November 28, 2017

Baked Chicken, Bacon & Ranch Macaroni and Cheese


The Christmas tree is up, our coal stove is roaring, and my Pandora Christmas jazz station is softly serenading us.  This is the time of year when I most relate to the hibernating bear... not the sleeping part; the part where he doesn't leave his den.  No, I'm not depressed... it's just that after we deck our halls, our den is at its coziest, and I hate to have to venture into the cold, dark-too-early places on the other side of my walls.  A simple reality check reveals that our schedule has us out every night of the week.  A girl can dream, can't she? 

This time of year, I also find myself using my oven a lot more than usual.  We had this Baked Chicken, Bacon & Ranch Macaroni and Cheese last night, and it really is amazing.  I mean, can you really go wrong with these ingredients?!  I couldn't wait until lunch today to have it leftover, and it was just as good!  Give it a try; you won't be disappointed!

A crisp salad, garlic bread, and steamed vegetables are perfect complements to this dish!

Ingredients:


  • 8 oz elbow macaroni
  • 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp Ranch Salad Dressing & Seasoning mix 
  • 4 slices of bacon
  • 1 c shredded mozzarella cheese 
  • 1/2 c shredded cheddar cheese 
  • 1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped 

Sauce:

  • 2 tbsp butter 
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder 
  • 1/2 c heavy cream 
  • 1/4 c milk
  • 1/4 c Ranch dressing 
  • 1/4 c Parmesan cheese 
  • Pepper, to taste 

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Lightly grease a 2 1/2 qt. baking dish 

Cook the elbow macaroni according to package instructions to al dente and drain.  Set aside.  

Combine the chicken with the olive oil and Ranch seasoning mix.  Allow the mixture to marinate for at least 30 minutes.  

Meanwhile, make the sauce.  In a medium sauce pan, melt the butter over medium heat.  Whisk in the garlic, heavy cream, milk, and Ranch dressing, and bring to just a boil.  Turn down the heat to low and whisk in the Parmesan cheese.  Continue to cook and stir for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the sauce thickens.  Set aside. 

Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat.  Remove the bacon from the pan and reserve 1 tbsp of the bacon grease.  Chop the bacon, and set it aside. 

In the same skillet, cook the chicken on all sides, until just cooked through.  Set aside.  

Pull it all together.  Pour the cooked pasta in the bottom of the prepared dish.  Distribute the chicken evenly on top and pour the sauce evenly over all.  Evenly distribute the bacon on top.  Sprinkle the mozzarella cheese and cheddar cheese evenly over all.  

Bake uncovered for 20 minutes.  Remove from oven and garnish with parsley.   

Serve immediately.  

Enjoy!






October 16, 2017

Salted Caramel Apple Pie Bars


It's finally feeling like a crisp, fall day; let the baking season commence!  These salted caramel apple pie bars are to. die. for.  Imagine with me.  Buttery, shortbread crust topped with a sweet layer of apples, cinnamon streusel, and a delectable salted caramel drizzled on top.  Perfection.

Note:  Don't let the list of ingredients intimidate you.  Most of them are repeated.  There really are only 10 total ingredients (including the salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg).


September 20, 2017

Peanut Butter & Chocolate Chip Granola Bars


These are our favorite granola bars.  They're amazingly good, super easy to make, perfectly chewy, and they won't crumble on you!  The only problem you'll have with these is suppressing your urge to eat them all!  

Note:  You can substitute the honey with additional maple syrup, if desired.  

September 3, 2017

Harvest Salsa


Well, we're heading into our third week of homeschooling already!  I love spending the extra time with my little sous chef and also the freedom that we have in our schedule.  Fall is my favorite season for so many reasons, but I have a feeling that homeschooling is going to top my list this year!  Speaking of fall, it's not quite here yet, but it sure has felt like it for some time now.  This has got to be the mildest (and wettest) summer that I can remember!  I've only had to water my garden three or four times this year because of how much rain we've had!  Not that I'm complaining.  My garden is bursting at the seams, and I've been trying my best to not waste anything and use the things that I have in excess in creative ways.  Last week, I made some Cinnamon White Chocolate and Zucchini Cookies, and they were ahhhmazing!  Unfortunately, they didn't last long enough for me to blog about them.

This week, I found myself with a lot of extra corn and tomatoes, so I decided to make a salsa to go along with blackened chicken and rice for dinner.  This salsa is bright, refreshing, and uses ingredients straight from the garden.  While the avocado is optional, it really adds a lovely creamy contrast to the crunchy texture of the salsa.  Serve it with tortilla chips, chicken, beef, or seafood!


August 24, 2017

Key Lime Pie... and a little update


There have been lots of life changes happening over our way.  All good things!  For one, we officially began homeschooling this week.  I can't believe that I have a 7th grader; she's growing like a weed!  It's been a lot of fun so far learning and working together.  In history, we're talking about the Rise and Fall of the Western Roman Empire.  Today, we're going to be cooking a meal that the Romans would have eaten over a pit of fire.  I love the flexibility we have and ability to use our creativity to learn.

On the first day of school, we did something that we probably won't make a habit of doing... I think.  We had key lime pie for breakfast!  It was seriously a heavenly start to the first day!  I think pie should totally be an acceptable form of breakfast, don't you?  Oh, and it washes down so well with a hot cup of coffee, too.  This was my very first attempt at making a key lime pie, and it turned out delicious!  It was light and refreshing, and it wasn't overly sweet.  There's a reason this recipe was so highly rated!  The only thing I think I would change next time is halving the sugar in the graham cracker crust. 


May 7, 2017

Easy Homemade Ramen


Well, it's official:  After a lot of prayer, we've decided to start homeschooling my little sous chef starting the next school year!  I'm both excited and nervous for this new adventure we're about to embark upon.  Seventh grade is no joke, and I've been spending countless hours researching curriculum, obsessing over state laws, etc.  One of my plans is to get her cooking more with me in the kitchen during the week, and hopefully I'll be able to incorporate more of her into my blog posts!  As anyone else, I know we'll have good days and bad days, and I am preparing myself for the laughter, tears, victory, and frustration.  Bring it!  

Now on to the recipe.  I had some leftover pulled pork that I had to use up for dinner this weekend, and I decided to use it in Ramen.  This homemade version is so easy and much healthier than the stuff we used to live off of in college!  The broth is so flavorful and delicious, and I know you'll  love the addition of the soft-boiled egg.  


March 12, 2017

Peanut Butter Cup Crunch Brownies




We were invited to a friend's house for dinner and games over the weekend, and she served this fantastic ziti dish that I hope to eventually get the recipe for!  When I was trying to decide on what to bring for dessert, I stumbled across this Peanut Butter Cup Crunch Brownie recipe over at Sally's Baking Addiction.  After reading the reviews and recipe, I knew I had to try them right away.  I was a little nervous how they would turn out, but, honestly, how can you go wrong with these ingredients?!  They have a fudgy brownie base with a center layer of peanut butter cups and peanuts, and then they are topped off with a crunchy layer of melted chocolate and peanut butter with Rice Krispies cereal.  Chewy and crunchy all in one bite!  Serve them with some vanilla bean ice cream on the side, and they will be sure to please!

Note:  These are really rich, so I would suggest cutting them into smaller serving squares.    


February 26, 2017

Breakfast Skillet Pie with Insanely Fast & Easy Hollandaise




Have you ever seen that Weight Watchers commercial, where Oprah Winfrey says, "I love bread," with such passion and conviction in her voice that it makes you want to run into the kitchen and gobble any and every crumb that you can find?  My little sous chef and I giggle every time we see it, and it's come to a point where we'll even quote it when something makes us really happy.  That is exactly how I feel about Hollandaise Sauce.  I could pour a vat of that velvety goodness over almost anything!  Hollandaise sauce is considered one of the hardest sauces to make because it takes patience, requires careful attention, and can be temperamental.  Too much heat, and you have a lumpy, yucky mess.  The results are well worth it in the end, but sometimes I just want to be able to enjoy it without all of that effort.  Cue this Insanely Fast & Easy Hollandaise Sauce recipe.  It takes less than 1 minute to make from start (including gathering the ingredients) to finish!  Promise not to tell anyone this, but it's made... in the microwave.  Gasp!  Yes, really!  With this recipe, you can wait until the very last minute, after everything else is cooked and ready to go, to make the sauce!  That's exactly what I did with my Breakfast Skillet Pie!  

This Breakfast Skillet Pie is made in just one skillet.  Seasoned potatoes are the base, and then you add a layer of onions and ham, top it with cheddar cheese, and then crack eggs on top, which are then finished off in the broiler.  Pour that amazing sauce on top of it all, and I promise you'll be licking the plate, wishing you made more!  

January 12, 2017

Roasted Pork Tenderloin in Balsamic-Rosemary Marinade



It took me a while, but I finally figured it out.  I now have a specific spot in my house set up that is intended solely for food blogging!  Since we've moved, I've been taking photos in my bay window, which makes it extremely difficult to get a good picture when the sun goes down before dinner.  Now I have my lighting and everything set up to where I don't have to rely on the time/position of the sun!  Even though artificial lighting isn't as desirable as natural, I'll take whatever I can get during the months of winter!  Happy days!

One of my favorite meals to make is pork tenderloin.  It's easy enough to make for a weeknight meal but good enough to serve to company.  Searing the pork gives it a lovely crust that locks in flavor, and roasting it to an internal temperature of 140 degrees and then allowing it to rest will result in fork-tender deliciousness!  I served mine with a side of quinoa and peas.


May 5, 2016

Skinny Chicken & Shrimp with Quinoa and Vegetables


No interesting story behind this dish -- just another weeknight meal that I'd like to share.  It earned an "excellent" rating from my family.  It's healthy, delicious, and you'll find yourself coming back for more... and more!  


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