A Grandma's spin on crafts, games, recipes & lifestyle

Tag: yummy

Blackberry Festival Family Date Night

Are you trying to squeeze the last bit of family fun into the remaining days of summer?  Why not plan a family date night?  Our family headed out to Wild Blackberry Farms for the inaugural Blackberry Festival.   While it can be difficult (but oh so worth it!) to find a night that works in everyone’s schedule, this was so worth the planning of our Blackberry Festival family date night!

I’ve had many people ask me how we knew about this particular festival.  I agree that it is hard to know about every fun event around you, but it led me to look into festival informational sites.  Each state has many local resources, but I also found a couple of sites that you can search all 50 states….

Blackberry Festival Family Date Night Activities ~

U-Pick Blackberries ~

This particular festival was a smaller fare, but not short on fun family activities.  We started out with the U-pick blackberries.  I wasn’t sure how much the younger ones would enjoy this part, but they loved it!  We had a quick lesson on which berries were ready to pick and everyone headed out with their buckets.  They had so much fun searching the rows for the ripest berries!  Also important here is that it kept them entertained for quite a long time!

What was even better was they could pick down low on their own while also enjoying a little help up from the family members.

Face Painting ~

This is the part of the festival that the littles were looking forward to the most.  In fact, it was so much fun that kids AND adults got in on the fun.  Aunt Karleigh and Pappy had their faces painted to match the kids, which made them so happy!

Food Trucks, Family Games, Petting Zoo, Photo Opps ~

Whether you are on a diet or not, you HAVE to eat the festival food!  Am I right?   So many yummy choices from lemon shakeups to bbq sandwiches of all kinds!  Of course, if you look closely at this picture you will see that some blackberries were definitely enjoyed along the way as well!

Other Family Date Night Ideas ~

While I definitely recommend festivals for a fun family date night, don’t let that keep you from planning other fun activities.  Plan a family date night once a month.  This a routine that will defnitely help to forge strong family bonds.  **On these special nights, be sure to put those phones out of place and concentrate on the family unit!

Family Date Night Ideas ~
  • Park Hopping – take a bit of time to map out local parks and go to several of them in one day.  It’s so much fun to see what equipment each park has to offer and discover which is each child’s favorite.
  • Splash Party – Put those bathing suits on…you too parents…and have some good old water fun.  Have plenty of squirt guns, water balloons, maybe a slip and slide and a small kids pool (for both swimming and refilling those water guns) on hand.
  • Bowling – Have you done this in a while?  For some reason we had ventured away from bowling and recently got back to it….the kids LOVE to bowl!
  • Scavenger Hunt – You can plan a scavenger hunt in your own house or yard or better yet, break off into teams and run around the neighborhood looking for items.
  • Glow in the Dark Fun – Purchase some glow sticks and glow jewelry (they almost always have them at the Dollar Store) and turn out all the lights for some fun family glow in the dark fun!  Add in some dancing or hide and seek!
  • Backyard Movies – There is a large assortment of video projectors available.  I do suggest going ahead and purchasing one with a screen as well.  I tried the cheaper route at first and tried to use a white sheet…the image wasn’t sharp enough with that.  Check out this video projector with screen for outdoor family fun!

  • Family Cooking – Plan, Cook and Eat the meal together.  Be sure to let the little ones help with the cooking…they will love it.  For extra fun, add some fun candles and pick some flowers from the yard for a beautifully set table.
  • Dance Party – You guys, this is a win-win here!  Not only will there be lots of giggles, but it’s a good workout too!
  • Family Puzzle – My all-time favorite puzzles are the ones that have different size pieces so everyone can take part in the puzzle.  Check out this fun family puzzle with small, medium, and large sized pieces! 

  •  Family Room Sleepover – Gather ALL of the blankets and pillows and make a big living room fort…but you also ALL have to sleep in it!  Have fun!

These are just a few fun ideas to create family fun.  The most important part of all of it is that everyone engages, you add in some good munchies and put down those phones.  Have some laugh until your belly aches fun with those kids!

Back To Those Yummy Blackberries ~

The fun continues as we decide what yummy recipes we are going to make with our buckets of blackberries.  Of course, we head straight to Pinterest!  Wow!  Seriously, do a quick search on blackberry recipes!  How do you decide on what you want to make?  I think I may have to figure out how to succesfully plant our own blackberry patch because I want to make SO MANY of these recipes!

This time around we are going with the Old Fashioned Blackberry Cobbler.  I prefer the cobblers where you cook the berries like this recipe from Saving Room for Dessert…Old Fasioned Blackberry Cobbler by Saving Room for Dessert.  I will be sure to let you know how it turns out!

Cheeres to each of you enjoying the rest of your summer and some good family fun!

From Our Family to Yours ~

~Mimi

 

 

Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes that are Ahhh…mazing!

You may already have a scalloped potato recipe that you love.  However, do yourself and your family a favor and give this recipe a try!  Then once you try it, please come back and let me know if it is the new family favorite.  This recipe has been handed down through my family for years, and I decided to be very nice and share.  These, my friends, are cheesy scalloped potatoes that are ahhh…mazing!

It’s been a family debate over whether we should share special recipes.  One common belief is that if you keep the recipe secret everyone looks forward to you  bringing that special dish to family gatherings, right?  While this is indeed true, I am here to attest that your are still thought of when someone else makes your recipes.  I can’t tell you how many times I have made a special dish and stated to everyone, “Now you guys are going to love this because it is so and so’s famous recipe!”

