Easy Family Meals:Taco Salad

December 30, 2009 · Posted in Main Dishes · View Comments 

Easy Family Meals

Cooking at Home? Try a new Recipe

I am so excited about what is in store for 2010! I’m creating new and delicious budget, kid-friendly recipes for moms to try, so no there’s no more searching the web for hours or buying new cookbooks on meals solutions for their family.

Today there’s a good chance you’ll find more and more moms cooking more often at home for their families. You may also find yourself preparing the same old meals day after day.

It’s time for change! Try some new recipes and get cooking again!

Selecting new recipes can be fun. Consider giving yourself the chance to try one new recipe a week. The best time to try a new recipe is on the weekend, after the weekday rush subsides. So you may be asking, “Where do I find great new recipes that are quick and easy?” Well, it’s not about finding the perfect recipe, or creating the perfect meal, but about having fun trying something new, and continually expanding your culinary horizons.

 Great recipes truly are everywhere you look. For example, have you asked your friends lately about their favorite recipes? Consider recipes that use an ingredient that is new to you or even one that usually doesn’t make it into your shopping cart. One new ingredient can be the pick-me-up that your meal times are looking for! I am constantly on the look out for different recipes to incorporate into my meal planning. You don’t have to do it all at once. Introduce little ideas or ingredients slowly until you are satisfied with your results. A recipe is always a work in progress.

Remember, practice makes perfect! This is true even in the kitchen. So, practice, practice, practice, and enjoy every meal you make! I hope I have inspired you to get into the kitchen and try a new dish!

Check out my website for new featured recipes. Here’s a recipe that is a twist to your regular tacos, it’s filled with fresh veggies and topped with a tangy dressing.

Zesty Taco Salad

Taco Salad


2 pounds lean ground beef

1/3 cup water

1/3 cup Taco seasoning

1 medium size head lettuce, shredded

1 15 ounce can dark red kidney beans, rinsed and drained

1 15 ounce can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained

1 medium size green bell pepper, chopped

4 green onions, chopped

1 10 ounce container of sweet grape tomatoes

2 cups shredded blend of mild cheddar and monterey jack cheese

1 bag of Doritos Nacho Cheese Chips

1 16-24 ounce bottle of Catalina dressing

1 avocado

Sour Cream


In a large skillet, brown ground beef, drain excess fat, return to pan. Add water and taco seasoning. Reduce heat to simmer until water is completely absorbed.

Beef Taco

 In a large bowl, add the shrdded lettuce, kidney beans and garbonzo beans.

Bean Salad

Add green onion, bell pepper and grape tomatoes.

Bean Salad with Vegetables

Add shredded cheese and ground beef mixture. Top with chips crumbled lightly.

Taco Salad

Add dressing and toss until all ingredients are coated evenly with dressing. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and avocado.

Taco Salad Ideas

Note: A great addition to this salad would be broccoli (which I omitted this time) and fresh corn.

There are several ways to create a quick and tasty homemade meal for your family in minutes. Keep visiting often…..Noel’s Kitchen Tips has a lot to choose from!

Quick Family Meal Ideas:Creamy Turkey and Broccoli

December 29, 2009 · Posted in Main Dishes · View Comments 

Quick Family Meal Ideas

Usually with Turkey leftovers, I make soup, chili, crepes, enchiladas, and sandwiches. This time I wanted to make a more kid-friendly, quick meal for a busy weeknight. I chose two vegetables my kids enjoy and a pasta noodle. I chose Bow Tie because it’s a fun looking noodle.  I like to use the Wacky Mac noodles too but I wanted one that would match the size of the dish I was making. It’s a great dish and your older kids can whip this up in no time.

Creamy Turkey and Broccoli 


Creamy Turkey and Broccoli


12 ounces Bow Tie pasta

3 Tablespoons olive oil

1 pound, turkey, cut into strips

3 cups broccoli florets

2 red bell peppers, cut into thin strips

1 cup turkey broth

1 container (5.2 to 6.5 ounces) garlic and herb soft spreadable cheese

Parmesan cheese

Fresh cracked pepper


Bow Tie Pasta

Cook and drain the pasta according to package instructions. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium high heat.

