Friday, November 30, 2012

Oatmeal Crinkle Cookies

My dear mother, Dawn, bakes dozens of cookies each week.  Chocolate chip. Molasses. Peanut butter. Snickerdoodles. Oatmeal. {You get the idea.} There is rarely a time when speaking to her on the phone that she isn't pausing to pull a tray of cookies out from the oven or starting another batch. All of the grandkids know to expect cookies upon visits to her house. {And, truth be told ... so do I.}
She has a cute sign hanging on the wall of her kitchen.  It reads, "A Balanced Diet is Having a Cookie in Each Hand." Boy, does she love that sign.

This recipe is one of her most-requested {aside from her Banana Chocolate Chip ones.} She's been making these for as long as I can remember. They are as magnificent and sinful as they look! As I type, my shirt is dusted with powdered sugar ... remnants of the two {okay, three} that I just devoured.

These cookies are slightly chewy in the center and have a wonderful texture from the oats. A good roll in powdered sugar prior to baking results in a beautiful, crackled, crinkle exterior that makes these oatmeal cookies next-level for sure.

Yields:  4 Dozen

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Sun-Dried Tomato and Parmesan Focaccia Bread

Let me be honest.  When my children all leave on the bus for school around seven each morning, I often crawl back into bed with the t.v. remote in hand, flip through some morning news channels and, inevitably, doze back off to sleep for a couple of hours.  It is the most marvelous thing in the world.  As a self-proclaimed and self-diagnosed "night owl," my mind and body never seem to quite settle down at night until well past one or two.  And, a morning person I am not, although I do have to rise around 5:30 a.m. to get my children ready for school. 

So, that bit of extra snoozing after my kiddos leave is pure bliss!

This week, however, I have been up and at 'em (and raring to go) all morning long and have not went back to sleep!  It's amazing how productive I have been - with my cup of coffee in tow - in these quiet, early morning hours this week.  Laundry is getting done well before lunch.  My housework is done and out of the way early-on.  And, I have been able to spend more time working on my blog and all that having a blog entails.

And, the biggest plus - I have been spending more time in the kitchen.  Quiet, peaceful, therapeutic, uninterrupted cooking and baking while Christmas songs play in the background.

As I begin typing up this post, a lovely roast with potatoes and carrots is cooking away in the slow cooker, scones are cooling on the counter and the dough for this focaccia bread is proofing by the oven.  And, it's not even ten o'clock.

In regards to this recipe, if you've never made focaccia, let me encourage you to try it!  I have made this many times and I think I love it more and more each time!  Focaccia is a flat Italian bread that is usually seasoned with olive oil and herbs.  Because the dough bakes atop an olive oil base and is rubbed on top with olive oil, the outside of the bread becomes a bit fried.  My version has the addition of sun-dried tomatoes, slivered onions and some shaved Parmesan.  Any herbs, toppings or cheeses can be used.  You can keep it super simple ... just a little olive oil and fresh, chopped rosemary. Or, you can spruce it up a bit with whatever your sweet, little heart desires.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Sweet Roasted Acorn Squash

I was home alone.  The kids were at school.

I kept walking past the two beautiful acorn squash (or is it squashes ... wait - that looks weird ... pretty sure it's squash) that were hanging out on my counter.

When I bought them the other day, I didn't have any specific plans for them.  They just looked so splendid sitting there at the grocery store and they called out to me to bring them home.  I responded by having the kids put them in the cart.

Not knowing if the kids would even eat them, I decided to cut one up and make it for myself for lunch while they were away.  (Moms need to eat, too!)

Sunny Anderson and The Pioneer Woman both have some tasty-sounding recipes for these green and orange beauties.  So, I prepared mine using a combination of the two recipes.

Once baked, the squash can be served as-is ... a cute little acorn squash "bowl" that begs for you to eat it by the spoonful as you scrap the flesh off of the skin while scooping up some of the buttery, sugary basting liquid.  (I think that was a major run-on right there, huh?)  Your other option is to scoop out all of the flesh (with the liquid) into a bowl or casserole dish, mash it all up like you would mashed potatoes and serve it that way.  (That route can, also, be done in advance and the squash reheated when ready to serve.)

For me, personally, I like individual things.  I like my own squash half and the experience of scraping the insides out by myself by the spoonful ... bite-after-lovely-bite.  But, you're a big kid.  Do what ya want!  I promise it'll be wonderful either way!

Most recipes call for two whole acorn squash and serve 4 people.  I cut the recipe in half since I only was making one squash.  The recipe below is written using 2 squash, however.  If you're only using one squash, you'll need to halve the recipe below.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Chile Colorado Burritos

After seeing a few versions of this recipe floating around on some of my favorite food blogs, I knew I wanted to make these.  Mexican food is one of my favorite cuisines.  I was overjoyed to find out that the meat for these burritos is made in the slow cooker.  Woo-hoo ... major time-saver!  Throw everything in the slow cooker in the morning, allow it to cook all day and you'll just have a few minutes of prep time just before dinner to finish up the recipe!

Today was a wonderful, lazy Saturday.  The hubby took the kids to the movies this afternoon while I stayed home and "kept an eye on dinner" (a.k.a. caught up on some recordings of Law & Order: SVU and The Pioneer Woman).

No, seriously, I did get some laundry done, too.  But, mainly, I parked my booty on the couch with the remote while I snacked on some pita chips and hummus.

(Okay ... and maybe I indulged in some Häagen-Dazs White Chocolate Raspberry Truffle ice cream.)

Shhhh!  That'll be our little secret!  (P.S. That stuff is to die for!)

What were we talking about again?  Oh, yeah ... the burritos.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Cheddar Bacon Potato "Chips"

After a fun, glorious Thanksgiving celebration here at our house yesterday, today has been a day of relaxation, snuggling with the kids and dancing around the kitchen to Christmas music.

While many are enjoying Thanksgiving leftovers today, my kids asked me to make loaded baked potatoes.  But, I decided to come up with a twist and make these instead.  It turned out to be the perfect finger food lunch while we curled up and watched Toy Story 3 on t.v.  My crew gobbled these babies up so quick and begged for me to make more this weekend!

The hubby is at work today, so this made just enough for the three kiddos and I.  If you're feeding a larger crowd, you may want to double the recipe.

One of my most-popular posts to-date has been my Roasted Ranch Potatoes with Bacon and Cheese.  This is kind of a play on that recipe, but requires no fork and there is no ranch dressing in this recipe.  Also, I used jarred real bacon pieces in this, but I'm sure regular cooked bacon would be even better!

I'm thinking these would be fabulous party food or great for a cozy movie night in with the family!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Holiday Season - A Reminder of What It's All About

It's funny how kids have a way of bringing us all back down to earth and really knocking a little sense into us from time-to-time. 

Sometimes we get so busy going through the daily grind that we overlook the parts of life that should matter most.  We can get so focused on housework and bills and getting dinner on the table and work and errands and well, life in general.  (Yes, I realize that was a major run-on sentence!)

This time of year as we enter into the holiday season, all of the mayhem and craziness often compounds ten-fold.  There's the holiday shopping, the decorating, the family gatherings, the gift-wrapping, the classroom treats to make, the homemade cookie-making, the time spent on treats or crafts for gift-giving, the traveling, the visits to Santa and so much more!  (So much more, in fact, that it can make our heads spin!)

My dear, precious children have endured years of my craziness during birthday and holiday seasons in our household.  I am fanatical about everything being just-right.  I make lists way in advance and act like an insane person when planning and preparing for a specific event or occasion. 

I am often a lunatic in the days and hours prior to a party.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Slow Cooker Beef Stew - Prepped the Night Before

Ya wanna know what I adore about this recipe?  Well, of course, the first thing is that it is absolutely delicious!  But, there's a second (and maybe equally as awesome) aspect that I love.  The stew is all made in advance the night before you plan to cook it!  I know ... super fabulous, right?

It is prepped at night, thrown in the fridge and all you have to do is turn on the slow cooker in the morning.  I love that!  It means I don't have to be standing over the stove browning and searing the meat when I've barely had my first cup of coffee in the morning!  It means I don't have to wash and cut potatoes in my jammies before the sun is barely up.  It, also, means that I wake up to having no dishes to face bright and early and no work to really be done for this recipe!  Wohoo!

I went to bed with the kitchen all cleaned up and woke up being able to enjoy a care-free morning ... all while knowing dinner was taken care of.  I mean, how hard is it to set the insert into the slow cooker, dump in the already-prepped potatoes (more on that later), set the slow cooker for eight hours and walk away?

(Okay, so maybe I've had some mornings when those few, basic tasks would have seemed impossible, but that was probably back in my early-twenties ... and we won't go there.  I will tell ya that I probably wasn't prepping beef stew the night before either!)

The fact that it is pretty darn cold here in Michigan this week completely justifies some type of stew or soup simmerin' away in the slow cooker all day!  Another bonus - my son's fifth grade music program was the night we had this stew, so having dinner all ready to go meant less chaos in my house on a busy evening!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Oatmeal Cake with Gooey Coconut Topping

Since I had spent Sunday cleaning much of the day, Monday was kind of my day to relax (while the kids were at school anyways).

The house was in order, laundry was all done up, our summer yard items had been packed away in the shed and the van had been cleaned and swept over the weekend. 

So, yesterday I just wanted to curl up with my coffee, catch up on some of my shows that I had recorded, eat some leftover Slow Cooker Cheesy Potatoes with Smoked Sausage and do some baking. 

