• Pizza Puffs

  • Poor Girl's Spicy Pork Chops and Rice

  • Magic Pancakes

  • Pesto Smashed Potatoes

Spicy Kung Pao Chicken

Do you remember anything from the speeches said at your graduation? Probably not. Most people don’t. However, Mr. Maebell and I remember one thing very clearly from our high school graduation. Chinese food makes you smarter.

Our class Valedictorian was the daughter of the couple that ran the very best Chinese restaurant in town. When speaking to her success, she said it was actually very simple. Chinese food makes you smarter so everyone should go eat at Hong Kong Chinese Buffet.

Of course, this got a big laugh from the crowd and years later it still proves to be one of the most memorable moments of the night. However, now anytime I make anything even remotely Asian inspired, we always joke we are getting smarter by the bite.

So make this and see what happens!

Kung Pao Chicken

This has become the most requested meal in our house. I absolutely crave it! It has a bit of spice to it and a rich flavor from the sesame oil. It is really a guest worthy dinner. The flavor is spot on to Pei Wei’s Kung Pao chicken, and it is gluten free!

Don’t shutter when you see the ingredient list. It does call for a couple things you may not keep in your pantry, however if you like Asian food I highly recommend taking the plunge and keeping these around. They aren’t expensive and you only need a couple tablespoons so they last forever. You can use this sauce for anything!

Kung Pao Chicken

For this dish I cut up a couple chicken breasts, tossed them in corn starch, and fried them in a little oil. I find that by breading them you get that crunch and the sauce tends to stick to it a bit better. However, if you want to lighten it up you can definitely do grilled or baked chicken or shrimp. The possibilities are endless!

The sauce is really simple. You just mix your main ingredients together in a small bowl, then in another bowl mix one tablespoon of cornstarch with one tablespoon of water. When you’re ready to coat your chicken with the spicy sauce you just mix the two together and it thickens up beautifully! Just like what you find in a restaurant.

Kung Pao Chicken

So, the next time you have a hankering for Kung Pao skip the take out and try this version!

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound chicken breast, cut into small pieces
  • 3/4 cup corn starch + 1 tablespoon
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sriracha (you can half this amount if you don’t like spicy things)
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon water

Directions:

  1. Cut up your chicken breast into bite sized pieces, place in a large plastic bag with 3/4 cup of corn starch, lightly shake until all of the chicken is coated well.
  2. Heat a large 12 inch skillet or dutch oven over medium high heat, pour in just enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan.
  3. Cook chicken in batches, take care not to over crowd your skillet. I cooked about 4 minutes on each side. Remove chicken from pan and place on a paper towel lined baking sheet in order to drain off as much oil as possible. Continue until all chicken is cooked.
  4. Combine the next 6 ingredients in a small bowl or measuring up to make your sauce. Set aside.
  5. Combine one tablespoon of water with one tablespoon of corn starch and mix well.
  6. Drain off any oil that is in your pan and wipe clean, heat to medium, add in soy sauce mixture and corn starch mixture, add in chicken and stir until mixture is evenly coated and heated through.
  7. Garnish with green onions, sesame seeds, and crushed red pepper if desired.

 

Just a Tip: Normally you can find sesame seed oil in the ethnic food section and in the baking section next to the regular oils, check both places. Chances are one is much cheaper than the other! 

 

Banana Pudding Bites with Dark Chocolate and Sea Salt

I know, the title is a mouthful, but I couldn’t think of a cute, short clever name that did this one justice!
Banana Pudding Bites
We don’t do really indulgent sweets around here. I mean don’t get me wrong, I definitely have a sweet tooth but I don’t bake cake, or pies, or keep ice cream in the freezer. Sweets, real sweets are generally reserved for special occasions. Actually, I am pretty sure I only baked two cakes last year, one for Mr. Maebell’s birthday and one for mine. The problem is there are two of us, just two! So if I bake a cake just two us will eat the whole darn thing! So, I have learned to get kind of creative with ways to satisfy our sweet tooth. It has to be something small, sweet, snackable, and semi healthy. Today’s Banana Pudding Bites with Dark Chocolate and Sea Salt are a product of that creativity.
Banana Pudding Bites

Holy Moses. This is a good one.

