Monday, April 21, 2014

2 weeks of Easy Dinner Ideas: Part 1

Right now I am soccer mom, and piano mom and.....all the other activities and craziness we got ourselves into this spring, so I am in constant need of fast quick and delicious meals that can roll with our schedule.

My two oldest have soccer practice right around dinner time, so I have to plan ahead, either with all the prep work done in advance or ready and made and in the fridge waiting to be baked.  Even if you don't have the pleasure of being chauffeur to your children's daily activities, this list of fast and delicious meals will help you on those crunch days you just don't want to slave away in the kitchen or just got home from work and want something easy to fix. Some of these meals are ones you can prep in advance, others are easy to throw together, even if it is late and everyone is starving.

Oh and on a non-food blog note, we bought our first house!! Yay!  We are moving from Oregon to Utah in July and can now call ourselves official homeowners.  It feels so good!  We have been waiting a long time for this with med school and residency and even the first job, but it is finally here.  So now, paint color are on my brain and all the fun things that come along with making a house my own.  Don't mention the downsides of owning a home, I just want to be in complete bliss at least until we move in :)

                 chicken rolls
              Taquitos with ranch
              Cajun Chicken Pasta
          Spanish Rice and Potatoes
   Cream cheese and Chicken Soup
   Sticky Finger Quesedillas
         Paprika Chicken Stroganoff
              Hawaiian Haystacks
         Cheesesteak Sandwiches
    Fast and Easy Pizza dough and sauce
              Creamy Basil Tortellini
                   Easy Stir Fry
                   Breakfast for dinner (smoothies, german pancakes, whole wheat muffins)

            Fresh Pasta Salad
 Broccoli Cheese and Craisin Salad
Creamy Cucumber Salad
       apples with caramel

         make ahead garlic bread

Friday, April 18, 2014

{easy} Key Lime Pie

 This is probably one of the easiest desserts, ever.  It only has 3 ingredients.  The longest part of the process is letting it chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour (best if 2-3 hours). 

I have had this recipe since I was married and have loved it ever since. I don't even know where the original recipe came from, but a big shout out to whoever it was!  Best combination of amazing, easy and delicious!  If you need a little Easter inspiration without a lot of fuss, give this a try, you'll be glad you did.  Happy Easter all!

{easy} Key Lime Pie

1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 12 oz cool whip
1/3 cup lime juice (fresh or from the bottle)
Graham Cracker Crust (homemade or store bought)
Food coloring (optional)

Whip all together for 1 minute.  Pour into cooled crust. Refrigerate at least 1 hour.

Monday, March 24, 2014


So whose following March Madness?  I can't say I am necessarily following it, but my husband and I filled out brackets and I am checking the scores to see who won and add it to my sheet.  So far, I am doing all right, but it is still early :)  This is a tradition we have done since we were first married and I hope it continues! 

Anyway, here is a cheeseball for those of you who ARE following and are avid game watchers, and may need a few snacks for the big game!  This recipe made 4 cheese balls, so it definitely feeds a crowd.  But even if you are watching it by your lonesome, you can refrigerate the rest or give them out to friends (maybe they will be kind enough to invite you to their viewing party :)) 

It was easy to throw together and like I said it refrigerates well, so you can make this in advance if you need to.  Happy Basketball watching!

 Pecan Covered Cheeseball
Printable Recipe

Makes 4 cheeseballs

4 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
4 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons dried parsley
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon hot pepper sauce
1 cup pecans, finely chopped for rolling

Place finely chopped pecans in a shallow dish and set aside. In a large bowl (or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment), mix the cream cheese until smooth. Add the cheddar cheese and mix until just combined. Lightly sprinkle all the seasonings and sauces over the cheese mixture and mix until thoroughly combined.

With lightly greased hands, portion the cheese mixture into four pieces and roll each section into a round ball. Coat in pecans. The easiest way to do this is to hold the cheeseball in one hand and scoop up the pecans and press them onto the cheeseball with the other, turning the cheeseball as you go and letting the excess pecans fall back into the dish (this also helps the pecans to go a little further).

Cover each cheeseball in saran wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Recipe from: melskitchencafe

Friday, March 21, 2014

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles

Do you ever have those days that you just need a little something sweet and chocolatey?  I do, all the time.  Or those times you eat more of the cookie dough before they are even baked?  Ya, I do that too.  But then I always feel bad afterwards with the whole raw egg thing.  Then I found these.  They are some of my favorite little treats.  These can be frozen too (yes please!) just let them de-thaw a bit and let them satisfy those little cookie dough, chocolate cravings you may have. Heaven in one bite!

I also think these are perfect to deliver to friends, teachers, you know all those people who you care about or want to give a little extra love to. And  they will love you for it. Plus, remember they can be frozen, which makes this whole process a lot simpler and more convenient for you (bonus!)

