Monday, May 23, 2016

{Lemon Blossoms}

In case you don't know, I love all things lemon! It's on an equal level with Peanut Butter, for me. Which means it's at the very top of my list!
So I'm wondering how on earth I went 20+ years without ever once having these little lemon gems. I had never even heard of them.
Luckily, my boyfriend made them over Thanksgiving, so I could try them (yes, I know he's a keeper).
Oh my goodness, they were so good! You really must try them!
Super fast and easy to make, perfect lemon flavor......mmmmm!
I know this, because I just made them yesterday, and I'm eating one right now!
You should do the same!



1 pkg. Yellow Cake Mix
1 (3.5 oz) package instant Lemon pudding mix
4 large eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil

Glaze:
4 cups powder sugar
1/3 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons water

Combine cake mix, pudding mix, eggs and oil in a mixing bowl.
Beat with an electric mixer for 2 minutes. Batter will be thick and sticky!
Spray mini-muffin tins with cooking spray. Fill each cup half full.
Bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes.
Gently run a table knife around the edges to loosen, and turn out onto a clean dish towel.
Combine glaze ingredients and mix with a spoon or whisk until smooth, If it's too thick, add more water, one teaspoon at a time, until you reach desired consistency.
Place a cooling rack on a cookie sheet or over a piece of wax paper. 
While the cupcakes are still warm, dip them in the glaze, covering the whole thing. Allow excess to drip off. Place on the cooling rack, Let stand for 1 hour, or until glaze is set.
Store in an airtight container.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Live G-Free Products:






We are pretty big fans of the Aldi grocery store!
They have great prices on great food, including amazing produce.
The stores are located all over the country, and more and more are opening up!

They have recently released a line of gluten-free products, and I just want to tell everyone how amazing they are!
I have not had a chance to try everything they offer, but I also have yet to try something that I didn't like. It's very high quality, and very reasonably priced!

Probably their top product for us, is their sandwich bread.
It's amazing! Super soft and just really, really good!
The tortilla wraps are also great, and I have a few recipes that include those wraps, coming out very soon!
Their pasta, crackers, granola cereal, granola bars, and cake mixes are all things that we have tried and loved!
They have some frozen chicken nuggets that we are anxious to try, and we also just got some other flavors of crackers that we are excited to test taste!!

I am not being reimbursed for this post in any way. I just love their products, and wanted to share them with you!
If you try anything out, please let me know what you think!

Click HERE to find the store nearest you!

Monday, April 18, 2016

Chicken Chili:

My Fiance's (ah! I still can't believe I'm saying that!)
sister made this for dinner the day we got engaged.
I was not necessarily thinking completely clearly that day, because I was (and still am) in shock, 
but I definitely remember how good this was!
It smelled so amazing while it was cooking, and tasted even better!
My mom and dad couldn't get enough of it either! And my mom is not crazy about this type of thing, but she loved it! It was pretty much addicting!!
I don't know how to describe it...it's like chili, but could also be a dip, really, and it's just plain good!! So eat it with a chip or with a fork, it doesn't matter!
Rina was super kind and shared the recipe with me! 
Mine did not taste as good as hers, but it was still good, and I really hope you try it out!!
There is no way to take a picture of this and make it look good, much less as fabulous as it actually is! But please take my word for it...it's good!!



2 chicken breasts
1 can Rotel (tomatoes and green chilies), not drained
1 cup frozen corn
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 pkg. ranch dressing mix
1 & 1/2 tablespoons taco seasoning
1 (8 oz) pkg. cream cheese
Tortilla chips

Place the chicken in the bottom of a slowcooker.
Top with Rotel, corn, beans, ranch mix, and taco seasoning.
Stir gently to combine.
Top with cream cheese.
Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours, stirring once or twice to blend the cheese.
Shred the chicken before serving.
Serve with tortilla chips!

Note:
-If this recipe is tripled, it will fill a 5-quart crock pot.
-If desired, you can use 1 tablespoon cumin, 1 teaspoon chili powder, and 1 teaspoon onion powder in place of the taco seasoning. Feel free to play around with the seasonings to your taste!


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Oh my goodness!!!!

So, I have some very exciting news to share............

Yep!! That's right!!
I'm engaged!!

I have had the best year of my life getting to know this awesome, wonderful man, seeing how God has brought us together, and now we're planning our future together!
We are very, super excited and in the process of planning our wedding for later this year!

I said all that for two reasons:
#1 because I just want to tell everyone, basically!!!!
#2 because I will do my best to keep right on blogging as usual. 
But in the event that things get a little quiet around here for any amount of time, 
I'm just a little pre-occupied at the moment!
So please bare with me as I adjust to this new phase of my life!




Monday, April 11, 2016

Quick and Easy Garlic Toast:

I love Garlic Bread....the smell, taste, everything about it just screams comfort food to me!
This recipe is awesome, because you can make it ahead of time, and pull it out of the freezer whenever you need it! You can make this entire batch, you can cut it in half to make a smaller amount...whatever you want!
But I hope you give it a try!!


2 sticks butter, room temperature
2 teaspoons dried parsley
1 tablespoon garlic powder
dash of salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, optional
Slices of bread

In a small bowl, mix together butter, parsley, garlic powder, salt and pepper, and Parmesan cheese, if desired.
I use roughly one teaspoon of the mixture per slice of bread.
Spread evenly, and place slices, butter side up, on a baking sheet.

To freeze:
Place baking sheet in the freezer for 30-60 minutes, or until butter is firm. 
Place bread in an airtight container or zip-lock bad and keep frozen until ready to use.

To Bake:
Lay frozen slices, butter side up on a baking sheet.
Bake at 375 degrees for 5-6 minutes, or until light golden brown and edges of the bread are lightly toasted (if baking unfrozen slices, you may need bake 1-2 minutes less)

Serve!!

Monday, April 4, 2016

{Chocolate Rice Crispy Treats}

I have a huge weakness for these Double Chocolatey Chunk Rice Crispy Treats.
I only ever buy them when I am traveling somewhere, so honestly I only have one of these a few times a year. BUT, I always get the one that's like, oh I don't know, 6 inches long or something? Not the short ones, definitely!
I don't know what it is about these crazy things, but I just love them!
Oh, and just in case you were wondering, they are also phenomenal with, ummm......chocolate milk.
Anyways, that's beside the point!!
The point is, that thankfully I don't have to wait until I'm traveling somewhere to have one of these now, because I can make them at home!!!
And so can you!!
I hope you try them out!!



9 cups cocoa pebbles (or any gluten-free chocolate rice cereal)
3 cups chocolate chips, divided
1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter
2 (10 oz) packages mini marshmallows
1 & 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt

Place cereal and 1 cup chocolate chips in a large bowl; set aside.
Line a 9x13-inch baking dish with foil. Lightly coat with cooking spray and set aside.
Melt the butter in a large saucepan over low heat. Once melted, add marshmallows, vanilla and salt. Stir continually until marshmallows are melted and mixture is smooth.
Pour marshmallow mixture over the cereal. Stir quickly, but make sure that all the cereal is well coated.
Pour into prepared pan and press down with a spatula. Then use the bottom of a glass or something sturdy and flat, and press down all over the mixture to make it as even as possible.
Melt the remaining 2 cups of chocolate chips...I do this in a saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly, but you can also use the microwave, if that works for you!
Once completely melted, pour over the rice crispy treats and spread evenly.
Let rest at room temperature until cool and set. Remove from the pan and discard the foil. Cut into squares and serve or store in an airtight container.

Note:
-The heat at which the better and marshmallows are melted is very important. If it's too hot, the better will almost scorch the marshmallows and they will melt too fast. The results are not a smooth and creamy consistency like you want.


Monday, March 21, 2016

{Easy Pina-Colada Fluff}



I've tried to reconcile with the fact that, coming from a large family, not everyone is always going to like everything...and that is O.K.

This is one of those recipes! My mom, one sister and I love coconut, but we are among precious few in our house! So therefore, we got to eat the majority of this salad, and we were totally fine with that!

It's so fast and easy to throw together, and it was just such a yummy, refreshing salad! Not too sweet, but just right! It will definitely be awesome during the summer, but it's great any other time of year as well!!

I hope you try it out!


1 (3.4 oz.) package Instant pudding mix, see note
1 (20 oz.) can crushed pineapple, do not drain
2 cups mini-marshmallows
1 cup sweetened coconut, shredded or flaked
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 (8 oz.) container Cool Whip

In a large bowl, mix together pudding mix and pineapple.
Stir in marshmallows, coconut and pecans.
Add Cool Whip, and gently mix until well combined.
Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.
Enjoy!

Note:
-You can use so many different kinds of pudding here - Coconut Cream, Vanilla, French Vanilla, Banana Cream, White Chocolate or Cheesecake. Some of them may add a tiny bit of a yellow tint to the finished dish, but any of them would taste fantastic in this recipe!



Monday, March 14, 2016

{A Few of My Favorite Things...Part 4}

And welcome back to Part 4 and the final post in my series on a few of my favorite kitchen items!

Click HERE for Part 1,
HERE for Part 2,
and
HERE for Part 3!

This week is all about Miscellaneous, random stuff, that I love!

Silicone Baking Mitts:

Getting things out of the oven scares me to death. I don't know why. I have never been burned (well, I mean, severely anyways!), but for some reason, it just scares me!
However, I feel a little safer with these! They can handle super high heat, they grip things really, really well, they wipe off easy, they are even dishwasher safe!
Plus, if you accidentally drop them into your oven, they will not catch on fire or even melt for a while, unlike their competitors - the old fashioned cloth type. 
Don't ask. Just trust.
Anyways, I think these came from Sam's Club. 

Hand Mixer:

For reasons that I do not even know, we never had a hand mixer when I was growing up and learning to cook. I don't know why, we just didn't.
But in the last few years, we have broken down and finally splurged!
I love this thing for making little things - icing/frosting's, dips, some types of cake batters....just small amounts and thin things. Never cookie dough or anything heavy and stiff like that.
Tip:
If you are mixing something with powder sugar, or flour that tends to "POOF" everywhere as soon as you turn the mixer on, place a towel over top your mixer and bowl. Turn the mixer on low, and beat gently for a few minutes until the powder substance is at least lightly incorporated. This helps prevent you and your kitchen from completely looking like the white thing on that movie Big Hero Six.
This particular hand-mixer was purchased at Walmart, but like everything else, they can be found just about anywhere. 

Microwave Plate Cover:

A clean kitchen is a big deal to me. And the inside of the microwave is just as important as any other area. Honestly, it's one of my weird-kitchen-quirks: don't walk on my floor while I'm mopping, clean the inside of the microwave. Thank you.
This thing is a life saver!! You just set it over your food while you're heating it up. Any splatter big or small (because they simply are going to happen), will happen all over this thing, instead of all over your microwave. And this thing is WAY easier to wash off, or stick in the dishwasher, than either trying to stand on your head or climb mount Everest to get all the way inside your microwave, and use every muscle in your arm to scrub all the nooks and cranny's clean.
This one came from Walmart.

Mini Food Processor:

Aww, isn't this thing just the cutest? I love mini-anything's!!
We have a regular size food processor and I do use it a lot. But this one is really nice for chopping small quantities of things like nuts, celery and onions, etc.
This one came from Walmart, but we also had one once that came from the Aldi grocery store...they sometimes have some awesome kitchen stuff in there for amazing prices!

Kitchen Scale:

I always sort of wanted one of these, but wasn't really sure if I would use it or not. My mom found this one at Aldi's grocery store for like $5, so if I hated it and never used it, it wasn't a huge deal.
Turns out I love it!!!! I use it all the time.
Again, a little OCD sometimes, so when a recipe calls for 3 pounds of potatoes? Yep! I totally weigh that out!
It's super easy to use and it's just awesome!!

Kitchen Cleaners:

Bar Keeper's Friend Squeeze Bottle:
This is the cleaner I use for the stainless steel pans I talked about in Part 2.
You just squirt some of this on those pans and they wipe right out. It's awesome! And randomly, it smells pretty good too!
We get it from Walmart.

Bar Keeper's Friend Shaker:
This is by far my favorite cleaner for our flat-top stove. It works way better than all the other "specialty" things I have tried. It's just a powder that you shake on, gently scrub off with a non-abrasive sponge or cloth, and then wipe clean.

Awesome Orange Spray:
This is an all-purpose, multi-surface, de-greaser spray. I use it on the table and counter tops. It smells great and makes cleaning up a breeze.
You can get variations of this cleaner most anywhere, but we actually get ours from Dollar Tree.

.................................

And that's all folks!!! 
I hope you enjoyed this serious on a some of my favorite kitchen gadgets!!!

Monday, March 7, 2016

{A Few of My Favorite Things...Part 3}

Welcome to Part 3 of my series on a few of my favorite kitchen items!

Click HERE for Part 1
and
HERE for Part 2!

This week is all about utensils. And fair warning, I have a weakness for utensils!
I don't know what it is, but I just love them! 

Whisks:

I would have to say that a whisk is a kitchen necessity.
At least one. Preferably more like 2 or 3! And all different sizes!
I use them for everything. 
Blending dry ingredients, eggs, sauces, pudding...big things, little things, all things!!!
These can be found anywhere kitchen items are found.

Misc. tools:

A basting bulb, a meat thermometer, the Rachel Ray Scraper.

