Saturday, October 30, 2010

Flashback Saturday for Oct 30, 2010

 Flashback Saturday is a way to introduce some posts
that might be lost in the shuffle of years' past!

A year ago this week I posted some great recipes for:

Creatively Domestic

Simple Cooking | Easy Cooking

Friday, October 29, 2010

Fresh Express Giveaway ends tonight!

Don't forget to enter in my giveaway for Fresh Express Bagged Salad. The deadline is tonight at 10 pm Eastern and I'll announce the winners tomorrow!

Cranberry Orange Oatmeal Cookies

My husband went on a business trip and came home raving about the cookies at the hotel he stayed at. It's the little things in life, right? This was the copycat recipe that my husband found online (he didn't save the source, so if this recipe looks familiar, let me know and I'll credit appropriately) and I put off making them for a few weeks.

Finally, he had a poker night, and the email invite said to bring "non-healthy" food, so he asked me to bake these cookies. I guess these were semi-better than wings or bags of chips.

My husband was very pleased with the outcome, and only came home with a few leftover cookies. They were crunchy when cool, and unfortunately I just had my braces adjusted, so I have no idea how they tasted: they hurt my teeth too much. But I earned some HUGE wife bonus points for delivering!

I'm sharing this recipe at Grocery Cart Challenge Recipe Swap and Eat at Home's Ingredient Spotlight: Oats, and Eat at Home's Ingredient Spotlight: Cranberries.

Cranberry Orange Oatmeal Cookies

3/4 cup (6 ounces) brown sugar

3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces) granulated sugar

8 tablespoons (1 stick, 4 ounces) unsalted butter
1/2 cup (3 1/4 ounces) vegetable shortening
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon cloves
3 cups (10 1/2 ounces) rolled oats

1 cup (4 1/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups (7 7/8 ounces) dried cranberries
1 tablespoon grated orange rind

Preheat the oven at 350 degrees. Cream together brown sugar, sugar, butter and shortening. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until combined. Combine the salt, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, oats and flour in a separate bowl and add to the creamed sugar mixture. Stir until almost combined, add the cranberries and orange rind and finish combining. Put 2 tablespoonfuls of dough on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 7 to 9 minutes.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Pumpkin Oatmeal

This was a Saturday morning breakfast, the only day where I feel semi-excited about whipping up a new recipe before 8 am. Must be the coffee I allow myself only on the weekends and the Saturday morning cartoons I turn on for my son that makes me feel adventurous in the kitchen.

I was excited to use up some of the leftover pureed pumpkin that had been hiding in the back of my frig, and even more oddball to use it up at breakfast!

Pumpkin Flavored Oatmeal
recipe adapted from Our Family Eats
serves 2

1 cup old fashioned oatmeal
1 3/4 cups water
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 - 4 tablespoons pureed pumpkin
1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons pecans, chopped (optional)
2 tablespoons maple syrup (optional)

Boil water in a medium sauce pan.  Add oatmeal and salt.  Cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat.  Stir in pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice, and brown sugar. Pour oatmeal into serving bowls.  Top with pecans and syrup.

The verdict?
I left out the pecans, and substituted some cinnamon, allspice, cloves and nutmeg for the pumpkin pie spice. It was mildly pumpkiny, and the spices made it seem much more pumpkin pie flavor than the pumpkin. It was great for a cool morning. The pumpkin taste definitely didn't smack you over the head.

I have made this a second time since then, and I put a lot more pumpkin in, (over a 1/4 cup!) and it was still only mildly pumpkiny. It was a hit both times, and I felt great getting another vegetable in my day! Also, a fun variation on the boring oatmeal we eat almost every other day.

Creatively Domestic

Simple Cooking | Easy Cooking

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Don't forget about the Fresh Express Giveaway!

Please enter in the giveaway for free bagged salad from Fresh Express. There aren't too many entries so far for the 10 coupons, so you have a really great chance of bringing home some free salad for your family!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Planning for our Thanksgiving

I have started the plotting, planning and thinking about what we are going to eat for Thanksgiving. It will be a pretty simple holiday for our family this year, because we are using the four day Thanksgiving holiday to start getting ready for the baby's arrival in January by setting up the baby's room, freezing meals, (I'm setting aside a whole day to do this!) decorating for Christmas and getting prepped for family arriving the week after. Phew! Makes me tired already!

So because I will be having a freezer meal cooking day only a few days after one of the biggest cooking days of the year, I'm hoping to make some Thanksgiving eats ahead (like the pie or dessert) and keep it simple the day of.

I'm on the hunt to tweak some of our traditional recipes, but keep it simple.

Turkey Breast or whole Turkey if I'm in the mood to wrestle a whole one
Stuffing (this is my Grandma's traditional recipe)
Green Bean Casserole (with homemade cream of mushroom soup)
Turkey Gravy 
Another veggie?
Pie of somesort (I'm thinking about attempting Chocolate Pecan.
Anyone have a good recipe?)

