Friday, December 21, 2012

Gooey Chocolate Chip Bars

These are very gooey. Which is a very good thing when it comes to Chocolate Chip Bars. Licking chocolate off your fingers makes baked goods taste better in my book.

This recipe comes from the cooking portion of one of my favorite blogs, Clover Lane. These bars were easy to whip up and doesn't use as much butter as most baked goods. It seems like a lot of vanilla (a whole tablespoon??) but it is not overpowering. Just yummy.

Gooey Chocolate Chip Bars
Recipe from Cooking on Clover Lane

1 cup sifted all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup butter, melted
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix dry ingredients together. Combine melted butter and brown sugar.  Add beaten egg, and vanilla and blend well. Add flour mixture, a little at a time, mixing well. Spread in a square (9x9x2) pan.  Sprinkle chocolate chips on top. Bake for 20 minutes.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Chicago Style Deep Dish Pizza

This is an easy recipe to get close-to authentic Deep Dish pizza. It uses a cast iron pan, as other recipes I've found for Chicago Deep Dish needed a springform pan. Anything I can cook in my cast iron pan always has a fighting chance at turning out spectacular.

For toppings, I have used pepperoni, italian sausage, ground beef, onion, olives and broccoli. (OK, so one time I needed to use up some leftovers!)  I loaded up the layers, and followed the directions by putting it into a cold oven.

The crust is really sturdy and can support alot of toppings, so load it up! And don't forget to let it rest and cool down for at least 10 minutes after baking! Burned mouths are no fun!

Chicago Style Deep Dish Pizza
recipe adapted from Baking Serendipity

Pizza Dough (used PW's Pizza Crust recipe)
Marinara Sauce
1/2 lb mozzarella cheese
Dried basil
Toppings of your choice

Grease a cast iron skillet. Then line the skillet with the pizza dough, bringing it all the way up the sides to form the deep crust.
Begin with a very thin layer of sauce at the bottom. Sprinkle the sauce with basil, add a layer of your toppings and then the cheese. Repeat (sauce, basil, toppings, cheese), ending with the sauce on top.
Place the cast iron skillet in a cold oven and set the temperature at 500 degrees. When the oven reaches 500 degrees, knock the temperature down to 400 degrees and bake for about thirty minutes. Let the pizza sit for 5-10 minutes before cutting.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Almond Biscotti

This is great sweet treat to add to any cookie platter. This is a baked good that doesn't use any butter, so it could be a cheaper cookie if you already have the almond extract on hand.

This recipe makes two loaves, so it's very easy to make two varieties with one recipe. The last time I made this, one half had roughly chopped natural almonds, and the other plain, which I dipped in chocolate.

I love these with coffee, and my husband is always surprised that these came from our kitchen. They are that good!

Almond Biscotti
recipe adapted from

1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
1 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon almond extract
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 cup roughly chopped natural almonds (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper. (I use a silicone baking mat)

In a medium bowl, beat together the oil, eggs, sugar and almond extract until well blended. Combine the flour and baking powder, stir into the egg mixture to form a heavy dough. Divide dough into two pieces. Form each piece into a roll as long as your cookie sheet. Place roll onto the prepared cookie sheet, and press down to 1/2 inch thickness.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes in the preheated oven, until golden brown. Remove from the baking sheet to cool on a wire rack.

When the cookies are cool enough to handle, slice each one crosswise into 1/2 inch slices. Place the slices cut side up back onto the baking sheet.

Bake for an additional 6 to 10 minutes on each side. Slices should be lightly toasted.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars (with a cake mix)

This is such a great, quick, and yummy recipe. I buy cake mixes when they are super cheap and stash them specifically for this recipe.

This came from my extended family cookbook (Thanks Rachelle!)  I have also used a Devil's Food cake mix, and it created Brownie-like cookie bars. Very versatile!

Chocolate Chip Bars
Makes 12 servings

1 cake mix, yellow or white
1/2 cup vegetable oil (I have used applesauce here, and it changes the texture a little, but tastes very similar)
2 eggs
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips, mini or regular or baking M&Ms

Mix all ingredients together except chips. Put in 9x13 pan.

