Thursday, December 29, 2011

Bread Bowls for Soups or Salads

Jared and I were huge fans of the bread bowl salads at Perkins and were very sad when they took them off the menu. I was determined to learn to make my own so that we could still have them once in a while. You can use frozen bread dough or your favorite bread recipe.

Tex-Mex Stew

I found this recipe in Parent's Magazine and thought it looked very similar to my Cowboy Skillet recipe, which everyone in my family loves, so I thought I'd give it a try. It also looked like a pretty easy recipe for a weeknight meal.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Fingerprint Christmas Cards

We had a wonderful Christmas spent with family and friends. I thought that I'd share a quick project that the kids and I did together this year. I'd have posted earlier but time got away from me.

Mr. R., Miss E., Miss A., and I made up some fingerprint Christmas cards as one of our 12 days of Christmas activities.

First, I printed up 2 cards with this text onto one piece of cardstock. 

Then I cut it in half using a paper cutter and folded it.

Our Christmas Tree Fingerprint Cards

Step 1: draw a zigzag line for the tree with green permanent marker, colored pencil, etc.
Step 2: draw the outline of the tree's trunk in brown
Step 3: fill in the trunk with zigzags
Step 4: using yellow paint, place a fingerprint at the top of the tree for the star (I later painted the outline of a star in black over this but forgot to take a picture)
Step 5: using all different colors, place fingerprints all over the tree for ornaments
Mr. R and Miss A painting their tree cards
Miss E painting hers.

We also painted the front of a Christmas card to look like Christmas lights. Yes, this was another idea that I found using The original creator's instructions can be found here. I liked the the original "landscape" format better than my "portrait" format but forgot to plan accordingly when I printed the text for the inside of the card. 

Step 1: using all different colors of finger paint, place fingerprints all over the front of the card.
Step 2: draw lines connecting each finger print, so they look like a strand of Christmas lights.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Roasted Red Pepper, Feta and White Bean Dip

I saw this recipe in Parent's magazine the other day and thought it sounded just delicious. I'm a huge fan of bean dips. They're so creamy and flavorful (and they are usually fairly inexpensive to make). I made it for one of our college/career activites and it was delicious.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Menu: November 28-January 1

Things are getting busy with Christmas and New Year's fast approaching so I will be making up a 5 week menu. That way I will be set till next year on planning as I am hoping to get some other posts completed/edited in the next few weeks (holiday traditions/money savers, product reviews, book reviews, updating the master list, etc.).

November 28-December 4
December 5-11
December 12-18
December 19-25
December 26-January 1
  • Roast Beef Sandwiches with homemade bread, mixed veggies, and side salad 
  • Chili
  • Pigs in a blanket, hashbrowns and fresh fruit
  • Sub sandwiches and salad
  • Pancakes, scrambled eggs, and bacon
  • Go Pack! We were able to get tickets for the Packers vs. Lions game today so no cooking for me. :o)

Monday, November 7, 2011

Chicken Pot Pie

I've made Chicken Pot Pie several different ways since we got married.  I like to take all the leftover bits from different meals throughout the week and throw them together for a flavorful and simple dish. I also have several different crust options.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Menu: October 31-November 27

I've decided that the 4 week menu format is the easiest for me to use. It takes a little more time to prepare but saves more time (and money) in the long run.

Week 1 (October 31-November 6)
Week 2 (November 7-13)
Week 3 (November 14-20)
Week 4 (November 21-27) - Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

    Tuesday, October 25, 2011

    White-Bean Stew With Pasta

    I happened to see this recipe in Parents magazine (October 2011, p. 168) and thought it looked delicious. Can't wait to try it!

    Tuesday, October 18, 2011

    Spiced Carrot Oat Cookies

    I love cake mix cookies. In fact, I haven't tasted one yet that I didn't like. After some gloomy fall weather I decided that I wanted to try some cookies using my spice cake mix. This is what I came up with and they were delicious!

    Friday, October 14, 2011

    Easy Potato Soup

    I really enjoy potato soup but it can be somewhat time consuming to make. Today I was running low on time and decided to try something new.

    Monday, September 26, 2011

    Menu: October 3-30

    I thought the 2 week menu worked really well but liked the 3 week even better. With that said, I'm going to attempt a 4 week menu to see which I like better. What's your favorite?

    October 3-9
    October 10-16
    October 17-23 (crockpot week, if you need more crockpot ideas check out A Year of Slow Cooking)
    Anyone have a crockpot recipe that they really enjoy that I've not listed before?
      October 24-30 (Bean Week) - Sunday is our anniversary. We've been married 7 years. 
      Weekend Baking

      Tuesday, September 20, 2011

      Chicken and Stuffing Bake Three Ways

      When Mr. R. was born, one of our friends brought over this wonderful dish for dinner. I'd never had it before but instantly loved it. It's such a simple yet hearty dish with lots of flavor. Since then I have discovered that there are several ways to make this dish so I am including three recipes. You can mix and match different features of each recipe to come up with the perfect combination for your family.

      Saturday, September 17, 2011

      Caprese Pizza

      I really enjoy watching cooking shows because they generally get my creative juices flowing with ideas for new recipes. I happened to watch a show on Cooking channel the other day while feeding the baby when I had a scrumptious idea pop into my head. I do not remember what show it was but the theme was Caprese dishes (Caprese salad and caprese spaghetti were the two main dishes presented).

      Thursday, September 8, 2011

      Menu: September 12 - October 2

      We've got a lot going on as usual so I thought I'd try to get a jump on things by attempting a 3 week menu. I really like the 2 week menu format that I've been doing lately. What do you think?

      September 12-18
      September 19-25
      September 26-October 2
      Need some more ideas? Check out the master list

      Harvest Time Ideas

      With Fall fast approaching, I have begun the task of harvesting the fruits of my labor - from tomatoes and peppers to melons and summer squash. Here are things that I do with my "extra" produce (what I don't eat up or share).

      Thursday, September 1, 2011

      Ricotta Eggplant Rolls

      With a surplus of eggplant in my garden I've been looking for some new recipes. I happened up a recipe for Ricotta Eggplant Rolls and thought that I'd try to lighten it up a bit. Here's my version and it is just as delicious!

      Monday, August 29, 2011

      Menu: August 29-September 11

      This will be a busy couple of weeks for me. This week I have a meeting for church tonight, a fitting, and we'll be spending some time with family Friday-Monday. Then I have wedding pickup next week. Because of this I won't be posting as many dishes for each week. If you need some more inspiration check out the master list.

      August 29-September 4
      • Monday - we have a calendar planning meeting at church and supper is provided
      • Ricotta Eggplant Rolls, French bread, side salad, and sauteed green beans
      • Chili and Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread (add 1 minced jalapeno pepper and 1/2 cup finely shredded sharp cheddar cheese to a standard corn bread recipe or box mix)
      • Jambalaya
      • Sloppy Joes, potato wedges, corn on the cob, and carrot sticks
      • Saturday and Sunday will be spent with family so I'm not sure if and/or what I'll be cooking.
      September 5-11

      Thursday, August 25, 2011

      Chipotle & Orange Grilled Chicken

      Jared and I are big fans of Bobby Flay. We may even be slightly addicted to his shows. I'm sure it has something to do with the fact the both of us love southwestern flavors (our first "date" was even at a Tex-Mex restaurant called the Tumbleweed, but that's another story altogether). Anyway, Bobby uses chipotles in a lot of things and has "introduced" them to us.

      Saturday, August 20, 2011

      If You Give 2 Preschoolers an Hour

      Miss A's birthday was on Thursday, so I decided that we would walk to the park for a picnic lunch. I knew the kids would really enjoy it but when I took a look at their rooms I decided that it would be necessary to have them clean up before we left. I made this discovery at 10:45am, at which point I informed Mr. R. and Miss E. that they needed to clean up. This is what happened.

      Saturday, August 13, 2011

      Menu: August 15-28

      Trying to make up a 2 week menu again. How many weeks do you write up your menus for?

      August 15-21
      August 22-28
      If you'd like more ideas, check out the "master" list.

        Monday, August 8, 2011

        Marshmallow Cola Brownies

        We were having a get-together with Jared's family the other day and I was going to bring brownies. I was thinking about all the different "semi-homemade" brownies I've made but wanted to try something different. I had a bag of marshmallows, some mini chocolate chips, and a box of fudge brownie mix, so I went online to see what I could come up with. I saw a recipe for Cola Brownies on Betty Crocker's website and decided to try my own take on them. This recipe makes for a very moist, dense brownie with lots of ooey, gooey marshmallow on top.

        Monday, August 1, 2011

        Cuban Braised Beef with Avocado Onion Salad

        We were recently given a Florida avocado, which is MUCH larger than a Hass avocado, by a Cuban woman at our church whose parents live in Florida and have a few avocado trees. Everyone except Mr. R. likes avocado we were excited about using it. When the hubby asked what all they use avocados for in Cuban cooking, she mentioned that they eat it like you would a salad - sliced with some onions then drizzle with an olive oil and lime dressing, and sprinkled with salt and pepper. I had some leftover venison steaks and wanted to make something "Cuban" in flavor to go along with the avocado salad.

        Sunday, July 31, 2011

        Cantaloupe Bread / Muffins

        Last summer I discovered that you can make bread using cantaloupe puree much like you can do with pumpkin. I had an overflow of cantaloupe left from the garden and decided to try it. The bread has a very mild flavor with hints of cinnamon and ginger and is a nice way to use up your fresh produce. You can even puree the melon ahead of time and freeze it in 2 cup increments for later use.

        Thursday, July 28, 2011

        Menu: August 1-14

        It's hard to believe that Miss S. is almost 1 month old and that I am back to writing menus. It was really nice having a month's worth of menus done up ahead of time so I'm thinking about attempting a few 2-week menus. What do you prefer? Do you like the 1-week, 2-week, or 4-week menu format?

        Week 1: August 1-7
        Week 2: August 8-14
        If you'd like more ideas, check out the "master" list.

        Temperance: Getting Out of Debt

        In September of 2008 we were at our whit's end with finances. We had a negative cash flow, 5-6 credit cards (a few of them were maxed out), 2 car payments, some medical bills (our oldest spent almost a week in NICU at birth), a couple of student loans, and our mortgage.

        Sunday, July 24, 2011

        Maternity Leave Menus: July 4-31

        I am due with Miss S. today (June 28th) but have gone 41 weeks with all 3 of my other children so I'm just planning on it this time around as well. I will meet with my doctor later this morning to schedule a date and time to induce. With that in mind, I have prepared 4 weeks of menus in case I don't have time after she arrives to put them together on a weekly basis.

        Week 1 (July 4-10)
        Being the hubby will be off of work for this week whether baby #4 has arrived or not, he will be cooking (or more likely grilling) dinner tonight. Also, if baby has arrived and I am home from the hospital we will probably end up with some family/friends over for dinner.
        • Ahi Tuna Wraps with mango salsa, roasted red potatoes, sauted veggies (zucchini, summer squash, onions, peppers, etc. all tossed in herbs and olive oil then sauted or even grilled) and frozen juice pops for dessert.
        • Sub Sandwiches (grilled chicken breast), pasta salad, and grilled peaches ala mode. I will also have the hubby grill up some chicken breast for use later this week.
        • Chicken enchiladas (I made a double batch a month ago and froze it for easy use now), and black beans and rice
        • Grilled Chicken Pizza
        • Grilled Chicken Salad
          • grilled chicken strips
          • romaine lettuce
          • boiled eggs
          • mushrooms
          • black olives
          • turkey bacon
          • feta cheese
          • fat free dressing
        Week 2 (July 11-17)
        Week 3 (July 18-24)
        Week 4 (July 25-31)
        If you'd like more ideas, check out the "master" list.

        Friday, July 22, 2011

        Temperance: Eating for Weight Control

        Our Story (You can check out our updates here)
        Over the weekend Jared found a couple of pictures of us at our heaviest. It was quite a shock to look back and really see how other people saw us. When you are obese, you try not to have your picture taken very often and when someone does catch you on film you tend not to look at them very close or keep them out for others to see. Both the hubby and I were (and still are) obese. Weight is something that we've both struggled with since we were young. Granted a small part of it is probably due to genetics but most of our struggle is due to the choices that we've made in the past and present.
        Early March 2006
        (I was around 245 at the time.)
         I have never really been small (got to love that Norwegian and Swedish heritage) and shifted blame almost solely to my large frame for weight struggles most of my growing up and early adult years. I refused to accept that I was obese because of the choices I had made and was continuing to make.

        Thursday, July 21, 2011

        Cold Melon Soup

        While we were on our cruise back in February, I tried cold soup for the first time. I really enjoyed the different soups that we had, everything from pineapple raspberry to melon. With that said, Miss E. has been asking me every week or two if she can make some soup since we let Mr. R. make chili last month for the cook-off. One of the local grocery stores had a melon extravaganza this week and I decided to pick up several varieties. I figured that now was the time to experiment with cold soup being the temperatures have been in the high 90's. I will mention that the cold soups we had on the cruise were all fairly sweet and I wanted something with a little more subtle flavor.

        The Many Uses of Cucumbers

        Extra cucumbers in the garden this year? Feel like you've got them coming out of your ears? Cucumbers are a great summer garden veggie. They are fairly easy to grow and one small plant can produce dozens of cucumbers. I recently heard that there are many more uses to cucumbers than simply topping your salad.

        Wednesday, July 20, 2011

        Quick and Easy Garlic Herb Mac'n'Cheese

        I love Mac'n'Cheese and have tried several different recipes and variations. After seeing an episode of Everyday Italian on Food Network, I came up with this variation on Mac'n'Cheese. It's quick, easy, and full of flavor.

        Tuesday, July 19, 2011

        Gnocchi Adventure

        The hubby and I went out for dinner with a few friends recently. We went to a little Italian restaurant nearby and decided to have a little fun by ordering for each other. Now we had just seen an episode of Guy's Big Bite featuring Spinach Gnocchi. The hubby commented on how easy it looked to make and said that we should try it sometime. When I saw that this particular restaurant had a Potato Gnocchi dish with a garlic cream sauce, fresh peas, pancetta, and chicken, I decided to order it for him. We were not disappointed. The dish was absolutely delicious and really made us want to attempt making it.

        Roasted Garlic Cream Sauce

        I've been looking for a good garlic cream sauce recipe and I've finally found it. I love this sauce recipe! It has a rich, creamy flavor and works well with any pasta.

        Monday, July 18, 2011

        Book Review: Tithing by Douglas LeBlanc

        I was recently provided with a copy of this book through BookSneeze.
        Tithing is a study book in the Ancient Practices series by Thomas Nelson Publishers. This short book contains eleven chapters that each focus on arguing for the discipline of tithing. The author interviews influential people from different religious backgrounds as to their reason for tithing.

        Saturday, July 16, 2011

        Spicy Chicken Sausage Penne

        I enjoy "couponing" to the point where it has almost become an "addiction" at times. About a month ago, one of our grocery stores had a sale on Johnsonville's new chicken sausage and I had a coupon (which I used on a double coupon day). I decided to make something new with it and was very pleased at the outcome.

        Sunday, July 3, 2011

        She's Here

        I ended up being induced on Friday, July 1 and "little" Miss S. made her entrance into the world on Saturday, July 2 at 2:19am. I say "little" as she is my biggest baby weighing 9lbs. 8.7oz. and measuring 22" long (tall babies are a given when you are 5'7" and your hubby is 6'5"). We are all doing well and I should be heading home later today.

        The hubby is already excited about grilling out tomorrow and has decided on Ahi Tuna Steaks instead of the original brats. I'll post the menu changes as soon as I know which recipe(s) he's decided to use.

        Monday, June 27, 2011

        Fruit Pizza

        With tomorrow being my due date with Miss S., I wanted to make dessert for after dinner. I didn't want any kind of dessert though. I wanted something simple and delicious. I had to make a quick run to the grocery and they happened to have kiwis and blueberries on sale. The first thing I thought of was fruit pizza and I ran with it.

        Thursday, June 23, 2011

        Menu: June 27-July 3

        Since June 28th is my due date with Miss S. (can you tell that I'm getting anxious about her arrival?), I figured that I'd post the menu early. I may even end up being induced the week of this menu but won't find out until my due date. I'm definitely keeping this menu simple as I may not be home to cook it.
        If you'd like more ideas, check out the "master" list.

        Sunday, June 19, 2011

        Baked Eggplant and Tomato Pastry

        This is a dish that we had while on our cruise and we found it absolutely delicious! It seemed like a fairly simple and yet elegant dish packed with loads of flavor. Very simply, it is a piece of puff pastry dough topped with marinara sauce, breaded eggplant and tomato slices, and fresh mozzarella.

        Wednesday, June 15, 2011

        Menu: June 20-26

        Less than 2 weeks to go till Miss S. is due to arrive. Granted I generally go past my due date so I'm thinking it may be closer to 3 weeks till she actually gets here. Staying busy trying to get things ready around the house and trying to make fast and simple meals.

        Monday, June 13, 2011

        Chocolate Toffee Caramel Bars

        A friend posted this recipe on Facebook today and it sounded absolutely delicious. Plus, I'm always up for new "semi-homemade" recipes.
        • 1 pkg of yellow cake mix (the one that has pudding in it)
        • 1/3 cup of oil
        • 2 eggs
        • 1-12oz pkg of choc. chips
        • 1 cup of toffee bits
        • 1 cup of vanilla chips
        • 1/2 cup of butter
        • 32 caramels
        • 1-14 oz can of sweetened condensed milk
        1. Heat oven to 350. Line a 9 x 13 pan with foil then spray with non-stick spray. 
        2. In bowl combine cake mix, oil and eggs. Stir in chocolate chips, vanilla chips and toffee bits (mix will be thick). 
        3. Press 1/2 the mix into the bottom of the foil lined pan. Bake for 10 min. 
        4. While baking, in a small sauce pan combine butter, caramels and sweetened condensed milk. Stir and melt until smooth. Remove partially baked crust. Slowly pour hot caramel mixture over baked crust. 
        5. Crumble remaining cake mix over caramels. Return to oven and bake for an additional 25 min. until golden brown. Cool on counter for 20 min. 
        6. Refrigerate a couple of hours for caramel to harden a little and cut into bars. ~Enjoy~

        Tuesday, June 7, 2011

        Menu: June 13-19

        I am trying to get menus ready for the next few weeks considering that my due date with Miss S. is fast approaching. The weather is really starting to get hot and humid so I'm also trying to stick with recipes that don't require a lot of stove-top or oven time.
        If you'd like more ideas, check out the "master" list.

