Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Chicken Cornbread Casserole

I've so been enjoying this week guys, I've got to tell you.  I worked my rear end off filling box after box (after box after box after box...) with popcorn orders over the past couple of weeks leading up to Christmas.
Have I mentioned just how grateful I am for each and every one of your orders, by the way?
You guys are absolutely too kind.

 Anyway, I've been one busy girl.
I stay fairly occupied with popcorn orders most of the year, but these weeks leading up to Christmas always go a little nuts with orders for gifts and parties.  A few days ago I reached that point where there was very little chance that all but the most super-expensive-expedited shipping options would arrive before Christmas and I put the shop on vacation.  I hauled the last of the boxes off to ship and my daughter actually cheered.

I'm 100% my kids' for the rest of their Christmas break and it feels absolutely fabulous!
This never happens guys.  I'm so excited.

We've made spritz cookies and toffee.  We've hung festive paper chains.  We've wrapped presents.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Super Easy Sugar Coated Pecans


I did not expect these to be this good!

I am blessed to have a fairly steady source of pecans and I generally have some hanging out in the freezer.  Thank goodness, because I LOVE them.
I sub them for walnuts whenever possible.  I add them to salads.  I make cookies.

And now I've made these: Sugar Coated Pecans.
I'm not sure I can think of a better holiday treat or small gift.
They're addictive!

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Spectacularly Simple Red Beans and Rice

Every once in a while you come across one of those spectacularly easy recipes that everyone loves.
This is one of those recipes, guys.  You're going to want to print it out or write it down or bookmark it or pin it or whatever you do when you find one of those keeper recipes.
I really don't think this is a traditional red beans and rice recipe since it doesn't have andouille in it- but I'd be lying if I said I was some kind of expert on red beans and rice!  My experience in Louisiana is pretty much limited to a couple of drives through the state on road trips and New Orleans.
I'm not exactly a connoisseur of cajun food.  I am however a bit of a lover of good food, and I can say with every degree of certainty that this is indeed very good food.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Taking On Tamales

My sister-in-law and I have been talking about making tamales for for-ev-er

It's been a thing.  We keep saying that when we get together we're going to make them because we've both always wanted to try our hand at them.  And we both like to eat.  And we both like to have fun in the kitchen.

And we were both slightly intimidated by the idea of making them on our own.

And since she's a teacher if she's reading this she might be thinking to herself that I started a bunch of sentences with conjunctions right there.


So we had family coming in for Thanksgiving again this year and we decided that the day after Turkey Day would be the perfect time to finally follow through and do this thing.

I found all kinds of interesting tamale varieties to try but my brilliant in-laws pointed out to me we were going to have boatloads of extra turkey on hand that we might as well use.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Another Try At Fudge: My Eggnog Obsession Continues

Every year I get excited when I see the eggnog hit the dairy section of the grocery store.

We've already been over the fact that I haven't quite worked up the courage to drink it on it's own (though it makes an excellent coffee creamer!) but I sure love to cook with it.  That flavor is just amazing!

So far this year I've made Eggnog Custard, eggnog pancakes, and this- eggnog fudge.  It's not even December yet- there's so much more eggnog fun in my future this season!

Now I know that just the other day I was telling you that, generally speaking, I'm not a fan of fudge.
That still remains true.

This time though, my general dislike of fudge was trumped by my love of eggnog flavor and also slightly tempered dislike of the beloved holiday treat on the heels of how wonderfully that White Cranberry Pecan Nutmeg Fudge came out.

So of course I decided to give this Eggnog Fudge a chance.  :-)

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Thanksgiving Leftover Stuffing Bites

If you served me a plate full of stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, and gravy for Thanksgiving- and nothing else- I would be a happy girl.

Ok, maybe throw in some deviled eggs- we know how much I love those guys- but seriously...that's all I really need.

Sure, turkey is fine, mac and cheese is delicious, rolls are tasty...but those things are just the frosting on the cake of Thanksgiving as far as I'm concerned.

If you're a crazy carb lover like me you're going to love this recipe!

What if I told you that I had a recipe that used all of those things.
Minus the deviled eggs, of course.  That would just be weird.  :-)

So flash forward a week and a few days from today: you've had your fill of Thanksgiving foods but the fridge is still full.  You have leftovers to use up but you can only face so many Thanksgiving leftover sandwiches.  You really need to shake things up a little.

This is where Stuffing Bites come in!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Calling All Custard (and Eggnog) Lovers

You know how memories from when you were little tend to get a little jumbled in your mind?
They're disjointed.
Snapshots of my childhood, little flashes of emotion.

In my mind, custard lives right alongside learning how to fold towels.

I have a memory of an evening at the house we lived in before my sister was born.

 It was just my mom and I home.  My dad was most likely at work, I'm not really sure.  I remember that the television was on.  I think there may have been a Christmas tree, that I'm not completely sure of.  It feels cozy in my memory.

I remember standing behind the couch next to my mom as she laid towels over the back of the couch and taught me how to fold them.

