1 Recipe + 2 Craft Ideas…Kind of…

I’m on a recipe kick lately I guess because I have another one for you today!  It’s my favorite kind of meal: crock pot!  And on top of that, it’s pasta…which is even better!

The thing I love about crock pot/slow cooker meals is that you throw everything together, turn it on and forget about it until dinner time.  Super easy, fairly “mess less” and perfect for any night.  This particular recipe is one that both the hubby and I agreed is probably one of the yummiest crock pot meals out there!

Creamy Tomato Tortellini (in the crock pot!)

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What you’ll need:

1 bag (20 oz) frozen cheese tortellini

1 cup fresh spinach

1 can Italian style diced tomatoes, drained

3/4 block of cream cheese, softened and chunked up

1/2 lb. meatballs or sausage, cooked

3 cups chicken or vegetable broth, add an additional cup if needed

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Seasonings: garlic, salt, pepper, Italian seasoning blend

What you’ll do:

Combine all the ingredients in the crock pot and cook on low for 4 hours.  That’s it!!! MMMM!

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Changing gears a bit to craft time!  Have you even had a Pinterest fail?  That’s what happened with our craft a couple weeks ago.  Hence the “kind of” part of 2 crafts…since one didn’t really turn out so well.  I’ve seen examples of “apple stamping” all over.  Ya know, where you cut up an apple, dip it in paint and stamp it on paper?  So it seemed like a seasonally appropriate craft for M to try.  The problem?  No matter how many times I tried I apparently couldn’t cut a straight edge on my apple…therefore her artwork didn’t reveal very many “apple like” stamps.  Does anyone have any suggestions for me??  Oh well!  She still had fun!

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Last week we made these cute little scarecrows out of popsicle sticks!  I happened to already have colored sticks, so we didn’t even have to mess with that part!  But if you don’t, all you have to do is have your kiddos paint or color the sticks before you start gluing them together.  The craft is pretty self explanatory using googly eyes, pipe cleaners for hair, construction paper for the nose and a little pom pom decoration for the hat.  Just a little tip: if you glue the popsicle sticks to a piece of sturdy paper it assembles much easier! 🙂

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Check back tomorrow for this week’s craft!  It’ll be a fun one!

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Spicy Ginger Peanut Pasta

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So my brother (who is obsessed with Asian food!) lived with us for a little while and always made this pasta dish that he created.  Now that he’s moved out, I still crave it all the time!  So I decided to give it a whirl, but I added in peanut butter because I’m obsessed with the Spicy Peanut Bowl at a noodle place nearby and was hoping to create something similar.  It turned out super yummy, was surprisingly really easy to make and as a bonus, the left-overs freeze really well!

Here’s what you’ll need:

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cups steamed broccoli

1 1/2 cups coleslaw mix

3/4 cup chopped onion

1 teaspoon minced garlic

4 oz. brown rice noodles, cooked according to package

2-3 tablespoons red chili paste (depending on how spicy you like it)

3 tablespoons ginger paste

1/4 cup soy sauce

2 tablespoons peanut butter

salt and pepper to taste

sunflower seeds & chow mein noodles to garnish

What to do:

  • In a skillet, saute steamed broccoli, onion, coleslaw mix and garlic in olive oil until tender.  At the same time, cook brown rice noodles according to package
  • Once vegetables are fully cooked, add red chili paste, ginger paste, soy sauce and peanut butter.  Stir until fully mixed
  • Drain pasta and add to vegetable/sauce mixture.  Add salt and pepper to taste (if it’s too sticky, add more soy sauce to liking)
  • Top with sunflower seeds and chow mein noodles right before serving

Hope you enjoy! 🙂

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Easy Freezer Meals

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If you’re like me, before you know it dinnertime has rolled around again and you’re left wondering what to make/what you have the ingredients for/what’s quick, because let’s be honest…some days we’re just not in the mood to spend a half hour or better in the kitchen cooking!  Not to mention busy days/nights where you simply just don’t have the time to make something.  That’s when I either make some sort of processed junk that’s quick or invite ourselves to my parents for dinner so that I don’t have to think about it!

In an attempt to solve my little problem of “what to make for dinner” on those nights, I decided to make up some easy freezer meals to have on hand that I can pop into the oven and have a work-free homemade meal!  This week I only made 3 meals, trying to stick with ingredients that I had in the cupboards already.  I ended up with: stuffed shells, 2 pans of lasagna and tater tot casserole.  **Note: my recipes are for 2-3 servings, or to fill an 8×8 pan**

Grocery List (for all 3 meals):

1 package of Lasagna noodles

1 box of jumbo shells

1 large jar of spaghetti sauce, optional: 1 jar of alfredo sauce

1 large container of ricotta cheese

1 package each of shredded mozzarella, parmesan and cheddar cheese

1 1/2 lbs ground beef

1 package of frozen tater tots

1 can of cream of mushroom or celery soup

1 package of frozen peas and corn

Seasonings/spices: I like to use garlic, salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, basil, onion powder

 

Stuffed Shells (I made a pan of 10 stuffed shells)

  • Brown 1/2 lb. ground beef and season to liking.  At the same time, cook shells according to packaging
  • Mix together 1 cup of ricotta cheese, 3/4 cup of mozzarella cheese, 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, salt and pepper, basil and Italian seasoning
  • Remove cooked ground beef from heat, let cool and mix with room temperature spaghetti sauce (making it as saucy or meaty as you like)
  • Drain and rinse cooked shells in cold water
  • Spread a thin layer of meat sauce mixture or alfredo sauce at the bottom of an 8×8 baking tin
  • Stuff shells with ricotta mixture, place in a single layer in the pan and cover with meat sauce
  • Sprinkle a little parmesan and mozzarella cheese over the top and cover with tin foil and/or lid
  • To cook: remove tin foil and bake in 350 degree oven for 35-45 minutes or until heated thoroughly and cheese is bubbly.

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Lasagna (I made 2 8×8 pans, each pan half meat, half no meat)

  • Brown 1/2 lb. ground beef and season to liking. At the same time, cook lasagna noodles according to packaging
  • Mix together the rest of the container of ricotta cheese, 1 cup of mozzarella cheese, 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, salt and pepper, basil and Italian seasoning
  • Remove cooked ground beef from heat, let cool and mix with room temperature spaghetti sauce (making it as saucy or meaty as you like)
  • Drain and rinse cooked noodles in cold water
  • Spread a thin layer of meat sauce mixture or alfredo sauce at the bottom of an 8×8 baking tin
  • Layer noodles, ricotta mixture, meat sauce/spaghetti sauce on non-meat half, and a sprinkle of mozzarella cheese.  Repeat
  • Top with another layer of noodles, a little bit of sauce and a good amount of mozzarella/parmesan cheese.  Cover with tin foil and/or lid
  • To cook: remove tin foil and bake in 350 degree oven for 45-55 minutes or until heated thoroughly and cheese is bubbly.
  • **Note: to make the entire pan meaty, increase your ground beef by another 1/2 lb.**

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Tater Tot Casserole (I made 2 8×8 pans, each pan half meat, half no meat)

  • Brown 1/2 lb. ground beef and season to liking.  Remove from heat and let cool
  • Mix together 1/2 can cream of celery or mushroom soup, cooked meat, salt and pepper and frozen vegetables if desired.  Mix the other half of the can of soup with salt and pepper and frozen vegetables.
  • Spray the bottom of 8×8 pan with cooking spray
  • Spread 1/2 meat mixture on one side, 1/2 vegetable mixture on the other side
  • Cover with a generous amount of shredded cheddar cheese
  • Top with frozen tater tots.  Cover with tin foil and/or lid
  • To cook: remove tin foil and bake in 350 degree oven for 35-45 minutes or until bubbly and tater tots are browned.
  • **Note: to make the entire pan meaty, increase your ground beef by 1/2 lb.**

tater tot casserole

I’m telling you, freezer meals are the way to go!  The next time you’re in the mood to cook, take advantage and stock your freezer.  A few hours of labor and a one time kitchen cleanup will result in several meals ready to pop in the oven whenever you need them!  Check back in a couple weeks… I just might have a few new recipes for you!

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Fresh Cherry Cobbler/Crisp

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Remember last week when I promised you a super yummy recipe for your fresh cherries?!  Well here it is: Fresh Cherry Crisp

What you need:

  • 4 cups pitted sour cherries
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 tbsp flour
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup shortening

What to do:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  2. In a large bowl combine cherries, 1 1/2 cups white sugar, and 4 tablespoons flour. Pour into 9×13 inch baking dish. In a medium bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups flour, oats, and brown sugar. Cut in butter and shortening until crumbly. Sprinkle over cherries.
  3. Bake in preheated oven for 45 to 50 minutes, or until topping is golden brown.

**Special shout out to my neighbor for this awesome recipe!! :)**

Enjoy!!!

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Berry/Cherry Picking & Strawberry Jam

So last Monday M and I went to the strawberry patch to pick strawberries with our neighbors!  I haven’t been strawberry picking since I was a little girl and it was M’s first time so it was a lot of fun!  Because of the weather here this year the strawberries were a little smaller than normal and kinda hit or miss on super yummy flavor, but let me tell you, fresh picked strawberries are SO MUCH BETTER than store bought!!!!  It was a little difficult for M to find them hidden under the leaves and weeds, but after a little while she got the hang of it and contributed her very own harvest to our basket (I should mention that several weren’t quite ripe or were too small to have picked… oh well, she tried, right?!)

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After we picked our fair share of strawberries, we discovered that the cherry trees were at the perfect time for picking as well… When in Rome…

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These particular cherries were really tart and perfect for baking with.  Now I’m not a huge fan of cherry pie, well actually any pie for that matter, but I do like cobblers and crisps.  My neighbor used the cherries that she picked in an awesome fresh cherry cobbler recipe so my plan is to do the same!  I’m going to make it for our 4th of July BBQ next week so I decided to freeze my cherries so they wouldn’t go bad.  (Are you wondering how to freeze fresh cherries???  It’s super duper easy!  All you do is pit them and then put them in a freezer bag and pop ’em in the freezer!  Now you can have fresh cherries all year round!)  Stay tuned for my cherry cobbler recipe next week!!

So, back to the strawberries… here’s what we ended up with:

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What does one do with all those strawberries???  Why you make homemade strawberry jam of course!  Are you ready for the recipe?

What you’ll need:

  • Twice as much strawberries as sugar (I used 2 cups of mashed strawberries)
  • Half as much sugar as strawberries (Therefore I used 1 cup of sugar)
  • The juice from 1 lemon

What to do:

  • Cut the stems/leaves off the berries and heat them in a large saucepan over medium high heat
  • When the start to get mushy, smash them with a fork to break them down/mash them

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  • Do this with as many strawberries as it takes to get 2 cups of mashed berries
  • Add juice lemon juice and bring to a boil

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  • After strawberries come to a boil, reduce heat to low and stir in 1 cup of sugar

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  • Simmer for at least 45 minutes or until mixture starts to thicken.  You can test the consistency by putting a little bit on a cold plate (right out of the freezer) and checking to see if it sets up like jam.
  • Allow to cool before pouring into a jar.  Store in the refrigerator or process in a water bath to store in the pantry.  Enjoy!

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Chocolate Chip Cookies

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It was rainy here today most of the day, so what better way to spend naptime than baking cookies?!  My favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe is the one my mom has used ever since I’ve been little…the chocolate chip cookie recipe in her Betty Crocker cookbook.  When the hubby and I got married I got a Betty Crocker cookbook as a wedding gift and while it’s not the same exact one as I always baked out of growing up, it’s the same recipe so it’ll work! 🙂

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What you need:

  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 12oz package (2 cups) semisweet chocolate chips
  1. In a large mixing bowl beat the shortening and butter or margarine with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds.  Add the granulated sugar, brown sugar and baking soda.  Beat mixture until combined, scrapping sides of bowl occasionally.  Beat in the eggs and vanilla til combined.  Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer.  Stir in the remaining flour.  Stir in chocolate chips.
  2.   Drop dough by rounded teaspoons 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake in a 375 degree oven 8 to 10 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned.  Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool.

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Trust me, these are some super yummy cookies (in fact I’m eating one as I type this because I can’t stay out of them…don’t judge me but I’m probably on #5 or maybe 6…or 7…)!!!  And M LOVED the treat when she woke up from her nap! Happy baking!

 

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1 Ingredient Banana Ice Cream

So I’ve been hearing about this ice cream that you can make with just one ingredient – bananas.  The first time I heard about it was on the Rachael Ray show several months ago, but more recently it’s been popping up on Facebook and Pinterest and the other day at the grocery store I even saw a Yonanas Maker – a special little banana ice cream machine!

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Now I’ve never been a huge fan of bananas – they’re okay just not my favorite.  But, I decided that I’d give the ice cream a try – I mean it’s healthy so why not?!  The process of making the ice cream is suuuuper easy.  Literally all you do is chunk up bananas and freeze them.  Then stick them in the food processor (or if you’re real fancy a Yonanas Maker).  I added in a little vanilla extract for flavor – I’ve also heard of including peanut butter, other frozen fruit, cinnamon, etc.  Turn on the food processor until it’s smooth and creamy and that’s supposed to be it!

Here’s what I learned: don’t over freeze your bananas!! I left my bananas in the freezer for a couple days before making the ice cream..bad idea.  They literally turned into teeny tiny bits of frozen banana.. no creamy, smoothness about it!  It was kinda like the consistency of snow cone ice.  So of course I consulted Google and found out that you’re only supposed to freeze the bananas for a few hours.. who knew?!  So anyway, I let them sit in the food processor for a few minutes to melt and then had no trouble blending it smooth!!

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My thoughts?  It actually wasn’t too bad!  The consistency (once I got it all figured out) was actually really good – more similar to frozen yogurt than ice cream though.  It was very banana-y (obviously!!) but a good treat for when you’re craving something sweet and want to trick yourself into thinking you’re having ice cream! 🙂

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My sister thought it would be better with chocolate or caramel sauce on it – I told her that defeats the point of it being good for you! Little M LOVED it!! Then again she loves bananas so that would make sense!   All in all, I’m glad I gave it a try!  However next time I do think I’ll add in some strawberries or I wonder if pineapple would work?  Or maybe peaches?  Hmm… looks like I have some fruit to freeze!

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