Friday, May 29, 2009

Fresh Corn Salad

I got this recipe from my Barefoot Contessa Cookbook - one of my fav's. I am always looking for ways to get more fruits and veggies into the mouths of my babes (and hubs) this is a good one. The following is the original recipe:

Fresh Corn Salad
5 ears corn, shucked
1/2 c red onion, diced
3 T cider vinegar
1/2 t kosher salt
1/2 t freshly ground black pepper
1/2 c chiffonade fresh basil leaves

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the corn for 3 minutes until the starchiness is just gone. drain and immerse the corn in ice water. When the corn is cool, cut the kernels off the cob. toss the corn in a large bowl with the rest of the ingredients except for the basil. just before serving, toss in the basil. Serve chilled or at room temp. The book says to use fresh, not frozen corn - I always use corn in the package (from costco) and I think it tastes great!

The only differences I've made were eliminating the basil and adding 1 T sugar (we are talking about my hubs and 3 kids under the age of 6 here).

Aunt Leah's Chicken Salad

Ever since Krystal posted her "Grandma D's Chicken Salad" recipe - I've had a craving for my Aunt Leah's recipe. She makes this for every baby shower, every bridal shower in our family (and we have a HUGE family!) Thanks for the recipe Aunt Leah! XOXO
Aunt Leah’s Chicken Salad (sandwiches)
4 chicken breasts shredded or cubed
3/4 c celery diced
1 cup grapes halved
1 small can Mandarin Oranges drained
1 small can Pineapple tidbits drained
1/2 c Miracle Whip
1/2 c Sour Cream
2 T onion diced
1 T lemon juice
1/2 t salt
1/2 t pepper
1/4-1/2 c sliced almonds (toasted)

Mix together and let chill overnight. Serve on croissants.
We had this on the Sunflower Wheat bread I posted yesterday - so yummy! I also made this morning - and we ate it for dinner - so you don't necessarily have to chill overnight. And I waited until the last minute to add the almonds - I love a good 'crunch'!!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Sunflower Whole Wheat Bread

I got this recipe from an old “Dutch Oven Style” cookbook my hubs bought 'for me' at the Sportsman’s Warehouse several years ago. Mmmmm…. My hubs loves wheat bread - with enthusiasm. This is hands down his fav bread - sandwich bread - french toast bread - snacking bread - toast bread. Give it a try - you'll never buy Great Harvest bread again.Sunflower Whole Wheat Bread
3 cups warm water
¾ c honey
1 ½ T dry active yeast
¼ c butter, softened
4 cups whole wheat flour
3 – 6 cups unbleached flour (I just use regular old flour)
2 t salt
1 c sunflower seeds

Combine and mix the water, honey and yeast. Let sit for about 5 minutes. Add butter, wheat flour, 1 cup unbleached flour, salt and sunflower seeds. Slowly add 2 – 3 cups unbleached flour. Mix until combined. Flour your surface and knead dough for a few minutes. Place it, in a greased bowl and turn the dough to grease its top. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth in a warm place for about an hour. Knead the dough for 1 minute, cover again and let rise til double (about an hour). Punch down a second time. Divide the dough in half, shape and place in 2 5 x 9” loaf pans. Place loaves in a warm place and let rise to the top of the pans, about 45 minutes. Bake the loaves at 350 for about 1 hour or until they are well browned and hollow sounding then tops are tapped. Turn loaves out onto a rack to cool.

These breads I post really are super easy - you just have to make them when you have a day at home. Laundry day, sick day, lazy day - they honestly take very little effort - most of it is the waiting around time! Let me reiterate that I don't have a bread machine - I don't even have a kitchenaid - all I have are my hands and a wooden spoon. Don't be intimidated (like I used to be!!) My kids and I are sitting here right now eating warm pieces of this delicious bread - for dessert - (that is how good it is) is there anything better? My hubs will be so stoked when he walks in the door and smells this bread - it's one of his favs. Coming home to the sweet smell of baking? Oh yeah.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Potatoes Three Ways

Photo is the "Chunky Mashed" version...

Twice Baked Potatoes
8 russet Potatoes
2 sticks butter
1 c sour cream
1 c cheddar
1 c bacon bits
1/4 t Seasoned Salt
Black pepper to taste
Green onion
No precise mesurements. Wash and place 8 potatoes on a cookie sheet. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes – making sure they’re sufficiently cooked through. Within a few minutes after you remove the potatoes from the oven, you need to begin scraping them out. Cut each potato in half lengthwise and with a large spoon, scrape out the insides into a bowl. Lay the empty shells on a cookie sheet.
Add 2 sticks (= 1 c) softened butter to the bowl. Add bacon, sour cream and mash together. Add the seasoned salt, pepper, onion and milk (if needed). Fill the empty potato shells with mixture and top with shredded cheese. Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes or until the mixture is warmed through and the cheese is melted on top.

Same ingredients – different prep – half the time

Chunky Mashed Potatoes
All the same ingred. Listed above. Except – peel and cube potatoes. Boil until fork tender. Add all other ingredients and voila!

Same ingredients – different prep – good for leftovers of either the Twice Baked or the Chunky Mashed

Potato Cheese Soup
All the same prep as the “Chunky Mashed” but add more milk – so that is the consistency of a nice and creamy potato cheese soup. I usually freeze my leftover Chunky Mashed or Twice Baked and stick them in this soup when we are havin’ a chilly day!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Ode to Macaroni

This is my personal fav mac n' cheese - I think I got this recipe from Picky Palate over a year ago - she is a great cook - and has a TON of ideas.

Jack Mac n' Cheese

1 lb dry elbow pasta noodles
1/2 c white onion, diced
1/4 red bell pepper, diced
1 T jalapeno, diced seeds and membrane removed
2 c cooked shredded rotisserie chicken
3 T chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1/2 c butter
1/2 t salt
1/2 t ground cumin
1/4 t ground black pepper
1/2 call purpose flour
14 oz can tomatoes with green chilis, milk
1 t salt
1/4 t black pepper
5 c whole milk
2 1/2 c shredded cheddar
2 1/2 c shredded Monterey Jack
1/2 c cream cheese, softened
2 T melted butter
1 c plain Panko bread crumbs

Cook pasta for about 10 min or until al dente, drain and reserve. preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat EVOO in a skillet over medium high heat. add onion, bell pepper and jalapeno saute until tender add chicken, cilantro, salt, cumin, pepper and tomatoes; saute for 3 or 4o more min, remove from het and set aside. in a separate large pot over med heat, melt butter. remove from heat and whisk in flou, salt and pepper until sooth. place back on med-high heat, slowly whisk in milk and bring to a boile while continuously whisking. reduce heat and stire in Cheddar, Monterey Jack and cheddar until melted and smooth. stir in cooked pasta and chicken mix. Pour mac and cheese mix into a greased 3 qt. casserole. in a med bowl, combine butter and panko. toss to coat and sprinkle the crumbs over the top of the M&C. bake for 20 - 25 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and crumbs are browned.

My kids don't like baked macaroni - their little palates are pretty unrefined- this is the recipe my kiddos request the most...

Mac For My Peeps
1/2 block of Velveeta
Salt & Pepper

I use whatever pasta I have on hand - whatever is requested - my kids like the funny shapes. Split the loaf of Velveeta in half and then into cubes. Add milk, salt and pepper to taste. I usually melt the Velveeta in the micro and add the milk, salt and pepper in for the last round. It's easy to tell what effect the milk has on the cheese. Just add 1/4 c at a time until you find the consistency you like. Pour over hot pasta and serve. EASY. Plus, you can always add in according to your tastes, I've added bacon, onion, and ground beef or chicken to make it more of a one pot meal etc. Velveeta also sells "Pepper Jack" and "Mexican Mild" to add a little more kick.

Grilled cheese... PIZZA style~Kid friendly

This is another take on my cheater pizza. We do this one quite often at our house and we LOVE it! Most of you know I am super pregnant and we do WAY EASY and WAY FAST things at my house lately. We had this for lunch today and I thought I would share it. I'm definitely not a gourmet cook, but I do quick and simple FABULOUSLY! I hope you all enjoy!

Pizza toppings (whatever kind you want, we use pepperoni or ham and pineapple usually)
Pizza sauce

Use your sandwich maker or on the stove (however you prefer). Butter the outside of your bread, add your cheese and whatever pizza toppings you want and make like you are making a grilled cheese sandwich. After you are done, warm up the pizza sauce for 20-30 seconds and then you dip your sandwich into the sauce when it is done. Voila! Grilled cheese... PIZZA STYLE!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Veggie Pasta Primavera

My aunt made this the other night for dinner and it was super yummy and way easy!

