Quick and Easy Cream of Spinach Soup

12 Jan

Frozen spinach has become one of my favorite ingredients. It thaws quickly and can be thrown into all sort of dishes to give them a bit more nutrients and a pop of color.

This recipe is a quick and easy go to dinner option when you haven’t got a lot of time. I added a little mustard to mimic the comforting flavor of macaroni and cheese, without the cheesy guilt. It is totally optional. If you wanted to use spicy brown mustard, that would work, too.

Enjoy!

Cream of Spinach Soup

Time: 15 minutes
Level: Easy
Servings: 6

3/4 c. frozen spinach, thawed and drained
2 cans cream of chicken or cream of mushroom soup
2-3 c. milk
1 tsp. crushed red pepper
1 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. mustard (a squirt or so…)

In a soup pot, combine all ingredients. Heat on medium-low for 7-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn off heat and let soup sit for a minute or two to thicken. Yum!

Tips
-Using low fat milk instead of cream is a healthier option. Allowing the soup to sit and thicken helps regain the fullness that is lost.
-Add a handful of shredded cheese for added flavor.
-Add crumbled bacon pieces for a smoky flavor. (so good!)
-Serve with crusty bread or cornbread.

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Chicken and Spinach Stuffed Shells

5 Jan

Stuffed shells are so easy and super fun to make! I recently made a more traditional version of this dish with a group of children and they had a blast mixing and filing the shells. Not to mention, they ate every bite… spinach included! If you want to get your kids to eat their veggies, get them in kitchen. It truly makes a difference.

I liked this recipe because I love vegetable lasagna but I can’t afford the time it takes to make and bake in the oven. As you know if you follow my blog, when it’s dinner time, I’m hungry, and it better not take me long to make anything or else I’m out, down for the count, and wasting precious calories on anything I can get my hands on from the pantry. (aka: Wheat Thins and peanut butter)

Stuffing jumbo pasta shells with lasagna ingredients not only cuts down on time but it also helps you with portion control. Sneaking an extra bite of lasagna is easy but grabbing another shell can make you think twice!

Also, I added chicken for the hubs. He’s a meat-a-holic. Not really… he can enjoy a good hearty… key word hearty… vegetarian meal every once in a while but he’d simply rather not. I can’t really blame him but you wouldn’t have to use chicken if you didn’t want to.

Enjoy!

Chicken and Spinach Stuffed Shells

Time: 45 minutes
Level: Easy
Servings: 4, 3 shells each

1 chicken boneless skinless chicken breast, cooked and chopped into bite sized cubes
15 jumbo pasta shells, in case a few break
1 tbsp. oil
2 tsp. minced garlic
1/4 c. onion, chopped
1/3 c. carrots, sliced thin
1/3 c. frozen corn
1/3 c. frozen bell peppers
1/8 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
1/2 tbsp. Italian seasoning
1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/3 c. frozen spinach, thawed and drained
1/2 c. cottage cheese
1 egg
1 c. spaghetti sauce
1/4 c. mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/4 c. Parmesan cheese, shredded

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Baked Mozzarella Sticks made from Egg Roll Wrappers

29 Dec

So I tried this recipe from Recipe Diaries, which she got from Taste of Home, and it didn’t quite turn out how I thought it would. When I think of mozzarella sticks, I think of ooey gooey cheese that strings on for days. My cheese didn’t exactly melt in the middle of these sticks. I used string cheese, as the recipe calls for, but I think it would work a lot better if I used sticks of real block cheese. The sticks tasted good, they just didn’t mimic the original deep fried version I was craving.

Jason really liked them so I think I’ll try it again using some of the incredible Mississippi State Cheese we got for Christmas.

If you make them, let me know how you liked them/modified them… I really want this healthier version to work!

Baked Mozzarella Sticks

4 pieces of string cheese cut in half
4 egg roll wrappers cut in half
olive oil
salt
marinara, spaghetti sauce, salsa, or ranch

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Flourless Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip (optional) Cookies – 3-4 Ingredients!

21 Dec

So there you are, running around your house like crazy doing last minute things to get ready for Christmas. You’re cleaning the house from top to bottom, figuring out how to wrap insanely shaped gifts, and washing linens for expected guests when there is a knock at your door. A sweet neighbor has brought you a gift, and there you are, with nothing to reciprocate.

Nice gesture. But now what? Insert my Flourless Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies. They are so easy to make, and with only 4 ingredients, you won’t be adding a trip to the grocery store to your to-do list. Plus they look great! The batter is nice and thick so the cookies stay plump and round, perfect for wrapping up and gifting.

I hope you enjoy these. We make them around our house when a cookie craving strikes late at night. They are perfect paired with an ice cold glass of milk or an ice cold White Russian. Yum!

Flourless Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Time: 20 minutes
Level: Easy
Servings: ~20 cookies

1 c. creamy peanut butter
1 c. sugar
1 egg
1/3 c. chocolate chips, optional

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Homemade Laundry Detergent

14 Dec

This is so easy to make. It seriously takes all of about 15-20 minutes and works like a charm! I started making my own when I got sick of paying $13 for 1.17 gallons and figured I could make it on my own for about $2.25 per gallon.

I used to use Gain or Arm and Hammer liquid laundry detergent and so far, I have been very happy with the cleaning power of my own concoction.

I store my detergent in an empty and clean milk jug. At first, I tried storing it in an old Gain container but you have to shake the container before using it and the lip at the top of the pourer in the Gain container spilled and made a big mess. The milk jug works great! I use an old laundry container screw on lid as my measuring cup but you could use any kind of cup/measuring cup.

Enjoy!

Homemade Laundry Detergent

Makes: 1 gallon

1/2 bar of Ivory soap, grated
1/4 cup washing soda (found in the laundry aisle in most stores – Arm & Hammer makes it)
1/4 cup borax powder (also in the laundry aisle – look for “20 Mule Team” brand)
3 c. water, plus more to fill a gallon

Put the grated soap in a sauce pan. Over medium heat, add 3 cups water and heat until soap melts. Add washing soda and borax and stir until it is dissolved. Remove from heat.

Pour mixture into a clean gallon sized jug. Add 2 cups hot water to the bucket. Shake to stir. Now add water to fill the jug. Shake to stir. Let the soap sit for about 24 hours and it will gel (it’s a little like magic!). You use ½ cup per load.

Tips
– This soap does not foam, so don’t be surprised when you first use it.
– This soap has no scent. Feel free to add a few drops of essential oil if you want.

15 Minute Dinner… Smoked Sausage and Vegetable Stew Over Brown Rice

13 Dec

15 minute dinner ideas are must to keep sane during the holiday season. Smoked sausage, canned tomatoes, frozen veggies, and minute rice help make this flavorful dish quick and easy to throw together on a busy night.

You can make it as mild or as spicy as you’d like… We like it HOT around our house!

Smoked Sausage and Vegetable Stew Over Brown Rice

Servings: 2-4
Level: Easy
Time: 15 minutes

1 tsp. canola oil
1/3 c. corn, frozen
1/3 c. bell peppers and onions, frozen
1 tsp. garlic, minced
1 tbsp. sweet and spicy jalapeños, diced
2 tsp. Italian seasoning
1 tsp. crushed red pepper, optional
1/2 c. smoked sausage, cut into slices, then halved
1 can fire roasted tomatoes
brown rice, cooked

In a skillet over medium heat, heat oil. Add corn, peppers and onions, and garlic. Sauté  until thawed. Add remaining ingredients. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tomato juice thickens to desired thickness.

Serve over brown rice. Yum!

Tips
– Use instant brown rice!
– Make extra rice or add another can of tomatoes to make the dish go further.

Sweet Potato and Lentil Stew

5 Dec

Winter is upon us. No offense to Mother Nature, but UGH! I seriously hate cold weather. However, I do seriously love soups and stews. Cold weather is the perfect opportunity to fire up the crock pot and make something truly comforting for dinner.

A friend of mine at work suggested I take a look at the Skinny Crock Pot blog. The site is full of delicious and healthy ideas to make in your crock pot. I’ll definitely be back to check out more of her recipes. One recipe I found particularly interesting was her sweet potato and lentil stew. I changed it up a bit but if you would like to see the original recipe, which is vegetarian, click here.

Yum! This stew is delicious with herbed corn muffins!

Sweet Potato and Lentil Stew

Servings: 8
Level: Easy
Time: 8 hours

1 tbsp. canola oil
1 onion, diced
2 ribs celery, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 sweet potato, cubed
1/3 c. carrots, chopped
2 tbsp. garlic, minced
1 tbsp. cumin
1 tbsp. salt
1 tbsp. pepper
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1 tsp. cayenne
1 1/2 c. dried green lentils
6 c. chicken stock
3  chicken tenderloins, frozen or 1 large chicken breast, frozen

Add all ingredients to crock pot and stir well. Cover and cook on low heat for 8 hours, or until lentils and potatoes soften. Shred chicken with a fork. Yum!

Sour Cream Coconut Layer Cake – A Tribute to Grandmother

20 Nov

This is one of my grandfather’s favorite cakes. Last time I went to visit, he mentioned he had a “hankerin'” and I thought I would make it for him for Christmas but my grandmother passed away on Tuesday and so I decided to make it now.

My grandmother was the most amazing woman and cook of all time. Some of my very first and fondest memories with Grandmother include cooking together. She would let me do anything…even if it meant spending more time on clean up than cooking. Whether it be rolling out sausage balls or biscuits waaay too big or small, putting too much real sugar in boiling oatmeal, or making messy mud pies in the back yard, if I was with her, she was letting me find my way.

To this day, I’ve never in my life had better chicken and dumplings, butter beans, or anything else, for that matter. You know how people say things taste better when they are made with love? She showed her love through cooking. We all felt it. In fact, showing love through cooking is definitely something she passed down to all of her daughters. My mom and aunts are great in the kitchen and have, in turn, passed it down to all of us.

Although Grandmother is no longer with us, the memories we have will live on forever.

I love you.

This coconut cake takes 3 days to set in the fridge so don’t make it if you are in a hurry. Patience is a virtue with this one. The longer it is left to set up, the better and moister it becomes. It turns out absolutely gorgeous.  I hope you enjoy it as much as PawPaw. Yum!

Sour Cream Coconut Layer Cake

Servings: A Zillion
Level: Easy/Medium
Time: 1 hour + 3 days to set in the fridge

1 package (18½ oz.) butter flavor cake mix
2 cups sugar
1 carton (8 oz.) commercial sour cream
1 package (12 oz.) frozen coconut, thawed (unfrozen from the baking aisle works, too)
1½ cups whipped cream (thawed)

Prepare the cake according to directions, making two 8-inch layers.

Split both layers horizontally after they have cooled. Blend together the sugar, sour cream, and coconut, and chill. Spread all but 1 cup of the sour cream mixture between the four layers. Blend the remaining cup of the mixture with the whipped cream and spread on the top and sides of the cake. Seal in an airtight container and refrigerate for three days before serving. Keep refrigerated after cutting. Yum!


(This is what happens when you cut into it with a butter knife instead of a sharper one… whoops!)

Tips
-Duncan Hines butter flavor cake mix works VERY well with this recipe.
-Sprinkle any extra coconut over the iced cake to hide any icing imperfections!
-Make the sour cream mixture and put it in the fridge to cool while the cakes are baking/cooling. This will help the mixture thicken up so it won’t ooze out from under the layers.

Bacon and Cheese Frittata

16 Nov

Frittatas are quick and easy and delicious served for breakfast. lunch, and even dinner. By simply adjusting the add-ins, you can create a completely different taste experience that can fit almost any occasion. For this frittata, I used bacon, cheese, bell peppers, and onions, but I could have  just as easily used sausage, spinach, broccoli, or even ham. Just think quiche without a crust. Anything that sounds good in a quiche, would work here as well.

This dish is perfect to make for breakfast when having overnight company. It takes no time to whip up and tastes great even at room temperature!

I served our leftovers as the protein for a torta (See Chicken Torta for the recipe.) I put slices of the frittata on soft baguettes with sour cream, re-fried beans, and salsa. I also added slices of fresh avocado. Yum!

Bacon and Cheese Frittata

Servings: 6
Time: 35 minutes
Level: Easy

6 eggs
1 cup milk
2 tbsp. butter or margarine, melted
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/4 c. bell peppers and onions, frozen and chopped
5 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled
1 c. shredded Cheddar cheese

In a bowl, beat eggs, milk, butter, salt, and pepper.

Pour into a greased 11×7 baking dish. Sprinkle with onions, bacon and cheese.

Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 25-30 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Yum!

Tips
– Adjust the add-ins. Add any type of meat, cheese, or veggies for a different twist!

Mexican Casserole – Quick, Easy, and Cheap!

9 Nov

This casserole was one of the easiest things I have ever put together. It was also one of the most delicious. When I started to make this casserole, I didn’t have high hopes. I knew it would fill us up but it just seemed to be a run of the mill casserole, nothing too exciting. Thankfully, I was wrong. Jason loved it, went back for seconds that were as big as his first serving, and nibbled on it after dinner until there were no leftovers for his lunch the next day. Whoops.

I have recently become obsessed with my 8×4 baking dish. The 9×13 and 8×8 sizes are just too big for the two of us, especially when you take into account adding side dishes to a meal. The following recipe has been bulked up to fit an 8×8 baking dish because, apparently when I make it next time, the 8×4 simply won’t do.

Quick, Easy, and Cheap Mexican Casserole

Servings: 4-6
Level: Easy
Time: 30 minutes

1/2 onion, chopped
1 lb. ground beef
1/2 tbsp. cumin
1/2 tbsp. chili powder
1/2 tbsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. corriander, optional
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes, optional
1/2 c. tortilla chips, crushed
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can corn, rinsed and drained
1 can nacho cheese condensed soup, or any brand of cheese dip will work as well
1 can rotel, drained
1/3 c. cheese, shredded

In a skillet over medium-high heat, cook onions, ground beef, cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, salt, corriander, and red pepper flakes together until beef is browned throughout. Drain off excess fat. Pour crushed tortilla chips in a greased 8×8 baking sheet to coat the bottom. In a large bowl, mix together browned beef, beans, corn, condensed soup, and rotel. Pour over chips. Top with shredded cheese.

Bake, covered, for 20-25 minutes. Yum!

Tips
– Serve with a dollop of sour cream and/or salsa on top.
– Serve along side a green salad.
– Use taco seasoning instead of listed spices to flavor the meat.

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