Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Cherry Surprise

My dad loves cherries, but I hate preparing (or buying) a cherry pie. This slow cooker recipe surprised me with how EASY a cherry dessert could be! The only thing you have to do is open a can and a for me. If you are serving more than 6 people, you may want to add another can of pie filling.

  • can of cherry pie filling (21 oz)
  • 1 package of yellow cake mix
  • 1/2 cup butter (melted)
  • 1/3 cup of walnuts (optional)
  1. Grease the slow cooker (a 4 quart one works great) or put a crock pot liner to save clean up time (I just bought my first box of them!).
  2. Add cherry pie filling to slow cooker.
  3. Mix dry cake mix and butter (to make a crumbly mixture)-if time is a problem, I have just dumped the cake mix in and topped with butter.
  4. Sprinkle over pie filling.
  5. Add walnuts on top if desired.
  6. Cover and cook on high for 2 hours on high or 4 hours on low.
  7. Serve with ice cream.
Note: A coworker of mine makes a similar dessert, and she adds a 16 ounce can of crushed pineapple and juice to the bottom of the slow cooker then adds the rest of the ingredients. It is a delicious modification.

Difficulty: Super easy
Time: Less than 5 minute prep
Source: adapted from my godmother

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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Chicken and Spinach Rigatoni

I am always trying to find a good way to jazz up pasta since it is so inexpensive and my kids love it. I like this recipe because I can get two veggies into the kids without a fight. When boneless, skinless chicken breasts are on sale, I stock up. When it comes time to defrost, I find two recipes that use cooked chicken. I make the chicken for both meals to save time and clean up.

  • 1/2 - 3/4 pound of rigatoni or penne (prepared as directed)
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 10 oz frozen spinach, thawed (I have thrown in fresh chopped spinach as well)
  • 2 chicken breasts, cubed
  • 14 oz of Italian style diced tomatoes
  • 8 oz of chive and onion cream cheese
  • salt to taste
  • pepper to taste
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (you can use more if you like)
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Prepare rigatoni according to package directions.
  3. While pasta is cooking, heat olive oil in a deep pan, pot, or wok and add chicken; After about 3-4 minutes, add onions to the same pan and cook until chicken is no longer pink (do not overcook chicken; onion should be translucent but not browned).  Remove from heat.
  4. Drain spinach between paper towels or by pressing with the back of a spoon in a colander, add to pan with chicken and onion.
  5. Add cream cheese, salt, pepper and tomatoes to the same pan.
  6. Combine the chicken mixture and the cooked rigatoni.
  7. Spread mixture into baking dish.
  8. Top with shredded cheese.
  9. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes, covered; 15 minutes, uncovered.

Difficulty: medium (it does require several dirty pots and pans) - update: I have changed the recipe to bring the prep down to two dirty pans and a colander. Not too bad!
Time: 15 minutes prep; 45 minutes baking
Source: an internet recipe that I finally modified to be quick, easy, and yummy

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Pepper Steak (Slow Cooker)

When I was very young, I would occasionally get invited to spend the night with my grandma, who lived alone.  We had our rituals that I just cherished, even at a young age.  Every time that I went over to her house, my grandma, who didn't do much cooking by that time, would make me a Budget Gourmet dinner.  My absolute favorite variety was pepper steak, so my grandma was always sure to have some on hand.  I was amazed the first time my mom made it from scratch for me.  I love pepper steak to this day.  This delicious slow cooker version of the recipe from a Gooseberry Patch recipe book beats the pants off of any Budget Gourmet dinner, but still brings back every memory of my grandma and our special overnights every time I make it.

  • 1.5 - 2 lbs beef round steak, cut into strips
  • 2 tsp oil
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 2 green peppers, sliced
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch

  1. Brown beef strips in oil in a skillet.  Drain and transfer to a slow cooker (I used the circular, smaller of my two); set aside. 
  2. Combine soy sauce, onion, garlic and seasonings; pour over beef strips.  Cover and cook on low setting for 5-6 hours, until tender. 
  3. Add tomatoes and peppers; cover and heat for one additional hour.
  4. Whisk water and cornstarch together; stir into slow cooker.  Increase to high setting; heat until thickened, about 15-30 minutes.  Serve over prepared rice.

Difficulty: Moderately easy.  (Some slow cooker recipes allow you to dump the ingredients in and leave it to cook while you are at work all day; this isn't one of those.)
Time: Total ~25-30 minutes prep (broken up over the course of cooking), 7-8 hours cook time
Source:  Gooseberry Patch Slow-Cooker Recipes (Copyright 2005)

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Apple Crescent Surprise

My kids eat apples like crazy, but occasionally we end up with a few left at the bottom of the fruit bowl that have seen better days. Rather than throw them away, I use them to make these delicious pastry treats. I find the ingredients for this dessert are always in my house. I keep the crescent rolls in the refrigerator since I like to have them on hand in case I get unexpected company and can throw together this.

  • 2 cans crescent rolls
  • 2 Granny Smith apples, peeled and cored (I use whatever I have in the house)
  • 2 sticks butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 can (12 oz) ginger ale
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Cut each apple into 8 wedges.
  3. Open crescent rolls, place apple wedge in each one. Roll up.
  4. Place in 9 x 13 pan.
  5. Melt butter, add sugar and cinnamon.
  6. Pour over crescent rolls.
  7. Pour ginger ale on top.
  8. Bake 45 minutes until golden brown.
  9. Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

    Difficulty: Easy
    Time: 10 minutes prep, 45 minutes baking
    Source: a coworker's wife

    Tuesday, February 7, 2012

    Shortcut Chicken Manicotti

    Prior to this dish, the only manicotti I had ever had was stuffed with ricotta cheese.  This recipe opened my eyes to a whole new world of possibilities.  Aside from how delicious it is, what I love about it is that you don't have to cook the pasta or the chicken before assembly, which makes the prep SO much easier than traditional recipes.  I have been making it for years, and we all love it.

    • 1 can condensed cream of chicken soup
    • 1 1/2 cup water
    • 1/4 lb (4 oz) Velveeta Prepared Cheese Product, cut up
    • 2 cups frozen broccoli florets (I usually add more to increase the veggie content)
    • 12 manicotti pasta shells, uncooked
    • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into 1/2 inch strips
    • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

    1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Mix soup, water, and Velveeta in microwavable bowl.  Microwave on high 3 minutes or until Velveeta is melted and mixture is well blended, stirring after 2 minutes.  Pour 1/3 of the soup mixture into the bottom of a 13x9 inch baking dish; set aside.  Add broccoli to remaining soup mixture.
    2. Stuff pasta (uncooked) with chicken strips; place in baking dish.  Cover completely with remaining soup/broccoli mixture.  Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.  Cover with foil.
    3. Bake 45-50 minutes or until pasta is tender and chicken is cooked through.

    Difficulty: Easy
    Time: 15 minutes prep (stuffing the raw chicken into the uncooked pasta takes a bit of time, though not nearly as much as stuffing cooked pasta), 45-50 cooking
    Source: Kraft Food and Family Magazine, Winter 2008

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    Thursday, February 2, 2012

    Crab Dip

    Last summer, we found out that my son is allergic to crab meat, which is extremely unfortunate, because it is one of my absolute favorite foods in the entire world.  This dip is outstanding, super easy, travels well for parties, and is always a hit.  Though it is an "old school" recipe with a pinch of this and a squeeze of that, you just can't go me!  It is delicious!!

    • 1 can crab meat
    • 1 small onion, minced
    • 1 block (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
    • 1 1/2 T mayonnaise
    • a squeeze of lemon juice
    • a pinch of garlic powder
    • salt and pepper to taste


    Mix all ingredients and spread in small baking dish.  Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes or until lightly browned.

    Difficulty:  Super easy
    Time: less than 10 minutes prep, 
    Source: my mom