Everyday Mom's Meals: 2021

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Hot Day Cool Treat

This past week, every morning when I turned on the news, one of the first stories was the extreme heat wave bearing down on the western part of the US. Death Valley was breaking records of 128 degrees. Now, I like it HOT. I enjoy the heat. But even I will admit, that is too much, and of course dangerous. 

After what was sometimes a chilly spring (remember the April snow) you will never hear me complaining about the heat. The humidity, maybe (here in Indiana, we like to say "It's not the heat, it's the humidity!), but summer is my favorite time. See, even though I am a hot person by nature, I say bring on the sun and warmth! I can always find some AC or a pool to jump in! 

There aren't many things that taste as great as a cold sweet treat on a hot summer day. There is a reason the ice cream and shaved Hawaiian ice trucks do so well this time of year! Cooling down with something that tastes great is a summer time must; and this copycat recipe is one people have been enjoying for years at The Happiest Place on Earth!

If you have ever been do Disneyland or Disney World, you know all too well that phenomenon that is Dole Whip.  Heck even those who haven't been to the parks know exactly what it is. A soft serve, pineapple ice cream that screams tropical paradise! You can even pour extra pineapple juice down over the top for a float that deserves a little umbrella and beach chair! 

With the help of your blender, you can whip up a batch of Copycat Dole Whip in no time! Spoon it into bowls, or use a pastry/plastic bag to pipe it with the famous whip everyone knows and loves! 

Watch the kids run inside from the sprinkler or pool to grab a spoon and dig in! Summer times memories are made when hot days meet cool treats!

 Copycat Dole Whip

2 cups frozen pineapple 

3/4 c. vanilla bean ice cream

1/2 c. pineapple juice 

2 TBS sugar

Splash of lemon juice

Pinch of Salt 

Place all ingredients in blender, in order listed. Blend well, stirring a few times to make sure large chunk are incorporated. Place in bowl and freeze 10 minutes. Spoon into serving dishes and serve immediately. Or freeze 20 more minutes to set a little more. 

Monday, June 14, 2021

A Copycat for Dad

 Father's Day is less than a week away. I hope you have the cards in the mail, the ties boxed and the cookout menu planned. 

Years ago I  heard that Father's Day was when the most collect calls happened in the US. Now, I'm sure that's no longer the case in the age of cell phones, but it has always stuck with me that even on the day that is set aside for them, dad's are still getting stuck with the check! The men in our lives deserve so much better, and if a great meal is part of your plan, I've got a terrific copycat side dish to add to your menu!

If you've ever had Texas Roadhouse's green beans, you know they are something special. But guess what? You can make them so easily at home in a matter of minutes! Plus, they are super budget friendly too!

This recipe takes canned green beans to the next level. Can you use frozen ones instead? I'm sure you could. The cooking time will increase, but if you prefer the flash frozen ones, go for it. The canned variety resembled what I've had in the restaurant so I used those. Plus, I always have a few cans on hand. 

What makes these beans so tasty? Let's start with chicken broth, which adds flavor to whatever you cook in it. There is also just a touch of sugar to add some sweetness. But if we being honest, the biggest flavor boost comes from the bacon of course. That will be the part dad can't get enough of! 

If you're having a big meal for the special dad in your life, this simple copycat recipe would definitely score you some extra points! But they can just be a super simple side dish for dinner tonight too!

Copycat Texas Roadhouse Green Beans

3 (14 oz.) cans green beans, drained

3/4 cup chicken broth

6 slices bacon, chopped

1 small white onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 tsp. sugar

2 TBS butter

Salt and Pepper

In a large skillet or dutch oven cook bacon until crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel. Saute the onion and garlic in bacon drippings for 2 minutes until soft. Add chicken broth and scrape the bottom of the pan. Add beans, sugar, butter, salt and pepper. Stir well. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer for 10 minutes until beans are tender. Serve or remove from heat with lid on to stay warm. 


Sunday, June 6, 2021

Summer Time Dining

From packing up the picnic basket to dinner time on the deck, summer gives us so many reasons to eat outside. Cookouts, backyard barbecues and let's not forget all the holidays we enjoy this time of year too. We've already had Memorial Day, but Father's Day and July 4th are knocking on the door. Any one of these is reason enough to add another fantastic pasta salad to your recipe box, so keep reading for one that's gonna knock your socks off!

Spinach and artichokes go together like peanut butter and jelly. They were just meant to be mixed. I have no idea who the first person to think "hey if we take some of this green spinach a lot of people think is gross, mix it with this funny looking vegetable and add some cheese, bake it and we've got a great dip" was but he/she deserves a medal. 

The hot appetizer is of course the most well known way to enjoy spinach and artichoke but they are delicious in pasta bakes, salads and now this summer inspired pasta salad. 

I love making a big bowl of cold pasta salad for supper on a hot night. It's still hearty enough to fill us up, but when it's still sweltering at dinner time, a hot meal just doesn't sit well. I add some fresh fruit and crusty bread on the side and dinner is done! 

Spinach and artichoke pasta salad is perfect for your next picnic in the part, bring a dish cookout or July 4th bash! We only have a few months to get outside and dine al fresco, so let's savor it while we can! 

 Spinach Artichoke Pasta Salad

1 lb. penne pasta

2 (15 oz.) cans whole artichoke hearts, rinsed, drained and coarsely chopped

3 cups fresh spinach, stems removed and coarsely chopped

1/2 c. shredded Parmesan cheese

3/4 c. sour cream

1/3 c. mayonnaise

1 1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning

1 tsp. dried parsley

2 TBS fresh lemon juice

1 garlic clove, minced

Salt and Pepper 

Cook pasta until al dente. Rinse with cold water and drain well. In a medium bowl combine sour cream, mayo, Italian seasoning, dried parsley, garlic, salt and pepper. Stir well. When pasta is drained, transfer to a large bowl. Pour dressing over and toss to coat. Add spinach, artichokes and cheese. Stir well to combine. Chill until serving, at least two hours. 

Shared at Weekend Potluck

Monday, May 31, 2021

Got Beer?

 We are a house of mac and cheese lovers. From the blue box to homemade, if it's pasta covered in cheese you can count us in! And in our family, one of the reasons why we love macaroni and cheese so much is the versatility. It can go from side dish to main dish, depending on the type it is. I know there are strong feelings about if it's a side or main, and it depends on where you're from, or how you grew up, which side of the debate you land on. But one thing is for sure, no matter how you decide to eat it, macaroni and cheese is a beloved comfort food most of us can't get enough of. 

This macaroni and cheese has a little something that takes it over the top. BEER! Yep, as if a simple weeknight meal couldn't get any better, we find a way! This version is one I serve as a main dish with a salad on the side and it's a meal that disappears as quick as I can spoon it up. 

Oh, and this one comes with a homemade cheese sauce that is as creamy as it is delicious. If you read the directions and think it might be too complicated with the roux...don't stress! I promise if you follow it step by step, it's as easy as can be! If I can do it, so can you! 

If you enjoy the flavor of a darker beer, go ahead and try it. I used the light so it didn't overpower the cheese sauce, and if I'm being honest, I'm not a huge beer fan, so I didn't want a ton of that distinct flavor. Just a little in the background to enhance an already amazing recipe. 

With summer time cookout season upon us as well, this would be a great addition to any backyard spread. Serve it with some grilled burgers and dogs for a new twist on a classic meal. I guarantee it will make you a rock star at your next "bring a dish to share" party too! 

Pub style mac and cheese is now on our favorites list and not just because it has beer in it...but hey, it doesn't hurt either!  


Pub Mac and Cheese

1 lb. elbow macaroni

1 cup evaporated milk

1 cup light beer

2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1 cup shredded monterey jack cheese

1/4 tsp. paprika

1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs

1/4 cup butter

1/4 cup flour

2 tsp. dried parsley

Salt and Pepper 

Preheat oven to 375. Grease 9x13 baking dish. Boil macaroni in salted water according to directions. In a medium pot melt butter over low heat. Whisk in flour and cook for 2-3 minutes until no lumps remain and a light brown roux has formed. Slowly whisk in milk and beer. Increase heat to medium and bring to a slight boil. Reduce heat down to low and cook for 5-7 minutes until thickened, stirring often. Add both cheeses, stirring constantly until melted and smooth. Cook 3-5 minutes until thick and incorporated. Season with paprika, salt and pepper. When macaroni is cooked, drain well. Add to cheese sauce and mix well. In a small bowl combine breadcrumbs and parsley. Transfer pasta to baking dish and top with breadcrumbs. Bake for 30 minutes until browned and bubbly. 

Shared at Weekend Potluck

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Thank You Teachers

 The time has finally come. The day we have been waiting for since August. THE LAST DAY OF SCHOOL!!!!

Well, almost. The teen has 3 days of finals this week, and then he will officially be a Junior. (Yes, I teared up a little even typing that word. Mom isn't handling the transition well.) In fact, as I write this he is studying for finals, trying to finish the year strong. 

Everyone who knows me knows I am not one of those moms who dread summer break, but instead I count down the days almost as much as my kid. Having my boys home with me is my happy place. In fact, I am sad that this summer will be a little different since the boy has a job and is hoping to get some extra hours. But I know there will still be plenty of time for the fun things we look forward to so much.

This year has definitely been one for the history books. Our school was in person, with no online option, and we supported that decision from the beginning. Alex needed to be in the classroom and after being home from March-August last year, he was SO ready to get back to his friends and classmates. 

His high school handled the entire Covid crisis the best way they could. When cases were on the rise back in the fall, they shut down for a couple weeks to try to curb the problem before it started. Then after Christmas break, they kept the kids home for a week to prevent a post holiday surge. They had planned Zoom days in the calendar to promote extra cleaning and rest for the staff. So while the past 8 months might not have been "normal" we truly feel like the school year was a success! 

One of the classes Alex took that he enjoyed the most was Nutrition and Wellness. So much so that he actually got an award for being one of the top students of the sophomore class! Among other lessons about food and nutrition, there were many cooking labs...and we all know how much my kid loves to be in the kitchen. He would get so excited to tell me what they were making; and I adored the days when he would text me from school with pictures of what he was cooking. He baked some righteous Snickerdoodles and made a drool-worthy omelet, even getting the skillet flip just right! Needless to say, his food blogger mama was super proud.

This recipe is one of the dishes they made that he was sure to bring the recipe home for because he wanted me to try it. So I saved it until now, as my way to say a BIG thank you to not only his teacher, and all the CLHS teachers, but every single teacher every where. All of you are true heroes and you deserve a huge round of applause for keeping the train on the tracks this school year. Our kids needed to keep learning, weather it be in the classroom or at home, and you all adapted and made sure they got what they needed most. 

If you're planning a Memorial Day picnic, cookout or backyard barbecue, this potato salad would make a great addition to your menu. It's a little different than any other tater salad I make, so it was a nice change up for us, and will definitely be on our summer time menu rotation. 

Thank you teachers, from all of us students and parents for all that you do. Enjoy your summer vacation, and we hope when we see you again in the fall, it's the beginning of tad less stressful school year!

Picnic Potato Salad

6 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed

5 hard boiled eggs, chopped

5 stalks celery, chopped

3 green onions, chopped

1 cup mayonnaise

1 TBS yellow mustard

1 TBS apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup dill pickle relish

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1 tsp. sugar


Salt and Pepper 

Cover the potatoes with cold water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 10-12 minutes until fork tender. Drain and allow to cool completely. In a medium bowl whisk together mayo, mustard, vinegar, relish, garlic powder, sugar, salt and pepper. When potatoes are cool, add to a large bowl with eggs, celery and onions. Pour dressing over and gently mix. Allow to chill an hour before serving. Garnish with paprika.  


Inspired by Center Cut Cook

Sunday, May 16, 2021

A 18 Year Tropical Twist

 How did we get to the middle of May already? I'm not complaining, but it just proves the point that warm weather days and months go by ten times faster than their cold counterparts. Seriously! We are going to blink and it will be July 4th. But before we bust out the fireworks, we've still got Memorial Day to plan for! 

Memorial Day weekend is the gateway to summer. Especially this year since the holiday is literally the last day of the month. Are you planning a cookout or backyard barbecue to celebrate? Many of us are gathering once again, but even if it's just your household or pod, fire up the grill and make your kickoff to summer menu delicious! 

Coleslaw is such an American classic for summer time parties, picnics, and gatherings. From graduation parties to burgers on the grill and picnic baskets over flowing, coleslaw is definitely a go-to dish. But this version? It's going to put a little tropical twist on this warm weather staple. 

Plus, it gives me a reason to gush about my hubby for a minute. See, he loves mangoes and we happen to be celebrating our 18th wedding anniversary on May 17th. However, 18 years is only the marriage part. We've actually been together for 24 years; and feel very blessed to be celebrating another year. I have loved him from the time I was a 16 year old girl, and I am so proud of the time we have built. He's given me two amazing boys and our family is not only my biggest blessings, but also what I am most proud of. 

So when I saw this recipe in Food Network Magazine I knew it would score me major wife points. A creamy coleslaw with bites of mango was right up his alley. The dressing has sweet and sour notes in it with coconut milk and lime. And he loved the added crunch from the peanuts too. It really is a unique version that screams summer time and lets you take a little tropical beach vacation without leaving your backyard. 

If you are looking for new dish for your Memorial Day bash, be sure to save this one! If you take it with you to share, carry the recipe too because everyone is going to want it!

 Mango Coleslaw

1 (14 oz.) bag coleslaw mix

3/4 c. canned coconut milk

Juice of 3 limes

1 mango, peeled and diced

3/4 c. roasted salted peanuts

Salt and Pepper 

In a small bowl whisk together coconut milk, lime juice, salt and pepper. In a large bowl pour dressing over coleslaw mix. Mix well. Add mango and peanuts. Stir again. Chill until serving. Garnish with a few extra peanuts before serving.  


Shared at Weekend Potluck

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Dippy Eggs The Easy Way

What does your family call over easy eggs? I bet many of you just uttered "dippy" under your breath. Yep, our too. In fact, I grew up thinking it was just our family who referred to fried eggs with a runny yolk like that. It wasn't until I was a teenager, working at Bob Evans, that I learned just how many people know what dippy eggs are. In fact, I had lots of customers relieved when they would order and I knew exactly what they were talking about. 

Cooking the perfect dippy eggs in a skillet can sometimes be tricky. While I've almost mastered it over the years, I'm always up for an easier hack. Or in our case, a way for me to actually eat with the boys instead of cooking in batches, and being the last one to sit down. 

While I've made baked omelets and egg bites for a while, these were definitely a game changer! An entire dozen eggs, all cooked at the same time without grabbing the spatula! 

You want to start checking these about 10 minutes in. The whites need to be set, but the yolk still runny. Mine were perfectly cooked about 12 minutes in. The closer you get to 20 minutes, the more like hard boiled they will be. You can absolutely cook them longer if you prefer a yolk that is cooked through. 

I love baking up a batch of yummy muffins, but I also love that my muffin tin can do so much more! Now it can let us all have those dippy eggs we love with no flip needed!

 Baked Muffin Tin Eggs

1 dozen eggs

Canola Cooking Spray

Salt and Pepper

Preheat oven to 350. Spray muffin tin liberally with nonstick spray. Crack eggs into a separate bowl and transfer to muffin tin. Season with salt and pepper. Bake for 10-15 minutes and check. You want the whites set, but the yolks still runny. Around 20 minutes they will be more like hard boiled. Use a butter knife around each egg to remove from tin. 



Shared at Weekend Potluck


Sunday, May 2, 2021

An EMM Update

If you have been an EMM fan for a while now, you will remember a cucumber recipe I posted years ago. Like before I understood how food photos should look! I've shared that recipe numerous times over the life of this blog, but have always wanted to go back to not only update the photo, but also rewrite the recipe to match the tweaks I've added over time. Well, today is the day! 

First, let's talk about lemon extract. Every time I share this recipe, be it online or in person, I always get the "I don't have lemon extract, can't I just use lemon juice?" To be short and sweet, no. 

Believe me, I know how annoying it is to read a recipe and realize you are going to have to buy a "special" ingredient for it. It's one thing to have to add things to your grocery list, but it is a whole other to have to purchase something you are only going to use for one recipe. I try very hard not to write recipes that require specialty ingredients; but there is no way around it this time. 

However, it's not that bad. See, lemon extract is easily found in the same baking aisle at most grocery stores. It will be right there next to the vanilla and almond extracts. Plus, it's not the expensive. I think the last bottle I bought was around $3. Last, your bottle is probably going to last for quite a while, if this is the only recipe you use it for. Since each batch only takes 1 teaspoon, my bottle usually takes me a year to use and I make these a lot during the summer months. 

The extract is made from the lemon rind, where the essential oils are. The flavor is more intense than any amount of juice. You will notice it right away when you take the lid off! Smell that lemon goodness! 

These are a copycat recipe from a Chinese restaurant we used to love. Unfortunately that restaurant has been gone for a while now, but these cucumbers live on! They used to serve these with their lunch specials, along with a chicken wing, egg roll and crab rangoon. Seriously- by the time your entree came, you were almost full from the appetziers. Oh, I miss that place so much! 

These are Alex's favorite way to enjoy cucumbers in the summer, and when gardens are overflowing with them, they are so inexpensive to make too! Our local farmers' market usually has beautiful cukes for less than a buck each. 

I love these for summer too because they can go anywhere, staying fresh in a cooler. Plus, no mayo or sour cream means easier for fun in the sun! They are perfect for picnics, cookouts, backyard barbecues, graduation parties or a burger night on the deck! 

If you enjoy lemon flavored anything, as much as I do, especially in the hot summer months, this recipe needs to be on repeat from now until September!

 Lemon Marinated Cucumbers

3 large cucumbers, peeled and sliced into semicircles

2/3 c. white vinegar

6 TBS sugar

1 tsp. lemon extract

Salt and Pepper

 In a small bowl whisk together vinegar, sugar, lemon extract, salt and pepper. In a large bowl pour dressing over sliced cucumbers. Stir well. Add extra salt and pepper if needed. Cover and chill several hours before serving.  

Shared at Weekend Potluck

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Springtime Lemon Lovers

 Spring has arrived! Okay, last week old man winter reared his ugly head again and gave us 4 inches of unwanted snow, but it melted quickly and this week we have 70s and even 80 in our forecast, so thankfully spring time might just be here to stay!

For me, no other flavor in the world screams spring and warmer temps more than lemon. I love it year round, but this time of year my taste buds crave the freshness and brightness of it in everything from drinks, side dishes, main dishes and of course desserts! 

For this recipe I was looking for a simple noodle side dish for a chicken supper I was having and wanted to cook from my pantry/fridge. I think a lot of us learned to do that more over the past year in the pandemic. Using what we had on hand meant we didn't have to venture to the grocery store, and let us experiment too. 

I would bet many of us have lemon pepper in the back of our spice rack and need more ways to use it! I always have it on hand for an extra flavor boost in dishes, but a little goes a long way so it lasts forever.

In this dish mixing the lemon pepper with fresh lemon juice really takes the flavor to a whole new lemony level. The sauce clings to every single noodle making each one burst with bright, bold flavor. 

These noodles are a terrific side dish with any protein you're making, but we really love them with chicken and fish. The recipe could also be doubled easily for a main dish pasta supper. 

If one of your favorite spring time flavors is lemon too, be sure to save this recipe to add to your menu plan soon! Your taste buds are sure to thank you! 

Lemon Pepper Noodles

1 lb. angel hair pasta

6 oz. cream cheese, cubed

3 TBS sour cream

6 TBS milk

1/4 tsp. onion powder

1 1/2 tsp. lemon pepper

1 TBS fresh lemon juice

2 tsp. dried parsley, extra for garnish

1/4 c. pasta cooking water

3 TBS butter

2-3 cloves garlic, minced 

1/4 c. grated Parmesan/Romano cheese blend

Salt and Pepper 

Cook pasta according to directions. While pasta cooks, in a large skillet melt butter over low heat. Saute garlic in butter for about a minute. Add sour cream and milk. Stir well. Add cream cheese a little at a time, stirring constantly. Season with lemon pepper, onion powder, salt and pepper. Continue stirring until smooth. Add parsley and lemon juice. When smooth, add Parmesan cheese and stir until melted. When pasta is cooked, reserve 1/4 c. cooking water and add to cheese sauce. Mix well. Drain pasta well and add to sauce, mixing well with tongs. Garnish with extra parsley. 

Sunday, April 18, 2021

April Snow

 Spring Break 2021 was beautiful. There were sunny, warm days with temps in the 70s and 80s...and we didn't leave Indiana! We had one of the nicest Easters and Spring Breaks I can remember. We had warmer temperatures than some who traveled for the vacation. I should have known it was too good to be true, or at least too good to stick around.

Two weeks later and we have snow in the forecast. Not just flurries, but from Tuesday night to Wednesday morning they are saying we could get about 3-5 inches. *Insert sobbing sounds here* 

Even saying that out loud makes my heart hurt. I know we live in the Midwest and April can be a tricky month, but come on!

The only good thing about this cold spell coming is it gives me a chance to share this recipe. One that I had made back when it was actually supposed to be cold, saved and thought I would just wait until fall to post it. I know many eat soup year round, but in the blogging world, recipes for it don't perform well in the hot summer months. 

But oh look, Mother Nature has decided to be fickle once again and a super easy, set it and forget it Crock Pot soup is the perfect way to combat her mood swings.

This soup has deep, rich flavor, but only has cook a few hours to achieve it! Be sure to have some crusty bread for dipping too. The broth was made for a chewy baguette.

 Anyone who is rejoicing we have snow coming again better not speak to me. I am beyond ready for warm weather, every day. In fact, if it was up to me, we could actually skip over spring and go right to 85 and HOT...but at this point I would just be happy with not having to dig the snow shovel out of the shed!

 Crock Pot Italian Sausage and Bean Soup

1 lb. mild Italian sausage

2 (15 oz.) cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

2 (14 oz.) cans diced tomatoes with basil and garlic, drained

8 cups chicken broth

1 medium white onion, diced

4-5 garlic cloves, minced

2 tsp. Italian seasoning

1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper 

1/4 c. grated Parmesan/Romano cheese blend

6 oz. spinach, large stems removed

Salt and Pepper 

In a large skillet brown sausage with onion and garlic. Transfer to Crock Pot. Add broth, tomatoes, beans, Italian seasoning, red pepper, salt and pepper. Stir well. Cook on low for 3-4 hours. Add cheese and spinach and stir. Cook until spinach is wilted, about 10 minutes. 

Shared at Weekend Potluck

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Steaks On The Grill Potatoes In The Oven

When you're grilling what do you plan for side dishes? Do you try to cook everything on the grill? Do you plan some make ahead things waiting on you in the fridge? Do you let the master griller in your house take care of the main dish while you cook the sides inside? 

I would say I am definitely a mix of all three, depending on the situation and how many I am cooking for. If we are doing a big cookout I will make sure some tasty sides can be prepared earlier in the day so we are only waiting on the burgers and dogs come supper time. But if we are just grilling for the four of us, I am happy to let Mr. E take stand over the hot grill while I am in the comfortable AC taking care of the rest of the meal.

Roasted potatoes are a classic side dish for steak night, and I have many different varieties we enjoy! Crispy Roasted Reds, Garlic Roasted, Fingerlings, Barbecue Roasted....so many more! And now we have one more that I am totally obsessed with! 

These only have 4 ingredients, one of them being optional, and the star is Montreal Steak Seasoning. I always have a bottle on hand because I use it on steaks, chicken, burgers and even in a fantastic dip that is addictive!

For this recipe I chose the baby creamer potatoes. They can be cooked whole, with the skin on, and the seasoning clings to every inch of it while it crisps up on the oven, all while the inside takes tender and buttery. 

If you can't find the creamer variety (or if they aren't in the budget--they can be a little pricey at times) red or gold baby potatoes, quartered would work well too.

We are celebrating the arrival of grilling and cookout season. These simple, but flavorful potatoes will definitely be making an appearance over and over all summer long! 

 Montreal Roasted Potatoes

3 lbs. creamer potatoes

3 TBS olive oil

2 TBS Montreal Steak Seasoning

Dried Parsley

Preheat oven to 400. In a large bowl combine potatoes, oil and seasoning. Toss to coat. Transfer to a large baking pan. Roast for 30-40 minutes until fork tender. Sprinkle with dried parsley before serving.

 Shared at Weekend Potluck


Sunday, April 4, 2021

The Teenager Had A Brainstorm


 Have you seen the tortilla boats they have now? I realize I am probably late to the party, but they are a recent discovery in our house and they have been life changing! Seriously. Whoever came up with the idea deserves a big high five!

If you're like me and have been living under a rock, let me explain. Right there in the aisle next to the hard taco shells there are now these soft tortilla "boats" or bowls. They come in regular size (used in this recipe) and mini ones too. They also come in different flavors- corn, flour, or a mix of both. 

I don't know about you but tacos, hard or soft, are my little guy's nemesis. He loves them, but gets so frustrated when all the yummy insides fall out onto the plate, or mommy's favorite, his lap. These solve that problem completely. The meat, cheese, lettuce, and tomato all stay put while his little hands hold it. 

So, you're probably wondering where this story is going if you've looked at the picture and saw breakfast foods. It's actually brilliant. I had made tacos one night, and had mini boats leftover the next day. (For regular beef tacos, I like the mini size. For these breakfast boats I used the bigger ones.) Big brother was home doing school remotely, so I took the mini boats, filled them with scrambled eggs and cheese and he was thrilled. And that's when it happened. "Hey, mom! I bet these would be good if you made them into a breakfast burrito boat. Eggs, potatoes, gravy, cheese, bacon. Do you think you could do that?"

Challenge accepted! These might look like a lot of steps, but don't worry, they are super easy. While the potatoes cook you can whip up the gravy and scrambled eggs. Then it's just assembly. I like the flat tater tots for this because they line the bottom of each boat and act like a barrier. But diced or shredded hash browns would work too. I also used real bacon bits because I also have those on hand, but crumbed crispy bacon would be delicious. Anything you love in a breakfast burrito can easily be a passenger in your tortilla boat!

 I love that my kids are such foodies they can look at one dish and brainstorm what else we could do with it and use it in whole new creative way. If you've never tried to let your kids help you plan new meals, try it! It's a fantastic way to get them to try new things and become more adventurous eaters!

 Breakfast Burrito Boats

1 (8 count) package tortilla bowls/boats

7 eggs

2 1/2 c. milk, divided use

1 lb. pork sausage

1/4 c. flour

8 oz. shredded sharp cheddar cheese

2 packages real bacon bits

1 (30 oz.) bag frozen tater rounds, baked per bag directions

Salt and Pepper

Dried Chives 

Begin by baking tater rounds according to package directions. To make the sausage gravy. In a large skillet brown the pork sausage. Do not drain. Sprinkle with flour and cook for 1 minute. Slowly add 2 cups milk, stirring constantly. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 10-15 minutes until thickened. Keep on warm burner. Whisk together eggs and 1/2 c. milk with salt and pepper. In a another skillet, sprayed with non stick spray, scramble eggs until cooked through. In each boat, layer tater rounds, top with scrambled eggs, bacon bits, sausage gravy and cheese. Garnish with chives. 


Shared at Weekend Potluck

Sunday, March 28, 2021

One Skillet Brings Chilhood Memories

 Did your mom make Hamburger Helper when you were a kid? Mine definitely did! I remember helping her choose which kind we would get at the store. It was a quick, simple meal for a working mom and she never got any complaints from my dad and I. 

Funny story though- she was forbidden from making Tuna Helper because when they were first married and still learning to cook...she made that one a lot...according to dad A LOT...so yeah he got a little burned out on it. To this day, and they have been married for almost 43 years...it's never showed up in the house again. 

I will admit, when the boxes of this convenience meal go on salt for $1 or less, I will grab a couple to keep in the pantry. No shaming! There are great to have on hand when I'm testing new recipes for all of you...and it turns into a disaster! When the experiment ends up in the trash...it's so nice to know I can reach into the back of the cupboard and still feed the family. 

If you enjoyed the boxed variety growing up, but want to stay away from the processed foods, this homemade version will knock your socks off! This was one of those meals I made that immediately got rave reviews and I was promptly told to make again. 

The best part? Just like the boxed mix, this is a one pan supper! Everything cooks in one large skillet, can be on the table in about 30 minutes, and you have less clean up! I love pairing it with a fresh garden salad or a steamed veggie on the side for a complete meal. 

You just might have everything you need to make this in the kitchen right now! Simple ingredients lead to the flavors you will remember from when you were a kid. Be sure to read my note about the pasta to meat ratio too. This is how we like it, but I have some tips if you feel like your family would enjoy it with more/less pasta or meat. 

I am not one to shame anyone for taking some help from the store and convenience foods. You want to use something from a box or the frozen food aisle? Go for it. We all need to make dinner time a little less stressful, and using those things once in a while isn't an issue in my kitchen. But I also love finding ways to make the ones we enjoy with fresh ingredients that I control so I can feel just a little bit better about my big bowl of creamy pasta in front of me! 

