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Friday, March 23, 2012

Orzo Salad

Have I ever mentioned my pure hatred of peas? Who would think that a small, green, mushy vegetable could cause such venom in my heart but they do. I think of them and shudder. My mother in law actually shares my point of view and swears that they must taste totally different to her than to other people because no one would like them if they really tasted like that. My kids had actually never seen peas in our house since they NEVER make an appearance in any meal I serve. My oldest daughter is 7 without ever having been subjected to having peas. Lucky girl.

My church had a function celebrating Esther and with it, some of us brought Jewish dishes. I had signed up for an orzo salad. I didn't actually see the recipe but salads are easy enough so I thought I would be safe. Then I saw the ingredients. And guess what was included? Peas, my mortal enemy! I actually had to buy peas and support their existence.

Other than the dreaded ingredient, the salad was really easy and came together really quickly which is how I like it. I even tried it, making sure no peas were included in my bite. I really liked it. And then, I even became adventurous at the actual event and tried it with the peas. And it still tasted good. Now, I didn't become a lover of peas that night, it was just that their flavor was really masked. Who would of thought that anything that included peas would not only be edible, but actually be good?

Orzo Salad
found on

3 cups cooked orzo (1 1/2 cups dry pasta)
1 c frozen and thawed green peas
1/2 c black olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
3/4c feta cheese, crumbled (the recipe says optional but hello, it is feta, totally needed in my humble opinion)
1/4 c chopped fresh parsley, dill or your favorite herb (I used parsley)
4 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp vinegar (balsamic, red wine, your choice)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 garlic clove, minced (or 1/4 tsp garlic powder)
If desired, sprinkle 1/4 tsp dried Greek oregano over top of salad

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and cool.

Mix cooled pasta with all ingredients. The recipe didn't say to refrigerate before but I did for about and hour.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Easy Parmesan Garlic Chicken

My food budget is pretty small. And with food prices soaring I find it difficult to feed my family healthy and filling meals while also keeping it fresh and new. Because meat is kind of expensive, we don't have it every night. And when we do, I can't get crazy and try recipes that call for a lot of ingredients. There are so many recipes out there that look amazing but after seeing what I would have to buy, I just have to say to myself that maybe eventually I can try it but not right now. It is a good lesson in discipline, but not always an easy one because sometimes I just want to make something yummy, no matter the cost!

When I ran across this recipe, I was totally willing to try it because it was ingredients I would mostly already have in my pantry and it was, of course, EASY! I was so happy I did try it because it was really good and most importantly, my kids love it!

Easy Parmesan Garlic Chicken
by Kraft Foods

4-6 boneless, skinless chicken breast(just depending on how much you want to make and how big the chicken breasts are)
1/2 c grated Parmesan Cheese
1 envelope Good Seasons Italian Dressing Mix
1/2 tsp garlic powder

Preheat oven to 400.

In a medium bowl, mix together cheese, dressing mix, and garlic powder. Wet the chicken breasts with water and coat with cheese mixture. Place in shallow 9X13 baking pan.

Cook for 25-30 minutes or until chicken juices run clear. For a nice golden brown, place under broiler for 2-4 minutes. Add some asparagus or other vegetable and some bread and you have a pretty cheap, easy meal!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Ranch Dressing

It has been amazing weather here lately. High 70s, even into the 80s. I am totally loving this March weather. The only downside is that for some reason, my family all switched to summer mode. My kids are going to bed late, playing outside for hours when I suddenly realize that homework is unfinished, showers need to be taken. Well, March Madness also might have a little to do with that as well.

Summer brings thoughts of fresh fruit, grilling, dinners eaten outdoors, yummy fresh salads. And when I think of salads, I think of Ranch dressing. Now I love Ranch and will eat the bottled stuff but I always find it lacking somewhat. I finally searched online and found an Outback copycat recipe. I was so not disappointed. It is my new official Ranch I will use, I am never buying the bottled stuff again. And with just a few ingredients, this comes together in a snap!

Ranch Dressing
Outback copycat recipe found on

1 tbsp Hidden Valley Ranch dressing mix
1 c mayo
1/2 c buttermilk(is it bad I had to do a search to see how long past the expiration date I could use buttermilk?)
1/4 tsp coarse black pepper
1/8 tsp paprika
1/8 tsp garlic powder

Instructions: (See if you can follow these)
In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients and mix together. Chill at least 1/2 hour to allow flavors to meld. Sometimes I can do this, sometimes not. It tastes pretty good right away if you ask me.

*Can substitute cayenne pepper for paprika for a little extra kick

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Sweet Raspberry Biscuits

Growing up, there was one item that always had me running to the dinner table. It didn't matter what else we were having. Its presence was enough. Its presence made me happy. Its presence made me tell my mom she was the best mom ever. And that was her sweet raspberry biscuits.

This tastes like you are being naughty and having dessert with dinner. And really, who doesn't want dessert with dinner? And to totally get away with it, to have my parents smiling, telling me what a great dinner I was eating as I stuffed my face with a fourth biscuit made my heart happy.

I have always had a soft spot for red raspberry preserves. And that is just the store bought stuff. I am sure I would actually begin to pass out if eating homemade stuff. But for me, putting it on anything makes it feel like I am eating dessert. So the combination of the biscuit, red raspberry preserves, and vanilla glaze make myItalic eyes glaze. I could have these with every meal.

Sweet Raspberry Biscuits
by Terri Schaeffer

for biscuits
2 c Bisquick Baking Mix
1/4 c butter, softened
2 tbsp sugar
2/3 c milk
1/4 c red raspberry preserves

for glaze
1/2 c powdered sugar
1 tbsp warm water
1/4 tsp vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 450.

Line muffin pan with liners (recipe will make 12 biscuits, you can always double for 24).

In a medium bowl, mix baking mix, sugar, and butter until crumbly. You can do this by hand or with an electric mixer. Add milk and mix until dough forms. Once dough forms, mix 15 times(I accidentally wrote 15 years first! that would have been interesting).

Place 1 tbsp dough in each muffin cup. Top with 1 tbsp preserves. Drop remaining dough on top of preserves, again about 1 tbsp per muffin cup(Is it muffin cup? Just wondering...).

Bake until golden brown, 10-15 minutes.

Remove immediately to cooling rack.

While biscuits are baking, in a medium bowl, mix powdered sugar, water, and vanilla together and stir until smooth. This can be done by hand.

While the biscuits are still warm, drizzle glaze on each one.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Lemony Gingerbread Whoopie Pies

What month is it? Okay, March I know, but I am going to tell a little Christmas tradition story to go along with this post.

Every year, as most people do, my mom would be busy baking up a storm to get ready for the holiday season. She would make all the cookies she was famous for and we then we would pile in the car, drive to our old stompin' ground of Van Nuys, visit our past neighbors and deliver Christmas cookies on Christmas Eve.

And of course, if someone happened to not be home, the kids in the back might or might not have quickly opened up that plate and gone wild with the cookies. It was during those times, riding in my family's minivan, singing Christmas carols, that I cultivated my absolute love for gingerbread.

As soon as I saw these, I had to make them. The idea of combining gingerbread with lemon was very appealing to me. I know these are a bit out of season for most people but I really can go for gingerbread at anytime of the year. And even though I just posted a whoopie pie recipe, I didn't let that stop me!

Lemony Gingerbread Whoopie Pies
from Taste of Homes

Ingredients for Cookies:
3/4 c butter, softened
3/4 c packed brown sugar
1/2 c molasses
1 egg
3 c flour
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c sugar (I used less I think)

Ingredients for Filling:
3/4 c butter, softened
3/4 c marshmallow creme
1 1/2 c confectioners sugar
3/4 tsp lemon extract (I was actually out of this so I used zest from one lemon and a couple of tsps of lemon juice from that lemon)

In a large bowl, cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in molasses and egg. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt; gradually add to creamed mixture and mix well. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

Preheat oven to 350.

Shape into 1 inch balls and roll in granulated sugar. Place 3 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. Flatten to 1/2 inch in thickness with a glass dipped in sugar. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until set. Cool for 2 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely.

For filling, in small bowl, beat butter and marshmallow creme, until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in powdered sugar and extract (or lemon zest and juice).

Spread filling on the bottom of half the cookies, about 1 tbsp on each-top with remaining cookies.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Chocolate Cupcakes-Nobody Doesn't Like Them

You know those die hard chocolate lovers out there? Well, in case you haven't noticed, this will actually be my first purely chocolate post ever. I think.

