Be My Valentine Snack Mix

Since my son began a traditional daycare in August (versus an in-home daycare), I’ve been quickly introduced to the world of daycare parties. Daycare parties require treats and not just any treat; the foods must be appealing to the very young and often toothless crowd. Add in the pressure of living in a Pinterest world and it can be quite stressful.

For Valentine’s Day, I was pretty set on cupcakes since I already had Valentine cupcake liners left over from years past. However, I was late to signing up and cupcakes were already spoken for. After searching the web, I settled on a Valentine Snack Mix. There were lots of options and out there and I ultimately chose one that used popcorn as the base because my son LOVES popcorn (as do I). I omitted the nuts because so many kids have nut allergies these days.

Coating popcorn with candy coating is not something I’d ever considered doing. But it turned out really good. Another mom made a similar mix with plain puffcorn rather than popcorn. If you’re not acquainted, puffcorn is not corn at all, it’s basically a puffy Cheeto shaped like popcorn. The plain variety is basically a Cheeto with no cheese. I sampled my son’s treat bag of it and found it tasty.

I also used Goldfish pretzels instead of regular pretzels because, well, toddlers…Goldfish…you know.

  Valentine Snack Mix

5 to 6 cups of plain popcorn (I used Orville Redenbacher’s Naturals as it seemed it would be the plainest)

1 tray of white candy coating (such as Candiquick) or almond bark

Valentine Nonpareils (fancy word for sprinkles, who knew?)

1 package of Pretzel Goldfish

1 bag of Valentine M&M Candies

 

Prepare popcorn according to package directions. I found that one bag yielded the 5 to 6 cups that I needed. I poured my popcorn out into a glass measuring bowl to measure it then placed it one handful at a time into a larger bowl. I did this so I could be sure to pick out any unpopped kernels that might irritate little teeth.

Next, melt candy coating/bark as directed on package. Once it’s melted, pour over popcorn and mix very gently. Too aggressive with the spoon and the popcorn will break! Spread the coated popcorn on a sheet of wax paper and sprinkle with the nonpareils. In hindsight, I would also add some M&M candies at this stage because they sort of fell to the bottom of the mix.

  Let the candy coating cool and set which takes about 15 minutes. Break apart the popcorn and mix in your candy and pretzel Goldfish. Store in airtight container. Can be divided out into gift bags for maximum cuteness.

Thanks Home is Where the Boat Is for the Pin-spiration!

Product links above are affiliate links. 

Found on Pinterest: Orange Chicken

I love Chinese food. Unfortunately, my husband does not so ordering Chinese takeout is not really thing at my house. Also, I tend to like the very unhealthy selections which makes it even more of an occasional treat. So, I’m always on the lookout for a fairly easy make-at-home Chinese inspired option.

This recipe for Orange Chicken fit the bill in terms of being easy and also relatively healthy. There is another popular crockpot version of Orange Chicken on the inter webs that uses a sauce made of orange marmalade and barbecue sauce. I chose this one because I actually had some fresh oranges and ginger on hand for a smoothie recipe so I thought I thought it would be a fresher tasting dish.

This dish is supposed to be a copycat of sorts of Panda Express’s Orange Chicken. I’ve only eaten at Panda Express once and honestly don’t remember what I ate but I don’t think it was Orange Chicken so I can’t tell you how well this one stacks up.

If you look at the original recipe and then at my picture, you will see they are not exactly twins. My chicken didn’t get nearly as brown and my sauce also didn’t thicken. Both factors are due to the fact that I kind of rushed the recipe. I sautéed my chicken until it was done but not really that brown. I also only used less than a pound of chicken but kept the other ingredients the same so I’d have lots of sauce. Maybe it was because I had a lot of sauce or maybe it was because I grew impatient but my sauce didn’t thicken.

Regardless, I enjoyed this dish. I served it with PF Chang’s new frozen steamed  brown rice and mini vegetable egg rolls. I boxed up the leftovers for my lunch and I think it was even better the next day since the rice soaked up all of that extra sauce. So, for a quick Chinese night at home, I thought it was pretty awesome!

IMG_3052

Orange Chicken

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup orange juice
zest of 1 orange
3 tablespoons oyster sauce
2 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons minced ginger
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional

Cube the chicken into bite-sized pieces.

Heat the butter in large skillet and cook chicken until brown and cooked through.

While the chicken is cooking, prep the sauce. Mix the orange juice, orange zest, oyster sauce, honey, ginger, and red pepper flakes  (if using, I didn’t) in a small bowl.

Add the sauce to the chicken and cook until the sauce has thickened slightly.

 

 

 

Found on Pinterest: Chicken Fajita Pasta

I love Mexican style foods, and I have really grown to love one skillet dishes so when I found this recipe on Pinterest, I didn’t waste any time making it. I can’t remember the last time I was so excited to try a recipe. And this one was definitely worth the hype that I had built up for it in my head.

As usual, I have a few things to say about it. Like most of you, I’m anxious to get dinner on the table each evening so I look for as many shortcuts as possible. I cut my chicken into cubes the night before and sprinkled the fajita seasoning on it. Not only did this save me some dinner night prep work, it also added extra flavor to my chicken. I also cut up my vegetables the night before and stored them in a separate container.

For the actual preparation, I didn’t sauté my veggies as long as recommended so mine stayed more of a “crisp tender” instead of the softer fajita style. I also used one of those healthier pastas with extra protein and it didn’t seem to get as soft as regular pasta although that might have been my fault as I may have rushed it.

While I thought the dish was very good the night I made it, I think it was AMAZING the next day. In fact, I think the next time, I’ll make it, let it cool and stick the whole thing in the fridge and serve it later.

If you like, quick easy dinners with a little kick, try it!

Chicken Fajita Pasta
IMG_3003

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 envelope (3 tablespoons) taco or fajita seasoning
2 cups diced onion (about 1 whole onion)
2 cups diced bell peppers (2-3 bell peppers) I used all red
2 cups chicken broth
½ cup heavy cream
1 (10-oz) can Ro-Tel Diced Tomatoes and Green Chiles
8 oz (about 3 cups) penne pasta

Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Season with half of taco seasoning. (I did this the night before). In a 12-inch skillet (I used cast iron-it seemed mored fajita-y), heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over high heat. When the oil is very hot, carefully add the chicken in a single layer and cook without stirring until one side is browned, about 1-2 minutes. Flip the chicken to the other side and cook until browned. Remove the chicken to a plate and set aside.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet with the heat still on high. When the oil is very hot again, add the onions, bell peppers, and remaining taco seasoning. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the veggies are slightly blackened. Remove the veggies to the plate with the chicken.

In the same skillet, add the broth, cream, diced tomatoes, uncooked pasta, and salt. Stir to combine and bring to a boil, then cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook for 15 minutes until pasta is tender and liquid is mostly absorbed. Add the chicken and veggies back into the skillet and stir to combine until heated through, about 2 minutes. Let the fiesta begin!

Found on Pinterest: Sausage Cheese Muffins

Sausage Balls are a staple of the Southern potluck table. Usually made from some variation of sausage, Bisquick and shredded cheese, they are a tasty alternative to meatballs. However, they are also a bit of pain to make. Not because they are complicated but because it’s a recipe where you have to get your hands dirty. Or to be more precise, greasy. Ick.

I fouund this recipe a couple of years ago on Pinterest. I thought it would be great for our breakfast tailgate meals. I finally tried it last week for a graduation breakfast that our office hosted for our student worker. The verdict? YUMMY! All of the delicious taste of Sausage Ball without having to get your hands dirty.

I used a mini muffin pan and got 4 dozen mini muffins with a bit of dough leftover. I put the leftover into a ramekin and made a large muffin that I snacked on for breakfast later in the week.

Sausage Cheese Muffins
  

1 lb. ground pork sausage-I used medium heat
3 cups Bisquick
1 (10.75 oz) can condensed fiesta nacho cheese soup
2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
3/4 cup water

Cook sausage in a large skillet over medium until it crumbles and no longer pink. Drain and cool.

Preheat oven to 375. Combine sausage, baking mix, and shredded cheese in a large bowl. Make a well in the center of the mixture. Stir together the soup and water; add to sausage mixture, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened. Spoon into lightly greased mini muffin tins, filling to tops of cups. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until lightly browned.

Found on Pinterest: Hits and a Sort of Miss

I have hundreds of recipes pinned on Pinterest. I almost considered throwing down an ultimatum to myself: No more new recipe pins until I have tried a dozen of what I already have pinned. But then I thought, what if I miss a great recipe by doing that? Better not chance it.

I have tried a few new things lately though that I will share with you. I didn’t take pictures of all of them but I will provide links to the original recipes.

First up is Slow Cooker Beef Stew. I’ve actually made this one twice and I have a hankering for it again soon. So, obviously I liked it very much. My husband liked it too (so did his mom), and it was tender enough to feed my toddler. I can see it being a regular menu item here for fall and winter. I did the prep work the night before then tossed it in the slow cooker that morning before work. It was awesome to come home to a delicious, hot meal.

Next is, Mexican Beef Over Cornbread. I didn’t actually find this one on Pinterest but rather through a Pinterest inspired fashion blog that I’m COMPLETELY obsessed with called Pinterest Told Me To. I didn’t follow this recipe to the letter, I omitted the pepper and onion. Instead of serving it over cornbread, I served it over homemade cheese enchiladas. It was very similar to my husband’s favorite dish at our local Mexican restaurant called Enchiladas Rancheros. In fact, he said I nailed it! The meat would also be great in burritos, or for taco salad, and her cornbread suggestion would be good too since it’s kind of a Mexican beef stew.  Another one that I’ll be making again for sure.

I was less impressed by Crockpot Chicken Stroganoff. While the comment on the Pin said it was “to die for” I was less impressed. Maybe my expectations were too high. I had pinned this one a couple of years ago but had sort of avoided it since it contains dry soup mix and canned soup and I generally avoid those processed foods. However, having a busy toddler has knocked me off my clean food high horse and I’m more willing to try anything that will make dinner time easier. I found this to be just a bit too salty for me. Also, since my slow cooker doesn’t have a timer, I had to cook it a couple of hours longer than the recipe suggested. That could have made my sauce much thicker than that of other commenters who raved about the yummy sauce. It wasn’t horrible but with so many other things to try, this probably won’t be repeated.

Have you found anything great on Pinterest lately?

Found on Pinterest: Crockpot Chicken and Stuffing

I don’t use my slow cooker as much as I should. Now that my time is more crunched, I’ve found myself looking for more slow cooker recipes. This one was pinned by numerous friends on Pinterest and it looked so good, I decided to try it.

In the last few years, I’ve done my best to avoid convenience foods like Stove Top and canned soup. However, trying to take care of of a newborn has lowered my culinary standards a bit. And hey, all things are fine in moderation, right?

I found this dish to be quite tasty. The soup and sour cream make a surprisingly good gravy. Add a couple of veggies on the side and you’ve got an instant dinner. It would also make a great potluck dish if you were saddled with bringing an entree to an event. I used chicken tenders rather than chicken breasts since that’s what I had on hand.

Crockpot Chicken and Stuffing
IMG_2283

1 lb boneless chicken tenders or boneless chicken breast
1 box of Stove Top Stuffing
1 can of Cream of Chicken Soup
1/2 cup of sour cream
1/4 cup of water

Place chicken in the bottom of slow cooker and pour stuffing mix on top. In a small bowl, mix soup, sour cream and water. Pour this mixture on top of stuffing. Put the lid on your cooker and cook on low for 4 hours.

Found on Pinterest: Neiman Marcus Dip

A few weeks ago, I was invited to bring a “snack” to a small retirement party at work. Being 9 months pregnant, I wanted something easy and quick. I decided to scroll through my Pinterest pins and see what I could find. I’d had this recipe pinned for a long time. As I usually do, I Googled the recipe to look for other versions and comments. There are several out there but none of them really explained WHY it’s called Neiman Marcus dip. I ended up going with the recipe that I’d pinned although I did take another recipe’s advice and toast the almonds slightly.

So how was it? It was delicious! It reminded me a lot of the old traditional cheese ball recipe with cream cheese, green onion, and dried beef. It was a huge hit at the party…not a bite was left. Good thing that I kept myself a small stash at home!

I would definitely make this again but I think I’ll call it “Cheese Ball Dip” instead of Neiman Marcus Dip. Rolls off the tongue easier…

Neiman Marcus Dip

Image

5 or 6 green onions
8 oz. shredded cheddar cheese
1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
1 jar real bacon bits
1 pkg. slivered almonds

Chop the green onions. Mix onions, cheese, mayo, bacon bits, and
slivered almonds together. Chill for a couple of hours.

I served with Club Crackers.

Minda’s Notes: As I mentioned earlier, I toasted the almonds slightly in a hot skillet just to bring out the flavor a bit. I let them cool before adding to the dip. Also, I normally would not use jarred bacon bits but due to being pregnant and tired I took a short cut…and they were actually quite good. I used the Meijer brand.