Helpful Tips ~

There are a couple of different secrets I am going to share with you.  Mainly, just because I’m a nice gal! 😏

  1. This recipe is best if you cut the potato slices thicker.  You may be asking yourself, “If I make them thick, how can I ensure they will get done all the way when baking?”  There, my friend, is the first secret.  You need to parboil your slices.  Parboiling can be tricky because if you overcook them they will get too soft.  I truly can’t give you a specific amount of time needed because it depends on how many potatoes you are using.  I use the old fashioned fork test.  After about 5 minutes of boiling, I consistently and gently poke one of the potatoes with the fork to see if it is slightly soft.
  2. You are going to cook the sauce over the stove and then pour it over the potatoes in 2 layers.  Many people just layer cold cheese, however, by making a sauce you are creating a much more flavorful and saucy potato dish.
  3. Timing everything while cooking is one of the hardest things to learn for new cooks.  Once you put your potatoes on to parboil, you should start your cheese sauce.

How to Make Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes ~

Ingredients ~
  • 10-15 Medium Sized Russet Potatoes – sliced thick
  • 32 Ounce Block (2 lb) Colby Cheese -cubed
  • 2 Cans of Cream of Mushroom Soup
  • 2 Cans Milk (using cream of mushroom soup can)
  • Salt & Pepper – to taste
Directions ~
  1. Preheat oven to 350°
  2. Peel and slice potatoes.                                                                                                                                                   
  3. Parboil sliced potatoes for 10-15 minutes.  Check for softness with fork starting at about 5 minutes.  The time needed will vary according to thickness of potatoes.  You want them to be slightly soft.
  4. While potatoes are boiling cut cheese into cubes.                                                                   
  5. Mix cheese cubes, soup and milk in pan.  Cook over medium heat until completely melted, stirring occasionally so mixture doesn’t burn.                                                                                                                                                   
  6. Spray a 9 X 13 casserole dish with cooking spray.
  7. Drain potatoes.  Place half of cooked potatoes in casserole dish.
  8. Top with half of cheese mixture and salt and pepper to taste.                                                                 
  9. Layer remaining potatoes on top of cheese mixture and then top with remaining cheese.  Sprinkle again with salt and pepper to taste.
  10. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour.  We like ours with the cheese browned quite a bit so I bake it for the longer amount of time.
More Tips for those Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes that are Ahhh…mazing ~
  • If your casserole dish is filled to the top, place it on a foil lined baking sheet to catch spillage of cheese as it melts.
  • Since parboiling potatoes can be tricky to get the perfect consistency, I always insert a fork into my casserole when done to ensure they are completely cooked through.  If they still seem a bit hard but your top is browned, put foil over them and bake for 15 minutes or so longer.
  • Since you are parboiling the potatoes, there is no reason to cover with foil when first baking.  However, see bullet above for example of when you may need foil.

I get requests to make this recipe ALL THE TIME.  I sometimes feel like I should stop making them for awhile because I don’t want people to get bored with the side dishes.  However, they just keep requesting them.  This alone tells you how awesome they really are!

Also, if you are thinking that your family may not like them because it is Cream of Mushroom soup, stop thinking that right now.  If it is that big of an issue just don’t let them know what is in it.  I promise you that once you make that cheese sauce, they will have NO idea!

What’s even better is that these potatoes can be paired with so many different meat items.  In fact, they would go awesome with the Smoked Poor Man Burnt Ends that I wrote about…see that by clicking here!  Heck, there are times we warm them up the next day (that is IF there are any leftovers) and have just potatoes for dinner!

As always, good food keeps people coming back….so be sure to give this one a try!

Printable Version of Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes that are Ahhh…mazing ~

Happy Cooking ~

Mimi

Chipotle Cheesesteak Sandwich

The addition of the new griddle grill has been VERY fun so far!  Brad is having so much fun creating…and we are having so much fun indulging!  Our family loves cheesesteak sandwiches so of course he got to work on this new family favorite.   I hated to have him cook on Father’s Day, but it’s what he loves.  His chipotle cheesesteak sandwich has been added to the growing list of family favorites!

Ingredients for Sandwich ~

  • Beef shaved steak
  • Onion
  • Bell pepper
  • Provolone cheese
  • McCormick’s steak seasoning
  • Sub buns

Pretty simple ingredients for such an awesome sandwich.   I sometimes feel if it is that delicious, it has to be difficult to make…right?  (Kind of like rice krispie treats🤣)   These of course can be done on in indoor griddle as well, but I’m telling you, you HAVE to consider getting an outdoor griddle grill.  They are simply so much fun!

Prepping for the Chipotle Cheesesteak Sandwich ~

The amounts of the ingredients are obviously going to depend on the number of people you are serving.  We were cooking for 8 for this occasion.  I bought the beef shaved steak at Kroger in the packaged meat section.  Sometimes I can find it at the meat counter of other groceries and get the exact amount I want.  However, it is often hard to find (at least where we live).  You can also sometimes find it frozen.

(Four of these packages were used for our party of 8.)

We used red, green and yellow bell peppers.  You can certainly use just green, but we prefer the beauty of all the colors.  Five bell peppers were sliced and placed in a bowl for cooking time.  Slice 1-2 onions depending on the size and the flavoring you wish.  There is a package of sliced peppers and onions in the frozen section that you can use as well to save on prep time.  It is usually called the 3 Pepper Blend (depending on brand).

