Friday, July 25, 2014

Sloppy Joes and Summertime at Lake Michigan

Homemade Sloppy Joes - a family favorite!

It's finally Friday, me and my gang will soon be leaving for a week in the beloved North Woods!  I can't wait for the peace and serenity of the water, woods and wildlife.  Actually, I'm not even sure if I will have wi-fi, so if I fall off the grid again, you'll know why.

The idea of no wi-fi kinda stresses me out...I can certainly go without Facebook, but I'm not sure how I feel about not having creative recipe ideas at my finger tips.  I guess some time unplugged will be as good for me as for the kids, more time to read and relax.

Speaking of water, I have to share with you our recent visit to Manitowoc, WI and Lake Michigan, my old stomping grounds.

Growing up near the lake, I certainly took it for granted.  We would swing by the marina and lighthouse regularly, either as a special visit or just because we had some time to burn.

Well, this most recent walk down memory lane was met with the same joy and excitement from my kids as I recall from my childhood...which makes it even more precious!

Ryker, Landon, Alayna and I on our way to the Manitowoc Breakwater Lighthouse. 

The kids were super excited about watching all of the seagulls catch fish while we strolled the pier.

Another favorite memory of mine is scrambling along the boulders which create the breakwater.  The kids enjoyed this as well, I was very proud of them for cruising along and enjoying the adventure.

Landon, Ryker and Alayna sharing my enjoyment of the rocks!

While out on the rocks, Ryker spotted what he believed to be a pirate ship! 

Grandpa giving Landon the low-down. 

The Denis Sullivan eventually came into the marina and we got to see it up close. 

Finally, before we left the lake shore, the SS Badger Car Ferry also arrived.  So, we got to take that in that sight as well.

I'd say that was a very productive morning at the lake shore.

For the last number of years, I have only been back to Manitowoc in the winter, this last visit reminded me of the fabulous enjoyment of the lake shore and that I should get up there more than once a year!  

OK, back to reality and the land of feeding my family.

These Home-made Sloppy Joes were made recently on a night when I was headed out with the girls, so that the family could serve themselves in my absence.

Started with about 2.5 lbs of ground beef, browning over medium heat.  

Next added 1/2 cup of chopped onion, 3 stalks of celery (don't be afraid to use the leafy part) and 1 can of diced tomatoes (clearly this was made before my garden was ready to provide me with fresh produce).  

Let that cook for a bit for the veggies to soften.  

As for the sauce, 1/4 cup vinegar, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 2 cups ketchup, 3 tbsp Worcestershire sauce and salt were added. 

Starts out a little saucy, so let it simmer down to desired consistency. 

Here is the consistency I desire!

I love to serve my sloppy joes with tortilla chips and often times I just skip the bun all together! 

They can be enjoyed with a bun, with a fork or with a chip…
Kind of like green eggs and ham! 


2.5 lbs of ground beef
1/2 cup of chopped onion
3 stalks of celery - chopped
1 can of diced tomatoes with juices
1/4 cup vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 cups ketchup
3 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
Salt - to taste

Brown ground beef, add onions, celery and tomatoes to cook a bit. 
Mix up the sauce, pour over the meat and simmer to desired consistency.  

Serve up immediately or throw in a slow cooker for later. 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Chicken & Grape Salad and a great day at Bay Beach Amusement Park - Green Bay, WI

Well, hello there…hope that you have been enjoying this thing called summer as much as we have been!

Lots of fun day trips, making memories with friends and family, enjoying the simple things in life…the way that I so fondly recall summers of my own childhood.

One recent highlight was a trip to Bay Beach Amusement Park in Green Bay.

So delighted that it is still the epitome of simple pleasures that it was when I looked forward to my annual trip there thirty, uh, a few, years ago.

Unlike most amusement parks, Bay Beach is still FREE!!!!  The admission to the rides are based on a ticket system.  Get this, the tickets are $0.25 each.  Most of the rides that the kids went on were two tickets.  Twenty dollars in tickets lasted us for nearly six hours!

I mean, seriously, where can you find that kind of cheap entertainment anymore!  

And, it is actually a park, with trees, grass, swing sets, picnic tables, open space, etc.  No admission gate to walk through, in fact, no fences at all!  Park where you like, wander in to enjoy what you like, stay as long as you'd like.  You certainly don't have to ride rides to enjoy a day at Bay Beach. 

Landon, Ryker, Grandpa Jim and Alayna…ready to ride!

There was one (or maybe two) small changes since my last visit, most notably, the arrival of Zippin Pippin, a fun American Eagle-esque wooden roller coaster.  Grandpa even rode this one!

Two important notes about this ride…
1.  It is the most expensive ride in the park….4 whole tickets = $1.00.
2.  The ride for this line was essentially non-existent.  We waited much longer for the Ferris Wheel.

Alayna and Ryker chatting it up on the Ferris Wheel.

