25 Romantic Recipes for a Valentine’s Date Night at Home

February 9, 2016 by  
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I have a feeling a lot of people will be spending their Valentine’s Day date night at home given that it coincides with the return of The Walking Dead after a long winter hiatus. (I’m sure Eric and I aren’t the only ones with this plan…right?) I’m thinking a nicer-than-usual Valentine’s dinner + an evening of TV together on the couch sounds like the perfect date.

Other benefits of doing Valentine’s Day dinner at home include the savings, the avoidance of long waits, going out in the cold, and a fun project that the two of you can do together.

If you’re planning a night in just like us, I figure you might appreciate some awesome meal ideas. Check out this list I’ve pulled together and get ready to create a memorable (and delicious!) night.

25 romantic recipes for valentine's day

25 Romantic Recipes for a Valentine’s Date Night at Home


Soups & Salads




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Homemade Onion Straws

February 8, 2016 by  
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For the longest time, I viewed onion rings as nothing more than a vehicle for whatever sauce they were served with. More often than not, I’d tear them in half, carefully pull the onion out and toss it aside, and then proceed to dip the remaining breading in the sauce. Onion rings, sans onion.

But then I was introduced to onion straws and I’ve never looked back. The onion is thin enough that I don’t have an issue with the texture, and it adds the perfect amount of flavor to the otherwise perfect breading.

homemade onion straws

Eric and the kids all love these Homemade Onion Straws just as much I do. Eric is probably the only true fan of onions in our family, but when these are on the menu, we all happily over-indulge. They are great on their own as an appetizer, or as a topping for many things, included sandwiches, soups, and casseroles. I’ve successfully duplicated this recipe with a gluten-free all-purpose flour and had equally outstanding results as when using non-GF flour.

Homemade Onion Straws
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Appetizer
Serves: 4 - 6 servings
  • 2 c. oil, for frying
  • 1 large (or 2 small) yellow or Vidalia onion(s), very thinly sliced
  • 1 c. buttermilk (or 1 T. vinegar plus enough milk to equal 1 cup)
  • 1 c. flour
  • 1 T. Cajun seasoning (or a combination of cumin, salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper)
  1. Place the onions in a shallow dish and cover with buttermilk. In a small bowl, combine flour and seasonings. Heat oil in skillet until hot. Working in small batches, remove the onions from the buttermilk and put in the flour mixture. Coat completely. Remove and shake off any extra flour. Place in hot oil and cook until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Drain on paper towels.

When it comes to a dipping sauce for these onion straws, there are tons of options: Ranch dressing, Mayo/Mustard combination, Sour cream mixed with taco seasoning, or even just ketchup if you’re a Miller kid. Play around with your favorite dips and enjoy!

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February eBook Specials

February 8, 2016 by  
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February is a great month to be a foodie! There’s “Hot Breakfast Month,” “Great American Pie Month,” Fat Tuesday, and Valentine’s Day, just to name a few.

For me personally, the Polish version of Fat Tuesday is one of my VERY favorite days of the whole year – Paczki Day! From the amazing Polish bakeries in the Chicago area where I grew up to the equally awesome bakeries here in the  Northern suburbs of Detroit, I’ve been fortunate to always have Paczki widely available. My favorites? Lemon or Blueberry glazed, for sure. SO good!

Since I’m all about celebrating these awesome food-focused celebrations this month, I thought it would make sense to offer my two ebooks that are appropriately themed at a discount this week. So, from now through Friday, you can grab my Valentine’s-themed chocolate recipe ebook or my Better Breakfast ebook at a reduced rate.

Now just$1.99

Here’s all the deets:

  • 25 Recipes for Chocolate Lovers – Indulge your chocolate cravings with these 25 recipes. Perfect for Valentine’s Day or any day that calls for a chocolate treat. On sale right now for just $1.99. Pick up your copy here.
  • Better Breakfast – 110 Breakfast Recipes – There is no reason to have the same breakfast day in and day out with all these options that will help you get your day off to a better start! The ebook is broken down into 7 categories: 1)Muffins & Quick Breads, 2) Other Baked Goods, 3)Pancakes, Waffles, French Toast & Crepes, 4) Oatmeal & Cereals, 5) Smoothies, 6) Skillets, Casseroles & Pizzas, and 7) Under 10 (or so) To The Table. And many (almost half) of the recipes include photos! On sale right now for just $3.99. Pick up your copy here.

~ Enjoy! ~

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Chicken, Brie & Tomato Spaghetti

February 6, 2016 by  
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chicken brie spaghetti

My love affair with cheese started when I was fairly young. Baked brie with apricot jam made a regular appearance at nearly all of my parents’ holiday gatherings and parties, and I would definitely sneak way more bites than I should have. I quickly learned to move on from that baked, gooey treat to enjoying brie in nearly any form I could get it.

Nowadays, brie might not be on our regular dining rotation, but we have still managed to instill a small brie-love gene in the kids. (Goat cheese is the first favorite, but brie is a close second.) They are definitely fans of baked brie just like I was, but they’ll gladly eat it in any form we serve it in. That makes me happy!

This Chicken, Brie, and Tomato Spaghetti is a super-quick dinner or lunch that tastes luxurious without any of the hassle. Fancy enough to impress company, yet easy enough to eat any night of the week…that’s absolutely a win in my book!


Chicken, Brie & Tomato Spaghetti
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Pasta, Chicken
Serves: 6 - 8
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • ½ lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 lb. spaghetti, fully cooked and drained
  • ¼ c. olive oil
  • 1 T. red wine vinegar
  • 1½ t. Italian seasoning
  • ½ t. salt
  • ¼ t. black pepper
  • 2 c. brie or mozzarella, cubed
  • ½ lb. grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
  1. Heat 2 T. olive oil in a large skillet. Add cubed chicken and cook for 5 minutes. Add garlic and season to taste with salt and pepper. Continue cooking until chicken is fully cooked. Stir in fully cooked spaghetti. Remove from heat.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, vinegar, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. Pour into skillet and stir to combine.
  3. Stir in cheese and tomatoes. Serve immediately or at room temperature.

 Do you have a favorite fast-yet-fancy dinner? I’d love to hear about it!



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50 Appetizers for Super Bowl 50

February 3, 2016 by  
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This Sunday night, we’ll be partaking in our usual Super Bowl feast of appetizers, dips, and more appetizers. We definitely up the over-indulge factor every year, but it’s a tradition we’re not willing to mess with. I mean, some things are sacred after all!

We haven’t finalized our selections for this year yet, but all 7 of us will each choose one item from this list. Which ones will you choose?


  1. Stuffed Jalapeno Dip
  2. Buffalo Chicken Puffs
  3. Cheddar Ale Spread
  4. Pizza Pie Bites
  5. Hot Corn and Cheese Dip
  6. Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup Dumplings
  7. Taco Skins
  8. Sausage & Cheese Pinwheels
  9. Stuffed Bread Sticks
  10. Cheesy Bacon Tator Tots
  11. Spicy Little Muffin Tin Chicken Enchiladas
  12. Stromboli
  13. Spinach & Kale Cheese Balls
  14. Coconut Chicken with Pineapple-Curry Sauce
  15. Sweet Potato Skins with Smokin’ Chipotle
  16. Queso Fresco & Sausage Dip
  17. Reuben Dip
  18. Canadian Bacon Cheese Straws
  19. Apple & Brie Quesadillas
  20. Zucchini Fries
  21. Sun Dried Tomato Hummus
  22. Skinny Mozzarella Sticks
  23. Oven ‘Fried’ Pickle Chips with Sweet Horseradish Sauce
  24. BBQ Nachos
  25. Healthy Cereal Trail Mix
  26. Cheesy Pull-Apart Sliders
  27. Italian Nachos
  28. Black Bean & Mango Salsa
  29. Adobo Chicken Wings
  30. Asian Ground Beef Lettuce Wraps
  31. Baked Green Olive Cheese Puffs
  32. Slow Cooker Spinach Artichoke Dip
  33. Walking Tacos
  34. Mini Pretzel Dogs
  35. Bacon Cheeseburger Meatballs
  36. Tortilla Roll-ups
  37. Pasta Salad Skewers
  38. Hot Four Cheese Dip
  39. Tempura Fried Green Beans
  40. Chimichurri Steak & Vegetable Quesadillas
  41. Beef Enchilada Dip
  42. Cheesy Potato Bites
  43. Sugar and Spice Nuts
  44. Homemade Cracker Jack
  45. Siracha Popcorn
  46. Piled High Chicken Melts
  47. Southwest Egg Rolls
  48. Stuffed Artichoke
  49. Artichoke Salsa
  50. BLT Dip

Valentine’s Day Frosted Chocolate Cookies

February 1, 2016 by  
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valentine's day frosted chocolate cookiesValentine’s Day is a big deal around our house for the kids, and although Eric and I have never done much to celebrate the day between the two of us, we do like to make it special for them. We help them put together fun Valentine’s for their classmates (nothing Pinterest worthy by any stretch…) and treat them with something special – usually homemade cookies or brownies of some kind and individual little chocolate boxes. We also fill our candy jar with conversation hearts or gummy candies during the few weeks leading up to the day and put out some decorations. That’s about the extent of our celebration, but it works for us. The kids enjoy a special day and Eric and I don’t stress over doing too much or making too big of a deal of the day.

Even with our modest celebration, I’ll admit to loving to make special, themed treats, whether for the kids at home or to share with their classmates. These Valentine’s Day Frosted Chocolate Cookies are some of my favorite to make because they’re delicious and fun to decorate! You can top them with any Valentine-themed candy that you want to add your own personal touch.

Valentine's Day Frosted Chocolate Cookies
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 3 dozen
For the Cookies
  • 1 c. butter or margarine, softened
  • ¾ c. sugar
  • ¾ c. brown sugar
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 2¼ c. flour
  • ¼ c. cocoa powder
  • 1 t. baking soda
  • ½ t. salt
  • 1 c. chocolate chips
For the Frosting
  • 1 c. butter or margarine
  • 3 c. confectioners’ sugar
  • ½ t. almond extract
  • ¼ t. vanilla extract
  • 2 -3 T. milk
  • Red food coloring, optional
Optional Garnish
  • Valentines-themed candies
  1. In a mixing bowl, beat the butter or margarine and sugars together until fluffy. Add the vanilla and egg and beat an additional minute.
  2. In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Slowly add to the mixing bowl and stir just until combined. Stir in chocolate chips by hand.
  3. Roll heaping tablespoons of dough into a ball and place on baking sheets. Bake at 375 degrees for 9-11 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.
  4. While the cookies cool, beat butter or margarine, confectioners’ sugar, and extracts until light and fluffy. Add enough milk to achieve frosting consistency. Add red food coloring to achieve desired color (a few for pink, more for red), if you'd like.
  5. Once the cookies are completely cooled, frost and top with candies of choice, if desired.

This recipe is being linked to ‘Create Link Inspire’ at Nap-Time Creations.


Want more chocolate recipes? Check out my new ebook, 25 Recipes for Chocolate Lovers, just in time for Valentine’s Day. It’s just $3.99 for all kinds of crazy, delicious new chocolatey treats!
Grab your copy!

Chocolate & Peanut Butter Pie with Pretzel Crust

January 31, 2016 by  
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chocolate peanut butter pie with gluten free pretzel crust

Ever since Eric had to go gluten free, I’ve had fun playing around with different pie crusts and flavors to make a pie that everyone can enjoy. My ultimate goal is that no one would even guess that the pie was gluten free. I’ve had success with nut-based crusts, gluten free graham crackers or gingersnap crusts, gluten free cookie crusts, and gluten free pretzel crusts. I think the pretzel crust has become the favorite with our whole family, including our extended family. The crunchy texture, the sweet and salty combination…it’s just good!

Aside from eating any of the pies I make with a gluten free pretzel pie crust, I think my favorite thing about this crust is experimenting with different fillings and complementary flavors. There have been some no-brainer fillings (chocolate creme) and some surprise hit combinations (banana cream, rocky road ice cream with caramel).

Now this recipe…this is definitely a no-brainer. Who doesn’t love the combination of chocolate-peanut butter-pretzel? This is without a doubt one of our very favorite pies. So, it’s no wonder that it’s the pie Eric requested as his birthday dessert last week. Just me, just give it a try and you’ll be requesting it on your birthday too!

pretzel crust pie
Prep work for the pie

I love how quickly this pie comes together. Olivia and I make it together, but I think she could totally do it on her own. Pie that a 10 year old can make equals a win in my book!

peanut butter chocolate pie

Chocolate & Peanut Butter Pie with Pretzel Crust
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 8
  • 2 c. crushed pretzels, gluten free or regular
  • ½ c. sugar
  • ½ c. butter, melted
  • 1 14 oz. can Sweetened Condensed Milk
  • 1½ c. Ghiradelli dark chocolate melts, or chocolate chips
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1 c. peanut butter
  • ½ c. powdered sugar
  • 1 t. vanilla extract
  • Whipped cream
  • A few spoonfuls of chocolate layer sauce
  1. Stir together crushed pretzels, sugar and melted butter. Press into a 9-inch pie plate.
  1. Combine sweetened condensed milk and chocolate in a small saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat until chocolate is completely melted and the sauce comes to a low boil. Remove from heat and pour into prepared pie crust, reserving a few spoonfuls for garnish, if desired.
  1. Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and beat until smooth and creamy. Spoon on top of the chocolate layer in the pie crust and spread until smooth.
  1. Spoon some whipped cream on top of the pie and drizzle with the reserved chocolate sauce.

This recipe can also definitely be made non-gluten free by just swapping out the gluten free pretzels for regular pretzels. No matter which kind you use, I guarantee it will turn out delicious.


Want more chocolate recipes? Check out my new ebook, 25 Recipes for Chocolate Lovers, just in time for Valentine’s Day. It’s just $3.99 for all kind of crazy, delicious new chocolatey treats!
Grab your copy!

Homemade Hamburger Helper: Cheeseburger Macaroni

January 25, 2016 by  
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I first shared this recipe back in 2008. It’s amazing to sit back and think about how much has changed since then. I guess 6 years can do that…

There’s one thing that hasn’t changed though, and that’s our love of this Cheeseburger Macaroni! As the kids have gotten older, they’ve all developed very particular tastes and dislikes (much to my chagrin and best efforts), but this meal is one they all clean their plates with. That’s always a win in my book!

Here’s a quick overview of the updates in this recipe as compared to the original:

  1. It’s truly homemade Hamburger Helper style in that everything cooks in 1 pot.
  2. The flavor has been tweaked slightly. After years and years of making this, I’ve finally hit on just the right combination of ingredients to give it the best, most “cheeseburgery” flavor, at least as far as the 7 of us are concerned.
  3. The recipe is gluten free friendly. My husband has celiac and 95% of our meals have been gluten free since late in 2011, so I’ve learned to modify many of our favorites so that we can all enjoy the meal.

cheeseburger macaroni

Homemade Hamburger Helper: Cheeseburger Macaroni
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Homemade Hamburger Helper: Cheeseburger Macaroni. Gluten free friendly.
Recipe type: Ground Beef
Cuisine: American
Serves: 6-8 servings
  • 1 lb. ground beef or ground turkey
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 1 t. salt
  • ½ t. garlic powder
  • ½ t. black pepper
  • 12 oz. elbow macaroni (I used gluten free)
  • 3 c. beef stock
  • 2 c. milk
  • ¼ c. ketchup
  • 1½ T. mustard
  • 1 T. dill pickle relish
  • 2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
  • Additional salt and pepper, optional
  1. Put ground beef or turkey and diced onion in a large, deep skillet and season with salt, garlic powder, and pepper. Cook until browned and drain.
  2. Stir in macaroni noodles, beef stock and milk.
  3. Bring to a slow boil, stirring frequently.
  4. Cover and reduce heat to low. Cook, stirring occassionally, for about 15-20 minutes, until noodles are tender. (I find that the gluten free noodles cook more quickly than regular noodles, so check frequently.)
  5. Remove cover and stir in remaining ingredients, stirring to combine well. If the sauce is too thin for your liking, cook for a few additional minutes.
  6. Enjoy!

The leftovers of this are fantastic when made with regular pasta, but not so much when you use gluten free noodles. Just something to keep in mind!

Homemade Cream Cheese Wontons

January 19, 2016 by  
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Our kids go crazy for appetizers as dinner, which I’m sure isn’t anything unusual. Every time I announce that it’s “App Dinner Night,” I know there will be cheering and excitement all around. Each of the kids have their own favorites, but the one that they all love is Cream Cheese Wontons.

I’ll admit that I sometimes cheat and buy a box of these from the freezer section at the grocery store, especially on Friday nights after a long week. But when I have extra time, I love to throw this homemade version together. They’re a bit of a labor of love because they do require quite a bit of hands-on time. The taste though? No comparison to the frozen version! These will win any taste test.

homemade cream cheese wontons

Homemade Cream Cheese Wontons

  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 2 T. sliced green onions
  • 1 t. soy sauce
  • 1/2 t. garlic powder
  • 1 pkg. wonton wrappers
  • Oil for frying
  • Sauces for dipping, optional
  1. Stir together the cream cheese, green onions, soy sauce, and garlic powder until well blended.
  2. Spoon roughly 1-tablespoon of the cream cheese mixture onto the center of one wonton wrapper. Lightly wet the edges of the wrapper with water, fold in half, and seal. (Use a little extra water if needed to get a good seal.)
  3. Fry 4 to 5 wonton at a time in hot oil. (I use a deep skillet, but you can use your favorite frying method.) Fry for about 5 minutes, flipping over halfway through, until golden brown and crispy.
  4. Drain on paper towels and serve with your favorite dipping sauce(s), such as sweet chili pepper sauce, soy sauce, sweet and sour sauce, etc.
  5. Enjoy! ~

Bacon Cheeseburger Biscuit Cups

January 11, 2016 by  
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Our kids love any kind of dinner that they can eat with their hands. I’m sure this is a pretty common thing with lots of other kids too. And although I keep waiting for them to grow out of this habit, I don’t see it happening anytime soon. I guess that’s because I kind of feel the same way. For me, the best thing about a dinner that can be eaten with our hands is that it’s usually perfect for freezing and reheating for other dinners or snacks.

That’s exactly the case with these Bacon Cheeseburger Biscuit Cups. They freeze perfectly and reheat really well in the oven or even the microwave. It’s easy to make a double or triple batch and freeze the leftovers. (The recipe below makes about a dozen, depending on the size of your muffin tins.)

And aside from that ease-of-use factor, they’re just good! The cheesy sauce loaded with ground beef and bacon has a great cheeseburger taste from a little bit of condiments stirred in before filling the biscuit cups. Every bite is delicious! (If you’ve been reading here for awhile, I’m sure you know that bacon cheeseburger anything is always a hit at with my family and these are no exception.)

Bacon Cheeseburger Biscuit Cups

  • 2 1/2 c. flour
  • 1 T. baking powder
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1/2 c. butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 – 1 c. milk
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1/2 c. milk
  • 1 1/2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 T. ketchup
  • 2 t. mustard
  • 2 t. pickle relish
  • 1/2 lb. bacon; diced and cooked; divided
  • Extra shredded cheese, for garnish

1. Mix flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Cut in butter until crumbly. Stir in milk, adding just enough for the dough to come together. Knead by hand for one minute.

2. Divide the dough into 12 evenly-sized balls. Flatten the dough balls into a circle with your hands or with a rolling pin. Press into muffin tins and poke the bottoms of each one several times with a fork. Bake at 350 degrees for 5 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, cook ground beef in a large skillet. Season with salt. Drain.

4. Stir milk into ground beef in the pan and add shredded cheese. Continue cooking over low heat until cheese is melted and smooth. Stir in ketchup, mustard and relish.

5. Set aside some bacon to garnish the cups; stir the remaining into the beef and cheese sauce.

6. Spoon cheeseburger mixture into the biscuit cups. Garnish with bacon and additional shredded cheese, if desired. Bake for about 15 minutes, until biscuit cups are golden brown.

If you are going to freeze these, make sure they are cooled to room temperature and then flash freeze on a cookie sheet for about an hour. Transfer to plastic freezer bags once firm. Enjoy!

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