Sunday, October 19, 2014

Best Ever Cheesy Cornbread

My good friend Heidi introduced this recipe to me a couple years ago, and I will never go back to another cornbread. It is incredibly moist (from the eggs and butter), rich in corn flavor (from the cream style corn), and has a hint of cheese.

This cornbread has never turned out dry, and it never needs extra butter or honey. It is perfect as is. Thanks, Heidi! You have forever changed our go-to side dish for tacos, chilli and soup!

This recipe fills a 9x13" baking dish, perfect for a crowd. Sometimes I halve the ingredients for just our family.

Cheesy Corn Bread
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 can cream style corn
4 eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shredded mild/sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup shredded Jack cheese

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs, mixing well.
3. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt. Add this flour mixture into the wet ingredient and mix until combined. Mix in the cream corn and shredded cheese.
4. Pour into greased 9x13" baking dish. Reduce oven to 300 degrees and bake for 1 hour.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Summer Shrimp Stir-Fry

This meal comes straight from Pioneer Woman. Anyone else love Pioneer Woman? I love that her Food Network show is on most days around 4pm, right as I'm preparing dinner...and kids jump on the trampoline...and baby sleeps. Perfect. Just like this dish.

Combining fresh summer veggies, with garlic-shrimp, lemon and basil, this stir-fry has become a weekly dinner.

Summer Shrimp Stir-Fry (30-45 minutes) *Slightly adapted
2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 pounds large or extra large shrimp, peeled, deveined, no tails (I use frozen shrimp and thaw under cold water in a colander, works great)
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 large zucchini, diced
1.5 cups frozen corn
1 pint red grape tomatoes, sliced in half lengthwise
Salt and pepper to taste
Onion powder and garlic powder for seasoning shrimp
12 - 18 fresh basil leaves, cut in chiffonade
Juice of 1 lemon
Whole grain brown rice

1. Thaw shrimp under cold water in colander. While thawing, dice zucchini and halve the red grape tomatoes. Peel garlic cloves.
2. Dry off shrimp on plate lined with paper towels. Pat shrimp dry. Season shrimp with salt, pepper, onion powder and garlic powder. (Make sure shrimp is completely thawed and dry, or you'll end up with a lot of extra liquid in your stir-fry!)
3. Melt 1 tbsp. butter and 1 tbsp. olive oil in large skillet or pan over medium-high heat. Once hot, add in minced garlic and stir around for 20-30 seconds, being careful to not burn the garlic. Add shrimp, then sauté until the shrimp are opaque, about 3 minutes.
4. Remove shrimp to a plate and set aside.
5. Add remaining 1 tbsp. butter and 1 tbsp. olive oil, and throw in zucchini. Cook for 3-5 minutes, then scoot zucchini to edge of pan. Add corn to middle, allow to cook for 3-5 minutes, and stir into the zucchini.
6. Scoot veggies again to edge of pan, add the halved tomatoes, allow to cook for 5 minutes or so, until they soften a bit.
7. Season all veggies generously with salt and pepper.
8. Throw shrimp back in, stir together, allow to warm shrimp.
9. Serve stir-fry over brown rice, add a bunch of basil, and a healthy squeeze of lemon. Yum!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Light and Dainty Lemon Cupcakes

I love sugar. I will eat sugary things for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack-time. But, let's be real about cupcakes. Sometimes the frosting is too sweet and you can only eat a few bites before feeling it in your teeth.

So when I chose to make lemon cupcakes for a dear friend's Sip & See, I opted for lemon-infused whipped cream for the frosting instead of a buttercream or cream cheese topping.

The result was a light, delicious little cupcake, or described on, as "truly lighter than air and will melt in your mouth." It's one that you can eat many of. And I did. (As did my hubs. And my children.).

Lemon Cupcakes ( )
Makes about 30 mini cupcakes, or about 14 large
1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup white sugar
2 extra large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1/2 cup whole milk, divided
1 1/4 tbsp. fresh lemon juice, divided


Sunday, May 18, 2014

Quick Dinner: French Bread Pizza

Oh, this brings back memories of my childhood. With five kids all active in multiple sports and school activities, I know why my mom pulled this meal out every now and then!

