Tuesday, January 12, 2016

7-Layer Tostadas

It's been a little while! In case you haven't been following along on social media, the family and I spent almost two weeks in Florida over the Christmas holiday. It was such a needed break for all of us, especially this mama. I can't tell you how good it was to enjoy those days with my loved ones and to experience that beautiful state together. I've come home feeling recharged and ready to jump back into not only blogging, but getting back to our normal day to day activities.

So, thank you for sticking around. I'm anxious to start sharing new recipes and posts with you!

One of the things I missed most while traveling was having my kitchen, or just a kitchen in general to cook in. During our last several days in Florida, we stayed with my husband's aunt and uncle. They had plans for New Year's day so that night we made our way to their local grocery store and purchased ingredients for a simple dinner. I was craving veggies at that point. Not something I would ever have expected from my former self. While it was certainly a very simple meal we prepared together, it was delicious.

I tried having salads, etc as much as I could during our vacation. But you know how it is, it's just hard to always eat like you would normally when on the go. Returning home gave me new energy for meal planning and just cooking in general. I've kept my little notepad near by, jotting down any new ideas that came to mind.

These tostadas were one. We love taco nights in our house and it's fun to come up with new variations to ensure we're never bored. I also love a good layered taco dip; you know the one, with a seasoned sour cream, refried beans, etc. I decided to mix the two together in this meal of ours.

The hubby has to have his meat. Myself on the other hand, I like it, but could really care less. I went with a meatless version, the beans are a great source of protein. I laid these out family or buffet style and let everyone make their own. The kids love that! It gives them control over their food. Everyone ate really well that night, and that always tells me when my meals are a hit. Or maybe just the fact that they were getting tired of eating out. Ha!

I also love this idea for parties. You can set up a little do-it-yourself bar and let everyone make their own tostada. Taco or walking taco bars are always a hit, so here's a different approach. Just make sure to have extra shells on hand, for scooping up the extra goodness on your plate. It's a given!

7-Layer Tostadas

8 oz. sour cream
2 cups {or one can} refried beans
2 avocados
2 tomatoes, diced
1 green pepper, diced
8 oz. grated/shredded cheddar cheese
head of lettuce, chopped
Salsa, for topping if desired
Tostada shells

Mash avocados together in a medium bowl to your desired consistency and set aside.

To assemble tostadas- layer ingredients onto prepared tostada shells in this order: sour cream, beans, mashed avocado, lettuce, cheese, tomato, green pepper and salsa. Of course, you can really layer them in any order you desire.

Serve immediately. Makes enough for 6.

Friday, December 18, 2015


Oh December, where have you gone? The whole year itself has flown by. We've had a busy month so far and have made some awesome new memories.

We kicked the holiday season off with our community's annual Holiday Hoopla event. Our 8-year old performed with her dance team. It was freezing outside that night, but lots of fun! The kids loved seeing Santa and Mrs. Claus arrive.

Next, we spent a morning riding the snowflake express. Another annual event that has become popular in our town. A train ride complete with hot cocoa, cookies, Christmas carols and of course, Santa.

I look forward to my cookie exchange each year, this year happened to have marked my 6th one. As always, the ladies all brought an awesome selection of cookies.

We played a couple games, this reindeer one being new to us. I purchased cheap pantyhose from the Dollar tree and balloons.  Each team picked a leader to wear the "rack". They were given six minutes to blow up as many balloons as they could, while the leader stuffed them into the pantyhose. Whichever team's rack was the biggest won. It was silly, fun, and they were all good sports!

Later that night the hubby and I also attended a fun holiday party. I made him partake in a little photo fun!

While we were gone, the girls spent the evening decorating cookies at my parent's home. They were quite into it. And the stocking hat, I have no idea. She's become obsessed with wearing it everywhere. I said she should be the poster child for my father in law's company!

Now that Christmas is just one week away, the family and I are looking forward to Christmas break off. Almost two weeks of vacation and relaxing.  I've decided to take this time off from blogging and just enjoy some time off from work and with my family. I might try to squeeze in one more post before Tuesday.  Otherwise, expect to see regular posts back in January.  Follow along on Facebook and Instagram though, I'll be sharing what we're up to!