Then I remember custard.  A small ramekin of goodness sprinkled with nutmeg.

In reality those memories might have nothing to do with each other, I must have been very, very young at the time.

Yet forevermore, custard and towel folding will always been linked in my mind.

One thing I do know for sure?
I have loved custard since my first bite.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Festive White Cranberry Pecan Nutmeg Fudge

This might be some sort of holiday season sacrilege, but I have to admit that- generally speaking- I'm just not much of a fudge fan.

 Its sooooo sweet.  Cloying.  Ugh.  Not to mention that whether I make it or it comes on a cookie plate it often has a funky graininess to it.  Whether it's the recipe or the cook it's not something I enjoy.

Lets just say that- unlike most Christmas treats- it's easy for me to pass on fudge.

Then I saw this recipe.
First of all, it was "faceless"- Allrecipes-speak for a recipe that no one has photographed yet.

If you're reading this right now there's a fairly strong chance that you found your way here via Pinterest, right?

Would you have clicked on over here without a pretty picture?
Of course not!

It's always fun to "face" a recipe- kind of gives a recipe a leg-up out there when it comes to other people giving it a chance.  :-)

Anyway, so this recipe was in need of a "face."  Also, it was simply loaded with flavors that I adore- cranberries, pecans, nutmeg.  Not to mention that I already had almost everything I needed in my pantry.

Friday, October 21, 2016

BelGioioso Has Won Me Over!

About a month ago I hopped on a plane and flew to Meredith Publishing's headquarters in Des Moines.

 It wasn't my first trip- I'd been there in December as well for an Allrecipes Magazine photoshoot.
These guys are just too good to me, I'm so very grateful for the opportunities I receive!

This trip was a little different than the first though- this was for an Allstars get together.
You know, when I try to explain to people exactly what I do with Allrecipes, and how I found myself affiliated with them, it's a little difficult.

I cook.  A lot.
I use Allrecipes, a lot.
They made me one of their Allstars.
I don't get paid...but I certainly have received my fair share of perks!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Roasted Beets 'n' Sweets Are Fall On A Fork

I have always always always hated sweet potatoes.

No sweet potatoes covered in marshmallows at Thanksgiving.
No sweet potato fries.
No sweet potato pies.

Just no sweet potatoes in general.

 Well...times they are a changing...my tastes seem to have matured a bit over the past year or so.

I think it was my discovery of the amazing adobo arequipeño at what was (until it closed- sob!) my favorite restaurant that got me to give sweet potatoes another chance.  It was a rich pork stew served on top of a sweet potato mash.  AMAZING.  I am so so so sad that place closed!

Anyway, my eyes were opened.
I've been trying out different sweet potato dishes (sweet potato and black bean burritos anyone?) a lot lately.  I think I've come to the conclusion that I just don't like sweet sweet potatoes.
I'm definitely down with the savory.

Did you know that mashed sweet potatoes are amazing with cheddar in a grilled cheese sandwich?
Dude.  Delicious.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Butternut Squash Soup: Another Score For The Soup File

I don't recall eating much squash growing up.

Correction: I don't think I ate squash growing up.

I remember one time my mom made a spaghetti squash that she bought from our local pumpkin farm.  She said that my dad loved spaghetti squash and so we were all going to give it a try.  I could be wrong...it may have been buttered and seasoned?  But to the best of my recollection it was just a pile of those funny yellow "noodles" on my plate.

Pretty sure I didn't finish my serving.

These days my tune has changed quite a bit and I really enjoy branching out and trying new ways to prepare squash.  It's all new to me actually.  :-)

Do you remember that Spaghetti Squash Pad Thai I made a couple of years ago?
So delicious!  Also super popular over on Allrecipes ever since it was published- 52 reviews and counting!  :-)

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Eggs Benedict Casserole Makes Breakfast Easy

When we have company stay with us I almost always try to make an overnight casserole for breakfast.  It's so much easier to throw something together before going to bed and then pop it in the oven in the morning than it is to prep and cook a decent breakfast first thing in the morning with a house full of guests.

Of course, sometimes I convince my husband to make his famous biscuits and gravy and I'm off the hook when it comes to breakfast, but more often than not I make a strata of some sort the night before.  Most of those "overnight casserole" type recipes tend to be stratas- basically dry bread of some type covered in an egg and cheese mixture with other items added.  They can be sweet- like the Overnight Blueberry French Toast I had on my latest Allrecipes trip- or they can be savory, like the super easy Christmas Breakfast Sausage Casserole I keep meaning to write about.  
Regardless of which direction you take them, they all tend to be fairly tasty and extremely easy to put together.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Hearty Spinach and Pasta Salad

It's hard to believe there was ever a time in my life when I didn't like spinach- it corresponded roughly with the years I didn't like brussels sprouts.

I must have been out of my mind (or your typical kid, though my daughter loves both!), because both are delicious.

These days spinach is one of my favorite greens to use in a salad- and for good reason.  It's light enough to work as a lovely salad green and hearty enough to stand up to heavier additions- like pasta for example.

Now, I love regular pasta salad.  In fact, it's one of the few ways I really eat pasta.
I can put away some pasta salad!

Which is why I rarely have it in the house unless there is company over to help finish it off, because I seriously can't be trusted with leftover pasta salad in the fridge.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Detroit Hot Honey Wings and Gameday

You've probably noticed by now that I have a slight obsession with game day foods, but chicken wings in particular.  They're fun, they're filling, and they're so easy to dress up with different sauces!
Who doesn't like wings?

Personally I actually like the flat part of the wing better- which is perfect because my husband prefers the drumette, so there's nothing to bicker over.

I've written about a few varieties before- my "Who Needs Buffalo?" sauce (made with Valentina rather than Frank's), White Alabama BBQ Sauce wings (made with mayo and vinegar), Sweet Heat sauce (with Sriracha), even Low Carb Boneless Buffalo Wings with a more standard sauce.

I'm always tempted to try more "out there" varieties- and I'm sure I'll get around to it someday- but my family's tastes are slightly less adventurous than my own.  It's always kind of a toss up whether something weird will go over well with them or not and I'd hate to get stuck eating an entire batch of wings by myself!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Best Beef Enchiladas

Honestly, I haven't tried a lot of enchilada recipes.

I grew up eating my mom's cheese enchiladas and they have always been one of my favorite dishes.
Why mess with a good thing, right?

Well, we had company coming over for dinner a few weeks ago and I found myself looking for a recipe that would help me use up some of the ground beef in the freezer.  I did an ingredient search and came across a recipe for beef enchiladas.

I had most of the ingredients already and everything I needed for a couple of Mexican side dishes, so I went for it.

The first thing I loved about these enchiladas was that there is ZERO mess.  I'm used to making enchiladas where the tortillas are dipped in warm sauce before rolling.  I scald my fingers and make a big splattery mess every. single. time.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Puffy Cheeseburgers, Tasty Game Day Food

It's no secret that game day foods are one of my favorite things in the world to make.

They're always just so much fun!
Truth be told, fun foods and the chance to cook were definitely a catalyst for me when it came to actually enjoying- and even looking forward to- watching football.

 When I shared with you the BBQ Beef Cups last month I promised that it was just the beginning of a long football season full of fun foods and I'm back with another great game day recipe!

I was recently given the opportunity to work with Pepperidge Farms Puff Pastry Sheets® to create a dish that you guys would love and I knew immediately what I needed to make...

Cheeseburger Rolls.
Or as my daughter has decided they should be called- Puffy Cheeseburgers.

Cool Days and White Chicken Chili

Can I just tell you how excited I am to feel the weather cooling down as we move into fall?

I'm ready for sweater weather, for sure.

Gray days, a chill in the air...it's time for soup.

I've definitely been taking advantage of my crockpot a lot already this month and my soup file is well on it's way to being stocked for the season.  I got my Pumpkin Turkey Soup fix early this year!

I've made a lot of chilis over the years but one version that I had never tried- much less made- is white chicken chili.  It's one of those things I've heard of and keep meaning to make a batch of and just never got around to- until now.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

English Muffins, Mastered

There are two types of bread I've tried to make over the years that have failed miserably: pita bread and English muffins.

It doesn't help my pride that every time I read a recipe for either one of those it's being touted as the absolute easiest kind of fail-proof bread to make.

Sadly, that hadn't held true for me.

Well, a month or so ago I started noticing regular (read: daily) charges from McDonald's.  Obviously my husband had developed a new habit on his way to work!

Turns out two Sausage McMuffins and a Diet Coke had become his latest go-to breakfast.

Setting aside the obvious issue of how unhealthy it is to eat a breakfast like that every single day, I immediately decided that if he was going to eat sausage breakfast sandwiches every morning I would at the very least save some money and make them at home for him to take with him.

I'm frugal.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Grandma Simpson's Apple Dumplings

Large chunks of most of my childhood summers were spent visiting my mom's side of the family throughout Wisconsin.  My Grandma Simpson lived in Wausau, which is where we spent the bulk of our time, however we also drove all over the state visiting assorted family members.  I have memories of stops at a restaurant with goats on the roof, a restaurant with a giant Paul Bunyan statue in the parking lot, dipping my toes in the great lakes, exploring the resort where my parents met, and a general sense of amazement- as the California child that I was- by basements, summer rainstorms, and green trees.

 Also, I remember the Killer Apples.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Transform Your Morning With Fruity Fun

I remember the very first time I ever tried Fruity PEBBLES™.  I was around 5 years old and my mom decided to make marshmallow cereal bars with them.  This was totally out of the ordinary, since I was definitely raised in a house full of boring breakfast cereal.  I was hooked immediately.  Those little colorful morsels were pure magic.

 Now that I have kids of my own  I'm always looking for new ways to make food fun- and what are Fruity PEBBLES™ if not fun?  They're a super easy way to inspire a little playfulness at the start of the day.

Mornings are crazy now that school is back in session and I just don't have time to make a big crazy breakfast most days.  Thankfully I have the perfect easy breakfast for kids right here- and honestly, they can even make it themselves, which frees me up for lunch making, homework signing, and missing shoe finding.

It's so easy- are you ready for this?

Friday, August 26, 2016

Asian Peanut Chicken Fried Rice

I have this set of Asian dishes I've been holding on to for 16 years now.

They're totally impractical- the plates are small, and how often does the average person use Asian soup spoons and cute little dipping sauce bowls?

My guess is almost never.
Yet for 16 years every time I have moved I've dutifully bubble wrapped those babies and found an out of the way kitchen cabinet in which to tuck them for those rare occasions on which they're a practical choice.  They have followed me everywhere.

I always get a little excited when the opportunity to use them presents itself- both because they're fun to use and because I love using them in food photography.  Look back at almost any Asian dish I've written about over the past four years and more often than not you'll see those white dishes with the blue design on them somewhere underneath the food.

They're just fun, you know?

I made this Asian Peanut Chicken Fried Rice the other day, and of course I pulled out my favorite dishes!

Ok, so I have a bit of a story to tell you about this dish.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Southwestern Corn and Crab Fritters with Sriracha Lemon Aioli

Remember how I said I hate to fry things?

So true.

Yet after making the Asian Orange Chicken the other day I still had fresh oil hanging out in my skillet that I didn't want to waste and honestly I'm just not the kind of person that likes to keep up with keeping old oil around for frying.  I don't fry nearly enough for something like that.

So I had this oil on my stove.  I also had a recipe that had been screaming for me to try it from the  Cans Get You Cooking collection on Allrecipes, the same place I found that tasty Beet and White Bean Salad recipe I made earlier this month.

So of course you know what I did- heated that oil up to 265° and got cooking!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

BBQ Beef Cups and Football Season

Drumroll please...today I bring to you THE FIRST FUN RECIPE OF FOOTBALL SEASON!

Woohoo!  Game day food!

Good night, what has happened to me over the past few years?  When I did I actually start to care about and look forward to football rather than simply suffering through it next to my husband?

I don't know exactly how all of this transpired...but it has.
And here I sit- actually eagerly anticipating the Seahawks/Cowboys preseason game this week.

What.  Is.  Wrong with me.

Do you know what I do know?

Football food is fun and you and I?  We have several months more of fun game day foods to go.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Asian Orange Chicken and Organized Freezers

So back when I was settling into the whole stay-at-home-mom gig and I was keeping myself super busy playing Super Homemaker I was really good about keeping a soup file.

I'm pretty sure I've mentioned it a time or two on the blog.  Just about any time I cooked something that lent itself to freezing I would triple or quadruple the batch and freeze the extra.  After cooling I would divide the extra between freezer bags, freeze them flat, and then store them vertically- it's absolutely amazing how much food you can fit into a freezer when you handle your freezer space that way.  It makes both menu planning and last minute good meals amazingly easy when you're a quick defrost away from dinner.  I'd been handling leftovers like this for quite awhile when I read a magazine article with Jamie Lee Curtis coining the phrase "soup file" and I thought it was pretty great so I stole it for myself.  :-)

Monday, August 22, 2016

The Best Hamburger Buns I've Ever Eaten

I've never EVER been as impressed with a roll recipe as I am with this one.  I've made a lot of bread recipes over the years, so it really takes something special to get that kind of a response out of me.
Honestly, I don't make hamburger buns very often, unless I really don't feel like going to the store and I'm running short on time, in which case I have my go-to 40 Minute Hamburger Buns.  It's far more likely that I'll just grab a cheap bag of buns from the grocery store.

I'm not sure what it was about this recipe that caught my eye, maybe I was just in the mood to try out a new bread recipe- it's been awhile since I worked with yeast other than my favorite white bread recipe.  Whatever the reason, I set to work on these yesterday afternoon so I'd have them ready for dinner last night.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Simple and Delicious Barley Corn Salad

I'm honestly not really sure whether this Barley Corn Salad recipe is brought to you by my unceasing love of grain salads or my magical pantry which I swear to you continues to refill itself with odd grains just as quickly as I can use them.  Whichever it might be, I'm quite pleased that I get to share it with you!
So first of all, much like the Barley Lime Fiesta Salad I shared with you last summer, I didn't use any barley whatsoever in this.  Sorry for the misnomer.   While I didn't have any barley on hand I did have sorghum.   Sorghum just happens to be a delicious substitute for barley, so I was in luck.  :-)

Sorghum is a whole grain that tastes mild and a little earthy.  While they taste nothing alike, it looks a lot like Israeli couscous.  It's delicious in soups and salads and it's right up my "I like to cook weird stuff" alley.  Apparently you can even pop it like popcorn (!), though I've yet to give that one a try.  It's one of those things that I don't often think to cook with, but I should cook with often because it's filling yet light and delicious.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Not Quite Peruvian Pickled Veggies