Other Thanksgiving recipes from Creatively Domestic:
 French Fried Onions (my forgot-em-at-the-store moment last year)

Creatively Domestic

Simple Cooking | Easy Cooking

Monday, October 25, 2010

Veggie Sandwich & Fresh Express Salad Giveaway

**This giveaway is now closed. Thanks to all who entered!**

I don't buy a lot of bagged salad - mostly because I regularly receive romaine lettuce from my Produce Club, and whole heads of lettuce are usually a better deal per ounce at the grocery store. Although, when I do buy the bagged salad, I always go for the Spring Mix or Mixed Greens. It's great to combine with my (sometimes boring and repetitive) regular lettuce and mix it up!

So I was excited when, as part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program, (my advertising partner) I received Fresh Express bagged salad to experiment with in the kitchen.

I am a huge vegetable person, so one of my favorite ways to use up mixed greens is to make it into a Vegetable Sandwich! This is one of my favorite meals after picking up my Produce Basket, because I have free range on some great looking vegetables! The crisp mixed greens add the flavor variety that makes these sandwiches complex and interesting enough to stand up on it's own.

Vegetable Sandwich
Whole wheat bun
Tomato Slices
Red onion slices
Sprinkle of Mrs. Dash
Sliced Cheese
Big handful of mixed greens for each sandwich
Spread a layer of mayo on each side of the bun, then layer on your choice of vegetables and cheese. Sprinkle tomato slices and mayo with Mrs. Dash. Top with a big handful of mixed greens and eat away!

Other optional toppings (which have all been tried by myself with great success!): Hummus, bean sprouts, avocado, grilled mushrooms, roasted veggies, olives, pickles and jalapenos. A true leftover and clean out the frig extravaganza!

This is all up to your personal tastes - my husband thinks I'm a bit coo-coo for this creation...let's just say the two sandwiches below were both devoured by me and my pregnant appetite!

Fresh Express has generously offered coupons for a FREE bag of their salad. I have 10 coupons to giveaway, so you will have a huge chance at scoring some free salad for your family! The coupons expire Jan 31, 2011.

Post a comment below telling us if you have a favorite use of bagged salad. (or just say "comment!" I'm not picky!) You don't need a blog to enter, just an email address!

This contest will end on Friday, October 29, 2010 at 10 pm Eastern, and the winner will be announced on Saturday October 30th.

**The Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program is a sampling program offered through Foodbuzz and Foodbuzz's brand partners. While I did receive coupons for free salad, this did not influence my opinion**

Creatively Domestic

Simple Cooking | Easy Cooking

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Flashback Saturday for Oct 23, 2010

 Flashback Saturday is a way to introduce some posts
that might be lost in the shuffle of years' past!

A year ago this week I posted some great recipes for:
Slow Cooker Homemade Applesauce
This has been a fall favorite this year, too!
I've been buying the bags of on-sale apples and
shoving as many apples in the slow cooker as possible.

 Slow Cooker Sausage Barley Soup 
Barley makes a soup so much more hearty!

Creatively Domestic

Simple Cooking | Easy Cooking

Friday, October 22, 2010


For a twist on our normal Mom's Club Mom's Night Out get togethers, the planners decided to do a Bunco night and have everyone bring an appetizer or dessert to share. I was stumped as to what to bring, so went flipping through my cookbook binder, where I found this super easy recipe (3 ingredients!) that I have yet to try.

It just goes to show I'm always saving recipes I come across. This had been in my cookbook binder from sample day at Super Target TWO YEARS ago, but I had completely lost the original paper, so while I think it was sponsored by Kraft or another barbecue sauce brand, I have no idea! I was just glad I saved it, then typed it into my cookbook binder, then saved it for even longer!


1/4 cup barbecue sauce
1 8-ounce package whipped cream cheese, room temperature
2 tablespoons chopped green onions

Mix together and serve with chips and crackers

The verdict?
This was really easy to mix together, (do I need to say it again? 3 ingredients!!) and paired with some super-cheap coupon crackers, was a effortless appetizer to whip up. The ladies I had it with that night liked it, and my husband was pleased there was some leftover the next day. This would be an easy backup-whip-it-up-from memory appetizer!

I'm sharing this recipe at Grocery Cart Challenge Recipe Swap, Family Food Fridays, MomTrends, and Food on Fridays.

Creatively Domestic

Simple Cooking | Easy Cooking

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Steak in a Creamy Tomato Sauce

I ripped this out one of my favorite magazines, Clean Eating, before passing it on to a friend (Hi Cassy!) because it seemed like I have all those ingredients around on a weekly basis.