Yes, I do love days like that!  No where to go and nothing pressing to attend to.  It doesn't happen often, so I relish it when it does!

I decided on this recipe for the baking aspect of my day.  My grandmother made it often.  It was always one of my favorites!

This cake is over-the-top scrumptious!  It has an incredibly moist batter and the gooey, sugary coconut topping is well, truly the "icing on the cake!"  Once cooled, the topping becomes caramel-like and sticky ... and really seeps into the cake!  Oh, so divine!

I love oatmeal and coconut together in dessert recipes!  This one is no exception! 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Slow Cooker Cheesy Potatoes with Smoked Sausage

I've mentioned before how much I love Sundays.  I especially love that my husband and kids often join me in the kitchen to cook on Sundays.  Yesterday it was Mr. Joyously Domestic who helped while the kids worked on make-up homework from being sick this past week.

He peeled all of the potatoes (one of the few tasks in the kitchen that I despise) and even did all of the breakfast dishes before we got started on this recipe!

I love, love, love cheesy potatoes!  We make it a more-complete meal by adding in smoked sausage.  Served with some beautiful green beans on the side, this was dinner yesterday!  And, boy, was it ever comforting and delicious!

But, if I am being completely honest here ... these are amazing the next day!  I have always preferred scalloped or cheesy potatoes leftover!  Yes, they are yummy when first made, but the way the flavors just get better the next day really knocks my socks off!  This is the reason the recipe makes a little more than we actually need for dinner ... I MUST ENSURE THAT THERE ARE LEFTOVERS!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Pepperoni Pizza Puffs - My Kids in the Kitchen

I enlisted my thirteen-year old daughter, Allanah, my eight-year old niece, Jacqueline, and my five-year old daughter, Ayvah, to make dinner tonight. I had tested this recipe last week, but presented them the challenge of making it from start to finish on their own this time around.
Things went well.  They didn't burn the kitchen down and, in fact, these came out perfectly. My only role was to take the photos as they went along. They all agreed that this is an easy recipe to follow. The recipe calls for super simple ingredients and has very easy prep. 

And, the bite-size puffs are super delicious. They are great for kids, obviously. But, these would, also, be perfect for parties, card night or watching the big game on t.v. They do go fast, however, so you may desire to double the recipe.

The only part the kiddos didn't like was when I told them that they had to do the dishes afterwards. 

Their response? 

"We cooked, so why should we have to do the dishes, too?"

Touché, my dears!

Thursday, November 08, 2012

No-Bake Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip Cornflake Bars

Peanut butter and chocolate.
A match made in heaven.  (Actually, today it was a match made in my mixing bowl!)

Thanks to Carolyn over at Care's Kitchen, I was inspired to make these simple bars after seeing the photos of them on her blog.

As I was reading through the recipe, I was super happy to see just how incredibly easy these are to throw together!  Literally, I don't think I was in the kitchen for more than ten minutes!


1 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup sugar
2 cups creamy peanut butter
5 cups corn flakes
1 cup chocolate chips

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Chicken and Biscuit Bake

I have always had a thing for chicken and dumplings.  It's just one of those warm, comforting dishes that satisfies like no other.  And, I adore pot pie!  This recipe is a collision of the two. This Chicken and Biscuit Bake is, basically, a cross between chicken and dumplings and a pot pie.  In any case, it's fabulously good and comes together in a convenient casserole!

It might not be the prettiest dish to photograph, but this has become a favorite with my own family and something that I love to serve throughout the cooler months of the year when comfort food is what everyone is craving.

Serves 4 - 6.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Savory Meatballs in Homemade Cream of Mushroom Soup Sauce

If you're craving tender, savory meatballs simmered in a from-scratch, creamy mushroom gravy, you've come to the right place. My simple recipe shows you how to create a cream of mushroom soup style of sauce that is completely homemade (no canned soup here), yet is easy and uncomplicated. I've, also, included the recipe for my favorite meatballs. Paired together, you've got a dinner dish that I'm sure you'll want to make again and again ... and one that will make your family want to lick their plates clean.

This is really a two-for-one recipe post.  First, you'll find the meatball recipe with the cream of mushroom soup recipe to follow.  The meatballs can be made on their own and used in any recipe ... as can the soup!

I am in love with this homemade mushroom soup.  It is seriously beyond amazing and way better than the canned stuff.  It is ultra-luxurious and has a deep, rich flavor.  It can be eaten by itself just as a simple, comforting soup, but it really is a show-stopper matched up with meatballs and served over fluffy egg noodles.

You'll find instructions below, too, for making the meatballs in advance and freezing.  (Major time-saver for those busy weeknights.)

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Puff Pastry Twists with Tart Cherry Preserves

Ya know what kind of days I love?

Weekend days such as this.  Lazy, chilly, no-where-to-go days.

For me, there is nothing more lovely than spending a day at home with my family. 

We sleep in a bit.  We cook a big breakfast.  We often stay in our jammies and slippers way past noon.  We watch movies and play games.

And, sometimes nap.  (Did I mention how much I love the weekends?)

There's usually a big pot of something simmering away on the stove ... or something cooking in the slow cooker and filling the house with insane smells of deliciousness.

Oh, and it's often a day that we spend time in the kitchen together (which I adore).

My girls and I were inspired to do something with the puff pastry we had in the freezer.  (They especially love helping me with recipes that they know will end up on my blog ... makes them feel a part of what I do!)

Puff pastry is super simple to work with.  Don't be afraid of it.  And, although we made these today just to munch on here at home for ourselves, these would really wow at a party! 

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Gratitude Turkey - A Lesson in Thankfulness (Craft Project)

One of the phrases I use often with my children is "have an attitude of gratitude."  I want my children to understand the concept and importance of thankfulness.  We are blessed on so many levels in our household.  Sometimes it's hard for kids to keep that in mind when mom or dad may say "no" to the newest Lego set or an expensive pair of jeans.

This project is a perfect way to allow them to pause for a few moments each day to really think about all that we have to be thankful for.  The month of November seemed like a wonderful time to really incorporate a project like this into the lesson of what Thanksgiving is all about!

The idea is to draw and cut out the body of a turkey on a large piece of paper.  Glue or tape it to a poster board or larger piece of paper and then, cut out a bunch of feathers from card stock or construction paper.  Each day during the month leading up to Thanksgiving, have your child think of something they are thankful for and write it on a feather to be added to the turkey.

By the time Thanksgiving rolls around, they will have created a beautiful turkey art project.

My plan is to have my children show off their turkeys to our family during our Thanksgiving dinner and read through the things that they have written on the feathers.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Quick and Easy Mini Pizzas

I recently posted a really yummy recipe for Cheesy Buffalo Chicken Mini Pizzas.  In case you missed it, here is the main photo from the post:

My sister stopped over the night I had first made these.  She was as in love with them as I was!  The following day, I warmed the one, lone leftover mini pizza up in the oven for a few minutes (the recipe makes 8 total) and was sad when I had taken the very last bite!  They were that phenomenal!  And, guess what happened the day after that?  I was craving those little babies big time and wishing I had doubled the recipe two days prior! 

So, the ingredients went back on my grocery list so I could make them all over again this week!

But, since Mr. Joyously Domestic and two of my kids don't care for buffalo chicken, I decided to pick up some items to make their mini pizzas more traditional.

I wanted to share just how quick these are to throw together no matter what toppings or route you choose to go with this method. 

Seriously.  This is one of the quickest and simplest ways I've ever done pizzas.  And, I think probably the tastiest!

This is truly just a method here.  Use whatever sauce, toppings or cheeses you prefer or have on hand. 

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Broken Glass Jello

My five-year old was on the snack committee for the Halloween party at school this week.  To ensure that a bunch of kids didn't bring in the same or similar snacks, we were assigned a specific snack to bring.

I have to admit that I was a little disappointed when I read on our paper the words "Finger Jello."

I have never been a huge fan of eating Jello.  And, I had only attempted finger jello once years ago and it was a flop!

I reluctantly threw some boxes of purple and orange jello in the cart at the grocery store the other day (trying to keep with the Halloween theme and all) ... and figured I would just make a "two-colored Halloween layer jello thingy," then cut it into little cubes after it was set up. 

(Yes, that was what I was calling it in my mind ... sounded legit!)

But, I felt like I was copping out by not planning to put much effort into it, so I started looking online a few days before the dreaded "Finger Jello" had to be produced to my daughter's fellow goblins classmates. 

And, looky looky what I came up with! 

Aren't they boo!-tiful! (wink!)  Of course, you can adapt the colors/flavors to fit any holiday or special occasion.

I did have to run back to the store to pick up one additional color (green) and I needed some unflavored gelatin packets.  But, I am way super glad that I went this route and didn't just do regular jello cubes. 

I will mention (before you proceed full-steam ahead to make this) that you need two days (no exceptions) for this to turn out correctly.  The first day is when you'll make the individual flavors/colors of jello in little containers (I did three).  These will need to set up overnight.  The second day is when you will cut the jello into little cubes, place in a large dish and pour over the white mixture.  Then, it will need to set up another time overnight.

Also, please note that only one cup of water per jello packet is called for in this recipe ... do not use the two cups called for on the jello box!  You need the jello very firm.  And, using half of the water amount achieves this!

Now, on to the recipe.  (And, by the way ... this recipe is, also, sometimes called "Mosaic Jello.")