Food

Maple Apple Dump Cake

Yesterday, for many, marked the official end of summer. That must make today the official start of fall, then, right? The day when it’s acceptable to start posting all things pumpkin spice lattes and apple cider and all things autumn? I certainly hope so, because I have the perfect cake to get your autumn kicked off the right way!

The best part is that this cake requires so few ingredients… some cinnamon apple sauce, a can of apple pie filling, some Instant oats, a stick of butter, and the main feature– Pillsbury Maple Brown Sugar cake mix. Oh, and if you accidentally pick up the Pillsbury Maple Brown Sugar Cookie mix, well, it won’t work for this recipe, but it’s definitely worth getting anyway. Yum. Who doesn’t love all things maple brown sugar?

The thing I love about dump cake is that it’s so incredibly easy. But your standard dump cake is so summery, with it’s pineapples and cherries. This cake is just as easy, and perfection for fall. Start by pouring a cup of cinnamon applesauce in the bottom of your pan. If you’re wanting to just open and dump, you can use 2 of the 4-ounce individual cups.

Now, pour half a cup of plain instant oatmeal on top of the applesauce. Making a true dump-and-go cake? Just add about 3 (Quaker-sized– 1.51oz) packets of Instant Oatmeal. It’ll be a bit more than the measured-out recipe calls for, but it won’t negatively impact the cake at all. It’ll taste pretty much exactly the same.

Now, evenly dump your can of apple pie filling on top. If you have some on hand, you could even use your own canned apple pie filling, but I used some store-bought apple pie filling for ease.

Now, dump your cake mix on top. Hence the name… “dump cake.”

Chop up a stick of butter, spaced out. Anything under the butter or touching the apples will become a cake like texture, and anything dry is going to be more like a crumble topping… perfection!

Bake it at 350 for 30 minutes, until butter is melted and everything’s hot and bubbly.

Serve it hot with some ice cream for dessert, or eat it at breakfast (hey, it has apples, oatmeal, and applesauce. That counts as breakfast, right?), or even drizzle it with a little caramel or some maple syrup.

Everything about this is so perfect for kicking off autumn, from the smell, to the taste, to the warmth of it. It’s beyond delicious, and I know you’ll love it for any occasion or meal. You could take it for a church potluck, serve it for fall festivities, or, like my family, grab some spoons and enjoy it straight out of the pan during a family game night.

Hungry for more recipes to get your fall started right? Try my Tuscan Bean and Sausage Soup, or one of my absolute fall favorites, Better than Pumpkin Pie Dessert.

Happy Fall, Y’all!

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Meat Lovers Pasta Bake

Do you like meat? And easy recipes? And recipes that can be made with leftovers and ingredients you have on hand?

If you answered yes, then you’re going to absolutely love this meat lovers pasta bake. If you answered no to the meat question, stick around… you can make this dish with veggies instead. But the meat part? Oh-so-good.

If you have pasta, cheese, diced tomatoes, and some leftover meat (pretty much any kind will work), then you’ve got dinner. Bonus points if you have pasta-friendly veggies like mushrooms and onions.

Start with a can of diced tomatoes. You earn some bonus credit if they’re Italian seasoned, but just use what’s in your pantry, or dice up some garden tomatoes. If they’re canned, don’t drain them. Just pour 1/3 of the can in the bottom of your casserole dish.

Now, make a pot of pasta. I use an entire box of Barilla Rotini, but you use whatever pasta you have. I like the rotini for this dish because it holds up nicely, but so does literally any other pasta you have. Drain it, and put half of it on top of your tomatoes.

Now it’s time to get creative. Throw some meat on there. We like to make this dish a couple of days after pizza or calzone night because there’s always leftover meats. For this time around, we used sausage, hamburger, pepperoni, and prosciutto, but you can use anything you have in your fridge. Chicken? Yes. Ham? Totally. Sausage? Do it. We only had a little bit of each meat, but you can pile it as high as you’d like or add as little as you want. Make sure your meat is already cooked or that you cook it beforehand. If you’re using leftover pizza toppings, it should all be cooked, but if you’re pulling it out of your freezer, you’ll want to cook it yourself. Once you’ve layered on your meats, add any veggies you’d like. We had leftover mushrooms and onions from pizza night, but put whatever you like on a pizza in this dish. If you like eggplant and pineapple, go for it. If you prefer onions and bell pepper, try that. Want to go veg-free like my dad? Sure. That works, too. This is the most customize-able pasta dish ever.

Top that with a layer of cheese, then a layer of tomatoes, then pasta, meat, and veggies. Finish with one more layer of tomatoes and another layer of cheese.

Cooking for one? Make a little bit in a small baking dish. Cooking for 50? Make multiple pans. This recipe stretches or downsizes. I use a 3 quart baking dish for my family of 5, but seriously, this meal is so flexible. Bake it at 350 for about 15 minutes, or until the cheese is nice and melty. I used mozzarella and parmesan from Crystal Farms on mine, but use whatever Italian style cheeses you have (or try cheddar, or whatever you want). I’m telling you, this is a ridiculously easy to customize meal. It’s perfect for any family.

Once it’s all melty, dig in and serve. Because of the layers, almost any scoop you take will have a little bit of everything! Yum.

I highly recommend serving this pasta with the Garlic Knots that I shared recently on my Facebook page. You can find them by going to “albums” and you’ll see the recipe!

Do you love easy meals? Try my chicken bacon ranch pasta bake, southwest chicken and rice, or crockpot cashew chicken!

What’s your go-to meal to use up leftovers?

 

Crockpot Cashew Chicken

In our area, back to school is coming up fast. Today, we took our exchange student school supply shopping and just days ago, the last of Zach’s curriculum arrived for the year. There’s no shortage of planning and preparing for the school year, and that means a whole lot of busy days ahead, both as we soak up the last days of summer and prepare for the school year, and in the days ahead where we’re going to be teaching, working, and keeping the house clean.

Luckily, I have a crock pot. And trust me, I use it and use it often. I love being able to use my crock pot to keep meals easy, and starting a meal early means I get to work on other things and not worry about dinner.

I love this recipe that my grandmother gave me. She said she found it online, and, after doing a little searching, it looks like it is modified from Campbell’s themselves. Start with 5-6 chicken breasts, a can of Campbell’s cream of chicken soup, some onion, some green onion, a little soy sauce, and the cashews and chow mein noodles. Cook the chicken breasts first. Even better, you can pre-cook these another night and refrigerate. I try to make a chicken dish a day or two before this one, then refrigerate the cooked chicken until the day of this meal. Then, you have even less day-of prep!

Chop your chicken, onion, and green onion. You could also choose to do this before the day you’re cooking to eliminate your day-of prep.

Spray your crock pot with some non-stick cooking spray, then load in all of the ingredients except the rice and the chow mein noodles. I typically leave out one of the cans of cashews in order to reserve them for a topping at the end.

Stir in the soup and soy sauce, coating the ingredients. It might look a little strange, but I promise, it’s so delicious! Turn your crock pot on low for 5-9 hours, or set it on high for 2-3 hours. It’s just long enough to get the kids through the day on low, or enough to take care of those “oh, shoot! I just got home and realized I forgot to turn on the crock pot!” moments on high.

Finish your meal with a little cooked rice and some crunchy chow mein noodles, along with the rest of the cashews.

 

Crock Pot Cashew Chicken

5-6 breasts cooked chicken, diced
1/2 Cup diced onion
1/2 Cup diced green onion
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 can cream of chicken soup
Cashews
Chow mein noodles
Rice
Non-stick cooking spray

Spray the inside of the crock pot with non-stick cooking spray.
Combine all ingredients except chow mein noodles in crock pot.
Cook 5-9 hours on low, or on high for 2-3 hours.
Serve over rice, with chow mein noodles and additional cashews for crunch.

In the mood for Asian food? Check out more dishes inspired by the far East by looking at my Ramen Slaw or my Dipped Almond Cookies.

 

Are you a crock pot fan? Do you use yours year-round or in winter? Let me know your crock pot habits in the comments below!

3 Irresistible End-of-Summer Mocktails

Ugh. Back to school time already? I mean, I love back to school, don’t get me wrong, but there’s just this finality that seeing backpacks and pencil cases in stores brings. It means that before long, the pool will be closing, the days will be shorter, and it’ll be time to pull the sweaters from the back of the closet. While fall is pretty much my favorite thing, I’m never ready to say farewell to summer, either, so I had to share these three great summer mocktails that will keep you in good spirits until that first bus pulls away or the books come out of storage. The best part? Since they’re mocktails, the whole family can indulge in a little celebratory toast to a rockin’ school year.

The Lemonade Drop is the most complicated drink on the menu here, but it’s also my personal favorite (and my son’s favorite, too). A twist on lemon drops, you start by moistening the rim of a martini glass with a lemon wedge and dipping the rim in powdered sugar. From there, you’ll squeeze 1 ounce pure lemon juice, 4 ounces Sicilian or Italian lemonade, and 2 ounces of orange juice into your glass and garnish with a twist of lemon. It’s beautiful, and just tart enough that it’ll make for some cute pucker-face photos while still being simply sweet for even young tasters.

When to enjoy: on those last dying days of summer, when you’re bored with the standard lemonade.

The Fake-It-Til-You-Make-It Mimosa is oh-so-easy, only 2 ingredients. Fill half of your champagne flute with orange juice, then top it off the rest of the way with sparkling white grape juice. It’s fizzy and delicious.

When to serve it: Mornings, particularly on the first day of school, or anytime you need an extra fancy fizz to your orange juice.

Your typical Madras is orange juice, cranberry juice, and vodka served on the rocks, but for people like me who want a madras sans alcohol, this is a delicious treat! You’re going to take 4 ounces orange juice, 4 ounces cranberry juice, and 4 ounces of club soda in a tall glass, then garnish with a squeeze of lemon juice and a wedge of lemon. It’s easy, it’s chic, and it’s delicious. With or without ice, this is one tasty beverage.

When to serve it: The first Friday after school starts, like an after school virgin happy hour/study hour combo.

 

There you have it– 3 go-to drinks that are safe for any member of the family to indulge in once in awhile. Who doesn’t love a sweet, fizzy drink at the end of a busy summer that’s rapidly becoming fall? What’s your favorite back-to-school tradition? Let me know in the comments below!

 

 

If you de-virginize these drinks, please drink responsibly. Oh, and if you keep them clean and alcohol-free, still drink responsibly, because who wants a mock-madras spilled all over their history textbook, y’know?

Peach Walnut Salad

I love salad. It’s seriously one of the best foods in the world. My mom and I always bug the living daylights out of my dad because on a nice summer day, we’re content to just eat salad. No meat, no grilled whatever, just a nice salad. But when the grill is already heated and prepped, why not grill some delicious fruit for a salad? This easy summer salad is a sure-fire stunner with it’s grilled peaches, candied walnuts, and delicious greens and feta.

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Oriental Ramen Slaw

Ramen. It’s delicious. It’s cheap. I practically lived on it in college. Sometimes, I still do. Oddly enough, between all of my baking, it’s still one of my favorite comfort foods. But sometimes warm noodles get boring… but there’s another way to eat ramen that is way more exciting! Hello, Oriental Ramen Slaw. (more…)

Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta Bake

If y’all have been around the blog a day or two, you know I love the chicken, bacon, and ranch combo. They’re flavors that were just made for each other! So, when it came time to make dinner the other night and I had no idea what to make, I needed to see what I had in my pantry and fridge. I came up with a few items that made a big impact, and it all started with the chicken, bacon, and ranch I had on hand.

Start with what’s pictured above. A lot of the ingredients are delicious, common, and you may even have them on hand.

Cook your pasta– I always do about half a cup for each family member, plus an extra half cup (so we have leftovers). While it’s cooking, dice your chicken and begin cooking it in a skillet. Again, I do one chicken tender piece (smaller than a breast) per family member, plus one extra.

Once the chicken is cooked, place it in a bowl and set it aside, then put your peppers and onions in the skillet. The bell peppers can be whatever you have on hand or on sale. I happened to have already cut 4 different colors of bell peppers for pizza night the night before and had leftovers.

Saute the peppers in a little bit of olive oil until the peppers and onions are tender and the onions are translucent. Remove them from the skillet and set aside.

Add a little bit of butter to the skillet and saute your mushrooms. I like to use sliced baby bellas, but you can use any kind of mushroom you prefer. You’ll want them tender and cooked.

Now, you’ll make your sauce. Take your alfredo sauce (it’s a 15 oz container of Bertolli) and one packet of Hidden Valley Ranch mix, and pour the ranch into the alfredo sauce. I give it a quick stir with a knife before I put the lid back on and shake-shake-shake until it’s well mixed.

In a casserole dish, combine your bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, pasta, chicken, and the package of bacon pieces, stirring in the alfredo ranch sauce.

Add mozzarella cheese and Italian seasoned breadcrumbs on top, then bake at 400 for 8-10 minutes to get the cheese melted and the top crispy. It’s all fully cooked beforehand, so the bake is just to help those flavors meld together a bit more.

The best thing about this recipe is that it’s less recipe, more idea… you can make just enough servings for one person (half a cup of pasta, a chicken tenderloin, a small handful of veggies, baked in the dish), or you can double or triple it for a family. I use a full jar of sauce to make dinner for 6 in a 9×13 pan, but you can use more sauce or less sauce to taste. It would be very easy for me to say “This is how you make it,” but this recipe is so flexible that giving a recipe does it a disservice. Follow the steps, eyeball the ingredients, and I promise, it’ll be perfect every time.

My favorite way to serve it is with homemade garlic knots. And the best part? You can serve it with homemade garlic knots, too! I’ll be sharing the recipe later today on Facebook, so be sure to go over and like me on facebook so you can see the recipe!

 

Do you love the chicken, bacon, ranch combo? You’ll love my chicken bacon ranch foil packets!

What’s your favorite flavor combo for dinner?