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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Slow Cooker Baked Ziti

Slow Cooker Baked Ziti
You know that feeling of excitement you get when
you find a recipe you love to make?  Well, I got that 'giddy'
feeling with this one!  : )   It is SO easy, and it tastes like
 you spent a lot of time preparing it!  My family loves it, and
they are always appreciative when I make it. 

You will need: 
1 pound ground beef, browned
1 medium onion
2 tsp. Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp. salt
2 jars pasta sauce
1 container (15 oz.) ricotta or cottage cheese
(I used cottage cheese this time.)
2 cups mozzarella cheese - divided
1 cup parmesan (grated preferred)
1 box (16 oz.) ziti noodles

1) Brown hamburger.  Add onion & seasonings. Stir
in pasta sauce.  Set aside.

2) Mix 1 cup mozzarella, ricotta & parmesan together. Set aside.

3) Spoon 2 cups meat mixture into a slow cooker; top with 2 cups ziti noodles. Drop 1/2 of the cheese mixture over ziti - spreading.
Continue layering with sauce, ziti, and cheese.

4)  Make sure the last layer has some mozzarella on top.
Sprinkle with some Italian seasoning.

5) Place lid on slow cooker.

6)  Cook on low 6-7 hours or 4-5 hours on high until noodles are tender.

7)  Carefully remove lid - You can sprinkle mozzarella. Let stand until melted.

8)  Serve directly from the slow cooker. 

Now, how easy was that?  ☺
We enjoy this simple, but yummy meal!

Hope you do too!

Crock Pot Mexican Chicken


3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, frozen
20 oz. diced tomatoes w/green chiles
15 oz. black beans, rinsed and drained
15.25 oz. whole kernel corn, drained
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. ground cumin
3 garlic cloves, minced


Place the chicken breasts in the slow cooker.
Add remaining ingredients and mix up a bit.
Cover and cook on low 6-8 hours, or high 3-4 hours.
Serve over rice with fresh squeezed lime, shredded cheese, a dollop of sour cream.

(Directions with Photos)

Place the chicken breasts in the slow cooker.

Add remaining ingredients...

...including the seasonings and garlic.

 Mix it up a bit.

Cover and cook on low 6-8 hours, or high 3-4 hours.

*We were both at work all day, so ours was actually on low for about 10 hours. Although it looks very done, it tasted delicious. :)

Serve over rice with fresh squeezed lime, shredded cheese, a dollop of sour cream.

DIY Basket Weave Crocheted Potholder

The other night I was wandering through YouTube tutorials to teach me new crochet stitches. I decided to try the Basket Weave. It started out as just a test but after a bit I decided to make it a potholder. :)

I used THIS YouTube tutorial to help me.  Because I didn't have a pattern, I just kept crocheting until I made a size I liked.  After completing the basket weave, I went around the edge with a slip stitch.  If you do not know how to do a slip stitch, check out THIS SITE.

It is a very easy project.  Don't let the look of it scare you off. :)  

*I did start with 26 chain stitches as stated in the tutorial*

Monday, January 27, 2014

Crocheted Beanie with Flowers

I have always loved to crochet.  I remember when my mom taught me how to do it when I was a little girl.  I will share, the first time I accurately completed my first double crochet, I was watching a New Kids on the Block concert on our big box television.  Yes, I am willingly dating myself. :)
Although I have always loved crocheting, the extent of my projects consisted of blankets and very weird looking "booties".  I didn't think it was necessary to use a pattern.   To be honest, it wasn't that I didn't think I needed a pattern, in so much as it was confusing for me to read!  Anyone else feel like this? Walking through the yarn isle, you see pretty colors and think, I can do that....then you pick up a book and see terms like sl you think--"I will just stick to blankets." :) 
I finally told myself that I was going to learn a little more.  Let me tell you people, I have a long way to go but Google and YouTube are our friends.  It is so nice.  When you have a question, they are so handy.  There are so many tutorials that give you step by step instructions.  
So let's stop telling ourselves we can't do something.  If we want to learn--learn! :)


As I mentioned above, to help learn how to accomplish those "terms", I used THIS SITE.  You can click on the term in question, and it leads you to step by step instructions--with pictures!!  How easy! :)

Make a slip knot. If you do not know how to do that, click HERE.

Ch 4, join with a sl st in beg ch to form a ring.

R1: ch 1, work 6 sc in a ring, join with sl st in beg ch.

R2: ch 1, 2 sc in each sc, join with sl st in beg ch, 12 sc.

R3: ch 1, *sc in next sc, 2 sc; rep from * around, join with sl st in beg ch, 18 sc.

R4: ch 1, *sc in each of the next 2 sc, 2 sc in next sc; rep from * around, join with a sl st in beg ch, 24 sc.

R5: ch 1, *sc in each of next 3 sc, 2 sc in next sc; rep from * around, join with a sl st in beg ch, 30 sc.

R6: ch 1, *sc in each of next 4 sc, 2 sc in next sc; rep from * around, join with a sl st in beg ch, 36 sc.

R7: ch 1, *sc in each of next 5 sc, 2 sc in next sc; rep from * around, join with a sl st in beg ch, 42 sc.

R8: ch 1, *sc in each of next 6 sc, 2 sc in next sc; rep from *around, join with a sl st in beg ch, 48 sc.

R9: ch 1, *sc in each of next 7 sc, 2 sc in next sc; rep from *around, join with a sl st in beg ch, 
54 sc.

R10: ch 1, *sc in each of next 8 sc, 2 sc in next sc; rep from *around, join with a sl st in beg ch, 60 sc. (NOTE: Measure the head this is designed for.  If you have a larger head, continue with the pattern 
R 11: ch 1, *sc in next 9 sc, 2 sc in next sc; rep from * around, join with a sl st in beg ch, 66 sc.
R12: ch 1, *sc in next 10 sc, 2 sc in next sc; rep from * around, join with a sl st in beg ch, 72 sc. ETC....

I stopped this pattern after row 10.

R11:  Double crochet in each sc around, sl st in beg ch.

R12:  Dc in each sc around, sl st in beg ch.

R13: Dc in each sc around, sl st in beg ch.

R14: Dc in each sc around, sl st in beg ch.

R15: Dc in each sc around, sl st in beg ch.

R16: Dc in each sc around, sl st in beg ch.

R17: Dc in each sc around, sl st in beg ch.

Next, I did a Half Double Crochet Shell to make the bottom look pretty.  To do that...
sl st in first st.  (Skip the next st, work 5 hdc in the next st, skip next st, sl st in the next st.) Repeat sequence in parentheses until you've reached the end.  You'll end this row with a sl st.  Fasten off. Weave in ends. 

I used about. com for these instructions.  If you would like their instructions for a half double crochet, click HERE.

IF you would like to add flowers, you can.  I used 2 YouTube tutorials.  The larger, more complicated looking one is HERE.

I also made a smaller flower that I attached to the larger flower.  If you would like that tutorial, I used THIS LINK.

Below, I added a picture of the 2 flowers attached together.  Attaching the flowers, I didn't use a tutorial. I just winged it.  Back to my 'not using a pattern' habit. :)  After attaching the flowers together, I decided where I wanted it placed on my hat and, once again, winging it, I attached it. :)

Homemade Peanut Butter

I know I'm not the only one that's ever wanted to try something just for the fun of it. I'm not weird, am I? Like making peanut butter. We actually have two jars in our cupboard, but we also had a big bowl of peanuts in their shells leftover from our Christmas stockings. I know it's probably more expensive, more work, and more time-consuming than just grabbing a jar off the shelf at the grocery store, but I wanted to try to make it. No specific reason. Maybe I wanted to see if it was any good. Or if would actually be worth making it ourselves so we would know all the ingredients that go into it. Or maybe I just have way too much time on my hands. That last one could be it....

Either way, I did it. Actually, we did it. (My husband helped me remove all the shells which, after all, was the hardest part.) You could actually follow these instructions to make creamy or crunchy peanut butter. We decided to make crunchy because it's my husband's favorite, and also, there is a bit of a grainy texture to it. However, if you make it crunchy peanut butter, you can't even tell. (If you know how the big "peanut butter companies" make their spread nice and creamy, please share.)

We started by removing all the shells until we had about 1 1/2 cups of peanuts. 
(These were "salted in the shell" peanuts.)

Setting 1/4 cup of the peanuts aside, we put 1 1/4 cups of the peanuts in the food processor.

We blended it until it began looking like a graham cracker crust mixture.
(Maybe if we blended it more at this point, it would have been creamier....?)

From there we added 1 1/2 teaspoons of coconut oil and a pinch of salt.

Blend, blend, blend.
(If you were just making creamy peanut butter, just pour it into the jar and toss it in the fridge to set. If you're making crunchy, continue with the next step.)

Dump in the 1/4 cup of peanuts that you had set aside earlier.

Pulse it a couple times just to break the peanuts up a bit.

Pour it into your container, cover, and place it in the refrigerator. 
(It's pretty runny when you put it in the fridge. Ours took about 3-4 hours to set completely.)

Once it has set, eat it up! :)

 To sum up the experience:

It wasn't more expensive because I already had everything I needed.
It was a little time-consuming to remove all the shells, but it wasn't hard work.
It was very good.
It was worth it to make it ourselves this time. I won't be switching over to using only homemade peanut butter any time soon, but it was fun to experiment and know that we can make it ourselves.
As far as too much time on my hands? Yeah, that's probably true. :)

Frozen Yogurt Bites

More often than not, I have a serious craving for something sweet. Sometimes it's chocolate, sometimes it's candy, but most of the time, it's generally ice cream. I know it's probably not the best for my health to eat ice cream all the time (or almost an entire box of Gobstoppers like I did last night...), but I like frozen yogurt, too. Using that to my advantage, I made some tasty little Frozen Yogurt Bites! They are super yummy! Since they are so small, they only barely melt in your mouth before you start chewing. Unless you don't like chewing frozen things, then I suggest you just suck on them because they are pretty cold. ;) 

As I was eating a few, I realized they reminded me of the Dippin Dots at Valley Fair. I could totally just make little pea-sized balls next time with different flavors and make my own version of the yummy novelty ice cream! :D


your favorite flavor of yogurt


1. Choose your yogurt.
2. Scoop it into a Ziploc baggie.
3. Snip the tip off.
4. Squeeze onto a parchment lined baking sheet.
5. Freeze for at least 2 hours, or until fully frozen.

Easy, right?!?

To store, I just removed them from the baking sheet (do it quickly so they don't melt at all) and threw them in a Freezer Ziploc. They are perfectly handy when I get a craving. :)

Here are pictures of the steps, if that makes it easier for you. :) 

Step 1. Choose your yogurt.
(I used a strawberry Greek yogurt, which was delicious.)

Step 2. Scoop it into a Ziploc baggie.

*TIP: It's super easy when you push the corner of the ziploc into a glass and fold the edges around the mouth before filling.

(Take the baggie out of the glass, and gently twist just above the yogurt so it keeps it at the bottom.)

Step 3. Snip the tip off.
(Start by cutting just the tip. If you decide you want bigger "bites", just cut a little more off.
I also had little chunks of strawberry in my yogurt, so I had to cut it bigger just so they wouldn't keep getting stuck.)

Step 4. Squeeze onto a parchment lined baking sheet.

I started doing little swirls, then switched to just squeezing it straight down in a glob. Make it fun, switch it up, or you could even cut the tip real small to "draw" shapes or letters. What kid wouldn't want frozen alphabet treats?! :)

5. Freeze for at least 2 hours, or until fully frozen.

Once they are frozen, you can either enjoy them right away, or drop them into a freezer bag and throw them back in the freezer. :)

Friday, January 24, 2014

Easy "Pea"sy Slow Cooker Split Peas Soup & Country Style Corn Muffins

As I got out of bed this morning, I mentally started jotting down projects/errands I had to do today.  While standing in front of the mirror, putting on my makeup, I realized my list was longer than I was expecting it to be.  In order to be able to scratch more than a couple of those items off my list, I knew I was going to need something super easy for dinner.
Nothing makes dinner easier than using a slow cooker.  My man (after me insisting that it's not a boring gift) got me a Ninja Slow Cooker for Christmas.  I LOVE IT! But back to the point :)...easy meal...slow cooker.  I was planning on making pea soup today and when I looked up the recipe, I saw the "slow cooker" version at the bottom. This is such an easy recipe and it is really delicious!

* I think the flavors get better after a couple days so I double the recipe below so I have enough for Mikey's lunches.*

Pea Soup

1 1/2 cups peas, rinsed
2 3/4 c. water
14 oz chicken broth
1 to 1 1/2 lb. meaty ham bone (Because I didn't have a ham bone, I just used Kentucky Legend Ham and cut it in chunks. Worked great!)
1/8 tsp. pepper
1/8 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. marjoram
1 bay leaf
1/2 c. onion, chopped
1/2 c. carrots, chopped
1/2 c. celery, chopped

In the slow cooker, add chunked ham, peas, onion, celery, and carrots.  Sprinkle salt, pepper, and marjoram.  Top with water and chicken broth.  Toss in bay leaf.  (Don't forget to remove after cooking.) Cook on high for 4 to 5 hours or low for 6 to 7 hours. Stir occasionally. 


Country Style Corn Muffins

1 large egg
1 1/3 c milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 cups Martha White-Plain Enriched White Corn meal
1 tsp salt
1 T baking powder

In a large bowl, beat egg.  Add corn meal, milk, oil, salt, and baking powder.  Mix until well blended.  Should be a little runny. 

Bake at 450 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.  

I used a cupcake pan.  Placing liners in the pan, I filled each cup 2/3 full.  

*This is definitely not my favorite corn muffin recipe.  I found that they don't come out very easy from the muffin liners.  The still taste good but if you are going for presentation, say if someone was coming over, I would not use this recipe.  They end up looking more like little corn biscuits after you remove them. :)  I will definitely post another corn muffin recipe when I find a better one. *

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Honey Chicken with Steamed Veggies and Rice

I love food...I really love food. I have lots of favorites and this one definitely makes the cut. I make this often and my husband requests this often. A family favorite for sure.  


1 large chicken breast
4 cups frozen stir fry vegetables
1-2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic (optional)
3 Tablespoons honey
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
2 Tablespoons corn starch
1/4 cup water
1 cup white rice (water to prepare rice)
black pepper
chow mein noodles (optional)

Serves:  4

First thing you will want to do is to get the rice ready. It is best for the rice to be cooking as you cook your chicken and vegetables. That way the rice will be hot and ready when needed. I like to prepare my rice in my rice cooker but if you prefer you can also make the rice on the stovetop. If you use your stovetop, simply boil 2 cups water. You may add 1/2 tsp salt to the water. Once your water is boiling, add 1 cup rice. Turn the heat to low or simmer and cover. Simmer for 20 minutes or until all water is absorbed and the rice is no longer "crunchy". :)

Now is the time you want to put your frozen veggies in a steamer. You may also choose to stir fry your veggies in a small amount of olive oil. My husband prefers his veggies fully cooked so I usually steam them. But if you like veggies when they are crisp-tender then stir frying them is the best option. 

Now you will need to heat a large skillet with olive oil on medium heat. Slice or dice (matter of preference) the large chicken breast. Add to the hot pan. If you love garlic like I is the time to add some minced garlic to the hot pan also. :) Saute your chicken and garlic until the chicken is fully cooked or juices run clear.

As soon as your chicken is cooked, add your measured honey and soy sauce. Season with black pepper. Stir well. As soon as it starts to boil....

...add the cornstarch mixed thoroughly with the 1/4 cup water. I usually mix my cornstarch and water in a mug and then slowly add it to my pan as I stir. Continue stirring for a couple minutes. You will notice that the honey and soy mixture will begin to thicken. Turn your heat down to low. 

Now the frozen veggies that have been steaming should be ready. Be sure not to over-steam the vegetables. No one likes soggy "smushed" veggies. :) If you notice they are done before you are ready to use them, just  remove them from the heat. When you remove your veggies from the steamer, be sure to let any excess moisture drain off.
Then simply add to the skillet with the chicken and carefully mix everything together.

Now to serve, simply put a small scoop of rice in a bowl. Top with a large spoonful of chicken and veggies. Voila! Dinner is served! :)

My favorite way to enjoy is to top it off with some crunchy chow mein noodles. Yummy!!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Wacky Cake

This recipe came from my Mom. Growing up I have always loved when mom would make this cake for my birthday!
I hope you enjoy it!!

STEP 1: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
STEP 2: Get a large bowl, a measuring cup, a Tbsp, and a tsp ready.

STEP 3: Put 4 1/2 cups flour, 9 Tbsp. of cocoa, 3 c. sugar, and 3 tsp. baking soda into a mixing bowl.
STEP 4: Add 1 cup oil, 3 tbsp. vinegar, 3 c. water, and 3 tsp. salt.

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STEP 5: Mix until smooth.
STEP 6: Get a 9x13 pan, butter it and then sprinkle flour all over it.
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STEP 7: Pour the mixture into the pan.
STEP 8: Bake until you can stick a toothpick in it and it comes out clean! :) (About 45 minutes)

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Hope you Enjoy!!! :)

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