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Slow Cooked Mac & Cheese

It's getting to be that time of year... the end of summer is approaching! As school goes back into swing, aren't we all in need of some quick & easy recipe to fuel us through those busy evenings? Although I don't have kids (yet), the slow cooker is one of my favorite tools for getting a meal on the table on busy nights. Speaking of children, I don't have any yet, but am expecting my first this fall! My husband and I will welcome a baby boy into our family sometime in November. Though I haven't had a TON of pregnancy cravings, I have had a major one - macaroni and cheese! Anything from boxed Velveeta shells & cheese to homemade versions cooked on the stovetop to deep-fried mac & cheese bites (for real). I have been on a mission to try a new macaroni and cheese recipe each week. My mother-in-law has a great recipe for Slow Cooked Mac & Cheese, so I thought it'd be perfect to share on the blog for those busy nights or big potlucks. This thick & creamy mac & cheese is almost like a casserole. The noodles and cheese sauce are ooey gooey, but you still get that wonderful crust along the edges and on the top. It's also really quick to mix up, less than 10 minutes! One thing you need a lot of - CHEESE. This is about 1 pound of freshly grated cheese - a mix of cheddar and American. Use your favorite, but I think the American gives a very homey taste. IMG_7415 To make the mac & cheese, simply layer the following in your slow cooker: butter, cooked pasta shapes, and a mixture of grated cheese, eggs, evaporated milk, milk, and condensed cheddar cheese soup. PicMonkey Collage.jpg Mix it all together, and let it cook on low! During the last 15 minutes, sprinkle on a little extra cheese, and let it melt before serving. IMG_7422 It makes a great main dish (with some hot dogs, anyone?) or a tasty side dish to any meal.

Slow Cooked Mac & Cheese

Servings/Yield: 6-8 servings

  • 16-oz small pasta shapes (shells or elbows)
  • ½ cup butter, melted
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 12-oz can evaporated milk
  • 10-¾-oz can condensed cheddar cheese soup, undiluted
  • 1 cup milk
  • 8-oz cheddar cheese, freshly grated
  • 8-oz American cheese, freshly grated
  • 1 teaspoon salt, (plus more to taste)
  • ½ teaspoon pepper, (plus more to taste)

Method

1. Cook pasta according to package directions, subtracting 2 minutes from cooking time; drain. Place butter and pasta in a large slow cooker.

2. In a large bowl, combine eggs, evaporated milk, soup, milk, and all but 1/2 cup cheese. Pour over pasta mixture; stir to combine. Cover and cook on low 3-4 hours. (If you need to serve it past this time, switch slow cooker to ‘warm’.)

3. Sprinkle with remaining cheese; cook 15 minutes more until the cheese melts.

Source: adapted from a family favorite
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Mini Berry Buckle Cakes

About a month ago, my husband and I went on a quick vacation with my parents. We traveled to Asheville, NC (where we toured the Biltmore House - SO cool!) and then on to Myrtle Beach, SC for a few days before we had to fly back. (My parents got to stay and enjoy the beach for the rest of the week but we had to get back to work!) We decided to fly back from Charleston, mostly because it's one of the best foodie cities in the world. I planned our entire day - donuts at Glazed Gourmet Donuts, a carriage ride, shopping, dinner at Magnolia's, and my favorite part - a cooking class at Charleston Cooks. We learned some great recipes, and today I'm going to share Mini Berry Buckle Cakes!  IMG_7402 I had never even heard of a buckle cake before, can you believe that? It's almost like a cobbler, but the fruit is mixed directly into the batter. This variation is a light fluffy cake with fresh seasonal berries mixed in, topped with a cinnamon-streusel crumb topping. Start by creaming the butter and sugar with a stand or hand mixer. (If you don't have one, do it by hand, you'll just get a great arm workout.) Add the egg and mix until smooth. Add the flour mixture alternately with the milk until creamy and smooth. Fold in the berries with a spatula so you don't blend them to smithereens. PicMonkey Collage.jpg Scoop the batter evenly into 12 paper-lined muffin cups. Then it's time to make the streusel! Combine flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Blend in some cold butter using a pastry cutter or your own fingers. (I always just use my fingers... just rub the mixture until the butter is in small pieces about the size of a pea or smaller.) picmomnkey2 Sprinkle the streusel over the batter and you are ready to bake. After a quick trip in a 350*F, your Mini Berry Buckle Cakes are ready to enjoy! Especially delicious when served with additional mixed berries and maybe even some whipped cream. IMG_7400 I will even admit... I have been enjoying the leftovers for breakfast! At least it's got fruit?! IMG_7402

Mini Berry Buckle Cakes

Yield: 12 mini cakes

  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup milk
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups fresh mixed berries, finely diced
  • Crumble Topping
    • ½ cup brown sugar
    • cup all-purpose flour
    • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
    • ¼ cup unsalted butter

Method

1. Preheat oven to 350*F. Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners; spray with cooking spray.

2. For cake batter, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg; beat until well-combined. In a small bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, and salt. Add flour mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat until smooth. Fold in berries. Scoop batter evenly into 12 paper-lined cups.

3. For the crumble topping, combine flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Blend in the butter using a pastry cutter, two knives, or your fingers. Sprinkle over each mini buckle cake.

4. Bake at 350*F for 20-24 minutes until golden brown. Serve warm with whipped cream and additional fresh berries.

Source: adapted from Charleston Cooks

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Caramelized Peach Caprese Salad

Peaches are perfectly in season right now... I am craving a good slice of peach pie! My mother-in-law makes one with sour cream that is to die for. My other favorite way to enjoy peaches is diced up over the top of a bowl of vanilla Greek yogurt sprinkled with some granola. I thought I'd step out of the typical 'sweet' flavor profile box associated with peaches and take a walk on the savory side. I've combined peaches with gorgonzola before with great success, so I figured mozzarella would have to be good as well! Caramelized Peach Caprese Salad takes sweet, juicy peaches, and layers them with fresh sliced mozzarella cheese, and fresh basil leaves. It's all drizzled with balsamic vinegar and olive oil and just a touch of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Such a great combination of textures and flavors - sweet and salty, soft and a little bit of crispy from the snap of the peach skin. This dish makes a great little appetizer or side salad, or a nice light lunch. IMG_7342 Start by caramelizing the peaches. This brings out the sweet flavor, especially if they aren't quite perfectly ripe. (Does anybody else think it's nearly impossible to find a perfectly ripe peach?) Just melt a little butter in a saucepan, sprinkle the peach slices with brown sugar, and cook over medium heat about 3 minutes per side, until juicy and bubbly. IMG_7337 IMG_7338 Then, just layer the peach slices with slices of fresh mozzarella cheese and basil leaves. You can get as creative as you want with the presentation... I went with a classic circle. IMG_7339 Give it a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and olive oil, and sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. It's quite impressive for a dish that comes together so quickly - I think I spent maybe 10 minutes start to finish. Enjoy! IMG_7342 If you're a big caprese fan, be sure to check out this Grilled Steak Caprese Salad... one of my summer favorites!  

Caramelized Peach Caprese Salad

Yield: 1-2 servings (for more servings, simply increase quantities)

  • 2-3 fresh peaches, sliced 1/4-1/2-inch thick
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1-2 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 6-oz fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
  • 10-12 fresh basil leaves
  • olive oil, to taste
  • balsamic vinegar, to taste
  • sea salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Method

1. Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Sprinkle peach slices with brown sugar. Caramelize peach slices in butter until golden brown, about 3 minutes on each side.

2. On serving plate, layer peach slice, mozzarella, and basil; repeat. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Source: How Sweet It Is

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Mango Fish Tacos

I've been making these fish tacos for years... it's about time to share the recipe! These are certainly a family favorite, and taste especially good during the summer months. On the patio, with an ice-cold drink and a big bowl of guacamole. Mango Fish Tacos are a light and healthy change-up from regular ole' beef tacos. Seasoned white fish is topped with mango salsa, feta, fresh mango, cabbage, and the most addicting cilantro-lime crema. All wrapped up in a tortilla, it's a great combination of textures and flavors that go so well together. IMG_7280 The prep is relatively simple - dicing a mango, mixing up the cilantro-lime crema, and cooking the fish. For the fish, season your favorite mild white fish with chili powder, salt, and pepper. I have used tilapia, mahi mahi, and cod, and all produce delicious results. (Though mahi mahi might be my favorite.) Then, either grill or bake the fish until it flakes easily with a fork, about 8-10 minutes. IMG_7275 IMG_7277 For the cilantro-lime crema, combine a cup of sour cream with some chopped green onion, chopped cilantro, lime juice, chili powder, and salt. You will likely have more than you need for the tacos, but this stuff is absolutely delicious! I love to dip my tortilla chips in it. IMG_7274 For the other toppings, you just need mango salsa (or any fruity salsa), diced mango, feta cheese, cabbage, and cilantro. Then just layer it all up on your favorite tortillas! IMG_7279 It doesn't get any fresher than this!

Mango Fish Tacos

Yield: 4 servings

  • For the tacos
    • 1-lb flaky white fish (mahi mahi, tilapia, or cod)
    • 1-2 teaspoons chili powder
    • to taste salt & pepper
    • 1 mango , diced into small chunks
    • ½ cup cilantro, chopped
    • 1-2 cups cabbage, chopped
    • ½-1 cup mango (or fruity) salsa
    • 1 cup feta cheese
    • cilantro-lime crema
    • 8-12 small tortillas
  • Cilantro-Lime Crema
    • 1 cup sour cream
    • tablespoons lime juice
    • 2-3 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
    • 1 green onion , diced
    • ½ teaspoon chili powder
    • salt, to taste

Method

1. To prepare fish, season with chili powder, salt, and pepper. Grill on medium heat or bake at 400*F for 8-10 minutes until fish flakes easily with a fork. Tear the fish into small pieces with a fork and set aside.

2. For the cilantro-lime crema, combine sour cream, lime juice, cilantro, green onion, chili powder, and salt. Set aside.

3. To assemble tacos, layer fish, mango salsa, feta, mango, cabbage, cilantro, and cilantro-lime creme on a tortilla.

Source: family favorite

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Mojito Fruit Salad (Non-alcoholic)

Hope you all had a great 4th of July weekend! It was gorgeous here in Lima... we took advantage of the beautiful weather and had several friends and family over for a big cook-out. We had some family come in from out of town, and on Saturday  morning, I whipped up a big bowl of Mojito Fruit Salad. The inspiration for this recipe came from a little date night last week with my husband. We celebrated our 4th anniversary with dinner at the Met (a local restaurant/wine bar in Lima). We are expecting our first child in November, so this was our last anniversary just the two of us! I toasted with a specialty drink - a non-alcoholic blueberry mojito. Man, it was so good! Blueberries, lime, mint... very refreshing for the summer season. I thought the flavors would work well in a summer fruit salad, so I did some searching online and got to work. This fruit salad combines your favorite summer fruits with chopped fresh mint, and a sweet lime glaze. So juicy and fresh! PicMonkey CollageI used watermelon, blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries, but you could sub in whatever's in season. (Peaches would be really good!) Add in some diced fresh mint, and a simple glaze made of lime juice and powdered. That's it! It's got that extra zing that a typical summer fruit bowl doesn't have. Enjoy! IMG_7194 ---

Mojito Fruit Salad (Non-alcoholic)

Yield: 8-10 servings

  • 4 cups cubed watermelon
  • 1-lb package strawberries, quartered
  • 1 pint blueberries
  • 6-oz package raspberries
  • 3-4 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • ¼ cup lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons powdered sugar

Method

Combine all fruit in a bowl with chopped fresh mint. Whisk together lime juice and powdered sugar; pour over fruit and mix to combine. Serve cold.

IMG_7142Source: Iowa Girl Eats

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No-Bake Cheesecake Parfaits

How is it that the 4th of July is already this week? Where is this summer going??! Time to roll out those favorite red, white, and blue recipes... Brownie Berry Pizza, Red, White, & Blue Pasta Salad, or the good ole' classic Flag Cake. If you're looking for a simple and easy make ahead dessert (or snack) to add to your spread, these No-Bake Cheesecake Parfaits are perfect! A simple graham cracker crust is topped with a whipped yogurt cheesecake filling, and then your choice of fresh blueberry or fresh strawberry topping. These are even pretty healthy... enough so that we've been enjoying them for snacks. (And maybe breakfast...) I served them in some 4-oz glass jars, which I thought were super cute. You could also use little plastic punch cups or small bowls or ramekins. IMG_7127 Start with your fruit toppings. For the strawberry, combine some diced strawberries with a bit of sugar. Let them sit about 1 hour until macerated and juicy. For the blueberry, combine some blueberries with sugar and cook over medium heat until they release their juice. Add a little cornstarch mixed with water to thicken it up. (If you want to make it even easier and buy canned fruit topping, I won't tell anyone...) For the graham cracker crust, mix up your graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and a little melted butter. Press into the bottom of each jar and set aside. IMG_7117 For the cheesecake filling, beat  cream cheese until smooth. Add some Greek yogurt, powdered sugar, and a little vanilla extract. That's it! Scoop it over the graham cracker crust into your jars. IMG_7119 Then, just top with the fruit topping! Easy peasy. IMG_7123 Happy Independence Day! ---

No-Bake Cheesecake Parfaits

Yield: 12 servings

For the strawberry topping:

  • cups diced strawberries
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
For the blueberry topping:
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons water
For the graham cracker crust:
  • ¾ cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • tablespoons butter, melted
For the no-bake cheesecake:
  • 8-oz cream cheese, softened
  • 2 cups plain Greek yogurt
  • cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Method

1. To prepare strawberry topping, combine diced strawberries and sugar in a small bowl. Set aside and let macerate 1 hour; then mash to release juices.

2. To prepare blueberry topping, combine blueberries with sugar in a small saucepan. Heat over medium heat 4-5 minutes until blueberries release their juices. In small bowl, combine cornstarch with water. Add mixture to blueberries; continue cooking and stir until thickened.

3. For the graham cracker base, combine graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and butter. Pour a spoonful into the bottom of 12 individual 4-oz flat-bottomed jars or other small ramekin. Pat down with your fingers or a small glass.

4. For the cheesecake layer, beat cream cheese and Greek yogurt until smooth. Mix in powdered sugar and vanilla extract; beat until smooth. Scoop about 1/3-1/2 cup into each jar over the graham cracker crust. Top with strawberry topping and/or blueberry topping. Store in refrigerator until serving.

Source: adapted from Annie's Eats

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Hawaiian Pulled Pork [Nachos]

Earlier this spring, I had the privilege of taking an awesome vacation to Hawaii. It was probably the best vacation of my life! Beautiful scenery, beautiful weather, and amazing food. I'm bringing a taste of Hawaii to Ohio today with this Hawaiian Pulled Pork. It's got a bit of  sweetness to it (from pineapple), which was a nice little change from your typical pulled pork. We enjoyed it several ways - on sandwiches, in salads, and as Hawaiian nachos. I'd say the nachos were definitely the best! Tortilla chips were layered with pork, barbecue sauce, co-jack cheese, and then topped with more pineapple and cilantro. The pork itself is really simple to make. Just combine a pork shoulder roast with some garlic powder, a can of pineapple (with juice), a sliced onion, and about 3/4 cup of your favorite barbecue sauce. Let it cook 7-9 hours on low, then shred it with a fork. IMG_6920 The nachos are pretty easy, too. Layer your favorite tortilla chips on a pan, then top with pieces of pork. Drizzle with additional barbecue sauce; then cover with your favorite cheese. (I used colby jack, but a mixture of cheddar and mozzarella would be good, too.) IMG_6921 Bake at 425*F for 4-6 minutes until the cheese melts. Once it comes out of the oven, top with additional pineapple and cilantro. Such an easy, fun dinner. IMG_6923 ---

Hawaiian Pulled Pork

Yield: 6-8 servings

  • 3-4 lb. pork shoulder or butt roast
  • 2 tablespoons garlic salt
  • 15-oz can chopped pineapple in juice
  • ½-¾ cup barbecue sauce
  • 1 large sweet onion, thinly sliced

Method

Rub pork roast all over with garlic salt. Place in slow cooker with barbecue sauce, pineapple (with juice), and onion. Cook on low for 7-9 hours, until meat shreds easily. Shred and serve on buns with additional barbecue sauce, or make Hawaiian nachos.

Hawaiian Nachos

Yield: as many servings as you make!

  • tortilla chips
  • Hawaiian pulled pork
  • barbecue sauce
  • shredded co-jack cheese
  • diced pineapple
  • chopped cilantro

Method

Preheat oven to 425*F. Layer tortilla chips on a baking sheet. (Use about 15-20 chips per person.) Top with pieces of pulled pork; then drizzle with barbecue sauce. Cover with shredded cheese. Bake about 4-6 minutes until cheese is melted. Top with pineapple and cilantro, and serve!

Source: adapted from Iowa Girl Eats

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Grilled Steaks with Blackberry Reduction Sauce

It's the summer of grilling, and today I'm featuring a classic - steak! Chief offers a wide variety of steak options... if you can't find your favorite, simply ask the butcher to cut your meat to order. They are also more than willing to answer any questions and provide tips and hints to the best cuts. IMG_6942 One of my favorite parts about eating steak in a fancy restaurant is the fancy reduction sauce that is usually served on the side. (For an extra charge, of course.) I decided that it would be nice to be able to make a sauce like that at home, and it was much simpler than I thought! I went with a Blackberry Reduction Sauce, which was made up of a mixture of mushrooms, shallots, reduced red wine, and fresh blackberries. The flavors went wonderfully with the steaks, and we even topped it all off with a bit of gorgonzola cheese. Might I say it was even better than the steakhouse? And we have leftovers! (I'm thinking it might be delicious over some grilled chicken as well.) To start the sauce, heat some olive oil in a large stockpot over high heat. Once it's almost smoking, add some sliced shallots, sliced mushrooms, and some freshly ground black pepper. Reduce the heat to medium, and let them cook about 5 minutes until browned bits have formed on the bottom of the pan. (Those are the best parts!) PicMonkey Collage.jpg Add a bit of brown sugar and your favorite dry red wine. (Cabernet is a great option.) Scrape up those little brown bits on the bottom of the pan, and let it simmer and reduce about 40 minutes, until there's only about 11/2 cups left. IMG_6939 Add about 2 cups of beef stock, and simmer another 15 minutes. Add in a few sprigs of thyme and some fresh blackberries, and let it simmer until your steaks are ready. To grill the steaks, simply season them with salt and pepper, and grill over high heat about 4-5 minutes on each side until your desired doneness. Serve the steaks topped with the sauce and gorgonzola cheese. IMG_6942

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Grilled Steaks with Blackberry Reduction Sauce

Yield: 2 cups sauce

For the sauce

  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 medium shallots, sliced
  • 1 package sliced baby bella mushrooms
  • 1-2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 1 bottle dry red wine, (about 4 cups)
  • 2 cups beef stock
  • 3-4 sprigs thyme
  • 1 pint fresh blackberries
For the steaks
  • 1½-2 lbs sirloin steak
  • salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • gorgonzola cheese, for serving

Method

1. To make the sauce, heat olive oil over high heat in a large nonreactive stockpot. Once it heats up, add shallots, mushrooms, and boac pepper. Reduce the heat to medium and cook vegetables until brown bits form on the bottom of the pan, about 5 minutes.

2. Add the brown sugar and red wine, and deglaze the pan, scraping the brown bits up off the bottom. Let simmer 30-40 minutes until reduced to about 11/2 cups. Add beef stock and cook about 15 minutes more, until it has reduced to about 11/2 cups.

3. About 10-15 minutes before serving, add thyme sprigs and fresh blackberries.

4. While sauce is reducing, prepare the grill. Heat grill to high heat. Season steaks with salt & pepper. Grill steaks about 4-5 minutes on each side, until your desired doneness. Serve topped with reduction sauce and gorgonzola cheese.

Source: adapted from Food Network Magazine

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20-Minute Chicken Florentine Pasta

Everybody loves a quick & easy dinner, right? I was watching an episode of the Pioneer Woman on Food Network a few weeks ago, and she had an episode devoted to 16-minute meals. 16 minutes?? Really? This Chicken Florentine Pasta was one of them, so I decided to give it a go. It's a light pasta dish filled with tender chicken pieces, fresh spinach and tomatoes, and dressed with a light sauce of white wine, butter, and Parmesan cheese. It really hit the spot on a warmer summer day. IMG_6878 Now, I'll be honest... it took me closer to 25 minutes start to finish. However, I was also cooking up a homemade ice cream base and garlic bread at the same time. (Multi-tasking at its finest!) So, I will compromise and call it a 20-minute meal. The meal goes so fast because you do multiple things at once. Start cooking the pasta at the same time you start browning the chicken pieces. Once the chicken pieces are brown on both sides and cooked through, add garlic to the pan. Let it cook about 30 seconds; then add the chicken stock and white wine to deglaze the pan. IMG_6875   IMG_6876 [A little tip about cooking with wine: definitely pick a wine you also like to drink! Or else what are you going to do with the rest of the bottle? You do, however, want to pick a dryer white wine for this recipe. Chief has a great system in their wine section, where the wines are labeled based on sweetness. 1 (very dry) to 5 (very sweet). I would choose either a 1 or 2 for this recipe. We went with a solid Chardonnay.] IMG_6877 Once the sauce is reduced by half, combine the cooked pasta, chicken pieces, spinach, tomatoes, and sauce. Let is sit a minute or two until the spinach wilts; then stir in the Parmesan and heavy cream. Serve with additional Parmesan and garlic bread, of course! IMG_6879 ---

Chicken Florentine Pasta

Servings/Yield: 4-6 servings

  • 12-oz penne pasta
  • 1-lb boneless skinless chicken breast, diced into chunks
  • salt & fresh ground pepper pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1-2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • ¾ cup chicken broth
  • ¾ cup dry white wine
  • 6-oz bag baby spinach
  • 1-2 pints halved grape or cherry tomatoes, (optional: roasted)
  • 1 cup shaved Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
  • ¼ cup heavy cream

Method

1. Cook the pasta al dente according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

2. In a large skillet, heat olive oil and butter over medium heat. Season chicken liberally with salt and pepper. Add to skillet and brown for 4-5 minutes on each side, until cooked through. Remove to a plate.

3. Add garlic to skillet; cook 30 seconds until fragrant. Add chicken broth and white wine to deglaze the pan. Simmer until reduced by half.

4. In a large bowl, combine cooked pasta, spinach, tomatoes, chicken pieces, and sauce. Let sit until spinach wilts. Add Parmesan cheese and heavy cream; mix thoroughly. Serve with additional grated Parmesan.

Source: adapted from the Pioneer Woman

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Build-your-own Brat Bar

Have you ever tried the Chief Smokehouse Brats? If not, then what are you waiting for??! Get yourself to the nearest Chief store and pick up a package. PicMonkey Collage.jpg To be honest, I was a brat-hater until last summer. We had people over for a cook-out, and I decided to pick up some brats to go along with the burgers. I managed to take a taste, and I was converted! The Chief Smokehouse brats are like no other. Juicy & crisp, they are handmade with hand-cut premium beef, pork and poultry in a smokehouse in Celina. They're delivered fresh to each store within 24 hours of being made. Smokehouse_Logo2012 They cook up super quickly on the grill, making them a great weeknight dinner option. I've got a couple ways to jazz up the basic brat today - wouldn't it be fun to have a build-your-own-brat bar for your next cook-out or gathering? Option 1: Fried Peppers & Onions I was first introduced to this brat topping by my husband's family. It's the only way they eat brats! Simply fry up some sliced green peppers & onions in some olive oil until they're tender. IMG_6861 IMG_6864 Option 2: Guacamole Creamy guacamole with the snappy casing of the brat makes an excellent combination. You can pick up a tub of ready-made guacamole in the deli section, or make a 'lazy man's' guacamole. I simply mashed up an avocado with a bit of lime juice, salt, and fresh ground pepper. (If you're feeling domestic, you could even make up a batch of Mango Guacamole.) IMG_6859 IMG_6868 Option 3: Apple Slaw I've seen lots of variations of coleslaw-topped burgers and pulled pork sandwiches, so I thought, "why wouldn't it work with a brat?" And it did! Of course, you could pick up a pint of deli-made coleslaw, but I decided to whip up a quick batch myself. This version is a vinegar-based coleslaw, with the addition of crisp, sweet apple slices. IMG_6860 First, whip together the dressing - Miracle Whip, olive oil, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, and salt & pepper to taste. Then pour the dressing over a bowl of cabbage mix, julienned apple slices, and diced green onions. Let it sit in the fridge for an hour or two before serving. Bonus part about this recipe - now you have a side dish as well! IMG_6866 While the brats are great with any of the above toppings, sometimes you can't beat a good ole' classic - lots and lots of ketchup! IMG_6869 ---

Fried Peppers & Onions

Yield: tops 4-5 brats

  • 1 green bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 Vidalia onion, sliced
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil

Heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add pepper and onion slices; fry 10-15 minutes until golden brown and tender.

 

Lazy Man's Guacamole

Yield: tops 4-5 brats

  • 1 ripe avocado
  • juice from 1 lime
  • salt & pepper, to taste

Mash avocado in a bowl, mixing in lime juice and salt & pepper.

 

Apple Slaw

Yield: 6-8 servings

  • 1 bag coleslaw mix
  • 3 sliced green onions
  • 1 julienned crisp apple
For the dressing
  • 2 tablespoons Miracle Whip
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • salt & pepper, to taste

Whisk together dressing ingredients in a small bowl. Combine coleslaw mix, green onions, and apple pieces in a large bowl. Pour dressing over top; mix thoroughly. Chill 1-2 hours before serving.