Friday, January 30, 2009

Skulls 'n Crossbones Bib

I found this fabric when my son was a few months old and had been saving it for a good project. It wasn't appropriate for my son when he was baby, but now that he is a rough and tumble little toddler, this seems much more his style.

So I decided to make a bib with the fabric. I traced an existing bib I had, and I put a layer of plastic on top so it was easy to wipe off and sewed away!

Now if you folks are going to ask for a tutorial, I'm going to have to plead the 5th...I don't follow sewing directions well...I kinda wing it, and because of that, my sewing skill level has never progressed past Basic Beginner. Whenever I show my sewing mavens, my mom and my mother in law, my projects I always preface it by saying "Don't look too closely at it!" Below is the finished product! I'm sure it won't last as long as the store bought ones do, but it was a lot cheaper (and much cuter!)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Oriental Cabbage Salad

I made this salad with a new recipe for Salmon Patties. The patties didn't make the cut, but I ate probably 3/4 of the whole bowl of this salad! My mom made this while I was growing up, but here is my variation of it!

Oriental Cabbage Salad
Makes 6 servings

1 3-ounce package ramen noodles chicken flavor
4 cups shredded cabbage (I put 1/2 cup of red cabbage in also. Because I always seem to have red cabbage!)
1/4 cup green onions sliced
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
3 tablespoons vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 cup slivered almonds

Bang on the ramen noodles in the package to break them up. In a large bowl, combine noodles, cabbage, green onions, and sesame seeds. For the dressing, in a screw top jar, combine the seasoning packet from the noodles, vinegar, sugar, oil, and pepper; shake to mix well. Pour over cabbage mixture and toss. Cover and chill several hours or overnight. Before serving, stir in the almonds.

Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking 

Parmesan Corn Chowder

I pulled this recipe out of my recipe archives while hunting for something new, but family approved. It had been at least 2 years since I had made this, and I wished I hadn't of waited so long! It was great chilly weather soup!

Parmesan Corn Chowder

2 cups water
2 cups diced, peeled potatoes
1/2 cup sliced carrots
1/2 cup celery chopped
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 cups milk
1 14 3/4-ounce can cream-style corn
1 15-ounce can corn
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

In a large saucepan, combine the first five ingredients; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 12-15 minutes or until vegetables are tender (do not drain).
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, melt butter. Stir in flour, salt and pepper until smooth; gradually stir in milk. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes for until thickened. Stir into the vegetable mixture. Add corn and Parmesan cheese. Cook 10 minutes longer or until heated through. Yield: 7 servings

Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking 

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Giving Reusable Gift Bags

I saw this on MomAdvice about giving gifts in reusable bags this past Christmas season. We have a 3-year-old's birthday party on Saturday and while we were buying a gift at ToysRUs, I saw a very cute reusable shopping bag and thought we would give it a try! The bag was only $1.50, which was the same (or less!) then buying a paper gift bag. I will let you all know how it was received!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Menu Plan Monday for Jan 26, 2009

Here is my first attempt at Menu Plan Monday, so here is our menu! We seem to be eating lots of meat this week, which is unusual, but also trying lots of new recipes! I'm on the hunt for recipes for next week for Beginner Tofu eaters, so if you have any, pass them on!

Menu Plan Monday

Monday: Red Beans and Rice (new recipe) Brown Rice, Zucchini

Tuesday: Salmon Patties (new recipe) Oriental Cabbage Salad

Wednesday: Grilled Pork Steaks, Vegall Casserole (new recipe)

Thursday: Homemade Pizza, Salad

Friday: Meatballs, Penne, Spaghetti Sauce, Salad

Lunch: Birthday Party
Dinner: Taco Pie, Refried Beans, Salad

Lunch: Grilled Cheese
Dinner: Parmesan Corn Chowder, Salad

For more Menu Plan Monday ideas, visit Organizing Junkie!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Crockpot Refried Beans

I love this recipe because it's so easy and makes enough to stash in the freezer for another night! I also love the smell of ANYTHING in the crockpot throughout the day! I made these beans during the day, then made Refried Bean Enchiladas for dinner, and split up the remaining beans into 14 oz bags for a later use.

Recipe: Crockpot Refried Beans


  • 1 onion roughly chopped
  • 3 cups dry pinto beans rinsed (approx 1 lb)
  • 1 jalapeño pepper seeded and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 chicken bouillon cubes or 2 tsp salt (or more/less to taste)
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 9 cups water


  1. Place the onion, rinsed beans, jalapeño, garlic, bouillon cubes or salt, pepper, and cumin into a slow cooker. Pour in the water and stir to combine. Cook on High for 8 hours, adding more water as needed. Note: if more than 1 cup of water has evaporated during cooking, then the temperature is too high.
  2. Once the beans have cooked, strain them, and reserve the liquid. Mash the beans with a potato masher, adding the reserved water as needed to attain desired consistency.

