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