Sunday, March 16

Spice Up Your Sprouts!


I just *had* to share my "recipe" for the best Brussels sprouts I've ever had. Sprouts don't have to be a boring, bland vegetable! If you aren't a fan of the sprout, you've at least gotta try this method before making a final decision.

16 oz Brussels sprouts (I use frozen!)
4 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp dried minced onion
1 tbsp dried minced garlic

Throw all ingredients in a sauté pan, cover, and stir occasionally for about 10 minutes until butter is melted, and sprouts are cooked through.

Enjoy!

{The leftover butter after the sprouts are devoured is amazing for drizzling over mashed potatoes, too!}
 

Wednesday, January 15

{Figure Friendly} Spaghetti Casserole

You may have noticed by now that I am obsessed with casseroles ever since having my beautiful son. I need meals that I can toss in the oven, and allow me to take the time to care for my toddler in the mean time. "Ain't nobody got time" for homemade sushi anymore, sadly enough. This dish here is one of my personal favorites. Growing up in an Italian family, spaghetti is, and always has been, my absolute favorite food. This recipe however is not diet friendly. Wanna pack on the pounds? Come on over to place! I'll fatten ya' up real quick! For those of you who are watching your calorie intake, I've altered my recipe to be "figure friendly" and cut the calories and fat!


{Spaghetti Casserole}

1 box elbow macaroni
2 pounds ground beef
pepper, minced onion, & minced garlic
1 jar Ragu super chunky mushroom pasta sauce
1 cup sour cream
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cook pasta in boiling water per box instruction to al dente. Drain and rinse. 

Meanwhile, brown ground beef, seasoning with black pepper, minced onion, and minced garlic to taste. Drain fat from beef.

Stir in jar of pasta sauce, and sour cream into browned ground beef, until smooth and creamy. Stir in 1 cup of mozzarella cheese.

Add meat sauce to drained pasta in a 9x13 baking dish, and stir to combine.

Top with remaining 1 cup of mozzarella cheese, and sprinkle Parmesan over top to taste. Cover with foil.

Bake for 25 minutes at 350, or until cheese is melted and bubbly. 


{Figure Friendly Spaghetti Casserole}

1 box whole wheat elbow macaroni
2 pounds lean ground beef
pepper, minced onion, & minced garlic
1 jar Ragu super chunky mushroom pasta sauce
1 cup light fat-free sour cream
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cook pasta in boiling water per box instruction to al dente. Drain and rinse. 

Meanwhile, brown ground beef, seasoning with black pepper, minced onion, and minced garlic to taste. Drain fat from beef, and rinse ground beef with hot water. Drain. 

Stir jar of pasta sauce, and sour cream into browned ground beef, until smooth and creamy.

Add meat sauce to drained pasta in a 9x13 baking dish, and stir to combine.

Top with mozzarella cheese, and cover with foil.

Bake for 25 minutes at 350, or until cheese is melted and bubbly.

*Tips;

You are more than able to use any type of pasta, including spaghetti noodles. I make my recipe with macaroni noodles, because it's easiest for my 1 year old to pick up with his tiny fingers. I also prefer the thick bite to macaroni, over a thin, limpy noodle.

Rinsing ground beef is a tip I learned from Pinterest. If you thought just draining the fat off of your beef was healthy, try actually rinsing it with water. It's mind blowing how much more fat comes off.

This dish is fantastic for hiding veggies for small children. Or any picky eater, for that matter! Easily sneak shredded carrots, shredded zucchini, or even additional tomatoes or mushrooms in this casserole, to include up to a full serving of fresh vegetables into your meal!

Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 8

My Favorite Chili Cheese Dip


Chili cheese dip is an American past time... Okay, maybe not. But it is by far a tradition in our household. I would say that chili cheese dip and spaghetti and meatballs are the only two foods I specifically remember from my childhood. Oh, and little Vienna sausages.. I loved sneaking those nasty little canned meat sticks from my Grammy's pantry.. Off topic! Chili cheese dip is one of those foods that most likely will taste different at each party you attend. Each family has their way of making it. For my family, it was a can of Hormel chili and a pound of Velveeta. After visiting a friends house who's recipe called for a can of Rotel instead of Hormel, I had a brilliant idea. Instead of making the choice to have chili cheese dip, or the choice to have salsa con queso, let's have a fiesta and combine them both! {Let's be serious here, I know I'm not the first person to dump these ingredients into the crock pot. But never the less, the flavor was better than how I've been doing it for the last 10 years & had to share it.}

I dumped an entire can of Hormel chili (with beans), an entire can of Rotel diced tomatos (original heat), and one 16 ounce block of original Velveeta into my mini-crockpot, and set the heat to low. It takes about 30-40 minutes to get the cheese melted and creamy while stirring occasionally. *This can also very easily be done on the stove top in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat!

By far, this is my favorite chili cheese dip combination. If you've been a follower of the single can dip, I urge you to try adding it's mate, and let me know how you feel about it! How do you make your chili cheese dip?

*Tip; Don't drain that delicious juice from the can of Rotel! Dump all of that liquidy goodness right on in for full flavor.

Enjoy!

Friday, January 3

Perfect Bacon. Every. Single. Time!


Perfect bacon? Is there such a thing?! How many times have we scalded our arms and chest with hot bacon grease? How many times have our bacon come out all limpy and raw? Or even worse. Curled up in a tiny, crispy burnt ball. Bacon is by far the hardest food for me to cook. And I've tried it all. I've tried using a George Foreman grill, I've tried microwaving it, I've tried those stupid microwave cookers that cost an arm and a leg. Nothing works. Until I finally pinpointed how to make perfect bacon. We can thank Rachael Ray for this one. {I love you RR!} The secret to perfect bacon is to bake it. Yup. Simple. The oven. And the TRUE secret that I'm sharing today is to not preheat the oven. Place your bacon on a baking sheet, and slide it into a cold oven. If you prefer a softer bacon, choose the middle rack. If you're like us and prefer a crispier bacon, choose the bottom rack. Once you shut the oven door, set the oven temperature to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, and set the timer for 30 minutes. Don't peek! After 30 minutes, carefully remove the baking sheets from the oven. They may not look as pretty as we'd hope at this point.


Don't be alarmed at the amount of nasty grease surrounding your bacon. The next step is to carefully layer the bacon between sheets of paper towel to absorb the grease.


I waited approximately 5 minutes to allow that grease to absorb. And after 5 minutes, perfect bacon.


It's really that easy. No grease splatter, minimal mess, no curly, wrinkles, nothing. At this point, you could go ahead and dive right in to devour it all, or go my route and ziplock bag it and store it in the fridge for BLT's! Enjoy!

Thursday, January 2

Cheeseburger Tater Tot Casserole


Have you been craving a big, flavorful cheeseburger with crispy, salty tater tots lately? Is it just me? Maybe it's just me, but I have been dying for a savory dinner that doesn't require my poor husband to grill in -27 degree temperatures. {Yes, it has truly been that cold here in South Dakota these past few weeks!} What do we do when we don't want to grill? We throw it into a casserole! Wait, even better.. We throw it in the crockpot and allow it to do the work for us, while we snuggle up and try to survive without freezing half to death! I prefer the crockpot method, but in enjoy having an oven-ready back up plan.

{OVEN}

32 ounces frozen tater tots
1 pound ground beef
10 ounce can cream of mushroom soup
1 cup sour cream
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
1 cup fried onions, divided

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare 9x13 casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray. 

In a large skillet, brown ground beef. Drain.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together mushroom soup, and sour cream. Stir in 1 + 1/2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese, and 1/2 cup fried onions. Carefully stir in browned ground beef while still warm. Add 32 ounces of frozen tater tots, and gently stir just to combine.

Pour mixture into prepared baking dish. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes.

Top with remaining 1/2 cup of cheddar cheese, and 1/2 cup of fried onions. Bake for an additional 5 minutes, until cheese is melted.

Enjoy!

{CROCKPOT}

32 ounces frozen tater tots
1 pound ground beef
10 ounce can cream of mushroom soup
1 cup sour cream
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
1 cup fried onions, divided

In a medium skillet, brown ground beef. Drain, and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together soup, sour cream, 1 + 1/2 cup shredded cheese, and 1/2 cup fried onions. Gently stir in ground beef, and tater tots. 

Prepare large crock pot with non-stick cooking spray. Carefully scrape entire casserole into crock pot. Cook on low for 6 hours, or on high for 4 hours.

Enjoy!

Cheesy Mushroom Broccoli & Rice

Over the Christmas holiday my mother and father in-law flew out for a short visit, and as usual, I was unprepared on the supper front.. But never fear! I am the queen of throwing random ingredients into a pot, and calling it "food". This particular event called for a bag of frozen chicken breast at the front of my freezer. A little of this, a can of that, and BOOM. One of the best meals I've ever made {which, sorry, isn't saying much...} and has become a weekly staple in our house ever since. As an overachiever, I've even modified my recipe for you Crockpot lovers out there!


{STOVETOP}

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, thawed
10 ounce can cheddar cheese soup
10 ounce can cream of mushroom soup
10 ounces chicken broth
8 fresh ounces mushrooms
32 ounces frozen broccoli
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 cups steamed rice

In a medium skillet, brown chicken breasts for about 8 minutes, until 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Shred chicken, and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large covered skillet, steam broccoli and mushrooms together for about 10 minutes, until mushrooms are browned and broccoli is thawed and warm.

In a large stock pot, whisk together cheddar soup, mushroom soup, and chicken broth over low heat. Stir in black pepper, and garlic powder.

Stir broccoli and mushrooms into soups, and raise the heat to medium. Stir in shredded chicken. Warm over medium heat for about 10 minutes, until soup is hot.

Serve over steamed rice, and enjoy!


{CROCKPOT}

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, frozen
10 ounce can cheddar cheese soup
10 ounce can cream of mushroom soup
10 ounces chicken broth
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
8 ounces fresh mushrooms
32 ounces frozen broccoli
2 cups steamed rice

In a large crock pot, whisk together cheddar soup, cream of mushroom soup, chicken broth, black pepper, and garlic powder. Stir in fresh mushrooms. Press 4 frozen chicken breasts into the bottom of the crock pot.

Cook on low heat for 6 hours, or on high for 4 hours.

Shred chicken breasts. Stir in frozen broccoli and cook on low for another 2 hours, or on high for another hour, until broccoli is thawed and hot.

Serve over steamed rice, and enjoy!

Sunday, December 29

Fire Crackers


I have fallen in love with these "fire crackers"! Last year my husband and I went to a bonfire, and one of the neighbors brought a mason jar full of crackers. She told me she "just mixed some vegetable oil with ranch dressing mix." Well, I decided to kick it up a notch. Here is how I make my fire crackers.

1 box of saltine crackers
1 cup of vegetable oil
1 packet of ranch dressing mix
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 tablespoons crushed red pepper

1. Whisk ranch mix, red pepper, garlic, onion, and chili powder into vegetable oil.

2. Place entire box of saltines into a large airtight container.

3. Pour dressing over crackers and seal container. 

4. Gently toss the dressing over the crackers & allow to sit overnight, tossing occasionally.



Tips: Make sure to grab the ranch dressing mix, and not the ranch "dip" mix.

I like to use the round saltines instead of the square ones. Play with both of them! While you're at it, try the "mini" saltines too. Maybe even oyster saltines! The possibilities are endless!

I store my crackers in a large mason jar. I bought mine at Runnings Farm and Fleet store, but they also carry them at craft stores like Hobby Lobby.

Enjoy! Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 19

Hot Cocoa Mason Jar Gifts

I started feeling a little crafty this weekend and decided to make some cute little hot cocoa gifts to give out to our family and friends. These little guys are not only easy to make, but a very affordable gift to pass! Here is what I used.

