Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Almond Chicken & Rice Casserole

Do casseroles ever photograph well? I'm thinking no.....well maybe Better Homes and Gardens can take a good photo of a casserole. They also have a lot more people standing behind the camera, including a food stylist, which didn't come standard with my kitchen. :) But onto the recipe!

I thought this was going to be another typical Chicken & Rice casserole that would be good, but ho-hum. But this casserole's secret weapon was the almonds on top that got a little toasted. My husband got home late and even the reheated version at 8 pm was good.

Here is the recipe at in its original format. I made 2 8x8 pans and froze one casserole for another time.

Almond Chicken & Rice Casserole

1 (10.5 ounce) can condensed cream of chicken soup
4 cups cooked diced chicken
1 8 oz can water chestnuts, drained and chopped (optional)
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 cup mayonnaise
2 cups chopped celery
1 small onion, chopped
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups cooked rice
1/2 cup butter
1 1/2 cups crushed buttery round crackers or bread crumbs
1 cup sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, stir together cream of chicken soup, chicken, chestnuts, lemon juice, and mayonnaise. Saute celery and onion in a pan to soften. Stir celery, onion, salt, and rice into the large bowl. Combine well, then pour into a casserole dish.
Melt butter and combine with crushed crackers or bread crumbs and stir to coat with butter. Pour crackers over the top of casserole. Then sprinkle almonds over the top. Bake in preheated oven until bubbly and the almonds are lightly toasted, about 30 minutes.

Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking 

Monday, April 27, 2009

Homemade Cheese Crackers

Yes, I know you can buy crackers at the store. This falls into "I've just got to make it myself once, and I'll be OK paying full price at the store" Other foods that I have made myself that I am on the fence about buying vs. making:
  • pizza crust
  • bread, buns, rolls
  • refried beans (as my sister-in-law says "Ya know, they sell those in a can!")
  • cooking dried beans
  • chicken broth
  • granola bars
  • spaghetti sauce
I think that there is always the dilemma between being frugal and being convenient. Lucky for me, I have the choice to buy these things, others who are watching their budgets tightly choose to spend their money in other places and make these things themselves.

I've seen so many recipes for crackers floating around the blog world, I thought I'd give it a try. I made these as an afternoon snack when I didn't want to leave the house, and it was a quick little project!

I originally saw these at Kimberly's Cup, and she has such a great tutorial that it looked easy. I wanted to move the recipe over to my blog, but she has it written so well with photos, go check out her site!

The verdict?
The crackers need to be really thin to work great. These tasted just like Cheez-its, and I think if I could have made them thinner, they would have been perfect. These would also be fun to cut out with cookie cutters into shapes, and really blow people's socks off at a shower or get-together!

Here is the mixture spread out on my cookie sheet:

I went old-school with my full size rolling pin, but one of these rolling pins from Pampered Chef would have been ideal to get it even. I'm still hoping to find something like this at a thrift store instead of having to pay *gasp* full price, but I'm still looking!

And here is the cookie sheet after it came out of the oven. See the crunchy brown bits? Those were the best crackers of the lot! Aren't Kimberly's fluted edges super cute? But, mine were yummy and my son and I ate ALOT of them!

Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking 

Friday, April 24, 2009

Bobby's Goulash

I know, I know. I like goulash. It's not fancy, but I love it anyway. I saw this at Mommy's Kitchen and was inspired to give goulash a new take.

The verdict?
I made a half recipe, and it was plenty for dinner and leftovers. I think the next time I make it, I would reduce the Italian Seasoning, just a personal preference. The resting time really thickened up the dish, and was a good idea I'm going to try on my usual Goulash recipe.

I am also sharing this recipe at The Grocery Cart Challenge Recipe Swap - take a look over there to find new recipes! I am also sharing this at I Thank My Mother: Food Network Chef's Cooking Challenge!

