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  I originally made this pie, then changed it up a little bit, and it’s so easy and quick.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:

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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.

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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
  • Print
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:

photo 2

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.

A Celebration!!


Twenty-four years ago today I was blessed with this wonderful little blonde person who came into my life.  If you haven’t already figured this out, I love love love my family!  Mike, Brandi and her husband Hyatt, Brice and Kristy — they are all the total bomb and my world revolves around them.  They are IT.  So, I’m going to share a favorite food of Mr. Birthday Boy Brice today, and also some pics and memories of the journey.  This guy:

He lives in Oklahoma now, for the most part, but on his rodeo and roping journeys, and holidays, comes home to give Mom a hug(s).  He probably hasn’t gotten off a horse to read my blog yet, but maybe this will entice him.  Whenever the munchkins are coming home, I always ask for requests for food.  Next month I’ll feature another favorite of not only Brice, but his sister Brandi, whose birthday is in April.   Everyone at my house loves vegetable beef (hamburger) soup and it freezes so well, that throughout college, I sent it home in small containers to be heated up at a later date.

The whole rodeo thing kinda began like this:
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and progressed to this:

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Go Round and Fast Time winner at the NHSRA Finals

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Many, many great memories with my kids on the rodeo trail.  Cooking in a horse trailer is somewhat similar to cooking on a boat I’ve found.  Simple, easy dishes are the best.  This recipe is one that could go from the freezer to any means that you have to heat it up:  microwave, stove, campfire.

So here’s the recipe.  I’ve actually never written this down and measured anything, so bear with me.  You will notice that I use frozen veggies – I personally don’t like green beans in my soup, and if Mom isn’t a fan, it’s probably not showing up in my recipes.  However, I do fresh carrots if I have them on hand.  You can pick what fits your cooking style and time frame best.  My friend Kristi used to throw in cauliflower and some other stuff, and man was it amazing.  Remember how your version is never as good as your Mom’s, well, same case with Kristi’s soup – I cannot really replicate her version.  So, enjoy some soup, and hug your kids today. They grow up WAY too quickly, and then don’t fit on your lap anymore.  ~Connie

Hamburger Vegetable Soup

  • Servings: a hungry crowd
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1 lb. ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove minced garlic
1 can petite diced tomatoes
1 can beef broth
1 cup diced potatoes
1/2 bag frozen peas and carrots
1/3 bag frozen corn
1/3 cup red wine
1 bay leaf
Dried basil, salt, pepper and parsley to taste

Brown ground beef well, breaking apart.  Drain drippings and discard.  In large soup pot, saute onions and garlic in butter until onions are tender.  Add ground beef and remaining ingredients, stir well.  Bring to a boil, then reduce temperature.  Simmer until veggies are tender.  You may need to adjust liquids (beef broth).  Remove bay leaf before consuming, or watch someone find it.  Your choice..

Not really soup, but REALLY good!


We had to be gone for awhile yesterday, and since I’m planning to take advantage of the nice weather and grill all week, I thought I’d throw this easy dish into one of my favorite cooking devices, Mr. Crockpot. A.K.A. I’ll have your food ready when you return!

Before I share this yummilicious recipe, I want to let you know to keep your eyes open in the coming weeks for several guest bloggers.  Kristal is a graduate of a culinary school, and anything she makes tastes amazing, and looks even better. Not sure what she has in store for us, but I know it will be easy and delish.  Heather is a busy working mom with 2 kids who keep her running like crazy.  She is going to feature some great ways to make your mornings easier.  I’ve been treated to breakfast at her casa, so trust me on this one – it’ll be good.  And last but certainly not least is Erin who will share some fancy twists on simple dishes that are, of course, easy to make at home.

So back to my Crockpot Cheese Tortellini and Sausage (soup?).  Actually not sure if this is a soup or not, but really good.  I served it with fresh salad and french bread.  MB also thought strawberry shortcake sounded good, and the berries are finally starting to be sweet (and it you catch them at the right time, they won’t break the bank.)  I assembled the ingredients and many times I just 1/2 the recipe since it’s just the two of us.  I did it with this one but probably should have gone for the whole shebang as leftovers for lunch are pretty solid too!


I prepped my friend CP (Crock Pot) with a disposable liner, browned my sausage and threw all ingredients in.  Note that I just grabbed some spinach off of the salad bar at the grocery store since I was only making 1/2 a recipe and didn’t want to waste what I wouldn’t use out of a big bag.  It’s a good idea to give it a stir mid way through, but if you are gone, as I was, just stir when you return to melt and redistribute the cream cheese.  I can’t say this LOOKS delish, but it is!  Enjoy!
sausage soup

Crockpot Cheese Tortellini and Sausage


1 (19 oz.) bag frozen cheese tortellini
1 lb. sausage
1 bag fresh spinach
2 cans Italian style diced tomatoes
2 cans low-fat chicken broth
1 (8 oz.) cream cheese, cut into cubes

Brown the sausage in a skillet on the stove top until cooked and crumbled, drain.
Add the sausage and remaining ingredients to a 6-quart slow cooker.
Stir to combine. Cook on LOW for 5 hours, stirring twice during cooking.

Friday, work? Nope


MB and I took the day off today, and went to Kansas City to visit the new IKEA store.  Amazing.  Not really overwhelming as there’s kind of a path through the levels of the store.  The first thing you will do, when you enter the store, is find out where the unbelievable aroma of cinnamon rolls is coming from.  Turns out a dollar bill, yes, $1 will get you a delicious homemade cinnamon roll (right out of the oven) and another $1 will add a drink to that.  At this point, I knew our date day was lookin even better!  However, after the cinnamon roll we both needed a bath due to the icing, but heck, it’s all good.  You can even purchase a container of 6 for a whopping $4.  Enough said.

We had a great time perusing the aisles, but really aren’t in need of furniture.  We did decide that if you happen to be adding a little monkey to the family soon, or need furniture or a wide variety of storage stuff, great place to stop.    There’s a kitchen section where i kinda lost it.  In fact, I told MB that I now know why he loves Home Depot and Menards so much.  I could still be there now (and he liked it too).  We left with a random selection of stuff.  Note…tags and labels are not in English, but if you look closely, there will be a translation.  For example, we bought some Sinnlig’s….aka scented candle in a glass.   They also have some very unique and appealing food items, but if it’s something you cook, you’ll be loving the cooking temps.   Like who sets their oven at 292 degrees?  Interesting.

The day continued with a visit to a really good BBQ joint that has been featured at Diners, Drive-In’s and Dives.  Their specialty is homemade smoked jalapeno sausage smoked in a corn husk.  I should just stop there.  Name of this place is RJ’s Bob Be Que, and Bob will be cooking.  Cold beer, BBQ and a day off.  Need I say more????

What a way to spend a Friday.