I like this basting bulb, because the top comes off, making it easier to keep clean. I use this for basting, obviously, but also for sucking different liquids out of pans. For instance, when I make THIS recipe for baked chicken, sometimes there is too much broth in the pan. So I use this to suction that all out really fast.
This one came from Walmart.

The meat thermometer I use for meat and bread. It's digital, and has a cover for the stick, which keeps it safe and clean. It just saves a lot of time, rather than cutting into each individual chicken breast to see if it's thoroughly cooked or not. As well as steaks, Hamburgers, and other things. We use it for things on the grill, things in the oven, things on the stove.
This one came from Walmart.

This Rachel Ray Scraper is awesome! You can literally do so many things with it. I use it for scraping things from a cutting board to a pan or dish. You can even roughly chop some things with it. It's not super sharp (not for celery or onions), so it's not going to cut your hands.
I had wanted one for a long time, and my aunt gave me this one. They are all over the place though. I know Walmart has them, and I'm sure they are in lots of other stores as well.

Knife Set:

I love a good knife set. And this one is IT!
I do a lot of chopping and cutting, and a good knife can make or break that situation!
To be honest, I don't even know what all of the knives in this set are for, but I do use the majority of them. Especially the largest one, and the smallest ones. As well as the scissors and the sharpener.
This set came from Sam's Club.

Miscellaneous:

-Silicone "flipper." I don't know what these are technically called, we just always called them flippers! Because you do use them to flip things, you know! Pancakes, eggs, hamburgers, all sorts of things! Serving lasagna and casseroles....just anything! This one is the best!
And it's from Walmart, of course!

-Wooden spoons. Can be used in any type of pan, and won't scratch it. They are sturdy, and therefore can handle thicker and heavy batters than some other plastic spoons.
Plus, did you know that if you put a wooden spoon over top a pan of boiling potatoes, it won't boil over? True fact.
Tons of sizes, tons of styles, and you can get them pretty much anywhere.

-Off-set Spatula. Mostly, these are intended for cake decorating, and therefore usually found in that section of a kitchen store. They do work really well for spreading out frosting and icing. But they work amazing for spreading out THIS pizza crust, or brownie batter, cake batter, ice cream for THIS dessert, anything that needs to be spread.
This is the smaller one, and they also make a larger one.

-Silicone Pastry Brush. With this being a silicone brush, you can put it on the dishwasher after you use it, and it cleans so much better.
I use it to brush melted butter or beaten eggs over pastry dough, for brushing BBQ sauce on chicken, even for squishing into shortening, and brushing over the waffle iron (instead of cooking spray).
This one is from a kitchen specialty store.


Cookie and Ice Cream Scoops:

Though they are sold with the false illusion that cookies and ice cream will be the only things these are used for, I'm here to tell you that is the farthest thing from the truth!
Ice cream and cookie dough, yes, of course! But what about muffins, melons, drop biscuits (to keep them all uniform in size), mini-meatloaves, to portion meat for hamburgers, etc.
I'm a little OCD when it comes to dividing things equally. For instance, when I make Lasagna, I have to divide all the sauce evenly between 3 bowls (because I make it with 3 layers), and all the ricotta mixture evenly between 3 bowls. And I use the large scoop to do that. So that every bowl is perfectly evenly.
Yeah, I have problems, but I'm just saying it makes it easy to do that sort of thing with these scoops!
The small one was purchased at a kitchen specialty store, and the large one is from Walmart.

Spatulas:

Ahhh, spatulas. I know I say this about most all of these items, but really, spatulas are my favorite kitchen item! When I say I use them every.single.day for every.single.dish. That means that I can't think of one day, or one dish, where at least one spatula will not be used!
And it's because they are silicone. The spoon and the handle are not two separate pieces, therefore they don't break as easily. They are easier to clean. They can be used for things that are ice cold, they can be used in a boiling pan of whatever!
And do you see all of these? And all the different sizes?
I use all of them.
These came from a variety of places - kitchen specialty stores, Walmart, gifts. And I'm sure they can be found in numerous other stores/websites as well. Just look for silicone spatulas.

....................................

And that's it for Part 3.
I hope you join me next week for Part Four!!!!



Monday, February 29, 2016

{A Few of My Favorite Things...Part 2}

Welcome back to Part 2 of my series on a few of my favorite kitchen items!
If you didn't see last week's post, you can check out Part 1 HERE!

This week is all about cook-wear, bake-wear, and containers.

Stainless-Steel Skillets and Saucepans:


I have always used stainless steel pans for saucepans. But only recently have I started using the skillets. We were getting pretty sick of replacing our skillets multiple times a year, because the Teflon would scratch off (that's kind of gross to think about). However, I was very used to that type of pan, and very comfortable using it, and was pretty skeptical of the stainless steel pans. Either people love them or they hate them...there doesn't seem to be any middle ground!
First, I have to say that they are wonderful!
Second, I have to say that they do take some getting used to.
I started out by seasoning them, because that's what "everyone" says to do.
Skip that step. It wears off after the first use, and they just don't need it.

Tips:
-It's a very even cooking heat
-Because these don't have any rubber type of anything on the handle, they are oven-safe as well.
-After just a few minutes of soaking in some hot, soapy water, they are very easy to clean. You can't use any kind of abrasive sponge or anything, but we found this awesome cleaner that is fabulous! I'll share that with you in a separate post very soon.
-You MUST use the pans over a lower heat. NEVER put them on a burner that is turned on high. I never use them on any heat higher than medium - no matter what I'm cooking. Stainless steel gets much hotter than other pans, so if you have them on high, your food is going to burn almost instantly. And so is your pan. Low and slow is key!

Pyrex Baking Pans:

If there was a single item in our kitchen that we have the most of, and use the most often (besides drinking glasses or forks), it would 9x13 baking pans....with lids!
I seriously use them for everything, all the time! 
For instance, we have 8. The good news is that we only need cabinet space for about 3, because that's usually the maximum number not being used!
I make cakes, brownies, lots of different kinds of desserts, casseroles, jello salads, dips for chips, etc., etc., and etc. I store cookies, muffins and biscuits in them, all sorts of leftovers (like pizza), use them as a nice long veggie tray. I mean, really, you name it, and you can probably use a 9x13 pan for it!!  
I bake things in them, I freeze things in them, I store things in them.
They travel well, they stack well, they store well.
As you can tell from the picture, the top pan is slightly smaller. I'm not sure what the exact size is, but it's a little shorter, and much narrower than a 9x13. It came in a set with another 9x13 pan, and I use it just as much...especially for half batches of different things.
And the lids as well. I rarely use a pan, and not the lid.
You can find this style of pan (maybe different brands) in a variety of places.
We have gotten them as gifts (and they make a fabulous gift, by the way), from Walmart, TJMaxx, Ross, Amazon...pretty much any place that sells kitchen items.

Small Serving Bowls:

These might seem a little strange to some people, but I LOVE these silly little bowls!! 
And they are tiny!! The large ones on the left hold a half cup. 
The small ones on the right hold a quarter of a cup.
I think technically they are small serving bowls. 
We use them for dips, for keeping jello salads and other things like that off your plate and separate from your other food. For all sorts of little things.
And for baking/cooking as well. You know on cooking shows and things like that, how the chef's have all the different ingredients all measured out and ready to go? Yeah, I do that all the time. And these bowls work amazing for that! It helps keep me organized and on track, and I just love it!
I'm sure you can get them other places too, but we honestly got them at Dollar Tree (I love that store). The small ones come in packs of 4 (correct, 4 bowls for a dollar), and the big ones come in packs of 2 or 3, I can't remember exactly.

Custard/Baking Cups: 

These are pretty much up there with the 9x13 baking pans, and just about as useful.
You can bake in them, you can freeze in them. We do both.
Plus use them for leftovers, dips, measuring out ingredients like the other little bowls listed above, freezing small portions of meals, flipping them over and tracing around them when you need a circle of paper that size for something (lol!)....again, you name it!! They are generally the answer to my "small" problems!
They come in a variety of sizes. Pictured here are the one-cup and two-cup sizes.
These were both purchased at Walmart, but again, I'm sure they can be found at any kitchen-specialty store, Amazon, etc., and there are several different brands (Pyrex, Anchor, etc.).

Rubbermaid Storage Containers:


Tupperware is wonderful, don't get me wrong. 
But I have to admit, I may just love these little containers even more. 
We have several different styles of storage containers, but these are by far my favorite.
First, the fact that they are square, makes them so practical for storing in a refrigerator or cabinet.
Second, they stack really, really well. And so do the lids. They basically clip together, which keeps them from getting lost.
They are great to freeze things in, but I do not recommend using them in the microwave, as they can melt and then, you know, they just don't look very good after that.
They come in a variety of different sets. I love the set we have, because it has lots of different sizes...from large to extra small. And I use them ALL!
These came from Walmart, but I have seen them just about everywhere...from Dollar General to Sam's Club, BedBath&Beyond, Amazon...they're everywhere.

..............................

Hope to see you again next week for Part 3!!!