Sunday, March 28, 2010

beef and tator bake

Yummy note: This meal can be easily thrown together in minutes. It is a pretty filling casserole, so you don't usually need to serve anything else with it for a meal. I think we might serve some bread with it, but that's about it. This recipe was modeled off of a school cafeteria meal that we used to get in high school. We made fun of it alot and called it some unappealing names, but really we all loved it. It was tasty and had your meat protein, veggies, and what else than everyone else's favorite, tator tots piled on top! I added an extra twist and add on french fried onions at the very end to make it even yummier.

Beef and Tator Bake

1 lb ground beef/turkey
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can of green beans
1/2 can of milk
1/2 can of french fried onions
1/2 bag of tator tots

Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees. Brown ground beef and diced onion (or onion flakes) in skillet. After hamburger is browned, pour into 9x9 or 9x13 pan. Add a can of cream of mushroom soup and half can of milk to pan. Add a can of green beans and stir all together until blended. Add in some of the french fried onions here to your liking. Sprinkle in salt/pepper. Stir all together and spread the mixture out in the pan, and cover with tator tots.

Depending on pan size, a 1/2 bag tator tots works for a 9x9 pan, while you'll need a full bag of tator tots for the 9x13 sized pan. Note, the tator tots cook best if they are only in a single layer. Cook in oven for about 30 minutes or until tator tots are done (crispy and brown).

Easy add on's -- In the last few minutes of baking time, with about 5-10 minutes left, you can add either sprinkled cheese on top or french-fried onions on top.

Monday, March 22, 2010


Yummy note: Well this post isn't exactly yummy, but I guess it could be if the kiddo accidentally ate it. That is what is really great about this recipe, and why I like to make it. It is made from all editable ingredients, and non-toxic just in case someone gets the urge to put it in their mouth. Plus, you can really mix up a crazy amount of fun varieties of playdough for your kids to enjoy that work many of their senses. :) One last note, this can be easily made in an electric skillet, instead of on the stove; this is nice to do as I let the little ones help stir if they want to be involved in the kitchen.


3 cups water
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 cups flour
1 1/2 cups salt
2 tablespoons cream of tartar
2-4 tablespoons peppermint extract - added to the water
Several drops of food coloring - added to the water

If you are using add-ins to your recipe, please make sure you have your food coloring and/or extracts mixed into the water before continuing. Pour all ingredients into a large pot and mix together. Cook over low to medium heat, stirring constantly. Continue mixing until mixture thickens and starts to pull away from the sides of the pan. Start forming the dough into a large ball. Remove from heat, and form dough into the ball and place on waxed paper. Allow to cool and then knead for a few minutes to achieve consistency. Store in a ziplock bag or airtight container. This playdough has lasted for months and stays nice and moist without a lot of cracking or drying like commercialized playdough does.

Add-ins: Either food coloring and flavoring extracts OR a package of Koolaid (instead of the extracts/food coloring) can be added to the water in the recipe to create a variety of different playdough mixes. These extracts are our favorites: peppermint, vanilla, and lemon. I've also seen variations to add in spices, such as cinnamon/ginger/pumpkin pie spicing instead of adding in the extract.

Thanks to our friends at Bright Horizons for the basic playdough recipe. Original recipe found here

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Cracker Snack Mixes

Yummy note: I remember having this snack mix growing up in the summer time, as I had a older relative that always seemed to bring this to every family reunion that I can recall. It was always a crowd pleaser as it was salty, flavorful, and crispy crunchy. This cracker mix really tastes good in soups too, if you every have any leftovers from your snacking :) These cracker mixes are pretty quick to assemble, and can easily be varied with different spices/seasonings to make a variety of snack mixes.

Ranch Flavored Crackers

2 bags of oyster crackers (or an assortment of mini crackers)
1/2 tsp dill
1 tsp garlic salt
1 pkg Hidden Valley Ranch original dressing mix
1 cup canola/vegetable oil

Mix oil, dressing mix, and seasonings in large ziplock bag. Pour in oyster crackers. Shake well. Pour onto aluminium foiled lined cookie sheet and bake for about 15 minutes, stirring once, in a 350 degree oven.

Taco Flavored Crackers

about 2 packages (10 ounces each) assorted mini crackers (I used a combination of some cheddar Golfdish, regular oyster crackers, and Mini Saltine crackers)

2/3 cup canola/vegetable oil

1 envelope taco seasoning

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon chili powder


Mix oil and seasonings in large ziplock bag. Pour in assorted crackers and shake well. Pour onto aluminium foiled lined cookie sheet and bake for about 15 minutes, stirring once, in a 350 degree oven.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Oreo Truffle Balls

Yummy note: A few years ago I first had these at a friend's house and was amazed by a few things.. one-how darn addicting they were, two-what a rich and chocolaty treat it is, and three-how EASY they are to make! Another nice thing about this recipe is that you can easily switch out different cookies if you are not found of Oreos. I've made them with nutter butter cookies in the past and they turned out really great, too.

1 pkg. (1 lb. 2 oz.) OREO Cookies, finely crushed, divided
1 pkg. (8 oz.) Cream Cheese, softened
1 pkg. of White or Semi-Sweet Chocolate, (preferably the bark,meting chocolate works best)

Crush cookies until finely crushed.
Mix cookie crumbs and the cream cheese until well blended. I just did this all in my food processor; I crushed the cookies and then added the cream cheese and pulsed until mixed thoroughly. Then shape into about 1-inch or 2-inch balls. Makes about 40 truffle balls.

Place the truffle balls in the freezer for a little bit to set their shape. It is kind of hard to dip the truffles if they get too warm or soft. You will get a mess if you wait too long. So the best bet is to keep the truffle balls refrigerated or frozen before dipping. Melt chocolate and then dip the balls in melted chocolate. Place on a waxed paper-covered baking sheet. Decorate truffles as you wish. You may sprinkle with some more cookie crumbs or decorating sprinkles on top. Or melt some colored chocolate and drizzle across.

Tip: I use a plastic fork that is broken apart so that I have an easier way to fish the truffle balls out of the chocolate without a really big mess.

Refrigerate for about an hour or until firm. Store any leftover truffles in tightly covered container in refrigerator.

Monday, March 15, 2010

one bowl brownies

Yummy note:
I came across this recipe in a Ghirardelli chocolate cookbook that a coworker gave to me. I think that book was a hint to me that they enjoy tasting my various creations and that I needed to add a few more recipes to my collections... Some of the recipes in this book were more in depth than I really wanted. I just wanted a simple quick recipe that I could mix up using some of my chocolate baking bars I had already on hand. This recipe is fairly easy to mix together. I thought the hardest part was the melting of the chocolate and butter without it burning, and well finding that perfect time to get the brownies out of the oven.

One Bowl Brownies

4 ounces of chocolate (I used about half semi-sweet and half milk chocolate), broken into pieces
1 stick (1/2 cup) of butter/margarine
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
3/4 cup plus 2 tblsp flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a greased 8-in square baking pan with butter and flour (or use an equivalent baking spray). In the top of a double boiler or in a heatproof bowl, simmer a pan of water, and melt the chocolate and butter together. Sir occasionally until smooth for a few minutes, be careful not to let the water in the pan go empty or leave the chocolate and butter mixture go unattended or else it may burn. When smooth, remove the pan from the heat and let cool to room temperature before continuing.

Stir in brown sugar and vanilla into the melted chocolate mixture. Add the eggs and mix well. Next, in a sifter (or I used a wire mesh strainer), pour in flour, baking powder, and salt. Slowly fold in the sifted flour mixture and mix well. Stir in chocolate chips and pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. Cool for atleast 10 minutes before cutting.

original recipe here

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

fruity pork loin

Yummy note:
This is one of those recipes I just threw together with whatever ingredients I had in my pantry. I didn't feel like going to the grocery store for just one ingredient or two, so I started looking for ingredients that I thought would go together well instead. In the past, I've made pork chops with applesauce or a bbq pork loin version. Since I didn't really have enough of one thing for those recipes, I combined a few others instead and came up with a real nice fruity, almost fall flavor. An even yummier note, this pork loin tasted fantastic for leftovers the next night in pulled pork burritos.

1/4 cup orange juice
1/2 cup apple juice
single serving cup of applesauce (about 1/2 cup applesauce)
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 cup of fried mixed fruit -(I used a cranberry/cherry/blueberry mix I had on hand)
1/2 of a sliced onion
1 chopped apple
1 tsp crushed rosemary
1/2 tsp of a veggie/all-purpose seasoning (usually has some seasonings like parsley, basil, garlic, and paprika in it)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 1/2 to 2 lb pork loin roast

In a crockpot, mix in apple and orange juices, applesauce, honey, and half of the dried fruit together. Place the pork loin into the mixture. Next, sprinkle seasonings and rest of dried fruit on top of the pork loin. Next. chop apple into pieces and slice onion and arrange on top of pork loin. That's it! Place cover on crock pot and set to low temperature. Forget for about 6-8 hours. Internal temperature of the pork loin roast should be atleast 160 degrees.

Friday, March 5, 2010

cilantro lime chicken BLAT sandwich

Yummy note:
I had a sandwich similar to this the other day for lunch and knew I had to try and reproduce that $10 yummy sandwich I just scarfed down. So here is my take at it. Pretty darn close, I might say, so I am excited. Only thing real different from my sandwich and the restaurant one I had, was they used regular bacon slices and an herbed mayo of sorts on the pretzel bun. Other than that, I think I captured the essence.

In this post, you will be getting a two-in-one post :) You could easily just make the chicken part of this recipe and eat it with pasta, rice, use it in fajitas, or lay on top a nice salad. It is just so easy and quick, not to mention great flavor.

Cilantro Lime Chicken BLAT (Bacon-Lettuce-Avocado-Tomato) Sandwich

a few slices of Canadian bacon
Prepared Cilantro Lime chicken
avocado - sliced or diced
sliced pepperjack cheese
small container of salsa or pico de gallo (or you could use tomato slices)
slices of lettuce
Pretzel buns.

Prepare the pretzel buns. I did this the night before and they still tasted great. I cut the buns in half and lightly toasted/warmed the buns back up in the oven for a few minutes, before I started layering on the other ingredients. Layer the above ingredients on a lightly buttered bun. I placed the Canadian bacon down first, then the chicken, then the pepperjack cheese, and then added the pico de gallo, avocado, and lettuce on top. What pretty and yummy layers of flavor you will get! Enjoy.

Cilantro Lime chicken

1/8-1/4 cup prepared cilantro
2 limes juiced
2 tblsp olive oil
1 tblsp honey
1 tblsp garlic minced
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1-1 1/2 lbs thinly sliced or pounded chicken breasts

For the marinade, mix all ingredients above in a dish or ziplock bag. Add the chicken to the marinade mixture and coat chicken well. Let is sit for atleast 15 minutes, or longer for more intense flavors.

This is my secret ingredient, I love to use prepared herbs/spices such as these shown here. I used the jarred minced garlic and the prepared cilantro "sauce in a tube" I'll call it. It works awesome. No chopping or dicing and cuts out some time preparing everything, plus, you loose NO flavor. Granted, you loose some "texture" of the cilantro, but you were going to be tossing it in the lime juice and olive oil anyways, so it's ok with this recipe.

After the chicken has been done marinating, grill the chicken until done a few minutes on each side. Because you have thinner chicken slices, it doesn't take that long, I think it maybe took about 4-5 minutes top . I used my old indoor George Foreman grill for these sandwiches, as I wanted to grill the chicken and get a more juicer chicken. Often, I'll admit it, and accidentally I'll overbake chicken in the oven, so I didn't want to risk that chance, so the grill is much better for me to cook with :)

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Pretzel buns

Yummy note:
I was inspired to make these delicious little things after visiting several restaurants that kept serving sandwiches on pretzel rolls, instead of regular buns. I think just about anything served on a pretzel bun tastes better. Plus, who doesn't love warm pretzels?! Even my daughter, who is a "selective" eater was like "i like 'em" in a surprising little voice, haha..

So while making these pretzel buns, I was a little concerned they were not going to turn out like I wanted. I had a little helper on the first part of this recipe before she headed off to bed, and before I knew it she was busy pouring in the flour mixture into the other liquid mixture, before I had gotten the yeast mixture incorporated! yipes! luckily, I caught her in time before she started mixing, and I could add in the yeast before it was too late. So with that said, I was happily surprised how freakishly delicious these buns turned out. It is a must, to eat one right out of the oven, nice and hot and fresh, really it is, no matter what time of the day it is. I had my first bite, and I was ready to hit my pretzel coma right then and there and call it a night to go to bed. I was glad to see it actually turn out well, and tasting great after I thought I messed up a few steps, so with that, I give you courage to make them too! Enjoy.

1 1/3 cups warm water
2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
2 tbsp warm milk
1/3 cup light brown sugar
2 tbsp butter, melted
4 cups all-purpose flour
kosher salt or pretzel salt
2 quarts cold water
1/2 cup baking soda

In a bowl, mix a 1/3 cup of the warm water (about 105-115 degrees) with the yeast and let stand until foamy. Next, add the remaining 1 cup of warm water along with warm milk, sugar & melted butter to the yeast mixture. Mix a bit to dissolve the brown sugar. Then add flour and mix well. Stir until you get a nice, firm, pliable dough ball. Add more flour if necessary. Place dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 2 minutes. Roll dough into a long log about 2 feet, and cut into 12 even pieces, about 2 inches wide. Cover dough with plastic wrap and a place damp cloth on top. Let sit for 10 minutes. Next, pat dough into rolls or form knots and arrange on a lightly floured surface about an inch apart and cover with lightly oiled plastic wrap.

Let the pretzels rest for an additional 30 minutes or until they have enlarged in size.

Preheat the oven to 425°. Lightly oil 2 baking sheets. In a large stockpot, bring the cold water to a rolling boil and add baking soda. Seriously, do me and you a favor, use a larger stockpot, or else the science experiment of adding baking soda to boiling water, will do a bubbly number and erupt all over your stove top. I almost made this mistake. I had to switch from my 2 quart sauce pan of boiling water to a larger pot at the very end, just before I added the baking soda, as my realization set in. haha.. So after you have the water boiling, add in the 1/2 cup of baking soda to the water. Drop in two rolls at a time into the boiling water and boil for no more then 30 seconds, turning once. Carefully remove with tongs or slotted spoon and let it drain a bit. Sprinkle lightly with salt, and score a design onto the top of the rolls if desired. Repeat with the remaining rolls. Arrange rolls on the oiled baking sheets and bake on the upper and middle racks of the oven for about 15 minutes to achieve a nice brown color. Your oven may vary, so start checking the rolls after about 8-9 minutes to get the color/doneness you want. I shifted and turned the pans about halfway through, for even baking. Let the rolls cool on the baking sheets for about 5 minutes, then transfer them to a rack and enjoy!

original recipe here