Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Leftover Thanksgiving Turkey Sandwich

I know it has been a few weeks since Thanksgiving, but I didn't get to actually cook my own turkey until this past weekend.  So of course, I now have my own leftovers to get creative with.  For lunch the next day, I had a real craving for a sandwich.  What is great about making a sandwich out of leftovers is you can really get creative!

Leftover Turkey Sandwich
Leftover turkey
Bread - I used a think cut, whole grain bread
Lettuce - whatever you have available to you, I used arugula (since I grow it in my kitchen)
Cranberry sauce
Onion - I used the French fried onions I had leftover from green bean casserole
Cheese - again, whatever kind you have or like: brie, white cheddar, swiss...

Mix 1 tbsp of mayo with 2 tbsp of cranberry sauce (I used whole berry sauce).  Set aside.
Form your stuffing into a small patty (almost like a hamburger patty).  In a skillet, heat 1 tbsp of butter (med heat).  "Cook" your patty over med. heat like you would cook a hamburger.  You want just a nice crust on both sides of the patty.  Set aside.
*If you don't use the French fried onions, you can slice any type of onion you like (I prefer red).  You can saute it or keep it raw.*
To build your sandwich, butter one side of each slice of bread (these will be the outside of the sandwich).  Then spread your mayo mixture onto the inside of the bread.  Add your lettuce, onions, stuffing patty, turkey, and then cheese.  Top sandwich with other slice of bread.  Now place into your panani press, or into a skillet (cook as you would grilled cheese).  You want a nice crust and to get the cheese nice and melted.  *Tip: make sure the cheese has sat out at room temperature for at least 10 minutes so it melts easier.*


Monday, November 5, 2012

Paula Deen and Collard Greens

I spent the weekend watching a bunch of Food Network shows I had recorded all week.  One in particular caught my attention (Miss Paula Deen ya'll!).  Anyways, she was making stewed collard greens.  Now, I have never in my life had collard greens.  I know they are good for you, easy to grow, and easy on the pocket book, so I have been dying for a good recipe to introduce me and my family to them.  Well, this recipe was the perfect recipe.  We now have a new favorite vegetable to enjoy.  Of course I tweaked Paula's recipe ever so slightly, although her recipe is perfect the way it is!

Paula Deen's Stewed Collard Greens


  • 8 strips bacon (about 8 ounces), cut into 1/2-inch pieces 1 medium Vidalia onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 stick butter (*I used 1/4 of a stick of butter)
  • 2 cups water (*I used 1 cup of a dark ale and 1 cup water)
  • 2 pounds collards, rinsed and drained, stems removed, leaves cut into 1/2-inch strips Salt
  • Hot sauce (*left out the hot sauce for the kids)


Cook the bacon in a large saucepan over medium-high heat until crisp, about 5 minutes. Add the onion and butter and cook until the onion is tender, about 5 minutes more. Add the water and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the collards and cook until very soft, about 20 minutes. Season with salt and hot sauce, to taste. Transfer the greens to a serving bowl and serve.

Friday, October 26, 2012


My first ever batch of oh so yummy eclairs!
I love eclairs, but they tend to be a bit pricey at my local grocer, so we only get them every so often.  My father-in-law had asked me to make up a bunch of cupcakes for his work.  They loved them so much...but they wanted to know if I could make eclairs.  After much research, I realized that they are easier to make than I thought.  Even better, I had everything I needed for them already, except the heavy cream (but then again, who keeps heavy cream in their fridge at all times?).  I found a super simple recipe over at Hidden Ponies.  Here is the recipe that I used, along with my own additional comments:

Easy Eclairs
Serves: 10
  • ½ cup butter
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 (4 serving size) package instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 2 cups milk (or as called for on pudding package)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • ¼ cup icing sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 2 oz semisweet chocolate (or ⅓ cup semisweet chocolate chips)
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 Tbsp hot water
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Lightly grease a large cookie sheet and set aside.
  2. In medium saucepan, combine ½ cup butter and water. Bring to a boil, stirring to melt butter.
  3. Reduce heat to low and stir in flour and salt with a wooden spoon until the mixture begins to form a stiff ball of dough.
  4. Remove from heat and add eggs, one at a time, stirring vigorously after each addition to ensure they are incorporated. Work quickly, especially with the first one, to prevent it from cooking into scrambled eggs on the bottom of your warm pan :)
  5. With a spoon or pastry bag fitted with a large tip, spread/pipe the thick dough onto prepared cookie sheet into 10 strips approximately 1½ x 4″ each. (**I piped different sizes to see which worked best....make your pastries a little bigger than the size of your thumb.)
  6. Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 325 and bake another 20 minutes, until puffed and golden and hollow sounding when lightly tapped on the bottom. When removed from oven, IMMEDIATELY pierce the ends almost through to the other side to let steam escape and prevent any sogginess in the middle. This hole is also where you will be piping your filling into. Let cool completely before filling and icing (this will only take about half an hour).
  7. For CUSTARD FILLING: combine pudding and milk in a bowl and mix according to package directions. In a separate bowl, beat the heavy cream with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Beat in ¼ cup icing sugar, 1 tsp vanilla, and ¼ tsp salt. Fold whipped cream into pudding. (**The custard was too thin, even after refrigeration, so I added a little bit more powdered sugar, and I will probably use a tad bit less cream, maybe 6oz. vs. 8oz.)
  8. Scoop mixture into pastry bag fitted with a smallish tip (I enlarged my steam holes a bit to make my tip fit, so do whatever works) and pipe mixture into centers of eclairs until full. This is a bit of a messy business, but worth it for ease of eating and pretty appearance. You could certainly also just slice the eclairs in half horizontally, fill the bottoms with cream, and replace the tops. Either way, you will probably have some custard leftover.
  9. For ICING: Melt the chocolate and 2 Tbsp butter over low heat in a saucepan (or in the microwave, stirring after 30 seconds and giving additional 10 second increments as needed until fully melted). Stir in 1 cup icing sugar and 1 tsp vanilla. Stir in hot water, 1 Tbsp at a time, until icing is smooth and reaches desired consistency. Drizzle, pipe or spread over filled eclairs.
  10. Store in the fridge.

