Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Beef Stew (Slow Cooker)

After the kids went to bed tonight I sat down, watched a little Extra, made lunches, sorted Little People back into their appropriate bins and loaded up my slow cooker with all of the ingredients needed to make tomorrow night's dinner, beef stew.  I love this beef stew recipe.  It is one of our favorites during the fall and winter seasons.  It took me about 15 minutes to chop and peel the veggies and another 5 minutes to wash the cutting board, knife and measuring cup I used!  Quick, easy and SO yummy!  In the morning I will take the slow cooker insert out of the fridge and turn it on low for 8-10 hours!  The addition of cornstarch in the last hour thickens it up nicely.  

Beef Stew (Slow Cooker)

2 pounds beef stew meat
1 medium onion, chopped
4-5 medium red potatoes, peeled and quartered 
1/2 lb green beans
4 large carrots, chopped
1 quart beef broth
1 cup dry red wine
2 tablespoons tomato paste
¼  teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leave
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 t worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons cold water

1.  Combine beef and the next 13 ingredients in a slow cooker.
2.  Cover and cook on LOW for 8-10 hours.
3.  Whisk together cornstarch and water. Stir into stew.
4.  Cover and cook on high 1 hour or until stew is thickened.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Jeni's One Bowl Pumpkin Muffins

I love how Facebook reunites you with fun friends you lost touch with when life was busy happening.  There was a time before the kids came along when our weekends were filled with social gatherings that did not include juice boxes and pinatas.  Jeni and her husband Dave were one of those great couples we met up with for drinks at friends' houses, concerts, beach days and dinner.  It has been nice to catch up with her and her beautiful family via Facebook.  

I am always looking for new recipes to try and was so excited when Jeni shared her recipe for these healthy, one bowl pumpkin muffins!  I baked them on a Sunday and packed them in my daughter's lunch box for a couple days while they lasted.  I like to make mini-muffins for the girls because they tend to waste the larger ones.  Large or small, they are delicious!  Thanks Jeni!

3/4 cup honey
 ½ t. cinnamon
2 eggs
½ t. nutmeg
¼ t. baking powder 
1 2/3 c. whole wheat flour ( I split regular and whole wheat)
1 t. baking soda 
½ c. melted butter
¾ t. salt 
1/4 c. cold water
½ t. cloves
¼ tsp. ginger 
1 c. pumpkin (about half a 15 oz can)
1 T molasses

Optional Additions:   ½ cup diced apples and ½ cup raisins to it!

Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Bake muffins for 30 minute at 325 degrees.  If baking smaller muffins, bake at 325 degrees for about 10-12 minutes.

Notice in the picture my frothy pumpkin spice latte!  I don't have an expresso machine but I do have a Keurig.  I came across a mini-milk frothier on Amazon called an Aero-Latte! Best invention ever!!!  I heat about 1/4 cup of milk in the microwave and use the Aero-Latte to make steamed milk!  Tastes like Starbucks every time!  Less than $20 on Amazon! 

Monday, September 27, 2010

swiss chicken

This prep ahead chicken dish is great weeknight comfort food! The chicken is topped with a thin slice of swiss, covered with a creamy sauce and finished off with a layer of buttered stuffing.  It's moist, flavorful and very filling!  If you are interested in buying organic ingredients I found some great brands at my local grocery store! I used Arrowhead Mills Organic Herbed Stuffing Mix  and Pacific Natural Foods Organic Cream of Chicken Condensed Soup and the results were amazing.  

Prep Ahead Plan:  Take 10 minutes and prepare this whole chicken dish in a 9 X 13 pan the night before.  Super easy to mix it together and clean up takes less than 5 minutes.  Love that!


  • 6 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  • 6 slices Swiss cheese
  • 1 (10.75 ounce) can condensed cream of chicken soup
  • 1/4 cup milk or white wine
  • 2 T sherry* (optional) 
  • 2 cups herb-seasoned stuffing mix
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • *If I use 1/4 cup of milk I add in the sherry, if I use 1/4 cup of white wine, I skip the sherry!)


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  2. Arrange chicken in a greased 13 X 9 baking dish. Top with Swiss cheese slices.
  3. Combine soup and milk and stir well. Spoon mixture over chicken and sprinkle with stuffing mix. Drizzle butter or margarine over crumbs.
  4. Cover and bake at 350 degrees F for 40-50 minutes. Enjoy!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Mom's Cheese Cloud

This is a great prep ahead family breakfast that my mom has been making for years.  We love to serve this on Sunday mornings with a side of oven bacon(see the directions for oven bacon below).   Leftovers can be kept in the fridge and reheated in the microwave during the week.  Delicious!

12 slices white bread, crust trimmed, cut into cubes (9 cubes per slice)
1/2 lb. grated sharp cheddar
2 2/3 cups milk
4 eggs
3/4 t salt
dash of paprika
1/4 1b melted butter
dash of pepper

1.  Melt butter and spread some on the bottom of a 9 x 13 dish.
2.  Layer bread cubes and cheese ending with cheese last.
3.  Pour remaining butter over layers.
4.  Whisk together eggs, milk and seasonings and pour over bread and cheese.
5.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.  In the morning bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes*.

*Allow to set for about 15 minutes before slicing.  I always let it sit on the counter while I make some oven bacon. In my opinion, this is the BEST way for parents of small children to make bacon!  No more worrying about spattering grease from frying pans burning the child clinging to your leg!  See simple directions below if you're not familiar with oven bacon.

Oven Bacon
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2.  On a broiler pan, fit as many pieces of bacon as you can on the broiler pan without having them overlap.
3.  Bake for 17-20 minutes.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Fondue Night!

Saturday night is dessert night in our house.  The deal is, if the girls at least TRY their dinner during the week, on Saturday, they can pick a special dessert to have after dinner.  On this particular Saturday the kids chose chocolate fondue!  We love to break out the fondue pot for a filling night of unhealthy dipping!  We prepped the dipping plates ahead of time and mixed the chocolate ingredients in the pot after dinner.  It only takes minutes to melt on the warm setting.  So sit your toddlers in the center of the kitchen table next to some molten chocolate and hand them a spear....It's fondue night!!!!!

Chocolate Fondue
  • 32 ounces milk chocolate (or 32 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate)
  • 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • 1/3 cup hot water

1.  Combine chocolate with heavy cream and melt on warm in the fondue pot.   Add remaining ingredients, stir and serve immediately with side dishes of bananas, strawberries, pretzels or whatever dippers you choose!


Monday, September 20, 2010

Greek Chicken (oven baked)

I love the simplicity of this chicken dish.  You mix everything in the 9 X 11 baking dish the night before.  As it sits skin side down overnight the flavors seep into the meat making it moist and flavorful every time.  We usually serve it with cous cous and a steamed vegetable.

4 bone in split chicken breasts
1/2 cup olive oil
juice of 2 lemons
3 -4 cloves of garlic, crushed or minced
3 t dried oregano
1/2 t kosher salt
1/2 t pepper

1.  Mix the olive oil and next 5 ingredients in a 9 X 11 baking dish.
2.  Place chicken in the dish, turning them in the marinade a few times.  I like to lift the skin and use my hands to spread some of the marinade underneath it.  Leave them skin side down in the dish.  Cover them and refrigerate overnight.
3.  The next day, bake them at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  Flip and bake an additional 30-40 minutes.  I like to turn the broiler on high during the last 5 minutes to brown up the skins. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Ravioli Casserole (slow cooker)

Our busy fall schedule has officially begun and my slow cooker has taken center stage on my kitchen counter.  I realize that boiling ravioli in a pot, heating sauce in another and throwing it all together at dinner time is not that difficult for most people.  I wish that was the case in our household.  Some days,  I walk in the door at 5:30 with three cranky children who still need a backpack emptied, help with homework, a diaper changed, some love and attention and baths.  These events often lead to the drama of "witching hour" that may include but are not limited to: one part insanity, one part hilarity and one part irrationality.  Having dinner hot and ready to be served as we do our best to keep the insanity to a minimum, enjoy the hilarity and teach rational behavior is absolutely a necessity!!!  Enjoy your ravioli casserole with some crusty french bread and a big glass of wine!

Prep Ahead Plan:  This meal only takes a few minutes to assemble in your slow cooker.  I usually throw it together in the morning.  It can't be done the night before or your ravioli will defrost.  

2 26-28 oz jars of pasta sauce ( I use San Marzano or Thoughtful Harvest)
2 cloves garlic
3/4 cup dry red wine
2 t dried basil or 2 T fresh
2 25oz packages of medium sized, frozen ravioli (do not defrost)
2 cups shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup parmesan cheese

1.  Mix wine with tomato sauce. Pour about 2 cups of tomato/wine sauce in slow cooker, add in garlic and one package of frozen ravioli, 1 cup mozzarella and 2 T parmesan cheese.
2.  Add 2 more cups of tomato/wine sauce, the last package of ravioli, the remaining mozzarella and 2 T of parmesan cheese.  Cover with remaining tomato/wine sauce.
3.  Cook on low for 6 hours.  Serve with remaining parmesan cheese sprinkled on top!

Thai Pork with Peanut Sauce (slow cooker)

recipe adapted from Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook by Beth Hensperger and Julie Kaufmann
I love Thai food!  This recipe has all the great flavors of an authentic Thai dish.  It is a great weeknight meal as it involves very little prep and can be cooked all day while you are out working or shuttling children around!  I usually serve it over jasmine rice but it also tastes great over lo mein or pad thai noodles!

Prep Ahead Plan:  Place all of the ingredients in the slow cooker insert the night before!  Refrigerate it and turn it on before you leave in the morning! 

One(2 pound) boneless pork loin, fat trimmed and cut into 4 pieces
2 red bell peppers, cut into strips
1/2 cup prepared teriyaki sauce (I use Soy Vay brand)
2 T rice vinegar
1 t red pepper flakes
3 cloves garlic
2-3 T creamy peanut butter

Possible garnishes:
Chopped green onions (about 1/2 cup)
roasted chop peanuts (about 1/4 cup)
1 lime sliced into wedges

1.  Spray slow cooker with cooking spray. Place all ingredients except for peanut butter and garnishes in the slow cooker.
2.  Cook on low for 8-9 hours.
3.  Before serving, remove pork and cut up.  Mix peanut butter with sauce in slow cooker until peanut butter dissolves.  
4.  Toss pork back in slow cooker and coat with sauce.  Serve over rice with garnishes!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

prep ahead football food: stuffed french bread pizzas

If you happen to be at our house on a Sunday during the fall season, you can expect to be served some fattening football food.  This posting is more of a technique than it is a recipe because these pizzas can be customized in a variety of ways.  Last week, we served up some buffalo chicken french bread pizzas and  plain cheese ones for the kiddoes.  

We have made these pizzas so many different ways.  Here are a few options:  Sauté vegetables of your choice in olive oil and garlic. Then, top bread with sauce, veggie mixture and cheese.  Sauté spinach in garlic and olive oil.  Then, top french bread with kalamata olives, feta and spinach mixture.  OR Stuff breads with sausage and pepperoni.  Then, top bread with sauce, meat mixture and cheese.  So many options and so many ways to be creative!

Prep Ahead Plan:  These are great to prepare a few hours ahead of time especially if you are having guests over.  Once they arrive, pop these in the oven, slice them up and leave them on a serving tray for guests to pick at.  

Here is our recipe for buffalo chicken french bread pizzas!

1 large loaf of french bread, cut into 3 equal pieces then slice each piece as if you are going to make a sub (This leaves enough for 6 pizzas.  We used 4 for the buffalo chicken and the remaining 2 were plain cheese.  Use whatever sauce, cheese ratio you prefer for those and bake them the same amount of time as the buffalo ones).
1/2-3/4 of a  16oz jar pizza sauce (I use San Marzano)
olive oil
1/3 of a 12 oz bottle of buffalo sauce
1/4 cup of blue cheese crumbles
1 8oz ball of fresh mozzarella, cut into chunks*
2 chicken breasts, cooked and cut up (I use the all-natural pre cooked rotisserie chicken breasts)
1 t italian seasoning 

*If you like a cheesier pizza, top with additional shredded or fresh mozzarella before baking.
1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Scoop out most of the bread from the inside of each of the french bread slices leaving them to look like empty bread boats.  Place them on a cookie sheet and drizzle each piece with olive oil (be sure to drizzle some on the crusts).
2.  In a bowl, mix the remaining ingredients.
3.  Stuff 4 of the 6 french breads with the buffalo chicken mixture.  Top with more mozzarella for a cheesier pizza!
4.  Bake for 25-35 minutes until cheese is bubbly and crusts are brown and crunchy!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

lunch box granola bars

School has begun and I am working on stocking my freezer and cabinets with some healthy snack options for before, during and after Riley's busy full day in first grade!  Of course it's easy enough to find granola bars in a box at the super market but I love being able to control the quality of ingredients that goes into their little bodies!  I let the girls stay up about 15 minutes past their bedtime on Monday so they could help mix up a batch of these yummy granola bars.  Everything is mixed up in one bowl making clean up quick and easy. My girls like raisins and chocolate chips in theirs but you can add whatever dried fruit your family likes best!

Granola Bars
Yields 24 granola bars

  • Ingredients:
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup wheat germ
  • 1 t ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour (I like to use whole wheat flour)
  • 1/2 cup raisins (optional)
  • 1/4 cup chocolate chips
  • 3/4 t salt
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 t vanilla extract


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Generously grease a 9x13 inch baking pan.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the oats, brown sugar, wheat germ, cinnamon, flour, raisins, chocolate chips and salt. Make a well in the center, and pour in the honey, egg, oil and vanilla. Mix well using your hands. Pat the mixture evenly into the prepared pan.
  3. Bake for 25-30 minutes in the preheated oven, until the bars begin to turn golden at the edges. Cool for 5 minutes, then cut into bars while still warm. Do not allow the bars to cool completely before cutting, or they will be too hard to cut.

Monday, September 6, 2010

beef and barley soup (slow cooker)

We're big soup eaters in our house.  When I first heard New England was getting a little taste of that nice, crisp, cooler fall weather, I put this on the menu!  I often use the delay timer on my bread machine and serve this alongside some crusty french bread.  

This recipe makes a ton!  Soup only tastes better when left in the fridge for a few days so I often use the leftovers for lunches or dinner later in the week.  This recipe also freezes well.

You can add whatever vegetables your family likes best.  I usually use a bag of frozen mixed vegetables and then chop additional carrots and green beans because my kids prefer them.  The first time I made this soup I used vegetable broth and loved the results but you can use whatever you have on hand.

Beef and Barley Soup


  • 1 (2-3 pound) beef chuck roast (cut up) OR 2-3 pounds stew meat
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1/2 1b (or a couple of handfuls) of green beans
  • 1 (16 ounce) package frozen mixed vegetables
  • 2 quarts vegetable broth (I use Nature's Promise)
  • 1 T white sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 (28 ounce) can chopped stewed tomatoes with juice
  • salt to taste
  • ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup barley


  1. In a slow cooker, combine all ingredients except barley.  Cook on low for 8-10 hours.
  2. During the last 30-40 minutes of cooking, add the barley and stir.  Serve hot!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Glazed Peach Pie

My oldest daughter, Riley, started first grade on Wednesday and was given the privilege of selecting the menu for the last official night of summer (the last night from a child's perspective, not the calendar's!).  Of course she selected hotdogs, carrot sticks, oven fries and glazed peach pie!  My friend Mary passed this recipe along to my mom when I was in high school who in turn, passed it to me!  I have been making it for years and it is one of my favorites!  It's a great recipe to make ahead of time because it is served cold from the fridge!  Yummy!

This pie is perfect for this time of year, made with peaches picked fresh from your local orchard.  We made a quick stop at Narrow Lane Orchard and came home with 4 bags of ripe, sweet and juicy peaches!  Peach season is way too short!

1 baked pie crust (I use Pillsbury)
3/4 cup sugar
3 T corn starch
1 cup water
pinch of salt
3 T peach flavored Jello
4 cups peaches, peeled and sliced (about 4 large peaches or 5-6 small/medium ones)

1.  In a small sauce pan, add water, salt and corn starch. Stir to blend.  Bring to a boil, stirring until  it thicken and clears (about 5 minutes).
2.  Off heat, mix in peach jello.  Cool.
3.  Arrange 1/2 of the peaches in a single layer in pie crust.  Pour 1/2 of glaze over peaches.  Repeat with the rest of the peaches and glaze.
4.  Refrigerate for a few hours and serve with whipped cream!