Thursday, December 29, 2011

Taco Dip

This is the perfect appetizer to take to a party, or better yet, to have at your house when you are hosting.  The recipe makes two pie-sized dips, and they are freezable!  Sometimes, I find that one is enough and freeze the other.  But the last time I made them, the first one was gone in a flash, so I threw the other in the oven...nice back up!  Just remember to have an extra bag of chips on hand, just in case!

  • 1 lb ground meat
  • 1 diced onion (optional - my family actually prefers this recipe without the onion)
  • 1 can refried beans
  • 16 oz sour cream
  • 1 8 oz pkg cheddar cheese (I use sharp)
  • 1 pkg dry taco seasoning mix
  • 1 8 oz jar taco sauce
  1. Brown meat with onion (if using).  Drain.  Add seasoning and sauce.  Simmer. 
  2. Layer refried beans packed into 2 pie pans.  Next layer the meat mixture.  Let cool. 
  3. Spread sour cream over top of meat.  Sprinkle with grated cheese. 
  4. Bake at 350 degrees Farenheit for 20 minutes or until cheese melts. 
Makes 2 pie pan size dips.  Serve with tortilla chips.

Difficulty:  pretty easy, especially if you decide to not use the onion, because then there is no chopping involved
Time:  From start to finish, maybe just under an hour, but you can make these ahead of time, refrigerate or freeze them, and then pop them in the oven right before you want to serve them.  If you are a multi-tasker, you can be making this while you are making dinner the night before your party - you are going to be in the  kitchen anyway, why not accomplish two things?
Source: A friend of my mom's

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Monday, December 26, 2011

Viva-La Holiday Punch

It's nice to have a hot drink available when you are hosting a holiday party. An added bonus to this drink is the wonderful smell in the need to waste those candles.

  • 1 quart apple cider
  • 1 quart cranberry juice
  • 2 cups Peach Schnapps
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 2 whole cinnamon sticks
  1. Place all ingredients in slow cooker and heat thoroughly.
  2. Drink warm.
Difficulty: easy
Time: less than 5 minute prep and 1 hour to heat
Source: a co-worker

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Cheesy Ham and Potatoes (Slow Cooker)

This recipe is a fantastic use for leftover Christmas or Easter Ham.  To be honest, the first time I made it, I wasn't sure how it was going to all play out.  But I couldn't believe how quickly my notoriously slow eaters gobbled it up.  The quote from my husband the first time I made it: "Wow!! This is really good!!"  With the family's full endorsement, this one made the "will definitely make again" pile.

  • about 1.5 lbs cubed ham (a little more or less would be fine, too)
  • 8-10 red potatoes, peeled and sliced 
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cups grated cheddar
  • 1 can of cream of mushroom soup
Layer the ingredients in the following order in a 4qt crock pot (I have two crock pots and this is the smaller of the two): 1/2 ham, 1/2 potatoes, 1/2 cheese, all of onion, rest of ham, rest of potatoes, rest of cheese, pour soup on top.  Cook for 6-8 hours on low.  (I cook mine for longer because I don't have a timer on my slow cooker and it cooks while I am at work.  It turns out just fine.  Delicious even!)

Difficulty: Medium.  (Only because it one requires a bit of slicing and dicing and peeling the night before it cooks.)
Time: It took me about 25 minutes to prep, but I am pretty slow at slicing, dicing, and peeling.  Then the 6-8 hours of cooking time.
Source: Someone shared this on Facebook a while back...and now I just saw it on The Crockin' Girls website!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Easy Veggie Dip

I hope my neighbor doesn't mind that I am posting this recipe. She has made it many times at neighborhood gatherings and I have never eaten so many peppers in my life as when I have this dip in which to dip them.  I always rave about it and have asked for the recipe a million times. She always laughs at me and tells me how easy it is. I finally got her to write it down for me and I will most definitely be serving it as one of the appetizers at my house on Christmas Eve. 

