Archive for January 2015


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Ugly Pie

January 29, 2015
Filled with granny smith apples, chopped walnuts, raisins, and molasses - there's nothing ugly about the flavor of this delicious classic pie!




One of the things I'm most proud of myself for doing this past year is making library visits with the boys a habit in our family. This summer, I signed Wesley up for our local "1,000 books before Kindergarten" challenge. That's right, our goal is to read a whopping 1k books with him before September 2016! We're in the 200's right now so I'm hopeful we can do it! 

There are just so many benefits to getting kids interested in reading as early as possible and I have to say, the road has been long with Silas in particular! Up until this year, he really wasn't interested in books for more than 5 minutes at a time and usually when I would ask him if he wanted to read with me, his answer was "Not right now." Wesley on the other hand, was always into books and reading - even as a baby. He loved looking at the colors and the shapes and sitting with us while we read.

I have to say though, personally I LOVE the library. It's calm, peaceful, and I'm surrounded by some of my favorite things in the world: BOOKS! It helped Silas loads to see how excited I was to visit the library, and he now gets excited about our trips, too. Our local libraries offer so many fun activities for kids: toddler and preschool story times, summer "camps", Lego club, we even went a few weeks ago to a library "block party." They had bought brand new wooden blocks for the children's library and held a block party for the kids to play with them and hear stories read to them about shapes. It was a lot of fun!


On our last trip out, Wesley picked a book called "Ugly Pie" by Lisa Wheeler (*affiliate link). I was in a rush to get out and get my beloved iced coffee, this was one of the weeks where I just let them pick some random books that caught their eye. We read it that night before bed together and what an endearing book! It's about a bear who has a taste for "ugly pie" and goes around to his friends homes collecting the ingredients. Our mouths were actually watering by the end of the book and to our surprise as we turned to the last page - there was a recipe for homemade ugly pie from the author herself!

So of course the boys begged me to make it, and here she is! We all agreed that yes the ingredients were ugly, but this pie is absolutely delicious!



Ugly Pie

Ingredients
  • 1 pie crust
  • 6 cups Granny Smith apples, peeled and chopped
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 5 tablespoons flour
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup finely diced walnuts
For crumb topping:
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup butter, cold
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
Cooking Directions
  1. In a large bowl, mix together apples, lemon juice, and molasses. Add in flour, brown sugar, white sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Toss to combine well. Stir in raisins and walnuts.
  2. Place pie crust into a deep dish pie plate. Fill with apple filling.
  3. For topping, place flour, cold butter, and brown sugar in a deep bowl. Using a pastry cutter or two knives, combine until you have coarse crumbs. Sprinkle evenly over pie.
  4. Cover with foil and bake at 400 degrees for 40 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 20 minutes. Cool completely before serving.



It's REALLY hard to wait until this pie cools completely, but it holds together much better that way. Of course if you have no will power (like me, haha), just top it with some vanilla ice cream and call it a day!


Here are some more of my favorite pie recipes:


Pastor's Wife Apple Crumb Pie




Mint Oreo Pudding Pie




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Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas

January 26, 2015
Cooked chicken and spices wrapped up in torillas and topped with a sour cream green chile sauce, cheddar, and guacamole - this one's a total crowd pleaser!





You guys. They want dinner every night. Every. Single. Night.


UUUGGGHHHH.


I plan and I buy all the ingredients. I have all the recipes on hand. But some days, I just want to throw in the towel! You know, the days when the kids decided that every toy needed to come out and into the entire living room, mount "laundry-more" is higher than the washing machine, and all you feel like doing is hibernating until winter is over.

Welcome to my world!

Life was so much simpler when I could just walk into the kitchen, make myself something to eat, and then sit right down and eat it. Not nearly as wonderful, but so SO much simpler.

Sigh.

