Salt Dough Handprint Ornaments

I started this project way back in December, and just now finished painting the ornaments. I’m going to send them off to the Grandparents in Oregon 🙂 better late than never, right?! 😉
There are a lot of tutorials online on salt dough ornaments, but this one I found is a keeper. They held together, no cracks, and firmed up nicely. I’m going to do this each year with Paisley’s handprint, so I can see how it changes over the years. (Excuse me while I go and cry in the corner)! 😉
Ok, here’s my method 🙂

Ingredients:
– 1 cup flour
– 1 cup salt
– 1/2 cup water

Directions:
Preheat oven to 200F.
Knead ingredients together until a dough forms, it will be really gritty from all the salt. Roll out the dough, you want the dough still pretty thick, I would say about an inch to an inch and a half thick. Use a large circular item as your “cookie cutter”. You want it big enough that your child’s hand will fit in the circle.
Once you have your circles cut out place them on a baking sheet and grab your little one! Press their hand into the dough to make an imprint. Using a straw, cut out a small hole at the top, so you can string a ribbon through to hang it.
Bake for 6 hours. I know it seems like a long time, but you really want to ensure that your dough is completely dried out.
Remove them from the oven and let cool. I would let them set at least a day in a cold atmosphere before painting, just to make sure they’re nice and hard!
Paint your ornament as desired and spray it with a clear gloss finish after the paint has dried. The clear gloss will give it a nice polished look.
Have fun making memories!

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Amazing French Fries!

Good Sunday morning everyone!
I hope you all have had a nice weekend, it was pretty quiet around here. It’s been a bit cold out so we just mainly stayed inside.
So anyways, Hubby and I have been doing awesome on our diets and workouts and both were craving a hamburger, but really didn’t want to go out and ruin our diets. So, I just made them, complete with the fries and all! I used the “man pleasing bacon cheeseburger” that you can find under the “beef” tab on this blog. I didn’t use the bacon this time, but honestly that recipe is so packed full of flavor I really didn’t miss it.
Oh, I need to add also, that this is a baked French fry recipe. Now, before you dismiss the idea of baked fries, hear me out. These fries are incredible, crispy and soft at the same time. I cut mine a bit thicker, so they came out almost as steak fries, but you could easily cut them thinner and achieve a more crispy texture.
I promise you won’t be disappointed, please give them a shot!

Ingredients:
– 5 russet potatoes, peeled and cut lengthwise into even sized wedges
– 5 tbsp. oil of your choice (I used canola), divided
– salt, pepper, seasoning salt, garlic salt, etc. pretty much whatever you prefer to season with, to taste

Directions:
Place the peeled and cut potato wedges in a large mixing bowl, cover with water and let them soak for about an hour.
After the hour is up, preheat your oven to 475F.
Using a heavy rimmed baking sheet, pour 4 tbsp. of the oil onto the sheet and spread out evenly, sprinkle the pan with some seasoning, and set aside.
Next, drain the potato wedges. Spread them out on a clean kitchen towel or some paper towels and dry them completely. Dry out your mixing bowl, and return the potatoes to it. Pour the remaining tbsp. of oil into the bowl and mix well, evenly coating the potatoes. Arrange the potatoes in a single layer on the baking sheet, and cover tightly with foil. Bake in the preheated oven for 5 minutes. Once the 5 minutes are up, remove the foil and continue baking for another 10 minutes. Rotate the pan after the 10 minutes, and continue baking for an additional 10 minutes (for a total of 25 minutes).
Remove the pan from the oven, and turn the wedges over with a spatula turner, the underside should be nice and crispy. Place the baking sheet back in the oven, and bake for another 5-10 minutes (depending on the desired texture). I did only 5 additional minutes because I still wanted some softness in the fries.
Remove the pan from the oven for the final time, and place the wedges on a paper towel lined plate, to absorb excess oil. Season and serve!

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Chicken, Rice, and Black Bean Casserole

I served this casserole tonight while my good friend was over, and we all loved it. It’s a very healthy dish, and is exploding with flavor, so good!

Ingredients:
– 1 cup uncooked rice (I use brown rice)
– 2 cups chicken broth
– 2 tbsp. olive oil
– 1 small onion, diced
– 1 large zucchini, thinly sliced, and then halved again
– 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
– 1/2 cup sliced mushrooms (optional)
– 1/2 tsp. cumin
– 1/4 (or more) cayenne pepper
– 1/4 tsp. salt
– 1 can of black beans (15 ounces) drained and rinsed
– 1 can diced green chiles (4 ounces)
– 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Directions:
Start by placing your uncooked rice in a small saucepan, add the two cups of chicken broth, stir, and bring to a boil. Once the liquid is boiling, turn the heat down to low and simmer covered for about 40 minutes.
Once the rice is finished cooking, cover with a lid and set aside.
Preheat oven to 350F. and grease an 8×11-inch baking dish, set side.
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet, and add in the diced onions. Cook the onions until they are soft, then add the zucchini and the chicken. Cook until the chicken is no longer pink inside and the zucchini is soft. Season with cumin, salt, and the cayenne pepper.
In a large bowl, add in the chicken mixture, cooked rice, black beans, chiles, and half of the cheese.
Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish and top with the remaining cheese. Cover with foil, and bake for 30 minutes. After the 30 minutes are up, remove the foil and bake for another 10 minutes. I also turned my oven to broil for the last few minutes to achieve a golden brown color.
Let cool, and enjoy!

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The Best Zucchini Bread

So I had my dear friend, Stephanie over today and we baked this scrumptious bread 🙂 With all of our gabbing and girl talk, I completely forgot to document my steps in photos, I’m sorry! I do have some pictures of the end results, so I’ll post them, but trust me this recipe is a winner! It’s amazing and super easy!
I promise you’ll love it!

Ingredients:
– 3 eggs, beaten
– 1 cup vegetable (or canola) oil
– 2 cups sugar
– 2 cups shredded zucchini
– 2 cups flour
– 1 tsp. salt
– 1 tsp (or more) cinnamon
– 1 tsp. baking powder
– 1 tsp. baking soda

Directions:
Preheat your oven to 325F. Spray two loaf pans with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
In your mixer, combine eggs, oil, sugar, and zucchini. Mix well, and then add the flour and the rest of the dry ingredients. Beat well. Divide the batter among the two loaf pans, and bake in your preheated oven for 50 minutes, or until the bread passes the “toothpick test”.
Allow the loaves to cool for a few minutes, and then turn them out onto wire racks to cool completely. Serve with a nice pat of butter, and escape to paradise 🙂

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My Favorite Banana Bread

I’m on a bread kick this week, I baked banana bread today for a friend’s housewarming present, and then tomorrow I’m getting together with another friend to bake zucchini bread 🙂 Good thing, I have awesome recipes for both (stay tuned for the zucchini bread recipe tomorrow). Both of these breads are rich, moist, dense, and always take me back to childhood 🙂 This is my mom’s recipe that I grew up on, and it is the best!

Ingredients:
– 6 tbsp. salted butter, softened (make sure you allow time to soften, and don’t try and hurry it along by microwaving it)
– 1 cup brown sugar
– 1/2 cup granulated sugar
– 3 to 4 ripe bananas, mashed well
– 1 cup sour cream
– 1 tsp. vanilla
– 1 tsp. almond extract (optional, but it just adds another depth of flavor)
– 2 eggs
– 1/4 tsp. salt
– 1 -2 tsp. cinnamon
– 2 tsp. baking soda
– 2 1/4 cups flour

Directions:
Preheat your oven to 300F. Spray 2 loaf pans with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.
In your mixer, cream butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar together. Stir in bananas, sour cream, vanilla, and almond extract.
Beat in eggs, one at a time. Sift in salt, baking soda, flour, and cinnamon. Divide the batter between the two loaf pans, and bake in your preheated oven 50-60 minutes, or until the loaves pass the “toothpick test”.

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Mexican Stuffed Shells

So if you’ve been following me for awhile, you’ll know all about my weird cheese problem…. Basically, I’m a really picky about the type of cheeses I like, mozzarella, cheddar, parmesan, and jack are about the only ones I will touch, and I prefer them to be melted. I’m not a fan of cottage, ricotta, Brie, Gouda, etc… So anyways, I love the idea of stuffed shells, but of course most are made with ricotta (gag)! So, I found this spin on stuffed shells… Mexican Stuffed Shells, with cheddar (or jack)!
So, if there are any weirdies out there like me, here’s your new stuffed shells recipe!

Ingredients:

– 1 pound lean ground beef
– 15 uncooked jump shell pasta
– 3 ounces cream cheese
– 1 package taco seasoning mix
– 1 1/2 cups salsa, medium (or mild if you like)
– 1/2 – 3/4 cup taco sauce
– 2 cups Monterey/cheddar blend (1 cup of each)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350F.
In a large skillet, brown the ground beef, drain off the fat and return to the pan. Add the taco seasoning, and follow the package directions.
While your beef is cooking, boil your shells. Cook the shells until just a bit above al dente. They’re going to go in the oven so you don’t want them too soft.
Add the cream cheese to the taco meat and place the lid on and let the cheese melt down. Stir well, and set aside to cool for a few minutes.
When the noodles are done, drain and place on a plate, so they don’t stick together.
Pour the salsa into the bottom of an 8x 11-inch baking dish, then lay out the shells open faced. Stuff each shell with the meat mixture, you can fill them pretty full, they can handle it 😉
Once the shells are stuffed, pour the taco sauce over the shells. Cover the dish with foil, and bake for 30 minutes.
Once the 30 minutes are up, remove the dish from the oven and top with your cheese blend. Put back in the oven and bake for another 15 minutes, the cheese will be golden brown, melty, and heavenly looking 🙂

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English Muffin Pizzas

Here’s another fun little weeknight or weekend dinner (or lunch) recipe. Really fun for kids too, and the recipe is so versatile, you can add whatever you want on top of them to make them healthier.

Ingredients:
– whole wheat English muffins (you can use regular ones too, we just buy whole wheat bread products in our house)
– 1 1/2- 2 cups pizza sauce
– 2 cups (more or less) shredded cheese, we like to do a cheddar, mozzarella, and parmesan blend
– pepperoni, mushrooms, olives, green peppers, onions, etc. use whatever toppings you want, or can cram on top of the muffins!

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400F.
On a cookie sheet, split open the English muffins and lay each half right side up. Place a good amount of sauce on each muffin half, top with shredded cheese, pepperoni, veggies, and a bit more shredded cheese.
Once your oven is preheated, place your cookie sheet in the oven and let the muffins bake for 10-15 min or until the cheese is melted and the edges of the pepperoni start to curl up.
Remove the cookie sheet from the oven, and let the pizzas cool a few minutes, the sauce will be really hot underneath, so please use caution when feeding to little ones.
Enjoy!

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Yum!