Friday, December 28, 2012

Hot Wing Joes

Phew....Christmas is over. We had a wonderful Christmas and I hope you had one too! It was an exhausting couple of weeks. Our family came down with what we called the plague and was out of commission for about 8 days. Started with a cold that attacked me HARD and moved onto a stomach bug with the menfolk of the house. Joy...fa la la la

We recovered in time for Christmas and got busy. My brother and his girlfriend were in town so it was wonderful to see them. He has a couple fancy camera's so he took some photos of us the Thursday before Christmas...Cooper was less than cooperative for most of them....

But we did get some really good shots....

We had a get together at my Grandma's that night to exchange presents with my brother. We all brought premade party trays and it was SO much easier than cooking a big dinner and 1/4 of the clean up!

I usually over do it with food on holidays. I try to make something super complicated an overwhelm myself. This year we had a taco bar at my best friend's, which was so much fun and easy. Christmas morning we hosted our first family get together in our new house and I made casseroles that required overnight fridge visits and just had to pop them in the oven Christmas morning. I am SO glad I did that instead of trying to get up that morning and stand over the stove to make a big meal. Christmas was so easy and relaxed. Cooper had such a good time and we had such a good time just watching him open his gifts and play!

His big gift this year was a train table and lots of train sets and accessories to go with it. It's positioned in our dining room now so he likes to play with it while I'm cooking or cleaning in the kitchen. 

We ate way too many take out and fast food meals during the 'plague' and Christmas week. Last night I cooked our first dinner in weeks....well our first non-Stoufer's related dinner. Hot Wing Joes. These were super yummy and will go into our regular rotation. The recipe is easily doubled and makes excellent lunches for the week. There are veggies in the sauce, so don't feel too guilty if you just eat it with chips!

Chop up a small onion, half a celery rib, and a large garlic clove. Shred up a small carrot. I like to saute my veggies a bit before adding in the ground chicken so they aren't too crunchy. 

Add the ground chicken, cook and crumble until chicken is done. Drain and add in sauces. 

Simmer until sauces thicken a bit. Serve on a bun topped with blue cheese crumbles. 

Hot Wing Joes

1 pound ground chicken
1 small or half of 1 large celery rib, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 small carrot, grated
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 cup canned tomato sauce, about half a can
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/8 cup hot sauce (I used Crystal)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
Dash of black pepper
Hamburger buns
Blue cheese crumbles

Saute veggies and garlic in a little bit of oil until just turning tender. Add in ground chicken and cook until no longer pink. Drain. Add in tomato sauce, chicken broth, hot sauce, brown sugar, red wine vinegar, Worcestershire and pepper. Cook until heated and thickened slightly. 

Serve on hamburger buns topped with blue cheese crumbles. 

Dig in!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

2 Weeks After Thanksgiving, Pumpkin Cookie Bites

It's been 2 weeks since Thanksgiving. I made a couple of recipes I wanted to share, but was trying to decide on posting them now in the off season, or sharing them next year BEFORE Thanksgiving. I guess they could be made for Christmas...but anyway. I decided to go ahead and share one of them today and another one sometime in the next few days while it's all still fresh in my typically mushy mind.

(I'm sitting here watching an Ninja infomercial and wanting to go out and buy one)

Hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving by the way. We did. It was hectic. Thanksgiving day at my Dad and Step-mom's. A full house at around 18 guests. There was so much dessert we call could have sat down with our own individual pies I think.

Part of the desserts and turkey...

I went Black Friday shopping that night with my friend and to my Grandma's on Friday for 2nd Thanksgiving. I was pretty exhausted by Friday night.

The recipe I am sharing with you today was  HUGE hit. I can't take credit for the recipe myself. Our local grocery chain, Publix, has a program called Aprons. They do cooking demos in store and pass our recipes. I was wondering around aimlessly one night trying to figure out what to pick up for dinner and the smell of pumpkin pulled me in...these little delicious guys were baking and lucky me got to try a sample.