Anyway, it is not that I hate chocolate or anything, it is just that I don't have to have it, I don't crave it. When picking between vanilla cake or chocolate, I will choose vanilla every single time. So although I have had this recipe for a very long time, it wasn't until last year that I finally got around to making them. And that is just because my kids love chocolate and I thought I would be a great mom and finally make them chocolate cupcakes instead of vanilla. I know, I am totally amazing, right?

This recipe is from my mother-in-law and that is actually what they are named in the recipe-nobody doesn't like them. And I have to admit that I really, really like them. I would even choose to make them over vanilla cupcakes sometimes. They have a really weird ingredient and if it hits your baking soda just right when adding the ingredients together, it makes for a fun twist if making these with your kids!
Also, for me, these cupcakes are even more amazing the next day! In fact, I just ate one and am seriously contemplating going and eating another one. I have self control, I have self control....

Chocolate Cupcakes-Nobody Doesn't Like Them
from Robbie Clark

3 c flour
2 c sugar
4 Tbsp Baking Cocoa
2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
3/4 c vegetable oil
1 Tbsp vinegar
2 c cold water

Chocolate Frosting:
1 1b. powdered sugar
4 Tbsp. Baking Cocoa
1 stick butter, melted (I tried extremely softened but still had trouble breaking it down when mixing so I would melt it)

For the cupcakes:

Preheat oven to 350.

Mix together all ingredients for cupcakes with electric mixer until batter is smooth(It is very thin batter).

Fill the paper liners in a muffin tin 2/3rds full. You can ladle it or just pour batter into a pitcher and then pour from pitcher to muffin pan.

Bake for 15-20 minutes(or until toothpick inserted comes out clean).
Remove from pan and cool completely on wire rack before frosting.

Well, I just lost my battle with self control...

For the frosting:

Mix together butter, powdered sugar, and cocoa. Add milk, one tablespoon at a time until frosting is of desired consistency(I used 4 tbsp). Frost away and enjoy.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Chicken and Spinach Stuffed Shells

I have this propensity to make something I have never tried before when I have people coming over for dinner. I don't know why I do that because what if it doesn't turn out well or even taste good? And how would I know? But I guess my regular meals of canned chili, mac and cheese, cereals, and eggs on toast wouldn't go over too well either. Hey, don't judge, my husband is not there for about 90 percent of our dinners. And I can always use the excuse of having never made it before if my guests don't like the meal.

So, of course, last year, when inviting our sister missionaries from church over for dinner, I decided to make these that I had seen on my good friend Christy's blog. Because, really, she never leads me astray and she didn't yet again. The missionaries kept telling me how amazing of a cook am I which is a big fat lie. I can follow a basic recipe and that is about it. But these have amazing flavor and hey, I'll take any compliment I can regarding the kitchen! And this recipe makes two pans so you can freeze one or take one to someone else for dinner.

Chicken and Spinach Stuffed Shells

1 (12-ounce) box uncooked jumbo pasta shells, although you might want more in case some of the shells break during cooking
2 cups chopped cooked chicken
2 cups fresh chopped spinach
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (15oz) container ricotta cheese
2 (8oz) packages cream cheese, softened, you probably could just use one
1 (5oz) package shredded Parmesan cheese (about 1 2/3 cups)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 Tablespoon dried parsley flakes
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
1 (26oz) jar prepared spaghetti sauce, more if wanted

1. Cook shells according to package directions. Be careful not to overcook them or they will tear easily when trying to fill them. Drain and set aside.

2. Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly grease two 9x13 baking dishes.

3. In a large bowl, combine chicken and all the rest of the ingredients except mozzarella and spaghetti sauce. Stir in 1 cup mozzarella. Spoon into shells. *Tip: For easier filling, fill a gallon ziplock baggie with the filling and snip a quarter size hole off the corner of the bag. Then you can just pipe the filling into the shells.

4. Spread half of spaghetti sauce into prepared baking dishes. Arrange shells over sauce; top with remaining sauce. Cover tightly with heavy-duty aluminum foil. If you are freezing one of the 9x13 prepared pans, freeze it after this step. Include a baggy of the remaining mozzarella for when you cook it.

5. Bake, covered, for 40 minutes. Uncover, sprinkle with remaining 1 cup mozzarella. Bake for 5 to 10 more minutes.

Makes 8-10 servings.