Friday, March 29, 2013
We're all enjoying an extra day off this week, the kids are off from school and I don't usually have daycare on Fridays anyways. We tried sleeping in but my body just won't let me sleep past 6:30 anymore. Does anybody else have that problem? We're thinking of taking the girls to a movie today and having a pretty relaxing day at home.
Easter's on Sunday and the girls are getting excited. The Easter bunny will be coming to visit them, they'll have an egg hunt and probably get way more candy than they'll ever need! But I love spending time with all of our family, this weekend we'll only have my side to attend and then next weekend the hubby's. And food, that's another bonus about holidays. Lots of good food! I'm still indecisive about dessert, I'm having trouble finding the perfect one to make.....any suggestions?
This grape salad might even be a good option. I'd love to believe this is actually healthy for me, after all it's main ingredient is grapes and it has the word salad in it's name. But we know it's not. I guess you could consider this a dessert even. Whichever you decide, it's some serious good stuff! I brought this along to dinner last weekend at my parents and we couldn't get enough of it, good thing I didn't make a full batch.
1 lb. seedless green grapes
1 lb. seedless purple grapes
4 oz cream cheese, room temp
1/2 c sour cream
1/4 c sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4-1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 c chopped pecans
Wash grapes and dry thoroughly. Put grapes in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, stir cream cheese until smooth. (I found using a hand mixer worked well for this) Add in sour cream, granulated sugar and vanilla. Mix well. Pour mixture over grapes and toss together until all grapes are coated well. Cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
Just before serving, sprinkle brown sugar and pecans on top.
Wednesday, March 27, 2013
I love skillet meals like this, you get your meat, grain and veggies all in one dish. Plus look at that pop of color, makes me even more anxious for spring and the soon-to-be abundance of fresh produce. Take a closer look....
Doesn't that look good?! Let me tell you, it sure was. Besides being a quick and easy meal, you can use whatever veggies you happen to have sitting in your fridge. I hate letting them go to waste so this is a perfect way to use them up. I like to get the kids involved with meals like this, I can give them a butter knife and let them cut up the bell peppers. When they're busy helping I always feel like they eat just a little better, plus they especially love sneaking pepper slices and carrot sticks.
Ranch Chicken and Rice Skillet Dinner
1 c white or brown rice, prepared
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 packet ranch dressing mix
2 tbsp olive oil
3 c fresh spinach, chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and diced
1/2 green bell pepper, diced (can use any color)
3 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 c grated mozzarella cheese
Preheat oven to 350. Season both sides of chicken with a little bit of the ranch mix and place on a prepared baking sheet. Bake for 30 mins or until chicken is cooked through. Meanwhile heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add in spinach, carrot, bell pepper and garlic. Cook while stirring for about 7-8 minutes or until tender. Add the cooked rice, season mixture with salt, pepper and the remaining ranch mix. Reduce heat and stir to combine. Cut chicken into small chunks and add to rice mixture. Add in mozzarella cheese and stir to combine. Let cheese melt into mixture and serve warm.
Adapted from: Picky Palate Cookbook
Monday, March 25, 2013
Can you believe Easter is less than a week away already? I'm hoping most of our snow will be gone by the weekend, although I bet any egg hunts the kids have will be held indoors this year.
I experimented with some new recipes this weekend and they all turned out great, believe me that's not always the case! I've had my eye on this cake for awhile, I found it in an old-fashioned cookbook I
I love this simple cake, it's good enough to eat alone but we served ours with some fresh whipped cream. Ice cream would be great too. It's very moist and yet a little chewy alongside the edges. I could definitely taste the vanilla wafers, the pecans and coconut were an extra bonus. I think even if you're not a coconut fan, you'd still enjoy a slice. Simply omit the pecans if nuts aren't your thing.
If your Easter menu is still in the works, take this cake into consideration. It's very easy to whip together and everyone enjoys a scrumptious slice of cake for dessert!