1 box penne pasta
1 cup fresh broccoli florets
1 cup fresh cut asparagus
1 cup fresh sliced carrots
1/2 cup half & half
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

Cook the pasta according to directions on the box. About 2 to 3 minutes before the pasta is done add your veggies to the water to cook with the pasta. You don't want to over cook the veggies. They should still have a good bite to them. Once the pasta and veggies are done drain them and add them back to your pot. Add the half and half and stir to coat everything. Turn the heat way down and let sit for a minute or two and then stir in the Parmesan cheese. This was one of the best at home pasta dishes I've had in a long time. Not super saucy but very delicious!

Chicken Curry Casserole

I have heard of several variations of this dish so you all may already know this one. It's a quick and easy dinner and it's always a hit in my house.

2 large chicken breasts
3 cups minute rice
1 cup mayo
1 can cream of chicken soup
2 cups frozen broccoli
2 table spoons yellow curry powder
2 teaspoons lemon juice

Cook the chicken in a skillet until it just starts to brown. You don't want to over cook it as it gets cooked some more once the casserole is combined. Once cooked cut in to 1 inch pieces. While your chicken is cooking up, cook the minute rice and broccoli according to package directions. Once they are all cooked combine them all into a large bowl and set aside. In another large bowl mix together the mayo, cream of chicken soup, lemon juice and curry powder. Pour sauce mixture over the rice, chicken and broccoli and mix until everything is coated well. Put into a 9x13 pan and cover with plastic wrap. Heat in the microwave for 10 minutes and serve.

Helpful tips: I use pre-cut stir fry chicken. It's already cut into the perfect size pieces. You can also make this a vegetarian dish by using cream of celery soup instead of cream of chicken and substituting asparagus for the chicken.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Crunchy Asian Salad

Every time my Mother-In-Law comes to town, she calls ahead to remind me to get the fixin’s for 2 of my salads. This is one of them – and it’s a recipe that everyone has.
Crunchy Asian Salad
1 envelope Good Seasonings Italian salad dressing mix (dry)
½ c sugar
2 T soy sauce
2 pkg ramen noodles
1 head of cabbage (you can use 2 pkgs coleslaw blend)
Green onions a bunch
½ c sunflower seeds
½ c sliced almonds

Prepare dressing as directed on package. Stir in sugar and soy sauce. Break (dry) noodles apart (discard seasoning packets) add cabbage, onions, ramen and dressing. Let chill in fridge for at least an hour. I usually add the ramen about ½ hour after the rest of the salad – and I don’t add the sunflower seeds or almonds until I serve it.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Blue Cheese & Tomato Dip

This is for the "Go To Appetizer Request"
I have already posted a few of my 'go to' favs - Texas Caviar, Artichoke Dip and Chili Con Queso Dip. I make Texas Caviar and Artichoke Dip because they are super easy and delicious. I make the Queso by request - a bit hit!! This next recipe I got from my friend JenO - she made it for every baby shower or bridal shower for years - always by request - always a winner.

Blue Cheese and Tomato Dip
1 can petite diced tomatoes
1 small container crumbled blue cheese or gorgonzola
1/3 c Balsamic vinegar
1/3 c EVOO
Crush as much garlic as you think you can stand
Mix all ingredients and serve at room temperature. Right before serving, throw a couple of teaspoons of sugar to cut the acidity. Serve with bread chunks or crackers.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Sugar Fingers

I started making these faux French Fries for April Fool's Day a couple years ago (the pic is from Fool's Day - I cut the dough down so they appear more like fries). They were such a big hit though, that I've made them often for dessert. My little boy graduated from Kindergarten and tonight, for his Graduation Party - I asked him to pick the menu - he said "Easy! Pizza, breadsticks and sugar fingers with jelly." This post is more of an idea - or inspiration. All you need is a can of grocery bought breadsticks, bake them per directions, when they are done cooking, spread with butter and sprinkle with sugar. I serve with strawberry jelly (I warm up the jelly a bit for better dipage).

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Easy Crescent Rolls

Everyone has a recipe for crescent rolls. I grew up with my Mom’s amazing crescent rolls. They were so delicious – and always the first thing to go. They are also extremely labor intensive, so much so that they were only made for holiday’s. That being said… a few years ago, I got this recipe from my sister. She promised “better than Mom’s and so easy it’s ridiculous” I was curious – better than my Mom’s? Little labor? Was this possible? I actually made these rolls as almost a dare – there is no way there are rolls out there that are better than my Mom’s – and that are super easy. She was right (as all big sisters are). Delicious and so easy - great when you take dinner to a friend. I make these rolls at least twice a month. I make a batch of ‘small’ ones for dinner and a batch of ‘big ones’ for sandwiches. It’s all in the ‘cut’ The picture shows the 2 sizes.

Megan’s Favorite Rolls
4 t yeast
½ c melted shortening (cooled)
1 ½ c warm water
1 ½ t salt
3 eggs
4 ½ c flour
Dissolve yeast in water. Add all other ingredients. Stir and let rise 2 hours. Split in half. Roll out on floured surface in a circle. Brush with butter. Cut into 12 slices. Roll up from the end. Let rise 1 more hour. Bake at 350 for 10 to 15 minutes – until just golden on top.
*shortening – room temp – I’ll microwave it for about 30 seconds right when I start – it’ll be cooled by the time you are ready for it.

Dill Cucumber Salad

This is the original recipe, from The Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook. I made the ‘dressing’ last night – to make sure the flavors had plenty of time to marry. But, for lunch today – I decided to do something special with my 4 year old. My oldest (boy) is in (all day) Kindergarten and my youngest (girl) is 16 months. Every day when I put my baby to bed – my 4 year old and I do something special together ‘Mommy & Me’ time, because today is the last day of school –we will have to take a break from our regular routine. So, instead of making the Cucumber Salad as a side for dinner (as intended), I used it for our ‘High Tea’ end of the regular ‘M&M’ schedule celebration. We had tea (water with lemon) and cucumber (with this Dill dressing) tea sandwiches. She was in heaven. So – use it how you please – it’s a goody.

Dill Cucumber Salad
2 lg cucumbers, peeled and sliced
½ c thinly sliced onion
1 T fresh dill or 1 t dried dillweed (my garden again! I can’t believe I’ve never planted one before – so easy and so worth it)
1 T white vinegar
½ t salt
¼ t sugar
¾ c sour cream

Add all ingredients in bowl except the cucumber and onion. Mix together well and fold in onion and cucumber.

Chicken Tacos

I just wanted to let you all know that I tried the chicken tacos recipe from Jen, with a few add in's on my part. I used chicken tenders in the crockpot instead of full breasts (you know the skinny ones, boneless, skinless), they only took about 3 hours! Awesome! Anyway, I also used homemade salsa I canned last year. I used a bottle and a half of it, LOTS of sour cream, and green chilis. They turned out amazingly. The only thing I need to add is a little bit of cayenne pepper or chili powder next time. The sour cream toned downed the spice in the salsa quite a bit, and I would like a LITTLE kick to it. I also took the advice to use black beans and corn. However, I was with Jen on the leftover thing, so I just put those in a pan together and heated them up to add seperately, but I was greatful for the suggestion. We added fresh tomoatoes, shredded lettuce, avocado as well. We have plenty for leftovers too. Thanks for all the suggestions, it totally hit the craving spot!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Southwest Beef Stroganoff

Beef Stroganoff is SO boring that I decided to jazz it up. I've only made this once, and it was for company. She loved it, my husband added more spice. But then again, he likes his food really spicy! The kids thought it was great! Serves 4-6.

Flank Steak, a piece about 6" long: marinated in EVOO, sea salt, wort sauce, lime juice and dried chipolte pepper (looks like cayenne) let sit for a couple of hours if possible.
16oz Sour Cream, all natural
1 c flour
1 tsp each black pepper, sea salt. garlic powder
1 16oz can tomatillos, whole
2 -3 plum tomatoes, canned is great!
1-2 jalepeno pepper, chopped fine (de-seed to reduce heat)
1 bag egg noodles

-Cut Flank Steak against the grain into small bite size pieces.

-Mix together flour, salt, pepper and garlic powder

-Dredge beef in flour mixture, shake off excess.

-Cook beef in large skillet in about 2tbsp EVOO, browning on both sides. Meanwhile, cook egg noodles according to package directions.

-After beef is browned, add to skillet: tomatoes, tomatillo's (they will break down with cooking) and jalepeno. Let simmer for 5-10 minutes.

-Add sour cream to skillet, stirring to incorporate into tomato mixture.

-In a large serving bowl, add drained egg noodles and top with skillet mixture. Top with crushed red pepper if desired.

This seems like a lot of steps but it will be on the table in about 30 minutes.

Summer Veg Pizza

I call this one Summer Veg Pizza because it's served cold. It always get scarfed down, and it's quick to make. This serves 2-4 depending on your appetite!

2 cans Pillsbury canned cresent dough, in sheets.
8oz softened cream cheese
1 c. sour cream
2 tsp Dill or Masterpiece Garlic Grill Mix
1 c. each shredded raw carrot, zucchini, sliced grape tomatoes: mixed together

-Bring cresent roll dough sheets to room temp, unroll onto rectangular cookie sheet and press together-end to end you may have to cut and paste to fit your pan.

-Bake dough according to package directions. Let cool thoroughly

-Mix together softened cream cheese and sour cream and your choice of spices. Spread on cooled pizza crust.

-Sprinkle shredded veg mix and tomatoes, press down into cream cheese mixture.

-Slice into squares and Enjoy!

Cheater pizza~ kid friendly

Brianna (and me) LOVE cheater pizza. Easy, quick and yummy.

Refrigerator biscuits (any brand)
Pizza sauce
Mozzarella cheese (we like cheddar too)
Your favorite toppings

Pop open those refrigerator biscuits, smash them and stretch them a little bit. Let the kiddos go to town. Brianna absolutely LOVES making these with her and she is always very proud when she has done her own.
350 (or package directions for whatever brand YOU use) for about 8-10 minutes or until cheese is melted.
So fun, less mess, and SO ridiculously easy! Enjoy!

Grandma D's Chicken Salad

I'm a sucker for an easy chicken salad sandwich. This recipe is super easy and yummy.

Diced Chicken (I used canned chicken if I have it or I boil and shred it myself.)
Mayo (to your liking)
Lemon Pepper (again, to your liking... and we like A LOT)
Red/Purple grapes diced
Almond slivers

~This is the original recipe. However, I've added craisins, green onions, celery, a touch of lemon juice, miracle instead of mayo, and even bacon bits before. Try it all or some and tell me what you think.

Onc more thing.. You can put this recipe in lettuce to make lettuce wraps instead of bread. They are great and it adds crunchy to it. I've also done them in tortillas for tortilla wraps.

I would LOVE if someone out there has a chicken salad recipe similar to the one at Kneader's bakery, it is my absolute FAVORITE! Yummy!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

BLT Salad

Another obvious dinner. The only reason I post the 'obvious' recipes - is for inspiration. Sometimes I see a commercial, or look in my fridge and see lettuce and tomato and think - what can I make that would be super delish? Tonight - I made...

Lettuce, chopped
Onion, diced
Tomatoes, diced
Cucumbers, diced,
Avocado, diced
Crumbled bacon (Kirkland/Hormel - make such amazing crumbled bacon - not like Baco's at all!) Cheddar, shredded
Ranch dressing

Add ingredients to your liking - and yum. I always make the HVR dry packet for my ranch dressing - I don't know why, but it tastes a million times better when I make it (and I follow the directions on the package!) Also, I make my own croutons, not because I think they are particularly great - but just because I don't like to waste food. When I made the italian bread for our hot sub, the recipe made 2 loaves. My hubs is out of town and that second loaf has just been sitting there - and I know it will sit there at least until he gets home - or will go bad. So, I made croutons with it. My croutons are good - but I know someone makes 'em better!

Warehouse clubs: Which is cheapest?

My Costco renewal comes up next month – I saw this article online. Since we’ve (well I’ve been babbling) about savings, etc. Pretty interesting:

Also, I hope I'm not coming across as a know it all! LOL - I am lucky enough to have an amazing, intelligent, organized, creative and thrifty group of sisters and friends. Honestly - most of what I have posted is just information I learned from one of them - that helped me out so much - I thought I'd pass it along! I love hearing advice and tips from others - I hope you will all start babbling too - don't keep all your great tips to yourself - let them be free!! hahaha.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Cinnamon Rolls

This was from a previous post - but I posted it with another recipe - I just wanted to seperate the two for 'searching' purposes.

If you want to impress (your hubs boss – or your in-laws!) make these…

Makes 20 rolls
¼ c warm water
1 T yeast
1 c warm milk
½ c canola (or veg) oil
½ c sugar
1 t salt
5 – 5 ½ c flour
2 eggs

6 T softened butter
½ c granulated sugar
½ c brown sugar
2 t ground cinnamon

Optional: walnuts, raisins, dates Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe follows)

Measure the water into a small bowl and add the yeast. Stir to dissolve and let stand 5 minutes. Heat the milk in the micro and pour it into a large mixing bowl. Add the oil, sugar and salt. Mix in 1 cup of the flour. Add the eggs and beat again. Stir in the yeast mixture. Adding 1 cup at a time, stir in 4 more cups of flour. Add enough remaining flour to make a soft dough. Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead gently until the dough is smooth and elastic. Cover and let rest.

Lightly grease the mixing bowl and put the dough in it. Spray plastic wrap with Pam and cover the bowl. Let rise until the dough is doubled in bulk, 1 to ½ hours. Grease a 12x18” sheet pan and set aside. Punch down the dough. Rollout the dough on a floured surface into a large rectangle, about 20x14” or larger. Spread generously with the butter. Mix both sugars and cinnamon and sprinkle the mix over the dough. Starting on the long side of the dough – roll up the dough into a tightly rolled log. (So, you don’t want a short, fat log – you want a long, thinner log).

Mark the center of the roll with a knife – then mark evenly spaced rolls on the entire log. Slice with a strand of heavy duty thread or dental floss. Place the thread under the dough; crisscross it over the dough, and pull quickly to make a clean cut for each roll. *I thought this was a funny tip – but it works awesome – and doesn’t flatten the roll!

Place the rolls in prepared pan(s). Cover the filled pans with dish towels and let rise again until nearly double – about 30 minutes. This is when I usually make the frosting (below). Preheat the oven to 400°. When the rolls have risen, bake 10 – 15 minutes, until just lightly browned. Frost the rolls while they are still hot!!

Cream Cheese Frosting:
4 oz cream cheese, softened
2 T butter, softened
1 c powdered sugar
1 t milk
½ t vanilla extract
1 t lemon juice
Combine all ingredients with an electric mixer until smooth.

Chicken Wraps

Easy Peasy pretty healthy Chicken Wraps, another that the boys helped me come up with. This serves 4, I'll make a couple extra for anyone who wants seconds or just to keep in the fridge for lunch the next day. Wrap leftovers in wax paper and foil.

I stock my refrigerator with shredded cheese (store bought shreds are covered in anti-caking ingredients that just suck the flavor right out), cooked chicken breasts, usually grilled, shredded or chopped veggies; zuchini, carrots, red, green peppers, etc.. and bacon.

-5 or 6 Large Tortilla's preferably hand made (they won't tear), warmed in micro or oven
-2 bl/sl Chicken breasts, sliced or chunked thinly into bite sized pieces. Can be pregrilled and used cold,
-Bacon, precooked to a crisp. Experiment with maple flavored, yum, yum!!
-Romain Lettuce Leaves, leave whole
-Grated Zuchini and Carrots, mixed together
-1 Avacado, sliced thin
-Frank's Red Hot for Buffalo Wings, just a dab'l do ya
-Ranch Dressing
-(optional) Shredded Monterrey Jack

-Take your warmed tortilla, add your cheese if doing so. About 1 tbsp down the center.

-Next take your large romain leaf

-Add your chicken slices, avacado, shredded veg (about 1 tbsp) and top with 1 1/2 slices of bacon torn up into 3 pcs.

-Run a thin stripe of Frank's Wing Sauce down the center and top with the ranch, it's a great combo.

-Fold bottom up, and fold left side over, tucking under filling, roll tight!

Ravioli, Cali Style

My boys and I came up with this one one night while trying to figure out how to jazz up plain ol' ravioli. It's quite good and will get some veggies in your fam. It takes about 20 minutes tops, and that's mainly waiting for the water to boil.


