Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Any Flavor Pound Cake

Happy birthday to my best friend in the whole world, my husband! He loves chocolate, so I end up making the chocolate version of this cake just about every year. I love this recipe. It's so easy, but it turns out pretty! And of course, it's delicious. You can use any combination of cake mix and pudding mix you want. Some of my favorites are devil's food cake mix with chocolate pudding, red velvet cake mix with chocolate pudding, yellow cake mix with vanilla pudding, and cherry chip cake mix with vanilla pudding.

Any Flavor Pound Cake

1 cake mix
1 small pudding mix
1/2 c. oil
1 1/4 c. water
4 eggs
1/2 can frosting

Preheat oven to 350°. Mix cake mix, pudding mix, oil, water, and eggs with electric mixer on medium speed for 2 minutes. Pour into greased and floured (buy the cooking spray with flour, trust me on this) bundt pan. Bake for 50 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan just until pan is cool enough to touch, but still warm, then invert cake onto serving tray. Cool completely. To frost, melt half a can of frosting in the microwave. Start with 30 seconds and stir. Add on 10 seconds and stir, and repeat until frosting is thin enough to pour. Pour over cooled cake.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Orange Creamsicle Cookies

I pinned these a long time ago on Pinterest and really wanted to try them, but I never could remember to get all the stuff to make them in my kitchen at the same time. I had oranges, but I didn't have vanilla chips. I had vanilla chips, but I didn't have any oranges. Then I went to a doTERRA class and the lady teaching the class gave everyone a free bottle of wild orange essential oil. You can't ingest all essential oils, but doTERRA has several that are safe to ingest, and wild orange is one of them. Light bulb! Substitute wild orange essential oil for the orange zest! The cookies turned out delicious!

Orange Creamsicle Cookies

from The Girl Who Ate Everything

2 1/2 c. flour
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. (2 sticks) butter, softened
1/2 c. white sugar
1/2 c. packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
2 Tbs. orange zest or 16-20 drops doTERRA wild orange essential oil
2 c. vanilla chips

Preheat oven to 375°. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in small bowl and set aside. In large bowl, cream together butter and sugars. Add egg, vanilla, and essential oil or zest. Mix well. Add in flour mixture and mix until dough forms. Stir in vanilla chips. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes or until edges barely start to brown. Cool on cookie sheet for a few minutes before removing to wire rack to cool completely.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

This Week's Basket

I skipped the last two weeks of Bountiful Baskets, so I was really excited to pick one up yesterday. I was not disappointed! It was full of all sorts of yummy things!

This week my basket included corn, yellow squash, carrots, an English cucumber, living butter lettuce, broccoli, strawberries, cantaloupe, raspberries, grapes, and plums. I think it's all pretty straight forward and easy to use so I'm not going to list a bunch of recipes I've listed repeatedly. I'm pretty sure you'd be bored to death. However, if you are looking for some ideas for anything, just let me know and I'll be happy to do some recipe hunting for you!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Slow Cooker Cinnamon Apples

The last time I got a Bountiful Basket, I got three bags of apples. I didn't weigh them but I'm guessing it was around six pounds total. Dang. That is a lot of apples! I figured I would probably make apple pie or something like that, but I just hadn't gotten around to it. We went on a little weekend trip to southern Colorado with my in-laws and we ate dinner at Chili's one night. My in-laws both ordered ribs, which came with cinnamon apples. They're pretty tasty. A few days later, back at home, we were having them over for dinner and I thought that would be a perfect time to make something with apples. My husband smoked pork chops and I thought of those cinnamon apples at Chili's! I searched Pinterest and found a super simple recipe for the slow cooker.

Words cannot express how pleased I am with this recipe. It only has a few ingredients, all of which I already had on hand. I realize most of you won't have minute tapioca in your pantry, but I did. Don't worry about buying a whole box just for this recipe. It works great as a thickener in stews too! You'll find something to do with the rest of it. My favorite thing about this recipe is that it's a slow cooker recipe. I've been trying to use my slow cooker a lot lately. When it gets into the 90s outside, I don't feel much like cooking, plus we always seem to be busy doing fun stuff. The slow cooker saves me a lot of hassle. True, this recipe takes a little while to throw together because you have to peel and chop the apples, but it's not so bad when you're not trying to do that plus prepare all your other dishes.

Slow Cooker Cinnamon Apples

from Runs for Cookies Recipes

3 lbs. apples, peeled, cored, and sliced or chopped (about 8 c.)
1/2 c. brown sugar
2 Tbs. Minute Tapioca
1 tsp. apple pie spice or 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Place apples in greased slow cooker. Toss with remaining ingredients. Cover and cook on low 3-4 hours. I cooked mine for 4 hours and they were still a little crisp-tender, not soggy at all. I served them as a side dish but they would be so good served warm over vanilla ice cream!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Shower Soothers

A few years ago a company called Sudacare came out with Shower Soothers. They were disks you put in your shower and as they dissolved they released vapors that helped clear your congestion. My husband and I both loved them, so of course, they don't make them any more. One day on Pinterest I saw a recipe for DIY shower disks. They use essential oils, and since I have recently gotten into using essential oils, I was excited to try them out!

If you use essential oils, you probably know what works best as a decongestant for you. The original post calls for eucalyptus, lavender, and rosemary. I already had the Breezey blend by Butterfly Essentials and the Breathe blend by doTERRA, so the first two times I tried those blends. Neither one worked great for me, but they hadn't been working great when I put them on my chest either. After battling a cold for a week and experimenting with different oils, I figured out that a strong blend of eucalyptus and peppermint works best for me, so that's what I used in the rest of my shower soothers. My shower is also big and pretty open, so I had to use a lot of essential oil in each disk, like 15-20 drops. I bet that you wouldn't need as much oil for use in a regular sized shower.

Shower Soothers

adapted from Frugal by Choice, Cheap by Necessity

1 c. baking soda
1/3 c. water
essential oil (I suggest a blend eucalyptus, peppermint, and lavender, or a respiratory blend of your choice)

Preheat oven to 350°. In mixing bowl, mix baking soda and water, adding more water 1 Tbs. at a time, until a putty-like consistency is reached. Line muffin tin with paper liners. You'll only need 5-6. Spoon mixture into liners. Bake for 20 minutes. Cool. Add 10-20 drops essential oils to each cooled disk.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Chile Verde Stew

I love chile verde. From what I can tell, there are two different types of chile verde. One is mostly pork in a green chile sauce and is a great filling for burritos and tacos. The other is more of a pork stew. I've had both and love them both! This particular recipe is for the stew.

Depending on the chiles and the salsa verde you use, it can be REALLY hot, so be aware of that. The first few times I made it I bought a jar of mild salsa verde, but it was still really spicy, so that's when I started making my own salsa verde. I've been able to tame it down considerably that way. The last time I made it, I cooked it in the slow cooker, and I think that also helped mellow it quite a bit. If you choose to cook it in a slow cooker, don't forget to reduce the liquid.

In addition to making my own salsa verde to use in this recipe, I also roast my own green chiles. I know that making your own salsa and roasting your own green chiles just for some soup seems like an awful lot of work, but it's so good that it's worth it. If you plan ahead a little, it's a lot easier. I roast the peppers and tomatillos for my salsa verde, so I roast my green chiles at the same time. If you're going to cook the chile verde the slow cooker, you'll want to roast everything and make the salsa verde the day before. If you're going to cook it on the stovetop, you can do everything the same day. That being said, you can buy salsa verde and roasted green chiles at the store if you're in a hurry. I've never seen them, but I've heard that you can buy frozen roasted green chiles. I think you could also used the canned variety, but I've never tried them in the recipe because I seem to have an endless supply of my own roasted green chiles.