Bobby’s Goulash

Recipe Courtesy of Paula Deen Online

2 lb lean ground beef
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 large onion, chopped
1 tablespoon Paula Deen’s House Seasoning
3 tablespoon soy sauce
3 bay leaves
2 tablespoon Italian seasoning
2 (15-ounce) cans diced tomatoes
2 (15-ounce) cans tomato sauce
3 cups water
1 tablespoon Paula Deen’s Seasoned Salt
2 cups elbow macaroni, uncooked

In a Dutch oven, saute the ground beef over medium-high heat until no pink remains. Break up the meat while sauteing. Spoon off any grease. Add the onions and garlic to the pot and saute until they are tender, about 5 minutes. Add 3 cups water, along with the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, Italian seasoning, bay leaves, soy sauce, House Seasoning, and seasoned salt. Stir well. Place a lid on the pot and allow this to cook for 15 to 20 minutes. Add the elbow macaroni, stir well, return the lid to the pot, and simmer for about 30 minutes. Turn off the heat, remove the bay leaves, and allow the mixture to sit about 30 minutes more before serving. Serve with garlic bread and a salad.

Paula's House Seasoning:
1 cup salt
1/4 cup black pepper
1/4 cup garlic powder
Mix ingredients together and store in an airtight container for up to 6 months.


Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Okra and Tomatoes Side Dish

I only know 3 ways to make okra: Fried Okra, (which I very rarely make), Gumbo with Okra in it, and this recipe. My husband is not a huge fan of okra, so the stretches between the times I serve the dishes are pretty long. But, this recipe is always good, and even if he doesn't rave, he still eats it! Here is the original recipe at

Okra and Tomatoes

2 tablespoons bacon grease
1 pound frozen okra, thawed and sliced (or fresh)
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
2 celery, chopped
1 (14.5 ounce) can stewed or diced tomatoes, drained
salt and pepper to taste
Creole Seasoning to taste (I like Tony Chachere's)

Melt bacon grease in a pan and saute okra, onion, pepper and celery until tender. Add tomatoes, salt and pepper and cook until well blended.

Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking 

Monday, April 20, 2009

Crockpot Cranberry Chicken

I saw this Crockpot Cranberry Chicken recipe and while it is almost identical to a recipe I have for chicken in the oven, I was drawn to it because if there is an easier way to cook something in the crockpot, I'm all for it! Here is the original recipe at Frugal Girls.

Crockpot Cranberry Chicken

I used boneless skinless thighs, although I normally use chicken breasts.

Place defrosted chicken in crockpot, cover and cook on high for 3 hours. After 3 hours, drain juices from crockpot. Mix together in medium sized bowl:
1 can whole berry cranberries
1 small bottle (approx. 8 oz) Catalina or Russian salad dressing
1 package dry onion soup mix

Place mixture over chicken, cover and cook on High for 30 - 45 more minutes. Remove from crockpot and serve with yummy sides of your choice.

Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking 

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Hot Ham and Cheese Sandwiches

These sandwiches were really good - a basic Hot Ham & Cheese with a bit of a kick!

Here is the recipe at, although my Aunt Joan has a similar recipe in our family cookbook with just mustard, butter & poppy seeds. She served it at her wedding in 1974. How neat is that?

This recipe is now included in my Creatively Domestic's Freezer Meals ebook for sale on Amazon. To view this recipe and many others, please visit (and buy if you're interested) from that site.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Barbecued Salmon

This was.......freakin' fantastic. This is hands down the best new recipe we've tried in MONTHS! I don't get too excited about eating fish, so I haven't ventured too far into trying new recipes. But holy buckets, was this good. We raved and raved...well, kinda like I'm doing now!

Here is the original recipe from Recipe Girl, and below is my rendition in the oven.

Barbecued Salmon
Servings: 4
1 Tbs honey
1 Tbs butter
1 Tbs brown sugar
2 Tbs soy sauce
3 Tbs dijon mustard
1 Tbs olive oil
1 tsp fresh garlic, minced
24 oz salmon fillets (4 fillets)

In small saucepan over medium heat, stir butter with honey and sugar until butter melts. Remove from heat. Add soy sauce, mustard, oil, and garlic; mix well and let cool.
Remove bones from fish. Rinse and pat fish dry with paper towels. Put fish into a greased pan. Spoon sauce over and marinate for one hour. Put the whole pan in the oven and bake for 30 mins at 350 degrees.

Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking

Monday, April 13, 2009

Banana Muffins

This is my mom's recipe for Banana Muffins, which she made while I was home visiting. Whenever she makes these, the dilemma of if you should add nuts aways comes out. Some people in our family like them either way, others prefer no nuts. I have made a full batch of batter, then added nuts to only half so everyone gets a few they like. I like top the ones with nuts inside with chopped nuts on top of the batter filled muffin cups so you can identify them easily.

Banana Muffins

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg slightly beaten
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup oil
3/4 cup mashed ripe bananas
1/2 cup chopped nuts (walnuts work great)

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add egg, milk and oil. Stir just until blended. Stir in bananas and nuts. Fill paper-lined muffin cups 2/3 full. Bake at 400ยบ for 20-25 minutes.

Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Copycat Casey's Taco Pizza

I love taco pizza. I especially love Casey's Taco Pizza. Yes, pizza from a gas station.

Ask any Midwestern, and they'll tell you all about Taco Pizza and various random pizza chains that carry it. Casey's, Pizza Ranch, Happy Joe's, and my college favorite Pizza Pit all have their own twist on it.

We can get a version of Taco Pizza at Hungry Howie's but that chain really isn't my favorite pizza place, so I tried making it at home. I'm Just Beachy has a great recipe, too.

The verdict?
Close, but not exactly authentic since I followed my family's personal preferences. We like thin crust, and I didn't add any Taco Meat, but this was a fun new pizza to add to the rotation. I will still be ordering a Taco Pizza from Casey's the next time I'm in the Midwest, because it's still better to not make it yourself!

Taco Pizza

Prepared pizza crust (I used homemade)
approx half a 14 oz can Refried beans
Salsa (approx 1/2 cup)
Taco seasoned ground beef (I didn't add)
Shredded mozarella
Shredded cheddar

Lettuce, chopped
Tomatoes, chopped
Taco Chips (lightly crushed)
Taco sauce for adding later

Preheat oven according to prepared crust directions. Since I used a homemade crust, I preheated to 500 degrees.

Spread your refried beans on the crust, then a thin layer of salsa on top of the beans. Add your taco meat if you are using. Sprinkle with the two kinds of cheese (I went a little light on the cheese, obviously load up if you like it cheesey)

Bake in the preheated oven until cheese is melted and bubbly. While the pizza is baking, chop up your tomatoes and lettuce. I used grape tomatoes cut into thirds because that's what I had.

When your pizza is done, remove and slice it. (I didn't do this the first time, when taking these pictures, but during the second round, I found it much easier to cut the pizza before adding the cold toppings.)

Top with shredded lettuce, tomatoes, and taco chips. Drizzle with Taco Sauce to your preference on your plate.

Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking

Friday, April 10, 2009

Pizza Supreme Casserole

This casserole has been in my extended family for almost 20 years, when it was brought by a neighbor to my Grandma's house after my Grandpa passed away. All the grandkids ate it, it was a hit, and many of my aunts served it at their house over the years.

The original recipe included ground beef as the filling and pepperonis on top of the cheese. Since we try to do a few meatless dishes a week at our house, I wanted to give this a try with copycat Pizza Hut Supreme Pizza toppings. OK, I know Supreme pizza has meat toppings on it, but the combination of green peppers, red onions, and mushrooms on a pizza always makes me think of it and wonder where the breadsticks are.

The verdict?
It was good, but my husband said "Well what's the pizza part?" Whoops. I guess without the pepperoni's, it's just a pasta dish. Next time I will put pepperonis on top (or change the name!!!), but leave out the ground beef, because we really didn't miss it!

Pizza Supreme Casserole
Makes 6 servings

1 7-ounce package spaghetti
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1 green pepper, diced into large chunks
1/2 large red onion, diced into large chunks
1 8 oz package mushrooms, halved or quartered
1/4 tsp garlic powder (could use fresh garlic)
1/4 tsp dried oregano (keep the jar out to sprinkle on top)
1 28-ounce jar spaghetti sauce
8 oz shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook and drain spaghetti noodles. Rinse in cold water, then place in the bottom of a greased 9 x 13 pan. Beat egg and combine with milk, pour over noodles.
Saute green pepper and onion in a pan to slightly soften them, them combine them with mushrooms, garlic powder and oregano. Layer veggies mixture over noodles.
Pour sauce over top, then spread cheese over that.

Sprinkle a bit of oregano over top of cheese. Bake covered for 45 minutes, then uncover and cook for 15 minutes more. Let rest 10-15 minutes before cutting into.

Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Saving those Coke points paid off!

I have been tirelessly saving Coke points for a long time. I'm ashamed to say how long. I got on a Coke fix when I was pregnant and allowed myself one soda a week, and Coke always tasted the best. Now, when I can finally drink as much hooch as I want, my scale and dentist told me to give them up. So I'm off the hooch. But, it looks like saving and scraping all those points actually paid off!

I cashed them in a month or so ago for a one-year subscription to Parents, and I received my first magazine in the mail yesterday. They also sent me last month's, too, so I feel like I got a bonus!

I had been checking the magazines out of the library, or getting them as hand-me-downs from my mother-in-law, so it feels good to get a brand spanking new one to break in and sniff all those perfume samples. Did you ever notice new magazine pages have a certain "crinkle" that tattered library magazines just don't have? I do! :)

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Banana Pancakes

It's been an interesting culinary experience around our house this week. After we've all been on vacation, and trying to get back into a schedule of meal planning, we've had some random nights of "I'm not in the mood to eat this!" And last night was one of those nights where the meal on the schedule didn't sound all. And since it was just me and my son for dinner, I thought why not make some good comfort food like pancakes, but with a twist. I found this Banana Pancake recipe on

When we sat down to eat, these tasted like pancakes with some banana in it. Shocking deduction, I know! But in a nice, subtle, yummy way. I only had the lone ripening banana that I threw in the batter or I would have jazzed up my photo of the stack of pancakes with some banana slices. But as a pantry raid recipe goes, this came up aces.

Banana Pancakes

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon white sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 ripe bananas, mashed (I used one big banana)

Combine flour, white sugar, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, mix together egg, milk, vegetable oil and bananas.
Stir flour mixture into banana mixture; batter will be slightly lumpy.
Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each pancake. Cook until pancakes are golden brown on both sides; serve hot. 

Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking 

Monday, April 6, 2009

Vegetable Deluxe

I talked my mom into trying this recipe for dinner while I was visiting. My Grandma made this when I was really young and I remember that it even made cauliflower taste good! When I saw that she included the recipe in our family cookbook, I had been itching to try it. I apologize for the "action" shot of the casserole half gone, but it went over so well and disappeared fast! Even my semi-picky uncle ate it and said it was great! This is for you Arend!

I am also sharing this at the Grocery Cart Challenge Recipe Swap - go take a look at all the neat recipes over there!

Vegetable Deluxe

2 (24 oz) packages frozen vegetables; use a combination of broccoli, cauliflower, carrots or your choice (we used 2 - 16 oz bags mixed veggies and a 16 oz bag green beans)
1 8 oz jar Cheese Whiz
1 14.5 oz can cream of celery soup
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 sleeve buttery crackers, crushed

Bring vegetables to a boil. Cook only slightly; no salt is necessary. Drain well. Combine cheese whiz and soup. Add to vegs while warm. Put in greased 9 x 13 pan. Combine butter and cracker crumbs and top vegetables. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Walk down food memory lane...

While I was back in my hometown visiting my parents, I had a great time eating lots of food that bring back memories. My mom was nice enough to make whatever I was in the mood for, including my favorite homemade spaghetti with olives (or circles, as my son calls them) and they also took me to places that I wanted to eat at. Here are a few of my favorite things that I can't get in my next of the woods.

Potato Oles at Taco Johns
I have tried recreating them at home, but they just don't taste the same. I've experimented with different seasonings like cumin and seasoned salt, but I still like the real deal best. And don't get me started how their hard shell tacos are so much better than Taco Bell's, it goes into where the cheese layer is applied!

Cheese Balls at any diner
Call them what you will, Wisconsin cheese curds or cheese balls, I just can't get these in Florida. Plus, people have no idea what I'm talking about. "What? Like Mozzarella Sticks? ...but with cheddar? ...and they're balls? ....weird." And don't even say the word "curds" - people get a little freaked about it. So I will always get them as a side dish when I can! In the photo above, I had them with Cheesy Potato Soup, which was excellent, too.

Aren't these mason jars cute? They reminded me a little of Battlestar Galactica, but that just shows how much of a dork I am. I don't even go for the cutesy-country reference, I head straight for the SciFi reference!

Thanks for walking down my food memory lane!

Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking