February 2014


‘Healthy Cheesy’ may seem like a bit of an oxymoron.  It is, I suppose, but the truth is this casserole is just the right amount of cheesy to be cheesy, but not fatty.  I love chicken broccoli casserole, but wanted to make one that was healthy, fast, and satisfying. That is what this is. I would not recommend making it if your boyfriend just broke up with you or you are hungover or you just got fired. You will need a lot more cheese for that. Make this if you are happy with your life and are looking for a fast n’ healthy weeknight meal.


  • 2 12 oz steam-in-bag broccoli florets
  • 2 8 oz packages of mushrooms
  • 3 cups cooked chicken, cubed
  • 5 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups 2% milk
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4  teaspoon each salt and pepper
  • 3 teaspoons Hidden Valley Ranch dressing seasoning (dry seasoning packet)
  • 1/4 cup light sour cream
  • 1 1/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar, divided
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella

Preheat the oven to 350.  Slice the mushrooms in half, and dry-saute them in a saucepan to release the liquid, about 10 minutes.  Set aside. Steam the broccoli according to instructions, until almost done (maybe a minute less than they say). Drain any excess liquid.

Mix the flour and milk in a bowl. Add to a saucepan, and heat over medium to thicken. Add the chicken broth, salt and pepper, and ranch seasoning. Bring to a low boil, then reduce the heat and whisk in the sour cream.   Stir in 3/4 cup of the cheddar to melt, and remove from heat. Spray a large casserole dish with nonstick spray.  Layer the broccoli, mushrooms, then chicken, then pour half the sauce, and repeat. Top with remaining 1/2 cup cheddar and mozzarella.  Bake uncovered for 25-30 minutes.


Hey Ice cream cake, who knew you were so easy to make? I sure didn’t – what a surprise!  I’ll tell you what WASN’T a surprise – that this cake was good.  If you love brownies and ice cream and Oreos and fudge, this cake is a shoe-in.   And if you live in an actual urban environment, like myself, you will find that Dairy Queens are few and far between (and yet they appear so  frequently on road trips)…so knowing how to make one is really just a simple survival technique.

Anyway, HAPPY (BELATED) BIRTHDAY TO MY HUSBAND. And if he hadn’t eaten 36 oz of prime rib on his birthday night, he would have eaten a lot more of this. He loved it and still managed to enjoy a sizable piece, but at some point I couldn’t just stand by and watch while he ate himself into a small coma.

Onto the cake…I opted for a brownie bottom because we love brownie sundaes (always made from the box, please!), then layers of fudge, ice cream, oreos, more fudge, and more ice cream.


  • 1 box Duncan Hines fudgy brownies, plus associated ingredients
  • 1 bottle/jar hot fudge
  • 1 package of Oreos, crushed, or about 3 cups Oreo crumbs
  • ~1/2 quart Blue Bell Vanilla ice cream
  • ~1 1/2 quarts Blue Bell Cookies N’ Cream ice cream
  • ~1 cup cool whip (optional)
  • Redi Whip and Oreos for topping

No, I don’t work for Blue Bell (unless someone wants to hire me as an ice cream flavor developer?). But they’re the best, so I think you should use their ice cream in this recipe.

First, prepare the brownies for the ‘fudge-like’ instructions in a round spring form pan (you need a spring form pan).  Make sure the bottom is good and greased. I made my brownie a couple days in advanced, but if you don’t, make sure it is completely cooled before you move onto the ice cream layers.

Take the vanilla ice cream out of the freezer about 20-30 minutes before to soften (leave the cookies n’ cream in a bit longer, as you’ll use it later), and place it in an individual mixing bowl.  Mix ½ cup cool whip into the ice cream (you can skip this step if you want).  Cover the brownie with a layer of hot fudge (warmed just enough to make it spreadable).  Stir the vanilla ice cream to soften it further and then spread it over the brownie; I used about ½ quart for this first layer.  Given the space constraints of a spring form pan, I wanted to use more of the Cookies n’ Cream ice cream (but add more vanilla if you desire!).  Spread another thin layer of fudge over the ice cream, then the Oreo crumbs, then more fudge.  Place in the freezer for about 30 minutes to set. Remove the cookies n’ cream from the freezer and soften; whip with cool whip if desired, then spread about 1.5 quarts over the Oreo layer.  Fill to the top of the spring form pan. Place in the freezer for one hour to set, then cover with plastic wrap and freeze for 4 more hours or overnight.

Remove the cake from the freezer, and remove the sides of the pan (if this is hard to do, let the cake sit for a minute or two). Garnish with plenty of whip cream and Oreos before serving.  Serve with candles!!


**Note: To make this even easier, you could skip the vanilla layer and add the Oreos to the brownie/fudge layer. Just make it a one layer cake with the cookies n’ cream!


I have had a life long obsession with these applesauce muffins that my mom used to make, and I find most Sunday mornings I wake up wanting one.  But, making the same thing every weekend doesn’t make for good blogging material, now does it? I added a few twists this past weekend, and %$%^ $$%#. Pardon my language, but this was good.  So moist, great flavor, loved the cinnamon swirl. In fact next time I might add two swirls.


  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • 1 cup original applesauce
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves

Cinnamon Swirl

  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup sugar

Preheat the oven to 350.  In a mixing bowl, beat the egg and sugars together. Add the buttermilk, oil, applesauce, and vanilla. In a separate bowl mix the flour, baking soda, salt, and spices. Mix into the sugar mixture, just until combined.  Prepare the cinnamon swirl in a separate bowl.

Grease a 5×9 bread pan, and pour in half of the batter. Sprinkle the cinnamon swirl on top, then add  the rest of the bread batter. Loosely cover with aluminum foil (the bread rises quite a bit, so make sure you tent it). Bake for 45 minutes, then uncover the foil and bake for 10-15 more.  If your bread rises into you aluminum foil like mine did and ripped off the top when you removed it – don’t panic. Baking uncovered the last 10 minutes will undo most of the damage. Mine is gone already, shoot.

Light King Ranch Casserole


If you’re not from Texas, you’ve probably never heard of King Ranch casserole. Texans love a casserole as much as a Wisconsinite, but we need a little spice down here. The traditional King Ranch casserole utilizes two cans of cream of (fill in the blank) soups, and very few other ingredients – a hint of spice and some veggies.  We wanted something similar to King Ranch but I didn’t want to use the creamy soup bases, so I modified it by making my own sauce, adding lots of veggies, and using fewer tortillas. The result: a perfectly spicy, lightly creamy, totally husband-pleasing casserole. Make it tonight! It serves a family of 20. Oh! And it’s gluten free.


  • ~3 cups cooked and shredded chicken
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/8 teaspoon minced garlic (jar)
  • 6 tablespoons corn flour
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 10 oz cans Rotel tomatoes with green chiles
  • 1/4 cup half and half
  • 1/4 heaping cup light sour cream
  • 2 cups shredded Mexican cheese mix (cheddar – jack)
  • 7 corn tortillas (or more if you like tortillas)

You can cook the chicken however you want, but for casseroles I like to boil a few boneless skinless breasts.  I seasoned these with lots of chili powder, cumin, and salt, then boiled for 20 minutes and shredded.

Preheat the oven to 350.  To make the sauce, start by sauteing the onions and peppers in a pinch of olive oil in a large skillet/pot.  Once cooked,  stir in the flour and spices. Add the broth and continue to stir until thickened. Add the Rotel tomatoes (juice included). Reduce the heat, then whisk in the half and half and sour cream.  Turn off the heat.

Spray a large casserole dish with nonstick spray.  Ladle a couple large spoonfuls of sauce on the bottom of the pan to cover.  Lightly dip tortillas in the sauce just to coat (to keep them from getting crispy), and use enough to complete one bottom layer (I used 5).  Top with half the chicken, half of the remaining sauce, and one cup of shredded cheese. Now, you can either repeat the layer one more time ending with the cheese (and requiring 5 more tortillas), or you can do it like I did to cut back on the tortillas. I tore the remaining 2 tortillas into small strips, and mixed them into the remaining sauce.  I poured half of this remaining mixture over the cheese layer, then added the rest of the chicken, finished with the sauce, then topped with the last cup of cheese. My husband is tortilla-averse, so that’s why I did it that way. I looooove tortillas and can’t get enough, so I would have done another full blown layer.  Though you really can’t tell much when it’s all said and done, everything melts together.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, then broil for a minute or two at the end to brown the top.  Believe it or not this is quite a healthy and easy option for weeknight cooking, although if you were looking to indulge you could easily up the cream and cheese factor.

This is a guest blog post as much as it is an apology
letter.  This holiday season, I ate a
piece of Angel Food Candy that Gretchen had claimed as hers
for dessert later on that evening. And it happened to be the last piece we had
in our house.  In my defense, the candy
was left in a communal bowl so it appeared to be up for the taking. Also, I
brought my two-months old baby home to Wisconsin with me, so I wasn’t sleeping
much and quite honestly, deserved whatever I wanted for traveling to -25
weather with a newborn.
That’s not much of an apology, I guess. But I did feel bad
that Gretchen didn’t get to enjoy the tradition of Angel Food Candy during the
holidays – it’s so delicious! This family fiasco inspired me to make it – not
only was it easy, it was better than any store bought kind!  For Christmases to come, we can quickly solve
any shortages with a few ingredients and a little bit of effort in the kitchen.
Peace, at last.
  • ½ C brown sugar
  • ½ C white sugar
  • 1 C dark brown corn syrup
  • 4 tsp baking soda
  • Real chunk chocolate for melting
  • 1 Tbsp butter
Boil your sugars and the dark brown syrup until they reach
300 degrees on a candy thermometer. Watch closely – this will take about 15-20
minutes after it starts boiling. Once you reach the desired temp, quickly pour
in the 4 tsp of baking soda (have it measured and ready)!  Pour the ingredients, while they are still
bubbling, into a 9×13 buttered pan. Let it sit for awhile until it’s completely
hard.  Take it out of the pan once
hardened and break into pieces! I think the bigger the better, because I like
to eat big pieces of candy.


Then, take your chocolate and microwave it with the 1 Tbsp
of butter until it’s of dippable consistency. (You know what I mean). Dip your
pieces of sponge candy into the chocolate, let dry.. and enjoy.
Be sure to save
a piece for your sister.
***Gretchen’s note:  Kirta at least had the decency to send me some of this after what she did to me at Christmas, and it is DELICIOUS. So much better than the store bought version.

Queso Fundido


Doesn’t Queso Fundido just sound good? I don’t know what

‘fundido’ means (and I could probably look it up), but I like to think that it
means ‘fun.’  Fun Cheese. That’s exactly
what this is. And so so easy!


Every time we are in my husband’s home town, we go to this
Mexican restaurant call Tia Maria’s (I actually think a man named Jose took
over so it’s now Tia Jose’s. Which seems conflicting because I do know that
‘Tia’ means ‘aunt’). Anyway. He orders queso fundido there, and always shocks
me by how much of it he eats. I actually get a bit of a stomach ache watching
it, but am also happy about his level of excitement.  So I decided to make some as an appetizer for
the super bowl, and guess what? Making a big skillet of melted cheese is super
easy. And super good (not quite as shocking).




  • 1/3 lb breakfast sausage
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded
  • 8 oz Monterey Jack cheese, freshly shredded
  • 8 oz Sharp Cheddar, freshly shredded
  • 2 tablespoons flour or corn flour
  • Chili powder
  • Diced tomato
  • Flour or corn tortillas


Preheat the oven to 400.
Start by browning the sausage in a large cast iron skillet. Add the
diced onion about half way through and continue to cook until the onions are
well done. Drain any excess fat from the skillet, and move all the sausage to
the middle of the pan (I did this because then people can choose how much
sausage they want, instead of it all being mixed in).  Turn off the
heat.  In a separate skillet, sauté the
jalapeno in a bit of olive oil – just a few minutes to brown and release some
of the heat. Set aside.


In two separate bowls, mix the cheeses each with 1
tablespoon of flour (I used corn flour, which I love).  Alternating cheeses, sprinkle half of it
around the sausage.  Sprinkle a couple pinches of chili powder on the first layer, then top with remaining cheese.
Sprinkle a pinch more chili powder on top (this added great flavor).
Place the skillet in the oven, being sure not to overcook.  You want it to be just melty enough but not
so melty it gets hardened. About 6 minutes was perfect for me. Remove skillet
from the oven, top with diced tomatoes and jalapenos, and serve with tortillas. Serve
IMMEDIATELY – this is not a make ahead item!