What’s Cooking

Weekly What’s Cooking with Melissa

Not all Thanksgiving dinners have to have traditional side dishes. This week I’d like to share a recipe for Cheesy Hashbrown Bake that can replace mashed potatoes or be a great addition to any holiday menu.

Cheesy Hashbrown Bake

1 16 oz. bag of frozen hashbrowns, thawed

4 tbsp. butter

1/8 cup green onions, chopped

3/4 cup chicken broth

2 tbsp. cornstarch

3/4 cup milk

1/4 tsp. black pepper

1/4 tsp. garlic powder

1/4 tsp. onion powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided

dash of paprika

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 2 quart casserole dish and set aside. In a large saucepan melt butter and saute green onions for a couple of minutes. Stir chicken broth into onions. Using a fork, mix cornstarch into milk. Add milk mixture into onions, stirring constantly until mixture starts to bubble and become thickened. Add potatoes, spices and 1 cup cheese and stir well. Pour into prepared casserole dish, sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup shredded cheese and paprika over top. Bake for 40 minutes or until top is slightly browned.

Weekly What’s Cooking with Melissa

Thanksgiving is in just 3 weeks! Do you have your menu ready? In addition to the food menu, special drinks are always a nice touch. This week’s recipe is for a delicious make-ahead punch everyone can enjoy.


Thanksgiving Punch

1 gallon apple cider

2 cups cranberry raspberry juice, 100% juice

3 cinnamon sticks

10 whole cloves

1/2 cup brown sugar

2/3 cup pure maple syrup

1 tsp. vanilla

2 oranges, cut up

1 lemon, sliced

1 quart ginger ale

Over medium heat, in a large pot, add apple cider, cranberry juice, cinnamon sticks, cloves, oranges and lemons and stir. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for one hour. Strain mixture, return juice to the pot and stir in maple syrup and brown sugar. Simmer for 15 minutes. Add vanilla and remove from heat. Cool slightly then pour into a pitcher. Refrigerate overnight. When ready to serve pour into punch bowl with cut up fruits and pour in 1 quart of ginger ale.

*For garnish: Freeze in a single layer on a cookie sheet: 2 oranges and 2 apples cut into chunks and 1 cup raspberries.

**If a punch bowl is not being used, add frozen fruit to a glass, the apple cider mixture and top it off with a splash of ginger ale.

***The punch can be made spicier by using more cinnamon and more cloves. Make it to your own liking.

Weekly What’s Cooking with Melissa

I love to eat and make apple butter but recently I made another butter that is almost as good, Pumpkin Butter. My oldest son, Tanner, loves pumpkin butter so recently I broke out the little crock pot and went to work. This week’s recipe for pumpkin butter is absolutely easy to make and awesome to eat! Hope you like it!

Pumpkin Butter (makes 2 pints)
2 15 oz. cans pumpkin puree
1/2 cup sugar (I use raw sugar)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground ginger (optional)
1/4 tsp. ground cloves (optional)
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Add all ingredients to the crock pot and stir to mix together well. Cook on high for 2-2 1/2 hours. Stir occasionally. When cooled store in mason jars or air tight containers. Can be kept in the refrigerator for up to a month.

*I cooked mine on high for about 1 1/2 hours. Crock pots can vary in temperature. Two of mine cook hotter than the others.
**I have also made half the recipe. Cooking time will be less if recipe is halved.
***Enjoy on toast, French toast, waffles, baked oatmeal, etc. The list is endless!

Weekly What’s Cooking with Melissa

I believe Halloween and harvest parties require fun food. I say “fun food” because the snacks and treats don’t need to be scary or gross. This week I’d like to share some ideas to change ordinary kid-friendly foods into fun Halloween foods without recipes!

1)  Candy Corn Cocktail – You will need: clear cups, 1 can of pineapple chunks, 1 can of mandarin oranges and whipped topping. Drain fruits then layer: 1st layer pineapple chunks and 2nd layer mandarin oranges then spoon on whipped topping. If you’d like, garnish with a piece of actual candy corn.

2)  Hard boiled ghosts – Hard boil eggs. When cooled, draw ghost faces on them with sharpies.

3)  Ants or spiders on a log – Cut celery into 3 inch pieces and then fill with peanut butter or any nut butter. Place a few raisins on top.

4)  Jack-O-Lantern Clementines – With a sharpie, draw faces on them to resemble carved jack-o-lanterns.

5)  Deviled egg spiders – Make deviled eggs as normal. Cut pitted black olives in half and place one half, cut side down, onto the center of the yolk mixture. Cut the other olive half into 6-8 slices. Put the slices on each side of the half black olive on the deviled egg half to make spider legs.

Weekly What’s Cooking with Melissa

Is it finally crock pot cooking weather? Yes, I believe it finally is. A couple of times I thought Fall was here, and BAM, heat, heat and more heat! By using a crock pot for this week’s recipe, it will help free up your oven for other dishes, especially when cooking a large meal.


Crock Pot Mac & Cheese

1 lb. box of elbow noodles

1/4 cup butter, cubed

4 oz. Velveeta cheese, cubed

12 oz. shredded cheddar cheese

2 1/2 cup milk

1 12 oz. can evaporated milk

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. ground mustard

1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1/2 tsp. paprika


Grease a 5 quart crock pot. Pour the uncooked elbow noodles into the crock pot and top with cubed butter and cheeses. In a large bowl stir together the milks and spices and pour over top the cheeses and stir well to combine. With a large spatula, try to press the noodles down into the milk mixture. Cover and cook on low for 2-2 1/2 hours, stirring after 1 hour. (Crock pots vary but most will be done in 2 hours)

*This recipe can easily be doubled but will take 3 hours to cook thoroughly.

**If you have some leftover cooked ham, bacon and/or veggies, add them after the first hour and stir. Finish cooking the remaining hour; this can be a complete dinner!


Weekly What’s Cooking with Melissa

Using seasonal vegetables in recipes is such a blessing. Butternut squash is an underused vegetable in my house, maybe in many homes. I had a huge package of sage sausage and wanted to work in something seasonal so butternut squash came to mind. This week’s recipe for Butternut Squash Sausage and Noodles is what I came up with and hope you enjoy!

Butternut Squash Sausage and Noodles

2 tbsp. olive oil

1 1/2 lbs. sage sausage, casing removed

1 1/2 lbs. butternut squash, seeded, peeled and cut into bite sized pieces

2/3 cups onion, chopped

2 tsp. garlic, minced

salt and pepper to taste

2/3 cups chicken broth

12 oz. box of pasta (optional)

3/4 cups shredded cheddar cheese (optional)

In a large skillet, over medium/high heat, pour in the olive oil and cook the sausage. Be sure to break into bite sized pieces while cooking. After it starts to brown, add the butternut squash, onion, garlic, salt and pepper to the pan, stirring occasionally. Cook until vegetables start to soften. Add the chicken broth, cover and reduce heat to a medium/low to simmer. Cook 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. While sausage and vegetables are cooking, boil water and cook pasta according to the package directions, drain and set aside. When the squash and sausage are done, spoon over pasta.  If using shredded cheddar cheese, sprinkle on top of each serving.

Weekly What’s Cooking with Melissa

Sometimes my grandson and granddaughter don’t like to eat breakfast when they first get up in the morning. When you need to get out the door early and want little ones to have something good to eat, it can be challenging. I have a great solution for that! Try my recipe for Applesauce Pumpkin Cookies, and everyone from the little ones to the adults will like these as a breakfast substitute or a snack.

Applesauce Pumpkin Cookies

2 cups quick oats (I use gluten free)
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup applesauce (unsweetened)
1/4 cup raw sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
dash of salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a cookie sheet and set aside. In a large bowl mix all ingredients together. With a spoon scoop dough into your hands, roll into a ball, place on the cookie sheet and flatten. Bake 13-15 minutes. Remove from oven and leave on the cookie sheet for 1-2 minutes before removing. Cool and Enjoy!
*I bake them on parchment paper.
**Additions can be made to the dough such as 1/3 cup of dried cranberries or mini chocolate chips.

Weekly What’s Cooking with Melissa

With football season here and pumpkin spice in the air, I found a simple and easy dip to add to a football party! The only thing about this dip is that it is a healthier version of pumpkin dip. Shhhh… don’t tell anyone and see if they know they’re really eating something healthy.


Pumpkin Dip

1 16 oz. low fat cottage cheese

1 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)

1 tsp. apple cider vinegar

2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

1 tsp. cinnamon

1-2 tsp. liquid stevia or 1/4 cup honey (it’ll be your flavor preference here)


Put all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Serve with graham crackers, gingersnaps, animal crackers and/or apple slices. Enjoy!

Weekly What’s Cooking with Melissa

Since school has started and fall is finally in the air, I’ve been canning applesauce and making more recipes with apples. I eat gluten free so quinoa is a grain I eat often and enjoy. This week I’d like to share this old recipe that I have for Apple Walnut Quinoa breakfast cereal. Hope you enjoy!


Apple Walnut Quinoa

3 tbsp. butter

2 apples, diced

1 cup red quinoa, uncooked

1/4 cup orange juice

3 cups water

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

1/4 cups walnuts, chopped


Melt butter in a large pot. Add apples, cinnamon, nutmeg and orange juice. Cook apples on medium/low heat until they caramelize, stirring often so apples don’t burn. After about 10 minutes, add quinoa and toast for a minute or two, stirring constantly. Add water and salt, turn heat on high and bring to a boil. Stir, reduce heat to low and simmer about 15 minutes or until all of the water is absorbed. When ready, stir in walnuts and serve.

*If you like it sweet you can add some brown sugar and even some golden raisins.

Weekly What’s Cooking with Melissa

School’s in! Can you believe it? It seems like summer just started. During the school year I’m always looking for fast weeknight dinners to make. This week I’d like to share a really versatile pasta dish that’s fast, easy and delicious!


Broccoli Chickpea Pasta

1/4 cup olive oil or canola oil

2 tsp. garlic, minced

1/4 cup onions, minced

1/4 cup mushrooms, chopped

1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper

1/2 tsp. onion powder

Dash of salt

1 lb. box pasta (elbow, penne or rotini), gluten free works great

4 cup broccoli florets (frozen, thawed and drained)

1/4 cup chicken broth

1 15 oz. can chickpeas, drained


Over medium heat, warm oil and saute garlic, onions and mushrooms. Add crushed red pepper, onion powder and salt. Saute for two to three minutes, remove from heat. In a large pot of boiling water, cook pasta according to box directions and add broccoli to the pot a couple of minutes before the pasta is done. Cook until both are tender. Put pasta and broccoli back in the pot then stir in chicken broth and chickpeas. Return to heat for a couple of minutes and toss mushroom mixture into pasta. Stir a few times to heat through.  *I like to add shredded chicken or a drained can of tuna to this recipe.