Friday, November 30, 2012

Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole

With the cooler weather here to stay I am always looking for new "cold weather" meals.  The grill is packed away (sad!!!) and the oven is working full gear.  P.S. I love using the oven cuz it not only delivers yummy food but it also helps heat my house.  And let's face it, there are some meals that just taste better in the winter.  Not many of us want to eat chili in the middle of July.  Not in Michigan anyway.  Casseroles are one of the meals I consider "cold weather" meals.  I am a big fan of casseroles!  I also like to have quite a few good casserole recipes on hand for when I need to bring a meal to someone.  This recipe for Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole is perfect for that!  I brought it to a friend this week and she suggested I put the recipe on my blog.  Here it is...

Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole

1 lb pasta (I prefer penne)
1 1/2 Cups cooked and cubed chicken
1 Cup cooked and cubed ham
1 1/2 Cups milk
8 oz. cream cheese (softened)
2 Tbsp. minced onion
2 Cups swiss cheese shredded
Cayenne pepper
1 Cup panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup melted butter

Preheat oven to 350*.  Cook pasta till al dente.  (The first time I made this I used penne and the second time I used cavatapi.  I prefer penne.  The cavatapi was too big for my 9x13!)  While pasta is cooking combine milk, softened cream cheese and onion in small sauce pan.  Cook, stirring often until smooth.  Remove from heat and stir in a dash of cayenne pepper and swiss cheese.  When pasta is cooked, toss in the chicken and ham.  Pour cheese sauce over pasta and stir to coat.  Transfer to 9x13.  Top with bread crumbs and pour on melted butter.  Bake for 30 minutes.  ENJOY!!
*this recipe is adapted from

I have found an inexpensive and super easy way to cook chicken breast.  With all these yummy casseroles I have pined on Pinterest I decided I was going to cook a bunch of chicken and freeze it for when I am ready.  This makes dinner super easy and fast!!!  I found split breasts on sale at my grocery store for $1.49/lb.  The boneless skinless breasts were $1.99/lb.  The savings doesn't seem big but when you add it up each shopping trip.... $$$$$  To cook the chicken I placed 4 breasts in my Pampered Chef Deep Covered Baker (My Fav!!!).  I lightly seasoned the skin with salt, pepper and season salt.  I covered the baker and baked chicken at 350* for 3 hours.  I let it cool in the baker for about 30 min. and let all the juices soak in.  I then used a tongs to take the bones out and skin off (they literally fell off) and used the same tongs to shred the chicken.  Done!  Easy!!  Two chicken breasts were used for dinner and 2 were frozen for the next casserole. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Homemade Bathroom Cleaner

I really thought that all of my posts were going to be food related.  Since I have discovered Pinterest I have indulged in a new passion, making cleaning products from mostly natural products I already have in the home.  I figured I can cut down on costs as well as all the toxic stuff that is going down the drain!  I started with powdered laundry soap.  I LOVE it!!!  I will post the recipe when I need to make another batch.  The one product I am totally crazy about is my bathroom cleaner.  I have seen it posted all over Pinterest but found the recipe on  I am in love with her blog and have found some wonderful ideas that I know I will be trying.  This one is very simple and there is no scrubbing involved.  My favorite kind of cleaning!!

The recipe for this cleaner is 1 part Dawn dish soap and 2 parts vinegar.  The original recipe I found called for the original blue Dawn but I had a purple hand renewal and it worked great.  Use what you have on hand.  As you can see I mixed them right in my old spray cleaner bottle.  No waste.  Spray cleaner in tub/shower and let sit for 30min. to an hour.  Then simple wipe with a wet cloth.  I use microfiber.  It can be a little soapy so a good rinse may be needed.  It was amazing how the soap scum just came right off!  I also use this for my bathroom sink and counter.  Vinegar has strong antibacterial properties so it is great for cleaning in the bathroom and kitchen. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Best Ever Banana Bread

 I don't know one person who doesn't like banana bread.  I also don't know anyone who ALWAYS eats all of their bananas before they start to brown.  When my bananas start to brown I usually peal and bag them and throw them in the freezer.  That way I am not wasting and I always have them on hand for smoothies or banana bread. 
  My dear friend Jenna is partial to this recipe and has called me several times for the recipe (you should write it down buddy!)  When she delivered her third baby I knew just what I needed to bring her in the hospital.  A good loaf of banana bread.  I brought it to her the next morning and together we ate the WHOLE loaf!! 
  I think there are two ingredients that set this recipe apart from the normal recipe.  Buttermilk and instant vanilla pudding (and don't forget real butter).  The pudding makes the bread super moist and the buttermilk adds a rich dimension to the flavor. 

  I always make 2 loaves when baking this recipe but this time I made one loaf and 24 mini muffins.  I thought the muffins would be easier to eat in the car on a fun girls shopping weekend to Chicago!  I do have to say that I like the bread better.  Although I do like butter I thought the butter flavor was more prominent in the muffins.  I had a little help scooping the muffins from my nephew.  (I think he just kept dipping his finger in for a lick.) 

This recipe is from the same cookbook I got the Mrs. Fields Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe from.

Best Ever Banana Bread

3/4 C. butter
1 1/2 C. sugar
2 eggs
3 bananas mashed
1/2 C. buttermilk
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/4 C. flour
1 package instant vanilla pudding (not large size)

Preheat oven to 350*.  Cream butter and sugar until fluffy.  Beat in eggs then add bananas.  In separate bowl combine flour, salt, soda and powder.  Add flower mixture and buttermilk alternately to the banana mixture.  Mix well after each addition.  I usually alternate 4 times.  Add pudding and mix well.  Nuts are optional.  Pour into 2 greased loaf pans and bake for 60-70 minutes. 

*My favorite is eating the end piece about 20 minutes after it comes out of the oven.  It is still warm and nice and crispy on the edge but soft and moist on the inside. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Mrs. Field's Chocolate Chip Cookies

I have to admit that I have one BIG sweet tooth!!  I also love to bake!!!!!  These two loves are a BAD combo.  Bad for the waistline.  When I graduated collage and moved into my first apartment my mom gave me a cookbook from a local high school.  I found this recipe for chocolate chip cookies that were a little different than the normal.  They have grated chocolate on top of chocolate chips (the more chocolate the better!!) and ground oatmeal.  YUM!  I was a big fan and my husband an even bigger fan. 

I set out to make these yesterday only to realize I was out of eggs.  I thought I would just hold off till I had a chance to get to the store.  I checked with my husband to see if he could stop and get some on his way home from work.  The gas station was out but he was determined to get eggs.  Needless to say, we had cookies that night.  Thanks for the eggs babe!!


Mrs. Field's Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 C. butter
1 C. brown sugar
1 C. sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
2 C. flour
2 1/2 C. oatmeal
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
12 oz chocolate chips
6 oz Hershey chocolate bar, grated
1 C nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 375*  Grind oatmeal in blender/processor.  Set aside.  Cream butter and sugar until smooth.  Add eggs and beat till creamy.  Add vanilla.  Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well.  Bake for 7 min.  Do Not Over Bake!!!  If you are using a stone to bake these will take a bit longer.  My first batch took 9 minutes and my second took 8.

I usually try to make things a bit healthier and use whole wheat flour.  AWESOME!  The whole wheat flour goes great with the oatmeal.  Because of the oatmeal and the whole wheat flour, does this mean I can have them for breakfast? 

The cookies are still good if you don't add the extra grated chocolate but who would want to take away chocolate?  I would usually use my food processor for this but mine is broken.  Instead I used a Pampered Chef microplane with a food holder and grating the chocolate was a breeze!  I used Hershey milk chocolate chips instead of a bar.   

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Skinny Tortilla Soup

Soup is one of my all time favorite meals when the cooler weather hits.  I could eat soup daily.  I don't know if it's the soup I love or the crusty bread and butter that goes with it (or grilled cheese!)  I think it is the combo of both I just can't get enough of.  I have been craving this soup since fall arrived!  It is my all time favorite and it is souper easy to make!!  I am not sure where I got the recipe from, I think it may be a Weight Watcher recipe.  The greatest thing about it is that most of the ingredients are already in my pantry, or freezer. 

The recipe calls for tomatoes, garlic and lime juice.  This can be substituted for a jar of salsa but let me tell you that the fresh garlic and lime make the soup taste fresh!  Also, it says to cook in the Deep Covered Baker.  This is one of my favorite Pampered Chef products (I am a consultant :), contact me for info)  This can just be done in a stock pot.  Simply cook the chicken prior to adding the rest of the ingredients.  The seasonings are Pampered Chef as well.  I am sure you can substitute any southwest or taco seasoning.