        Monday, June 6, 2011

        Menu: June 6-12

        Last week was very busy and this week should also be busy as our church is celebrating it's 50th Anniversary. The hubby is even in charge of a Men's Chili Cook-Off for the family day on Saturday.

        Friday, May 27, 2011

        Peanut Butter Banana Muffins

        A friend gave me this recipe and I'm really looking forward to trying it out.
        • 2 ripe bananas, mashed
        • 6 T peanut butter
        • 1/2 c brown sugar
        • 2 T honey
        • 1 1/2 t vanilla extract
        • 1 large egg
        • 1/2 c + 2 T all-purpose flour
        • 1/2 c whole wheat flour
        • 1 t baking powder
        • 1/2 t baking soda
        • 1/4 t salt
        • 1/4 c chopped peanuts (or just use chunky peanut butter instead for the crunch)
        • She also mentioned maybe adding chocolate chips.
        1. Cream together the bananas through egg in a large mixing bowl.
        2. In a medium bowl, sift together flour through salt. Add to wet mixture a little at a time. Stir in nuts and chocolate chips. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes.

        Menu: May 30-June 5

        Memorial Day tips off the new week's menu and I've got lots of yumminess planned!
        If you need some other ideas, check out the "master" list.

        Citrus "Ranch" Grilled Chicken

        This is a recipe that I came up with specifically for using on my salads but it would be good by itself, too.

        • Cooking spray
        • 4 skinless boneless chicken breast halves (5 to 6 ounces each) pounded to 1/2-inch thickness
        • 3 tablespoons olive oil
        • 2 tablespoons lemon or lime juice
        • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
        • 1/2 teaspoon dill
        • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
        • 1 teaspoon onion powder
        • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
        • 1/2 teaspoon salt
        • 1/4 teaspoon pepper


        1. In a small bowl, whisk together everything except the chicken and cooking spray. Place chicken in a large ziploc bag and pour mixture over the chicken; seal and shake till chicken is coated. Let rest in fridge for a minimum of 30 minutes.
        2. Spray a grill or grill pan with cooking spray and heat to medium-high heat. Grill until grill marks have formed and chicken is cooked through, about 4-5 minutes per side. Remove from heat, let rest for 5 minutes, then serve. For topping salads or placing in wraps cut into 1/2-inch thick slices.

        Eggplant Parmesan

        We watched a Throwdown on Food Network a couple of years ago where Bobby Flay challenged a guy to an Eggplant Parmesan Throwdown. The dish looked so delicious that we had to try it. The only problem is that the original dish is fairly high in calorie, so here is my take on a lighter version.
        • 1-2 medium eggplants, sliced lengthwise to a 1/2" thick
        • 1-2 cups Italian-style bread crumbs
        • 2-3 eggs
        • 1 tablespoon milk for each egg used
        • 2 tablespoons Mozzarella cheese per slice of Eggplant (how much depends on your taste)
        • 1 tablespoon shredded Parmesan cheese per slice of Eggplant (how much depends on your taste)
        • 1/4 cup Marinara Sauce per slice of Eggplant (how much depends on your taste)

        1. In a flat dish, whisk together milk and egg. Dip eggplant slices in egg mixture and then bread crumbs. Place breaded eggplant slices on a greased cookie sheet. Bake eggplant at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.
        2. Remove from oven and top with sauce and cheeses. Bake for another 5-10 minutes.
        Serve with pasta of your choice, side salad and French bread.

        Friday, May 20, 2011

        BLTA Sandwich

        A month or two ago the hubby took me out for dinner to a local restaurant. I saw that they had a new item on the menu - a BLTA Croissant (bacon, lettuce, turkey and avocado). It was SOOOOOO good and I would like to make it here at home some night, which is why I'm posting it.

        Ingredients (per sandwich)
        • Croissant (I have a recipe for crescent rolls that I use to make my own croissants, I just shape them differently)
        • 1 tablespoon Mayo or Miracle Whip
        • 2-3 leaves of lettuce - I would go with a nice bibb, butter/boston, or other delicate lettuce 
        • 1-2 thin tomato slices 
        • 3-4 slices deli turkey (thinly sliced or shaved)
        • 1 slice provolone
        • 2 slices bacon - I would use turkey bacon to cut down on the fat content
        • 2 avocado slices - make sure you get a ripe one and slice it thinly, about 1/4"-1/2" thick
        1. Spread Mayo/Miracle Whip on both sides of the croissant. Layer lettuce, tomato, turkey, provolone, bacon, and avocado. 
        2. Enjoy!

        Menu: May 23-29

        As each week passes we get closer to the arrival of Miss S. I will hit 35 weeks during this menu plan and I am definitely feeling it lately! Mr. R asks me almost weekly when Baby S is going to "get here." The munchkins are all very excited for her to arrive.

        I already have people asking when I'm due because they think I look further along than I really am - one of the "joys" of carrying only out front and having 9lb babies. Can you tell that I'm starting to get a little frustrated. I have always gone past my due date and had to be induced (yes, with all 3 of them), so I really should be used to this by now. Unfortunately, I am still a bit sensitive about this. I thought I was doing better until a cashier at the local grocery store asked how many weeks I had left. After my reply, she said, "You're quite large for still having that many weeks to go." Thanks for the reminder!

        Anyway, I better get back on track with the menu or this post will end up being solely about the frustrations of the 3rd trimester. I have been really tired lately so I am sticking with simple.
        • Garlic Lemon Parsley Tilapia (boil-in-a-bag product), roasted baby red potatoes (or even in the crockpot), sauted veggies and cheesy garlic biscuitsFestival had the Wholey Seafood Boil-in-a-Bag entrées on sale 3/$9 (5/15-5/21), you have to buy 3 to get the deal but you get 2 fillets per package which I believe is a good price for fish. Also, there are several printable coupons for this product on Wholey Seafood's website including one for $10/3 (a $1 money-maker).
        • Chicken Enchiladas with Creamy Green Chile Sauce and fresh fruit - I'm making a double batch and freezing one to have on hand for dinner after Baby S. arrives. I generally pick up some 9x13 foil pans when they are on sale for the purpose of freezing dishes like this.
        • Grilled Chicken Salad - lettuce, grilled chicken, boiled eggs, cheese, turkey bacon, fat free/light dressing, etc.
        • Sub Sandwiches - homemade French bread, deli meat, cheese, lettuce and turkey bacon.
        • Still thinking about this, probably something grilled...

        Crockpot Baby Red Potatoes

        I came up with recipe on a whim and it worked, which I was very excited about! I LOVE slow cooker recipes because they save me so much time and energy.

        • 3 lbs baby red potatoes (I believe they are also called "B" size), washed and poked
        • 1 tablespoon dried minced onion
        • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
        • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
        • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
        • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
        • 2 tablespoons butter
        • water
        • 6 qt. crockpot
        1. Place potatoes in 6 qt. slower cooker, top with everything except water and butter.
        2. Fill slow cooker with water till it almost covers the potatoes completely. Cook on high till potatoes are fork tender (2-4 hours). I usually make this recipe on Sundays when I'm gone all morning so I'm not completely sure on the cook time. 
        3. Remove water and add butter, serve.

        Friday, May 13, 2011

        Menu: May 16-22

        I wanted to get this up before Saturday (just in case anyone wanted to pick up the whole chickens from Festival), but it's been a really CRAZY week so far as Miss E. had to make a visit to the ER for a finger injury and then we have her 3rd birthday party on Saturday. I will finish writing the up the menu once I've got some housework and birthday party stuff under control.

        Monday, May 9, 2011

        Homemade Hamburger Buns

        We prefer charcoal grilling to gas and have found it to be super fast and easy with the use of a Chimney Starter. We use 85% lean ground beef for burgers and then simply salt and pepper them before grilling. The hamburger patty should be simple and delicious on it's own so you don't need to add a bunch of stuff to the burger. If you want to add more flavors do it with the topping choices not the actual patty. A really good resource for grilling hamburgers would be Bobby Flay's Burgers, Fries, and Shakes. The hubby and kids bought me a signed copy for Mother's Day a few years back and I LOVE it!

        Some topping ideas: sauted mushrooms & onions, cheese, bacon, tomato, lettuce, Vidalia onions, fried egg, etc.

        I have a hard time going back to store bought hamburger buns after trying this recipe. I have made a few changes to it, but you can find the original here.
        • 4 1/2 cups all purpose or bread flour
        • 3 tablespoons sugar
        • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
        • 5 tablespoons butter, soft or melted (I use 4 tablespoons coconut oil + 1 tablespoon butter)
        • 1 tablespoon yeast
        • 1/4 cup warm water
        • 1 1/4 cup warm milk
        • 1 egg + 1 tablespoon milk (optional)
        • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds, for garnishing the sandwich rolls (optional)
        • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil or melted butter, for brushing on the hamburger buns
        1. The original recipe called for mixing and kneading the dough by hand but I opted to use my bread machine to save some time. Place yeast, sugar, milk, and water in the bottom of the bread machine pan. Let rest for 5 minutes. Add the butter/coconut oil then top with flour and salt.
        2. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured or greased surface. Knead a few times then divide into 12 portions. Shape each portion into a smooth ball and place the dough on a greased baking sheet. Lightly pat the tops of the balls of dough to flatten them slightly.
        3. Cover the tray with a towel, and leave the dough to rise again for another hour.
        4. Preheat an oven to 425° F (220° C). If garnishing the hamburger buns with sesame seeds, brush the rolls with the egg wash and sprinkle sesame seeds on top. Bake the hamburger rolls until rich golden brown, about 20 minutes. Immediately upon removing the rolls from the oven, brush their tops lightly with melted butter or coconut oil.
        5. Transfer the sandwich rolls to a rack and cover them loosely with a towel to trap steam and keep the crust soft as they cool. Store thoroughly cooled rolls in a plastic container or plastic ziploc bag. Freeze any rolls which won't be used within a day.

        Friday, May 6, 2011

        Menu: May 9-15

        I just realized that I've been blogging about my menus and favorite recipes for just over 2 year! I hope that you've enjoyed trying some new things during that time as I know that I have enjoyed sharing them with you. With summer just around the corner (though it may not seem like it right now), we are starting to see lower prices on fresh veggies, which we have missed terribly after just about living off them exclusively last summer. I cannot wait until it is warm enough to put my garden in!

        This weekend is also Miss E's 3rd birthday and we plan to have a simple party with family.
        Need some other mealtime inspiration? Check the "Master List".

        [Crockpot] Sloppy Joes

        Simmering away in the Packer crockpot
        that belonged to the hubby's grandma. :o)
        While working on the menu for next week I realized that I have never officially posted my recipe for Sloppy Joes. I've listed it in with menus before but decided that it needed to have it's own post. This was my Grandmother's recipe with a couple of extras from me. It is very quick and easy to make with ingredients that I keep around the house. You can also toss it all in the crockpot to simmer away.

        ~Total $avings!~: Free Emeril's Essence Seasoning Pack

        A fellow blogger shared this and I was very excited to see it, being we watched Food Network almost exclusively last summer due to no football for the hubby and reruns on our favorite shows!!

        ~Total $avings!~: Free Emeril's Essence Seasoning Pack: "Head over here to get a FREE seasoning sample pack from Emeril! :)"

        Friday, April 29, 2011

        Menu: May 2-8

        I would have to say that I have the best mother and mother-in-law a girl could ever have so Happy Mother's Day to all of you other Mom's out there! If it weren't for my mom letting me experiment in the kitchen during my teen years, I probably would not be as excited about cooking as I am. Also, my mother-in-law has always encouraged my cooking fancies with new kitchen gear, cooking magazine subscriptions, and critiquing some of my new recipes. She also provides dinner for us once a week, which gives me a nice break. I am truly blessed by both of them!
        Take a look here if you are looking for some good Mother's Day breakfast/brunch and dinner ideas.
          Need some other mealtime inspiration? Check the "Master List".

          Tip 8: Stocking the "Pantry"

          There are certain things that I always try to keep on hand so that if (when) plans change I can easily make dinner on the fly. This helps to keep me from spending more money than I need to later on. Here are some things that I will stock up on for "EDM" (emergency dinner management). I will continue to add to this list as I have time but wanted to get it up right away while I was thinking about it. An "*" means that I have added something to the post from comments others have made. :o)

          Dry Goods
          • pasta - this is such a great "base" item to keep on hand. There are almost limitless possibilities for it. Plus, you can stock up when the price is low or free after coupons, and it doesn't really go bad.
          • rice (regular, brown, and Minute)
          • baking items: bisquick, corn meal, flour, sugar, yeast, baking soda, baking powder, etc.
          • instant potatoes - plain, flavored, or specialty
          • cereal* - this can make for a nice snack
            Canned Goods 
            • soups: cream of ___ or tomato soups can provide you with basic sauces, and main-dish type soups (Progresso, Chunky, etc.) can be purchased inexpensively with coupons and kept on hand for a really quick fix.
            • jarred sauces (marinara, alfredo, etc.) 
            • diced tomatoes - in a pinch you can use this to create your own pasta sauce, pizza sauce, etc.
            • mushrooms
            • black olives
            • broth, stock, or bouillon
            • pasta sauce
            • canned tuna or chicken*
              Frozen/Refrigerator Goods
              • dinner rolls, bread dough, biscuit dough, etc. - I usually try to keep one of these bread options on hand as an emergency filler.
              • veggies - I much prefer fresh veggies if I can get them for a good price, but I always like to keep a few staple frozen veggies on hand, such as corn, peas, mixed veggies, etc. Throw some mixed veggies in with some pasta, meat, and a quick sauce. VOILA! You have dinner.
              • meat - I like to buy a lot of meat when it's on sale for cheap, then I freeze it to save for dinners down the road.
                • ground beef, turkey, pork, etc.
                • roasts
                • chicken (wings, thighs, breast, whole chickens, and roasters)
                • stew meat
              • cheese (Yes, this is a staple in our house.)
              • sour cream or plain yogurt
              • smoked sausage
              • breakfast sausage (links or patties)
              • frozen potatoes (hashbrowns, fries, or o'brien style)
              Your Turn: What are some items that you like to keep on hand for dinner emergencies?

              Mother's Day Ideas

              It's always nice to spoil your mom on Mother's Day. Once in a while when I was a kid we would make a special breakfast for my mom the day before Mother's Day or dinner on Mother's Day. I always loved getting to cook on those occasions. Here are some ideas for the hubby and/or kids to do for Mother's Day:

              Breakfast/Brunch Ideas:
              Lunch/Dinner Ideas:
              • Mother's Day Picnic - deli meat (ham, turkey, chicken salad, etc.) & cheese croissants, pasta salad, fruit salad and carrots sticks.
              • Grilling - Steaks, baked potatoes (or even baked sweet potatoes), bacon wrapped grilled asparagus, etc.
              • Roasted Chicken, cheesy mashed potatoes (I always try to keep some instant potatoes on hand because they're fast), steamed veggies, and dinner rolls.

              Cheese Blintzes

              • 2 loaves sandwich bread (you can buy the crustless bread or remove the crusts yourself, I save the crusts for bread pudding or dry to make bread crumbs)
              • 16 oz cream cheese, softened
              • 2 egg yokes
              • ¼ cup sugar
              • 2 sticks butter, melted
              • 1½ cups brown sugar
              • ½ teaspoon lemon juice
              • 4 teaspoons cinnamon
              1. Mix cream cheese, egg yokes, sugar, and lemon juice until smooth.
              2. Trim crust on bread and flatten the bread slices with a rolling pin. Spread about 2 tablespoons of the cream cheese filling in each slice of bread. Roll the slice into a log.
              3. Mix brown sugar and cinnamon in a shallow square dish.
              4. Dip bread logs in melted butter and roll in brown sugar mixture. Place on cookie sheets lined with foil. Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes, or freeze them for later use. 
              Servings: 40
                Source: a ladies fellowship meeting, do not know the original source

                Tuesday, April 26, 2011

                Food "Addiction": Soft Pretzels

                There are many different foods that I just LOVE - chocolate, fresh vegetables, breads, rolls, cookies, etc. One of my absolute favorite foods is soft pretzels. I love them so much that they were even a craving of mine during my pregnancy with Miss E. It is probably a very good thing that the closest soft pretzel place is over 40 minutes from our house or I would have easily put on more weight than I did. Anyway, I happened to be at the mall the other day (by myself) and decided to get a soft pretzel, which got me to thinking that I needed to put together a list of soft pretzel recipes.
                • Alton Brown's Homemade Soft Pretzels - one of my favorite food network chefs and his take on homemade soft pretzels (German style). **I tried this one today (4/26/11) and it was pretty good, though not exactly the way I like them. They were slightly crunchy on the outside and very soft and chewy on the inside if that's the way you like them.
                  A Cinnamon Sugar Pretzel using Alton's recipe.
                • Gluten-Free Soft Pretzels - I am very glad that I do not have a gluten allergy but know a few people who do.
                • Aunties Delicious Soft Pretzels (Amish recipe)
                • Homemade Soft Pretzels - this recipe calls for just baking, no baking soda dip.
                • Easy Soft Pretzels - this recipe uses store-bought breadstick dough to make the pretzels. With as busy as life seems, I'm always looking for "quick fix" ideas.
                • Buttery Soft Pretzels - this calls for more yeast than the other recipes so I'm assuming it will be a little more fluffy. It is very highly rated and saved/reviewed by over 1,000 people. Looking forward to trying this recipe. Several of the reviewers mentioned that they used less flour than the recipe calls for. Many also substituted butter for the vegetable oil (one even used coconut oil).
                I tried one of the recipes with the kids today as it is raining outside. Here are some pictures from the activity.
                Miss E. adding the sugar to the water.
                Mr. R. adding the yeast to the water and sugar.
                "Kneading" the dough.
                Pretzel dough rising...

                ...53 minutes later.

                Miss E. trying to roll out the dough.
                Mr. R. doing a really good job at rolling his dough out.
                5 formed, 3 to go.
                Boiling in baking soda and water solution.
                  Baked, brushed with butter, dusted with cinnamon & sugar...

                  and ready to eat.