Ranch Party Mix

This ranch and dill snack mix is so addicting!  You can pretty much use any crackers, cereal, sesame sticks, peanuts, etc that suit your cravings!


Ranch Party Mix

1 1/2 Cups Butter, melted
2 Packets Ranch Dressing Mix
2 Tsp Onion Powder
2 Tsp Garlic Powder
4 Tsp Dill Weed
2 Bags Oyster Crackers
1 Box Cheez-Its
1 Box Mini Triscuits
1 Bag Pretzels

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.  In a large bowl, combine crackers and pretzels.
In a separate bowl, mix dressing mix and other spices with butter.  Drizzle butter mixture over crackers and stir to coat.  Spread out in 2 large sheet pans.  Cook for 15 minutes, give a good stir, and cook for another 15 minutes.  Let cool and store in air tight container.  Will keep for a few weeks!


Cheesy Chicken Bacon Noodle Soup

I threw together this soup and I loved it so much that I decided I better write it down and share it!


Cheesy Chicken Bacon Noodle Soup

3 Cups Cooked Chicken, shredded/diced
8 Cups (2 Qts) Chicken Stock
1 Cup Whole Milk
1/2 Cup Chopped Celery
1 Cup Chopped Carrots
1 Packet Ranch Dressing Mix
1/2 Cup Bacon Crumbles
4 oz Cream Cheese
12 oz Fine Egg Noodles
1 1/2 Cups Mild Cheddar Cheese, shredded

In a large pot (at least 6 qt), combine chicken, stock, milk, celery, carrots, ranch mix, bacon, and cream cheese over medium-high heat and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer covered 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep from sticking to bottom.  Add noodles and shredded cheese - serve once noodles are soft.

  • I used boneless skinless chicken thighs cooked in my instant pot (seasoned well with seasoning salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning, then cooked with half a onion (sliced), one clove minced garlic, and chicken broth). Chicken breasts, rotisserie chicken, etc will all work fine too!
  • I find shredding your own cheese melts better and really doesn't take much extra effort. 
  • I used Costco's Bacon Crumbles when I made this - fry up your own bacon if you prefer!
  • The veggie measurements are approximate - throw in what your family loves!


Lemon Cheesecake Bars

You'll love these simple bars!  Lemon + cheesecake filling + sugar cookie crust = delish!


Lemon Cheesecake Bars

1 Cup Butter, softened
1 Cup Sugar
1 Tsp Vanilla
2 Cups Flour

8 oz Cream Cheese, softened
1/2 Cup Sugar
1/4 Cup Lemon Juice
1 Tbsp Lemon Zest

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a square baking pan with parchment paper or foil and spray with cooking spray (I like to use the non-stick foil which does not require anything additional).

In a medium mixing bowl, beat butter, sugar, and vanilla together until well combined and fluffy (approximately 2 minutes).  On low speed, slowly beat in 1/2 cup of flour at a time to butter mixture until dough just comes together.  Press half the dough into prepared pan and refrigerate remaining dough until ready to use. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until light golden brown.  Cool crust before continuing on to filling.

In another medium bowl, beat together cream cheese, sugar, juice, and zest until smooth and creamy.  Pour filling over cooled crust and crumble remaining dough from crust evenly on top.  Bake for 30 minutes or until top is a light golden brown.  Cool completely, then remove bars from pan by lifting up foil and setting on flat surface for cutting.

*Once cooled, top with more lemon zest if desired.


Italian Meatball Soup

I love this one-pot soup - it is a bowl of comfort food!