Griddle Time ~

The steak was liberally seasoned with McCormick’s Steak Seasoning.  For those of you who have been following me for a while, you already know Brad is what we would consider a “heavy seasoner.”  Believe me, it always tastes amazing!  After placing the meat on the grill, he chopped it while grilling.  His preferred method was cooking the meat in one sandwich proportion at a time.  It was then smothered with peppers and onions and topped with provolone cheese.

The buns were placed on the grill right before serving to give them a crispness.  You can choose to skip this step if you prefer, but I would highly recommend it crispy.  It keeps the bread from getting soggy and just tastes better!  There are many types of sub buns in the bread aisle at the grocery store, but we prefer the ones found in the deli.

The above pictue is Italian Beef (which will be coming soon!).  I have included this picture for you to see the bun.  As you can tell, we love these buns for so many different recipes….too bad they aren’t Keto-friendly!  Oh well, they are too good to pass up!

Chipotle Mayo Recipe ~

You guys, this sauce is a must to top off these delicious sandwiches.  I made a large bowl of this sauce and poured half of it into a squeezy bottle for easy application.  I was going to use the remaining for refills when needed, however, it ended up being a “dip” for chips and veggies.  Everyone loved it that much!

You can of course scale the sizing down if you do not wish to make as much.  I would go ahead and make more if I were you though.  Seriously, the kids all wanted a small bowl of it to take home with them for lunches the next day.

  • 2 cups Hellman’s Mayonnaise
  • 1 can of Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce
  • 2 tsp. Adobo All Purpose Seasoning

Place all of these ingredients in a small blender and blend until thoroughly mixed.  I have discussed it before, but I LOVE our personal Ninja for blending sauces.  Check out the Ninja Personal Blender…it’s good for sauces as well as smoothies!

Those Squirt Bottles I mentioned ~

I use squirt bottles for so many things in the kitchen, so I love to have several.  They can be used for baking or for cooking reasons.  Squirt bottle set is a MUST in my book for many cooking needs!

This is a set I am getting ready to purchase as I love the labels.  I have a simpler set that I started out with and I tape on labels.  For instance, on Lauren’s birthday, she wanted a hot dog bar.  We made several fun sauces so each one needed to be labeled.

I also have special squirt bottles for cookie decorating.   Who knew there were so many types of squirt bottles out there, right?  These have metal tips for more intricate designs, which we use a lot when decorating cookies.   Squirt bottles for cookie decorating…makes precise decorating so much easier!

It seems crazy to write so much about sqeezy bottles, but I truly find SO many uses for them!  Do you use them in your kitchen?

Back to those YUMMY Chipotle Cheesesteak Sandwiches ~

The chipotle mayo recipe does not have to be used.  The sandwiches are delicious on their own.  Maybe you have a favorite condiment you love to use on sandwiches?  Many places slather plain mayo on the bread, which is good as well.  Also, you may be saying, “I just don’t like spicy!”  I promise you, this recipe is not spicy….it is just really flavorful!

I would love to hear any variations you may have cooked up!  Let me know in the comments below!

Happy grilling –

Mimi

 

 

Frozen Fruit Yogurt Bites

Finding snacks that are just as much fun to make as they are to eat can be challenging.  While our frozen fruit yogurt bites did not turn out exactly as anticipated, Addi, Max and Mimi had lots of fun in the kitchen and still enjoyed the end result.  This post is a tad different as I will fill you in on the right way to make these….and the wrong way! 🤣

I am notorious for just “winging it” in the kitchen.   The kids used to sit and watch at the kitchen island and marvel at how I just added a little of this and a little of that.  They have now learned that as you get more comfortable in the kitchen, it becomes easy to guesstimate while cooking.  However, sometimes one should really follow the directions.

Frozen Fruit Yogurt Bites Ingredients ~

  • 1 Cup Plain Greek yogurt
  • Handful of Frozen fruit of choice
  • 1 tsp. Honey (or more to taste)
  • Spinach (let’s get real sneaky!)

Directions ~

  • Place frozen fruit and honey (and spinach if you choose to add) in blender to puree.  We love our Ninja Personal Smoothie Blender… it makes smoothies so much easier to make.  By using the personal size, each person can choose their own fruit flavors.  Check it out here➡➡➡ Ninja Personal Smoothie blender – we LOVE it!

  • Scoop the puree into a bowl and add 1 cup greek yogurt.  Stir until well mixed.
  • Pour the yogurt mixture into a baggie (or a piping bag if you have one).  I definitely suggest a zip type baggie to alleviate any future messes.

Of course, even with a zip type baggie you can still get leakage out of the top if it isn’t sealed well.  Oh well, at least this is a recipe that is safe to eat even before you freeze!⬇⬇

  • Put in freezer for 3 to 4 hours or until solid.  These will melt fairly fast, so be sure to have them completely frozen before enjoying.

Very Important Tips ~

***Do not add water when making the puree.  This is the first step I messed up on.  I told Addi to add water to her cup to make the puree process easier.  Instead, we should have let the frozen fruit thaw a bit and NOT add water.  By adding water, the mixture came out runnier than it should have been! 

***Puree completely as small chunks will create a hole in your bag later….which you do NOT want!

***Greek yogurt helps with the consistency.  

***Let the kids use a whisk to blend.  They enjoy that so much more than a spoon and it blends better.  We started out with a spoon and switched once we realized it wasn’t mxing well.

***When letting kids help, as I highly recommend that you do, be prepared for the fact that you may not get “dots” as you originally intended.  That is ok!

