Sunday, September 30, 2012

Weekly Menu 9/30

I spent a good part of my Saturday preparing meals for my meal exchange today with some friends. I'll post more about that later this week! I'm looking forward to a more slow-paced week and a night out with my hubby to celebrate my birthday. Here's our game plan for the week:

Apple oatmeal made in slow cooker (didn't get to try this last week)
Toast w/bananas
Cereal or oatmeal

Fiesta Chili Mac
Snack-y Lunch (think homemade lunchables)
Pigs in a blanket
Leftovers x2 for little one and I

Drip beef sandwiches
Pork chops
Fiesta Chili Mac
Frito pie
Dinner out with hubby

Chocolate Zucchini Bread
String cheese/crackers
Fresh fruit/veggies

Freezer Cooking(when I have extra time):
Pinto beans

Friday, September 28, 2012

Gooey Butter Cookies

My brother's girlfriend introduced me to these cookies last weekend. I've never had such a thing; a cookie made from a cake mix, so light and fluffy and literally melts in your mouth. Apparently they've been around for quite some time now, maybe you've had them before.

They're probably the easiest cookie ever to make, only calling for a few ingredients. With a cake mix as your base, it's very versatile. I thought it would be fun to try our first batch using a funfetti kind. I'm also anxious to try making them with lemon and strawberry as well.  They're quite addicting I must add so this could get dangerous!

Gooey Butter Cookies
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 stick butter, softened
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 egg
1 box cake mix, any flavor
Powdered sugar, for rolling cookie dough in
In a large bowl, cream together cream cheese and butter. Add in vanilla and egg and mix well. Mix cake mix in with wet ingredients. Taking a small cookie scoop, roll dough into 1-inch balls, coat with powdered sugar and place onto prepared cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for 12-13 mins. Makes about 4 dz. small cookies

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Mexican Chicken Stuffed Shells

I spotted these yummy looking pasta shells on Pinterest a few weeks ago and knew we had to give them a try. I already have a favorite taco stuffed shell recipe but I thought it would be fun to change it up and add chicken this time.

These were pretty darn good, I enjoyed my portion on a bed of lettuce and extra tomatoes to make sort of a taco salad. I think the girls like them better made with ground beef but they did at least give them a try.

This dish makes a lot! I had enough filling for a good 30 shells, which is great for having leftovers for lunches or if you have company over for dinner. If you don't feel like stuffing that many shells, you could always use the extra filling for wraps or serve with tortilla chips for a quick snack.
Mexican Chicken Stuffed Shells
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and chopped
1 c black beans
1 c green pepper, diced
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1-15 oz. can diced tomatoes w/chiles, undrained
2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 c shredded cheddar cheese
30 large pasta shells, cooked
Cook pasta shells according to package directions. Meanwhile in a large bowl, combine chopped chicken, black beans,green pepper, cumin and garlic powder and mix well. In another bowl mix cream cheese and diced tomatoes together to form a sauce. Once that's combined, pour sauce over chicken mixture and mix well. In a 9x13 baking dish pour about 1/2-3/4 c of salsa on bottom and spread.(You'll most likely need to use 2 pans) Start stuffing cooked pasta shells with chicken mixture and place in prepared dish. Once shells are all filled, spoon additional salsa over shells. Sprinkle with cheese. Cover with foil and bake at 350 for 30 mins or until cheese is melted and shells are heated through. Serve alongside a salad or with desired toppings.
Adapted from: Busy at Home

Monday, September 24, 2012

Weekly Menu 9/24

What a busy weekend we had! We spent a large part of our time at the in-law's house having a garage sale. They are sure a lot of work, but it's nice to get things out of the house and feel less cluttered. I feel like I didn't have much time to sit down and meal plan but I actually do have a pretty good game plan for the week. You'll find we will be enjoying apple season to the fullest during these next few weeks :)  Here's what we'll be eating throughout the week:

Toast w/Kiwi fruit
Apple pie oatmeal made in the slow cooker
Apple pancakes with cider syrup (one of our favorites!)
Scrambled eggs, toast

BBQ pulled pork sandwiches
Chicken quesadillas
Grilled cheese with soup
Leftovers x2 for the little one and I

Chicken and veggie wraps
Mexican Chicken Stuffed Shells
King Ranch Casserole
Chicken fajita pizza

Smoothies and animal crackers
Yogurt w/fresh fruit
Watermelon, kiwi, apples
Goldfish crackers

Freezer cooking (when I have extra time):
Freezer spaghetti sauce
Caramel apple crisp
Apple pancakes

Friday, September 21, 2012

Recent Freezer Meals

I shared this picture on my facebook page last weekend, I had just finished up the casseroles and was feeling pretty good about what I was able to add to my freezer that week. By doing a little bit here and there when I have extra time really helps and I don't feel overwhelmed by trying to prepare 10 meals all at once.

I can't tell you how much I enjoy pulling out one of my already made up meals and knowing that the hard part is already done. All I have to do is reheat. I honestly love cooking, but you know how it goes; there are days when you just don't have much time to think about dinner. This is where freezer cooking comes in.

I had a couple of new recipes I tried out this time. I asked for help from my facebook readers on what to do with turkey leftovers. We had a 15 lb. turkey in our freezer that I'd been wanting to cook and wasn't sure what to make with all the extra meat. I made up 2 new casseroles we had never tried before and then bagged 3 quart sized Ziploc bags of shredded turkey to use in other meals.

Here's a list of the items I was able to add to my freezer stash last week:

Zucchini Bread
Slow Cooker Applesauce
Pear Sauce (Made just like applesauce, you'll need quite a few pears (20+) and I added a little bit more cinnamon and sugar)

Pear Crisp
12 med-large pears, peeled, cored and sliced
1/4 c water
Lemon juice
2 c old fashioned oats
2 c flour
2 c brown sugar
1 tbsp cinnamon
2 1/2 sticks melted butter

Mix up oats, flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and melted butter in a large bowl, will be a crumbly mixture. Lightly grease 2 8x8 inch baking pans, add half of sliced pears, water and a little bit of lemon juice to each pan. Divide crumb mixture and spread over fruit in each pan. If freezing immediately, cover each pan with foil, label and stick in freezer. When ready to serve, let thaw and then bake at 350 for 20-25 mins or until done. Makes 2  8x8 inch pans.

These are really good, especially with bbq sauce! I wasn't able to get a complete picture as I was trying to quickly get the children fed, you know how that goes, right?!

1 1/2 lbs. ground beef
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 c milk
1 c quick cooking oats
1 tsp salt
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp pepper

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients and mix together well. If freezing, line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Using a med sized cookie scoop, place meatballs onto lined cookie sheet. Place in freezer for a couple hours or until frozen and then transfer to a ziploc freezer bag. Label and store in freezer until ready to serve. When ready to cook, thaw meatballs on cookie sheet and bake at 350 for 15-18 mins. You can bake while still frozen, you'll just need to bake longer. Serve with bbq sauce if desired. Makes about 30 meatballs.

We enjoyed this the other night, it was so simple to make and my hubby said this was one of the best meals I've ever made.

Turkey and Noodle Casserole
2- 10 oz cans cream of chicken soup
2 1/2 c shredded cheddar cheese, divided
1 c milk
3 1/2 c cooked, shredded turkey or chicken
3 c cooked egg noddles
1 1/2 c frozen veggies (I used corn this time around)
Pepper to taste
Crushed Ritz crackers

In a skillet combine soup and 1 1/2 cups of cheese. Gradually stir in milk and cook over medium heat until cheese melts. Add in turkey, cooked egg noodles and veggies. Add pepper to taste. Transfer to 2- 8x8 inch baking pans that are lightly greased. Add 1/2 c of cheese to each pan. Sprinkle with crushed cracker crumbs. If immediately freezing, let completely cool. Then cover with saran wrap and then a layer of foil on top. Label and store in freezer. When ready to use, let thaw in fridge for several hours. When ready to bake, bake at 350 for 25-30 mins or until heated through. Makes 2- 8x8 inch pans.

King Ranch Casserole 
*We have not tried this one yet, but I must say it looked wonderful while I was mixing it up! This will be on our menu for next week, I'll be sure to let you know what we think.

1-15 oz. can diced tomatoes with green chiles
2-10 oz cans cream of chicken soup
1 c sour cream
1/2 c fresh cilantro, chopped
2 c shredded cheddar cheese
1 c chicken broth
3 c cooked, shredded turkey or chicken
6-7 small flour tortilla shells, cut up

In a large bowl, combine diced tomatoes, soup, sour cream, cilantro and 1 c cheese. Slowly add in chicken broth, you want mixture to have consistency of pancake batter. Lightly grease 2-8x8 inch pans, ladle a bit of soup mixture on bottom of pans and spread around. Next add in cut up tortilla pieces, then add turkey on top of tortillas. Continue with another layer of sauce, tortillas and turkey. Add one more layer of sauce on top and then sprinkle with remainder of cheese on top. If immediately freezing, cover with saran wrap and then a layer of foil. Label and store in freezer. When ready to use, let thaw in fridge for several hours, bake at 350 for 25 mins or until heated through. Makes 2-8x8 inch pans.

