Saturday, June 30, 2012

Baked Sweet Potatoes with Cool Chili Dipping Sauce


Start by scrubbing 1 large sweet potato. Then, slice into circles.
Toss sliced potatoes with olive oil, kosher salt and pepper in a large bowl.

Next, spread potatoes out in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast in 325º oven for 30 - 35 minutes or until starting to brown. 

Jello Shot Fruit Slices


After seeing photos of these on different online sites, I decided to give them a try. After a bit of trial and error, I think I have come up with the best way to make them. They were a hit at the party I took them to and I will definitely be making them again. I tried using four different kinds of citrus fruit (oranges, regular lemons, Meyer lemons and limes). Using limes is pretty much impossible ... as the flesh inside does not release well from the outer "skin." The oranges were the easiest to get the flesh out of and the lemons were somewhere in the middle.

Parmesan-Crusted Pork Chop Casserole



3 - 4 thin, large boneless pork chops (or 5 - 6 small ones)
Salt & pepper
1/2 sleeve saltine crackers, crushed finely
Olive oil
2 cups instant white rice
1 can cheddar cheese soup
1/2 can cream of mushroom soup
Shaved Parmesan

Cheesy Bacon Ranch Pull Bread

I just had to share this fun, scrumptious pull bread because it is so easy to make and incredibly addicting. It is super quick to assemble and takes less than thirty minutes to bake. It's perfect for snacking on with the family on movie or game night at home.

Grab a round loaf of bakery bread. Cut some slices in it. Stuff it with bacon, cheese, butter and ranch mix. Then, wrap it in foil and toss it in the oven. Um, how simple is that?

Grandma's Lemon Chiffon Cheesecake

This is such a light, refreshing version of cheesecake ... so fluffy! It truly lives up to the "chiffon" part of its name. And, no baking is required! It is fabulous with blueberry pie filling on top, but can be left plain!

Macaroni and Cheese

This can be made in advance and popped in the oven in time for dinner. This will serve 7 - 10 people. This can be made in advance and frozen, as well. Just tightly wrap dish first in plastic wrap, then in foil and freeze. Allow to thaw on counter for a few hours or overnight in fridge. Remove plastic wrap and foil before baking ... reserving foil to loosely cover dish during first part of baking.

Chicken Meatballs in Parmesan Cream Sauce

This is one of my family's favorite meals. It is an easy thing to have prepped in advance. Make the meatballs the night before or morning of ... and everything will come together quickly at meal-time. The meatballs can, also, be made in advance and frozen.

Pork Chop, Stuffing and Mashed Potato Casserole

This dish is a combination of several of our traditional Thanksgiving dinner fixings married together in one casserole - with pork chops taking the place of turkey. It isn't anything fancy and it certainly won't win the award for "Most Beautiful Dish of The Year." However, it is a perfect all-in-one dish that is ultra comforting and one that will most-likely become a family favorite.

This dish is a blend of both store-bought shortcut items and from-scratch components. Of course, you could make stuffing and/or mushroom gravy from scratch if you'd prefer. {The preparation of the whole dish would, of course, require more of a time investment in doing so.}

The recipe may look complicated, but here's the overall gist:

Whip up some homemade mashed potatoes. {Keep them a little thicker than normal.}
Mix together some stuffing mix with water, butter and dried cranberries.
Sear off some pork chops.
Layer it all together in a casserole dish and top it all off with a mushroom soup sauce/gravy.

Simple. Uncomplicated. And, oh, so scrumptious.

Yields 4 servings.

Slow Cooker Chicken Cordon Bleu

You can make these stuffed chicken breasts ahead of time and freeze until ready to put the dish together (just make sure you don't start with chicken that has been previously frozen). Or, everything can be put together the day you plan to make.

Chicken Pot Pie

This will make one large pot pie ... baked in a large pie dish or round casserole dish. It can be made in advance and frozen, if desired. Just thaw on the counter for a few hours or overnight in the fridge before baking. If I have any filling leftover after filling the pot pie, I create a couple of small pot pies in those little foil pie tins and freeze them for another time.

Smoked Sausage Macaroni and Cheese

The addition of smoked sausage to homemade "mac-n-cheese" is a welcome and delicious change from the traditional basic recipe. It's hearty enough to serve as a main dish ... with a salad or some roasted veggies maybe.  And, as you'll see below in the recipe directions, my "placement" of the sausage yields crisp, browned edges to the sausage that adds another dimension of flavor to this dish.

And, nope, this definitely isn't "diet food," folks.  This is a recipe that I make on occasion when my family is craving something comforting and cheesy.  Homemade macaroni and cheese can't be beat and is truly a worth-while dish to make on a day that you just wanna indulge a little.
Serves 6 - 8.

Hayride Chili

Every fall, we host a Hayride and Bonfire Party and this is required each year! It is made with slow-cooked shredded beef in place of the traditional ground beef ... and chocolate makes a cameo in this recipe! 

This makes enough to feed a large crowd of 30+ people.

We put out corn chips (folks can pour the chili over them) ... and serve with chopped onions, sour cream and shredded cheese on the side.

The chili comes together in a roasting pan. But, if you're only wanting to make enough for your family, use a slow cooker and cut back on the ingredient quantities suggested.  The recipe is a bit detailed and long, but (please) trust me that it is sooooo worth it!  All of the guests who attend this party talk about this chili all year long and count down until I will be making it for the party!

This is good stuff, folks!  I promise!

