kayla kakes

This food blog is a way to share recipes, opinions, and stories about cooking/baking.

Game Day Chili – Turkey Chili with Corn Bread Crust

turkey chili and tunnels 032

It’s Super Bowl weekend. For me, that doesn’t really mean much (I’ve lost interest in commercials and half time performances), but for my husband it means football and game day food.

As stated in my previous post, I recently got the Ninja 3-in-1 Cooking System and I am currently trying out different recipes from the cookbook. I ordered my Ninja through QVC and it came with the cookbook, Cooking Easier, Healthier & Better. I will be posting my thoughts and opinions about how the Ninja performs and about the recipes. My intent is to stick pretty close to the recipe instructions in the cookbook so that I am getting a good feel for whether the recipes are good, bad, or okay.

Since this is Super Bowl weekend, I thought it would be fitting to do some Game Day food. One of the first things that comes to mind when I think of game day food is Chili. My husband enjoys eating a big bowl of chili with tortilla chips. It’s the ultimate game day meal. I’m not really into football, but I do appreciate game day food. And I love a bowl of chili on a cold winter day.

The cookbook has a few chili recipes, but I opted to try out the Chili with Corn Bread Crust. (It had me at corn bread.) The recipe calls for using either ground beef or ground turkey. I used ground turkey in an attempt to make this a little bit healthier. I made a few other minor changes and/or additions, but I stuck fairly close to the recipe.

This chili screams comfort food. The corn bread baked on top of the chili is a genius idea. I’ve baked biscuits on top of soup before, but never thought to use corn bread on top of my chili. (Silly me!) What makes it even better is the fact that it was easy to make and didn’t take much prep work. My favorite part was being able to cook the turkey and veggies in the Ninja cooking pot on the stovetop setting, then just add the remaining ingredients to the pot and switch it to the slow cook setting. There was no need to cook the ground turkey on the stove, then transfer it to a slow cooker. That is the beauty of the Ninja 3-in-1 Cooking System. Everything can be done in one pot. (Woo Hoo!)

Chili with Corn Bread Crust Recipe

– 1 tablespoon vegetable oil (I used olive oil.)
– 1 1/2 lbs ground beef or turkey
– 1 large onion, diced
– 1 green pepper, diced (I used red, yellow, and orange bell peppers.)
– 1 tablespoon chili powder
– 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
– 1 can (about 15 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained (I used two cans instead of one.)
– 1 can (about 15 ounces) kidney beans, rinsed and drained
– 1 tablespoon tomato paste
– 1 package (8.5 ounces0 corn muffin mix
– 1 egg, beaten
– 1/3 cup milk

Additional ingredients I added

– 1 teaspoon salt
– 1 teaspoon garlic pepper
– Dash of hot sauce (I like a little kick to my chili.)

turkey chili and tunnels 002

turkey chili and tunnels 003

turkey chili and tunnels 004

Pour oil into pot. Set unit to STOVETOP HIGH and heat oil. Add ground beef/turkey, onion, and pepper to the pot. Cook uncovered for 10 minutes or until beef is browned or turkey is no longer pink, stirring occasionally. Spoon off any fat. Add chili powder and cinnamon to the pot. (This is when I added in my salt and garlic pepper.) Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

turkey chili and tunnels 006

turkey chili and tunnels 008

Stir tomatoes, beans, and tomato paste into the pot. (This is when I added a dash of hot sauce to the pot.) Set it to SLOW COOK HIGH for 4 to 5 hours. Cover and cook.

turkey chili and tunnels 009

After 4 1/2 hours cooking time, stir corn muffin mix, egg, and milk in a bowl. Uncover pot and spoon batter over chili. Cover and cook 30 minutes or until corn bread is cooked through.

turkey chili and tunnels 024

turkey chili and tunnels 025

turkey chili and tunnels 026

turkey chili and tunnels 027

turkey chili and tunnels 028

turkey chili and tunnels 030

This chili was awesome with the corn bread crust on top. The chili and corn bread alone is a great meal. The cookbook suggests serving it with sour cream and cheddar cheese. I did try it that way, and it made a great meal even better. It was hearty and satisfying. Just thinking about it is making me want to climb out of bed and go fix myself a bowl. Mmmm… Thankfully, I have some self control.

I understand that the recipe would have been healthier without my addition of the salt and pepper, but I personally couldn’t wrap my head around the idea of not having the extra seasoning. I like my food very flavorful, and I know from experience that ground turkey can lack some natural flavor. Sorry, but I am going to have to agree with all the TV chefs when they say that meat needs salt and pepper to bring out the natural flavors. This is just my opinion. If you want to stick to the original recipe to keep this healthier, please do so. I’m sure it is great either way. The hot sauce addition is just something I always add to chili. I considered not adding it, but then I couldn’t help myself. Chili has to have a little kick, right?! Maybe it’s just me.

I was happy with how fast the Ninja heated up on the stovetop setting. The ground turkey and veggies cooked up without a problem. I could see steam coming from the pot and hear the food sizzling. Once I switched it over to the slow cooker setting, everything settled down and it was ready to cook like a regular slow cooker. I didn’t have any issues with the liquid evaporating too much while cooking the chili. But I will say that once you add the corn bread, it seems to make most of the liquid disappear. If you are someone who prefers a chili with more liquid, you may want to add some water to the pot. I don’t have much of a preference between a chili with lots of liquid and one with hardly any, so this wasn’t a big deal to me.

This was a satisfying meal that left me wanting more. The first thing my husband said when I told him what I made for dinner tonight was, “Mmmm, that sounds good.” And then the next thing he said was, “is it spicy?” I was glad I decided to add the hot sauce to the chili. Apparently, he’s like me and likes his chili with a little kick. This chili was the perfect way to kick off Super Bowl weekend in our house.


Apple Cider Pulled Pork Sliders and Ninja 3-in-1 Cooking System Review

kayla and food 009

I got my new kitchen toy this week, and I was excited to finally get to use it. My newest kitchen appliance is the Ninja 3-in-1 Cooking System. The Ninja 3-in-1 combines your stove top, oven, and slow cooker into one appliance. It can sear, bake, roast, steam, saute, simmer, and slow cook all in one pot.

The Ninja has a 6 quart cooking pot. It has a programmable slow cooker, a digital oven control mode, and the stove top function has low, medium, and high settings. It comes with a variety of accessories. The included accessories are a roasting rack, a multipurpose baking pan, a loaf pan, a mini muffin pan, and silicone oven mitts (that just cover your hands…fingers and palm). The accessories can all be conveniently stored inside the unit. Depending on where you buy the Ninja, it also comes with a cookbook with 150 recipes. The Ninja is currently sold at Bed, Bath, and Beyond, Walmart, and through QVC. I’ve heard that if you buy it from BB&B or Walmart, you will need to purchase the cookbook separately.

kayla and food 012

kayla and food 013

kayla and food 018

kayla and food 010

kayla and food 015

This unit is quite large. I was half expecting it to be around the same size as my old slow cooker, but this thing is a beast in comparison. This is not a small, cheap kitchen appliance. The Ninja is a good quality piece of kitchen equipment. The approximate measurements of the unit with handles and dials is 18″L x 13″W x 8-1/4″H; cord 24″L. So be forewarned that this does take up quite a bit of counter space if you plan to keep it out like we do.

The cooking pot is dishwasher safe, but the accessories are hand wash only. That’s not a big deal with me, but I know that can be off-putting to some people, so I thought it was worth mentioning. I cleaned the cooking pot by hand and it was super easy to clean. The pot has a non-stick coating, so it took me about two minutes to clean it in the sink. I didn’t even bother putting it in the dishwasher. I haven’t used any of the accessories yet, but I’m not concerned about having to clean them by hand.

There is a vent on the cover of the pot. Depending on what setting you’re using, you may want to watch the liquid in your pot. The vent will allow liquid to evaporate some while cooking, which may require you to add more liquid. I didn’t have this issue at all with the recipe I used, but I think it is worth pointing out so no one burns their food on accident.

The moment I got the Ninja, I started flipping through the cookbook. I was happy to see that it has a lot of recipes I’d like to try out. Most of the recipes are simple and don’t have a bunch of ingredients. As a mother of a toddler, I am very appreciative of quick and easy recipes. I don’t have much time to spend slaving away in the kitchen. And now that Kayla is getting more interested in helping out in the kitchen, I prefer to do stuff that gets us in and out of the kitchen fast. There is nothing like having a busy little toddler trying to help out in the kitchen when you’re trying to do 5 things at once. The easier, the better.

After going through the cookbook a few times, I decided to start with pulled pork. I make pulled pork all the time. My favorite is BBQ pulled pork. I love making it in a slow cooker because it comes out so tender and you have the juice/liquid to pour over the meat. It is one of my top 25 comfort foods, so what better way to test out my new toy than to make pulled pork.

The cookbook has a recipe for Pulled Pork and Apple Cider Sliders. I thought it was an interesting twist on a pulled pork sandwich. I also took the cookbooks suggestion about preparing sweet potato fries to go with it. I followed the cookbooks instructions exactly (well, almost) and it came out great. No complaints in this household.

I went to the grocery store this morning to pick up all the ingredients I would need, as well as stuff for other recipes for later this week. I was eager to start cooking. I really wanted to sear the meat first, since I have that option with the Ninja, but decided to stick to the recipe exactly as it is written. That way I can not only tell all of you about how the Ninja works, but I can share my thoughts and opinions about the recipes in the cookbook.

kayla and food 025

Pulled Pork and Apple Cider Sliders Recipe

– 1 boneless pork shoulder roast (3-4 lbs)
– salt
– ground black pepper
– 2 teaspoons paprika
– 1/4 cup spicy brown mustard
– 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
– 3 cloves garlic, minced
– 1 cup apple cider or apple juice
– 1 package slider or mini sandwich buns (12 count)

Season pork with salt, black pepper, and paprika. (The cookbook does not state how much salt or pepper to use, so it really depends on how much you want to use.) Stir mustard, brown sugar, garlic, and cider/juice in the pot. Add pork and turn to coat in mixture.

Roast going into pot.

Roast going into pot.

Set to SLOW COOK HIGH for 5-6 hours (I used a 5 lb pork shoulder roast so I cooked it for 6 1/2 hours.) Cover and cook until pork is fork tender. Try not to lift the lid while you’re cooking because it can add time to your overall cooking time. If you’re like me though, you won’t be able to resist checking on it a few times, especially since the lid isn’t glass. It’s impossible for me to not check on things at least once.

Pork when it was ready to be shredded.

Pork when it was ready to be shredded.

Using two forks, shred pork in the pot. Spread additional mustard on buns if desired. Divide pork mixture among buns and serve.

In the process of shredding pork.

In the process of shredding pork.

kayla and food 022

Since I used a bigger roast, I shredded my pork at about 5 1/2 hours, then let it continue cooking in the juice for the last hour. When I assembled my sliders, I poured just a little bit of the juice over the meat on the bun. I think this made a world of difference. Don’t add too much or your bun will get soggy. A little juice will go a long way. I opted not to put mustard on my bun. I just added a dill pickle to my sandwich and I was a happy camper. From what I was told, the sandwiches with the mustard added were quite tasty too. I just wasn’t in a mustard kind of mood.

kayla and food 017

kayla and food 024

kayla and food 027

Sweet potato fries

Sweet potato fries

I was very pleased with the outcome of this meal. It is easy to make and tasted great. I didn’t have any issues at all. The liquid didn’t evaporate from the pot. The pork was tender and had a nice, light flavor. Since it was a slider, it was easy for my daughter to try to eat. Nothing stuck to the pot, and the pot was a breeze to clean. The unit is pretty straight forward to use. If you’ve used stoves/ovens and slow cookers before, you won’t have any problems using the Ninja. If you’re a beginner, this will be quite easy to understand. I think even my husband could figure out how to use this, and he rarely cooks.

At this point, I would definitely recommend this cooking system to my family and friends. It is a wonderful idea to have a unit that can cook in various ways, and all without heating up your house. No more using multiple pans to cook, and feeling like you may pass out from the heat of the oven. This summer, I plan to use my Ninja so I can avoid using my stove/oven. I have four more meals planned for the next few days. I will keep you posted on how they turn out. I’m excited to try out a few more recipes.

Red Velvet Bundt Cake with a Cream Cheese Filling

0127131211-00 (2)

This past Sunday was my mom’s birthday. She dropped hints last year that she would have enjoyed a red velvet cake, so I decided to be nice this year and make one for her. My two-year-old daughter, Kayla, loves to help me in the kitchen, especially if I’m baking. Kayla got situated on her little ladder and we got to work. I didn’t want to do a traditional sheet cake, because that would be way too simple and boring. I’ve had a silicone bundt pan sitting in my cabinet for a long, LONG time now, so I decided to test it out. We made a red velvet cake with a cream cheese filling, and then drizzled cream cheese frosting on top to make it pretty. It sounds a lot more complicated than it really is, so don’t get scared away. It’s actually quite simple to make. Come on, I had a toddler helping me make it! If it was too complicated, I wouldn’t have been able to do it with Kayla.

The end result is quite pretty. It made me think of Valentine’s Day (or Christmas). With V-Day just around the corner, I think this is a perfect recipe to try out. But even if you choose not to celebrate that particular couple’s holiday, this is a yummy cake that is worth trying out.

Red Velvet Bundt Cake Recipe

– 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
– 2 cups granulated sugar
– 1 cup vegetable oil
– 1 teaspoon baking soda
– 1 teaspoon salt
– 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
– 1 tablespoon white vinegar
– 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
– 2 eggs
– 1 cup buttermilk, or 1 cup milk plus 1 tablespoon vinegar
– 1 oz. red food coloring

Cream Cheese Filling Recipe

– 8 oz. package cream cheese, softened
– 1/4 cup butter, softened
– 1/2 cup granulated sugar
– 1 large egg
– 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
– 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees. Spray your bundt pan with cooking spray. In a medium bowl, mix eggs with a wire whisk. Add oil, vinegar, vanilla, buttermilk and food coloring. Whisk together and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder). Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and mix on medium high with an electric mixer until well combined.

Filling: In a separate mixing bowl, mix cream cheese, butter, and sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer until blended and smooth. Add egg, flour, and vanilla; beat just until blended.

Pour 2/3rds of the batter into the Bundt pan. Carefully pour the cream cheese filling on top of the batter, making a ring that doesn’t touch the sides of the pan. Add the rest of the batter on top. Bake the cake for 50-55 minutes. Ovens may vary slightly, so use a toothpick to check to see if it’s done. When your toothpick comes out clean, the cake is done. Let the cake sit in the pan for about 30 minutes before inverting onto a plate.

0126131905-01 (2)

0126132048-00 (2)

Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe

– 8 oz. package cream cheese, softened
– 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
– 4 cups confectioners’ sugar
– 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
– 1/4 cup milk

Mix cream cheese and butter together in a medium bowl with an electric mixer. Add sugar, vanilla and milk. Mix well.

Allow the cake to cool for at least 45 minutes to an hour before adding frosting. Use a spoon to drizzle frosting over the cake. If the frosting isn’t easy to drizzle, heat it up in the microwave for 10 seconds. This will make it easier to work with.

0127131212-01 (2)

0127131803-00 (2)

This cake came out great, and my daughter was super proud of it. She was so excited to show grandma what we made. And lucky for us, it not only looked pretty, but it tasted great too. My mom was very happy with her cake this year, which made me feel good as well.

2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 3,900 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 7 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

Overall, I don’t think I did bad for my first year blogging, especially since I don’t always find the time to keep up with it. I will try to do better in 2013. Wish me luck!

Cookies, Cookies, Cookies

December 23 2012 013

One of my favorite things about the holidays is all the cookies. Growing up, my mom always baked cookies for every holiday. She made the most at Christmas-time. She’d make butter cookies, sugar cookies, bar cookies, chocolate chip cookies, peanut butter cookies, etc. We’d have plenty of cookies to take to school with us for our holiday parties, and we’d still be eating cookies for weeks at home. It was wonderful! Ever since I was in my mid-20’s, I have tried to keep this tradition going. It’s been hard with working over the years, and now with a kid to take care of at home. It’s hard to find the time for all the baking I want to do. This year, I had the added challenge of being sick and having a sick kid to take care of while trying to get my baking done. I think I managed alright.

I love peanut butter, so I decided to make peanut butter blossoms this year. This is one of those cute little cookies that are very easy to make. The recipe is quite simple, and it takes minimal effort to make.

Peanut Butter Blossom Recipe

48 HERSHEY’S KISSES Milk Chocolates
1/2 cup shortening
3/4 cup Creamy Peanut Butter
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Additional granulated sugar (for rolling cookies in)


1. Heat oven to 375°F. Remove wrappers from chocolates.

2. Beat shortening and peanut butter in large bowl until well blended. Add 1/3 cup granulated sugar and brown sugar; beat until fluffy.
Add egg, milk and vanilla; beat well. Stir together flour, baking soda and salt; gradually beat into peanut butter mixture.

3. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll in granulated sugar; place on ungreased cookie sheet.

4. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Immediately press a chocolate kiss into center of each
cookie; cookie will crack around edges. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely.
Recipe can make about 4 dozen cookies.

December pictures 2012 005

A newer recipe I have started to use is one for Jello cookies. These are so yummy, and also easy to make for beginners. Kids will love helping with these colorful cookies. Since I was going with a Christmas theme, I used strawberry and lime Jello so the cookies would come out red and green. The colors aren’t bright, but they are still festive.

Jello Cookie Recipe

1 pkg. (8 oz.) PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese, softened
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
2-1/4 cups flour
1 pkg. (3 oz.) JELL-O Strawberry Flavor Gelatin (only use half of package)
1 pkg. (3 oz.) JELL-O Lime Flavor Gelatin (only use half of package)
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 Tbsp. powdered sugar


1. BEAT first 4 ingredients in large bowl with mixer until blended. Mix flour and baking soda; gradually add to cream cheese mixture,
mixing well after each addition. Divide cookie dough into two bowls. Add half of strawberry jello gelatin package to one bowl of
cookie dough, and half of lime jello gelatin package to the other bowl; mix well. Refrigerate cookie dough for 30 min.

2. HEAT oven to 375ºF. Roll dough into 60 (1-inch) balls, or 30 (2-inch balls). Place, 2 inches apart, on baking sheets sprayed with cooking

3. BAKE 9 to 11 min. or until edges are lightly browned. (For bigger cookies, bake for an additional minute or two.) Cool on baking sheets
2 min. Remove to wire racks; cool completely.

4. SPRINKLE with powdered sugar just before serving, if wanted.

December 23 2012 010

December 23 2012 008

Kayla and my husband love the Jello cookies. They’ve been a big hit in our house and are super easy to make. They are a great cookie for kids to help out with since there are no raw eggs in the recipe. I let Kayla lick the spoon to her heart’s content. The kids also enjoy adding the jello gelatin to the cookie dough and watching the dough change colors as it gets mixed in.

I hope you all enjoy these simple cookie recipes. They are great additions to any holiday cookie menu. Enjoy!

A sad world we live in

A sad world we live in.

Loving our children

Loving our children.

Halloween Cupcakes

I haven’t had time to post much on here recently, but I wanted to share some pictures of the Halloween brownie cupcakes I made last week for my daughter and nephew.  Happy Halloween!




Just another day in our world

Just another day in our world.

Above is a link to a blog post on my other blog page about early childhood homeschooling.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

I saw this recipe the other week on the Food Network website, and I knew I had to try it.  My husband loves pumpkin pie and chocolate chip cookies.  This recipe combines two of his favorite desserts.  When I saw that I pretty much already had everything I needed for the recipe, I was sold.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

It’s basically like making chocolate chip cookies…with just a few extra ingredients.  The original recipe called for cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves.  I was being lazy so I decided to substitute those individual ingredients for pumpkin pie spice.  It’s pretty much the same thing since all of those ingredients are in pumpkin pie spice.  Instead of having to pull out four spice bottles, I was able to just pull out one.  Sorry, I’m a mom of a very busy little toddler, so I am all about making life easier.  If I can consolidate, I will.

This recipe is super easy and pretty much anyone with basic cooking skills, a cookie sheet, an oven, and a mixer can make these cookies.  My husband said these cookies taste like Fall.  They make him want to go out trick or treating.  🙂


  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 cups (12-ounce bag) milk chocolate chips, not semisweet
  • Nonstick cooking spray or parchment paper

If you don’t have pumpkin pie spice, this is what the original recipe said to use:

  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Ingredients for cookies. The eggs and light brown sugar are not in the picture…sorry.

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Spray cookie sheets with nonstick spray or line them with parchment paper.  I prefer to use parchment/wax paper.  The cookies are easy to remove and you have less mess to clean up once you’re done.

Using a mixer, beat the butter in a large bowl until smooth.  Beat in the white sugar and brown sugar, a little at a time, until the mixture is light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs one at a time.  Then mix in the vanilla extract and pumpkin puree.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, and pumpkin pie spice.  Slowly beat the flour mixture into the batter in thirds.  Stir in the chocolate chips and make sure they are completely mixed in.

Cookie batter. If you’re not afraid of eating raw cookie batter, this one is awesome. I’ve always been a sucker for cookie batter.

Scoop the cookie dough by heaping tablespoons (or by using an ice cream scoop) onto the prepared cookie sheets and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the cookies are browned around the edges.  Remove the cookie sheets from the oven and let them rest for 2 minutes.  Take the cookies off with a spatula and cool them on wire racks.  If you don’t have wire racks, just cool them on plates.  I have wire racks and I rarely use them.  Your cookies will still turn out fine.

Cookies before they went into the oven to be baked.

Cookies in the oven baking. Wow, did they smell good!

Right out of the oven.

I baked the cookies for 20 minutes and they came out perfect.  They are cake like in texture.  They are moist and soft on the inside.  My husband ate about a third of the cookies the night I made them, and my daugther couldn’t get enough.  Fall came early in our house.  I’ll definitely be making these again around Halloween and Thanksgiving.

Cookies once they were all done. A few of them were already being munched on when I took this picture. The recipe makes about 3 1/2 dozen cookies total. I only made 3 dozen and saved the remaining cookie dough.

Kayla wasn’t happy when I told her that was going to be her last cookie for the night. She got over it pretty quick though.

Kayla enjoying her cookie…while holding her favorite monkey doll. She is crazy about monkeys.

She was so happy to help mommy in the kitchen. She’s such a good little helper. Well…sometimes. 🙂

I love her laugh. Such a happy girl. That’s my Kayla Kakes.

Adapted from the recipe on the Food Network website: