Extraordinary Chicken Pasta Salad

My children are Bible Quizzers and that means that once a month during the quizzing season we head out of town for a tournament. We normally will go to wherever the tournament is the night before so that our children are assured of getting plenty of rest. Nothing like trying to remember 300 scriptures while dozing off at the quiz table!

As we are a one income family, week-end getaways once a month do not really fit in with our budget. So I cut the costs as much as possible. We ALWAYS stay in a hotel that offers free breakfast. This enables us to sleep-in a little longer and also saves us money. And we ALWAYS stay at a hotel that offers Government Employee discounts (Thank You USPS).

I also pack our lunch to eat during the quizzing tournament. I do this for two reasons. One, to save money. And two, because sometimes we have 20 minutes in-between quizzes in which to eat our lunch. Not very conducive to getting in the car, driving somewhere, ordering, eating, getting back in the car, and making it back to the church before the next quiz.

And so I pack sandwiches, potato chips, snack cakes, grapes, and I ALWAYS take Chicken Pasta Salad! WHY? Because it is AMAZING, that’s why! And I’m going to share the recipe with you! WHY? Because I like you, that’s why!

Extraordinary Chicken Pasta Salad

 

Amazing Chicken Pasta Salad

2 to 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (cooked and cut into bite size pieces)
1 box corkscrew pasta
6 green onions, thinly sliced (the original recipe calls for only 3 but I like them so I add more)
1 medium green pepper, diced

Mix in a large bowl.

 

Dressing

1 1/2 cups Miracle Whip Salad Dressing
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice

Toss with chicken mixture.
Refrigerate overnight. (The original recipe says 2 hours but I like it better the next day). Also, if you are like me you will think that 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt is just too much but trust me and go ahead and follow the recipe exactly. When I tried to cut back the flavor was just not as great.

 

Extraordinary Chicken Pasta Salad
Extraordinary Chicken Pasta Salad

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Financial Update for December (Getting Out of Debt)

With Christmas approaching we were not able to pay down our debt as much as we had hoped but we did manage to pay it down some so I am choosing to focus on the positive instead of wishing we had done better.

Here is our recap of the debt we have paid off so far:

Sears: 83 dollars a month

QVC: 32 dollars a month

And what we are trying to pay off:

Payday loan: the goal was to pay off 100 dollars a month (and doing that we would have the debt paid off in 6 months). In November we were able to pay off 200 dollars on the loan instead of just the planned 100. So now the loan should be paid off in March! I would love to pay off more than a hundred dollars this month but with Christmas I just don’t think that will happen but we shall see!

And we are still making the monthly payments on our other debts too!

We also joined a credit monitoring service and I have been working on disputing some accounts that for whatever reason are listed multiple times on our credit report. I’m not sure if that will do anything for our score but there is no reason to have the same account listed 3 times!

No Bake Cookies (A Family Tradition)

Christmas Eve growing up was ALWAYS my favorite night of the year. We would head over to my Grandparent’s (Ma-Maw and Pa-Paw) house and meet up with my mother’s other 5 siblings and their kids for a family meal and presents!

I can still to this day recall that excited feeling that I would have ALL DAY long! The clock seemed to move so slow and the day felt like it was never going to end. And then somehow, almost magically, Mom would call for me to get my coat and we would head out the door. The best times were when it was snowing and the houses in the neighborhood were lit up with multicolored lights. In my mind’s eye everything was beautiful and perfect. We would pull up to the house and the drive-way would be filled with cars, the windows would be steamed up from all the cooking and baking that went on in the house ALL DAY long! Their would be lights and laughter and presents and JUNK FOOD!

We ate buffet style and so once I was old enough to fix my own plate I bypassed the ham, noodles, and deviled eggs for BUCKEYES, FUDGE, AND NO BAKE COOKIES! My Aunt Shali makes the best No Bakes in the world. And still to this day it would not be Christmas Eve without an Aunt Shali No Bake.

I have to make them myself now that we have moved to Florida. The North Family Christmas parties have been over for a long time now. Siblings moved away, kids grew up, there were divorces, and deaths, and LIFE just changes. Of course, we still try and get together on Christmas Eve (from our own little corners of the world) but it will NEVER be like it was. Those perfect (if only in my mind) nights of gently falling snow, laughter, lights, Christmas trees, presents, and FAMILY!

But every Christmas Eve when I put out the Buckeyes and Aunt Shali No Bakes, my mind races back in time to Christmas Eve’s long gone and I remember faces, and smells, and sounds, and sights that bring a smile to my face and joy to my heart. And as I pick up a No Bake and take that first chocolaty bite for just a second I am 5 years old again and all the world is right and it’s the BEST NIGHT OF THE YEAR!

Aunt Shali No Bake Cookies (a Family Tradition)

Extraordinary No Bake Cookies
Aunt Shali  No Bakes

2 cups sugar
4 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups quick cooking oats (make sure you use the quick cooking)
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

Bring sugar, cocoa, milk and butter to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.
As soon as it starts to boil, remove from heat and stir in vanilla, peanut butter, and oats. Mix well!
Drop by tablespoons (I use a medium cookie scoop and then flatten with the back of it) onto waxed paper.
Let cool!

Amish Baked Chicken

Extraordinary Amish Baked Chicken
Extraordinary Amish Baked Chicken

This is my NEW “Go To” recipe for chicken. We all love this chicken. It is juicy, flavorful, pretty simple, and Finger-Lickin’ good!

I have made it for company (so you know it’s good) and it never fails to impress.

Now I am going to give a disclaimer on this recipe: I bake it on a stone with sides (Pampered Chef: Bar Pan) so if you do not have a stone I have no idea how this chicken will turn out! For me, the skin is crunchy and flavorful and the chicken meat is juicy and tender. If you bake it in a pan or some other way please leave me a comment and let me know how it turns out.

Amish Baked Chicken (Original Recipe)

1/2 cup flour
1/2 Tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons garlic powder
6 bone-in chicken thighs
3 bone-in chicken breasts

In a shallow pie pan combine flour and spices. Blend well!

Dredge chicken in flour mixture and then place on baking stone skin side down. I use two stones, one for the thighs and one for breasts.

Bake at 375 degrees for 45 to 60 minutes or until chicken is cooked through (mine always takes the whole 60 minutes). Flip chicken once, half way through cooking.

I do not work for nor do I sell Pampered Chef. I just love their stones and use them every single day!

Extraordinary Cherry Chip Cupcakes with Cherry Cream Cheese Frosting

So I made cupcakes!

Extraordinary Cherry Chip Cupcakes with Cherry Cream Cheese Frosting
Extraordinary Cherry Chip Cupcakes with Cherry Cream Cheese Frosting

I love cupcakes! I love to look at them (my kitchen is cupcakes) and I love to eat them!

My daughter and I say that we are “Cupcake Girls”. You know the girls who wear bows as big as their heads and love lace and ruffles.

I decided to not make the entire cupcake + frosting from scratch so I opted to use a box cake mix that I “dressed up” to make it taste homemade.

Perfect Cupcake Using a Mix (original recipe)

1 box Any Flavor Cake Mix (I used Cherry Chip)
3 large eggs
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup water

Melt the butter. Mix cake mix, eggs, water, and melted butter in a large bowl. Mix on low for 1 minute and then mix on high for 1 minute. The batter should be thick and creamy!
Fill cupcake paper (or just spay the muffin tins and bake right in the pan).
Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes.
Cool before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting (original recipe)

6 tablespoons butter, softened
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
4 cups (1-pound box) confectioners sugar
1 – 2 tablespoons milk (enough to make a spreadable frosting)

Because I made cherry cupcakes I wanted a cherry frosting so I added chopped up bits of Maraschino cherries to the frosting and instead of milk I used the juice from the jar of cherries. OH MY WORD! DELICIOUS!

Beat together the butter and the cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add the sugar and beat well.
Add the milk a little at a time, until the frosting is spreadable.
Frost cupcakes!

Almost got the decorating down!
Almost got the decorating down!

Extraordinary Slow Cooker Beef (Or in This Case Pork) Stroganoff

Extraordinary Pork Stroganoff
Extraordinary Slow Cooker Pork Stroganoff

I have made this recipe a few times (trying to adjust this and that to make it a great meal) and I think I am finally on the right track! I love Beef Stroganoff and I love my slow cooker, so if I can put the two together then you know I am going to be one HAPPY girl! The problem with the recipe is that no matter what type of beef I used I didn’t like the taste. The meat was either too tough (when I used stew meat) or had a strange aftertaste when I used the cube steak. And I was not about to try an expensive cut of meat in a slow cooker recipe (defeats the purpose of a budget friendly easy meal). So I had some pork steaks in the freezer and I decided to give those a try! AMAZING!

I still have a few things I would like to “tweak” (Don’t you just love “You’ve Got Mail”?) such as figuring out how to get the small lumps of cream cheese out of the sauce. My cream cheese is completely softened and I cut it up in small cubes before I add it to the sauce but it still is not breaking down all the way. Any suggestions?

Slow Cooker Beef Stroganoff  (original recipe)

2 pounds pork steak, cut into one-inch pieces
2 cans condensed golden mushroom soup (no substitutes)
1 cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 (14-ounce) can beef broth
8-ounces fresh button mushrooms (I leave them whole)
salt and pepper to taste
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup sour cream
1 bag egg noodles (for serving)

In the slow cooker, combine meat, soup, onion, Worcestershire sauce, beef broth, mushrooms, salt and pepper. Cook on low for 5 to 6 hours.
Stir in cream cheese and sour cream about half an hour before serving, stirring every 10 minutes or so to break up the cream cheese. THE LAST TIME I MADE THIS I CUT THE CREAM CHEESE UP INTO PIECES AND IT SEEMED TO HELP IT BREAK UP MORE.
Serve over cooked egg noodles or rice. The original recipe calls for adding the egg noodles to the crock pot after they have cooked and when I did this we did not like it. The noodles became very mushy so now I just serve the noodles with the Stroganoff over top.
If the sauce is not thick enough for you, you can add some cornstarch and water. I have not done this so I’m not sure how it would work.

Extraordinary Dinner!
Extraordinary Dinner!

Doughnut Muffins With Chocolate Glaze

Extraordinary Doughnut Muffins with Chocolate Glaze
Extraordinary Doughnut Muffins with Chocolate Glaze

These were DELICIOUS! And really they were not all that much effort either! The glaze was made in the microwave (easy peasy) and the muffins came together rather quickly too.

The next time I will double the muffin recipe (but not the glaze as I had plenty leftover) and I will also double dip the muffins. The glaze did take longer to set up than I expected so next time I will need to remember that and start them a little earlier so that the glaze is not quite so runny when we sit down to partake of the GOODNESS!

Doughnut Muffins (original recipe)

3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and grease muffin tins with cooking spray.
In a large bowl beat together sugar and egg until light and fluffy.
In a small bowl mix together flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg. Pour flour mixture into egg mixture and stir until well combined. (the next time I make this I am going to wait and add the flour mixture until after I have added all the wet ingredients because it was very hard to get the lumps of flour out of the batter).
Add in vegetable oil, milk, and vanilla extract. Mix well!
Pour into greased muffin tins, filling each about 3/4 full (I probably over filled mine).
Bake for about 15 minutes or until tester comes out clean.

Doughnut Muffins before glaze was added
Doughnut Muffins before glaze was added

Doughnut Glaze (original recipe)

6 tablespoons butter, melted
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup hot water
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Combine the butter with the powdered sugar and mix until well blended.
Add the vanilla and the hot water. Mix until smooth.
Melt the chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl in the microwave for 30 seconds. Stir, then microwave another 30 seconds and stir again. Continue microwaving for 30 seconds at a time and stirring until chocolate is completely melted. Add the chocolate to the butter mixture. Blend until smooth.
When the doughnuts have cooled, dip each top into the glaze and then flip over and cool on a plate until the glaze firms up, about 15 minutes.

Extraordinary Goodness!
Extraordinary Goodness!

Extraordinarily Easy Taco Salad

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Extraordinarily Easy Taco Salad

 

This recipe should be called VERY EXTRAORDINARILY EASY TACO SALAD! or it could even be called VERY EASY VERY YUMMY EXTRAORDINARY TACO SALAD! But no matter what you call it I am VERY sure that your family will love you for fixing it and you will love how quickly you are in and out of the kitchen! I make this recipe on church nights because it’s quick to the table and clean up is EASY too!

Easy Taco Salad (Original Recipe)

Ingredients:
2 pounds ground beef
1 small onion
1 envelope (or 1 tablespoon) taco seasoning (next time I am probably going to up this to 2 tablespoons)
1 head iceberg lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces (I buy the shredded lettuce that comes in bags)
1 tomato, diced
1 bag Nacho Flavored Doritos
1 1/2 cups Mexican (or taco) cheese, shredded
1 bottle French Dressing

Directions:
Brown ground beef and onion. Drain off fat. Stir in taco seasoning until well blended (DO NOT ADD WATER).
In a large bowl, or individual serving bowls (I use the individual bowls for easier clean-up). Layer the lettuce, meat, tomato, cheese, and Doritos.
Then top with dressing and serve!

Easy Peasy Taco Salad

Notes:
I do not let the hamburger cool down before using it on the salad. I also use individual serving bowls because I have some who do not like tomato.

Baked Hasselback Potatoes

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Extraordinary Baked Hasselback Potatoes

 

Baked Hasselback Potatoes (adapted from Chicho’s Kitchen)

5 medium potatoes, scrubbed but leave the skin on
8 cloves of garlic
6 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon paprika
4 tablespoons Grated Parmesan cheese
(I doubled the garlic mixture because I did not feel like there were was enough for the potatoes, I changed the recipe to show the doubled amounts)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Slice each potato crosswise at 1/8-inch intervals, cutting to within 1/4 inch of the bottom. Be careful not to slice all the way through. The potato will fan out a bit as it bakes.

Combine olive oil, garlic, salt, smoked paprika and Parmesan cheese in a small bowl.

Lay the potatoes on a baking sheet (I used one of my baking stones). Carefully insert pinches of the garlic mixture in between the slits of the potatoes (this is really important. I did not take my time and make sure that I got some of the mixture in between each slice and I really needed to). Rub the outside of the potatoes with the residual mixture.

Bake for about 40 to 45 minutes. The inside should be cooked through and the outside of the potatoes should be a bit crispy.


Extraordinary Stromboli

I made this recipe because when our family goes out to eat at our favorite little Italian restaurant this is what my husband and the boys order. Every time, without fail. So I figured I could make it and (probably) make it better!

The Stromboli was okay. It was a little dry and what I failed to remember (and the recipe did not mention) was that the Stromboli my family orders comes with a side of Marinara sauce (DUH) so next time I make this (along with my tweaks) I will be serving it with some Marinara on the side!

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Extraordinary Stromboli

 

Stromboli (original recipe)

DOUGH:
1 cup warm water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon yeast
1 tablespoon oil
1 egg
3 – 4 cups bread flour

Mix all ingredients together in a mixer (I used my Kitchen-Aid) or by hand. Form into a ball.
Grease a baking sheet (11 x 15).
Roll dough out to cover pan.

Dough rolled out onto baking sheet

BUTTER MIXTURE:
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 egg yolks (save the whites)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
2 cloves garlic, minced

Mix all ingredients together and spread on the center of the dough almost to the ends.

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Butter Mixture Spread Out onto Dough

 

STUFFING MIXTURE:
Can really be whatever your family likes this is what I used
1 pound hamburger
1 sweet onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 tomato, diced
2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded

Brown hamburger along with onion, pepper, and tomato. Cook until hamburger is no longer pink and vegetables are tender. Drain (WELL).

Place hamburger mixture on top of butter mixture.

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Beef Mixture Spread on Top of Butter Mixture

 

Add cheese on top of hamburger mixture.

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Cheese Added to Beef Mixture

Fold both sides of the dough up over the toppings and cheese and crimp together.
Brush with egg whites and bake at 425 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes.

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Dough Brushed with Egg Whites

 

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Stromboli Baked and Ready for Slicing