Monday, December 31, 2012

Crispy Potato Roast

This dish is a complete stunner. But, it is just as delicious in taste and flavor as it is in appearance. I was so intrigued when I first saw a version of this recipe on Martha Stewart's website. I am a huge potato fanatic and these just looked glorious! I altered a couple of things in her recipe, but followed her technique and concept. I used some pancetta in my version. (Bacon would work fine, too.) I like that the lower part of the potatoes roast up tender and soft while the edges and tops become beautifully crisp.
The key to this recipe is getting the potato slices as thin as you can, so prepping the potatoes does take a little time (about fifteen minutes). I recommend using a sharp, thin-bladed knife.  Also, patience is a must as this dish bakes for about two hours total. (It's totally worth it - trust me.) This is a dish that is super impressive-looking and would really wow at a dinner party!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Cake Mix Chocolate Chip Cookies

The kids were wanting to bake some chocolate chip cookies this week. I, on the other hand, was so over the whole baking "thing" due to all of the pre-Christmas goodies I had made in recent weeks. We opted to make these super simple cake mix cookies to satisfy their cookie craving.
My kids can pretty much make these on their own. The dough comes together in like, two minutes with little mess and very few dishes dirtied. {That I like, of course.} You don't even need a mixer for these.
These cookies bake up super soft and fluffy. And, while they may not necessarily be grandma's from-scratch version, this is a great recipe to throw together when you are craving chocolate chip cookies and don't want to put in a lot of effort/time. And, I like that this yields only a couple of dozen cookies ... the perfect amount for when cookies are craved, but standing by the oven baking batch-after-batch isn't really desired.

Yields 20 - 24 cookies

Saturday, December 29, 2012

2012 Recap

As the year comes to an end, I'd thought I'd take a moment to recap what's been happening here at Joyously Domestic in 2012, including a spotlight on some of my most-popular posts.  And, I thought some of you may appreciate hearing a bit of the back story surrounding Joyously Domestic and taking a little peek at some of my "flops and failures."

I started this blog in June of 2012 after creating and building a blog on a different hosting site for many months.  I wasn't pleased with some of the limitations on the other site and decided to convert everything over to Blogger in June.  I just celebrated my six-month "anniversary" here and am excited at how far the blog has come since my initial post.

Blogging came very naturally to me.  And, it has been a perfect fit.  The last of our five children started kindergarten this year, so blogging has given me something to occupy my time while providing me an avenue to pursue something I am passionate about - food and family life.

Friday, December 28, 2012

New "PRINTABLE" Feature on JD

Hi there, friends. Many people have asked about having a PRINT feature on each post. From now on, all posts (new and old) will automatically have a PRINT FRIENDLY feature within the post ... it will enable you to easily print just the recipe without all of the other "stuff" that you normally see within the posts and sidebars.  Once you click the green PRINT FRIENDLY button located toward the bottom of each post, a window will open that will allow the option of printing with or without images.  You will, also, have the option of selecting and deselecting certain portions of the post that you may or may not want printed.  Look for this button:

I hope this is a helpful tool for many of you! Thanks for your suggestions ... keep them coming as I love hearing your feedback on how to make the blog more user-friendly!

~ Angela

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Buffalo Chicken Dip

I pray that you and yours enjoyed a beautiful Christmas together.  Just a few more days until the celebrations of the New Year are underway, so I thought I'd offer up this hot and gooey Buffalo Chicken Dip recipe for consideration on your New Year's Eve snack table.  It would, also, be perfect to sit out while watching a game on t.v. or having a movie night curled up on the couch!

I took this to the Christmas Eve party at my husband's grandmother's house this year.  Everyone brings snacks to munch on while we watch on as Santa makes an appearance - much to all of the kids' delight - and the adults have a "White Elephant" gift swap.

Something awesome about this dip is that it can be prepped in advance, then baked when you're ready to serve it.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Ham Bone Potato Soup

I always love the day after Christmas. I relish watching the kids play with and enjoy all of their presents. In our house, the day is usually a quiet(er) one as we unwind (and often catch a mid-afternoon nap) after the holiday festivities have kind of died down.

I must have been a good girl this year because the packages under the tree with my name on them contained gifts that made me just as giddy and excited as my children were on Christmas morning!  My lovely gifts from my kids included "staging dishes," which I was informed were purchased with my blog in mind.  And, I received a beautiful ten-piece hard enamel cookware set and a pasta machine from my husband Santa.