Cooking time (duration): 15
Diet type: Vegetarian
Meal type: dinner
My rating: 4 stars: ★★★★☆ 1 review(s)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Cloth Napkins

I have used cloth napkins for almost four years now. I decided one day I wanted to give it a try, and surprisingly, it's been an easy transition. I have bought one roll of paper towels in that time and I still have it up with my Hurricane Kit - unopened!

My favorite cloth napkins have come from the clearance racks at Target, although I have found some sets at Goodwill. Before my son was born, I would iron the napkins once a month or so, but I have found that the good quality napkins don't really need it - and really, life is too short. :) I've just moved the napkins that get all rolled up on the edges to the car wash towel bin, and hit the clearance rack at Target (like I need an excuse to do that!)

I just want to say: these are "everyday" cloth napkins, so there is no worries if they get too stained or if you have spaghetti or ribs one night! I do have a few nice sets of cloth napkins that come out for special occasions, but I don't want to subject them to the everyday wear and tear we can put on them. I still do one load of "kitchen laundry" a week so it hasn't created more work or used more water.

Now to prove I am not totally crazy, and that I realize there are time when you need paper napkins (like picnics, lunches to go, etc) , I keep paper napkins that we get from fast food or takeout and keep them in the bottom of the basket. I used to just toss them, but now I feel like I can use them purposefully and not throw away a bunch of trash!

So that's been one of my eco-friendly things that I do! Hope this inspires more people to seriously rethink their addiction to paper towels!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Chicken 'n' Spinach Pasta Bake

This was a nice change from our normal casserole rotation. My husband was the surprising supporter of this dish - I thought it was good, but nothing earth shattering. My son didn't eat it, and he usually devours pasta, but I'm sure it's because everything was mixed together, and that is a huge no-no in toddler world. I'll probably make this for my husband again someday, but maybe not for a few months. I love casseroles with cream cheese and it was nice this one didn't have some sort of canned green beans or peas in it.

I got this recipe out of the Southern Living 2007 Annual Recipes book from the library and shockingly I didn't vary (too much :) from the written recipe! Enjoy!

Recipe: Chicken 'n' Spinach Pasta Bake



  • 8 ounces uncooked rigatoni or your favorite pasta
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped onions about 1 medium
  • 1 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach thawed
  • 3 cups cubed cooked chicken breasts
  • 1 14.5 ounce can italian style cut tomatoes
  • 1 8-ounce container chive and onion cream cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese


  1. Prepare pasta according to package directions.
  2. Meanwhile, saute onion in olive oil in pan until translucent.
  3. Transfer onion to a large bowl and set aside.
  4. Drain chopped spinach well, pressing between layers of towel.
  5. Stir pasta, spinach, chicken and tomatoes, cream cheese and salt and pepper into onion in bowl.
  6. Spoon mixture into baking dish or 11 x 17 pan, and sprinkle evenly with shredded mozzarella cheese.
  7. Bake, covered at 375 degrees for 30 minutes uncover and bake 15 more minutes or until bubbly.
Number of servings (yield): 6
Meal type: dinner

Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Cheese Stuffed Meatloaves

I got this idea from a Publix Apron's recipe card, but I evolved the meatloaf recipe a little more to my liking. This was so easy and it had a great WOW factor. I think any recipe that has more cheese in it will go over well with my family!

Second of all, my garnishes of ketchup (or technical term: blobby's) are so horrible, I was so low on ketchup it was actually spraying. It tasted great, but looked a little amateurish - not like I'm serving the Iron Chef judges everynight, but it's the little things in my life. Enjoy!

Recipe: Cheese-Stuffed Meatloaves


  • 2 tablespoon ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon worcheshire sauce
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup diced onions
  • 1 1/4 lb lean ground turkey
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • 4 sticks string mozzarella cheese


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat baking sheet with cooking spray. Combine all ingredients in mixing bowl except string cheese. Mix well.
  2. Divide into four portions; shape around each string cheese, covering cheese completely. Seal tightly so hot cheese will stay inside; place on baking sheet. Top with additional squirts of ketchup. Bake 20-25 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees.
Number of servings (yield): 4
Meal type: dinner
Culinary tradition: USA (General)
My rating: 3 stars: ★★★☆☆ 1 review(s)

Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking

Monday, January 19, 2009

Buns, Rolls, Whathaveyou

Buns, RollsIt seems that people all have all different names for these glorious bread creations - hamburger buns or rolls, but whatever the name, I had been thinking about attempting buns for a few months now, but wasn't sold on it until I saw this post at momadvice. All the recipes that I have tried from her site have turned out great, so I knew Amy wouldn't steer me wrong.

I had made buns once with my mom when I was about 8 years old, and I remember forming lots of little mounds of dough and it being a long process. This was surprisingly easy with the help of my bread machine and I loved that the house smelled like fresh bread all day! Here are my dough balls before rising on my stone:

I made the hamburger bun size, and we ate them as Chicken Avocado Sandwiches, then had Egg, Cheese, and Turkey Bacon Breakfast sandwiches the next morning. The buns worked great for both!

Hot Dog/Hamburger Buns/Rolls

1 1/4 cups skim milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil or canola oil
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/4 teaspoons bread machine yeast

1. Place all ingredients in order recommended by your bread machine manufacturer.
2. When dough cycle is complete remove from machine and proceed.
3. Cut into a long log and cut into 12 pieces for hot dog buns or 9 pieces for large hamburger buns. Put on parchment-lined baking sheet so sides are almost touching or pizza stone.
4. Cover with cloth and rise for 45-60 minutes or until doubled.
5. Turn oven to 400°F and when you put the buns in the oven, reduce temperature immediately to 375° and bake hot dog buns 12-15 minutes and hamburger buns 12-17 minutes.

Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking 

Friday, January 16, 2009

Chicken Tortilla Soup

This recipe was my best "Pantry Raid" recipe that I've made in months. Ya know, when you don't have anything planned for dinner, you dig through the depths of your pantry, frig, and freezer and whip something up only using what's on hand. Sometimes it's a train wreck and eat a PB&J instead, but every now and then you find a pearl of a recipe. My husband was shockingly surprised, ate 2 bowls, and literally scrapped the bottom of the pot trying to get the last bits! Also, this recipe is FAST - 5 minute cook time! Here is the original recipe from, but below is the super fast shortcut variation that I prepared.

Recipe: Chicken Tortilla Soup


  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 (15 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cooked boneless chicken breast, shredded
  • 1/2 cup salsa
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro Wedges of lemon for each bowl of soup Corn tortilla chips


  1. Add the broth, cumin, chili powder and oregano to a pot.
  2. Raise heat to high and bring to a boil.
  3. Add the beans, chicken and salsa.
  4. Reduce heat to low, stir and simmer for about 2 minutes.
  5. Add the cilantro, ladle into individual bowls, squeeze one wedge of lemon for each bowl, and top with chips.
Number of servings (yield): 6
Meal type: dinner
Culinary tradition: Mexican
My rating: 4 stars: ★★★★☆ 1 review(s)

Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Banana Oatmeal Bread

This idea came from my friend and boss Kim. Replace 1 cup of flour in your favorite Banana Bread with 1 cup of oatmeal, and wow what a little change makes! This is my go-to Banana Bread recipe with the substitution of oatmeal, but it created bread that was moist, dense and very chewy - it was a great change! I am excited to try this little swap with muffins and see what happens!

Banana Oatmeal Bread

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 eggs
3 ripe bananas mashed
1 tablespoon sour milk
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup flour
1 cup oatmeal

Cream butter, add sugar, eggs, bananas, and sour milk. Sift soda and flour together and add to first mixture. Add oatmeal. Bake at 350º for 30-45 minutes in a 2 greased loaf pans.

Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking 

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Cake in a Cup - Retro Birthday Cake!

As a Christmas present, my mom passed along all of her cookie cutters and cake decorating tools to me. I had a great time going through everything and found some neat clippings from magazines from the '70s and '80s. I found this clipping from the ice cream cone box, which my mom used for one of my very early birthdays! You can click on the photo to enlarge it.

It just goes to show you that moms for decades have been clipping and saving ideas for their kids and their birthday parties!

Monday, January 12, 2009

BBQ Potatoes

No I haven't fallen off the face of the earth, but I have been horribly sick (still) but thank god for grandparents! My in-laws have been in town visiting and they have been a huge help with my son and life in general!

But the good news is I tried lots of recipes and took lots of photos so more posts will be coming! Here is a side dish that works great to throw on the grill with whatever your main dish I know not many people are out grilling in snow drifts this time of year, so I love that it has oven directions, also.