***Add that spinach….it will make a very fun green color frozen yogurt bite and yet the kids won’t realize it’s coming from spinach.  Unless of course, you let them take part in the puree step as the spinach should be pureed with the fruit and honey.

End Result ~

Ok, so ours did NOT end up in the cute little button style.   I realized very early on that this step was not going as planned.  So, I put on my big girl panties and said to myself, “That’s ok!”  Afterall, isn’t learning in the kitchen part of this whole process?

Seriously, look at that determination in his face.  Who cares that they weren’t perfectly formed.  They still taste the same.  It was time for a little improvision.

We smeared that stuff around and decided to cut little squares instead.   This way, they got to use Addi’s new kid-safe kitchen knife that I talked about for her birthday post.  Did you catch that post?  If not, check it out here as I showed several great kitchen tools for kids….Great ideas for kids in the kitchen!

Does it look like she cared that her yogurt bites weren’t in the button shape?  Who can resist the happiness in that face?

Quick and Easy Version ~

While it is so much fun to create your own flavors, there is an easier version.   Using store bought Go-Gurts , snip off a small corner as mentioned earlier(do not use the precut pull tab they provide).  Proceed to squeeze small dots on wax paper and freeze until solid.  This is quick and easy!

These frozen fruit yogurt bites are a big hit with the kids and adults alike.  Everyone chooses their favorite flavors.  You can get creative and mix different fruits to make new fun flavors.  Have fun and enjoy!

Hugs ~

Mimi

 

 

Hobo Foil Packet Dinners

If you grew up camping like I did, then you are no stranger to hobo foil packet dinners.  The thing I don’t understand though is why they were only considered a camping food back then.  Not only are these dinners simple and delicious, they can be cooked over the open fire, on the grill or in the oven!  How’s that for versatility?

Over the years, we have tried numerous types of packets.  In fact, one of our favorite family meals now is to lay out a variety of ingredients and let everyone make their own.  This ensures that everyone…even the pickiest of eaters…is happy with their own individual meal.  Once they are done eating, wrap that foil up and toss in the trash.

Recap…individual dinners made to each person’s taste, simple to cook various ways and easy to clean up…what are you waiting for?  (*Read on for the special ingredient we use!)

Ingredients ~

Basically, the sky is the limit for the ingredients.  However, I am going to list some ingredients that we have used.

  • hamburger – pattied up or crumbled
  • kielbasa – diced
  • shrimp
  • chicken – chunked
  • shaved beef
  • onions
  • potatoes – quartered
  • carrots
  • asparagus
  • peas
  • mushrooms
  • zucchini
  • squash
  • bell peppers – all colors
  • anaheim peppers
  • jalapenos
  • thick cut green beans
  • corn
  • capers
  • cheese – we use shredded and, of course, different varieties

As stated earlier, one thing that makes the hobo foil packet dinners so much fun is to offer several ingredients.  Choose from the list above or add some of your own favorites.  Put each of the ingredients in small bowls for everyone to choose from.  (*Still looking for that special ingredient?)

*Notice in this one, we used the shaved beef…delicious!

Assembling the Foil Packets ~

Do yourself a favor and invest in heavy duty foil.  This makes the cooking process go much smoother.  If you do not have heavy duty foil, then you will want to double up.  When doubling up, I prefer to cut two pieces of foil the same size and criss cross them (in the shape of a cross) before adding my ingredients.  This allows all sides of the packet to be closed up securely.

Spray the cut foil pieces with non-stick cooking spray before assembling.  NOW….are you ready for that special ingredient I alluded to earlier???  Condensed soup is the ticket to a fantastic hobo foil packet dinner.  The difference you will see with this addition is incredible!  We have used several varieties in our dinners.

  • Cream of Mushroom
  • Cream of Chicken
  • Cream of Celery
  • Cream of Asparagus
  • Cream of Mushroom with Roasted Garlic
  • Cream of Chicken with Herbs
  • Cream of Onion

Obviously, we prefer to use the cream style soups.  I have heard there is also a cream of bacon and cream of shrimp.  We have never used these (I don’t believe I have ever seen them in the stores in our area), but I believe they would be fantastic as well.  Campbell’s Soup is our go to but obviously you can use the brand of your preference.  From all of the soups listed, I would have to say Cream of Mushroom and Cream of Chicken are our top choices.

 Next Step ~

Once you have made your soup choice, slather 1 to 2 tablespoons across the bottom of the prepared foil pieces.  You are now ready to add your favorite ingredients.  Start with your favorite meat and then pile on your choice of  accompaniments.  There is no specific amounts to use, just create your masterpiece with enough room to fold it up securely.

Before closing, sprinkle with salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion salt, dry onion soup mix or any seasoning you prefer and another dollop of the soup.

Be sure to completely cover all food when bringing the sides of the foil up and over.  There are several methods of folding the foil, just be sure to wrap it up securely.

*Pro Tip* – Write the names on top of each packet with a sharpie to be sure of which packet belongs to who to extinguish any later arguments!

Cooking the Hobo Foil Packet Dinners ~

Our preference for cooking is on the grill or over the open fire.  I absolutely love when Brad cooks them over the open fire.    These take about an hour, depending on the size of your packets.  (Somehow, ours always end up bigger than we intended!)  You will just need to be sure the meat is cooked completely through.  Grilling will take about 30 to 40 minutes.

Brad uses a cast irong camping tripod for so many different meals.  I’ve included a link to one, but it is a great idea to check out several to meet your individual needs.  As you can see, his also as a grate that attaches to it, which he uses often.  Check out firepit tripods here…Brad uses his for so many campfire recipes!

As stated earlier though, you can also do these in the oven.  With this method, place the packets on a baking sheet (just to catch any spillage that may leak out), and bake at 350℉ for 40 to 60 minutes.  When opening the packets to check if done, be careful as the heat pours out at first opening.

Cajun Style Hobo Foil Packet Dinner ~

This one has quickly become a family favorite.  This is one of the times  we do one large family packet instead of offering choices.  Most of the time we love to make our own spice blends, but we have decided why fix it if it isn’t broken…simply follow the recipe on the back of the McCormick Jazzy Tasty Seasoning packet.  I’m telling you, it is AMAZING!

Click Here to order McCormick Jazzy Tasty Seasoning and make your own Jazzy Shrimp Boil foil packets!

As always, I am including a link to order it for simplicity.  Sometimes I struggle finding this one…maybe everyone has has figured out this little secret too!  😉

Get creative with this fun cooking idea.  We have yet to serve hobo foil packet dinners where anyone was unhappy.  In fact, most people usually call us later to get the finer details so they can make them at home for their family and friends.

Happy Cooking~

Mimi

 

 

 

 

 

Pita Bread Stuffed Grilled Cheese

Scoop it, dip it, stuff it…yep, I’m talking pita bread here!  What a fun and versatile bread.  My personal favorite is stuffing it with lots of goodies, so what could be better than some hot oozy cheese!  Pita bread stuffed grilled cheese…BLT (actually BST (spinach) and/or Caprese Style.  You have got to read on for this delightful recipe that can be made for breakfast, lunch or dinner!

BLT or Caprese Style? ~

We took it a step further and offered options.  I prepared all of the ingredients ahead of time and displayed on cutting boards and in bowls.  With this method, each person got to personalize their pita bread stuffed grilled cheese.  Of course, you do not have to always do it this way, but it is definitely a fun option.

BLT (BLS for Spinach) ~

Ingredients ~
  • Bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • Cheese – mozzarella, pepper jack, provolone – shredded
  • Spinach – chopped
  • Onions – diced
  • Tomatoes – chopped
  • Seasonings
    • Garlic powder/salt
    • Everything But the Bagel
    • Onion Powder
    • Italian Seasoning
  • Butter or Olive Oil
Directions ~
  1. Brown bacon and crumble once cooled.
  2. Chop spinach
  3. Dice onion
  4. Place all ingredients in separate dish or lay out on cutting board
  5. Have each person choose their ingredients and put in medium size bowl.  Stir until well blended.
  6. Slice pita bread so that it opens to a pocket.  *It is better to have ones that are NOT already split in the middle for easier grilling.
  7. Stuff pita bread filling to the back and moving forward until stuffed plump.
  8. Cover both sides of pita with butter or olive oil. *I buttered one side, added preferred spice and then placed on griddle.  I then buttered the other side while it was on the griddle.
  9. Cook until desired doneness and serve!
*Notice the small bowl to the right.  This is the bowl we used to mix the individual ingredient choices.

You can offer choices of condiments for dipping as well.  Options such as ranch dressing or sour cream pair well with the BLT pita bread stuffed grilled cheese.

Most of the family chose this style but DEFINITELY used different ingredients.  Max had bacon and mozzarella only with no spices. Uncle Eli stuffed his with bacon, onion, spinach, mozzarella balls and pepper jack cheese.  He then seasoned the outside with the Everything But The Bagel seasoning.    Lauren chose bacon, spinach, tomatoes, mozarella and pepper jack cheese and then seasoned with garlic.

As you can see, each person’s individual tastes took a big part in making these a success!

Caprese Style ~

Ingredients ~
  • Spinach – chopped
  • Mozarella balls
  • Mozarella – shredded
  • Fresh Basil – chopped
  • Tomatoes – chopped
  • Balsamic reduction
Directions ~
  1. Chop spinach.
  2. Chop fresh basil.
  3. Chop tomatoes.
  4. Slice pita bread so that it opens to a pocket.  *It is better to have ones that are NOT already split in the middle for easier grilling.
  5. Stuff pita bread filling to the back and moving forward until stuffed plump.
  6. Cover both sides of pita with butter or olive oil. *I buttered one side, added preferred spice and then placed on griddle.  I then buttered the other side while it was on the griddle.
  7. Cook until desired doneness and serve!

As you can see, the steps are the same.  Only the ingredients are different.  I drizzled mine with a balsamic reduction and it was FAB!  *I actually keep the Alessi brand of Balsamic Reduction on hand for many different recipes – delish!

I’m going to be honest here, we made these for dinner just last night!  The funny part is I made one again for brunch this morning!  I kid you not…I am obsessed!  They just add a different element from the traditional grilled cheese.

Now, I’m including links to some of the ingredients I mentioned.  You, of course, can get them at the store.  I am including these more for you to have a visual.

I seriously LOVE this sxxx…Alessi Balsamic Reduction! I have it in the fridge at all times.  In the summer, I love to throw together a quick spinach, mozzarella, tomato and fresh basil salad.  I also use it in a lot of appetizers!

If you have not yet tried Anything But the Bagel Seasoning, do yourself a favor and do so!  Try this test…pull up Pinterest, type in Anything But the Bagel Seasoning and look at the results.  One would think you would get a lot of results with just the seasoning…but NOOO…you get all kinds of recipes using the seasoning.  I’m telling you, this seasoning is awesome for so many things!

