Mixed Berry Popsicles

berry popsicle 6It’s summertime!!!! This means hot days, longer evenings, lots of pool time and hungry kids. During summer, my kids are constantly wanting to eat. And especially when we go spend time at the pool, they are so hungry. I guess all that swimming builds up an appetite. So I made these popsicles for them to have as a nice treat for when we get home from the pool.

The verdict on these treats? My kids love them! And I will never buy popsicles from the store ever again. They are just too easy to make at home. And the combinations are endless. This is only my second popsicle making attempt, with my first attempt being an epic fail. (The stick came out! So popsicles they were no longer.) But I know I will attempt many more popsicle concoctions this summer.

Mixed Berry Popsicles (makes approximately 4 popsicles, depending on the size of your mold)

  • 1 cup mixed berry 100% fruit juice
  • 1/4 c. vanilla yogurt
  • handful of blueberries

Add juice and yogurt to a measuring cup. Whisk until yogurt is completely blended into the juice. Add a few blueberries to each mold and then pour the yogurt/juice to the fill line. Snap the popsicle sticks/tops into the molds and place in your freezer. I make these in the morning and by mid afternoon, they are totally frozen. When ready to eat, run the molds under lukewarm water for approximately 1 minute to loosen. Then pull out of the mold and eat!

berry popsicle 3berry popsicle 2berry popsicle 4berry popsicle 5berry popsicleBy the way, these popsicles are super healthy. But, shhhh….. don’t let the kids in on that little secret.

Addicted to Mexican Food? Carnitas will satisfy the craving!

carnitas 2I have an addiction to Mexican food. I want to eat it all the time. I could eat it all the time. But the problem with making homemade Mexican food (at least for me) is that it doesn’t always taste super authentic. Well, I found this recipe on Pinterest and it has solved my problem. This recipe is perfect so I don’t ever change a thing.

To get the directions for these delicious carnitas, and check out other amazing recipes, please head over to My Kitchen Escapades.

I think this dish will ABSOLUTELY satisfy that craving. Give it a try!

Thousand Islands

1000 island 2My youngest refers to 1000 Island dressing as Thousand Islands. I keep correcting her, but it’s just not taking. She really likes this dressing, as does her mommy. It’s one of my faves. My husband doesn’t understand my love for this dressing even though he basically demands it for our burgers. Hmmm… I think he has a secret love affair with Thousand Islands.

My love for this dressing comes from my dad. He would whip up some ketchup and mayonnaise and slap that stuff on a salad. And I thought it was great. I remember him bringing me dinner to work one night when I was in high school. And he had made me a salad with that dressing on it. And it made me happy 🙂

Since then, I’ve made Thousand Islands a lot and have jazzed it up just a bit. But of course, it’s still so simple, fast and easy. I love it on burgers, salads and dipping my pizza in it. Don’t knock it till you try it! It’s great on a lot of stuff. I mean, it has mayo in it. What has mayo in it that isn’t good?

1000 islandThousand Islands

  • 3/4 c. mayonnaise
  • 1/4 c. ketchup
  • 1 dill pickle spear, finely diced or 2 tbsp. relish
  • 1-2 shakes worchestire
  • just a dash of seasoned salt

Whisk all ingredients in a bowl until smooth and refrigerate until ready to use.

Begin your love affair with Thousand Islands.

 

 

Yo Quiero Queso

quesoI really like queso. A lot. And this recipe uses real cheese. Not that other stuff. I’m not going to talk smack, but I’ll just say that I don’t cook with it.

We eat this in my house, often. It’s very easy to make and eat straight out of the pot, or you can transfer to a small crockpot, keep on low and serve to guests. It’s also versatile as far as using different types of cheese. And I bet if you make this once, you won’t go back to that orange-ish block of expensive “cheese”.

queso ingredientQueso Blanco

  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1/4 c. onion, chopped
  • 1/2 jalapeno, chopped (if you like it spicy, leave the seeds and membrane)
  • 2 small garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 small tomato, chopped
  • 1/8-1/4 c. cilantro, chopped
  • 2 tbsp. flour
  • 2 c. milk (I use 1%)
  • 1 1/2 c. shredded Monterey Jack cheese *see note below

Melt butter in a saucepan or small pot on medium heat. Add onions and jalapeno and sauté for approximately 3 minutes. Add garlic, stir, then sprinkle with flour and stir together. Add milk, cilantro and tomato. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat. It should be a thicker consistency. Add cheese a little bit at a time, making sure to stir and let it melt before adding more cheese. *If you like a little kick, half Monterey Jack and half pepper jack is a great choice. Or half sharp cheddar and half Monterey Jack makes for a sharper flavor. Serve with your favorite tortilla chips.

queso 2

You want to eat just this for lunch? Go ahead. I’ve done it myself.

Asian Chicken Meatloaf with Sriracha Ketchup

asian meatloaf 2There are so many kinds of meatloaf recipes out there. I typically stick with my good ole standby, my mom’s recipe made with ground beef. But as I’ve said before, we don’t use ground beef around here much anymore so I almost always have ground chicken. That being said, I had ground chicken but wanted something new. Thus, this recipe was born! It may sound strange, but the flavors are spot on and yummy. This meatloaf is literally bursting with Asian flavors. And it’s such a nice change from the standard meatloaf you’re used to.

Asian Chicken Meatloaf w/ Sriracha Ketchup

  • 1 pound dark meat ground chicken
  • 2 tbsp. minced white or yellow onion
  • 1 green onion, (green part only) chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 1 small carrot, peeled and finely shredded
  • Just under 1/4 c. hoisin sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1/8 tsp. each of ground ginger, garlic powder, white pepper & turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
  • 3/4 c.-1 c. panko crumbs
  • 1/4 c. ketchup
  • 1 tbsp. sriracha

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, add the first 10 ingredients and mix together by hand until combined. Scoop into a loaf pan.

meatloaf 2In a separate bowl, mix together the ketchup and sriracha and spoon over the top of the meatloaf, making sure to cover the entire top in a thin layer.

meatloafBake in the oven for 60-65 minutes. Remove from the oven and let sit for about 5 minutes before cutting and serving.

asian meatloaf

Rice, Rice, Baby

rice pilaf 4Good side dishes can be hard to find. So if you’re stuck in a rut and wanting to try something new, here it is. This came from my mom and she’s made it my entire life. And I’ve always loved it. It’s quick, easy, and not just your regular plain white rice. I make it on a regular basis and it’s a family favorite.

Mom’s Rice Pilaf

  • 1 cup of long grain white rice
  • 3/4 c. vermicelli broken up (spaghetti & angel hair are what I usually use)
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • Salt & pepper to taste

rice pilaf 3Add butter to a smaller pot. Let melt on medium heat and add in the broken up pasta. Cook and stir for a few minutes until it starts to toast up. Don’t let it burn!

rice pilaf 2Add in the white rice and stir together. Pour in the chicken broth and add salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer (low), covering with a lid. Let cook for 20-25 minutes. 23 minutes on my stovetop is the magic number! Stir together and serve immediately. rice pilaf

Chorizo Burgers with Chipotle Mayo

chorizo burger 2I created this recipe because I had leftover pico de gallo and I wanted something different! I had everything to make burgers and I really wanted that pico on it. I kept thinking of Mexican flavors and thought of trying a chorizo burger. Luckily, it was a hit! Even with the kids. We hadn’t had chorizo in a long time but this really had all the right flavors. And this chorizo recipe would also be great for breakfast, cooked with some scrambled eggs. Ay yay yay!

Chorizo Burgers with Chipotle Mayo (makes 5 burgers)

  • 1 lb. ground pork or ground dark meat chicken (I used chicken)
  • 3 New Mexico dried chilies (ancho or guajillo chilies can also be used)
  • 1/4 c. apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. water or chili water
  • 1/4 c. onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1/2 tsp. each of chili powder, paprika, ground oregano
  • 1 tsp. each of cumin and salt
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp. adobo sauce from a can of chipotles in adobo sauce (or 1 chipotle)
  • 1 cup pico de gallo (store bought or homemade, recipe below)
  • 2 cups shredded iceberg lettuce
  • 5 hamburger buns

ancho chilies 2Preheat your oven to 300 degrees. Pull off the stems and remove the seeds from the chilies. Bake in the oven for approximately 5 minutes. Place chilies in a bowl and pour hot water over them. Let sit for 20-30 minutes.

ancho chiliesRemove the chilies from the water, reserving the water, and place chilies into a blender, along with the vinegar, onion and garlic. Add 2 tbsp. of the leftover chili water as well. Blend until smooth. Pour the chili mixture over the meat, and add the seasonings. Mix well and refrigerate. This can be made ahead of time or right before it’s time to eat.chorizo mixture

Mix together the mayo and the adobo sauce. If you like it spicy, add 1 chipotle. But if you have kids, I recommend just the adobo sauce. It’s more of a smoky flavor rather than spicy. Refrigerate until ready to use.

pico de galloAs for the pico de gallo, it’s very simple. If you choose to make it at home, it just requires some chopping.

  • 4 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/4 of a small onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 jalapeno, seeded and membrane removed, finely chopped
  • 1/4 c. cilantro, chopped

Mix together, cover and refrigerate.

chorizo pattiesSpray a griddle with cooking spray and heat on your stovetop, medium heat. You can also do this on an outdoor grill. While this is heating, make your patties. Just divide the meat evenly into five balls and shape into patties. If you use chicken like I did, it’s more of a wet patty and holds together better when cold.

Place patties on griddle or grill and cook for 4-5 minutes per side. Toast buns and spread chipotle mayo on both sides of bun. Place chorizo patty on the bun, top with the pico and place shredded lettuce on the other side of the bun. Put together and now it’s time to stuff your face!

chorizo burger 4*If you want cheese on your burger, just add a thin slice of cheddar cheese (or whatever type of cheese you fancy) after you’ve flipped your burger over. Honestly, this burger is so full of flavor that you really don’t need the cheese.chorizo burger 3

Chicken Chili with a side of “fries”

chiliChili! It’s all American! Traditionally made with beef, however, over the past year, my family has almost completely switched out ground beef for ground chicken. And we love it! To tell the truth, I like this chili much better with chicken than with beef. I don’t know if Texas will allow me to enter their territory with that statement, but it’s true.

Whenever I make chili, I also make French fries because my kids are chili cheese fries fans. Say that five times fast. My fries are baked so they’re even healthier for you than the traditional fried version, plus they’re super easy. So for the kid in you, see the recipe for my homemade French fries down below.

Chicken Chili (serves 4)

  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 lb. ground chicken
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 small garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 c. mild chili powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. tabasco or other hot sauce (this is completely optional depending on your spice level)
  • 1 tbsp. instant coffee powder or strong brewed coffee
  • 1 can (8 oz.) tomato sauce
  • 1 can (15 oz.) diced tomatoes, or 2 large tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 1/2 c. chicken broth
This is a real dutch oven, not the urban dictionary definition!

This is a real dutch oven, not the urban dictionary definition!

In a dutch oven (or large saucepan/pot) heat oil and add ground chicken. Stir and break up the chicken, adding the onion and bell peppers. When chicken is cooked (it will no longer be pink), add the rest of the ingredients. Stir and bring to a boil, then reduce heat. Simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, for approximately 45 minutes or until thickened.

*If you don’t have a dutch oven, I highly recommend investing in one. They are ideal for soups and shredded meats and are great because they can be used on the stovetop and then transferred to the oven for further cooking.

*If you are a spicy chili fan, you can use a spicier chili powder and also add more hot sauce.

