Everyday Mom's Meals: 2017

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Skyline At Home

The first time Alex tasted Skyline Chili it was love at first bite. His dad and him were actually driving back from a field trip in Indianapolis and from that moment on he was obsessed. There was only one problem. We didn't have one here in Fort Wayne. He knew any time that craving hit, the nearest one was 2 hours away. (Yes, he did try the freezer version, and while he liked it, it just wasn't the same.)

Well, that all changed back at the end of this summer. They finally opened one here. Only about 10 minutes from our house. So, in September when he turned 13 and I gave him the choice of any place to out to eat, you know exactly what he chose!!
Just look how happy it makes him! 

But let's face it, with a teenager and a toddler, it really isn't economical to be going out to eat as much as we would like, so once again it was up to me to find a way for him to enjoy it at home. I started researching exactly what made Cincinnati Chili what it is, looked at a ton of different recipes and came up with one that I thought would perfect for us.

If you love this style of chili as much as we do, I think you will be pleased just how close it is to the famous one. If you've never had it, be prepared for a little different style of chili, but still oh so tasty. And yes, to make sure you get the full effect, be sure to serve it over spaghetti...insert drool here!

Crock Pot Cincinnati Chili
2 lbs. ground beef
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (28 oz.) can crushed tomatoes
2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
2 TBS chili powder
1-2 tsp. hot sauce
2 TBS Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. ground allspice
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. cumin
2 TBS brown sugar
1 c. beef broth
2 dried bay leaves
Salt and Pepper to taste
Cooked Spaghetti
Diced Onion
Shredded Cheese
Oyster Crackers

In a large skillet brown beef with garlic. Drain if necessary. Add to Crock Pot. Add tomatoes, vinegar, Worcestershire,  seasonings, brown sugar, beef broth. Stir well. Add bay leaves. Cook on LOW 4-5 hours. Remove bay leaves. Serve over pasta with toppings. 

Shared at Weekend Potluck
Shared at Meal Plan Monday

Monday, December 4, 2017

Southern Inspiration

Today's recipe is going to begin with a disclaimer. I am NOT a Southern cook. I have never nor would I ever claim to be. Sure, I say ya'll and love me some greens, but alas, I am born and bread in Indiana. So, if you consider yourself one, or have been eating your granny from Mississippi's food all your life and know Southern food, and read this and think "that's not Southern"...please keep the hate mail to yourself. This is an interpretation of mine, a born and raised Yankee, just trying to make something new and yummy. 

 I don't care what the weather is doing outside, sometimes I just want foods that are not considered to be "in season." It can be 80 and sunny and I crave a certain soup, or it can be 30 and snowing and I want a big helping of potato salad, which was the inspiration for this. Well, except the weather part. It was actually unseasonably warm the day I made this. 60 in Indiana the last week of November? Yeah, that is odd, but we'll take it. 

When I sat down to plan my menu for the week, I couldn't get the words potato salad out of my head. I just wanted it. Now. And I wanted a new kind. I love the various recipes I have for it. From my Amish style to my Classic to the Loaded filled with bacon, they are all delicious. But I was just in the mood for a new kind. So I started reading, researching and of course Googling. 

After about a thousand recipes I came across a few I wanted to combine into my own creation, with this being the result; and to me it is Southern.

I know a lot of people are gearing up for that big holiday ham, and many serve potato salad with it. See, it's just not for summer! Lots of families are going to sit down next to the twinkling Christmas tree with some sliced ham and big ol' pile of tater salad next to it. If you're one of them, this would be a great version to include!

Southern Potato Salad
32 oz. bag frozen diced potatoes
3 hard boiled eggs, chopped
1 c. mayo
2/3 c. minced sweet pickles*
1/3 c. pickle juice
1 tsp. onion powder
1 1/2 tsp. yellow mustard
1 TBS dried parsley
Salt and Pepper to taste

In a large pot cover frozen potatoes with cold water. Bring to a boil and cook until tender, about 7-10 minutes. While potatoes cook whisk together mayo, pickle juice, onion powder, parsley, salt and pepper. Set aside. Once potatoes are cooked, drain well and add to a large bowl. DO NOT RINSE Mash slightly with a potato masher, leaving some chunks. Mix in pickles and eggs. Add dressing and mix well. Chill several hours before serving. *NOTE* The BEST way to get the pickles minced is to chop and then add to a food processor and pulse a couple times. You want them fine. Also, the potatoes will be warm when you mix everything, so when you add the dressing, it might look too wet and "soupy". That's okay. It will set up in the fridge. You want the potatoes warm because it absorbs the dressing.

Inspired by Southern Plate

Monday, November 27, 2017

It's The Most Wonderful Time of Year

Another Turkey Day is in the books. I hope yours was tasty and filled with love and blessings. 

But now, without further adieu...it is time for my most favorite time of year. I absolutely love Christmas. The entire season. Everything about it. Always have. But now with my boys, it is even more magical. Plus, I've passed that love onto both of them, so it's a terrific thing to see my excitement in them too. And you know with a 15 month old in the house, ours will be even more special this year.

I realize for many it is a very stressful time of year, and I respect that. But for me, I try really hard to prepare so I can truly enjoy every minute. All of my presents are bought and wrapped. I'm currently working on Christmas Cards and they will be ready to go before long. I have menus written out so I know exactly what I need to make and when. I know, I know. How they heck do I stay that organized? I don't know. It's just in my blood I guess. My mom has been done shopping since September! 

One way I can pass a little of that organization onto all of you is to have some holiday inspired recipes ready to go for you to turn to when you're ready to start planning your menu. 

Who doesn't love a great "fluff" salad? They are always a huge hit, and there seem to be a million varieties out there. So why should this one make an appearance during your Christmas celebration? Two reasons really. 1. The color & flavor. Red and cherry just say holidays. 2. It has to be made the night before! So it can be chilling in the fridge, waiting on you! Make ahead dishes are always a welcomed friend during busy holiday meals. 

Even if you aren't a total Christmas fanatic like me, I do hope you can find some magic and joy in the hustle and bustle of the season. Don't blink..it will be over before we know it!

Cherry Fluff
2 boxes cream cheese, softened
1 cup crushed pineapple, drained
1 (10 oz.) jar maraschino cherries, drained, cut in half, juice reserved
2 heaping cups mini marshmallows
1 (8 oz.) tub Cool Whip

In a large bowl beat cream cheese with electric mixer until fluffy. Add cherry juice. Beat a few more times to mix. Add pineapple and cherries. Mix well with a spatula. Fold in marshmallows and Cool Whip. Cover. Chill overnight.

Shared at Weekend Potluck

Monday, November 13, 2017

Holiday House Guests...Not For Just a Day

Are you hosting a holiday this year? Rather it be Thanksgiving or Christmas, are you going to have house guests for a little while? If so, I'm going to be your new BFF. 

I will be honest, we have never had overnight house guests. Now, before you think I'm super weird, you have to understand a couple things. First off, we have a 3 bedroom house. You can do the math. And even before Max came, his room was an office/junk room. Secondly, we live 20 minutes from both of our parents. So when family comes into town, they always stay with them. See, it isn't as strange as you thought. 

But some of my best memories as a kid were big holiday at m grandparent's house with everyone home. Adults in the beds, kids on the floor. An entire house full...for a few days! Oh, the fun we had! God bless Grammy for feeding all of us for that long!

Anytime I think about holiday house guests the image of National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation enters my mind. If you've seen the movie, you know where I'm going with this. Both sets of parents, cousins, aunts, uncles...and then of course Cousin Eddie shows up. The house is over flowing, everyone is stressed out, and then Eddie makes the comment they will be staying right on through to the New Year. 

My point is that if you've got people staying, the big holiday meals isn't the only time you have to feed them. No, you have to plan for 3 meals a day, for as long as they are there! You need some great, easy recipes up your sleeve! 

These would be perfect for a simple breakfast, or dessert. Seriously, you can serve them for either and they will disappear. I made them for a post dinner treat, and then the leftovers were heated up for breakfast the next day. 

If you love the original version, this mini, simple, quick version will knock your socks off! 

Holiday house guests are coming. Quicker than some of you might be ready for. But take a deep breath and relax. That's what the holidays are all about. Being surrounded by the people you love most in the world, making memories to last a lifetime. 

Mini Monkey Bread
2 (7.5 oz) cans refrigerated cans biscuits
1/2 c. butter, melted
1/2 c. packed brown sugar
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 c. white sugar

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 12 count muffin tin. Separate biscuits. Cut each into 6 pieces. (You need 120 pieces total) In a large plastic bag, combine white sugar and cinnamon. In a medium bowl whisk together brown sugar and butter. Spoon 1 TBS butter mixture into each well of muffin tin. Place biscuit pieces in bag and shake well to coat. (This might take a few batches to avoid sticking) Place 10 biscuit pieces in each well. Press gently to adhere. Bake for 12-15 minutes until golden brown and set. Cool for 1 minute. Either turn upside down, or carefully slide out with a spatula. 

Recipe Inspired by Pillsbury

Monday, October 23, 2017

Turkey Day Plan

One. Month. People.

Have you looked at the calendar to even realize what I'm referring to? Yes...that's right, the biggest foodie day of the year is only 4 weeks away! Thanksgiving 2017 is coming and coming fast!

Now, I know for many of you, it isn't even a blip on your radar yet, and you're saying "EMM...I am not even ready to start planning yet, don't rush me." And that is okay. But I am a planner...big time. So, if I were hosting I would already be coming up with a menu, making shopping lists and marking days on the calendar for prep. I know I can't be the only one, so this is for you!

For so many of us big holiday meals are filled with family favorites. Those dishes that show up every year, and everyone looks forward to. But I also know many like to add new things to keep it new and exciting.

To me, the side dishes are the easiest to experiment with. You can still have all the ones everyone craves, but add in a couple newbies too. If you're planning on making a couple veggies anyway, why not something delicious, simple and unique?

We loved these SO much! And since I don't host Thanksgiving, they will become part of our regular dinner rotation...yes, that's how easy they are! Plus, I love the colors...like fall in a bowl!

If you're already planning your Turkey Day Table, I salute you! If you are a "wait until the last minute" host, that is okay too..just remember to come back in a few weeks!

Roasted Carrots and Mushrooms
1 lb. baby carrots, patted dry
8 oz. white button mushrooms*
1 medium yellow onion, cut into wedges
1/4 c. butter, melted
2 TBS Worcestershire sauce 
2 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425. Grease a 10x15 baking dish. Place carrots, mushrooms and onion in dish. In a small bowl whisk together butter, Worcestershire and garlic. Pour over vegetables. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss gently to coat. Bake for 45-60 minutes until carrots are tender* stirring occasionally.  *NOTES* If you have mushroom lovers, add more! I will next time I make them, because we were fighting over them. We like our carrots crisp tender, so I pulled mine after 45 minutes. 

Monday, October 16, 2017

Simple Weekend, Simple Dessert

Do you ever have those weekends you have to actually schedule time at home? That was us this past weekend. There was so much to get done outside, and Alex had a big project for school...I knew it was time for mama to step in and black out a couple days on the calendar. 

It feels like if the weeks fly by, the weekends are on jet speed. Like I told my mom, "It is nice to know we don't have to be anywhere." 

I had gotten a couple frozen pizzas at the grocery store, some chips, the boys and I had made some Halloween and Star Wars Jell-O Jigglers, all I needed was dessert.  And I had just the thing.

I had this bad boy tucked away on my "must try before holidays" list and I knew this was the perfect time to test it out. I love being able to give you guys ideas way ahead of time so you can plan, and hopefully be a little less stressed out. 

I had actually planned on making this Sunday to go with our "big meal" but couldn't wait any longer! Plus I figured we would have some leftovers so it could work for both days.

This is something magical. First of all, your house is going to smell like fall while it cooks; and even more so, like a holiday. Secondly, if you can chop, stir and set a timer, you will rock this. 

I'm not much of a baker. I wasn't before Max, and now with the 14 month old literally hanging on my legs while I'm in the kitchen, there is no crust making going on! The best way I can describe this is "naked apple pie". (Thank you to my friend Roxie who gave me that!)

In fact, when I was trying to figure out what to call this, I asked friends and fans on Facebook, and promised to mention the one I liked best. Well, Roxie's worked perfectly as a description, but as far as the actual recipe name, I took a few suggestions and put them together to find the right one.  So thank you also, for everyone who left a comment and totally inspired me! 

This is so simple it's perfect any night of the week, or on your simple weekend. Or like I said, save it when Thanksgiving rolls around...which is quicker than you might think!

Autumn Apple Delight
5 Honeycrisp Apples, cored and chopped SKIN ON
1 c. golden raisins
1 c. brown sugar
1 c. chopped walnuts
1 TBS ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground allspice

Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl combine all ingredients. Stir well to coat. Transfer to a deep dish pie plate. Cover with foil. Bake for 20 minutes. Stir gently. Bake another 20 minutes, uncovered, until apples are tender. Serve alone or over dessert shells, pound cake, angel food cake or ice cream. Store in fridge and reheat as wanted.

Inspired by Southern Plate

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Autumn Inspired Challenge

So, ya'll know I can almost never pass up a chance at a recipe contest. Almost being the operative word here. Because you know there hasn't been any time around here for contests of any since a certain little Max came into the world. And that's now been over 13 months ago, so I've missed a few. But that's okay, he is 100% worth it! 

But when I was offered the chance to enter one using products from my new friends at Steviva, I thought NOW is the time! Why? Well, their products are low-carb, diabetic friendly and easy to use with already existing recipes. If I can simply swap out one ingredient for something I can feel better about, I'm all for it! 

When I received my samples, it was super easy to decide which one I wanted to try first. The Fructevia had "Excellent for Cooking and Baking" right on the front. Sold! Plus, it had the conversion right there too. Simple...use 1/2 has much as sugar. Sold again! 

Now it was time to decide what to make. Well, that was even easier. I wanted something fall inspired that could highlight two of the flavors we all love this time of year...Apple and Pumpkin! 

Muffins are kinda my go-to sweet treat. They are perfect morning, noon and night. And with Fructevia, they are a little more guilt free! (That means I can eat 2, right?) 

So, wish me luck! First prize is CASH!!! And diapers aren't cheap! 

To learn more about all the great Steviva products, be sure to keep up with them on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter

Pumpkin Spice Apple Muffins
2 1/2 c. flour
1 c. Fructevia
1 TBS pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 eggs, beaten
1 c. canned pumpkin
1/2 c. vegetable oil
3 medium gala apples, peeled and finely chopped
2 TBS flour
2 TBS Fructevia
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 TBS butter

Preheat oven to 350. Line muffin tin with papers. In a small bowl combine the first 3 ingredients for topping. Cut in butter until crumbs form. Set aside. In a medium bowl combine eggs, pumpkin, and oil. In a large bowl stir together flour, Fructevia, pumpkin pie spice. baking soda and salt. Add wet ingredients to dry, mixing until moist. Fold in apples. Fill muffin tin wells 3/4 full each. Top each with 1 tsp. topping. Bake for 35 minutes until toothpick comes out clean. Cool on wire rack. Makes about 18 muffins. 


Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Fall Football and Bonfires

Well, there is no denying it. Summer is O.V.E.R.

Okay, so I might be a little melodramatic. I can't help it. As soon as Labor Day comes and goes I feel like it's all downhill from here...at least in the weather department. Sure, we still have some warm, sunny days ahead of us, but soon the leaves will be turning...the chill will return...the rain will come...and then after autumn is over...I can't even bring myself to say it.

I do enjoy fall. I love the pretty colors, the delicious food and all the fun things that return. Fall festivals, pumpkin patches, late night bonfires, and of course football! We are a pigskin loving family, and proud of it! Heck, even the baby is obsessed!

Even if you aren't a huge football fan, most everyone can get behind the food that comes with the game. From tailgating in the parking lot, to gathering around the tv at home, the big game usually comes with something yummy to eat!

Or maybe you like to throw a lot of fall parties. Sitting outside on a warm day, then around the fire once the sun goes down. Those usually come with some delicious treats too.

Either way, I have got something your family, friends, guests, whoever, will love. A little Mexican bite that is perfect in every way.

Oh and if you make a double batch, add some chips and salsa and maybe rice on the side, you could even serve these as a quick, easy weeknight meal!

I know many of you are excited to see the hot days end and autumn return. But I will be over in the corner crying, clutching  my pool toys, sunscreen and shorts.

Green Chile Pinwheels
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 (4 oz.) can diced green chilies
1 cup shredded Colby Jack cheese
1 (2.2 oz) can chopped black olives
5 8-inch flour tortillas

In a medium bowl combine cream cheese, chilies, olives, and shredded cheese. Stir well to combine. Spread evenly over tortillas. Roll Up. With seam down, wrap in plastic wrap or aluminum foil. Chill at least 2 hours. Remove wrap. Trim off jagged edges. Cut into individual pieces. Serve with your favorite salsa for dipping.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Max Time

It's no secret that since our baby Max joined our family, the blog has suffered. New recipes aren't really on the top of my priority list. Some days I barely have time to throw some frozen fish sticks in the oven, let alone test a new recipe, play around with it, photograph it and blog it. This little cutie pie keeps me way too busy.

I'm not complaining. See, when I started blogging it was because Alex was getting older and didn't need me as much, so I needed an outlet. A way to contribute to our family and keep me busy. Those needs haven't went away, they have just shifted to the back burner so to speak because for the last 12 months my time has been Max's. And honestly, I don't see it changing any time soon.

This little guy turned 1 on the 11th, and I can't believe an entire year has gone by. The craziness of having a newborn and tiny infant is gone, but it's been replaced with the whirlwind of having a walking, talking, and yes most of the time, running toddler who doesn't let me get much rest.

But that's my job. Him and his big brother. My life revolves around them. My schedule is set to theirs. My days are planned with them in mind every single minute. I am mom and I wouldn't trade that for anything in this world.

But every once in awhile, the stars will align and I can try something new in the kitchen. I will have the time to test a dish I've been cooking in my mind. (I still develop recipes....in my head...usually when I'm giving Max a bottle or rocking him!)

That's what happened last week with this meal. I had been given some beautiful green bell peppers from a friend's garden and I was craving stuffed peppers. And even though I have a super simple recipe for them, they still take over an hour to cook. I wasn't going to have that kind of time, so I wanted to find a way to have the same flavors, in the time Max allowed me. 

A one skillet meal that can be on the table in about 30 minutes....every busy mom's (or dad's) dream! Both of my big boys said this was one of the best things I had made in a long time. (Yeah, I think they are noticing the dinner rut around here too!) I have to agree. It was not only easy, but super delicious.

Max is still occupying most of my time, and I thank God for that every day. But maybe now in his second year I can find time to try a few more new recipes...we can hope!

 Stuffed Pepper Skillet
1 TBS vegetable oil
1 lb. ground beef
2 green bell peppers, diced
1 ( 4 oz.) can diced green chilies, undrained
2 (14 oz.) cans diced tomatoes, undrained
1 cup beef broth
1 1/2 cups instant rice
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. dried roasted garlic*
1 cup Mexican style shredded cheese
Salt and Pepper to taste
Fresh Cilantro Leaves, for garnish

In a large skillet over medium high heat oil. Saute beef and peppers until brown and tender. Drain any excess fat. Add seasonings. Stir to combine. Add broth, tomatoes, chilies and rice. Stir. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low, cover and cook until rice is tender, about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to low. Add cheese. Cover until cheese is melted, about 3 minutes. Garnish with cilantro. *NOTE* Regular garlic powder would work fine too. If you want to use fresh, about 2 cloves. 

Shared at Meal Plan Monday
Shared at Weekend Potluck

Recipe Inspired By Damn Delicious

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Summer Sides

When I am meal planning in the summer I of course want to enjoy all those side dishes we associate with warmer weather. Potato Salad. Coleslaw. Corn on the Cob. Pasta Salad. The list could go on and on. But sometimes I want something super fresh, with that straight from the garden crunch you get with the veggies you're bringing in from the garden. That's when a salad like this is perfect.

I love beans. All beans. But here is a family secret. My husband will eat pretty much anything on the planet. Except....Garbanzo Beans! In his exact words, "Chic Peas are scary." I don't know if he had some childhood trauma with those little evil things, but he will not touch them. We've been married 14 years and I've only tried to use them once....and no joke, he walked into the kitchen, saw them, and walked back outside. True story.

I'm telling you this, because if I had my way this would have been filled with garbanzo beans, but to ensure the stability of my marriage I substituted others instead.

I love this salad for not only how fresh it is, but how economical too. Veggies are pretty inexpensive this time of year, and if you grow your own, or have a local farmer's market, even better. And canned beans? One of the best values at the grocery store. I shop at Aldi and I think these cans ran me 59 cents each.

If you've got zucchini and/or yellow squash laying around, I think both of those would be so tasty in this too! It goes so well with anything you've got coming off the grill, and makes a great dish for a sunny day since there is no "creamy" aspect.

I can't believe summer is starting to wind down. I'm in total denial, but I'm going to make sure we get to enjoy all of these warm weather foods as long as we can!

Marinated 3 Bean Salad
1 (15 oz.) can cannellini beans
1 (15 oz.) can black beans
1 (15 oz.) can great northern beans
1 medium tomato, chopped
1/2 yellow pepper, diced
1/2 orange pepper, diced
1/2 red pepper, diced
1 rib celery, diced
1/2 English cucumber, diced
1/2 cup water
1 TBS dried basil
1/2 TBS dried parsley
2 TBS lemon juice
2 TBS vegetable oil
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
Salt and Pepper to taste

Rinse and drain all beans well. Add to a large bowl with tomato, peppers, celery and cucumber. In a medium bowl combine water, oil, lemon juice, and seasonings. Whisk well. Pour over vegetables. Stir well. Cover and chill several hours before serving, stirring occasionally.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Our "Zooper" Day at the Fort Wayne Children's Zoo

It's that time of year again! When we head over to one of our favorite summer time locations, and it's only 15 minutes from our house! How lucky are we?! 

The Fort Wayne's Children Zoo has been bringing all of us a little closer to the wild and some of our favorite animals for over 50 years! This is a place I loved as a kid, and now I can share it with my boys.

Oh, and this year's visit? It was extra special because it was Max's 1st trip! Big Brudder was SO excited to share all of his favorites with his little buddy, and for even more fun, we brought Maa Ma 
 along for the adventure!

One of the first things you see when you enter through the gates is a huge schedule of things you can see at the zoo that day, so you can plan your day even better. 

And those "chats" be sure to watch for those signs too. Alex was super stoked to learn more about otters. The zoo keeper answered a ton of questions from the crowd, making it a nice was to interact with the animals in our own way. 

Of course we have our favorites we have to see every time. The sea lions being at the top of that list. No kidding, we could spend the whole day watching them! Stop by at 11:30 and 3:00 to see them feed and do some amazing tricks.

Ever touch a stingray? Well, now you can! The Australian Adventure has been totally revamped over the past few years, and it is gorgeous! Max totally made himself at home!

Alex and Maa Ma with the stingrays.

I love the photo props in Australia

 After you've seen the kangaroos, the Great Reef and everything else Australia has to offer, take a break with a relaxing river boat ride through the outback! Watch out for the crocs though! 

After you've been "down under", pop over to the African Journey for a mini safari!  It will include the zoo's brand new lion, Bahati! Oh, he is gorgeous, and quite the poser for pics! 

Since Alex was a little boy, he has always looked forward to the African portion. Why? Because you can feed a giraffe!!! Yes yes yes! It is one of the coolest things you'll ever do!

And if you need to sit down, and get something to eat, there are plenty of places for that too. The Tree Tops Cafe in Indonesia has lots of kid friendly choices, and you can take a spin on the carousel while you are there too! My boys thought their giant pretzel was pretty tasty! 

 If you prefer to pack a picnic instead, the park area outside the gate is perfect for that too. Just get your hand stamped before you leave, and you can get back in when you're done. 

Have a baby in a stroller? The zoo is totally equipped for that. Most places can fit them perfectly, and if they need to be parked, they have designated places for that too. But see, even the little ones can get up close and personal. Max was totally entertained with the 3 year old orangutan! 

If you haven't planned a trip to the zoo in a while, it really is a MUST before the end of summer. Plus, they are now open until 8pm (Last admission at 7) through Labor Day, making it a great way to relax after work too! For more info and to keep up with everything they have going on,  you can visit them online,  and follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

Disclaimer: I received free tickets for my family in exchange for this feature. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

A Boy and His Cheese

My son has a real love affair going on; and even at the age of 12 1/2, I'm okay with it. Why? Because it's with cheese!  It started at a very young age, and it has only grown deeper and more real with every passing year.

Just how far will he go for the cheese? Well, every week he accompanies me to the grocery store so that 1. He can spend time with me and 2. He can see if there are any free cheese samples. True story. 

Lately, he has also been watching a lot of Food Network shows on demand. Actually we watch them together when I'm feeding baby Max a bottle. He has always watched cooking shows with me, but now he is actually taking notes of recipes he wants to try. And that is how we stumbled up on this cheesy dream.

He was watching a recent episode of Pioneer Woman  and this was one of the dishes featured in the episode. Right away he declared "Mom, we need to make this!" Well, how could I argue with that? 

If your kids are mac n cheese lovers like him, they are going to flip for this! It's SO much better than any box! Plus, if they are little sous chefs, they can do a lot of this with you! He did! 

It is no wonder the boy loves his cheese so much, after all, it's a family trait! 

Easy Shells n Cheese
2 lb. small shell pasta
1 lb. Velveeta, cubed
4 c. finely shredded sharp cheddar cheese
4 c. milk
2 TBS butter
Salt and Pepper, to taste

Cook pasta to al dente. Drain well. As the pasta cooks, in a large pot or dutch oven, heat milk and butter over medium low heat. When up to temperature, turn heat to low, stir in Velveeta until completely melted and smooth. (This will take a little time, just be patient.) Stir in shredded cheese until melted. Turn heat up to medium. Season with Salt and Pepper. After pasta is drained, add to sauce and mix to combine. 

Recipe From Pioneer Woman

Monday, June 5, 2017

Summer Break

That's right. We waited 9 long months, but summer vacation is finally here. Yes, I'm one of those moms who count the days, just as much as the child does. I can't help it. I LOVE having my boy home with me all day, every day. And now that it is actually boys, I'm even more excited!

We have lots of fun things planned over the next few months, and they will all be even more special since it is Max's first summer. One of the things Alex has been planning on is getting into the kitchen and cooking even more than he usually does. He actually has a couple cookbooks of his very own, and he has been picking out the recipes he wants to try for a few months now. 

This was the first one we decided to make. A homemade sauce that we can have on a hot day without heating up the house? Sign us up!

This is technically a spaghetti sauce, but we had 2 boxes of ziti in the cupboard, so that's what we served it over. Absolutely delicious! 

If your kids are home and you've already run out of things to do with them, try cooking with them! You would be surprised just how much they will love getting involved in making what they eat, and you will love the memories you make!

Slow Cooker Meat Sauce
1 lb. ground beef
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
2 (14 oz.) cans diced tomatoes, with juice
1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste
1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce
1 TBS sugar
1 tsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. dried basil
2 tsp. dried oregano
1 dried bay leave 
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
Salt and Pepper to taste

In a large skillet, brown beef with onion. Drain if necessary. Add to slow cooker. Add diced tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce, sugar, and seasonings. Stir well. Cook on LOW for 6 hours. Turn off heat and let sit covered for 1 hour before serving. Serve with your favorite pasta.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Seriously, It Is May

Here in Indiana we are used to the fact that Mother Nature doesn't always pay attention to the calendar. Back in February it was 80 degrees, and now that it is May, we are having days with highs in the 40's. Add in rain and wind, and it has been pretty miserable. Luckily the sun has returned and temps are feeling more spring like, but last week when we were freezing, this is what was on my dinner table.

We love ham and beans, and I have a terrific recipe for a simple slow cooker version I've been making for years. But this time around I wanted something new. I wanted something a little different. And boy did I get it!

This doesn't taste anything like that traditional ham n beans. Honestly I had never had pinto beans before, but had heard they are a staple down in Texas, and if you want the best, that is where you go. So I was glad when I found this recipe that was supposedly done in that same way.

Now I served these up as a main dish, with some cornbread on the side, but I think they would make a fantastic side dish to any barbecue this summer. Got some burgers, steak or ribs on the grill? A big pot of these would taste so great with any of them!

I will be happy when the weather finally decides to stay warm, sunny and spring like. But I'm a Hoosier, I know there are still some rainy, chilly days in my future...so at least I have some delicious food to ease my woes!

Crock Pot Pinto Beans n Ham
1 (16 oz.) bag Hurst pinto beans 
1 lb. diced ham
1 white onion, quartered
6 c. chicken broth
2 c. water
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. pepper 
Diced White Onion for garnish

Set seasoning packet of beans aside. Combine beans, broth and water in Crock Pot. Stir well. Cook on HIGH for 4 hours. Remove onion. Add seasoning packet, garlic powder, onion powder, and pepper. Stir. Cook on HIGH another 2-4 hours until beans are tender. Scoop out about 2 cups of beans with broth into a medium bowl. Mash beans into a thick paste. (I like a potato masher for this) Return back to Crock Pot and stir. Cook 30 minutes on LOW until thickened. Remove lid and allow to sit for 1 hour uncovered before serving. Serve with onion if desired.

Recipe Inspired by South Your Mouth

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Hurry Up Picnic Weather

Summer time picnics are one of life's most simple pleasures, and something our family has been enjoying for a few generations now. They are part of some of my best memories as a kid, both with my grandparents, and with my mom and dad; and now I've carried on the tradition with Alex.

This year we are looking forward to introducing Max to the tradition, and we can't wait! Sure he won't be able to enjoy most of what is packed in the picnic basket, (And yes, for those wondering, I own an actual picnic basket!) but that's okay. It is more about the experience than the food. Well, kind of. The food is super important too.

We have our favorites. The stuff the boys always want me to pack, but I try to keep it fresh and new too. After all, we go on so many picnics every summer, I don't want it to become boring!

Pasta salads are a must, so it's a good thing I have a thousand versions, or so it seems. This is our first new one of the season, and it's a doozy! Super simple, but packed with flavor. If you can boil pasta and chop veggies, you can whip this up. It makes a great light supper on a warm night too. Just add some fresh fruit and crusty bread on the side. Or, make a batch on the weekend, and you have lunch for the week.

I can't wait until the sporadic warm days are more consistent, the rainy spring days subside, and we are loading up the SUV with coolers, that trusty picnic basket and head off to make more family memories!

Greek Pasta Salad
2 (12 oz.) boxes bowtie pasta
1 seedless cucumber, chopped
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 (6 oz.) jar kalamata olives, halved 
1 (4 oz.) container feta cheese, reserve a little for top
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 c. Greek Salad Dressing

Cook pasta according to package directions. Rinse with cold water and drain well. In a large bowl combine pasta and rest of ingredients. Stir well to combine. Chill a few hours before serving. Garnish with extra cheese.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Middle of the Night Hunger

We've all heard the saying "It's a stick to your ribs kinda meal." Most of the time it is usually in reference to a big meal at supper time, or when talking about sending the kids off to school, a hearty breakfast that will keep them going. But what happens when those worlds collide? This is what happens.

See, we are big breakfast for supper fans. I plan it at least a few times a month. And the meals vary. Eggs, potatoes, meat, pancakes, waffles, quiche, toast, biscuits n gravy...I come up with all sorts of combos to indulge our preference for morning food at night.

But the one thing I find myself having an issue with is ending up hungry later in the night. Now, I know it's not the meal itself because I've got two "boys" with big appetites eating the same thing, and they don't end up with grumbling tummies, so it must just be me. Many times when we have these types of meal, I find myself waking up in the middle of the night starving. Or at least I think I'm starving.

When I saw this recipe, my first thought was "Wow. What a stick to your ribs kinda breakfast." What? Wait a minute...that means if I made it for supper, it would have the same effect and maybe I wouldn't wake up chewing on my pillow!

I was right! This will stay with you! It's perfect for a hearty breakfast to get your day started right, or a weekend brunch. Maybe even Easter Sunday after sunrise service. It makes a pretty good dinner too. I served it with some sausage links on the side, and we were all full and satisfied. And I stayed that way all night long!

This tastes just like a warm oatmeal cookie straight from the oven. And I can tell you, neither me or Alex are huge oatmeal fans, and we gobbled this down. This was the perfect amount for the 3 of us, so if you're making it for a bigger crowd, be sure to double the recipe. (See note below)

Waking up in the middle of the night feeling like you haven't eaten in hours is no fun. Laying awake counting cows instead of sheep, just so you can think about steak isn't normal. But now I've found a way to enjoy our little tradition and keep those pangs of starvation away!

Amish Baked Oatmeal
3 c. quick cooking oats
1 c. brown sugar, slightly packed
2 eggs
1 c. milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. baking powder
1 large apple, peeled and chopped
1 stick butter, melted
1 1/2 tsp. salt
Extra Milk
Toppings: Fresh berries, nuts, dried fruit, etc

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly grease a 8x8 baking dish. In a large bowl combine first 10 ingredients. Stir well until mixed. Pour out into baking dish. Bake for 30-45 minutes until edges are brown and middle is set. Let sit for 5 minutes before serving. Garnish with milk and toppings. *NOTE* If you double this recipe, switch to a 9x13 pan, and increase cooking time a little, but start checking at the 30 minute mark.

Disclaimer: Recipe adapted from Taste of Home. As a field editor, and not a paid employee, I share this with no compensation.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

It's A Rut...Or Is It?

We all get into cooking ruts. Been there done that. But sometimes it isn't even a rut. It is just something you like so much, you crave it; and when you get the chance you are going to eat it.

We have found ourselves in one of these "ruts", but not when it comes to what I am cooking at home. This rut is when we go out to eat. Saturday evenings are when we usually go to church, and if the budget (and the baby's mood) allows it, we grab a bite to eat afterward. It is our little tradition.

Lately we have found ourselves gravitating towards one cuisine...Chinese. Well, and buffets. Let's see, in the last month we have visited our favorite Chinese sit down restaurant, our favorite Chinese buffet, and this past week a KFC buffet. But that's not all. We've also had some Chinese take out at home, and homemade too. 

So this past weekend when the trend continued we all made the comment "Max is going to think all we ever eat is Asian food....and at buffets." LOL It's kinda true at this point in our lives. 

When we were at the Chinese buffet last week, they had a new creamy fruit salad I fell in love with, and I had to recreate it at home. Luckily it was super easy to figure out.

This would be perfect for your Easter meal, and pretty too! The colors remind me of springtime. And what's Easter without a tasty fluff on the table?  Or it's so easy, you can whip up a batch for supper later too. 

Ruts are sometimes hard to climb out of. But there are times when we are perfectly happy in our rut, and that's okay too! 

Rainbow Fruit Fluff
1 (11 oz.) can mandarin oranges, drained
1 (20 oz.) can crushed pineapple, with juice
1 (15 oz.) can fruit cocktail
1 (3.4 oz) box instant pistachio pudding, dry
1 tub Cool Whip
2 1/2 c. fruit flavored mini marshmallows, extra for top

In a large bowl combine crushed pineapple and dry pudding mix. Mix well. Fold in Cool Whip. Add oranges and fruit cocktail. Stir well. Gently fold in marshmallows. Chill for at least an hour before serving. Add extra marshmallows to top.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

36 Isn't So Bad

So....I'm now closer to 40 than I am to 30. That's right, I had a birthday. Back at the end of February, actually. But you know what? Who cares! Age is just a number. I have never dwelled on it, and I refuse to start now.

Like I told someone when I was turning 30, "If I can do half the stuff in my 30s as I did in my 20s, I'll be incredibly luckily. After all, in that decade I graduated college, began my career, became a wife, became a mother and started to build a life. And now? Well, I'm a mommy all over again, so I have a lot to celebrate!

This year I was lucky enough to not just get a one day celebration. It so Alex was off school the Friday before and the actual day of, so we made it a 4 day celebration!! Mr. E even took the day off Friday as well, and the 4 of us were able to have lunch at my favorite sushi place. Then Saturday my little man treated me to a movie with his gift card from Christmas (I know. How sweet is that?!), Sunday my parents came over (more on that in a minute) and then on my actual birthday I had lunch with my mom and the boys, and then presents here at home. Whew....it was a fun filled few days.

On Sunday when mom and dad came over, I actually cooked. A lot. But that's okay. See, when my dad heard everything we were having on our buffet back on New Year's Eve, he made the comment he would love to have one of those, on a slightly smaller scale, on some Sunday. So...I immediately knew the Sunday before my special day would be perfect. I only had one request. Mom and dad bring the birthday cake...and oh it was delicious!

I put out a decent sized spread, and we just sat around and ate all evening. This was actually our "main" dish, and it was a last minute addition. Alex LOVES brisket and I had only ever done them on the grill in the summer, but we have so many in the freezer I wanted to use one now. Boy am I glad I did!

This is the best shredded beef I've ever made. So much flavor. Juicy. Tender. Perfect for piling high on buns and sinking your teeth into. Great for a Sunday supper, weeknight meal or crowd.

36 isn't so bad. I have a loving husband, two beautiful sons, parents I adore and still spoil me rotten, friends whom I cherish and a pretty darn good life. So I will just thank God for all of it and feel blessed I get to spend another year with them.

Slow Cooker BBQ Brisket
1 (2-3 lb.) beef brisket, trimmed
1 tsp. coarse salt
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. celery seed
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/2 c. ketchup
1/2 c. chili sauce
1/4 c. packed brown sugar
2 TBS cider vinegar
2 TBS steak sauce
1/2 tsp. ground mustard

In a small bowl combine salt, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, celery seed and black pepper. Rub generously on all sides of brisket. Wrap in plastic wrap and foil. Chill overnight. In a medium bowl combine ketchup, chili sauce, brown sugar, vinegar, steak sauce and ground mustard. Mix well. Uncover brisket and place in slow cooker, sprayed with nonstick spray. Pour sauce over top. Cook on LOW 6-8 hours. Shred meat and return to slow cooker. Mix with sauce. Reduce to WARM until ready to serve. Serve on buns if desired. 

Monday, February 27, 2017

Cabbage People

We love cabbage. There I said it. We are some cabbage lovin' people. We can't get enough of the stuff. In fact, we love it so much I was able to do an entire collection of cabbage recipes for my friends over at Community Table. (You can find that awesome round up here.)

I do so many things with it, and I'm still always on the lookout for more. It's one of the cheapest veggies in the produce section, and a little goes a long way, so that's nice for our budge too.

This came about because in February, in the Midwest, soup is a must. Well, normally, but we're experiencing some crazy warm, spring-like temps lately. Seriously, it was 70 last week. I was in flip flops. IN FEBRUARY! But, Mother Nature didn't let us forget about winter, because the following day? Yeah, it was 25 with howling wind and snow. Welcome to Indiana. Where you can experience all 4 seasons in 24 hours!

Even with the warmer weather, my brain is still in soup mode though. This one is a great "set it and forget it" meal. You can literally put it on before you leave in the morning, and come home to supper. Add some crusty bread and you're done. Plus, it has a little kick to it that will wake up your tired taste buds.

With Lent beginning this week, this would be a great meat-free option as well. Just swap out the beef broth for veggie and you're good to go.

If you love cabbage as much as we do, this will definitely become a favorite in your house. If you're looking for a new soup recipe, this works for that too. Whatever reason you've got for trying it, you, and your tummy, will be glad you did! 

Slow Cooker Fiesta Cabbage Soup
1 medium head cabbage, chopped
1 (15 oz.) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 (10 oz.) can Rotel 
1 (10 3/4 oz.) can cheddar cheese soup, undiluted
1 (32 oz.) box beef broth
1 (15 oz.) can northern beans, rinsed and drained
Salt and Pepper to taste
Dried Parsley, for garnish

Combine all ingredients, except parsley in slow cooker. Cook on LOW 7-8 hours. Garnish with parsley.

Recipe Adapted from Southern Lady Cooks