I stumbled across the most amazing restaurant about a year ago.  It's Peruvian- and lets be honest, I know absolutely nothing about Peruvian food, so I have no idea how authentic it is. What I do know is that the food this place serves is seriously up there with the best food I've ever eaten in my life.  
I've tried several of the appetizers there- causa limeña, yuca, plantains, etc.  I've had a delicious soup with quinoa.  I've tried my husband's chicken with passion fruit.  However I have only ordered one entree myself.  I'm sure the entire menu is delicious and I'm missing out on loads of good food but I just can't help myself, I have to order it every time we go- that adobo arequipeño is just too good to miss out on.  I can't imagine how anything could possibly be better than that dish!  Ohmygoodness it's tasty.  Pork stew over white rice and sweet potatoes...it's perfection.  Sitting there on the plate next to all of this goodness is a little pile of pickled red onions called Salsa Criolla.

When I saw a recipe for salsa criolla I knew I had to try it.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Basic BBQ Spice Rub

When my husband and I first started dating life was a little hectic.  I was working long hours and to be honest cooking a full meal for myself was not something I had a lot of time or energy to do.

Thankfully, one of the first things I learned about that man is that he can totally hold his own in the kitchen.  I would get home from work after dark and he would bring over food.

Not like, "Hey, I'm running by Taco Bell, want me to grab you something?" food, but real food.  Things like scallops.  He won me over with his scallops and roasted red pepper sauce.

He'd get everything prepped at his place and then show up on my doorstep with coolers and bags and finish everything in my kitchen while I unwound after work.

:-) I married a good one, ladies.

Anyway, to be honest these days I do almost all of the cooking.  It just makes sense now that I'm home with the kids.  The exception to that is that my husband is the King of the Grill.  I may make the side dishes, dry rubs, and sauces but that man works magic with his grill(s).  It's so much fun to create together, after all of these years.  :-) Together we do awesome things.

Blueberry Habañero Salsa and Fun With Cooking

When I was poking around looking for a way to use my blackberries the other day- before stumbling upon that amazing blackberry muffin recipe I ended up going with- I came across a recipe for Blueberry Habañero Salsa.

This recipe caught  my eye for several reasons- first of all it's weird sounding.

Lets be honest, I seem to have a penchant for weird recipes.  Sometimes they're successes, sometimes they're horrible failures, but they're always always interesting.
A huge part of keeping cooking fun is mixing things up and being just a little brave.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Blackberry Muffins and Weird Coincidences

I was lucky enough to be gifted a couple of quarts of homegrown blackberries recently that have been hanging out in my freezer, patiently waiting for me to do something with them.

I was itching to make something with those little gems (blackberries are my absolute favorite berry!) but there were so many choices.  I thought about making blackberry BBQ sauce, pie, cobbler...eventually I settled on muffins.  I'd never actually made blackberry muffins before, but when I saw this recipe I knew I needed to give it a try.  :-) That may have had something to do with the fact that I already had all of the ingredients on hand and I love being the first to photograph a new recipe on Allrecipes, but whatever.  I went with muffins.

Do you know who else went with muffins, I would later find out?  My dad, in a completely different state, also made blackberry muffins- also for the first time- on the same day that I did.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Molasses Grilled Peaches: A Simple Summer Dessert

I'm willing to bet I go through a great deal more molasses than the average home cook.

I just love that deep, dark, rich, sultry flavor.  It adds another dimension to all kinds of dishes- not to mention how many last minute trips to the store have been saved by the knowledge that I can make my own brown sugar when I run out!  Did you know that?  Seriously, just mix molasses into white sugar and voilà- you have brown sugar!

For years I only bought molasses once a year- for holiday cookie baking.  Big Soft Ginger Cookies are some of my absolute favorites!

Once I discovered the brown sugar trick it became a staple in my pantry and I use it all. the. time.

It adds a richness to everything, from cookies, to Gingerbread popcorn, to my go-to BBQ Sauce.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Confessions Of A Beet Lover

Confession time:
I LOVE pickled beets.  Love love love them.  I will go absolutely insane at any salad bar that has them- my plate at the Jason's Deli salad bar looks absolutely ridiculous loaded with those whole beets and whole hard-boiled eggs they have out.  They're just amazing, seriously.  

 Years ago- like almost half my life ago, actually- I had a beet-hating boyfriend.  One of our favorite restaurants back then, AJ Spurs, served salads with beets.  He used to order his with EXTRA beets and then put them all on my salad when they came.  lol He may not have been a keeper in the long run, but I love beets enough that I certainly remember that gesture.  :-)

My beet love runs deep.

I know, most people find this crazy.  I get a lot of shocked expressions from beet haters when they realize that someone actually eats those funky red things at the salad bar- it seems that the overwhelming majority of people seem to think that they're gross.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Easy No Boil Stuffed Shells With Ragú Homestyle

The first time I tried to make lasagna was on Christmas Eve.  I was probably around 12- and I had decided that I was going to tackle the meal my own.  I told you I've always loved to cook.  :-)

 Why lasagna?  I haven't a clue.  I just got it into my head that I was going to do this thing.
I made lasagna, mashed potatoes, and oatmeal cookies.
Why that combination, I have no idea, but it kind of became a tradition for many years of Christmas Eves to follow.  That and eating this crazy meal by candlelight.  Because...why not?

Anyway, what I really remember about putting that meal together?  What a pain it was trying to work with pre-cooked noodles.  They tore and they stuck and they were annoying.  It didn't take long for me to realize that precooking those noodles was a completely pointless act and that I could easily make the same lasagna with a tiny bit more sauce and use noodles straight out of the box.  In fact, I kind of ran with the knowledge that I didn't have to fight with pre-cooked pasta and never used it in any baked pasta dish again.

Manicotti?  Dude.  Why deal with wibbly-wobbly cooked noodles when it's so much easier just to stuff them straight out of the box?

Friday, July 29, 2016

Pasta Salad Loaded With The Good Stuff

This is one of those posts I feel I need to apologize for before I even begin- the pictures are awful.


Every once in awhile there's a dish I really want to share with you but I'm too tired or busy to play with lighting and all of that and I just zip through it.  Just know that this salad is tasty enough that I wanted to share it with you despite how ugly these pictures are!

Several years ago-
ok, more than several years ago- twelve years ago, I think it was.  I'm getting old...
Anyway, back when I was young I was a bridesmaid in my friend's wedding.  She and I were stationed together in the Air Force in Columbus, MS- she was from just outside of Tuscaloosa- an hour away- so I got to know her family and friends pretty well.  She enlisted hoping to see the world and they pretty much sent her right back home, go figure!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Former Supermoms and Delicious Cookies

When my daughter was in kindergarten I was kind of super mom when it came to making her lunches.  I was new at being a stay-at-home mom as my son was still an infant and I kept myself CRAZY busy in the kitchen.  Everything in her lunch was homemade.  I made little kid-size pizzas with homemade dough and homemade sauce and then froze them so I could pull them out and send them in her lunches.  I made little mini muffins.  I made french toast on weekday mornings.

I made cookies.

Not just any cookies, but thick, gooey, chocolatey cookies.
Cookies that were big enough for her to split with her friends.
These things were what cookie dreams were made of.

And do you know what?
She hated it.
All of it.
Not because the food was bad but because she wanted what everyone else had.  She wanted fruit snacks and Lunchables and sugar water drinks.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Cool & Creamy Cucumber Spread Bites

I didn't try goat cheese until I was an adult but it was love at first bite.  I remember that first bite of warm, creamy cheese crusted in ground pecans on top of my already delicious salad.  SO GOOD.  When my favorite restaurant removed that selection from the menu I honestly could have cried...though to be fair, I'm pretty sure that was during the pregnant-and-crying-over-cob-salad days. :-)
 Goat cheese is a lot like cream cheese, but tangier without being overpowering.  It's kind of like a cross between feta and cream cheese actually.  Not that I'm a cheese expert or anything.

It's scrumptious in salad.  Tantalizing on a pizza.  Perfect on it's own with crackers.  Delicious in an omelet.  Delectable with fruit.  If you haven't tried Trader Joe's Wild Blueberry and Vanilla Chèvre you are missing out my friend.
Ok I'll stop.
But there is absolutely nothing not to like about goat cheese.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Caprese Farro Salads and Endless Grains

Well guys, I still have a ridiculous number of weird grains in my pantry.  Ok, weird grains might not really be a fair description- more like wonderful and underutilized grains.

I've tried to cook my way through them (thank goodness they have an insane shelf life!) but no matter how many ways I find to use them they're still there.  Have you ever been to a restaurant and been served a ginormous salad and no matter how much you eat it doesn't seem like you've made a dent?
No...that's just me?  Ok, well it's just like that.  I cook and cook and cook and cook and it's like freaking Strega Nona's pot in there.  Never-ending grains.

Thankfully- and if you've been following along with my postings for any amount of time you know this already- I'm a bit obsessed with interesting side dishes.  I just love mixing things up and trying out new ways to accompany meals, and fun new grains are always a great addition.  I've already written about a delicious Farro Salad with Asparagus and Parmesan and Barley Lime Fiesta Salad, so it's pretty obvious that I'm a fan of grain salads.  When I worked with Swanson a few months ago and was asked to create a recipe using their broth I knew that I was going to get a little creative and make- yet another- yummy salad and work on using up some of those grains in the pantry!

Monday, July 25, 2016

S'mores Pretzel Bites and Busy Summer Days

This summer has definitely been a juggling act- I want to be this fun, active mom who plans great day trips full of picnics and great summer memories.  Sometimes I succeed- more often I don't.  While I started out this summer aiming for our weeks to be jam packed with adventures in reality we've been adventuring far less than I had planned.  Between popcorn and housework I'd say I'm averaging a trip to the pool, an out of town adventure, and maybe a library outing a week.

 Life just gets in the way sometimes.
What can you do, right?

Anyway life has also gotten in the way of keeping up with blogging- but not of cooking (still have to feed a family even when things are busy!) so I have a lot of writing to catch up on!

I was looking through recipes this morning searching for some dinner inspiration and I noticed that a few more of my recipes have been published on Allrecipes without me noticing!  Better yet, they've all been reviewed a time or two already.  It's always fun to think about perfect strangers out there making something you've created in their own kitchens somewhere out there.  I may have a bit of a backlog of recipes to share with you, but I'll get through them- starting with these S'mores Pretzel Bites.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Tortellini Salad with Grilled Tomato Vinaigrette

Pretty much every weekend means family time, a smoky grill, and fun foods around here.
Throw in a blue sky and some time in the pool and I'm a seriously happy lady!

I so look forward to cooking for the weekends.  I know I keep saying it...but I love sides.  That's where I have my fun when it comes to feeding people during the summer.  I'm always on the lookout for fun new salads, and the other day I came across an interesting-sounding recipe for Tortellini Salad with Grilled Tomato Vinaigrette and knew I had to give it a try.

Honestly, until I made (and promptly fell in love with) the Broccoli and Tortellini Salad I wrote about last year it had never occurred to me to use tortellini in a pasta salad.  I was definitely missing out, because it's fabulous.  It makes for a heartier salad and you get the benefit of the flavor of the cheesy tortellini filling as well.
No going back.  I find myself searching out tortellini salad recipes now!

More Fun With Frozen Drinks: Amaretto Sours

There was a time when I was young.
I know, hard to believe, even for me these days, but I totally was.

I used to go out with friends, stay out late, take impromptu road trips...lol those days are gone my friends.  I took my 10 year-old to her first concert the other night, didn't get home until almost midnight, and was soooo ready to crash by the time I got home after my late night.
Times have changed.

Anyway, back in the days of fun nights out with friends the Amaretto Sour was definitely my go-to beverage.  I'm not really sure why...I think somewhere in the back of my head it stuck that my mom- which is hard to believe, as she simply doesn't drink at all- is rumored to have enjoyed them at some point in time.  When I turned 21 it just sort of became my default drink order when I would go out.

These days sweet drinks have been replaced with dry red wines as my go-to beverage- in fact, I don't think I realized how long ago my early 20's were until, during a rare weekend away last year in Asheville, NC,  I ordered an Amaretto Sour on a whim while waiting for our table at a restaurant.
My husband stared at me in shock asking, "Who ARE you??".
Apparently I've been a wine person for longer than I thought if my Amaretto Sour days ended before  our relationship began!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Simple Meals and the Perfect Wrap Sauce

I fall back on wraps fairly often, especially when the weather is warm.  With the veggies and a little lunch meat they're refreshing and satisfying- and very easy to adapt to whatever you happen to have in the fridge at the moment.
There have been MANY nights when I realize my day has been filled with kids and popcorn orders and I'm just absolutely out of time at the end of the day when it's dinner time and my husband is about to get home from work.  Wraps are definitely a step up from a box of macaroni and way tastier, (generally) far better for us, and definitely easier on the pocketbook than having my husband grab fast food on the way home!

 Not to mention they're pretty much the perfect portable picnic food when the kids and I get out of the house for summer adventuring.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Summer Picnic Pinwheels: Spicing Things Up With Mezzetta Peppers

I seem to have a love affair with each season.  I eagerly anticipate the crisp air of Fall, the gray skies and holidays Winter brings, the kiss of warmth and blooming flowers of Spring.

And then there's Summer.

Ah, Summer...I love the feeling of the sun warming my skin, time at the pool, adventures with the kids, picnic lunches, the smell of tri-tip and other goodies wafting into the house as my husband tends to the grill, staving off the stifling heat with friends over a glass of Viognier (I've been dipping my toes into whites lately- something I never thought I'd say!).  Honestly, as a general rule there's not much I don't love about Summer.  The warmth and blue skies just make my soul sing.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Tastes Like Summer: Frozen Watermelon Margaritas

Ladies and gentlemen, summer has arrived!  Well, unofficially.  The pool is open, the weather is warm, the kids are home and ready for adventures.  I'm one happy mama!  We've had a low-key Memorial Day weekend.  While the part of me that loves entertaining was kind of sad that we just hung out around the house this weekend, we really needed a break.  It's been a month full of company and traveling for birthdays, Mother's Day, and a host of other events.  We have company coming again this weekend.  We definitely needed some down time!
 So, while most of America soaked up the sun and grilled out we watched movies, played board games, ate breakfast for dinner, and just generally enjoyed being a family.  No complaints here.
While our weekend may have been plenty relaxed and homebodyish we decided that it was still deserving of a fun summer signature libation.  :-)

I mentioned that I've been a little blender-friendly lately now that I finally have a blender that's capable of turning ice into beautifully creamy concoctions.  I have been having soooo much fun making everything from smoothies for my daughter to grown up drinks and I honestly can't say enough good things about my Ninja!  Why did I suffer through life with a sub-par blender for all of those years??

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Easy One Pan Red Beans and Rice Bake

Can I share something with you?

I suppose I consider myself a foodie.  I get ridiculously excited about good restaurants.  I consume cookbooks like they're novels.  I wax rhapsodic about amazing ingredients.  I should be in a support group for Penzey's addicts.

That being said, that's not everyday real life.
Everyday life is your standard picky 10 year-old eater, a ridiculously frustrating-to-feed 5 year-old with autism, and me- a mom who is generally busy all day every day with popcorn making, household, and kids and just really doesn't have time to go all gourmet before my husband gets home in the evening.

That doesn't mean I want to serve my family a box of mac and cheese or frozen pizza every night, either.

Nope, I think most of us often need a happy medium in our lives.  Simple food that people will actually enjoy that comes together quickly without a lot of time involved.  Good foods that will nourish our family, fill them up, and make them happy.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Simmered In Tradition: Ragu Pasta Sauce Easy Dinner Bake


My daughter had a slumber party a couple of months ago and she asked that for dinner we do make-your-own pizzas.  It's one of her favorite activities when we have kids over, actually- I make up a batch of dough and let the kids go to town with toppings that I set out.  They stretch the dough and shape it in whatever crazy way they want and then make a mess of the countertop spreading sauce, sprinkling cheese, and liberally applying pepperoni and other toppings.It's kind of great- plus it's an activity and a meal all rolled into one, which is a win in my book.

At this particular get-together a little girl, wild-eyed with flour smeared on her apron as she stretched out her dough, said, "This is awesome!  We never play with food at my house!"
I was kind of taken aback, actually.  This was hardly the "playing with food" that our mothers warned us not to do at the dinner table.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Derby Day Drinks: Frozen Mint Juleps

Honestly, I know pretty much nothing about the Kentucky Derby beyond fun hats and mint juleps.  I'm sorry...I just don't.  It seems like one of those things I should be paying more attention to.  I know that my husband's family always watches the derby and I have fun with the hat and julep part of the deal.  :-)

 This year, I decided that our standard julep needed an upgrade- honestly for no other reason than I just got a new blender and I feel like putting it to good use as often as possible.  For way too long I've made do with a horrid blender that couldn't handle ice at all.  The final straw was a few weeks ago when my husband tried to make ice cream concoctions (apparently Dairy Queen's line was too long...?) and my blender did a miserable job even with something that simple.

The day had come- it was time for a replacement.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Tasty Cheesy Tots

One of our favorite fast food items in this family is Cheddar Rounds from Pal's, a small but wonderful chain of fast food restaurants in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia.  They're on the breakfast menu and they can best be described as bites of golden goodness- fried round hash browns stuffed with gooey cheese inside.

 They're delicious.  So delicious.  

Anyway, the other day my daughter and I were discussing whether or not we might be able to recreate them at home.  Spoiler alert: we didn't.  We did, however, make some pretty amazing cheesy tater tots that everyone loved and come up with a recipe that we will be making again and again!

To be fair, It think with a couple small modifications to the recipe we could have come close to the Cheddar Rounds we love- I think maybe a mix of American and cheddar cheeses mixed and stuffed inside of the shredded potatoes would have come closer to the original.  Rather than stuffing the hash browns with cheese we ended up mixing the cheese in with the potato and seasonings- so there was delicious cheese throughout.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Easy Weeknight Meals: Pizza Pasta

I have loads of tomato sauce.

Like loads.

I have a problem with planting tomato plants- as in my tomato jungle grows every year.  It's not neat. it's not orderly.  But it is quite prolific.

One can only eat and give away so many tomatoes before you reach the point where you can tomato no more and you still have mountains of tomatoes on the countertops that must be dealt with.  Lets just say I can a lot of tomato sauce each year!  While there are lots of ways to can tomatoes- stewed, sauced, juiced, diced, salsified, turned into BBQ sauce, whatever- I prefer just to can it as sauce.  That way I can go whatever route I need to when the time arises.  I can turn my canned tomato sauce into marinara, BBQ sauce, enchilada sauce- or I can just dump it into chili or soup or any other recipe that calls for tomato sauce.  Anyway, I have lots and lots of mason jars full of tomato sauce from my garden and I love finding ways to use it.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Quick and Easy Home Fries

When I think of fried potatoes I think of Saturday mornings with my dad.

 Every Saturday morning my mom would stay in bed reading her book and my dad would get up, watch cartoons with us, and then make pancakes and- often- fried potatoes.
Looking back from the perspective of a mother myself now I'm pretty sure they must have had some kind of a deal about Saturday mornings where my dad did the heavy lifting and my mom got to relax.
This is a deal I want in on.  I must speak with my husband about this ASAP.

Saturday mornings were dad time and healthy food was not on the menu.  This was time from Zack Morris and syrupy pancakes.  I miss the 80's.  :-)