BBQ Potatoes
Serves: 4

2 tablespoons butter melted
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 pounds medium-sized red potatoes quartered

To prepare in the oven:
Preheat oven to 400F. In large bowl, combine chili powder, honey, garlic powder, pepper and butter. Add potatoes, toss to coat. Spoon potatoes in greased 11x7-inch baking dish. Bake 40-50 minutes until potatoes are tender.

To prepare on the grill:
In large bowl, combine chili powder, honey, garlic powder, pepper and butter. Add potatoes, toss to coat. Wrap & seal in foil & place on grill for about 30 minutes until tender.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Chewy Granola Bars

 I have been making these Granola Bars from Mom Advice for a few months and have fallen in love with them. My husband brings these to work with his lunches and my kiddos and I eat them for snacks.

I prefer to wrap them up individually or put them in the small snack bags so they are very easy to grab on the go.  If I'm being lazy, I layer them in a container between waxed paper. These get stored in the frig in our house, but if you don't live in a semi-tropical region like myself, you might be able to get away with storing them in a pantry without the chocolate always being a.l.m.o.s.t. melted.

Don't be afraid to mix up the ingredients in these! I've swapped out a cup or so of the oatmeal with rice krispies or puffed rice cereal, and swapped out raisins for the chocolate. I've also replaced a portion of chocolate chips with shredded coconut for something different.

Chewy Granola Bars
recipe adapted from MomAdvice
20 servings

4 1/2 cups oats (old fashioned or quick oats)
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted
2/3 cup honey or light corn syrup (corn syrup seems to work a little better)
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup chocolate chips (mini works best, but regular size work, too!)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly grease on 9 x 13 pan. In a large mixing bowl, mix together all of the ingredients (minus the chocolate chips). Stir in chocolate chips and evenly distribute them through the mixture.

Press into pan (a potato masher works great - this compaction keeps the finished "bars" from crumbling)

and bake for 18-22 minutes. Let cool for at least ten minutes or until almost room temperature. Flip out onto a large cutting board and then cut into 20 bars.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Sweet Potato Pudding

This recipe came from my husband's aunt Jill, whose three boys (when they were babies) loved the bottled Sweet Potato Pudding baby food. Being the crafty cook she is, she found a recipe that that most closely resembled it. Now the boys are growing into really cool teenagers, but the recipe is still a family favorite. I made this as a side to our Christmas Eve dinner, and my son loved it!

Sweet Potato Pudding
from "Almost Vegetarian" by Diana Shaw

1/4 cup dry nonfat milk pwder
1 cup skim milk
1 large egg
1 large egg white
1 pound sweet potatoes, baked and mashed, about 1 1/2 cups sweet potato puree
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon molasses
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Heat the oven to 370 degrees. Lightly grease or coat with nonstick spray a 3 - 4 cup baking dish (a small dish is perfect for this).
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the nonfat milk powder and skim milk. In a separate bowl lightly beat together the egg and egg white and add them to the milk. Beat in the sweet potatoes, brown sugar, molasses, ginger, and cinnamon until smooth.
Pour into the baking dish. Bake until firm and springy when you press it with your finger, about 1 hour. Serve hot, cold or room temperature topped with vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt.

Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking

Saturday, January 3, 2009

DIY Grocery Bag Organizer

I finally kicked the fever-induced fog and returned the house to a non-sick-emergency state. My husband has been a huge trooper through all my whining! So now back to blogging!!!

Since January is the kickoff month to getting organized, I thought I'd share my own take on organizing all those grocery bags that come into our homes. I bring my own reusable bags to the store, but once a month, I get groceries with the plastic bags for use in our home for garbage bags. To keep them all in one place and to add a little "color" to my life, I use clean empty disinfectant wipe containers and give them a make-over! Here are the bottles with the labels removed:

Then I wrapped them in scrapbook paper, (I may hate to scrapbook, but I love love love scrapbook paper!) and stuffed in the grocery bags:

The things I love about these:
  1. It gives my all sorts of the "Save the Earth" goosebumps! Reusing the bags and reusing the wipe container - double whammy!
  2. The bags are no longer stuffed into another plastic bag, then stuffed into the cabinet, then the pile always seems to grow until I open the cabinet and out fall 40 gagillion bags. Imagine: timber!
  3. I can take one of these containers, throw it in the car in the morning of one of our roadtrips (or any regular Saturday expedition) and we have lots of empty bags for whatever kid emergency pops up throughout our adventures.
Happy organizing! (and January too!)