Taco Bake

You'll never believe that this quick and easy casserole uses BOXED macaroni and cheese. This is another of my most requested recipes, and everyone is SHOCKED when I tell them the recipe. It's ridiculously easy.

Key Players:
1 pkg. (14 oz.) KRAFT Deluxe Macaroni & Cheese Dinner
1 lb. ground beef
1 pkg. (1-1/4 oz.) Taco Seasoning Mix
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup Sour Cream
1-1/2 cups Shredded Cheddar Cheese, divided (I like sharp cheddar, but any cheese will do)
1 cup Thick 'N Chunky Salsa (Any is fine, but spice it up with some HOT salsa if you like!)

PREHEAT oven to 400°F. Prepare Dinner as directed on package. While Macaroni is cooking, brown meat; drain. Add taco seasoning mix and water to meat; simmer 5 min.

STIR sour cream into prepared Dinner. Spoon half of the Dinner mixture into 8-inch square or 9-inch round baking dish; top with layers of the meat mixture, 1 cup of the cheese and remaining Dinner mixture. Cover.

BAKE 15 min. Top with salsa and remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Bake, uncovered, an additional 5 min. or until cheese is melted.

Digital Toolbox: Lesson Two

Today I am going to introduce you to one of my favorite Photoshop "tricks". While you can manually do a million different things to your photographs, actions allow you to do them with one simple click.

I'll show you how much fun they can be! Here are examples of a few of my own favorites.

This close up of a campfire is an okay picture SOOC (straight out of camera), but it gets even better with a simple color boost action.
You can download Alyson Camacho's action set at

Another of my favorite actions is a "Vintage" action. I used Aly's Actions from action central on this one too!

Nana's Banana Bread

This is the best banana bread on the face of the earth, I guarantee it! Whenever I make this my family eats the whole loaf the very same day. In fact, they usually can't even wait until it's cooled to begin digging in! According to the recipe, it is best after being wrapped in plastic wrap overnight, but I wouldn't know because it never lasts that long!

This is my son's favorite recipe to make with me. So it's obviously simple enough for a 3 year old to make!

Let's get started, shall we?

The contenders:

  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups mashed, very ripe bananas
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup chopped nuts (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 F
Spray bottom only of 9x5x3 inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray

Beat buter in large bowl with an electric mixer set at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add granulated sugar and brown sugar; beat well. (I've used Splenda brown and white sugar for this and it's worked great!) Add egg, egg whites, and vanilla; beat until well blended. Add mashed banana, and beat on high speed 30 seconds.

Combine flour, baking soda, salt, and baking powder in medium bowl. Add flour mixture to butter mixture alternately with cream, eding with flour mixture. (If using nuts, now's the time to add them!)

Pour batter evenly into prepared loaf pan. Bake until browned and toothpick inserted near center comes out clean, about 1 hour 15 minutes.

Cool bread in pan on wire rack 10 minutes. Remove bread from pan; cool completely on wire rack. Slice and serve with loads of butter!

Seneca Allegany Casino Boxing Match

Last night Mr. C and I went to the Seneca Allegany Casino and Hotel to watch the ESPN Friday Night Fights. It was something we'd never done before and we were invited to go with a group of our friends, so we went! Now, boxing isn't my thing, that's for sure, but it was fun anyways. Out of 8 fights, I watched one of the 6 round one earlier ones and then the main event which was 10 rounds. There was a bar outside and most of my time was spent enjoying $6 beers!

I've done this before...A LOT!

Hello, my name is Anna and I'm a blog addict!

Seriously, I think I need an intervention. I've started several blogs over the past year and for one reason or another, I've abandoned them all, one by one. Last winter I was on maternity leave after giving birth to third baby. I had all day access to the internet and started a website for my family to keep up to date with my daily life. At first I was posting all the time, adding pictures, and videos and all kinds of fun stuff. Then when I went back to work, I let the site slide and actually I just closed it in the last month due to not ever adding anything new to it.

While I was on maternity leave I also discovered Project 365, a challenge to take one picture per day for an entire year. Since I love photography I jumped on board! I managed to get through 180 days before that blog went to the wayside as well.

Recently I discovered HP Wetpaint Wikis. Again, I jumped in head first. I fiddled and tweaked with the sites different features. But, this is a private site mainly for my family to keep up with my daily life and what's happening with my kids. I still post there, but I re-discovered blogger and now I'm here.

I tend to get overly excited about new projects and put my all into them for a while, then I get bored or sidetracked or something newer catches my attention. I try to make my site perfect right away, and when things don't go exactly as I had hoped, the site tends to take a back seat and drop off my list of priorities. I don't want that to happen again.

My goal is to become better at the whole blogosphere thing. To increase my "stick-to-it-ive-ness" (is that a word?), I read that it can take 3-6 months to become an established blogger. That's my goal and I'm sticking to it! If I veer off the path to blogger extraordinaire, please someone slap me!

Digital Toolbox: Lesson One

From time to time I plan on posting some of the 'tricks' I've learned in Photoshop. I used Photoshop 7, which is an older version, but it was FREE and that's my favorite kind! I am self-taught when it comes to Photoshop and most of what I know I learned through either trial and error or by browsing the internet and learning from others.

The first, and one of the easiest, 'tricks' I want to show you is how to convert a picture to black and white from color. Really simple huh? Well, I'll add in another component just to spice things up a bit. How to retain color in parts of the picture, so now you have a picture in B&W and color! Cool huh?

First, open Photoshop. Easy enough, right?

Go to File>Open (or press Ctrl+O)
Choose a picture, I've chosen one of a lilypad that I took last summer.

  • Next you will need to make a new layer of the picture. This can be done a few ways; 1. Layer>New Layer, 2. In your layers palette click on the paper looking part in the bottom right, next to the garbage can, or 3. Shft+Ctrl+N
  • Then go to Image>Adjustments>Desature (or simply hold down Shft+Ctrl+U)
  • Now you have a B&W image on top of your original color image.
  • Next comes a trickier part. Choose what you want to keep colored and what will be B&W. I decided to leave the lilypad in color and make the background B&W.
  • Now using your eraser, simple 'erase' the B&W portions of your picture that you want to be in color. I usually zoom in as close as I need to be able to make it look as seamless as possible.
  • When it looks the way you want it to, flatten your image. Layer>Flatten image
  • If you like the picture, you can stop here. I chose to make the pink in my lilypad a bit brighter then add a frame. I'll show you those tricks another time.
Here is the final result.

Apparently, I'm "something else"

or at least that's my husband's way of complimenting me!

Last night as I was working on this here blog, he told me, "You sure are something else!" I wasn't sure how to respond to that but according to him, it was a compliment. I asked what he meant by such an odd compliment and he told me, "You sure have changed since we met." Ookkaay...

I guess what he was getting at is that when we first met, (10 years ago this spring), I had no plans on having children, getting married, I didn't cook, I didn't really know much about computers except for how to write term papers, and I pretty much was just a completely different person than who I am today. He assures me this is a good thing!

Back in March of 1998 is when I first met my now husband. Someday I'll tell you about it. I'll share my journey of how I went from a 20 year old hippie who spent my days sleeping and my nights partying to a 30 year old mom of 3 kids who no longer gets to sleep, EVER, who cooks, designs websites, enjoys photography/Photoshop, and only parties occasionally!

Stuffed Pepper Soup

Oh man! This recipe is one of my most requested dishes by co-workers, family, friends, and even strangers! Cook this soup and be loved by many for years to come. Now, this is one of those recipes that you can easily freeze half of it and save for another day. Even at half of the recipe, this makes a TON of soup. What better way to warm up than with a nice bowl of steaming hot soup?

What are you waiting for? Let's go!

Start with the following delicious ingredients:
Green pepper-I use two, diced
Brown Sugar-1/2 cup packed
Diced tomatoes-2 14 oz. cans, undrained
Tomato sauce-2 14 oz. cans
Rice-2 cups cooked
Ground Beef-2 pounds
Bouillion cubes or powder-2 cubes or 2 tsp.
Water-8 cups
Salt and pepper to taste

First, brown the beef with the onions until cooked, then drain the fat.
Add the remaining ingredients, simmer for 30-40 minutes.
It's that easy!

Now go! Hurry and make this soup and be worshipped for the rest of your days.

P.S.~For an even easier way to make this soup, if that is even possible, simply brown the beef, then dump it into a crockpot with the rest of the ingredients. The rice doesn't need to be cooked when using the slow-cooker. Set to low for 6-8 hours. Go to work, go to sleep, go play with your kids, go enjoy your freedom from slaving to a hot stove!

Let's get this party started!

No time like the present to jump on in to this 'blogging' thing! I feel like starting with what I've been doing the past 6 days, cooking and baking! The kids were off from school due to the Easter holiday, so I took off from work at the same time. Since I work full-time this was a perfect opportunity for me to get some cooking done.

I began by making a list of all the dinners I wanted to make that I also knew would freeze well for future meals. However, I still had to feed my family dinner each night as well. I decided that the best way to get both of these accomplished was to make double of all the dinners I prepared during the week. Since the weather is still rather chilly here in Northwestern PA, I made casseroles and soups. Oh yummy! I can't wait to share the recipes with you, they are incredibly delicious and so simple!

Next to my list I added all the yummy treats I wanted to bake. For these I also made double, some to have during the holiday and some to freeze for later. The cookies are to die for, the cake melts in your mouth, and the apple dumplings? Oh my!

All the recipes use simple ingredients that are probably already in your pantry or fridge. I'll post my first one later today!

Welcome to Hullabaloo!

I am a 30 year old mom of three beautiful children and I work full-time outside my home. In my spare time I enjoy photography pursuits and cooking.

I have a passion for all things photography related and pursue photography as a hobby. Growing up in Rochester, NY definitely defined that interest early on in life! I recently got a Canon Rebel XTi 10mp digital SLR, which provides me with lots of learning opportunities. I love using Photoshop for post processing of all my photographs.

I never thought that I'd grow up to have children, or get married, or enjoy spending time in the kitchen! However, after my husband was diagnosed as a Type I diabetic, and struggling to get my 3 year old to eat ANYTHING besides pancakes, I realized I needed to learn how to cook!

I am self-taught when it comes to cooking, devouring cookbooks and online recipes. I rarely make the same meal twice, unless it's a favorite for the family! All my recipes focus on simple ingredients that most people already have in their home. I am a busy working mom and need quick and easy meals to serve to my family.

Join me on my adventure as I blog about my two favorite hobbies, photography and cooking/baking!