Thursday, January 30, 2014

Creamy Tortellini with Smoked Turkey Sausage (one-pot recipe!)

Does this ever happen to anyone else? You see a picture of a recipe in a book or on pinterest and you think it is going to be a certain way and then you look up what's in it and it is totally different than you thought? Well, that's what kept happening to me with tortellini recipes.  I had some tortellini to use up and wanted to try a new recipe that wouldn't be too spicy for my girls to eat.  I thought I had found a couple but then they all sounded too bland or they used gourmet ingredients, etc. So I finally just combined all the ingredients I wanted in it and crossed my fingers.  I think it turned out pretty good.

I kind of based it off of my Sausage and Peppers Penne (recipe here) but it's not as spicy since it doesn't use hot italian sausage.  I used smoked turkey sausage for this recipe because my girls love it and I was happy to see my 5 year old (who seems to be getting pickier by the day) eat it all without complaining once!  Not to mention it all cooked in the same pot (pasta and all!) I'll definitely be making this again!

Creamy Tortellini with Smoked Turkey Sausage
1 whole bell pepper (I used orange but any color will work)
1/2 cup chopped sweet onion
1 T. olive oil
1 (lb) smoked Turkey sausage ring
2 cans diced tomatoes (do not drain)
1 cup chicken broth
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. basil
1/2 tsp. oregano (to taste)
a pinch of red pepper flake (optional...but worth it!)
1 (19 oz) bag frozen tortellini
4 oz. cream cheese (reduced fat works great)
1/4 cup grated paremesan
1 cup mozzarella (to top)
parsley (to top)

In a large skillet, saute bell pepper and onion in olive oil until softened.  Chop up sausage and add to veggies.  Brown sausage (it should be fully cooked already).  Add tomatoes, chicken broth and seasonings and bring to a boil.  Add frozen tortellini and reduce heat to low.  Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes or until tortellini is cooked through.  Stir in cream cheese and parmesan.  Top with mozzarella and parsley.  Enjoy!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Frito Pie with Homemade Chili

 I'm kind of surprised that I haven't posted this recipe before! Homemade chili is so easy to make and tastes way better than store bought! It's very forgiving and easy to adapt to your family's needs.  Play around with spices to get it just right. It also makes a lot so it's great for company or to freeze for later.

One of our favorite recipes to make with the chili is Frito Pie.  It's an incredibly fast meal (especially if you already have chili made).  It's similar to taco salad but with Fritos.  It's a great on the go meal too.  I've packed it for my kids lunches by putting the chili in a thermos and letting them top it themselves at school.  It also works great for big crowds.  We've made these for girl's camp for the last 3 years.  Give it a try!

1 lb. ground turkey (or ground beef)
1 green bell pepper (chopped)
1 tsp. cumin (or to taste)
1 tsp. garlic powder (or to taste)
1 tsp. onion powder (or to taste)
1 tsp. dried minced onion
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 cup flour
chili powder (to taste...honestly I use about 1/3 of a cup)
3-4 cups water
2 cans pinto beans
1 can kidney beans
1 can diced tomatoes
a dash of  Tabasco sauce

Brown turkey slightly.  Add bell pepper and spices and continue cooking until turkey is cooked through and bell pepper is softened.  Add flour and chili powder.  Add water slowly and stir well to get rid of all lumps of flour.  Add beans and tomatoes.  Bring to a boil and cook until thickened.  Add Tabasco if desired and reduce heat to low.  Simmer for 30-40 minutes.

Don't forget all seasonings can be adjusted if you like it spicier or more savory.  Play around with it!

Frito Pies
1 recipe of chili (above)
shredded cheese
roma tomatoes
shredded lettuce
sour cream

Start with Fritos.  Top with chili, cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, onions and sour cream.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Banana Cream Pie

So one of our favorite pies around these parts is banana cream! It's a tough choice between coconut cream and banana for me but this year the banana cream won out for the holidays.  This is a great pie all year round though.  We've been known to have it at 4th of July even! (It's almost apple pie right?)

My grandma is from Tennessee and when we were little she used to make banana pudding for us all the time.  You know the kind where you put the hot pudding over vanilla wafers and let it sit for a couple days until it's all mushy!Perhaps I'll need to make and post that entire recipe on here too. But the main thing I learned from my grandma is that banana cream whatever tastes best when made with plain ol' vanilla pudding.  Cutting up bananas in it gives it all the banana flavor it needs. This pie recipe is based off of her pudding recipe and just put in a pie shell instead.  Give it a try!

Banana Cream Pie
1 pie crust (baked)
3 cups half and half (or whole milk)
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup flour
1/4 tsp. salt
3 egg yolks
2 T. butter
1 tsp. vanilla
2-3 bananas
1 1/2 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup sugar
chopped walnuts (optional)

Bake pie crust and cool completely.  While crust is cooling, add milk to a large saucepan and scald.  (Use a large pan not because there will be a lot of filling but the more surface area the filling has to cook the easier it will thicken).  When the milk is heated, add sugar, flour and salt.  Whisk well and continue stirring until thickened (about 5 minutes).  Reduce heat, cover, and cook 2 more minutes.  In a small bowl beat egg yolks.  Add about 1/4 cup of the hot mixture to the eggs and whisk together.  When mixed completely add the egg mixture back to the rest of the filling.  Finish cooking for 1-2 minutes.  Remove from heat and add butter and vanilla. Allow to cool until just warm.

While filling is cooling, make topping by whipping the cream and sugar together until thick and fluffy.  Chop the nuts.

Line pie crust with sliced bananas and pour warm filling onto bananas.  Top with whipped cream and chopped walnuts if desired.  Allow to cool completely in fridge, at least 2 hours.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

DIY Advent Calendar and Winter Activity ideas

 So I forgot to post this during Christmas time (AGAIN!) but I thought I'd go ahead and share it now so that I can repost it next Christmas :)  Growing up we always had a Christmas countdown box that had different activities for each day.  I loved it and had wanted to do it with my own kids. I made this countdown a couple of years ago using craft scraps I had from other projects.  I did buy some new Christmas scrapbook paper...because who doesn't like buying new pretty paper!  Below I included the materials I used but you could use a variety of materials.

I also included the list of what activities we do leading up to Christmas.  I try to have a good mix of easy and more involved activities.  December is crazy busy so sometimes we only have time to eat a candy cane! Other days the activity might take the whole day.  I usually use a calendar and plan my advent calendar around the activities that are already scheduled (like parties, birthdays, school concerts, etc) And I've been known to switch things around the night before if I know we aren't going to have time! We are always looking for fun things to do so after you get some ideas leave a comment with some activities you like to do in the winter too!

How to make an Advent Calendar:

2 pieces of 12x12 chipboard
hot glue gun
assorted scrapbook paper
buttons, stickers, material for decoration
white cardstock
hole punch

1) Cover both pieces of chipboard with a piece of 12x12 scrapbook paper.  This paper will be your background.  You won't see too much of it so solid colors or a small pattern work great.

2) Use a large piece of ribbon to make the hangar.  I cut mine to about 18 inches and attached an end to each of the top corners of the advent with hot glue.

3) Next, cut three pieces of ribbon about 3 inches each.  Use these ribbons and hot glue to attach the bottom chipboard to the top.  Connecting them with ribbon will allow you to fold the advent in half which makes storing it easy and protects it when you aren't using it.

4)  Cut a rectangle 3 inches wide and 4 inches long.  Fold the bottom of the rectangle up 1/2 of an inch. Fold the right and left sides of the rectangle in 1/4 of an inch. This will leave you with a folded rectangle about 2 1/2 inches by 3 1/2 inches.  Attach the rectangle to the advent by gluing the around the edges on the folded tabs ONLY. This should make a paper pocket on your calendar.

5) Repeat 24 times and glue them on the advent in rows of 4 across.  12 pockets on each chipboard.

6) Decorate each of the pockets with stickers, marker, fabric, buttons, extra ribbon etc.

7) Using the white card stock cut out rectangles measuring 2 in. by 3 in.  Make a hole punch in the top of each card and tie a small piece of ribbon through the hole.  The ribbon helps kids pull them out easier. Write down your winter activities and place one card in each of the pockets on your calendar.

Here are some of my favorite pocket designs:

List of Christmas/Winter Activities:
1) Put up the Christmas decorations
2) Eat a candy cane
3) Celebrate a birthday (One of my daughters has a b-day in Dec.)
4) Look at Christmas lights
5) Watch the First Presidency Christmas Devotional
6) Read the Nativity story (we usually do this Christmas Eve)
7) Drink hot chocolate w/ marshmallows
8) Make a gingerbread house
9) Make Christmas cards
10) Secretly help a family in need
11) Bake banana bread
12) Write lists for Santa
13) Open a present (spoiler alert: It's always a new Christmas book! Act surprised!)
14) Go to Christmas parade (our town has a great one!)
15) Go to a Christmas party (or host your own!)
16) Read Christmas books
17) Watch a Christmas movie
18) Deliver treat plates to the neighbors
19) Build a snowman (if there's snow!)
20) Wear a Christmas shirt to school
21) Wrap presents 
22) Sing Christmas carols
23) Go to a Creche Show (our church does this every year. It is nativities from around the world)
24) Play a game as a family
25) Listen to Christmas music
26) Do a secret service for someone
27) Color a Christmas picture
28) Play charades with a Christmas theme
29) make a Christmas ornament
30) Watch a Christmas parade
31) Go Ice skating
32) Go Christmas present shopping for siblings
33) Hang candy canes in a neighbors tree
34) Read Christmas poems
35) Do Christmas dot a dots, crossword puzzles, etc.
36) Make paper snowflakes
37) Go sledding (if there is snow)
38) Visit Santa
39) Put on a Nativity puppet show
40) Wear a pair of Christmas socks

Alright, there's my list! Now it's your turn. What are some of your favorite things to do in the winter with your family? Maybe I can use some to get me through January and February :)