Dec 31, 2005


After spending a little time studying Jamie Oliver's recipe for Risotto, I felt like it was finally time to take the plunge. After all, after my big shopping spree at Trader Joe's, I figured I had better make use of the goodies I bought. Here is my first attempt. I was pretty happy with the texture of the finished dish, but the taste was missing something to me. Next time I will try adding in some different ingredients to see if I can suite it more to my tastes. My girls loved it for lunch and I have a feeling that my hubby will love it for dinner the next time I make it. If you've never made Risotto before I'd highly suggest you give it a try. The ingredients are not nearly as expensive as I had anticipated and the finished product is well worth the effort.

Dec 30, 2005

Announcing: Weekly Guest Bloggers Event

I thought it would be nice to create a blogging event since I have been seeing so many of them come up recently on many food blogs. I'm really excited about The Virtual Recipe Club and ARF Tuesdays which I will be participating in for 2006. After thinking over a few ideas of what readers would enjoy and what would be fun for my fellow bloggers, I decided to have a fellow blogger as a guest each week to write a post and give you all a fresh take on frugal cooking and meal planning. The event will of course be called "Weekly Guest Bloggers". Original huh? :)

To kick off this event I will be hosting three different bloggers the first week of January. After that I hope to feature a different blogger each Monday. If you have a blog of your own and would like to participate in this event, please email me at and I will send you more information.

Today Safeway brought our grocery delivery so I am trying to clear out the freezer so things stop falling out when I open the door. Abundance is good but it can also be dangerous when you have a refrigerator with the freezer portion on top!

Tonight I decided to defrost some boneless, skinless chicken pieces and make Chicken Sofrito. This amazingly simple recipe is so flavorful you'd think it took all day. If you want to cheat, you can order the Sofrito on-line instead of making your own. But if you feel up to a few minutes more work, use Daisy's recipe for Sofrito, it's the best! Whatever you don't use can be saved by freezing it in ice cube trays and then saving the cubes in a ziploc bag in your freezer. I served this with rice, greens and beans but a nice salad would have gone with it as well. I'll have to keep that in mind for next time.

Chicken Sofrito

1 1/2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken pieces
3/4 c. sofrito
Adobo seasoning

Heat sofrito in a skillet or shallow dutch oven. Season chicken pieces with Adobo and add to the pan. Cover and allow to cook about 15 minutes. Turn chicken pieces over and cover again and let cook 15 minutes longer.

Dec 29, 2005

Egg Nog Bread

My girls got a "Real Meal" (Easy Bake) oven for Christmas and made their first cake today. Isn't it cute :)

It's been a busy, non-cooking day around our house today so thought I'd share an old favorite recipe with you.

Egg Nog Bread

3 c. flour
3/4 c. sugar
4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 egg, beaten
1 3/4 c. egg nog
1/4 c. sour cream or vanilla yogurt
1/2 c. oil
1/2 c. chopped pecans
1/2 c. raisins

1/2 c. powdered sugar
2 - 3 tbsp. egg nog

Mix dry ingredients with a whisk until well combined. In a separate bowl, combine egg nog, eggs and oil. Stir flour mixture, 1/3 at a time, into liquid mixture. Stir in nuts and raisins. Pour batter into two greased and floured loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool in pans about 10 minutes. Remove from pans and poke many holes in the top of each loaf with toothpick then drizzle with glaze.

Dec 28, 2005

Weekly Menus To Start Off 2006

Tonight is Soul Food night, I made Pinto Beans, Collard Greens and Corn Bread. Comfort food at it's best! I finally have pictures for these recipes so take a look at my recipes and you will see the finished product there.

I just made up menus for the next two weeks. As usual, we'll be ordering from They had lots of great deals this time so if you have delivery in your are take a look at their site. I guarantee once you shop on-line you won't want to go to the grocery store again (unless it's a leisurely shopping trip for fun of course) :)

Today I also made two loaves of Pineapple-Banana Bread. It is delicious! I used my Easy Banana Bread recipe, with Pineapple cake mix as the base. My banana-hating kids loved it!

Here's what I am planning to prepare for dinner for the next two weeks.

January 1 - BBQ Beef (using my Pulled Pork recipe, but substituting beef for pork) and cole slaw on buns, corn on the cob, potato salad, ranch beans
January 2 - Leftovers
January 3 - Jamaican Red Beans & Rice (From Always In The Kitchen)
January 4 - Leftovers
January 5 - Cuban Chicken, Rice, Beans
January 6
- Chicken, Broccoli and Noodle Casserole (from Culinary In The Desert)
January 7 - Leftovers
January 8 - Spaghetti with Ground Turkey Meatballs
January 9 - Turkey Roast, Stuffing, Gravy, Frozen Peas and Corn with Fresh Carrots
January 10 - Leftovers
January 11 - Great Northern beans, greens, Rice, Corn Bread
January 12 - Leftovers
January 13 - Chili, Biscuits
January 14 - Leftovers

Dec 26, 2005

Preparing For The New Year

I hope you all had an enjoyable holiday with your families. We had a great time filled with lots of food and fun. My camera ran out of batteries and I just replaced them today so expect more photos in the days to come. I also have a new newsletter that will be coming out on a bi-weekly basis starting the first week of January so be sure to sign up! The form is to your left.

I have a few more fun things in store starting January such as guest bloggers that will be sharing some great info with you. Also, in an effort to get the New Year off to a healthy start I will be participating in Sweetnik's Antioxidant Rich Foods (ARFs) Tuesdays. This is an event in which food bloggers will share recipes on Tuesdays containing one of the top 20 Antioxidant Rich Foods. The list consists of:

Small red beans (dried)
Wild blueberries
Red kidney beans
Pinto beans
Artichokes (cooked)
Red Delicious Apples
Granny Smith Apples
Sweet cherries
Black plums
Russet potatoes (cooked)
Black beans (dried)
Gala Apples

Now, back to the holiday chat... :) On Christmas Eve I prepared (as my children call it) a "Mexican Feast". This meal consisted of Narissa's Mexican Egg Rolls, Burritos (beef and potato), Calabacitas and Refried Beans. I made enough to last for two days so it was nice to sit back on Christmas Day and just enjoy my family without having to cook. I also made a double batch of the Sweet Potato Muffins from last week to put in the freezer because my girls can't seem to get enough of them. I have a couple more recipes that I hope to squeeze in this weekend such as gingerbread cookies and shortbread. I also want to make a risotto. Let's see if I can get them all done before Monday!

Dec 23, 2005

Merry Christmas!

I'll be taking a couple days off blogging to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior with my family so I just wanted to take this moment to wish you all a blessed and joyous holiday. My girls and I make a special cake every year so I thought I'd share a picture with you. Merry Christmas everyone!

A New Look!

If you visit me here regularly I'm sure you've noticed that I have been tinkering around with the look of the blog quite a bit lately. I really wanted to have a format that is easier on the eyes and have been tossing around a few ideas. I think I am finally finished so please comment and let me know what you think of the "new and improved" look! A HUGE thanks to Jen over at The Domestik Goddess for helping me with my remodeling. I am not the most savvy person when it comes to web design and her knowledge has been invaluable to me.

Tonight I have a big pile of Christmas gifts and several rolls of wrapping paper to tackle. Plus I have a cake to bake and many vegetables to cut up for the "Mexican Feast" I am preparing for tomorrow (hoping to have leftovers for Christmas Day as well so we can relax and not have to cook. So, tonight it will be a simple meal. I think just about every family I know makes some version of this recipe. It happens to be one of my husband's favorites.

Chili Mac

1 lb. ground beef
1 small onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
1 tsp. dried parsley
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
dash cumin
salt and pepper to taste
1 c. small elbow macaroni, cooked and drained
1 small can tomato sauce
shredded cheese (any will work well, I prefer to use sharp cheddar)

Cook ground beef, with onion and bell pepper in a large skillet. Drain off grease. Stir in spices, tomato sauce and macaroni. Top with cheese and cover to allow cheese to melt.

NOTE: Since I freeze diced bell peppers of different colors, I use a little of each color for added flavor and eye appeal. This is very good served with nice crusty bread and topped with sour cream and diced scallions.

Dec 22, 2005

Yogurt Cheese and Hummus

Yogurt Cheese is a lot like cream cheese but it's softer and tangier. It's very versatile and much healthier than cream cheese. It's easy to make but you need to start at least two days before you want to use it because it needs some time in the refrigerator to turn out just right. Once you make it you can flavor it any way you'd like. I made two varieties today. One was flavored with honey and cinnamon. I plan to use this as a spread for sweet crackers. The second half I flavored with garlic, dill, salt and pepper. I think it will taste great on whole grain crackers or as a sandwich spread. You can also try making this with flavored yogurt which will give you a "ready made" spread once it is ready to eat. Or if you use Yogurt Cheese made with plain yogurt in the same manner you would use sour cream or cream cheese such as adding a dip mix or using in a recipe.

Yogurt Cheese

1 (32 oz.) container of plain yogurt
plain white paper towels
strainer or colander

Line a strainer or colander with 3 thicknesses of cheese cloth or white paper towels. Set the strainer or colander over a large bowl then pour yogurt into the cheesecloth or paper towels. Cover with an additional two sheets of paper towel or cheesecloth. Set in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours so all the whey will drain from the yogurt. At this point I change the paper towels or cheese cloth and allow it to drain for another 12 to 24 hours. The longer you let it drain the thicker it will be. Once it has drained sufficiently transfer it to a bowl and mix in any desired flavorings or herbs and spices.

I am totally addicted to hummus! I think it must be the garlic... my absolute favorite. My kids love it too but it makes me cringe to buy the little tubs at the grocery store for $3 or more that last about 5 minutes in our house when snack time comes around. I had been searching for a recipe for a while and after comparing several I came up with this one. It turned out great and goes great with pita chips or raw vegetables. The hardest ingredient for me to find was the tahini (sesame seed paste) but I finally came across it at Trader Joe's. I recently found out that you can also buy it on-line. My next endeavor will be to try making the pita bread!


