Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Chicken Florentine Casserole

I know casseroles don't always look very pretty in pictures, just a pile of jumbled up stuff but they are usually quick, easy and delicious. I made this dish for the first time last week, and my husband pretty much licked the empty casserole dish. I would say it was a hit! It took me about 10 minutes to whip it together and then another 20 minutes in the oven.

  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (I used 2 pre-cooked chicken breasts, shredded)
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 3 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 (10.75 ounce) can condensed cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 (13.5 ounce) cans spinach, drained
  • 4 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 2/3 cup bacon bits (I used real bacon strips, crumbled up)
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (I used shredded 4-cheese mexican since we had it on hand)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Place the chicken breast halves on a baking sheet; bake 20 to 30 minutes, until no longer pink and juices run clear. Remove from heat, and set aside. (I actually skipped this step by using already cooked chicken.
  2. Increase the oven temperature to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
  3. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stirring constantly, mix in the garlic, lemon juice, cream of mushroom soup, Italian seasoning, half-and-half, and Parmesan cheese.
  4. Arrange the spinach over the bottom of a 9x9 inch baking dish. Cover the spinach with the mushrooms. Pour half the mixture from the saucepan over the mushrooms. Arrange chicken breasts in the dish, and cover with the remaining sauce mixture. Sprinkle with bacon bits, and top with mozzarella cheese.
  5. Bake 20 to 25 minutes in the 400 degrees F (200 degrees C) oven, until bubbly and lightly browned.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Pork Chops with Apples and Stuffing

I found this recipe on Sarah's blog, Cooking with Cents. She is also a fellow coupon clipper. When I saw how quick this recipe was and how yummy it looked, I knew I had to try it! It definitely reminds me of fall and has some elements of Thanksgiving (apple pie filling and stuffing) so it is definitely a teaser for the holidays ahead.

Pork Chops with Apples & Stuffing
1 pkg (6 oz) Stove Top Stuffing Mix for Chicken
1 can (21 oz) apple pie filling
6 boneless pork loin chops (1-1/2 lbs), 3/4 in thick

Heat oven to 375 F. Prepare stuffing as directed on the package.

Spread the pie filling onto the bottom of a 13 x 9 inch baking pan sprayed with cooking spray; top with chops and stuffing. Cover with foil.

Bake 30 minutes; uncover. Bake an additional 10 minutes or until chops are cooked through.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Officially a Certified Wedding Planner!

After a year of kicking the idea around, I finally got into gear and signed up for a wedding planning class and I am officially certified! I also have a booth at a bridal show next month, so I am super excited to build up my clientele and get back to thinking about nothing but flowers, food, and favors. Not that I really stopped since I am currently a bridesmaid in 2 upcoming weddings. Can't wait for more of my people to join me on the other side! My hubby is working on my website right now and it should be up and running in the next week or so. Woot woot! In the meantime you can check out my blog here.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Meet Prince Charles

This is the newest member of our family, Prince Charles. You can call him Charles. We adopted him from PetSmart on July 11. He is currently 6 months old, and at any given time you can find him snoozing in the bathroom sink. It is his favorite resting place. How cute is he?

Sunday, September 20, 2009


We were ecstatic to receive coveted tickets to the Tennessee at Florida game as a wedding gift. We had been planning on going to Gainesville for about 3 months. Unfortunately, life got in the way, and due to work and a series of illnesses, we stayed home on the couch in the nice cold A/C. Anyway, we love making nachos for football games, and this is what we typically do. Our Kitchenaid mixer is essential on game days. We use it almost every day actually, I don't understand when people say they barely use theirs. They are missing out!

We are lucky enough to have a fertile avocado tree, so my hubby plucks those babies and we turn them into homemade guacamole, very simply. We just need an avocado, chopped tomato and onion, and fresh lime juice. Then we throw it in the mixer with the beater blade attachment. And yes, our mixer is Gator blue, as is the rest of our kitchen!

