Goulash Baked Pasta Recipe

Baked Pasta Goulash

Baked Pasta Goulash

This Goulash Baked Pasta Recipe is perfect for week night meals!

Are you looking for an easy baked pasta recipe?  Everyone in my family loves this Goulash.  My Mom cooked Goulash a lot when I was growing up but she never baked it.  She always just made it on top of the stove and it was really good.  But I ramped up the recipe and then added the baking time to really take this easy family pasta dish over the top!  The recipe only has 5 ingredients.  I always say that if you can boil water, you can cook this dish!

Watch my cooking tutorial here

Video: Goulash Baked Pasta Recipe

This Goulash Baked Pasta Recipe is home style goodness at its finest! Cheese and pasta and tomato combine to make this favorite week night casserole!

Goulash Baked Pasta Recipe
If you can boil water, you can cook this Goulash Baked Pasta Recipe!
Recipe type: Pasta
Serves: 4
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 cup macaroni
  • 1 can tomato soup
  • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  1. Brown the beef and onion. Drain. Cook the macaroni in lightly salted water until done and drain.
  2. Mix the beef, onions, macaroni, soup and ½ cup of the cheese together.
  3. Pour into a greased casserole dish and top with the remaining cheese.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes.


This Goulash Baked Pasta Recipe is easy and economical!

Baked Goulash Ingredients

Baked Goulash Ingredients

Brown the ground beef and onions and drain.  Cook the macaroni until done and drain.  Add the cooked macaroni to the beef and onion mixture.

Add Cooked Macaroni to the Beef and Onion Mixture

Add Cooked Macaroni to the Beef and Onion Mixture

Stir in the tomato soup and 1/2 cup of the cheese.

Add Tomato Soup and 1/2 Cup of the Cheese

Add Tomato Soup and 1/2 Cup of the Cheese

Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top and bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes.


Sprinkle Cheese on Top

Sprinkle Cheese on Top

Remember, “Let’s Make Life Special by sharing great food with our family and friends!  Enjoy!”

Vickie Cooks Baked Goulash

Vickie Cooks Baked Goulash



Contest Closed Babycakes Cake Pop Maker Giveaway!

Kohl’s supplied us with one Babycakes Cake Pop Maker for this giveaway.  No compensation was received.  The views expressed in the review and giveaway are true and honest and are my own.  Thank you Kohl’s for sponsoring this giveaway!

Babycakes Cake Pop Maker

Babycakes Cake Pop Maker

Would you love to win a Babycakes Cake Pop Maker?

Several months ago we reviewed the Babycakes Cake Pop Maker.  This little appliance is fun for the whole family!  You can make 12 bite size cake pops, brownie pops or donuts in just minutes!  It is compact and easy to store.  It has a non stick surface which is very easy to clean.  There are endless decorating options with icings, glazes, sprinkles etc.  You can use a regular box cake mix to make these.  A single layer size cake mix will make about three dozen cake pops.  

Your family will be eating these as soon as they are decorated so be prepared to make several batches! 

Check out our video review 

Video: Babycakes Cake Pop Maker Review

The Babycakes Cake Pop Maker is fun for the whole family! You can make 12 bite sized delights in just minutes!

This great giveaway is values at $ 30 and there are several ways to win!  You can enter more than once.  Winner will be chosen by Random.org

Contest Ends on Wednesday July 25th, 2013 at 8:00PM CST

Enter to win the Babycakes Cake Pop Maker!

  1. Tell me what you will make in the Babycakes if you win.
  2. Tell us if you will make these with your kids or grand kids.
  3.  Click the YouTube Button at the top right hand of the page and SUBSCRIBE to the Make Life Special YouTube Channel.  Then tell us that you subscribed in the comment section below.
  4. Tell us why you would like to win this. 
  5. SUBSCRIBE to the Make Life Special Email list and tell us you did it in the comment section below.
  6. Tell us how you would decorate the cake pops if you win!


Edible Flowers for Garnishing Food

Fruit and Flower Garnishes

Fruit and Flower Garnishes

You can use edible flowers to create beautiful garnishes for your food!

