Saturday, December 28, 2013

Beef & Cheese Manicotti

Darin loved manicotti, and I wanted to make something special for him for Christmas dinner. I read through reviews online, and adjusted the recipe according to them. The outcome was fantastic!

Many reviewers mentioned an all-beef mixture was too bland, so I did a 50/50 mixture of ground chuck and spicy sausage = lots of flavor. Also, make sure to use a good quality spaghetti sauce (I used Emeril's, and loved it), and it was crucial to the final taste of this dish. We paired this Texas Toast, and was in carb heaven.

Tip: Many reviewed said they placed the cheat/meat mixture into a quart-sized Ziploc bag, cut a corner of it, and filled the manicotti shells. The mixture seemed too thick for me to "pipe" the shells easily, so I just stuffed it myself. I also had a little bit of the cheese/meat mixture left, and just placed it on top of the stuffed pastas.


  • 3 tsp olive oil, divided
  • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2# ground chuck
  • 1/2# spicy sausage roll (we used Bob Evans' spicy sausage roll)
  • Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • 8-oz package manicotti
  • 15-oz container whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • 3 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan, divided
  • 1 Tbsp dried parsley
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 24-32 oz jar marinara sauce
  • 2 Tbsp butter, cut into pieces

  1. Heat a heavy medium skillet over medium heat. Add 2 tsp olive oil, and saute the onion until tender.
  2. Once tender, add the ground beef, sausage, salt, pepper, and cook until the meats are cooked through.
  3. While the meat cooks, add water and remaining 1 tsp oil in a large pot, and cook the manicotti shells for 6 minutes (slightly softened but still very firm to the touch.) Using a slotted spoon, transfer the manicotti from the pot to the oiled baking sheet and cool. 
  4. Meanwhile, combine the ricotta, 2 cups mozzarella cheese, 1/2 cup Parmesan, and dried parsley. Add the garlic, salt, and pepper to taste, and mix. Stir the cooled meat mixture into the cheese mixture.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  6. Spray a 13x9 pan with cooking spray.
  7. Spoon 1-1/2 cups marinara sauce over the bottom of the prepared dish.
  8. Fill the manicotti with cheese/meat mixture. Arrange the stuffed pasta in a single layere in the prepared dish and spoon the remaining sauce over. (see "tips" above)
  9. Sprinkle the remaining 1 cup Mozzarella cheese and 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese over the stuffed pasta. 
  10. Dot the entire dish with the butter pieces.
  11. Bake the manicotti uncovered until heated through and the sauce bubbles on the sides of the dish, about 30-35 minutes. Let the manicotti stand 5 minutes and serve.

Source: Adapted from Giada de Laurentiis

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Garlic Pesto Chicken with Tomato Cream Penne

Even though I generally save more time-consuming meals for weekends, it's nice to have quick and efficient meals on busy weekends. Or even on lazy weekends such as this past one. Darin and I lounged all day (in our PJs, no less) and it was pure bliss. We got caught up on emails, surfed the web, and watched some TV (we're currently re-watching all the seasons of Friends for the 3rd time) and some movies (he voluntarily put on Step Up and enjoyed it). It was laziness at its best, and although we didn't leave the house, we still had a great time. We ended our night with this creamy pesto dish (loved the addition of pesto in here!), and a serving of apple dumplings paired with vanilla ice cream.

Note- the original recipe calls for half & half; when I tried making this the first time, it was creamy but lacked a depth of flavor. I subbed in heavy cream, and that made this dish truly stand out.


  • 2# boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized cubes
  • 1/2 bottle of Lawry's Herb & Garlic marinade or Italian salad dressing
  • 2 spoonfuls of pesto (homemade or we used this by Classico)
  • 8-oz penne pasta (we use 100% whole wheat)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 spoonfuls of pesto
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 8-oz tomato sauce
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • Salt & pepper
  • Parmesan cheese (for topping)

  1. Place the cubed chicken breasts in a Ziploc bag. Add the marinade or salad dressing and pesto. Mix well, seal, and place in the fridge to marinate for 4-6 hours. (I marinated mine in Kraft Lite Italian salad dressing overnight.)
  2. Cook pasta according to package directions.
  3. While the pasta is cooking, cook your chicken in a large sautepan on medium heat until it is cooked thoroughly. Set aside on a plate, and discard any remaining liquid.
  4. In the same large sautepan, add the olive oil, garlic, and pesto on medium heat. Stir until mixed.
  5. Add the chicken broth, and simmer it on medium heat until reduced by half (took 5 minutes for me.)
  6. Add the tomato sauce, heavy cream, and season with a dash of salt and pepper. Lower the heat to medium-low and allow it to simmer for 15-20 minutes (until it thickens and becomes more creamier in consistency).
  7. Once the sauce has thickened and reduced, add the cooked pasta, and top with cooked chicken. Toss to combine. 
  8. Top with grated Parmesan cheese.

Source: Adapted from Plain Chicken

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Charleston Cheese Dip

If you love cheese and bacon, this dip is for you. D and I both love dips, so it was a no brainer for us to choose this dip for our Thanksgiving appetizer. Warm, melted cheeses (Cheddar, Monterey-Jack, and cream cheese) mixed with crumbled bacon? We were sold, and it did not disappoint. This is best served warm, and immediately following baking. It smells and tastes delicious.

*Note- Do yourself a favor and grate your cheese (aka. don't use the pre-shredded cheese). Pre-shredded packaged cheese has a flour coating which prevents the shredded cheese from clumping together, which results in a really thick (read: non-creamy) dip from the excess flour. Take a block of cheese and grate it yourself. You're welcome in advance.

  • 1/2 cup mayo (we use the full-fat Hellman's mayo)
  • 8-oz package of cream cheese (we use reduced-fat), softened
  • 1 cup grated sharp Cheddar cheese*
  • 1/2 cup grated Monterey-Jack cheese*
  • 8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled (we bake our bacon; no frying pan mess here!)
  • 2 green onions, finely chopped
  • 1 dash cayenne pepper (we used several healthy dashes)
  • 8 butter crackers, crushed, such as Ritz
  • Bagel chips (you need something hearty and thick b/c the dip is thick)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 
  2. In a medium bowl, mix the mayo, cream cheese, Cheddar cheese, Monterey-Jack cheese, bacon, green onions, and cayenne pepper.
  3. Transfer the mixture to a shallow baking dish, such as a 9" pie pan.
  4. Top the mixture with cracker crumbs, and bake until heated through, about 15 minutes.
  5. Remove the pan from the oven, and serve immediately with chips.

Source: Adapted from Trisha Yearwood

Ham & Swiss Puff Pastry Pinwheels

Oh yum! These pinwheels were one of the apps I made for Thanksgiving- fast, easy and filling, and these are definitely best served warm. We had a lot leftover, and they have heated up beautifully for breakfast, snacks, or even a quick app before dinner.

  • Puff Pastry sheets (we use this brand; 2 sheets per box), thawed*
  • Dijon mustard
  • 10 slices of good quality ham, thinly sliced (get it from the deli counter, not the pre-packaged kind)
  • 8-10 thinly sliced Swiss cheese or 8 oz shredded Swiss cheese

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil or a Silpat baking mat.
  2. Unroll a thawed pastry sheet (there are 2 sheets per box), and spread a thin layer of mustard.
  3. Place your ham down the center of the puff pastry sheet.
  4. Layer with Swiss cheese (4-5 slices per pastry sheet, or use shredded Swiss).
  5. Roll up the puff pastry tightly. (Make sure to roll these tightly or else your pinwheels will be thick.) 
  6. Repeat with 2nd puff pastry sheet.
  7. Wrap it in saran wrap, and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes before slicing.
  8. Slice each "log" in half, and then keep slicing each half in half until you have 16 pieces from each log. 
  9. Place the pinwheels cut-side up onto your  baking sheet, and bake for 18-20 minutes, checking on them after 14 minutes. The dough will have browned and the cheese will be bubbly inside.
* You can quick thaw it in room temperature for 30-45 minutes. I like to let it thaw in the fridge overnight for even thawing (around 4 hours).

Yield: 32 pinwheels

Source: Adapted from Mix and Match Mama

Favorite, Classic Mashed Potatoes

I know there are a lot of "classic mashed potatoes" recipes out there, but this is hands down my favorite. Minimal ingredients that are easy to find and in all grocery stores. While there is a place for Parmesan mashed potatoes, or adding roasted garlic for Garlic mashed potatoes, I wanted something classic that wouldn't overwhelm our taste buds with all the other Thanksgiving food we were preparing.

A classic mashed potatoes dish! You can't go wrong here. It also makes a ton (as in, it fit 2 Pyrex square baking dishes), so alter the recipe if needed.

  • 5# Yukon gold potatoes, peeled
  • 8-oz sour cream (we use reduced-fat)
  • 4-oz cream cheese (we use reduced-fat)
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 4 Tbsp butter (for topping)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare (2) baking dishes with cooking spray. (We use an 8" square baking dish and 2.2-L Pyrex baking dish.)
  2. In a large stockpot, place the peeled potatoes and cover with water until the potatoes are covered.
  3. Bring the water to a boil, covered; reduce heat and simmer on medium-low for 40-45 minutes or until a fork can prick the potatoes easily.
  4. Drain the water (leave the potatoes in the pot). 
  5. Add the sour cream and cream cheese, and mash with the potatoes well.
  6. Season with salt and pepper.
  7. Place the potatoes into the baking dishes, top with butter and bake for 1 hour.

Cheddar Green Bean Casserole

Cheddar-topped green bean casserole? Yes, please.

This is a new version to the classic green bean casserole that's associated with Thanksgiving meals. What makes this green bean casserole different is adding some sauteed onions and topping it with Cheddar cheese. It is rich, savory, and a nice change from the original.

*Note: I omitted the fresh green beans and chicken broth and instead used (2) 15-oz cans of french-style green beans (drained) with great success, but look forward to cooking fresh green beans in chicken broth the next time (reviews have said it takes this dish to a whole other level).

  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 cup diced onions
  • 2 cups sliced green beans*
  • 3 cups chicken broth*
  • 10.75-oz can of cream of mushroom soup (used 98% fat free)
  • 2.8-oz can French-fried onion rings
  • 1/2 tsp garlic salt (we use Lawry's garlic salt)
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 cup grated Cheddar cheese

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a 1-1/2 qt baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. Melt the butter in a large skillet. Saute the onions in the butter until soft- 10-15 minutes on medium heat.
  3. Boil green beans in chicken broth for 10 minutes and drain. 
  4. Add the green beans, mushroom soup, onion rings, and seasonings (salt, black pepper, and garlic powder) to the onion mixture. Stir well.
  5. Pour into the prepared baking dish, and bake for 20 minutes, then top the casserole with the Cheddar cheese, and bake for 10 minutes longer, or until the casserole is hot and cheese is melted.
Source: Adapted from Paula Deen

Pioneer Woman's Apple Dumplings

This was supposed to be our dessert for Thanksgiving, but alas, we were too full to eat another bite. However, after watching Catching Fire and grabbing some Mexican food for date night tonight, I decided that something sweet was in order.

I scrambled to the kitchen and made this quickly. Got to love Pioneer Woman for her easy and delicious recipes! They were like little apple pies, and we both loved them. There definitely was a lot of liquid leftover (which was great for spooning, but kind of excessive)- next time, I will try adjusting the butter/sugar and pop amounts*. I still want enough to top these dumplings with the "special sweet sauce" but cut back a bit on unnecessary calories and fat.

I was nervous the apples weren't going to be cooked all the way, but they were soft but not too mushy. The crescent rolls baked up nicely and had a nice cinnamon-sugar crust. We paired this with vanilla frozen yogurt, and sat down to be entertained by Lady Gaga and the Muppets Thanksgiving special.

  • 2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, and cored
  • (2) 8-oz cans of crescent rolls (I used the reduced-fat, perforated kind)
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter*
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar*
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 12-oz can (1-1/2 cups) Mt. Dew* (I used Diet 7-Up)
  • 1 dash cinnamon
  • Vanilla ice cream

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 13x9 pan with cooking spray.
  2. Slice the apples into 16 slices per apple (you should have 32 slices total).
  3. Roll 2 apple slices into a crescent roll triangle, and place into the 13x9 pan. Repeat with remaining apples and crescent rolls.
  4. Melt the butter, then add the sugar; barely stir.
  5. Add the vanilla and stir; pour the mixture over the apples.
  6. Pour the soda around the edges of the pan.
  7. Sprinkle with cinnamon, and bake for 40 minutes.
  8. Serve with ice cream, and spoon some of the sweet sauce from the pan over the top.
Source: Pioneer Woman

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Pioneer Woman's Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookie Cups

There is something to be said about a 2-ingredient cookie recipe-
Especially for a lazy Sunday.

If you're looking for something utterly sweet and ridiculously easy, look no further. All you need is a refrigerated cookie dough (peanut butter or chocolate chip would work great here) and a bag of Reese's mini  pb cups. That is it. 15 minute from start to finish. Can't beat that for a lazy but yummy treat.

Side note- this is also a great cookie for cookie swaps or potluck lunches since they're already individual-sized! Next time, I'll definitely use mini muffin liners as I couldn't remove these cookie cups right out of the oven without them breaking apart.

  • 16.5-oz package refrigerated cookie dough (peanut butter or chocolate chip)
  • 1 bag of 24 miniature Reese's peanut butter cups

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a mini muffin pan with liners or spray with cooking spray.
  2. Slice the cookie dough into 6 equal slices. Each slice should be approximately 1.25".
  3. Slice each slice into fourths.
  4. Place one quarter into each muffin well (should have 24 quarters total).
  5. Bake for 9-11 minutes (I baked mine for 10 minutes. They'll look slightly undone but will continue cooking in the pan once removed from the oven.)
  6. While the dough is still warm, push a peanut butter cup into each muffin cup and let cool in the pan.
  7. When the cookies are cool, use a spoon to remove them. (If you try to remove them while they are still warm, they will break apart.)
Yield: 24 cookie cups

Source: Pioneer Woman

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Turkey Meatloaf with Feta and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Despite the numerous positive reviews and having had this recipe printed since 2012, this meatloaf never made it into my rotation until this past week. And OMG, I was so pleasantly surprised how much I loved this dish.

We have our favorite meatloaf recipe- It's awesome, and no other meatloaf has been able to take it out of its #1 spot. But this meatloaf by Giada- it's right up there. It's a toss-up which one I would say would be my favorite.

The meatloaf is moist and packed with flavorful. I could go on and on, but really- you need to make this. A big thanks to D who made this meal for my birthday :)

  • 1 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup dried parsley
  • 1/2 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten
  • 4 Tbsp milk (we used skim)
  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1-1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 1-3/4 lb ground turkey (we use 93% lean)

  1. Place rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together the breadcrumbs, dried  parsley, chopped tomatoes, garlic, eggs, milk, feta, kosher salt, and pepper. 
  3. Add the turkey, and gently stir to combine, being careful not to overwork the meat.
  4. Carefully pack the meat mixture into a loaf on your parchment-lined baking sheet, and bake until the internal temperature reads 165 degrees (about 45 minutes.)
  5. Remove from the oven and let it rest for 5 minutes. 
Source: Adapted from Giada de Laurentiis

Happy Birthday to me- and a Gooey Chocolate Caramel Cake!

Every year, D offers to bake me a cake. We were just talking about the infamous German Chocolate cake D had made for me one year (one of the best cakes I've ever eaten , by the way), but since it is the 2 of us, we rarely are able to get through a full cake before it goes bad. I was going back and forth about whether I wanted a cake this year, but D kept insisting that he wanted to bake a cake for my birthday.

I (finally) decided I wanted something chocolatey and with a touch of caramel. I saw this post on the Six Sister's Stuff blog about a month ago, and I just couldn't get it out of my head. Since my birthday falls mid-week, I wanted something that would also be easy to whip together after work.

This definitely fit the bill, and more. It was so warm, gooey, and wrapped in chocolate and caramel. It would have been over the top paired with vanilla ice cream! This cake barely lasted us through the weekend. It was divine gooeyness.

  • 1 German chocolate cake mix
  • Ingredients for the cake mix (oil, water, eggs)
  • 14-oz bag Kraft caramels (we used 11-oz bag of Kraft caramel bits)
  • 1/4 cup milk (we used skim milk)
  • 6 Tbsp butter
  • 1-2 cups chocolate chips
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • Vanilla ice cream (optional)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13x9 cake pan.
  2. Mix together the cake mix as directed on the box. Pour half of the batter into the 13x9 pan and bake it for 20 minutes.
  3. While it bakes, unwrap the caramels, and place the caramels, milk, and butter in a saucepan and melt over low heat, stirring constantly until caramel is melted and smooth.
  4. Pour the caramel over the cake as soon as it is finished baking. Sprinkle the chocolate chips and pecans on top of the caramel. Spread the remaining half of the cake batter on top, and bake for 20 more minutes.
  5. Pair with vanilla ice cream (optional, but why wouldn't you?)

Easy and Ridiculously Good Roasted Carrots

I had anticipated making various soups & stews in the coming weeks, but with back to back unexpected travel and then catching a cold, that really derailed my cooking plans. Thus, the 10-lb bag of carrots I picked up at Costco had been untouched.

I started searching for roasted carrots recipes, but so many called for fresh dill or fresh parsley- both items I don't keep stocked regularly. I randomly came across this blog post- "easy and ridiculously good roasted carrots". When I scrolled down, I noticed that the original recipe came from Cook's Illustrated, and I knew we had a winner.

Carrots? check. Butter? check. Salt & pepper? check.
The key tip here is to make sure your carrots are in even pieces- that way, they'll cook evenly!

That's all that's needed for this super easy and ridiculously awesome carrots!

  • 1.5# carrots, peeled, halved crosswise, and cut lengthwise if necessary
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 tsp salt (I used garlic salt)
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper

  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a Ziploc bag, toss together your cut carrots, melted butter, salt and pepper. Shake so that the carrots are coated evenly.
  3. Spread the carrots onto the parchment-lined baking sheet, cover it tighly with foil, and place it in the oven for 15 minutes.
  4. Remove the pan from the oven, remove the foil (your carrots should be nicely steamed at this point), and return the pan to the oven for another 30-35 minutes. Stir twice during the cooking time. (I cooked mine for 35 minutes.)
  5. Season with more salt and pepper, if desired. Enjoy!
Source: The Frugal Girl, originally from Cook's Illustrated

Buffalo Chicken Chili

I was flipping through the morning news, and FOX had Rachael Ray as their morning guest. She was displaying the top 3 most downloaded recipes from her own talk show, and this Buffalo Chicken Chili was the #1 most downloaded recipe.

I love buffalo chicken dip, but was a bit apprehensive- would there be too much vinegary kick for a chili?

I had pretty much all the ingredients on hand, and was looking for a good weeknight meal, so this fit the bill.
And WOW- this chili was so good, and it's GOOD FOR YOU too. It is made from ground turkey, and while it is a lighter/healthier dish, it's packed with flavor. 

One reviewer said to not miss out on the blue cheese-topped tortilla chips- I am so glad I made this as it made a great topping to this chili.

If you're looking for something unique, healthy, and easy enough to make on a weeknight, look no further. Due to unexpected back to back weekends of traveling, all I wanted for my birthday was to sit and relax- and not cook! Lucky for me, I have D who offered to make whatever dishes I wanted for the week, and this was one of the meals I chose. 

  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 lbs ground chicken (we used 1.75# turkey)
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 ribs celery with leafy tops, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup hot sauce (we used Frank's)
  • 15-oz can tomato sauce
  • 15-oz can stewed, fire-roasted, or crushed tomatoes (we used stewed)
  • 1 sack whole grain tortilla chips, lightly crushed (we used 9-oz bag of Tostitos multigrain)
  • 3/4 lb Maytag blue cheese (we used 12-oz crumbled blue cheese)
  • A handful of flat leaf parsley, chopped (we omitted)

  1. Place a large pot over medium-high heat with the olive oil. Add the ground chicken and break it up, lightly browning it for 5 minutes.
  2. Add the carrots, onion, celery, garlic, paprika, and bay leaf, and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 7-8 minutes until the vegetables are pretty soft. 
  3. Add the chicken stock, and scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pot.
  4. Add the hot sauce, tomato sauce, and the tomatoes to the chili, and bring it up to a bubble. Simmer for 8-10 minutes more to let the flavors come together.
  5. While the chili is simmering, preheat the broiler. Prep a cookie sheet with foil.
  6. Spread the chips out on the cookie sheet, top with crumbled blue cheese, and transfer to the oven to melt the cheese, 2-3 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the chopped parsley.
  7. Top each serving of Buffalo Chicken Chili with a few blue cheese chips.
Source: Rachael Ray

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

White Chocolate Macadamia Cookies

Without a doubt, white chocolate macadamia nut cookies are my favorite. Believe when I say I've searched high and low for recipes, and none of them have been as good as the ones from (the now defunct) The Original Cookie Company. They had the warm, chewy, soft cookies, and I always looked to getting one at the mall.

Using the medium OXO cookie scoop (can't live without this scoop)

Added a sprinkling of sea salt to the tops of these cookies before baking

Of all the recipes I have tried, these have been blog-worthy. They were solid. While I still feel like these aren't "the one", they've made it to the blog and I won't confirm nor deny that I may have eaten 6 of them the first night in one sitting.

Some notes:
  • Nut chopper- I love this thing! It chops nuts to a coarse of fine grind, and it also measures your nuts too
  • OXO cookie scoop- I have all 3 sizes, but the one I reach for the most is the medium size (which is the one I used in this recipe)
  • Butter- make sure it is melted and cooled to room temperature (this is an important step!)

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1-1/2 cups chopped macadamia nuts (6.5-oz jar was perfect)
  • 1-1/2 cups white chocolate chips (11-oz bag was perfect)
  • Sea salt

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease baking sheets or line with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
  3. Beat together the melted butter, brown sugar, and white sugar. 
  4. Beat in the egg, then beat in the egg yolk, and then beat in the vanilla.
  5. Gradually add the flour mixture to the sugar mixture until just moistened
  6. Stir in the macadamia nuts and white chocolate chips by hand with a rubber spatula.
  7. Roll into balls or drop by heaping tablespoonfuls (we love this OXO medium cookie scoop) onto baking sheets, and press down on the cookies with your palm a bit to flatten (but not too much!).
  8. Sprinkle some sea salt on top of cookies, and then bake for 12-15 minutes or until the edges look brown and the middles don't look quite set. Allow to finish cooling on the baking sheet. (We baked for 12 minutes, which was perfect because the cookies hardened/cooked further while it finished cooling on the cookie sheet.)
Yield: 37 cookies

Source: Adapted from Brown-Eyed Baker, who adapted from Crepes of Wrath 

Cabbage & Kielbasa

I had made an unsuccessful crockpot cabbage rolls recipe, and had a huge head of cabbage still leftover from it. Darin loves boiled cabbage, but I wanted to make an entree (not a side) from it, as well as try something new. I saw this recipe on All Recipe's website and gave it a try.

It was easy, and totally delicious! Darin and I both loved it! The original recipe had 2 Tbsp of sugar, but we both felt it was a little too sweet for our tastes, so I edited the recipe to only include 1/2 of what was called for (down to 1 Tbsp, edited below). Darin liked it so much, he actually asked for leftovers the next day. That is a win in my book!

Updated 9/3/14- I've doubled this recipe to make leftovers for lunches. I used 1.5# kilebasa (3 long links), 2 small heads of cabbage, and 8 slices of bacon. Otherwise, I doubled all the other ingredients except the sugar (don't want it to be too sweet). Cooking time will be longer, but as long as the cabbage is soft, you're good to go!

  • 1 pound kielbasa. sliced on the diagonal (we love and use this turkey sausage)
  • 6 slices bacon, chopped
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 Tbsp white sugar
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp seasoning salt
  • 1 large head of cabbage, sliced

  1. In a large skillet, fry the kielbasa until browned. Remove from pan and set aside.
  2. In the same skillet, fry bacon over medium heat until browned, turning once. Remove bacon from pan, reserving drippings, and place on paper towels. (We removed all bacon drippings but left about 1 Tbsp in the skillet.)
  3. Stir water, sugar, onion, garlic, red pepper flakes, and seasoned salt into drippings. Add cabbage, and gently stir. Cover, and cook over medium heat for 10-15 minutes. (We cooked it for 15 minutes.)
  4. Add kielbasa to pan. Cook, covered, for an additional 10-15 minutes. Crumble bacon over top, and serve hot.
Source: Adapted from All Recipes

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Chicken Enchilada Pasta

Darin loves Mexican food, and this recipe fit the bill! This dish tastes exactly what it says- a chicken enchilada in a pasta form.

The recipe calls for shredded chicken- for me, I like pre-making my chicken using my slow cooker. I take about 4 lbs of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, add some chicken broth and some seasoning, and let the slow cooker do all the cooking. Then, I package them up in my Foodsaver bags and throw them in the freezer. It's so easy, and it's literally a "set it and forget it" kind of recipe. Then, I can make enchiladas, quesadillas, or any recipe that calls for pre-cooked chicken. Or, if you're in a pinch, a rotisserie chicken works great here too.

For this recipe, you saute some veggies, throw in the chicken, seasonings, and sauces, then let it simmer while the pasta cooks. Add in the sour cream and cheese, and voila- meal is done! Easy enough for a weeknight meal, and this makes a ton!

It's a warm, comforting meal that is easy and tasty- perfect for a cold rainy day like today.

  • 16-20oz penne pasta (we used 16-oz of 100% whole what penne, and it was the perfect amount)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 cups cooked, shredded chicken (plan ahead recipe here)
  • 4-oz can diced green chiles, undrained
  • 1/2 tsp seasoning salt
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • (2) 10-oz cans green enchilada sauce
  • 2/3 cup red enchilada sauce
  • 1 cup sour cream (we use reduced-fat)
  • 2 cups shredded cheese (we used Costco's Mexican Cheese blend)
  • Toppings- green onions, crushed tortilla chips, sour cream, shredded cheese, diced tomatoes, diced avocado

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Make pasta according to box instructions.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, grab a large sauce pan or Dutch oven, add the oil and onion. Saute on medium heat until semi-soft, roughly 10 minutes.
  3. Add the bell pepper and garlic, and saute until semi-soft, roughly another 10 minutes.
  4. Add the cooked chicken, green chiles, salt, chili powder, cumin, and green and red enchilada sauces. Let the sauce simmer for 8-10 minutes.
  5. Add the sour cream and cheese and heat through until the cheese is melted. Don't let it boil!
  6. Pour the sauce over the hot pasta.
  7. Garnish with toppings of your choice.

Source: Adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Crockpot Creamy Italian Cheese Chicken

Darin loves this creamy chicken dish- it's super easy to put together, but it takes 45 minutes in the oven to cook. Sometimes, we don't have the time to wait for it, especially if it is during the weeknight.

I have seen various slow cooker versions on the internet but have always been skeptical. It won't taste the same! 

Well, I am here to tell you that it does taste just as good, and it's cooking while you're hard at work!

First, season the chicken breasts and add it into the slow cooker. Melt the butter, stir in the zesty seasoning mix, and then pour it over the chicken. Let it cook on low (while you're at work, running errands, what have you...) for 8 hours. Then, when you're about 20 minutes from eating, add the cream cheese and soups, give it a good stir, and let it cook on HIGH for 20 minutes. This allows the cream cheese and soup mixture to warm up and mix well. (Don't do what I did, and let it sit on high for 45 minutes- it just turned soupy then, and I like my sauces thick and creamy!)

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts`
  • Salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
  • 1 (0.7 ounce) package Zesty Italian Salad Dressing mix (we use Kroger's brand)
  • 4-oz cream cheese (we use reduced-fat)
  • (2) 10-oz cans of cream of mushroom soup
  • 12-oz fettuccine noodles, cooked

  1. Place chicken breasts into your slow cooker. Season the chicken with salt, pepper, and a dash (or two) of cayenne pepper.
  2. Melt the butter in a measuring cup until melted. Stir in the salad dressing mix right into the measuring cup, and stir well. Pour onto the top of your chicken.
  3. Place the cover, and cook on LOW 8 hours.
  4. About 20 minutes before you're ready to eat, take out the cream cheese to soften it for a few minutes.
  5. Remove the chicken from the slow cooker.
  6. Add the softened cream cheese and soup into the crockpot (there will be liquid in the crockpot), Give it a good stir, add the chicken back into the crockpot (it's ok if the chicken starts shredding/falling apart), and cook it on HIGH covered for 20 minutes. Don't let it sit too long or the sauce will become thin and soupy. This step is just to get the cream cheese and soup heated through.
  7. Place the chicken and sauce over your cooked noodles, and enjoy!
Source: Adapted from Jamie Cooks It Up

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Creamy Chicken and Broccoli Casserole

Casseroles are some of my favorite comfort foods. They're creamy, warm, and I love that it makes a lot of food! These pack well as leftovers too.

Prep ahead note- We buy chicken in bulk, and I always toss 2 packages (roughly 4-5 lbs of chicken breasts) into the slow cooker with some seasoning and chicken stock. I cook it on low for 8 hours, and then I have shredded chicken ready for salads, enchiladas, quesadillas, and other recipes. (See how I make my chicken!)

  • 3 cups cooked, shredded chicken
  • 2 (10 ounce) cans cream of chicken soup (we use 98% fat-free)
  • 1/2 cup light mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup light sour cream
  • 1 cup mild shredded cheddar cheese (we use Kirkland/Costco Mexican cheese)
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 (12 ounce) bag frozen broccoli florets OR 2 cups fresh steamed, chopped broccoli
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 tsp Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning
  • Egg noodles, cooked

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9×13 baking dish with non-stick spray. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, add the cooked shredded chicken. Season with salt and pepper. 
  3. Then add in all the remaining ingredients. Gently stir to combine mixture. 
  4. Pour mixture into the prepared baking dish. Bake in a preheated oven, uncovered, for 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly. 
  5. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.
  6. Serve with cooked rice or egg noodles! (we prefer the rice) Enjoy 

Baked Parmesan-Crusted Pork Chops

This recipe was a winner from Giada- so simple too! You essentially bread the pork chops with a Parmesan breadcrumb mixture,and then pop them into the oven. Couldn't get any easier!

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup dry Italian-style breadcrumbs
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • (4) 1/2" to 3/4" thick center-cut pork chops (each about 10-12 oz)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Misto cooking spray (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil.
  2. Whisk the eggs in a pie plate to blend. Place the bread crumbs in another pie plate. Place the cheese in a third pie plate. 
  3. Sprinkle the pork chops generously with salt and pepper. 
  4. Coat the chops completely with the cheese, patting to adhere.
  5. Dip the chops into the eggs, then coat completely with the bread crumbs, patting to adhere.
  6. Spray the pork chops with Misto spray.
  7. Bake for 20-25 minutes. (I baked mine for 21 minutes.)
Source: Adapted from Giada de Laurentiis

Healthy and Easy Ranch Parmesan Chicken

Since this recipe contains just a few ingredients, it's really imperative to use quality ingredients. I didn't have time (nor the energy) to make homemade ranch dressing, so I asked a few friends, and it was a unanimous vote between Bolthouse Farms Yogurt Ranch and Marzetti's Simple Dressed Ranch dressings (both located in the refrigerated section by the produce). I checked out both at the grocery store, and both had more natural ingredients and were around the same nutritional value. I ended up picking Bolthouse because I was intrigued that they used yogurt to make their Ranch. Oh boy, this ranch was delicious! It didn't taste artificial, and I started using ranch on everything!

I edited this recipe by having my chicken breasts marinate in the ranch dressing all day while we were at work. Not sure if this was the key, but my chicken baked up so moist and flavorful. Definitely encourage this step. Also, the original recipe said to pour melted butter on top, but to make it a little healthier, I sprayed my chicken breasts with Misto cooking spray, and it made it nice and crispy on top.

  • 1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tsp seasoned salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (approx 4 lbs)
  • 1-1.5 cups prepared Ranch dressing (we love Bolthouse Farms Yogurt Ranch dressing)
  • Misto olive oil cooking spray or 1/2 cup melted butter 

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Set oven rack to lowest position. Line a baking sheet with foil, and lightly grease it with cooking spray.
  2. In a shallow bowl, mix together the breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
  3. Dip the chicken into the Ranch dressing, then coat it in the breadcrumb mixture; Press the breading onto the chicken.
  4. Place the chicken in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with other chicken breasts.
  5. Spray your chicken breasts with the Misto cooking spray, or add melted butter on top.
  6. Bake for 35 minutes, until chicken is done and the breading has turned golden brown. 

Prep ahead: Marinate your chicken in the Ranch dressing. I let mine marinate all day while I was at work, and then coated them when I got home.

Source: Food

Chocolate Oreo Poke Cake

I was craving something sweet, and this Chocolate Oreo Poke Cake hit the spot. It is easy, only has a handful of ingredients, and serves a lot (12 people!).

The original recipes calls for (2) boxes of Oreo (or cookies & cream pudding mix), but our local Kroger didn't carry it. No worries! I adapted this by buying vanilla instead (Darin's favorite), but if you wanted to up the chocolate factor,you could purchase the chocolate pudding mix instead.

The cake base has a rich devil's food cake with crushed Oreos within, then topped with a vanilla pudding that permeates into the cake, making it nice and moist and delicious. The cake is then topped with more crushed Oreos, Cool Whip, and then sprinkled with (more) crushed Oreos. So simple, so easy, and SO delicious.

  • 1 box Devil's Food Cake mix
  • (ingredients for the cake mix- mine were 3 eggs, 1 cup water, and 1/3 cup oil)
  • 1.5-oz (large box) instant vanilla pudding mix (we used the sugar-free, fat-free version)
  • 3 cups milk (we used 2% milk, but will try skim milk next time)
  • 1 package (15.5-oz) chopped Oreo cookies, divided
  • 8-oz (small tub) Cool Whip, thawed (we used Cool White Lite)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (or according to your cake mix box instructions.)
  2. Make cake mix according to box instructions; stir in a handful (I used 13 cookies) of crushed Oreo cookies. 
  3. Pour batter into a greased 13x9 pan, and bake for 30 minutes.
  4. Once it is done baking, use a chopstick or the end of a wooden spoon, and begin making holes in the cake while it is still warm, making sure to push down all the way to the bottom.
  5. After poking the holes, make the pudding, and immediately pour it over the warm cake. (It is important to not make the pudding while the cake bakes, as it will begin to thicken and won't pour into the poked holes properly.)
  6. Top with more crushed Oreos (13 or so cookies).
  7. Allow the cake to completely cool.
  8. Spread the Cool Whip over the top of the cake, and sprinkle the remaining crushed Oreos. Refrigerate for at least an hour.
Yield: Serves 12 people

Source: Adapted from Sing For Your Supper

Pesto Marinara Sauce

This pesto marinara sauce was out of this world!

I love trying new recipes- most times, I can eyeball a recipe and determine whether it would be something D and I would like. When I came across Shay's post about adding pesto to regular jarred spaghetti sauce, I was intrigued. I loved how Shay took jarred marinara sauce up an ante by mixing it with some pesto- what a genius idea! And OMG, was it ever good!

I did try her meatballs,  but it just wasn't for us. Next time, I need to go with our tried and true favorite meatballs, but we'll definitely use her unique twist on pesto marinara sauce! I feel silly to even make this a post, but I like to document everything :)

  • 1 jar (24-oz) marinara sauce
  • 1 jar (8-oz) pesto (we used homemade pesto, but Classico makes a jarred version)

  1. Combine spaghetti sauce and pesto sauce in a large saucepan over medium heat. 
  2. Once the sauce starts to bubble, lower the heat to low, cover, and stir occasionally.

Use our favorite meatballs to complement this dish!

Source: Mix and Match Mama

Cook's Country Chicken Cordon Bleu with Parmesan-Dijon Cream sauce

There are many variations of chicken cordon bleu- it's essentially baked chicken stuffed with ham and Swiss cheese. I turned to my trusty Cook's Illustrated (or, in this case, Cook's Country) for their version.

When I've made this in the past, it's always lacking a creamy sauce. Well look no further, I think I've found the one. The sauce is creamy and comforting- a mild Parmesan cheese sauce with a hint of Dijon mustard.

  1. Homemade bread crumbs made all the difference! I think this is another aspect where this dish lacked for me before- using store-bought breadcrumbs in a canister (or even Panko) never made the "oh, this dish is amazing!" cut. I always keep the heels of bread loaves in a Ziploc bag in the freezer for occasions like this. 
  2. Pick a good quality ham and Swiss cheese you can find- For us, we love Kroger's Private Selection or Boar's Head brands
  • 25 Ritz crackers (I used Roasted Vegetable flavor)
  • 5 slices of hearty sandwich bread (we keep 100% whole wheat in the house)
  • 6 Tbsp butter, melted
  • 8 thin slices of deli ham (about 8 ounces)
  • 2 cups shredded Swiss cheese, or 6-oz package of sliced Swiss cheese
  • 3-4 thick boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 2 pounds total), patted dry 
  • Salt and pepper
  • Toothpicks (for securing)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • Misto cooking spray (optional)
For the Parmesan-Dijon sauce
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk (use at least 2%; skim won't work here)
  • 1 chicken bouillon cube/granule, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