Large size ravioli, I use 20 for 4 servings
Chicken sausage, grilled and chopped-can be done ahead-use some that have fun stuff like fontina cheese and garlic or sun dried tomatoes, be creative!! Don't be a plain jane!
frozen Spinach, about 1 1/2 cups
Artichoke hearts, quartered in oil
1 lg tomato or 2 handfuls cherry tomates, chopped
Salad Vinegar, 3 generous shakes
1 tbsp EVOO
Sea Salt
Garlic Powder
2 pinches of Red Pepper Flakes
(optional) Parmaseano-Reggiano or Mozzerella chunked and pine nuts or almonds

-Cook Ravioli per instructions, remove with spoon after cooking, placing in a large serving bowl and using same water cook spinach just until thawed. Drain thoroughly.

-Meanwhile, grill sausages (do extras for other meals), I use 3 for 4 servings. (Do more or less for your preference) and chop tomatoes and artichoke hearts. I make sure to trim the baby leaves, my kids don't like them. (Although, they love artichokes whole. Go Figure.)

-Once spinach is warmed, toss gently with the tomatoes and artichokes on top of ravioli. Add the sea salt, garlic, red pepper flakes , EVOO and salad vinegar (it really enhances the flavor of the tomatoes)

-Add the cooked chicken sausage, chopped in bite size pieces.

-Top with the optional ingredients, if desired.

-Serve at room temperature.

If you have folks who don't like spinach, this may be a dish that will change their mind. With the mild blanching and the salad vinegar it does not have a pungent taste. The key is to barely cook it.

By the way, the boys were 5 and 7 when they came up with this one. I hope you enjoy!

Kids Fav Cheese Quesadillas

Even the name is simple. I hope you all don't think I am crazy for posting this - b/c it is so obvious, but I swear - everytime I make these with another adult in the room - they are surprised that they never thought about doing this way and at how much of a difference this process makes in taste.
I babysit a friends son, Mason every Monday. When his Mom came over to pick him up, the kids were just finishing up these nummies. Mason pipes up "deeyas! deeyas!" His Mom said "so these are the 'deeyaas' Mason talks about all the time! Every time he asks me for one, I pop it in the microwave and he won't eat it!" He says "No, Mrs. V's deeyaas!" These are my tools - skillet and spatula. I invested a whopping $3 in the 'big' spatula (left) and it's really great for quesadillas, omlettes, crepes, etc. I set the 'regular' spatula next to it so you could see the difference in size. Sorry - they are dirty - but they get used!!
Put your skillet on with the temp on high. A pat of butter and a tortilla. Add cheese (cheddar is the preference around here) and top it off with another tortilla. Just like a pancake - flip it when its nice and golden on the bottom. Take it off the heat when golden on the other side.

You can mix it up to your liking. I always add black beans and onion to mine. Yum - fast - yum. See - duh. Simple. They charge $6 for these at any mexican restaraunt!!!

Savvy Shopper Part 2

Krystal asked me a couple of questions about my “Savvy Shopper” – thought I’d share. First, I have a large pantry and 2 refrigerators. Having my ‘garage’ fridge is awesome. I got mine 10 or so years ago for $300 at RC Willey– but I’ve seen them on Craig’s list for $25, $50 bucks. Since it’s in my garage – it doesn’t have to be nice or pretty or have all the bells a whistles – it just has to work. My sister bought a full size standing freezer a couple of years ago and she LOVES it. She is big on meal planning and prep – she does a ’30 meals in one day’ thing and uses the freezer to store all those dinners.
That being said, most of the money I save with “SS” is on canned goods, dry goods and meat. Example: if chicken is on sale for $1.89 lb and is normally $4.89 lb, (roughly 70% off) I buy 4 packs instead of just one (that’s where my freezers come in handy). So, when I started, I was still spending about the same amount of money as usual every grocery trip – but was bringing home 4x the product. When I started this, my pantry (or my freezer) wasn’t very well stocked b/c we just relocated from out of state in February. It took me about 3 shopping trips (3 paychecks in my world) to get to the point where I pretty much everything I needed for meals. So, now, I just buy what is on sale. For instance, I have 2 cases of black beans and only 1 can of garbonzo beans. I have a magnetic pad on my fridge and when I notice I am getting low on something I write it on the pad. When I do my “SS” every 2 weeks, I cross reference that list with what’s on sale – and buy only what is on sale. I am at the point that I can meal plan around what I have because of my ‘back stock.’ And am also at the point the since I am only "SS" the money I spend at the grocery store is significantly less than it has ever been.

Things I still buy at Costco/Sams: basically stuff we USE in bulk and are cheaper there: tortillas, diapers, wipes, I make salad almost every night – so, I hardly every throw away produce (cheap & good), bacon, butter (the real stuff in the blue box), crumbled bacon and cheddar cheese – super duper humongo block of it! Flour, fruit snacks, dog food, toilet paper and paper towels. Every once in a blue moon Costco will have a great deal in their meat department – I’ll take advantage of that too – if I know it’s a screamer (50% off or more).

You asked “do you ONLY wait to buy when it is on sale, or do you still buy your necessities whenever?” Because of my ‘stock up’ the only necessity that I make an extra trip to the grocery store that I can think of is milk. But, on Saturday, Smith’s had milk on for $1.69 a gallon – so I bought 6 gallons (we drink A LOT of milk). Oh, and Hidden Valley Ranch dry packets - they never go on sale - so I suck it up and pay full price.

Every 6 months or so, I'll run out of a 'basic' like vegetable oil, olive oil, vinegars, etc. I haven't come across that problem since I became so 'savvy' haha but I am sure when I get low, I'll start searching those products out on "SS" and buy them when they go on sale.

I hope I clarified everything and didn't completely confuse anyone! If you have other questions, just 'comment' and I'll get -cha back.


I used to be so intimidated about making my own salad dressing. My sister in law, Mary makes all of her own dressings - I would watch her make them (using an immersion blender - drooling here). She never uses measurements, just eyeballs everything and then blends them with her immersion blender (love).
I was never confident in my abilities - or kitchen accessories - to attempt homemade dressing, but I was constantly unsatisfied with what is available at the grocery store. I mainly ate salads at restaraunts because those dressings were the only ones up to my standards (wow - sounds like I am a dressing snob!)
In an experimental mood one day at the grocery store - I picked up a dry packet of Ranch and a dry packet of Italian. This has lead to a life altering change in my dinner habits!! I realized that making your own dressing is the way to go!
Hidden Valley Ranch dry packets are ALWAYS in stock at my house. I use them all the time. Homemade HVR (following the directions on the box) is about 100 x better than the HVR bottled stuff!! The dry packet is also used as a base in most of the dressings I make! It's easy, cheap, fresh and most dressings keep for about a month.
Trust me on this one - you don't need any special tools, just a wisk (or a fork will do!) Most dressings are made with stuff you have in your fridge right now - and you will serve salad as your 'go to' side every night for dinner!! The recipe posted below is the original 'intimidator' from my sis in law Mary...

Mary's Vinaigrette
Equal parts EVOO and *Vinegar
1 shallot finely chopped
1 T mustard (I like Grey Poupon)
Blend - yum.
*You can use any of the following: lemon juice, white vinegar, red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar - it just depends on what you have on hand - or what your preference is.

Get to it!

Chicken Taco's

Krystal - I've never had the Chili's chicken tacos (like I said I always get the same darned salad!) But I have a couple ideas...

This recipe is my go to for mexican. I am sure you all have this recipe - but it's so good - it's worth mentioning. I got this recipe from my friend Jen - who made it every single Sunday. She'd put everything in the crock - go to church and when they got home they were ready to eat!
Boneless, skinless chicken breasts (as many as you need)
Salsa (not fresh - I use Pace)
Sour cream
Add all ingredients in your crock pot. I don't use measurements because I just eyeball it - and I really like sour cream. *Just make sure the chicken is mostly covered in the 'sauce' and you'll be fine.
Cook on low for 5 hours. When it's done, shred the chicken and serve. We use this in everything! Burritos, tacos, on nachos, on taco salad - the possibilities are endless!!
*As for the 'ranchero sauce' Krystal - I'd try it with the "Tomatillo Ranch" I posted? Or search 'ranchero sauce' online.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Snickers Cookies

This is a recipe that is from Brandon's family. I'm sure it came from somewhere, but I got it from Aunt Sheri. All this food talk and NONE of us have posted desserts!

1 Cup creamy peanut butter
1 Package Snicker's minis or fun size
1 Yellow cake mix in box
1 Egg
1/3 Cup water

Mix peanut butter, water, cake mix and egg together. It will be a THICK batter. Roll dough into 1 inch balls. Unwrap your entire package of snickers candies. Smash each ball in your palm, place snickers in center and re-roll into balls. Bake 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Seriously though I've NEVER baked these longer than 10 minutes EXACTLY. They should barely flatten and will not look completely done but they will be. They should be a super light golden brown color. Enjoy!

*I've also put milky ways in the middle and even twix. Yummy!

Chicken - An Experiment

When I made my Chili's salad the other night, I started thinking... what does my hubs usually get there? Baby Back Ribs (posting soon) or the Honey chipotle chicken crispers. I deferred to research online with no luck whatsoever. I knew I'd couldn't even get close to the Chili's recipe mainly because I don't own a deep frier (if I did, I'd weigh about 400 lbs.) So, this recipe is more of an "Ode to the taste" of the original.

I made this chicken 3 ways. Sounds complicated - it's not. Because 2 of my kids are allergic to eggs - I have to make adjustments sometimes. This is what I came up with...

Chipotle Chicken 'Crispers'
2 T chipotle sauce (Tabasco brand makes one)
3/4 cup mayonnaise
4 Boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 1/4 c panko (Japanese bread crumbs)

Blend together the chipotle sauce, mayonnaise and salt and pepper to taste until the mixture is smooth. In a baking pan arrange the chicken pieces in one layer and coat them completely with the mayonnaise mixture. Chill the chicken, covered, for at least 1 hour.

In a large bowl combine the panko (I am sure you can use bread crumbs too - panko is just something I always have in stock), salt and pepper to taste and coat each piece of chicken with the panko mixture. Arrange the chicken pieces on a lightly oiled baking sheet – spray the chicken with Pam to help them brown. Bake at 425°F turning them once for 20 to 25 minutes.

Adjustments: Chipotle is pretty spicy. For my kiddos, I eliminated the chipotle on their pieces. As for the allergy babies, instead of the mayo mixture - I used honey. Everything else was the same.

Dipping Sauce:

Honey Chipotle Sauce
1 c mayo
2 T Grey poupon
½ c Honey
2 T Chipotle sauce
1 T cider vinegar

The hit of the night was the dipping sauce. The chicken turned out great - crunchy on the outside and tender on the inside. Add the dipping sauce and you have a hit! I served it with steak fries.

*No pics. As most experiments go in my house - first round is not pretty - but tastes amazing.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Creamy Ranch Chicken

I think I saw this one on GTU?

Creamy Ranch Chicken
6 slices bacon (or the – easy!)
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts – cut into bite size pieces
2 T flour
2 T ranch dry salad dressing mix (one packet)
1 ¼ c milk
3 c dried medium pasta
1 T parmesan cheese

Start your water for your pasta. Cook noodles according to package directions. Cut bacon into narrow strips. In a large skillete, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp. Drain bacon on paper towels; discard all but 2 T of drippings. In the same skillet, cook chicken in reserved drippings until no longer pink, turning to brown evenly. Sprinkle flour and salad dressing mix over chicken; stir well to coat the chicken. Stir in milk. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir 1 minute more. Stir in bacon. Serve the chicken over buttered noodles. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

*To make this SUPER duper quick – Hormel bacon crumblies (in a bag at Costo) and canned chicken!!

Briner Pasta Salad

Briner Pasta Salad
12 oz. pasta (whatever you have on hand)
Red Onion, diced
Raw broccoli
Cheddar cheese, cubed
Bacon bits
Grape tomatoes

1 c mayonnaise
½ c sugar
¼ c red wine vinegar
1 T bacon drippings (optional)

No measurements for the veggies, b/c you can just add ingredients to your families taste. Make dressing ahead of time – I usually make it the day before, so all the flavors can mesh. Cook the pasta as directed on the package. Drain and rinse with cold water. I usually put the pasta in the fridge while I am cutting the veggies. Combine and dress. Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving. This one tastes even better the next day!! I have also made this without the pasta – SO GOOD!

Patty's Beet Salad

Don't let the beet's scare you. Aside from this salad - I don't think I've eaten a beet in my life. C'mon - grooooose - right? I tried this salad out of politeness and ended up LOVING IT and going back for more! This is a good one for a BBQ - you are already using your grill to cook meat - just throw the beets on too!
This one is a combo. I got the dressing recipe from my awesome sister in law Mary – who calls herself a ‘garbage chef’ – which I always laugh at! What she is referring to is the fact that she can throw basically anything she has in her fridge and make a masterpiece!! Dressings are her forte.

Then, the salad is from my friend Patty. She made this salad for a BBQ last 4th of July and everyone there asked her for the recipe – another salad that has unusual ingredients – but trust me – Mary’s dressing + Patty’s salad!! We had people from the ages of 1 to 60 at this BBQ – and that was the first thing gone. Thanks girls!!

Red Beets (and yellow if you can find them)
Romaine or bibb lettuce
Crumbled Gorgonzola cheese

Mary’s Vinaigrette
1/3 c EVOO
1/3 c vinegar (you can use lemon juice, white vinegar, red wine vinegar, balsalmic vinegar - for this recipe she used white)
1 chunk shallot finely chopped
Salt pepper
1 T mustard
Equal parts EVOO and vinegar. Combine all (immersion blender would be heaven) but for me – I’ve gotta use a regular blender.

Peel the beets, salt, pepper to taste and drizzle with EVOO. Wrap them in double aluminum foil and place on the grill *or in the oven to cook. Meanwhile, wash and chop your lettuce and prepare the vinaigrette. When the beets are done cut them into slices, set them on top of the lettuce. Top the beets with the Gorgonzola. Salivating right now…

*I talked to Patty and she said that she either does the beets in the oven at 400 degrees for an hour - or on the grill for 45 min - 1 hour if they are BBQing.

Chili's Caribbean Salad

I used to frequent Chili's restaraunt a couple of times a month. Every single time I went there - I had the Caribbean Salad - with Honey Lime dressing - yummmm. The last time I went - they had taken it off the menu! How dare they!! I have had to resort to making my own version. I searched online to find a copycat dressing recipe. None of them were 'perfect.' So, I have come up with my own - a combination of sorts from 4 different 'copycat' recipes - and I am telling you - THIS IS THE ONE BABY! To all my sisters and my Mom - you have to make this - it is exactly the salad we have eaten so many times at the restaurant!! If you've never tried it, it sounds like an unusual combo of flavors - but it is sooooo good (did I say that already?)
1/4 c Grey Poupon mustard (the smooth kind)
1/4 c Honey
1 c Mayonnaise
1 T Sesame seed oil
1 1/2 T apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 t lime juice
1 1/2 T sugar

Blend all together, cover and chill. I make this a little ahead so the flavors have time to mesh. I usually double the recipe - it keeps for about a month.

Lettuce (I use romain)
Black beans
Tortilla chips
Mandarin oranges
Pineapple chunks
Your favorite teriyaki sauce (mine is Yoshidas)
pico de gallo (or like tonight - I just used fresh salsa and drained the juice out of it)
and I add cucumber

Marinate the chicken in Teriyaki sauce for atleast 2 hours - grill and cube. Add all other components - and try not to drool before you take your first bite.

This is the best way to get your kids to eat salad! They have so many choices - they can make the salad to their liking! My 6 year old had chicken, corn, mandarine oranges and cucumber. My 4 year old had that plus pineapple and lettuce. Lil Boo (16 mo.) added black beans and corn. Of course -hubs and I had the works!! *I put all the ingredients in the fridge (except the chicken) a couple of hours ahead of time - so everything is nice and cold and crisp!

Chicken Roll-ups

Ok, this is my "go to" recipe if I'm in a pinch because usually I have this stuff on hands. Sorry again about no exact measurements. Blame my mom... she taught me to cook! Super easy though even without them.

1-2 BIG chicken breasts (BOILED and diced little. Sometimes I cheat and just buy a whole chicken at Sam's, use what I think is necessary and save the rest for enchilada's or something else.) Or I boil 4-5 chicken tenders.

8 oz. Cream Cheese brick
Bread crumbs (use store bought or if I have them I break up croutons which is my favorite way to do these)
1/2 can olives (more if you love olives)- diced
Green onions- diced tiny
Crescent rolls refridgerated- This makes as much as 4 packages of crescent rolls or as little as 2. It depends on the size you want them. I usually stuff mine pretty full so I get about 2 packages out of them.
2 TBSP of butter or margarine

To Prepare:
Boil Chicken and dice. (I like mine very fine, so I use my food processer to almost mince the chicken.
Once chicken is diced, put it in a bowl and combine it with 8 oz. of cream cheese (use hand mixer). Add diced onions, black olives and mix.
Open the crescent rolls and spoon in to each triangle a spoonful and fold and roll.
After all the crescent rolls are filled melt butter in microwave completely. Roll the crescent rolls in the butter then put in the bread crumbs and cover completely. Once they are all covered in butter and bread crumbs, BAKE AT 350 for 12-20 minutes. They should be golden brown and the bread crumbs should be crispy but not dark.

Sauce to put over it= Yummy and EASY!
1 can of cream of chicken soup
Put in a sauce pan on the stove on medium. Put in cream of chicken and add milk while stirring until desired thickness until heated through.

~Again, I never measure but I just stir in milk until the gravy to put on top looks milky and smooth but NOT runny. I hope you all enjoy! I know I can be a little confusing so if you have questions I will try to answer.

*Also, this recipe is VERY easy to tweak and make your own. I gave it to one friend who added bacon. I tried it and didn't love it, but you see what I mean, do your own thing. It is also very easy to make for a large group. Just add more chicken and more cream cheese and crescent rolls and it is super easy to make for more people. Plus it is also a GREAT leftover food. We actually like it for left overs almost as much as for dinner.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Pizza Night

We do pizza night once a week – usually on Friday, but I won’t be here Friday – I am going to play Pokeno (??) with friends – so we did it tonight. Our kids LOVE it! They get to make their own pizza’s – complete with pepperoni smiley faces. The picture is the one my 6 year old boy made (all by himself!)

I got this dough recipe from my friend Jackie S. I know Krystal has a good dough recipe too – but I can’t find it!! Krystal – post your dough recipe!!

1 ½ c warm water
1 T yeast
Mix together, let bubble – about 5 minutes
1 t salt
1 T sugar
3 cups flour

Mix, knead until it looks good, let it rest 10 minutes while you get everything else out. Sprinkle cornmeal on the pan. Use EVOO to pat it out to your desired shape and size. Decorate, cook at 425° for 12 – 15 minutes. This recipe makes about 2 ‘medium’ pizzas.

*It’s fun to mix it up by putting fresh herbs in the crust – or like tonight, I used rosemary infused olive oil. Also, if I don’t have homemade marinara on hand, I just use canned. Right now, Albertsons is selling Hunts 26 oz. cans of their spaghetti sauce 10 for $10!! I’m stocking up!!

My cheats

“The Costco Gourmet” Cheats
I buy a huge jar of sun dried tomatoes ($10). I puree the tomatoes, put them in several little tupperwares, and freeze them – they add so much flavor - and are very versatile!!
Kirkland Pesto $8 so delicious – so fresh tasting - a 'luxury item' without the work or the price.
Feta – you can get 24 oz. for $6 – and Feta keeps for a couple of months.
Blue Cheese – same deal as above.

This cheat is all about fresh herbs. I planted a garden for the first time this year. Buying fresh herbs in the grocery store can be expensive – and if you don’t use them quickly, they go bad. But - they add such an amazing flavor!!
I spent approx. $50 on plants for my garden – probably $20 of that was on herbs. I have fresh basil, dill, chives, parsley, oregano and rosemary out back. The coolest thing about these herbs – is that you can start using them after about the first week (unlike tomatoes, which take a couple of months) it’s the perfect time to plant right now!! And, how Barefoot Contessa of me to walk into my ‘garden’ to clip fresh herbs!

This picture is of herbs I planted 3 weeks ago – they’ve tripled in size - and believe me - I've never planted a thing in my life - I honestly didn't think they'd survive - so it's fool proof!!


The other night, I was doing my ‘restocking’ of the fridge – when my friend Courtney stopped by. She asked if I was starting a catering business! I laughed and she said ‘well, if not, what the heck are you doing?’

I am fairly sure most people have their own method of ‘restocking’ but she didn’t and joked – ‘why do you keep these secrets from me?’ haha. She asked me to post my routine – and I want to know what your routine is – or how you deal with all the munch mouths of your life?

I make 3 or 4 batches of pasta (all kinds and sizes) after I drain them, I add butter to keep the noodles soft.
Dice: tomatoes, onions, ham, chicken, cheese
Put in little snack sized baggies: carrots, cucumbers, cheese, (also pretzels, cereal, popcorn, etc. but those don’t go in the fridge! haha)
Make salad dressings: Tomatillo ranch, regular ranch and honey lime
Make sauces (for the pasta): marinara, alfredo, cheese (Velveeta, milk, pepper),

Put them all in clear Tupperware containers – and into the fridge they go!

It has completely simplified my life! Meals and snacks are all ready to be assembled fast. It has also helped me make better meals and snacks – because the tedious work is already done!

*I don’t have a certain day of the week – just when things are looking a bit low – probably 2 or 3 times a month.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Texas Caviar

Every time I make this, someone asks for the recipe.

Texas Caviar
1 can black eyed peas *I have even used black beans in a pinch
1 can corn
1 bunch cilantro
1 bunch green onion, chopped
2 diced tomatoes (or 1 can of 'diced tomatoes)
1 package Zesty Italian Dressing
Lime juice - just a bit so the avocados keep their color
Salt and Pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients and refrigerate for at least an hour. Serve with tortilla chips!

*Make this a completely NON FAT dip by excluding the Avocados - but remember - avocados have the 'good' fat in them!

German Pancakes

My husband makes this all the time – he must’ve gotten the recipe from his Mom. Two of my sisters even make this for a quick fix dinner!

German Pancakes
6 eggs
1 c milk
1 c flour
½ t salt
5 T butter
Beat eggs until they reach a smooth golden color. Then add all other ingredients. Melt butter in a 9x13” casserole. Add mixture in center of melted butter. Bake 15 to 20 minutes at 450°. They are done when the pancake is up the sides of the dish.

Lobster Grilled Cheese

I saw this recipe while watching Oprah a long time ago – it was the episode where Gayle King went on a search for the best sandwich in America – and this one IS good!

Lobster Grilled Cheese
2 slices of thickly sliced country white bread
4 oz chunked fresh lobster meat
2 sliced Havarti cheese
Unsalted butter to butter both sides of the bread slices
Toast the sandwich on the buttered side until golden brown on both sides. Place in a 400° oven for a few minutes until the cheese melts.

Quick Burritos

This one is from my hubs brain. Very simple – but good!

Quick Burritos
1 can refried beans
1 lb ground beef
½ onion, diced
1 small can diced chilis
Shredded cheddar cheese
Brown ground beef in pan. Add onions and chilis and cook until onions are soft. Separately, cook refried beans. Grab a warm tortilla, scoop a spoonful of refried beans, top with shredded cheese and a scoop of ground beef mixture. Wrap and serve with sour cream, salsa, tomatoes and avocado.
*I also cook ground beef and onions x 3 then keep in the fridge for multiple uses. It takes the same amount of time – but you get meat for 2 or 3 more meals! (i.e. the Queso below!)

Chili Con Queso Dip

Best cheesy, meaty, delicious dip ever! I make this during football season - so yummy!
Chili Con Queso Dip
1 lb ground beef
1 c onion, diced
14 oz. green chilis
2 small cans tomato sauce
2 lb Velveeta, diced
2 T Worcestershire sauce
2 cans kidney beans
2 cans black beans

Cook beef, onion, green pepper and chilis until moisture is cooked out. Add tomato sauce, Velveeta, W sauce until Velveeta is melted. Simmer for 30 minutes stirring constantly. Remove from head add cayenne. Serve with tortilla chips.

*For a big game, I brown the beef and cook the onions until soft - then add the meat mixture to all the other ingredients in my crock pot - so it stays nice and warm and gooey all game long:)

Artichoke Dip

I got this recipe from my Mother In Law – I know there are several versions of this dip – but I like this one the best…

Artichoke Dip
2 c mayonnaise
2 c shredded parmesan
2 cans artichoke hearts, chopped
7 oz can hot green chilis
7 oz can mild green chilis
10 oz can jalapenos, diced
Bake in a 9x13” pan at 450° for 20 – 30 minutes or until the top is bubbly.

*sometimes, I add panko bread crumbs (in butter) on the top for the last 10 minutes.

Savvy Shopper/Groceries

I posted this on my 'family' blog - but since it has to do with food - I thought I'd pass this info along!!

I always get excited about a good deal. Who doesn't? Imagine going to the grocery store, spending $150 on groceries and saving OVER ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS! On groceries I normally buy for my family. Without using a single coupon!! The cashier normally circles my savings at the bottom of my recipt and tells me how much I save. This trip, when she looked at the amount of money I saved - she looked shocked and said "Wow! You are such a great shopper!" I was absolutely beaming with excitement and pride!
My sister told me about this great way to save money on your groceries. I have always been a bargain shopper, but have avoided coupons. I don't have time to sit down, cut out coupons, make my grocery list... then the whole 'check out' hassle. While you pull out a big stack of coupons, everyone moans and groans and the cashier gives you the stink eye - all the while my 3 kids are going bonkers because I've spent so much time in the grocery store trying to match the fine print on the coupon to the right product. So - I have always avoided that route.This website has changed my life. There is no 'membership' fee - the site is completely free. I did create a login and password though, so I could save my grocery lists. But, you don't even have to sign up if you don't want to and you can still have access to the site.
Honestly - one of the greatest tools I have EVER found as far as making my life easier. The site is don't be deterred by the 'home' page. They suggest you watch a few video's about the site and about their theory on saving money. I skipped right over all of that and decided that if I couldn't figure things out quickly, that it wasn't worth my time. My first visit, just to navigate my way around the site took about 20 minutes. Since then, I am comfortable with the site and have matched what is available with my needs. Since my second visit, it takes me about 15 minutes to make my grocery list. The best thing is that you DON'T HAVE TO USE COUPONS!
I'll tell you the system I've ended up with now - just for you to get an idea of how easy it is. From the HOME page, click on the tab SHOPPING WIZARD at the top of this page are several search critiera drop down lists. I select my STORE - Smiths. The computer generates a list of everything that is currently on sale at that store. Some stores have 'fresh value cards' that you have to use in order to receive the discount - but I have done 'fresh values' forever anyway. The site categorizes down to letting you select products that are 50% off or more - you can completey customize your list. You can also search for specific product on sale at all area grocery stores. FUGETABOWTIT!
You also have the option to print out coupons for more savings if you want to. So, I have committed myself to stricktly 'savvy shop.' Since I have a big walk in pantry and a second fridge, I stock up on things that are smokin' deals. After a few grocery trips, I'll have a huge selection of food - and have saved all that money!!!
I can't believe I ever shopped differently! Just to give you a couple of examples: right now Smith's has pork ribs (huge slabs) that normally sell for $17 - $20 per pack. They are on sell right now for $5 per pack!! So, I bought 4 packs for my freezer. They are also selling chicken that normally sells for $4.88 per lb sale price $1.88 per lb. I bought 4 'family packs' of chicken for just over the normal price for 1!!! Also Kelloggs cereal - normally $4 a box - on sale for $1.88 per box.
Also, since I was going off of a clear, printed list. It was one of the fastest grocery trips I've ever been on - and I had all 3 kids in tow. I was so proud of myself for saving so much money - and since I brought home a slew of ribs, my hubs was over the moon!!

Roasted Veggies

Let’s talk about roasted veggies. I love them – my kids, not so much. BUT, this recipe is requested in my house all the time. The kids get so excited when they see squash in the fridge. They love the sweet flavor…

Smith’s sells butternut squash in ‘halves’ very easy to work with – Costco also sells butternut squash already peeled and cubed.

Roasted Butternut Squash
2 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into bit sized pieces
4 t butter
4 t brown sugar
Kosher Salt
Fresh cracked black pepper

Preheat oven to 400°. Place butternut squash on a large baking sheet. Melt butter and mix with brown sugar. Drizzle that mixture over each squash. Season with salt and pepper – roast for 40 minutes, until fork tender.

To make this next recipe super simple – I use baby carrots – that way you avoid all the peeling and cutting you’d have to do with ‘big’ carrots. Another staple:

Roasted Carrots
3 T good EVOO
Kosher Salt
Fresh cracked black pepper

Preheat oven to 400° - lay carrots on baking sheet. Drizzle with EVOO and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 20 minutes.

I have also done this with Brussels Sprouts – so good!

*I got all these recipes from the ‘Barefoot Contessa Cookbook’ circa 1999.

A friend asked me a couple of years ago about my obsession with Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper. These are seriously a must for everybody! You can find Kosher salt at every grocery store – and it costs the same as table salt. As for the pepper – I don’t even own a pepper mill. Costco sells “Kirkland” brand ‘Tellicherry Black Pepper Grinder’ in their spice aisle for about $4 – it’s just a plastic spice jar with a grinder built right in. It’ll last you a year (or more). Neither of these are expensive – but the difference you taste is amazing!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Bacon Wrapped Pork Tenderloin

With the last post being said, yesterday was Mother's Day. I have had sick kids all week so I hadn't been to the store and my husband felt obligated to cook dinner since it was Mother's Day. We had very little on hand, other than a Pork Tenderloin. We wanted to try a different recipe and he came across this one. It was very easy as well and very good. In fact, we like it better than the one I just posted. I'm actually looking forward to left-overs tonight!

Bacon Wrapped Pork Tenderloin

1 Pork Tenderloin cleaned and trimmed
3 slices of bacon (we used enough to cover the entire tenderloin)
1 Tbs. garlic powder
1 tsp. Lawrys seasoned salt
1 tsp. dried crumbled basil leaf
1 tsp. dried crumbled oregano leaf
1 tsp. black pepper
Olive oil

Combine garlic powder, seasoned salt, basil, oregano, and black pepper; rub seasoning all over the pork tenderloin. Wrap pork with bacon and secure with toothpicks. Take your olive oil and coat well. Place in a 9 x 13 pan and bake uncovered in a 375 to 400 degree oven for 45 to 60 minutes, or until pork reaches about 155 degrees. Make sure the bacon is really done. Remove and wrap in foil. Let stand for 10 minutes before slicing.

Spice Coated Pork Tenderloin

My husband comes from a family of excellent cooks. There is nothing they don't know how to cook, and they cook it well. I've always been intimidated to cook meat. One, I don't know how to do it very well, and two, it's hard to impress my husband. My father-in-law is great at cooking meat. When we lived in Ohio a friend gave me a recipe for Pork Tenderloin, it is very easy (fool proof), and even impressed my father-in-law when I made it for him on one of their visits.\

Spice-coated Pork Tenderloin

2 Tbs. chili powder
2 Tbs. packed dark brown sugar
1 1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 (3/4 lb.) pork tenderloin
1 1/2 Tbs. oil

Heat oven to 400 degrees. In a small bowl, stir together chili powder, brown sugar, salt, cumin and cinnamon. Sprinkle pork with spice mixture, pressing onto all sides.

Heat large skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add oil; heat until hot. Add pork and cook 3-5 minutes or until browned on all sides. Place on jellyroll pan and put into oven. Bake 12-15 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 145 degrees. Place on cutting board and cover loosely with foil. Let stand 5 minutes before slicing.

* I buy my tenderloin at Sams Club. Two tenderloins come packages together, so I cook two like the recipe calls for and then freeze the other. If you buy at Sams Club, you get two packages, which is 4 tenderloins. My friend who gave me the recipe just always watched for her tenderloin to go on sale at her favorite grocery store.

Italian Bread

All my kids love to cook with me - and bread is their favorite - sticking their little hands in the soft flour... and eating the rewards when they are done!

I used to avoid any homemade bread recipe – because I don’t have a bread maker – or a KitchenAid. BUT – I have found great recipes where a good wooden spoon – a big bowl – and my 2 little hands do the trick! You have no excuse!! I mentioned my “Italian bread” recipe when I made my lasagna last week and Krystal asked me to post my cinnamon roll recipe. My hubs boss (which is coincidentally her father in law) was in town last week. He stopped by the house a few hours after I’d made these cinnamon rolls. Both my hubs and Krystal report that he said “they were the BEST he's EVER had” Woo Hoo!

