Friday, October 9, 2015

Baked Apples w/Streusel Topping

 This past Sunday I celebrated my birthday; as a family we had planned to travel to a nearby apple orchard. Of course it ended up being one heck of a week with illnesses taking over the family and by Sunday I felt it creeping up on myself. But in the end we decided to go for the short drive and spent a little bit of our morning picking apples together, enjoying a nice hay ride around the orchard and of course, sampling yummy cider donuts!

With each picking season, I love making lists of what I plan to make with my fruits. I do this for all seasons and always have more on my list than what I have time for, but that's really just the fun in it all. I always aim to fill the freezer with applesaucecaramel apple crisppies and maybe some apple butter. Now that I've dipped my feet in canning, I'm excited to try canning some of my own applesauce and maybe even pie filling.

These baked apples were another at the top of the list for this year. Something I've always wanted to make and I'm glad we did. They're like a healthier apple pie. And so very easy too!

I used some of my fruit crisp crumble topping I had in the freezer, and ended up adding just a bit of cinnamon to give it that homemade apple pie taste. We served our warm apples with a little bit of vanilla ice cream and it was certainly a delicious treat. Seriously, just like an apple pie!

Make sure to add these to your fall baking list this year. It'll be something the whole family enjoys!

Baked Apples w/Streusel Topping

6 medium apples
1 jar of fruit crisp crumble
1 tsp cinnamon
vanilla ice cream, for serving

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Wash and core each apple, careful to not cut out the bottom. I found it helpful to use a small paring knife.

Add cinnamon to about half of the crumble, you can store the remaining for another recipe or back in the freezer. Fill each apple with crumble topping, piling on as much as you'd like.

Place the filled apples into a small baking dish. Bake in oven for about 35 minutes. Apples will be soft. Remove from oven, let cool for a few minutes before serving warm with ice cream.

Serves 6

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Fall Soup Swap {Iowa Blogger Style}

Soup season is officially underway and what better way to celebrate than with a soup swap? By now the weather might be cooling down in your area and the crock pot has been turned on a few times already. We don't always have soup real often at our house, but I'm hoping to incorporate such nights into our meal plans this fall and winter season.

I've gathered a few friends to host our own soup swap in just a couple weeks. Similar to my traditional freezer swaps but this time we've chosen to only prepare a soup. We're planning to meet at my house on a Sunday with our prepared recipes times four, that way everyone can go home with a different soup to try.

You could also plan a soup swap just as you would do for a holiday cookie exchange. Invite your friends and family to bring along a favorite soup, along with printed recipes and extra containers. Plan to provide small bowls and silverware for sampling the soups, along with crackers and bread for soaking up that wonderful goodness at the bottom of each bowl. Each guest can then fill their containers with soup to take home and enjoy with their families or stash in their freezer. I love my cookie swaps before Christmas, but I seriously can't wait to give this a try!

For today though, I've gathered a few of my blogger friends and have asked them to share some of their favorite seasonal soups. Anything from traditional classics like chicken noodle and chili to the drool worthy loaded baked potato and fiesta pork soup. You'll want to keep this close by as you're planning your menus out this fall and winter season...or perhaps planning your own soup swap.  Which one are you anxious to try first?

Stove-top Cassoulet

Pork and Barley Soup

Italian Veggie and Chicken Soup

Fiesta Pork Soup

Creamy Chicken and Rice Soup

Cheddar Bacon and Potato Soup

Taco Soup

Easy Chili

French Onion Soup

Zuppa Italiana Soup

Loaded Baked Potato Soup

Comforting Chicken Noodle Soup

Ham and Corn Chowder

Friday, October 2, 2015

Freezer Meal Gift Basket #3

I've decided, if I ever receive the chance to publish a cookbook, it will be on the topic of preparing these meal baskets. Filled with tons of ideas and recipes to help you create the perfect plan for new parents, a neighbor recovering from surgery or just to say "I'm thinking of you" to a friend. And of course everything featured will be inviting enough that you'll want to recreate the dishes for your own family.

So I became an aunt on September 11th! Quite exciting for my side of the family as my girls were the only grand kids thus far. And it's a boy, so even more fun. Throughout their showers they received the majority of the main essentials plus more. My mom and I talked about preparing some meals for them after the baby arrived. I knew I wanted to create another basket perfect for their little family.

After the birth, mom took them meals of chili and chicken and noodles. I know they enjoyed the warm meals and the fact of not having to worry about dinner on those nights. So that's definitely one way to go about it.