We bring out or favorite platter, a Gator platter that we got as a wedding gift from my fellow gator friend Tara. Thanks love! Here is the finished guacamole with some tortillas. Next we will make the chicken dip.

We use our mixer to shred up chicken instead of pulling it apart the old fashioned way. It's amazing the tips you can learn on the different Kitchenaid forums! We shred up 2 cooked chicken breasts, and throw them in a large bowl with a jar of salsa, 2 cups shredded cheese, and a half cup of Mojo marinade and a few dashes of hot sauce. I microwave it all together for about 4 minutes and mix it all up. These amounts will make the dip less cheesy and more chicken-y, which is how we like it. If you want the cheese to be more stretchy and gooey, use one chicken breast or double up on the cheese. This makes a large bowl, and we scoop about half of it into a smaller bowl to put on the platter. Ollie likes the leftovers to make sandwiches or just to eat with more chips later. We also add some sour cream to the last section on the platter and voila!

We ate this with crystal light cranberry lemonade, sprite, and vodka with crushed ice. We are so thankful that the Gators won, although it was a sloppy win. Oh well, we are still ranked #1!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Coupon Craziness

For as long as I can remember I lived in a coupon crazy house. My mom never bought anything without a coupon and my brother was obsessed with mail-in rebates. My parents' house was continuously stacked with school supplies, computer stuff, toiletries, extra food, etc. So much so that my brother started stashing stuff at work so my parents wouldn't see it. He was definitely a hoarder, and I never wanted to be that way. My friends and family would always ask for stuff and I would try to sneak it when I could and share with them. When I went to college, there were certain products that I never bought because I knew I could go home and restock my supply for free. Well now I am married and own my own with the coupon clipping, and of course we need to tighten our budget just like everyone else, especially since we now have a kitty cat to feed as well. I thought we spent way too much money at Publix, where I always liked to shop so I can get a Publix sub. I have always used coupons, but never really knew how to maximize their effectiveness. When my awesome wedding photographer Devynn started posting about all these great deals she got, it reignited the shopaholic in me and I wanted to learn what she knew, so I attended one of the coupon classes she went to.

I have always gone to for coupons, but never paid attention to the 8 page guide on how to cut your grocery bill in half. Most of the things in there are common sense, or things I already knew, but she mentions in there some great tips that I never knew until I heard about them at the coupon class. I highly recommend the coupon glass and the guide at

My favorite tip from the class was this:
When purchasing BOGO items (buy one get one free), you can use 2 coupons, one per each item, even though you are only paying for one. This week, ALL laundry detergent was BOGO ($5.99 each regularly) and there was also 2 coupons for $1 off any ALL detergent. So I bought 2 bottles of ALL and used 2 coupons, therefore only paying $3.99 and purchasing 2 bottles of ALL.

I will be posting some other bargains as I find them in the future =)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Red Velvet Cake with a Cheesecake Layer

My parents and brothers were coming over to see our house for the first time since the wedding, so I had to impress them by whipping up a great meal and a tasty dessert, along with a clean house. They loved the red velvet cake with the cream cheese layer, and here is the recipe. It does contain many parts and took a good amount of time to put it all together.

Red Velvet Cake

1/2 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 ounces of red food coloring
2 heaping Tablespoons cocoa powder1 cup buttermilk
2 1/4 cups sifted cake flour1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 Tablespoon vinegar
1 teaspoon baking soda

**Buttermilk tip: use one cup of wholemilk and 1 tbsp of fresh squeezed limejuice, and then wait 15 mins for it to curdle. Or if you have 2 cups of heavy cream, throw it in your Kitchenaid mixer on the highest setting for a few minutes. First it will become whipped cream, then it will get beaten and seperated into one cup of buttermilk, and a huge hunk of fresh butter! This is what I did.

Cream shortening, sugar and eggs until very fluffy. Make a paste of the red food coloring and cocoa and add to the first mixture. Add alternately, the buttermilk and cake flour. Then add salt and vanilla. Mix together the vinegar and baking soda and fold into your batter mixture. Bake in 2 layer pans (I used 9″, generously greased the bottoms and sides with butter and lined the bottoms with parchment paper.) at 350 degrees, 25 to 30 minutes.

Let the cakes cool in the pans on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then turn them out onto racks and peel off the paper liners. Let the cakes cool completely, about 2 hours, then wrap each layer in plastic wrap and refrigerate. Refrigeration is crucial to the assembly process.

Junior's Famous Cheesecake (filling part only)

You need this to make the cheesecake layer, but I did not make the sponge cake part because I was using it as a middle layer in the red velvet cake. Therefore I am leaving out the part on how to make the spongecake bottom.

Ingredients for Cream Cheese Filling

4 8-ounce packages cream cheese (the regular variety not light cream cheese), at room temperature
1 2/3 cups sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 extra-large eggs
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream

Directions for the Cream Cheese Filling

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F and generously butter a 9-inch springform pan. Make the batter for the sponge cake as the recipe directs Evenly spread the batter on the bottom of the pan, and bake just until set and golden, about 10 minutes. Place the cake on a wire rack to cool (do not remove it from the pan).

2. While the cake cools, make the cream cheese filling: Place one 8-ounce package of the cream cheese, 1/3 cup of the sugar, and the cornstarch in a large bowl. Beat with an electric mixer on low until creamy, about 3 mintues, then beat in the remaining 3 packages of cream cheese.

3. Increase the mixer speed to high and beat in the remaining 1 1/2 cups of the sugar, then beat in the vanilla and heavy cream. Blend in the eggs, one at a time, beating the bating only until completely blended (just like they do at Junior's). Be careful not to overmix the batter.

4. Gently spoon the cheese filling on top of the baked sponge cake layer. Place the springform pan in a large shallow pan containing hot water that comes about 1 inch up the sides of the pan.Bake the cheesecake until the center barely jiggles when you shake the pan, about 1 hour.

5. Cool the cake on a wire rack for 1 hour. Then cover the cake with plastic wrap and refrigerate until it's completely cold, at least 4 hours or overnight. Remove the sides of the springform pan.6. Slide the cake off of the bottom of the pan onto a serving plate. Or if you wish, simply leave the cake on the removable bottom of the pan and place it on a serving plate. If any cake is left over, cover it with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator.

Makes Enough for One 8-Inch Cake, About 2 1/2 Inches High

MISSION: Red Velvet Cheesecake Assembly

When you are ready to assemble the cake, take the cheesecake from the freezer and allow it to stand at room temperature for 10 minutes while you make the frosting. I have heard the cream cheese frosting recipe from Junior’s Cheesecake Cookbook is great, and you would need to double it for this recipe. This is the part where I cheated and used 2 cans of cream cheese frosting.

To assemble:
Choose the best of the 2 cake layers and carefully cut it in half to form 2 half layers. Place one of these half layers (cut side down) on a cake plate. Spread with frosting. (Gently crumble the other full layer to be used to decorate the finished cake.)P

lace the cheesecake, top side down, on top of the frosted red velvet cake layer and spread with frosting. (A Junior’s tip for removing the frozen cheesecake from the pan helped me tremendously! They recommend warming the bottom of the pan by setting it on a hot, wet towel long enough to melt the butter used to grease the pan. Remove the pan ring. Gently insert a long narrow spatula between the bottom of the cake and the pan bottom, moving it slowly in a circle. Then lift up the edge of the cake with the spatula, oh-so-gently, just enough to release the vacuum between the bottom of the cake and the pan.)

Top with the remaining half cake layer, cut side down. Ice the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting. Decorate the sides and top edge of the cake with the cake crumbles. Refrigerate the cake until ready to serve (it takes this cake about 2 hours in the refrigerator to thaw enough to easily slice.)

Use a sharp straight-edge knife, not a serrated one, to cut it. If there’s any cake leftover, cover it and refrigerate.