Friday, July 29, 2011

Vegetable Spaghetti

This is my new go-to for spaghetti- we absolutely LOVE it at our house and it makes regular appearances at the dinner table. Its easy, extremely healthy (can you say, vegan?), it makes a TON, and my kids and husband love it. Seriously, its the only pasta dish that Brian will eat for left-overs. There are several different ways to prepare it and no exact measurements- just put in what you like! Try it out and you'll see what I mean. This recipe is adapted slightly from great friend and neighbor, Sheree Nixon.
picture courtesy google images

Vegetable Spaghetti
Rachel Crofts/Sheree Nixon

Assorted Vegetables of your Choosing (I used squash, zucchini, cauliflower, broccoli, and carrots)
1 yellow onion, diced
Spices of your choosing (I use garlic salt, minced garlic, salt, pepper, Oregano, Italian Seasoning, Crushed Red Pepper and Basil)
1 Tbs. Olive oil
2 cans tomato sauce
2 cans diced tomatoes
1/4 cup brown sugar (optional- but it tempers the acidity of the canned tomatoes and gives a rich flavor to your pasta- add more or less to your liking)
Angel Hair Pasta (one box) cooked according to package directions

My favorite way to prepare this dish is slightly more time-consuming, but it pays off. I chop the vegetables and place them in a large dish and roast them in the oven according to this recipe (minus the cheese). If you prepare enough vegetables on your first attempt, then you can freeze half of them and use them next time you want this spaghetti (more on that later). I typically use an entire head of cauliflower and broccoli, 5-6 diced carrots, a whole squash and zucchini and it makes a TON that is easily divided and used for two recipes. Because I have small children, I chop the vegetables with my food chopper into very small (almost ground) pieces before using for this recipe. It doesn't detract from the flavor or texture, it just makes it more inviting for little mouths. :)

To begin making the spaghetti, warm the olive oil in a large pot on medium heat. Add the onions and 1/2 tsp. of salt and saute until onions are soft (about 5 minutes). Add your spices- I add a good sprinkle of each spice, especially the basil. Only use a dash of red pepper though (its hot!). Add your tomato sauce and diced tomatoes as well as your roasted vegetables. Stir to heat through and simmer for about 10 minutes to incorporate the flavors. Add your brown sugar, if using, at the end. Stir, and remove from heat. Serve over cooked angel hair pasta.

**If you have frozen vegetables (from doubling the earlier roasted vegetables) or want to make this recipe in a crock pot, do the following: Saute the onions as described above. Add spices. Put your tomatoes and tomato sauce into a crock pot set to low, followed by the brown sugar, sauteed onions, and frozen vegetables. Cook on low for 5-6 hours, stirring once or twice throughout to break up the vegetables. Serve over angel hair pasta for an easy, MUCH faster spaghetti.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Whole Wheat Dinner Muffins

pic courtesy of Mel's Kitchen Cafe

Yeast bread, schmeast bread. It takes too long. And, when it's 5:00 and dinner's supposed to be on in an hour, there's just not enough time for all that kneading, rising, and rolling out. So, I stumbled across this recipe when I needed something fast and homemade. And, I'm so glad I did because these rolls were DELICIOUS. They were soft, fluffy, and so scrumptious. My 4-year-old ate his in 2 bites and was begging for more before he even swallowed. Skip the yeast next time and reach for these.

Whole Wheat Dinner Muffins
adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe

*Makes 15-16 muffins

2 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour (I used white whole wheat for a lighter texture.)
4 tablespoons yellow cornmeal
6 tablespoons firmly packed light or dark brown sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3 eggs, separated
6 tablespoons butter, melted, or olive oil
2 cups buttermilk
4 tablespoons sour cream or plain yogurt
3 tablespoons sesame seeds for sprinkling (optional, I didn't do this)

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Grease 16 standard muffin cups; fill the unused cups one-third full with water to prevent warping during baking.

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, cornmeal, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In another bowl or a large liquid measuring cup, whisk together the egg yolks, butter, buttermilk, and sour cream until blended. Stir the buttermilk mixture into the flour mixture just until evenly moistened. Don’t overmix! The batter will be slightly lumpy.

In a clean bowl, using a mixer with spotlessly clean beaters on medium speed, beat the egg whites just until they form soft peaks. Using a large rubber spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the batter until blended, again, taking care not to overmix because that will result in tough, dry muffins. There will be white streaks through your batter!

Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups, filling each cup nearly level with the rim of the cup. Sprinkle the muffins with the sesame seeds. Bake the muffins until they are golden, dry and springy to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, 18-20 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let the muffins cool for 5 minutes. Unmold the muffins and serve warm or at room temperature with butter and/or jam, if desired.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Russian Chicken

This recipe was first introduce to me by a good friend of mine when we were invited for dinner. Thanks Mercy! Anything that has lots of "juice/gravy" served over rice is ahuge winner for my husband, Jason, so this is right up his alley. Super easy.


-4-6 chicken breasts (can be frozen but take into consideration cooking time)

-1 large bottle of Russian dressing (I have only found "Ken's Steakhouse" brand)

-1 envelope of onion soup mix

-1 jar of apricot preserves

Whisk last three ingredients together in large bowl. Pour over thawed chicken breasts. Bake at 350 for an hour. Serve over rice.

Garlic Chicken Farfalle

Photo from

Um...garlic+chicken+pasta=cannot go wrong. Oh yeah, and bacon and whipping cream. Just eat a little bit and don't feel guilty:).

Garlic Chicken Farfalle

Recipe from

16 oz. Farfalle pasta
1 c. heavy whipping cream
3-4 chicken breasts (boneless, skinless)
2 to 3 cloves garlic, crushed OR garlic salt (I do a spoonful of crushed garlic)
1 Tbsp. pepper*
1/2 c. butter
1 lb. bacon, crumpled**
1/2 c. shredded Parmesan cheese
1 (12 oz) Lawry’s mesquite marinade with lime juice
*Seems like a lot of pepper, but it has a wonderful flavor when everything mixes together. If you’re apprehensive, do less pepper. You can always add more.
**We like to cook our bacon in the oven (400 degrees, convection). Way less messy. And it’s crispy every time. Time varies, so you just have to watch it. I think it’s usually around 30 minutes. Allow to cool and then crumple (I totally wear disposable gloves for this part – surprise, surprise).

[ directions ]
Crock pot chicken and bottle of marinade on low for 6 hours. Pull marinated chicken out of the juices, allow to cool a little bit, and shred (I pull it apart). Set this aside. About a half-hour before serving, boil the pasta. In a small saucepan, melt butter, add garlic, whipping cream, pepper, parmesan cheese, and crumpled bacon. Whisk together on low heat for 3-4 minutes. In a large bowl, pour over cooked, drained pasta, add chicken and stir through. Sprinkle a little bit more shredded parmesan cheese on top.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Poppy Seed Dressing and Spinach Salad

photo courtesy of

My Sister-in-law, Ali, made this recipe for our monthly family dinner tonight. YUMMY! So fresh and totally different spin on a spinach salad.

Poppy Seed Dressing and Spinach Salad

1 tablespoon butter
3/4 cup almonds, blanched and slivered
1 pound fresh spinach
1 cup dried cranberries
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
1/2 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons minced onion
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup vegetable oil

In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Cook and stir almonds in butter until lightly toasted. Remove from heat, and let cool.
In a large bowl, combine the spinach with the toasted almonds and cranberries.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the sesame seeds, poppy seeds, sugar, onion, paprika, white wine vinegar, cider vinegar, and vegetable oil. Toss with spinach just before serving.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Coconut Curry Soup

Pic courtesy of Mel's Kitchen Cafe

I went out for Thai food for the first time last week and I have been craving curry ever since. It is seriously one of my favorite foods. I used to eat it on my mission pretty often, but totally forgot how much I love it. Anyway, this dish was nothing short of amazing and so easy and quick to put together (We're talking 30 minute meal here people!). I can easily foresee this as a new staple in our house.

Coconut Curry Soup
adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe

*Serves 4-6

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 pounds chicken breasts, (about 3), cut into 1-inch (or smaller) pieces
Salt and pepper for seasoning
1/2 cup chopped yellow onion (about 1/2 medium onion)
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 can (14-ounces) unsweetened light coconut milk
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper or more to taste
1 tablespoon brown sugar
½ tablespoon curry powder
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice (about 1 medium lime)
¼ cup fresh cilantro

3-4 cups hot, cooked rice for serving

In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat until it is hot and shimmering. Pat the chicken pieces dry with a paper towel and season them lightly with salt and pepper. Add them to the hot oil. Let the chicken cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the onions and red pepper. Cook for 2-3 minutes, until the onions and peppers are slightly softened. The chicken and vegetables don’t have to be fully cooked as they will simmer and cook further in the next step.

Add the chicken broth, coconut milk, cayenne pepper, brown sugar, and curry powder. Stir to combine. Bring the soup to a simmer and cook, gently, for 10-15 minutes. Stir in the lime juice and cilantro. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve a ladle or two of the soup over a scoop of rice and garnish with more cilantro, if desired.

*Just like the picture, I filled a bowl half way with rice and then ladled on the "soup." Think of it more as a stew, though. It shouldn't be too soupy.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Cream Cheese Muffins

Photo from
Yep, I loved these.  I just love cream cheese--you can't go wrong.  And the topping on these.  Yum, yum.
Cream Cheese Muffins
Recipe from

3 C  flour
1 C sugar
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2/3 C milk
1/2 C vegetable oil
2 large eggs8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 C sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line your muffin tin with cupcake liners.
Mix together the flour, 1 cup of sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.
In another bowl stir together milk, oil, and eggs.  Combine with the dry ingredients. Stir until just moistened.
Combine cream cheese and 1 cup of sugar.  Gently mix half of this mixture into the muffin batter.
Fill muffin tins about 1/2 to 2/3 full with batter. Spoon the remaining cream cheese mixture onto the muffins, with the back of a spoon push the mixture  into each muffin.

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/4 C butter, softened
Combine ingredients. Sprinkle generously over muffins. Bake 24 to 30 minutes until golden brown.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Beef Fajitas

Photo courtesy of
These were so moist and yummy!  I had Jacob over for dinner when I made these and he said that for the first time he has actually enjoyed peppers!  All of who know Jacob know what at amazing feat that was!

Beef Fajitas    
Recipe from

1/2 C Canola oil
1/3 C soy sauce
1/4 C balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp fresh lime or lemon juice
1 1/2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 1/2 pounds flank steak
Combination of peppers – red, yellow, orange, green and onion, sliced.
Olive oil
Using a  medium bowl,combine the oil, soy sauce, vinegar, lemon or lime juice, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, garlic, and ground black pepper. Place meat in a large zip loc baggie and pour marinade over the steak. Turning meat to coat thoroughly. Refrigerate for  at least 2-3 hours or overnight.
Preheat grill for medium-high heat.
Place steaks on the grill, and discard the marinade. Grill meat for 5 minutes per side, or to desired doneness.  Slice meat thinly going across the grain
While meat is grilling, saute onions and peppers in olive oil and salt until tender.
Serve with meat on a tortilla.  Add sour cream, guacamole and or salsa.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Oven Baked Churros

Photo from
These were surprisingly awesome and stinkin' easy!  Actually, I'd prefer I didn't know about these because they were that good and I want to eat them all!

Oven-Baked Churros
(Makes 3 dozen
Recipe from

1 (17.3- oz.) package frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed  (I actually used 1 sheet/half a package and made 18 churros, but kept all the other ingredient amounts as listed)
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup melted butter

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.  Unfold and cut puff pastry sheets in half lengthwise, and cut each half crosswise into 1-inch-wide strips.  Place strips on a lightly greased parchment paper-lined baking sheet(I used a stoneware baking sheet without grease or parchment:)) Bake 10 minutes or until golden brown.
2.  Meanwhile, combine sugar and cinnamon.  Remove pastry sheets from oven, and dip in butter, roll in cinnamon-sugar mixture.  Let stand on a wire rack 5 minutes or until dry. Delicious!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Pioneer Woman's Cinnamon Rolls

Photo from Pioneer Woman blog

Disclaimer: The thing about having a family-run blog is when that said family has a family reunion.  We have all been working hard at having fun with each other which is why our blog has run stale for the last couple of weeks.  I have LOTS of recipes to enter so keep checking!

Okay, about the cinnamon rolls.  Most of you know that Pioneer Woman is amazing in all things.  These are included.  These are actually one of her more well known things on her blog.  However, they were not my favorite.  I mean, they were good, but I prefer cream cheese frosting.  Plus, I thought they were a lot of work.  Somewhere on this blog is an amazingly good and amazingly easy cinnamon roll recipe made with vanilla pudding.  Those are MY favorite, hands down.  Jake says these are HIS favorite, hands down.  You decide!

Recipe: Pioneer Woman’s Cinnamon Rolls

Recipe from Pioneer Woman
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  • 1 quart Whole Milk
  • 1 cup Vegetable Oil
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 2 packages Active Dry Yeast
  • 8 cups (Plus 1 Cup Extra, Separated) All-purpose Flour
  • 1 teaspoon (heaping) Baking Powder
  • 1 teaspoon (scant) Baking Soda
  • 1 Tablespoon (heaping) Salt
  • Plenty Of Melted Butter
  • 2 cups Sugar
  • Generous Sprinkling Of Cinnamon
  • _____
  • 1 bag Powdered Sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Maple Flavoring
  • ½ cups Milk
  • ¼ cups Melted Butter
  • ¼ cups Brewed Coffee
  • ⅛ teaspoons Salt

Preparation Instructions

Mix the milk, vegetable oil and sugar in a pan. Scald the mixture (heat until just before the boiling point). Turn off heat and leave to cool 45 minutes to 1 hour. When the mixture is lukewarm to warm, but NOT hot, sprinkle in both packages of Active Dry Yeast. Let this sit for a minute. Then add 8 cups of all-purpose flour.

Stir mixture together. Cover and let rise for at least an hour.

After rising for at least an hour, add 1 more cup of flour, the baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir mixture together. (At this point, you could cover the dough and put it in the fridge until you need it – overnight or even a day or two, if necessary. Just keep your eye on it and if it starts to overflow out of the pan, just punch it down).

When ready to prepare rolls: Sprinkle rolling surface generously with flour. Take half the dough and form a rough rectangle. Then roll the dough thin, maintaining a general rectangular shape. Drizzle 1/2 to 1 cup melted butter over the dough. Now sprinkle 1 cup of sugar over the butter followed by a generous sprinkling of cinnamon.

Now, starting at the opposite end, begin rolling the dough in a neat line toward you. Keep the roll relatively tight as you go. Next, pinch the seam of the roll to seal it.

Spread 1 tablespoon of melted butter in a seven inch round foil cake or pie pan. Then begin cutting the rolls approximately ¾ to 1 inch thick and laying them in the buttered pans.

Repeat this process with the other half of the dough. Let the rolls rise for 20 to 30 minutes, then bake at 400 degrees (see note below) until light golden brown, about 15 to 18 minutes.
For the frosting, mix together all ingredients listed and stir well until smooth. It should be thick but pourable. Taste and adjust as needed. Generously drizzle over the warm rolls. Go crazy and don’t skimp on the frosting.