Nachos: Easy Snack or Lunch

I got this idea last time I visited my sister in Texas.  Truthfully, many of my best ideas originate with her -- she's pretty amazing.  I don't know why I never think of making nachos. When I saw her serve these to the herd of kids that come to her house after school I wanted to steal the plate, hide in a closet, and enjoy them all to myself (I didn't do this of course.  I just made sure I stood really close to the plate so I could get my share -- yep, I'm that kind of adult).

Such a quick and easy lunch or snack.  My toddler loves them as much as I do.  I pile the chips high with good-for-you add-ons to make them healthy-ish.

Easy Nachos
Simply place a layer of good tortilla chips on a baking sheet.  Sprinkle with fat free refried beans, a mix of shredded mexican cheese (I like Sargento's 4-Cheese Mexican Mix), and Queso Fresco.  Heat in the over at 375 degrees for 8 - 10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the beans are warm.

Remove from the oven and top with anything else you like.  Some of our favorites include salsa, avocado, plain Greek yogurt, corn, and shredded lettuce.  Really, whatever I have in my refrigerator that needs to be used goes on these nachos.

We put the baking sheet in the middle of the table and everyone serves themselves.

Slow Cooker Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

On Sunday evenings, when I'm planning my week, I almost always look at the weather forecast before I do anything else.  The weather determines my daughter's activity options and inspires what I'll make for meals.  The beginning of this week started with highs near 80 but today rain came in and we had cool fall temps below 60 and all I could think to make was soup.  Well, and pie.  A steamy, hot apple pie.

Sadly, I can't share with you the apple pie recipe, but doesn't it look pretty?  My sister swore me to secrecy and made me promise I would stop giving out our family's recipe.  So sorry! But if you ever want me to make you one, I will.

Here's the soup recipe I found years ago in an old Betty Crocker slow cooker cookbook.  It makes my house smell so good and gets everyone in the mood for a comforting dinner.

Slow Cooker Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soap
adapted from a Betty Crocker recipe

1lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs (5 thighs), cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 cup uncooked wild rice
1/4 cup chopped onions
2 cans condensed cream of potato soup (10 3/4 oz each)
1 can (14 oz) chicken broth w/ roasted garlic 
2 cups frozen sliced carrots 
1 cup half-and-half

Place chicken in a slow cooker.  Mix wild rice, onions, soup, broth, and carrots; pour over chicken.  (if you can't find broth with roasted garlic just add 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder to regular broth).  

Cover and cook on low heat for 6 - 7 hours or until chicken is no longer pink in the center.

Stir in half-and-half.  Cover and cook on high heat 15 - 30 minutes or until hot. 

Note:  Sometimes my slow cooker cooks a little hot and soups become thicker than I like, with the broth evaporating.  If this happens to you reduce the crockpot to warm setting and add a bit more broth.

Chocolate Pudding Pie with Gingersnap Crumb Crust

I have this beautiful friend named Lindsey.  She's that kind of gal that the instant you meet her you know she's someone special.  When I hardly knew her and we hadn't been friends very long, she was the one I called on a day I received horrible news.  She prayed with me and took care of the things I just couldn't manage that day.  She is a true blessing to my life.  She's my "antique shopping" and "lets sit outside for a long lunch while we ponder life and God's plans for us" girlfriend.  I love her.

Just when I thought our friendship couldn't possibly get any better, she gave me this -- the recipe to an amazing, decedent, rich chocolate pie.  Now I love her even more (her and I share this ridiculous true love for amazing desserts).  With her permission I'm sharing it with you.

Chocolate Pudding Pie with Gingersnap Crumb Crust

Genessee Royale Chocolate Pudding Pie
Genessee Royale Bistro is this great little restaurant in the West Bottoms of Kansas City, MO.  That is where this pie was first discovered by Lindsey and a friend of her's named Stephanie Wildman.  Stephanie, whom I've never met, must be pure baking genius.  She interpreted her taste of Gesessee Royale's pie in this recipe.

Gingersnap Crumb Crust
1 1/2 cups gingersnap crumbs
3 tablespoons sugar
pinch of salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

In a large bowl mix the crumbs, sugar and salt.  Add the butter and stir until evenly combined.
Press the mixture into a pie tin with your fingers, striving to make the distribution and thickness (1/8 inch) of the crumb crust as event and compacted as possible.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350.  Bake the crust for 8 minutes uncovered.  Cool at room temperature and refrigerate before filling.

Chocolate Pudding
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
1 cup milk
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon vanilla

Whisk sugar and next three ingredients in a small bowl.  Whisk together egg yolks and milk in a separate bowl.

Melt butter in a 2 quart heavy saucepan over medium heat.  Add sugar mixture to melted butter, whisking until blended.  Gradually whisk in milk mixture.  Cook, whisking constantly, until mixture in thickened and bubbly.

Remove from heat.  Add chocolate chips and vanilla, stirring until chocolate is melted.  Cool slightly.

Pour warm filling into piecrust.  Bake at 375 for 12 minutes.  Cool completely on a wire rack.  Store in the refrigerator.  Drizzle individual slices with hot caramel sauce and top with fresh whipped cream when ready to serve.

