Delicious 5 Ingredient Pesto Chicken Soup

Pesto Chicken Soup

I love to cook and don’t mind spending some time preparing a recipe if it is going to taste great in the end.  But there are days when I am short on time, and I just need something quick to fix so we don’t end up at the drive thru.  Unfortunately, I don’t have many recipes like that.  So when I’m in a hurry, I struggle with what to fix.  Well, now I have 1 more recipe in my arsenal on days when there isn’t much time to cook.  But the cool thing is, this soup is so good, I would even fix it for company.

Pesto Chicken Soup

There are only 5 ingredients in this soup (chicken, chicken broth, beans, fresh spinach, and pesto), which is why it is so quick to make.  The reason it tastes so good with only 5 ingredients is the pesto.  Made from basil leaves, pine nuts, parmesan cheese, and olive oil, just a third of a cup adds a ton of flavor. You would get the best flavor from homemade pesto.  But since the point of this recipe is to save time, I bought mine.   It is important that you use a good quality pesto though.  My favorite is Trader Joe’s brand found in the refrigerated section.  I like to use the chicken broth from Trader Joe’s as well.  It seems to be a little richer in flavor.  Use whichever one you like best. As far as the chicken goes, for me one of the easiest ways to get cooked chicken is to throw about 6 frozen chicken breasts into the crock pot and cook for 6-8 hours.  I put them into the freezer afterwards to save for when a recipe calls for it.   I also sometimes just bake them covered at 350 for 1 hour.  You could even buy a rotisserie chicken and cut up the already cooked meat.  (By the way,  my mom mentioned the other day that Costco’s rotisserie chickens have a lot more meat on them than the regular grocery stores, and they’re cheaper).   Any of these ideas for cooked chicken would work just fine for this recipe.

Pesto Chicken Soup

I hope you get a chance to try this soup.  It is great having something you can whip up so quickly.  The other day my daughter called and asked if she and her roommates could come over for dinner.  I only had a couple of hours to shop and prepare dinner.  I had some cooked chicken in the freezer.  I got the rest of the ingredients for the soup (all 4 of them) and some bread and had dinner on the table in a matter of minutes.  Yet I felt like they were getting some good nutrition, and it was much better than cafeteria food (even though college food is a lot better than it used to be)!  They ate the soup and asked for more.   We had the soup again for dinner tonight.  But it wasn’t because I was in a hurry.  It was because we like it so much.  So I’m passing this one along to you, hoping it will help you out on those crazy days when there’s no time to cook or those days when you just want something good to eat!

Pesto Chicken Soup

5 Ingredient Pesto Chicken Soup

  • Servings: 4-5
  • Time: 15 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 4 cups good quality chicken stock
  • 3 handfuls fresh spinach (about 3 cups)
  • 2 c cooked chicken cut into bite size pieces
  • 2 (14 oz.) cans Great Northern or cannelloni beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/3 c pesto (homemade or store-bought – I recommend Trader Joe’s brand if you are buying it)
  • optional – freshly grated Parmesan cheese for topping
  1. Stir together chicken stock, spinach, chicken, and beans in a large pot.
  2. Cook over medium heat until the soup reaches a simmer, stirring occasionally.
  3. Then reduce heat to medium, stir in the pesto, and let the soup continue to simmer for 2 minutes.
  4. Serve warm, topped with Parmesan cheese if desired (it tastes really good with this soup)!

Recipe from Cook AZ I Do, originally created by Gimme Some Oven






Posted in Chicken Recipes, Company, Main Dish, Recipes, Soups, Weeknight Meals, winter recipes | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Blueberry Banana Smoothie

Banana Berry Smoothie

I just had to share with you the mid-morning snack I have been enjoying lately.  It is a blueberry, banana smoothie with spinach thrown in for good health.  It is super easy to make, tastes wonderful, and is low in fat.  So many good qualities in a smoothie.  But that isn’t why I like it.  I just think it tastes good.  It is so slushy and creamy, it is like you are drinking a milkshake.  Although I prefer chocolate milkshakes, this smoothie is the perfect morning or afternoon snack when you don’t want the calories or fullness from a shake.  One thing I love about it is it doesn’t contain yogurt.  I love yogurt, but not in smoothies for some reason.  Not that I’m  picky or anything!  But when something is good for you and tastes great, there is no reason not to be picky.

Banana Berry Smoothie

Another great thing about this smoothie is it only contains four ingredients that I usually have on hand.  You need to plan ahead a tiny bit by freezing a banana and a bag of blueberries.  Make sure you peel the bananas first or it will be hard to get off after it is frozen. When my bananas are starting to get brown, I just peel them, put them in a baggie, and place them in the freezer to have on hand.  Then when you are ready for a smoothie,  just throw a banana and some blueberries in your blender along with some orange juice and a handful of spinach.

Banana Berry Smoothie

Blend all the ingredients up and pour it in a glass.  So simple.  I love how thick it is!

Banana Berry Smoothie

I think even kids would enjoy this because all you really taste is the banana and the orange juice and the blueberries give it a fun color.  The spinach is not even noticeable.  It just gives you lots of vitamins.  Every time I go to the eye doctor, she tells me to make sure to eat my greens as it is important for eye health.  This is a yummy way to get good eyesight!