  • 1 bar cream cheese softened
  • 1/4 cup of water
  • 1 beef bouillon cube
  • Chopped scallions (green part) you judge how much

  1. Boil water with bouillon. Allow bullion to dissolve and water to get warm, not hot.
  2. Beat cream cheese, scallions, and bouillon water until dip is smooth.
  3. Refrigerate to harden up a little.
Serve with several types of veggies. My favorite by far are red peppers, which aren't something I typically eat but that are so delicious with this dip that my mouth is watering just thinking about them.

Difficulty: Super Easy
Time: 5-10 minutes plus time to chill
Source: my unsuspecting neighbor

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Saturday, December 17, 2011

Easy White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies

One of the cooking shows I enjoy watching when I get the chance is Semi-Homemade Cooking with Sandra Lee. She makes delicious foods and has a lot of good shortcuts for a busy mom like me. I started looking for Macadamia cookie recipes when my brother requested that I make him some for Christmas...I quickly got over the "I have three kids buy your own cookies!" fit I had when I found this easy recipe.

  • One package sugar cookie mix
  • One egg
  • One stick of butter (melted)
  • 1/2 cup macadamia nuts (chopped)
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips (she recommended melting and drizzling, but I am never very good with fine detail work like that, so I threw them in the dough)
  • Yields-3 dozen 2 inch cookies
  1. Combine all ingredients except white chocolate chips in large mixing bowl.
  2. Stir until soft dough forms.
  3. Add chips.
  4. Stir.
  5. Drop by rounded tablespoon on ungreased cookie sheet.
  6. Bake 13-15 minutes or until edges are light golden brown
Difficulty: Easy
Time: 15 minutes prep; baking time 15 minutes per cookie sheet
Source: adapted from

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Chicken and Dumplings

My family loved this hearty meal! It was great for a cold, rainy December day.

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 cans of cream of chicken condensed soup
  • 1 can of cream of mushroom condensed soup (the original recipe I originally found called for cr. of celery but I couldn't find it at Aldi and wasn't hauling the three kids anywhere else; this has worked really well so I'm not messing with it)
  • 3 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 3 carrots, chopped (to make it easier, I use 16 prewashed baby carrots and cut in thirds)
  • 3 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 chicken bullion cube
  • 1 can of refrigerated biscuits
  1. Add chicken to slow cooker; top with vegetables and soups.
  2. Add the chicken broth and bullion cube.
  3. Cook on low for 8-10 hours.
  4. Near the end of cooking time, tear the biscuit dough and drop into slow cooker. They are done when they are not doughy in the middle (I just took some out and tasted it)
Note: I try to spread my meals over two days. This recipe thickens up over time, so I cook 1 pound of rotini which I top with the chicken dish. The next day, the meal is great by itself or can be a real treat in a sour dough bread bowl.

TIME: Prep 20 minutes
SOURCE: Adapted from Crock Pot Girls

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Breakfast Casserole

At work, we have monthly breakfasts; bagels get boring and expensive so I tried this recipe. It was super easy, tasty, and inexpensive. Also, it's a great, easy meal when you have overnight guests; you can prep it the night before and throw it in the oven in the morning. As the holidays approach, it can be hard to entertain in the evening with little children; brunch is a great time for the kids to play while adults talk and enjoy coffee.

  • 1 box of stuffing for chicken
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 1/2 cups sausage (I use links that I cook and cut but ground sausage or patties would work too) or cubed ham
  • 6 eggs (beaten)
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 t salt
  • Pepper to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Spray (or grease) a 9 x 11 casserole dish
  3. Mix all ingredients together.
  4. Pour into dish.
  5. Bake 40 to 45 minutes.

Difficulty: Super easy
Time: 15 minute prep (if you use sausage; less with ham); 45 minutes baking
Source: a friend

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Potato Soup

During the cold winter months, nothing is better than a bowl of steaming soup. My husband and I love this soup recipe. Honestly, I usually make this soup when I have extra potatoes sitting around, sometimes I'd rather save money than time...but if they aren't on hand, I use Southern-style hash browns. You can make this as fancy as you'd like by adding toppings like bacon, chives, and sour cream.

