Posted in appetizers/snacks, Chicken, Dinner, Main Dish, Salad, salads, Uncategorized

Chili Lime Chicken Salad

There’s a wonderful Mexican restaurant that I often visit when I head down to Purdue University for a day on campus. This salad is meant to mimic the delicious chili lime salad that is offered on their daily menu. The flavors are amazing as the mixture of the sweet mango and the chili garlic sauce play with the acidity of the lime to combine for a burst of flavor. I often make this at home for a week night meal. While we enjoy this recipe, I sure wish I had the original … it’s just so good!

Chili Lime Chicken Salad

For the salad:

In a large bowl, mix together:
3-4 cups romaine lettuce, chopped
1 1/2 cups cooked chicken, diced
1 large mango, diced
1 avocado, diced
3 green onions, chopped
1 cup English cucumber, diced
3 Roma tomatoes, diced and lightly salted

For the dressing:

Using an 8 ounce mason jar with a tight fitting lid. Add 1/3 cup light olive or canola oil and mix in the following items:

3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
1 ½ teaspoons chili garlic sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Combine all dressing ingredients in the mason jar. Shake until completely combined; taste. If needed, add more of any ingredient to suit your tastebuds. Refrigerate before pouring over salad.

To add a bit of crunch, crush 1 cup of tortilla chips to sprinkle over the dressed salad. Serve cold.

Posted in Chicken, Dinner, Food, holiday, Soup, Uncategorized

Creamy Chicken Rice Soup

During the recent Thanksgiving holiday, the weather turned cold. I had an idea to cook up a large pot of hearty soup; a comfort food that is always a good idea during the Midwestern winter months. I had plenty of leftover vegetables that I’d purchased to make stuffing and to season other dishes. So, Friday morning I threw a few chicken breasts into a pot of simmering water and set out to make a soup for those looking for a comforting bowl of deliciousness during the weekend.

While I could have used my leftover turkey for this recipe, I chose to leave it for sandwiches as the family likes to pile turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce on a hearty wheat bread for traditional turkey leftover sandwiches. I did, however, toast some super thin Pepperidge Farm’s bread to act as a crispy accent to the smooth and creamy soup. I hope you try this delicious soup as this one warms the soul…

Note: I keep chicken stock base in my pantry for times when I don’t have chicken broth on the shelf. Follow the directions on the side of the container to substitute this base for the canned broth.

Creamy Chicken Rice Soup

1 tablespoon oil
1 cup carrots, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 cup long grain rice, uncooked
3/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 cans (14-1/2 ounces each) chicken broth
3 tablespoons flour
1 can (5 ounces) evaporated milk
2 cups chicken breast, cooked and cubed


In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat; sauté carrot, celery and onion until tender. Add garlic; cook until vegetables are translucent. Stir in rice, seasonings and broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, covered about 15 minutes, until the rice is tender. In a small bowl, mix flour and evaporated milk until smooth; stir into soup. Bring to a boil; cook and stir until thickened, about 2 minutes. Stir in chicken and heat through.

Posted in Baked goods, Baking, Bread, breakfast, Cake, Uncategorized

Oven Baked Maple Pancakes

On Saturdays, I usually make a big homemade breakfast for all those that may have returned home for the weekend. While it’s usually just my hubby and I, when the kids travel home for a few days, I enjoy the time we have catching up around the breakfast table.
When making pancakes, I usually use my old standby recipe, Oatmeal Pancakes, and stand at the stovetop griddle pouring individual mounds until I’ve cooked all of the batter into round-shaped cakes. Alternatively, this recipe is a lifesaver as I can mix up a batch of batter, pour it into a baking dish, and throw it into the oven while working on all of the other items that will need to be prepped and cooked.
During the late winter/early spring, we tap our trees to make our own delicious maple syrup. Our family loves its rich flavor and I use a healthy dose for this convenient recipe.

Oven Baked Maple Pancakes

1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup butter
½ cup maple syrup
1 ½ cups pancake baking mix
¼ cup packed brown sugar
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small microwave-safe bowl, melt butter. Stir in 1/2 cup brown sugar and the maple syrup until completely combined. Pour into greased 13X9” baking pan.

Mix remaining ingredients in a medium bowl, until well blended. Carefully pour over syrup mixture.

Bake uncovered 25-30 minutes or until top springs back when touched in center. Cut into 3-inch squares; turn each square upside down onto plate. Serve immediately.

Posted in appetizers/snacks, breakfast, Food, Toppings

Homemade Farmer Cheese

When my children were young, I used to watch all of the PBS cooking shows during their afternoon nap. I’d fold clothes, wash dishes, clean-up the toy rooms, or catch up on laundry while some of my favorite TV cooking personalities demonstrated current techniques along with new and unique recipes. When I saw a recipe that I wanted to try, I quickly jot down the main ingredients and search the library for similar recipes to combine and develop. One such recipe, Homemade Farmer Cheese…

I recently ran across this hand-written recipe in my recipe binder and decided to revisit the idea of making my own cheese. I had pots of beautiful fresh herbs that needed to be trimmed and used before the cold weather made its way to the Midwest. The result was a creamy, flavorful, spreadable mixture that beats the flavor of any store bought variety.

A word of caution… Don’t use ultra-pasteurized milk as it will not curdle as needed for this easy recipe. Also, use a thermometer to measure the temperature of the milk.

Homemade Farmer Cheese

1 gallon whole milk (not ultra-pasteurized)

½ teaspoon salt

¼ cup lemon juice or vinegar

Pour the milk into a large pot, and stir in the salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally to prevent the milk from scorching on the bottom of the pot.

When the milk begins to simmer and then reaches 190 degrees, turn off the heat. Stir lemon juice or vinegar into the milk. The acid will make the milk curdle. Let sit for 10 minutes.

Line a sieve or colander with a few layers of cheesecloth, and pour the milk through the cloth to catch the curds. The solid within the cheese cloth is the cheese (curd) and the liquid released from the mixture is the whey. Gather the cloth around the cheese, and squeeze out as much of the whey as you can. Tie up the cloth to form a cheese ball or disk, refrigerate in cheesecloth for several hours. Remove from cloth and wrap in plastic, or place in an airtight container. Store in the refrigerator.

Before serving, drizzle with good quality olive oil, sprinkle with course salt and fresh chopped herbs of your choice. I usually use basil, rosemary, and oregano. You can also use crushed red pepper flakes or chopped green onions. Serve on toasted Italian bread or hearty crackers.

For a sweeter flavor, drizzle with honey and serve with bagels, jam, and fruit.

Posted in appetizers/snacks, Baked goods, Uncategorized

No-Bake Snacking Crackers

While enjoying the 4th of July holiday with family, we took advantage of all of the festivities happening around town. Local vendors celebrated by keeping shops opened late on Friday evening while providing live music, street food and a festive atmosphere. I love supporting local vendors so we headed over to the town square to visit all of the unique boutiques, bakeries, and kitchen shops. One of the shop owners had a few taste testing stations and a selection of dry mixes that could be combined to make various snacks and dips. I purchased one of the packets but I felt I probably could make a similar mix on my own. So when I returned home, I scoured some of my cookbooks and settled on a recipe that I changed up to work with ingredients that I had on hand. Boy oh boy, these crackers didn’t last long! Everybody loved the mild spiced flavor. I’ll certainly be making these again!

No-Bake Ranch Snacking Crackers

1 – 1 ounce package ranch dressing mix

2⁄3 cup canola oil

1 tablespoon dried dill seed

1 teaspoon garlic powder

2 (10 ounce) package oyster crackers OR 1 box Ritz crackers OR 2 boxes Premium Minis crackers

In a small bowl, combine ranch dressing mix, oil, dill and garlic powder. Mix well.

In a large air-tight container (Tupperware), pack crackers. Then, pour oil mixture over crackers and toss well until coated. Cover.

Flip mixture every 10-15 minutes for 2 hours. Store in the air-tight container.

Posted in Baked goods, Baking, Bread, breakfast, Brunch

Cherry Jubilee Scones

I just love when the kids return home for the weekend. After graduating, they seem to have settled into different parts of the United States. This weekend, our town held their annual spring run making this a great kickoff to one of my favorite seasons.

Friday evening, after a long week of work, I was disappointed in myself as I hadn’t had the opportunity to plan a few meals and gather some groceries. This morning, as my pack of runners was out enjoying the spring race, I jumped into action and scoured the freezer, fridge, and pantry. To my surprise, I actually had the fixings for a great mid-morning breakfast. My pantry was chocked with items that I had unknowingly pushed to the back of the shelf over the course of many weeks. A tall container of old fashioned oats, an unopened package of dried “cherries jubilee” and some turbinado sugar sat on the shelf. I quickly opened my baker’s cabinet and scooped up the flour, sugar, almond extract, and leavenings. I remembered a blueberry scone recipe that I had so I rummaged through my blog of past posts and tweeted the recipe to make it work. To round out the breakfast, I found a bag of frozen hash browns, a pound of bacon, a carton of eggs. Opening the carton, there were only three… Grabbing my phone, I quickly sent a text to the group requesting they stop by a mini-mart to purchase two cartons of eggs. Scurrying around the kitchen, I completed each dish. I would then quickly cook the scrambled eggs as everyone showered after returning home. Laying everything out on the kitchen counter, plates were filled and tummies were satisfied.

What a delight… the scones were a hit… everyone enjoyed the meal as they slathered a good dose of butter on the warm scones and gobbled them up. Before they disappeared, I set aside a few for a Sunday visit with extended family. I’m sure I’ll be making these again.

…Great memories shared as we welcome the first days of spring!

Cherry Jubilee Scones

1 1/2 cups whole oats

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/3 cup white sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

6 tablespoons butter, cubed

1/2 cup buttermilk

1 teaspoon almond extract

1 cup dried cherries

1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet. Combine oatmeal, flours, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together in a medium sized bowl. Use a pastry cutter or two forks and cut in the butter with the flour mixture until crumbly and well blended. Stir milk and extract into the flour mixture until just combined. Lightly fold in the pecans and cherries. On a lightly floured surface, collect the dough into a ball and pat into a large circle about 1″ thick. Sprinkle with a teaspoon of turbinado sugar (optional). Cut into 8 wedges, and place on prepared baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven until lightly browned, 20 to 25 minutes.

Posted in Baked goods, Baking, breakfast, cookies

Hearty Oatmeal Brownies

This recipe takes a (slightly) healthier spin on a traditional bar brownie. A couple cups of old fashioned oats act as a substitute for a hearty helping of cocoa. When munching on these tasty squares, I am often reminded of a few other family favorite recipes. The flavors are a cross between a sweet crunchy oatmeal cookie and the hearty texture of my baked oatmeal. Adding a hearty helping of chopped walnuts adds a bit of crunch to an ooey-gooey oat-filled center. Pair this sweet treat with a tall, cold glass of milk, or a piping hot cup of tea.

Hearty Oatmeal Brownies

1 cup butter, softened

1 cup brown sugar, packed

1/2 cup sugar

2 eggs, slightly beaten

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups rolled oats

1 cup walnuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degree. Grease a 13×9” baking pan.

In a large bowl, cream butter, brown sugar, and sugar. Beat in the eggs and vanilla extract until well combined. In a medium bowl, mix salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, flour, rolled oats, and chopped nuts. Mix to combine all ingredients, and spread into the prepared baking pan.

Bake in the preheated oven until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool completely before cutting into bars.

Posted in appetizers/snacks, Baked goods, Baking, Chicken, Dinner, Food

Spicy Chicken Roll

On Sunday afternoons, I often set up my crock pot to cook several pounds of chicken to be used for various meals during the work week. I load up my slow cooker to let the chicken simmer away for 8 hours and then chop or shred the poultry for chicken salad, chicken lasagna, spicy buffalo chicken sandwiches, or to be used as a green salad ingredient. This is a complete time saver when trying to juggle a full work day and a lengthy commute, while working to get a decent meal on the table in a timely manner.

I usually serve this Spicy Chicken Roll with a fresh green salad. My children will often take a slice for their lunch bag, to be eaten cold or heated. The mild spicy flavor is a family favorite.

4 ounces cream cheese, softened

2 1/2 cups chicken breast, shredded

1/2 cup hot sauce. (I use Franks brand)

1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

2 cans crescent rolls

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In small saucepan, mix cream cheese, hot sauce, chicken and shredded cheese. Heat on medium-low until combined and cheese has melted. Cool.

Unroll both cans of dough; separate into 16 triangles. On cookie sheet, arrange triangles in ring so short sides of triangles form a circle in center. Use a small oven- safe bowl to guide and maintain a circle. Dough will overlap. Dough ring should look like a sun.

Spoon cream cheese mixture on the half of each triangle closest to center of ring. Bring each dough triangle up over filling, tucking dough under bottom layer of dough to secure it. Repeat around ring until entire filling is enclosed.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until dough is golden brown and thoroughly baked. Cool 5 to 10 minutes before slicing into serving sized pieces.

Posted in Baked goods, Baking, breakfast, Brunch

Scrumptious Granola Clusters

We recently took a weekend visit to Northern Ohio. We wanted to spend time with family, watch our nephew play some amazing high school football, and enjoy the rolling hills and colorful treelined byways while visiting a few local Amish community shops.
When in Ohio, I try to take the opportunity to stop at Marc’s, a local discount store that can offer some amazing deals. It’s “hit or miss”, but I often stock up on coffee, staples and seasonal trinkets that are placed on entry area shelves listed at rock bottom, close-out prices. 
After carefully searching the bountiful shelves, I ended up buying a few color coordinated cutting boards, silicone trivets, and pin-striped double oven mitts to give as Christmas gift sets this holiday season. I often pair kitchen items with wholesome baked goods for a more personal holiday gift. I also bought large boxes of flavored k-cups, cereal, and oatmeal.
I purchased several boxes of this low-sugar cereal with this granola recipe in mind… Kashi Original GoLean has lots of fun shapes and textures nestled within the box.
I also use our own maple syrup to sweeten the mix and it’s sticky properties help to form the crunchy granola clusters. Pair this delicious granola with Greek yogurt and sweet crunchy apples for an awesome breakfast combination. What a way to start the day!
Scrumptious Granola Clusters
4 cups dry, sugarless breakfast cereal ( I use Kashi GoLean Original pictured above)
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup maple syrup or honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup dried fruit (optional)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and line a large, jellyroll pan with aluminum foil or parchment, lightly sprayed with cooking spray. In a large mixing bowl, combine the cereal, nuts and seeds. Stir to blend.
In a small saucepan, combine the oil, maple syrup and/or honey, cinnamon and salt. Bring to a boil, remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Pour hot mixture into dry cereal mixture. Mix well, until every oat and nut is lightly coated. Pour the granola onto your prepared pan and use a large spoon to spread it in an even layer. Bake until golden, about 18 to 20 minutes, stirring halfway. The granola will continue to crisp up as it cools.
Let the granola cool for 10 minutes before breaking it into pieces and stirring in the (optional) dried fruit. Store the granola in an airtight container at room temperature for 1 to 2 weeks, or in a sealed freezer bag in the freezer.

Posted in Salad, salads, side dishes

Summer Night Pasta Salad

As I was preparing for a weekend get together with some out-of-town visitors, I picked up a tray of precut vegetables to serve with ranch dip for a poolside snack. The tray included an assortment of broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and snow peas. While the vegetable tray was a big hit among our guests, having other sweet and delicious snacks left me with a few extra vegetables when it was time to clean up. …No worries, as I could always use the left overs for a big summer night pasta salad. In fact, using the precut veggies can really save time in the kitchen. Searching the fridge for other left over ingredients, here’s the impromptu recipe that I pulled together:

Summer Night Pasta Salad

1 pound fun-shaped pasta

2 tablespoons Italian seasoning (basil, oregano, sun dried tomato mix)

1 (16 ounce) bottle Marzetti Sweet Italian Dressing, or to taste

2 cups tomatoes, diced (sprinkled with a little salt, optional)

2 yellow bell pepper, chopped

1 cup chopped broccoli

1/2 cup chopped carrots, optional

6 ounces precooked summer sausage, chopped

1 cup mozzarella cheese

In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook pasta until al dente, rinse under cold water and drain. Whisk together the Italian seasoning and Italian dressing.

In a large salad bowl, combine the pasta, vegetables, and sausage. Pour dressing over salad; toss. Sprinkle with mozzarella and refrigerate overnight.