Mac-O-Lantern

Mac O Lantern not baked

It’s almost Halloween. I thought I’d share an easy and fun recipe to make with the kids or to make for the kids at heart. The unbaked peppers look so cute, but the baked ones look perfectly scary for Halloween with their shrinking skins and their (unintentional) burnt tops. Feel free to stuff your peppers with rice, quinoa and other vegetables if you want to go vegetarian. I just thought the macaroni and cheese resembled the pumpkin innards which made this more fun.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3/4 pounds of lean ground beef (or turkey or chicken)
  • 1/2 of a red onion. diced
  • 1/2 a cup of spaghetti or tomato sauce
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 box (7.25 ounces) Kraft macaroni and cheese (or any other brand)
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 6 orange bell peppers

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F degrees.
  2. Foil line a small baking sheet.
  3. In a large skillet, brown the ground meat over medium high heat. Drain excess fat.
  4. Add onions and cook until almost translucent.
  5. Add spaghetti/tomato sauce, garlic powder and Italian seasoning. Stir until well mixed and turn off heat.
  6. Prepare macaroni and cheese according to package using the butter and milk.
  7. Meanwhile, cut the bell peppers into jack-o-lanterns. Discard the seeds and white membranes. Be sure to leave enough of the top to use as a lid. I like to make sure there is enough opening in the mouths I carve so you can see the noodle mixture coming out like pumpkin guts.
  8. Once your macaroni and cheese is ready, combine in your large skillet with your meat mixture. Mix well.
  9. Stuff your peppers with the noodle and meat mixture. Put them on your prepared foil lined baking sheet.
  10. Bake for 25-30 minutes until bell peppers are tender.

Mac O Lantern

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Pineapple Upside Down Bundt Cake

Pineapple Upside Down Bundt Cake

I came across my bundt cake pan the other day. I thought to myself,  I really need to use it more often. So I went through my cupboard and found all the ingredients for a semi homemade pineapple upside down cake.  Then I found out my brother and his family were coming to town. I now had willing taste testers to help eat up the cake. My son and I would never have finished it by ourselves. It was fate.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 can (20 ounces)  pineapple slices, reserve the juice
  • 1 small jar maraschino cherries (you will need about 15-20 depending on your bundt pan size)
  • 1 box yellow cake mix (thus the semi homemade description)
  • 1 package (3.4 ounce) vanilla pudding mix
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup milk

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F degrees. Spray a bundt pan generously with nonstick spray.
  2. Evenly pour the melted butter into the bottom of the bundt pan and top with the brown sugar. Pineapple Upside Down Bundt Cake 2
  3. Cut the pineapple rings in half and, alternating with the cherries, place into the butter-brown sugar mixture in the bottom of the pan. Pineapple Upside Down Bundt Cake 3
  4. In a large bowl, combine the cake and pudding mixes together. Add the reserved pineapple juice and milk. Add the eggs and vegetable oil, and mix until fully blended. Pineapple Upside Down Bundt Cake 5
  5. Pour the batter evenly over the pineapple and cherries. Pineapple Upside Down Bundt Cake 6
  6. Follow the cake mix instructions for how long to bake in a bundt pan. Approximately 35-40 minutes. Bake until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.  Pineapple Upside Down Bundt Cake 7
  7. Cool the cake for about 30 minutes before running a knife around the edges and inner ring of the pan. Invert onto a serving plate and slice between pineapple rings to serve. Pineapple Upside Down Bundt Cake 8

Meatballs in Enchilada Sauce

Enchilada Meatballs 5

Ever find yourself making the same foods over and over? I do that all the time. Rotating the same recipes every week. So for a little change of pace I tried making these meatballs in enchilada sauce.  Yes, I needed something different to try, plus I didn’t have any tortillas on hand to make enchiladas. You can serve these meatballs as appetizers. Or make these into a meal and serve with rice and beans or inside a tortilla if you have them on hand.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/2 cup crushed tortilla chips
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro, plus more for garnish
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumim
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 1 small jalapeno, minced
  • 1 28 ounce can red enchilada sauce
  • 1/2 cup Mexican shredded cheese
  • 1 avocado, sliced for garnish
  • sour cream for garnish(optional)
  • corn tortillas for serving (optional)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. In a small bowl add crushed tortilla chips and milk. Set aside and let soak  for a few minutes, while you are preparing meatball mix.
  2. In a large bowl combine: ground beef, egg, garlic, cilantro, chili powder, cumin, oregano, salt, pepper, onion, and jalapeno.
  3. Next mix in the crushed tortilla chips soaked in milk. Combine until thoroughly mixed. Enchilada Meatballs 1
  4. Form 1 1/2 -2 inch meatballs by hand or use cookie scoop. I was able to make 21 meatballs with my mix.Enchilada Meatballs 2
  5. In a large skillet over medium heat, add olive oil. When olive oil begins to ripple, add meatballs carefully into skillet.
  6. Cook meatballs until seared on all sides, about 2 minutes per side. Drain excess fat when meatballs are browned. Enchilada Meatballs 3
  7. Add enchilada sauce to skillet with meatballs. Toss the meatballs with the sauce to make sure each meatball gets covered.  (I added leftover corn kernels to my sauce)Enchilada Meatballs 4
  8. Add shredded cheese to the tops of each meatball. Cover skillet. Lower heat to medium. Let cheese melt and meatballs cook through for 10 minutes.
  9. Garnish skillet with more cilantro and avocado slices.
  10. Serve as appetizers with avocado slices or sour cream or put into mini corn tortillas. Enchilada Meatballs 6

Almond Crusted Chicken with Tomato Salad

Almond Crusted Chicken 2

Hello everyone! I’ve been in a rut lately. I’ve been making the same recipes on rotation each week without trying something new to share with you. Well, the rut is over! I have not one, but two simple recipes for you today. The chicken is the star of this dish, but I thought I’d share the tomato salad recipe for my vegetarian friends. Depending on your appetites, this recipe makes 2-4 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, halved (4 pieces total)
  • 2/3 cup sliced, unblanched almonds
  • 2/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder (you can use less if you are not that fond of garlic)
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • lemon wedges for garnish

SALAD INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 pint multi colored grape or cherry tomatoes sliced in quarters
  • 2 green onion stalks (scallions) trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • juice from 1/2 a lemon
  • salt and black pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Pulse almonds in a food processor until coarsely chopped and combine with panko breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper in a shallow bowl.
  2. Lightly whisk the eggs in another shallow bowl. Dip each piece of chicken into the eggs, let the excess drip away, then press both sides of the chicken into the almond and panko coating. Place on a baking sheet and refrigerate for 30 minutes until the crust sets.
  3. Meanwhile, combine all the tomato salad ingredients into a small bowl and mix with spoon. Set aside to garnish on top of chicken when ready. Almond Crusted Chicken 3
  4. Heat a skillet over medium heat and add the butter to the 3 tablespoons of olive oil. When the butter foams, place the chicken into the pan and increase the heat to medium-high. Cook, turning once until the crust sets and turns golden brown: 3-4 minutes on each side.
  5. Arrange on a platter, and serve immediately with tomato salad spooned on top. Garnish with lemon wedges. Almond Crusted Chicken 1

Slow Cooker Lentil and Vegetable Soup

Crockpot Lentil and Vegetable Soup

What’s that? I’m posting a vegetarian dish? Yes, believe it or not, I actually like a lot of vegetarian dishes. It’s just hard to find a vegetarian dish that my picky “meat and potatoes” son will enjoy as well. So I have to take baby steps with him and made a vegetarian soup. And slow cooker recipes are the best. Just prep your ingredients, put into your slow cooker and let it do all the work! Hopefully, my friend, Sue T. will approve. This recipe makes 6-8 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 1/2 cups lentils (green or red)
  • 4 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 celery ribs, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 bag (5 ounces) baby spinach
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 6 1/2 cups vegetable stock
  • salt to taste

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Place all ingredients but the baby spinach, in your slow cooker. And pour in the vegetable stock.
  2. Cook on high for 5 hours or on low for 8 hours.
  3. Stir a few times throughout the cooking.
  4. Add the baby spinach during the last 10 minutes of cooking cycle.
  5. If you like a more brothy soup, add in 1-2 cups additional stock.
  6. If you like a more creamy soup, carefully ladle out 1/3 of the soup into your blender and puree. Add back blended soup to slow cooker and mix well.
  7. Salt to taste and garnish with chopped parsley.

Crockpot Lentil and Vegetable Soup 2

Lemon Butter Cookies

Lemon Butter Cookies plated

Spring is here, but you wouldn’t know it by the dark and gloomy days we’ve been having around here. Cheer up. I have a cookie that will brighten your day. They are flakey on the outside and chewy on the inside. And the tangy lemon flavor combined with the sweet butter cookie is like a bite of sunshine.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  •  1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
  • 1 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 10 drops yellow food coloring
  • 3/4 cups powdered sugar

DIRECTIONS:

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder and salt.
  2. In a large bowl using a hand mixer, beat butter, cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. 1-2 minutes.
  3. Beat in eggs, lemon zest and juice, vanilla and food coloring.
  4. Beat in dry ingredients until just combined.
  5. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight for best results.
  6. Preheat oven to 325 F degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.
  7. Roll dough into 2 inch balls then roll in powdered sugar and place on baking sheets. Let sit for 2 minutes until sugar is absorbed, then reroll in powdered sugar.
  8. Place about 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets and bake until cookies crackle and set but still slightly soft in center, 17-19 minutes.
  9. Transfer to a cooling rack  and let cool completely.
  10. This recipe yields 24-30 cookies depending on how evenly you roll your cookie dough. One day I am going to invest in a dough scoop so I can have uniform cookies. I  sprinkled a little extra powdered sugar on the cookies when cooled, but that is not necessary.

Lemon Butter Cookies

Mongolian Chicken Wings

Mongolian Wings 7

Yes, it’s another chicken wing recipe from me. I can’t help myself. I just love trying out all different flavors of chicken wings. This recipe is fairly simple and for a change I had all the ingredients so, why not? If you like sweet and spicy, then you are going to love these wings. Best of all the spice level is up to you.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 1/2 pounds chicken wings (about 20 pieces)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon fresh ground pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/3 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Sriracha ( or more if you like it really spicy, less if you can’t handle too much spice)
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • green onions for garnish
  • sesame seeds for garnish

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 F degrees and place metal rack on top of large baking pan. Be sure to use cooking spray on the rack so the chicken skin does not stick.
  2. In a large bowl or Ziploc bag, toss chicken wings with oil, salt, pepper and garlic powder. Place wings on wire rack and cook 45-50 minutes, until crispy and golden. Mongolian Wings 1
  3. While chicken is baking, add honey, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, Sriracha, garlic and ginger into a small saucepan.  Bring to a simmer until the flavors meld and the sauce reduces slightly for about 10 minutes. Mongolian Wings 2
  4. Transfer baked wings to a large bowl and toss with glaze. Mongolian Wings 4
  5. Return to rack and broil for 2-3 minutes until glaze is caramelized. Mongolian Wings 5
  6. Garnish with green onions and sesame seeds. Mongolian Wings 6