Monday, November 28, 2011

Mary's Tortilla Soup

Last year when my dad passed away, my BFF Jen Clementine set up meal support for my family, which was a huge lifesaver. Honestly it's the only way my kids were going to get fed because I was not functioning at all. My friend Mary brought us this soup one night, and it was so good. My vegetarian brother was tempted to give up his non-meat eating ways to have some, he thought it looked and smelled so good. I was really excited to make it again, but given my family's soup aversion I never had. Plus it always seems weird to me to make soup in the summer in Phoenix. Who wants to eat soup when it's over 110 degrees outside?! But, after the Ham and Beans was decently received, I figured it was worth making. Our Wednesday and Thursday nights for the past month and half have been crazy busy with my bible study group meeting at our house on Wednesday nights and Boy #1 having soccer practice on Thursday nights, so I have been on the lookout for crockpot meals to make my life easier.

Mary's Tortilla Soup

Chicken Tortilla Soup

3-4 chicken breasts (frozen ok)
2 cans corn
2 cans chicken broth (14oz)
1 pkg taco seasoning
1 can stewed tomatoes
1 can cream of potato soup
1 can green chilies
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
1 can tomato sauce (8oz)
16 oz sour cream (I use the light)
1 handful of cilantro

Put it all (except sour cream and cilantro) in the crock pot on low for 6 hours or high for 3 hours. Take out the chicken and shred it, then add back in. Add the tub of sour cream (you need to temper it so it doesn't curdle). Garnish with cheese, avocados and chips.


I'm not sure if the husband had any of this last year when Mary brought it over since he wasn't that hip on soup, but he LOVED it this time. He requested this be the only tortilla soup I ever make again. Boy #1 thought it was okay, Boy #2 devoured it and asked for seconds. Woo hoo! It was really so easy to make, especially being able to just throw frozen chicken breasts in with everything else. I also added in a can of black beans because I had them on hand and thought they'd be a nice addition. I used regular tomato sauce, but I bet using El Pato sauce instead would be tasty as well. Hmmm...I'll have to try that next time.

I picked up some ciabatta rolls the same day we were having this, sliced them in half and put them under the broiler to brown them a bit, then spread with butter and sprinkled on some shredded cheddar cheese and put back under the broiler to melt the cheese. I figured Boy #1 wouldn't be that excited about the soup, so I wanted there to be something with the soup that he'd like. He thought the cheese rolls were the best thing ever. He kept saying, "Mom this cheese bread is just too good!" Ah, bless him.

This soup will probably be in high rotation in our house this winter. Thanks, Mary, for such a great recipe!

Oh, and the amazing cheese bread:

Fancy Baked Sweet Potatoes

I was reading through a recent issue of Martha Stewart Living (I told you I love Martha!) and saw these amazing looking sweet potatoes. There wasn't really a recipe, just a one page thing about how fantastic sweet potatoes are. The picture was gorgeous! I decided I must try them, and the opportunity presents itself shortly thereafter when I received a bunch of sweet potatoes from my produce co-op one week. I knew there was no way my kids would eat these, so I slated them for a date night dinner for the husband and me.

Fancy Baked Sweet Potatoes

Per serving:
1 baked sweet potato
1 cup roasted Brussels sprouts
2 Tbsp blue cheese
2 Tbsp dried cranberries
1/4 cup toasted pecans

Split baked potato lengthwise and top with Brussels sprouts, blue cheese, dried cranberries, and pecans. Serve.


Doesn't get a whole lot easier than that. The sweet potatoes I had were pretty little, so I baked two for each of us. All other ingredients are estimated because I'm really not sure how much of each I used. These looked GORGEOUS--the orange potatoes, green Brussels sprouts, crimson cranberries, flecks of white and little bits of blue from the cheese. I was so excited to eat these...then I took a bite and was so disappointed. It was not at all what I expected and honestly I thought it was kind of gross. So did the husband. But we didn't really have anything else we could make for dinner at that point because it was late on a Friday. So we muscled through it, and surprisingly we discovered that the more bites we took, the more we liked it. The trick was to have a little of each component on each bite. We ended up both really liking it and cleaning our plates. I'm so glad it worked out because I was really apprehensive after that first bite and debated running out to get us a pizza. I'm glad we stuck with it and finished them off. It ended up being so tasty!

Fresh Apple Cake With Brown Sugar Glaze

I love my neighborhood. We've lived here a year and a half now, and I've never once regretted our decision to move here. There are so many young families, a ton of families from our church live near us, our neighbors are all super friendly. It's such a complete opposite of our last neighborhood where we couldn't leave toys out in our backyard or the kids across the street would climb over our wall and steal them. Seriously. Anyway, we recently had a neighborhood picnic put on by the HOA. They provided lunch and residents were asked to bring desserts. There were pony rides, a bounce was super fun. Since I'd been going crazy with (see, I'm not exaggerating when I say I'm obsessed with it...I'm probably a few pins away from an intervention) I figured I'd make one of the desserts I'd pinned. This one seemed especially tasty and I had all the ingredients for it.

Fresh Apple Cake With Brown Sugar Glaze
Source: Lick The Bowl Good blog via

Apple Cake:
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 eggs
1/2 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups finely chopped apples
1/2 cup pecans or walnuts, chopped (optional)

Brown Sugar Glaze:
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
3 Tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 Tablespoon heavy cream

For the cake: Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8-inch pan (round or square) and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Stir with a whisk to mix everything together.

In a large bowl, mix the eggs with a hand mixer til light in color and foamy. Add the oil and vanilla and beat well.

Stir in the flour mixture with a spoon and continue stirring the batter til the flour disappears. Add the apples and nuts (if using) and stir to mix them into the batter.

Scrape batter into prepared pan and bake for 40-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Place the hot cake on a wire cake. While it's still hot, prepare the glaze.

For the glaze: Combine all the ingredients into a saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the mixture comes to a gentle boil. Cook for 3-5 minutes.

Spoon the hot glaze over the still hot-from-the-oven cake. Let the glazed cake cool completely before serving straight from the pan.


I had to improvise a bit for the glaze because I didn't have cream, but I used some half and half instead. It probably wasn't quite the same, but it seemed to do the trick. I was a little disappointed when the boys and I went to pick out dessert that no one had cut into my cake yet. So I figured I'd be the first. I was really pleased with how it came out--dense and sweet and awesome, basically. This is a great fall cake. And I loved that the glaze went on the cake while they were both still hot. One of the things I hate about cake making is having to wait for it to cool before you can frost it, so this solved that problem.

Don't mind the other dessert remnants on the plate there.

Crockpot Cornbread Stuffing

I guess I should have worked a little harder to get this particular recipe posted before Thanksgiving in case anyone was short on oven space and needed a crockpot side dish. Oops. This is another recipe I found via my friend Heather. She shared a link from recipes inspired by the book and movie, "The Help." I've read the book (fantastic!) but haven't seen the movie. I love southern food and culture, so I was all over the link and went crazy pinning (as in, pinning to most of the recipes featured. Normally I prefer regular stuffing, like with normal bread, not cornbread. But I'm game for anything when it comes to stuffing/dressing, so I figured it was worth a try.

Crockpot Cornbread Stuffing

5 cups crumbled cornbread
1 (14-oz.) package herb stuffing
2 (10 3/4-oz.) cans cream of chicken soup
2 (14-oz.) cans chicken broth
1 large sweet onion, diced
1 cup diced celery
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon rubbed sage
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons butter, cut up

1. Combine first 9 ingredients in a large bowl.
2. Pour cornbread mixture into a lightly greased 6-qt. slow cooker. Dot with butter. Cover and cook on LOW 4 to 6 hours or until set and thoroughly cooked.


I'll be honest, I was a little nervous this was just going to be a soggy, disgusting clump when I opened the crockpot to serve this up with our dinner. I'm happy to report that I was proved wrong and it was quite tasty! I love stuffing, so it was great to just let this cook all day and then serve it up with a pork roast for dinner. I made up two boxes of Jiffy cornbread and used a box of Stove Top for the bread components. I forgot to dot the top with butter, but I don't think it made a huge difference. This would also be tasty with some Craisins and toasted pecans mixed in at the end, maybe even some cooked, crumbled sausage. I'll definitely make this as a side dish again. But be warned--it makes A LOT!

Benah's Pumpkin Crumb Cake

I feel kind of like I'm cheating posting this because I've posted it before, but it was a long time ago (I was pregnant with Boy #2 who recently turned three) and there aren't any pictures on the post. This cake is amazing and definitely worth of being posted again with pictures, so here it is. I have yet to meet someone that doesn't like this cake. I was never a pumpkin fan, but this cake made me see the light. Hallelujah!! My dear friend Benah shared the recipe with me years ago, like before the thought of Boy #1 ever crossed my mind. I recently needed something to take a a birthday brunch for my MOMS Club and thought of this cake. then it turned out I needed something the next night for a snack for my bible study group, so I made it again. Yes, I made it two days in a row. It's that good. My kids were disappointed on the third day when I didn't make another one. Sorry, kiddos, we can't have cake every day. I know, I'm such a mean mom.

Benah's Pumpkin Crumb Cake

1 pkg (18 oz) yellow cake mix (take out one cup for topping)
1 egg
1 stick butter, melted

1 lb can pumpkin
3 eggs
½ c granulated sugar
¼ c brown sugar
1 ½ tsp cinnamon (or 1/2 tsp each of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger)

1 cup cake mix
½ c granulated sugar
½ c chopped nuts (optional)
3 tbsp butter

Preheat oven to 350. Mix crust ingredients; pat into greased 9x13 pan.

Beat filling ingredients; pour over crust.

Combine topping and crumble over filling.

Bake for 45-55 min. Watch it be devoured.


I love this cake. I have pumpkin in my pantry right now but alas no cake mix. It's probably for the best since I'm the only one home for most of the day, I'd just end up eating the whole pan of it. Not that I'd mind, but I probably would regret it tomorrow when none of my pants fit.

Ham and Beans

When I was growing up, my grandpa would love it when he'd have a ham bone because he could make ham and beans. Honestly I was never really a fan growing up because of my bean aversion, but now that I'm learning to embrace and love the bean I figured it was worth a shot, mostly because I came across a ham bone in my freezer that I needed to use and we were low on grocery money this particular week. Grocery prices lately are driving me nuts, by the way.

I asked my mom about my grandpa's recipe but she didn't know specifics, so I did some searching on This sounded good and like what I remembered my grandpa making. Good enough for me!

Ham and Beans
Source: Adapted from

1 lb great northern bean
1/2 onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
8 garlic cloves
1 bay leaf
7 cups water
4 teaspoons chicken bouillon
1 ham bone

Rinse and sort thru beans (has anyone ever really found a rock in these?). Cover with water and let sit overnight.

In the morning, drain water, rinse again and place beans in the crockpot. Dump in all of the other ingredients (except ham bone) and give it a few good stirs.

Put the ham bone in the crockpot, cover and cook on high for 6-8 hours.

Remove the bay leaf, ham bone and fish out any bones that may have fallen off during cooking. Stir the beans a few times. Remove 1 cup of the beans and place in a bowl, mash them with a potato masher or back of a spoon, then return to the beans and stir; this helps thicken it up a bit.

Take off any meat left on the ham bone, chop and return it to the crockpot.

Stir again and serve!

Nutritional info:
Calories 106.2
Calories from Fat 3
Total Fat 0.4 g
Saturated Fat 0.1 g
Cholesterol 0.0 mg
Sodium 51.8 mg
Total Carbohydrate 19.9 g
Dietary Fiber 6.0 g
Sugars 1.5 g
Protein 6.7 g


I really didn't know how my family would react to this as none of them are big soup fans. Turns out the husband and Boy #2 love soup! Boy #1 not so much, but as Meatloaf says, "Two out of three ain't bad." this will be my go-to recipe when I have a ham bone that needs to be used up. Not that it happens very often, but now at least I can hold on to them and use them instead of passing them on to my mom. Sorry, Mama!

Pesto Chicken Stuffed Shells

My love for has not waned while I've been slacking on updating my blog. Food, crafts, decorating ideas, projects for my kids...what's not to love about it?! Although probably I could have gotten a few blog posts done in the time I spend on it, but I'll try to not think about it. In fact I'm trying really hard to resist the urge to go look at it now. I try not to think about all I could get done around my house if I didn't have a computer the internet.

Anyway, I love stuffed shells, but I don't make them very often because they're messy. And I generally try to only use whole wheat pasta, and either they don't make whole wheat pasta shells or I just can't find them in my limited selection of grocery stores. But these sounded so tasty and I had some pesto I needed to use up, so I figured it was worth having regular pasta shells.

Pesto Chicken Stuffed Shells
Source: What’s Cookin’ Chicago, via Pinterest

12-16 jumbo pasta shells
water for boiling pasta
4oz cream cheese, softened
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan or Asiago cheese + 1/4 cup for topping
3 tablespoons prepared pesto (homemade or store bought)
2 cups shredded cooked chicken
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot over high heat, boil water and prepare pasta shells as directed on package. Cook pasta shells only until al dente. The pasta will finish cooking when the dish is baked. Drain the pasta shells and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients, except the 1/4 cup of cheese for the topping. Fill the pasta shells with the filling and place in a baking dish. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of cheese over filled shells.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake shells uncovered for 30 minutes or until shells are bubbling hot and cheese melts.

To make ahead/freezer meals - Prepare as directed but place filled shells in an oven- and freezer-proof baking dish. Top with remaining 1/4 cup of cheese over filled shells, cover and freeze. When ready to prepare, defrost. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake shells uncovered for 35-40 minutes or until shells are bubbling hot and cheese melts.


My only complaint was that there could have been more cheese. You know how we love cheese at my house. This would be a great use for leftover chicken. I loved the creamy, pesto filling of the shells. I loved this take on stuffed shells, instead of my usual recipe I use that has the shells stuffed with cheese and then topped with a red sauce. My whole family really liked these, so it's definitely something I'll make again...especially if I can find whole wheat shells somewhere!

Martha Stewart's Potatoes That Taste Better Than The Chicken

I'm not afraid to admit that I love Martha Stewart, felon background and all. She makes some great dishes and comes up with some really crafty stuff. I don't strive to be her or anything, but I do like her website and magazine. My friend Heather recommended this roasted chicken recipe, and since she was also the one to introduce me to polenta lasagna, I completely trust her when it comes to recipes. My friend Jenn made a similar chicken when I had dinner at her house one time, and it was fantastic. Plus I love a good roasted chicken. I think there are few things that are more homey than a roasted chicken. And I can generally get two meals and stock from one chicken. Since I only buy them when they're on sale, they're super economical too. We don't eat potatoes very often because they have such little nutritional value, so I consider it a real treat when we have them.

Martha's Potatoes That Taste Better Than The Chicken

6 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 tablespoons grapeseed oil
2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 whole (2 1/2-to-3-pound) chicken, wings removed
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 chicken liver
4 sprigs fresh rosemary
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 head garlic, halved crosswise
Fleur de sel, for serving

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Butter a medium roasting pan with 3 tablespoons butter and 3 tablespoons oil. Place potatoes in a single layer in roasting pan. Season chicken inside and out with salt and pepper. Place liver, rosemary, thyme, and garlic inside cavity of chicken; using kitchen twine, tie legs together to enclose. Rub chicken with remaining 3 tablespoons each of butter and oil. Place chicken on top of potatoes on one of its sides.

Transfer roasting pan to oven and roast for 20 minutes. Turn chicken onto its other side and continue roasting 20 minutes more. Turn chicken, breast side up, and add 2 tablespoons water to pan; continue roasting until juices run clear and the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, 10 to 20 minutes more.

Carve chicken in roasting pan allowing the juices to combine with the potatoes. Serve from the roasting pan, spooning pan juices over potatoes. Sprinkle with fleur de sel.


I wasn't sure how difficult it would be to find grapeseed oil since I did my grocery shopping that week at Walmart, but surprisingly (well, surprisingly to me anyway) Walmart had it and the price was really reasonable, too.

Like I said above, I love a good roasted chicken, and this was a good one. But, just like the recipe title claims, the potatoes were indeed better than the chicken. Roasted potatoes that have been cooking in chicken drippings--yum. I followed the advice of some of the comments on the recipe on Martha's website and let them roast for a bit longer after removing the chicken to let them crisp up a little. Delish! I've actually made this chicken a few times since then, only without the potatoes since we don't generally have them on hand. The butter and oil combo makes the skin nice and crispy and tasty. I didn't used to be a chicken skin fan, but man alive do I love it now. Especially when it's super crispy and salty--yum! This has become my go-to roasted chicken recipe.

Sorry for the crappy pictures I have to get my Speedlite issues figured out so I can get decent pictures again. Sigh. This was a particularly bad camera night.

Creamy Beef Taquitos

I know I've shared my love of the Meal Planning 101 blog before. I don't think I've had a single bad recipe from her website, so I go to it a lot when I need meal ideas. My Bff, Jen Clementine had made these awhile ago and really liked them, so I thought I'd give them a try. I'm always game for a new Mexican food recipe.

Creamy Beef Taquitos
Source: Meal Planning 101 blog

1 lb lean ground beef
2 tbsp taco seasoning (homemade or store-bought)
1/3 cup light cream cheese
1/4 cup salsa
1 tbsp lime juice
3 tbsp cilantro, chopped
2 tbsp green onions, chopped
1 cup grated cheese (cheddar, mozzarella or pepperjack)
12 small flour tortillas (can also use corn tortillas)

Heat oven to 425. Line a baking sheet with foil and lightly coat with cooking spray.

In a large frying pan over medium-high heat, brown the ground beef and break it up into crumbles as it cooks. Add the taco seasoning and cook the beef about 8 minutes until cooked through.

Heat cream cheese in the microwave for about 20-30 seconds so it's soft and easy to stir. Add salsa, lime juice, cilantro and green onions and stir to combine. Once the beef is browned, add the beef and cheese and combine well. You can prepare up to this step ahead of time. Just keep the mixture in the fridge.

Place 2-3 tbsp of beef mixture on the lower third of a tortilla, keeping it about 1/2 inch from the edges. Roll it up as tight as you can. If your tortillas are cracking or breaking, you can microwave them for 10-20 seconds with a damp paper towel over top. Once rolled, place seam side down on the baking sheet. Lay all of the taquitos on the baking sheet and make sure they are not touching each other. Spray the tops lightly with cooking spray or brush with a bit of oil and sprinkle some kosher salt on top. Place pan in oven and bake for 15-20 minutes or until crisp and the ends start to get golden brown.

Dip taquitos in salsa, sour cream, guacamole, or Chipotle Ranch dressing.


The only thing I changed up was to use ground turkey instead of ground beef because I had it on hand, and the husband was going through a "let's lay off the red meat" phase for awhile back when I made these.

Like I expected, these were super easy to put together, fast to cook, and really tasty!! Winner winner, taquito dinner! I love those frozen taquitos that you see a lot at parties, but these were so much better. I'll definitely make them again. Actually I'm wishing I had some ground beef or turkey on hand so I could make them this week!

Blue Cheese Stuffed Pork Chops with Pears

Have I mentioned how done I am with P90X?! I'm tired of my precious afternoon quiet time being taken up with stupid Tony Horton. I like the workouts, but I'm just annoyed I have to spend Boy #2's naptime every day doing them. You've probably noticed I haven't updated the ol' blog here in almost a month. The husband has been helping me meal plan, so we've had some tasty dinners, I just haven't had a chance to update anything. Sigh. I made a list this morning of posts I want to write, and the total was 17! SEVENTEEN!! Thankfully the husband took today off work and took Boy #2 out for some quality daddy time so I could work on my blog. God bless him!

So, get ready for some massive updating!

This was originally going to be a family dinner, but I suggested to the husband we have a date night dinner instead a few nights before Boy #2 turned three back on the 19th. I wasn't sure how excited my kids would be about it. This was in last month's Cooking Light, which I haven't read yet. The husband and I were meal planning and I just looked through the index to get some ideas. It sounded tasty, and I had blue cheese and an abundance of pears. I had a Costco trip planned, and I love their pork chops, so it was a pretty easy decision to add it to our meal plan.

Blue Cheese Stuffed Pork Chops with Pears
Source: Cooking Light, October 2011

4 (4-ounce) boneless center-cut loin pork chops, trimmed
1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled blue cheese
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons butter
1 ripe pear, cored and cut into 16 wedges

Cut a horizontal slit through thickest portion of each pork chop to form a pocket. Stuff 2 tablespoons crumbled blue cheese into each pocket. Sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper evenly over both sides of pork. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add olive oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add pork to pan; sauté for 3 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness. Remove pork from pan, and let stand for 5 minutes.

Melt butter in pan; swirl to coat. Add pear; sprinkle with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Sauté 4 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring occasionally. Serve with pork.

Nutritional Information
Amount per serving
Calories: 246
Fat: 13g
Saturated fat: 5.5g
Monounsaturated fat: 1g
Polyunsaturated fat: 4.8g
Protein: 24.4g
Carbohydrate: 7.3g
Fiber: 1.4g
Cholesterol: 81mg
Iron: 0.8mg
Sodium: 493mg
Calcium: 98mg


The magazine had this pictures with some roasted Brussels sprouts, which we love, so I figured that was an easy side dish. When we saw the magazine, the husband and I both thought this sounded tasty, but it really blew us away with just how awesome it was. I got a perfect sear on the pork chops, so the outside was a little crunchy and the inside was perfectly cooked. The creamy, tangy blue cheese was awesome with the sweet pears. At first, before tasting it, I was wishing I had made some kind of pan sauce to go with these, but after taking my first bite I realized they really didn't need it. There was a lot of ooh-ing and aah-ing as we took bites of our dinner. Even better, it was SO EASY to make. If you've never bought pork chops at Costco, let me tell you that they're huge. Each one was around eight ounces. I asked the husband if he'd want me to slice them in half to get to the recommended four ounce portion size, but we figured at just 246 calories, it was fine to leave them big. Plus for just 500 calories this was really filling and tasty.

Did I mention these were tasty and awesome? Just in case you missed it above I wanted to reiterate. We will definitely have these again!

I love the sight of ooey, gooey cheese dripping out of meat!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

New posts coming soon!!

I don't know how it's been an entire month since I've updated my blog. I miss it so much! Stupid Tony Horton and P90X, ruining my afternoon computer time. I begged the husband for some time this weekend to get my blogs updated (and clean my office, but the blogs are taking priority), so by Monday afternoon I should have quite a few new posts with lots of yummy things for you to try!

In the meantime, I hope you're enjoying this Thanksgiving weekend! I know I am! (Said as I sit here in my jammies at 3:00 PM on Saturday afternoon...)