Friday, May 1, 2015

Seasoned Shrimp Cocktail

Every year when we go to the beach we can't wait to buy fresh shrimp!  It just tastes so much better when it's fresh off the boat.  Well, in our area there is a business that sets up shop at the Farmer's Market every other week and they have freshly caught seafood from the coast including shrimp!  A few weeks back we picked up a couple pounds of shrimp and then I went on Pinterest to see what new recipes I could come up with. I am so glad I found this one from Joyful Healthy Eats because it is so delicious!  It can be served both hot or cold as shrimp cocktail.  We have done it both ways and it's always fabulous but I personally love it hot. 

The recipe is also very easy so that is another plus and of course it is fast because shrimp just takes a few minutes to prepare.  My kind of meal!
I used the basic recipe from Joyful Healthy Eats but I amped up all the flavors by adding extra of each spice.  The first time I didn't do that and it was great but I felt like it could have been seasoned a bit more so ever since the first time making it I have really kicked it up by adding a little extra of each spice. I also try to make it up ahead and toss the shrimp in it and then stick it in the fridge and this makes a big difference on flavor as well. The recipe below does not include extra spices so just use the basic recipe and heap them up a bit.

You will need:
2 lbs. of Shrimp, peeled and deveined
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
4 tablespoons of olive oil
½ teaspoon of red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon of dry basil
salt & pepper
If you want to make homemade Cocktail Sauce it is very simple as well!  It just takes ½ cup of ketchup and 2 heaping tablespoons of horseradish.  Mix it together and you are good to go.  I usually add a squeeze or two of lemon juice as well.
If you are making the shrimp right away and not putting it in the fridge first then go ahead and preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  
In a large bowl, toss shrimp, garlic cloves, red pepper flakes, dry basil, salt, pepper, and olive oil.  Toss until all coated.  Spread shrimp out in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Bake for 8-10 minutes.
Remove and eat hot or let it cool a little while and serve it as shrimp cocktail.  When I serve this as shrimp cocktail I like to put it in the fridge for a couple hours so it's good and cold.

This shrimp is so good with all those yummy spices.

Dip it in your homemade cocktail sauce and enjoy!
I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we do!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Buffalo Chicken Pasta Casserole

Don't you love the smell of wing sauce?  I know I do but I don't eat wings because I just can't bring myself to eat meat from a bone.  I do love pasta though so this mixes a couple awesome flavors to make an incredibly pleasing casserole.  It even is a hit with my picky eater so that makes me happy. I am sure if you like Wings or the flavor of Wings you will really enjoy this recipe!

I have made this a couple times now and each time it is a hit!  My mom actually came across this recipe and she made it for Super Bowl and it was gobbled up immediately.  Then I made it and the guys loved it and so did I so I now have added it to my favorite meals category.
• • •
You will need:
3 Cups shredded cooked chicken
1/3 Cup Frank's Wing Sauce
1/3 Cup Ranch dressing
6 to 8 ounces Egg noodles or pasta of your choice
1 14oz Jar of Alfredo sauce
1/4 Cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1/2 Cup shredded cheddar cheese divided
6 slices of Provolone cheese for top
Optional: Blue Cheese crumbles
 Prepare your noodles and drain. Also prepare your chicken--shredded or chunks of chicken work well in this recipe.  Place your Wing sauce, Ranch dressing, Alredo sauce, 1/4 cup cheddar cheese and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese in a bowl and mix well.  *If you are using Blue Cheese add it to the casserole instead of just on top or if you have some that like it and some that don't just serve it on the side.  Add chicken and combine.  Add in prepared and drained noodles and make sure everything is well coated in your sauce mixture.
Pour into a greased casserole dish and top with remaining cheddar and provolone cheeses.  I use my food processor and chop up my slices of Provolone but you wouldn't have to do this step.  Bake at 350 for about 20 to 30 minutes until bubbly and browned on top.
Serve with some chopped green onions, a salad and some fresh bread and you are all set.  Add a little extra wing sauce if you want a bit more of a kick!

As you can tell from the photos I have made this several times and each time it is a hit!  The photo above was made with chunks of chicken instead of shredded chicken and parsley instead of green onions.  Either way has been a hit with us!
What's not to love--pasta, wing sauce, cheese and chicken!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Simply Delicious Crockpot Chicken Fajitas

I just absolutely love Crockpot cooking.  It makes life so much easier and almost every meal comes out perfectly.  As a mom I am always looking for simple recipes that everyone in our house will eat.  

At our house we are all huge fans of Chicken Fajitas from Chili's so when I was trying to think of a recipe to use up some chicken I decided to give Crockpot Chicken Fajitas a try and we are all glad I did!  This turned out so good--not the same flavor as Chili's but still really good!  I have made fajitas over the years using different spices but we have never been thrilled with the end result but now I have my go to recipe for them because this was a hit!

You will need:
Simply Delicious Crockpot Chicken Fajitas
 5-6  boneless skinless chicken tenderloins, frozen
1 onion, cut into slices
1 red bell pepper, 1 yellow bell pepper and 1 green bell pepper, cut into thin strips
1 can Ro-tel or a can of diced tomatoes and chiles.
1 packet of taco seasoning 
Flour tortillas or serve over a bed of rice
For toppings you may want lettuce, salsa, cheese, sour cream, guacamole etc.

Place the chicken tenderloins, onion, peppers, Ro-tel and taco seasoning in a crockpot and set to low for 6 to 8 hours or high for 4 to 5 hours.  I always start mine on high and then after a couple hours turn it down to low for the remainder of the day but if you aren't home to do this I would just set it on low.  

Once the chicken is cooked through take 2 forks to shred it up a little while still in the crockpot and then serve on a tortilla shell with your favorite toppings and if you would prefer to skip the shell this is great over rice! 
Throw your peppers, onion, chicken, Ro-tel and taco seasoning in the crockpot and done!
Simple and Sweet!
 This will be sure to please your whole family!  If your kids don't like all the veggies then it's easy to pick out the chicken for them!
 A quick and healthy meal for the whole family to enjoy is always a success story in my book!
 Enjoy your Crockpot Chicken Fajita dinner!

Monday, March 2, 2015

The Best Ever Homemade Caramels

Awhile back I posted a Caramel Recipe that I thought was fantastic but I lied....this is the best recipe ever.  I have given these Caramels out as gifts and everyone has asked for the recipe and has told me that they are the best they have ever had so clearly the post title is accurate...The BEST Homemade Caramels.  I am so glad I was cruising Pinterest and found this recipe because from here on this will be my go to recipe.  They make for a great gift and one batch makes a bunch of them.
  You will need:
1 cup of butter (2 sticks)
4 cups sugar
2 cups light karo syrup
2 (12 oz) cans evaporated milk
2 tsp vanilla
1. Line a jelly roll pan with parchment paper.  I like to do this because it makes it easy to lift the entire sheet of caramels out and then you can easily cut them on the cutting board.  If you choose not to use parchment paper just generously grease the jelly roll pan.
2.  Add 2 sticks butter, sugar, and karo syrup to a large heavy-bottom saucepan over medium heat. Stir over medium heat until mixture begins to boil, about 5-10 minutes.
3.  Slowly add the evaporated milk so that the mixture maintains a constant boil.  Once you've added the milk and things boil it tends to expand so be sure to use a pan that is larger than you might think you need.  I learned the hard way when I first made caramels and burnt my stovetop pretty bad when it boiled over.
4.  Stir the mixture regularly, scraping the sides until it reaches a firm ball stage (that is about 240 degrees F on a candy thermometer). This can take quite a long time so don't be surprised if you are still waiting 45 minutes to an hour later.  If you don't have a candy thermometer you can check the caramels the filling a glass with cold water and drop a spoonful of caramel in the water.  Pull the caramel out of the water and see if it holds together in a ball.  If it doesn't it isn't ready yet.  Just keep checking until it is firm and pliable, but still sticky.  Once you reach 240 degrees F or the firm ball stage, remove from heat and stir in vanilla.  The original recipe called for just 1 tsp. of vanilla but I found that I like these with 2 tsp of vanilla.  It just richens up the flavor a bit more.
5.  Pour caramels into the prepared pan and refrigerate until cooled and hardened. Cut caramel into small pieces and wrap in wax paper.  The caramels will seem very hard at first but they soften quickly so if they get too soft while cutting them just stick them back in the fridge for a few minutes to firm them back up.  I find that it's much easier to cut them when they are good and firm.  I usually cut my wax paper while I'm waiting for them to get cold.  I wrap mine like a Jolly Rancher would be so that means you will want to have your wax paper cut in rectangles and cut enough that you can wrap your caramels and twist each end of the wax paper.

Recipe and directions adapted slightly from Tastes Better From Scratch.

 The lines on my caramels above are from the parchment paper.  I had already started cutting some of my caramels when I took this pic and I didn't realize I put them back in the tray upside down so you are seeing the weird lines that the parchment left.  Don't worry you'll never see that when you cut them and wrap them.

I cut my caramels to be about an inch long but some people like them to be squares or even to roll them into a tube shape so whatever works for you.
I hope you enjoy these little bites of Heaven!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Valentine's Day Painted Mason Jar Flower Arrangements

I'm breaking a blogger rule and posting this extremely last minute because I honestly forgot all about them.  Not good planning on my part!  I figure better late than never and these little Mason Jars would be a great decoration for any season even though I did mine with Valentine's Day in mind!  I made mine in a few hours and ready to go on my table to add a pop of color.

 You will need:
Chalky Finish Paint and of course my favorite is Americana Decor by Decoart
Paint Brush
Wax to protect them if you'd like
Embellishments of your choice.  I used paper doilies, felt hearts and Baker's Twine
Dollar Store flowers or any silk flower
Tray and tray filler if you'd like

 The most time consuming part of this project is painting the jars.  Just use your chalky finish paint and brush it on the outside of the jars and let it dry and do another coat.  I did 3 coats on mine to make sure they were well covered.  I then sanded them lightly and applied a coat of Wax from Americana Decor to finish them.

Now the fun part...embellishing them
 I laid a felt heart on top of a paper doily and then wrapped twine around the jars several times to hold that in place and tied a knot.  I didn't want to glue the doily and the heart down because I might want to use these jars for Christmas or another occasion where red is appropriate.  That is it!  You could finish them at that but I wanted mine to be a little more colorful for a centerpiece so I filled them with silk flowers from the dollar store and then added in some fun heart garland made into little "curly q's".  That was all there was to it!  
 I used a red tray that I usually use at Christmas and then filled the tray with plastic hearts from the dollar store and then placed my vases on the center of the table and it was the perfect centerpiece.
I think these would be so cute for Easter or Sprint using pastel colors and filling them with pretty spring flowers!  I think I will be making a set for that too.  I'm thinking pinks, blues, yellows and greens.  

Happy Valentine's Day!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

. . . Amazing Banana Pudding Recipe . . .

I can remember the first time I had Banana Pudding and thought I had gone to heaven.  How can something so simple taste so amazingly divine?  I don't know, but it sure does work!

My husband recently reminded me that I hadn't made Banana Pudding in a long time and he thought I needed to remedy that situation.  I decided to try it a little differently this time after seeing lots of people using Sweetened Condensed Milk in their recipe.  I always just make it with pudding and Cool Whip but I think I found the magic ingredient that worked and then I added extra Vanilla Extract to really make the flavor pop.  It was delicious!
 You will need:
1 large package of Vanilla Instant Pudding
2 1/2 Cups cold Milk
1 Can Sweetened Condensed Milk, 14 oz.
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 Container of Cool Whip, 16 oz.
1 Box of Nilla Wafers
4 to 6 Bananas

To Make:
Add your pudding mix and milk to a bowl and mix with an electric mixer until it is well combined.  Add in your Sweetened Condensed Milk and Vanilla extract and mix well.  Fold in HALF of the Cool Whip and combine it with the pudding mixture.  

To Assemble:
Start with a small amount of pudding on the bottom of your bowl and then add sliced bananas to cover the pudding mixture and then add a layer of Nilla Wafers.  Repeat this until all your pudding is used up and then spread the remaining Cool Whip over the top to create a "frosting".  I ended mine with Nilla Wafers and then did the Cool Whip topping.  Chill for a couple hours before serving.
 Adding the Sweetened Condensed Milk and Vanilla Extract really help kick this Banana Pudding up a notch!

   This dessert is sure to please and it's so simple to make!  It can be done in minutes.  The hardest part is waiting for it to chill!
I hope you enjoy this pudding as much as we do!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

. . . Crockpot Baked Potato Soup . . .

I really am not a soup lover however a long time ago I found this recipe in a magazine and I decided to give it a try.  Oh my goodness, it was so good I couldn't believe it.  I always make it on the stovetop but last time I decided it sounded good I thought I might try it in the crockpot.  I'm so glad I did because it is so easy and nice to not have to worry about it all day.  It turned out perfectly and will now be the way I make it.

I hope you and your family enjoy this soup as much as we do.  It's kind of like eating a loaded baked potato in soup form.  Even my son loves it and he is a picky eater.  I think the cheese and bacon make it a kid friendly recipe!
You will need:
5 pounds Russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
6 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon fresh minced garlic
Ground black pepper to taste
1 cup milk
1/2 cup sour cream
4 tablespoons butter
1 cup grated cheddar 
Sour cream
Grated cheddar
Package of bacon, cooked and crumbled
Diced green onions or chives
Peel and dice the potatoes into small cubes so they cook faster and it's easier to mash them at the end.  Place potatoes, chicken broth, garlic and pepper into the crockpot and cover.  Cook for 8 hours on low or 4 hours on high.  See recipe for my notes on how long I cooked it.
Chop up green onions for the garnish.  Also you will want to cook the bacon and crumble it while the potatoes cook.
When the potatoes are done cooking and are tender when you stick a fork into them use a potato masher or an immersion blender and mash them up until they are smooth and liquidy.
Add your milk or cream.  I used Half and Half to make it a bit richer.
Add the sour cream next
Add the butter
Last, but not least, add the sharp cheddar cheese.  Mix all the above together until it has melted and smooth.  Make sure the heat is down to warm so the cheese doesn't curdle.
This soup is sure to please!  Even for me not liking soup I could eat this regularly.  I am so glad it turned out in the crockpot as well since I've been making it on the stove for years.  Somehow it just seems easier to put it into the crockpot.
Serve with warm crusty bread and top with bacon, sour cream, cheese and green onions
Yummy in the tummy!

Crockpot Baked Potato Soup
5 pounds Russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
6 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon fresh minced garlic
Ground black pepper to taste
1 cup milk
1/2 cup sour cream
4 tablespoons butter
1 cup grated cheddar

Sour cream
Grated cheddar
Package of bacon, cooked and crumbled
Diced green onions or chives

Place chopped potatoes, chicken broth, and garlic in large crockpot. Add ground pepper. Cover and cook for 8 hours on low or 4 hours on high or until potatoes are soft when pierced with a fork.  I used my crockpot on high for about 5 hours and then turned it down to low for a little longer and then switched to warm. 
Once potatoes are finished cooking turn the crockpot down to warm and use a potato masher or an immersion blender to "mash" the potatoes until smooth and creamy.   I used a potato masher and it worked beautifully.  Add milk, sour cream, butter, and grated cheese and mix until all ingredients are incorporated.  I like my soup a little richer so I used Half and Half instead of milk and used just over a cup to make it a little smoother.  Because of the dairy products you want to do this step at the very end or your cheese may get clumpy so don't leave the heat on for a really long time after you've added the dairy products.

Spoon soup into bowls and top with sour cream, grated cheese, chopped bacon, and green onions. 


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