Everyday Mom's Meals: March 2014

Monday, March 31, 2014

Easter Dessert with 3 Musketeers® {#EatMoreBites #shop}

I am a member of the Collective Bias®  Social Fabric® Community. This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper amplification for Collective Bias and its advertiser.

It's the end of March, and for those who haven't been paying attention to your calendars, Easter is right around the corner! So, if you've started to plan your menu and are looking for a little inspiration, I am here to share a fantastic, simple dessert recipe that everyone from young to old will love. Oh, and it just happens to include chocolate too...the ambassador of Easter fun! 

I think every one's sweet tooth goes into over drive around Easter. So many yummy treats to be enjoyed. Every where you look it's another chocolate indulgence. But I got to thinking why not incorporate that indulgence into an actual dessert course for a big Easter meal that is easy, delicious and fun for everyone of all ages. 

And when I heard about the new MARS bites  I knew they would be the perfect way to get my chocolate fix this Easter holiday, with ease and satisfaction! So, when I was at Walmart on my weekly grocery run, I was super excited to find them in the bagged candy aisle, just waiting for me to snatch them up! 

At the end of a that big holiday meal filled with the traditional fare, why not surprise your family with something whimsical, hands friendly and scrumptious for dessert? Something they can dip perhaps? Let's face it. Any time you can dip something, it is 10 times more fun! Plus, this way the adults can have their candy too, without having to rummage through the kids' Easter baskets! 

3 Musketeers Dip
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 stick butter, softened
3/4 c. powdered sugar
2 TBS brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 (6 oz.) bag 3 Musketeers Bites, coarsely chopped, a few reserved for garnish
Vanilla Wafers
Graham Sticks

Combine cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, brown sugar and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until creamy. 

Increase speed to medium and mix for 1 additional minute until well incorporated. Add chopped chocolate and mix on medium speed for 2 minutes. 

Scrape sides of bowl with rubber spatula. Transfer to serving dish. Garnish with extra chocolate. Serve with vanilla wafers and graham sticks. 

Shared on The Country Cook April 4, 2014

Oh, and now you can try MARS Bites and save a little money too! Be sure to grab your coupon for when you make this! You can save $0.75 off (2) 2.83 oz. bags or $3 off (2) 6 oz. bags or larger. And remember to #EatMoreBites with #CollectiveBias! 


Saturday, March 29, 2014

Keeping Kids' Packed Lunches Fun #Fruitshoot

Thank you to Fruitshoot for sponsoring today's post, but my love for their delicious juice is all my own!

When my son entered kindergarten 4 years ago I knew it was going to be my job to make sure his lunchbox was filled to the brim with yummy things he would not only enjoy, but look forward to eating every day. Every. Single Day. Well, now that he is almost done with 3rd grade, I can tell you coming up with new and fresh ideas can sometimes be taxing on this mama's brain. That's why I am so thankful for great products, like Robinson's Fruitshoot, that do the work for me!

This fun hydration drink is perfect for energetic, independent kids who desire fun on the go. It contains real fruit juice, no high-fructose corn syrup, and no added sugar or natural flavors. 

Fruitshoot lets moms balance the hydration their kids need with the taste that they love, making hydration fun for kids and easy for moms. 

Fruitshoot also features an innovative no-spill cap (no more juice stains in the car!) making it easy for kids to be independent and on the go. These vibrant fun colored bottles come in tasty flavors of Orange, Apple, Berry Burst, and Strawberry/Raspberry.

So, how do I keep him looking forward to opening his lunch box every day? Here are a few tips!

1. Involve the kids! Let them help to pick out what to pack every day. 

2. Keep a "stash" of lunch box go-tos, This makes it easy for the kids to choose from, and lets you know you have things on hand to pack without a trip to the store.

3. Pack a variety of what I call categories:

* A "main" dish. This can be a sandwich, meat with crackers, leftover pizza, etc.

* Something crunchy. Pretzels, chips, crackers, peanuts, etc. 

* A fruit or veggie, or both. Applesauce, celery, carrots, dried fruit, grapes, etc.

* Extra dairy. String cheese, yogurt, etc. 

*Something sweet. Jello, cookies, granola bar, etc. 

4. On special days, include a little note from Mommy. Birthdays, holidays, big test days. Let them know you're thinking about them!

5. Indulge every one in a while. For my son, it's a huge treat to have something chocolate included in his lunchbox.

If you make a packed lunch fun for kids, they are more likely to gobble it all down, enjoy every bite and keep coming back for more. They are working hard at school and need the fuel great food and drinks provide, but need to enjoy it too. Thankfully, they get both with Fruitshoot

So, where can you buy Fruitshoot? It can be found at the following retailers: 

Walmart, KMart, Kroger, Lowes Foods, Harris Teeter, Dollar General, Family Dollar, Spartan, Speedway, Meijer Gas, Sheetz, Kangaroo, WilcoHess, Handee Hugo, Family Fare, Giant Eagles, Marc’s, Dave’s, UDF, Traxx, Redi Mart, J Clarks

How do you keep your kids' lunchboxes filled with nutrition and fun? 

Soul Food Saturday

There is something about having amusement park themed food that always brings back the memory of being there. On one of our trips to Six Flags Magic Mountain we had the most delicious fried fish we’d ever had. Jalapeno was hidden in the batter, how could you possibly go wrong with that? Not one way we could think of. So after some time of thinking it over I had to recreate it at home. This recipe feeds a crowd, so grab some friends this one will be a ride to remember!

Jalapeno Beer Battered Tilapia
3 lbs Tilapia fillets
½ c. dark beer
½ c. pickled jalapeno juice
½ c. water
½ c. diced pickled jalapenos
1 box beer batter fish fry 
Flour for dusting
Salt and pepper to taste
Oil for frying

In a large pan add approx 1 inch of oil to 370 degrees. In a medium sized bowl mix beer batter, beer, jalapeno juice, and water. Stir to combine. Add chopped jalapenos and mix. Add flour to shallow dish approx 1 cup will work fine, add salt and pepper. Then stir gently to combine. Coat each fillet with a light layer of flour. Tap gently to remove excess, and then dip into batter, coating both sides evenly.
Add each piece slowly to the heated oil, being careful not to crowd the pan. Cook until golden brown and cooked through. About 8-10 minutes. Serve hot, with more jalapenos or your favorite dipping sauce.

Meal Plan Mar. 30-April 4

*New Recipe
Links to Recipes on Blog
Jack Daniels Chicken
Dill Coleslaw*
Marinated Cucumbers

Alex is having a sleep over at Maa Ma's.
Adam and I will have leftovers.

Tomato Soup
Grilled Cheese

Biscuit Breakfast Sandwiches
Potato Cakes
Sliced Peaches

Baked Mac n Cheese
Mandarin Oranges

Sloppy Joes
Cottage Cheese
Steak Fries

Friday, March 28, 2014

An Extra Hour of School

For those of you who know me personally, or follow this blog or my Facebook page on a regular basis, you know just how many snow days we dealt with in January and February. For those of you who don't, let me catch you up.

After our holiday break was over, we got hit with the biggest snow storm Indiana has seen in almost 30 years, and the entire state was essentially shut down for two days, and our school system was off for an entire week. Yep, an extra 5 days of winter vacation. Well, it only went down hill from there. In the five weeks after the break, we were actually out of school more than we were in. Kids were home days on end; and schools were left to figure out how to catch them up and make sure their education didn't suffer.

Our school system, among many others in the area, decided to take our state school superintendent up on her offer of alternatives to simply adding days onto the end of the year, eating up summer vacation. Their solution? Extending the school day by an hour, until the middle of April. So, now instead of dismissing at 3:30 pm, the elementary kids (this would be us) don't hear the final bell until 4:30 pm. Now, for us, living so close to the school, that still means we are home by about 4:45 pm, which probably doesn't sound that bad, but on nights when we have Taekwondo, and before that homework and supper....it's a struggle. It's a time crunch. It's no fun. But, such is life, and as parents we have to teach our kids about adapting and looking for the best in a situation. And as Mommy there isn't much I can do to make sure these days go off without a hitch, but one thing I can control is dinner!

My slow cooker is definitely getting a good work out on these days! Knowing supper is one thing I don't have to stress over, and it's ready the minute he is ready to sit down and eat, takes just a little of the pressure off.

This recipe is based on something we had at a restaurant years ago. Like before we were married, years ago. I love sandwich suppers on busy weeknights, but when they are made even more time friendly by cooking all day while I'm getting other things down, they become even better. These are comfort food on a plate, and a great meal to come home too, no matter what time your dismissal is!

Crock Pot Open Faced Roast Beef Sandwiches
3 lb. rump roast
Vegetable Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 packet Italian dressing mix
1 packet brown gravy mix
2 c. water
2 TBS dried onions
2 TBS cornstarch
Dried parsley
Sliced Texas Toast
Butter or margarine

Preheat Crock Pot to LOW. Heat a large skillet on high heat. Coat both sides of roast with vegetable oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Brown in skillet, on both sides. Place in Crock Pot. In a small bowl combine water, both seasoning packets and onions. Pour over meat. Cook on LOW for 5 hours. Remove meat and shred. Remove about 3/4 c. liquid to a small bowl. Whisk together cornstarch and liquid until it forms a smooth slurry. Pour back into Crock Pot and add shredded meat back. Cook on HIGH for 1 hour until thickened. Reduce to warm until ready to serve. When ready, spread butter on both sides of bread and toast in a skillet until golden brown. Spoon meat with gravy over bread.  Garnish with parsley.