My brother chased me to the car to get a few more before we went home, had more at my grandma's the next day and asked for more at our house Saturday night.

I hope you enjoy them as much as we did! AND they are SUPER easy, bonus!

Pumpkin Cookie Bites

Start with 2 packages of 24 count premade refrigerated cookie dough squares break apart things. Technical terms, I know. I used the Immaculate brand Gingerbread and Sugar cookie variety. I try to use Immaculate brand baking products as often as possible. They are convenient and don't have all of the crap in them like the other brands. When living in Tampa, we had a larger variety at the grocery stores. We don't have as many options in a smaller city now, but I am slowly seeing their brand pop up in stores. 

Anyway...take them out of the fridge while preheating the oven and mixing everything else together to soften up a bit. BUT only take 1 pack out at a time if you only have 1 mini muffin pan to work with.

Meanwhile, mix together egg, pumpkin and dulce de leche caramel. I found this in the International food isle with the Mexican foods.

Press dough into greased mini-muffin pan to form little cups. 

Fill and bake! Let cook a bit and pop out with a spoon to cool completely on a cooling rack before storing. 

Pumpkin Cookie Bites

1 egg
1 cup canned (not pumpkin pie spiced) pumpkin
2/3 cup dulce de leche caramel
2 (24-count) packages refrigerated cookie dough (gingerbread or sugar are preferred), softened

Preheat oven to 375. Spray mini-muffin pan with cooking spray.

Whisk egg until blended. Stir in caramel and pumpkin until evenly blended.

Separate and press dough into muffin pan to form cups. Fill each cup with about a teaspoon full of pumpkin mixture. Bake for 25 minutes until crust is golden. Cool for 10ish minutes in pan and pop out with spoon to cool on cooling rack completely.

Dig in!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Down Under Potato Soup

23 days until Christmas....I have a very excited little boy. He is almost 3 and this is the first year he kind of 'gets' it. He knows he's going to have his picture with Santa and say CHEESE! He wants to leave Santa chocolate cookies and chicken. His words, not mine. I am excited to see his face Christmas morning.

Last night we spent the evening in our city's downtown area. We dined at Palace Pizza and walked around the park. It's decorated with lights and Coop had a blast!

Now this recipe has NOTHING to do with Christmas...but I wanted to share pictures with you of my adorable child. :)

NOW, onto the food. A couple of weeks ago I checked out one of those Restaurant Copy Cat books and copied down a recipe for Outback's Walk-About soup. I haven't actually HAD the soup in the actual restaurant, but the recipe sounded like it would be MAGIC. When trying to decide to what to cook for dinner for us tonight, I came across the index card it was written on and decided to give it a whirl. I altered it a bit to bulk it up for a main course and changed the name. It was SO GOOD. I cannot press that info on your enough. I don't know if this is how the cook it 'down under', but they should. 

First, start with 3 or 4 smallish to mediumish potatoes. Peel them and dice them up. Boil them in water until nice and tender. Drain and set aside. 

Meanwhile, dice up 3 small onions and saute in butter until tender.

When onions are soft, remove from heat and add flour, paprika, salt and pepper. 

Add milk and stir until smooth. Return to heat and add broth. Simmer until thickened and hot. Add in cream and cheddar. Add the potatoes. 

Serve garnished with mozzarella and green onions. YUMMMMMMY!

Down Under Potato Soup

3 to 4 small to medium potatoes
4 tablespoons butter
2 1/2 cups chopped yellow onions
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 pepper
3 cups milk
4 cups vegetable, chicken or combination of each broth
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar
1/2 cup heavy cream
Chopped green onions and shredded mozzarella cheese for garnish

Peel and dice potatoes. Place in pot, cover with water and boil until tender. Around 20 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, chop onions and saute in butter until tender. Remove from heat and stir in flour, paprika, salt and pepper. Return to heat and add milk, stirring until smooth. Add broth and stir until combined. Simmer until thickened slightly. Add cream and cheddar cheese. Stir until smooth and add potatoes.

Serve with green onions and mozzarella.

Dig in!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Easy-Peasy Meal Number 1 - Taco Dip

Sometimes I don't really feel like cooking, but we don't need a night of fast food. Or, we are broke but want something yummy and not ramen noodle related. That's when I turn to one of my easy-peasy meals for din din or weekend lunch. Little effort and cheap!

The first one I introduce to you started as a taco dip ages ago for a party and adapted to a dip for 2 (and a half) people as the years went by. It's PERFECT for sitting in front of the tv watching a Parks and Rec Netflix marathon or a sporting event.

I use Chili's chips and salsa for this, It's $2.99 for a good portion of chips and salsa. Cheaper than buying the  jarred stuff and a bag of tostitos. But you can use whatever you want. You can also use a fresh Hass avocado if you can catch them on sale or use 2 100 calorie Wholly Guac packs.

Easy-Peasy Taco Dip 
1 can refried beans
1 to 2 cups salsa
1 cup sour cream
1 ripe Hass avocado smashed or 2 100 calorie Wholly Guacamole packs
Shredded lettuce
Shredded cheese
2 chopped plum tomatoes

Heat refried beans and stir in salsa. Mix avocado or guacamole with sour cream. Layer it all in a casserole dish or divide into bowls. Serve with chips.

Dig in!!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Nacho Cheese Noodle Bake

Can you believe it's going to be Thanksgiving in 2 days? And it's almost 2013, whoa! This all dawned on me the other day....where has the year gone? 

I have been attempting to get our house ready for the weekend, my brother and his girlfriend are flying in and will see our house for the first time. It's a wreck. Do you ever sit back, look around and wonder when a tornado touched down in your living room? I do. Almost. Every. Day. Coop was in the hospital last week. He has asthma and when he gets a cold, it's a doozy. It makes his little lungs go haywire and we end up in the ER. He was admitted this time and spent 4 days there. He's all better now but our house isn't. Blah, housework, blah....

Not that this really has anything to do with the recipe I share with you today or anything. Today, I am sharing a yummy, easy-peasy-extra cheesy, Nacho Cheese Noodle Bake. I was flipping a Taste of Home magazine and saw the original recipe. I have altered it slightly..leaving out olives and substituting a few other things. 

Brown ground chicken a drain. Mix in a can of fire roasted Tex-Mex style tomatoes, corn an nacho cheese condensed soup. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 10 minutes. 

Meanwhile, cook and drain half a bag of egg noodles.

Mix it all together and pour into a greased casserole dish or baking pan. Sprinkle 2 cups of cheese over the top and bake until bubbly.

Nacho Cheese Noodle Bake

3 cups uncooked egg noodles
1 pound ground chicken
1 can fire roasted Tex Mex tomatoes
1 cup frozen corn
1 can condensed nacho cheese soup
2 cups shredded Fiesta Blend cheese
Ranch dressing
Shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes, sour cream. tortilla strips

Preheat oven to 350.

Brown ground chicken an drain. Stir in tomatoes, corn and soup. Heat to a boil, reduce to simmer and simmer for 10 minutes. 

Meanwhile, cook egg noodles and drain. Stir into chicken mix. 

Pour into greased baking dish, sprinkle with cheese and baking for 15 minutes until bubbly.

Spoon into bowls and drizzle with ranch. Garnish with shredded lettuce, tomato, sour cream and tortilla strips. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Chicken Fajita Chowder in the Slow Cooker

We've had cooler...cold for Florida in the over the last month and it's been an excellent time for soup! I could eat soup almost every day, it's so comforting, so satisfying. My husband isn't a big fan of soup on a regular basis, but my little boy agrees with me....he likes soup! Or, poup as he calls it...his name is Cooper...which he pronounces when he says Cooper likes Soup!, it makes me giggle.

This soup is SUPER yummy. Very comforting, good for you and makes excellent leftovers. It does thicken up while in the fridge, so reheat on the stove with a little chicken broth to thin it out a bit. It can also be made on the stove top.

Chicken Fajita Chowder

Dice onion and 3 sweet bell peppers. You can use any variety of peppers green, red, yellow, or orange. 

Saute with a little olive oil until tender.

Meanwhile, brown ground chicken and drain. 
Transfer chicken and peppers to slow cooker. Combine with enchilada sauce, green chilies, rice, broth and salt. 

Cook on low for 3 to 5 hours, until rice is tender. Stir in sour cream and cheese. Serve hot with a little more sour cream cheese and tortilla chips. 

Chicken Fajita Chowder
1 pound ground chicken
3 medium green or sweet peppers, diced
1 medium onion, diced
3 cups chicken broth, water or combination. I used a combination
2 cups frozen corn
1 cup uncooked brown rice
1 can green enchilada sauce
1 small can diced green chilies, I used about 1/4 cup but it's up to you how much you want to add
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup shredded Mexican cheese blend
1 cup sour cream

 Brown ground chicken, drain and set aside.

Saute onions and peppers in a tablespoon of olive oil until tender.

Transfer peppers and chicken to slow cooker. Mix in broth, corn, rice, enchilada sauce, chilies and salt. 

Cook on low 3 to 5 hours, until rice is tender. Stir in sour cream and cheese until melted.

Serve with shredded cheese, sour cream and tortilla chips.

Dig in!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Italian Puff Pastry Tart

Long time no post, I know..I know. Slacker. After about a million attempts at trying to find a new and awesome recipe to put up, I finally succeeded! Ever have a string of boo-boos in the kitchen? That's me lately. I forget to turn on the crockpot, only to discover it HOURS later, when I am ready to eat what's in the crockpot and it's no where near done...OR..I attempt to broil something, only to realize my oven doesn't have a broiler element...sigh.

WELL....there was definitely success with this delicious little dish below. I had a girl's lunch a few weeks ago and made awesome broccoli pot pies from Oh My Veggies!. It called for a puff pastry sheet, and only used one. Kevin isn't a fan of broccoli, so I needed to think of something else to do with the remaining sheet..besides apple turnovers. I can't even remember what else I made for dinner that night, but felt we needed a 'bread'. That's when inspiration struck! It was delicious, it was magic, it was all gone before we knew it....

Italian Puff Pastry Tart

1 sheet of puff pastry, thawed if frozen
Olive oil for drizzling
Grated Parmesan
Extra-thin slices of tomato
Italian Seasoning

Preheat oven to 425.

Lay out sheet of puff pastry onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Press together any cracks to reseal. Sprinkle puff pastry with a handful of parmesan. Lay slices of tomatoes in rows to top of cheese and top with another handful of so of cheese. Drizzle with olive oil (a little bit goes a long way!) and sprinkle with Italian seasoning. 

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until puff pastry is browned and cheese is melted. Start checking after 15 minutes. 

Slice into squares and Dig in!!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Greek Vinaigrette with Feta

That should really say with LOTS of feta...

In our house, anything with Greek dressing and feta makes it better, well..maybe not blueberry muffins..or pancakes. Ok, so not anything. I usually buy the bottle stuff and serve it over cucumber and tomatoes. I am still searching for the 'perfect' dressing, a dressing we had years ago in our early dating phase during trivia night at an Irish pub, yes, Greek dressing at an Irish pub. It was creamy, and tart and just perfect.

But for now, this homemade version will work. It's very tart and wonderful. SUPER easy and your probably have most of the ingredients in your kitchen right now.

1/2 cup FRESH lemon juice
3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 teaspoons dried oregano leaves
1 teaspoon white sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
2/3 cup olive oil
1/2 cup crumbled feta

Place everything BUT the feta in a jar with a tight fitting lid and give it a shake. Mix in the feta and chill overnight. 

It was EXCELLENT poured over some sliced cucumbers and chilled overnight. Yummy!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Coconut Rice and Beans

Happy Tuesday! We survived Isaac! Our part of Florida only received rain and some wind. It was a very loooong day stuck inside, especially with a restless 2 year old.

For dinner last night, I tried something new. Coconut Rice with Pinto Beans. It has a slight sweet flavor and is very creamy. It would be wonderful served with other island dishes.

 I 'cheated' and used my small rice cooker to cook the rice which made it extra easy. Below I have included instructions for the stove top version.

We served ours with the can of pineapple that's called for in the recipe for it's juice and creamed corn.

Kevin took leftovers for lunch today and said it was even better the 2nd day.

1 can coconut milk
1 can  (15 ozs) pineapple slices or chunks, juices reserved
1/2 cup water
1 cup uncooked brown rice
2 cups cooked pinto beans

In a medium saucepan, bring coconut milk, pineapple juice, and water to a boil. Stir in rice and return to a boil. Cover pan, reduce heat to medium and cook 45 to 50 minutes. 

Fluff with a fork and stir in beans. 

Yummy stuff! Season with salt and pepper if you feel it's necessary, I didn't think it needed it. 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Wonderful Comfort Food

When I was pregnant with Cooper, the one thing I strongly craved during my morning sickness months was comfort food. I wanted chicken and dumplings, fried cornbread and zipper peas. During the last month or so of my pregnancy during a phone conversation with my mother in law, she mentioned cooking chicken and noodles for company. Even though I had never had a taste of her chicken and noodles, I instantly started craving them. When she and my sister in law came to stay with us after Coop was born, I requested she make the chicken and noodles for us, she did and I was hooked. I now make the stuff myself every few months.

This recipe makes a HUGE batch. You can roast your own chicken and make your own egg noodles, or you can cheat and buy a grocery store deli rotisserie chicken and frozen egg noodles like I do. This dish is amped up even more in the comfort food department when served over mashed potatoes.

Heat up chicken broth/stock in a large soup pot and cook noodles in it according to recipe or package directions. This time around, I bought the large, family size bag of frozen noodles, or use 2 small bags. These are found in the frozen pasta section/bread section of the grocery store.

Meanwhile, chop up whole roasted chicken.

When noodles are cooked, add cans of cream of chicken soup and chicken. Simmer until it's all nice and hot. 

Serve over mashed potatoes, to enjoy the full carb load...

(I apologize for crappy pictures, my kitchen has a window, but not the best natural lighting. And I think my husband would look at me like a crazy person if I took our dinner outside to snap a pic before sitting it on the table)

Creamy Chicken and Noodles

7 cups chicken broth or chicken stock
1 large bag of frozen egg noodles or 2 small
3 cans cream of chicken soup
1 chopped up whole roasted chicken

Bring broth to a boil and cook noodles according to package directions.

Meanwhile, chop up whole rotisserie chicken. 

When noodles are finished cooking, stir in cream of chicken soup and chopped chicken.

Continue simmering until nice and hot. 

Monday, July 30, 2012

BBQ Chicken Biscuits

I am a big fan of things made in a muffin pan. From sweets to savory. From blueberry muffins to buffalo chicken biscuits. Tonight, I experimented with a new idea, BBQ chicken in a biscuit! My latest food obsession is ground chicken. I discovered it while trying to plan out a meal around what was on sale at the grocery store. I tried it the first time in taco soup, and was hooked! It cooks up so much better than ground turkey. It has a very fine texture and breaks down easier than turkey too.

These are super easy to make, the hardest part is chopping the onion. And opening the can of biscuits. I have a HUGE fear of them popping open and exploding all over the kitchen so I make my dear husband open them for me. I know, wuss!

Preheat oven to temperature on the biscuit can directions. Chop, or mince, the onion and saute in a little olive oil until they start to soften up.

Add chicken and cook until no longer pink. Meanwhile, open biscuits and press into cups of a greased, large muffin pan. 

I tried the wheat Grand's biscuits this time around. I was pretty happy with the result. You can use any biscuit, just make sure it's the larger 'Grand' size. 

Drain meat and stir in BBQ sauce. 

Divide up meat between the 8 biscuits. I had about a cup of meat left that I put on a sandwich roll for my husband's lunch tomorrow. Anyway. Top with cheese and pop in oven. The directions on the biscuits I used said to bake around 15 minutes. I put them in the oven for 17 because it takes a little longer for the biscuits to bake with toppings on them. 

Let them cool a bit before removing from pans. Pick them up and bite them or eat them with a fork! We had ours with orange slices and a salad, but they would be great with a side of potato salad! Enjoy!

BBQ Chicken Biscuits

1 yellow onion, minced
1 pound ground chicken
1 cup favorite BBQ sauce, I used honey
1 can of large biscuits
Shredded cheese, I used Fiesta Blend

Preheat oven to temp in biscuit directions. 

Saute onions in a little olive oil until just softened. Add in ground chicken and cook until no longer pink. 

Meanwhile, slightly flatten biscuits in the palm of your hand and press into greased large muffin pans. 

Drain chicken and stir in BBQ sauce. Divide meat between biscuits. You will have about an extra cup of meat.  Sprinkle cheese over biscuits and bake a few minutes over time called for on can. Until biscuits are done and cheese is melted.

Let them cool a minute before removing from pan. 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

It's Been A Soupy Kind of Week

I love soup. Especially with some sort of bread on the side. I love to dip the bread in the soup or eat the soup over the bread. Today, I made 2 different soups. A split pea and a lentil.

The split pea is actually an Ina Garten recipe that I've made several times and LOVE. It freezes well and is super easy to make. I like to add extra potatoes and I use water instead of chicken broth. 

I TRY to cook healthy and try to do as much plant based stuff as I's hard, cheese is good. 

Lentils are an excellent choice for meat eaters and vegetarians alike. Lentils are so good for you, they are full of protein, low in fat, CHEAP and super easy to cook. I always kind of forget about them because every recipe I see that uses them usually calls for cumin, turmeric or coriander and I am not a fan. 

The soup I made tonight is super simple, filling, and only takes around 40 minutes including prep. I know it's not 'pretty', but it's very yummy!

Quick Lentil Soup

1 onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup split red or brown lentils
4 cups water
1 carrot, sliced or diced
1 celery stalk, sliced
lemon juice to taste
salt and black pepper

Heat the onion and olive oil and saute until the onion begins to soften. Add the lentils, carrots, celery and water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes until lentils and veggies are tender. Season to taste. 

Serve hot with fresh lemon juice. 

Hope you like it as much as we did!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Harper and HGTV Going Away

I have a darling boy, his name is Cooper. I love the name Cooper and like the whole using a last name as a first name thing. Like..Lewis, Anderson, Davis, etc.

Our girl name 'was' Harper. Well, today...I was browsing my new favorite blog (Suri's Slam Book, which is HILARIOUS) and saw that David and Victoria Beckham named their newest addition HARPER! I know, I have apparently been living under a rock, didn't even know she was pregnant. The name is going to become stupid popular now and I REFUSE to have a dime a dozen baby name.

We also canceled our cable today...due to be disconnected I am soaking as much HGTV in as I can until the vast nothingness starts tomorrow.

I need a milkshake.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Earlier this year, I started a blog out of our little apartment in Tampa called Experiments in 4B. Shortly after that, we started the process of looking for and buying a house so I put the blog on hold until we were settled into our new home and I had something interesting to post about.

Since then, we bought a house out of the city and I (possibly) have interesting things to say! This blog is for myself...selfish, I know...I like to journal and haven't actually done it in years. Writing hurts my hand, we living a typing world now days. I also want to pass along tips, recipes and how you!

I am a pinterest junkie and have somehow become popular on there, even before blogging. As of today, I have over 5,000 followers. So, feel free to follow me.