Everyday Mom's Meals: 2023

Sunday, August 27, 2023

Long Lost Food Blogger

 Did you think your friendly neighborhood everyday mom abandoned you? I promise I haven't. Life is just crazy busy right now, and while I'm still in the kitchen cooking, most days I am relying on go-to recipes, quick stuff, and not even considering developing anything new for you. 

Let's see, the oldest graduated in May, summer came, we vacationed for 2 weeks on the beach, by the time we got home we had a month left before we had to move him to college. There was dorm shopping, school supply shopping, uniform shopping for the little guy, more dorm room shopping, and of course trips to the zoo, pool and library thrown in for fun. Oh, and a big 7 birthday in there too with three weekends of parties!

Then August came and it was time to pack up the car, set up the college freshman's dorm room and then drive away! Leave my baby! I won't lie, walking out of that room was the hardest thing I've ever done. Part of my heart is now two hours away. For almost 19 years, every moment of every day has been planned around him (and of course his baby brother too). My entire existence has been wrapped up in being his mom. It's a weird feeling to be bursting withe pride, and so excited for him all at the same time as feeling lost and a little heart broken. But you know what helps? His smile in every picture. His voice in every call. He is settling in and we can't wait to see what this year holds for him.

Here at home, we are learning to be a threesome. It still feels weird, and yes there are days when I cry because I miss him, but God knew what He was doing spreading my kids 12 years apart, because I am blessed to have a little boy who depends on and needs me. I have thrown myself into his world...I am  room mom for his 1st grade class, I just took on a Vice President role in PTL at his school, and I will be substituting aide in Kindergarten this year again. 

I am staying as busy as I can so I don't have to focus on missing my boy. I have taken on multiple projects for school and our annual fundraiser auction. Plus, I am busy with my work over on Parade.com as well. 

But guess what? Even with all of this I found time to come up with a little something new to share with all of you and I think you're going to love it!

Easy Orange Chicken only has a short ingredient list, starts with a bag of frozen chicken and is ready in almost no time! It is perfect or a busy weeknight and can easily be doubled for a bigger crowd! 

I am truly sorry I have been so absent lately; and I wish I could tell you things will get back to normal around here soon, but I think we are in a new normal, and I have to figure out exactly what that means. But I promise to keep coming up with yummy stuff to share, even if it comes a little more sporadically than before!

Easy Orange Chicken


What kind of chicken to use?

This recipe is great because it uses a bag of frozen boneless chicken wings. It would be delicious with chicken nuggets or tenders too! 

Do I have to use sesame oil?

I understand not wanting to buy an ingredient you might not use a lot, but if you love cooking Asian food at home, I highly recommend investing in a bottle. It adds so much flavor to so many dishes! 

Can I use orange juice instead of orange marmalade?

No. The marmalade is thick and helps to coat the chicken. Juice will make the sauce way too thin. 

Can I air fry the chicken?

Sure! Check the directions on the bag and any way they recommend to prepare it, go for it!

What kind of barbecue sauce should I use? 

Use whatever you have on hand or is your favorite. I always have a "normal" flavor to use in recipes that I can add other flavors too. With the sweetness of the marmalade something smoky/savory is perfect. 

Can I make this spicy?

You sure can! Add some red pepper flakes or chili crisp for extra heat!

Best Tips:

Cook your chicken for a few extra minutes for extra crispy bites.

Frozen chicken tenders could be baked, cut up and then sauced. 

Be sure to whisk sauce while cooking to avoid scorching.

Serve this with white rice, fried rice, steamed broccoli, edamame, stir-fry veggies, mandarin oranges. 

If you have leftovers, keep in a covered dish in the fridge for 2 days. 

Easy Orange Chicken

1 (24 oz.) bag frozen boneless chicken wings

1/2 cup barbecue sauce

1 1/4 cups orange marmalade

1/4 tsp. garlic powder

2 tsp. sesame oil 

Cook chicken according to package directions, adding a few extra minutes. In a medium sauce pan combine barbecue sauce, marmalade, garlic powder and sesame oil. Whisk well. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes until thick and smooth, whisking often.  When chicken is cooked, transfer to a large bowl. Pour sauce over and toss to coat. Serve immediately with rice, veggies, etc.

Easy Orange Chicken



Busy School Night? Smokey Bones Can Help With Dinner

 Yes, as a food blogger and recipe developer I spend a lot of time in the kitchen. Cooking. Cleaning. Rinse. Repeat. And as much as I love this career I've built for myself, going out to eat is still such a treat for me and something our family truly enjoys. (Sure I love the food, but not having to clean up? Win win!)

I love when a restaurant we already enjoy gives us another reason to want to go and then tell everyone we know! Our friends at Smokey Bones never disappoint when it comes to delicious barbecue, fantastic service and a fun atmosphere; and now through September 30th, they have put the icing on the cake, per say...Kids 10 and younger eat FREE with the purchase of an adult entree! 

Smokey Bones Fort Wayne, Indiana

Your eyes didn't deceive you. I said FREE! Smokey Bones wants to help parents ease into the school new year, with its hectic evenings and crazy schedules, by taking some stress out of dinner time! From chicken to ribs to cheeseburgers, and some of the best mac and cheese around, Smokey Bones has a kids' menu to please all the little foodies in your life.

Smokey Bones Kids Menu

My little guy couldn't wait to dig into his Chicken Bites and Mac and Cheese. Look at that crispy breading, just waiting to be dunked into some tangy honey mustard. Every spoonful of the pasta was ooey gooey goodness! 

Smokey Bones Chicken Bites & Mac and Cheese Kids Meal

What about us adults? My hubby and I both opted for the pulled pork platter, but with different sides. For me potato wedges and fire roasted corn. A big pile of tender, flavorful pulled pork, crispy but butter potatoes and that corn? Oh my gosh! So much flavor and I loved the fact it was cut off the cob. Oh, and you can't forget two slices of Texas toast too!

Smokey Bones Pulled Pork, Potato Wedges & Fire Roasted Corn

Mr. E upgraded one of his sides to a "premium" for only $1 because he wanted some macaroni and cheese himself. Normally up charges annoy me, but this was a very fair price for a generous portion! 

Smokey Bones Pulled Pork, French Fries and Mac and Cheese

One of the things I have always appreciated about Smokey Bones is the variety of sauces available on the table. The pulled pork comes cooked perfectly and seasoned well, but then I can add the flavor and amount of sauce I want as I eat. On our table we had a sweet and smoky barbecue, chipotle pepper barbecue sauce, mustard barbecue and a Carolina sauce too.  I could taste test each one, and decide or even try a couple different ones. For me? The sweet and smoky, what I would call traditional bbq sauce. For the hubby? He loved the Carolina sauce and could add more and more with each bite. 

 If you are rushing around with after school activities, sports, meetings, etc, and find yourself wanting great food, at a great price, find your nearest Smokey Bones location and take a break from cooking! 

Our family has been big fans of Smokey Bones for a while now, and they always find reasons to keep us coming back for more!

Smokey Bones is available for dine-in and online orders for pick-up, as well as delivery
on their site. To make a reservation at your nearest location, visit the link here.

Disclaimer: I received a gift card in exchange for this feature. All thoughts and opinions are all my own.

Sunday, July 16, 2023

Summer Time Comfort Food

 Hello! Did you think I disappeared? Fell off the face of the earth? It's been over a month since my last new recipe, so I wouldn't blame you!

When I posted the last time I mentioned how crazy things were because of the oldest graduating high school. It had been a while since I shared a recipe then too. After the end of school I thought maybe we could get back to our regularly scheduled programming; but guess what? Life just got busier!

However, this hiatus was for a fantastic reason. For the first time in four years, we were able to get away for two weeks to the beach and have tons of family time in the sun, sand and surf. This trip was our graduation gift to Alex and we sucked every last drop of fun out of the 14 days we could. We were blessed with amazing weather, had some fun adventures, including holding a live baby alligator, and we even discovered the wonder that is Buc-ee's travel plazas. (You can read all about our experience here in the article I wrote for Parade.com!)

We've been home for a week now and I am still trying to get back into the swing of things, all while being crazy busy. There is less than a month until Alex heads off to college, we have VBS, Max's birthday and his first day of 1st grade....so much to plan and keep straight. But in all the chaos, I do have a new recipe for all of you.

Chicken Noodle Casserole is pure comfort food for those nights when you need to sink your teeth into something that will feed your soul. It is a great use for leftover chicken and uses my favorite store-bought noodles, Reames brand found in the frozen aisle. (That isn't a paid advertisement. I just love their noodles, and they are the closest thing to homemade I've ever tasted.)

If you are watching summer zoom by like us, wishing you could stop time in its tracks, take a little breather with a delicious casserole supper this week!

Chicken Noodle Casserole

What kind of chicken should I use? 

This recipe is perfect with leftover, shredded chicken, a deli rotisserie chicken or even canned chicken. 

Can I use other vegetables?

Absolutely! I think frozen corn, green beans or even broccoli would be delicious in this as well.

Can I use chicken broth instead of stock?

Sure! I happened to have stock on hand but broth will work just fine.

Do I have to use heavy cream?

This homemade cream sauce really needs the richness of the cream. Half-and-half might work, but I haven't tried it. 

Why the cracker topping?

The buttery crackers give the casserole an extra layer of flavor and texture. If you don't have Ritz on hand, Club crackers would be a great swap.  

 Best Tips:

Save some time and prepare the chicken ahead of time. I roasted some fresh tenders in the oven, shredded the meat, and had it in the fridge waiting on me. 

Reames noodles can be found in the frozen food aisle, usually near the other frozen pastas or breads.

If you need to double the recipe, be sure to use two different baking dishes. This casserole filled my deep dish 9x13. 

Serve with a side salad, fresh fruit or crusty bread.

I haven't tried to freeze this casserole, but I think if you prepared it, without the cracker topping, cooled it completely, then froze it, you could add the crackers and bake off when ready.

Chicken Noodle Casserole 

2 cups cooked, shredded chicken

1 (12 oz.) bag frozen egg noodles, such as Reames

1 (12 oz.) bag frozen peas and carrots

2 cups chicken stock

3/4 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup + 1 TBS butter

1/4 cup flour

15 butter crackers, like Ritz, crushed

 2 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 tsp onion powder

1 tsp. Italian seasoning

Salt and Pepper 

Preheat oven to 350. Cook noodles according to package directions. In a large skillet with high sides or Dutch oven, melt 1/4 cup butter over medium high heat. Cook garlic for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Whisk in flour and cook 2 minutes. Slowly pour in stock and cream, whisking constantly. Add Italian seasoning, onion powder, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook 5-7 minutes until slightly thickened. Add cooked chicken and frozen vegetables. Stir well. Cook until warmed through. When noodles are cooked, drain well. Add to skillet and stir to combine. Transfer to a greased 9x13 baking dish.

Melt 1 TBS butter and mix with crushed crackers. Sprinkle over top of casserole. Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown on top. 

Chicken Noodle Casserole

Inspired by The Recipe Rebel

Sunday, June 11, 2023

Celebrations Galore

So...did you think I fell off the face of the earth? That EMM was on hiatus? I can't say I blame you. I haven't posted a new recipe in a month, which in the 12 years since I've been blogging has only happened one other time. When Max was born. Pretty good reason I would say. And while this break didn't come with a new baby, the reason is still pretty darn great- our oldest Alex graduated from high school with academic honors! We couldn't be more proud of him and it definitely made May and the beginning of June a whirlwind of events and celebrations. 

Along with all the things that come with graduation, it was also the end of Max's first year of Kindergarten which comes with its own set of calendar filling occasions. Yes, that's right, this mommy had both a High School and Kindergarten Graduate. Not many parents get to say that! It has been a very special time and I just had to take a break from work.

But you can rest easy because the streak has been broken. We are now full swing into summer vacation, and while our busy schedule hasn't really slowed down any, I managed to carve out a day when I could cook something new, that we ended up LOVING, and now I can share with all of you. 

You know how much I love making meatballs in the Crock Pot and this version has probably moved to the top of our favorite list. Yes, probably because it is new but the amazing flavor didn't hurt either! 

Crock Pot Korean Meatballs cook in just a few hours and can be a main dish like this or a great appetizer for your next summer party! Just set the slow cooker to warm after they are cooked, put out a bowl of toothpicks and let everyone serve themselves.

I put these alongside some white rice (my boys' favorite) and steamed broccoli. A simple meal for a hectic evening that looks like you put way more effort into that you actually did. 

Our house is still riding on cloud nine from all the celebrations we've had over the past month. Our sons make us proud every single day, but to see your oldest, whom you've spent 18 years dedicating your life to,  cross that stage, receive his diploma and know "I DID THAT" is a feeling I can't even begin to put into words. 

I thank you for your patience as things here have been slow and your support as we move onto this next chapter of parenting...

Crock Pot Korean Meatballs

Why use frozen meatballs?

Anyone who has been reading my posts lately know I have been raving about the quality of frozen meatballs. Coming in different varieties such as Italian, turkey, homestyle and flame broiled, they have great flavor at great prices. Store brands that we've tried taste just as good as the more expensive name brands too.

What is hoisin sauce?

Hoisin sauce is a thick, fragrant Asian sauce used mostly to glaze meats. It has a dark color and a very salty, slightly sweet, flavor. It has been described as "Asian barbecue sauce". It can be found in the Asian foods aisle next to the soy sauce.

Can I use low-sodium soy sauce?

Yes, of course. But let me say this: When I'm using soy sauce in a recipe, I always use the regular. I want that extra salty flavor. Then I put low-sodium on the table for serving.

How long do to cook frozen meatballs in the Crock Pot?

A good rule of thumb for frozen meatballs in the slow cooker is 2-4 hours on low and 1-2 on high. Hence why they make such a great last minute meal idea or party food.

 Best Tips 

Be sure to stir the meatballs a few times while cooking to redistribute the sauce.

Homestyle meatballs have a great neutral flavor. You don't want Italian for this recipe. Turkey meatballs could definitely be substituted. 

These would be delicious served with fried rice as well. Here is my recipe

If you like things spicy, add some crushed red pepper or sriracha to the sauce. 

If serving these as a party food, reduce heat to warm after they have cooked, and set out a bowl of toothpicks and/or a slotted spoon. Let guests serve themselves!

Crock Pot Korean Meatballs 

1 (28 oz.) bag frozen homestyle meatballs

1 TBS brown sugar

2 TBS honey

2 TBS soy sauce

1/2 cup hoisin sauce

1 tsp. garlic powder

1/2 TBS rice wine vinegar

3-4 green onions, chopped

Sesame seeds

Place meatballs in Crock Pot. In a medium bowl stir together hoisin sauce, soy sauce, honey, vinegar, brown sugar and garlic powder.  Pour over meatballs. Cook on LOW 2-4 hours, stirring a few times during cooking to coat meatballs in sauce. Stir well before serving and garnish with green onions and sesame seeds.

Crock Pot Korean Meatballs

Inspired by Tornadough Alli

More Meatball Recipes To Try Next

Crock Pot French Onion Meatballs

Crock Pot Teriyaki Meatballs 

Crock Pot Italian Meatballs 

Crock Pot Swedish Meatballs 

Crock Pot Hawaiian Meatballs

Slow Cooker Meatball Subs 

Meatball Pasta Bake 

Sunday, May 7, 2023

Just In Time For Your First Summer Cookout

May has arrived bringing Mother's Day, Memorial Day, Graduation Season (yep, in only 3 weeks my first baby will walk across that stage and get his diploma) and of course, cookout/backyard barbecue season.  

Have you fired up the grill for the first time? Do you have plans for your first cookout, or maybe you've already been invited to one? Memorial Day is seen as the kickoff to summer, and it will be here before you know it. 

This recipe is sure to become your new go-to for a cookout take-along that everyone wants the recipe for. If you're hosting the gathering, you better really like every single person you invite, because after a plate of this, they are going to want to come back over and over. 

Mediterranean Pasta Salad is terrific for all your summer parties, picnics and outdoor suppers. It has to be made ahead to soak up all the flavor of the dressing, so you can assemble it totally last minute. It has some unique flavors you might have never though of for pasta salad, but I promise you will be blown away how well they play together. 

I am so excited for warm weather and all the fun outdoor activities that go with it. Pasta salad is always a hit no matter when or how you serve it, so I hope this one makes its way to your menu soon!

Why Add Dressing To Warm Pasta

When you mix the warm pasta with the Italian dressing, it acts like a sponge to soak up all that flavor. The longer it sits, the better the flavor. 

Do I Rinse The Pasta

No! Many pasta salad recipes call for rinsing under cold water and draining. Not this one! Simply drain and then leave warm. 

What Kind Of Veggies To Use

This recipe is great because the possibilities are endless when it comes to the vegetables to use. You could give it more of an Italian twist with black olives, red onion and cheese!

Where To Find Canned Artichokes and Hearts Of Palm

Both of these are normally on the canned vegetable aisle. In my store they are usually near the end of the selection, right next to each other. 

What Are Hearts Of Palm

If you've never had them, hearts of palm are a literally the inside of a palm tree. They have a slightly sweet, mild flavor. When canned, they are in a brine that is best rinsed off. They can be added to salads or eaten as is. My Hearts of Palm Salad is a delicious way to include them in your menu.

How To Store Leftover Pasta Salad

Mediterranean Pasta Salad will last 2-3 days in the fridge in a container with a tight fitting lid. You will want to stir every time you serve.

Best Tips

*Do not rinse pasta before adding dressing. You want the warm pasta to soak all the flavor up.

*Regular Italian dressing works fine too. I like the extra "zip" of the zesty.

*Sun-dried tomatoes can be found with the olives and pickles or on the canned tomato aisle.

*Any short-cut pasta would work: elbows, shells, rotini, etc.

 *Swap out the veggies for any you like. Some suggestions: Red onion, black olives, cherry tomatoes, green onions, sweet cherry peppers, red bell pepper, mushrooms.

Mediterranean Pasta Salad

Mediterranean Pasta Salad

1 lb. mini penne, cooked and drained

1 (16 oz.) bottle zesty Italian dressing

1 envelope Italian dressing dry mix

1 English cucumber, diced

1 (10 oz.) jar green olives, drained

1 (8 oz.) jar sun-dried tomatoes, chopped

1 (14 oz.) can whole artichokes, rinsed, drained and chopped

1 (14 oz.) can hearts of palm, rinsed, drained and chopped 

1 TBS dried parsley

In a medium bowl whisk together Italian dressing and dry Italian mix. When pasta is cooked and drained, add to a large bowl. Pour dressing over warm pasta and stir well. Chill for at least 3 hours or up to overnight. Just before serving, add all veggies and stir well. Sprinkle with parsley and serve. 

Mediterranean Pasta Salad

Inspired by South Your Mouth

Sunday, April 23, 2023

My Go-To In A New Way

 Do you ever see those questions on Facebook "What's your go-to meal when you too tired to cook? Or money is tight? Or you have $20 and have to feed 5 people, what are you making?" I'm sure you have. Any time I read one, the same answer always pops into my head. Goulash. 

If you've been a fan here for any length of time, you know my recipe is about as easy as it comes, and isn't my recipe at all. It is how my mom made it, and her mom before her. It's simple, quick and cheap. Oh, and like I've said before, it is how my husband's grandma made it too, so it happens to be a recipe he grew up with as well. 

Goulash is one of those meals every family has a recipe for, and each one varies from the next. People will "throw down" that their way is the best,  and take it very seriously. What's funniest to me, is what we Americans call goulash almost always never is. Not in the traditional way that it began anyway. That's okay though, we can all have our favorite and call it whatever we want!

This version came to be when I wanted to make my go-to, but had some fresh mushrooms and shredded cheese I need to use up. (I HATE throwing food out!)  

I thought my basic goulash recipe could really be jazzed up with some sautéed mushrooms, ooey gooey mozzarella and baked in the oven. Boy was I right! This was DELISH! The boys couldn't eat it fast enough and it was even yummy warmed up the next day for my lunch. 

You could easily leave the mushrooms out, or maybe add some veggies you have in the crisper drawer that have been ignored a little too long. Zucchini, peppers or eggplant would be great too! 

Baked Goulash is a new twist on an old family favorite that might have happened on a whim, but will definitely become part of our regular rotation now. 

What Is Goulash?

Goulash is actually a Hungarian stew of meat and vegetables seasoned with paprika and other spices. The Americanized version varies a lot among families. Many of us consider goulash a pasta dish with elbow macaroni, ground beef and spaghetti sauce. Some people also refer to this as American Chop Suey!

What Kind Of Meat Goes In Goulash?

As stated above, ground beef is the #1 choice for many goulash recipes, but it is also a great one to swap for ground turkey or chicken to save a few calories! Pork sausage would be delicious in this recipe too! You could do plain, Italian or even hot for an extra kick.

What Kind Of Mushrooms?

I used sliced white button mushrooms because I had them on hand. Baby portobellos would also be very nice in this and hold up to baking very well. You can also substitute the mushrooms for other veggies if you wish.

What Kind Of Cheese?

Shredded mozzarella is perfect for this. Fresh or pre-shredded work fine. You could also use a shredded Italian cheese blend, pizza blend or even provolone.  

What Kind Of Pasta For Goulash?

Traditionally most of us make goulash with elbow macaroni, so I used that here too. Any short cut pasta would work though- small shells, rotini or even mini penne.

Baked Goulash

Baked Goulash

1 lb. elbow macaroni

1 lb. ground beef

8 oz. sliced white button mushrooms

1 (24 oz.) jar spaghetti sauce with meat

6 garlic cloves, minced

1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped

8 oz shredded mozzarella cheese

2 TBS grated Parmesan/Romano cheese 

1 TBS Italian seasoning

2 TBS olive oil

2 tsp. dried parsley

Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350. Cook macaroni until al dente. In a large skillet sauté mushrooms in olive oil over medium high heat until browned. Remove to plate. In same skillet brown beef with onion and garlic until no longer pink. Drain if necessary. Return mushrooms to skillet. Add spaghetti sauce and stir well. Season with Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. When pasta is cooked, drain well. Add to meat mixture. Grease 9x13 baking dish. In the bottom, add half of the pasta mixture. Top with 1 cup mozzarella cheese and Parmesan cheese. Layer in other half pasta mixture. Top with remaining mozzarella cheese. Bake for 20-25 minutes until heated through and cheese is melted. Sprinkle with parsley before serving.

Baked Goulash

 Best Tips

When sautéing mushrooms, don't add salt until they are very brown. Salt pulls moisture out of them and they will stem instead of getting brown with a rich flavor. 

Ground turkey or chicken could be used instead of ground beef. 

Use your favorite spaghetti sauce brand and flavor. 

We like a Parmesan and Romano blend, but plain Parm will work too. 

Serve with garlic bread, tossed salad, fresh fruit or a nice crusty baguette.

More Pasta Bake Recipes



Sunday, April 16, 2023

Don't Skip The Frozen Food Aisle

We all wish we could cook meals from scratch every day of the week, giving our families something made from the heart that we can feel proud of. But let's face it, that kind of cooking doesn't fit into most or our lives. Sure, there are times when we can take the time to do it, and it is such a treat when we can, but most days we all need to take advantage of convenience items from the store to make supper time a little easier.

If you haven't bought a bag of frozen meatballs lately, let me tell you I am a big fan.  They come in all different varieties and range in prices depending if you're going for name brand or store brand. (I have used both and in my opinion, there isn't a big difference between them in flavor, only in price, just FYI.)

Sure, making homemade meatballs is awesome, almost an art form, but just not something I have the time or patience for most days. Frozen meatballs work just fine for my recipes and my family, and I am 100% okay with admitting that. 

Plus, since a lot of my recipes using them cook in the Crock Pot, they are even more perfect! They can go from freezer to slow cooker, with no thawing, and come out delicious every time. (You can find a few of those recipes at the bottom of this post!)

A friend told me about this recipe when we were talking about how controversial using condensed soups has become. That is a conversation for another day, but whew...people feel very strongly about it! She mentioned she loved using the French Onion variety for a great meatball recipe and I had to know more! That's when she hit me with the best detail! This recipe only has TWO ingredients. I will wait while you gather yourself....

Now, I added some fresh parsley for color and served them over some buttered egg noodles, so that added to my shopping list, but not much, and still kept things pretty budget-friendly. 

The meatballs suck up all that yummy French onion flavor and come out tender, moist and oh so good! And the noodles just love to have some of the cooking liquid poured down over them. A simple, comfort food meal any night of the week! 

If you've been walking past the frozen meatballs at the grocery store, stop and take a look and see what inspiration comes to you!

What Kind Of Meatballs To Use

For this recipe you want a bag of meatballs labeled "homestyle", not the Italian variety. 

What Kind Of Soup To Use

You can find canned French Onion Soup right next to the other condensed soups. Some stores might not carry it, but I can find it easily at Walmart

Do I Have To Thaw The Meatballs

Absolutely not! Dump that bag right into the Crock Pot, pour over the soup and you're done. As the meatballs thaw, they will add some moisture to the soup, replacing the water you would normally add, making a delicious sauce/gravy.

How To Serve French Onion Meatballs

I served these over some buttered egg noodles, but they would also be delicious sitting on top of some steamed rice. You could even serve them as a party appetizer- just sit a bowl of toothpicks or a slotted spoon next to the Crock Pot.

Crock Pot French Onion Meatballs

Crock Pot French Onion Meatballs

1 (32 oz.) bag frozen homestyle meatballs

3 (10 oz.) cans French onion soup

For serving:

Fresh parsley, chopped

2 TBS butter

1 (16 oz.) bag egg noodles, cooked and drained 

Add frozen meatballs to Crock Pot. Pour soup over. Stir well. Cook on low for 4 hours until heated through. When ready to serve, mix cooked egg noodles with better. Serve meatballs and sauce on top of noodles. Garnish with parsley. 

Crock Pot French Onion Meatballs
Shared at Weekend Potluck

Best Tips

Italian meatballs have extra spices and herbs that wouldn't pair well with the soup flavor.

After 4 hours, these will stay on the warm setting for a couple more hours nicely.

These would also be delicious served with steamed rice or mashed potatoes.

Frozen meatballs are usually next to the frozen egg rolls, lasagna, etc. in the grocery store.

I think store brand meatballs taste the same as name brand. The ones used for this recipe and photo were Great Value from Walmart


More Meatball Recipes

Crock Pot Italian Meatballs 

Meatball Pasta Bake 

 Crock Pot Hawaiian Meatballs

Crock Pot Teriyaki Meatballs 

Crock Pot Swedish Meatballs 

Crock Pot Meatball Subs


Sunday, April 2, 2023

Spring Break 2023

 Yes, the time we've been looking forward to since Christmas vacation ended is finally here. Spring Break, baby! With as excited as I am you might think we are jetting off to some warm, sunny, tropical beach, but alas no. We will be spending this time off at home, hanging out, the teenager working, fun things with the little guy, and of course celebrating Easter next week. But we are just looking forward to mornings without alarm clocks, extra time together and a relaxing week. 

Of course I have some yummy things on the menu this week too, and even though we just had them a couple weeks ago, I think these Walking Taco Nachos might need to happen again! They were a huge hit with the boys, super easy and would be great for one of the movie nights we have planned. 

Based off the walking tacos you probably had in the school cafeteria or county fair, instead of all the taco bits being in a bag of corn chips, I've transformed the same idea to a big sheet pan of nachos.

This is one of those recipes where you can start with my version and then go from there making it totally your own. You can cook the base, put out a big toppings bar and let everyone build their perfect plate. Great for a hungry crowd, especially if the crowd includes kids! A simple supper for Taco Tuesday, fun meal for Cinco de Mayo, or tasty game day food. 

If you get to enjoy spring break in the sun, watching the waves crash on the shore, lucky you. But if you're like us and trying to make the most of a stay-cation, make sure your week includes some delicious, and maybe even fun, food! 

Walking Taco Nachos

What Is A Walking Taco

Named for how easily you can walk around while eating it, walking tacos have been popular fair food for years. A small bag of corn chips is opened and then topped with taco meat, lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, etc. Over the years they have also become a school cafeteria staple.  

What Kind Of Chips To Use

For these nachos I used corn chips instead of tortilla chips to keep with walking taco tradition. I used regular ones, but the big "scoop" style would be great too. 

What Toppings Are Best For Walking Taco Nachos

When it comes time to add toppings to these nachos, the sky is the limit! Use whatever you love on tacos or nachos and pile them high!

Why Less Water For The Taco Meat

For this recipe I cut back on the amount of water normally called for with taco seasoning. I wanted to make sure it wasn't extra wet to keep the chips from getting soggy.

Walking Taco Nachos

Walking Taco Nachos

2 bags corn chips

1 lb. ground beef

1 envelope taco seasoning

1/2 cup water

2 cups Mexican style shredded cheese


Diced Tomatoes

Pickled Jalapeños

 Preheat oven to 350. In a large skillet brown beef until no longer pink. Add water and taco seasoning. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer. Cook until thickened, about 5 minutes. Keep warm. Add chips to large rimmed baking sheet. Top with taco meat. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake in oven for 10 minutes until cheese has melted. Remove and top with lettuce, tomatoes, jalapeños etc. 

Walking Taco Nachos
Shared at Weekend Potluck

Best Tips

Regular or large corn chips both work for this recipe.

Remember to cut back on the water a little to avoid extra moisture.

Other cheeses to try:  pepper jack, queso blanco, sharp cheddar, triple cheddar

Other topping ideas: diced avocado, sliced black olives. taco sauce, salsa. pico de gallo, sour cream


Other Mexican Recipes To Try

Queso Chili Mac 

Creamy Taco Soup 

Fiesta Taco Rice Bake 

Taco Rice Skillet 

Crock Pot Taco Soup

Taco Spaghetti 

Smothered Burritos 



Sunday, March 26, 2023

Easter Must-Have From The Dairy

 Since I began blogging, almost 12 years ago, I have been blessed to work with countless companies and organizations. One on that list that brings me the most pride is most definitely Indiana Dairy Farmers. 

Years ago I did a monthly post for them and through that I got to know one very special local dairy farm run by the Kuehnert family. 

Kuehnert Dairy Farm


The Kuehnert Dairy Farm is celebrating 125 years of "bottling memories" (their words, not mine) and I am so incredibly proud to know this family and the work they do on the farm is amazing. The 5th generation is carrying on the family tradition and there are some big things happening on the farm!

Kuehnert Dairy Farm

Every fall the Kuehnerts open their 1200-acre farm up to the public for their annual Fall Festival, and I can tell you it is some of the best fun you will have in a corn maze, plus so much more! Both of my boys have enjoyed it and our little guy can NOT wait to go back this year! It will run from September 15-October 29, 2023 and I can tell you it is already on our calendar!

Kuehnert Dairy Farm Fall Festival

In 2023 the Kuehnert Milk House will be opening! This on-farm store will be offering the freshest milk and dairy products around; and I can NOT wait!

Kuehnert Milk House
So when my friend Sarah posted the Kuehnert family macaroni and cheese recipe, I asked her if I could share it with my readers. It was an extra cheesy, custard style old fashioned mac and cheese, unlike any other I've ever made, and I told her it would be perfect for an Easter side dish! 

This macaroni and cheese has not one, not two, but THREE cheeses for extra ooey gooey factor. My boys gobbled this down and asked for more.
I know so many families include a great mac and cheese on their Easter menu, and this one would be so tasty with that big glazed ham. But honestly, it's easy enough for any night of the week too! 
If you are in my area, I hope you will check out the Kuehnert Dairy site, maybe schedule a tour with a school class, plan a trip to the fall festival and visit the milk house when it opens. This is a great family doing great things for our community. We *heart* our dairy farmers!
What Kind Of Cheese To Use 
This recipe calls for three different cheeses, and it is a great way to use up whatever you have in the fridge. I used cheddar, cheddar jack and mozzarella for an extra smooth flavor. 

Do I Have To Boil The Macaroni First
Yes, for this recipe the elbows have to be cooked to just al dente before baked. If you're looking for a no-boil recipe, I have one of those too, just scroll down to the end of the page!

Should I Shred My Own Cheese
When it comes to shredded cheese in a bag, people have strong opinions. If I am making a homemade cheese sauce I always shred my own, but for a recipe like this, I don't have any issues using pre-shredded.

Can I Use Milk In Place Of Evaporated Milk

The simple answer is no. Evaporated milk has a thicker texture than regular and therefore can't be swapped same for same. If you need to substitute it, try 3/4 cup whole milk mixed with 1/4 cup half-and-half. This recipe actually uses both evaporated and regular, and both are needed for the best texture.

Baked Three-Cheese Macaroni

Best Tips

Make sure to not overcook the macaroni. You want a little bite left (al dente) so it can finish cooking in the oven.

Don't try to use all regular milk. The evaporated milk really helps to make this extra creamy.

Use any combo of cheeses you like, that add up to 6 cups total. 

This is great frozen too. Bake, cool and cut into individual portions to reheat later.  

You can also prepare this in the Crock Pot. Mix all ingredients except 1/2 cup cheese and paprika in a greased Crock Pot. Add cheese and paprika. Cook on low for 3 hours.

Baked Three-Cheese Macaroni

 Baked Three-Cheese Macaroni

8 oz. elbow macaroni

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

2 cups shredded cheddar-jack cheese

2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

1 (12 oz.) can evaporate milk

1 1/2 cups milk

1/4 cup butter, melted

2 eggs, beaten

Salt and Pepper

Dash of paprika

Fresh parsley, for garnish

Preheat oven to 350. Cook macaroni to al dente and drain well. In a large bowl combine pasta with all other ingredients. Stir well. Transfer to a greased 9x13 baking dish. Cook for 50 minutes until set. Garnish with fresh parsley if desired. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Baked Three-Cheese Macaroni
Shared at Weekend Potluck


More Mac and Cheese Recipes To Try

Sheet Pan Macaroni and Cheese

No-Boil Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Copycat Cracker Barrel Macaroni and Cheese

Pub Macaroni and Cheese

Stove-Top Creamy Macaroni and Cheese 

Mac and Cheese Cupcakes 

Queso Chili Mac 

Creamy Baked Mac and Cheese

Sunday, March 19, 2023

Thanks, Mrs. T

 We are huge pierogi fans in our house, and I am always looking for new ways to include them in our weekly meal plan. They are sort of a "new" thing for us, since I only started making them a couple years ago. They just weren't something I grew up with, and never thought to try. So, what changed you ask. 

Thanks to a foodie/blogging relationship with the great folks at Mrs. T's frozen pierogies, these little pillows of potato and cheese goodness are now a permanent part of our family's cuisine. 

Now, if you love to make homemade, or want to try, there are a thousand recipes out there for them and I fully support that approach. But for me, being able to grab a couple boxes out of the frozen food section, knowing I can have them on the table in almost no time, works for me. 

I use Mrs. T's for my Loaded Pierogi Skillet, which has quickly become a go-to 20 minute side dish for busy weeknights. And now I have a brand new recipe that we love just as much, thanks to inspiration from my friends at Mrs. T's. 

Combining their mini four-cheese medley pierogies with a buttery buffalo sauce is a GENIUS idea for a tasty appetizer for your next party, snacking while watching March Madness this week, or a side dish with a little kick perfect any night of the week. All the flavors of buffalo wings, but in a yummy dumpling.

I am so thankful we discovered pierogies, even if we were a little late to the party; and even more grateful for the opportunities to team up with a fantastic company any chance I get!

Buffalo Mini Pierogies


What Are Pierogies

Put simply, pierogies are filled dumplings. They can be savory or sweet, but the most popular fillings are potato, cheese, onions and cabbage.

Where Can I Buy Mrs. T's Frozen Pierogies

If you've never seen them before, Mrs. T's can be found in the frozen food section of your grocery store, usually close to the frozen pastas. 

What Kind Of Hot Sauce To Use

For this recipe I used a basic cayenne hot sauce, similar to Frank's Red Hot. But feel free to use any flavor or brand you like. 

Can I Make Pierogies In The Air Fryer 

YES! For this recipe, follow the directions but instead of baking in the oven, place the pierogies in the air fryer basket and cook at 400 for 12-14 minutes, flipping halfway through.

Buffalo Mini Pierogies

 Best Tips

Melt butter over low heat to avoid scorching.

No need to thaw pierogies.

Don't forget to turn halfway through cooking so they don't burn.

Save any leftover buffalo sauce mixture to baste on the pierogies when they come out of the oven.

Serve with blue cheese, ranch or your favorite dipping sauce.

If serving as an appetizer, include toothpicks or skewers so people can help themselves.


Buffalo Mini Pierogies

1 box mini 4-cheese medley pierogies

4 TBS butter, melted

1/2 cup hot sauce

1/2 tsp chili powder

Green onions, chopped, for garnish

Blue cheese dressing and crumbles, for serving

Carrots and celery, for serving

Preheat oven to 400. In a large skillet, melt butter over low heat. Add hot sauce and chili powder. Stir well. Toss with frozen pierogies. Transfer to a large baking sheet coated in nonstick spray. Bake for 16-18 minutes until browned, turning halfway through. When cooked, baste pierogies with extra sauce. Sprinkle with green onions. Serve with blue cheese and veggies. 

Buffalo Mini Pierogies

More Easy Side Dish Recipes

Souper Rice

Cafeteria Noodles

Sheet Pan Macaroni and Cheese 

Easy Corn Casserole 

Garlic Parmesan Roasted Potatoes 

Red Potato Salad 

Broccoli Grape Salad

Shared at Weekend Potluck


Sunday, March 5, 2023

Not Really A Recipe

 If your schedule is as out of control busy as ours, a meal you can truly assemble more than actually cook might just save your week! 

Sure each component of this copycat recipe has to be cooked, steamed or heated up, but they all be done at the same time and in almost no time at all. 

Copycat KFC Famous Bowls are comfort food perfect for a hectic weeknight. Plus, the kids can help with them, they are great if everyone is eating at different times and everyone can customize theirs. 

The famous bowl at KFC has been a huge hit for years, but they aren't always available in every area. So now you can make them at home whenever that craving hits! 

A complete meal in one bowl, every bite has some protein, veg, starch and of course gravy. Quick, simple and on the table in about the time it takes to bake some frozen popcorn chicken! 

Don't let supper time stress you out! Assemble some KFC bowls and dinner is done! 

What Is In A KFC Famous Bowl

These bowls are filled with individual portions of their famous mashed potatoes, crispy chicken, gravy, corn gravy and cheese. 

Can I Get A KFC Famous Bowl Without Corn

I am pretty sure most KFC locations will leave the corn off if you wish, but if you're making them at home, you can make them any way you want!

What Kind Of Chicken For Copycat KFC Bowls

I used frozen popcorn chicken for the size and convenience factor. Chicken nuggets and tenders would work too, just chop them up. You could even use some leftover fried chicken, or lighten it up with shredded rotisserie chicken.

Why Beef Gravy

Simple. It is what KFC serves. They don't have chicken gravy, but I think it would be great in this. Or even some white country gravy could be swapped. 

Instant Potatoes vs Homemade

No, I am not a fan of instant potatoes either, so if you want to make some homemade and use those, go for it. Or if you have some leftover, this would be a great way to keep from throwing them out. But KFC does use instant ones, so this is authentic. And, the quality of them have come a long way since I was a kid, and adding the butter, salt and pepper really does help.


Copycat KFC Famous Bowls

Best Tips

Have all the ingredients warming/cooking at the same time so you can assemble everything when done.

Popcorn chicken, nuggets or tenders can all be used.

Chicken or white gravy can be used in place of beef.

Shredded triple cheddar would be delicious too.

Serve with a salad on the side for a complete meal.



Copycat KFC Famous Bowls 

3 (4 oz.) pouches butter instant mashed potatoes

1 (12 oz.) bag frozen steamable corn

2 lbs. frozen popcorn chicken

1 (18 oz.) jar beef gravy

1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

2 TBS butter

4-6 cups water

Salt and Pepper

Preheat oven to 400. Place chicken on a baking sheet. Only make the amount you need for each bowl, about 7 pieces each. Bake 10 minutes, or according to package directions. Prepare potatoes according to directions, add butter and season with salt and pepper. In a small saucepan, warm gravy on stove over medium-low heat. Steam corn in microwave according to directions. When chicken is done, gather all ingredients and build each bowl: potatoes, gravy, corn, chicken and sprinkle with cheese.

Copycat KFC Famous Bowls

More Copycat Recipes To Try

Copycat Bob Evans Chicken and Noodles

Copycat Olive Garden Fettuccine Alfredo

Copycat Applebee's Oriental Chicken Salad

Copycat Pizza Hut Cavatini

Copycat Panera Broccoli Cheese Soup

Copycat Texas Roadhouse Green Beans

Copycat Dole Whip

Copycat Olive Garden Chicken Gnocchi Soup

Copycat Wendy's Chili


 Shared at Weekend Potluck

Sunday, February 26, 2023

A Little Mexican With Your Pasta

When I can combine two of our favorite foods, or cuisines, into one dish, I feel like a complete genius. I want to stand in front of the dinner table and declare "Look at what I have created, family!" Of course I don't, but it definitely gives me joy to find new ways to give my boys meals I know they already love, in a brand new way.

Back when I first made Taco Spaghetti, man they thought I was a rock star, so a few weeks ago when I was trying to think of a new pasta, or maybe even a new macaroni and cheese recipe, I could have easily said forget it, made taco spaghetti and called it a day. But of course I couldn't turn off my brain, went to Google to see what others were doing and didn't stop until I had inspiration for a brand new dish.

How can I describe this? Think Hamburger Helper, but on a whole new level. Think macaroni and cheese, but delicious Mexican flavors. It's super cheesy, has a little kick and can be on the table in about 30 minutes. Win. Win. Win.

Queso Chili Mac is sure to become a regular on our weekly meal rotation, and I am guessing after one bite, you will decide the same!

What Can Of Pasta To Use

I like small shells for this recipe, but any short cut pasta would work: elbows, rotini or orecchiette.

Where To Find Fajita Seasoning

You will find this seasoning packet in one of two places in the grocery store. Either in the Latin foods section with the other taco shells and sauces, or in the seasoning packet section with the gravy mixes. You can also use taco seasoning instead.

What Kind Of Queso To Use

You can use your favorite salsa con queso in this recipe, and switch it up for different varieties. I want to try white queso next!

Can I Add Other Ingredients

Absolutely! Instead of using pickled jalapeños for a toppings, dice some up instead. Or for extra heat, fresh peppers! Sliced black olives or black beans would be great too.

Queso Chili Mac

 Best Tips

Ground turkey could easily be swapped out for ground beef.

Taco seasoning can be used in place of fajita seasoning.

Don't over cook the pasta, it will cook a little more once added to the beef mixture.

You could take this mixture, transfer to a casserole dish, top with shredded cheese and have a brand new pasta bake!

Any short cut pasta will work.

Queso Chili Mac

Queso Chili Mac

1 lb. shell pasta

1 lb. ground beef

1 (15 oz.) can petite diced tomatoes, drained

1 (4 oz.) can diced green chilies

1 packet fajita seasoning

1/2 cup water

1 (15 oz.) jar salsa con queso

Salt and Pepper 

Shredded Cheese

Pickled Jalapeño Peppers

Cook shells according to package directions. While they cook, brown beef in a large skillet until no longer pink. Drain if needed. Mix in seasoning and water. Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer. Cook 5-7 minutes until thickened. Add tomatoes, chilies, salt and pepper. Stir well. When pasta is cooked, drain well. Add to skillet. Pour queso over shells and beef. Stir to combine. Serve immediately with shredded cheese and pickled jalapeños if desired.

Queso Chili Mac

 Inspired by Sweet Little Bluebird


More Pasta Recipes To Try Next 

Philly Cheesesteak Pasta Skillet 

Sheet Pan Macaroni and Cheese 

Spinach and Mushroom Tortellini Bake 

Easy Baked Ziti 

Cheese Tortellini Alfredo

Meatball Pasta Bake 

Baked Spaghetti

Copycat Pizza Hut Cavatini 


Shared at Weekend Potluck