Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Roasted Maple Chipotle Sweet Potato Bites with Cilantro Lime Topping

Athens Mini Fillo Shells puts on a monthly recipe contest and last month I tried my hand at this fun little contest! I combined some of my favorite sweet and spicy flavors for my entry and was excited when I found out I was picked as one of the monthly winners!  
Roasted Maple Chipotle Sweet Potato Bites with Cilantro Lime Topping
Monthly Winner - Mini Fillo Shells Make It Fancy and Fun Recipe Contest
2 cups peeled fresh sweet potato, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/8 teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
2 Tablespoons maple syrup
1 Tablespoon chipotle hot sauce
2 Tablespoons half and half
1 box Athens Mini Fillo Shells
1 teaspoon lime juice
1 Tablespoon chopped cilantro
1 Tablespoon thinly sliced green onion tops
Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees.
In a small mixing bowl, toss together the cubed sweet potato, olive oil, pepper, salt, cumin and garlic powder. Pour the mixture onto a foil-lined cookie sheet and place in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until the potatoes are browned and tender.
Once the potatoes have roasted, remove them from the oven and reduce the heat in the oven to 350 degrees.
Place the roasted potatoes back in the same mixing bowl and add the shredded cheese, maple syrup, chipotle hot sauce and half and half. Using a fork, mash the mixture together until fully combined.
Place the Fillo Shells on a cookie sheet and spoon an equal amount of the sweet potato mixture into each one. Place them in the oven for 10-12 minutes.
While the Shells are baking, stir together the lime juice, cilantro and green onion tops in a small mixing bowl.
When the Shells have finished baking, remove them from the oven, top with the cilantro mixture and serve immediately.
I'm a little picky when it comes to how I like my sweet potatoes. I love them roasted, or with sweet and spicy southwest flavors but I will pass on the marshmallow pecan super sweet version every time. I was glad the judges liked my version of a bite sized holiday appetizer! If you'd like to try your hand at this fun contest, go to their website and look at what theme they are asking for that month and enter away! I entered their request for Super Bowl Party Recipes for the month of January and would love any ratings or comments you could leave for my Beer Cheese Pigskin Poppers
Little crispy cups loaded with crispy bacon, beer and cheese. What more could you want while cheering on your favorite team?!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Little's Lunches 7

Happy Monday! I hope everyone had a great weekend! This past week the kids had off of school on Monday and we had family in town, so no lunch box that day!
Tuesday: Cheese Quesedillas, potato salad, veggies, mango and a mini banana nut muffin
Wednesday: Make your own mini bagel pizza, yogurt and a fruit snack
Thursday: Deviled eggs, pickles, garbanzo beans, potato salad, baby carrots with Ranch and nectarine slices
Friday: Chicken Apple Gouda Sausages, jicama sticks, veggie straws, nectarines and a yogurt
If you have more than one child do they typically have the same likes and dislikes? Because my kids are completely opposite. It kinda drives me nuts. If you've followed my past Little's Lunches (123, 45, 6) you can see that M is picky with fruit and B is picky with veggies. I'm working constantly to introduce new foods in new ways to them and, as a whole, am truly blessed with how willing they are to try it all. Here are a few suggestions of how I try to get rid of any hesitation one of them might have when it comes to being adventurous and trying new foods: 
 1. Cutting things in a different shape- I cut the jicama this week into sticks instead of cubes so it would be easy to dip and I called it jicama fries
2. serving it with a dip- Ranch, marinara, yogurt, hummus or Ants on a Log Dip
3. Calling something by a new name especially if it's silly (for B) or gross (for M) makes them more willing to dig in
4. cute containers- different colored silicone muffin cups help keep foods separate, bright and colorful
5. Making a "do it yourself" lunchable- B might not want to eat green bell peppers by themselves, but when it's a topping for a mini pizza she gets to put together they are willingly gobbled up

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Cheesy Cubano Pull Apart Bread

Holy deliciousness, I really think you're going to love this bread! It's the perfect thing to serve while watching the Super Bowl, or to bring to a potluck, or to make and eat all by yourself! I've seen so many different cheesy pull apart breads, and they're so yummy and cheesy and gooey I thought I'd make one with my own little twist to it
 It's super easy to throw together and when it comes out of the oven all gooey and warm it's impossible to resist!
Pre-Heat oven to 375 degrees
 Place a loaf of sweet Hawaiian bread on a foil lined cookie sheet and cut a cross-hatch pattern into the top of the bread by slicing ½-inch grid lines into the bread, stopping about ¼-inch from the bottom of the bread so that it stays together, and then wrap the bottom with the foil to hold it up.
Then, in a mixing bowl stir together:
1/4 cup minced red onion
8 ounces shredded swiss cheese
4 ounces Hormel Cure 81 ham, diced
4 ounces shredded pork
Shove this mixture in between all the cuts of bread gently. In a small measuring cup whisk together 1/4 cup melted butter and 2 Tablespoons yellow mustard. Drizzle the mixture evenly over the bread and bake the loaf for 10-12 minutes
 Top with 1/3 cup diced pickle and serve immediately

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Frozen 6th Birthday Party

My baby girl turned 6.
I'm still confused how that happened so quickly.
To celebrate, she requested a Frozen themed birthday party, just like every other little girl in the country. I had fun creating the cake and treats for her special day and on the car ride home she declared it was the best birthday party she ever had.
Every year, as usual, I made her cake while she was sleeping and then waited to "reveal" it to her when it was finished the next morning. I adore seeing my kid's faces when they finally see their cakes. The hours and effort I take creating something just for them is totally worth it when I see their smile. This year, I have to admit, I was pretty disappointed. I was pleased with the way the cake came out and really thought she was going to be thrilled to see it. Once she saw it, she never really said anything. I kept waiting and there was just ......nothing. What a freaking letdown!
Later on, my mom was talking to her upstairs and told her "you really should tell your mom thank you for making such a pretty cake for your party" and B's reply was "she already knows"
My mom was confused and said "how would she know if you never told her?"
B said "my mom reads my mind. She knows I love it, because everything I want, she knows without me saying. Everything I wanted on a cake she already knew because she reads my mind"
I wish that her theory was true, but sadly I can't read her mind. I am glad that she's pretty certain that I can though, since all of her wishes were granted as far as the cake was concerned.
I started with a basic chocolate cake with vanilla white icing and did a fine mist of the silver color mist all over the cake. Then I stuck large shards of blue ice looking sugar candy I made (instructions for that are here) Then I took a stencil of swirls and sprayed the swirls on with a blue color mist spray
I took a small blue candy cane, crushed it finely and sprinkled that around the base of the candy shards that were sticking up an then placed some silver sixlet type candies I found at party city around the cake as well. I cheated and used plastic dolls for the cake toppers that I found at Target and the glittery number candle was $1 at Wal-Mart. For the trees I used pointy ice cream cones and piped green icing onto them with a small star tip, then I sprinkled powdered sugar on top of them for the snow. I finished it off with a few edible snow flakes and a little Olaf figurine
 For decorations on the table I had found these wooden snowflake tree toppers and World Market on clearance for $2 a piece and the cardboard snowflakes at Michael's for $1. I sprayed all of them with silver glitter spray paint and used them on the food table
For one of the snacks, we had "Melted Olaf"
vanilla yogurt, chocolate arms, candy eye balls and an orange tic tac
 We also had marshmallow "snowballs", snowflake shaped Ritz crackers and cheese cut out with a snowflake cookie cutter
I had cute little labels printed from here to go on the mini water bottles
and printed these cards to make food signs for "Sven's Snacks"- baby carrots with three cheese Ranch

We had the party at a cute art studio and all the kids got to paint their own canvas picture
 They had a great time and I was really impressed with how well the pictures came out from each of them! They were so proud to show off their work
 As soon as we got home she passed out on the couch!
It's exhausting being a princess

Monday, January 19, 2015

Little's Lunches 6

Happy Monday! This weekend was Brianna's birthday party and I can't wait to share the cake and treats I made for her and her friends with you on Wednesday. Here's what was for lunch this week: 
 Monday: Peanut butter and raisins on a whole wheat English muffin, cheese sticks, edemame and pineapple chunks
 Tuesday: Tuna Salad, Edemame, veggie sticks, applesauce, dried cranberries, baby carrots and sliced mushrooms in the yumbox
 Wednesday: My kids begged for Ants on a Log Dip again so I packed that with a mini whole wheat bagel, baby carrots, mandarin oranges for M and pineapple for B, yogurt tubes, sweet potato crackers for M and trail mix for B 
Thursday: Edemame Cowboy Caviar, Shredded Cheese, Veggie Sticks, baby carrots with Ranch and applesauce in the yumbox
Friday: Breakfast for Lunch! Peanutbutter and jelly on a whole wheat English muffin, bacon, mandarin oranges and  cereal trail mix (PB puffins, cheerios, peanuts, dried cranberries, raisins) 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Mama Mia Meatball Taquitos

Way back in February, Taste of Home put on a cooking contest called "10-20-30" and challenged readers to come up with their best meals that could be made on busy nights in 10, 20 or 30 minutes. My submission for Mama Mia Meatball Taquitos was picked as a runner up and is feature in the Simple & Delicious Magazine February/March 2015 edition!! It's always so fun to see a recipe of mine in print and styled by actual professionals who make it look so beautiful! Look at the gorgeous photo they took:
Mama Mia Meatball Taquitos Recipe photo by Taste of Home
Read more:
They also sent me a Taste of Home cookbook to enjoy as well!
Mama Mia Meatball Taquitos
12 frozen, fully cooked Italian Turkey meatballs, thawed
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup ricotta cheese
12 flour tortillas (8 inch)
1 ½ cup marinara sauce, warmed

Preheat oven to 425°.
Place meatballs in a food processor; pulse until finely chopped. Transfer to a large bowl; stir in cheeses and Italian seasoning.
Spread about 1/4 cup meatball mixture down center of each tortilla. Roll up tightly. Place on a greased 15x10x1-in. baking pan, seam side down; spritz with cooking spray.
Bake 16-20 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with warm marinara sauce.
          Yield: 6 servings.
My kids love these because they taste like lasagna, and I love them because they're so quick and they're baked not fried! Sometimes I serve them with tomato soup instead of the marinara and the kids love to dip them! If you try these, please tell me what you think, I hope you like them as much as we do!!

In other contest news, I entered the Chef's Roll Guac and Roll Contest on Facebook and could really use some votes! They asked people to come up with a guacamole inspired by a rock star and I made
"Jenny from the Guac"
4 ripe Avocados
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 small clove garlic finely minced
juice of 1/2 a lime
2 teaspoons habanero hot sauce
¾ cup diced fresh mango
1 bag plantain chips

Cut the avocados in half, remove the pits, peel and add to a small mixing bowl. To the avocado add the kosher salt, cumin, garlic, lime juice and habanero hot sauce. Mash with the back of a fork until the avocado is a chunky paste. Stir in the diced mango and pour into a serving bowl. Serve with plantain chips.
A sweet and spicy guacamole with a Latin twist inspired by Jennifer Lopez and it's served with plantain chips. I loved coming up with goofy names and have a few more I'd like to try and submit before it's all over. If you have a moment to vote for me it would be very appreciated!
Here's the link!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Little's Lunches 5

Happy Monday!! I am so excited to share this week's Little's Lunches with you today because this week I tried a few new things out that my kids totally loved!
Monday: The kids were still on Christmas break, so they didn't have school Monday. Lunch at home was- Mama Mia Meatball Taquitos! (recipe here), green beans and applesauce
 Tuesday: Ants on a Log Dip!- I filled a small container with peanut butter, sprinkled some cinnamon on it and topped it with raisins. I served it with celery sticks and wheat thins and the kids raved about it! Sometimes all it takes is putting a new name on something and telling kids that they get to "make it themselves" for them to like something. Also on the menu: hard boiled eggs, applesauce, cucumbers and carrots
served in the Sistema box
 Wednesday: Egg Salad, wheat thins, goldfish crackers, pistachios, blackberries, red bell pepper and "carrot chips". When I went to the store I saw these wavy carrot slices next to the baby carrots I always buy. I decided to get a pack and tell the kids they were carrot chips since they look like wavy potato chips. They thought it was hilarious and was snacking on them the whole time I was making lunches. Score!
served in the yumbox
Thursday: Hummus and Carrot Chips in a whole wheat pita, a deviled egg, cheese stars, veggies and applesauce. What can I say, my kids will eat the carrots until the bag is gone in any way, shape or form!
Friday: Hummus and veggies to dip (red bell pepper, carrot chips and sugar snap peas), a chocolate chip walnut cookie, cheese sticks, dried fruit and these sweet potato crackers:
I found these at Costco and they are dangerously addictive! I may have eaten 1/4 of the bag driving home from Costco. The kids loved them, I obviously loved them and they're really good with hummus and guacamole! If you see them be sure to pick up a box!
If you need more Lunchbox inspiration here are the quick links to the previous weeks:
What funny name have you made up to get your kids to eat something? I'd love to hear about it!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Chicken Noodle Soup- the lazy way


Recently, I had numerous people write to me and ask how I make my chicken noodle soup. Until now, I've never actually written it down. I don't usually follow a "recipe" but I follow the same lazy method every time. Most of the time I make my broth in the crockpot, and I'm usually making it because someone (usually Marshall) is sick. It's so easy to throw everything in the pot, turn it on low and go about your day. Or you can do like me and go check your kid out of school, bring them to the doctor for over an hour, go to the pharmacy for at least 30 minutes, grab a bottle of wine before checking out because of the day you've had and then you get home to an amazing smelling house and 90% of your work already done for you.
I always buy whole chickens when they're on sale and freeze them, so do that if you can. All of the other ingredients I always already have in my fridge. I'm sure if you're super rushed you could make this using a rotisserie bird, but for me, this is what I'm throwing together before I run out of the door on sick days.
Throw your whole chicken in the pot and include the neck!! I know what the neck looks like, believe me, I get it, but the flavor it gives to the broth is great. Don't look at it too long and just throw it in. Peel an onion, cut it in half and throw that in along with 3 celery stalks, 4 cloves of garlic, half a lemon, about 2 cups of baby peeled carrots, a handful of fresh thyme (I grow this in our garden, I promise fresh is so much better than dried!!), about 2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns, a heaping tablespoon kosher salt, a bay leaf, and the stems from a large bunch of fresh flat leaf parsley (never buy that curly garbage either). Fill the whole thing with water and let it go until the chicken is tender and shreds easily. I never time this because it all depends on how big your bird is, if you set it to low or high and how big of a hurry you are in. 
Once you are ready, it will look like this. Remove the chicken to a large baking sheet, let it cool a little and then pick the meat from the bones. Dump the rest into a large strainer and reserve the carrots and celery. Chop the celery and carrots and put them back in the strained broth along with the chicken you shredded. Chop up some of the parsley that you used the stems from earlier and add it to the pot. Taste the stock to see if it needs more salt and add it now if you need to. In a separate pot, boil some noodles (I usually do about 1 1/2 cups) and add them to the pot just before serving.
I hope this helps!! What's the first thing you make when someone is sick? I'd love to hear about it!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

101 Diner

 Before heading back to the airport we took the kids to Encinitas, where Marshall was born. We showed him the tiny apartment we lived in and took them to the beach for a little while. It was a gorgeous chilly day and the kids really enjoyed seeing "where Marshall came from"
We stopped at 101 Diner for breakfast. Louis and I both got the special Shaved Ham Benedict- It was toasted English muffins spread with avocado, shaved griddled ham and poached eggs with jalapeno hollandaise- SO delicious! I loved the avocado on the bottom mixed with the spicy hollandaise sauce. The kids split their famous Baked Apple Pancake with fresh apples, cinnamon & sugar. This pancake doesn't come out looking like much but it is so delicious! Light and airy pancake layered with thinly sliced tart apples and the cinnamon sugar gets caramelized and a little crunchy on top. It is to die for!!
This weekend is supposed to be nasty weather and Louis will be gone hunting, so I think this is something I'll have to try to re-create with the kids.
I couldn't have asked for a better vacation. I headed home feeling so blessed for everything we experienced together! 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Eggnog Krispy Pie

The kids are back in school today, Hallelujah!!! Our time off was amazing, but it really was time for them (and me) to get back in the groove. So, in place of Little's Lunches this week, I'm sharing a sweet treat instead. About a month ago, before I brought B to gymnastics, I sent a text to two of the mamas I chat with each week in the waiting room while our little girls are bouncing around saying
"do you like eggnog and free dessert?"
The answers were enthusiastic yeses, so I packed up slices of this pretty pie and brought it with me. I was so glad to get feedback from friends and I was even more excited to let them know how much their being my guinea pigs helped me out!
I have a thing for marshmallows and eggnog, so when I saw that Campfire Marshmallows was putting on a contest looking for the best Sweet Holiday desert I knew just what I'd make. A creamy eggnog pie with a rice krispy treat crust! Luckily for me, the folks at Campfire liked it just as much as my family and friends did, and I won the grand prize!!!  $500 and a Campfire Marshmallows variety box just in time for the new year!
2 ½ cups plus 2 Tablespoons eggnog
1 (5.1 ounce box) Instant Vanilla Pudding Mix
2 Tablespoons butter
3 cups Campfire mini marshmallows
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon rum extract
3 cups crisp rice cereal
½ cup white chocolate chips
1 cup whipped topping
In a medium mixing bowl, combine 2 ½ cups eggnog with the pudding mix and whisk together for 2 minutes. Place the mixing bowl in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes.
Melt butter in a large sauce pan over low heat. Add the marshmallows and stir constantly until completely melted. Remove the pan from heat and add ¼ teaspoon of the nutmeg, the rum extract and the cereal and stir until well coated. Press the mixture into the bottom and up the sides of a well-greased deep dish pie plate and set aside to harden.
In a small mixing bowl, combine the remaining 2 Tablespoons of eggnog and the white chocolate chips and microwave them in 30 second intervals, stirring in between, until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Using a small pastry brush, brush the melted chocolate mixture on the bottom and sides of the crust. Set aside and allow to harden.
Once the white chocolate has hardened and the pudding has chilled, fill the pie shell with the pudding and smooth the top with a spatula. Top with the whipped topping, sprinkle with the remaining ¼ teaspoon nutmeg and serve immediately. 

Pickle Baked Chicken Tenders with Creamy Chili Honey Sauce

Thanks to Hellmann’s 100% Recycled Plastic Bottles and the “Real Taste, Less Waste” challenge I get to share with you a kitchen hack that...