Slow Cooker Kielbasa

If you have ever been to a social gathering at my house, this may surprise you. I typically plan parties down to the minute so everything is done before the guests get to my house so I can enjoy without running around the kitchen or grill like a psycho. My plan is to have everything set and ready and be enjoying a bit of wine before they come in my calm cool and collected place.  That being said, it rarely (and by rarely I mean never) works out that way.

You see, I plan for weeks but inevitably at the grocery store, something comes over me and I throw my plan out the window and start over - usually on the day of the gathering because something always comes up the day before when I meant to shop.

So when my guests arrive, I'm usually frantically racing around the kitchen, not ready and tweaking the brilliant plan that came to me two hours before wondering WHY I didn't stick with the original plan.

This dish is one that you theoretically could stick in your slow cooker and truly have ready when your company arrives. One day, I'd like to have a party where everything is ready including me and I'm calmly sipping a glass of wine when my guests arrive. I'm totally going to make that my resolution for 2013. See how organized I am? Already looking to the new year....

Slow Cooker Kielbasa
Recipe slightly adapted from Brown Eyed Baker

12 ozs sauerkraut
1 lb polska kielbasa - I used turkey kielbasa which had a much lower fat content and no one knew!
6 ozs ale style beer
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 vidalia onion, sliced
Buns, mustard and toppings

  1. Rinse sauerkraut. This is key. Otherwise it is, well, sour (sauer?) and kind of overpowering. Pour into slow cooker and top with kielbasa.
  2. In small bowl, combine beer, brown sugar and red pepper flakes and pour over kielbasa.
  3. Cook on low 6-7 hours.
  4. Add onions and turn cooker up to high and cook another 30 minutes to one hour.
  5. Serve on buns with toppings.

Bacon Wrapped Chicken Wings

Are you ready for a couple confessions? Because this post comes with TWO.

1. I frequently lose all sense when it comes to cooking. Seriously. These wings came about when I was trying to come up with a way to do them in the oven. Remember I told you about my husband's freakish obsession with wings? He wants them all the time. It bothers me. There are so many other things to ruin your diet on that do not include skin and bones which I hate.

Anyway, I had some leftover wings in the freezer and knew that as long as they were lurking, chances were good that someone was going to ask me to fry them up. So I googled and found all kinds of promises that you could make wings crispy in the oven - just as crispy as if you fried. You know, this needs to go on that urban legend site. You can't. Okay? People will keep telling you you can, but I'm going to step out and say it is just not the same.

So you see, my intention was to make a healthier version of his beloved wing. Something took over, however, and I found myself wrapping them in bacon. I don't think that was a win in my quest to healthify (sometimes I make words up) the wings.

2. I have apparently lost my touch in the kitchen. I burn stuff every day. I think it is the electric stove that I have here. It is one of those flat surface stoves and I hate it. Who thought this was a good idea? You can't see how hot things are, it stays hot for an hour after you turn it off, it is just bad. Bad bad bad. And the oven? It takes THIRTY MINUTES to preheat to 400 degrees. This is a new oven. How is it possible? I feel like Wilma Flintstone.

Anyway, with all the stress of this constant burning of things in my kitchen, I've had two oven fires. Yes. Two. So fair warning, if you spill the bacon grease off of your not nearly rimmed enough baking sheet when you make these? It will catch on fire. If you then attempt to hide the evidence of the fire in your oven and forget it is there and turn on the broiler in the morning to toast up a bagel for your beloved? It will also catch on fire. And your beloved isn't super loving when you keep almost burning your house down which really is another topic. I mean, I'd think his worry over my near demise would snuff out any irritation but whatever.

Bacon Wrapped Cajun Wings
Recipe by Michelle's Dinner Bell

I'm not giving amounts here because you need as many chicken pieces and bacon pieces as you want to make. Easy.

Chicken wings and drummies
Tony Cachere's seasoning

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Rinse and dry chicken parts. Season with a sprinkling of Tony's. 
  3. Wrap each piece with a slice of bacon and place on baking sheet which you have lined with foil. 
  4. Bake for 45-55 minutes until bacon is crisp.

Cherry Lemonade Cookies

I bought a bag of cherries recently and when it rang up at the grocery store, I nearly died when I saw that the price for these little beauties was $12.48. It was a bag, not a bushel. I thought about being outraged and saying take them back but one of my darlings had already broken 4 eggs and the other one managed to pinch the checkers hand in that weird round-about thing they use to bag the groceries, so, you know, I was kind of at the point where I just wanted to go.

Go where, you ask? Far, far away where it is quiet and I don't have to ask 87 times in 20 minutes if you remember what your inside voice sounds like. For the record, when you've asked something 87 times in 20 minutes, your voice takes on a rather un-inside-voice quality that sounds a lot like yelling.

When we arrived home, I decided that the boys would love cherries for a snack. I was wrong. First they wanted me to pit them because they were "afraid" of the seeds. Um, we'd recently been to the doctor for a rock shoved up your nose and you're afraid of a cherry seed? Boy brains make no sense. Do you think I could find the pitter? No. Of course I could not. So I sliced the cherries in half and popped the seed out. The boys then consumed exactly one-half of one cherry and walked away.

Well, that's not stopping me. These cherries were not going to waste. I ate some myself and set about making dinner. I put the cherries in a spinach salad with bacon, almonds and this very delicious lemon dressing.  It was a great change from my strawberry and spinach salad that I usually make.

So now I was down to about 80% of my bag of cherries and guess what happened? I stumbled across THIS recipe and fell in love with a new blog. First of all, a cookie that requires no measuring is my very good friend. And it would use up about 20 of my cherries.

I set out to make the cookies but the chocolate chips I was sure I had stashed somewhere were nowhere to be found. There was a huge bag of lemons though so I modified Jen's recipe and came up with these which were, if I do say so myself, delicious.

Cherry Lemonade Cookies
Recipe by Michelle's Dinner Bell

1 yellow cake mix
2 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tbs fresh lemon juice
1 tsp grated lemon zest
20 cherries, pitted and chopped

1 cup powdered sugar
2 tbs fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp grated lemon zest

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients for cookies except for cherries and mix well.
  3. Fold in cherries gently.
  4. Drop cookies on cookie sheet lined with parchment and bake 9-10 minutes.
  5. For glaze, mix glaze ingredients together. 
  6. When cookies are cool, dip in glaze and set aside until glaze sets.

Asian Noodle Salad

Asian Noodle Salad
The 4th of July is right around the corner – how does it happen every holiday every year seems to sneak up on me? I mean, it’s not like I have some crazy busy social life to keep up with. It’s summer. I’m lounging at the pool and taking it easy. Right?

Well, if by lounging you mean corralling my small children at the community pool and keeping them from shooting old ladies and their books with assault style squirt guns, then yes, I’m lounging. I’m also spending an inordinate amount of time coming up with cocktails.

Intrigued? Unfortunately, the cocktail I’m talking about is one for hair product mixture that will keep my unruly mop somewhat intact in humidity.

These two things alone are seriously practically a full-time job. Add in keeping up with all of the Real Housewives and  trying to figure out how to make friends while my hair is frizzed and my children are obnoxious and really, I am quite busy, I don’t care what anyone says.

According to the Pioneer Woman, this salad changed her life and made her popular. Well, there it is, I had to make it. If it worked for her, shouldn’t it also work for me? Of course she went on to say it didn’t really but I’m an optimist and choose to believe she was just being modest.

I modified the vegetables based on two things: availability and the fact that I was feeling lazy about chopping in my hot kitchen. Who decides to do a 3 hour self-clean oven cycle when it’s 94 degrees outside? Um, that would be me. So on this particular day, I’m quite sure it was approaching eight gazillion degrees in my kitchen based on my heat index which I measure in frizziness. Scientific? No. But it works for me.

I tried a new product as I’m watching carbs. I say that a lot. But this time I really mean it. Of course that probably means I should figure out the math they use when talking about net carbs  but it’s too hot for that now and there are two Housewives series running along with the Next Food Network Star. Math will have to wait.  The Dreamfields Healthy Carb pasta cooked up perfectly. It was a little bit sticker in the colander than full carb pasta, but after rinsing it and then tossing it with the dressing, it tasted and felt just like regular pasta.

Asian Noodle Salad
Slightly adapted from The Pioneer Woman

For the salad
1 lb linguine, cooked, rinsed and cooled
1 package California slaw – this is a mixture of cabbage, broccoli and carrots
1 package broccoli slaw
1/2 bag Baby Spinach, Or More To Taste
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 yellow pepper, sliced
Handful of  chopped cilantro
3 green onions, sliced
2 cucumbers, sliced and peeled if you like
Salted cashews for garnish

For the dressing
Juice of 1 lime
8 tbs canola oil
8 tbs soy sauce
2 tbs sesame oil
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tbs fresh ginger, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-2  jalapenos, seeds and vein removed, chopped
2 tbs cilantro, chopped

Toss salad ingredients together except for cashews.

In small bowl, whisk together dressing ingredients and pour over salad. Top with cashews.

Note: If you’re making the salad ahead of time, leave the cilantro out of the dressing until just before tossing salad. By the way, this is the perfect salad to bring to any 4th of July gathering. It can be made ahead and travels well and without any mayonnaise, it's perfect for picnics, BBQs and as my fellow east coasters say, cookouts.


Faux Marlboro Man Sandwich - Cube Steak & Caramelized Onion Sandwich

Today I have grounded myself from Pinterest. No one should spend that much time looking at stuff I'll never make, have or do. And really I have plenty to do without all of that temptation.

Somehow yesterday I found myself clicked over to one of those sites where you could make your own funny cards and guess what? I was totally cracking myself up - which my sister tells me is not all that attractive, but whatever. Anyway, I wasted an embarrassing amount of time making cards that no one will ever see because they were a little on the mean side. Okay, a lot on the mean side. It was a rough day.

One thing that pops up on the Pin all the time is the Marlboro Man sandwich. That sandwich has actually kind of stalked me for a while but the 2 sticks of butter kind of scared me - not because it wouldn't be good but because I'm pretty sure my husband would want that sandwich every day then have a heart attack and leave me alone to raise these children. I don't care how much ranch work you're doing, that's too much butter. And for the record? My husband nor myself do ranch work.

I also did this in the slow cooker because I find cube steak to be rather temperamental and oftentimes very tough. This is a great recipe to double or triple and serve to a crowd.

Faux Marlboro Man Sandwich
Adapted from Pioneer Woman

1-1/2 lbs cube steaks
McCormick Montreal Steak Seasoning to taste
1 Vidalia onion
4 tbs butter, divided
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp Beef Better than Bouillon
4-5 dashes of hot sauce - I like Frank's Red Hot
1 tsp sugar
4 slices mozzarella cheese
4 sandwich rolls

  1. Season steaks with seasoning on both sides. Cut against the grain into strips. 
  2. Brown over medium high heat in a skillet - cast iron browns meat best.
  3. Slice onion and put in slow cooker with 2 tbs butter.
  4. Add cooked steak to onions, reserving drippings in skillet.
  5. In skillet with the drippings, add remaining 2 tbs of butter, Worcestershire sauce, Better than Bouillon, hot sauce and sugar. Bring to a boil and reduce heat, scraping the pan to loosen all the brown bits. Let simmer together about 5 minutes and then pour over meat and onion mixture.
  6. Cover and cook on low 4 hours.
  7. Serve meat, onions and sauce on toasted buns with cheese.

Peanut Butter Cup S'more Brownies

Peanut Butter Cup S'more Brownies
Catchy name, right? Whenever I make something new, Chris (formerly known as Mr. Bell but recently I have added stupid nick names to the ever growing list of things that annoy me) wants to know what I'm going to call it. He's a marketing guy and is big on catchy names for things. This one? Not so much. I like to look at the name of something and know what is in it. Recipes with the words "surprise" "mystery" or my personal favorite "secret" tend to be met with much skepticism.

Recipes that include the words peanut butter cup, however, always win. I recently heard of this really cool party idea - a S'mores Bar. Instantly I decided that it is what we must do for the little Bell who is turning 6 next month. Then I realized that camp fires and children hyped up and making their own s'mores in my backyard was really only a great idea in theory. You see? I am learning.

Also I have no say in the birthday party themes around here. We tend to have a lot of Lightning McQueen and various forms of trucks. This year, we've had a request for an ambulance theme which I have drawn the line at. There is no way to make an ambulance party seem not weird. Of course the camp out/s'more party idea gone wrong could include an ambulance but I don't think that's what anyone had in mind.

Peanut Butter Cup S'more Brownies
Recipe by Michelle's Dinner Bell

1-1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/3 cup sugar
6 tbs butter, melted
Brownie mix and ingredients called for on package (I like Ghiradelli Double Chocolate)
12 peanut butter cups
24 large marshmallows

  1. Combine graham cracker crumbs, sugar and butter and mix. In silicone muffin mold or paper lined muffin tray, pack an equal amount of mixture in bottom of each well - about 3-4 tablespoons per well.
  2. Place a peanut butter cup and a marshmallow on top of that.
  3. Prepare brownie mix according to package directions and pour into mold until each is about 3/4 full.
  4. Bake for 20 minutes or until done being careful not to overbake.
  5. When brownies are cool, remove them from the molds.
  6. The marshmallow topping is easiest with a creme brulle torch. But if you don't have one, you can just toast a marshmallow over your gas flame, cut it in half and press onto top of cupcake. You could also do it in the broiler.

Tacos, Margaritas and More

So you know what my blog is full of? Really good Cinco de Mayo recipes. I knew some day it would be good for something.

First you need a good cantina type of drink. You can't go wrong with any of these. Click the link and scroll down - why on my blog the drink would come after the food is beyond even me but they are there, I promise!

Classic Frozen Margarita

Salty Chihuahua (No actual chihuahuas were harmed in the making of this drink)

Pineapple Sangria 

Want to know my top secret super easy shortcut salsa? I buy a container of pico de gallo in the produce section at the grocery store. It is just a little container of chopped tomatoes, onion, cilantro and jalapeno usually. You can make it at home but this is my super easy shortcut salsa so don't judge, okay? Anyway take that and dump in a can of undrained Ro-Tel. Season with some garlic salt and some pepper. Done.

Now inevitably people ask me what Ro-Tel is - it's a can of diced tomatoes and green chiles. Be careful - you can buy it in many varieties and the hot and super hot? Really are hot and super hot. If you don't have Ro-Tel in your area, you can substitute canned tomatoes with green chiles - just make sure they are chopped fairly small.

You want some guacamole? Well mash up a couple of Haas avocados and throw in about 1/2 cup of your super easy shortcut salsa and add salt and pepper and maybe a squirt of fresh lime juice. You know from the lime, not that plastic green imposter you find in the store and should be outlawed.

You want to know what goes great with salsa and guacamole besides tacos? These little Southwestern Egg Rolls.

Okay now for tacos, I have plenty....

Cilantro Lime Fish Tacos
Crispy Shrimp Tacos
Shredded Beef & Potato Tacos
Maybe you want something you can make ahead so you can really enjoy your margaritas I mean fiesta guests.

Roasted Pork & Potato Chile Verde
Taco Casserole
Taco Soup - I think you should know this is the number one most requested dish in my house, fiesta or not!

Now off to work on some kind of super fabulous Cinco de Mayo dessert....