Friday, June 29

A Perfect Fit ~ Miss Macie

Miss Macie. Macie May. Wittle Wittle. Whatever name she may be called, I absolutely completely love this little girl. The whole family loves her and she loves us back. She is sweet, beautiful and a bit sassy to boot.

Macie has been a part of our family since the end of April. She is a 3 year old Min Pin that already has a forever place in my heart. Can you believe we found her on craigslist for mere pocket change? The saying that one's person junk is another's treasure, certainly applies here. We are at least her 3rd family and I wouldn't give her up for anything. I fell in love with her instantly. I shamelessly carry her everywhere, I wrap her in blankets, giving her her own chair next to mine when I am on the computer and do the annoying baby talk (along with massive amounts of kisses). She is my babygirl.

Yet, I am not the only one in this house she has wrapped around her tiny paws... John, the guy who doesn't really like dogs (after all he is terribly allergic to most), may even be more smitten than I. To see a 6' 5" guy do baby talk and make sure she has her share of  blanket during naptime, is quite a sight. Something I never thought I would ever see. 

So, meet our precious girl. You will be seeing a lot of her in the future. 

I linked up with Photo Friday's Challenge: Dog

Thursday, June 28

Wooden Doorway ~ Thursday Photo Challenge

Between every two pines is a doorway to a new world.  ~John Muir

I linked up with Spun with Tears photo challenge: Wooden

Tuesday, June 26

Crockpot Teriyaki Chicken

It's me again, sharing another crockpot recipe in the summer. It seems the majority think your crockpot can only be used during the cooler months but I am very attached to mine and continue to use it year round. It doesn't heat up your kitchen like an oven does and as I have said before, it's so easy to use, leaving me with more free time to enjoy the beautiful weather and sunshine. No worries though, I do have a long list of summer time recipes I am excited to share with you.

If you like teriyaki, you will love this. If you aren't sure, this is a great recipe to take a chance and see if you do. 

3 lbs. boneless skinless chicken thighs
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cups low sodium soy sauce
6 TBLS. cider vinegar
3/4 tsp. ground ginger
3/4 tsp. minced garlic
1/4 tsp. pepper
4 tsp. cornstarch
4 tsp. water
cooked long grain rice

Place chicken in crockpot.

In a large bowl, combine sugar, soy sauce, vinegar, ginger, garlic and pepper. Pour mixture over the chicken. Cover and cook on low 4 to 5 hours. Remove chicken with a slotted spoon. Cover and keep warm.

Skin fat from the liquid left in the crockpot. Place leftover liquid in a saucepan and bring to a boil. 

In a separate bowl, combine water and cornstarch until mixed smoothly. Gradually add to crockpot liquid, stirring while adding. Stir until sauce is thickened. Mix sauce and chicken together.

Serve over rice.

Monday, June 25

Blueberry Streusel Muffins

Because I simply love muffins, I try new variations often. John is more of a cupcake kind of guy, so I thought maybe the addition of Streusel would help make these more appealing to him. It did the trick!

Here is a simple, basic recipe for delicious muffins that are not only great for breakfast but a quick snack too.

Muffin Ingredients:
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cup blueberries

1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup flour
2 tsp. butter
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line standard size muffin tin with liners.

In a large bowl, beat eggs; gradually add sugar while beating. Continue beating while slowly stirring in oil. Stir  in vanilla.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, salt and baking soda. Stir dry ingredients into egg mixture. Add sour cream. Slowly stir in blueberries.

Fill muffin cups 3/4 full. In a medium bowl, combine brown sugar, flour butter and cinnamon until crumbly. Sprinkle over each muffin.

Bake for 18 - 20 minutes or until lightly golden and muffins spring back when touched with a finger.

Cool in pan for 5 minutes and then transfer to wire rack to cool completely. Store in airtight container  immediately after cooling.

Friday, June 22

In the Crockpot ~ Shredded Beef Tacos

There are a few key factors when making shredded beef in your crockpot that can really make all the difference. First, if you have the time, always cook it on low rather than high. The meat will be much more tender. Second, don't be afraid to add a lot of spicing. Third, which goes hand and hand with the second, take time to really shred the beef well. Shredding it as small as possible gives you the shredded texture that makes for an awesome taco. Along with that, the small shredding tends to take some of the flavor away, so spicing well brings it back or at least keeps it dominant after shredding. 

Besides my store bought tortillas, these tacos were definitely restaurant quality. Try them and see for yourself!

2 TBLS. olive oil
2 lbs. boneless chuck roast
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp.cumin
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
1 cup beef stock
2 TBLS. tomato paste
1 chipotle pepper in adobe sauce, minced
1/2 large sweet onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat high heat. Combine chili powder, cumin and smoked paprika in a bowl.

Rub the spice mixture into the roast, covering all sides. Place the roast in the skillet with the oil and sear on each side.

Place the roast in your crockpot. Leaving your skillet on the heat, add the beef stock. Add in the tomato paste and chipotle pepper. Whisk together. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer a few minutes until the sauce has thickened slightly. 

Add the minced onion and garlic to the top of the roast. Pour the sauce in the pan over the roast. 

Cover and cook on low 6 - 8 hours.

Remove the roast from the crockpot and shred using two forks. Using a slotted spoon, remove the onions from the crockpot and mix them in with the shredded beef. 

Serve in tortillas with your favorite taco fillers. I used Mexican blend shredded cheese and sour cream. 

Thursday, June 21

Mexican Rice

Our local Mexican restaurant has the most amazing menu. I have a hard time choosing what to order as it is all delicious. No matter what I do finally decide on, I always take an a la carte Mexican rice home. They have the best rice, a little drier with all the right seasonings. 

I have been trying for about a year now to replicate it. I made some pretty fantastic rice dishes but none close enough. Until this one. In fact, without blowing my own horn here, I think this one is a little bit better. Now I can have it whenever I want!

2 TBLS. olive oil
2 cups long grain rice
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
3 cups chicken broth
2 cups fresh tomatoes, diced
1 1/2 tsp. cumin
3/4 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. salt

Heat oil in a large skillet and brown rice over medium heat. Add chopped onions and garlic. Saute for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add chicken broth, tomatoes, cumin, chili powder and salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until rice is tender and liquid has been absorbed, about 20 minutes. Fluff rice and cover fir an additional 5 minutes.

*If you like your rice a little less tender, reduce simmer time to 15 minutes and do not fluff and cook for the additional 5 minutes.

Wednesday, June 20

Tuna Cold Dish ~ Summer Party Food

I have to share another childhood recipe. My mom only made this cold dish to pass around at get togethers, because everyone requested it. She most often used canned tuna but once in a while she used *gasp* Spam. Yep, and it was just as popular with tuna as it was with Spam. The concept of Spam is not a pretty picture to me. Yet I have used Spam myself a time or two and have enjoyed every bite. True story.

I recommend making this the night before as the longer it chills, the better the flavor. The recipe makes a large amount, perfect for passing around at potlucks or backyard barbecues. 

2 cups Miracle Whip
1 TBLS. sugar
1/2 tsp. yellow mustard
1 TBLS. vinegar

1 1/2 lbs. elbow macaroni
2 (10 oz.) canned peas, drained
2 large cans tuna (water based), drained
2 tomatoes, diced
4 oz. Colby cheese, cubed

In a medium bowl, mix Miracle Whip, sugar, mustard and vinegar. Add milk in small amounts, stirring in between, until consistency is a little thinner than cream soup. Put mixture in refrigerator until needed.

Boil elbow macaroni according to package directions.

While macaroni is boiling, add peas, tuna, tomatoes and cheese to a large bowl. 

When macaroni is tender, drain and rinse in cold water until noodles are somewhat chilled. Add noodles to the large bowl mixture. Pour Miracle Whip mixture over the top and stir until all ingredients are well coated.

Tightly cover bowl and chill until meal time. Chill at least 2 hours before serving. Overnight is best.

Tuesday, June 19

Photoblog Challenge ~ Begins with "P"

We are definitely taking advantage of the warm, sunny days here with trips to the park and drives in the countryside. I continue to take shots of every flower I see. I don't think I will ever tire of  it. I took this slightly out of focus, hoping to bring a softness to the tiny flowers instead of clarity. I am really liking the result.

I linked up with Photoblog Challenges theme: Begins with "P". 

Monday, June 18

Peanut Butter Pie

I've had a love affair with peanut butter since the beginning of time. I think it comes from my dad who made us the best peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for dessert when I was a kid. I would try to make them myself but my dad's were always way better. 

I am never without a jar; currently have two in the cupboard. I eat it off a spoon, mixed in with vanilla ice cream, on toast or in a pickle sandwich. Peanut butter makes the world a better place.

When I got the idea in my head to make a peanut butter pie, I wasn't quite sure where to start. I wanted something smooth, not dry and also not too overwhelming with peanut butter flavor. This exceeded my expectations, by a long shot. I licked every spoon, spatula and bowl while making it. I probably consumed a whole pie in the process. I have no self control when it comes to peanut butter. Mix that with some chocolate and I am in real trouble. 

This might just be the perfect pie. If you make this and need me to come over for a second opinion or to lick the beaters...just know I am here for you.

1 (5 oz.) pkg. instant vanilla pudding
2 cups skim milk
1/2 cup whipping cream, whipped
1 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1 pre-baked pie shell, lightly browned
1 (8 oz.) Cool Whip
chocolate syrup
crushed peanuts

Bake pie shell as instructed. Let cool and pour desired amount if chocolate syrup in crust bottom. Freeze until set.

Whisk together pudding mix and cold milk in a bowl until creamy. Add whipped whip whipping cream and peanut butter. Whisk until completely blended.

Pour into pie shell and freeze for one hour. Remove from freezer and cover with crushed peanuts. Drizzle with chocolate syrup. Cover and chill at least 2 hours. 

Serve with dollops of  Cool Whip. 

Friday, June 15

Crockpot Chicken Parmesan

I use my crockpot during the summer months almost as much as I do the winter months. Not only for the convenience but I have yet to have my family not like a crockpot recipe. I usually have much more time in the morning than the evening. Nothing better than to serve a hearty meal at the end of a long day and not have to worry I will be too tired or not have a lot of time. Plus, the aroma of a crockpot meal going through the house all day never gets old.

You can mix this up in the morning, throw it in your crockpot and you are set for the evening's meal. Just add your favorite pasta.

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. Kosher salt
1 TBLS. olive oil
1 egg, beaten
4 slices mozzarella cheese
1 (28 oz.) jar marinara sauce

Distribute olive oil evenly in the bottom of the crockpot.

In a small bowl, beat the egg. In a separate medium bowl, mix the bread crumbs, spices and grated Parmesan cheese together.

Dip the chicken breasts in the egg, coating all sides and then also coat in the bread crumb mixture.

Place chicken breasts in the crockpot. Top each chicken breast with a slice of mozzarella cheese. Pour marinara sauce over the breasts. 

Heat on low for 6 -7 hours or high 3-4 hours. 

Serve over your favorite pasta.

Thursday, June 14

Thursday Photo Challenge ~ Big

Found this impressive Clydesdale statue on one of our family drives a couple weekends ago. While I wish it was a real Clydesdale, I can't help but be impressed still. The kid in me wanted to climb on it's back. Since I only came up to the middle of it's belly, that wasn't possible, but had it been...well, yeah, you can't take me anywhere.

I linked up with Spun with Tears, Thursday Challenge: Big

Wednesday, June 13

Baked Spinach & Artichoke Dip

There are many recipes out there for artichoke dip. This is one of my favorites for the warm version. I love the chilled version too and hope to post my recipe for that soon, now that summer and all it's fun activities are here. This is a big hit, even for those who turn up their nose at the words "spinach" and "artichoke". 

You can serve this warmed right out of the oven or at room temperature. I usually pair it with crackers or tortilla chips and it's gone before it even cools down.

8 oz. cream cheese
1/3 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 cup chopped spinach
2 cans/jars non-marinated artichoke hearts, chopped
garlic salt
chili powder
handful of shredded mozzarella cheese

Warm cream cheese in microwave for 2 minutes with your microwave setting at 50%.

Mix all ingredients (including warmed cream cheese) together well in a large bowl. 

Put in a 9 x 13 inch baking dish and top with additional shredded mozzarella.

Broil until top starts to turn brown. 

Tuesday, June 12

Photoblog Challenge ~ Black & White with Grain

Am I the only person that finds angel statues unnerving rather than comforting? They are beautiful, some even falling into the fascinating category but I can't say I find them comforting. The worst to me are the cherubs. They actually creep me out a bit! I mean no disrespect to the dead, whom they are meant to keep watch over.

Maybe it has something to do with the fact that Constantine is one of my very favorite movies. The amount of times I have watched it is shameful. Tilda Swinton as Gabriel was genius. Not sure what it says about me that horror flicks are my favorite, yet angels make me uneasy? I try not to think on it too much...but I digress. 

I linked up with Photoblog Challenges: B&W with Grain

Monday, June 11

Cheesy Potatoes with Ham

It is important to me, now that I am working nights all this summer, to make sure my guys have hearty meals in my absence. Meals they can easily reheat and still enjoy. I know if I didn't, they would have no problem grabbing whatever processed food was in front of them. It makes me feel so much better knowing they have a good home-cooked meal.

This potato mixture is some serious goodness. The combination of flavors is amazing. See those juices? I am not saying this meal is exactly healthy but I am saying there will not be any leftovers. I used the remainder of the ham leftover from the ham slider recipe I posted earlier. If you don't have any ham, the Julienne ham in the lunch meat section of your grocery store works great too. 

5 to 6 large potatoes
1 pint whipping cream
salt and pepper to taste
2 tsp. parsley flakes
2 cups grated cheddar cheese, medium or sharp
2 cups cubed ham

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Peel the potatoes and cut into thin french fry like strips. Mix well with the cubed ham. Evenly layer on the bottom of (preferably glass) 9 x 13 inch pan.

Pour the whipping cream over the fries. Graciously salt and pepper. Sprinkle with grated cheese and then with the parsley flakes. Cover with foil. Poke a few holes in the foil.

Bake about 1 hour or until potatoes are tender. 

Remove from oven and remove foil. Let set 10 minutes before serving.

Absolutely delicious!

Friday, June 8

Photo Friday ~ Geometric

You never know when a photo opportunity will present itself. I see them everywhere. I am constantly in camera mode whether I have my cameras with me or not. I cannot help myself. Lucky for me, John indulges and even encourages this passion/obsession I have. Take this shot. I am hanging out the car window checking my settings while he calmly watches for traffic. He sees a stop sign, I see my best shot of the day waiting for me. Unplanned, spontaneous and in my mind's eye, brilliant.

I linked up with Photo Friday's Challenge: Geometric

Thursday, June 7

Ham & Cheese Sliders with Poppy Seed Sauce

recipe from

These just might be the absolute best sliders I have ever devoured, I mean eaten. No, really. I originally made these with my leftover Easter ham. After our Easter meal, we had a lot more ham than I had anticipated left over. Even after a few of the late night ham sandwiches that are amazing with just mayo and bread. I wanted to try something new and I haven't worked with sliders much, so the timing was perfect.

Wow, just wow. I will definitely be making these every Easter from now on, but they are also perfect for any get together. Easy to make and not only are they amazing right out of the oven, but just as tasty at room temp. or chilled. 

I used Hawaiian rolls as they are a favorite for us.

24 white dinner rolls
24 pieces of ham
24 small slices Swiss cheese
1/3 cup mayo
1/3 cup Miracle Whip

Poppy Seed Sauce:
1 TBLS. poppy seeds
1 1/2 TBLS yellow mustard
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 TBLS. minced onion
1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl, mix together mayo and Miracle Whip. Spread onto both sides of center of rolls. Place a slice of ham and a slice of Swiss cheese on each roll. Close rolls and place them on a large cookie sheet (lightly sprayed). Place them very close together.

In a medium bowl, whisk together all of the poppy seed sauce ingredients. Pour evenly over the sandwiches. You don't have to use all of the sauce. 

Let sit 10 minutes or until the butter sets slightly. Cover with foil and bake for 12 - 15 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Uncover and cook for 2 additional minutes or until tops are slightly brown and crispy. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 6

Chocolate Layer Cake with Coconut Cream Frosting

My fascination with layer cakes just continues to grow. They are so much fun to make. I love putting them together and coming up with unique combos. There are so many possibilities with a layer cake. The food nerd in me is showing through when I say that I really could make one every day just to see what I could come up with because as soon as I make one, an idea for another pops up. Please tell me I am not alone...

Rich, moist chocolate cake with light, creamy coconut frosting? Oh yeah.

Ingredients for cake:
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 tsps. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 cup milk
1/2 cup canola oil
2 large eggs
2 tsps. vanilla extract
3/4 cups boiling water

Ingredients for icing:
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup reduced fat sour cream
1/4 cup confectioner's sugar
2 cups unsweetened coconut

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat 2, 8" x 2" round cake pans with non stick cooking spray. Line bottoms with parchment paper; also spraying the paper. Then dust paper with flour.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, both sugars, baking soda & powder and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together milk, eggs and vanilla. Add the two mixtures together and blend until completely mixed. 

Add boiling water and mix well. Divide the batter (it will be thin) between the two prepared pans and bake 35 to 40 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the centers, comes out clean. Let cool in the pans for 10 minutes and then remove to wire rack to cool completely. 

For the frosting:
Using an electric mixer, beat creams and sugar until stiff peaks form, Place one cake on a platter and spread 1 cup of frosting over the top. Top with remaining cake and frost with remaining icing. Gently pat coconut all over the cake. 

This is best chilled when served.

Edited: Thanks so much, Renee! Frosting should have COCONUT not cocoa in it.

Tuesday, June 5

Pepperoni Cheese Bread

photo and recipe from

I found this recipe on pinterest awhile back and thought it would be a great, easy appetizer/snack for my family. Unfortunately I am doing something I don't normally do and that is using the original blogger's photo in place of my own. Yes, I am giving her full credit and her photo is fantastic but part of my own blogging etiquette involves always using my own, original content. However this is another case where among my too many to count photos, I can't find my photo!  I had to share this anyway as it is so easy, family friendly and kind of cute, don't you think? 

So please forgive me this time...

1 can Italian or French bread (roll)
1 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
pepperoni slices
marinara sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll the bread dough into a large rectangle. Top with mozzarella cheese and pepperoni slices.

Roll up jelly roll style into a loaf. Place seam side down on a foil lined baking sheet. 

Bake 15 - 20 minutes or until top is lightly browned. 

Remove from oven and let cool down a few minutes. Slice into 1 1/2 inch pieces and serve with warmed marinara sauce.

See? Super easy and very yummy.

Friday, June 1

Raspberry Meringue Cookies

Meringue isn't for everyone and that usually includes me. I mentioned awhile back that I wanted to incorporate more raspberry into my menu just because it is one of my favorite flavors ever. I just felt like trying something different from all the flour based cookies I tend to lean towards. Spencer picked up a raspberry jello package in the grocery store and it all began. 

These melt in your mouth with a big pop of raspberry, followed by a hint of chocolate from the mini chips. You can certainly leave out the chocolate chips but I would highly recommend adding them in. For such small cookies, the flavor is big without being overwhelming. I promise you won't be able to eat just one.

3 egg whites
1/8 tsp. salt
3 1/2 tsp. raspberry jello mix
1 TBLS. vinegar
mini chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

Beat egg whites with salt until foamy. Using an electric mixer, add jello and sugar to the egg whites. Beat until mixture stands in peaks.

Add vinegar and mix gently.

Add the mini chocolate chips now if you are using them.

Spoon small circles of mixture onto a cookie sheet covered in parchment paper. 

Bake for about 25 minutes; turn off oven and allow the cookies to sit in the oven for an additional 20 minutes.

Remove from oven and allow to cool completely. 

I had to try these as soon as they were cool enough to eat and they are amazing warm too!