Monday, April 28, 2014

Taco Stuffed Shells

I've been making these little puppies for years, but never like this..... The other night, my friend Brianna, mentioned making taco stuffed shells, and I mentioned that I was the only one in my house that liked them and how ridiculous that was because they were so yummy. So I told her how i made mine and she told me how she made hers and so I tried it her way but, I added beans because...i really love black beans. I know someone reading this is going "it's just taco meat in a shell!" to that person i say,
"Nay!, it is creamy taco-y goodness with beans in a shell, so sit down and follow along".
So lets get started shall we?  First things need some ingredients.


-1lb ground beef (I prefer 85/15...but you can use whatever you like)
-taco seasoning of your choice
-pasta shells (the big shells not the tiny ones)
-1 & 1/2 cups shredded cheese
-taco sauce (i used an al pastor sauce, but any taco sauce is fine)
-1 cup of your favorite Salsa
-4oz (or a half a brick) of cream cheese
-1 can of black beans (you can also throw corn in there)

Once you've done a little shopping in your pantry / refrigerator for the above listed items we can move along. Ready? okay, lets go.

I'll tell you right now, this is the easiest thing in the world. I made this, and took pictures while juggling 2 crying kids under 2 while riding a uni-cycle and balancing a ball on my nose. Only some of that previous sentence is true.....mainly the first 3. ANYWAY....onto our cooking lesson.

So, first your gonna get the water boiling for those pasta shells, they take a little longer than regular pasta, and ALWAYS ALWAYS make more shells than you think you're gonna need. Im not even kidding here guys, they fall apart and rip and it sucks, because you'll think "i need 10, so ill make 10!" and then you end up with only 6 shells that are acceptable. So, if you need 10, make 20.
Ok, great, once thats going, you can put your ground beef in your favorite nonstick skillet, and just brown it nicely. Once it's cooked you can add in your taco seasoning, I normally use McCormick taco seasoning, but this time I used old el paso (NEW YORK CITYYY!! (if you understand why i just said that then, you are awesome)), and it was FANTASTIC, i liked the flavor way better. Anyway...taco meat...
So you brown the ground beef, add the taco seasoning, mix it up add a little water to distribute it evenly and let it cook until the liquid is gone (make sure you strain out the grease in the pan). Once the liquid is gone, your gonna add the cream cheese. I used 4 ounces of whipped cream cheese just because it's easier to melt into the meat, but you don't have to do that, just lazy.

Once you mix in that creamy goodness, your gonna open up your can of black beans and toss those little bad boys into the pan as well. Once you've mixed them in you can turn off the heat and move that pan to a back burner. Your pasta shells likely will not be cooked yet, so, you can move onto prepping your baking dish/pan. I used a regular baking pan but you can use a glass dish like a casserole dish or pyrex or whatever. So your gonna take your pan/dish of choice and coat the bottom of your pan/dish with your favorite salsa (I had a picture of this step, but it was ugly, so I'm not putting it in here).  You can go ahead and preheat your oven now...400 degrees. By now, your pasta shells should be just about done, go ahead and check them....i'll wait.

Once they are finished, strain them and let them cool (i cheated and ran them under cold water, which is a big no no in the fancy culinary world, but I'm a rebel and i was hungry and in a hurry to get dinner on the table, so i broke that culinary world rule....sue me).
Anywhoo. So, once your shells are cool enough to handle, your gonna grab them and fill them. Your gonna get one or two (or 5) that are all curled up and wanna fight you about staying open, but if you hold them slightly sideways (like this...) gravity will lend you a helping hand.
Now, you can go ahead and fill all the shells you can fill and place them one by one in the pan you pre coated with salsa. Once all the shells are filled and your pan/dish is full, you're going to take your taco sauce and drizzle it over the tops of the shells. Take your cheese and sprinkle it over the tops of the shells, cover with foil, and let them bake for around 10 - 15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and then pop them under the broiler for a min so the cheese gets bubbly and brown. Then take them out and serve them however you like.
You can top them with regular taco fixins or eat them just the way they are, either way is sure to be delicious.
Please let me know if you try this & how you liked it!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Southwest Chicken Bake

So, I think I've mentioned before that I normally come up 
with most of these little concoctions when I have nothing in 
the house. 
That was sort of the case today. I had taken chicken out for dinner, but, I didn't want to make the same old stuff. I decided on a chicken casserole 
because, I hadn't made it in a while and it was quick. 
Needless to say, it didn't take long for me to veto that idea.
So, off I went, in search of something to make. I looked up some chicken casseroles and saw the same thing over and over. Then I saw some sort of chili Mac recipe and thought it looked super delicious. The problem with that recipe was obviously that it was intended for ground beef and I had chicken. So I checked out a few more recipes, some with chicken, some without and I started building my own recipe.

Ok, now, I'm gonna go ahead and be honest, I eyeballed every.single.thing in this recipe. I literallyhave no exact measurements aside from 1 box of pasta shells and 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts. So, unless you have a big family, a 
huge appetite (or a man with one), you might wanna 
invite some friends for dinner......

Alright, put on some boots, and saddle up (I'm trying to talk like a's not working), & let's make some grub. First, you're gonna need a few things...I'll list them below (I'm gonna do my best to estimate the measurements).

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts (cut into small chunks)
1 box of shell pasta
1 can of cream of chicken & mushroom soup
1 can of bushes "Cocina Latina frijoles negros machacados" (these beans have bacon in them...
THAT is why i choose these beans specifically)
1 can of fire roasted tomatoes
1 chipotle pepper (I removed half the seeds and kept half the seeds in, the more seeds the spicier it'll be)
1/4 of a white onion (chopped fine)
3 cloves of garlic (minced)
1 packet of taco seasoning
2.5 cups of shredded cheddar or shredded Mexican blend cheese
1&1/2 cups of milk
2 tablespoons of flour
2 tablespoons of butter
Olive oil

Alright....let's see if I can remember this.
So, pour about a tablespoon or 2 in the bottom of the skillet of your choice. Turn the heat on 
medium low and add the minced garlic & onion. You just wanna make the garlic & onion sweat in the pan, so stir frequently and watch to make sure the garlic doesn't burn. Burnt garlic will get bitter, and that's not a pleasant experience for your taste buds.

While the garlic and onions are doing their thing, boil the water for your pasta. Make sure you salt the water first and once the water is boiling add your pasta in. By now, your onions & garlic 
should be ready to add some flavorful love to your chicken. So add the diced chicken into the 
pan with the onions and garlic. Mix it all up and let the chicken cook. Once the chicken is white and no more pink is visible, add the taco seasoning and a cup of water stir it up and let it cook til the water evaporates.

By now your pasta should be ready, go ahead and drain it. Leave the pasta in the colander so it 
dries a little, It will help the cheese stick to the pasta better.

Your chicken should still be doing it's thing, go ahead and give it a little stir, sing it a song, show it you care (about how delicious it's going to be) and then leave it alone so you can go about your merry business and assemble this sauce.

Ok. So first, you need to make a rue (ruex? roo? ru? not the one from winnie the pooh...Whatever, you get the point...) to do that just take the butter, melt it in a pot (I should specify, you should 
use a medium sized pot for this). Add the flour little by little to the butter stirring as you add it. 
Once the flour has been added add in 1&1/2 cups of cheese & stir until it's been blended & 
melted in completely. Then add in the milk & cream of chicken & mushroom soup. Mix, mix, mix. Thennnnnn, add in the fire roasted tomatoes and your chopped up chipotle pepper and mix, mix, mix some more. (You might wanna check on your chicken at this point & turn it off if all the liquid is gone.) go ahead & add the beans to the cheese sauce and mix it up all nice like. 
Add the drained pasta to the chicken & mix that up together. Once it's nicely coated, pour your 
cheesey, beany, tomatoey sauce on top of it and mix it all up again. Add in a little of the 
remaining cheese here just for kicks, transfer to a baking dish/casserole pan and top with the 
remaining cheese.

Place it under the broiler for about 5 minutes or until the cheese gets bubbly & starts to turn this....

Let it cool for a few minutes before serving (that cheese is lava hot, liquid magma). Then...Stuff.your.face

As always.....Let me know if you like it.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Cheshire Cat Cupcake

My family and I go to Walt Disney World A LOT, and I am always trying a new food from somewhere in the parks because the menus are constantly changing. So, I've decided to start reviewing different foods from the parks. I do read the Disney Food Blog quite regularly and always take recommendations from other readers and the writers. I've discovered some of my favorite Disney food spots that way.

Generally, I am not a sweets lover, I've mentioned this before, but,  I will choose savory over sweet 9 times out of 10. So imagine my husbands surprise when I said I wanted to try this addition to the menu at the Cheshire Cat Cafe in Fantasyland.

I introduce to you.....The Cheshire Cat Cupcake.
Now, like I said, I am not a sweets person, but if I'm eating cake you can bet it's a corner piece with as much of the flowers as possible. I only like the frosting, I don't need cake. If someone gives me a cupcake, I'm licking off the frosting and throwing the rest away. All I want is the sugary stuff. So, enter the Cheshire Cat Cupcake.....It's literally a big cup of frosting with tiny funfetti type cake layers lost somewhere in the mounds of frosting. SO DELICIOUS. The front of the Cupcake has an edible image of the Cheshire Cat. The flavor of this is very obviously Vanilla, but it comes in Chocolate as well and the chocolate version is called "Mad Hatter Mocha".  The price is fairly low, $4.19.
I honestly expected it to be higher. There are tables just to the left of the cafe and they are covered, so, it's a perfect spot to take a little break in your day and enjoy a sweet treat.

What is your favorite Disney Sweet?

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Honey Garlic Chicken

While on my endless hunt for new recipes to try, I came across this one for Honey Garlic Chicken. I bought the few ingredients I didn't have on hand already (blackberry jam, because...ewww. Who actually likes that?) and was just dying to try it.

By the time I got home though, I realized, it was already after 3:00pm and the recipe said it should be in the slow cooker on low for 4 to 5 hours, which meant we wouldn't be eating til at least 7:30pm, and that was too late. In light of that realization, I soldiered on, and decided, I would follow the exact same recipe but i'd cook the chicken in the oven instead.
Not only did it work just as good in less than half the time, but it was FABULOUS. My husband liked it so much he couldn't wait to take it for left overs to work the next day. It was sweet without being TOO sweet and it had a perfect amount of spice to give it just a little kick. I'm not sure if it was the fact that I was starving or if I was just way too over zealous about trying this, but, I completely forgot the sesame seeds. Because you're shredding the chicken and pairing it with rice and a vegetable, it's very easy to stretch this meal. I've used this chicken in tortillas and made little garlic chicken tacos, i've put it on potato rolls like a pulled pork sandwich, theres a bevy of ways to serve this chicken once it's done. Such a GREAT recipe.

4 large bone-in, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup blackberry jam
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
2 Tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup diced onion
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
Sliced scallions, for garnish
Sesame seeds, for garnish

Arrange the chicken breasts in a glass baking dish so that they aren't over lapping.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the honey, soy sauce, blackberry jam, hoisin, olive oil, garlic, onion and crushed red pepper flakes, and then pour the sauce over the chicken. Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil and place in 375 degree oven for 1 hour and 20 minutes.
Remove the chicken from the baking dish (reserving the liquids) and place it on a cutting board. Once it's cool enough to handle, Remove the bones then use two forks to shred the chicken into smaller pieces. Place the shredded chicken in a large bowl.
In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch with 3 tablespoons of cold water to make a slurry.
Transfer the liquids from the slow cooker into a small saucepan set over medium-high heat and whisk in the slurry. Bring the sauce to a boil and cook it until it reduces and has thickened slightly, about 3 minutes. Pour the sauce over the chicken, tossing to combine. Serve the chicken topped with sliced scallions and sesame seeds.

**If you would like the slow cooker directions for this recipe, please see the original recipe**

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Influenster: Jolly Vox Box

Hello, Friends!

So, I was invited to join this awesome social media community called influenster. Basically you give reviews of products you've tried and occasionally if you qualify for the items in the current boxes which they call a "vox box", they will send you products to try. I just received my first box box and i received the following things:

This lip lacquer from Rimmel London is PHENOMENAL. 
It's not thick and goopy like most lacquers, 
in fact i could barely tell i was wearing it. It's really long lasting too. I didn't get to choose my color obviously, but the color i was sent was Celestial. It's a really pretty pink shade.

I received this HD Color Trio from NYC, which I ended up loving so much I've used it everyday. The color is vivid and didn't require lots of applications to be able to see it. It's a nice neutral soft color pallet as well so it goes with anything and didn't make my make up too over the top. The downside...that stupid little sponge brush. it irritates my eye lids. Coming with a regular eye shadow brush would be more beneficial.
I also received a roll of ducklings tape in the black and pink tiger stripe pattern. I actually used it to put some extra flair into a scrapbook I made my cousin for christmas. If you haven't tried duck tape for a craft project, do it, it's amazing. 

Wo doesn't love candy? I'm not typically a fan of chocolate so I gave these Skinny Cow divine filled chocolates (peanut butter creme flavor) to my husband to try. I did not tell him it was Skinny Cow brand of course because he might have refused to try it. He loved it. When he asked who made it and i told him, he was truly shocked. He couldn't believe there was only 130 calories in one little pouch! The downside is you cannot stop at just one pouch of candy, so you end up consuming more than that 130 calories they advertise on the box.

Last and certainly not least in my box box i received a packet of the Puffs ultra soft & strong to go tissues. Im constantly wiping my daughters nose/mouth because she's a 1yr old and she drools and has snot and what not, as all toddlers tend to have. I will only use Puffs ultra soft to wipe her face. It's soft and gentle on her sensitive skin (she turns red very easily) and i don't have to be concerned about irritating her skin and making her uncomfortable. It's literally like wiping your face with a cloud.

**I received these items complimentary from Influenster for testing purposes**

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Pumpkin Pasta with Sweet Italian Sausage

I'm not a typically adventurous person when it comes to trying foods that are out of my comfort zone (so basically, I won't try it if theres too many vegetables, uses a fruit as a savory ingredient or contains and ingredient i've never heard of), but every once in a while I come across a recipe that seems easy enough to modify to my likes thats very different from something i've ever had. I've been wanting to make a really "fall" type recipe and nothing says "fall" to me like pumpkin. So I looked around for a pumpkin recipe that wasn't a dessert dish and wasn't too far out of my comfort zone and came across a Rachel Ray recipe for pumpkin pasta w/ sausage. I did change it around a little bit but it's virtually identical to hers with just a few teeny tiny changes. I'll include a link to the original recipe at the end of this post. 

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon
1 pound bulk sweet Italian sausage
4 cloves garlic, cracked and chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 sprigs sage leaves, cut into chiffonade, about 2 tablespoons
1 sprig of rosemary minced
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken stock, canned or paper container
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup (3 turns around the pan) heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Coarse salt and black pepper
1 pound penne rigate, cooked
Romano or Parmigiano, for grating

Heat a large skillet (preferably of the non-stick variety) over medium high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and brown the sausage in it. Once it is browned remove the sausage and set aside. 
Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the pan, and add in the garlic and onion.
Saute 3 to 5 minutes until the onions are tender. 
Add rosemary, sage, and wine to the pan. Reduce wine by half, about 2 minutes. While the wine reduces  bring a pot of water to a boil and boil your pasta.
 Add in the chicken stock and pumpkin to the wine and herb mixture in your skillet and stir to combine, until it comes to a bubble. 
Return the sausage to the pan skillet, reduce heat, and stir in the heavy cream. 
Season the sauce with the cinnamon and nutmeg, and salt and pepper, to taste. 
Simmer mixture 5 to 10 minutes to allow sauce to thicken. 
When the pasta is cooked, drain pasta and add it to the skillet. Combine sauce and pasta and toss over   low heat for 1 minute, transfer to a serving bowl or platter and enjoy!

As always let me know how you liked it! and what (if anything) you changed to make it yours.

Sausage & Cheese Biscuits

 A few weeks back (in the post right before this, because I'm a slacker) I posted some broccoli ham and cheddar bites. They were delicious but I really wanted something with more of bread or biscuit-like texture. A few days later I decided to wake up and be nice to my husband and cook him breakfast before I handed him the honey-do-list for the day (like I was gonna let him relax on a saturday? HA!). I decided a snack type breakfast like the broccoli ham and cheddar bites was the direction i wanted to go but not exactly what I felt like eating that particular morning, and then it came to me....  
The recipe for this deliciousness can be found below.....with pictures! HUZZAH!

  • 1 roll of Jimmy Dean MILD sausage, browned & crumbled (i say one roll because it sounds better than tube, you can use any kind of breakfast sausage you choose you need about 2 cups
  • 1 can of pillsbury biscuits (i chose to use the flaky layers, because they are my favorite but you can use any kind you like)
  • 1 cup shredded cheese (I chose a 4 cheddar blend, you can choose whichever is your favorite)
  • 1 mini muffin pan (or large muffin pan if you wish)

Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees. In a medium bowl combine the browned, crumbled & slightly cooled (you don't want the cheese to start melting yet) sausage with the shredded cheese of your choice. Open the biscuits and cut each biscuit into 4. Grab one of the
biscuit quarters and flatten into a circle shape with your fingers a bit until its about 2 inches in diameter.
Spoon about a table spoon of the sausage & cheese filling into the center and fold the edges of the biscuit inward sealing in the mixture.form it into a ball shape and dip the top into the sausage and cheese mixture to coat the top part, then place in the muffin pan with the coated side up. Place them in that nice toasty oven for about 20 minutes or  until the tops are a nice golden brown.
Enjoy and as always, please let me know how you liked them!!