Thursday, November 6, 2014

Crockpot Black Bean Chicken

This is a tasty and healthy chicken dish that is so easy to prepare.  The chicken is versatile and can be used for salads, tacos, nachos, or eaten straight with a fork.  It has become a regular in our house.

2 boneless, skinless, chicken breasts
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 C salsa
1 TBSP taco seasoning
1/2 tsp cumin

Place the chicken in the crock pot and sprinkle the taco seasoning and cumin on top.
Cover the chicken with the beans and salsa.
Cook the chicken on low for 4 hours (until it shreds nicely with a fork).
Serve warm over lettuce or tortillas with your choice of toppings.

This recipe is from

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Crockpot Creamy Potatoes

If you have read this blog for a while or you know me well in person, you know I hate potatoes.  Not just hate, but abhor, can't-stand, they-literally-make-me-gag, can't-eat-them-unless-they-are-skinny-and-really-crispy-french-fries, type of hate them.
This is not just some preconceived notion either.  I tried them again during adulthood and my gag reflex went off and I almost vomited all over a friend's house.  Really.  I am not exaggerating.
So when my sister-in-law made these potatoes, I was ready to just write them off as something I wasn't going to eat for fear of making a mess on her kitchen floor.  Nonetheless, I tried them anyway.  And I liked them.
Yes, I liked them.
Now, they are not my usual, healthy choice of of a side dish but if someone got me to eat potatoes, I see nothing wrong with a slightly (well...really) indulgent recipe for special potato occasions!

This recipe will serve 4-6.

1 can of cream of celery soup
1 can of cream of chicken soup
(you can use 2 cans of cream of chicken instead of one of each if you want)
8 oz. sour cream
1 1/2 lbs grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 small container of bacon bits
1 C milk
2 lbs. frozen, cubed hash brown potatoes
1 medium onion, finely chopped

In a large bowl, combine the creamy soups, sour cream, cheese, bacon bits, and milk.
Stir in the potatoes and onion.
Bake in a crockpot for 4-5 hours on low (or about 3 hours on high) or....
Or lightly grease a 9"x13" baking dish and bake at 350 for 1 1/2 hours.

This recipe is from my sister-in-law's family.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Fall Pretzel Chocolate Bites

My mom used to make versions of these for other holidays, so I took a different twist on it for Halloween and fall.  These are perfect little bites for neighborhood or coworker gifts and can easily be made in advance.

The little pumpkin bites are pretty sweet.  The M&M version is not as sweet.  If you want the sweetness of the candy pumpkins, but not to that extent, you could substitute  candy corns for the pumpkins.

The other great thing about this recipe is that you can make however many pieces you need.  You don't have to have extras or can just make a couple quickly if you need to.

Miniature square pretzels
Hugs candy (or kisses if you don't like white chocolate...they just won't have the cute stripes)
Candy pumpkins, candy corn, or M&M's (I used the fall colored milk chocolate ones)

Preheat the oven to 170.
Line a baking pan with parchment paper.
Spread out the pretzels.
Place a Hug candy on each pretzel.
Put the baking sheet in the oven and let the chocolates soften for 6-7 minutes (6 minutes if using a heavy top candy like the pumpkins and 7 minutes for smaller candies like M&M's).
Remove the baking sheet and top the chocolate candy with the pumpkins or other candies.
Put the candies (on the baking sheet) in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes.
Remove them from the fridge and let them cool completely.
Store the bites in an airtight container.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Canned Homemade Garden Salsa

Canning is a great thing to do in the kitchen!  It is a lot of work, but when you have recipes and foods you love, it is the perfect way to have them in your pantry year round...especially in climates like ours where winter kills off all of our garden fresh goodness we enjoy all summer!
We have tried a few of different salsa recipes, but this one tops them all.  It is thick and not watery (like many home canned salsas).  It has so much flavor from the roasted peppers and a little kick, but not a burn your mouth kick that keeps you coming back from fact, we can't stop eating it.  This salsa is an excuse to make all dishes Mexican in our house right now.  I hope we will still have enough in the pantry before the cold hits to last us through until our fall harvest next year!

As I've said before in previous canning posts, canning supplies are pretty easy to find at your local grocery store or Wal-mart.  We use the water bath canning method and use our Kerr brand Ball jars.  Canning supply sets usually include a set of can tongs, a spatula (to eliminate air bubbles), and a wide mouth funnel.

When looking to make changes in canning recipes (for flavor, etc.), keep the ratios the same (same total amount of peppers but using different types than specified), especially when it comes to the preserving liquids (vinegar, salt, etc.).  You do not want to make alterations (unless you are a canning expert) because they could change the safety of the food preservation and you may end up with unsafe canned food (a waste and danger).

This recipe makes 5-7 pint sized jars of salsa.

8 lbs. tomatoes (we have used a variety of types...they have all turned out really well)
2 1/2 C peppers (Anaheim, bell, jalapenos, garden salsa...the combinations are endless...just make sure you know the heat level of your peppers [with and without seeds] - this is what really affects the spiciness of your batch of salsa)
2 C chopped onion
1/2 C chopped cilantro (about 1/2 of a grocery store bunch)
1/2 C fresh squeezed lime juice
1/2 C white vinegar
3 oz. tomato paste
5 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp black pepper
3 tsp kosher salt
1/2 TBSP paprika

*As with all home canning, make sure your jars are sterilized (washed on a hot cycle in the dishwasher or in warm soapy water by hand) before use.*

**The first couple steps of roasting the peppers are optional.  You can use regular, unroasted peppers if you would like...just chop them to the desired size.  If possible though, I would not skip the roasting gives the salsa a depth of flavor you will otherwise not get. **

Roast the selection of peppers on the grill or in the oven (it is a really quick process) until the roasted sides are charred.
Remove the seeds (if desired) and chop the peppers to the desired size for the salsa.
Wash the tomatoes and core them (removing the stems and hard core).
In a large saucepan, bring at least 4" of water to a boil (it needs to allow for the tomatoes to sit in).
Place the tomatoes in a single layer (this will have to be done multiple times to finish all the tomatoes) in the water and boil them until the skins start to crack (about 45 seconds-1 minute).
Remove the tomatoes from the boiling water and immediately immerse them in an ice bath.
Drain the tomatoes in a large colander.
Remove all of the tomatoes skins (they should now easily peel off).
Chop the tomatoes into coarse chunks (this is not the final shape or size so you don't have to be too precise) and put them back into a colander.  Allow them to sit and strain for 30 minutes.
Move the tomatoes to a large pot (one that can hole the entire batch of salsa) and bring them to a boil, then turn the heat down and simmer them, uncovered for about 1/5 hours.
Add all of the remaining ingredients.
Return the salsa to a boil and then reduce back down to a simmer and simmer, uncovered for 10 minutes.
Remove the salsa from the heat.
Bring enough water to cover your cans in your canning water bath to a boil.
Ladle the hot salsa into the hot, sterilized jars (make sure there is a 1/2" headspace in each jar).
Wipe the rims of the jars and hand tighten the lids onto the tops.
Process the jars in your water bath for 15 minutes (the time starts after you have placed the jars in the boiling water and the water comes back up to a boil).
When the jars are done processing, remove them and allow them to cool on a cooling rack or a towel.  They have sealed when you hear the trademark "pop" of the seal on the jar!
Be sure to label the tops of the jars.
Store the finished jars in a cool, dry place.
As with most canned foods, this salsa is best consumed within one year of the canned date.

This recipe is adapted from

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Stacked Enchiladas

This was such a fun way to spice up the typical enchilada meal.  All of the flavors were there but the tortillas are stacked instead of rolled and sometimes it is just fun to eat your food in a different way :-)
You can serve these enchilada stacks with sides of refried beans, fresh fruit or salsa.  Just enjoy!

This recipe serves 4-6.

2 TBSP butter
1/3 C onion, chopped
2 TBSP flour
1/3 C chicken broth
1/4 C milk
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 can (10 oz.) green enchilada sauce
1/2 C sour cream

Other Layers:
2-3 C shredded chicken
8 oz. cheese (1/2 cheddar and 1/2 Monterey Jack, or all as a Mexican blend or Colby Jack)
5 8"-9" tortillas

Preheat the oven to 400.
Lightly grease a 9"-10" springform pan or cake pan (with tall sides).
In a large skillet on medium heat, melt the butter.
Add the onion and cook while stirring for 3-4 minutes until the onion softens.
Stir in the flour and keep stirring for about 1 minute.
Whisk in the chicken broth and milk.
Continue stirring the sauce mixture for 4-5 minutes while it begins to simmer and thicken.
Remove the sauce from the heat.
Stir in the enchilada sauce and the sour cream.
Begin layering the enchiladas in the pan (tortilla, sauce, chicken, then cheese...then begin again...the final layer does not get any chicken).
Bake for 20-25 minutes.
Let the stack rest for about 10 minutes before cutting into it (otherwise you will end up with a hot, cheesy, melty will still taste great...just be harder to cut and probably no longer look like a stack).

This recipe is adapted slightly from

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Canned Jalapenos

We have been doing a lot of canning recently.  We had a very successful garden this year and wanted to put everything to use that we possibly could.  Our family uses caned diced jalapenos a lot so canning diced jalapenos seemed like a good thing to try!  Then we could enjoy our awesome garden jalapenos all winter long!
As with other canning recipes, this recipe is a science and should not be altered because it would then not be known how well the final product would actually preserve.  Unless a recipe says you can change something...I never do while canning...just to be safe!
We have a water bath so that is the canning method we used.  It is extremely simple and you can get a quality but inexpensive water bath at Walmart or a local grocery store.

This recipe makes 8-10 half pint jars.

1 lb. jalapenos
2 C white vinegar (with 5% acidity - it should tell you right on the container)
2 C filtered water
2 TBSP pickling salt OR 4 TBSP kosher salt (we used kosher salt)
2 cloves garlic (optional)
1 TBSP whole black peppercorns (optional)
1 TBSP honey or white sugar (optional)

Prepare your jars by washing all of the jars and lids with warm soapy water.  Make sure you rinse them well.
Fill the water bath with enough water to cover the jars with 1" of water and bring the water to a simmer.
Lower the jars into the water.
Put the round threaded part of the lid aside.
Place the flat part of the lid in a boiling saucepan of water.
In a medium saucepan on medium heat, add the water, vinegar, salt, garlic, peppercorns, and homey.
Bring the brine to a boil and then reduce the heat just enough to keep it simmering.
Slice the jalapenos in 1/4" thick rings.
Place the jalapenos in the brine and bring the brine back up to a boil.
Use canning tongs and remove the jars from the water bath, leaving the all of the water in the bath.
Turn the heat under the canner back up to high.
Pour the jalapenos into the jars (using a canning funnel to prevent a mess) and leave a 1/2" of headspace at the top of the jars.
Run a skewer around the interior of the jar to dislodge any air bubbles.
Wipe the rims of the jars and put the lid on and screw the cap on hand turn tight.
Put the jars back in the water bath using the canning tongs.  There should be 1" of water covering the jars.
Bring the water to a full boil.
Allow the jars to process for 5 minutes.
Remove the jars with the canning tongs and place them vertically/upright on a towel or cooling rack.
Let the jars cool, undisturbed for a minimum of 12 hours.
The jars will seal when the lid "pops" or sucks in tightly.
Make sure to label the jar with the date it was canned and refrigerate jars after opening them.
Canned jalapenos will be good for up to one year.

This recipe is from


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