Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Two of Sean's Favorites: Dutch Oven & Strawberries

This first recipe was given to me over 20 years ago by Dan Toone. He and another brother in our ward were the ultimate Dutch Oven Guru's. I've followed the recipe so many times, that I don't really have the recipe written down. This is quite unusual for me to have such a haphazard recipe, but here goes....

Dutch Oven 7-Up Chicken


6-8 boneless chicken breasts
flour, plus seasonings
1 lb. bacon
8 potatoes, cut into chunks (peeled or not, your choice)
baby carrots
celery, cut into chunks
sweet onion, cut into chunks
grated sharp cheddar
1 can of 7 Up


Cook bacon in dutch oven until crisp. Drain on paper towels.

Mix flour with salt, pepper and other seasonings. (I have used Cajun seasonings, oregano, dried parsley, thyme...whatever appeals to you. Knock yourself out!) Dredge chicken in flour mixture. Brown chicken in bacon drippings.

Layer chicken and cut up vegetables in dutch oven. Season with salt and pepper. Cover with grated sharp cheddar, and bacon. Repeat layers. Pour can of 7 up over and cover with dutch oven lid.

Bake in 350 degree oven for 1 hour. If cooking outdoors, set dutch oven (with legs) on hot coals and place 10 or so hot coals on top. You would really have to burn the heat hot and heavy to burn this dish because the 7 Up liquid gives it a little bit of protection, but you may want to check it about 45 minutes in. The 7 Up will steam the vegetables and the chicken is yummy. I serve this with additional cheese and bacon for topping. This dish can be cooked in the oven and will be wonderful, but is especially yummy cooked in the Utah mountain air.

Strawberry Shortcake Parfaits


2 c. cold milk
1 pkg (4 serving size) Jell-o Vanilla Flavor Instant Pudding & Pie Filling
8 Golden Oreo Original sandwich cookies, coarsely chopped
2 c. sliced strawberries
1/4 c. thawed Cool Whip whipped topping


Add milk to dry pudding mix in medium bowl. Beat with wire whisk 2 min. or until well blended.

Add 1 T. of the chopped cookies to each of 6 parfait glasses; cover with 1/3 c. each of the pudding and strawberries.

Top evenly with the whipped topping; spring with remaining chopped cookies. Refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving.

Source: This recipe came from Kraftfoods.com

Notes: I think this would work well with chocolate pudding and chocolate Oreos. It might be fun to mix things up. This is an incredibly easy and nice recipe for Spring...even an exceptionally wet May Sunday.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Sarah's Other Birthday Dinner

We had an earlier celebration for Sarah's birthday. We had a small group and some of our fussier eaters were out of town, so we tried something unusual.....fish and pasta! The pasta was one Sarah had been wanting to try from an old cookbook we have "The Essential Pasta Cookbook." Since it had unusual flavor, we wanted a very mild fish.

I really liked the pasta, but it wasn't a big hit with some of the others. Note: Since my grandson has a tree nut allergy, we punted and used peanuts in the pesto sauce. Finally, I only had 4 oz. of basil, and that would have changed the flavor considerably. I made the pesto ahead so there wasn't quite the same rush in the kitchen closer to dinner time. The fish was a big hit and heated up really well the next day. Best of all it was easy, easy.

Linguine in Honey Basil Cream


1 lb. (500 g.) linguine
7 1/2 oz (240 g.) fresh basil
1 sm. red chili, chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
3 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
juice of on lemon
1/2 c. (125 ml/4 fl oz) olive oil
3 tablespoons honey
1 1/2 c. (37g ml/12 fl oz) cream
1/2 c. (125 ml/4 fl oz) chicken stock
shavings of fresh Parmesan, for serving


Cook the linguine in a large pan of rapidly boiling salted water until al dente. Drain and keep warm.

While the pasta is cooking, discard the stems of basil and mix the basil leaves, chili, garlic, pine nuts, Parmesan, lemon juice, oil and honey.

Combine the basil mixture, cream and chicken stock in a large pan. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened. Season, to taste, with cracked pepper.

Add the pasta to the pan and toss well. Sprinkle with shavings of Parmesan.

Baked Tilapia


4 tilapia fillets (6 oz. each)
3 tablespoons butter, melted
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons capers, drained
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/8 teaspoon paprika


Place tilapia in an ungreased 13" x 9" baking dish.

In a small bowl, combine the butter, lemon juice, garlic powder an salt. Pour over the fillets. Sprinkle with capers, oregano and paprika.

Bake uncovered at 425 degrees for 10-15 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork. Yield 4 servings.

Source: Taste of Home recipe submitted by Hope Stewart of Raleigh, NC.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Happy Birthday to Me!

My birthday was last Thursday. I always like to make cakes, so I made myself a very simple cake. My husband offered to make me one, but you know, I kind of like to do it myself. I didn't have as much time to devote to cake-making as I have in years past due to the fact that I have a really little baby and a two year old who both take up a lot of time. However, I made one of my old, super easy, cake favorites. A simple white cake baked according to the directions on the package and topped with a mixture of Cool Whip and Yoplait yogurt. It may sound strange, but you have to trust me. It makes for one of the most refreshing, light, and easy frostings you can imagine.

As a special birthday gift to myself, I decided to make a recipe I've been meaning to try for years: a copycat version of Macaroni Grill's Chicken Scaloppine.

I'm the kind of person that always orders the same thing when I go to a restaurant. Sure, I'll try something different...until I find something crave-able. Once I've made such a find at a restaurant, I never turn back. It might be boring...but it's safe. How many times have you been faced with the following decision at a restaurant: the tried and true yummy dish you've had time and time again vs. the tasty looking and appealing, but shot-in-the-dark, new dish? And how many times have you been disappointed when you ordered the new dish only to wish that you'd gone with your old stand-by?

Plus, I so rarely get to go out to eat these days that I just can't afford to take that chance! However, maybe next time I go to Macaroni Grill, I'll try something new because now I can make their Chicken Scaloppine at home! Seriously, it tasted so close to what you can get at the restaurant.

I am including the original version of the recipe as well as the recipe I made with my own changes.

Now, I'll just need to try Olive Garden's recipe for Stuffed Chicken Marsala at home someday...maybe I'll do it for my birthday next year. Because seriously, these restaurant recipes are pretty ingredient-heavy and they aren't usually low-fat either. Just the ticket for a once-a-year kind of celebration! And did you know that Olive Garden has a recipe section on their website? It really has some great recipes on it! Check it out. I wish more restaurants did that. I mean, come on, it hasn't made Olive Garden lose any business, has it? I don't think so!

I love Chicken Scaloppine. The recipe that my sister, Laurie, shared just the other day for Chicken Piccata (because let's be honest here, Macaroni Grill's Chicken Scaloppine is basically Chicken Piccata with a bunch of other yummy things thrown in) is the traditional, basic, and much lighter version of this recipe. But sometimes you want to indulge and splurge. Besides, I knew that I wouldn't be able to get out to go to dinner!

Oh, and just a note: I'm going to include the recipe for the lemon cream sauce as I found it online. I'll explain more in the recipe notes, but the sauce didn't work out for me, so I created my own. I will share my version of the sauce recipe as well.

Buon appetito!

Simple Cool Whip Yogurt Frosting


1 regular sized tub of Cool Whip
1 container Yoplait yogurt--any flavor


Mix Cool Whip and yogurt together until well-blended. Use to frost the cake of your choice.

Source: My Mom found this recipe suggestion years ago in a magazine or something. You can find many suggestions by doing a Google search of your own. Betty Crocker also has a similar frosting/cake recipe on their website.

Notes: I used peach Yoplait yogurt and it was fantastic. Strawberry also works well. My husband bought the larger sized tub of Cool Whip and and two containers of Yoplait peach yogurt. So, I mixed the two together. I like a lot of frosting, so I used more than I would have by following the regular recipe, but I didn't use up all of the frosting because it definitely made a lot. I would compare this frosting to the whipped cream frostings you can get at bakeries. If you wanted a simple white (non-fruit) whipped cream frosting, you could mix in some vanilla yogurt instead of fruit yogurt. The yogurt gives it a nice tang and it changes the consistency of the Cool Whip so that it is similar to whipped cream frosting. Yum!

