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Smoky Baked Beans

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Summertime is packed with barbecues and picnics, and I like to have an arsenal of crowd-pleasing recipes to bring.  With Independence Day approaching, I thought I’d share one of my new favorites!  I like to bring something that’s either OK at room temperature (because it’s hard to keep cold dishes cold), or something that can hang out in the crock pot without getting overcooked.  Baked beans go great with any outdoor summer meal and these were a hit at our Mother’s Day picnic. I would definitely make these again, even as a summer meal in itself!

Smoky Baked Beans

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1 lb. bulk spicy pork sausage (I used Jimmy Dean)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 (31 oz) can pork and beans
1 (16 oz) can kidney beans
1 (16 oz) can black beans
1 (16 oz) can butter beans
1 (16 oz) can white beans (such as Navy, Northern or Canellini)
1 (10 oz) can tomatoes with green chiles (Rotel)
1/2 cup hickory-smoke flavored BBQ sauce
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground mustard
1 teaspoon steak seasoning
1 teaspoon liquid smoke

Brown sausage with onion in large skillet. Drain fat. Place in large slow cooker, add remaining ingredients and stir well. Cook on low for 4-8 hours.

Recipe source: Our Eating Habits

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Jessie’s 10th Bruffday Paw-ty

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I’ve always wanted to throw a birthday party for Jessie and somehow never found the energy while she was our only child, but managed to pull it off when another little someone was commanding most of my time and attention.  I felt like she really deserved it this year since she had to start playing second fiddle to the human puppy after so many years of being #1.

I created the invitations on PicMonkey (I’ve been using the free version for about a year now, although it’s only $5 a month if you want to use the premium features), and had them developed as pictures at Walmart in an hour for 16 cents each.  I bought a box of envelopes on sale that fit 4×6 pictures and use them every time I create invitations or cards on PicMonkey, so if you calculate the total cost it’s still less than a quarter each – much less than you’d usually pay for custom invitations and cards! I’ve become very crafty with my frugality since becoming a SAHM. It’s amazing what you can do when you put your mind to it – necessity has bred a lot more creativity in me than I previously thought possible.

I wanted to spend the least amount of money possible while still having a nice party, so we served hot dogs, which I thought very appropriate for a dog party.

I had a lot of fun with the food table and coming up with dog-related names/signs for everything.  I bought the majority of my supplies at Dollar Tree where, you guessed it, everything is $1.  I got this wire basket there, and wrapped $1 napkins from Walmart around the $1 plasticware from Dollar Tree and then made napkin rings out of  strips of brown paper sacks that I also got from Dollar Tree.  I used the paper from the sacks to make my signs, and also as party favor bags, so I got a lot of use out of them and still have quite a few left for future use.

I found these large plastic dog food bowls at Dollar Tree, and they were the perfect size to serve food out of.  Paw-tato Chips, Puppy Chow, and Kibble & Bits.  For the latter, I mixed cheese balls with Cheddar Chex Mix that I purchased.

I got most of my ideas on Pinterest (click here to see my Doggy Stuffs board that has lots of party ideas and more), but the Paw-sta Salad was totally my idea. :)  I used the Tangy Pasta Salad recipe I posted Monday, using paw and bone-shaped pasta that I got from my SIL as a gift a few years ago (I also threw in a can of sliced black olives, just for fun).  I was so happy to finally put it to good use!  It was a hit both for the cuteness factor and taste – I got more compliments on it than anything else.

Tee hee. :)

I really had fun making dog-friendly cupcakes, or PupCakes, if you will.  These are totally my own recipe and turned out so great – Meatloaf PupCakes with Mashed Potato Frosting and bacon “sprinkles.”  Huge hit with the pups!

The humans enjoyed Cookies ‘n Cream Cupcakes after the doggies had their “cake.”  I made the paw prints using mini Oreos and chocolate chips.  If you’ve never made this cake, you need to.  I’m not an Oreo fan and even I love it.  Seriously good cake, peeps.

Jessie enjoyed having friends over, especially her BFF, Doc (pictured above).  But since most of the dogs are older and it was pretty warm, they mostly enjoyed just lazing in the pool and shade.  If you are going to have an outdoor dog party in summer, you really need to have lots of shade, lots of water to drink, and a kiddie pool to help them cool off is a great idea too!

Jessie got so spoiled with gifts – lots of toys and treats!

And we sent all the doggies home with party favor bags filled with toys & homemade dog treats.

