Monday, December 16, 2013

Lemon-Lime Sugar Cookie Truffles

Some time ago, I came across a recipe for Snickerdoodle Cookie Dough Truffles. As I expected, they were absolutely incredible! I mean, how could they not be? Cinnamon and white chocolate = Yum!

When I was asked recently to make a dessert for our church choir's Christmas performance, I knew I wanted to adapt that recipe into a different kind of truffle. I experimented a little and came up with these:

Lemon-Lime Sugar Cookie Truffles

4 oz reduced-fat cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Juice from 1 lemon
Juice from 1 lime
Zest from 3 lemons
Zest from 1 lime

1 package (16 oz) vanilla candy coating

Zest from 1 lime
Zest from 1 lemon
3 Tablespoons granulated sugar

In a mixing bowl, cream together the cream cheese and butter. Gradually add sugar. Mix in flour, salt, extract, juices and zest. Depending on the amount of juice you got from your fruit, you may need to adjust the dough slightly. You want to be able to form balls, but it shouldn't be quite as stiff as a regular cookie dough. Using a teaspoon, scoop the dough out and form into balls. Place them on a wax paper-covered cookie sheet. When they are all done (about 24), place them in the freezer for about an hour.

Melt the candy coating according to package directions, stirring frequently.  To make the topping, use a spoon to smash together the sugar and the zest. Stir one teaspoon of the topping mixture into the melted coating.

Now you're ready to assemble the truffles! Working one at a time, drop a truffle into the coating. Use a spoon to carefully but quickly cover the dough. Gently scoop the truffle out, tilting the spoon to allow the excess to run off.** Place the truffle back on the waxed paper. At this point, you can sprinkle the topping on. Once you get the hang of it, you can dip 2-3 truffles before sprinkling on the topping, but you want to make sure the coating is still wet. When the truffles are complete, pop them back in the freezer for 20-30 minutes to really set the coating. Then you can remove them from the baking sheet and store them in an airtight container in the fridge.

I had some candy coating and a little topping left over, so I dipped pretzel sticks into the coating and sprinkled them with the topping. They were very good and made a nice "bonus" treat!

** There are other methods of dipping truffles, with toothpicks and whatnot, but I am just not successful with that. I like the spoon method, so that's what I do. If you like to use a toothpick, fork, whatever, then feel free to do that!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Italian Cheese Dip

You seriously can't go wrong with serving cheese dip for a party! There's a standard hot cheese dip that involves mayo, cream cheese and shredded cheddar cheese and over time people have tweaked it into different variations. I haven't seen an Italian version before so I created my own! I have to say, the friends I served it to loved it.

Italian Cheese Dip

1 cup olive oil mayonnaise
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
8 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
2 cloves garlic, chopped
salt and pepper
1 cup marinara sauce

In an oven-proof dish, combine everything well except the marinara sauce. Bake at 375° for 15-20 minutes. Take it out and stir, then top with the marinara. Pop it back in the oven for another 10-15 minutes until the cheese is bubbly and the marinara is hot.

If you are looking for low-maintenance, serve this dip with your favorite crackers. If you want to make it special, you really need to take the time to make Bowtie Pasta Crunchies. They are wonderful!

At the same get-together, I made another of my favorite snacks, Chex Lemon Buddies. These are prepared similarly to the original "Muddy Buddies", which have chocolate and peanut butter. The Lemon Buddies are made with rice Chex, white chocolate and fresh lemon juice and zest.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Ice Cream Bread

A few days ago I ran across a recipe on the internet that sounded very intriguing. It involved combining two simple ingredients, ice cream and flour, to make bread! I was skeptical, but curious enough to try. I am SO glad I did! Fresh from the oven - delicious! For breakfast the next morning - divine! I used Blue Bell's Spiced Pumpkin Pecan for this first batch and it was a great choice. My expert recommendation (based on baking it once!) is to use good quality ice cream with lots of flavor. For example, Ben & Jerry's Chunky Monkey and Spiced Pumpkin Pecan have really bold flavor and some texture, making them perfect for this.