*The great thing about using the pudding for this recipe is that you can change the flavor of your eclair by using a different type of pudding!  I may try chocolate or banana next time.  :)

**These freeze well.  Freeze in a single layer on a cookie sheet.  Transfer frozen eclairs to a container, cover and store.  They will stay good up to 3 months.  To serve, thaw and enjoy!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Easy Antipasto Salad

When my husband and I first met, he was not a fan of olives at all.  Over the years though, I have tried incorporating foods he doesn't like (like olives) into my cooking in an attempt to broaden his palate.  Fast forward a few years, and now olives are one of my husband's favorite snacks!  Every once in a while the hubby requests that I make up some antipasto salad to keep in the fridge for him to snack on.  Here is my Easy Antipasto Salad recipe:

1 can large pitted black olives
1 jar pimento stuffed green olives
1 can artichoke hearts
1 roasted red pepper
1 head of garlic (roasted)
1 tbsp Onion Onion seasoning
2 tbsp Meyer Infused Lemon Oil
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp dried basil

Start by roasting your red pepper and garlic (you can also purchase these already roasted).  Peel an entire head of garlic.  Place all of the gloves in a foil packet with 1 ts of olive (or canola) oil.  Do the same for one red bell pepper (seeded).  Roast in an oven at 295 degrees for 1 1/2 - 2 hours.
Drain and rinse the olives and artichoke hearts.  Leave the garlic cloves whole (larger ones can be cut in half).  Cut the roasted red pepper into bite size chunks.  Mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl and refridgerate for 5 hours before serving.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Chinese Night

Last week my husband and I spent 3 days in Hermann, MO celebrating our 5 year anniversary.  While visiting some of their local shops, I came across one that had a room full of spices.  I stocked up on their dried orange peel and chili spice blend.  My husband and I love Chinese food, especially orange chicken, and I knew the orange peel would be perfect for that!  When I went to make my meal tonight, I noticed I had a lot of Ramen noodle packs in my pantry, so I decided to do a play on a lo mien noodle as well.  Here is what we ended up with:

Orange Chicken and Green Beans
3 chicken breasts
2 tbsp dried orange peel
1 orange
3 tbsp sweet chili sauce
6 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
1 clove of garlic
1/2 red onion
1 lb of fresh picked green beans
2 tbsp of apricot jam (or orange marmalade, but I had apricot on hand)
2 tbsp brown sugar

Marinate your chicken in a mixture of 1 tbsp sweet chili sauce, 1 tbsp of soy sauce, 1 tbsp orange peel, 1 tbsp of jam, 1 glove of minced garlic, and the juice of 1/2 an orange. 

Cut your marinated with into 1 inch chunks.  In a skillet, brown your chicken.  Once brown, add 1/2 a red onion (sliced) and remaining ingredients (except for green beans).  Let cook on med/high heat for about 10-15 minutes.  During the last 7 minutes of cooking, add your green beans. 

"Lo Mien" Ramen
2 packs of Ramen (1 beef and 1 Oriental)
1 red onion
1 stalk of celery
1 carrot
1/2 leek
2 tsp dried orange peel
2 tbsp soy sauce

Boil Ramen noodles for 2 minutes.  Drain.  In a wok, add 2 tbsp vegetable oil.  Mix your Ramen seasoning packets with soy sauce and orange peel and pour into wok.  Add noodles.  Cook on high heat for 3 minutes.  Add your vegetable blend (except for carrots and all thinly sliced).  Cook on high for another 3-5 minutes.  During the last minute of cooking, shred your carrot and toss.  Serve with your orange chicken and green beans.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Apricot Chicken

Apricot Chicken 

6 chicken thighs (bone in) 
1 1/2 cups of dried (or canned) apricots. 
2 yellow onions 
1/4 cup of white wine 
1 cup of homemade chicken stock 
Celery - I use the root end that is leftover 
Salt and pepper (to taste) 
Canola oil 

Heat your canola oil, about 2-3 tbsp, in a skillet over med-high heat. Pat your chicken dry (the chicken won't brown if it's wet). Add salt and pepper to both sides of your chicken. Brown the skin side of your chicken thighs. Once browned, transfer your thighs into your crock pot. Slice your onions and saute in the skillet for 2 minutes. Add your wine to the skillet and scrap all of the brown bits and pieces. Pour the onion and wine mixture into the crock pot. Add your stock, apricots, and celery to the crock pot now. Cook on low for 5 hours. Remove the celery and cook on high for one additional hour. This recipe serves 6 people. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Penne with a Burgundy Onion Sauce

No special story behind this recipe.  Just put together a little dish with some ingredients I had on hand already!

2 cups of penne
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1/4 cup of Burgundy wine (or any other type of red wine you have on hand)
1/4 cup of heavy cream
1/2 cup of tomato sauce (homemade or pre-made)
Fresh basil

Boil penne until al dente in salted water.  While the pasta is cooking, saute your diced onion in a pan with olive oil over med high heat.  Once they start to caramelize, add your wine.  (*warning: if you are using a gas stove, you may experience a flare up here, that's ok)  Let your wine cook down and begin to caramelize with your onions.  Once the pasta is al dente, drain and add to your onion/wine mixture.  Add your cream and tomato sauce at this point.  Stir until the ingredients have combined.  Turn your heat down to low and simmer until the penne is cooked to your liking.  To garnish, add chopped basil to the top and serve!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Dump Pasta

This past weekend we celebrated my son's 2nd birthday.  One of the dishes I made was a chicken pasta dish using shredded chicken, penne, cream of chicken soup, and a pack of Artichoke & Spinach Warm Dip Mix.  I made a double batch, hoping to have extra for lunch or dinner the next day.  Well, I didn't have as much as I had hoped, so we added some ingredients to "bulk up" the dish and change the flavor.  We dubbed it "dump pasta".

