Monday, October 29, 2012

Cheesy Sausage and Tomato Shells

Time: 15 min. prep + 25 min. baking 
Yield: 12 servings
Recipe adapted from Miss Paula Dean and

***NOTE: This recipe makes a lot. It will feed my family of seven, twice. You could easily pour it into two 9×13 pans, cover one with aluminum foil and pop it into the freezer for another meal.*** 
1 (16 ounce) box elbow macaroni or medium shell pasta
1 green pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 T olive oil
1 pound sausage
2 (14.5 ounce) cans Italian Stewed Tomatoes
1 t cumin
1 t basil, dried
1 t oregano, dried
salt and pepper
2-3 C cheddar cheese, grated
1. Get yourself a nice box of pasta. Elbow macaroni or medium shells work well. 

2. Bring a medium sized pot of water to a boil. Salt it well, and pour in your dried pasta. Cook it according to package directions. Don’t let it get over cooked. Al Dente is the texture you are looking for. Which has nothing to do with Al your Dentist and everything to do with cooking pasta that still has a nice firmness to it, without being mushy and soggy.

Once the pasta is cooked pour the contents of the pot into a strainer resting nicely in your sink. Pour warm water over the top of the pasta and let it hang out there for a bit. 

3. While you pasta cooks, chop up one green pepper, one onion and 4 cloves of garlic. 
4. Heat up a large skillet over medium high heat. Add 1 T of olive oil to the pan.  Add the chopped veggies and cook them until the onions are translucent.
 Add the sausage and cook until browned.

5. Open up 2 cans of Italian Stewed Tomatoes and pour the contents into a medium sized bowl. 

Stick some kitchen scissors into the bowl and cut the tomatoes up into large chunks. 
6. Pour the chopped up tomatoes into the skillet with the sausage and veggies. 
7. Add 1 teaspoon of cumin, dried basil and dried oregano. 

Sprinkle a bit of salt and pepper over the top and give it all a nice stir to combine. 

8. Pour the cooked pasta into the skillet
and stir it into the tomato mixture. 
9. Spray a 9×13 with cooking spray and pour the pasta/tomato mixture of bliss into it. Sprinkle it with grated cheddar cheese. 
10. Bake the yummy casserole at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until the cheese is lightly browned and bubbly. 

Cinnamon chips

Flour Tortillas (I like the little 6″ ones)
Melted Butter

Cinnamon Sugar

Preheat oven to 350.

Lightly brush one side of each tortilla with melted butter. You could use cooking spray instead of butter, buy why would you ever want to do that?
Then sprinkle on some cinnamon sugar. A little or a lot. Since we’re doing life lessons today, here’s another: If ever faced with the decision to go with a little sugar or a lot of sugar, a lot wins. Always.

Use a pizza cutter to cut those tortillas into wedges. Last life lesson of the day: If you don’t own a pizza cutter go buy one. You will use it for all sorts of things you never knew you needed a pizza cutter for.

Place them on an ungreased baking sheet (sugar side up, incase you are visually impared and can’t tell by the picture) and bake them in the oven for about 10-12 minutes. You’ll see them crisp up. Watch for the edges to turn up.

Remove from oven and let cool. I usually place them on a cooling rack so I can fill up the pan with more, but they can just cool on the pan as well.

Copy Cat Cafe Rio Chicken Tortilla Soup

Recipe from

Here is how you serve the soup exactly like Cafe Rio:

1.  Put chicken in your bowl
2.  Top with Pico
3.  Top with a scoop of Guacamole
5.  Add shredded cheese (I'm not sure what kind of cheese Cafe Rio uses, but this recipe called for Pepper Jack)
6.  Add the flavorful broth
7.  Garnish with crunchy corn strips, cilantro and lime wedges.  DO NOT skip the crunchy corn chips on top.  They soak into the broth and when they soften, they are almost like noodles.  Oh my gosh - so good.  If you don't want to deal with making your own tortilla strips, you could always try using store-bought, corn flavored, tortilla chips.  Just make sure to add some kind of crunchy corn flavored goodness.  Serve with a flour tortilla on the side for dipping.     
Copycat Cafe Rio Tortilla Soup
slightly adapted from: Favorite Family Recipes

1 c. onion, finely chopped
1/2 c. carrots, finely chopped
1 tsp. cumin
dash of cayenne
1 tsp. chili powder
5 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3 Tbl. fresh cilantro, finely chopped
juice of 1/2 lime
pepper, to taste
Pepper Jack cheese, shredded
cilantro, for garnish
lime wedges, for garnish
shredded chicken, recipe below
pico de gallo, recipe below
guacamole, recipe below
tortilla strips, recipe below
warmed flour tortillas, for serving

Make sure you already have your chicken cooking.  In a small skillet, saute onion and carrots in 1 Tablespoon oil until slightly tender.  Stir in cumin, cayenne and chili powder and saute an additional minute or two.  Transfer seasoned vegetables to a small-medium crockpot (or medium-sized saucepan).  Add chicken broth, cilantro, lime juice and pepper. Cook on low (or simmer on stove) for at least 2-3 hours.  

To serve: In individual bowls, layer chicken, pico, a scoop of guacamole and shredded cheese.  Ladle about 1 - 1 1/2 cups of broth directly over layers.  Garnish with crunchy tortilla strips, cilantro and lime wedges.  Serve with warmed flour tortillas for dipping.  Serves: 4-5   

Copycat Cafe Rio Shredded Chicken
slightly adapted from: Cooking Classy
1 1/2 Lbs. chicken breasts
1/4 c. + 1/8 c. low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 c. Italian salad dressing
1/2 Tbl. chili powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. cumin

Place chicken breasts in crockpot.  Combine remaining ingredients and pour over chicken.  Cover and cook on low until chicken is done, about 4-6 hours.  Shred chicken in whatever sauce is remaining.  (You could always cook this in the oven if you need it to be done sooner).      

Pico de gallo (or use your favorite recipe)
tomatoes, diced
onion, finely chopped
cilantro, finely chopped

I chopped up a few tomatoes, added slightly less onion and some cilantro.  I figured the measurements didn't matter that much, since you will be adding it to the soup and it will mix with all the other ingredients. 

Guacamole (or use your favorite recipe)
1 ripe avocado
a few Tbl. of the pico de gallo
salt and pepper

Mash up avocado and stir in a few Tablespoons of the pico de gallo.  Season with a little salt and pepper.

Crunchy Tortilla Strips
**If you don't want to deal with frying tortilla strips, you could try using store-bought corn tortilla chips and crush those up in the soup.  I like the crunchy strips, because they soften and end up tasting like noodles, but using store-bought chips would save a lot of time and effort.  

1 pkg. soft corn tortillas, 
    cut into small strips using a pizza cutter
vegetable or canola oil

Add enough oil to a medium-sized saucepan to go about 2-3 inches up the side of the pan.  Heat over medium-high heat.  Carefully add some of the tortilla strips to the hot oil and fry until crisp, this will only take a few minutes per batch.  Using tongs, carefully remove to a paper-towel lined plate and season with salt.  Repeat with remaining strips.  Make sure you fry the strips in a few different batches, so they will cook right.   

Monday, October 22, 2012

Southwest Pasta Salad

Recipe by Our Best Bites

1/2 lb bowtie pasta
1 14oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 roma tomatoes, diced or about 3/4 C or halved cherry tomatoes
1 large red, yellow, or orange bell pepper, diced
1/2 C sliced green onions
1/2 C frozen fresh corn
zest from 2 limes
optional: 8 oz diced cooked chicken (this is fantastic)
1/2 C Queso Fresco or Cotija Cheese (or you could sub grated jack, cheddar or pepperjack)

6 Tbs fresh lime juice (about 3 juicy limes)
1/4 C white wine or rice vinegar
4-5 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 1/2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp kosher or sea salt
2 tsp sugar (add a touch more if your limes are extra sour/bitter)
3/4 C canola oil
1/2 C roughly chopped cilantro


To prepare dressing place Boil pasta in salted water until cooked. While it’s cooking, prepare dressing.

First zest your limes and place the zest in a large salad bowl.

Place the lime juice, vinegar, garlic, chili powder, cumin, coriander, salt and sugar in a blender. (Basically everything except the cilantro and oil) Process until smooth. With the motor running slowly, add the oil in a steady stream until incorporated. Add the cilantro and pulse so it gets broken up, but some pieces still remain in tact.

When pasta is done cooking, drain and rinse immediately with cold water to cool. Place the pasta in the large salad bowl with the lime zest. Add black beans, tomatoes, diced pepper, green onions, corn (no need to thaw the corn), and chicken if desired. Toss with dressing. Taste, and add additional salt and pepper to taste. For best results, chill for 1 hour before serving. Right before serving, sprinkle cheese on top. Serve with extra lime wedges if desired.

Makes about 4-6 dinner sized servings or 10-12 side servings

Chocolate peanut butter smoothie

Chocolate Peanut Butter –  2 TBL unsweetened cocoa powder, 2 TBL peanut butter, ½ banana, 1 cup almond milk, ice. 320 calories total.

Crock pot ham and potato soup

Recipe from


7 c. diced potatoes (about 4 medium)
1 c. diced onion (about 1 medium)
1 large carrot, chopped
2 c. ham, diced
5. c. hot water
1 Knorr Chicken Bullion cube (extra large size that
makes 1 quart broth or 4 small cubes that make 1 cup each)
1 c. 2% milk
1/2 c. sour cream
Salt and Pepper to taste


Add diced potatoes, onion, carrot, and ham to a crock pot. Dissolve chicken bullion in 5 cups hot water, then add this to the crock pot also. Cook on low 7 hours, or high 3 hours. Then add milk and sour cream. Stir and cook an additional 15 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Makes twelve 1-cup servings.

If you'd like a thicker soup, just before adding milk and sour cream, remove 2-3 cups of the potatoes and slightly mash, then return the mashed mixture to the crock pot.

Makes 12 Servings (About 1 Cup Per Serving)

Nutritional Info Per Serving: Calories: 151.7; Fat: 5.3 g; Cholesterol: 18.7 mg;
Sodium: 534.2 mg; Carbs: 19.5 g; Fiber: 2.5 g; Protein: 6.9 g

Monday, October 15, 2012

Flower cupcakes

  1.  Cute flower cupcakes perfect for Spring.

  2. Go here for a video tutorial

Weight Watchers Cheddar Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta

Prep Time:20 Min
Cook Time:20 Min


1/2 lbwhole wheat penne pasta
4 slcbacon, diced
1/2 Tbsplight butter

get recipes @
1 lgchicken breast, boneless & skinless, cut into bite sized pieces
1 Tbspall purpose flour
1/2 pkgranch dressing mix ( 1/2 oz)
1 cfat free milk
1/2 cfat free shredded cheddar cheese
salt & pepper to taste


 Cook pasta according to package directions in boiling salted water; drain, return to pot, and keep warm.

 Meanwhile, cook bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp. Drain on paper towels. Drain all but 1/2 tablespoon of bacon drippings from the pan.

 Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Add the butter to the reserved bacon drippings, then add the chicken to the same skillet. Cook until tender, no longer pink, and slightly browned.

 Sprinkle the flour and ranch dressing mix over the chicken, stirring to coat evenly. Stir in the milk, and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened and bubbly. Stir in the cheddar cheese and half of the reserved bacon; cook and stir until the cheese is melted. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed.

 Serve each plate of pasta with more bacon sprinkled over the top.