Italian Meatball Soup

2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1/2 Cup Chopped Onions
Couple pinches of Salt
2 Cloves Garlic, minced
1 - 14.5 oz Can Basil, Garlic & Oregano Diced Tomatoes
2 Tbsp Tomato Paste
1 Qt Chicken Broth
1 Tbsp Italian Seasoning
Couple Dashes Hot Sauce
Pinch of Red Pepper Flakes (or more if you want some heat)
1/4 Cup Parmesan, freshly grated
8 oz Ditalini Pasta
Pinch of Dried Oregeno
Pinch of Dried Basil

Heat olive oil in medium saucepan over medium/high heat.  Add onions and saute until translucent (about 3-4 minutes), add a little bit of salt, then add garlic to pan and saute for about a minute more.  Then add diced tomatoes (with juice), tomato paste, broth, Italian seasoning, hot sauce, red pepper flakes, and meatballs.  Simmer for 15 minutes.  While still simmering, add Parmesan and pasta and continue to simmer another 15 minutes.  Remove pot from heat, add oregano and basil.

  • I buy a tube of tomato paste and keep on hand in the fridge for these kinds of recipes.
  • I use 24 frozen Italian meatballs (mine are from Costco because it makes this recipe easy to throw together) - definitely use your own baked meatballs if you prefer.
  • I find my Ditalini pasta at Walmart, but you can use any kind of small pasta.
  • The pasta will continue to absorb the liquid as it sits - do not be surprised if it turns to a casserole.  You can add more broth or another can of tomatoes to bring up the liquid or reduce/remove the pasta.
  • Feeds about 4-6 people.


Pumpkin Coffee Cake

It doesn't have to be fall to enjoy all things pumpkin - sometimes it can be the end of February!  I needed to bring something to share to a meeting this morning and I had this strong craving to make pumpkin coffee cake.  I looked at probably ten different recipes....all made in square pans (which I didn't think would be enough to share).  So, I set off to throw together my own cake!  In a twist of luck, I made this beauty of a coffee cake and it did NOT disappoint.  Moist, dense, delicious cake, with crumbly bits of streusel, and literally amazing maple "icing on the cake" to bring it all together!  I decided I better take a couple pictures and hop on my computer right away to type up the recipe before I forget what I threw together!  If you give it a try, let me know what you think!


Pumpkin Coffee Cake with Maple Glaze

3/4 Cup Butter, melted
3/4 Cup Brown Sugar, packed
1 - 15 oz Can Pumpkin Puree (1 1/2 Cups if using your own)
4 Eggs
1/2 Cup Sour Cream
3 Cups Flour
2 Tsp Baking Powder
1/2 Tsp Baking Soda
1/2 Tsp Salt
1 1/2 Tsp Cinnamon
1 1/2 Tsp Ground Ginger
1 Tsp Allspice
Pinch of Nutmeg and Ground Cloves (about 1/8 tsp)

3/4 Cup Flour
3/4 Cup White Sugar
3/4 Cup Brown Sugar, packed
1 Tsp Cinnamon
6 Tbsp Butter, melted

2 Tbsp Butter
1 1/4 Cup Powdered Sugar
1 Tsp Vanilla
2 Tbsp Maple Syrup

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease a 9x13 pan with cooking spray or butter.  In large bowl, mix together butter, brown sugar, pumpkin, eggs, and sour cream until smooth.  Add flour, powder, soda, salt, and spices to wet ingredients - mix until just combined.

In separate bowl, mix together streusel dry ingredients with a fork, then add melted butter until a crumbly mixture forms.

Pour about half of the cake batter in pan, spread out with spatula best you can, and sprinkle half of the streusel over the batter.  Gently dollop and spread remaining batter on top (it's ok if it doesn't completely cover the first layer of batter and streusel), then sprinkle remaining streusel on top.

Bake for 45 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean from center.

While cake is starting to cool, make glaze.  Melt butter in small saucepan.  Add powdered sugar, vanilla, and maple syrup and stir/whisk until smooth.  Add a but more syrup or milk if you need to thin it out more.  Drizzle over cake.

Serve warm with a cup of coffee!


Chocolate Chunk Cookies

There are TONS of recipes for chocolate chip cookies out there, but I had to share this one with you all!  There is a little "secret" ingredient at the end that makes these one of the best!  Little chewy, little bit crunchy, and a whole lot of YUMMY!


Chocolate Chunk Cookies

1 Cup Shortening (Crisco)
1 Cup Brown Sugar
1/2 Cup White Sugar
1 Tsp Vanilla
2 Eggs
2 1/3 Cup Flour
1 Tsp Soda
1 Tsp Salt
1 - 11.5 Oz Bag Chocolate Chunks (or any large chips)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Cream together shortening and sugars until fluffy.  Beat in vanilla and eggs.  Add dry ingredients until blended, then stir in chocolate chunks.  Place rounded tablespoons of dough on parchment lined pan.  Lastly (the important step not to miss), sprinkle a bit of coarse sea salt over each cookie.  Bake for 11 minutes (don't over bake - should just be starting to brown on edges).  Let cookies cool on pan for a few minutes before moving to cooling rack.


Cream Cheese Banana Bread

Can a person ever have too many recipes for banana bread?!  When I came across this recipe over at Mel's Kitchen Cafe, I knew I should give it a whirl!  This is a yummy dense banana bread with the perfect sweet note from the streusel topping!


Cream Cheese Banana Bread

3/4 Cup Butter, softened
8 oz Cream Cheese, softened
1 1/2 Cups Sugar
2 Eggs
1 Tsp Vanilla
1 Cup Mashed Bananas (approx. 3 ripe bananas)
3 Cups Flour
1 Tsp Baking Powder
1/2 Tsp Baking Soda
1/2 Tsp Salt
1/2 Tsp Ground Cinnamon
1/8 Tsp Ground Nutmeg

1 Tbsp Butter
1 Tbsp Flour
1/4 Cup + 2 Tbsp Sugar
1 Tsp Ground Cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease two 8.5x4.5" loaf pans and set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together butter, cream cheese, and sugar until light and fluffy (about 2-3 minutes).  Mix in eggs, vanilla, and bananas.

In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Stir dry ingredients into wet ingredients until combined.

In a small bowl, use a fork or clean hands to mix together streusel ingredients.

Divide batter evenly among pans and sprinkle streusel on top.

Bake for 50-60 minutes until top is domed and toothpick comes out clean from the middle.  Let cool approximately 10 minutes before removing from pan to finish cooling on rack.



This is a favorite pasta dish in our house!  As a big family, we love a hearty recipe that makes enough for left-overs too!  This is also one of my favorite freezer meals and/or take a meal to someone dish!  I often will split the recipe - cook half and put the other half in the freezer for another day OR I'll just make a double batch for a few freezer meals!  I can just throw a salad together, add some garlic bread on the side, and bellies are happy!


Serves 12

1 - 16 oz Box Mostaccioli Pasta (Ziti makes a good substitute)
1 1/2 lbs Ground Beef
1 Bell Pepper, finely diced
1 Medium Onion, chopped
2-3 Cloves Garlic, minced
1 - 26 oz Jar Spaghetti Sauce
1 Can Condensed Cheddar Cheese Soup, undiluted
1 1/2 Tsp Italian Seasoning
3/4 Tsp Ground Pepper
2 Cups Shredded Mozzarella Cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cook mostaccioli according to package directions (I like to al-dente/firm for baked pasta dishes) and drain.  Meanwhile, in a large skillet brown hamburger with peppers, onion, and garlic, drain.  In a large bowl (or the pan you're going to cook in), mix together spaghetti sauce, soup, Italian seasoning, ground pepper, and hamburger together.  Then, stir in mostaccioli and 1 1/2 cups of the mozzarella cheese to beef mixture.  Transfer to 2 11x7" baking dishes (or one deep 9x13) and sprinkle with remaining cheese.

Cover pan with tin foil and bake for 20 minutes (about 30 minutes if using 9x13" pan), remove foil and continue baking for another 10 minutes longer or until bubbly and cheese is melted.

If preparing from freezer: Thaw in refrigerator overnight, remove from refrigerator 30 minutes prior to baking, and bake covered in preheated 350 degree oven for 50-60 minutes.


Banana Bread Coffee Cake

Love banana bread?  Love coffee cake?  Looking for a way to use up some ripe bananas?  You're going to love this yummy coffee cake with bananas added!


Banana Bread Coffee cake

3/4 Cup Butter, softened
1 1/2 Cups Sugar
3 Eggs
1 Tsp Vanilla
3/4 Cup Buttermilk
1 Cup Mashed Bananas (about 3 ripe bananas)
2 1/2 Cups Flour
1/2 Tsp Salt
1/2 Tsp Baking Soda
1 Tsp Baking Powder

1 Cup Brown Sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp Cinnamon
1 Tsp Unsweetened Cocoa Powder

Crumb Topping:
2 Cups Flour
2/3 Cup Brown Sugar
1 Tbsp Cinnamon
6 Tbsp Butter, melted

In a small bowl, mix filling ingredients and set aside.  In another small bowl, stir together dry ingredients for crumb topping, then add melted butter until large crumbs form and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter and flour a 9"x13" pan and set aside.  Cream together butter and sugar, then add eggs and vanilla - beat on high until smooth.  Mix dry ingredients with whisk in separate bowl, then slowly add into butter mixture until just combined - add buttermilk and bananas.  Spread half the batter into the pan, sprinkle filling evenly over batter, and spread remaining batter on top.  Use a butter knife to gently swirl the filling into the batter.  Sprinkle crumb mixture over the top.  Bake for 50-60 minutes until a toothpick inserted in center of the cake comes out clean.


Best Ever Meatloaf

This last Sunday, I was in a total comfort food mode and decided to try this new meatloaf recipe I came across over on another blog.  I'm adding it here with no picture because we LOVED it that much and this blog is still very much a place for me to "store" my tried, true, and favorite recipes.  Seriously though, it was scarfed down before I could even attempt to get a picture!  Plus, at this point, I'm pretty sure everyone knows what a meatloaf looks like! Hopefully at some point I will capture one and get it added to the recipe!

Some notes on making this...use lean meat, the leaner the better or you may just have a really juicy meatloaf that crumbles when you pull it out of the pan - it'll still taste amazing though, I promise.  LET IT REST!  I'll say it again, let it rest - this helps it stay together when you're serving it!  If you don't have any apricot preserves, feel free to use any jelly you have on hand - grape, orange marmalade, etc would all taste fantastic too!

If you try it, leave me a comment!


Best Ever Meatloaf

2 lbs Lean Ground Beef, Ground Turkey, or Ground Venison
1 Sleeve Ritz Crackers, crushed
1 Egg, beaten
1/2 Cup Milk (can add up to a full cup if needed)
1/2 Cup Ketchup
1/3 Cup Onion, finely chopped
1 Tsp Salt
1/2 Tsp Black Pepper
1/2 Tsp Garlic Powder

3/4 Cup Ketchup
1/4 Cup Brown Sugar
1/4 Cup Apricot Preserves
1 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 5x9 loaf pan lightly with cooking spray - set aside.  In a large bowl, combine ground beef, crackers, egg, milk,  ketchup, onion, salt, pepper, and garlic powder.  Mix together until thoroughly combined - use your hands, they really do work the best for the job (sans germs and rings of course).  Put meat mixture into the pan and spread evenly.  Plan loaf pan on rimmed baking sheet (for any accidental overflow of juices) and put in oven.  Bake for 90 minutes - add sauce half-way through baking.  Let meatloaf rest for 15 minutes after removing from oven before slicing and serving.

In a small bowl, mix together ketchup, brown sugar, apricot preserves, and Worcestershire sauce.  Spread half or so of the sauce over the meatloaf halfway through baking.  The remainder can be used for more dipping/topping.