  • 5-6 large red potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 quart of chicken broth (I usually use 2 cans since that is what I buy)
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 package of turkey gravy mix
  • 1 cup of half-and-half
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  1. Peel and cube potatoes (or open bag of hash browns-saute in skillet with butter for 10 minutes) and place into slow cooker.
  2. Add onions, garlic, butter, and chicken broth.
  3. Cook on high 3 hours (or low for 6); when potatoes are tender, mash them a bit to thicken the soup.
  4. Add gravy mix; stir.
  5. Add half-and-half; stir.
  6. Leave slow cooker on "warm" 20 minutes or so to thicken.
  7. Before serving, add cheddar cheese and allow to melt.

Difficulty: Easy, especially if you use hash browns
Time: 20 minutes prep, 4 hours cook time
Source: Adapted from a few friends' recipes

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Delicious Crock Pot Pork Chops

This recipe really is delicious - my son said, "I wish we could have this again!" the first time I made it.  And with it served over egg noodles with a nice salad on the side, there were enough leftovers to make another meal of it, so he got his wish.  Look at the ingredients...could it get any more simple?

  • 4 whole, thick cut, bone-in pork chops
  • 1 envelope onion soup mix
  • 1-1/2 c of chicken broth
  • 1 can of cream of chicken soup
  • 1 envelope dry pork gravy mix


Place chops on bottom of large slow cooker.  Mix all other ingredients in a bowl and then pour on top.  Cook on low 6-8 hours until the meat is practically falling off of the bone.  (I cook mine for 8 and it is awesome.)  Serve on your choice of egg noodles, pasta, rice, mashed potatoes, or whatever you think will be good!

Difficulty: It couldn't get much easier!
Time: it took about 5 minutes to prep, and then 8 hours in the slow cooker
Source: I got this recipe from a discussion thread about crock pot recipes on Facebook

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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Snowball Cookies

This is a nice addition to any cookie tray.  It does require a little bit of thinking ahead, but I kind of like making the dough one day and baking the next.  I am actually making these in this year's cookie exchange; I have done so before and found they were a hit.

  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 cup margarine
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Farenheit.
  2. Cream sugar, salt, and butter thoroughly.  Add vanilla.  Stir in flour.  Work nuts into dough.  CHILL WELL.
  3. Form 1 inch balls.  Bake for 10-12 minutes until set but not brown.  Roll immediately in powdered sugar.  Cool.  Roll in sugar again.  Store in an airtight containter.
Difficulty: Not too bad, though the forming into balls takes a little longer than the typical "drop by teaspoonful" type of cookie.
Time: 15 minutes prep.  Chilling time (overnight).  10-12 minute baking time per batch.
Source: my mom

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Creamy Mexican Dip

This dish makes a great appetizer for a tailgate party or informal party. We are big Steeler fans, and this recipe makes an annual arrival during the playoffs! I love that I can quickly throw it together without having to prepare any meat to put in the dip.

  • 8 oz cream cheese (softened)
  • 8 oz sour cream
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 jar of salsa (12 oz)
  • 1 green pepper (chopped)
  • 1 red pepper (chopped)
  • shredded Monterey Jack cheese (16 oz) I do sometime substitute Mexican cheese
  • small can of black olives (drained)
  • tortilla chips
  1. Combine cream cheese, sour cream, and mayo.
  2. Spread in the bottom of a 13x9 glass baking dish.
  3. Layer remaining ingredients-salsa, red pepper, green pepper, cheese, olives
  4. Chill.
  5. Serve with tortilla chips.
Difficulty: Easy
Time: 15 minutes
Source: my aunt

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Funfetti Cookies

These are simply the easiest cookies I have ever made, hands down. And since there are different colored funfetti mixes these days (like the red and green kind for the holidays) and all kinds of sprinkles that can be used to decorate them, these cookies are easy to adapt to whatever occasion. Though, honestly, these are some of the only cookies I make when there is no occasion at all. As far as cookies go, there is very little mess to deal with and they are fun to make with the kids - mine love to give them to their teachers.

