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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Homemade Brown Sugar

In the process of all my holiday baking I ran out of brown sugar.  Not wanting to brave the crowds, I simply made my own.  It is incredibly easy and having made it, I actually prefer it over store bought.  Homemade brown sugar is quite fluffy and light.  The best part is you can make as much or as little as you need--no having to store it and having it get hard and lumpy.

You will need two ingredients:
regular granulated sugar

For every 1 cup of sugar, mix in 1 Tablespoon of molasses (more if you want a bolder flavor) with a fork.  Keep mixing with the fork until it becomes light and fluffy. 

The end.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Chocolate Sugar Cookies

One of the reason I love the holidays is because it gives me an excuse to bake lots and lots of cookies (not that I really need a reason).

2 c. melted butter (4 sticks)
4 one-ounce squares semi-sweet chocolate
2 c. powdered sugar
1 c. white sugar
2 eggs
2 t. vanilla
1 t. orange zest (I left this out)
1 t. baking soda
1 t. cream of tartar (critical)
1 t. salt
4 1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. white sugar in small bowl (set aside)

Melt the butter and chocolate squares (3 min in microwave).  Once melted, stir them smooth, transfer to a large mixing bowl, and add the powdered and white sugars.  Stir thoroughly and set the mixture aside to cool.

When mixture is cool enough so it won't cook the eggs, add the eggs, one at a time, stirring after each addition.  Mix in vanilla, orange zest, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt.  Mix.

Add flour in half-cup increments, mixing after each addition.  Once flour has been thoroughly mixed, roll into one-inch balls.  Dip balls into bowl of white sugar to coat.

Place the dough balls on a greased cookie sheet and flatten with the palm of your hand.

Bake at 325 degrees for 10-15 minutes. 

Makes approx. 7-8 dozen

*This recipe is out of Joanne Flukes Apple Turnover Murder.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Breakfast Sandwich

If you're looking for an easy and delicious breakfast, or a simple and healthy afternoon snack, I highly recommend these.

You need: whole wheat mini-bagels (or bagel of your choice), cream cheese (or peanut butter), thinly sliced apple.

Split your bagel, spread both sides with cream cheese and top with apple slices. 

My girls really liked these and using the mini-bagels made them just the right size for them. 


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Breaking the Fast Food Cycle

When I first started this blog it was a way for me to track how much my family was eating out.  We had gotten into the habit of eating out 3-4 times a week for lunch and 4-5 times a week for dinner.  Not only were we spending hundreds of dollars on fast food but I was also still spending all of our allotted grocery budget each week on food that eventually just went bad in my fridge, thus wasting even more money.  At one point I realized that all our discretionary money was being spent on eating out and that simply had to change.

It's been a little over a year and a hard struggle, but I'm happy to report that our eating out has curbed dramatically.  We still eat out on occasion, but it is typically planned and put into our monthly budget.  Since I have become much more aware of just how much bad food costs, I am less tempted to eat out just because.  Why spend $30 on fast food when I can make something much better for way less?  Also, there is just many more things I would rather do with that $30. 

Here are a few of the things that helped my family break the fast food cycle:
  • Desire--This may seems lame, but you really have to want to stop.  For us, it came from realizing just how much we were spending on food that really was not good for us.  It also helps to have a reason or a goal.  We wanted to buy a house and in order to make that work, we needed the extra money eating out was taking.
  • Budget--Each pay period I sit down and write out a zero balance budget.  This means that every dollar is accounted for--there is no "free money" sitting in my account.  After tithing, bills, groceries, household items and fuel, I look at what money I have left and assign it a category.  I typically plan one or two days each pay period for eating out.  If we eat out more than that then that money comes out of my grocery budget (my grocery budget is $100/wk for a family of 6).  This makes me less tempted to eat out, since it typically costs us around $25-30 and I know that I can feed my family dinner at home for around $3-7. 
  • Meal Plan--Each week I create a meal plan that includes breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks based on the weekly grocery ads, coupons, and what I have in my pantry/fridge/freezer.  I also include a night for left overs. 
  • Fall Back Meals--These are meals that your family likes that are quick and easy to make and you always have on hand.  For us they are: spaghetti, eggs, and cheater shepherds pie (can of Dinty Moore and a packet of instant mashed potatoes.)
  • Don't Give Up--Occasionally, we'd fall back into bad habits having periods were we eat out more than necessary.  Instead of giving up, we just resolve to do better again.
Now that I feel we have our eating out under control it's on to our next food goal, which is to eat healthier.  I've noticed lately that our meals have become very centered around meat so I've been trying to have more fresh fruits and vegetables with each meal and less meat. I'm also trying to introduce more whole grains and fiber into our diet. 

So, onto the next adventure!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Semi-Homemade Apple Blueberry Cobbler



Life with a new baby doesn’t leave me much time for creating new things, like dessert for instance. So, I was happy that I could just throw this together last minute.

What you need:

  • 2 cans apple pie filling
  • 1 pint fresh or frozen blueberries
  • granola
  • just add water instant pancake mix

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Add cans of pie filling and blueberries to 9x13 dish.  Mix pancake mix according to directions for lowest serving size.  Drop pancake mix by spoonfuls into pie filling.  Top with granola.

Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until pancake mix has cooked through.  Serve warm with ice cream.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Cheesy Taco Soup

This recipe is for taco soup, which is great in cold weather. We don't really have cold weather where I live, but it's still yummy.
Ingredients: 2 cans chicken broth (more if you want it more soupy instead of hearty), 1 can corn or hominy, 1 can diced tomatos, 1 can diced green chiles, 1 can tomato sauce, 1 can olives, 1 packet cheesy taco seasonings, 1 can chicken or chopped leftover chicken (hamburger could also be used), 1 can kidney, black, or pinto beans--your choice.
Add all ingredients to crockpot and cook on low 6 to 8 hours or on high 3 to 4 hours. Serve with chips or tortillas. Top with cheese, sour cream, avacado--be creative!
You can also heat this in a stock pot on the stove. Add all ingredients (brown hamburger first, if using) and bring to a boil. Turn to low and simmer for 10 minutes.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

This. This is the reason I've been absent. (Isn't he handsome?)

And the reason we've been doing so awful at not eating out.

My little guy seems to think that the perfect time to get cranky and need mommy is right when dinner needs to be started. We've started pulling back from the fast food restaurants once again. We bought a grill a week ago and my husband has been ecstatic, so he's been grilling. Nothing fancy yet, but when we do, I'll be sure to post it.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Jammin' Jambalaya

My girls recently checked out Tiana's Cookbook (Princess and the Frog) from the library and this is one of the recipes in it. I tweaked it a little bit because my girls won't eat anything spicy, but it was still very good.
Here is the original recipe:
1 T. olive oil
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch chunks
1/2 lb. Andouille sausage, cooked and thinly sliced (I used kielbasa)
1 med. onion, chopped (I left this out)
2 large celery stalks, chopped
1 small bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1/4 t. salt
1/8 t. ground black pepper
1 cup canned chopped tomatoes, undrained (I just used 1 can diced tomatoes)
2 cups uncooked white rice
4 cups chicken broth (about 2 cans)
2 t. Worcestershire sauce
1 t. hot pepper sauce (I left this out)
Saute chicken in oil until cooked through, about 5 min. Stir in sausage, onion, celery, bell pepper, and garlic. Sprinkle on salt and ground pepper and stir again. Cook for about 5 min, stirring occasionally. Stir in chopped tomatoes and uncooked rice. Then stir in the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer until rice is tender, about 20 minutes. Stir in Worcestershire and hot pepper sauce.
Adjust the amount of Worcestershire and hot pepper sauce to make it as mild or as spicy as you would like.
This serves 6-8.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Chocolate Banana Zucchini Bread

This is my favorite quick bread. I made it recently and it went so quickly, I didn't even get a picture before it was completely devoured.

3 eggs
2 c. sugar
3/4 c. melted butter
2 1/2 c. flour
2 1/2t. baking powder
2 1/2t. baking soda
1t. cinnamon
2t. vanilla
1/2c. cocoa
1/2 c. milk
1 medium banana, mashed*
1 small zucchini, shredded*
1c. chopped nuts (optional)
Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat together eggs, sugar and butter until creamy. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon. Add to egg mixture. Add vanilla, cocoa, milk, banana, zucchini and nuts. Pour into greased bread pans and bake 50-55 minutes. Makes 2 large loaves.
*You can also use just bananas or zucchini. You want about 2 cups total.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Jazz Up Your Ramen

My husband and I are avid watchers of Japanese anime and one of the things we always comment on is how good their ramen looks. So, we decided to see if we could make something similar based on what we had on hand.
We used:
1 pkg ramen noodles
2-3 slices lunch meat (your meat and noodles should be of the same flavor, i.e., roast beef meat and beef/roast beef flavored ramen)
chopped green onions
sliced mushrooms (we used baby portabella)
sliced carrots
2 cups boiling water
Place dry noodles in a bowl and top with remaining ingredients. Mix flavor packet into boiling water and then pour over noodles. Cover bowl with a plate for 3 minutes. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Salad Savoy

I participate in a food co-op called Bountiful Baskets. I really enjoy being able to get quality produce inexpensively and it's a great way to meet others in my neighborhood. Occasionally, we get an item we haven't had before and I have the exciting task of figuring out what it is and how we're supposed to eat it.

This last time we got Salad Savoy. I had never heard of this before and to be honest it looks like one of the pretty plate garnishes that you see at fancy restaurants, that are just for presentation.

Since I had never tasted it before and wasn't sure we'd like it, I didn't want to make it the main dish or even the main ingredient. So, I used just enough in a vegetable dish, that we could try it out, but so the dish wouldn't be ruined if we didn't like the flavor.

Here's what I used:

leaves from salad savoy
1 carrot julienned
1/3 head of cabbage shredded
1 diced bell pepper
1 tsp minced garlic
1/4 c. chicken broth

I combined them all in a large pan and then steamed them. I served them with chicken over brown rice.

Verdict: It was ok. My husband and I thought it was fine. My children picked out the salad savoy and ate the rest of the vegetables. The salad savoy has a strong, slightly bitter taste and is kinda tough, so I don't know that I would just use it in a salad unless I really wanted to chew. If I made this again I think I would use rice vinegar instead of the chicken broth. This isn't a vegetable I would choose to buy, but it was nice to try.

Thursday, March 4, 2010


Last night I made tostadas. Mainly, because they're an inexpensive and fast way to feed my family when 1) I don't feel like cooking and 2) we won't all be eating at the same time.

If you want, you can make these a lot more complicated and longer to make by making your own refried beans and frying your own corn tortillas, but that defeats the whole "fast" part of it.

What you need:

corn tortillas (I buy mine already cooked)
1 can refried beans
shredded cheese
your choice of toppings (We like olives, lettuce, tomato, sour cream and salsa for ours.)

You can also add taco meat if you like.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread beans on corn tortilla and top with shredded cheese. Place in oven until cheese is melted (2-5 minutes). Top with desired toppings.

Spanish rice would make a nice side dish to this.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


We recently lost (and just managed to find) the charger to our digital camera. So, while I do have a couple new recipes, I unfortunately, do not have pictures and so have neglected to post. I really prefer my recipes come with pictures. For whatever reason I like to be able to see what the finished product is supposed to look like before I decide if it's something I want to try, so I try to do the same thing here.

Anyway, now I have my camera back. How I missed it.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Crepes with Homemade Blueberry Syrup

I made crepes and oatmeal for dinner. I love having breakfast for dinner. For one reason, I'm not really a breakfast in the morning person--it's just too early to cook--and another is, aside from being good, it makes for an inexpensive dinner.

I found my crepes recipe
here on The Prudent Homemaker.
I made my own blueberry syrup, with some blueberries I had picked up earlier in the year and frozen.

Blueberry Syrup
1 cup sugar
1-2 T. cornstarch
1 t. lemon juice
1 c. fresh or frozen blueberries

In saucepan over medium high heat stir sugar, cornstarch, and lemon juice until sugar is dissolved. Next add blueberries. Mash some of the blueberries with a wooden spoon while cooking and leave the rest whole. Bring to a boil. Pour over crepes. The syrup mixture will thicken as it cools and sits, just warm it up again to turn it back into liquid.

Crepes are also good with nutella, powdered sugar, ham and cheese, etc. Be creative!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Chocolate Chip Cookies

This is my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe. It's one I got from my MIL shortly after I married and probably the only one I use for chocolate chip cookies. This recipe makes four dozen cookies. You can either half it if you want less, or freeze the leftover dough or cookies.

3-4 cups flour
1 t. baking powder
1t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 c. unsalted butter
1 c. granulated sugar
1 c. packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla extract
12 oz. chocolate chips
1 1/2 c. walnuts (optional)
1. Cream butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla.
2. Add dry ingredients--begin with 3 cups flour and add in more flour until doughy.
3. Mix in chocolate chips and walnuts.
4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
5. Bake for 10-12 minutes, then place on wire rack to cool.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Ratatouille on Pasta

I found some eggplant on sale for $1. I've only had eggplant once before on a pizza and my husband and girls had never tried it, so we decided to be a little adventurous.
I decided to use my eggplant in ratatouille. Here's how I made mine:
You need:
1 eggplant
2 zucchini
1 can fire roasted diced tomatoes with garlic
1 can tomato sauce
olive oil
Dice up the zucchini and eggplant. Because the zucchini will take longer to cook, add it to a large skillet and drizzle with olive oil and cook for about 3 minutes or so, until it starts to become tender and then add your eggplant. Drizzle with more olive oil and salt and pepper. Cook for another 1-2 minutes and then add diced tomatoes and tomato sauce. Bring to boil and simmer until vegetables are cooked through.
While cooking ratatouille, put on pasta to cook. I used miniature bow tie pasta and dittany, simply because that is what I had on hand.
The verdict:
My husband and I both thought this was very good. My girls refused to even try the eggplant, but really had fun with the pasta. I thought this would also be good with sausage.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Mushroom Burgers with Sweet Potato Fries

I found mushrooms on sale for a dollar so I picked some up. I also had a few sweet potatoes and surprisingly an onion that needed to be used real soon in addition to muenster cheese in the freezer that I had picked up on sale a while back. What to do with all these? Make hamburgers and fries, of course.
I bake my hamburger patties in the oven at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes, flipping once. I find this is easier for me than cooking them all in a skillet, especially since we don't have a grill. I sliced the onions thin and sauteed them with the mushrooms in Worcestershire sauce. As for the sweet potatoes, I peeled them and then placed them on a cookie sheet with some olive oil and salt and pepper for about 20 minutes or until cooked through.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

White Chicken Chili

With the weather taking a bit of a turn and getting colder, I decided to make a nice hearty chili. While I made this on the stove, this could easily be put in the crock pot to cook.

Ingredients: 1 can chicken, 1 can diced green chilies, 1 can garbanzo beans, 1 can navy or white kidney beans, 1 can corn or hominy, i can sliced olives, 1 t. diced garlic, 1T oil (I use EVOO), 1 can chicken broth (or 2 cups if using homemade), 1t. cumin. If you want it spicy add 1/2-1 can of El Pato sauce (We add ours to individuals bowls after serving.)
Using a stock pot (or dutch oven) add oil, garlic, green chilies and cumin and mix together. Add in remaining ingredients. Bring to boil and simmer about 5-10 minutes. Serve with chips, cheese, salsa, tortillas, sour cream, El Pato, salsa, corn bread, etc.
If using a crock pot, cook on low 4-6 hours or high 2-3 hours.
This also makes a great food storage recipe, since all the ingredients are pantry friendly.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Goals Update

I started this blog a year ago to help me keep track of how often and how much we were spending eating out. While I didn't do so great in keeping a monthly tally, I did get better at eating more at home. We moved to a smaller city in the fall, which I believe helped. There simply isn't the fast food or restaurant choices available here as there used to be. I also began watching other children during the week, which has put an end to my lunch time fast food runs. I don't necessarily want to spend more money than I make watching them to feed them lunch. We do still occasionally eat out, but not nearly as often and more than not I have planned to eat out, which is a first. Before, it was simply a whim. Dinnertime would come and I would not feel like cooking, so off to the nearest fast food place we'd go. I've gotten better at menu planning and stocking my pantry and freezer, so I can put a quick meal together with what we have. I still have room for improvement. We still eat out 1-2 times a week. I'd love to get that down to 1-2 times a month. We'll see what 2010 brings.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Kielbasa and Acorn Squash

I received a plethora of acorn squash over Christmas, so I've been coming up with recipes to use with the ones I haven't been able to give away.
This is just a twist on an old recipe.
Ingredients: 1 pkg kielbasa, 1 acorn squash, bell pepper, 1/2 c. orange juice, 1/4 c. maple syrup, instant rice, olive oil
Directions: Peel and cut up squash into 1 inch pieces. Dice bell pepper. Slice kielbasa. In skillet, pour approx. 1 T. olive oil and add kielbasa. Cook kielbasa to desired doneness (Kielbasa doesn't need to be cooked, but we like ours browned. So, if you want you can just add it along with the vegetables.) Add squash and bell pepper. Mix orange juice and syrup together and pour over meat and vegetables. Cook until squash is done, about 10 minutes. Prepare instant rice. Serve kielbasa and acorn squash over rice.


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