Ranch Hash

This recipe was given to me by my friend and co-worker, Katie.  It is sooo good and quick and easy too.  Perfect after a long day spent cleaning my house.  I was sick for several days earlier this week and well,  I kinda let things go around home in favor of some much needed shut eye.  Everything is back to normal now though.  Which is good because it going to be a busy work-filled weekend.



 Ranch Hash


1 pound ground beef

1 small onion, diced

1/2 to 1 whole green bell pepper, chopped

1 can tomato sauce (soup size)

1/2 can water

2 cups instant rice

1/3 cup salsa

1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese



Brown ground beef in a skillet with onion and peppers until cooked and no longer pink.  Drain fat.  Return beef mixture to skillet and add sauce, water and rice.  Stir and bring to a boil.  Cover and turn heat to low, simmering for about 10 minutes or until rice is tender.  Stir in salsa and cheese and serve.

Next time I will probably add some crushed red pepper flakes to add some kick.  But its good either way.

PW’s Cookie Spreads

This simple bar type cookie is soft and delicious, with a prominent brown sugar flavor.  It would be a great recipe to make with kids because it is so easy.  They would also make a terrific last minute dessert.











Spreads (source:  The Pioneer Woman)

1 cup brown sugar
1 cup margarine
1 egg
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
6 to 8 ounces chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix together (by hand) brown sugar and margarine. Add egg and mix together. Add flour, salt, and vanilla, and mix together well (all mixed by hand).
Spread dough onto cookie sheet to a thickness of 1/4 to 1/2-inch.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until slightly brown.
Sprinkle chocolate chips evenly over the top. Return to oven for 1 minute.
Remove and spread melted chips over the top.
Cut into squares.


Chicken Tortilla Soup

This is a delicious crock-pot recipe that is very easy to adapt to your tastes and quantity needed.  If you don’t like a lot of heat, omit the cumin and cayenne.  If you want a smaller batch, use one chicken breast, one can of tomatoes, one can of broth and less corn.



1 carton chicken broth

1 can diced tomatoes with chilies, lightly drained

1 can stewed tomatoes with juice

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 packet taco seasoning

1 packet ranch dressing mix

1 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

2 frozen chicken breasts

1 can (or 1 cup frozen) whole kernel corn, drained

1/2 green bell pepper, chopped


Place onion, corn, and green pepper in the bottom of a crock pot.  Add seasoning and soup mix.  Add tomatoes, then frozen chicken.  Add broth last.  Stir gently just to submerge chicken.

Cook on low for 8 hours or however long you are gone (mine cooked about 10 hours).  Shred the chicken with 2 forks.  Serve with shredded cheese and tortilla chips on top.

Valentine’s Day Cake

Tim and I really don’t do anything for most holidays, especially Hallmark holidays.  But, I did want to bake up a treat for us since we were out of homemade baked goods.  I decided on a coconut cake that I have had my eye on for quite some time.  It did not disappoint!  It tasted like sweet coconut-y clouds!  Amazing! 

Just a warning, this makes a very tall cake.  Too tall to fit under my cake dome so I just used plastic wrap held up by toothpicks.  We had some issues with it drying out in the fridge after it was cut into since it wasn’t air tight.  But not too bad.  I would recommend this for a party where it would all be consumed right away. 🙂







Coconut Cake (adapted from Paula Deen and Swans Down cake flour)

1-2-3-4 Cake Ingredients

1 cup butter, softened

2 cups sugar

3 cups cake flour, sifted

3 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

4 eggs

1 cup canned coconut milk

1 tsp coconut extract

1/2 tsp vanilla extract



Grease and flour three 9″ round cake pans. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream butter with mixer until fluffy.  Add sugar gradually and continue to cream until light and fluffy (about 6 minutes).  Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

In another bowl, sift (or whisk) flour, baking powder, and salt.  Add flour mixture alternately with the milk to the butter mixture.  Add extracts last and beat to combine.  Batter should be smooth and fairly thick. 

Pour evenly into prepared pans.  Bake for 25-30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.  Cool in pans for 10 minutes.  Remove to wire racks to cool completely before decorating.

Filling (optional)

3/4 cup sugar

1 cup sour cream (I used the remaining canned coconut milk and enough sour cream to equal 1 cup)

4 tablespoons milk (I omitted)

1/2 cup flaked sweetened coconut

Combine all together and set aside.  Filling will be very thin.  I added about 1/2 cup of powdered sugar to try to thicken it.  Overall, it is very sweet and I wasn’t too impressed with the filling.  I probably won’t use it again.

Coconut Buttercream (my own recipe)

2 pounds of powdered sugar

1/2 cup white Crisco shortening

2 sticks of butter, soft

2 tablespoons meringue powder

pinch salt

3 tablespoons water (or milk)

1 teaspoon coconut extract

Cream butter and shortening in mixer with salt, extract and water.  Slowly add dry ingredients and mix on medium speed until all ingredients have been thoroughly mixed together.  Scrape sides of bowl a few times.  Blend an additional minute or until creamy.

This yielded enough for the cake and about 12 cupcakes.

See the following pictures for assembly instructions.








Place one cooled cake on serving stand, plate, or cardboard round.  Pipe a thick outline of buttercream around perimeter to create a dam.






Spread filling inside the dam.





Repeat with the middle layer.





Place the final layer on top.





Frost entire cake with buttercream and press coconut flakes on the sides or as desired.





Using a large heart shaped cookie cutter for an outline, fill with red tinted coconut.





Finished Cake! Pardon the shadow and somewhat sloppy decorating.  It was 10 at night!

This makes delicious cupcakes as well.  My coworkers loved them!



Baked Spaghetti Pie

I have 3 different versions of spaghetti pie and all of them are teriffic and slightly different.  This one is adapted from the March 2006 issue of Good Housekeeping magazine.  I decided to double the recipe, baking one now and putting the other one in the freezer for later.  The following measurements will reflect that.


1 pound dry spaghett (I used whole wheat)

3 eggs

1 (15 oz) container of ricotta

1-1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese

1 (26 oz) jar marinara sauce

1 pound ground beef

1 onion, chopped – optional

2-3 cloves of garlic, minced – optional

1/2 of a green bell pepper, chopped – optional

pinch of red pepper flakes

1 carrots, finely chopped – optional

1/2 package turkey pepperoni, chopped – optional

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese



Boil water for pasta and cook.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray 2 pie plates with non stick cooking spray.

Brown ground beef with onion, garlic, carrot, bell pepper and red pepper flakes.  Drain fat and return to heat.  Add marinara sauce and simmer. (The onion, pepper, carrot, etc is totally optional.  I just like to add veggies to our meals whenever possible.)

In a large bowl, combine eggs, parm, and ricotta.  Mix well.

When pasta is cooked, drain and add to ricotta mixture.  Stir completely to coat.  Divided pasta mixture evenly between 2 pie plates and press down slightly.  Place a layer of pepperoni over spaghetti.  Top with meat sauce.  Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese.

Bake 25 minutes.  Let stand 5-10 minutes before serving.


layer of pepperoni
layer of pepperoni


Sweet and Spicy Peanut Soup

The other day, I came across this recipe on the Milk & Honey blog.  I knew right away that I needed to try it very soon.  Her description made it sound fantastic and I’m a pretty big fan of Ellie Krieger too!

So, with uncharacteristically warm temps (65!) this past weekend, the hubs and I decided to get outside and get some exercise on Saturday.  With that in mind, I wanted to eat a little bit healthier too!


Sweet and Spicy Peanut Soup


  • 1 tbs. canola oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 3 medium carrots, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper (I used a heaping 1/2 tsp)
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. peeled and grated fresh ginger
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cubed (about 2 cups)
  • 6 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth (I used chicken broth)
  • One 14.5 oz can no-salt added diced tomatoes, with their juice
  • 2/3 cup creamy natural peanut butter
  • 2 tsps. honey
  • chopped scallions for sprinkling


  1. Heat oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, and carrots and cook, stirring until the vegetables soften, about 5 minutes. Add the cayenne, black pepper, garlic and ginger and cook for 1 minute more. Stir in the sweet potato, broth, and tomatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.
  2. Puree the soup in the pot using an immersion blender or in a regular blender in two batches (I used an immersion blender right inside the pot) and return to the pot. Add the peanut butter and honey and stir, over low heat, until the peanut butter melts. Serve warm, garnished with scallions & croutons.
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Lemon Bars Renovation

This recipe comes from Weight Watchers and is totally delicious!  I had 3 lemons that needed to be used and I was completely at a loss for what to make. I decided to ask my husband’s opinion.  I started rattling off choices and he quickly blurted out lemon bars! 


 Lemon Bars


1-1/3 cup ap flour

5 Tbsp light brown sugar, packed

8 Tbsp unsalted butter, cold and cut into 1/2″ pieces

4 eggs

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1-1/2 cup powdered sugar, divided

3/4 cup fresh lemon juice

2 tsp lemon zest (I used quite a bit more!)



Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

To make crust:  Place flour and brown sugar in bowl of food processor, pulse to incorporate.  Toss butter into flour mixture and pulse to combine until butter is cut into pea size pieces.  Sprinkle crust mixture evenly into an ungreased 9×13″ pan.  Press down to create a packed surface.  Bake 20 minutes or until golden.

Meanwhile, to make lemon topping, beat eggs in bowl  of stand mixer.  Add vanilla and 3/4 cup of powdered sugar and mix well.  Add lemon juice and remaining powdered sugar.  Mix until powdered sugar is completely dissolved and then stir in the zest.  Batter will be thin.

As soon as crust in finished baking, remove from oven and immediately pour filling mixture over hot crust.  Reduce oven temp to 300 degrees.  Bake for 30 minutes.  Cool completely and cut into 24 bars.


The crust must be HOT when you pour on the lemon mixture.

You will need 3 lemons to yield the amount of juice needed.

You can add more zest or less zest to suit your taste for tartness.  You can also sub fresh lime juice and zest to change the flavor completely.

3 points per serving.

Weekly Grocery Bill


Not too bad, but not as great as I would like.  I even went to two stores after checking ads and comparing prices!  I’ll keep trying…

Layered Taco Pie

This meal takes less than 30 minutes to make and is mostly cooked using the microwave!  I was skeptical as first, but it is really good!  I think a great addition would be black beans, but I didn’t think of it until after it was assembled.


Layered Taco Pie  (adapted from Kraft Foods magazine)


1 pound ground beef

1 package taco seasoning mix

1/2 cup water

3-4 flour tortillas, cut into quarters

2 cups salsa

2 cups shredded Mexican cheese


shredded lettuce

sliced green onions

sour cream


Cook ground beef.  Drain fat.  Stir in taco seasoning and water. Simmer for a minute to thicken.

Lay 4 quarters of tortilla in the bottom of a round baking dish or pie plate, overlapping is fine.  Spread 1/2 the meat over, then a 1/3 of the salsa , and a 1/3 of the cheese.  Repeat with another layer of tortillas, meat, etc..Then with the last set of tortillas, top with just salsa and cheese.

Microwave on high for 4-6 minutes, or until hot and cheese is melted.

Garnish with sliced green onions, lettuce, and/or sour cream.


Em’s Mac n’ Cheese

This is a really yummy and simple mac n’ cheese recipe that I’ve made time and time again.  It makes a ton (8 large servings), so cut in half unless you’re feeding an army or plan to eat leftovers for awhile.  In the future, I’ll probably omit the breadcrumbs because I’m not crazy about the texture they add, but its good either way.  If you are debating making the Essence – Do It!  Its worth the extra effort.  Its really good and I put it on/in all kinds of stuff like rice, popcorn, chili, fried chicken breading, etc…Enjoy!

Source:  http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/emeril-lagasse/ems-mac-n-cheese-recipe/index.html

Em’s Mac n’ Cheese


  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 pound elbow macaroni
  • 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups whole milk (I used skim)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Pinch cayenne
  • 2 1/2 cups grated Cheddar (about 6 ounces)  (Combo of cheddar and brie is delicious)
  • 1/2 cup fine breadcrumbs
  • 1 teaspoon Essence, recipe follows


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 2-quart baking dish with 1 tablespoon of the butter and set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the macaroni and cook until al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain in a colander and rinse under cold running water. Drain well.

Melt the remaining 5 tablespoons butter in a heavy 3-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour, and stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, cook over medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes, being careful not to let the flour brown. Using a whisk, add the milk in a steady stream and cook, whisking constantly, until thick and smooth, 4 minutes. Remove from the heat. Add the salt, pepper, cayenne, and 2 cups of the cheese, and stir well. Add the noodles and stir well. Pour into the prepared dish.

In a mixing bowl, combine the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese with the bread crumbs and Essence. Sprinkle evenly over the macaroni and bake until golden brown and bubbly, about 25 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.


Essence (Emeril’s Creole Seasoning):

  • 2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon dried leaf oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme

Combine all ingredients thoroughly and store in an airtight jar or container.

Yield: about 2/3 cup

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