Category Archives: Cooking 101

Southwestern Mac and Cheese with Sausage

When you’re a busy adult with many important things to do it can be hard to make sure you have a homemade meal and not too much fast food for lunch every day. I used to try and meal plan so that there would be enough from every meal for leftovers……and that plan ended with way too many casseroles. I do enjoy a good casserole every now and then, but almost every day is just way too much.

So I started this whole meal prep thing. I’ve discovered some really good Crockpot and one pot recipes  and of course just a few casseroles. That way I can just spend a little time every Sunday making enough lunch to last the whole week. And then that free’s up dinner time for something simple on busy days like steamed veggies and rice or chicken salads.

What is your favorite thing to make for lunch?

Ingredients:

  • 16 oz Macaroni Elbows, cooked according to package directions
  • 6 Johnsonville Hatch Green Chile Sausage, cut into bite size pieces and fully cooked
  • 1/4 Cup Butter
  • 1/4 Cup Flour
  • 3 Cloves Garlic, minced
  • 2 Cups Milk
  • 30 oz Tomato Sauce
  • 12 oz can Seasoned Black Beans, rinsed
  • 7 oz Chopped Green Chiles, hot or mild depending on your preference
  • 2 Cup Colby Jack Shredded Cheese

Boil the pasta according to package directions. Once it’s cooked to your liking drain the pasta and toss with 1 tbsp butter. In a medium skillet over medium high heat add 1 Tbsp cooking oil to a medium skillet and add the sausage and cook about 3-5 minutes until well done.

In a 6 quart pot over medium heat melt the butter. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Whisk in the flour, you should have a thick paste texture. Add the milk 1/2 cup at a time whisking thoroughly. Whisk in the tomato sauce and green chiles, bring to a low boil. Lower heat and simmer until your sauce starts to thicken, stirring occasionally about 5 minutes.

Once the sauce will coat the back of a spoon add the cheese and black beans. Stir until cheese is melted. Remove from heat and add the macaroni and sausage.

Dragon’s Breath Pulled Pork

Who watched the first episode of Game of Thrones Season 7 last night? I was enthralled from start to finish. I mean that first scene almost had me in tears. You go, Arya Stark! I especially loved the scene of Daenerys Targaryen finally coming home to Dragonstone. The silent joy and resolve of that moment was one of the most moving parts of this entire series.

I just can’t wait to see what happens for the rest of this season! Will Jon Snow and Daenerys meet? Will he find out the truth about his past? Will little Arya get her chance at revenge on Cersei, or will Jamie beat her to it? Will we see more of Ed Sheeran? (seriously, what was that all about?) All these burning questions and only 6 more episodes!

I like to make a special dinner for GoT night. This week it was one of our old favorites re-imagined. Pulled pork with an extra spicy bite and just a hint of sweetness seems more than fitting. Definitely give this one a shot the next time you sit down with friends or family to another thrilling episode!

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 lbs Pork Loin Roast
  • Pork Rub- I created my own with 1/2 cup brown sugar and  1 Tbsp each: garlic salt, paprika, red pepper flakes and black pepper.
  • 1-2 liter of Dr. Pepper
  • 3 Serrano peppers- the smaller the pepper the more heat you get
  • 2 Jalepenos, plus more if you want some for a raw topping
  • 1 Green Pepper
  • 1-2 Cup of Jack Daniels Spicy BBQ sauce.

These ingredients will give you a nice little mild to medium spicy bite. If you really want to kick it up a notch you can get 2 of the following: cayenne pepper, tobasco pepper or habanero peppers.

Rub the pork rub onto your roast and let it sit for 5 minutes. In your slow cooker add the roast fat side down. Slice the peppers at least in half and add to the slow cooker. Pour in the Dr. Pepper in so that the roast is at least 3/4 submerged. Pour 1/2 Cup of BBQ sauce onto the roast.

Cook for 6-8 hours on low.

Once your meat is tender carefully move the roast into a large bowl. The meat should easily pull apart with a fork. Shred the roast and add 1/2 cup BBQ sauce.

Toast your buns and add your favorite toppings such as Colby Jack Cheese, Jalapenos, Onions, or Cole Slaw. Don’t forget to top it with even more BBQ sauce to your taste!

Freedom Fire Blondies

Where does everyone like to go to watch the fireworks? We will either watch them from the lawn in front of Convergys or we’ll go to the stadium. This year I work till 9 and meeting my parents at the stadium. Hopefully it all works out!

I’m not sure where this started but watching the fireworks has always meant a great deal to me. I love the patriotic music and when those fireworks get popping I just get really emotional. I thinks fireworks are really romantic, and unfortunately it’s always been a terrible day for me relationship wise. But I am so happy to be able to spend it with my friends and family now!

And of course when you are sitting on a lawn or in a stadium for hours you need to bring treats! Chips or pretzels for the salty crew……but what to bring for the sweet teeth? Blondies of course! And I had to make them holiday appropriate……all you need is a little food dye!

These Blondies are a great treat with white chocolate chips and pecans for a little crunch. These are incredibly easy to make and a quick treat to whip up and delight your  friends and family this holiday!

Ingredients:

  • 2 Sticks Butter, softened
  • 2 Cups Brown Sugar
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 Tbsp Vanilla
  • 1 tsp Baking Powder
  • Pinch of Salt
  • 2 Cups Flour
  • 1 1/2 Cup White Chocolate Chips
  • 1/2 Cup Pecans, finely chopped
  • Red and Blue food dye
  • Your favorite patriotic sprinkles

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl beat together the butter and brown sugar until you have a grainy paste. Add the egg, vanilla, salt and baking powder. Mix well. Beat in the flour until you have a thick batter. Gently stir in the white chocolate and pecans.

Split the batter evenly into 3 different bowls. In one bowl slowly add blue dye until you get your desired color. Repeat with the red dye in a separate bowl.

Spray an 8×11 pan with cooking spray. Using a cookie scoop. scoop the batter into the pan in alternating colors. Run a knife under hot water for about a minute and then drag it through the batter to create a swirl. (Careful not to over do it otherwise your colors will start to bleed.)

Bake for 25-30 minutes until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Remove from oven and add sprinkles. Let it cool for at least an hour before serving.

Irish Beer Corned Beef and Cabbage Crockpot Dinner

If you have never tried corned beef before….go to the store right now and buy one!! They are so tender and incredibly flavored. Corned beef is a cut of beef with a large grain and it’s usually brined and then cooked. At the store you will most likely find one sealed in some brine with a little spice packet.


I have always loved corned beef. Either in a classic corned beef and cabbage stew or the enigma of corned beef hash. Yum yum yum!!!

We aren’t really beer drinkers here, but I have a few brands I enjoy. Killians is definitely one of my faves. So I saw a chance to buy some and I jumped on it!


My mom and dad have always loved cooking special dishes for different holidays and I’m glad they kept up with this tradition. I am not sure how they make their corned beef and cabbage, but it’s really good! My mom also always bakes Irish Soda bread which is super yummy. I’ll have to get her recipe next year!

I bought a 3 pound roast it would feed about 5 people.

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 lb Corned Beef Roast- pre-brined with a spice packet
  • 1 Medium Yellow Onion, quartered
  • 1 Tbsp Rosemary
  • 1 Tbsp Thyme
  • 2 Bay Leaves
  • 24 oz Killians Irish Red Beer (or use 50/50 chicken and beef stock)
  • 5 Yukon Gold Potatoes, cut into 6 or 8 pieces
  • 3 Large Carrots, cut into 3 inch pieces
  • 1/2 Cabbage, cut into 4 or 5 wedges

Condiments: Horseradish sauce or Dijon Mustard

In a slow cooker add the onions first and corned beef roast fat side up, top the roast with the spice packet, rosemary and thyme. Add the beer and the bay leaves. Set the slow cooker on high for 6 hours. After 3 hours add the potatoes and carrots. When you have one hour left add the cabbage wedges.

Once it’s done remove the roast, let it rest for 5 minutes and slice it against the grain. The meat is so tender and juicy that you don’t really need a gravy, so just a little bit of horseradish sauce or mustard will really kick up the flavor a notch! Salt and pepper the veggies to taste.

 

Chicken and Bacon Risotto


Does anyone else ever come home work, no idea what you’re going to make for dinner and somehow you end up throwing together a delicious Risotto? Anyone? Just me?

Hahaha. This was so random! All I had in the fridge was chicken and bacon and I was thinking about doing some sort of casserole and after I threw away 2 bags of rock hard marshmallows I found a ton of arborio rice. And there you go. Random Risotto. Oh yeah….and throw some peas and Parmesan in there just for the hell of it.

Risotto is usually a side dish but you can easily make it a meal with some extra protein. This dish has about 4 servings. Takes about 40 total minutes.

Ingredients:

  • 8 slices Bacon, cut into 1 inch squares
  • 2 Chicken Breasts, sliced and seasoned
  • 1 medium Onion, diced
  • 3 cloves Garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 Cup Arborio Rice
  • 1 Cup White Wine
  • 4 Cups Chicken Stock
  • 1 1/2 Cup Frozen Peas
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan 

In a large skillet over medium heat, fry up the bacon pieces until they are just barely crispy. Remove the bacon and set aside, leave the grease in the pan. Cook the chicken and set aside with the bacon. Add the onion to the pan. Cook for about 2-3 minutes. Add the rice, cook until the onion is soft and clear and the rice is lightly browned. Add garlic and cook for one more minute.

Slowly add the wine, stir until it’s mostly absorbed into the rice. Add 1 cup of chicken stock and stir until mostly absorbed. Repeat with the remaining cups of chicken stock. When you are adding the last cup add the peas as well. Cook until fully absorbed. Remove from heat. Top with Parmesan and serve it up and enjoy!!

Rotini and Meatball Casserole

If you are looking for another super easy weeknight dinner this one is sure to satisfy! Add some french bread and a small salad on the side and it will taste like you spent an hour instead of just 5 minutes on prep!

I found this Barilla Rotini pasta that in enriched with extra protein and fiber…yummy and extra goodness to make your body happy! I used my own tomato sauce that I had frozen this summer so it was 100% veggies…..you can get the Garden Veggie Tomato Sauce recipe here! So this dish was cram jam full of goodness! I found out that I only have 1 package of tomato sauce left 😦  I don’t want to wait until August to make more!! My dad just started planting his seeds so I asked for 3 tomato plants this year. I can’t wait for my late summer afternoons in the kitchen whipping up huge batches of my new favorite spaghetti sauce.

I have a few upcoming Saturday’s off and I am so excited to finally get to Home Depot and get some upgrades for my photo staging! I haven’t 100% decided what I want to do but I look forward to even just walking around and daydreaming about all my options!

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 1 package Barilla Protein Plus Rotini
  • 15 Frozen Meatballs, thawed- You can also make your own with 1 lb italian sausage, 1/4 cup parmesean cheese and 1 tbsp basil and oregano. Roll into balls and cook thouroughly.
  • 1 Jar Spaghetti Sauce,should be around 20 oz
  • 3 Cups Water
  • 2 Cups Mozzarella Cheese, Shredded
  • 1/2 Cup Parmesan Cheese, Shredded
  • 1/4 Cup Parsley, chopped

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In a large baking dish add the rotini, meatballs, water and sauce. Stir together. Cover tightly with tin foil. Bake for 25-30 minutes.

Test the pasta, it should be just a little too firm still. Top with the mozzarella and then parmesan. Bake an additional 7-10 minutes until the cheese is nice and browned.

Serve it up with your favorite sides and enjoy!!

Meyer Lemon Curd

When I was a kid I remember that the church always had a big yard sale every year. And a woman always sold her homemade preserves there. This is the first time I had lemon curd, and every year I looked forward to buying a fresh jar.

I don’t know what exactly attracts me to lemon sweets, but especially in the dead of winter it brings happiness and brightness into my day. If I were to pick one favorite type of dessert I would have to say anything with lemon.


Lemon curd is so versatile you can put it on anything! Ice cream, toast, cake, english muffins, pancakes, waffles, or even just have a little spoonful now and then. I really like using Meyer Lemons because you get all the wonderful citrus flavor without battling the tartness of a regular lemon.

My first batch of curd first went on some citrus English muffins. So so so yummy. The rest of it went into a lemon cupcake! I wonder if I could mix it with whipped cream and pipe it into eclairs or use it as a layer in a trifle. So many possibilities, I can’t wait to make this again and again!


Ingredients:

  • 4 Large Meyer Lemons, juiced (should be about 1/2 cup) and zested
  • 1 Cup Sugar
  • 5 Egg Yolks
  • 1/2 Cup Butter, cubed

In a small dish stir together the sugar and lemon zest. Let it macerate for about 5 minutes, this will help release some of those fragrant oils from the zest. In a small saucepan add the sugar, zest, butter, juice and yolks. Over medium heat cook for 12-15 minutes gently stirring constantly. The butter will melt and the  sauce will start to thicken. Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes stirring occasionally. If you are looking for a very smooth jelly consistency then push the curd through a mesh sieve.

Transfer to a glass jar. Cover with plastic wrap so that it touches the top of the curd. Let it come to room temperature.

Store in the fridge.

What will you use your lemon curd for?

 

Mac and Cheese with Bacon and Peas

Looking for an easy weeknight dinner? I love mac and cheese, but once you reach a certain age and don’t have kids it just doesn’t seem right to make it out of a box (especially when you are trying to run your own food blog 🤗.) I have another mac and cheese recipe that is pretty good and it is made with some pesto. This one is similar. I had to have a recipe with peas in it though.

When I was growing up I absolutely love mac and cheese. And my mom always wanted to try and add something healthy when her kids were eating junk. I absolutely loved it! I always wanted peas in my mac and cheese. When I told Levi about this tonight he looked at me like I was crazy. But trust me. It’s delicious! I love how it adds a little bit of crunch and just a little bit of sweetness.

Let me know what you think!

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound Macaroni elbows, prepared according to package instructions
  • 6 slices Bacon, fully cooked, cooled and chopped or crumbled.
  • 3 Tbsp Butter
  • 3 Tbsp Flour
  • 1 clove Garlic, minced
  • Pinch of salt and Ground pepper
  • 3 Cups Milk
  • 1 cup Medium Cheddar Cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 cup Colby Jack Cheese, shredded
  • 1 cup Peas, cooked

In a medium saucepan add the garlic and butter over low heat. Slowly melt the butter then whisk in the flour. Increase heat to medium and whisk for about 2 minutes until it starts to thicken and bubble. Add the salt and pepper. Slowly whisk in milk. Keep whisking until it also starts to thicken and simmer. This could take 5-10 minutes.

Add both cheeses. Whisk until melted. Remove from heat. Your sauce should be thick enough to coat the spoon, but still easily stirs. If you need to make it a little thinner then add a little milk. Pour the cheese sauce over the noodles. Add the bacon and peas and mix until combined.

I hope you enjoy this cheesy masterpiece!

What do you like to add to your mac and cheese? Comment below!

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Have a Happy New Year friends!

Mint Chocolate Fudge

We have been watching Great British Show Masterclass all week! I just love Paul and Mary’s banter. Paul’s impressions of Mary are everything! Hahaha. But seriously I love listening to them describe food. I especially love when Mary says a treat looks scrummy! It’s just adorable. Some day I will be ambitious enough to attempt some of those treats! I would love to make Mary’s Lemon and Raspberry eclairs, or try laminating my own puff pastry dough. The first recipe I think we need to master are French Macarons. The ones we made this time sure taste yummy but the feet were all out of control.

On the other end of the baking spectrum we have fudge. So so so easy to make! There are so many different flavors to play with, I am definitely going to be playing around with them more this year! This is the quickest and easiest addition to our cookie gift boxes this year.

Make sure that when you are buying white chocolate that you are baking chocolate or if you are buying chips I would suggest Ghirardelli chips. I have found that most “white chocolate” chips do not melt well and are more sweet.

This recipe will give you about 50 pieces of fudge. You can definitely just make half a batch if you aren’t sharing with an entire village!

Ingredients:

  • 3 Cups Ghirardelli Milk Chocolate Chips
  • 3 Cups Ghirardelli White Chocolate Chips
  • 35 oz Sweetened Condensed Milk (this is about 2.5 cans)
  • 1 1/2 tsp Mint Extract
  • 1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • Green Food Coloring

On the oven have 2 saucepans. In one sauce pan add 14 oz of sweetened condensed milk (1 can). In the other add 21 oz sweetened condensed milk (about 1.5 cans), mint and vanilla extract and food coloring. Heat these over medium heat stirring frequently until they just start to bubble. Remove from heat and add milk chocolate chips into the plain saucepan and white chocolate into the flavored and green saucepan. The heat from the milk and the pans should start to melt the chocolate. Stir each pot until you have a creamy smooth chocolate. You may need to add a little more sweetened condensed milk to get the smooth consistency.

Line an 8×11 cake pan with cling wrap or tin foil. Alternately spoon in the milk and mint chocolate. Gently drag a butter knife through the chocolate to create swirls. Place in the fridge to chill for 3-4 hours.

When you’re ready to serve you can remove from the dish and peel off the cling wrap or tin foil. Cut into even pieces and enjoy! The fudge does not need to be stored in the fridge.

 

One Pan Garden Rotini with a Tomato Parmesan Sauce


This super easy dish has a sister that is by far our most popular dish! The One Pan Garden Rotini Alfredo is hands down our most viewed recipe with over 400 views! Wow! It truly is a super yummy and easy dish. I wanted to make something similar tonight, but wanted to use some of my gorgeous Garden Tomato Sauce because it is chock full of veggies! 

I’m coming off some downtime from a back injury and we haven’t really been eating all that healthy through the last few weeks so some veggie goodness was in store to keep us healthy and fight off all the icky winter sicknesses!

This dish is actually lower in fat as well since we used Chicken Sausage instead of beef or pork. Does it get much better than this? Can’t wait for these leftovers tomorrow!

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 4 Johnsonville Chicken Sausage, Italian style, sliced
  • 2 Tbsp Grapeseed Oil
  • 1/2 Onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves Garlic, minced
  • 4 Cups Spaghetti sauce
  • 3 Cups Water
  • 8 oz Garden Rotini pasta
  • 1/2 Cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
  • Optional- diced green pepper and sliced mushroom

In a 9 inch skillet heat the oil over medium high heat. Add the Sausage and sauté until slightly browned. Add the onion and garlic and any other veggies. Sauté until slightly soft.

Add the water, tomato sauce, and pasta. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and cover. Simmer for 15-20 minutes stirring occasionally until the pasta is al dente. Remove from heat and stir in Parmesan.