Monday, August 27, 2012

"Crack Dip"

Several months ago Nate emailed me a link to a recipe for "Buffalo Chicken Dip"... now this is not something he does too often, so I thought it was probably worth trying. This weekend we had an End of Summer party at our house, and I decided to try the dip, which I had since learned is actually referred to as "crack dip." I don't even like buffalo sauce, but this dip is amazing. I made an entire casserole dish full and it was all gone within 30 minutes! Follow the recipe below, great party good:

Buffalo Chicken Dip

8 ounce package of cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup ranch salad dressing
1/4 cup blue cheese salad dressing
1/2 cup buffalo sauce or buffalo style barbecue sauce (I think the "Louisiana Sauce" is best)1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese (cheddar or mozzarella cheese can also be substituted)
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. In a deep baking dish, mix cream cheese, salad dressing, buffalo sauce, and cheese. Stir until smooth and combined. Stir in chicken. Bake uncovered for 20-25 minutes, until the dish is heated through. Serve with crackers, pita chips, sliced bread or vegetables.


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Spinach Stuffed Shells

I made this pasta recipe for dinner Thursday night and it was a BIG hit! This recipe could easily feed  4-6 hungry people, and would be a great dinner party meal. Plus, there's something special and kind of fun about using JUMBO shells:

- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 frozen, thawed package of spinach
- 16 oz. ricotta cheese
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella
- 1/2 cup Parmesan (shredded or grated)
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 1 Tbs Italian seasoning
- pinch of ground nutmeg
- 2 jars spaghetti sauce (the recipe only calls from one, but we thought it needed more sauce)
- 1 box jumbo stuffed shells

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cook pasta shells, drain, and set aside to cool (do not overcook pasta, as shells will be difficult to stuff). Brown ground beef and drain fat.

2. While shells are cooling, mix in large bowl ricotta, Parmesan, 1 cup mozzarella, 1 egg, Italian seasoning, nutmeg, salt, pepper, thawed spinach and ground beef (seasoning can be adjusted according to personal preference).

3. Once pasta is cooled, using large spoon, stuff each shell with mixture. Shells should be stuffed generously but still be able to almost close.

4. Pour half of spaghetti sauce in bottom of large casserole dish, add stuffed shells, pour remaining spaghetti sauce over top and sprinkle with the remaining 1 cup mozzarella.

5. Bake @ 375 for 30 minutes. Enjoy!

Best Sunday Night Dinner

Taco salad is my ultimate Sunday night dinner - it's easy, delicious, and filling! It takes less than 15 minutes to make, and even my meat-and-potatoes husband loves this.

- 1 can pinto beans
- 1 small jar sliced black olives
- 1 green bell pepper
- 1 red onion 
- 1 pkg shredded colby jack cheese
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 pkg taco seasoning
- 1 bag Frito's
- 1 can corn
- 1 head romaine lettuce
- 1 jar Catalina salad dressing

1. Brown ground beef and drain fat. Add taco seasoning.

2. Mix remaining ingredients and toss salad with Catalina dressing. Add Frito's to top for more crunch.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Chicken Lettuce Wraps

PF Changs meet Cheesecake Factory - These are the two places that I think have the best lettuce wraps, and this recipe is a combination of both:

Chicken Filling:
 2-3 chicken breasts cut in small cubes (you can also use ground turkey for texture similar to PF Changs)
 1 can water chestnuts, chopped finely
 1 bunch green onions, chopped
 1/2 can bean sprouts (found in the Asian food isle of your grocery store)

Brown sugar, soy sauce, white rice vinegar, siracha (or Tabasco) - I can't give exact measurements, add according to taste.

Cook chicken until almost done. Add bean sprouts, green onions, water chestnuts, and sauce. Let all cook thoroughly and simmer in sauce for about 15 minutes (you'll want enough sauce to coat all the ingredients fairly well).

Serve with butter lettuce, shredded carrots, shredded/chopped cucumber, chopped green onions, and the remaining 1/2 can of bean sprouts. I like to set it up like a taco bar and let everyone make their own. Make a separate bowl of sauce in which to dip wraps. Enjoy!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Birthday/Garden Party!

Happy Birthday to my sweet friend Garland Hopkins. Garland and I have known each other for six years and were roommates in college and post college. Last night to celebrate her birthday we have an outdoor dinner party at my house. Here's some pictures from our party:

Garland and her sister

The utensils were wrapped inside the napkins and tied with a toule ribbon

Food labels (using colored paper and a stamp)

Set up #2 (it was in the grass before it rained)

The cake/appetizer table

Another simple and colorful banner

The wine bottles each contined three flowers and there were two per table.
The mason jars had small tea lights and there were three on every table.

"Mothers to Bee" Baby Shower

This past weekend a few friends and I hosted a joint shower for two other friends, Julia Klie and Jennifer Sharp. We did a "Mothers To Bee" theme since one was having a boy and one was having a girl. We used black, white, and yellow with touches of burlap as our decor. Here's some pictures of the shower:

Our main table with food and the diaper cakes.

This banner was so easy to make and looked adorable with the
mini clothespins and twine.

Cupcake flags were a big hit. See below for instuctions on how to make.

The flower arrangement was made of lemons and has a burlap ribbon
surrounding it to give it a pop of color. I've done similar arrangements
using oranges, apples, and limes for different textures and colors.

To make "Cupcake Flags":

1. Make cupcake labels (using Microsoft Word or Adobe InDesign) and cut.
Be sure to measure first.

2. Cut heavy-stock paper into strips (long enough to wrap around the toothpick)

3. Fold long strip (yellow) in half and glue text strip (white) on 

4. Glue toothpick in center of fold and allow to dry. You can make them as
small or large as you like depending on the text you have. You can also
not use any text and simply do designs/patterns.
Great for showers and parties.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Balsamic Glazed Pork Tenderloin

This recipe turned out amazing, and it is so easy! I made it last night for a pot-luck and it turned out delicious. It's also easy to adjust if you're feeding lots of people.
1 (2 pound) boneless pork tenderloin (or regular pork loin)
1 teaspoon ground sage
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 cup water

1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons soy sauce

Combine sage, salt, pepper and garlic. Rub over roast. Place in slow cooker with 1/2 cup water. Cook on low for 6-8 hours. About 1 hour before roast is done, combine ingredients for glaze in small sauce pan. Heat and stir until mixture thickens. Brush roast with glaze 2 or 3 times during the last hour of cooking. Serve with remaining glaze on the side.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Easy & Cheap Pasta

We all know that no matter how much you enjoy cooking, there's nights after a long day at work where you want to be able to make something (other than a sandwich) that is yummy and takes less than 15 minutes! Nate really loves this because it's hearty and tastes good and I like it because it takes about 10 minutes total to prepare and make. This has become one of my go-to "I worked a long day and am exhausted" meals -  
 Chicken Fettuccine with Broccoli:

1 package Knorr's Alfredo (or Parmesan) pasta - use 2 if making for more than 2 people
2 chicken breasts
1 bunch broccoli cut into florets (get frozen if you're really feeling tired)
(yep, that's all the ingredients)

1. Cook the Knorr's pasta according to directions on back of package
2. While the pasta is cooking, cook chicken breasts with oil, salt, and pepper until center is not pink.
3. Bring water to a boil, add broccoli and cook until tender.
4. Slice chicken and add chicken slices and broccoli florets to pasta. Mix and enjoy!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Living in Community

"Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken."
- Ecclesiastes 4:12

There have been several things that have happend over the last week that God used to show me the importance of surrounding yourself with individuals who know you well. Last week was a pretty difficult week at work for multiple reasons, and I can't tell you how much it blessed me to have friends who followed up with me or how much I smiled when I got a hilarious card in the mail to brighten my day.
This same realization hit me last night when I took a meal to a friend who is sick. 