These enchiladas, though. Send the kids to their room or, better yet, sit them in front of Curious George on Netflix, whatever you need to do to clear the kitchen so you can make these enchiladas. If dinner is going to be a stress and a hassle every. single. night. at least you get these amazing enchiladas, am I right?! ;)

Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas

Yield: 8 enchiladas
Ingredients
  • 2 cups cooked, shredded chicken
  • 2 tablespoons salsa
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 8 whole wheat or low carb tortillas
For green chile enchilada sauce:
  • 4 oz 1/3 less fat cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 4 oz can diced green chiles
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • prepared guacamole, if desired
Cooking Directions
  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine chicken, salsa, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, and salt. Spread evenly down the center of each tortilla, roll up tightly, and place in a 9 x 13 baking dish. In a small blender or food processer, blend cream cheese, sour cream, green chiles, minced garlic, chicken broth, chili powder, cumin and salt until smooth. Pour evenly over tortillas in baking dish. Sprinkle with cheese. Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 5 minutes or until cheese is bubbly. Serve with additional sour cream or prepared guacamole (I just mashed two avocados with some salsa and taco seasoning).




It's a long list of ingredients, but it's mainly seasonings and I can assure you. It's worth every minute of effort! YUM!


Here are some more of my favorite casseroles:


Cheesy Cauliflower Casserole




Biscuit Topped Italian Casserole




Pierogi Casserole




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Menu Plan Monday 1/26



Good morning everyone! Today is Silas' first official snow day and we are celebrating in style. Pajamas, blankets all over the living room, and snacks - ha! We actually already had about 4 inches fall here on Saturday so I was able to take the boys sledding for the first time. Take a peek:






They're so cute! And they had a total blast. Paul was disappointed he wasn't there (at work) so we're hoping with this lengthy storm today he'll be able to take them.

Here are the posts from last week, in case you missed them:

Lemon Meringue Cake







Tuna BLT Melt







5 Reasons I Plan "Dinner Out" Nights, and Why You Should Too!







Paul starts his seminary classes again this week, so we have a few months of super busy schedules around here until the spring! Here's my menu plan for the week:



Creamy Tomato Tortellini Skillet








Homemade Taco Helper








Roasted Nacho Potatoes








Crockpot Chicken Chili








Roasted Garlic Crockpot Rotisserie Chicken








Peanut Butter Pancakes with Honey Butter








Hoagies for the Super Bowl!






I hope you have a wonderful, wintry week!

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5 Reasons I Plan Dinner Out Nights - and Why You Should Too!

January 23, 2015
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Pizza Hut. The opinions and text are all mine.



I am a gigantic proponent of menu planning and the freedom it gives us cooks during the week. The ability to have all ingredients on hand for the entire week to create yummy and nutritious meals for your family is a true sanity saver. I do have one question for those of you that regularly meal plan like me.

Do you plan "dinner out" nights?

It may seem contradictory to my thoughts I just stated, but you really should plan nights to eat out! Here are my top 5 reasons:


1. The cook gets a night off. 
     Ok, this is the one that is making you say, "DUH" to the screen. But hear me out. How many of us are so focused on serving a hot meal and cleaning up, that we really don't get a chance to enjoy the time spent with our family? I know I'm one! Half the time my food is cold before I even sit down! It's so refreshing to just sit and enjoy each other at a restaurant and not have to worry about everyone getting their meal hot and their various drinks and cleaning up spills... etc. 

2. You make healthier choices when you plan to eat out.
     This goes hand in hand with regular menu planning. I don't know about you, but when I don't plan meals and I'm hungry and stressed out, my go to is the drive thru - certainly NOT the most healthy option, but it is the most convenient option at that point in time. When you plan a night out, you can pick a family favorite restaurant that has more nutritious options for your family. 

3. Cooking inspiration abounds! 
     I love, love, LOVE getting inspiration for new meal ideas when I go out to eat! Sometimes when an ingredient I want to try is a bit pricey, I'll order it out first to see if I can come up with ways to incorporate it into meals at home. I've come up with some of my favorite recipes and desserts from the inspiration I get from eating out! And for those of you that don't particularly enjoy being in the kitchen, it just may encourage you to get in there and try something new.

4. It fits within your family's budget.
     There's no doubt about it - when you're rushing around, everyone's hungry, and you have nothing planned for dinner - it's really cheap to get a bag of burgers on your way home from work. You know what's not cheap? Doing it once, twice (or more... yikes!) times per week. It adds up. Quickly. I'm telling you, the temptation to do this goes away if you know you have a planned night out with your family at a favorite restaurant coming up. Of course that sit-down restaurant may cost more, but if you only plan it once or twice per month it's certainly cheaper in the long run. It encourages you to make a dinner plan and stick to it - because you'll be rewarded with an awesome night out!

5. It's totally FUN!
     I mean I know this goes without saying, but it's gotta be one of my favorite reasons to plan a night out. We have a total BLAST with each other! I mean really, who doesn't like to eat out?! My husband and I even occasionally get to (gasp) hold hands across the table! I'm so glad we get to plan for this family activity together.


We have LOADS of local restaurants that have become favorites of ours, and we've recently rediscovered Pizza Hut on a night out together we had planned. We were able to try out their new "Flavor of Now" pizza options - SO fun! The kids of course ordered their favorite personal pan pizzas, remember those from Book-It school reading incentive program? Yes, they still do that! 





Paul and I decided on a stuffed crust pizza, topped with premium crushed tomato, grilled chicken, and a buffalo drizzle. OH MAN was that pizza good! I actually ordered a small side of ranch dressing, which was perfect to cool off the spicy buffalo wing sauce. They give you a choice of 5 new toppings, 6 bold sauces, 8 crust flavors, and 4 drizzles to choose from. We decided that next time we visit, we'll try the salted pretzel crust with creamy garlic parmesan and fresh spinach - yum!



Be sure to check out Pizza Hut's Flavor of Now site to see all of the combinations you can create. Click here to conveniently order your pizza online - hot and ready for you!


Here are some of my favorite pizza recipes:


Meatball Mozzarella Mini Pizzas




Ranch Veggie Pizza




Cheesy Herb Pizza Sticks




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Give Pizza Hut's all-new menu a try with 5 premium new ingredients, 6 bold new sauces and 10 amazing new crust flavors. Build your own creation now at PizzaHut.com.
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Pizza Hut. The opinions and text are all mine.


Tuna BLT Melt



Tuna, bacon, lettuce, tomato, and cheddar stuffed in a wrap and grilled - the perfect lunch!





If there ever was a flavor that can immediately bring me back to my little house in Philadelphia as a kid, it's a tuna sandwich on white bread. Tuna was always a favorite in my house growing up. Why? SO affordable! At least a few cans of tuna were always in our pantry and I think we learned how to whip up a quick sandwich by ourselves while we were still in elementary school! My mom and dad both worked so I remember during the summer when we were bored and hungry, my sister, best friend, and I would make tuna or instant mashed potatoes. The only two things we knew how to make at the time. True story!



Bumble Bee Tuna is STILL one of my favorites, although we enjoy it a bit differently than with my dad's beloved white bread! The boys love it with some cheese on whole wheat. Paul and I love it over spring mix, shredded cheese, and our favorite light balsamic vinaigrette. A few times I've forgone the salad idea, and just stuffed it into a low carb wrap. 

Which is where this brilliant idea got started.

Tuna. Bacon. Tomato. Spring Mix. Cheddar. Grilled. OMG - you NEED to try!

This is a step above the traditional tuna salad sandwich, and you won't look back. What a great way to start the New Year for a New You!


Tuna BLT Melt

Yield: 4 wraps
Ingredients
  • 3 cans Bumble Bee chunk light tuna in water, drained
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon dried minced onion
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 8 slices bacon, cooked
  • 1 tomato, sliced
  • 1 cup spring mix
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 4 whole wheat or low carb wraps
Cooking Directions
  1. Heat an indoor counter top grill or panini press. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, mix together drained tuna, mayo, vinegar, dried minced onion, and garlic powder. Spread even amounts of the tuna mixture down the center of each wrap. Top each with 2 bacon slices, tomato, spring mix, and 1/4 cup shredded cheddar. Wrap tightly and grill for 3 - 4 minutes until cheese is melted and wrap is brown and crispy. Slice on a diagonal and serve.




I really love the Bumble Bee brand tuna specifically because you can find it in the can or the pouch, I've been able to find some fantastic deals at the grocery store as well as coupons available for the pouch variety! Not to mention, of course, the health benefits of tuna: variety of nutrients, lean protein source, healthy fat, and important vitamins and minerals. Something we all could use more of in our diets! 


Here are some more of my favorite tuna recipes:


Skillet Tuna Cakes with Homemade Tartar Sauce




Tuna Melt Quesadillas




What are some of your favorite Bumble Bee tuna recipes? Share a link in the comments if you can!



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I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Lemon Meringue Cake

January 22, 2015
Lemon cake mix, lemon curd filling, frosted with meringue - this cake with have lemon lovers rejoicing!





Is there anything more impressive than a homemade two layer cake? It makes everyone feel like it's a special occasion in the house! We used boxed mixes all the time for birthday cakes and of course my dad's favorite chocolate cake with chocolate frosting.

To this day I still like to keep a few boxed cake mixes on my shelves "just in case." I have a lot of recipes here in Mostly Homemade Mom that use this shortcut so you can see it's one of my favorites!

Sure cake from scratch tastes amazing, but a lot of times us busy parents can't think that far ahead. Whether you're caught the night before a school or church bake sale, unexpected guests are coming over, or you're looking for a cheap alternative to a bakery birthday cake, I see several reasons to have them available to you on the ready.

But you know what? Check out all the ways you can take them to the next level - often with just a few simple ingredients! Add in chocolate chips for a triple chocolate cake, colored sprinkles for a homemade funfetti cake, really anything in your dessert stash could be a yummy mix-in. 





This Lemon Meringue Cake is one of those cake mix recipes that take it to a whole new level! I have the recipe for the lemon curd filling below, but you can certainly use your favorite store bought to save even more time. Don't skip the meringue frosting - it really gives a feeling of lemon meringue pie and it's beautiful!

Lemon Meringue Cake

Ingredients
  • 15 oz box lemon cake mix
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/3 cup oil
For lemon curd:
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 4 egg yolks, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon butter
For meringue:
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 3/4 cup sugar
Cooking Directions
  1. With a hand mixer, beat cake mix, water, eggs, and oil until smooth. Pour evenly into two greased, round cake pans and bake at 350 for 25 - 30 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool on wire racks.
  2. Meanwhile, stir together sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a saucepan. Whisk in water and lemon juice.
  3. Heat over medium high heat and cook and stir until bubbling and thick. Reduce heat to low and cook and stir for 2 minutes.
  4. Ladle a small amount of hot filling into bowl of beaten egg yolks (reserve egg whites) and whisk (this is to "temper" the yolks or heat them to the same temperature as the hot filling). Whisk the yolks into the saucepan.
  5. Increase heat to medium and bring to a boil for two minutes, stirring constantly. Turn off heat and stir in butter. Set aside to cool.
  6. For meringue, place reserved egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whipping beater attachment. Add in cream of tartar and turn on mixer to medium speed. Stiff peaks will form after a while, then gradually add in sugar as it's beating.
  7. To assemble cake, place one layer on an oven safe plate. Spread lemon curd filling and then the second layer of cake.
  8. Spread meringue over top and sides of cake. Place cake in the oven preheated at 350 for 15 minutes or until the meringue has browned on the edges. Cool, slice and serve!
Recipe adapted from Taste of Home.

It may seem like a lot of steps, but it comes together simply and it's so impressive to family and friends - mine went NUTS over this beautiful cake! It would make a wonderful birthday cake as well!




Here are some more of my favorite cake recipes:


Peanut Butter Cup Pound Cake




Pistachio Pudding Cake




Peach Walnut Dump Cake




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