2 (15 oz.) cans garbanzo beans, drained (save liquid)
3 Tbsp. tahini
1 Tb. extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic
1/4 c. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. paprkia
salt to taste

Put garbanzo beans into the bowl of a food processor. Add tahini, lemon juice, cumin and paprika. Set on low speed and process until smooth, adding a little reserved liquid as needed until you reach the consistency of mashed potatoes. Taste for salt and add more if needed then process until well combines. Refrigerate for at least an hour to allow the flavor to develop. Serve drizzled with a little olive oil and a sprinkle of paprika.

Dec 21, 2005

Sweet Potato Muffins

I made these Sweet Potato Muffins last night so they would be ready for breakfast this morning. I used the mashed sweet potatoes from a couple of days ago that I had stored in the freezer. They were very tasty! Moist and flavorful and not too sweet. If you like a sweet muffin, try adding a little brown sugar mixed with butter to the top before you bake them. I served them with butter and honey but I think next time I will make the sweet topping and add a bit more sugar to the batter.

Sweet Potato Muffins

2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1 c. mashed sweet potato or yam
1/3 c. sugar
1 c. milk
1/3 c. canola oil
1 1/2 Tbsp. Pumpkin Pie Spice
2 Tbsps ground flax seed
2 Tbsp. molasses
1/2 c. raisins

Spray a 12-cup nonstick muffin pan with cooking spray or line the cups with paper liners. Preheat oven to 400F. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. Beat eggs sweet potatoes. Add milk, sugar, oil, flax seed, molasses, and spices; process or beat until smooth. Pour liquid mixture into dry ingredients. Mix just enough to blend. Stir in raisins. Divide the batter between muffin cups. As soon as muffins are in the oven, reduce heat to 350 degrees. Bake for 25 minutes or until they are lightly browned on top and a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Dec 20, 2005


Another busy day preparing for Christmas... hectic but fun! Today the girls and I brought out the Trader Joe's pizza fixings and made pizza for lunch. It was delicious! I had wanted to add some roasted red bell peppers but the girls were not happy with that suggestion. I loved the premade Garlic and Herb pizza crust, it was very flavorful but not overhwleming with garlic. We had some toppings left over so I put those items in the freezer and will be making pizza crust soon so we can make another.

For dinner tonight we had Posole. I had planned on making Sweet Potato Muffins but ran out of time. I should have those baked and a recipe posted tomorrow.

Dec 19, 2005

Bounty from TJ's

Today was a very busy one, with Christmas right around the corner we were out and about running errands all day. We did a little splurging for the holiday and one stop on our trip was Trader Joe's. TJ's is one of my favorite stores because of the variety they offer as well as the very reasonable prices. I rarely go there because it's quite a drive from where we live. Here's a list of the goodies I bought today.

Whole Wheat Pita Bread - it was only 99 cents! At our local market it averages $2.75 and the quality is no where near as good as TJ's.

Garlic and Cheddar Cheese Sourdough Bread - I love a good sourdough bread and this one smelled too good to pass up.

Pizza Fixings - ready made garlic and herb pizza dough, pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese and pepperoni. My 5 year old and 3 year old can't wait to help me make this tomorrow. I couldn't believe that the pizza crust was only $1.09!

Parmigiano -Reggiano Cheese and Organic Chicken Broth - I have been wanting to try to make risotto for a long time now but was hesitant about spending $9 for the Parmigiano-Reggiano at the stores near me, they only offer one size and one price. TJ's had pieces cut in various sizes in various price ranges. I found a nice sized piece for $3.89. Not bad at all! Stay tuned for my first adventure in risotto making. If you have a good recipe to share please post it in the comments.

Tahini - I have been wanting to make hummus from scratch for some time now but there is no tahini to be found anywhere near me. I had a feeling TJ's would have it and they did. Tahini is essentially a sesame seed puree.

Raisins - TJ's has the best raisins, they are so plump, never dry.

Mango Sauce - found this item near the apple sauce. I am thinking a nice tea bread or muffins for this but I'm sure my one year old will eat it as is with no complaints.

Whole Grain Bread - one of my favorites for toast and sandwiches.

Mediterranean Style Yogurt - a nice thick yogurt that doubles for sour cream in any recipe.

21 Seasoning Salute - a salt free seasoning blend with 21 ingredients. Sounds very useful for many dishes and I can't wait to try it.

I should have many new recipes to share in the days to come with all these goodies!

Dec 18, 2005

Smoothies 101

My favorite treat for breakfast is a smoothie. I have found a basic formula that always produces a perfect smoothie.

The Perfect Smoothie

1/2 c. crushed ice
1 banana (preferably frozen)
1 c. fresh fruit of your choice (strawberries, blueberries, mangoes, apples, etc.)
1/2 c. yogurt (flavor of your choice)
1/2 c. milk
2 Tbsp. honey
Flavoring of your choice - (any combination... example - 1/2 tsp. vanilla, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, etc.)

Add ingredients into a blender in order. Blend until smooth and creamy. Serve at once.

NOTE: To increase the the nutritional value you can also add 1 Tbsp. ground flax seed or 2 Tbsp. Old Fashoned Oats or 1 Tbsp. oat bran or wheat germ.

Dec 17, 2005

Homemade Ranch Dressing

Life would not be complete without ranch dressing... at least not in our house! It's not just for salads. It is a must for pizza, the kids chicken nuggets or just for a dip for chips. I usually buy the bottled variety but homemade is so much better. This recipe is adapted from a Penzey's recipe I found in one of their catalogs.

Homemade Ranch Dressing

1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. dill weed
1/2 tsp. dried parsley
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. thyme
1/4 tsp. minced garlic
1/4 tsp. paprika
2 Tbsp. water
2/3 c. buttermilk
1/3 c. mayonaise
1 Tbsp. cider vinegar
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt

Put water in a small bowl and add spices and herbs. Whisk and allow to set for 5 minutes. Pour buttermilk and mayonnaise into a bowl and whisk well. Add water/herb/spice mixture, vinegar, mustard, sugar and salt. Whisk well until smooth. Pout into a jar and shake well. Store in refrigerator for one week.


Today was a busy kitchen day. I started out by baking some yams that I had bought on a whim. I'm not sure exactly what I want to make with them so before they could spoil, I rubbed them with a little oil, wrapped them in foil and baked them at 350 degrees for about an hour and 15 minutes. I then peeled them and mashed them and put the mash into ziploc bags and into the freezer for future use.

After that I took out a sack of oranges that we had bought but just never ate ... they looked a bit sickly but still usable...don't you hate when things get pushed to the back of the fridge? :) To salvage those I juiced them and poured the juice into a freezer bag for the future.

By this time, after going back and forth from the kitchen to rearranging my daughters' room and doing laundry I realized that I had no idea what I was going to do for dinner. I looked in the refrigerator and realized we had Ropa Vieja, leftover black beans, leftover pinto beans and all the fixings for salsa (same as my pico de gallo recipe but I puree it in the blender). I decided to make chimichangas, refried beans with the leftover beans and lettuce, cheese, sour cream and salsa on the side.

I don't really have a recipe, per say, for chimichangas, so I will explain my usual method for making them.

First add about 2 inches of canola or vegetable oil to a deep skillet. Set the temperature to medium/medium-high and allow to heat until you see ripples. I used soft taco sized tortillas. Into the center of each one I spooned two heaping tablespoons of the meat along with some shredded cheese. I then rolled them up burrito style and held them tightly with tongs. Next comes the scary part... be VERY careful, the oil tends to splash! Put them (I do one at a time) into the oil and as soon as they seem to hold together well slowly release them from the tongs and let them cook a few seconds. Then turn them gently. Watch them carefully and monitor your heat, they will burn quickly. Once they reach a nice golden brown, remove them to a paper towel lined plate. I actually stand mine on end in a bread pan lined with paper towel, they seem to drain better this way. Serve immediately.

Here's how I make the refried beans.

Christmas cookies everywhere!

With the Christmas holiday just around the corner, I have been seeing the most amazing cookie recipes everywhere. I thought I'd share some of the best looking ones I have found on-line recently. I've also recently compiled a list of my favorite Christmas cookie recipes. After having baked 4 dozen Snickerdoodles and 5 dozen peanut butter cookies then receiving 5 dozen different kinds of cookies at our homeschool cookie exchange, I am honestly tired of cookies.

However, my sweet little girls were peeking over my shoulder as I was blog-hopping yesterday and saw Elise's Gingerbread cookies and requested we make some. How could I say no? So this week we will be baking some, and the girls can't wait.

Today I noticed Joe's beautifully decorated sugar cookies. We made similar cookies last year. These are always a hit with the kids and we may just make some after the holidays just for fun.

Another cookie that really caught my eye were these cute little Chocolate and Peppermint Coin Cookies. I know my 5 year old will love these because of her passion for chocolate and mint.... and the sprinkles won't hurt either in her opinion I'm sure. :)

Cookie Madness
is a one-stop-shop for all your cookie needs this holiday. There's everything from Pecan Pie Chocolate Chunk Cookies to White Chocolate, Cranberry, Pecan, Ginger Bars.

If you're looking for something a little different to bake for the holiday season, I saw the most delectable looking Buttermilk Cupcakes today on From The Pantry. My mouth was watering just looking at them and I then realized they must be the reason I felt the urge to buy buttermilk the other day with no recipes in mind. Hoping to make those this week as well. Graham Cracker Toffee sounds good too.. two of my favorite flavors in one.

Whatever you choose to bake this holiday season, have fun and try something new!

