Archive for April 2016

Cheesy Mexican Lasagna

April 26, 2016
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Sargento. The opinions and text are all mine.

Layers of shredded chicken, poblano peppers, seasonings, corn tortillas, and cheese create this amazing dinner the whole family will crave!

Oh MAN do I love a good food challenge. I mean, I'm pretty much addicted to several Food Network shows, Chopped being one of my absolute favorites. I've seen some episodes where it's professional cooks who are competing, and others with amateur home cooks. I love them all!

It's always so suspenseful to have them open up those baskets and find out those mystery ingredients. If you haven't caught the show yet, the basic premise is that three people are creating dishes to compete against one another in front of food critics who will judge their dish. The catch is that, in each round, they are given a basket of ingredients and they have to incorporate all the ingredients into their dish. Some combinations I can see, others are just WACKO! At least once an episode I learn about an ingredient I'd never heard of before. It's really interesting!

I was recently given a Chopped at Home challenge with a "basket" of ingredients to incorporate in my recipe. SO FUN! My list of ingredients were... drumroll...

Ok, ok - I know. They totally went easy on me!! I honestly had at least 5 different recipe ideas with those amazing ingredients. After discussing with my resident food critic (AKA my husband) we both decided I should go for the Cheesy Mexican Lasagna. 

Friends, this is a dinner that you MUST try! I know my photography skills have come a long way since I began this blog adventure 5 years ago, but even these cheesy photos aren't doing this lasagna justice - trust me on this one!

Cheesy Mexican Lasagna

  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cooked and shredded
  • 1 1/2 cups chunky salsa
  • 15 oz black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 15 oz corn, drained
  • 1/2 cup diced poblano pepper
  • 1 oz pkg taco seasoning
  • 2 1/2 cups Sargento 4 Cheese Mexican Blend
  • 9 corn tortillas
  • sliced green onion
Cooking Directions
  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine shredded chicken, salsa, black beans, corn, pepper, and taco seasoning.
  2. Lay 3 tortillas in the bottom of a 3 quart casserole dish, overlapping as needed.
  3. Spread 1/3 of the chicken mixture over the tortillas, and then 1 cup of cheese.
  4. Repeat layers twice more, leaving the remaining 1/2 cup cheese aside. Cover dish with foil, and bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.
  5. Remove foil, sprinkle remaining cheese and green onion, and bake an additional 5-7 minutes or until cheese is melted. Allow to cool slightly before slicing and serving.

Slices of this amazing lasagna turned out so pretty plated, too! I served this with leftover grilled vegetables, but some Mexican rice and a side salad would go great too if you are expecting a crowd. If you're freezing, end with the cheese topping and cover. Thaw completely before heating according to baking directions above, but leave the foil on so that the cheese on top doesn't get too well done.

Sargento shredded cheese is available in 30 delicious varieties, blends, and cuts. Sargento Shredded Cheese is always cut from blocks of 100% real, natural cheese. Their packages of shredded cheese range from 3.25 to 3.95 ounces for a suggested retail price of $2.69 - which is why it's one of my favorite things to pick up during my grocery shopping!

If you think you have what it takes to be a champion on Chopped, submit your recipe to for the chance to win $5,000 and a trip to NYC to compete in a televised Chopped cooking challenge where the grand prize is $10,000! Be sure to check out Sargento's website ( and Pinterest page ( for more yummy recipe inspiration!

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This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Sargento. The opinions and text are all mine.

Toasted Pecan Pudding Trifles

April 22, 2016

Layers of sweet pound cake, crunchy toasted pecans and coconut, and creamy vanilla pudding with whipped cream make these mason jar trifles perfect for spring and summer!

I look forward to Mother's Day every year! Yes, of course, because I'm a mom and I get special treatment from my family for the day. But in our area, Mother's Day is unofficially when most people feel it's safe to plant flowers and vegetables outside. It means that spring has definitely arrived and summer is on its way!

This year I plan on putting in some zinnias in our front yard and a few vegetable plants in containers. Last year I did exactly ZERO gardening because Reuben was giving me a run for my money in my belly! With nausea and blood pressure issues, the LAST place I wanted to be was outside in the heat. The summer before last though, my zinnias took off like crazy. We had lots of caterpillars and butterflies, too - the boys loved it!

My mom has always loved gardening and, up until recently, I really could have cared less to join her. At my time of life right now though, it's such a nice change of pace to get in the garden outside and take something that looked dead and make it look alive again. Every day is filled with laundry, dishes, picking up things, and taking care of kids. With gardening, I get to use my creative energy again and I love it!

This beautiful Toasted Pecan Trifle is the perfect treat to prepare for you Mom this Mother's day! Pack it up in a mason jar and have the kids pick out a pretty potted flower plant and you have the perfect Mother's Day gift that she will love!

Toasted Pecan Pudding Trifles

  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cup shredded coconut
  • 2 3.4 oz pkgs instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 3 cups cold milk
  • 8 oz Cool Whip
  • 1 frozen Sara Lee Pound Cake, thawed and cut into cubes
Cooking Directions
  1. In a large bowl, toss together pecans, butter, flour, brown sugar, and coconut. Spread evenly onto an ungreased cookie sheet.
  2. Bake at 325 for 30 minutes, stirring at 10 minute intervals (check the last 5 minutes to prevent over browning). Cool completely.
  3. In another bowl, beat instant pudding and milk for 2 minutes. Refrigerate 5 minutes. Fold in Cool Whip.
  4. To assemble trifles, place a layer of cubed pound cake, pudding, and toasted pecans. Repeat layers until jars are filled. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve. Recipe makes 5-6 jars.

The sweet crunch of the toasted pecan coconut layers goes perfectly with cubed Sara Lee Pound Cake and vanilla pudding with Cool Whip - these went way too fast in our house!

Sara Lee and Cool Whip are brands I trust to create delicious and easy desserts, especially for Mother's Day! I like keeping a Sara Lee Dessert and Cool Whip in my freezer on hand for quick entertaining, or even an every day snack. Cool Whip is actually celebrating its 50th anniversary in May 2016 so let's celebrate! Leave your favorite Cool Whip recipe in the comment section below - bonus points if it features a Sara Lee Dessert as well! You can find Sara Lee Desserts and Cool Whip Whipped Topping products in the frozen foods section of your local Walmart! Find out more about Sara Lee and Cool Whip by visiting their websites. Happy Mother's Day, friends!

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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.

Italian Chili

April 20, 2016
The addition of spaghetti sauce, garlic, and mushrooms gives the typical chili a great twist! A dinner recipe from stove to table in under an hour!

So I was just scrolling through Facebook and a teacher page I follow posted a meme joking about not having lesson plans done because there's only 6 weeks left of the school year.


That's right moms and dads, there's only about 6 weeks left until the kiddies are out for the summer. I'm barely ready to put away our winter coats yet! In fact, the boys were actually wearing them one particularly chilly morning this week. 

But 6 weeks though... YIKES! For me though, it's not such a huge change since it's just Silas in school every day. And I really shouldn't panic because I really do look forward to him being home with us more. Can I get a hallelujah for not having to pack school lunches anymore?! 

Every summer I try to plan lots of fun activities and day trips with the kids, and this year I definitely want to do the same. We opted against a family vacation this year, because taking a 6-9 month old on vacation is not a vacation at all! Instead, we bought family season passes to a local amusement/water park and I'm excited to make lots of trips there for the kids to splash around and have fun, but still be close enough to home to not need to spend time packing and unpacking.

6 weeks left or not, we're still in busy-schedule school mode around here and dinners like this Italian Chili are great for busy weeknights!

Italian Chili

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 16 oz sliced mushrooms
  • 14 oz can diced tomatoes with garlic & onion
  • 26 oz jar spaghetti sauce
  • 1 cup water
  • 16 oz can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Cooking Directions
  1. Brown ground beef along with onions in a stockpot, drain, and return to pan.
  2. Stir in mushrooms, diced tomatoes, sauce, water, kidney beans, chili powder, salt and pepper.
  3. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes. Serve with a sprinkling of shredded mozzarella.

Leftovers are great frozen, too, so keep that in mind if you have a smaller family!

Make it a meal! Here's a great side dish and dessert to complete this dinner menu:

Cheddar Parmesan Bread

Buttermilk Custard Apple Pie

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Menu Plan 4/18

April 18, 2016

Well it was an absolutely beautiful weekend here in Central Pennsylvania, how about in your neck of the woods? The boys, quite literally, played outside all day on Saturday after we came home from Silas' baseball practice. Finally that night while they were in the bathtub, I felt like mom of the year when I realized the super redness on their faces was not just from running around - it was sunburn! I never put any sunblock on them at all the entire day - UGH! Hopefully I'll get the hang of having warmer weather sooner, rather than later. :/

Another busy week ahead for us with school, work, and activities. A yummy one, too - just check out my plan for the week below!

Roasted Vegetable Chili

Homemade Taco Helper

Feta & Grilled Veggie Turkey Burgers

Oven Chicken Fajitas

Pizza Grilled Cheese

Raid-the-fridge Night!

Out to Dinner!

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{linking up!}

Strawberry Cream Cheese Crescent Danish

April 15, 2016
Crescent rolls with cheesecake and strawberry pie filling, topped with more crescent rolls, and finished with a dusting of sugar. This is a super easy recipe to wow your guests for brunch or dessert!

I'm sitting here with half of a slice of this magnificent danish willing it not to end. I'm very serious here, friends! I've been very good with watching my calories the past few months and I planned ahead today for a slice of this.

Because I knew it was going to be this good.

I've always been a stinker for sweet breakfasty, brunchy recipes. They're words right? You know what I'm talking about: gooey cinnamon rolls, doughy french toast, coffee cakes, jumbo muffins. You name it, I'm in love with it all!

This one though can seriously double as a full on dessert. Creamy cheesecake filling along with a layer of strawberry pie filling. Plus, the colors - it's so pretty to look it!

Ok, have I sold you on this danish yet?

Strawberry Cream Cheese Crescent Danish

  • 2 (8 oz) cans refrigerated crescent rolls
  • 8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cup sugar, divided
  • 1 egg, separated
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 21 oz can strawberry pie filling
  • Optional: whipped cream
Cooking Directions
  1. Spray the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish. Unroll one can of crescent dough into the baking dish. Press seams to seal well.
  2. In a medium bowl, beat together cream cheese, 1 cup sugar, egg yolk, and vanilla. Spread cream cheese mixture over dough.
  3. Spoon strawberry pie filling over cream cheese. Unroll remaining crescent roll dough over strawberry pie filling (optional: unroll on a greased cookie sheet, press seams well, and then place on top of strawberry pie filling).
  4. Beat egg white until frothy in a small bowl and brush over top of danish. Sprinkle evenly with remaining sugar.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes until dough is golden brown. Cool completely before slicing and serving!

In #3 of the directions above, I gave you two options on the top crescent crust. If I was just making this for my family, I wouldn't bother pressing the seams out or anything. But I did do that with the pictures here to show you how nicely the top crust can turn out. It's totally up to you, and super easy either way!

Here are some more of my favorite sweet brunch recipes:

Sour Cream Coffee Cake

Sunrise Cinnamon Bread

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5 Minute Peanut Butter Smores

April 14, 2016
This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #StackItUp #CollectiveBias

Crackers topped with peanut butter, chocolate chips, and marshmallows and heated in the microwave. The perfect after school sweet treat!

What is it with after school and sports activities that make my boys absolutely famished the second they walk through the door? That's a bit of a joke, I only wish I had an ounce of the energy they have on a daily basis. With the way they complain though, I feel like I have to have a million snacks ready and waiting! If I don't, they totally get "hangry." Get it? Hungry and angry at the same time. Now that's a recipe for disaster if I've ever heard one!

I honestly can't blame them, they completely take after me. I'm a fine and very pleasant person most of the day (I'm sure they would argue that). If I'm hungry though? STAY AWAY. Back out of the room slowly! Give me a snack and about 10 minutes and I'll be good to go. I'm probably the reason they invented the word "hangry" and as long as my family recognizes that, our lives will be much happier!

These boys, unfortunately, are just the same. If we come home and I haven't already thought about what to give them to eat, it's bad news. The whining and complaining starts. Which then leads to them fighting with each other and crying. I'm literally exhausted just thinking about all of this chaos. And of course, there's a direct correlation between level of hunger and level of pickiness. Five minutes before in the car everyone was fine with bananas and juice, but now that sounds disgusting to them for some reason. I can't win!

The perfect snack is one that I know everyone will be in the mood for no matter what. No complaining, no arguing. Just, "Yay! Thanks, Mom!" I'll never get tired of hearing that phrase. :)

5 Minute Peanut Butter Smores

  • 5 RITZ Original Crackers
  • 2 tablespoons Peter Pan Simply Ground Peanut Butter
  • 1/2 cup miniature semi sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup miniature marshmallows
Cooking Directions
  1. Top each cracker with a smear of peanut butter, sprinkling of miniature chocolate chips, and 2-3 miniature marshmallows. Microwave for 30-35 seconds or until marshmallows are puffy and chocolate is melted. Allow to cool on plate 1 minute before serving. Makes 1 serving.

Not only are these snacks super tasty, but they're so darn cute I can't take it! Plus, peanut butter and smores are seriously a match made in heaven, yum!

With young kiddos in the house, we go through crackers quite frequently. I was so excited to see these RITZ Original Fresh Stacks available on my last trip to Walmart. There was such a sweet lady sharing samples of RITZ Original Cracker with Peter Pan Simply Ground Peanut butter and a slice of banana on top. It was such a fun and simple snack, I was inspired to go home and create my own!

Those Fresh Stacks make it much easier to slip a sleeve of RITZ Original Crackers into the diaper bag when we're on the go. Be sure to check out RITZ Fresh Stacks Ultimate Butter on store shelves since March 28th, while supplies last - they sound super yummy! 

What would you top your RITZ Originals with? Leave your snack idea in the comment section below, I'd love to try it! Click here to go to the RITZ Social Hub for more ideas, too!

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