Jun 30, 2005

Making The Most of What You Have

With all the great sales on meat right now (4th of July weekend), I have really got to thinking about freezer cooking. Although I already have menus planned for the next two weeks, I am always planning ahead and gathering ideas. One strategy I used to use quite a bit is to cook extra of whatever I am making and freeze it. Granted, some foods don't freeze well. Some things I find work great for the freezer are:

cooked ground beef
cooked chicken
bananas (freeze them whole, still in the skin) - to use for smoothies, pancakes, muffins, bread, cake, etc.

There's a really great book about freezer cooking called Cook Once, Eat for a Week. There are other books that help you cook for an entire month but I'm not up to that level quite yet :)

Besides freezing, I also enjoy making my own spice blends and mixes. This is a HUGE money saver. I have found some of my best recipes in the book The Complete Tightwad Gazette. This is not a cookbook, per say, but throughout the pages you can find lots of great ideas for saving on groceries as well as recipes. Some of the recipes I have used from this book with great success are:

Cream Soup Mix
Hot Cocoa Mix
Ranch Dressing

Another great spice mix I created is for Jamaican Jerk Seasoning. I love Jerk Chicken but it's normally too spicy for me so I made up a seasoning that is a bit milder than the usual Jerk seasoning but with all the flavor. This is great on any kind of meat and great for the grill!

Jamaican Jerk Seasoning

1 Tbsp. ground allspice

1 Tbsp. thyme

1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper

1 tsp. black pepper

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

1/2 tsp. cinnamom

1 tsp. salt

2 Tbsp. garlic powder

1 Tbsp. sugar

Combine all in an airtight container and mix well. Store away from heat and light. This makes enough for 1 recipe of Jerk Chicken (with the following recipe) or you can use it as a sprinkle or rub for any meats you'd like.

Jerk Chicken

4 chicken breasts, trimmed of fat

1 recipe Jerk Seasoning

1/4 c. olive oil

1/4 c. soy sauce

3/4 c. white vinegar

1/2 c. orange juice

juice of 1 lime

1 c. chopped white onion

3 scallions, minced

Place chicken in a shallow baking dish. Combine rest of ingredients and pour over chicken. Marinade at least one hour. Cook on grill. Or if you prefer, you can bake, crock pot or broil.

Jun 29, 2005

Special Delivery!

What a cool offer I found. If you sign up at Safeway.com you can actually order your groceries and have them delivered to your home. AND, your first delivery order is FREE (minimum $50 order)! I think this offer is only available in certain areas of the country but it's worth a look to see if you are in the delivery area. The prices are not the best but for the things you DO find that are on sale or of average price it would be well worth it to place an order. Our weather has been averaging 110 degrees lately and with 116 expected today I will certainly be making use of the offer this once. I think the normal delivery charge is around $8 so depending on how much gas it costs you to get to the local grocer it may be a good deal on a normal basis. You can even use your in-store savings card for your on-line purchase, how cool is that?

Speaking of having things delivered... I have found one of the more economical ways to buy herbs and spices is by mail order. My favorite company to buy from is Penzey's. They have a very wide selection, great prices (products comparable to grocery store higher end brands with much lower prices) and the shipping costs are very reasonable. They also have several retail locations around the country. I recently visited the one closest to me and the aromas of the freshly ground spices is just wonderful! There is a jar of each herb and spice offered just for customers to open and sniff.

If you're looking for a wide variety of flavorings for baking, another great site to order from is Spices Etc.

Jun 28, 2005

What would you make out of...?

... a package of corn tortillas, a half head of cabbage and some leftover Great Northern Beans. Tostadas of course!

Actually, I had no idea of what to make for lunch today. I figured I'd mash the leftover beans with a little cheese, fry the tortillas and that would make a nice light lunch. My 5 year old asked if we had lettuce to put on top and I said, no but I do have cabbage... and some cilantro. She loved that! So, Viola! Add a few packages of Taco Bell sauce from our last fast food trip and we have tostadas. They were really good and I think from now on I will use cabbage instead of lettuce for Mexican food, it adds more substance and I know it must contain a lot more nutrition than lettuce.

The Taco Soup is in the crock pot right now, it smells great!

Jun 27, 2005

Late Night Ramblings

I really need a smaller crock pot! I want to prepare side dishes along with main dishes while I'm away from home. I signed up with a Freecycle group in my area so hoping a crock will turn up soon. The one I have is a 5 quart and I'd like a 3 quart one to go along with it.

I'm going to call the local food bank tomorrow. Not only do they help those in need, they also offer a great food co-op where you can purchase groceries at a discount. buying from the co-op is going to be one of my on-going shopping strategies. I read that this program is for low income families but since there are 5 of us we qualify though our income is not that low. This is a great deal for us!

I'm thinking I should buy the Mastercook software for our computer. I've been using this great little program called Home Cookin for making grocery lists. It's an upgradeable download that you can use for free. I love it for groceries but it's not the format I'd like for recipes. Mastercook is more the style I would prefer.

Ah well... off to sleep now. Think I'll make a list tomorrow of things I'd like to buy for my cooking adventures.

Under $150

Well, the pasta was a hit! The kiddos complained about the tomatoes of course, but that's to be expected :)

I just finished working on our next grocery list and it looks like we will be able to get everything for under $150 for the next two weeks. Our dinner menu for the next two weeks is as follows (breakfast and lunch are not specifically planned in advance).

Dinner Menus

Northern Beans, Rice, Corn Bread, Hot Dogs (leftovers from yesterday)
Aztec Stew
Turkey Casserole with broccoli (made with leftover turkey)
Pinto Beans, Corn Bread, Rice
Salisbury Steak, Roasted Potatoes, Green Beans
Spaghetti, Broccoli/Cauliflower
Butter Beans, Corn Bread, Hot Dogs
Hash, Mixed Vegetables, Homemade Rolls
Pinto Beans, Corn Bread, Rice
Tostadas, Refried Beans (made with leftover Pinto Beans), Spanish Rice
Teriyaki Stir Fry, Basmati Rice
Northern Beans, Corn Bread, Collard Greens
Baked Chicken, Macaroni & Cheese (homemade), Green Beans
Chili, Corn Bread
Beef Stew, Biscuits

As you can see we eats beans a lot! Besides the fact that they are my husband's absolute favorite, they are inexpensive as well as nutritious.

I found a great site that offers some great ideas for ingredient substitutions. This one is a big help while working on a grocery list, it helps you use what you have on hand instead of having to buy more ingredients for recipes.

Tonight we're having leftovers but tomorrow I'm going to make Aztec Stew in the crock pot. It's a recipe I created myself for several I compared in the Fix It and Forget It Cookbookand the Fix It and Forget It Lightly Cookbook. These are two of my favorites because they offer great crock pot ideas and have such a wide variety of recipes. Here's my recipe:

Aztec Stew

1 lb. cooked shredded chicken
1 Envelope Taco Seasoning
1 small can tomato sauce
2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
1/2 c. frozen corn
1 small can black beans (drained)
1 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 c. hominy, drained
1 can green chilies, drained
2 c. chicken broth
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a large pot or crock pot and cook until vegetables are tender. Serve topped with shredded cheese, sour creme and tortilla chips.

Jun 25, 2005

On A Quest...

As the day approaches when our 5 year old will start private school, we are on a quest to start tightening up our budget. Don't get me wrong, I am used to a pretty strict spending limit when it comes to grocery shopping. However, as the kids get older and eat more, the same $300 a month sure doesn't seem to stretch as far. AND this month, it'd going to be more like $250 or $200 so I'm going to have to get REAL creative :) We are a family of 5... Myself, my husband and 3 children, ages 5, 3 and 1. My two oldest are picky eaters and always looking for snacks. I'm on a cholesterol lowering diet and my husband loves his sweet snacks and "quickie" foods like Beef-a-Roni. I always have a challenge trying to prepare meals we all enjoy that are still healthy. The good thing is, I am always up for a challenge!

Tonight I'm going to make Campanelle with Sardinian Sauce (Campanelle con Salsa Sarda). A GREAT recipe I found at http://www.barilla.com/. Sounds great but my little picky eaters are already complaining about the tomatoes in it. I think they will change their minds when they find out there's sausage in it too! I'm also fixing Italian Zucchini, my own recipe.

Campanelle with Sardinian Sauce (Campanelle con Salsa Sarda) - from Barilla.com

3 tablespoonsextra virgin olive oil
3/4 poundshot Italian sausage, crumbled
1 cupfinely chopped onion
2 clovesgarlic, minced
6 whole (3 cups) plum tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cupchicken broth
1/3 cupchopped parsley
1/4 cupchopped fresh mint
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
2 pinchessaffron, divided
1 box (16 ounces) BARILLA Campanelle
1/3 cupchopped fresh basil leaves
1/2 cupfreshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add sausage; cook 5 to 6 minutes or until no longer pink, stirring occasionally.
ADD onion, garlic and remaining 2 tablespoons oil to skillet; continue cooking 3 minutes until onion is tender. Stir in tomatoes, broth, parsley, mint, salt, red pepper flakes and a pinch of saffron. Simmer 5 to 7 minutes, or until tomatoes are tender and sauce thickens.
COOK pasta according to package directions, adding a pinch of saffron to water. Drain, reserving ½ cup pasta water. Return pasta to pot.
ADD sausage mixture, reserved pasta water, cheese and basil to hot pasta and toss. Transfer to serving platter.

Italian Zucchini

4 zucchini
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic
1 can diced tomatoes
1/2 c. frozen corn
1/2 c. bread crumbs
1/4 c. Parmesan cheese
1 tsp. Italian Seasoning
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4. tsp pepper

Wash and dice zucchini. Combine in a sauce pan with 1/4 c. water. Add onion and garlic. Bring to a boil then turn down to a simmer and cook until zucchini is tender. In a casserole dish, combine zucchini, tomatoes and corn. Add seasonings and stir until well distributed. In a bowl, combine bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle over zucchini mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes or until heated through and topping is browned.

After dinner I am going to start an inventory of what we have on hand and get menus together for next week. 4 more days until pay day so I want to get a head start before I make a trip to the supermarket. Be back tomorrow to update my progress...

Jun 21, 2005

Oven Dried tomatoes

Here's a great way to use up some of those extra tomatoes for your summer garden.

Oven Dried Tomatoes

Use firm fleshy tomahawk. Cut tomatoes into quarters or in half. Place on a cookie sheet and dry in oven at 150 degrees for 18 - 24 hours or until leathery. Allow to cool. Store in a glass jar. Rehydrate in warm water for 20 minutes to use in salads, sauces, etc.

