Friday, July 15, 2011

the coolest cake ever!

For the past few weeks, I've been traveling through Texas, Kansas, and Oklahoma visiting family.  We ended our visit on Route 66 in Oklahoma, visiting Cookie Bandit's family.  While there, I talked my mother-in-law into making a cake that I've been wanting to make for quite some time.  It's an M&Ms Barrel Cake!

Cookie Bandit and his family are the biggest M&M lovers in the world, so this cake was perfect.  They love M&Ms so much, that his parents actually made us a special cookbook when we got married.  I just had to show it to you...

Sounds intriguing, right?  Here are the "recipes"!

Haha!  I love that cookbook and use it often.  So, of course, I had to insist on making the M&Ms cake for our big family birthday celebration.  I first saw this cake on Mommy Topics.  What I love about it is that you can use any cake and frosting recipe that you want to...the secret is in the decorating.

We made a two-layer chocolate cake with chocolate frosting for filling.  We covered the outside with chocolate frosting and then proceeded to make our barrel out of Kit-Kats.  I don't suggest trying to construct the cake by yourself...the Kit-Kats kept falling off while I was trying to put it together, so my father-in-law came to the rescue.

Once we got all of the Kit-Kats in place, we tied a ribbon around the cake to hold them in.

Then, we filled the top with two medium bags of M&Ms!

The cake was a huge hit...especially with this little guy. :)

This is the perfect way to dress up any cake for a special occasion, and it requires no cake decorating skills!  Hope you love it as much as we did!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

hello, skinny pants!

I've been chilling with family in Kansas and Oklahoma, eating way too much homemade ice cream, and, as a result, my pants are getting a little snug.  To remind myself that healthy eating can be delicious (and because I haven't been doing any cooking while traveling), I'm pulling one of my favorites from my archives.  Time to get skinny!

hot bacon pasta salad

I have this pair of pants.  They aren't my skinny pants.  They aren't my fat pants.  They are more like...measuring stick pants.

Do you know what I mean?

This is the pair of pants that fits me perfectly when I'm exactly the size that I should be.  If they get too loose, then I eat a little more dessert (can't get too skinny or I won't have any clothes that fit!).  If they get a little tight, I know it's time to start exercising.

And it's time to start exercising.

Lately, I've been showcasing fried foods (my husband's picks).  And, as a result, my measuring stick pants have been getting more and more snug by the day.  So I've decided that today, I'm posting a cast iron recipe that's just as delicious but much more healthy.  It would be even healthier if I used less bacon...but my pants aren't that tight.

The inspiration for this hot bacon pasta salad came from a Tasty Kitchen recipe posted by the Pioneer Woman herself - spinach salad with warm bacon dressing.  The salad was delicious, so I decided to convert it into something more filling, more hearty, and slightly healthier (by using turkey bacon).

The cast of ingredients includes turkey bacon (you could also use regular), a small package of sliced mushrooms, a package of baby spinach, red wine vinegar, sugar, Dijon mustard, salt, and pepper.

Ooops...don't forget the pasta!

Cook the pasta according to package directions.  In the meanwhile, slice up your bacon into smaller strips.

Toss these into a large skillet and season very, very liberally with pepper.  Cook until they get as crispy as you like.  Once the bacon is cooked, remove it to a separate bowl.

Toss your mushroom slices in the skillet, and cook and stir until they get nice and tender.

Then throw in your package of spinach.  Stir it around for about a minute, or until the spinach has wilted.

Once your spinach has wilted, add the bacon back to the skillet and turn off the heat.

 Mix together 3 tablespoons vinegar, 2 teaspoons sugar, 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard, and a dash of salt.  Because my mushrooms had soaked up most of my bacon grease, I also added a small amount of olive oil to the dressing, although I'm not sure that it was really necessary.

Toss the cooked pasta in with the spinach, mushrooms, and bacon...

Then pour in the dressing.

And toss your pasta salad to mix everything all together.

And there you have it...a fast, easy, hearty, delicious, and relatively healthy skillet meal! 

Hot Bacon Pasta Salad
16 oz. package of pasta
1 lb. bacon or turkey bacon
1 small package (2 cups) sliced mushrooms
10 oz. package baby spinach
3 T. red wine vinegar
2 t. sugar
1/2 t. Dijon mustard
dash salt
pepper to taste

Cook pasta according to package directions.  Dice up bacon and place in a large skillet, seasoning liberally with pepper.  Cook until crispy; remove to another bowl.  Add mushrooms to skillet and cook 2-3 minutes, or until tender.  Add spinach leaves; cook and stir until wilted.  Toss in cooked pasta.  Mix the vinegar, sugar, and salt and pour over the pasta.  Stir everything together and serve hot.  Serves 8.

Nutrition:  320 cal, 13g fat, 3g sat fat, 0g trans fat, 91mg cholesterol, 736mg sodium, 35g carbs, 1g fiber, 2g sugars, 16g protein, 67% vit. A, 18% vit. C, 7% calcium, 22% iron.

Friday, July 1, 2011

summer squash casserole

I just love comfort food.  I'm visiting my family in Kansas right now, and being back home brings back memories of all of my favorite dishes.  Growing up, we used to love eating at a restaurant called the Black Eyed Pea (does that place even exist anymore?).  My favorite dish - squash casserole.

I don't have the official Black Eyed Pea recipe, but we have found another that we love.  It's a great way to use up that summer squash that's taking over your garden!

First, cut about 3 lbs of yellow summer squash into chunks and place in a large saucepan. Cover with water and boil until tender (about 15-20 minutes).

Drain well, getting as much moisture out as you can. Mash the squash. 

Place the squash back in the saucepan and then add 1/2 cup egg substitute, 1/2 cup dry bread crumbs or crushed crackers, 2 tablespoons sugar, 2 tablespoon minced onion, 1/2 teaspoon salt (or more to taste), and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Stir well.

Spray a small casserole dish with cooking spray and then pour the squash mixture into the dish. Bake uncovered in the oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

Melt 2 teaspoons of butter and mix with two tablespoons of bread crumbs. Sprinkle over top of casserole and bake another 20-30 minutes until golden. Yum!

Summer Squash Casserole

6 small yellow summer squash (3 pounds), cut into chunks
1/2 cup egg substitute
1/2 cup plus 2 T. dry bread crumbs or crushed crackers, divided
2 T. sugar
2 T. minced onion
1/2 t. salt (or more to taste)
1/8 t. pepper
2 t. butter, melted

Place squash in a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil; boil for 15-20 minutes or until tender. Drain well, pressing squash to remove excess liquid. Mash the squash; stir in egg substitute, 1/2 cup bread crumbs, sugar, onion, salt and pepper until blended.

Transfer to a 1 1/2 qt. baking dish coated with nonstick cooking spray. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Toss the remaining bread crumbs with butter; sprinkle over the top of casserole. Bake 20-30 minutes longer or until golden. Makes 8 servings.

Nutrition (1/2 cup serving): 77 cal, 2g fat, 0g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 240mg sodium, 12g carbs, 1g fiber, 6g sugars, 4g protein, 5% vit. A, 25% vit. C, 4% calcium, 6% iron.
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