What’s Cooking

Weekly What’s Cooking with Melissa

Since I’ve committed myself to making more casseroles and sharing more recipes for them, I chose a breakfast casserole for this week. I hope you like this lighter version of French Toast Casserole.


French Toast Casserole (lighter)

1 whole loaf of bread (torn into 1 inch pieces)

1/4 cup raw sugar

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg

4 eggs

2 egg whites

1 1/2 cup skim milk or 2% milk

1 tbsp. vanilla extract

Put bread pieces evenly in a greased 9×13 casserole dish. In a bowl mix together eggs, egg whites, raw sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, milk and vanilla.  Pour egg mixture over top of bread pieces. Cover and refrigerate overnight. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until golden brown.

*I like to add a cup of blueberries when I place the bread pieces in the casserole dish.

Weekly What’s Cooking with Melissa

Happy New Year! I’m dedicating the month of January to casseroles. In keeping with a healthier new year, all of my comfort food casseroles will be low fat. I will mix it up for you so they won’t all be dinners. I hope you enjoy them!

Chicken Tortilla Casserole

1 large onion, chopped small

1 red pepper, chopped small

2 cups. chicken breasts, cooked and chopped into bite sized pieces

2 cans cream of mushroom soup (low fat or fat free version)

1 small can diced tomatoes and chilies, drained

1 15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 15 oz. can corn, drained

1 tsp. garlic, minced

1 tsp. chili powder

1/2 tsp. pepper

3 cups baked tortilla chips, slightly crushed

2 cups reduced fat shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a large skillet with cooking spray and saute onions and red peppers for about 5 minutes. Stir in chicken and next 7 ingredients, remove from heat. Spray a 9×13 casserole dish with cooking spray and cover bottom with half of the crushed tortilla chips, then spoon in half of the chicken mixture and sprinkle half of the shredded cheese. Repeat layers. Bake at 350 for 35 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Weekly What’s Cooking with Melissa

Hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas! Are you ready for New Year’s? If you’re looking for some appetizers look no more! And… Happy New Year… see you in 2018.

Beef Bites

1 1/2 lbs. sirloin steak, cut into 1 inch pieces

1/2 cup soy sauce

1/3 cup olive oil

1/4 cup teriyaki sauce

1 tsp. minced garlic

1 tsp. black pepper

1/2 tsp. onion powder

Mix all ingredients except for steak in a large bowl then add steak pieces, toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 6-8 hours or overnight. Cook marinated beef bites in a large skillet, over medium/high heat. Discard marinade. This will only take 3-6 minutes on each side. When done to desired temperature, serve on a platter with toothpicks. A perfect side to these beef bites can be in the crock pot waiting for party time!

Crock pot Mushrooms

Place (6) 8 oz. packages of white mushrooms in a crock pot. Cut 1/2 cup butter into pieces and place over top of mushrooms. Sprinkle 1 dry package of Italian salad dressing mix and 1 dry package of ranch dressing mix on top, mix to coat mushrooms. Cook on low 3-4 hours, stirring occasionally. Serve warm on a platter with toothpicks.

Weekly What’s Cooking with Melissa

Since Christmas will be here before we know it, I always start making cookies early. Sometimes the cookies I make are a trial run and some are tried and true recipes. For years I’ve struggled to make a soft gluten free molasses cookie, and this year I have finally done it! Hope you like these as much as we all have.

Gluten Free Molasses Ginger Cookies

1 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup butter, softened

1/4 cup shortening

1/4 cup molasses

1 egg

2-2/3 cup gluten free flour blend

1 tsp. baking soda

1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. ground ginger

1/2 tsp. xanthan gum

1/4 tsp. salt

4 tbsp. sugar (for garnishing)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl mix together brown sugar, butter, shortening, molasses and egg. Stir in remaining ingredients except 4 tbsp. sugar. Shape dough into small balls and roll in sugar then place them on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 9 to 11 minutes. Allow to cool on cookie sheet for one minute then remove to a cooling rack (or paper towels like I do).

*Store in an airtight container. Mine actually stayed moist the four days that they stuck around.

**I always line my cookie sheets with parchment paper when making cookies.

Weekly What’s Cooking with Melissa

This week I had planned to do a bonfire and cook all of our Sunday supper over the fire. The wind said I had to make other plans so dessert had to be done inside. The dessert I had planned was cinnamon apples. Since we were inside I made a crock pot full of Holiday! Really it was a crock pot full of pears and apples that tasted like a pie without the crust. Hope you enjoy this as much as we did!

Cinnamon Pear & Apple Dessert

8 apples (peeled, cored and sliced)  I used honey crisp apples.

4 large pears (peeled, cored and sliced)

1 tbsp. lemon juice

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

1/4 tsp. salt

1 tsp. vanilla

4 tbsp. cornstarch

4 tbsp. butter

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup raisins and/or dried cranberries (optional but so good)

Grease the bottom and sides of a 4 or 5 qt. crock pot with butter. Place apples, pears, lemon juice, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and vanilla in the crock pot. Stir to coat the apples. Next sprinkle raisins and/or dried cranberries over top, cut butter into small pieces and place over the apples and pears. Put on the lid and cook on high heat for two hours, stir, replace lid and cook for another hour. Serve while hot, alone or with vanilla ice cream!

Weekly What’s Cooking with Melissa

Leftovers from large holiday dinner leftovers can be overwhelming. I’d like to share a recipe for leftover turkey… Savory Turkey Pancakes. They can be served for breakfast, lunch, snack or a quick supper after black Friday shopping!

Savory Turkey Pancakes

2 tbsp. canola oil

3/4 cup almond flour

2 large eggs

1 tbsp. butter, melted

1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

3/4 cup cooked turkey, shredded or chopped small

salt and pepper to taste

1/4 tsp. onion powder

1/4 tsp. garlic powder

2/3 cup sour cream, optional

Whisk together eggs and melted butter. Add almond flour and spices, stir until well combined. Gently mix in turkey and shredded cheddar cheese. In a hot skillet, heat canola oil. Scoop batter into hot skillet and cook about 5 minutes on each side. Serve hot with sour cream.

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.