Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese

2 c. macaroni
1/4 c. butter
2 Tbs. flour
1 c. milk
1 c. shredded cheese
dash garlic powder
1/2 tsp. dry mustard powder
1/2 tsp. salt

Boil pasta until done, drain. In the microwave or on the stovetop, melt butter. Whisk in the flour. Slowly whisk in the milk. Heat and stir until thick, then add the cheese and seasonings. Add cooked macaroni. 


Hawaiian Haystacks

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size chunks (or leftover cooked chicken, cubed)
3 tablespoons butter
½ onion (about ½ cup), finely chopped
3 cloves garlic; finely minced
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
¼ cup flour
2 cups milk
1 cup chicken broth

cooked rice

In a large skillet melt the butter over medium heat and add the onion and raw chicken (if using leftover cooked chicken, don’t add it to the skillet now, you’ll add it later). Saute the onion and chicken, if using, until the onions are soft and translucent and the chicken is cooked through, about 5 to 6 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for about one minute, stirring, until fragrant.

Sprinkle the flour over the onions and chicken and stir to combine. Cook over medium heat for one minute – this helps get rid of the starchy, flour taste. Slowly whisk in the milk and chicken broth. Cook, stirring constantly with a whisk, and bring the sauce to a simmer over medium to medium-high heat. Add the salt and pepper. If you are using leftover cooked chicken, add it now. Continue simmering, stirring the sauce frequently, until the sauce has thickened, about 5-8 minutes.

Serve the chicken sauce over rice with your toppings of choice, such as chow mein noodles, shredded cheese, pineapple tidbits, carrots, celery, green onions, coconut, tomatoes, etc.

from Mel's Kitchen Cafe

Sour Cream Muffins

1 3/4 cups (8.75 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg (it's very subtle)
1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream
1/2 cup (3.75 ounces) granulated sugar
1/2 cup coconut oil or butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat a 12-cup muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray or line with muffin liners.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt and nutmeg.
In a liquid measuring cup or in a separate bowl, whisk together the sour cream, granulated sugar, coconut oil, vanilla and eggs.
Pour the wet ingredients into the center of the dry and using a rubber spatula or large spoon, fold and mix until just incorporated (no overmixing unless you want dense, dry muffins!). The batter will be on the thick side of things.
Fill the muffin tins evenly, 1/2 to 2/3 full, and bake for 14-16 minutes until the top lightly springs back to the touch.

from Mel's Kitchen Cafe

Sheet Pan Roasted Sausage and Veggies

This is a super quick, easy, and delicious dinner. It's very customizable!

chicken sausage, sliced (we like Aidell's chicken & apple/pineapple)
assorted vegetables: green beans, asparagus, onions, peppers, potatoes, squash, broccoli, tomatoes, etc.
olive oil
fresh ground pepper
other seasonings if desired: italian seasoning, rosemary, thyme, dill, parmesan, etc.

Preheat oven to 400*. Spread sausage and vegetables on sheet pan. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt, fresh ground pepper, and any additional seasonings. Toss to coat. Bake for 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Turn over mid-bake if you remember!


Baked French Fries

6 Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into thick fries
1 tablespoon white sugar
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon garlic powder, or more to taste
1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
1 teaspoon ground black pepper, or more to taste

Preheat oven to 425. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil; spray with cooking spray.
Place sliced potatoes in a colander; sprinkle sugar over potatoes. Set aside until liquid is released from potatoes, 20 to 30 minutes. Drain liquid and dry potatoes well.
Mix potato slices, olive oil, garlic powder, salt, and black pepper in a resealable bag until evenly coated. Spread coated potato slices in a single layer, leaving space around each potato, on the prepared baking sheet.
Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes; flip fries and continue baking until crisp and browned, about 20 more minutes.

Macaroni Salad

1 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons vinegar
1 tablespoon mustard
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/2 lb macaroni, cooked and drained
1 cup sliced celery
1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
1/2 cup chopped red pepper
1/2 cup chopped red onion

Combine dressing ingredients. Stir into remaining ingredients. Cover and chill.

Blackberry Crisp

1 1/2 cups quick oats
1 cup flour
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, cut up

8-10 cups (24-36 oz) fresh blackberries (or raspberries, blueberries, etc)
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup flour
1 Tbs lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350. In a medium bowl, whisk together the oats, flour, brown sugar, and salt. Add the butter and cut it into the dry ingredients with a pastry blender until the mixture is crumbly and the butter is evenly cut in. Set aside.

In another bowl, add the blackberries, sugar, flour and lemon juice. Stir until combined. Lightly grease a 9x13-inch pan and spread the fruit mixture on the bottom. Sprinkle the crisp topping evenly over the top.

Bake for 45 minutes until the fruit is bubbly and the crisp topping is golden (add time, if needed). Remove from the oven and let the fruit crisp rest for 10-15 minutes before serving (the fruit layer will thicken as it cools). Serve warm or at room temperature with ice cream or sweetened, whipped cream, if desired.

via Mel's Kitchen Cafe


Delicious Homemade Tomato Soup

It hardly seems possible that such a simple recipe could make something so divine, but this soup is to die for!

4 Tbs butter
1/2 large onion, cut into pieces
2-3 cloves garlic, peeled
2 (14.5 oz) cans Italian stewed tomatoes
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 tsp salt

Melt butter over medium heat in a medium sized saucepan. Add onion, garlic, tomatoes, broth, and salt. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low and simmer for 40 minutes, uncovered. Blend with an immersion blender, or in batches in a regular blender. Makes about 1 quart (3-4 servings).


Dicie's Greek Christmas Cookies (Kourambiethes)

1 cup butter, room temperature
1 egg yolk
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp lemon juice
2 cups flour
Additional powdered sugar for coating

Preheat oven to 350*. Place butter in bowl and whip until light and fluffy, about 10-15 min. Add egg yolk and blend with butter. Add in 1/4 c. powdered sugar, vanilla, and lemon juice. Add flour and mix until soft dough is formed. Use more flour as needed. Form small 1" balls of dough and place on baking sheet. Flatten slightly by pressing finger into center. Bake for 20 min. or until cookies are lightly golden brown. Remove from oven and, when cool enough to handle, sprinkle or toss in powdered sugar.

Adapted from lemonandolives.com


Homemade Taco Seasoning

I'm really fond of the seasonings in The Best Ground Beef Taco Filling, so I wanted to try having a larger quantity of it to have on hand for that recipe, as well as any other that calls for taco seasoning. Homemade is just tastier and cheaper than the store bought packets!

3 Tbs chili powder
2 Tbs ground cumin
2 Tbs ground coriander
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder

Combine and store in an airtight spice container.

Grandma's Buttermilk Pancakes

My mom's pancakes really are the best in the whole wide world! She's been making them as long as I remember.

2 eggs
2 cup buttermilk
2 Tbs sugar
2 Tbs vegetable oil
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 - 2 cups flour

Combine. Heat griddle to 350* and pour 1/4 cup of batter at a time to form pancakes. Makes 16-20 pancakes.


Mexican Jambalaya

This is a tasty way to use up some leftover rice! It's really flexible, just add whatever you have on hand and season to taste.

1 Tbs oil
1/2 onion, diced or sliced as desired
green or red pepper, diced (opt.)
   (other vegetables optional: zucchini, etc.)
1 can diced tomatoes, diced tomatoes with green chilies (or 1 1/2 cups salsa*)
1 can black beans, rinsed
1 can corn or hominy, rinsed
shredded chicken, opt.
2-3 cups cooked rice (we prefer brown)
chili powder* to taste
cumin* to taste
salt and pepper to taste
*if using salsa, may not need as much seasoning

Saute the onion and vegetables in the oil. Add the tomatoes and cook off some of the liquid (or add the salsa). Add the beans, corn/hominy, and rice. Stir and cook until heated through.


Meringue Cookies

Make these whenever you have egg whites leftover after using the yolks!

3 large egg whites
1 1/2 tsp vanilla*
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
dash of salt
2/3 cup sugar

Place egg whites in a small bowl; let stand at room temperature 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 250°. 

Add vanilla, cream of tartar and salt to egg whites; beat on medium speed until foamy. Gradually add sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating on high after each addition until sugar is dissolved. Continue beating until stiff glossy peaks form, about 7 minutes.

Using a pastry bag and a large tip, pipe cookies about 2 in. apart onto parchment lined baking sheets. 

Bake 40-45 minutes. Turn off oven (do not open oven door); leave meringues in oven 1 hour. Remove from oven; cool completely on baking sheets. Remove meringues from paper; store in an airtight container at room temperature. Yield: about 5 dozen.

*Alternative flavors:
- Use 2 tsp fresh lemon zest, 1 tsp fresh lemon juice, and 1/2 tsp. vanilla.
- Instead of vanilla, use 3 Tbs of any flavor of Jello gelatin.
- Before piping, barely fold in melted chocolate, nutella, caramel, raspberry, etc. for a swirled effect.
- Try changing up the colors, tips, and piping techniques.


Chicken Salad Sandwiches

Everyone has their own way of making chicken salad, but this is how I like it (measurements are approximate):

1 lb. chicken, cut up or shredded (rotisserie is the best!)
2 stalks celery, diced
1/2 cup red onion, chopped
1/2 apple, diced
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
1 cup mayonnaise
1-2 tsp. lemon juice


Stovetop Meat and Veggies in Sauce METHOD

This is a METHOD for a quick, healthy, and delicious stovetop meal. By method, I mean it is easy to customize and change it up! Choose your desired meat, then slice up your choice of vegetables, add a sauce, and you're on your way.

1. Start with your choice of meat: chicken, pork, beef, fish. You can use frozen chicken tenderloins, they defrost and cook through quickly. Avoid using overly-thick cuts of meat. Season both sides of meat with salt and pepper (or play around with other seasonings like lemon-pepper, fajita seasoning, etc). If desired you can add breading to your meat by dipping in egg then bread crumbs or just flour.

2. Slice up your vegetables: onions, mushrooms, green/red peppers, asparagus, carrots, green beans, zucchini, broccoli, etc, etc. Choose as many or as few veggies as you like.

3. Choose a liquid for your sauce: chicken, beef, or vegetable broth, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, etc. Pour 1/3 to 2/3 cup liquid into a glass measuring cup or bowl (use less liquid for a smaller pan, more for a bigger pan).

4. Choose an add-in for your sauce for a boost of flavor: minced/pressed garlic, grated ginger, minced onion, herbs, lemon zest, etc. Stir your add-in's into the prepared liquid. You can dress up your sauce as much as you like. (Ideas: Use this teriyaki marinade as a sauce. Add some maple syrup and garlic to balsamic vinegar. Chicken broth, garlic, and lemon zest would pair well with fish or chicken.) 

5. In a saute pan, heat a tablespoon or two of olive oil over medium heat. Once heated, add the meat. Place the vegetables over the meat, then pour the liquid over the meat and veggies. Sprinkle with a little salt and fresh ground pepper. Cover and cook until the meat is done on one side (the time will depend on the type and thickness of the meat, but anywhere from 5-10 minutes or so). Uncover and turn the meat. Continue cooking uncovered until the meat is cooked through (time and internal temperature will depend on the meat).

6. Remove the meat to a serving dish to rest. Continue cooking the vegetables in the liquid until the liquid has reduced at least by half and you have a nice sauce. Pour the vegetables and sauce over your meat and serve! 

You could easily serve this over cooked brown or white rice, but it's delicious on its own as well. Add a nice green salad and you have a complete meal!


Favorite Purple Veggie Juice for One

2 stalks celery
1 cucumber
1 fuji apple
1 small lemon (or 1/2 large)
thumbnail size knob of ginger
6 oz carrots
4 oz. spinach
1/2 beet
1/2 beet greens

Juice in juicer. Makes 3 cups. About 220 calories.


Crock Pot Santa Fe Chicken

I typically don't use my crock pot. Crock pot cooking, while simple, requires thinking ahead which is not my strong point! Besides, I am often unimpressed by the final slow-cooked result. Well, this recipe might have changed my mind.

24 oz (1 1/2 lbs) chicken breasts
14 oz can of diced tomatoes with green chilies (mild)
15 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
8 oz frozen corn
1/4 c. chopped fresh cilantro
14 oz can chicken broth (or about 1 1/2 cups - 2 cups was a little too liquidy)
3 green onions (or regular onion)
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
salt, to taste

Combine chicken broth, beans, corn, tomatoes, cilantro, green onions, and seasonings in a crock pot. Season chicken breasts with salt and lay on top. Cook on low for 10 hours or high for 6 hours. A half hour before serving, remove chicken and shred, then return to crock pot and stir in. Taste and adjust salt. Keep warm 20-30 minutes to let chicken absorb flavors. Serve: In burritos or tacos, over salad, or over rice (my favorite). Top with your favorite toppings (though it's good even without): Cheese, sour cream, salsa, green onions, tortilla chips, etc.

recipe via Skinnytaste.com



4 Tbs. real butter, amen
4 Tbs. flour
3 cups liquid (use pan drippings from cooking meat, plus enough broth to equal 3 cups)*
salt and pepper
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

*Separate fat from the drippings using a fat separator. Taste pan drippings before using. If they're too salty, use less drippings and more broth. Use chicken broth when cooking chicken or turkey, and use beef broth for beef.

Melt butter over medium heat in a medium sized saucepan. Add flour and whisk constantly until mixture is a golden caramel color and smells fragrant (3-5 minutes). Slowly whisk in liquids until smooth. Bring to a simmer and cook until thickened and bubbly.

Taste, then add salt and fresh ground pepper to taste, and Worcestershire sauce.

Recipe from Our Best Bites (includes helpful instructions, photos, and troubleshooting tips)

Herb Roasted Chicken Thighs

I do not love the pressure of cooking an entire turkey. It's a lot of work and it intimidates me. Plus, pulling the insides out of a raw turkey makes me gag. So for Christmas dinner I scaled it back and made this simple chicken.

4 Tbs butter, softened
2 Tbs. olive oil
4-5 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1-2 tsp. lemon zest (lemon pepper works if you forgot to buy a lemon, ask me how I know!)
1 Tbs. minced fresh rosemary
1 Tbs. minced fresh sage
1 Tbs. minced fresh thyme leaves (pronounced "time" not "thime," ahem, Dicie!)
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp salt
1 large package skin-on bone-in chicken thighs (about 5 lbs?)

Preheat the oven to 375°. For the herb rub, combine all the ingredients. Gently separate the skin from the chicken without removing it. Spread some of the herb mixture under the skin (a rubber spatula works well) and on top of the skin. Place a wire rack over a foil-lined cookie sheet. Lightly spray the rack with cooking spray. Arrange the chicken thighs skin-side up on the wire rack. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh registers 165°. Let stand for 10 minutes. Drippings are great for gravy-making!

Recipe adapted from Our Best Bites (their instructions are for herb-roasted turkey breast)

Grandma Gardner's Christmas Pomegranate Jello Salad

To me, this is absolutely the most nostalgic, Christmas-ey little side dish! Grandma always made it for our family gathering on Christmas Day. Yes, it's jello, but it turns out so pretty! It's a simple, yummy, crowd-pleaser that will have a permanent place on my Christmas dinner menu.

1 6 oz. package green Jello (plus water, as directed)
1 20 oz can crushed pineapple
2 red apples, cut into bite size pieces
1 pomegranate, seeded
1/2 c. chopped pecans

Boil 2 cups of water. Add the jello and stir until dissolved. Stir in 1 1/2 cups cold water. Gently pour into a 9x13 pan. Add the crushed pineapple, apples, pomegranate seeds, and pecans. Stir gently to distribute fruit. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate several hours until set.

Teriyaki Marinade for Beef or Chicken

3 Tbs. soy sauce
1 Tbs honey
1 Tbs oil
1-2 tsp fresh ginger, grated
1 Tbs water
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
1 lb. or so cut-up beef or chicken

Combine above ingredients in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate for 1-2 hours. Cook as desired. Great for barbecuing, kabobs, or fondue meat.

Basic Kid-Friendly Broth for Fondue

We love making fondue for New Year's Eve! This year we went for it and did the full 3 courses. The adults enjoyed the Mojo broth while the kids enjoyed this simple, yet flavorful broth:

4 c. chicken broth
1/2 onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 rib celery, minced (optional)
1 carrot, finely diced (optional)

Yep, it's literally just chicken broth, onion, and garlic. Add the other vegetables for more flavor if your kids don't mind. (I'm sure mine wouldn't have, but I was tired of chopping things!) If you add the carrot and celery, start it on the stovetop and soften all the veggies in a little oil.  Then put the broth and vegetables in a fondue pot and turn on high. Bring to a boil and you're ready to go!

Dippers: Beef, Chicken, Shrimp, Salmon, Lobster, Broccoli, Potatoes, Mushrooms, Potstickers, etc.

Creamy Chicken Gnocchi Soup

4 Tbs butter
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 ribs celery, finely diced
2 carrots, peeled and finely diced or shredded
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
4 Tbs flour
4 c. low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 tsp. thyme
1/2 tsp. parsley
1/2 tsp. salt
fresh ground pepper
pinch of nutmeg (optional)
2 c. cooked chicken, diced (I use rotisserie chicken)
1 lb. potato gnocchi
2 c. milk
1 c. spinach, chopped
freshly grated Parmesan, if desired

Melt butter in a 5-6 quart pot. Add the onion, celery, and carrots and saute until onions are translucent. Add the garlic and cook 1 min. Stir in flour and cook for 1 min more. Stir in the chicken broth and spices. Bring to a boil, then add the chicken and gnocchi. Turn down the heat and simmer for about 10 min. Add the milk and spinach and stir until it thickens. Remove from heat. Serve with a little fresh Parmesan grated into each bowl. About 8 servings.


Cream Cheese Carrot Cake Muffins

1 8-ounce package cream cheese
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla and/or lemon extract

2 1/4 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
¼ cup brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup water
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup grated carrots

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Lightly grease a standard 12-well muffin pan. Or line the pan with paper muffin cups, and grease the cups.

To make the filling: Place the cream cheese in a microwave-safe bowl, and heat on low power for 40 seconds. Stir in the sugar and extract. Set aside.

To make the muffin batter: In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, water, and oil. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.Fold in the grated carrots, stirring to combine.

Drop about 2 tablespoons of the batter (a tablespoon cookie scoop works well here) into each muffin cup, spreading it to cover the bottom. Dollop on a heaping tablespoon of filling. Cover with enough batter to fill the muffin cups quite full. The batter will come to within about 1/4" to 3/8" of the top of each muffin cup. But don't try to use all the batter; unless you have particularly deep cups, you'll have abut 1/3 cup batter left over. Bake it in a separate custard cup, if desired.

Bake the muffins until a toothpick inserted into the cake part of one (not into the cream cheese filling) comes out clean, about 20 minutes. The tops of the muffins will feel firm to the touch. Remove the muffins from the oven, and as soon as you're able to handle them, transfer them to a rack. If you serve the muffins warm, the filling will be molten. If you wait for them to cool, it'll firm up.

Refrigerate or freeze if not eaten within 2 hours or so.

Yield: 12 filled muffins plus 1 unfilled muffin. Also works very well as mini muffins (makes approximately 36), just adjust the amount of batter and filling in the cups, and shorten baking time to 12-13 minutes.

adapted from kingarthurflour.com


Easter Carrot Cake

2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (12 1/2 ounces)
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 lb. medium carrots (6 to 7 large carrots), peeled
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar (10 1/2 ounces)
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar (3 1/2 ounces)
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups vegetable or canola oil

FROSTING (double the recipe below to frost a 9-inch layered cake):
8 ounces cream cheese, softened to room temperature
5 tablespoons butter softened to room temperature
1 tablespoon sour cream, light or regular
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar (4 1/2 ounces)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Adjust oven rack to middle position. Grease and flour a 9X13-inch baking pan or 2 9-inch round pans.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt in large bowl; set aside. In a food processor fitted with large or fine shredding disk, shred carrots (you should have about 3 cups); transfer carrots to bowl and set aside. You can also shred by hand on a box grater if you don't have a food processor.

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment (or in large bowl and using hand-held mixer), beat granulated and brown sugars and eggs on medium-high until thoroughly combined, about 45 seconds. Reduce speed to medium; with mixer running, add oil in slow, steady stream, being careful to pour oil against inside of bowl (if oil begins to splatter, reduce speed to low until oil is incorporated, then resume adding oil). Increase speed to high and mix until mixture is light in color and well emulsified, about 45 seconds to 1 minute longer. Turn off mixer and stir in carrots and dry ingredients by hand until incorporated and no streaks of flour remain.

Pour into prepared pan(s) and bake until toothpick or skewer inserted into center of cake comes out clean, about 32 minutes for 9-inch round pans and 40 minutes for a 9X13-inch pan. Let cakes cool for about 10 minutes in the pan and then invert them onto a cooling rack to cool completely (the 9X13-inch cake can be cooled completely in the pan if you don't plan to invert and ice all the sides). At this point, once the cakes are cooled, they can be wrapped in plastic wrap and put in a ziploc bag and placed in the freezer for up to 2 months. Thaw at room temperature prior to frosting.

When cake is cool, mix cream cheese, butter, sour cream, and vanilla at medium high speed in clean bowl of standing mixer fitted with whisk attachment (or in large bowl using handheld mixer) until well combined, about 30 seconds, scraping down bowl with rubber spatula as needed. Add confectioners’ sugar and mix until very fluffy, about 1 minute. Frost and eat!

From melskitchencafe.com


Baked French Toast

This is our traditional breakfast on General Conference Sunday!

The night before:

1 loaf of French bread

8 eggs
1 pint of heavy cream
2 t of cinnamon
1-2 t of vanilla
Add-In: 1 bag frozen mixed berries OR
    blueberries, apples and raisins/craisins, etc. (anything you want)
Grease a 9x13 pan. Cube the loaf of French bread and place in a large bowl.  In a separate bowl, mix the eggs, cream, cinnamon, and vanilla then pour over the cubed bread and mix well. Fold in the fruit.  Place the mixture into pan and cover with plastic wrap.  Put in the fridge for 8-10 hrs.

In the Morning:

2 cups of brown sugar
2 TBSP of karo syrup
1 ½ cups butter

Take the pan out of the fridge and let it get to room temp for 30 mins and preheat the to 350.  In a pan melt the brown sugar, karo syrup, and butter and bring to a boil. Let it boil for about 5 mins and then pour over the bread and mix it.  Bake for 30-45 mins or until firm.

Serve with whipped cream.


Honey Lime Fruit Salad

1 (20 oz.) can pineapple chunks, drained well
1 can mandarin oranges, drained well
2-3 ripe kiwi, peeled and sliced into thick half moons
1 cup green grapes, halved
1 cup strawberries, quartered
Zest from one lime, about 1 tablespoon
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon poppy seeds (optional)

Combine the fruit in a medium-large serving bowl. Add the lime zest and poppy seeds, if using, and gently toss. Drizzle the honey over the fruit and again, gently mix until the fruit is evenly coated with the honey. Serve immediately

from melskitchencafe.com


The Best Ground Beef Taco Filling

2 tablespoons canola oil
3/4 cup chopped onion
1 pound ground beef or ground turkey
1 to 3 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon chili powder*
2 teaspoons ground cumin*
2 teaspoons ground coriander*
1/2 teaspoon salt*
1/2 teaspoon pepper*
1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced fine
Taco shells
Additional taco garnishes
*May substitute 2 1/2 Tbs of homemade taco seasoning.

In a large skillet over medium heat, add the oil and chopped onion. Cook, stirring often, until the onion is softened, about 4-5 minutes. Add the ground beef and cook, breaking up the meat into smaller chunks, until it is cooked through, about 5 minutes. Off the heat, drain the grease from the meat.

Return the skillet to the heat and stir in the garlic, chili powder, cumin, coriander, salt and pepper. Cook for about 30 seconds and then add the tomato sauce and jalapeno. Turn the heat to low and simmer the meat mixture for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve in taco shells with your choice of toppings. (lettuce, tomato, cheese, olives, salsa, sour cream, avocado, etc)

Porkchops & Gravy With Green Beans

6-8 pork chops
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 Tbs oil
3/4 cup onion, chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, pressed/minced
2 Tbs butter, divided
2 Tbs flour
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups fresh or frozen whole green beans.

Combine the salt, garlic powder, and black pepper. (This is Paula Deen's house seasoning and can be made in larger quantities and kept on hand.) Sprinkle pork chops with house seasoning. Add oil to a large non-stick pan and heat over high heat. When pan is very hot add the pork chops and sear both sides until brown. Remove from the pan.

Reduce heat to medium and add 1 Tbs of butter. Add the onion and cook until softened. Add the garlic. Add the other Tbs of butter, then sprinkle the flour over the pan. Stir or whisk to form a roux. Add the chicken broth and whisk. Bring to a simmer then add the pork chops back in. Top with green beans. Cover and cook on medium-low until pork chops are cooked through (140-145 on a meat thermometer).


Sweet and Sour Chicken

This recipe is a little time consuming. It takes a good 1/2 hour or more to prep the chicken and get it in the oven, then it has to bake for an hour. But that hour of baking time gives you plenty of time to make rice or chow mein. The final result is DELICIOUS, so it's well worth the time!

3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 2 pounds)
Salt and pepper
1 cup cornstarch
2 large eggs, beaten
1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil

1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup ketchup
1 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons garlic salt

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Cut the chicken breasts into 1-inch pieces. Season with salt and pepper. Place the cornstarch in a gallon-sized ziploc bag. Put the chicken into the bag with the cornstarch and seal, tossing to coat the chicken*.

Whisk the eggs together in a shallow pie plate. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat until very hot and rippling. Dip the cornstarch-coated chicken pieces in the egg and place them carefully in a single layer in the hot skillet.

Cook for 20-30 seconds on each side until the crust is golden but the chicken is not all the way cooked through (this is where it's really important to have a hot skillet/oil). Place the chicken pieces in a single layer in a 9 x 13 baking dish and repeat with the remaining chicken pieces.

Mix the sauce ingredients together in a medium bowl. Pour half of the sauce over the chicken. Bake for one hour, turning the chicken once or twice while cooking to coat evenly with sauce. Pour the remaining sauce in a small saucepan and cook the sauce on the stovetop at a simmer for 8-10 minutes until it reduces and thickens. Serve extra sauce on the side of the chicken. Serve chicken over rice or pair it with chow mein.

recipe slightly adapted from melskitchencafe.com 

*My kids saw the plateful of cornstarch-covered raw chicken and totally thought it was Turkish Delight! I literally stopped them from eating it just in time!


Is It Raw Chicken or Turkish Delight?


Mexican Vegetable Soup

This soup blew me away. The flavors are perfect! This might be my new favorite soup, which is really saying something because there is no cream sauce involved!

1 Tbs. olive oil
1 medium red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. salt
2 carrots, sliced
1 15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and diced
6 cups of chicken (or vegetable) stock
1/2 cup hominy (found near the canned corn or on the Mexican aisle)
2 tsp. chipotle chilies (*see note below)
1 avocado, peeled and sliced or diced
cilantro leaves, for garnish
2 limes, cut into wedges

Heat the oil in a soup pot. Add the onion, oregano, and salt and cook over medium-low heat until the onion is soft. Add the garlic and stir for 1 minute. Add the carrots, beans, tomatoes, and chicken stock. Simmer for 20 minutes. Add the hominy and chipotle chilies. Simmer for 5 more minutes, then taste for salt.

To serve, ladle soup into bowls then garnish with avocado and cilantro. Serve the lime wedges on the side, but be sure to squeeze 1 or 2 into your bowl before enjoying! Sour cream, shredded cheese, and tortilla chips are optional garnishes as well, but I love this soup even without them.

*Note about chipotle chilies: Buy a can of chipotle chilies in adobo sauce. Remove the chilies and slice them open. While wearing gloves, run each of the chilies under water and remove the seeds (the oil from the seeds can burn your skin and irritate your eyes, so be careful). Finely mince the chilies with a knife or food processor. Save leftover chilies by freezing in desired portions. (see this tutorial from Our Best Bites)

Recipe slightly adapted from sacramentostreet.com


Cowboy Cookies

It is just plain ridiculous that I've never posted this recipe! This is the cookie recipe I use most often.

1 c. butter, softened
1 c. white sugar
1 c. brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 c. rolled oats
1 c. chocolate chips

Cream together butter and sugars. Add vanilla and eggs. Mix in the flour, baking soda, and salt, and then the oats. Mix until just combined. Add the chocolate chips. Use a cookie scoop and place dough on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes until cookies are just starting to brown around the bottom. Makes 4 dozen.


Karissa's Cranberry Salad

1, 12-16 oz. bag cranberries, rinsed and chopped in a food processer
2 cups grated apples (about 2 medium apples)
1, 20 oz. can crushed pineapple, drained
1, 10.5 oz. bag mini marshmallows
1 cup sugar
2 cups heavy whipping cream, separated and whipped

Pulse cranberries in blender or food processor until finely chopped. Combine cranberries and sugar in a large bowl. Let sit for about 10-15 minutes, or until juicy. Meanwhile, grate the apples (peel on or off, doesn't matter) and drain the pineapple. Mix apples with pineapple. Add fruit to cranberries, stir to combine. Add marshmallows. Stir to combine. Whip ONE cup of whipping cream, gently fold into salad. Cover and place in refrigerator overnight, or at least 6-8 hours.

Just before serving, whip ONE cup of whipping cream. Gently fold into salad and serve.

Recipe from dishupdelish.com

Chow Mein

¼ c. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. fresh ginger, grated
ground black pepper, to taste
2-3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
3 (5.6 oz) packages refrigerated Yaki Soba noodles (found in the produce section)
⅔ c. chopped celery (chopped diagonally)
1 medium-sized onion, thinly sliced
2 c. chopped cabbage

In a small bowl combine soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic, ginger and black pepper. Set aside.
Remove Yaki Soba from packages and discard included flavoring packets. Rinse noodles well, drain, and set aside.

Heat oil in a large wok or skillet. Add celery and onion and saute for about 1-2 minutes or until onions start to become soft and transparent. Add cabbage and saute an additional minute or so.
Toss Yaki Soba noodles and soy sauce mixture with the vegetables over medium-high heat for an additional 2-3 minutes or until noodles are heated through.

recipe from favfamilyrecipes.com

Chicken Lettuce Wraps

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound ground chicken or turkey
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, diced
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
1 teaspoon Sriracha, or more, to taste
1 (8-ounce) can whole water chestnuts, drained and diced
2 green onions, thinly sliced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 head ice berg or butter lettuce

Heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium high heat. Add ground meat and cook until browned; drain excess fat. Stir in garlic, onion, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, ginger and Sriracha until onions have become translucent, about 1-2 minutes. Stir in chestnuts and green onions until tender, about 1-2 minutes; season with salt and pepper, to taste. To serve, spoon several tablespoons of the mixture into the center of a lettuce leaf, taco-style.

*Tip for separating lettuce leaves without tearing: Remove stem by first hitting it firmly against the counter top. It should break and come loose easily. Hold the head of lettuce upside-down under cold running water. Separate each leaf by running water under it and gently pulling it away with your fingers.

adapted from here.


Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

pumpkin seeds (fresh out of the pumpkin)
olive oil
optional seasonings: garlic powder, seasoning salt, bbq seasoning, cinnamon & sugar, pumpkin pie spice, be creative!

This is more of a method than a recipe! Rinse pumpkin seeds in a colander until clean. Measure the seeds in a cup measure. Place the seeds in a medium to large saucepan. Add 2 cups of water and 1 tablespoon of salt for every half cup of pumpkin seeds. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and drain.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Coat the bottom of a baking sheet with olive oil, about a teaspoon or so. Spread the seeds out over the roasting pan in a single layer, and toss to coat. Bake on the top rack until the seeds begin to brown, 5-20 minutes, depending on the size of the seeds. Stir every 5 minutes. Keep an eye on the pumpkin seeds so they don't get over toasted. Remove from oven. While still warm, sprinkle with additional seasonings if desired, though these are delicious as is. Allow to cool, and enjoy!

adapted from simplyrecipes.com


Un-Fried Chicken

Dicie wanted fried chicken for her birthday dinner! I have never fried chicken in my life, and after looking at a few recipes realized there was no way I was going to actually deep-fry-in-a-vat-of-hot-oil anything. So I did a quick search for un-fried chicken and decided to try this one. BAM! Amazing. This is a definite keeper, wouldn't change a thing (although next time I'll try for a more crispy crust).

8-10 boneless skinless chicken thighs (1 1/2 - 2 lbs)
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 tsp hot sauce
2 egg whites
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 1/4 cups cornflake crumbs

Preheat the oven to 375. Spray a large baking sheet with cooking spray.

Combine salt, garlic powder, and pepper. Sprinkle over the chicken. Combine the buttermilk, hot sauce, egg whites and lemon zest and juice in a large bowl and toss the chicken to coat.

Pour the cornflake crumbs into another large bowl. Dip the chicken into the crumbs, pressing to adhere, and then place onto the baking sheet and into the oven. Bake 45 min. For crispier chicken, turn chicken half-way through baking, or bake chicken on a wire rack on the baking sheet.

(recipe by Bobby Deen, slightly adapted)


Kettle Corn

1/2 cup good popping corn
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup sugar
salt to taste

In a good 3-4 quart saucepan with lid, heat oil and popcorn over high heat. When oil is hot and bubbling and popcorn is close to popping, add the sugar. Stir continuously until popcorn starts to pop, then quickly cover and shake the pan over the heat until the corn is done popping. Immediately remove from heat and pour popcorn into a large bowl. Sprinkle with salt to taste, then stir to combine.


Last Minute Chicken & Gravy

Quick and very easy. I use chicken tenders because the portions are perfect and they thaw and cook quickly! You can sub fresh chopped onion and garlic for the powders if you like, but the point is for this to be a quick last minute meal!

8-10 chicken tenders (or 4-5 chicken breasts), thawed
4 Tbs. butter
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp seasoning salt
1 tsp onion powder
1/4 c. flour
1 can chicken broth

Combine garlic powder, seasoning salt, and onion powder. Coat chicken with spice mixture. In a large skillet, over medium heat, melt butter then add chicken to pan. Cover and saute chicken on both sides until cooked through. Remove chicken and set aside. Whisk in flour to form a roux, cook and stir over medium heat for several minutes, browning lightly. Whisk in chicken broth and stir until the gravy thickens. Return the chicken to the pan, remove from heat, and serve.


Classic Tin Foil Dinners - At Home!

We love to have tin foil dinners! There's something that's just fun about having your own foil packet to open and devour. We don't go camping ever much, but we can enjoy these at home anytime we want! 

potatoes - peel on, scrubbed clean, and cubed (about 1 medium potato per person)
carrots, sliced or diced
onion, diced
cream of mushroom soup
salt & pepper
tin foil, cut in 12-18" sheets
(Amounts will vary depending on # of people and how large each portion is!)

Par-boil potatoes and carrots. (I like crunchier carrots, so I skip par-boiling the carrots) Place them in a large pot, cover with water, add 1 tsp. salt, and bring to a boil. Boil for just 4-5 minutes. Drain. (This saves on baking time!)

To assemble (each person should make their own of course):
Preheat oven to 350. In the center of a sheet of foil, place a little cream of mushroom. Sprinkle on hamburger, potatoes, carrots, and onion. Salt & pepper as desired, then add another dollop of cream of mushroom on top. Bring two sides of the foil together and fold down. Then fold up each of the other sides. With a permanent marker, label your foil packet. Arrange on the center rack in the oven and bake for about 20-30 min, or until hamburger is cooked through.