Jun 2014
BBQ Macaroni Salad

BBQ Macaroni Salad

Summertime means barbeques, and what BBQ is complete without pasta salad? This version is a little more amped up than your usual pasta salad. Add in some kielbasa, BBQ sauce and hot sauce, and you have a spicy, tangy version that will knock your flip-flops off. I made this for my husband to take to his annual guys weekend, and apparently it was a hit. According to my husband, guys that normally hate pasta salad were inhaling this. (Yes, I let my husband go away for a guys weekend with a 1 month old at home. I’m still waiting for my “wife of the year” trophy.)

BBQ Macaroni Salad 031

My favorite thing about it is that you can make it a day or two ahead of time, and keep it in the fridge. Perfect to make ahead of time before a big party or picnic. We’ll definitely be seeing more of this pasta salad this summer.

Looking for a more traditional pasta salad? Check out my tri-color pasta salad.

BBQ Macaroni Salad

Yield: 8-10 servings


  • 8-12 ounces turkey kielbasa, diced
  • 1 pound macaroni, any shape
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 celery rib, finely chopped
  • 4 green onions, sliced thinly
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup low-fat mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup BBQ sauce


  1. In a large skillet, heat 1 teaspoon of canola oil over medium heat, than add the chopped kielbasa and cook until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Line a plate with paper towels, then transfer the kielbasa to the plate and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil, then cook the macaroni until tender, about 6 minutes. Drain the pasta then transfer to a large bowl.
  3. Add the kielbasa, bell pepper, celery, green onion, vinegar, hot sauce, chili powder, garlic powder and cayenne pepper to the macaroni and stir to combine, Add in the mayonnaise and barbecue sauce, then season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Store in the refrigerator for up to two days.
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Source: Mel’s Kitchen Cafe

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Jun 2014
Cheesy Cajun Spiced Corn

Cheesy Cajun Spiced CornAfter a brutally cold winter and snow well into April, I think it is safe to say that summer is finally here in western Pennsylvania. Our yard is blooming with flowers, the grass is finally green, and our weekends are filled with picnics, softball games, and home improvement projects. And of course, trips to the ice cream stand.

One of my favorite things to do in the summer is to grill and eat dinner on our back deck. My husband usually is the grill-master, while I handle all the side dishes inside of the house. So whenever possible, I try to make our sides on the grill, therefore allowing me more time to sip wine with my feet up while I watch my husband grill. Plus, you don’t have the oven heating up the whole house.

This cheesy cajun spiced corn is the perfect side dish for a summer meal. It’s extremely adaptable, just use whatever veggies or seasonings you happen to have on hand. By using a foil packet, it steams the veggies perfectly, and there is no mess to clean up. You could even make it over a campfire for those of you who like to camp!

Cheesy Cajun Spiced Corn

Cheesy Cajun Spiced Corn

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 25 minutes

Yield: 3-4 servings


  • 1 package (10 oz.) frozen whole kernel corn
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 3/4 cup chopped bell pepper (any color)
  • 1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons margarine or butter
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar or pepper jack cheese


  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F, or the grill to medium-high heat.
  2. On a sheet of aluminum foil, combine the corn, onion and bell pepper in the center of the foil. Sprinkle with the Cajun seasoning, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Slice the butter into small pats, and place on top of the vegetables, then top with the cheese.
  3. Bring the sides of the foil up, folding the ends to make one large foil packet, being sure to leave some room for air to circulate.
  4. Place on the grill, or in the oven for 15-20 minutes. Open the packet carefully allowing steam to escape, stir to combine, then serve.
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Source: Adapted from Reynold’s Kitchens

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May 2014
Thai Chicken Bites

Thai Chicken Bites

My husband doesn’t grocery shop. Partly because, I am weird and love to grocery shop, and partly because when he does, he either comes home with random things, or I field multiple phone calls regarding the items on my list. It’s just not worth it to send him to the store. Last time he grocery shopped was the day we brought Avery home from the hospital. We literally had no food in the house, as I had planned to do a major grocery shopping stock up trip the day after she was born. Someone had other plans for me. :)

Nevertheless, I sent him off to the store with an extensive list, and I stayed home trying to figure out how to keep our 2-day old alive. He returned with everything on the list, as well as a bottle of sweet chili sauce. I asked him what he planned on doing with it, and he said, “I thought maybe you could make some Asian food with it!”

Sure dude. In my spare time.

Thai Chicken Bites

Now that we’re three weeks in to this whole parenting thing, life is getting somewhat easier, and I’m finding some free time to play in the kitchen. (Thankfully my baby likes to nap.) I made these Thai Chicken Bites for lunch one day, and they were incredible. Super easy to make, just bread some chicken and pan fry it, then top it with the sweet chili sauce. Not exactly the healthiest meal in the world, but better for you than take-out.

Thai Chicken Bites

Yield: 2 servings


  • Ingredients:
  • 1 large chicken breast {boneless & skinless}
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • Canola or peanut oil for frying
  • 1/3 cup sweet chili sauce
  • Carrots & cilantro, for garnish


  1. In a deep skillet, pour 1-2 inches of oil and preheat over medium heat
  2. Cut your chicken into bite sized pieces and set aside. In a shallow dish, combine the flour, garlic powder, salt and pepper. In another dish, whisk together the egg and milk. Toss your chicken in the flour mixture first, then into the egg mixture, and once again into the flour mixture.
  3. Cook the chicken in the hot oil until golden brown on each side, approximately 3-5 minutes per side. Remove from the oil and drain on paper towels.
  4. In a large bowl, toss the chicken with the sweet chili sauce. Top with shredded carrots and cilantro and serve immediately.
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Source: Lauren’s Latest

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May 2014
Brownie Ice Cream Layer Cake

Brownie Ice Cream Layer Cake

Last weekend we celebrated Mother’s Day, and I got to celebrate my FIRST Mother’s Day. In lieu of spending the entire day in the car with our newborn, we opted to have both families at our house – brunch with my family, then dinner with my in-laws. My sister-in-law graciously decided to take care of most of the meal, but gave me the go-ahead to make dessert. Now that it has {finally} warmed up here, I knew I wanted to make something with ice cream, so a brownie ice cream was a natural choice.

Now I won’t lie, there isn’t exactly anything “homemade” about this recipe. Yes, it involves (GASP!) – a brownie mix. If you want to make homemade brownies, homemade fudge and homemade whipped cream, knock yourself out, but sometimes, it’s ok to take short cuts. For example, when you have a 2 week old baby. ;)

I made this in a springform pan, but if you don’t have one, feel free to use a 9×13 pan. Just be sure to layer it with tin foil in order to lift the cake out of the pan easily.

Brownie Ice Cream Layer Cake

Yield: 10-12 servings


  • 1 box family size brownie mix
  • Eggs, oil and water as directed on the box
  • 1/2 gallon vanilla ice cream
  • 1 small jar (~11 ounces) hot fudge topping
  • 8 ounce container whipped topping
  • Sprinkles, nuts or your favorite ice cream topping


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Prepare the brownie mix as indicated on the box. Prepare a 9 inch springform pan with cooking spray, then evenly spread the batter into the springform pan. Bake for 20-25 minute or until a toothpick comes out clean in the center. Allow the brownies to cool completely.
  3. Once your brownies have cooled, remove the ice cream from the freezer and set it on the counter to soften. Then, remove the lid from the fudge topping and microwave for 20-30 seconds until you can easily pour the fudge. Pour the fudge into a small bowl, then add in 1 cup of whipped topping and whisk to combine. Spread the fudge on top of the cooled brownies, then set aside.
  4. Take your ice cream and stir until softened. Alternatively, you can mix the ice cream with an electric mixer until smooth and softened. Spread the ice cream on top of the fudge, then top the ice cream with the remaining whipped topping.
  5. Cover the pan with plastic wrap, then a layer of foil and freeze for at least 2 hours before serving.
  6. Prior to serving, run a knife around the perimeter of the cake prior to releasing your springform pan, then top your cake with sprinkles, nuts or your favorite ice cream toppings.
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Source: Stick a Fork in It original

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May 2014
The Best Thing I’ve Ever Made….

It may have taken 9 months to bake, but I thought I’d share with you the best thing that I’ve ever made….

Introducing, my daughter, Avery Grace!

She was born on April 27th, and weighed in at 6 pounds, 11 ounces, and was 19 1/2 inches long. We are head over heels in love with her, and of course, we think she is the cutest thing ever! Here is a picture to prove it.

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She took us by surprise showing up 2 weeks before her due date, but I am happy to be celebrating my first Mother’s Day with my sweet girl in my arms, instead of in my belly! We are slowly settling into a routine (as much routine as you can have with a newborn…), so hopefully I will find my way back into the kitchen, and be able to share some recipes with y’all.

So, Happy Mother’s Day to all you moms out there!

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Apr 2014
Tuscan Chicken with Garlic Cream Sauce

Life as I know it is about to change, forever. My due date is rapidly approaching, and soon our family of two will become a family of three. To say my nesting instincts have kicked in is an understatement. I have lists upon lists (ok, spreadsheets – go ahead, call me a nerd) of things to buy, things to do, and things to prepare. One thing I did not want to have to worry about is what to cook for dinner, so I spent a long, rainy Saturday a few weeks ago preparing a bunch of freezer meals to have on hand. I also stocked up my pantry with quick and easy meal ideas and basic pantry supplies for things like spaghetti, mac-and-cheese, etc. Basically anything that can be made in 30 minutes or less.


When I was asked to try out the new Progressive Recipe Starters, I figured they would be perfect for my new role as a busy new mom. You have the benefit of a homecooked meal, but with a little help to get to get it on the table faster. The Recipe Starters are available in 5 different flavors, and can literally be used to create hundreds of recipes. The most impressive thing to me? Despite being a processed food, I can actually pronounce and recognize almost all the ingredients.Progresso Recipe Starters

Tuscan Chicken with Garlic Cream Sauce

Yield: 4 servings


  • 1 package Progressive Recipes Starters in Creamy Roasted Garlic
  • 2 chicken breasts, butterflied and pounded in 4 thin pieces
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Oregano
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 cup fresh spinach, chopped
  • 8 ounces fettuccine or linguine


  1. Begin by butterflying the chicken and then pounding them in 4 thin cutlets. Season with salt, pepper and oregano, then cook in a skillet over medium heat. Brown the chicken until cooked through, then remove from the pan and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to boil, and cook your pasta as directed on the box.
  3. Reduce the heat to low-medium, add the diced peppers and spinach and cook until the peppers are soft, and the spinach is wilted. Add the creamy garlic sauce and stir until heated through, about 5 minutes.
  4. Drain the pasta, then serve your chicken over the pasta, and topped with the creamy garlic sauce.
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Compensation was provided by General Mills via Federated Media.  The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of General Mills.

For more easy dinner ideas, visit http://progresso.com/Products/Recipe-Starters

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Apr 2014
Organizing the Kitchen: The Spice Drawer

Spice Drawer Organization

One of my goals for 2014 is to get my kitchen more organized. We’ve lived in our house for just over a year now, but I still feel like I don’t have the kitchen exactly how I wanted. I have cupboards that are still half-empty, while other drawers and cupboards are overloaded. First up on the list – my spice drawer.

I knew I wanted my spices close to the stove, and I knew I wanted them in a drawer as opposed to a cupboard. Frankly, because I’m short, and I didn’t want to be climbing onto the counter when I couldn’t reach the cumin on the top shelf.

I cleaned out my spice drawer and made a list of the all the spices that I keep on hand. Then, I ordered tins from container. I chose a metal tin with a clear, twist off lid, so I could easily see the color of the spice in the drawer. (Plus all the colors of spices look pretty!)

Here are the tins I ordered.


I bought some clear address labels, and printed off the labels from my computer. You could easily just label them with a sharpie, but I tend to be a little OCD, and I like the uniformity of the printed labels.

Simply cut the labels to size, stick them on your tins, and fill your tin with the appropriate spices. I tend to stick the spices I use more often in the front, and the less commonly used spices in the back, but you could arrange them however you wanted – alphabetical, by the colors of the rainbow – whatever floats your boat.

See the difference! Gotta love a beautiful spice drawer!Spice DrawerHere is a list of spices I keep on hand:
Cajun seasoning
Cayenne Pepper
Chili Powder
Dill Weed
Garlic powder
Ground Mustard
Herbes de Provence
Lemon Pepper
Onion powder
Poppy Seeds
Pumpkin Spice
Red Pepper Flakes
Sesame Seeds
Seasoned Spice
Steak seasoning
Taco Seasoning
Whole Peppercorns

*Yes, I know sugar is not a spice, but I like keep a small container in my spice drawer so I don’t have to lug out my big jar of sugar for a pinch of sugar.

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Feb 2014
Slow Cooker Turkey Breast with Gravy

Slow Cooker Turkey Breast (3)No need to check your calendar. I know it’s not November, but I couldn’t wait until next fall to share this turkey recipe with you. I for one, think turkey should be enjoyed year round, instead of once or twice a year, and one of my favorite ways to make it is in a crockpot.

I had never had turkey made in a crockpot until a few years ago, when my grandmother-in-law made it for Thanksgiving. It was the most tender, juicy, fall-off-the-bone turkey that I’ve ever had. Plus, it doesn’t take up precious space in the oven, which leaves more room for important things like rolls and stuffing. Genius.

When I came across this recipe for crockpot turkey, I knew I had to try it. By going through the additional step of sautéing some celery and onions at the beginning, you’re left you some flavorful stock at the end, which makes a ridiculously easy gravy. Seriously, all you have to is strain whats left at the bottom of the crockpot, then heat it until its thickened, and you’re left with brown, flavorful gravy.

Ideally, you’ll need an oval crockpot in order to fit a turkey breast. If you can’t get the lid to fit tightly, just cover the crockpot with foil – I promise, it will work fine. Also, be careful when adding additional salt. I always use low-sodium chicken broth, but even so, it can be salty. I like to add salt and pepper at the end after my gravy and turkey is cooked, to ensure it doesn’t get too salty.

Slow Cooker Turkey Breast with Gravy

Yield: 4-6 servings


  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, coarsely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cups no-salt added or low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme or 1/2 tablespoon dried
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6-8 pound bone-in skin-on turkey breast
  • Salt and pepper


  1. In a large, nonstick skillet melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic and cook for 8-10 minutes, until the onion is translucent and the vegetables are lightly browned.
  2. Stir in the flour and cook for 2-3 minutes until the flour coating the veggies turns golden brown. Stir in 1 cup of the broth, smoothing out any lumps that develop as it cooks. Stir in the remaining broth and water. Add the thyme and bay leaves.
  3. Pour the mixture into the slow cooker. Season the turkey breast all over with salt and pepper, then place the turkey in the slow cooker, breast side down. Cover and cook on low for 5-7 hours until the internal temperature of the turkey breast reaches 165 degrees. (If your lid won't find, just cover the top of the slow cooker with foil.)
  4. Carefully transfer the turkey breast to a cutting board (or 9X13-inch pan to catch any juices), tent with foil and let rest while preparing the gravy.
  5. Strain the liquid in the slow cooker into a saucepan. Let it settle for 5 minutes or so and then skim the fat from the surface. Bring the gravy to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes, stirring often, until it is slightly thickened. It won't be as thick as traditional gravy but will be silky and slightly thick. If you'd like it thicker, simply whisk together a slurry of cornstarch and cold water (a tablespoon or so of cornstarch in a couple tablespoons of water) and stir the slurry into the gravy, simmering for 2-3 minutes.
  6. Season the gravy with any additional salt and pepper, if needed.
  7. Carve the turkey and serve with the warm gravy.
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Source: Mel’s Kitchen Cafe


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Feb 2014
30 Minute Dinner Rolls

30 minute dinner rolls

I typically like to make something a little more involved for Sunday dinners. You know, a delicately layered lasagna, a roast that slow cooks in the oven for hours, or homemade spaghetti sauce that simmers on the stove top all day. Lately though, between working a ton of hours at the hospital, and starting to round the corner into the third trimester of pregnancy, the only thing appealing for a Sunday afternoon is my couch and control of the remote control. Last Sunday I decided to throw a turkey in the crockpot for an impressive dinner that required little to no fuss or muss. (Don’t worry, the recipe is coming!) My husband agreed to make the mashed potatoes, but of course we needed some sort of fresh bread to go with dinner. I procrastinated all day, until finally with just 30 minutes left on the crockpot, I knew I needed to get something going if we were going to have bread on the table. A quick google session, and voila!, 30 minute dinner rolls were in the oven.

My usual dinner rolls require 2 sessions of rising, while these quickly rise in about 15 minutes. They come out more dense than a regular roll, but I don’t think that is necessarily a bad thing. They are soft and tender, and perfect for a meal where you want bread fast, and don’t have the time for the usual investment that yeast rolls require. If you want to make them more similar to my favorite honey yeast rolls, just brush the top lightly with honey to give them some extra sweetness.

30 Minute Dinner Rolls

Yield: 12 rolls


  • 1 cup plus 2 Tbsp warm water
  • ⅓ cup oil
  • 2 Tbsp yeast
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 eggs
  • 3½ cups flour


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine water, oil, yeast, and sugar. Allow mixture to rest for 15 minutes.
  3. With a dough hook, mix in salt and eggs and 2 of the cups flour until combined. Add remaining flour ½ cup at a time.
  4. Shape dough into 12 balls and let rest for 10 minutes.
  5. Place rolls in a greased 9×13 pan or baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes until tops are golden brown.
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Source: Real Mom Kitchen

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Jan 2014
Breakfast Burritos {Freezable}

Breakfast Burritos {Freezable}

I am so not a morning person. I wish I was. I envy people who can get up at the crack of dawn, run 5 miles, fold a few loads of laundry, clear their e-mail inbox and make a gourmet breakfast for their family – all before 7 am. For me, I carefully calculate exactly how many times I can hit the snooze alarm before I really need to get up, and then it turns into a mad dash around the house to get out the door on time.

Usually, this results in me skipping breakfast, which makes me a tad grumpy when 10am rolls around. I needed something nutritious and filling that I could eat on my way out the door, and would keep me full until lunchtime. Something that could be made ahead of time, and simply warmed up in the microwave as I finish getting dressed.

These burritos are incredibly versatile, and you can change the fillings to your own liking. I made homemade breakfast potatoes, but in the effort of saving time, feel free to use a bag of frozen hash browns. I used bacon, because that’s what I had on hand, but feel free to use breakfast sausage, or omit them all together for a vegetarian option. You can change up the cheese, throw in additional veggies, or even add hot sauce or salsa for an extra kick. Take an hour or two on a Sunday afternoon to fill your freezer with these burritos, and you’ll never have to skip breakfast again.

Breakfast Burritos {Freezable}


  • 5 russet potatoes, or 1 bag of frozen hash browns
  • 1 medium sized onion, minced
  • 2 bell peppers, minced (any color)
  • Olive oil
  • 1 pound breakfast sausage or bacon
  • 12 whole eggs
  • 2 cups pepper jack cheese
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 10-12 flour tortillas (burrito sized)


  1. First begin by prepping your potatoes. Boil your potatoes whole until fork tender, about 20-30 minutes. Drain the water, then dice the potatoes into small cubes. (If you want to save time and effort, just use a bag of frozen hash browns). Add the potatoes, olive oil, onion and diced bell peppers into a sauté pan, and cooked until browned. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  2. Into the same pan, add your breakfast sausage or bacon and cook until browned. If using bacon, remove from the pan and dice finely. Add to the potato/pepper mixture, then set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, mix the eggs, 1 cup of the cheddar cheese, and salt and pepper, and whisk until well combined. Pour into the pan, and scramble over medium heat until cooked through.
  4. To assemble your tortillas, start with room-temperature tortillas. (If they are too cold, they can tear easily.) Add roughly 3/4 cup of the potato/meat mixture, top with eggs, then with additional pepper jack cheese.
  5. Fold opposing sides of the burrito up, then roll tightly.
  6. If freezing, wrap each tortilla in foil, then store in a freezer bag. To warm up a frozen burrito, remove from the foil and wrap in a paper towel. Use the defrost setting on your microwave and cook for 3-5 minutes until thawed, then warm in the microwave for another 30-60 seconds until heated through. Alternatively, you can defrost a burrito in the refrigerator overnight, then warm in the microwave in the morning.
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Source: Adapted from The Pioneer Woman

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