Tuesday

Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes


These make ahead mashed potatoes sure make Thanksgiving Day easier, and they are so delicious! Cream cheese and sour cream are involved...need I say more?


5 pounds potatoes, washed, peeled and diced
1/2 cup milk
8 oz. cream cheese softened
8 oz sour cream
2 tsp. garlic salt
dash of black pepper

Boil the potatoes (previously cut and peeled) until tender.
Place in your mixer with milk and give it a quick mash.
Add remaining ingredients and beat until fluffy (or your desired consistency)
Pour into your favorite greased casserole dish
Cover with foil

Place potatoes in the fridge for up to 3 days
When you are ready to bake, bake covered at 350 30-45 minutes.





Friday

Thanksgiving Sweet Potatoes


I spent a good portion of my life not even touching yams or sweet potatoes at Thanksgiving. 
They just didn't seem to matter with ALL the other goodness available
...until a few years ago...
I decided to try a new recipe. Even still, I didn't put them on my plate until I heard for the 4th time that Thanksgiving that they were amazing and so I gave in. 
...and they changed my Thanksgiving dinner for life. 


INGREDIENTS
4 sweet potatoes
1 cup of sugar
1 cup half and half
2 eggs
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup butter
1/2 cup flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup chopped pecans

DIRECTIONS
Bake sweet potatoes, scrape the insides into a bowl, and mash them with white sugar, half and half, eggs, salt & vanilla.
Place mixture in greased casserole dish
Then cut butter, flour, brown sugar & pecans until a crumbly topping is formed.
Sprinkle on top of sweet potato mixture
Bake at 400 for 30 minutes
*can make ahead and refrigerate*



Tuesday

Caramel Apple Snickers (Dessert) "Salad"


It would be against everything I believe it from a health and wellness perspective to call this little number a salad, but alas that is it's name (depending on the kind of day I'm having, though, it's just the salad I want to eat). I suppose it's a salad like the "salads" that have jello or marshmallows in their ingredient list. I prefer to call it a dessert salad and I sure love every bite, especially this time of year!


Ingredients

6 regular sized Snickers candy bars
4 medium apples (I used Granny Smith)
1 5oz package of instant vanilla pudding (dry, do not prepare)
1/2 cup of milk
16 oz tub cool whip, thawed
Caramel Ice Cream Topping 

Recipe
Whisk vanilla pudding packet, milk, and cool whip until well combined.
Chop apples and snickers and place into pudding mixture
Drizzle caramel sauce into your serving bowl, place half of the apple mixture into bowl, drizzle with more caramel, add remaining half, then drizzle again.

Its as easy as that.
You will want to make this just a few hours before serving, too long and it gets runny.
Make sure you at least refrigerate one hour before serving. 

Roast Beef for Sandwiches (or French Dip)



3-lb boneless chuck, roast (not frozen)
1 bay leaf
1 garlic clove
2 onions, large, sliced
1 tsp of thyme
2 cups beef broth
2 T. Worcestershire sauce
Montreal Steak Seasoning
1 T. vegetable oil

Season the meat with Montreal Steak Seasoning (be generous) and thyme. Heat vegetable oil in large frying pan on high heat and sear the roast on each side. Place onions in your crock pot or roasting pan (I made two roasts for a party and used a roasting pan) then place your roast on top. Add remaining ingredients and cook low and slow 5-6 hours or until the meat falls apart. 

This is a photo of my roasts placed in my roasting pan ready to be slow cooked.


Discard the bay leaf. 
Pull the roast out and shred with forks. 
Strain liquid into a large saucepan and place shredded meat and onions back in your crockpot.
Boil liquid until it has reduced by a third or so- doing this will concentrate your flavors if you choose to use the liquid for dipping. 
Place some liquid back with meat and onions and use the rest for dipping.

Serve with a crusty hoagie roll and provolone cheese.

Tips and Tricks:

If you want your onions to be more soft, you can boil them along with liquids to cook them a bit longer. 

Ground Beef Stroganoff




Recipe
1/2 to 1 cup chopped onion
1 clove minced garlic
1 TBSP butter
1lb ground beef
2 TBSP flour
Salt and Pepper to taste
1/2 tsp. paprika
1-2 cans cream of mushroom soup
 (start with one, add more for flavor, I use about 1 1/2)
1 cup sour cream
Cooked rice or egg noodles. 

Heat butter in skillet, add chopped onion. Saute until translucent then add garlic and saute 30 seconds longer. Add hamburger meat and flour to skillet. Season with salt, pepper, and paprika. Thoroughly brown hamburger. Add cream of mushroom and sour cream. Garnish with parsley if you'd like. 
Comfort food at its finest.



{This recipe calls for cream of mushroom soup. I understand that many people stick their noses up at such things, however, my philosophy is this: a recipe with cream of something soup beats McDonalds drive-thru every.single.time. Every dinner rotation needs a few items that are quick, easy and successful. Can you homemake this sauce? Absolutely. It would probably be wonderful, however, this recipe for me is dinner in minutes & I'm sticking to it.} 

Monday

Celebrating Family Style





Today is our 13th anniversary & to celebrate we are throwing a party with the kiddos. It's a Monday evening after all, and really, the older we get the more fun it is to include them and show them that marriage is to be celebrated. My little lady is especially excited, she helped me leave a "love note" in Dad's car this morning and has helped me decorate the table. On the menu: Pizza, Salad & Cake. 

Why not? 


Chocolate Coconut Cake & Thrifty ice-cream too. We are ending the night with a little wedding video action as our featured presentation. We haven't watched it in years! I remember when my oldest was 3, he'd watch it and be angry, "Why couldn't I go to the party? Nana is there, Grandma and Grandpa are there...where was I?" I reminded him of his funny little self this afternoon and we had a good chuckle over it. 

13 years. 


It's kind of flown by. I find myself endeared to the hard times, two crazy, energetic boys and a hard working husband that went from full-time job to full-time MBA at night. Gosh, I never thought there'd be an end in sight and yet, it seems like a different life altogether. My sweet baby girl that was about the chubbiest, happiest, most loving baby on the planet...and then she turned two and turned our worlds upside down. We still let her stay up after the boys went to bed because she was such a good time (and so dang fun) and she hasn't stopped making us laugh. 

Oh the memories.


My husband began our marriage doing donkey kicks on our bed to wake me up in the morning and convincing me we should eat Lucky Charms every night before bed. He's a good time. I sure love this life we've built together and can't wait to see what else is in store. 
Happy Anniversary to us. 









Saturday

Mongolian Beef



 1 Tablespoon Canola Oil
1-2 teaspoons minced ginger
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 Cup Soy Sauce
1/2 Cup Water
3/4 Cup Brown Sugar 
1 Cup Canola Oil
1 1/2 lbs Flank Steak 
(I have also used whatever thinly sliced steak was on sale at the grocery store like thin cut sirloin or bottom round)
1 1/2 cup flour OR 1/2 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon red peppers 
1 bunch green onion cut on the diagonal




Prepare the Steak
Slice your steak against the grain to desired size. Toss in flour or cornstarch. Let sit for 15 minutes.

Make the sauce
Heat 1 Tbsp oil in medium saucepan, add ginger and garlic and stir for 30 seconds, then add soy sauce, water, and brown sugar.  Simmer for 10-15 minutes.

Cook the Steak
Heat 1 cup oil in large pan over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, add steak and cook 2-3 minutes, flipping the pieces over until brown  and somewhat crispy. I did this in batches and used a slotted spoon to remove the meat from the oil. Pour oil into another pan to cool and discard later. 

Bring it all together
Place meat back into large pan along with the sauce and cook 2 minutes or so to coat the meat. Add red pepper flakes and green onions and saute for a minute, then remove from heat. 

Serve over your favorite rice (I use short grain brown rice). 

Wednesday

Grilled Chicken Marinade


Recipe
This recipe comes from one of my dearest friends who grew up in Moroni, Utah and is known as Moroni BBQ Marinade (great with chicken and turkey). It is always a go-to and crowd pleaser. Light up the grill this weekend and try it, it will be a family favorite!

1 cup Canola Oil
1 cup Soy Sauce
2 cups 7UP
3/4 tsp. garlic powder
6-7 chicken breasts

Combine ingredients in a large bowl. Marinade 2-24 hours, stirring occasionally. Grill and serve.



Friday

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies


 I made these last Sunday, had a couple for breakfast on Monday and have been dreaming about them since. They were good. Real, real, good. 

 RECIPE

1 Cup (2 sticks) Butter at Room Temperature
1 Cup Sugar
1 Cup Brown Sugar
2 Eggs at Room Temperature
2 tsp. Vanilla
2 Cups Flour
1 1/2 Cups Cocoa Powder (don't use dutch)
2 tsp. Baking Soda
1/2 tsp. Salt
2 Cups Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
2 tsp. Milk
1 Cup each of Sugar and Powdered Sugar 
placed in separate bowls  

In your stand mixer, beat butter and sugars for a few minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl. 

Add vanilla

Add eggs, one at a time. 
Scrape sides of bowl and beat on high for 2 minutes.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder (higher quality=better flavor), baking soda & salt and whisk.

While the mixer is on low, slowly add your dry ingredients, being sure to scrape the bowl. Mix only until incorporated. Your dough will be a sticky texture, this is normal. Add milk a little bit at a time if you feel as though the dough is too thick, then add chocolate chips and mix them until incorporated. 

PUT YOUR DOUGH IN THE REFRIGERATOR
for at least 3 hours, and up to 24 hours. I know, it's no fun and adds to the time it takes to make these cookies, but this step cannot be skipped. Last Sunday I made the dough before church and it was ready to go when we were home. Worked out quite nicely.

Take the dough out of the fridge, try a bit of it, and let it sit on your counter for 15 minutes before scooping. 

Pre-heat oven to 350.

Use a cookie scoop (or whatever you have) to scoop your dough- the cookie scoop helps the uniformity and keeps all the cookies near the same size.

After you scoop, roll the dough into a ball with your hands: then roll the dough in your granulated sugar bowl AND in your powdered sugar bowl next. I know. MORE sugar? But...if you are going to eat a cookie, EAT a cookie. This one is magical with both sugars. It is. 

Line your cookie sheets with parchment paper and place the sugar covered goodness on the pan. Bake 8-9 minutes.
 (8 was perfect in my oven)

When the cookies come out, if they are still rather ball shaped, use a spatula to lightly press the tops down. Lightly is the key word. Let the cookies cool on the sheet for 2 minutes or so and then transfer them to a cooling rack.

These cookies were AMAZING out of the oven. Warm, chocolaty goodness with sugar on top- basically it's a brownie in cookie form. It's amazing as is, or with warm caramel drizzled on top, yup, I went there. Enjoy!



Wednesday

Scotcharoo

Don't mind if I do!



There are a few ingredients I really try to stay away from when baking: and high fructose corn syrup is one of them....but every once in a while, you have to break you're own rules. 
Especially for a Scotcharoo!
love them. 

RECIPE
Grease your jelly roll pan (large cookie sheet with rim)
2 cups Karo Syrup
2 cups Sugar
2 cups crunchy peanut butter
12 cups Rice Krispy cereal
1 package milk chocolate chips
1 package butterscotch chips

Bring Karo syrup & sugar to a boil. 
Take off heat and add peanut butter, stir well. 
Pour over Rice Krispies
Mix well and pour into pan and spread evenly
(I like to use a piece of parchment paper to 
flatten with my hands)
Put chocolate and butterscotch 
chips into the microwave and melt slowly
Spread over Rice Krispies
Chill to set chocolate

Tuesday

Cream Cheese Frosting

Oh how I love thee,



RECIPE

1 (8 oz) block of cream cheese, room temperature
1 cube (1/2 cup) butter, room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract (or any flavor depending on what you are frosting)
***mix these ingredients on high, scraping down sides of mixer***
add 3 cups powdered sugar, one at a time on low
***add 1/2 cup to 1 cup more sugar for piping***
Frost everything with it, cakes, cupcakes, bundt cakes, homemade Oreo cookies, cinnamon rolls.....





Saturday

My Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe...because I love ya (it is a gift my friend, hold it close)


 In the grand scheme of dessert and all things bad for you,
this is my down fall. Of all the cakes and frostings and custards and pie (pie is my least favorite), I'd rather have a chocolate chip cookie
...a really tasty chocolate chip cookie. 

I found the base for this recipe a few years ago and have spent some time adjusting and tweaking things here and there. I love it because out of this one recipe, with a few changes here and there, I can make about 8 different cookies.

There are tricks and tips to having a successful cookie; I didn't realize the impact things like butter and egg temperature had on such success until I went through my Martha Stewart phase. Remember when she had a daytime T.V show? The set alone was amazing- and that kitchen! Oh how I miss it! The things I learned! I'm convinced Martha wants me to work for her and she just doesn't even know it
...I digress...

When making chocolate chip cookies, here are the things I do to make sure they come out right:

Find a recipe that has all the things you love:
for me, the brown sugar ratio needs to be higher than the white sugar
thats how I like it. 

Butter. Nothing. But. Butter
Shortening leaves a film at the top of your mouth (it's called trans fats...I like my silky smooth saturated fat instead). It may add a chewy texture, and make your cookies last longer in a fresh/not fresh kind of way, but it's not butter. Plain and Simple. It's the more natural choice. 

