Everyday Mom's Meals: 2014

Monday, December 29, 2014

New Year's Eve Tradition {A Post for Earth Fare}

Happy Monday! Did you have a restful weekend? Were you recovering from all the holiday festivities? Or did you have more holiday gatherings to attend? Either way, I hope you had a very Merry Christmas and Santa was very good to you!

Now that all the packages are put away, the toys are assembled and the leftovers are beginning to dwindle in the fridge, it's time to shift our focus to the New Year.

In our house, NYE has become a family affair, ever since we went from a family of two to three, over 10 years ago. We used to do the whole "go out" thing on Dec. 31st, but when Alex was born, it just didn't make much sense anymore. So, we started to stay in and have a quiet night at home. Then when he got old enough to understand it was indeed a night for celebration, he wanted to stay up late, throw some confetti and turn it into a night of fun. My job? Make sure we have enough to eat all night long.

So, instead of making a huge meal, I put out a big table of appetizers (or "nibbly bits" as Alex calls them) and we eat and eat and eat, until the ball drops. We get in our jammies early, watch movies and stuff ourselves and welcome in the New Year.

If you have yet another holiday party to attend, or maybe a college football bowl game tailgating party, I've got the perfect idea! This cheese ball comes together in almost no time, the food processor does almost all the work for you, and it is simply delicious! Serve it with crackers, pita bread, veggies...anything you like. Your guests will devour it guaranteed!

I tend to get a little depressed when Christmas is over, but now with our little family tradition of New Year's Eve, it gives me something else to look forward to! Not to mention, we get to eat yummy things like this. Maybe our tradition can become part of yours this year!

Olive Cheese Ball
8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1/3 c. green olives
1/3 c. black olives
1/4 tsp. hot sauce
1 TBS dried minced onion
1 c. chopped pecans

Add all ingredients, except pecans, to food processor. Pulse until smooth. Remove with rubber spatula onto a piece of plastic wrap. Fold up sides and form mixture into ball. Chill in fridge for about 30 minutes to set for easy handling. Using your hands, cover cheese ball in pecans, pressing gently to adhere. Serve with favorite snack crackers. 

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Soul Food Saturday

With Christmas just passed most of us have baked until wee hours of the morning for everyone we love and had little to nothing left to have with our morning coffee. Grab a steamy mug full of your favorite drink and pull up a seat, this one's for you! 

Very Cherry Dump Cake 
2 21oz. cans cherry pie filling
1 box yellow cake mix
1 stick of butter, melted
1 c. chopped pecans
In a microwave safe bowl, melt butter and set aside. In a 9x13 baking dish add cherry pie filling. Add cake mix on top, evenly. Drizzle entire top with melted butter, then sprinkle with chopped pecans.

Place into 350 preheated oven for 50-60 minutes or until browned and bubbling. 
Serve hot with ice cream or whipped cream, however you choose this one will be a winner with your family too!

Meal Plan Dec. 28- Jan 2

*New Recipe
Links to Recipes on Blog

Leftover Pork Roast
Baked Risotto*

We're going to one of our favorite Christmas festivals, The Boar's Head
We will get a bite to eat on the way.


Happy New Year's Eve
We're doing our annual Appetizer Buffet:
Roasted Shrimp Cocktail
Smoked Salmon/Crackers
Pretzel Rolls w/ Nacho Cheese
Pizza Bites
Pot Stickers
Mixed Nuts
Dried Beef Roll Ups
Veggie Tray
Ice Cream Sandwiches
Deviled Eggs
Ham Roll Ups*

Red Gold Lasagna*
Garlic Knots

Tomato Soup
Grilled Cheese
Mandarin Oranges

Monday, December 22, 2014

A Decade Gone By

Tomorrow is December 23rd. No, I don't think I need to tell you this, but the date is important to the story. See, 10 years ago, yes an entire decade, I left my life as a "working girl" to become a full time mommy to my then, 3 month old baby boy. 

Alex was born in September and I was lucky enough to take 3 months maternity leave. When I returned at the beginning of December, I had all intentions of being a working mom. We had a sitter lined up. We had a schedule of who would take him and when. Then, my very first full day back, my baby was sick for the first time, and I had to send him to the doctor with his Daddy. (Well, him and both grandmas....I wanted reinforcements. So, yes, it took three people to take the infant to the doctor's office.) I was sick with worry, and I spent most of the day in tears because I couldn't be there. 

When I got home that night, Mr. E and I talked long and hard about how we wanted our son to be raised. I had a month before he was actually going to start daycare. See, my mother-in-law had volunteered to watch him for the first month I was back at work to hopefully make the transition easier. And it did. I was able to go to work every day knowing he was in great hands at home, safe in his crib, being loved on every minute. But no matter how much that comforted me, I missed my baby. It was that simple. I wanted to be the one at home with him. 

So, after many conversations, some strict budget planning, and soul searching, we decided I would put in my two week notice so I could be a full time SAHM. As sad as I was to hand that letter to my boss, who was also a close friend, I was so relieved. I felt like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. 

So, come December 23, 2004, I packed my desk into a box, I gave my hugs, I said my good-byes and I never looked back. It's a decision I have never regretted. Not for a single second. I have had the absolute privilege to be with my son every day, for the past ten years. I was the one here with him when he said his first word, took his first step, and every milestone in between. Even now as a 4th grader, I'm the last one he sees before school, and the first one he sees every day when I pick him up. 

Even on the worst days when I hadn't left the house in days, when he was teething and cranky, and I craved some adult conversation, I knew I was incredibly blessed to be at home with him, and I thanked God for allowing me to be. 

So today's recipe is dedicated to that career I left behind. To the fabulous people I worked with and still miss. I worked with a fantastic group of women, and one of things we were famous for was our carry-ins. Everyone would bring a dish to share and we would eat and eat and eat all day long. This would have been something they would have loved, and I wish I could have shared it with them. But it was given to me about a decade too late. A decade that has flown by in the blink of an eye; and been the most rewarding of my life. 

This would be perfect for any holiday party you're throwing. Your guests will love the amazing flavor, and you will adore how easy it is! 

Crock Pot Spicy Beef Queso
1 lb. ground beef
1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
2/3 c. water
2 TBS taco seasoning
2-4 pickled jalapeno slices, finely diced
32 oz. Velveeta, cut into 1 inch cubes
2 (10 oz.) cans diced tomatoes with green chilies

In a large skillet brown beef and onion over medium heat. Drain if necessary. Add jalapenos, water and taco seasoning. Increase heat to high and cook, stirring frequently, until liquid evaporates. Add beef mixture, cheese cubes and both cans diced tomatoes. Stir well. Cook on LOW for 1-2 hours. Stir well. Reduce heat to warm setting during party and stir often. 

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Soul Food Saturday

On days like these we are scrabbling for ideas for what to bring to the office for everyone to have with morning coffee, food gift ideas to bring to our children’s teachers, and goodies for our family postal carriers. Am I right? Well this sweet treat can be all of those things and more if you like. Chocolate Chip and pumpkin, what can beat that? Well me! This recipe makes 2 loaves of bread, so you have 1 to give and one to keep. Sounds like a great deal to me. Grab your favorite hot drink and cozy up with me; we’re making goodies to give. 
Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread
Inspired by Taste of Home
 3 c. all-purpose flour
3 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
4 eggs
1 c. sugar
3 ½ c. canned pumpkin
1 ½ c. semisweet chocolate chips

In a large bowl, add flour, cinnamon, salt and baking soda. Set aside. In a medium bowl, beat eggs, sugar, and pumpkin until smooth. Add dry ingredients a third at a time, and mix just until moistened, then fold in chocolate chips. Pour batter into 2 (8x4) loaf pans that have been sprayed generously with non stick spray. Bake at 350 for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes. Or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted near the center. Cool for 10 minutes before removing for the pans, and transferring to wire racks to cool completely. 
Whether you package it up or not your friends will love this recipe and appreciate the effort you put into it. Enjoy!

Meal Plan Dec. 21-26

*New Recipe
Links to Recipes on Blog

Crock Pot Chili
Olive Cheese Ball*

Shrimp and Wild Rice Bake*
Sliced Pears

Egg Rolls
Mushroom and Snow Pea Stir Fry*
Mandarin Oranges

Merry Christmas Eve

Merry Christmas


Friday, December 19, 2014

More One Pot Meals

Less than a week people! That's right! There are only 6 days until Christmas. Are you feeling stressed yet? I know so many who are still trying to get their shopping done, the cards mailed, everything wrapped, and still keep up with day to day responsibilities as well. If this describes you, how about a simple meal that can be on the table in about 30 minutes and feed that hungry crowd? Will that help take just a little of that stress away?