It was a great time for both furry and human guests, and I’m really glad we gave Jessie the celebration she deserved.

Happy birthday, sweet girl!

Tangy Pasta Salad

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This was the first recipe I ever pinned from Gina’s blog, At Home My Way, and that was years ago.  I’m so glad I finally got around to making it because it’s mega delicious, easy, and perfect for summer potlucks!  I’ve already made it for two of them in as many weeks and might have traded a few meals to enjoy an extra big bowl of it. LOL!  It’s really good stuff – not the typical dressing with oil or mayo (which means it won’t go bad in the heat!), but nice and tangy and fresh.  Love it!

Tangy Pasta Salad

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1 (16 oz) package tricolor spiral pasta
1 medium red onion, diced
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1 medium cucumber, seeded and diced
1 medium green pepper (or red or yellow or orange, or some of each!)
1/2 red or white (sweet) onion, finely sliced and the rings cut into 1/4ths

Dressing
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup white or apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon ground mustard
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder

Cook the pasta according to package instructions to al dente. Drain and rinse thoroughly with cold water until the pasta is cool to the touch. Add to a large bowl along with remaining salad ingredients.

In a small saucepan, mix together the sugar, ground mustard, salt, and garlic powder. Mix in the vinegar and cook over medium heat until sugar is dissolved, 2-5 minutes. Pour over salad and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 2-6 hours; serve cold with a slotted spoon.

Veronica’s notes: you can use a smaller package of pasta – I used both 12 and 14 oz packages and both salads turned out fine. Unfortunately the leftovers aren’t great so this is best eaten between 2-6 hours after making it. The pasta is fine the next day, but something happens to the vegetables and they just aren’t’ as good – the salt probably draws a lot of water out of them, and they just don’t seem as fresh or tasty.

Recipe source: At Home My Way

Frito Salad

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I have an internal maniacal laugh every time I say or even think, “Frito Salad.” Saying the words “Frito” and “Salad” in the same recipe title just makes me giddy with hilarity. Reminds me of one of my favorite eCards…

This “salad” is basically my two favorite things combined. Chips and dip (and one of my all-time favorite dips at that). And it’s called a salad. WINNING! :D  To be fair, it’s a little healthier than regular chips and dip because of all the corn (and some peppers & and onion), but let’s just get honest here.  This ain’t my Momma’s kinda salad.  But it sure is mine. >:)

This salad is downright delicious and would be great to bring to any potluck you might be attending in the near or distant future. I know I will be!

Frito Salad

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3 (14.5 oz) cans of whole kernel corn, drained
1 green pepper, seeded and finely diced
1/2 of a small red onion, finely diced
1 cup (4 oz) grated cheddar cheese
1 1/4 cups mayonnaise
1 (9.25 oz) bag of Chili Cheese Fritos

Stir the corn, green pepper, onion, cheese and mayonnaise in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Just before serving, mix in Fritos, reserving a handful to lay on top as a garnish. Serve immediately.

Veronica’s Notes: The original recipe called for red pepper along with the green, so feel free to sub in half of the green for red to make it prettier. Also, if you know you will have leftovers, add the chips to the individual servings rather than all at once, because the chips will get soggy and gross.

Recipe source: adapted from Minda’s Cooking

KFC Coleslaw

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I put random photos throughout the introduction that have nothing to do with anything except the happenings in my life. Hover over for a brief description

I haven’t been blogging much and at first that was really nice, deciding not to blog when all I wanted to do was sleep, clean, spend time with the hubs, play Wii with my nephew, go to the lake with my family, etc.  It was very freeing, recognizing that it was my choice.  But last week, though I didn’t post at all, I really missed it!

I finally got a “permanent” schedule at work (“permanent” because it is still subject to change, based on the demands of the PO), 2:30-11 PM M-F with weekends off (praise God for that!) and I’m trying to go to bed right after getting home each night so that it won’t be as hard to get up early on Sunday mornings for worship.  So that was the main reason I held off blogging, because my intentions were good, to go to bed early, but then I’d get caught up in email/Facebook/Pinterest and I still ended up staying up till 3-4 AM each day, making it also impossible to blog in the morning since I slept through it.  And yes, Sunday was a very tired day for me, as always. Week 1 of trying to go to bed early: FAIL.