Homemade Hamburger Helper

1 lb. ground beef

1 lb. elbow macaroni

1 (32 oz.) box beef broth

1 TBS ketchup

1 tsp. yellow mustard

1 tsp. garlic powder

1 tsp. onion powder

1/2 tsp. seasoning salt

1 c. sour cream

1 c. shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Dried Parsley

Salt and Pepper

 In a large skillet, over medium high heat, brown beef and drain if necessary. In a small bowl whisk together ketchup, mustard, garlic powder, onion powder, seasoning salt, salt and pepper. Add to beef and stir well. Add beef broth, scraping bottom of skillet. Add macaroni and stir well. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10-12 minutes until macaroni is cooked. Remove from heat and stir in sour cream until smooth and creamy. Put skillet back over low heat. Stir in cheese until melted. Garnish with dried parsley. *NOTE* We like this ratio of beef to pasta. If you want less macaroni, only use half the box. Or if you want more beef, use 1 1/2 lb. with the whole box of pasta. If it's too thick when finished, or sits a while, add a little extra beef broth to make it creamier. 



Shared at Weekend Potluck


Sunday, March 21, 2021

Easter Side Dish

If you haven't been paying attention, there are now less than two weeks until Easter.  Have you got your menu planned? Even if we probably won't be having huge family gatherings, that doesn't mean the food doesn't need to be on point! I will plan a big spread even if it's just the 4 of us, like last year, or our family plus my parents. Holidays are a time to enjoy those foods we look forward to so much, no matter what! 

How about a new side dish that would be delicious with your Easter ham, is simple as can be, and screams spring time? Sound good? Then you've come to the right place! Oh, and don't worry if you don't need another dish for Easter, because these are easy enough for a weeknight supper too! 

Do you love artichokes? We can't get enough. I am always on the lookout for ways to use the canned artichoke hearts. Ironically I have never had a fresh artichoke, and am actually they intimidate the heck out of me. I know I would enjoy the leaves as much as I do the heart, but I just haven't gotten the courage up to try them. Someday...maybe...

In the meantime when the canned ones are inexpensive, versatile and so yummy, I will keep coming up with ways to use those! I've done then Au gratin style, of course in spinach and artichoke dip, and salads like my Quick Artichoke and Hearts of Palm Salad. 

The crunchy topping on this gives it a great texture contrast with the soft artichokes. For not having a long ingredient list, they really bring the flavor! 

Spring time is a great time to try a veggie maybe you don't think of a lot. Your Easter menu would love something unique and new alongside all the traditional favorites we love. 

Baked Artichokes

2 (14 oz.) cans quartered artichoke hearts, drained well and patted dry

1 TBS olive oil

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1/2 c. panko bread crumbs

2 TBS butter, melted

1 tsp. dried parsley

2 TBS grated Parmesan/Romano cheese

Salt and Pepper 

Preheat oven to 375. Place artichokes in 2 quart casserole dish. Drizzle with olive oil. Season with garlic powder, salt and pepper. In a small bowl combine bread crumbs, melted butter, parsley and grated cheese. Mix well. Sprinkle over top of artichokes. Bake for 25-30 minutes until browned on top. 


Shared at Weekend Potluck

Shared at Meal Plan Monday

Sunday, March 14, 2021


 After some major snow in January and February, here in Indiana, we got a lovely taste of spring over the past few weeks. It was 50 degrees on February 27th, my birthday! That is unheard of! Then last week we had a few days in the 60's and one afternoon it even got up to 70! It was just what my mood needed. The dark, gray, cold, gloomy winter days tend to chip away at my soul. So, some warmth and sunshine really helped! 

But alas, it is March in the Midwest,  o as I type this I'm watching the weather on the news and hearing "chance of winter like weather on Monday." Of course there is! Just when we were getting use to the idea of spring! Then again, I hear Colorado and Wyoming are supposed to get snowfall totals measured in FEET this week, so I won't complain too much! 

Either way, spring is close enough to smell, and there will soon be more days that feel like than ones that don't, so our meals will start to reflect that more and more. However, soup is one thing that doesn't have to go away quite yet. Sure, fall and winter are when soup, chowder and stew season goes into full swing, but rainy and chilly spring days scream soup weather too! 

This is where today's recipe comes in. Creamy Taco Soup is the next rainy night supper you will crave! It comes together in almost no time, so it's perfect on those nights when you're in a rush to get out the door again, or just too tired to deal. What is it about being out in the elements (snow, wind, rain...doesn't matter) that is simply exhausting? 

This is not a spicy soup, but you could easily add some heat! Swap out half the diced tomatoes for some Rotel, or add a small can of green chilies. You could even saute a diced jalapeno to the onion pepper mix. I love when recipes are easily adaptable to all palates! 

This would be a great one to keep handy for Cinco de Mayo too! It's coming quicker than you think and while conditions are improving across the country (thanks be to God) big restaurant celebrations probably still aren't the best idea. So, a pot of this soup, an ooey gooey quesadilla and some chips and salsa, and you can have yourself a pretty stellar fiesta at home!

If we can just hold out a little longer, sunny warm days are ahead. I can't wait until we are sweating because of the heat, but I will take any kind of warm up I can get. And on those days when mother nature tricks us, a big bowl of delicious warm soup can turn a gloomy mood around!

 Creamy Taco Soup

2 lbs. ground beef

1 medium white onion, finely chopped

1 large red bell pepper, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

6 c. beef broth

1 1/2 c. heavy cream

2 c. shredded Mexican blend cheese

2 packets taco seasoning

1 (28 oz.) can diced tomatoes, with juice

Salt and Pepper 

Tri-colored tortilla strips

In a large stock pot over medium high heat, brown ground beef with onion, red pepper and garlic. Once cooked, drain if necessary. Add beef broth, scraping bottom of pan. Add tomatoes and taco seasoning. Stir well. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat. Simmer for 15 minutes. Add cream and shredded cheese, stirring constantly until cheese melts. Season with salt and pepper as needed. Serve with tortilla strips. 

 Shared at Weekend Potluck

Shared at Meal Plan Monday

Sunday, March 7, 2021

A Stop In The Frozen Food Aisle

I know I'm not the only one who relies on a few convenience and/or prepackaged foods here and there to make life easier.  Sometimes you just need to grab something from the freezer or store shelf to help your day be a little less stressful. There is absolutely no shame in doing so. Especially in the times we are living right now! 

A year ago, I don't know about you, but meal planning and grocery shopping brought me to tears more than once. We were already on edge, scared of this virus that had landed on our shores, and then there was a food shortage. I remember standing in the grocery aisles having to re-do my menu plan on the fly because they were out of everything. Not knowing from week to week what we could find was emotionally draining. At one point, I would have given anything to find a couple boxes of Hamburger Helper and some frozen pot pies! 

Convenience foods get a bad wrap, and I get it. We all want to give our families meals filled with fresh healthy, ingredients. But I also come from the real world. Let's face it, those prepackaged foods are still made because we keep buying them. Sometimes it's because they are cheaper. Sometimes it's because of time. Sometimes it's just simply because they are easier. Personally, I don't want any shame because of it, and I don't give any shame. I have been the lady at the grocery store with a cart filled with fresh meat, veggies and fruits. Standing behind the mom with 4 little ones that had tv dinners, frozen pizzas and cans of ravioli in her cart. I distinctly remember her looking at me, looking at my cart, and getting a look on her face that screamed shame. She assumed I was standing there judging her. Nope, not me lady. You are trying to feed your babies, and doing the best you can. 

This is one of our new favorite casseroles, and guess what? The part I love the best? It starts with a bag of frozen popcorn chicken! Yep, we are taking a terrific traditional recipe like Chicken Parmesan and turning it into a weeknight meal with the help of something from the frozen food aisle! 

Since there is no need to thaw the chicken first (BONUS!) you can come home and have this on the table in less than an hour. Throw on some sweats, toss a quick salad and dinner is done! It's a hearty, filling, perfect after a long, maybe chilly day, casserole the whole family will devour. 

I try really hard to use fresh ingredients in most of our meals. But I will be the first one to admit sometimes that blue box of macaroni and cheese is just easier (oh, and it happens to be yummy). And when those boxed au gratin potato mixes go on sale for $1 or even $.49, yep you can bet I'm going to buy a few to keep on hand for those nights when I just can't handle complicated. 

Taking a little help here and there from the grocery store is no reason to feel shame, or look down upon others for. I think we all appreciate the foods we do have a little more after living through this pandemic, and should be thankful we have the ability to make something from scratch, or pop a frozen lasagna in the oven. Many across this country and around the world would give anything to have that choice, so I will be grateful the next time I'm walking down the frozen food aisle to grab that box of fish sticks. 

 Chicken Parmesan Casserole

1 (25 oz.) bag frozen popcorn chicken, no need to thaw

1 lb. rotini pasta, cooked to al dente

1 (24 oz.) jar spaghetti sauce

1 (15 oz.) can diced tomatoes, drained

1/2 c. grated Parmesan/Romano cheese blend

1 c. shredded mozzarella cheese

1 c. shredded pizza blend cheese

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1 TBS Italian seasoning

Salt and Pepper

Dried Parsley

Preheat oven to 375. While pasta cooks, in a large bowl combine spaghetti sauce, tomatoes, seasonings, Parmesan and mozzarella cheese. Fold in popcorn chicken. When pasta is cooked, drain well. Mix into chicken mixture. Transfer to a greased 9x13 baking dish. Top with pizza blend cheese. Bake for 50 minutes until browned and bubbly. Garnish with dried parsley. 


Shared at Weekend Potluck


Sunday, February 28, 2021

Birthday Sweet Treat

 Yes, we have a special birthday to celebrate in our house. Mommy turned the big 4-0  Saturday! Actually we do birthday months in our family, so I've been celebrating for about 4 weeks now! Plus my mom's birthday is just 8 days before mine, so it's basically been 2 weeks of cake, great food, shopping, balloons, presents, and of course lots of love! 

I am a firm believer that you don't have to have cake on your birthday if you prefer something else. It's your special day and you can choose the sweet treat you get! Alex and I have both been known to ask mom to make us pumpkin pie on our birthdays. One of my favorites (and what I've gotten the past couple years) is mom's peach custard pie. One year Alex asked for root beer floats. We've done cupcakes, cookies, cookie cakes...whatever the birthday boy/girl requests. 

I love fluff salads so much, it was only appropriate to share this with you around my big day. It is super simple for any night of the week but I thought it would be a terrific addition to an Easter menu too. Our holiday tables always include one or two of these "salads" and this new banana split variety is over the top! 

Some fluff salads can definitely be served as a side dish, and that is why my Grammy always made them at the holidays. They were basically a creamy fruit salad, and then you could still eat dessert too. However this one tastes so much like a banana split you will definitely want to save it for the end of your big meal. 

It's got the bananas, the pineapple, the chocolate, the whipped cream, the cherries and the nuts. Every single ingredient in the ice cream shop classic, in every single spoonful! 

I used walnuts but roasted peanuts or pecans would be delicious too! I get a lot of reader comments about wanting to use real whipped cream instead of Cool Whip. First off, you can do whatever you want, I will never know. But in my experience, salads like this don't set up as well with the real stuff. Just MY opinion, not holy grail or anything! 

I thought I would be more bothered by turning 40, but I'm truly not. It's only a number, and like I told someone when they were teasing me about turning 30, each decade comes with blessings! In my 20's I graduated college, got married and become a mom. And then in my 30's I found a career I could do from home while raising my son, become a mommy for the 2nd time when I never thought I would. I was 35 when our miracle baby came to us! So I am excited to see what wonderful things are in store for this next chapter! And you know it will definitely have some delicious food along the way! 

Banana Split Fluff

1 (3 oz.) box instant banana cream pudding

1 (20 oz.) can crushed pineapple, undrained

1 (8 oz.) tub Cool Whip

1 (16 oz.) jar maraschino cherries, drained and halved- save a couple whole for garnish

1/2 c. chopped walnuts, reserve a few for garnish

1 c. mini marshmallows

2 bananas, sliced

Chocolate Syrup 

In a large bowl, combine dry pudding mix and undrained pineapple. Mix well. Fold in Cool Whip, walnuts, marshmallows and cherries. Chill for 2 hours. Fold in bananas. Drizzle with chocolate syrup and top with extra walnuts and cherries. 

Shared at Weekend Potluck

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Sushi With A Spoon

We are huge sushi lovers. Like boarder line obsessed. In fact, my birthday is next week and I've already declared I want to go to one of our favorite Japanese restaurants for my special day! (On a side note, if you aren't a sushi fan, and find yourself avoiding Japanese restaurants, check their menu because most of the ones we love offer many other dishes as well. So you can enjoy something else while those who want sushi can partake.)

Sushi is definitely one of those foods people either love or hate. There doesn't seem to be much gray area. I get it. The thought of eating raw fish doesn't appeal to everyone. A couple things though- if you want to try sushi and you're afraid of raw, there are plenty of options that include cooked seafood as well. 

I had never had sushi until about 15 years ago when Mr. E convinced me to try it. I was very leery of raw fish, so I stuck to California rolls for a long time. But then I branched out...and the minute I tasted raw sushi grade tuna for the first time, it was love at first bite! Now the raw varieties are definitely my favorites. 

Both of our boys are big sushi lovers as well. They each had tried it by the age of 2, and were instant fans. We have a rule though. Nothing raw until your older. So they too stuck to a California roll (since it uses imitation crab). Alex being older now eats all the raw and "weird" stuff, but Max is still limited to that Cali roll. But he doesn't care. He LOVES them! You should see him use his panda chopsticks with sushi. It's about the cutest thing ever. 

So you can imagine the major mom points I scored when I declared we were having California Roll Sushi Bowls for supper one night. I had some excited boys on my hands! 

These give you all the familiar flavors in a simple, fork friendly form! We couldn't get enough! They are already asking me to make them again. 

If you've never made sushi rice, join the club. I was a little imitated, but it was super easy. Read my notes below AND the directions on the package you buy. Where to buy it you ask? I found mine at Walmart in the Asian food aisle. Easy peasy! 

Don't like it spicy? Just leave the sriracha mayo off. I didn't put any on Max's either. It is nice to serve it alongside though for those who do. 

You could easily add veggies you like, omit ones you don't. I kept it pretty basic to the traditional California Roll, but you could easily switch it up. 

If you aren't a sushi lover, but these ingredients look yummy, I encourage you to give this a try. It might be a great introduction to a whole new world!

 California Sushi Roll Bowls

1 lb. sushi rice, rinsed and drained well

1 lb. flake style imitation crab meat, chopped

1 English cucumber, diced

3 carrots, peeled and grated

1-2 avocado, diced

1 (.14 oz.) package nori sheets

5 TBS rice vinegar, divided use

2 TBS sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 c. mayo

1-2 TBS sriracha

1/4 c. soy sauce

Sesame Seeds

After rice is rinsed very well and drained, cook according to package directions. (mine was cooked with 2 1/2 cups water, brought to a boil, simmered on low for 15 minutes, stirring often. Then covered and allowed to sit off heat for another 15 minutes.) While rice cooks, in a small bowl mix 4 TBS vinegar, sugar and salt. Microwave for 1-2 minutes until sugar is dissolved. Stir. Allow to cool down a little. When rice is cooked, add vinegar mixture and stir well. In another small bowl combine soy sauce and remaining vinegar. In another small bowl combine mayo and sriracha. 

When ready to serve, divide rice among 4 bowls. Top with shredded imitation crab, diced cucumber, shredded carrots, and diced avocado. Drizzle each bowl evenly with soy sauce mixture. Drizzle with sriracha mayo. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and broken nori.

 Inspired by Cooking Classy

Shared at Weekend Potluck

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Slow Cooker Salad

Are you a bit confused? A salad? In the slow cooker? Warm? What?? This dish starts out in your slow cooker, but ends with a big beautiful taco salad on your plate! 

We probably eat Mexican food out more than other cuisine; and that's saying something because we have too many restaurants we are regulars at to list. But if I were add up all the visits to each, I have a feeling our favorite Mexican place would have the most. 

Every Saturday night we go to church, and then out for supper. Yes, even during the pandemic. (Well, once places opened back up I mean.) We have found most restaurants are following our state's guidelines very well, and we want to support them as much as possible. We have definitely done more take out in the past year as well, but dining out is important too because those servers depend on that tip money. The places we love are doing an outstanding job cleanings, wearing masks and keeping everyone safe. 

In fact, our first dining out experience last May when we were able to, was our favorite Mexican place. This place is dangerous...it is only 2 minutes from our house, literally on the other side of our neighborhood. They opened up about 2.5 years ago and quickly became our go-to. How much do we frequent them? Well, let's just say we are like the "Norm of Cheers" when we walk in. They all know us, know our kids' names, and usually can guess what we will order. 

Does this obsession with our little taqueria stop me from making Mexican at home? Nope. I make it often in my own kitchen too. 

I love this recipe because the beef can be prepped in the morning, cook all day while you're at work, and then you can assemble the salads when you get home! A delicious taco salad with warm, seasoned beef, topped with anything you like. 

This would be great for a crowd too...you know, when we are allowed to have crowds again. A big taco salad bar can feed an army on the cheap! Not to mention be super fun for everyone to make their own creation. 

Want some extra protein? Add a can of pinto or black beans to the beef mixture! That would be delicious! Want a little extra heat? Add some diced jalapenos! You can truly take this template and make it your own!

Not very often can we say our salad supper came out of the slow cooker, but this time it is true and delicious! Exactly what you need if your favorite Mexican place isn't quite ready for dine in guests yet! 

Slow Cooker Salsa Verde Beef Taco Salad 

2 lbs. ground beef

16 oz. bottle salsa verde

1 medium white onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 (15 oz.) can corn with red and poblano peppers, drained

3 Romaine hearts, chopped

3 Roma tomatoes, diced

Sliced Black Olives

Pickled Jalapenos

Sour Cream

Shredded Cheese

Tri-Color Tortilla Strips

Lime Wedges

 Salt and Pepper 

In a large skillet over medium high heat, brown beef with onion and garlic. Drain if necessary. Transfer to slow cooker. Add corn and salsa verde. Stir well. Cook on LOW for 3 hours until flavors develop. Keep warm until ready to serve. On each serving plate, add lettuce, beef mixture and favorite toppings.



Sunday, February 7, 2021

When My Boy Asks

 My kids are so used to me planning diverse menus with many of their favorites every week, it isn't often they feel the need to request something, unless I ask them for input. But every once in a awhile, Alex will ask for me to make something he is craving, rather it be a beloved favorite or he wants me to try a new recipe. Such was the case when it comes to the new pasta bake I'm sharing today and boy am I glad he asked because it lead to something delicious and a recipe I am quite proud of! 

We are going on month 302 of this pandemic...or so it seems...and while I do think our family has adjusted to the things are the best we can, there are still moments I find us whining about things we miss. And that's okay. We all deserve to have a little whine now and again after what we have endured over the past year! Even my kids have truly stepped up to the challenge of "the new normal" better than I could have ever expected. 

My 4 year old will gladly wear his mask if I allow him to go into a store with me (which isn't often, and it helps the mask has either a panda or Baby Yoda on it!). My teenager goes to school every single day, in a mask, for 7-8 hours, without much complaint. He only gets to take it off when he eats lunch, which by the way is no longer with his friends, but in an assigned classroom where the food is brought to them and they eat at their desks. (I'm not complaining, our school has done an outstanding job at protocols this year and I'm so pleased we've been in-person with only a couple weeks of preventative remote since August!) But everyone is human, and sometimes a "oh I miss ___" will come out of one of our mouths. 

Alex's most recent lamenting was about buffets. Yes, we were a buffet loving family. We enjoyed a tasty Asian buffet, seafood buffet and the dinner buffet at our local Pizza Hut. In this case, it was the last one Alex was missing. No, not because of the all you can eat pizza, but instead the pasta they always served on it. He could eat plate after plate of their cavatini. I don't blame him, the other one they always had, a spaghetti with a white, cream cheese sauce makes me drool just thinking of it. (In case you're wondering, no it wasn't Alfredo. It was completely different, and it will be the next one I master!)

So when my oldest baby was sad because he had a hankering for this cavatini, and asked if I thought I might be able to come up with something similar, this mama had to try! Well, I don't want to pat myself on the back too much, but even I have to admit I hit it out of the park! 

This copycat is spot on! Both Alex and his dad couldn't get over just how close to the original it tasted. The boys was thrilled and I scored major mom points! 

This pasta casserole is sort of like a pizza, pasta combo so your kids will probably love it as much as mine! Maybe they have been asking you to try something new, and now you have your answer!

 Copycat Pizza Hut Cavatini

1 lb. rotini pasta, cooked to al dente

1 lb. mild Italian sausage

4 oz. pepperoni, chopped

1 medium white onion, finely chopped

1 red bell pepper, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1 TBS olive oil

2 (24 oz.) jars tomato and basil spaghetti sauce

1 1/2 c. shredded pizza blend cheese

2 TBS grated Parmesan/Romano cheese

1/4 tsp. dried red pepper

1 tsp. Italian seasoning

Salt and Pepper

Dried Parsley

Preheat oven to 350. While pasta cooks, brown sausage in large skillet. Drain well. Set aside. Wipe out skillet and add olive oil over medium high heat. Saute onion, bell pepper and garlic in oil until tender, about 5 minutes. When pasta is cooked, drain well. In a large bowl combine sauce, sausage, onion mixture, pasta, dried red pepper, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. Stir well. Transfer half pasta mixture to a greased 9x13 baking dish. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, half pizza blend cheese and half pepperoni. Add other half pasta mixture, rest of pepperoni and top with pizza blend cheese. Bake for 45 minutes until brown and bubbly. Sprinkle with dried parsley before serving. 


Shared at Weekend Potluck

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Snow Day

 We got our first "big" snow of the season this weekend. In fact, it was the biggest snow storm we've had here in 6 years! Our city of Fort Wayne is sometimes referred to by weathermen as "the city where storms come to die!" Many times snow storms, thunderstorms, etc will be raging our way, and then about the time they reach the city limits they fizzle out. It's the strangest thing!.

So last week when we started hearing about this snow storm that would be coming our way, most of us waited to see. Well, wouldn't you know, this time it held together, and by the time we woke up Sunday morning, we had almost 8 inches on the ground, and it continued snowing for most of the day. 

Sure, I realize for many reading this, 8 inches is nothing, but like I said, it was our biggest snow in 6 years, which for us means it was Max's 1st really big snow! And this was the fluffy, fun snow! Perfect for snow balls fights, snow angels, and if your a 16 year old Bubbie and a 4 year old Max, wrestling until you cry from laughing. Seriously, their dad and I stood there and laughed so hard watching them. They were having a ball and absolutely adorable together. Warmed this mommy's heart, that's for sure! 

I wish I could be really cool and say "look at this amazing stew I made for when we came in from playing in the snow." But that would be a lie. I actually made this a few weeks back. (I did make slow cooker chicken and noodles yesterday though!) I just figured with much of the country already under a blanket of snow, or still expecting more over the next day or so, today would be a terrific time to share. 

This hearty stew is filled with roasted chicken, chunky veggies and a rich, creamy broth that will thaw you out in no time! It's a little thicker than a soup, not quite as thick as a chowder, so I went with stew. No matter what name you give it, every bite will be delicious and satisfying! 

Winter isn't done with us, and we might have another snow day or two in our future. No doubt coming inside to a bowl of something warm and tasty makes all that shoveling worth it! 


 Crock Pot Creamy Chicken Stew

2 lbs. boneless chicken tenders

2 TBS olive oi

2 tsp. garlic powder

1 medium white onion, chopped

3 celery stalks, diced

4 large carrots, diced

2 russet potatoes, peeled and cubed

4 c. chicken broth

2 c. water

2 chicken bouillon cubes

1 cup half and half

3 TBS corn starch

2 cans cream of celery soup

12 oz. bag frozen peas 

12 oz. bag frozen corn 

1 TBS dried parsley

Salt and Pepper

Preheat oven to 350. Lay chicken tenders on foil lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil. Season with garlic powder, salt and pepper. Bake for 30 minutes until juices run clear. Place in a large bowl and allow to cool slightly. Shred with forks. In the slow cooker, add chicken, carrots, celery, onion, potatoes corn, broth, water, bouillon, and cream of celery soup. Season with salt and pepper. Cook on LOW 5-6 hours. Mix corn starch with half and half. Add to slow cooker. Turn to HIGH and cook about 20 minutes until slightly thickened. Add frozen peas and parsley. Stir and cook 5-10 minutes just to warm peas through. 


Shared at Weekend Potluck

Sunday, January 24, 2021

New Year, New Side

 Which part of your daily dinner do you struggle with the most when planning? Main dishes are usually pretty quick to think of for me, and then the sides are sometimes where I stumble. Certain meals will always have the same sides included (If we're having spaghetti, a salad and bread are sure bets) but other times I want to switch things up. Find new side dishes to keep the menu plan fresh and new. 

So when I find a way to take an old favorite veggie and serve it in a new, tasty, and in this case, super cheesy way, I score major wife/mom points! 

We are big cauliflower fans, but I will fully admit I'm not very creative with it. If it's fresh, it's usually on a veggie tray. And if it served alongside our dinner time meal, it's a bag of frozen that has been steamed, with a little butter on it. I know, boring. But this recipe changes all that! 

Perfect with pork, chicken, or steak, this dish is super versatile. You could even double the recipe and make it a meat free main dish! 

Let's talk about the cheese for a second. I am the queen of pre-shredded bagged cheeses. I use them in almost all of my cooking. But this time I took the extra few minutes to shred my own; and it makes a huge difference! When you shred your own block of cheese, it melts more evenly, and has richer flavor. In no way am I dissing the convenience of the other, and will certainly continue to use it, but for certain dishes, it is definitely worth the extra effort! 

Since the beginning of the new year, I have been in new recipe recipe mode, and this is most definitely one of the favorites I've made. All three boys raved about it and have already requested it again! If you decide to switch up your next menu plan, and include this ooey,gooey veggie, I hope yours love it just as much!

 Cheesy Baked Cauliflower

2 large heads cauliflower, cut into florets

8 oz. block extra sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded

1/2 c. heavy cream

1 c. grated Parmesan/Romano cheese

1 tsp. dried thyme

5 TBS butter, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp. dried parsley

Salt and Pepper

Preheat oven to 400. In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook cauliflower for 8 minutes until just tender. Drain well. In a large greased casserole dish, place half of the cauliflower. Sprinkle with 1/2 tsp. thyme, salt and pepper. Pour half the cream over. Dot with half the butter. Add half the garlic. Add half the Parmesan and white cheddar cheeses. Repeat layers.  Sprinkle with dried parsley. Cook for 30 minutes or until brown and bubbly. Allow to sit 5-7 minutes before serving.


Shared at Weekend Potluck

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Winter Blues

 I don't know about you, but this time of year is VERY hard on me. I love the holidays so much, and there is always so much anticipation and lead up to those special weeks. Once the decorations come down, and the cold, dark, dismal days of winter set in, I tend to get a little blue. I have a birthday to look forward to in February, but not until the next to last day, so those weeks between always seem like the longest ones of the year. 

If you live in the Midwest, but don't enjoy the cold or snow is there any upside to winter at all? Not much, but one of my salvations this time of year is definitely the fact that it is soup season

I never tire of finding new soup recipes. We have favorites that are go-tos of course, but any time I can try a brand new one (at least to us) I am always game. 

A friend and I were talking about how much take out we've done since the pandemic began. As I've said before, I feel like helping the restaurant industry is one small thing we can do to help keep people and businesses afloat, so we've really stepped it up in the last 10 months. Anyway, she was telling me there isn't a Panera close to them so she started making her version of their broccoli cheese soup. Well, you know I had to have that recipe. 

This bowl of deliciousness can be on your table in about 45 minutes, so it is perfect after a long day when you are starving but don't have the energy. Add some crusty bread and your favorite salad on the side and call it dinner! Or make it a soup and sandwich combo night! 

If you love copycat recipes as much as me, you will be so pleased with how close to the original this one tastes. Plus, it's yet another soup to help us get through this winter and give us a little happy in the bleak that is January!

Copycat Panera Broccoli Cheese Soup

3 medium broccoli crowns, chopped

1 small white onion, diced

1 cup matchstick carrots

2 c. half and half

4 c. chicken broth

5 TBS butter

1/4 c. flour

1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg

8 oz. shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Salt and Pepper 

Shredded Marbled Cheddar, for serving

 In a large stockpot over medium heat saute onions in 1 TBS butter until soft. Remove. Melt remaining butter. Whisk flour into butter and cook about 5 minutes. Slowly add 2 cups broth and half and half. Stir well. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer about 15 minutes. Add onions, broccoli, carrots and remaining chicken stock. Stir. Simmer for 15-20 minutes, until veggies are tender crisp. Add nutmeg, salt, pepper and shredded sharp cheddar. Stir until cheese is melted and serve. Serve with marbled cheddar and crusty bread if desired. 

Inspired by Recipe Critic

Shared at Weekend Potluck