Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Cheesy Potatoes

My favorite side dish for parties, Cheesy Potatoes are always a hit. I make these every year for my kid's birthday dinners. For an added kick, mix some Frank's Red Hot into the soup and sour cream mixture. Try greasing the dish for easier clean up.

  • 1 can condensed cream of chicken soup
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 32-oz package of Southern style hash browns (thawed)
  • 2 cups Ritz crackers  (crushed)
  • 3 T melted butter

OR AN ALTERNATE VERSION (that is perhaps a little less healthy):

  • 1 can condensed cream of chicken soup
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 3 cups cheddar cheese
  • 1 32-oz package of Southern style hash browns
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 stick margarine - melted
  • 2 cups crushed corn flakes

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Combine soup and sour cream.
  3. Add potatoes (and onions if using the alternate recipe ingredients). Mix well
  4. Add cheese. Mix.
  5. Spoon mixture into 13 x 9 baking dish.
  6. Combine crushed crackers and butter; sprinkle evenly over potato mixture.  (Or, if using alternate version, sprinkle the top with the corn flake crumbs and pour butter over top.)
  7. Bake 45-50 minutes.

Difficulty: Easy
Time: 10 minute prep, 50 minutes cooking
Source: Kraft Food and Family (alternate version is from Joyce's mom)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Zippy Beef Casserole

This is another recipe that dates back to my childhood; as far back as I can possibly remember, my mom made this for us for dinner.  It is a super kid-friendly meal that flies off the plate (adjust the green pepper as your family can tolerate - my daughter loves them, my son can do without, but does eat them in this meal).

  • 1lb ground beef
  • 1 cup uncooked macaroni (I usually use a little bit more, maybe 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 can (10.5 oz) cream of mushroom soup
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 2/3 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped green pepper (I often dice it very small and use an entire pepper)
  • 1-2 Tablespoons instant minced onion (I have on occasion used a sprinkle of onion powder when I realized I was out of minced onion)
  • 1 tespoon salt
  • 1 cup (or so) crushed potato chips (I never use that much and I sometimes use none at all)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Farenheit.  Boil water for pasta and cook pasta according to package directions.  The rest of the steps can happen during this time.
  2. Chop pepper.  Brown ground meat.  (The original recipe does not call for the pepper to be cooked, but I typically toss it in with the meat for the last few minutes of browning to soften it a bit.)
  3. Mix all ingredients (except for potato chips) in a 2qt casserole and bake covered for 40 minutes.
  4. Top with chips and cook uncovered 5 minutes longer.  (Depending on how healthy you are feeling, you may prefer to reduce or leave out the chips...it is still delicious!)

Difficulty: relatively easy (some chopping and measuring required)
Time:  15-20 minutes prep, 45 minutes cook time
Source: my mom

Monday, January 23, 2012

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie

What is there not to love about chocolate and peanut butter (provided, of course, you aren't dealing with peanut allergies)?  When I was pregnant with my first child, I failed my quick glucose tolerance test and had to take the dreaded four hour test (which I did pass).  I swear I failed because the test was right near Halloween and I had definitely bought my Halloween candy too far in advance.  Reece's Peanut Butter Cups are my absolute weakness.  Needless to say, it is a good thing that I didn't discover this super easy recipe sooner.

  • 1/2 cup hot fudge topping + some additional to drizzle on top
  • 1 graham cracker pie crust
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1-1/4 cup cold milk
  • 2 pkg (3.4 oz each) of vanilla instant pudding mix
  • 1 tub of whipped topping (like Cool Whip)
  1. Spread the hot fudge topping on the bottom of the graham cracker crust and freeze for about ten minutes.
  2. Beat the peanut butter and milk in a large bowl until well blended.  Add pudding mixes; beat two minutes (will be thick).
  3. Stir half of the whipped topping into the pudding/peanut butter mixture; spoon into crust.
  4. Spread the remaining whipped topping over top.
  5. Refrigerate 3 hours, or until firm.  Drizzle with additional hot fudge topping before serving.
Difficulty: Easy as pie.  (Yes, I said it.)
Time: About 15-20 minutes prep, 3 hours to chill.
Source:  kraftfoods.com

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Hearty Taco Stew

One of our most loved meals in winter is chilli, but after awhile it gets boring. This recipe gives an alternative to chilli. Hearty Taco Stew is another meal that can be stretched over two days-woo hoo! Day One, I serve this as a stew garnished with tortilla chips and Mexican cheeses (for a special occasion or party, I use bread bowls). Day Two uses the leftovers to top baked potatoes, rice, or quinoa. This stew got a big thumbs up from my husband.

  • 1 pound of ground meat, browned
  • 1 can of corn, drained (14.5 oz)
  • 1 can of pinto beans, drained and rinsed (14.5 oz)
  • 1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed (14.5 oz)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (14.5 oz)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes with green chiles (10 oz-what I found at Aldi)
  • 1 package of taco seasoning mix
  • 1 package of ranch dressing mix

  1. Brown ground meat in skillet.
  2. Add to slow cooker.
  3. Add all other ingredients to slow cooker; adding the seasoning packets last.
  4. Cook on low for 6-8 hours.

Difficulty: Super Easy
Time: 15 minutes
Source: adapted from Crockin' Girls and coworker recipes

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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Chicken Divan

This recipe was one of my favorites growing up.  On birthdays, my mom always took "special requests" and made us what we wanted for dinner.  Often, this is what I chose for my birthday dinner.  Now, my kids love it, and when I tell them that we are having chicken divan for dinner, they literally cheer!  It is definitely one of my go-to recipes; I am sure to always have the ingredients on hand.  I have even made this on vacation several times!


  • 10 oz package of frozen broccoli, cooked (I often estimate from a bag and even use a little more than 10 oz instead of buying the boxes)
  • 2-3 cooked chicken breasts, cut up
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup (cream of mushroom will give a slightly different taste, but is also delicious if that is all you have on hand)
  • 1/2 cup mayo
  • 1/2 t lemon juice
  • 1/2 t curry powder
  • cheddar cheese (we like sharp the best)

  1. Preheat oven to 350. 
  2. Mix soup, mayo, lemon juice, and curry powder. 
  3. Put cooked broccoli in a greased baking dish.  Top with chicken, then sauce.  Cover with cheese.  Bake 25 minutes.  Serve over rice.  (If you use a rice cooker, like I do, start the rice right before you put the casserole in the oven.)
Time management note: I usually boil my chicken for about 15 minutes to cook it while my oven is preheating.  I also throw the broccoli in the microwave to cook at this same time.  While the chicken is boiling away and the broccoli is in the microwave, I mix the sauce.  That way, by the time the oven is preheated, everything else is just about ready to be thrown into the casserole dish.

Difficulty:  Pretty easy, though does require some prep (cooking and cutting chicken, cooking broccoli...see the time management note above)
Time:  Give yourself a total of about 45 minute to an hour.  The last 25 minutes are a breeze, though.
Source: My mom's recipe box

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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Baked Cream Cheese Appetizer

This is a favorite at our monthly work lunches! One of my interns made it and it was so popular that she brought everyone the recipe. It's a great appetizer when you don't feel like dealing with lots of spills.

  • 1 roll of crescent dinner rolls
  • 8 ounces of cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 t dill weed
  • 1/2 t onion flakes
  • dash of salt
  • dash of pepper
  • dash of garlic powder
  • 1 egg yolk, beaten
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Lightly grease cookie sheet. Divide crescent roll dough in half (4 triangles each)
  3. Make two 12 x 4 rectangles with dough. Pat to seal perforations.
  4. Mix cream cheese with dill weed, onion flakes, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.
  5. Spread cream cheese mixture down the center of the dough. Bring dough up to completely enclose the cream cheese. Press edges together to seal.
  6. Brush with egg yolk.
  7. Bake 13-15 minutes
  8. Cool and slice into strips.
Difficulty: Easy
Time: 10 minutes prep; 15 baking time
Source: my intern

Friday, January 13, 2012

Slow Cooker Italian Beef

I have to admit that I am intimidated by beef recipes. I have no idea about the cuts of meat and how to prepare them. I tried to learn when I was first married and carefully read my Betty Crocker cookbook, but it didn't stick. Recently, chuck roasts were BOGO at a local grocery store; I bought them and played around with a few recipes. I knew my husband would love it because there are pepperoncinis in it. I served it with a side of potatoes and a vegetable, but many of the recipes I looked at encouraged you to shred the beef and serve on rolls. Both times I made it, my husband raved about it; I even called to tell my dad that I had made the best beef ever! This is becoming a go-to recipe for me since it requires NO SLICING.

  • 3 lb beef chuck roast
  • 1 onion, quartered (yay for no slicing!)
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/2 t pepper
  • 14 ounces of beef broth (I made mine using 2 cubes of beef bouillon and boiling water)
  • 1 package of dry Italian dressing mix
  • 1 package of Au Jus gravy mix
  • 1/4 jar of Pepperoncini and juice (about 4 ounces)
  1. Quarter onion and place in slow cooker.
  2. Add meat to slow cooker.
  3. Mix salt, pepper, broth, and mixes. Pour on top of beef in slow cooker.
  4. Top with pepperoncinis and juice.
  5. Cook on low for 6 to 7 hours.

Difficulty: Easy
Time: Prep 10 minutes
Source: adapted from The Crock Pot Girls and southernfood.about.com

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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Buffalo Chicken Dip

Simply one of the best party foods around!!  If you have never had this, you just don't know what you have been missing.  I warn you, though: once you start eating it, you won't want to stop. 

  • 3 chicken breasts
  • 4 stalks celery, cut (optional)
  • 1 bottle Buffalo Sauce
  • 1 16 oz bottle ranch dressing
  • 2 8oz pkg cream cheese (you must use the full fat version for this to work well)
  • 1 pkg (2 cups) 4 italian cheeses

Cook the chicken and cut into bite size pieces, or better yet, shred it.  Throw everything into a crockpot on high for 30+ minutes.  Stir occasionally.  If you have the time and foresight, let the chicken and celery soak in buffalo sauce all night the night before.  (I usually throw the ranch in the night before, too.)  Serve with chips.  (One recipe uses about two bags.)

Difficulty: Very easy.  Cook the chicken while you are cooking dinner the night before you want to serve it if you want to be particularly time efficient.
Time:  20 minutes and then 30+ minutes to cook
Source: a colleague of mine

Monday, January 9, 2012

Spanish Chicken

I found this slow cooker recipe from my dad! He is an amazing cook and enjoys finding new recipes online, in books, and on tv. This recipe has a bit more ingredients than I like and it does make me head to the store...but it is worth it. This meal comes out of the crock pot and tastes like you worked in the kitchen for hours.

  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast (1 inch thickness)
  • 1 pound of turkey Italian sausages (1 inch pieces)
  • 1 red bell pepper (chopped)
  • 3 cups rice (cooked)
  • 2 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
  • 1 can sliced black olives
  • 1 t crushed red pepper
  • 1 can artichoke hearts
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 can tomato paste
  1. Mix all ingredients, except artichoke hearts, olives, and rice.
  2. Cover on low for 6-8 hours.
  3. Stir in artichoke hearts and olives during last 30 minutes.
  4. Serve with rice.
Difficulty: Medium (mostly because all the ingredients are not readily in my house)
Time: 15 minute prep, 6-8 hours cooking
Source: my dad

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Pulled Pork

This is a surprisingly simple, yet amazingly delicious recipe.  This year, I made it on New Year's Day, in lieu of the traditional pork and sauerkraut, and my husband remarked that it was the best New Year's pork that he has had his entire life.  Now that's a compliment!  We have made it for birthday parties, Superbowl Parties, and just because pork roasts were on sale; it is always a hit.  I think using the right cut of meat is probably the most important part in making this so darn good.

  • 4 lb pork shoulder or butt roast (I use shoulder)
  • 2 large onions
  • 1 cup of ginger ale
  • 1-2 18oz bottles of barbecue sauce (I LOVE Sweet Baby Ray's)
  1. Dice one onion and put in bottom of large slow cooker.  Place meat on top.  Dice remaining onion and put on top of the meat.  Pour ginger ale over the meat and onions.  Cook on low for 12 hours or high for 5-6.  (I generally cook mine on high and it is amazing.  One thing I do when cooking on high is to slice into the largest part of the meat about 2/3 of the way through before putting the second onion or ginger ale into the slow cooker.  This really isn't necessary if cooking on low.)  
  2. Spoon out onions using a slotted spoon; set aside.  Remove all liquid from the slow cooker.  Shred the pork with two forks.  (It should be practically falling apart anyway.)  Add onions back in with the meat.  Pour barbecue sauce on, mix, and cook on low for another 1-2 hours.

Difficulty: Easy
Time: 10 minutes prep, 7-14 hours total cook time (depending on slow cooker setting)
Source: adapted from a recipe on food.com

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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Zesty Chicken Pasta

This a super easy dish that even my kids like! (And if they are being picky, I can serve different parts of the recipe to them). As a busy mom trying to keep her kids eating healthy foods, I try to find ways to use lots of fresh vegetables in my dishes; the red peppers have lots of Vitamin A. When I make this for company, people always ask for the recipe.

  • 1 pound of rotini (uncooked)
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (cut into bite size pieces; I do this the night before)
  • 2 red peppers, chopped (I use yellow and orange if that is what I can find; I chop these up the night before as well)
  • 1/4 cup Zesty Italian Dressing
  • 1 T chilli powder
  • 1/2 cup salsa
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

  1. Cook pasta.
  2. Heat oil in large skillet.
  3. Add chicken. Cook and stir 6 minutes.
  4. Add peppers, dressing, chilli powder; cook 3 minutes.
  5. Stir in salsa and sour cream.
  6. Toss pasta with chicken mixture.
  7. Sprinkle with cheese.

Difficulty: Easy
Time: 30 minutes
Source: Kraft Family & Food