Friday, November 30, 2012

Italian Mini-Meatloaf Pasta

This recipe has a special place in my heart and I can't believe it has taken me this long to share it on my blog!

The summer after my sophomore year of school at the U of M, I had to spend 5 weeks taking a summer course and lived in an off-campus apartment. It was my first time living on my own without being in a dorm or using a meal plan. Those 5 weeks were so liberating. I felt like an independent adult for the first time. I had my own (very cheap) set of pots and pans, dishes and cookware....but I loved it. I enjoyed every moment of coming home from class and cooking for myself, and having no one to answer to.

During those 5 weeks, Dusty was back home on the farm for the summer and came to visit me for a weekend. On the first night he was in town, I was so excited to see him and I wanted to impress him by making him this dish. Since I had previously lived in the dorms, we usually heated up chicken sticks and french fries at his apartment for dinner, so it felt pretty special to have him over at my apartment and cooking him something that didn't involve reheating.

Even 4 years later, whenever I make this dish we always bring up that time when I first made it for him. It's funny how some recipes can stay with you for so long and have so much meaning, even if it is years later.  It totally supports my theory that you can win someone's heart through their stomach!

Italian Mini-Meatloaf Pasta
{Serves 4}

-1 pound lean Ground Beef
-1/3 Seasoned Bread Crumbs
-1 egg, lightly beaten
-14 ounce jar of Onion & Garlic Pasta Sauce
-1/4 tsp Salt
-1/4 tsp Ground Black Pepper

-8 ounces of sliced Mushrooms
-1 tbsp Olive Oil
-8 ounces of Fettuccine Pasta
-1/4 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
-Fresh chopped Parlsey

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees (F). Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and lightly grease. Set aside.

In a bowl, combine ground beef, bread crumbs, egg, 1/3 cup pasta sauce, salt and pepper. Mix well with your hands to combine. Cut the mozzarella sticks in half crosswise so there are 4 small sticks of cheese total. Divide the beef mixture into fourths and shape the beef mixture to form a loaf. Flatten the loafs a bit with the palm of your hand so they will bake evenly. Place the mini-meat loaves on the slightly greased baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes until no longer pink.

While the meat loaves are baking, heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add in the sliced mushroom and saute until they start to become golden brown and soft. Pour in the rest of the pasta sauce and simmer on low while the meat loaves continue to bake. Prepare the pasta according to package directions and drain well. Return the cooked fettuccine to the saucepan with the pasta sauce and continue to simmer.

To serve, arrange the mini-meat loaves over the fettuccine and sprinkle with parmesan and parsley.


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

{Guest Post} The Hill Country Cook: Roasted Butternut Squash

Hey Everybody!

I have a really special treat for you today, my friend Katie from The Hill Country Cook is sharing with us her super easy, simple and delicious recipe for Roasted Butternut Squash! Katie and I met 2-1/2 years ago through food blogging and Tasty Kitchen. She writes one of my favorite blogs of all time and has become one of my dearest friends! 

My classmates and co-workers laugh at me and look at me funny when I tell them I have "blogging friends," but if you are in the food blogging world, it doesn't seem weird at all. It's like we've known each other forever. Plus we all share a passionate love for food! Some of my favorite people in the world are my "blogging friends" and Katie is one of them. I'm so very excited that she is writing this fantastic guest post on my blog!

With that, I'll let Katie take it away!

Hey y'all!

I am so excited Haley asked me to do a guest post y'all! She is sweeter than honey, and has been so busy with nursing school, but when she gets to cookin', WATCH OUT WORLD! Lip smackin' good. I've known Haley for about two and a half years now. She was one of the first blogging girls I met, and shortly after, I remember she was the featured member on Tasty Kitchen!! I thought, "I know someone famous!" Even though she's all the way in Montana, and I'm all the way down here in Texas, we share good laughs and stories - and recipes, through our beloved blogs, facebook, and yes, PINTEREST! 

So I'm showing y'all something simple here. When it really starts getting cold, which it's yet to here in Texas, but I'M not complaining (well, sorta) - I like to roast veggies! Roasting brings out the sweetness in the veggies, makes the house smell good, and warms it up too! Leftovers keep, and freeze well, and they're pretty versatile. And require little prep time to boot! 

For roasted butternut squash, all you need to do is slice the butternut squash in half. It's a hefty fellow, and likes to wobble on the counter, so be careful with your knife. Just slice it in half, lengthwise, and remove the seeds. 

Then, sprinkle with brown sugar, and place a small pat of butter in the hollowed out portion. Fill the hollow area with a diced apple. Bake at 400 degrees for almost an hour. When it was good and soft, I then sliced the squash and removed the skin. The squash was very hot, but it was much easier to do while it was tender, rather than raw.

Hope y'all enjoy! 

What's y'alls favorite roasted veggie?

~Peace, Love, and Baking Y'all

Monday, November 26, 2012

Creamy Chive Mashed Potatoes

These are by far the best mashed potatoes that I have ever consumed.

They are life altering.

These potatoes are creamy, smooth and full of delicious subtle chivy flavor. Plus they contain two of Julia Child's favorite things: Butter & Heavy Cream. Amen.

Usually when I make mashed potatoes, I use just one type of potato (golden), butter, splash of milk and mayonnaise. Yes, that's right. I use mayonnaise. It's a family thing. Add a little squirt of mayo for some extra creaminess and flavor.

To shake things up, Dusty and I decided to make mashed potatoes differently for Turkey Day this year since it was just the two of us. One of things we did differently was that we used a combination of russet and golden potatoes. It made them fluffy, but not too starchy. Plus no mayo. These potatoes didn't need the mayo. They were creamy all on their own!

From now on I'm only making my mashed potatoes this way. 

Creamy Chive Mashed Potatoes
{8 servings}

-1-1/2 lbs Russet Potatoes-peeled and quartered
-2-1/2 lbs Golden Potatoes-peeled and quartered
-1 Bay Leaf
-3 tbsp Salted Butter
-2 cups Heavy Cream
-2 tbsp dried Chives
-Salt & Pepper

Place the potatoes in a large pot with cold water (enough to cover potatoes), 1 tbsp salt and 1 bay leaf. Bring the potatoes to a boil over high heat and boil until fork tender, about 10-15 minutes. Drain the potatoes, remove the bay leaf and return them to the pot to dry the excess moisture out of the potatoes. Remove the bay leaf.

While the potatoes are boiling, heat the heavy cream and butter in a saucepan. Set aside.

Place the potatoes in a large bowl and whip them with an electric hand mixer until almost smooth. At least until all the big chunks of potato are broken down. Slowly pour in the heavy cream and butter to the bowl of potatoes and continue to beat with the electric mixer until completely smooth, about 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste, stir to incorporate.

Finish by adding in the dried chives and stir to combine until evenly distributed throughout the mashed potatoes.

Recipe Adapted and Inspired from: Tyler Florence Food Network

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Turkey Tacos

It's 3 days post-Thanksgiving and now the idea of eating the same boring turkey is starting to become a drag. So how do you use up the rest of that turkey?

Why not make Turkey Tacos!?!

This leftover dish has become a family tradition for using up the turkey after Thanksgiving. It's easy, simple and can be eaten cold, room temperature or warmed up. At first when my mom read off the ingredient list for the tacos, I thought it kinda sounded funky, but once I mixed it all together and stuffed it in a tortilla with cheese, I knew this was a good thing.

So when you are tired of making the same old leftover turkey pot pies, sandwiches, soups, etc. Give this recipe with a mexican flare a try!

Turkey Tacos
{3-4 Servings}

-2 cups leftover Turkey-chopped
-1/2 cup frozen Sweet Corn (thawed)
-1 Tomato-diced
-1 Green Onion-diced
-1 tsp Lime Juice
-3 tbsp Mayonnaise
-1 tsp Chili Powder
-6-8 Hard Corn Tortilla Shells
-1 cup shredded Cheddar Cheese or Mexican Blend

Combine all the ingredients (turkey through chili powder) in bowl. Stir to combine. Stuff the turkey mixture into the shells and top with shredded cheese.

*You can eat this cold, room temperature or warm. Just microwave the mixture for 2 minutes to make it warm!

I told you this was an easy recipe!!!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Homemade Hot Cocoa

On Black Friday, most of America is out today waiting in line, running people over with shopping carts and shopping until they drop. I, on the other hand, am doing the complete opposite. I am lounging around in my sweats, decorating my apartment for the holiday season and sipping on some hot chocolate.

It's fantastic and I wouldn't want my day any other way. Since I'm still in the middle of a massive turkey coma from all  the fantastic food Dusty and I prepared yesterday, getting out and shopping is by far the farthest thing on my mind today. But that doesn't mean I won't be doing some cyber-Monday shopping!

Now that it is officially the holiday season, it's time to start thinking about purchasing and/or making presents for the special people in our lives. I decided to make these adorable mason jar hot chocolate gifts that I saw on Pinterest for some of my favorite people this year. They turned out to be really cute and super simple to make!

Homemade Hot Chocolate
{Makes 4-8 ounce Mason Jars}

-1 cup Powdered Milk
-1 cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
-1 cup White Granulated Sugar
-1/2 tsp Salt
-1/2 cup Miniature Chocolate Chips
-1/2 cup Miniature Marshmallows

In a single 8-ounce mason jar:
Start by layering the 1/4 cup powdered milk. Followed by the 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, 1/4 cup white granulated sugar, 1/8 tsp salt, 1/8 cup mini chocolate chips and 1/8 cup mini marshmallows.

Repeat with the remaining three 8-ounce mason jars. 

Include these instruction on the gift tag:
Mix contents in a large bowl. For each serving, place 1/3 cup cocoa mix in a mug and stir in 1 cup boiling water. 

Before screwing on the lid, you can include any decorative scrapbook paper or fabric to add some flare to your gift. I used scrapbook paper that I cut into a circle that fit the lid. Really easy and makes it look very festive!

This is the perfect gift for anyone to enjoy during the holiday season!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Bake a Difference: OXO Cookies for Kids' Cancer

Today I was surprised by receiving a really cute and fun spatula in the mail from OXO!!!

Currently I'm participating in the Great Food Blogger Cook Swap 2012 where bloggers around the world are making cookies and sending them to their secret matches. Almost like a "Secret Santa" with cookies! The neat thing about the cookie swap is that OXO will match the donations from the cookie swap to the COOKIES FOR KIDS' CANCER, dollar for dollar, up to $100,000 dollars! How cool is that???

The COOKIES FOR KIDS' CANCER was founded by two OXO employees who were inspired by their son's battle with pediatric cancer to start the foundation. Through bake sales and sales of this adorable "BE A GOOD COOKIE" spatula, profits are donated to support COOKIES FOR KIDS' CANCER

As a nursing student going through my pediatrics, NICU, and maternity rotations in the hospital this semester, I feel very strongly about this cause and want to share it with all of you! Plus this spatula is so darn cute, I had to share it!

If you would like to support the COOKIES FOR KIDS' CANCER you can do it 3 ways:

1.) Host a bake sale, register the bake sale at, and donate your proceeds to the cause. 

2.) Donate at

3.) Purchase this adorable "Be a Good Cookie" Spatula

It's perfect as a stocking stuffer!

For every donation or bake sale registered at that mentions OXO, they will match the funds up to $100,000!

50% of the profits from the spatula benefit  the COOKIES FOR KIDS' CANCER

Speaking of cookies, here are few of my favorite cookies!

Brown Eyed Susan's
Coconut Macaroons
Domino Christmas Cookies
Dusty's Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
Graham Cracker Cookies
Holiday Sugar Cookies
Oatmeal Cookies
Pig-Out Cookies

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Chicken Stroganoff

Can you believe that it is only 4 more days until Thanksgiving!

As you have previously read, Dusty and I have been planning out and preparing our first Thanksgiving with just the two of us. I even took my crazy organization to the extreme by making a "Thanksgiving Check-List" that gives me a day-by-day layout of what needs to be accomplished for the big day. 

In case you were wondering...I went grocery shopping and put the turkey in the refrigerator to thaw today (check, check). Personally I'm excited to check-off the event of EATING EVERYTHING!

One of the things I almost forgot to do before going to the grocery store was to plan out what we were going to eat the days following up to the big day. I was so excited, I forgot that I might need to eat for the 4 days prior to Thanksgiving! duh! 

This is where I introduce you to the mouth-watering, easy and super fast to make (under 30 minutes) recipe for Chicken Stroganoff! Perfect for the busy schedules and prep-work that will be occurring during the beginning of the week leading up to Thanksgiving. 

I found this recipe in the October issue of the Food Network magazine and it has become a favorite in our house. I even permanently added it to my "Family Cookbook" that Dusty and I have been working on over the past few years. I love the recipe as is and it's an awesome twist on the classic stroganoff with beef, but I made some tweaks to it that I love even more! I used way more mushrooms, chicken breasts instead of thighs, light sour cream and smoked paprika. This recipe is so good that I find myself embarrassingly licking the plate! 

Chicken Stroganoff
{4 Servings}

-12 ounces Wide Egg Noodles
-3 tbsp Butter
-1 small Yellow Onion-chopped
-8 ounces sliced Mushrooms
-1 lb Chicken Breast- cubed
-2 tbsp Flour
-1 tsp Smoked Paprika (plus more for garnish)
-Salt & Pepper
-1 cup Fat-Free, Low-Sodium Chicken Broth
-1 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
-1/2 cup Light Sour Cream (plus more for garnish)

Prepare egg noodles according to instructions, set aside.

Melt 2 tbsp of butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chopped onion and cook until slightly soft. Add sliced mushrooms and cook/stir until they begin to brown. Add 1 tbsp butter, chicken, flour, smoked paprika, 1 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper. Cook/stir until chicken begins to brown.

Add chicken broth and worcestershire sauce, and bring to a simmer. Cook until thickened. Stir in light sour cream and season to taste with salt and pepper. Continue to simmer until chicken is cooked through, about 1-2 minutes. 

Divide noodles among plates. Top with chicken mixture, a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of smoke paprika. Enjoy!

Recipe Source & Inspiration: October 2012 Food Network Magazine

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Turkey Day Line-Up

Have you started planning for Thanksgiving?

We have!

Actually, I should say Dusty has. About two weeks ago Dusty spent an hour or two looking up recipes and reading reviews to find the perfect dishes for our first Thanksgiving alone. Since we live about 5-6 hours away from our families, live in Montana with unpredictable weather patterns, have tons of school work and work to do, we decided to enjoy Thanksgiving this year on our own. We are both excited but I'm a little intimidated to cook an entire Thanksgiving menu to be honest. My mom and Dusty's mom make it look so effortless and easy to do, plus their food is so amazing, I hope I can live up to our family standards!

I've been working at St. Vincent's Healthcare for almost a year and I didn't realize until last Saturday that all the employees and volunteers got FREE turkey's for Thanksgiving each year. Imagine my surprise and excitement!

Today after class I went with some classmates to get our free turkeys!

Lea & I both work on the Orthopedic floor together. She is my partner in crime and good friend. And we both got turkeys!
Raise your hand if you like free stuff!
*Raises hand*

So now that I've got my 14 pound turkey for Dusty and I, we just need to get the other ingredients this weekend for the rest of our fabulous Thanksgiving day feast! 

Here is the menu we have planned out for our Thanksgiving Day Menu:

{Main Course}
Dusty's Mom's Stuffing
My Dad's Gravy
Cranberry Sauce (from a can, my favorite, don't judge)
My Mom's Mashed Potatoes


As you can see, Dusty and I will have enough food for about a week, which is fine by me because I love Thanksgiving leftovers almost as much as the initial meal itself! My favorite thing to do with leftover turkey is to make my mom's turkey tacos, so keep a look out on the blog for my mom's delicious turkey tacos because I'll be making them!

What's on your menu for Thanksgiving? Do you have any must-haves for the big dinner?!? Any special traditions??? I'd love to hear them!

Wish us luck on our first Thanksgiving!
I'm gonna need it!

Thanks to Lea for taking a picture with me and our turkeys. It takes a special friend to pose with you and a frozen turkey!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Huckleberry Fizz Cocktail

If you are from Montana, you are familiar with Huckleberries. They are the most delicious purple berries that grow on the western side of the state, high elevation in the mountains, on the north facing side (complicated, huh?).

Picking huckleberries also only occurs during a very short window of time in mid-July. Too early in the month and they aren't ripe enough. Too late in the month and they are shriveled up from the heat. Also, did I mention that huckleberries only grow in the wild??? Yep. They are a very tricky berry! Why do they have to taste so good!?!?

Picking huckleberries is also a local obsession over on the western side Montana. People find sacred hidden patches and won't tell anyone where they are. Finders keepers! It's taken until about 2 years ago for my family to finally find our hidden patch, and we aren't telling anyone! And for those who chose to not pick their own berries have to pay $40-50 for a 1 pound bag of berries at Farmer's Markets. 

Huckleberries are gold! 

So when it's not the summer months and huckleberries aren't available in the mountains or markets, I like to enjoy my favorite cocktail of all time...

Huckleberry Fizz Cocktail
{1 Serving}

-8 oz Lemon-Lime Soda (Sprite)
-Ice Cubes 
-Optional: Fresh Huckleberries (garnish)

Combine all the ingredients into a tall drinking glass and enjoy!
Please drink responsibly and don't drink & drive!
The Girly Girl Cooks has no connection or endorsement from 44 North Vodka. I just like the stuff and wanted to share this tasty drink! Cheers!!!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Death-By-Cheese Dip {Revisited}

Today was one of those days. You ladies know what I mean, one of those hormonal-glass-case-of-emotion days. I had a care plan and paper to write today, and all I wanted to do was nothing but eat, sleep and watch TV. It's almost like clock-work for me at the end of each semester for the past 6 years. Everything is coming to an end which should be exciting, but then all the big projects and exams start piling up and my stress level becomes out of control. I just become an emotional ball of mush and I want to eat everything that is bad for me, like this amazingly sinfully bad, but good, cheese dip.

I honestly don't know why I do it to myself now that I'm in nursing school. It was understandable back in the day at the UM. With my first degree I had a full-ride scholarship to keep by maintaining a 3.40 GPA. Talk about stress when you are taking ridiculously hard Microbiology and Human Biology classes! Now with nursing school, I don't have my scholarship stress anymore and I'm still in that cycle of stress because I have a 4.0 GPA and don't want to lose it. I just need to keep tell myself that B's are okay and relax a little bit. 

Also, I tend to get frustrated that I am 24 and still in college. I'm so over it. I'm ready to not have 80-100 hour work weeks and have a real job with relaxing days off! I can't wait to be a nurse and start my life. I feel like I'm in college purgatory and won't be able to start my adult life until about a year from now. 

This is where the dip comes in....
It helps me get out of my hormonal-end-of-semester funk.

Sorry for the moment. I just needed to get some things off my chest about school and life. Writing it down is good is this dip! LOL! I just need to remind myself that nursing school will be over in about a year. Then I will be a nurse and I will also be married to my love at that time! 

This week when I was searching around some of my favorite blogs, I found that Country Cleaver and Simply Scratch posted recipes for awesome dips, which inspired me to whip up my Death-By-Cheese dip from about 2 years ago because it just sounded good and it sounded comforting.

Death-By-Cheese Dip
{~4 cups}

-16 oz Jalapeno/Pepperjack Velveeta-cubed
-1-1/2 cup Sour Cream
-1 cup Jalapeno Ranch Dressing
-1/2 Onion-finely minced
-8 oz Lager/Light Beer

Place the cubed Velveeta into a large saucepan. Melt the cheese over medium-heat while stirring. Once completely melted add in the rest of the ingredients to the saucepan, stir until combined  and heat the dip until it reaches a slight boil. Simmer for about 5-10 minutes until completely heated through.

Serve with tortilla chips, soft pretzels, quesadilla, breakfast burrito...anything that tastes good with cheese basically!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Bacon-Wrapped Dates

Wanna date? Not like a "date-date," but a bacon-wrapped date! Sorry, but I'm taken! These are the only dates I am able to offer all of you at this time (sad attempt at date humor). But let me tell you what, these Bacon-Wrapped Dates are worthy of being eaten on a date and will earn you a date if you serve them at a party. 

Dusty and I went on our 5th anniversary dinner date back in September to Walker's Grill in Billings. It's an elegant western-themed restaurant and tapas bar. I had read on Yelp that their Bacon-Wrapped Dates were to-die-for and they were! For $4 you get four deliciously rich, salty and sweet dates. I could have eaten 10 alone, let alone share with Dusty. This then inspired me to re-create Walker's dates so that I can enjoy them in the comfort of my home for much less and eat so much more

Only four ingredients and you are on your way to an elegant appetizer.
Medjool Dates, Bacon, KerryGold Dubliner Cheese & Pure Maple Syrup.

To fill the dates with cheese, you will want to make an incision across one side of the date, remove the pit, insert the cheese block and then squeeze shut! Simple, huh? 

Then wrap the date with 1/3 slice bacon and secure it with a toothpick. 

It's so easy and you can do all the prep work ahead of time before your party, holiday event or date!

Preheat your oven to 400 degree (F), place the dates on a baking sheet with parchment paper and bake for 6-8 minutes per side. Then remove the pan from the oven and brush both sides with pure maple syrup. Return to the oven and let the syrup glaze for 1-2 minutes.

Remove the dates from the oven and allow them to cool slightly before consuming all of them at once!
You won't be able to stop yourself!

Hello, my new best friend. I am going to eat you!

Bacon-Wrapped Dates
{2-3 servings}

-6 Medjool Dates
-1 oz KerryGold Dubliner Cheese-cut into 6 equal bricks
-2 slices of bacon-cut into thirds
-2 tbsp of pure maple syrup

Preheat oven to 400 degrees (F). Cover baking sheet with parchment paper.

To fill the dates with cheese: make an incision across one side of the date, remove the pit, insert the cheese block and then squeeze shut. 

Wrap the dates with bacon slices, secure with toothpick and place on baking sheet. Bake for 6-8 minutes on each side. Remove from oven and brush all sides of date with maple syrup. Return to oven and let syrup glaze for 1-2 minutes. 

Remove the dates from the oven, allow to cool for a couple of minutes and enjoy!

*Other cheese options: Bleu Cheese and Gorgonzola

Recipe Inspired By: Walker's Grill & FN Anne Burrell

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Grilled Chili-Lime Shrimp Tacos & GIVEAWAY

This was the best lunch.

I found this recipe for Grilled Shrimp Tacos on Tasty Kitchen and knew I must make them. I was sold when I saw that they were accompanied by a spicy avocado crema. *drooling* Shrimp tacos have become a new favorite of mine when I go out to mexican restaurants and these were just as good, if not better than any shrimp tacos I have previously enjoyed. 

To add even more spice to the Spicy Avocado Crema, I added a few dashes of Tobasco sauce, which was a good choice on my part. Loved it! I didn't have any mexican crema on hand either, so I substituted it with light sour cream. Overall, this lunch is super healthy and out of this world delicious!

Spicy avocado crema + pico de gallo + grilled shrimp = well rounded & healthy lunch

I like that type of math ;)

To marinate the shrimp, I used 1/2 clove of minced garlic (like in the recipe), but then I used my secret weapon...

I love this stuff.

Add 1-1/2 tsp to 1/2 lb of Shrimp and you are good to go. It's the perfect seasoning for shrimp, chicken and corn. I love it on corn! I season some thawed frozen corn with this stuff and pile it on my tacos. Delicious!

Here is where the GIVEAWAY comes into play...
I'm giving away one (1) jar of this awesomely flavorful Chili-Lime Rub from Williams-Sonoma to one (1) lucky winner! 

To Enter {Mandatory}:

Leave a comment telling me: What's your all time favorite Mexican dish?

Additional Entries:

-Like The Girly Girl Cooks on Facebook

-Follow The Girly Girl Cooks on Twitter

-Follow The Girly Girl Cooks on Pinterest

-Share this Giveaway on Facebook and/or Twitter

*Leave me a comment telling me you have done so for the extra entries*

Winner will be announced the morning of Sunday, November 11th!

Send me an email at to claim your prize and give me your address so I can mail it out to you! 
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