Monday, December 29, 2008

Menu Plan Monday 12/29/08

Wow! The end is in sight! Not the end of menu planning, ha ha, but the end of 2008. There is something special about turning the proverbial page and starting a new year. This happens to be an "odd" year - in that it ends with a 9. What that means for me is that it will take me 3 times as long to stop writing an 8 instead of what it is supposed to be - a 9. Weird, huh? All right - on to the menu!

Monday: Ham & Cheesy Potato Casserole & Salad
Tuesday: General Tso's Chicken, Rice, & Egg Drop Soup
Wednesday: Taco Pizza (I'm going to try to recreate Happy Joe's Taco Pizza), Salad
Thursday: Poppyseed Chicken Casserole, Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans
Friday: Steaks (complements of my Dad's cows), Mushroom Rice Pilaf (I use fresh mushrooms and skip the green peppers in favor of celery), & Salad
Saturday: Butternut Squash Soup with Homemade Sage Croutons, Biscuits, & Salad

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


Yesterday morning I decided to make pancakes for breakfast. It is not a common thing that we have something like pancakes on a weekday morning. We usually save such meals for the weekend but with the cold weather, I thought something warm besides oatmeal was in order. I went to my favorite recipe website,, and typed in pancakes. I remembered making these one day when my wonderful husband was not here. They were really good so I decided to make them again with just a few modifications to fit what is in my cupboard.

Wheat Germ Whole Wheat Pancakes
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 2 cups buttermilk (or substitute 2 cups milk with 2 Tbl. vinegar)
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 cup wheat germ
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
Mix all the ingredients together and fry up the pancakes as usual, about a 1/4 cup of batter for each pancake. Serve as you would any other pancake. Here in our house we like butter, maple syrup, whipped cream and sprinkles. :)

My dh said they were great. But he likes to make his pancakes a little bit healthier. "But they are healthy!" I said in reply. He thought I had used all white flour. That is because they are very light and fluffy for using the heavier whole wheat flour, not to mention wheat germ. So give them a try! Maybe your family will not notice the extra fiber in their diet. :)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Menu Plan Monday 12/15/08

Menu plan, Menu plan, Menu all the way....Oh what fun it is to write a menu plan todaaaaayyyy EH! (sung to Jingle Bells if you care to know..)

Monday: Pork Chops with Bordelaise Sauce, Roasted Potatoes & Carrots
Tuesday: Broccoli Cheese Soup with Dinner Rolls
Wednesday: Homemade Chicken Pot Pie & Salad
Thursday: Broiled Salmon, Mushroom Rice Pilaf & Green Beans
Friday: White Bean Ragu with Penne Pasta & Salad

Now, I have a request of anyone who is reading this. I love Litehouse's Ranch dressing. It really is the only ranch that I'll buy now (I get it at Sam's Club). However, I've been trying to recreate it here in my home kitchen. I really haven't come close. Does anyone have a good ranch dressing recipe (similar to Litehouse's if possible?). Thanks!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Lemonade Award

My very first blog award! I am thankful to Amy at The Story of Amy for thinking of my blog when she got this to pass on. She is a fellow menu planner but her blog is also about her life and other tid-bits of information. Thanks Amy!

Here are the blogs I'd like to give an award to:

  • A Day in The Life - I go to this blog whenever I need a good laugh. Polly is a very talented writer.
  • Fluttering In The Kitchen - A new blog but I love all the recipes, we have similar tastes!
  • A Journey Down a Narrow Road - Another fellow menu planner, I enjoy Mandy's blog.
  • The Bullhorn - Different than most blogs I follow (written by a man!) but I respect Joe's godly outlook on life and his thoughts on the church.
  • And finally, I give the award to The Horn Herd, the author is a great friend who's daily life often cracks me up and gives me insight.

Here are the rules:

1. Put the logo on your blog or post.

2. Nominate at least 10 blogs which show great Attitude and/or Gratitude! (Okay, I totally skimped on this one - SORRY!)

3. Link to your nominees within your post.

4. Let them know that they have received this award by commenting on their blog.

5. Share the love and link to this post and to the person from whom you received your award.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Homemade Oreos

This is my very own concoction. I think it turned out pretty well!

Homemade Oreo Cookies

1 box Chocolate Cake Mix (I used a 25 cent box of Wal-Mart's)
4 Tbls. melted shortening
1/4 cup water
3 Tbls. flour
2 Tbls. Sugar

Mix all the ingredients together with a electric mixer. Divide into three equal sections. Roll out on a lightly floured surface to 1/8 thickness. Cut into circles with a lid to a spice container.

I found that using an off-set spatula will help you lift them off of the counter easier.

Bake circles on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet for 8 minutes. Allow to cool on sheets for a couple of minutes then transfer to a cooling rack.

1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup shortening
2 cups powdered sugar
3 Tbls. milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

Beat butter and shortening together until smooth. Slowly add the powdered sugar. Gradually beat in milk and vanilla. Place into a quart sized plastic bag with the tip cut off. Pipe about 1-2 teaspoons on one of the chocolate wafers. Top with another wafer.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Here it is, the famous soup recipe. Well, famous in our house at least. lol I've also decided to include the price break-out just to see how much this costs. I think it is interesting to do that when I can...


1 medium onion, chopped - .60
3 cloves garlic, minced - .05
1 4 oz. can diced chilis or 2 fresh Anaheim peppers -1.00
1 Tbsp cumin - .20
2 Tbsp cooking oil - .10
1-1/2 cups corn - .44
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes - .44
4 cups chicken broth (made from chicken soup base) - .15
1 1/2 cups coarsely shredded cooked chicken - 1.00
1 1/2 cups black beans (pressure cooked from dry) - .20
1/2 cup snipped cilantro - FREE from my garden (you can leave out if you don't like)
1 lime juiced -.30
2 cups coarsely crushed tortilla chips - .50
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese - 1.00
Sour cream (optional)

Meal total: 5.98 (and there is usually leftovers from our family of 2 adults and 3 small children)

In a large pot, cook chopped onion, garlic, peppers, and cumin in hot oil about 5 minutes or till tender, stirring constantly. Add corn kernels, tomatoes, chicken broth, shredded chicken, black beans, cilantro. Bring mixture to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered for 10 minutes. Ladle into bowls, top with crushed tortilla chips & cheese. If desired, add a dollop of sour cream.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Menu Plan Monday 12/8/08

Another week and another plan. We really stuck to the plan pretty well last week. The one exception is that I made Chicken Tortilla Soup on Friday for a dear friend who had a baby. It was well received. Do you have any of those recipes that you had at say a potluck. And then you make it and people who try yours want the recipe too? That is my Chicken Tortilla Soup recipe. I, of course, have made some variations to it but it is still that good ole soup recipe that people love. I'll try to post it tomorrow.

Monday: Pepperoni Calzones & Salad
Tuesday: Baked Ham, Potatoes, & CA Medley Vegetables
Wednesday: Curried Coconut, Chicken, & Sweet Potato Soup (pretty adventerous, eh?)
Thursday: Creamy Ham Alfredo & Salad
Friday: Shrimp Tacos, Refried Beans, Chips & Salsa

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

This Week's Menu Plan (a little late)

Well, I made my menu plan yesterday morning and shopped yesterday morning. I had to wait until December because our grocery budget was pretty well gone for November. I think this is due to 1). Thanksgiving 2). stocking up on meat that was on sale. So here it goes, the Menu Plan for the week of December 1st.

Monday: Mediterranean Chicken with Pasta & Homemade Garlic Bread

Tuesday: Sassy Mojo Pork, Black Beans, Fresh Pineapple

Wednesday: Italian Bean Soup with Sausage and Salad

Thursday: Pan-fried Pheasant with Wild Rice and Dilled Baby Carrots

Friday: Cheesy Chicken Broccoli Rice Bake & Salad

Sound good? What's on your menu?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The ULTIMATE Turkey Brine

This one is a winner folks. Your crew will be oohhhing and ahhhhing over this turkey. If they like ham that is....

Smokey Turkey Brine (from my mom's kitchen)
3 quarts water
3 cups sugar
2 cups Tender Quick (a Morton's product)
12 bay leaves
1 tablespoon liquid smoke

Enough for a 10 to 16 pound turkey. Mix all ingredients and pour over a turkey in a large container and place in the refrigerator for 48 hours. If you do not have room in your fridge, place the turkey and brine in an appropriately sized cooler and place in the garage. Fill gallon sized plastic storage bags with ice cubes and place on top of the turkey. Replace ice as needed. You'll probably need to flip your turkey if it is not submerged completely in either method.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

This Year's Specialtea Samples

A couple of weeks have passed since this year's Holiday Specialtea at church. As always, it was a great event with a WONDERFUL meal and lots of samples. If you don't know about the event, we provide samples of recipes along with recipe cards for each. The idea is so that the ladies can sample and see what might be a recipe to include in their holiday celebrations. So we always try to include some unique recipes. This year's theme was Cookies & Candy. Here is a list. Just click on the name and it will take you to the recipe link. All got good reviews, however, the Cracker Candy topped the list for ease and taste.

Cracker Candy

Mounds Candy

Whipped Shortbread Cookies

Spring Lime Cookies


Panocha Fudge

Butterscotch Gingerbread Cookies

Peppermint Snowball Cookies

We had two others: Thin Mint Girl Scout Cookies & Chocolate Coconut Log but alas, those don't have web links. If you'd like me to type them out, then please leave a comment.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Tartar Sauce

Here is my tartar sauce recipe.

Tartar Sauce
1/3 cup mayo
1 Tablespoon dill relish (heaping)
1/2 tsp lemon pepper
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1 dash of cayenne pepper
Salt & Pepper to taste

Mix well. Can be stored in the fridge for a week (or more but shhhh, don't tell anyone).

Menu Plan Monday 11/17/08

The snow is gently fluttering out of the sky and I'm sitting here with a hot cup of coffee. The girls are playing "nicely" and it is a wonderful time to sit and type out this week's menu which happens to be a short one. You see, in a few days, I'm going to be spending the night in a cabin with a bunch of junior high girls. Please don't be jealous. It is going to be a good trip but in regards to the menu for Saturday, dh is going to be on his own. And it might be fun for them to order in pizza. :)

Monday: Crispy Oven Baked Fish & French fries. I'm also going to make my own tartar sauce. This got moved from last week because I substituted a Baked Jerk Chicken which was phenomenal and another post....
Tuesday: Baked Potato Bar & Salad
Wednesday: 15 Bean Soup & Cheddar Thyme Biscuits
Thursday: Tater Tot Hotdish & Salad
Friday: Chicken Parmesan - mmm and I'm out the door for camp before the dishes are done.