During the Christmas baking season, my husband requested these two separate times. I couldn't complain because then I had an excuse to make them again, and again. 

So if for no other reason than to indulge yourself, make them, you won't be disappointed you did!

Also, if you haven't jumped on the coconut oil bandwagon (which for the granola bar bites I posted a little while back, are totally worth it in my opinion) then don't worry, vegetable oil works perfectly for this recipe. 

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles
Printable Recipe
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
3/4 cups mini chocolate chips
2 12-ounce bags chocolate chips
1/4 cup coconut oil (or vegetable oil)

Cream together the butter and brown sugar until combined. Add the vanilla and mix until combined. Alternately add the sweetened condensed milk and the flour and mix until combined. Add the chocolate chips.

Chill the dough for 1 hour.

Using a 1 1/2 teaspoon cookie scoop, scoop the dough and then roll each portion into a ball and place on a lined cookie sheet. Place the cookie sheet in the freezer and freeze for 1 hour.

In a medium microwave-safe bowl, combine the chocolate and the coconut oil. Heat for 30 seconds at a time, stirring after each 30 seconds, until the mixture is smooth. Dip the frozen cookie dough balls in the chocolate and allow to harden. If desired, drizzle leftover chocolate over the truffles. Best served cold or barely to room temperature. Makes a LOT

Recipe from: ourbestbites

Monday, February 24, 2014

Crockpot Tomato Basil Soup

One of my favorite comfort foods growing up was grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup.  Now that I am older, we still make it, but I have found a version that is a little more hearty.  It has all kinds of yummy vegetables that make it even better.  I paired this with an adult version grilled cheese that I will share next. 

I ate this for lunch for days!  The best part is that it is simple to throw together.  It seems like I am in need of a lot of these types of meals lately! So while the weather is still on the fritz and you need a little warmth from comfort foods, try this. Enjoy
Crock-pot Tomato Basil Soup
Printable Recipe
Prep Time: 20 minutes

3 - 15 oz. cans of petit diced tomatoes, with juice
1 C finely diced celery
1 C finely chopped carrots
1 C finely diced onions
1 tsp dried oregano
1/4 C fresh basil, minced
4 C chicken broth
1/2 C flour
1 C freshly grated Parmesan Cheese
1/2 C butter
2 C half and half, warmed
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper

Put tomatoes, celery, carrots, onions and chicken broth into crock pot.
Cover and cook on Low for 5-7 hours.

Thirty minutes before serving make the roux. Melt butter over low heat in a skillet and add in flour. Stir constantly for about 5 minutes

Slowly add in 1 cup of hot soup. Add in 3 more cups of soup and stir until smooth.
Put all back into the crock pot.

Stir and add Parmesan cheese, warmed half and half, salt and pepper
Add in oregano and basil.

Cover and let cook on low for another 30 minutes or until ready to serve.

Recipe Source: yourhomebasedmom

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Parika Chicken Stroganoff

My husband served a two year mission when he was 19 in Hungary so when we were first married, he tried making Hungarian food.  It didn't last long since the recipes he had took hours to make, but the thought of Hungarian food intrigued me.  We don't have the same peppers or paprika here as they use, but you can go to an Asian market and pick up some Hungarian paprika, which is a good substitute, but isn't required for this dish.

I found this recipe that my husband says reminds him of the food he had there. That's good enough for me, especially since it didn't include using lard!  All of us really like the taste of this and it is super easy to make as well.  So if you need a little variation in your meal rotation, try this.  It isn't extreme in it's different flavors, but enough to change things up a bit.  I think you will really like this. I usually try and put this in my monthly meal rotation because the fam loves it so much.  Give it a shot, you might be surprised by how much you like it!  And don't be scared off because it is "Hungarian".  Enjoy!

Paprika Chicken Stroganoff
Printable Recipe

Yield: Serves 4-6

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, chicken thighs or a combination of both, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 tablespoon sweet paprika or regular paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more as needed
1 medium yellow onion, diced (about 1/2 cup)
8 ounces white button mushrooms or baby bella mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 3/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup plain yogurt, creme fraiche, or sour cream
Hot, cooked egg noodles, for serving (about 12 ounces to 1 pound)
Fresh, chopped parsley for garnish

In a medium bowl or shallow pie plate, toss the cubed chicken with the paprika, salt and pepper. Sprinkle the flour on top of the chicken and toss to coat.

Heat the olive oil in a large 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until rippling and hot. Add the chicken in a single layer and cook until golden brown on each side, tossing occasionally, about 5 minutes. The chicken will finish cooking fully a bit later so it doesn't need to be cooked all the way through. Scrape the chicken onto a plate and set aside.

Add another teaspoon of oil to the pan, if needed, and stir in the onions and mushrooms. Saute the mixture, stirring occasionally and scraping up the browned bits from the chicken, until the onion is translucent and the onions and mushrooms are browned, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute, until fragrant.

