Italian Mac N Cheese

I am pulling a recipe out of the vault of my family’s favorite recipes this week! I wrote this down watching a Food Network show 10+ years ago and have been making it ever since. Yes I wrote it down and didn’t print it! I think it was a Rachael Ray recipe but I’m not sure so thank you to whoever shared it first! I have tweaked it slightly over the years but didn’t change much because it’s pretty perfect. You just can’t go wrong with a homemade Italian cheese sauce, Italian sausage, buttery garlic mushrooms, and the tomatoes that brighten it all up!

Italian Mac N Cheese is a 30 minute meal that tastes like you worked for hours. If you want the process to move quickly, my biggest piece of advice is to prep everything ahead of time. Measure out the broth and cream, chop the mushrooms, mince the garlic, etc. While you’re prepping, start boiling your water too. The more prepared you are ahead of time, the less stressed you’ll be when you’re cooking. This dish is really fun to make!

Always salt your pasta water generously! Adds so much flavor!

I prefer to use crimini or baby bella mushrooms in this over button mushrooms because they have more flavor. Side note, my kids HATE mushrooms but still love this dish. They are easy to pick out!

Have you ever made a roux? Knowing how to make one is such a useful cooking skill because you’ll be able to make the most delicious homemade sauces and gravy. You do have to make one in the dish but it is so easy! It’s basically flour and fat cooked together to thicken a sauce. In this case, the fat is the butter and olive oil that the mushrooms are cooked in. Just sprinkle the flour on, cook for a minute or two, then add the liquid.

This is one of those dishes that will impress dinner guests because they’ll think you’ve been cooking all day. I have made it countless times over the years for company and everyone loves it. Because it’s a 30 minute meal, it is also great for busy week nights. It makes a lot too and makes great leftovers (if you don’t devour it all)! This is a win-win kind of meal!

Fresh out of the oven. Hard to tell but that’s a huge 12-inch skillet!

Sponsored post for Lee’s Marketplace. Items on sale at Lee’s the week of Jan 21-27: penne, Italian sausage, olive oil, butter, flour, chicken broth, Italian cheese blend, Parmesan, diced tomatoes

Italian Mac N Cheese

Ingredients

1 lb. penne pasta
1 lb. mild Italian sausage (bulk not links)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
4 garlic cloves, minced
8 oz package crimini or button mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup heavy cream
2 cups shredded Italian cheese blend, divided
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
1/3 cup parmesan cheese
½ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions

Cook pasta according to package directions. Preheat broiler.

Heat a large non-stick skillet (broiler safe) to medium-high heat. Cook and crumble sausage until brown then drain and set aside. Add olive oil and butter to the pan then add garlic and mushrooms. Sauté for a few minutes or until mushrooms are brown and soft.

Sprinkle the flour over the mushrooms and stir to make a roux. Cook for 1-2 minutes. Whisk in the chicken stock and heavy cream. Bring to a low boil then stir in ¾ of the cheese blend. When the cheese melts, add tomatoes, salt, and pepper then stir. Bring to a boil then add pasta and sausage. Stir until everything is well combined.

Turn off heat and sprinkle remaining cheese blend and parmesan over the top. Place skillet in oven under the broiler for about 5 minutes or until golden brown.

Note: If you do not have a broiler safe skillet, just transfer the pasta mixture to a baking dish. Sprinkle on cheeses and place under broiler.

Korean Beef & Veggie Bowls

Happy New Year! This is my first post of 2020 and I’m so excited to share it with y’all. I have so many delicious recipes and foodie projects planned this year and I feel it in my bones that this year is going to be amazing!

A few weeks ago I asked my awesome followers on Instagram what kind of recipes that they were looking for now that the holidays are over. 99% of the responses were “quick, easy, and healthy.” Surprise, surprise. Ha! I am definitely known for my cheesy, indulgent, Tex-Mex recipes but I also have quite a few healthy ones. I love to balance comfort food with healthy! My philosophy on healthy recipes is that they must still have big, bold flavors. Taste should never be sacrificed for a healthy meal because it doesn’t have to!