Chile Verde Stew

from allrecipes.com

1 Tbs. olive oil
1 1/2 lbs. cubed pork stew meat
salt and pepper to taste
1 yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 c. chopped roasted green chiles
1 (14.5 oz.) can diced tomatoes
1 1/2 c. tomatillo salsa (salsa verde)
5 c. (or 3 cans) chicken broth 
1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1 pinch ground cloves

Stovetop Directions:

In large soup kettle or dutch oven, heat olive oil on medium heat. Season pork with salt and pepper. Add to heated oil and brown on all sides. Remove pork and set aside. Add onion and garlic and saute until onion softens and becomes translucent. Return pork to pan and add green chiles, tomatoes, salsa, broth, oregano, and cloves. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, then reduce heat to medium low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes. Take 2 c. of stew and place in a blender, being careful not to scoop up any pork. Cover lid of blender with a dish towel and blend until smooth. Return mixture to pan. Continue to simmer for at least 35 minutes.

Slow Cooker Directions:

Heat oil in a frying pan. Season pork with salt and pepper. Add to heated oil and brown on all sides. Remove pork and place in greased slow cooker. Add onion and garlic and saute until onion softens and becomes translucent. Add to slow cooker along with chiles, tomatoes, salsa, and 2 cans (about 3 c.) chicken broth. Cover and cook on low for 4-5 hours. Take 2 c. of stew and place in a blender, being careful not to scoop up any pork. Cover lid of blender with a dish towel and blend until smooth. Return mixture to slow cooker. Add oregano and cloves. Cover and cook on low for another 3-4 hours. If you want a thicker consistency, add 1-2 Tbs. instant mashed potatoes.

Roasted Salsa Verde

This is a great recipe to make if you ever get a Mexican pack from Bountiful Baskets. You usually get all the ingredients to make a double batch. The only substitution you'll need to make is jalapenos for serrano peppers. If you like things spicier, I would suggest leaving the seeds in the jalapenos. This salsa is great on tortilla chips, but I usually make it to use in my chile verde or chicken enchiladas. The recipe yields about 2 to 2 1/2 cups.

Roasted Salsa Verde

adapted from allrecipes.com

2 poblano peppers
2 serrano peppers or jalapenos
6 tomatillos, husked
1/4 c. onion
2 cloves garlic
salt to taste
cilantro to taste

Roast poblanos, serranos, and tomatillos. For more information on roasting peppers, watch this video. The tomatillos are done when they start to ooze liquid. Peel, seed, and chop the peppers. Place onion and garlic in food processor or blender and pulse a couple times until they're chopped. Add poblanos and serranos and pulse until chopped. Add tomatillos, salt, and cilantro and pulse until salsa reaches your desired consistency. Don't forget to taste it to see if it needs more salt!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Slow Cooker Pepper Steak

This is another gem from Six Sisters' Stuff. A couple weeks ago I found beef stew meat on manager's special at my local grocery store so I bought it and stuck in the freezer. Right after that, I got green bell peppers from Bountiful Baskets. When I saw this recipe it was a perfect fit! It's been so hot outside lately that using a slow cooker was a welcome idea.

Slow Cooker Pepper Steak

from Six Sisters' Stuff

2 lbs. beef stew meat or beef sirloin, cut into 2-inch strips
garlic powder to taste
1 cube beef bouillon
1/4 c. hot water
1 Tbs. cornstarch
1/2 c. onion, sliced
1 (14.5 oz.) can stewed or diced tomatoes
1 Tbs. soy sauce
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 green bell pepper, sliced
1 red bell pepper, sliced

Spray slow cooker with cooking spray. Place beef in pot and sprinkle with garlic powder. Mix bouillon cube with hot water until dissolved, then mix in cornstarch until dissolved. Pour over meat. Add onion, tomatoes, soy sauce, sugar, and salt. Cover and cook on low 6-8 hours or on high 3-4 hours. When there is 30 minutes of cooking time, add in bell peppers and turn on high.

If you want, you can pour the drippings into a saucepan, add 1-2 Tbs. of cornstarch dissolved in cold water, and bring to a boil. It will thicken up the sauce to a gravy-like consistency. Then you can pour it over the steak and rice.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Pineapple Cream Cheese Spread

I forgot to take a picture of this but I wanted to share the recipe while you all still have celery to eat up!

My mother-in-law loves this pineapple cream cheese spread that you can only get during the holiday season. It comes in a little tiny glass jar and it's a really good filling for celery sticks. A couple nights ago my in-laws invited me over for a barbecue and I immediately started thinking of ways to use up the two bunches of celery I got from Bountiful Baskets. I was just about to start thawing frozen spinach to make spinach dip when I thought about the pineapple cream cheese that my mother-in-law likes so much. I knew I had cream cheese and pineapple so I went to my Swagbucks search engine to see if I could find a copycat recipe.

I was in a hurry so I tried the first one I found. Someone had reviewed it and said it tasted just like the spread that comes in the little glass jars. Perfect! I thought it tasted really good in celery! I took it over to my in-laws and my mother-in-law said it's pretty close to the real thing. I can't testify to that because I really don't remember what the real thing tastes like. Either way, it's something different to fill your celery sticks!

Pineapple Cream Cheese Spread

from cooks.com

3/4 c. crushed pineapple, drained with juice reserved
1 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese (I used reduced fat)
1 Tbs. Miracle Whip (I used light)
1 Tbs. sugar
2 Tbs. pineapple juice
1 drop yellow food coloring, optional

Combine ingredients and beat with electric mixer until smooth. Add nuts if desired. Spoon into celery sticks or serve as a dip.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Shepherd's Pie

I love this recipe, but I don't get to make it very often because the hubby doesn't like shepherd's pie. I think shepherd's pie is one of those things that you can change up easily to suite your own taste. I keep mine really simple so that it's easy to throw together with stuff I already have in my pantry. You can choose to cook this in the slow cooker or in the oven, so you can even tailor the cooking method to fit your day.

There seems to be two main types of recipes for shepherd's pie: tomato based and mushroom based. I prefer to use cream of mushroom soup or cream of mushroom soup with roasted garlic, but if you prefer a tomato based shepherd's pie, use tomato soup! I also like to switch up the mashed potatoes. Since I rarely take the time to make real mashed potatoes, I usually buy packets of instant potatoes. There are tons of flavors to choose from! I really like garlic and parmesan red potatoes, but four cheese and loaded baked potato flavors are good too. This would also be an excellent way to use up leftover mashed potatoes!

Shepherd's Pie

1 lb. ground beef
1 can french cut green beans, drained
1 can corn, drained
1 can condensed cream of mushroom or tomato soup, undiluted
4 c. mashed potatoes
2 c. cheese

Brown ground beef and drain. Stir in green beans, corn, and soup. Pour into slow cooker or 8x8 baking dish. Top with mashed potatoes. If using a slow cooker, cover and cook on low 5-6 hours. Top with cheese the last 30 minutes of cooking. If using the oven, top with cheese, then bake at 375° for 20-25 minutes.

Monday, July 2, 2012

This Week's Basket

Holy moly, it was another awesome week for Bountiful Baskets. I got so much stuff that I think I might have to skip next week! In addition to my regular basket, I also purchased a Mexican pack, so I also got plenty of anaheim, poblano, and jalapeño peppers, avocados, limes, cilantro, garlic, and even more onions. I can't wait to make something delicious with all that.

This week my basket included celery, butternut squash, grape tomatoes, green peppers, onions, romaine lettuce, apples (I got three bags!), cantaloupe, bananas, green grapes, and cherries. Most of these things make great snacks which works good for me when my husband is working out of town, but here are a few other ideas:

Celery: ants on a log, dip in spinach dip or dill dip, chop and freeze for later use

Butternut squash: I've never had butternut squash before, but Pinterest is full of recipes that look delicious, like butternut squash fries, butternut squash pancakes, and butternut squash mac & cheese.

Grape tomatoes: pasta salad, Fritos salad, dip in spinach dip

Green peppers: slow cooker pepper steak, stuffed peppers, Fritos salad, pasta salad, dip in spinach dip, chicken fajitas

Onions: onion rings, chicken fajitas, slow cooker pepper steak, chop and freeze for later use

Romaine lettuce: lettuce wraps, Fritos salad, green salad

Apples: dip in caramel cheesecake apple dip, apple pie, apple crisp, baked apples, apple cobbler

Cantaloupe: chop and eat

Bananas: smoothies, frozen banana bites, banana "ice cream"

Green grapes: frozen, grape salad

Cherries: cherry cobbler, cherries jubilee

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Caramel Cheesecake Apple Dip

This is another Pinterest gem! I think I pinned it last week, and thank goodness, because I got three bags (three!) of apples from Bountiful Baskets this week. I whipped up a low fat version of the original recipe today and it's a keeper! In addition to adjusting the ingredients to sugar free and fat free versions, I also omitted the crushed graham crackers. I'm sure they would be very good, but I forgot to buy some at the store, and honestly, it's an extra step, and you all know how I hate extra steps. If I were to add graham cracker crumbs, I would add them straight to the dip instead of dipping individual apple slices into the crumbs. That would be great if I were taking this to a party, where it would mostly likely be eaten up within a few hours, but I plan to keep it in my fridge and snack on it all week, so graham cracker crumbs would get mushy and yucky.

Caramel Cheesecake Apple Dip

adapted from Cooking Classy

8 oz. fat free cream cheese
1/2 c. sugar free caramel topping

Beat cream cheese with electric mixer until fluffy. Add caramel and beat until smooth. Serve with sliced apples.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Magic Muffin Mix

I found a neat recipe on Pinterest called Magic Muffin Mix. It's a basic muffin recipe that can be made into banana walnut muffins, blueberry muffins, lemon poppyseed muffins, or chocolate chip muffins. What I really like about it is it's healthy. It uses whole wheat flour, egg whites, applesauce, and stevia.

I still have blueberries that I bought from Bountiful Baskets a couple weeks ago, so today I made blueberry muffins. I only had 1/2 c. of Truvia, so that's all I used. I think maybe it could have used a little more, but they still tasted good with only 1/2 c. I know Truvia is stevia based, but it's not straight stevia, so if you have stevia, you will probably want to use a full cup as stated in the original recipe.

The original post is a really cute printable with pictures, so I definitely recommend clicking the link printing it off! It's way cuter than anything I could come up with!

Magic Muffin Mix

from Undressed Skeleton

Basic Muffin Mix:

1 c. whole wheat flour
1 c. stevia (or 1/2-3/4 c. Truvia)
1 Tbs. vanilla
1/2 c. unsweetened applesauce
1 tsp. baking soda
2 egg whites

Add-ins for Blueberry Muffins:

1 c. blueberries
2 Tbs. brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350°. Mix together stevia or Truvia, vanilla, applesauce, egg whites, and brown sugar. Slowly mix in flour and baking soda. Gently fold in blueberries. Line muffin cups with liners and fill 3/4 full. Bake 15-25 minutes (mine took 25). Makes 8-9 muffins.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

I've been making snickerdoodles since I was in the 5th grade, but for some reason, I could never get chocolate chip cookies to turn out. They always turned out flat and hard. I gave up trying for several years, and just stuck to making other cookies. My husband loves chocolate chip cookies, so on occasion, I would buy refrigerated dough and bake it for him. Some time last year I decided I should probably try to make chocolate chip cookies again. I found this recipe on allrecipes.com and wow! Not only did they turn out, but they really are the best chocolate chip cookies I've ever had. Now I make them regularly.

Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

from allrecipes.com

1 c. butter, softened
1 c. white sugar
1 c. packed brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
3 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. hot water
1/2 tsp. salt
2 c. semisweet chocolate chips
1 c. chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°. Cream together butter and both sugars until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then mix in vanilla. Dissolve baking soda in hot water, then add to batter. Add salt and mix well. Add flour and mix well, then stir in chocolate chips and walnuts. Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake 10 minutes or until edges start to turn golden brown. Remove to wire racks to cool, but be sure to eat at least one warm cookie while the chocolate chips are still good and gooey.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Slow Cooker Spaghetti Squash

I was really excited to see a spaghetti squash in my Bountiful Basket this week. I'd never had spaghetti squash before and I'm always happy to try something new. I hadn't given much thought to how I was going to cook it when someone shared a link on the BB facebook page about cooking spaghetti squash in a slow cooker. I couldn't believe my luck! To me, cooking something in the slow cooker is almost like not having to cook. You throw ingredients in the pot, turn it on, and a few hours later you have dinner.

This is more of a cooking method than a recipe. After the squash is done cooking in the slow cooker, you can serve it however you want. They say you can use any sauce you'd normally use on pasta. I went fairly simple and just topped it with butter, parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper. I thought it was delicious! I hope to get more spaghetti squash in the future so I can try some other variations. I also hope to try cooking other winter squash in the slow cooker. I saw a recipe somewhere for acorn squash in the slow cooker (it was an actual recipe with seasonings) so I definitely want to try that out!

Slow Cooker Spaghetti Squash

from about.com

1 spaghetti squash (pick one that will fit whole in your slow cooker)
2 c. water

Pour water into slow cooker. With a large fork or skewer, poke holes in spaghetti squash. Place in slow cooker. Cover and cook on low 8-9 hours. Split, remove seeds, and scrape strands into a serving dish. Serve as desired.

Piña Colada Pops

I've gotten a lot of pineapples from Bountiful Baskets lately and I've been trying to think of something different to do with them. As I was flipping through the new Weight Watchers magazine I saw these and just had to try them! I love frozen fruit as a treat when it's hot.

The recipe says to dip the pineapple spears into pineapple juice before rolling it in coconut, but my pineapple was really juicy and the coconut seemed to stick just fine, so I didn't bother with that step. You might try it if you have trouble getting the coconut to stick to the pineapple.

Piña Colada Pops

1 pineapple, peeled, cored, and cut into 8 spears
3/4 c. shredded coconut, toasted
8 popsicle sticks

Insert sticks into ends of pineapple spears. Roll each one in coconut and place on a baking sheet lined with wax paper. Freeze for at least 2 hours.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Pizza Mac & Cheese

This dish is not pretty. It's not fancy. It's not what I would call healthy. It's easy, yummy, and my toddler gobbles it up. If that's the sort of food you like, read on! I can't remember where I got the recipe, but I think it was from a Taste of Home cookbook, most likely Fast Fixes with Mixes. I've been making it for a long time now. I usually reserve it for lunch or dinner when it's just me and the kiddo. My husband doesn't love pizza as much as I do, so I don't think he'd be much of a fan of this.

Pizza Mac & Cheese

1 box macaroni and cheese + ingredients to prepare
1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. basil
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1 oz. (about 17 slices) turkey pepperoni
1/4 c. shredded mozzarella

Prepare macaroni and cheese according to package directions. I use the lower fat instructions, but that's up to you. Add tomato sauce, oregano, basil, garlic powder, pepperoni, and mozzarella. Return to low heat and cook until heated through.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Banana "Ice Cream"

I'm pretty sure I found a new addiction last night so I had to share it! It's pretend ice cream made from whipped frozen bananas. If you don't like bananas, you won't like this, but I happen to love bananas. One of my favorite things about the new Weight Watchers program is that bananas (and all other fruit) are 0 points. So to eat this "ice cream" the only points I have to count are for the Nutella or peanut butter. If I don't add any of that, I can have a treat for 0 points! I love it!

The original recipe says to use peanut butter and Dutch process cocoa. I just threw in Nutella instead, but I think the peanut butter and cocoa would be yummy too, so I'll probably try that out tonight. I also halved the recipe, and it made plenty for two people. I think you could safely figure on needing one banana per serving.

First, you have to slice and freeze the bananas. I had cut some bananas into chunks and stuck them in the freezer to use for smoothies and they worked just fine, although the original recipe suggests using thinner slices. Once they're frozen you throw them in a food processor and blend away. I have a Ninja Kitchen System and it chopped up those frozen bananas into itty bitty pieces in no time. After that I had a hard time getting the bananas into the whipped stage. The chunks kept getting pressed against the bottom and sides of the blender. Finally I tried using the middle speed instead of the high one, and voila! It whipped my bananas right up. If your food processor gives you grief, just scrape the sides and keep trying, playing around with the speed a little.

Banana "Ice Cream"

adapted from Use Real Butter

2 bananas, sliced and frozen
1 Tbs. Nutella (optional)

Put frozen banana slices in food processor and process until smooth and creamy, like a soft serve ice cream. If desired, add Nutella and blend well. 

This Week's Basket

It was another awesome week for Bountiful Baskets! I'll be out of town next weekend so I'm glad I got a lot of stuff. Hopefully it will last a couple weeks until I can get another basket!

This week my basket included potatoes, mushrooms, cucumbers, romaine lettuce, spaghetti squash, plums, apricots, grapes, pineapple, watermelon, and bananas. I know I haven't been very consistent with my posts lately, and I know you need recipes before your produce goes bad, so I thought today I could include a few links for recipes I don't have on my blog.

Potatoes: potato salad, funeral potatoes, or fried potatoes with bacon

Mushrooms: deep fried mushrooms, kabobs, or sauteed mushrooms (yummy on steak)

Cucumbers: cucumbers in vinegar, various salads, or slice and eat with veggie dip

Romaine lettuce: green salad or grilled romaine

Spaghetti squash: cook in slow cooker and serve with pasta sauce (I can't wait to try this!)

Plums: plum-apple butter (I have made this and it's really good) or plum buckle (I think I'll make this this week)

Apricots: apricot freezer jam (use this recipe but use apricots instead of strawberries or use half of each)

Grapes: grape salad (I have a recipe but it's a family recipe and I can't share it, so use this one) or freeze and eat (so yummy when it's hot)

Pineapple: cut into chunks and eat, grill, or cut into spears, roll in toasted coconut, and freeze

Watermelon: cut into chunks and eat

Bananas: banana "ice cream" or frozen banana bites (careful, these are addicting)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Copycat Primanti Brothers Coleslaw

Make this and serve it on a Copycat Primanti Brothers Sandwich!

Copycat Primanti Brothers Coleslaw

adapted from food.com

1 package coleslaw mix OR 1 head green cabbage, shredded + 1 carrot, shredded
1 onion, thinly sliced
1/2 c. apple cider vinegar
6 Tbs. sugar
4 Tbs. vegetable oil (do not use olive oil)
salt and pepper to taste

Combine vinegar, sugar, and oil in small saucepan. Heat over medium, stirring constantly, until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and add salt and pepper. Cool completely. In large bowl, combine coleslaw (or green cabbage and carrot) and onion. Pour vinegar mixture over coleslaw and stir until well combined. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.

Copycat Primanti Brothers Sandwich

I've never been to Pennsylvania. Therefore, I've never been to Primanti Brothers in Pittsburgh. But the Travel Channel has, and I've seen the famed Primanti Brothers sandwiches on at least three different shows. They always look so delicious. After seeing a similar sandwich from another restaurant on tv earlier this week, my husband asked if I would try to make one. What is a Primanti Brothers sandwich? It's a delicious sandwich on Italian bread with french fries and coleslaw on the sandwich. Seriously, how can that be bad? Let me tell you my friends, it is so, so good. And all I have to go off is my copycat version. I'm sure the real thing is so much more amazing, because the real thing always is.

This is quite a bit more work than your average sandwich, but you don't want to eat this every day for work. Your thighs would not thank you for that. For a rare treat, it's awesome. Just do a little prep work and you'll be good to go. I made the coleslaw first, then started working on the french fries. While the fries were cooking (I even went the extra mile and blanched them first!) I sliced the bread and tomatoes and made individual piles of meat. Just as the fries were finishing, I threw the piles of meat into a frying pan and warmed them up, then topped each one with cheese and let it melt. I put the meat and cheese onto slices of bread, then let everyone finish their own sandwiches. I went to all the extra work of blanching the fries, heating the meat, and warming the cheese because a review of the recipe I found said that's how it's done at Primanti Brothers. The recipe is for one sandwich, so it basically gives you an idea of how much of everything to add to each sandwich.

Copycat Primanti Brothers Sandwich

adapted from food.com

2 slices Italian bread
5-6 slices deli meat (we used ham, turkey, and roast beef)
2 slices provolone cheese
1/4 c. Copycat Primanti Brothers Coleslaw
2 slices tomatoes
1 c. hot french fries

Warm meat in skillet. Top with cheese and melt. Spread mayo on one slice of bread, then add meat and cheese, coleslaw, tomatoes, and french fries. Top with remaining piece of bread. Enjoy!

Roast Chicken

A few days ago my husband and I decided we wanted to smoke a couple chickens. Unfortunately after I put them in the brine, the wind started howling. It's kind of pain to keep the heat up in our smoker when the wind is blowing, so we didn't want to mess with that, but I'd already put the chickens in the brine so I needed to cook them. I decided to just toss them in the oven and roast them. It turned out to be super easy and the chicken came out moist! It didn't really have a ton of flavor because I didn't load it with spices, but it just tasted like good chicken.

I wanted to share it with you because it's a great way to get yummy meat that you can use in a lot of other dishes. At my local grocery store whole chickens are almost always 99 cents a pound if you buy a package of two chickens. I paid like $11.00 for two chickens. Even if we invite family over, we almost always have one whole chicken left to cut up and save for leftovers. You can turn it into chicken sandwiches, chicken salad, chicken tacos, chicken caesar salad, chicken noodle soup, or chicken pot pie, just to name a few ideas.

I am a big fan of brine. You can find articles that explain the science of how it works, or just take my word for it that it works. It makes the meat tender and delicious. A few years ago I brined a turkey for Thanksgiving and it was the best turkey I've ever had (except my uncle's smoked turkey, of course). Every year since we've brined our Thanksgiving turkeys and when we got a smoker and started smoking chickens, we brined them too. A brine usually includes water, salt, sugar, and various other spices. You mix it up and submerge the bird. Turkeys need to sit in the brine for at least 8 hours, but chickens only need 4-6 hours. The most difficult thing about brining is finding a container large enough to fit the birds and all the liquid. For chickens, I use a 40-cup Rubbermaid rectangular container I bought at Wal-Mart. I can fit one gallon of brine and two chickens in it and still fit the lid on it, which is nice because it keeps me from spilling it when I move it from the counter to the fridge. If you have a large stock pot, that would work too. Just make sure you can fit it in your fridge.

If we had smoked these chickens I would have made a dry rub to put on them after I took them out of the brine, but since we were roasting these ones, I went simple and just rubbed olive oil, salt, and pepper on them. I put half an onion and a few whole cloves of garlic in the cavity of each bird. That's it! I didn't bother to truss them. I read an article that said a chicken will cook more quickly and evenly if you don't truss it. Since I'm lazy anyway that was all the excuse I needed not to do it. If you want to make your bird look pretty, I'll let you google how to truss a bird.