Shared on The Country Cook Mar. 28, 2014

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Lunch For The Week

As a SAHM and food blogger, most days lunch consists of whatever I can find and eat quickly between household chores and typing blog posts. Even though it's not technically "on the go" it feels that way because of how busy my days tend to be. So, I am always looking for dishes I can make once, but eat all week long. That is exactly what I was looking for when I created this recipe. Oh, and I just happen to be craving chicken salad too!

I love chicken salad, but tend to make the same one over and over. This time I wanted something that was a new twist, and celebrated Spring. Not because it felt like it outside, but because I am determined to ignore the chilly temps and pretend it's sunny and warm every day. Denial is a beautiful, and in this case, yummy thing.

I think this version screams springtime. The flavors are bright, refreshing and will make your taste buds stand up and sing. In fact, if you're hosting an Easter brunch, I think this would be a perfect addition to your menu. Or even if you're only cooking for a few for the holiday, and a huge ham really isn't economical, this might be a nice way to go.

I love the way lemon and basil taste together, and when you add them to roast chicken, they turn the everyday, sometimes mundane, poultry into something really special. And the almonds. Oh the almonds! They provide just the right amount of crunch to finish it out perfectly.

If you're looking for a great lunch, brunch or even light sandwich supper idea, be sure to jot this down. Grab some bagels, bread, rolls...whatever you can find to put this one because you're gonna love it!

Lemon Basil Chicken Salad
3 large boneless chicken breasts
Olive Oil
Grill Seasoning  (I like Montreal )
1 c. mayo
1/2 c. slivered almonds, few reserved for garnish
1 rib celery, diced
1 TBS dried basil
2 tsp. dried parsley, extra for garnish
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Drizzle chicken with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and grill seasoning. Roast for 1 hour until juices run clear. Allow to cool. When chicken is cool, shred with 2 forks or with a stand mixer. (Click here for method.) In a medium bowl whisk together mayo, lemon juice, basil, parsley, salt and pepper. Add celery and almonds to chicken. Pour mayo mixture over. Stir well to combine. Garnish with extra almonds and parsley. Chill until ready to serve. Serve on bread, rolls, toast, crackers, bagels, croissants, etc.

Shared on The Country Cook Mar. 28, 2014

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Wonderfully Raw Snacks {A Review}

We are all looking for ways to put a little health into our diet. And most of us would agree we want to do this, without sacrificing flavor or taste. Is it so much to ask to have snacks that satisfy our mid-day cravings without making us feel guilty until bed time? I don't think so; and neither to the great folks at Wonderfully Raw.

Their newest crunchy creations, Brussel Bytes and Snip Chips are the perfect substitute for other crunchy snacks you would normally reach for, but oh so much better! They are both Gluten-free, Vegan, and come in incredible flavor combinations!

Brussel Bytes are  made from organic Brussels sprouts and pumpkin seeds, are just as nutritious as they are delicious! These tasty green machines are available in two fabulous flavors: Chili Pumpkin Seed Crunch and Tamarind Apple Crunch. These are a great alternative to Kale chips!

The second new offering, Snip Chips are a  guiltless way to indulge in potato chip cravings in tasty varieties like Cheesy Herb Truffle, Chipotle Lime Cilantro, and Dill Pickle. Snip Chip’s powerful combination of organic parsnips and coconut oil make them an excellent source of vitamins C, E, and K, fiber, Omega-3, and potassium.

Now ya'll know how much our family loves Brussels sprouts and parsnips, so you can imagine our excitement when these landed on our door step. I couldn't believe we could enjoy two of our favorite veggies at snack time. See, while many people have cravings for sweets, I am more of a salty snacker. I want something crunchy and salty to munch on...and these are the perfect treat to reach for! 

Wonderfully Raw products are available at select Whole Foods Markets and grocery and health foods stores throughout the country and can also be purchased online here 

Monday, March 24, 2014

My New Crock Pot

One of my favorite lunchtime treats is the all you can eat salad and soup at Olive Garden. In fact, I probably go there for lunch three times more often than what we do for supper. I think their lunch time specials are one of the best deals around; not to mention delicious. And every single time I go, no matter what, this is the soup I get. Sure they have other varieties, and they always look yummy too when my lunch companions get them, but this is always in my bowl.

So you can imagine my excitement when I found a make-at-home version I could enjoy any time I wanted. Then try to picture how over the moon I was when I discovered I could make it in the slow cooker. Plus, this just so happened to be right after I had gotten a brand spanking new Crock Pot for my birthday! What a better way to break it in, than with one of my very favorite soups on the face of the planet!

