sad day for this momma!

These are one of my favorite wraps, I made them a few weeks ago when we were experiencing really warm temps in the Midwest but they sort of kept getting pushed aside. I love to make this chicken filling especially during the warmer months when I don't feel like heating up the house. It's very versatile, I like to serve it on lettuce leaves like shown in the picture, in tortilla shells like a taco or wrap, or just scoop it up with tortilla chips like a dip.  It's full of flavor and good for you too! If you like avocado, that would be really good to add in as well. This is a great base for a wonderful wrap filling, play around with the veggies and spices you like.....make it your own. Have fun in the kitchen, that's what it's all about!

Mexican Lettuce Wraps

2 whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and cubed
1 can-15 oz. black beans, rinsed and drained
1 medium tomato, seeded and chopped
1 can-4 oz. chopped green chiles
1/2 cup salsa
1/2 sweet red pepper, chopped
1/2 green pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
Lettuce leaves to serve on, I had iceberg on hand but use any kind you like
Sour cream to serve with


 In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except lettuce leaves and sour cream. Mix together well and refrigerate until serving. Place about 1/2 cup chicken mixture on each lettuce leaf, top with sour cream if desired. Fold lettuce over filling and enjoy!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Double White Chocolate- Pretzel Peanut Butter Cookies

I'm back! And with these amazing cookies I might add. After being confined to the couch for the past several days and not having much energy to do anything, I sort of got a little bug up my you know where and had to get in the kitchen yesterday afternoon. I actually dropped the first batch of these on the floor, they sort of just slid right off my baking mat. It was at that point I thought maybe I should have just stayed put on the couch.

I've spent the last week catching up on my reading, mostly cookbooks and skimming through old magazines for new inspiration. I came across SO many new recipes I can't wait to try! Any weight I lost I probably gained back just from drooling over my books.

These particular cookies were on my list to make last week, I had bought all of the ingredients and was really excited to give them a shot. I found them on Pinterest and was really intrigued by the sweet and salty combo, I especially loved the addition of the pretzels. Overall, these were delicious! Probably one of my favorite cookies I've ever made. They've almost got that crumbly texture when you bite into them; lots of peanut butter flavor with the white chocolate chips in there and of course my favorite, the salty and crunchiness from the pretzel pieces. You must give these a try.....and share of course!

Double White Chocolate-Pretzel Peanut Butter Cookies


1 stick butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup white chocolate chips, to melt
1 1/4 cups creamy peanut butter (reserve 2 tbsp to add when melting chips)
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 salt
1 cup broken pretzel pieces
1 cup additional white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl cream butter and both sugars until light and fluffy. Melt white chocolate chips and 2 tablespoons peanut butter in a microwavable bowl or over a double boiler. Add melted chocolate and remaining peanut butter to butter mixture. Beat in egg and vanilla.
In a separate bowl combine flour, baking soda and salt. Slowly add to wet ingredients just until combined. Stir in pretzel pieces and additional white chocolate chips. Using a medium sized cookie scoop, scoop dough onto cookie sheets lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. With the palm of your hand, press down on the cookie just a little bit to flatten slightly.  Bake for 11-13 minutes or until edges become golden. Let cool for close to 10 minutes before removing from cookie sheet to wire rack. Makes about 3 dozen regular sized cookies.

Source: Two Tiny Kitchens

Monday, April 9, 2012

Chocolate Caramel Crunch Bars

Wow, what an eventful past week it's been. I certainly did not plan on spending it in the hospital but my body had other plans I guess. What I thought had been my heartburn acting up again turned into gallstones. It sort of all started the Wednesday before and progressively got worse until it hit me last Sunday evening before supper time. I was in so much pain throughout the night that I literally did not sleep at all, just walked around the house trying to ease the pain in any way possible. I attempted to go through my day like normal on Monday and just rested as much as I could while trying to care for 3 little ones. After my little daycare boy went home for the day I made a trip out to convenient care to get checked out, thinking I would be able to get some sort of medicine and go home. Boy was I ever wrong!

After doing some blood work they determined that something was not right and I needed to have further testing done and would be admitted for the night. My triglycerides were at 3000 and normal is under 200, so that was a little scary. My white blood cell count was also very high. After having an ultrasound of my gallbladder and pancreas they determined that I did in fact have gallstones and would need my gallbladder removed but more importantly I also had developed pancreatitis and we need the inflammation to go down quite a bit before we could even think about surgery. My levels went down quite a bit on Tues but not near enough to even think about surgery yet. At that point we were thinking Friday would be the earliest and I was getting frustrated with the thought of possibly spending my whole weekend in the hospital and not with my family. By Wednesday morning my triglycerides were down to 175 and I was in the clear for surgery.

I have to admit, I was scared to death at the thought of surgery. Other than child birth (and I had all natural/no pain meds deliveries) I had never been in the hospital. After it was all done with I felt pretty silly for getting so worked up because it wasn't so bad and I don't remember much at all. In fact the last thing I remember is the nurses asking me for my business information so they can order cupcakes from me haha! I ended up coming home Thursday afternoon and have been resting and taking it easy ever since. Today is the first day my husband has gone back to work, so the little ones and I will be taking it slow and easing back into our normal routines.

So that's sort of how my eventful week went, I was really bummed that it had to happen last week of all weeks. I had a lot going on that I had to cancel and I had some really cute Easter ideas I wanted to share with you.....but that's just how life goes sometimes. You have to just roll with the punches. For the past few years I've hosted Easter at our house so that had to be postponed as well, but that's okay, it was a nice relaxing day with just our kids. My parents even ended up bringing dinner over so we could have a nice ham meal, it was the perfect ending to a good day!

The kids even enjoyed a small egg hunt in our backyard

I made these bars last weekend before I got really sick, I was in the mood to bake something and thought of these.

They are quite one of the easiest bars ever and absolutely delicious! I love the chocolate chip cookie bottom and the crunchiness from the chex cereal and chopped peanuts. Oh and that gooey chocolate caramel on top.....yum! You'll be satisfied with just a small piece, but I won't judge if you eat more.

Chocolate Caramel Crunch Bars

1 batch chocolate chip cookie dough or you can use a roll of refrigerated dough
2 cups milk chocolate chips
1- 18oz. container caramel apple dip
3 cups chex cereal
1/2 cup chopped peanuts

Preheat oven at 350. Press cookie dough into an ungreased 13x9 inch baking pan using floured hands. Bake 16-18 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan, cook 1 cup of milk chocolate chips and 1 cup of the caramel dip over medium heat. Stir constantly until melted and smooth. Remove from heat and stir in cereal and chopped peanuts. Spread the mixture over the cooled cookie crust. In another saucepan heat the remaining chocolate chips and caramel until melted and smooth. Spread over the cereal mixture. Let set until the chocolate mixture is cool, you can refrigerate for about 30 minutes to speed up the process. Cut into bars and enjoy!

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