Thursday, October 17, 2013

Taffy Apple Pizza

 This old Pampered Chef recipe combines peanut butter, apples, and caramel all in one, making it the perfect Autumn dessert. I only make this once a year, but when I do my family loves this it.


    • 1 (18 ounce) packages refrigerated sugar cookie dough
    • 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
    • 1 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
    • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
    • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
    • 2 medium granny smith apples
    • 1 cup carbonated lemon-lime beverage
    • ground cinnamon
    • 1/4 cup caramel ice cream topping


Peel, core, and slice apples.

Put sliced apples into the lemon-lime soda to soak so they won't brown.

Preheat oven to 350*.
Roll cookie dough into a 12-inch circle on a 13" baking stone that has been lightly floured.
Bake approximately 5 minutes longer than directions on package say. (My package says 10-12 minutes, so bake about 15 minutes.).

Let cool.
In a bowl, mix peanut butter, cream cheese, sugar and vanilla.
Spread over cooled cookie crust.
Then drain apples and arrange in a spiral, to cover entire "pizza".

Srinkle with cinnamon and pour over caramel topping. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

The best steak recipe you will ever try

A long time ago, shortly after college, Sarah moved out to Iowa. We wanted to get together so bad, so Katie, Candace and I all scraped up what change we had and traveled out to visit Sarah for a few days. One of the meals Sarah made for us was this really delicious steak. It was so good that I made her give me the recipe. She called them "beef kabobs", but that name did not do this one justice so I changed the name to, "the best steak recipe you'll ever try", because they taste SO good.  :)

OH!...and bonus: it's cheap, and simple! Yay!

Here it is:

1 1/2 lb. sirloin steak cut into 1-2 inch cubes
3/4 cup salad oil
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 Tbs. Honey
2 Tbs. Cider vinegar
1 1/2 tsp. ginger
1 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 1/2 green onions, finely chopped

Mix the ingredients and marinate in the fridge overnight. Turn and stir meat every few hours. 

Place meat on skewers with veges and cook on the grill... Or... if you are like me...

You can cook the steak on the stove top. I served this one with green beans and mashed potatoes.

 This is my favorite way to eat steak. Hope you like it too!

Alisha's Mom tip:
Steak can be really hard for younger children to chew. I cut mine into the squares ahead of cooking time to avoid having to cut each steak individually on each plate. Even after cutting them into small squares, though, my children still had a hard time chewing it, and we did not force them to eat it. Older kids would love this one. Just something to consider when you are thinking about trying this recipe. My husband and I love it. If your husband is a "steak and potatoes" kind of guy this is a great one to try!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Chicken Taco Salad

My husband knows that I LOVE chicken taco salad. We have  a Culver’s around where we live, and they serve Chicken Taco Salads (but only on Mondays), so from time to time he takes the family there on a Monday so I can get it. The other day he decided to surprise me and looked up on the internet how to make your own “taco salad bowl”, so I am going to show you what he found, along with my easy slow cooker “chicken taco” meat.

To make the chicken taco meat you only need three ingredients and a slow cooker.
Here they are:
1 packet of taco seasoning
Skinless boneless chicken (I used three chicken breasts)
1 (16 oz.) jar of salsa
Cook on high for 4-6 hours or on low for 6-8 hours.

When the chicken is done you will be able to shred it very easily with a fork.


The nice thing about this Mexican chicken is that you can serve it as tacos, nachos, salads, or use the leftovers to make Mexican chicken soup.
For our purposes today, I will show you our chicken taco salad.

Here are the chicken taco salad bowl directions my husband learned:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. You can use corn tortillas or flour tortillas for this one. Flip a cupcake pan upside down and spray with nonstick spray. Nest the tortilla to into the spaces between the cups, making a diamond shaped bowl. We could fit four at a time on our 12-cup pan. 

3. Cook them in the oven for about ten minutes.


4.Fill them with everything you would put into a taco.  Things to consider: beans, the taco meat above, lettuce, tomato, onion, black olives, cheese, sour cream and/or salad dressing.

Another idea is to coat the tortilla in cinnamon and sugar before you bake it and use it as a dessert bowl for ice cream or fruit!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Two Fresh Sauces, One yummy pasta meal.

Because it is October and the days are still strangely hot my garden has been flourishing even later than usual in the season...with one exception...those darn squash bugs. They are doing some damage, but not to the tomatoes.

I have made at least once a week a fresh tomato sauce. Its easy. Its zesty. And, I love the way it makes my house smell.

It goes a little something like this.
Send the kids to the garden to pick a wide variety of tomatoes.
Put a pot on the stove with a little olive oil in it, turn it on warm.

Wash and chop the tomatoes. Don't peel them.
Toss them into the pot.
Add some salt, basil, oregano. Really add whatever floats your boat.

Sometimes I add onion and pepper, but not always.

Simmer on low for a few hours and every now and then give them all a good mush together.  The juices come out of the tomatoes. Oh yum.

Adding just a hint of sugar at the end takes a little bit of the tang away, but don't over do it.

Season to taste. Serve hot over noodles. Or whatever. I'll admit I eat the stuff plain jane off the spoon.

You can also toss it all into a blender and made a smoother sauce with it.  But, we tend to eat it chunky. This is my summer sauce.  The fresh off the vine sauce. I save the thicker stuff for the coming days of cold when all the tomatoes are canned or store bought.


And, just because I cant help myself I made an alfredo sauce too.  Every now and then I like to serve both sauces and give everything a little choice in the matter. This Alfredo is so delicious that I stand over my pot and spoon it into my mouth as if I were a kid with cookie dough. (Its also amazing cold with a few pretzels to dip into it!)

Warm up the pot.
Add some butter.
Add some freshly cut up garlic.
I don't know how much. Just enough. A lot.  Real butter and garlic are good for you.
Now add an entire package of cream cheese.
Stir slowly.
When it is all melted together, add about a cup of milk, and some shredded parmesan (about 8 ounces).

Melt all together.  Do this to taste and texture. If you want it thicker, add less milk and more cheese. If you want it thinner add more milk.  You cant go wrong.

Its amazing.

 We serve these two sauces side by side. 
The noodles are the Kroger brand "Simply Truth"  Angel hair pasta noodles. On sale often for 99 cents a package. 

This makes me hungry. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Stuffed Cabbage

Happy 90th Birthday Barbara Buchko!!

I am happy to share with you a recipe I got from my husband's grandmother, Barbara Buchko. Grandma Barb decided to teach me her Slovak  family "pass-down" recipe, holubky during my engagement to my husband. This stuffed cabbage recipe was taught to Barb when she married her husband, because it was something he ate growing up. My husband ate this growing up, and now she has passed it on to me so it can stay in the family. 

My husband loves this recipe and I have learned to appreciate it more and more over the past few years. It is a wonderful comfort food.

Here is Grandma Barb's "secret" stuffed cabbage recipe that I will someday pass on to my children:

1 lb. ground chuck
1 ¾  cup rice
1 small onion
2 Tbs. salt
3 to 4 slices bacon
1 can diced tomatoes
¼ cup vinegar

1.       Mix meat and salt in a large bowl. Mix well! Grandma Barb taught me to use my hands and not a spoon, to make sure that the salt is mixed in really good. 
2.       Add onion and rice in to the meat. Mix well…again, with the hands.

3.       Cut core out of the cabbage.
4.       Par boil the cabbage.
5.       Lift leafs off as they become soft. 

6.       Trim the vein (the thick middle part of the top of the leaf that is tough to chew) of the cabbage leaf.
7.       Put meat mix in leaf. Fold over and pull back as you fold over to make a nice tight roll. 

8.     Stack rolls up on a plate as you make them. 

9. Place cabbage rolls in the bottom of the big pot.  

10. Add water, tomatoes and vinegar. Cover and cook for approx. 2 1/2 hours. (More or less, depending on the temp of the stove. Rice should be cooked inside, and cabbage should be soft.)

Serve with buttered French loaf bread.

This recipe makes  A LOT, so it is great for when large families get together. It also makes great leftovers because it reheats well and stays true to its texture even after being reheated. They also freeze well. Dinner one day, lunch the next!

I hope you give this one a try.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Bite size cookies inspired by classic animal crackers

Hello Mommas!

Alisha here.

We're back in business!
WAHOO!! We missed all of you.

We have lots of fun ideas coming your way in the next few weeks, so I hope you keep coming back to check out what is new in our kitchens lately.

When I have enough time and energy, I really do like cooking a lot!! I enjoy trying new recipes. In between my tried-and-true, go-to-in-a-pinch, recipes, I like to try to surprise my husband and my kids with new recipes that I think will taste good. I used to sell Pampered Chef, and I think that maybe I still have a little of that in me. I am not a fan of really expensive recipes that take a long time to cook, but I am willing to take a little longer to make a recipe if I know it is going to impress the people I am serving. It is for this reason that I find myself always on the hunt for new recipe ideas, "borrowing" recipes from cookbooks, magazines, other sites, friends, etc. I hope to bring you recipes that are easy and fun to make, and impressive to serve.

The recipe I am posting today is straight out of my Family Fun magazine. I am also including some of my own personal comments in red. This is an easy recipe that is fun to make with your kid's help! My daughter LOVED helping me measure ingredients, mix the dough, and cut out these adorable little bite-size cookies. In fact, as we were using the cookie cutters she asked me, "Mommy, can we make these everyday?"  :)

"... Uhhhhhhh.. no.. :) ... but I am glad you are having fun."  :)

Serve these cookies with milk to make a fun after-school snack.


  • 1/3 cup  unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup  sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 tablespoons  honey
  • 2 cups  whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 teaspoon  baking powder
  • 1/4 tablespoon  salt
1. Place the butter and sugar in a large bowl, then use a hand or stand mixer set on medium to blend them until they're light and fluffy. Add the egg and honey and blend well.

2. In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. With the mixer set on low, add the flour mixture to the other ingredients, a third at a time, blending well. If the dough is too soft, add more flour, up to three tablespoons. (When my husband tried these cookies he suggested that it might taste good to add cinnamon, as well. We did not do this, but I think he might be right. If anyone tries it will you please leave us a comment and let us know how it went?)

3. Heat the oven to 350 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Place the dough between two parchment sheets and roll it into an 1/8-inch-thick circle. (We did not have parchment paper, so I cleaned off the counter top and we rolled it out right onto our counter top.)

4. Form the dough into shapes using mini animal-cookie cutters. (We did not have animal shaped cutters, so we just used what we had: letters and shapes. This actually worked better for our family because it provided another learning opportunity for our preschooler and kindergartener)

(My daughter really wanted to play in the dough, so while the cookies were in the oven I gave here a big handful and let her make what she called a "volcano" :) ....Just one more bonus with this recipe: it gives kids a chance to be creative. Have FUN!!!)

Place the cookies on the baking sheets, spacing them a half inch apart. Bake until the edges of the cookies begin to brown, about 10 minutes. Let them cool on the baking sheets for 10 minutes, then transfer them to a rack to cool completely.

That's all there is to it.

OH! And make sure you make a plate for yourself, you super mom, you! :)

Blessings from my kitchen to yours,

Alisha Hughes,
A.KA. Out of the Box Mommy