cooking

cheesy nacho nests (or, your family’s new favorite side dish).

 

this post is sponsored by Crystal Farms®, but all the #cheeselove is straight from my own heart. make sure to read to the end for how to enter the giveaway!

i’ve finally found the perfect side dish for chili.

not that chili needs a side dish (because it doesn’t, it’s the perfect meal in a bowl), but there are days when you just need a little something…extra to go with that piping hot bowl of deliciousness. look no further, because i’ve figured out what we were all missing.

nacho nests. aka personal mini nachos. they are the perfect size for accompanying a hot bowl of chili (or soup), and also they satisfy your nacho cravings in an acceptably cheesy way. it can’t be just me that has nacho cravings, right? of course not.

i made these nacho nests to go with the chili we planned for dinner, but these would be perfect as an appetizer for a game day party too. you can make as many as you need, they are insanely quick to throw together, and you can customize your toppings or even let everyone top their own nacho nest once they’ve been baked.

being a good minnesota girl, i used wisconsin cheese for this recipe. Crystal Farms® shredded cheese to be exact. crystal farms is one of the largest cheese brands in the country, and is made in lake mills, wi (which is only like four hours from where i live). i sincerely doubt you need more of a reason to want to eat cheese, but just in case you do, you should know that crystal farms products are natural, with very few preservatives, are high in calcium, and are gluten-free.

i used a mexican 4 cheese blend for this recipe, but you can look in the refrigerated dairy section of your local grocery store to find any crystal farms cheese that speaks to you. pepper jack would be amazing on these!

as always, let me know if you make these, and any awesome ideas you have to make them even better!

nacho nests (makes 4 but is easily multiplied)

  • 24-32 tortilla chips
  • 1 C. Crystal Farms® Mexican 4 Cheese Blend shredded cheese (any flavor will work), divided into 4
  • toppings of choice: black beans, jalapeño slices, chopped tomatoes, black olives, etc.

preheat your oven to 400 F. on a rimmed baking sheet, make four piles of 6-8 tortilla chips. sprinkle each pile (or nest) with half of 1/4 C. crystal farms shredded cheese, then top with whatever toppings you’ve chosen. i used black beans, black olives, chopped tomatoes, and jalapeño slices, but you can use whatever you want or have on hand (or let the family choose their own toppings in a nacho nest bar situation). sprinkle the nests with the remaining cheese, then put into the oven and bake for 6-8 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the toppings are heated through. serve as a side dish for chili or another hearty soup, or as a game day dish to share.

GIVEAWAY!

i know there are a lot of cheese lovers who read this blog, so i hope you’re all excited about this. crystal farms is letting me pick one winner to receive THREE coupons for free crystal farms products. all you have to do to enter is visit the crystal farms website to learn more about the crystal farms cheese products there, then come back here to leave a comment telling me what cheese you would choose and what recipe you would use it in. i’ll pick a winner at random on november 26th. i can’t wait to see all your ideas, because who doesn’t want some free cheese??

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jalapeño tomato mozzarella chicken bake.

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i made this recipe up the other day when i hadn’t gone grocery shopping and just knew that i had chicken in the freezer that i could defrost. back in the day i would have just popped a giant bowl of popcorn and cracked a bottle of wine and called it a day, but i have another human being to feed now who can’t even eat popcorn OR drink wine, so i had to cook.

i kind of like being forced to always have a real dinner, it does wonders for my self-esteem and my nutrition. and it helps me get a little creative in the kitchen too. we tend to get in a little bit of a rut, especially in the summer when you don’t want to cook anything. which is a damn shame because our precious tomatoes and peppers shouldn’t have to give their lives for boring meals. i’m not saying that this meal is revolutionary, but it makes me feel all rachael ray-like, whipping a meal up out of nothing but my brains and basic knowledge of how to work an oven. plus, something about cooking like this for my family is like giving them a big hug and saying i love you, but with baked chicken. that’s weird, right? oh well, it’s how i feel.

this recipe can be adjusted to accommodate whatever you have in your house, it’s kind of a garbage pail recipe if you will. you could replace the salsa verde with pesto, or with regular salsa. you could omit the jalapeños and add bell peppers or zucchini. use whatever product you have languishing in your fridge or on your counter and get creative.

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jalapeño tomato mozzarella chicken bake 

  • 3 whole chicken breasts
  • 1-2 Tbsp. mayonnaise
  • 3/4 C. salsa verde, more to taste depending on the size of your chicken
  • 1 small jalapeño, sliced
  • 1 medium tomato, sliced
  • 1/2 to 1 C. shredded cheese (i used mozzarella but this would be great with most types)
  • garlic salt to taste

preheat oven to 400 F and line a square baking dish with tinfoil. lay the chicken on the baking dish, and spread each with an equal amount of mayonnaise. pour salsa verde over the chicken. lay jalapeño slices on top of each chicken breast, followed by tomato slices. top the whole thing with shredded cheese and garlic salt (if desired). bake for 40 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. serve with rice or quinoa and some veggies for a quick weeknight meal!

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recipe: prosciutto, caramelized onion, mozzarella, arugula pizza.

happy monday everybody! today is my thursday at work, and after last week, a short week is just what i need…if you’ve been around for a while, you might remember that every year my family goes to florida for a week over thanksgiving. and so you might have noticed that i have been pretty quiet on that front this year. the radio silence is due to the fact that Mister Man and i are staying home this year to spend thanksgiving with his family. which means i won’t have any beach photos to make you jealous, and truth be told, i will probably be a little quieter this week, as i’m missing my family while i get used to the new traditions that being married entail.

one tradition i CANNOT wait for is thanksgiving leftovers. we never have leftovers in florida, and i am so excited to bring home the fixings for a “day after thanksgiving” sandwich (you know what i’m talking about…turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberries, stuffing, all smashed between two slices of bread. yeaaaaa!). i know i’ll be trying to cook as little as possible up to the big thanksgiving holiday on thursday, so i have nothing to distract me from the deliciousness.

“why are you posting a recipe then, erin?” well, even if we’re pumped for the holiday food coming up, we’re all going to need a break from the turkey and mashed potatoes at some point, right? i posted a photo of this pizza on instagram, and after i inhaled it, decided it would be a good recipe to share here in case anyone was looking for non-thanksgiving meal inspiration.

pizza

(sidebar: does anyone else use vscocam for their photo editing? i’m officially obsessed and won’t use anything else to edit my iphone photos…it’s that good!)

the mix of the sweet onions and salty prosciutto, along with the creaminess of the mozzarella and the slight bite of the arugula make this basically the most amazing thing you’ll ever put into your mouth. EVERY GOOD FLAVOR EXISTS HERE. it’s my go to pizza recipe, because it feels fancy and gourmet, but is oh so easy. i think that’s really the theme of my life: how lazy can i be while still appearing to be classy?

prosciutto/caramelized onion/mozzarella/arugula pizza

  • pizza dough (i use pillsbury’s ready-to-use thin crust, you can make your own if you’re awesome like that, but ain’t no shame in store-bought crust!)
  • 6-8 slices of prosciutto
  • 1 red onion (i used white, which works fine too)
  • 1/2 C. brown sugar
  • olive oil
  • 2 large handfuls of arugula (or spinach if you prefer)
  • 1 large ball of mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
  • finely grated parmesan cheese

preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. heat 1-2 Tbsp. olive oil in a medium skillet, slice the onion and add it to the skillet along with the brown sugar. cook on low to medium heat, stirring every so often, until the onion is softened and caramelized (generally around 35 minutes).

meanwhile, roll the pizza dough out onto a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle a thin layer of parmesan cheese over the top. if needed, pre-bake the dough according to the directions. tear the prosciutto into thin strips, and slice the mozzarella into thin slices. add the mozzarella to the pizza dough, followed by the caramelized onions and prosciutto. bake 10-12 minutes until the cheese is bubbling and the crust is crispy. top with the arugula as soon as the pizza is out of the oven, and pat lightly to adhere it to the cheese. let cool a bit before cutting the pizza.  try not to eat the entire pizza by yourself, it’s nice to share.

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MAKE SURE TO CLICK THAT FOLLOW BUTTON OR THAT BLOGLOVIN BUTTON TO YOUR RIGHT OR ADD ME TO YOUR READER IF YOU WANT TO TREAT YOURSELF TO ALL MY BRILLIANT LIFE MUSINGS. I TEND TO KEEP THINGS FUN AROUND HERE. PLUS, YOU KNOW YOU LOVE RECIPES THAT FEEL FANCY BUT ARE SECRETLY THE EASIEST.

recipe: grandpa’s pumpkin soup.

oh grandpa. you’ve done it again.

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pumpkin soup

if you’ve never had pumpkin soup before, please do me a favor and make this one the first one that you try. it’s one of those things that you taste, close your eyes and savor, and then want to put a straw in the pot and drink the rest of it up in one sitting. it’s that good. and it’s perfect for the fall.

pumpkin soup6 (me in my natural state, getting ready to dip my personal loaf of bread into my soup.)

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hanna came over to help me out with this one, and we also whipped up some brussels sprouts with toasted, slivered almonds and dried cranberries. for dessert we had stracciatello gelato topped with some raspberry compote she made herself. (yea, the cooking thing runs in the family.) it was the most wonderful monday night i can remember in a long time.

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i think grandpa would love that his recipes are not only feeding his family now that he’s not here, but that they’re also bringing his family together as we cook them and remember him while we do it. that’s why he gave us the cookbook. so we’d remember him, and we’d do it together.

there are lots of ways you can make this soup your own; you can use different types of broth for a different flavor, you can leave the cream out or lighten it up with skim milk, you could even use some different herbs or add a spice if the spirit moved you. just make it. i promise that all your fall meal dreams will come true when you do.

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pumpkin soup makes a large pot of soup, enough to serve 4-6 and freeze half

  • 2 T. butter
  • 2 C. onion, chopped
  • 2 (15 oz.) can pumpkin puree
  • 4 C. chicken broth (note: we used 1 part chicken broth, 3 parts beef broth, and it was awesome! use whatever you want, it’ll work great)
  • 2 tsp. thyme
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 2-4 small bay leaves
  • 2 C. light cream (can substitute whole milk or more broth)
  • 1/2 C. dry sherry (optional…we did not use)
  • chopped chives or parsley for garnish
  • crusty bread for serving.

melt butter in large saucepan. add onion and saute for 5 minutes on medium-high heat. stir in pumpkin, broth, thyme, salt and bay leaves. bring to a boil. reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes. remove from heat remove bay leaves. cover and refrigerate if not using immediately.

when ready to finish the soup recipe: bring the pumpkin mixture to a simmer. add cream (or broth) and sherry (optional). cook, stirring often until hot. ladle into serving bowls, garnish with parsley or chives and serve with hot crusty bread.

prep time: 10 min. total time: 40 min.

[note: the le creuset pot that you see in the photos for this recipe was given to me by my late grandmother as a wedding gift. i decided that a good time to break it in would be in cooking a recipe that belonged to grandpa. it brought a little magic to my cooking today, i’m sure of it]

pumpkin soup4

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don’t forget to enter the giveaway that’s still going on! i think we could all use a cute new mug, don’t you?

MAKE SURE TO CLICK THAT FOLLOW BUTTON OR THAT BLOGLOVIN BUTTON TO YOUR RIGHT OR ADD ME TO YOUR READER IF YOU WANT TO TREAT YOURSELF TO ALL MY BRILLIANT LIFE MUSINGS. I TEND TO KEEP THINGS FUN AROUND HERE. PLUS, YOU KNOW YOU LOVE MY GRANDPA’S RECIPES.

these days.

this week was simultaneously the fastest and the slowest week i’ve had in a LONG time. i’m pretty sure i woke up thinking it was friday at least three mornings out of the last five. so now that it’s here, i couldn’t be happier! we’ve got a fun weekend planned, with a wedding and a workshop and my baby sister is in town from school. so if the next 8 hours could go really fast, that’d be great. please and thank you!

this week, i want to introduce you to another one of my sponsors.

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stacie from happiness in bloom is just a darling person. she is so genuine and friendly and sweet, that you can’t help but want to read about her life with her sweet little dog and her guy down in florida. i personally am jealous of the fact that she lives in such a gorgeous place where it’s warm ALL THE TIME, but i don’t hold that against her at all. i’ve also been fangirling all over her little home with the front porch of my dreams…her blog’s got a little bit of everything, and i bet you’ll find something to fangirl over too.

Hey y’all! My name is Stacie and I blog over at Happiness In Bloom! In a nutshell my blog revolves around finding happiness and beauty in every day life. If you love laughing, a little sarcasm, and a positive perspective, come on over and hang out with me! I love meeting new people and can’t wait to meet you!

happinessinbloomyou can find stacie at her blog, happiness in bloom, and also on twitterbloglovin’, and instagram. head over to get a little dose of positivity and sunshine (and tell her that erin sent you).

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these days i’m…

eating oatmeal, oatmeal and more oatmeal. prepared for me by my husband every morning this week, because i haven’t been getting my butt out of bed early enough to make my own damn breakfast. and i’ve decided that oatmeal tastes better when someone else makes it for you.

making my first project from darby smart. this company is brilliant. you can order boxes full of everything you need for some incredible craft projects. you can order one project just for yourself if you’re feeling like you need some creative jumpstarting, or (and this is my favorite thing) you can order “girls night” boxes that have enough for you and some friends as a fun thing to do while drinking your wine at girls night. i’m participating in the “polish challenge” they’re throwing this month and just got my box…now i’m trying to get my creative juices flowing to see how i can create something cute and crafty with the supplies and julep nail polish they sent!

darby smart

wearing tights and booties! because it’s sweater season, yes, but tights are the sweaters of our legs, and so it’s tight leg sweater season too! i’ve been put on a boot-buying hiatus (an unwilling one!) by my husband, because of our lack of closet space, but i might need ONE MORE pair of booties in taupe. because look at them! (i’m thinking something similar to the ones chelsea is wearing here…)

tights and booties

(dress: CAbi, booties: target via hanna)

drinking wine with some bloggers. if you missed the blitz on social media about #happyhourhangout the last two days, 1) you’re following the wrong people, and 2) read here for more info.

planning how i’m going to survive my sugar detox that starts next week. i’m going to the moon river wellness “replenish, relax and renew: 7-day mind, body and spirit detox” kickoff tomorrow morning, and then starting my detox on monday. not going to lie, i’m pretty nervous. i’ve already kicked caffeine, and i eat pretty healthy anyway, but there is something about the idea of giving up sugar entirely that gives me shivers. updates will be given if i survive.

listening to Mister Man’s wise words during a “this is our life” conversation yesterday. you know how sometimes us ladies just want the guys to shake their heads yes, and tell us they understand how we’re feeling, but not give us any advice? yea, i’m like that too a lot of the time. (“just support me!”) but there are times when he knows (and He knows) just when i need to be given some actual words of wisdom to make me feel better. so i’m listening.

working on the house, surprise surprise. take a look at my hot demolition man. he cleaned out the 85 year old garage and now you could eat off the floor (if you were into that sort of thing). i made him take the necessary safety precautions, and now i have this amazing photo. pretty happy that i have him to do the (literal) dirty work for me!

demo man

loving that i get to have a little lunch date with mama hools today! i haven’t had a chance to sit down and talk to just her in weeks, and i’m so excited to get away from my desk for a little break as well.

not loving: not applicable this week. i feel super content and i like that.

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MAKE SURE TO CLICK THAT FOLLOW BUTTON OR THAT BLOGLOVIN BUTTON TO YOUR RIGHT OR ADD ME TO YOUR READER IF YOU WANT TO TREAT YOURSELF TO ALL MY BRILLIANT LIFE MUSINGS. I TEND TO KEEP THINGS FUN AROUND HERE. PLUS, YOU KNOW YOU LOVE WHAT’S HAPPENING AROUND HERE THESE DAYS.