  1. Make the homemade breadcrumbs
    1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Prepare a rimmed baking sheet with foil.
    2. Pulse the crackers and bread in a food processor until they are coarsely ground. Drizzle in the melted butter and pulse to incorporate together.
    3. Transfer the breadcrumb mixture onto the rimmed baking sheet and bake for 3-5 minutes until the crumbs are lightly browned. (They brown quickly so keep a close eye!)
    4. Transfer the crumbs to a shallow baking dish (ex: pie plate). Leave the oven on.
  2. Begin making the ham/cheese rolls- Top each ham slice with 1/4 cup of shredded Swiss cheese (or 1 slice of Swiss cheese), and roll it tightly. Set aside. Complete with the remaining ham slices. (We used 2 ham/cheese rolls per chicken breast.)
  3. Stuff the chicken breasts
    1. Cut a pocket into the thickest part of the chicken breast, and stuff each pocket with 2 ham/cheese rolls. 
    2. Pull the top flap of chicken over the rolls, and press to seal. 
    3. Season the chicken breast with some salt and pepper, and gently secure the breast with toothpicks (we used 2 toothpicks per breast). Make sure the rolls are completely stuffed in the chicken.
  4. Refrigerate stuffed chicken- Complete this for the remaining chicken breasts, and refrigerate the stuffed chicken, covered, for at least 20 minutes.
  5. Prepare the "dipping station"
    1. While the chicken is sitting pretty in the fridge, begin making the 3-plate "dipping station"- place the eggs and Dijon mustard and mix together well. 
    2. In another plate, add the flour. 
    3. The 3rd plate is the breadcrumb mixture from Step #4 above.
    4. Line the "dipping station" in this order: Flour--> Egg--> Breadcrumbs.
    5. Prepare the same baking sheet with foil (the same one you used for the breadcrumbs), and lightly grease it with cooking spray.
  6. Coat the chicken
    1. Once the chicken has been in the fridge for at least 20 minutes, remove it from the fridge and begin dipping! 
    2. Coat the chicken lightly with flour, then dip it in the egg mixture- covering both sides, and then dredge it in the breadcrumb mixture, pressing lightly to help the crumbs stick to the chicken. 
    3. Repeat with remaining chicken breasts. 
    4. Spray the chicken breasts with Misto cooking spray (this helps to crisp up the breadcrumbs.)
  7. Bake the chicken
    1. Transfer the chicken to the lightly greased baking sheet, and bake on the lowest rack of the oven until the bottom of the chicken is browned, about 10 minutes.
    2. Move the chicken to a middle rack in the oven, reduce the temperature to 400 degrees (you don't have to leave the chicken out of the oven while the temperature adjusts, just put it back in the oven and then reduce the temperature), and bake until golden brown and the chicken is cooked through (160 degrees on a meat thermometer), about 25-30 minutes. 
  8. Make the Parmesan-Dijon sauce
    1. While the chicken is cooking, prepare the sauce: In a medium saucepan over medium heat, make a roux by melting the butter. 
    2. Once the butter has melted, add the flour, and stir continuously for 1-2 minutes.
    3. Slowly stir in the milk, whisking continuously to prevent clumping. 
    4. Stir in the bouillon and salt, and whisk until the mixture begins to thicken, about 5 minutes.
    5. Remove from heat, and add mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and grated Parmesan cheese. Stir until the cheese has melted. Keep the sauce warm while the chicken finishes cooking.
  9. Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes before serving, then top it with the sauce.
Source: Sauce, Chicken adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe

Chicken Suiza Enchilada

Another easy and tasty winner!

I was initially thinking- Swiss cheese? In an enchilada recipe? Granted, I can only assume this isn't 
"authentic", but who cares when it tastes so good and warms up your belly? I would definitely recommend using Swiss cheese in this recipe- it lended great flavor to this enchilada dish. Next time, I would alter this recipe by sauteing the veggies first, as D and I didn't like the "crunch" but loved the flavors that the veggies provided.


  • 2 lb cooked chicken breast, shredded (see this post on how to cook chicken for this dish)
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 8 green onions, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, chopped
  • 2 cups either Green Chile Salsa or Tomatillo Salsa, divided (I used Kroger's jarred Private Selection hot New Mexico green chile salsa)
  • 1 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
  • 1 cup Swiss cheese, shredded
  • 6-8 tortillas 
  • sour cream to garnish

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a medium-sized Pyrex baking dish.
  2. In a medium saute pan on medium-low heat, add olive oil. Once warmed, add green onions, garlic, and chopped jalapeno peppers. Saute until soft- 5-7 minutes.
  3. In a medium sized bowl, combine chicken, onions, garlic and jalapenos with 1-1/2 cups salsa.
  4. Spread 1/2 of your chicken mixture across the bottom of your Pyres baking dish.  
  5. Top with 1/3 of your cheeses (use both kinds) and top with a layer of tortillas.  
  6. Repeat. 
  7. Finish off by pouring remaining 1/2 cup of salsa over the top and topping with the remainder of your cheeses.  
  8. Bake about 30 minutes or until bubbly and brown around the edges.  
  9. Garnish with sour cream.
Source: Adapted from Mix and Match Mama

Slow Cooker Meatloaf

Take 10 minutes out of your morning to make this dish before leaving work. I was skeptical on this recipe, but it turned out really well and flavorful! It definitely doesn't take place of our favorite meatloaf recipe, but this one is easy and requires minimal prepwork. Perfect for a weeknight, and what's not to love about having it cook for you while you're gone all day?

  • 8-10 carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 1 lb Bob Evans sausage roll
  • 1 lb ground beef*
  • 1 cup ketchup, divided
  • 1 packet dry onion soup mix (1.25 oz)
  • 1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs
  • 2 large eggs

  1. Place cut carrots onto the bottom of your slow cooker. (This is important as vegetables take longer to cook down than meat. Thus, having the carrots towards the bottom of the heating unit ensures it will cook the veggies.)
  2. In a large bowl, combine sausage, beef, 1/2 cup ketchup, dry onion soup mix, breadcrumbs, and eggs. 
  3. When well combined, shape your loaf to fit into your slow cooker.
  4. Cover and cook on low for 4-6 hours (I let mine cook for 12 hours).
  5. Spread the remaining 1/2 cup ketchup on top of meatloaf for 30 minutes before serving. Cover and continue cooking on low heat for 30 additional minutes.
*Note: I would recommend using a lean cut of beef (preferably ground sirloin). I didn't want fat to render and just sit around in my slow cooker with my carrots.

Source: Adapted from Bob Evans

Slow Cooker Chicken Cacciatore

This was a delicious, easy, and comforting meal to come home to.This is the first time I used boned-in chicken in the crockpot, and it worked beautifully. The chicken was moist, tender, and full of flavor, and I loved the sauce too. The original recipe stated that this dish had a lot more flavor if you browned the chicken prior to adding it to the crockpot, and I followed her exact instructions- I'm so glad I did. I also upped the amount of vegetables- if the sauce is that good, might as well make it as healthy as can be,

  • 8-10 chicken thighs, with the bone, skin removed
  • Salt and fresh pepper to taste
  • Splash of chicken broth or stock
  • 2 red bell peppers, sliced into strips
  • 2 green bell peppers, sliced into strips
  • 2 medium onions, sliced
  • 28 oz can crushed tomatoes 
  • 1 tsp dried oregano 
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 cup fresh herbs such as basil or parsley for topping

  1. Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat a large skillet over medium-high, lightly spray with oil (I use my Misto) and brown chicken on both sides a few minutes. Add to the slow cooker. 
  3. To the skillet, spray with a little more oil and add onions and peppers. Sauté until juices release and the vegetables become golden, a few minutes. Add to the slow cooker. 
  4. Pour tomatoes over the chicken and vegetables, add oregano, bay leaf, salt, pepper, and the crushed red pepper; Give it a quick stir and coverSet crock pot to LOW 8 hours or HIGH 4 hours.
  5. Remove bay leaf, adjust salt and pepper and enjoy! 
Adapted from Skinnytaste

Jalapeno Popper Chicken Chili Soup

This soup was color, flavorful, comforting, and oh so good. Despite the 85* and high humidity days, I was already pinning soup recipes for the upcoming fall season. The recipe is straightforward, and even with my substitutions (omitted corn, increased chicken, used canned jalapeños), the soup turned out delicious. 

It definitely has some heat (feel free to include the seeds from fresh jalapeños if you're feeling adventurous), and has a good rich flavor. This soup ups its ante with an entire brick of cream cheese, but I used the reduced-fat kind so I wouldn't feel as guilty eating one two bowls in 1 sitting.

Original recipe calls for 1.25# chicken breasts and omitting the chicken broth for a thicker consistency, but since we always feel like there isn't enough meat in soups, we increased the chicken to 1.75#. We also normally like thicker soups so we had planned to omit the chicken broth, but there was hardly anything to simmer for 30 minutes, so we did include the full 1.5 cups of broth.


  • Olive oil, for sauteing
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 4 jalapeno peppers, diced, seeds removed (used 4-oz canned diced jalapeno peppers)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Coarse salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • 1-1/4 pound boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces (used 1.75#)
  • 2 tsp chile powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp oregano, crushed between fingertips
  • 1 (14 ounce) can diced tomatoes with juices
  • 1 Knorr Chipotle seasoning cube
  • 1-1/2 cups chicken broth*
  • 15-oz can kidney beans 
  • 1 cup corn (omitted)
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, reduced fat
  • 1/2 pound bacon, cooked crispy and crumbled, for serving (used crumbled bacon from Costco)
  • Monterey-Jack cheese, shredded, for serving (we use this cheese from Costco)

  1. In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan heat 2 Tbsp oil over medium heat and saute onion, both types of peppers and garlic until soft and tender. (This took about 15-20 minutes, and instead of adding more oil, I added some splashed of chicken broth- no added oil and helped cook the veggies along!)
  2. Season the chicken well with salt and pepper. Add another tablespoon of oil to the pan with the chicken and lightly brown chicken on all sides. Season with chile powder, cumin and oregano.
  3. Add tomatoes, chicken broth, chipotle cube, beans and corn. Bring to a simmer and cook 30 minutes. Taste and season as needed.
  4. Add cream cheese and stir until completely melted. Remove from heat.
  5. Serve with crumbled bacon and both types of cheese sprinkled over top.
Source: Adapted from Cinnamon Spice & Everything Nice

Product Rave: CorningWare 20-oz Mugs

With the cooler temperatures rolling in, nothing is more comforting than something warm to eat for lunch. We use a lot of Pyrex dishes to store and reheat food, but we've been burned one too many times in this household. The microwave warms up your food, but really heats up those baking dishes too, making it too hot to touch right out of the microwave.

CorningWare 20-oz mugs

I had these in my Amazon cart for months, and I am so glad I finally sprung for these. It's large enough (20-oz) to hold soups, stews, and chili, and I love that I can grab the handle without burning my fingers when I reach for it in the microwave. It has a large handle, so it works for both me and D (who has large hands).

This handy mug also has a tight-sealing lid (though not airtight) that has a vent hole to release steam. It is also great for when you want to bring the mug back to your desk- since the lid contains the food inside, there is less likelihood for your food to"slosh" around as you walk back to your desk. It keeps all messes to a bare minimum when you have this lid on.

Love the easy clean up too!

Note- While it is a tight-sealing lid, definitely don't place the mug on its side. Leak attack for sure.
I can get approximately 19-oz of food in me!

Tight-seaing lid....

... with an air-vent that will "pop" when necessary

Quick & Easy Low-Carb High-Fiber (Turkey) Pepperoni Pizza

If there was one thing I could eat just about every day, it would be pizza. What's not to love about carbs + melted cheese? Oh right, that would tons of carbs and fat, and with a metabolism that is slowing down year after year, I'm no longer a spring chicken.

Kalyn's Kitchen uses Flatout flat bread as her base, tops it off with some pizza sauce, and then adds some mozzarella cheese and turkey pepperoni. A lower fat and carb alternative without sacrificing the flavor? Count me in! These are easy, quick, and perfect for a weeknight dinner. Or, we like to have them no Friday nights and pop in a movie.

  • 1 piece Flatout Multigrain flatbread (they sell these in the bakery section of my grocery store)
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp Muir Glen Pizza Sauce (or any low-sugar pizza sauce; sometimes we use spaghetti sauce)
  • 1/2 cup + 1/4 cup low-fat pizza cheese (we use Kroger brand)
  • 12-15 pieces turkey pepperoni


  1. Preheat oven to 450F. 
  2. While oven heats, put flat cookie sheet into oven to heat for 5 minutes. (If you have a pizza stone, that would work great here.) 
  3. After about 5 minutes, remove cookie sheet, drizzle on about 1 tsp. olive oil, and spread around with paper towel. (Be careful not to burn yourself on the hot pan.) 
  4. Put flatbread on pan, put in oven and cook 2-3 minutes, just until bottom of the flatbread is slightly toasted.
  5. Remove cookie sheet from oven and turn flatbread over, then spread 2 Tbsp pizza sauce on the toasted side, spreading around with your fingers or a pastry brush so there is a very thin layer of pizza sauce on the entire surface of flatbread. 
  6. Sprinkle 1/2 cup cheese over sauce, and spread around so it covers sauce.
  7. Layer pepperoni, then mushrooms, over the cheese, finishing with 1/4 cup more cheese.
  8. Put cookie sheet back into hot oven and cook pizza 7-8 minutes, or until cheese is melted and slightly browned and pizza is done. Watch it carefully the last couple of minutes. Serve hot.

Nutritional info (1 flatout pizza, 15 turkey pepperoni slices): 423 calories, 20g carbs, 25g fat, 9g protein
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