But I really love these meal baskets. Because my brother's family does not have a deep freeze, I tried to scale back a bit on the freezer aspect. I tried to keep in mind of all meals plus snacks. With only the two of them in the house, I figured they might appreciate snacky type meals too.

Here's what I included in the basket:

Veggie Lasagna (I left the ground beef out this time)
Orange Rosemary Chicken
Monster Cookie dough balls
French Toast Sticks
Taco Dip (recipe below)
Local Apple Cider- perfect for these chilly evenings
Local Apples, for snacking

And a new book for my nephew, of course!

*Not pictured: brown rice for chicken meal and tortilla chips for dip.

The basket itself, I found at Target. Very inexpensive and something they can end up using in their own home.

I'll leave you with the recipe for this simple layered taco dip. I'm sure you might already have your own version. I figured with football season underway, a good appetizer might be appreciated for game watching.

If you're thinking of putting together your own meal basket, feel free to check out my other two posts for ideas- here and here. Think of your own favorite recipes or what your receiver enjoys most. Remember it doesn't have to be anything fancy!

Layered Taco Dip

14 oz. can refried beans {or homemade}
16 oz. sour cream
1 tbsp chili powder
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp garlic salt
Shredded lettuce
Diced tomato
Diced pepper, olives; if desired
Grated cheddar cheese
Tortilla chips, for serving

Spread beans into bottom of desired pan. This will make enough for a large 9x13 pan, but I divided it into two 10-inch pie tins.

Mix seasonings into sour cream until fully incorporated. Then spread over bean layer. Layer dip with lettuce, cheese, tomato and any other desired toppings.

Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve with tortilla chips.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Orange Rosemary Chicken {Freezer Friendly}

I spent much of my Saturday afternoon in the kitchen cutting and chopping away, preparing meals for my brother's family. I couldn't think of much else I'd rather be doing, it's very relaxing after a busy week. I doubled most everything I made so I could add a few items to our freezer

This particular one only ended up being in the freezer for about 48 hours before I decided to prepare it for our dinner last night. After being gone all day and most of the evening, it was perfect to come home to. With only about twenty minutes on the stove top, supper was ready.

I used a very simple sauce mixture that gave a wonderful fresh, citrus flavor to the chicken. Also paired with fresh veggies that I picked up from the market over the weekend and a wild rice mixture; it was a great one skillet meal!

It also works great as a freezer meal. I did package the veggies and chicken separately just because I didn't want to mix the raw meat. As the chicken thaws, the marinade works to keep the meat flavorful. Start to finish within twenty minutes, you can't beat this quick and nutritious weeknight meal!

Orange Rosemary Chicken {Freezer-Friendly}

1.5 lbs. boneless skinless chicken breasts
grated peel from one orange
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp dried rosemary
pinch of salt and pepper
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
2-3 cups assorted fresh, chopped veggies

In a small bowl, whisk together orange peel, orange juice, olive oil, garlic, rosemary, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Set aside.

Cube chicken and toss into a gallon sized freezer bag. Pour marinade into bag. Squeeze excess air out and seal shut.

Add chopped veggies into another small freezer bag. Seal shut.

Place both bags into one gallon sized bag. Label with date and contents. Place into freezer until ready to prepare.

When ready to cook: Thaw chicken overnight in fridge. Veggies can stay frozen, remove from freezer when you start cooking. Heat a large skillet on stove. Remove chicken from bag and cook in pan until almost cooked through, about 8 minutes. Then add veggies in and let finish cooking until chicken is completely cooked through, about 7 minutes. Veggies should still be slightly crisp.

Remove from stove and serve over rice if desired.

Friday, September 25, 2015

DIY S'more Bar {Pasta Night Recap}

I told you a little about this pasta night we were planning to host this week for our daughter's high school cross country team. I don't remember having such nights when we were in sports growing up but it must be something newer. It's a time for the kids to all get together the evening before their meet to relax, connect with their team mates and enjoy a carb heavy meal.

Last year it didn't work with our schedule to host, but I jumped at the opportunity this time around. I love entertaining and will throw parties any time I get the chance to. Boys and girls have their pasta nights separately, mainly so it's less mouths for the families to feed. Even still, I had planned for close to thirty girls to show. We ended up with about twenty in attendance.

Traditional spaghetti is typically served so that was a given, but I also wanted to make a different dish. My mom volunteered to make her homemade chicken and noodles. It's still pasta but in a way that no one probably had made yet.