Jun 20, 2005

Grandma Ida's Potato Salad

There is no other potato salad that compares to my grandmothers. If you don't believe me, just try it and you will understand why! :)

Grandma Ida's Potato Salad

8 large potatoes - cooked, peeled and cut into small cubes
2 boiled eggs, mashed well
2 stalks celery, finely minced
2 large dill pickles, minced
1 large bell pepper, minced
Best Foods (Hellman's) mayonnaise
French's Mustard

Put the potatoes, eggs celery, dill pickle and bell pepper into a large bowl. Mix well. Add mayonnaise, one large spoonful at a time and mix in. When you reach a nice creamy (but not too creamy) consistency, add a large squirt of mustard and mix well. Add salt and pepper to taste. Mix well (gently). Sprinkle the top with paprika. Eat and enjoy!

Jun 19, 2005

Whole Wheat Bread

Baking your own bread can be quite satisfying. I used to be afraid to make yeast bread for fear it wouldn't rise or it would just not turn out right. After I tried this recipe I felt quite differently. This bread is delicious and satisfying. Try it spread with butter and honey.

Whole Wheat Bread

2 pkg. yeast
1/4 c. warm water (I microwave the water for 20 seconds)
1/2 c. honey
3 tsp. salt
2 1/2 c. hot water
1/4 c. margarine or butter
4 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
2 3/4 - 3 3/4 c. unbleached all-purpose flour

In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water (105 - 115 degrees). In a large bowl, combine brown sugar, salt, hot water and margarine; cool slightly. Add 3 c. whole wheat flour to the cooled mixture. Blend at low speed until moistened, beat 3 minutes at medium speed. Add remaining whole wheat flour and dissolved yeast, mix well. By hand, stir in an additional 2 1/4 - 2 3/4 c. unbleached all-purpose flour until dough pulls away from the side of the bowl.

On a floured surface, knead in 1/2 - 1 c. flour until dough is smooth and elastic (about 10 - 15 minutes). Place dough in a greased bowl and cover loosely with plastic wrap and a cloth towel. Let rise in a warm place (80 - 85 degrees) until light and doubled in size(about 30 - 45 minutes).

Generously grease two bread pans.

Punch down dough, divide in half and shape into two loaves. Put in pans, cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size (about 30 - 45 minutes).

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Uncover dough. Bake for 30 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350 degrees and bake 10 - 15 more minutes or until loaf sounds hollow when thumped. Remove from pans at once to a cooling rack. Cool completely before slicing.

Jun 18, 2005


Focaccia is basically a pizza crust type of bread topped with thinly sliced vegetables and cheese... no sauce. You can eat this as a light lunch, with a salad, with dinner or as a snack. I use my pizza crust recipe with a slight variation.


1 cup warm water
pinch sugar
1 package dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp.)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Tbsp. Italian Seasoning
2 1/2 cups flour

Stir hot water, sugar and dry yeast until blended. Add oil, salt and flour. (I use a food processor). Stir until mixture forms a soft ball. Let rest 5 minutes. Roll out on a pizza stone or cookie sheet sprinkled with corn meal. Top with thinly sliced vegetables such as tomatoes, red onions and garlic, bell peppers. If desired, sprinkle with cheese such as mozzarella. Bake 450 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.

Jun 17, 2005

Pico De Gallo

Literally translated, Pico de Gallo means "Rooster's Beak". I prefer this kind of chunky chopped mixture as opposed to the more liquid type of salsa.

Pico De Gallo

5 large tomatoes, chopped
4 scallions or 1 medium white onion, chopped
1/2 c. chopped fresh cilantro
1 small can diced green chilies, drained
1 clove garlic, minced
dash of cumin
juice of half a lime
splash of white vinegar
salt to taste

Combine all in a bowl and mix well. Refrigerate at least one hour to allow flavors to develop.

Jun 16, 2005


Guacamole is one of my favorite Mexican condiments. It can be used as a dip for corn chips, to top tacos, on the side with burritos to name a few. This is my mom's recipe, not traditional but very tasty! An easy way to remove the pits from avocados is to cut them in half, twist apart and hit the seed with the blade of a chef's knife. Just a quick twist and the seed pops right out. Then just score the flesh of the avocado, turn it inside out and scrape into a bowl.


3 ripe avocados, peeled and pit removed
1 8 oz. carton sour cream
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/4 grated cheddar cheese
1 tsp. garlic salt

Mash flesh of avocados along with sour cream, adding sour cream a spoon full at a time. The consistency should be thick, you may not need the entire carton of sour cream. Stir in lemon juice, cheese and garlic salt.

Jun 15, 2005

The Frugal Freezer

One of the best methods I have found to save money on groceries is to freeze things. On any given day if you look into my freezer you will see a variety of frozen items such as homemade pancakes, roasted bell peppers, freshly ground bread crumbs and overly ripe bananas.

Here are some of my favorite ways to freeze foods that might have otherwise been thrown away as well as foods that need to be preserved for a later date.

Flash Freeze - Items such as pancakes, roasted bell peppers, uncooked biscuits and balls of cookie dough will stick together when frozen if you don't flash freeze them first. So what is flash freezing? It simply means that you lay your food out on a cookie sheet and place it (unwrapped) in the freezer for about 30 minutes or until the food is frozen solid. At that point you remove the food and place it in zipper bags or plastic containers and place it back in the freezer.

Freeze Bananas - I can't say it enough times, do not throw away those over ripe bananas! Put them in the freezer to use in recipes. Among other things you can use them for banana bread, pancakes, muffins, french toast and smoothies. Or you can just eat them frozen just as they are!

Use Ice Cube Trays - Some things like lemon or lime juice, sofrito, tomato sauce, tomato paste, baby foods and any other soft or liquid items you use in small quantities are best frozen in ice cube trays. Once you fill your trays and freeze the item overnight, turn them upside down under hot running water for a couple seconds and your cubes will pop out much easier. Store the cubes in ziploc bags for your recipes.

Save your bread ends! - I always save the ends of loaves of bread. They can be used for bread pudding, bread crumbs (just toss them in your food processor and pulse), croutons and bread cubes for stuffing.

Save your "scraps" - I always toss small things like the end of a beef roast, a half chicken breast or leftover cooked or chopped raw vegetables into ziploc bags and freeze them. They can later be used for soups, stews, sandwiches, casseroles, pizza or pasta toppings or even snacks.

Prepare ahead - If you know you will be needing to bake 3 dozen cookies for your school bake sale or a few loaves of pumpkin bread for holiday gift giving, bake them ahead of time and freeze them. As long as you package your items well in plastic wrap then in aluminum foil or zip lock bags they will last up to a month in the freezer.

Double the recipe - If you are preparing a recipe that freezes well such as spaghetti sauce, lasagna, beans or chili, why not make a double batch and freeze the second batch for a future meal so you can give yourself a day off from cooking in the future. This idea works especially well if you have a food saver.

Make The Most of the Harvest - When fruits and vegetables are in season and on sale it's time to get ready to freeze! Many people can their fruits and vegetables but since I am not skilled at this task I freeze mine. I often buy an abundance of bell peppers, onions, berries, squash, and other vegetables to freeze. I just chop them as I would use for recipes, bag them in ziploc bags and put them in the freezer.

If you make the most of your freezer space you will be pleasantly surprised on how much time and money you can save.

Jun 14, 2005

Chicken Curry

Curry is not a flavor I grew up with. I have received catalogs from Penzey's Spices for some time now and have always been fascinated with their wide array of curry powders. The curiosity got the best of me and I finally ordered their Sweet Curry Powder. After some searching and comparing recipes on-line I finally came up with a recipe that I felt would please my family while introducing us to a new flavor adventure. I was very pleased with the result! If you haven't tried curry before I would highly suggest trying this recipe. The flavor is complex... sweet and spicy and very, very good.

Chicken Curry

1 1/2 lb. cooked chicken breast cubes
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and diced
1 onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, minced
1 1/2 c. chicken broth
canola oil
1/2 Tbsp Penzey's Sweet Curry Powder
2 Tbsp. flour

Saute apple, onion and celery in a little oil with curry powder. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Whisk flour into broth then add to pan. Simmer until thickened then add chicken. Heat through. Serve over rice (preferable Basmati rice) with your choice of toppings.

Traditional topping choices for curry are: raisins, pineapple tidbits, toasted coconut, plain yogurt, toasted almonds, sliced scallions, chopped peanuts and bacon bits.

Jun 13, 2005

Mango Ice Cream

I found this recipe for Mango Ice Cream in an issue of Cooking pleasures magazine that I received from The Cooking Club of America. This ice cream is so creamy and lightly sweet, it is perfect on a summer day alone, with fresh fruit or as a side to a sweeter dessert. It doesn't make much so I always double or triple the recipe.

Mango Ice Cream

2 c. chopped mangoes
2 tsp. lime juice
1/2 c. sugar
1 c. milk
1 c. heavy cream
1/4 c. honey
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Process mangoes and lime juice in food processor until smooth. In a medium bowl, whisk together sugar, milk, cream, honey and vanilla. Add to pureed mango mixture; pulse until blended. Refrigerate until chilled. Freeze in ice cream maker according to manufacturers directions. Makes 8 1/2 c. servings.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Pie

I created this Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip pie from a recipe I found in Pillsbury cookbook. I have taken it to a few gatherings and it is always a hit and I get many requests for the recipe. I serve this drizzled with chocolate syrup and a dollop of whipped cream. This is a very rich dessert so a little goes a LONG way.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Pie

1 unbaked 9-inch pie crust
2 eggs, separated, at room temperature
1/2 c. brown sugar
3/4 c. peanut butter
1/4 c, dark corn syrup
2/3 c. (5 oz. can) evaporated milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
6 oz. bag milk chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form. In a large bowl, beat egg yolks and brown sugar until light in color and thickened. Blend in peanut butter and corn syrup. Gradually beat in milk, vanilla and cinnamon. Fold in egg whites until mixture is no longer lumpy. Fold in chocolate chips. Pour into pie crust. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 - 35 minutes or until center is set.

Jun 12, 2005

Pie Crust 101

I grew up watching my Aunt Amy make pie crust by hand. It seemed like an intimidating process. When I found a recipe by Pillsbury I knew that I could now always have homemade pie crust for all my pies, this recipe is so easy. One thing I have added is that you can actually use any type or shortening, be it butter, margarine, lard or Crisco -- the crust comes out wonderful no matter what you choose.

Pie Crust

(for a one crust pie)
1 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 c. shortening (cold)
2 - 4 tbsp. ice water

(for a 2 crust pie)
2 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
2/3 c. shortening (cold)
5 - 7 tbsp. ice water

Put dry ingredients in a food processor, pulse for 30 seconds. Cut shortening into small pieces and distribute evenly over top of dry ingredients. Pulse for 15 - 20 seconds or until mixture is like coarse crumbs. Add liquid in a slow steady stream through chute as processor is running and dough holds together easily. Pat into a flat circle, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate. Roll out to use with any pie recipe.