Ice Cream Bread

2 cups ice cream, melted (I didn't heat it, just thawed it on the counter.)
1-1/2 cups self-rising flour

Mix the two ingredients just until moistened. Pour into a greased loaf pan. Bake at 350° for about 30 minutes. Mine was perfect at 32 minutes.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Toffee-Apple Stuff

Toffee-Apple Stuff

3 sweet apples, such as Gala or Honeycrisp
1/2 cup toffee/chocolate bits (i.e. Heath)
1/2 pint whipping cream
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 tsp maple extract
1/4 tsp cinnamon

 This works best when you start with a chilled (ten minutes in the freezer) mixing bowl and whisk (or whisk attachment).

In a stainless steel mixing bowl, whisk the whipping cream until it begins to thicken. Slowly add in the extract, sugar and cinnamon. Continue whisking until the cream reaches a stiffer consistency and peaks begin to form. (Lift your whisk up out of the cream. If peaks stand up, you're set!)

Dice the apples and fold them into the cream along with the toffee bits. Keep refrigerated and serve right away or within 24 hours. 

This seems simple, but it's so, so good!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Special Salsa, Take Two

I'm always looking for ways to boost my veggie intake, and since I'm not a big fan of veggies ... I have to be really creative! I regularly make my own Marinara Sauce, so I recently turned my thoughts over to my homemade Special Salsa.

To the original recipe I just added more onion, and about 1-1/2 cups chopped red, yellow, and orange peppers.  Since Special Salsa is fairly mild with only one jalapeno, I think the addition of more pepper variations really gives the salsa a nice fresh flavor!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Heavenly Hash

If your extended family is anything like mine, when you have a family reunion there are always certain dishes you look forward to. In my husband's family, his mom's Sweet Potato Souffle is highly anticipated at every gathering. My mom's side of the family has several good cooks, with delicious "signature dishes". This dessert is one of those recipes. We traditionally refer to it as "Aunt Cindy's" but she is quick to point out that the recipe came from her mother-in-law, my Granny.

Heavenly Hash

1 cup butter, melted
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1-1/2 cups self-rising flour
2 cups chopped pecans
1 tablespoon vanilla
1-1/2 cups mini marshmallows

In a mixing bowl, combine butter, sugar and eggs. Beat slightly. Add flour and pecans; mix well. Stir in vanilla. Spread mixture into a greased 9x13 pan. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes. Sprinkle marshmallows over the hot cake. Melt slightly in oven. Pour chocolate topping over cake. Let cool.

Chocolate Topping
1 box powdered sugar
4 tablespoons cocoa
1/2 cup evaporated milk
2 tablespoons butter, melted

In a medium saucepan, combine butter and milk. Mix well and bring to a boil. Sift together cocoa and sugar. Stir into milk mixture. Remove from heat and stir until smooth.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


I'm so excited that two local stores are carrying my cookbook now! I'm making deliveries to them this afternoon.

Jaemore Farms will have my book available at their new market in Commerce, and The Bookstand of Northeast Georgia also carries copies.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Chicken Fajita Burritos

For some reason, one thing I can always get my whole family to eat is Mexican food. As with most meals I cook, I try to hide as many veggies as possible in these burritos. Maybe you're blessed with a family that just loves their vegetables, but I'm not! If your family is like mine, then adjust the recipe by cooking the vegetables first, then giving them a whir in the blender. Cook the chicken in the skillet, then stir in the vegetable puree. Another way I bump up the nutrition level is by using thinly sliced cabbage instead of regular iceberg lettuce.

Chicken Fajita Burritos

1 pound ground chicken
1 cup diced peppers - mix of yellow, orange, red, green, whatever you have
1/4 cup diced onion
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 jalapeño, diced
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 can diced tomatoes with green chilies
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 cup black beans
1 cup whole kernel corn
Flour tortillas

In a large skillet, saute the ground chicken, peppers, onions, garlic and jalapeño in the canola oil until the chicken is browned and the veggies are tender. Stir in the tomatoes, seasonings, beans and corn. Simmer for 10-15 minutes, until heated through. Adjust seasonings to taste. Serve with flour tortillas and your favorite garnishes - sour cream, shredded cheese, lettuce, cilantro, etc. 