  • 1 box of Funfetti Cake Mix
  • 1 container Funfetti icing (or any icing if you want to use your own sprinkles)
  • 1/3 c oil
  • 2 eggs
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Combine cake mix, oil, and eggs. Stir until moistened.
  3. Shape into 1 inch balls. Place 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten to 1/4 inch thick with the bottom of a floured glass.
  4. Bake 6-8 minutes - just until edges are light golden. Remove from cookie sheet after 1 minute. Ice warm and sprinkle with bits.
Difficulty: The easiest cookies (besides slice and bake) that I have ever made. Seriously.
Time: Estimating 10 minutes of prep, 6-8 minutes baking
Source: my mom

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Baked Salmon with Veggies

I love salmon, and my family enjoys it, too.  We tend to eat more of it in the summer when we can grill it, but when it isn't prime grilling season (my dad would argue that grilling season is a twelve month one), this recipe is our favorite for salmon.  I must admit, I have been known to overcook seafood at times, but not with this recipe.  It always turns out moist and delicious.

  • 4 4oz salmon fillets
  • 2 cups chopped fresh spinach
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms (I love mushrooms so I usually use more)
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped OR 1 can of diced tomatoes (guess which one I use more often)
  • 1/3 c sun dried tomato vinaigrette dressing (I am sure that this can be substituted with other dressings in a pinch but it is definitely best with this)
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Spray square baking dish with cooking spray.  Place salmon skin down in dish.
  2. Mix remaining ingredients until well blended; spoon over salmon.
  3. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until salmon flakes easily with a fork.

Difficulty:  Very easy
Time: 10 minutes or less prep; 20-25 minutes cook time
Source:  Kraft Food and Family magazine

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Friday, November 25, 2011

White Pizza Dip

This one of my favorite appetizers to bring to pot-luck luncheons and parties. People always ask me for the recipe and are amazed to learn how easy it is. The Lipton Savory Herb with Garlic soup mix isn't always the easiest to find in every grocery store; I regularly find it at Wal-Mart. Coupons for the Recipe Secret products seem to come out once or twice a year; I always stock up then! This recipe is great in the oven or in a slow cooker.

  • 1 envelope of Lipton Savory Herb with Garlic soup mix
  • 16 oz. sour cream
  • 1 cup (8 oz) Ricotta Cheese
  • 1 cup (4 oz) Mozzarella cheese (I often use the entire 2 cup bag)
  • 1/4 cup of chopped pepperoni (I buy the mini-pepperoni and throw it all in)
  • crackers, Italian bread slices, or crescent rolls
  1. Combine all ingredients except 1/4 cup of mozzarella cheese.
  2. Pour into baking dish (or slow cooker)
  3. Sprinke the remaining 1/4 cup cheese on top
  4. Cook at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes or heat in crock pot until warm through.
Difficulty: Super Easy
Time: 5 minutes to mix, 30 minutes to heat
Source: Lipton Recipe Secrets

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Easy Turkey Stromboli

This recipe is amazing, and is a great use of leftover turkey if you have it. I wish I had a nice camera and was good at taking pictures of food (someday, maybe), but if it is any testament, my husband seriously thought I bought this stromboli pre-made.  It looked that good. Trust me, there was nothing to it! (As a side note - I am so happy my kids like spinach. You may want to use a little less if you are just introducing them to it, but the other ingredients make the stromboli so tasty that this might just be the recipe to get them to eat that green stuff!)

  • 1 lb turkey breast tenderloins (I am sure it would be great with chicken, too. Incidentally, I cooked 2 lbs and used the rest in another recipe later in the week when I made this the first time.  Use leftovers from Thanksgiving, if available.)
  • 1 pkg (11 oz) refrigerated thin crust pizza crust (like Pillsbury)
  • 1 cup pasta sauce or pizza sauce
  • 1 pkg (10 oz) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and well drained (I forgot to thaw so I heated in microwave for a couple of minutes and then pressed the water out in a colander)
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese (Colby & Monterey Jack is great in this, cheddar or mozzarella would be good, too, if that is what you have)
  • 2 tsp grated Parmesan
  • 2 tsp milk

  1. Preheat oven to 400. Boil a cup of water on medium in a large skillet. Cut turkey into strips and add to boiling water. Return to boiling, cover and simmer for 8-10 minutes. Allow to cool slightly and then chop.  **If you are using leftover turkey, you just need to make sure it is chopped.
  2. Unroll crust onto baking sheet lined with parchment paper or sprayed with cooking spray. Spoon half of the sauce down the center, lengthwise, leaving about 3 inches on either side. Layer spinach, turkey, and cheese over sauce.
  3. Cut 12 strips on both sides of crust. Fold strips over filling, so they overlap. Brush with milk and sprinkle with Parmesan.
  4. Bake for 12 minutes, serve with remaining sauce.

Difficulty: When you see the finished product, it will look like it was hard, but it isn't at all!
Time: 35 minutes (15 prep, 20 cook)
Source: Parents Magazine, April 2009

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Broccoli and Cheese Casserole

Special dinners with my family always have a broccoli, cheese, and rice casserole. Everyone makes note of where it is placed on the table; it is always the first side dish to disappear from the family feast. A great veggie side dish to bring and share with friends and family, it will not disappoint.

  • 1 bunch of broccoli, diced (I haven't used frozen YET)
  • 16 oz can of mushrooms, sliced (optional)
  • 2 cups cooked rice
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 16 oz jar Cheez Whiz
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  1. Saute mushrooms and onions with butter until soft. Set aside.
  2. Cook broccoli until tender. Drain.
  3. Mix mushrooms, onion, and broccoli with cooked rice.
  4. Add soup; stir.
  5. Warm Cheez Whiz in microwave and stir into mixture.
  6. Put in 9 x 13 baking dish (greased)
  7. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 30-45 minutes.
Difficulty: Easy
Time: 15 minute prep; 45 minutes baking time
Source: Dillner Family Farm CSA recipes

Monday, November 21, 2011

Mini Meatloaves

Years ago, when I made these mini-meatloaves for my husband and I for the first time, I vowed I would never make a traditional meatloaf again.  There is just something so tasty and so easy about them.  Fast forward to two kids later, and I am pretty sure I still will never go back.  When you have a meal that is a guaranteed hit, why mess with it?

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 (6 oz) package stuffing mix for chicken
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • appx 3/4 cup spaghetti sauce (sometimes I use salsa, which is delicious, too, and it would be easy to do both in the same batch if you already have a jar of salsa open)
  • appx 3/4 cup cheese of your choice (I typically use cheddar, but have also used mozzarella)
  1. Preheat oven to 375.  Mix meat, stuffing mix, 1 cup of water, and seasoning until well blended.
  2. Press the mixture into 12 muffin cups sprayed with cooking spray; make an indentation in the center of each one with a spoon.
  3. Spoon spaghetti sauce (or salsa) into the center of each meatloaf.  
  4. Bake 30 minutes, until cooked through.  Top with cheese and bake 5 minutes longer.

Difficulty: Easy
Time:  about 15 minutes prep and 35 minutes baking
Source: adapted from Kraft Food & Family

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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Pumpkin Dump Cake

This amazing fall dessert is one of the easiest things I have ever made. I had to beg for the recipe after having it at few parties. My family loves when I bring it to dinner; it is a staple at Thanksgiving dinner. Many of the ingredients will be on sale soon, plus there's usually a coupon for Carnation Evaporated Milk this time of year. Happy baking!

  • 1 can pure pumpkin (29 oz)
  • 1 can evaporated milk (12 oz)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 T cinnamon
  • 1 box yellow cake mix
  • 1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional) a mini-chopper works great to speed this up
  • 3/4 stick of melted butter
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 9 x 13 inch pan.
  2. Mix pumpkin, evaporated milk, eggs, sugar, salt, and cinnamon until well blended.
  3. Sprinkle cake mix on top.
  4. Cover with chopped nuts.
  5. Pour melted butter over top.
  6. Bake 50 minutes.
  7. Serve with whipped topping or ice cream.
This time, I split my recipe into 2 pans for 2 different events; worked great!

Difficulty: Easy
Time: Prep is 15 minutes, baking time is 50 minutes
Source: a coworker

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Parmesan Crusted Chicken

This is what I am having for dinner tonight...again! It is so easy to prep and cook.  Pair it with a side of veggies and rice or some sort of potato dish, and you've got yourself a delicious and healthy meal that every member of the family will enjoy.

  • 1/2 cup mayo
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (I sometimes use tenderloins when they go on sale and it works great, too)
  • 4 T Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  1. Preheat oven to 425.
  2. Mix mayo and cheese in mixing bowl. Place chicken on foil lined baking sheet and top evenly with cheese mixture.  Sprinkle with bread crumbs.
  3. Bake 20 minutes or until chicken is thoroughly cooked.  (I check at 18 minutes when I use tenderloins.)

Difficulty: Easy
Time: 10 minutes prep, 20 minutes cook

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Saturday, November 12, 2011

Grandma's Apple Crisp

Apple crisp in our house means it is fall. This favorite has been served in my family for over 60 years. My brother and I would beg our mom to make it all the would everyone else. Enjoy! Note: An apple peeler/corer makes this dessert preparation much easier and faster.

  • 10-12 apples
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 tsp of baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 T cinnamon sugar
  1. Peel, cut, and core apples. Place in baking dish.
  2. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.
  3. In separate bowl, mix together sugar, flour, eggs, salt, and baking powder.
  4. Cover apples.
  5. Melt 1 stick of butter pour over dry mixture.
  6. Bake 1 hour.
Difficulty: Easy
Time: prep: 30 minutes (if you have a peeler, this will be much faster) baking: 60 minutes
Source: my grandmother

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Baked Pineapple

I have no idea where this recipe originated, but it is one that always makes an appearance at holiday meals in my family, particularly Thanksgiving and Easter.   At some point, it became my responsibility to bring it to the family dinners, and I never mind.  It is easy and makes my house smell wonderful as it is baking.  AND it is absolutely delicious.

  • 1 med can crushed pineapple (don't drain)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2T cornstarch
  • 2T margarine, cut into small bits
  • cinnamon
  1. Preheat oven to 375.  Grease small casserole dish. (The one I use is a small square one marked 1.5 liters.)
  2. Mix cornstarch and sugar in a medium bowl.
  3. Add pineapple, cut up butter, and beaten eggs to the sugar mixture.
  4. Pour mixture into the casserole dish.  Sprinkle with cinnamon.  Bake 45 minutes.

Difficulty: super easy
Time: about 10 minutes prep, 45 minutes cooking time
Source: my mom

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Easy Chicken Bake

This is a great meal to prep the night before and throw in the oven the next evening. The best thing about it is there's only one dish to clean. My kids, who can be picky, love this meal.

  • 1 package of stuffing mix for chicken
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast (cut in 1 inch pieces)
  • 1 can condensed cream of chicken soup
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 1 bag of frozen mixed vegetables (thawed)
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Farenheit.
  2. Sprinkle 1/2 box of dry stuffing mix evenly on bottom of 13 x 9 dish; set aside.
  3. Add water to remaining mix; stir until just moist; set aside.
  4. Place chicken over dry stuffing mix in baking dish.
  5. Mix soup, sour cream, and vegetables; spoon over chicken.
  6. Top with prepared stuffing.
  7. Bake 30 minutes.
Difficulty: Super Easy
Time: 10 minute prep; 30 minute baking time
Source: Kraft Food & Family

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Sausage, Spinach, and Tomato Pasta

Every time I bring this meal to work as leftovers for my lunch, someone asks for the recipe.  It looks, smells, and tastes so good AND it is so quick and easy.  I love that there isn't a single ingredient that needs to be cut up and that it is such a healthy, delicious meal. My whole family devours it.  In fact, I am finding that I need to double the recipe these days if I want to have any leftovers!

  • 1 pound of sweet Italian sausage (Sometimes, I can't find the packages of ground sausage, but often I can find sausage patties in 2 pound packages that work great.  I have even used links with the casings removed.)
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes, with or without Italian seasonings (NOT drained)
  • 1 bag of baby spinach (I have used regular spinach and it is good, too.)
  • 2 c penne pasta, uncooked (a little more than that usually is okay)
  • mozzarella cheese
  1. Start by boiling the water for the pasta, and cook pasta according to package directions. 
  2. While the pasta is cooking, brown the sausage and break it up so that it looks like ground meat. 
  3. Once the sausage is cooked through, dump the can of tomatoes and juices in. 
  4. Heat for a few minutes and then add the spinach a handful at a time, stirring and tossing until the spinach is all wilted. 
  5. By the time the pasta is done, the sauce should be, too.  Mix the two together, sprinkle shredded mozzarella cheese on top, and voila!  An awesome meal in the time it takes to cook pasta.

Difficulty: Super easy
Time: less than 20 minutes from start to finish
Source: adapted from a recipe on

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Snickers Cookies

Want a way to use up a ton of that excess Halloween candy? This holiday cookie recipe can use snickers, milky way, or even twix bars. I just bagged up all of those candies from my kids' Halloween haul and threw them in the baking cupboard to be used in a few weeks when the cookie exchange gets started. This is a great recipe for a cookie exchange because you get 4 1/2 to 5 dozen cookies out of it. Enjoy!

  • 1 cup margarine
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 t vanilla
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 60 miniature Snickers candy bars (I cut the Halloween fun size in thirds)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Cream margarine, peanut butter, sugar, and brown sugar.
  3. Add eggs and vanilla.
  4. Combine dry ingredients. Add to mixture.
  5. Take 1 T of dough; flatten into a round shape in palm of your hand; place snickers bar in the center and fold dough around it. Roll in palms of your hand to form a smooth ball with Snicker totally covered.
  6. Bake 12 minutes.
  7. Remove from cookie sheet after a few minutes.
  8. Place on wire rack to cool.
  9. Drizzle with melted chocolate chips (I am a bit sloppy with this part, so I usually skip it)
Note: I make my batter and refrigerate for a bit while cleaning up the kitchen; the colder dough is easier to roll in your hands. Also, I roll enough for one cookie sheet and while that tray is baking I roll the next one so I don't lose much time.

Difficulty: Medium
Time: 15 minute prep; 12 minute baking time
Source: friend in a cookie exchange

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Salsa Chicken

This is one of my "go-to" recipes. I almost always have these items in my fridge and pantry. It can be thrown together in 10 minutes before leaving for school drop-offs. If you sometimes have to fly by the seat of your pants, the chicken can go in the slow cooker frozen. This recipe is always a family favorite in our home.

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 cup salsa
  • 1 pkg taco seasoning mix (4 Tbsp)
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • black beans, rinsed and drained (optional)
  • Rice, quinoa, or pasta for serving
  1. Add chicken to slow cooker.
  2. Sprinkle seasoning over chicken
  3. Pour salsa and soup over the chicken
  4. Cook on low 6 to 8 hours
  5. Remove from heat; add sour cream.
This is great served over rice, pasta, quinoa, or as a burrito. If you are looking to up your family's fiber or protein intake, add some black beans to the slow cooker.

Difficulty: Nothing to it!
Time: About 5 minutes prep, 6-8 hours in slow cooker
Source: a friend

Friday, October 28, 2011

Pork and Apple Skillet Meal

I love this meal in the fall, when apples are in prime season and mushrooms and onions go on sale.  The best thing about it is that it can all be made in one skillet, and the last 15 minutes are totally hands-off - the perfect time to empty the dishwasher, wash the cutting board, wipe down the counter, and still have a moment to read the kids a story... or check your e-mail.

  • 4 pork chops, about 3/4 inches thick (there is so much of the rice/apple mixture left at the end that I think it would be totally fine to throw a couple more chops in if your family is a bit hungrier)
  • 1 medium onion, sliced*
  • 1 8 oz container of sliced mushrooms (or slice them yourself if the whole ones are on sale)
  • 2 Tbs of balsamic vinaigrette dressing
  • 2 apples, sliced*
  • 1 10 1/2 oz can of condensed chicken broth
  • 1 broth can of water
  • 1-1/2 c of instant rice
  • dried thyme (about 1 tsp)
  1. Spray non-stick skillet with cooking spray.
  2. Brown pork chops in skillet on med-high for about 3 minutes on each side. (*I slice the apples and onions while the chops are browning.)
  3. Add mushrooms, onions, and dressing to the pan and cook about 4 minutes longer.
  4. Add apples, thyme, broth, water, and rice.  Mix around until everything is moistened.
  5. Turn heat down to medium, cover skillet, and let simmer for 15 minutes.
Difficulty: Pretty easy; there are only two things to cut and the rest you just measure and toss in the skillet.
Time: about 30 minutes
Source: adapted from Kraft Food and Family magazine

Pumpkin Dip

This recipe is quick and very kid-friendly. It is great to set out at parties as an appetizer or dessert.

  • 1 tub of whipped topping (8 oz)
  • 1 large package vanilla instant pudding
  • 3 cups cold milk
  • 1 T pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 can pure pumpkin (15 oz)
  • Cinnamon graham cracker sticks

  1. Mix pudding and milk with wire whisk for 1 minute.
  2. Add pumpkin, whipped topping, and pumpkin pie spice.
  3. Stir until smooth.
  4. Chill and serve with cinnamon graham cracker sticks.
Difficulty: Super Easy
Time: less than 5 minutes to prepare, 20 minutes to chill
Source: Erika S.

Postpartuum Paranoia Plunge

Some people cry; some people glow; some people thrive. I get paranoid. After the birth of my first child, I refused to answer my door for weeks and made my husband take down celebratory balloons. I was convinced someone would take my baby. I worked through this by walking and running more and more streets in the neighborhood with baby and dog. Three years later, I became obsessed about crashing my car on a bridge and ending up in the river. My best Christmas present ever, the Life Hammer, helped me through that fear.

After welcoming Baby #3, my paranoia centers around disasters; a recent issue of Parent's Magazine (and a much older edition of Popular Mechanics) encouraged families to create a disaster kit. As I started working on this, I started wondering what I would do if I lost everything I had in a fire. If I had to run out of my house, the last thing I would ever think to take is my cute Longaberger recipe basket. All of the recipes I've collected from magazines, websites, friends, and family LOST. My recent recipes are on scribbled pieces of paper with Halloween stickers; I can't even find them twice in the same day.

The only person I ever talk kitchen-shop with is Joyce. Because I don't think she judges how I cook or how little I know about cooking. We are in survival mode-busy working moms who try to have something of our own. So through a series of emails and texts, we decided to try this as a way to share our successful kitchen triumphs. And work me through my third bout of paranoia.

Here we go!

There are some people in life that you become friends with because they are so totally different than you…they are the yin to your yang, and it just works.  Then there are other people that you become friends with because you just completely relate to each other.  Kelly and I are two moms who are constantly striving for balance between working, running, spending quality time with our kids and husbands, maintaining friendships, and maintaining our sanity.  Throw cleaning, meal planning, coupon clipping, grocery shopping, and cooking in the mix with our type-A personalities, and it can get a bit interesting.  Kelly and I are on the same page with most things, including our desire to cook healthy meals that our families will enjoy.  And neither of us is willing to trade much coveted family time for hours spent slaving away in the kitchen. 

Perhaps the key component to the lasting friendship that Kelly and I share is this:  Neither of us judges the other.  If the floor isn’t vacuumed, if the counter is cluttered, if the blinds haven’t been dusted for a year, if the lettuce is slightly wilted, if the play date is less than organized or goes completely awry…we understand.  It happens.  We also understand that sometimes you have to have pizza for dinner, or chicken nuggets, or hot dogs.  And when it comes to making that home cooked meal, there is nothing wrong with simple, or fast, or “not from scratch.”  In fact, those deliciously simple recipes are exactly the ones we are after.  And when we find a recipe that works, we share it.  Because we are busy moms, and adding “find new tried and true recipes that are healthy and easy to make and the family will enjoy” to the to-do list might just put at least one of us over the edge. 

So here we are, sharing our recipes with each other, trying to make things a little bit easier for one another, bit by tasty bit.  Only recipes that we have tried multiple times will make it from the scribbled on scraps of paper to the electronic recipe box, and being able to find the recipe later without spending precious minutes searching through books and papers torn out of magazines is key.  So, from one busy mom to another (and to another), enjoy!