Did you love the cutting board in the pics as much as I do? Check out the link here for own charcuterie cutting/serving board!   This board is so versatile and fun!

 

 

Rum and Coke Mini Desserts

As a child, we had dessert every night after dinner.  Some were simple, like Jell-O with whipped cream while others were more intricate desserts.  I loved when mom made Coca Cola cake with chocolate fudgey icing.  It was so delicious!

However, I don’t remember mom adding those cute little rum bottles on top….hmmmm!?!  Well, it may not be a family dessert, but these rum and Coke mini desserts are definitely one to add to your entertaining menu!

I used a variety of glasses to make the presentation more exciting.  Get creative!  When I presented this fancy dessert, it definitely made a great impression.  Seriously, doesn’t this picture make you want to dig in?  If you answered yes, then hold on….because they aren’t even finished yet!

But first, check out some of these fun serving ideas…

Use some footed dessert bowls like these…

These are so beautiful with the scalloped edges…

Step 1 – Cake Ingredients ~

  • 1 Cup Coca-Cola
  • 1/2 Cup Cooking Oil
  • 1 Stick Butter
  • 3 Tbsp. Cocoa
  • 2 Cup Sugar
  • 2 Cup Flour
  • 1/2 tsp. Salt
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1/2 Cup Buttermilk
  • 1 tsp. Baking Soda
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla

Baking Directions ~

Preheat oven to 350°.  Prepare a 9″ X 13″ cake pan with cooking spray.

Combine sugar, flour and salt in large mixing bowl and set aside.  In a saucepan, mix Coke, cooking oil, butter and cocoa.  Bring this mixture to a boil.  Pour the Coke mixture over the flour mixture and beat well.  Add eggs, buttermilk, baking soda and vanilla and combine thoroughly.

Pour cake mixture into 9 X 13 pan and bake for 20 to 25 minutes.  (Insert a toothpick to check for doneness)

*** TIP ~

Substitute vinegar and milk for buttermilk if you do not have buttermilk on hand.  Put 1/2 Tbsp. white vinegar in measuring cup and then pour 1/2 cup milk on top of it.  Mix and let sit a minute.

*** TIP ~

If you do not want to make the cake from scratch, you can use a chocolate cake mix instead.  Use the following ingredients for this easier method:

  • 1 Box Chocolate Cake Mix
  • 1/2 Cup Vegetable Oil
  • 3 Large Eggs
  • 1 Cup Coke

Mix thoroughly and bake for 25 minutes.  Insert toothpick to check for doneness.

Step 2 – Instructions After Baking ~

Whichever cake method you choose to use, let it cool completely after baking.  Set your desired serving dishes out for easier preparation.  Cut the cake into 1″ cubes and place 4 to 6 cubes into each glass, depending on the size of the serveware you are using.

Step 3 – Cream Cheese Frosting Ingredients ~

  • 8 oz. Cream Cheese – Softened
  • 6 Tbsp. Butter – Softened
  • 3 3/4 Cup Heavy Cream
  • 3 Tbsp. Rum
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla
  • Caramel Syrup
  • Pinch Kosher Salt

Step 4 – Cream Cheese Frosting Directions ~

Beat cream cheese, buter and sugar in Kitchen Aid stand mixer or in large bowl with hand mixer until fluffy.  Add cream, rum, vanilla and salt.  Beat until a stiff peak forms.

Step 5 – Layering Frosting on Rum & Coke Mini Desserts ~

Place a heaping tablespoon or two (depending on size of serving dish) of cream cheese rum frosting on top of chocolate squares.  Repeat with another layer of chocolate squares and frosting.  *If you are making these yummy desserts ahead of time, place in refrigerator at this point.

Step 6 – Final Steps ~

Drizzle caramel syrup over top of each dessert and then top with mini bottle (1.7 ounces) of your favorite rum.  Please note, you may not want to use the entire bottle of rum if the glass is a smaller size (like martini glass pictured in this article).  If the rum is too excessive, it will overpower the delicious flavor of all the ingredients.  Therefore, I chose to keep the lid on the mini bottle and let each person add to their desired taste.

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*** NOTE ***

If you want to make you Coca Cola cake “family friendly,” top it with this fudgey icing instead:

  • 1 stick butter
  • 2 1/3 Tbsp. cocoa
  • 6 Tbsp. milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 3 3/4 cup powdered sugar

In a saucepan, cook butter, cocoa and milk until butter melts.  Add in remaining ingredients and beat until thoroughly mixed.  Spread on cake.

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Don’t Forget to Save/Pin this Recipe!!!

I kid you not, this rum and Coke mini dessert recipe is one you want to add to your recipe favorites.  In fact, be sure to pin this on your Pinterest board as well for easy access!

 

Velvety Potato Leek Soup

What a tantalizing soup to serve with salad and a sandwich or just a crusty piece of bread!!!  Make it lunch or dinner….just MAKE it!   Blend the sweet delicate flavor of leeks with potatoes to create this creamy soup.  Velvety potato leek soup will quickly become a family favorite!

Have you cooked with leeks before?  They are a member of the onion family and look like a very large green onion.  Leeks add a mild yet sweet flavor to any dish.  You will, however, need to take time to clean them as dirt and grit get caught in the layers easily.  It is best to clean them by cutting off the end and then slice in half length-wise from root to top.  Pull the layers of the onions apart and run each under the water to clean thoroughly.

Velvety Potato Leek Soup Ingredients ~

  • 1 Stick Butter
  • 2 Medium Leeks (sliced)
  • 1 Medium Onion (diced)
  • 3 Green Onions (diced)
  • 5 Russet Potatoes (peeled & sliced or cubed)
  • 32 Ounce Chicken or Vegetable Broth
  • 1 1/2 tsp. Thyme
  • 3 Cloves Fresh Garlic (minced)
  • 2 Cups Heavy Cream
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

Directions ~

Melt stick of butter in stock pan. Add sliced leeks, green onions, garlic and onion to pan.  Saute over medium heat until vegetables are translucent (be careful not to brown).

Add potatoes, thyme and broth and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium and simmer until potatoes are softened (about 20-25 minutes depending on thickness of potatoes).

Using a food processor or immersion blender, blend about 3/4 of the soup until it is pureed.  *You can puree the whole batch, but I prefer to leave a small portion of it a bit chunky.  If you are using a food processor, ladel portions at a time to the processor depending upon the size of your processor bowl.

Return puree to pot and add heavy cream.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Cook over low heat until heated through.

Garnishments ~

  • crumbled bacon, bacon and more bacon!!!
  • shredded gruyere, parmesan or cheese of your choice
  • sprinkle of cayenne pepper
  • chives
  • cracked black pepper

Notes ~

You can omit the heavy cream or substitute half and half for a more low-fat version of velvety potato leek soup.  The soup will still have a creamy texture to it as the pureeing process creates a creamy a nice cream consistency.

Slice or dice the potatoes to your preference.  Whichever method you choose, you will not want them to be real thick or it will take longer for the potatoes to soften while cooking.  The picture belows shows slices, but I actually prefer dicing the potatoes.  Small chunks of potatoes give a nice texture for that 1/4 of the soup I do not puree.

Don’t let the idea of pureeing turn you away.  This soup is super easy to make and is well worth that extra step.  I love my Ninja.  Get your Ninja Mega Kitchen System Here!

  • Includes: 1500-Watt Motor Base, 72-Oz. Total Crushing Pitcher, 8 Cup Food Processor Bowl, Dough Blade, (2) 16-Oz. Nutri Ninja Cups with To-Go-Lids

As mentioned earlier, you can also use an immersion blender instead.  Check out the immersion hand blender here!

  • Hand-held immersion blender for mixing soups, sauces, smoothies, and more

Both of these gadgets have numerous benefits, you only need to decide which one works best for you!  In fact, maybe you already have one of these.  MAYBE, you have it tucked away and haven’t used it in a while.  Do me a favor, get it out and use it for this amazing recipe!

Serve this luscious soup with a leafy green salad or a side of pasta salad.  Add  some crusty bread that is great for dipping for a hearty and cozy dinner.  What’s even better is that this fun idea is coming to you right before St. Patrick’s Day.  Afterall, it is also called Irish Potato Leek soup!  Enjoy!

Happy Cooking ~

Mimi (Shelly)

 

 

Homemade Sausage with Fennel

Pappy on the Penarve is at it again….this time making homemade sausage with fennel….AH…MAZING!!!!!  He has been perfecting this recipe for quite some time, and the end result is worth all of the work.  Let me tell you, there are quite a few steps to the end result…but oh is it worth it!!  That being said, it would be a great idea to purchase quite a bit of meat to work with so you can store some for later!  By doing this, it makes the time spent making this delicious sausage even more worthwhile!

In our recipe a KitchenAid mixer with the meat grinder attachment is used.  I absolutely love my KitchenAid and use it for so many different recipes.  Check out the Black Storm KitchenAid Professional Series Mixer ~ it is a FANTASTIC addition to any kitchen!

There are, of course, other great meat grinder options:

This electric meat grinder gets great reviews…check it out here!

This manual meat grinder has a suction base and gets great reviews…check it out here!

These grinders work for so much more than just making sausage.  I grew up with my mom making homemade ham salad.  We still put in requests for her secret recipe to this day!  Yes, I said secret!  And yes, that recipe will be coming soon so stay tuned!

Back to the Homemade Sausage with Fennel ~

As stated earlier, buy the pork shoulder butt in bulk.  When we find it on sale, we go hog wild….yes, pun intended! 🤣  The savings you will notice will astound you!

What you will need ~

  • The fattest pork shoulder/butt you can find…seriously buy that fatty stuff!
  • Fennel seed – if you are like Brad (Pappy), you will want an abundance of this!
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Garlic Powder
  • Red Pepper Flakes (optional)
  • Red Wine or cooking wine (we used a nice Cab)
Step 1 ~

Cut the pork shoulder/butt into chunks for grinding and place in a disposable foil pan.

Step 2 ~

Cover the meat with foil and move to the freezer to get to a cold state.  This helps the grinding process go much smoother.  Brad kept it in the freezer for about 1 hour.

Step 3 ~

Grind the meat chunks.

Step 4 ~

Generously season the ground pork shoulder/butt.

Step 5 ~

*After completely blending, make 1 or 2 small patties.  Fry these patties for tasting.  This is an important step before moving on!  This will enable you to decide if it is seasoned to your liking.  If you are preparing meat to store for later use, you will want to be sure you are happy with the flavor.

Step 6 ~

Add additional seasoning if you prefer.  Cover ground meat and place back in freezer for about an hour.

Step 7 ~

Remove from freezer and prepare your mixer for the final prep stage of your homemade sausage with fennel.  *If you don’t have a mixer with sausage stuffer capabilities, you can make it into patties.  We actually prefer to make different types of sausages for various serving options.  When using the sausage stuffer, it is helpful to watch videos first to aid in the process.  I have provided a link from KitchenAid.com right here ~  Use this handy link from KitchenAid to view how to use the sausage stuffer attachment!

If you are making into patties, there are many options on that process.  I prefer rolling the sausage out and using a glass or biscuit cutter to be the best option for more uniform patties.  However, sometimes we just form them with our hands as we did in the picture above.  If you choose to roll out it, there are different methods, I like the method that HappyMoneySaver.com uses here ~  Happy Money Saver describes the rolling out and cutting process in detail here!

 

Freezing Homemade Sausage with Fennel ~

We love the Food Saver Vacuum Sealer for so many freezer foods.  It does such a great job protecting food from air and freezer burn.  It is also ideal for food prep.  You can double so many of your recipes and save half of them for later, making busy nights or lunch time woes a cinch!    Get your own Food Saver Vacuum Sealer here…you will love it!

Like so many kitchen gadgets, you may ask yourself, “Will I really use this?”  From experience, this is one gadget we are very happy to have and we find ourselves using it often.

We will use this sausage for breakfast and dinner ideas.  Our favorite is grilled sausage with peppers and onion served with a side of rice.  However, we will definitely be looking for new fun ideas to use this yummy sausage as well.

 

Meal prep has become widely popular for busy families and lunch preparation.  This homemade sausage with fennel is an ideal recipe for just that!  Not to mention the savings you will see.  For this recipe we bought almost 10 pounds of pork for $9.  Seriously $9!  The amount of sausage links it yields (depending on how big you choose to make each one) is phenomenal!

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we do!  Let us know in the comments below!  Also, follow MimiBlog with the link and you can stay up to date with all the great recipes!

Have a great week!

 

Caramelized Onions and Provolone Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breasts

It’s December and it’s cold outside so I ask you, “Do you still grill during the winter months?”  We do!  Brad is an avid grill master all…year…long!  I love that he enjoys grilling so much!  However, whether you grill in the cold or you prefer to cook inside when it’s cold, everyone can enjoy this wonderful recipe of caramelized onions and provolone cheese stuffed chicken breasts.

Bone In or Boneless??? ~

We used bone in chicken breasts, however, I believe the process of assembling is easier if you use the boneless chicken breasts.   Brad prefers to grill meats with bone in to enhance the flavor.  I do not disagree.  However, with the robust flavor of the caramelized onions, it will taste just as wonderful using boneless for this recipe.

Begin with preparing the onions.  To create the rich flavor needed, this process will take 30 to 45 minutes.  The full recipe for caramelized onions and provolone cheese stuffed chicken breasts is included below, but I have also included some tips.

Caramelizing Onions ~

Oh how I love the smell of onions cooking.  The wonderful aroma conjures up good memories of family gatherings and food being prepared in the kitchen.  Caramelized onions are so easy to make.  The trick is to cook them slow and on low heat.  You will be rewarded with a robust flavor that enhances the flavor of so many dishes.

Slice the onions thin and set aside.  Heat your skillet with butter or oil.  The amount of oil you will use depends upon the number of onions you are caramelizing.  The general rule is one tablespoon per one medium onion.  Once your oil is heated, add the onions and stir until they are completely coated.  Add a pinch of salt and stir every 3 to 4 minutes.  Add a couple of tablespoons of broth (chicken, beef or vegetable) or water as you are cooking to deglaze the pan and rehydrate the onions.   Continue this process for 30 to 45 minutes, depending upon the amount of browning you prefer.

Many recipes call for a small amount of sugar, however, you do not need to add sugar if you follow the method above.  They will sweeten naturally as they cook.

Preparing Chicken Breasts ~

Cut chicken breasts lengthwise almost completely through to the other side.  Season the chicken with salt, pepper, thyme and parsley flakes.  Layer inside of chicken with your choice of cheese, a layer of caramelized onions and top with another layer of cheese.

I prefer to use different cheeses for each layer, creating a an array of flavors, however, it is just as wonderful using the same type of cheese for each layer.  If you are baking the chicken, you can then secure it with toothpicks.  When grilling, Brad prefers to use cooking twine to better hold the stuffed meat together.  This is a grilling must in his book!

Use this link to order twine for cooking:  Stock up on twine for all of your cooking needs here!

Caramelized Onion Broth ~

After you have stuffed the chicken breasts and started the cooking process, place the remaining onions on the stove and add beef broth, extra parsley flakes and thyme.  Cook on low heat until thickened.  When the meat is fully cooked, use this broth to spoon over the top of the chicken.  Of course, take this opportunity to add a little extra cheese on top….both for presentation and to enhance the flavor.

Stuffed chicken breasts are a delicious and appealing recipe when looking for “that special recipe to impress.”  The addition of fragrant and delicious caramelized onions is the perfect choice for a wonderful meal.  There is no doubt that you won’t LOVE these caramelized onions and provolone cheese stuffed chicken breasts!

A Perfect Dessert Pairing ~

Looking for a great dessert recipe to compliment this amazing chicken?  Look no further….this decadent apple strudel recipe pairs wonderfully with your meal.

You can find this amazing recipe in my link here:  Get the recipe for a DELICIOUS apple strudel here!  Enjoy!

 

 

 

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