Monday, June 10, 2013

Kickin' Creamed Corn

My favorite way to eat corn has to be fresh corn on the cob with butter, salt and pepper. I don't think I'll ever get tired of it! But I do like to change things up now and then, and Saturday night I decided to make a corn casserole for a party we were having. Last summer I tried one a friend had made and I enjoyed it so much I thought I'd recreate it - adding my own twist, naturally. If I'm remembering correctly, hers called for a can of diced green chilies, which you could certainly use instead of the jalapeño if you don't want quite so much kick.

Kickin' Creamed Corn
3 cans whole kernel corn (you can use fresh-off-the-cob, frozen, whatever)
1 (8 ounce) package reduced-fat cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
2 green onions
1 jalapeño, finely diced
salt and pepper to taste

In a medium-sized bowl, combine the cream cheese, cilantro, onions, jalapeño, salt and pepper. Stir in corn. Transfer to a greased 8-inch square baking dish. Bake at 350° for 25-30 minutes, until heated through.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Link Love

My latest batch of Strawberry Freezer Jam

As is typical at times, I haven't been developing many new recipes, just enjoying old favorites. Being 33 weeks pregnant, too, means that I've gone the easy route more often than not! The downside of being the kind of girl who likes to make things from scratch is that planning out menus for the week is more of a challenge when you have to accommodate the inability to "do" the way you're used to! I'm really hoping my nesting instinct kicks in soon - I have lots to do before baby #4 makes her debut!

Here is a rundown of some of the things I've made lately:

Strawberry Freezer Jam 

Creamy Spinach Soup 

Apple-Bacon Pork Tenderloin

Butternut Squash Rolls - Only I used mashed sweet potatoes instead of squash.

Jeni's Perfect Pie Crust

Cheddar Broccoli Salad

Chicken Pot Pie

Shepherd's Pie

Homemade Spaghetti Sauce


I know I've had lots of new followers through Facebook since my last post about my cookbook. For those of you who don't know, I published a cookbook that has some recipes from the blog, and many that are exclusive to the book. I also include a section on homemade household cleaners - I've used them for years and absolutely love them! If you're interested in purchasing one for yourself or as a gift, just click the "E-mail Me!" link at the top right of the page. Thanks!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Pomegranate-Strawberry Smoothie

I'm sharing someone else's recipe today ... my Oldest Girl's! She loves to experiment with smoothies for breakfast or snacks. She also has developed a real love for pomegranate. This is one of her favorite smoothie recipes:

Pomegranate-Strawberry Smoothie

2 containers (5.3 oz each) pomegranate Greek yogurt
1/2 cup frozen strawberries
1 tablespoon honey
splash of milk

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Serves one!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Sugar Scrub

Today's post is not a typical "recipe" in that it's food you prepare and eat ... but it does involve combining ingredients so I'm including it here. Several months ago I started researching ways to change up my beauty routine. I'm a low-maintenance kind of gal so my beauty routine consists of shampoo for my hair and soap for my face. A while back I started looking for cheaper and/or more natural alternatives to those basics. I started with shampoo. I have oily hair and after some research decided to try an often recommended method of using baking soda. Essentially you make a paste of baking soda and water and apply it to your hair. Let it sit for a couple of minutes and then rinse thoroughly. You can follow up with a conditioner of slightly diluted apple cider vinegar. Let me just tell you ... I loved it! My scalp tingled when I washed my hair - it felt like a massage! My hair was soft, it felt natural and smooth and it styled really well. Unfortunately, I had to abandon my experiment when Handsome protested the fresh-out-of-the-shower vinegar smell. (You can't even smell it once your hair dries, but I tend to go to bed with wet hair, so ...)

Anyway, the main purpose of this post is to tell you about something I'm doing that has also worked fabulously and I've stuck with it. Like my hair, my skin is oily and after doing the research I decided to try a sugar scrub. I combine the ingredients right in the little jar I use to store it. Making a small batch is essential because you keep this in the warm, moist environment of your bathroom and that's a haven for bacteria!

Sugar Scrub

In a small jar, combine the following ingredients:

1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon honey
Olive oil

The olive oil you add until you have a loose paste - I never measure it, just add a little at a time until it looks good. I wash with my soap then gently apply the sugar scrub.You only need a dime-sized amount for your face. Rinse with warm water, massaging the oil into your face and neck. I also use this anywhere I have dry skin, and I use it before shaving my legs. I love it!

For a coarser variation, which I don't recommend so much for the delicate skin on your face, you can use brown sugar and add in a dash of vanilla extract.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Potato Soup for 2

... Or potato soup for 1 if you're really hungry.

I definitely make a habit of making lunch for myself that no one else in the house will eat. It's worth it to me that I get to enjoy my favorite foods without having to worry about the rest of the family. So while the kiddos are munching on PB&J and yogurt, I get to enjoy salmon or spinach soup or whatever, and everybody's happy! (Of course, the exception is our little one. She loves anything Mommy is eating. "Mommy, you share wif me?" *big, pleading blue eyes*) Potato soup, unfortunately, is one of those things. It will get eaten at dinner with the family, but not necessarily enjoyed the way it should be.

Potato Soup for 2

1 large baking potato, peeled and cubed
1 garlic clove, peeled and coarsely chopped
3 cups chicken (or veggie) stock
salt and pepper to taste
2-3 tablespoons cream (you can use any milk here - 1/2 & 1/2, whipping cream, 2%, I've done it all.)
1/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Toppings/variations of your choice - chopped broccoli, cooked/crumbled bacon, diced ham, fresh herbs, green onions, sour cream, corn

In a small saucepan, bring the broth, garlic and potatoes up to a boil. Simmer for 12-15 minutes, until potatoes get very soft, stirring occasionally. This is important: using a whisk, stir up the potatoes. You want to break them down to get that velvety potato soup texture. Whisk until the soup reaches desired consistency - it won't be completely smooth, but I love leaving chunks of potato, anyway. Stir in cream, adding more if necessary to thin it the way you like it (add more chicken stock if it's super thick). Salt and pepper to your taste, stir in cheese. Remove from heat and serve with your favorite toppings!

(This is also a great way to use up the last bits of leftover side veggies like broccoli or corn.)

Friday, May 24, 2013

Hungarian Goulash

One of my favorite comfort foods as a child was Hungarian Goulash. My mom made it at home, but one of my most vivid memories of it was at a little restaurant one night while we were traveling in Germany. I'm not sure how authentic my version is, but it certainly is tasty.

Hungarian Goulash 

1/4 cup flour
2 teaspoons paprika
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon turmeric (can omit)

1-1/2 pounds stew meat (I like to cut my beef into even smaller, bite-size pieces)
2 tablespoon red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
4 cups beef broth

Begin by heating 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. In a bowl, combine the first 5 ingredients. Toss with the stew meat. Brown the meat in batches, adding a bit more oil as needed. Return all to pan and pour the vinegar and broth over. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover. This will simmer for at least 30-45 minutes.

Meanwhile prep your veggies:

1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced potato
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 onion, chopped

When the beef has simmered for about 45 minutes, add in all your vegetables. Allow to cook for another 20-30 minutes, until the stew is thickened and the veggies are tender.

This is best served over German Späetzle - kind of a cross between a dumpling and an egg noodle. Making your own is not complicated, just a bit messy and takes some practice. But many grocery stores carry dried Späetzle which will work just fine - it's what I used last night. In a pinch you can use regular egg noodles or even rice. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Chicken Tortilla Soup

I love slow cooker recipes - throwing everything in one big pot and then forgetting about it is a wonderful thing sometimes! This soup is really flavorful without being super spicy. My kids love it, so that's a big plus! I adapted the recipe from this one which was a good starting point but tasted bland to us, and wasn't very filling.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

1 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 red pepper, seeded and chopped
1 green pepper, seeded and chopped
2 cans diced tomatoes
1 (32 ounce) carton chicken broth
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons chili powder
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker. Cook on low for 6 hours. Remove the chicken, shred or chop it, then return it to the slow cooker along with:

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can whole kernel corn
2 cups prepared (already cooked) rice

Let it continue to heat on low for 1-2 more hours, then serve with your choice of toppings (my favorite part!):

Chopped cilantro
Shredded cheese
Sour cream
Tortilla chips
Chopped fresh tomatoes
Chopped green onions
Whatever you like!

Now, that's the official recipe. Since my family is picky, I actually take more time to prep the ingredients by sauteéing the vegetables (first 5 ingredients) in a touch of olive oil until they're tender, then I blitz them in the food processor/blender and add them in like that. You can turn up the heat by adding in jalapeño, and you can certainly use a mix of different peppers like orange or yellow, too. If you're going low-carb, simply omit the rice and/or corn and add in another can of beans.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Pizza For Lunch

Our normal lunch routine is that I have taught the kids some basic recipes and they make their own lunches. Kaity or I take care of Selah, but the two oldest generally do their own thing. Joe's favorite is to make grits with cheese, or a ham sandwich with yogurt/apple/crackers on the side. Kaity is a bit more creative (and allowed to use the stove!) so she makes PB & J Croissants or angel hair pasta, or yes, even canned pasta once in a while. They also like to do tortilla roll-ups instead of standard sandwiches. But sometimes we have leftovers, or I'll cook something we all like (not easy to find!). Today, I made pizza.

I don't make pizza often because we can get it from a chain restaurant cheaper than I can make it. However, I had all the ingredients today and the kids were bored with their lunch choices. I started with this simple dough. We had leftover spaghetti sauce (made with onion, garlic, green pepper, tomatoes, herbs) complete with beef that I spread over the top of the crust. I topped that layer with chopped fresh spinach, then layered on torn slices of Muenster. Next came a layer of shredded cheddar, then a bit of mozzarella. (It sounds like a lot of cheese, but I only had a little of each.) I also put the last of the deli ham on one part - just for mommy.

After baking it at 400° for about 15 minutes, our lunch was ready! Easy as (pizza) pie!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Pecan-Brie Bites

One of my favorite times of day is after the kiddies are tucked in their beds and Handsome and I are snuggling on the couch. If it's winter, coffee is probably involved, and I usually have a snack. I try to have a sensible snack like apple slices and peanut butter or bananas and Nutella, or multigrain crackers and cheese. I don't have much of a sweet tooth, though, and savory snacks tend to win out. This recipe is an exception! It's slightly sweet with a drizzle of honey, but the other elements are savory enough to satisfy me. Since it includes brie, they're a once-in-a-while splurge. I make a habit of checking the gourmet cheese section at the grocery store so I can pick up the cheeses I love when they hit clearance.

Pecan-Brie Bites

1 package (15) precooked pastry tart shells
4 ounces brie, rind removed if desired
15 pecan halves

Preheat oven to 375°. Place the tart shells on a baking sheet. Cube the brie into 15 pieces. Place one piece of cheese in each tart shell. Sprinkle each with cinnamon and drizzle with honey. Top them off with the pecan halves. Bake for 6-8 minutes, until the cheese is melted.

(If you don't like pecans, you can always top the bites with raisins, diced apple, or dried cranberries.)

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Loving Leftovers!

If you've been reading my posts for any length of time, you know I hate to waste any leftovers. The other night I made Crunchy Cheddar Chicken - and my family loved it! (As you also may know, when I say "my family" that means that one of them probably dissented. Our boy, in this case.) Anyway, we had just a little bit leftover, but it was so good I had to save it! I mean, it was like, half a cutlet. Today for lunch, though, I found a use for it!

After slicing it into four strips, I heated the chicken in the microwave. On two tortillas, I layered some shredded cheddar cheese, Romaine lettuce, and ranch dressing. I divided the chicken between the tortillas, rolled them up, sliced them in half and served them with baby carrots and more ranch to my big kids! Other than the ranch, everything was an unexpected leftover from a previous meal. I love getting "bonus meals" like that from my groceries! Another thing I loved was that our boy ate it up! He loved the roll-ups even though he had not enjoyed the chicken the first time around. His expression when I told him it was the leftover chicken was priceless!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Our Bun in the Oven

I don't post much about my pregnancy here on this blog, because I keep family and friends updated on our family blog. However, I thought y'all might be interested to know that ...

Monday, February 25, 2013

Crunchy Cheddar Chicken

One night I had a package of chicken breasts in the fridge, and no idea what to do with it. Then I remembered that I had made some breaded, sauteed chicken at one point that was good, but the recipe needed tweaking. I'm so glad I decided to revisit it! It turned out moist, flavorful, and with a crunchy coating that was just perfect.

Crunchy Cheddar Chicken

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Combine in a shallow dish:
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt

Combine in another shallow dish:
1 egg
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons milk

Combine in another shallow dish:
1 cup panko (Japanese) bread crumbs
1/2 cup finely shredded cheddar cheese

4 tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 400°. Using a sharp knife, cut the chicken in half cross-wise to make 4 cutlets. Dredge in flour, dip in egg mixture, then press into crumb mixture. In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Place chicken cutlets in butter and saute for 5 minutes, until golden brown. Flip over and immediately place in oven for 12-14 minutes, until chicken is cooked through. (This will depend on the thickness of your cutlets. If they are quite thin, 12 minutes may be too much. Use your judgement!)

Can I confess that I don't like doing dishes? I never have, and I think it's safe to say the chore won't grow on me! Any-hoo, to save dishes, I made up the flour mixture, dredged the chicken breasts, then placed the chicken back on the cutting board while I dumped out the remaining flour. I then mixed the bread crumbs and cheese in the same dish (I used a salad bowl). One less dish = happy me!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Strawberry-Pomegranate Sorbet

Strawberry-Pomegranate Sorbet

1 pound strawberries, washed, hulled, and frozen
1 container (about 6 ounces) pomegranate Greek yogurt
1 orange
2 tablespoons sugar, to taste

In a blender, combine the strawberries, yogurt, zest of half the orange, and the juice of half the orange. Blend until smooth. Taste and add sugar if needed, also adding more juice if necessary to get a smooth consistency. Pour into a low, flat dish or plastic container. Cover with plastic wrap, or the lid. Place in freezer for 30 minutes, then use a fork to stir it up. Allow to freeze for 30 more minutes. Stir again, and serve. You can also keep it in the freezer until ready to eat. Remove from freezer 30 minutes before serving, and break up with a fork. Yield: 4 servings

Monday, February 18, 2013

Sunday Night Review, 2-17

It's not easy coming up with recipes that suit a variety of tastes every week. It's tough enough with my own family, but when I add in our college ministry on Sunday nights it gets really complicated! I think if I took a poll, the hands-down favorite would have to be Calzones. They also love spaghetti - and last night's dinner kind of combined the two.

I don't think it's any exaggeration to say that Pizza Pasta Casserole is in the running for new favorite! When they go back for seconds and thirds, and you hear words like "awesome" being tossed around, you know it's a winner. I adapted the original recipe quite a bit, but since this is a pretty adaptable recipe so it worked well. I used ground beef, pepperoni and ham, and I made my own marinara sauce instead of using store bought. There is NO way the recipe as written would fit in a 9x13x3 pan as the author suggests. I cut back on amounts and still had to use a 9x13 and an 8x8.

I often make a big batch of marinara sauce - some to use and some to freeze for later. It doesn't have to always be such a process, though. If I don't have any sauce in the freezer, I simply pour a couple of cans of diced tomatoes (usually Hunt's Basil, Garlic and Oregano along with Spicy Red Pepper) into the blender with a chunk of raw onion, a couple of cloves of garlic, rosemary, parsley, salt and pepper. This is pretty much my go-to for anytime I need sauce for casseroles or dipping, or whatever.