Please check out Laura's blog for an insane amount more menu ideas.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Feta Apple Spinach Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing

This one is a winner! Even if you think you only like iceberg salads with ranch, you will enjoy this salad. I promise ;)

Poppy Seed Dressing (from Comfort and Joy Goose Berry Patch Cookbook)
3/4 c. sugar
1/2 c. vinegar
1 t. salt
4 T. poppy seeds
1 T. dry mustard
1 T. onion, grated
1 c. oil (I used Canola)

Blend all ingredients and refrigerate. Shake well before using. Makes 2 cups.
Dice up half an apple (any type will work). Sprinkle feta cheese on a bed of baby spinach. Add the apple. Drizzle on the poppy seed dressing and enjoy!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Our Daily Bread Recipe

Yesterday, I made some bread. I bake bread about once a week - that equals two loaves of bread per week for our family of 5. I'm sure you've all been annoyed at the price of bread in the stores. I was! So much so that I've taken to making our own. Not a foreign idea to me since homemade bread was all I grew up with but still it was a change from what we had been doing - buying 2 loaves of bread for about 5 dollars at most stores- which is a very good price for the brand of bread we bought! A friend stopped by while I was kneading away and I told her I figured it cost me about 80 cents to bake the two loaves. Today, stricken with the possibility of having misrepresented the cost, I decided to figure out how much it indeed did cost in the way of materials (I did not figure in the cost of running the oven at 350 for 30 minutes) to be sure I was honest.

My Bread Recipe (adapted from many recipes)

1/4 cup Warm Water (~115 degrees F) - Free
1/2 teaspoon Sugar - I'm calling this one a gimme - Free
1 Tbl instant yeast - 6 cents (I buy yeast in 2 lb packages at Sam's - very cheap)
1 cup whole wheat flour - 16 cents
1/2 oatmeal - 5 cents
1/2 wheat germ - 4 cents (I buy it in the bulk bins - WAY cheaper)
2 cups warm water - Free
1/3 cup brown sugar - 9 cents
1/3 cup canola oil - 15 cents
3-4 cups all purpose flour - 30-40 cents (cheaper if I can get it less than 1.88 a 5 lb package)

Proof the yeast by mixing together the water, sugar and yeast in a bowl of a stand mixer. Allow to sit for 5 mintues. Dump in the whole wheat flour, wheat germ, oatmeal, 2 cups warm water, brown sugar, and oil and stir together using a dough hook on your mixer. Add all purpose flour 1 cup at a time until a loose ball forms. On a well floured surface, dump out the dough. Knead, adding extra flour, until just slightly sticky. Usually about 5 mintues. Divide dough in two pieces and shape into loaf looking pieces. Place in small loaf pans that have been prepared by spraying or brushing the sides with olive oil. Cover with a damp towel and allow to raise in a warm spot for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. The upper dough should be higher than the rim of the pan. Bake for 30 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Now, if you use regular active dry yeast, then you have to add another step and let rise in an oiled bowl for an hour, then push down and divide and place into bread pans and allow to raise again. The instant yeast allows you to skip this step so I highly recommend it!

So the grand total? 87-97 cents for two loaves. So my rough estimate wasn't too far off. That's a saving of over 4 dollars every week. Take that times 52 weeks and you get 208 dollars a year. Now, one can always buy cheaper bread. But I would argue that my bread is probably healthier due mainly to the fact there is no high fructose corn syrup in it. Now, lately I've been adding a tablespoon of vital wheat gluten which has slightly improved the texture of the bread but it is not necessary. In case you are wondering though, I buy it at Walmart for 1.79 a box and I figure I get about 17 tablespoons out of it. It does add another 11 cents to the bill but again, still a huge savings in the long run.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Menu Plan Monday 11/10/08

Oh, I am EXCITED about this week's menu. I'm trying a couple of new recipe that I am really looking forward to having! When I was in high school, ages ago, I had the opportunity to spend a month in Mexico City. While there, I got to have this meal at a family member of the friend I was staying with. It was sliced pork with an orange sauce over it. I've been trying to recreate this meal for a couple of years now. I've never even come close to getting it right. But Tuesday's Sassy Mojo Orange Pork recipe will be a close match (and if that fails I have another recipe to fall back on). Also, one of my favorite dishes to have at a Thai resturant is Tom Ka Gai, a coconut chicken soup. I know that the recipe I have won't be a hundred percent authentic (it doesn't call for lemon grass or kaffir lime leaves) but I know it will be good. I got the recipe out of my Better Homes & Gardens Biggest Slow Cooker Cook Book. Without any further ado...

Monday: Chicken Pesto Pizza (this one didn't happen last week so it's been pushed to Monday)
Tuesday: Pork with Sassy Mojo Orange Sauce & Spinach Salad w/ homemade Poppy Seed Dressing
Wednesday: Chicken Coconut Lime Soup, Egg Rolls & Salad
Thursday: Pot Roast, Mashed Potatoes, & Carrots
Friday: Beef Enchiladas (w/ left over roast), Rice & Beans
Saturday: Crispy Oven Baked Fish (from BHG cook book) & T's Sweet Potato Fries

Monday, November 3, 2008

Menu Plan Monday 11/03/08

It's November!

And it's supposed to be 74 today!

Time to use the grill a couple more times before it goes into the shed for the winter. So the first couple of days are going to be grilled meals and then as we have a chance for snow later in the week, we'll go more for thJe warm comfort food.

Monday: Molten Cheeseburgers & French Fries (going to use my new spider!)
Tuesday: Caribbean Jerk Salmon, Orange Cilantro Rice & Salad
Wednesday: Orange Mustard Pork Chops (new crockpot recipe), Wild Rice (pressure cooker) & Green Beans
Thursday: Chicken Soup with Cheese Tortellini (thanks orgjunkie!) & Salad
Friday: Butternut Sage Pasta & Salad
Saturday: The Holiday Specialtea so hopefully Mike can put together this meal: Chicken Pesto Pizza

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Whole Wheat Bagel Recipe - First Attempt

I decided that it was time to make my own bagels. I can get these yummy whipped cream cheeses at Aldi at a great price so I wanted some whole wheat bagels to go with them. I tried the bagels from Aldi and I did NOT like them. So off to the internet to find a recipe. I found this one from and decided to give it a whirl. In addition, I added 1/2 cup wheat bran. I thought that would make them all over healthier without making them them too "grainy."
Whole Wheat Bagels
       2 pk Dry yeast
2 c Warm water (105-115 degrees)
2 tb Honey
2 c Whole wheat flour
1 1/2 ts Salt
3 c All-purpose flour, divided
3 1/2 qt Water
1 ts Salt
Sesame seeds

Recipe by: Southern Living
Preparation Time: 0:45
Dissolve yeast in warm water in a large bowl; let stand 5
minutes. Add honey, stirring well. Stir in 2 cups whole
wheat flour and 1-1/2 teaspoons salt; mix well. Gradually
stir in enough all-purpose flour to make a soft dough. Turn
dough out onto a heavily floured surface (dough will be
sticky), and knead until smooth and elastic (8 to 10
minutes). Place dough in a well-greased bowl, turning to
grease top. Cover dough, and let rise in a warm place (85
degrees), free from drafts, 1-1/2 hours or until doubled in

Punch dough down, and divide dough into 12 equal pieces.
Roll each into a smooth ball. Cut with 1-inch cutter or
punch a hole in the center of each ball with a floured
finger. Gently pull dough away from center to make a 1- to
1-1/2-inch hole. Place shaped bagels on lightly greased
baking sheets. Cover and let rise 15 minutes. Broil
bagels 5 inches from heat 2 minutes on each side or until
lightly browned. Bring water and 1 teaspoon salt to a boil
in a large Dutch oven. Reduce heat, and simmer bagels 3
minutes on each side. Place bagels on lightly greased
baking sheets. Sprinkle with sesame seeds; lightly press
seeds into bagels. Bake at 425 degrees for 20 to 25
minutes or until golden brown. Yield: 1 dozen.

Here you can see them ready to be formed into the classic "bagel" shape. To do this gently poke a finger through the middle and then add another finger and gently widen the whole until it is about 1-2 inches across.

Then there is one extra step between bagels and a regular bread recipe and that is the boiling. I was totally stoked to have a reason to use one of the newest tools in my kitchen - the spider. The spider is a Chinese tool that is usually used when frying in a wok. But it works incredibly well for any kind of deep frying or in this case "boiling" because it strains as you take it out of the hot liquid. Because the main part of it is made from metal but the handel is made from wood (or in the case of mine, bamboo), then you don't need to worry about anything melting or any heat being transfered up the handel.

The bagels looked pretty cool boiling away. I did 2 minutes on one side, then flipped them and did another two on the other.

And here was the final result. I liked them. My husband said they were a little too heavy for his taste but aren't bagels supposed to be "heavy"? The inside was chewy and the outside had that hard bite to it. Something to sink your teeth into - what's the word I'm looking for?.... I will make these again but I do think that I will mess with the recipe a little, maybe omitting the wheat bran I added...

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Tasty Tip Tuesday 10/21

Hey, it's Tuesday. Time for a tip! Let's focus this week on that wonderful gift from the ice cream companies. The gallon ice cream pail! What do you do to repurpose yours?

Here in our house, we always keep one underneath the kitchen sink. We use it to house all the compostable elements we create each day. It is great because the lid keeps the flies out and we empty ours frequently enough that we've never had a problem with smell. How's that for green living? Let's here your uses. Please leave a comment with your idea or link to your post.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Menu Plan Monday 10/20/08

It is another week and another menu plan. This week I get to bring a family with a brand new baby a meal. I've decided that I need to have a stand-by meal to make that most people will enjoy and is easy to make and is somewhat of a "treat" for people. I've found that in Monday's meal: mini-meatloaves, cheddar mashed potatoes, & mixed veggies. So if I know ahead of time that I am bringing someone a meal, that goes on the menu. However, I always ask the family if they eat red meat and if they have any allergies.

Monday: Mini-meatloaves, Cheddar mashed potatoes, Mixed veggies
Tuesday: Yogurt Chicken, Rice (make extra for Thurs. meal), Salad
Wednesday: Mexican Crock-pot Pork, Refried Beans, Homemade Corn Tortillas & Salsa
Thursday: Pork Stir-fry Rice, (use left-over pork) Salad
Friday: Parmesan Tilapia, Couscous, & Green Beans
Saturday: White Bean Ragu, Pasta, & Salad

As always, there are a plethora of ideas & menu plans over at - give it a look! And come back tomorrow for when I'm hosting Tasty Tip Tuesday. Tomorrow's theme is going to be ice cream gallon buckets!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Refried Beans - My way

As stated previously on this blog, I love Mexican food. So does the rest of my family. And a staple of any good Mexican meal is beans. Now, I like two types of beans in Mexican cuisine the best: the black and the pinto beans. I remember that month I spent in Mexico City in the kitchen of one of my friend's aunts and having "refried" black beans with my eggs for breakfast. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed them! So if you haven't tried them, I suggest you do!

Black beans (photo from

I use the pressure cooker to make all of my beans now. This means I save cost by using dried beans as opposed to canned beans. Now, canned beans are very cost effective too. However, many times they have a lot of salt added and then there is that canning liquid that I almost always like to wash off. So all in all, I think dried beans are the way to go. Here's what I do for all the beans I cook.

Pinto beans (photo from

First, I wash them off in a colander. As stated on most packages of dried beans, they are from an agricultural process and bits of foreign matter are not unlikely so this is an important step. Then I throw in them in the pressure cooker and add water until they are covered by about an inch. I let them soak for about 4 hours. I've found this to be a decent amount of time. After they have soaked (not a neccessary step but it does improve the final texture I've found), I drain the beans and return them to the pressure cooker pot.

Now, Lorna Sass has great charts in her book Pressure Perfect
that contain information on the ratio of liquid to bean and cooking times. Cooking time will vary from bean to bean. (Lima beans only take 7 minutes!) To the drained beans I add, 2 cloves garlic, 2 bay leaves, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 Tablespoon chicken base, the called for water and 1 Tablespoon oil. The oil is very important as it inhibits foaming. Then, I fit the top to the pressure cooker onto the pot. Bring to pressure under high heat. All cookers have different signals of when pressure is reached and when to begin timing. Mine has an indicator rod that comes up that lets me know high pressure has been reached, and I begin timing when steam comes out of the release valve. When this happens I turn the heat down to just maintain this steam and begin the timer. So for black beans it takes 18 minutes under high pressure and pintos take a bit longer at 21 minutes. Then, I let the pressure naturally release, meaning - just let it sit there until the pressure indicator rod is no longer up. This can take just as long as the cooking time but it really depends on how much you made. More equals a longer pressure release time is how it goes.

I like to take some of the liquid out as I do not like my beans to be too soupy and I also remove the bay leaves. Then I take another gadget which I LOVE, the immersion blender, and make quick work. You can leave the beans at any stage of puree that you want. For the black beans, I sometimes add the juice of one lime and a teaspoon of cumin and a dash of cayenne to kick it up a notch as one famous chef would say. Serve and enjoy!

Always make extras, they can be frozen for several months in the freezer. You don't even have to blend all of the beans. The beans can be frozen in whole form and thrown in chilis and soups and quesadillas and so on....

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Tasty Mounds Candy

Cheaper By The (Half) Dozen has requested Tasty Recipes this Tuesday so I thought I'd share this one. My wonderful husband claims I could sell these for two dollars a piece. Lucrative business opportunity? Maybe?


2 lbs. powdered sugar
1/2 lb. butter
1 can Eagle Brand milk
14 oz. coconut

Mix together and make into small balls; set in freezer.

2 (12 oz.) and 1 (6 oz.) pkg. chocolate chips (I used chocolate almond bark)

Dip coconut balls into melted chocolate. This recipe makes a lot but they are delicious.

I quartered the recipe and got twenty-five. They were good sized too. Sorry I don't have a photo!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Tasty Tip Tuesdays

Anyone want to join in? I'm always up for learning new cooking tips, be them either cost saving, time saving or flavor enhancing!

Simply leave a comment with your blog post url that includes your tip or just go ahead and write out your tip in the comment section. Please include the above picture in your post.

Here is my tip today:

Make your own croutons! Don't settle for those stale, expensive croutons anymore. Here is what you can do to make your own.

Use your past prime bread, heels or whatever. Cut into cubes, I like to have about 2 cups cubes. In a skillet, heat 3 Tablespoons olive oil on medium high, throw in 1-2 tsps Italian seasoning. Go ahead and get crazy and add garlic powder if you want. Add 1/2 tsp of kosher salt. Heat the seasonings until you can start to smell them. Add the bread crumbs and stir. Stir until they are golden brown and toasty. Enjoy on salad or enjoy on your favorite soup. To store, place them in a airtight plastic bag in your pantry. Or freeze them if you will not use with in a few days.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Menu Plan Monday 10/13/08

Last week was a wonderful week where my dh and I celebrated our 10 year anniversary. I did menu planning for the first couple of days and then planned and partitially prepared meals for the wonderful couple that watched our three little ones. It went pretty well! One night, we indulged in a full seven course meal. It was wonderful! We are truly "foodies" :) One of the dishes contained black truffles and I was super excited to try that risotto. However, although it did taste good, I didn't think the "hype" about truffles really panned out. It is my belief that a good porcini mushroom will give a similar depth of flavor but perhaps I'm off my rocker.

Here is this coming week's menu:

Monday: Broiled Salmon, Mushroom Risotto, and Green Beans
Tuesday: Chicken Fajitas, Refried Beans and Chips and Pico De Gallo
Wednesday: Hearty Beef Stew and Whole Wheat Biscuits
Octoberfest Thursday: Chicken Schnitzel, Braised Red Cabbage & Apples, Spaetzel
Friday: Vegetable Cheese Chowder and Salad
Saturday: Homemade Pizza & Salad

Thursday is an ode to my family's heritage. Time to celebrate Octoberfest!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Apple Pie Jam

You know that line in one of the Batman movies where Batman says "I am Batman"? Well, I spent the day on Tuesday peeling apples and the thought that kept going through my mind was "I am Apple Peeler." Obviously, mundane tasks allow your mind to wander into weird places.

So what did I accomplish? I made 6 half-pints of a delicious recipe called "Linda Lou's Apple Pie Jam" that I found on the Harvest forum on It had received rave reviews so I decided to give it a try. So thank you, Linda Lou, for posting the recipe! I also made 3 quarts of frozen apple pie filling, so in the future all I'll need to do is defrost and put in a pie shell and call it a day (well, after it bakes anyway).

Here is Linda Lou's Apple Pie Jam recipe:


4 cups tart apples, peeled and finely chopped
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
4 cups sugar
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 box pectin
1/2 teaspoon butter

Add water to chopped apples to measure 4 cups.(This is NOT 4 cups each, but water placed on top of the diced apples to come up to the 4 cup mark.) Place apples and water into large, heavy saucepan. Stir in lemon juice, cinnamon and allspice.

Measure sugars. Stir pectin into fruit. Add butter. Bring mixture to full rolling boil on high heat, stirring constantly. Quickly stir in both sugars. Return to full rolling boil and boil exactly 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim off any foam with metal spoon.

Ladle quickly into hot, clean jars, leaving 1/4" headspace. Wipe jar rims and threads. Cover with two-piece lids. Screw bands on finger tight. Process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Now, I would make one change, simply for appearance's sake. Allow the jam to sit for a few minutes and then stir to distribute the apple pieces throughout the jam. The apple pieces are less dense and float to the top otherwise (which is what happened to me). Not really a problem since once you open the jar, you can stir but it would just look prettier on the shelf being more "even."

Monday, September 29, 2008

Menu Plan Monday 9/29/08

Woo Hoo! The weather is turning cooler and that means it is an awesome time to use the crock pot. Of course, I use it a lot in the summer too but it is so nice to be able to make those hot soups and other meals that stick to the ribs in the crock.

So, without further ado, here is this week's menu!

Monday: Penne with Ricotta and Basil Sauce and Salad
Tuesday: Beef stir-fry, Egg Drop Soup
Wednesday: Crockpot Chicken Chasseur and Basil Garlic Green Beans
Thursday: Smashed Potato Soup (recipe follows) and Salad
Friday: Sour Cream & Dill Chicken, Brown Rice (pressure cooker) & Salad
Saturday: Shrimp Tacos, Refried Beans (pressure cooker), Homemade Pico de Gallo and Chips

Smashed Potato Soup (adapted from BHG's Biggest Book of Slow Cooker Recipes)

3 1/2 pounds potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
1/2 cup chopped yellow or red sweet pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons bottled roasted garlic (I'll use my own homemade)
1/2 teaspoon pepper
4 cups chicken broth
1 can evaporated milk
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions (I'm going to use chives from the garden)

In a 4 to 6 quart slow cooker combine potatoes, sweet pepper, garlic and black pepper. Pour broth over all.

Cover; cook on low-heat setting for 8 to 10 hours or on high-heat setting for 4 to 5 hours.

Mash potatoes slightly with a potato masher. Sir in evaporated milk, the 1 cup shredded cheddar and green onions. Ladle and serve, top with sour cream and additional cheddar cheese if you'd like. Note: I'm going to top with some crispy bacon bits as well.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Hot Sauce!

I love it when the garden and the kitchen collide. And this is the season when there is one collision after another. I've made pickles, salsa, tomato juice, peach butter and so on. Now I have three hot pepper plants loaded with peppers. So what's a girl to do? I was planning on pickling them (and I still may do that) but after watching Rick Bayless's "Mexico One Plate At A Time" I decided to make some hot sauce. I followed the recipe exactly as listed on his Frontera Kitchen website and have included it here. I guess the only difference is that I used a different hot pepper entitled "Little Boy" pepper (I've come to realize the joke intended by my darling husband's grandfather).

Habanero Hot Sauce

Makes about 2 cups


5 cloves garlic, unpeeled
½ cup peeled, roughly chopped carrot (you’ll need 1 medium carrot)
½ cup roughly chopped white onion (you’ll need about half of a small onion)
12 medium (about 5 ounces) orange habanero chiles, stemmed
1 cup apple cider vinegar
About 2 teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoon sugar


Roast the garlic in a skillet over medium heat, turning regularly until soft and blackened in spots, 10 to 15 minutes. Cool and peel. In a small saucepan, combine the carrot, onion and habanero chiles with the vinegar and 1 cup water. Partially cover and simmer over medium-low heat until the carrots are thoroughly tender, about 10 minutes. Pour into a blender jar, add the roasted garlic, salt and sugar. Blend until smooth. Thin with a little additional water if you think your hot sauce is too thick. Taste and season with additional salt if you think necessary. Pour into jars or bottles and store in the refrigerator until you’re ready to add some dazzle to a dish.

Here is the lovely results and it is quite tasty. If you like that super hot punch-in-the-mouth type of flavor (which I do!).

As you can see, I did not purchase this bottle especially for this little project. I've been saving olive oil bottles, soy sauce bottles... you know the little bottles with the plastic regulator on top for items just as this. It is recycling at it's best in my book!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Let's talk Pressure Cookers

Pressure Cookers are a busy, forgetful mom's best friend. Well, right up there with a phone and pizza coupon that is. ;) So exactly what is pressure cooking?

Taken from the great source of all trivial knowledge, Wikipedia,
Pressure cooking is a method of cooking in a sealed vessel that does not permit air or liquids to escape below a preset pressure. Because water's boiling point increases as the pressure increases, the pressure built up inside the cooker allows the liquid in the pot to rise to a higher temperature before boiling.
This build up of heat and pressure allows you to cook much faster. Plus, the moisture is retained so the contents stay moist. Sounds dangerous, doesn't it? Well, I love flirting with danger (not really). Today's modern pressure cooker is very safe.

Here are some things I like about my pressure cooker.

  • I don't worry about bacteria growing from putting in frozen food like I do with my other favorite cooking device, the slow cooker. Because you cook food so fast, there is little time for the food to be in the "danger" zone. Think of putting in a solid frozen roast in your slow cooker. It takes a long time to defrost and then cook that roast (like, hours!). It would be done from start to finish in a pressure cooker in an hour.
  • I can cook vegetables uber-quick (probably not a word). For instance, dilled baby carrots were on this weeks menu. I cooked them, on the stove in under 10 minutes, that includes the time to bring the vessel up to pressure. And they tasted like they had been in the slow cooker all day.
  • I save money and time. For instance, all beans I make are now from dried beans. Love that! Even "refried" beans are now made from scratch. Although, one might argue that my refried bean recipe is actually a pureed bean recipe...Whatever, it tastes as good as the restaurant's! (I'll share this recipe next week).
  • I use it for: meats (all kinds), vegetables (think fast mashed potatoes!), rice (brown rice and wild!) and I know I can also make desserts in it. Soon I will try the cheesecake recipe Lorna Sass has in her book. Mmmmmmm......
Lorna Sass is the queen of pressure cooking. If you invest in a pressure cooker, then I highly, HIGHLY suggest buying one of her books. I own Pressure Perfect. There are many great recipes in it along with what I feel is invaluable information - the timing charts. She also explains in great detail the ins and outs of pressure cooking. And for any vegetarians out there, she has vegetarian specific cookbooks as well.

Once you get the idea of how it works, you can transform almost any recipe to be suited for the pressure cooker. That's what I did with the black bean soup recipe I made last week. So I say, give it a try! Learn something new! Save yourself some time! Invest money now to save money later.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Whole Wheat Flour Tortillas

I LOVE Mexican food. Literally, I could eat it every day and never get tired of it. I'm a lot like Rick Bayless in that manner I would suppose. I mean, we are both as "gringo" as can be when it comes to our physical appearance and probably our heritage. But we both have fallen in love with the culture and cuisine that is all Mexican. Thus, with the rising cost of whole wheat tortillas (bought not for their authenticity but for their health benefits) I thought I would give my hand at trying to make some at home.

Here is the recipe I went off of to get an idea of what to do. Then, I futzed and came up with my own variation.

Whole Wheat Flour Tortillas

1 cup all purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 tsp salt
1/3 cup canola oil
1 cup boiling hot water

Mix together flours and salt. Add oil and mix until the oil is equally mixed throughout the flour. Make a well in the center of the bowl and add the hot water. Mix together until a soft dough is formed. If dough is sticky then add a little flour until it is not. Likewise, if dough is too dry and will not pull together, add water teaspoons at a time until the right consistency is reached.

Roll into small balls. This picture is after they have rested for an hour covered.

Roll into tortillas between two sheets of parchment paper.

Or instead of rolling them out, purchase a Tortilla Press and use that. I thought I would be brilliant and use my cast iron skillet to press out the tortillas (very Alton Brown, I would say).

Well, if I had wanted my tortillas to be a 1/4 inch thick than that would have been a great solution. I did use the cast iron skillet to start out my flat disk and then I used a rolling pin to do the rest of the work. So, the result was not perfect round tortillas but maybe that will come with practice. Oh, and at first I tried to use wax paper and found out that it does not hold up very long and it is best to use parchment paper. Then you need to cook the tortillas. Everywhere I have read it seems you need to have one skillet at medium-high and another at high heat. So that's what I did. The pressed tortilla goes first onto the medium-high skillet for about 30 seconds and then onto the high heat to finish cooking.

Store these in an air tight container. I happen to be keeping mine in the fridge. You do need to warm them up to make them pliable again but hey, you need to do that with the store bought ones too! The kids loved them slathered with butter, cinnamon and sugar then rolled into little cigars. They made a good snack! All in all, I would say they were a success. However, I think they would be even better made with lard. I am going to get some masa mix at Aldi's and try that next time to make fresh corn tortillas. I'll report back with the findings.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Menu Plan Monday 9/22/08

Time to share the menu plan for this week! I have to admit, it was a hard week to come up with an interesting menu to share as the sales flyers were not at their best in my book. You can read that to say, not much was on sale that I really would like to buy. Meat seemed ultra expensive but maybe that's where we are at in these economic times? However, at orgjunkie's site, it is family favorites week so I was able to throw in some of our family favorites: stuffed pork chops (recipe to follow plan) and grilled salmon with orange cilantro rice.

Monday: Stuffed Pork Chops, Dressing, & Dilled Baby Carrots
Tuesday: Michelle's Coconut Curry Chicken
Wednesday: Spinach Stuffed Rigatoni & Salad (seasonal item at Aldi's - $2.99)
Thursday: Crispy Baked Chicken Quarters & Butternut Squash Risotto
Friday: Grilled Salmon with Pear Salsa, Orange Cilantro Rice
Saturday: Denver Omelet Quiche

Stuffed Pork Chops:

Quite simply, I take some stuffing mix (I usually use the cheap store brand chicken flavored ones) and add around 1/4 cup diced onion, 1/3 cup diced celery, & half an apple diced. Then I add either melted butter, olive oil, or apple sauce (or combination of the three) and chicken broth until it is the consistency I want it. Then I take the chop and make a incision on the side to make a little "pocket." Widen the pocket with my finger and take a Tbl or so of the stuffing mix and put it in - you can close with a toothpick but I don't know if it is totally necessary. Then I season the outside with salt & pepper and brown in some butter. Then I pop it in the oven, covered until done with some chicken broth in the pan. Or you could put the rest of the stuffing on the bottom of a baking dish and put the chops on them. That's it!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Black Bean Soup...mmmm...mmm...good!

On Thursday we had black bean soup for dinner. We started out this month spending a little more than we should on groceries. Thus, this last week I tried to keep costs down so the menu included some less expensive meals. You can buy a bag of dried black beans at Walmart for 1.14. I'm sure there are cheaper places as well. I would say that the bag cooked would produce about 4 cans worth of black beans. A can of black beans will range from fifty cents to a dollar. Not another bad option, as this recipe made enough for two meals for our family of 5 (three young children that is). And the kids loved it! I used my pressure cooker to cook the beans so, all in all, this recipe took me under an hour.


Black Bean Soup

10 slices bacon, finely chopped
2 medium onions, chopped (about 2 1/2 cups)
6 garlic cloves, pressed
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 cups canned chopped tomatoes
2 tablespoons ketchup
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon chili powder
4 (15 1/2-ounce) cans black beans, drained but not rinsed
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 bunch cilantro
juice of 1/2 lime
Thinly sliced scallions, for garnish
Sour cream, for garnish
Grated cheddar, for garnish

Put the bacon into a large heavy pot and place it over medium heat. Cook until it starts to give up its fat, about 4 minutes. Stir in the onions and cook, stirring, until they start to turn translucent, about 4 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until you can smell it, about 1 minute. Add the broth, tomatoes, ketchup, Worcestershire, and chili powder. Stir in the beans, turn the heat to high and bring to a boil. Adjust the heat so the soup is bubbling gently and cook 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, pick off all the thick stems from the cilantro. Wash it and shake dry. Chop the cilantro coarsely and stir it into the soup when it has been simmering 10 minutes. cook until the soup is thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the lime juice. Serve with the garnishes.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Basic Pantry List

Menu planning runs much smoother when you have a well stocked pantry. In order for a pantry item to be on my list, it must be something that when it runs out or almost runs out, it goes directly on the grocery list located smack dab on the refrigerator. Here is an "almost" comprehensive list of my pantry items. If you are just getting started organizing your kitchen, don't be overwhelmed. Go from your recipes to pick out the pantry staples that are most urgent to purchase. They don't run out at once (although, some weeks it feels like it!), so these are not items you will be buying every week. But they will be purchased on a regular basis.

For Basic Cooking:

  • Olive Oil
  • Canola Oil
  • Vinegar (white, cider, & red)
  • Pasta (variety of shapes & sizes)
  • Bread crumbs
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Potatoes
  • Dried beans (great northern, pinto, black, etc)
  • Rice (brown, white, risotto & wild rice)
  • Stuffing Mix
  • Chicken Bouillon (or I use the refrigerated chicken base from Sam's Club)
  • Diced Tomatoes
  • Canned Tomato Sauce & Paste
  • Pasta Sauce
  • Worcestershire Sauce (kept in refrigerator)
  • Soy Sauce (kept in refrigerator)
  • Ketchup (kept in refrigerator)
  • Mustard (one or all your favorite kinds)
  • Oatmeal
  • Crackers of all sorts & kinds (whatever's on sale!)
  • Tortilla chips
  • Kosher Salt
  • Black Peppercorns (these last two could go on the spice list but I use them all the time!)

For Baking:

  • All Purpose Flour
  • Whole Wheat Flour
  • White Sugar
  • Brown Sugar
  • Cocoa Powder
  • Baking Powder
  • Baking Soda
  • Really, REALLY good chocolate chips (they're worth it!)
  • Milled Flax & Wheat Germ are staples in our house as well but they are not completely necessary.


  • Onion Powder
  • Garlic Powder
  • Cumin
  • Taco Seasoning
  • Italian Seasoning
  • Bay leaves
  • Chili Powder
  • Cayenne Pepper

Throw in your milk, eggs, and favorite meats and you can create many, many dishes.


Welcome to my newest blog. This blog has been created to provide readers with interesting tips and ideas to create family centered meals. Menu plans, recipes, and techniques will be all covered. As Dave Ramsey says, the quickest way to cut grocery cost is to have a plan and eat home. Now, I'm not claiming to be your "mental maid." But I will be sharing recipes, our very own menu plan, and grocery lists. So come back and come back often!