Jun 11, 2005

Ida's Pound Cake

My grandmother Ida was an amazing cook. She and my aunt Amy lived with us and always had something wonderful cooking in the kitchen with we arrived home from school. We always had at least one dessert in the house. The one I remember most is her pound cake. She always let us lick the bowl and the spoon. I remember the soft interior of this cake and the crisp edges and the delicious taste as well. Everyone who ever tasted it loved it and would ask if she could make it when they came to visit. Grandma Ida passed away when I was 16 years old but her memory lives on in her special recipes, especially this pound cake.

Grandma Ida's Pound Cake

1 c. butter
1 3/4 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. mace
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. vanilla
5 eggs
2 c. sifted all purpose flour

Mix and stir butter until soft. Gradually blend in sugar along with mace, salt and vanilla. Beat in 4 eggs, one at a time. Gradually stir in flour, adding remaining egg. Mix well. Turn batter into a greased tube pan lined with waxed paper. Place in a cold oven. Set oven to 300 degrees. Bake 1 hour and 30 minutes. Cool in pan for 20 minutes them remove to cake plate.

Jun 10, 2005

Lemon Butter Cookies

I always love the taste of lemon in cookies. These are wonderfully light with a nice lemon flavor.

Lemon Butter Cookies

1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. confectioners sugar
3/4 c. butter
1/4 c. canola oil
1 Tbsp. lemon zest
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 egg
2 1/2 c. flour
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt

In a large bowl, cream sugars, butter and oil. Beat until light and fluffy. Add lemon zest and lemon juice. Add egg. Blend well. Stir in flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt. Mix well. Refrigerate at least one hour. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Form dough into 1-inch balls Bake 7 - 12 minutes. Remove from cookies sheets to cooling racks at once.

Jun 9, 2005

Peanut Butter Cookies

I found this recipe for peanut butter cookies on marthastewart.com. These are the best I have ever tasted. So easy to make and prefect with a cold glass of milk!

Peanut Butter Cookies

1 1/2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 stick butter, softened
1 c. firmly packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 c. peanut butter

Sift together dry ingredients, set aside. Cream butter and sugar. Add egg and vanilla, beat until combined. Add peanut butter and beat until blended. Cover dough with plastic wrap, chill at least 1 hour. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Form dough into 1 inch balls and place 2 inches apart on cookie sheets. Press down with a fork that has been dipped in flour. Dip fork again and press again in opposite direction to form a criss-cross pattern. Bake 10 - 12 minutes. Cook on a rack.

Jun 8, 2005

Pasta a Fagioli Soup

This soup is similar to that one served at Olive Garden. A small cup would make a great lunch and a large bowl is a satisfying dinner. Even my husband who does not care much for soup really likes this one.

Pasta a Fagioli Soup

1 c. ditalini pasta (a.k.a. salad-roni)
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, minced
1 stalk celery, minced
1 carrot, minced
1/2 lb. ham or smoked sausage, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (28 oz.) can diced tomatoes (do not drain)
2 (15 oz.) cans cannellini (or Great Northern) beans, drained and rinsed
4 c. beef broth
1 tsp. thyme
1 tsp. basil
2 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese
1 bat leaf
salt and pepper to taste

In a large stock pot, heat oil. Add celery, onion and carrot and saute until tender. Add ham or sausage and garlic, cook stirring for about one minute. Add remaining ingredients (EXCEPT FOR PASTA) and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Stir well and add pasta. Cook for 9 more minutes or until pasta is tender. Remove bay leaf. Serve garnished with additional Parmesan cheese.

Jun 7, 2005

Roasting Garlic

Roasted garlic is such a delicious complex flavor, it compliments so many dishes. I love to use it in salsa, on meat, spread on bread, in dips, on vegetables, in soups and stews, in mashed potatoes... the list is endless. Here is a simple method to roast garlic for your recipes.

Roasted Garlic

Heads of garlic
olive oil

Cut the top off of each head of garlic. Place heads, cut side up, in a small ungreased baking pan. Drizzle with olive oil. Bake at 350 degrees until garlic is very soft. Cool. Squeeze garlic from each clove. If desired, puree in a mini food processor. Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator in a sealed container.

Jun 6, 2005

Buttermilk Biscuits

This recipe and lovely picture comes from marthastewart.com. This is the best biscuit recipe I have ever tried, they are light fluffy and so delicious. If you have never found the perfect biscuit recipe, try this one, it is sure to please!

Buttermilk Biscuits

Makes 9 two- to three-inch biscuits
The exterior of the perfect biscuit should be golden brown and slightly crisp, while its interior should be light and airy. Avoid overworking the dough; gently combine the ingredients until just blended. A very hot oven is essential. The steam interacts with the baking powder to create the biscuits' ideal exterior and interior textures. Serve warm with butter.

2 cups White Lily brand all-purpose flour, or cake flour (not self-rising)

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes

3/4 to 1 cup buttermilk

1. Heat oven to 500°. In a bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt. With a pastry cutter or two knives, cut butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse meal. Pour in buttermilk, and gently mix until just combined. With your hands, gently form the mixture into balls. Place in a round 8-by-2-inch cake pan.

2. Bake until golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Allow to cool to the touch, and serve immediately.

Jun 5, 2005

Italian Wedding Soup

I first had this soup at a little deli near our house. It was so warm and satisfying, I knew I had to learn to make it. After doing a little research, I created this recipe which thankfully tastes just as good as I remember.

Italian Wedding Soup

For the meatballs:
1/2 lb. ground beef
1/2 lb Italian sausage (mild)
1/4 c. bread crumbs
1 egg
1 Tbsp. flat leaf Italian parsley, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp pepper
olive oil

For the soup:
6 c. chicken broth
1 pkg. frozen spinach, thawed and well drained
1/4 c. grated Romano cheese
1/4 c. barley or orzo
1/2 onion, minced
2 mushrooms, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 stalk celery, diced

Make the meatballs by combining meat, bread crumbs, egg, parsley, garlic, salt and pepper in a mixing bowl. Mix well and form into tiny meatballs (about the size of a cherry tomato). Saute the meatballs in a little olive oil until brown. Drain meatballs on paper towels to absorb oil. Bring broth to a boil and add meatballs plus remaining ingredients except for Romano cheese; simmer until well heated. When ready to serve, ladle into bowls and top each serving with cheese and an additional sprinkle of parsley if desired.

Jun 4, 2005

Taco Soup

This is one of my favorite soups. It's so flavorful and satisfying and my family loves it. I love to make this with leftover ground beef from tacos and leftover taco shells.

Taco Soup

1 lb. ground beef, cooked
1 package taco seasoning mix
1 can Mexican style diced tomatoes
1/2 c. frozen corn (I prefer sweet corn)
1 c. pinto beans (cooked and drained)
1 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 c. hominy, drained
1 small can diced green chilies, drained
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in large pot or crock pot and cook until very hot and onion is tender. Serve topped with shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream and crushed tortilla chips.

Jun 3, 2005

Baked Crisp Parmesan Chicken

This recipe is adapted from one I found in Martha Stewart Living magazine. It is delicious and very easy to prepare. I serve it with roasted potatoes and steamed broccoli.

Baked Crisp Parmesan Chicken

1/4 c. (plus 1 Tbsp.) olive oil
1/4 c. (plus 1 tbsp) red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. oregano
1 clove garlic, minced
1 whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces
1 c. fresh bread crumbs
1/2 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp. flat leaf Italian parsley, chopped
1/4 tsp. pepper

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Whisk together oil, vinegar, red pepper flakes, oregano and garlic in a 9 x 13 in. baking dish. Add chicken to marinade, turning each piece to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 up to 8 hours. Stir bread crumbs, cheeses, parsley and pepper in a medium bowl. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or foil. Oil lining. Dredge each piece of chicken in brad crumb mixture to coat, shake off excess. Transfer to prepared baking sheet. Bake chicken until breadcrumbs are golden and chicken is cooked through (40 - 45 minutes). Remove chicken from baking sheet with a spatula and serve.

Jun 2, 2005

Chocolate Chip Cookies

I love chocolate chip cookies! This is my version of the classic Nestle Toll House recipe found on the back of their packages of semi-sweet chocolate chips. This photo of from the Nestle website.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp mace
1 cup (2 sticks, 1/2 pound) butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated (white) sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 cups (12-ounce package) NESTLE TOLL HOUSE Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels
1 cup chopped pecans

Combine flour, baking soda and salt, cinnamon and mace in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla in large mixer bowl. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition; gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels and nuts. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake in preheated 375-degree oven for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Let stand for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Jun 1, 2005

Newsletter Issue #3 - February 2006


I hope you're having a good week! As I mentioned in my last newsletter I have a neat little freebie for you this time. :) I recently received a Healthy Breakfast Smoothie e-book and instantly thought that all my subscribers would enjoy it as well. You can download it from http://chefmichele.blogspot.com/2005/06/free-smoothie-ebook.html (don't worry its virus free and no spyware either, so just download it, read and enjoy!) If you like it, send me an email and let me know ---> chefmichele@gmail.com. I'd love to have your feedback!

It's been a busy time as always around our house. I always find that when things get extra busy housework is what suffers most. I recently found a great blog that has some awesome tips for getting your house in order with minimal stress. Take a look at http://www.happyslob.com/. I think you will find lots of great ideas there as well.

Here are my most recent blog entries in case you missed them:

Spinach and Artichoke Dip - http://chefmichele.blogspot.com/2006/01/spinach-and-artichoke-dip-arf-tuesdays.html

French Toast and Caramel Maple Syrup

Honey Dijon Chicken

I was just browsing through The Complete Tightwad Gazette and saw a recipe for homemade granola. I haven't made any in such a long time so I thought I'd share my recipe with you. Granola can be quite expensive if you buy it ready-made but it's not that high priced to make it yourself. I adapted my recipe from the one in The Complete Tightwad Gazette. If you don't own this book and you are really serious about cutting your costs in the kitchen (and elsewhere in your life) you really should purchase a copy. It is an awesome resource! You can take a look at it here and see excerpts as well -----> http://tinyurl.com/7lfo8

Homemade Granola

3/4 c. brown sugar
1/3 c. canola oil
1 tsp. vanilla
1/3 c. honey
5 c. quick oats
1/2 c. raisins
1/2 c. dry milk
1/2 c. sliced almonds
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
Pinch of salt

Mix brown sugar, oil, vanilla and honey in a sauce pan. Heat until sugar dissolves. Combine dry ingredients in a 9 x 13 in. pan. Pour sugar mixture over dry mixture and mix well. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes. Allow to cool and store in a large ziploc bag or other airtight container.

