Sunday, November 18, 2012

Haystacks--Two Ways

I'm going to share a recipe for Hawaiian Haystacks and one for Mexican Haystacks. These are both a very easy way to feed a lot of people without a ton of work. Plus, they really do hit the spot!

Hawaiian Haystacks

10-12 chicken tenders (or 4-6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts)
1 cup chicken broth
2 cans (10 3/4 oz each) cream of chicken soup, condensed
1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk
6 cups cooked white rice

Suggested Toppings:

Shredded Cheddar cheese
Pineapple tidbits, drained
Shredded coconut
Chinese noodles/crispy chow mein noodles
Sliced olives
Diced tomatoes
Diced green pepper
Sliced green onions


Place chicken in a 3 1/2-5 quart slow cooker. Combine all remaining ingredients except rice and toppings and pour over chicken. Cover and cook on high heat for 3-4 hours, or on low heat for 6-8 hours.

serve over hot rice with a variety of toppings.

Makes 4 servings.

Source: I got this from a cookbook called 101 Things to do with a Slow Cooker, by Stephanie Ashcraft. You can find it here. There's a sequel to that cookbook called 101 More Things to do with a Slow Cooker. You can find that one here.

Above: Don't forget the salt and pepper!

Mexican Haystacks


8 oz. cream cheese
2 cups milk
1 cup water
1 cup sour cream
2 tsp cumin
1 medium sweet onion, diced
1 tbsp. chicken bouillon
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp garlic salt
1 pkg. Hidden Valley Ranch Dip (dry seasoning mix)
3-4 frozen chicken breasts
2 (4.5 oz) cans diced green chiles
1 bag frozen corn
2 cans black beans
2 cans Rotel (diced tomatoes with chile peppers)
Hot cooked white rice, for serving

Suggested Toppings:

Fresh cilantro, chopped
Shredded cheese
Shredded lettuce
Diced tomato
Sliced green onions
Tortilla chips or Tortilla strips (can be served on the side, crushed on top, or with the rice on the bottom)
Sour cream
Sliced black olives


Combine all ingredients except chicken, beans, corn, and Rotel. Heat until smooth, and blend until creamy. You can do this in batches in a blender, or by using an immersion blender. Place chicken, beans, corn, and Rotel in a slow cooker. Top with cream cheese mixture and cook on low for 6-8 hours.

Once the chicken is done, shred it, and stir until mixture is combined.

Serve over hot cooked white rice and top with favorite toppings.

Source: I found this on Pinterest, from a website called Jen's Yummy Fun. You can find the original recipe here.

Friday, November 16, 2012

My Ultimate Comfort Food


My ultimate comfort food is pasta, by the way. There is just nothing quite like a good bowl of spaghetti, some homemade lasagna, a baked pasta...yum. I can never get enough. I also never get over the joy of finding and trying new pasta recipes. I have my old favorites, to be sure. I guess it's the thrill of the hunt.

So, let me share some fantastic pasta recipes that I have recently discovered.

The first is a baked pasta recipe that I made for my sister-in-law just recently when she had her baby. She had posted it on her Pinterest page months before, and I squirreled it away thinking that it would be the perfect dinner to make for her after her baby came. I made a few small changes, but this recipe was to die for. I will share the original recipe and the recipe with my changes.

The second is another baked pasta recipe, but it is a recipe for baked and stuffed shells. I was drawn to this recipe because it had pepperoni in it (I hoped that might be a selling point for my two little boys). I was also intrigued because this recipe called for shredded zucchini to be mixed into the ricotta filling. My mom's garden yielded a ton of humongous zucchini this summer. I had shredded a few of them and frozen the zucchini to use later in some baked goods that I wanted to try (but haven't had the time yet...maybe for some Christmas gifts...). I was excited to use some of my zucchini for this purpose. Oh, and if you want to skip the pepperoni, you could easily, and it would still taste great. Then, both of these dinners would be vegetarian. Meat free dinners, especially the Pasta al Forno, are pretty easy on the budget.

So, without further adieu, let me share my baked pasta discoveries!

Tomato and Mozzarella Pasta al Forno (original recipe)


2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 (14 oz) cans diced Italian plum tomatoes
1 tsp dried oregano
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 pound penne pasta
8 oz. mozzarella cheese, cubed
2/3 cup Parmesan


Heat oil in skillet. Add garlic and cook over medium high heat, 1 minute. Add tomatoes and oregano and simmer rapidly, stirring occasionally until thickened, 15 min. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Meanwhile, cook pasta. Toss pasta with sauce. Place half of pasta in an oiled 9x13" dish. Cover with half Parmesan and half mozzarella. Top with remaining pasta, then Parmesan and mozzarella. Bake at 400 degrees F. for 15 minutes.

Source: I found this on Pinterest. It came from a blog/website called "Annie's Eats. You can find the original post here. Apparently, she got it from a book called Pasta by Dorling Kindersley that was published in 1995.

Tomato and Mozzarella Pasta al Forno (with my changes)


2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 cup diced onion (1 medium onion, or half of  large onion)
2 teaspoons bottled minced garlic or 2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
Salt and pepper, to taste
3 (14 oz) cans diced tomatoes
1 lb. penne pasta
2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
2/3 cup Parmesan, shredded


Heat oil in skillet. Add onion and cook for about 5 minutes. Add garlic, oregano, and salt and pepper, to taste. Cook just until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes and simmer rapidly, stirring occasionally until thickened, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook pasta and drain. Toss pasta with sauce.

Place half of pasta in an 9x13" dish. Top with 1 cup mozzarella cheese and 1/3 cup Parmesan. Top with remaining pasta, Parmesan, and mozzarella.

Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes, or until bubbly and cheese is melted.

Notes: Here's a simple explanation in regards to the changes I made. I added an onion to boost the flavor because I worried that garlic alone wouldn't add enough flavor. I added minced garlic instead of fresh simply because it was faster and I didn't have the time the day I made this to peel and crush fresh garlic. I increased the amount of oregano used since I added an additional can of tomatoes (I just like tomatoes and wanted more). I used shredded mozzarella because that is what I had. This was so good, and from everything I heard, it hit the spot for my sister-in-law too.

Pepperoni Pasta Bake


2 1/2 cups part-skim ricotta (20 ounces)
1 1/4 cups grated zucchini (from 1 medium zucchini)
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil leaves, plus more for serving
1 large egg, beaten
coarse salt and pepper
3 cups marinara, divided
28 jumbo pasta shells (7 ounces total), cooked according to package instructions
26 small pepperoni slices (2 ounces total)
3/4 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella (3 ounces)


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a medium bowl, combine ricotta, zucchini, basil, and egg; season with 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Spread 1 cup marinara in a 9-by-13-inc broilerproof baking dish.

Fill each shell with 1 heaping tablespoon ricotta mixture and arrange in an even layer in dish. Top with remaining 2 cups marinara, then pepperoni, and mozzarella.

Cover with foil and bake until sauce is bubbling, about 30 minutes. Heat broiler, remove foil, and broil until cheese is browned in spots, about 3 minutes. Top with additional basil and serve.

Nutrition information: Serves 4, 694 calories, 28 g fat, 39 g protein, 72 g carbs, 3 g fiber.

Source: this is a Martha Stewart Everyday Food recipe that I found in my October 2012 magazine. You can find it online here.

Notes:  I LOVED this. It was so good. I think the nutrition information is a little off though. If they stuffed 28 shells, that means that if this makes only four servings, each serving is a whopping 7 shells! I had three or four shells, and my husband had about 5. We served this with a salad and some homemade French bread. Yum! Good stuff! We were full and satisfied...if we had each had 7 shells, we would have needed to loosen our belts!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Halloween: Better Late Than Never!


Well, life has been pretty busy lately and I haven't had the time to blog that I would like. So, I'm trying to play a little bit of catch up. We did a Half-o-ween party earlier this year and made a lot of fun Halloween-themed recipes...I think we burned ourselves out because when actual Halloween hit, we didn't do much! Oh well, these are fun to make at any time of the year!


Terrifying Tamale Pie


1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/3 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
3/4 pound ground turkey
3/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) Mexican-style stewed tomatoes, undrained
1 can (15 ounces) chili beans in mild chili sauce, undrained
1 cup corn
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 package (8 1/2 ounces) corn muffin mix, plus ingredients to prepare mix
2 cups taco-flavored shredded cheese, divided
Green and red bell pepper, pickle slices, pimiento pieces, chopped onion, chopped black olives, and carrots for decoration 


Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and bell pepper; cook until crisp-tender. Stir in garlic. Add turkey; cook until turkey is no longer pink, stirring occasionally. Stir in chili powder and oregano. Add tomatoes with juice; cook and stir 2 minutes, breaking up tomatoes with spoon. stir in beans with sauce, corn, and black pepper; simmer 10 minutes or until liquid is reduced by about half.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease 1 1/2 to 2 quart casserole. Prepare corn muffin mix according to package directions; stir in 1/2 cup cheese. Spread half of turkey mixture in prepared casserole; sprinkle with 3/4 cup cheese. Top with remaining turkey mixture and 3/4 cup cheese. Top with corn muffin batter. Decorate with assorted vegetables to make monster face. Bake 20 to 22 minutes or until light golden brown.

Recipe notes:  Make this pie cute instead of creepy by creating a simple jack-o'-lantern face with bell pepper cutouts.

Source: This was in one of our old cookbook booklets. I think it was a Kraft recipe. However, I couldn't find it on their site anymore. When I did a search for it online, I finally found the recipe here.

Notes: We all really liked this. Just make sure to bake it until the cornbread topping is completely done. Ours took a little longer than the recipe stated.


Cheesy Jack-o'-Lantern


3 green onions, divided
2 pkg. (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened
1 pkg. (8 oz.) shredded Cheddar cheese, divided
1/4 cup finely chopped red peppers (I used bottled roasted red bell pepper, chopped and drained)
2 slices pepperoni
Crackers for serving


Cut 4-inch length from green end of 1 onion; slice remaining onions. Beat cream cheese and 1 1/4 cups Cheddar with mixer until well blended. Stir in sliced onions and peppers. Refrigerate 1 hour.

Shape into ball; roll in remaining Cheddar. Cut pepperoni into shapes for the jack-o'-lantern's eyes, nose and mouth; press into cheese ball to make face. Insert green onion piece into top for stem.

Serve with crackers.

Variation: Prepare using Neufchatel cheese and 2% shredded Cheddar.

Source: Kraft recipe found here

Notes: As mentioned above, I used roasted red bell peppers instead of fresh chopped red peppers. I also skipped the pepperoni to decorate a jack-o'-lantern face. So, it was just a Cheesy Pumpkin. Not a Cheesy Jack-o'-Lantern. But this was one yummy cheese ball...and I'm a sucker for a good cheese ball!

Monster Finger Cheese Sandwiches


Refrigerated bread stick dough (canned, 12 breadsticks)
String Cheese
Green food coloring


Open bread stick can. Place six breadsticks on a cookie sheet. Place string cheese on top of each breadstick (I used 1 string cheese stick for each sandwich. I split them in half and laid it down on the breadstick to cover the whole length of the dough). Place remaining six breadsticks on top of the six breadsticks with string cheese. Pinch seams together. Use a knife to cut six slits in each breadstick so that it resembles a finger. Press one end of the breadstick to resemble a fingernail. Use food coloring (green for monsters, red for witches) to color the "fingernail."

Bake according to breadstick package directions.

Source: I found something similar to this in the same Kraft recipe booklet that I found the Terrifying Tamale Pie.

Spooky Pudding Cups


Vanilla pudding mix
Melted chocolate chips
Oreo cookies, crushed
Clear plastic cups
Food coloring


Prepare pudding according to package directions. Tint pudding with food coloring (orange, purple, green, or no food coloring, if desired). 

Paint inside of each plastic cup with melted chocolate to make a spooky face. You can also use a Sharpie and decorate the outside of the cup, if you prefer not to use melted chocolate.

Fill each cup with pudding and top with crushed Oreo cookies.

Source: I saw ideas similar to this all over the place. Just check Pinterest if you want to know what I mean.

Notes: It was surprisingly hard to paint faces with melted chocolate! It is not an easy medium to work with, as an artist. :) I would suggest using a Sharpie. :)

Spooky Pizza Biscuit Sandwiches


Canned refrigerated biscuits
Pizza sauce
Mozzarella cheese, shredded
Favorite pizza toppings
Food coloring


Place four biscuits on a cookie sheet. Top with pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese, and favorite pizza toppings. Top each biscuit and pizza toppings with another biscuit. Press edges together to seal. Use a Halloween cookie cutter to make an imprint in each biscuit. Paint each imprint with food coloring.

Bake according to biscuit package directions.

Source: Again, I found this idea in that same Kraft recipe booklet. I'll have to check it to see if there is an ISBN number on it, or something.

Notes: These were pretty hearty. If you wanted to make them smaller, you could cute each biscuit in two and make eight sandwiches instead of four. Especially if you are making these for little kids, that is what I would suggest you do. The edges aren't that easy to press together to seal. You could try using a fork to press together the seams.

Halloween Rainbow Party Bundt Cake


1 box Betty Crocker SuperMoist white cake mix
Water, vegetable oil, and eggs called for on cake mix box
1 box Betty Crocker SuperMoist Dark Chocolate cake mix
Water, vegetable oil, and eggs called for on cake mix box
Black food coloring
Purple food coloring
Orange food coloring
1 (12 oz) can Betty Crocker Whipped Fluffy White Frosting


Heat oven to 325 degrees F. Generously grease a 12-cup tube cake pan. Make cake batters as directed on boxes. Divide the white cake into two separate bowls.

Add orange food coloring to one bowl and mix to the desired color. Then, add purple to the other and mix to the desired color. 

Pour 2/3 of the chocolate cake batter into a bowl and mix with a few drops of the black food coloring. Discard the remainder of the batter, or use it for cupcakes. (You only need 2/3 of the chocolate cake batter, because if you use the whole thing, it won't fit in the tube pan).

Pour 1/2 of the chocolate cake mix into the bottom of the greased pan. Carefully pour the purple over the chocolate, making sure you don't stir it. Just pour it on top. 

Then, carefully pour the orange batter over the purple batter, and pour in the remainder of the chocolate. 

Bake as directed on box, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes. 

Turn pan upside down onto cooling rack that is placed over a cookie sheet. Cool cake completely, about 30 minutes. 

Once cake is cool, equally divide your frosting into 3 bowls. Use the food coloring again to make one bowl orange, one purple, and one black.

Microwave each bowl of frosting for a few seconds on high until it is smooth enough to drizzle over the cake (start with about 10-15 seconds). With a spoon, drizzle the black frosting back and forth around the whole ring in a striping pattern until you use it all. Then do the same with the purple, and then the orange. 

Set cake aside to dry.

Store loosely covered and unrefrigerated.

Cake can be made a day or two in advance.

Source: I found this on Pinterest. You can find the original cake here. You HAVE to check it out. Hers looks amazing. It is from a website called "Cooking with Sugar." Hers is way cooler than mine.

Notes: I didn't have purple food coloring. I thought I did, but I didn't. So, I tried to make my own by mixing blue and red food coloring together. It didn't work very well. It made my frosting look almost black once it was poured on the cake, and it was only visible in certain lights on the actual cake. But this was still a super yummy cake, and really easy to make. I used the excess batter to make cupcakes for the kids. Also, when I heated my frosting, I heated it a little too long, so it became more of a frosting glaze, than a rainbow drizzle.

Marshmallow Ghosts


White chocolate chips, or vanilla candy coating
Black gel frosting
Large marshmallows
Sucker sticks


Melt chocolate or candy coating. Stir until smooth. Place each marshmallow on top of each sucker stick. Dip each marshmallow in chocolate or candy coating. Place on wax paper covered cookie sheet and let set up. Use black gel frosting to decorate eyes onto each marshmallow ghost. 

Source: My mom made these and I'm not sure where she found the idea.

Notes: The kids loved these and had a fun time eating them!

Orange Witches' Brew Punch


1 package (6 ounces) orange gelatin
1/2 to 1 cup sugar
2 cups boiling water
1 can (46 ounces) apricot nectar (you can also use mango nectar/juice)
1 can (46 ounces) pineapple juice
3/4 cup lemon juice
4 liters ginger ale, chilled


In a large bowl, dissolve gelatin and sugar in water. Stir in the apricot nectar, pineapple juice, and lemon juice. Freeze in two 2-quart freezer containers. Remove from the freezer 2-3 hours before freezing. Place contents of one container in a punch bowl; mash with a potato masher. Stir in ginger ale just before serving. Repeat for second batch using the second container of the frozen apricot, pineapple, and lemon juice mixture.

Yield: About 8 quarts.

Nutrition facts: 1 serving (1 cup) equals 122 calories, trace fat, 0 cholesterol, 23 mg sodium, 31 g carbohydrate, trace fiber, and 1 g protein.

Source: This is a Taste of Home recipe that you can find here.

Notes: we bought plastic gloves and froze water inside them to make hand-shaped ice cubes for the punch. This was really yummy!