It’s fun to use edible flowers to garnish your food.  My gardens are in full bloom right now with every color imaginable!  I have dwarf zinnias in reds, yellows, pinks and white.  Purple coneflowers ( otherwise known as Echinacea ) , white coneflowers (as shown above), lime green coneflowers, pineapple lilies,  shasta daisies, roses, nasturtiums, geraniums, impatiens, lavender, snapdragons and more!  As much as I enjoy my flowers outside, it’s fun to bring them indoors too!  I make cut fresh flower bouquets for my kitchen so I’m always enjoying the beautiful colors and scents.  

It is so simple to use fresh cut flowers to add some pizzazz to your food too!  Garnishing food only takes a few seconds and the results are spectacular!  Here is a simple garnish I made for my Crockpot Orange Chicken recipe.

Garnished Crockpot Orange Chicken Recipe

Garnished Crockpot Orange Chicken Recipe

 Now I am using the term “Edible Flowers” only because you should make certain that the flowers you use are edible, even if you only use them as a garnish.  I have never eaten a flower but I may eventually try some in a salad.   I’ll give you several suggestions for flowers that are safe but you can also check out this Edible Flower List. The other important advise to to make certain that the flowers you use have not been sprayed with any pesticides or chemically treated.  The safest flowers are the ones from your garden because you can be certain that they have not been sprayed with anything that would not be food safe.  You should never use flowers from a florist for garnishing your food – no matter how beautiful they are.  

Here are some edible flower tips

  • Use flowers you know are safe
  • Use flowers you have grown yourself
  • Never use roadside flowers or flowers from a flower shop or nursery
  • You can keep your cut flowers fresh by placing the stems in a moist paper towel and refrigerating in a sealed container.  They can last up to 10 days when stored this way. 
  • The best time to cut your flowers is early to mid-morning or early evening.  Remove the stamen and pistil.
  • Clean the flowers by shaking them to remove insects and bits of dirt.  Gently wash each flower with a soft spray of water and then arrange on paper towels to air dry.

Edible Flowers

  1. Dandelion – delicious in salads.  They have a sweet flavor, like honey
  2. Carnation – great for salads or as a garnish
  3. Petunias
  4. Chive blossoms
  5. Lavender
  6. Pansies – beautiful in salads
  7. Rose petals
  8. Violets
  9. Hibiscus
  10. Geranium leaves
  11. Dianthus
  12. Impatiens
  13. Nasturtiums
  14. Sage blossoms
  15. Snapdragons
  16. Violets
  17. Bee Balm
  18. Borage
  19. Chamomile
  20. Chrysanthemum petals

This in only a partial list but you can see how easy it is to bring the beauty of your garden to your table.  

Remember, let’s Make Life Special by sharing great food with our family and friends!  Enjoy!

Crockpot Orange Chicken Recipe

Crockpot Orange Chicken Recipe

Crockpot Orange Chicken Recipe

I’m definitely feeling those lazy days of summer so I’m turning to my crockpot for some tasty and easy summertime cookin’ !  This Crockpot Orange Chicken recipe is to die for!  I’m so glad I discovered this new technique for cooking chicken in the crockpot!  The secret of this recipe is to cook the chicken breasts on high for 3 hours and then DRAIN the juices off of the chicken before you add the sauce.  Then, the chicken only has to cook another 30 minutes slathered in the sauce.  This sauce is full of sticky and tangy goodness that will tantalize your taste buds! So give this recipe a try and let the crockpot do all of the work for you.

Crockpot Orange Chicken Recipe
The sauce on this Crockpot Orange Chicken recipe is full of sticky and tangy goodness! You'll want to serve extra sauce on the side for dipping!
Recipe type: Main Dish
Serves: 4
  • 4 or 5 boneless skinless chicken breasts, thawed
  • 1 cup sweet orange marmalade
  • 1 cup BBQ Sauce ( I used Sweet Baby Ray's Original Sauce)
  • 2 tablespoons Soy Sauce
  1. Spray the crockpot with Pam.
  2. Place the chicken breasts into the crockpot. Cover and cook on HIGH for 3 hours.
  3. Drain the juices off.
  4. Mix the orange marmalade, BBQ Sauce and Soy sauce together and pour over the cooked chicken.
  5. Pour the sauce over the chicken in the crockpot. Cover and cook on high another 30 minutes.