Dump Pasta
*Left over chicken pasta (2 shredded chicken breasts, 1 can cream of chicken soup, 1 1/2 boxes of penne, 1 packet of Artichoke & Spinach Warm Dip Mix)
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes
  • 3 tbsp of ranch dressing
  • 1/4 cup of cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup of frozen peas
  • 1 diced onion
(To make the original pasta, I cooked the pasta as I would normally, in a bowl, mix together the remaining ingredients.  Once mixed, add the cooked pasta)
Pull the leftover pasta dish out of the fridge.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Drain your tomatoes.  Mix all of your ingredients together in a baking dish.  Bake at 350 for 20 minutes (until the dish is heated through and the cheese has melted).

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Banana Bread French Toast

My husband's favorite breakfast food is French toast, so whenever I make homemade bread, we always plan on using the leftovers for breakfast.  My hubby told me that next month IHOP has a banana bread French toast coming to their menu, my mouth started drooling.  Yesterday I made banana bread, so today, it's French toast!

2 eggs
1/4 cup whole milk
1 tsp cinnamon
4 slices of banana bread
1 tbsp. butter

Mix together the first 3 ingredients.  Heat your skillet to med/high heat.  Melt your butter in the skillet.  Dip your banana bread slices into the egg mixture.  Cook about 2 minutes on each side.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Honey Fried Chicken

I love fried chicken!  But, I know that I can't have it as much as I would like.  This past weekend we tried to trim a few calories from the chicken by frying it without breading.  This is one of those dishes that my hubby stops eating, looks at me, and tells me how much he loves me!  I think that this may have become a quick favorite!

2 whole (bone-in) chicken breasts
2 tbsp honey
Vegetable oil
Chicken seasoning (recipe follows)

Heat your oil to 350 degrees.  Pat your chicken dry.  Do not season it at all.  Put your chicken breasts in the fryer and cook at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.  Remove from the oil.  Sprinkle the chicken seasoning over the top of the chicken and put back into the oil to fry for another 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees.  Once your chicken is cooked, it will have a nice crust on the outside.  At this point, you will want to mix 2 tbsp of honey with 1 tbsp of vegetable oil and 1 tbsp of your chicken seasoning.  Spread over the outside of your chicken and serve.

Mrs. T's Chicken Seasoning
2 tbsp. smoked paprika
1 tbsp. chili powder
2 tbsp. onion powder
2 tbsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. pepper
2 tbsp. salt
2 tbsp. sugar


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Key Lime Cheesecake

Alright, I told you I was going to share some recipes using my Tastefully Simple products, so here is another.  I received a box of Key Lime Cheese Ball Mix in my business kit.  Right on the side of the box it had a recipe to make a no-bake cheesecake.  It was so simple to make and took me less than 5 minutes!

Key Lime Cheese Ball Mix (coming Aug. 27th)
8 oz. cream cheese
8 oz. whipped topping (you can use regular or non-dairy)
1 pre-made graham cracker pie crust

Mix the cream cheese (softened) and packet 1 of the cheese ball mix according to the directions on the box.  Then fold in the whipped topping.  Once mixed, gently fill the pie crust and chill for about 2 hours.  Use the graham cracker topping (packet 2) to top the cheesecake.  I garnished with a lime twist (just to show the flavor).  My hubby's family ate the whole thing!  My 2 year old son even loved it!  I can not wait to try more of these delicious products!

Find me on Facebook at  https://www.facebook.com/katessimplelife

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Chipotle Pomegranate Pork Chops

If you a a reader of my blog, a few posts ago, I mentioned that I have recently become a Tastefully Simple Independent Sales Consultant.  I recently recieved some samples and of course, I got right to cooking!  I officially have a favorite product.....the Pomegranate Chipotle Sauce!  (Yum)  The first thing I could think of when I saw it was pork chops. 

----> This is where I would normally place a picture, but it would upload for me!<----

4 pork chops
1 red bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
1 red onion
1 tbsp. butter
1/8 cup of Tastefully Simple's Chipotle Pomegranate Sauce

Slice you red onion and bell peppers.  Season your chops with salt and pepper.  In a pan, brown your pork chops (I used 1 tbsp of canola oil for this).  Place browned pork chops into a baking dish.  Place into a preheated oven (325 degrees) for about 10-15 minutes.  Next, put your butter into the same pan, then add your sliced veggies.  Saute until tender, then add your Pomegranate Chipotle Sauce.  Pour over your pork chops and serve.

To buy this product and more, visit me at http://www.tastefullysimple.com/web/ktabers
You can also find me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/katessimplelife

You can now find The Crazy Life on Facebook!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Apple Sausage Bake

One of my favorite things about the weather starting to get cooler is apples and root vegetables.  My family goes apple picking every year, so any way we can use up apples makes me happy.  This recipe was given to me by my mother.  It's simple to make, delicious, healthy, and easy on the wallet!

