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Doctored Up Carrot Cake Mix

We celebrated Hannah’s birthday recently. Plus, she moved out, since she’ll be attending college in the Fall. So I wanted to try a doctored up carrot cake mix. And it was the best cake mix with add-ins so far.

I used carrots, of course. And I added in flaked coconut, raisins, chopped nuts, crushed pineapple and spices. Please enjoy.

Doctored Up Carrot Cake Mix Ingredients:

dry ingredients in a light blue mixing bowl
  • 2 boxes Carrot Cake mix (I used Duncan Hines)
  • 1 1/2 c buttermilk
  • 1/2 c flour
  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2/3 c melted butter
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 c grated carrots
  • 1 1/2 c shredded coconut
  • 8 oz crushed pineapple, drained
  • 3/4 c raisins
  • 1 1/2 c chopped nuts (I used almonds)
  • and 1 pkg of vanilla pudding

Carrot Cake Mix Instructions:

cake batter with shredded carrots in a light blue mixing bowl

Preheat oven to 350°, and spray your pans with nonstick cooking spray. Alternatively you could grease and flour them.

  • First, combine your dry ingredients (cake mixes, flour, salt, and spices) in a mixing bowl.
  • Next, add eggs, buttermilk, melted butter. And mix on medium speed for ~ 1 minute, scraping the sides of the bowl.
  • Then fold in shredded carrots, coconut, nuts, and drained pineapple.
  • This makes ~ 8 cups of batter, which you’ll then pour into your prepared pans. And bake at 350° for 45-55 minutes. Check at 50 minutes, and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake should come out clean.
  • Let the cakes cool completely before turning out and frosting with either cream cheese frosting, cream cheese whipping cream frosting, or even a buttercream frosting.
  • And finally, serve and enjoy.
white frosted two layer cake on a cake stand

This is a great cake to have really any time. But with all of the extra ingredients to the cake mix, it’s almost like homemade. If you made this, what did you think? Your comments are appreciated.

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How to Cook Black Beans from Scratch

Since we love Mexican and Tex-Mex food at my house, (probably more so than eating Italian), I came up with this recipe. While both are easy to make, it seems that the former two are our go-to foods. Also, some foods are just staples. Like black beans. You can use them in soups or salads. And of course, they’re great simply as a side. Granted there are many brands of canned black beans, including refried. But DIY tastes so much better. So for today’s post I’m going to go over how to cook black beans from scratch.

I used 2 lbs of dry black beans this time. And that’s because I wanted to have leftovers. Because the last time I cooked black beans from scratch I only used 1 lb of dry beans. So it wasn’t enough for my family of 4. But you might want to split the recipe. Or you can freeze half of it. Here’s how you do that.

black beans in a blue strainer

Ingredients for Black Beans from Scratch:

  • 2 lbs dry black beans
  • ~2 – 2 1/2 qts water
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro or 1/8 cup dry cilantro
  • 1 Tbsp fresh minced garlic
  • 1 Tbsp cumin
  • ~2 1/2 – 3 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper

How to Cook Black Beans from Scratch:

  • If you didn’t rinse and soak the beans overnight, then you can rinse and quick soak them now. Plan on at least an extra hour to your cooking time.

There’s a lot of disagreement on this point: to soak or not to soak? Well, I personally soak our beans. There have been times when I didn’t. And those times I noticed a significant difference in my comfort level. So now I do. Every time.

  • After soaking the beans, rinse them in a colander.

You can either reserve the soaking liquid, or dump it, and start with fresh.

  • Put the drained and rinsed beans back into the dutch oven. And cover with water. Or cover with the soaking liquid, adding enough water to be sure to cover the beans. But don’t add as much water as when soaking them.
  • Place the dutch oven on the stove. And turn the burner on med-hi.
  • Stir in your seasonings.
  • Lower the burner setting to a simmer when the water starts to boil. Then cover, cooking till the beans are soft, ~ 1 1/2 hrs to 2 hrs.
Cooked black beans in a pot

Be sure to check the water level, so the beans don’t get burned. And add more water if needed.

The beans are finished when they’re soft. You might have more liquid in it than you want. I typically cook our beans until most of the liquid is gone, but not till the beans are dry. Also, add more salt and pepper to taste.

You can serve these black beans from scratch as a side or as the main course, adding a different side. Like Mexican rice.

Thanks for stopping by!

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Easy Recipe for Chicken Tacos

Most of us know that it’s healthier to make our own food than to eat out, order in, or buy pre-made. However it isn’t always feasible due to demands on our busy schedules. And sometimes it’s just nice to go out to for a bite to eat. But there are options available if you don’t want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen or sacrifice nutrition. Like this easy recipe for chicken tacos.

I first started making these chicken tacos within the past ~6 years. Because I wanted a simple recipe. And this is what I came up with. So I hope you enjoy them as much as we do.

Ingredients for Easy Chicken Tacos

  • 2 lbs chicken breast halves
  • 1 can mild Rotel, drained
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 6-8 soft flour tortillas for tacos
  • 1 cups shredded cheddar cheese
shredded chicken with Rotel

Instructions for Easy Chicken Tacos

  • Put chicken breast halves in a pot and cover with water. Once the water boils, lower to a simmer, and cover the pot with a lid.
  • Cooking times vary, so when chicken is cooked (at 165 degrees), then turn off the burner, and remove the pot from heat source.
  • Drain off most of the water, leaving ~2 to 3 tablespoons of broth, and shred the chicken, using two forks.
  • Stir in drained Rotel and cumin. * I use only 1/2 can of Rotel, because I don’t want it too spicy.*
  • Then place the pot with shredded chicken, Rotel, and cumin back on the burner on med-low heat until the liquid evaporates.
  • Heat the tortillas in a tortilla warmer for 30 secs in the microwave. Or, if you don’t have one, you don’t need a tortilla warmer to heat them up. Here are some other options.
  • Top with shredded cheese and your other favorite toppings and a side.

I hope you try this recipe, and thanks for stopping by!

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Homemade Macaroni and Cheese with Penne Pasta

This is a great homestyle recipe, using penne pasta instead of traditional elbow noodles. I used to make the box brands. And then I switched to some I found in cookbooks. But some of those were time consuming. Eventually, as I learned more about cooking and my own style, I came up with this easy, homemade macaroni and cheese with penne pasta.

Ingredients for Homemade Macaroni and Cheese with Penne Pasta:

  • 12 oz of penne pasta
  • 1 c whipping cream
  • 1 1/2 c shredded Mexican blend cheese or sharp cheddar cheese, divided
  • cracked pepper to taste
prepping homemade macaroni and cheese with penne pasta

Instructions for making Homemade Macaroni and Cheese with Penne Pasta:

  • Cook penne pasta according to package instructions.
  • While noodles are cooking, heat 1 c whipping cream in a small saucepan over med heat.
  • Add 1/2- 3/4 c shredded cheese to saucepan.
  • Add cracked pepper to taste to saucepan.
  • Stir cheese mixture constantly until it is thickened.
  • Drain the water from the penne pasta when it’s finished cooking.
  • Stir the cheese sauce into the noodles.
  • Put the penne noodle mixture into a greased 9 1/2 x 7 1/2 inch baking dish.
  • Sprinkle the remaining shredded cheese on top of the macaroni.
  • Top with more cracked black pepper to taste.
  • And bake in a 350 degree oven until cheese is melted on top ~ 5 mins.
beef and pork meatloaf muffins with homemade macaroni and cheese

This pairs well with so many foods. However it certainly has a Southern charm. So I pair mine with pork or meatloaf.

I hope you enjoyed this post. And if you make it, please let me know what you think. How do you cook macaroni and cheese? Let me know in the comments.

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Easy Sheet Pan Chicken Nachos

When my husband worked as a fireman, he came up with this easy sheet pan chicken nachos recipe for his shift, which he then shared with me. I make it frequently, because it’s tasty and very simple. Especially for nights when I don’t really want to cook or time is an issue. It combines canned chicken meat, refried beans, tortilla chips, seasoning, and some garnishes for a yummy snack or meal, whatever one prefers.

Ingredients for Easy Sheet Pan Chicken Nachos:

  • 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 12.5 oz Can of Drained Chicken Breast
  • 15 oz Can of Refried Beans
  • 1/2 oz Guacamole Seasoning Packet
  • 16 oz Bag of Tortilla Chips
  • Shredded Mexican Blend Cheese

Instructions for Sheet Pan Chicken Nachos:

white nachos topped with cheese and guacamole on a floral plate
  • First, grease jellyroll pan with cooking spray and set aside.
  • Next, put 1 Tbsp olive oil in medium to large pan.
  • Then, drain canned chicken breast and put chicken in pan over medium to medium high heat.
  • Add refried beans and 1/2 oz of guacamole seasoning; stir till well combined and warmed through. Remove from heat.
  • Next, spread tortilla chips on greased jellyroll pan.
  • Then drop chicken/bean mix by spoonfuls onto chips, careful to get the dip on most of the chips.
  • Add desired amount of shredded Mexican blend cheese to nachos when finished adding chicken/bean mix.
  • And broil for 2-3 minutes or until cheese is melted.
  • Finally, serve immediately.

I hope you and yours enjoy this as much as we do. Let me know what you think!