16oz {pint sized} Mason jars with lids
Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
Granulated Sugar
Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
Mini Marshmallows
Ribbon {optional}

Begin by washing and drying each Mason jar. Then, fill each jar with 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder. {I needed to use a mason jar funnel to avoid cocoa powder "poofing" all over the edge of the jar!} I shook the jar a bit to get the cocoa in one, flat layer before pouring 1/4 cup granulated sugar on top. After shaking the jar again to smooth the sugar out, I topped it with about 1/4 cup of chocolate chips, and then finished it off with mini marshmallows. For the marshmallows, I actually overfilled the jar and pressed them down to ensure the jars were completely filled. I would say there was about 1/4 cup of mallows as well, but if we are being completely honest with each other here; I just handfulled both the chocolate chips and mallows. Probably 1 handful of chocolate chips to 2 handfuls of compressed marshmallows. Probably would have helped the recipes sake if I would have measured, huh? Oh well, we won't tell anyone else.

Decoration of the jars is completely up to you! That's right! Do whatever your creative little heart desires! I had planned to glitz it up with glitter glue, and bedazzle "Merry Christmas" across the jar ring, maybe even sprinkle them with fairy dust? But then life happened, and a simple red ribbon was the perfect touch. I had also planned to hand write the instructions on cute little notecards, but after writing 2 or 3 of them, I realized my hand writing is terrible & that idea was out the window. Instead, I printed them on computer paper and cut circles using the lid as a guide, and screwed it on between the lid and the ring. Crafty!

As for the instructions: Melt entire jar with 8 cups of milk on the stovetop over low heat until chocolate chips are smooth and creamy. Enjoy!

{Yes, that really does say 8 entire cups. Your eyes do not deceive you. I know it seems like an obnoxious amount of hot cocoa, but it's the perfect ratio of milk to cocoa. If you aren't looking to feed an army of chilly, winter guests, try using 8oz {half pint} Mason jars, and cut the recipe in half, using 1/4 cup of hot cocoa to 1/8 cup of sugar!}

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, July 1

Our Pregnancy Announcement

After playing around with a few ideas, I've finally decided on an announcement to send to our family and friends!


Update: November 2013 ~ Our announcement has almost 400 pins on Pinterest! Woah.. Thank you all!

Sunday, June 10

Smoked Chicken Wings

Today is such a happy day here in my household! Today is my handsome husbands 23rd birthday! I told him he could have anything in the whole entire world for dinner tonight, and he chose Chicken Wings. For Christmas last year one of his big gifts was an electric smoker. So he and I decided to try out a recipe for smoked wings. For the most part, its uncommon to smoke wings, or for that matter, just about any area of the chicken. For some reason smoking is more commonly associated with beef and pork. We Googled, and really couldn't find any specific recipe for them. So, I threw together a few of my favorite spices for a dry rub, smoked them, and then charred them on the grill. They were by far the best wings we've ever had.


Ingredients: {Dry Rub}
1 Tablespoon Kosher Salt
1 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
1 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
1 Teaspoon Onion Powder
2 Teaspoons Smoked Paprika
Cayenne Pepper, to Taste
1 Tablespoon "Kickin' Chicken" Seasoning

Directions:
Before we get started, preheat the smoker to 300-315 degrees. To prep, we decided to cut the tip of the wings off, just under the joint, since it really doesn't yield any meat anyway. After rinsing the wings off, we rubbed each side of the wings, and let them sit at room temperature while the smoker preheated. For even cooking, you know? Once the smoker was nice and warm, we smoked them for about an hour. Then, slapped them on a hot grill to get that perfect charred skin. They grilled on medium-high heat for about 5 minutes per side. Then, the fun part begins. We chose to keep half of them naked, and tossed the other half with Hunts Honey Barbeque sauce. Personally, I enjoyed the naked wings much more than the barbequed ones. My husband was in wing heaven today.



Of course, we polished these bad boys off with some traditional summer sides. A box of Velveeta shells & cheese, as well as corn on the cob. It was a perfect 23rd birthday celebration, as well as the perfect start to the summer barbeque season. Remember, you can totally do this exact same thing on just your barbeque grill. The smokey flavor is just an added bonus to this recipe. I wouldn't be discouraged if you're craving barbeque wings but don't have a smoker. Plus, the dry rub is totally universal, and would work wonderfully with a wing sauce, rather than a barbeque sauce. I'm excited to try this new recipe 12,423 ways this summer. Enjoy the gorgeous weather everyone! And get creative out there on your grill!