Steak in a Creamy Tomato Sauce
recipe adapted from Clean Eating

3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, ground
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 pound lean eye round steak, cubed

16 oz pasta (recipe calls for farfalle, or bowtie, but use what you like)

2 tablespoon olive oil, divided to pan,
1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon dried basil
8 oz sour cream

Prepare marinade in a bowl: Whisk together 3 cloves garlic, vinegar, Dijon, cinnamon and pepper. Add steak cubes, cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to overnight.

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside

Drain steak cubes and discard marinade. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat, add a tablespoon of olive oil. Saute steak until browned on each side, about 4 minutes total. Remove steak from pan and set aside.

Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to pan, heat to medium high, add onion and 2 cloves garlic and saute until brown, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add tomatoes, seasoning, basil and combine. Cook for an additional 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce heat to medium low, then add in sour cream and reserved steak and cook for 2 more minutes, until meat and sauce are completely warmed.

The verdict?
First of all, I used the wrong kind of steak - I meant to grab a Sirloin Steak out of the freezer from our big beef purchase, but ended up grabbing a Sandwich Steak. So the meat was cut really thinly and looked alot different than the cubes that the recipe called for.

This recipe overall was a bit of a surprise. I was expecting the flavor to be pretty cut-n-dry, because the ingredients were all pantry staples, but the sauce was very good. I'm sure our grass fed local beef helped the dish, but the marinade with the cinnamon in it really created a nice flavor undertone that made you go "hmmmm what is that?" It was as incomplex to throw together as a simple spaghetti sauce, but the flavor was anything but plain.

My husband loved this. He actually said this was the best meal he's had in a long time. Which kinda surprised me (because I feel like I crank out good stuff on a daily basis) but you have to take his opinion into consideration. He at least is honest!

This made alot! The recipe has 8 servings, so we had plenty of leftovers. I had to pack up the leftovers before we ate any more and stuffed ourselves. The next day it reheated well, and although it wasn't as saucy, the great flavor was still there.

I'm sharing this at Prairie Story Recipe Swap and Around My Family Table Tip Day Thursday.

Creatively Domestic

Simple Cooking | Easy Cooking

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

How to Save Money on Groceries

Let's just start this post by saying that I like to cook. There are loads of people out there who think they'd rather have a root canal weekly than have to stand at the stove every night. But, everyone likes to save money, and usually the easiest area of your budget to make a dent is the grocery column.

These are the "rules" that I have developed over the years, and while every family has their own preferences and circumstances, these are the things that help me stay under my budget of $60 a week for the three (soon to be 4!) of us. We also choose to avoid processed foods, like HFCS, and try to eat healthfully.

Menu Planning:
This is a biggie. The more you choose to plan, the less excess will work it's way into your cart.

  • Working in family preferences: I know that my family likes Mexican, so that's usually one type of meal a week, and although my husband isn't crazy about casseroles, he will eat them every now and then. If it's winter, I make sure I have a soup, if it's summer, I have a salad or cold meal.
  • Look for those widows and orphan ingredients: That half bottle of apricot preserves, one salmon fillet, two almost-sprouting potatoes left in the bag, these are the ingredients you want to use up or risk them going rotten or getting freezer burn, and then your money goes right out with the garbage. I go through my pantry, frig, then my freezer looking for forgotten tidbits that should be used up that week.
  • I check the sale ads to see if any main dish protein is on sale. I don't talk much about my couponing and shopping strategies, but I'm always thinking if the item I'm going to be spending money on will help make a main dish. If it's cereal, pickles, or condiments, I have a hard time handing over alot of my cash. But, if it's frozen spinach, (Spinach Balls, Crockpot Lasagna) then I can see it having more options.
  • Planning a homemade snack for the week (or even buying a bag of apples) saves the late-night grocery store cravings and boxes of Cheez-Its that get impulsively thrown on top of the cart. (Not that I'm speaking from experience here!)

Making Things from Scratch: Some items that I regularly make from scratch include refried beans, enchilada sauce, biscuits, granola bars, chicken broth, pizza crust, taco sauce, pancake syrup, cooking dried beans, cinnamon rolls (sooo much better homemade) cookies, and pancakes. I haven't gotten into consistently making homemade buns or bread because I don't really enjoy that part of baking, so I choose to spend more money on those items.

Planning Ahead and Freezing Food: "Mexican" night gets a lot easier when I have frozen portions of Mexican Rice and Refried Beans made ahead in the freezer waiting for me. I throw together a main dish like enchiladas or tacos, warm up some sides, and dinner is done. I very rarely make casseroles ahead of time to freeze, only because my husband doesn't prefer them, so they end up sitting in there and not getting eaten. I've found it's easiest for me to just double whatever I'm making and freeze half of it, versus spending all day making meals.

Choosing what's essential and what's not: In our house, soda, cereal, store-bought granola bars, chips, and cream of whatever soups are not essential. What is? Fresh veggies and ingredients that can be made into many food items (like pantry staples, flour, sugar, milk, and cheese). I try to buy things that can be made into two or three items, rather than a recipe specific item.

Buying in Bulk: Warehouse clubs like Sams, Costco, BJ's etc, can be a deal, but only if you use the products like you normally would. I once bought a huge bag of dried cranberries because I liked them in my morning oatmeal. I didn't, however, portion out the ginormous bag after returning home, and just took what I wanted from it each morning, and it ended up being gone in about month. Not a savings, at all. Now, if I do buy in bulk, I portion it out and stash the rest in harder-to-get-to storage.

I do use my warehouse club, though, for items like butter, eggs and milk. When I'm in the neighborhood, I buy at least 2 (sometime more!) of 18 count eggs and gallons of milk. I've found vinegar, yeast, and some pastas to be cheaper per ounce, but I don't buy anything at warehouse clubs without comparing it to my Price Book.

Couponing helps, but I don't think it's absolutely necessary. Being intentional and only buying what you need for the week is much more helpful. I leave about $10 in my budget to buy the "Deals of Week," items that I don't need that week, but know I will use or stockpile to use at a later date. I stockpile pasta, spaghetti sauce, mayonnaise, pickles, salsa, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, crackers, and oatmeal, to name a few. I typically save 50 or 60% on my grocery bill by couponing, and I buy enough to build up my stockpile to about a three months' supply, so I don't have to pay full price for any of those items.

Eating Out: This is not included in our grocery budget, and I know that some people do include it. We budget for one meal out a week, and we are pretty choosy about where our "Meal Out" will be.

To make up for eating in more often, I make "Fun Night" dinners that are more complicated or using more ingredients than a normal weeknight meal, mostly for Friday nights. Some menus we're recreated at home:
  •  Chiptole Burrito Bowls (Cilantro Lime Rice, Black Beans, Fatija Peppers, Pico, Quacamole, Chips)
  • Ruth Chris' Steakhouse (Steak, Baked potatoes, Creamed Spinach, Blue Cheese Salads)
  • Loaded Hamburgers & Hand Cut Fries with Spicy Fry Sauce
  • Buffalo Wings with Homemade Potato Chips (Local restaurant Geckos!)
  • Crab Rangoon, General Tso's Chicken, Won Ton Soup
  • Anything California Pizza Kitchen (I look up their menu online and try a new pizza!)

To compensate for these meals, I just have a cheaper meal worked into the menu like a Pasta Dish. (Mac and Cheese, Spaghetti, Baked Pasta)

These are just a few of the ways I try to stretch my grocery budget and get more for my money! Please leave us a comment about how you stretch your budget!

Creatively Domestic

Simple Cooking | Easy Cooking

Monday, October 18, 2010

Biscuit Breakfast Pizza

On a random Saturday night, my husband professed: "I think I want something 'different' for breakfast tomorrow" hmmmmm. I went recipe searching. The only issue was I wanted to have everything on hand (I despise late-night grocery store runs!) and my husband was vetoing recipe ideas left and right.

I even posted it on Creatively Domestic's Facebook page, and got some great ideas from some readers out there. (Thanks Natalie and Erin!)

Has anyone realized how many breakfast recipes involve crescent rolls? It surprised me that so many recipe had them, and since I didn't have any on hand, I thought some biscuit dough could substitute for them pretty well. I did look up a homemade crescent roll recipe, but I was NOT in the mood to do all that. Here's what I came up with:

Biscuit Breakfast Pizza

Biscuit crust:
2 cups all- purpose flour 

1 tablespoon sugar

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup shortening
 or butter
3/4 cup milk

1/2 pound sausage, browned and crumbled
4 eggs, scrambled (I used EggBeaters)
1 cup diced cooked potatoes or frozen hash browns, thawed
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Sprinkle of parsley, for color (optional)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees
For biscuit crust, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Cut in shortening or butter using pastry blender or crisscrossing 2 knives, until mixture looks like fine crumbs. Stir in milk until dough leaves side of bowl (dough will be soft and sticky).
 Place dough on lightly floured surface. Knead lightly 10 times. Roll or pat to fit a 12" pizza pan. (I used my Pampered Chef pizza stone) Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown.

Remove crust from oven and reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Top the crust with sausage, scrambled eggs, potatoes and cheese. Sprinkle with parsley if using.

 Bake for about 5 minutes or until cheese is melted and toppings are warmed through. Cut into pizza-like slices and serve.

The verdict?
When the biscuit crust first came out of the oven, I was worried that it would be too thick. It worked well for this breakfast, but I think next time I would reduce the amount, maybe by half.

This was such a hit with our family. It was very hearty (we had a super light lunch that day) and seemed very manly. (I felt like singing a Burger King commercial!) We had 2 pieces leftover, and had those for breakfast the next day, and the crust reheated well and stayed crisp and not squishy.

I thought it tasted like and should be named "Inside Out Sausage Biscuit Sandwich" but my husband talked me into naming it "Biscuit Breakfast Pizza." So while I agree with his theory that "Inside Out Sausage Biscuit Sandwich" is probably one of the longest recipe names in history, that is the perfect description.

Creatively Domestic

Simple Cooking | Easy Cooking

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Flashback Saturday for Oct 16, 2010

 Flashback Saturday is a way to introduce some posts
that might be lost in the shuffle of years' past!

A year ago this week I posted some great recipes for:

This is my go-to, meatless, budget stretcher meal!

These have made an appearance this year in my plants, too. I still love them!

Creatively Domestic

Friday, October 15, 2010

Homemade Chocolate Syrup

I love finding homemade versions of things because then I don't have to leave the house when I have a craving. My husband was out of town, and my son was tucked into bed, and I, of course, was having a massive chocolate craving. What to do? I couldn't do a Sonic run without dragging my son out of bed, so I thought of this recipe I had copied and stashed in my "Recipes to Try" folder.

Chocolate Syrup
from The Tightwad Gazette II

1/2 cup cocoa
1 cup water
2 cups sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Mix the cocoa and the water in a saucepan. Heat and stir to dissolve the cocoa. Add the sugar, and stir to dissolve. Boil 3 minutes. Add the salt and the vanilla. Pour into a sterilized pint jar, and store covered in refrigerator. Keeps for several months.

The verdict?
The night I made this, I stirred it into milk to make chocolate milk. oooooooooh baby. It got the chocolate craving all taken care of.  It was a little sweeter than the good stuff in the brown squirt bottle, but I didn't mind.

Now that we've been using this for about two weeks to make chocolate milk for late night snacks, (which has saved us from the late-night Sonic runs) I think the sweetness has mellowed a bit, but you do need less than store-bought stuff.

I'm sharing this at:
Grocery Cart Challenge Recipe Swap
Food on Fridays
Foodie Fridays
Friday Favorites at Simply Sweet Home

Creatively Domestic

Simple Cooking | Easy Cooking

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Pumpkin Spice Cookies

I needed to make a snack to share with a church group on the weekend, and I had been stumped all week trying to think of something to make. Did I want chocolate? hmmm Did I want to make bread? cookies? I was paralyzed with all the options.

I finally pulled out my last-ditch dessert book, and let my husband flip until he found something that sounded good to him, then I would add my two cents in about if that would work. This original recipe had dates and walnuts in it, which I was not interested in, but Pumpkin Cookies sounded like the perfect fall cookie.

The verdict?
I should not bake when my brain isn't into it. I lost track how many scoops of sugar I added to the dough, then at the end, the dough looked really runny, and I just about lost it due to frustration. My husband, being the perfect compliment to me sometimes, suggested I just bake a couple to see how they turned out. Surprise! The cookies came out cakey, but still perfectly edible.

I topped the cookies with a powdered Sugar Glaze from my Apple Raisin Cookies,  mostly because they needed something, and the cookies by themselves looked a little boring. The glaze really pushed the sugar amount, but they turned out fantastic.

I had to set aside 3 cookies for our family before I brought them to the church meeting because of the incessant whining from both my son and husband, then my husband ended up eating mine later that night "accidentally."  It's a good thing he was so hand-on helping make them, or I might be more upset about it.

I'm sharing this recipe at Prairie Story Recipe Swap Thursday and Tip Day Thursday and Eat at Home's Ingredient Spotlight Pumpkin.

Pumpkin Spice Cookies
 recipe adapted from Betty Crocker Cookie Book

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 cup canned pumpkin (I used homemade puree)
2 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon water

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Beat sugar and butter in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, or mix with spoon. Beat in pumpkin and eggs. Stir in remaining ingredients.
Drop dough by rounded teaspoonfuls about 2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are set. Immediately remove from cookie sheet to wire rack.

Creatively Domestic

Simple Cooking | Easy Cooking

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Slow Cooker Corn Chowder

I get almost all my cookbooks as gifts. My husband surprised me at my birthday a few months ago with a great Slow Cooker cookbook. I went through it without marking any recipes to try and almost forgot about it in my cookbook cabinet.

Well, my husband did NOT forget that I hadn't tried any recipes from it, so he gently reminded me that I had a whole new cookbook I hadn't broke in yet. "Hey, ya gonna use that cookbook I bought you?" is about the gentle nature of that conversation.

Slow Cooker Corn Chowder
recipe adapted from Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker cookbook

1 tablespoon unsalted butter or olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 ribs celery, finely chopped
2 medium-size russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth (I used homemade)
1/2 bay leaf
1/8 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
3 tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons water
2 cups milk
3 cups frozen corn kernels

Use a medium or large round slow cooker. In a medium-size skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the onion and celery and cook, stirring a few times, until the onion is translucent but not browned, 2 to 3 minutes.
While the onion and celery are cooking, put the potatoes in the slow cooker. Scrape the onion and celery into the cooker along with any remaining butter. Add the broth, bay leaf, paprika, thyme and pepper. If the broth is unsalted, add the salt. Stir the top layer of the ingredients very gently, trying not to disturb the potatoes, which should stay submerged (If the potatoes are above the broth, they will turn brown - not very pretty!) Cover and cook on LOW until the potatoes are tender, 5 to 6 hours.

Dissolve the cornstarch in the water by mixing in a small bowl. Add the cornstarch mixture, milk and corn to the slow cooker. Stir, cover and cook on HIGH until the chowder is heated through, about 1 hour. Taste and if necessary, add more salt and pepper. Remove the bay leaf before serving.

The verdict?

I put this together right after lunch, so I knew it was going to be a time crunch at dinnertime to make sure it was done, so I ended up cooking the potatoes for 1 hour on High, then 3 hours on Low. I added the last ingredients, let it cook for about an hour, then it sat on Warm for about 20 minutes, waiting for us to finish a project in the backyard. It was nice to walk in the house and sit down for dinner almost immediately.

To make sure the cornstarch/milk/corn mixture would get heated without waiting hours, I heated up the milk and corn in the microwave so I was adding hot ingredients into hot.

I would have loved more potatoes, and even though I am usually the salt fiend of the family, even my husband agreed it needed more salt at the end, but it went over really well with everyone in the family. We ate the leftovers a few days later, and it was still just as good heated up.

I'm sharing this at What's on the Menu Wednesday, What's Cooking Wednesday and Mommy's Kitchen Potluck Sunday.

Creatively Domestic

Simple Cooking | Easy Cooking

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


This dish is one of the only ways I can get my family to eat okra without any protests. They will eat Okra and Tomatoes halfheartedly, but this one gets by easily.

I don't know how completely authentic this recipe is, but this version seems to be a easy budget meal when I have kielbasa and okra in the freezer.

Serves: 6
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups chopped onions
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 pound kielbasa or smoked sausage, cut crosswise into 1/2 inch slices
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 bay leaves
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
1 pound okra, frozen and thawed or fresh
6 cups chicken broth (I use homemade)

White or brown rice, prepared according to package instructions
Hot pepper sauce, for topping individual bowls

Combine the oil and flour in a large cast iron or enameled cast iron Dutch oven over medium heat. Stirring slowly and constantly for 20 to 25 minutes, making a dark brown roux, the color of chocolate. Add the onions, celery and bell peppers, and continue to stir for 4 to 5 minutes, or until wilted.
Add the sausage, salt and bay leaves. Continue to stir for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the chicken broth. Stir until the roux mixture and chicken broth are well combined. Add diced tomatoes and okra. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour. Serve in bowls on top of brown rice. Season to taste individually with hot pepper sauce.

I am sharing this recipe at:

Monday, October 11, 2010

Buying Bread at the Discount Bakery

As a I mentioned in my last menu plan, I've been trying a different style to my menu planning and grocery shopping: buying large amounts of what is a deal, and eating what we have on hand.

Last week, I went to my local Discount Bakery and bought a month's worth of bread. I bought:
4 loaves sandwich bread
1 loaf Texas Toast (for French Toast - my husband's favorite which he's been asking for!)
2 packages whole wheat hamburger buns
1 package whole wheat English Muffins (for English Muffin Egg Strata & Ham & Cheese Toasters)
1 bag tortilla chips (For football watching on the weekend - will make into Super Nachos for lunch)

Each bread item was 99¢, and this store has a 20% discount on Wednesdays, so that's about 80¢ a loaf. The chips were $1.12 after the discount, so still a good deal.

As you can see, I try to menu plan for the items to make main dishes, not just for eating with breakfast, so hopefully that stretches the food budget, too.

Since this is a discount bakery, you do have to watch the dates on the bread if you are planning to use it soon. The sandwich bread all had 4 days to their "Best by" date, and the rest were within a day or two of their date. The chips had until December! Because I was freezing all the bread, I wasn't too concerned about the dates.

This store is the outlet for the bakery that is right next door, so there is a wide range of brands and types of bread (they even had sandwich thins!). They also had a big selection of individually wrapped cakes like cupcakes, muffins, and danishes.

If this works out well for my family, I think I'll try coming back and buying 2-3 months worth. (Stockpiling for when the baby comes!)

Do any of you have discount bakeries where you live? What are good deals you can get there?

Creatively Domestic

Simple Cooking | Easy Cooking

Friday, October 8, 2010

Apple Raisin Cookies

I made these for a kiddos playgroup after receiving the latest issue of Everyday Food in the mail. I swear, that magazine gets inside my brain and mails me exactly what I'm thinking. Must just be me.

The cookie recipe seemed healthier with whole wheat flour, apple and raisins. Of course, with a nice glaze to compensate for all the healthy goodness!

The verdict?
I made these the night before, then glazed them in the morning. The glaze hardened up really well, and they had great visual appeal! The kids at the playgroup ate them up (plus the moms!), and there was just enough leftover for our family to each have one with our dinner!

The glaze is definitely optional, and the cookies themselves were very cake-like, so if you aren't interested in the glaze, the cookies would be fine without it.

Apple Raisin Cookies
recipe adapted from Everyday Food

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
pinch ground cloves
1/2 cup (1stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup packed dark-brown sugar
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons whole milk
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and diced small
1 cup raisins
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together flours, baking soda, nutmeg, salt, and a pinch of cloves. In an electric mixer bowl, beat butter and brown sugar on high until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs. With mixer on low, beat in half of the flour mixture, then milk and remaining flour mixture. Beat just until combined.
Fold in apples and raisins into dough with a rubber spatula. Drop dough in 2-tablespoonfuls, on baking sheets. Bake each sheet for approx 10-12 minutes, or until cookies are firm about the edges. Let cool completely.
In a small bowl, whisk together confectioners' sugar and 1 tablespoon water. Transfer to a zip-top bag. Snip a very small hole in one corner and drizzle glaze over cookies.

I'm sharing this recipe at Grocery Cart Challenge Recipe Swap, Foodie Fridays, Food on Fridays, Momtrends Fall Recipes, Friday Favorites, Family Food Fridays, Wholesome Whole Foods, and Mommy's Kitchen Potluck Sunday.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

French Bread Pizzas

This is a good use of marked down french bread besides Freezer Garlic Bread: French Bread Pizzas!

I cut the loaf into 4 quarters, (stashed the 4th in the freezer for garlic bread) topped them with tomato paste, then cheese, sprinkle with a little oregano....

and throw under the broiler.  We did just cheese, but add whatever toppings your family likes! This was served with a salad on the side.

I'm sharing this at What's on the Menu Wednesday and What's Cooking Wednesday.

Creatively Domestic

Simple Cooking | Easy Cooking

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Guest Post: Crockpot Chicken and Noodle Soup

This is a Guest Post from Beth at The Quilt Ladies.

I know it’s very hot out, but sometimes hot or cold,  I need comfort food.  Growing up, my Grandmother C. lived with us on and off for years. She was a great cook and I loved her home-made chicken and noodles. She tried a number of times to teach me how to make those wonderful noodles, the kind with eggs and flour, roll out thin, dry on wax paper and cut paper thin. I just never could do it like hers. So, when I miss her, this is what I cook.

Chicken and Noodle Soup
5 cups of chicken broth (boxed or can is fine)
One 10.75 oz can cream of chicken soup
1/2 cup onions, chopped fine
1/2 cup celery, chopped fine
1/2 cup carrots, chopped fine
1/2 cup green onions, sliced
One 15 oz can of whole kernel corn, drained
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 1/2 cup Egg noodles
2 cups cooked chicken chopped or 2 cans canned cooked chicken

Add everything but the noodles and cooked chicken to the crock pot on Low for 5-6 hours, the last hour turn on High, and add noodles and chicken.

Here is another version of the recipe that I make:
I boil 4 chicken thighs in about 8 cups of water, make sure they are cooked through.

Cool, remove skin and bone and shred with forks. Cool, cover and refrigerate.

I like thighs. If you need, add water to the broth to make 5 cups. Add cream of chicken soup. Chop the vegetables, I like everything about the same size, celery, carrots, onions, green onions.

Add everything to the pot and forget it for the afternoon, do not add the chicken and noodles. (Will add them the last hour or so) The smell will take over the house.

I always add more noodles that the recipe calls for, I like it like a stew, do what you and your family likes.

This is the brand we have here and they are very good.

Of course, with Grandma C on my mind, I had to do Jiffy Cornbread.

Her secret, make it in a pie pan, and sprinkle white sugar over the top, about 1 teaspoon, Bake as directed on the box.

After adding the noodles and chicken to my crock-pot it only took about 45 minutes to cook the noodles. Table set and ready to eat.

Thanks Beth!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Homemade Shower Scrub

I purposefully avoid cleaning the shower. Actually, I avoid cleaning the bathroom for long stretches. I'm not proud of it, and my bathroom does stay non-radioactively gross by a little everyday attention (hello Daily 7 for a Highly Successful Household), but every now and then, the bathroom needs a good deep clean.

We recently renovated our master bedroom with new tile, and the master bathroom was off limits for a couple of weeks (darn you, backordered tile!). So with the time to kill with an unusable bathroom, I decided to do a deep clean on the shower and shower doors. My husband moved the shower doors outside, and I went on the hunt for a recipe for a homemade ('cause I'm cheap) and nontoxic ('cause I'm pregnant) shower scrubber.

I started with about 1/2 cup of baking soda and added a few squirts of Dawn. Easy peasy. Out to the shower doors. It worked great on all that funk, so I moved inside into the bathroom and did the shower itself. It worked fantastic on the walls - much better than any other homemade cleaner I've used. The floor of our shower was actually cream again! Who would have thought!

There was a little extra, so I left it in the Tupperware container I mixed it up in, topped it with a lid and left it in my laundry room. A few days later, I grabbed to clean our other bathroom's tub, and it again worked really well.

I used my hand with rubber gloves on, and that's about all the extra oomph it needed but feel free to use a scrubbing brush or sponge!

Homemade Shower Scrub
1 box Baking soda.
Dawn dish soap (enough to moisten the baking soda.)

Put baking soda in a bowl. Add Dawn dish soap, a small amount at a time, stirring after each addition.
You can make a smaller amount by using less baking soda for the base. When it's the pasty consistency you want, it's ready to use. Apply to bathroom surfaces, scrub, and rinse.

Creatively Domestic

Simple Cooking | Easy Cooking

Monday, October 4, 2010

Menu Plan for Monday Oct 4

My version of menu planning has been tweaked a little in the past month. I read The Tightwad Gazette books (II and III - that's all my library had) recently and had an almost epiphany about menu planning: Use what you have, only buy what's a deal.

Surprisingly, I have spent less each week on groceries, which has allowed me more freedom to buy "the deals," but the shift of thinking has really rocked my world. Consequently, I dusted off my Price Book (which is an Excel file) and spent a good hour one afternoon comparing toilet paper prices per roll vs square feet to decide if the Charmin that Publix has on sale this week is a good deal. (It's not compared to Sams)

I went two weeks without a menu plan, but now am thinking I need to get back into picking meals each night - it makes my days roll by smoother. I will just make a menu plan for what I have on hand, and avoid recipes that need recipe-specific ingredients.

Eggs & Toast
Oatmeal with Fruit & Nuts

Roast in the Crockpot with carrots, Salad, Rice or Pasta

Crockpot Chicken Drumsticks (or new drumstick recipe)

Enchiladas (in freezer), Mexican Rice, Salad

Pork & Veggie Stir Fry with White Rice

Salmon Fillets, Veggie, Rice or Pasta

I'm sharing this at I'm an Organizing Junkie: Menu Plan Monday.

Creatively Domestic

Simple Cooking | Easy Cooking

Friday, October 1, 2010

Homemade Granola

We don't eat cereal at our house. I've just found that boxes of cereal can get really expensive, plus all the additional milk that I have to buy, since the adults in the family don't drink milk.

That means we eat eggs, toast, oatmeal, pancakes occasionally, and fruit, but that's about it. Yes, that does sound boring, even written out. I started searching for something new to shake up the breakfast menu

I keep seeing recipes for granola, but all of them contained large amounts of nuts or dried fruit, which sometimes doesn't work for me. Plus, I wanted to try a "basic" recipe before I started jazzing it up. I always have large amount of old-fashioned oats in the house, so this was really easy to make.

Basic Granola
recipe adapted from Amy's Finer Things and Lynn's Kitchen Adventures

1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup oil (I use Canola)
1/2 cup honey
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. vanilla
7 cups old fashioned oats

Mix brown sugar, oil, and honey in a small saucepan.  Bring to a low boil. Remove from heat.  Stir in cinnamon and vanilla. Pour over oats in a large bowl.  Stir until well coated.

Spread oats in 2 - 9×13 pans. (I used one large cookie sheet) Bake at 375° for 10 minutes. Take out and stir.

Return pan to oven.  Turn oven off. Remove from oven after 3-4 hours, or let it sit overnight and it will be ready for breakfast in the morning.

The verdict?
I made this granola right after lunch and let it hang out in the oven all afternoon. It made the whole house smell like baked-good heaven.

I was pretty shocked at how good it was. Usually the ratio of easy = good is pretty complimentary, but this was easy AND good. My husband loved it and snacked on it out of the bowl. My son loved that he got "cereal" for breakfast. (He thinks all cereal is Fruit Loops - Thanks Grandma!)

We topped our bowls with raisins, although I couldn't talk my husband into a granola parfait-ish thing with yogurt. He stuck with the milk.

Overall, this was a great basic recipe that I'm excited to expand upon. This has opened up the door for cold cereal for this family!

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

Creatively Domestic

Simple Cooking | Easy Cooking