Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Comforting Tator Tot Casserole

So yesterday was, one of those days.

The kind of day I'm really glad is over.  Please tell me y'all have experienced this kind before!  It was a day where supper was the last thing on my mind, because all I wanted to do was curl up in my bed with a bag of chocolate chips and call it a day.  At like 2:00pm!

Having a family, that just wouldn't cut it... or be very nice, for that matter. :-|  SO... I was racking my brain to think of a comforting, easy meal using ground beef since that was thawing.  It dawned on me what I saw Mrs. Duggar make a while back to feed and satisfy her kids.  

Tator tot casserole!  

I mean, if she was feeding it to her family of 20 and calling it easy to make, then surely I could make it easy enough for 4!  

I confess to you.  I'm guilty of judging this casserole in the past.  I once only thought of it as fattening and unhealthy, and probably made by a person who doesn't cook well. Sorry!! :(   I was wrong...  This casserole  is hands down delicious!!

It kind of reminds me of America's version of shepherd's pie.  The base is browned ground beef and onions mixed with a cream soup, topped with tots and cheese then baked till golden and bubbly!  Yum!!  I added green peas and diced red bell pepper to the meat for a little nutrition and color.  We loved it!  Especially if you have kids, don't deprive them from this "cheeseburger and fries" tasting cassarole!  My own little Tots asked for seconds, so I know it's a winning recipe.  

Folks, I think you arrive to parenthood on the day all calories and preservatives fly out the window just so you can make a yummy, simple meal...due to shear exhaustion. Lol!  I never doubted tator tot casserole would taste good with these ingredients, and it honestly is!  I'll sure make it again when I need an easy, go-to dinner.  I'm not above this meal...no ma'am!

Here's to having terrific tasting and hearty recipes for those days! ;)

Tator Tot Casserole
Serves 4-6

1 lb. Ground beef
1/2 c. Onion, diced
1/2 c. Green peas
1/2 c. Red bell pepper, finely diced
1 can cream of mushroom or chicken soup, undiluted
1/2 bag of Tator tots, frozen
1 c. Colby jack or cheddar cheese, grated

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

In a skillet, brown ground beef with the onions and bell pepper, over medium high heat, until the veggies are soft.
Strain off the fat in a colander,and put the beef mixture back into the skillet.  Add the peas.

Add the soup (undiluted), salt, pepper and stir everything together.
Pour into an 8x8 in. dish.

Spread out the tator tots on the top.  (I sprinkled some garlic salt and a little cayenne pepper over the tots, too.)
Put in the oven to bake for 30 minutes until tots are crispy.
Pull out and sprinkle the cheese and some paprika over it all.
Bake for an additional 8-10 minutes till bubbly.

The cheese is melted and the tots are crispy.  Oh, yum!

We enjoyed it with green beans. Eat up!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Fresh Tomato-Basil & Garlic Linguine

One of my all time favorite things to eat is pasta!  I love Italian food as a whole but especially pasta.  I bought some fresh herb linguine at the farmer's market this week.  Because it's more expensive (about $2.00 a person), it's real treat!  Seeing as I've only made it for my husband and and I, it's a luxury that easier to afford every once in a while.

The freshness of it makes it more tender and SO delicious!  There's a big difference from the usual dried kind.

Tonight I wanted to use it in a way the pasta shines through.  I didn't want to smother quality pasta in a heavy sauce, so I made one of my go-to easy and scrumptious pasta recipes!

This recipe only has 5 main ingredients: pasta, grape tomatoes, fresh basil, garlic, and onion.  Everything was cooked in a mixture of extra virgin olive oil and butter, seasoned simply wth salt and freshly ground pepper and finished with grated Parmesan cheese.  You can always add more like crushed red pepper, olives or mushrooms for even more flavor.  I came up with this "recipe" myself, so it's a loose one that can be tweaked to your liking. I used a lot of garlic, but it really makes it savory and the basil gives it a sweet burst of freshness! This dish would be delicious with crust bread on the side!  

Simple, easy, fresh, and lovely.

It's a fast meal to make and easy to make for just a couple of people or a whole table full!  This beautiful Tomato-Basil Linguine will make you look like a home chef!

Fresh Tomato-Basil & Garlic Linguine
Serves 2

2 servings of linguine, fresh if available, cooked 
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise 
Bunch of fresh basil (about 20-25 leaves)
4 Cloves garlic, thinly sliced (minced, if good but whatch to make sure it doesn't burn.)
1/4 c. Red onion, sliced thinly
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt & Pepper
Fresh Parmesan cheese

In a skillet over medium heat, add approx. 1 Tbsp. oil and 1 tbsp. butter.  
Add the onion and cook for a minute.  
Add the tomatoes and some salt, and cook for another minute. 
Add the garlic and cook for a couple minutes until everything comes together and the tomatoes are softened and onions are tender.

Pour in the cooked linguine, the rest of the basil, and add about 1/2 cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese, black pepper and salt to taste.

Divide up in bowls, and finish with a little more cheese and pepper, and a sprig of basil.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

My Coffee with Foam

Last night a dear friend --one who seems to always radiate the love of Jesus in a very authentic way (thank God for friends like that, right!?) -- was gracious enough to watch our children for a couple hours while Mr. Cozy and I went on a date!

It was Heavenly!

As wonderful and amazing it is to be a mommy to my precious children, my hubby and I needed some alone time.  A time to recharge, go out together, and be able to focus solely on the company of each other!  I LOVE being with my husband, although sadly that doesn't seem like a popular opinion among young couples these days.

We went to a restaurant that isn't just a family place, but one we've enjoyed for date nights over the past several years!

It's a local, authentic Cuban/Spanish place called Mojitos!  We love ordering tapas there!!  Tapas is just a series of small plates/ appetizer sized dishes that they bring out one by one.  It's delicious and lots of fun!

We had the guacamole with plantain chips which is very popular there, queso fundido which is basically a hot dish of melted cheese served with homemade bread from a local bakery (Blue Dog).  For the hearty plates we ordered a flatbread piled with short ribs, blue cheese, arugula and spouts...yum!  Finally, a small steak with a yummy sauce served on a mound of smooth mashed potatoes with a nest of sweet potato strings on top.

We ate well!!!  It was a splurge, but perfect for our date.

We ended the meal with a cup of their delicious rich espresso with milk and lots of foam.  Possibly the best coffee drink ever!!  Honest. It's simplicity lets you taste just how delicious the coffee is!!  I wanted 2 more cups!

So later after the kids were in bed, I decided to use my strong decaf coffee and replicate the drink.  I have a little handheld frothier and enjoy making drinks complete with foam!  What a treat. :)

So on this chilly morning, I decided to add some foam and cinnamon to my morning cup, and what a good idea!  Somehow it feels more decadent without it being bad for me.  I froth skim milk, but it really adds to a plain cup of coffee ( unless you want to be really bad and top it with whipped cream!!).  

If you don't have a frothier, use a small whisk to briskly whisk warm milk and it will create some foam.  Scrape the foam off the top of the milk and place atop your coffee.

So here I am, snuggled under my blanket as I hear my tots wake up.  I started my day very slowly, but it's about to pick up!

Enjoy this gorgeous weather God has given us.  Happy Saturday!!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Best M&M Cookies


I've been wanting to make some chewy m&m cookies for a long time.  I really don't have a reason why I haven't made them, except now that I have children I've really wanted to bake some!  They were one of my favorite cookies as a kid, because I always thought the bright candies were just so cheery and fun!  I still do!!

I picked up a bag of fall colored M&Ms this week, and although I hesitated because I LOVE the originals bright colors so much, I'm a sucker for seasonal things.  Especially in the fall.  

And Christmastime!

I found the base to this soft and chewy cookie recipe on another delicious blog, and I added my own little fall spin to it.  I mean I already had the gold, brown, and deep red candies so why not play it up a little more?  I added a dash of cinnamon, which really sends these cookies over. the. top!!  I had Reese's pieces on hand and so I threw some of those it, too.  The recipe calls for chocolate chips, and since I had partially full bag of Ghiradelli Bittersweet chips I though that would be perfect!  Of course any chocolate chip, or color (even mini size) of m&ms would be good.  It's all about making them your own!

This recipe turned out wonderful, and the cookies.... Perfect!!!  I wouldn't change a thing.  The warmth from the cinnamon adds the perfect cozy touch to these whimsical cookies that your whole family will be sure to love!  

I'm ready for Autumn to get here, how about you?!

The fact that there's only brown sugar(no white) and an extra egg yolk makes these cookies unbelievably chewy!!  I used dark brown sugar here.

The Best M&M Cookies

1c. butter, softened
1c. brown sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 c. all purpose flour
1/4 c. cornstarch
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 12 oz bag M&M candies (save some to put on top)
1/2 c. chocolate chips
(Or heaping 1/4.c Chocolate chips and heaping 1/4 c. Reese's Pieces... Yummy!)

Beat together the butter and sugar until creamed well. 
Beat in the eggs and vanilla until all combined.

Mix together in another bowl, flour, corn starch, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.

Add this in increments slowly until it's just combined with the butter mixture.

Add the candies and chocolate chips.  Save some M&Ms if you want for the top just before putting in the oven.

For best results here you want to wrap the dough in plastic wrap, wax paper or parchment.  I half the batter and twist the ends closed.  

Refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to about 3 days.  This will really richer the flavor of the cookie!!  No kidding.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  Line your cookie sheet with parchment if you have it.

Roll dough into heaping Tablespoon sized balls and add a few extra candies to the top, if you want.

Bake for 8-10 minutes.  9 was the perfect time for me.  

My rack was on the second from the top in the oven.  You want the bottoms to look like a golden brown.  I think using parchment helps make them more even.

(My burgundy M&Ms look hot pink here!) :P

Let cool for about 5 minutes and enjoy while still hot!  Perfect with cold milk or strong coffee. :)  

You'll want to double the batch next time!  Makes close to 4 dozen cookies.

The original recipe at Yammies Noshery.

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