mexican chicken casserole goes to college

foodwithpictures mexican chicken casserole (13)

 

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Mexican Chicken Casserole

Okay, this is pretty simple. So simple that the pictures can do most of the talking!

Because I was only making enough for my son to take to his apartment, I didn’t use as much chicken or other ingredients. I used a small-ish casserole dish. It measures about 7×10-inches.

I started by putting a little olive oil on the bottom of the casserole dish.

Then, a layer of crushed tortilla chips:

foodwithpictures mexican chicken casserole (1)

About 2/3 of a can of black beans (drained and rinsed): *I could have used the whole can, but decided this looked like enough.*

foodwithpictures mexican chicken casserole (2)

About 2 cups of frozen corn:

foodwithpictures mexican chicken casserole (3)

In a large plastic zipper bag, I combined 1/4 cup flour with the following taco seasoning spices:

  • cayenne
  • cumin
  • garlic powder
  • onion powder
  • paprika
  • oregano
  • sugar
  • salt

*If you want this to be gluten-free, omit the flour.*

Since this is being made into a casserole, I cut 2 large chicken breasts into pieces. These pieces were tossed in the flour and spice mixture, then placed in the casserole dish:

foodwithpictures mexican chicken casserole (4)

On top of the chicken went about 1 cup of salsa:

foodwithpictures mexican chicken casserole (5)

Then more crushed tortilla chips on top:

foodwithpictures mexican chicken casserole (6)

I put a few bits of butter on top (about 2 tablespoons total) or I could have drizzled 2 tablespoons of olive oil. I covered with foil then baked at 350F for 30 minutes. After that time was up, I removed the foil then continue to bake for 10 minutes. Then I removed it from the oven and topped with an additional cup of salsa and a few handfuls of Mexican cheese. This was returned to the oven for about 5-10 minutes, until the cheese melted.

foodwithpictures mexican chicken casserole (9)

I then removed it from the oven and admired the glorious melted cheese!

foodwithpictures mexican chicken casserole (13)

I waited for this to cool a little while, then divided it into 4 equal sections. Each one was put into a freezer-safe container.

foodwithpictures mexican chicken casserole (16)

Now he has 4 dinners ready to go!

dessert party

 

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My daughter graduated from high school in June. (YAHOO! YIPPEE! WAHOO!) On that Sunday we had a dessert party to celebrate her graduation. She and I love to bake, so instead of typical luncheon foods and/or party snacks, it made sense to serve only desserts. A graduation open house dessert party!

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In order to not have too much to do the day of the party, we started a few days prior. Here is the rundown of what we did:

Two days prior to the party my daughter baked the cupcakes, both cinnamon chocolate and vanilla bean. We kept them in the basement fridge until Sunday morning, when she made the corresponding frostings, and she then frosted all the cupcakes about one hour prior to the party.

 

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With some of the cream cheese frosting, my daughter piped it onto the edge of oreos, then rolled them into color sugar. She did this right after frosting the cupcakes. It took longer than expected, and required a steady hand, but they were worth it! Cute and delicious!

foodwithpictures frosted oreo cookies

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Three days prior to the party I made the cookie dough for the chocolate kiss cookies, rolled each teaspoon of dough into blue sugar (her school color), then put the balls into silicone ice cube trays so that they wouldn’t form one large ball by sticking together, then those trays were put into a large plastic zipper baggie. This was stored in the freezer until the morning of the party. On party day it sat out for about an hour, then the cookies were placed on parchment lined cookie sheets into the preheated oven. Cooking time was about 1-2 minutes longer than usual. These were baked about two hours before the start of the party.

 

foodwithpictures chocolate kiss cookies

 

 

foodwithpictures kiss cookies with blue sugar

 

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The other cookies made ahead of time were the m&m cookies. I used the dough from our favorite chocolate chip cookies, but used a large bag of m&m’s instead of chocolate chips. Each teaspoon of dough was rolled into a ball, then placed into a mini-muffin paper liner, and then stored in the freezer in a covered 9×13 pan. The cookies also had an additional minute or two added to the baking time, but one batch came out a little too brown, so in the future, if baking from frozen dough, I would only add 1 minute to the baking time, not 2 minutes.

foodwithpictures m&m cookies

 

 

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The night before the party I melted semi-sweet chocolate and in a separate container I melted milk chocolate.  I dipped some pretzel rods into each of these (not both chocolates on the same rod), then placed them on wax paper. Once on the wax paper, I quickly sprinkled a bit of sea salt on them. These were stored in airtight containers until just before the party was to start.

 

foodwithpictures pretzel rods dipped in chocolate

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When I had the melted milk chocolate, I pierced marshmallows with decorative toothpicks (either one regular size marshmallow or 3 minis on each stick), dipped them in the melted chocolate, then rolled them in crushed graham crackers to create Smores-on-a-Stick. (These were very cute … but in my opinion almost too sweet!)

foodwithpictures smores on a stick

 

 

foodwithpictures smores on a stick

 

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Shortly before the party started I washed strawberries, then cut a store-made pound cake into one-inch cubes. These were put onto wooden skewers, placed on a serving tray, then drizzled with chocolate sauce.

foodwithpictures pound cake and strawberries

foodwithpictures strawberries and pound cake

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For my party guests who are gluten-free we purchased gluten-free pretzels and dipped half of the pretzels into melted semi-sweet chocolate chips, and the other half were dipped into melted milk chocolate. We also dipped marshmallows into the melted chocolate, such as for the Smores-on-a-Stick, but without the graham crackers. Also, strawberries and grapes were put on wooden skewers and served on another tray. And we made hot air popcorn, added butter and salt, and put that into individual paper cups.

foodwithpictures gluten free

foodwithpictures popcorn

 

 

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In addition to the desserts, we had individual milk boxes (chocolate milk and white milk), juice boxes, water, iced tea, and lemonade. I meant to make a pot of coffee, but completely forgot! I also had some wine, sangria, and beer, for those that wished to drink that kind of beverage.

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Can’t forget the decorations! I wanted the kitchen to look festive, colorful, and whimsical, but didn’t want to spend a lot of cash making it so. I purchased two rolls of crepe paper, and two packages of inexpensive paper lanterns.

foodwithpictures decorations 2

foodwithpictures decorations 1

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For the paper products, I have been keeping a keen eye on the clearance section of Target for the past year and as I found bargains I purchased a few packages of plates and colorful napkins. I was also lucky to acquire some plates, paper straws, and bowls from a friend who had extras after purchasing too many for a large school party she planned. The dollar store was my final stop for the plates that said “Congrats 2014 Grad”.  Total cost for all the paper products was less than $10.

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The party was fun. And sweet! The vanilla bean cupcakes were the first to go, and the m&m cookies and the cups of popcorn were also scooped up quickly.

Prior to the party I had plans to make whoopie pies, and made the cake part two days ahead, but I made the mistake of using a new recipe and they didn’t turn out as expected. They were very tasty, but LARGE. More like cupcakes rather than easy to hold and eat whoopie pies. After the party I sliced each one in half, then put in the filling, and my kids enjoyed them very much.  Here is a pic of those.

foodwithpictures whoopie pies 1

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foodwithpictures plate

granola bars

chocolate granola 7

I don’t know how best to say this in order for you all to understand the significance: My youngest son can now eat granola bars!

You may be thinking this isn’t big news or noteworthy, yet it is. He has a severe tree nut allergy, and there is not a granola bar available for purchase that is safe for him to eat. Because of this he hasn’t had a granola bar since before his diagnosis, which was about 4 years ago. But now, thanks once again to Mel’s Kitchen Cafe, he has granola bars daily! And this makes him happy.

Since I started making these, we always have granola bars in the house. Not only are they easy, but the ingredients are not expensive, and are easy to keep stocked in my kitchen.

I’ve made these in different variations, and my son has declared his favorite are the ones with cocoa as well as chocolate chips that aren’t melted in the mix. I prefer the ones without the cocoa. They’re all good … but we each have our favorite!

Below are the two variations I’ve made lately.

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Chocolate Granola Bars

1 3/4 cups quick oats *Note: Important to use quick oats and not old-fashioned.

1 cup crispy rice cereal

4 tablespoons butter (1/2 stick)

1/4 cup honey

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup cocoa

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup mini chocolate chips

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Line a 9×9 (or similar size pan) with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine the oats and cereal.

In a sauce pan over medium heat, combine the butter, honey, and brown sugar. Stir well and often.

Once bubbles appear, simmer and continue stirring for about 2 minutes.

Add cocoa. Stir well to combine then remove from heat.

Add vanilla. Stir.

Pour this mixture over the oats and cereal. Stir well to combine everything into a big sticky bowl of yumminess.

chocolate granola 1

chocolate granola 2

Spread the mix into the pan lined with parchment paper.

chocolate granola 3

Top with chocolate chips. Place a sheet of parchment paper on top and press firmly to make the mixture even and to push the chips into the granola a bit.

chocolate granola 4

chocolate granola 5

Cover and let sit at room temperature for 2 hours.

After the 2 hours, slide the parchment off the pan onto a counter and cut into whatever size and shape you want.

chocolate granola 8

Note: I like cutting them into 1×1-inch pieces — a few of these are perfect for my son’s daily snack at school. Also, for Valentine’s Day I used plastic heart cookie cutters (large and small) and, as you can see, I got the cutest heart shaped granola bars! Since I make these granola bars weekly, I’ll start cutting them using other cookie cutter shapes that I have just to make my son’s daily school snack a little more fun.

Another note: In addition to — or in place of — the chocolate chips, you could add chopped dried fruit and/or crushed/chopped pretzels and/or raisins. I wouldn’t add more than a total of 1/3 cup of these items. Remember to add them to the oats and cereal before pouring on the butter and honey mixture. 

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granola 11

Granola Bars

2 cups quick oats *Note: Important to use quick oats and not old-fashioned.

1 cup crispy rice cereal

1/4 cup mini chocolate chips

4 tablespoons butter (1/2 stick)

1/4 cup honey

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

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Line a 9×9 (or similar size pan) with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine the oats, cereal, and chocolate chips.

Note: If you don’t want the chocolate chips to melt from the heat of the liquid, keep them to the side until after the mixture is pressed into the pan (as I did in the above batch). 

granola 2

In a sauce pan over medium heat, combine the butter, honey, and brown sugar. Stir well and often.

granola 1

Once bubbles appear, simmer and continue stirring for about 2 minutes.

Remove from heat and add vanilla. Stir.

Pour this mixture over the oats, cereal, and chocolate chips in the large bowl. Stir well to coat all the oats and cereal.

*Update: I’ve made these so often now that I’ve changed my favorite version. Adding the chocolate chips at this point is not my favorite way of making these anymore. I prefer to add them at the end, as in the first example. By the way, if I were to add other ingredients, such as chopped pretzels, I might add the chocolate chips to the oats and cereal, because I’m not sure how well it would all stick otherwise.

granola 3

granola 4

Spread the mix into the pan lined with parchment paper.

granola 6

Place a sheet of parchment paper on top and press firmly to make the mixture even.

Let sit at room temperature for 2 hours.

granola 7

After the 2 hours, slide the parchment off the pan onto a counter and cut into whatever size and shape you want.

granola 8

granola 9

granola 10

Note: As noted above, in addition to — or in place of — the chocolate chips, you could add chopped dried fruit and/or crushed/chopped pretzels and/or raisins. I wouldn’t add more than a total of 1/3 cup of these items. Add them to the oats and cereal before pouring on the butter and honey mixture. 

turkey mozzarella meatballs

turkey meatballs served

Previously I posted my recipe for beef meatballs, and since that post they have quickly become one of my husband’s favorite meals, but lately I’ve been making them using ground turkey more often than with beef. Because the ingredients are identical to the beef recipe, I haven’t posted the specific recipe. So today I’m updating the recipe and posting it now.

In the past year and a half I’ve made meatballs about every other week. They are so easy, economical (one pound of ground meat makes enough for over two meals), and delicious.

Another change, other than using turkey, is that I now usually cook the meatballs in the oven instead of on the stove top. Cooking them this way allows me to kind of ignore them for a while, so that I can make the sides or do the dishes or catch up on my shows on DVR.

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Turkey Mozzarella Meatballs

1 egg

1/4 cup whole wheat bread crumbs

1/4 cup panko bread crumbs

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried basil

garlic powder

salt

pepper

2 cups pasta sauce (any kind you prefer — homemade or from a jar), divided

1 pound ground turkey breast

1/2 – 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, divided

1/4 cup grated or shredded Parmesan cheese

olive oil

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Heat oven to 350F.

In a large bowl, stir together the egg, bread crumbs, seasonings, and 1 cup of the pasta sauce. Mix in the ground turkey, 1/2 cup of the mozzarella, and the Parmesan.

(*Note: I do not enjoy mixing raw meat with my hands, and have found that stirring with a large serving fork mixes the meat and ingredients well.)

In a deep baking dish, pour enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan.

Using a large soup spoon, form the meat into balls about the size of golf balls. From the one pound of meat I get about 15 meatballs.

Place the meatballs into the baking dish and cook for 15 minutes.

ready for the oven

ready for the oven

Use a large spoon to gently turn each meatball, then return them to the oven for 10 minutes.

Remove from the oven and pour the remaining sauce over the meatballs and top with the remaining 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese, if desired.

Cook for an additional 5-10 minutes, or until the sauce is heated and the cheese (if added) is melted. *Note: In the top photo you may notice the lack of cheese. I chose not to put it on this time. 

Enjoy!

 

Christmas cookies

It’s that special, magical, yummy time of the year…. Christmas cookie time!  

As Christmas approaches I’m getting my recipes in order and stocking up on flour and chocolate and eggs. During this time of year I like to make lots of cookies and put a few of each on festive trays to distribute to neighbors and friends and teachers.

I don’t make all the cookies on the same day. Instead I freeze some, such as the gingersnaps and butter cookies, as described here.

frozen balls of cookie dough

These are the cookies I’m planning on making for this cookie-giving season:

cocoa cookies

cocoa cookies 6

butter cookies

butter cookies (4)

shortbread cookies

shortbread cookies

chocolate kiss cookies

kiss cookies (6)

hidden kiss cookies

cookie close up

gingersnaps 

gingersnaps

And a non-cookie as well:

candy cane bark

candy cane bark

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Okay, your turn…. What kind of cookies are you planning on making this holiday season? What’s your favorite cookie?

Thanksgiving turkey

Last year’s Thanksgiving turkey post … getting ready for tomorrow!

food with pictures

I am not posting pictures of my Thanksgiving turkey from this year, because I don’t find pictures of turkeys all that appetizing. Or maybe it’s only the photos I took don’t look that appetizing. Anyhoo, the turkey today tasted great. It was tender and delicious. But no photo, sorry.

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I am thankful to have been given my mother’s oval roaster. Amazing results every time! This roasting pan is one of my favorite things.

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Remember that bag of onion, celery, garlic and carrots from the other day? That’s what goes into the bottom of the pan when I make my Thanksgiving turkey. Then I add a cup of chicken broth.

The washed and dried bird goes on top, then a generous dusting of Bell’s. That stuff is awesome! Now, sure, you could make your own poultry seasoning using a combination of rosemary, oregano, sage, ginger, and…

View original post 249 more words

stuffing

Another Thanksgiving recipe to get us ready for the big day this week. Stuffing … my favorite part of the meal! And easy to make in the slow cooker, saving valuable space in the oven for the turkey and other sides.

food with pictures

I shall start by saying that I am fully aware the name of this should be “dressing” rather than “stuffing” since stuffing is meant to stuff inside the turkey, and dressing is meant to be cooked on the side. I have always called it stuffing and will continue to do so. That is my prerogative. And now to continue with the post. 🙂

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When I was in 7th grade I took Home Ec class. That would be Home Economics to you young people. Or what they now call Teen Living or FACS (Family And Consumer Sciences). In the fall of that 7th grade year we were in the kitchen section, and in the spring we went to the sewing room. I enjoyed both, but especially the times we cooked. No surprise there.

That fall, prior to Thanksgiving, the class was making all the components of a typical Thanksgiving feast…

View original post 694 more words