Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

Spaghetti is such an easy meal, in so many ways.  It’s very popular, it’s easy to heat up some sauce and to boil some noodles, and of course throwing some garlic bread in the oven.  I honestly don’t remember ever hearing someone say “Eww!” when they heard they were having spaghetti for dinner.  Shoot, the two meals that my brother is able to cook includes spaghetti and hamburger helper…and spaghetti is always a winner!  One thing I have noticed about the jar of spaghetti sauce you buy at the store tends to have a watery texture to it.  Some more so than others, but it’s still there from the jar sauces I’ve had.  That was one of the several differences that I noticed about this sauce…no watery texture!

Although the jar of spaghetti sauce is super easy and convenient to make, I still wanted to make my own sauce from scratch (less preservatives, and I knew exactly what herbs and flavors were going in).  But, I also didn’t want to have to spend an hour preparing the sauce every time I make it, so making a batch and then freezing it in individual freezer safe mason jars was the way to go.  Since the jars at the store are typically 24 oz, that’s the size I decided to store this sauce in.  Of course, you always have the option to store your sauce in larger or smaller containers.  These jars come with the metal lids, but I also got the plastic lids for easier access, and just because I prefer them.  This batch fills up about 2 1/2 of the 24 oz. jars.  Typically, I like to double the batch and fill up 5 jars, just so I have to make the sauce a little less often.  Just make sure you have a big pot for it!  When I distribute the sauce in the jars, I let them sit out on the counter (uncovered), to cool for about 1-2 hours before putting the lid on and sticking them in the fridge.  After they’ve gotten cold in the fridge, I decide how many to put in the freezer to use at a later time.  Don’t forget to put sticker labels on your jars so you’re not scratching your head, trying to figure out if they’re still good to eat or not!

spaghetti sauce jars

You can store the prepared sauce in your refrigerator for up to 7 days, and up to 6 months in your freezer.  When you decide to take a jar out of the freezer to thaw, just make sure you do this the night before, and let it thaw in the refrigerator.  What’s great about the prepared sauce is that you can use it for more than just spaghetti…you can also use it for baked ziti and lasagna.  If using for spaghetti, just reheat in a pot.  My cousin loves to throw extra meatballs in her sauce for her family, and I’m a huge fan of that as well.  With frozen meatballs, you can microwave them according to the package directions before putting them in, or let them cook in the sauce for at least 30 minutes.  Personally, I just throw mine in the microwave to make the process a little faster, but that’s totally up to you.  you can also add some extra parmesan to your sauce…because you can’t go wrong with cheese.

spaghetti sauce

If you want to make a vegetarian version of this sauce, just replace the ground beef with 1 lb. of chopped vegetables of your choice (typically in this kind of sauce, I think of onions, green bell peppers and mushrooms).  If you do this, just make sure you add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and cook the veggies first, before adding the sauce.

Homemade Spaghetti Sauce Recipe:

1 lb. ground beef

28 oz. can crushed tomatoes

16 oz. can tomato sauce

6 oz. can tomato paste

2 oz. tomato juice

2 tablespoons onion powder

1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic

2 teaspoons dried oregano

2 teaspoons dried basil

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon sugar

Cook the beef in a large sauté pan or other pot (I use a stock pot when doubling this recipe).  When beef is fully cooked and browned, add all of remaining ingredients.  Cover and cook on low/medium heat, and stir occasionally for about 1 hour.  Serve immediately, or store in individual containers in refrigerator (for up to 7 days) or freezer (for up to 6 months).



Homemade Hamburger Helper

Growing up in our family, we were big fans of Hamburger Helper.  It was quick, easy, and delicious.  My mom could whip up a batch of this and serve it with some corn and green beans, and we’d have a complete meal.  Within the past couple of years, I’ve learned a little too much about preservatives and processed food…and have been doing whatever I can in order to limit the amount of consumption when it comes to processed foods in our family.  Plus, my husband isn’t a big fan of Hamburger Helper for some odd reason, so I started looking around.  Pampered Chef has this recipe put together for their new product, the RockCrok.  But don’t panic…if you don’t have a RockCrok, you can use a large skillet or pot instead.

homemade hamburger helper

There are a few adjustments to this recipe that I made, but only minor.  I loved the idea of using less preservatives in this delicious one-pot meal.  Serve this up with some steamed veggies and/or dinner rolls and salad?  Sign me up!  The first time I made this was at my parents’ house, and I was unable to get a picture of it before it was all gone.  No, I’m not kidding.  But, that just gave me an excuse to make some more, so it all worked out.  And another great thing about this dish is that it’s kid friendly!  🙂  It’s also great as leftovers, just add a little bit of water (for moisture) and pop in the microwave until hot.

Homemade Hamburger Helper Recipe:

1 lb. ground beef

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

14 oz. can of beef broth

14 oz. can of diced tomatoes

3 cups wide egg noodles

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Heat olive oil in RockCrok or large skillet on medium heat.  Add onions and garlic, cook for a few minutes, until tender.  Add ground beef, and cook until browned and fully cooked.  Stir in beef broth, and you can either add the can of tomatoes as is, or puree them in a food processor or blender (I puree them).  Stir together, add noodles.  Cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until noodles are soft.  Add salt, pepper, and cheeses, stir together well.  Remove from heat and cover, let sit until cheese is melted.

Chicken and Corn Chowder

I have a confession to make…  Growing up, I ate canned soup.  As in, I think that may have been the ONLY kind of soup I ate.  Once my brothers and I got set in our ways when it came to food and we found something we liked, there was no straying from that.  In fact, we still get picked on for eating bean and bacon soup.  My oldest brother still eats it to this day, and his old roommate’s wife still talks about how he used to make it all the time.  One time though, my mom pureed the bean soup, and I loved it even more.  The thickened soup with all those flavors, minus the chunks of beans?  Dee.  Lish.

chicken corn chowder

A few years ago (before I really got into cooking), my husband found a recipe for chicken and corn chowder, and made it for us.  Oh…my…gosh.  I asked him when he was making it again, because I absolutely could not get enough of it.  After taking the Stocks, Sauces, and Soups class in culinary school last month, the thought of making some of those amazing soups we had has been lingering in my brain…so I made this.  My husband couldn’t find the original recipe that he made, so I put this together.  I ate this for lunch and dinner yesterday, and although my belly was full, my brain wanted more.

Chicken and Corn Chowder Recipe:

1/2 cup unsalted butter

1/2 cup onion, minced

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1 medium potato, peeled and diced

4 cups chicken broth

2 cups heavy cream

1 lb. frozen corn, thawed

2 cups cooked, shredded chicken (I used a cooked rotisserie chicken for convenience)

1/2 cup grated parmesan

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat.  Add onion, cook until soft.  Stir in the flour, and cook for about 3 minutes.  Slowly whisk in the chicken broth, making sure everything dissolves together.  Add potatoes, cook for 15-20 minutes (or until potatoes are tender).  When potatoes are done cooking, add heavy cream, corn, and chicken.  Cook until heated through, add parmesan, salt, basil, and pepper.  Continue cooking until cheese is melted and soup is hot. Garnish with freshly grated cheddar, bacon bits and green onions.

Mushroom Risotto

I started culinary school last week, and our instructor was talking about a restaurant that he went to in Houston a while back.  When he was looking at the menu and was in the mood for risotto, he asked the waiter about a couple of different flavors.  When the waiter asked him what flavors he wanted, or what he was in the mood for, my instructor said, “Play with me.”  Well, in the culinary world, when you have some crazy creative chefs and very open-minded and appreciative customers, that’s like recess for them.  The waiter smiled sadistically and walked away…only to come back with a large plate of risotto for him.  Apparently, he had used some pan drippings from another meat they used for another dish, along with some other incredible ingredients and flavors.  Our instructor was so impressed, that he was joking about how he told this guy to make sure he reproduces so the world can have more people like him.  Ha!

mushroom risotto

Well, after hearing that story, I started looking for risotto recipes, and came across one. Mushrooms, butter, wine, garlic, and parmesan?!  YES!!!  Well, actually I threw in the garlic, because I personally love how garlic, mushrooms and onions all go together.  It’s a trio of incredible flavors that mix together so well.  I made some chicken parmesan as the main dish with this recipe, and it was a heavenly Italian meal.  But, the next time I make this for my mom and mother-in-law (they were both wanting to try this), I’ll make the parmesan chicken the same way, but with a garlic parmesan cream sauce on top, rather than the traditional tomato sauce.  Oh boy, now I’m already getting excited to make this again.  Geez.

Mushroom Risotto Recipe:

4 cups chicken broth, divided

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 pound white mushrooms, thinly sliced

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1/2 small onion, diced

1 1/2 cups arborio rice

1/2 cup dry white wine

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon finely chopped chives

2 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

In a saucepan, warm the broth over low heat.  Warm 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in the mushrooms, and cook until soft. Add garlic and cook for another minute.  Remove mushrooms and their liquid, and set aside.  Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to skillet, and stir in the pnions. Cook 1 minute. Add rice, stirring to coat with oil, about 2 minutes. Add salt and pepper.  When the rice has taken on a pale, golden color, pour in wine, stirring constantly until the wine is fully absorbed. Add 1/2 cup broth to the rice, and stir until the broth is absorbed. Continue adding broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring continuously, until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is al dente, about 15 to 20 minutes.  Remove from heat, and stir in mushrooms with their liquid, butter, chives, and parmesan.

Pineapple Coconut Rum Cake

In college, I lived with my two best friends from high school.  We loved to throw parties and gatherings on a regular basis…and let’s face it.  We lived in Myrtle Beach and were in college…so pretty much all of our social gatherings included alcohol.  Okay fine, so ALL of them included alcohol.  Moving on.  Well, one of our absolute favorite kinds of alcohol was coconut rum, so we always had a bottle of Parrot Bay or Malibu in our liquor cabinet.  Several years later while we were spending time together, one of our other friends made me a cocktail.  It was Parrot Bay with some pineapple juice.  I practically guzzled it down because it was so delicious and refreshing…and I’m a sucker for tropical flavored drinks, especially when you can’t really taste the alcohol all that much (which actually can get you into trouble if you’re not careful).  And yeah, I ended up having two more of those same cocktails, until I polished off her pineapple juice.


When I started thinking about this cake, it was right before I had lunch with our biggest Parrot Bay fan of the group.  After I walked out of the liquor store from picking up a fresh bottle of Parrot Bay, I texted her to let her know what I was making.  I really think she wanted to leave work early to come try this sucker out.  One thing I have learned about making rum cakes is the glaze.  Putting the glaze on the cake is by far the most important step, because this is where your alcohol flavor, the moistness of the cake, and your very slight buzz after eating a big slice (if you’re a lightweight like me) comes from.  When I first made a rum cake and was putting this glaze on it, I only used half because it seemed like it was too much.  Trust me, it isn’t.  Every bit of that incredible glaze will sink into the warm cake.  If you only use half of the glaze, only half of the cake will experience the full effects of this glorious glaze, so please slop this entire batch into the warm cake until it’s all gone.  You won’t be disappointed.  😉


I made this cake during the day, and hadn’t cut into it before going to bed.  While saying goodnight to my hubster, he made the comment that he was hungry.  I told him that the cake was downstairs if he wanted a snack, and off to bed I went.  In the morning when I was going to get my coffee, I noticed there was a big chunk of the cake missing…and an empty plate with a few crumbs sitting in the sink.  I smiled.  When he got up and was heading out for work, he said, “That cake was awesome.  I had one piece, then went back for another.  It was really moist.”  Again, success.

For the cake:

1 box Duncan Hines yellow cake mix

1 can crushed pineapple

3 eggs

1/4 cup oil

1/4 cup pineapple juice

1 teaspoon baking soda

Drain juice out of can of pineapple, reserve 1/4 cup for the baking process.  Puree pineapple, eggs, oil, and pineapple juice in blender or food processor.  Mix together all ingredients in bowl and beat at medium speed for 2-4 minutes with electric mixer, spoon into greased and floured bundt pan.  Bake at 350 degrees until toothpick comes out clean, 50-55 minutes.  Cool in pan for 10-15 minutes, brush 1/3 of glaze on top of cake before turning out of pan.  Cover with remaining glaze while cake is still warm, so the rum seeps into the cake.

For the glaze:

1 stick butter

1/4 cup water

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup coconut rum

In a saucepan, combine butter, 1/4 cup water and 1 cup sugar. Bring to a boil over medium heat and continue to boil for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in 1/2 cup rum.  Brush glaze over top and sides. Allow cake to absorb glaze and repeat until all glaze is used.

*Rum cakes usually taste better 1/2 days after they’re made, since it allows more time for the glaze to seep into the cake.

Sopapilla Cheesecake Pie

When our family goes out to our favorite Mexican restaurant in town, one of my favorite parts of dinner is at the end, when they bring out a little plate of sopapillas…one for each person.  Since my hubby is usually too full to eat anything else at this point, our daughter and I usually end up splitting his.  So, I couldn’t help but to wonder if I could make them at home, and the researching began.  I was looking for actual sopapilla recipes, but came across this one.  The combination of a sopapilla mixed with cheesecake?  Oh, snap!  As I started reading through the ingredients and the process, it became clear that this was easy to make, and was sure to be a big hit.  As I was putting it together, my husband asked what I was making, so I told him.  “What in the heck is that?” he asked.  After explaining the layers, he chuckled and said, “Sounds healthy.”  Well, let’s not try to break this down nutritionally, because you may not want to think about that…  Plus, when you take a bite of one of these bad boys, your concern for the nutritional value could possibly fly out the window.

sopapilla cheesecake pie

After this was pulled out of the oven and cooling on the counter, I hear the ole hubster downstairs call out, “Can I go ahead and eat this?”  Couldn’t help but to giggle.  I cut him a good sized piece and had it on a plate for him when he came back into the kitchen a minute later after taking the dogs outside.  As he inhaled it, I heard, “Mmm, this thing is awesome!”  The next day when I pulled all of the pieces out of the original container and put it back in the fridge, all he saw was the leftover container…empty.  “You didn’t give it ALL away, did you?!”  Of course not.  He has enjoyed a couple more pieces today, along with my daughter’s teachers.

Sopapilla Cheesecake Pie Recipe

2 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, softened

1 cup white sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 (8 oz) cans refrigerated crescent rolls

3/4 cup white sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 stick of butter, melted

1/4 cup honey

Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Prepare a 9×13 inch baking dish with cooking spray.  Beat the cream cheese with 1 cup of sugar and the vanilla extract in a bowl until smooth.  Unroll the cans of crescent roll dough, and use a rolling pin to shape each piece into 9×13 inch rectangles. Press one piece into the bottom of a 9×13 inch baking dish. Evenly spread the cream cheese mixture into the baking dish, then cover with the remaining piece of crescent dough. Stir together 3/4 cup of sugar and cinnamon. Pour the melted butter over the top layer of crescent rolls, then sprinkle the cinnamon/sugar mixture on top.  Bake in the preheated oven until the crescent dough has puffed and turned golden brown, about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and drizzle with honey. Cool completely in the pan before cutting into squares.  Store in refrigerator.

Dark Chocolate Chocolate Coconut Pie

When I started experimenting with some Hawaiian style meals and desserts, I was so excited to try this recipe out.  It’s a little different than the original recipe that I found and made, but the end result was much better than expected.

chocolate coconut pie 1

This pie was actually a second try.  The first time I made it, it was two layers instead of just one.  The bottom layer was the chocolate coconut, and the top layer was the coconut.  I took it over to my brother’s house where my mom was babysitting her grandbabies, because she wanted to try it.  When her, my niece and nephew cut a slice for themselves, I noticed that all three of them picked away the top coconut layer and gobbled down the chocolate layer.  My mom said, “The bottom layer was absolutely delicious, but the top layer didn’t have a whole lot of flavor to it.”  And she was right, because I thought the same thing when I had a couple bites earlier in the day.

chocolate coconut pie 2

Back to the drawing  board, and here we are with the finished product.  I added more chocolate chips to the melting process, and just made the whole pie one layer.  Success!  The flaked coconut on top was an added garnish, just in case there is any confusion on what kind of pie this is.  Can’t miss that coconut!

Dark Chocolate Coconut Pie Recipe:

1 (9 inch) unbaked pie crust

1 cup milk

1 (14 ounce) can coconut milk

1 1/2 cups white sugar

1 cup water

1/2 cup cornstarch

1 bag dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Bake crust for 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Set aside to cool.  In a medium saucepan, whisk together milk, coconut milk and sugar. In a separate bowl, dissolve the cornstarch in water. Bring coconut mixture to a boil. Reduce to simmer and slowly whisk in the cornstarch. Continue stirring mixture over low heat until thickened, about 3 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in chocolate chips until melted, then pour mixture into pie crust.  Refrigerate for at least an hour, until pie is set.  Sprinkle with flaked coconut on top of the pie as a garnish.

Homemade Baked Chicken Alfredo

When it comes to sauces, I’m a bit of an alfredo sauce junkie.  Maybe it’s the garlic.  Or the parmesan.  Or the fact that it’s a cream sauce.  Quite possibly though, it’s all of the above…and that’s just fine with me.  I’ve been searching for a really good homemade sauce that I can make in my own kitchen, and a successful experiment was conducted in my kitchen here recently.  Although that last batch was served with ravioli  instead of regular pasta, it was absolutely delicious.  My ultimate little taste testing toddler daughter loved her dinner, and told me several times, “Mommy, this is yummy in the tummy!”  That, ladies and gentlemen, is when you know something tastes good.


This time though, it was served as a baked alfredo dish.  Lately I’ve been experimenting with freezer meals.  If you’re not familiar with freezer meals, they’re absolutely wonderful…homemade meals that are made ahead of time, stored in the freezer, defrosted the day before and popped in the oven for 30 minutes.  This is especially wonderful if you want home cooked meals for your family, but don’t have time to make them every single day.  Making it in a larger batch, spooning half of it into a foil pan and sealing it up actually creates TWO meals, and that’s how this recipe is prepared.  So, you can either make this dish as two meals and save one for later, or make one really big dish.  Directions follow below.


1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into cubes

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Heat oil in skillet on medium heat.  Cook chicken until almost a light golden brown, then sprinkle pepper and add garlic.  Continue cooking until a light golden brown and cooked all the way through.

Alfredo Sauce:

4 cups heavy cream

4 sticks butter

8 teaspoons minced garlic

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

Heat butter in large sauce pan on stove at medium heat.  Once melted, add garlic and cook for one minute.  Add cream.  Continue cooking, stirring frequently, until sauce thickens.  This could take anywhere from 20-40 minutes, depending on cooking temperature.  When sauce reaches desired consistency, stir in parmesan and pepper, continue cooking on low heat for 2 minutes, or until parmesan is melted.


2 cups grated mozzarella

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cook penne or rotini pasta according to package (add salt to the water and make sure the water is boiling BEFORE adding the pasta, this helps ensure a good texture during the cooking process).  After pasta, sauce, and chicken are cooked, combine in a large bowl and stir together until mixed well.  Spoon into a 9×13 inch baking dish and bake for 20 minutes, or until cheese is melted.

Take a short cut!!  Don’t have time to make the alfredo sauce from scratch?  No problem!  Use 3 jars of storebought alfredo sauce!

Make a Freezer Meal!!  Evenly distribute between two 8 inch foil pans or one 9×13 inch foil pan, sprinkle half of cheeses on top of each pan.  Wrap with plastic wrap, place plastic lid on top.  Store in freezer.  The night before you want to eat the meal, place in the refrigerator to defrost.  Bake in oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  Enjoy!

Homemade Lasagna

Over the weekend, my daughter and I took a trip to visit my parents.  My cousins were also visiting with their kids…so we had a total of 6 children between the ages of 1-8 all weekend.  It was…eventful, to say the least.  My favorite part of the weekend was just watching all of the kids play together, and it took me back to my days as a young spring chicken, running around with all of my cousins.  Climbing trees, throwing the football, chasing each other around the yard, and of course, fighting.  My daughter and my cousin’s daughter are literally three months apart in age, and they already have a love/hate relationship.  They get SO excited to see each other and have so much fun together…but they also fight and get mad at each other.  Ahhh, to be a kid again.


For Sunday lunch, I volunteered to cook a big meal for everyone.  I know, it’s crazy…but all these years of my grandmother cooking lunch for everyone, I insisted that she relax and just eat.  So, I put together an Italian feast.  The menu consisted of garlic bread, chicken alfredo, lasagna, Caesar salad, and a tiramisu trifle.  The night before, I went to the store to get ingredients to make the lasagna and trifle.  As I’m slowly moving through the grocery store and mentally going over my list, it hit me that I still had to put together the lasagna, trifle, AND put my little girl to bed.  And honestly, all I wanted to do when I got back to the house was sit my happy butt on the couch and drink a glass of wine.  So, I compromised.  Grammy put little pumpkin to bed while I put together the trifle, and the storebought lasagna thawed in the fridge while I enjoyed that delightful glass of wine.  Everybody wins.  The day after I got home though, the fleeting thought of making a lasagna was still floating around in my head, so that was what made it on the dinner table the following night.  With this batch though, instead of making it in a 9×13 inch dish, I split the ingredients up and made two 8×8 inch pans of lasagna, and one went in the freezer for later use.  Perfect!  Next time I don’t feel like putting together dinner, all I have to do is thaw that baby out and pop it in the oven.  Shoot, we still had leftovers from this smaller version…and it was just as delicious.

Lasagna Recipe:

9 lasagna noodles, uncooked

1 lb. ground hamburger or sausage

1/4 cup minced onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 (24 oz.) jars spaghetti sauce

3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan, divided

16 oz. large curd cottage cheese

1 pound mozzarella cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Boil lasagna noodles in water according to package directions.  Cook ground meat in skillet until browned and fully cooked, add garlic and onions and cook for a few minutes until onions are tender.  Remove from heat, stir together with 1 jar of spaghetti sauce.  Spread 1/3 of remaining jar of spaghetti sauce on bottom of 9×13 inch baking dish.  Place three noodles along bottom on top of sauce.  Spoon half of cottage cheese on top of noodles, followed by half of meat mixture.  Sprinkle with 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese, then 1 cup of mozzarella.  Repeat layering one more time.  For top layer, add remaining three noodles, remaining spaghetti sauce, and cheeses.  Bake in oven for 1 hour, let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Make a Freezer Meal!!  Prepare ingredients evenly between two 8 inch foil pans or one 9×13 inch foil pan.  Wrap with plastic wrap, place plastic lid on top.  Store in freezer.  The night before you want to eat the meal, place in the refrigerator to defrost.  Bake in oven at 350 degrees for 1 hour, let stand for 10 minutes..  Enjoy!

Pali Punch

When I made Hawaiian Chicken, this was the punch that went along with that meal.  Shoot, you can’t have a Hawaiian themed meal without the fruity, delicious punch, can you?  No!  My thoughts exactly.  While researching some different types of punch, the ingredients were what jumped out at me when it came to how I thought it might taste.  This was one of those recipes that jumped out at me as something that would be a good, fruity combination…and something that was an actual Hawaiian style punch, and not just something thrown together with powdered mixers.

pali punch

It was delicious…in fact, I’ll be making this again for parties in the future.  When it comes to kids and punch, personally I try to avoid the bright red or other dark colors that stain floors and carpet easily, and go with something that’ll be easier to clean up.  This punch definitely falls into that category.  And let me tell you, this stuff did not go to waste, even though I made the whole batch.  My husband and daughter continued to drink it as the week went on.  This made Mama happy.

Pali Punch Recipe:

2 cans guava juice

1 1/2 cups pineapple juice

1 cup orange juice

1/2 cup lemon juice

2 tablespoons grenadine syrup

1 (2 liter) bottle ginger ale

Combine all ingredients and stir.  Can be served in a large pitcher or punch bowl.

Hawaiian Crock Pot Chicken with Buttered White Rice

Last night in our house, we had a Hawaiian themed dinner.  The only thing that was missing was everyone getting lei’d walking in the door…  No comment.  My husband and I went to Hawaii on our honeymoon, and we both loved it.  The beautiful scenery, perfect weather, laid back atmosphere…and amazing food.  Just from researching different types of Hawaiian recipes, it seems like the style of food there is a mix between Asian and a lot of citrus fruits.  When I told my brother that we were having a Hawaiian style dinner, he said, “Oh, so it’ll have pineapples all over it?”  Nope.  He’s actually not a big fan of whole pineapples, but like the juice and flavors from it…and he loved every bit of dinner…including beverage and dessert.

hawaiian chicken with buttered rice

In all honesty, I was terrified that the chicken was just going to come out tasting okay.  As it was cooking in the crock pot, I kept smelling it, thinking that it wasn’t going to be anything special.  Then again, I am getting over a sinus infection and my sinuses are still not back to normal, so maybe that could have contributed to being a little weary over how dinner would turn out.  Much to my surprise and pleasure, it was delicious!!  One of the things I remember about Hawaiian food was how deliciously moist and buttery the rice was…so I wanted to recreate that in my kitchen as well.  This rice was SO moist…and SO buttery.  I’m really not a big fan of plain white rice, but could have easily eaten this by itself.  My husband isn’t a big eater, and very rarely goes back for seconds…well, ladies and gentlemen…he went back for seconds!  I stared at my brother in shock and told him we should write down the date.  Even my picky brother went back for seconds and suggested that we have this again.  Needless to say, this went over well.

Hawaiian Crock Pot Chicken Recipe:

1 cup pineapple juice

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup teriyaki sauce

1 tablespoon worchestire

2 pounds chicken breast, cut into cubes

Whisk together ingredients until sugar is blended.  Stir together with chicken in bowl to coat completely, transfer to crock pot and cook on low for 6 hours.  Serve by itself, or over white rice.

White Rice Recipe:

1/2 stick butter

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 cup long grain rice, uncooked

2 cups chicken broth

Melt butter in saucepan at medium heat, add salt and pepper.  Add rice, cook for a few minutes until rice is lightly browned.  Add chicken broth, stir, and cover.  Lower heat and cook for 15-20 minutes, until rice is fluffy.

Carrot Pineapple Bundt Cake

For dinner this evening, I’m doing a Hawaiian themed dinner…for the first time.  I’m nervous, yet excited.  Since this is experimental, there won’t be any decorations, music, or games this time…just a Hawaiian style menu.  And since this is a first time theme with ALL experimental recipes, my guinea pigs are my family.  Lucky them, right?!  I know.  The good thing is that I’ll get some really honest feedback on the food, which will allow me to tweak the recipes to make them better for next time.  You know, make them REALLY good for dinner guests, and not just family.  Ha!

carrot pineapple bundt (1)

This is the dessert that was picked for tonight’s menu.  I wanted to make something fruity, but without the chunks…since there are some picky eaters this evening.  With this recipe, I pureed the carrots and pineapples with the oil and vanilla, and followed the rest of the directions.  This way, we can experience the flavor without texture being an issue.

carrot pineapple bundt (2)

The end result?  I called my brother after wolfing down a piece to tell him that he would like the cake.  He said, “Oh good, so if I don’t like dinner, then I can go straight to dessert?”  Absolutely.  In fact, I’m wondering if he’ll “fake” liking dinner just to eat a double serving of dessert.  I wouldn’t be surprised.

Carrot Pineapple Bundt Cake Recipe:

3 cups all purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups sugar

1 1/2 cups vegetable oil

2 cups finely grated carrots

8 oz. pineapple (cut into chunks, pureed, canned)

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 cup finely chopped pecans (optional)

3 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease and flour bundt pan.  Sift flour with soda, cinnamon and salt.  In large bowl using an electric mixer, combine sugar and oil.  Add half of the flour mixture and mix well.  Beat in carrots, pineapple, vanilla and nuts.  Add remaining flour mixture; beat well.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Pour into prepared pan and bake 60 to 70 minutes.  Cool completely, drizzle with pineapple glaze.

Pineapple Glaze:

1 cup powdered sugar

1-3 tablespoons pineapple juice (depends on consistency you want)

Stir together sugar and juice until desired consistency.  Drizzle on top of cooled cake, save extra glaze to add to slices while serving.

Thanksgiving Meal

Well, the big Turkey Day has passed…and what a busy weekend!  First, we hosted Thanksgiving at our house and had about 15 family members over to eat.  That afternoon, we got on the road and headed to Myrtle Beach for a big family reunion and a weekend packed with activities and an insane amount of laughter.  But, before we got on the road, I stuffed myself silly.  All you have to do is look at the picture below to see what my tummy endured that day, along with dessert.  When we set up the table full of food for dinner and got all of the plates ready, I made my daughter a plate…then hopped out of the line of fire so everyone else could dive in before I packed my plate full.  I took this opportunity to lay on the couch with my feet propped up, watching my family like a pile of vultures swarming a carcass.  After the smoke cleared, I headed into the kitchen to make a plate for myself.

And here’s the line-up…  turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, crock pot mac ‘n cheese (recipe below), sweet potato casserole, cranberry sauce, broccoli casserole (recipe below), roasted zucchini with squash and onions, country peas, dinner rolls with cinnamon honey butter.  Whew.  After everyone ate, the kids and adults headed outside to play in the back yard, since it was such a nice day.  A few of us ladies stayed behind and started cleaning everything up to clear the table for the grand finale…a buffet of desserts.  I honestly didn’t realize how many sweet treats we had to choose from until everything showed up on the table.  Holy cow!  I asked my sister-in-law to poke her head out the door and announce that dessert was ready.  In all honesty, they moved FASTER than when the lunch announcement was made.  Again, here came the pack of vultures, attacked the dessert buffet.  But, I can’t blame them.  We had lemon meringue pie, gingerbread cookies, rice krispie treats, better than sex cake, pumpkin cheesecake, and brownies.  What baffled me was that even though all of these desserts were up for grabs, my dad and brother gave me a hard time about hiding the chocolate peanut butter cupcakes that I made for the family reunion that was the next day.  Good grief.

Crock Pot Mac ‘n Cheese Recipe:

16 oz. uncooked pasta, elbow or small shells

2 (10 oz) cans evaporated milk

3 cups milk

4 eggs

2 sticks butter, melted

2 cups grated mild cheddar cheese

4 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

Cook noodles according to package, drain.  Combine all ingredients in crock pot, reserving 1 cup of cheese to sprinkle on top.  Cook on low for 3 hours, covered.  Do not stir until done!  Move switch to warm after 3 hours have passed.

Broccoli Casserole Recipe:

2 (10 oz.) packages chopped frozen broccoli, thawed

1 can cream of mushroom soup

1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1 cup mayonnaise

2 eggs, beaten

1/2 teaspoon garlic salt

1 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt

1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice

12 buttery round crackers, crushed fine

2 tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a 2 quart casserole dish, mix together onion, broccoli, soup, cheese, mayonnaise, eggs, garlic salt, pepper, seasoned salt, and lemon juice. Sprinkle crushed crackers over top and dot with remaining 2 tablespoons butter.  Bake uncovered in preheated oven for 45 minutes, until heated through and browned on top.

Zucchini Boats with Creamed Corn

A couple of months ago, I came across a recipe for zucchini boats.  Since zucchini is one of my favorite vegetables, the thought of having an entire half of a zucchini stuffed with whatever I decided to put in there was very, very tempting.  The first time I made them, I stuffed them with a combination of onions, green bell peppers, the zucchini pulp, and mushrooms…then topped with mozzarella cheese.  Although they were delicious, my husband made a suggestion.

zucchini boats with creamed corn

“You know, I think they’d be even better if they were stuffed with homemade creamed corn.”  I looked at him and gasped.  “That sounds AMAZING!!” and I patted him on the back.  “Good suggestion.  I’ll get on that.”  Sure enough, two days later, his suggestion was put to the test…and got an A in my book.  I look forward to more experiments of what can be stuffed in these delicious zucchini.

Zucchini Boats:

2 large zucchini (makes 4 servings)

olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Slice zucchini in half, lengthwise.  Chop of ends, and scoop out center of zucchini, leaving about a 1/2 inch edge around sides and bottom.  Brush zucchini with olive oil, sprinkle with desired salt and pepper.  Bake for 25 minutes, or until zucchini is tender.  Top with creamed corn, garnish with your choice of cheese (optional).

Creamed Corn

12 oz. package fronzen corn kernels, thawed

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon sugar

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon butter

1/2 cup milk

1 tablespoon flour

1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

In a skillet over medium heat, combine the corn, cream, salt, sugar, pepper and butter.  Whisk together the milk and flour, and stir into the corn mixture.  Cook stirring over medium heat until the mixture is thickened, and corn is cooked through.  Remove from heat and stir in parmesan cheese until melted.  Spoon into zucchini boats after they are done cooking in the oven.

Fried Chicken Breast with Sawmill Gravy, Sweet Potato Casserole and Country Green Beans

Move over, Paula Deen!  Okay fine, so maybe she’s ten million times better than I am at this stuff, but she is who I think of when it comes to good ole southern country cookin’ as being an expert.  I’m determined to meet her one of these days, she’s just all kinds of awesome.  I’ll have to admit, while planning this meal out, buying the ingredients and getting started with the cooking process, I was excited to make all of these things.  With the chicken, the thought of using Ritz crackers as part of the breading sounded crispy, crunchy and a little salty.  Sawmill gravy goes wonderfully on biscuits, but also on fried chicken.  My husband absolutely loves sweet potato casserole, and I’ve been searching for a green bean recipe that soars above anything I’ve tried before…  And I hit the nail on the head with this recipe.  Normally, my husband doesn’t gush about green beans…until he ate these.  When I heard him mumbling, “Mmm!” at the table, it was right after he’d taken a bite of the green beans.  Success.  I will definitely be making the sweet potato casserole and green beans for Turkey Day.  Gobble Gobble.

Fried Chicken Breast Recipe:

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 egg, beaten

30 Ritz crackers, crushed into crumbs

1/4 cup all purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Combine dry ingredients in plastic bag.  Dredge each piece of chicken in egg before coating with dry mixture, place chicken in bag and shake to fully coat.  Preheat frying pan or skillet filled with oil to 350 degrees.  Fry chicken in oil for 15-20 minutes, or until juices run clear.

Sawmill Gravy Recipe:

1/4 cup oil

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

2 cups milk

Whisk together oil and flour in saucepan until smooth.  Add salt, pepper and milk, whisking constantly on medium heat until gravy becomes thick.

Sweet Potato Casserole Recipe:

6 cups peeled and cubed sweet potatoes

1 stick butter, softened

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 eggs

3/4 cup sugar

3/4 cup milk

8 regular size marshmellows, sliced in half

Cook potatoes in pot filled with boiling water for approximately 20 minutes, or until potatoes are tender.  Drain and mash.  Add remaining ingredients and beat well using electric mixture, until smooth.  Transfer to 2 quart casserole dish.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  (Add marshmellows to top of casserole for the last 10 minutes of baking time)

Country Green Beans Recipe:

1 (12 oz) bag frozen green beans

1/4 cup chicken broth

4 tablespoons butter

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon white sugar

In skillet or large saucepan, combine butter, chicken broth, salt, pepper and sugar.  Stir together until butter is melted and spices are combined.  Add green beans, cover and simmer (stirring occasionally) for 15 minutes on medium heat.