Monday, October 31, 2016

Chicken Alfredo Pasta Bake and Patrick

Happy Halloween to all of you today!  May it be a day full of safe Trick-O-Treating and lots of chocolate for us moms!  We of course are having our annual Tamale Casserole tonight for dinner (a.k.a..."that Halloween chili thing") as so eloquently put by one of my daughters.

Sometimes "tricks" happen in your house even before the inevitable holiday, without it being planned or you even knowing about it.

For weeks now, the "eloquent" daughter had been working on a project for her Crafts class...(yes, you know how it goes...Senior year and you need those quick elective classes for graduation requirements).  At any rate, she told me about the cutest little mouse she made and named him Patrick.  Well, she brought Patrick in the gym with her backpack and volleyball gear for one of their games.  After the match, she went to gather her items....Patrick had been petnapped!  He was gone! She was in a massive panic attack.

During the next week, she looked everywhere...under the bleachers, lost and found, in her car, everywhere! She was not just distraught that she had come to have great affection for Patrick, but he needed to still be graded for her class!!

A few days night I am doing laundry.  I go to grab their volleyball jerseys to put in the washing machine.  A small gray mouse jumps out at me from the dirty pile of clothes and I screamed like you could not even imagine (thank God the house was empty), I think I even scared the dogs!  I'll let you put the rest of the puzzle pieces together from there...all I can say is, my daughter owes me big time!

Well, not only did Patrick make an appearance in our house during this week, but also this pasta bake. If you are needing to feed a crowd during the holidays, potlucks, or open houses, this will do the trick (no pun intended) can also cut it up and it makes great lunch leftovers for those gourmet work microwave lunches.

Chicken Alfredo Pasta Bake
Courtesy of www.thecookingjar

16 oz. penne pasta
2 cups Alfredo sauce (homemade or your favorite brand)
8 oz. sour cream
3 cups poached/grilled/rotisserie chicken, cubed
15 oz. ricotta cheese
1 tsp. garlic, minced
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
1 Tbl. parsley, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups Mozzarella cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cook the pasta according to package directions just before al dente.  Drain and rinse pasta under cold water to stop the cooking process.

Mix pasta with Alfredo sauce, sour cream and chicken in a large mixing bowl.

Combine ricotta, garlic, eggs, Parmesan and parsley and mix thoroughly.

Season the pasta mix with salt and pepper to taste.

Add the ricotta mixture to the pasta and stir to combine.

Pour pasta/chicken mixture in a non-stick prepared 9x11 glass baking dish.  Spread mixture evenly.

Top with a thick layer of Mozzarella cheese.

Bake for 30 minutes or until bubbly.

Then, broil at 450 degrees for 2-3 minutes or until the cheese starts to brown (don't take your eyes off it, browns quickly!)  Enjoy the bake hot with a fresh salad and garlic bread.

One Year Ago: Shortbread S'Mores Cups
Two Years Ago: Naughty Lemonade
Three Years Ago: Tamale Casserole

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Apricot-Gorgonzola Crescent Appetizers and Senior Gifts

As we are winding down the last week of our girls' high school volleyball careers we have been blessed to celebrate them during their "Senior Night".

Each Senior (we had 11 of them this year) is honored during a special ceremony before their last home game.  Custom and personalized posters were made of each player, a special hug and roses from their Coach and a very unique gift that was made from each one of their moms (including me).

All of us moms were given a wooden initial of each of our daughters and about 100 action shot photos to go through.  We did a custom cut-out collage of our favorite photos and then glued and Modge Podged them onto the wooden initials.  These were such a beautiful and treasured gift for each player and one they can hang on their walls and enjoy for a lifetime.

In between all my cutting, gluing and "podging" one afternoon, I was getting really hungry.  I had about a half of a jar of apricot preserves left over in the refrigerator and saw this recipe.  I'm all about fun small plates foods and thought this looked great...and it was!  Honestly though, I wrapped up the leftovers that we didn't eat at dinner and put them in the refrigerator...they were even better chilled the next morning with a cup of coffee.  If you think about it, they're really not that much different than a breakfast pastry (or so I talked myself into anyway).

Apricot-Gorgonzola Crescent Appetizers
Courtesy of Pillsbury

1 can Pillsbury refrigerated Crescent Dough Sheet
1/4 cup Apricot preserves
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
1/2 cup chopped pecans ...(I thought I had pecans in pantry, so had to substitute with sliced almonds)
1/4 tsp. ground pepper

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray large cookie sheet with non-stick cooking spray.

Unroll crescent dough roll; place on cookie sheet.  Press dough into 13 x 9 inch rectangle.

In small microwavable bowl, microwave preserves and butter uncovered on high about 30 seconds or until butter is melted; stir until smooth.  Spread preserves mixture evenly over dough.  Top evenly with Gorgonzola cheese and pecans.  Sprinkle evenly with pepper.  

Bake 13 to 19 minutes.  Cut into 12 squares.  Serve warm.

Two Years Ago: BLT Sandwiches
Three Years Ago: Grannie's Lasagna

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Baked Spaghetti and Spiking Cancer

As you know, October is Breast Cancer Awareness month.  Our school in the past has dedicated a night called Dig Pink, where all the volleyball players wear pink in their uniforms and honor those affected by Breast Cancer.

This year we decided to dedicate the night to children who one way or another have been affected by cancer either through themselves or a family member...we called it "Spike Cancer" night.

The gym, school and players all were beautifully in spirit with the children that attended and they had a terrific time.  It was definitely a heartfelt and emotional evening.

To bring a little comfort...this pasta dish will make you feel warm and cozy for any kind of emotions. Goes quick together and makes for great leftovers (if there are any).  Enjoy!

Baked Spaghetti

6 cups cooked thin spaghetti noodles, drained
Alfredo sauce (jarred or your favorite recipe)
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
Italian Meatballs (homemade or your favorite frozen, cooked)
Marinara Sauce (homemade or your favorite 25 oz. jar)
grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare a 9 x 13 baking dish with nonstick spray.

Mixed cooked spaghetti with Alfredo sauce.  Pour spaghetti mixture into prepared baking dish. Sprinkle the mozzarella cheese all over pasta.

Bake for 25-30 minutes.

While spaghetti is baking, heat meatballs and marinara sauce together in a large saucepan.

Plate the baked spaghetti with a few meatballs and some sauce.  Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

*Serve with garlic bread and fresh garden salad.

One Year Ago: Chocolate Raspberry Silk Pie
Two Years Ago: Chocolate Chip Shortbread
Three Years Ago: Chicken Tortilla Soup

Friday, October 14, 2016

Coconut Chicken with Mango Sauce

As the temperatures are cooling, I am missing the warm summer weather more and more.  Now we definitely have sun every single day, but just thinking about those warm summer nights, sitting on our patio with the tiki torches lit and listening to our waterfall...are making me count down through next year already.

Loved our wet suits...helped me with my "girly figure", 
since I ate my way through the island!

I have been really aching for some tropical time though.  My husband surprised me almost ten years ago and took me to Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas for our tenth wedding anniversary.  It was the most glorious vacation we have ever had on our own.  The sights, sounds and tastes of the Bahamas is nothing you can describe.

As I have been playing with tropical recipes over the summer, this one really stood out.  Awesome flavors that brought me right back to paradise!

Friday, October 7, 2016

Pluot Crostada (Galette) and Getting Our Fall On

As you know by now I love, love, love the fall.  We had fog this morning and icy, crunchy grass in the yard.  I read that it is already snowing in the mountains, which means it won't be long until it's down on us.

Until then, we are taking advantage of the autumn days and nights.  Most enjoyably, having fun with doing the "color change out" from spring to fall, as you may have read in my curtain debacle, that I posted earlier about.

Loving my new "clearance" autumn dining room curtains!

Front porch area all ready to go!

Another favorite of fall is Pluot season!!  These little fruits are so awesome and versatile, I have the best time experimenting with them.  This dessert is over-the-top delicious and easy!  Literally melts in your, so good...I can't say enough about it.  I also can't wait to try more takes on them this weekend...stay tuned!

Pluot Crostada

Premade pie crust (1) sheet
4 medium size Pluots, sliced
3 Tbl flour
3 Tbl sugar
pinch of salt
juice of 1 lime
raw sugar for sprinkling
1 egg yolk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line baking sheet with parchment paper and roll out pie crust on paper.

In a bowl, mix together the sliced pluots, flour, sugar, salt and lime juice.  Pile onto the center of the pie crust.

Fold the edges of the crust over the edge of the pile of fruit.  Whisk the egg yolk with 1-2 Tablespoons of water to make an egg wash and brush the folded edges of the crust.  Sprinkle the whole crostada with the raw sugar.

Bake for 45-50 minutes until crust is flaky and golden brown.

Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or fresh whipped cream.

One Year Ago: BLT Macaroni Salad
Two Years Ago: Slow Cooker Sauerbraten
Three Years Ago: Greek Salsa Chicken

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Slower Cooker Chicken Tortellini Soup and Losing My Mind

Do you ever have those moments when you feel like you are truly losing your mind?  I've been having those all too often lately.,.to the point where some days I don't know which direction I am going.

About eight months ago I purchased some curtains for our dining room.  The wall had been plain since we moved in and it was really starting to get to me.  I'm one of those that must have color and textures around them.  I don't do well with sparse and minimalism.  I found the perfect pair at an unbelievable sale price, which was an extra added bonus.  The colors were spot on to the color of our dining room chairs and I couldn't be more thrilled.

Since we had a few months before spring and I still had my "winter table decor" out, I tucked them away until it was time to do the color change out...yeah I know...don't judge.

At any rate, I "tucked them away" so well when springtime came I could not find them.  I found all the other dining items for spring that I packed away for winter...accent pillows for chairs, table runner, candle holders, placemats, etc...for the life of me, I could not find those curtains!  

I looked everywhere!  Cabinets, buffet, secretary armoire, extra empty dresser drawers, cardboard boxes in the basement...everywhere!!  Did I accidentally throw them away in their shopping bag?  Did I accidentally put them in the Goodwill donation box?  I really felt sorry for my family...every week I was interrogating them..."Are you sure you haven't seen my new curtains anywhere?"!!!

September finally came and I gave up looking for my curtains.  Soon I would be doing the color change out anyway.  I stumbled on a new pair of curtains while I was out one Saturday.  They were on clearance and the perfect autumn colors to match my fall table decor.

I said goodbye to my spring collection, packed everything up and brought out the fall dining room items.  Just then my husband came in and said "Are these the curtains you've been looking for?" holding my eight month old curtains!!!!!!  I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.  "Where did you find them?", I screeched.  Apparently I hung them in the coat closet so they wouldn't get wrinkled (it's all starting to come back to me now).  He found them while grabbing a jacket for the fall morning...ugh!!

The good news is this soup doesn't take much brain power or memory!  You throw most of the ingredients in the slow cooker and let it do it's magic during the day (just remember to turn your slower cooker on in the morning before you leave)...just saying!

You will come home to the most wonderful aroma that is inviting and comforting to eat.  Enjoy!

Slow Cooker Chicken Tortellini Soup
Courtesy of

1-1/2 pounds boneless chicken breast
3 medium carrots, peeled and diced
3 stalks celery, diced
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
6 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 cup water
2 bay leaves
1 tsp Italian seasoning
2 cups cheese tortellini
chopped fresh parsley for serving, if desired
salt and pepper to taste

Add all of the ingredients to a slower cooker (except for the tortellini).

Cook on low for 6 hours

Remove the cooked chicken from the slow cooker and shred or cube, and add back to the slow cooker.

Add in the tortellini and cook for 15 minutes or until they are cooked all the way through.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Discard bay leaves and serve immediately with chopped parsley, if desired.

One Year Ago: BLT Macaroni Salad
Two Years Ago: Ice Cream Cake Treat
Three Years Ago: Apple Of My Eye Dumplings

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Apple, Bacon and Blue Cheese Fall Flatbread

Fall is upon us here and is by far my favorite time of year.  The Aspen trees are gloriously golden and the forests are a rainbow of colors now before their leaves depart soon.

The mornings and nights are getting more and more chilly and makes us want to curl up in our warm sweaters and throw blankets.

This flatbread (or pizza) encompasses all the flavors and warmth of the fall evenings.  It has elevated flavors and each bite takes on a new layer of "yummyness" (not an actual word, but when you eat this, you will know exactly what I am trying to describe!!)

Apple, Bacon and Blue Cheese Fall Flatbread

1 Stonefire Artisan Thin Pizza Crust (or your favorite flatbread or naan)
1 to 2 Tbl olive oil
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 Tbl butter
1-1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
8 ounces crumbled blue cheese
1 small sweet-tart apple, cored and thinly sliced
4 slices cooked bacon, chopped
1 to 2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
1 to 2 Tbl honey

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Heat skillet over medium-low heat.  Add sliced onions and butter.  Cook onions, stirring occasionally, 15-20 minutes until soft and caramelized.

Place pizza crust or flatbread on a large parchment lined baking sheet.  Drizzle a small amount of olive oil over the crust and spread.  Sprinkle pizza with mozzarella cheese and blue cheese.  Top with sliced apple, chopped bacon, caramelized onions and chopped rosemary.  Lightly drizzle honey all over pizza.

Bake pizza 10-12 minutes or until cheese melts and crust is golden brown.  Cool pizza 5 minutes before serving.

One Year Ago: BLT Macaroni Salad
Two Years Ago: Ice Cream Cake Treat
Three Years Ago: Weeknight Ravioli Bake

My go-to secret ingredient!