Dec 16, 2005

Note To Subscribers

If you have been subscribed to my blog through bloglet, I just wanted to send an apology today. I just realized that for several days the updates have not been coming through due to a configuration problem on my bloglet account. It is all fixed now and you should be getting your updates on a regular basis. If you missed any posts, please take a look at the blog, there have been many new recipes added and photos as well.

Tuna Pasta

I'm pleased to announce that my blog now has a section for sponsors. Please take a look at your top right and visit my Featured Sponsor, Real Life Solutions. More sponsors can be found on the right hand side right below the Tell-A-Friend form.

Since the last couple of days have been leftover nights for us for dinner, I thought I'd add another lunch idea today. Tuna Pasta is not so much a recipe than it is a concept. I love pasta and love tuna so I use those two items along with other kitchen staples to create a nice satisfying sort of pasta salad of sorts. My three year old loves this dish and often requests "tuna pasta", hence the name :)

My usual ingredients include :
  • about 1/3 of a lb. of uncooked pasta
  • 1 small can of tuna, drained
  • a handful of minced vegetables - cucumbers, scallions, carrots, bell peppers, pickles, olives... just whatever I have on hand.
  • mayonnaise, ranch dressing, Italian dressing, oil and vinegar or any combination of these
  • spices - salt, pepper, dill weed, basil, parsley, paprika or anything else that strikes my fancy.
  • cheese - a sprinkle of Parmesan, a grating of cheddar, a few small strips of Swiss... whatever is on hand.

I cook the pasta al dente then drain. Mix in the tuna and vegetables then mix in enough mayonnaise and/or salad dressing to moisten it well. Season to taste. Stir in cheese. Sprinkle with more chopped veggies if desired. Serve with crackers. The prefect lunch! The above makes about 2 servings.

Dec 15, 2005

Chicken Salad

I love a good chicken salad sandwich. I found a couple of cooked chicken breasts in the freezer so thought I would make some for lunch.

Since the chicken I was using was originally prepared as Greek Chicken it was very flavorful and didn't need much in the way of spices. The following recipe includes the usual spices that I would use and will work well with any leftover chicken.

Chicken Salad

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into cubes or shreded
1 stalk celery, minced
1/4 of an onion, minced
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. dill weed
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
squeeze of lemon juice

Combine chicken, celery spices and mustard in a bowl and mix well. Add mayonnaise a spoon full at a time and mix well after each spoon full until you have a nice moist (but not wet) consistency.

Dec 14, 2005

Gravy 101

When I was growing up my grandmother always made homemade gravy. She'd use the drippings from a beef roast, some flour, some water and it always came out perfect. I love gravy, but I rarely cook beef roasts... but we love mashed potatoes and gravy with many of our meals... so what to do was the question. It took quite a bit of experimenting but I finally came up with this recipe that is extremely good and reminds me of my grandmother's gravy.

NOTE: The gravy is usually thicker than the picture reflects, I added a bit too much water today. (Note to self... don't try to make gravy with one year old wrapped around your leg.)

Brown Gravy

1 c. cold water
1 1/2 Tbsp. corn starch
1 tsp. Kitchen Boquet browning liquid
1 1/2 tsp. Penzey's beef soup base (or 2 Tbsp. beef bullion granules)
1/4 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper

Whisk 1/2 of the water and corn starch together. Add Kitchen Boquet, onion powder, salt and pepper and whisk well. Set aside. In a small sauce pan, add the rest of water and beef soup base or bullion granules. Heat to medium high, stirring with a whisk until dissolved. Slowly add corn starch mixture while continuing to whisk. Bring to a boil, whisking constantly, until mixture thickens. Remove from heat and stir well. Serve immediately.

Dec 13, 2005

Adobo Seasoning

I have been busy adding pics to the blog so check them out!

Soul Food
Peanut Butter Cookies
Thai Style Chicken, Vegetables and Noodles
Blueberry Oatmeal

This isn't the best picture but I just wanted to give an idea of what this looks like when it's made.

I usually buy Goya brand Adobo seasoning, but I just felt like it was missing something so decided to make my own. After comparing a few recipes I created this mix which is a great all-purpose seasoning for any Latin American dishes, especially beef, chicken or fish. Think of it as Mexican Seasoned Salt.

Adobo Seasoning
(makes 1/2 c.)

3 Tbsp. salt
1 Tbsp. onion powder
1 Tbsp. garlic powder
1 Tbsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. cumin

Combine all and mix well. Store in an airtight shaker container. If you don't have one available, Penzey's has them for a reasonable price. That's where I buy mine.

Dec 12, 2005


I grew up eating meatloaf almost every week. I love it so much, especially the next day on a sandwich with lots of mayo. Here's the recipe I created last night which my husband said was excellent. Be gentle on me these are my first photos posted to the blog with my new camera, hope you enjoy them! :)


2 lb. ground beef
1/4 c. fresh parsley, chopped
1 onion, minced
1 carrot, minced
1 stalk celery, minced
1/2 tsp. garlic salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. salt
1 egg
1/2 c. bread crumbs
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/4 c. ketchup (plus more for top)
1/2 c. cheese

In a bowl, conbine all ingredients except the cheese and mix well with your hands.

Press half the mixture into a loaf pan, top with cheese then press remaining meat mixture on top. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour. Remove from oven and spread top with ketchup, then return to oven and bake 5 minutes more. Remove from loaf pan to a serving platter and allow to rest for at least 5 minutes. Slice with a sharp knife and serve.

Dec 11, 2005

Favorite Foods

I was tagged by fellow food blogger Kimbie of Chocolate-Chip Kimbie to name my 10 most favorite foods. This "You Are What You Eat" meme was started by Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen.

On another note, it's time for the 2005 Food Blog Awards, so go nominate your favorites!

OK, here are my favorite foods :)

1. Garlic - I love all things seasoned with garlic. There isn't much I wouldn't add garlic too. I love it sliced and just sauted in a little olive oil. Yum!

2. Salsa - On eggs, to dip with chips, on tacos, on beef or chicken... I adore the taste of a good salsa.

3. Chocolate - Chocolate bars, chocolate cream pie, chocolate ice cream, brownies... you get the idea :)

4. Cheese - I have been passionate about cheese ever since I was a child. I love just about any variety served in just about any way I can get it. Warm, gooey, melted cheese... ahhhh!

5. Blueberries - Blueberries always remind me of my mom, she has always loved blueberry pie and when I was a little girl she had blueberry tea which I always loved. Now I eat blueberries in my oatmeal, in smoothies and love to drink blueberry juice.

6. Pecans - Crunchy and sweet, pecans are so good in all sweets, especially chocolate chip cookies.

7. Pasta - I could eat pasta every day and never get tired of it. I especially love pasta salads. For hot pastas ravioli is my favorite. I really want to learn to make my own.

8. Bacon - I know how bad bacon is for my health but I just LOVE it anyway :) I have switched to turkey bacon in recent years but every once in a while I still sneak a piece of the real thing (shh! don't tell anyone - hee hee).

9. Strawberries - My favorite time of year is strawberry season. I usually just slice them, sprinkle with a little sugar, toss and drizzle with sweetened condensed milk or honey... oh my!

10. Oranges - I always stop by the roadside stands and buy big sacks of oranges from the people selling them out of the back of their trucks... they are so juicy and sweet. They never last long around our house.

Dec 10, 2005

Entertaining On a Budget

The thought of guests coming for dinner can strike fear in your heart when your cupboard is bare. What to serve is always the question and how to impress while still spending less. Fear not! There are many ways to wow your dinner guests and still keep the cost under control.

Keep It Casual - Plan simple fare. Opt for a simpler meal rather than a fancy multi course affair.

Check your stock - Take a look in your pantry and see what you have on hand before you plan your menu. Plan your meal around such staples as pastas, rice or beans.

Check the sale flyers - See what your local grocers have on sale, this is a great way to make the most of seasonal items. It is also the best way to cut down the cost of more expensive items such as meats and cheeses.

Go vegetarian - Serve your guests a meatless meal. Not only can vegetarian meals be less expensive, they are healthier and lighter too. The highest priced items for many recipes such as meats, cheese, sour cream and cream or butter are often the most unhealthy.

Ease up on the appetizers - Have your meal almost ready to serve when guests arrive and prepare only one simple appetizer.

Serve a simple dessert - Seasonal fresh fruit with a simple topping of homemade whipped cream is not only elegant, it is good for you and a welcome refreshment to a full stomach.

Be creative - If you need to decorate for your dinner party, visit a local dollar store. You can find everything from candles, beautiful decorative vases, and dishes. Keep things simple yet elegant.

Host a Pot Luck - If you really want to have guests for dinner but feel you can't afford to why not host a pot luck? People love to show off their cooking skills and pot lucks are great opportunities to do so. Ask your guests to provide copies of their recipe to share. It's a great way for everyone to find new recipes to try at home.

I think if you use these tips you will find that you can entertain more often that you imagined without breaking your pocketbook.

Dec 9, 2005

Brown Sugar Glazed Ham

My grandmother always made the best ham. She made it only on holidays such as Christmas, Thanksgiving or Easter. I always loved the crackly sweet coating and now I make it the same way for my family. I always serve this with potato salad just like my grandmother did.

Brown Sugar Glazed Ham

1 ham (bone in, fully cooked is best)
brown sugar
1/2 c. orange juice
1 can ginger ale
whole cloves
pineapple rings

Pre heat oven to 325 degrees. Score ham in a criss cross pattern and place into roasting pan lined with foil. Cover entire ham with pineapple rings (try to put center of each ring around a diamond created from the scoring). Put cloves into the center of each diamond. Coat ham with brown sugar and press gently so it will stick to the ham. Combine ginger ale and orange juice and gently pour over ham. Add more brown sugar to ham and press gently to adhere. Bake at 325 degrees for 30 minutes per pound. For best results baste every 15 minutes with a combination of equal parts of brown sugar, orange juice and ginger ale.