Roast Chicken

1 gallon cold water
3/4 c. kosher salt
1/4 c. brown sugar
2 Tbs. paprika
1 Tbs. pepper
2 whole chickens
1 onion, quartered
8-10 cloves garlic
olive oil
salt & pepper

For brine, combine water, kosher salt, and brown sugar. Stir until salt and sugar are dissolved. Add paprika and pepper and mix well. Submerge chickens completely in brine. Cover and refrigerate for 4-6 hours. If the brine doesn't completely cover the chickens, turn them over after 2-3 hours. Remove from brine and pat dry.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Rub chickens with olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Place two quarters of onion and 4-5 cloves of garlic in each chicken. Place on rack in roasting pan. Roast at 450 degrees for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 375 degrees. Continue roasting for about 2 hours. Halfway through I flipped my chickens over so that both sides would be crispy, but it's not necessary. Every 20-30 minutes, baste the chickens with the juices from the pan. Chicken is done when a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 180 degrees.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Today's Basket

Woo hoo! I feel like I hit the Bountiful Basket jackpot today! A little girl helped me load my produce today so I didn't actually pay attention to everything I got until I got home and set it all out for its photo shoot. I got so much stuff! And I'm excited to eat it all!

Today my basket included pineapples, bananas, mangoes, honeydew, green apples, apricots, plums, tomatoes, a cucumber, kale, acorn squash, celery, and romaine lettuce. All for $15! I think we'll just eat most of the fruit as snacks, but I have a few ideas for the other stuff.

Pineapples: cut them up and store them in the fridge for snacks or grill them

Bananas: freeze them and blend them up with a little Nutella or peanut butter for an ice cream-like treat or dip them in melted peanut butter and chocolate and then freeze them (it's hot, I want my bananas frozen)

Mangoes: peel and eat

Honeydew: cut it up and stick it in the fridge for snacks

Green apples: apple pie, apple cobbler

Apricots: snacks

Plums: snacks, mix with apples for plum apple cobbler, or plum apple butter

Tomatoes: green salad, pasta salad, bacon macaroni salad, Fritos salad

Cucumber: all the same ideas as the tomato, tomatoes and cucumbers just go together

Kale: kale chips, zuppa toscana

Acorn squash: roasted with brown sugar

Celery: ants on a log or chop and freeze for later use

Romaine lettuce: green salad, Caesar salad, Fritos salad

Friday, June 8, 2012

Patio Potato Salad

I do not like potato salad. I love potatoes, but alas, I do not love eggs. Not even a little bit. Every summer at some random potluck barbecue I'll see potato salad and think about how good it looks. I'll take a little scoop, taste it, and remember that I don't like potato salad. It really shouldn't matter that I don't like potato salad, but the problem is that my husband loves it. We've been married for almost eight years and I've never made potato salad for him, but he asked if I would this week.

I started browsing the internet for recipes. I asked him if he likes pickles in his potato salad. He doesn't. I asked him if he likes celery in his potato salad. He doesn't. I already knew he didn't want onions so I didn't even have to ask. He just wanted a simple potato salad. Do you know how hard it is to find a recipe for that? All the recipes with the best ratings are potato salad with a twist: bacon, ranch dressing, even sweet potatoes. Finally, I found a highly rated recipe on Taste of Home's website that didn't have any weird ingredients, but it did include cooking a sauce. I didn't think that was commonplace, but it only called for 1/4 c. mayo, which was a plus for me since the hubby doesn't like mayo. The egg to potato ratio also seemed very reasonable to me, and gave me a glimmer of hope that maybe I could eat this potato salad!

So I hard boiled three eggs and chopped up the ginormous potatoes from last week's Bountiful Basket. I followed the recipe, subbed a little onion powder for the diced onions, and stuck it in the fridge to chill. When it was time to eat, I put a little scoop of potato salad on my plate. I stabbed a potato with my fork and took a bite. Drum roll please...I liked it!! It's not overly eggy, but still has eggs in it so the hubby feels like it's classic potato salad. It was sweet, which I didn't mind, but I think it was a little too sweet for my husband, so next time (yes, I liked it so much I'll make it again!) I'm going to reduce the sugar. If you are a potato salad connoisseur and know you don't care for a sweet sauce, I suggest you also reduce the sugar. And since you're probably normal and like onions in your potato salad, you should definitely add the onions.

I know the recipe looks like a lot of work. It does require a few steps, but none of them are hard so don't be scared. You need to refrigerate it for at least an hour before you serve it, which is nice because you could make it in the morning and let it chill out in the fridge while you cook dinner. To cook the potatoes, peel and cube them. Put them in a pan and cover them with cold water. Turn your burner on to medium-high heat and set your timer for 25 minutes. Check them for doneness after 20 minutes. Drain them when they're done and let them cool while you're working on the sauce. To hard boil eggs, place them in a pan, cover them with cold water, bring to a boil, boil for 1 minute, remove from heat, cover, and set timer for 12 minutes. Transfer to ice water bath until cooled, then peel and chop.

Patio Potato Salad

from Taste of Home

1/3 c. sugar
1 Tbs. cornstarch
1 to 1 1/2 tsp. ground mustard
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. celery seed
1/2 c. milk
1/4 c. vinegar
1 egg, beaten
1/4 c. butter, cubed
1/4 c. chopped onion
1/4 c. mayo
7 medium potatoes, cubed and cooked
3 hard boiled eggs, chopped

Combine sugar, cornstarch, ground mustard, salt, and celery seed in saucepan. Add milk, vinegar, and egg and stir until smooth. Add butter. Bring to a boil, cook and stir for two minutes or until thick and bubbly. Cool. Stir in onion and mayo. In large bowl, combine potatoes and hard boiled eggs. Add dressing and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Mexican Shredded Beef

We really like Mexican food at our house. I would guess that I cook something with Mexican flavor at least once a week. One of my favorites is shredded beef tacos. You cook the beef in the slow cooker all day, then shred it and serve it however you like. The leftovers freeze well, so in a few weeks you can have shredded beef enchiladas, which is exactly what I made for a dinner a few nights ago. The original recipe calls for white wine, but we're not wine drinkers and it doesn't make sense to buy a whole bottle of wine when I just need a cup, so I use beef broth instead. If you are a wine drinker go for the wine! Let me know how it turns out!

Mexican Shredded Beef

adapted from allrecipes.com

1 (4 lb.) frozen rump roast
1 c. beef broth
2 (7.75 oz.) cans Mexican style hot tomato sauce
3 Tbs. minced garlic
salt & pepper to taste
1 bunch green onions, chopped (I usually leave these out)
1 c. chopped fresh cilantro

Place frozen roast in slow cooker. Pour broth, tomato sauce, garlic, salt, and pepper on top. Cover and cook on low for 9 hours. Shred roast, return to slow cooker, and stir in onions and cilantro. Serve as desired.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Coconut Clouds

The other night I wanted to make cookies for my hubby to take to work in his lunchbox, but I was tired of all my usual cookies. I started flipping through the cookie pages of The Cake Mix Bible. Yes, I have a Cake Mix Bible. I made the first recipe I came across for which I had all the ingredients. As luck would have it, they turned out to be sinfully delicious. In fact, they are my new favorite cookie. They remind of macaroons but they're more cookie-like. Just typing this post makes me want to eat one. Or ten.

Coconut Clouds

2 2/3 c. flaked coconut, divided
1 (18.25 oz.) box yellow cake mix
1 egg
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1/4 c. water
1 tsp. almond extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put 1 1/3 c. coconut in a bowl and set aside. In large bowl, combine cake mix, egg, oil, water, and almond extract. Beat on low until combined. Stir in remaining 1 1/3 c. coconut. Roll dough into 1-inch balls, then roll lightly in reserved coconut. Place on ungreased cookie sheet and bake 10-12 minutes or until edges are light golden brown. Cool 1 minute on baking sheet before removing to cooling rack to cool completely. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

This Week's Basket

Wow, it's already noon on Monday? Where did the time go? I did get a Bountiful Basket this week, but I am just now getting around to posting about it. I didn't get anything too wild and crazy, but I did get two heads of garlic. I know I can pickle it, but the real question is, am I ambitious enough to tackle that this week? Ha ha! If not, I guess I'll be making recipes with minced garlic! If your lettuce was wilted from being outside in the heat, don't stress. Stick it in ice water for a while and it will crisp right up.

This week my basket included grape tomatoes, romaine lettuce, potatoes, avocado, garlic, pineapple, canary melon, bananas, peaches, oranges (I think they're oranges that aren't quite ripe but I haven't cut one open so I'm not 100% sure), and strawberries. If you haven't already planned your menu for the week, here are some ideas.

Grape tomatoes: pasta salad, green salad, bacon macaroni salad, or eat them like candy, which is what I'll probably do

Romaine lettuce: green salad, lettuce wraps, or grilled

Potatoes: baked, fried, potato salad, or funeral potatoes

Avocado: green salad or sandwiches

Garlic: pickled or minced to use in various recipes

Pineapple: grilled, smoothies, or chopped and eaten raw

Canary melon: chopped and eaten raw

Bananas: I don't expect mine to be ripe any time soon, but if yours are ripe, try smoothies, banana bread, banana cream pie, or just peel and eat them

Peaches: smoothies or peel, dice, sprinkle with a little sweetener (I like Truvia), and pour fat free half & half on top

Oranges: smoothies, fresh orange juice, or orange dreamsicle cookies

Strawberries: strawberries & cream, smoothies, or dip in yogurt and freeze

Friday, June 1, 2012

Josh & MarKell: Hoping to Adopt

I have some good friends that are hoping to adopt a child. I've known them both for a long time, and they are amazing parents to an adorable little girl. They posted some links on facebook and send me some adoption cards to carry in case I happen upon someone who might be interested in the adoption process. I've been thinking about how I can help them, because to be honest I don't think I know many people who might need a good family for a baby. Then it occurred to me that I think that, I don't know it. And maybe I don't know anyone personally, but maybe someone who reads my blog might know someone, or maybe someone I'm friends with on facebook knows someone.

So I decided to write a short post about them and get their information out there, and hopefully it will reach the right person! You can read all about them at their adoption website. Please pass the information along. If you are interested in the adoption process, watch this amazing video about how adoption has touched so many families.

Slow Cooker Hawaiian Chicken

This is another recipe that I've been making for several years, one of my go-to recipes. Shortly after we got married I got a cookbook called 101 Things to Do with a Slow Cooker. It's filled with super easy recipes for the slow cooker that use common ingredients. This was one of the first recipes I tried from it and it's probably my favorite. You can use any barbecue sauce you like. You can also use frozen chicken breasts, although I think it makes a thinner (but still good) sauce.

Today I'm really excited about this recipe because I tried something new. I bought a 5 lb. package of chicken breasts. I used 4 in the slow cooker today for this recipe. I had 3 leftover. I also had about 10 oz. of crushed pineapple left because instead of an 8 oz. can I used half of a 20 oz. can. I remembered looking at a blog post about throwing all the ingredients for a slow cooker meal into a freezer bag and freezing it, so that when you are ready to cook it you just have to throw it in the slow cooker and turn it on. The recipe I had read about was some sort of teriyaki chicken. This seemed kind of similar to that, so I mixed up an extra batch of sauce, put the chicken breasts in the freezer bag, poured the sauce in, and stuck it in the freezer. I can't wait to see if it works! I'll keep you posted.

Slow Cooker Hawaiian Chicken

4-6 boneless skinless chicken breasts (I used 4)
1 (16 oz.) bottle barbecue sauce (I used Sweet Baby Ray's Honey Chipotle)
1 (8 oz.) can crushed pineapple, undrained (or half of a 20 oz. can, whatever)

Place chicken breasts in slow cooker sprayed with cooking spray. Mix barbecue sauce and pineapple together and pour over chicken. Cook on high for 3-4 hours or low for 6-8 hours.* Serve over rice.

*I cooked mine on low for 6 hours, shredded it, and put it back in the slow cooker on low for another hour, maybe hour and a half. I prefer it shredded but it's up to you!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Training to Run a 5K

I am on my fourth week of an eight week couch to 5K training program. I've been posting my runs on facebook, and I always get a few comments like, "I wish I could do that," or "I should do that." Like most other things on my blog, it's easier than you might think, so I wanted to let you know how I've been doing it. Believe me, if I can do it, you can do it.

This all started because my mom and her friend decided to run a 5K in May. They found a training program online, printed it, and started. Eight weeks later they ran/walked a 5K! When I watched my mom cross the finish line, I thought, "Hmm. I kind of want to do that." Which was weird, because I've hated running my whole life. It always hurt my ankles. And that was when I was skinny! (Yes, I used to be skinny! Ha ha ha!) Since I've gained my weight, I just assumed running would be more painful than ever, so I never bothered to try. But now I'm back on Weight Watchers and I started thinking that running could probably rack up activity points pretty fast. Plus, I thought it would be fun to be able to do something like that with my mom.

So I started looking around online for a program. I didn't ask my mom what they used because I wanted to try it before I told anyone I was doing it. If I hated it I didn't want to tell everyone that I couldn't do it. I found a few websites. Some just had a schedule to print off. A couple wanted you to pay to be part of their program. No thanks. Then I found the 5K Runner app. Oh boy, do I love apps. I have an iTouch and use it constantly. The app I found had a free trial version that included the first week of runs plus the one run on the second week. After that, it cost $2.99 for the full version of the app. That seemed fair enough. I downloaded the free app.

I love how the app works. You open it, select the week and day of the program you're on, and press "Start." A voice chimes in and tells you what to do. You don't have to worry about tracking your time. You can just listen to your music and run. When it's time to slow down and walk, time to run, and when you've reached the halfway point, you music gets quiet, the voice chimes in, then your music goes back to the regular volume. I just run from my house, because while it would be nice to run somewhere with sidewalks or even at the walking park where there would be no traffic, I know that if I make it too much of a hassle, I will talk myself out of it. If I have to load up the jogging stroller and my daughter and drive somewhere just to go running, it's probably not going to happen, because that's how I roll. So I start in front of my house, follow the program until the voice says I've reached the halfway point, then I turn around and follow the program back to my house. You don't get much more convenient than that.

As I mentioned before, this is a "couch to 5K" program. That means it's designed for non-runners like me. It eases you into running, three runs a week for eight weeks. The first day's run went like this: 5 minute warm up walk, 1 minute run and 1 minute walk repeated six times, 5 minute cool down walk. The total workout time was 25 minutes and the total run time was 6 minutes. Each day, it bumps up your running time just a little. Yesterday was week 4, day 2 for me and it went like this: 5 minute warm up walk, 3 minute run and 2 minute walk, 5 minute run and 3 minute walk repeated two times, 3 minute run and 2 minute walk, 5 minute cool down walk. Total workout time was 36 minutes and total run time was 16 minutes.

Have an android instead of an iPhone or iTouch? There are similar apps for your phone! I haven't tried them, but just pick one that has really good reviews and try it out. Not a smart phone person? Go old school! Here's a printable program I found on Pinterest. It's a 10 week program, but the idea is the same. If you can spare about 30 minutes three days a week, you can work your way up to running a 5K, no running experience required. If you've been thinking about doing it, do it! You never know unless you try.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Sunshine Muffins

We like cornbread with our Posse Stew, so I decided to try this recipe from my Taste of Home's Fast Fixes with Mixes cookbook. It uses yellow cake mix in it so it's sweeter than your usual cornbread, but oh my goodness, it was yummy. This is definitely my new cornbread recipe.

It calls for a 9 oz. package of yellow cake mix, but of course all I had was the standard 18.25 oz. box, so I measured 9 oz. with my digital scale. I didn't think to measure out how many cups it was. I'm guessing it would be just over 1 cup, like maybe 1 cup plus 1 Tbs. or maybe 2 Tbs. The recipe makes about 14 muffins, which is annoying. You'll have to dirty another muffin tin, only bake 12 muffins and discard the rest of the batter, or bake 2 muffins after the first 12 are done if you only have one tin.

Sunshine Muffins

2 eggs
1/2 c. water
1/3 c. milk
2 Tbs. vegetable oil
9 oz. yellow cake mix
1 (8.5 oz.) package cornbread mix

In a bowl, combine the eggs, water, milk, and oil. Stir in mixes and mix well. Grease and flour muffin cups (take my advice and buy the cooking spray for baking that has flour in it). Fill muffin cups half full. Bake at 350 degrees for 18-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center of muffin comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Posse Stew

This is one of my go-to recipes. It's great during the colder months and in the summer time it's a great camping recipe! I made it over the weekend because I had a pound of ground beef that I needed to cook and the wind was howling and it was chilly outside, so soup seemed like a good idea. I got this recipe from my aunt several years ago and it's always been a big hit. I forget to buy hominy sometimes, but I buy all the other canned ingredients by the case, so I always have the ingredients on hand. If you don't have hominy or don't like it, add in 2 diced potatoes instead.

Posse Stew

1 lb. ground beef
1 onion, finely diced (I only used a half of a small onion)
1 can chili beans
1 can corn
1 can hominy OR 2 potatoes, peeled and diced
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can diced green chiles (I used 1/2 c. of my frozen Hatch chiles)
water (I use an empty vegetable can to measure the water)
salt & pepper to taste
sugar to taste (maybe 1/2-1 tsp.)

Brown ground beef with onion in soup kettle or dutch oven. Drain. Add all canned ingredients with their liquids. Add water to reach your desired consistency. For this batch I used potatoes instead of hominy, so I had to add a whole can of water. Usually I only add 1/2 a can. Add salt, pepper, and sugar. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Copy Cat Cafe Rio Shredded Chicken

I love Cafe Rio. When I was still working, I ate there at least once a week. Now that I'm home with the kiddo I don't go quite as often, but it's still one of my favorite restaurants in town. If my husband liked it I'd eat there a lot more! I've actually never had the shredded chicken at Cafe Rio. I had the pork the first time I went and I've been hooked ever since, although I do branch out for shrimp or mahi mahi when they're the special. The point is, I don't really know if this tastes like Cafe Rio's shredded chicken, but it's delicious and easy so I don't really care.

The recipe calls for chicken breasts, which I used last time I made it, but today I had boneless skinless chicken thighs that I needed to cook. They both work great! Use whatever you prefer or whatever is on sale. The great thing about this recipe is it freezes really well, so if you're feeling a little ambitious double the recipe to use 4-5 lbs. of chicken and freeze the leftovers. I like to freeze it in 2-cup portions so I can just thaw what I need. It's awesome in tacos (as you can see in the picture), quesadillas, burritos, and even in Hawaiian haystacks. It isn't really spicy, it just has great flavor, so I'm pretty sure you could use it in almost any recipe that calls for cooked chicken.

Copy Cat Cafe Rio Shredded Chicken

from Real Mom Kitchen

2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs
1/2 c. zesty Italian salad dressing
1/2 Tbs. minced garlic
1 (1 oz.) packet ranch dressing mix (3 Tbs. if you buy it in the big container)
1/4 c. water
1/2 Tbs. chili powder
1/2 Tbs. ground cumin

Place chicken in slow cooker. Mix remaining ingredients in a small bowl and pour over chicken. Cook on high for 5-6 hours or on low for 8 hours (mine was done after 7 hours on low). Shred chicken and return to slow cooker. You can remove some of the liquid if you want, but I don't see the point. Just serve it with a slotted spoon. That way the chicken stays moist and juicy. Serve as desired!

Pasta Salad

I had a hard time deciding if I should post this recipe, because it's more of an idea than a recipe. You can do whatever you want with it. You can use any pasta you want, any salad dressing you want, and any vegetables you want. You can even add pepperoni and cheese. I hardly ever make this salad the same way twice because I just use whatever I got in my Bountiful Basket. This week was no different. I used a tomato, a cucumber, and a green bell pepper because that's what I had. I used Kraft Light Zesty Italian, but it's also good with Kraft House Italian, and Kraft Caesar Vinaigrette with Parmesan is my personal favorite. I didn't use it this time because it doesn't come in a light version. You could even whip up your own dressing using this Italian dressing mix. The possibilities are endless! Have fun with it!

Pasta Salad

1 (13.25 oz.) box whole wheat rotini (if you use a pasta that comes in a 16 oz. package, use it all)
1 tomato, diced
1 cucumber, half lengthwise and sliced
1 bell pepper, cut into thin strips
1 (2.25 oz.) can sliced olives, drained
2/3 (16 oz.) bottle Italian dressing

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water until pasta is cold. Add to large bowl along with tomatoes, cucumber, bell pepper, and olives. Pour salad dressing over everything and stir until well coated.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Pork Chop Hobo Dinners

I love Pinterest. I was looking at pins this weekend after I picked up my Bountiful Basket and I came across a pin for Grill Honey-Cumin BBQ Pork Packs. As luck would have it, the recipe called for corn, carrots, and potatoes, all of which I had sitting in my kitchen. I got the corn and carrots in my basket this week and had the red potatoes leftover from last week. I doubled the recipe and took the packs over to my in-laws' house for a cookout on their patio and was able to use up all of my corn, carrots, and potatoes. I love the sense of accomplishment I get when I use up produce from my basket! We also love hobo dinners, or foil packet dinners. Usually we put hamburger patties, shredded potatoes, and onions in them, so I was excited to try a new version with pork chops!

I had to adjust the original recipe a bit. It called for refrigerated cooked new potato wedges. I already had potatoes, I didn't see the point in buying more, especially precooked ones. I thought about precooking the potatoes I already had, but it seemed like an unnecessary extra step. We cook hobo dinners all the time with potatoes and they cook just fine, so I just sliced the potatoes thinly with my salad shooter and put them in the packets raw. The recipe also called for baby carrots, but I had regular carrots from my basket, so I just cut them into chunks about the same size as a baby carrot halved lengthwise. Instead of cutting each corn cob into 6 pieces, I broke them in 2 pieces each. Have you ever tried to cut a fresh cob of corn? Don't bother.

The last adjustment I made was how I cooked the packets. The recipe says to cook them on the grill, but my in-laws have a fire pit and when we have hobo dinners we always get hot coals going in the fire pit and cook them right in the fire. That's how we cooked these ones too, but if you don't have a fire pit I'm sure cooking them on the grill would work just as well!

As I mentioned earlier, I doubled the recipe. We cooked them all, but someone who reviewed the original recipe said that he or she makes extra packets and freezes them, then just thaws them before cooking them. I'm thinking that would be awesome for camping! You could make a few up and stick them in your freezer, then just throw them in the cooler or the fridge in your camper when you go camping. They'd be thawed by the time you're ready to cook them and all you'd have to do is throw them on the fire! And no mess to clean up! Pork chops are on sale at Smith's this week, so this week might be a good time to make a few for the freezer!

This is what the foil packets look like before you cook them.

And this is what comes out of the foil packets after you cook them!