They had many of the traditional festival-type rides like the Tilt-a-Whirl and Scrambler. 
And, to the dismay of my kids, the Scat, wasn't operating that day.

Also, had the Yo-Yo which was another favorite for the kids.  

The crowds were at a minimum, which kept the lines down and allowed the kids to enjoy some independence, as there wasn't any concern that we would lose each other.  

And, I must admit that I was a little concerned that my kids (almost 9, 10 and almost 11) might be a little too old for it, I was wrong.  They had a blast all day long!  

There was plenty of shaded benches for Grandpa and I to watch from a far, which keeps it fun for the whole family.  

So, if you are in the northeast corner of Wisconsin, or just even passing through, you can't go wrong with this gem.  I'm so thankful that parks like this are still around!  

One last note...don't forget to bring a picnic lunch!  I was so disappointed that we didn't bring our own goodies along, but just couldn't imagine that something so simple could still exist in this day and age.  

If I had remembered to bring a picnic lunch, this Chicken & Grape Salad would have been perfect for the occasion.  

This cool, crisp, refreshing and filling salad is one of my summertime favorites, from the sweet crunch of the grapes and celery to the satisfying nuts and chicken…so good!

And, so versatile! 

Serve it straight up. 

On a bed of lettuce. 

Or in a wrap of your choice. 

It was pretty easy to whip up too! 

I just sautéed up some chicken tenders.  

Even though I didn't use them all, I cook them all to throw on a salad or toss with some veggies for a quick meal.  

Chopped up about 2 cups of chicken tenders (6 tenders) and added 1 cup celery, 2 cups halved grapes, 1 cup chopped nuts

Admittedly, that was a lot of grapes…works for me, but of course feel free to adjust ingredient according to your preferences.

For the dressing, about 1 cup of mayonnaise, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp ground coriander, 2 tablespoons lemon juice and some roughly chopped fresh parsley.  

Add the whipped up dressing right to the mixing bowl. 

And, there you have it!  

A refreshing and filling summer salad!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Ham Cobb Salad

Again, we are finding ourselves amidst another glorious weekend in southern Wisconsin!  Just can't get enough of these highs in the 70's with lots of sunshine and a light breeze.  These days are so perfect.

In fact, today I may or may not have napped on the deck for an hour…ahhh!

That was much needed after a great night in Chicago taking in the sounds of the legendary Billy Joel.  So grateful to have a friend within earshot of Wrigley.  We hung out on the deck, enjoyed a perfect summer and with the Piano Man himself serenading us!

I'll take it.

Now, back on the home front, needing to get back to healthier meals…it is so crazy to me that one night can throw me for such a loop…but, it is certainly OK to happen from time to time!

Thought I'd share with you today my Cobb Salad, which would be perfect for a Sunday lunch or evening on the patio.

Enough veggies to make it healthy and enough protein to fill you up!  Probably why Jerry requested it.

And, like most of my recipes, the options are endless… just make it work with whatever you have on hand.

Meat, veggies, cheese, throw 'em all together with some bacon on top and you are golden!

The base of this salad was a head or two of leafy romaine, freshly chopped. 

I know those bags of salad are so convenient, but the fresh stuff lasts so much longer and tastes better too!  

Then, just start piling on the goodies.  

One cup of cubed ham. 
One cup of corn (I generally use frozen)
Four hard boiled eggs 
(somehow I managed to misplace my handy-dandy egg slicer)
Two chopped Roma tomatoes.  

I love to add chopped avocado to everything and anything possible.  

Of course, top with crumbled bacon

Finish with your favorite cheese…1 cup of shredded cheddar

There was much debate around what kind of cheese to add. 

And, most of them will work great!  

Mix it up, try new things…what do you love on your Cobb salad? 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Prosciutto and Mozzarella Stuffed Pork Chops

Tuesday night, we had an unexpected empty nest for dinner, all of the kids had other places to go, so it was just Jerry and I...and I'm pretty sure that Jerry wasn't disappointed, as that meant there were more Prosciutto and Mozzarella Stuffed Pork Chops for us!

This meal was incredibly quick and easy and one of the best dinners I've made in a long time, if I do say so myself.

Just started with 4 center cut pork chops and on Prosciutto Mozzarella roll. 

The pork chops were seasoned with coarsely ground garlic, sea salt and black pepper

Added to a skillet with oil over medium heat to brown the chops. 

Do yourself a favor and slice a pocket for stuffing into them before browning…
(Aren't you glad I make these crazy mistakes first!?!?)

After about 3 minutes on each side, 
they had some nice color and texture and were ready for the next steps.  

Cut up the prosciutto and mozzarella roll into thin slices. 

Fill the pockets with the sliced cheese and meat, arranging on a foil-lined pan for ease of clean up. 

Bake at 350 F for about 20 minutes or until the chops are fully cooked. 

No need to worry about a little cheese melting out, 
we just scooped it up and put it right back on top! 

Served it up on a bed of spinach, 
because that surely negates anything remotely unhealthy about the rest of the meal!  


Center Cut Pork Chops
Coarsely ground Garlic
Coarsely ground Sea Salt
Coarsely ground Black Pepper
Cooking oil


Slice a nice deep pocket into the pork chops, much easier to do earlier rather than later. 

Season pork chops with garlic, salt and pepper to prepare for some initial browning in a skillet over medium heat. 

Brown the chops on each side for 2-3 minutes. 

Stuff the pork chops with the Prosciutto and Mozzarella. 

Bake at 350 F for about 20 minutes, or until the pork chops are fully cooked. 

Feel free to spoon any melted cheese back over the pork chops.  

We are sure glad we did!  

Monday, July 14, 2014

Mojito Fruit Salad (no alcohol required)

Hey, how's it going?

Are you also continually shocked by how fast summer goes?  I keep reminding myself that ultimately, a fast summer is the sign of a great summer!  But, then I just want it to last forever…so much more fun to squeeze in!

In addition to all of the fabulous summer activities…pools and beaches, baseball, outdoor concerts and dining; comes the amazing fruit!

Every time I go shopping, I find myself buying way more fruit than seems necessary because it is all there, so fresh and ready to eat, screaming my name…"Libby, feed me to your family!" and, I cave.

So, after the first few days of eating the whole fruit, I often turn to whatever is left into a fruit salad.  I shouldn't be too surprised that if it requires any work, the fruit will be bypassed, but if it is all cut up into bite size pieces, it is devoured immediately!

While chopping up my most recent fruit salad, a recommendation from a fabulous friend came to mind, saying that she recently had a Mojito Fruit Salad, said it was amazing and I should look it up.

This was particularly exciting for me, as my very aggressive mint plant on my deck is in desperate need of use, before it takes over everything else in that planter.

When I googled it, the first recipe that came up was from Iowa Girl Eats, which is one of my favorite blogs to follow.  Her recipe is here.

And, since there aren't too many ingredients in the dressing, there wasn't much I could do to make it my own…other than the fact that I never really measure and my fruit salads are always just a medley of the fruit in my fridge.

When I make fruit salads, I always layer the fruit in.  This started with 1 cup of grapes, 1 plum, 1 nectarine and 1 cup of strawberries, then topped with 4 chopped mint leaves.  

Continued to layer with another cup of grapes, 2-3 more plums, 2 more nectarines, 1 cup strawberries and 4 more leaves of mint.

The dressing was super easy…just add 3 tbsp of powdered sugar to 1/4 cup lime juice.

Stir it up, pour it over and give a gentle fold.

The lime juice does cause the fruit to soften, so dressing immediately before serving it highly recommended.

Although, once all of the juices were flowing, it tasted like fruit punch…the.BEST.ever!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Un-Stuffed Pepper Skillet

The weekend is nearly upon us, I'm looking forward to the long awaited return of Alayna from a great week of camping and cousins, but it has been a bit quiet around here and not nearly enough girl power around to balance out these two, no, three, no wait, four boys (including our dog, Cody).

Before she returns, I just wanted to share with you a family-friendlier rendition of an old favorite.

I love me some some Stuffed Peppers…love the roasted peppers housing the perfect combination of seasoned rice, meat, tomato and cheese…but for some reason, my kids seem to balk at the whole pepper-thing.

So, I've found if I take the exact same ingredients and prepare them slightly differently, everything is devoured, no balking to deal with and it's faster!

We all win!  

Just start with browning about 2# of ground beef seasoned with salt and pepper.
Once browned, set aside.  

To the same pan, 1 onion and 3 peppers, all chopped up, were added to start the cooking process.  

As far as the sauce, I used one can of diced tomatoes, accompanied by some leftover pizza sauce and salsa in place of a second can of tomato.  

Using up some open jars always makes me happy.  
It ensures the leftovers don't go to waste and clears up some space in the fridge.
Two birds, one stone…my favorite! 

After the tomatoes were added, in came the rice, which started as 2 cups of uncooked minute rice.  

Add back the ground beef. 

Stir it all together and allow to simmer a bit for the extra liquids to cook off and the flavors to get better acquainted.  

Top with a generous sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.

As well as a layer of shredded cheddar, for good measure.  

Serve it up for all to enjoy!  


2# of ground beef - seasoned
1 onion  - chopped
3 green peppers - chopped
2 cans of diced tomatoes (or any combination of leftover sauces in your fridge)
2 cups of uncooked minute rice - cooked
Parmesan cheese
Shredded cheddar

Start by browning the ground beef and cooking the minute rice, then set aside. 
Add the chopped onions and peppers to the pan that the beef was cooked in to begin cooking. 
Next, add the tomato sauce. 
Add the rice to the skillet. 
Then the ground beef, allow to simmer to cook off some of the extra liquids. 
When nearly finished, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and then add a layer of shredded cheddar as the finishing touch.