Monthly Archives: March 2015

The BEST Cheesy Potato Casserole

The BEST Cheesy Potato Casserole

My very favorite hashbrown casserole, or cheesy potatoes, is what you are served at Cracker Barrel Restaurant.  Cheesy, yummy and crispy on top.  I tried for years to replicate it, and one recipe even had me put beef broth ???  in it.  (it was pretty good, though).  However, I’ve developed this delicious stand-by and my family craves it….there’s never any left in the pan.  Also, many times I make it ahead and freeze it in 1/2’s so that I can just cook a small portion when it’s just the two of us.  The key is in the cheese…COLBY.   And I like to make sure that the top gets a little crispy.  Here’s a pic, and notice there’s no topping:


Photo courtesy of

I made this for friends that are coming over, but forgot to take a pic.  I’m sharing the recipe here – enjoy!


Hashbrown Casserole

  • Servings: 8-10
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2 lbs frozen shredded hashbrowns, thawed and drained on paper towel (if you have time)
1/2 C margarine, melted
1 tsp salt, or more to taste
1/2 tsp pepper, or more to taste
1/2 C onion, finely chopped
1 can cream of chicken soup
2 C grated Colby cheese

Heat oven to 350.  Spray 9 x 13 baking pan with nonstick spray.  Mix soup, margarine, salt, pepper, onion and cheese.  Gently mix in the potatoes and dump into the baking dish.  Bake uncovered for 35 – 45 minutes.

Streamlined Strawberry Pie!

Streamlined Strawberry Pie!

I had mentioned in an earlier post that the strawberries now available are super sweet, so when it was 70 degrees the other day, it seemed like a Strawberry Pie day!  I originally made this pie, then changed it up a little bit, and it’s so easy and quick.  I see those containers of strawberry pie goop often times placed near the strawberries in the grocery store, and although that may be good, red goop is not appealing to me.  (Remember, if the cook doesn’t like, probably not showing up on the table.)

One of my good friends that lives down the street, Donna, has a son who loves to cook.  SO, I invited him over to make strawberry pie with me.  We also watched the KU basketball game at the same time, so we definitely had to multi-task.


Meet Connor!

Now prior to chopping the strawberries, he PROMISED me that his mom let him use a knife.  I told him we weren’t losing a finger on my watch!  He said it was ok, but I’m not sure that was the complete truth.  Anyway, I armed him, and he went to work – me washing, him chopping.  Also, to expedite the process, I had Connor pre-bake his pie shell and bring it with him.


Pierce frozen pie shell with a fork and pre-bake.

You can use a boxed pie shell, which I frequently purchase, or make a homemade one, which is something that is not up my alley!  We chopped up the strawberries, and I taught Connor that he should taste as we go.  He did kinda give me “the look” but kept on rolling.


Surely they won’t miss a few……

We placed chopped strawberries on the bottom of the shell and placed the rest in the saucepan with sugar to bring to a boil.  The end goal is macerated strawberries which is what occurs when you add sugar and it gradually draws the juice out.  As this was occurring, we used a potato masher to smush them up.  After this delicious mixture came to a boil (word of caution to Connor occurred – stir easy because that hot mixture will BURN you) we added the thickening agent and kept simmering until thick.  Dump this on the strawberries in your pie crust, and voila, you have amazinglicious Strawberry Pie.

My little addition that I’ve used is to add a tablespoon of strawberry jello mix after the cornstarch as it just adds a little more flavor.  Connor and I forgot to (of course, he didn’t know he was supposed to 😉  and the pie still came out really good.  I put a box of strawberry jello in this cute container for just this purpose:

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Finished product once it’s chilled.  Connor wanted to eat it immediately and I told him that wouldn’t work out so swell!  I convinced him to take it home.  Feedback from the fam was good, so I hope he will be making it for them again in the future.

So, so good!

So, so good!

You might even throw some blueberries in the bottom of it, or blackberries.  Don’t think you can mess it up.

Hope you enjoy, Connie Kaye

Strawberry Pie

  • Servings: 6-8
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1 baked pie crust
1 qt fresh strawberries
1 cup white sugar
3 TBSP cornstarch
3/4 cup water
whipped cream
1 TBSP strawberry gelatin

Arrange half of the strawberries in baked pastry shell.  Smush remaining berries and combine with sugar in saucepan.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring often.  Whisk together cornstarch and water.  Gradually stir cornstarch mixture into boiling mixture.  Reduce heat and simmer until thickened, stirring, about 10 minutes.  Add gelatin if desired.  Pour mixture over strawberries in pastry shell.  Chill for a few hours.  Serve with a blob of whipped cream.

French Dip Sandwiches (or Philly Cheese Steaks)

French Dip Sandwiches (or Philly Cheese Steaks)

An easy way to start your week!  Super easy to whip this up!


Before we go any further, I found out today that I believe Windows 7 presents a content pop up before you print.  If you are trying to print a recipe, and wondering What The Heck Is Going On??? you might need to allow pop ups on this site (if using Win 7).  Ok….let’s move on…..

I bought some rare roast beef at the deli on Saturday, and had it sliced very thin.  Why buy rare?  Part of this delicious sandwich is placing the meat in the beef consomme (warmed) so it absorbs the amazing flavor, but even with the temp on low, it will probably cook a little more.  Starting with rare rewards you with super tender roast beef.  If you want Philly Cheese Steak sandwiches, you can be sauteing some onions and peppers while preparing everything else, and when I make these, I use a little oil to start the saute process, but then season with some of the canned consomme and a little minced garlic.

I take a skillet and add some consomme on low, then add some garlic and onion powder.  Heat on low and I shred or break up the meat with my hands….you want to really let it soak in the consomme, so just go low and slow.  Meanwhile, toast your rolls lightly, and warm up consomme for dipping.  (Make sure to buy canned consomme as it has a much richer flavor than beef broth)

Once the rolls are toasted, pile the meat on one side, and layer smoked provolone cheese on both sides of the roll.  Pop it back in the oven on low, low broil and let the hot mess melt 🙂    Voila — really yummy!

Hope you enjoy!

French Dip Sandwiches

  • Servings: 4
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1 lb very thin rare roast beef
4 hoagie or sandwich rolls/buns
1 can beef consomme (or more for dipping)
Smoked provolone cheese
1/4 tsp garlic and onion powder

Warm consomme very low in skillet with 1/2 tsp onion and garlic powder. (suggestion:  Warm up the consomme on low, and then just shut off the heat)  Add beef to slowly warm and absorb the flavors.  Meanwhile, slice rolls and toast face side up in broiler.  Place meat on one side of roll, and layer both sides with cheese.  Broil briefly to melt cheese.  Delish!

Mexican Rice


I always struggle finding A. good mexican ready-made rice, and B. making my own.  However, since I have a neighbor next door of similar descent, I thought I would seek out advice.  Turns out they don’t exactly measure stuff either 🙂 – thanks Heather for the ingredients.  I didn’t measure very well either, and did a lot of tasting as I went because I was starving.  But the rice is delish.  We had co-workers of MB’s over for dinner this last week, and they are amazing people.  We always enjoy sharing our home and food (and drinks), and we did chicken and beef fajitas and all the fixins.   The funniest part is that I had to be at home during the day for the DISH people to fix our screwed up tv situation, and so decided, heck, I’ll just make the rice now.  Well, it was about lunch time, and it KILLED them.  It smelled (and tasted) amazing – I actually felt kinda bad.  Anyway, rice got constructed, warmed up well later, and TV remedied in time for March Madness.  (Personally, bring on the Royals and FOOTBALL).

So it looked like this at the end, and just sayin, there were no leftovers:

photo 5

Nope, not a photographer but the rice was to the moon!

I started with a skillet at medium high heat, and added oil then rice to lightly brown it.  This is a key step, but you have to be careful as it can burn really easily.  Keep stirring and flipping it around, and once it’s mostly toasty start adding liquid and other ingredients.

photo 1

Saute the rice

This is the Rice Family Ingredients below, and they make it all come together.   I added the whole green chiles during the cooking process for flavor and then removed them prior to serving.  Onion and garlic powder, salt, cumin, chicken broth and tomato sauce wound up passing the hubster test.

photo 2

photo 3

This has nothing to do with the rice, but was a popular area once guests arrived!

So, here’s my recipe (thanks, Heather) and adjust to your seasonings delight!!!

Mexican Rice

  • Servings: a hungry crowd
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2 cups white rice
2 cans or 1/2 qt chicken broth, or more
1 can tomato sauce
1 tsp onion and garlic powder and 1/2 tsp cumin, and more to taste if needed
whole green chiles, remove at the end (or leave in and chop up)

Saute rice in EVOO or vegetable oil until lightly browned.  Add tomato sauce and chicken broth, and stir well.  Add seasonings and chiles, stir well, cover, stirring occasionally until rice is done.  Can make in advance and warms up well.

An Easy Dessert……and a lifelong friend!

An Easy Dessert……and a lifelong friend!

Meet Oreo Stuff.  Yep, that’s the name it was given many years ago when my college roommate, rodeo partner and long time friend, Jeanne Anderson, made it for me.  I was trying to think of something kind of unique but easy for a work dinner party tonight, and thought of Oreo Stuff.  Of course, I didn’t have the oreos, so a trip to the local grocery store ensued.  I even took it up a notch by making individual dessert cups instead of using the normal 9 x 13 or 8 x 8 pan.  I laugh when I remember making it for my mother-in-law who has never met a sweet or dessert that she didn’t love.  Long story short – I gave her the remainder to take home.  Not sure if Mike’s dad got any….you gotta be quick when it comes to sweets.  I always make sure i have some sweet concoction when she comes to visit (hmmmm…..maybe that’s why she recently gave me her KitchenAid???)  I love that thing, and I love her, so I’m not asking…I’ll just keep cooking!!!

So I assembled the ingredients:


Oreos, hot fudge sauce, peanuts, vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, and chocolate shot.   And what in the world is chocolate shot you might ask??  Chocolate shot, aka chocolate sprinkles are something I grew up eating on the chocolate cream pie that my dad served in his restaurant.  YUMMO.  That’s actually my favorite topping on sugar cookies.  They are the pile set aside that nobody had better touch!!

Break up your oreos in the bottom of your pan or individual dishes, and lightly drizzle with melted butter.  Layer with vanilla ice cream, hot fudge sauce (melt just a little and stir – makes it easier to spread), sprinkle with peanuts and cover with whipped cream.  I like to decorate it a little with some crumbled oreos on top, and if you have it, chocolate shot.   Pop it in the freezer, and voila!


Oreo Stuff

So from where did this delicious creation evolve?  Meet my friend Jeanne:


Jeanne, longtime pal and college roommate

PRCA Rodeo 2010 - Dec 03 - Wrangler National Finals Rodeo

Competing at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas

I’m sharing these two pics of Jeanne, cuz i promised her that nothing from college or anything that occurred in our trailer house would appear here 🙂  There are a few other specialties from those days that could wind up on this site as well, but I had some good memories when whipping this up last night  I hope you and yours enjoy as much as we do.

Happy St. Patty’s Day!  ~Connie Kaye

Oreo Stuff

  • Servings: a hungry crowd
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1 package of Oreos
vanilla ice cream
4 tbsp melted butter
Container of whipped cream
Hot fudge sauce
Chocolate shot, if desired, for topping

Crumble oreos in dish, and drizzle with melted butter.  Layer with vanilla ice cream, hot fudge sauce, peanuts, then whipped cream.  Dress up with crumbled oreos and/or chocolate shot.  Freeze and serve.

Omelettes For A Crowd!

Omelettes For A Crowd!

Not too shabby to wake up to this:

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Thanks Stu & Betty!

After spending night #1 on the boat, our friends gave us a little reprieve from the cold weather (and no water on the boat yet) by sharing their gorgeous home.  That being said, I happily set about creating an omelette bar to feed several hungry people.  The best part is that I did the chopping prep work the day before:

omelette stuffGreen peppers, onions, tomatoes, ham, sausage and mushrooms.  Yum.  If you use your imagination, you could pretend you are at some luxury all-inclusive hotel in Mexico and you are in the omelette line.  🙂   After placing a high-quality football themed paper plate in contestant #1’s hands, I directed them to the plates of ingredients to gather what they desired in their omelette.  Saute in a little butter, add eggs and cheese, and you may want to come back for another!

photo 1eggs

We also fried up some potatoes and onions, which the hubster was supposed to be in charge of.  However, he stayed in bed until the chopping subsided and just showed up to eat.  They were delicious:


Unfortunately I don’t have a pic of the finished omelette product because I was quite busy cooking for a group.  However, it resembled this:


Photo courtesy of

This was super easy, and a great way to start the day before heading out to the St. Patty’s Day celebration at Bagnell Dam.  Happy Monday!


Roasted Broccoli Alfredo (for Lent or anytime!)

Roasted Broccoli Alfredo (for Lent or anytime!)

I’m so pumped to introduce you to my first guest blogger, Kristal Little, who hails to us from St. Louis, Missouri.


Meet Kristal!!

I was lucky to meet Kristal through friends (John and Sherri) of mine who will soon be her in-laws.  She is marrying a great guy (a.k.a. John) in August at Stone Soup Cottage in Missouri which sounds amazing.  A graduate of the Culinary Institute of St. Louis, she is now employed by them (somethin must have gone right ;))  She’s also a personal chef and teaches high school baking classes which I personally think would be a blast.   Oh yeah, I also want to mention they have a Shiba Inu named Oli.   Now I had NO idea what that was, so I asked Mr. Google for help.  I don’t know that I’ve seen one before, but here’s a pretty cute pic:

Dog Breeds

Meet Oli!

So Kristal had the amazing idea to share a recipe that might come in really handy to make for dinner on Friday during Lent.  If you’re tired of fish, give this dish a try.  And don’t forget – the key is roasting the broccoli as it really brings out the flavor.    Gather your ingredients and lay broccoli on sheet pan to roast:

Note:  in the recipe below, you are directed to concasse a tomato.  Now, I gotta be honest.  When Kristal told me to do this, I seriously thought she had misspelled a word.  (She went to school to be a chef; me, a teacher.  You see la problema!)  So, you learned something new, and easy today.  Here ya go:

Boil a pot of water.  Core the tomato and slice a small X in the bottom of the tomato. Don’t cut too deep.


Boil tomato for 15-20 seconds.  Remove from boiling water and shock in a bowl of ice water.  Peel the skin from the tomato.  Cut in half. Remove all the seeds and dice.  Voila!

What an easy go to recipe, and you could easily add chicken if desired.    Here’s the finished dish of yumminess:


Hope you enjoy this dish, and I hope to see Kristal soon at the lake!  Thanks also to all of you who are following this blog, which include people residing in three different countries thus far.  Hope you are finding some good, easy recipes to make your life easier and free up more time to spend enjoying this beautiful weather with friends and family.  ~Connie

Roasted Broccoli Alfredo

  • Servings: a hungry crowd
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1/2 lb farfalle noodles
16oz heavy whipping cream
10-15 cremini mushrooms
1 tomato
1 bunch broccoli
1 TBS minced garlic
1/4 c Parmesan plus more for garnish
1tsp red pepper flakes
Salt and Pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Toss broccoli florets in a little olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Roast broccoli on a sheet tray for 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, start a pot of water for the pasta. Don’t forget to salt your water!  Once it comes to a boil, use this water to concasse your tomato.  Slice mushrooms and set aside.  Cook pasta according to the package.

In a large saucepan, bring cream to a simmer on med-high heat.  Simmer until it’s thick ( about 5 minutes). Add garlic and Parmesan.  During the last few minutes of boiling, add mushrooms to the pasta.  Drain and add mushrooms, pasta, and broccoli to the cream sauce.  Mix well.  Season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.  Garnish with tomato and more Parmesan.