Easy Cheesy Potatoes!


These "Easy Cheesy Potatoes" are something my mother made when we were growing up and one of the first things I learned to cook as a girl!   These are just pure comfort food and they go with just about anything!  They are not exactly au gratin potatoes or scalloped potatoes.  They are just stewed potatoes with a rich cheese sauce on them.  Here is what you will need:

5 to 6 medium size potatoes, peeled and diced
1 tsp. salt
3 Tbs. butter
3 Tbs. flour
3 cups milk
1/2 tsp. seasoned salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
8 oz. Velveeta cheese, cubed
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese or cheddar Monterrey Jack blend

Place the potatoes in a medium size saucepan.  Cover with water and add 1 tsp. salt.  Bring up to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer.  Simmer until the potatoes are just fork tender.  Don't over cook them or you will end up with mashed potatoes.  Drain them well once they are tender.

While the potatoes are cooking, make your sauce.  I do this in the microwave, just because it's easier. You can also do it on the stove top, but watch it carefully or it will stick. Place the butter in a glass mixing bowl and place in microwave for 1 minute to melt it.  Whisk in the flour until it is incorporated and microwave for about 30 seconds.  It will be bubbly.  Whisk in the milk, seasoned salt, black pepper, and garlic powder.   Place back in the microwave for about 3 minutes.

Whisk until smooth and then add the Velveeta cheese.  Place  back in the microwave for 3-4 minutes. Remove and whisk until the cheese is melted and the sauce is smooth.  If it's not thickened, place back in for another 2 minutes.  Microwaves vary by wattage and some cook hotter than others.  At the end your cheese sauce should be thickened and smooth.  Pour over the potatoes and then put the potatoes in a 2 quart baking dish sprayed with nonstick spray.   Sprinkle the cup of cheddar cheese over the top.  Place in a 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes or just until the cheese on top has melted and they are bubbly.  I like to sprinkle just a little more seasoned salt on top for color. 

These are so good with just about any main course!  I served them here with barbequed pork chops, pinto beans, collard greens and cornbread!  I also like these with meatloaf! 

Deviled Egg Macaroni Salad!


With Easter and Spring right around the corner, my mind is wandering to recipes that are more suited for warmer weather and cookouts!  It can't get here soon enough for me.  I think we all think of eggs and "Deviled Eggs" when we think of Easter.  This recipe is a really delicious combination of hard boiled eggs, macaroni, and veggies with a tasty dressing.   Here is what you will need:

1 lb. elbow macaroni, cooked according to pkg. directions
6 hard boiled eggs, peeled and diced
2 cups mayonnaise
1 Tbs. yellow mustard
2 Tbs. sugar
1 tsp. white vinegar
1/3 cup sweet pickle relish
2 stalks of celery, diced
1 red or green bell pepper, diced
1 bunch green onions, sliced thin including the green blades
1 tsp. seasoned salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
paprika

Drain the cooked pasta well and set aside.  In a mixing bowl, combine the mayonnaise, yellow mustard, sugar and white vinegar and stir until the sugar has dissolved.   Stir in the pickle relish, celery, bell pepper, green onions, seasoned salt, and black pepper.   Place the pasta and the diced boiled eggs in a large bowl and pour the dressing over all and toss lightly until it is all coated.  

Sprinkle the top with paprika!

You can serve this immediately or chill and serve cold!   This would be great for cookouts or potlucks, because it feeds a crowd and it is so tasty!

Chicken Taco Soup!


This "Chicken Taco Soup" puts a little different spin on the usual Taco Soup  that is made with ground beef.  I came up with this one day when I just didn't have any ground chuck thawed out, but I had some chicken breasts.  The results were delicious and I think we liked it just as well, if not even better!  I cooked this on the stove top, but you could use your slow cooker also.  Here is what you will need:

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (could use a rotisserie chicken)
olive oil
seasoned salt 
black pepper
1 medium sweet onion, diced
1 red or green bell pepper, diced
1 (14.5 oz.) can Red Gold chili ready tomatoes
1 (10.5 oz.) can Rotel tomatoes with green chilies
1 (15 oz.) can tomato sauce
1 (15 oz.) can Great Northern or navy beans, drained and rinsed 
1 (15 oz.) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 pkg. taco seasoning
1 pkg. dry ranch dressing mix
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
3 cups water

Garnishes
shredded cheddar or Monterrey Jack cheese
sliced green onions
sliced black olives
jalapeno pepper rings
sour cream
Fritos or tortilla chips

Place the chicken breasts on a baking sheet and drizzle with a little olive oil.  Sprinkle both sides lightly with seasoned salt and black pepper.   Roast in the oven at 375 for about 40-45 minutes or untl done.  Turn over once about midway through.  Take and allow to cool enough for handling.  While they cool some, prepare the other ingredients.

Place about 3 Tbs. olive oil in a Dutch oven or a soup pot.  Add the onion and bell pepper and saute just until they are starting to get tender.  Add all of the other ingredients and stir to blend.  

Shred the chicken into bite size pieces and add it to the pot.  If you use two forks to shred  the chicken it makes it easier.   Bring up to a boil and then reduce to medium low and cook for about 30 - 45 minutes.  The longer this simmers the better the flavors become.  

If you want to use your slow cooker for this, place the onion and bell pepper in the bottom of the slow cooker.  Place the chicken breasts, raw, on top of that layer and season with seasoned salt and pepper. Add the other ingredients and reduce the water to 1 cup.  Cook for 8 hours on low.  Remove the chicken breasts, shred them and then return to the soup.  

I set the various toppings out in individual bowls and let everyone top their own how they like! This was a sure winner at our house!




Southern Goulash!

When we were growing up, my mother made two very different types of  'goulash'.  One was a Hungarian goulash that was chunks of beef in a sour cream sauce spiced with paprika and served over egg noodles and the other one was a southern type of goulash that I think just about every southern mama had some sort of  'recipe' for.   Now, this wasn't an actual recipe, but just what they probably grew up on themselves or something.   This was a hamburger goulash and Mama's always has elbow macaroni in it.  It was cooked in a tomato type sauce, but not spaghetti sauce, just tomatoes and/or tomato sauce.  Sometimes, if my mother didn't have tomato sauce, she might even use a can of tomato soup.  

I used to think that I actually liked the Hungarian goulash best, but after I grew up I found myself liking the southern goulash more.   It's a quick, economic meal that really stretches a pound of ground beef.  Is this how your mother made goulash, probably not exactly, but maybe similar.  I think every family did it a little different.  But here is what you'll need for my mama's goulash:

1 lb. ground chuck, browned
1 medium onion, chopped
1/3 cup red or green bell pepper chopped
2 cups elbow macaroni, uncooked
1  15 oz. can of stewed tomatoes
1  15 oz. can tomato sauce
4 cups of water
1 Tbs. sugar
1 Tbs. Italian seasoning or 1 tsp. basil and 1 tsp. oregano
1 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. seasoned salt
1 tsp. garlic salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. Cajun seasoning like Tony Chachere's (optional)
dash of Tabasco sauce
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese 


Brown ground beef along with the chopped onion and the chopped bell pepper. 




Add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, seasonings, macaroni and water.  Bring to a boil then turn to low. Stir well to be sure it isn't sticking and then cover and simmer until the macaroni is tender and most of the water is absorbed.  If it seems too dry add a little more water,  If it's too liquid, just leave the top off for a little while and turn the heat up a little.  The extra water will evaporate.  It's usually not too moist, but sometimes you do have to add a little water. Don't overcook the pasta.


Before serving sprinkle with the Parmesan and the cheddar cheeses. If you used an oven proof pan, you can run this in the oven to melt the cheese or just cover and let it melt on the stove. The cheese is something I added. My mother didn't put cheese on hers. I just happen to like cheese! 







   



Southern Roast Beef Hash!


This "Southern Roast Beef Hash" is a meal my mother always made if we had leftover roast beef. Usually it was when she had cooked a chuck roast with carrots and potatoes around it.  It's a great way to use all of the leftovers...the beef and the vegetables, but it doesn't taste like the same leftovers. I like to serve it with beans and Cornbread Hoe Cakes!

I asked my husband when we first got married if he like hash.  He just had a blank look on his face, so I described it.  He said he had never heard of it.  I thought that was odd, because I knew his mother cooked roast, carrot and potatoes, but then I realized that they had 6 people in there family, so I bet they never had any leftovers.  I made and now he just loves it.

You can use any type of roast for this.  For this one, I had made The Mississippi Roast and cooked carrots and potatoes around it and it is so good that way.  Here is what you will need:

2 Tbs. bacon drippings or oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cups carrots, diced
3 cups, potatoes, diced
3 cups roast beef, cubed
salt to taste
black pepper to taste

I a large skillet heat the bacon drippings or oil.  The bacon drippings give this such a great flavor. Add the onion and uncooked potatoes and carrots and saute them all just until they are starting to get soft. 

Add the beef and if you have any left over carrots and potatoes, dice them up and add the also.  You should have some gravy or beef juices left also so add some of that.  You don't want this to be too soupy so maybe not all of it.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Cover and cook on medium low until the potatoes and carrots are tender.  It takes about 30 minutes.  

Uncover and turn the heat up and cook until it thickens up and it has a hash consistency.  Turn it frequently, because it can burn on the bottom.  

It's ready to serve!  See how quick and easy that was!  Sometimes I enjoy this more than the original roast!  This is just good country food!

Southern Coconut Cupcakes...Perfect for Your Valentine!

  
These "Southern Coconut Cupcakes" are made with the exact same recipe my mother uses for her coconut cake that everyone loves.  As good as it is in a layered cake, for some reason, when you make it in cupcakes it tastes even better.  I know that is silly, but isn't there just something about a cupcake that tastes better than a slice of cake?  I guess it's a kid thing or it might be that the ratio of frosting to cake is almost equal...lol.    These cupcakes are so gorgeous that they will rival any old designer cupcake shop and you can make 18 of them for less than $10.00.  Try buying 18 of those designer cupcakes and they will break the bank.  These will taste better also!  Here is what you need:

1   15.25 butter cake mix (Be sure to get the full size cake mix and not the reduced size some companies are now marketing)
3 large eggs
1 cup Sprite or 7 Up
1 stick of butter, melted
1 tsp. vanilla

Icing
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup white corn syrup
3 egg whites
1 tsp. baking powder
2 cups shredded coconut
red food coloring

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Baking at a little higher temperature makes them rise higher to get that big cupcake look.

Mix all of the cake ingredients together with a wire whisk until well blended. Don't use an electric mixer for this.  Mama says it makes a the cupcakes dry when you beat the batter up too long. 
Place 18 of your cupcake cups in a muffin tin.  Fill each one about 3/4 full.  Place in the preheated 375 degree oven for 18 - 20 minutes. 

While the cupcakes cool, make the icing.

Place the sugar, water, and corn syrup in a sauce pan on medium heat.  Using a candy thermometer cook to the soft ball stage or 240 degrees, stirring constantly.  The mixture should become almost clear.   You can also do this in the microwave to make this step easier.  Cook on high for 4 minutes, remove and stir well and then cook for about 3 more minutes on high.  This could vary by a minute or two depending on the power of your microwave. It still needs to reach the soft ball stage.




  With an electric mixer beat the egg whites with the baking powder until it reaches the soft peak stage. 



 Slowly pour in the syrup and keep mixing until the icing stands in peaks.  This takes some time to accomplish so don't give up on it. Just keep beating it and eventually the peaks will form.




To tint your coconut place 1/2 of it in a Ziploc bag and put a few drops of red food coloring in it.  Mix it around until the coconut is red.   Frost the cooled cupcakes generously with the frosting.  Sprinkle 1 cup of plain white coconut on them and then go back over them all with the 1 cup of red coconut.   You can dye all of the coconut red also if you prefer.  This variegated look is just really pretty and doesn't look overdone.

  






Veggie Lover Lasagna!



If you have followed this site or read many of my posts and recipes for long, you know I am not a vegetarian.    However, I do love vegetables and eat tons of them. I can't even think of a vegetable I don't like.  Well, maybe brussel sprouts which I am not crazy about, but my sister showed me a way to cook them that made me actually like them. 

 I did try to give up eating meat once, for some reason that I cannot now imagine, and it was not pretty.  By the end of a week, I was meaner than a junkyard dog.  Everyone around me, who had to put up with me, begged me to just eat a pork chop!  I was just not designed to be an herbivore.  Bunny rabbits are cute, but it isn't me! 

  I do get requests for vegetarian dishes quite a bit, but I also get requests for low fat and sugar free ones and when I post them, no one pays much attention to them.  I always wondered why there weren't more food blogs dedicated to vegetarian, vegan, fat free, sugar free, gluten free, light...now I know!  Nobody reads them!  

I do love this vegetable lasagna though and I promise you, you will not even miss the meat.  I promise!  I think Italian food can get away with not using meat easier than most, because of all of the flavor you put in it and of course, the cheese.   This is a great recipe for summer when zucchini and yellow squash are so abundant.   Here is what you will need for this:

9 lasagna noodles, cooked according to package directions
3 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
1 medium sweet onion, diced
1/2 cup green or red bell pepper, diced
1 Tbs. garlic, minced
2 cups zucchini, diced
2 cups yellow squash, diced
1 cup shredded carrot or cut in very small matchsticks
2 cups fresh mushrooms diced
1 (14.5 oz.) can diced tomatoes with Italian seasonings
1 (15 oz.) can tomato sauce
1 (6oz.) can tomato paste
1 cup water
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 Tbs. dried parsley
2 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. sugar
32 oz. carton of ricotta cheese
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
3 cups Mozzarella cheese, shredded and divided

In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil and add the onion and green or red pepper.  Saute until just soft.  Add the zucchini, yellow squash, garlic and carrots.  I like to cut the zucchini and yellow squash in thin circles and then diced.  I don't think they work as well if left in big hunks or huge slices. This should all cook down somewhat into sort of a vegetable ragout.  Add the mushrooms right at the end, because the will cook fast and does not need to be cooked too much.  You want the veggies soft but still with a little bite to them, not mushy.



Once all of the veggie are just soft, but still have some body to them, add the tomatoes, tomato sauce and tomato paste.  If the tomatoes are in big hunks, take your kitchen shears and cut them up some.  I hate big hunks of tomato in my lasagna sauce.  That's just me, if you like hunks, leave them in! 

 Add all of the seasonings, sugar and water to the sauce.   Bring up just to a bubble and then lower heat to low, cover and simmer while you assemble the other ingredients.

Mix the ricotta with the beaten eggs until smooth.  Add 3/4 of the Parmesan cheese, and 2 cups of the Mozzarella cheese and mix until well combined.  This mixture should be fairly thick.


Spread a layer of the sauce in a deep 9"x13" baking dish that has been sprayed with nonstick spray. 

Lay three of the lasagna noodles on top of the sauce.  Dollop the cheese mixture over the noodles.

Continue to repeat the layers.

Finish with the sauce and the other 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese.

Finish the top with the last cup of Mozzarella and bake uncovered for about 40 minutes.

It will be bubbly around the edges!
















Creamy Lemon Chicken Pasta Bake!


This "Creamy Lemon Chicken Pasta Bake" is a recipe you will probably want to put in your rotation of favorites.  It's easy and the flavors are delicious.  I like lemon in anything and even though you might not think of it in a pasta dish, it's fairly subtle in this!   The other great thing about this recipe is that you usually have the ingredients on hand.  This will feed quite a few people also!  Here is what you will need:

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 tsp. lemon pepper seasoning (divided)
1 tsp. Greek seasoning, divided
1 lb. bow tie pasta, cooked according to the package directions for al dente (could use penne, rotinni, or ziti)
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, divided
2 (10 ounce) cans of cream of chicken soup
1 (12 ounce) can evaporated milk
2 cups sour cream
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 Tbs. lemon juice
1 Tsp. lemon zest
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 sleeve of buttery crackers, crushed  (I used Ritz)

Preheat over to 375 degrees.  

Sprinkle both sides of the chicken with half of the lemon pepper seasoning and half of the Greek seasoning. Place on a baking sheet.  Bake in the oven until done, about 40-45 minutes depending on the size. 

Cook the pasta according to the package directions, shy of about a minute or two, since you will be baking this also.  Drain and return to the warm pot, but off of the heat.  Add 1/2 of the butter or 4 Tablespoons.  Let the butter melt most of the way.   Add the cream of chicken soups, evaporated milk, sour cream, 1/2 of the Parmesan cheese, lemon juice, lemon zest, 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/4 tsp. black pepper, the other half of the Greek seasoning and the rest of the lemon pepper seasoning.   Toss to mix all and get all of the pasta coated.    

Dice the chicken in small bites and add to the pasta and toss.  Pour into a 2  1/2 to 3 quart casserole dish.   Sprinkle the rest of the Parmesan cheese over the top.  Sprinkle with the cup of shredded cheddar cheese then sprinkle the crushed crackers over all.  Dot with pats of the rest of the butter. Place in the oven at 350 degrees and bake for 35-40 minutes or until its bubbly and just browning. 

See the bubbly around the edges and how it's just starting to brown and get yummy!

Serve this with a green vegetable or a nice salad and dinner is served!

Buffalo Chicken Pasta Salad!

 

If you love buffalo hot wings and you also like pasta salads, you will really love the combination of the two in this pasta salad.   This is a very flexible recipe and can be adjusted to your individual tastes.  Some folks like bleu cheese dressing with their wings, some prefer ranch, so this salad has a ranch dressing with bleu cheese crumbles.  If you don't care for the taste of bleu cheese, substitute some crumbled feta cheese for a milder taste.   No one taste overwhelms in this salad which makes it more appealing to a variety of taste buds.   It also goes together so quickly because you can use diced rotisserie chicken or roast your own.  Even left over chicken breasts work great!  Here is what you will need:

2 cups diced chicken breast
8 oz. uncooked pasta or half of a box ( I used bow tie, but penne or even elbow would work)
1/2 cup hot wing sauce, like Frank's or Texas Peete, divided
1 Tbs. butter
1 cup ranch dressing (whatever you prefer, I like to make mine but a good bottled works)
1/2 cup bleu cheese crumbles (substitute feta if you don't care for bleu cheese)
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup shredded carrot
1/2 cup chopped green onions including some of the green blade
seasoned salt to taste
black pepper to taste
garlic powder

IF you are cooking your chicken breasts for this, place them in a pan and sprinkle with seasoned salt, pepper, and garlic powder.  Divide the butter and put pats on each chicken breast.  Drizzle with half of the hot sauce.  Bake until done but still moist. Dice into bite size pieces. If you are using rotisserie chicken or leftover chicken, chop into bite size pieces and toss it with the butter, seasoned salt, pepper, garlic powder and half of the hot sauce in a skillet until well coated and seasoned.  Set aside off heat until ready to mix salad.  
Cook the pasta in salted water until al dente, about 1 minute less than the package directions.  Drain and rinse under cold water for a just a few minutes to stop cooking.  Dice celery, green onion, and grate carrots.  Mix pasta, vegetables, crumbled bleu cheese, chicken and ranch dressing in a mixing bowl or I just add it back to the pan I cooked the pasta in (make sure it's dry and cool).




Add the remainder of the hot sauce, a dash of seasoned salt, dash of black pepper (fresh ground is really good), and a dash of garlic powder.  Gently fold it all together.  At this point, taste and if you like more spice, add a little more hot sauce or if you like more dressing add a little more ranch dressing.  Place in a pretty salad bowl and you can serve it as is, at room temperature or refrigerate to chill.  The flavors do intensify as it melds together so remember that when adding hot sauce.

!







Honey Dijon Pork Chops!



These "Honey Dijon Pork Chops" are so delicious and so easy.  This requires just a few ingredients, but the results are amazing!  They turn out fork tender and so tasty!  Here is what you will need:

4-6 bone-in or boneless pork chops (I used bone-in)
seasoned salt
black pepper
extra virgin olive oil or canola oil
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1 Tbs. soy sauce
juice of half of a lemon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Sprinkle the chops with the seasoned salt and pepper on each side to taste.  In an oven proof skillet brown the chops on both sides in the olive oil.  If you don't have an oven proof skillet, transfer them to a baking dish when browned.  

In a bowl mix the honey, Dijon mustard, garlic powder, and soy sauce until smooth.  Drizzle evenly over the pork chops, making sure they are covered.   Squeeze the fresh lemon juice over all.  Cover and place in the oven for 40 minutes.   Uncover, turn each chop over to get them evenly sauced on both sides.  Leave them uncovered and place back in the oven for 7-10 minutes. 

They will be caramelized and juicy!  You can cut them with a fork.  The bone-in chops have a little more flavor and I prefer them for this, but boneless is also good!