Coconut Vanilla Wafer Cake
2 sticks butter, softened
2 c sugar
12 oz. box vanilla wafers, crushed
1-1/2 c flaked coconut
3/4 c chopped pecans
Whipped cream or ice cream for serving
In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add in eggs, two at a time, beating well after each addition. Add wafers alternately with milk. Fold in coconut and pecans. Pour into a greased 10-inch tube pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hr 15 mins, testing after 1 hour. Cool in pan for 15 mins before removing to a serving plate. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream if desired.
Saturday, March 23, 2013
I literally just finished making this dip and couldn't even wait one more day to share the recipe with you. We love buffalo chicken dip in our house, I make it throughout the year when we attend any potlucks or gatherings with friends and family. However, I know it's not a very figure flattering appetizer.
I spotted a healthier version on this site a few days ago through Pinterest. I also happened to have a head of cauliflower in our fridge needing used up. It just seemed right that I use it in this dip.
We really enjoyed this healthier version. I wasn't sure what the hubby might think but he keeps sneaking bites here and there. You can tell it's not the traditional buffalo dip but not in a bad way. The spicy buffalo flavor comes through very nicely and by grating the cauliflower it blends in well. Next time you're looking for a lightened up appetizer or need a vegetarian dish, keep this one in mind. I know you'll love it!
Buffalo Cauliflower Dip
2.5 c grated cauliflower (1/2 head)
1 c hot wing sauce (I like Cookie's Wings-n-Things)
8 oz. cream cheese (you could use low fat)
1/2 c plain yogurt
1/2 tsp dried parsley flakes
3/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp dill weed
3/4 c grated cheddar cheese
Tortilla chips for serving
Grate 1/2 head of cauliflower and add to a large skillet. Add in hot wing sauce and stir to combine, let cook for a few minutes until heated through. Add in cream cheese and stir until melted. Add yogurt and spices, mix well. Lastly add in cheddar cheese and stir until melted, let dip cook until heated through. Serve warm with tortilla chips or celery sticks.
Adapted from: Mother Thyme
Thursday, March 21, 2013
The kids have been on spring break this week which means finding activities to keep them busy, more mouths to feed and more dishes for mom to do. Unfortunately our weather has not cooperated at all and we haven't been able to even play outside. Lots of strong winds and freezing cold temps. I can only laugh at myself as I'm freezing outside trying to get decent pictures of my food, I'm sure the neighbors get a kick out of me!
Since we didn't have our usual dance class on Monday evening I had much more time to devote to making dinner. One of my readers and a girl I went to high school with, actually emailed me this recipe a few weeks back. Kelly said that her family enjoyed these amazing stuffed meatballs one night for dinner and she thought I might like to share it with you. I've been anxious ever since to make these and so glad we got to finally try them!
We don't eat meatballs real often in our family, but every now and then they sound good. You can seriously make a meal out of three of these, of course you also need a good size chunk of fresh Italian bread for dunking. I didn't change too much of the original recipe, however I did use my freezer spaghetti sauce to simmer them in. The girls enjoyed some plain noodles to eat alongside their portions and I had enough extra meatballs to freeze for at least one more meal. I love when that happens!
Italian Stuffed Meatballs
1.5 lbs. lean ground beef
2 tsp oregano
2 tsp dried parsley
Pinch of salt and pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 c panko crumbs
1/2 c grated Parmesan cheese
3-4 sticks string cheese
1 jar Ragu traditional spaghetti sauce
Freezer spaghetti sauce (I used 1 qt. sized container)
*Original recipe calls for 1 jar marinara sauce and 1 jar Prego spicy sausage spaghetti sauce
Olive oil for frying
Combine all ingredients except string cheese and sauce into a large bowl. Mix well with either hands or wooden spoon to combine thoroughly. Cut each string cheese into 8 pieces. Shape meatball into small cup in your hand, press thumb in middle, insert cheese and wrap meat around it. Shape into meatballs. Some of mine were smaller than others but I ended up with 30.
In a large skillet add both sauces and stir to combine. Let simmer while you brown the meatballs.
In another large skillet heat 2 tbsp of olive oil, fry each meatball until all sides are browned. Once meatballs are browned, place them in a simmering pot of sauce for 10 mins. Serve alone or with pasta.
Makes 24-30 meatballs
*If freezing, once you've shaped meatballs place them onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Flash freeze for 1 hour or until solid and then transfer to a large freezer bag. Thaw when ready to use.
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Doesn't this look perfect for spring, so full of bright colors?! Yeah, too bad we're still dealing with snow, blowing winds and cold temps. We'll get there....one of these days. Over the weekend however, the temps were in the upper 30's and when that happens, us Iowans take advantage and bust out of grills. We always have Sunday dinner with my family; this week we grilled hamburgers and brats, we also had a nice spread of salads to go along with. You'd think it was an ordinary summer day.
I found this recipe in Trisha Yearwood's first cookbook, Georgia Cooking in an Oklahoma Kitchen that I checked out from the library. I love adding new salads to my collection and this one is a sure keeper. It's sort of like a dessert but not anything heavy so it's perfect for spring and summer when the weather is getting warmer. And it just looks so pretty, don't you think?
I stayed pretty true to the original recipe this time around but I think you could change it up with no problem. Mandarin oranges would be a great addition, as with any berries. I did leave out the nuts as I wasn't sure if the kids would like that, I think they would've offered a nice crunch though. Plan ahead, this does require a little bit of advance work but it's so easy to put together. You're family is sure to love it as much as mine did!
Pink Jello Salad
1 c boiling water
3 oz strawberry jello
3 oz cream cheese, room temp
15 oz crushed, unsweetened pineapple, drained
2 ripe, but firm bananas, diced
6 oz maraschino cherries, drained and cut in half
1/2 c chopped pecans, optional
1 c heavy cream (I bet even whipped topping would work well)
Pour boiling water into a large bowl, add in jello and stir until dissolved. Blend in cream cheese, I found using a whisk helped with this part, you want it to be thoroughly mixed. Cool in fridge for 45 mins, until thickened but not fully gelled. Add in pineapple, bananas, cherries and nuts, mix gently. In a separate bowl, beat heavy cream with electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Gently fold into gelatin mixture and pour into a large serving bowl or even an 8x8 inch pan would work. Refrigerate for several hours or even overnight until firm.
Sunday, March 17, 2013
Happy St. Patrick's Day! We don't usually do much to celebrate but I like to incorporate fun little things into our day for the kids when I can. I'm also not a fan of beer so you won't catch me drinking green beer on this day. The girls immediately put something green on this morning along with green hair ties and bows in their hair, they don't want any leprechauns pinching them today they said.
I decided to make some of this jello popcorn this morning for a special little snack today. Have you ever made this before? This was my first time, I don't think I've ever even tried any before. It's actually pretty good! I didn't spend long putting it all together. We used lime of course for St. Patty's Day but I think strawberry, cherry or even a blue raspberry would be fun and delicious for the kiddos. After baking the popcorn the jello coating gives it a nice crunchy candy coating. I know it will be a huge hit with the kiddos, as far as adults, I'm sure a little goes a long way. Unless you have a huge sweet tooth, then this is the perfect treat for you!
8 c popped popcorn
4 tbsp butter
3 tbsp honey (light corn syrup will work too)
1/2 c sugar
3 oz box lime jello (or any flavor)
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Add popped popcorn to a large bowl. In a small saucepan add butter and honey, cook over medium heat until butter has melted. Add in sugar and jello, stir until dissolved. Let come to a boil and then turn heat down and let simmer for 5 mins. Immediately remove from stove and pour over popcorn. Stir well to coat popcorn. Dump coated popcorn onto lined baking sheet and spread into one layer. Bake in oven for 10 mins. Remove and let cool, then break popcorn pieces apart. Enjoy!
Any big plans for the rest of today? Since we've finally got some warmer temps (30s-40s) we're heading to my parents to grill out tonight. I made a fruit salad to take along, it's delicious, can't wait to share the recipe with you! Have a great Sunday!
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Every year my mom makes these for my birthday dinner, along with an amazing pineapple upside down cake. I look forward to this meal every single year. When I was in 5th grade she became manager of a deli counter at a local grocery store, this recipe was one that she discovered in their books and soon became a regular on our dinner menu at home.
If I had to guess, I would say ham balls are sort of a Midwestern thing. I know quite a few people that have yet to try this delicious meal. I think you honestly either love them or hate them. My husband and one of our girls does not care for them, while the other two girls and myself love them.
Our local Fareway store grinds up their own ham loaf, half ground ham and half ground pork; I always use this mixture when preparing these. I love the sweet and pineapple taste of ham balls, they are definitely on the sweet side but I wouldn't say overbearing. Serve these with baked potatoes and veggies and I think it helps to round out all of the flavors.
Since my batch made close to 3 dozen balls and I knew we wouldn't eat that many in one sitting. I froze the remaining two dozen. Once you have your mixture made up, take a medium sized cookie scoop and place balls onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Stick the ham balls in the freezer for at least 1-2 hours and then transfer to a freezer bag. These will keep in your freezer for a few months and you have another meal already made up for when things get busy.
2 lb. ham loaf (or use 1 lb. ground ham + 1 lb. ground pork)
1 tsp ground mustard
1/4 c brown sugar
1/4 c milk
1 tbsp honey
1 c graham cracker crumbs
15 oz. can pineapple tidbits
1-2 tbsp brown sugar
In a large bowl combine ham loaf, eggs, mustard, brown sugar, milk, honey and graham crackers. Mix together well, I find using my hands for this works the best. Lightly grease a 9x13 inch baking dish with cooking spray, if you're making an entire batch you will probably need more than one dish. With a medium sized cookie scoop, scoop mixture into balls and place into prepared dish. Drizzle a little bit of water into pan so that ham balls won't dry out. Bake at 350 for about 45 mins-1 hour. During the last 10 mins of baking, add in pineapple and sprinkle brown sugar on top. *I don't usually put the whole can of pineapple in, use as much or as little as you'd like.
Monday, March 11, 2013
Our family loves pizza, I think I could eat it just about every day. Fridays are usually our night to make homemade pizza. Sometimes we will order out but when you think about it, it really is so much cheaper to make your own. The hubs and I both love buffalo chicken so I like to make this pizza for us every once and while and then something more mild for the kiddos.
Since he doesn't care for ranch, I skip adding that to the actual pizza and will just use it as a side for myself. I like to add bell peppers if we have them on hand for some added color and crunch. On the morning I made this we had company so I made a larger breakfast than normal. I had quite a bit of extra bacon on hand and crumbled a few slices on top, I loved the extra salty, smokiness from the bacon.
When it comes to pizza dough, feel free to use your favorite homemade recipe or even the store bought crusts. I happen to love this particular recipe. I've tried others and none of them compare, I really believe it has to do with the bread flour. I have started to use it much more in my baking, I think it offers a much more softer texture to baked goods. It's only about $1 more than regular all-purpose flour. Give it a try next time you make pizza, I don't think you'll be disappointed!
Buffalo Chicken Pizza
1 unbaked pizza crust
1/2 c cooked, chopped/shredded chicken
1/4-1/3 c buffalo wing sauce (I use Cookie's Wings n' Things)
Additional toppings such as chopped bell peppers or cooked, crumbled bacon
1 c grated cheese (I used a combo of cheddar and mozzarella)
Ranch dressing to serve alongside or even drizzle on top
Preheat oven to 400 degrees, if you're using a stone make sure to preheat that in oven as well. Roll dough out and transfer to hot stone. Spread hot wing sauce over dough, add chicken, any desired toppings and cheese. Bake for 15 mins or until cheese is melted and bubbly and crust is browned. If desired drizzle ranch dressing over top and cut into slices.
Friday, March 8, 2013
Broccoli salad is one of my favorites and one recipe I'm pretty sure you might already have. But this comes from my mom, it's not something I make very often because I'm usually the only one in the house that eats it. My mom gave me this recipe along with several others at my bridal shower almost 7 years ago. My awesome bridesmaids put together the cutest recipe box for me because they knew how much I love to cook and bake, they also asked each guest to bring along at least one of their own recipes to put inside. It was one of the best gifts I've ever received and to this day I still love it! I seriously think it's one of the best gifts to give to a new bride.
Last week I made this salad to go along with our baked ham and cheese sandwiches. I can't remember the last time I've gotten to have broccoli salad and was literally craving it. I love the crunchy broccoli mixed with the sweet red onion and walnuts, the saltiness from the bacon and the sweetness from raisins. The dressing itself is also on the sweet side. The more you let the flavors mingle, the better it tastes; although I will say it's best enjoyed no later than the second day. It doesn't make a huge amount so I'm sure you'll have no troubles .
I will share real quick these baked ham and cheese sandwiches we made. They were pretty good and something very simple to make. I took a package of King's Hawaiian brand rolls, split them in half and filled them with a few slices of ham and cheese. We used provolone and colby-jack between all of the sandwiches. You could use whatever kind you like best though. I did mix together a few tablespoons of melted butter, 1 tbsp brown sugar and a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce and basted the insides of the top bun as well as the tops, just for a little extra glaze. We baked them in a 9x13 inch baking pan, covered with foil for about 20 mins or so until cheese was melted. They were delicious, I don't think we had any left at all. These make for a very quick and easy dinner, lunch or even an appetizer.
6-8 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 head broccoli, chopped
1 small red onion, chopped
1 c walnuts
1/2 c raisins
1 c mayonnaise (I recommend Hellman's)
1/2 c sugar
2 tbsp white vinegar
In a medium-large sized bowl combine bacon, broccoli, onion, walnuts and raisins. In a small bowl, combine all dressing ingredients and mix well. Pour dressing over salad and mix together. Let salad marinate in fridge for several hours before serving.
Tuesday, March 5, 2013
I've got another adorable cake to share with you! Yesterday was our youngest's third birthday, we celebrated it a couple weekends ago but I wanted to make her a special cake to share with her daycare friends and their families. Being a cake decorator, I have tons of ideas in my head and on file and never enough time to make them all. I seen a cake similar to this on Pinterest and knew this might be my only chance to make something like it, as I don't foresee anymore children in my future.
It was a very easy cake to make and didn't take much of my time. I baked two cakes in a bundt pan, you can use your favorite from-scratch recipe or a standard cake mix. You can see in the picture above how I cut them to form a number 3, you'll have a little bit of extra cake. Then I just used my standard buttercream recipe to frost the cake and started covering it with skittles. My girls aren't big M&M fans so I decided skittles would be a fun alternative.
I only spent about an hour covering the cake, so not bad timing at all. This is such a fun and different sort of birthday cake, my little girl just loved it! If you have a little one turning 3 in the near future, you should definitely give this one a try.
Number 3 Shaped Cake
2 baked, bundt shaped cakes (I used strawberry but any flavor would be great)
Choice of frosting, either homemade or store bought
Large 2 lb. bag of skittles (or M&Ms if you prefer)
board or something to place cake on
Cut baked cakes as shown above and position on a cake board to make a number 3 shape. Frost cakes using desired frosting and immediately start placing colored candies around cake. You can place them making a pattern like I did or get the kiddos involved and let them place the candies all over.
Sunday, March 3, 2013
Watching the weather this morning I seen we're in for another 6-10 inches of snow in the next two days. I'm going to grab another piece of this dessert and pretend I'm sitting outside on our patio in the middle of June.
This recipe comes from a cookbook my aunt gave me at my bridal shower 7 years ago. It's one of those community cookbooks filled with tons of great family recipes. Buster bars are fairly popular item are our local Dairy Queen, they're basically an ice cream bar filled with peanuts and hot fudge. So really, what's not to love?
I made up a pan of this on Friday and sent home a couple of containers with my sister-in-law. It makes a 9x13 size pan so it's perfect to take along to any sort of potluck or gathering. Since it will keep for awhile in the freezer it's also perfect to take out a few slices here and there to enjoy. The hubby isn't a big chocolate fan but even he didn't have a problem putting this away. This will definitely be a great make-ahead dessert come summertime, but for now I'll just enjoy my portion and hope for warmer weather soon.
Buster Bar Dessert
1 package Oreos,, crushed
1 stick butter, melted
1/2 gallon vanilla ice cream, softened
8 oz. tub whipped topping, thawed
8 oz dry roasted peanuts
16 oz. jar hot fudge sauce
Mix crushed Oreos and melted butter together in a medium bowl, press out into a lightly greased 9x13 inch pan. Mixture will be sticky, adding a little water to your fingers will help in pressing out the crumbs. Stick in freezer. Meanwhile in a large bowl mix together vanilla ice cream and whipped topping. Some spots might be lumpy and that's okay, overall it should mix together easily and be pretty smooth. Remove crust from freezer and spread ice cream filling over top. Add half of the dry roasted peanuts over the ice cream, press down into filling.
Place back in freezer for at least 1-2 hours. Warm hot fudge and spread over ice cream. Top with remaining peanuts and freeze for several hours or overnight if possible. Remove from freezer about 5-10 mins before serving.
Friday, March 1, 2013
Today's been a nice, relaxing day; just what we needed to end the week with. I typically have Fridays off from daycare so I can work on my weekend cake orders, I didn't end up with any orders this week so the hubby and I planned to spend a few hours with our youngest while the older two were at school. We started off by grabbing a few things from the grocery store, browsed the toy store so that she could pick out her birthday present and then ended our morning with lunch at a restaurant.
Isn't she the cutest lunch date ever? Later this evening we're having our niece spend the night, the girls are very excited for their little sleep over to say the least. I've got a good meal planned for them, one heck of a dessert and a killer breakfast for in the morning....oh and lots of fun games for them too!
Last night we enjoyed this amazing meal of parmesan and panko crusted chicken under a bed of fresh spinach and topped with tomatoes marinated in olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I separated the kids' plates a bit because I just knew they wouldn't be thrilled with eating a meal presented like this. Instead I compromised and cut their chicken into strips, let them enjoy plain cherry tomatoes, broccoli and fruit. A little more kid-friendly without having to make two different meals, because I'm not about to do that. In the end everyone was happy and I'm okay with that.
Parmesan Crusted Chicken w/Marinated Tomatoes
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1-1/2 c panko crumbs
3/4 c freshly grated or shredded parmesan
1/2 c flour
Salt and Pepper to taste
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tbsp olive oil, plus more for pan
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp butter
In a bowl combine tomatoes with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, add salt and pepper to taste. Toss everything together and let sit while preparing chicken.
Place chicken breasts one at a time between two sheets of wax paper, using a rolling pin or meat tenderizer, pound chicken until 1/4-inch thick. Set aside while you set up your dredging station. In a small bowl add eggs, slightly beaten. To another bowl, add flour. The final bowl, add panko crumbs and parmesan cheese and mix well to combine.
Season chicken with salt and pepper, I usually cut each breast in half to give me a total of 4 pieces. Coat each piece with flour, then dip into egg until moistened (let excess drip off) and place into panko mixture. Press down lightly so that crumb mixture coats the chicken well.
In a large skillet add 1 tbsp butter and 1 tbsp olive oil and let heat until butter is melted. Add in 2 pieces of chicken at a time, let cook for about 6-7 mins. on each side, or until browned and crispy and chicken is cooked through. *If you're finding the chicken is browning too quickly, you can finish cooking off in a preheated 350 degree oven for a few more mins. Place chicken on a plate lined with a paper towel and finish cooking the other 2 pieces of meat. Make sure to add another tbsp of both butter and olive oil to the pan first.
Serve chicken on fresh spinach, top with marinated tomatoes. Drizzle with the extra marinade if desired.