Think Rice Krispie bar meets granola and banana pudding, sounds interesting right? Well then I took it one step further by dunking these beauties in dark chocolate and sprinkling sea salt over them.

A-mazing!

Banana Pudding Bites

The idea came to me after I made the Toasted Coconut Granola Clusters, which uses a small box of pudding mix. I started wondering what else you could use pudding mix with so I surveyed my cabinets and started experimenting. The ingredient list here is simple, oats, Rice Krispies (I used gluten free), coconut oil, honey, peanut butter, and pudding mix. I actually topped half with sea salt and the rest with  chopped pecans. I was sure the pecans would be the preferred flavor, but the sea salt was a clear winner!

Banana Pudding Bites

The flavor combination is awesome. A strong banana pudding flavor with a subtle hint of peanut butter in a chewy, kind of crunchy ball smothered in bitter dark chocolate and sprinkled with sea salt to achieve the perfect sweet and salty combo. These little guys have me swooning for more!
Banana Pudding Bites
So without further ado I give you the ultimate salty sweet snack, you’re going to love it!
I’m off to make more!
Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil
  • 1 small 3 ounce package banana pudding mix
  • 1 1/2 cup Rice Krispies Cereal (I used gluten free)
  • 1 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips
  • sea salt for sprinkling

Directions:

  1. Combine peanut butter, honey, and coconut oil in a medium size sauce pan over medium heat until coconut oil is melted. Stir in the pudding mix until well incorporated.
  2. Turn off burner and remove pan from heat, add in cereal and oats, stir until mixture is coated evenly.
  3. Shape mixture into balls, the mixture will not be as sticky or thick as rice krispies. You will need to squeeze the mixture tightly for the shape to hold.
  4. Microwave chocolate chips in a small glass bowl for about 45 seconds at 50% power until chocolate is melted. Stirring in between cooking times as needed.
  5. Dip each ball into chocolate, set on wax paper and sprinkle with sea salt.
  6. Keep balls in an airtight container in the fridge.

Grapevine: From the Homeplace

All of the photos for today’s installment of The Grapevine were taken with Instagram. If you are on Instagram lets be friends! 

 

Today’s installment of The Grapevine comes directly from the homeplace.

The Farm
As I type this, I am sitting on the back porch staring at nothing but wide open spaces. I have a blanket over me and a cup of coffee next to me. I can’t hear anything except wind chimes and the dogs playing in the barn lot.
It is a far cry from the home I share with Mr. Maebell in the suburbs.

The differences in these two places I call home is a complicated thing. It is something I wonder if I will ever really straighten out in my head.Playhouse

Home, the real home, the one where I grew up, the one where I sit right now definitely means the most. The memories rooted here are deep. I could tell you a story about every room, like the hole that was haphazardly patched in the bedroom I grew up in. My brother and I had knocked something over, resulting in a deep hole right next to the door. We panicked and fixed it with wood putty (because we thought walls were made of wood). Then painted over it and dried it with a hair dryer. The hole went unnoticed for years until the summer before I went to college.

It is impossible to look at that messy patch job without smiling.

Or the tree in the front yard my siblings and I would climb. For some reason, that tree looks a lot smaller to me than it used to.

Climbing Tree

Then you have the home I share with Mr. Maebell. Our first home, the one we have remodeled and repainted. There is not a fixture in that place I have not refinished. It has been a labor of love. Sure, it lacks the character of the farm house I grew up in but that home saw us through college, an engagement, a wedding, it is the first place I ever got mail with my new name on it. The place our best friend lived with us when he returned from overseas, the place my brother moved for his first year of college. These walls have been host to some of the biggest moments of my life. How could I not call this place home, too?