So I still don’t know how regular I”m going to be while I’m trying to get on a schedule that will allow me to get up at 8 AM each day with 8 hours sleep, but ultimately my posting time will likely start to be in the late morning/early afternoon as I switch from scheduling my posts for 8 AM the night before, to publishing after typing them each day before work.

Anyway, I’m happy to share something with you today and sorry for the rambling personal introduction that has nothing to do with coleslaw!  Oh wait!  If you can wait one more second, I have something else to share.  When I came home from work after a really bad day almost two weeks ago, I found a package waiting for me on the kitchen table.  It was the kitchen tile I won from Kudos Kitchen by Renee!  It was the happy ending I really needed that day.

She painted it from this image I sent her that I found on Pinterest:

I was pretty demanding for someone who won something (i.e. got it for free!), asking if she could make the colors a deeper red, green and blue to match the colors in my kitchen, and I even went so far as to ask her to change the font to a fancier one.  She didn’t complain at all and I’m totally thrilled with the tile and with Renee.  If you want to check out her work, visit her Etsy shop here.

Thanks for putting up with me today–it’s hard trying to write a short blog when you’ve been silent for so long!  Onto the coleslaw.  Finally!

I’m not a huge coleslaw fan, but I have always liked KFC’s coleslaw.  Have you met my sweet teeth?  (I usually claim they’re all sweet, but a few of my molars are actually partial to savory foods. ;))  Yeah, I think they enjoy the sweetness to it.  So when I volunteered to bring the coleslaw to our family’s July 4th celebration, I searched for a KFC copycat recipe and found one on Amanda’s Cookin’.  I was pretty stoked to find it there, because I already follow Amanda’s blog and have much love for her since she started the Secret Recipe Club, which I enjoy participating in every month.

This coleslaw is just like KFC coleslaw!  So good!  And if you have a food processor, man, this comes together in 10 minutes or less.  Even easier, you could just buy that bagged coleslaw mix and use the dressing on it.  Either way, this is a winner and my family raved over it.  Dennis and I ate an entire batch of it last week, so you know we love it too.

KFC Copycat Coleslaw

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Slaw
1 head of cabbage
2 medium carrots, peeled (about 1/2 cup shredded)
2 tablespoons dried minced onion

Dressing
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup buttermilk
2 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper

Chop cabbage into chunks, discarding the core, and run through your food processor using the shredding blade, or chop fine.  Empty into a large bowl.  Chop the stems off the carrots and shred them too, then add to the cabbage along with the minced onion.  Combine all of the dressing ingredients in a large bowl, whisk well, and pour over the slaw.  Stir well, then cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours, preferably overnight, before serving to allow the flavors to marry.  Serve cold.

Recipe source: slightly tweaked from Amanda’s Cookin’

Corn Salad with Queso Fresco

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It’s been a while! And I’ve noticed I’m not the only one blogging less–it seems summer time is a busy time for everyone and I’m no exception.  Except I haven’t been busy with obligations–I’ve been busy having fun!  That’s the best kind of busy, right? :)

I’ve been enjoying my nephew’s baseball games, we celebrated my PIL’s 50th anniversary, we’ve been biking and walking, I’ve been baking for bake sales, birthdays, and banana bread experiments, and we’re going to Lake Afton every chance we get.  When it’s this hot, the only thing I want to do is soak in the sun’s heat on the beach (with SPF 1,000 sunscreen, of course) and then cool off in the water.  Love it so so much!

I haven’t been cooking very much, but this corn salad is one of the dishes we’ve enjoyed lately.  I love eating cool foods on hot days and fresh corn in the summer is so yummy in any form!  This salad has a a Mexican vibe to it and the flavors are great.  You can make it as is for a side dish, or turn it into a meal by adding some leftover grilled or rotisserie chicken.  Fabulous!

I added so much chicken and tomato to my salad that the corn was hardly the main feature any more!

Corn Salad with Queso Fresco

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4 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels
8 ounces queso fresco or cotija cheese
1 large red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, chopped (and seeded if desired-the seeds will add more heat)
1/2 recipe (about 6 ounces) Cilantro-Lime Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
1 large avocado, pitted, peeled, and cubed
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Optional: chopped tomato and leftover rotisserie chicken

Bring about 1 inch of water to a boil in a large stock pot. When the water boils, add the corn and cook for 2-3 minutes. Drain and rinse and then add to a large bowl. Toss together the corn, red bell pepper, red onion, jalapeno pepper, and crumbled cheese. Toss with Cilantro-Lime Vinaigrette. Chill until ready to serve. Right before serving, gently toss in the avocado and season with salt and pepper. Serves 10-12.

Recipe source: Our Best Bites

Cilantro-Lime Vinaigrette

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1/4 cup fresh lime juice (about 2-3 juicy limes)
1/4 cup white wine vinegar or rice vinegar*
4-5 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup canola oil
1/2 cup roughly chopped cilantro, stems removed

In the jar of your blender, combine lime juice, vinegar, garlic, salt, and sugar. Blend until ingredients are completely combined. With the blender running, add the oil in a steady stream. Add cilantro and blend until the cilantro has broken down but still maintains some of its texture. Serve with greens, on any type of Mexican salad, or use as a marinade.

*Reduce sugar to 2 teaspoons if using seasoned rice vinegar, which contains sugar.

Recipe source: Our Best Bites

Blueberry-Lemon Upside Down Cake

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Secret Recipe Club

Whoop whoop!  I took a month off from the Secret Recipe Club and am so excited to be back with this recipe! My assignment this month was Evelyne’s blog, Cheap Ethnic Eatz.  As the title implies,her recipes are from around the world and affordable to make.  I nearly made her beautiful Peach Salsa since I’ve been on a salsa kick lately, but in the end, this beautiful cake won out.  When I read the titles of the recipes I was considering to my husband, including Strawberry Puff Pastry Pizza, Lazy Chocolate Raspberry Cake, Self-Saucing Chocolate Pudding, Afghan Cardamom Pudding, and Peanut Butter Daifukumochi Balls (apparently I was really craving sweets when searching Evelyne’s archives-big surprise!), he absolutely insisted that I make this one.  I aim to please.

Well, thank you very much dear Evelyne, because this cake surely did please us both.  I’m almost embarrassed to admit how much.  Between the two of us, it only took us two days to polish off the entire cake.  While we do enjoy our sweets, this was ridiculous even for us, and a testament to how wonderful (and addictive) the cake is.

I did change it up by adding lemon flavor to the cake, because I really enjoy the combination of lemon and blueberry flavors .  It was amazeballs, as my friend, Jennifer, would say.  I think I also changed the texture of the cake as well by switching the baking powder for baking soda (the only science I’m any good at is baking science, and I knew the acid in the lemon juice was a perfect catalyst for baking soda, so I pulled the old switcharoo on my leaveners) and the cake was crazy moist to the nth degree.

I would probably try making this cake with the baking powder next time because although I did love the moist texture, with the juicy, dripping blueberry topping it wasn’t really necessary.  Another benefit of using the baking powder (which is baking soda with an acid mixed in (cream of tartar) to activate it) is that it wouldn’t take away the tartness from the lemon juice like the baking soda does (baking soda reacts with acids, which causes the bubbles and rising, and it neutralizes the acid in the process), so it might balance the sweet topping a little better.  But unless you hate sweet sweets, you will love this cake as is.  You know we did!

Blueberry-Lemon Upside Down Cake

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1 lemon
1/4 cup melted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 (12 oz) bag frozen blueberries OR 2 cups fresh blueberries
2/3 cup milk
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Zest the lemon and set the zest aside. Squeeze the lemon and set the juice aside. In an 8 or 9 inch square cake pan, combine melted butter and brown sugar; spread evenly on bottom. Spread blueberries evenly over top. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice. If you are using frozen blueberries, put the dish in the oven for 10 minutes or until the blueberries are mostly defrosted. Remove from oven and allow to cool while preparing the cake batter. *It is OK if the dish is still warm when you add the batter.

Pour the milk into a 1-cup glass measure. Add enough of the leftover lemon juice to equal ¾ cups liquid. If you don’t have enough lemon juice, just add a bit more milk. Set this aside to curdle while you prepare the batter.

Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt in a small mixing bowl. In a separate larger mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer, beating for about five minutes, until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Add dry ingredients alternately with milk to creamed mixture, beating well after each addition, beginning and ending with the flour mixture (flour, milk, flour, milk, flour). Spread batter evenly over blueberry layer.

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool 10 minutes in pan, then turn out on to a large flat plate. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Recipe source: adapted from Cheap Ethnic Eatz



P.S. Happy 12th anniversary, sweetheart! I’m testing him to see if he’ll read this without me telling him he should.  :)  And happy birthday to my itty bitty sweetie who turns eight today!

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