Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Chantilly Potatoes

This is my favorite potato recipe ever! You can't go wrong with mashed potatoes mixed with heavy cream and swiss cheese! So delicious! I make these potatoes every year for Christmas and Easter. It's always a hit with my family.

Printable Recipe

Chantilly Potatoes
5 lbs potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups shredded swiss cheese
1 1/2 cups parmesan cheese

Boil potatoes until tender; drain. Combine potatoes with salt and pepper, then mash. In a separate bowl, beat cream until peaks form. Fold 2/3 of the cream into the mashed potatoes until mostly absorbed. Gently spoon into a greased 9x13 baking dish. It doesn't have to be even on top. Be careful not to deflate the potato layer. Fold parmesan cheese and all but 1/2 cup of the swiss cheese into remaining cream. Spread over potatoes. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. If serving immediately, broil for 2-3 minutes until heated through and brown on top. If serving later, cover and refrigerate. Bake at 400 for 20 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes.

Recipe adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe

Monday, March 23, 2015

Penne with Chicken and Pesto

Penne with Chicken and Pesto
16 oz pkg penne pasta
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
salt and pepper to taste
2 cloves garlic
1 1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup pesto sauce
3 Tbsp parmesan cheese

Cook pasta according to directions on package; drain.

Meanwhile, heat butter and olive oil in a large skillet. Season chicken with salt and pepper and place in the skillet. Cook chicken for 5-6 minutes on each side until cooked through. Remove from skillet.

Add garlic to the skillet. Cook for about 30 seconds until fragrant. Add heavy cream, pesto sauce, parmesan cheese, and salt and pepper to the skillet. Heat to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes. Slice chicken and return to the skillet. Toss pasta with chicken and sauce.

Serves 6

Recipe adapted from Real Mom Kitchen

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Green Chile Enchiladas

I love these enchiladas. They're like cheese enchiladas with a roasted chile inside. Anaheim peppers are a milder pepper but sometimes they can be a little spicy. Every single chile has a different amount of heat. I tasted a little piece of each pepper before I used it. Then I made a large pan with the milder chiles for the kids and a small pan with the spicier chiles for my husband. These enchiladas turned out great. 

Green Chile Enchiladas
1 1/2 lbs tomatillos (about 12)
3 cloves garlic, still in their peels
2 jalapenos
1 tsp salt
5-6 large Anaheim peppers
16-20 corn tortillas
canola oil
1/2 lb-1 lb grated monterey jack cheese
chopped cilantro

To prepare salsa, remove husks from tomatillos. Rinse off the tomatillos, cut them in half, and place them cut-side down on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Place the garlic and jalapenos on the baking sheet with the tomatillos. Broil on the top rack in the oven for 5-7 minutes until tomatillos are lightly charred. Remove from oven and let cool. Cut open the jalapenos and discard seeds and stems. Remove garlic from the skins and discard skins. Place tomatillos, garlic, jalapenos, and salt in a blender. Pulse until well pureed. Set aside. 

To prepare anaheim peppers, place on a baking sheet and broil until charred, about 5 minutes on each side. (I placed them on the same baking sheet with the tomatillos, garlic, and jalapeno.) Place blackened chiles in a brown paper bag. Close the bag and let sit for 5 minutes. Remove the chiles, peel off the skin and discard skin. Slice open the chiles and remove and discard the seeds. Slice the chiles into strips.

Heat a few Tbsps of canola oil in a frying pan on medium high heat. Once the oil is hot, add a corn tortilla to the pan. The tortilla will sizzle as it hits the pan. Using a metal spatula, turn it over and cook until little pockets of air start to bubble up in the tortilla. Remove from pan, shaking off any excess oil, and place on a plate lined with paper towels. Cook all of the tortillas this way, separating the tortillas with paper towels. 

Preheat the oven to 350. Spread a little bit of the tomatillo salsa in the bottom of a 9x13 and 8x8 baking dish. Place grated cheese in the center of the tortilla, top with a strip or two of the green chile. Roll up and place in baking dish. Repeat with remaining tortillas. Spread desired amount of tomatillo salsa over the enchiladas and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Garnish with fresh cilantro. 

Serves 8

Recipe adapted from Simply Recipes

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Chocolate Mint Poke Cake

I'll admit I don't do too much for St. Patrick's Day. I'm all about keeping things simple. A leprechaun coming to my house and destroying it doesn't really sound simple to me. The leprechaun did come to our house and he left some treats for my kids. That's about all we did and my kids are perfectly fine with that. But I did make a green dessert for my family. This cake was so delicious. It was so moist and full of flavor. Chocolate and mint is one of my favorite flavors and this cake did not disappoint. It's perfect for St. Patrick's Day or any time of the year!

Printable Recipe

Chocolate Mint Poke Cake
1 chocolate cake mix (9x13 pan size), plus water, oil, and eggs
1 can (14 or 14.5 oz) sweetened condensed milk
1 jar (10-12 oz) hot fudge topping
1 1/4 tsp peppermint extract, divided
8 oz Cool Whip, thawed
4-5 drops green food coloring
1 cup Oreos, crushed

Mix and bake cake according to the directions on the box. Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes.

Pour sweetened condensed milk in a small bowl. Add 1/2 tsp peppermint extract and mix well.

Remove lid from the jar of hot fudge and microwave for 30-60 seconds, until it is pourable. Stir in 1/2 tsp peppermint extract.

Once the cake has cooled for 5 minutes, poke several holes in the cake with the handle of a wooden spoon. Pour the sweetened condensed milk over the cake, making sure to get it in all the holes. Spread with a spatula if needed. Pour the hot fudge over the cake, making sure to get it in all the holes. Cool the cake completely before continuing.

Stir remaining 1/4 tsp peppermint extract and green food coloring into the Cool Whip. Spread over the cooled cake and sprinkle with crushed Oreos. Chill for several hours before serving.

Makes 20-24 squares

Recipe from Crazy for Crust

Monday, March 16, 2015

Za-Zoom Meatballs

My kids love meatballs! I always love to try new meatball recipes so we can have more of a variety. I can always tell how good something is by how clean my kids' plates are. This was a clean plate meal. It's not your typical meatball. It has kind of an Asian twist. So good!

Printable Recipe

Za-Zoom Meatballs

7 Tbsp low sodium soy sauce
6 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp garlic salt
1/4 cup water
3 green onions, diced
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
2 lbs ground beef
2 cups panko bread crumbs

1 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 1/2 cup water
1 tsp ginger
1 1/2 cup ketchup
1/3 cup pineapple juice
1/3 cup vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

To make meatballs mix together all ingredients except ground beef and bread crumbs. Let sit for 10 minutes. Whisk together all of the sauce ingredients and set aside. Place ground beef in a large bowl and make a well in the center. Pour the bread crumbs in the well and pour soy sauce mixture over the crumbs. Blend together with hands. Shape into meatballs and brown in oil. Place meatballs in a baking dish and pour sauce on top. Bake at 300 for 1 hour. Serve over rice.

serves 8

adapted from The Open Pantry

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Magic Kingdom

Magic Kingdom is the most popular of the Disney World parks and it is also my favorite. It is the park that is the most like Disneyland. It was very similar but yet there were enough differences to make it unique. To me, it was like someone picked up Disneyland, shook it around a bit, took out a few attractions, and added a few. It seemed very familiar and I knew my way around the park. But it also was different enough that I found myself walking in the wrong direction outside of Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin. It's in a totally different place in Tomorrowland than I'm used to!

Fast Pass+
Magic Kingdom has more fast pass+ rides than any of the other parks. You can choose any 3 of the following:

Ariel's Grotto
The Barnstormer
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin
Dumbo the Flying Elephant
Enchanted Tales with Belle
Festival of Fantasy parade
The Haunted Mansion
It's a Small World
Jungle Cruise
Mad Tea Party
The Magic Carpets of Aladdin
Main Street Electrical Parade
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
Mickey's PhilharMagic
Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor
Peter Pan's Flight
Pirates of the Caribbean
Princess Fairytale Hall: Meet Cinderella and a Visiting Princess
Princess Fairytale Hall: Meet Anna and Elsa from Frozen
Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
Space Mountain
Splash Mountain
Tomorrowland Speedway
Town Square Theater Mickey Mouse Meet and Greet
Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid
Wishes Nighttime Spectacular

As you can see, there are many choices. You can choose form most rides and also character experiences and parades.

I would recommend getting fast passes for some of the bigger rides like Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Space Mountain, or Splash Mountain. The lines for those rides usually get pretty long so it's always good to have fast passes for those. If you have a princess fan in your family, it's a good idea to book fast passes to meet either Cinderella or Anna and Elsa. Without a fast pass, you're looking at a wait that's at least an hour on a good day.

When we went to Disney World last year, I booked my fast passes 30 days before our trip. All of the fast passes to meet Anna and Elsa were already booked! Crazy, right! With me being the persistent person that I am, I was determined to get fast passes. So I checked every day and I split our family up a little. It's hard to book 6 fast passes at the same time, especially for something that goes quick. Somehow I ended up booking all 6 fast passes to meet the Frozen sisters within the same window. They weren't all at the exact same time but there was about a half hour that overlapped with all of our passes. So we only had to wait 10 minutes to meet them! The wait time posted was over 2 hours!

The best thing I can recommend with the fast pass+ at Magic Kingdom is to book the rides or attractions that you really want to experience first thing in the morning. Once you've used those fast passes, check the wait times on your My Disney Experience app to see which rides have the longest wait. Then go to a kiosk and book a fast pass+ for one of those rides and then head to that ride. Once you've ridden that, do it again. We did this over and over. We probably used about 10 fast passes in one day. The longest we had to wait in line that day was about 15 minutes. Keep in mind that it was raining that morning so that affected the crowds. But I'd say we had a very successful day!

Here are some of my favorite things about Magic Kingdom:

Enchanted Tales with Belle
If you get a chance, you definitely need to do this. It's a character experience and a show combined. They choose volunteers to act out the story of Beauty and the Beast. Belle comes into the room and all of the volunteers retell the story. It only takes about 5-10 minutes for the show and then Belle takes pictures with everyone who participated. My husband was a lucky "volunteer" who got chosen. Anyone who knows him knows that he hates being the center of attention or doing anything like this. It was so fun and we loved it! The wait for this is sometimes pretty long so if this is a priority then I would recommend getting a fast pass+ for this.

Festival of Fantasy Parade
This was a really awesome parade. We really loved it! It featured most of the Disney characters including Elsa and Anna. You definitely need to check this parade out if you get a chance.

Monster's Inc. Laugh Floor
This was one of the highlights of our trip. This is an interactive show with the characters from Monster's Inc. You're watching the characters on the screen but they're interacting with the audience and choosing people to pick on. They pick a few people from the audience to give a hard time to throughout the whole show. It's really funny! The best part was when they showed "Boo" from Monster's Inc. and I looked up at the screen and saw my adorable little girl! Who wouldn't want their child featured as one of the cutest characters ever? They also picked my son from the audience to tell him some jokes. This was definitely a really fun show, and not just because my kids were featured!

Talking Mickey
Have you ever met a Mickey Mouse who talks? Well in Town Square you can meet talking Mickey. It was kinda crazy to hear him talk but it was so much fun. Definitely worth waiting in line for.

Favorite food at Magic Kingdom
We ate at Columbia Harbour House and ordered a Lobster Roll which was really good.

We also ate at Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Cafe. Their selection includes hamburgers, barbecue pork sandwiches, and chicken sandwiches. My daughter fell down outside of this restaurant and started crying. One of the employees felt bad for her so they gave her a free brownie. That's one of the things I love about Disney! They make everyone feel special.

You also need try to a Dole Whip at Aloha Isle. This was the first time I've ever had one even though I've been to Disneyland multiple times. I thought it was good but my daughter got the Dole twist with orange and I liked that a little better than the Dole Whip Float.

Favorite Rides
Hands down, my favorite ride at Magic Kingdom is Splash Mountain. There's something very nostalgic about that ride that brings me back to my childhood. We love all of the rides at Magic Kingdom but some of our other favorites include Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Space Mountain. Unfortunately, Seven Dwarfs' Mine Train was not open yet when we were there so my kids were super bummed about that. That just means we need to go again, right?

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Chipotle Chicken Tacos

We probably eat Mexican food once or twice a week at our house because we love it so much! I love finding different variations of my favorites, like tacos, so we can switch it up a little. This taco recipe is one of my favorites. It's so packed with flavor and so delicious!

Printable Recipe

Chipotle Chicken Tacos
2 Tbsp butter
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp minced canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
1/2 cup orange juice
1 Tbsp worcestershire sauce
3/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, divided
2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 tsp yellow mustard
salt and pepper
12 (6 inch) flour tortillas, warmed
Toppings: Lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, avocado, sour cream

Melt butter in a large skillet. Add garlic and chipotle peppers and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in orange juice, worcestershire sauce, and 1/2 cup of cilantro. Bring to a boil. Add chicken and simmer, covered, at medium-low heat for 12-13 minutes, flipping chicken halfway through cooking. When chicken is cooked through, transfer to a plate and tent with foil.

Increase the heat to medium-high and cook until the sauce is reduced to 1/4 cup, about 3-5 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in yellow mustard. Using two forks, shred the chicken into bite sized pieces. Return to skillet and coat evenly with sauce. Add remaining cilantro and toss evenly. Season with salt and pepper. Serve in warm tortillas topped with lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, avocado, and sour cream.

Serves 6-8

Recipe adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Chicken Roll-Ups

This is one of my family's favorite recipes. My kids love it so much and they always beg me to make it!
Printable Recipe

Chicken Roll-Ups
2 cans crescent rolls
1 package stuffing mix, crushed
4 Tbsp. butter, melted

1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
2 Tbsp. butter, softened
2 cups cooked chicken, shredded
1 can mushrooms, chopped
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp salt

1 can cream of chicken soup
1/2 cup sour cream

Combine ingredients for the filling. Place 2 Tbsp of the filling in each crescent and roll them up, securing all ends tightly so the filling does not come out. Dip each crescent in butter and then in the crushed stuffing mix. Place on a cookie sheet and bake at 375 for 20 minutes. Serve with heated sauce. 

Makes 16

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Animal Kingdom

We loved Animal Kingdom! This was one of our favorite parks. If it had more rides it probably would've been our favorite for sure. This really is an amazing place!

This park was separated into 4 sections: Dinoland, Discovery Island, Africa, and Asia.

We loved Dinoland! The atmosphere was so much fun! It was almost like we were in the middle of the Flintstones. There were a few rides here: Dinosaur, Primeval Whirl, and TriceraTop Spin. My favorite of these rides was Dinosaur. It was a lot like the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland but with dinosaurs everywhere. So much fun! Primeval Whirl was a bigger ride with a height requirement of 48". It was fun but it was a little too jerky for me. TriceraTop Spin was just like Dumbo except it had dinosaurs instead of elephants.

Discovery Island
This part of the park has a lot of fun attractions like The Tree of Life, Discovery Island Trails, and It's Tough to Be a Bug.

Asia has Kali River Rapids and Expedition Everest. Unfortunately, we didn't go on Kali River Rapids because it was raining all day but I'm sure it's similar to other rapid rides at other theme parks. Expedition Everest was probably one of my favorite rides I've ever been on at any theme park. This ride had everything, including big drops and riding backwards. It was so much fun!

We ate lunch at Yak & Yeti Local Food Cafe. It was Asian food with choices like honey chicken, teriyaki beef bowls, and egg rolls.This was our favorite meal we ate at Disney World. I would definitely recommend eating here. So good!
In Africa was Kilimanjaro Safaris which was my favorite thing about Animal Kingdom. You get on a big safari bus that takes you through "Africa" to look at all the animals. I was so surprised at how many animals we saw and how close they were. It was amazing! Way better than a zoo.

Fast Pass+
There aren't a lot of rides here but these are the Fast Pass+ choices:

Expedition Everest
Festival of the Lion King
Finding Nemo-The Musical
It's Tough to Be a Bug!
Kali River Rapids
Kilimanjaro Safaris
Primeval Whirl

If your family is into rides, like mine, I would recommend booking fast passes for Expedition Everest, Dinosaur, and Kilimanjaro Safaris. But it just depends on your preference.

If you book fast passes for other rides or attractions, you'll want to get in line early for Kilimanjaro Safaris because the line gets long pretty early in the day. We kind of lucked out because it was raining all day and there were no lines. We rode everything multiple times. The downside of the rain is everything here is pretty much outside so it was very hard to stay dry.

We only saw two shows here: Finding Nemo-The Musical and It's Tough To Be A Bug. I really loved Finding Nemo-The Musical! It's a big theater musical production of Finding Nemo. It's goes through the whole story with the addition of music. It really was so cute! This is also a great way to stay dry if it's raining! It's Tough To Be A Bug is a 3D movie that is also played at California Adventure.

The characters here are really fun. Mickey and Minnie are dressed like they're going on a safari. You can also meet a lot of the animal themed characters like King Louie and Baloo, Rafiki, Russel and Dug, and Pocahontas.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Cuban Street Tacos

Printable Recipe

Cuban Street Tacos
4 lb boneless pork butt or pork top loin roast, cut into 2-inch chunks
1 Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 cup water
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp dried oregano
2 bay leaves
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, minced
1 onion, chopped
juice of 1 lime
1 medium orange, halved and juiced, rinds reserved

corn or flour tortillas
chopped cilantro
chopped lettuce
chopped tomatoes
shredded cheese
sour cream

Rub the pieces of pork with salt. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

In a dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot, heat oil over medium heat until the oil is hot. Add pork and sear each piece on all sides, working in batches, if needed. Place the browned pork in a slow cooker. In the same pot used to sear the pork, pour in the water and chicken broth, scraping the bottom of the pan to the get all of the brown bits from the bottom. Add pepper, cumin, chili powder, oregano, bay leaves, garlic, jalapenos, onion, lime juice, orange juice, and orange rinds and bring to a simmer. Pour the mixture over the pork in the slow cooker and cook on low for 6-8 hours, until the pork is very tender.

Remove the bay leaves and orange rinds and discard. Remove the pork into a bowl and set aside. Pour the liquid from the slow cooker into a pot on the stove and bring to a boil over high heat. Let the mixture boil until it is reduced to about 1 cup and is slightly thickened, about 10-15 minutes.

Shred the pork and place on a large platter. Spoon the sauce over the pork. Serve in tortillas topped with desired garnishes.

Serves 8-10

Recipe adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe
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