Monday, July 28, 2014

Peanut Butter & Jam Oatmeal Bars

If there is one thing that we eat a LOT of in our house it is the American classic, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
When I'm running behind or have nothing planned for the kids for lunch, more often than not, I'll whip up a couple of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and call it good.  The kids love them and frankly I do as well.
When our little babe was born just a couple of months ago, it was my go-to-sandwich during those early weeks of feeding a nursing babe morning, noon and night.  I had little time on my hands, so this simple sandwich became my staple.

I have no idea why I never thought of making a dessert bar to mimic our favorite sandwich.  It took me 32 years!
It started with my simple no-flour peanut butter bar.  Then my homemade jam was staring me in the face and I thought, why not?  Enter in some big dollups of jam and a few swirls of the knife and well this recipe was born.

These are perfect for a mid-morning or afternoon snack.  Or if you are a young mother like me, I pack them into our trips to the park.
Because, you know, little kids seem to need to eat every 30 minutes or so.  Or is that just mine???
You can also cut these into squares, wrap in plastic wrap and freeze them individually.  Then when ready to head out the door, where you know you'll need a snack later. you have one of these bars ready to munch on later.
Feel free to use any flavor of jam, although we are partial to strawberry!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Chopped B.L.T. Caesar Salad

The last two days have been pretty awesome.
Not only did I make this killer salad {twice}, but I got a LOT done around home.  We shipped the two older kids off to their grandparents for two days {I'll be meeting up with them this weekend} and the husband and I enjoyed some much needed quiet time.
Yes, our little 10 week old bundle was with us, but she is easy!  I used to think one child was hard when we just had one, but after you throw in two more one is a breeze.  We were basically on the road from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., with various stops in between and I think she only fussed once for about 5 minutes.  She is such a happy baby.
So anyway, we dropped the kids off, got the hubs fitted for some new work uniforms, had appetizers and a drink for lunch, stopped by a good friend's house to catch up, then finished the trip off with dinner and ice cream.
And now today, I'm getting CRAP done around here.  Laundry, yard work and lots of cooking.  I went into the garden and snatched up some peppers, onions, tomatoes and jalapenos to make this salsa.  I'm also making a second batch of cookies that I'll be sharing soon {they really do just melt in your mouth} and I'm throwing together some bacon cheese puffs later for when my girlfriend comes over to hang out.

I would probably whip up this salad {again} for her but I'm out of lettuce.  Darn.  But, let me just say, this is the BEST SALAD I'VE EVER MADE.
And I'm not a fan of salads.  Yes, I eat them.  Yes, I like them.  But I'm not like some women who crave them.  I love a good one at a restaurant here and then, but sadly I don't make them too much at home.
But then this one happened.
I was eating a B.L.T. the other day for lunch and the thought popped into my head about a B.L.T. salad.  Simple right?  I didn't want to just dump ranch dressing on it.....I wanted something different.
How about Caesar?  Yep, that is what I did.

I made a homemade Caesar dressing, chopped up the lettuce really good and then tossed it all together.  Even my 4.5 year old liked this {the bacon probably helped}.  It reminded me of a salad you'd order at a restaurant.

This is the perfect salad to feed a crowd as well.  This version uses a whole head of lettuce, but would feed at least 4-5 people.  Make it your meal, or serve it as a side.

Share this one with your friends, my dear readers, it is that good!  Creamy, yet has a bit of a kick, yet is smoky from the bacon.  Down right freakin' fabulous.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Lightened Up Summer Fare with Mike's Hard Lemonade

*I received complimentary product from Mike's Lite Hard Lemonade and created these recipes on behalf of them.  All opinions are my own.  Enjoy!

This summer Mike's Lite Hard Lemonade has partnered with selected bloggers to use their product and create healthier versions of indulgent meals.  It was time to get creative!  I was excited to be selected, as #1 - I love a good challenge and #2 - I love a nice cold Mike's Hard Lemonade on a hot summer day.  Nothing is better!
I'm not going to lie, the husband was also happy to see alcohol delivered straight to our doorstep.  That certainly doesn't happen to everyone!
Their new Lite versions have 30% fewer calories than their originals and are sweetened with honey rather than sugar.  Pretty darn cool, huh?
With the creative juices flowing I decided on a fun, summery cocktail and a flavorful, light meal centered around the tastes of summer.

