Thursday, September 26, 2013

Italian Stuffed Peppers

I've made all kinds of stuffed peppers....stuffed pepper soup, crockpot stuffed peppers and the original stuffed peppers that you bake in the oven. This recipe is unique because it is made with Italian sausage and spaghetti sauce. It definitely has a richer flavor and is relatively easy to make.

My parents were joining us for dinner so we doubled the recipe and baked the peppers in two 9x13 glass pans. We also cut the green peppers in half to make smaller serving sizes for the kids. It helps the mozzarella cheese to cover more rice and I thought it was easier to cut up instead of eating out of a tall green pepper. 

Italian Stuffed Peppers
recipe adapted from "Orzo-Stuffed Peppers" in Taste of Home freezer cookbook

4 large green peppers
1 cup uncooked orzo pasta (I used 1 cup rice)
1 lb. bulk Italian sausage (I used mild)
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 tsp. minced garlic
2 Tbsp. dried basil (or 1/4 cup minced fresh basil)
2 cups marinara or spaghetti sauce
1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese

Cut tops off peppers and slice in half; remove seeds.  In a large pot, cook peppers in boiling water for 3-5 minutes. Drain and then set aside.  Cook orzo (or rice) according to package directions.  Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook the sausage and onion over medium heat until meat is no longer pink.  Add garlic and basil; cook 1 minute longer. Stir in the spaghetti sauce. Spoon into peppers. Place in a greased 9x13-in baking dish.  Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Uncover; sprinkle with cheeses. Bake 5 minutes longer or until cheese is melted. Serve immediately or before baking, cover and freeze casserole for up to 3 months.

To use frozen casserole: Thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. Cover and bake according to directions.

We served the Italian stuffed peppers along with some buttery corn, cheesy garlic bread & fruit. Since we doubled the recipe, we had plenty of leftovers that made another meal for my family the following night. The next time I make this recipe I'm going to double it and then freeze half of the peppers.  So glad I discovered this Italian version of stuffed peppers....adding this recipe to my "make-again" file!!! I hope that your family enjoys this meal also!!


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Bread

I'm obsessed with anything pumpkin!!!! With Fall just around the corner I've already gone crazy decorating my house and pulling out all of my favorite "cool weather" recipes. While looking over my recipe collection this one immediately jumped out. The note on the recipe card was dated 2010 and I wrote "very good!"

 In the past I've made this bread in two loaf pans but I wanted to change the recipe into a bite-sized version. I used my two new mini-bundt pans and they turned out perfectly! Just a little extra effort to layer the pumpkin & cream cheese....but worth the time!!!

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Bread

Cream Cheese Filling
8 ounce pkg cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 tablespoons flour

Pumpkin Bread
3 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
4 large eggs
2 cups sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, melted & cooled
1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, mix together cream cheese, 1/2 cup sugar, 2 eggs and  1 1/2 tsp. not over mix.  In a separate large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Add in the 4 eggs, sugar and melted butter.  Stir in the pumpkin, water and vanilla...just until blended. 

To make mini-bundt bread: Scoop 1 tablespoon pumpkin mixture into the bottom of each Pam sprayed mini-bundt pan. Then add 1 tablespoon of the cream cheese mixture. Top with another tablespoon of pumpkin mixture.  There isn't a perfect way of doing this. I used the rest of the mixture by filling up each small mini-bundt. This recipe made 2 1/2 pans. I baked each pan for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the pumpkin side came out clean. 

To make 2 loaf pans:  Divide the pumpkin batter in half. Take one half and divide it evenly into two sprayed loaf pans.  Divide the cream cheese filling in half and place each half on top of the two pans of pumpkin batter.  Top with the remaining half of pumpkin batter.  Bake the breads for 50-65 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.  Place pans on a wire rack and let cool for about 10 minutes before removing breads from pans. 

The delicious smell of pumpkin baking in the oven filled the entire house! So yummy!!! While these were in the oven the kids were constantly asking when they would be ready. I served these warm....actually I barely placed them on a cooling rack before the kids were grabbing them!

These are perfect the next day with a dollop of butter and a hot cup of coffee.  Such a moist bread with a sweet twist of cream cheese blended throughout!  YUM! I stored the mini-bundt pumpkin bread in a plastic container in my refrigerator.....but they did not last long!  This is also a great pumpkin recipe to freeze and keep for later!  

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Crockpot Roast & Veggies

This recipe is originally from my mom.  She has been making roast with green beans and potatoes in the crockpot for as long as I can remember.  Crockpot roast can be as simple or as complicated as you would like to make it. I've thrown a can of green beans, can of diced tomatoes and a roast in a crockpot and kept it easy. Other times I add 1or 2 packets of Lipton onion soup mix along with peeled whole potatoes, carrots and any other seasoning that sounds good.  

Crockpot Roast & Veggies

3 1/2 lb. boneless beef pot roast
6 whole potatoes, peeled
1 large can cut green beans, drained
1 large can diced tomatoes
1 large onion, sliced
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 to 2 packets Onion soup mix
salt & pepper

Place roast into crockpot. Add veggies & seasonings. Cook on low for 6-8 hours. 

*If you want to make a gravy, then either leave out the can of tomatoes or drain the can. About an hour before eating, stir into the crockpot 1/4 cup water blended with 2 tablespoons flour. Cook on High until thickened.  

It is so comforting to come home and smell the yummy bubbling roast in the crockpot. I put together the ingredients in the crockpot during my lunch around 11am and by the time we arrived home from dance & soccer practice in the evening the meal was ready! I also baked a tube of biscuits to serve along with the dinner. This is one of my favorite crockpot meals because the kids will always clean their plates! I hadn't even sat down to start eating when one of my kids was already asking for seconds on the meat. It also makes enough that we usually have leftovers for the next day. Hope your family enjoys this dinner also!


Monday, September 16, 2013

DIY Scarf Organizer

I thought I would share a quick organization project today. I've seen a few different scarf hangers in stores but I didn't want to spend that much money. I knew I could come up with something on my own that would be cheap yet actually functional.  So I used one of my new soft pink hangers & a $1 package of shower curtain rings.

Up until this point I've either stuffed my scarves into a dresser drawer or piled them on a shelf in my closet. I gathered all of my scarves (summer & winter styles) and piled them on the floor.  I guess I should have organized them by color but I was so anxious to see the final project that I randomly started pulling them through the shower curtain rings. 

It only took a few minutes to pull the scarves through the rings and then attach the rings on the hanger.  I even tied a shorter scarf at the top of the hanger. Just a little bit of work to even them out and space them on the hanger...and I was done!!!

I love how the scarf hanger turned out!  This definitely improves the display of all the scarves. It hangs well beside my other clothes in my closet and is also easy to move around.  Now I don't have to dig through a pile of scarves and I think it will help decrease the wrinkles on each scarf also.  Such a fast way to organize your accessories!!! Please let me know if you have any organization tricks!!! I would love to try them!!


Friday, September 13, 2013

Fall Finds

I'm super excited about sharing the next few pictures with you!!! My favorite season is without doubt FALL!!! I could go on and on about everything I love about this time of year.....such as the cooler weather, the cute clothes & especially all things pumpkin!!! I couldn't wait until it was "officially" Fall before shopping for new items for the season. This is just a quick look at some things I picked up at Wal-Mart recently. 

As I was browsing the make-up area in our local Wal-Mart, I happened to pass by the lotion/spa section.  The picture of pumpkins on this body spray immediately caught my eye!! I grabbed a bottle and was so excited to show everyone (ie..strangers) standing nearby my discovery!!!  I did not see any type of similar Spiced Pumpkin lotion.....only the fragrance mist.  After doing some research online I did find out that Bodycology also makes a Spiced Pumpkin Body I will definitely be looking for it the next time I run into Wal-Mart!!

 The description on the Fragrance Mist bottle says "Warm up with a fresh blend of pumpkin, creamy vanilla and cinnamon spice for a toasty treat."   What a delicious description of my favorite Fall scents!!!  When I first sprayed this on my arm, I couldn't get enough!! It was just like walking into a Bath & Body works store and breathing deeply all the amazing rich Autumn scents.  I've become a little obsessed with this body spray and have enjoyed leaving it inside my van. I go between just spraying it up in the air inside my min-van to refresh it or adding a few spritzes to my arms or hair. 

 Truly it doesn't matter to me what other people might think.....I love smelling like a spicy pumpkin pie! ha ha   My kids happen to love the scent also! Every time they step into the mini-van they tell me that it smells so good!!! So if you are a "Pumpkin Addict" like me.....go grab yourself a bottle while supplies last!!!

If you visit the Fall decorations area of Wal-Mart, you will find this adorable set. They are about the size of a salad plate or young kids plate. I just couldn't resist the adorable woodland creatures. I can already picture serving the kids an after school snack on one of the these and how surprised they will be to discover the faces!! (Actually the first time I used them was when I served my pumpkin and cream cheese bread.) The perfect Fall treat!!!

Of course I had to buy the matching cups!!! Honestly....they were just too cute to pass by!! The warm Fall colors with the phrases such as "Give Thanks" and "Fall Friends" is so sweet!! Each cup was only a few dollars and our family we'll use them from the beginning of September until the end of November. Then I will simply pack them away with my massive amount of Fall decorations! ha ha

I also spent some time flipping through various new Fall and Halloween magazines. Such a struggle to only pick one magazine....but I finally chose this one because you can't go wrong with any type of Gooseberry Patch recipes. Already on my "make-soon" list from this magazine is the 1) Apparition Apple Cake 2) Sinfully Savory Chicken Casserole  and the 3) Godzilla Cookie

No trip to Wal-Mart is complete without at least one beauty purchase!! Right??? lol Anyway...I've been collecting Sally Hansen polish; especially the INSTA-DRI nail color line for several years. As a busy mom to three kids I have to work fast whenever I get the urge to change my nail polish. Or at least use a polish that I know will dry quickly and is fairly easy to apply myself. The picture above shows the color "Style Steel #110" This polish is a limited edition shade for Fall from the Insta-Dri Rent the Runway collection.  I applied two coats as shown in the picture above. I love the champagne shimmer with a hint of pink. This is a gorgeous neutral color for Fall. It sparkles and adds a festive flair to your nails. Next time I hope to buy the Sally Hansen "Red-io Active" in this same limited looks like the perfect red for holiday parties!!!

Finally I wanted to share my latest purchase from Bath & Body Works. The best time of the year (in my opinion) to shop at Bath & Body Works is right now!!! The overload between apple orchard and pumpkin scents is amazing!!! I can waste way too much time in that store smelling their new creations and debating between exactly how many lotions, handsoaps and candles I actually need. Yet I always come back to the best smelling classic... Sweet Cinnamon Pumpkin. As I type this, I can smell this yummy pumpkin scent floating from the wallflower plugged into the kitchen outlet.  It is a no-fail scent that everyone enjoys!!!

This blog post is the first of many Fall related items I hope to share. I'm in the middle of decorating my house with lights, pumpkins & all things Autumn. I plan on taking pictures to give you a little home tour. There is also a long list of my favorite pumpkin recipes that I'm going to feature each week. Please comment below if you try any of the items I have mentioned. I would love to know your favorite Fall items also!!!


Monday, September 9, 2013

Creamy Orzo with Ham & Peas

This is the perfect recipe when you want something different from your regular weeknight meal. It is definitely a "kid-pleaser" type of dinner.  So quick to throw together and the flavors combine to make the yummiest comfort food.  This recipe also makes a large amount so we have plenty leftover. I've reheated this the following day as a nice side dish to our meal. 