Exciting new things are lined up for 2016, starting with a much needed updated look for the blog! I can't wait to show you. But for now, take time to slow down yourself this season and have a very merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Orange Cranberry Rolls

A couple years ago at Christmas time, I advertised that I was taking orders for cinnamon rolls. I was still working from home as a child care provider and then also decorating cakes/cupcakes on the weekends. Cinnamon rolls happened to be one of the best sellers at my farmers' market booth and I got to thinking, who wouldn't love to wake up on Christmas morning to fresh baked sweet rolls?!

So it was a go, and a big hit at that. My husband was working second shift at the time, so I spent the evening mixing up close to 200 rolls. They rose over night and then on Christmas Eve. morning, I baked them for customers to pick up. All they would have to do is simply reheat the next day and enjoy.

I wish I had time to do it again this year, because I would definitely offer in addition to the cinnamon rolls, my caramel pecan and these new orange cranberry. Next year for sure!

I love a good baking project and sweet rolls are always a welcomed treat in my house. Sundays are my favorite day for baking. I try to have all of our work done around the house, so I can use the day for baking and preparing meals for the upcoming week. I had originally planned to bake scones but after some thinking, I quickly decided to give the sweet roll version a try.

I used my favorite cinnamon roll recipe and just adapted it to the orange and cranberry flavors. Everyone in the house loved the results! Even if a couple of them picked out the cranberries ha! They still went for the citrus flavor. These might have to be a new favorite when it comes to special breakfast treats.

Orange Cranberry Rolls

2-1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1 cup milk, room temp
2 eggs
5 tbsp melted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
4-1/2 cup flour
1 tsp orange zest

for the filling:
2 tbsp melted butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup dried cranberries
zest of one orange

for the buttercream:
1 stick butter, softened
1 lb. powdered sugar
Zest and juice of 1/2 orange
splash of milk, if needed for additional thinning

In the bowl of a stand mixer, dissolve yeast into milk and let sit for 5 minutes. Add in eggs, melted butter, sugar and salt. Mix to combine. Gradually add in flour, you might need to add in up to one half cup more. Mix in orange zest. Once dough has come together, switch to the dough hook and knead for five minutes. Remove dough and place into a large, lightly oiled bowl. Cover with a towel and let rise in a warm spot for one hour.

When dough is ready, punch down and turn over onto a well floured surface. Using a rolling pin, roll dough out into a large rectangle, about 18x16 inches. With a pastry brush, spread melted butter on dough. Sprinkle with brown sugar, cranberries and orange zest.. Starting with the long side, roll up the dough, making sure to pinch seams to seal. Using a sharp knife, cut into 15 slices. Place rolls into greased baking pans.

Cover and let rise for another 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. When ready to bake, place in oven and bake for 25-30 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool while you mix up buttercream.

To prepare buttercream: In a large bowl, cream together butter, orange zest and juice. Gradually add in powdered sugar, mixing together well. Add in milk by the teaspoon, in small increments, just until the buttercream has reached your desired consistency. Frost rolls with buttercream when done.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Delicata Chips

I know what you're thinking, why the squash lady? Bear with me here though. We still have to eat, and foods other than desserts. I've got some of those up my sleeves this holiday season, but let's try to round this out a little bit, shall we?

I told you all about my small makeshift root cellar we put together this year. Well, I'm being a good steward and not letting those veggies go to waste. And I've personally come to love squash of all varieties in my adult years. Crazy how that happens. It's still a work in progress with the children and even the hubby, but we're getting there. They at least humor me and give most everything a try.

Delicata, or sweet potato squash, is one that I've only tried just this year. It's fairly small and has a very delicate skin, in fact you don't even have to peel it. It's also one that won't last for long in storage, so I'm making sure we eat these up before some of our others.

So far, I'm keeping these pretty simple. Cutting them in half and then slicing each side into smaller pieces, tossing with olive oil, salt and pepper and then roasting in the oven. So good! Each slice is tender and has a wonderful, almost sweet taste to it. They are great for snacking or of course, as a side dish. You won't need any sort of dipping sauce, but I've always had good luck getting the hubby to try new veggies when he can dip them in hot sauce; so I figured why not?  Even better in my book. I've still got a couple of these left in our winter storage, we might try stuffing them for a new variation; but if all else fails, I know we'll love this version just as much!

Delicata Squash

1 medium delicata squash
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
hot sauce or buffalo sauce, for serving

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with foil and set aside.

Wash the skin of squash. Slice in half the long way and using a spoon, scoop out pulp and seeds. Then slice each half again into 1/2 inch slices.

Place squash onto prepared baking sheet. Toss all slices with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake in oven for 25 minutes, then using a spatula turn all slices over. Bake for another 20 minutes. Remove from oven. Serve immediately with hot or buffalo flavored sauce, if desired.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Veggie Club Pizza

Did you enjoy a nice Thanksgiving holiday? About shopping, have you ventured out yet? Our family spent the day between both of our families, ending the night at the hockey game. It was a good day surrounded by our loved ones and good food. As for the shopping; the hubby and oldest went to one store and that was it. They picked up the two items they went for and came back home. I haven't really had the desire to shop so I'm staying put in the house.

Before Thanksgiving, we ended the work week with our usual potluck day. All staff members bring in a dish and we take over the conference room as we stuff our faces. We always end up with way too much food and spend our lunch hour chatting among each other and enjoying that relaxing time.

I chose an easy appetizer that I haven't made in years. It's quick to assemble the night before and can set in the fridge for awhile before serving. Did I mention that it's just really good too?

Now you can certainly keep this a traditional veggie pizza, but I love the addition of shredded chicken and crumbled bacon. It adds a bit of heartiness without being too heavy. In fact, I even kept a small section strictly only veggie for my vegetarian friend to enjoy.

Since I love experimenting and creating new recipes on a regular basis, I don't always rely on the same dishes when it comes to party planning. But this used to be one of my go-to appetizers for potluck gatherings or any time I had many mouths to feed. And even though I typically prefer to cook from scratch, even I can use some shortcuts. The crust starts with a couple tubes of crescent rolls and that's okay, they make for a tasty crust and everyone loves it.

We're officially into the holiday season, a time where every weekend seems to be a new party of some sort. It's the time of year where we're constantly whipping up desserts and appetizers to bring to parties. Tuck this easy one in a safe spot, you'll want it create it soon!

Veggie Club Pizza

2 tubes crescent rolls
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sour cream
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp dill weed
salt and pepper
1 cucumber, diced
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
1/2 cup shredded or gated cheddar cheese
1 cup cooked, shredded chicken breast
6 slices cooked bacon, crumbled

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Press crescent rolls out onto a large baking sheet (10x15-inch) and bake in oven for 12 minutes, just until crust is set and lightly browned. Remove from oven to cool while you mix up spread.

In a medium bowl, cream together cream cheese and sour cream until smooth. Add in garlic, dill weed and a pinch of both salt and pepper. When crust has cooled, using a knife or spreader, spread over crust.

Top with cucumber, tomatoes, cheese, chicken and bacon. Serve immediately or cover and store in fridge.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Weekly Menu 11/22

We returned home around eleven this morning from a weekend away. Our 8-year-old had a dance convention, her very first one since she's begun competitive dance this year and of course, taking place during our very first snowfall of the year and a winter warning at that. I got off work about noon on Friday and grabbed the kiddos from school. We were on the road by 1 and boy, it got a little scary during our drive. We were driving right into the storm and the roads were not good at all. It didn't take much convincing that we might want to stay another night at the hotel and wait to come home until today.

It ended up being a fun weekend. Our girl had fun at all of her classes and it was a great learning experience for what is yet to come. We got done at a good time yesterday and were able to do some shopping. But by 6:00 the kids were just done. Instead of going out to eat as planned, we ended up grabbing something quick and took it back to our hotel room to relax. Luckily, we did find a good restaurant across the street from our hotel Friday night and were able to enjoy some delicious pizza there.