This refreshing drink is perfect to sip on after a long day at work or right before dinner.  Do like I did and sip while the husband grills!  {Hey, I do 90% of the cooking, so he can tackle the grill}.
With watermelon in its peak season and a TON of it freshly cut in our fridge, I incorporated it into this drink.  It's slushy, light and refreshing.
I sucked it down pretty fast.
Watermelon Black Cherry Slushies
2 c. frozen seeded watermelon chunks
1 bottle Mike's Hard Lite Black Cherry Lemonade
1.  Place the frozen chunked watermelon in a blender and pulse to a slushie consistency.
2.  Pour watermelon in two glasses or jar and top with chilled Black Cherry Lite Lemonade.
3.  Serve immediately.
4.  Serves 2.

To go along with our slushies for dinner we also had these super fun sandwiches and local corn on the cob {summer is officially in full swing when corn on the cob comes around!}.
I have to admit I have never marinated chicken, or any meat for that matter, in alcohol.  But I thought, what the heck?  I took a bottle of Mike's Hard Lite Lemonade {the regular version} and poured it over chicken breasts that had been pounded thin and layered with freshly torn basil from my garden.
We grilled up these bad boys, toasted some buns, slathered them with a bit of mayo and added slices of freshly cut tomato from the garden.  It ended up being a light, refreshing sandwich that I would make again in a heartbeat.

Spiked Basil Lemonade Grilled Chicken Sandwiches
Print this Recipe!

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded thin and cut horizontally in half
1 bottle Mike's Hard Lite Lemonade
1 c. freshly torn basil
8 slices mozzarella cheese
sandwich buns

1.  Layer chicken breasts, basil and lemonade in a large Tupperware or glass container to marinate.
2.  Let marinate for 2 hours prior to grilling.
3.  Grill chicken breasts over medium-high heat, 5-6 minutes a side {if chicken breasts are thin} or until juices run clear.
4.  Top each chicken breast with a slice of cheese last few minutes of cooking.
5.  Toast buns on the grill for the last minute of cooking.
6.  Assemble sandwiches - bun, mayo, chicken and sliced tomato.

Don't these two recipes go great together for a summer meal on your patio or deck?  Yeah, I think so too.

A BIG thanks to Mike's Hard Lite Lemonade for this opportunity.  Again, who doesn't like alcohol delivered straight to their front door?

If you haven't already make sure to connect with Mike's Hard Lemonade via social media:



Saturday, July 19, 2014

Crock Pot Maid-Rites

I asked my Facebook fans yesterday what meal they wanted to see next.  Out of about 5 choices these maid-rites were the winner!
I completely understand if you are looking at this pile of meat and wondering what the big deal is, or rather why I would even blog about this sandwich.
I get it.  They do not make the most beautiful sandwich, but let me tell you the flavor is all there.  Many of us in the Midwest grew up on these sandwiches, especially if you are from Iowa.  We invented the darn things.  If you grew up in the 90's watching the TV show Roseanne you'll also remember that Roseanne and Jackie owned a loose meat sandwich restaurant.
Yep, their idea came from us Iowans.

These sandwiches are easy and family friendly {I haven't met a kid who doesn't like them} and they can feed a crowd!  I have a zillion childhood memories of eating these at fundraisers, potlucks and family gatherings.
Seriously, once you have the meat cooked and seasoned, you can throw it in a crock pot and let it simmer away all day long.  Bring along some hamburger buns and condiments and you've got a meal.

There are many, many, many versions of this recipe floating around the internet and frankly I make them a bit different each time, but I've found this one has the closest flavor of a true "Maid-Rite", like the ones you have at the popular Midwestern chain.
And by the way, if you throw a slice of cheese on the darn thing, it becomes a "Cheese-Rite".
I know.  We are so original.
Make these for your family today! 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Stuffed Strawberry Cheesecake Baked French Toast

If you are a dedicated follower {thank you, by the way} I gave you a sneak peak of this killer breakfast a couple of weeks ago.  I created it for the Iowa Food and Family Project, showcasing a classic farm food.
I keep telling my husband that when we move I want chickens.  He looks at me like I'm a bit crazy, but I know if we ever do get our dream piece of land I'll get my chickens.  And from chickens, come eggs.
I'm embarrassed to admit how many cartons of eggs we buy each week......we have a bit of an egg obsession.

Instead of creating a typical "egg" dish for them, I wanted something special.  I love a good breakfast French toast so that popped into my head first.  This also happened to be the week I went strawberry picking.
French toast + strawberries = HEAVEN.
It really was a no brainer.
Enter in my Stuffed Strawberry Cheesecake Baked French Toast.

What I love about this dish is that even though it looks fancy, it comes together in a snap.  Plus you make it the night prior, stick it in the fridge and bake it off in the morning.

I made this just for us.....but it is the PERFECT breakfast dish for a crowd.  Think baby shower, Christmas morning, etc.  It feeds a lot.  I ended up freezing what we didn't eat and it came out beautifully reheated again when pulled from the freezer.

And since all different varieties of berries are in season right now, use whatever fruit you want!  Raspberries, blueberries, peaches....maybe even apples this coming Fall?
Save this recipe below for later, you'll be happy you did.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Crock Pot Sweet Asian Chicken & Broccoli

I know it is summer but I have been loving my crock pot lately.  Not really sure why....maybe because having three kids under the age of 4 has me super crazy busy?  When I get my act together and I stick to my meal plans the crock pot works for me.
My kids love rice and I can usually get them to eat anything along with it, so this dish came easily to me.  Do they rave about the broccoli I threw in?  Not really, but we make them eat a few bites of it.  {They always have to eat a bit of something they aren't too fond of...}
The husband loved the sweetness of this dish, wish is odd, because I remember thinking "I hope he likes this version because it is a bit sweeter than my usual stir fry".  Goes to show, I just never truly know what he will like/dislike.


Just looking at this soupy-bowl-of-goodness makes me want to put it into our meal rotation again this coming week!
I think it would also be great with steak and even pork, feel free to change it up to what your family likes.  You know me, I cannot stick to a recipe exactly so I don't expect you to either.
Now before I share the recipe with you, I thought I'd share some recent family picks.  It has been a long time!  A couple of weeks back we took a day to take the kids to the children's museum and out for lunch.  They loved it!
Oh, and also to check out the flood waters.....thank god it has gone down since these photos were taken.

And lastly, want to know a bit more about me?  Check out this article that a local newspaper wrote up about my blog last week!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

How to Make Ice Cream with Your KitchenAid Mixer

You guys.
I'm flippin' ecstatic over this ice cream.  It was super simple to throw together and other than waiting for it to freeze {which was a bit painful}, I can now see myself making this again and again all summer long.
I kept it easy this first go around, sticking with good 'ol vanilla.  Next time?  I'd really like to throw in some chopped up candy bars.  Or fresh berries.  Or maybe even a drizzle of caramel and a swirling of nuts?  The possibilities are endless.

Okay, here is what you need.
  • A countertop stand mixer {a hand-held mixer would probably work as well}
  • 2 cups of heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup good, local honey
  • 1 T. vanilla extract
Really, that is it!  If you want your kids indulging in the homemade stuff this summer instead of the CRAP stuff in a box {that tastes good, but we all know has a TON of artificial ingredients} then gather up these four items and get to work.

And shall I remind don't need a master's degree to make this.  In fact my three year old helped pour in the ingredients and mix this up with me.  Get your kids involved.  They will ask you fourteen millions times if it is ready yet, but that really is the only hard part of this adventure.

Step 1: Pour in 1.5 cups of heavy whipping cream and vanilla extract into the bowl of your mixer.  Attach the whisk attachment.  Whisk the cream for 4-5 minutes on high speed until high peaks form {shown above}.  Put in the fridge to chill.
Step 2: In a small saucepan, heat the 1/2 cup of honey on very low heat, just until it is thin and runny.  Pour in the remaining 1 cup of heavy cream, take off the heat, and stir to combine.

Step 3:  Pour the honey/cream mixture into the already chilled whipped cream.  Whisk on low until combined {shown above}.
Step 4:  Cover with plastic wrap and freeze for 6 hours or until it has the consistency of ice cream.

Could it BE any easier?

I think not.

We dug into this ice cream after dinner for about 3 nights in a row.  Then it was sadly gone.  I need to make more!