Mac n’ Cheesy…Easy Peasy!

A few weeks ago I had an impromptu girls night at my house with one of my friends.  During our phone conversation before she came over we found out that neither one of us had eaten dinner yet.  And it was already 8:00 pm.  The things we moms sacrifice for our kids, right?!  I told her not to worry about it, I would throw something on the stove and we could eat together.  As soon as I hung up the phone I opened my pantry doors and thought, “Oh crap.  Now what?”  I quickly assembled a dinner in the 15-20 minutes before she arrived and as we sat on the couch eating, my friend said, “I need to learn how to cook more fancy recipes like this.  This is really good.”

I wanted to laugh out loud.  My fancy recipe was…..boxed macaroni and cheese.  *GASP!*  Yes, it is true.  We occasionally eat mac n’ cheese in this house.  I know that thought horrifies some people but come on.  There are just some nights where having a quick and easy dinner you can pull out of a box saves my sanity.  I do, however, have a few tricks to make an easy dinner seem like it wasn’t quite so easy to prepare.  Here are my favorite ways to dress up boxed macaroni and cheese and create a “fancy” meal.

3 Simple Ways to Dress Up Boxed MacN CheeseMy favorite brand to use is Annie’s.  I think they taste the best out of the different options but you can obviously use whichever kind you prefer!

3 Simple Ways to Dress Up Boxed MacN Cheese

The first “recipe” adds steamed broccoli and toasted bread crumbs to the Shells & Real Aged Cheddar.  While the water is boiling/noodles cooking I throw some frozen broccoli in the steamer and then toast the bread crumbs in some melted butter.  For one box of macaroni I melt 1 teaspoon of butter in a small pan and stir in 3 tablespoons of bread crumbs.  Then I just let them saute, stirring occasionally, until they are golden brown and slightly crispy.

Mix the broccoli into the pasta and then sprinkle the top with your toasted bread crumbs and a handful of cheddar cheese.  Seriously, yum.  I honestly don’t know why adding two little ingredients makes such a big difference but it is really good.  And my two year old will chow down on it, broccoli included.  That’s a win right there.

3 Simple Ways to Dress Up Boxed MacN CheeseThe next variation uses the Shells & White Cheddar and adds peas and shredded chicken.  Chicken tenderloins cook faster than chicken breasts so I prefer to use those if I’m in a hurry.  (Or if you’re really pressed for time there is no shame in using canned chicken.  I won’t tell!)  Take 3 or 4 tenderloins and season each side with some salt and pepper.  Place them in a foil lined baking dish and bake at 425 degrees for about 15-20 minutes.  While that is baking cook your noodles!  Right before you drain the pasta add in about a cup of frozen peas.  The warm water and noodles will be all you need to thaw the peas.  Shred the chicken when it is finished cooking and mix into the pasta.  Sprinkle the top with some Parmesan cheese.

3 Simple Ways to Dress Up Boxed MacN Cheese

The final twist adds just a hint of spiciness and bacon.  And when you add bacon to anything it automatically makes it awesome.  It’s a known fact.  While waiting for your pasta, cook your bacon slices and chop into bite sized pieces.  After making the macaroni and cheese stir in about 3 Tablespoons, or 1 small 2 oz. jar, of pimentos.  I wouldn’t mix the bacon bits in because they’ll get soggy if you have any leftovers so just sprinkle the bacon and some pepper-jack cheese over the top.  Tasty!

3 Simple Ways to Dress Up Boxed MacN CheeseIf you serve any of these variations with a side of bread or a small salad then pat yourself on the back, mama.  You just put together one “fancy” meal for your family.  Or your unsuspecting friend, whatever the case may be.  :)

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3 Simple Ways to Dress Up Boxed MacN CheeseAre there any other variations out there you’ve thought of?  I’d love to hear any other ideas on how you find ways to dress up simple, quick meals!


White Chocolate Cocoa Krispie Treats

I have to admit it, whenever I think of rice krispie treats I think of a dessert I would have enjoyed when I was 8.  I don’t know why I picture them as a little kid’s treat but I do, right up there with otter pops and fruit-by-the-foot.  Because of this I haven’t made them in years, but this version has convinced me to change my mind.  These are seriously delicious.  And while they are simple to make the flavors and presentation are definitely suited for grown-up tastes.

White Chocolate Cocoa Krispie Treats

In fact, the combination of the chocolate krispies, marshmallows, butter, and white chocolate make these so rich and sweet that all you need are bite sized pieces, and a tall glass of milk.  And some restraint to keep from eating way too many.

*Tip: If you can find it I recommend using Ambrosia White Bark for the melting chocolate.  It’s delicious!

White Chocolate Cocoa Krispie Treats White Chocolate Cocoa Krispie TreatsI also forgot how great a party food krispie treats are.  You can make a ton, fairly easily too, and pretty much everyone enjoys them.  Change out the sprinkles on the top to match whatever colors you need!

White Chocolate Cocoa Krispie TreatsWhite Chocolate Cocoa Krispie Treats

Download the PDF Recipe

White Chocolate Cocoa Krispie Treats

The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie

This past weekend my parents were in town visiting and my dad decided to treat my mom and I with a little bit of cookie goodness for Mother’s Day.  Fantastic gift idea Dad.  I convinced my Dad to let me share his super secret recipe with you because honestly…this is the PERFECT chocolate chip cookie.  I’m telling you, it really is that good.

The PERFECT Chocolate Chip Cookie

Now I know what you’re thinking.  Once you’ve had one chocolate chip cookie you’ve had them all right?  They’re all pretty much the same.  But if you are thinking that, then you’re thinking wrong.  These cookies are incredibly soft, light, and fluffy.  They use both milk chocolate chips and white chocolate chips which is sounds awesome in and of itself, but wait… there’s more.  They also use butter and margarine, as well as white sugar and brown sugar.  Do you see where I am going with this?   To pure cookie perfection.

The PERFECT Double Chocolate Chip CookieIf you are not careful I promise you that you will want to eat an entire batch all by yourself, in one sitting.  Nice and warm right out of the oven, or completely cooled and served with a glass of milk, you can’t go wrong either way.  If you’ve ever been on the search for the perfect chocolate chip cookie, then look no further.

The PERFECT Double  Chocolate Chip Cookie

Download the Recipe PDFThe Perfect Double Chocolate Chip Cookie




Baked Breakfast Empanadas

Since the entire country seems to be experiencing the next ice age I thought I would share a yummy recipe for some warm comfort food.  Empanadas!

Baked Breakfast Empanadas

If you have never had empanadas before then I suggest you remedy that very quickly, because they are tasty!  All an empanada is, is a flaky pastry filled with any kind of savory ingredient.  You usually find them in Latin or Spanish countries.  I first had empanadas when I went to Colombia with one of my college roommates and we would just buy them from the carts on the street corners.  So.good.  And they are surprisingly easy to make from your very own home, no street corner needed.

Baked Breakfast Empanadas

You’ll need: Goya empanada discos,  eggs, onion, mushrooms, green chiles, cheese, and ground sausage.

A quick note about the Goya empanadas.  There is a certain type that I like the best and they look like this:

Baked Breakfast Empanadas

I think they are the flakiest and bake the best.  Empanadas are typically fried, but these bake up perfectly and that is much healthier.  However when I went to the grocery store to pick up the ingredients to make these they were out of my favorite empanada dough!  But they did have another type that was very…orange?

Baked Breakfast Empanadas

Despite their bright orange color they were pretty tasty and worked just fine.  Not a big deal to make the switch.  But if you do happen to see the other kind, grab those first!

Okay…now to start with you’ll want to begin browning your sausage in a skillet over medium heat.  While the meat is browning dice your mushrooms and onions.

Baked Breakfast EmpanadasOnce they’re diced add the onion and the mushrooms, along with your can of green chiles to the sausage.  Cook until the sausage is completely browned and the onion and mushrooms are soft and tender.  Pour the mixture into a bowl and set aside.  In the same skillet scramble your eggs.  Cooking in the same skillet will ensure you get all the yummy flavoring from the meat and veggies.  Once the eggs are scrambled add the sausage mixture back into the skillet and mix together.  Remove it from the heat.

Now each little empanada needs to be rolled out slightly.  I just grabbed a glass and quickly gave each one a roll before putting a small spoonful of the eggs/sausage into the middle of the dough.  Top with a sprinkle of cheese.

Baked Breakfast Empanadas Baked Breakfast EmpanadasFold the empanada in half and seal the edges by pressing them together with your fingers.  You can also crimp the edges with a fork to make them look pretty, but it isn’t really necessary as long as the edges get sealed.

Baked Breakfast EmpanadasRepeat until all your empanadas are filled and then place on a baking sheet that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.  I sometimes have a little bit of the filling left over but no worries!  Put it in the fridge and then the next day you can mix it up with some hash browns and you have a great filling for breakfast burritos.  Two meals in one!

Baked Breakfast EmpanadasBake for 20-25 minutes or until the empanadas are golden brown, slightly crispy, and flaky.  As you can imagine these are pretty versatile with what you can put inside and I’ll share some of my other favorite fillings later.  But for now, enjoy these tasty empanadas for breakfast, or lunch or dinner!

Baked Breakfast Empanadas

Download the Recipe PDF

Baked Breakfast Empanadas

A Treat that is Fun to Say and Fun to Eat

Today I thought I’d share a recipe for a tasty treat that is almost as fun to say as it is to eat!  This is a recipe that my aunt has made for years and years, and every time they are made they get devoured.  They’re Choco-Mallow Coco-Nutters!

Choco-Mallow Coco-Nutters, a yummy holiday treat!

Like most of my recipes the ingredient list is nice and short.  You’ll need:

– A large bowl

– Wax paper

– 11.5 oz bag of Milk Chocolate Chips (melted)

– 2 1/2 Cups of Coconut

– Marshmallows approx. 5 cups

– 1/2 Cup of Nuts (whatever kind you like, pecans, walnuts, etc.)

Choco-Mallow Coco-Nutters, a yummy holiday treat!

In a large bowl pour your nuts and marshmallows and then cover them with your melted chocolate chips.  Stir until all the nuts and marshmallows are covered.  Hence the reason for the big bowl, the stirring can get messy.

Choco-Mallow Coco-Nutters, a yummy holiday treat!Choco-Mallow Coco-Nutters, a yummy holiday treat!

Once you have everything all nice and combined spread the mixture along one side of the wax paper in a log shape and sprinkle it with coconut.  Start to roll and continue sprinkling with coconut as you roll it in the wax paper.

Choco-Mallow Coco-Nutters, a yummy holiday treat!Place the rolled log into the refrigerator to harden and once it has set up you can slice them into pieces.

Choco-Mallow Coco-Nutters, a yummy holiday treat! Choco-Mallow Coco-Nutters, a yummy holiday treat!

Rolling the mixture in the wax paper can be a little tricky but keep working at it until you have it in a general log shape.  After they are sliced you won’t be able to tell if if was perfectly even or not.  And all anyone will care about is how yummy they taste!

Choco-Mallow Coco-Nutters, a yummy holiday treat!


Chocolate Spoons+Hot Chocolate+Mugs= Great Gift!

If you missed Tuesday’s Giveaway Post then you’ll want to make sure you head over and check it out!  You have the chance to win some of the most adorable and affordable little girl accessories and outfits.  Seriously, this is one of my favorite sponsors yet!  And look how cute their items look on my little girl!

Girl's Crochet Headbands Christmas******************************************************

Okay, now onto today’s post.

Here is another cute and easy gift idea that will be perfect for lots of people on your list!  Or it may be a fun family night activity with some yummy treats that you can all enjoy together.  Either way, this is a must do for the holiday season!

Chocolate Spoons and Hot Chocolate Mugs

These cute little mugs are filled with a bag of hot chocolate and if you need a delicious hot chocolate recipe then may I recommend my very favorite hot chocolate drink?  Since it makes so much it is perfect to make it to give away and keep some for yourself.

The little spoons inside the cups are the fun activity and make great stirring sticks when you’re drinking your cocoa.  They look fancy but couldn’t be easier!  To make them you’ll need some chocolate chips, plastic spoons, small cellophane bags, a wax paper lined tray, and toppings of your choice- marshmallows, toffee bits, sprinkles, peppermint pieces, Andes candy bits, mini chocolate chips, etc.

Chocolate Spoons and Hot Chocolate MugsYou’ll need to melt your chocolate first and here is a great tip on the easiest way to melt your chocolate when baking.  Melt it in your crock pot!  Put your chocolate chips into jars and place the jars into the crock pot.  Fill your crock pot up with warm water until it reaches half way up the jars.  *make sure you don’t spill any of the water into the jars.  It will seize up the chocolate, harden it, and make it melt.  keep the inside of the jars dry!*  Turn the crock pot onto high and in about 30 minutes it will be completely melted.  Stir occasionally while it is melting.

Melting Chocolate in a crock-pot...genius!

That may seem like a long time to wait for the chocolate to melt, but since the crock pot is continually keeping the jars warm the chocolate will stay nice and melted through the entire time.  No pulling it in and out of the microwave or accidentally burning the chocolate.  No re-heating, no clumping chocolate, etc.  Once it is all melted you can turn the crock pot to low or warm.

Melting Chocolate in a crock-pot...genius!

Once your chocolate is ready dip your plastic spoon in until it is nicely coated and allow the excess to drip off.

Melting Chocolate in a crock-pot...genius!Lay the spoons down on a wax paper lined cookie sheet and sprinkle the top of the spoon with your toppings.  In the baking aisle they have so many “bits” that work great for this project, or you can take almost any candy and crush it into bits yourself.

Chocolate Spoons and Hot Chocolate Mugs Chocolate Spoons and Hot Chocolate MugsAfter you’ve finished all your spoons place the tray into the freezer so the chocolate will completely cool.  Once it has hardened you can place the spoons into individual cellophane candy bags and tie them with some ribbon or bakers twine.

Chocolate Spoons and Hot Chocolate MugsIf you’re making these just for yourself as a yummy treat to enjoy with your hot chocolate then store them in a cool, dry place until you use them.   If you make some to give away then pair with a cute mug and even add in some hot chocolate and you’ll have one happy recipient!

Chocolate Spoons and Hot Chocolate Mugs Chocolate Spoons and Hot Chocolate Mugs