Adapted from: Tasty Kitchen

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Quick No-Bake Granola Bars

I've been searching for the perfect granola bar recipe for quite some time now. I was really happy to spot a recipe on one of my favorite blogs the other day. I had all of the ingredients on hand and it didn't take me long at all to mix them up. In fact I was able to do so while the kids were busy playing with a table activity.

Besides feeling better knowing what's all in my granola bars, these are really delicious! I love the addition of the Rice Krispies. To make them more fun, I added some marshmallow bits I had on hand. Even my non-peanut butter loving child enjoyed these, they have a little bit of everything in them. I'm also happy to see that they freeze well, I kept a few out for snacks and stored the rest away for later.

You'll definitely want to give these bars a try, they're the perfect after school snack and great for lunches too. Substitute your favorite mix-ins, throw in some cranberries or raisins for a healthier bar. Either way they'll be delicious!
No-Bake Granola Bars
2 1/2 c Rice Krispie cereal
1 3/4 c quick cooking oats
1/4 c ground flax seed
1/2 c jet-puffed marshmallow bits
1/2 c honey
1/2 c brown sugar
2/3 c peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 c mini choc chips
1/4 c butterscotch chips
In a large bowl combine cereal, oats, flax seed and marshmallow bits. In a saucepan combine honey and brown sugar. Cook over medium heat until boiling, stirring frequently. Once boiling, remove from heat and add in peanut butter and vanilla. Stir until smooth. Pour peanut butter mixture over dry ingredients and mix well. Let cool for 5 mins and then add in choc and butterscotch chips. Press into a greased 9x13 inch pan and let cool until bars are easy to handle. Cut into 24 bars, store extras in a container at room temp or in freezer.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Zucchini Bread

Each summer I always make sure to pick up some zucchini when I visit the farmers market. I love to make up batches of this bread and then keep it in the freezer to enjoy throughout the winter. It freezes well and stays really moist.  I can't say this bread is healthy by any means, but who doesn't love zucchini bread?

Next year I hope to plant zucchini in our own garden, just think of how many loaves of this delicious bread I can have stashed away then. That might be a little dangerous!

Zucchini Bread

3 c. flour
1 tsp salt
2 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
3 eggs
1 c canola oil
1 tbsp vanilla
2 c sugar
1/4 c buttermilk
2 c grated zucchini

In a bowl combine dry ingredients and sift together with a whisk. In another large bowl combine wet ingredients and mix well. Add dry ingredients into zucchini mixture, mix well to combine. Pour batter into 4 greased mini loaf pans, bake at 325 for 50 mins or until done. Cool completely before removing from pan. If storing in freezer, I always wrap loaves in plastic wrap and then store in a Ziploc freezer bag or just wrap each loaf in foil as well to protect from freezer burn.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Peach Pie

Oh yeah, I made that from scratch myself....and with my bare hands I might add. If you've had the chance to read Making Piece by Beth Howard or if you follow her blog, then you know that she always makes her pie crust by hand, never using a food processor for help. That, you might say, is what's so special about her pies.

I started reading Beth's book last Tuesday and was finished by Thursday afternoon. That's how good it was! I was seriously in tears within the first 30 pages of the book. Can you imagine practically living apart from your husband for several years because of his busy career, wanting nothing more than to spend time with him but realizing he was never going to slow down unless; you got it, ask for a divorce. You don't want this divorce and neither does your husband, but you're going through with it. Seven hours before he's to sign the papers, you find out that your husband has died. Gone. You don't get the chance to tell him you love him one more time, you don't want this divorce, you just want him to spend more time with you. That's part of Beth's story and how she ended up here in Iowa living in the American Gothic House and opened up the Pitchfork Pie Stand.

I absolutely loved, loved her story! I enjoy following her facebook page and keeping up with everything that's going on with her pie stand. I can't recommend this book enough, it's up at the top of my list of favorites and I'm excited to see what else Beth has in store for her readers.

Back to this pie, as soon as I finished this book, I found myself dying to make a pie. I think anyone that reads her story will feel the same way. I had peach pie in mind. I make pies a few times a year, mostly apple and pumpkin around Thanksgiving, but I've never tried making a homemade peach pie. There happened to be a recipe in the back of the book, so it was decided, I was making peach pie.

Beth talks about how she literally makes her pies by hand, mixing the dough with her bare hands. She doesn't use a food processor to make the crust or even a pastry blender. I always use my food processor when I make my crust, it's just so easy. But I was determined to use my hands this time. I was surprised by really how easy it is! It's messy, but very easy and I think I'll always make my pie crust this way from now on.

Using just a few ingredients: flour, pinch of salt, butter and shortening, it's very easy to make your own pie crust. I used my hands to massage it all together to form lumps.

Then using ice cold water, slowly add in small amounts and work into the dough with your hands. I ended up using about 1/2 cup. Divide your dough into 2 balls and you're ready to roll out your pie crust. I've always chilled my dough before using, but Beth says it's not necessary. It was great to have my dough made up, rolled out, and pie in the oven within 20 minutes or so.

We enjoyed a slice of this heavenly pie after dinner last night. It was wonderful! I hope you'll take the time to read Making Piece and make your own pie afterwards, handmade of course!

Peach Pie

For pie crust:
2 1/2 c flour (have extra on hand for rolling out dough)
1/2 c butter, cold
1/2 c vegetable shortening, such as Crisco
Pinch of salt
Ice water (I used about 1/2 c, only use enough to moisten dough)

Pie filling:
8 ripe peaches, peeled and sliced into pie crust
1 c sugar
2 tbsp flour
1/4 c tapioca
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 beaten egg
Additional cinnamon and sugar to sprinkle on top of crust before baking

To make pie dough: Add flour and salt to a large bowl, cut butter into cubes and add in bowl, along with shortening. Using your hands work all ingredients together until you get marble-sized lumps. Pour in ice water just a little at a time, you'll sort of fluff the flour mixture into the liquid. When dough feels moist and is able to hold together by doing a squeeze test, it's ready. Be careful not to overwork the dough! Divide dough into 2 balls. Form each ball into a disc. Sprinkle a good amount of flour onto your rolling surface to keep dough from sticking, roll flat and thin to fit your pie plate. Trim excess dough around the edges with scissors so that it's about 1 inch wider than the dish edge.

Fill the prepared pie plate with slice peaches. Sprinkle sugar, flour, tapioca and cinnamon over top of peaches. Add the top crust and brush with egg. Sprinkle with additional cinnamon and sugar if desired. Bake at 425 for 20 mins, just until crust is set. Then reduce temp to 350 and bake for another 40 mins, until peaches are done. Insert fork in middle of pie, if peaches don't cling to fork, then it's done.

Recipe adapted slightly from: Making Piece: a memoir of love, loss and pie

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Slow Cooker Applesauce

Making homemade applesauce is one of my favorite fall projects. It's so easy and it tastes so good! I dump all of the apples in the slow cooker after I've peeled, cored and chopped them up. Add a little bit of sugar and water (sometimes we add cinnamon as well), put the lid on and come back in 3 hours to a wonderful pot of chunky homemade goodness.

I always make sure to store extras in the freezer so we can enjoy this yummy treat throughout the winter, it never seems to last long enough though. You can do the same thing with pears, I've actually got a pot of pear sauce going right now as we speak. This will be my first time trying it with pears, I'll have to let you know how it turns out.

Slow Cooker Applesauce

10 apples- (I normally use Cortland or Regents that I get from a local apple orchard, I'm sure just about any kind of apple will work for this. I used Honeycrisp this time since that's all they had at the market, it made a much sweeter applesauce)

3/4 c sugar
1 tsp cinnamon, if desired
1/2 c water (If I have apple juice on hand, I like to use that instead)

Peel, core and chop apples, I like my applesauce chunky so I make sure to leave my apples in big pieces. Add apples to your slow cooker. Sprinkle sugar and cinnamon over top. Add in water or apple juice and give a quick stir. Cook on low for 3 hours or until apples are tender and able to mush easily. With your spoon sort of smash the apples if desired to make a smooth consistency, leave chunky if you'd like. Let cool and then transfer to containers. Store in fridge or once completely cooled place in freezer. I got 2 small-med sized plastic containers full out of this batch otherwise you can fill about 4 pint sized canning jars.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Homemade McGriddles

Yesterday morning we experimented a little bit with our breakfast. Have you ever had a McGriddle sandwich? I think I have once a long time ago, but I try not to eat much for fast food because one, it's not good for you and two, cooking at home always tastes so much better!
The kids always want pancakes and the such for breakfast, while my hubby likes his eggs and meat. To satisfy everyone I decided we'd try making our own version of these sandwiches. Everyone pitched in with the prep work and they were pretty darn good. The kids mostly picked theirs apart as I expected. I think if I could get the pancakes to be a little bit thicker we would have liked them even more, but overall they were something different for breakfast and very easy to put together. I even tried swirling some syrup in the pancake batter while they were cooking. You should definitely give these a try, I think you'll like them!
Homemade McGriddle Sandwiches
Pancake batter:
2 c flour
2 tbsp sugar
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 1/2 c milk
1/2 c oil
Sausage patties, cooked (bacon would work well too)
Scrambled or fried egg
Cheese, if desired
Combine all ingredients for pancake batter in a medium sized bowl and mix together. Over a heated griddle, drop small amounts of batter to make silver dollar sized pancakes. Immediately pour a small amount of syrup onto batter, once bubbles form flip over and cook until other side is done.
To assemble: Taking 2 pancakes, sandwich an egg, sausage patty and slice of cheese between them. You add a small amount of syrup inside or just serve extra alongside the plate for dipping.  Simple as that....enjoy!

Look what's sitting on my table waiting to be used up?! I've got 14 lbs. of pears that I picked up this weekend. I'm waiting for them to ripen just a little bit more before I get to work. I'm planning on making some pear sauce but other than I'm not sure yet.  Any ideas? I'm definitely open for suggestions!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Weekly Menu 9/10

I enjoyed a very laid back weekend, it was wonderful! I got to spend some extra time in the kitchen preparing some things for our week and adding extras to our freezer. I was able to add 6 mini loaves of zucchini bread, homemade applesauce and close to 3 dozen meatballs. Not a tremendous amount but I figure every little bit helps. Here's our game plan for the week:


Apple Cinnamon Monkey Bread
Toast w/Fruit
Blueberry Breakfast Cake


Crispy Southwestern Chicken Wraps
Barbecue Meatballs w/rice
Bacon and egg breakfast burritos
Leftovers for the little one and I
Mexican Pizzas (older girls have a day off from school)


Baked Fish
HM Chicken Strips w/zesty potatoes
Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese (this time we're adding some bacon to this...yum!)
Chicken or beef tostadas


Fresh fruit/veggies
HM Applesauce
Zucchini Bread
String Cheese

Friday, September 7, 2012

Buffalo Chicken Wing Dip

I love this dip! It's always one of my favorite dips to make during football season, for potlucks, or anytime we feel like eating some snack-y foods.

I first had this several years ago when we attended a fantasy football draft, I immediately had to ask the hostess for the recipe. With some small changes, we quickly discovered this was a keeper!  I'm sure everyone either has their own version of this or has at least tried it before. It's super simple to make and I love that I can transfer it to my slow cooker and leave it for everyone to enjoy....and it's got a good bite to it, which I love!

Buffalo Chicken Wing Dip

8 oz cream cheese
1/2 c ranch dressing
1-2 c hot wing sauce (we like to use the full 16 oz. bottle)
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
1-1 1/2 c shredded cheddar cheese
Tortilla chips to serve with

In a medium pan, melt cream cheese, ranch dressing and hot wing sauce together. Once those are all combined, add in shredded chicken and mix together. Toss in the cheddar cheese and stir until cheese is melted into dip. Once everything is all combined, transfer to a slow cooker and keep on warm until ready to serve. This dip is great served with tortilla chips, celery or torn bread pieces.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Delicious Appetizers for Football Season


Do you know what tonight is? Yep, as my husband has not let me forget, it's the start of NFL football season. We decided it would be a great night to make up some appetizers for our dinner  and watch the game.

I have for you, a list of some of my favorite foods to make during football season, whether they be appetizers/finger foods or desserts. Here we go:


1. Pizza Bites - We're definitely making these tonight. Using my homemade pizza dough, these are super easy to make and delicious. Even the kids love them and it's fun to change up the fillings.

2. Chicken Enchilada Roll-ups - Another one of my favorites, these always go over well with a crowd. They have just the right amount of spice, yet mild enough for children to enjoy.

3. Pickle Wrap Dip - Or even just plain pickle wraps. These have been a favorite in our house forever. I really like the dip, just because dips are always more fun. You can use your favorite crackers or even veggies to eat this with.

4. Pulled Pork Sandwiches - While these aren't really considered an appetizer, they are perfect for feeding a crowd. Requiring only a few ingredients, they have got to be the easiest sandwich ever to make!

5. Peanut Butter Surprise Cookies - Just look at these, who wouldn't want to eat one?

6. Creamy Snickers Dip - This dip quickly became a favorite this past summer. Give it a try and you'll see why.

7, Bacon-Wrapped Chicken Bites - These along with those bacon-wrapped smokies are another quick and easy appetizer. I always bring home an empty crock pot when I take these along.

Well I've shared a select few of my favorites, what about you? What are some of your favorite foods to enjoy during football season?


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