One pot meals are never more welcomed than during the busiest times of the years, and no matter how hard we try to avoid it, Christmas time is one of those. Rather it be working extra hours to assure the time off for the holiday, running here and there finishing that last minute shopping, Christmas pageants and school programs...whatever it is consuming your evenings, a simple, delicious meal can be one thing you look forward to.

Plus, let's not forget many of us have those holiday house guests we need to feed more than just the big holiday meal. Extra mouths to feed for multiple days can put a strain on the budget, but with this dish you can stretch a buck and satisfy many hungry souls at the same time.

If you can't imagine with this is like, thing goulash on steroids. Goulash with extra "stuff" that takes it to a whole new level. And don't turn your nose up at the spinach because it makes this dish! We love spinach and I really enjoy it's flavor when pared with both sausage and beans.

Give yourself a break tonight with this scrumptious, simple meal that is full of flavor, but easy on effort. Plus, it's pretty on the plate too!

Sausage and White Bean Ragu
Inspired by Basilmomma
2 small yellow onions
4 garlic cloves
2 TBS olive oil
1/2 lb. ground beef
1 lb. bulk pork sausage
2 ( 14 oz.) cans chicken broth
1 (15 oz.) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
2 (15 oz.) cans petite diced tomatoes, undrained
2 heaping cups fresh spinach
2 TBS dried basil
2 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. red pepper flake
1/3 c. shredded Parmesan cheese
1 lb. elbow macaroni
Salt and Pepper to taste

Place onion and garlic in food processor and pulse until extra fine. Heat oil in dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion mixture to oil and cook about 2 minutes until tender. Add beef and pork. Continue to cook until meats are browned, about 10 minutes. Drain if necessary. Add beans, broth, tomatoes, basil, oregano, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Stir well. Reduce heat to medium. Simmer for 15 minutes until flavors develop. Add macaroni. Stir well to combine. Cook another 10-15 minutes until macaroni is tender. Add spinach, in batches and allow to wilt. Add cheese. Stir and serve. Sprinkle with extra cheese if desired.

Shared on The Country Cook Dec. 19, 2014

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Veggie Twist on a Classic

Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese. These are a match made in heaven. And in this house you don't have one without the other. By that I mean, we can have a grilled cheese sandwich sans soup, but not the other way around. In fact, we love this combo so much I find myself from having to refrain from making it a weekly menu option.

And I know for a fact many families out there enjoy this combo just as much as we do, so why not put a slight twist on it? How about adding more veggies for a heartier bowl of soup, therefore increasing the nutrients too?

As many of you know, the dreaded flu invaded our house last week. I had a very sick Monkey on my hands. During cold and flu season, I don't think one meal gets served more in households across the country than soup. It is the go-to for so many when we are under the weather to comfort and satisfy our soul. And when the little ones are sick, if you can get some extra veggies in them to try to fight off all those germs, it's an added bonus.

This is basically vegetable soup meets tomato soup. Simplicity at its best, but full of flavor. And yes, the grilled cheese sammies are a must! It's the perfect soup for dipping, and if the sandwich isn't there, well, it's just not going to taste the same. Okay, it probably will, but like I said, the combo is mandatory in our family.

The "sick season" as I call it, isn't going away any time soon. If it hasn't found your house yet, lucky you!!! If like us, you are just trying to get everyone healthy again and hope to God it doesn't come back, try a big pot of this to help fight off all those dreaded germs! Either way, it's going to be delicious and perfect on a cold day, sick or not!. 

Slow Cooker Tomato Veggie Soup
4 c. vegetable juice
1 (32 oz.) bag frozen mixed veggies
1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste
1 (14 oz.) can chicken broth
3 c. water
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1/2 c. finely chopped onion
Dried Parsley
Salt and Pepper to taste

Add all ingredients to slow cooker. Stir to combine. Cook on LOW 6 hours or until heated through. Garnish with dried parsley.

Shared on The Country Cook Dec. 19, 2014

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Out Of The Box Holiday Recipes with Post {A Feature}

What if I told you there is a way to incorporate a favorite morning cereal into your holiday recipes? Did I peak your interest? Well, there is because the great folks at Post have come up with not one, but two recipes using Grape Nuts (YUM!) in some creative ways to enjoy this holiday season! 

Grape-Nuts and Wild Rice Stuffing
 1 box (32 ounces) or 4 cups fat-free lower sodium chicken broth
2 cups water
2 cups wild rice
2 Tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup chopped onion
3/4 cup chopped celery
3/4 cup chopped carrot
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 cup Grape-Nuts Cereal, divided
1/2 cup chopped dried cranberries
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/3 cup chopped parsley
1 Tablespoon chopped sage
1/4 cup sliced almonds

Bring chicken broth and water to a boil, stir in wild rice. Reduce heat and simmer, covered 40-45 minutes or until kernels puff open. Drain off and reserve any excess liquid.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. 

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add onion, celery, carrot, thyme, salt and pepper; saute 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium; cook 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.

In a large bowl, combine rice, vegetables, 3/4 cup of the Grape-Nuts cereal, dried cranberries, raisins, parsley and sage. Add 1 cup of reserved liquid. Spoon stuffing into a 2 quart baking dish. Sprinkle with sliced almonds and remaining 1/4 cup Grape-Nuts Cereal. Cover with foil; bake at 400 degrees F for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 5 minutes more to toast almonds.   

Serves 8
 Prep Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes 

Grape-Nuts Greek Yogurt Pie with Sugared Cranberries
 Grape-Nuts Cranberry Crust: 
1 cup ground Grape-Nuts Cereal
1/4 cup cranberry juice concentrate, thawed
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Greek Yogurt Filling: 
8 ounces block-style cream cheese, room temperature
1 6-ounce container plain non-fat Greek yogurt
1/4 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Sugared Cranberries:
1/2 cup fresh or thawed cranberries
1/3 cup sugar

 Fresh mint

Place cereal in food processor container and process until finely crushed. In a medium bowl, mix with juice concentrate and nutmeg until well blended. Press onto bottom and up side of 9-inch pie plate lightly coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees F for 5 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool completely on wire rack.

With an electric mixer, beat together cream cheese, yogurt, honey and vanilla for 5 minutes until well-combined and fluffy.  Spoon into prepared pie crust and smooth top.  Cover and refrigerate until set, at least 4 hours or preferably overnight.

When ready to serve, prepare sugared cranberries.  Dip cranberries individually in water then roll in sugar.  Dry on paper toweling.

Top each slice with sugared cranberries and fresh mint.  Serves 8.

Prep Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 5 hours

Both sound equally unique and delicious. We all have our favorite traditional recipes this time of year, but if you are like me, you like to add in a few new things every year too. Plus, I love being able to re-purpose ingredients I already have...like my morning cereal! 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Feed That Holiday Crowd

So, when do the holiday guests descend? Are you like the Griswold's and you will have a house full for a full week before Christmas? Or are they only going to be there for a few days until you kick them out, they sadly have to leave? Either way, you have to be prepared to feed them, but not blow the budget. After all, most of us have already done that buying gifts for everyone from Tiny Tim to the mailman!

Whenever I am cooking dishes with feeding the masses in mind, pasta and/or casseroles come to mind first. A pound of pasta (or half that in this case) isn't going to feed many, but if you take that and add other ingredients and bulk it up, you can stretch it a lot farther, therefore stretching your dollars too.

I love the sausage in this one because with it, the green pepper and Italian seasoning, it almost has a pizza flavor! I can see your eyes lighting up right now if you picky eaters in the house. Tell them anything tastes like pizza and they will love it before they even taste it.

If you are meal planning for more people than usual; and you don't want to spend a lot of extra money, or time in the kitchen, save yourself some cash and enjoy more time with your guests with this tasty meal. Plus, I'm guessing it would even be a great make ahead freezer meal too! Holiday guests should be fun, not stressful!

Mozzarella Spaghetti Bake
1/2 lb. spaghetti, broken into thirds
1 lb. pork sausage
1 small onion, diced
1 green pepper, chopped
1 TBS Italian seasoning
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 3/4 c. spaghetti sauce
1 ( 8 oz.) can tomato sauce
2 TBS Parmesan Cheese
1 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
2 tsp. dried parsley
1 egg
1/2 c. milk
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 9 x 13 baking dish. Cook pasta to just al dente. Meanwhile, in a large skillet brown sausage, onion and green pepper. Season with garlic powder, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. When no longer pink, drain well. Return to skillet. Add spaghetti sauce and tomato sauce. Stir to combine. Reduce heat and let simmer until slightly thickened. In a large bowl whisk together egg and milk. When pasta is cooked, drain well. Mix with egg mixture until coated. Transfer to baking dish. Spoon sausage mixture over noodles. Mix slightly. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake for 20 minutes, uncovered. Top with mozzarella cheese and dried parsley. Bake 10 additional minutes until cheese is melted. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Meal Plan Dec. 14-19

*New Recipes
Links to Recipes on Blog
^ Left over from previous menu



Mac n Cheese

Philly Cheese Steak Casserole*
Sliced Peaches

Hashbrown Casserole*

Tex Mex Pasta Bake*
Garlic Knots

Friday, December 12, 2014

Put A Little Spice In Your Soup

So I have to admit, it wasn't until my adult life I even knew condensed cheese soup existed. Sure I knew about all the standards....cream of chicken, mushroom, celery...but I was just never exposed to the cheese soup. And even since then, I really haven't used it much. Here and there in a recipe, but not just as is. Well, that was all fine and dandy until my child spotted a can of it on the shelf one day. "Mommy...they make cheese soup? We have to have that." 

Okay, sure, but let's see if Mommy can't make it a little more substantial and hearty. How about if we add some simple veggies and then maybe even spice it up a little? Nothing major so the kiddies can enjoy it, but just enough to make your taste buds stand up and take notice. 

Well, that's exactly what Mommy did. A hearty, thick, cheesy bowl of goodness perfect to slurp on a cold day. If you think your kids might not enjoy the texture of the chopped veggies in it, simply put them in the food processor to get them as fine as possible. My crew didn't mind them. Oh, and even if this makes too much for one meal, it's okay because it tastes even better the next day for lunch. Just be ready to add a splash of milk before you reheat it because it gets really thick in the fridge.

It's the time of year when we all crave soups as much as possible, so it's nice to have some new ones in your arsenal to treat the family to after a long cold day.  And when it can be on the table in under an hour, that's even better! So, put a little spice in your life, and in your soup! Make this for supper tonight!

Tex-Mex Cheese Soup
1 medium white onion, finely chopped
2 ribs celery, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
1/2 c. butter cubed
1/2 c. flour
2 tsp. ground mustard
2 tsp. paprika
3 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 (14 .5 oz) cans chicken broth
3 c. milk
2 (4 oz.) cans diced green chilies
1 (16 oz.) jar Cheez Whiz
1 (10 oz.) can Rotel
Salt and Pepper to taste

In a large dutch oven, melt butter over medium high heat. Saute onions, celery and carrot until tender. Stir in flour, mustard, paprika and Worcestershire until well blended. Cook for 1 minute. Slowly add broth and milk, stirring constantly. Bring to a boil, and cook 2 minutes, stirring, until slightly thickened. Reduce heat, stir in cheese sauce. Keep stirring until cheese completely combined. Add chilies. Allow to cook on low, stirring often, until flavors develop, about 10 minutes. Garnish portions with a teaspoon of Rotel on each. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Chicken Rut

Do you find yourself falling into a rut with your food? More specifically do you suffer from a rut with one particular ingredient? I think for many of us, both of these are true. In fact, there is a rule in our house that was made almost 12 years ago, when we were still newlyweds, based on one such rut.

See,  I love chicken. I could eat it all the time, in a hundred different ways; and  unfortunately right after we were married when I was still finding my comfort level in the kitchen, I tested this theory. I made chicken all the time, and Mr. E got so incredibly tired of it, he flat out asked me to keep it to only once per week; and that rule still stands today. Sometimes it's not easy to abide by, but I really, really try.

To compensate, I try to come up with as many new ways to prepare my favorite poultry as I can. I guess I figure if it's served in a new way, maybe he won't notice it as much??!! Believe me, it doesn't work...but it makes me feel better, so I keep doing it.

This chicken dish is actually perfect for a busy weeknight when you want something delicious, but it needs to be quick and easy. It comes out with amazing flavor with only a few ingredients! Plus, I'm guessing you could use this same method for wings and get an amazing new party food for all those holiday gatherings right around the corner.

Try not to fall into ruts. Keep your meals new and exciting! But if you do fall down the dark hole of a rut, don't feel bad, I'm sure you'll find myself and many others down there with you!

Baked Honey Garlic Chicken
12 chicken drumsticks
1/2 c. honey
2 TBS minced garlic
1 TBS hot sauce
Salt and Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400. Line baking sheet with wire racks. Spray with nonstick spray. Place drumsticks on wire racks. Season with salt and pepper. Bake 30 minutes. Meanwhile in a microwavable bowl combine honey, garlic and hot sauce. Microwave 30 seconds and mix well. Remove chicken from oven. Baste liberally with honey sauce. Bake 25 additional minutes or until juices run clear.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Merry Christmas Giveaway

Some of you may remember back in autumn when I introduced you to my friend Kara, and her new Etsy shop, selling the most adorable hand towels, coasters, placemats, etc. 

Well, Kara is back with another great giveaway, just in time for the holidays! Win one for yourself. Give it as a gift. Either way, it's functional, festive and oh so fun!

 I love the large size and the way it absorbs so well. I am kind of addicted to kitchen towels, and I'm really picky too. Kara's towels definitely met, and surpassed my expectations.They are my new favorites, hands down.

Want to win two of Kara's towels for your own kitchen? It's easy to enter, easy to win! 

(2) Lucky Winners will receive (1) Towels of his/her choice

To Enter: Visit Kara's Etsy store here. Take a look around and leave a comment telling me which towels you would choose if you win. Leave an email address so I can find you! 

Contest Ends Dec. 13, 2014

Plus, right now Kara is offering FREE shipping to all of EMM readers. Just head over to her store and enter FREESHIP at checkout!

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Miracle of Baking Soda

So, there are a few things left in the kitchen that will still surprise me...even when I already know about them. One of them is this trick. Did you know that baking soda can turn regular dough into pretzel dough? Yep! It's like magic! Now, if you have made my Pretzel Dogs, you already knew about this nifty trick; but if you're like me, even after making those, the wonderment of what happens in a 30 second process is still awe inspiring! 

If you've never tried this fake out before, this recipe is the best way to start! With so many holiday meals and parties coming up, you could really impress your family and guests with this one! Imagine the mad respect you will get when they think you slaved away in the kitchen all day making pretzel rolls! (And don't worry, I'll keep your secret!) 

These would be perfect with a big sit down meal, but my little man actually gave me an even better idea the night I served these. He informed me they would be perfect with some nacho cheese to dip them in, as a "nibbly bit"...his name for appetizers. In fact, he has already requested that exact combo for our annual New Year's Eve buffet. So, feel free to steal that idea too. 

With the busy holidays and so many yummy things coming out of your kitchen, isn't it nice to have a couple tricks up your sleeve to save some time and nerves? These will not only do that, but satisfy your taste buds too! 

Easy Pretzel Rolls
From Pillsbury
1 can crescent rolls
10 c. water
1/4 c. baking soda
1 egg
1 TBS water
Sesame seeds
Kosher Salt

Preheat oven to 400. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray. In a large stock pot or dutch oven, bring water and baking soda to a boil. Meanwhile, separate rolls into 8 triangles. Starting at the short end, stretch dough a bit. Roll short side to other, and then bring ends together forming pretzel shape. Press slightly to adhere. When water is boiling, carefully add 2 rolls to water at a time, and cook for 30 seconds. Gently remove with a slotted spoon and drain slightly on paper towel. Using a metal scraper, transfer to baking pan. Repeat for all rolls. Beat egg with water. Brush rolls with egg mixture. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and salt. Bake for 11-13 minutes until golden brown. 

Shared on The Country Cook Dec. 12, 2014

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Soul Food Saturday

With Christmas time very near, our schedules are full of pot lucks, church celebrations and festivities full of food. So we can never have enough quick, go to recipes for delicious side dishes. This one takes a corn casserole and speeds it up. All done on the stove top and you probably already have the ingredients you need. Grab your best traveling pot, because we're joining the party!

Creamy Corn and Leek Casserole
1 tbs. Olive oil
1 tbs. Unsalted butter
1/2 c. Leek, chopped, rinsed
2 14.5 oz. cans sweet corn, drained
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp. dried parsley
1/2 c. Sour cream
1/3 c. Shredded cheddar/jack cheese

In a medium pan add butter and olive. Heat until butter has melted. Add leeks, then stir to combine. Cook until leeks have soften, then add corn, salt, pepper and parsley. Stir to combine. Cook until corn is heated through evenly and leeks are tender. Add cheese stir to combine and melted evenly. Remove from heat and add sour cream. Stir to combine. Check seasoning and adjust if needed. Cover with a lid for transport or serve immediately along side your family favorites! Enjoy!

Meal Plan Dec. 7-12

*New Recipe
Links to Recipes on Blog

Sausage and White Bean Ragu*
Garlic Bread

Pork Chops
Fried Cabbage and Noodles

Crock Pot Italian Vegetable Soup*
Grilled Cheese

Frozen Pizza
Jello Parfait Salad


French Toast

Friday, December 5, 2014

You Should Make That

Those infamous words. When someone in your family sees something or hears about something they think would be tasty and immediately inform you it needs to be making an appearance in your kitchen.

Now, I'm lucky and my boys are usually pretty polite about making requests. They know I'm always looking for new things to try, and are more than happy to oblige! But they are never too demanding, so I'm always inclined to make their requests happen.

This recipe came to my attention one weekend when we were watching one of the "special" channels on our Roku player. Yep, Gooseberry Patch has their own YouTube channel that we can stream onto our television. Talk about foodie heaven!

This one came across the screen and my boys were drooling. My husband declared "Oh honey, you have to make that." And I'm so happy I did! Plus, I'm really excited to share it with ya'll today. It is the perfect potato dish for all those holiday gatherings coming our way! It is easy. It can be adapted to feed a few or a lot. And most importantly, it's slap you in the face good!

You're going to love this for everything from a simple weeknight side dish to holiday parties galore. You can even pre-bake the potatoes, and save yourself some time. Either way, everyone is going to gobble it down, and then say to the cooks in their house "Hey, You Should Make That." 

Twice Baked Potato Casserole From Gooseberry Patch
6 potatoes, baked and cooled so can handle
1/4 c. butter, room temperature
2 c. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded and divided
1 c. milk, warmed
1/2 c. sour cream
5 green onions, chopped and divided
1 (2.6 oz.) bag real bacon bits, divided
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375. Slightly grease a 9 x 9 square baking dish. In a large bowl, scoop out potatoes. Mash slightly. Add salt, pepper, butter and 1 cup cheese. Using an electric mixer, beat well. Add milk. Beat until fluffy and cheese is melted. Stir in sour cream, half  the onions and half the bacon bits. Spoon mixture into baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and bacon. Bake for 15 minutes until cheese melted. Sprinkle with onions before serving. 

Shared on The Country Cook Dec. 5, 2014

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Celebrate The Sauce

If you haven't heard of Tuttorosso Tomatoes, I'm so happy to be the one to introduce you to them. Brought to you by the same folks as Red Gold Tomatoes, you can trust they know tomatoes! 

And right now, they have a new campaign that recognizes that for so many of you, preparing family meals is more than just putting food on the table. It's an art that is rooted in tradition, family and love. 

So to honor that tradition, they are currently holding a three-week promotion on their Facebook page, "Celebrate the Sauce." From now until December 10th, everyone who enters will have  chance to win in a weekly drawing of 1,000 aprons, a daily drawing of one heirloom wooden spoon and one grand prize of one Martha Stewart Cookware set. Plus, as part of this promotion, Tuttorosso has introduced a line up of Sunday Sauce recipes to inspire everyone from experienced to new cooks in the kitchen. 

I am so excited to share this new sauce with you. You know how much we love pasta suppers in our house, and homemade sauces that can be on the table in under an hour are an absolutely plus to me. Plus, let's face it, any recipe that includes the word butter is going to be delicious! It adds a silkiness and creaminess to this traditional tomato sauce that allows it to cling to every nook and cranny of the pasta. Deep, rich flavor without having to cook all day, makes this a recipe that will become a go-to in your house too. 

With the holiday gaggle of house guests on it's way, this would be a great way to feed a crowd in a yummy and budget friendly way! And don't forget to enter the Celebrate the Sauce contest today!

Buttery Tomato Sauce with Onion
2 (28 oz.) cans Tuttorosso Peeled Plum Italian Style Tomatoes, crushed with hands
2 medium yellow onions, peeled and quartered lengthwise
1/2 tsp. sugar
1 stick butter, cubed
Salt and pepper to taste
1 TBS Italian seasoning*
1 tsp. garlic powder*
Dried parsley*

In a large dutch oven, bring tomatoes, sugar, butter and onion to a boil. Add garlic powder and Italian seasoning.  Reduce heat to medium low and cook, stirring occasionally and mashing any large pieces of tomato with back of a wooden spoon. Cook about 45 minutes until flavors blend. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with your favorite pasta and garnish with parsley. 

Shared on The Country Cook Dec. 5, 2014

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Be A Rock Star In Your Kitchen {A Review}

What if I told you there is a way for you to prepare a delicious, healthy meal with almost no thinking at all? That there is a service does takes all the guess work out of it, and does all the prep work for you? Sound like something you might be interested in trying? Well, then let me introduce you to the new Indiana company, Fresh Artistry

Based in Indianapolis, Fresh Artistry is focused on helping the home cook feel and look like a master chef without any of the hassle or skill involved. Their local chef designs menus, and they deliver fresh, pre-measured produce, herbs, spices, meats and instructions right to your door step. With the easy to follow recipe guides, your meal will turn out perfectly every time. 

And when I say meats, let me be more specific because one of the things I was most impressed with when I received my delivery was I could tell the meats were local. In fact, my chicken came from Miller Amish Poultry in Orland, Indiana; and wrapped at Moody's Butcher Shop in Avon, In. It has no antibiotics, hormones, or preservatives....ever. This is exactly the kind of meats I use in my home, so it's nice to know Fresh Artistry has the same standards as I do. 

One of the other things I loved most about my Fresh Artistry delivery was the simplicity. I've tried a few of the sous-chef delivery companies out there, and some of them were so complicated I felt very over whelmed. But this box was easy to read, easy to understand and the game plan was very clear.

So, what did I get to cook? An absolutely delicious meal my family gobbled up: Peach-Chipotle Glazed Chicken with Smashed Potatoes and Fresh Green Beans. 

We seriously couldn't get enough of this yummy dish. The only complaint we had was we didn't have enough to make it again! 

If you love to cook at home, but don't have as much time as you would like to commit to it, Fresh Artistry would be great for you. Or maybe you have a foodie in your life you are looking for the perfect gift for this holiday season. They would love this! Or maybe you know of a newlywed couple who is just starting out, this would be quite the treat for them too! 

For more info, menu options and pricing plans, be sure to find them online, on Facebook, and Twitter

Monday, December 1, 2014

Slow Cooker Christmas Favorites Day 2 {A Review and Giveaway}

Welcome to day two of my latest review for Gooseberry Patch! If you missed day one Friday because maybe you were out shopping, or still in a food coma from Thanksgiving, you can see that terrific recipe here

For my second recipe I chose something I knew my boys would gobble up; and I could make on a busy day when I was going to be out all day, and had absolutely no time to devote to cooking. 

Now, before I go any further, I feel the need to put a sort of disclaimer on this recipe. I know many of you out there avoid condensed soups in your diet; and when you read just how many cans are included in this you will wince. I respect that. But what I ask for those of you who feel that way, please don't look down upon those of us who say it's okay to use them now and again, to save us some time and stress. Please don't make comments on this post, or on my Facebook page. Please don't email me and tell me I'm poisoning my family. (Yes, I have actually had this comment before on recipes that included canned soups.) Please don't send any hate mail to my home with nutrition labels. I respect those who choose not to use them; and all I ask is you do the same. 

Whew, with that out of the way, I can honestly say my family loved this. It was the perfect way to warm up on a very cold day, and it was just as good when Mr. E had to eat it a couple hours after I served dinner.

Oh, plus the fine folks at Gooseberry Patch are giving EMM readers a chance to WIN a copy of this fantastic cookbook! Just click here to enter! 

Crock Pot Clam Chowder
Submitted by Jewel Sharpe Raleigh, NC Found on pg. 123
3 (10 3/4 oz.) cans cream of potato soup
2 (10 3/4 oz.) cans New England clam chowder
1 pint half and half
2 ( 6.5 oz.) cans chopped clams
1/2 c. butter, sliced
1/2 c. onion, diced
Salt and Pepper to taste*
1 TBS dried parsley*
Oyster Crackers*

Combine all ingredients except crackers and parsley in slow cooker. Cover and cook on LOW for 2-4 hours. Right before serving, stir in parsley and garnish with crackers. 
*These were my additions

Shared on The Country Cook Dec. 5, 2014