Homemade Baked French Fries

wedges

My “tutorial” on how to cut your potatoes for fries

  • 5-6 russet potatoes, washed and sliced into wedges (cut in half long ways, then cut those halves into halves long ways, then do it again, understood?!?!)
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • garlic powder
  • salt
  • pepper
Golden & crispy

Golden & crispy

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place your potato wedges on a baking sheet and pour olive oil over the fries. Sprinkle garlic powder, salt and pepper over the fries (it’s up to you how much seasoning you want on your fries) and then using your hands, stir all of it together to get those fries coated. Bake for about 15 minutes, then turn the fries over. Cook for an additional 15-20 minutes. Fries should be crisp and golden.

chili cheese fries 2

A tasty pile of chili & potato goodness

Cabbage Salad with Peanut & Sesame Dressing

dressing and cabbage salad 2

This is so good that I could eat it everyday. Actually last week, I did eat it everyday with my lunch. I’m not ashamed to admit it. It’s delicious, and it’s that good! This would make a great accompaniment to any Asian type of dish (i.e. me love you long time house special chicken!) or teriyaki chicken, katsu, chow mein…. you get my drift.

The star of this dish is the dressing. It is incredibly flavorful. It’s pretty much the perfect dressing. Remember how I mentioned in a previous post that dressing tastes better when it’s homemade? Example, RIGHT HERE!!!! This is so delectable and the possibilities for this dressing are endless. It would be great on grilled chicken, or as the dressing for a Chinese chicken salad, or you can just grab the bottle and squirt it straight in your mouth. Whatever floats your boat. And it’s so simple to make.

Peanut & Sesame Dressing (adapted from Jamie Cooks It Up)

Roll out the red carpet, the star has arrived!

Roll out the red carpet, the star has arrived!

  • 3/4 c. mayo
  • 1/3 c. apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 c. soy sauce
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 2 tbsp. minced garlic (or 2 garlic cloves)
  • 1/2 c. dry roasted peanuts
  • 1/2 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp. toasted sesame seeds
  • pinch of red pepper flakes

Add all ingredients except the peanuts to a blender and blend on high. Then add the peanuts and blend until smooth. Makes approximately 2 cups.

*If you do not have peanuts, peanut butter would be a great alternative. Out of sesame oil and sesame seeds? Use tahini! I’m all about making adjustments and substitutions. Use what you’ve got. Who likes running to the grocery store for one or two items anyways?!?!

Like that bottle up there? Only $.98 at Walmart and they are absolutely perfect for dressings and sauces.

Now onto the cabbage salad. It’s super simple and very affordable. This is a perfect dish to serve to a crowd. I usually only do cabbage and carrots but this time added julienned red bell peppers. cabbage salad

Cabbage Salad

  • 1 head of green cabbage, shredded
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and grated
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, julienned

Great additions to this salad would also be sliced green onions and cilantro, which also adds great color. Wonton strips would also add additional crunch. Customize it to your tastes!

Now who likes a soggy salad? Not me! So I scoop out individual portions and then squirt the dressing over the top and mix on my plate/bowl. It’s a salad, not a coleslaw, so no dressing it beforehand.

Eat up, and I hope you love it as much as I do!

When the moon hits your eye, like a big pizza pie, that’s amore!

I have three young children, so it’s no surprise that we like pizza in this house. But ordering out and having it delivered can become quite spendy in the long run, so I turned to making my pizza at home. Not with a premade crust, but with homemade dough, and oh does that make the difference! We still order out occasionally, but I really do prefer to make it at home, and once you try it yourself, you’ll understand why.

I do have to say that pizza making in my house is not an exact science. As I’ve mentioned before, I do not like to measure, and pizza is the perfect example of cooking using a method, rather than a recipe. Making your own concoctions to suit your individual tastes, and also the tastes of your family. However, the pizza dough DOES need to be measured and you do need to follow a recipe for that. As for the sauces and toppings, that’s up to you.

I’ve made plenty a pizza, and here are some helpful hints I’ve learned along the way:

  1. Use a pizza stone! I received one as a gift and I absolutely love it. It gives your crust a great crispness to the bottom and a more authentic taste. It is definitely not necessary though, any baking sheet will work. But that stone does elevate the pizza.
  2. Cornmeal! I always sprinkle cornmeal on my stone or baking sheet before I place the dough on it. The cornmeal helps to slide the pizza off the sheet easier and also adds a slight crunch.
  3. Use parchment paper to roll out your dough on. This makes it much easier to transfer to your stone or sheet. All you have to do is flip the dough onto the stone/sheet, and peel the parchment paper off.
  4. Sprinkle just a little bit of flour on your pizza dough rolling surface (parchment!) and also on top of your dough. This will help the dough roll much easier and also won’t stick to your rolling pin.

Onto the magical dough. So this is by far the best pizza dough I’ve ever used. I’ve tried a few different recipes and this is THE ONE! I knew it after my very first bite. You can find the original recipe over at Lauren’s Latest. She’s got some really great pictures and tips for making pizza dough so please check it out. I’ve adjusted her recipe to work better for my family size, so if you have a slightly larger than average family, this is the one for you.

Pizza Dough (serving size- 2, 14 inch pizza crusts):

1 1/2 cups warm water
1 package active dry yeast
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons olive or canola oil
4 cups all purpose flour, give or take half a cup

In a large mixing bowl, preferably that of a stand mixer, stir yeast and honey into warm water. Sit for 5-10 minutes or until bubbles form and mixture starts to foam. This tells you that the yeast is alive and kicking. Pour in salt, oil and half the flour and mix. Once that flour is incorporated, start adding flour in bit by bit until you get the pizza dough to the consistency you want: slightly tacky, but when you touch it, it doesn’t stick to your hands. Once you reach this stage, knead for 3-6 minutes. The dough should be smooth and easy to work with. And the bowl should be clean! Lightly grease the bowl & the dough so it doesn’t dry out, cover with plastic wrap and let it rise 1-2 hours. Now it’s time to make pizza!

I’d just like to note, you do not need a stand mixer to make this dough. So if you don’t have one, never fear, your two hands are near! Yes, manual labor it is for you. Follow the recipe, except you use your hands to knead the dough, simple as that. I used this method for a long time before I bought a stand mixer.

Now, onto the pizzas I made. The first was a “kid friendly” pizza, which included red sauce, pepperoni and mushrooms. Like I said before, pizza making is a method, so I’m not going to give exact amounts but just tell you how I made it. The amount you want on your pizza will likely differ from the amounts I like on my pizza. Here goes….

  • pepperoni & mushroom pizzaOrganic tomato sauce went onto the dough first, sprinkled with garlic powder.
  • Then came shredded mozzarella cheese.
  • Next was pepperoni and sliced baby bellas (one of my favs!).
  • Last, I sprinkled Italian seasoning all over.

I baked this at 450 degrees for 20 minutes. My oven cooks very slowly, so yours may be done faster than mine. You can tell it’s done when the crust starts turning brown and you can also lift up the crust a bit and peek at the underside. It should feel crisp, and not soft.

Time for the “adult” pizza! I did my version of a “margherita” pizza. Except instead of using basil though, I used kale. kale & tomato pizza

  • First, I spread my homemade softened basil garlic compound butter (see recipe for butter below) all over the crust.
  • Then I sprinkled a light amount of shredded mozzarella cheese over it.
  • After that came thinly sliced tomatoes.
  • Finally, some torn kale and cracked black pepper.

I also cooked this at 450 degrees for about 20 minutes. Give pizza making a try. It’s not hard, and the results are worth it!!!

This is great in pasta, on potatoes, pizza, the possibilities are endless!

This is great in pasta, on potatoes, pizza, the possibilities are endless!

Basil Garlic Compound Butter

  • 2 sticks butter, softened
  • 3 tsp. frozen basil (remember those cubes I’ve talked about?)
  • 4 garlic gloves, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 tsp. dried thyme

Add all the ingredients to a food processor and pulse until blended together, scraping the sides as necessary. Scrape butter onto a large piece of plastic wrap, roughly into the shape of a cylinder. Wrap the butter up, twisting the ends of the plastic wrap. Can be stored in the fridge or freezer.