Banana Berry Smoothie

You’ll have to give this a try and let me know what you think.  I’m not going to be giving up milkshakes anytime soon, but since I really can’t afford to eat them every day, this is a great substitution.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Banana Berry Smoothie

Blueberry, Banana Smoothie

  • Servings: 1
  • Time: 5 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 1/2 c orange juice
  • 1/2 c frozen blueberries
  • 1 banana, frozen
  • 1 handful spinach, approximately 1 cup
  1. Place all ingredients into a blender.
  2. Mix until well blended.
  3. Pour into a glass and serve immediately.

Recipe from Cook AZ I Do, slightly adapted from Barefeet in the Kitchen

Posted in Breakfast, Drinks, Low Fat, Recipes, Summer Recipes | Tagged , , , , , | 13 Comments

Cappuccino Muffins With Chocolate Chip Espresso Cream Cheese

Cappuccino Muffins

What is it about heart-shaped things?  I just love them.  I guess I’m just a mushy girl.  But even if you took away the heart shape of these muffins and made them in normal cupcake papers, these are wonderful.  They have a hint of coffee taste as well as cinnamon and chocolate.  They smell wonderful when they are baking. If you are not a cappuccino lover, these Raspberry Lemon Muffins would be cute in a heart shape, but because the coffee flavor in the muffins is mild, I think coffee lovers and non-coffee lovers alike would enjoy them.

Cappuccino Muffins

Then, there is an espresso chocolate chip cream cheese spread to top them off.  It takes them to a whole new level!  This would also be good spread on a bagel.

Cappuccino Muffins

They would be perfect for a Valentine’s Day breakfast for your family or to make for friends as gifts.  Or just make them whenever you decide it is time for a delicious muffin!

Cappuccino Muffins

These could not be easier to make.  It is just a matter of throwing a few ingredients into a bowl, mixing, and baking.  Just make sure, if you are using heart-shaped muffin tins to spray the insides of the hearts very thoroughly with cooking spray so the muffins don’t stick.  While the muffins are baking you can whip up the cream cheese spread.  The muffins can be made ahead and frozen until the day you need them, too.

Cappuccino Muffins

I think I just may start making everything I cook into heart shapes.

Cappuccino Muffins

Meatloaf, pizza, cookies, eggs, toast, pancakes, would all look better as hearts don’t you think?  Maybe if I make salmon in the shape of a heart, Jeff will like it better. Nevermind, even heart-shaped salmon doesn’t sound that great.  I think I’ll just stick with the muffins!:)

Cappuccino Muffins

Cappuccino Muffins With Chocolate Chip Espresso Cream Cheese

  • Servings: 12
  • Time: 45 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

For the Muffins:

  • 2 c all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 c sugar
  • 2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 c milk
  • 1 Tbsp. instant espresso powder (instant coffee can be used but won’t result in as strong of a coffee flavor)
  • 1/2 c butter, melted
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3/4 c miniature semi-sweet chocolate chips

For the Chocolate Chip Espresso Cream Cheese:

  • 1 pkg. (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. instant espresso powder
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 c miniature semi-sweet chocolate chips

For the Muffins:

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.
  2. In another bowl, stir milk and coffee granules until coffee is dissolved.
  3. In this order, add the melted butter, egg, and vanilla while stirring with a whisk.  Mix well.
  4. Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients just until moistened.
  5. Fold in miniature chocolate chips.
  6. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  7. Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups or heart-shaped muffin pans 2/3’s full of batter.
  8. Bake for 17-18 minutes or until muffins test done when inserted with a toothpick.  Watch carefully the last few minutes so you don’t overcook them.  While muffins are baking, make Chocolate Chip Espresso Cream Cheese.

For the Chocolate Chip Espresso Cream Cheese:

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine softened cream cheese, sugar, espresso powder, vanilla.  Mix on medium-low speed until well blended.
  2.  Gently fold in miniature chocolate chips.  Cover and refrigerate until serving.

Recipe from Cook AZ I Do, found originally in Taste of Home Magazine, October/November 1999 issue, page 25 and submitted by Janice Bassing





Posted in Breads and Rolls, Breakfast, Company, Father's Day Recipes, Food Gifts, Party Recipes, Recipes, Valentine's Day | Tagged , , , , , | 29 Comments

Pork Chili Verde

Pork Chili Verde

It is Friday, and our family eats Mexican food on Fridays which I always look forward to. But this is a very special Friday.  It is the one year anniversary of Fiesta Friday over at The Novice Gardener.  Because of the fact that it is a huge anniversary celebration, I couldn’t just take any old Mexican food dish.  It had to be something special.  And that is exactly what this recipe is – total Mexican comfort food, perfect for a fiesta!

Pork Chili Verde

Pork Chili Verde is New Mexico’s version of Texas chile.  Whereas meat and red chiles are the star in Texas,  Pork Chili Verde uses green chiles.  There are many versions of this New Mexican stew, but the common ingredients are pork and green chiles.  This version contains tomatillos and Yukon Gold potatoes which add great flavor and color.  Tomatillos are such an interesting ingredient.  They have an inedible papery outer shell which gets removed.


Inside you find something that looks like a little green tomato.  It is part of the tomato family, but the taste is completely different, and they are not interchangeable in a recipe.  I found tomatillos at my local Wal-Mart store, but if you don’t see them at your grocery store, check out a Latin specialty store.

You start out by making a salsa mixture that is put into a blender and pureed.  No wonder it tastes so good!

I would describe this chili as full of flavor and not very spicy, depending on the brand of diced green chiles you use, which makes it perfect to serve for a get-together since those who don’t like spicy food will enjoy it, too.  It takes a bit of time to make as most good recipes do, but it makes a large amount and freezes well.  And the nice thing is, you can use it in so many ways.  Eat it the same way you would a bowl of red chile with corn or flour tortillas for dipping, fold it up in a flour tortilla and eat as a burrito, or spread it over tortillas chips for nachos.  Any way you eat it, it is absolutely delicious!

Pork Chili Verde

I am so excited to be taking this special chili to Fiesta Friday.  Angie is just about one of the nicest people I’ve ever virtually met in the blogging world and everyone who attends her parties are just as sweet.  I’m so thankful to have met them and always look forward to seeing what dishes they bring.  Special appreciation goes out to Nancy from Feasting With Friends and Selma from Selma’s Table for co-hosting this event.  Please join me over at The Novice Gardener for some great food and wonderful people.  Everyone is invited!

Fiesta Friday Badge Button I party @

Pork Chili Verde

  • Servings: 3-4 quarts
  • Time: 2 hours plus 2-3 hours cooking time
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

  • 3 c (or more) chicken broth, divided
  • 1 lb. tomatillos (for me this was 13), husked, rinsed, and cut into 1/2-inch wedges, divided
  • 1 bunch green onions, sliced
  • 1 1/2 c (packed) fresh cilantro with tender stems
  • 8 garlic cloves, peeled
  • canola oil
  • 1 (4 to 4 1/2) lb. boneless pork shoulder (Boston butt), most of the fat trimmed off, cut into 1/1/2-inch cubes (important for the flavor that you have this size piece)
  • 1-2 onions, chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 1 Tbsp. cumin seeds
  • 1 can (7 oz.) diced, roasted green chiles
  • 2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 lb. Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, cut into 3/4-inch cubes (about 4 small to medium potatoes)
  • cilantro for garnish (optional)
  • corn or flour tortillas (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste (I recommend at least 1-1 1/4 tsp. salt and 1/2-3/4 tsp. pepper)
  1. Puree 2 cups chicken broth, 1/4 of the tomatillos, green onions, cilantro with stems, and garlic in blender.  Set aside.
  2. Brush 2 heavy large pots or deep skillets with oil.  Heat over medium-high heat.  Place pork pieces in both pans in single layer.  Salt and pepper meat.
  3. Cook without moving until browned, approximately 4 minutes.  (Watch carefully so it doesn’t burn).  Turn meat and do the same thing on that side.  Using slotted spoon, transfer pork to bowl.
  4. Pour off all but 1 Tbsp. fat from 1 pot (add oil if needed).  Add onion to pot.  Saute until soft, about 5 minutes.
  5. Sprinkle cumin seeds over onion and cook until cumin is toasted, about 2 minutes.
  6. Reduce heat to medium.  Add remaining tomatillos and cook until tender and browned in spots, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes.
  7. Return pork and any juices to pot.  Add 2 cups reserved tomatillo mixture, 1 cup chicken broth, chiles, and oregano.  Cover and simmer over medium-low heat until pork is tender, about 2 hours.
  8. Add potatoes to pork.  Simmer until potatoes are tender, about 30 minutes.
  9. Stir in remaining tomatillo mixture.  Bring to a simmer.  Season with salt and pepper.
  10. Pour into bowls, garnish with cilantro if desired, and serve with hot corn or flour tortillas on the side for dipping. You can also place meat mixture in a flour tortilla and fold it into a burrito.

Recipe from Cook AZ I Do, originally found in Epicurious Magazine, February 2011






Posted in Christmas, Cinco de Mayo, Main Dish, Mexican, Soups, Weekend Meals | Tagged , , , , , , , | 44 Comments

Chocolate Pretzel Hearts – A Quick and Easy Treat for Valentine’s Day

Chocolate Pretzel Hearts

With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, this week I decided to experiment with chocolate, pretzels, and sprinkles to create a quick, inexpensive gift for family and friends.  Chocolate and Valentine’s Day just go together, but add in pretzels and you have that whole salty/sweet thing going on.  With the help of Dove hearts, not only is the chocolate delicious, but cute, too.  I had so much fun making these this week.  I am a little sad I don’t have little ones at home any more, because this would be a great project to do with your kids as it is so easy.  They look great on a white plate altogether to set out at a party or you can package them up in individual containers to give as gifts.

Chocolate Pretzel Hearts

It took me all of about 2 minutes to put them together, and then 4 more minutes to bake them so the chocolate melts and becomes soft and creamy.  Just be sure you put down parchment paper on the cookie sheet before assembling them.  Also, it is important to place them on a plate immediately after baking.  When I didn’t do that the first time, the chocolate continued to melt because of the hot pan, and the heart shape became a little lopsided.

Chocolate Pretzel Hearts

If you only cook them for 4 minutes and remove them from the pan right away, the chocolate holds its shape and doesn’t melt all over the place.  You can stick them in the refrigerator for a couple of minutes to set the chocolate up after baking if you are in a hurry to package them.

Chocolate Pretzel Hearts

I love coming up with different ways to package treats.  These smaller decorative Chinese food boxes worked perfect to hold just a few pretzel hearts.  I found these particular boxes at Cost Plus, but have seen them at Michael’s.

Chocolate Pretzel Hearts

I don’t know about you, but I’m still kind of tired from Christmas.  Am I the only one who feels that way?  The idea of thinking about another holiday, and investing a lot of time on a cooking project is not very appealing at this point.  Mostly I just want to do some cleaning to get my house on back on track after being neglected for awhile.  That is why I love these.  They don’t take all day, but taste fantastic, and still have that cute factor you want for Valentine’s Day.  Don’t forget to save a few for yourself as well.  They make a great reward after a long day of cleaning!

Chocolate Pretzel Hearts

  • Servings: Approximately 36
  • Time: 10 minutes
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

  • mini pretzels (Snyder’s look more like hearts but any can be used)
  • 8.87 package Dove Dark Chocolate Hearts
  • 3.25 oz. Wilton Jumbo Heart Sprinkles (found in cake decorating section of Wal-Mart or craft store)
  • parchment paper
  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. Unwrap chocolate hearts.
  4. Place pretzels on parchment paper.
  5. Place a chocolate heart on each pretzel, lining the pretzels and hearts up so that the heart shape matches.
  6. Place a heart sprinkle on top of each chocolate heart.
  7. Very carefully put the pan in the oven making sure to not jostle the heart sprinkles out-of-place.
  8. Cook for 4 minutes.  Do not overcook or the chocolate will melt too much and lose its heart shape.
  9. Immediately remove the pretzels from the pan to a plate to cool.  Otherwise the chocolate will continue to melt and lose the heart shape.
  10. Place the plate of chocolates in the refrigerator for about 5-10 minutes to set the chocolate.
  11. Package as desired or cover plate with plastic wrap until ready to use.

Recipe from Cook AZ I Do, idea inspired by The Paper Piñata

Posted in Candy, Desserts, Food Gifts, Party Recipes, Recipes, Valentine's Day | Tagged , , , , , , , | 26 Comments

Thick and Creamy Fettuccine Alfredo

Fettuccine Alfredo

I have been making Fettuccine Alfredo ever since we were married, but have always been frustrated with how thin my sauce was.  It tasted great, but just wasn’t the right consistency for me.  The last few years I have tried different recipes, but the ones I tried came out very similar to mine.  So last week I tried a new one, and it was absolutely perfect!  It was thick and creamy and rich just the way I wanted it to be.  I’m pretty sure this will make the final cuts of my favorite recipes for 2015, and it is only the first recipe I tried this year.  If you like alfredo sauce, you will love this one!

Fettuccini Alfredo

The sauce is very simple to make, and can be made fairly quickly.  It is not as quick as pouring it out of a jar, but the results are a 1000 times better.  Originally, I was a little hesitant to try it, as I noticed the recipe called for eggs.  I was afraid it would have an eggy taste, but you would never know they are even in there.  They are just there to help achieve the thickness that makes this sauce so wonderful.

Fettuccine Alfredo

When we were eating this for the first time, I was just oohing and ahhing at how good it was.  Then I turned to my husband and said, “It’s too bad we can never eat this again.”  I said that because it is so high in fat and calories.  I really didn’t mean that.  I know I will be making it over and over again.  It is definitely one of those recipes you can’t make every week if you want to be healthy, though.  But for special occasions or company coming over, this would be perfect.  I’m thinking that there has got to be some kind of holiday coming up soon so that we can eat it again.  Maybe Sir Walter Raleigh landing day? Such a huge event has to be celebrated with special foods!:)

Thick and Creamy Fettuccine Alfredo

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Time: 30 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 1 1/2 c heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 c whole milk
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 2 tsp. cornstarch
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 oz. freshly, finely grated Parmesan Cheese (1/2 cup)
  • 2 oz. freshly, finely grated Romano Cheese (1/2 c), plus more for serving
  • 2 oz. freshly, finely grated Mozzarella Cheese (1/2 cup)
  • freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
  • chopped fresh parsley, for garnish (optional)
  • 1 lb. fettuccine pasta, uncooked
  1. Cook pasta according to directions listed on package, scoop out and reserve 1/4 cup pasta water into a small bowl before draining.
  2. In a large saucepan, combine cream and milk.  Scoop out and reserve 1/4 cup cream mixture into a small mixing bowl.
  3. Scoop out and reserve another 1/4 cup cream mixture into a separate small mixing bowl.
  4. Bring cream mixture in saucepan to a simmer over medium heat (a gentle bubble just below boiling).  Reduce heat to medium low.
  5. Add 3 egg yolks to one of the small mixing bowls containing 1/4 cup cream mixture and stir egg yolks until very well blended, about 30 seconds.
  6. Add 2 tsp. cornstarch to separate small mixing bowl containing remaining 1/4 cup cream mixture and whisk mixture until well blended and smooth.
  7. Add 1/4 cup hot cream mixture from saucepan to egg yolk mixture and blend, then add 1/4 cup hot cream mixture to cornstarch mixture and blend.
  8. Pour both mixtures into hot cream mixture in saucepan.  Cook mixture over medium low heat for 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly until mixture has thickened and coats the back of a wooden spoon.
  9. Reduce heat to low and sprinkle in garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and finely grated cheeses.  Cook, stirring constantly until cheese has melted.  Thin sauce, if desired with pasta water that was reserved (I didn’t add any pasta water as I like the sauce thick).  If you want to thin the sauce, start with 2 Tbsp. and go from there until of desired consistency.
  10. Pour alfredo sauce over drained pasta and toss to evenly coat.  Plate and garnish with additional grated Romano cheese, optional chopped fresh parsley, and sprinkle with fresh cracked black pepper.  Serve immediately.
  11. Refrigerate any leftovers.

Recipe from Cook AZ I Do, originally found on Cooking Classy 




Posted in Company, Italian, Main Dish, Pasta, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments

My Most Favorite Recipes I Made This Year – 2014

Lemon Cheesecake Bars

This last year was a great year for finding the most delicious recipes!  I have so many new favorites that I have already made over and over.  It was really hard to just pick a few, but I narrowed it down to 15.  Scroll down to the bottom to see what my number 1 recipe was this year.  I hope you find something you missed or are reminded of a recipe that you want to make.  I know I will continue to make all of these, but I am also looking forward to cooking this year, visiting other blogs, and finding more incredible recipes to share.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart to all of you who take the time to “like” or comment or just read my posts.  It really means a lot to me, and I hope you have found some recipes that have become your favorites as well.  Here’s to another year of cooking together!

15.  Lemon Cheesecake Bars

Lemon Cheesecake Bars

Creamy cheesecake plus tart lemon – who can resist that?  Really, creamy cheesecake plus anything would probably always make my top 10 list.

14.  Spinach and Artichoke Pizza

Spinach and Artichoke Pizza

Trying to meet my goal this year of getting over my fear of yeast, I made my own pizza crust.  What a wonderful way to get over a fear!

13.  Creamy and Comforting Potato Soup

Potato Soup

Total comfort food and the best potato soup I’ve ever had!

12.  Dark Chocolate Brownie Sundaes

Dark Chocolate Brownies

Because everybody needs a great homemade brownie recipe, and I finally found mine.  So rich and chocolaty!

11.  Vanilla Almond Granola

Vanilla Almond Granola

I had so much fun making my own granola.  The vanilla flavor reallly comes through in this.

10.  Lasagna Soup

Lasagna Soup

I love making this for company.  Everyone likes it.

9.  Red Potato Breakfast Skillet

Red Potato Breakfast Skillet

I wanted to find a breakfast dish to serve company at our cabin.  This one is perfect.

8.  Caramelized Pear Crostini with Honey and Thyme

Caramelized Pear Crostini

I made this over and over again when I needed an appetizer in the fall. Simple to make yet great flavor!

7.  Caramel Apple Pie Cups

Caramel Apple Pie Cups

These taste just like apple pie and are the perfect holder for a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  I probably made these more than any other recipe this year.  They freeze well which really helps during the busy holidays.

6.  M and M Cookies

M and M Cookies

I am always on the lookout for a great cookie recipe and this one is the best!

5.  Spicy Pork Carnitas

Pork Carnitas

Best carnitas recipe I’ve tried.  So flavorful!

4.  Blueberry Lemon Walnut Scones

Blueberry Lemon Scones

It’s amazing how much lemon flavor these have, and combined with the blueberries, it is a perfect combination. I love these!

3.  Apple, Bacon, and Pecan Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette

Apple, Bacon, and Candied Pecan Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette

This was my signature salad during the fall.  The dressing is one of my favorites ever.

2.  Classic Chocolate Pie with Homemade Whipped Cream

Classic Chocolate Pie

Perfect chocolate pudding from scratch and so easy.  I will never use box pudding again.

1.  Pumpkin Spice Dinner Rolls With Honey Butter

Pumpkin Spice Dinner Rolls

I am more happy about this recipe than any other this year because I actually made dinner rolls with yeast from scratch.  And they turned out!  I think I like the color of these just as much as the taste.

Happy 2015!







Posted in Best of 2014, Company, New Year's Recipes, Party Recipes, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

Christmas Reflections of the Disorganized Kind and Caramelized Bacon Tater Tots for New Year’s Eve

Caramelized Bacon Wrapped Tater Tot Appetizer

I hope you had a wonderful holiday!  It is hard to believe it has come and gone already.  I always have mixed feelings about our Christmas celebration.  I love the time spent with family and friends, all of the wonderful foods that we eat this time of year, and the beautiful lights.  Most of all I am grateful for the reason we celebrate.  But at the same time because I am not a naturally organized person it tends to bring on a little anxiety because of all there is to do or that I place on myself to do, hoping it will be a perfect holiday for everyone.  As I was vacuuming up some of the mess this last week, it became a time of enlightenment and reflection about things I learned this year or want to remember for next year.  I thought it might help me to remember them if I wrote them down.

1.  It is never a good idea to run over M & M’s with the vacuum no matter how much of a hurry you are in.

2.  A week before Christmas, no matter how much I tell myself I won’t ahead of time, I WILL start eating cookies for breakfast.

Soft, Frosted Sugar Cookies

3.  It is an unwritten rule of Christmas that no matter how organized you are or how many presents you get wrapped ahead of time, you will still be wrapping presents until 3:00 A.M. Christmas Eve.

4.  When stressed, I eat cookies if they are available.  How many cookies I eat per day is directly proportional to how many days before Christmas.  The closer Christmas gets, the more cookies I eat.

Soft, Frosted Sugar Cookies

5.  The closer to Christmas a present gets wrapped, the less likely it will have a bow on it.

6. No matter how old they are or how well you brought them up, if you have boys and they help you frost Christmas cookies, they WILL find a way to turn a star, a camel, or a gingerbread man into an obscene cookie.

Soft, Frosted Sugar Cookies

7.  If you don’t buy extra wrapping paper because you don’t want to store it for next year, you WILL run out,  and it will be at 3:00 A.M. on Christmas Eve.

8.  Trader Joe’s grocery bags make very good wrapping paper.

9.  Another unwritten rule of Christmas is, the amount of days before Christmas is directly proportional to how many trips to the grocery store I will make in 1 day to get things I forgot.  The closer to Christmas, the more trips to the store.  Who knew there was so much math involved in celebrating Christmas.  Unfortunately I never liked math very much.

10. If you vacuum up 10 Christmas tree needles, in a matter of minutes, there will be 20 on the floor – more math!

11.  Even though it is a busy season, I am always glad we took time to go to the Christmas Eve service at church.

12.  Don’t make the soup so spicy next year.  (Send a note of apology to my dad letting him know I wasn’t actually trying to kill him.)

Posole Rojo

13.  No matter how clean your house looks when you go to bed at 3:00 A.M. on Christmas Eve, by 11:00 A.M. the next day it will look like a tornado hit it.  A Christmas tornado, but a tornado nonetheless.

14.  The first Christmas wasn’t perfect either so don’t feel too badly.  I mean, there were live animals in the nursery barn where Jesus was born!

These are the ramblings that go on in a sleep deprived, unorganized brain the week of Christmas.  I hope you are more organized than I am.  But if you aren’t, there’s always next year to try again!:)  In the mean time, New Year’s Eve is coming up quickly which means more yummy food.  Here is a recipe for my new favorite appetizer which includes bacon!  It is super easy, but make sure to follow the recipe and tips exactly for success.

Caramelized Bacon Wrapped Tater Tot Appetizer

Caramelized Bacon Wrapped Tater Tot Appetizer

Happy New Year!

Caramelized Bacon Wrapped Tater Tot Appetizer

Caramelized Bacon Wrapped Tater Tot Appetizer

  • Servings: 24
  • Time: 15-30 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 1 bag frozen tater tots
  • 1 bag cheddar cheese rectangles or 1 lb. cheddar cheese
  • 1 lb. bacon
  • approximately 2 c brown sugar
  • parchment paper
  • cooking spray
  • toothpicks
  • bar-b-q sauce, optional
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper, then spray with cooking spray (the second baking sheet is to transfer the tots to halfway through.
  3. If you are using cheddar cheese rectangles, cut each rectangle in half long ways, and then cut each half in fourths so you end up with 8 cheese squares per rectangle.  If you are using regular cheddar cheese slice into 1/4 inch thick slices, and then cut those slices into squares a little smaller than the tater tot.  Basically you want to end up with a thin square of cheese a little smaller than the tot so it won’t ooze out the ends.  Cut 24 squares altogether.
  4. Cut each piece of bacon into thirds or 3 pieces.
  5. Lay 1 piece of cheese on the center of each piece of bacon.  Then lay one frozen tater tot on top of the cheese.  Wrap the bacon around the cheese and tater tot, securing the ends with a toothpick.  You don’t want the bacon to overlap too much or it won’t cook as well and get crispy.  I cut the ends off of some of mine that were too long after I wrapped it around the tot. (The recipe seems to work better if the tots are frozen and the cheese is cold).
  6. Pour brown sugar onto a plate.  Dip each bacon wrapped tater tot in the brown sugar, making sure to coat all sides.
  7. Place on parchment lined cookie sheet.  Don’t omit this step as tots will stick.
  8. Place cookie sheet with tots in oven and set timer for 12 minutes.
  9. After 12 minutes, with metal tongs, place tots on new parchment sheet lined cookie sheet making sure to turn them over so they brown evenly on both sides, and place back in oven.  (The reason you are using a new sheet of parchment is the brown sugar that falls off of the tots tends to burn during the last half of the cooking, and fills your oven with smoke).
  10. Set the timer for 13 more minutes, then take the tots out of the oven.  Keep a close eye on the tots as oven temperatures and bacon thickness may vary, so yours may be done before this.  You want them to be a little crispy and caramelized on the outside.
  11. Serve immediately with a cup of your favorite bar-b-q sauce on the side if desired.
  12. Refrigerate any leftovers (but there probably won’t be any)!

Recipe from Cook AZ I Do, originally found on Damn Delicious



Posted in Appetizers, Company, New Year's Recipes, Party Recipes, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Posole Rojo – A Christmas Eve Tradition

Posole Rojo

Today I want to share with you a delicious soup that our family eats on Christmas Eve, but would be wonderful anytime you want a flavorful soup reminiscent of the spices in a tamale.  It is called Posole Rojo. It is often served on Christmas Eve in Mexico.  Many families in Arizona eat Mexican food on this night, I think due to the fact that we are neighbors with Mexico. When I first started having Christmas Eve dinner at our house it seemed the only logical thing to serve as everyone in our family loves Mexican food.  I think I could eat it every day, and we do eat it often. But I wanted our Christmas Eve dinner to be a little more special and not something I fix all the time.  Once I came across this recipe, I have been serving it ever since, as part of our tradition.

Posole is a hearty, spicy soup, full of shredded pork and hominy.

Posole Rojo

There are also traditional toppings or garnishes that accompany the soup which are limes, radishes, cilantro, and cabbage.  I think I eat soups for the garnishes that you put on them.  That is my favorite part.  I have always liked to decorate!

Posole Rojo

The ingredients that add spice and amazing flavor to this recipe for Posole are dried Ancho Chiles (left) and dried Chiles de Arbol (right).  I did have to go to a specialty Mexican grocery store in order to find these chiles.  We are so fortunate to have several of those near where I live.  If you live in the area, I found the chiles at Rancho Market, but Food City would probably have them as well.  It is amazing how many different kinds of chiles there are, but the cashier said these types are very common.

Ancho Chile (left) and Chile de Arbol (right)

After removing the seeds from the chiles (due to their extreme heat), you steep them in boiling water for a brief time to soften them.  Afterwards, the softened chiles and the chile water are placed in a blender to be turned into a chile smoothie.  I may have to try that for breakfast sometime.  I bet it would wake me up very quickly!

Posole Rojo

The result is a concoction that is liquid gold.  It doesn’t taste good by itself, because it is very concentrated, but takes this soup over the top with richness and complexity.  You add more or less depending on how spicy you like it.  We love spicy so I add almost all of it.

Posole Rojo

If you are trying to figure out what to fix on Christmas Eve or if you are a fan of Mexican food like we are, try this soup sometime.  It takes a little bit of time, but isn’t difficult at all and is definitely worth it for a special occasion or to make on the weekends when you have a little more time.  Serve it with some warm, buttered flour tortillas, and it will be a meal fit for a king.  Another reason it’s perfect for Christmas.  I would love to hear what your family’s food traditions are for the holidays. Whatever you do, I hope you have a wonderful time celebrating with family and friends!

Posole Rojo

Posole Rojo

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Time: 1 1/2 hours prep plus 3 hours cooking
  • Difficulty: intermediate
  • Print

  • 3/4 c dried chiles de arbol (you may need to go to a Mexican specialty store)
  • 5 dried ancho chiles (can also be called dried pasilla chiles)
  • 6 cloves garlic (2 smashed, 4 minced)
  • salt
  • 3-4 pounds boneless pork shoulder, trimmed and cut in quarters
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 large white onion, chopped
  • 8 c chicken broth
  • 1 Tbsp. dried oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3-4 cans (15-ounce) white hominy, drained and rinsed (you might not want to get the store brand for this as they seemed mushy)
  • diced avocado, shredded cabbage, diced onion, sliced radishes, and/or fresh cilantro, for toppings
  1. Cut the ends off the chiles de arbol and ancho chiles, and shake out the seeds.  Measure the 3/4 cup after you do this for the chiles de arbol.  This takes awhile.  Be sure to use gloves as the oils will stay on your hands even after you wash them, and can hurt if you touch your eyes later.
  2. Put the chiles in a bowl and cover with approximately 3 cups boiling water, making sure chiles are submerged and using a bowl or plate to weigh them down if needed.  Soak about 30-45 minutes until soft.
  3. Transfer the chiles and 1 1/2 c of the soaking water to a blender.  Add the smashed garlic, and 1/2 tsp. salt and blend until smooth.
  4. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, pushing the sauce through with a spoon.  Discard the solids.
  5. Rub the pork all over with the cumin and 1/2 tsp. salt; set aside.
  6. Heat the vegetable oil in a Dutch oven or pot over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 5 minutes.  Add the pressed garlic, and cook 2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds to 1 minute so it doesn’t burn.  Take out the onion garlic mixture, place in a bowl, and set aside.
  7. Increase the heat to medium high.  Add the pork pieces to the pot and brown on both sides, by leaving them unmoved on each side for 3-4 minutes before turning.
  8. When pork is browned, stir in 2 c water, the chicken broth, oregano, bay leaf, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 3/4 c of the chile sauce.  Bring to a low boil, then reduce the heat to maintain a simmer.  Cover and cook, turning the pork a few times, until tender, about 3 hours.
  9. When meat is fork tender and can easily be shredded with a fork, take the meat out of the pot and transfer to a cutting board.  Roughly chop into bite size pieces and return to pot.
  10. Remove the bay leaf and add the hominy which has been drained and rinsed.  Add salt to taste (I started with 1 tsp. and went from there).
  11. If you like your posole spicier, add 1/4 c of the chile paste at a time until desired heat is achieved.  I ended up adding another 1/2 cup because we like a little heat.  Serve with assorted toppings if desired and the remaining chile sauce.
  12. Refrigerate any leftovers.  This will keep in the refrigerator up to a week if you want to make it ahead of time and reheat when needed.

Recipe from Cook AZ I Do, slightly adapted from Food Network Magazine, January/February 2012, page 93


Posted in Christmas, Main Dish, Mexican, Recipes, Soups, Weekend Meals, winter recipes | Tagged , , , , , , | 18 Comments

Vanilla Chai Tea Latte Mix – A Quick and Delicious Food Gift For Friends and Neighbors

Vanilla Chai Tea Latte Mix

Each Christmas I like to do a homemade food gift for friends and neighbors.  Every year I pick something different to make. Last year I made Hot Chocolate on a Stick.  This year I wanted to try making the Chai Tea Mix that someone had given me.  Are you a fan of chai tea?  I didn’t think I was until I tasted this recipe for Vanilla Chai Tea Latte.  It is so creamy and full of vanilla flavor that it absolutely converted me.  It has all the spices of traditional chai tea, but is a little more subtle.  And the texture is similar to the creaminess of hot chocolate.  Add a little bit of whipped cream, and it is the perfect thing to warm you up on a cold winter’s night.

Vanilla Chai Tea Latte

If you need a last-minute gift for friends, neighbors, or co-workers, this would be perfect because it is so quick to make.  You just dump all the ingredients into a food processor and turn it on until the mixture is a fine, smooth powder.  At this point your kitchen will smell wonderful.  Then pour into a pretty glass or tin container, attach a label, and you are done.  I just love all of the chalk board labels out right now.  I found mine at Michael’s.

Vanilla Chai Tea Latte Mix

And have you seen the new chalk board pens?  It is basically liquid chalk that you write with like a pen.  They are very fun to use, they come out a little darker, and you can erase them just like regular chalk.

Chalk Ink Marker

How are you doing with your shopping?  That always seems to be the last thing I get done.  Not because I don’t like to shop, but because I can never decide what to get anyone.  My kids are older and 2 of the 3 don’t live at home anymore, so it has gotten even harder to know what they would like. A lot of times, because I am not a techie, I don’t even know what it is when they tell me.  Or where to get it.  When all else fails, I end up getting them clothes.  But for some reason, my excellent taste in fashion doesn’t seem to align with theirs!:)  Maybe that is why I like to do food gifts for friends and neighbors.  I know I always appreciate it when someone gives me something homemade.  I hope this helps you with any last-minute gifts you need or just a good mix to have on hand over the holidays when you have company.  I might even put some in my kids’ stockings.  It will go a long way towards cheering them up when they see the clothes I bought them!

Vanilla Chai Tea Latte Mix

Vanilla Chai Tea Latte Mix

  • Servings: 6 containers (3/4 cup mix in each)
  • Time: 15-30 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 3 c nonfat dry milk powder
  • 1 1/2 c sugar
  • 1 c unsweetened instant tea (I used Lipton)
  • 3/4 c French Vanilla powdered nondairy creamer (I used Nestle Coffee-Mate brand which gave it that great vanilla flavor)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cardamom (warning:  this is a little expensive, but you can get 12 gifts out of it plus have some left for recipes)
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  • whipped cream – optional for garnish
  1. In a food processor, or blender, combine all dry ingredients (it’s a good idea to pre-mix in a large mixing bowl with a spoon).  Cover and process until powdery.  Can be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to six months.
  2. If using as gifts, pour 3/4 cup of the mix into a jar or tin.  Label with serving instructions below.

Serving Instructions:  Stir 3-4 Tbsp. into 3/4 cup of hot water.  Dollop with whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon if desired.

Recipe from Cook AZ I Do, found on Life is a

P.S. In case you need another idea here is a food gift that is quick and easy to make and everyone just loves to get:

Chocolate Peppermint Bark

Chocolate Peppermint Bark

For more inspiration, check out the Food Gift category.  I hope this helps make your holiday preparations easier!




Posted in Christmas, Company, Drinks, Food Gifts, New Year's Recipes, Recipes, winter recipes | Tagged , , , , , , | 18 Comments