Here is the price break down:

Sausage (I used chicken): $1.98
Apples: $1.88
Sweet potato: $.98
Onion (bought a 3 lb bag on sale): $.97

Total: $5.81(For a family of 4, that's $1.45 per person)

2 apples (I used Gala)
Sausage (about 1 pound)
Sweet potato
2 onions
3 tbsp. canola oil
1 tbsp. Italian seasoning

Wash and peel your sweet potatoes.  Preheat your oven to 325 degrees (F).  Chop all of your ingredients roughly about the same size.  In a bowl, mix the oil, seasoning, and vegetables.  Pour into a baking dish and bake for 45 minutes.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Happy Birthday Julia Child

Happy 100th birthday to one of my inspirations in life, Mrs. Julia Child! 
Photo taken from  http://www.urbantastemakers.com

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Homemade Dog Treats

I know, this isn't a snack you can actually eat, but we can't leave man's best friend out, can we?  It seems like it has become harder to find healthy snacks for dogs.  A lot of brands claim to be healthy, but when the first ingredient isn't a natural one, or you can't pronounce half of the ingredients, then you can bet it probably isn't too healthy.  A few things to remember before making your own treats, dogs tend to be lactose intolerant, so no dairy please (if you use cheese, small amounts are ok).  Also, don't use wheat products, I like to stick to using rice flour in my recipes.  The base recipe is gluten free and organic (just in case you were wondering).  I'm going to give you an open ended base recipe, which means I'll leave an open slot for creativity.  So, here we go!

2 1/2 cups of brown rice flour
1/2 cup of cornmeal
1/4 cup of rolled oats
1 egg
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tbsp. brown sugar
1/2 cup cold water
**Now here is the open ended part.  The above recipe is your base recipe, which means from here on out, add what you'd like!  Here are some things I like to add: cranberries, apples, bananas, sweet potatoes, bacon, sardines (which promotes a healthy coat....think about switching the vegetable oil for 1 tbsp of the oil from packed sardines), carrots, etc.**

Directions (I''ll use the apples here):
Blend flour, cornmeal, and oats in large mixing bowl, then add the apple (grated), egg, oil, brown sugar, and water until well blended. Flour your workspace and roll out dough to desired thickness (about 3/4 of an inch thick for me).  Use a cookie cutter of your choice (I used a star!) to cut out shapes.  Rework and roll out dough again to get more cookies.  Once all of the dough is use, place on a baking sheet (I sprinkle cornmeal on my baking sheet, I find it keeps the cookies from sticking).  Bake at 350 degrees (F) for 40 minutes.  Once baked, turn off the oven, and let your cookies sit in the oven for another35-45 minutes until crisp.  Once finished, these treats will last about 2-3 months in an airtight container (unless you use bacon or sardines, then 1-2 months).  

My dog Sage loves her homemade cookies so much!  Here she is waiting patiently for them to come out of the oven!!!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Easy Parmesan Pull Apart Bread

One day as I was blog hoping, I came across a post for some delicious pull apart bread.  Simple recipes for a delicious cheesy bread must not be ignored!  As with any recipe, I altered (slightly) it to fit my families needs.  This is one of those semi-homemade dishes that Sandra Lee would be proud of.  Not one person in my house turned their nose up at this pan of yummy goodness.

Biscuits (I used a can of the Pillsbury biscuits, the flaky kind...there were 8 biscuits in the can)
1 stick of butter
1 cup of Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp mozzarella cheese
1 tsp. parsley flakes
1 tsp. onion powder
3 gloves of garlic
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (F).  Remove biscuits from can and cut into quarters.  Melt one stick of butter (putting aside 2 tbsp.).  Mince the garlic.  Mix3/4 of a cup of Parmesan cheese, mozzarella cheese, parsley, onion powder, and half of the garlic.  Once mixed, toss the pieces of dough in and coat well.  Arrange the dough into an oiled pan, make sure to squeeze every last piece into it (I used a 9 inch cake pan).  Mix together the remainder of your butter and garlic, pour over the top.  Sprinkle half of the remaining Parmesan over the top.  Bake for 18 minutes at 350.  Once you remove it from the oven, sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top.  Your bread will pull apart easily and be super flaky.

For my family of four, we ate about half a pan (because we were super hungry!).  This recipe can easily feed up to 10 people and is perfect to enjoy during pizza night!  Maybe next time we'll add cheddar cheese and serve it with a marinara sauce.  Hope you enjoy!

Recipe originally posted on Melissa's Southern Style Kitchen.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Golubtsy, a Russian Comfort Food

One of my husband's favorite foods is cabbage, so I am always on the hunt for new ways to cook it.  My husband's favorite cabbage dish would have to be golubtsy, or cabbage rolls.  Golubtsy is a Russian dish that consists of meat wrapped in a cabbage leaf and then stewed.  I have come across many versions of this dish, each one tasting as delicious as the other.  Here is how I make it:

Head of cabbage
Ground beef
Tomato paste
Can of beer
Worcestershire sauce

For my recipe, I use 8 big leaves from a head of cabbage.  Boil the leaves until tender.
*To make this easier, I boil the whole head and peel the 8 outer leaves.  This leaves me with the rest of the head which I continue to cook and save for another meal.

Chop and saute your onions until translucent.  
In a bowl, mix together 1 lb of ground beef, 1 cup of cooked rice, 1 tbsp of paprika, 1 tbsp of Worcestershire sauce, and the cooked onion.

Spoon mixture into the center of each leaf and roll (into a burrito shape).
In a separate bowl, mix together a 1/4 cup of water, 1 can of tomato paste, and 1 can of beer.  This will be your sauce.

In the bottom of a Dutch oven, spread a spoonful of sauce to create a bed for the rolls.  Place your rolls seam side down.

Pour the remainder of your sauce over the rolls.  Cook over medium-high heat for about 45 minutes, the meat will have steamed inside of the rolls.  Serve with the sauce and a spoonful of sour cream.  This recipe serves 4-8 people (depending on how hungry your bunch is...my family had one per person).

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Cheesy Chicken Open Faced Sandwich

Every once in a while, I'll look at the clock and realize that dinner time is only an hour or two away.  It's nights like these that I feel like we should just eat out instead.  But, we all know that it's not always that easy. It's times like these that we get creative.  And this was no exception.  As my daughter sits in the living room, she keeps asking what's for dinner, my response, I don't know!  Because I honestly have no clue what I'm going to serve until it's on the plate (and even then I may not know what I just served!).  We have named this dish the cheesy chicken open faced sandwich, and thankfully, it was well liked!

Cream of mushroom soup
Tomatoes (I used my canned tomatoes)
French bread (we got this delicious french bread with so much flavor for less than $1 on the "day old" rack!)
Chicken (leftover from a whole roasted chicken the night before)
Cheese (I used 2 slices of American)
Velveeta cheese (or a good melting cheese)
Parmesan cheese

What I Did...
Preheat your oven to 300 degrees (F).  Line a baking sheet with your tomatoes (mine were quartered already from the canning process).  Bake for 15 minutes.  Next, slice and carmalize your onions.  In the meantime, I cut the remaining breast off of my roasted chicken, and sliced it thinly.  In a saucepan, mix 1/4 cup of Velveeta, 1 can of cream of mushroom soup, 2 tbsp of Parmesan cheese, and 2 tbsp of cream.  Stir and simmer on low.  Slice your French bread into 4 half inch slices.  Place onto a baking sheet to toast in the oven (toast to your liking, mine went int for about 3 minutes).  Remove your bread.  Now to assemble.  Top your bread with your sliced chicken, followed by the onions, and then tomatoes.  Once assembled, top each sandwich with 1/2 a slice of American cheese (or any cheese you may have on hand).  Place into the oven until the cheese is melted (you could also broil it to get the cheese nice and bubbly.).  Once finished, top with your mushroom and cheese sauce and serve.  This recipe made 4 sandwiches.  My family loved it, so hopefully yours will too.  

Monday, July 23, 2012

Basbousa Cupcakes

This past Friday was the start of Ramadan.  For those of you that don't know, Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic lunar calendar.  For one month, people of the Muslim faith fast from sun up to sun down.  So why is this relevant?  No, I am not Muslim (I'm Catholic), but plenty of my husband's coworkers are, and I wanted to make a dessert to help them celebrate.  So I went online and researched Ramadan desserts.  I found a dessert called Basbousa.  Now, after some alterations, I turned this dessert into a cupcake (and thankfully it was well liked!).

For Cake:
1 cup of semolina
1 cup of flour
1 cup of sugar
Pictured without the almonds.
1 stick (or 1/2 a cup) of butter
1 cup of whole milk
1 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract
1/2 tsp of almond extract
1 tbsp of baking powder
1 tbsp of baking soda
For Syrup:
2 1/4 cups of sugar
1 1/2 cups of water
Juice of one lemon
For Icing:
Heavy cream
Powdered sugar
Unflavored gelatin

Prepare the syrup first by dissolving the sugar in the water.  Add your lemon juice and bring to a boil.  Once the syrup starts to boil, add your honey.  Reduce the heat and slowly boil for about 8 minutes.  Once finished, set aside.
For the cake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees (F).  Mix together the butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla.  In a separate bowl, mix together the semolina, flour, baking powder, and baking soda.  Add the butter/sugar mixture.  Then add your milk.  
Line your cupcake tin with liners.  Scoop your batter into the liners.  Push an almond slice into the top of each cupcake.  Bake for 19 minutes.  Once removed from oven, top each cupcake with the syrup.  Allow to cool the rest of the way.
In a bowl, mix one pint of whipping cream with 1/2 tsp of unflavored gelatin.  Let sit in the fridge for about 5 minutes.  Remove and begin to whip.  Add about 1/4 cup of powdered sugar (more or less if you'd like) to help sweeten the frosting.  Add 1 tbsp of honey to mixture as well.  Continue to whip until stiff peeks have formed.  The gelatin will help keep the frosting firm.  Top the cupcake with the frosting, and then top the frosting with the almond slices.

This recipe will yield approx. 24 cupcakes.  If you plan on making this, please remember that this dish is meant to be dense.  The semolina gives it a texture similar to cornbread.  Enjoy!

Copyright: This recipe is my own personal recipe that I created.  If you plan on using this recipe for reasons other than personal use, credit must be given accordingly.  Thank you.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Tomato and Cream Cheese Penne

So I got to use one of my jars of tomatoes I canned a little over a week ago.  It was one of those nights where I hadn't put much though into dinner, so pasta tends to be my go to meal.  My family love spaghetti, but it gets old after a while if you don't switch it up.

1 lb of penne
1 jar of tomatoes (1 pint)
1 can of tomato sauce
4 big leaves of fresh basil
4 oz (1/2 a block) of cream cheese
Parmesan cheese

Cook the pasta in salted water as you would normally do.  Cook until al dente.  Drain and set aside.  Remove the liquid from your jar of tomatoes.  Add your tomato sauce and canned tomatoes to your sauce pan.  Use an emulsion blender to smooth out the sauce.  Add your cream cheese.  Cook over med heat until cheese starts to melt.  Add your penne.  Continue cooking until the cream cheese is melted, about 4 minutes or so.  Cut your basil and toss it into your pasta.  When you are ready to serve, toss with Parmesean cheese (this is a personal preference, add as much or little as you'd like).  The cream cheese gives the pasta a nice creamy flavor without over powering it.  You never have to settle for just pasta and tomato sauce.  Get creative, you could end up with a new family favorite!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Ain't My Grandma's Banana Bread

And it isn't, my Grandma's banana bread that is.  I couldn't very well share her secret recipe with you all (what kind of granddaughter would I be?).  Ok, I'll admit, this is my first time making banana bread.  The first thing I thought when I pulled it out was why haven't I made this before?  I mean, I had ALL of the ingredients in my pantry already.  Easiest quick bread ever!  So, here is my recipe for a simple banana bread.

1 1/2 cups of  flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla 
1 egg
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter (melted)
4 ripe bananas (smashed)
Pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (F). Mix your melted butter into the smashed bananas.  Then mix in the sugar, egg, and vanilla. Add your baking soda and salt to the the mixture and mix in.  Add the flour last.  Mix together Pour mixture into a buttered 4x8 inch loaf pan.  Bake for 1 hour. Cook for 10 minutes before removing from the pan.  Cool on a wire rack until cool to the tough.

I have mine sitting on the counter cooling for breakfast!  This may not be my grandma's recipe, but it will sure bring a smile to everyone's faces!  

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Chicken Pot Pie

Last night was chicken pot pie night at my house.  This is one of my favorite chilly night meals, even though it's 100+ degrees outside right now!  Regardless, I felt as though it was a pot pie kind of night.

Chicken (I used 2 leg quarters, $2.35)
Frozen veggie blend, one bag ($1.60)
Onion (had diced and frozen in my freezer already)
Leek (had sliced and frozen in my freezer already)
Garlic, 4 gloves ($.48)
Cream cheese, 2 tbsp. (Store brand was on sale 10/$10)
Refrigerated biscuits ($.49)
Beer (bought a 6 pack for $5.69, so the one beer cost $.95)
Butter, 3 tbsp (had in my fridge already)
Flour, 4 tbsp (had in my pantry already)
Bake your chicken at 375 degrees (F) for 45 minutes.  Let cool slightly.

 In a saucepan, melt 2 tbsp of butter over med-high heat.  Add your diced onions and sliced leeks.  Mince your garlic then add to the onion/leek mixture.  Cook until translucent (about 2-3 minutes).  Add the frozen mixed vegetables.  Pull your chicken off of the bones and add.  Once cooked, add 1 cup of beer, stir, add your flour.  Once the mixture begins to thicken, add the cream cheese.

 Once the cheese has melted, spoon the mixture into small baking dishes.  Take your refrigerated biscuits, roll them out, and cut circles (or squares) large enough to cover the top of the dishes.  Brush the tops with the remaining butter and bake for 20 minutes at 365 degrees (F).

Once finished each person will have their own little dish to eat from.  My recipe feeds 3-4 people (depending on how hungry your family is!).  Usually I like to add fennel instead of leeks and white wine instead of beer, but I used what I had on hand.  No matter the dish you plan to make, know what you can substitute to save money or an extra trip to the grocery store.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Orange Cream Cupcakes

I love using gelatin and pudding to help flavor boxed cake mixes.  One of my favorites is using orange flavored gelatin.  Making great cupcakes doesn't require superior baking skills.  And it's ok to cheat sometimes and use boxed mix.  You just have to know that you don't have to stick to just having yellow cake with white frosting.  For my orange cream cupcakes, I use a box of white cake mix (mix according to box directions) and add half of a pouch of orange gelatin.  Bake as the box directs you to.  When it comes to icing the cupcakes, take a tub of vanilla or fluffy white frosting and add 1 tbsp of orange gelatin powder (just to get the orange color and a bit of orange flavor).  Stir then frost.  It is that simple.  This is one of my favorite "semi-homemade" cupcakes to eat!  So next time you bake a cake, bust out your favorite gelatin or pudding mix!
Sorry for the blurry picture, photo was taken using my phone!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Creamy Sweet Pea Risotto

Like pasta, one staple I always keep in my kitchen is white rice.  You can use rice to help fill in the blanks on many dishes.  Rice is very bland, so it will easily take on any flavor you add to it.  I use rice for stuffed peppers, taco rice, fried rice, and even risotto.  Making a simple risotto at home is easier than you may think.  It can take a good dish to a different level.  Here is how I make my creamy sweet pea risotto.
1 1/2 cups rice
3 cans of chicken broth
4 oz (1/2 box) of cream cheese
1 tbsp butter
1 leek
1 cup of frozen peas (thawed)
1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese
1/8 cup of mozzarella cheese
In a saucepan, heat your 3 cans of broth.  Melt butter in a skillet.  Add leeks and cook until tender, med-high heat.  Add rice to skillet and cook for about 3 minutes, stir frequently.  Slowly add 1/2 cup of broth.  Cook for about 3 minutes, stir frequently.  Once the broth has absorbed, repeat the previous step until you have used all of the broth.  Once all of the broth has been added and absorbed, add you cream cheese and mozzarella cheese.  Stir until the cheese has melted.  Once the cheese is melted, add your peas.  Cook for 2 minutes then remove from heat.  Add your Parmesan cheese, stir and serve.

Consider using onions instead of leeks.  Asparagus and asiago cheese go well together in risotto.  Get creative and you'll be able to serve this dish any way you'd like.  Enjoy!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Sugar Free Pineapple-Mango Cupcakes

I love to bake.  Especially cupcakes!  However, my husband's grandpa is diabetic, so I always have to keep him in mind when baking for family gatherings.  I'm sure Grandpa gets sick of eating the same old sugar free desserts over, and over again (I mean come on, there isn't a ginormous variety of sugar free desserts!).  Grandpa has been known to favor fruit flavored desserts, so I figured I'd hit him with some tropical flavors.  What my 7 year old daughter and I came up with was a pineapple mango cupcake, dressed with these cute little pineapple flowers we found on Pinterest.