I have so many recipes to share but I am ALWAYS looking for more :) Do you have a favorite recipe to share? I would love to have a section in this newsletter for readers to share their tried and true favorites! If you have one you'd like to contribute, just send it in to chefmichele@gmail.com. If you have any other comments or suggestions, send those in too! :)

I really enjoyed chatting with you today! If you enjoyed this newsletter, be sure to pass it on to all your friends! If this issue was passed on to you and you’d like to subscribe, visit http://chefmichele.blogspot.com and fill out the subscription form right at the top on the left.

Until Next time, Happy Cooking!


P.S. I'm wondering if anyone would be interested in seeing a message board on my blog? Just a gathering place to share frugal kitchen tips and ideas... let me know what you think ---> chefmichele@gmail.com

Guest Bloggers

Guest Blogger #1 - Tummy Rumble
Guest Blogger #2 - Sweetnicks
Guest Blogger #3 - Plugged In Homeschool
Guest Blogger #4 - Dispensing Happiness
Guest Blogger #5 - Just Braise
Guest Blogger #6 - Cookin' With Cyndi
Guest Blogger #7 - White Trash BBQ
Guest Blogger #8 - Up A Creek Without A Patl
Guest Blogger #9 - Jamie Rains
Guest Blogger #10 - Frugal Weekly
Guest Blogger #11 - Recipes for the Future
Guest Blogger #12 - Passionate America

Culinary Gardening

Container Gardening

Side Dishes

Crock Pot Scalloped Potatos
Crock Pot Stuffing
Grandma Ida's Potato Salad
Green Rice
Homemade Maccaroni and Cheese
Indian Rice and Potatos
Ramen Noodle Salad
Refried Beans
Spanish Rice
Strawberry Spinach Salad

Appetizers and Snacks

Butternut Squash Wantons With Sesame Dipping Sauce
Cheese Crackers (Homemade)
Garlic Pita Chips
Homemade Graham Crackers
Low Fat Fruit Dip
Pizza Bites
Mexican Egg Rolls
Spinach and Veggie Dip
Tortilla Chips
Veggie Wontons
Yogurt Cheese


Arroz Dulce
Banana Bread
Bread Crumb Cookies
Butterscotch Cookies
Caramel Creme Sandwich Cookies

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Cupcakes
Chocolate Chip Blondies
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Creme Brulee from Sweetnicks
Crock Pot Doughnut Pudding
Five Spice Cookies
Fruit Pizza
Fruity Sherbet
German Apple Cake
Gingerbread Cake
Holiday Snickerdoodles
Ida's Pound Cake
Lemon Butter Cookies
Mango Ice Cream
Oatmeal Cake With Buttermilk Icing
Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Pie
Peanut Butter Cookies
Pina Colada Bread Pudding
Pineapple Cheesecake Squares
Sweet Potato Pecan Pie
Simple Caramel Icing
Tropical Cheesecake

Newsletter Archives

Issue #1 - January 2006
Issue #2 - January 2006
Issue #3 - February 2006
Issue #4 - March 2006
Issue #5 - March 2006


Baked Oatmeal
Blueberry Oatmeal
Breakfast Ideas
Homemade Cinnamon Rolls
French Breakfast Muffins
French Toast and Caramel Maple Syrup
Mango Bars
Smoothies 101
Whole Grain Waffles

Breads and Baked Goods

Applesauce Muffins
EASY Banana Bread
Buttermilk Biscuits
Carrot Cake Bread
Cinnamon Rolls
Classic Country Bread
Coffee Cake
Corn Bread
Cuban Bread
EASY Sweet Rolls
Egg Nog Bread
Flour Tortillas
French Breakfast Muffins
Garlic and Herb Sesame Rolls
Ginger Carrot Morning Cookies
Homemade English Muffins
Lemon Cream Cheese Coffee Cake
Mexican Corn Bread
Oatmal Dinner Rolls
Orange Coriander Muffins
Pie Crust 101
Pita Bread
Pizza Crust
Potato Buns
Skillet Bread
Sourdough Bread
Sourdough Starter
Strawberry Banana Bread
Sweet Potato Muffins
Whole Grain Raisin Muffins
Whole Wheat Bread
Whole Wheat Flax Seed Bread
Whole Wheat Tortillas

Lunch Dishes

Chichen & Spinach Empanadas
Chicken Salad
Tuna Pasta
Tuna Pitas

Main Dishes

Apricot Chicken
Arroz Con Pollo
Award Winning Chili from Passionate America
Baked Crisp Parmesan Chicken
Beef and Broccoli
Birria - Mexican Style Pot Roast
Boston Baked Beans

Brown Sugar Glazed Ham
Bourbon-Pomegranate Molasses Beef Short Ribs w/ Broccoli Rabe from Just Braise
Burrito Casserole
Campanelle with Sardinian Sauce
Cheeseburger Casserole
Chicken Adobo
Chicken Curry
Chicken Enchiladas & Calebacitas
Chicken Katsu
Chicken Sofrito
Chicken With Creamy Dill Sauce
Chicken With Artichokes, Zucchini and Tomatoes
Chili Mac
Creamy Chicken and Rice Casserole
Creole Chicken
Crispy Breaded Chicken Strips
Crock Pot BBQ Ribs
Crock Pot Smothered Chicken
Cuban Black Beans
Fried Rice from Dispensing Happiness
Giada DeLaurentiis' Lemon Spaghetti from Sweetnicks

Greek Chicken
Hash With Gravy

Hearty Italian Sandwiches fron Cooking With Cyndi
Honey Dijon Chicken
Italian Sausage over Linguini
Jamacian Red Beans and Rice
Jerk Chicken
Lasanga Bianca
Lasanga Maria
Lasanga Pepperoni from Recipes For The Future
Lime Chicken from Cooking With Cyndi
Meatloaf Muffins
Mexican Chicken
Nacho Stuffed Shells
Pinto Beans
Pulled Pork
Red Beans and Rice
Ropa Vieja
Seven Heaven Prawns from Jamie Rains
Shepherds Pie
Smoked Sausage Jambalaya
Smothered Chicken
Tandoori Chicken
Thai Style Chicken, Vegetables and Noodles
Tuna Supper Casserole
Vegetable Beef Lasanga
Yes We Can Can Chili from Plugged In Homeschool

Mixes, Seasonings, Sauces and Condiments

Adobo Seasoning
Apple Butter
Caramel Maple Syrup
Cream Soup Mix
Garlic Olive Oil Bread Dip
Brown Gravy
Homemade Bisquick
Homemade Bisquick (Heart Healthy)
Homemade Rice-A-Roni Mix
Jamacian Jerk Seasoning
Pico De Gallo
Ranch Dressing
Restaurant Style Teryaki Sauce
Roasted Garlic
Sour Cream
Spice Islands Spaghetti Sauce Seasoning (Copy Cat Version) from Recipes for the Future
Spice Mixes (Link)
Stir Fry Teryaki Sauce

Soups and Stews

Aztec Stew
Basic Soup Recipe from Up A Creek Without a Patl
Bean Soup
Crock Pot Beef Stew
Crock Pot Chili
Crock Pot Potato Soup
Italian Wedding Soup
It's All In The Soup!
Pasta a Fagioli Soup
Taco Soup


Calibacitas (Mexican Zucchini)
Collard Greens
Curried Cauliflower
Green Bean Casserole
Italian Zucchini
Zucchini Casserole from Frugal Weekly

Newsletter #5 - March 2006


You know one of all the things I really enjoy about spending time on-line is the wonderful products I find. I thought that this time around I would take some time to introduce you to some products that I really enjoy and I thought you might enjoy as well.

Before I get started, here are some of my recent blog posts in case you missed them...

Meatloaf Muffins - http://chefmichele.blogspot.com/2006/03/meatloaf-muffins.html
Brunch Goodies - http://chefmichele.blogspot.com/2006/03/brunch-goodies.html
Antioxidants Galore! - http://chefmichele.blogspot.com/2006/03/arf-tuesday-antioxidants-galore.html

In my last newsletter I mentioned a great service called "Dine Without Whine" ---> http://tinyurl.com/s7hsx. This is a service that helps busy folks create dinner menus that will please even the pickiest family members. I was so excited when last week I received some menus from Christine, the owner of this service which she is allowing me to pass on to you! So if you'd like to recieve the free menus and accompanying grocery list please email me and I will forward it to you ---> chefmichele@gmail.com.

If you enjoy creating your own dinner menus I think you'll really like a meal planning workbook that I found. It's called Pure Awakenings Meal Planning Workbook. It's really great because it contains recipes, money saving ideas, a standard grocery list and more! You can find more info at http://www.pureawakenings.com/grocery.html.

Another great item I was so happy to find this past week is a new ebook for those of us (like me) who need some help with organizing and housekeeping. The book is called "The Happy Slob's Guide To Housecleaning". It is a 24 chapter ebook with a wealth of information on how to get your home in order and keep it that way. You can find more info at http://www.happyslob.com.

I recently had the pleasure of preparing a meal for a couple with a new baby. The recipe was GREAT so I thought I'd share it with you.

Creamy Chicken-and-Rice Casserole

1 package (6 7/8 oz) chicken-flavored rice-and-vermicelli mix with chicken broth and herbs (Rice-A-Roni)
1 tablespoon margarine
2 1/4 cups hot water
1 1/2 pounds skinned boned chicken breasts, cut in bite-sized pieces
1 cup pre-sliced fresh mushrooms
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
3/4 cup nonfat sour cream
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 can cream of mushroom soup, condensed
1/4 cup crushed multigrain crackers (6 crackers)
1 tablespoon margarine, melted
1/2 teaspoon poppy seeds

1. Cook rice mix in a large nonstick skillet according to package directions, using 1 tablespoon margarine and 2-1/4 cups hot water. Remove mixture from skillet; set aside.

2. Wipe skillet with a paper towel.

3. Coat the skillet with cooking spray, and place over high heat until hot. Add chicken, mushrooms, and garlic powder; sauté 6 minutes or until chicken loses its pink color.

4. Combine rice mixture, chicken mixture, sour cream, pepper, and soup in a bowl; stir well.

5. Spoon mixture into a 2-quart casserole coated with cooking spray.

6. Combine cracker crumbs, margarine, and poppy seeds; stir well, and sprinkle over chicken mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

I really enjoyed chatting with you today! If you enjoyed this newsletter, be sure to pass it on to all your friends! If this issue was passed on to you and you’d like to subscribe, visit http://chefmichele.blogspot.com and fill out the subscription form right at the top on the left.

Until Next time, Happy Cooking!


P.S. If you're looking for something cute for your kitchen take a look at these :) -->http://www.searchcollectibles.com/kitchen-fairies.htm

Christmas Cookies

Almond Crescents
Auntie Olga's Caramel Toffee from Tummy Rumble
Caramel Cream Sandwich Cookies
Chocolate Chip Blondies
Holiday Fudge
Holiday Snickerdoodles
Lemon Butter Cookies
Nanaimo Bars
Peanut Butter Cookies

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March 2006 menus
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