Sausage Pasta Bake

There’s just something about Italian food that makes my tummy go, “I want seconds!” Pasta, garlic bread, red sauce, and cheese are my go-to’s. Our daughter loves pasta too, so much that she likes it plain with just a little mozzarella sprinkled on top. I hope one day she’ll appreciate red sauce and want some on top of her pasta pile 😂 in the mean time, my hubby and I will eat all the red sauce and meat.

I’ve made spaghetti and other pasta dishes using ground beef, ground turkey, and ground sausage. My favorite is ground sausage! Also, bacon. Sprinkling some bacon on top of your pasta is that extra zing. You have to try it! Last night I made a sausage pasta bake with bacon on top and it was perfect.

Put olive oil in a skillet and add diced onions, season with salt & pepper. Cook for 2 mins then add minced garlic. Cook for about a min.
Add in ground sausage.
Break down sausage to brown it. Add in seasonings while browning.
Looking good!
Swapped sausage into a deeper skillet and fried up pieces of bacon in the skillet the sausage had been cooked in.
Added tomato paste to the sausage skillet.
Added in marinara sauce to sausage.
Added about 1/3 cup water to sauce to thin a bit. Simmered for 10 mins.
Sprayed nonstick spray inside 13×9 and set up pots for assembly.
First layer, sauce w/ sausage spread on bottom.
Next layer is rotini pasta!
Top noodles with shredded mozzarella cheese.
Next layer is more sauce/sausage.
Continue the same layers until you run out of noodles and meat sauce. Put the bacon pieces on top, oh and more cheese please!
Bake in a 350 degree F oven for 15 mins with foil on top. Remove foil and bake for another 7-10 mins until cheese is melted and bubbly!
Served with salad and garlic bread, yum!

White Cake : Box Mix Upgrade!

Making a cake from a box mix is easy! I love how simple it is to make something already pre-mixed, all you add is water, eggs and vegetable oil. To make it MORE yummy, you need to substitute a couple things, but don’t worry, it’s easy!

To start off, we have a ton of almond milk on hand here at our home. My daughter and I don’t drink cow’s milk so we use almond milk for everything. We use it in place of cow’s milk for my cereal in the morning, our fruit/green smoothies, and for baking. I will sometimes use cow’s milk but it is only if I have it on hand and I’m running low on almond milk. I use almond milk in place of water when I make boxed cake mix and it makes it creamier.

We also don’t use vegetable oil for our cooking, only extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil. Coconut oil is my favorite though! My mother in law introduced me to coconut oil about 6 years ago, and I’ve never gone back to using vegetable oil. If you buy unrefined coconut oil, it will have a coconut flavor. If you buy refined coconut oil, it will not have a coconut flavor. I have purchased both, and have used both in most of my baking recipes. For my boxed cake mix recipe, I used refined coconut oil. I melt it down so it mixes better with the batter. For my bread mixes, I do not melt down the oil when I cream it with my sugar and eggs. It has the consistency of shortening in this case.

I add 1 tsp of vanilla extract to the mix and it makes the cake have a more vanilla flavor to it! If you like almond extract, you can add it instead of vanilla, I would just put 1/2 tsp because it has a stronger flavor.

White cake mix, egg whites, vanilla extract, melted coconut oil, and almond milk.

For my recipe, I used a Bundt cake pan! I got this as a present from my in-laws years ago 😂 When you use a Bundt cake pan, you need to spray it with nonstick baking spray prior to filing it with the cake mix. The baking spray has flour in it, so there is no need to flour the pan after spraying it. Nonstick cooking spray has compressed oil, so you would need to lightly flour the pan after spraying it with the oil. You also need to put a small baking sheet underneath the Bundt pan while the cake is baking so that it will hold the mold correctly and prevent spilling onto your oven racks. One time I didn’t use a pan underneath and it tipped over while baking because the Bundt pan lost balance. Let’s just say, I had smoke coming from my oven and my cake was ruined. Lots of cleaning in my oven after it cooled down 😢

My pretty Bundt cake pan place on a small baking sheet. Nonstick baking spray is sprayed inside my Bundt pan.
All done baking, now it needs to cool in the pan for 15 mins and then I will pop it out and put it on the cake tray.
Beautiful! Now we need to frost it and put sprinkles on 😋
Purple vanilla frosting piped with Wilton tip #21. I used a piping bag with the coupler, sleeve and tip.
Our daughter helped me put the sprinkles on top, one at a time 😂

This was the best white cake I have ever made from a box mix! It was so fluffy and moist, and definitely a crowd pleaser ❤️

Air Fryer Whole Chicken

This is like a rotisserie chicken, only better! We marinated our chicken for 24 hours before cooking it in our air fryer and it turned out so juicy. I also sprinkled more seasonings on the chicken prior to popping it in the air fryer and it gave the chicken a nice, crispy and flavorful skin.

Instead of buying a pre-made rotisserie chicken at your local grocery store, this chicken tastes fresher and has lots of flavor. Takes about an hour or less to cook in your air fryer!

Marinated our chicken for 24 hours in a liquid herb & garlic marinade. I put the whole chicken in a gallon size ziploc bag and poured in a bottle of liquid marinade. Placed the bag inside a glass baking dish in case if there was any leaking from the bag while it was in the fridge.
Seasonings mixed together to coat the chicken.
All coated and ready to be air fried!
A little crispy, but most of the blackened part on the baking pan is from chicken juices.
My hubby carved up the chicken and it was so juicy and full of flavor.

Crockpot Chicken Tacos

I love making Mexican food, especially when I can just put everything in a slow cooker and let it cook and do its magic! For this recipe, I use a whole chicken. I remove the neck and giblets before I add it in the pot. All of the seasonings I put on this chicken make it so flavorful. Any recipe that only has 3 ingredients for chicken in the crockpot is crazy, that chicken would be so bland! Broiling this at the end, seals all of those juices back in too.

This recipe is perfect for your Cinco De Mayo dinner or any family get together. My salsa verde recipe goes great with this too!

Mix together seasonings in a small bowl.
Add water to the seasonings
Place sliced onions on bottom of crockpot.
Place chicken in crockpot, garlic inside chicken cavity, seasoning mix on top and green chiles. Also put diced chicken bouillon on top. Sprinkle more taco seasoning on top. Set crockpot to low and place lid on top, cook for 6 hours
Removed from crockpot and shredded chicken. Put on a foil lined baking sheet. Drizzled more juices on top. Broiled in oven for 5 mins and then served!
Looks amazing! Ready to be served on tacos 🌮
Served with cheese on top and my salsa verde! Black beans too!

Salsa Verde, Delicious!

Fresh salsa is the best, it’s the highlight of any trip to our local Mexican restaurant. Since it’s Cinco De Mayo tomorrow, I wanted to make a homemade version of salsa verde and serve it with our dinner. The recipe is simple! I roasted tomatillos and a jalapeño in our air fryer/toaster oven but you can also roast them in a regular oven. I used red onion but you can use white onion too.

It was my first time buying tomatillos, if you haven’t seen them before they look kind of like small green tomatoes. I found them at our local farmers market but they should also have them at your nearby grocery store!

Tomatillos are husked and rinsed. Placed on a foil lined baking sheet with a halved jalapeño. Top was removed from jalapeño and also some seeds.
Roasted for 12 mins! Yum!
Diced up red onion, peeled garlic cloves and rinsed and plucked cilantro leaves.
Added all ingredients to blender and blended until smooth.
Best salsa verde ever! Served with tortilla chips and on top of our chicken tacos.