Sugar Free Pineapple Cake
3 cups Bisquick mix
1/2 cup powdered milk

1 tsp. baking powder
2 cups Splenda
1 tsp. salt
2 sticks butter
3 large eggs
1 cup milk
2 tsp. vanilla extract

1/4 cup pineapple juice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees(F).  Mix together the dry ingredients into a bowl. Add the butter (room temp) and beat with mixer until little dough balls start to form (about 2-3 minutes).  Add the remaining wet ingredients.  Blend together.  Fill cupcake liners with batter.  Bake for 18-25 minutes (you'll know it's finished when your toothpick comes out clean!).  Let cool before frosting.  If you don't feel comfortable making your own batter, Pillsbury makes a great tasting sugar free cake mix!

Mango Cream Filling
2 cups of sugar free Cool Whip
1 mango, mashed
Blend the whip cream and the mango until smooth.  To fill cupcakes, use the bottom of a wooden spoon to make a hole in the center of your cupcakes.  Use a piping bag to fill the centers.

For the frosting, I mix one container of Sugar Free Vanilla frosting by Pillsbury with 1 tbsp. of pineapple juice.  I top my cupcakes with a dried pineapple flower.  For directions on how to make this, visit Mrs. Regueiro's Plate.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Croque Monsieur

Before you go and get intimidated, croque monsieur is just a fancy French name for a hot ham and cheese sandwich.  Now, I don't tend to cook a lot of French cuisine in my house, except for the recipes from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by the one and only Julia Child.  This sandwich is typically made with Gruyere cheese.  However, it is one of those dishes that is open for interpretation and can be made to the cook's liking.    

French bread (or whatever bread you have available)
Cream cheese
Ham (thinly sliced)
Swiss cheese

Heat your oven to 375 degrees (F).  Slice your bread (not too thick, but not too thin).  Place your bread onto a baking sheet and toast for 3 minutes.  Slice your onion and tomato.  Saute your onion in butter.  Remove your bread from the oven and spread about 1/2 tbsp of cream cheese on each slice of toasted bread.  Top your bread with your onions, tomato, ham, and then cheese.  Place back into the oven until your cheese is melted (I like mine to get all bubbly...this works best in the broiler for about 30 seconds).  You can  eat this as an open face sandwich, or use two pieces to make one sandwich.  Try making this with provolone or mozzarella cheese, or even use salami, chicken, or roast beef.  As Julia Child would say, "bon app├ętit!"

Friday, July 13, 2012

Cheese Beer Dip

If you know me, I'm always the one who brings dessert to the family functions.  However, this 4th of July, I was told to bring the dip (at that moment my heart grew two sizes smaller).  DIP!  I've been told that I can't just do anything normal, so this was no exception.  I had to wow.  One of the dips I made was this Cheese Beer Dip (also known as "Shut the Front Door" dip).  I found a few different recipes, but none were to my liking, so I changed it up a bit.  I couldn't stand the idea of only using one type of cheese.  Cheese, in my opinion, is one of the greatest gifts to man!  So without further ado, here is the recipe for my Cheese Beer Dip:

4 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
2 cups Monterrey jack cheese, shredded
1 -12 ounce can of beer
6 tbsp of butter
1 tbsp of Dijon mustard
1 1/2 tbsp of Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp hot sauce
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg

In a large bowl, combine the cheese and beer.  Let the mixture stand at room temperature for 30 minutes until the cheese softens.  In a food processor, blend the cheese/beer mixture with the reaming ingredients.  Blend until smooth.  This recipe will stay good in your refrigerator for up to a month or frozen for up to 3 months (or less than 24 hours if you're family likes it as much as mine!).  This dip goes great with chips and soft pretzels.  You could add extra hot sauce to make this a bit more spicy if you'd prefer it that way.  The beer in this is not cooked out, so this dip is not kid friendly.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Canning Tomatoes: My First Attempt

I am still fairly new to canning, so bear with me on this one.  Summer is canning season simply because that is when fruits and vegetables are most plentiful.  Two days ago I took my first shot at canning tomatoes.  The process, for me, was relaxing.  Knowing that I can help support and supply for my family while being a homemaker gives me great joy.  So I pulled out my Blue Book and got started!

Pippi watching guard over my tomatoes!
The first step is to prepare all of your supplies.  You want to make sure there aren't any issues with your jars or lids that would cause sealing issues.  Next you're going to wash the jars and lids.  Heat the jars in water to 180 degrees (F).  Do not boil the lids.  Keep the jars hot until ready for use.  Fill your canner with hot water and heat to 180 degrees.  

Pick tomatoes that are fresh, firm, and free of cracks and bruises. Cut an X in the bottom of the tomato skins and blanch for 60 seconds.  Dip into cold water immediately.  
The skins will slip right off of your tomatoes.  The photo above is what they will look like.  Next you'll want to cut away any green areas and core them.  I them quartered my tomatoes, although you can leave them whole or halve them.  I packed mine in water, so at this point, you'll put your tomatoes into a large sauce pot, barley covering the tomatoes with water.  Boil gently for 5 minutes.  Remove one canning jar at a time.  Add 1 tbsp of lemon juice (this is for a pint jar, use 2 tbsp for a quart jar).  Using your jar funnel, pack your tomatoes into the jar and ladle the hot water over the top.  You'll want a 1?2 inch of head space.  Use a plastic spatula to release the trapped air.  Make sure to wipe the rims before placing the lid and bands on the jars.  Once you have the lid on, start placing your jars onto the rack in your boiling-water canner.  Process for 40 minutes (or 45 minutes for quarts).  Once finished, turn off the heat, let sit for 5 minutes, then remove.  Place onto a towel and let cool.  Do not touch the jars for 12 to 234 hours.  You'll want to listen for the infamous "ping" sound indicating that the lids are sealing.  After 24 hours, press the center of the lids to make sure they don't flex.  You'll also want to unscrew the bands to make sure the lids are sealed.    

When I first saw my jars, I noticed (although tightly packed) my tomatoes floated leaving a gap in the bottom.  I have learned that this is normal and that it will not affect my tomatoes.  All in all, I think this was a success!

For more information, visit Ball's website or check out the YouTube video posted by Ball on preserving tomatoes.  Happy canning!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

BBQ Sauce Done My Way

I love BBQ, but of course, who doesn't?  I also love to make my own BBQ sauce.  But, there are times when I don't have the time, or I just don't feel like it.  I always like to keep a mini stockpile of condiments on hand (because you never know...), so I tend to always have bottled BBQ sauce on hand.  Like most prepackaged foods, I like to spice up my sauce.  You know, add something special to change up the flavor and make it different.  Yesterday I posted a recipe for blueberry BBQ sauce (sorry, wiping my drool off the keyboard!), so why not add blueberries to my bottled sauce?                   

Bust out your blenders!  For this, all you need to do is blend one bottle of BBQ sauce with a handful of blueberries (make sure you strain your sauce to eliminate any skins).  Yep, that is seriously all I did., well that and make sure you cook it on low heat for 15 minutes (don't want cold sauce on hot BBQ).  And boy did it taste yummy!  And the great thing, you can do this with anything!  You can add beer, wine, honey, roasted garlic, raspberries, peaches, whatever your heart desires.  You can turn that bottle of boring sauce into something that your friends and family will beg for...and you never have to tell them your secret!

If you would like to skip the bottled sauce and make your own, here is my recipe for my Blueberry BBQ Sauce:


2 14 oz cans of tomato sauce
1 Tbsp of molasses or honey
3/4 cup of cider vinegar
1/8 cup of beer, white wine, or bourbon
2 Tbsp of brown sugar
1 Tbsp of Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp onion powder
2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp cumin
1 cup pureed blueberries
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients in a saucepan.  Simmer over medium-low heat for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Once the sauce has reduced and thicken, run through a strainer to remove any blueberry skins that didn't break down all the way.  Your sauce is ready to serve.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Blueberries and Strawberries: Summer's Harvest

Summer brings us a variety of fruits and vegetables.  Two of my favorites are strawberries and blueberries.  Not only do they scream summer, but they are full of vitamins and antioxidants.  Their sweet flavor makes them perfect to enjoy in desserts, for breakfast, or even just by themselves.  Too often are they overlooked as being a delicious ingredient during your summer cooking.  Here are some recipes that I have found that help bring out the delicious flavor of these fruits!

Blueberry BBQ Sauce
Pickled Blueberries
Spinach, Goat Cheese, and Strawberry Salad
Almond Chicken with a Strawberry-Balsamic Sauce
Blueberry and Cranberry Relish
Strawberry Balsamic Dressing
Blueberry and Peach Chutney (served over pork....yum!)

Next time you buy one of your favorite fruits, try to think outside the box and never overlook their potential! 

Monday, July 9, 2012

Cooking with Chile Peppers

One of my favorite ingredients to work with is chile peppers.  However, they can be quiet intimidating.  Before you buy a bunch of peppers and toss them into your dish, know what flavor and how much heat it will add.  One of my favorite peppers is the poblano.  They are medium-hot peppers that offer a sweet undertone.  I prefer to roast them and use them in soups and my chili recipe.  They are large in size so they are great to stuff.  I love stuffing them with black beans, chicken and cheese.  Another chile you might find in your local grocery store is the Anaheim chile.  They offer a mild flavor and are most often used in chili verde.  Anaheim's and poblano's can both be used to make chili relleno.  One of the most common chile's used in American cooking is the jalapeno.  Jalapeno's give off more heat than the Anaheim and poblano, but offer a more distinct flavor.  They are available pickled which is how I enjoy them (yep, right out of the jar!).  When smoked, jalapenos become chipotle pepper.  The serrano resembles the jalapeno in shape and color, but are smaller in size.  They are about 2-4 inches long, but offer more heat than the previous chiles.  They offer a more intense bite than the jalapeno as well.  You can help tame the heat while keeping the flavor by using it with mild ingredients or in sauces, such as a cilantro serrano cream sauce.  Another favorite of mine is the habanero.  The habanero is a very hot pepper whose heat can be balanced by other ingredients, my favorite, mango!  I have a love addiction to mango habanero salsa (yum!).  Whatever chile you decide to use, make sure you know the flavor and intensity of the heat before you bite into it!  Happy cooking!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Homemade Pop Tarts

I am a fan and avid reader of Better Homes & Gardens magazine.  So as I was flipping through the May 2012 issue looking for ideas for decorating my home and recipes, I came across a recipe for homemade pop tarts.  The recipe called for three ingredients: refrigerated pie crust, jelly, and frosting.  Lucky for me, I had all three in my kitchen already (bought extra pie crust when I made apple pie)!  
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees (Fahrenheit).  Roll out your pie crust.  Cut the dough into small uniform squares, about 3 inches across.  Since the pie dough is round, I rolled it out a few times so I could get the most out of my dough.

Take half of your squares and spread jelly across the center (I used strawberry).  To get the dough to stick, I brushed a little water around the edges of the squares before placing the tops on them.

Use a fork to crimp the edges and the pierce the top (so nothing explodes in the oven!).

 Place on your baking sheet and bake for 9 minutes.  Let cool.

Once cool, ice the tops of your pop tarts with frosting and feel free to decorate with sprinkles.

My kids loved making these almost as much as they loved eating them!  You can use any frosting and filling you desire.  Maybe next time we'll try blueberry jam with a lemon frosting......yum!