Honey Sesame Roasted Chicken

A roasted chicken for dinner is timeless and home-warming. Whether you’re talking about a weeknight meal or a Sunday dinner, a chicken dinner is always the winner! So why not go outside the chicken dinner box a little bit? Honey Sesame Roasted Chicken is the perfect way to amp up your usual weeknight or weekend dinner! It is packed full of rich flavors to transport your tastebuds. From sweet honey, to nutty sesame, to salty soy sauce and umami packed hoisin,  this Honey Sesame Roasted Chicken is a perfectly balanced punch in every bite.

When you place this Honey Sesame Roasted Chicken on the table, you will wow everyone you are feeding! You know that greasy, rich, super satisfying but yet really un-healthy sesame chicken you get when you order Chinese take out? Well, you roast up this chicken and you just met it’s match! Toss out all of the guilt of eating it, though, because this chicken is all sorts of good for you. The secret is in the sauce. After the chicken is done roasting, serve it up with brown rice, a green veggie of choice and then spoon the sauce from the bottom of the pan all over your plate. Trust me, it’s that good!

The chicken will naturally get all sorts of crispy and golden while you are roasting it, so you won’t even miss the fried version! The bed of onions and carrots that you roast the chicken on top of soak up all of the wonderful juices from the sauce and are a perfect side to serve along side this chicken.

Your house will smell crazy good once you get this Honey Sesame Roasted Chicken roasting away in your oven. Going back for seconds is encouraged and leftovers are going to be fought over. You don’t want to miss out on this one! Whether you have a blizzard blowing outside your window or the sun shining on the ocean, this Honey Sesame Roasted Chicken is perfect for all climates and occasions.

 

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Honey Sesame Roasted Chicken

Honey Sesame Roasted Chicken is the perfect way to amp up your usual weeknight or weekend dinner! It is packed full of rich flavors to transport your tastebuds. From sweet honey, to nutty sesame, to salty soy sauce and umami packed hoisin,  this Honey Sesame Roasted Chicken is a perfectly balanced punch in every bite.

  • Author: KJ & Company - Kate Poskochil
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
  • Total Time: 2 hours
  • Yield: Serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 4.5 pound whole chicken
  • 1 large onion, roughly chopped
  • 4 large carrots, peeled and cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup teriyaki sauce
  • 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds, plus a little extra for garnish
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 4 green onion stalks, plus a couple extra for garnish

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. In the bottom of a 7 quart dutch oven, or a baking dish large enough to hold the chicken, place the onions and carrots in an even layer. Place the chicken on top of the onion and carrot layer and pat dry with a paper towel.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the teriyaki sauce, hoisin, soy sauce, honey, garlic, sesame seeds and red chili flakes until combined. Evenly pour the sauce over the chicken until it is completely covered. Place 2 green onion stalks on both sides of the chicken.
  3. Cover with a lid or tightly wrap with foil and roast the chicken for 45 minutes. Remove the chicken from the oven after 45 minutes and baste it with the sauce and juices from the bottom of the pan. Reduce the oven heat back down to 400 and bake the chicken uncovered for another 45 minutes to an hour, or until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the chicken reads 165 degrees. While the chicken is roasting uncovered, baste it with the juices and sauce from the bottom of the pan every 10 minutes or so and rotate the pan to insure that the chicken is getting evenly browned on all sides.
  4. Prior to serving, baste the chicken once more in the sauce from the bottom of the pan and garnish with fresh sesame seeds and additional chopped green onions.

Notes

This recipe will work with any size of chicken! Choose your chicken size based on how many people you would like to serve. You may need to adjust your roasting time if you choose a smaller or larger chicken.

Mocha Fudge Mug Cakes

There was a time after Christmas and the New Years that I didn’t have any dessert in the house. I don’t know what happened, but it was a tragedy! How do I have nothing on hand? Not even a parcel of a cookie was left. To say it was a disaster is an understatement. Not even a box of brownie mix was in the cupboards. Sitting there in a total disastrous state, a light bulb went off in my head! MUG CAKES. Mug cakes are the answer to any quick and urgent dessert request! All the wonderful fudgy, moist flavor of a chocolate cake in the palm of your hand, literally. You can have a spoonful of chocolate cake in your mouth in under 5 minutes, how great is that?!

I love how fun and easy these Mocha Fudge Mug Cakes are. They are packed full of all the chocolate flavor you could dream of with a hint of espresso to keep you going back for more. Top these off with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, a dusting of espresso powder and a few extra chocolate chips for good measure. Dig in with a spoon and be as happy as a bug in a rug.

Who would’ve thought that you could make a cake in a mug in your microwave? It’s pure genius if you ask me. I’m a chocoholic, so the more chocolate chips the better! The espresso powder doesn’t overpower the chocolate, but accents it and gives it a deeper, more rich flavor. They are match made in heaven and given to you in a mug. I don’t think it can get much better than that. Toss all of the ingredients into your favorite mug, whisk it all together, microwave it for a little over a minute, top it off however you desire and then dig in to the mug cake of your dreams.

Have your cake and eat it too, and in under 5 minutes! 🙂

 

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Mocha Fudge Mug Cakes

I love how fun and easy these Mocha Fudge Mug Cakes are. They are packed full of all the chocolate flavor you could dream of with a hint of espresso to keep you going back for more. Top these off with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, a dusting of espresso powder and a few extra chocolate chips for good measure. Dig in with a spoon and be as happy as a bug in a rug. Cake in under 5 minutes and in the palm of your hand.

  • Author: KJ & Company - Kate Poskochil
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 minute 30 seconds
  • Total Time: 6 minutes 30 seconds
  • Yield: 1 mug cake

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 3 tablespoons milk, such as 2%
  • 3 tablespoons oil, such as vegetable oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon espresso powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 tablespoons dark chocolate chips

Instructions

  1. In a microwave safe mug, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder and espresso powder until all of the ingredients are incorporated. Whisk in the oil, milk and vanilla extract until the batter is smooth.
  2. Stir in the dark chocolate chips into the batter until combined. Microwave on high for 1 minute and 30 seconds. Remove the mug cake from the microwave and allow to cool for a couple minutes.
  3. Top the mug cake with desired toppings such vanilla ice cream, chocolate chips or a dusting of extra espresso powder.

 

 

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Chicken Enchiladas

When it comes to healthy comfort food, these Black Bean and Sweet Potato Enchiladas are the way to go! I say you should never have to give up comfort and flavor just to eat a little bit more on the healthy side. Loaded with natural protein from the chicken and black beans, these enchiladas also get a boost in nutrients from the sweet potatoes. And of course, there always needs to be cheese!

I think that the sweet potatoes blend in beautifully with all of the wonderful flavors of these enchiladas. They act as a perfect, slightly sweet filler to accompany the chicken and black beans. You know what’s so great about enchiladas? You can sneak about anything into them and they will turn out delicious! Toss in some fresh spinach leaves to get in some extra greens and you won’t even know. They are very customizable as you can sub out the chicken if you want them to be vegetarian, or add in a different bean, or even a butternut squash if you don’t have the sweet potatoes and black beans on hand. This combo of the Black Bean and Sweet Potato Chicken Enchiladas is a fiesta in every bite. A healthy fiesta, too.

Enchiladas also make a great meal prep option, as you can make them in advance and reheat them as needed. I love to serve mine with some sour cream, extra cheese (of course) and fresh avocado. The creaminess of the sour cream and avocado are just a match made in heaven when paired with these Black Bean and Sweet Potato Chicken Enchiladas.

Warm up from the inside out with these enchiladas and don’t you dare feel guilty about it! You are eating healthy proteins and veggies after all :).

 

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Black Bean and Sweet Potato Chicken Enchiladas

When it comes to healthy comfort food, these Black Bean and Sweet Potato Enchiladas are the way to go! I say you should never have to give up comfort and flavor just to eat a little bit more on the healthy side. Loaded with natural protein from the chicken and black beans, these enchiladas also get a boost in nutrients from the sweet potatoes. And of course, there always needs to be cheese!

  • Author: KJ & Company - Kate Poskochil
  • Prep Time: 25 minutes
  • Cook Time: 40 minutes
  • Total Time: 65 minutes
  • Yield: 8 enchiladas

Ingredients

  • 1 pound chicken tenders
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons seasoned salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 small/medium sized sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 8 whole wheat tortillas
  • 2 – 10 oz cans enchilada sauce
  • 15 oz can black beans, drained
  • 8 oz shredded cheese, such as cheddar, mozzarella or a Mexican mix
  • 1 cup sour cream

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. On a standard size baking sheet, arrange the chicken tenders on one half of the baking sheet and the sweet potato on the other half, keeping the two ingredients from touching.
  2. Drizzle both the chicken and the sweet potatoes with 1 tablespoon of olive oil each. Followed by 1 teaspoon of seasoned salt each. Working with just the chicken, evenly sprinkle it with the chili powder, onion powder and garlic powder. Cover the entire baking sheet with foil and bake for about 20 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the pan from the oven and shred the chicken with a fork. Leave the sweet potatoes as is to cool.
  3. Pour one can of the enchilada sauce onto a large plate or dish that will keep it from running off the sides. Starting an assembly line and using one tortilla at a time, dip both sides of the tortilla into the prepared enchilada sauce and then transfer to a plate or cutting board. Fill it with sour cream, cheese, black beans, shredded chicken and sweet potatoes, making sure that you evenly distribute the ingredients throughout the 8 tortillas and save a little extra cheese to be sprinkled on top at the end. Roll it up tight and place into a 13×9 baking pan. Repeat this process until all the tortillas and ingredients are used, prepared, rolled and placed into the baking pan.
  4. Cover the prepared enchiladas with the remaining can of enchilada sauce and sprinkle the top with any remaining/extra cheese. Bake the enchiladas for 20-25 minutes, or until the cheese on top is melted and the sides are bubbling slightly.
  5. Serve with additional sour cream, cheese, avocados, jalepenos or any toppings you desire.

Notes

The whole wheat tortillas can be subbed for any tortilla of choice.

Mango Matcha Green Smoothie

Whether you’re looking for a healthy option for breakfast, lunch, or post-workout boost, this Mango Matcha Green Smoothie has it all. It is hands-down my go-to smoothie whenever I pull out my blender. A delicious and easy smoothie packed full of natural vitamins and nutrients? Count me in!

I originally shared this simple and hassle-free recipe last spring here on KJ & Company, but it is just too good to not share again! It’s an easy way to sneak in extra veggies and fruits into your daily routine. It can help boost your immune system, give you a natural caffeine kick from the matcha, and a dose of some good, dark, leafy greens. All of that and it tastes like a dream. Otherwise I wouldn’t be drinking it… 🙂

If you follow along with me on Instagram (@kjandcompany), you have seen lately that I have been trying out Daily Harvest Smoothies. No this is not an add or sponsored by them in any way, but I have absolutely loved them! They are packed full of so many amazing, organic ingredients, delivered to your door frozen and easily kept in your freezer until you are ready to blend one up. I can even get John to drink them (this is a huge deal!!). But, I switched from their weekly delivery plan to their monthly delivery plan and I don’t get any until the middle of January, so I have turned to this Mango Matcha Green Smoothie on the daily to get my fix!

Blend this Mango Matcha Smoothie up, add it to your routine and it is sure to become on of your new favorites. It definitely is one of mine! 🙂

 

Mango Matcha Green Smoothie

makes 1 smoothie

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup frozen mango chunks
  • 1 cup fresh spinach (1 large handful)
  • 1 banana, peeled
  • 1 teaspoon matcha powder
  • 1 1/3 cup soy milk
  • 1 teaspoon honey

Directions:

  1. Starting with the frozen mango chunks, add all of the ingredients into the bottom of a blender.
  2. Blend on high for several minutes or until the smoothie is to the desired texture and consistency. More soy milk may need to be added depending on desired consistency. Enjoy!

Why I Didn’t Try to Lose Weight for Hawaii

About this time last year, we decided to go ahead and take the plunge and book our trip to Hawaii. We were full of excitement and ready to adventure somewhere new together! And guess what? I didn’t start any crazy diets, I didn’t start weighing myself, and I didn’t change my workout regime. Why not? Let me tell you..

Photo Courtesy of Sunny Golden Photography

It’s taken me awhile to get here and I certainly haven’t always had this mindset, but I want to learn to love my body and appreciate it every day for what it is, that God has blessed me with health and I am able to explore the world He created. This doesn’t mean that I don’t want to be healthy, because I certainly strive for that every day. I want my body to be as healthy as it can be every day, and not just for a single trip. I don’t want to feel my best just when I’m vacationing on the beach, but also when I’m sitting at home in my sweat pants with messy hair and un-matching socks.

Photo Courtesy of Sunny Golden Photography

I’ve struggled with learning what being healthy means for me and my body. Going through eating disorders, tracking my weight and working out only because I felt like I had to (which you can read more about here), were all necessary things for me to go through for me to realize what my body truly needs. That doesn’t mean they were good, healthy, or experiences that I would recommend anyone to go through, but it lead me to where I am now! I’m not perfect and I still struggle with feeling like a rollie-pollie some days or find myself critiquing my body in the mirror, but I’m working on focusing my mind to other things. My body is strong, my body is capable of amazing things and I get to nourish and take care of it.

Photo Courtesy of Sunny Golden Photography

So, when we booked our trip to Hawaii, I knew it would be hard for me to think that I shouldn’t eat certain things or that I needed to exercise more for my “Hawaii bod”. Because of my past experiences, I knew it would be unhealthy for me to set a weight goal, as it would do nothing but discourage me and overtake my thinking. Instead, I just kept on the track that I was already on. Eating healthy and nutritional packed foods to nourish my body, but still indulging in sweet treats and Chick-Fil-A every once in awhile, working out to strengthen my body and to feel good, but also taking rest days to let my body recuperate, and finding clothes that fit my body type instead of making my body fit into the clothes. That included swim suits. A huge part of me feeling so comfortable in my skin in a swimsuit was finding the ones that worked for me and made me feel confident.My 2017 Swimsuit Recap goes over all the details of what I’ve found that works for me! 🙂

Photo Courtesy of Sunny Golden Photography

Another important thing to remember is that everyone’s story is different. Healthy looks different for every person and that is ok! It may be healthy for you to set weight goals, track calories or give yourself a goal/trip/vacation to work towards. Whatever is healthy for you and your body is what you need to pursue!

Photo Courtesy of Sunny Golden Photography

This time of year can be so discouraging as you see everyone pursuing/pushing their New Years resolutions, weight loss, diet changes and fitness dreams. I almost felt bombarded on Pinterest with all of the healthy food and pictures of women with their 6-pack abs, super toned arms and perfectly golden skin giving workout tutorials. I’m not saying these things are wrong, but I quickly found myself feeling smaller and smaller as if I wasn’t doing enough and was comparing myself to things on the Internet. Isn’t it so crazy how quickly we can get sucked in? I had to take a big reality check and remember who I am, what I’ve done and what all I’m going to do. Then I took another bite of my Nutella and moved on ;). Let’s use this time of year to encourage one another, lift each other up and highlight each other’s strengths! Social media and our culture can easily make you feel like you aren’t enough or you will never compare, and I think it’s time that we change that! 🙂 Everyone and every body is fearfully and wonderfully made. Psalm 139

 

Photos Courtesy of Sunny Golden Photography 

 

Banana Bread with Nutella Glaze

Ok, do I really need to say anything more if this banana bread loaf is drizzled and topped of with a Nutella glaze?! I mean, you can never go wrong with Nutella! If you know me, my all-time favorite dessert, hands-down, no matter what is Nutella and bananas, or ‘tella and ‘nanas as I like to call it. Bananas and Nutella are just a whimsical match made in heaven.

PS: this post is in no way sponsored by Nutella (but how awesome would that be?!) I JUST LOVE IT SO MUCH.

Banana Bread with a Nutella Glaze

I’m the only one in our household who eats bananas, because John hates them and I think its super weird. So, whenever I have some extra bananas lying around that are getting too ripe, banana bread it is! One of my favorite banana bread recipes is my Whole Wheat Banana Nut Muffins with Dark Chocolate. But sometimes you need a good old-fashioned banana bread loaf, and that is where this Banana Bread with Nutella Glaze comes in.

You want to know whats so great about this banana bread recipe besides how wonderful each bite is? Well, let me tell you. It can be breakfast, dessert or a daytime snack. It’s just that good. By golly, if you want to fancy this up and make it into a dessert, top a warm piece of the Banana Bread with Nutella Glaze with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and dive on in! Or, you can keep it on the traditional breakfast route and slice it up for breakfast. Toss in some fresh fruit such as bananas, strawberries, raspberries or blueberries and you have yourself a complete meal to fuel your day.

Either way you slice it, this banana bread is sure to not disappoint. When you are making the batter, you can choose how much you would like to mush up your bananas. Since John doesn’t like bananas and I have to try to hide them as much as possible if I cook with them, I blended them pretty well as there are no banana chunks in the bread. If you are a banana fan, mix it up however you please.

 

Banana Bread with Nutella Glaze

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 sticks (16 tablespoons) butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 ripe bananas
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup Nutella or chocolate hazelnut spread
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Spray and line a loaf pan with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter, sugar and brown sugar together until light and fluffy, about a couple minutes. Reduce the speed to low and add in one egg at time, making sure to wipe down the edges between each addition. Add in the ripe bananas and vanilla extract and mix until just combined.
  3. In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. With the mixer speed on low, slowly add in the flour mixture to the banana mixture until the batter is just combined. Wipe down the edges to insure that it is all combined.
  4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 55 minutes – 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted into the top/center comes out clean. Allow the banana bread to cool in the pan for about 10-15 minutes prior to removing.
  5. While the banana bread is cooling, pour the heavy cream into a small sauce pan over low heat. Slowly bring to a very low simmer, avoiding any boiling, and then whisk in the Nutella or chocolate hazelnut spread until smooth, about a couple minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  6. Using the parchment paper liner, carefully remove the banana bread from the loaf pan. Drizzle the whole loaf with the Nutella glaze, or slice and drizzle each slice with the glaze. Enjoy!

 

 

Sweet Potato Taco Soup

Soup is good for the soul, Sweet Potato Taco Soup that is. It’s officially 2018 and winter is in full effect! With all the cold and negative temperatures going around, a big bowl of hearty, healthy soup with just the right amount of heat is needed.

I love how this soup is loaded with flavor and goodies. And guess what? It’s good for you too! Make this for an easy weeknight dinner, when you’re feeling the sniffles come on, or just when you need a hearty meal. Top it off with a dollop of sour cream, grab a bag of chips and dig in! And cheese… you always need cheese.

Simmer this soup away on the stove top, or brown the hamburger and then dump all of the ingredients into a slow cooker and let it do it’s own thing. Isn’t soup season just the best? You can clean out your refrigerator or cupboard and usually come up with a delicious concoction. This Sweet Potato Taco Soup is also perfect for meal planning! A batch can last a couple days for two people, or double it if you need to feed multiple people over a few days!

All the wonderful flavor of a taco in a bowl. What could be better?

 

Sweet Potato Taco Soup

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 10 oz can diced tomatoes with green chilies
  • 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 7 oz can diced green chilies
  • 2 – 32oz containers chicken stock
  • 15 oz can black beans, drained
  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. In the bottom of a stock pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add in the diced onion and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add in the ground beef and saute until browned, about another 5 minutes.
  2. Pour in the diced tomatoes with green chilies, diced tomatoes, green chilies and chicken stock and black beans. Stir to combine. Add in the cubed sweet potato, chili powder and chopped garlic and bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce the heat and let simmer on a low boil for 25-30 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes are tender and cooked through. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle the soup into bowls and top with sour cream, shredded cheese, chopped green onions and tortilla chips.

Smoked Turkey Sausage Soup

Isn’t the time in between Christmas and New Years Eve just the weirdest? I mean, there’s all the hype from the holidays that are wearing off, leftovers taking up all your refrigerator space, Christmas decorations still up, and what kind of music are you supposed to listen to anyways? I’m a die-hard Christmas music junkie, so it’s hard to just quit cold turkey. So, let’s just ladle up ourselves a bowl of soup, snuggle up and unwind before another holiday kicks in. Let’s go with Smoked Turkey Sausage Soup.

This soup is everything that you want in a bowl to fill you from the inside out. The smoked turkey gives it a wonderful, velvety-smooth broth that is so deep in flavor that people are going to think you slaved away on it for hours. But in reality, this soup is quick and easy to throw together. Just what you need after the holiday season.

Not only is this Smoked Turkey Sausage Soup packed full of flavor, but it is also loaded with nutrients! That’s right, you have sweet potato and spinach hidden in there. No one will ever know. Ok, they might be able to see it, but it tastes like a smoked turkey sausage dream.

I highly recommend a hunk of crunchy baguette (or some crackers) and a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese to go along with this warm bowl of goodness. Make that 2 or 3 pieces of bread… you just can’t go wrong with a good baguette!

 

Smoked Turkey Sausage Soup

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cubed into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 13 oz smoked turkey sausage, cut into 3/4 inch rounds
  • 2 -32oz containers chicken stock
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped garlic
  • 3 1/2 cups fresh spinach
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. In the bottom of a deep stock pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Lightly saute the onion until translucent but not browned, about a couple minutes. Add in the turkey sausage rounds and saute for a few minutes more.
  2. Pour in the chicken stock and stir to combine the onions and sausage with the stock. Add in the sweet potato, oregano, rosemary, garlic and stir to combine. Bring the soup to a low boil and let it slowly boil for about 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and allow the soup to simmer for an additional 15-20 minutes. Just like any soup, the longer that it gets to simmer, the more condensed and flavorful it will be.
  3. Stir in the fresh spinach about 5 minutes prior to serving. Allowing it to wilt down. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Note: This recipe can also be made in the slow cooker. Simply combine all of the ingredients into the slow cooker and cook for desired amount of time.

White Chocolate Chip Snickerdoodle Bars

Just thinking about these White Chocolate Chip Snickerdoodle Bars makes me feel all warm and cozy inside. These cookie bars are the perfect dessert to bake away in your oven while the snow falls outside! The warm cinnamon swirled with the sweet white chocolate chips make for a perfect dessert combination.

These cookie bars are just perfect. Their gooey, cinnamon speckled, white chocolate chip loaded insides are matched with a slightly crunchy exterior provided by a cinnamon sugar dusting that caramelizes in the oven. Can you picture taking a bite of that? I certainly can!

Whip up a batch of these White Chocolate Snickerdoodle Bars for any holiday occasion, cookie swap or to just have the perfect sweet treat on hand. Not only are these cookie bars great for the holiday season, but they really could be made all year round!

Pour yourself a tall glass of milk, snuggle up on the couch with a blanket and go into cookie bar bliss with these perfectly sweet treats. Bonus: they are pretty darn hassle-free to make! I would recommend a double batch for a large crowd because they are going to go fast! 🙂

 

White Chocolate Chip Snickerdoodle Bars

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 sticks (16 tablespoons) butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar, plus 1/4 cup for dusting prior to baking
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus 1/4 teaspoon for dusting prior to baking
  • 11 oz bag white chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the butter, 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup brown sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about a couple minutes. Reduce the speed to low and mix in one egg at a time, making sure to wipe down the sides after each addition. Mix in the vanilla extract.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, salt and 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon. With the mixer speed on low, slowly add in the flour mixture into the butter and sugar mixture until completely combined and a dough has formed, being careful to not over mix. Using a rubber spatula fold in the white chocolate chips until combined.
  3. Spray a 9×13 baking pan with non-stick spray and then line the bottom and sides with parchment paper (this will make for easy removal). Evenly spread the cookie dough in the prepared pan. The dough will be thick and may take a little bit to work it to the sides of the pan, but that is ok.
  4. In a small bowl, mix together the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon until combined. Evenly sprinkle the top of the cookie dough until the whole top is covered.
  5. Bake for 23-25 minutes, or until the tops are golden and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Allow to cool slightly in the pan before trying to remove the cookie bars. Enjoy!

Classic Slow Cooker Pot Roast

Happy first day of Winter! This is one of my husband’s and I favorite seasons of the year, are we crazy? Oh, well! When Winter officially rolls around, all that I want is good, old-fashioned comfort food. The classics. Food you grew up eating and have so many memories with. Food that is hassle-free and brings warm and comfort to your table. Just like this Classic Slow Cooker Pot Roast. Get ready for your house to smell amazing!

As I have said before, you can never go wrong with a classic dish! Unless you just don’t like pot roast, then you could probably go wrong. But this Classic Slow Cooker Pot Roast is hard to beat! Flavorful ingredients that are prepared in a simple way make for the best, wholesome flavor.

Now, there’s two types of pot roast eaters. Those who like the mushy carrots and potatoes that are soaked in all juices from cooking with the roast all day, and those who don’t. I, unfortunately, am one who does not. I know, it’s such a controversial issue. I prefer a more fresh, roasted veggie to go along with my pot roast, so I tend to just roast some carrots and potatoes on a sheet pan about an hour before I plan on serving dinner. If you are a carrot and potato in with the roast type of person, you will notice that this recipe does not include it. Just simply add in your choice of carrots and potatoes on top of the roast and your potato, carrot and roast dreams will come true.

With the holidays just around the corner, this simple recipe can ease your mind about getting dinner on the table. Whether you’re feeding family and guests, or just trying to not eat out every night before Christmas (because who wants to do more dishes than they have to?!), this Classic Slow Cooker Pot Roast is here for you.

 

Classic Slow Cooker Pot Roast

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 – 4 lb chuck roast
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1 medium onion, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 teaspoon chopped garlic

Directions:

  1. Place the chuck roast in the bottom of an average-size slow cooker. Pour the beef stock all around the sides of the roast. Sprinkle the salt and pepper evenly over the top of the roast. Add in the Worcestershire sauce and chopped garlic evenly over the top as well. Arrange the chopped onion and rosemary sprigs around the sides of the roast. Seal the lid of the slow cooker according to package instructions.
  2. Cook the pot roast on high for 6 hours.
  3. Before serving, ladle the sauce out of the bottom of the slow cooker into a small saucepan. Bring the sauce to a boil and reduce slightly. Serve the pot roast with desired veggies and sauce poured over the top.

Mrs. Claus Cocktail

What if Mrs. Claus came to town this year instead of Santa Claus? And she brought eggnog and peppermint Schnapps with her? I think it would be a done deal! Watch out Santa, there’s a new holiday cheer in town.

I am an absolute eggnog fanatic when the holiday season rolls around. You can only get it once a year! I may or may not have just bought two more cartons of it… I can’t help it! It’s just so smooth, creamy and tastes like Christmas. That’s basically what this Mrs. Claus Cocktail is, Christmas in a cup. This is the perfect and easy cocktail to serve up this holiday season. You can go completely Christmas Vacation style and have your guests sip on this cocktail with a glass moose mug, or serve it up in any cocktail glass or old fashioned mug that you like!

Even though eggnog is so fantastic on it’s own, the addition of white chocolate liqueur and peppermint Schnapps take it to a whole other level! The white chocolate liqueur makes it even more velvety smooth and the peppermint Schnapps adds just the right amount of holiday cheer. Seriously, Christmas in a cup. You can serve this family-style and have your guests make their own, or have it all prepared for them. Heck, make it ahead of time and stash in the refrigerator until your guests get there! Add a dollop of whipped cream and a dusting of crushed candy canes and you are all set to go.


Mrs. Claus doesn’t ask for cookies and milk, she wants her very own Mrs. Claus Cocktail. If you have some extra eggnog, let me know.

Note: this recipe is for one serving, or how you would prepare it in each glass individually. If you are making it for a crowd or want to serve it “family-style” simply just use this recipe as a base and adjust for how many you are serving.

 

Mrs. Claus Cocktail

serves 1

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup eggnog
  • 1 shot (3 tablespoons or 1.5 ounces) white chocolate liqueur
  • 1 tablespoon peppermint Schnapps
  • Whipped cream for garnish
  • Crushed candy canes for garnish

Directions:

  1. Pour the eggnog, white chocolate liqueur, and peppermint Schnapps into desired glass and stir to combine completely.
  2. Garnish with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkle of crushed candy cane.
  3. Enjoy!

Ultimate Fudge Brownies

Is dessert really a dessert if it doesn’t have chocolate in it? I mean, if it doesn’t have chocolate in it, then you can justify calling it “coffee cake” or even just “breakfast.” I’m all for pie and cobbler for breakfast! I may be biased on this whole chocolate topic, because I am sipping on some chocolate milk as we speak. Let’s just talk brownies. Ultimate Fudge Brownies, that is.

Brownies are one of the most picture perfect chocolate desserts, if you ask me! When they’re still slightly warm from baking away in the oven and the chocolate melts all over your hands when you eat it, that is when you can fully enjoy a brownie. I’m still all about the crunchy edge pieces, though! These Ultimate Fudge Brownies bring home all the bacon. The fudge reaches all new levels in this decadent bite. Chocolate chips swirled and baked into a cocoa rich brownie and then topped with a fudge frosting so good you’ll be licking the spoon.

Brownies are such an awesome nostalgic treat to eat. It’s hard to find someone who has never had a brownie! Whether it’s just because or for a special occasion or holiday, these Ultimate Fudge Brownies will be gone before you know it. You can top them off with a scoop of ice cream to make your own little sundae, or nibble on these in the middle of the night when no one is looking.

Bake up a batch of these brownies to see what the ultimate fudge is all about. Has anyone ever regretted eating a brownie? Maybe two or three? 🙂

 

Ultimate Fudge Brownies

 

Ingredients:

For the brownie batter:

  • 2 sticks (16 tablespoons) butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

For the fudge frosting:

  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup mini marshmallows

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter, sugar and brown sugar together on medium speed until light and fluffy, about a couple minutes. Reduce the speed to low and add in one egg at a time, making sure to mix thoroughly between each addition and wiping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Mix in the vanilla.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add in the flour mixture into the butter and sugars until a dough forms and the ingredients are combined. Stir in the 2 cups of semi-sweet chocolate chips. The batter will be thick.
  3. Spray and line a 9×9 baking pan with parchment paper. Spread the batter evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake for 35-38 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow it to cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes.
  4. To make the fudge frosting, bring the heavy cream to a very low simmer in a small saucepan. Whisk in the dark chocolate chips and mini marshmallows and continue to whisk until the mixture is melted together and smooth, about 3-5 minutes. Be careful to not let the mixture boil.
  5. Pour the fudge frosting over the top of the slightly cooled brownies and spread to all the edges to cover evenly. Let the frosting set for 10-15 minutes prior to cutting. Enjoy!

How to have a Cozy Christmas Morning

If you know me, I am just absolutely in love with the holidays. Yes, that may sound oh-so basic, but I love the family, friends, food, warmth, laughter, and all the good feels it brings! Gathering around with loved ones is one of my favorite things to do, especially when there is yummy food involved! Christmas morning is no exception to that. So let’s grab a blanket, put on our fuzzy socks and make it a Cozy Christmas Morning.

Ever since John and I got married, we started to realize the importance of making Christmas morning special. We were no longer with our families right away and had each other to spend the morning with. Here’s a few ways how we make our Christmas morning special and cozy:

Take it slow, Snuggle often, Savor the time

We are always so used to getting up and hitting the ground running right away in the morning, so it is nice to have a morning to just savor the time together and snuggle our sweet pups. Even if you are single or don’t have furry pups to snuggle, just take a few extra minutes to relax and savor a few more minutes snuggled up under the covers! It won’t be wasted time. Especially if it’s cold outside – getting out from under the covers is just so hard!

Eat Breakfast in Bed

You are never too old to eat breakfast in bed. There’s just something so fun about being able to make a quick dash to the kitchen, load up with goodies and sneak back under the covers before all the heat escapes. Here’s a couple of our favorite drinks and breakfast treats to enjoy in the morning:

Espresso Hot Chocolate

Baked Churro Donuts with Dark Chocolate Ganache

Make Your Own Traditions

As I was mentioning earlier, we realized that once we were married we had the chance to make our own Christmas traditions! Don’t worry, we are still hanging onto all the ones that we have with our families, but it has been so special and fun to start our own. Even if it is something so small, make it yours. Married or not, you can do it. One way that we have started our own tradition is to make and give each other stockings on Christmas morning. They don’t have to be full of anything spectacular or expensive, and that is what makes them so fun and casual.

Wear Comfy Clothes!

This may seem like a no-brainer, but it really does make a difference! If you’re anything like me, you are so much more yourself when you are comfortable in what you are wearing. If you are into the matching pajama thing, do it! Otherwise, I think its fun to pick out something cozy to wear, even if it is just a new pair of socks or some comfy sweats! Here is what we love this year:

Kate’s sweater / Kate’s pj pants / Kate’s socks / John’s long sleeve / John’s sweat pants / John’s socks

PS: you can never go wrong with a good ol’ Christmas scented candle either!

Details:

Headboard / Night stand / Bedding / Bedroom lamp / Knit Blanket / Mugs / Serving tray / Tree / Basket / Gold Christmas trees / Couch / Coffee table / RugWooden ladder / Candle

Peppermint Fudge Cookies

We are full-throttle into holiday baking season and these Peppermint Fudge Cookies are at the top of the nice list this year! Are you looking for the perfect cookie to put on your cookie platter this year? Take these to any cookie swap, Christmas party, or just bake them up for yourself and you will be the star on top of the tree.

These cookies are the perfect combination of fudgy chocolate and sweet peppermint. Take one bite of these and you will be sledding through fields of gumdrops and candy cane trees! Maybe not quite that extreme, but you get what I’m saying. They are packed full of holiday flavor.

Not only will these cookies be the perfect recipe to add to your holiday baking this year, but they are also painless to make! Drizzle some melted white chocolate on them after they come out of the oven, dust the tops with crushed candy canes and then try to not eat them all before someone else gets one. Set these cookies out for Santa this year and he may just stay the night.

Preheat your oven, turn on some Christmas music and get these Peppermint Fudge Cookies baking away in your oven!

 

Peppermint Fudge Cookies

makes 23 cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks (16 tablespoons) butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 10 oz dark chocolate chips
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips, melted for garnish
  • Crushed candy canes for garnish

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter, sugar and brown sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about a couple minutes. With the speed on low, add in one egg at a time, mixing thoroughly after each egg addition and wiping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Mix in the vanilla and peppermint extracts.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Slowly add the flour mixture into the butter mixture until combined. Fold in the dark chocolate chips with a rubber spatula. The batter may be thick and slightly sticky and that is ok.
  3. Scoop rounded tablespoons of cookie dough onto a non-greased cookie sheet. Bake the cookies for 12-15 minutes, being careful to not overcook. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool. Repeat until all of the cookies are baked.
  4. Drizzle the cookies with the melted white chocolate and top with crushed candy canes.

Espresso Hot Chocolate

Happy National Hot Cocoa Day! Could this quite possibly be one of the greatest days of the year? Yes, indeed. Especially if you have a mug of this Espresso Hot Chocolate in hand!


A day centered around warm, liquid chocolate in a cute little mug is a good day in my books. This Espresso Hot Chocolate is a fun twist on the classic favorite. Go ahead and put those packets of cocoa mix back in the cupboard, because you won’t be needing them anymore!

Do you want to know what is so great about this hot chocolate recipe? Not only is it hot chocolate, but it has a full serving of espresso in it to get your coffee fix! That’s right, you could drink this for your coffee in the morning and have it be completely justifiable. That is basically winning at life.

Mug / Scarf / String Lights

Cozy up with your jammies and your slippers, fill your mug full with this Espresso Hot Chocolate, dollop some whipped cream on top and sip your way into chocolate bliss. Talk about a drink that would be perfect for Christmas morning!

 

Espresso Hot Chocolate

makes 2 servings

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 4 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
  • Whipped cream for topping

Directions:

  1. In a small sauce pan over low heat, bring the milk to a very low simmer. Whisk in the chocolate chips, cocoa powder and espresso powder. Avoid boiling. Whisk until smooth and frothy, about a couple minutes.
  2. Pour into desired mugs and top with a dollop of whipped cream and a pinch of additional espresso powder.

Classic Chicken Pot Pie

It finally snowed today and I squealed like a little girl and ran outside, bare feet and all, as fast as I could. I absolutely love Winter! I know, I know, I’m the crazy lady over here, but it is one of my favorite times of the year! You better believe my cozy level meter went all the way to ten! Time to dig into this Classic Chicken Pot Pie, because you can’t go wrong with classic comfort food.

You can’t ever go wrong with classic comfort food, if you ask me. And to me, classic comfort food should be served family-style and be hassle-free. That’s right! Just dig on into this pie plate of wonder. Am I the only weird person who not only loves Winter, but also serves their chicken pot pie in a bowl? Let’s just be logical and talk about convenience here. Give me a spoon and I’ll chow down.

 

Set aside all the comfort and joy that this dish brings and let’s talk about how simple it is to make! This dish is so versatile in regards to how you can take convenient shortcuts to make getting dinner on the table a little bit easier, or how you can go all-in chef mode and make everything from scratch. That’s right. You choose how simple or how diverse you want it to be. You can make dough from scratch, or use store-bought pie crust (this is what I did!!). You can use a rotisserie chicken, or roast your own. See how you can adapt this recipe? You’ve got this.

Turn on the Christmas movie marathons, light your spruce candle, and get this heart-warming Classic Chicken Pot Pie in the oven!

 

Classic Chicken Pot Pie

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs cooked chicken, shredded or roughly chopped
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon garlic
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 cups carrots, cut into 1/4 inch rounds
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 standard size pie crusts
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon water

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add in the onion and saute until translucent and avoiding browning, about 3 minutes. Stir in the flour until a paste forms, then whisk in the heavy cream. Whisk until the mixture is smooth and combined. Reduce the heat to low.
  2. Whisk in the chicken stock, milk, garlic, carrots, thyme, oregano, rosemary and salt and pepper to taste. Bring the mixture to a simmer and whisk occasionally until it thickens slightly, about 5-8 minutes.
  3. Stir in the chicken and peas and let the mixture return to a low simmer and thicken slightly again. Using a standard pie plate, form one of the pie crust rounds to the bottom of the pie plate and up the sides. Pour the chicken pot pie filling on top of the bottom pie crust. Top the filling with the remaining pie crust and crimp the edges of the two pie crusts together to insure that the filling does not cook out the sides. Using a knife, cut 1-inch slits on the top of the crust in the middle of the pie to allow air to escape, but not cutting too far in to spill the filling on top of the crust.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and the water to make an egg wash. lightly brush the top of the pot pie crust with the egg wash to insure a brown crust. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. Let the pot pie sit for 10-15 minutes prior to serving to allow it to cool slightly and for the pot pie to set and not run.

 

Rocky Road Cookies

Happy National Cookie Day! As cliche as this sounds, I totally did not even plan this out! I guess just making cookies on a whim and it happens to be National Cookie Day is just a gift. I’ll take it. It is cookie season, after all! My husband is a big time rocky road fanatic (like rocky road everything), so I knew I needed to create a cookie just for him. Rocky Road Cookies are ready to rock and roll!

These cookies all the perfect amounts of fudgy, to nutty, to creamy from the marshmallow topping. Dip one of these delicious Rocky Road Cookies into a tall glass of milk and you won’t be disappointed!

I was so excited when these little beauties came out of the oven, it was hard to let them cool enough to eat! Topping the cookies off with some mini mallows is a fun, little touch to set these cookies apart from any average joe. These cookies would be the perfect, chocolate touch to any Christmas cookie exchange. You can never go wrong with chocolate!

These Rocky Road Cookies are the perfect thing to bake away in your oven while you dance around listening to Christmas music, or while watching Home Alone for the first time (no judgement – I’d seen the second one but not the first!).

 

Rocky Road Cookies

makes 20 cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks (16 tablespoons) butter, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
  • 1 cup chopped nuts, such as walnuts or almonds
  • Mini marshmallows for topping, about 5 per cookie

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter with the sugar and brown sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes on medium speed. Reduce the speed to low and add in one egg at a time, making sure to scrape down the edges of the bowl in between each addition. Add in the vanilla extract.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Slowly add the flour mixture to the butter mixture until completely combined. Fold in the chocolate chips and nuts.
  3. Scoop rounded tablespoons of the cookie dough onto a non-greased cookie sheet. Spacing each one a couple inches apart. Bake the cookies for 5 minutes and then remove from the oven. Quickly top each cookie with about 5 mini marshmallows, and gently press them in to prevent from rolling off the cookie. Return the cookies back to the oven and bake for another 8-10 minutes or until the cookies are cooked through and the marshmallows are melted and slightly golden.
  4. Remove the cookies from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool. Enjoy!

 

Santa’s Sleigh Cocktail

Wohoo! Happy December, everyone! Is anyone else as excited about the Christmas season as I am? I mean, it’s like full on Buddy the Elf type of situation. I just love it!

It’s just crazy that it is already December to me. Nebraska needs to get with the program, because it is going to be almost 60 degrees today! Call me crazy, but I am so ready for a nice, big snow storm. Yep, I’m crazy, but I love it! You better believe everyone will know my excitement when it finally snows and sticks to the ground.

With Christmas and holiday parties right around the corner, you need a good, easy, and fun cocktail to make everyone feel nice and warm inside! When I took my first sip of this Santa’s Sleigh Cocktail, I texted my husband and was like no way! I actually made a cocktail that I liked and it wasn’t a sangria! I was just pleasantly surprised. This Santa baby is so smooth it’s criminal. Trust me, you won’t even taste the alcohol in it! This could be a good or a bad thing…

What I love so much about drinks like this Santa’s Sleigh, besides how amazing it goes down, is that it is completely hassle free. All you have to do is pour all the ingredients into a pot or slow cooker and bring it up slowly to a nice and warm temperature. Your guests can ladle their own mug of Santa’s Sleigh, top it however they please and be ho, ho, ho happy. You don’t even have to bat an eye or break a sweat. PS: you can also make this in advance and reheat it for the next several days. Bonus points if you have Santa’s Sleigh stocked in your refrigerator.

This smooth, warm, mug of a cocktail will make you feel all the warm and fuzzies inside and get everyone around you in the Christmas spirit.

 

Santa’s Sleigh Cocktail

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 gallon chocolate milk
  • 1 cup Kahlua
  • 3/4 cup peppermint Schnapps

Topping Ideas:

  • Marshmallows
  • Melted Chocolate
  • Sprinkles
  • Candy Canes
  • Chocolate Chips

Directions:

  1. Pour all of the ingredients into a large pot over low heat. Slowly bring the cocktail to a warm temperature, avoiding any boiling or simmering. Serve warm with delicious topping ideas.

2017 Swimsuit Recap

I am not a swimsuit-picture-posting person. Heck, taking a selfie is hard enough! So why am I doing a whole post about swimsuits? I used to cringe at the thought of having to wear one. Bikini season was not my thing – give me all the yoga pants and chunky sweaters please! I am not an itsy-bitsy-teeny-weeny-yellow-polka-dot-bikini wearing girl, but here I am, going 150% out of my comfort zone to share with you how I became confident and comfortable wearing a swimsuit.


It’s nothing fancy, high-tech or Pinterest-worthy. I just simply ditched the bikini and never looked back. Before we go any farther, I am in now way shaming bikinis or bikini-wearing gals. This is just purely my personal choice and I have no problem with them, but I will share with you how awesome it made me feel to leave them behind! It was like a huge weight was lifted when the thought of not having to put on a bikini came to mind. Summer, swimsuit season and bikinis have become SO high maintenance with our culture. I kept feeling dogged down about not having a “bikini body”, but what in the world is that anyways? Our culture tells us its skinny, tan, smooth, the right things rounded and firm and other places flat and doesn’t jiggle when you laugh. Yeah, that’s pretty high maintenance to me! I’d rather be real, healthy, active and eat cake.

To me, finding the right swimsuits to make me feel comfortable, confident and sexy just had to happen. And guess what? It made my husband more comfortable too! Not showing everything off actually made me feel more attractive. My husband noticed my confidence.  Funny how it works that way, huh? I’m not trying to be the modesty police, but I think it shows character and respect for your spouse. A little bit can go a long ways!

Ok, so enough of the all the words, here’s what I found and what I loved!

PS: This is not a sponsored post for any of these brands and all the words are my honest opinion :).

I know we are heading straight into Winter and the holidays, but travel/vacation season is right around the corner and Summer will be here before we know it!

Kortni Jeane 

I found Kortni Jeane Swimmers on Instagram and immediately fell in love. She has such an awesome motto for creating her swimmers and there are so many options for every body type! You can mix and match and create your own swimsuit to fit your style. They even have maternity, kids, tweens, and mens swimmers! It’s a win for the whole family during any stage of life. They have great full-bum coverage and are swimsuits that you can feel amazing in, even in front of your neighbors or grandma!

 

Shop Ashley LeMieux 

If you know me, you know I absolutely love all the clothing options from Shop Ashley LeMieux and what Ashley stands for. Needless to say, her swimsuits did not disappoint! She provided cute, fun and modest swim options. It is a seasonal item on her site, so when they go live grab yours quick before they’re gone! I got so many compliments on this swimsuit and it is definitely one of my favorites.

 

Aerie

I love everything that the Aerie brand stands for. It promotes women and girls to be real and untouched, and that is just what we need! They have a lot of great one-piece swimsuit options for a great price. You do have to watch the bum or front exposure on these, though, as some of them are deep-plunging or more of a cheeky fit. Plus, there are so many American Eagle/Aerie stores around that you could even try one on before purchasing!

 

We all have beautiful bodies and I hope that you too can be comfortable and confident in a swimsuit! I’m not saying that I always am or that I don’t struggle with self-image, but let’s keep reminding each other that we are fearfully and wonderfully made!

 

Caramel Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies

Yesterday was totally one of those days where everything didn’t go according to plan or how I thought things would turn out. I never burn dinner, and I burned dinner. Kraft macaroni and cheese ended up saving us from driving into town for Chick-Fil-A or Chipotle, but sometimes that’s just how life goes and it’s ok! What also made it ok was that I had these Caramel Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies to secretly munch on in the dark kitchen before going to bed. Cookies always save the day.

Isn’t it crazy that we are almost to December, which means Christmas is right around the corner?! It’s the most wonderful time of the year! I absolutely love Christmas, gathering with family, eating and baking yummy goodies, Christmas music blaring and snuggling up with the pups by the Christmas tree. Totally typical, but SO good. What comes along with Christmas? CHRISTMAS COOKIES. These Caramel Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies are a fun and delicious spin on the classic chocolate chipper! Trust me, they are more simple to make than you think. Pour yourself a tall glass of milk, because you have some cookies to eat.

What is also so great about these cookies is that they can be made year-round. They aren’t stuck in your Christmas cookie arsenal and make a delicious treat or secret nibble before going to bed. Raise of hands who can relate to sneaking a cookie out of the bag on the counter before jumping into bed? You just gotta!

Preheat your oven and get these cookies baking away this Christmas season! Trust me, they will be fast going in any Christmas cookie exchange. Or just eating them by yourself. Either way, these little babies are good.

 

Caramel Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies

makes 14 cookies

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 sticks (16 tablespoons) butter, softened
  • 2 cups chocolate chips
  • 14 soft caramels, unwrapped

Directions:

  1. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and the sugars together until light and fluffy, about 1-2 minutes. Slowly add in the eggs one at a time, making sure to wipe down the edges in between each addition. Add in the vanilla and mix until combined.
  2. With the mixer speed on low, slowly add in the flour mixture to the eggs and butter until a dough forms. Add in the chocolate chips and mix until just combined, being careful to not over-mix the dough. Refrigerate and chill the dough for 30 minutes.
  3. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  4. To form the cookies, scoop rounded tablespoons of dough onto a non-greased cookie sheet, about 2-3 inches apart (I could fit 6 on my standard size baking sheet). Lightly press a caramel into the center of each cookie dough ball to fit the caramel in and slightly flatten the dough. Top each caramel with another tablespoon scoop of cookie dough, making sure to press down slightly (but not flatten) so that the caramel is completely covered with dough and it won’t bake out the sides. Continue this process until all the cookies are formed.
  5. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until the cookies are slightly golden brown and cooked through. Let the cookies sit on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes after taking them out of the oven before transferring them to a plate or rack to cool as you will want the caramels to set slightly before moving.

 

Set Your Thanksgiving Table Without Breaking The Bank

If you’re anything like me, setting the table is the last thing on your mind on Thanksgiving Day. You have a turkey roasting away in the oven and taking up way too much room, potatoes simmering in a big pot of water on the stovetop and the peels coating your kitchen sink from your over-zealous attempt to get the potatoes in the pot as fast as you can, and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade blaring away in the background to take up any brain space that you may have had left. Setting the Thanksgiving Table? Nah, not even close to being on my mind.

Cardigan / Shirt / Jeans

I knew that if I was going to conquer setting the table this year for our Friendsgiving and Thanksgiving, I would need to make it simple and to the point. When you’re basting your perfectly golden brown turkey, you don’t need to be shuffling plates around, ironing a tablecloth and folding napkins.

I like to use simple pieces that are hassle-free, but still have my personality and touch. I love white whites, black blacks, and colorful colors, so that is what I went for.

So, here are a few of my tips to pull of a beautiful, yet inexpensive way to set your Thanksgiving Table. Hence, “How to Set Your Thanksgiving Table without Breaking the Bank.” Because if you are again like me, I would rather spend my money on food. Pass that gravy!

 

How to Set Your Thanksgiving Table without Breaking the Bank

 

Paper Plates and Plastic Silverware: I will stand by this and say it time and time again, paper plates and plastic silverware are KEY. If I’ve been on my feet cooking all day and smiling through all of the wonderful Thanksgiving madness, the last thing I want to do is the dishes, and I don’t want to make my guests do them either. You can find so many cute, sturdy, non-plastic looking items these day that you don’t even have to worry about it looking cheesy!

Dinner Plates / Silverware / Napkins / Dessert Plates

Mason Jars: Did you know that you can buy a flat of 12 mason jars for like $8? That’s right! About the same price you would pay on all those Red Solo Cups that get tossed in the trash. Mason jars are so fun and add a nice touch to the table. Helps keep it classy that you actually have glassware on the table. Bonus: you can re-use them! I loving using mason jars to serve cocktails, smoothies or any beverage in. They even work great as flower vases too. Tie little gift tags around them with your guest’s name so they can re-use their jar while they are there!

Mason jars / Name tags.

Real Plants/Pumpkins: I love the touch that flowers, pumpkins or greenery add to a table. It makes it feel more homey and down-to-earth to me. You can usually buy a bouquet of flowers at your local grocery store for around $10, and guess what? I got these pumpkins for $1 a piece! Look for them at your local grocery store, farmers market, or home and garden store.

Simple Statement Piece and Table Runner: I will occasionally put a tablecloth down, but when I know it is a holiday centered around food, eating and cranberry sauce, I’m going to keep that tablecloth folded and tucked away. A table runner is a perfect substitute in my book. They can add the perfect amount of texture or pattern that you desire. I snagged this one for $19.99 and I can use it all year round due to its simple pattern and colors. Choose something you absolutely love and gotta-have and make that your center piece. I instantly fell in love with this vase and it was in my cart before I could think twice. It isn’t anything frilly or over-the-top, but with a simple bouquet of flowers, it makes the table come to life.

Green Pitcher / Table runner sold out online: Similar placemats

Candles: Candles are usually fairly priced and add a wonderful charm factor to your table. I found these cute pumpkin jar candles in the clearance section and they were a match made in heaven. Plus, the scent is called “Friendsgiving” and it couldn’t be more perfect (and it smells AMAZING).

Friendsgiving Candle

My last little tidbit of advance for setting your Thanksgiving table without breaking the bank: go shopping AFTER Halloween! Seriously, stores are rolling in all the Christmas goodies by then and want to move the Fall/Thanksgiving items along. Items are typically discounted and you score big time!

Table / Wooden Chairs / Padded Chairs

 

Apple Berry Crisp

I still can’t believe that Thanksgiving is already less than two weeks away! All the Christmas decor is out in stores already and I am making myself hold off until Thanksgiving comes through. It’s hard to resist! Just like this Apple Berry Crisp is hard to resist! I may have already eaten most of it myself…

If you are looking for the perfect dessert this holiday season that is hassle-free and delicious, look no further! This Apple Berry Crisp could even take the place of a pie this year on your table. Let’s face it, making a pie can be somewhat of a daunting task (although well worth it), but this Apple Berry Crisp can come to your rescue any day. Toss the ingredients together, tuck it away in a warm oven, forget about it for an hour or so and then you are all set to scoop some vanilla ice cream on top and pass the plates around.

A bonus to go along side this delicious and simple dessert is that your house will smell amazing. Queue all of the Fall and holiday candle smells and you didn’t even have to light a single one of them. This can also be made in advance and reheated prior to serving. Piece of cake. I think it makes an excellent leftover breakfast option as well.

The topping is always one of the best parts. It gets all sorts of the good kind of crunchy and almost forms a cookie-like crust. Break that puppy open to reveal ooey-gooey goodness inside.

 

Apple Berry Crisp

Ingredients:

For the filling:

  • 4 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2 inch slices
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 6 oz fresh blueberries
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

For the topping:

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 8 tablespoons butter, cold and cut into cubes
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine all of the ingredients for the filling and toss to coat and combine. Set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients for the topping. Using either a pastry cutter, fork, or your hands, combine the butter into the dry ingredients until a course, pebble-like consistency forms. It should be able to mold together if squeezed in your hand.
  3. Using a 9-inch pie plate, pour the filling ingredients into the bottom and spread to an even layer. Pour the topping on top of the filling and spread in an even layer as well. Bake for 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes, or until the topping is slightly browned and the filling is gooey and cooked through.

 

Wilted Kale Salad

We’re back from vacation and ready to rock and roll through this work week! Even with his broken leg, the hubs is ready to take it on. Since John broke his right leg on our first day in Hawaii, I have become the designated driver until he gets his cast off (4-6 weeks to go!). Yep, that’s right. My schedule is going to adjust to match his and where he needs to go, he may not be able to do as much housework as normal and the holiday extravaganzas are about to start. But you know what, that’s ok! Yes it’s a total bummer that he broke his leg on vacation, but we laughed about it and are looking at this as a time to slow down even more, spend time serving each other in different ways than normal and to soak in the time we get to spend together.

Since he broke his leg on our Hawaiian vacation, we weren’t able to do as many of the activities that we hoped to do. Which was ok, because we spent that time eating delicious food! Instead of burning the calories, we were intaking them :). Vacation is such a wonderful time to adventure, try new foods and totally indulge yourself. We bank on it every time. That means it’s time to get back on track and fuel our bodies with healthy, powerful and vitamin-rich goodies to keep us going strong. This Wilted Kale Salad does just the trick.

I absolutely love this Wilted Kale Salad and it is one of my go-to ways to serve up kale. Its healthy and delicious, so what more could you ask for? I can even get John to gobble down some kale with this scrumptious recipe! Another amazing thing about it, it is simple ingredients cooked in a quick and simple way to get a flavorful dish.

This wonderful Wilted Kale Salad can be eaten as is on it’s own with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese, served as a side dish to any weeknight dinner or holiday meal, topped with protein such as chicken, shrimp, steak or tofu to be a complete meal, or eaten as a quick and healthy lunch to keep you going. Whip it up and be ready to eat in under 20 minutes!

 

Wilted Kale Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 small/medium red onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
  • 10 oz chopped kale
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Shaved Parmesan for garnish

Directions:

  1. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add in the red onions and saute until translucent and slightly caramelized about 5-8 minutes, avoiding any burning. Add in the honey and white balsamic vinegar and saute and stir to combine.
  2. Add the chopped kale to the skillet, pour the remaining tablespoon of olive oil over the top and stir to combine the kale with the red onions, honey and white balsamic vinegar. Saute for several minutes or until the kale is just slightly wilted and starting to cook. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  3. Serve warm immediately with Parmesan shavings on top.

 

Pumpkin Pecan Cinnamon Rolls

The fact that its November already is just mind blowing to me! Maybe its the fact that we are in Hawaii with a high of 90 degrees and missed the first snow back home that we were actually bummed about…we’re crazy, right?

We’re the crazy Nebraskans missing Fall back home and have already eaten all the pumpkin bread that our local Starbucks in Hawaii had to offer. We’re loving Hawaii, don’t get me wrong, but we will be ready to put on our stretchy pants and dig into the holiday season. These Pumpkin Pecan Rolls will take you there real quick! The perfect amount of pumpkin swirled with sweet cinnamon and crunchy pecans. It’s a match made for each other.

These Pumpkin Pecan Rolls are perfect for any holiday brunch, weekend breakfast or weekday treat to get your day started. Wouldn’t they just be perfect for Thanksgiving morning as you’re basting your turkey to golden perfection? I think so! You know what I’ll be snacking on. That and coffee. You need to have your coffee.

Cinnamon rolls can be daunting to make, but do not fret over these Pumpkin Pecan Rolls! Just give yourself an adequate amount of time and you are all set to go. Bake these up this Fall and Winter and your house will smell magical and your tummy will be pleased.

 

Pumpkin Pecan Cinnamon Rolls

makes about 8 rolls

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1 cup sugar, plus 1 tablespoon
  • 2 sticks (16 tablespoons) butter
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 cups flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree

Directions:

  1. In a small bowl, lightly whisk together the yeast, 1 tablespoon of sugar and warm water to activate the yeast. Set aside. In a small sauce pan over medium heat, warm the milk and 1 stick of butter until the butter is completely melted, careful to not boil. Set aside to cool.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, 1/2 cup sugar and salt until combined. Slowly whisk in the cooled butter and milk mixture until combined with the eggs. Add in the yeast mixture until just combined and then fold in the flour until a sticky dough forms. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set in a warm area (stovetop or window in the sun) to let the dough rise for 1 hour to 1 1/2 hours.
  3. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Generously flour your working surface and rolling pin. Roll the dough out into a 1/4 inch rectangle, flouring the surface, dough and rolling pin as needed. The dough may be slightly sticky. Melt the remaining 1 stick of butter and lightly spread a thin layer on top of the dough, using only about 1/4 of the melted butter. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup sugar on top of the butter and follow it with the cinnamon on top of it. Gently spread the pumpkin puree over the top of the cinnamon and sugar.
  4. Pour the remaining melted butter into the bottom of a 13×9 baking pan. Mix it with the brown sugar and chopped pecans and spread it in an even layer on the bottom of the pan.
  5. Starting at one end of the dough rectangle, roll the dough up into a log, making sure that the filling does not come out. Use flour as needed. Cut the log into 8 equal rolls and place them on top of the butter pecan mixture in the baking pan. Since the rolls will be flipped at the end, put the top side of the rolls down first.
  6. Cover the rolls with plastic wrap and let rise for 20-30 minutes. Remove the plastic wrap and bake the rolls for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown on top and cooked through in the centers.
  7. Immediately flip the rolls onto a baking sheet after removing from the oven, being careful of the pecan mixture as it will be hot. Remove the baking pan after the rolls are flipped and let cool slightly prior to serving. The rolls can be made in advance and reheated to serve.

Seared Salmon with Creamy Dill Sauce

We ate so much wonderful salmon down in Hawaii that we just can’t get over it. It was so fresh, buttery and scrumptious that we were eating any chance we got! To say the least, this Seared Salmon with Creamy Dill Sauce is here to the rescue to curb our cravings!

The sauce truly is the boss in this dish. I could just eat it by the spoonful! John and I ate this one night for dinner, and then turned around and made it with my parents the next night. We have now been comparing every fish dish to this and simply saying: “It needs the sauce.” My family has always been big fish eaters since my Grandpa and Dad have been big into fishing up in Lake Michigan every year. Whether it be salmon, cod or rainbow trout, this sauce will rock every single one of them!

Want to know what else is so fantastic about this dish? It can be ready in 30 minutes! It is perfect for a quick and healthy weeknight dinner, or you can even serve it up to feed a fancy dinner crowd. Either way, every last bite will be eaten and you have a crowd-pleasing meal that didn’t bust the bank or the clock.

Serve this Seared Salmon with Creamy Dill Sauce with a side of my Wilted Kale Salad for a super immune boosting meal and an easy way to have a vitamin-packed dinner in under 30 minutes! If you serve this with potatoes, rice, couscous, bread, green beans, broccoli, or really anything else, just do yourself a favor and pour the sauce over your whole plate. You’re welcome.

 

Seared Salmon with Creamy Dill Sauce

serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 4 – 5 oz salmon filets with skin
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons fresh dill, chopped, plus more for garnish
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Season both sides of the salmon filets with salt and pepper. Sear the salmon skin side down first for about 5-7 minutes, or until a golden brown crust starts to form.
  2. Carefully flip the salmon filets away from you to avoid any oil splatter. Cook for an additional 3-5 minutes, or until the inside reaches desired doneness.
  3. Meanwhile, in a small sauce pan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Whisk in the flour until a pasty roux is created. Whisk in the heavy cream and bring the mixture to a low simmer. Whisk in the dill, lemon juice and season to taste with salt and pepper. Continue to cook on a very low simmer (avoiding any boiling) until the mixture thickens, about a couple minutes.
  4. Serve the salmon filets immediately with the creamy dill sauce and fresh dill as a garnish.

Nut Butter Breakfast Smoothies

One of my main staples when I run to the grocery store is to stock up on granola bars as John and I are huge fans of a “grab-and-go” breakfast. A brand that is always tossed into my grocery cart is Kashi and their scrumptious granola bar options. We have always had our favorite kinds that we would each grab in the morning with the exception of John reaching for one of mine when he ate through all of his too fast. So, to say that I was excited when Kashi sent me all their new Chewy Nut Butter Bars for free to try out and experiment with is a huge understatement. I immediately snatched one out of each box to sample and ended up eating the whole darn bar each time. They are just THAT good.

If you are anything like me, breakfast is not on the forefront of your mind (with the exception of coffee) and a granola bar or handheld snack is what you fall back on when you are scampering to get out of the door. I get it. It can be a lot of work to whip up a delicious, healthy and satisfying breakfast without making a huge mess in your kitchen. Let these Nut Butter Breakfast Smoothies come to your rescue.

You know what is so great about these Nut Butter Breakfast Smoothies? Besides featuring a different kind of Chewy Nut Butter Bar in each smoothie, they are quick, simple and made with ingredients that you would have on hand in your pantry and refrigerator. Its the popular, trending and healthy thing to load your smoothies up with nuts, granolas, seeds, protein, fiber and all sorts of other goodies that it can make your head spin. Let’s be honest here: it can be pricey, time consuming, space consuming and somewhat of a headache to stay stocked up on all of these items to toss into a smoothie. Your solution: Kashi Chewy Nut Butter Bars! That’s right, these bars are already stocked with all these wholesome goodies and they are waiting for you in your cupboard to fuel your next smoothie. Hassle-free and you don’t have to worry about a short expiration date!

Blend these smoothies up to jumpstart your day and have a breakfast or snack that is packed full of good-for-you nutrients. A smoothie a day keeps the doctor away, right? I think it’s close enough.

 

Pumpkin Almond Snickerdoodle Smoothie

makes 1 serving

Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. Place all of the ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth and desired consistency is reached.
  2. Top your smoothie with melted almond butter, crushed almonds or cinnamon and enjoy.

Tropical Cashew Coconut Smoothie

makes 1 serving

Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. Place all of the ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth or desired consistency is acquired. More or less soy milk may be added to achieve this.
  2. Top your smoothie with coconut flakes, melted cashew butter, toasted cashews, or fresh mango and enjoy.

Blueberry Almond Trail Mix Smoothie

makes 1 serving

Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. Place all of the ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth or desired consistency is achieved.
  2. Top your smoothie with melted almond butter, fresh blueberries, chopped dark chocolate, or assorted nuts and enjoy.

 

 

 

 

4 Comfy Fall Dress Ideas

Once Fall rolls around, you better believe that I will just be sporting my yoga pants, sweats and the most fabulous one-size-fits-all pants whenever I can. I’m all about comfort, warmth and ease when it comes to my wardrobe and I can’t wait for the seasons to change when I get to put away my shorts and don’t have to worry about my legs getting stuck on the seat from the Summer heat. Anyone else with me? I wear dresses all Summer long, but stock them away once the weather starts to change. By golly, I’m going to try to change that! I challenged myself to put together a handful of comfortable dress options that I can wear throughout the Fall without getting too chilly or sacrificing comfort. Here you go – it’s all I’ve got.

Long Sleeve T-Shirt Dress

Everything about t-shirt dresses are just wonderful. I mean, it’s a t-shirt…that is a dress. Perfection. Toss in some long sleeves and you’ve got me sold. A chunky scarf and some booties help this dress scream “Fall” and all you need is a pumpkin spice latte in hand to be on point.

Sweater Dress

A sweater in a dress form is right up there with the t-shirt dress. They are so warm and cozy that you are just walking around with your arms through a blanket. So, basically a Snuggie that is socially acceptable and considered cute. Toss on some tall boots or over-the-knee boots to help keep your legs warm and you are all set. If the temps drop even more, you can throw on a pair of leggings underneath this dress and be on your way.

Chunky Cardigan + Dress

This combo is probably one of the most easy ways to take your summer or short sleeve dresses into the cooler seasons. Toss on any comfy and cuddly cardigan, a pair of booties and snuggle on up into comfort.

Long Sleeve Maxi Dress

Talk about an all-in-one package. You have a dress that can be casual or dressed up for all the holiday parties you are invited to. Long sleeves, a long dress to cover your unshaved legs and all in one piece. This dress is unfortunately sold out, but where I purchased it has plenty of maxi dress options! Hop on over to Ashley LeMieux to see what you can find.

 

Chocolate Espresso Cream Cheese Bundt Cake

I can’t tell you how excited I am about this Chocolate Espresso Cream Cheese Bundt Cake! I bought my first bundt cake pan this year (crazy, right?!) and I couldn’t wait to bake one up!

The flavor profile of this Chocolate Espresso Cream Cheese Bundt Cake is inspired by my Mom’s decadent Layered Mocha Cheesecake that she typically only makes around the holiday and Christmas season. The Oreo cookie crust, layers of chocolate cheesecake and coffee cheesecake are topped off with a chocolate ganache it is just love at first bite. Whip all those ingredients up with a scrumptious chocolate cake and that is what this bundt cake is all about! Don’t be frightened by having an espresso cream cheese filling in this bundt cake as it is easy to accomplish if you just keep the filling from touching any sides of the bundt pan. Trust me, it happened a couple times to me and the filling just oozes out! Once you get a spoonful/forkful of this Chocolate Espresso Cream Cheese Bundt Cake there will be no turning back!

Is there anything better than chocolate, espresso cream cheese, Oreo cookies and a dark chocolate ganache? I can’t think of much! One thing that is so awesome about bundt cakes is how user-friendly they are. I accidentally let my bundt cake sit too long in the pan after taking it out of the oven (it was about 30 minutes) and a thin layer of the top of the cake stuck to the pan when I turned it out. But by golly, you can just cover that top with ganache and Oreos and no one will ever know. Truth is, this recipe took me 5 different times of making it to perfect it. FIVE. If you have ever seen the movie Julie & Julia, the scene where Julie is laying on the floor sobbing with a raw chicken and stuffing all around her because she couldn’t even truss a chicken is a pretty accurate scene of what it felt like when the cake kept turning out too dry, too dense, or too thin. Now there was no sobbing, physical crying or laying on the floor involved, but you know what I mean! (Insert laughing/crying face emoji) Sometimes life just happens and your cake doesn’t turn out.

But boy, oh boy was this recipe worth it! All the ingredients combine to create the perfect slice of bundt cake and it’s like my little baby bundt cake recipe that I will treasure forever and ever. The whole family got invested in this venture as five different cakes were made in one week and everyone was trying it, critiquing it, complimenting it and finally savoring and craving every bite. The constant grocery trips to restock on ingredients may have gotten a little old (I am now well-stocked on enough cream cheese to carry me to Thanksgiving), but when this puppy comes out of the oven all you have is “ooo’s” and “ahhhh’s”.

This Chocolate Espresso Cream Cheese Bundt Cake is perfect for any occasion. Weeknight/weekend baking, birthdays, holidays, parties or just to have a bundt cake to snack on at midnight when you just can’t resist taking a bite. I may or may not be guilty of this. Just take a look at this bundt cake, how could you not resist?!

Disclaimer: please don’t be alarmed by it taking me 5 times to perfect it. The recipe testing process was SO worth it to have a scrumptious bundt cake turn out. You can totally do this!

 

Chocolate Espresso Cream Cheese Bundt Cake 

Ingredients:

For the cake:

  • 1 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons espresso powder
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 sticks (16 tablespoons) butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs

For the filling:

  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3 teaspoons flour
  • 2 tablespoons espresso powder
  • 1 tablespoon hot water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 8 Oreo cookies

For the topping:

  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1 cup chopped Oreo cookies

Directions:

For the cake:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder, 2 tablespoons espresso powder and hot water until combined. Set aside to cool. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and baking powder and set aside.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about a couple minutes. Turn the speed to low and add in one egg at a time, making sure that the egg is completely combined before adding another one. Add in the heavy cream and vanilla and mix until just combined.
  3. With the speed still on low, add in the flour mixture and the cocoa mixture alternatively into the butter mixture until all of the ingredients are combined. Do this in about three different batches of alternating dry and wet ingredients into the butter mixture. Scrap down the edges and bottom of the bowl to make sure all of the ingredients are combined.

For the filling:

  1. In a small bowl, combine the espresso powder and water to activate the espresso powder. Set aside to cool.
  2. In a bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the cream cheese and sugar until light and fluffy, about a couple minutes. Add in the flour and mix until combined. Add in the egg, vanilla and espresso mixture and beat until all of the ingredients are combined and smooth.

Assemble & Bake:

  1. In a sprayed bundt pan, start by pouring half of the cake batter evenly into the bottom of the pan. Using a 1 tablespoon scoop or a spoon, scoop the cream cheese filling into the center of the bundt cake, making sure that you don’t let the filling touch either sides of the bundt cake pan. Smooth the cream cheese filling into an even layer.
  2. Gently lay the 8 Oreo cookings on top of the cream cheese filling in the center of the cake. Pour the remaining cake batter over the top of the Oreos and cream cheese filling in an even layer, making sure that no cookies or filling is showing.
  3. Bake for 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out mostly clean. If the top looks slightly underdone, that is ok. Let the cake cool for 10 minutes in the pan before turning it. Turn it out onto desired surface to cool completely.

For the topping:

  1. 15 minutes prior to serving, bring the heavy cream to a very low simmer over low heat. Whisk in the dark chocolate chips until a smooth ganache forms. Remove from the heat immediately and pour the ganache over the top of the bundt cake, letting it cascade down the sides. Top with the chopped Oreo cookies and let the ganache set and cool slightly before serving.

 

 

 

Loaded Breakfast Sweet Potatoes

Come one, come all, because Loaded Breakfast Sweet Potatoes are here to call you out of bed! Let’s just take a minute to soak this in. Loaded Breakfast Sweet Potatoes. It’s really happening! Your new favorite breakfast is a spin off of a classic loaded baked potato, but packed with all things delicious and healthy to help fuel your day!

These Loaded Breakfast Sweet Potatoes are so fun because they can be so versatile! Feel free to load them up with any of your favorite toppings. Canadian bacon, ham, hollandaise sauce, poached eggs, veggies, sour cream or anything else that your heart so desires. I went ahead with the classic sunny-side-up egg because it is just hard to beat! The drippy and drool-worthy yolk tie it all together like a perfect little breakfast package. If you choose to go with a scrambled egg or no egg at all, I would recommend having some sort of sauce or sour cream to hit the ball out of the park. I also cooked bacon today for this recipe and I think my husband about had a heart attack. He is a bacon-lover and I don’t like the way it stinks up the house even if you have your overhead vent on high. Needless to say, I took a shower afterwards.

This recipe can be made for weekday breakfasts to start your day, or for brunch to feed a crowd. Have fun with the toppings and set up a breakfast sweet potato bar where everyone can stuff, top and drizzle their sweet potato however they please. The sweet potatoes can be baked in advance and re-heated prior to serving, so this would be a perfect meal-prep breakfast or way to be ready to have the family over for brunch!

Be careful when you’re pitting the avocado, though, because I was careless and the knife ran straight down the side of my finger. A lot of Despicable Me bandaids were needed but it is on the mend.

We are re-heating these tonight to have breakfast for dinner (brinner) and we couldn’t be happier.

 

Loaded Breakfast Sweet Potatoes

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 4 medium sweet potatoes, rinsed and patted dry
  • 12 oz bag frozen corn
  • 4 strips of bacon, fried/cooked to your liking and roughly chopped (more can be made if you would prefer more than 1 strip of bacon per potato)
  • 4 eggs cooked sunny-side up (or however you desire)
  • 1 avocado, pitted and sliced
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Using a sharp knife, cut open a large slit on each sweet potato running the long ways from one end to the other of the sweet potato. Place the sweet potatoes in a 9×13 pan and bake for 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes are cooked all the way through and soft. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool slightly.
  2. When there is 15 minutes left of the sweet potatoes cooking, spray a baking sheet with non-stick spray and evenly layer the frozen corn on the baking sheet. Sprinkle the corn with salt and pepper and bake until slightly roasted and cooked through, about 15 minutes.
  3. Using two forks, gently pull away the sweet potato skins where you made the slits to begin with. You want to widen the opening so that you can have room to top and load your sweet potato. Use the forks to fluff the inside of the sweet potato. Continue this process on each sweet potato.
  4. Start topping your sweet potato and load it up with the roasted corn, chopped bacon, sliced avocado and sunny-side up egg. Season to taste with salt and pepper and enjoy!

 

 

Harvest Berry Sangria

Have you noticed that 99.9 % of my drinks and cocktails are sangrias? Oh well! A girl needs to do what a girl needs to do! Sangria is always my first go-to when I even consider whipping up a cocktail at home. I love the simplicity and ease of how you can just dump everything in a pitcher, stir it up and you are all set to go. This Harvest Berry Sangria highlights all the wonderful flavors going on around us right now. Fresh picked apples, crisp and bright pears, juicy blackberries and a hint of basil make this sangria a Fall delight.

When I was growing up, I would always choose to draw a pear when our art teacher told us to draw a piece of fruit. I don’t know why I couldn’t choose something normal like an apple, but I guess I just needed to be that much extra. Have you ever drawn a pear? SO much better than drawing an apple. Don’t worry, I’ve always been a little weird. Point of the story being: pears are much more enjoyable to draw than apples. Sometimes life just goes that way.

This Harvest Berry Sangria is perfect for this time of year! Whip up a batch, let it cool in the refrigerator, pour some glasses of sangria and then you have a happy crowd around you. If you are not a fan of the taste of basil, it can easily be subbed out for an herb of your choice (maybe rosemary or thyme), or left out completely. Be careful when you are muddling the blackberries, though, because they can be quite juicy and stain your clothes or towels if your not careful! I may or may not be speaking from experience.

Another great quality about this sangria recipe is that it can be made up to a day or two in advance to serving. When all the ingredients get to sit together, it just makes it even better!

 

Harvest Berry Sangria

 

Ingredients:

  • 12 oz blackberries
  • 1 large Gala apple, thinly sliced
  • 1 green Bartlet pear, thinly sliced (try to not use a ripened one as it will disintegrate)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped, fresh basil
  • 1 bottle Moscato wine
  • 2 cups lemon-lime soda
  • 3/4 cup pear vodka

Directions:

  1. In a small bowl, muddle half of the blackberries with the chopped basil. A back of a spoon can be used to do this. Muddle until there are no large chunks of blackberries. Strain the mixture to get rid of any blackberry seeds and set aside.
  2. In the bottom of a large pitcher, combine the apple, pear, fresh blackberries and the muddled blackberries. Pour in the Moscato, lemon-lime soda and pear vodka. Stir gently to combine.
  3. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to a day in advance prior to serving. If you are going to wait awhile to serve the sangria, add the lemon-lime soda just prior to serving to maintain the fizz aspect of the sangria.

Hashbrown Crusted Quiche

If you are looking for a perfect, delicious breakfast or brunch recipe to have on hand, then you are in the right spot! Sometimes you just need to have a good quiche baking away in the oven to serve up for breakfast instead of having to crack open and cook a dozen eggs to order. A quiche is such a simple way to please everyone and feed a crowd! Or just yourself, because leftovers are definitely welcomed here!

This quiche bakes up nice and fluffy in the oven and doesn’t mind being reheated. I love the addition of fresh broccoli as it lightens the dish and brings a good brightness. You want to know what is so great about quiches? They are SO versatile! Add in some ham, bacon, peppers or anything else that your heart desires and you still have a great meal! It even has a hashbrown crust so you really can’t go wrong. Who doesn’t love hashbrowns? If you don’t, then we need to have a talk.

This quiche recipe can carry you through any time of year, occasion, holiday or surprise brunch that you have to host. Whip it up, put it in the oven and let it do it’s thing. Little work for delicious results!

PS: double this recipe to fit into a 9×13 pan and feed even more people!

 

Hashbrown Crusted Quiche

 

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz frozen hashbrowns (you can buy 16 oz bags and use half)
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup cottage cheese
  • 1 cup shredded monterey jack cheese
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups broccoli florets, in small pieces, about 1 head of broccoli
  • 1/3 cup shredded asiago cheese
  • Salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Spray a 9-inch pie plate with cooking spray and evenly line the hashbrowns on the bottom of the plate and up the sides to create a crust. Bake the hashbrowns for 20-25 minutes or until slightly golden brown on top. Remove from the oven and sprinkle lightly with salt.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, cottage cheese, monterey jack cheese and heavy cream. Stir in the broccoli florets and season with salt and pepper. Pour the egg mixture over the hashbrowns and sprinkle the top with the asiago cheese.
  3. Bake for an additional 20-25 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the quiche is fluffy and cooked.

 

Butternut Squash Noodle Stir Fry

With my mom having grown a plethora of butternut squash in her garden this year (over 100 of them!), we just needed to get some spiralized! The butternut squash curls into the most perfect noodles and coils to take the place of any regular pasta. They are just too fun! Toss them together with some fresh veggies, plump shrimp and a homemade sesame sauce and you have a winner of a stir fry dish.

The vibrant colors and fresh flavors of this dish can’t be beat. You won’t even miss having real noodles! The butternut squash noodles have a hearty texture that will leave you full and satisfied, yet feeling like you just ate a spinach and kale salad. But you didn’t just eat  a spinach and kale salad, you had butternut squash, crispy snap peas, vibrant bell peppers and protein-packed shrimp tossed together with a noteworthy sauce.

Not only is this dish healthy and colorful, but it is so tasty that you can have your family and friends gobbling it up in front of you! And to make it even better, this stir fry can be ready to go in 30 minutes. Talk about a great weeknight meal to toss together! But wait, there’s more. Because the butternut squash is so hearty, this meal stands up so well to being kept in the refrigerator for a couple days and reheated. Saute up a batch of this butternut squash noodle stir fry and have the perfect meal prep for the rest of the week!

This stir fry dish is perfect for a quick weeknight meal, a healthy lunch idea, or a meal prep option to get you through the week. Spiralizing is a fun task to do, so have your kiddos, family or friends help you out to make it go even quicker! If you don’t have access to a spiralizer or good butternut squash, you can find pre-spiralized butternut squash noodles in most grocery stores these days.

 

Butternut Squash Noodle Stir Fry 

Serves 2-3

Ingredients:

  • 1 large butternut squash peeled and with the bulb/bowl end of the squash set aside for another use (you will only be able to spiralize the “neck” of the squash)
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 8 oz snap peas
  • 16 oz raw shrimp, peeled, deveined and tails removed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon honey

Directions:

  1. Spiralize the butternut squash using the smaller noodle setting on the spiralizer. You can use the large noodle setting, but will need to adjust the cooking time of the noodles as they will take longer to cook.
  2. Heat a large saute pan over medium heat with the 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add in the shrimp and cook until they are just cooked through and turn pink, about a couple minutes on each side. Season the shrimp lightly with salt and pepper and remove from the pan for later use.
  3. Add the butternut squash noodles to the pan and saute them for 3-5 minutes, or until they just start to cook through. Add in the snap peas and red bell peppers and saute for several minutes more, or until the peppers start to become softer.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk together the hoisin, soy sauce, garlic, sesame seeds, red pepper flakes and honey until combined. Pour the sauce over the butternut squash noodles and veggies in the saute pan and toss to coat. Add the shrimp back into the pan and toss again to combine. Cover the stir fry with a lid to steam the noodles for a few minutes. Remove the lid and serve the stir fry when the butternut squash noodles have reached desired texture. If you prefer them to be less crunchy and more soft, reduce the heat to medium-low and continue the saute process until they reach a firmness you desire.

Baked Churro Donuts with Dark Chocolate Ganache

Oh my goodness gracious. I don’t think I am ever going to get over these Baked Churro Donuts! And a Dark Chocolate Ganache?! It’s a match made in churro heaven! A fluffy, cinnamon donut dusted in sweet, cinnamon sugar and drizzled with a dark chocolate ganache. Take a bite, close your eyes and savor the moments of eating this treat!

Just thinking about these make me giddy. Unfortunately, we ate the last ones last night and are already going through withdrawals from them! I have never been a huge donut person primarily due to the fact that if I was going to eat something that rich and indulgent,  I’d rather have a piece of cake. But, these baked donuts are game changer! Since they’re baked rather than fried, you don’t feel as guilty about eating one or two. You don’t have to worry, though, because these are certainly not lacking in any richness or flavor just because they are baked instead of fried!

When I was up in Ann Arbor, Michigan for a food photography workshop earlier this year hosted by Sarah from Broma Bakery, she took us all out to a local restaurant up there called Aventura and they served us some epically good, classic churros with a chocolate dipping sauce and a caramel dipping sauce. I raved all about them to my husband and he was all sorts of jelly about it. Driving in the car the other day it hit me like a sack of potatoes, I needed a churro with a dreamy chocolate sauce. I knew right then and there that I was going to make a churro donut and it is all of my churro dreams come true!

Not only are these Baked Churro Donuts scrumptious and delicious, but they come together in a breeze! You don’t have to worry about heating up any oil, frying dough, or making your house smell greasy. You can bake these up for a sweet treat breakfast, a mid-day nibble, or a decadent dessert. Either way, your house will smell sweet and warm from the cinnamon and sugar.

The dark chocolate ganache can be drizzled on top of and coat each donut, or it can be served as a dipping sauce. Either way, it is a must-have! Dark chocolate and cinnamon dance perfectly together.

 

Baked Churro Donuts with Dark Chocolate Ganache 

Makes 8 donuts

Ingredients:

For the donuts:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2/3 cups sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 4 tablespoons melted butter, cooled
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the cinnamon sugar coating:

  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2/3 cups sugar

For the dark chocolate ganache:

  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, mix together all of the dry ingredients for the donuts until combined. This mixture will include the flour, cinnamon, sugar, salt and baking powder. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients for the donuts until combined. This mixture will include the eggs, heavy cream, butter and vanilla.
  2. Slowly combine the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients for the donuts and mix until combined. Using a piping bag or a plastic food storage bag with a corner cut off, pipe the donut batter into a sprayed donut pan, filling each donut 3/4 of the way full. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into a donut comes out clean and the tops start to turn a golden brown. Flip the donuts out on a cooling rack to cool slightly.
  3. While the donuts are baking, prepare the cinnamon sugar coating by putting the melted butter on one small plate and the cinnamon and sugar on another small plate. Stir together the cinnamon and sugar to evenly combine. Once the donuts are cool enough to touch, work with one donut at a time to coat. Lightly coat the donut in the melted butter (wherever there is butter the cinnamon sugar will stick!) and then toss in the cinnamon sugar and place back on a cooling rack or plate. Continue until all donuts are coated.
  4. For the dark chocolate ganache, bring the heavy cream to a very low simmer over low heat in a small saucepan. Whisk in the dark chocolate chips and continue to whisk until smooth and glossy, about a few minutes. Serve the churro donuts with the dark chocolate ganache drizzled over the top or served as a dipping sauce.

Brown Sugar Sweet Potato Wedges

Nothing beats being able to toss everything for dinner in the oven, let it roast away and not have to worry about the fuss or hassle to get it on the table. These Brown Sugar Sweet Potato Wedges fit that bill and are packed full of flavor! They make your house smell amazingly sweet and delicious as they roast away in the oven and the brown sugar starts to caramelize all around them. What’s not to love? And you get the health benefits from the sweet potato! It really is a win-win situation.

No frills or anything fancy here, but honest, delicious and healthy food to set on your table. These Brown Sugar Sweet Potato Wedges are the perfect companion to any of your weeknight dinner entrees, holiday meals, or family get-togethers. I paired them with my Lemon Herb Butter Roasted Chicken and it was a match made in heaven.

You know what is also great about these flavorful wedges? You can reuse them! I used the leftovers from the Lemon Herb Butter Roasted Chicken and these Brown Sugar Sweet Potato Wedges and turned them into a delicious chicken pot pie! The sweet potatoes took the place of the carrots in a typical chicken pot pie and it was like a bite of Fall in every spoonful taken.

You won’t be disappointed by the simplicity and deliciousness that these sweet potato wedges deliver!

 

Brown Sugar Sweet Potato Wedges

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 large sweet potatoes, cut into 1-inch thick wedges with skins on
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, toss together the sweet potato wedges, olive oil, brown sugar, seasoned salt, thyme and cinnamon until all of the sweet potato wedges are coated evenly.
  3. Evenly lay the sweet potato wedges flat on a non-stick baking sheet, you may need to use 2 baking sheets depending on the size. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until the sweet potato wedges are cooked through and caramelized on the outside. Flip the wedges over halfway through the cooking process to insure caramelization on both sides of the wedges.

 

 

Lemon Herb Butter Roasted Chicken

Am I the only crazy one who gets all sorts of excited and giddy when the gloomy, rainy, cloudy, cooler weather starts to roll in? I love the sunshine and bright fall colors as well, but the dreary weather just gets to me and has me all worked up. They are the perfect days to throw on some sweats, preheat your oven, get a good movie playing in the background and whip up some amazing food and treats that are going to have your house smelling like a Fall candle. PS: doing it with loved ones, family and friends doesn’t hurt either. And when it gets cold enough you can watch the snow fall!! Ok, I’m getting a little ahead of myself.

One of my go-to meals to get roasting away in the oven is a whole chicken. It’s hard to beat the warmth and comfort that roasting a chicken brings to your home. It’s a meal that brings everyone together and makes you feel good from the inside out. Fresh herbs, vibrant lemon and the rich butter elevates this roasted chicken to a top choice for a chicken dinner. If you are fearful about roasting a whole chicken, don’t be! As long as it’s not partially frozen and you have a food thermometer, it’s easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy to just let this chicken roast away in the oven and to check the temperature of the meat towards the end of the cooking process. As long as you are getting it to 165 degrees in the thickest part of the chicken, you are good to go! Look at that, you can be a chicken roasting pro!

Putting this chicken on the table will turn heads and queue the “ooh’s” and “ahhh’s” from around the table. Another great thing about roasting a whole chicken is how versatile it is to use up! I made this during the day to photograph it (food blogger probs), and it would’ve been dry if I kept it in the oven until later that evening when our guests came over for dinner. So, chicken pot pie was the answer! All I had to do was take the meat off the bones, use the juices in the bottom of the dutch oven from the chicken to make the sauce, toss in some veggies, let it simmer away, and then bake it up with some store-bought pie crust and we had a delicious dinner to eat! Soups, stews, pot pies, or just shredded chicken to have on hand are a few ideas that you can use this roasted chicken for.

This roasted chicken dinner can be served up with any veggies or sides that you so desire, but you just gotta try it with my Brown Sugar Sweet Potato Wedges! They are the perfect companion to serve along side this Lemon Herb Butter Roasted Chicken. And a good old-fashioned baguette never hurt anyone either. Set this meal on the table, bring together family and friends, let the conversation start to flow and enjoy a comforting meal that is good for you too.

 

Lemon Herb Butter Roasted Chicken 

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 whole chicken, about 2-3 pounds depending on size desired
  • 4 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 teaspoons seasoned salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 medium onion, roughly cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 large lemon (or 2 smaller ones), cut into 8 pieces
  • 4 sprigs fresh rosemary

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Place the chicken breast side up in the bottom of a dutch oven large enough to hold the chicken. (If you don’t have a dutch oven, you can use any sort of large baking dish that has an oven-safe lid or roasting pan.) Pat the chicken dry with a paper towel.
  3. In a small bowl, mix together the butter, seasoned salt, thyme and pepper until combined. Generously rub all of the herb butter all over the chicken until evenly covered. Place the chopped onion, lemon, and fresh rosemary sprigs all around the chicken in the dutch oven.
  4. Roast the chicken for 45 minutes with the lid on, and then remove the lid and continue to roast the chicken for another hour – hour and ten minutes for a total cook time of 1 hour 45-55 minutes, or until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the chicken reaches 165 degrees. Roasting the chicken without the lid on will also allow the skin to brown.

 

S’mores Hot Chocolate

S’mores Hot Chocolate. Are you ready for this?! Because I have been anxiously waiting for the temps to drop to whip out these bad boys! This is like the ultimate hot chocolate recipe that you just gotta have! This is where you would insert all the heart-eyed emojis that you can, because there is just so much love for this drink! When you lay eyes on them, you will have the same heart-eyes as those little, yellow emojis. All the love.

Hot chocolate just screams Fall and Winter to me as you are typically sipping on creamy, hot chocolate goodness when you come in from adventuring out in the colder weather, braving the cooler temperatures with hot chocolate in your mitten-covered hands, or needing a warm treat while the leaves or snow are falling outside. Can you feel it? Do you have the mittens or the freezing cold fingers? Mine are always freezing cold no matter what I do, so you better believe I am all over that hot chocolate!

This drink is perfect for all cold weather occasions, but is so fun to whip up to shock a crowd or your family! It is a show-stopper and you don’t even have to break a sweat making it. Picture the look on your guest’s faces if you serve this up at a fall festive party, holiday bash or casual get-together. Please refer back to the heart-eyed emojis. Oooo, how fun would it be to have some sort of little flame that your guests could roast their own marshmallows?! SO fun. If you trust them, let them use your gas stove top if you have one, or you may have to revert to a very strong-flamed candle or blow torch. You’ll have to make that judgement call.

All of the wonderful, sticky, chocolate, and roasted goodness of a s’mores is wrapped up in this warm mug of hot chocolate. The chocolate dipped, graham cracker coated rim is just a must. It pulls together all of the s’mores flavors and delivers a bang in appearance. White carpet warning: you don’t have to make them as messy as pictured to save your house from gooey, chocolate stains. Each sip or gulp out of these mugs of S’mores Hot Chocolate will warm the back of your throat and your tummy as you close your eyes and give a chocolate-coated grin. You may want to have some paper towels or napkins ready to go.

This recipe is very versatile as it can be made in advance and reheated prior to serving. You could even warm it up in a slow cooker and have guests ladle-up their own mug! It’s just the same, perfect hot chocolate flavor the next day that you can’t resist. You could also make this an adult beverage by adding in Amaretto or Kahlua liquor instead of the extracts listed below. I would say to just add a shot of desired liquor into each mug served. This can be adjusted to your liking for a stronger or weaker beverage.

Break out this show-stopper hot chocolate without breaking a sweat and watch the heart-eyes start to pop up all around you.

 

S’mores Hot Chocolate

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 gallon 2% milk
  • 8 oz semi-sweet baking chocolate bar
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 5 oz crushed graham crackers (one pack of graham crackers)
  • Marshmallows for topping (regular, little or big)

Directions:

  1. In a deep pot, slowly heat the milk over medium-low heat until steaming. Be careful to not let the milk boil as it will cause the drink to not be smooth. Whisk in 6 oz of the semi-sweet baking chocolate bar and whisk until it has melted into the milk and is a smooth mixture, about a few minutes. Whisk in the cocoa powder, almond extract and vanilla extract until smooth and blended. Reduce the heat to low and keep the hot chocolate warm until ready to serve. If you are making this ahead of time, this is where you would let the mixture cool and store in the refrigerator. When you are ready to serve, slowly bring the hot chocolate back up to temperature to keep it smooth and frothy.
  2. To make the chocolate dipped, graham cracker rims, melt the remaining 2 oz of semi-sweet baking chocolate on a plate in the microwave for about 45 seconds, or until melted. Pour the crushed graham crackers out on a separate plate. Working with one mug at a time, dip the rim in the melted chocolate and then into the crushed graham crackers to coat. Let the rims set for a couple minutes prior to filling the mug with the hot chocolate. Serve with roasted marshmallows on top.

Creamy Pumpkin Rigatoni

The temperatures have officially dropped, it’s been all sorts of rainy and dreary, and I’ve been loving every minute of it! Am I the only crazy one out there? Full-on cozy mode has officially started. If you don’t have pumpkin in the fall, then I don’t really know what you’re going to do with yourself. I love all the pumpkin baked goodies (you know I am going to be making them!), but I also love to use pumpkin in a savory setting because it is just so delicious! Creamy Pumpkin Rigatoni is the way to go if you are in need of a comfort food dish to warm up your heart and your tummy this fall and winter season.

Your house is going to smell crazy good as this dish is baking away in your oven! Pumpkin puree whisked into a creamy herb cheese sauce is what all of your Fall dreams are made of. The pumpkin blends right into the cheese sauce to bring an earthy and delicious touch to this baked pasta. The blend of Mozzarella and Asiago just make this dish sing. Can we take a minute to talk about Asiago cheese? Because, next to Parmesan, it is one of my absolute favorite cheeses! I always have to have my refrigerator stocked with good Parm and Asiago.

This is the perfect fall dish to put on the table and have everyone dig in. Feed a crowd or a family with this Creamy Pumpkin Rigatoni and you will have happy smiles and full tummies.

PS: did I mention how much I LOVE Fall?!

 

Creamy Pumpkin Rigatoni

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/8 teaspoon white pepper (or to desired taste)
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup shredded asiago cheese
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 16 oz rigatoni pasta

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large saute pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Once the butter has melted, whisk in the flour to create a roux. Whisk in the whole milk and the half and half until the roux and the liquids are combined. Reduce the heat to low and slowly bring the mixture to a low simmer. Make sure to not boil the mixture as it will cause the sauce to not be smooth.
  3. Whisk the thyme, oregano, white pepper, salt, pumpkin pie spice, mozzarella and 1/2 cup of the asiago cheese into the milk mixture. Whisk until the sauce is creamy and smooth and starts to thicken, about 5 minutes. Whisk the pumpkin puree into the cream sauce.
  4. Meanwhile, cook the rigatoni according to package instructions until al dente. Strain the pasta and stir into the creamy pumpkin sauce once the sauce has reached desired thickness.
  5. Pour the creamy pumpkin rigatoni into a 13×9 baking dish and top with the remaining 1/2 cup of asiago cheese. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the mixture bubbles slightly on the edges. Turn on the broiler and broil the top of the pasta for a couple minutes, or until the cheese on the top is melted and browned slightly. Enjoy!

Apple Pie Cobbler with a Caramel Drizzle

Fall is here! Fall is here! Can you tell that I’m excited? It’s hard to believe that it is officially Fall when it is still 95 degrees here in Nebraska. The weather needs to get with the program! Oh well, it’s looking like it will cool off next week and I can go full-speed ahead into cozy mode. One way to do so is to whip up a batch of this Apple Pie Cobbler! Stone fruits and berries don’t need to be the only stars in a cobbler. Take one bite of this Apple Pie Cobbler and it’s like the sweet apple pie of your dreams without all the work! Don’t forget about the quick caramel sauce topping, because what isn’t better with caramel drizzled on top of it?

We went to the annual Applejack Festival held in Nebraska City last week and hand-picked these beautiful Jonathan apples, so they were fresh and juicy! Since I had fresh Jonathan apples on hand, I went ahead and used those, but you can use your apple of choice in this dish (I would stay away from really sweet ones such as Red Delicious). This dessert screams fall and comfort, and you don’t even have to slave over it! It is the perfect fall dessert to feed a crowd, bring to a holiday party, or to bake a batch and have leftovers to heat up throughout the week. Be careful, though, because this cobbler is so good that my yellow lab decided to eat almost the whole thing while I was running errands! It was covered on the counter and she just sat on up there and had herself a nice, big snack.

The biscuit topping gives this cobbler a “pillow-effect” that is just so compatible with the sweet, juicy, cinnamon apples underneath. Call me crazy, but I love apple skins and peach skins, so I always leave them on my fruit, but you can definitely peel your fruit before baking if you prefer! Leaving the skins on does give the apples a little bit more of a bite in texture, so if you want to avoid this then I would recommend peeling them prior. Bake this Apple Pie Cobbler up this fall, drizzle on some quick caramel sauce and dollop with a scoop of vanilla ice cream to get the full apple pie effect!

 

Apple Pie Cobbler with a Caramel Drizzle

 

Ingredients:

For the cobbler:

  • 5 apples of choice (peeled or skins on), cored and sliced into 1/4 inch slices
  •  1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup sugar, plus 1/2 teaspoon
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 16 oz can of biscuits, approximately 8 biscuits, each cut into fourths

For the caramel drizzle:

  • 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 teaspoons milk

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the apples, 1/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup brown sugar, lemon juice and cinnamon until the apples are coated. Pour the mixture into the bottom of a 13×9 baking dish.
  2. Arrange the biscuit pieces evenly across the top of the apple mixture. Sprinkle the top of the biscuits with the additional 1/2 teaspoon of sugar. Bake for 25 minutes, and then reduce the heat to 325 and bake for an additional 25-30 minutes, or until the biscuits are golden brown and the apples are bubbling underneath and soft.
  3. While the cobbler is baking, start the caramel sauce about 10 minutes prior to serving the cobbler. In a small saucepan, bring the sweetened condensed milk, 1 teaspoon of brown sugar and the vanilla extract to a low simmer over medium heat. Stir the mixture constantly to prevent it from sticking to the bottom. Continue to let it bubble and stir it until the mixture darkens slightly to a caramel color, about 10 minutes. Keep warm until serving (otherwise it will thicken) and stir in the milk completely prior to drizzling the caramel sauce onto the cobbler.

Turkey Chili with Butternut Squash and Black Beans

This Turkey Chili with Butternut Squash and Black Beans has been a tried, true and tested recipe in our household. A batch will be made and eaten on for a couple days and it never disappoints! It is definitely a family-favorite recipe! I made this just a couple weeks back and my husband was SO excited about it. He even went as far as saying that it is one of his top favorite things that I make! You know it’s gotta be good when that is said :).

Keep on reading below for the original recipe posted last year with some updated pictures. We just harvested 64 butternut squashes from my mom’s garden, so I thought it would be VERY fitting to update this recipe and pictures! If you have any ways to use up butternut squash, shoot them my way because we are up to our eyeballs in them.

Eating healthy and what’s good for your body doesn’t mean you should have to give up comfort. Drum roll please… Turkey Chili with Black Beans and Butternut Squash! Put all your fears of only crunching on celery and slurping down kale smoothies aside and put your pjs on because we are about to get comfy. Not only is this chili loaded with flavor, warmth and is good for your soul, but it carries a lot of healthy protein from the turkey and black beans and friendly fiber and potassium from the butternut squash. Healthy, delicious chili and snuggles, what more could you possibly need?


This recipe originally came to be on whim. I was out at my parents house on the farm, the menfolk were working outside and my mom had made a quick trip into town. So, with dinner time nearing and having been decorating their Christmas tree all day and being in the mood to get in the kitchen, I got to cooking. There was nothing laid out or defrosted, so I started scrummaging through the freezer and cupboards to see what I could put together. And voila! The turkey chili of our dreams was born.

I love how not only is this a healthy alternative, but it is definitely a crowd pleaser. I mean, we’ve already made it twice this week with no regrets! As any soup does, this chili gets better and better with time. The leftovers heat up perfectly (may just need to add a bit of water to thin it out) and it is a great go-to to have for dinner. We’ve been snarfing this down with tortilla chips, sour cream, cheese and green onions as our toppings, but any chili toppings you desire would go great with this bowl of goodness. Avocado anyone? I’ve been making this recipe on the stovetop, but I don’t see why you couldn’t throw it all into a crockpot as well. Snuggle up with a blanket and enjoy this delicious bowl of chili!

 

Turkey Chili with Black Beans and Butternut Squash 

Ingredients: 

  • 16 ounces ground turkey
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 4 cups butternut squash, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 29 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 15 oz cans black beans, drained
  • 2 Tablespoons chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Salt and pepper

Directions: 

  1. In the bottom of a large stock pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add in the onions and sauté until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add in the ground turkey and cook until browned, seasoning with salt and pepper.
  2. Add both cans of the tomatoes and the butternut squash into the pot. Stir and let simmer on high for 5-8 minutes. Add in the garlic, chili powder, dried basil, cinnamon and black beans. Stir until combined.
  3. Cover the pot and let simmer on low-medium heat for at least 20 minutes, or until the squash is tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with your choice of toppings.

 

KJ’s 1K Giveaway!

Welcome to the first giveaway here at KJ& Company! I can’t even begin to explain how excited I am to be here and it’s all because of YOU! I am so crazy blessed to have every single one of you follow along, make recipes, comment, like, share and encourage me along the way. KJ & Company wouldn’t be what it is without everyone who has supported me! An endless amount of thanks and gratitude.

Now, let’s get to the fun part! I’ve partnered up with Luke from Lumberjack Luke to have a little giveaway for all of your love given to KJ & Company! That’s right, this GORGEOUS Hickory Cake Stand and Serving Set is up for grabs! The cake stand is about 12 inches in diameter of pure hickory wood and all sorts of beautiful. Luke created it just as he would with his wooden cutting boards, so you can use it with ease knowing that it is going to last! And for the Hickory Serving Set, they are the perfect matching companion to slice up and serve a piece of scrumptious cake (or any dessert!) on. The pure, natural hickory wood has a perfectly rustic look that is hard to beat. It is the perfect addition to any table setting, party or home!

The giveaway is primarily being hosted on Instagram (@kjandcompany), but I couldn’t resist posting about it here on kjandcompany.co! So, head on over to Instagram and find the giveaway post to see how you can enter! But, I still wanted to do something a little extra here on kjandcompany.co, so here is how to get 5 BONUS ENTRIES!

  1. Sign up to get recipes and posts from KJ & Company straight to your inbox by entering your email address into the email bar located on the right side of the screen.
  2. Comment below on this post that you signed up and it’s as easy as that!

That’s all you have to do to get 5 BONUS ENTRIES for a chance to win this beautiful hickory cake stand and serving set! (insert all of the heart-eyed emojis).

The giveaway is starting 9/16/17 and will run till 9/19/17. Winner will be announced and contacted via Instagram, so make sure you are following along!

It was just so fun to make this cake and get ready for this giveaway.

PS: if you are looking for an AMAZING funfetti cake recipe, Molly Yeh’s Funfetti Cake recipe turned out deliciously perfect! From the sprinkles to the decadent white frosting on top, this recipe is one you just gotta have! She is the funfetti cake queen as she has tried every possibility to make sure she had the most perfect funfetti cake! It even kept her awake at night so you know it’s going to be good.

So, let’s get this funfetti cake, hickory cake stand party started!

Thank you again for ALL of your love and support! 🙂

 

 

 

 

Caramel Apple Sangria

This Caramel Apple Sangria is one of the most highly requested cocktails to date for any fall gathering that we go to. It’s just so fun, festive and full of fall flavor that you just can’t resist! Even ask my Grandma, she drank two full glasses of it last year at Thanksgiving! Not only is this sangria all sorts of delicious, but it’s vibrant colors and festive smell will have you ready to snuggle up in a blanket next to a fire while you watch the leaves drop outside.

I originally posted this recipe last year on KJ & Company and it just has been so good that new pictures were necessary. I’ve already whipped up a batch this year and oh boy, it went down smooth! This sangria is perfect for football parties, fall dinners, campfires, Halloween parties and even Thanksgiving. It’s basically the cocktail to carry you through the fall season and holidays!

It’s all the wonderful flavors of a caramel apple in a glass without the caramel sticking to your teeth! You all know what I mean when you bite into a caramel apple – you have to be ready to get the caramel unstuck. The smooth sweetness from the caramel, the fruity kick from the apples and the warm coating at the back of your throat from the cinnamon makes this sangria the perfect concoction.

This is the perfect, easy, fun and festive cocktail to have up your sleeve this fall and holiday season to please a crowd. Twist up your fall menu or bring some fun in a glass to Thanksgiving. Either way, you won’t be disappointed!

 

Caramel Apple Sangria

 

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups apple cider
  • 2 cups caramel vodka
  • 1 bottle Riesling wine (750ml)
  • 2 Granny Smith apples, cored and thinly sliced
  • 2 Gala apples, cored and thinly sliced
  • 2 cinnamon sticks

Directions:

  1. Combine all of the ingredients into a deep pitcher and stir to combine.
  2. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes prior to serving and up to 24 hours in advance. Enjoy!

 

Roasted Sheet Pan Veggies with Italian Sausage and Creamy Polenta

Ok, so this sheet pan dinner may have a long name, but I promise that it takes half the effort of writing it out! It’s such a wonderful thing when you can just put dinner in oven and forget about it for an hour. That’s right – these veggies and Italian sausage medallions get roasted for a full hour until they are caramelized and all sorts of delicious. Just think of everything else that you can do during that time!

If you want to serve it up on the creamy polenta (which you just need to do!), then you will need to just use about 20 minutes of that hour to whip it up. The recipe calls for regular corn grits/polenta instead of the instant polenta. Don’t be alarmed by this process, though, because you will be a polenta queen after you make this batch of creamy goodness. Follow the simple steps to perfection and you are there. Voila!

This is the perfect meal for a hassle-free weeknight dinner, having friends or family over (serve it up family-style and dig in!), or when you are just in the need for a good meal. It’s also a fun way to sneak in a lot of veggies into one delicious meal! Everything is better when topped with cheese, so a good sprinkle of Parmesan cheese never hurt anyone. This sheet pan dinner is also very flexible as it can adjust to whatever you have on hand. You could swap the sweet potatoes out for regular potatoes, the broccoli for cauliflower, onions for bell peppers, and the list could go on!

Serve up this sheet pan dinner and you will draw a crowd with no leftovers to spare. Although, leftovers would be quite delicious the next day warmed up or even for breakfast with an over-easy egg on top…a girl can dream!

 

Roasted Sheet Pan Veggies with Italian Sausage and Creamy Polenta

Serves 4 adult portions

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups broccoli florets (approx. 2 heads of broccoli)
  • 3 cups sweet potatoes (approx. 1 med/large sweet potato), peeled and cut into 1/2 cubes
  • 1 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons seasoned salt
  • 19 oz mild Italian sausage links (about 5 links) cut into 3/4 inch rounds
  • 6 cups water
  • 2 cups polenta/corn grits
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • Parmesan cheese for garnish

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. In a medium sized bowl, toss together the broccoli, sweet potato and red onion with the olive oil and seasoned salt.
  2. Line a baking sheet with foil and arrange the veggies in an even layer on the baking sheet. Nestle the Italian sausage rounds on top of the veggies in an even layer. Roast the veggies and Italian sausage for 55-60 minutes, or until caramelized, browned and cooked through.
  3. While the sheet pan is in the oven, bring the water to a boil in a deep pot over high heat. Slowly stir the polenta into the boiling water to make sure that it does not clump together. Reduce the heat to low and cover with a lid. Let the polenta cook on low with a lid for about 10 minutes, stirring a few times in between to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
  4. After about 10 minutes, reduce the heat even lower (if you can) to a simmer. Stir in the milk and sour cream until combined. Leave the lid on and let the creamy polenta cook on a low simmer for at least another 10 minutes or until ready to be served. If you have a few extra minutes before serving, the polenta can be left on the stovetop with the lid on and the heat off and will hold up nicely.
  5. Serve the roasted veggies and Italian sausage over the creamy polenta with Parmesan cheese as a garnish. Enjoy!

 

Beef and Cream Cheese Enchiladas

Enchiladas will always hold a special place in my heart as they were one of my Grandpa’s specialties. He would pull you into the enchilada assembly line of dipping tortillas, adding the fillings, rolling them up tight and tucking them into the ban to be baked into wonderful goodness. Everyone would gather around with a plate in hand once those puppies came out of the oven to eat up as many as they could. It’s such a wonderful memory of a simple comfort food made with love and bringing family together that I will never forget. I can’t wait to show our own kids that someday!

Another thing about enchiladas that was my Grandpa’s specialty was lettuce. Lettuce was rolled up in every single enchilada with beef and cheese. It was so darn simple, but SO so good! A beef enchilada just isn’t the same without lettuce in them! You just have to try it for yourself to believe in this savory goodness.

And oh buddy, cream cheese is always the way to go! When you have all of the goods rolled up together in one perfect pan full, you just can’t stop eating them! The perfect comfort food and the way to the heart of everyone who digs in. It’s just like a pan-full of love. Food is memories and comfort and this is the perfect dish to serve for a weeknight meal, football party, Sunday dinner or any occasion that you just need some good ol’ comfort for.

Roll these up and bake them to perfection to serve up to your family and friends and fill their hearts and their tummies.

PS: I used my Homemade Enchilada Sauce to make these and it was SO good! If you don’t have the time to make the sauce homemade, then use your favorite canned version will work perfectly!

 

Beef and Cream Cheese Enchiladas

Makes 8 enchiladas

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs ground beef
  • 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 6 cups enchilada sauce
  • 8 flour tortillas
  • 2 cups baby romaine lettuce
  • 8 oz shredded cheddar cheese, plus 1 cup to top the enchiladas with
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. In a medium saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add in the garlic and the beef and cook until the meat is browned and cooked through, about 8-10 minutes.
  2. Prepare an assembly line to make your enchiladas. Spread 1 cup of the enchilada sauce in the bottom of a 13×9 pan. Spread another 1 cup of enchilada sauce on the bottom of a round plate, pan or platter (whatever works!) that is large enough to dip the tortillas into the sauce.
  3. Working with one tortilla at a time, dip both sides into the prepped enchilada sauce on the plate to coat both sides of the tortilla with enchilada sauce. Splitting the filling ingredients (ground beef, cream cheese, lettuce and cheddar cheese) evenly between the 8 tortillas, fill the dipped tortilla with the filling ingredients, roll it up tightly and place into the prepared 13×9 pan. Continue until all of the tortillas have been dipped, filled, rolled and tucked in the baking dish.
  4. Pour the remaining 4 cups of enchilada sauce over the top of the prepared enchiladas, making sure that all of the tortillas are covered. Using the separate cup of shredded cheese, sprinkle an even layer of cheese over the top of the enchiladas.
  5. Bake the enchiladas for 25-30 minutes, or until the cheese topping is melted and the sauce is bubbling. Enjoy!

Caprese Zoodles

Ok, I finally jumped on the zoodle wagon and I am so glad I did! They are SO fun to make! I could just watch them spiral all day. Just don’t ask me to say “Spiralizer” because it’s a real hard word for me to say, but pretty darn funny to listen to. You should’ve been there when my husband was talking me through how to say “cinnamon” correctly. The struggle is real!

Needless to say, I had a blast making these zucchini noodles. There are so many possibilities of what you can create with them! Leave them raw, boil them, saute them or bake them up and you will be happy, happy, happy! I love the combination of leaving half of them raw and quickly blanching the other half and tossing them together. You get the perfect amount of crunch to the perfect amount of cooked.

Mozzarella pearls, baby heirloom tomatoes, and a dash of balsamic vinegar make these zoodles sing. The caprese salad is such a classic and vibrant combination, and tossing the ingredients together with the zoodles creates a delicious and healthy dish that can be served as a cold “salad” or warm with some grilled chicken laid over the top of it. Serve this up as a delicious side dish, salad, lunch or mid-day snack and you won’t be disappointed!

I haven’t experimented much with zoodles, but these did start to get a little soggy after a day in the refrigerator, so I would recommend eating these up the day of. Unless you are a zoodle master and have figured out how to correctly keep them, then do that!

These Caprese Zoodles are a bright and healthy dish that will make you feel good from the inside out.

 

Caprese Zoodles

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium-sized zucchini
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 10 oz baby heirloom tomatoes, halved
  • 8 oz mozzarella pearls
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons good balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup lightly chopped basil leaves
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Using a spiral attachment or device, spiral the two zucchini to make zoodles according to the device instructions.
  2. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Quickly boil half of the zucchini noodles for about a minute and then remove from the water and let cool. Lightly toss the raw zoodles and the cooked zoodles together in a large bowl with the lemon juice to keep the noodles from browning.
  3. In a separate small bowl, toss together the tomatoes with the olive oil and salt and pepper. Add the tomatoes, mozzarella and basil to the zucchini noodles and lightly toss until all of the ingredients are combined. Lightly drizzle the balsamic vinegar over the top and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Peach Pillows with Strawberry Coconut Glaze

Peach pillows? Oh yes please! I’m never much of a breakfast eater (a granola bar and my coffee and I’m good to go!), but I’ll splurge every once and awhile and it’s just gotta be fun! And let me tell you what, peach pillows are FUN. They are simple to throw together and a creative little pocket of joy that you can customize however you want. Don’t be intimidated by the strawberry coconut glaze, though, because you can whip it together while the peach pillows are baking away in the oven and be ready to eat as soon as they are golden brown and delicious.

Easy Peach Breakfast Pillows with Strawberry Coconut Glaze

Not only are these little pillows delicious, but they are simple to put together and deliver the wide-eyed, big grin reaction from others when you serve them up. I used peaches, strawberries and sprinkles to decorate mine with, but you could certainly have a plethora of toppings ready to go! Coconut flakes, blueberries, white chocolate chips, raspberries and honey just to name a few. Have everything set up and people can have fun decorating their peach pillows after you bring them out of the oven. Talk about a fun breakfast for the kids before they head off to school or for yourself to bring out your inner kid before you have to put your grown-up pants on for the day!

I seriously have the best friends, too, who understand my food blogging and cooking obsession. How awesome is it that they have their nails painted before they come over just in case they need to lend a hand to a food picture?! The best. Friends are amazing and happy and fun just like these peach pillows and rainbow sprinkles.

Serve these peach pillows up for a fun breakfast and they will certainly be asked for again!

 

Peach Pillows with Strawberry Coconut Glaze

Makes 4 – 3×5 pillows with leftover dough for smaller ones if desired. 

Ingredients:

  • 4 sheets puff pastry dough, defrosted to package instructions
  • 4 peaches, seeded and sliced into 1/4 inch slices
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons strawberry jam
  • 2 tablespoons coconut milk

Topping Ideas:

  • Sprinkles
  • Sliced peaches
  • Sliced strawberries
  • Coconut flakes

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine the peaches, granulated sugar, brown sugar, flour and cinnamon and mix until the peaches are coated and combined. In a separate small bow, whisk together the egg and water to create an egg wash.
  2. Working with one puff pastry sheet at a time, lay it flat on a counter top and cut two 3×5 rectangles (or desired size) out of the sheet. Continue onto the other sheets until you have 8 rectangles. There will be a little extra dough that smaller pillows could be made out of if desired.
  3. Working with two rectangles at a time to have a top and a bottom layer, lay 1/4 of the peach mixture on the bottom puff pastry sheet but leaving at least 1/4 inch on all sides open. Lightly brush some egg wash on all four sides of the bottom puff pastry sheet that you left open. Slightly stretch out the top puff pastry layer in your hands and then lay it over the top of the peaches to match the bottom layer. Press it down on all four sides with your fingers to seal all the edges. Then use a fork to “crimp” all of the edges and leave a decorative touch. Carefully move the peach pillow to a sprayed baking sheet and lightly brush the top with more egg wash. Continue this processes until all the pillows are made.
  4. Bake the peach pillows for 25 minutes, or until golden brown and cooked through. While the pillows are baking, whisk the confectioner’s sugar, strawberry jam and coconut milk together in a small bowl until smooth, about a couple minutes.
  5. Remove the peach pillows from the oven and let cool for about 3-5 minutes. Decorate the tops with the strawberry coconut glaze and any other toppings that you desire. Enjoy!

 

Homemade Enchilada Sauce

I’m all for the ease of access of twisting open a can of enchilada sauce to get dinner done in a flash, but boy-oh-boy, I just may never go back to canned sauce after making homemade!

This homemade sauce is homemade down to the nitty gritty. That’s right, roll up your sleeves because we are going to be conquering blanching, peeling and seeding tomatoes! I promise you guys, it is not as bad as it sounds! As long as you set aside the appropriate amount of time, have your stations set up for the blanching, peeling and seeding process, you will be a-ok. I will forewarn you, though, if it has already been a long or stressful day or if you are in a time crunch, this process will take you to church and test your patience. So make sure everything is good to go and you will be so proud of the outcome!

I tell ya, it is such a rewarding feeling to make your own sauce and then turn around and roll up a batch of enchiladas in it to serve up for dinner that night. Its prime tomato season and this sauce just couldn’t get any better. Whether it’s fresh tomatoes from your garden, or from the grocery store, this sauce will win your heart over. Take your time and take it all in. It would even be a fun little task to have your little ones help with! Or your friends and family! I love getting to help my mom process her garden goodies and that is the inspiration for this homemade enchilada sauce.

So roll up your sleeves and get ready for a big ol’ pot of deliciousness!

 

Homemade Enchilada Sauce

Makes 6 cups. 

Ingredients:

  • 3 1/2 pounds roma tomatoes
  • 2 small jalapenos (or 1 medium size), roughly chopped, seeds and inside ribs removed
  • 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 14.5oz can diced tomatoes in juice

Directions:

  1. Set aside at least 30 minutes to complete the blanching, peeling and seeding process. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Make and ice bath in a large bowl with ice and water. Have two separate medium bowls ready to use for the skin and seeds discards and the tomato pieces to keep.
  2. Using a small knife, slice an “X” on the bottom of each tomato, just enough to puncture the skin. Working in small batches, boil the tomatoes for 1.5-2 minutes. Immediately transfer the tomatoes from the boiling water to the ice bath with a slotted spoon. Let them cool slightly and then use your fingers or a paring knife to peel the tomato skin from the “X” towards the other end of the tomato. Keep doing so until all of the skin is removed. Slice the tomatoes in half and use a spoon to scrape the seeds out into the same bowl that you discarded the skins into. Set the good tomato aside into another bowl for later use. Continue this process until all the tomatoes are done.
  3. In a large, deep pot, bring the tomato pieces, onion, and jalapenos to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer for 20-25 minutes or until the mixture is cooked down and soft. Add in the water, canned tomatoes, cumin, salt, chili powder, garlic and sugar and stir until combined. Using either a food processor or an immersion blender, blend the tomato mixture until smooth. Let the sauce simmer for another 20-30 minutes on low heat.
  4. Use the sauce right away, or let it cool prior to pouring it into containers to be refrigerated or frozen. If you are wanting to can this sauce, please research the correct process of doing so and make sure to have the correct acid levels in the sauce to insure a safe canning process. Enjoy!

Strawberry Peach Sangria

You guys, fall is just around the corner! YES. It’s by far one of my favorite seasons of the year because of the beautiful weather, trees turning color, comfort food, family, the anticipation of the upcoming holidays and that it’s socially acceptable to wear yoga pants and sweats anytime. But as you know me, right now is also one of my favorite times of the year because of PEACHES. Just when I was down and low because the peach guy said that he was out of peaches and selling pears instead (what?!!), my Mom came through with a pre-ordered lug of peaches that she had already purchased! A whole new lug of peaches to fuel my love/addiction! :).

If you have never gotten a case of fresh, Colorado peaches straight from the source (not the grocery store, they just aren’t the same!) then you need to get your hands on some! They are so fresh, sweet and juicy – they just don’t compare! This sangria certainly benefits from their sweet, juicy goodness. The addition of fresh strawberries just makes this a glass full of goodness.

With Fall just around the corner and football season starting up, it’s the season for family and friends to gather around. The weather is still nice enough for grilling out and a pitcher of this sangria is the perfect addition to bring some life to the party. Casually sip on a glass of this sangria while you make your way through the Crock-Pot line and pile on the little smokies. We all know that we just gotta have the lil’ smokies.

Slice up the fruit, pour in the goods and just let this sangria do its thing – thats all you have to do! Its simplicity wins.

 

Strawberry Peach Sangria

 

Ingredients:

  • 3 peaches, cored and sliced into 1/4 inch slices
  • 2 cups quartered strawberries
  • 1 bottle of Chardonnay wine
  • 1/2 cup coconut rum
  • Pick your fizz! Either: 2 cups of tonic water, 2 cups of champagne, or a can of lemon-lime soda (only choose one)

Directions:

  1. Place the sliced peaches and strawberries in the bottom of a pitcher.
  2. Pour the wine, rum and your choice of fizz over the fruit and lightly stir to combine all the ingredients together.
  3. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes prior to serving. Enjoy!