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Sweet Salsa Slow Cooker Meatballs

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I hope everyone had a wonderful and safe Independence Day!  It was the best 4th of July of my whole life, and hands-down the best day Joshua’s ever had period. I want to share some photos but will be doing that tomorrow.

Today I have a simple crockpot meal that is great any time of year, because in summer, it doesn’t heat the kitchen, and in winter, it’s just nice to have something hot and ready at the end of a cold day.  I got this recipe from my friend, Holly, who actually had posted it in response to a mutual friend’s request for crockpot recipes on Facebook. I nabbed it and made it soon after because I’d just made my own apricot jam.  These were very satisfying and tasty.  Hope you enjoy, and stay cool!

Sweet Salsa Slow Cooker Meatballs

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1 (26 oz) bag frozen meatballs
3 bell peppers in different colors, sliced (optional)
1 (24 oz) jar salsa
1 (18 oz) jar apricot preserves

Place the meatballs in the bottom of your slow cooker and layer the bell peppers over, if you’re using them.  Whisk the salsa and apricot preserves together in a bowl, and pour over the top.  Cover and cook on low until heated through, 6-8 hours. Holly suggests serving over rice or with mashed potatoes and green beans.

Recipe source: adapted from Holly W.

Italian Goulash

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I love Mom’s Goulash, and mostly refuse to make any other recipe.  But this one reminded me of my early cooking attempts, and I’m glad I decided to try it.  Before I knew how to make goulash, I used a jar of pasta sauce with the macaroni, and cooked some onion and green pepper in with the hamburger and stirred it all together.  It was good, but not really goulash at all.  Maybe it’s the stewed tomatoes, or the consistency (see bottom photo for a truer representation), but this one seems more goulash-y, and also much, much better.  The Italian sausage gives it another depth of flavor along with the homemade sauce.  Really good stuff.  Maybe not better than Mom’s, but still very good.

Italian Goulash

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1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 (20 oz / 1 ¼ lb) package sweet Italian turkey sausage
1 large onion, diced
1 (14.5 oz) can roasted diced tomatoes
1 (14.5 oz) can whole stewed tomatoes, cut up or mashed
1 (29 oz) can tomato sauce
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons dried basil
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
Tomato juice for leftovers (optional)

In a large pot/stock pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Brown the meat and onions together until cooked through. Add the diced tomatoes, stewed tomatoes, tomato sauce, soy sauce, basil, oregano, and garlic. Stir together and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer, covered, 20 minutes. Stir in the uncooked macaroni, recover, and simmer for another 20 minutes. Let stand for 5-10 minutes and serve.  The noodles will absorb the sauce over time, so if you have leftovers, it’s best to add a little tomato juice to them before reheating.

Veronica’s note: Your finished goulash will not be swimming in sauce like mine is in the picture.  I made it late the night before, and all the pictures looked like this:

So I added tomato juice (Mom’s trick) to some leftovers the next day and photographed them in natural light for a better photo.  So just combine the pretty clear & bright picture with the consistency of the above photo and you’ll get an idea of what your finished goulash will look like. :)

Recipe source: adapted from The Avid Appetite

Classic Cherry Pie

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If you had trouble accessing the Preacher Tuna Salad recipe yesterday, I apologize. I accidentally posted it twice and deleted the original, making the link most everyone got lead to nowhere.  You can click here to view the recipe.With the 4th of July holiday quickly approaching, I thought it was about time I shared my favorite cherry pie recipe.  Maybe it’s all the red, but it just seems very festive to me! :)  There’s nothing fancy about it, unless you consider a lattice top crust fancy, but it’s a very good pie and excellent with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  I love the flavor the almond extract adds, to me it is the essential key to a good cherry pie.

I love my Perfect Pie Crust above all others, and is the crust pictured here.  I highly recommend it for any and all pies, but truth be told, I just as often use a box of Pillsbury refrigerated pie crusts.  Judge me if you must, but it saves so much time!  If you buy pre-made crusts, don’t bother with generic/off-brands, they are awful. Pillsbury is pretty good if you don’t have time to make your own.

Classic Cherry Pie

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Pastry for a two-crust pie
1 cup granulated sugar
¼ cup cornstarch
2 (14.5 oz) cans tart cherries in water
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon almond extract
½ teaspoon red food coloring (optional)
Milk & coarse sugar for top crust

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Roll out one pie crust and line a 9” pie plate; place in refrigerator. In a large saucepan, combine the sugar & cornstarch and mix well. Drain the juice from the cherries into the pan with the sugar & cornstarch; set the cherries aside. Stirring constantly, cook the juice mixture over medium heat, until bubbling and thickened. Remove from heat and stir in butter, almond extract, and food coloring, if desired, until butter is melted. Stir in the cherries. Spoon into prepared pie plate. Roll out second disc of dough and cut into strips with a pastry wheel or pizza cutter. Arrange strips on top of filling to make a lattice design. Seal and flute edges. Brush milk over crust and sprinkle with sugar. Place on middle oven rack and put a cookie sheet below to catch any spillover. Bake 30 minutes, then put a pie shield on the pie to protect the crust from over-browning. Bake another 15 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbling. Cool at least two hours or overnight before serving.

Veronica’s note: I tend to cook my fruit pie filling until extremely thick, as I prefer my pies not to run at all when cut, as you can see in the photos. If you like yours to run a little, just follow the directions and you’ll be fine. My weirdness for cooking it until nearly cement is not included in them. :)  Also, I have a step-by-step video tutorial on another pie that includes how to make a lattice design here.

**Be sure to visit my “Current Favorites” in the sidebar at the right for other recipes that would be a great addition to your July 4th menu.**

Preacher Tuna Salad

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Mike and Nancy, our preacher and his wife, invited us and two other couples to dinner after the evening worship service several Sunday’s ago, and we dined on sandwiches, chips, veggies, and fruit – the perfect “after church meal” because everything could be prepped in advance and put out to serve upon arrival.  I was absolutely delighted to discover that the tuna salad had been prepared by Mike himself!  I do know men that cook, but not very many, so this just tickled me to pieces to know that our preacher had made the main part of our supper.

Nancy told us there was only two things he makes, and judging by how much we loved his tuna salad, I’m probably going to be wanting the recipe for his other specialty soon!  He informed me there was a secret ingredient before I bit into it, so I was prepared to encounter it. Apples! Of all things.  I’ve never ever heard of adding apples to tuna salad, but he said it helps cut the fishy taste. I agree, it does cut it!  And I can’t tell you how good it tastes and feels to bite into a crisp chunk of sweet apple in a tuna sandwich.  So good.  Maybe you have to taste it to believe it, and I hope you’ll make this so you can experience it for yourself.

Mike doesn’t really use a recipe, but he gave me the ingredients he uses, and I’ve included my own measurements for those ingredients in this recipe.  Definitely add more or less to suit your own tastes.

Preacher Tuna Salad

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1 can tuna, drained well
1 hard boiled egg, diced
2 slices of apple, diced (use a sweet variety)
1 tablespoon sweet pickle relish or finely diced sweet pickle
2 tablespoons diced sweet onion (optional – Mike doesn’t use onion, but we prefer it this way)
2 tablespoons mayonnaise

Mix all ingredients in a bowl & serve on bread or croissants for that extra-special preacher touch. Makes 2 sandwiches.

Recipe source: Mike O’Neal

Chewy No-Bake Granola Bars

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Are you a crunchy granola bar person, or a chewy granola bar person? I’m the latter.  My favorite granola bars are the Sunbelt Bakery ones. and it has been a quest of mine for a long time to find a recipe that would duplicate their soft, chewy texture.  I felt that baking them wasn’t the way to go, as all the ones I baked were just a little too firm, a little too dry, and not chewy enough.  I made lots of my own recipes in the search to find that perfect recipe, and never did find it.

Until Sarah.  She posted a recipe for Chewy Coconut Oil Granola Bars and my search ended there.  I’m tellin’ ya, coconut oil is such a good friend in the kitchen.  Makes great cookies, coffee, and granola bars!  These are exactly what I was looking for, and a little healthier than Sunbelt Bakery’s with the flaxseed, honey, coconut oil, and lack of processed/weird ingredients.  And totally crazy delicious!

Chewy No-Bake Granola Bars

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2 1/2 cups Rice Krispies cereal
1 3/4 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup ground flaxseed* (I used whole)
1/2 cup mix-ins of your choice (I used peanuts)
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup brown sugar
dash of salt
1/3 cup unrefined virgin coconut oil
1/3 cup natural peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup dark chocolate chunks (I used butterscotch chips)

*You can use wheat germ, wheat bran, or more rolled oats in place of the flaxseed.

Line a 9×13 pan with aluminum foil or wax paper, and grease well with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, stir together cereal, oats, flaxseed, and mix-ins. In a saucepan, stir together honey, brown sugar, and salt. Turn heat onto medium-low, then stir constantly until mixture comes to a boil. Boil for 60 seconds, then remove from heat and gently mix in coconut oil and peanut butter, careful not to splash. Stir in vanilla and cinnamon. Pour wet ingredients over the dry and mix to combine.

Press mixture into prepared pan, then evenly distribute chocolate chunks over top. If you mix the chocolate in, it will melt. Press into granola mixture with a spatula then cover and refrigerate for 2 hours to set. Cut into bars and wrap in aluminum foil or wax paper for easy transport.

Recipe source: The Pajama Chef

Italian Grilled Cheese

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I love quick, easy meals like sandwiches in the summer.  Usually cold, but this is one grilled cheese I really enjoy when the temps start to rise.  I think because it reminds me of bruschetta, which reminds me of summer.  Probably because that’s when fresh basil abounds!  This is a very nice change from the traditional grilled cheese, and I love the flavor of the basil and melty mozarella and tomato all together…almost like a Margherita pizza but in the form of a quick sandwich. Can’t beat that.  Bring on the melty bruschetta/pizza sammich.

Italian Grilled Cheese

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8 fresh basil leaves
8 thin tomato slices
4 slices provolone or mozzarella cheese
4 slices Italian bread ( 1/4″ thick)
2 tablespoons prepared Italian salad dressing

Layer the basil leaves, tomato slices and provolone cheese on two slices of bread. Top with remaining bread. Brush outsides of sandwiches with salad dressing. Grill, uncovered, over medium heat for 3-4 minutes on each side or until cheese is melted. Makes 2 sandwiches.

Blackened Chicken with Roasted Garlic Alfredo

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Dennis is a huge fan of blackened meat.  And by blackened, I don’t meant burnt (that would be me that likes burnt meat), I mean meat that’s been rubbed with spicy blackening seasoning.  So when I ran across this recipe, I knew it would be perfect for Father’s Day.  It was perfectly suited for him, is impressive, but simple to prepare, which is pretty much a requirement for all the recipes I make these days.  It was incredibly delicious, and I would make it again, and again, and again.

Blackened Chicken with Roasted Garlic Alfredo

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2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
Olive oil
1 tablespoon blackening seasoning
1 (10 oz) container Buitoni Light Alfredo sauce
1 tablespoon roasted garlic
8 oz bowtie pasta, cooked to al dente & drained

Drizzle olive oil over chicken breasts to lightly coat. Sprinkle blackening seasoning liberally over both sides of the chicken. Heat skillet on medium-high and cook chicken 3 minutes on each side. While chicken is cooking, heat Alfredo sauce and roasted garlic. Add pasta and toss; divide between two dishes. Slice chicken and place on top of pasta. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Veronica’s notes: In a pinch, you can sprinkle in some garlic powder to taste instead of the roasted garlic.  Also, Bertolli’s jarred light alfredo works great for this recipe if you can’t find the fresh stuff.

Recipe source: Plain Chicken

Here’s the card I made for Dennis this year.  It may be my favorite card I’ve ever made. :) He loved it!

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