If you've never had this soup, and aren't sure you want to try it...take my word, you do! The creamy broth is only outdone by the flavors of the sausage, potato and kale In fact, this was the dish that introduced me to kale. Until I had this soup years ago, I had never even heard of kale; and actually had to ask the waitress what it was. (Obviously this was before my foodie days and the explosion of kale's popularity!) Plus, there is just a little bit of kick from the red pepper. But not too much. You know me, I can't take a lot of heat, so you know if my wimpy taste buds can stand it, it can't be too spicy.

I'm so happy I found this recipe. It was so close to the original, if I closed my eyes I could have sworn I was sitting in the restaurant. Plus, how fun to have this be the very first thing coming out of my brand new Crock Pot. I'm sure it has many, many delicious meals in it's future, but this wonderful favorite will always be the first!

Crock Pot Zuppa Toscana Soup From Joyful Thrifty Home
1 lb. bulk pork sausage
1 medium white onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, grated or minced
1 medium bunch kale, chopped
1 lb. bacon, diced, cooked crisp and drained
32 oz. chicken broth
16 oz. heavy whipping cream
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 TBS Italian seasoning
5 small potatoes, skin left on, diced
Parmesan cheese for garnish
Salt and Pepper to taste

In a large skillet over medium heat, brown sausage, onion and garlic until meat no longer pink. Drain grease if necessary. Transfer to Crock Pot. Add chicken broth, cream, bacon, red pepper, Italian seasoning, kale, salt and pepper. Stir well. Cook on HIGH for 3 hours. Add potatoes and cook another 30-60 minutes until tender. Garnish individual portions with Parmesan.

Shared on The Country Cook Mar. 28, 2014

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Soul Food Saturday #48

What is it about winter that makes us crave a good grilled hunk of meat, and a nice cocktail along with it? Maybe it's because we are daydreaming of barbecues with family and friends during nice summer evenings. Well why not wrap it up into one? That's right. I used a seasoning pack to mix up a  great marinade that any meat would be delighted to bathe in.  Let's dream about summer together, tonight pork chops are what's for dinner.

Tequila Lime Pork Chops Adapted from Weber
2 tequila lime seasoning packs, found in the baking and spices aisle 

2 lb boneless pork loin, sliced into chops
1/2 c. Vegetable oil
1/4 c. Tequila
1/4 c. Lime juice
1/4 c. Water
Zip top gallon size food storage bag

In a small bowl add spice mix, oil, tequila, lime juice and water. Stir to combine. Add meat to food storage bag, and pour marinade over meat. Carefully remove air from and seal the top of the bag. Gently tip bag back and fourth to distribute marinade and coat meat entirely. Set aside for 30 minutes. Remove meat from marinade and grill as desired.

Meal Plan March 23-28

*New Recipe
Links to Recipes on Blog
^ Recipes being re-blogged

Hot Dogs
Bacon and Blue Broccoli Salad*
Baked Pineapple

Egg Rolls
Hot and Sour Soup
Quick Lo Mein^

Garlic Lime Chicken
Wild Rice
Steamed Asparagus

Cabbage Roll Casserole
Dinner Rolls

I'm having dinner with a friend. The boys will have leftovers.

Oven Homefries

Friday, March 21, 2014

Been Trying For Years

I'm going to take you back in time today. The year is 2003. It's Christmas and I am celebrating my very first one as a newlywed. But also, we were celebrating with my parents, per a tradition we still observe today. After the presents were opened, the huge meal was eaten, and we were just sitting around, their phone rang. It was a family friend who lives down the street inviting us down for a late supper. She knew we had probably had a large meal in the early afternoon, but wanted to extend an invite for us to come down later for a simple supper of soup. She had made a few different varieties and wanted to share the leftovers. Never ones to turn down a sweet invitation from a friend, especially when it involves food, we were happy to go.

 Upon entering the dining room we discovered her version of "I have a few leftovers" really meant she had three different kinds, and lots of each left, along with homemade bread, rolls, and sweets. And even though we were still pretty full from our meal earlier in the day, boy oh boy did we eat good!

Each kind she served was delicious, but to be honest I can't remember what two of them were. Why? Because the third was hands down my favorite, and for the past decade, the one I have been trying to recreate in my own kitchen. It was a barley soup with a beef base and big slices of mushrooms. And not only was it my favorite, but also Mr. Everyday's and my Daddy's too. I can still remember all times we uttered the words "Oh My Gosh! This is delicious!" while slurping it up as fast as we could.

Over the years I've tried a few different versions, but never recreating it's tastiness...until now! This is the first one I've tried that was so close, my taste buds immediately stood up and screamed "You did it!!!"

Like beef? Like mushrooms? Like soups? Like using your slow cooker on busy days? If you answered yes to all of those, or even just one, then this is the soup for you! I'm happy to bring you a little something from my past that your family could very well enjoy for years to come!

Slow Cooker Beefy Mushroom Barley Soup Adapted from Taste of Home
2 lbs. round steak, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 TBS canola oil
1 large onion, diced
4 medium carrots, diced
2 ribs celery, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
8 oz. button mushrooms, sliced
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 (14 oz.) can beef broth
1 (14 oz.) can chicken broth
4 beef bouillon cubes
1/2 c. pearl barley
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
Dried Parsley, for garnish

Preheat slow cooker to HIGH. In a large skillet, heat oil to medium high. Season beef with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Brown in oil until no longer pink, and browned on all sides, about 5 minutes. Add beef and all liquid to slow cooker. Add all other ingredients except parsley. Cook on HIGH for 4 hours. Stir. Check for tenderness of barley. If mostly tender, reduce heat to LOW and cook 2 additional hours. If not, leave on HIGH for those 2 hours, checking occasionally. Garnish individual portions with parsley.

Shared on The Country Cook Mar. 21, 2014

Soup at Very Good Recipes

Disclaimer: As a Field Editor of Taste of Home, I share my own thoughts and opinions of this recipe. I am not a paid employee.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

My Latest Obsession

One month ago today was my mama's birthday. (Geez....where did those 4 weeks go?) It was going to be a low key evening, just the three of us and her, but I was making her favorite dinner of roasted chicken, and had some Yukon gold potatoes to do something with, I just didn't know what.

First, let me explain why these little golden gems are my newest obsession. It's actually quite simple. They are fan-freaking-tasticly delicious. (One of the best things about this gig is the fact I can make up my own words!) I will admit the first time I ever had them, it was as mashed potatoes, and I didn't care for them in that preparation. But the next time...and the time after that...and every time since...so, so yummy!

If you have never had them, let me try to paint a palate picture for you. They are tender, buttery, smooth, and lend themselves to seasonings very well. We're talking cut with a fork, melt in your mouth, absolutely scrumptious.

So, back to February 19th. The chicken was in the oven, getting all happy; and I had this bag of baby Yukons I had gotten on sale the previous week. Normally I would have either boiled them and seasoned with a little butter and parsley; or just roasted them with olive oil, salt and pepper. But this was a birthday...it called for something special. And that was when I remembered seeing these forever ago, and it was about time to try them!

Oh My Lanta! These are like the best of both worlds! Tender and "smooshy" like a boiled potato, but with crispy, golden edges from roasting. Not to mention, when you smash them, you allow the seasonings to get the whole way into the potato, resulting in every single bite being tasty, not just the outside.

Are you always looking for new tater recipes? Maybe these can be your latest obsession; or at least a great side dish for supper tonight!

Oven Smashed Potatoes Inspired by Pioneer Woman
1 lb. baby Yukon gold potatoes, boiled to just fork tender
1/4 c. olive oil
Dried Parsley
Salt and Pepper to taste
Cooking Spray

Preheat oven to 450. Once potatoes are par boiled, drain and set aside. When ready, spray large baking sheet liberally with cooking spray. Place potatoes on baking sheet and smash with potato masher or fork; be careful not to smash completely so they still stay together. Brush liberally with olive oil and season with rosemary, parsley, salt and pepper. Bake for 25-30 minutes until edges are browned and crisp. Remove from pan with spatula.

Shared on The Country Cook Mar. 21, 2014

Potatoes at Very Good Recipes

Monday, March 17, 2014

Don't You Love "Duh" Moments

If you read that title and can't relate...I'm sorry we can't be friend anymore. Ha ha! Just kidding. You know what I'm talking about, right? Those moments when you learn something new, or see a new way of doing something you've been doing the same way for years, and you think to yourself "DUH!! Why didn't I think of that?" Sure, you're happy for any idea that will make your life easier, but you could just kick yourself for not coming to the conclusion on your own. This is exactly how I felt when I saw this recipe a few weeks ago.

Tacos are one of my go-to meals. The little man loves them, they are simple and quick for a busy night (especially now that we are doing extended school days until 4:30 to make up for all the snow days from January and February) and since we have freezer beef, they are very economical for me too.

But no matter how many times I make them two things are always true. One, they never taste as good as the tacos we get at restaurants, rather it be a little taco stand or sit down place. And two, at least 40 percent of what goes into the taco ends up falling out the backside and residing on the dinner plates. That's okay, we do own forks, so it's not like it does to waste. It's just annoying. Well, let me tell you this recipe solves both of those problems!

These are hands down, the best tasting tacos I've ever made at home and do indeed remind me of ones from our favorite local Mexican restaurant. Plus, baking them not only allows the flavors to develop more, but to also "adhere" to the shell, allowing them to stay intact during eating!

If you can't find the flat bottomed shells, you can use regular ones, just be sure to use some aluminum foil balls in between so they stay standing during baking.

Does your family love tacos as much as we do? I'm guessing most of you are going to answer that with a resounding "yes", and if so, these could be dinner very soon.  Maybe tonight!

Baked Tacos 
1 lb. ground beef
2 tsp. dried onion
1 packet taco seasoning, or homemade
1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce
1 (15 oz.) can refried beans
Flat Bottom Taco Shells
8 oz. shredded Monterrey Jack cheese
Diced Tomatoes
Shredded Lettuce
Taco Sauce

Preheat oven to 400. In a large skillet brown beef with onions until no longer pink. Drain if needed. Add tomato sauce, seasoning, and beans. Stir to combine. Simmer about 5 minutes until heated through. Fill taco shells with meat mixture. Sprinkle with cheese. Place in 9 x 13 pan and bake for 10 minutes until cheese is melted. Top with tomatoes and lettuce. Garnish with sauce if desired.

Shared on The Country Cook

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Soul Food Saturday #47

I saw this recipe for the first time on Facebook, and had to give it a try. The perfect combination of garlic bread and pizza. How could that be wrong? Now that I have your full attention. This would be perfect for movie night, or a quick after school snack. This combinations are endless. Grab the kids because pizza bread is what's for dinner!

Pull Apart Pepperoni and Extra Cheese Pizza Bread 
1 Can Grands buttery Biscuits
½ c. Mozzarella /cheddar cheese blend
2 tsp. dried parsley flakes
1/4 c. olive oil
4 oz pepperoni
½ c. Parmesan cheese
½ tsp. granulated garlic powder

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut biscuits into quarters. Cut the pepperoni into smaller pieces. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and toss so that the oil is spread evenly on each piece of dough. In a 9 inch pie plate, bake for about 20 minutes (or until the top is brown and the center is thoroughly cooked)
TIP: Be sure to check it in the middle before you pull it out. If the middle is still not cooked through allow another 5 minutes at a time until center is done. 

Meal Plan Mar. 16-21

*New Recipe
Links to Recipes on Blog

Sloppy Joe Tater Tot Casserole*
Cottage Cheese

Red Beans and Rice with Sausage
Sliced Peaches

Beef Roast
Creamy Italian Noodles
Green Beans

Ham Steaks
Skillet Sweet Potatoes*

Crock Pot Clam Chowder

Fussili with Easy Marinara
Garlic Bread

Friday, March 14, 2014

Not Just For Soup

When you buy an ingredient for a specific recipe are you more inclined to then safe the rest for the next time you make it, or do you try to find ways to use it up before it makes its way to the back of the pantry to be forgotten forever?

I will admit, I go either way, depending on what the ingredient is, how much of it I have leftover, and how difficult it is to find. I mean, if we really like the recipe, and I had to go to three different stores to find something, I'm saving the rest so I don't have to again. But if it is something that can easily be used in another application allowing me to get double the use out of it, then that means I'm saving money, which always makes me happy.

Thus was the case with the bag of barley I bought for a new soup recipe (it's coming your way next week). Barley. When I think of it, I think soups. I think most people would probably admit they do too. But actually, it's a wonderful grain that can be cooked many different ways, and is very good for you. It's a great source of fiber and vitamin B1, and magnesium. And personally, I think it's a great idea to swap out a rice or pasta dish now and again with it because the kids still get that chewy texture, but with whole grains instead.

So, I had this bag of barley I had only used a half cup out of for the soup; and I figured why not find something else I could do with it that would be new to us, but maybe remind us of something else we love. What better dish to achieve that than a pilaf? We love rice pilaf and I was confident this would be a great twist on a classic.

I love the fact this is baked. Any dish that can be cooking while I'm busy either doing other things, or working on other dishes makes me extra happy. This has a fantastic nutty, buttery flavor and the tender barley is really accented nicely by the crunch of the almonds and green onions.

If you're always on the hunt for new sides and/or ways to get more whole grains into your diet, this is a great way to do it! So easy, so yummy, it's sure to become a favorite in your house too!

Baked Barley Pilaf From Mel's Kitchen Cafe
1 c. pearl barley
3 1/2 c. chicken broth
1/2 c. sliced almonds
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 TBS butter
Salt and Pepper to taste
2 green onions, chopped, for garnish

Preheat oven to 375. In a large skillet, melt butter. Add onions, garlic, barley and almonds.Season with salt and pepper. Saute, stirring often, for about 7-10 minutes until onions are tender and barley has a golden color. Transfer to a 3 quart casserole dish. Add chicken broth. Stir well. Bake, uncovered, for 60-80 minutes until liquid is absorbed and barley is tender. Fluff with a fork. Garnish with green onions before serving.

Shared on The Country Cook Mar. 14, 2014

Barley at Very Good Recipes

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Spring, Easter and Bananas

On any given day I have about a million things going through my mind at once. I think this is pretty typical for all mothers out there. We are constantly juggling about a hundred things, all the while thinking about the next hundred coming around the bend. But even when it comes to food, and the things I'm going to blog about, I try really hard to stay ahead of the curve by always thinking about the next thing. And sometimes when I least expect it, fate will step in and decide for me what is to come next. 

This was the case the night I first saw this recipe. I was actually sitting on the laptop clicking back and forth between Facebook and here, trying to work on blog posts, but being easily distracted by the other. I was also working on my menu plan, ideas for new recipes to try, thinking about the next holiday/event that I should be focusing on...you see...a hundred different thoughts all jumbled in one tired mommy brain. And that's when a friend posted a link to this recipe saying she had just made it and it was fantastic. 

Well, anything with the words banana and cream has my attention immediately. But on this night, it really caught my eye because I had a bunch of bananas in the kitchen that needed to be used, and one of the things I was thinking about was what new recipe I could do using them. No joke! (Fate and kismet are funny things, huh??!!)

So the next day I made it, we loved it and I sat down to blog it; and that's when the train of thought once again jumped the tracks. While editing the photo I got to thinking what a pretty pastel yellow it was and how it really looked like spring in a bowl. And then that made me think what a great recipe it would be to make for an Easter dinner or even brunch. Or maybe even a bridal or baby shower! So yes, one little recipe had me thinking about spring, Easter, and bananas all at the same time! 

If you like Banana Cream Pie, you're going to love this! It's all the same flavors, but in a creamy, delicious salad. Plus, it's a great one for a crowd because where a pie might feed a few people, you can really stretch this out due to it being really rich and decadent. 

Sometimes my stream of consciousness scares even me. But when all those various thoughts come together and are able to manifest themselves into something yummy, it's okay, especially for you!

Banana Cream Salad 
1 egg
1/2 c. sugar
1 1/2 TBS flour
1/4 tsp. salt
2 TBS vinegar, add enough water to make 1/2 cup liquid
1 TBS butter
1 (8 oz.) container Cool Whip
3 ripe bananas, sliced, reserve a few for garnish
1/2 c. vanilla wafer cookies, crushed
4 drops yellow food coloring, optional

Whisk together egg, sugar, flour, salt and  vinegar/water mixture in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat until thickened, stirring constantly. (Be careful, it will scorch!) Once thick, remove from heat and add butter. Stir until combined. Allow mixture to cool. (I sped this up by putting it in the fridge.) Once cool, add Cool Whip and bananas. Stir well. Top with crushed vanilla wafers and garnish with a few banana slices. Refrigerate leftovers. 

Shared on The Country Cook Mar. 14, 2014

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Healthy Solutions Spice Blends {A Review and Giveaway}

If you're always looking for ways to "spice up" your meals, or just want to add more flavor to your everyday dishes, but not with a bunch of ingredients you can't pronounce or chemicals, then do I have a treat for you!

Let me introduce you to Healthy Solutions Spice Blends, the maker of 16 distinct spice blends that are recipe ready and made to cook with beef, fish, poultry, and pork. They help you to make delicious meals in minutes. 

Located in New Hampshire, their line of spice blends are all natural, high quality, that lead to nutritious and healthy dishes that fit into your busy life. 

Some of the blends available are: 

Cajun Seafood
Shrimp Scampi
Bold Beef Rub
Italian Meatballs
Perfect Steak
Ultimate Burger
Pork & Poultry

And many more! 

I love the fact these spice blends give flavor to the dish, without overpowering the meat itself. They highlight and make better without masking the other flavors you want to shine through as well. 

The Cajun Seafood gives just a little kick to your everyday shrimp or fish. And the Pork & Poultry blend works so well on pork chops or chicken breasts. Your family will be so excited to have some new flavor added to what can sometimes be mundane proteins! 

And now the folks at Healthy Solutions Spice Blends want to give you a chance to try 2 of their blends in your very own kitchen. Just read below on how to enter! 


1. This contest is open to US 18 and older ONLY.

2. The winner will be chosen by Random.org 

3. The winner will be notified by email and Facebook. He/she will have 48 hours to respond or another winner will be chosen. I will then pass on your address to the sponsor for shipping.

4. When leaving comments for entries, they MUST BE SEPARATE ones AND include an email address so it's easy for me to find the winner. If entries are together, it will only count as (1) and if no email, entry will not be considered.

5. If any of the extra entries are items you are already doing, please just remind me!

6. Contest Ends: March 20, 2014

One Lucky Winner Will Receive
(1) Pack Cajun Seafood Spice Blend
(1) Pack Pork & Poultry Spice Blend

Mandatory Entry:

1. Become a fan of Healthy Solutions Spice Blends on Facebook. Leave a comment when you have. 

Extra Entries:

1. Follow Healthy Solutions Spice Blends on Twitter. Leave a comment when you have.

2. Follow Healthy Solutions Spice Blends on Pinterest. Leave a comment when you have. 

Good Luck!!

Disclaimer: I was given free samples in exchange for this review and another set to giveaway. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Even More Take Out At Home

So...we aren't having the best of luck when it comes to our favorite Chinese restaurants here in town. Let me explain. We live next to a shopping plaza, and we were lucky enough to fall in love with a Chinese buffet that went in a few years back. Fortune Buffet was a tasty, budget friendly place for us to take our little "big eater" to fill him up. But even more than we enjoyed their buffet, we loved zipping over there for their take-out. They were one of the few buffets in town that when you ordered it to-go, they made it fresh and just didn't get it off the buffet. And oh, could they make some tasty food! In fact, we said on multiple occasions we enjoyed their take-out more than the buffet. Well, here about 6 months ago, a sign went up on the door that they were "finding a new location." Evidently they never did, because they haven't opened again any where we can find, and we miss them.

So then, last summer a place went in called The Paper Lantern. It was actually a family owned business specializing in Chinese and Vietnamese cuisine. Mr. Everyday actually tried them first, raved about them, went in so many times for lunch that he became a regular and got to know the owners, and then turned little man and I on to them too. They were super inexpensive, and had tasty, traditional food. We loved it!

Well, about a month ago, we were sitting here one evening when a news alert came on saying a fire had broke out at a Fort Wayne restaurant, and due to the extremely cold temps and winds, fire fighters were having a hard time getting in under control. Sadly, it was The Paper Lantern, and the entire thing was destroyed. Nothing left. It was so incredibly sad to watch and see the aftermath. The couple that owned it is completely devastated and while they hope to rebuild, aren't sure if they can go through it again. I guess only time will tell.

Now, with those back stories, you can understand why I've been pretty desperate to recreate some of our favorite Chinese foods in my own kitchen. This one happens to be the hubby's favorite. When ordering Chinese take-out, 9 times out of 10, this is what he would order.

Honestly, I never knew it could be so easy to make at home. But this could be a weeknight supper with no trouble at all! The most important thing to remember is you want to use pre-cooked rice! It makes for the best fried rice. I think the best way to do it is to make the rice the night before, put in the fridge over night and when it's time for supper, you're off to a good start!

I told my husband we have to stop raving about restaurants we love, because we seem to be a bit of bad luck. But until we find another place we love as much as we did these two, at least we can still enjoy favorites at home!

Shrimp Fried Rice
1 (12 oz.) bag frozen small 60/80 ct. , tail off, shrimp, thawed
4 c. pre-cooked brown rice (see note below)
1 (12 oz.) bag frozen peas and carrots
3 green onions, chopped on a bias
1/2 tsp. cornstarch
2 TBS oil, divided
3 eggs, beaten
2 TBS soy sauce
Salt and Pepper to taste

In a medium bowl toss shrimp, cornstarch, salt and pepper. Allow to sit at room temperature for 10 minutes. Heat a very large skillet on high heat. Add 1 TBS oil and swirl to coat pan. Add shrimp, and move around so they aren't overlapping. Do NOT move for 30 seconds and allow to fry. Flip over and fry for another 30 seconds, until almost cooked through. Remove with a slotted spoon to plate, leaving behind as much oil as possible. Turn heat to medium. Add eggs, stirring very quickly to scramble. When eggs are almost done, dish out and add to plate with shrimp. Wipe skillet out and return to high heat. Coat with other 1 TBS oil and saute green onions about 15 seconds. Add rice and stir well to mix. Allow the rice to cook untouched for 1-2 minutes until a sizzle is heard. Toss the rice to cook on all sides. Add 1 TBS soy sauce and stir well. Add shrimp, peas and carrots and eggs back in to finish cooking. Cook until heated through, about 5 minutes. Add another 1 TBS soy sauce, mix and serve hot. *NOTE* I find the best rice to use is made 24 hours ahead of time, and chilled in fridge.

Shared on The Country Cook Mar. 14, 2014

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Soul Food Saturday #46

Can you ever get enough of anything stuffed with sausage and cheese? I thought not! I know I sure can't. So after seeing this recipe several different times I knew I had to try it. So how could I make it over the top? With more cheese of course! Yep a cheese blend with cream cheese makes these even better! Take these to your next party or just make them for a movie night they are sure to hit the spot. 

Super Stuffed Jalapeños
1 lb. ground hot sausage 
40 jalapeños
4 oz cream cheese, softened
1 c. Shredded Mexican cheese blend
Preheat over 350. In a medium skillet add sausage and cook until cooked through. Drain and set aside. In a large bowl add cream cheese, shredded cheese, and cooked sausage and mix well. Rinse jalapeños. Cut each jalapeño lengthwise and remove seeds. Stuff jalapeños with sausage mixture. Bake in a 13x9 un greased pan. Cook until cheese bubbles and jalapeños are tender. Approx. 20 minutes. 
Weather you like them hot or room temperature they are sure to be a new favorite!