Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Barbecue Chicken Flatbread

Most days of the week I pack a lunch for not only my children, but myself to take to work. It's generally leftovers, but I also try to prepare one of my own favorite dishes on Sunday to divide out into small containers and last me a couple days or so. There are plenty of dishes that I really enjoy but maybe the family doesn't, so it's a great way for me to get those worked into my menu plans.

Some days though, it might be me just trying to get creative with leftovers so they don't go to waste. That's what this sandwich was. And I'm really not much of a sandwich person, but this one was pretty darn good. I especially love it with the bread and chicken warmed, but when you're at work that's not always possible and it still tastes good.

I love using these divided containers for my kids' lunches and they're even convenient for myself. I don't want to bring a ton of little containers to work, so this is perfect. Since you won't want a soggy sandwich, I recommend keeping all the components separate until you're ready to eat.

Barbecue Chicken Flatbread

1 cup cooked, shredded chicken
1/4 cup barbecue sauce
handful fresh spinach
1 tbsp onion salad toppers
2 slices pepper jack cheese
1 whole wheat flatbread

In a small bowl, mix together shredded chicken and barbecue sauce. Top flatbread with chicken, spinach, onion toppers and cheese. Fold in half and enjoy!

You can also warm the chicken and flatbread in microwave or oven before serving.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Guacamole for the Freezer

Is it really already October? The days are going by all too quickly and it's been a long time since I've sat down to write. I think for us moms, it's sometimes hard to balance everything that needs done in our day and so things get pushed aside. I've been taking time to focus a little more on myself as a person and not just someone's mom or wife; I've discovered a new found love for running and have been devoting much of my spare time to training for my first 5k which is coming up next weekend. As I turned 33 yesterday, it feels good to give myself grace to do something just for myself. No one else. It doesn't mean I don't love being a mom or a wife, but I'm giving myself permission to take care of myself and do things I enjoy. In the end, it's only going to make me that much better of a person.

So now that it's football season, you'll almost always find a game on my TV during the weekend. It's like a ritual with the husband. I don't mind sitting down to watch a little bit, but with the guys, I guess it's like their religion. We're not big snackers during these times, but occasionally you'll find myself mixing up a little something to munch on. Or if we get invited to hang out with friends, it's nice to have a dish on hand to bring along.

Guacamole is a favorite in our family, even my kids love it. Generally I like to mix in big chunks of tomato and maybe even a little green pepper if I have it. The chunkier, the better. Last month when avocados were on sale, I got to wondering if I could freeze guacamole?

In the freezer went a batch, spooned into a freezer bag and flattened for easy storage. A total experiment. Three weeks later and I pulled the batch out to thaw. I was impressed, it wasn't watery, it didn't turn a yucky brown color and it tasted just a fresh as when I first mixed it up. I added in my tomatoes and we served it up. So now when I stock up during an avocado sale, I know I can stash a batch in my freezer for another day.

Guacamole for the Freezer

3 ripe avocados, halved, pitted and peeled
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup diced red onion
1 lime
salt and pepper, to taste

In a medium bowl, mash avocados using a fork. Add in garlic, onion and juice of one lime. Mix in chopped cilantro, use a much or as little as you'd like. Season with salt and pepper and adjust seasonings if needed.

Scoop guacamole into a quart sized freezer bag and seal shut, flattening and getting out as much air as possible. Make sure to label bag and store in freezer for up to 4 weeks. When ready to enjoy, just remove from freezer and let thaw. Snip one edge of the bag and squeeze the contents into a serving bowl. Mix in chopped tomatoes or peppers if desired. Serve with tortilla chips or veggies. Store any extras in fridge.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Pepperoni Pizza Casserole

I did not have my act together at all last week when I returned to work. I also probably had too many other things going on at the same time, but dinner felt like a disaster during those several days. I cannot stress how much having a meal plan helps me cope during the work week. It's relaxing to know that when I get home, everything is ready to go for me to prepare my family dinner that night.

I made sure to take the time to plan out our meals all this week and it's made such a difference. I'm usually much better about planning and should know better than winging it. I also forget how really simple dishes like this one often go over well. I can't even believe I'm sharing such a simple meal with you, but I know it's one your whole family will enjoy. Because mine sure did!

Anytime you combine pasta with red sauce, it's a hit; but add pizza like toppings and you've got a real show stopper. I also love when I can get enough leftovers out of a meal for lunch the next day. It reheats nicely and tastes just as good as the night before. If you can get your family to eat olives and mushrooms, then by all means add those babies in. Mine, however, will most certainly turn their noses up at the sight.

If you're struggling a bit in the meal plan area, add this to your menu for the upcoming week. I'm positive it's one the whole family will love. It's also budget friendly and super easy to make. Round it out with a side salad and toasted garlic bread, everyone will leave the table feeling stuffed to the gills!

Pepperoni Pizza Casserole

1 lb. cavatappi pasta
24 oz. jar pasta sauce (I like Newman's Own tomato basil)
1/2 lb. cooked, crumbled ground beef
3 oz. pepperoni
2 cups mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut pepperoni slices in half, making sure to leave about 9-10 whole, for topping the casserole. Set the pepperoni aside.

Cook pasta al dente on stove top. Drain pasta and return to pan. Add in pasta sauce, ground beef and cut pepperoni slices. Stir to combine well, and then spoon into an 11x7-inch baking pan. Top with mozzarella cheese and whole pepperoni slices.

Bake in oven for about 20 minutes, just until cheese is melted and pasta is heated through. Remove from oven, let cool for a few minutes before dishing. Serve with your choice of salad and bread.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Low Sugar Baked Oatmeal

Baked oatmeal is one of my favorite things to have for breakfast, especially when the weather gets cooler. I have a favorite recipe I usually make, but it's not as healthy as it could be. It's really good! But probably not the best nutrition wise. I've never been one to exercise, honestly, I can't remember ever and I wasn't all that into sports while growing up. I'm learning as I get older, if I'm going to keep cooking and baking like I love to; something has to give. This summer I've started running, using the Couch to 5k program, and am finding that I really love it. I'm currently on week five of the program and plan to run my first ever 5k in October. For the past few years I've supported my family as they participate in this particular 5k event benefiting our local school system, but now it's my turn to join in and do something for myself. I'm excited to run along side with them!

So with all of that going on, I'm also focusing on my nutrition a little more now. I do strive to feed our family with healthy foods as much as possible, but I know there's always room for improvement. I've got a sweet tooth and trying to curb that is probably my number one focus right now.

As we're heading back into another school year, it's also time to get back to meal prepping more and stocking the freezer with meal components. This can help make my days go so much more smoothly than if I didn't. I made a small batch of these oatmeal cups last week, just in case they didn't turn out like I wanted. They freeze wonderfully and I can quickly thaw a couple in the morning for a quick breakfast.

They baked up just as well as my other recipe did, the texture was spot on and they remove easily from the muffin tins. As I've focused on cutting back on sugar, I'm finding it doesn't take much to satisfy me anymore. You will notice that these are not as sweet, but definitely sweet enough. Especially with your choice of seasonal fruit on top, these peaches in particular are like candy right now. So juicy and sweet, I don't want to take away from that lovely flavor. And they are filling, two for breakfast in the morning plus a little fruit on top, is plenty to keep me satisfied.  Feel free to add your desired toppings into the oatmeal cups before baking, I personally love being able to customize as we eat them. Sprinkled with a few almonds, walnuts or pecans before you eat and you've got yourself one heck of a breakfast bowl!

Low Sugar Baked Oatmeal

1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1-2 tbsp honey or pure maple syrup (adjust according to your taste)
1-1/4 cups old fashioned oats
3/4 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1 tbsp cinnamon
1/2 cup almond milk or regular milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a muffin tin and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine together applesauce, egg, vanilla and honey or maple syrup. Mix in oats, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Lastly, add in milk and stir well to combine.

Using a large spoon or cookie scoop, distribute batter into wells of muffin tin, filling 3/4 full. Bake in oven for 20 minutes, or until centers are set.

Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes before removing to eat. Enjoy with desired fruit or nut toppings.

*If freezing, let cups cool completely before placing into freezer bags or container. Make sure to label with contents and then store in freezer. When ready to enjoy, let thaw a little if possible before reheating. Microwave or warm in oven.

Makes 6-8 oatmeal cups

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Peach Angel Food Cake Jars

Summer vacation is just about over. I'm enjoying these last couple days off before I head back on Monday. The girls will be following behind and begin school on Thursday. It's been a good summer though, we were able to do some traveling, spent many afternoons in the pool and most of all, just relaxed. Last week I treated them one afternoon with these adorable little jars filled with angel food cake, freshly whipped cream and the sweetest peaches you've ever tasted! They were in heaven for those few minutes it took to inhale.

I mentioned last week how I was up to my eyeballs in peaches and spent much of the week preserving them. I made sure to keep plenty for us to enjoy eating with oatmeal, yogurt and just plain. And of course, for this dessert. Dessert hasn't been occurring often around here lately, and in fact, it's often fruit or maybe a slice of pie. So these jars were a much welcomed treat by the kids.

I often rely on much lighter desserts in the summer, making fresh seasonal fruit the shining star when possible. That's what I love about angel food cake. It's light and so versatile. You can create so many delicious creations, using any fruit you have on hand. And because berries and other fruit are so sweet during these summer months, you won't be needing any additional sweeteners.  If you're feeling ambitious, go ahead and even bake your own cake. But I won't judge if you purchase one from the bakery, in fact I did exactly that for this dessert. It's too hot to be turning on the oven more than absolutely needed!

We loved eating these out of small jam jars, but don't feel you have to use those. Any small bowls or glasses you have in the cupboard will work. If you're needing a dessert to feed a crowd, combine this into a trifle dish or a large glass bowl and I'm sure it will be the star of your meal.

Peach Angel Food Cake Jars

1 angel food cake, homemade or store bought
4-5 medium, ripe peaches, diced
1 pint heavy whipping cream
2 tbsp sugar

In a medium bowl, combine whipping cream and sugar. This is easiest to do using an electric mixer, but a whisk will also do. Whisk on high until cream reaches stiff peaks, about three minutes. Set aside.

Cut cake into large cubes. To assemble trifle: gather either one large bowl or several smaller ones for serving. Layer each one with cake, cream, peaches and repeat layers. End with the diced peaches on top.

Serve immediately.

Friday, August 12, 2016

BLT Cucumber Boats

It's been a busy week or so around here. We spent most of last week in Missouri visiting family and every day this week I've spent much of my time preserving peaches and making pickles. We brought home a box of Missouri peaches and Sunday when we got back into town, I made my way out to a local farm to pick up two more boxes of peaches I had ordered from Michigan. After sharing a little bit with my sister in-laws, I'm guessing I still had a good 70 pounds to put up for winter. I've canned peach slices, made jam, cobbler topping and even salsa. Today I finished up freezing slices and stuck a few mini pies in the freezer. Oh and it's been hot! I'm ready to relax a little bit this weekend and enjoy the much cooler temperatures.

My garden hasn't been as successful this year as I had hoped. We did end up with a decent harvest of lettuce and peas early on, the squirrels got to the strawberries, my broccoli never did produce, same with bell peppers (I have the darnedest time with those!). I'm still hoping I'll get some zucchini to grow since I had to replant. But my tomatoes have done great, especially the cherry. And my garden is currently being taken over by watermelon vines. It's our first year trying this fruit and we're excited to see how it turns out. I spotted three tiny little babies in there, the girls will be thrilled if they end up growing well.

Right now meals are simple, and based largely around what's coming out of the garden or what we're bringing home from the farmers' market. I find myself trying to add tomatoes to just about every single meal. It also happens to be prime BLT season and we tried a little twist on this classic sandwich recently. I mixed up a light bacon, lettuce, tomato and mayo topping and stuffed it right into a cucumber that I simply scooped the middle out of. It was simply delicious and a nice lightened way to enjoy this favorite summer meal. You can try substituting a Greek yogurt if you'd like, but I figured if I was already skipping the bread, the mayonnaise wasn't such a big deal.

You really don't need a recipe per say to follow for a dish like this, but for those of you that feel more comfortable following one I've given precise measurements. Feel free to adjust as necessary. Enjoy this light summer meal while you've got tons of fresh produce around!

BLT Cucumber Boats

2 medium cucumbers
6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 cup quartered cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped lettuce
1/4 cup mayonnaise
salt and pepper, to taste

Slice cucumber in half length wise, taking a spoon, scoop out the middle and discard. Set cucumber halves aside.

In a small bowl, mix together cooked and crumbled bacon, tomatoes, lettuce, mayo, salt and pepper. Adjust seasonings if needed, add additional mayonnaise if desired.

Top each cucumber half with bacon mixture. Serve immediately.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Zucchini "Pasta" Salad

We eat a lot of zucchini in our house, especially during the summer. Most of the time it's sliced up, seasoned and grilled with an assortment of other vegetables. And of course, shredded and added into the occasional dessert. It's not a vegetable I've always been fond of, until I was well into my twenties, I had always assumed that squash was something I didn't like even though I'd never tried it.

My new favorite way to enjoy this seasonal veggie, is by making noodles out of it. We don't own any sort of spiralizer like gadget, but my serrated peeler works just fine. It makes the most perfect noodle shape out of many vegetables. Spaghetti squash is always welcomed on my plate, but I've been loving the ease of shredding one zucchini and tossing it with a bit of warm pasta sauce for an effortless and healthy meal. Let that heat up for a few minutes on the stove top and you've got yourself one heck of a meal. I promise you won't miss the real pasta and it's just as delicious! Seriously, just give it a try yet this season.

Taking that same enthusiasm, I decided to give these noodles a try with a salad. Pasta salads are always gracing the menu during summer barbecues, but if you're aiming to eat a bit healthier, lighter and watching those carbs like I am; then they can quickly pile up on the plate. 

In this I used some of our favorite veggies we had on hand, but I love the versatility. You can add just about anything. And I didn't even feel like I was eating a plate full of healthy veggies, it was just as good as any of my other picnic favorites. Even family members I fully expected to pass right along grabbed a small scoop and genuinely said it was good. 

We've still got a good month and a half of summer left, and a ton of fresh, seasonal produce to take advantage of.  Add this simple salad to your menu! You've still got plenty of time.

Zucchini "Pasta" Salad

2 medium zucchini
1 cup chopped broccoli florets
1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
salt and pepper, to taste
few basil leaves, chopped

Using a spiralizer or a serrated peeler, shred both zucchini into noodle like shapes. Once you get to the middle of the zucchini, it gets soft so you can just toss them at this point. Toss the noodles into a medium sized bowl, along with the other veggies. 

In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper. Toss with the vegetables. Add in chopped basil leaves. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper if needed. Let chill in fridge before serving. Serves 5-6

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Steakhouse Burger

Summer is meant for grilling, we have multiple dinners prepared outside each week. And that means burgers and brats will find their way onto our menu quite often as well. Hamburgers aren't always my most favorite, but especially in the summer they generally sound good.

I prefer the usual toppings on mine: lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, ketchup and mustard. I'm also not much of a cheeseburger fan, I like cheese but just not on my burgers. The meat should be well seasoned and my bun toasted. And well done, not much pink for me, I'm getting better, as the hubby absolutely prefers rare meat. That's the perfect burger in my opinion.

We made these for dinner this past week, as it had been awhile and they represent a good typical burger for me. I think my onion and tomato are hiding under my bun there, but it was good. My big tomatoes have yet to ripen so we grabbed a couple from the farmers' market earlier that day. Oh and that bright colorful salad looking thing on my plate? That's a little creativity and using up of old veggies in the fridge. We enjoyed it as both a salad and a salsa sort of dip with tortilla chips. I love simple summer meals like this one. And that color, I absolutely love all the bright, beautiful colors on our dinner plates this time of year!

Steakhouse Burger

2 pounds ground beef
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
black pepper
Lawry's seasoning salt
Buns, toasted on grill

Preheat grill.

In a large bowl, combine together meat and all the seasonings. I don't usually measure the pepper and salt, just a good sprinkle in of both will work. Form meat into patties, you should get six or so depending on size.

Grill burgers until nicely browned on the first side, about 7-8 minutes. Then flip using a spatula and let cook on the other side until meat has reached desired doneness. If desired, toast buns on grill before serving. Remove burgers and buns from grill, serve warm with favorite toppings.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Buckwheat Pancakes

Breakfast around here hasn't been too exciting this summer. Lots of toast, eggs and smoothies. As much as I love to cook, mom gets tired of preparing a full on meal three times a day plus all of those dishes that go along with it. I've only made muffins once and pancakes maybe a few times. With the weather cooling down just a tad this week, I thought I'd treat the kiddos to pancakes.

They're not your typical hot cake. I like experimenting with new ingredients, and flour being one of them. Unlike some, buckwheat flour is one that can easily be adaptable to most recipes that call for regular flour. It definitely has a unique flavor, offering a bit of a nutty taste to your baked goods. Buckwheat is actually a fruit that is similar to wild rhubarb,so although it's treated as a grain, it's actually gluten free. As far as baking entirely gluten free with it, I'm not familiar with it at all. I do however, love how it amps up the nutritional value in our foods, so for that I will keep a small supply on hand at all times.

When I first started making these for the girls, they were a little unsure of the dark color, which I honestly expected. I like keeping the recipe with half all-purpose flour, mainly to not turn them away. Maybe someday we'll try whole wheat and see what we think. The cinnamon adds a wonderful flavor, they smell like a gingersnap or molasses cookie almost. After the first bite, each girl said they taste just like our "normal" pancakes. Sometimes I'll sprinkle in a few mini chocolate chips while I'm cooking them over the stove top. I prefer mine with a bit of homemade jam smeared over top.

It won't be long and I'll be in back to school mode again, only one more month to be exact. I anticipate filling the freezer with a couple batches of these to help ease back into our morning routine. I know these, along with some fresh fruit will be what my girls need to keep their bellies full until lunch.

Buckwheat Pancakes

1 cup buckwheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted and cooled
2 eggs
1-1/2 cups milk

In a bowl, whisk together both flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Add in oil, eggs and milk and whisk until well combined.

Heat a skillet on the stove over medium heat. Spoon batter onto skillet and let cook until small bubbles form around the edges, flip pancake and let cook until browned. Remove from skillet and repeat with remaining batter.

Serve pancakes warm with maple syrup or jam. Makes 8 big pancakes

Friday, July 22, 2016

Taco Salad Bar

It's starting to get ungodly hot here in Iowa, as I'm sure everywhere else is feeling the same way. I love the heat, it's that humidity that makes it unbearable. The only way I want to be outside, is if I'm floating in the pool with a drink in my hand. In fact, we did that for two hours yesterday afternoon and it was great!

Along with not wanting to be outside much, it's hard to want to turn on the oven or stove to do any cooking. In our house, the kitchen, dining room and living room are all open and run together, so it can heat up quickly in those areas if I have the oven going. It's wonderful in the fall and winter, but not so much during this heat of summer. So we're trying to eliminate using the oven as much as possible right now. One night I set up a fun little build your own taco bar, we even sat outside on the patio to eat, even though it was starting to get humid. But it was nice and the kids enjoyed it.

I did heat up the taco meat on the stove, but if it would have been in the 100's like these past few days, we would have most definitely gotten out the crockpot and let the meat cook in there all day long. You can also brown it up before bed the night before, when it's not quite as hot.  Or simply go for a meatless meal and leave that out, black beans provide more than enough protein for your meal.

The idea is to set up small bowls of your favorite taco toppings, letting each family member build their own taco or salad. I did splurge on some Doritos for walking tacos for the kids, we had tortilla shells and I settled for a few blue corn chips to go along with my guacamole. I also have a big head of cabbage in my fridge that we've been slowly using up this week. Instead of purchasing more lettuce, I sliced the cabbage up. It provides more nutrition, more crunch and, it's so much prettier on your plate than green lettuce.

We do this sort of thing frequently in our house, and not just in the summer, but throughout the year. Because really, who doesn't love tacos? If you've got a party coming up in the future, or want to get together with friends. Consider a build your own taco bar. It's a hit among adults and kids. Everyone will go home happy!

Taco Bar Supplies:
seasoned taco meat
black beans
shredded cheese
lettuce or cabbage
diced tomato
diced bell pepper
taco sauce or salsa
sour cream
tortilla chips
tortilla or corn shells

Easy Guacamole

3 ripe avocados
1/2 of lime
1 garlic clove, minced
salt and pepper, to taste
2 tbsp diced onion
small handful cherry tomatoes, quartered
small handful cilantro, chopped

Peel and pit avocados, mash them with a fork in a medium bowl. Squeeze in juice from the lime and garlic, mix together. Mix in all other ingredients and season with salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. Serve immediately with chips or let chill in fridge until ready to serve.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Slushy Cocktail Punch

We definitely entertain a lot more in the summer, we've got the perfect backyard for it. Lots of space for kids to run around, a fire pit, a nice patio area and recently, a pool we've added. So it's not uncommon to find me inviting over family and friends for the weekend to grill out and just enjoy each other's company. Entertaining and cooking for others is truly what I love doing most.

Along with planning out my menus and preparing lots of delicious food, I love a good cocktail. I'm not your typical beer gal. I like the more fruity, frilly types of drinks or a good wine. I mixed up a batch of this slushy punch for the Fourth of July weekend, it's been forever since I've enjoyed a glass of it.

The punch is great without alcohol but who doesn't love a good drink now and again? You get a nice cherry, pineapple drink that's slushy from the base being frozen and then mixed with your choice of a lemon-lime soda. It's the perfect way to cool down during these dog days of summer. I mix up a pitcher and let the rest of the base stay frozen in the freezer. That way I'm able to keep the nice slushy texture I like and won't be wasting any.

Next barbecue or get together you plan to attend this summer, make sure to include this fun, slushy punch on your menu. It's been a favorite of mine for many years! Here's a couple more adult beverages you might enjoy as well:

Watermelon-tequila punch
Strawberry champagne cocktail

Slushy Cocktail Punch

6 oz. box of cherry jello
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups boiling water
46 oz. pineapple juice
3 cups cold water
3 cups rum
2 liters of lemon-lime soda

Bring two cups of water to a boil on stove in a small saucepan. Once boiling, mix in sugar and jello and stir well until fully dissolved.

Pour pineapple juice into a large bowl with a lid. Mix in jello mixture. Add in cold water and rum and stir well to combine. Cover with lid and freeze overnight.

When ready to serve, mix punch base with soda and stir well. Since there is alcohol in the base, you shouldn't need to thaw out ahead of time. You may serve in a punch bowl or in smaller increments in a pitcher or cups. Keep any unused punch base stored in freezer.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Cherry Pies for the Freezer

I've spent much of my time in this past week preserving sour cherries from my sister in-law's tree. Monday I easily spent a good eight hours or longer in the kitchen; rinsing, pitting, mixing together pie filling, making pie crust and so forth. Typically Josh's grandma and a nearby neighbor receive the majority of the fruit from her tree, but what started out as a request to make a couple of pies, ended up in over thirty pounds of cherries sitting in my fridge. Being the foodie nerd I am, I was excited and anxious to get started on my new project.

Never having baked with these particular cherries before, I spent much of that first night researching online and in several of my cookbooks for ideas, inspiration and just plain facts on preserving this fruit. I first made a batch of this jam and while it turned out pretty good, it only yielded four jars worth and required a lot of fruit and my time. I remember Josh's grandma saying how good of pies these cherries made, so that was next on my list.

I've never been a big fan of cherry pie, mom always used the store bought filling and it tasted mediocre, nothing real special in my opinion. But these, man do these make a good pie. This is what I think of as an all American pie, besides apple of course. I didn't use a ton of sugar for sweetening because I wanted the tart fruit to be the shining star in this dessert. You end up with a nice combination of tart and sweet, paired with a nice, homemade flaky crust, it's a real winner. The only thing that can make it better, is a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

So I ended up making four mini pies to deliver to share with our neighbors and then another five for the freezer. I've got a great start on my Thanksgiving desserts now, they will be a real treat come November! By the time I got done with all of that though, honestly, I was tired and over these darn cherries. The rest we ended up pitting and storing in quart sized freezer bags. I plan to send home a good amount with Josh's grandma when they come for a visit, she'll be needing to make some pies of her own. The rest we'll use for any of the desserts we want to make come winter and in smoothies. I was told they make a great addition so we're excited to give that a try.

Cherry season is definitely a short lived one, maybe even already coming to an end depending on where you live. If you can get your hands on some, by all means do so! Get your hands in the flour and make a pie, or maybe even a fruit crisp. If that's not your style, then at least freeze some to enjoy this winter. Try them in your smoothies, make a fruit filling to add to yogurt or spread on toast for breakfast. Freezing them couldn't be easier. You'll need to pit the fruit using either a pitter or simply your hands. In fact, towards the end I did this, gently tear the cherry in half and remove the pit from the middle. I then measured out the fruit in 3 cup increments and placed them in quart sized freezer bags. Three cups will be a good amount for any sort of dessert I plan to make. I didn't worry about flash freezing them because they will end up being used in desserts for the most part and I just didn't have enough time and supplies to do that. 

We're gearing up for the long holiday weekend at our house, it's also Josh's birthday. I'm planning on serving at least one cherry pie along with homemade ice cream for dessert. I can't think of a better summer time treat!

Cherry Pie {Freezer Friendly}

for the crust:
2-1/2 cups flour
pinch of salt
1 stick cold butter,cubed
1/2 cup chilled shortening
1 cup ice water

for the filling:
5-6 cups pitted sour cherries
1-1/2 cups sugar
pinch of salt
3 tbsp tapioca


In a large bowl, combine cherries, sugar, salt and tapioca. Let set for 20 minutes so tapioca can activate.

Meanwhile, to make the crust, combine flour and salt in a large bowl. Using a pastry blender or your hands, cut in butter and shortening, until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Slowly add in water, half cup at a time. Using your hands mix together dough, making sure not to overwork it. Once it comes together in a ball, set aside.

Roll out half of dough onto a well floured surface using a rolling pin. Carefully place into a pie plate, trim excess dough to about 1 inch, leaving just enough dough to make crimped edges. 

Fill pie plate with prepared filling and set aside.

Taking the remaining dough, roll out again using the rolling pin. Cover pie with top crust. Trim edges and then roll the top and bottom crust together underhand so that it's sealed. Crimp the edge with your fingers or a fork.

If baking right away, brush crust with a beaten egg to give that nice golden brown finish. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes to set crust. Then bake at 375 for another 30 minutes, filling should be bubbling. Remove from oven and let cool completely before serving.

If freezing: place prepared pie onto a cookie sheet and freeze for several hours. Then slide into a large gallon size freezer bag that has been labeled and store in freezer. You may also cover with foil if you don't have any freezer bags on hand. Pies will keep for up to 9 months in the freezer. No need to thaw when ready to bake, you'll just need to increase baking time by about 15 minutes.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Easy Ranch Dressing

I'm back! And it feels pretty darn good to be sitting down to write. I've missed it so. After dealing with so many technical issues for the past few months, I was starting to lose hope. My schedule also got pretty intense for awhile and what little time I did have was devoted to trying to fix things instead of creating new recipes, writing and photography. I won't lie, I lost my enthusiasm a bit. But I promise, it's all good now. I'm excited to start cranking out new ideas for you. You'll notice some of my most recent posts are missing, I'm honestly not sure if I can retrieve them, they might be ones I'll rewrite, I'm really not sure. It's not a huge setback though and I'm ready to just move forward! Thank you for sticking it out with me through all of this chaos.

I'm pretty picky about my ranch. There really aren't any bottled brands that I love, they all taste so, well, fake. I'd much rather enjoy my salad than feel like I'm choking down something.

Now that summer is officially here, you can find fresh dill everywhere. Whether you grow it yourself or pick up a bundle from the farmers' market, it's really cheap and so flavorful. In fact, I can't get enough of all the fresh herbs right now. Without adding calories, you can jazz up dishes quite simply.

You'll love how easy this ranch dressing is to make on your own, in fact the kids could even do it. While it's great for salads, it's also great for dipping those garden fresh veggies in. I actually brought dinner to a friend recently and included a jar of ranch to go along with the veggies I chopped up for snacking. In fact we're currently going through a batch every other week. If I can get the kiddos to inhale more veggies then I'm not complaining!

Easy Ranch Dressing

1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 garlic clove, minced
2-3 tbsp fresh dill, chopped
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp celery seeds

In a small bowl, whisk all ingredients together until well combined. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. Transfer dressing to a container and store in fridge until ready to use. For best results, let chill for at least a couple hours.

Stir well before serving.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

7-Layer Tostadas

It's been a little while! In case you haven't been following along on social media, the family and I spent almost two weeks in Florida over the Christmas holiday. It was such a needed break for all of us, especially this mama. I can't tell you how good it was to enjoy those days with my loved ones and to experience that beautiful state together. I've come home feeling recharged and ready to jump back into not only blogging, but getting back to our normal day to day activities.

So, thank you for sticking around. I'm anxious to start sharing new recipes and posts with you!

One of the things I missed most while traveling was having my kitchen, or just a kitchen in general to cook in. During our last several days in Florida, we stayed with my husband's aunt and uncle. They had plans for New Year's day so that night we made our way to their local grocery store and purchased ingredients for a simple dinner. I was craving veggies at that point. Not something I would ever have expected from my former self. While it was certainly a very simple meal we prepared together, it was delicious.

I tried having salads, etc as much as I could during our vacation. But you know how it is, it's just hard to always eat like you would normally when on the go. Returning home gave me new energy for meal planning and just cooking in general. I've kept my little notepad near by, jotting down any new ideas that came to mind.

These tostadas were one. We love taco nights in our house and it's fun to come up with new variations to ensure we're never bored. I also love a good layered taco dip; you know the one, with a seasoned sour cream, refried beans, etc. I decided to mix the two together in this meal of ours.

The hubby has to have his meat. Myself on the other hand, I like it, but could really care less. I went with a meatless version, the beans are a great source of protein. I laid these out family or buffet style and let everyone make their own. The kids love that! It gives them control over their food. Everyone ate really well that night, and that always tells me when my meals are a hit. Or maybe just the fact that they were getting tired of eating out. Ha!

I also love this idea for parties. You can set up a little do-it-yourself bar and let everyone make their own tostada. Taco or walking taco bars are always a hit, so here's a different approach. Just make sure to have extra shells on hand, for scooping up the extra goodness on your plate. It's a given!

7-Layer Tostadas

8 oz. sour cream
2 cups {or one can} refried beans
2 avocados
2 tomatoes, diced
1 green pepper, diced
8 oz. grated/shredded cheddar cheese
head of lettuce, chopped
Salsa, for topping if desired
Tostada shells

Mash avocados together in a medium bowl to your desired consistency and set aside.

To assemble tostadas- layer ingredients onto prepared tostada shells in this order: sour cream, beans, mashed avocado, lettuce, cheese, tomato, green pepper and salsa. Of course, you can really layer them in any order you desire.

Serve immediately. Makes enough for 6.

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