We also served up a nice garden salad with various toppings. I kept the other veggies separate and let the girls add in their favorites.

Fresh baked rolls and garlic bread were also served along side. My secret to the rolls? I bought a bag of those frozen Rhode's rolls, let them rise during the day and then baked the rolls in the afternoon. They taste homemade and can't possibly be any easier!

Since it was the first day of fall, of course I had to go with pear crisp and a personal favorite, caramel apple crisp. Both were a big hit as I was left with nearly empty pans.

My actual set up was outdoors, I don't know about you but my house does not seat that many. The weather was perfect so we set up four tables outside with chairs. I purchased some fall colored table clothes from the Dollar Tree and called it good. I even put a small mixture of candy corn and peanuts on each table for munching.

The real winner of the night though, was the s'mores bar I set up around the fire pit. The girls tend to hang out for awhile after they've eaten so I knew they would enjoy sitting around the fire and roasting marshmallows. My own girls have really liked experimenting with different chocolate candies in their s'mores so we made sure to offer some variety. Peanut butter cups are popular and our youngest loves the Kit Kats, which actually aren't too bad.

Now that it's officially fall season and everyone loves having bon fires, consider adding a small DIY s'more bar. It doesn't have to be anything fancy. I just happened to have this tiered platter on hand, but small plates would also be just fine. Kids and even adults will have a great time preparing their own marshmallow treat!

DIY S'more Bar

Graham crackers
Assorted chocolates
Small plates or platters

On a table set out chosen plates or platters. Divide graham crackers, marshmallows and chocolate candies between the plates. Set out large roasting forks for your guests to cook their marshmallows over the fire. Afterwards they may assemble their s'mores with desired chocolates at the table.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Sausage-Potato-Broccoli Skillet

It's been years since I've had or made this dish, but it's another one I remember my mom making for us growing up.  I've been trying to think of super easy meals for us to make on Monday nights when we get home at 7:00 from dance. Even after bringing snacks with us after school, I know everyone's tummies are growling by that time. This skillet meal came to mind and I knew the girls would love it.

I know I've made it for our oldest before, but I don't believe our younger two have had the chance to try it. There really is no recipe here, just a matter of throwing some ingredients together. But it's really good and I know how much you all appreciate simple.

The girls ate well after class and even asked for seconds, which always makes mom happy. We'll definitely be keeping this one tucked away for busy weeknights!

Sausage-Potato-Broccoli Skillet

Olive oil
12 oz. Beef smoked sausage ring
28 oz. bag O'Brien frozen potatoes
1-1/2 cups fresh, chopped broccoli
salt and pepper, to taste

Slice sausage and set aside. Preheat a large pan on the stove with a generous drizzle of olive oil. Toss potatoes into the skillet and let cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes.

Add in sliced sausage and broccoli and cook until meat is warmed through and potatoes are cooked through and browned, about 12 minutes longer. Remove from heat and dish onto plates. Serves 4-6

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Weekly Menu 9/20

I'm really looking forward to this week, we're hosting a pasta night at our house for our daughter's cross country team, well for the girls anyways. The boys meet at another house. But for one night, I get to prepare a delicious meal for 30 carb-hungry teenagers! Thank goodness I've recruited my mother to help out as this is definitely her area of expertise. I plan to share all the details with you later in the week, including a full recap of our menu and the fun s'mores bar I'm planning.

Other than that, it's just the same old routine. Last Monday was a lesson learned, I need to plan super simple meals so we're not eating after 8:00 on dance nights. I think I did much better this week so time will tell.

Anyone else looking forward to the official start of fall? While I do love summer, I truly enjoy the fall weather as well. I'm ready to start baking with apples and enjoying all the squashes we're seeing at the markets. Pumpkin will probably wait just a bit longer, more into October and November...there's plenty of time for that!

Anyhow, here's what I have planned for our menu this week:

Overnight baked apple oatmeal
Eggs w/toast
French toast sticks

Roasted chicken salad wraps
DIY lunchables- meat, cheese, triscuits, fruit
Air-popped popcorn w/cheese, veggies and fruit

Chicken BLTs
Sausage/Potato/Broccoli mixture
Ham steak
Pasta night- traditional spaghetti and chicken and noodles
One pot chili mac and cheese
Pork and apple slaw wrap

Energy bites
String cheese
Fresh fruit/veggies
Beef jerky

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