Homemade Chicken Stock

It is so simple and gratifying to make homemade stock in your own kitchen and it is much tastier than a lot of the boxed varieties from the store. Another bonus is the satisfaction of making it yourself and the amazing, comforting aromas that will fill your kitchen on any given day that you to decide to make homemade stock.
NOTE:  Yes, there are professional opinions on what constitutes stock versus broth.  Whether I start from an already-cooked chicken or from raw, I've always just used the term stock.  Also, there are ideas out there that stock does not traditionally include salt or seasoning ... and that broth does.  (Stock is considered a base for making broth, I've read.)  You can choose not to salt or season this "stock" (and season later when using in a recipe to create a "broth").  This is simply my method and recipe.

Most of the time, I begin with what's left behind from a store-bought rotisserie or home-roasted whole chicken. But, it can be done with uncooked chicken pieces on the bone and with the skin on. If you're starting with uncooked pieces of chicken or a whole uncooked chicken, you can pick off the cooked chicken for another use when stock is completed.

Green Chile and Lime Pulled Pork Tacos

This is a really simple recipe for pulled pork filling for tacos, enchiladas or quesadillas. It can be made in advance and reheated, is even better the next day and can be frozen for later use. I often make it the night before and put it in the fridge. Then, in the morning I put it in the slow cooker on low so it is hot and ready when it's dinnertime!

Cheesy Potato Soup

What I adore about this potato soup recipe is that it is basic, uncomplicated and super simple.  Yes, there's a time and place for "loaded" potato soups ... with bacon, ham, corn, sausage or over-the-top spices.  But, this is simply a down-to-earth potato soup recipe that requires little fuss and only basic ingredients.  And, it satisfies like no other.  Pure comfort food to warm you up from the inside out.

There's a funny story that goes along with this soup (bear with me) ... involving a "mishap" that happened seventeen years ago. I had just met my now-husband a few weeks prior and he was bringing his sister and brother-in-law over to my house for dinner (and for me to meet them for the first time). I wasn't a super experienced cook, but I had been making this for a while and I knew it was something tasty that I did well. As you will discover, one of the last steps to this soup is adding some milk at the end. I had worked all day cleaning my house, worrying about impressing my hubby's family and I was nervous about cooking for them. I had bought some good crusty bread to go along with it and had whipped up something for dessert. The soup was on, I showered and was getting myself dolled up ... then came time for the adding of the milk at the end. Now, keep in mind it was fall, which meant apple cider in my fridge.

I was in such a panic to have everything perfect. In the midst of my scrambling frenzy, I grabbed the gallon jug of apple cider out of the fridge instead of the milk! There wasn't much left in the jug, so I didn't even notice that it was NOT the milk. I started pouring some in and by the time I realized what I actually had in my hand, a good half-cup of the cider had found its way into my potato soup! Of course, I panicked! Upon tasting it, it wasn't too noticeable! So, I served it.

Everyone loved it! I told my hubby afterwards what had happened, but he said that it was fabulous! I have made this hundreds of times in the years since and he always says it has never tasted as good as it did that night! I even tried once adding a bit of cider, but still ... he swears that one time was the best. We joke about it to this day ... that maybe the early stages of falling in love just blinded him to the actual oddness of "Cider Potato Soup."

Serves 4 - 6

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Honey & Lime Sesame Chicken Skewers

I found a version of this recipe on a lovely blog, Kitchen Meets Girl, and thought it looked incredibly delicious! I did change a couple of things, but her recipe was my inspiration. I had planned to cook these on my outdoor grill. But, with temps close to 100º today, I used my indoor cast iron grill pan and decided to stay cool in the A.C.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Homemade Egg Noodles

Buying prepared, frozen egg noodles is quick and easy. But, making your own is easy, too, and much less costly! They cost almost nothing to make ... compared to roughly $4 a bag for store-bought. And, making them at home takes only TWO INGREDIENTS that you probably always keep on hand.

I mostly utilize these noodles in either my Beef and Noodles recipe or for homemade chicken noodle soup.

Lalaloopsy Party

My youngest, Ayvah, turned five this past week and we held her birthday party this weekend. Of course, she lives and breathes all things Lalaloopsy, so such was our theme this year! With my kids passing around a flu bug earlier in the week and our evenings devoted to baseball and softball this time of year, I have to admit that I didn't get to all of the party projects I had planned. But, what did get done turned out cute and my little one loved it all! 

Monday, June 25, 2012

Cheesy White Chicken Enchiladas

For years I made a white chicken enchilada recipe using condensed soup. It was pretty good ... but this is even better and doesn't require any canned soup! Green chiles make an appearance in this recipe ... I have come to adore using green chiles in Mexican-style recipes. This dish is perfect served with Spanish rice and/or refried beans. Drained and rinsed black beans can be added to the chicken mixture, if desired, as can corn.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Mexican Bull's-eye Dip

This is a staple at many gatherings and parties amongst our family and friends. I make it because it's super easy, it presents great and is even tastier to consume! You will find this is so simple and a neat thing to bring along to your next potluck!  Best served with tortilla chips or corn chips.

You can use whatever toppings you prefer. The great thing about this dip is that guests can spoon whatever section(s) they prefer onto their plates based on what they like or don't like.


Stuffed Chicken Marsala

This recipe is inspired by The Olive Garden's version of this dish.  I always order it when it's on the menu there. It is absolutely scrumptious! And, this version does not disappoint! 

I often stuff the chicken breasts several hours in advance and store them in the fridge to lessen the amount of work come dinnertime. 

If you don't have marsala, beef stock works great, too.

Yields 4 servings.