Ingredients for Crockpot Orange Chicken

Ingredients for Crockpot Orange Chicken

Spray the crockpot with Pam.  Place the chicken breasts into the crockpot.  Cover and cook on HIGH for 3 hours.

Place the Chicken Breasts in the Crockpot

Place the Chicken Breasts in the Crockpot

After 3 hours, drain the juices off of the chicken.  Mix the sauce ingredients together ( sweet orange marmalade, Sweet Baby Ray’s Original BBQ Sauce and the Soy Sauce)

Mixing the Sauce

Mixing the Sauce

Pour the sauce over the chicken breasts.  Cover and cook on HIGH 30 more minutes.

Pour Sauce Over chicken Breasts

While the chicken is cooking in the sauce, you might want to think about some garnishes for the dish!  My flower garden is in full bloom so I clipped some “food safe” flowers to add to my orange swirls.  You may also want to check out my Success Secrets Flower Garnishes.  


Fruit and Flower Garnishes for Crockpot Orange Chicken Recipe

Fruit and Flower Garnishes for Crockpot Orange Chicken Recipe

Now that has to be one of the easiest recipes we have done!  Be sure to serve some of the extra sauce on the side so everyone can dip every bite into this yummy sauce.

Remember, let’s Make Life Special by sharing great food with our family and friends!  Enjoy!

Crockpot Orange Chicken 2 




More on ManPans Cookware Sets

ManPans Cookware Set

ManPans Cookware Set

I recently posted a review on ManPans Cookware Sets.  You can read the full review here:  ManPans Review 

Be sure to visit the ManPans website to check out all of the great features!

John Crow is the founder and President on ManPans and he has a great video demonstrating ManPans.


John and I talked about ManPans and here are the  highlights of that interview. 


Vickie:  How did you come up with the name ManPans?

John:  There’s two versions of the story and one of them is not true and one is true .  The not true version is that when women would come up to me with a snarly attitude at a warehouse show and say “Why did you call it a ManPan?”    For those women I would always say “Because they get hot fast!”  The real reason is that all of my family got tired of me giving them pizza pans.  We were one of the largest manufactures of pizza pans at the time.  Then we made a pan for a company called Noodles and I really liked the pan.  I started giving them away to my friends and family.  All of the men in my family, including me, said “Wow, I finally have a pan that the handle fits my hand.”  The handle is round and it really helps you get a good grip on it. …I was actually in a meeting with a group of men who were trying to come up with a name for the pans and I said I wanted something kind of manly.  And this guy said ManlyPan.  Then I said no, That’s kind of wimpy.  Then he said, “How about Man Pans?”  And I loved it so that’s actually how it became a ManPan.

Vickie:  Well, it’s a great name and I will say it’s a great pan!  Sam Folsom with Folsom and Associates sent me the wok to review and I have to thank him for turning me on to these pans.  I really love the design of the pan and I love the handle.  I like the looks of it…I like the feel of it…and another thing I really like about the pan is the weight of it.  It’s a good weight but not too heavy.  So many of the pans out there on the market are so heavy that even without food in them, you can barely lift them.

There are a lot of good features about ManPans.  What do you think are the top features of the ManPans?

John:  The first thing is that it’s made in the USA.  There are so many different good features of the pan and everybody seems to have a different thing that they like about the pans.  It’s almost like pick your own feature!  …..People who have arthritis like the pans because the handle is easy to grip…..Foodies like the pan because it doesn’t leave flavors in the food…..It also does get hot faster than most other pans.  The lightweight is very important and it’s very ergonomic …..Most handles on pans are flat but when I made the handle for my pan, I wanted the handle to be round.

Vickie:  I also like the fact that the handle stays cool.  That’s a great feature.  Another thing that’s amazing is that you should use metal utensils on this pan.  I watched your video and couldn’t believe how the pan stood up to a metal spatula!  I’m going to share your video with my readers so they can see how durable these pans are.

You mentioned that you are a large manufacturer of pizza pans and I saw them on your website.  Can they be used on a grill or just in the oven?

John:   They can be used on a grill.  The round ones work better on a grill than the rectangle ones because the heat is not very even on a BBQ and a rectangle pizza pan tends to warp on a grill.

ManPans are made by my other manufacturing business called LloydPans.  You can also go on LloydPans.com and see all of the pizza pans available.  The best ones are the HAPP line of pizza pans.

Vickie:  The ManPans are chef quality pans.  Do you have any pointers for home cooks on how to best use the pans?

John:  The first thing to remember is that these pans heat up much faster than other pans so you will need to use a lower temperature when cooking.  It’s usually best to lower the temperature about 50% when cooking with a ManPan.  Also, the pan does require some oil.  You can also use Pam.  The pans are stick resistant – not non- stick .

Vickie:  Is there anything else that you would like to add?

John:  They are the exact same pans used by chefs.  We didn’t dumb them down or make them cheaper.  These pans are commercial grade and will hold up to the rigors of an industrial kitchen. MansPans are different..they are totally different than any other pan.   They are not non stick, we call it stick resistant.  Because of this, you can sear with the pans.  The pans are designed to make good looking food….We like to undersell and over perform.  Our pans create great food…they are very good in your hand…and they don’t  leak flavors into the food..and all those things.  We think they are the best  balance of all of the features that you can have in a pan.

Vickie:  You’ve sold me on the pan but I must say that using it is the ultimate sale because it is a wonderful pan and I can’t wait to get the whole set!

ManPans Cookware Sets Review

Note:  I received a ManPans Wok to use for this ManPans Cookware Sets review.  No compensation was received.  The opinions in this review are my true and honest evaluation of this product.

ManPans Wok

ManPans Wok

Are you checking out cookware sets?  Are you trying to find the best cookware for your kitchen?

ManPans Cookware Sets offer lots of great features!  

I was recently asked to review ManPans and I am so glad I said yes!  I am in LOVE with this cookware!  As soon as I opened the box, I was impressed by the sleek design of the pan ( I selected the wok to review – see photo above).  But this is more than just a pretty pan.  This pan was designed by chefs and is used by chefs in commercial kitchens and restaurants around the world.  ManPans are built to stand up to lots of hard use and they just keep on turning out beautiful food!

Aside from how cookware looks, I also like pans that are a good weight but not too heavy.  Some pans are so heavy you can barely lift them but ManPans is a perfect weight.  The third thing I immediately noticed is the design of the handle.  It is ROUND!  


ManPans Handle

ManPans Handle

This design allows you to really get a good grip on the pan.  Notice the word HOT on the handle?  There are actually arrows pointing from the word hot toward the pan.  That means that only the part of the handle between the word hot and the pan heats up.  The rest of the handle stays cool to the touch!  No more searching for pot holders!    

I immediately checked out the ManPans Website to find out more about this pan before I started cooking with it.  I learned that this is no ordinary pan.  

  • ManPans are tough.  The Gem-X2 coating will not chip, flake or rub off AND it is METAL UTENSIL SAFE!  
  • ManPans are PTFE free, PFOA free and free from any Fluoropolymer coatings.  No Toxins!  I think this feature alone is reason enough to replace your old non stick cookware.  
  • Made in the USA
  • Oven and broiler safe to 700 degrees F
  • The hard coat anodize and Gem-X2 sealer will not react with your food so it will preserve the delicate flavors of your food.
  • Exclusive cool grip handle 
  • Do not put ManPans in the dishwasher. Hand wash only.

 Now for my tips on using this cookware:

First, this cookware is stick resistant, not non-stick.  It is important to use a small amount of oil or Pam when you cook with ManPans.

Use a small amount of oil in the bottom of the ManPan

Use a small amount of oil in the bottom of  ManPans

Second, ManPans are made from dark anodized aluminum which means they retain heat more efficiently than your regular non-stick pans.  Because of this, you will need to adjust your heat way down (about 40% lower than other pans) so the food will not stick.  This also means you will save energy  when cooking in ManPans.  The food will cook just as fast, but at a lower temperature.

I made Stir Fry Vegetables in the wok.  I lowered the temperature as advised and I used a metal utensil.

Stir Fry Vegetables Cooking in ManPans Wok

Stir Fry Vegetables Cooking in ManPans Wok

It is fine to use metal utensil in ManPans

It is fine to use a metal utensil in ManPans

Personally, I give this pan a perfect rating  5/5

I will be ordering additional ManPans and you will see me using them on future blog posts and on my YouTube cooking channel.  I love that these pans are tough and will stand up to years of use.

You can order ManPans from their website:  Shop  ManPans  They are currently offering free shipping on orders over $200.00.  You will see that in addition to stove top cookware, ManPans also makes pizza pans and bakeware.

You can also order ManPans from Amazon.com.

Stir Fry Vegetables in ManPan

I also had the pleasure of interviewing John Crow, president of ManPans.  Tomorrow I’ll be sharing the highlights of that interview including the answer everyone wants to know….”Why are they named ManPans????”




Savings on Patio Furniture and Grills

Wish you had new patio furniture or a new grill?

New patio furniture and great savings for Make Life Special readers.

Make Life Special readers can enjoy up to 40% savings on patio furniture and up to 20% off on grills.  This offer is valid July 8 thru July 14, 2013.  Click on the Summer Savings box offered by kmart to see all of the fantastic options they have available.  The right patio furniture can make all the difference in your outdoor enjoyment.  And consider adding a colorful umbrella to provide not only beauty but comfort as well.  


Now is the perfect time to order your new patio furniture or gas grill and save 20% to 40% off.  There is still plenty of time for summertime entertaining and your patio is the perfect place!  Check out all of the Make Life Special recipes that will make entertaining a breeze!  All of the Make Life Special recipes have very few ingredients, the ingredients are readily available at local grocery stores and they are delicious.  Don’t let lack of time be your excuse for not inviting friends over.  Plan a picnic…or a BBQ…or a cookout with your new grill!  

Remember….”Let’s Make Life Special by sharing great food with our family and friends!  Enjoy!”  

Fresh Basil Leaves

Fresh Basil

Fresh Basil

Want to learn the simple technique for slicing fresh basil?

Fresh basil is my favorite herb from the garden!  Now that summer is in full swing,  many of us are enjoying the bounty of fresh herbs and vegetables  from our garden.   Homegrown basil is a delicious addition to recipes but slicing one leaf at a time is tedious.  However, it is a simple process when you know the success secret!  Another word for slicing is Chiffonade  and you may hear chefs use that term as well.  Here is the step by step guide for creating those ribbons of bright green basil:

All you need to remember is

  • Stack
  • Roll
  • Slice

It’s that easy!

Wash the basil and pat dry. Remove the stems and stack the leaves on top of each other.

Stack The Fresh Basil Leaves

Stack The Leaves

Gently roll the leaves up into a tight cylinder.

Rolling the Fresh Basil Leaves

Rolling the Leaves

Continue rolling until you have a tight cylinder.

Roll the Fresh Basil Leaves Into a Tight Cylinder

Roll the Fresh Basil Leaves Into a Tight Cylinder

Next, slice them into thin slices that will create those ribbons.

Slice the Fresh Basil

Slice the Fresh Basil


The Slices of Fresh Basil Will Create Thin Ribbons

The Slices Will Create Thin Ribbons

Fresh basil adds a wonderful flavor and aroma to your dishes.  It’s best to either add it at the very end of the cooking time or just sprinkle it over each plate just before serving.  

This technique also works well with fresh mint leaves or fresh spinach.  

More Success Secrets

Remember, let’s Make Life Special by sharing great food with our family and friends!  Enjoy! 








The Naked Brewer Book Review for Homebrew Beer

Note:  We were supplied with a copy of The Naked Brewer by The Penguin Group for our review.  No compensation was received.  The opinions expressed in this review are true and honest.

The Naked Brewer

The Naked Brewer


Would you like to learn how to Homebrew Beer?  

The Naked Brewer: Fearless Homebrewing Tips, Tricks & Rule-Breaking Recipes

Reviewed by: Nicole 

Released October 2nd, 2012, The Naked Brewer is a fantastic addition to any homebrewer’s library and gives lots of information on how to homebrew beer.  In college, I had quite a few friends who were into homebrewing.  One of them even used my patio to fill his bottles.  The passion Christina Perozzi and Hallie Beaune have for the topic is so palpable that you easily get swept up into their world – however foreign to you it might be.


I am not a “grab a cold one from the fridge” beer drinker.  I am more of the “when in Ireland, do as the Irish” or the “what beer on tap would go great with this meal” type of beer drinker.  That being said, when my friends in college offered me some of their homebrew, I gladly had one (or two).  I learned that good homebrew is amazing.  And, upon perusing the recipes in this book, I think any homebrewer could use these recipes to create some great beer.  Although, be warned, there are no picture instructions.  But, the instructions are so well written, even a novice could work their way thru the book!


The Naked Brewer walks you thru the basics of beer, brewing and many recipes.  Perozzi and Beaune wrote the book in such a way as to include the average homebrewer.  No need for a lot of fancy equipment or a ton of funds.  Live in a city apartment?  No problem.  Most of the recipes in this book make 2.5 gallon batches (which is about twenty-four 12-ounce bottles).  I love that they also give a difficulty level for all of the brewing recipes.  What’s even better?  Most of the recipes advance as you go thru the book.  So, anyone wanting to learn the art of homebrewing can start out a Neophyte and end a Devout homebrewer (their terminology, not mine).


This book would be perfect for anyone who you know who likes to homebrew beer, anyone who is a devout beer drinker and would be interested in taking the homebrewing plunge, or anyone who is into science and loves beer.



Where to Buy


Priced at $16.95 , you can pick this book up at the usual big book stores in your town.


For those who love the convenience of Amazon (and the savings), you can purchase yours here!






To Have And Have Another

 To Have  And  Have Another

                                                                         By Phillip Greene

Note:  Penguin Group provided a copy of  To Have And Have Another for our review.  No compensation was received.  This review contains our true and honest opinions.

Reviewed by:  Lucas

To Have And Have Another

To Have And Have Another

Are you a fan of Ernest Hemingway and great cocktails? Then To Have And Have Another is a must for you to read! 

To Have And  Have Another is probably one of the quirkiest books you will ever read–but you should read it and I will tell you why.  The author has two declared preoccupations:  Ernest Hemingway and cocktails.  He has blended both of these themes together with the same loving care that he no doubt stirs his martinis.

 The book is organized by cocktails.  They range from standard:  mojitos, cubra libres and the like—to the much more exotic:  such as the “Ojen Special” and the ominously titled, “Death in the Afternoon.”  The author provides not only an adequate recipe for each concoction, but also the biographical connection to Hemingway (often with a little historical background for good measure).  Interesting little vignettes are interspersed throughout To Have And Have Another.  In the end though, it all comes down to booze.

Greene says a lot in a little.  He gives new insights into one of America’s best-loved novelists.  Everyone who loves Hemingway knows that the man cannot be separated from the drink.  Greene’s book leaves me with the impression that, perhaps, our modern, American appreciation of alcohol cannot be divorced from the legacy of Ernest Hemingway.


About the Author

Philip Greene is one of the founders of the Museum of the American Cocktail in New Orleans.  A descendant of the Peychaud family of New Orleans, Greene counts among his ancestors the illustrious Antoine Amedee Peychaud, the nineteenth-century New Orleans pharmacist who created Peychaud’s Bitters (essential to a true Sazerac) and is credited with coining the term “cocktail.” By day, Philip serves as Trademark and Internet Counsel for the U.S. Marine Corps, stationed at the Pentagon. He lives in Washington, DC, with his wife and three daughters.


Rating for To Have And Have Another:  5/5

I rarely give anything a full rating but I really struggled to see where this book could have been improved upon.  Let’s be clear, this is no Silent Spring, the purpose of this book is not to change the world.  What it does do is bring the reader closer to one of the greatest literary giants of the 20th Century.  It’s a heck of a lot of fun in the process.  Although not for teetotalers, I heartily recommend this book to anyone who loves Hemingway or who loves a good stiff drink.

Where to Buy:

Priced at $24.00, you can pick  up To Have And Have Another at the usual big book stores in your town.  For those who love the convenience of Amazon (and the savings), you can purchase yours  here!   Amazon        






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