Press chips on top. (I literally sprinkled the last bits of the chocolate chip bag over top!)

Bake at 350 for 25-30 mins.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Sausage, Lentil & Kale Soup

This is one of my favorite ways to eat kale, and it's pretty inexpensive to make. The kiddos really like the sausage, but pick past the kale. Oh well.  This soup is really good and the kale adds a great texture. Savory and earthy and yummy all in one.

Sausage, Lentil and Kale Soup
recipe adapted from Dec 2009 issue Everyday Food

2 teaspoons olive oil
8 ounces sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
2 celery stalks, thinly sliced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1/2 cup dried lentils
6 cups chicken stock (I used homemade turkey stock)
1/2 cup water
1 bunch (about 1/2 pound) kale, stems removed, torn into bite-sized pieces
salt and pepper
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

In a large pot, heat oil over medium high. Add sausage and brown, breaking into pieces. Add celery and onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add lentils, broth, and water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until lentils are tender, about 25 minutes.

Add kale and season with salt. Return soup to a rapid simmer, cover and cook until kale wilts, about 5 minutes. Remove soup from heat and stir in vinegar. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Oreo Pudding

This recipe is more often used as Dirt Cups, but in a big 'ol bowl, this is pure. chocolate. heaven. I bought this to a family picnic once, and people from age 1 to 75 ate the crap out of it. They were literally scraping the bowl to get the last drops. This isn't pretty, but it's yummy.

I got this recipe from my mother-in-law as it's one of my husband's favorite childhood foods.

Oreo Pudding

Two 3.9 oz boxes instant chocolate pudding mix
1 16-ounce container whipped topping
1 package Oreos or chocolate sandwich cookies

Make pudding to package instructions. Break Oreos into bite size pieces. Mix all together and chill in the refrigerator until ready to eat.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

This tastes like store bought, makes four times as much, and is as easy as pushing a button on your food processor. I have another recipe on this site for Garlic Hummus, but this is the preferred hummus in our house.

This recipe makes a large amount, so I like to freeze half for another time. Once it's thawed, just give it a stir and you're in business.

We eat this with veggies or crackers for dipping, but I really like it as a replacement for mayo on sandwiches.

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus
recipe revised from

12 oz jar roasted red peppers, drained
1 cloves garlic, minced
2 (15 ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained, juice reserved
1/3 cup tahini
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
1 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
1/8 teaspoon paprika

In a food processor, process the red peppers until roughly chopped. Remove 2 tablespoons as a garnish for the finished hummus. To the processor bowl with red peppers, add remaining ingredients. Process until smooth, adding the reserved bean juice a tablespoon at a time (I used about 2 tablespoons or so) if needed to get to the consistency you want. Taste and season with more salt if needed. Spoon into your serving container and top with the reserved chopped red peppers.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Buttery Bread Machine Rolls

I served Crockpot Sloppy Joes for Halloween night. I like having dinner that night on a grab-n-go basis so I can munch all night in between Snickers and Kit-Kats.

This rolls were great, looked like store-bought and I think if I hadn't told everyone I made them, I could have passed them off. I made the recipe into 12 hamburger bun size, but they were a little too big, so next time I'll make 18. (Updated - I have decided 16 rolls for this recipe makes the perfect size!)

These buns had an almost croissant-like taste, and they made great Egg & Cheese Sandwiches the next day, also!

Buttery Bread Machine Rolls
recipe adapted from Recipezaar

1 cup warm milk (70 to 80 degrees F.)
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 cups bread flour (or all purpose)
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
In bread machine pan, put all ingredients in order suggested by manufacturer. Select dough setting. When cycle is completed, turn dough onto a lightly floured surface. Divide dough into 24 portions for dinner rolls, and 16 portions for hamburger buns. Shape dough into balls. Place in a greased 13 inch by 9 inch baking pan or lined baking sheet. Cover and let rise in a warm place for 1-2 hours. Bake at 350 degrees for 13-20 minutes or until golden brown.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Deviled Eggs

Our Mom's Club held the annual Harvest Festival this past week, and each mom was asked to bring a snack to share. I chose Deviled Eggs, because that's something that I always grab when I see them at a potluck.

I served them in a foil throw-away container and put each egg in a muffin cup - it kept them from sliding around and made it easy to grab them out of the container. I borrowed this idea from Ina Garten, holiday themed muffin papers would have been even cuter!

One of the moms came through and added Halloween food decorations to the platters of food on the table. It was cute to tie all the foods together and bring together the Halloween theme.

Deviled Eggs
from The Betty Crocker Cookbook

6 hard boiled eggs
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper

Peel eggs. Cut lengthwise in half. Slip out yolks and mash with fork.
Stir mayonnaise, mustard, salt and pepper into yolks. Fill whites with egg yolks mixture, heaping it lightly. Cover and refrigerate up to 24 hours.

Friday, October 26, 2012

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? Although the recipe looked good, I ended up putting 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 cookies, and only came home with a few leftover. 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!

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.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Slow Cooker Sausage Barley Soup

Can a soup that has sausage in it ever be bad? I think my husband and I are trying to eat so healthy, that when we allow ourselves something like sausage, we go a little ga-ga.

This soup was really good, and it was a bit of a shocker. I did a mini-pantry raid for this, and although I purposefully bought barley to put into a soup, I wasn't planning on this specific recipe. So, I threw everything into the slow cooker in the morning, and walked away until dinner.

I was even excited to eat this the next day for leftovers, and it was just as good. It was a little thicker, but still had great flavor.

The original recipe had a diced carrot and a 10 oz package of frozen chopped spinach in it, and I swapped those out for a diced zucchini. I think more vegetables would be good in this soup, but isn't soup just a great vehicle for more veggies to begin with?

Slow Cooker Sausage Barley Soup
recipe adapted from

1 pound Italian sausage
1/2 cup diced onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 (48 fluid ounce) can chicken broth (I used homemade)
1 zucchini, diced
1/2 cup uncooked pearl barley

In a skillet over medium heat, cook the sausage, onion, and garlic until the sausage is evenly brown. Season with Italian seasoning. Remove from heat, and drain. In a slow cooker, mix the sausage mixture, chicken broth, zucchini, and barley. Cover, and cook 4 hours on High or 6 to 8 hours on Low. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Slow Cooker Applesauce

If you would have told me how different homemade applesauce and store bought applesauce are, I wouldn't have believed you. But wow, they are completely different.

Homemade applesauce is not grainy, it's smooth. And it actual tastes like apples, not sour grainy mush.

I saw bags of apples at the store for on sale, and thought I'd give it a try. I have been buying unsweetened applesauce jars for a few weeks, as it is a great snack for my son, but this homemade stuff is gold!

We ate almost the complete batch as a side with dinner. I think there is a whopping 1/2 cup stashed in the frig, and I bet that won't make it through the night.

Slow Cooker Applesauce
Recipe adapted from A Year of Slow Cooking

4 large apples, skinned, cored, and cut in quarters (I used 8 small)

Juice from 1/2 lemon 

1 tablespoon brown sugar 

1/4 cup water

Skin, core, and cut your apples into quarters. Place the pieces into a 4 quart crockpot. Add the juice from the lemon, and the water. Sprinkle brown sugar over top.

Cover and cook on low for 4-6 hours. When the apples are super tender, mash with a potato masher or large fork. I cooked mine for about 5 hours, and I mushed them up with a potato masher.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Lentil and Brown Rice Casserole

Here is the uber-frugal Lentil and Brown Rice Casserole, and I wasn't expecting much from it. I figured even if we ate a little bit, but weren't in love with it, I didn't throw too many expensive ingredients into the casserole.

But.... it was a really great dinner! My husband was pretty skeptical, but he was honestly surprised at how good it was! I added 2 diced carrots, and 1/2 tsp of curry powder to jazz it up a little, but I think any veggie could be swapped in. Plus, the cheese on top didn't hurt.

Plus it was dirt cheap, and I can make this casserole almost 4 times from a bag of lentils and a bag of brown rice.