I can’t take credit for these recipes though – I got both of them from one of my fav cook books “The Food Nanny Rescues Dinner” by Liz Edmunds. I have actually gotten almost ALL of my bread recipes out of this book. They are all easy and delicious. Without further ado…
This bread makes friends! Ha-ha. It makes 2 large loaves – so one for your family and one for a friend – or to freeze.
3 c warm water
¼ c butter, melted
1 ½ T yeast
7 – 9 cups flour, divided
2 T plus ½ t sugar, divided
1 T salt

In a small bowl combine the water, yeast and ½ t of the sugar. Stir just until the yeast is dissolved. Cover with a small plate of towel and let stand until the mixture is bubbly or foamy, about 5 minutes.
In a large mixing bowl, mix the salt, the remaining 2 T of sugar, butter, the yeast mixture and 3 ½ c of the flour. Keep adding flour, ½ c at a time, up to 3 ½ cups, for a total of 7 cups. The dough should be firm(ish) if the dough is still sticky, add more flour ¼ c at a time up to the remaining 2 cups.
Knead by hand on a lightly floured surface. Transfer the dough to a large, lightly greased bowl and turn it once to coat. Cover with a towel and let it rise until doubled in bulk about 20 – 40 minutes.
Punch down dough and divide in half. On a lightly greased pan, form each half into a thick baguette shape, about 10” long. With a sharp knife, make 3 angled ½” deep slashes on the top of each loaf. Let loaves rise until doubled again – about 20 to 40 minutes.
Preheat your oven to 350°. When the dough has doubled, bake for 30 minutes. For a crispier crust, spray water in the oven with a spray bottle just before baking and again a few times during baking.
Turn the loaves out onto a cooling rack – and enjoy!!

*To make rolls, pinch off about 1 ½” balls of dough for each roll and place side by side on a greased sheet pan. Let rise until doubled in bulk, 30 – 45 minutes. Bake at 350° until the rolls are lightly browned 10 – 13 minutes.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Potato Crust Quiche

Looking for a crowd pleaser ‘brunch style’ a couple years ago, I defaulted to my younger sister – who is a fabulous cook (hope she joins the blog!) and who always has the perfect recipe. This is a family fav. We’ve made it for tail gaiting, company, Easter brunch or today – for Mother’s Day brunch... Potato Crust Quiche
32 oz frozen hash browns
1 onion grated or diced (preference)
1 t salt
1 t pepper
2/3 c butter
8 eggs
2 c ham, bacon or sausage (preference)
2 c grated cheddar cheese
1 c milk

Mix hash browns and onion with salt and pepper. Melt butter and pour over mixture. Press into greased 9x13 casserole dish. Bake at 425° for 25 minutes. Beat eggs with milk until foamy. Add cheese and cooked meat. Stir well. Pour over potatoes and bake again at 400° for 25 minutes.

Happy munching on this Happy Mother’s Day!!

P.S. I made Krystal's Teriyaki Lime Chicken for our BBQ last night - it was delicious!!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Vietti Lasagna

When I met my hubs 13 years ago - I didn't know how to boil water - seriously. At that time, I didn't need to. We were young and crazy and ate out every night - it was only when I got pregnant with my oldest (now 6) that I realized I was missing very crucial cooking knowledge. I started to teach myself to cook and bake and experiment. This has given me a sort of food philosophy. Don't be afraid to experiment - it's how we learn. Cooking and baking are easier than you imagine it will be. AND make every dish your own - cater dinner to your own little family's tastes. Eliminate things you don't like and add things you do. We relate food to holidays, events, childhood memories, etc. Food feeds the soul...

I know, I really need a decent camera - and some serious 'food presentation' coaching - but I always think a picture helps and just look at those chunks of chicken...2 of my 3 kids are allergic to eggs. Because of this, I have had to use creativity and make little adjustments to my dinner choices. This lasagna came out of necessity. Most lasagna recipes consist of the same basic ingredients - and most use eggs as a binder. This recipe is straight out 'me noggin - and incorporates all of my family's tastes. I'll give you the 'original recipe' first - and then I'll tell you how today - for the first time, I 'tweaked' it.

Vietti Lasagna
12 oz ground Italian sausage
1 lg chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
Lasagna noodles (uncooked)
15 oz. container cottage cheese (you can also use the traditional Ricotta - but it's about 4x more expensive - and in a dish like this, you really can't taste the difference)
1/4 c grated Parmesan cheese
6 oz shredded mozzarella
1 7oz can diced tomatoes
1 8 oz can tomato sauce
1 6 oz can tomato paste
1 t dried basil
1 t dried oregano
1/4 t pepper

For sauce: cook meat, onion and garlic till meat is brown. Drain fat. Stir in undrained tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, basil, oregano and pepper. Bring to a boil then reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. For the filling, combine the cottage cheese and grated Parm. Spray your casserole(s) dish with Pam. Put a small amount of the sauce (no meat) on the bottom of the pan. Then layer the noodels, followed by half the cottage cheese mixture, then half the meat sauce and half the mozz. repeat layers x 2.
Bake for 30 - 35 miutes on 375.
This makes a hearty 9x13 casserole OR I make 2 8x8 casseroles. One to eat and one to freeze.

*Trade Secret: I don't cook the lasagna noodles - you don't have to. While the lasagna is cooking, the dry noodles soak up the liquid and cook while everything else is cooking. This helps with 2 factors - 1. your lasagna is never 'watery' and 2. you get a perfect cut - the noodles aren't overcooked, so your dinner is much more 'in tact.' And - you don't have to cook the noodles seperatley!

OK. So - tonights substitutions... my hubs is in town (which is rare) so I asked him what he'd like for dinner - without thinking he blurted YOUR LASAGNA. It's his fav. While looking for ingred. though, I realized - I was fresh out of sausage AND diced tomatoes (kinda important). BUT, I did have cottage cheese and chicken that needed to be used up in the next couple of days - and I had spaghetti sauce in my pantry. Voila - a twist. Chicken instead of sausage, and spaghetti sauce instead of the last 6 ingred listed - and my table was all silence as the 5 of us sat down and chomped us some good dinner.

I also made 'Italian Bread' tonight... stay tuned for the best, easiest loaf of bread you've ever made (good for beginners)...

Teriyaki Lime Chicken

Ok, so this one is one of our absolute favorites for grilling season! I don't have exact measurements, but I've never given them to anyone and no one has ever messed it up. I don't think that would be possible.

~Your favorite Teriyaki marinade
~One lime (you use the zest and/or the juice from the real lime)
~Lime juice (in those little plastic limes from the grocery store)***Optional, if you prefer you can use the juice from the real lime, but I prefer the lime juice concentrate because it adds a little more flavor, but I've done it both ways and they are both delicious.
~Bacon strips- Raw
~Toothpicks (Soak them in water for 10-20 minutes so they don't burn on the grill)

Put it together:
~Marinate your chicken in the teriyaki. Add as much or as little lime juice as you want. Then add the zest of the fresh lime (I usually only do about half of the lime and then cut up the rest for garnish for your water or drink).
~When your chicken is marinated, and you are ready to cook it, Wrap the raw bacon around the raw marinated chicken and insert WET toothpicks to hold the bacon into place. Then grill the chicken with bacon attached. YUMMY!
~I'm an all day marinator kind of girl, I love all the flavor but you can do it however you see fit.

I usually serve with rice or some type of potatoe, but this makes a great easy BBQ very festive and I've never met a person that doesn't LOVE this recipe.
~One final tip, I've found that hickory bacon adds a little more sweetness to the chicken too. I hope you all enjoy! Please comment often and Soon!!


P.S WE NEED MORE AUTHORS~ Leave a comment with who you are, who you know from our blog and your email address and we will add you!
Also, I'm no expert but if anyone has any questions about someone's recipe please leave the question and whoever submitted it will clarify.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Just getting started...

Hey ladies! It's no secret I'm not the most amazing chef in the world. I'm stuck in a rut like you wouldn't believe. I started this blog for a way to get some fresh, new ideas for the kitchen. (My hubby will thank me!) I hope that maybe some of you are in the same boat as me. Even if you are the greatest chef ever, we would still love your input. This is the start of our recipe rut ending! I went ahead and picked the name of the blog and the background and such. If you don't like it and you are one of the chosen authors, feel free to change it. Or if you have an idea, please leave a comment and we could post it on there as well. Please start sharing yummy, new fun recipe ideas as soon as you can. With summer coming especially, I'm always in the mood for something different, easy and scrumptious. On your mark, get set, start blogging! ~Krystal

*P.S. Just a couple of loose "Rules" for everybody.
1. Always include in your post what the recipe is intended for. (i.e appetizer, lunch, brunch, snack, entree, etc.)
2. Please include your name after you post just so we know whose kitchen we can thank.
3. Also if you are like me I get a lot of copies or imitations from other sources, please do share who or where the original recipe came from and if you put your own twist on it.

If you all can think of anything else to add or take away from our blog, please do so! Happy cooking everyone!


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