Saturday, August 20, 2016

Chicken and Biscuits Casserole {No Canned Soups}

There's little more comforting than homemade Chicken and Dumplings. This recipe is a slight twist on the classic version. The recipe begins with a couple of chicken breasts simmered until tender in a rich, savory broth. Next, the broth is thickened with a cornstarch slurry and a splash of heavy cream. Then, instead of dropping biscuit dough into the thick, steamy broth to cook on the stove top, the chicken and "gravy" is loaded into a casserole dish, topped with half-moons of buttermilk biscuits and popped into the oven to bake to golden, bubbly bliss.

The result is the familiar flavors present in classic Chicken and Dumplings, of course, But, the biscuits are taken to new heights due to the browning on top of the casserole. The bottoms of the biscuits bake up - moist and soft - submerged in bubbling gravy while the tops of the biscuits puff up to golden, magical perfection.

Serves 4 - 6.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Potato and Sweet Corn Chowder

Tender chunks of potatoes and crisp, fresh-off-of-the-cob sweet corn come together in this thick, ultra-luxurious chowder that is just perfect for the transitional weeks between late-summer and early-fall. Sweet corn is in abundance. Many of us start experiencing cooler evenings. And, if you're anything like me, cravings for fall and soup weather creep up oh, right around mid-August. This is a great way to satisfy those yearnings.

Don't get me wrong ... this is an awesome chowder to make at any given time of the year. It's the ultimate comfort food for cold, blizzard-y evenings in say, January or ideal for lunch on a cool, rainy Sunday in April. If you can't get your hands on fresh sweet corn, frozen corn that has been thawed would be a great substitution. But, frankly, I think there's little more fabulous this time of the year than at-its-peak sweet corn. Incorporating a few ears into this chowder is highly recommended. And, don't throw out those stripped ears of corn after cutting the kernels off ... toss a few into the chowder as it cooks for extra flavor. Absolutely amazing.

Yields 4 - 6 servings.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Touchdown Loaded Mexican Bean Dip

When you need a fun, hearty dip for parties, game night at home or family movie night, this fabulous recipe is the answer. It's, also, awesome for packing up to take along when tailgating. It has a lot of things going for it. It comes together in just a matter of a few minutes. It is the perfect make-ahead dip. It's pretty inexpensive to make. And, it's easily customizable. Oh, and it's just downright delicious and always impresses.

The base is a couple of cans of refried beans that get seasoned up with spices that you probably already have on hand. A layer of sour cream gets spread on top of the bean layer. Then, the sky is really the limit as to the toppings that you heap on top. Basically, anything that you like on tacos can make an appearance here ... cheese, lettuce, avocado, onions, olives, tomatoes or jalapeƱos. Serve the whole thing up with tortilla or corn chips. Super amazing.

Friday, August 12, 2016

No-Bake Triple Coconut Mini Cheesecakes with Pretzel Graham Crust

I've shared a plethora of desserts with you here on the blog. This one, though ... this one is pretty darn scrumptious and one that just might "take the (cheese)cake." I didn't necessarily set out to create a mind-blowing, so-good-ya-need-to-smack-yer-momma type of recipe with this one ... I was simply working this past week in the kitchen testing out some different ideas that I had for incorporating coconut into cheesecake. I wanted something simple. I wanted something that didn't require the oven be fired up. (It is mid-August after all.) And, I really wanted a cheesecake that I could work coconut into in a few different ways.

I adore the flavor of coconut - especially toasted coconut. And, I adore cheesecake (but, I usually hate the hassle of making it from scratch).

So, I tinkered around with a few boxes of no bake cheesecake mix (found in the pudding and gelatin section) that I had stashed in my cupboard. (What a time-saver.) This recipe, basically, takes a couple of boxes of cheesecake mix (no shame in my game) and turns them into magical, coconut-y bliss in the form of mini cheesecakes. I truly do prefer to make things from scratch in my kitchen. But, as a busy mom, wife, blogger and super hero (ha!), I, occasionally, take a little help where I can get it when I'm in a hurry (or just feeling lazy). Typically, though, if I do use a boxed mix of some sort (like cheesecake mix or cake mix), I put my own spin on things. Jazz it up. Make it my own.

For this recipe, I fancied up the crust by incorporating some crushed pretzels and coconut oil (in addition to the butter) into the crushed graham crackers included in the boxed mix. I, then, subbed in canned coconut milk in place of the regular milk. Finally, I topped the cheesecakes with toasted coconut.

When it all comes together, it is heavenly. A little saltiness is present in the crust due to the pretzel inclusion. The cheesecake is ultra creamy and luxurious with just a hint of coconut flavor. And, the toasted coconut brings amazing texture and really drives home the coconut flavor.

NOTE: I choose to utilize my muffin tins that have jumbo/king size wells. However, this could be made in traditional muffin tins, if desired. Obviously, the result would be smaller cheesecakes, but the recipe would yield a larger quantity of cakes. Additionally, this could easily be made into one large cheesecake by using a large pie pan or medium size casserole-style glass dish.

Yields 8 mini cheesecakes. (See NOTE above.)

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Sixteen Sensational Salads to Make Before Summer Ends

For many of us, we'll soon be turning our thoughts to stews, soups, casseroles and baking as we look ahead to the cooler fall weather on the horizon. But, there's still a few weeks to savor these final hot days of summer. Don't let them slip by without pause to enjoy some warm weather pleasures. A few more chances to fire up the grill. A few more lazy moments to sip some icy, refreshing drinks on the porch. A few more weekends for friends and family to come together to eat, swim, visit and play.

I've brought together sixteen must-make salads that are a perfect way to embrace the flavors and ingredients of summer ... before it's too late. Whether you're looking for a healthful pasta salad to serve up as a side dish at your next cookout, a simple loaded salad bowl for a weeknight family dinner or a killer chicken salad to spoon into flakey croissants for lunch ... I've got you covered with this list of sensational salads.

Friday, August 05, 2016

Creamy Balsamic Corn and Sun Dried Tomato Pasta Salad

I am a sucker for pasta salads during the summer. I have a few favorites like, my Veggie Overload Pasta Salad and my Mandarin Orange and Spinach Pasta Salad {with Teriyaki Dressing}. This version is loaded up with fresh-from-the-garden sweet corn, chopped sun dried tomatoes, a variety of other fresh vegetables and some fun, twirl-y pasta. And, although those components are all fabulous in their own rights, it's really the creamy dressing that makes this pasta salad swoon worthy. A hint of fresh garlic, a little oil, a few spices, some dashes of a good-quality balsamic vinegar and creamy mayonnaise get whisked up together to create what I consider the ultimate pasta salad dressing.

Of course, you can choose to switch up the veggies that you use, but this recipe calls for a combination that I find works great together. The sweetness and pop of the fresh corn compliments the chewy, flavor-packed sun dried tomatoes. The cucumber lends a cool, refreshing component to the salad while the radish brings a slight peppery "bite" to the party. And, a subtle onion flavor is present by way of the scallions.

I've chosen an Italian Trottole pasta (such a neat shape), but any small or medium size pasta works here. Just be sure not to overcook the pasta ... you certainly don't want mushy noodles in this fabulous summertime side dish.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

SeparAide - Revolutionize How You Use Your Slow Cooker

My loyal readers are well aware that I utilize my slow cooker quite regularly. In the cooler months of the year when my family is super busy and always on the go, the slow cooker is my go-to for ensuring that I have home-cooked, wholesome meals ready at day's end for my family. In the warmer months, my slow cooker allows me to keep my oven off (and kitchen cool) while still cooking up some of my family's favorite comforting dishes.

I was recently introduced to an exciting new product, the SeparAide. It is a kitchen-grade silicone slow cooker strainer that will revolutionize that way that we use our slow cookers. I am working with SeparAide™ to share their concept with folks who love cooking and those who often turn to their slow cookers when preparing meals for their families.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Chocolate Crunch Mocha Mini Trifles

If you're looking for a simple-to-prepare dessert that is loaded with decadent chocolate and rich coffee flavor, these Chocolate Crunch Mocha Mini Trifles might just be your ticket to indulgent bliss. There are so many wonderful textures and flavors layered up in this dessert. Coffee-infused vanilla pudding and crushed chocolate sandwich cookies collide with chunks of moist chocolate cake in this magical treat. Smooth whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles finish off the layers in this crowd-pleasing dessert.

I love mini desserts. They are so much fun to serve and even more fun to eat. I shared my Black Forest Mini Trifles with Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream with you just before Christmas last year. This dessert is quite similar in terms of preparation and presentation. I utilize a store-bought cake mix and boxed pudding mix here to make my time (and mess) in the kitchen less. I do make my whipped cream from scratch, but, of course, you could use a store-bought frozen whipped topping if you want to hasten things even more during prep time.

Note that I do recommended assembling these, at least, a few hours in advance - even better if it can be the day before. However, I recommend waiting to add the chocolate sprinkles until shortly prior to service ... especially if presentation is important to you. The sprinkles can "bleed" into the whipped cream if placed on the trifles too far in advance.

Yields 8 mini trifles.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Lemon Cake Mix Puppy Chow

I think most of us know (and love) traditional Puppy Chow ("Muddy Buddies"). I've made several versions of the original throughout the years. Since we are in the middle of summer (and lots of hot temps) right now, I was pondering trying a more "refreshing" version. The flavor of lemon immediately came to mind.

Using a lemon cake mix makes this recipe so super simple. In just a matter of like, five minutes you can be enjoying this addicting, sweet Lemon Cake Mix Puppy Chow.

Friday, July 08, 2016

Mandarin Orange and Spinach Pasta Salad {with Teriyaki Dressing}

I am so excited to share this recipe with you because it's just such a delicious twist on basic, traditional pasta salad. It may sound odd to have a pasta salad with sweet components, but I promise you that every single ingredient comes together so beautifully and cohesively. The dressing alone is so incredibly, insanely good and addictive. (I seriously cannot wait to try it brushed and glazed on grilled chicken.) Forget about ho-hum pasta salad. I believe that this recipe will really surprise you and become a favorite during these warm summer months.

I am sure that you could easily make this a more-complete meal by serving some grilled shrimp or chicken on top of the salad. But, I have been simply enjoying this as a light lunch all throughout the past week. It seems to keep well for several days in the fridge, so I've found myself munching on it quite a bit. I've made it twice now in the past two weeks. I just can't seem to get enough.

Once again - you'll flip over the dressing. It begins with a base of store-bought teriyaki sauce. (I prefer Kikkoman Teriyaki Baste & Glaze.) Vinegar, a little sugar, some neutral oil and a few spices are whisked in to make what becomes a killer sauce. It gets poured over and tossed with pasta, spinach, Mandarin orange slices and a few other perfectly-paired up ingredients. The result is a unique, healthful, fresh and vibrant pasta salad that I hope you'll really come to love.

Serves 4 - 5.