On nights when we are running around or when my husband is working, this is a great, super easy meal that is still yummy and nutritious (minus the French bread). And, I love to make this the week of homemade tacos, using up any leftover taco meat.

Of course, this pizza can be topped with anything. We like mozzarella, loads of chopped, fresh spinach, taco meat and extra sharp cheddar. Plus a shake of dried basil and oregano.

Don't be afraid to use lots of sauce. The bread is like a sponge and will absorb a lot of it.

Done in less than 15 minutes!

French Bread Pizza
1 loaf French bread
1 jar pasta sauce (you will have some leftover)
Slices or balls of fresh mozzarella
1/2 - 3/4 bag fresh, baby spinach
1 cup taco meat (or hamburger meat)
2 cups extra sharp cheddar cheese
Shake of dried basil
Shake of dried oregano

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice French bread in half vertically, place on sheet pan.
2. Chop fresh spinach leaves and put aside. Shred extra sharp cheddar cheese, if needed.
3. Spoon about 1 cup of sauce on each bread half, for a total of 2 cups of sauce. Apply liberally, as the French bread will soak up a lot of the sauce.
4. Layer pizza as follows: mozzarella balls/slices, taco meat, chopped spinach, shredded cheese, and a few shakes of dried basil and dried oregano.
5. Put into oven on top rack and cook for 8 minutes. Allow to rest for a few minutes, then cut and serve!

Easy Kid Breakfast: Egg Roll-Ups

My girls eat eggs. Every. Morning. It's the only thing that will keep them full for more than an hour. So, I've started branching out a little in their egg-filled breakfast. Every now and then, it's just straight scrambled eggs on toast (with cheese of course), sometimes it's eggs in a hole (via Pioneer Woman), but most mornings, it is Egg Roll-Up.

I'm sure many people do these, but I wanted my girls to remember this one, as they ask for it all the time, and it is super easy.

Now, a couple years back we had a scrambled egg discussion in Bible study. I know, we were off on a major tangent! I was shocked to hear that many of the moms did NOT cook scrambled eggs in the microwave. My mom has pulled out this trick for over 20 years, so I considered it the norm. Of course, when I'm making a big family-style breakfast, I pull out my skillet and cook scrambled eggs the proper way.

But, for just me and the girls, it's the whisked eggs, a splash of milk, and a microwave. 

One more side-note. Tortillas. They can be chock-full of calories. Like, 120-160 calories. Our local Hy-Vee carries a brand that is just 60 calories. Read the labels and find the healthiest in your local grocery store!

Egg Roll-Ups (Makes 3)
3 Whole wheat tortillas
4 eggs
Splash of milk
Plain cream cheese (your choice on making it low-fat or non-fat)
3 slices of ham
Shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese

1. Spray microwavable bowl with cooking spray. Whisk 4 eggs, add splash of milk, and cook eggs one minute at a time in the microwave, moving cooked eggs to the middle of the bowl after each minute.
2. Put shredded cheese on top of cooked eggs, cover and allow to melt.
3. Warm up tortillas in microwave for 20-30 seconds.
4. Layer Egg Roll-Up as follows: warm tortilla, thick layer of cream cheese, one slice of ham (cut in two, layered vertically over cream cheese), strip of egg with melted cheese. Wrap tightly and enjoy.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Homemade and Healthy Chicken Pad Thai

Um, yes, this is so good. Like, three weeks in a row, good. Or, take-this-to-the-next-friend-who-has-a-baby-good. Or, straight from my husband's mouth, "Wow, the flavors are so good"-good.

This tasty Chicken Pad Thai has obviously made it into our regular rotation. If you have 10 minutes earlier in the day, chop your veggies and shred your chicken, stick them both back in the fridge covered, and this meal will take less than 30 minutes to put together.