Dec 8, 2005

Crock Pot Mexican Chicken

Mexican Chicken is something I created one day when I had boneless, skinless chicken breasts and no idea what to make with them. This dish is really packed with flavor and it's very versatile too. If I have leftovers I use it for taco filling or serve over rice with a vegetable or salad as a side.

Mexican Chicken

1 pkg. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can diced green chilies
1 onion, sliced thin
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. oregano
1/4 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. pepper

Put all ingredients in crock pot and cook on high 4 hours or 6 hours on low. Shred chicken with a fork and mix well. Serve with tortillas, Spanish Rice and Refried Beans. Garnish with guacamole, sour cream and shredded lettuce.

Dec 7, 2005

Fusion Recipes and More Christmas Cookies

On a never ending search for fusion recipes, I stumbled across a recipe for Mexican Egg Rolls on Nerissa's blog, Deetsa's Diningroom. What a concept! I can't wait to try this recipe. All the things we love about Mexican and Chineese all rolled into one. Finding this recipe sent of on a journey to find more goodies to add to my list of recipes to try. Here are a few others out in cyber-land that caught my eye.

Chicken Fajita Pasta Toss
Bombay Burrito
Thai Breaded Chicken Fillets

I wanted to share with you yet another of my favorite Christmas cookie recipes. In my house, growing up, we made at least 5 kinds of cookies every Christmas season plus fudge every year. We often tried new recipes and many have become family favorites. Here is one that I always loved. These are so flaky and buttery, you can't eat just one!

Almond Crescents

1 cup softened butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 3/4 cups sifted flour
3/4 cup finely chopped almonds
1/4 teaspoon salt
confectioners' sugar

Cream butter; gradually beat in 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla, the flour, almonds, and salt. Blend well. Chill. Shape dough into crescents, using about 1/2 tablespoons for each cookie. Combine 1 cup confectioners' sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Roll warm cookies in confectioners' sugar mixture. Makes about 5 to 6 dozen nut crescent cookies.

Dec 6, 2005

Smoked Sausage Jambalaya

A lot of Jambalaya recipes seem to call for seafood but being that my family does not care for it, I really enjoy this recipe. I love to prepare Jambalaya and corn bread in the cold weather. I always top it with diced scallions and a few dahses of hot sauce. So good!!

Smoked Sausage Jambalaya

1 lb. smoked sausage, cut into 1/2 inch slices
1 lb ground beef
1 medium bell pepper, chopped
1/2 c. chopped scallions
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 (28 oz.) can diced tomatoes
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 c. uncooked long grain rice
1 1/2 c. water

Cook sausage in a Dutch oven until browned; remove from skillet and discard drippings. Combine ground beef, bell pepper, onion and garlic and cook until beef is browned. Add tomatoes, salt, pepper and sausage. Cover. Simmer 20 minutes. Add rice and water to meat/vegetable mixture; cover and cook 25 minutes or until rice is tender. Makes 4 - 6 servings.

Dec 5, 2005

Cookies And A New Blog

Since I started this blog I have received much positive feedback as well as recipe requests. It seems that the most requested recipes are for those that can be made in the crock pot. So in an effort to inspire crock pot creativity, I started another blog called Crock Pot Adventures. Stay tuned for lots of great recipes for your slow cooker.

Now on to the cookies...

Caramel is a favorite in our house so when I saw this recipe I just had to try it. I found it in a Pillsbury cookbook at the local library. These are fun to make and not overly sweet with a nice caramel flavor. The filling tends to be soft so if you want to make them and package them for gifts keep that in mind when adding milk to the recipe... less is more in that case.

Caramel Creme Sandwich Cookies

3/4 c. brown sugar
1 c. butter or margarine, softened
1 egg yolk
2 c. flour

2 Tbsp. butter (NOT margarine)
1 1/4 c. confectioners sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
4 - 5 Tbsp. milk

In a large bowl beat brown sugar, sugar and 1 c. butter until light and fluffy. Add egg yolk and blend well. Stir in flour and mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 15 minutes.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place 2 inches apart on cookie sheets. Flatten to 1 1/2 inch circles with a floured fork (one impression only). Bake 10 - 14 minutes or until lightly golden brown. Remove from sheets immediately. Cool completely.

To make the icing, heat 2 Tbsp. butter in a sauce pan over medium heat until light golden brown. Remove from heat. Stir in rest of ingredients , add enough milk to make spreadable. Blend until smooth. Spread 1 tsp. filling on one cooled cookie and top with a second cooled cookie.

Dec 4, 2005

Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

The smell of freshly baked cinnamon rolls is enough to get anyone's mouth watering. I am a huge fan of Cinnabon and wanted to make my own cinnamon rolls at home. This recipe adapted from an old edition of the Watkins Cookbook and I felt it as good a place as any to start with my quest to find the perfect cinnamon roll recipe. I was happy with is the first time I tried it and have never tried another recipe. I will warn you these take 4 hours from start to finish with the time it takes for the dough to rise, but they are well worth the wait. If you are like me and enjoy the Cinnabon cream cheese based icing, you will love my take on the glaze.

Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

1 c. milk
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 stick butter
1 pkg. yeast
2 -3 c. flour
1/2 c. raisins (optional)
brown sugar

Heat milk in a sauce pan until tiny bubbles form around the edge. Pour immediately in a bowl. Stir in salt, sugar and butter. Stir in yeast. Stir in 1/2 of the flour. Beat in rest of flour with a wooden spoon or with your hands. Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Knead just until smooth. Put into greased bowl. Turn dough until it is greased on all sides. Cover. Put in a warm place and let rise 1 - 2 hours or until doubled in bulk. Remove dough from bowl and punch down. Roll out to 1/4 inch thick with a rolling pin into an approximately 8 x 12 in. rectangle. Brush with melted butter. Sprinkle with cinnamon, brown sugar and raisins. Roll up like a jelly roll starting with one of the longest sides of the rectangle. Cut into one inch slices with a sharp knife. Put rolls into a greased 9 x 13 inch pan. Brush with butter and let rise one hour or until doubled in bulk (or you can refrigerate them at this point and take out to rise in the morning but it will take longer to rise if you do decide to refrigerate them). Bake at 400 degrees for 15 - 20 minutes. Ice them and serve as soon as they are done.

3/4 c. confectioners sugar
3 oz. pkg. cream cheese
2 Tbsp. butter
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. milk

With an electric mixed, blend sugar, cream cheese and butter until crumbly. Add vanilla and milk. Blend until creamy. Icing will be thin, similar to a glaze, if you'd like it thicker just don't add the milk.

Dec 3, 2005

Gingerbread Cake

Gingerbread cake always reminds me of the holidays. I love it with a cup of cocoa. This recipe is easy, inexpensive and delicious. Serve it warm with whipped cream of lemon curd... you won't be disappointed!

Gingerbread Cake

1/3 c. vegetable oil
1/3 c. water
1/3 c. molasses
1/3 c. sugar
2 egg whites, lightly beaten
1 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 Tbsp. ground ginger
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine oil, water, molasses, sugar and egg whites. Stir until well mixed. Mix flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder and spices in a small bowl. Add to liquid mixture along with vanilla. Mix well until smooth. Pour into a greased 8-inch square pan or 9-inch round pan. Bake 30 minutes or until surface gently springs back when touched.

Dec 2, 2005

A Blessed Day!

I have seen God's blessings in our lives countless times and yesterday was no different. As has become our custom, we had ordered groceries from When our delivery man came, my kids were running around yelling and I was hauling things in as fast as I could to keep the bees out of the house (we always get them this time of year). So I had no idea that the man had accidentally left me with 4 bags that were not ours. I promptly called the hotline number he left me with in case of any problems, and explained what had happened. The operator said he was sorry that we had a problem and that we could keep the items. After looking through the bags more carefully, I realized we had about $50 worth of items that were now ours for free. Among the items was a large bottle of Colavita olive oil, some canned artichoke hearts, 2 bottles of apple juice, organic chicken broth and a jar of lemon curd. I am now searching for recipes for the artichokes and lemon curd since those are not common items in my household. If anyone has any suggestions please comment, I am open to all ideas!

I also found out yesterday that I won a $25 Target gift certificate from a contest I had entered on You can bet I was smiling all day!

Today I am making Posole for dinner. I decided to make it in the crock pot this time since we have errands to run this morning.

I've been looking for some new cold weather meal ideas lately and found a really good looking recipe from Dawna on Always In the Kitchen. Her Rice and Beans, Jamaican Style post is at the top of my list of new recipes to try.

Here's what I have planned for the next two weeks for dinner:

Friday - Posole
Saturday - Leftovers
Sunday - Ropa Vieja, Cuban black beans, rice
Monday - Leftovers
Tuesday - Thai chicken and vegetables with noodles
Wednesday - meatloaf, mashed potatoes, green beans
Thursday - Leftovers
Friday - pinto beans, collard greens, corn bread
Saturday - leftovers
Sunday - chicken (no recipe in mind yet), stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans
Monday - leftovers
Tuesday - Mongolian beef, Thai noodles (mix), broccoli
Wednesday - chili, corn bread
Thursday - leftovers

Dec 1, 2005

French Breakfast Muffins

This recipe for French Breakfast Muffins is based on one I found on Bed and Breakfast Inns Online. It was orignally created by Cincinnati Weller Haus Bed & Breakfast, Inc. I made a couple of changes to suit my tastes and these muffins are amazing! My kids request them often and I am happy to olibge.

French Breakfast Muffins

1/3 cup margarine
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 cup flour
1 1/2 tsps baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup milk

Mix shortening, sugar and egg. Mix dry ingredients then mix alternately with milk into egg mixture. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full after they have been sprayed with oil. (Do not use muffin papers) Bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes.