Baby Twice Baked Potatoes

I got the idea for this when I was doing research for great lunchbox ideas, and thought it would make a great lunch for Number Two. Of course, these little stuffed potatoes would make a good side for any meal, but for those who are packing lunches for older kids and/or adults, this is a yummy addition to any recipe list.

I totally winged this, so I don’t really have any measurements. But you can easily see that it’s not necesssary anyway. There’s really no way to mess this up. I used what I had on hand, but there are so many options as far as what you can put into your little stuffed potatoes, such as sour cream, chives, broccoli or other veggies.

baby bakers

Baby Twice Baked Potatoes

Small, yellow potatoes

Grated or shredded cheddar cheese*

Bacon Bits or crumbled (turkey) bacon

Salt & Pepper

1. Bake potaotes until tender and allow to cool slightly.

2. Cut of tops and scopp out potato, placing into a bowl.

3. Mash up the potato with a fork and combine with cheese (*any cheeses you like) and bacon crumbles. Salt & Pepper to taste.

4. Spoon filling gently back into potato skins and mound high.

5. Bake again until lightly browned on top and potatoes are set.

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BBQ Chicken Pizza Pinwheels

These were super easy to throw together while I was preparing dinner one night.  All you need is a prepared pizza crust (I used whole wheat) and a little bit of prep- or some leftover chicken, or hey, even chicken from a can would work.  Bake it up and put in the refrigerator. Then pack it in your lunch, or the kiddos- which is what I did- and you’ve got a great meal on the go.


BBQ Chicken Pizza Pinwheels

1 pkg pizza dough

1/2 cup BBQ sauce

1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

2/3 cup cooked chicken, shredded

1/4 red onion, finely diced

3 T cilantro, minced


1. Preheat oven to 400* and roll out the pizza dough into a 1/2-inch thick square on a floured surface.

2. Spread BBQ sauce evenly over the dough. Top with cheddar, chicken, onion, and cilantro.

3. Carefully roll the dough up lengthwise.  Cut3/4-inch wide slices and place on lined baking sheet.

4. Bake for 17-20 minutes, or until lightly golden.

5. Serve with extra BBQ sauce for dipping.

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Pizza Sushi & Healthy, Fun Lunch Box Ideas

This year I am trying to make the boys’ lunches more interesting and fun while maintaining a degree of health and nutrition. I absolutely love all the great bento lunch ideas I see all over the net, and even though my kids are (almost) 12 and 16, they can still appreciate and tote gourmet lunches in school without feeling like a little kid.

My lunch ideas are not all that original so I’m sure you’ve seen a million other blogs posting lunch box ideas. But I will say this- if you haven’t gotten on the bento wagon yet all it takes is a little bit of prep time and you can do it. Here are a few tips for preparing and packing awesome lunches for anyone in your family.

1) Cook extra at dinner and use leftovers for lunch. This could mean extra rice or potatoes or pasta, which you could make salads from, or extra meat. I like to cook extra chicken to make chicken salad with.

2) Get the kids involved. Number One is easy to please so I just ask him what he’s in the mood for (I don’t always pack the same thing for the boys), but for Number Two it’s best if he’s got an interest in what’s coming in his lunch box. Some things I know he’ll like, other things I know he’ll like more if he helps prepare it. I also ask him ahead of time what he’d like the next day (if there are options. If not I just go by the meal plan.)

3. Skip “kid” foods. There is no such thing when looking at your grocers options in terms of nutrition. I’m talking about Lunchables (you can easily make your own), Crustables, and pudding cups, etc. These conveniences are the absolute worst things you could be feeding your kids. Give them real food. They will eat it.

4. Pick your battles. If your child says he/she didn’t like something you packed, trust them and move on. I love the idea of my kid happily munching away on bell pepper sticks at lunch, but I know that’s not going to happen. It’s better to save the veggie battle for dinner time when you can be there to model good eating habits and encouragement.

5. You might get “But he gets lunches like….” complaining. Just stick with your plan, use the great lunchbox ideas that are everywhere, and get your kid(s) involved. You’ll see the struggle wane soon enough when your child realizes that other kids want what he’s got.

6. Menu plan. If you work outside the home this may seem like extra work for you, and I agree. But in the event you are planning your dinners already (as you should be. Trust me, your life will get so much easier!) it really won’t take too much extra time to plan a few extra things. This could include baking a batch of muffins or breakfast cookies while you’re already in the kitchen preparing a meal, or perhaps just taking a little time over the weekend to prepare and freeze some things. Other things like wraps, veggies, fruit, chips, and trail mix can be pre-bagged for the week ahead so they’re all ready to go.

pizza sushi

Ready for the pizza sushi? I adapted this idea found in a Rachael Ray magazine, as well as many of the tips above. It’s a fun lunch for the kiddos and super easy to prepare. Below is also a few options for mixing and matching simple roll-ups and dips.

Pizza Sushi

6 inch tortillas

turkey pepperoni

cream cheese

marinara or pizza sauce

Other options: Mozzarella cheese, roasted red pepper, olives, etc.

Assembly is pretty basic.  Just spread the desired amount of cream cheese onto the tortilla (you can even mix a bit of ranch mix into the cream cheese!) and top with pepperoni slices and anything else you’d like. Roll it up and slice into even sizes. Pack it up in your lunch box with a smaller container of dipping sauce on the side.

Other roll-up options: Really, you can take any kind of sandwich concept and put into a roll-up- though I usually leave out the condiments because I’ll put a dipper on the side. You see it all the time now with all the wrap options offered in restaurants. For example, Number One isn’t going to want pizza sushi in his lunch so he gets a more manly wrap with hummus, lettuce, roast beef, turkey meat, and two kinds of cheeses. Also I use a larger tortilla for those kinds of sammies. Number Two likes all kinds of roll-ups so I can take any kind of meat and cheese combo and simply roll it up, and either leave it whole or cut into sushi-style pieces. He likes the smaller pieces best so he can dip them into ranch, honey mustard, salsa, pizza sauce, etc.

lunch box rollups

I especially love the all natural-nitrate free bologna from Trader Joe’s.

Lunch box sides: One of Two’s favorite things to snack on are carrot sticks dipped in peanut butter. Now you can buy easy to pack  peanut butter to go cups. They are single serving size and perfect for lunches. Even better now is an all natural option. So to round out a healthy lunch I like to add carrots or snap peas, grapes, blueberries, or some other fruit or veggie I know he likes and maybe add a dip if there’s one that’ll go with it well. Dips include hummus, ranch, peanut butter, or chocolate flavored peanut butter (those are available in single size too). Other sides can simply be a pickle or some olives. Whatever you like- there are no limits.

Additional dip options are salsa, ketchup, soy sauce, BBQ sauce, pizza sauce, or any kind of dressing.

Additional dip options are salsa, ketchup, soy sauce, BBQ sauce, pizza sauce, or any kind of dressing.

Another option are salads such as pasta or potato. Number Two has a thermos and likes to have macaroni and cheese sometimes. I buy Annie’s organic microwaveable single serving mac & cheese and just whip it up real quick and put it in the thermos. Lunch is ready in three minutes!

Lastly are the “chips” and “desserts”. This doesn’t mean I include something from every category in every lunch. It really just depends on what I’m packing for that day. But these are some other things I will put in their lunches because sometimes you really want the crunch of a chip. I don’t buy regular chips because personally I think they’re junk, but I do buy and eat pita chips (Stacy’s naked chips are awesome and go great with my hummus!), corn tortilla chips, pretzels, pretzel chips, Veggie Smart chips and straws, and popcorn chips. Also making your own crackers is super easy (I’ll be posting a recipe soon), and it’s way better alternative to buying prepackaged crackers that are full of chemicals.

I know it was a long post- I hope you read through it all and enjoyed it anyway. Stay tuned for my healthy, energy-packed trail mix! It’s a perfect addition for any lunch box, picnic, or snack :)

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Mexican Bruschetta

Ya’ll know me :) I love bruschetta and I love Mexican food, so what could possibly be better than this?? Nothing. Well, ok maybe not NOTHING but still….it’s pretty darn fantabulous and I think you’ll agree.


Mexican Bruschetta

2 avocados, diced

1 medium tomato, diced

1/3 cup finely diced onion (I used yellow and red)

1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1/3 cup feta cheese, diced


2 T lime juice

salt & pepper

Baguette or other hearty bread

Gently combine ingredients in a bowl (so that the avocado doesn’t get smushed) and taste to see if any seasonings need to be added.

Slice the bread and grill or lightly toast. *I very lightly butter the bread, especially the edges before toasting. It makes it sooooo good! Top bread with bruschetta and enjoy!

This is a meal. I won’t kid you. Unless you’ve got people to help you eat it (which would make it an awesome appetizer) then you may have to resign yourself to eating the entire bowl. I know, it’s like twisting a rubber arm. First of all, avocado doesn’t keep so well unless you can cover it that allows for no air at all. What you would do is use plain old saran wrap but push it down snugly on top of the avocado mixture before storing in the refrigerator. It should keep at least until the next day- unless you go in for a late night snack, of course.

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August Pantry Challenge and Menu Plan ~ 2013

Usually I try to get a menu plan worked up by the first of each month. I have been slack this summer to say the least but I’ve noticed that it is not uncommon in the mommy blog world for this to happen. That helps me feel better somehow :)

After returning from our vacation well into August, not only did I not have any recipes lined up (except for those I didn’t get to in July), but I also realized that my freezers and pantry were full of stuff. It’s been over a year since my last challenge, and quite frankly it is overdue. Some of the ingredients I have was put in with the July Menu in mind, so hopefully I can still get to some of those recipes during this challenge. And the rest of it will be the basis of what I plan to cook for the rest of this month.

Here is what I found in my freezers:

Frozen veggies: 2 lb. peas, 2 lb lima beans, corn, veggie medley (peas, corn, and carrots) spinach, creamed spinach, green beans, 1 lb. okra, 2 gallon bags of fresh-cut corn, breaded mushrooms (embarrassing to admit how many lbs of this I have!) and 5 gallon bags of fresh pureed tomatoes

Meats: 1 salmon fillet, 1 pkg turkey bacon, 4 pkg turkey sausage links/patties, 2.5 lbs ground turkey, 10 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts, 5 lbs tilapia fillets, 2 lb. beef meatballs, 5 pts Brunswick Stew, 3 pkg of deer meat, 2 Qt. Beef Stock, 1 pkg. imitation crab (I’ve had this forever!), Tuna Steak (enough for one meal for four)

Fruit: 2 lb. rhubarb, 3 lb. frozen blueberries

Misc: 2 lb. french fries, 2 cups cooked rice (I always freeze leftover rice for busy days. It comes in very handy), 1 pkg. mushroom ravioli (the refrigerated kind), 3 pkg. Frozen Waffles, 12 Jimmy Dean breakfast sandwich, 2 boxes Trader Joe’s Chocolate Croissants, 2 boxes Trader Joe’s Jo-Jo’s Cookies

Can you say “Holy Cow”? I think that’s plenty to start working from, don’t you? It’s crazy to realize how often I go to the store and spend hundreds of dollars each month on food when I already have so much just sitting in my freezer. I won’t list my pantry but I know I have all the staples such as chicken broth, flour, cornstarch, sugar, rice, pasta, potatoes, canned beans, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce and paste, marinara, panko, etc etc etc. Seriously way more than I care to list and you care to read about. Suffice it to say I think I’m covered for just about anything.

If you went through your pantry and freezer(s) you’d probably be surprised at what you find. Join me in this pantry challenge and let me know what you’ve been cooking!

Aside from the few new recipes I’ve decided on (there will most likely be more, just not sure which ones yet), here are some links to favorites that I am planning on cooking this month:


Poor Man’s Mongolian Beef (using ground turkey)


Slow Cooker Coq au Vin


Turkey Ragu with Creamy Polenta

balsamic pic

Balsamic Grilled Chicken

cacciatori & taco chili 003

Chicken Cacciatore


Tuna Steaks with Lima Bean Butter


Tilapia Fabuloso


Garlic Tilapia

Stay tuned for these recipes (red links will be added when posted):

Black Bean & Goat Cheese Quesadillas with Chipotle Aioli

Baked Tilapia with Mustard, Lemon and Horseradish Sauce

Tuscan Pasta with Tomato-Basil Cream

Greek Rice Pudding

Tomato Cucumber Bread Salad

I love a good bread salad. It is so easy to bump it up to a one-dish meal by adding some grilled chicken or tuna. Bread salads can have whatever you desire in them but they typically include tomato and cucumber as a base. This particular one was made up of what I had available in the house and it made a great side to my Grilled Marinated Salmon. The great thing about using grilled bread in place of croutons is that they absorb the juices of the salad without getting all mushy.

bread salad

Tomato Cucumber Bread Salad

1 cucumber, cut*

3 tomatoes, cut*

1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed

8 oz. feta cheese, crumbled

1 cup fresh basil leaves, cut

1 baguette or ciabatta roll

EVOO and Balsamic Vinegar

salt and pepper

Extra Salad Ingredients you may like: red onion, sliced; black olives

1. Preheat grill to medium heat and split roll in half. Drizzle cut sides with EVOO and grill cut side down, covered, until crispy (about 5 minutes). Cut bread into 1-inch pieces and set aside.

2. Cut cucumber and tomatoes. *Slice into thick 1/2 inch slices and then cut into fourths, creating large 1-inch pieces.

3. Place cucumber, tomato, garbanzo, feta, and basil (and any other ingredients you choose) into a large bowl and toss with about 3 T EVOO and 1-2 T balsamic vinegar. Salt and pepper to taste.

4. Fold in the bread pieces and serve.

4. Enjoy!

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Spinach & Artichoke Crusted Chicken

This was a really easy and quick dish to pull together that appears gourmet, which makes it perfect to serve to guests. My taste-testers were Number One and his girlfriend, and Number Two. I knew it was a winner when Two ate it and liked it.

spin & choke chix

Spinach & Artichoke Crusted Chicken

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1-2 T EVOO

1/3 cup Mayo

1/3 cup artichoke hearts, drained and chopped

1/2 block chopped spinach, thawed and drained

1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

salt & pepper

1. Heat EVOO in skillet over medium-high heat. Salt and pepper both sides of chicken and sautee in oil until done and slightly browned.

2. Mix together mayo, artichoke, Spinach (make sure it’s been squeezed of all liquid) and cheese.

3. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper and place chicken on sheet. Distribute the spinach & artichoke mixture evenly on top of each chicken breast.

4. Broil for about 5 minutes. (Keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn. Depending on the oven it could only take 3 minutes, or it could take  more. Don’t walk away!) Topping with be slightly browned .

5. Enjoy with rice, mashed potatoes, couscous, etc, and a salad.

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Crunchy Fish Tacos with Cilantro Cream Sauce

I love fish tacos- but if you’ve been reading long enough you already knew that. There are so many ways to put together a fish taco starting with the type of fish you use and how it’s prepared. Then there’s the shell (soft corn or flour tortillas, or crunchy shells) and then everything that goes in between. Some of my favorite toppings are shredded cabbage, cheddar cheese, tomato and avocado.

But the star of this show isn’t the taco. As you can see I just used frozen fish sticks (sometimes you just gotta have that crunch). The main attraction in this post is the Cilantro Cream Sauce that is made for any kind of fish tacos…and you can thank Yvonne for this one :)

cilantro sauce

Crunchy Fish Tacos

Frozen fish sticks

Corn or flour tortillas

Tomato, diced

Avocado, diced

Cabbage, shredded

Shredded cheese

Cilantro Cream Sauce

1/4 sour cream

1/4 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

fresh pepper and salt, to taste

lime juice, to taste

Mix together ingredients and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.

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July Menu ~ 2013

Sorry my monthly menu plan is a little late. Believe it or not, I actually forgot to put one together (oops)! It’s not like I didn’t know it was July already, it’s just that I’ve been a little preoccupied with physical therapy and whatnot, but it’s here for you now :) Also, you may have noticed I didn’t do much cooking last month via my June menu so some of this months recipes will come from there.

July Menu – 2013


Romano-Crusted Chicken with Salad

Taco Cornbread Pizza

Dijon-Dill Salmon withRice Fritters and Parmesan Tomatoes


Balsamic Grilled Chicken with Four Bean Salad

Turkey Salisbury Steaks with White Bean Mash

ultimate pic

Cous Cous-Stuffed Peppers and Salad

Turkey Ragu with Creamy  Polenta

Ultimate Baked Beans

Chicken Rio with Cilantro Lime Rice

pilaf pic

Salmon and Pasta in Creamy Tomato Basil Sauce

Beef Stroganoff and Pesto-Parmesan Green Beans

Garlic Tilapia with Mexican Rice and veggies

Crock Pot Meatloaf and Gravy with mashed potatoes and veggies

cous stuf pep pic

Chicken Salad with Grapes and Pecans

Chicken and Rice Pilaf

Pineapple Galette

Harvest Bread

balsamic pic

Recipes I’m (still) working on:

Crunchy Fish Tacos with Cilantro Cream Sauce

Chocolate-Drizzled Cheesecake Cream Puffs

Spinach & Artichoke Crusted Chicken

Tomato Cucumber Bread Salad

Cow Pies (GF)

Crock Pot Swiss Chicken

 Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bites (GF)

Spinach & Goat Cheese Tilapia Roulade with Tarragon Bechamel

Mexican Bruschetta

Chocolate Chip Blueberry Muffins

Patron Punch

Chocolate Fudge Tart with Mint Cream

Rhubarb Upside Down Cake

Asian Chicken Pizza with Peanut Sauce

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Egg-Stuffed Baked Potatoes

This is great for any time of the day, and for a one-dish type of meal you can’t go wrong because you can put anything your heart desires in it. I only made six small potatoes, but it’s easy to see how to make the amount and size you want without measurements. It’s pretty much just whatever you have on hand or what you prefer. Think outside the box: chili, leftover taco meat, chicken, all kinds of vegetables, cheeses and herbs and spices (think dill!). There are no rules.

egg-stuf pots

Egg-Stuffed Baked Potatoes

6 small baking potatoes, baked and slightly cooled

4 strips turkey bacon, cooked and crumbled

6 eggs

1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar

1 T butter, melted

salt & pepper

1. Slice tops off the potatoes and scoop out potato pulp, leaving a layer of potato around sides and on bottom.

2. Brush butter inside potatoes and salt and pepper.

3. Evenly sprinkle 3 of the turkey bacon strips between the six potatoes and top with 1 T cheese.

4. Have potatoes on a baking sheet lined with foil or parchment paper, and crack an egg over each potato. It’s okay if it spills over a bit. Sprinkle a bit more salt & pepper.

5. Bake at 375* for about 20 minutes or until whites are cooked and yolk is just set. It’s up to your preference how soft you like your yolk. Sprinkle with a little more cheese and the remaining bacon crumbles and give it just a few more minutes in the oven.

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