Butter isn't a place to save your pennies either- want to know why?
You can taste it. You can see it in how your cookies turn out. 
My favorite, most economical choice for butter is from Costco. I hoard it. I never buy less than 2 packages (8 boxes) at a time. Salted Butter. Pull a few out for your fridge, one for your counter (room temperature butter is your best friend) and the rest go happily into the freezer for later. 

Measure. Measure. Measure.
This isn't a time for throwing things in as you please. This is science, my friend. Chemistry at it's very finest- exact measurements are a must (except for extract and chocolate chips, I always eyeball those).

Room Temperature
This is key for your butter. Don't you dare microwave it either. Set out your butter the night before if you need to- but make sure it's perfectly room temp. Eggs too. I don't always remember with my eggs, but it can only be of benefit. 

Salt
Salt makes everything come alive. I like to omit it from my recipe and sprinkle it on top of each dough ball before it goes into the oven. My favorite: flaked sea salt. Don't go crazy with it- the point is to enhance the sweet, not take over completely. If you don't have flaked on hand, course sea salt will do just fine. It's gives your cookie the same salty, sweet goodness as a delicious chocolate covered pretzel.

Incorporate, don't mix
When you add your dry ingredients, you incorporate them: mix them until barely mixed in. Don't beat the stars out of your dough. Doing so releases gluten from your flour causing a more dense, tougher cookie. Nobody likes that. Be gentle with the dough. When you add your chips also take much care. 

Cookie Scoop
My Williams Sonoma Cookie scoops are my favorite invention. Enough said. Go for quality in this arena too. I tried to like cheaper cookie scoops but they lasted maybe two batches and broke. 

Chocolate chips
Quality control here too. There is a difference. Whatever you like: milk, dark, semi. Doesn't matter. Quality does. My very favorite thing to do is buy a really nice bar (or two) of chocolate and chop it up. Chocolate chunk cookies are divine. 

Under vs. Over-baking
I'm an avid under-baker to a fault. I like to get my cookies out when they just start to brown, I then press the tops of the cookies down slightly with a spatula, let them sit for a minute, then transfer them to a cooling rack.

Cooling Rack
I love my cooling racks. Use them every. single. time.

Vanilla
Never use imitation extract. Not all extracts are the same. The one you choose to use, needs to be one you enjoy the flavor of. In this recipe it will surely shine through- make sure you like the flavor. Some extracts are stronger than others, so adjust for that. Use less if you need to.

Last tip:
The more you do it, the better you are at it. I have had plenty a cookie fail. But now, I can do it in my sleep. Making dough, or cookies for my kids and friends is as fast and convenient as opening a package of store bought cookies (and way better). No recipe needed. There is nothing that screams "home" or  "childhood" (or adulthood in my case) like the smell of cookies baking in the oven. Your family will love you for it! 


Recipe

Pre-heat oven to 350

2 cups (4 sticks) of butter, room temperature
2 cups brown sugar
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
3 Tablespoons vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon baking soda
6 cups of flour
2-3 cups of chocolate chips 

Flaked or Course Sea Salt for sprinkling 

In your stand mixer, generously mix your butter and sugars, 
scraping down the sides of your bowl. 
Add eggs one at a time, make sure they are thoroughly mixed, then add vanilla. 
Once these ingredients are mixed well, add your dry ingredients. You could put them in a large bowl and sift, or at least use a whisk for the same effect. For the sake of less dishes and complexity, I add the baking soda first and then quickly add each cup of flour only incorporating the ingredients and then I turn my mixer off. Next I add the chips and pulse my mixer, incorporating them in. Scoop dough onto cookie sheets, sprinkle with salt, and bake for 8-10 minutes. 

Because it's just the way I do things, this will make a giant batch of about 5 dozen cookies. Both the cookies and dough freeze beautifully, but we never really have enough to do so. They are popular around here. 

Sunday

{My Sis's} Baby Shower Picnic in Photos
















No Bake Cookies

A classic and a favorite- gotta love a simple no bake cookie- they are definitely a favorite around my house. They are the first cookie I learned to make as a teenager, contributed to many a midnight snack in college, and my kids beg for them today. Chocolate and Peanut Butter are never a bad combo in my book!


Recipe

4 cups sugar
2 cubes butter
1/2 cup cocoa
1 cup milk
1 cup creamy or crunchy peanut butter
(jif crunchy was used here)
6 cups oatmeal
1 cup shredded coconut
2 teaspoons vanilla

Bring sugar, butter, coca, and milk to a rolling boil. 
Boil for 90 Seconds.
Remove from heat & stir in remaining ingredients.
Stir until incorporated and drop on wax paper and let cool. 


Thursday

Crock Pot Chicken Tacos

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner 
This recipe is one of my family's very favorites. It is savory and robust and just stinking tasty! The best part is that it's a "throw it all in the crock pot" recipe that requires very little work (and dishes). On busy days around here, when I'm tempted to just skip dinner all together and run through a drive thru, the easiness of this recipe saves me...every time. I use frozen chicken from Costco that I always have in my freezer, and all other ingredients are easy to stock up on and have on hand. 


RECIPE

2 pounds chicken breasts or tenders
½ cup italian dressing
¾ tablespoon minced garlic
½ tablespoon chili powder
½ tablespoon ground cumin
1-1 oz package dry ranch dressing mix

Put all ingredients in your crock pot, cook on high 3-4 hours or low 5-6 hours. Shred with a fork. Serve with your favorite taco toppings. Sour Cream, red and green salsa and avocado are my favorite, my kids love theirs with Macayo's Taco Sauce.

Saturday

2016 Class Valentines



     When it comes to Valentine's for the kiddos, I love to make them each year. It's just far enough away from Christmas that a simple project undertaking seems like a good idea. (Truthfully, it helps me justify my cheesy Hallmark Valentine's movie binge- anyone else love those movies?).

     The kids and I have fun perusing the internet for ideas and coming up with a plan. This year, everyone chose sour gummy worms; this worked out quite nicely as I bought them in bulk on Amazon Prime and had them on my doorstep the very next day (which also happened to be the day before their parties- it's been that sort of week or two around here). 

     Next was coming up with the saying. My vote was "Hooked on you" but I had no takers. Hadley, my first grader, chose "Love Bugs" and loved the idea of giving everyone in her class bugs for Valentine's (I love this about her). Caden, third grader, settled on "I dig you Valentine" because it was less "I love you" than "Hooked on you." Then there was Zach, my handsome fifth grader. I'm not saying that because I'm his mom either- he's a handsome guy with many a fifth grader girls who happen to agree. On any other day of the week I think he quite enjoys that, but when it comes to his Valentine, he can't give any girls any ideas....so he proudly accepted "You don't bug me" as his token saying this year...and it couldn't be "You don't bug me. Love, Zach" Love can't be included. Not even from. Just Zach. 



     After the ideas were in place, I played with a few fonts and printed out sheets of card stock for each kiddo. I used my cutting board to cut them out, scissors to make them look like tags or ribbons, a hole punch and twine to pull it all together. Really simple. No crazy amounts of ink, or elaborate paper used (It's not lost on me that these do get thrown away and I could have saved a few hours and dollars buying something at the store-but what is the fun in that?)  
     This Valentine's project "wormed it's way to my heart" this year. I mean, who doesn't appreciate a sour gummy worm (or two...or ten)?

Sunday

Whipped Strawberry Icebox Cake




The hardest thing about this recipe is to remember to make it a day ahead (or at least a few hours).
It is quite delightful if you ask me, the perfect spring time recipe...It would make quite a lovely Valentine dessert too! 

Ingredients
12 oz (or 1-1/2 boxes) of Cream Cheese at room temperature 
4 Cups Heavy Cream
2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
1/3 Cup Sugar
4 Cups Sliced Strawberries 
1-1/2 boxes Nilla Wafers
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Directions
Cream together with your mixer; cream cheese, sugar & lemon juice. 
Mix until soft and fluffy.
Add 4 cups of heavy cream and beat on medium until thick and fluffy 
(peaks should form)
Gently fold strawberries into cream mix
In 9x13 dish, layer Nilla Wafers
Top with 1/3 strawberry cream mixture 
Repeat 2 more times and top with strawberries for garnish.

Refrigerate overnight if possible (or at least 6 hours).

Brownie Trifle


Recipe

Bake a box of your favorite brownies 
or your favorite recipe from scratch- let cool

In a large bowl combine 
1 large box of chocolate pudding
3 cups of cold milk
Whisk until thick

In your stand mixer, mix 
1-1/2 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup powdered sugar 
& 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
until soft peaks form

You will also need 
1 cup toffee bits
1 can sweet and condensed milk

Take turns layering the following in your trifle dish twice (in this order):
Brownies cut into bite size pieces
Sweet and Condensed Milk Drizzle
Chocolate Pudding
Whipped Cream
Toffee Bits Sprinkled

Refrigerate for 3-24 hours and serve cold.