Thursday, December 7, 2017

Creamy Mexican Soup

I have learned to like Mexican foods, but sometimes I get tired of the same old meals: tacos, enchiladas, etc. The other night I decided to make a Mexican soup and it turned out great. It was a big hit with the whole family. You can make it as mild or as spicy as you like it. This recipe is a mild version, but spice it up with fresh jalapeños or other spices and Rotel in place of tomato sauce to give it additional kick. (For those of you with dairy issues, you could easily omit the milk and cream cheese and have a tomato Mexican soup without the "creamy" part of the recipe name, or use dairy alternatives such as plain almond milk or coconut milk.)


2 T. olive oil (for sautéing; can add more if desired)
1 medium onion
garlic (3-4 cloves, minced)
2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. coriander
1 t. chili powder
4 c. water
2 cans of tomato sauce
1 1/2 pounds cooked, shredded or cubed chicken
1 c. frozen corn
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 c. milk
2 oz. cream cheese, cubed (although the whole chunk also works; just takes longer to melt)
1/2 lime for juice (optional)
1/4 t. salt

Optional toppings:

Shredded cheddar or Mexican style cheese
Sour cream
Taco chips, crushed and sprinkled on top

In a large pot on the stove, heat the olive oil and then add the onion, cooking it on medium heat for about 3 minutes, until it becomes translucent. Add in the garlic (and any peppers if you are going for the spicy route) as well as the cumin, coriander, and chili powder. Stir and allow them to cook for another couple of minutes.

Next, add the water and tomato sauce, stirring well, then put in the chicken, corn, and black beans. Give it a good stir.

Add in the milk and cream cheese, stirring every so often until the cream cheese melts. It's ok if you have little specks of cream cheese floating around; it still tastes just as good. If you're like me, it's hard to have the patience to wait for it to fully dissolve when it smells so good and you just want to dig in!

Finally, add in the salt and the juice from half a lime, stirring well.

Spoon it up into bowls and set out any additional toppings that you and your family would enjoy!

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Gluten-free, Dairy-free Banana Pancakes

The other day I had a bunch of ripe bananas staring at me, daring me to consider using them in a new and different way. Banana bread is my usual go-to when I have bananas that need to be used up. I decided that pancakes are usually a pretty easy route to take in general and that I could create a naturally-sweetened pancake with the ripe bananas. Oatmeal has a way of efficiently filling people up as well as being healthy, so that ingredient joined the running in this recipe. Upon tasting the results, I was given a thumbs-up from everyone in my family and have another batch ready to go for this week! Think banana-bread flavor, but with less work and fewer ingredients!


2 ripe bananas
2 eggs
1/2 c. rolled oats
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. cinnamon (optional)
dash of salt
butter (optional)
nuts, such as chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

Cook on skillet, griddle, or frying pan on stovetop.

For this recipe, you're going to want to use "just ripe" bananas. If the bananas you have are still fully yellow, they probably won't be quite sweet enough to make this recipe taste as good as it can. If your bananas are too ripe, it can mess up the dry/liquid ratio due to the bananas being too liquidy. So, when your bananas look freckled, it's the perfect time to incorporate them in this recipe:

All you need to do is place all the ingredients into a blender:

When you're ready, go ahead and blend everything up until (except for any nuts; add those after it's blended) it's a nice, smooth consistency.

Depending on how many pancakes you want to make, this recipe can easily be doubled, tripled, and so on. If you decide to make a smaller batch, you can pour the batter directly from your blender and onto the hot skillet to decrease the number of dishes you will have to clean up after the fact. **But wait!** Before you enthusiastically pour this batter onto your griddle, you're going to want to let it sit for 15-20 minutes so that the batter has a chance to thicken up and be less runny.

If you're making a larger batch of these pancakes (I'm tripling the recipe tonight), go ahead and pour the batter into a larger bowl and continue to add new batches to it until you have enough to feed your crew.

After allowing the batter to rest and thicken up for the above-mentioned time, you're ready to cook them up! Be sure your griddle or skillet is nice and warm. Because I love butter, I put a pat of it on my griddle between every batch. It provides that warm, buttery banana bread taste that I love! But you don't have to use it. Pour the batter onto the preheated griddle and allow the pancakes to cook until they appear slightly dry at the edges  and small bubbles form on the surface. At that point, it's time to flip them and cook the other side. Once they have cooked long enough that they are no longer squishy in the middle, go ahead and set them aside on a plate or serve them up to hungry family members. As with most pancakes, these taste great with maple syrup on top, however, they are sweet enough on their own that they don't necessarily require any extra help. Enjoy!

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Sausage Stuffed Acorn Squash

I am not a fan of squash. I want to like squash, I know it's good for me, but I have never found a recipe that manages to cover that "squashy" flavor. Until tonight.. (Because I wasn't expecting to like this recipe very much, I only took one photo and that was of the finished product. So my apologies for the lack of photos for this recipe!)

Now that it's September, I'm in the mood for fall recipes. I decided to give acorn squash another try tonight and was pleasantly surprised at how this dish turned out! I actually liked it. I've never been able to say that about squash before! The sausage flavor pairs nicely with the squash and the maple syrup added a hint of sweetness without being too overbearing.


3 medium-size acorn squash
maple syrup (I used real maple syrup)
2 pounds bulk sausage (I used a pound each of mild and spicy)
1 c. finely chopped celery
1 c. finely chopped onion
2/3 c. sour cream

Oven Temp: 400 degrees
Oven Time: 1 hour (30 minutes covered, 30 minutes uncovered)

Start out by cutting your squashes in half and scooping out the seeds and gunk in the middle. Lay the cut squash pieces on top of a cookie sheet, face up, lined up next to each other.

Using a sharp knife, cut a few slits in the flesh of the squash. Then drizzle a little syrup into the center of the squash and spread it around with a basting brush, all the way up to the top exposed rim of the squash.

You'll want to pour about 2 cups of water onto your cookie sheet (not on the squash!) and then lightly cover the whole pan with aluminum foil. You don't want it to be too loose that all the water evaporates, but not too tight either. Place it into the oven and bake for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, remove the tin foil and continue to bake the squash for an additional 30 minutes, or until it is tender.

While the squash finishes baking, you'll want to brown up the sausage in a pan on the stove. Cook the celery and onions with the meat. Once it's cooked through, drain the grease. Add the sour cream to this mixture and keep it warm until the squash comes out of the oven.

Once the squash is baked to your preferred level of tenderness, take it out of the oven. I used my basting brush once again to spread a little bit more of the maple syrup around on the surface of the squash.

Next, you simply scoop the sausage mixture into the center of the squash and serve it up. Depending on the size of your squash, you may not be able to eat it all. It's rather filling!

So if you like squash and fall recipes, you will probably like this recipe. If you do not like squash, give this recipe a try. Like me, you may find that all the other flavors complement and perhaps even "hide" that squash flavor that you are not a fan of.

You could even add some dried fruit or a favorite toasted nut to this dish to ramp up the flavors. A little cinnamon or nutmeg could also be a good fit if you like those flavor combinations. Give it a try and see what you think!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Kansas City Tacos

Today I was craving BBQ chicken and coleslaw and was thinking about ways I could serve it up for dinner. Enter "Kansas City Tacos." 

A little over a year ago, we made a trek from the midwest down to Texas and ate at a lot of BBQ places along the way. As we ate dinner tonight, we were discussing names for my new creation and the topic swung around to this particular trip. I said how the flavor of this reminded me of a place we stopped at in Kansas City, KS. Everyone agreed and that was how the name of this recipe was born.

If you like fast, easy, and tasty recipes, this one will not disappoint. Especially if you purchase pre-made coleslaw. (As always, I make my own, see that recipe here )


Cooked, shredded chicken
BBQ sauce (I use Sweet Baby Ray's brand)
Flour tortillas

To make the chicken, I simply threw about 6 frozen boneless, skinless chicken breasts in the slow cooker and allowed them to cook on high for about 3-4 hours. Once they were done, I put them in a Kitchen Aid mixing bowl and shredded them using the paddle attachment. (This can also be done by using 2 forks to shred the chicken if you don't have a mixer.) Add in enough BBQ sauce so that the chicken isn't dry; make it to your liking.

To assemble the tacos, place the chicken on the center of the flour tortilla, top with coleslaw, and serve! It doesn't get much easier than that!

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Cabbage Salad

A friend of mine makes this recipe every time we go up to their cabin in the summer. It's one of my top 10 side dishes (thanks, Cindy!) and I eagerly look forward to every August when she makes it. This last time, I decided I needed the recipe so that I could make it at home and not wait another year before enjoying it again. I have since built off this recipe to adapt it even more to our tastes and there are likely endless possibilities. I'll be sure to include the word "optional" so that you can either make the basic recipe (which is great as it is!) or make it to suit your family and tastes as well. The recipe I am listing below is written for a single coleslaw package serving; double the ingredients if you choose to make more.


1 or 2 packages of coleslaw mix (OR make your own coleslaw mix by shredding your own head of cabbage--which is the equivalent of 2 packages of the premade kind you can get at the store--and also include some shredded carrot
Diced onion (about 2-3 Tablespoons; optional)
Broccoli, chopped into small pieces (optional)
Dried cranberries or other fruit (optional; I did not include them the last time I made this salad)


1/3 c. veg oil
1/3 c. white vinegar
1/3 c. white sugar
Seasoning packet from Ramen noodle package (optional)


1 package Ramen noodles (I use the Oriental flavor), crushed
1/3 c. slivered almonds
1-2 Tbsp. sesame seeds

Start out by making the dressing. Get the salad ingredients mixed together and then add the dressing to it. The longer it can marinade in there, the better it tastes!

In the meantime, take your crushed Ramen noodles, almonds, and sesame seeds and place them in a dry pan/skillet on the stovetop. You'll want to heat these at a low to medium-low heat or else they will burn. Make sure to stir them frequently as they heat up and begin to turn a nice, toasty brown. Once much of the mixture has browned, remove it from the heat so it doesn't overcook or burn.

By now the salad has had a nice bath in the dressing and can be served up at any time.

You are free to pour the toasted noodle/nuts mixture over the top and mix them directly into the salad, but keep in mind that if they sit for any length of time, they will get soggy. I prefer to keep the noodles/nuts separate and add them to the top of people's servings. That way they stay nice and crunchy.

This recipe makes a great side dish or simply a yummy snack! It's quick to throw together and very delicious. I hope you like it, too!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Corn Dog Casserole

Last week for the 4th of July, we hosted a pool party and invited a bunch of people to just stop by and hang out for as long as they wanted. Always one to buy more food than necessary, I was left with an overabundance of hot dogs. So today I decided to try a new way to use up some of those hot dogs (I'm going to freeze the rest!) and the image of corn dogs popped into my mind. Why not turn these hot dogs into a corn dogs? Enter Corn Dog Casserole. It's super easy to throw together and my kids who enjoy corn dogs on an occasional basis really enjoyed this meal. The cornbread casserole surrounding the hot dog slices is moist and has a hint of sweetness to it that pairs nicely with the saltiness of the hot dogs.


2 boxes of corn bread mix (8.5 oz each box)
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1/4 tsp. onion powder
pinch of pepper
1 cup of milk
2 eggs
1 can of creamed corn
6 hot dogs, sliced thinly

Baking Time: 30 minutes
Baking Temp: 400 degrees

Start out by emptying your 2 boxes of corn bread mix into a large bowl.

To that, you will add the brown sugar, onion powder, and a pinch of pepper. Stir to combine these dry ingredients.

Next you will add the wet ingredients to the dry--pour in the milk and 2 eggs, stirring well.

You'll wind up with a thin batter of sorts. To this, you will add the creamed corn and chopped up hot dogs. Stir them all up together.

At this point it doesn't look very appetizing, I know.

You're going to want to spray a 9x13" baking dish with some non-stick spray and then pour the batter into the pan.

Bake uncovered for 30 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the center is cooked through.

Allow it to cool for about 5 minutes so that it won't fall apart when you slice it up. Play around with the recipe--you can add shredded cheese to the top during the last few minutes of cooking, or serve it with ketchup and mustard like you might use on a regular corn dog. Pair it with a vegetable to make it seem a little healthier and you'll be all set. It really is a fast and easy dish to make!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Eggplant Parmesan

Eggplant is one of those vegetables that people seem to either really like or really dislike as it has the propensity to be a little on the bitter side for some. My husband and I fall into the "like" category. Our four kids are in the "dislike" category (although one child had to admit tonight that paired with pasta and spaghetti sauce, it really wasn't all that bad).

Tonight I decided to make eggplant parmesan for dinner. In the past, I've pan-fried the eggplant slices, but sometimes that seems to make them feel heavy and taste a bit greasy as they tend to absorb most of the oil while they fry up and the oil can also start to smoke if the temp gets a little too warm. So instead, I ventured out on a limb and tried a new-to-me way to cook up the eggplant and it turned out great! It's also probably a bit healthier as it is baked rather than fried.


1 or 2 eggplants--they should be firm rather than soft, and have a nice, smooth skin
seasoned bread crumbs (I made my own)
spaghetti sauce (again, I made my own, but any kind would work well)
mozzarella cheese
pasta (I used vermicelli)

Oven Temp: 350 degrees
Baking Time: 40 minutes total

Wash up the eggplant. Go ahead and peel it if you so desire. I kept the skin on as I think it probably contains a lot of great nutrients with the dark color. (The skin was not at all tough after baking.) Then cut it into about 1/2" rounds.

Place a blob of mayo in a small bowl (maybe 1/2 c. or so?) and have a second bowl that has your seasoned breadcrumbs in it.

Take a slice of eggplant and dip it in the mayo, lightly coating each side of the slice, then place it in the breadcrumbs and coat both sides generously.

Place the eggplant slices on a baking sheet. (I did prep my baking sheets by using parchment paper lightly sprayed with non-stick spray.)

Once all your eggplant slices are coated, pop them in the oven and set the timer for 20 minutes.

In the meantime, you will want to get the rest of your ingredients ready to go for the meal--start heating the water for the pasta, get your sauce ready, etc.

After 20 minutes, you'll flip the eggplant slices (I use tongs to flip mine) so that the other side gets toasted.

Place them back in the oven and bake for an additional 20 minutes.  When they are done, pull them out and you'll see that they are a dark golden color as well as very tender.

At this point, I sprinkled a little mozzarella cheese on top of the slices.

The mozzarella melted nicely on top of the eggplant, although I wanted to give them one extra blast in the oven to really make them great. I simply turned the oven to its broil setting and baked the eggplant for 1 minute so that the cheese turned golden brown.

By this point, your pasta should be cooked up and ready to be drained so that you can serve up the rest of the meal. Throw down a layer of pasta on the plate, add your sauce, and then top with as many eggplant slices as you would like. Hope you enjoy it!