Pork Chop Hobo Dinners

adapted from bettycrocker.com

1/2 c. barbecue sauce
1/4 c. honey
2 tsp. ground cumin
4 boneless pork loin chops, 3/4" to 1" thick
2 ears corn, broken in half
1 c. chopped carrots (about the size of baby carrots halved lengthwise)
2 c. thinly sliced potatoes
1 tsp. salt
heavy duty aluminum foil

Tear foil into 4 18x12" sheets. Spray with cooking spray. Mix barbecue sauce, honey, and cumin in small bowl. Place 1 pork chop, 1/2 ear of corn, 1/4 c. carrots, and 1/2 c. potatoes on bottom half of each foil sheet. Sprinkle with 1/4 tsp. salt and drizzle with 3 Tbs. of sauce. Fold top half of foil over food and seal edges, leaving a little room in the packet for expansion. Grill packets over medium heat for 15-20 minutes or place on hot coals for 20-30 minutes, turning once, until pork chops reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees. Cut open foil packets and serve!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Mandarin Orange Pineapple Cake

This recipe came from one of my many cake mix cookbooks. I've made this cake a few times, most recently for my father-in-law's birthday. I think it's perfect for summer. It's nice and fruity. The downside is you have to keep it in the refrigerator, so make sure you have space for it.

On the upside, there's no oil in the recipe! Did you know you can substitute unsweetened applesauce for oil in most cake recipes? It's a straight trade. If the recipe calls for 1/2 c. of oil, use 1/2 c. of applesauce. If you don't eat applesauce regularly but would like to bake with it, buy a package of the individual serving cups. Each cup has 1/2 c. of applesauce in it, which it what most recipes call for. I've even found that if a recipe calls for 1/3 c. of oil, you can dump in 1/2 c. and it works just fine.

Mandarin Orange Pineapple Cake

1 box white or yellow cake mix (I used yellow)
2 eggs
1/2 c. unsweetened applesauce
1 (11 oz.) can mandarin oranges, undrained
1 (8 oz.) carton frozen whipped topping, thawed
1 (8 oz.) can crushed pineapple, undrained
1 (3.4 oz.) package instant vanilla pudding

In large mixing bowl, combine the cake mix, eggs, applesauce, and oranges. Mix on low speed for 30 seconds, then on medium speed for 2 minutes. Pour into two greased and floured 9-inch round cake pans. Bake at 325 for 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool in pans for 10 minutes then remove to wire racks to cool completely. When cakes are cool, beat whipped topping, pineapple, and pudding mix in medium bowl until well combined. Spread between cake layers and over the top and sides of cake. Store in refrigerator.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

This Week's Basket

Whoops, I'm a little slow getting this up. I barely had time to pick up my Bountiful Basket yesterday, much less decide what I'm going to do with it and blog about it! Tonight my husband is finally on his way home after being gone for a week, so I figured I better get a meal plan in place so I can feed him this week!

This week's basket included honeydew melon, red pears, lemons, apricots, blackberries, bananas, corn, onions, tomatoes, a cucumber, carrots, green peppers, and cauliflower. Nothing too exotic, so it should be pretty easy to use up! Here are my plans:

Honeydew: cut up and keep in the fridge to snack on

Pears: salt and eat

Lemons: lemon coconut cookies, freeze juice for later use

Apricots: smoothies, eat as is

Blackberries: smoothies, blackberries & cream

Bananas: tropical banana bread, banana cream pie, smoothies

Corn: steam and eat

Onions: It's a good thing onions last for a while because we don't really eat onions and there are tons of them. I can only make so much salsa. Maybe I'll branch out and try onion rings.

Tomatoes: bacon tomato sandwiches, salsa

Cucumber: Fritos salad, slice and dip in hummus

Carrots: meatloaf, cut into sticks and eat with hummus

Green peppers: stuffed peppers, Fritos salad

Cauliflower: I would normally roast it, but this week I want to try a new recipe for cheesy cauliflower pancakes!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Cake Mix Chip Cookies

I am a big fan of cake mixes. I know, I know, there's a big push right now about moving away from processed foods and making your own mixes, etc., but cake mixes are just not something I'm willing to give up right now. I can buy them cheaply by the case and then whenever I need a cake it takes 10 minutes tops to have one mixed up and baking in the oven. Plus, I can make all sorts of other things like cookies!

I do have a disclaimer about this recipe. If you make a regular chocolate chip cookie with yellow or white cake mix and chocolate chips, you'll get a good cookie, but it's probably not going to be the best chocolate chip cookie you've ever had. However, the possibilities for mixing and matching cakes mixes and chip flavors are endless, and it only takes a few minutes to whip up a batch of cookies if you're in a hurry, and that's why I love this recipe. My favorite combinations are devil's food cake mix with chocolate chips and devil's food cake mix with vanilla chips, but have fun with it! If I ever find cherry flavored chips (I know they exist, I just haven't come across them yet) you better believe I'm going to make cherry chip cookies using cherry chip cake mix and cherry chips!

Devil's Food Cake Mix with Chocolate Chips

Cake Mix Chip Cookies

1 box cake mix
1/2 c. butter, softened
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
2 c. chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix cake mix, butter, egg, and vanilla until dough forms. Stir in chips. Place rounded spoonfuls of dough on greased cookie sheet and bake 8-10 minutes or until edges just start to brown. Let cool on cookie sheet for 5 minutes before removing to wire rack to cool completely (just kidding, we all know you're going to eat them warm while the chips are still gooey and delicious).

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Lemon Coconut Cookies

This is another awesome recipe from Pinterest. The original blog post was for Chewy Lime Sugar Cookies. They sounded so good! The recipe is very similar to my Snickerdoodles recipe, but with a tropical twist. I couldn't wait to get limes in my Bountiful Basket! Before I got limes, I got giant lemons, so I thought I'd try to substitute lemon zest and juice for the lime zest and juice. It was a complete success! So use whichever fruit you have on hand, or if you have to buy a lemon or a lime, just go for the one you like best!

Lemon Coconut Cookies

adapted from My Baking Addiction

2 3/4 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. butter, softened
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla
zest of 1/2 large lemon, or 1 large lime
3 Tbs. lemon or lime juice
1/2 c. toasted coconut
1/2 c. sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In small bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In large bowl, beat butter and sugar with electric mixer until fluffy. Beat in egg, vanilla, zest, and juice. Gradually mix in dry ingredients and coconut. Roll into 1-inch balls and roll in sugar. Place on greased cookie sheet and bake 8-10 minutes or until edges barely start to brown. Let cool on cookie sheet for 2 minutes, then remove to wire rack to cool completely.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Strawberry Spinach Salad

Did you get a bunch of spinach in your Bountiful Basket this week? Did you look at it and think, "What am I going to do with that?" I did. It's not that I don't like spinach, because I do. I just never seem to get around to using it. I'll throw a handful in a smoothie every now and then, but then I kind of forget about it. My husband and I love spinach dip, but I've never really gotten fresh spinach to work as well as frozen spinach in either spinach dip recipe I use. The one time I did make it work, I had to steam the spinach before I used it in the dip, and you know me, I hate extra steps. I also needed twice the spinach I got in my basket, and I also hate having to buy more produce from the grocery store.

Luckily, I picked up a free cookbook at a local health fair a couple weeks ago, and there are a couple different recipes for spinach salad in it. Salad seemed like a great idea! It would be simple and I could use all the spinach up at once.  The recipe I chose to try has a strawberry dressing, which doesn't have any oil in it, which is great for my diet. It also used up more strawberries which is a plus, since I still have some left from last week! It turned out good! It's a nice change of pace from the usual salad. If there was any left over from dinner last night, I would have eaten it for lunch today.

Strawberry Spinach Salad


1 bunch spinach
1 c. sliced strawberries
1/4 c. sliced almonds
2 oz. feta cheese


7 large strawberries
1 lemon, juiced
agave nectar or honey to taste
salt & pepper to taste

Mix salad ingredients together in medium bowl. Place dressing ingredients in blender and blend until smooth. Taste dressing and adjust agave or honey and salt and pepper as needed. Just before serving, toss salad with dressing.