Creamy Orzo with Ham & Peas

1 lb orzo pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 lb. smoked ham, cubed (I used 1 prepackaged cubed ham)
1 1/4 cups half-and-half
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
3/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
salt & pepper, to taste

Bring a heavy large saucepan of salted water to a boil over high heat.  Add the orzo and cook until tender, about 8 minutes....and then drain. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a heavy large frying pan over medium heat.  Add the onion and garlic; sauté until tender, about 2 minutes.  Add the ham and cook until heated through, about 5 minutes. Stir in the half-and-half and peas.  Add the orzo and toss to coat. Add the Parmesan cheese to the pasta mixture and combine. Season the orzo with salt & pepper and serve. 

This is a great recipe to alter.....simply replace the ham with shredded rotisserie chicken. Swap the peas with a different veggie such as broccoli, carrots, mixed veggies, etc. If you don't have any half-and-half, just mix together milk and 1 1/2 Tbsp of cornstarch before adding it to the orzo.  You can also enhance the flavor by adding chicken bouillon to the boiling water while cooking the orzo.  I've also left out the peas and ham and prepared this dish as a side to a rotisserie chicken or a crockpot roast.  Always nice to have lots of options!! I hope your family enjoys this dish too!


Friday, September 6, 2013

Chicken a la King

Whenever I crave comfort food I often think about chicken pot pie. I have a few favorite "pot pie" recipes but I'm always willing to try a new version. I grabbed a copy of the newest Taste of Home Ultimate Freezer magazine recently and the recipe for Turkey a la King caught my eye.  This recipe is quick to make with simple ingredients you have at home.  I tweaked the recipe a little and used cooked diced chicken breasts instead of turkey.  

Chicken a la King

1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup flour
1 can (14 1/2oz.) chicken broth
1 cup milk
2 cups cubed cooked chicken
1 cup sliced cooked carrots
1 cup cut cooked green beans
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 can of biscuits (bake according to directions on can while making the chicken a la king)

In a large saucepan, melt butter. Stir in flour until smooth; gradually add broth and milk. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 1-2 minutes or until thickened.  Stir in the chicken, carrots, green beans, salt and pepper; heat through. Serve immediately with warm baked biscuits or cool and freeze in a freezer container for up to 3 months.  

Notes: To use frozen chicken a la king......thaw container in the refrigerator overnight. Transfer to a saucepan; add a little chicken broth to thin if necessary.  Cook over medium heat until heated through, stirring occasionally. Serve with biscuits.

*This recipe can easily be adapted to your own likes. I used frozen vegetables that I thawed before adding to the saucepan. You could add a bag of frozen mixed vegetables or any variety of canned or fresh veggies. This recipe creates a lot of creamy sauce so I definitely think you could add more meat & vegetables than the recipe calls for. Let me know if you try this yummy version or have any suggestions for good add ins!!


Tuesday, September 3, 2013


One of my favorite easy breakfast recipes is popovers.  It consists of basic ingredients that I always have available and it is a nice change from our usual breakfast routine. The kids love watching the popovers grow while in the oven.  They get so excited and immediately start picking which one they are going to eat.  


1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Put the flour and salt in a bowl, make a well in the center, and add the rest of the ingredients.  Mix together until smooth.  Pour the batter into a greased muffin pan (between half and two-thirds full).  Bake for 25 to 35 minutes. Run a knife around the insides of the pan to loosen the popovers. Serve immediately with butter and jelly! Makes 12 popovers.

from the cookbook "Knead It, Punch It, Bake It!"

My oven tends to run pretty hot so I probably let these bake a few minutes too long.  The kids still devoured them quickly!!!  This recipe creates such  a unique soft & hollow type of bread. Popovers are tasty with just a dab of butter on top or served with your favorite jelly. I also like to double this recipe so we have extra to keep for the next morning. Hope you enjoy this easy breakfast also!!