The first recipe that came to mind was this one. My Korean Beef & Veggie Bowls are so flavorful and so delicious that you’ll be putting it on your regular dinner rotation. Now, don’t @ me because of the sugar! Ha! “Healthy” is a relative term because everyone is on a different eating plan these days. Sugar to some is a huge “no no” but for me, if it’s full of veggies and has healthy, lean protein, then I’m sold! You could definitely experiment with sugar alternatives and use even leaner meats like ground turkey or chicken.

“Easy” was another big request and this one definitely checks that box. I had my veggies chopped and dinner served in 30 minutes! My kids loved it! You could also double the recipe and use it for meal prep for the week. I love how versatile this is!

This is a sponsored post for Lee’s Marketplace. Items on sale the week of January 14-20: ground beef, bell pepper, soy sauce, sesame oil, rice

Korean Beef & Veggie Bowls

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil (or other light oil)
2 cups zucchini, sliced
1 cup carrot, sliced into matchsticks
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 bunch green onions, sliced and divided
1 lb lean ground beef
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup soy sauce
1 ½ tablespoons sesame oil
2-3 tablespoons Gochujang sauce
¾ teaspoon ground ginger
¾ teaspoon garlic powder
1 ¼ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 cups cooked white or brown rice
Sriracha sauce (optional)

Directions

Heat a large non-stick skillet to medium-high. Add olive oil then add zucchini, carrot, bell pepper, and about ¾ of the green onions. Sauté until vegetables start to soften, about 5 minutes.

Push vegetables to the side of the pan and add ground beef. Cook and crumble then stir into the vegetables. Drain grease if needed (use lean meat so you don’t have to).

To the pan, add brown sugar, soy sauce, sesame oil, Gochujang, ginger, garlic, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine, reduce heat to medium, and let cook for 5-10 more minutes.

Serve on top of rice and garnish with remaining green onions and sriracha sauce.

Note: Gochujang can be found in the Asian section of most grocery stores. Don’t leave it out! It’s worth the buy and adds amazing flavor.

Street Corn Layer Dip

It’s not a party without 7 Layer Dip. Am I right? It’s one of my favorite things to take to a party and is such a crowd pleaser. When I was asked to do the Halloween segment for ABC4’s Good Things Utah, I wanted to create something that could be made year-round but could also work for the holiday. The idea for this dip had been on my recipe list for a while and I thought this was a great opportunity to finally make it. Y’all know I couldn’t just make normal 7 Layer Dip! I had to put my own spin on it and the thing that was missing to me was corn. Then I thought of the flavors of street corn…lime, Tajin seasoning, queso fresco cheese…and the layers started to form. The GTU crew devoured it! Watch me make it here.

Look at those layers!

The cilantro lime corn layer is my favorite! The sour cream layer has a generous amount of Tajin seasoning and is so tangy and delicious. You can generally find Tajin in the Mexican food isle at your grocery store. This recipe makes a lot and can also be made in a 9×13 pan.

Now that New Year’s Eve is a few days away, I had to get this on my blog! A little late! Ha! For NYE, we always do a variety of appetizers. This year we are having a party for our local friends that will also double as a deployment farewell for my husband. My Street Corn Layer Dip is on the list to make for the party and I hope that it ends up at your parties as well! Happy New Year to you all! Thanks for supporting me and making my recipes!

Street Corn Layer Dip

Ingredients

2 cans (15 Oz each) refried black beans
1 packet taco seasoning
16 oz prepared guacamole
16 oz sour cream
3 teaspoons Tajin seasoning
16 oz salsa
32 oz frozen corn, thawed
1/2 bunch of cilantro, chopped
2 limes
1/2 teaspoon salt
10 oz package Queso fresco, crumbled
8 oz can sliced black olives, drained

Directions

In a medium-sized bowl, mix beans and taco seasoning until well combined. Spread in bottom of 9×13 pan or similar sized serving dish. Top with prepared guacamole.

Add Tajin directly to container of sour cream then mix well. Spread of top of guacamole. Pour and spread salsa on top for next layer.

In a medium-sized bowl, combine corn, cilantro, juice of 2 limes, and salt. Mix well then carefully spread on top of salsa layer.

Top with queso fresco then add olives to garnish. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate until serving.

Note: As this sits, it does get “wet” because of the salsa. It still tastes great but if you want to avoid that, replace the salsa with pico de gallo or fresh chopped tomatoes.

Guests, host, and crew digging in on Halloween!

Southern Broccoli Rice Casserole

I put a poll on my Instagram stories a couple of weeks ago asking my followers what kind of recipes they were looking for right now. The options were main dish, dessert, side dish, and appetizer. Side dish was the unanimous winner! That is one thing I’m always looking to change up too so I was happy that I got to make this Southern Broccoli Rice Casserole that reminds me so much of Texas.

Growing up in East Texas, this is one of those dishes that you’d find at every potluck and on every holiday table. Year round! Us Texans really like to put cheese on just about every savory food you can think of and broccoli is no exception. The broccoli rice I grew up with was full of processed cheese and sometimes canned cream soup. It was good but I definitely wanted to freshen things up with my version.

The homemade creamy cheese sauce is perfection! It’s very easy to make and isn’t that much harder than opening a can of cream soup. You mix fresh broccoli florets and cooked rice into the cheese sauce then top with a crunchy breadcrumb mixture. My kids who usually choke down broccoli absolutely loved this! My daughter said this is the only way she will eat broccoli from now on. Ha!

My Southern Broccoli Rice Casserole is such a great holiday side dish because it will go with any main dish like ham, prime rib, or turkey. Serve with chicken any time of the year for a complete meal too. I hope you enjoy another little piece of my Texas heart with this easy, delicious side dish!

Sponsored post for Lee’s Marketplace. Items on sale Dec 17-26: rice, butter, flour, sharp cheddar, white cheddar

Southern Broccoli Rice Casserole

  • Servings: Serves 6-8
  • Difficulty: moderate
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Ingredients

6 cups fresh broccoli florets, cut small
2 cups cooked rice
¼ cup butter
¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 cups half-and-half
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 ½ teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded and divided
1 cup gruyere or white cheddar cheese, shredded and divided
2/3 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons butter, melted
½ cup panko breadcrumbs
1/3 cup parmesan, shredded

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare an 11×7 (or similar sized) baking pan by spraying with cooking spray.

Make topping by combining 2 tablespoons melted butter, panko and parmesan in a small bowl. Set aside.

In a large sauce pan, melt butter over medium heat. Whisk in flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Gradually whisk in the half-and-half and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil for about 2 minutes or until thickened. Add garlic, salt, and pepper. Add ¾ cup of cheddar and ¾ cup of gruyere then stir until melted. Remove from heat. Add broccoli and cooked rice to the cheese sauce and stir until combined.

Transfer to baking pan and sprinkle remaining cheddar and gruyere cheese to the top. Pour chicken broth over the top. Cover tightly with non-stick aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes.

Remove foil and sprinkle breadcrumb topping evenly over the casserole. Place back into the oven and bake for an additional 10 minutes or until brown.

Notes:
1. Make sure broccoli is cut into small bite-sized pieces so that it cooks through.
2. If needed, turn on broiler after 10 minutes to get topping browner.

Churro Toffee Cookies

Introducing…your new favorite cookie! My Churro Toffee Cookies might be my proudest creation yet. My husband described them as “snickerdoodles on steroids!” Haha! Let me tell you how I thought of these…

Back in October my family and I went to Disneyland and beforehand I, of course, made a list of all the foods and treats that I wanted to eat. One thing that kept popping up on all the Disney food related accounts that I follow was “churro toffee.” It looked like something I’d normally pass up but if that many people were obsessed with it, I thought it was worth a try. Oh my goodness I fell in love! It’s basically a large square of perfectly crunchy English toffee, dipped in white chocolate, then generously coated in cinnamon sugar. I didn’t even get a great picture because it’s not that photogenic but here’s one I found online in stock images:

I’m so glad that I tried the Churro Toffee! On the way home from our trip I could NOT stop thinking about it. I didn’t want to totally recreate it but wanted to make a dessert inspired by the flavors. These cookies have been in my head for 2 months and I’m so happy that I finally got them in my belly! They are the softest snickerdoodle type cookie with Heath chips added in. The toffee chips melt and are so soft! Then white chocolate is drizzled over the top with extra toffee chips for that crunch needed to taste exactly like a cookie version of Disneyland Churro Toffee. Y’all HAVE to make these cookies for the holidays!

These are the plain toffee chips you need. Not the kind with chocolate.

Sponsored post for Lee’s Marketplace. Items on sale the week of December 10-16: flour, baking soda, salt, cream of tartar, cinnamon, butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla, Heath toffee chips, white chocolate chips. All ingredients!

Churro Toffee Cookies

  • Servings: Makes Approx. 4 Dozen
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla
8 oz bag plain Heath toffee chips, divided (bits o’ brickle)

For the coating:
½ cup granulated sugar
1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon

For the topping:
1 ½-2 cups white chocolate chips, melted
Remaining toffee chips from bag (about ½ cup)

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Make the coating by combining sugar and cinnamon in a small, shallow bowl or plate. Set aside.

Whisk the flour, baking soda, salt, cream of tartar and cinnamon in a bowl and set aside. In a large bowl using a stand mixer or hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar until smooth. Add the egg and vanilla. Beat until combined. Slowly add the dry ingredients in small amounts. Scrape sides as needed. Add toffee chips and mix until just combined.

Scoop out spoonfuls of cookies and roll them into balls then roll in cinnamon sugar mixture to coat completely. Arrange cookies on a baking sheet 2 inches apart and bake for 10 minutes. Cookie should be very light brown around edges when done. Allow to cool on sheet for a few minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

Once cookies have completely cooled, drizzle with melted white chocolate and sprinkle toffee chips on top.

Notes:
1. Cookies will bake even better on a silicone mat that is placed on the sheet tray. Use one if you can!
2. If kept in an airtight container, they will last for up to a week. They remain soft for days!

One more close-up of these beauties…

Winter Cobb Salad with Citrus Dijon Vinaigrette

We had the best Thanksgiving ever this year. My sister and her family who live in Arkansas came to visit us in Utah! We have lived in Utah for almost 10 years and have never spent it with my side of the family. My kids don’t have cousins their age here and it was so special for them to have their younger Arkansas cousins here to hang out with. We got almost 2 feet of snow while they were here so we ended up watching LOTS of movies, played in the snow, ate so much good food, laughed a lot, and just enjoyed each other. I miss them already!

Speaking of food, is anyone else craving something healthy after Thanksgiving? I definitely indulged for the holiday and have no regrets but my body has been begging for something light and healthy. I have had this salad on my recipe idea list for a long time and am so glad I finally had the chance to make it. It is loaded with healthy ingredients like pomegranate seeds and oranges. Y’all know I had to add some bacon to it to stay true to myself! Ha! The Citrus Dijon Vinaigrette might be the star of the show though. My son hates fruit on his salad and hates vinaigrettes even more but he tried this and loved it so much. I felt like I scored a touchdown when he approved! We had grilled chicken and roasted veggies on the side and it was so healthy and satisfying. If you’re looking to add some greens to your menu this week, my Winter Cobb Salad is exactly what you need!

Sponsored post for Lee’s Marketplace. Items on sale the week of Dec 3-9: Salad greens/lettuce, oranges, bacon, eggs, Dijon, olive oil

Winter Cobb Salad with Citrus Dijon Vinaigrette

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

5-6 oz salad greens
3-4 sliced bacon, cooked and crumbled
½ cup pomegranate arils (seeds)
1 orange, segmented
2-3 hard-boiled eggs, sliced
½ cup feta cheese
½ cup slivered almonds (or chopped pecans)
For the vinaigrette:
2 tablespoons fresh squeezed orange juice
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
3 teaspoons honey
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Whisk vinaigrette ingredients together until well combined and set aside.
Add greens to large bowl or platter. Add bacon, pomegranate, oranges, eggs, feta, and almonds on top. Drizzle vinaigrette on top then toss to combine. Serve immediately.
Note: Add grilled chicken for a complete meal. Additional ingredient options: avocado, cucumber, pears.