Lentil and Brown Rice Casserole
recipe adapted from The Grocery Cart Challenge and 5 Dollar Dinners

3 cups broth (chicken or vegetable)
3/4 cups green lentils, although any color will do
1/2 cup brown rice
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
2 tsp Italian seasoning
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp pepper
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Mix all ingredients except the cheese in a baking dish (I use an 11 x 7). Cover with foil and bake for 1 hour 10 minutes. Then remove the foil, add the cheese, and bake for an additional 20 minutes.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Slow Cooker Mexican Beer Chicken

Monday nights are soccer practice, so it has also become our slow cooker night. So far this soccer season I've done spaghetti sauce with chicken sausage warming in the slow cooker and Slow Cooker Sticky Chicken Drumsticks. I'm hoping to re-try some family favorites but try some new slow cooker recipes, too.

I found this recipe lurking in the depth of my "To Try" folder, and I had some random beers hiding in my frig needing to be used. It felt weird to be cracking open a beer at 10 am.

Once time for dinner came, the chicken shredded up nicely, and the flavor of the chicken in the beer/taco seasoning mix was really good! I was very surprised and pleased.

The original recipe had a can of corn and black beans, but I like to keep things separate. My four year old will eat more if I do it that way, although I served corn on the side. We skipped the tortillas and ate it as taco salads.

Slow Cooker Mexican Beer Chicken
recipe adapted from Baking Serendipity

3 boneless skinless chicken breasts (chicken thighs would work well, too)
1 cup salsa
1 12 oz bottle beer
1 packet taco seasoning (or 3 tablespoons homemade)

Place chicken breasts in the slow cooker. Top with salsa.

Pour beer into a tall glass, and dissolve taco seasoning in beer. (Make sure you use a container that gives you a lot of head room - mine foamed over once I added the taco seasoning!) Pour into slow cooker and cook on low for 8-10 hours. Remove chicken from slow cooker and shred chicken with two forks. Drizzle with a little of the cooking liquid and serve.

Monday, October 15, 2012

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 the boys were tucked into bed, and I, of course, was having a massive chocolate craving.  I thought of this recipe copied and stashed in my "Recipes to Try" folder.

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.

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.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Tuna Burgers

It's a struggle figuring out how to get more fish into my family. Although, I can't blame them for my struggles to serve fish...I just don't get that excited for it! So this recipe looked like a great compromise.

I made 4 patties with 2 cans of tuna, and we ate them bun-less, I guess more like Salmon Patties. I loved the combination of chili sauce and mayo in the burgers, (reminded me of Bang Bang Shrimp). My husband and I loved ours, our two-year-old didn't touch them, but that wasn't a surprise.

Tuna Burgers

1 (7 oz) can tuna, drained and flaked
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup chopped celery
2 tablespoons minced onion
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons chili sauce
2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon (to taste) Old Bay Seasoning

Combine the first 4 ingredients. Blend next 3 ingredients. Stir into tuna mixture. Form 4 patties. Fry lightly in oiled skillet over medium heat about 5 minutes or until browned. Serve.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Repurposing Leftover Bread

I was inspired by this post at Cents to Get Debt Free to share my stash of frozen bread heels and leftover bread chunks....I know, sounds appealing, right? I throw the lonely, forgotten bread heels, leftover buns or french bread into a bag, and the pieces that I would normally throw away get re-worked into something new!

But I use that bag of bread heels and random bread pieces to make:

I make a big batch of bread crumbs and store them in the freezer so I can pull them out whenever I need them without having to lug out the food processor.

It's a great way to be frugal, economical, and pretty creative in the kitchen!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Apple Raisin Cookies

I made these for a kiddos playgroup because 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!

I made the cookies 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.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Roasted Butternut Squash Medley

This was roasting away during college football this Saturday: a medley of butternut squash, a pound of carrots and a huge red onion.

I like to keep it simple and just cut them up into bite size pieces, toss together with a couple tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper, garlic powder and dried thyme. Then roast at 425 degrees for about an hour, stirring once or twice.

I am planning to serve this as a side dish to chicken and a kale salad, then whatever leftovers remain will be put on top salads for the week.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Homemade Cleaning 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 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 it 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!

I have used this scrub to clean most of the bathroom, but also my ceramic stovetop, a grungey coffeepot, and my stainless steel kitchen sink!

Homemade Cleaning 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 surfaces, scrub, and rinse.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Blackened Corn Spicy Potato Salad

I love when the school supplies show up in the stores, but it always means you had better hurry and get your summer activities in while you still have a chance! For me, that includes eating lots of summer-time food!

I got this recipe for Blackened Corn Spicy Potato Salad from Prudence Penny Wise and it was so good! Although I didn't follow the recipe to a "t"...we didn't have any green chilies, and used a small amount of mayo and no sour cream, but it was still the highlight of our dinner. The combination of the cool mayo, tang of the lime & cilantro, plus the spice of the cumin and chili powder was awesome. The blackened corn added such a great flavor!

This is a great change up from "regular" potato salad, and would be great at a picnic, potluck, or summer get-together. You still have time before Labor Day!

Blackened Corn Spicy Potato Salad

3 lbs. russett potatoes, peeled
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups corn, thawed if frozen
1 large onion, chopped
1 (4 ounce) can diced green chilies
1/3 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise (or use more sour cream)
juice of two limes
1/2 teaspoon cumin
a pinch or two of chipotle chili powder OR tabasco
1 teaspoon each salt and pepper
1/2 cup packed cilantro leaves

Place whole potatoes in a large pot of cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cook until potatoes are just tender when pricked with a fork, about 14-18 minutes. Remove from heat and drain in a colander; cut into bite sized pieces when cool enough to handle. Place same pot over medium high heat. Add oil and warm. Add onions and cook for five minutes. Crank the heat up to high and add corn and green chilies. Cook, stirring every minute or so, until corn is blackened in places, about 5 minutes. Place potatoes and corn mixture in a large bowl. Add sour cream, mayo, lime juice, cumin, chili powder, salt, pepper, and cilantro. Chill for at least two hours before serving. Adjust seasonings just before serving.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Here's a Quick Weeknight Meal: Easy Lemon Chicken

School and soccer have officially started for our family. That means quick weeknight meals are once again in high demand! I rely on my slow cooker or freezer meals, but it's still nice to have some variety to keep dinner interesting.

Once I got this recipe going, the dinner came together very quickly.  I started the butter melting, and got some Roasted Asparagus going in the toaster oven in between steps, and it was all done at the same time. I pulled some pre-cooked rice out of the microwave while my husband was serving up the plates.

The adults were more impressed with the chicken than the kiddos, but it was still a good dish.

Easy Lemon Chicken
recipe adapted from The Queen Bee's Hive

1/4 cup butter
1.5 to 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, or chicken tenders
1 pkg. Italian Seasoning Salad Dressing Mix
Juice of 2 lemons.

Melt butter in frying pan on medium-high heat, and sear the chicken pieces. Sprinkle with dressing mix, and add the lemon juice. Top the frying pan with a lid, bring mixture to a simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until the mixture is combined or the rest of your dinner is ready! Remove the lid for the last few minutes to reduce the sauce.

What are your favorite go-to busy weeknight meals?

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Slow Cooker Meatloaf

The ability to make meatloaf without turning on the oven would open up a new list of foods to my summer cooking list, so when I saw this at A Year of Crockpotting, I knew I would give it a try.

This worked really well. The meatloaf ended up resting in the crockpot after being fully cooked for almost an hour, so it was the perfect consistency to remove from the crock and slice on a cutting board. My husband said it was the best meatloaf he's ever had, which of course, is the best compliment I could ever ask for.

I don't know what percentage fat my meat was because it was from my local farm, but it must have been pretty lean, because I didn't have a lot of fat floating. This made yummy leftovers for the next day, so it's a great technique that I'll use again.

Meatloaf in the Crockpot
technique adapted from A Year of Crockpotting

Your favorite meatloaf recipe or:
1 pound ground beef
1/2 cup quick oats
2 tablespoons minced onion
2 tablespoons minced celery
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 egg
 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup (or less) milk
Ketchup for garnish on top of meatloaf

Combine all ingredients, except milk. Add milk, a little at a time, until it is a smoother consistency, but not goopy.

You can use a 6 quart crock with a meatloaf pan inside it, or if your meatloaf pan won't fit, use a 4 quart and put the meat directly into the crock. (which is what I did) Spray the crock with non-stick spray, and either put your meatloaf pan or meatloaf itself into the cooker.

Cover and cook on high for 4 hours, or on low for 6-8.  Let the meat sit for about 30 minutes before you slice and serve.

I cooked mine on Low for 3 hours 30 minutes, and the temp was at 170, so I turned it off and let it set for about an hour until we ate.

Monday, August 6, 2012

How to Start Making Freezer Meals: 5 Excuses Busted!

Freezer meals save my sanity, and they are utilized every week in my kitchen. When I talk to other people about freezing meals for their family, most are excited by the idea, but have a lot of excuses why they don't do it:

1. It seems too expensive. 
Some freezer meal sites show you huge counters full of groceries, ready to be made into meals. This amount of food shocks most first timers and their grocery budget, but you do not need to use up all that money in one big sha-bang to make freezer meals.

Just double ONE meal each week. This is easy to do because most ingredients have leftover portions anyway. I like to use whole 16 ounce boxes of pasta at a time, (random half-ful boxes in the pantry drive me psycho) so if a recipe only calls for 8 ounces of dried noodles, I double the recipe and freeze half. Every meal does not need to be an expensive, meat-heavy recipe. Freezing black bean enchiladas can stock your freezer without breaking your budget, either.

2. I can't afford to buy all those disposable pans.
So don't! Glass Pyrex dishes are extremely reasonable at thrift stores and work great in the freezer. Another option is to freeze the casserole in the foil-lined pan, and pop it out once it's frozen so you can re-use your dish. Just place the dish back into it's original pan when you are ready to cook it.

I buy my freezer bags when they are on sale: my buy price is about $1 a box. I also like to use "free" bags (i.e. bread bags) when I am only keeping items together (like Breakfast Burritos or foil wrapped Ham & Cheese Sandwiches).  All the meals in my freezer are in glass pans or freezer bags. I only use disposable foil pans when I want to drop a meal off to someone.

3. My family doesn't eat casseroles.
There are many different types of freezer meals out there, not just casseroles. One of our family favorites, Peanut Chicken, is not a casserole. Take an existing family favorite recipe that you know your family will eat, and freeze it. You don't even have to freeze the whole recipe, just a portion of it, and that will give you an idea of how it will survive the thawing/freezing process.

4. I can't make 30 meals in one day.
Some people follow the logic "If I'm cooking, let's cook once and I won't have to do it for the rest of the month." I think that's great if it works for them. I don't have the motivation or attention span to cook all day. I have a lot of more flexibility in my schedule, so I like to cook some meals from scratch during the week, but still like to take some nights off and use a freezer meal.

5. I'm not that organized. 
I am not either. Multiplying recipes by six gives me hives, let alone shopping for all those ingredients get me overwhelmed! I like to double one meal a week: that seems manageable to me. Find your level where you still feel in the control and start there. Maybe it's buying extra ingredients one week, and cooking them the next week.

It doesn't have to be a big ordeal to start utilizing freezer meals: just start small and see what works for you and your family!

Check out my Freezer Meal ebook, available for your Kindle, Nook, or iPad.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Organization for School Lunches

 My 4 year old is getting ready to start full day VPK (Voluntary Pre Kindergarten) this fall and I need to pack him a lunch everyday. To start getting organized now, I set up a simple system inspired from $5 Dinner in One Hour.

I put one bin into the pantry, and one in the frig to hold the food specifically for lunches.

The goal for the bins is to seperate the "lunch" food from the "everyday snacky what-do-we-have-to-eat " food. If it's in the bin, it's off limits. If it's in the pantry or frig outside of the bin, it's fair game.

Since we have some time before school starts, right now the pantry bin is only holding applesauce

Pantry "Lunch Bin"
and the frig bin is holding cheese sticks (cut them yourself from a block of cheese and save serious moo-lah).
Cheese sticks in my Frig "Lunch Bin"
These bins should also help me do the majority of the work over the weekend and save time in the morning. I am also planning on utilizing my freezer PB&J's this fall also!