Oh, and I always put a dollop of frosting on the cake plate prior to placing the first cake layer on the plate. It helps the cake stay in place while you are frosting it.

Macaroni Grill Chicken Scaloppine (Original Copycat Recipe)


Lemon Butter Sauce:

4 ounces lemon juice
2 ounces white wine
4 ounces heavy cream
1 pound butter
Salt and pepper, to taste

Chicken and Pasta:

8 (3 ounce) chicken breasts, pounded thin
Oil and butter for sauteing chicken
3/4 cup flour, seasoned with salt and pepper, for dredging
6 ounces pancetta (I used prosciutto instead of pancetta because that's what Macaroni Grill uses)
12 ounces mushrooms, sliced
12 ounces artichoke hearts, sliced
1 tablespoon capers
1 pound cappellini pasta, cooked
Chopped parsley, for garnish, if desired


To make the sauce:

Heat the lemon juice and white wine in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and reduce by one third. Add cream and simmer until mixture thickens (3-4 minutes). Slowly add butter until completely incorporated. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and keep warm.

To make the chicken and pasta:

Heat a small amount of oil and two tablespoons butter in a large skillet. Dredge chicken in flour and saute in pan, turning once, until browned and cooked through. Remove chicken from pan and add pancetta or prosciutto, mushrooms, artichoke hearts, and capers. Heat until mushrooms soften and are cooked; add chicken back to pan.

Cook pasta according to package directions.

To serve:

Place cooked pasta on each plate. Add half of butter sauce to chicken mixture and toss. Taste and adjust, adding more sauce if needed. Place chicken mixture over pasta. Garnish with parsley. Alternately, mix pasta and chicken mixture together. Toss with butter sauce.

According to the Copycat version, it serves 10. I think it would serve 10 if you had bread and salad, but if you just serve the pasta, it serves 6-8.

Source: I found this on the cdkitchen website. Here's the recipe's exact link.

Macaroni Grill Chicken Scaloppine (My version)


Lemon Butter Sauce (my version):

1 cup whole milk or 1 can evaporated whole milk
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 stick butter
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon capers, drained

Chicken and Pasta:

8 (3 ounce) chicken breasts, pounded thin
Oil and butter for sauteing chicken
3/4 cup flour, seasoned with salt and pepper, for dredging
6 ounces pancetta (I used prosciutto instead of pancetta because that's what Macaroni Grill uses)
12 ounces mushrooms, sliced
12 ounces artichoke hearts, sliced
1 tablespoon capers
1 pound cappellini pasta, cooked
Chopped parsley, for garnish, if desired


To make the sauce:

Melt butter in a saucepan. Remove from heat. Using a wire whisk, very slowly add whole milk or evaporated milk and lemon juice. Then simmer over low heat until completely heated. Season with salt and pepper. Add capers. Remove from heat and keep warm.

To make the chicken and pasta:

Heat a small amount of oil and two tablespoons butter in a large skillet. Dredge chicken in flour and saute in pan, turning once, until browned and cooked through. Remove chicken from pan and add pancetta or prosciutto, mushrooms, artichoke hearts, and capers. Heat until mushrooms soften and are cooked; add chicken back to pan.

Cook pasta according to package directions.

To serve:

In a large serving bowl or platter, toss pasta, chicken mixture, and sauce all together. Forget the parsley because you almost always forget to add the parsley garnish anyway! Serve!

Notes: Here is why I made the changes to the recipe that I did.

There was NO way that I was going to use a whole pound of butter to be used on a pound of pasta. So, I tried to change up the sauce to make it without the pound of butter. I basically used equal parts lemon juice and cream, and a half pound of butter with a splash of white wine vinegar. I did NOT like the sauce at all. To me, it tasted nothing like what you get in the restaurant. Having the ratio of the lemon juice equal to the whip cream made it too bitter for my taste. Plus, it had kind of an unpleasant sweet flavor to it. So, then, I tried all sorts of things to "fix" the sauce. But nothing helped. Maybe it really did need a whole pound of butter for the ratios to be correct. But I couldn't justify eating that.

So, I threw the first sauce effort down the sink. I then made my version which had 1 cup of whole milk (I had used up all of my cream), 1/2 cup of lemon juice, 1 stick of butter, salt and pepper, to taste, and capers. It tasted so much like the restaurant version. I was quite pleased with it. It coated the pasta and chicken mixture nicely...and it didn't use a whole pound of butter! Though, after throwing the first sauce down the sink, I did go through almost a whole pound of butter. Oh well.

My only warning with using milk instead of cream is that you can't add the milk while the butter is super hot, otherwise the milk will curdle. If this happens, I suggest adding a little cornstarch, and then bringing the sauce to a low boil to thicken the mixture. The cornstarch thickening the sauce will help the sauce look smoother, and it will coat the pasta better. However, if you use evaporated milk, you won't have to worry about it curdling.

Also, the restaurant doesn't serve up a whole chicken breast. So, I butterflied the chicken breasts and pounded them thin. I cut them into medallion sized pieces. It helped it cook much more quickly and made it easier when it came to tossing the whole pasta/chicken/sauce mixture together. In the future, I might actually slice the chicken into strips before tossing it with the pasta.

There's no need to cook the prosciutto prior to adding it in with the other ingredients after you've finished cooking the chicken. However, I would suggest sprinkling the prosciutto into the mixture rather than throwing it in all at once. I put mine in all at once and the prosciutto kind of stuck together.

Above: I made this again recently (July 2013) and took more pictures. The other pictures had been taken with my old camera. The pictures were too dark and didn't do the pasta justice. I wanted a picture that showed just how delicious this pasta really is.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Cooking When You Have Kids, Part 2

Like my sister, I have also recently been faced with the predicament of restructuring the way I cook to adapt to my new role as a mother.  This hasn't been easy for me, particularly because I am naturally drawn to labor-intensive cooking.  I love the process of it!  I love making things from scratch.  If I had the time and energy, I would seriously church my own butter and make my own bread from wheat that I grew in my garden.  I would love that!  Alas, that is all just a pipe dream for now, as I too have to find meals that I can do prep work early in the day or meals that take 20-30 minutes to prepare.  The crock pot is a useful tool, but sometimes you just get bored of making crock pot recipes.  Also, it seems like they are better wintertime recipes, like soups and stews.  Anyway...Here are a few healthy and easy meals that I have been making recently.  Hope you try them out!

Chicken Piccata
(Pictured above)

I love the fresh lemony flavor of chicken piccata. Because the chicken breasts are butterflied, or pounded very thin, they cook very fast. This meal takes about 20-30 minutes to make from start to finish and its nice because its a little on the "fancy" side. Serve it with some pasta and a nice tossed salad and you have a beautiful meal. The other part that is great is that you probably likely have all or most of the ingredients in your pantry, so its a very economical meal to prepare also.


1 pound chicken scaloppini (I just butterflied two large chicken breasts)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour, divided
3 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon, zest reserved for optional garnish, about 2 tablespoons juice
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, plus more for garnish
1 tablespoon capers, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Baby arugula for garnish
Whole-wheat angel hair pasta or roasted potatoes, for serving


Season the chicken with salt and pepper and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon flour.

Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until very hot; cook the cutlets until opaque throughout, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Transfer the cutlets to a plate. (Reserve the skillet.) Reduce the heat under the skillet to medium.

Add the remaining teaspoon oil and garlic to the same skillet; cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Whisk together the broth, lemon juice and 1 teaspoon flour, and add to the pan. Simmer sauce until reduced and thickened, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the vinegar, parsley and capers. Swirl in the butter until sauce is shiny and slightly thickened.

