Monday, January 6, 2014

Healthy Chicken and Feta Avocado Pasta

So the weather is changing. You are getting worried about no longer being able to go on your runs outside. You are concerned about all the calories that you are eating and no longer burning off. On top of all that, you are craving super fatty foods. Wait, is that just me? Well this little predicament led me to come up with this recipe.

Feta is one of the most flavorful cheeses with the fewest calories. I love it on pasta, bruschetta, salads, plain, etc... If you have never tried it, you MUST! Combine that with a fatty (but healthy fat) avocado and you have a pasta bursting with flavor. To add to the great flavor, it is actually pretty healthy for you. Compare the calories in this pasta to an alfredo and you see what I am talking about. Basically, you get your "fatty fix" without all the butter, heavy whipping cream, and cream cheese.

2 Tbsp feta cheese
1 avocado
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup cilantro
1/2 tsp salt (maybe a little more to taste)
Dash of lemon juice
Shredded chicken (like from Slow Cooker Whole Chicken)
8-12 ounces pasta, cooked and drained

1. Place all ingredients except pasta and olive oil into a Cuisinart (or blender). Pulse the mixture for 1 to 2 minutes while streaming in the olive oil until the mixture is smooth and creamy.
2. Combine the sauce with the pasta and top with chicken.

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Most Unbelievable Au Gratin Potatoes

Slightly Adapted from:

3 lbs red potatoes or 3 lbs potatoes
5 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons flour
2 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream

1 cup milk
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups swiss gruyere cheese, plus extra for topping

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Peel and slice potatoes about 1/8 inch thick. Boil in salted water until the start to become tender (just a few minutes). Continue to check on them. Do not fully cook them as they will continue to cook in the oven. Set aside.

3. In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat.
4. Add flour; stir while cooking, 1-2 minutes.
5. Whisk in cream. Add milk. Continue to cook until thickened.

6. Stir in swiss gruyere. Add potatoes to sauce and stir to mix evenly.
7. Pour into casserole dish. Sprinkle remaining cheese over top.
8. Bake casserole 45 minutes or until potatoes are tender and dish is bubbling and lightly brown on top. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Bow Beau and Arrow

Rather than a recipe, this week I am going to tell you about a sweet Etsy store for hair bows and bow ties! How cute are those two kids wearing their hair bows and bow ties? I mean really (ok they are my kids haha)! But seriously we LOVE everything in their shop. Perfect for family photos, events, every day wear, church, etc... And the perfect gift for your children, grandchildren, baby showers, etc...

The shop is closing Dec 15th until the first of the year so they are having a blow out sale. All of my readers will receive 20% off your order of $22 or more using the code BBAAC2013 (expires 12/12/13). If you are spending less than that or want free shipping instead the code for that is FS2013. And through their instagram,  some other hair bows will be posted for sale over the next few days that are not yet listed in their etsy store. So following them on instagram would be a good idea: @bowbeaandarrow

Their shop can be found at

This is my favorite Christmas hair bow.

And this bow tie for Christmas is to die for!!! If you are skeptical about bow ties, I will tell you that everyone loves them. Whenever my son wears his, people are always making comments about how cute they are.

Happy shopping!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Cast Iron Artisan Bread

This bread could not be easier. I saw this recipe so many times on Pinterest and other venues and decided it was time for me to purchase a dutch oven. I got mine on amazon for $35. It works great! I am so glad that I got a dutch oven and gave this recipe a try. It is a staple in our home. So much better than the store bought stuff (and I do love the store bought stuff). It takes a lot of time to make but practically no effort. For almost the entire time, you do NOTHING! I will also note, I have made this bread with a significantly less rising time (about 6 hours the first time) and it is still just as good. Not as "hole-y" but tasty nonetheless. So if you don't have a ton of time, still give this a try. Even if you have enough time, try it both ways so you can see how great it is no matter what. Seriously, you really can't screw this recipe up.

Adapted from: Frugal Living

6 cups bread flour (recommended) or all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
1/2 teaspoon instant or active-dry yeast
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 2/3 cup cool water

1. In a large bowl, combine the flour, yeast, and salt. Add the water and stir until all the ingredients are well incorporated; the dough should be wet and sticky (remember, wet dough leads to moist bread). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let the dough rest 12-18 hours on the counter at room temperature. When the surface of the risen dough has darkened slightly, smells yeasty, and is dotted with bubbles, it is ready.
2. Lightly flour your hands and a work surface and sprinkle with more flour. Fold the dough over on itself once or twice and, using floured fingers, tuck the dough underneath to form a rough ball.
3. Generously dust a cotton towel with enough flour or cornmeal to prevent the dough from sticking to the towel as it rises; place dough seam side down on the towel (I usually place it on a flour dusted piece of parchment paper and then place the parchment paper on the towel to ensure that it does not stick) and let rise for about 2 more hours, until it has doubled in size.
4. After about 1 1/2 hours, preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place 6-8 quart heavy covered pot, such as a cast-iron dutch oven, in the oven as it heats up. When the dough has fully risen, carefully remove pot from oven. Remove top towel from dough and slide your hand under the bottom towel; flip the dough over into pot, seam side up. Shake ban once or twice if dough looks unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes (don't worry if it looks "ugly" or weirdly shaped. some of my weirdest looking dough balls, end up to be the most gorgeous loafs of bread).
5. Cover and bake for 40 minutes. Uncover and continue baking for 10-15 more minutes, until the crust is a deep chestnut brown. The internal temperature of the bread should be around 200 degrees. You can check with a meat thermometer, if desired.
6. Remove the bread from the pot and let it cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Chicken Pot Pie Soup

 If you need a new soup to add to your winter meals, look no further. This soup is so unbelievably good. Even the pickiest of eaters love this soup (including little kids). It was so simple, didn't take too long, and couldn't have been better! Definitely hit the spot. I have been eating the leftovers for almost every meal! SO GOOD!

4 medium russet potatoes, peeled and diced
8 cups water
1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 1/2 tablespoon bouillon flavoring
1/2 cup butter
small white onion, diced (1/2 cup)
2 small celery stalks, diced (3/4 cup)
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped (3/4 cup)
1/2 cup flour
1-2 tablespoons bouillon
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 pound frozen mixed vegetables (I did corn and peas)
1 cup heavy cream or evaporated milk
Salt and pepper to taste (I used quite a bit)

1. Add diced potatoes to a large bowl filled with cold water. Set aside.
2. Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil. Add chicken, reduce heat to a simmer and allow to poach' about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the chicken to a plate to cool. Dice the chicken when cooled.
3. Add the bouillon and continue to boil until the liquid is reduced by half; about 10 more minutes. 
4. In a large skillet, heat the butter over medium-high heat. Add the onions, celery and carrots (I usually add salt and pepper as well, salting every layer makes quite a big difference), cooking until translucent; about 2 minutes. 
5. Stir in the flour and whisk until it forms a roux. Add the additional bouillon and pepper. Cook for another 3 minutes.
6. Whisk the roux into the broth and bring back up to a boil.
7. Drain the potatoes. Add the potatoes and the chicken to the broth over low heat. Stir in the frozen vegetables. Place a lid on top and simmer until the potatoes are tender; about 15 minutes.
8. Stir in cream and a salt and pepper to taste (remember, I used quite a bit. Also if you need to, add some more bouillon flavoring). Cook for another 5 minutes.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Cool Ranch Taco Chicken

Adapted from: Family Fresh Meals

4 chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 pounds total)
1 small onion, chopped
1 packet of taco seasoning
1 packet of ranch dressing
14 ounces chicken broth

1. Put chicken breasts, onion, taco, and ranch mixes and chicken broth in crock pot.
2. Set crock pot on low for 5 hours.
3. After 5 hours (or when the internal temperature is 160 degrees), shred chicken with 2 forks.
4. Replace lid and continue cooking on low for 40 more minutes.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Maple Pecan Crusted Chicken

My mom found this recipe on the back of a Panko Bread Crumbs Box and decided to give it a try. Who knows why. I mean maple and chicken together? Maybe this is Panko's spin on chicken and waffles? Who knows. But what I do know, is this is SO GOOD!! Everyone loves it. The maple is present but subtle. The crust is golden and crispy with a hint of maple and toasted pecans. The meat is moist and full of flavor.

Adapted from Panko Bread Crumbs Box

¼ cup Maple Syrup
2 Tablespoons Mayonnaise
¼ teaspoon Salt
¾ cup Panko Bread Crumbs
½ cup finely chopped Pecans
4 boneless skinless Chicken Breasts (pounded to ½ inch think)

1. Heat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Mix maple syrup, mayonnaise, and salt in a shallow dish.
3. Mix bread crumbs and pecans in another shallow dish.
4. Dip chicken in syrup mixture and then into crumbs.
5. Place on greased baking sheet and spray top of chicken with cooking spray.
6. Bake 15-20 minutes, turning one, until the thickest part of the chicken is 165 degrees and coating is golden brown.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Quick French Bread (Throwback Thursday)

There is nothing better than fresh homemade bread, especially around the holidays. My husband found this recipe a few days ago and we have made it twice since (it has not even been one week)! The greatest part about this bread ... it only takes one hour to complete (from the minute you measure the first ingredient until the time you take your first bite)!

Honestly, I would put this quick bread up against any long rising bread any day. It is really that good! I get compliment after compliment after compliment whenever I serve this. It is also my go to recipe when I have to bring a meal over to someone's house (i.e. if they are sick or just had a baby or something) because it is so quick and easy. I mean everyone has one hour. You barely have to knead, mix, or anything. I usually start it right around when I am going to start dinner and then by the time dinner is ready, this is ready. Stop paying $1.99 for french bread at your grocery store. This stuff tastes WAY better and is so cheap, it's almost free!

If you have never made homemade bread before, this is a good place to start. It is a super simple, fool proof, single rise recipe. Try it out so you can impress your friends and family during this holiday season with homemade fresh bread!

Also, I know lots of you have been trying recipes (because you tell me) but you aren't leaving comments. Make sure you post whether you like things or not because others will use your comments to determine if they will try out one of these recipes. I want you all to enjoy my recipes as much as I do and comments always help.

1 1/2 cups warm water
1 tablespoon honey
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 tablespoons Active Dry Yeast
3 1/2 - 4 1/2 cups flour (depending on your elevation and humidity)

1. Combine water, salt, honey, and yeast in a medium mixing bowl. Let sit 5 - 10 minutes, until bubbling.
2. Add flour, stirring with a wooden spoon, until dough is no longer sticky (I usually place the dough on a floured surface and continue to add more flour until it is no longer sticky).
3. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
4. Form dough into a 12" - 14" roll. Place dough on a greased cookie sheet (NOT in a bread pan). Cover. Let sit for 15 minutes. Make diagonal slits, 1/2" deep on top with a knife or scissors.
5. Bake for 18 - 20 minutes.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Triple Cinnamon Spice Pumpkin Bread (or Muffins)

Remember this pumpkin bread? It is literally my favorite! The BEST ever! So moist. So flavorful. Even people I know who do not like pumpkin, like this bread. Well, I never thought this bread could be better, but I took it to a whole new level. The cinnamon sugar topping on this cinnamon sugar banana bread is unbelievable! It will change your life. So, I figured, if it was so good on my banana bread, what's to say it would not be just as good on my pumpkin bread? And to tell you the truth, I won't eat any quick bread (like banana bread, apple bread, pumpkin bread, etc...) without it. I am not exaggerating when I say that the topping alone, as simple as it is, is LIFE CHANGING!!!!! If you get nothing else from this post, get this topping! Try it, use it, and never have quick bread without it again. And if that slight but powerful change wasn't enough, I threw some cinnamon chips in the mix as well. This bread is a triple threat bursting with moist flavor. This will definitely become part of your Halloween/Thanksgiving baking for years to come.

3 1/3 cups flour
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 cups packed brown sugar
2/3 cup white sugar
2/3 cup butter, softened
4 eggs
1 (30 ounce) can pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
2/3 cup water
3/4 cup cinnamon chips
1 cup chocolate chips, if desired (I prefer it without)
Cinnamon and sugar mixture for topping (like the one in this cinnamon sugar banana bread)

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
2. Cream together the butter and sugars until well incorporated. Add the eggs, one at a time. Add the pumpkin and mix until combined.
3. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
4. Alternated adding the dry ingredients with the water. Mix until incorporated.
5. Pour into 3 large greased bread pans. Baked at 325 for 55-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the loaf comes out clean.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Spice Kiss Cookies (Throwback Thursday)


I do not know what has gotten into me. Normally, I am not a fan of cookies, but I have always LOVED the dough. Lately, with the Turtle Cookies, Butterscotch Oatmeal Cookies, and these Oatmeal Pumpkin Spice Cookies, I cannot stop eating these cookies!

This recipe has been brewing in my head for the past week and I am thrilled that I finally made it; they turned out AMAZING! A delicious pumpkin chocolate cookie, without the actual pumpkin!

PS. Tomorrow Halloween candy goes on sale, which means, you can give these a whirl for even cheaper starting tomorrow! Honestly, the best part about Halloween in my opinion, is when the candy goes on sale. Not so I can eat it (I prefer baked goods to candy), but so I can buy it for my husband's office for so much cheaper. Or use it in my cupcakes. Or for cupcake toppers.

12 tablespoons butter, softened
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups flour
1 3/4 cups oatmeal
2-3 teaspoon pumpkin spice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 cups chocolate chips
1/2 bag pumpkin spice kisses (found at target), quartered

1. Preheat oven to 375.
2. Beat butter and sugars together until light and fluffy.
3. Add vanilla, baking powder, salt, baking soda, pumpkin spice, cinnamon, nutmeg and eggs. Beat until everything is incorporated.
4. Mix in flour and oatmeal in until everything is fully incorporated. Stir in the chocolate chips and pumpkin spice cookies.
5. Scoop cookie dough onto cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
6. Bake for 12 minutes or until edges are lightly brown (center will not be set but continue to cook after being pulled from the oven). Let col five minutes on tray before serving.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Piping Gel

Colored piping gel that they sell at the grocery store is ridiculously expensive for what it is. And if you read this blog at all, you know that if something is somewhat pricey, I find a way to make it myself. This couldn't be easier and is practically foul proof. You can use it as "blood" in the picture above, on cakes, for water, etc...

I have done this both in the microwave and on the stove. I prefer the stove because I have more control over everything. If you choose to do it on the stove just bring it to a boil and boil until the whole thing turns clear. Chucks will start to turn little by little and then all of the sudden, you have piping gel.

¼ cup white corn syrup
¼ cup cold water
1 tbsp cornstarch
½ teaspoon white vanilla

1. In a microwave bowl, mix cold water and cornstarch together.
2. Add corn syrup and white vanilla. Stir until combined.
3. Microwave on high for 1 min 30 seconds – 2 minutes until mixture boils and turns clear.
4. Remove from microwave and let cool. Whisk occasionally while cooking.
5. Add food dye (gel) to make desired color.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Fondant Spider Tutorial (Halloween Cupcakes Part 2)

The spider cupcake toppers take the longest because each spider has 8 legs but these couldn't be simpler. I love throwing spider toppers into the mix of Halloween cupcakes because I think it adds so much aesthetic value. How can you have Halloween cupcakes without something black? And how great are those legs wrapping around the cupcake's frosting.

Black fondant (or white fondant dyed black)
Gum Paste

Combine about 70% black fondant and 30% gum paste. You may need slightly more black food gel depending on how black you want your spiders. Rip off a piece of your fondant/gum paste mixture and begin to roll it between your hands to start to form an egg shape. Continue shaping with your fingers.
 Slightly press on the top of your egg to "ooze" the fondant/gum paste mixture out slightly.

 Pinch the front end of your egg slightly between your fingers. Begin to smooth out any imperfections and lines with your fingers.

 Rip off another small piece of your fondant/gum paste. Roll between your hands to form a ball. Slightly press that ball to the narrow part of your fondant/gum paste egg. They should stick together. If they do not, use a TINY bit of water as a glue.

 For the legs, roll out some of the fondant between your pointer finger on one hand and palm on the other hand just as you did for your pumpkin swirl here. Cut the legs between 1 1/2 inches to 2 inches (Depending on if they are the front legs or back legs of your spider).
Drape the legs over the frosting, 4 on each side (I like to have the tops of my legs, closest to the spider body, close together. Then I angle the legs apart as they drape down the frosting). Place a TINY drop of frosting on the bottom of your spider and place over the legs. The TINY drop of frosting is the glue that will hold your spider onto its legs. And there you have it. Spider cupcakes. (I forgot to take a picture of just the spider cupcake so the picture of three at the top will have to do).

The knives, I buy. They can be found just about anywhere. I make my red "blood" rather than using the red gel that comes in the tube, and will be posting that recipe on Monday. If you are making these cupcakes before then and need that recipe, please let me know and I would love to email it to you before then.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Fondant Pumpkin Tutorial (Halloween Cupcakes)

I have had a few people ask me to post the tutorial from these Halloween Cupcakes, both in person and in a few comments left on the actual post. They might seem like a lot of work, but, it all honestly, it is VERY simple.

Icing Gel
Gum Paste

I like to use a combination of gum paste and fondant when making shapes because they hold up better, don't crack, etc... All around, it makes a much better looking topper. You could just do it with fondant, and I have in the past, but now I prefer to use a mixture of gum paste and fondant. I use about 30% gum paste and 70% fondant. Gum paste can be found at JoAnnsAmazon, some Walmarts, etc... You will need to dye some orange fondant/gum paste compound and a TINY bit of brown and green fondant/gum paste compound (I use this gel. Liquid dyes will make your fondant far too runny. The gels can be found at Walmart, JoAnns, Amazon, etc...)

To make the pumpkins, you do NOT need any fancy things. If you do not have one of the mats that you see in many of my pictures, you can use parchment paper or powdered sugar. I do not use any fancy tools. The main tools I used were actually a handful of toothpicks.

Once you have your colored fondant/gum paste compound rip off a chunk of the orange one (depending on the desired size of your pumpkin). Roll it into a ball between your hands. Using your toothpick, roll it top to bottom to create indents. Repeat about 8 times around your pumpkin.
DO NOT WORRY if your pumpkin is totally lopsided. This is normal. Reshape with your fingers. This will mush all your perfect lines together slightly. Once again, do not worry. Go around your pumpkin one more time with your toothpick. Following the same steps as the first time around, you will rock the toothpick from top to bottom (this time in the same track that is already there) to make nice defined groves.

By this time, your pumpkin should be nicely shaped with distinct and defined grooves. Remember, pumpkins are not perfect and every pumpkin will be slightly different. Next, you are going to make the green swirls. Roll out a small ball of the green fondant/gum paste compound between your hand and pointer finger as shown below. Make sure that it stays even throughout.

Cut the end off with a knife (or pizza cuter or fondant cuter) to make a straight edge then cut each piece about 1 inch long (I have these nifty 1-inch squares on my work surface but you can just estimate). Wrap the green "rope" around your toothpick. I fit 2-3 green swirls around each toothpick. Do not press the green swirl too tightly to the toothpick or it will stick. Just loosely wrap it and allow to dry.

 Roll a small ball of the brown fondant/gum paste using the same technique as you did with the green fondant/gum paste compound but much thicker. Press one end onto your finger to make it slightly thicker. Set aside. Gently press down the tops of all the pumpkins to create a base for your green swirl and stem. Mix water and gum tex (if you have it, if not just use water) and paint (or just use your finger) a TINY drop onto the top center. Place one end of your green swirl on the top of the pumpkin. Press in slightly.

Just as you painted (or used your finger) a TINY drop of your water mixture onto the top of your pumpkins, do the same thing but now on top of the edge of your green swirl.

Place the fat part of the stem onto the edge of the green swirl. Gently press down around the edges. Cut off the top of the stem based on your desired length (I prefer short stems and I like the look that the cut gives).

Fix any indents that you see and there you have it! You're very own fondant/gum paste pumpkin!

I like my green swirls to free stand (not be resting on the pumpkin), so I prop the droopy ones up with toothpicks for a little bit while they dry (another benefit of using some gum paste with your fondant is that your green swirls, and everything for that matter, dry very quickly and are much less brittle).

 Random Tips:
1. Do not use too much water. It will make your fondant sticky and your green swirls could break.
2. If you do not like what you see, just make another one. I usually 20% more than I will need so I can pick the best ones.
3. As my mom always tells me (and I don't really believe but am working on), perfect isn't pretty. The pumpkins look best with a little "character."
4. Making things out of fondant is just a glorified version of kids playing with play dough.
5. A little pressure goes a long ways. You don't have to hold your pumpkins with much force. In addition, slight pressure can reshape your entire pumpkin, for the good or bad.
6. Make a few extra green swirls. At least one is bound to break.
7. I think deeper grooves look better. Don't be afraid to make deep/defined grooves with your toothpick. They also photograph better as well.
8. Leave comments with your thoughts and questions. I will answer them as quickly as I can.

Special post with the Spiders from these Halloween Cupcakes.

Guess what? I FINALLY got a nice real deal camera. This is the first post that I have tried using it. It is safe to say that I am HORRIBLE at taking photos with it. Fear not, I will get better. If any of you have any good tips, please pass them along. I need all the help that I can get. Anyone know how to get rid of the graininess in my pictures? I read somewhere that it is from having your iOS too high? I have been only shooting in Manual and Raw because that is what everyone tells me I should do. I'm hoping that will pay off in the long run. Ha! But really, I will improve! Thanks for bearing with me in the meantime.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Super Tender Slow Cooker Cube Steak

Are you ready to indulge in the most flavorful, moist, cube steak you have ever eaten? You read that right... MOIST! Who would have thought that you could have a moist cube steak. I usually love the flavor of cube steaks but feel like it is just a tough steak. Who wants that? Oh and did I mention this is a slow cooker recipe? My favorite! I have learned to appreciate the slow cooker more and more after each kid. I mean having dinner ready in the morning, with barely any dishes after dinner? Perfect!

1 pound cube steak
1 tbsp olive oil
1 packet brown gravy mix
1/2 cup flour
1 cup water
1 onion, chopped
Salt and pepper

1. Salt and pepper the cube steaks just as you would any other steak or hamburger. Place flour on a plate and coat the meat with flour on all sides.
2. Place 1 tbsp oil in a hot pan. Add a few pieces of meat (being careful not to crowd your pan) to your pan. Cook for a few minutes, until browned, flip, and place in the bottom of your slow cooker. Repeat with remaining meat.
4. Place sliced onion in your slow cooker on top of your meat.
3. Combine water and gravy mix. Pour over onions and meat. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Candy Corn M&M Blondies

Have you tried the new Candy Corn M&Ms? I am seriously obsessed! They are sold at Wal-Mart and Target. Let's just say that I have stocked up.

If you have never had or made a blondie, you should definitely get on that. They are one of my of all time favorite desserts. Probably because I love the rich butterscotch cookie type base. Don't think because they seem so simple that they will not have people requesting the recipe time and time again. The simple flavors somehow come together to create something extraordinary!

I made these blondies that I found on Cookies and Cups but changed the white chocolate to the Candy Corn M&Ms Truthfully, I have made these blondies with just about anything and everything in them. They are so delicious. Specifically, this dessert is TDF (to die for) and so so easy. Making these around Halloween will be a new tradition in my household as long as the Candy Corn M&Ms are still around.

1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
3/4 cup butterscotch chips, melted
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup Candy Corn M&Ms (plus a few extra to top it off with)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8x8 baking dish with foil and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.
2. In a mixer with the paddle attachment, combine melted butter, brown sugar, egg, and vanilla. Mix until well combined.
3. Add melted butterscotch chips and mix until everything is incorporated.
4. Add the baking soda, salt, and flour and mix.
5. With your spatula, mix in the M&Ms (if you mix with your mixer it will chip off the candy coating). Spread prepared pan and top with a few extra M&Ms. Bake for 30-40 minutes (until a toothpick comes out clean).
6. Let cool completely before cutting into squares.

This picture and description is from a few years ago but it was so cute that I couldn't get rid of it.

Before I get to the recipe, I have to share with you a picture of my 5 month old son in his Halloween costume! I submitted it to some contest as well, because I think he is so cute (biased ... yes!). You can see the full submission Here. Search last name Barrett, and you will see my son in all his glory. I am not a weird stage mom, I promise; I just couldn't resist because this picture is on of my all time favorites! Ps. Thank you Brynner for the cutest Halloween costume EVER!

This was my son in his Halloween costume last year (2012). I loved it so much and it was SO cheap (I got everything at goodwill for less than $5 total) that I have decided he will be a bum until he is 18 ha. Unless he would like to buy his own costume. Seriously, why are Halloween costumes so ridiculously expensive?

I have been debating on what my 7 1/2 month daughter will be. Anyone have any unique ideas? Leave them in the comments!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Homemade Cream of Chicken Soup

Have you ever been at home, ready to make a recipe containing Cream of Chicken Soup and realize you are totally out of it? That is exactly what happened when I discovered this fantastic recipe from Pinch of Yum. I never really care about making everything from scratch but this recipe is just too simple and perfect to not make. I will no longer buy Cream of Chicken Soup. This is now my go to recipe. I have tried it in the slow cooker, in gravies, in soups, etc... and it works just as good as the canned stuff.

Not only is it obviously healthier and free of preservatives, but it is also about 1/10 of the cost! Win Win for sure.

I am sorry the picture is not that appetizing, but lets be honest, how can you really make a cream of any type of soup look scrumptious?

1 1/4 cups chicken broth (or if you want to save more money, you buy the BIG jug of chicken broth seasoning and mix it with water as instructed on the container)
3/4 cups milk
1/4 plus 2 Tbsp flour
1 1/2 teaspoons seasoning mix (I normally just use a seasoning salt)

1. Combine the chicken broth and 1/4 cup of the milk in a large saucepan. Bring to a low boil.
2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk the flour and seasonings into the remaining 1/2 cup milk until a smooth thick mixture forms.
3. Pour the flour and milk mixture into the saucepan with the broth mixture over low heat and stir constantly, whisking as the mixture simmers. Continue to simmer and whisk until the mixture is smooth and thick, 5-10 minutes. The mixture will continue to thicken as it cools.

Notes: The seasoning possibilities are really endless. The texture can get lumpy so I suggest keeping the heat as low as possible and whisking continuously for a more smooth consistency.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Cinnabon Cinnamon Rolls (Flashback Friday...Caramel Pecanabon Option)

The past week has been CRAZY! My 2-year old son had/has a sinus infection. My 7 month old daughter had a fever of 102.7 for 2.5 days and we had to get all this testing done to try to figure out what was going on. Turns out it was just a nasty virus, and of course her fever broke within 8 hours of having all this testing done. My kids aren't in daycare, they aren't exposed to much, but somehow find ways to get sick on a regular basis. Or maybe it just seems that way.

In other news, did you guys watch the premiere of Scandal? Seriously, one of my favorite shows! The premiere started out somewhat slow but by the time it ended, I was on the edge of my seat! I won't talk too much about it in case some of you haven't seen it yet but lets just say, next Thursday cant come soon enough.

Also, we are having our first visitor next week! YAY! We live in this SUPER small town. And by super small town, I mean we do not have one red light in the town. We have one gas pump, not gas station, gas pump. There is ONE restaurant. ONE! Well, you get the idea. There is not a whole lot to do here, well not much of anything actually, so you can only imagine how excited I am to have a visitor come! A visitor coming also means that I will be getting a real camera! So hopefully by mid November (I need lots of practice), the pictures will be much improved!

The first practice for my husband's basketball team started on Monday. Basketball season is officially underway, and I could not be more excited about it! Let the games begin!!!!

Onto the most delicious cinnamon rolls that you have ever eaten...

I have never really been much of a fan of homemade cinnamon rolls. The doughs are usually dry, the filling almost tasteless, etc... I would much rather just get the 1,000 calorie cinnabon at the airport or in the mall. I mean seriously, how can you resist that smell?! Those feelings are OVER! I now prefer and will only eat homemade cinnamon rolls. These really do taste so much like the famous Cinnabon cinnamon rolls, except better (if you can even fathom that!). Not to mention that this is seriously the EASIEST recipe EVER! The dough is SO easy to work with and not sticky at all. It makes this recipe a breeze.

If you want to do the caramel pecanabon option, I made this Homemade Caramel Sauce from The Sisters Cafe. It is my favorite fool proof recipe that I will blog about later. After making the caramel sauce, I allowed it to cool slightly and poured a liberal amount over the cinnamon roll and topped them with pecans. And ice cream. And more caramel sauce. Not in the picture though because that is kind of embarrassing.

But seriously, make the caramel (it takes less than 10 minutes and you do not need a candy thermometer). You think cinnamon rolls are good by themselves? A cinnamon roll with this caramel sauce is something you dream about. Putting homemade caramel sauce and pecans on a cinnamon roll is definitely a game changer.

Ingredients for the Dough
1 cup warm milk (110 degrees)
2 eggs, room temperature
1/3 cup margarine, melted
4 1/2 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup white sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons bread machine yeast

Ingredients for the Filling
1 cup brown sugar, packed
2 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon
1/3 cup butter, softened

Ingredients for the Frosting
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
4 tablespoons butter, softened
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt

1. Place ingredients for the dough in the pan of a bread machine in the order recommended by the manufacturer. Select dough cycle; press start.
2. After the dough cycle is finished, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes.
3. In a small bowl, combine brown sugar and cinnamon.
4. Roll dough into a 16x21 inch rectangle. Spread dough with 1/2 cup butter and sprinkle evenly with the brown sugar/cinnamon mixture. Roll up down the long way and cut into 12 rolls. Place rolls on a lightly greased and parchment paper lined 9x13 inch baking pan (3 rolls x 4 rolls, evenly spaced out).
5. Cover and let rise until they rolls nearly double in size and the entire pan is covered with the rolls (about 30 minutes). Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees.
6. Bake rolls in preheated oven until golden brown, 12- 15 minutes (I usually do them for 10 minutes and then cover them in foil for the last 2-3).
7. While rolls are baking, beat together cream cheese, butter, confectioners' sugar, vanilla, and salt until creamy. Spread frosting on warm rolls before frosting.

My Tips and Tricks for these Cinnamon Rolls
1. For some reason my bread machine won't mix all the flour together with the wet ingredients in this recipe (not any other bread recipe except this one). I usually help mix everything together about 5 minutes in to the dough cycle.
2. I rarely actually measure out my filling ingredients. I just make sure there is a good even layer of each ingredient. I probably use a little more than what is called for.
3. Check the middle of the cinnamon rolls by using a toothpick to slightly lift out the center. If it looks like dough, it is not quite done.
4. I usually make 14 or 15 cinnamon rolls rather than 12. I also use a slightly larger pan so they are not too jam packed in. If you do not have a bigger pan, I recommend using 2 different pans if needed.
5. Really let them rise. Do not jump the gun on this process. It makes a big difference in the world of bread. If you need to speed up the process, you can always place the cinnamon rolls in the oven with a pot of boiling water. This will make the cinnamon rolls double in size much quicker.
6. Do not frost the cinnamon rolls when they are blazing hot. You will lose most of you frosting in the bottom of your pan and everything will turn into a big soupy mess. Even waiting 10 minutes helps keep that delicious frosting right where it should be.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Chicken Roll Ups with Gravy

This recipe has become a show stopper around our house when guests come over. It doesn't seem like much, but this little baby packs a BIG punch! Somehow, with just a few simple ingredients, these roll ups are loaded with TONS of flavor and has the perfect texture. I cannot tell you how many times that I have been asked for this recipe. Kids and adults alike absolutely love these roll ups.

The basic concept of these roll ups can be upheld, while the filling can easily be manipulated. Try adding different cheeses, meats, vegetables, etc... to get your perfect combination of ingredients. If you come up with a good one, send me an email or leave me a comment with your adjustments. I would love to try your versions as well.

Ingredients for the Roll Ups
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
2 Tbsp sour cream or plain greek yogurt
4 cups chicken, cubed
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1/2 cup carrots, chopped
1/2 cup onion, chopped
Salt and Pepper to taste
4 Tbsp butter, melted
2/3 cup bread crumbs (or Panko, crushed croutons, etc...)
2 cans PILLSBURY refrigerated crescent roll dough (if you don't use Pillsbury, they fall apart super easily)

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place a piece of parchment paper on your baking pan.
2. Heat a skillet over medium heat. Cook chicken in 1 Tbsp butter or olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. During the last 2 minutes of the chicken cooking, add the celery, carrots, and onion.
3. Combine chicken and vegetables (including juices in the pan), cream cheese, sour cream or plain greek yogurt. Salt and pepper to taste.
4. Place the triangles of crescent dough on a smooth surface. Press with your fingers to make the triangle as big as you can without it tearing or becoming too thin. Put 1/4 cup of the chicken cream cheese mixture on the crescent rolls. Roll the dough around filling and seal all the edges. Softly squish the ball in between your hands to pack everything in nice and tight.
5. Dip balls in melted butter. Cover with bread crumbs. Place on the parchment paper pan.
6. Cook at 325 degrees for 30 minutes.

Ingredients for the Gravy
1 can cream of chicken soup (or my homemade recipe)
1/4 cup sour cream or greek yogurt (to make it slightly healthier)
Milk to thin out the gravy if you do not like your gravy thick

Directions for the Gravy and Assembly
1. Combine the cream of chicken soup and sour cream or greek yogurt on a stove over medium heat (I used the same pan that I used to cook the chicken in).
2. Place rice on a plate. Top with roll ups and gravy.

Monday, September 23, 2013

HealthIER Cheesy Potatoes aka Funeral Potatoes

Notice how I highlighted the IER? I mean, you can't really make healthy funeral potatoes, so I went for healthIER. How did I make it healthIER? The original recipe called for 1 cup of sour cream. I chose to use 1 cup of fat free plain greek yogurt. Before you turn up your nose, and think that changing the sour cream is not that big of a deal, let me break down the calorie count for you. 1 cup of sour cream has nearly 500 calories. 1 cup of fat free plain greek yogurt has about 125 calories. Just by that simple switch (I PROMISE you will not be able to tell the difference. I have made this for my husband both ways and he has no clue which one is which), you are saving almost 400 calories throughout the entire dish. Now I know you are not going to eat an entire 9x13 pan (well actually you might because it is simply that good), but even if you can save 50-100 calories, isn't that worth it? That is 9 minutes of running, 20 minutes of walking, or 24 minutes of pilates. Worth it? DEFINITELY!

Anyways, I have had this so many different ways. With onions, without onions, with shredded potatoes, with chunky potatoes, etc... Essentially, most of the ingredients remain the same. The main difference is in the ratio! And this ratio, could not be more perfect. It is such a simple dish with ingredients that you probably already have in your kitchen/fridge right now.

Even though some people refer to this dish as funeral potatoes, they are not just for funerals. In fact, sometimes we even have them for Easter or Christmas (unless of course we are having Potato Dauphinoise or Potatoes Romanoff, both are family favorites). Obviously if we are making this for the holidays, you know it has to be good!

I got this recipe from Jamie Cooks it Up and obviously changed up the sour cream part. I also chose to boil my own potatoes rather than use previously froze ones.

5-6 fist size potatoes, pealed, and cut into fingernail size pieces
1 cup fat free plain greek yogurt
2 1/2 cups cheddar cheese plus more for topping
4 Tbsp butter, melted, divided
2 (10 ounce) cans cream of chicken soup
Salt and pepper
1 1/2 cups corn flakes, crushed (or Panko, bread crumbs, crushed Ritz, etc...)

1. Boil the potatoes until al dente.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
3. Combine potatoes, greek yogurt, 2 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, 2 Tbsp melted butter, and cream of chicken soup. Add salt and pepper to taste.
4. Top with corn flakes and the remaining 2 Tbsp melted butter.
5. Place in a 9x13 pan and bake for 45 minutes.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Old-Fashioned Meat Loaf (Throwback Thursday)

I honestly love meatloaf. Weird? Probably ... but who can resist the moist hamburger meat that is enhanced by so many other simple ingredients that make a world of difference. Paula Deen does it again with this meatloaf recipe. And, you don't even need a special 'meatloaf pan.'

This was AMAZING! I literally make this at least twice a month. It is that good, and incredibly easy! Sometimes I even use 1/4 pound sausage and 3/4 pound hamburger meat to mix it up a little bit. Both ways are so tasty.

If you like shaped meatloaf, you can try these heart shaped ones (I used the heart shaped silicon mold) that I made for Valentine's day last year. You could also use a normal cupcake pan and top them with mashed potatoes to achieve more of a "cupcake" affect. Either is super cute. Both worked out equally well.

Ingredients for the Loaf
1 pound ground beef
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup onion, chopped
3/4 cup bell pepper, chopped (I used half red and half green)
1 egg, lightly beaten
8 ounces canned diced tomatoes with juice
1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
1/4 cup + 1 tbsp bread crumbs (any kind will work)

Ingredients for the Topping
1/2 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon prepared mustard

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix all ingredients for the loaf together. Place on a baking dish and shape into a loaf.
2. Mix ingredients for the topping and spread over the loaf. Bake for 1 hour.