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Candy Corn Layered Drinks

By this time, I’m pretty sure everybody (well, everybody on Pinterest at least) have seen the 4th of July layered drink recipes floating around the interweb. They’re fun, they’re easy, and the little guys and gals, think you’re a bad-a**, magic wielding Mama when you whip em out at your backyard barbecue. This year, we thought Halloween might want in on a little bit of the action. The drinks couldn’t be any simpler to make and the whole thing revolves around the simplest of scientific terms: density. The more sugar in a liquid, the ‘denser’ it is. By halving the sugar content of layers two and three, we created pretty little (educational) layers. The sons know by now, even if it’s fun, if there’s an opening for any kind of teachable moment, I’m all over it.

Back to the drink though…

Candy corn is a Halloween staple, and though some people love it or hate it, I think everyone can and will enjoy these layered candy corn drinks. The sons got a tickle out of them, especially the younger two. It was also pretty neat to watch the discover each different flavor. Festive and fun? That’s my kind of party.

Aaaand, speaking of parties, layered drinks can be so fun for parties, and there’s no doubt in my mind that these would be perfect for any Halloween party! Serving a crowd? Don’t have time to make multiple individual servings? Follow the same recipe, but make it in a punch jar instead of a glass.

The layers are easily seen up close and personal, but if you really want them to stand out, especially the white top layer, use less yellow and more white.

Candy Corn Layered Drinks

 Candy Corn Layered Drinks

recipe originally from High Heels & Grills

1/3 part Crush (store brands work as long as the sugar content is just as high) orange soda
1/3 part yellow Gatorade
1/3 part zero calorie lemonade Vitamin Water


1. Fill your cup/pitcher/whatever you are using up to the very top with ice.
2. Pour the orange soda in first until you’ve filled about 1/3 of your glass.
3. Next, slowly pour the Gatorade directly on top of the ice and let it trickle down on top of the orange soda until it fills 2/3 of your glass*.
4. Finally, slowly pour the lemonade on top of the ice and let it trickle down on top of the Gatorade.

*Do not stir the liquids or this won’t work.

Chili Dog Casserole with Cheese Fries

So as I’ve mentioned before Son # 1 made the JV football team. What I probably haven’t mentioned since then, and totally need to (ok, I’m gonna brag a bit) is that he kept getting promoted from position to position, and to starting each position, until half way through the season earning his Varsity letter. Go him! He is a pretty awesome guy, and I’m not at all surprised, but damn if I’m still not proud as hell. The parents will often get together, especially for a big game, and host a tail-gate/team meal for the players. And when it comes to tailgating the boys prefer some of the more traditional fair.

When it comes to tailgating foods, chili is a classic dish that is perfect for football weather.  You can make it ahead so you don’t miss any of the action, and I can make a big batch. Big enough to feed a team of athletic teen boys.      And speaking of chili, who doesn’t like a good chili dog? This casserole is great to enjoy on a Sunday afternoon or while watching weeknight sports on TV, or (in our case) to serve to a hungry crowd of rowdy teen football players.

 Chili Cheese Hot Dog French Fry Casserole

We’ve established that our family, and the son’s team, all love chili corn dogs, but this dish has truly taken that flavor to the next level. All the flavor of the two classic stadium treats, but in one tasty casserole. We can’t be alone either because Americans love hot dogs. We really do. We know this because, according to the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council (which is, yes, a thing), we bought $1.6 billion worth of them last year, just in grocery stores. But for me the hotdog — along with the slightly more grownup-sounding sausage — is always going to be most at home inside a stadium or at some nearby tailgate. Even better, there isn’t really any standard for how you should eat one, this recipe is a nice change up from the same old, same old.

Chili Dog Casserole with Cheese Fries

Chili Cheese Hot Dog French Fry Casserole 2

recipe adapted from The Weary Chef

5 hot dogs (your favorite brand) , sliced into ¼” rounds
15 oz can chili
14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, drained
1 cup shredded, or very thinly sliced, carrots
12 oz frozen shoestring, or crinkle cut, French fries
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese


1. Spray a 9 x 13” baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.
2. In a medium sized skillet, saute the sliced hot dogs until nice and fragrant and browned.
3. In a medium bowl, add the hot dogs, chili, tomatoes, and carrots. Stir until evenly combined. Pour this mixture into the prepared baking dish.
4. Evenly arrange French fries in a single layer on top of the hot dog mixture. Bake in the oven at 450 for 30 minutes.
5. Evenly, or as evenly as possible, sprinkle the cheese on top of the fries, and bake an additional 3-5 minutes, or until the cheese is melted.

Creamy Garlic Shells (No Packet Required!)

I’m just going to go ahead and apologize right now before I go any further. I’m sort of on a comfort food (you know, high calorie, delicious, and unhealthy food) kick right now, (maybe because the weather is getting cooler?) and there is absolutely nothing healthy about this dish. Actually, you could make it significantly healthier depending on what type of ingredients you choose to use (skim milk instead of cream, less cheese, and not over-indulging), but I’m not going to lie and tell you I made any of those choices. This is pure, delicious, evil.

There was a long (-ish) period where the hubs and I should have bought some stock in Lipton. We were investing that much money. When I was first married those little side-dish pasta packets were an automatic go-to of mine for dinner. Except in our little world, while we were figuring everything out, including learning to cook and figure out a monthly food budget, they weren’t really sides so much as a meal and, man, did we love em. Sure, one package allowed us to reach our sodium limit for a month, but I’m sure that’s what made them so tasty. After a few years went by, we had learned a few things. Those pasta sides got kicked to the curb in favor of more and more homemade versions, that we came to find tasted better and were loads cheaper, especially for a large, expanding family.

So here’s all that delicious (and still very convenient) taste, without the copious amounts of sodium, and without requiring you to purchase a pasta packet.

Creamy Garlic Shells

(no packet required!)

Creamy Garlic Shells

recipe adapted from Iowa Girl Eats

8 oz small shells pasta
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tablespoons flour
3/4 cup chicken broth
3/4 cup heavy cream, or milk if going for a lighter version
salt & pepper
1/4- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons parsley flakes


1. Cook pasta in a pot of salted, boiling water until al dente. Drain, then set aside. Let pot cool off the heat for several minutes.
2. Return pot to stove over medium heat then melt butter in olive oil. Add garlic then saute until golden brown, about 30 seconds, being very careful not to burn. Sprinkle in flour then whisk and cook for 1 minute. Slowly pour in chicken broth and milk while whisking until mixture is smooth. Season with salt & pepper then switch to a spoon and stir constantly until mixture is thick and bubbly, about 4-5 minutes.
3. Take pot off the heat then stir in parmesan cheese, garlic powder, and parsley flakes until smooth then add cooked pasta and stir to combine.

Baby Ruth Cupcakes

I remember these candy bars being everywhere when I was a kid, at the grocery store, the gas station, even vending machines. They were always my Mom’s favorite. In recent years, when I’ve got a craving, or in this case, a recipe calling their name, it’s always hit or miss if I can find them in the candy aisle. I’m happy to report that with the approach of Halloween that Baby is back! In full force, smack dab in the middle of all that Halloween candy action. I immediately snagged a few bags, went home, and turned on my oven. There was no delaying me, no denying me. These. were. happening. And then they happened. And they were everything I’d hoped they’d be and so much more.

Baby Ruth Cupcakes

Feast your eyes upon those beauties!

I never thought that I’d see the day when I could get the great taste of a Baby Ruth candy bar in a cup cake. Candy bar. Cup cake. They just don’t sound compatible. Well the hubs, the sons, and I are here to tell you guys that that day is today. And Ohhhhhhh Baby is it ever great! Using your choice of a yellow or chocolate cupcake mix,with a Baby Ruth center, these are then topped with vanilla, or almond, butter cream icing. They’re capped off with a drizzle of caramel sauce and topped with a bit of a baby ruth candy bar. For that extra touch you can even garnish them with a few roasted peanuts.

Baby Ruth Cupcakes


recipe adapted from A NY Melrose Family

Chocolate or Yellow cake mix of your preference, I always use a butter cake batter
water, butter, eggs, and/or oil according to the package directions
Bag of Fun Size Baby Ruth Candies
Vanilla or Almond Buttercream Frosting
caramel syrup
roasted peanuts, optional


1. Preheat the oven to the 350. Line your cupcake pan(s) with 24 cupcake liners.
2. Combine your cake mix with eggs, butter (or oil), and water and beat together.
3. Place 2 tablespoons of cake batter into the cupcake liners.
4. Place half a Fun Size Baby Ruth candy into each cupcake.
5. Cover the candy with about a tablespoon of cake batter.
6. Cook for 18-22 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean from the center of the cupcake.
7. While the cupcakes bake prepare your frosting, if making from scratch.
8. Frost the cupcakes once they are cool.
9. Drizzle the caramel sauce over the frosting and top with ½ of a Fun Size Baby Ruth candy.

The ‘Popeye’ Sandwich

Let me introduce you to our ‘popeye’ sandwiches. They’re packed full of protein with chicken, bacon, and spinach, stacked on a crusty ciabatta, or torta, roll, and (for the pies de resistance)  topped with a rich, creamy Alfredo sauce drizzle.

It may be green and leafy, but spinach—a renowned muscle builder—is also one of the ultimate power-house foods. It’s also heart-healthy, chock full of vitamins, nutrients, and minerals. Popeye was definitely on to something, which is probably why, now in the food-osphere, spinach is often referred to by the classic cartoon moniker. Hence the name of our sandwich. I’m lucky the sons are down for all this healthy green in just one sandwich, and can pile it on. Maybe it’s just the bacon. Bacon makes everything better. Am I right or what? We lightly bread and fry our chicken breasts, but I’ve used grilled chicken before and this sandwich is just as delicious, albeit a whole lot healthier.

