Chicken Tortilla Casserole

I don’t know about you all, but it’s been a bit crazy around here.  ”Back to school” in our house looks different than the staged photos everyone is taking for their kids first day of___.  I am usually scurrying around with last minute projects and re-organizing our classroom.  Hence the shortage of posts lately!  I’ve also been canning up a flurry (I have something fun to share soon for canners!)  So simple meals have been on the list lately and this one totally saved the day last night.  Quick and yummy.  You could totally make this ahead of time, just wrap in plastic wrap and keep in the fridge until ready to bake.


10 (9 inch) flour tortillas
1 1/2 cups chopped onion, about 1 large
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup finely chopped cilantro
1 cup sour cream
1/4 tsp chili powder (more if you want it spicy)
1/2 tsp cumin
1 1/2 tsp oregano
salt and pepper, to taste
1 1/2 lbs chicken breast, cooked and shredded (about 4 cups)
2 cups shredded monterey jack cheese
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
For topping: diced tomatoes, sliced green onions, chopped avocado

Use a drizzle of oil to brown tortillas in a skillet over medium to medium high heat, adding another drizzle of oil as needed (not necessary but does give the tortillas a more crisp texture.)
When tortillas are done, using the same skillet, add another drizzle of oil and saute the onions until softened.  Add the garlic and cook another minute or until fragrant.  Set aside.
Mix the sour cream, chili, cumin, oregano, and salt and pepper together in a small bowl.
Spray a 9 by 13 inch pan with nonstick spray and place 2 tortillas in the bottom, overlapping to fit.  Spread with about 3 T of the sour cream mixture.
Top with a quarter of the chicken (about 1 cup), a quarter of the onions, a couple tablespoons of cilantro, then about 3/4 cup of the cheese.
Repeat 3 more times.  Top with remaining 2 tortillas and spread with remaining sour cream mixture and shredded cheese.  Reserve the remaining cilantro for sprinkling on after baking.
Bake uncovered at 375 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes, or cheese is all melted and hot throughout.
Top with remaining cilantro, tomatoes, green onions, and avocados.  Serve with extra sour cream and salsa if desired.

Home Canned Spaghetti Sauce and Salsa

I’m in a canning frenzy here.  I had loads of misc tomatoes, cherry, sungolds, romas, all kinds from the garden.  I haven’t canned salsa or spaghetti sauce before and when a friend shared the recipe she uses I knew I had to try it.  She is a master food preserver and when she says it’s a tested safe recipe I know that doesn’t mean she waited 10 minutes after feeding her husband before serving it.  (like my Grandma did!) I did alter the amounts of peppers and some seasonings after clearing that it would be safe.  If you want it hotter, you can adjust up to the maximum listed.  I’m totally hooked and will be canning loads more next week!  The salsa is a mild on the heat with my adjustment with the peppers, but a little smoky and perfect.  The spaghetti sauce is a little smoky as well with the addition of paprika.  You can add that last and see if you like it better.  I don’t know if I liked it better with or without.  Both are so good!  I look forward to opening up jars of summer this winter!
Once again, I won’t get into canning basics, but if you aren’t up to date on current safety techniques, please review at the National Center for Home Food Preservation.  And of course you could freeze this if you don’t can.

Makes about 6 pints

8 cups tomatoes
2 1/2 cups finely chopped onion
1/2 cup finely chopped bell pepper (I like yellow, orange, or red) (MAXIMUM 1 1/2 cups)
1 jalapeno, finely chopped (MAXIMUM 5)
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp black pepper
2 T dried cilantro
2 T dried oregano
2 T canning salt
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup bottled lime juice (You can’t use fresh in canning, it doesn’t have the required acidity level to be safe)
1/2 cup cider vinegar
16 oz tomato sauce
16 oz tomato paste

To prepare the tomatoes you can use your preference for peeling.  I spread my tomatoes in a single layer on baking sheets and roasted at 350 degrees for 15 minutes for cherry tomatoes, 25 to 30 minutes for romas.  Let cool slightly then run through a food mill.
Combine all ingredients in a pot and whisk to combine well.  Whisk frequently and bring to a boil over medium high heat.  Let boil for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
Fill pint jars with 1/2 inch headspace and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.

Spaghetti Sauce
Makes about 6 pints

8 cups tomatoes
2 cups finely chopped onion
1/2 cup finely chopped bell pepper (I like yellow, orange, or red) (MAXIMUM 1 1/2 cups)
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 T canning salt
2 T dried basil
2 T dried oregano
1 T fennel seeds
2 tsp black pepper
1-2 tsp smoked paprika (optional)
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup cider vinegar
16 oz tomato sauce
16 oz tomato paste

To prepare the tomatoes you can use your preference for peeling.  I spread my tomatoes in a single layer on baking sheets and roasted at 350 degrees for 15 minutes for cherry tomatoes, 25 to 30 minutes for romas.  Let cool slightly then run through a food mill.
Combine all ingredients in a pot and whisk to combine well.  Whisk frequently and bring to a boil over medium high heat.  Let boil for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
Fill pint jars with 1/2 inch headspace and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.

Lime Jelly


I worked on a historical farm when I was a teenager, in the Tea Room.  It remains my favorite job.  The old house was turned into a museum of sorts, and the barn next to it became a gift shop and upstairs there was a tea room.  There is probably nothing that speaks to my soul more than the whistle of a tea kettle.  I could go on about that, but I’ll leave it for another day.

In the tea house they sold Rose’s Lime Marmalade.  I had never heard of such a thing, but I guess if you’re English you would.  It is divine and fills my never ending craving for citrus flavor.  I’ve tried for years to make my own version at home but no luck.  But today? Today my friends, I finally did it.  The right balance of acid and pectin and perfection.  When it started to gel in the pot my heart skipped a beat.  It tastes like summer in a tea house, with a tea kettle whistling… an open window overlooking a farm…  A new favorite I know I will be making for many years to come.  If you don’t want to can this, you could certainly freeze in containers as freezer jam.
I won’t get into canning basics, but if you aren’t up to date on current safety techniques, please review at the National Center for Home Food Preservation.
I used my favorite pectin here, Pomona’s Universal Pectin (which has the calcium powder to make the calcium water in the recipe and also the pectin in each box.).  I really like this pectin because you can use lower sugar or even honey, make up to a quadruple batch (normally you can only do one batch of jam at a time with other pectins) and is my personal favorite.
Now go make some, and spread it on a crumpet, scone, or even some toast… and close your eyes and think of tea kettles. :)
Makes 5 half pints (and a little extra)

2 cups lime juice
2 cups water
3 tsp calcium water
3 cups sugar
4 tsp Pomona’s pectin powder
zest of 4 limes (I wanted a little bigger fleck of zest so I left the microplane in the drawer and used my old-school zester.)

Put the lime juice, water, and calcium water in a pot.
Combine the sugar and pectin powder in a bowl and mix to combine.  Set aside.
Bring the juice mixture in the pot to a boil over medium to medium high heat.
Add the sugar mixture and stir for 1 to 2 minutes to dissolve the pectin and sugar.
When it comes back to a boil remove from the heat and stir in zest.
Fill half pint jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace.
Wipe rims, top with lids and rings.   Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Canning: Zucchini Pineapple


I was a little skeptic when I saw this recipe.  But what is cheaper than zucchini?  Especially giant zucchini that everyone is trying to get rid of this time of year? So I gave it a go.  And I am shocked at how much we like it!  I thought the zucchini would become mush and fall apart.  But it keeps it shape in the liquid and since it is simmered in the pineapple juice it takes on that flavor completely.  I’m so glad I tried it, I think this is a new favorite canning recipe!
For general canning instructions and basics, go to the National Center for Home Food Preservation, I’ll leave that up to them so I don’t have to repeat it. :)

1 batch used about 3 jumbo zucchini (this will depend how seedy your are) and made about 8 pints

4 quarts cubed or shredded zucchini
46 oz can unsweetened pineapple juice
1 1/2 cups bottled lemon juice
3 cups sugar

I like to cut the ends of the zucchini and cut into pieces to work with before peeling it.
Peel the zucchini and cut off the sides,  discarding the middle with the seeds.
Cut zucchini in small chunks, similar to pineapple tidbits shape and size.
Place zucchini with juices and sugar in a large pot and bring to a boil.
Simmer for 20 minutes.

Fill half pint or pint jars with zucchini and liquid (I like to use a slotted spoon to fill with zucchini, then top off with the liquid.)  leaving 1/2 inch headspace.
Process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.

Recipe source: So Easy To Preserve, The National Center for Home Food Preservation.

Freezing Corn



When corn on the cob went on sale for 10 ears for $1 at our favorite produce store, I couldn’t resist grabbing some (okay…40 ears) for the freezer.
This is my easy, mess-free way of doing it.

Corn on the cob
Large pot of boiling water
Large container of ice water (Unless you have an industrial ice maker, buy a bag of ice)
Large bowl and small bowl for cutting corn in.
Electric knife
Freezer storage containers or zip top freezer bags.

First, remove husk and silk from ears.  Have water boiling in a large pot (biggest you’ve got!).
Drop corn in water and let cook for 4 minutes.  Immediately pull corn out and submerge in ice water.
Depending on how much corn you have you’ll need to work in batches.
When corn is cool, remove from ice water.
Now for the part that is usually messy, the cutting.
Place a small bowl upside down in the large bowl.  Holding the corn at an angle, resting one end on top of the small bowl’s bottom, cut the kernels off 2/3rds of the depth of the kernels with the electric knife.
(For cream style corn, cut as much of the kernels off as you can, then scrape the milk off the cob as well.)
I use my super big shallow stainless steel bowl (If you need one, save your money and go to a restaurant supply store where they are super cheap!) and my 4 cup glass pyrex measuring cup for the small bowl in the middle.  I don’t have a single stray kernel on the counter when I’m done, plus the electric knife makes it super quick and easy!
Put corn in freezer containers or bags and label, and freeze.  Done!

DIY Rock Candy


I was hesitant when researching making these since it seems they can be quite fickle.  After some reading I decided to base mine off a recipe from At Home with The Culinary Institute of America, Chocolates and Confections.   I had zero issues each time.  These were incredibly fun and I quickly discovered that root beer was by far the FAVORITE we had made.  (Just made using a few drops or root beer candy flavoring).  If you don’t want to add flavor or coloring they will come out white.  And it seems the flavor of sugar is just fine with kids ;) Make sure your pot, jars, etc, are all clean.  Be careful not to disturb the syrup either.  Okay, we cheated on this one a couple times.. still did fine :)  Now before summer is over, go do some kitchen science!
I didn’t have luck re using the syrup to make more, but if I figure that out I’ll report back.

Makes 18

9 cups granulated sugar, plus 1/4 cup for skewers
3 cups water
Bamboo skewers
1 egg white, lightly beaten
Food coloring and candy flavoring, optional
6 quart size wide mouth canning jars with metal lids

In a large clean pot bring the 9 cups sugar and 3 cups water to a boil.  Cover the pan and continue to boil for 5 minutes.
Remove from the heat and allow to cool, covered, for 1 to 1 and a half hours.
While the syrup is cooling, prepare the skewers.  The first batch I made I used the long skewers as is, the second time I trimmed them in half since the sticks seemed longer than necessary.  I just used the uncut end for the rock candy side, then I’ll wrap the other end in some washi tape.
Brush the egg white on the bottom 3 inches of the skewers then roll in the 1/4 cup of granulated sugar.
This is where the crystals will go.  If you are using a different size jar, you want it to be the section of skewer that will be inside the jar, just remember the skewer should be about an inch above the bottom of the jar.
Place the skewers on a parchment paper or silicone lined baking sheet.
Bake at 200 degrees for 30 minutes to allow the sugar to adhere to the skewers.


Allow the skewers to cool.


If coloring or flavoring your rock candy, put a small amount of food coloring and candy flavoring in each jar.


Drill 3 holes in each lid for the skewers. Place the skewers through the holes, being careful not the get the sugar off the skewers.


Use a clip to keep them at the right height.


Divide the room temperature syrup between the 6 jars.  If you used coloring or flavoring, stir just enough to combine.  You want to mix the syrup as little as possible.
Place a lid with skewers into each jar.  Adjust skewers and clips as needed.


Place in a dark, cool corner where they won’t be disturbed.  I found that on top of my piano was a good spot, it’s in the corner of the room.


Even after a day you can see the crystals starting to grow.


After a few days they are getting pretty big!


After 7 to 10 days they are ready to pull out of the syrup.  You may need to chip at the crystals that grow along the bottom of the jar to get them out.
Place on a wire rack over a baking sheet and allow to dry overnight.


Ta da!  One note, you can see some have rock candy formed over the end of the skewer and others don’t?  If you leave a little more room between the skewer and the bottom of the jar it’s better for getting it to form around the bottom of the skewer.  I thought they looked cute in a vase filled with rock salt.  These will keep for quite a few weeks at least.  I put ours inside small candy bags.  You may want to add labels if you did different flavors.




Roasted Garlic Parmesan Corn on the Cob



August seems like it is going to slip away a little too quickly.  I love fall, but I love the flavor of summer too.  And nothing tastes like summer like fresh corn on the cob.  I wanted to try a new take on it but didn’t want to overpower the corn either.  This was just the right amount of toppings.  While grilling corn is my favorite, I think roasting it in the oven is just as good.  Boiling corn just doesn’t give the same flavor.
I always keep roasted garlic paste in the freezer, and after trying this I think you will too!


2 T roasted garlic paste
2 T olive oil
2 tsp Italian seasoning (or chopped fresh oregano)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 ears corn on the cob
salt and pepper, to taste

Combine the garlic, olive oil, and herbs together until smooth.
Brush mixture on the corn.
Place the corn on a small baking sheet.  Sprinkle the cheese over the top of the corn.
Roast at 425 degrees for about 15 minutes.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Lego Party!


I’ve heard alot of backlash lately for the Lego Friends line, but in my opinion it’s not a bad thing.  My Lucy loves animals.  And many of their sets include animals, if not involved totally around animals.  When she got the Lego friends pet saloon she took it apart and rebuilt it to be an aquarium with a dolphin exhibit.  I’m not crazy about the girl figures, but they don’t offend me either.  When she turned 7 she knew just what kind of party she wanted.  Lego!  These ideas would work easily for a boy too, you could change the colors to primary too for classic lego, but since my daughters favorite color is pink we went with that. :)  We stayed within our rule for birthday parties, which is they have to be very inexpensive things we make ourselves together.  This makes for a much more memorable party when your child is helping to make everything.

I printed some simple invitations using this free Lego Block font and this free Lego Brix font on white cardstock.
I cut out on the top and bottom to look like the lego head shape.


My daughter decorated the front of the invitations.  She really enjoyed this part.

I made a small birthday banner on pink cardstock (again using the lego blocks font).  The little tabs on top I left longer so they could fold over the ribbon to hang.

My daughter and I made this together to hold the silverware and napkins, with L for Lucy and 7 since it was her 7th birthday.

I used these molds from Amazon to make some mini chocolate lego figures and bricks. We used candy melts and covered the backs with sprinkles.
For some sandwiches all you need is a small circle cutter and a knife to cut squares or rectangles.  We made some lego fairy bread (a birthday tradition in our house) using frosting as the “glue” for the sprinkles.  And some peanut butter and honey ones as well.  Just use frosting or peanut butter to “glue” the dots on.


You can make lego cookies using any square cookie or graham cracker and mini marshmallows cut in half for the dots.  I coated ours in candy melts leftover from the Lego Head Marshmallow Pops.  We also dipped pretzel rods in melted candy melts and added sprinkles and big candy hearts.


And of course the Lego Head Marshmallow Pops!


We covered juice boxes with colored paper and taped dots on using mounting tape so they popped out a bit.



The cake was so easy.  Lucy did most of it herself even.  I baked a cake in a 9 by 13 pan and cut a 9 inch square out for the cake.  We used jumbo marshmallows cut in half for the circles on top, but you could also cut them out of cake.  Lucy put her name in Lego candy on the front of the cake.



Using the leftover cake we cut squares out and covered them with frosting, then more lego candy.


For the activity each girl had a tray with choices for making a ring.  I bought the rings with blanks at Craft Warehouse, but you can find them online as well.  We went to our local used lego store and sorted through the bins and found pieces that would work for the rings, except the flowers, which I found cheap on Ebay.


It quickly became a game of “how many things can you fit on your lego ring?” :)


My Lego lover was very happy!

While I don’t think it’s necessary to do a “favor” for every party, especially since they each got a ring to take home, we found enough of the pieces to make a heart for each friend.  We strung them on some ribbon and made these boxes to hold them.



Lego Head Marshmallow Pops


These are super easy and if you have a kiddo as in love with legos as mine, you have to make these pronto.  They are easy enough for kids to make and drawing the expressions on with food markers can be especially fun for kids!

Regular and miniature marshmallows
Lollipop sticks
Candy melts
Food safe markers
Heart sprinkles, optional, for girl’s bow

Place a regular marshmallow on a lollipop stick, the end of the stick just slightly sticking through the top.
Cut a miniature marshmallow in half and place on the regular marshmallow, cut side down.  Depress down to “adhere” to the stick.
Melt desired colored candy melts.  If they are too thick, thin with a little canola oil, adding a teaspoon or 2 at a time, until desired consistency.  Don’t go crazy here, if you add too much it might make them blotchy when they dry.  I haven’t had issues when adding a little though, and it sure makes it easier to coat them when you thin it.
I found it easiest to spoon melted candy melts over the marshmallows, turning to coat well, then tapping the stick gently for the excess to drip off.
Stick in some styrofoam to dry (I actually have a 2 by4 that I painted and drilled some holes in that I use for drying and serving cake pops that I use).
When dry, use a food safe marker to add face expressions of choice.  I used 2 heart sprinkles for each pink one for a bow as well.
These guys are ready for a party… lego party!

Honey Glazed Pork Riblets


I realized that while my hubby loves to BBQ, it really involves him building a fire, and me prepping everything to go on said fire.  So this weekend I thought I’d make something a bit easy for “him” and baked some ribs in the oven (to be finished on the grill of course).  I wanted to try something different besides the normal bbq sauce laden ribs, and honey just sounded like a good idea.  A few spices of course to balance the sweetness.  You can finish them in the oven, but on the grill will give you a better crisp char.  The honey caramelizes quickly so it only takes a few minutes if your grill is hot.  Don’t be afraid to adjust the spices according to your families preference.  The sauce was just enough, if you’d like extra sauce double the glaze recipe.


2-3 lbs Pork Riblets (or ribs would work as well)

1/2 cup honey
2 T brown sugar
3 T lemon juice
2 tsp worcestershire
2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp chili powder (more or less depending how spicy you like)
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

Line a large cookie sheet with foil, spray with nonstick spray.  Put ribs in a single layer on tray.
Whisk all glaze ingredients together until combined well.  Set aside half of the glaze for later.
Brush both sides of the ribs with glaze.  Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until meat is well done and tender.
Let cool briefly, then finish on a grill, brushing with remaining glaze.
(Or turn oven up to 400 degrees, brush with remaining glaze, and cook for about 15 minutes, turning once.)

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