Posted in Food, Kids in the Kitchen, Main Dish

M’s Simple Whole Wheat Pizza

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It’s that time of year again, tomatoes are sitting plump and pretty on the vine and the fresh basil is ripe for the picking.
While shopping at the local Costco this week, I ran across a tub of Formaggio Fresh Mozzarella Cheese. I immediately threw it in my cart… I just couldn’t resist. This cheese is soft, tender and absolutely heavenly. For the past two days, I have been preparing a little bruschetta lunch salad consisting of chopped vine ripe tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese, and plump leaves of fresh basil. YUM!
Today, M arrived home after a week of house sitting and she too, could not resist the sight of the fresh cheese. Within minutes, she had whipped up a tasty pizza made with fresh garlic, olive oil, tomatoes, basil and fresh mozzerella. Boy oh boy, the aroma in the kitchen was unbelievable as that pizza baked in the oven. Oh, how I love the bounty that a midwest summer can bring.

M’s Rustic Whole Wheat Pizza

1 Boboli Whole Wheat Pizza Crust
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Roma tomatoes, sliced
5 balls fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
4 large leaves fresh basil, chopped

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Prepare pizza by brushing olive oil over crust. Sprinkle minced garlic over olive oil. Evenly distribute tomatoes and cheese over crust. Sprinkle half of the basil over the toppings. Place pizza on baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes. After removing from the oven, sprinkle remaining basil over the pizza. Serve immediately.

Posted in Cooking In Disney World, Dinner, Food, lunch box, Main Dish, Skillet Meal

Teriyaki Lo Mein Noodles and Veggies

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For years, we’ve been visiting Disney’s Polynesian Resort and O’Hana’s Restaurant for their well attended dinner show. This family-friendly dinner event includes generous helpings of Polynesian inspired delicacies with a bit of entertainment provided by a ukulele playing woman (or gentleman) dressed in island themed clothing and singing (Disney-style) Polynesian tunes. All the while, the friendly waitstaff scurries around the dining tables offering guests various grilled meats, sweet bread and family-style fixings. Children are invited to come to the center of the dining room floor to play games and celebrate special occasions. It’s a festive evening and we always look forward to our annual visit.
The sweet and savory aroma that fills the dining hall just can’t be beat as Ohana’s food is absolutely fabulous. Pot stickers, Hawaiian sweet bread, a scrumptious salad, chicken wings, bread pudding and a variety of grilled meats are delivered to the table with gusto and are unlimited. One of our favorite dishes is prepared with low mein noodles, pineapple teriyaki sauce and veggies. I’ve tried to duplicate the flavor of this dish at home and in a simplistic way. This recipe is a close second to the original and eating it brings back fond memories of our time spent at Disney over the years. We look forward to celebrating our vacation with the staff at Ohana’s for years to come.

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Teriyaki Lo Mein Noodles and Veggies

1/2 package of Low Mein Noodles
1 (9oz.) package frozen teriyaki vegetables
1/2 cup Lawry’s Pineapple Teriyaki Marinade
1/4 cup prepared sweet and sour sauce

In a medium saucepan, prepare noodles according to package directions. Drain and return to saucepan. Microwave vegetables according to package directions. Mix in remaining ingredients and heat thoroughly. Serve piping hot.

Posted in Beef, Dinner, Food, Main Dish, One Pot Meal, slow cooking

Slow Cooker Corned Beef

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While St. Patrick’s Day is long past and Easter is just around the corner, I recently searched the freezer to see what kind of inventory I had available in the way of meat products for the coming holiday. (I often have a supply of ground beef, ham, pork, or prime rib roast left from thrifty bulk purchases when I find a great deal at the supermarket.) To my surprise, I had several corned beef roasts set on the top shelf. I quickly remembered that I had bought a boat load of corned beef around St. Patrick’s Day because the price was too good to pass up. Five roasted were neatly stacked in the freezer so I put one in the fridge to thaw for Monday’s dinner.
Before I headed to work on Monday morning, I lined the bottom of my crockpot with potatoes, carrots, and onions, then laid the roast among the vegetables.

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I sprinkled the seasoning packet over the corned beef and poured in some water and a half can of beer before shutting the lid and setting the dial to low.

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I arrived home to the delicious aroma of the complete dinner. There is nothing quite so wonderful as having dinner ready when walking in the door after a long day at work. I have quite a few recipes to successfully cook corned beef. I often bake it or boil it, but this is one of my favorites…very little time or effort produce a magnificent meal. If you like Reuben sandwiches, add thousand island dressing and sour kraut to some toasted rye bread and you have quite a sandwich.

Slow Cooker Corned Beef

2 1/2 cups baby carrots
3 potatoes, diced
1 onion, peeled and rough cut
4 cups water
1 (4-5 pound) corned beef brisket with spice packet
6 ounces beer

Place the carrots, potatoes, and onion into the bottom of a slow cooker. Place the brisket on top of the vegetables. Pour the water and beer over the brisket. Sprinkle on the spices packet, cover, and set the cooker on High.
Cook the brisket for about 8 hours. Cool slightly before cutting into thin slices.

Posted in Dinner, Food, Main Dish, One Pot Meal, Soup

Hearty Pepperoni Pizza Soup

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A couple of weeks ago, a friend mentioned that she had enjoyed a cup of pizza soup when visiting a local restaurant. It sparked a memory of a hearty soup that I had made years ago. So I headed to my trusty files to see if I could track down the recipe. I was quite pleased when I found what I was looking for.
As I began to assemble the ingredients for the recipe, I remembered that I had an interesting ingredient in the fridge that I hoped would be a flavorful addition to my soup recipe. You see, I have grown quite fond of a new item called basil paste, that I found in the produce section of the grocery store some time ago. It’s flavor is so similar to the wonderfully unique taste of fresh basil that we pick in abundance during the summer months, here in the states. A dollop of this paste stirred into a piping hot bowl of soup just transforms the flavor into something along the lines of a pizza margherita; one of my favorite pizza recipes.

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Like much of the country, we in the Midwest, are experiencing some mighty cold temperatures this winter. (I feel like I am cold all the time.). After making this soup this past weekend, I carefully packed it into serving sized containers so that I could carry it to work along with a salad for lunch. There’s something about the fresh hearty flavor and its piping hot state that just warms me to the core. I find myself counting the minutes until lunch time. When paired with a salad, and maybe a slice of crusty bread, this soup makes for a warm and comforting meal.

Hearty Pepperoni Pizza Soup

1/2 lb. Italian sausage, casings removed
1/2 cup green pepper, diced
1/2 cup mushrooms, chopped (optional)
1/2 cup onion, diced
2 cups water
15 ounces pizza sauce
8 ounces sliced pepperoni, finely chopped
1 cup chopped tomatoes
1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon basil paste

In a large saucepan, sauté Italian sausage, green pepper and onion until onions are translucent and sausage is no longer pink; drain. Add water, pizza sauce, pepperoni, tomatoes, and Italian seasoning. Cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat; and simmer covered for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Before serving, stir in basil paste and top with Parmesan cheese.

Posted in Dinner, Food, Main Dish, Pork, slow cooking

Yummy Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

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There is nothing like walking in the door after a long day of work knowing that dinner has been simmering in the crock pot all day and the aroma of barbecue fills the air.
These past few weeks, I’ve been working long hours and the unbelievable weather has made for some long, white-knuckled travel, here in the Midwest. Coming home, realizing that dinner is nearly ready is a saving grace.
Pork roast can be found at your local grocer, usually at a decent price, when it’s on sale. I try to stock up on the long, lean roast by slicing it in chunks about 6-8″ long; enough to fit comfortably into the crock pot. I wrap the meat well and pop it into freezer bags to be stored in the freezer for satisfying crock pot recipes. Use your favorite barbecue sauce for this recipe. We like Sweet Baby Ray ‘s. It seems to be just the right flavor to suit my family.
Stay warm everyone!

Yummy Crock Pot Pulled Pork

1 (4 pound) pork roast
2 cups barbecue sauce ( reserve 1 cup)
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup chicken or beef broth
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon prepared yellow mustard
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 extra large onion, chopped
2 large cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoons dried thyme

Spray bottom of slow cooker with cooking spray. Put the roast in the cooker and pour in 1 cup barbecue sauce, apple cider vinegar and broth. Stir in remaining ingredients. Cover and cook on High for 5 to 6 hours.
Remove the roast from the slow cooker, and shred the meat using two forks. Return the shredded pork to the slow cooker, and stir the meat into the juices. Add reserved barbecue sauce for extra flavor.

Posted in Beef, Dinner, Main Dish, Soup

Our Award-Winning Chili

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Award Winning Chili and Creamy Cornbread Muffins, a wonderful dinner combination for these sub-zero Midwestern temperatures.

Several years ago, (2005 to be exact) our small town’s Chamber of Commerce hosted a chili cook-off. It was held in a lovely park located in the town square on a crisp fall day. On the west side of the park, the usual hustle and bustle of the Saturday morning farmer’s market was in full swing. Tables and chairs were set up around the beautiful gazebo located in the center of the park. And all of the chili cook-off competitors situated their booths around the gazebo.
I had read about the cook-off in the local paper and thought that entering the competition would be a great way to spend a beautiful fall day with the family and to see how my chili would fare against the others. I had been serving this recipe for years and friends and family seemed to love it.
The morning of the cook-off, we got up early, packed up the car with chili fixings and decorations for our booth. I was intent on winning the trophy for the best chili and the sportsmanship award, given to the most neighborly participant that had gone the extra yard to create a festive looking booth. I have an embroidery machine so I had embroidered custom attire for the day. I had purchased a few yards of cotton fabric to make chef hats and simple pants for the kids. We all wore matching embroidered sweatshirts to show off our family name. The kids were young and eager to help. They were excited about the festivities for the day.
I have fond memories of this day as we did indeed win top prize in both categories. From then on, this has been the recipe that I turn to when making a big pot of chili during the fall and winter months. It’s actually a very simple recipe full of flavor and warmth.
I must say, the weather these past several weeks has been brutal. I have been scouring my recipes to provide hearty meals for the family. It seems we are constantly out shoveling snow, heading off to work or school and returning home only to find that the snow needs to be tended to again. This chili recipe really hits the spot during the cold winter months in the Midwest.

Our Award-Winning Chili

5 slices of bacon
2 onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound ground chuck
3/4 pound beef sirloin, cubed
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 (12 fluid ounce) can or bottle beer
1 cup brewed coffee
2 (6 ounce) cans tomato paste
1 (14 ounce) can beef broth
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
3 (15 ounce) cans kidney beans

In a large pot over medium heat, cook bacon until crisp. Remove to paper towels. Cook onions, garlic, ground chuck and sirloin cubes in bacon drippings until brown; drain. Crumble cooled bacon and return to pot.
Mix in the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for 1 1/2 hours.

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Posted in appetizers/snacks, Dinner, Food, Homemade Mixes, Salad, salads, Sauces

Sweet Italian Dressing

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I’ll bet that you have noticed that I post loads of recipes for sweet delicious baked goods on a regular basis… What you might not know is that I don’t eat any of them. They are all lovingly made for family and friends, but I stay away from them completely. You see, several years ago, I decided to give up eating carb laden goodies with lots of sugar. Oh, I still enjoy the sweet taste of sugar but I have found some great substitutes over the years. A few of my latest favorites are monk fruit extract, stevia in the raw, or coconut palm sugar.

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Sure, there is quite a bit of controversy circling artificial sweeteners, but these are the few I choose that seem to work for me. When I’m looking for something sweet, I engineer things for myself so that the carbs are low and the fiber content high.
A sweet revelation…
This salad recipe idea came to me after having a similar salad at a recent Christmas party. It was a carry-in party where my co-workers and I were asked to bring beverages, salads, side dishes and desserts. One of my co-workers brought in a fabulous pre-made salad that she bought at Cosco. There were 7 different greens, sunflower seeds, pepitas, and dried cranberries. A pre-made dressing was included. Everything delivered in a sizable package. Here’s the kicker…all for just $5.00.

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Well, I went back for seconds…and thirds on the salad. I raved about it all afternoon. It’s called the Sweet Kale Vegetable Salad Kit. It’s made from a blend of kale, broccoli, shaved Brussels sprouts, green cabbage and chicory. Seven “super greens” are blended within the salad to provide a wide variety of textures and flavors. One drawback here…is the dressing. My taste buds are highly sensitive to the sweet taste of sugar and I tasted a lot of it in the pre-made poppyseed dressing. The other drawback…I don’t live near or have a shopping card for Costco.
So, I did the next best thing…I made my own salad. It’s a bit different because of the availability of some of the salad items in my grocery store. When I priced out the cost of purchasing all of the different “super greens” needed to make the salad, the bill really added up quickly. My next idea meant looking for salad blends that had been prepackaged to save a little “green”. I found a blend made with broccoli stalks, red cabbage, romaine lettuce, and green onion. I found another mix with mini kale and Brussels sprouts so I combined the two. Then, instead of the poppy seed dressing, I added my own sweet Italian dressing and topped the salad with 1/4 cup of finely diced lean meat and a light sprinkle of shredded mozzarella cheese. I often add sunflower seeds, walnuts, or slivered almonds.
The Sweet Italian Salad Dressing is sort of a copy cat recipe of the Olive Garden salad dressing recipe. The important thing here is to find a mix of greens that you enjoy that are packed with vitamins and nutrients, lots of texture and flavor. Chop the greens up finely, mix in a little of your favorite dressing, add a few flavorful toppings and eat more vegetables!
Here’s to the new year…here’s to your health!

Sweet Italian Salad Dressing

1/4 cup red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons water
1 (2/3 ounce) package Good Seasons Italian dressing
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup sugar or 2 packets sugar substitute

Combine all ingredients. Shake vigorously. Store refrigerated in an air-tight container.

Posted in Beef, Dinner, Food, holidays, Main Dish, Uncategorized

Moist and Tender Prime Rib

As tradition would have it, one of our favorite holiday meals includes prime rib. Tonight, my family and I will be enjoying a night out on the town in downtown Chicago. We are going to one of our favorite restaurants, Lawry’s Prime Rib. While I will be pampered tonight, I usually make my own version of this delicious roast. I have reblogged my recipe for those that might be preparing a Holiday feast this week. Happy holidays to all.

Simply Made Kitchen and Crafts

Prime Rib

Prime rib is one of my favorite dishes to prepare for special occasions. Recently, I hosted my extended family for Thanksgiving. Family members traveled in from neighboring states to celebrate the holiday. After an early breakfast, I asked my neice to join me in the kitchen to prepare the prime rib. She is such an adorable kitchen helper…always willing to take on any task and eager to learn. It warms my heart as I watch her run to the kitchen drawer to find my handmade aprons. There she carefully ties the apron strings around her slim little waist. When we first started cooking together, I would hike up the apron and fold a crease in it to shorten the length to match her 1st grade height. I’d scoot a stool over to the countertop so that she could follow along as we cooked together. These days, she’s older and wiser…she…

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Posted in Baked goods, Baking, Casseroles, Dinner, Food, Main Dish

Pizza Spaghetti

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During the holidays, we’re often looking for simple recipes that will feed a crowd…this is one of those recipes. It’s nothing fancy but it’s a basic recipe with lots of big flavor. Adding favorite toppings like, onions, green peppers or olives can personalize this dish to match your family’s tastes. Crushed red pepper adds a little spice and adding a varied selection of cheeses can add depth to the flavor. Give this one a try and make it your own.

Pizza Spaghetti

1 (8 ounce) package spaghetti, broken into smaller pieces
1 egg
1/4 cup milk
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion salt
1 (16 ounce) jar chunky garden style spaghetti sauce
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
4 ounces turkey pepperoni sausage, sliced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray with cooking spray, a 13X9″ baking pan.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add spaghetti and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain and cool. In a separate bowl, beat the egg, add milk, 1/2 cup of the mozzarella cheese, salt and garlic salt. Stir in cooked spaghetti, mix well.
Spread mixture evenly into baking dish. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and spread sauce over spaghetti. Sprinkle with oregano, basil and the remaining 1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese. Top with pepperoni, return to oven and bake for 30 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes before slicing.
Note: For an extra hearty twist, add 1 lb. browned ground beef or Italian sausage to the spaghetti sauce before spreading over pasta.

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Posted in Beef, Dinner, Food, Main Dish

Homemade Spicy Italian Meatballs

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In our house, we traditionally try to have some sort of pasta dish the day before a swim meet. Today, when I asked my swimmers what they would like for dinner, all agreed that rigatoni and meatballs would fit the bill.
I am not a fan of store bought or pre-packaged frozen meatballs. It seems the amount of salt that is dumped into the processed recipe is usually quite overwhelming. I have yet to find a frozen, pre-packaged meatball that appeals to me.
The recipe that follows is tender and flavorful. The sodium level is certainly not over powering and the addition of crushed red pepper and hot sauce make these meatballs a bit spicy. I add a sprinkle of sugar to my tomato sauce to cut the acid in the tomatoes and the combination of slightly sweet against slightly spicy is quite pleasing.

Homemade Spicy Italian Meatballs

2 lbs. lean ground beef
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup milk
2-3 dashes hot sauce
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
2 slices of bread, processed into bread crumbs or 1 cup bread crumbs

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients until just mixed together. With a 1 1/2″ ice cream scoop, gather mixture into a ball and carefully release onto a large jelly roll pan. Bake 400 degrees for 18-25 minutes or until center is no longer pink. Blot each meatball on paper towel. Serve with your favorite sauce over rice or pasta.

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