The hubs and the sons like their popeye’s as is with the fixin’s pictured, but I love mine with a few thinly sliced red onions and a slice or two of fresh tomato. Doesn’t that just sound like it’d do a body good?!

Popeye Sandwiches

 Popeye Sandwich

chicken breasts (crispy or grilled) we filet ours so that they’re not super thick and more patty-like
bacon, cooked crisp
fresh spinach, washed and dried
Alfredo sauce
ciabatta or torta rolls, or some other crusty bread


Again there’s no real ‘recipe’ here per se.

1. Cut your roll in half. Add a piece of prepared chicken to the bottom bun. Top with bacon. Load it up with that fresh spinach.
2. Drizzle some tasty Alfredo sauce over top the spinach and top the sandwich with the other half of the bun.
3. Repeat for as many sandwiches as needed and then dig in.

Sous Chef Sunday: Candy Corn Fruit Parfaits

I know, I know, there’s nothing at all healthy about the typical little candy corns I love to over indulge int, but here I can offset all the sugar — a little bit, anyway — with this inspired parfait. The sons have been asking for this all week, for dessert! And any day I can pass off fruit as a delicious dessert, that they actually RE-request, is a great day. And I know there’s those crazies (kidding!) out there who don’t particularly care for candy or sugary sweets. Well, this is a perfect sweet treat for them while still being able to be festive. In all honesty though, candy corn just might be our favorite Halloween treat (well, aside from those fun-size Butterfinger bars) so it makes sense that we’d be all about a candy corn-inspired confection. I mean it’s a fruit parfait that’s every bit as sweet and colorful as the real thing. The best part: they’re super easy to scare up!

Note to self: Monitor the sons when there’s a ratio involved between the fruit portion and the sugary one! They went a little cool-whip happy ;)

Candy Corn Fruit Parfaits

Candy Corn Fruit Parfait

1 cup pineapple chunks in 100% juice (I used 1 Dole fruit cup)
1 cup Mandarin oranges in 100% juice (I used 1 Dole fruit cup)
1 small container of non-fat Cool Whip
2 small bowls or cups to assemble parfaits


1. Strain the pineapples and Mandarin oranges. Spoon half of the pineapple chunks into the bottom of the dish, creating a solid layer.
2. Spoon half of the Mandarin oranges on top of the pineapples.
3. Top with a dollop (obviously the sons and I need to re-visit that definition), or two, of Cool Whip

Mexican Rice

I meant to have this recipe up yesterday, for Taco Tuesday of course, but it just wasn’t in the cards. So instead, it’s going up today for ‘Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda’ Wednesday. (Yep, it’s now Thursday. Oops!)

If you’ve ever attempted your favorite Mexican restaurant’s rice at home and failed, raise your hand. Well you can put it down now, because this is my go-to favorite and after one bite, I think it will be yours too. Since first making it, I’ve actually found I like it so much better than the rice usually served when I dine out. No more dumping sour cream, queso, or salsa on my rice trying to give it a flavor boost. Mexican rice always tasted like it had so much potential, but was always just a hair to bland. Not anymore. This recipe is for a pilaf style rice with a characteristic reddish/orange color, flavored with onion, garlic, and spices.

This dish, often known as  ‘Spanish’ rice, makes an easy addition and perfect compliment to any Mexican style entree. Tacos for dinner? No? Maybe some fajitas instead? Nope? What about enchiladas? Either way, this here’s your side dish. You can’t go wrong. Did you make a big batch (as is it serves about 4 people) and now you’ve got leftovers? You’re in luck! Not only does this rice still taste just as flavorful the next day, it goes great in a burrito. Is it steak night and you’re out of ideas for sides to serve? Voila! Problem solved. Same goes for chicken :) Feel free to tweak the recipe and play around a bit to make it your own.

Notice I don’t claim this recipe is ‘authentic’? It probably isn’t, but it is damn good.

Mexican Rice

 Mexican Rice

recipe originally from Favorite Family Recipes

3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 cup long grain rice, uncooked
1 tsp fresh minced garlic
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1 3/4 cup chicken broth
3 tbsp finely chopped, fresh cilantro


1. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. When hot, add the rice and gently stir until rice begins to lightly brown and crisp.
2. Add the garlic, salt, and cumin, stirring until fully incorporated and everything’s a nice golden color .
3. Add the tomato sauce, chicken broth, and cilantro and turn the heat up to medium high.
4. Bring the mix to a boil then turn the heat to low and cover.
5. Simmer for 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from heat, fluff with a fork, and enjoy!


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