The last few weeks have been kind of out of control. I’ve felt unorganized, I’ve been watching my diet, and just seem out of whack. So needless to say, it’s times like this that I find we eat out way too much…and it actually becomes harder to watch my diet. I thought that if I got back to posting…I would get back to cooking!
This recipe helps to keep the eating part in check! I have always found that Weight Watchers is the absolute best plan for me. Not just “dieting” but living it as a lifestyle. Plus, I have always found great recipes that support the WW way of life. I can’t remember if this was from the WW recipes, or if I found it on another site that offers point friendly recipes. If I track the origin, I will surely share.
One of my favorites is this Cheesy Chili-Mac. It’s great, because it’s healthy, easy and also kid friendly. Homerun!
What you need:
2 medium onions chopped
1 lb lean ground beef
1 tsp minced garlic
29 oz canned stewed tomatoes undrained (Mexican Style if you can find them)
2 1/2 cups vegetable juice (or tomato juice; I usually use V8 low sodium)
4 oz canned green chili peppers, diced, drainied
2 tsp chili powder (add an extra tsp if you don’t use Mexican Style tomatoes)
1/2 tsp cumin
31 oz canned pinto beans, rinsed and drained (I have also used kidney beans)
1 1/2 cup uncooked whole-wheat elbow macaroni
1/2 cup low-fat shredded cheddar cheese
Lite sour cream
Heat a large skillet (sprayed with cooking spray) over medium high heat. Add onions, garlic and beef. Cook about 10 minutes or until beef is cooked through and onions are soft. Drain any excess fat.
Add the undrained tomatoes with their juice, the tomato juice, chili peppers and the chili powder and cumin. Bring to a boil.
Tip: This is a recipe that you can easily improvise and make substitutions. Use ground chicken or ground turkey in place of the beef. Use black beans, red kidney or white kidney…or hey, use a combination, if that’s what you have on hand. And, if you don’t have the chili peppers, use some diced jalapenos or green chili sauce. Don’t forget to spice it up to suit your taste - salt, pepper, cayenne, hot sauce, etc.
After your mixture comes to a boil, stir in the uncooked macaroni and the beans. Return to a boil. Cover and simmer until macaroni is tender, about 15 minutes.
Spoon into bowls and top with cheese and sour cream. This recipe makes about 8 - 1 cup servings.
The nice thing about this recipe is that it takes only about 1/2 hour from start to table. One thing to keep in mind is that it helps if you have a really large skillet, otherwise you’ll be slopping it all over the stove while trying to stir.
Leftovers also heat up nicely for lunch the next day.
Oh for the love of cupcakes! Lately, making cupcakes has been one of those things I can’t get enough of. The possibilities are endless when it comes to flavors or decorating them.
Here are a few of my most recent creations:
Sharks & Beach
My Father-in-law was here recently, and we took the time to celebrate his birthday which had been a few weeks before. So with the help of The Mayor, my computer and some online searching, we came up with this fitting summer cupcake.
These were traditional chocolate cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. The shark cupcakes were simply vanilla cream cheese frosting with some blue tint; and the beach cupcakes were chocolate cream cheese frosting dipped into graham cracker crumbs.
Everyone particularly loved the shark cupcakes - oh, and since it was shark week, they were just that much better.
The fins were blue Air Heads candy that I rolled out and cut to the proper shape. I then added a bit of sugar crystal sprinkles for some added bling.
We found these on Pinterest, but the original post is from marthastewart.com.
Back to School
A Back to School BBQ with friends was occasion enough to bake up these cute BTS treats.
The mini “black boards” were chocolate covered graham crackers adorned with A-B-C or 1-2-3, and then little red jelly bean “apples.” These cupcakes were traditional vanilla with cream cheese frosting tinted yellow.
I also found these on Pinterest, but here’s the original location of the Pin.
Work Pot Luck
End of Summer brought a fun work potluck. Based on past potlucks, I knew there would be an amazing array of food, so I needed something that would be worthy of the event.
Last year for a friend’s birthday I made my first Red Velvet Cake. It came out so good, that I decided to take the recipe and make it cupcakes. Here is the original recipe at allrecipes.com.
I prepared the recipe as listed, and then divided into cupcake trays - it made 30 cupcakes. They cooked for approximately 18 minutes.