Chicken Pad Thai (Katie Newell, Feeding Our Families)
For the pad thai:
8 ounces rice noodles
1 - 1 1/2 cups cooked, shredded chicken (I use a rotisserie chicken)
1 red bell pepper
2 carrots
1 small red onion
2 cups bean sprouts

For the peanut-honey pad thai sauce:
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar (I use just rice vinegar, not seasoned)
2 tbsp. peanut butter
1 inch piece of fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic
1 tbsp. and 1 tsp honey
2 tsp soy sauce
1 tbsp. sesame oil
1 tsp garlic salt
1 tsp organic sugar
1/2 tsp Sriracha chili sauce (I don't add this; just never have it)
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper (I don't add this; trying to keep "heat" at bay for kids)

2 green onions
1/4 cup cilantro leaves
1/4 cup roasted peanuts (I don't add, though feel free!)
Lime wedges, for squeezing

Slicing and dicing: Peel and coarsely chop 3 cloves garlic and a 1" thick piece of ginger. Thinly slice 1 red onion. Core, seed and thinly slice 1 red bell pepper. Peel and matchstick (or julienne) 2 carrots. thinly slice 2 green onions.

Prepare the peanut-honey pad thai sauce: In a mini food processor, blender, or with the good ol' whisk, blend all ingredients together under "peanut-honey pad thai sauce." Blend well.

Cook rice noodles: Cook according to package directions, then drain and rinse in cold water to stop noodles from cooking.

Make your pad thai: Heat a large deep skillet (or wok) over medium high heat. Add 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil and heat about 30 seconds, until shimmering. Add onions, and stir fry for 1-2 minutes. Add carrots, and stir fry for 1-2 minutes. Add bell pepper, and stir fry for 1-2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium low. Stir in bean sprouts, cooked shredded chicken, cooked rice noodles, and pad thai sauce. Toss until chicken and noodles are warm, and to distribute sauce throughout. Transfer contents of skillet to serving dish, and garnish with green onions, cilantro, peanuts (if using), and squeeze with lime wedges. Serve and enjoy!

Delicious White Chicken Chilli

Every spring has a cold day here or there. So this spring, put this white chicken chili on the list! Warm spices, tender chicken, white beans of your choice, corn, topped with cilantro (my fav), green onions (my other fav), and sharp cheddar cheese (an everyday essential, of course).

It's so easy to put together, especially if you cheat and buy a rotisserie chicken for the meat.

White Chicken Chilli (Katie Newell,

Ingredients (Serves six, leftovers are fantastic):

For the chilli:
3     cups cooked shredded chicken, about 1 pound
3     cups prepared white beans, or two 15-ounce cans
1½  cups frozen corn kernels
4     ounce can diced green chilies (mild)
1     large yellow onion, or 2 small
4     cloves garlic
2     tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1     quart chicken broth
½    cup sour cream, or more to taste
3     green onions
¼    cup flat-leaf parsley  
Shredded sharp cheddar cheese for topping 
For the seasonings:
1    tbsp ground cumin
1    tsp ground coriander
1    tsp dried oregano
1    tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne

Instructions (1 hour, 20 minutes, 20 minutes active):

Prepare your ingredients:  Dice 1 large or 2 small yellow onions.  Mince 4 cloves garlic.  Thinly slice 3 green onions.  Coarsely chop ¼ cup flat leaf parsley. If necessary, drain and rinse white beans. 

In a small bowl or ramekin, combine all ingredients listed under “for the seasonings”. 

Prepare your white chicken chili:  Heat a 4-quart or larger stockpot over medium heat for about 5 minutes. While pot heats, use a hand held blender or mini food processor to puree 1½ cups beans with 1 cup of the chicken broth (this will help thicken the soup). When pot is hot, add 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil and heat an additional 30 seconds, until oil shimmers. Add diced onion and garlic and saute for about 6 minutes. Add combined seasonings and stir continuously for 2 minutes, being mindful not to let the spices burn. Add remaining chicken broth, shredded chicken, whole beans, pureed beans, frozen corn, and green chilies to pot. Increase heat to bring just to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for about an hour.  Remove from heat. Stir in green onions, parsley, and ½ cup or so of sour cream. 

Getting it in the table: Ladle soup into bowls. Top with cheddar cheese. Serve with your favorite whole grain crackers, fruit, or cut up veggies and dip. Enjoy!

Notes: This is a very flavorful soup, but has very little heat. This makes it super kid-friendly. Our entire family looks forward to this simple dinner. Vegetarians, omit the chicken and use vegetable broth in place of chicken broth. This dish is naturally nut-free and gluten-free. If you choose to double the recipe to freeze for a future dinner, freeze the second batch of soup before you stir in the sour cream (to prevent the cream from curdling when reheated). If you forget and add the sour cream, reheat the soup at just over medium low, no higher.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Spinach Meatballs with Homemade Marinara

Don't you love when you can sneak veggies into a delicious meal? This recipe uses an entire bag/carton of fresh spinach! My family loves this dish. It also makes enough for another night's dinner...or freeze the meatballs and use next week...or make meatball many options!

Thanks again to my friend, Sabrina, for sending me this recipe. She has a big family as well, so she knows how to cook for them!

Spinach Meatballs (slightly adapted from

1 lb ground beef
5 oz fresh spinach (one bag/carton)
2 slices bread (I use older sourdough, any can do)
1 large egg, beaten
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
1 tbsp. olive oil

1. Give entire 5 oz of fresh spinach a rough chop. Steam spinach in microwave for about 1 1/2 minutes until it is warm and slightly wilted.
2. Add to mixing bowl: ground beef, wilted spinach, beaten egg, garlic, parsley, parmesan cheese, healthy dose of salt and pepper (about 1/2 tsp of each). Barely wet bread with water, squeeze out excess water over sink, and crumble bread into mixing bowl. Mix all with hands until thoroughly combined.
3. Using tablespoon, scoop out meat, and form small meatballs (each is about one tablespoon in size, possibly slightly bigger).
4. In large skillet or nonstick pan, heat 1 tbsp. olive oil. Add as many meatballs as you can without them touching each other. Allow meatballs to cook and get a nice sear, then turn to other side. Continue to turn meatballs every 3-5 minutes until all sides are browned and centers are pretty much cooked through.
5. Place meatballs on paper-towel lined plate. Freeze half if you want. Save the rest to cook for 15-20 minutes in the below homemade marinara sauce.

Homemade Marinara Sauce
1 tbsp. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1/2 yellow onion (or one small onion), chopped
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp. oregano
3/4 tsp. dried basil
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 tbsp. fresh basil, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste

1/2 package of angel hair pasta (or full package if feeding a crowd)

1. Heat olive oil in skillet (skillet needs to have a lid or cover). Add chopped onion and allow to cook until translucent. Add garlic and sauté for a couple minutes (don't let garlic burn!). Season with a little salt and pepper (if you have a little red wine, deglaze pan with about 1/4 cup red wine, and allow alcohol to cook off).
2. Add tomatoes, bay leaf, oregano, dried basil, chicken broth, and season with salt and pepper. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
3. After 10 minutes, add meatballs, simmer for another 15-20 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, bring pasta water to a boil, and cook angel hair noodles as directed.
5. Finish marinara by adding in remaining 1 tbsp fresh basil. Remove bay leaf.

Serve all together and enjoy!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Pumpkin (Butternut Squash) Lasagna

I am a huge fan of this cookbook, Feeding Our Families, by Katie Boyer Newell. She spoke at my mom's church MOPs group a couple years ago. She strives to feed her family healthy, whole foods. And, everything I have made from her cookbook has been a WINNER. This is the first recipe of many...

This lasagna adds another veggie - butternut squash - into your normal lasagna, which is absolutely delicious with Italian turkey sausage and sage. Yum! I can make THREE meals out of this recipe. One 9x13" pan (which equates to two nights in my house) and then a 8x8" pan to freeze.

A couple tips:
  • Roast your butternut squash earlier in the day, cover and save in fridge
  • Put together your turkey sausage and cheese mix earlier in the day, cover and save in fridge
Doing those two things earlier in the day will make your assembly go fast!

This is part of our regular rotation - my husband and kids love it!

Pumpkin (Butternut Squash) Lasagna
(Katie Boyer Newell, )

Turkey Sausage & Cheese Mix
2 lbs Italian sausage (I use mild Italian turkey sausage)
1 red onion
4 cloves galic
⅔ cup gorgonzola (I have used extra sharp cheddar cheese here)
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp dried thyme
½ tsp sea salt
½ tsp fresh ground black pepper

Butternut Squash & Ricotta Mix
2 cups pureed pumpkin or butternut squash (or one can) I chop up butternut squash, roast with olive oil, salt and pepper, and puree earlier in the day
1 cup ricotta cheese
2 eggs
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
½ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
½ tsp nutmeg

Marinara Sauce
24 – 25 oz jar of your favorite tomato pasta sauce (Barilla basil and tomato)
15-ounce can tomato sauce (or homemade)

12 lasagna noodles
¼ cup fresh sage leaves OR same amount of fresh basil
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
2 tbsp Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
½ tsp fresh ground black pepper

Instructions (90 minutes, 30 minutes active.):
Preparations: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Peel and cube butternut squash into small cubes. Coat lightly with extra virgin olive oil, season with salt and pepper. Place butternut squash on baking tray, and roast for about 25-35 minutes, turning them over about halfway through. Butternut squash should be soft enough to puree when done roasting. Put squash in bowl and set aside. (You can do this earlier in the day)

Dice 1 red onion and 4 cloves garlic. Set aside. Stir together 1 jar of your favorite pasta sauce with 1 can of tomato sauce. Set this aside as well. In a small bowl, whisk 2 eggs. Add the eggs, 2 cups butternut squash and 1 cup ricotta cheese to a food processor or mixing bowl. Turn food processor on until ingredients are combined. When well combined, stir in 1 cup shredded mozzarella, ½ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, and ½ tsp nutmeg.

Brown your sausage: Heat a large deep skillet over medium high heat for about five minutes. When hot, add 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil and heat an additional 30 seconds, until oil shimmers. Add sausage, onion, and garlic to skillet. Season with 1 tsp dried thyme, and ½ tsp each sea salt and fresh ground black pepper. Brown sausage for 5 – 7 minutes, breaking into crumbles as it cooks. When sausage is no longer pink, turn off heat. Stir in ⅔ cups gorgonzola cheese just until melted.

Cook lasagna noodles: Per package directions. Rinse with cold water to stop noodles from cooking.

Assemble your lasagnas: Pour ¼ – ½ cup tomato sauce on the bottom of baking dish(es). (I can make one 9x13" dish, and one 8x8"). Place lasagna noodles on the bottom of each dish. Layer ¼ of the sausage mixture (eyeball it), ¼ of the pumpkin and cheese mixture, and ¼ of the sauce in each dish. Repeat with another 2-3 layers of noodles, sausage, pumpkin and cheese mixture, and sauce. To final layer, top dish with an additional ½ cup mozzarella, 2 tbsp torn sage or basil leaves, 2 tbsp Parmigiano-Reggiano, and ¼ tsp black pepper. I have been known to add more cheese, even extra sharp cheddar to the top! Cover tonight’s dinner with foil and refrigerate. Transfer disposable 8 x 8 to a labeled and dated freezer bag, and freeze.

To bake your lasagna: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. When oven is hot, place foil covered lasagna in oven and bake for 45 minutes. Remove foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes, until cheese is hot and bubbly. Let lasagna rest for 5 – 10 minutes. Serve and enjoy! (When baking your lasagna from frozen, please allow an extra 30 – 40 minutes covered baking time.)

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Homemade Energy Bites

Well, a year has come and gone since my last recipe post. It was a big year. A year full of a new baby, a three month rotation in Florida, adjusting to three kids, and more preschool and activities. A year full of JOY. That's what it was.

Now that we are extra busy, I have been trying to cook every night of the week, and have snacks (like this one), ready for when my hungry girls get home from school. The weeknight recipes will be posted at some point...there have been some real winners (think pumpkin lasagna, maple-Dijon chicken, and pork carnitas, to name a few).

But let's keep it simple today -- a simple snack, that lasts a long time.

Thanks to my friend, Sabrina, for introducing these to our family!

Homemade Energy Bites (From
2 cups quick oats
1 cup peanut butter
2/3 cup honey
2 cups coconut flakes, wheat germ, sesame seeds or rice krispie cereal (or a combination of any of them, I usually do coconut flakes, wheat germ and rice krispies)
1 cup ground (milled) flaxseed
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 teaspoons vanilla

1. Mix all ingredients together. Roll into balls.
2. To freeze: Place balls on a cookie sheet and freeze for one to two hours. Remove from cookie sheet and place in an airtight ziplock freezer bag/container.
3. Can be eaten frozen or thawed at room temp for 30 minutes, or warmed in microwave for 5-10 seconds.

Makes around 3 dozen.