Friday, December 31, 2010

Mini Taco Meatloaves

For starters I have never been a big fan of meatloaf.  I don't like to look at large chunks of meat...I know I am weird!  It is totally psychological.  I also avoid it these days because most call for bread crumbs which does not go along with a gluten free diet.  This one uses tortilla chips...perfect!

Anyone who hangs around me long enough knows that I love Mexican food!!!  So to find a meatloaf that is more Mexican definitely caught my eye.  I at least had to give it a try.

Alex and I in North Carolina for Christmas with the snow!

I brag on my husband a lot, but this one takes the cake!  He was home before me the other night and knew I was starving so he did most of the prep work for this recipe.  This alone is not atypical behavior, but earlier that day he was working one of his board and train dogs that decided to run away.  When he grabbed the leash it wrapped around his finger and snapped it.  Poor guy probably fractured it because of the bruising he has.  So back to cooking, he made this recipe one handed!  What an awesome husband!

His poor finger!

We both have a bad habit of not reading recipes correctly and adding to much of something here and too little there.  The recipe called for 1kg ground beef.  This equals 2.2 lbs of meat.  Alex just assumed since a km is less than a mile when you run that surely this would convert to less than 1 lb!  He totally ignored the fact that I defrosted two 1 lb freezer bags of ground beef:)

All of this made me a little nervous that this was going to taste strong since we only had half of the main ingredient.  At this point I was so hungry I didn't care!  The conclusion, I actually thought it tasted great!  I wouldn't make it with 2lbs.  I liked the flavor with just one.  It does have a kick to it, but I loved it.  If you like milder flavors then I would double the meat.  (Don't worry you can freeze the left overs for another day).

Alex was shocked that he liked it too.  He told me when we got married that he would never eat meatloaf.  Guess I found a way around that!

I used a large muffin pan for the individual portions because I do not own a mini meat loaf pan.  It provided nice portion sizes.

I love the sauce you make to go on top.  It adds a nice sweet/spicy kick to the overall recipe.  Hope you enjoy!

Mini Taco Meatloaves
Source:  The Cottage Kitchen Blog
Serves: 6-8 (Mine made 12 muffin size meatloaves)


1 kg ground beef (Or 1 lb if you are cooking it the Tutterrow way!)
2 cups tortilla chips (crushed)
1 cup cheese (grated)
1 cup salsa (again I used the fresh salsa from Trader Joe's)
1 large egg
1 taco seasoning envelope

1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup brown sugar (packed)
2 Tbsp hot sauce (we used texas pete)

Preheat oven to 350.

In a small bowl whisk together the "topping" ingredients and set aside.

In a large bowl mix together the beef, crushed tortillas, cheese, salsa, egg, and taco seasoning until well combined.

Divide the mixture and press firmly into your preferred baking pans (spray with PAM first).

Bake for 20 minutes, remove, and spread a heaped teaspoon of the topping onto each meatloaf (I just covered them to my liking:)

Bake for another 20 minutes or until cooked through completely.


Thursday, December 30, 2010


If you have had these before then your mouth should already be watering!  There is nothing healthy about these chocolate covered peanut butter balls!  My mother in law kept referring to them as "fat balls" while we were making them for our Christmas party. 

It is difficult to find gluten free desserts that do not require crazy flours that I do not own, so I love when I find recipes that do not require flour at all!

This was my first time making them and they are a lot of work.  My hand was sore the next day from squeezing them into balls.  Not to mention I forgot to put the toothpicks in before they went into the freezer.  This created a problem when I needed to dip them in the melted chocolate.  I was able to put a toothpick in about half of them, but after a few minutes of being out of the freezer they started to soften and crumble.  I was being impatient and decided to dip them by hand at that point versus using a toothpick.  Big mistake...I kept burning my finger tips! 

The recipe said it would make 30.  Mine made 60 something and they were still large!  Luckily I was able to send some guests home with left overs.  They keep well in the refrigerator.  I think it would be great to get some tins from the dollar store and fill them with buckeyes as a host, teacher, or work present.

These are super sweet!

I can't believe I forgot to take a picture of mine.  This picture is from Google images (

Makes: 60+

1 1/2 cups peanut butter (I use one of the natural brands to avoid the hydrogenated oils.  The kind I used was Earth Balance and it does not separate like some other natural kinds do.)
1 cup butter, softened (I always forget to take things out to soften.  I put the butter in the microwave for 15 seconds)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 cups confectioners' sugar
4 cups semisweet chocolate chips

In a large bowl, mix together the peanut butter, butter, vanilla, and confectioners sugar.  I used my hands to mix it.  The dough will look dry.  (At this point the directions say "roll into 1 inch balls"...rolling caused mine to continue to crumble, so I grabbed some of the mixture and just kept squeezing until it slightly resembled a ball). Place on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper.

Press a toothpick into the top of each ball.  Place in the freezer to chill for 30 minutes.

Melt chocolate chips in a double broiler or in a bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water (I didn't believe this step and turned it up, but don't it definitely heats up just fine on low).  Stir frequently until smooth.

Dip frozen peanut butter balls in chocolate holding on to the toothpick.  Leave a small portion of peanut butter showing at the top to make them look like Buckeyes.  Put back on cookie sheet and refrigerate until serving.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Mexican Layer Dip

There are so many variations out there of this style dip.  I liked the addition of cumin and green chillies to spice up the beans.  I left out the black olives because I am not a big fan.  Adapt this recipe to your liking!

I used Trader Joe's fresh salsa for the pico part of the recipe.  We always have some in our refrigerator.  It is so yummy.  I also buy the guacamole in bulk from Sam's and freeze the extras.  It is a great go to appetizer when you need something last minute. 

I was not precise with my measurements except with the beans.  I just made the ingredients work for the serving dish I was using.  You can't go wrong with a little extra.

Mexican Layer Dip
Source:  The Pioneer Woman Cooks Blog


1 can refried beans
Tabasco sauce, to taste (I used Texas Pete)
1 can diced green chillies
Ground cumin to taste
3/4 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup sour cream
1 cup guacamole
3/4 cup monterey jack cheese
1 can black olives
1 cup pico de gallo

Heat beans in a small pan over medium low heat.  Add several dashes of tabasco sauce and a small can of undrained diced green chilies.  Stir well.  Sprinkle a little bit of ground cumin.  (I would add a small amount and continue tasting until it reaches your liking).  Spread the beans on the bottom of a glass bowl or high sided dish.  Next sprinkle the sharp cheddar cheese.  Add sour cream next, spreading gently as to not disturb the cheese beneath.  For the next layer add guacamole.  Follow with a layer of monterey jack cheese.  Sprinkle with chopped black olives.  Lastly, place a generous layer of pico de gallo.  You may top with diced jalapenos, if you like, on top.

Serve with tortilla chips.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Hot Spinach and Artichoke Dip

Yes, this is another appetizer from the holiday party.  I promise some real food is coming soon!

Before I get to the dip I had to share this sweet shot.  My great friend, Lauren, brought her son Brody to the party.  Shortly after walking in he spotted our Elf from Elf on the Shelf.  (Although Brody calls him "Alf".)  He was so excited that the Elf had followed him all the way to Roswell from his home in Alpharetta.  Alex and Brody sat on the couch and read the Elf on the Shelf book.  It was precious!

Brody and Alex reading about the Elf!

I absolutely LOVE this dip!  I make it all the time and it is always a big hit!  I found it online back when I was in college.  This is a mock version of Olive Garden's, supposedly.  I have  never actually had spinach artichoke dip at Olive Garden so I couldn't tell you how much they are alike!

Before I was gluten free I served this with pita chips, now tortilla chips.  Warm bread would also be a great dipper.

The picture does not do it justice.  I was in a hurry to snap a shot since guests had already started eating!

Olive Garden Hot Spinach and Artichoke Dip

1 8 oz. cream cheese (softened)
1 14 oz. can of artichoke hearts, drained and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup spinach frozen (defrosted)
1/4 cup mayonnaise (don't skimp and use miracle whip here!)
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1/4 cup romano cheese (you can use all parmesan if that is all you have)
1 garlic clove, minced
Either 1/2 teaspoon of dried basil or 1 tablespoon of fresh basil
1/4 cup mozzarella cheese grated
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt

Allow cream cheese to come to room temperature.  Mix together cream cheese, mayonnaise, parmesan, romano cheese, garlic, basil, and garlic salt.  Mix well.

Add the artichoke hearts and spinach (I squeeze it really good with my hands to make sure it is well drained), and mix until blended.  Store in a container until you are ready to use.

Spray corningware with Pam, pour in dip, and top with mozzarella.  Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until top is lightly browned.

Monday, December 27, 2010


I love hummus!  I have had months where I make this recipe at least every other week.  It is so easy to make once you have the basic ingredients on hand.  Homemade hummus beats store bought any day of the week.  You can take it to work for lunch with some veggies or throw it on a pita with sandwich meat.  It is healthy so you do not feel guilty eating the whole batch in one sitting!  

It tastes great to dip pita chips into it, but since that is not gluten free I mainly use veggies.  Don't be fooled by the bell peppers in the picture below.  I still detest them!  I only sliced them up for our guests.

Source:  Southern Living Quick and Easy Cookbook (a must have!)


  • 1 19 oz can of chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained  (Trader Joe's can is slightly smaller then 19 oz, but still works great in this recipe)
  • 1/4 cup tahini (also known as sesame paste, kinda looks like peanut butter.  It keeps well in the refrigerator for a long time.)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (approximately 2-3 lemons)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper (also known as cayenne pepper)
  • 1 shallot, quartered
  • 1 tablespoon lite soy sauce (or regular if that is all you have on hand)
Process all ingredients in a food processor until smooth, stopping to scrape down sides.  

Friday, December 24, 2010

Sausage Balls

We had our work Christmas Party Friday night at Benihana.  Here are a few pictures of my co-workers! I feel blessed to be able to work with friends.

Brian, Amanda, Kerri, and Jake

Brian and Latoya

Jonathan, Lauren, Me, and Alex

Okay back to cooking!

I promise after the holidays I will get some healthier recipes up!

I made these for our holiday party too!  They were gone before the night was over.  Huge hit!  I was nervous because this was my first time using the gluten free bisquick and had no idea how it would turn out.  Many people commented on how these were not as dry as most sausage balls they had tried before

I used the hot pork sausage because I like some spice.  Adjust according to your taste!

Sausage Balls
Serving: ~30


1 pound ground pork sausage
2 cups biscuit baking mix
1 pound sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine sausage, biscuit baking mix, and cheese (I use my hands to mix).  Form into bit size balls and place on baking sheets.

Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes or until golden brown.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Bacon Wrapped Jalapenos

We had our annual Christmas party Saturday.  I love using events like this to make new recipes.  These were yummy.  You can not go wrong with this combination!

WARNING:  When working with jalapenos just know your eyes will burn if you touch them within 48 hours of touching the jalapeno.  I washed my hands many times and showered after working with them and it still burned!  You can use gloves if you have them available. 

We had some of these left over and I do not think they taste as good reheated.  Best if eaten after cooked. 

PS- Don't even think for a second that my picky husband touched these!  He was missing out!

Sorry, not the best picture...I was in a hurry to get it before people started eating!

Bacon Wrapped Jalapeno Thingies
Source:  The Pioneer Woman
Makes 20


20 fresh jalapenos
2 8 oz. blocks of cream cheese, softened
1 pound regular bacon, sliced into thirds

Cut jalapenos in half, length wise.  Remove the seeds and white membrane (these are the hot parts so you can leave some if you like it spicy). Smear softened cream cheese into each jalapeno half.  Wrap jalapeno with bacon pieces (1/3 slice).  Secure by sticking toothpick through the middle.  (You can freeze them at this time for later use if you do not need them all).

Bake on a pan with a rack (I put a cooling rack on a baking sheet) in a 375 degree oven for 20-25 minutes.  You do not want the bacon to shrink so much that it starts to squeeze the jalapeno.  If after 20 minutes the bacon still needs additional cooking turn on the broiler for a few minutes.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Three Bean Soup

This recipe has been passed around our family for years.  It is a quick and easy go to meal when you really do not have time to cook.  You just dump it all in a pot and let it go.

I made this recipe for our friends, Allison and Chris, because they just had a precious baby girl, Stella.  Allison is not a vegetarian, but she does not really enjoy most meat dishes.  (For a strict vegetarian you could substitute the chicken stock for vegetable stock.)  I think it is always great to take soup when people might be receiving  a lot of food because they can freeze your soup and eat it at another time.

You can play with this recipe and make it "yours".  I am sure you can add sauteed onions, peppers, and garlic to spice it up a bit.

Before I was gluten free we served this with cornbread.  I am hoping to try some gluten free versions and will blog on those adventures soon.

DISCLAIMER:  My "picky husband" does not like the amount of diced tomatoes in this recipe.  He picks most of them out which leaves more for me!

Three Bean Soup
Walker/Conger Family Recipe (Unknown original source)
Serves 4-6


3 cans of beans, drained and rinsed (Use whatever you like.  I used pinto, kidney, and black beans)
3 cans of diced tomatoes (I have started buying these in bulk at Sam's...much cheaper than the grocery store)
1 can of corn
2 cans of chicken broth (Another good bulk buy at Sam's)
1 packet of dry ranch dressing
1/2-3/4 packet of taco seasoning (I use a whole packet.  You can add a little spice by getting hot vs. mild)

Place all ingredients into a pot and heat to a boil.

Simmer for at least 30 minutes.  I simmer for one hour.  (See, I told you it was easy!)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Celebrate Christ this Christmas

Just a reminder of what CHRISTmas is all about!  Happy eating to you and your family!

Luke 2:1-14
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register.
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 
"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."
The Visit of the Shepherds
Luke 2:15-20
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.
But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. (KJV)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Creamy Spinach Artichoke Soup

I recently got this recipe from a friend's blog.  Tracy was actually the motivation I needed to get my own blog started.  She was right when she said this tastes just like the dip.

She called her version "low fat".  I did not use low fat cream cheese, but the real deal.  I think it would taste great either way.  I also used a 14 oz can of artichoke hearts because I can not get enough of them.  Lastly, Alex will not eat feta cheese.  I LOVE feta!  I put romano on his soup, but it definitely tasted better with feta on mine!

Alex ate this soup with french bread, while I ate it with tortilla chips.  Hope you enjoy this yummy soup during this cold weather!

All the ingredients ready to go.

Low Fat Creamy Spinach Artichoke Soup
From:  Souper Jenny Cooks
Serves 4-6


Olive Oil
2 Cloves minced garlic (I did 3 because we were down to the center of the bulb with the smaller cloves)
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
25 oz. frozen chopped spinach
8 oz. can chopped artichokes
2 quarts vegetable broth
6 oz of low fat cream cheese (or the real kind:))
1/2 cup crumbled feta


Heat oil over medium high and add chopped onion and garlic.  Saute for about 5 minutes.  
This is the most amazing smell, garlic and onion cooking!  

Side note:  I do not recommend using a non-stick pan over medium heat due to the potential risk factors for cancer.  You can research this more if you would like.  Unfortunately, I did not have a pot that was large enough for this soup that was not non-stick.  It is my goal to acquire some cast iron pots soon.

Add frozen spinach, artichoke hearts, and vegetable broth.  Bring to a boil and let simmer for about 30 minutes.  

Cut cream cheese and add to soup.  Puree in a food processor or blender until well blended.  

We own a VitaMix which if you are not careful will puree anything you put in it.  My first batch looked like baby food, so I was more careful with the second batch and left it a little chunkier.  

Serve with crumbled feta on top.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Penne Alla Betsy

Welcome to my first blog posting!  I have been holding out on getting a good picture of one of my dishes.  I finally realized if that is what I am waiting for then I will never post my first dish.

We have made this recipe a few times now and absolutely love it.  I can't take much credit for cooking it this time around.  I came home late from work earlier this week to find my amazing husband put it all together along with a glass of red wine!  I am one lucky girl.

This dish is super easy.  It comes from one of my favorite cookbooks the Pioneer Woman Cooks.  I frequently turn to her website and cookbook for recipe ideas.

Alex forgot to put in the white wine and it still tasted okay, but I definitely think it adds a nice flavor.  I prefer to use fresh herbs, but this was the only thing that called for fresh basil this week so I used dry instead.  Just make sure to look up the conversion so you do not use too much!

I am gluten free so I used a pasta that does not contain any wheat flour.  This time we used a new brand of gluten free pasta and unfortunately Alex threw away the bag before I had a chance to see the name.  It was delicious.  You would not have known the difference.  There are rice based gluten free pastas that are not my favorite, but will do if that is all you have.  My go to brand is Quinoa.  It is in a teal box.  I have found it at Kroger and Whole Foods.  My husband loves it and says it tastes like "normal" pasta.

Hope you enjoy!

Penne Alla Betsy
From:  The Pioneer Woman Cooks
Serves:  4-6

1 pound penne pasta
1 pound of large shrimp (I used jumbo because that is what we had in the freezer)
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped (we always throw in a little extra because we love garlic)
1/2 cup dry white wine (optional)
one 14.5 ounce can tomato sauce
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley (we omitted this too because we did not have any fresh on hand)
6 basil leaves, cut
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook pasta according to directions (al dente).  Add a little salt to the water while bringing to a boil.  Drain pasta and set aside.

Peel and devein shrimp if they are not already.  Rinse under cold water.

In a small skillet, over medium heat, add 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil.  When the pan is hot add the shrimp.  Stir and cook on both sides until it is just starting to turn opaque, about 2 minutes.  Remove to a plate and allow to cool slightly.

In a large skillet, over medium heat, add the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil.  Add the garlic and onion.  Stir occasionally until the onion is translucent, about 3 minutes.  Pour wine into the pan.  Stir and allow to evaporate, about 45 seconds.    Next pour in the tomato sauce and stir to combine. Reduce the heat to low.  Pour in the cream and stir well to combine.  Reduce heat to a simmer.

Add the shrimp to the sauce and stir gently.  Next add the basil and parsley and stir.  Finally, add the pasta and combine.

If the sauce is too thick you can thin it with a little bit of milk.

Great with a salad, bread, or by itself.