Serve chicken with the sauce. Toss the arugula and freshly grated lemon zest with a light drizzle of olive oil; season to taste with salt and pepper, scatter over chicken. Serve with pasta or potatoes as desired.

Source: Copyright 2010 Television Food Network, G.P. You can find it here.


When my younger sister came to visit me I decided to whip up some crepes one day, because she has a thing for french cuisine. It had been a while since I had made them. They are so easy, so fast and so versatile! I was hooked. Since then, I have made a batch of batter each week and kept it in my fridge. Its great for a lunch or light dinner. And its also super kid friendly! Just fill it with some ham and cheese and fold it into quarters. The picture above is a sweet crepe, filled simply with cottage cheese and a little cherry jam. Quite tasty!

Some dinner options for crepes would be:
Spinach, goat cheese, mushrooms and tomato
Prosciutto, asparagus and Fontina Cheese
Good old Ham and Swiss or Ham and Cheddar
Shredded Chicken, Broccoli, Ricotta and Cheddar

you get the drift! You could basically put whatever you fancy in a crepe.

Here is a basic crepe recipe:

1 cup flour ( you can also do 1/2 cup whole wheat, 1/2 cup white)
1 1/3 cup milk
2 eggs
2 T canola oil
2 T Sugar (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a blender, blend until smooth. Heat a non-stick skillet over medium high. Pour about 1/4 cup batter and swirl around until thin and even. Cook about 1 minute then flip, cook about 30 seconds to a minute longer.

You can find similar recipes on allrecipes.com

Above: Ice cream wrapped crepe topped with caramel ice cream topping.

Above: This is such an easy yet fancy and pretty dessert.  Not to mention that it is so delicious!  There's just something about the combination of ice cream and a crepe!  You could serve this with any of your favorite toppings, such as fresh berries and powdered sugar, or strawberries and chocolate syrup.  Then, of course, you could use any flavor of ice cream that you like!  Yum!

Fish is a great quick meal. It only takes a few minutes to cook, so pretty much any preparation of it will be pretty snappy. Plus its so healthy for you and light and tasty. I love fish! This is one of my favorite Tilapia recipes from Cooking Light. I substituted the rice with Quinoa, because that is what I had in my pantry and it was oh so tasty. Have you ever tried Quinoa? I strongly recommend it! It is a super healthy whole grain that can basically be used in place of rice or couscous. And its a great source of protein. I only recently discovered it, but I am hooked.

Broiled Tilapia with Thai Coconut Curry


1 teaspoon dark sesame oil, divided
2 teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
1 cup chopped green onions
1 teaspoon curry powder
2 teaspoons red curry paste
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
4 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1 (14-ounce) can light coconut milk
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
4 (6-ounce) tilapia fillets
Cooking spray
3 cups hot cooked basmati rice
4 lime wedges


Preheat broiler

Heat 1/2 teaspoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add giner and garlic; cook 1 minute. Add pepper and onions; cook 1 minute. Stir in curry powder, curry paste, and cumin; cook 1 minute. Add soy sauce, sugar, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and coconut milk; bring to a simmer (do not boil). Remove from heat; stir in cilantro.

Brush fish with 1/2 teaspoon oil; sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Place fish on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Broil 7 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Serve fish with sauce, rice, and lime wedges.

Source: Found on Food.com. You can find it here.

Gnocchi! I love Gnocchi! Have you tried it? They are these plump little potato pasta dumplings they eat in Italy. I like them because they look like little grubs. I think kids would like them too. There are unlimited ways of preparing gnocchi. My little sister made this dish for me for mothers day and it really only took about 20 minutes. I am going to paraphrase the recipe for you.

Mother's Day Gnocchi

Basically you take 1 package gnocchi, boil it until they float ( about 4 minutes ); drain.

Then while the water is boiling, in a saucepan heat 1 T olive oil. Add 2 crushed garlic cloves, cook until fragrant. Add 1 14 oz can crushed tomatoes and simmer for about 15 min. add salt and pepper to taste. Add 4 oz mascarpone cheese and 1/4 cup Parmesan. Stir to combine. Add a bunch of fresh spinach and stir until just wilted. Remove from heat. Top with fresh basil leaves and Parmesan.

Other variations that I like to make from time to time:

Cook Gnocchi. In a saucepan heat oil, add garlic. Add 8 oz mushrooms, cook until golden. Add 1/2 pound peeled shrimp. Toss with Gnocchi, a few tablespoons of pesto and some diced tomatoes. Add some Parmesan cheese and serve

Last, very simple, is Gnocci ala Caprese:

Add your favorite tomato basil pasta sauce with packaged cooked gnocchi and toss in some of those baby buffalo mozzarella cheese balls. Toss with fresh basil leaves and some Parmesan cheese. I like this because the gnocchi and the mozzarella are roughly the same size. Tasty Tasty!

Last is a tasty veggie burger I have made a few times. Its nice and easy and you can make the patties during the day and then just put in the oven when you are ready. Super cheap and it makes 6 servings, so you'll likely have leftovers! Yum!

Black Bean Burgers with Mango Salsa Relish


2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
3/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro, divided
3/4 cup (3 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1/4 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 medium jalapeño pepper, finely chopped
2 large egg whites
Cooking spray
1 1/4 cups chopped peeled mango (about 1 medium)
3 tablespoons chopped shallots
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 avocado, peeled and chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
6 (2-ounce) whole-wheat hamburger buns, lightly toasted
6 green leaf lettuce leaves


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Place black beans in a medium bowl; mash with a fork. Stir in 1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro and the next 7 ingredients (through egg whites). Shape bean mixture into 6 (1/2-inch-thick) patties. Arrange patties on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 20 minutes, carefully turning once.

Combine remaining 1/4 cup cilantro, mango, and the next 4 ingredients (through minced garlic) in a medium bowl. Place a patty on bottom half of each hamburger bun; top each with 1 lettuce leaf, 1/3 cup salsa, and top half of bun.

Source: Cooking Light recipe by Marina Delio, Santa Barbara, California, April 2010. You can find it here.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

East Meets West....Sloppily!

Sloppy Joes are somewhat of a throwback to the 70's. Well it's time they made a comeback; especially in these economic tough times. It's a great way to make a little meat go a long way. The first recipe was served at a Ward Budget Dinner (a now obsolete tradition) and was published in a ward cookbook that I've had since I was a young bride. Thank you, Joyce Ashton, a most gentle and kind lady.

Sloppy Joes


2 lbs. ground beef
1 1/2 onions, chopped
1 pint catsup
1 pint water
2 bay leaves
1 T. worshestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. curry powder
1 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
3/4 tsp. sugar (See cook's note)
Hamburger buns


Brown hamburger with onions. Drain. Combine meat with remaining ingredients and simmer for at least 30 minutes. Serve over hamburger buns. Serves 8 to 10.

Cook's note: I don't use the sugar because we don't like that sweet touch, but a lot of people like it to balance out the acidity of the catsup.

For convenience, this may be made in the morning and left to cook on low in the crockpot all day. Good option for busy mom's or active women.

Source: Ward Cookbook.

This next one was a recipe I stumbled over a few years ago. It's a nice variation and really fun to say...Sloppy Giuseppe's, Sloppy Giuseppe's, Sloppy Giuseppe's. This recipe was from Campbell's Kitchen.

Sloppy Giuseppe's


2 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, diced (about 1/2 cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 lb. ground beef, pork, or veal mix (I use beef and pork)
3 cups Prego Flavored with Meat Italian Sauce
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
2 pkg. (10 oz. each) Pepperidge Farm Garlic Bread (see notes)
1 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese (we use Mozarella)


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. for the bread.

Heat 1 tbsp. oil in a 12" skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until the onion is tender. Remove from skillet.

Heat the remaining oil in the skillet over medium-high heat. Add the meat and cook until it's well-browned, stirring often to break up meat. Pour off any fat.

Return the onion and garlic to the skillet. Stir in the sauce and red pepper. Reduce the heat to low. Cook for 20 minutes, or until the meat mixture is cooked through.

Meanwhile, bake the bread according to the package directions.

Cut each bread loaf into thirds. Divide the meat mixture among the 6 bottom bread pieces.

Top each with 1/4 cup cheese and the remaining bread pieces.

Source: Campbell's Kitchen. You can find it here.

Notes: We thought that the Pepperidge Farm bread made the sandwiches a little too bready and difficult to eat. We made it again and used Texas Toast frozen garlic bread slices for the sandwiches and it worked perfectly. You can also buy regular Texas Toast and toast it with homemade garlic butter, if you prefer.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Cooking When You Have Young Kids

What do you cook and how do you cook it when you have little kids? Especially when you have to cook when your husband isn't available to help watch the kids?

My husband has night school in the evenings for his MBA and he is also serving in the Young Men's in our ward (which means that he has to go to youth activities once a week). On the nights my husband is gone in the evening, I have to have dinner ready early--which means I need to cook it before he even gets home from work. I'm sure my sister faces the same issue since her husband is completing his medical residency right now.

Cooking dinner without someone to watch the kids poses some challenges because I have a very active two-year-old and a 2 1/2 month old--both of whom require a lot of time and attention. That doesn't leave me with very much "free" time to prepare dinner.

So, I have to get creative. I have to do as much dinner preparation as possible while my kids are asleep. That means that some of my dinner preparations take place in the evening after everyone goes to bed or in the morning before everyone wakes up (ex. slow cooker meals), or during their afternoon naps (ex. casseroles). And as for preparing dinner in the evening, I have to keep it around 20-30 minutes. If my husband is home to watch the kids, I can take a little more time than that. But if I'm on my own, 30 minutes is the limit.

So, I thought I'd share some recipes that are very quick and easy to prepare and that allow you to still get a great meal on the table in a short amount of time. We've already got a lot of slow cooker and casserole recipes on our blog, so I thought I'd share some recipes with different types of preparation. This should help you get creative on how you can prepare different kinds of meals without taking time away from your kids.

Because even though I love cooking, it's much more important for me to spend time with my boys. I adore cooking but I love being with my boys more. These kinds of recipes allow me to provide for my family's physical needs, but still be available for them in other ways.

First, the microwave is sometimes an underutilized tool in cooking. So, I'm sharing a recipe for microwaved fish.

Second, marinating meat and then broiling it is a great way to get flavor but save time. So, I'm sharing a great recipe for steak.

Third, it's so easy to get dinner prepared during the day (afternoon nap time) and then just throw it in the oven 30-45 minutes before dinner time. So, I'm sharing a great pork recipe that follows that method of preparation.

Finally, you know me and pasta. I can't get enough of it. There are a great deal of pasta recipes that you can prepare in the time it takes to boil the water and cook the pasta. So, I'm sharing an easy pasta recipe.

I hope these dinners help to make your evenings less hectic yet still provide for nutritious and satisfying meals!

Lemon-Horseradish Sole

Serves 4


3 tbsp butter, softened
3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley (preferably Italian parsley)
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tsp prepared white horseradish
3/4 tsp Dijon mustard
4 sole fillets (6 ounces each)
Coarse salt
Lemon wedges, for serving (optional)


In a small bowl, stir together butter, parsley, lemon zest and juice, horseradish, and mustard.

Season both sides of fillets with salt; lay, flat side up, on a clean work surface. Reserve 2 tsp butter mixture; dividing evenly, spread remaining butter mixture on top of fillets. Fold fillets in half crosswise, enclosing butter mixture.

Place folded fillets in a 9 inch microwave-safe dish with a tight-fitting lid. Top with reserved butter mixture, dividing evenly. Cover; microwave on high until fish is just cooked through, about 5 minutes.

To serve, place fillets on plates, and spoon juices from dish over fillets; garnish with lemon wedges, if desired.

Nutrition information: 235 calories, 10.7 g fat, 32.3 g protein; 1 g carbohydrates; 0.3 g fiber.

Source: Martha Stewart Everyday Food recipe.

Notes: This recipe works for all types of white fish. I frequently make it with tilapia. Fresh or frozen fish works well (as long as it is a high quality brand of frozen fish).

Cooking the fish in a microwave in a covered container allows the fish to be steamed by the butter mixture. It creates a flaky, yet tender and moist fish.

Side Dish: Make this into a rounded meal by pairing it with rice (quick and easy Rice-a-Roni works well and it is very inexpensive) or instant mashed potatoes (I like the Idahoan brand because all you do is add boiling water--so quick and easy). You can also add some frozen or canned veggies and some easy rolls or biscuits. I made some Bisquick drop biscuits.

With all of those side dishes, it took less than 30 minutes to make everything for dinner.

London Broil


1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp ketchup
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp dried oregano
4 lbs London Broil or Flank Steak


In a small bowl, mix together garlic, salt, soy sauce, ketchup, vegetable oil, black pepper, and oregano.

Score both sides of the meat, diamond cut, about 1/8 inch deep. Rub garlic mixture into both sides of the meat. Wrap tightly in aluminum foil, and refrigerate for 5-6 hours, or overnight. Flip meat every few hours.

Preheat an outdoor grill for high heat, and lightly oil grate.

Place meat on the prepared grill (or broil as shown in the notes below). Cook for 3-7 minutes per side, or to desired doneness.

Source: Allrecipes.com, submitted by Jill.

Notes: I made this recipe because my husband has been doing the grocery shopping for me since I had my baby. Bless his heart because he does a great job, but he often comes back with items that are either slightly or completely different than what I asked for. Then, I have to get creative to use the unexpected ingredients. I asked him to pick up two flank steaks for a beef and broccoli stir fry recipe (already featured on this site in the blog post about broccoli). He accidentally got a London Broil cut of beef instead. I was pretty sure that it wouldn't work for the stir fry, so I found this recipe to use. I wasn't a huge fan of the London Broil cut because it was pretty chewy (even though I cooked it medium-rare). Flank steak would be much more tender. But the marinade was AWESOME. It was so flavorful. In fact, I really didn't have high hopes for this recipe, so I didn't take any pictures. But I would definitely make it again and again. It was easy and yummy.

Side Dish: I paired the steak with some red potatoes that I diced about 1/2 inch thick. I heated about 1/4 cup oil to a pan and browned the potatoes until they were crispy on the outside and tender on the inside (about 20 minutes). I then added a yellow bell pepper cut into bite-size pieces. I seasoned it with salt and pepper and garlic salt to taste. Finally, I added a splash of soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce. It turned out really yummy. I cut the potatoes and marinated the steak during my sons' nap time. When it came time to fix dinner, I popped the steak in the oven (see next paragraph) and cooked the potatoes.

One of the things I've discovered is that any recipe that calls to be grilled can be broiled on high if a grill isn't handy. So, I broiled the steak. The London broil was pretty thick, so it took about 10 minutes per side. If I had used flank steak, it would have only taken about 7 minutes per side. Just cook it less per side if you like it more pink and more per side if you prefer a more well-done steak. Mine turned out to be medium to medium-rare (the ends of the steak aren't as thick, so they got cooked more. The ends were medium and the middle was medium-rare).

The whole dinner took about 30 minutes to make.

Apricot-Glazed Pork Tenderloin

Serves 4


2 pork tenderloins (about 12 ounces each), trimmed of excess fat
1 tbsp olive oil
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 jar (10-12 ounces) apricot jam, (about 1 cup)
1/4 cup spicy brown mustard


Heat broiler; set rack 4 inches from heat. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Rub pork with oil; season with salt and pepper. broil 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, whisk together jam and mustard. Cook over medium heat until jam melts, 3-4 minutes; remove from heat. Transfer half to a small bowl for brushing. Cover pan to keep remaining sauce warm.

Remove pork from broiler; brush with reserved sauce. Continue broiling until pork is blackened in spots and registers 150 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, 5-10 minutes more.

Cover pork loosely with foil; let rest 5 minutes before slicing. Serve drizzled with warm sauce.

Source: Martha Stewart Everyday Food recipe. You can find it here.

Notes: I served this with the roasted asparagus that can be found in the post about asparagus. I prepared the asparagus and made the sauce for the pork during my sons' nap. I then broiled the pork. I have always found that (at least to my tastes), it takes longer to cook pork tenderloin than most of the recipes call for--at least when it is cooked in the oven. We have two ovens, so I roasted the asparagus in one and broiled the pork in another. I broiled the pork for 15 minutes and then sliced it. At that point, the inside of the pork was still very, very pink (almost raw). So, I placed the pork slices on the pan and broiled it for a few more minutes per side.

You could even slice the pork and marinate it in the sauce beforehand and then broil the sliced pork rather than the whole tenderloin. Pork tenderloin is such a moist and tender cut of meat that this preparation wouldn't compromise the quality of the finished product. It wouldn't be dry--it would still be moist and tender. Besides, it would cut down on the cooking time.

The asparagus cooks quickly too. So, I would say that if you sliced the pork prior to broiling it, the whole dinner would take between 15-25 minutes to prepare.

Linguine Arrabbiata

"Arrabbiata" means "angry." This is a reference to the red-pepper flakes which add a lot of kick to this pasta!

Serves 4


Coarse salt
2 tbsp olive oil
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
3/4 tsp red-pepper flakes, plus more for serving (optional)
1 can (28 ounces) whole peeled tomatoes in juice, cut into chunks
1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce
1/2 cup dry white wine or chicken broth
1 pound linguine
Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving (optional)


Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high. Add garlic and red-pepper flakes; cook until garlic is fragrant and beginning to brown, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes with juice, tomato sauce, and wine/chicken broth. Simmer over medium, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, 8-10 minutes.

Cook pasta in boiling salted water 2 minutes less than package instructions for al dente. Drain; add pasta to skillet. Cook, stirring, until pasta is tender, about 2 minutes. Season with salt. Serve, if desired, with Parmesan and red-pepper flakes.

Source: Martha Stewart Everyday Food recipe (I sure like these! Can you tell?)

Notes: I didn't use the white wine/chicken broth. I felt that there was enough liquid already. I also added a 14 oz can of diced tomatoes because I like my sauce chunky with a lot of tomatoes. Add red-pepper flakes to your taste. If you like things spicy (which I do), I would add the full 3/4 tsp that the recipe calls for. If not, reduce the amount or add the red-pepper flakes gradually and check the sauce until it is to your taste.

This is such a fast meal. It literally only takes as long as it takes to boil water and cook pasta. So, this dinner can be done in 15-20 minutes.

I served mine with some easy foccacia bread made from frozen Rhodes Dough rolls. I thawed the rolls and let them rise in a plastic ziploc bag throughout the day. By dinner time, I simply stretched out the dough, seasoned it and cooked it while I made the pasta. The bread and pasta were done at the same time.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

You aren't a real mom until you've mastered the art of cookie making!

There is a funny episode of Friends where Monica is trying to make the perfect chocolate chip cookie so that one day she can be the mom who makes the worlds greatest cookie. Well, being a mom is a serious job and making an excellent chocolate chip cookie is definitely part of the gig. Lucky for me, my mom DID make the worlds greatest cookies! Chocolate Chip and Snickerdoodle! So I don't have to painstakingly find the perfect recipe like Monica. I inherited them!

First up: Snickerdoodle, pictured above. These are hands down the best snickerdoodles out there! For some reason or other, it seemed that my mom was the only one who could make them just right. My sister and I tried on occasion and the cookies would turn too flat or crispy. For this reason we believed my mother was leaving out an ingredient on the recipe intentionally so that she alone would be the master cookie maker. Well I tried my hand at them again and I mastered it. I'm not really sure what the trick was. They just turned out! I brought them to an activity for church for the 8-12 year old girls. On my way out from the activity I noticed one of the girls had taken a bite of the cookie an then thrown the rest away! This to me was beyond disturbing. I honestly was shocked. And betrayed. And if I wasn't the good person that I was I would have retrieved the cookie and made the little girl eat it. I don't know what is wrong with that kid. Anyway... I assure you that is not the typical reaction when taking one bite out of these cookies.

Giant Snickerdoodles


1 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 ½ cup plus 2 Tbsp. sugar
2 eggs
2 ¾ cup flour
2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
2 tsp. cinnamon


In large mixing bowl with mixer at medium speed, cream butter, 1 ½ cups sugar and eggs until light and fluffy, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. In a separate bowl, combine flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt. Add to creamed mixture until well blended. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and cinnamon in a flat open bowl. Shape dough into 2 inch balls and roll in cinnamon-sugar. Place 3 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 12-15 minutes until golden brown. Snickerdoodles will puff up at first, then flatten out to giant size during baking. Remove from cookie sheet and cool on wire rack.

Makes 2 dozen.

Next up: The Beloved Chocolate Chip Cookie. The bottom line is that the Chocolate Chip Cookie is like the Holy Grail of all cookies. It is everything a cookie ought to be. Crispy, chewy, doughy and of course sprinkled with rich creamy chocolate morsels. Yum! I don't care what anyone else says, Chocolate Chip Cookies really are THE cookie to master. Especially for moms. What kid could refuse? I made these as a young lass in my 4-H years and I won a blue ribbon at the fair. So here you have it, AWARD winning Chocolate Chip Cookies!

Chocolate Chip Cookies


1 lb. butter or margarine
1 ½ cup white sugar
2 cups brown sugar
3 eggs
6 cups flour
1 ½ tsp. salt
1 ½ tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. vanilla
2 bags (4 cups) chocolate chips
Walnuts, if desired


Cream together butter, white sugar and brown sugar.

Then add eggs, flour, salt, baking soda and vanilla. Once incorporated, add chocolate chips and walnuts.  

Mix well. Put on ungreased cookie sheet with ice cream scoop. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes.

Monday, May 9, 2011

A New Kind Of Chicken

We've been on an easy kick lately. The girls have babies and I've had a crazy, stressful life. I usually like making Sunday dinners that are a real project, but I just haven't had the time. In my search for quick and easy, I came across this recipe. I think you'll like it. I know my family did.
BTW: the title of this blog is reference to what my kids heard 90% of the time when they were growing up and asked the question, "Mom, what's for dinner tonight?" I was always making new stuff and it just too long to describe what they were getting. Don't you feel sorry for them?
This recipe came from Betty Crocker... you know you just can't go wrong with Betty.

Easy Barbecue Crispy Chicken Melts


3 Tablespoons butter or margarine
1/2 c. Original Bisquick mix
1/4 t. pepper
1/4 c. milk
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 1 1/4 lb)
1/4 c. barbecue sauce
1/2 c. shredded cheddar cheese


Heat oven to 425 degrees. In 13 x 9 inch pan, place butter. Heat in oven 2-3 minutes or until melted.

In shallow dish, stir Bisquick mix and pepper. Pour milk into small bowl. Coat chicken with Bisquick mixture, then dip into milk and coat again with Bisquick mixture. Place chicken in pan.

Bake uncovered about 30 minutes or until juice of chicken is clear when center of thickest part is cut (170 degrees F).

In small microwaveable bowl, microwave barbecue sauce uncovered on High about 30 seconds or until warm. Spoon sauce evenly over chicken; top with cheese. (We put it in the oven to melt for just a couple of minutes).

The picture doesn't do it justice, but here it is. It was a hit with one and all.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Cinco de Mayo

I don't know which restaurant started it all, but we all know them and we all crave them. Whether it comes in the form of Costa Vida, Cafe Rio, Bajio, Chipotle, Rubios, Baja Fresh, Barbacoa, etc.

Basically, what you need is some great shredded Mexican-style meat, yummy rice, beans, tortillas, cheese, and other fixins' and you have the makings of Mexican taco salads, burritos, tacos, enchiladas, etc.

You know what I hate? I hate when you have a favorite dish--something you absolutely crave--at a restaurant and then the restaurant either goes out of business or they stop making your favorite dish. They should have blowout sales when restaurants go out of business and they should sell their recipes for $5 apiece. I know I would totally buy the recipes that I loved. Wouldn't you? Besides, it would be a nice way for them to recoup some of their losses before they closed their doors forever. When I first tasted the salads at Cafe Rio, I was panicked that this would happen to me again and that I would lose their salads forever. I knew that I would crave those salads for the rest of my life!

Luckily, thanks to my sister-in-law, she introduced me to the wonders of slow cooker Mexican sweet pork! She also shared with me the fact that you can find many copy cat recipes for these Cafe Rio/Costa Vida-style salads online. And do you know what? It tastes pretty darn close to what you can get in the restaurant.

Now, I will continue to go to the restaurants as long as they are in operation (because it is a lot faster and cheaper to have them make it for you than to make it for yourself). But if you are having a large gathering or want a lot of leftovers (or in the sad possibility of these restaurants going out of business someday...though I hope not!), then you can make it yourself at home!

Oh, and the meat, beans, and rice make super yummy leftovers (especially nice for easy quesadillas, burritos, enchiladas, or tostadas--have you ever noticed how most Mexican food has the same ingredients, just packaged differently?).

Finally, I would love it if my sister would share her Mango Tres Leches cake recipe that she made a few years ago for a Cinco de Mayo celebration we had.

Also, I'm sharing a to die for Tres Leches Cake recipe that my Mom found. It is so so good.

Enjoy and don't eat too much!

Cafe Rio Dinner Party Pointers:
If you don't have two slow cookers (to make chicken, beef, and pork at the same time), make one or more kinds of meat a day or two before and reheat it in a regular pot on the stove top the day of your party.
If you double the pork, don't forget to double the sauce.
There are raw/uncooked tortillas (in packs of 12) in the refrigerated section of the grocery store near the shredded cheese. They are a little more expensive than regular tortillas, but they are soooo yummy. Simply brown them in a frying pan to cook them. Seriously, to make these salads just like the restaurant versions, you either need homemade flour tortillas or the store-bought raw/uncooked tortillas. It is what really makes the salad great.
If you don’t have time, don't go to all the bother of making the cilantro rice recipe. Just get a package of Spanish or Mexican rice at the store (4 packages for a large crowd--at about $1 each). I used Rice-a-Roni and it tasted great.
Again, if you don’t have time, don't go to all the bother of making the black beans recipe either. Just get canned black beans and heat them up (don't get the Kroger brand though, because they stick to the bottom of the can and they pack them in so tight that they don't come out pretty. It's worth it to pay a little more for a better brand of black beans).

Salad Ingredients:

Tortillas or taco shells
Shredded cheddar or Mexican blend cheese
Black or Pinto beans
Lime, Sweet, Spanish, or Mexican rice
Shredded pork, beef, or chicken
Romaine lettuce, chopped or shredded
Grated Parmesan cheese
Tortilla strips (these can be found in the produce or bakery section near other salad toppings)
Cilantro springs
Pico de Gallo or salsa
Limes, cut into wedges
Creamy Tomatillo Dressing

Cafe Rio/Costa Vida/Bajio's Recipes
Cafe Rio/Costa Vida Sweet Pork


1 pork roast (3-5 lbs.)
20 oz. Coke (not diet)
1 cup brown sugar
1 bottle taco sauce
1 tbsp ground cumin
2 tbsp bottled or fresh minced garlic
Salt and pepper, to taste


Place the pork roast in your slow cooker with about 1/2 cup of water. Add the garlic, salt, and pepper. Cook on low for 5 hours.

After the pork has cooked for 5 hours, boil the coke, brown sugar, taco sauce, and cumin over the stove top. Shred the pork and add the sauce to the slow cooker. Let the pork marinate on low between 5-8 hours.

Source: I got this from my sister-in-law, Kristin. I'm not sure where she got it from. But she's the one who started it all! At least for me!

Notes: In order to simplify things, I skip a step. I mix the coke, brown sugar, taco sauce, sallt and pepper, garlic, and cumin. I place the pork roast in the slow cooker and pour the coke mixture over all. I cook the pork on low until it is tender enough to shred. Then I shred it and continue to let it marinate in the coke mixture until it is ready to be served.

Just Like Cafe Rio Cilantro Ranch Dressing/Creamy Tomatillo Dressing


1 packet traditional Hidden Valley Ranch mix (not buttermilk)
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup buttermilk
2 tomatillos, husks removed, cut into quarters
1/2 bunch fresh cilantro
1 clove garlic, roughly cohpped
Juice of 1 lime (1-2 tbsp bottled, if fresh is not available)
1 jalapeno (remove seeds for less heat, keep seeds if you like things spicy)


Place all ingredients together in a blender. Mix until well blended. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Source: I found this online a few years ago on a blog very much like my own. I don't remember the particular site, however.

Notes: This dressing is so spot on. It tastes almost exactly like what you get in the restaurant. Be careful though. This makes a lot, and as you can see, it's not low fat!

Southwest Salad Dressing


6 tbsp reduced calorie mayo
3 tbsp cilantro, chopped
3 tbsp water
1 medium scallion (green onion), minced
1 1/2 tbsp fresh lime juice
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp chili powder


Whisk all ingredients together until smooth. Serve over your favorite Mexican salad.

Source: I got this from a friend years ago. I'm not sure where she got it from though.

Notes: This is a simple and easy dressing to put together (especially if you don't have all of the ingredients for the creamy tomatillo dressing on hand). This is great served with the Bajio chicken recipe below. You can also serve it over a salad topped with Mexican salad ingredients such as black beans, corn, grape tomatoes, romaine lettuce, red pepper, and additional cilantro.

Kinda Like Cafe Rio Chicken


1 (8 oz.) bottle of Kraft Zesty Italian Dressing
1 tbsp Chili Powder
1 tbsp Cumin
3 cloves garlic, minced
5 lbs chicken breasts


Place the chicken breasts in a slow cooker. Pour the dressing over the top of the chicken. Add the chili powder, cumin, and garlic. Cook on low for 6-7 hours (high for 4-5 hours), shred meat and then cook an additional hour. Serve with tortillas, shredded cheese, and whatever garnishes you like.

Source: I found this on a blog--but I can't remember which blog!

Cafe Rio Beef


1 (3 lb) beef roast
1 can green chile sauce
1 can beef broth
1 small can tomato sauce
1 tbsp cumin
1/2 onion, sliced
3 cloves of garlic, minced


Place chuck roast in a slow cooker. Pour green chile sauce, beef broth, and tomato sauce over the top. Add cumin and garlic. Cut an onion in half and place full onion rings over the top of the roast to add flavor. The onions will be removed and discarded when the roast is cooked. Cook on low for 8-9 hours or until the meat shreds easily.

Source: Darn it, this was again found on a blog that I now don't remember the name to.

Lime Rice


2 tbsp butter
1 yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
6 2/3 cup water
8 tsp chicken bouillon (or 3-5 cubes chicken bouillon)
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
2 tsp cumin
2 small cans diced green chiles (4 oz)
1 tbsp lime juice
1 tsp lime zest
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp pepper
3 cups rice


Saute butter, onion, and garlic in a saucepan. In a large pot, bring the water, bouillon, cilantro, cumin, green chiles, lime juice, lime zest, sugar, pepper, and rice to a boil. Once it comes to a boil, stir in the onion and garlic mixture. Reduce heat and simmer on low for 15-20 minutes (or until the liquid has been absorbed by the rice and it is tender).

Source: Again, I found this on a blog but I can no longer remember which one.

Cafe Rio Sweet Rice

1/2 - 1 tbsp oil
1 1/3 cup white rice
1/2 white onion, chopped
3 cup chicken broth
1/2 bunch fresh cilantro
1/4 - 1/2 cup white sugar
Drizzle oil in bottom of fry pan. Saute chopped onion until translucent. Add the chopped cilantro (no big stems) and saute a minute more. Add the rice cooking until it is light brown (being careful not to burn). Combine the chicken broth and the sugar, letting sugar dissolve. Then stir into rice until combined. Bring to a boil. Cover and let cook on low, until rice is done, about 25-30 minutes. Fluff with fork before serving.

Source: This was given to my Mom by her friend, Karrie. She probably found it on a blog online somewhere!

Black Beans


1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 1/3 cup tomato juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp fresh chopped cilantro


In a nonstick skillet, cook garlic and cumin in olive oil over medium heat until it is fragrant. Add beans, tomato juice, and salt. Continually stir until heated through. Just before serving, stir in the cilantro.

Source: Another unknown blog!



3 avocados--peeled, pitted, and mashed
1 lime, juiced
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup diced onion
3 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
2 Roma (plum) tomatoes, diced
1 tsp minced garlic
1 pinch ground cayenne pepper (optional)


In a medium bowl, mash together the avocados, lime juice, and salt. Mix in onion, cilantro, tomatoes, and garlic. Stir in cayenne pepper. Refrigerate 1 hour for best flavor, or serve immediately.

Source: Allrecipes.com, submitted by Bob Cody.

Sarah's Shortcut Guacamole


4-6 avocados
Garlic salt, to taste
Onion powder, to taste
Ground cayenne pepper, to taste
Ground cumin, to taste
Lime juice, to taste
Bree's Blender Salsa, Pico de Gallo, or favorite store-bought salsa or Pico de Gallo


Mash avocados with a fork. Stir in garlic salt, onion powder, ground cayenne pepper, ground cumin, and lime juice until well blended. Fold in salsa or Pico de Gallo.

Source: Me.

Notes: Sometimes you just don't feel like following a recipe. These are the basic flavors required to make a yummy guacamole. Just add as much or as little to suit your tastes. I like adding in a prepared salsa rather than just cut up tomatoes because it skips a step--you get all of the flavors and ingredients of the salsa (onions, cilantro, jalapeno, etc.) without having to add those ingredients separately to your guacamole.

Pico de Gallo


4 fresh tomatoes, diced
1 white onion, chopped
1/4 bunch cilantro, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp lime juice
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper


Combine all ingredients and mix together. Refrigerate.

Source: Good golly, I have no idea!

Bree's Blender Salsa


1 bunch of cilantro
2 jalapenos
1/2 of a large white onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch of green onions
1/2 tbsp salt
1 can whole peeled tomatoes (28 oz)
2 cans crushed tomatoes (14 oz each)


In blender:

Add 1/4 of the white onion, jalapenos (keep seeds from at least half of one or to taste), a few leaves of cilantro, salt, garlic, and liquid from the can of whole peeled tomatoes. Blend to reduce big pieces.

Add whole peeled tomatoes and lightly blend or pulse for about 4 seconds (be careful not to over-blend--if you like chunkier salsa, reduce the blending time).

In chopper:

Chop bunch of cilantro and 1/4 of the onion.

In mixing bowl:

Pour blender contents into bowl. Add chopped cilantro and onion. Stir in crushed tomatoes. Add cut green onion and stir thoroughly.

Best if left in fridge overnight.

Source: I got this from a gal in my ward (named Bree, if you didn't guess). She gave it out as Christmas gifts. It was sooo yummy and such a nice change from all of the sweets everyone was eating too much of at the time!

Notes: I usually just put everything in the blender and blend as little or as much as needed to get the texture I want. Sometimes I add a can of diced tomatoes to the blended mixture to make it a little chunkier.

Brenda's Blender Salsa


1 can (28 oz) whole, peeled tomatoes
1 small onion, quartered
Garlic salt, to taste
Onion salt or onion powder, to taste
Crushed red chili peppers, to taste
1/2-1 bunch cilantro (to your taste)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Fresh tomatoes (preferably home-grown, if available), diced


Put all ingredients (except fresh tomatoes) in blender. Blend to desired texture. Pour into a bowl and stir in fresh diced tomatoes.

Source: I got this from a former co-worker (named...Brenda! You guessed it!).

Pineapple Salsa


1 medium ripe pineapple, peeled, cored, and chopped
1/2 large red bell pepper, finely chopped
2-3 small Serrano peppers, seeded and minced
4 green onions, minced
2 tbsp unseasoned rice vinegar
1 tsp sugar
1/8 tsp salt
3 tbsp cilantro, chopped


Toss all ingredients in a large bowl. Mix well.

Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours prior to serving.

Serving suggestions: serve on chicken or pork as a main entrée, or as an appetizer with chips.

Makes about 4 1/2 cups.

Source: I got this at the Taylorsville, Utah Harmon's grocery store. A few years ago, they had an employee (I'm not sure if they still do this) who was hired to create recipes using their seasonal produce. He would provide samples in addition to a recipe to boost sales of certain produce items. Seriously, wouldn't that be such a fun job? To get paid to create recipes using whatever fresh fruits and/or veggies were in season? He didn't put his name on the recipe card though, so I can't give credit where credit is due.

Pico de Gallo (from Thanksgiving Point Farmer's Market)


¾ lb firm tomatoes, chopped fine
(be creative with the type of tomato you use. You can use yellow, orange or red tomatoes. Check the farmer’s markets in the summer. You can use aurora, banana legs, Cherokee purple, yellow gooseberry, Hawaiian pineapple, Missouri pink love apple, Mr. Stripey, red pear, Snow White, yellow pear, etc. The possibilities are endless!)
1/4 to an 1/8 of an onion, about a wedge (don't use too much), chopped fine
3-4 sprigs of cilantro, large stems removed, minced
One small wedge of lime, peeled. Use pulp. No need to squeeze.
1-4 cloves garlic, fresh, whole, peeled, and minced
Chili (your choice: jalapeno, Serrano, etc.). Start with about 1/2 inch, minced, and add to taste.
Bell pepper, one slice, any color, chopped fine
1/2 tsp salt (or to your taste)


Chop garlic and chili until finely minced. Do this first before adding the other ingredients. Add tomatoes, onion, cilantro, bell pepper, salt, and lime. Mix well.
Makes 16 oz fresh salsa
Source: Thanksgiving Point Farmer's Market.
Notes: I seriously suggest hunting down some of the varieties of tomatoes listed above. It was amazing how a different type of tomato gave such a unique and wonderful flavor to the Pico de Gallo. It was really fun to try all of the different kinds and to branch out from only using the tried and true red tomato.

Bajio's Inspired Salads and Toppings:

Bajio's Chicken Chile Salad (Easy Version)


5 chicken breasts
1/2 cup salsa
1 tbsp cumin
1/2 cup brown sugar (more, to taste, if desired)
1 (4 oz) can diced green chiles
6 oz Sprite (1/2 can)


Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker. Cook on low for 5-6 hours. Remove chicken and shred. Return to slow cooker and cook for an additional hour. Thicken the juices with a little cornstarch mixed in water.
Serve with flour tortillas, lettuce, cheese, black beans, and any other desired taco fixings.
If you want it spicier, rather than sweeter, add more diced green chilies.

Source: Found on the blog "Your Homebased Mom." Found here.

Bajio's Chicken Green Chile Salad (Much More In-Depth Version)


2 grilled chicken breasts
1 cup lime juice
1 cup oil
1 cup Green Chile Chutney (recipe follows)
1 cup Caramelized Onions (recipe follows (need 1 white onion and 2 tbsp oil)
2 cups fresh Pico de Gallo
1 cup shredded cheese
8 cups torn, shredded, or chopped lettuce (Romaine or red and green leaf blend)
Cilantro Lime Dressing (recipe found above)


For the chicken:

Marinate chicken breasts in 1 cup of lime juice and 1 cup oil. Let stand for at least two hours in the refrigerator.

On a hot grill, grill the chicken with a splash of balsamic vinegar until done and set aside to rest. Once the chicken has had time to cool, shred it into small pieces.

For the onion:

Slice 1 whole white onion into slices. In a medium saute pan, add 2 tbsp oil and saute the onion until it is translucent.

Once the onions are done, add the shredded chicken and a cup of Green Chile Chutney. Saute all together until well heated.


On individual plates, pile with mixed greens, add a cup of Pico de Gallo. Add the warm chicken mixture and top with cheese and dressing. Serve.

Source: Found on a blog called "Our Recipe Garden." You can find the recipe here.

Bajio's Green Chile Chutney


3 large Annaheim peppers, halved, seeds removed
1-2 jalapeno peppers, halved, seeds removed
4 oz. can diced green chiles
5-7 tomatillos, husks removed
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup sugar
Chili powder, to taste
Ground cumin, to taste
Salt, to taste
1 large sweet onion, halved


Place peppers, tomatillos, and onion on baking sheet/rack. Roast in 350 degree oven for about 25 minutes, or until nicely browned.

Place tomatillos and about 1/4 cup onion in blender and process until mostly smooth.

Dice peppers.

Add all ingredients except the remaining onion into a large pot. Cook over medium-low heat for about 20 minutes or until thickened and reduced. Add more sugar/peppers to adjust the spiciness/sweetness to taste.

For caramelized onions:

Slice the remaining onion and saute with a little bit of the green chile chutney over medium-low heat until caramelized.

Source: From "Our Recipe Garden." You can find the recipe here.

Mexican Corn Salad


1 (16 oz) package frozen shoepeg white corn, thawed
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 tbsp minced seeded jalapeno pepper (about 1 large)
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced, or 2 tsp bottled minced garlic


Combine all ingredients in a bowl; toss well. Cover and chill 8-2 hours. Stir well before serving.

Yield: 6 servings (serving size: 1/2 cup--112 calories)

Source: Cooking Light Salad cookbook.

Notes: I included this recipe (although it can already be found on our blog in the "Strictly on the Corny Side" post) because Bajio's includes corn and sweet onions on their salads. Yum!

Sweet Onions


1 large sweet onion (such as Vidalia)
2-4 tbsp white granulated sugar
1 tbsp butter


Saute onion in butter and sugar until nicely browned and starting to caramelize.

Source: Me.

Notes: I searched online for a copycat recipe of Bajio's sweet onions. I couldn't find anything. So, this is my best guess.

Bajio Sweet Rice


1 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 white onion, chopped
1/2 bunch fresh cilantro
1 1/3 cups white rice
3 cups chicken broth
1/4-1/2 cup granulated sugar


Heat oil in pan. Add chopped onion and cook until translucent (about 3-5 minutes).

Combine the chicken broth and sugar. Stir until sugar is dissolved.

Add rice to onion in pan. Saute for about 1 minute. Add chicken broth mixture. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil.

Cover and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for 20-25 minutes, or until rice is done. Fluff with a fork before serving.

Source: I don't remember where I got this from.

Cinco de Mayo Sweets


Notes: Horchata is a traditional Latin beverage made from rice softened in water, with cinnamon and sugar. To finely grind the soaked rice, use a blender with sharp blades; it may take several minutes to blend each batch until smooth. You can prepare the drink through step 2 up to 1 day ahead; cover and chill.


2 cups long-grain white rice
1 cup sugar
4 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon


In a bowl, combine rice and 10 cups water; cover and chill until grains break easily when squeezed, about 24 hours, or up to 2 days.

In a blender, whirl about 2 cups of the rice mixture with sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon until sugar is dissolved and mixture is smooth; pour into a large bowl or pitcher (at least 3 1/2 qt.). Whirl remaining rice mixture without seasonings, in batches if necessary; add to bowl and stir until well blended with flavored batch. Taste, and add more sugar if desired.

Just before serving, stir mixture (ground rice will have settled to bottom). Fill glasses with ice cubes, then horchata.

Yield: Makes 3 quarts; 10-12 servings.

Nutrition information: 182 calories, 0.2 g fat, 42 g carbohydrates, 1.9 mg dosium, 2.2 g protein, 0.3 g fiber

Source: MyRecipes.com

Tres Leches Cake


8 large eggs
1 1/2 c. sugar
2 c. all purpose flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 can 14 oz. sweetened condensed milk
1 can 12 oz. evaporated milk
1 cup milk
1/4 c. Kahlua or strong coffee (Or, you can substitute coffee creamer. See cook's note)
1 teaspoon vanilla
Lightly sweetened softy whipped cream
sliced strawberries


In a large bowl, with a mixer on high speed (use whip attachment if available), beat eggs and sugar until thick and pale yellow, 5 to 6 minutes. In a small bowl, mix flour and baking powder. With mixer on medium speed, gradually add flour mixture in small increments and beat until smooth. Scrape batter into a buttered 9 x 13 inch baking pan.

Bake in a 325 degree oven until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 30 to 40 minutes.

Meanwhile in a blender, whirl condensed milk, evaporated milk, regular milk, Kahlua, and vanilla until well blended. Pour evenly over hot cake; let cool about 15 minutes, then cover and chill until cake has absorbed all the milk mixture, at least 3 hours, or up to 1 day.

Cut cake into squares or rectangles, lift out with wide spatula, and set on plates. Top each piece of cake with a spoonful of whipped cream and garnish with strawberries.

Cooks note: Since we don't drink coffee, I replaced the Kahlua with coffee creamer. I think I used a hazelnut, vanilla or almond flavor. It was so long ago that I don't remember. But any flavor will do.

Mango Dos Leches Cake


6 eggs, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 cups whole milk, scalded
12 ounces mango puree
1 tsp almond extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 mango, diced
Dark rum (or a mixture of water and rum extract, prepared to your taste)
Brown sugar


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Whip the eggs, sugar, and salt until tripled in volume. Fold in the flour. Pour the mixture into a parchment lines 9 by 11 inch baking pan and bake for 25-30 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Remove the parchment paper and return the cake to the pan. With a fork, poke holes all over the top of the cake. Combine the condensed milk with the scalded milk, mango puree, almond and vanilla extracts, and pour over the cake. Allow the cake to soak in the liquid for 2 hours. Serve with diced mango marinated in dark rum and brown sugar.

Slow-Cooker Mexican Pork Burrito Bowls


1 large sweet onion, sliced
2 tablespoons taco seasoning mix (I used one whole package)
1 boneless pork shoulder (about 3 lbs.)
1 can (10 oz) red enchilada sauce
1 can (4.5 oz) chopped green chiles
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar, optional (if you want it like the Cafe Rio sweet pork, otherwise, omit)
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 cups hot cooked white or brown rice
2 cups shredded lettuce
Salsa, shredded Mexican cheese blend, and chopped fresh cilantro, if desired


Spray 5-quart slow cooker with cooking spray. Place onion in cooker.

Sprinkle taco seasoning mix over pork shoulder, pressing to coat. Place pork in cooker. Top with enchilada sauce.

Cover; cook on High heat setting 5 to 6 hours or until tender. Remove pork from slow cooker; shred meat with fork, discarding fat. Place shredded pork in large bowl. Strain sauce. Add chiles, salt, and 1 cup of the strained sauce. Stir well.

Spoon about 3/4 cup rice into each of 8 individual serving bowls. Top each with about 1/2 cup pork mixture and 1/4 cup lettuce. Garnish with salsa, cheese, and/or cilantro.

Source: Pillsbury website. You can find it here.

Notes: I added the brown sugar because I wanted it to be more like the Cafe Rio sweet pork. I loved that this used taco seasoning, and red enchilada sauce (which I usually have on hand) in place of the coke and taco sauce (which I usually don't have on hand). I thought it was very close. I think the recipe at the top is closer to what you get at Cafe Rio/Costa Vida, but this one is pretty darn close to that! I just like having different options based on what I have in my pantry.

I did not strain the sauce...I kept the shredded pork in all of the sauce. Also, I just added the green chiles and salt at the beginning rather than after the pork had cooked.