Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Slow Cooker Lasagna Pasta Bake

This is what you get when you have on your Menu Plan to make Crockpot Lasagna, but realize when you start throwing it together that you are out of Lasagna noodles! yikes! I decided to still give it a try, and used whole wheat pasta in place of the noodles.

Slow Cooker Lasagna Pasta Bake
recipe adapted from Crockpot Lasagna

8 oz pasta noodles
26 oz jar of pasta sauce
12 oz container pureed lowfat cottage cheese (you could use ricotta cheese instead)
8 oz package of shredded mozzarella cheese
9 oz box frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1/4 cup water

*I pureed up the cottage cheese, then threw the spinach in the food processor to get it completely mixed.

Spray crockpot with non-stick spray. Put 1/3 of spaghetti sauce in bottom of crockpot, then a layer of dry noodles , smear a layer of a 1/3 of the cottage cheese, sprinkle with 1/3 of shredded cheese, 1/3 of spinach.

Repeat layers, ending with a shredded cheese layer on top. Put the 1/4 cup of water in your empty pasta jar and shake - Pour the juice over the whole pile of food. Cover and cook for 4 hours on low.

The verdict?
This was loved by all. My husband and I were even on the fence if we liked this *more* than our usual Lasagna. As if!! It was really easy to scoop out of the crockpot, because you didn't have to worry about keeping the layers together, and still had the great flavor of Lasagna. I will be giving this another go round soon with the eggplant in my frig in place of the spinach.

I am sharing this recipe at Dining with Debbie's Crockpot Wednesday and Crock Pot Recipe Exchange Slow Cooking Saturdays.

Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking 

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Where to find grocery coupons

Some people have asked me where I find my coupons to do all my shopping.

First of all, I buy two, sometimes three, Sunday newspapers at a time. I check the Coupon Preview to make sure there will be coupons, then I buy according to the amount of good coupons in there.

Second, I sometimes buy an All You magazine. It has a lot of high dollar (and sometime free coupons). It pads my coupon stash and gives me some different coupons than just the Sunday newspaper. This magazine is only sold at Walmart.

Third, you need to keep your eyes open inside the grocery store. There are displays from manufactures, coupon mailers from the store, and all the blinkie and tearpads in the aisles. If I make a run for just one item in the store, I make a point to look and grab any coupons I see...usually if I'm doing my weekly big shopping trip, I'm very focused and don't look around much.

The couponing really pays off: this week at Publix there are some great sales, and combined with my coupons, I saved over $47 dollars this week! My out of pocket expense was only $40. That's totally worth couponing in my book!

Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking 

Monday, March 29, 2010

Slow Cooker Cabbage Rolls

I have been running out of dishes to make with cabbage. In my Produce Basket there were cabbage after cabbage, week after week, and I needed some new ways to serve it up.

My brother mentioned this recipe once, and I thought it was a great new dish to try out with my slow cooker. He uses this recipe with Soy Crumbles to make this vegetarian, but I went for the original recipe. My first impression was that making Cabbage Rolls needed a skill or technique rolling up all those 'suckas. But I gave it a try!

The verdict?
The hardest part of this recipe is getting the cabbage leaves off the head, still in one piece. I differed from the recipe by boiling/steaming the whole head, then carefully peeling each leaf off. I don't think I mastered it, because there was a lot of cursing going on for trying to get ready to go to church.

I made this so we could eat it after Saturday night church, and it was a great meal sitting in the crockpot for us when we got home. The filling tasted a lot like Porcupine Meatballs, but since I love cabbage, this was a great combination of flavors. My son didn't eat the cabbage, but maybe had a bite of the filling, and my husband thought they were OK. I don't think either of them will beg for this recipe to be made again, but probably wouldn't complain if I needed another way to use up cabbage!

I, on the other hand, loved them! I probably ate too much that night for dinner, and finished off the leftovers for lunch the next day.

I am sharing this recipe at A Southern Fairytale. Please check over there for some great recipes!

Slow Cooker Cabbage Rolls
recipe adapted from

12 leaves cabbage
1 cup cooked white rice (I used brown rice)
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup minced onion
1 pound extra-lean ground beef
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 1/4 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
2 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoon lemon juice (I used vinegar)
2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Boil cabbage leaves 2 minutes; drain. In large bowl, combine 1 cup cooked rice, egg, milk, onion, ground beef, salt, and pepper. Place about 1/4 cup of meat mixture in center of each cabbage leaf, and roll up, tucking in ends.

Place rolls in slow cooker.

In a small bowl, mix together tomato sauce, brown sugar, lemon juice, and Worcestershire sauce. Pour over cabbage rolls. Cover, and cook on Low 8 to 9 hours.

Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

So I have this painted sign...

...and I don't quite know what to paint *on* it.

