Kid Friendly

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?

 

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?

Reese’s Addict Brookie Ice Cream Sandwiches (And Bonus Whoopie Pies, too!)

So up until recently, I hated the name Brookie. I mean, it sounds like some overly-likable cookie you went to high school with (if, you know, it was the food world and everything). The popular cookie who was good at literally everything– good at being a brownie, good at being a cookie, just fit in with everyone because, yeah, why not? I’d always been partial to terms like “Layered brownie” or “Brownie cookie” or other terms that are kind of a mouthful.

But then I found some mixes and made these ice cream cookie sandwiches. And they live up to the name, because they really are good at everything… they’re good at being brownie, being cookie, being peanut butter chocolate goodness, and they’re just perfect at being an ice cream sandwich. Because what person doesn’t love an ice cream sandwich chock full with peanut butter cups? (I mean aside from the people with devastating nut allergies, of course!)

If you don’t have a nut allergy, though, these. These are the cookies you need to try. Because they’re really delicious. Reeses+Brownie+Cookie+Ice Cream Sandwich=the Best Darn Brookie Ever, and yes, it deserves to be called a brookie.

Oh, and if you’re horribly weird and don’t like ice cream (love you, mom!), stick around, because there’s another brookie sandwich with NO ice cream in it in this post, too.

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Campfire Favorites: Beef and Veggie Hobo Packs

Not too long ago, a rule was made that my brother had to pitch in with dinner sometimes. Now, my brother is a pretty good cook, but like all of us, he likes easy, and a lot of times, he sticks to the tried-and-true. So much so that we quickly realized that any nights where it was Jeffrey’s turn to cook, we either got waffles, or we got hobo packs. I started watching him making the hobo packs (as we affectionately call them, but apparently foil packet meal or foil packet dinner also works), and realized why he loved making them so much. They were easy. They were delicious. And most of all, they were versatile. With a family full of picky people, versatile is important.

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Star Spangled Velvet Waffles for 4th of July!

So yeah, we’ve all seen those pinterest posts about moms slaving away over cutesy themed breakfasts for birthdays, holidays, breast cancer awareness, and about 80 billion other things that I simply don’t have the time to redesign my entire menu around. But seriously, I’m about to give you a mind-blowingly simple recipe that is pretty much as easy as pulling pancake mix out of the pantry, and tastes about a million times better. Patriotic Velvet Waffles. Yeah, I said it. I’m making a theme breakfast…. and it’s not one that I had to slave for hours over, either.

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A&W Root Beer Float Cookie Bars

I was walking through Walmart not too long ago and saw a product that made me stop dead in my tracks. As a member of a Root Beer loving family, I knew I had to make something awesome with the mix I saw on the shelf. Betty Crocker actually released a Walmart-Exclusive Root Beer Float cookie mix. The first thing I thought? “This is either going to be absolutely amazing, or really off the mark…” I mean, you can’t make a root beer cookie… can you? Well, Betty Crocker succeeded, and I decided to tweak their cookie to make the perfect party treat. The best part? It’s really simple.

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