August 27, 2014

Simple Soups: Pasta Fagioli + Cheesy Garlic Bread Dippers!

Let's just face it: fall is here.  Once Starbucks starts serving Pumpkin Spiced Lattes, you might as well bust out your scarves and boots.  I'm really not against cooler weather.  Since I love to cook, this whole summer thing is really putting a damper on my style.  Even with the air on, I have to try to limit the oven time or else we will be sweating all night.

This soup is comforting, yet super healthy too.  If you love the Olive Garden version, this will be your BFF.  It freezes well, too!  While this soup is amazing, the dippers are one of the best ideas I've ever had.  Ricky has literally asked for these 5 times since I've first made the soup.  I didn't want to turn on the oven to toast my bread, but the girls were tired of plain grilled cheese.  Enter: cheesy garlic bread dippers.  If you went to college in a place with a Toppers, these taste EXACTLY like Toppers sticks.  (I can thank those Toppers Tuesdays for my Freshman 15...). 

Here's what you'll need:

For the Soup: 
  • 1 package Jennie-O lean ground turkey (93%)
  • 2 tablespoons EVOO
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 celery sticks, diced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (15 oz)- I like the basil/Italian style
  • 1 can tomato sauce (16 oz) OR 2 cups jarred marinara
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon each: Italian seasoning, Dried Basil, Oregano
  • 1 sprig of fresh thyme OR 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can Cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  •  1.5 cups ditalini pasta
  • Extras: Parmesan cheese & pesto for toppers 
For the Cheesy Garlic Bread Dippers:
  • 6-8" flour tortillas
  • Mozzarella Cheese- 2 cups
  • Garlic Powder
  • Italian Seasoning 
Let's COOK! 
  1.  Cook pasta, set aside.
  2. In a large soup pot, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add ground turkey and brown for 4-5 minutes.  Add Italian seasoning, dried basil, oregano and thyme.  Cook for 1-2 more minutes.
  3. Add all veggies and garlic. Cook until soft, 3-4 minutes.  Add extra EVOO if needed.
  4. Toss in beans, tomato sauce and diced tomatoes.  Turn to low heat and bubble for 20 minutes.  Add more seasoning, as needed.  I like to add a dollop of pesto and cheese before serving.
  5. Heat a frying pan over medium heat.  Spray with Pam and add one tortilla.  Drizzle lightly with EVOO. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese, garlic powder and Italian seasoning.  
  6. After browning for 1-2 minutes, fold in half and continue to brown until all cheese is melted.  Warning: these are addicting--make extras!
  7. Ladle soup into bowls and top with pasta.  I like to keep it separate so the noodles don't get soggy for leftovers later. 
Craving more soup to use those garlic bread dippers in?  Here's more Simple Soups!
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August 25, 2014

Back-to-School Snack Time: Quick and Easy After School Snacks!

Disclaimer: This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #CollectiveBias

My girls love to graze all day long, so I'm worried they are going to be STARVING by the time they get home from kindergarten.  Remember how important the after school snack was when you were little?  The best would be if you got fresh cookies or a tasty oven treat like Bagel Bites.  I'm going to need to have a snack ready for when we get back from our walk home.  It will have to be filling enough to hold them over for dinner, but not too big to spoil their dinner. I have a feeling we will be having some early nights after the first few exhausting days of school.

We have ONE WEEK until the girls start kindergarten.  I am a ball of emotions!  On one hand I cannot wait for them to have school-- they are getting pretty bored at home!  There are only so many activities you can do that seem fresh by this point of the summer.  On the other hand, I cannot believe my twins are already this old! I'm so fortunate that the school is within walking distance and we will have a fun new routine every day.

Things are quite different for kindergarten these days.  I'm kind of shocked by it!  They go full days (8:55-3:55 with ONE recess) and the principal tagged kindergarten as "the new 1st/2nd grade".  This will be quite an eye opener! All I remember about kindergarten is coloring and making friends.  That's about it!
Check out my super cool laser background!

Since today was rainy and gloomy, we headed out to Walmart to pick up some lunchbox and after-school treats.  As you can see in the pics, they are SO ready for school.  Non-stop arguing and whining. For the first few weeks, I thought I would let them have special snacks they don't always have: Bagel Bites and Delimex Chicken taquitos. We are huge dippers, so we like to put all of the snacks on a platter with 3-4 dippers: ranch, guacamole, salsa and queso. Quick and easy! We can sit and dip our snacks and catch up on the day.  I know Olivia and Maddie will have SO many stories to tell!

Before you head out to the store, make sure print off some coupons!  There is one for the Bagel Bites and any Delimex product-we love the beef taquitos too. I love that Bagel Bites use real cheese and homemade sauce--they are something I feel comfortable giving my girls. #AfterSchoolSnacks

First day of preschool last year!  Stay tuned for the kindergarten one!
As this week before school flies by, I keep telling myself to stop and cherish every moment with my girls.  After they start kindergarten, nothing is the same!  No longer will we have lazy Tuesday mornings in bed watching PBS or mid-morning trips to the library for fun story hour.  Gabby will have me all to herself and this should be interesting.  She is 3 and has started to get that diva, larger than life attitude.  I can't imagine what my full, undivided attention will bring! Watch out!

What was your favorite after-school snack?


August 18, 2014

Mmmm Monday: Loaded Bacon Idaho Nachos #PackedWithSavings

Disclosure: This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc and its advertiser. All opinions and tasty recipes are my own. #PackedWithSavings #CollectiveBias

Did you know that you can find printable coupons on the website?  Right now I have been printing online coupons up a storm now that we're getting ready for back-to-school chaos! I want a stocked pantry and freezer for those upcoming busy nights.  There are 20 Kraft coupons to help you stock up on all of your favorites!

There is something about bacon and cheese that I can't resist. After a long weekend working, I came home yesterday and all I wanted was some comfort food.  In my opinion, comfort food at home is A-OK since you know what's going in it.  Better-for-you takeout, right?! 

While I love any nacho I can get my hands on, I like to switch it up too!  These Idaho nachos use thinly sliced potatoes which you can bake or flash fry.  Topped with crispy bacon and cheese, these are the ultimate comfort food.  The icing on the cake is my specialty dip--a creamy, spiced ranch dip.  Once you make this dip, you will NEVER go back to store bought french onion dip again.  It's THAT GOOD.

We have a new Walmart that opened up last week right by our house.  It's going to be so convenient--I think Olivia might be more excited than I am! The girls love to help me shop, so I handed them their list and some coupons to use (brave, I know!).  Olivia helped me with the cheese, Maddie helped me with Jell-O and other snacks we needed.  Although it takes me MUCH longer to shop with the girls, even with Ricky tagging along, I love the family time we spend at the store.  My ladies love food!

Here's what you need:
  • 3-4 large potatoes, washed and thinly sliced
  • Bacon, cooked and chopped. We love the new nitrate free Oscar Mayer Selects
  • Kraft shredded cheese
  • For the dip:
    • 1 cup whipped cream cheese (entire container)
    • 1/2 cup Kraft Ranch
    • 1/4 teaspoon each of: garlic powder, onion powder, curry powder, paprika and parsley
    • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • Additional tasty toppings: green onion, tomatoes/salsa, jalapenos, BBQ chicken, pulled pork...whatever your heart desires!
  1.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
  2. Cook the potatoes.  You can bake them for 8-10 minutes at 400* or flash fry in shallow oil in a pan over medium heat.  They should be cooked through, but not super brown.
  3. Lay the potatoes in a single layer on a lined cookie sheet.  Top with cheese and bacon. Cook for 5-7 minutes, until cheese is melted.
  4. While the potatoes are cooking, make up the ranch dip by simply combining all spices and ingredients.  This will make extra, perfect for dipping chips later!
  5. Once the nachos are out of the oven, top with your favorite toppings and dip in the cool ranch dip!

If you're going to watch football at a friend's house on a Sunday, these are the perfect nachos to bring to wow the crowd.  You can pre-cook the potatoes and throw them in the fridge.  Another idea would be to simply cook the nachos with cheese and have a toppings bar for people to add their own favorites.  Also, you MUST HAVE is the dip!

What's your favorite comfort food?

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