Grilled Chicken & Grape Tomato Basil Pasta

(Originally posted May 29, 2015)

During the summer, we have this all the time. Although it’s pasta, it’s light & delicious!

tomato-basil-pasta

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Nature’s Own seasoning, dried oregano and dried basil

kosher salt and fresh pepper

8 oz penne pasta

2 (pint) grape tomatoes, halved

6 cloves garlic, minced

parmesan cheese, grated

extra virgin olive oil

4 TBSP fresh basil, chopped

* * * * * * * * *

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.

Season chicken generously with Nature’s Own seasoning, oregano and basil. Heat a large skillet on high heat. Once heated, drizzle oil in pan and add chicken. Cook about 3-4 minutes, until cooked through. Remove chicken, dice and set aside.

Add pasta and cook according to package directions. Reserve 1/2-1 cup pasta water before draining.

While pasta cooks, add olive oil to skillet on high heat. Add garlic and sauté until golden brown (do not burn). Add tomatoes, salt and pepper, cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Sauté about 4-5 minutes. Use tongs to crush softened tomatoes – this will help create the sauce. When pasta is drained, add pasta to tomatoes and toss well. If pasta seems too dry, add some of the reserved pasta water. Add fresh basil and chicken and toss well. Serve and top with grated cheese.

Red, White & Blue Cheesecake Triple

(Originally posted May 28, 2016)

trifle

2 (3.4 oz) packages instant cheesecake flavored pudding mix

4 cups milk

Pre-made pound cake – cut or torn into bite-sized pieces

1 lb strawberries

2 containers blueberries

1 container blackberries

12 oz Cool Whip (or homemade whipped cream)

** you can sub the cheesecake pudding for anything – white chocolate or french vanilla would be yummy too

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Combine milk & pudding mix using your mixer according to package instructions.

Spread cake pieces into the bottom of the trifle dish – about half the cake.

Top with about 1/2 of the prepared pudding.

Top pudding with about 1/2 cup of each kind of berry.

Top berries with about other half of the Cool Whip.

Layer other half of cake, rest of pudding, remaining Cool Whip and decorate the top layer with strawberries, blueberries & blackberries.

Refrigerate for about 2-3 hours, until ready to serve.

trifle-2

In the Cookie Jar: Princess Peanut Butter Blossoms

 

These are the easiest cookies we make, Charlotte. You love adding the Hershey Kiss at the end 🙂 You’re on your way, my sweet girl.

peanut-butter-blossoms

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 cup packed brown sugar

1 cup creamy peanut butter

1 cup butter or margarine, softened

2 eggs

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

Additional granulated sugar (about 2 tablespoons)

About 7 dozen Hershey’s Kisses milk chocolates

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Heat oven to 375°F. In large bowl, beat 1/2 cup granulated sugar, the brown sugar, peanut butter, butter and eggs with electric mixer on medium speed, or mix with spoon. Stir in flour, baking soda and baking powder.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls; roll in additional granulated sugar. Place about 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are light brown. Immediately press 1 chocolate candy in center of each cookie. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack.

 

 

 

In the Cookie Jar: Christmas Thin Mints

(Originally posted Dec 8, 2015)

These cookies are so yummy! They taste just like the Thin Mints the Girl Scouts sell, so you know it’s going to be a winner.

Thin Mints.png
18 Ritz Crackers

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted

1 tablespoon vegetable shortening, optional but recommended

3/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
Assorted Christmas sprinkles

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Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with parchment wax paper.

In a shallow microwave-safe bowl, combine chocolate chips and shortening (the shortening helps the chocolate stay smooth when using it for dipping; it prevents that thick and gloppy, chocolate getting hard before you want it to phenomenon) and heat for 1 minute on high power to melt. Stir and heat in 10 to 15 second bursts until chocolate can be stirred very smooth.

To the melted chocolate add 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract and stir. If you prefer it mintier, add another 1/4 teaspoon.

 *Note: Mint extract is much, much more potent than vanilla extract; 1 teaspoon of mint extract has an extreme amount of potency compared with 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. You cannot un-do mint once added so be very, very careful to not over-do it.

Add 1 cracker to the chocolate, coat it, and remove it by lightly scooping it up from the underside with a fork, allowing excess chocolate to drain off through fork tines. Place cracker on parchment and repeat with all remaining crackers. If necessary, re-heat the chocolate in 10 to 15 second bursts if it starts getting too firm for smooth dipping. Sprinkle dipped crackers with assorted sprinkles. After all crackers have been dipped, place baking sheet in refrigerator.

Store extra Thin Mints in an airtight container in the refrigerator for many weeks. In the freezer, I estimate that these could be kept for 3 to 6 months successfully.

On the Cake Stand: Christmas Wreath Cake

(Originally posted Dec 8, 2015)

Making this cake is Christmas tradition. I make it every year & not only is it pretty…it goes FAST!

christmas-cake

1 box Betty Crocker SuperMoist white cake mix

Water, vegetable oil and eggs called for on cake mix box

Red and green food color

1 (12 oz) can Betty Crocker Whipped fluffy white frosting

Red, green and white candy sprinkles

Heat oven to 325°F. Generously grease 12-cup fluted tube cake pan with shortening or cooking spray. Make cake mix as directed on box, using water, oil and eggs. Pour half of the batter into medium bowl; set aside. Divide the other half of batter equally between 2 small bowls. (You will be left with 3 bowls of batter.) Add red food color to 1 of the small bowls and mix well. Add green food color to the second small bowl and mix well.

Pour half of the white batter from medium bowl into cake pan. Carefully pour red batter over white batter in pan. Carefully pour green batter over red batter. Then pour remaining white batter from medium bowl over the top. Do not mix the colors.

Bake as directed on box until toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes. Turn pan upside down onto cooling rack placed over a cookie sheet; remove pan. Cool completely, about 30 minutes. Place cake on serving plate.

Divide frosting between 2 small microwavable bowls. Microwave 1 bowl on High about 5 to 10 seconds; mix well with spoon until smooth enough to drizzle. With the spoon, drizzle white frosting back and forth around the whole cake in a striping pattern until you use all of the frosting (allow some frosting to drip down onto plate in middle of cake, if desired).

Microwave second bowl of frosting; stir in a few drops of green food color. Drizzle over cake, scattering back and forth in the same type of striping pattern. Decorate with sprinkles. Let stand until frosting is set before serving.

**When you add the batter to the cake pan, don’t mix it with a spoon. Just pour it in so the colors rest on top of each other.

Recipe Source Betty Crocker

Christmas White Trash

(Originally posted Dec 6, 2015)

white-trash

3 1/2 cups Cheerios toasted oat cereal

3 cups Rice Chex

3 cups Corn Chex

16 oz. M&M’s plain chocolate candy

2 1/2 cups salted mixed nuts

2 cups small pretzels

12 oz pecan halves

Christmas sprinkles

2 (11 ounce) packages white chocolate chips or Almond Bark

**16 oz. M&M peppermint candy & plain popcorn (optional)

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Dump the cereals, M&Ms, nuts & pretzels in a large bowl.

Melt the white chocolate in the microwave or in a double boiler. Melt very slowly, stirring occasionally, being careful not to burn the chocolate.

Dump melted chocolate over the rest of the ingredients and fold over and over until you have well-coated hunks and chunks.

Spread the whole mess out on parchment paper and set in a cool place until it sets up, then break it into pieces.

Store in zip-top bags or air-tight containers.

A Successful Thanksgiving

(Originally posted Nov 28, 2015)

Now that we’ve made it through another incredible Thanksgiving, I thought I would tell you the secret to a successful (and stress-free) cooking experience. The key is preparation. Cooking for Thanksgiving is a marathon, not a sprint & the more you can complete before the actual day, the better off you’ll be!

Now, Nonnie and I normally split the cooking duties, so I’m typically responsible for…
Mashed Potatoes
Sweet Potato Casserole
Creamed Corn
Deviled Eggs
In previous years I’ve also thrown in…
Rolls/Crescents
A Dessert
So for example, if I were making mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, creamed corn and deviled eggs, my timeline may look something like this.
Sunday before Thanksgiving
  • Go shopping. This will ensure you get all the groceries you need and can avoid some of the holiday rush.
  • Also, if you’re making deviled eggs, buy them now (or even before.) Fresh eggs will not peel, so do yourself a huge favor & buy your eggs early.
Tuesday before Thanksgiving
  • Peel your potatoes. Chop them, place them in a pot of water & stick them in the fridge. This probably goes without saying, but keep the Russet potatoes & sweet potatoes separated.
Day before Thanksgiving
  • This is a BIG DAY for Thanksgiving preparation. Take your potatoes out of the fridge. Drain the water and follow the recipes from there.
  • Once your mashed potatoes are complete, put them in the fridge.
  • For the sweet potato casserole, follow the recipe, but stop at the point where you add the topping and bake. (We’ll do that tomorrow.) Cover the casserole dish with foil and refrigerate.
  • Complete the creamed corn recipe, cover in foil and refrigerate.
  • Complete the deviled eggs, cover and refrigerate.
THE BIG DAY – Thanksgiving
  • We normally eat lunch at noon, so in that case, I would put the casserole dishes in the oven about an hour and a half before you need to leave. I throw them in there while it preheats and when it reaches 350 degrees I pull the sweet potatoes, add the topping and then bake per the recipe. (I know the baking temps vary between the corn and sweet pots, but I just put it on 350 degrees and check the corn until it’s warmed through.
  • While the oven is preheating, remove the prepared russet potatoes from the fridge and transfer them to a buttered crockpot on the “low” setting. Set the timer for about an hour & a half. Continue stirring, checking the temperature and finally adjusting the seasoning. You may need to add additional butter, salt & pepper once everything heats up.
  • Make a checklist before you leave the house & make sure you have all your sides and anything else you to serve them.