Contrary to what society models and teaches us, we are not meant to live isolated and completely independent lives. While it is well and healthy to be indepdent, we all need help and we cannot do everything on our own. Having a person/people who you allow to know you and care for you can do more for your heart, soul, and mind than you realize. After all, the picture God gave us is loving and serving each other - so what better way to experience His love than by doing following that example!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Bet - Buffalo Chicken Sandwhich

A few weeks ago Nate and I made a bet. If I won, he would do the laundry for a week, and if he won I would make him a homemade buffalo chicken sandwich (complete with shredded lettuce, friend chicken, sesame buns, ranch dip mix, and steak cut fries). He won... and since the meal actually turned out pretty good (which was difficult because I don't really eat buffalo sauce), I thought I would pass it along:

Buffalo Sauce (I actually used another recipe which didn't turn out very good, so I switched to this one which Nate loved):

Buffalo Fried Chicken:
  • Boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 tablespoons smoked paprika, plus more for seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon cracked black pepper, plus more for seasoning
  • 1 cup self-rising flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons hot sauce

1. Season the chicken with smoked paprika, and salt and pepper, to taste. Put the flour, 2 tablespoons of paprika, 1 tablespoon of salt and 1 tablespoon of pepper in a shallow dish. In another shallow dish add the egg, buttermilk, and hot sauce and whisk together.

2. Dredge each piece of chicken in the buttermilk mixture and shake off any excess, then dredge into flour mixture.

3. Fry until the chicken is cooked through, about 4 to 6 minutes until cooked through the middle.

Sauce Ingredients:
  • 8 tablespoons Louisiana hot sauce (Frank's is the best, but Tabasco or Chalula works also)
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter or margarine
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (I used smoked paprika in it's place)
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • salt to taste

Mix all the ingredients in a saucepan, and over low heat bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally, and then turn off. The mix will be a little thin. Toss fried (or grilled) chicken in sauce). Serve plain or on bun/roll.

So for those of you who like a little heat.. Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day Thoughts

Happy Valentine's Day. Every year you hear jokes about this being either a love or hate holiday; however, I think Valentine's Day can be appreciated no matter what your relationship status. Some of you are celebrating love with a spouse, others with a signifigant other; some of you have a sweet new baby to celebrate today, and others are just celebrating special friendships. No matter what your plans or where you will be tonight, all of us have something to celebrate - the love of God:

"For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life."
- John 3:16

Monday, January 30, 2012

Broccoli Cheese Soup

Nate doesn't request certain dinners too often, but the other day after eating out he looked at me and said, "I bet you would make really good broccoli cheese soup because you make good homemade soup... and you should make it in a bread bowl!" Translation (since I've only made soup one time)... Amber, will you please make me some homemade broccoli cheese soup? So last night felt like a good soup night. I pulled this recipe from Pioneer Woman (LOVE her stuff..., and it was great! The only thing I would change is to add more cheese (I would add 3 1/2 or 4 cups) and you will definitely need to add chicken broth to thin. See recipe below:


  • 1 whole Onion, Diced (I only used a half because Nate doesn't like onions)
  • 1 stick 1/2 Cup Butter
  • 1/3 cup Flour
  • 4 cups Whole Milk
  • 2 cups Half-and-half
  • 4 heads Broccoli Cut Into Florets
  • 1 pinch Nutmeg
  • 3 cups Grated Cheese (mild Cheddar, Sharp Cheddar, Jack, Etc.) (I would use 3 1/2 to 4 cups)
  • Small Dash Of Salt (more If Needed)
  • Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • Splash Of Chicken Broth If Needed For Thinning (MUST)

Preparation Instructions

Melt butter in a pot over medium heat, then add the onions. Cook the onions for 3 to 4 minutes, then sprinkle the flour over the top. Stir to combine and cook for 1 minute or so, then pour in milk and half-and-half. Add nutmeg, then add broccoli, a small dash of salt, and plenty of black pepper. Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the broccoli is tender. Stir in cheese and allow to melt.

Taste seasonings and adjust if needed. To really snaz it up, but a round loaf of bread, cut on the middle, butter and toast it to use it as a bread bowl!