I have been wanting to spruce up my laundry room, to make it less of a walk-through and more of an extension of our house. I had been looking for a cute sign to hang up, but when I found this sign at Goodwill, I couldn't pass it up:

Painted SignI don't have a need for a pink sign with "Say Your Prayers" on it, but I choose this sign because it already had the hanging hardware connected to the back, so all I needed to do was smack some paint on it, then throw it up on the wall. (yes, that is my decorating theme - "Throw it Up on the Wall")

Painted Sign
Well, that's the problem. I have it painted red, but I can't decide on the verbiage...should I go obvious with "Laundry" or make it more universal with "Welcome" so I can move it around the house? I'm planning to paint the letters on, then antique it with some glaze.

I seem to get stalled in my crafty projects, just like the Butterfly Shelf. So I'll take any help I can get! Anyone have any ideas for my Laundry Room sign?
  • Laundry
  • Wash n' Fold 25¢
  • Welcome
Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking 

    Tuesday, March 23, 2010

    Mexican Rice

    Mexican RiceMexican night is a very popular night at our house. Actually I don't have a specific "night" that is specified as such, but everyone in our family leaves the table happy when we have anything slightly south-of-the-border.

    One thing that I've always loved at Mexican restaurants is the rice, and I've tried many recipes trying to find the perfect side.

    The verdict?
    This really jazzed up a Black Bean Taco Salad night, as it was my favorite part of the whole dinner. This is the closest I've EVER come replicating a restaurant-style Mexican Rice, even though I used brown rice. I'm excited to try this again to serve with some refried beans and my husband's favorite chimichanga's!

    I'm sharing this at Eat At Home's Ingredient Spotlight. 

    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.

    Monday, March 22, 2010

    Mediterranean Spaghetti Squash

    I've never been a big fan of the whole-faker "spaghetti squash as spaghetti noodles" with marinara. It's squash, people. It's not fooling me - I know when I'm eating lovely carbs.

    I baked the squash right after lunch, so the dish came together very quickly at dinnertime. I followed Tasty Kitchen SteamyKitchen's directions for baking the squash, and that's the easiest cooking directions I've ever found: just throw the whole sucka in the oven!

    Mediterranean Spaghetti Squash
    Makes 6 servings

    1 spaghetti squash halved lengthwise and seeded
    2 tablespoons vegetable oil
    1 onion chopped 1 clove garlic 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes with basil, garlic and oregano
    4 oz crumbled feta cheese
    3 tablespoons sliced black olives (omitted)
    2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil (I used 1 tablespoon dried)

    Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place whole spaghetti squash baking sheet, and bake 40 to 60 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a sharp knife can be inserted with only a little resistance.

    Remove squash from oven, and set aside to cool enough to be easily handled.

    Use a large spoon to scoop the stringy pulp from the squash,

    and place in a medium bowl.

    Meanwhile, heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Saute onion in oil until tender. Add garlic, and saute for 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, and cook only until tomatoes are warm.

    Toss with the sauteed vegetables, feta cheese, olives, and basil. Serve warm.

    The verdict?
    My 2 1/2 year old didn't touch it (even though we tried to tell him it had cheese in it!), but my husband and I really enjoyed it at dinnertime. I served this with fish, so it was the heavily flavored dish of the meal. It wasn't great reheated the next day, so it didn't have too many miles in it, but straight off the stove it was great.

    Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking 

    Friday, March 19, 2010

    Sticky Chicken Thighs

    I have found another great recipe for fish sauce, and thankfully it's a chicken recipe. As you can see, the level of fish sauce in the bottle is slowly going down from when I bought it, but I can't get enough of that flavor.

    The original recipe in the Everyday Food was for chicken wings, but I wanted to use up these chicken thighs, so I gave it a try.

    Sticky Chicken Thighs
    recipe adapted from Everyday Food through Martha And Me

    3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
    1/4 cup fish sauce
    1/4 cup fresh lime or lemon juice (I used one of my gagillion limes)
    2 tablespoons soy sauce
    1 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and smashed (I used 1/2 tsp dried)

    Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a 9 x 13 inch baking dish, whisk together brown sugar, fish sauce, lime juice, and soy sauce until sugar dissolves, 2 minutes. Layer chicken in the pan in a single layer, then cover with sauce.

    Bake 1 hour. Increase heat to 450 degrees and bake until sauce is reduced and chicken is glazed 30 to 35 minutes more, turning chicken occasionally.

    The verdict?
    The sauce had a great tang of flavor, but oh the mess. I lined the pan with foil, but the sauce got under a crack or through a tiny tear and it was a burnt-on mess. The chicken was inhaled at dinner, but the aftermath in that pan lasted for a few days. I would make this recipe again, but in a disposable foil pan.

    I am sharing this recipe at The Grocery Cart Challenge Recipe Swap.

    Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking 

    Thursday, March 18, 2010

    So I noticed something....

    I didn't notice this until I got home...but it gave me a giggle.

    Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking 

    Tuesday, March 16, 2010

    Organzing Kitchen Cabinets - Baking Supplies

    My baking cabinet needed an overhaul. While it doesn't look too horrible on the surface, but trying to squeeze all the stuff in there was starting to get to me.

    I got these containers from my mom in college, meaning I've been using these containers since I moved out on my own, for 10 years....yikes, has it been that long?

    The flour container has taken the brunt of the abuse, after I melted the edge on the stove, then dropped the container and cracked the lid. I've been working with it for a few months, but I finally sucked it up and bought some new plastic containers.

    So here are the new bins on the top, and all the smaller containers on the bottom eye level. My mom has to use a step stool to get to that top cabinet when she visits, but to me, it's a easy reach.

    And yes, I need more sugar. It's at a dangerously low level. I did little labels with scrapbook paper, which aren't totally necessary, but I thought they were cute.

    I've really enjoyed my new containers, and I like that the whole wheat flour and flour now are on the same playing field. They are very easy to pull down compared to my old containers, and I like that all the lids close!

    Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking 

    Monday, March 15, 2010

    Slow Cooker Cranberry-Apple Butternut Squash

    This tastes like fall in a dish! I struggle with new ways to serve Butternut Squash, so this is a very different way to serve it up.

    The original recipe is in the oven, but I really like dishes in the slow cooker. I thought I'd give it a try and was very pleased with the results. The 4 hour cooking time was on the high end, because there were some spots that were bordering on a blackened sugary mess, and the crockpot really needed a good soaking to get that cleaned up.

    You could also use fresh apples and some sugar and skip the apple pie filling. Some of you super organized people out there also freeze sliced apples mixed with spices for apple pies or crisps (I'm talking to you, MOM!) and that would work great in this recipe!

    Cranberry-Apple Butternut Squash
    Serves: 8
    Originally from

    2 pounds butternut squash peeled, seeded, and cubed
    4 cups water
    1 21-ounce can apple pie filling*
    3/4 cup whole cranberry sauce*
    2 tablespoons water
    Dash cinnamon
    (*I found an apple pie filing that had cranberries in it, so I just used that as a combination.)

    In a large saucepan, combine squash and water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer until squash is tender, about 20-25 minutes. drain. Put squash in a greased 8-in square baking dish. Cover with the pie filling. Combine cranberry sauce and water to thin; drizzle over top. Sprinkle the top with cinnamon. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes or until heated through.

    Crockpot Directions:
    Spray a 4 quart slow cooker with non stick spray. Put butternut squash in the cooker, (don't need to pre-cook) cover with the apple pie filling and cranberries. Stir to combine. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Cook on Low for 4 hours

    I am sharing this at Crock pot Recipe Exchange.

    Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking

    Sunday, March 14, 2010

    Organizing a Linen Closet

    I finally got around to buying some plastic bins for my Linen Closet Overhaul. I wanted a large bin for my bathroom stockpile, and some to corral the clutter. I have a plunger on the shelf because my son thinks a plunger is about the best toy...ever. He won't leave it alone.

    As you can see from these photos, it didn't take too long for the shelves to get cluttered up again. So I finally bought some bins! Hooray!

    I split them up into Bathroom Stockpile, Shoe Polish & Laces, and Electrical/Misc (electric blanket, heat pad)

    Since we are approaching summer weather in Florida probably in the next month, I need to get going on my sunscreen stash. And I've decided this year I'm investing in new beach/pool towels. The two that we made it through last summer with were "whoops-we-forgot-to-bring-beach-towels-to-Maui" purchases from 5 years ago. They are pretty crappy and thin, so the thought of buying NEW towels has me about in a tissy. I'm so excited!

    The labels are pieces of scrapbook paper, and I put them on inside of the bin with a small piece of tape. I'm very pleased with my little project, and hopefully I can keep it this organized!

    Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking 

    Saturday, March 13, 2010

    Natural Cough Syrup

    I listed this recipe on my Recipe Roll Call a few months back, but I finally was feeling sick enough to try Natural Cough Syrup. My sinus cold turned into a sore throat and some coughing. It's been a long week at our house!

    Natural Cough Syrup
    recipe adapted from Intentionally Katie

    1/4 t. red pepper flakes
    1 T. apple cider vinegar
    1 T. honey
    2 T. water

    Combine. 1 teaspoon reduces coughing for quite a while. Store in the frig.

    The verdict?
    It is a little hard to swallow down, although I have problems getting "regular" liquid medicines down. Liquid Nyquil when I was a child just about made me freak out, but this was pretty easy compared to that. It did work, reducing some of the coughing and I felt better about trying this mixture than other commercial medicines because I didn't have to worry about drug interactions and keeping me up at night. It did work for me, but I was unable to talk my husband into trying it :(

    Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking 

    Friday, March 12, 2010

    Slow Cooker Breakfast Casserole

    Egg bakes seem to have a love or hate relationship in our house.

    My son doesn't think they are "real" eggs, so he won't eat them. He likes his eggs straight-up scrambled, or hard boiled, so egg bakes don't qualify. I love egg bakes and could eat them everyday. My husband is the waffler. He really enjoyed my last egg creation of English Muffin Egg Strata, but if I mention having one, he gets a little squirmy.

    So I tried this recipe when he would be home late to take some of the pressure off having to eat it for dinner, but of course that night he was right on time. But he really enjoyed it and was surprised it came from the crockpot.

    I used bread from the freezer, a small package of sausage, and I only had 5 eggs in the refrigerator. I used some liquid eggs to make up the difference. I don't like the liquid eggs on their own, but mixed into this casserole, it was a good way to stretch those eggs and reduce the cholesterol. Like the sausage really helped the cholesterol level, either.

    Slow Cooker Breakfast Casserole
    recipe adapted from A Year of Slow Cooking
    serves 10-12

    1 pound breakfasty meat (sausage, bacon, or ham)
    4 cups toasted (or stale) bread cubes
    2 cups shredded cheese (freshly grated is the best!)
    8 ounces sliced mushrooms
    8 eggs

    1 1/2 cup milk

    1/4 tsp kosher salt

    1/4 tsp black pepper

    Use a 6 quart slow cooker. Cook meat, and toast the bread. Set these aside. Spray the inside of your slow cooker with cooking spray, and set that aside, too.

    In a large mixing bowl, combine the eggs, milk, salt, and pepper.

    Put the bread cubes into the bottom of your sprayed slow cooker, layer the meat and mushrooms. I gave it all a stir so it was completed mixed. Sprinkle the cheese on top, then pour the egg mixture evenly over the entire thing.

    Cover and cook on low for 4 hours, or until eggs have set. When the eggs have completely set, and your casserole has begun to brown on top and pull away from the sides, take the lid off the cooker and let the steam and moisture evaporate for about 15 minutes before serving.

    The verdict?
    I was too chicken to try this overnight - when I have things baking or rising or even just chilling in the frig for the morning, I tend not to sleep well. So I did this during the day and we had it for dinner. 4 hours on Low was perfect. The edges that touched the walls of the crockpot were nicely browned, but not too brown. This made a ton of leftovers, which we ate for breakfast the next day, and I politely polished them off for lunch. Good stuff.

    I'm sharing this recipe at The Grocery Cart Challenge Recipe Swap.

    Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking 

    Thursday, March 11, 2010

    Zesty Herb Salad Dressing

    I got this from the same handout from the "Stretching Your Food Dollar" class as the Honey Mustard Dressing

    Zesty Herb Salad Dressing
    Serving size: 2 tablespoons
    Yield: 5 servings
    from Maryland Cooperative Extension

    1 tablespoon vegetable oil
    2 tablespoons vinegar
    1/3 cup tomato or orange juice (I used freshly squeezed orange - about 1 large orange)
    1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
    1/2 teaspoon dried basil
    1/4 teaspoon black pepper
    1/4 teaspoon salt

    Combine all ingredients in a jar or bottle with a lid. Close the lid and shake well. Chill in the refrigerator at least one hour before serving. Refrigerator any leftover dressing.

    Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking 

    Wednesday, March 10, 2010

    Mexican Chicken Casserole

    I made this recipe to use up massive amount of homemade taco sauce I had hiding in the back of my frig. It was also convenient that I had diced chicken, and black beans in the freezer, so it whipped up pretty fast!

    My son loves taco chips so I knew that he would like this, (or at least he would pick the topping off!) and while my husband isn't a huge fan of casseroles, I knew that he would eat anything involving Mexican food!

    Mexican Chicken Casserole
    Serves: 6-8
    From the Des Moines Register from approx 2002 :)

    4 cups cooked chicken, diced
    1 16-ounce jar taco sauce (I used homemade)
    1 cup cooked black beans
    1 cup frozen corn
    1 1/2 cups brown rice, cooked
    1/2 cup chopped onions
    1/2 cup chopped green pepper (optional)
    2 cups crushed tortilla chips
    2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (grate your own - it's soooo much tastier!)

    Green onion for garnish
    Sour cream for garnish

    Preheat oven to 375. Combine chicken, taco sauce, black beans, corn, onions, peppers and rice in large bowl.

    Spoon into ungreased 13 x 9 inch baking dish.

    Crush one layer of taco chips, lay down a layer of cheese, and repeat until all the chips and cheese are on the casserole.

    Bake for 40 to 45 minutes until top is golden brown. Garnish as desired.

    Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking