Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Crock Pot Lasagna

In case you didn't know by now, the crock pot is my dear friend. I use it religiously especially through the colder months which are unfortunately already here in my neck of the woods. The crock pot helps make that post-school/pre-dinner "witching"hour a little more manageable for me, what with not having to worry about making dinner and homework and piano practice and, and, get the picture.

This lasagna is a great crock pot meal, it might not look all that pretty but its taste more than makes up for its looks and it is one of the easiest meals in a crock pot to assemble, particularly if you opt for jarred spaghetti sauce and I certainly do! If you aren't sold by now, let me share one last tempting tidbit-it's a 4 hour tops cook time (on low). So if you aren't on your game at 9 in morning for an 7-8 hour recipe, you can throw it in around 2 or 3 in the afternoon and it's good to go by dinner time. So great!

Crock Pot Lasagna
{Recipe source: Maren Layton}

6-9 lasagna noodles, uncooked (I use the flat not curly kind)
1 lb ground beef or turkey, browned and seasoned with italian seasonings i.e. basil, oregano, marjoram, garlic powder or salt, onion powder, and red pepper flakes
1 jar (28oz) spaghetti sauce
16 oz cottage cheese
1 cup grated mozzarella

Spray crock pot with cooking spray. Be sure to drain the browned meat really well. Spread a thin layer of spaghetti sauce in bottom of crock pot. Layer 2-3 uncooked noodles on top (I use a smaller round crock pot and have to break them them up a bit), then 1/3 meat, 1/3 spaghetti sauce, 1/3 cottage, cheese, and 1/3 grated mozzarella. Repeat layers two more times. I try to save a little bit of the sauce to put on the very top for moisture purposes. Cook on low 3-4 hours, but not longer than 4. Makes a good 6-8 servings.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Cheesy Broccoli Rice Bake

Another Mels Kitchen special. This was tasty. Cheesy, creamy, broccoli filled, flavorful crumb topped goodness. It has a few steps, i.e. cooking the rice, steaming the broccoli, making the sauce but the time spent was worth it because the end result was fabulous! You could add in some chicken and make it a one-dish meal with salad on the side. We had some chicken kebabs with ours making it a side dish, and let me just say it stole the show! It would pair perfectly with roasts of all kinds, grilled meats, and many kinds of fish as well.

Cheesy Broccoli Rice Bake
Recipe from Mels Kitchen Cafe

2 slices sandwich bread
3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
6 T butter, 4 melted, 2 chilled
1 clove garlic, minced
2 lbs broccoli chopped, including stems
1 onion, chopped
1 1/4 cup white rice
4 cups chicken broth
1 1/4 cups half-and-half
1 t salt
2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
1/8 t cayenne pepper

Grease 9x13 dish and set aside. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Pulse bread, 1/4 cup parm, and 4 T melted butter in food processor. Add minced garlic and set aside.

Microwave chopped broccoli, covered, in a microwave safe bowl until bright green and slightly tender, 2-3 minutes (no need to add water). Melt remaining 2 T butter in large pot over medium heat. Cook onion until softened and translucent. Add rice and cook, stirring constantly, until translucent, about 1 minute. Stir in broth, half-and-half, and salt and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring often, until rice is tender, 20-25 minutes. Off the heat, stir in cheddar cheese, cayenne, remaining parmesan and cooked broccoli.

Pour the mixture into the baking dish and top with bread crumb mixture. Bake until sauce is bubbling around edges and top is golden brown, about 15 minutes. Cool 5 minutes. Serve.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Teriyaki Chicken Sandwiches {Crock Pot}

I've been making this recipe for years. It was shared with me by my good friend Darla way back when we were going to school and had one baby a piece. Those were the day, right?! Anyhow, it's definitely not a fancy recipe by any means and that's why I love it. 3 ingredients besides the chicken and uses the crock pot for ultimate ease. Doesn't get any better!

Teriyaki Chicken Sandwiches {Crock Pot}
{Recipe from Rachael H. via Darla}

Use equal parts:
brown sugar
soy sauce
pineapple juice

For 2 chicken breasts:
1 can pineapple juice (6oz.)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup soy sauce

Additional items needed:
Cheese (optional)
Crushed pineapple (optional)
Greens (optional)

Place chicken breasts in crock pot. Mix together pineapple juice, brown sugar, and soy sauce. Pour over chicken. Cover and cook for 6 hours on low or 3 on high. About 1 hour before serving, remove chicken shred, and place back in juices. When ready to serve, broil buns add chicken, cheese, crushed pineapple, and greens to buns and serve.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Chocolate Banana Snack Cake

This here cake is the best of both worlds. Its borderline-healthy with bananas and applesauce on the ingredient list ;0). And super duper tasty with that ever-amazing ingredient chocolate chips, which I of course added of my own accord because I can never leave well-enough alone. I found the original recipe in a Cooking Light magazine years ago and they refer to it as snack cake because it's somewhere between a brownie and a cake in consistency, every moist too. As in it's sturdy enough that you can pick it up and eat it with your hand, no fork necessary. I remember they also suggested using the pieces as individually wrapped bake-sale items, but I say skip the bake sale donation and just eat it all yourself. I know that's what I do!

Chocolate Banana Snack Cake
{Recipe Source: Cooking Light}

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup mashed, ripe bananas
2 large eggs
1 t vanilla
1 cup flour
1/2 cup cocoa
1/2 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
1 cup chocolate chips
Powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 350 and grease an 8x8 square baking dish. Combine sugar, applesauce, butter, and eggs in mixing bowl and mix till combined. Add banana and vanilla. In separate bowl whisk together flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Gradually combine with wet mixture. Add chocolate chips and stir till evenly distributed. Pour into prepared baking dish and bake in oven for about 40 minutes. Check with toothpick. Cool in pan on rack and then dust with powdered sugar, slice into desired size pieces, anywhere from 8 to 16 small squares or so. Serve at room temperature.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Roasted Tomato Basil Soup

I've never been a Campbell's tomato soup fan. Not one little bit. And for the longest time that soup tainted my view of any other tomato soup, to the point of not even trying them. And then my friend Janel fed me homemade tomato soup one day for lunch and a whole new world was opened. Since then I've found this recipe for Roasted Tomato Basil Soup on Annie's Eats and now I find myself craving it all the time! It's so flavorful, has a great consistency, a little bit of spicy heat, and nothing could go better with grilled cheese on sourdough. Plus my kids would drink this with a straw, they love it! and it makes for killer leftovers too :0)

Roasted Tomato Basil Soup
{Slightly Adapted from}

3 lbs ripe tomatoes, halved with seeds scooped out
1/4 cup plus 2T olive oil
1 T kosher salt
1 1/2 t black pepper
2 T butter
2 cups chopped onion
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 t red pepper flakes
1 (28 oz) can whole tomatoes with their juice
2 cups fresh basil leaves, torn
1 t fresh thyme flakes or an appropriate amount dried thyme substitution
4 cups chicken broth
Whipping cream
Grated parmesan for garnish

Preheat oven to 400. Combine the tomato halves, 1/4 cup olive oil, salt and pepper in a bowl and toss. Spread out on cookie sheet and pop in oven to roast for 45 minutes.

In large soup pot over medium heat, add remaining 2 T olive oil, 2 T butter, onions, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Cook until onions are soft and translucent, about 7-10 minutes. Add canned tomatoes, roasted tomatoes, basil, thyme, and chicken broth and bring to a boil. Then lower heat and simmer, uncovered, for 40 minutes. Using either an immersion blender or regular blender (be careful pouring hot soup in there), blend until smooth. If necessary add back to soup pot and then add a small amount of whipping cream, maybe a 1/4 cup? or so. Stir and serve hot topped with grated parmesan and grilled cheese for dipping.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Back to School...Snacks

This final Back to School food post is all about those ever elusive snack ideas. Our kids are asked to bring a snack in addition to their lunch each day, not to mention they're always hungry right after school. We'll see if I can occasionally provide something a little more homemade for the sake of nutrition and these might just be some good options:

At School Snacks...

Homemade Granola Bars: We are granola bar fans in our house and for as much as we eat and buy them, I'm sorry to say I've never tried my hand at actually making them. Well this is the year! Chewy Granola Bars & Coconut Granola Bars are 2 options I plan to try.

Ham and Cheese Roll-Ups: As I've already mentioned numerous times, the kids aren't big sandwich fans. But if you take the bread out of the equation they've always really liked these. Although they are a good stand-in for lunch, I think they're an equally easy snack to pack along with lunch. Use your favorite thin-sliced lunch meat and favorite hard cheese (colby-jack, monterey jack, cheddar). Slice cheese into 3 inch or so long "sticks" and wrap lunch meat around each stick.

Sour Cream Fruit Dip: Fruit is an easy no-fuss at school snack and it's made all the better by sending along a little container of this dip. Cherries, strawberries, and sliced apples would all be good options for the fruit.

Jam Pockets, Etc.: I like that these are self-contained equaling low mess and that there are different flavor combos suggested both sweet and savory depending on your mood and kids likes.

Peanut Butter Power Balls: These are interesting and definitely something the kids could help make.

1 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup non-fat dry milk powder or soy protein powder
1/2 cup raisins or mini-chocolate chips
1/4 cup honey
Graham cracker crumbs

Mix all ingredients expect the graham cracker crumbs in a large bowl. Shape mixture into 1-inch balls. Roll in crumbs and refrigerate (or freeze; they will thaw by snack time)

After School Snacks...

Since we all know we're just about to make and eat dinner, an after school snack should be quick to make with minimal help from Mom and not a meal in and of itself. I think these might fit the bill.

Creamy Cheese Cinnamon Toast: These could easily be a great breakfast option too and I like that they take the idea of cinnamon toast a bit further with the addition of cream cheese.

Chocolate Banana Quesadillas: Umm, yes please! and use nutella instead of chocolate chips and you've got snack-time bliss, mom included!

Mini Tortilla Cheese Pizzas: Although I've already admitted my kids aren't pizza fans, they are mexican food fans so we'll see how these go over. And what a great at home lunch option for days off school or weekends.

And 3 drink/smoothie options:

The Purple Cow: My memories of this drink are vivid! When I was little (1st grade, kindergarten, and younger) I went to a lovely daycare and this drink was occasionally served during snack time and I kid you not it's the only thing I remember about the food there. It must have made quite an impression if I'm still remembering it over 25 years later! I will most definitely be making this for my kids and if we're feeling extra naughty we might just throw some vanilla ice cream in there!

Kiwi Grape Smoothie

Cherry Chocolate Smoothies:

Combine 1 cup low-fat milk, 1/2 cup vanilla low-fat yogurt, 1/2 cup frozen or fresh pitted cherries, and 2 tablespoons dark chocolate chips in a blender or food processor and mix until smooth.

And just a few extra no-explanation needed ideas that are possibly a bit out of the ordinary:

Mini muffins, mini bagels with cream cheese, chips and salsa, 100 calorie microwave popcorn, hard-boiled egg, carrot sticks & hummus, sugar snap peas & ranch

Happy Snacking!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Back to School...Lunches!

And now for school lunches. We can definitely use some help in that department. My children have some different tastes than most, they are not very excited about most kid foods aside from chicken nuggets and fries. Pizza doesn't float their boat, neither does mac and cheese, pb&j, sandwiches in general--in other words pretty much every easy child lunch out there. Don't get me wrong though, I'm glad they like the things they do because it's what I like it's just that it doesn't translate into easy brown bag lunch making or picnicking either for that matter.

Not only do I want lunches to be relatively simple in concept, they need to be easy prep too. Our kids will be making their lunches the night before as part of the homework routine, so it needs to be something they can put together on their own for the most part. That said, I think it will be fun to try our hands at some recipes for the sake of learning some age appropriate cooking skills. Here's a list of things I hope to try making together with my kids:

Lunch Ideas:

Stuffed Pita Pockets:Not very original, but may be just what my kids need to jump start regular sandwich eating. Neither school age child has ever been a big sandwich eater, which let me tell you can put a real wrench in lunch options, particularly brown bag lunch options. But maybe if we try some meat, cheese, veggies in a pita with ranch or some other sauce in separate container for dipping or pouring on just prior to eating we'll have success.

Sandwich on a Stick: I could not love this idea more! There again, it's an atypical sandwich option and I don't know any kid who doesn't love eating things off of sticks. Plus, what a fun thing to prepare thus encouraging children to help in their lunch making process and it can obviously and easily be personalized.

PB&J Blossoms: These are just too cute! My kids are not enticed by peanut butter and jelly but just might be if they're in a fun shape and especially if they helped me make them. We shall see!

Ham and Cheese Empanadas: At first glance I sort of balked at these, but only because I thought they look ridiculously time intensive for a kids school lunch. Upon closer inspection though I saw that they actually look pretty simple and relatively quick. Add to that the fact that they're kid-helper friendly and I think they'll be worth a try. And really the options for fillings are endless, the concept lends itself to all kinds of combos. Will let you know how they turn out.

Taco Roll-Ups: Oh boy do we have some mexican food fans in our house! So naturally these ought to be right up their alley. I can imagine cooking up a batch of the meat and beans and freezing what we don't use right away for easy assembly later on.

Best Tuna Salad: An easy variation on the old standby to hopefully mix up the sandwich rotation a bit as needed.

Pinwheel Bites: Who doesn't love pretty, bite size food? Who cares that it's nothing new, just seen in a new way and that might just be enough to make all the difference. Take virtually any sandwich combo you can think of and put on bread that you've rolled out a bit and then roll it all together and slice into pinwheels, definitely fun lunch material. Substitute tortillas for bread and you've got an even more unusually fun option. I'll be giving herbed cream cheese with sliced ham on a tortilla a try. So tricky!

Homemade Lunchables: Another genius idea for sure. My kids love lunchables, which not surprisingly I'm unwilling to provide them on any regular basis, but making our own? You betcha! There's no recipe or link to share for this because it's a pretty basic concept. We're thinking a small divided container (ziploc brand or something comparable), ritz crackers or something similiar, sliced cheese any thickness or shape you want, thicker sliced meat-ham steaks anyone?, all divided out just like lunchables and maybe some sort of fruit (cups or applesauce or fresh), and for fun a miniature candy bar because we all know the dessert is what makes the kids interested in those store bought special in the first place.

Bento Boxes: Love this idea! Although several of the items shown at this link are a bit out there as far as my kids tastes go, the idea is definitely usable. Heck, I want to eat all the boxes shown here! Our favorites are the Mexican Bento (cheese quesadillas? Who'da thought?!), Americanized Bento (liking the turkey bologna sandwich filling and boiled egg addition), All-American Bento (egg salad never looked so good!), and the Mediterranean Bento (pita and hummus, so appetizing and kids love dipping so it may just work). Mainly I just think opening a container with any number of those options diplayed in such a fun appetizing way is sure to be a hit!

Another link: Our Best Bites has a little post on kids lunches in their archive for even more ideas, some of which I've covered a version of already but check it out!

That's all I got and I think it's great start for us. Here's to hoping that we have happy school lunch-making and eating kids this year!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Back to School...Breakfasts!

I don't know about you, but our house has some serious issues come school time with getting a healthy, hearty breakfast into ourselves AND packing a lunch that kids are, if not excited, at least interested in eating. So I thought, in an effort to help motivate myself, that a short series dedicated to back-to-school food might be good. We'll start with breakfasts, followed by the always-dreaded school lunches, and finish up with snacks, the during school and after school kind. Sorry no pictures of food this time, just words and links most of which have pictures of their own so you'll get the idea.

My kids have always done well with breakfasts of all kinds, I just don't do so well making them anytime but the weekends. So my goal through this winter and school year is to make a hot breakfast for my 2 school age kids as often as possible. {notice I didn't say every day! that would be a recipe for failure on my part} And since we're also no whizzes at giving ourselves ample and leisurely amounts time in the mornings, we obviously need some quick and simple hot homemade breakfast options. Here's a list of my ideas, with explanation and recipe links where appropriate:

Before School Breakfast Ideas:
omelet: a go to and quicker than you think favorite of ours

baked oatmeal: my kids aren't such big fans of the easy make-it-yourself packets of oatmeal, I'm hoping this will be another way to get that hearty classic breakfast into them. Plus it doesn't hurt that I think it looks fabulous!
**Update (8/23/11)-This was as good as it promised to be! and my kids loved the idea that they were practically eating "cake" for breakfast. With strawberries and milk it was over the top good, we all had 2 helpings. I used old-fashioned oats and it was good, but I think texture-wise quick-cooking would be a bit better, that's what I'll be trying next and I'm pretty sure they'll be the way to go.

oatmeal pancake mix: Oh my goodness, we love this so much! The mix is easy to whip together. The batter is even easier to throw together. The pancakes seem relatively healthy to me. And we can't stop eating them! Just a note I recommend grinding the oatmeal as she suggests, and we use regular milk, rather than buttermilk, with much success...we like our pancakes a little thinner and more crepe-like anyhow.

refrigerator bran muffins: I have yet to try these but they're on the menu this week and I've seen more than one version of this concept floating around in numerous places. I love the idea of a batter that stays ready and waiting in the fridge for 30 days. 30 days people! Not to mention, you can make as few or as many at a time as your heart desires. I also imagine that first thing in the morning preheating the oven, scooping some batter into a few muffin liners, and popping it all in the oven while we move on to other morning rituals such as getting dressed and gathering school items, takes virtually no time and then to have hot muffins jam-packed with all kinds of healthy fiber waiting for you at the end might just be brilliant! i hope my kids like them, I'm sure I will.
**Update (8/20/11): We made, we baked, we LOVED! Both my older kids came back asking for more, they had 2 and 2 1/2 respectively. I opted for 1 cup dark brown sugar and 1 cup white, having not made them any other way I see no reason to not keep it that way! Also make a batch of this honey butter for slathering inside and out and you have breakfast or snack muffin perfection (who cares that it's slightly less healthy!)

Yogurt Fruit smoothies & cinnamon sugar toast: Yogurt smoothies are quite possibly the best breakfast option ever. My kids can't get enough and really how long does it take to throw a 1/2 a cup of your favorite yogurt, a fresh or frozen banana, a cup of some kind(s) of frozen fruit, a dash of juice or milk, and possibly some honey into the blender and press "blend"? Not long, I promise! And just FYI, I find that keeping a large container of vanilla yogurt in the fridge and a well-stocked with frozen fruit freezer is a sure-fire way to have smoothie success at the drop of a hat.

Breakfast Burritos: We've been making these for a full decade and still never tire of them. You basically just saute some onions in butter, add eggs and scramble. We usually add some kind of meat to ours once the eggs are mostly set, either bacon or kielbasa sausage that has been cooked and crumbled or browned and chopped. Top the whole yummy mess with grated cheese, slap it on a warmed flour or corn tortilla with some salsa, roll, and eat away. Delicious and potentially self-contained if you're on the run. Those tortillas are way better then plastic wrap!

Homemade Egg McMuffins: McDonald's is gross. There I said it. We occasionally eat at McDonald's. There I said that too. Despite it all a person has to admit that breakfast sandwiches are pretty ingenious. So why not make your own at home and skip the fast-food fat? Here again, this is a pretty basic and very flexible concept-eggs of some kind (scrambled, fried, poached), toasted bread of some kind (we stick with english muffins-and you can even get wheat these days), cheese (because it's yummy), and breakfast meat (sausage patty, bacon, sliced ham). Some spinach, sliced tomato, heck-grilled onions wouldn't hurt either and could easily take the place of meat. Also, we're fans of ketchup or salsa as a condiment. Layer it all together sandwich style and voile, your own homemade mcmuffin that maybe took you 15 minutes tops! Definitely doable before school and you can't tell me those aren't going to keep your kids nice and full till lunch.

And for the days we're just not on the ball and running late, the kids went to bed late, or we're all just too darn tired--there'll always be our well-stocked help yourself cold cereal cupboard and eggo's in the freezer!

Here's hoping we have a successful school year full of many hot and yummy breakfasts!

If you have favorite before school breakfast recipes/ideas, I'd love to hear about them...

Warm Bacon, Egg, and Spinach Salad

This is one of the best salads I've had the pleasure of eating EVER. It inevitably outshines anything else on my plate when I'm eating it. The combination of sauteed mushrooms, carmelized red onions, crispy bacon, and boiled eggs does not disappoint. And don't even get me started on the simple but amazingly flavorful and warm dressing that coats it all. It's exceptional.

Warm Bacon, Egg, and Spinach Salad
{Recipe source: The Pioneer Woman Cooks}

3 eggs, boiled and sliced
8 slices thick-cut bacon
1 small-ish red onion, sliced
1 carton sliced mushrooms
2 T olive oil
dash of sugar
8 oz fresh baby spinach
3 T bacon grease, reserved
3 T red wine vinegar
2 t sugar
1 t dijon mustard
dash of salt
chicken broth, if needed

Fry bacon in skillet till crisp-cooked. Remove to paper towels. Set 3 T of bacon grease aside. Leave the rest in the pan and add onions with a dash of white sugar. Over medium heat let soften and caramelize for 7 minutes or so. Remove from pan onto a plate. Add 2 T olive oil to pan and saute mushrooms until soft with a bit of color. Remove to same plate as onions. Pour bacon grease, red wine vinegar, sugar, and mustard in pan and scrape bottom of the pan to loosen all the deliciousness that's there. Whisk till combined. Taste, adjust if needed. Add a dash of salt if needed and chicken broth if it needs a little more volume.

To assemble salad:
Place spinach in serving bowl, top with onions, mushrooms, and bacon bits. Pour warm dressing over all and toss. Garnish with sliced hard-boiled eggs.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Could Not Be Simpler Tomato Sauce

This recipe has been floating around the blogosphere for quite some time. I found it via Smitten Kitchen, but she found it via so-and-so, who found it via another so-and-so, and so on. At first I thought tomatoes, butter, and an onion? This cannot be good! Too few ingredients that don't seem to have much flavor. But put the 3 together and it's a whole new story! It's simple and refreshing and I quite liked it. I'm sure my husband would have liked some sort of meat added in, but I liked it's non-meatness so left it as is. I did take the liberty of blending it up, rather than just crushing the tomatoes as the original recipe calls for. I'm a smooth sauce kind of gal, not so much chunky tomato sauce loving and I also decided I couldn't let the onion go to waste so I blended it in with the sauce instead of removing and discarding it. I added some shaved parmesan and if I'd had it would have sprinkle some basil chiffonade on top as well. But feel free to do as you please with it! It's an easy light dinner or lunch kind of dish, we added a hearty salad to our plate just to fill it out a bit more. Some crusty grilled bread would be great on the side too.

Tomato Sauce with Butter and Onion
{Slightly adapted from recipe source: Smitten Kitchen and elsewhere}

1 28 oz can whole stewed tomatoes
5 T butter
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and halved
Salt to taste, if needed (I didn't need it)
Shaved parmesan, optional
Basil chiffonade, optional
Hot cooked spaghetti noodles

Place tomatoes, butter, and halved onion in 3 quart heavy sauce pan over medium heat. Let come to boil and then reduce heat to maintain a steady simmer for at least 45 minutes, stirring occasionally and crushing tomatoes as you go. After 45 minutes you may either remove and discard onion and serve as is over pasta, or blend it all together and serve with shaved parmesan and basil on top. Easy as pie!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Watermelon Strawberry Slushie

I've made this several times this summer and haven't stopped to take a picture till now. Mostly we're all just in a rush to get it into our mouths. It's warm weather drink perfection and a great way to use up watermelon, particularly watermelon that might be a bit past it's prime. Another possible use would be pouring it into popsicle molds for fruit pops. You're gonna love it!

Watermelon Strawberry Slushie
{Adapted from}

2 cups watermelon chunks, a cup fresh and a cup frozen works the best
1 pint's worth frozen strawberries
1/3 cup sugar
juice of one lemon
possible crushed ice

Place fresh watermelon in blender with lemon juice and sugar. Blend till smooth. Add frozen strawberries and frozen watermelon (if using), blend until smooth. Depending on consistency add a bit of water to thin or more frozen strawberries or ice to thicken. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Sweet and Spicy Chicken Tacos {Crock Pot}

Apparently we're on a mexican food kick in our household these days, and why not when it's all so good?! This easily ranks up there in my top ten easiest and somehow uber-delicious meals. The original recipe calls for 4 ingredients, I add garlic to mine taking it up to a whopping 5. Throw in the fact that you cook it in the crock pot and I'm sold. It's perfect for either a weeknight or company over dish. Love when I find something that's simple and yet still company over worthy!

Sweet and Spicy Chicken Tacos {Crock Pot}
{Slightly adapted from Mels Kitchen Cafe}

2-3 chicken breasts (can be frozen to start)
1 15 oz can petite diced tomatoes
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4-1/2 t crushed red pepper flakes, I recommend closer to 1/2 t-my kids can handle the heat!
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Corn tortillas
Favorite taco toppings: cheese, tomatoes, avocado, cilantro, salsa, lettuce, etc.

Place chicken in crock pot. Mix tomatoes, brown sugar, red pepper flakes, and garlic together and pour over chicken. Cook on low 7-8 hours or high 5ish. At least 30 minutes before serving, and I prefer and hour or more, remove chicken, shred, and place back in juices. Serve with tortillas and favorite taco toppings.

Note: Other recommended uses could be burrito filling, enchilada filling, nachos, or taco salad of some kind. I think I may have to try my hand as using it as a stand-in for homemade cafe rio salad with tomatillo dressing, yum!

Monday, August 8, 2011


Haystacks are one of those meals that just about everyone's had in their life and that means there are a million and one recipes for them. But the basis is still chicken in some kind of creamy sauce, over rice, heaped with toppings galore. I won't even begin to claim that it's my recipes way or the highway, but I will say that I think they're pretty darn good and so easy to make that it'd be a shame not to try them, especially if the concept is new to you. They really are one of our families top ten meals as far as "makes everyone happy to see them on the table come dinnertime" goes.


2 chicken breasts, frozen or fresh
1 large can (family size) or 2 regular size cans cream of chicken soup
3/4 cup (+ or -) chicken broth
Garlic pepper or garlic salt
Hot cooked rice
Toppings, could include:
Tomatoes, grated cheese, minced onions, frozen peas-thawed, crushed pineapple, chopped celery, chopped green peppers, coconut, mandarin oranges, sliced almonds, crunchy chow mein noodles, etc.

Place chicken, soup, broth, seasoning-garlic pepper or garlic salt in crock pot. Cook on low for 8 hours or high for 5 hours. Remove chicken 1/2 hour before serving, shred, put back in pot. At this point you may want to add a bit more broth to reach your preferred consistency. We like ours on the thinner side. Prepare rice and toppings. To serve, spoon a bed of rice onto plate, ladle on some sauce, and top away!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Hot Chicken Hoagie

Want to know what makes the quickest, best traveling or take in dinner? This here hot chicken hoagie! It's absolutely delicious, a sure fire hit with kids and husbands, and you should make right now.
I know I shamelessly use Mel's Kitchen Cafe recipes probably way too often, but I've never had one let me down...I would hope she'd be flattered!