Anyway, for dessert last night I made Homemade Peanut Butter Cups. They were VERY easy to make, though I suspect if my toddler had been "helping" and not at Nannie's for the day they wouldn't have been quite so effortless! I highly recommend these. I made them in mini muffin cups and used two bags of semi-sweet chocolate chips - one for the bottom layer, one for the top, plus the peanut butter mixture from the recipe. I got 46 total mini cups from that recipe.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Creamy Cheese Dip

It's no secret that I consider cheese a major food group of its own. My kids thankfully agree! I've made fondue for dinner before and it's always anticipated and enjoyed by all. Tonight I decided to serve a simple meal of homemade cheese dip and tortilla chips, plus corn on the cob. I figure they've probably had worse, nutritionally speaking, and it's nice to serve a meal once in a while that prompts no complaints! And seriously, you can't go wrong with a recipe whose main step involves melting a bunch of cheese.

Creamy Cheese Dip

1/2 pound ground beef
1 can (10 ounces) diced tomatoes with chilies
8 ounces white American cheese (deli slices)
4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1/4 cup chopped cilantro (optional, but I highly recommend it!)

In a small skillet, crumble and cook beef, seasoning with salt and pepper. In a small (3 quart) slow cooker, combine ground beef, American cheese and tomatoes. After about 2 hours on low, the cheese should be thoroughly melted. Stir in cheddar and cilantro. Cook until heated through, another 30 - 60 minutes.

This results in a fresh, creamy, mild dip. If you like it really spicy, Ro-Tel makes a diced tomatoes with habanero option that might suit you better! Or add in a diced jalapeño for a medium kick.

Note:  Especially if I'm cooking for a crowd, I'll use packaged, pre-shredded cheese for casseroles or taco topping, etc. When I need the cheese to melt beautifully, I always shred my own. The pre-shredded kind has cornstarch or some other kind of anti-caking agent that prevents it from melting nicely.

Thursday, February 7, 2013


Image via
A few weeks ago while grocery shopping, our oldest girl spotted pomegranate arils*. They were marked down to what I considered more affordable, so we bought some to try. She ended up loving them! Unfortunately, pomegranate is pretty expensive and I haven't seen those little containers of arils at our store since. We did splurge a buy a whole fruit last time we shopped, and broke it open yesterday.

We followed the simple steps from a brochure provided next to the display of pomegranates. Basically, you lop off the top and bottom, then score the skin along the four wedges. Underwater, gently break apart the sections and pop the arils out. They will sink to the bottom while the pith surrounding them floats to the top. Once you clear out all the arils, scoop the pith out of the water, strain, and serve!

The girls enjoyed them sprinkled on little bowls of cottage cheese. This morning, I added a handful to the granola bars I made - using them just as I would have raisins if raisins weren't gross.

*arils -- juice sacs found inside the pomegranate

The POM Council has a pretty comprehensive website on the fruit, including history, folklore, and recipes.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Creamy Spinach Soup

A few years ago, The Pioneer Woman had a Spinach Soup recipe on her blog. Intrigued, I decided to give it a shot. It was love at first spoonful! I have since forgotten what her original recipe looked like, and it's no longer on her blog, so I decided to type up the version I make for y'all to enjoy! Now, despite the fact that this soup is mostly spinach, it's really probably not that great for you ... but please don't tell my tummy that. I ate it twice this week because I love it so much! This soup will make two hearty servings, so I make it by half to have for my lunch.

Creamy Spinach Soup

1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper (to taste, really)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 package (6 ounces) fresh spinach, coarsely chopped
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
1/4 cup half-and-half
salt and pepper to taste
Optional: feta cheese

In a medium saucepan, saute the onion for 2-3 minutes. Add in the garlic and red pepper. Saute for 1-2 more minutes; add in the spinach. Once spinach wilts down, pour in the broth. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and let simmer for a few minutes. Remove from heat and pour mixture into a blender. (Leave uncovered and do not process right away!) Return the empty saucepan to medium heat and melt the butter. Sprinkle in the flour and whisk for 2-3 minutes, until it just begins to take on color. Put the lid on your blender and blitz the spinach mixture until smooth. Pour into the saucepan, whisking as you go. Allow to cook for 2-3 minutes until thickened. If it's too thick, splash in some more chicken broth. When thoroughly heated, stir in half-and-half, salt and pepper. Divide the soup into bowls and top with the feta cheese, if desired.