Happiness Project #44: Thanksgiving Creamy Corn Casserole

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Oh, Casserole! Oh, Casserole! How I love me some casserole! Especially when Thanksgiving is right around the corner. Because you know what that means? Leftovers. For days. Of everything. Which makes me ridiculously giddy. Turkey, people! And mashed potatoes! Oh, and maybe some lovely, flakey cheesecake, too! Seriously. What more could you ask for?

So in preparation of THREE family Thanksgiving gatherings (yes, THREE), I went hunting through every Pinterest recipe ever pinned. Obsessive? Me? Ha! Not at all! *wink* Since I’m still very much a beginner with my Dinner Dishes (& rarely have more than a half hour or so to play around in my kitchen with my Toddler running underfoot), I tend to look for the easiest, simplest recipe ideas I can find. In hopes that I won’t royally mess it up. Which, I’m not afraid to admit still happens (occasionally), and eventually becomes the perfect snack for my Chloe Girl instead. I do love learning new cooking techniques from these messy, messy mistakes, though, so it’s not always a total disaster. Looking on the bright side, right?

Anyhow, you ready for Thanksgiving? Here’s the perfect way to get started!

8 oz cream cheese, softened

3 eggs

1/4 cup granulated sugar

pinch of garlic powder

pinch of kosher salt

pinch of black pepper

3/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1 8.5 oz box of corn muffin mix

1 cup whole milk

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

2 cans sweet corn, drained

1 can cream-style corn

Preheat your oven to 350 degress. Butter or spray a 9inch casserole dish.

In a large mixing bowl, handheld or by a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese for a few minutes.

Beat in each egg, one at a time, followed by the garlic powder, salt, pepper and sugar. Mix until throughly incorporated.

Blend in the cornbread mix, cheddar cheese, butter and milk, until well mixed.

Stir in all 3 cans of corn by hand.

Pop the casserole into the oven and bake, uncovered, for 55-60 minutes. The casserole will be fully baked once the edges brown slightly and the surface of the casserole is gently firm to the touch. Let cool for a few minutes before serving.

From my Family to yours, we’d like to wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Happiness Project#42: Creamy Chicken Potato Soup!

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Hallelujah! It’s FINALLY starting to feel a bit like Fall, here in California! Bout time! It actually rained a bit, two days ago and I found myself standing in my Daughter’s room, trying to figure out what outfit to dress her in. A cute jumper? Jeans with a short sleeved shirt? Or jeans with a lightweight long sleeved shirt? Ha! Oh, the many, silly dilemmas of Mommyhood! I finally settled on jeans with a long sleeved shirt, if you must know.

Anyhow, to celebrate the wondrous experience of such highly anticipated Fall weather, I was super excited to whip up this new comforts-of-home style Dinner Dish! With chicken. Naturally. Because I’m not ashamed to admit that my household (quite literally) runs on chicken. And peas. Oh, and cheerios too. Must NOT ever forget the cheerios. Toddlers, my friends. Toddlers.

Since my Husband is an avid soup lover (whereas I usually am not), I wanted to make this dish specifically for him. As my own way of giving back to him. To show him my love. And my appreciation for the deeply rooted patience he has for living with me. The NOW me. Who sobs uncontrollably (for no discernible reason), more often than not and sometimes, feels completely & utterly broken inside, no matter that I have the kind of beautiful, semi-charmed life that not everyone is blessed with. That’s simply (or not so simply) how depression is. I have good days but also very severe bad days, as well. And it’s something that I can’t just will away. Nor is it something easily explained to those who have never experienced it firsthand. It’s hard. And can be emotionally excruciating, at times. Just being me. The NOW me. The NOW me that affects everyone else around me. My family, my friends but most deeply, my husband. And sometimes, on my bad days, I grieve for him, as well. For the woman he married and now is gone, in so many prevalent ways. Tangled up so tightly within the deep heaviness of this life change. For both of us. And even though, things will never be the way they were before & I will never be able to give back to him that once unaffected heart & body (the me of BEFORE), the NOW me is determined to show my love & appreciation for everything that he has given, in other ways instead. Like through this recipe. This perfect LOVE-in-a-Fall-Soup recipe. So let’s celebrate, my friends. Lets celebrate the coming of Fall and all of the many ways we share Love! Bring on the soup!

11 tablespoons butter

2/3 cup all-purpose flour

6 cups whole milk

7-8 red potatoes, peeled, cubed and cooked until slightly softened

2 chicken thighs, thawed, cubed and cooked

2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

1 cup sour cream

1 teaspoon salt

pinch of ground black pepper

pinch of paprika

*1/2 cup finely chopped celery (approximately 1 whole celery stalk), for garnish. Optional.

In a large stock pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and let it cook together for 2-3 minutes.

Add in the 6 cups of milk, 1 cup at a time, whisking well between each addition. Let the milk mixture sit and thicken slightly.

Drop in the cubed potatoes, bringing the pot to a boil, while continuously stirring, for 2-3 minutes.

Reduce the heat to the lowest setting and stir in the cubed chicken, mixing well. Followed with the cheese, sour cream, salt, pepper and paprika. Stir gently until well mixed.

Once the cheese has melted, serve and garnish each bowlful with celery (which adds a nice crunch to the overall dish, as well as a bright pop of color).

If you prefer a more thickened overall texture, let the soup stand and cool until it has reached a desired consistency.

Chicken. Potatoes. Soup. How could you not want a little bit of THIS comfort food??

Happy Fall, everyone!

Happiness Project #41: Chicken & Broccoli Shells!

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Apparently, I’m on a roll with my Dinner Dishes. Partly in response to the attention of my newest kitchen helper (and by helper, I mean my unintentional food taster), Chloe Girl. No, not my Daughter (who is my official baking assistant) but rather my 3 year old Dog, who, in more ways than one, is my unofficial 2nd Toddler. Since no matter where I am, so is my Chloe Girl. Even if that means that I have two little girls snuggled up on my lap most of the day. Ever seen a 20lb Toddler and a 20lb Beagle/Terrier try to snuggle up on one person’s lap? It’s adorable but not always an easy feat. But that’s Family life, my friends! Something I would never change.

Anyhow, here’s the story on the Dinner Dish, which I saw on Pinterest and altered slightly (more so for my benefit than anyone else’s). Since my husband REALLY likes chicken (you should see how many bags of chicken we have stored away in our freezer) and I like broccoli, I loved the idea of this very quick and simple skillet meal! Even with a pinch of chili powder, though my fondness for spices is usually rather lacking. Ready for a taste?

1 cup uncooked pasta shells

3 cups broccoli florets

3 chicken breast halves, diced into small squares

1 cup whole milk

1 cup chicken broth

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

pinch chili powder

1-1/3 cup shredded mozzarella & cheddar cheese

Firstly, cook the pasta according to it’s package instructions. Add the broccoli florets to the pasta during the last 3 to 4 minutes of cooking. Drain and set aside.

Once your chicken halves are fully thawed, heat the olive oil in a large skillet, over medium-high heat. Add the diced chicken squares to the skillet and cook for 8-10 minutes, until fully cooked through.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the milk, chicken broth, flour and pinch of chili powder, until well combined.

Stir the milk mixture into the skillet with the chicken and cook for 4-5 minutes so that the sauce begins to thicken slightly.

Add in the pasta mixture and then the two cheeses, stirring the cheese until melted and well combined with the pasta and chicken. Continue to cook for a few minutes, letting the sauce at the bottom of the skillet bubble slightly.

Remove from the stove and let cool for a bit before serving.

Simple! Yummy! And very filling! Three Cheers for Dinner! And Dogs, too!

Happiness Project #39: Hamburger Casserole Croissant Buns

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Beef. It’s what’s for dinner. Seriously. There’s a HUGE croissant takeover happening on Pinterest when it comes to whipping up a quick, yummy and easy dinner recipe. And I am most definitely ON that band wagon. Possibly forever. Because well, you can make just about ANYTHING in a lovely, flakey croissant roll. Chicken Tacos (which I’ve also done), Mac & Cheese Rolls, Mini Pepperoni Pizzas, to name just a few! Provided that my family doesn’t tire of them too quickly. Though, considering that my husband devoured 4 of these Hamburger Casserole Buns last night, (within a span of something close to 10 minutes), so far, I think I’m in the clear. And fortunately, my 16mo Daughter LOVES these toddler sized mini-meals. So that settles it, in my book. Ready for a very simple, fun and toddler friendly dinner recipe? Here you go…

1 package of refrigerated Croissant Rolls

1 cup seasoned ground meat, skillet cooked and drained

1 cup cubed red potatoes, properly cooked, drained and pat dried

1-1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese, melted

*1/4 cup catsup (optional)

Firstly, skillet cook the ground hamburger meat until nicely browned and sizzling. Drain and set aside. If you’re up to multitasking, while the ground meat is cooking, throw the cubed red potatoes into a lightly salted pot of boiling water, for a good 8-10 minutes. Once the potatoes are soft to the touch, drain and pat dry. Also set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line one baking sheet with a Silpat mat or aluminum foil. Gently crack open the croissant roll package and line up all 9 dough pieces onto the baking sheet. Set aside while you mix the hamburger filling.

Once the cooked meat has cooled, using your fingers (yes, this is very, very messy), generously mix in the catsup (if using). Next, heat up the grated cheese in a micro-wave safe bowl, until melted. Which REALLY means until gooey. Stir the cooked potatoes into the melted cheese. Again, this will be very messy. But fun. Okay, well, I thinks it’s fun, at least.

Using a tablespoon, drop up to 2 tablespoons of the potato/cheese mixture into the top middle section of each dough piece (which looks something akin to a pizza slice). Gently press 1 tablespoon of hamburger meat into each mound of potato/cheese. Once each roll has been garnished with it’s potato/cheese/hamburger filling, fold each corner flap of the dough pieces, into one another & transfer to the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 12-15 minutes until the Croissants are lightly browned on the edges and an even shade of golden yellow on top. Cool on a wire rack for 2-3 minutes before serving.

So. So. Easy. Your tummy will thank you, I promise.

Happiness Project #37: Baked Tuna Casserole!

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Whoa! Another Dinner Dish?! All in the same month?! Why, yes! Yes, indeed, my friends! This Mama’s on a mission! To bring some dinner to the table! And highchair. And possibly, a dog dish, as well. Though, not ALWAYS to the dog’s dish, mind you. And since, I really, REALLY like the idea of all-in-one Casserole’s for my family, I went scouring the internet and Pinterest for my next (hopefully rather) easy dinner dish. Now before you go on judging me, I am NOT ashamed to admit to being somewhat of a Pinterest nerd either. So there! Enter, the simplest version of a Tuna Casserole Recipe I could set my eyes upon. With peas. Again. Yes, we really like our peas in this house. I chalk it up to how small & Toddler friendly they are. Though, next time I may add in some fresh Broccoli too, since I didn’t happen to have any of America’s favorite veggie tree on hand last night.

Hmmm, speaking of last night, which was the 4th of July here in my neck of the woods (or more accurately, city), my kitchen ended up becoming a bit…crowded. By my very scared and horribly trembling Beagle/Terrier Canine Child, Chloe Girl. For SIX hours! SIX hours worth of loud, booming, the-sky-is-very-likely-falling neighborhood fireworks. Which I was NOT happy about it. At all. Yes, I understand that everyone wants to eat, drink and launch very pretty sparklies. But for SIX hours?? At the expense of everyone else around them, who might (just might) have sleepy babies and nervous dogs?? Until 2am?? Apparently. Like I said, by 11pm last night, I was NOT pleased. And had a very terrified Chloe Girl huddled up in the kitchen corner, pressed up against my legs. Which made using the stove a little crowded.

Anyhow, even though I was understandably half distracted by comforting my Chloe Girl as well as tinkering with this particular recipe, all while convincing myself NOT to run out into the street, welding a large knife (because I was THAT enraged by all of those inconsiderate neighbors of mine), I did eventually manage to get this Casserole in the oven. Hallelujah. Which, even today, is still being very happily consumed. So to all of my fellow Mommy & Daddy friends out there, with too much to do in the day and not enough free time spent in the kitchen, this easy, relatively all-in-one recipe might be exactly what you’re looking for! Well, besides more sleep, that is. *wink*

Pinch of kosher salt

2-1/2 cups elbow macaroni pasta

1 cup breadcrumbs (my husband prefers Panko breadcrumb so we nearly always have a couple of boxes of this laying around)

5 to 6 tablespoons parmesan cheese, grated

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons, plus 2 tablespoons (reserved) fresh lemon juice

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2-1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth

1-1/2 cups whole milk

3 (6 oz) cans solid light tuna, packed in water, drained and fluffed with fingertips

1-1/2 cup frozen peas or 1 cup broccoli, thawed

Once all of the ingredients are gathered and prepped, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta according to it’s packaged instructions. Once cooked, drain and set aside.

In another small bowl, toss together the breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, until just coated.

In a medium sized pot, heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat for a few minutes. Add in the flour and whisk to combine with the olive oil. Once combined, slowly add in the broth, followed by the milk. Whisking continuously, bring the sauce to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cover, stirring every minute or so, until the sauce begins to thicken slightly. Stir in the the pasta, tuna and peas, until fully, evenly coated.

Spoon out your casserole mixture into a 9×13 inch baking dish and top with the lemon tossed breadcrumb mixture. Slid this on into the oven and bake for 18-20 minutes, until the crust on top is lightly browned and bubbling.

Transfer to a wire rack before sprinkling the reserved 2 tablespoons of lemon juice over the crust. Let cool for a good 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Such a lovely, easy Dinner Dish. Perfect for any last-minute occasion. Happy Cooking, my friends!

Happiness Project #36: Baked Tuna & Veggie Mac and Cheese!

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3 months later & I’m FINALLY back blogging! Not because I haven’t wanted to be baking & blogging these past 3 months (because I HAVE actually been baking) but mostly because being a semi-active Mom, battling her way through a whole whirlwind of physical struggles, in light of having a wonderfully SUPER active 15mo Toddler, doesn’t leave me much energy or time to blog as well. Even during the two days a week where I DON’T have my Mischief Maker with me. So in lieu of (very normal) Toddler tantrums and the decision to decline ever single event invitation we were invited to this month (once again, my apologizes to those who so graciously invited us to such lovely summer events), I’m finally making the time to do some much needed catch up. With a very messy kitchen paying the ultimate price.

So what HAVE I been up to these past very blog-free months, you ask? Why, Peanut Butter Brownies, Cinnamon Roll Mini Cakes as well as a very special Flower Garnished Vanilla & Lemon Celebration Cake, to tease you with just a few. None of which I’ll be sharing today. Shocking, I know. Though yes, the aforementioned recipes will be blogged very soon, I promise. Right now, though, I’d like to share a very NEW & EXCITING kitchen adventure with you! A DINNER adventure! Yes. Dinner. Something that I just DON’T do. Until now. Which is kinda a big deal for me, especially as a wife and mother. Instead of those oh-so predictable spoonfuls of sugar or cake flour or chocolate, this lovely dinner dish demanded cheese and noodles and tuna. Which I very happily, though a bit nervously, obliged to. And WOW, was this one of the best Mac and Cheese dishes I have EVER wrapped my stomach around! It’s THAT good! Thanks to my lovely blogging friend, Kelsey, over at her fabulous lifestyle blog, Oddly Lovely. Which you should browse through. Now. Or at the earliest connivence. There’s a blog post there for just about any subject that you could ever be (or want to be) into! Especially if you’ve never met her Dog, Ru, yet. Trust me. You’ll want to. Anyhow, after repeatedly eyeballing Kelsey’s very delicious looking Baked and Breaded Mac and Cheese Recipe, I (quite literally) dragged & pushed myself out of my usual kitchen comfort zone and did it. One of my very first home-made Dinner Dishes. Which was WONDERFUL! Cheesy, but not TOO cheesy. Delicate but hearty at the same time. With the perfect amount of surprising crunch, thanks to those well-needed breadcrumbs. And even though I threw in some frozen peas, white tuna and a teeny bit of lemon juice, this Baked Mac and Cheese Dish was perfect, all on it’s own. So with much (MUCH) delight, here it is!

Bake Tuna & Veggie Mac and Cheese:

8 ounces of macaroni (I used Rotini pasta because I have this thing for the cuteness of curls)

4 tablespoons butter

4 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt (I used kosher salt)

black pepper to taste (a pinch)

1-1/2 cups reduced or low fat milk

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

2-1/2 cups shredded extra sharp cheddar

2/3 cups bread crumbs

*1 cup frozen peas

*9 oz can of tuna, drained

*2-3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cook the macaroni according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water to prevent the pasta from further cooking. Set aside.

Over a large skillet, set to medium-high heat, add and melt the butter, stirring so that it doesn’t brown. Once melted, add in the flour, salt and pepper. Mix with the butter until it reaches a nice & smooth consistency.

Gradually add the milk and heavy whipping cream into the saucepan, consistently stirring over the course of roughly 5 minutes. While stirring, bring the mixture to a boil and let boil for 2 minutes.

Reduce the heat to mediuim-low and cook for 10 minutes, still stirring to prevent the mixture from hardening. Now gradually add in the the shredded cheese, in small handfuls, mixing and waiting until each handful is melted before adding another. Once melted, turn off the burner. Pour in the cooked macaroni and stir throughly to create an even coating. Once you’re happy with your now fully coated macaroon, add in (first) the drained tuna, and then the frozen peas. Mix each addition well within the cheesy macaroni. Pour your macaroni mixture into a lightly buttered (or sprayed) 9×11 baking dish. Using a tablespoon, drizzle 2-3 tablespoons of lemon juice evenly over the entire dish. Followed by a sprinkling of breadcrumbs to finish the dish up. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until the breadcrumb topping becomes slightly browned. Remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes, on a wire rack, before digging in. Even though you might be chomping at the bit as soon as this yummy loveliness comes out of the oven, never fear. A few minutes won’t hurt anyone. Especially if you have a Toddler (or wiggly dog) underfoot. Trust me.

For explore all of Kelsey’s lifestyle adventures, go to her blog, at the oddlylovely.com

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