Slow Cooker Baked Beans

If you can’t tell, I love beans! Pinto, black, refried, and now I’ll be sharing my baked beans recipe with y’all too 😋 I made this in my slow cooker and used dried Great Northern Beans. I soak the beans overnight prior to popping them in my slow cooker so they can de-gas and start puffing up. I add bacon to my recipe too! Yum! These beans are great because you can just have them cook all day and your home just smells amazing 😋

If you’d like to make this vegetarian just don’t add the bacon to it 🥓 You can use any small dried white beans for this recipe including navy, northern, cannelini, or baby lima beans. As mentioned above, you MUST soak these beans prior to cooking them up. If you need to quick soak the beans, just put the beans in a pot with water on the stove. Turn on the heat and let it come to a boil, turn it off and let the beans sit for 1 hour. Drain and rinse the beans, then add to your crockpot.

Soaked northern beans overnight, drained & rinsed and drained again. Added to my crockpot!
Add all ingredients including yummy BACON!
Add in water and stir. Set crockpot to High and cook for 8-9 hours.
All done! Mmm!
Served up our beans with homemade coleslaw and pulled pork sandwiches, mmm it was good! Oh and a pickle too!

Chocolate Chip Cookies 🍪

Our daughter is a chocolate fiend, loves everything chocolate. Chocolate cake, chocolate donuts, chocolate chips in her pancakes and more. Not to mention she is a Cookie Monster and so is my husband. I’ve hopped on the chocolate bandwagon and I love it all too. When my husband and I were dating, he made chocolate chip cookies for me, I was hooked! We’ve made them with different variations over time and now I think I’ve found the one I like the most.

I found this recipe on the wrapper of semi-sweet chocolate chips I bought! If you like oatmeal in your chocolate chip cookies, you can add it to this recipe as well. You would need to put less flour – 1 1/4 cups and 3 cups of quick cooking oats. You would also adjust the baking soda down to 1/2 tsp and the salt up to 1 tsp to balance the flavor. As far as the chocolate chips go, you might need to add less to your dough depending on how much chocolate you want in your oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. As far as my basic chocolate chip cookies recipe, I have pics below for the steps and I’ll put the recipe after that ☺️

Stirred the dry ingredients together with a whisk and set aside.
Creamed room temp butter in my stand mixer.
Added in brown sugar and white sugar and beat together with butter.
Nice and creamy!
Added in room temp eggs one at a time to cream in with the sugars and butter.
Slowly add dry ingredients to the creamed sugar mix while beating.
Fold in semi-sweet chocolate chips.
Scoop out the dough by the tablespoon size, I use 2 spoons to scoop and scrape off the dough onto parchment paper on cookie sheets.
More dough!
All baked, now to rest on the cookie sheet for a couple mins.
Remove from the cookie sheet to cool off on either cooling racks or I use my granite countertops and just slide the parchment paper off with the cookies.

Mongolian Chicken 🐓

Want to make a quick dinner that tastes delicious? Try this out! If you love Chinese take out but prefer to make your own at home, this recipe is perfect. It’s a great starter recipe to open the door to more Asian cuisine. Great thing is that everything is made in under 20 mins. Hands on time is minimal for this recipe too! This recipe is 2-3 servings, but it can make more if you (pretty much) double the recipe. If you like your sauce thinner, it would be doubling the recipe. If you like it thicker, you would just need to adjust the soy sauce and water to 1/3 cup each.

This is not a spicy dish, and the green onions add a nice crunch. If you’d like to make this keto, just omit the rice to serve it on top of. Also if you don’t want to bread your chicken in cornstarch, you can skip this step too. I wouldn’t skip the step though because I love the breading ❤️ If you want to make this vegetarian, you could substitute the chicken with veggies and still make it with the same yummy sauce. Some veggie ideas would be: water chestnuts, sliced carrots, sliced mushrooms, broccoli, red peppers, or zucchini. All of these veggies can be added to this chicken recipe too!

Coated the chicken in the bag with cornstarch.
Put chicken into the skillet preheated with olive oil.
Browned the chicken on all sides then removed and set aside in a bowl.
Cooked up minced garlic with ground ginger, if you have fresh ginger, even better!
Added in olive oil, soy sauce, water and brown sugar. If you have sesame oil, you can use that instead of olive oil.
Made a small slurry of cornstarch with water.
Added to skillet to thicken.
Added cooked chicken and green onions to skillet.
Tossed to coat and turned off the heat.
Served on top of a bed of white rice, yum!

More Planting on the Farm 🌺

We planted two azalea plants in the flower bed area in front of our back porch a few weeks ago and decided we needed to get more. Azaleas are native to our area and I love their blooms. I also love how they can get pretty bushy and grow well even in partial sun. The flower beds off our back porch get morning sun but the rest of the day, it is shady. Also, since my husband finished screening in the porch we felt like this was the next project we should do. It was perfect weather, couldn’t have asked for a nicer day.

When we bought our home about a year ago, we found out online that our home used to be called The Compass Rose. One of the previous owners planted rose bushes around the back porch and apparently they looked pretty cool! We never got to see the rose bushes, the owner right before us didn’t have anything planted in the flower beds, we think she either had them pulled out or removed. I didn’t want to plant rose bushes around the porch again, so I did some research on what would grow well there considering how shady it gets. Azaleas were the perfect match! Check out our before and after pictures below. My husband and I planted all of these together, will some help from our daughter 😂

Let’s get started, mom! One azalea we planted a few weeks ago, needed 5 more on this side.
One azalea planted on this side, needed 5 more plus one around the corner.
Our cat Callie is supervising.

We bought our azaleas at our local nursery, the pricing was really good too! Each plant was in a gallon pot and comes with a one year warranty. I found the pricing at Home Depot or Lowe’s for the same plants was actually more than the price we paid at the nursery. We picked up a Florida King Peach tree as well and planted on the other side of our home close to the citrus trees we planted a few weeks ago. All of those trees are closer to our front porch. Cool thing about citrus trees is that they naturally repel mosquitoes!

These azaleas are going to grow so big, I can’t wait! Even just adding the gallon size plants makes this area look so much nicer.
Closer picture so you can see the 5 we planted on this side today.
Our daughter helped water the new plants too!
7 more on this side! Porch also wraps around so we might end up planting more on the other side, we will see!
Florida King Peach Tree

Screening-in Our Big Porch

We knew this was going to be no easy feat, but we really wanted to screen in our huge back porch! Let’s face it, we live in the South and Mosquitoes are a bother, they love my sweet blood I guess 🤷🏻‍♀️ we wanted to be able to enjoy our porch so we knew we needed to screen it in. We didn’t want to pay tons of money for someone else to do it, so my husband and his friend tackled the job! We didn’t even go as far as pricing it out with a contractor, instead we found videos on YouTube to give us an idea of how to put the whole thing together. Keep in mind, our back porch is about 1500 square feet!

With measuring out all of the wood to make the sections, it was time consuming but would make sure that the screening would look nice and tight after. My husband’s friend helped with a lot of the set up, then we needed his help with our master bathroom demo and plumbing work. My husband needed to finish screening in the porch as well as screening in the doors they custom-made to access the porch, and a kitty door for our outside cat.

Cut 2×4’s for each section to help with running tracks for the screens.
It’s coming along!
Hard at work!
Framing in the area around where our doors will be
Next up are the doors!
Doors were custom made by my husband and his friend David. My husband screened in each door with tracks. White trim pieces cover the edges of the screening material and splines.

The screen doors needed to be custom made to fit our space and my husband installed self-closing hinges so we don’t have to worry about the doors getting stuck open. He put handles on the inside and push panels on the outside. Our beautiful trees we can see from our porch keep our area shady and green! So our kitty would be able to have access to the porch, my hubby also installed a cat door. He had to cut a section of plywood to fit the kitty door next to the doors and make it easy access for her.

Simply beautiful screened in porch by my hubby!
Our cat Callie approves of the screened in porch and her cat door.