Hot Chicken Hoagie
{Recipe source: Mel's Kitchen Cafe}

1 loaf of sturdy french bread, cut lengthwise
2 cups cooked shredded chicken (crockpot on high 2-4 hours-depending on frozen or not-in chicken broth, or oven cooked and chopped are 2 options)
1/2 cup mayo
1/2 cup sour cream
3 green onion, sliced
1/2 tsp garlic salt
1/3 cup fresh parsley or 1-2 T dried
2 cups shredded cheese of choice (cheddar or mont jack or colby jack are good)
1/2 small can chopped olives, drained

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In bowl, combine, mayo, sour cream, green onions, parsley, olives, and garlic salt. Stir. Add chicken and cheese and stir to combine. Spoon by heaping spoonful onto each half of cut french bread. Spread out a bit to cover entire bread surface if necessary. May sprinkle a little more cheese over all. Pop in oven for 20 minutes until bubbly and edges lightly golden. Slice and serve. Good hot, warm, or even room temp! Leftovers keep well in fridge and may reheat in microwave or in oven again. I've successfully frozen prior to baking and then thawed and baked off just fine.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Crispy Honey Lime Enchiladas

This a definite winner of a recipe. My entire family, including our baby, ate and ate and ate these until they were gone. That's 2 adults and 3 small children eating an entire 9x13 pan of something in a one sitting! If that's not a tell-tale sign of a great recipe, I don't know what is. I kept the original recipe as is, but used corn tortillas instead of flour (my family's preference) and added my own spin on the finished product by frying the enchiladas until crispy before adding them to the dish and pouring on the good stuff (sauce and cheese). I like them that way because my only beef with regular enchiladas is that they turn into a sloppy mess on your plate and that texture just isn't my cup of tea. If you like 'em soft and mushy just skip my crispifying step. But if you want an enchilada that holds it's own against the sauce and goes from yummy to amazing give this method a try!

Crispy Honey Lime Enchiladas
{Slightly adapted recipe from Mel's Kitchen Cafe}

6 tablespoons honey
5 tablespoons lime juice (1 large lime)
1 tablespoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 pound chicken, cooked and shredded (I do mine in the crock pot so that shredding is actually an option-2-3 chicken breasts, chicken broth, dash each of cumin, red pepper flakes, and garlic powder-high for 3-4 hours if chicken's frozen, 2-3 if defrosted=works like a charm! )
Several corn tortillas

1/2 cup frying oil, veggie works fine

1 pound monterey jack cheese, shredded

16 ounces green enchilada sauce
1 cup heavy cream

Mix the first four ingredients and toss with shredded chicken. Let it marinate for at least 1/2 hour. Pour about 1/2 cup enchilada sauce on the bottom of a 9X13 baking pan. Fill tortillas with chicken and shredded cheese (save about a cup for sprinkling later) and tightly roll. If using corn tortillas, heat tortillas for 45 seconds to a minute in the mircrowave before assembling. This helps the tortillas be more pliable and less likely to crack and fall apart. Heat oil in skillet over med-high heat. Add assembled enchiladas seam side down to hot oil. Press firmly with spatula. When lightly golden turn over and repeat. Place crispy enchiladas in sauce covered dish. Mix the remaining enchilada sauce with the cream and leftover marinade-if you have any. Pour sauce on top of the enchiladas and sprinkle with cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes until brown and crispy on top.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Navajo Tacos

Use #2 for scones...Navajo Tacos!
When I was young, we went to Swiss Days every single Labor Day. It's a delightful little craft fair, parade, chuck wagon breakfast, small-town event in Midway, UT. Without a doubt the best part of Swiss Days for me was getting a Swiss Navajo Taco. They were the size of a dinner plate and one of the best things I ate all year, or so it seemed to me then. Now that I find myself elsewhere on the earth with no Swiss Days to attend come Labor Day, of course I have to find a way to still get that taco don't I? In steps the ever versatile scone, which in this case doubles as Indian Fry Bread. Top it with whatever you like, but chili, onions, tomatoes, cheese, lettuce, sour cream, and salsa are all a good place to start.

Navajo Tacos

1 recipe scones made a little larger, fried and hot.

Top with any of the following:
Chili (we just go the canned route)
Chopped or sliced tomatoes
Chopped onion, yellow, white, or green will do
Shredded Lettuce
Grated cheese (a cheddar variety is best)
Sour Cream
Salsa (or hot tomato sauce for the more authentic swiss navajo taco expereince-unfortunately my store doesn't stock it :0( )

Top hot scone with any or all of the above and then die of sheer food bliss!