It's going to be a short work week with Thanksgiving on Thursday and I'm looking forward to a few days off with the family. I made our meal plan pretty laid back for the week, here's what I've got on tap for the coming days:

Oatmeal {quick oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, milk, cooked in microwave}
Yogurt, granola, pomegranate seeds
French toast

Mini muffins w/yogurt

Spaghetti squash w/marinara and Pizza pockets
Chicken enchilada soup from freezer swap
Grilled cheese
Baked chicken drumsticks
Thanksgiving {I'll be bringing dessert and/or a side dish}
Dinner out
Leftover turkey noodle casserole

Fresh fruit/veggies
String cheese
Energy bites
Air popped popcorn

Friday, November 20, 2015

Ultimate Holiday Baking Checklist

While summer will always be my favorite season, I love the holidays and all the preparation that goes into this busy time of year. Thanksgiving is already less than one week away and then from there on out, Christmas will be here before we know it.

One way I love to celebrate the holidays is through my baking for family and friends. It's time to start sifting through all of my cookbooks, magazines and pinned recipes to start planning my holiday baking list. Our family has their favorites we make each year, but it's also fun to try new recipes.

Once I've got my list all made up, it's time to sit down and write down every single ingredient I will need. Even if I know I have that item on hand, it's good to double check and see if the ingredient is fresh and will last through my baking sessions.

I've put together a little guide for you to consider when it's time to start your own holiday baking. These are items that I try to keep on hand not only during this time, but also year round. I also want to note, on many things I'm not particularly partial to brands. You'll find I do use some name brand items but also some generic. Some things might be organic but not always. It might depend on sales and our budget at the time as to whether we buy organic or not.

I like to keep a variety of flours on hand at all times. Unbleached all-purpose is always a must, you can use it in just about any recipe. I also like bread, cake and whole wheat pastry flours; these are ones I use the most.

Cane, brown and powdered sugar are what you'll find most of the time in my pantry.

Natural Sweeteners:
I do try to use natural sweeteners such as local honey and pure maple syrup as much as I can. I'm becoming more comfortable substituting these in place of sugar, but I also know that some recipes you do just need plain old sugar.

Various Chocolate and Chips:
Chocolate chips should be going on sale soon, if not already. Now is the time to stock up on a variety of these. Anywhere from dark and semi-sweet to cinnamon chips. I also love to keep almond bark on hand, especially for recipes like this one.

Nuts can be expensive, but they certainly can help baked goods to taste so much better. I typically have almonds, pecans, walnuts and even peanuts on hand. Oh, and coconut is a must. If I know I won't be using them all at once, I store the extras in the freezer, coconut stays in the fridge though. This will help to retain the quality and freshness of the nuts.

Dried Fruit:
Raisins and cranberries are almost always in my pantry. They are great additions to granola and cookies. You might have some other favorites that you like to keep stocked.

Both quick-cooking oats and old fashioned oats are in the pantry at all times as well. Along with peanut butter. Seems like there is always something yummy we can make involving those two ingredients.

And butter, you cannot forget the butter! While it's not something stored away in the cupboard, I always aim to have an ample supply of butter. If you find it on sale, grab as many as you can and store the extras in the freezer. It will keep for a long time, if it even lasts that long!

Oils are another item to keep on hand. Whether you use vegetable, canola, olive or coconut; many recipes call for some sort of oil to be used.

Spices, etc:
I always replenish my supply of baking soda and powder at this time of year, that way I know it's fresh and will keep my baked goods at top quality.

If you're comfortable baking with yeast, you'll want to have a small jar in the fridge or at least a couple packets nearby. Cinnamon rolls are a treat on Christmas morning!

Spices should also be checked, make sure you're not baking with two year old cinnamon and nutmeg!

While I'm sure there's an item or two I missed or maybe something you always bake with and I don't; I hope you've got a good idea on how to stock the pantry this holiday season. Take the weekend and leisurely thumb through your family's favorite recipes and make your list. Then go ahead and devise a game plan. Maybe it's preparing a recipe or two each weekend leading up to the holidays. The freezer can be your best friend during this time! I always love freezing cookie dough, cinnamon rolls and unbaked pies. It makes entertaining a breeze or when I need to bring a dessert to a gathering. This allows you more time to focus on your family and friends and that after all, is what is most important!

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