Pour in about 1/4 cup of the chicken broth and de-glaze the pan by scraping up any bits from the bottom. Stir in the tomato paste, whisking to combine. Add the rest of the chicken broth and the bay leaf, stirring well.

Add the chicken back into the skillet and simmer the mixture over medium-low to medium heat, until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce thickens slightly, about 5-6 minutes. Stir in the yogurt (or creme fraiche or sour cream) and cook for about 2-3 minutes longer. If you would like the sauce to be a bit thicker, make a cornstarch slurry by mixing 1 tablespoon cornstarch with 1-2 tablespoons cold water. Add the cornstarch slurry to the simmering mixture in the skillet, whisking quickly to combine. Let the mixture simmer for 2-3 minutes until thickened. Serve over hot noodles and garnish with fresh parsley, if desired.

Note: For this recipe, use whatever kind of paprika you have in your pantry (regular or sweet). You could even try subbing smoked paprika if you like the flavor of it.

Recipe Source: Melskitchencafe

Monday, February 17, 2014

Healthy granola bar bites

These are my families new favorite treats.  I pack them in my kid's lunches, they eat them as after school snacks, I eat them after I workout or when I am craving something sweet, but don't want to give in :)  My husband grabs a few of these when he gets home from work and before dinner is ready.  Really, we eat these all throughout the day.  I usually freeze them and pull them out as needed.  I have made them 3 times in the last week if that tells you how much we like them. 
They are relatively healthy as well, which is an added perk to them being so darn delicious!  The whole cup of flax seed seems like a lot, but it works well in this concoction. 

No bake granola bites
2 cups quick oats
1 cup crispy rice cereal (like Rice Krispies)
1 cup creamy peanut butter, melted slightly
1 cup ground flaxseed
1 cup chocolate chips (mini work best but you can use regular too)
2/3 cup honey or agave, slightly melted
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted*

To melt the peanut butter  and honey, measure out the amount called for, then warm for 20-30 seconds in the microwave.  This helps get it to a good consistency to mix well. Use this method to melt the coconut oil as well.

Combine all the ingredients together in a large bowl, mixing gently so the crispy rice cereal doesn't get crushed. Mix until well-combined.

Using a cookie scoop (or roll small amounts in your hands), drop rounded tablespoonful-sized portions onto a parchment or wax paper lined cooking sheet. I used my cookie scoop and then rolled the scooped portion out between my palms.

Refrigerate for 1-2 hours. At this point you can serve them or combine the chilled granola bites in a large Tupperware-type container or Ziploc bags to freeze or refrigerate. They will stay fresh in the refrigerator for up to a week or for a few months in the freezer.
Note: You can add flaked coconut if you don’t have coconut oil, but if you do, just cut down the amount of rice cereal. You can play around with the amounts if it seems too sticky or not sticking together well enough.

Recipe Source: melskitchencafe 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Coco lopez Cupcakes

I know I just posted a different cupcake recipe, but I couldn't wait to post this one too!  
I have to admit that cupcakes are not a huge temptation for me when it comes to desserts.  But these...oh these, I have no self control.  They are the most moist cupcakes I have ever had.  They have the same technique as the "better than (fill in the blank) cake", where you poke holes and pour liquid over top.  This lets the liquid seep into the cupcake and produces moist and delicious little treats.  If that is not enough, they are then topped with a succulent cream cheese frosting and toasted coconut.  Seriously what could be better??
I haven't been shy with my love of all things coconut, so if you don't like coconut, you may not love these, but I would be surprised if you didn't at least like them????  There is coconut in the cupcakes themselves and I think if you are serving these to non-coconut lovers as well, you could surpass this step and be just fine.
 I first tried these when my friend Danielle brought them to our school bake sale and I (along with everyone else) gobbled these up!  I then made them for a baby shower I threw and have been dreaming of when to make them again.  They are some of my favorite cupcakes and I can't wait for you to try them!

Coco Lopez Cupcakes
Printable Recipe
1 white cake mix
3 eggs
1/3 cup oil
1 Tbsp melted butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cup shredded coconut
1 1/2 cup water
1 can Coco Lopez (found in the sparkling water/mixer section of the store)
1 can fat free sweetened condensed milk
Coconut, toasted*

Cream Cheese Frosting
2 8-oz. packages cream cheese (light works fine, although it will yield a slightly softer frosting) at almost room temperature
1/2 cup salted butter at almost room temperature
2 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract

How to make:
Mix all together and pour into 9x13 cake pan or fill cupcakes 1/2 full. Bake 25-30 minutes for cake or according to box for cupcakes.
Mix 1 can cocoa lopez with 1 can fat free sweetened condensed milk.
When cupcakes come out of oven poke lots of holes on top. Pour/brush cocoa lopez mixture on top multiple times. Let cupcakes cool. Add a swirl of frosting to top and sprinkle with toasted coconut.

*to toast coconut
heat oven to 350* and place on an oven safe pan in a single layer.  Toast for 3-5 minutes or until browned, stirring every minute.  Towards the end, watch closely and stir every 30 seconds to make sure the coconut doesn’t burn.

Whip together the cream cheese, butter, and extract until light and fluffy. Add in the powdered sugar and whip until smooth and fully incorporated.  Refrigerate any leftovers (or anything you’ve frosted that doesn’t get eaten immediately).

Top cupcakes with toasted coconut and serve.

Note: The coco lopez is type of cream of coconut and comes in a 15 oz can.  I found it in the mixer section, but it doesn't not have alcohol in it.

Recipe from my friend Danielle; frosting from ourbestbites

Friday, February 7, 2014

Pink Lemonade Cupcakes

 Here is another post, gearing you up for Valentine's Day, where everything is pink, red, and white, or some combination of the three.  This is the perfect dessert if you are going for that theme!
 One bite of this and my kids were swooning, telling me the cupcakes were "awesome" and "the best they have ever had". I tried a new recipe for the cupcake and thought they were good, but would have been just as good doing a simpler version because the frosting is what really stands out. It really is THAT good, noteworthy even. So I will include the simpler recipe instead of the one I used for the pictures. 
 You can keep this pretty simple.  Just make the cupcakes in advance, freeze them and pull them out when you are ready to frost. I did have to 1 1/2 the recipe since I slathered on the frosting and still didn't have quite enough.  I would think if you are going to pipe the frosting on, doubling the frosting recipe would be perfect. 
We had a family movie night at the kid's school with a small bake sale to accompany it, so I made these.  What kid wouldn't want a finger licking yummy cupcake??  I had these umbrellas from my daughter's birthday party last year, but you could also use cute straws if you are looking for an easy way to fancy them up :)  Hope you enjoy them as much as we did!
Pink Lemonade Cupcakes
1 box white cupcake mix (and ingredients called for on box)
1 tsp lemon zest
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 Tbs sweetened pink lemonade drink powder
red food coloring (optional)

½ cup butter, softened
1 lb powdered sugar
3-5 TBS frozen pink lemonade concentrate, thawed
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Line pan with cupcake liners and spray with baking spray.

In a large bowl, mix the powdered cake mix and ingredients called for on the box.  Add lemon zest, vanilla extract, and pink lemonade drink powder.  Pour into liners and bake according to box directions.

Let cool completely before frosting.

Mix butter with mixer on medium high speed for 2-3 minutes, or until creamy.  Reduce speed to medium and add powdered sugar ½ cup at a time.  Beat well, increasing speed once all the sugar has been added, scraping the sides down as needed.  Add vanilla and lemonade concentrate until desired consistency is reached.  Keep beating until smooth, adding red food coloring if you want a deeper red color.  Frost cooled cupcakes.

Source: Yourhomebasedmom

Thursday, February 6, 2014

4 minute play dough {non-cook}

This year, my 2 year old has a little Valentine's party and since he goes crazy over candy, we decided to give out play dough instead of treats.  I love it because I made it all ready and rolled it into balls ready to put in cute bags for the big party.  That makes my day so much easier!
I first made this play dough a few weeks ago for a little pre-school group my son is in that was at my house.  I did it blue since we were talking about that color and my kids couldn't get enough of it.  They beg to play with it every day.  It has a really good consistency and doesn't get stuck on counters or hands, just like the real deal.  So whether you are looking for a new idea for the kids when they get bored, or to use as a non-treat valentine, this play dough is awesome!  It quickly comes together and you can make it whatever color your little heart desires.

Oh and a side note, keep mixing it even though it looks like it won' eventually does.  If your mixer isn't doing the job, you can mix it by hand to make it the right texture.  Enjoy friends.

 Four Minute Play Dough:
2 cups flour
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1/2 cup salt
2 Tbsp. cream of tartar
2 Tbsp. cinnamon
UP to 2 cups of boiling water- (start with less, then add more as needed)
Red food coloring
Glycerin (optional- a few drops)
Red glitter

Mix the first 5 ingredients in a mixing bowl.  A kitchen aid works great if you have one., if not, just stir it with a big spoon.

2.  Add the hot water, red food coloring, a few drops of glycerin (optional, but it gives the dough more shine), and lots of red glitter if using.  Turn on the Kitchen Aid for a few minutes and let it mix and knead the dough.  (If you are not using a Kitchen Aid, then stir until the dough turns into a big sticky ball, and then knead it for a few minutes on the counter.)  The kneading is what makes the stickiness go away, so don't skip this part!  Store in a Ziploc bag to keep from drying out.

Source: make life lovely
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