I absolutely loved the frosting for this recipe. It was an amazing butter cream that was incredibly light and fluffy. I already have ideas for add ins to this frosting.
After frosting with a pastry bag, I topped with red crystallized sugar…love the bling on my cupcakes!
My Father-in-Law is in town spending some time with us, and enjoying the excitement of The Mayor starting Kindergarten this week. Since his birthday was the last week in July, we waited for him to get here so we could celebrate in person. Well, I made one of my absolute favorite dishes, and cannot believe that I had not shared it here before!!
This recipe is from the Barefoot Contessa. I believe it’s in her Barefoot in Paris cookbook, and can also be found here on the Food Network site.
So first off, Ina Garten is probably my favorite television chef! She is one of the reasons I love to cook and play in my kitchen. From my view, looking in, she embodies all of the things that are important to me - her home, friends, family, good food and her hubby. I love when she cooks for Jeffrey, so fun…and I love making my own hubby my guinea pig.
This recipe is great because everyone loves it! No, really, I have made this for many people, kids, groups, etc. And it’s always had rave reviews. It even falls into the kid-friendly category in our house.
Clicking through to the Food Network Site will even give you a handy video! Here’s the link one more time!
So my skinny on the recipe:
Estimated time of 2 hours & 5 minutes is pretty accurate. But keep in mind that most of that time is in the oven, so it’s a really easy recipe.
Very few adjustments are ever needed on this recipe, but this last time I didn’t have any unsalted butter on hand (weird!). No prob, I brushed the chicken with a little olive oil instead.
When I checked the chicken part way through the pan was really dry, so I poured about a 1/2 cup of white wine into the pan. You could also use chicken broth or even a little water if you need it. The wine was a nice touch!
Oh, and make sure you follow through to the end of the recipe and plate it properly. When you slice the chicken and lay it on the croutons, then pour the juices over it…ooohhh, amazing!
One last bonus of this recipe - with food prices on the rise, and we’re living on a budget around our house, this recipe is seriously budget conscious. The ingredients are readily available, and most of them are already in most pantries.
The Mayor wanted cupcakes, and I was feeling inspired, so to Pinterest I went, and pulled an idea for a fun cupcake to take to a friend’s house for a BBQ. These adorable hamburger inspired cupcakes were not difficult to make, and were a big hit with the kids - and the adults!
What you need:
1 box yellow cake mix
1 box brownie mix
1 container white cream cheese frosting
1 container chocolate frosting
1 tube red decorating frosting
green food color
yellow food color
sesame seeds for decoration
Prepare cupcakes using the yellow cake mix. I made mine in cupcake papers, and removed them, but you could grease your cupcake trays if you would like. Let cool completely.
Prepare brownie mix using the instructions for “cake like brownies” and using a 9x13 baking pan. Let cool completely.
Time to prep your frosting.
You only need the two containers of frosting to make this work, but I did actually use three types. For the lettuce, I used one of the new Duncan Hines Frosting Creations in Mint Chocolate. It added a little extra flavor to the cupcakes, but if you have green coloring you can move forward without.
Also, I went for the tube of red decorating frosting because I was going for convenience. You can dye your red frosting, but I have found over the years that it’s really tricky to get a real, true red. Since I was going for “ketchup” red, I took the easy route.
Divide your frosting into two small bowls and tint one yellow for your mustard; and one green for your lettuce. Put each color into a sandwich bag (or a decorating bag), cut off one corner of each bag and set aside.
I use Wilton Gel Food Coloring because I find it gives nice true colors and you don’t need to use a ton.
Prep your cupcakes and your brownies. Unwrap the cupcakes (if you used wrappers) and slice in half horizontally. Using a 2” cookie cutter, cut your brownies into nice little, round, “hamburgers.”
Line up your cupcake bottoms and top each with about 1 tsp. of the chocolate frosting. This will give you a little extra frosting, and hold your brownies in place. Top each with a “hamburger.” Then it’s time to add your condiments. You don’t have to be neat and clean, but you want them to show on the sides when you add the cupcake top.
Top each with the other cupcake half and press firmly in place. Using a pastry brush, lightly moisten the top of each with water and sprinkle a few sesame seeds.
Thanks to the original Pinner of this idea, and of course to the creator of the original post. You can view the original pin by clicking the image below - and click through to the original post: