Quick and Easy Nacho Cheese Casserole {Meatless}

So Lent starts in two days! That means meatless Fridays (and Ash Wednesday) starts this week.

I used to panic about trying to come up with meatless dinners for Lenten Fridays.  I was trying to make meatless dinners that were also fancy.  Which is kinda besides the point of fasting and abstinence. Duh.   Once I figured out I didn’t need to make anything super fancy and meatless, it wasn’t so hard. Actually, Lenten Fridays have become my favorite dinner days because it’s a great “excuse” to keep things super-duper simple.

Who says you can’t serve your family cereal or eggs and toast for dinner?

If, however, you’d like something a tad more exciting than breakfast for dinner, here’s a meatless recipe I shared last month at that’s super easy but looks a little fancy too. They’ll never know how hard you didn’t try. 

Quick and Easy Nacho Cheese Casserole

You only need Five Ingredients, an Oven, and about half-an-hour to put this together and on the table. Go here for the full recipe and, while you’re there, I suggest you check out all the delicious’s Meatless Friday Dishes.  

What are your favorite go-to meals for Lenten Fridays?


JUICY Lemon & Herb Roast Chicken 5

This is a story about chicken. And a recipe for your reading reward.

Yes, that’s right, of the poultry variety.

Juicy Lemon and Herb Roast Chicken

As a young girl, I loved the smell and taste of delicious, buttery, roast chicken. When we went to the grocery store, I’d practically beg my mom to walk over by the deli area just so I could catch a whiff of their chickens turning around in the oven.

Lucky for me, my dad also shared this love for rotisserie and roast chicken. Whenever my mom wasn’t home or he felt like “making dinner”, he’d bring home a nice juicy chicken from the store, much to the joy of my salivating taste buds. I always called the drumstick and woe to anyone who tried taking it from me.

Once I was married and making meals of my own, I dreamed of roasting my own bird just like the ones in the store. To my great dismay – and to my poor husband’s and family’s – I just couldn’t quite figure out how to cook a whole fryer, or any type of chicken, without it coming out as dry and bland as a piece of chewy cardboard. So I gave up and have stuck to beef or frozen prepared chicken.

But then my friend, Mary of the hilariously down-to-earth Mary Big Hair blog, practically bribed me to help redesign her blog with free chickens that her and her husband and my other friends raised. As if she had to even ask! I was giddy with excitement and could sit and redesign blogs all day if only I didn’t have to feed people.

So, now I had two whole headless, plucked chickens to somehow turn into something edible. The sight of a whole fryer chicken had become so foreign in our house that every time someone opened the freezer they’d ask, “Why are there turkeys in our freezer?”

I knew I needed to do something with them – they couldn’t stay in our freezer forever, right? But I was too intimated given my failed past attempts with poultry cooking.

However, last night a miracle occurred. After a little over twelve years as domesticated “housewife”, I finally graduated to Master Housewife status and roasted a chicken successfuly!

Thanks to my friend, Elizabeth, for the recipe she shared by our mutual friends over on their old Ideas.Folk.Work blog, I now know how to properly roast a chicken.

There are two crucial lessons I learned that lead to my successful juicy roast chicken.

1. Apparently it’s all in the brine.

2. Roasting in the oven vs. the crockpot is way better.

Ok, blah, blah, blah. Here is the amazingly wonderful but super easy – even for me –

Juicy Lemon and Herb Roast Chicken

First, here is how you need to brine the chicken. (I did this the night before cooking.)

Rinse the chicken and pat dry. Dissolve 1 c. salt in 4 quarts water, or enough to cover the chicken. Submerge the chicken in the brine, covering completely, and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or up to 8 hours. Remove from brine and pat dry.

chicken in a pot

Seeing a chicken in a pot of water on my counter like this made me feel like a real life domesticated woman. 😉

Ingredients for Roasting the Chicken after brining

¼ c. extra-virgin olive oil (I used butter because I can’t stand olive oil.)

1 4-5 lb. roasting chicken, brined

5 cloves minced garlic 1 lemon

1 bunch fresh rosemary Salt and pepper (I used dried basil since that’s all I had.)

Directions for after you Brine. Be sure to read the directions in their entirety. Total cooking time is 1 HOUR and 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 450. Rub the olive oil and 3 of the minced garlic cloves over the outside of the chicken. Cut the lemon in half, squeeze half over the outside, and then place inside the cavity of the chicken with the rosemary and remaining garlic. Sprinkle the bird with salt and pepper. Place chicken in a heavy roasting pan and bake for 30 minutes. Then turn oven down to 350 and bake for an additional hour, or until done.

Check to make sure the bottom is cooked through and then bring it out of the oven and stand back and admire your beautiful roast chicken. Lastly, eat and enjoy every single piece of juicy, buttery, melt-in-your mouth chicken.

roasted chicken

A few notes:

In my usual state of haste and distraction, I only read “bake for 30 minutes”, so dinner took a little longer than I’d originally planned. I underlined and italicized the part about baking it for an additional hour to spare you from the same fate.

Because of my inability to read through the directions all the way, we ate something else for dinner earlier in the evening. But then, when it was done, suddenly everyone was hungry again so we all tried some and it took all our efforts not to sit there and eat the whole thing up like a bunch of greedy barbarians.

We ate most of the rest tonight for dinner, though it wasn’t as good as when it first came out, it was still pretty good. I served it up with some of the Pioneer Woman’s heavenly mashed potatoes.

This picture makes it look like I hardly ate any. See that bowl of mashed potatoes in the background? It’s most all gone now. They totally stole the chicken’s glory.

And there you have it, folks. The story of how I finally mastered the chicken.

The BEST & Easiest Turkey Recipes {Thanksgiving Menu Link-Up} 4

Thanksgiving is only in three days! (If you are reading this on Tuesday morning.)

I’m thankful for many things this Thanksgiving, especially since I do not have to do all the cooking. We get together with my husband’s family and everyone brings something to share, it’s like a real authentic Thanksgiving! Since I didn’t grow up with this tradition – Mexico and England don’t celebrate Thanksgiving – I enjoy being able to enjoy a traditional American Thanksgiving.

However, if I did have to get a Turkey ready, I have a couple of really great recipes I’d use.

This first one comes from a very special guy, a cute  (yet more than slightly ornery) five-year-old preschooler:

Simple! I don’t know why everyone makes such a big deal about cooking the Turkey. They must not having this recipe.

The next recipe comes from a very sweet little preschool girl whose mommy gave me permission to snap this picture and share it since it’s so fabulous! 

This one is slightly more complicated but how could you go wrong with sugar, “4 inches of milk”, and colored sprinkles to top it off! I think I need to go to this girl’s house for Thanksgiving.

If only it were that easy!

Now, if you are looking for a hearty side to go along with those amazing turkey recipes, here’s a real one for you to make up for the above non-recipes –

Bacon & Potatoes {Man-Approved}

I’m hoping to make this Panera Bread Turkey Chili Copycat Recipe for a post-Thanksgiving lunch with my family on Friday along with my favorite Focaccia Bread.

And here are a few other ideas I put together last year on my Thanksgiving Menu Pinterest Board

Follow Simplemama’s board Thanksgiving Menu Ideas on Pinterest.

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Caramel Rocky Road Brownie Ice Cream Cake

how to make an ice cream cake

For our baby’s recent 2-year-old birthday, I decided to try something different from the usual “birthday cake”. I don’t really like cake, I mean they are pretty cool to look at sometimes but the inside is usually too…cakey for my liking. I’m more of a glazed pastry or hot fudge banana sundae type of dessert eater. And of course, a slice of tiramisu is like heaven on a fork.

I finally decided I’d make some sort of ice cream dessert. You see, my son – my lovely sweet baby – well he’s basically the “perfect” baby except for one major flaw: He screams.

More lie screeches his head off at everything and everyone when he isn’t happy. In the car, at home, in the store. Anywhere – he screeches. (Even so, as much as I loved Saved the Bell, I can’t bring myself to call him Screech so don’t get any ideas.)

When we were brainstorming what type of cake to make him, he was walking around us screaming. So immediately I knew – he needed an I – SCREAM cake.

Hahahaha. Get it, I-scream? Ok, ok, I’ll stop telling that joke now that it’s written in stone forever solidifying my mom nerdiness.

I was going to throw cookies or brownies in a bowl and cover it with ice cream and call it good. But then, around 9 pm the night before his morning birthday party, I decided to take a quick peek at Pinterest and see if there were any super simple ice cream cake recipes – just a “quick” look.

To my great surprise, I found one –

The FUDGE BROWNIE ICE CREAM CAKE from Kim at the Seven Thirty Three blog

Click over there for the full recipe and how to – with pictures for all you visual learners like me. 

You basically layer up your ice cream in a springform pan, sprinkle on any other ingredients – brownies, crumbled cookies, etc – and then repeat the layers until you are out of ice cream, then freeze. After it’s good and frozen, you’ll thaw it just enough to release it from the springform pan and then stick it in the freezer again. Once it’s frozen again, you can decorate it with more whipped cream and chocolate syrup and freeze it again until you’re ready to serve. Very easy.

For my cake, I used a caramel-laced vanilla ice cream and a Rocky Road chocolate one also – because how could I only use one ice cream flavor?

The ice-cream was store-bought but if you could always make your own if you are super cool like that. I did, however, bake my own batch of fudgy brownies for the filling but I’m sure a boxed brownie mix would work just fine – especially any of the Ghiradelli Fudgy Brownie Mixes.

I used this whipped cream recipe from Dorothy at CrazyforCrust and added more powdered sugar as needed. I learned not to over mix the whipped cream or it gets all liquidy and unusable. I used my scooper spoon to dollop the whipped cream on the top of the cake and then drizzled chocolate syrup over the top for extra prettiness and sugar – because it is dessert after all and, at that point, I had already crossed way over my sugar threshold so what could a little more hurt?

I stuck in a number candle and a few other decorative frills I found in my cake-decorating box and, voila – my first ice cream birthday cake!

It was so delicious and I admit that I was – still am – mighty proud of it. I might have to make one for my own birthday coming up – this time I’ll add in some crumbled oreos or chocolate chips…oh so many choices!

how to make an ice cream cake


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School Lunch Ideas {Five Favorites}

School is just around the corner and I’m trying to prepare as best as I can to get back into the school routine – without going too crazy. This year I’d like to do a better job with making/providing better lunch options.

The lunches at school are good and not terribly expensive but when you have more than one child it is definitely more cost effective to make your own. Making our own lunches also offers a great opportunity for the kids to learn how to make their own lunches and how to do a little work to save money.

For today’s Five Favorites, I’m sharing –

5 Favorite Make-Your-Own School Lunch Ideas

~ 1 ~

This year we bought new lunch box containers – The Sistema Klip It Lunch Cube

I also heard great things about the Ziploc Divided Rectangle Containers

We went with the Sistema Klip It Lunch Cube because they fit into the kids’ lunchboxes better and I think it might do a better job at keeping food in but we’ll see. As long as the kids don’t put their containers sideways it should be ok…

~ 2 ~

With the new lunch containers, I’m planning on mixing “bento lunch” ideas with the classic “lunchables”. I’ve been going pin-crazy searching for fun DIY Lunchables ideas that I’ll share with you now.

30 days of lunchbox recipes: No Repeats!

School Lunch Box Ideas

Cute tortilla roll-ups – and healthy too!

 ~ 3 ~ 

School Lunch Roundup!

School Lunch Fruit Kabobs

I love the Fruit and Sandwich Kabob idea!

~ 4 ~


Healthy School Lunch Ideas

Again, LOVIN’ The Kabobs ideas and the muffin cups for cute & easy food separation.

I might have to go looking for fancy Toothpics and pretty silicone muffin cups!

~ 5 ~ 

Lunch Made Easy: 20 Non-Sandwich School Lunch Ideas for Kids!

Non-Sandwich Lunch Ideas

We get so tired of sandwiches every day – these are great non-sandwich ideas to get you thinking out of the box.

 What do you pack in  your kids’ lunches?


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