Monday, January 28, 2013

M & M Cookies

I have loved these cookies forever, and now that M&Ms come in special colors for all different holidays, they are a perfect choice for Christmas, Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day and more.  They are so easy to make, and it is easy to get the kids involved, so they are a definite winner in my house!

Pretend there is baking soda in this picture, please!
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup shortening
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups candy-coated milk chocolate pieces (divided)
  1. In a large bowl, mix sugar, eggs, shortening, and vanilla thoroughly. 
  2. Mix together flour, salt, and baking soda and gradually add to creamed mixture. Blend well. Add 3/4 cup of M&M candies.
  3. Drop dough by teaspoonful onto cookie sheet. Slightly push a few candies on top of each dough ball with remaining candies.  (My kids help me with this part.)
  4. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 9 to 11 minutes, to your liking.  Makes 5-6 dozen.

Difficulty: On a cookie scale, pretty easy
Time: 15 min prep, 9-11 minutes for each batch

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Joyce's Menu Plan 1/25 - 1/31

My meal plans have been a bit odd lately, so I have refrained from posting.  As I created this week's, I thought it might be one worth sharing.   To save me from too much time in the kitchen, I am taking advantage of the slow cooker, prepping ahead for one meal while making another, and leftovers.  I hope you can find something useful in it!

Friday - Tacos
For a quick low-key Friday meal at the end of a long, cold week, I thought the kids would enjoy putting the fixings on their own tacos.  
Saturday - Breakfast for dinner
Friday night, I will be sleeping in the auditorium of the high school where I teach and am the co-sponsor of the Actors' Society for a lock-in function that culminates in a performance (by the students, not by me) for charity on Saturday night.  Thus, I will be MIA for the day.  My husband is awesome at making breakfast - omelets, pancakes, you name it - so this meal is on him.
Sunday - Potato Soup, Grilled Turkey Sandwiches, and salad
I have typically saved slow cooker meals for work days because it is so nice to have the meal made when we get home.  However, I have been taking advantage of the slow cooker more and more on Sundays.  I get the meal ready in the morning and have the rest of the day to spend with my family.  
Monday - Salsa Chicken Bake and steamed veggies
This will be an easy and delicious meal for a Monday, and it gives me an opportunity to prep some chicken for Thursday.  
Tuesday - Sausage, Tomato, and Spinach Pasta
Tuesday is gymnastics night, and we get home at dinner time with everyone hungry.  I don't want to spend a long time on a meal; this one takes only as long as it takes to make the pasta - 20 minutes from start to finish.
Wednesday - Leftovers
It will just be the kids and me for dinner, so we should have enough leftovers from earlier in the week to feed us.
Thursday - Pulled BBQ Crescents and salad
My husband will get home late on Thursday, so I want something with an easy prep.  This meal is one of my kids' favorites, and with the chicken already prepped from Monday, it takes no time to put together.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Salsa Chicken Bake

My family loves this recipe. It is one I often prepare on vacation because it is easy and stores nicely as leftovers for lunches. Sometimes to save time, I make a double batch and freeze half. If I have some fresh vegetables on hand, I chop them and throw them in with the salsa and chicken as it heats; last time, I added some fresh orange peppers.


  •  2/3 cup of Bisquick mix 
  • 2 T water 
  • 1 egg 
  • 1 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese 
  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite size pieces 
  • 2 t vegetable oil 
  • 1 1/4 cup salsa 
  1. Heat over to 400 degrees F.
  2. Spray 9 inch square baking dish.
  3. Stir together Bisquick, water, and egg.
  4. Spread in pan.
  5. Sprinkle with 1 1/4 cup cheese.
  6. Cook and stir chicken in oil over medium-high heat until outsides are white; drain.
  7. Stir salsa into chicken until hot.
  8. Spoon over batter in pan to within 1/2 inch of edges.
  9. Bake 22-25 minutes or until edges are dark golden brown.
  10. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup of cheese.
  11. Bake 1-3 minutes until cheese is melted.
  12. Loosen from pan.

Difficulty: Easy
Time: 10 minutes to prep; 25 to bake
Source: Kraft Food and Family

Monday, January 14, 2013

Artichoke Appetizer

When it comes to appetizers, I usually get my best recipes from friends and relatives at parties and get-togethers when I can't stop eating a particular dish.  This is no exception.  This recipe, which has been passed around my neighborhood, has been just as big of a hit with my family when I've made it for them.  People just can't stop eating it. And they always want the recipe.

  • large jar of artichoke hearts marinated in oil (33 oz jar found at Costco)
  • 3 Tbs lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
  • sprinkle of crushed red pepper flakes
  1. Preheat oven to 350.  Drain artichokes; cut any large pieces in half or in thirds, but do not chop.
  2. Combine ingredients, reserving the red pepper to sprinkle on top.
  3. Bake for 20 minutes or until hot and bubbly.  Serve with pieces of crusty bread.
I mixed the ingredients in the casserole dish...made it easier, but didn't make for a great picture due to the sloppiness on the sides.  Sorry!

Difficulty: easy
Time: 5 minutes prep; 20-25 minutes baking
Source: my neighbor, Deana F.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Stuffed Pepper Soup

When people find out you are a closet food blogger, they start letting you taste their food.  My lunch buddy Kelly heard me complaining about my failure on a crock-pot stuffed pepper soup; she brought me this recipe the next day and some of her soup to try.  It was great on a cold, snowy day!  I liked the idea of browning the meat in the saucepan to save cleaning pots.  This was a great dinner which left us with plenty of leftovers.


  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 can tomato sauce, 28 ounces
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, 28 ounces, undrained
  • 2 cups rice, cooked
  • 2 cups green pepper, chopped
  • 2 beef bouillon cubes
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 t salt
  • 1 t pepper
  • 1 hot pepper, optional

  1. In a large saucepan, brown beef and drain.  
  2. Add remaining ingredients.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat; cover.
  3. Simmer 30-40 minutes, until peppers are tender.

Difficulty: Easy
Time: 15 minute prep; 40 minute cooking time
Source: A coworker 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Balsamic Chicken and Mushrooms

I don't know about anyone else, but I feel as though I have pretty much eaten my way through the past several weeks.  I haven't exercised nearly as much as I normally do, either, which becomes an issue for me in more ways than one.  As with many people, I am interested in starting the new year off in a healthy way, and this recipe is a great one for is full of flavor and healthy, simple ingredients.  Hailing from the blog of one of my running buddies, I have made it several times for my family and it is always a hit.

  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts 
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt 
  • 1/2 tsp pepper 
  • 1 package button mushrooms washed patted dry and sliced 
  • 3 tsp, minced bottled garlic 
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar 
  • 3/4 cup low sodium chicken broth 
  • 1 bay leaf 
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme 
  • cooking spray
  1. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Spray non stick skillet with cooking spray and heat to medium high. Add the chicken and saute until brown on one side. 
  2. Add garlic and flip over chicken breasts and add mushrooms. Continue cooking while stirring mushrooms. Cook for about 3 minutes then add vinegar, broth, bay leaf, and thyme. 
  3. Cover and simmer over medium low heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove chicken, set aside and keep warm. 
  4. Continue simmering sauce, uncovered for about 7 minutes. Discard bay leaf and pour mixture over chicken and serve.

Difficulty: easy
Time: 25 minutes