Friday, November 29, 2013

Cookies and Cream Popcorn



Here we are!  Knee deep in holiday fun and craziness.

Last year I made a similar version to this popcorn that was a huge family favorite along with 4 other delicious treats:  Peanut Butter Fudge,  Oreo Chocolate Balls, Pecan Balls and Peanut Butter Nanaimo Bars.

This year the kids asked for it again but I decided to throw in a few "EXTRA'S" like the mini Oreo's and the Thin Mint Bits (which are fabulous by the way).

There are several gluten free options for this popcorn recipe.  One, is to not include the Oreo's for obvious reasons or two, buy the gluten free creamed-filled cookies.  I usually buy mine from Whole Foods or in the specialty diet section of most grocery stores.  They don't sell the mini's but the crush up to bite size pieces easy enough.

The reason I like these popcorn recipes is they make great teacher and neighborhood gifts.  I bought these cute boxes at Michael's and they hold about 2-3 cups.  The kids can easily deliver them with out the fret of a plate of cookies ending up in my drive way.

Enjoy this simple recipe.


Cookies and Cream Popcorn

Makes 5-6 cups 

5 cups of popcorn, popped
2 sleeves of chocolate cream filled cookies (gluten free are available at some stores)
1/2 package of white chocolate chips
1 cup of Peppermint candy or Thin Mint Bits


1.  In a large bowl, add your 5 cups of prepared popcorn.  

2.  Crush the chocolate cream filled cookies into small pieces. Add cookies and candy to popcorn.

3.  Melt white chocolate chips in the microwave.  To do this you will need to use a microwavable dish, add chips and heat for 30 seconds, stir, repeat until chocolate is melted completely, about 2 minutes total time.

4.  Pour white chocolate over popcorn/candy/cookie mix.  Using your hands, mix well.  Spread on a cookie sheet to set chocolate.


*Store in air tight containers until ready to serve.

Written by
Sherron Watson

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Kid Friendly Cheese Manicotti




My kids love pasta!  What they really love is homemade pasta.  I can't always find the time in my day to whip up a fresh batch of pasta for every meal that requires it <--go figure!  LOL

I buy the organic brand of pasta by Whole Foods.  It is super inexpensive--$1.29 a box.   This is not an ad for Whole Foods it is just where I shop and so they get some free advertising from me.  You're very welcome Whole Foods.

What makes this manicotti kid friendly you ask?  I believe it is the cream cheese.  Isabella devoured a whole pan by herself in about three meals.  She absolutely loved the filling and has since requested this dish many times.  I know this is not a traditional filling but remember I am trying to keep it kid friendly.

I still included the parmesan and ricotta cheeses but the flavor of the cream cheese made this dish a familiar flavor to my six year old.  We eat a lot of cream cheese in our home.  Well, we eat a lot of cheese PERIOD.  

I feel a bit like Martha Stewart at the moment with my manicotti picture.  LOL  I will be honest,  pasta is hard to photograph and this is not the best image but hopefully you will forgive me for sharing the one and only picture I have of this dish.

I promise it is creamy, cheesy and melts in your mouth delicious.

Homemade Pasta

If you wish to make your own pasta, I have a wonderful  Spinach Pasta on the blog.  If you wish to have plain pasta, then visit this pasta making page too with step by step instructions using a pasta rolling machine.

To make this gluten free you will need to use gluten free noodles or make your own gluten free sheet pasta.  I do this all the time and it works perfectly.  Here are several links:






Kid Friendly Cheese Manicotti

Serves:  one pan-6 people
Prep Time:  15 minutes
Bake Time:  25 minutes


12-14 manicotti shells, cooked
1 large jar of marinara sauce or your favorite homemade sauce
1 8oz. package of cream cheese, softened
4 cups grated mozzarella cheese (2 cups for filling/2 cups for topping)
3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 15oz. container of ricotta cheese
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon of salt
3 tablespoons fresh chives, diced small


I made two pans with 7 shells each. I froze one tray for a later lunch or dinner.

Preheat oven to 350.

1.  Prepare shells according to package instructions.

2.  Pour marinara sauce in bottom of pan, enough to cover with a 1/4 inch of sauce. (The amount will vary depending on size of pan you use).

3.  In a medium bowl, combine all of the cheeses, garlic, pepper/salt and chives.  Combine well.

4.  Stuff each shell with cheese and place side by side in the marinara sauce.

5.  Add more marinara across to the top of the stuffed shells, top with remaining mozzarella cheese. Bake for 25 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly.

**To freeze:  Cover with foil.  On the day of baking, remove from freezer and bake at 350 for one hour.  Remove foil half way through baking time. 

30 day shelf life in freezer.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Individual Chicken Pot Pies





For the month of October I was asked to contribute some kid friendly recipes for Capital Style Magazine. This is a local magazine here in Annapolis.  I asked my kids what they would consider "kid friendly" and my husband piped in,  chicken pot pie.

He said that this was a staple in his family and that his brothers, there were six of them, and his only sister, loved chicken pot pie as winter set in during the cold months in Oregon.  The rain in Oregon chills you to the bone; when you are walking from the bus to your door step, something warm for dinner is a great way to warm those chilly bones.

For me, chicken pot pie was always something my Mom bought pre-made in the freezer section when she had to work late.  Don't get me wrong, I loved it too. I didn't know any better and it beat having a bowl of cereal.  I am sure the flavors were a bit different, seeing how one was from scratch and one was store bought, but the same thought went into each: feed the children.  

I have one issue with chicken pot pie--soggy bottom crust.  I know some of you may love this and find it is delightful to your palette.  For me it is just mushy, icky and taste uncooked.  I decided to make my pot pies with no crust on the bottom. Instead I decided to top each one with a layer of pie crust and serve each individual pie with a set of pie crust shaped hearts.  This way the kids could dunk, break them up or eat them solo.  



I have learned a few things about being pregnant and having a baby.  I don't have time to make everything little thing from scratch.  I used to and I want to but the reality is, some days I am lucky to brush my hair and change my spit upon dirty shirt from the day before.  (I know some of you can relate or at least I hope you do).

You will find that I chose to buy a rotisserie chicken and pre-made pie crust.  PLEASE, if you have the time and cook from scratch make these for your pot pies and you will be rewarded with a wonderful treat.  Maybe next year this will happen for me.  (wink,wink)

Time is a juggling act right now.  One day I have lots of spare minutes and the next I have but a few minutes to spare.  When I was younger and over involved with too many obligations, I would get frustrated at this time game.

Not this time.

I treasure the days that I can hold Finnley for hours.  She is my last.  It is so weird looking into her eyes and knowing I have turned a mile stone. No more babies for me.  I am sad.  I take each day with stride and do the best I can.  Homeschooling Isabella takes priority over most things.  Once that is done then I can devote time to the house, laundry and work.

I have to remind myself of a saying that I have found myself saying to others, "there is a time and season; this time with your babies goes by super fast, enjoy it!"  I am taking my advice and enjoying it.

I hope that you find this chicken pot pie delicious.   I was able to make up a few extra and freeze them for use at a later date.

** I have added notations to the recipe to make this gluten free.  Notice instructions in bold.

Individual Chicken Pot Pies

Makes: 6 individual portions
Prep. Time:  20 minutes
Bake Time:  35 minutes (longer if frozen)

Preheat oven to 350.

2 packages of pre-made pie crust (I use a gluten free
pie crust from Pillsbury that is already to go).

For the Filling:

3 cups Rotisserie Chicken meat, diced
1/3 cup shredded carrots
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 small yellow potatoes, diced small
1/2 cup frozen peas
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour (use white rice flour if gluten free)
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons dried thyme (optional)
Melted butter, to brush onto pie crust

1.  In a medium bowl combine: chicken pieces, carrots, garlic, yellow potatoes, and frozen peas. Set aside.

2.  In a medium sauce pan, melt butter. Add flour and whisk. Add chicken broth and cream.  Cook on medium until thickened, stirring frequently so the bottom does not burn..  Remove from heat.  Add creamy mixture to meat/veggie bowl.

3.  Using individual ramekins or individual foil pie tins, ladle filling into each one.  Leave 1/2 inch of head space.

4.  Unroll pie crust and cut 6 circles, one inch larger than top of ramekin.  I used a salad plate as my template.  Place pie crust on top of each and crimp crust. With a sharp knife cut three slits for the hot steam to escape.

5.  Brush each top with melted butter (optional).  Bake for 35 minutes or until golden brown.

6.  I used the left over pie crust to make hearts (bake according to instructions on box) to be served on the side of each ramekin.


***These freeze really well. Cover with foil, freeze and label for 30 days. To bake, preheat to 350 and bake for 40-45 minutes.  No need to thaw them first.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Easy Black Bean and Sausage Soup



It is finally soup weather in Maryland.  Our family LOVES soup and the truth is we don't really need cold weather to enjoy it in our home.

I needed a quick dinner and canned black beans were eye balling me in the cupboard.  I buy canned beans to have on hand for emergency situations, like when our power goes out for a week or two. Unfortunately it happens more than I would like to say.

The chicken sausages just seemed like the perfect addition once I included them to the black bean soup.

Speaking of perfect additions, I will take this time to share some cute baby pictures of Finnley.  She is a joy to have included in our family.  To see my older children interact with her brings a smile to my face.

I will say though, going anywhere with our clan is weird.  I never imagined myself with four kids and when we go to the mall or out to eat, we are big group; especially when two of our kids are adults.  I wouldn't change it for the world, in fact,  if I were younger I would have another one.


I love my family and kids. To me there is no other job I would prefer to have occupy my time and energy.  I enjoy writing about food and taking pictures of food but I will have lots of time throughout my life time to devote to such things.  My kids are only with us for a very short time.

This soup recipe was shared in Capital Style Magazine and so I shot this ingredient picture.  I love that the recipe is simple, healthy and taste like a gourmet bowl of deliciousness-rich, thick and full of flavor.




Easy Black Bean and Sausage Soup

Servings: 4-6 bowls
Prep. Time:  10 minutes
Cook Time:  1 hour

2-15 oz. cans black beans, drained and rinsed
2 -16 oz cans of chicken broth
1 pound of smoked ham hocks (usually two hocks)
1/2 cup red onion, chopped
1/2 cup green bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

3 Chicken and Cilantro Sausage Links (optional)
3 cups of prepared rice (optional)
Toppings:  diced tomato, avocado, sour cream, grated cheese, cilantro

1.  In a large pot add the first 9 ingredients.

2.  Bring soup to a boil and then let simmer for 1 hour.  The soup will thicken, veggies will cook and any meat on the ham hock will fall off.

3.  Remove ham hock bones.  Using a potato masher, mash soup a few times.

4.  In a sauté pan, heat a small amount of oil.  Slice the chicken cilantro sausages and fry on each side.  Add to the soup.  Serve.


**To stretch the soup, it can be served over rice.  Top the soup with your favorite toppings.


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