Leftover Turkey

Add turkey meat. Cook and stir 3-5 minutes or until turkey is heated through.

Broccoli and Red Bell Pepper

Remove turkey and add broccoli, red peppers and turkey broth.

Broccoli and Red Pepper Close Up

(I love the two of these vegetables together. They are so vibrant in color.)  Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, 5-7 minutes or until broccoli is tender.

Turkey and Broccoli

Return turkey to skilley and cook 1 minute longer. Remove from heat. Add cheese then pasta, combinely gently until cheese is melted and smooth.

Spoon into serving dish or bowl and top with Parmesan cheese and freshly cracked pepper.

Creamy Turkey and Broccoli

This meal can be made in 25 minutes and perfect for a busy mom on weeknights. Leftovers can be used for lunch the next day served cold on a bed of lettuce, add tomato and avacado. Enjoy!

Traditional Family Favorite Dishes:Gnocchi with Roasted Pepper and Spinach Sauce

December 28, 2009 · Posted in Recipes · View Comments 

Traditional Family Favorite Dishes

Gnocchi was one of my favorite traditional family meals growing up and an amazing dish that I remember fondly as a child. It is a very simple dish to make with practice. Gnocchi are potato dumplings that are cooked like pasta.  Gnocchi should be very light and delicate. If they are heavy, you’ve used too much flour. In this recipe, you’ll want to slowly add the flour a little at a time. This recipe calls for three simple ingredients: potato, egg and flour. It’s a very budget-friendly meal to make for your family. Serve it with your favorite sauce. Today, I made a Roasted Pepper and Spinach Sauce. This is the first time I created this sauce and it came out rich and creamy.

gnocchi plated

Gnocchi with Roasted Pepper and Spinach Sauce

Gnocchi Ingredients:

8 Russett potatoes, peeled and quartered

1 egg

1 cup flour


Fill a large pot with cold water. Season with 1 teaspoon salt. Add potatoes.

Boil Potatoes

 Bring the water to a boil and cook the potatoes until tender throughout, approximately 45 minutes or easily pierced with a fork. Remove potatoes with a slotted spoon. Do not get rid of the water, you will use it later when cooking the Gnocchi. Let potatoes cool.

 Potato Rice

 Once cooled, spoon the potatoes into a potato press. I happen to have a great potato press kitchen tool that not only lets me press potatoes, it also is a cookie press. Very easy to use.  (You can visit my link to the Kitchen Store on my homepage for this perfect kitchen tool.)  Press potatoes into a large mixing bowl. Using a spatula or simply your fingers, press the potatoes lightly together.

Whisk the egg and add to potatoes. Add flour a little at a time. Using a spatula, incorporate the ingredients together making sure you scrap the bottom and sides of bowl have flour thouroughly incorporated and a light dough consistency. The dough should be moist, but not sticky.

gnocchi roll

Taking a little at a time, roll out into a log shape. Cut with a serated knife at an angle.

gnocchi roll cut


gnocchi cut

 Place on a cookie sheet. You can shape the Gnocchi with a fork, your thumb or simply leave them as they are. Cover with plastic wrap if you are not using right away.

gnocchi cookie sheet

gnocchi cookie sheet1

Reheat the water from boiling the potatoes and bring to a boil. Drop Gnocchi in boiling water in batches.

gnocchi water boil

I usually cook 20 at a time. They are done when they float to the top.

gnocchi boil water

 I usually give them one quick light stir and remove them with a slotted spoon onto a serving dish or bowl, making sure all the water is drained off. Soggy Gnocchi doesn’t taste very good. Continue to cook the Gnocchi until all are cooked. 

gnocchi finished

Add  your favorite sauce or I chose a new creation; Roasted Pepper and Spinach sauce (see recipe below)  to individual dishes or bowls of Gnocchi. It should be a light dressing of sauce, you want to be able to taste the Gnocchi and not just the sauce. Grate some fresh Parmesan cheese over the top and serve.

Roasted Pepper and Spinach Sauce

I found this great jar of Zergut Peppertizer, Roasted pepper appetizer sauce I really had no use for other than serving over cream cheese. It can be used as an appetizer dip or side dish. It’s made primarily with peppers, eggplant, onion, and hot peppers.


1 Tablespoon butter

1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1/2 cup onion, chopped

1 cup Zercut Peppertizer sauce

1 cup tomato sauce

1 cup chopped frozen spinach, drained

1 garlic clove, pressed

1 1/2 cups half n half (I improvised as I ran out of heavy cream)

1 cup milk

Pinch of parsley

Pinch of Oregano

Salt and pepper


In a large pot add butter and olive oil.

butter oil mixture

Add onion. Saute 5 minutes. Add tomato sauce and Zercut Peppertizer sauce. Mix together until incorporated. Simmer on Low-Medium heat so your sauce is not popping out everywhere.

  sauce spinach

 Add spinach and garlic. Give it a quick stir and cook for 15-20 minutes. Add half n half or heavy cream and milk. Stir in spices. Taste before you add the salt and pepper and adjust measurement to your tasting.


It’s always a good idea to taste as you go. Cook for another 10 minutes or until sauce thickens. Spoon over Gnocchi.

gnocchi plated 1

I’ve made gnocchi many times and I love the different variations. Some make with Ricotta cheese and Parmesan with a lighter tomato sauce or even  a pesto sauce or a brown butter sauce are fabulous. Enjoy your traditional family favorites.

Eating Out Is Expensive…Eating With Family Is Priceless…

Quick and Easy Budget Friendly Appetizers

December 27, 2009 · Posted in Recipes · View Comments 

Quick and Easy Budget Friendly Appetizers

Something that always eases our minds when entertaining is simple, affordable appetizers and dishes that save us money and time.  One of the favorites that I teach people to make is an Artichoke Dip made in a bread bowl. How simple is that? It’s baked and served in the bread bowl with a rich, creamy and flavorful taste in every bite. Your guests will truly enjoy this appetizer at your next party.

 Bread Bowl Artichoke Dip

Artichoke Dip


2 (16 ounce)sourdough bread rounds, divided (about 6-in. diameter)

vegetable oil

4 ounces cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup milk

1 (14 ounce) can water-packed artichoke hearts, drained

1 (1 1/2 ounce) envelope Knorr’s vegetable soup mix

1 garlic clove, pressed

1 lemon

1 (8 ounce) container sour cream

parmesan cheese, Grated fresh (optional)


Preheat oven to 450°F. Using a serated Bread Knife, slice off top of one bread round to create a lid; set lid aside. Carefully remove center of bread round to form a 4½-inch-wide and 2-inch-deep well for dip.

Slice center of first and entire second bread round into 1-in. cubes. Place bread bowl on center of Large Baking Dish. Arrange bread cubes around bowl; spray with vegetable oil using a Kitchen Spritzer.

In mixing bowl, whisk cream cheese until smooth using Stainless Whisk. Add milk to cream cheese; whisk until smooth.

Chop artichokes. Add artichokes, soup mix and garlic pressed to mixing bowl; mix well, scraping the sides of bowl.

Microwave on HIGH 5-7 minutes or until hot (do not boil). Juice lemon using Juicer to measure 2 tbsp juice. Stir juice and sour cream into hot artichoke mixture; pour into bread bowl.

If desired, grate Parmesan cheese over bread bowl and bread cubes using Rotary Grater. Lean lid against bread bowl. Bake 13-15 minutes or until bread cubes and top of dip are golden brown. Remove from oven; serve immediately.

*This would also make a lovely Spinach Dip, just substtute the artichokes with spinach and add water chesnuts. Or try something new, add the spinach and leave the artichokes in. Want to kick it up a bit? Add some chopped jalapeno peppers.

Easy Entertaining Recipes:Lemon Bars On Brown Butter Shortbread

December 26, 2009 · Posted in Recipes · View Comments 

Are you looking for a fresh new recipe to take to the many holiday functions you have scheduled? 

For a couple of years now, at this time of year, I’ve been offering an Entertaining Ideas Kitchen Show. These shows have always been very popular and have been a great way for me to ‘beef up’ my fall calendar. At all my shows from August on, I say, “How many of you entertain over the holidays? (Almost everyone raises their hand.) Now how many of you entertain the same people year after year? If you’re ready for some fresh, quick and easy entertaining ideas, let’s do an Entertaining Ideas Kitchen Show!”

One of the Christmas gifts I received this year from the kids was a Tartine cookbook. This is a lovely neighborhood bakery and cafe located in San Francisco, California. This cookbook provides recipes for irresitable croissants, which remind me of working for Cafe De Croissants in my early days in the food industry. The aromas of fresh made croissants and specialty coffee was a pleasurable experience for me starting my career in the food industry. The cookbook also includes fruit tarts, and tender cakes all with easy-to-follow recipes anyone can bake in their own kitchen.

The authors are right about the hardest part of the cookbook on deciding which recipe to try first. They all look amazing. After browsing through the cookbook a few times, I decided on trying the Lemon Bars On Brown Butter Shortbread.  They taste delicious and just melt in your mouth.

I have very few pastry cookbooks and I’m glad to add this one to my library.  This is a very simple and quick recipe to entertain your guests in the fall and winter. Enjoy!

Lemon Bars On Brown Butter Shortbread

Lemon Bars On Brown Butter Shortbread



1/2 cup Confectioners’ Sugar

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 cup Pine nuts (optional)


1/2 cup all-purpose flour

2/14 cups sugar

1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Lemon zest, grated from 1 small lemon

6 Large whole eggs

1 Large egg yolk

Pinch of salt

Confectioners’ sugar for topping (optional)

Kitchen Notes: Whisking eggs with salt helps denature (relax) the protein in the eggs and breaks them up more quickly and thouroughly. You can also do this for egg wash, adding a small pinch of salt for each egg you use.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter a 9×13 inch baking pan or I simply used baking spray. To make the crust, sift the confectioners’ sugar into a mixing bowl. Add flour and stir to mix. Add the butter and pine nuts and beaty on low speed until a smooth dough forms.

Transfer the dough to the prepared pan and press evenly into the bottom using the flat bottom of any type of cup or glass. Bake the crust until it colors evenly to a deep golden brown, approximately 25-35 minutes. You can rotate the pan 180 degrees if the crust appears to be baking unevenly.

As the crust is baking, prepare the filling. Sift flour into a mixing bowl. Add the sugar and whisk until blended. Add the lemon juice and zest and stir to dissolve the sugar. In a separate mixing bowl, whish the eggs and egg yolk with the salt. Add the eggs to the lemon mixture and whisk until well mixed.

When the crust is ready, pull out the oven rack holding the crust and pour the filling directly into the hot pan. (It is easiest to pour the custard into the pan if the pan is in the oven.) Reduce the temperature to 300 degrees and bake until the center of the custard is no longer wobbly, 30 to 40 minutes.

Let cool completely on wire rack, then cover and chill well before cutting. Using a sharp knife or mini-serving spatula, cut into squares. Dust with cofectioners’ sugar. They will keep in an airtight container or well covered in the baking dish in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

Crockpot Bean Chili:Cooking For A Big Family

December 26, 2009 · Posted in Recipes · View Comments 

Cooking For A Big Family

I really enjoy making this recipe.  It’s very tasty and a meal the whole family enjoys. I serve it with warm cornbread or fresh baked bread. You basically throw all the ingredients into your slow cooker and simmer 4-6 hours and it’s done. This recipe uses similar ingredients to those I use for my Fiesta Taco Soup or my Southwestern Turkey Chili. Tip: By buying ingredients that can be used in multiple recipes, you can save money on your grocery bill.

When it comes to the holiday week when everyone’s running around buying gifts, cleaning house and spending time with family and friends, this is a simple meal that can be thrown together ahead of time so you can get focus on getting your tasks done.

Crockpot Bean Chili

Crockpot Bean Chili


1 30 ounce can Kidney Beans, rinsed and drained

2 15-16 ounce cans  Pork and Beans

2 15 ounce cans Pinto Beans, rinsed and drained

1 15 ounce can yellow corn

4 cups Quick Spaghetti Sauce

2 Tablespoons cumin

2 Tablespoons chili powder

2 Tablespoons Taco seasoning


 Rinse and drain kidney and pinto beans. Add to slow cooker. Add remainining ingredients and cook on low heat setting for 4-6 hours.

Busy Mom Holiday Planning

December 23, 2009 · Posted in Recipes · View Comments 

Busy Mom Holiday Planning

I hope that you are all staying warm this holiday season and cooking up some great holiday recipes this week. Any traditional favorites? We just finished with company this past weekend. Now it’s time to focus on the week ahead. I’m looking forward to cooking, baking and sharing some of those recipes with my family and all of you.

If you will be cooking during the holidays, it is important to plan your meals ahead of time. I started the week off by making a Crockpot Bean Chili. Very simple meal and I incorporated the leftover Quick Spaghetti Sauce  I made two nights before. This made the dish sweet with a little bit of a kick. This week I’m focused on appetizers, main dishes and desserts for a large crowd that are quick and budget friendly. I’ll most likely be using my Slow Cooker, Large Bar Pan and Deep Covered Baker this week so I can spend time enjoying the festivities later in the week.

Whatever you do this holiday season, remember to relax and enjoy yourself. As a family, you will have great memories of this holiday season if your holiday planning is less stressful.

Happy Holidays!

Caramel Crunch Blueberry Muffins

December 19, 2009 · Posted in Recipes · View Comments 

I haven’t posted my recipes, only because I have not had an opportunity to sit down and write about making as much as I have this past week. I’ve been busy in the office getting work finished up before the Christmas holiday than coming home and taking care of the family and things around the ranch. Our six-year old was in the school’s winter program a few nights ago.  It’s amazing how much time flies when you have children. My oldest is seventeen now and I can still remember watching his school winter programs like it was yesterday.

This weekend we’re watching our nieces and newphew that recently moved to Silver Springs, NV from Las Vegas. It’s nice that they are closer to us now for visits. Last year at Thanksgiving while we’re there for a visit we decided to buy a time share with Bluegreen Resorts. We basically can go anywhere we want, Hawaii, Mexico, Aruba, East Coast or back to Vegas. We are still in the planning stages for our vacation trip for next year. But that’s a whole other blog post.

As far as recipes go, I’ll be making a huge batch of pancakes this morning, served with a sliced warm apple and cinnamon syrup on top. I have one quick dinner recipe, that I made in the ctockpot and served with spaghetti noodles that made a busy weeknight much easier and yesterday I made some Caramel Crunch Bluberry Muffins using fresh bluberries my husband picked up.


Bluberry Muffin1

Caramel Crunch Bluberry Muffins


3 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 teaspoon salt

4 teaspoons baking powder

2/3 cups vegetable oil

2 eggs

2/3 cup milk

2 cups fresh bluberries


Preheat oven to 400 degress. Line muffin pan with muffin cups or lightly grease muffin pan. Wash bluberries, drain. In a mixing bowl combine ingredients in the order listed. Scoop batter into muffin cups.


1/2 cup sugar

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup butter

2 teaspoons cinnamon

Sweet Caramel Sprinkles

Mix topping ingredients together in a small bowl except Sweet Caramel Sprinkles until crumbly. Sprinkle over muffin batter. Sprinkle Sweet Caramel Sprinkles over muffin batter and topping before baking. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Caramel Bluberry Muffins

I really like the way my muffins turn out when I use my muffin stoneware pan. They’re nice and moist on the inside.

Blueberry Muffin

The tops come out lightly golden brown and a bit crunchy.

Bluberry Muffin Side

My muffins never stick to the pan and come out perfect everytime. Most imortantly the tops are so much bigger than the bottom and we all enjoy the tops more than the bottoms anyway, right?

12 Days of Sharing:White Chocolate Thimble Cookies

December 14, 2009 · Posted in Recipes · View Comments 

12 Days of Sharing

The 12 Days of Sharing hosted by In Jennie’s Kitchen continues this week and so far there have been some tasty recipes by some fabulous food bloggers.

White Chocolate is a big hit in our house when it comes to cookies. I came across this recipe reviewing the grocery store holiday magazine and tweaked it a bit after trying the recipe and found using the adjusted ingredients made the cookies even better.  These cookies are budget-friendly and use ingredients that are always on hand in the kitchen when baking cookies. They make a great holiday gift and are for perfect for a cookie swap and my contribution to the Virtual Cookie Jar today. This particular recipe the cookies seem a bit larger than normal for a thimble cookie but there is no such thing as a small cookie in our house.

Visit the virtual cookie jar for other holiday cookie recipes and feel free to contribute one of your family’s favorite recipes. Here’s how you can participate: Virtual Cookie Jar.

Please don’t forget to click on the 12 Days of Sharing badge below to make your donation to help end childhood hunger.


By donating, you will earn a chance to win some fantastic gifts! Every little bit makes a difference, so no donation is too small.

White Chocolate Thimble Cookies

White Chocolate Thimble Cookies


2 cups sugar

1 cup unsalted butter, softened (2 sticks)

2 eggs

1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 1/2 cups flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 cups white chocolate chips

 Red Raspberry and Blacberry seedless jams

Powdered Sugar


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar until creamy. Beat in eggs, lemon juice and vanilla.

Add flour, salt and baking soda. Stir until combined. Stir in white chocolate chips.

I like using a medium size cookie/ice cream scoop to place the perfect amount of dough on the baking sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes or until slightly soft in the center.

Remove from oven and made a thumb-size indentation in the center of each cookie. Fill with 1/2 teaspoon jam. Dust with powdered sugar.

 White Chocolate Thimble

Savory Stuffed Acorn Squash

December 13, 2009 · Posted in Recipes · View Comments 

Any type of squash is delicious on a cold winter day. I happen to have a beautiful acorn squash today that I’ll be stuffing with some hearty vegetables and sweet Italian sausage.  It’s a simple meal that is not only delicious but very comforting.

Savory Stuffed Acorn Squash


1 Tablespoon butter

1 acorn squash

1 carrot, diced

2 stalks celery, diced

1 medium onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, pressed

2 cups seasoned bread crumbs

1 pound sweet Italian sausage

2 1/2 cups vegetable stock

1 teaspoon poultry season

Salt and Pepper

2 teaspoons brown sugar

1 Tablespoon butter

Parmesan Cheese, shaved


Preheat oven to 350 degress. Cut acorn squash lengthwise and scoop out inside.

Acorn Squash Scooped

Place face down in baking dish with one-inch of water. Cook uncovered for 20 minutes.

Acorn Squash Faced Down

Meanwhile, saute in 1 Tablespoon of butter onion, carrot and celery until tender. Add garlic. stir and remove from heat.

In a mixing bowl mix together bread crumbs, Italian sausage, vegetable stock, poultry seasoning and salt and pepper to taste.

Remove squash from oven, drain water and turn face up. Stuff squash with mixture and cover with foil. Cook for one hour or until squash is tender. Remove foil, sprinkle with brown sugar and butter and bake for another 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven a sprinkle freshly shaved Parmesan cheese. Serve.

Savory Acorn Squash


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