Friday, December 18, 2009

Rice Crispy Trees

A simple twist of turning a standard rice crispy treat into a tree is pretty simple - so I thought. Have you ever tried to get the gooey mess into a shape?

Found a great technique to keep your hands mess-free and get the trees nice and firmly packed. I took a simple plastic baggie and sprayed the inside with oil cooking spray. Spoon a dollop of the crispy treats in and press down into the corner of the bag (can twist the top to pack or use your hands to push on different sides of the bag repeatedly). To remove, peel back the plastic or turn inside out. Cool on a lightly sprayed piece of wax paper.

6 c Rice Crispy cereal
3 T Butter
1 bag Mini Marshmallows
Green food colloring
Decorations (red hots, red icing, rope licorice, etc) - optional
Cooking spray

Melt butter in a large pan over medium low heat. Add marshmallows and stir constantly until smooth. Do not over cook or allow it to brown. When the sugar in the marshmallow starts to caramelize, it gets hard and tough. Turn heat off (add coloring if desired) and add cereal, stirring until evenly coated and slightly cooled.

Press into a lightly greased pan (use a sprayed piece of plastic wrap or wax paper to press it in) or scoop into bags to make trees. Decorate as you wish.

Total Cost: $1.99
Marshmallows $.79 (Aldi)
Butter $.20 (Aldi)
Cereal $1.00 (Aldi or Meijer)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Your Turn

Here's your chance to share. I'd love to know what your favorite Christmas recipes, tips, and celebrations are. Share away!!! Please.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Cinnamon-Apple Brunch Bake

This is like an acceptable dessert to eat for breakfast/brunch, or at least I pretend it is.

3 T Butter
1/2 c Brown Sugar
1 can Apple Pie Filling (21 oz)
1 t Cinnamon
1/4 t Vanilla
1 can Refrigerated cinnamon rolls
1/2 c Chopped nuts or raisins (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In sauce pan, melt butter, stir in sugar and apple pie filling, cinnamon and nutmeg. Spread 1/2 of apple mixture in 2 qt shallow baking dish.
Separate rolls and cut into quarters. Arrange pieces (points up) over mixture. Spoon remaining mixture over biscuits and sprinkle on nuts or raisins if desired. Bake for 40 minutes. Remove and drizzle icing packet from rolls over the top. Let stand 5 minutes and serve warm.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Apple French Toast Strata

1 (1 lb) loaf cinnamon bread, cubed
1 (8 oz) package cream cheese
1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup diced peeled apples (I use extra)
8 eggs
2 1/2 c half-and-half cream
6 Ts butter, melted
2 T cinnamon
1/4 c maple syrup
  1. Coat a 9x13 inch baking dish with cooking spray. Arrange 1/2 of the cubed bread in the bottom of the dish. Whip cream cheese and sugar together and spread the mixture over the bread, and top with the apples. Top with remaining bread.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the eggs with the cream, butter, cinnamon, and maple syrup. Pour over the bread mixture. Cover with plastic wrap, and press down so that all bread pieces are soaked. Refrigerate at least 2 hours.
  3. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F
  4. Bake 45 minutes in the preheated oven. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.
Bread - $1.19 (Aunt Millie's Outlet)
Cream Cheese - $.89 (Aldi)
Powdered Sugar - $.20 (Aldi)
Apple - $.25 (Meijer)
Eggs - $.75 (Aldi)
1/2 & 1/2 - $.75 (Costco)
Syrup - $1.00 (Meijer)

Friday, December 11, 2009

Croissant French Toast & Strawberry Sauce

This beautiful piece of art on a plate comes from Southern Living magazine. I served this for a baby shower to RAVE reviews. It's melt in your mouth goodness, perfect for holiday feasts.

Check the day old rack at grocery store for croissants. You don't want to use the bake from a can kind because they are too soft and doughy. You want a large and light croissants - good deals on large quantities at Sam's Club or Costco.

4 lg Day-old croissants
3/4 c Milk
2 lg Eggs
1 t Vanilla
2 T Butter

Whisk together milk, eggs, and vanilla. Pour into a shallow dish. Slice croissants in half lengthwise. Dip croissant halves into egg mixture coating well. Melt 1 T butter in large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add four croissant halves and cook about 2 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Repeat procedure with remaining butter and croissant halves.
Sprinkle with powdered sugar, top with whipped cream if desired and strawberry syrup.

Strawberry Syrup:
1 qt Fresh strawberries, sliced
1/2 c Sugar
1/4 c Orange Juice
1 t Grated orange rind

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and let sit for 30 minutes. Cook over low heat stirring occasionally for 5 minutes. DO NOT OVER COOK to keep strawberries slightly firm.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Santa's Snickers Surprises

Found this little gem in the coupon section years ago from snickers. This are delicious cookies with a perfect blend of peanut and chocolate. I'm going to try to make these cookies with sunbutter (creamed sunflower seeds) and Milky Ways this year since we can't do the peanut thing.

Last time I made these (2004) the elementary/junior high girls baking with me thought these were the best cookies ever to make - and easy too. Sure do miss these cookies. Make a batch and eat one for me.

1 c Butter, softened
1 c Creamy peanut butter
1 c Light brown sugar
1 c Sugar
2 Eggs
1 t Vanilla
3 1/2 c Flour, sifted
1 t Baking soda
1/2 t Salt
1 pkg Snickers miniatures

Combine the butter, peanut butter and sugars using a mixer on medium to low speed until light and fluffy. Slowly add eggs and vanilla until thoroughly combined. Then mix in flour, salt, and baking soda.

Cover and chill dough for 2 – 3 hours. Unwrap Snickers miniatures. Remove dough from fridge and divide into 1 T pieces and flatten. Form the dough into a ball around each candy bar.

Place on a greased cookie sheet and bake at 300 degrees for 10 – 12 minutes. Let cookies cool on making rack. Drizzle cookies with melted chocolate if desired.

Monday, December 7, 2009


This Dutch Banket recipe is from my husband's grandma. It's a family tradition and we fight over them until the last bite.

1 lb Almond paste, room temperature
1 c Sugar
2 T Cornstarch
2 Eggs (save 1 of the egg white for top)
1/2 t Lemon extract
Mix together and chill overnight. Make into 4 balls.

2 c Flour
1 c Butter
1/3 c Ice water

Mix together and separate into 4 balls. Cover and let sit in the fridge overnight.

Flour surface and rolling pin well and roll out pastry into 2” wide lengths and thin like a pie crust (thick enough to roll). Flour hands and roll paste into log shape and place in the center of dough. Fold pastry over filing and press dough seam to seal (can use cold water seal ends). Repeat with other 3 sections.

Place on greased cookie sheet. Brush pastry with reserved egg white. Can sprinkle sugar on top if desired. Bake at 425 for 10 minutes and turn oven down to 375 for 10 more minutes until light brown.

Awesome Sales

I've mentioned Aldi numerous times on this blog, partially because of their good quality product at a price to make our feasts frugal. They have some TREMENDOUS sales this week on baking products, so time to stock up, for holiday baking and for the pantry stock. (NOTE: this is not a paid endorsement)

Powdered/Brown Sugar (32 oz) $.95
Semi-Sweet, Butterscotch, Milk or White chips (12 oz) $1.29
Butter (1 lb) $1.49
Milk (1 gal) $1.49

I really try to buy on sale rather than by need. That way I've got what I need when I need it, and spend a lot less money in the process.

Would I like to buy organic and high end quality products? You betcha. But I do what I can, when I can - and focus on those products when they really matter both taste and healthwise.

Happy holiday baking my friends.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Blue Ribbon Almond Roca Cookies

This tasty treat was a goldmine from The Food Network, a recipe contest won by Lynn Scully. My sister-in-law made these for Christmas and I wanted to eat every cookie on the plate. I put a pretty good dent in them though. This is a Christmas crowd pleaser to be sure.

2 1/2 c All-purpose flour
1/2 t Baking soda
1/4 t Salt
1 c Dark brown sugar
1/2 c Sugar
1 c Butter, room temperature
2 Eggs, room temperature
2 t Pure vanilla extract
1 Package toffee bits
1 c Coarsely ground almonds
4 oz Milk chocolate
1/2 T Vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, blend sugars together on medium speed. Add butter and mix to form a grainy paste. Add eggs and vanilla and mix at medium speed until light and fluffy. At low speed, slowly add the flour mixture and then the toffee bits. Mix until just blended; do not over-mix.
Place ground nuts in a small bowl. Using hands, roll balls of dough into 1 to 1 1/2-inch balls, then roll in the ground nuts. Place on cookie sheets several inches apart. Bake approximately 22 minutes and then transfer cookies to a cooling rack.
Melt the chocolate with the vegetable oil in a double boiler or in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Drizzle melted chocolate over cooled cookies. Place cookies on a cookie sheet and place in freezer or refrigerator until chocolate is firmly set.

Total Cost: $7.49
Flour - $.50 (Aldi)
Brown Sugar - $.65 (Meijer)
Sugar - $.15 (Aldi)
Butter - $1.00 (Aldi)
Eggs - $.15 (Aldi)
Toffee - $2.49 (Meijer)
Almonds - $2.00 (Trader Joe)
Milk Chocolate - $.50 (Aldi)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Pumpkin Cake

I found this cake idea in the coupon section of the newspaper from Duncan Hines. The kids LOVED having a cake that looks like a pumpkin for Thanksgiving. Their recipe didn't sound that great to me so I concocted my own. It's more of a cinnamon flavored cake than a true spice cake, so the kids seemed a bit happier with that. The icing/coating takes a little bit of technique to make it really smooth, but still really simple.

1 yellow cake mix (prepared)
1 pkg pumpkin pie spice pudding
1 t cinnamon

Pour into a well greased and floured bundt pan and bake according to box directions for bundt cake. Cool in pan 5 minutes and turn out onto cooling rack.

1-2 can vanilla frosting
Green, Red & Yellow Food Coloring
1 Cake Ice Cream Cone

Take a small portion of frosting and color it green and frost the ice cream cone for the stem. Set aside. Melt the rest of the frosting until thin and color with red and yellow to make the orange desired. Place the cooling rack over a cutting board and pour the frosting over the cake to coat. "Bounce" the cooling rack up and down to get rid of ridges. Scrap off frosting from cutting board, reheat frosting and pour again, bouncing until entire cake is coated. Place cone in center of the pumpkin. I used a bit of extra frosting to make a couple of leaves and vines.

Cake Mix $1.00 (Aldi's)
Frosting $1.00 (Aldi's)
Pudding $.66 (Meijer)
Cone and Coloring from stock

I'm gonna try doubling the recipe for 2 bundt cakes and have them flip together to make a bigger pumpkin.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Aunt Vi's Church Window Cookies

Once again I offer another staple from Aunt Vi's Christmas table... the church window cookie. This is a sugar high waiting to happen and simple enough to have kids help in the kitchen.

1/2 c Butter**
12 oz Chocolate Chips
1 pkg Colored mini marshmallows
Powdered sugar or coconut

Melt butter and chocolate. Set aside to cool slightly. Gently fold in marshmallows until coated.
Spread into logs on tin foil sprinkled with powdered sugar of coconut. Roll up tight and refrigerate. Slice about 1/2" thick.

**You can substitute margarine, but you won't want to...

Total Cost: $3.48
Butter $.50 (Aldi's)
Chocolate Chips $1.49 (Meijer)
Marshmallows $1.49 (Meijer)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Aunt Vi's Sugared Peanuts (or Almonds)

I don't make these anymore due to my son's peanut allergy, but MAN DO I MISS THEM. These are another one of my Great Aunt Vi's recipes that are carved into my holiday memories. I use to give these lovely treats for gifts, but alas no more. This is for Andrea so you don't have to call for the recipe again this year. ;)

2 c Sugar
1 c Water
4 c Raw redskin peanuts (or almonds)

Mix ingredients in large saucepan.
Bring to a boil and cook until moisture in almost gone and nuts and quite dry - stirring frequently. Pour out on a greased cookie sheet or jelly roll pan. Bake at 300 degrees for 1/2 hour - stirring after the 5, 10, and 20 minute marks. Allow to cool before serving. Store in an airtight container.

I have no idea anymore what peanuts cost - just remember that they are really inexpensive around Christmas. Look for the RAW peanuts in the bulk area.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Aunt Vi's Brown Sugar Cookies

Some of my first Christmas memories involve these cookies at my Great-aunt Vi's house and now they a Christmas tradition in our home. They have a more mellow flavor (and a little sweeter) than your traditional white sugar cookies. I make the dough ahead of time and wrap it in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge until I have time to make the cookies. The better chilled the dough is, the easier it rolls. Try them. You'll be a believer too! We make these year round for different holidays/occasions with a mass of cookie cutters we've collected - Super Bowl, Easter, Valentine's Day, etc... oh and just because)

4 c Flour
1 c Butter
2 Eggs
2 c Brown Sugar
1/4 c Cold water
1 t Vanilla
1 t Soda

Blend butter and sugar together, add eggs and beat well. Add other ingredients and mix well.
Chill dough for rolling into 1/2" thickness (try using powdered sugar instead of flour to keep dough & cutters from sticking) and cut with shaped cutters. Bake on parchment paper* in a 375 degree oven until slightly browned (approx 10 minutes). Frost with powdered sugar frosting or sprinkle with colored sugar before baking.

* The parchment paper keeps the cookie from sticking to the pan and from decorative sugars from burning/sticking.

Flour $.75 (Aldi)
Butter $1.00 (Aldi)
Eggs $.20 (Aldi)
Brown Sugar $.70 (Aldi)
Vanilla/Soda - from stock

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Hot Almond & Cream Drink

Found this amazing drink in Southern Living magazine. Served this last Christmas and it was a huge hit. Make this one for a crowd, because you don't want to drink it all yourself. A quick look at the ingredient list will confirm the reason why you don't want to do that... even though you'll want to.

1 c Butter
1 c Sugar
1 c Brown Sugar, packed
2 c Vanilla Ice Cream, softened
2 tsp Almond Extract
Ground Nutmeg
Boiling Water

In a saucepan over low heat, cook and stir butte and sugars for 12-15 minutes or until butter is melted. Pour into a large mixing bowl, add ice cream and extract. Beat on medium speed for 1-2 minutes or until smooth, scraping the bowl often.

To make one serving: Spoon 1/4 c mix into a mug, add 3/4 c boiling water and stir well. Sprinkle with nutmeg. Serve immediately.

Butter $1.00 (Aldi)
Sugar $.25 (Aldi)
Brown Sugar $.35 (Aldi)
Ice Cream $1.00 (Meijer)
Extract - from stock

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Hot Mint Malt

Recipe from: Mable Hoffman’s Crockery Cookery
My sister-in-law Jenny made this for Christmas several years ago and I was hooked. I've made it several times since then for Christmas parties with rave reviews. This post is Kate who thinks about it every Christmas. Easy to make ahead for a large group.

3-4 York Mints ( 1 1/2 diameter)
5 c Milk
1/2 c Malted milk powder
1 t Vanilla
Whipped cream & crushed candy cane (garnish)

In crock pot, combine broken up mints, milk, malt powder and vanilla. Cover and heat on low for 2 hours. Beat with blender of mixer until frothy. Top with whipped cream and peppermint as desired. Serves 6

Mints $.25 (Meijer - bulk)
Milk $.60 (Aldi)
Malt $1 (Meijer)
Vanilla from stock

Friday, November 27, 2009

Tomato Bacon Cups

Calling all BLT lovers. This is is a great little party bite or a just a fun way to eat dinner with the kids.

8 slices Bacon
1 lg Roma Tomato, chopped finely
1/2 Onion, chopped finely
3 oz Shredded swiss or mozzarella cheese
1/2 c Mayonnaise
1 t Dried basil
1 (16oz) Can refrigerated flaky biscuit dough

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a mini muffin pan.
In a skillet, cook bacon until brown. Drain on paper towels. Crumble bacon into a medium mixing bowl, and mix with tomato, onion, cheese, mayo and basil. Separate biscuits into halves or thirds horizontally by pulling apart the layers. Place each biscuit layer into cups of the muffin tin. Fill each biscuit with bacon mixture.
Bake for 10-12 minutes in the preheated oven or until golden brown.

Biscuits $1 (Aldi)
Bacon $1 (Aldi)
Mayo from stock
Tomato $.35 (Meijer)
Onion $.25 (Meijer)
Cheese $.50 (Aldi)

  • Pizza - Fill biscuits with pizza sauce, mozzarella and favorite pizza toppings.
  • Chicken Alfredo - Diced leftover cooked chicken, alfredo sauce, parmasean cheese, mozzarella cheese, pine nuts (optional: roasted red peppers or broccoli)
  • Roasted Veggies - variety of roasted veggies, provolone cheese
  • Whatever you can imagine

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Leftovers = YUM

I love thanksgiving leftovers - making sandwiches, soups, quesadillas, and casseroles...

In case you missed it the first time around, check out the recipe for Turkey Stuffing Bake. An easy and great way to use leftover turkey. My friend brought it to our Monday Night Football party and the kids were gobbling it up.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Apple Sausage Stuffing

If your kids are Stove Top stuffing fans, this is not it. This is a hearty stuffing that full flavored. I cringed at first thought of apples in my stuffing, but man is it good paired with the sausage and spice. I don't care for apples in my sourdough stuffing, so it because a toss up over which one I make. With enough family and friend celebrations, I often get to make both.

6 c Day old multi-grain bread, cubed
6 c Day old white bread, cubed
1 lb Ground Sausage
1/2 c Celery, diced
1/2 c Onion, diced
1 c Chicken broth
1 T Olive Oil
1 T Sage, dried
1 T Parsley, dried
2 t Sea salt
1 t Pepper
1 c Apple, peeled and chopped

Brown sausage and set aside. Reserve 1 T of dripping to saute onions and celery in until soft. Toss together bread, onions, celery, sausage, sage, parsley, salt, pepper, and apples. Place in a lightly sprayed 9 X13 pan and slowly pour broth over mixture. Drizzle a bit of olive oil over the top to help create the crisp top texture. Bake on 350 degrees for 20-30, or until the top crisps.

Cheesy Chicken (or Turkey) & Rice Soup

My sister-in-law Stacey got us all hooked on this wonderful soup. Works great to use up leftovers from Thanksgiving or weekday meals. It also freezes well. It makes a big batch, so we eat on it for a couple of days or freeze half of it. If it thickens too much upon standing (rice absorbs liquid), just add a little chicken stock or milk to get the desired consistency.

1 c Diced celery
1 c Diced carrots
1/2 c Diced onion
2 T Oil
5 c Water
6.2 oz Quick cooking Long Grain Wild Rice w/season packet
2 c Chopped cooked chicken (or turkey)
8 oz Velveta, cubed
10 oz Chopped broccoli
1 can Cream of Chicken Soup

Sautee celery and carrots for 5 minutes in oil. Add water and seasoning packet. Bring to a boil.
Add rice, cover and cook for 5 – 10 minutes.
Add broccoli and chicken. Bring to a boil.
Add cheese and soup, stir constantly for 5 minutes.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

3 Week Thanksgiving

With money tight right now, I've been working hard with my family to have a purpose-driven holiday. Thanksgiving really gets skipped between Halloween and Christmas. So we are finding ways everyday for 3 weeks to celebrate. I was inspired by the story of Barbara Rainey from FamilyLife Today who talked about here devotion to helping her family celebrate, experience, and remember the purpose of Thanksgiving.

Here's a few things we are doing over the course of 21 days to celebrate Thanksgiving.
  • Celebrate being thankful and grateful EVERY DAY in some way
  • Read kids books with Thanksgiving theme - silly to historical
  • Kindness garlands - I hung a string from our slider window. Everytime I see the boys showing an act of kindness or helpfulness - they chose an artificial leaf from a basket and we tie it to the string. What you end up with is a cascade of colorful leaves. Mine are above a floor vent so they can "move in the breeze."
  • Coloring - using clipart that I removed color from to make themed coloring sheets.
  • Some of those sheets were leaves and acorns that we colored and cut out to put on our windows and send to others.
  • Cards - We turned a coloring sheet with leaves reading "Happy Thanksgiving" into cards to send to the grandparents. We tucked in some of the leaves/acorns we colored and cut out.
  • Thankful Turkeys - We cut turkey shapes out of brown construction paper and made beaks, legs, and feathers for them. The feather we colored and then wrote on them the things we were thankful for. They were then cut out and glued to our turkeys.
  • Pilgrims - read about their lives and hardships they faced, watch Charlie Brown's pilgrim movie (second story on the thanksgiving disc), color pictures, play "pretend" pilgrims
  • Pilgrim hats - color pictures of a pilgrim hat, cut it out and staple to a band of construction paper to make a hat.
  • Thankful dinner table - while we eat we go around the table and talk about all the things we are thankful from. We hear everything from "Jesus loving us and dying on the cross" to "my toys" to "my nice cozy bread" to "French fries!" Learning myself that we can be thankful for everything. I do melt when the mention their mom in their list.
  • TIME - slowing down and being together. It's amazing how much easier it is to be a mom when I'm not planning, going, doing, and preparing. It's been an unexpected treat.
If you noticed. Not much of what is listed here costs much if any money. My printer cartridge is running low, but the rest is reusable or intangible. Overall I am much more clear of what I have to be thankful for this year. Silly me to think this was for the kids...

Apple Pumpkin Muffins

These muffins are so moist and sweet their is no need for butter or anything else. Serve them warm or at room temperature. Both are delicious.

2 1/2 c flour
2 c sugar
1/2 t ground cinnamon
1/4 t ground nutmeg
1/8 t ground cloves
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 c canned pumpkin
1/2 c vegetable oil
2 c finely chopped peeled apples

1/4 c sugar
2 T flour
1/2 t ground cinnamon
1 T butter or margarine (or coconut oil)

1. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, baking soda and salt. In another bowl combine eggs, pumpkin and oil; stir into dry ingredients just until moistened.
Fold in apples. Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups three-fourths full.

2. For topping, combine sugar, flour and cinnamon. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs; sprinkle 1 t over each muffin. Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes or until muffins test done. Cool in pan 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack.

These are even better the second day as their flavors meld and the moisture of the apples penetrates the muffins.

TOTAL COST: $2.95 or less
Apples $.50 (Aldi's or less from orchard)
Pumpkin $.50 (Aldi's)
Flour $.75 (Aldi's)
Eggs $.20 (Aldi's)
Sugar $.75 (Aldi's)
Oil $. 25 (Costco)
Spices - from stock

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Thanksgiving Frugal Tips

Thank you grocery stores for pulling out some of the biggest sales of the year right now. You thoroughly help my grocery budget. I use this time of year to stock up on some basics that we use all year round, but are expensive in the off-season, or hard to find.

Turkey - many stores offer huge discounts on turkey if you buy a certain amount in that store. Usually easy to meet that quota. Turkey is a healthy meat. I cook them several times a year and each turkey provides enough meat for several meals, plus I freeze the cooked meat for soups later.

Canned Pumpkin - I love pumpkin added to pancakes, muffins, etc. It's a great way to sneak a very healthy food into my kids everyday foods. Aldi's only offers this seasonally at a price way less than regular grocery stores. I'll be buying a couple of cases of it shortly while they still have it.

Spices - great sales

Baking Supplies - I reference Aldi's a lot. I admit it. It use to be a big deal to go there because you had to bag your own groceries. But now I can go to Meijer, Walmart, Family Fare, etc. and do the same thing AND pay a bit more. If you aren't a Aldi's fan, that's fine. But baking supplies is where you can save an enourmous amount of money at the holidays. Find it in yourself to go, just once - and stock up on things like flour, sugar, confectioners sugar, brown sugar, marshmallow, mixes, chocolate chips, cinnamon, pie crusts, pumpkin, etc... all the things you will use frequently over the next 5 weeks. Your holiday budget will thank you.

Frozen Vegetables - Great sales on these pop up around the holidays and is a great time to stock up. When cooked correctly, they are fairly close to the quality of fresh veggies at a fraction of the cost. Chopped carrots, spinach, and veggie blends are a huge time savings too when it comes to soups and sauces. Canned veggies are on sale too, but I don't care for their consistency much.

Most of all, enjoy Thanksgiving, Christmas, and everything in between. Keep your focus on the purpose of your entertaining, gifts, and good things to eat. More of that coming in my post about our 3 Week Thanksgiving.

Buckeye Peanut Butter Balls

Since today is the big Michigan v. Ohio State game and we know that unfortunately Michigan is going to lose, because it's that kind of season... Celebrate with a bit a confectionary buckeye. There is nothing like the traditional peanut butter version. Due to the peanut allergy in the house we don't make them in the house. I made these with almond butter and they were pretty good, the flavor was pretty intense (and expensive). This year I'll try with sunflower seed butter.

2 c Powdered Sugar
2 T Butter
1 1/2 c Peanut butter (or sunbutter)
Melted chocolate - milk, white, or dark

Blend ingredients together and refrigerate. Roll mixture into 1/2"-3/4" balls. Refrigerate to harden. Dip balls into melted milk chocolate or white chocolate (melt in double boiler). Cool on wax paper. Refrigerate.

TOTAL COST: $4.40 - $6.90
Sugar - $.75 (Aldi's)
Butter - $.15 (Aldi's)
Peanut Butter - $1.50 (varies based on brand)
Sunflower Seed Butter - $4.00 (Trader Joe)
Chocolate - $2.00 (Meijer sale)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Pumpkin Layer Cheesecake

I love cheesecake, but was always intimidated on how to make it. This is about as easy as it gets, and as inexpensive as a cheesecake gets as well. I found this recipe on and marked it as a favorite. Got rave reviews from family of this one around the Thanksgiving table.

2 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 c white sugar
1/2 t vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/2 c pumpkin puree
1/2 t ground cinnamon (I use 1 t)
1/8 t ground cloves
1/8 t ground nutmeg
1 (9 inch) prepared graham cracker crust

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

In a large bowl, combine cream cheese, sugar and vanilla. With an electric mixer, beat on medium speed until smooth. Blend in eggs. Reserve 1 cup of cream cheese mixture and set aside. Pour remaining mixture into pie crust. (I like a springform better, but either works)

Into the reserved cream cheese mixture, stir pumpkin puree, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Pour over the top of the plain filling in the crust.

Bake in the preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until center of pie is almost set. Allow to cool, then refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.

Cream Cheese $1.60 (Aldi's sale)
Sugar $.20 (Aldi's)
Eggs $.20 (Aldi's)
Pumpkin $.50 (Aldi's)
Crust $1.00 (from stock)
Spices - from stock

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Sourdough Bread Stuffing

1 loaf Sour Dough bread, cubed
1 lb Ground Sausage
1/2 c Celery, diced
1/2 c Onion, diced
1 c Chicken broth
1 T Olive Oil
1 T Sage, dried
1 T Parsley, dried
2 t Salt
1 t Pepper
1/2 c Dried Cranberries (optional)

Lightly coat 9 X 13 pan with cooking spray and preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Brown sausage and set aside. Remove all but 1 T of drippings from pan. Saute celery and onions until they begin to soften. Add onion, celery, sausage, and cranberries to bread and gently toss together. Pour broth over mixture.

Mix all seasonings together and sprinkle evenly into stuffing mixture. Place stuffing into lightly greased pan and drizzle olive oil over the top. Bake for 20-30 minutes until top of stuffing begins to crisp slightly.

TOTAL COSTS: $4.79 - $5.54
Bread $2.49 (Meijer) - less from day-old rack
Sausage $2.00 (Aldi's)
Celery $.20 (Aldi's)
Onions $.10
Cranberries $.75 (Aldi's)
Spices from supply

Holiday Hints - Mint Chocolate Cocoa

This is a rich sweet treat that will give you a bit of a sugar high, but oh so good.

3 T Hot cocoa mix
1 c Milk
3 T Andes Mint Chips

2 c Hot cocoa mix
8 c Milk
2 c Andes Mint Chips

Bring milk to a simmer (not a boil) and add mint chips, stirring constantly until well dissolved. Place cocoa mix into mug and add the mint milk, stir until powder mix has fully dissolved.

Tomato Cage Christmas Tree
- wire pronges of cage together and wrap artificial pine garland, lights & decorations. Works great for a small room, porch, or yard decorations.

Holiday Hints - Chicken Fajita Cups

This is a perfect party pleaser because it is easy to make up ahead of time and let it go in the crockpot. Guests can dish up their filling for baked won ton cups or use a "scoop" style tortilla chip.


2 large Chicken breasts
1 Red bell pepper, minced
1 Green bell pepper, minced
1/2 c Chipotle marinade
1 T Canola oil
1 c Monterey-Jack cheese, shredded
1/2 sm Onion, minced

1/3 c Salsa

Marinade chicken in chipotle sauce minimum one-hour. Grill chicken. Set aside and allow meat to cool. Meanwhile add oil to a hot skillet. Sauté pepper and onion until slightly soft but color is still vivid. Mince the cooled chicken into small pieces. Add all ingredients to a saucepan or crockpot to get the flavors and ingredients incorporated. Add more salsa to thin or cheese to thicken the filling. Serve warm in won ton cups or with tortilla chips.


1 pkg Won Ton Wrappers
Coarse Sea Salt
Oil Spray

Lay wrapper into a standard muffin tin and shape/press along the sides. Thoroughly cover wrapper with oil spray and sprinkle lightly with coarse salt. Bake at 325 for 12-15 minutes until crisp and lightly browned. Remove and cool on wire rack. Store in air-tight container until ready to use.

Advent Bag Garland

These little homemade gift bags are perfect to tuck in a little note, treat, or advent surprise. Bags are numbered and then tied to twine or ribbon to hang up.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Holiday Hints - Chicken Florentine Pockets

These tasty little appetizers pair well with sour cream for dipping. Really enjoy it as an easy topping for pasta as well. Great way to use up some leftovers.

1 pkg Jumbo Flakey Biscuits dough
1 c Mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 c Chicken, cooked and diced small
1/4 c Parmesan cheese, shredded
4 oz Spinach, cooked, drained, chopped
1/2 c Sour Cream
1/2 lb Bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 t Oregano
1/4 t Pepper

Combine all ingredients. Peel each biscuit into thirds by pulling apart layers. Place about 1 T of filling on one side of the biscuit and fold over. Pinch edges together with a fork. Bake at 325 for 10-15 minutes until the pocket is golden. Serve with sour cream. Filling can be added to a cream or Alfredo sauce and served with pasta as well. Makes 24.

Merry Christmas Garland
Print out letters on cardstock, tear or edge pieces and edge with chalk, clip to twine or yard to hang.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Holiday Hints - Broccoli Cheese Spread

This will keep you dipping. Also a great topping for a baked potato.

1 pkg (8 oz) Cream cheese, cubed
1 c Sour cream
1 envelope Italian salad dressing mix
3 c frozen chopped broccoli, thawed, drained and patted dry
2 c(8 oz) shredded cheddar cheese, divided

In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese, sour cream and salad dressing mix until blended. Fold in the broccoli and 1-1/2 cups of cheese. Spoon into a shallow 1-qt. baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 20 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake 5 minutes longer or until cheese is melted. Serve warm with crackers. Yield: 3-1/2 cups.

Wrapped Trees
Styrofoam cone wrapped in green twin and pom-pom trim
Could use any trim of your choice.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Holiday Hints - Stuffed New Potatoes

Perfect to pair with the meat of your choice for Sunday dinner or a holiday meal.

1 1/2 lb. small red potatoes (about 20)
1 c dairy sour cream
4 bacon slices, cooked crisp, crumbled
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons minced chives
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese or grated parmesan cheese
Minced parsley

Cook whole unpeeled potatoes in boiling water till fork tender but not mushy. Place in cold water to stop cooking; cut each cooked potato in half.
With a melon baller or small spoon, scoop out centers, leaving a 1/4" shell of pulp in skins. Use centers for soups or salads. In a small bowl, combine sour cream, bacon, seasoned salt, pepper and chives.
Spoon sour cream mixture evenly into centers of cooked potatoes. Sprinkle tops with cheese. Arrange on a baking sheet. May be refrigerated at this point for up to 24 hours and completed later.
If refrigerating, cover with plastic wrap.

When ready to serve, preheat broiler. Place stuffed potatoes under broiler until cheese melts. Arrange broiled appetizers on a platter or serving plate. Garnish with parsley.
Makes about 40 appetizers.

Autumn Placemat
Ordinary placemat, edged with plaid fabric and felt leaves glue on

Monday, November 9, 2009

Holiday Hints - Oreo Truffles

Addiction warning: These little bites will have you from first taste. Make to share so you don't eat them all. You'll want to.

1 (18oz) pkg. chocolate sandwich cookies with white filling, finely crushed
1 (8oz) pkg. cream cheese, softened
1 lb white baking chocolate, melted

In large mixing bowl combine crushed cookies and cream cheese. Beat with mixer on low speed until well blended. Form 1 inch balls by hand and refrigerate to stiffen. Dip balls in melted white chocolate; place on baking sheet covered with waxed paper. Can drizzle chocolate over the top, sugar sprinkles or jimmie sprinkles. Refrigerate 1 hour until firm. To store, cover and refrigerate.

Autumn Centerpiece
leaf plate with small pumpkin, tea-lights, and acorns in the center surrounded by leaves (we used artificial), gourds, pods, acorns, candles

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Holiday Hints - Cappuccino Muffins & Spread

So I've been delinquent in posting lately... but for good reason. I've been busting my britches to get things put together for Holiday Hints 2009 - a ladies night out based on holiday entertaining, decorating, crafting, baking/cooking, and inspiration. Over the next week+ I'll post our menu from the evening along with a few pictures of the decorations/crafts we demonstrated.

Sorry I didn't take pictures of all the fabulous food, but I was a bit busy with details and guests. Trust me, they are worth making.

2 c flour
1/2 c sugar
1/4 c brown sugar
2 t baking powder
4 t instant coffee powder
1/4 t salt
1/2 t cinnamon
1 c milk
1/2 c butter, melted (or coconut oil)
1 egg
1 t vanilla extract
1 c mini chocolate chips (or chopped chocolate)

4 T butter, melted (or coconut oil)
6 T flour
1/4 c brown sugar
1/2 t cinnamon

1. In a large bowl, combine the flour, white and brown sugar, baking powder, coffee powder, salt and cinnamon.
2. In another bowl mix together milk, melted butter, egg and vanilla.
3. Add wet mixture to dry mixture and stir just until combined. Stir in chocolate chips.
4. Spoon batter into 12 greased or paper lined muffin cups.
5. Make Crumb Topping: Combine the butter, flour, brown sugar and cinnamon. Press through fork tines into "flakes/chips" and sprinkle over unbaked muffins.
6. Bake at 400F for 17-19 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool on rack. Makes 12-15 muffins

4 oz cream cheese, softened
1 T sugar
1/2 t instant coffee powder
1/2 t vanilla extract
1/4 c mini chocolate chips

Beat together cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, and coffee powder. Fold in miniature chocolate chips.

Autumn Arrangement

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Zuppa Toscanno

There is no trick to this soup. It's all a treat to eat this copy of Olive Garden's tasty soup. I made this great pot of soup to bring to Grandma's 90th birthday party today. She's a wonderful lady and it's a pleasure to celebrate this milestone. Here's to many more and great health this year.

1 lb Spicey Sausage, browned and drained
2 med Potatoes, cut in half lengthwise and cut into 1/4" slices
3/4 c Onions, diced
6 Slices bacon, chopped
2 t Garlic, minced
2 c Kale leaves, chopped
2 T Chicken base
1 qt Water
1/3 c Heavy whipping cream

  1. Chop up bacon in small pieces and cook in a large soup pot. When crisp, remove the bacon and sauté the onion in 1 T bacon drippings until clear.
  2. Add garlic and cook one minute. Add chicken base, water and potatoes, simmer 15 minutes.
  3. Add bacon, sausage, kale and cream. Simmer 4 – 10 minutes and serve.
  4. Soup can be made ahead of time and cooled to remove fat from the top for a healthier version of the soup. Actually is better reheated or simmered longer.
  5. Freezes well. Put in freezer bag and freeze flat. When frozen, stack upright in small tote/box in freezer with other soups/sauces to save space.
Sausage $2.00(Aldi's)
Potatoes $.30 (Meijer)
Onions $.25 (Aldi's)
Bacon $1.00 (Aldi's)
Kale leaves $1.50 (Meijer)
Cream $.50 (Costco)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Beef Barley Soup

This is one of those family recipes passed down that feel like home. Grandma Cora is famous for this one. A big pot of this feeds an army or can be frozen and saved for a quick fix. So glad she introduced me to barley... my favorite for soups now.

3 lb Beef chuck stew meat, trimmed and cut into small pieces
2 T Vegetable Oil
1/2 c Onion, chopped
4 Beef bouillon cubes
6 c Water
2 c V8 Juice
1 Can chopped tomatoes
2 T Sugar
2 T Worchestshire sauce
1/4 t Chili powder
1/3 c Barley
1 c Celery, finely chopped
1 c Carrots, chopped

In dutch oven or large kettle, brown stew meat n oil over medium heat. While meat is browning add chopped onion. Add the chopped tomatoes and V8 juice and bouillon after meat is browned and let it cook for about 1/2 hour.

Add vinegar, sugar, Worchestshire sauce, chili powder, and barley. Add 6 c of water. During last hour of cooking, add celery, carrots and simmer until veggies are tender.

Meat $7.50 (Meijer)
Barley $.50 (D & W)
Celery $.25 (Aldi's)
Carrots $.25 (Aldi's)
Onion $.25 (Aldi's)
Juice $1.00 (Meijer)
Spices from stock

Can use chuck roast instead of stew meat

Monday, October 26, 2009

Broccoli Cauliflower Salad

This is one of those dishes I HATED as a kid and wondered how grown ups could eat such stuff. This is one of those dishes that I enjoy as an adult and now have my kids try who look at me and wonder how grown ups could eat such stuff. The cycle continues. Of course we know bacon makes everything better... and celery seeds is the flavor on the back end that make you wonder what the savory taste that lingers is.

1 bunch Broccoli, flowerets cut in bit-size pieces
1 sm head Cauliflower, flowerets cut in bit-size pieces
1 sm Red Onion, chopped
8 slices Bacon, cooked and crumbled

SAUCE: wisk together
1 c Canola Oil
1/4 c Cider vinegar
1/2 c Sugar
1 t Onion powder
1 t Paprika
1 t Celery seed
1/2 t Salt

Pour sauce over broccoli, cauliflower and onions and mix well. Refrigerate for at least 3-4 hours, stirring often. Add bacon just prior to serving and mix well.

Broccoli $1 (Aldi's)
Cauliflower $1.25 (Aldi's)
Bacon $1 (Aldi's)
Onion $.25 (Meijer)
Oil $.30 (Aldi's)
Spices - from stock

May add mushrooms and substitute green onion for the red onion if desired.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Green Beans with Basil

A friend of mine made this for a Christmas dinner and I had to have seconds. Great for entertaining, but easy enough for a week night dinner as well.

1 lb Fresh Green Beans
1/4 c Water
3 T Butter (or olive oil)
1/2 c Onion, finely chopped
1/4 c Celery, finely chopped
1 Garlic clove, minced
1 1/2 t Fresh rosemary, minced (or 1/2 t dried rosemary)
1 1/2 t Fresh Basil, minced (or 1/2 t dried basil)

Place beans and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil; cook, uncovered for 7 minutes until crisp-tender. Drain; add the remaining ingredients. Cover and cook for 4 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

Beans $2.00 (C0stc0)
Butter $.15 (Aldi's)
Onion $.25 (Meijer)
Celery $.25 (Aldi's)
Rosemary - from garden
Basil - from garden

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Almond Cake

There's no better way to celebrate one's birthday than with cake. I love the taste of almond, so maybe in honor of my birthday I'll whip together this diddy. I'll try not to burn it down with too many candles.

This recipe came from my cousin's church cookbook, which are notorious for stellar recipes. Nothing like a group of women putting together their favorite recipes.

1 pkg Yellow cake mix
2 Eggs
2 c Milk
1 pkg Instant vanilla pudding
1 c Grated almond paste
1 c Sugar
Whipped topping

Mix cake mix, eggs, milk and pudding together until smooth.
In separate bowl, blend grated almond paste and sugar with a fork.
Grease 9x13 pan. Put 1/2 cake mixture in pan, followed by 1/2 almond mixture (sprinkled). Repeat layers.
Bake at 350 degrees for 45 min. Serve with whipped topping.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Loaded Baked Potato Soup

Fall means lots of soup in our house. It's not only total comfort food, but you can use your leftovers or odds and ends in the refrigerator to make a quick and delicious dinner. A bit of crusty bread and you're good to go.

6-8 med Potatoes, peeled and cubed
3 T Chicken soup base
1/2 c Chopped onion
1 T Oil (I use sunflower or safflower)
4 oz Velveta cheese (or shredded cheddar)
2 T Dried Parsley
6 Bacon slices, chopped
Salt & Pepper to taste
Chives (optional, I omit)

  1. Cook bacon slices until crisp. Drain and cop into small pieces.
  2. Boil potatoes in water and soup base until soft but still firm. Drain.
  3. Saute onions in oil until lightly browned.
  4. Add cheese and potatoes to onions and stir in.
  5. Add milk until desired consistency is reached. Simmer 10 minutes.
  6. Add parsley and bacon. Salt, pepper, & chives to taste.
  7. Put into a freezer bag and lay flat. When frozen stack in a small tote/box with other soups or sauces in the freezer Saves lots of room.
Potatoes $1 (Meijer or Aldi's)
Soup Base (from stock)
Bacon $1 (Aldi's)
Milk $.50 (Aldi's)
Cheese $.75 (Aldi's)
Onion $.25 (Aldi's)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Chicken Tetrazzini

3/4 lb Angel hair pasta
1 lb Chicken, cooked and shredded (or turkey)
2 T Olive Oil
2 t Garlic, minced
1/2 lb Sautéed mushrooms
1 Red Bell Pepper, chopped

2 c Chicken broth
3-4 Chicken bouillon cubes
Salt & pepper
2-3 T Flour
1 c Heavy cream (or 2 c sour cream)

Italian bread crumbs
Shredded Parmesan cheese
  1. Prepare pasta as directed on package and drain.
  2. Saute peppers and mushrooms with oil and garlic.
  3. For sauce, combine chicken broth, bouillon cubes, salt and pepper.
  4. Bring to boil. Mix a little broth with flour to make a paste. Slowly stir into remaining broth. Continue cooking and stirring until mixture thickens. Remove from heat and stir in cream or sour cream. Add mushrooms and peppers.
  5. Put pasta in large bowl. Stir in sauce and meat. Mix well.
  6. Pour mixture into 9 X 13 baking dish.
  7. Sprinkle liberally with Italian bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese over top.
  8. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until lightly brown.
  9. Let dish set about 10 minutes before serving.
  10. Freezes well. Thaw and then bake.
Pasta $.50 (Meijer sale)
Chicken $2.00 (Meijer)
Mushrooms $1
Bell Pepper $.50 (Aldi's)
Broth $1 (Aldi's)
Heavy cream $1.50 (Costco)
Bread crumbs (free from leftover bread)
Parmesan cheese $1 (Aldi's)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

My Amish Friend's Caramel Corn

This gem is from that I used for teacher/friend gifts last Christmas. It totally screams out fall and holidays to me. Please DO NOT use microwave popcorn. It's not good for you and it makes the finished product greasy or coat unevenly. If you use fresh popcorn it will turn out amazing.

7 qt Plain popped popcorn
2 c Dry roasted peanuts (optional)
2 c Brown sugar
1/2 c Light corn syrup
1 t Salt
1 c Margarine (I use butter)
1/2 t Baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Place the popped popcorn into two shallow greased baking pans. You may use roasting pans, jelly roll pans, or disposable roasting pans. Add the peanuts to the popped corn if using (obviously we don't with a peanut allergy - want to try almonds next). Set aside.
  2. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F. Combine the brown sugar, corn syrup, margarine and salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring enough to blend. Once the mixture begins to boil, boil for 5 minutes while stirring constantly.
  3. Remove from the heat, and stir in the baking soda and vanilla. The mixture will be light and foamy. Immediately pour over the popcorn in the pans, and stir to coat. Don't worry too much at this point about getting all of the corn coated.
  4. Bake for 1 hour, removing the pans, and giving them each a good stir every 15 minutes. Line the counter top with waxed paper. Dump the corn out onto the waxed paper and separate the pieces. Allow to cool completely, then store in airtight containers or resealable bags.
Popcorn $.40 (Meijer - I pop fresh)
Brown Sugar $1.00 (Aldi's)
Corn syrup $.50 (Meijer)
Butter $.90 (Aldi's)

Friday, October 2, 2009

Andes Mint Chocolate Cake

Beware, this cake could tempt you to sin. Gluttons beware. This is a a mild minty cake that leaves you wanting more. Add a drizzle of hot fudge over the top and you've got a home run.

1 (18.25 ounce) package yellow cake mix
1 (5.9 ounce) package instant chocolate pudding mix
4 eggs, beaten
2/3 cup oil (I use sunflower)
2/3 cup white sugar
1/3 cup water
1 (8 ounce) container sour cream
1 cup Andes mint chips
Hot Fudge (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour a Bundt pan.
  2. In a bowl, mix the yellow cake mix, pudding mix, eggs, vegetable oil, sugar, and water. Gently fold in the sour cream and mint chips. It will be a very thick batter, but that helps make an incredibly moist cake.
  3. Pour batter into the prepared Bundt pan. Bake in the preheated oven for 55 minutes. Cool in pan for 10 minutes before transferring to cooling racks.
TOTAL COSTS: $3.25 - $4.75
Andes mint chips $2.50 (Meijer) - can chop mints ($1 Christmas time)
Sour Cream $.50 (Aldi's)
Cake Mix $.90 (Aldi's)
Pudding $.50 (Aldi's)
Eggs $.35 (Aldi's)

Whatever flavor of pudding you want
Whatever flavor of cake you want
Mini chocolate chips
Peppermint bits

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Peach Custard Pie

My friend Elissa got me hooked on this sweet treat. A great combination of sweet and salt, crisp and creamy. Yum. You'll want yours to be a bit more browned than the one pictured. Mine ended up slightly undercooked. Elissa's was great though.

1 1/2 c Flour
1 t Salt
1/2 c Canola Oil
2 T Water

6-7 Peaches
2 Eggs
2 T Butter, melted
1 c Sugar
3 T Flour
  1. In your pie plate mix all crust ingredients together and press crust firm with the back of a spoon or measuring cup.
  2. Peel and slice peaches and place into pie shell. Beat together all other filling ingredients together and SLOWLY pour over peaches.
  3. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-45 minutes until set (the filling should not wiggle or appear loose).
  4. Allow to cool completely and serve with whipped cream or ice cream.

Peaches $3.50 (farm stand)
Eggs $.20 (Aldi's)
Butter $.15 (Aldi's)
Sugar $.40 (Aldi's)
Rest from Pantry Stock

IF you prefer a less salty crust, reduce to 1/2 t

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Martha's Vineyard Salad

So it must be a salad week. This is my take on a salad that I got at Charley's Crab - one of my favorite restaurants (the one we only go to with a gift card). The pinenuts make the salad. Make this a around the time that I make pesto and have pinenuts around the house. They are addictive to me, so I try not to keep a supply around too often.

6 c Baby romaine mix
1/4 c Blue cheese
Red onion slices (I omit)
3 T toasted pinenuts
1/4 c Dried cranberries
Raspberry Vinagrette

Add dressing just prior to serving because baby greens wilt fast

Lettuce $2.00 (Meijer sale)
Cheese $.75 (Aldi's)
Red Onion $.50 (Meiejr)
Cranberries $.25 (Aldi's)
Pinenuts $1.00 (D&W)
Vinagrette $.50 (Meijer)

Could use dried cherries or dried blueberries
Gorganzola cheese

Monday, September 28, 2009

Apple, Pear, & Cashew Salad

My sister-in-law Stacey made this for Thanksgiving last year. Turkey, potatoes, and stuffing is one of my FAVORITE meals and this salad is what I went back for seconds on (and thirds if I remember right). I get rave reviews for it every time I make it. The cashews provide a great crunch and the pairing of the provolone and fruit is amazing.

2 Bosch Pears, diced
2 Golden Delicious apples, diced
1/4" slice Provolone cheese, diced
3 Romaine hearts, chopped
1/2 - 1 c Cashew pieces
Poppyseed dressing

Pears $1.00 (Meijer)
Apples $.50 (Aldi's)
Provolone $2.00 (Meijer - deli counter)
Romaine $2.00 (Meijer)
Cashews $1.00 (Aldi's)
Dressing $.25 (Meijer)

If you like tart apples - go for a granny smith
Toasted Almonds

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Chop Salad

I fell in love with this salad at Portillo's in Chicago. I'm a texture eater and this is a dream for me. Every possible texture put in one bite. Crisp bacon, creamy cheese, soft pasta, crunch carrots, soft tomatos, crunch lettuce... you get the idea.

It takes awhile to chop all the veggies small, but it is key to making a great chop salad. Like all salads, the proportions and components are completely up to personal taste. You don't want to leave out the pasta or bacon... the heart and soul of this salad. You might be saying pasta and lettuce? Trust me, it's a great combination. It's an entire meal in a bowl. This is how I make it.

1/2 lb bacon, cooked and crumbled
4 oz Ditalini pasta, cooked and cooled
4-6 c romaine/iceberg lettuce mix, chopped small
1/2 c tomatoes, chopped small
1/2 c carrots, chopped small
1/2 c cucumber, chopped small (I use seedless)
1/4 c celery, chopped small
1/4 c feta cheese
Italian dressing

Bacon $1.00 (Aldi's)
Pasta $.25 (Meijer)
Lettuce $2.00 (Meijer)
Tomato $.30 (Meijer)
Carrots $.20 (Aldi's)
Cucumber $.30 (Aldi's)
Celery $.10 (Aldi's)
Feta $.40 (Costco)
Dressing $.25 (Meijer)

Red cabbage, sunflower seeds, turkey bacon, etc
Dressing - whatever you like - greek, ranch, vinagrette, etc.
Add protein like chicken, turkey,

I chop extra veggies while I'm at it for making soup.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Chop Suey

This was what I asked my mom to make for my birthday meal growing up. This is definitely an "americanized" version of chop suey, but I love it non-the-less. Total comfort food for a cool fall day.

2 lb Pork roast, cut into bite sized pieces
2 T Oil
1 Medium onion, chopped
1/3 c Molasses
2 T Soy Sauce
1 lg Cans (28 oz) Chinese vegetables

Sauté onions in oil in a large Dutch oven. Add pork and brown meat. Cover meat with water and bring to a boil. Add molasses and soy sauce.

Put in a 350 degree oven for 2 hours. Bring back to the stove top, add Chinese vegetables and heat over medium heat until heated through. Thicken with cornstarch to desired consistency. Serve over rice or chow mein noodles. Can easily double the batch to feed a big crowd.

Pork $4.00 (Meijer - sale)
Onion $.20 (Aldi's)
Vegetables $2.00 (Meijer - sale)
Molasses $.75 (Meijer)

I have non. I love it the way it is. Adapt til your heart's content

Friday, September 25, 2009

Basil Cream Chicken

This is not a difficult meal to make. In fact, my husband made this for dinner the other night. I was more than impressed. Typically I double the sauce to have enough for the pasta I serve with it. Rarely use the pimentos as I never to seem to have them on hand, while the rest is usually in my cupboards and fridge.

1/2 c Milk

1/2 c Italian bread crumbs

1 t Oregano

1 t Parsley

1 lb Skinless, boneless chicken breasts or tenders

3-5 T Butter

1/2 c Chicken broth

1 c Heavy whipping cream (can use Half & Half)

1 (4oz) Jar sliced pimento peppers, drained (optional)

1/2 c Grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 c Chopped fresh basil

1/4 t Ground black pepper

Place milk and bread crumbs in separate shallow bowls. Dip chicken in the milk, then coat with bread crumbs. In a skillet over medium heat, fry chicken in butter on both sides until the juices run clear. Remove from skillet and keep warm.

Add the broth to the skillet; bring to a boil over medium heat. Stir to loosen browned bits from pan. Stir in the cream and pimentos; boil and stir for one minute. Reduce heat; add the Parmesan cheese, basil and pepper. Simmer and stir until heated through. If too thin, cook down to thicken or use a bit of corn starch. To serve, pour the sauce over the chicken.

TOTAL COSTS: $3.50 - $5.50

Chicken $2.00 (Meijer)

Cream $.75 (Aldi's)

Bread Crumbs $.10 (Aldi's)

Butter $.35 (Aldi's)

Basil Free from garden or $2.00 (Meijer)

Broth $.30 (Aldi's)


Use cilantro & lime instead of basil

Add lemon juice to the basil cream sauce

Leave out the basil add extra pepper & lemon

Grill the chicken instead of pan frying

Monday, September 21, 2009

Turkey Stuffing Bake

This recipe is one of my family's traditions following the holidays. Can easily use chicken in this recipe. Not a fan of condensed cream soups? Try substituting sour cream, cream cheese, and/or cream with a bit of celery seeds.

2 boxes Stove Top Stuffing

1 ½ lb Turkey or chicken, cooked and cubed

1 can Cream of celery soup

1 can Cream of chicken soup

1 c Evaporated milk

Make stuffing according to box recipe. Lightly grease a 9 X 13 pan. Spread ½ the stuffing on the bottom of the pan. In a large bowl, mix meat, soups and milk together. Spread chicken mixture over stuffing. Top with remaining stuffing. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 – 40 minutes.

Total Cost: $5.60

Stuffing $2.00 (Aldi's) - less as leftovers

Cream Soups $1.00 (Aldi's)

Evap Milk $.60 (Aldi's)

Chicken/Turkey $2.00 (Meijer) - less as leftovers

This freezes pretty well. Make and don't bake, put in freezer. Simply thaw before cooking. Can freeze leftovers and repeat. Might want to bake/broil at the end to recrisp stuffing.