Tree

Even though both of these places are near and dear to me I know neither one of them is permanent. I have already moved away from my first home, and I know our time is limited in this little house we live in now. They are chapters in our story, but they are not the whole book. I know we will move on and have other homes, probably some we love, and some we don’t. But I will forever be grateful for the houses that made me.

How very lucky I am to have two places I call home.

Easy Cheesy Chili Mac

Sometimes I am a little unsure of myself.

I work a normal office job. So I leave in the morning, I come home at dinnertime, like pretty much the rest of the world. I don’t work overtime. I don’t work weekends. I don’t have a super demanding job, yet when 5:00 rolls around some days I just don’t have anything left to give.

Is that normal?

I see other people, others that have a full time job, 6 kids, PTA, shuffling kids from soccer practice, and piano lessons. Then they go workout and take the dog for a walk, cook a five course dinner, do 12 loads of laundry, do the dishes, mow the yard AND have time to watch Grey’s Anatomy.

But here I am, a twenty something that only has to feed two and put dog food in the pups’ bowls and sometimes….well sometimes, even that is asking a lot.

I don’t even feel like it is a matter of being lazy. I really am not a lazy person. (I promise!) But sometimes I just feel kind of defeated. So, I am working on it. One of the ways I am working on it is coming up with 30 minute, one dish meals. Something that is easy, at least semi healthy, with normal ingredients that requires little clean up and prep.

This Super Easy Cheesy Chili Mac fits the bill perfectly.
It uses pantry staples you probably already have, packs a ton of flavor, and is ready in 30 minutes flat.

Hallelujah!  Weeknight meals are getting easier already!

So here is how I did it!
Brown some ground beef. I used the super duper lean ground beef, but you can use whatever you prefer. Ground chicken or turkey would also work great here if you really wanted to lighten it up.

I drained the little bit of grease that was in there off and added my spices, chili powder, onion powder, cumin, and garlic salt. Then I tossed in a can of drained and rinsed red beans, and a little chopped green bell pepper. Look at that! Beautiful!
Easy Cheesy Chili Mac (Gluten Free)
Then I just added one can of tomatoes with green chilies, a can of tomato sauce, and a can of stewed tomatoes. You can use a can of chopped, diced or whole tomatoes here. Or if you’re really crazy just use another can of tomatoes with green chilies. Then add in one cup of water.
Easy Cheesy Chili Mac (Gluten Free)
Then realize your skillet is too full!
Whoops!
That is okay, we are learning as we go.
Easy Cheesy Chili Mac (Gluten Free)
So, now you have your meat, bell pepper, spices, beans, various forms of tomatoes, and some water in a pot. Bring it to a nice simmer, then throw in two cups of dry pasta*. Yep, you heard me right just pour two cups of dry pasta from the box straight into your chili. I used penne because it is what I had, but pasta in any shape or form will do. Let your mixture simmer covered over medium low heat for 12 minutes. Stirring occasionally.
At the 12 minute mark check your pasta. Is it done? If it is, turn your burner off add 3/4 cup of cheese and stir it around, then top with your last 1/4 cup of cheese and stick the lid back on for a minute so your cheese melts.
That is it!!
Easy Cheesy Chili Mac (Gluten Free)
For me, from start to finish, this was a 28 minute meal. Yes, I timed it. And that was with the whole wrong skillet debacle.
So the next time you need dinner in a pinch keep this Super Easy Cheesy Chili Mac in mind!
Ingredients:
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 of a green bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon of onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon of garlic salt
  • 1 can red beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can tomatoes with green chilies
  • 1 can of stewed or crushed tomatoes
  • 1 can of tomato sauce (15 ounce)
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups uncooked pasta
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Directions:

  1. Heat a dutch oven or large 12 inch pot over medium heat. Brown ground beef, crumble as you go, and drain off as much grease as you can. Add in spices,  bell pepper, and the can of drained and rinsed red beans.
  2. Add in the tomatoes with green chilies, stewed tomatoes, tomato sauce and water and bring mixture to a simmer.
  3. Pour in the two cups of uncooked pasta.
  4. Cover and let mixture simmer for 12 minutes*, stirring occasionally.
  5. Stir in 3/4 cup of cheese, sprinkle the last 1/4 cup over the top, replace the lid for another moment until cheese melts.
  6. Garnish with your favorite chili fixins!

*I used Barilla Gluten Free Penne Pasta, the cook time on the box says 10 minutes, this was perfect for me at 12 minutes. I have not made this with any other type of pasta. So, I recommend checking the cook time on the box and checking your pasta for tenderness, as all cook times may vary.

Sausage and Spinach Quiche

You know those embarrassing moments you wish you could forget? The kind normal people just pretend never happened, well I have one of those memories. Instead, I am going to own it and tell you all about it.

Sausage and Spinach Quiche (gluten free)

The first time I remember having quiche I was probably 16, maybe even younger. A silly teenager who was certain she was older than she was. I was having brunch with an older friend and her Mother. I thought a lot of her Mom, but she was kind of intimidating and I couldn’t really tell if she liked me. So, of course, I was trying extra hard. I politely ordered, in my thick Southern drawl, “Qui-chee” meaning, Quiche, from the menu.

Everyone just started at me.

Sausage and Spinach Quiche (gluten free)

The dear Mother said as nicely as she could, holding back a smile, “Honey, it is pronounced “Kee-sh”

Oh dear.

There is no coming back from that one. I could feel my face get bright red. I just smiled and said “yes, that is what I will have.”

So, today I am presenting my most favorite breakfast ever, Sausage and Spinach “Qui-chee”!

Sausage and Spinach Quiche (gluten free)

This is a very hearty dish, filled with sausage, spinach, cheddar cheese, ricotta, and eggs. I can absolutely promise you will love it. We love it so much that Mr. Maebell and I had a knock-out-drag-out over the ONE piece that was leftover.

For the record, I am fairly certain he woke up before me just to ensure he would get to it first.

Sausage and Spinach Quiche (gluten free)

I made this in a regular old run of the mill shallow pie pan, so if you’re using a deep dish pie pan or casserole dish you will need to double the filling mixture to accommodate. I also used this crazy pie crust method that uses oil instead of butter. I was fairly certain it would be terrible, but it was actually really good! It was still flaky like a butter crust, but without the butter! I had to adjust the measurements, but I have noted that below. However, you can totally use a pre-made pie crust if you wish!

So there you have it, the perfect weekend meal, just in time for Saturday morning!

Ingredients:

Pie Crust:

  • 1 cup flour (I used GF Bisquick, because it all I had left)
  • 1/4 cup oil*
  • 1/8 cup ice cold water
  • I used this method, it sounds super crazy, but it worked!

*Even though that isn’t much oil at all I feel like I could have used even less and it would have been fine. After I pressed it into the pie pan I actually patted it with a napkin to absorb the extra oil. I used canola oil, but I will try coconut oil next time.

Quiche Filling:

  • 1 cup cooked and crumbled breakfast sausage (that is about 1/3 of a pound)
  • 1 cup spinach frozen spinach, thawed and drained
  • 1 cup shredded cheese, divided
  • 1/4 cup ricotta cheese
  • 4 eggs

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375
  2. In order to make your pie crust mix flour, oil and water together and mix well until you have a large, firm ball of dough. If you feel mixture is too dry or crumbly add a tablespoon of water at a time until you get the right consistency ( I used my stand mixer.)
  3. Spray a pie plate with cooking spray and place ball of dough in center of plate, spread out and up the sides of the dish evenly. Set aside.
  4. Cook breakfast sausage over medium heat, crumbling as you go. Drain off and grease and set aside.
  5. Grab your box of frozen chopped spinach and microwave for about one minute, or until thawed. Squeeze as much liquid as you can out of the spinach. I put it in a mesh colander and squeezed it against the side.
  6. Sprinkle half of your shredded cheese over your pie crust, topped with sausage and spinach.
  7. In a medium bowl beat eggs and ricotta together, pour over the sausage and spinach mixture.
  8. Bake for 25 minutes until quiche is set.