Hot Caramel Sauce
3/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup whipping cream
2 teaspoons vanilla

Cook butter and brown sugar in a heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring until butter melts and mixture is smooth.  Gradually stir in 3/4 cup whipping cream.  Bring mixture to a boil, stirring constantly over medium heat for 3 minutes.  Remove from heat; stir in vanilla and cool slightly.

Maggie's 'Big Girl' Room

I am so excited about Maggie's toddler room.  I was a little worried about the lilac and buttercup colors at first but it turned out better than I pictured it in my head, and she loves it!

More details including paint colors and resources are listed on Project Nursery.

Maggie's Lilac and Yellow Semi-Vintage Toddler Room

She's very proud of her big bed.

The best I could do to get a full view photo.   The curtains are actually shower curtains from Anthropologie. They are double layered with beautiful lace on the scalloped bottom.

I love this bed! Jared had to cut the rails shorter to fit a modern day full size mattress but it was worth it.  Thanks to my friend Lindsey for finding it.  

Just in case the yellow and lilac didn't work together on their own, I had a pillow made with a purple bird and yellow bird to help bring them together.  And because I'm slightly obsessed with birds (the lamp also has 3 little birds on it)

This antique mirror is the perfect 'full size' mirror for a toddler. Hung low on the wall it reminds me of a fairy tale.

Inexpensive art!  Paintings by Oopsy Daisy Too at Target.

I updated the old brass knobs to these adorable floral knobs from Anthropologie.

This was Maggie's great-grandmother's toddler chair.

A few things stayed from her nursery. This bird feeder lamp from Land of Nod and this watering can a friend's mom made with her name on it.

Warm and Hearty Oatmeal

This was our first really cold morning of the season. The wind is howling and when I took Maggie to preschool it was only 39 degrees.  What's hot and filling, but quick and easy? Oatmeal! Cooking Light's "Rise and Shine Oatmeal" is creamy, a bit sweet and filled with lots of good stuff.

Rise and Shine Oatmeal
Cooking Light 2009 Annual Recipes.  Page 323

  • 2 cups low-fat milk
  • 2 cups regular oats
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 6 tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted (I buy the kind that come in a bag already toasted)
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
Bring milk to a boil over medium heat.  Stir in oats; cook for 5 minutes.  Remove from heat; stir in raisins, honey, salt, vanilla, and cinnamon.  Serve with almonds and sugar.  **I added the sugar and just a handful of almonds before serving.

Apple Bites, Pumpkin Bites and Sweet Acorn Squash

I've already discovered some new favorites for fall and IT'S ONLY MID-SEPTEMBER! I hope the whole season continues with sweet new treats, decorating ideas and 'gourd education.'

Gourds: Decorations and Dinner
These look like pumpkins don't they?  They make great decorations for the autumn season, but they're actually acorn squash found at my local farmer's market. And the longer they sit out as table decor the sweeter they'll become.  When you're ready to cook just halve the squash and remove seeds, fill with butter, brown sugar, and spices of choice.  Roast at 350' for 45 minutes or so.
White/Yellow is Celebration Winter Squash; All White is White Ghost Heirloom; The green is Sweet Dumpling, the sweetest.  
Caramel Apples Bites
How cute are these?  My neighbor brought them over for Ladies Night at my house and everyone oohed and awed.  So simple to make.  Using a mellon scoop, create mini apple balls and soak them in lemon water.  Melt caramels (or make your own) and after putting the stick in the apple balls dip them in caramel.  Serve, or you can also add nuts and candies.

Pumpkin Pie Bites
I love finger foods, especially desserts you can pick up and pop in your mouth.  And pie is by far my favorite dessert. So these little guys are pretty much perfect.  You can find the recipe and instructions on Bakerella.

Fall Decorations for Odd Pieces
I adore this odd, metal tower antique thing-y that was handed down to me but I struggle with what to do with it.  It often gets transitioned from room to room and currently resides on my covered porch, just off the kitchen.  I decided to use it for candles for the fall and my mom suggested I add a few pumpkins.  I really like the result.  It's classy and cozy -- great for a long girl chats on the porch with hot apple cider and blankets.

Salty Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Oh! Yum! I have a nephew who I'm pretty sure thinks I'm synonymous with chocolate chip cookies...this is my way of winning his heart.  I'm going to visit him soon so I had to bake some cookies so he'll still love me.  Peanut butter and salt sounded good.  These were either going to turn out really bad or really good.  Luckily it was the latter.  Try to eat just one...I dare you.

Salty Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 eggs, room temperature is best
2 generous tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 11.5oz package Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chunks
fine sea salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line cookie sheet with parchment paper or silpat.

Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer beat butter, peanut butter, and sugars until creamy.  This will take longer than you expect.  Step away from the mixer.  When you return add the eggs one at a time.  Once incorporated add the honey, water, and vanilla.  Reduce the mixer to low and slowly add the flour mixture.  Take time to let the flour get fully mixed in before adding more.  Once all the flour is in and well combined fold in the full bag of chocolate chunks.  Don't mix these in on high or the chunks will break apart.

Plop (yes, that's the technical word) spoonfuls of the dough onto your cookie sheet. Don't try to make them perfect or pretty. You should be able to bake a dozen at a time depending on size and get 2 - 3 dozen cookies.

Sprinkle the cookies with fine sea salt.

Bake at 375 for 10 minutes or until the cookies appear a golden brown.  Remove to a cooling rack and let cool for as long as you can resist eating them.  Enjoy.