Eager to put my new pots and pans to work and with a winter storm rolling in here in lower Michigan today, soup was in the works within a couple of hours of waking up today.

Like many, we feasted on a big ham dinner on Christmas afternoon at our house.  It was just the five of us, so we had more than half of the ham left over.  Some is tucked away in the freezer for later use (visions of scalloped potatoes and ham have been dancing in my head since yesterday).  And, it is a given that I always reserve the ham bone for some type of soup or beans.

I started on homemade chicken stock this morning for this soup utilizing the carcass of a whole chicken that we had a few days ago.  I always freeze the carcass for making my Homemade Chicken Stock. You can use store-bought chicken stock for this recipe, however, if desired. 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Dill Oyster Crackers

When I think back to the Christmas snacks of my childhood, this is the first thing that comes to mind.  My grandmother on my mom's side always made these Dill Oyster Crackers.  I remember her big, yellow Tupperware bowl sitting on the counter filled to the brim with these seasoned crackers during Christmastime.  She would sit out little dainty dishes of the crackers all around her house during holiday gatherings for everyone to nibble on.  They were one of my favorite Christmas snacks ... more-favored than the fudge, cookies and candies!

Many recipes call for a packet of dry Ranch dressing to be added.  Our family recipe doesn't.  (I find that the Ranch makes it way too salty and is very over-powering.)  Also, these don't have to be baked once prepared, but I find that a little time in the oven gives these crackers a deeper, crisper flavor and texture.

What is so great about this recipe is that it makes a large quantity with little expense.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Cake Batter Puppy Chow

I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas.  But with just seven days left until Santa visits and not a lot of predicted snowfall on the horizon, I may be looking at a brown and dreary Christmas.  I've been keeping my eyes on the weather forecast and while there is a chance that lower Michigan may get a dusting of snow sometime later this week, it doesn't look very promising for it to stick around.  Waking up to the sight of a winter wonderland outside on Christmas morning here in my area does seem less of a reality and more of a dream at this point.

Although it may not feel very "Christmasy" outdoors, I'm happy to report that the holiday spirit is alive and well inside our house.  It has been nice and toasty indoors thanks to our wood stove.  Christmas carols have been playing all this past week as I clean, cook, bake and blog.  Presents are stacked up under the tree.  The kids and I have goodies piling up on the table to be taken to school for friends and teachers.  A large container of just-decorated sugar cookies tempts me daily now from atop my kitchen counter.  And, Christmas cards - bringing tidings of holiday cheer from friends and family far and near - have been arriving consistently in recent days.  And, much to my children's delight, we are three days away (and counting) until their winter break from school!

I thought I'd tap into my longing for the "white stuff" by throwing together a yummy treat that utilizes a bit of a sweeter white ingredient - powdered sugar!  Most of us have heard of or tasted puppy chow (a.k.a. "muddy buddies").  Traditionally, it is made with peanut butter and milk chocolate.  This version - using dry cake mix and white chocolate - is a little amped up and perfect for the holidays!  I'll tell ya what the taste of this reminds me of ... those PF Vanilla Creme-Filled Pirouette Rolled Wafers (the ones in the metal tin).  Yum!

Monday, December 17, 2012

"Reindeer Noses" (with Photo Tutorial)

It was a gloriously fun and enjoyable weekend that really helped get me in the holiday spirit.

During the day on Saturday, we made "salt dough" ornaments.  They are still drying and my children cannot wait to be able to paint and decorate them this week! My hubby and I took the kids out shopping Saturday night so that they could buy all of their Christmas presents for each other and for us.  My kids love, love, love being able to shop for other people ... they have such a giving heart and always put a lot of effort into picking out just the right gift for those they love.  We took the opportunity on the twenty-five minute car ride home to check out Christmas lights in the towns that we drove through ... all while singing along to Christmas carols on the radio.  It was quite a beautiful evening spent as a family.

On Sunday, we spent the day at my mother's house decorating a huge amount of sugar cookies while enjoying the company of extended family.  And, once we arrived back home, I dove into this project - Reindeer Noses.

Aren't they just too cute?  I don't recall where I first saw this idea, but I knew I wanted to make a bunch of these for the kids to add to their teacher gifts this year and to have on-hand to attach to presents throughout the holiday season.

This project is pretty simple to do.  I made my labels by hand, but they could easily be made on the computer and printed out.  With already having the cardstock, ribbon, markers, colored pencils, glue gun and stapler on hand, I think I maybe spent around four dollars between the candy and the bags that were needed to do this project.

Friday, December 14, 2012

101 Fun Stocking Stuffer Ideas

Christmas is just around the corner!  Happy Holidays, dear friends.

Here are some fabulous stocking stuffer ideas to keep in mind as you do your holiday shopping.  Some apply to just kids (of all ages) and some are for the grown-ups.  A lot of these would, also, be great ideas for Secret Santa at work or for mini gifts to attach to a larger gift.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Caesar Salad with Homemade Dressing and Shaved Parmesan

We're almost halfway through the month of December.  While everyone has been making cozy casseroles and big, comforting pots of soup, I've actually been craving my favorite salad!

Seriously.  A beautiful Caesar salad has been on my mind for a good week now.  After picking up some romaine lettuce, I couldn't wait to get this recipe made. 

I've been making this dressing for years.  And, as divine as it is as a dressing drizzled atop a salad, it is equally as wonderful made a tad bit thicker and used as a dip for raw veggies.  (Wedges of purple cabbage, celery sticks and fresh radishes plunged into this as a dip ... pure magic!)

I thoroughly enjoyed this sitting by the crackling fire and the Christmas tree this afternoon while the hubby and kids were gone.  It was kind of heavenly. (As was Adam Levine on Tuesday night's episode of The Voice, which I watched today while nibbling on this salad.)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Crescent Roll Breakfast Casserole

This recipe couldn't be easier, folks.  Unroll a rube of crescent roll dough, throw on some breakfast sausage, pour on some eggs that have been whipped with milk and top with lots of cheese. Super easy peasy!  Of course, you can use ham or bacon (or leave it meatless) and you can add in peppers, onions or mushrooms.  Make it your own.  But, this is a recipe that everyone seems to love!  It's great for holiday mornings and weekends.

We had it for dinner tonight with some fresh fruit on the side and some orange juice.  It's nice when we have breakfast for dinner because the hubby is usually gone for work before the rest of us get up.  So, sharing breakfast - even at dinnertime - together is always a real treat!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Pork Carnitas

Thank you to Carole from My Kitchen Escapades for enlightening me to this recipe!  Seriously!  You deserve an award!

I usually make a green chile and lime shredded pork recipe in the slow cooker when I'm planning pork tacos.  That was my plan up until last night when I happened upon Carole's recipe and changed my game plan.  Holy moly ... I'm so glad I did!

Let it be noted that this recipe does require a couple of extra steps compared to just slow-cooking seasoned pork and then shredding it.  It requires that the pork be started on the stove top, then slow-cooked for a couple of hours in the oven, then broken up (while the cooking liquid reduces on the stove top), then combined with said reduced liquid and then broiled in the oven to finish.

But, I promise you that it is 100% worth it!  This recipe results in tender, juicy meat that is super flavorful and caramelized.  Simply put ... it is pork perfection!  Everyone in our house loved this!   It's certainly something that I will make again ... many times over! 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Overnight Steel Cut Oats - Slow Cooker

I recently posted a recipe for Overnight Slow Cooker Oatmeal, which I made twice last week.  My husband and I were totally diggin' that recipe ... that is, until I switched things up today and used steel cut oats (instead of old-fashioned oats).  Instant oats are terrible overnight in the slow cooker (way too mushy).  Old-fashioned oats worked pretty good (not quite total mush, but not super hearty and well-textured either).  But, steel cut oats ... oh my goodness!  I am in love!

If you have never heard of steel cut oats or have never looked for them in the store, let me give ya a little info on them and what to look for.

They are a tad pricier than your everyday, run-of-the-mill oats, but not by much.  I paid $3.59 for my 24 oz. package at Kroger in the health food/organic section.  I purchased Bob's Red Mill brand.  Another well-known brand that is usually easily available is McCann's (my Wal-Mart has it in the actual oatmeal section), but it is a little more expensive compared to Bob's.  I've, also, seen steel cut oats in bulk at places like Whole Foods and health food stores.

The difference between rolled and steel cut oats is that while both contain whole grain oats, they are processed differently. Rolled oats are steamed, rolled, steamed again and toasted.  They end up as thin flakes. Steel cut oats are made from oat kernels that have been chopped into thick pieces.

Using steel cut oats produces a chewier, heartier texture that is somewhat nutty.  And, they hold up wonderfully to the long process of overnight slow cooker cooking.

The recipe I used is very similar to the one I posted recently using old-fashioned oats.  I use a loaf pan placed into my slow cooker insert and create a water bath.  This prevents dried-on oats and is much easier clean-up wise.

I adore that I spend just 10 minutes at night throwing this together ... and we wake up to a ready-made breakfast and a house that smells divine!  What could be better?

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Make-Ahead Freezer Smoothie Packets

Of course, I have to have my morning coffee ... especially in the colder months.  But, I do love smoothies and know that they are super healthy (if made with the right ingredients) and a great way to start the day.

Here's a convenient and clever way to ensure you've always got everything prepped and ready to go for a quick smoothie to have with breakfast, in place of breakfast, for a kid's after-school snack or just as an afternoon pick-me-up for yourself!  Older kids can even whip up their smoothies on their own with these on hand!  You freeze your yogurt and fruit for smoothies in single serving baggies and keep them in the freezer until you're ready to blend together your drink!

Each baggie (or "packet") makes one large smoothie or two smaller portions.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Beef and Noodles {Using Homemade Egg Noodles}

I think I'm weird.  Why is it that so often I am much more productive when I've gotten barely any sleep?  Maybe I'm running on adrenaline.  Seriously.  Most folks can barely function with just a few hours of sleep.  I, on the other hand, am slow-moving, groggy and fatigued-feeling when I've gotten a long night's sleep.  However, it never fails that when I've only slept for three or four hours, I'm running around the house in the morning like a crazy person ... all hyped up and full of energy.   

It happened today.  I was up until almost three in the morning working on the blog and cleaning around the house.  I swore I'd go back to bed once the kids got on the bus for school at seven this morning.  Nope.  Instead, I stayed up doing laundry, making homemade egg noodles, watching t.v. and editing blog photos. I'm sure I'll pay for it later.  Sigh.

But, this recipe is certainly worth spending a little time on. It's nothing overly complicated, but the result is a total COMFORT FOOD dinner that your family will greatly appreciate. You'll, basically, be braising beef until ultra tender on the stove top in a rich broth, making my two-ingredient egg noodles while the meat cooks and then bringing the two components together to simmer to perfection.

NOTE: You'll need to go HERE for my post on making your own egg noodles from scratch. 

Serves 4 - 6.

Slow Cooker Overnight Oatmeal (Water Bath Technique)

I've made oatmeal overnight in the slow cooker before.  And, although it was good, clean-up was a bit of a bear because the oatmeal cemented onto the sides of the slow cooker (even though I had thoroughly greased the inside walls).  We could eat from the middle of the oatmeal, but I had to soak the dang slow cooker for hours, then, literally "chisel" away at the parts that were terribly dried on.

But, I loved waking up to the smell of the oats, apples and cinnamon ... and to having breakfast ready to go!  So, I came up with the concept of using a pan inside of the slow cooker and creating a water bath to help with the crusty, almost-burnt edges. 

It worked like a charm!  I was sooooo thrilled!

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Lasagna Soup

We all know that making a huge pan of lasagna can be a time-consuming and labor-intensive task.  But, lasagna is one of those comforting dishes that most everyone adores. This particular recipe is a fun and simple twist on traditional lasagna. It's made right on the stove and there's only about fifteen minutes of actual hands-on prep time. You'll find all of the flavors and components of lasagna present here, but in soup form.

I chose not to add in any kind of ground beef or Italian sausage simply because my kids are not wild about those two ingredients. I would recommend about a half of a pound of either for this amount of soup if you'd like to include it. (It should be browned in the pot prior to the addition of the onion, garlic and green pepper.) Alternatively, you could swap in vegetable stock in place of the chicken stock should you desire to keep this completely vegetarian.

Regarding the pasta for this recipe, you can buy Campenelle pasta, which looks like mini lasagna noodles.  But, regular lasagna noodles work just fine. Just break them into pieces. I used about 8 - 9 large lasagna noodles. Any smaller-sized pasta would work, however. (I have even made this with egg noodles.)

Yields 4 - 5 servings.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Scones with Orange Drizzle Glaze

Scones are one of those things that can be thrown together pretty quickly and easily.  So, I often make my Blueberry Scones with Lemon Drizzle Glaze for us for breakfast or to have to snack on during the weekends.  The problem is that my teenage daughter, Allanah, hates blueberries, so I set out to make a scone with ingredients that she would like.  The result?  Make 'em with chocolate!

Pair that with some oats for texture and some orange zest and juice for a refreshing, subtle citrus kiss ... and I think we've got ourselves a winner!

Making scones is pretty much like making biscuits.  The less you "work" the dough, the better!  When you first pour out the dough onto your floured surface, it may look like it will never come together.  I promise it will!  And, you want to leave lots of chunks of cold butter in the dough to create the flaky pockets like we all adore in the best biscuits, too!  I place my scones in the freezer for about 5 minutes prior to baking ... just to ensure that the butter flecks/chunks are very cold before baking.

This one is for you, Allanah!

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.")

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Laura Bush's Texas Governor's Mansion Cowboy Cookies

As I am beginning to write this post, the last batch of these cookies is finishing off in the oven. I just could not wait to share this amazing cookie recipe with you. Basically, these are an amped up version of oatmeal cookies. Chewy and hearty, they are loaded with oats, coconut, pecans and chocolate chips. So, so good.
I had found a link on Pinterest a while back for these and repinned it so that I wouldn't forget to try out this yummy-looking cookie recipe for myself.

I did some searching through different websites that have posted this recipe throughout the years (including The New York Times and Family Circle magazine) and it appears that most of the postings have been pretty much the same in terms of ingredients, quantities and directions.

In 2000, this recipe by Laura Bush beat out Tipper Gore's gingersnap cookie recipe in a magazine contest. The two potential first wives each submitted a cookie recipe in the months leading up to the election and readers voted for their favorite. This recipe certainly has my vote and will (undoubtedly) become a favorite in my household.

Yields approximately 4 1/2 dozen cookies.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Cheesy Buffalo Chicken Mini Pizzas

I am a huge fan of the flavors of buffalo chicken.  I love the sauce, the bleu cheese dip, the celery ... all of it!

This mini pizza recipe satisfies my craving for buffalo chicken and pizza all in one!  Could there be anything better?

This seriously has to be one of the best recipes I've made in a while!

(If you are not a fan of buffalo chicken, check out my "note" below for a BBQ-style option.)

The recipe utilizes Rhodes™ frozen bread dough or their frozen dinner rolls.  It will yield 8 mini pizzas.  If you use frozen bread dough, you will cut the bread into 8 equal pieces once thawed.  (I find it easy to use kitchen scissors to do this!)  If you use frozen dinner rolls, you will need 8 rolls (thawed).  I pull my dough out of the freezer the night before, place it in a zip-top gallon bag and allow it to thaw out in the fridge.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Pumpkin Chocolate Chunk Muffins

My dear sister is having surgery tomorrow.  I know that she can't eat after midnight this evening.  So, I feel guilty making these to take along for our mother and I to eat during the long (and extremely early) drive to the hospital ... all the while, she can't even have a crumb!  But, I wanted something that would hold my mom and I over until later in the day when we can make it to the hospital cafeteria for lunch.

Also, I had wanted to make something to leave behind for the kids when they come home after school tomorrow while I am with my sister.  I knew these would be perfect.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Turkey Tenderloins with Apple and Dried Cherry Stuffing

I know, I know ... Thanksgiving is just over a month away.  A full Thanksgiving feast will soon be before me in late-November and I'll be able to enjoy all of the tastes of said fabulous holiday soon enough!

If only I had patience.

'Tis not a virtue of mine.

I recently picked up the latest issues of EveryDay with Rachael Ray and Food Network magazines (my monthly indulgences) and I have been swooning over all of the Thanksgiving recipes. 

And, frankly, I didn't want to wait another month to have turkey and stuffing.  So, I went out and bought what I needed to throw together a quick(er) version of what will be on my Thanksgiving table next month!  And, we enjoyed it tonight ... here in October.  It was just what I was craving.  And, it reminded me that there need be no rules to cooking.  Why do we often think we have to wait until Thanksgiving to prepare turkey?  Who made that rule?  Well, rules are often made to be broken.  What a culinary rebel I am!  Ha!

And, just a little side note ... I'm thinking this would be perfect for someone only cooking for a few people at Thanksgiving, too.  Maybe a husband and wife.  All of the expected (and cherished) tastes and flavor components of Thanksgiving dinner without the hassle of a big bird!  Also, the turkey here is super inexpensive ... around four or five dollars for a three-pack of tenderloins.  This fed my family of five with enough leftover for two people the next day.