Slow Cooker Mexican Haystacks

My favorite kind of food…. healthy and delicious!!  This is a also a great meal for anyone with kids because they can pick what toppings they want and, I can attest, may eat impressive amounts afterwards.  This idea came from Six Sisters’ Stuff and couldn’t be much easier.


Slow Cooker Mexican Haystacks

  • 6 or more frozen boneless/skinless chicken thighs
  • 1/2 packet your favorite taco seasoning
  • 1 jar chunky red salsa (I used a 24oz jar, but less would be fine too!)
  • cooked rice (we like to use brown rice!)
  • Mexican blend shredded cheese
  • corn
  • red bell pepper diced
  • onion diced
  • other toppings of your choice!


Plunk your chicken in the crock pot and sprinkle taco seasoning on top.  Dump your salsa over the chicken, cover, and cook on low for 6 – 8 hours.  Shred it up with a fork and keep warm while you cook your rice.  I cooked 2 cups dry brown rice in chicken broth (it really boosts the flavor!) and had to make one more batch for the amount of chicken we had.

Scoop some rice on your plate, add on the chicken, toppings of your choice, and enjoy!  We think all Mexican food needs cornbread on the side.  If you’re interested, this is one of our favorites: Buttery Corn Muffins.



Spicy Parmesan Shrimp Penne

This is one of those awesome dishes I found on Pinterest that is ACTUALLY fast and delicious!  No kidding.  I’ve mentioned before how there are very few meal options I will consider repeating before 2 or 3 months pass by.  We were scarfing this up for supper and I actually found myself wondering if it would be too soon if I made it again later next week…..  I think that was partly because I probably should have doubled everything for a longer lasting meal! haha  Thanks, Chungah for the idea!Spicy Parmesan Shrimp Penne

Spicy Parmesan Shrimp Penne

  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 heaping tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 3 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 lb medium shrimp, peeled, deveined, & thawed
  • 1/3 cup onion diced
  • 13 ounces whole wheat penne
  • salt & pepper to taste

In a bowl, whisk together olive oil, parmesan, garlic, brown sugar, soy sauce, & red pepper flakes.  Pour into a gallon sized ziploc bag.  Pour water into the bowl and swish it around to collect all the yummies that didn’t make it out.  Add water mixture to your ziploc bag.  Rinse off your shrimp and pull the hard tails off.  Add shrimp to the ziploc bag and turn it around to coat the shrimp.  Put in the fridge to marinate until needed. You can prepare the shrimp the night before if you’d like, earlier the day of, or if you didn’t plan enough in advance (like me), it really does work great to simply do this step prior to noodle preparation. 🙂

Cook noodles according to package directions.  When the noodles are a couple minutes away from being done, dump the onions and contents of your shrimp bag into a skillet, season with salt & pepper, and saute for a few minutes or until lightly pink.  I added just a tablespoon or so of water to the empty ziploc bag and swished it around before adding it to my skillet as well.  This way I got all the tasty goodness into my pan!  Drain penne and toss with shrimp concoction.  Serve warm with parmesan sprinkled on top!

Whole Wheat Macaroni and Cheese (with Ham!)

I am probably strange, but I don’t really like the boxed macaroni and cheese.  I can probably count the times I ate it growing up on one hand.  My husband (the noodle king) did introduce me to one of Kraft’s specialties that was pretty tasty – they make some 3 cheese kind with mini shells pasta and it has a little something to it.  Still… I can only take it so often.  Caleb doesn’t share my perspective and somehow manages to slip a box into the menu (or at least into his work lunch) about every couple months.

Regardless….  this recipe, tweaked just a tad, from 100 Days of Real Food is downright delicious and sooooo much more appetizing long-term (in my opinion haha)!  Caleb likes it too, although I don’t think anything will convince him to completely give up his boxed macaroni. 😉

Make the cheese sauce while the noodles are cooking and this recipe is on your table in no time!

Whole Wheat Macaroni and Cheese

  • 2 cups dried whole-wheat spiral pastaWhole Wheat Macaroni and Cheese with Ham
  • About 1 cup diced turkey-ham
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons whole-wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions.  While it’s cooking, saute ham in olive oil and oregano until slightly browned.  ALSO, while the noodles are cooking, melt your butter in a saucepan over medium heat.  Whisk in the flour and pepper and stir about 2 minutes or until slightly darkened.  Whisk in the milk and stir constantly until mixture reaches desired thickness.  Stir in the cheese until melted.  Combine cheese mixture with the noodles and ham and serve warm!Whole Wheat Macaroni and Cheese

*HINT* I know a spoon is slightly easier to clean, but I think using a whisk is worth the extra minute later.  It quickly loosens up the flour lumps and keeps them from lumping back up!

Baked Spaghetti

Apparently I’m on a spaghetti role lately….  to ease your mind, the Spaghetti & Meatballs and this recipe were actually made weeks apart. 🙂

Although you have to factor in about 30 minutes for baking, the prep time for this option is definitely comparable to your average spaghetti meal.  Plus, it has the added benefit of extremely easy leftovers.  You don’t have to blob sauce on or add cheese the next day – simply cut a hunk out and throw it in the microwave.  BAM.  Also, it is delicious.

Baked Spaghetti

  • About 12 ounces whole wheat spaghetti
  • 1 pound ground beefBaked Spaghetti
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper chopped
  • 1 jar (24 ounces) spaghetti sauce
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3 – 4 cups shredded cheeses*

*I used 1/2 mozzarella & 1/2 cheddar

Break spaghetti noodles in half and cook according to package directions.  Meanwhile, brown your beef.  When the beef is a couple minutes from being done, throw in your onion and pepper and cook until meat is done.  Turn off the heat and stir in the jar of sauce.  Pour about 1/3 cup of water into the sauce jar, shake it up to get all the saucy goodness, and add into the meat mixture.  (I hope you didn’t forget to put the lid on prior to shaking….)

Whisk together the parmesan, egg, and milk.  Drain the noodles when they are done and stir in egg mixture to coat.

In a greased 13″ x 9″ pan, layer half of the noodles, half of the meat, & half of the cheese.  Repeat layers.  Bake uncovered at 350° F for 30 minutes or cooked/heated through.Baked Spaghetti 1

Spaghetti & Meatballs

This is probably going to sound pretty sad, but today was my first time ever making this classic dish!  I know, I know…. what?!  Maybe it was because I didn’t grow up eating it.  We always had spaghetti with a beefy meat sauce which gives you a similar taste without the work of forming meatballs.  Whatever the case, I am pretty sure the first time I ate meatballs in my spaghetti was at college (good ol’ baked spaghetti from Sufficient Grounds at Bethel… haha).

The recipe I used is anything but complicated.  It’s actually from Kraft, although I “cheated” (aka “won”) and used off-brand parmesan because that’s how I roll.

Spaghetti & MeatballsIMG_2696a

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/3 cup Italian bread crumbs
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 (24 ounce) jar spaghetti sauce
  • shredded mozzarella cheese for topping

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Mix the first six ingredients (it works best with your hands) and shape into roughly 18 meatballs.  I like to have a small bowl of water nearby.  If you dip your hands in the water after every couple meatballs, it really keeps the mixture from sticking all over you and makes the process much quicker!

Place the meatballs onto a couple of greased pans and bake about 15 minutes or done (heated to 160ºF).

While your meatballs are in the oven, cook your spaghetti and heat up the sauce.

Stir your cooked meatballs into the sauce and serve over spaghetti noodles.  Top with shredded mozzarella cheese!  We’ll definitely be repeating this meal! 🙂

Flank Steak & Broccoli

I’m just going to go ahead and start this out by saying, I LOVE CHINESE FOOD!  It has been one of my loves since early childhood – since I was first exposed to its wonderfulness.  Chinese food featuring chicken?  That’s tasty stuff.  Chinese food featuring beef flank steak and broccoli?  It’s definitely one of my top ten meals ever!!  I had two servings for supper and ever since I finished cleaning up, I keep thinking about how much I want thirds….  There’s no way I’m going to make it through typing up this recipe and drooling over the pictures without giving in, is there? *sigh*  Abby loved this as much as her Mama and scarfed up her entire bowlful!  That a girl! 🙂

I could absolutely eat this every week for the rest of my life, but beef flank steak isn’t cheap and although Caleb enjoyed it tonight, he would probably get tired of it that often.  He just recommended an apple so I could refrain from eating the leftovers and regretting it tomorrow at lunchtime……

It seems to have worked.  I’m confident I can now finish this up without snitching thirds.  Here we go!

Beef Flank Steak & Broccoli

– Meat Marinade (prep at least an hour before cooking)Beef with broccoli stir fry

  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons water
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 3/4 pound beef flank steak thinly sliced

Pour everything but the meat into a large Ziploc bag, seal, and mush it around with your hands until well combined.  Add meat (remember to reseal the bag!) and shake it around until each piece is coated.  Place bag in fridge for at least an hour prior to supper preparation.

*Hint! If you’re planning to serve this over brown rice, start cooking it now!

– Cooking Sauce

  • 3/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1-2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon chicken granules
  • 1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger

Stir everything together in a small bowl until smooth.  Set aside.

– Veggie Stir Fry

  • about 20 ounces frozen broccoli florets
  • *4-5 carrots peeled
  • 1-2 bell peppers diced
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons + 1 tablespoon olive oil

*I use a potato peeler for my carrots.  It sounds funny, but works very well!

Saute veggies in 2 1/2 tablespoons oil until tender.  I usually start with the broccoli, then add the carrots, and finally throw in the peppers for just a couple minutes.  That way everything gets done together.

While your veggies are cooking, go ahead and start your meat.  Saute in 1 tablespoon oil and 1/2 of the cooking sauce mixture until no longer pink and cooked through.

Combine your cooked meat, veggies and the remaining cooking sauce.  Cook 1 minute or until heated through.  Serve over brown rice or noodles and try SO hard not to eat the entire thing, but don’t fight the urge for seconds.  This recipe is edited from Rainy Day Gal!Chinese flank steak stir fry

Sausage and Rice

As we are preparing to move in less than two weeks, (Wait… what!?  I don’t think the one bin I packed today is going to cut it….) I have been focusing on using up as many food items as possible in our pantry/freezer so we have less to pack.  The upside of this is getting to create my own recipes with what I have on hand.  I love it!  I would describe this recipe as having an almost fried rice taste to it, but without the soy sauce flavor.  (My hubby is not a fan of the soy sauce in fried rice, so this works out perfectly)  It has delicious sausage mixed throughout, but is chock full of healthy brown rice and vegetables!  This would work great with a variety of other veggies if you have them laying around too – carrots, beans, peas…. go ahead and get fancy!

Sausage & Rice1Sausage and Rice

  • 2 cups uncooked brown rice
  • 5 cups chicken broth
  • 1 lb pork sausage*
  • 5-7 ribs of celery chopped
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper chopped
  • optional: 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • around 1/4 cup grated parmesan

*Any type of sausage works: original, Italian, hot, whatever you’re a fan of! 🙂

Bring chicken broth to a boil.  Stir in the rice.  Cover and simmer until done, around 35 minutes.  You want the rice tender and the liquid mostly absorbed.

While the rice is cooking, brown sausage with onion, and celery.  Keep cooking until the celery is tender.  When you have 5-7 minutes of cooking left, add in the bell pepper, (optional) minced garlic, and red pepper flakes.

Stir sausage mixture and parmesan into rice over low heat.  Once everything is combined and warmed through, scoop yourself out a hearty serving!

P.S. If you’re not into spicy, omit the minced garlic and go with 1/4 teaspoon (or less) red pepper flakes. 🙂Sausage & Rice