Monday, November 16, 2009

Taco / Enchilada Filling

A few weeks ago, we were in the mood for tacos for dinner. I usually use a taco seasoning packet but we didn't have any left in our pantry. Instead of sending Joe out to pick up a seasoning packet or just planning something else for dinner, I decided to check out my cookbooks and see if I could find a basic recipe that I could match up with items in my pantry.

I found a recipe for Tacos in the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook and I had just about all of the ingredients, but as usual, I tweaked it a bit to fit our tastes.

Taco/Enchilada Filling


  • 1 1/2 lbs. ground beef
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 3 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup diced chili peppers, drained
  • 2 tsp. chili powder
  • salt
  • hot pepper sauce to taste
  • 1 can chili beans


  • In skillet or dutch oven, cook ground beef, pepper and garlic until meat is browned and onions and peppers are tender.
  • Drain fat.
  • Stir in the chili peppers, chili powder, and salt.
  • Add several dashes of hot pepper sauce to your liking.
  • Add canned chili beans and cook until heated through.

We made soft tacos that night for dinner and I froze the leftover filling.

Tonight, I thawed the frozen filling and made enchiladas with it. We LOVE enchiladas and LOVE that we now have another type of filling for them.

There is still a bit of the filling left, so later this week, I plan on making a taco pizza using Pillsbury Pizza Crust, some salsa, Mexican blend cheese and the last bit of the taco/enchilada filling for the pizza toppings.

I'll be linking this recipe to the following blogs this week:

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Ultimate Recipe Swap: Breakfast: Potato-Asparagus Omelet

It's Thursday! It's time for another Ultimate Recipe Swap hosted by Life As Mom. This week's theme is Breakfast!

I'm terrible at making breakfast. I think the reason I am terrible, is because growing up, I never saw it being prepared. Now, I don't mean that my parents never cooked breakfast. Oh, they did. But I HATED breakfast food (even cereal) as a kid/teen and I usually hid in my room until everything was cooked, eaten and cleaned up before making my way downstairs on the weekends! If I was lucky, Dad forgot to save me a plate of eggs! (Sometimes, I wasn't so lucky...blech!)

So, while I watched other meals being prepared, I never watched to learn how to fry an egg or cook bacon or make a pancake.

My tastes have changed a lot since then. I like most breakfast foods now and can even cook some. To this day, I've never made a single pancake! French toast or scrambled eggs are more my speed!

A couple of years ago, I wanted to make my husband a nice Easter Sunday breakfast before traveling to visit my parents. I wanted something a little fancier than just scrambled eggs. I don't have exact measurements, because really, anything goes with this one!

Potato-Asparagus Omelet

  • O'brien potatoes (frozen)
  • oil
  • eggs
  • milk
  • leftover asparagus (chopped)
  • Canadian Bacon (diced)


  • Cook Canadian Bacon until slightly browned, remove from pan, set aside.
  • Cook O'brien potatoes in hot oil according to directions on package.
  • Add Canadian bacon and asparagus to potatoes and heat until asparagus is warmed.
  • Scramble eggs and milk and pour over potato mixture.
  • Cook until eggs are done.


  • Cheese would be a good addition to the recipe.
  • This can be "chopped up" as the eggs are cooking or left solid more like and omelet.
  • Leftover asparagus works best, since it's already cooked. If you don't have leftover asparagus, be sure to steam the asparagus before adding to the potato mixture. Otherwise, they'll take too long to cook with the other ingredients.

I've made this a few times since that first time and have switched it up according to the ingredients on hand. Sometimes with the meat, sometimes without. Sometimes without the potatoes. Whatever. Just throw in what you have, throw in what you like!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Angel's Pound Cake

One of my favorite cakes is pound cake. Growing up, I have some fond memories of birthday cakes from the local bakery that were pound cakes. There's a bakery in Philly that makes the absolute best pound cake. You can buy it as a birthday cake, wedding cake, even in loaves. All with their signature sugary icing. Mmmmm!

As an alternative to the pound cake from the bakery, Mom would often buy Sara Lee pound cakes from the freezer section of the grocery store. A favorite treat was sliced strawberries with vanilla pudding on top of a slice of Sara Lee pound cake. Mmmmm!

As an adult, I was introduced to homemade pound cakes. One of the ladies I worked with would often bring in a cake to share with us. What a great treat for a Monday morning! Seriously, I remember being on the bus on my way to work on a Monday morning, thinking to myself: "I really hope Angel brings in a pound cake today!" Angel enjoyed to cook and brought in all sorts of treats for us, but the one that sticks out in my mind the most is her pound cake.

Even after she left to move to another state, we still had her pound cake. She gave us all the recipe and occasionally someone would make it and bring it into work. No matter who made it, we still always called it Angel's Pound Cake.

Angel's Pound Cake

  • 2 sticks margarine, softened
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 8 oz. Philadelphia Cream Cheese, softened
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp. almond extract
  • 6 large eggs
  • 3 cups flour


  • Cream margarine, butter, cream cheese and sugar together, well.
  • Add flavoring. Blend well.
  • Add eggs one at a time with 1/2 cup flour with each egg, beating well with each addition.
  • Pour batter into prepared (greased and floured) tube or loaf pans.
  • Bake at 325 degrees for 1 1/2 hours.


  • Do not preheat oven.
  • To make a marble cake, reserve one cup of batter. Add 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa. Mix well. Drop by spoonfuls onto the batter in the pan and swirl with knife.
  • Angel also baked these pound cakes in coffee cans. Perfect size cake for a small group!

This cake is great when topped with this frosting:

Fantastic Frosting


  • 1 small box instant pudding (any flavor)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 8 oz. cool whip


  • mix ingredients well and frost cake

I'll be sharing this recipe with the following carnivals:

Be sure to check them out for great recipes!

Also, in addition to hosting Tuesdays at the Table, Cole is having another giveaway this month in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month! Click here to read more about it and don't forget to enter!

An Award....or two!!!

I am very lucky to have been given this award by two of my new blog friends. Thanks so much Geri from Heart N Soul Cooking and Mandy from Home is My Paradise. They were both very kind in sharing their awards with me. (Sorry ladies for taking so long to follow up on this, it's been a tough couple of weeks!)

I am super excited to get this award, since I am so new at this whole thing! I've wanted to start a blog for a while, but it took a little fire under my butt to get me motivated to actually do it! My friend Lisa, started her blog Extraordinary Life, and I immediately felt left out! I had to have one too! Except, now, I have two blogs - this one and Under the Big Oak Tree!

I'm having loads of fun sharing recipes and ideas with other ladies all over the internet and of course "meeting" new friends!

Neno's Award—Rules and Regulations

1. As a dedication for those who love blogging and love to encourage friendships through blogging.

2. To seek the reasons why we all love blogging.

3. Put the award in one post as soon as you receive it.

4. Don’t forget to mention the person who gives you the award.

5. Answer the award’s question by writing the reason why you love blogging.

6. Tag and distribute the award to as many people as you like.

7. Don’t forget to notify the award receivers and put their links in your post.

I'd like to share my awards with a few of my blog friends:

Lisa @ Extraordinary Life

Joy in My Kitchen

Cole @ All the Small Stuff

It's a Very Cherry World

I could go on and on listing great blogs to pass the award on to, but then we'd all be here for a while!

Thanks again to Geri and Mandy for thinking of me (and my blog)!!!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Swine Flu....we got it....Oink! Oink!

I want to thank everyone for their wonderful comments on my recent posts here and on my other blog. I have not gotten a chance to read or answer all of them yet. I am currently dealing with swine flu.

On Monday, I wasn't feeling well and on Tuesday I felt worse. My husband came home from work early and took me to the doctor. We just figured I had a cold and let's take care of it quickly since we have the baby now. He waited in the car with the baby while I saw the doctor. Boy was he surprised when I announced it was swine flu!

At the suggestion of my doctor, we called Grace's pediatrician on our way home to see if they wanted to start some sort of precautionary treatment. Pediatrician said no.

This morning, Grace woke up around 6:00; much earlier than her normal 10:30 am. Her face was very red and her hands were warm. (Her hands are usually very cool.) I took her temp. and she had a 101.4 degree fever. I had to wait until 8:00 to get a doctor on the phone. The doctor didn't seem too concerned that I have swine flu and that the baby had a fever but I scheduled an appointment anyway for my own peace of mind.

Joe (my husband) came home from work and is now on the way to the pediatrician's office to get her checked out. I'm going to take a quick shower and make up the beds before he gets home that way Grace and I can get some rest when they get home.

I'll be back to blogging as soon as things are back to normal. I'll try to update about our recovery if I get the chance.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Baked Beans with Apples ~ Crock Pot Recipe

I've mentioned before that we love baked beans. We eat them often and have tried several different versions before sticking to our current favorite beans.

Today I am posting another one of our favorite bean recipes. In fact, this is the recipe that I used just prior to finding Our Favorite Baked Beans.

Baked Beans with Apples

  • 2 cans (28 oz each) pork and beans
  • 1 1/2 cups onion, diced
  • 1 1/2 cups Granny Smith Apple, diced
  • 2 Tbs. mustard
  • 1/2 -3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 8-10 slices Canadian Bacon


  • Combine all ingredients (except Canadian Bacon) in crock pot.
  • Top with Canadian Bacon.
  • Cover and cook for 4 hours on High or 8 hours on Low.

I made a few changes to the original recipe that I found on Food Network. It's a Paula Deen recipe. I left out the salt, replaced raw bacon for Canadian Bacon and cook them in the crock pot instead of the oven.

I'll be sharing this recipe with the following blog carnivals this week:

Be sure to check out Crock Pot Wednesday for more easy Crock Pot recipes.

Easy Potato Soup

I love potatoes. I'm not sure I've ever had a potato that I didn't like. Except for maybe, potatoes with cheese but even they are starting to grow on me a bit!

I love potatoes so much, that I've been known to just eat mashed potatoes for a meal when I'm home alone or in a cafeteria. McDonald's French Fries fix everything as far as I'm concerned...when I'm sick, I crave French Fries.

So, it made sense to pair up my love for potatoes with my new-found love for soup. The recipe I am posting today is a recipe that I found online last winter. I don't remember where I found it though. I've only made it once and pretty much stuck to the recipe 100%...rare for me. It's a simple recipe, which surprised me. For some reason, I thought potato soup would be more complicated.

Easy Potato Soup

  • 6 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 ribs celery, sliced
  • 2 qts. water
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 Tbs. butter
  • 6 Tbs. flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. pepper
  • 1 1/2 cup milk


  • In a large soup pot, cook potatoes, carrots and celery in water until tender. (about 20 minutes)
  • Drain, reserving liquid.
  • Set vegetable aside.
  • In same pot, saute onion in butter until soft.
  • In a bowl, mix together flour, salt and pepper. Gradually add milk, stirring until smooth.
  • Add flour mixture to onions.
  • Heat, stirring constantly until thickened.
  • Gently stir in the cooked vegetables.
  • Add 1 cup or more of the reserved cooking liquid, until soup is to desired consistency.
  • Cook until heated through.


I'm guessing that this soup would be awesome with some crisp bacon crumbled into it. Or some canned or frozen corn if you want to stretch the soup a little. Topped with shredded cheese would be good too, if you like that sort of thing!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Ultimate Recipe Swap: Jen's Easy Gooey Butter Cake

I'm not sure how it is in other parts of the country, but sadly, around here (Philadelphia, Jersey shore) little bakeries are few and far between. I remember being a little girl and visiting my Gram at her house down the shore, eating Butter Cake for breakfast. MMmmm!

Many, many years later I found a small bakery near the flower shop where I worked at the time. Occasionally, on Saturday mornings, I would stop at the bakery on my way to work (thanks, Mom!) and pick up a Butter Cake to share with the other poor souls at the shop that were stuck working on a Saturday!

After a while, it became less and less convenient to get to this bakery. So, it became a very rare treat. And now, since we've moved from Philly, we don't get there at all and haven't found a small bakery in or near our new town.

A few years ago, we had a lovely picnic hosted by my parents. It was a chance for us to get together with another family that my parents have known all MY life. (They met shortly before I was born.) We've all seen each other through the years, but not all together at the same time. So it was a really great day!

We all brought something to contribute to the day's meal. I took a salad and a couple of pudding pies. But the best thing of all of the food served that day was the Butter Cake that my sister-in-law, Jen baked!

She gave me the recipe at the time, telling me that it was one of the recipes in her grandmother's recipe box. I never got around to making it and I lost the recipe card in the move (still in boxes in the basement I'm sure) Now that I have the recipe again, I'll be sure to make it soon! I'm drooling right now as I type about it!

Now, I'm sure there are other variations of this recipe to be found on the internet. But since I've only ever eaten this when she made it, I'm calling it Jen's Easy Gooey Butter Cake.

Here' the recipe:

Jen's Easy Gooey Butter Cake

Ingredients for Cake:

  • 1 pkg. yellow cake mix
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 egg

Ingredients for topping:

  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 lb. confectioners sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Add 1 of the eggs and the butter to the powdered cake mix. Stir (or use hand mixer) until well blended.
  • Spread mixture onto an UNgreased 9x13 pan or baking dish.
  • In a bowl, combine all ingredients for the topping, mixing well.
  • Pour over the cake mixture, spreading to the edges.
  • Bake for 35 minutes.

Got a sweet tooth? If so, head over to Life As Mom's weekly Ultimate Recipe Swap. This week's theme is Baked Goods! Mmmmm!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Pasta with Sauteed Chicken and Vegetables

When we were first dating, my husband and I would go to this really cute Italian restaurant a couple times a month. After the restaurant closed, I really missed my favorite dish. So, I tried to create my own.

Here's what I came up with:

Pasta with Chicken and Vegetables

  • 3/4 lb. boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into bite-size pieces
  • olive oil
  • garlic
  • carrots
  • peppers
  • onion
  • 1 -2 bags of baby spinach
  • broccoli
  • Italian seasoning
  • crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 lb cooked pasta (I usually use linguine or penne)


  • Saute chicken in hot olive oil until slightly browned
  • Add onions, peppers, garlic and carrots, Italian Seasoning and crushed red pepper.
  • Saute until onions start to appear translucent.
  • Add spinach, more garlic and oil if needed. I usually add a bit of oil and spices with each new addition.
  • Saute until spinach is limp.
  • Stir together, add more Italian Seasoning and crushed red pepper (if you like) and cook about 5-10 minutes longer.
  • Add broccoli and cover. Cook until broccoli is to desired doneness.
  • Add to hot, cooked pasta.

Notes: I've also made this with chicken stock in place of the oil. Zucchini and mushrooms are also good added to this dish. I didn't include measurements for the veggies, I usually just wing it every time I make it. Once I subbed bacon for the chicken and it was really good!

If you decide not to add oil with each addition, or if it seems like there's not enough "sauce" to cover the pasta, then the following recipe may come in handy:

  • 1 1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes


  • Saute garlic in hot oil until slightly golden.
  • Add red pepper flakes, saute for about 30 seconds.
  • Pour over pasta and veggie mixture. Toss until evenly coated.

This dish is really good served along with a salad and garlic bread.

Easy Tomato-Bacon Pasta Sauce

This is a yummy pasta sauce that is a step away from the traditional tomato and meat sauce that we normally eat.

I read about this recipe on the Parents Magazine website. I was hooked as soon as I read the first ingredient: BACON! MMmmm! I knew I had to make this recipe.

Easy Tomato-Bacon Pasta Sauce

  • 1/2 lb bacon, diced
  • 1 can (28 oz) diced tomatoes, with juice
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • Cook bacon in saucepan on medium heat until cooked through, but not crisp.
  • Drain bacon on paper towels. DO NOT WIPE OUT PAN.
  • Turn heat up to medium-high.
  • Add tomatoes (with liquid) and the seasonings, stir.
  • Cook for 5 minutes (simmering vigorously), stirring occasionally.
  • Remove from pan, add peas, sour cream and drained bacon.
  • Serve over your favorite, cooked pasta. (we use linguine)
Notes: I've gotten the bacon a little crispy on occasion and it's just fine. When it's added to the sauce it softens up a bit. Also, I've let it simmer a bit longer than the 5 minutes. Sometimes I let it go for about 10 minutes.

I like to serve this with a salad and some garlic bread. We usually get dinner for 2 nights from this recipe.

On weeks that I put this into our menu plan, I like to also plan a night for breakfast for dinner, to use up the other half of the bacon.

Also, this can be a frugal meal if the bacon is bought on sale or in bulk from Costco.

I will be sharing this recipe with the following blog carnivals:

Monday, October 12, 2009

Glazed Carrots with Onions

I haven't made this recipe in a while. But the cooler weather has me thinking of lots of yummy, home-cooked, Sunday dinner type foods.

This is a good recipe for holiday meals. Goes well with Thanksgiving Turkey or Easter Ham. But it's also easy enough to use as a side dish for a weeknight meal.

I'll have to remember to make this when I have a bag of baby carrots in the veggie bin that start to not look so appealing. You know, when they start to look a little dried out, but really they're not?

Glazed Carrots and Onions

  • 2 cups baby carrots or whole carrots cut into one inch pieces
  • 2 cups chopped onions
  • 2 Tbs. butter
  • 2-3 Tbs. brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. pepper
  • 1/8 tsp. nutmeg


  • Cook onions and carrots in a small amount of boiling water, in a covered saucepan. About 8-10 minutes or until crisp tender.
  • Drain into strainer, set aside.
  • Add butter, brown sugar, salt, pepper and nutmeg to saucepan.
  • Cook and stir until combined. About a minute.
  • Add the cooked vegetables and toss to coat with glaze.

Now, I've been known to make this without the nutmeg because I wasn't able to find it in my disaster of a spice cabinet. I like the brown sugar both on it's own and with the nutmeg, so it didn't really make a difference to us if I used it or not.

I originally found this recipe in the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book. I made a couple of changes to make the dish right for us.

I'm sharing this recipe on Tammy's Recipes weekly In Season Recipe Swap. This week's theme is carrots!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Chicken Corn Chowder

I love love love creamed corn. As much as I'd like to, I'd never just eat creamed corn as my entire meal. That is why I like Chicken Corn Chowder so much! It's like a big bowl of creamed corn!

I make my chowder a couple of different ways depending on how much time I have and what ingredients I have at the moment the craving for it hits!

Corn Chowder

  • 1/2 - 3/4 lb. boneless skinless chicken breast
  • olive oil
  • 3-4 cups frozen whole kernel corn, thawed
  • 1/2 cup onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup sweet red pepper, diced
  • 1/4 celery, chopped
  • 1/4 carrots, diced
  • 1-2 cans (14.5 oz each) chicken broth (fat free, low sodium)
  • 1 1/2 cups potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 Tbs. flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 1/4 real bacon crumbles
  • crushed red pepper flakes (optional)


  • In a dutch oven or soup pot, saute chicken in hot oil until slightly browned.
  • Add onions, peppers, celery, carrots and sautee until onion is tender but not browned.
  • Add chicken broth and potatoes and stir.
  • Bring to boil; reduce heat.
  • Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes.
  • Stir in the corn and cook uncovered for another 10 minutes (or until potatoes are tender). Be sure to stir occasionally.
  • In a small bowl, combine the milk, flour, salt and pepper. Add to soup mixture. Cook until thick and bubbly, while stirring. Cook a minute or two more.
  • Add bacon crumbles and a couple of shakes of the crushed red pepper flakes.
  • Cook for another 3 minutes to heat the bacon.

Note: To make a thicker chowder, run about 1/2 of the corn through the food processor before adding to the soup.

For an even easier and quicker Corn Chowder, use some canned chicken shredded with a fork (or pulse in the food processor with half of the corn), use frozen potatoes O'brien in place of the potatoes, onions, peppers and skip the carrots and celery.

I'll be sharing this recipe on Hooked On Fridays, since lately I've been hooked on soup! Check my sidebar to find more of my soup recipes!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Chicken Noodle Soup

I didn't always like soup. I didn't particularly hate soup. It just wasn't a favorite. As a kid, when I saw mom and dad getting the big soup pot out, I usually rolled my eyes and groaned. Knowing that it was going to be chicken noodle soup and that we were going to eat it for a least.

Years later, when my husband and I were first living together, I was sick. Had a pretty bad cold or the flu (I can't remember which). I left work early and called him at work to let him know I was home already.

When he came home from work, he lugged a bunch of grocery bags up to our second floor apartment. Can you guess what he had planned? Yep, you got it! He was making me chicken noodle soup! It was such a sweet gesture and I couldn't dare do the groaning and eye rolling! I just smiled as sweet as I could and thought to myself that I'd have to eat it. I couldn't hurt his feelings, I'd eat the soup.

Imagine my surprise when I actually liked it! I really, really liked it! My tastes have changed so much since I was a kid. So many foods that I hated as a child are now foods that I really enjoy.

I can never get my chicken noodle soup to turn out quite the way he makes it, but the one I make is pretty good too!

Here's the recipe I use:

Chicken Noodle Soup


  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast, diced
  • olive oil
  • 2 cups celery, chopped
  • 2 cups carrots, choppped
  • 1 cup onion, chopped
  • 2 tsp. garlic, minced
  • 3-4 cans (14.5 oz. each) chicken broth or stock (fat free, low sodium)
  • 1/2 tsp. dried marjoram
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 2 bay leaves (3 if they are small)
  • 1/2 - 1 lb. dry egg noodles

  • In your favorite soup pot or dutch oven, saute chicken in hot oil until about 1/2 browned.
  • Add garlic and vegetables and saute until onions are just about turning translucent (not browned, just to the point of slightly soft).
  • Add broth and spices and bring to boil.
  • Cover and reduce heat. Simmer for 20-30 mintues.
  • Turn heat to medium and add egg noodles and cook until noodles are tender.

This recipe has been adapted from a recipe I received years ago in an email file of several crock pot recipes that were Weight Watcher's friendly. I've made a few changes, one being that I don't use the crock pot for this recipe. To me, chicken soup is one recipe that shouldn't be crock potted. I don't know why, maybe because it's such a traditional meal and should be cooked the good ol' old fashioned way!

I'll be sharing this recipe with the October Fest Carnival of Super Foods at Kitchen Stewardship. The theme this week is broth/stock recipes. Be sure to check it out!

Check out Food on Fridays with Ann, too!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Cowboy Stew ~ Easy, Crock-Pot Recipe

I'm beginning to wonder if I have secretly set a goal to use my crock pot every day for a year! Seems like ever since I first read this blog, that I've been using my crock pot more often.

I'd say I was inspired by both the Crock Pot Lady and the birth of my daughter. Since she's been born, time in the kitchen to prepare meals has dwindled. I've had to adjust the way I do things around the house in the past 5 months.

So, tonight we had another meal prepared in the crock-pot. This time it's something new. Not one of my tried and true recipes. Tonight's meal was Cowboy Stew. I first read about this soup on the Crock Pot Lady's blog. I adjusted it a bit to fit our tastes and according to what I had in the pantry.

Alison's Cowboy Stew ~ A Crock-Pot Recipe


  • Put all ingredients in crock-pot, stir.
  • Cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours.
  • Serve in soup bowls. If desired, top with jalapenos, sour cream and/or shredded cheese.

We really liked the way this turned out. Kind of like chili, but more like a soup. I wasn't sure how the canned potatoes would be in this. I thought those potatoes were only good sliced and fried in oil with some onions. But surprisingly, they were really good.
We forgot to top our soup with the sliced jalapenos and cheese, this time. But there are plenty of leftovers, so we'll be sure to use the toppings the next time. Although, the soup/stew/chili (whatever it is) was really good on it's own.

I'll be sharing this recipe on the following blog carnivals this week:

Friday, October 2, 2009

Food on Fridays: Pepper Steak

As promised on my Menu Plan Monday post on my other blog, I actually measured while I made this meal, so that I could share it here on my recipe blog.

My mom made Pepper Steak a lot when I was a kid. I liked the gravy and the meat and the rice. I picked out the peppers and onions. What did I know? I was a picky eater...THEN. Now that I am older and cook for my husband and myself, I use peppers and onions in a lot of my dishes.

Also, I make my pepper steak a bit different than my mom. My dad likes his food pretty basic and more traditional, so my mom doesn't really add a lot of different things to her dishes.

But after watching Food Network for so many years, I like to spice things up a bit! Don't get me wrong, I am in no way saying I am a chef or anything, I just grew to love food and have been starting to try new things where cooking (and eating) is concerned. And we LOVE spices!

Since I rarely measure anything while making this dish, it never turns out the same way twice. But after making it tonight and measuring and writing it down, I think that tonight's result will be a keeper!

Alison's Pepper Steak

  • 1 lb. London Broil, diced in small cubes
  • 1 Tbs. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 cups onions, chopped
  • 2 cups red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 heaping tsp. garlic, minced
  • 2 1/2 Tbs. A-1 Steak Sauce
  • 2 1/2 Tbs. Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. McCormick's Montreal Steak Seasoning
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 can tomatoes (14 1/2 oz), diced or stewed
  • 2 Tbs. McCormick Brown Gravy Powder
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 can (14 1/2 0z) corn (optional)
  • cooked rice, brown or white


  • In a skillet or dutch oven, brown steak cubes in hot oil.
  • Add steak sauce, worcestershire sauce, peppers, onions, garlic and steak seasoning, salt & pepper.
  • Cook for about 15 minutes over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally.
  • Add tomatoes, cover and reduce heat to low.
  • Cook for 25-30 minutes, meat should be really tender by now.
  • Mix water with gravy powder, making sure to get all lumps out.
  • Add gravy to pot and cook for another 10-15 minutes, until gravy is heated.
  • Serve over rice, with corn on the side.

Although, I altered the way my mom made this, some things remain the same. Mom always added tomatoes to her pepper steak and I really like them in mine as well.

She also always used powdered brown gravy mix in the packets. I've been having a difficult time finding the 2 cup packets in my small town. But I did find a bulk container of the McCormick's brown gravy powder mix! I love it! Very inexpensive at Costco and I just know that I will get several meals from the one container of gravy mix!

My mom always served corn on the side and used white rice. I still use the white rice, but after noticing that both of us would just put the corn on top of the steak and rice, I started to just add the corn right to the pot after I add the gravy. One less pot or microwave-safe bowl to clean at the end of the meal!

Now you may want to be easy on the Montreal Seasoning if you have kids or someone that can't handle spice. It's not terribly hot, just a bit of a zing! Kids may be sensitive to it. I suggest maybe trying a tablespoon less of the seasoning and taste test it before adding the full amount.

This recipe is also being shared on the Food On Fridays blog carnival. Food on Friday is an anything-food-related-carnival hosted by Ann Kroeker. To read more food related posts, be sure to check it out!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Beef Barley Soup

Beef Barley Soup is one of our favorites. I like to make a big (Crock-pot) of it on a nice, chilly day. If I serve this with sandwiches, I can get 3 nights' dinners from the one pot. If I skip the sandwiches and serve with biscuits, then we get 2 nights' from the one pot.

This soup freezes nicely, too. One of these days, I'm going to make a double batch of this soup and freeze in 4-6 portions. Combined with other soups I plan to serve this fall/winter, I should only have to make this particular soup once (maybe twice) during this soup season.

Here's the recipe....

Beef Barley Soup


  • 1 lb. London Broil, diced into small pieces
  • splash of Olive Oil (enough to coat bottom of skillet
  • 5 - 6 cans (14 oz each) beef broth
  • 1 1/4 cups chopped onion
  • 3/4 cup chopped celery
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano, crushed
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • heaping Tbs. minced garlic
  • 1 bay leaf (2 if they are small)
  • 1 1/2 cups mixed frozen veggies(peas, carrots, corn, lima beans, green beans)
  • 14 1/2 oz. can diced or stewed tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 1/2 cups diced potatoes
  • 2/3 cup barley*


  • In a skillet, brown meat in hot oil. Drain.
  • Add all ingredients to slow cooker.
  • Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours.

* Do not use quick-cooking barley, it's not meant for the long hours of cooking in the slow cooker.

I originally found this recipe in an email from Better Homes and Gardens. I adapted it to our tastes (i.e. I use more potatoes and veggies than the original recipe calls for, plus add more broth to accommodate the extra veggies).

For more great soup recipes, be sure to check out Life As Mom's Ultimate Recipe Swap. This week's theme is Soup! MMmmm! MMmmm! Good!
I am also sharing this recipe with the October Fest Carnival of Super Foods hosted by Katie at Kitchen Stewardship. The theme on October 8th will be recipes that call for broth/stock. Be sure to check out her blog for more great recipes!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Fool Proof Fruit Dip

I suppose this is a bit late to be posting a fruit dip recipe, since summer has gone away and has taken the good prices on fruit along with it. But for those of us that crave fruit during the off season and occasionally splurge on an over-priced, off-season melon, then this easy fruit dip recipe will come in handy.

But for readers that are really good at not giving in to cravings and sticking to your budgets, I'll repost this recipe next spring or summer!

This fruit dip is so easy and really kid friendly. I serve this with a fruit salad when they visit, instead of a cake or pie for dessert. It's always a hit!

Easy, Kid Friendly, 2 Ingedient, Fool Proof Fruit Dip

Tub of Cool Whip
6-8 oz, strawberry yogurt

Mix together the Cool Whip and the yogurt, chill.

See? So simple, right??? And soooo yummy! You could even make it diet friendly using Lite or Fat Free Cool Whip and fat free yogurt. Also, I'm sure that any flavor yogurt would work! I've always used strawberry yogurt. The kind with the fruit pieces in it. Adds a "homemade" look to the dip with the little bits of strawberry mixed through.

I like to use my clear glass, chip and dip bowl when I serve fruit salad with this dip for a party. When it's an afternoon snack with my nieces, I usually give each of them a small bowl of the dip and let them choose what fruit they want to eat. The individual bowls, allows for double dipping!

I'll be sharing this recipe at the following blog carnivals:

Tempt My Tummy Tuesday
Tuesdays at the Table
Tasty Tuesday

Be sure to check them out for more great recipes!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Crock Pot Ravioli ~ Super Easy Meal

One of my favorite crock pot meals during my pregnancy (and even now, after the baby's been born) was Crock Pot Ravioli. I found the recipe posted by the Aldi Queen.

At first, I was leery about trying it. I thought for sure that the ravioli would turn to mush after cooking in the crock pot, but after my friend Lisa told me that she tried it and liked it, I figured I'd give it a try. We really liked it! It's so easy and really tasty!

The last time I made it, my mom came over while it was cooking in the crock pot. She thought I was making a homemade lasagna, she said it smelled that good!

Here's how I'll be making it this week:

Crock Pot Ravioli


1 (25 ounce) bag cheese ravioli
3-4 cups pasta sauce
1 cup water
1-2 handfuls of shredded mozzarella cheese

Pour about half of the pasta sauce in the bottom of slow cooker. Add frozen ravioli. Pour additional pasta sauce, and water over ravioli. Sprinkle cheese on top. Turn slow cooker on low and cook for four to five hours.

I like to serve this with either Texas Toast of garlic bread sticks.

**This makes enough for my husband and I to have hearty portions, my husband usually has seconds, plus a pretty good lunch portion for him to have later in the week.**

I am sharing this recipe at the blog carnival Crock Pot Wednesday, hosted by Dining with Debbie. Be sure to check over there for more great crock pot recipes!

Doctoring Store Bought Pasta Sauce = No Wasted Veggies

I've always wanted to try to make a homemade spaghetti sauce, but for some reason, it intimidates me. Currently, I use either jarred sauce or canned. I usually add more spices or veggies to the store bought stuff. You know, to try to make it a bit more "homemade".

If making meat sauce, I brown the ground beef with some onion and peppers.After draining the grease, I pour in the jar or can of sauce, add some garlic, crushed red pepper, and Italian seasoning and then let simmer, covered, for about an hour.

The last time I made sauce, I had a lot of vegetables to save from being wasted. I skipped the meat this time and just made a big batch of my doctored up sauce with a couple of extra additions this time.

I diced peppers, onions, celery, carrots and zucchini and sauteed them in some olive oil with about a tablespoon of garlic. I had a lot of vegetables, so when they were starting to get tender, I transfered them to my large, oval crock pot. I added 4 large cans of sauce, some diced tomatoes, some of the spices I normally add to my sauce. (I don't really measure anything, I just add stuff until it looks "right".) I let that cook for about 6 hours on low.

The whole combination filled my crock pot almost to the top! I used some of the sauce that night with meatballs and pasta and I froze 4 containers full for future use. About 4 cups each!

I can thaw it and use it as it is, for a veggie sauce. Or I can add some of my pre-cooked hamburger base to it for a nice, hearty, meat sauce.

Once this is used up, I will work on making a homemade sauce. I told my husband not to buy jarred or canned sauce anymore, unless the sale is too good to pass up! Normally, we pay $1-$2 per jar. But now, unless it's under a buck, we'll pass. I really want to make homemade. I'll keep y'all posted when/if that happens!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

~ Our Favorite Baked Beans ~ Crock Pot Recipe

Baked beans have been one of my favorite foods since I was a little kid. I remember mom "doctoring" up a can of Campbell's Pork and Beans with some ketchup and mustard before popping into the microwave.

I also remember my Gram making really thick and sweet baked beans. They were always a huge hit at family gatherings. I requested that she make them so many times, she told me how to make "her" baked beans.

Since then, I've been the person assigned to make the baked beans for our family functions. I've tried so many variations over the years and the recipe I am about to post seems to be the favorite at the moment. It's a variation of this recipe.

As with most foods I cook, I make changes to accommodate our likes and dislikes.

Here's how I make baked beans:

Our Favorite Baked Beans


1 (28 oz.) can baked beans, undrained2
(15 oz.) cans butter beans, drained
2 (15 oz.) cans kidney beans, drained
1 1/4 c. brown sugar
1 cup onion, finely diced
1/4 c. apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup ketchup and mustard combined (heavier on the ketchup)
1/4 - 1/2 c. bacon crumbles or crisp cooked bacon, crumbled


Combine all ingredients in crock pot and cook on high for 4 hours or low for 6-8 hours.

I usually make these beans once a month. I divide them into three portions and freeze. I usually freeze them in the quart-sized conainers that Won Ton Soup comes in from Chinese take-out. But they take up too much space in my small chest freezer.

The last time I made them, I doubled the recipe, divided into 6 portions and froze flat in gallon-sized Ziplock freezer bags. They take up such little space in the freezer now!

I will be using this recipe to participate in the following carnivals this week:
Tempt My Tummy Tuesday
Tuesdays at the Table
Tasty Tuesday
Crock Pot Wednesday

And the October Fest Carnival of Super Foods hosted by Katie at Kitchen Stewardship on October 1st.

Check them out for more great recipes!!!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Corn Bread Casserole

My friend Lisa, at Extraordinary Life, asked me to post this recipe. It's not my recipe, but a definite favorite of my family and hers, too!

The first time I had Corn Bread Casserole (found out later that the official name of this is Spoon Bread Casserole) when my friend Barb served at dinner one night. It was love at first bite! I loved it so much, that she wrote down the recipe for me; telling me that she got the recipe from her mother-in-law.* I went home and made it that same week!

Actually, now that I think of it, I didn't make it at my home. I was visiting at Lisa's (when she was still local) house a few days after my first taste and told her about the recipe (the recipe card was still in my purse) and we made it for dinner that night at her house!

Since then, we've both made this casserole and passed on the recipe to guests several times! Everyone that tries it loves it!

Corn Bread Casserole


1 pkg. "Jiffy" Corn Muffin Mix
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 can (8 oz) cream corn
1 can (8 oz) whole corn, drained
1cup sour cream
2 eggs


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Mix all ingredients well. Pour into casserole or baking dish*.
Bake about 35-40 minutes, or until center is firm.

*I like to make this in a disposable foil pan. I usually double the recipe. And since it's a family favorite, I like to take it to family picnics and barbecues. I've even made it a few times as my contribution to Easter Dinner. Served with my mom's ham, dad's coleslaw and my baked beans....MMmmmm!

I'd also like to point out that about a year of making this recipe that I thought to be an original of my friend's mother-in-law, I found out that it's a recipe from the actual "Jiffy" company! So, it's not mine, not Lisa's, not Barb's and not Mrs. P's original recipe, but we keep making and serving it and passing the recipe along to anyone that asks!


Monday, September 14, 2009

Crock Pot Kielbasa Soup

I am really starting to look forward to soup season. That's funny coming from me, since up until about 6 years ago, I hated soup. I was not a fan at all. But over the past 6 or so years, I've really been enjoying soup a lot!

Kielbasa Soup is one of our favorites and it's excellent paired with Corn Bread Casserole.

Here's the recipe for the soup:

Kielbasa Soup

58 oz. fat-free chicken broth (four 14.5 oz cans)
16 oz. reduced-fat kielbasa, cut in half lengthwise and then slice
15 oz. canned pinto beans, rinsed and drained
15 oz. canned black beans, rinsed and drained
4 medium carrots, chopped
3 medium celery, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 tsp. thyme
14.5 oz canned diced tomatoes, with juice


Mix all ingredients, except tomatoes*, in crock pot. Cover and cook on low-heat setting for at least 6 hours or until beans are tender.

Stir in tomatoes*; cover and cook on high-heat setting until heated through, about 15 minutes more.

8 servings (heaping cup)

* I add the tomatoes at the beginning when all of the other ingredients are added to the crock pot.

I found this recipe when I was a member of Weight Watchers online.

3 points (be careful though, I sometimes use regular kielbasa and the points value jumped to 7.)

For more great recipes, go to Tempt My Tummy Tuesday, or Tasty Tuesday, or Tuesdays at the Table.

And for more tasty crock pot recipes, go to Crock Pot Wednesday, hosted by Dining with Debbie.

Also, be sure to check out the October Fest Carnival of Super Foods hosted by Katie at Kitchen Stewardship. October 1st will be all about beans!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Crock Pot Beef Stew

My husband works outside, which means he suffers through the heat in the summer time or is chilled to the bone in the winter. Because of this, I try to make meals that will be a comfort to him.

I don't concern myself too much about our summer meals. I worry more about keeping the house cool and comfortable for when he gets home. The air conditioner is on most days, so eating soup or stew in the summer is okay.

But there's nothing like a nice, warm bowl of beef stew after a really chilly day at work.

Here's an easy recipe that I like to use:

Crock Pot Beef Stew


1 pound, beef cubes
potatoes, cubed
onions, chopped
carrots, chopped
celery, chopped
1 - 2 cans condensed tomato soup

Add all ingredients to crock pot and cook on low for 6-8 hours.

Note: I never use the same amount of vegetables. It varies each time I make it, according to what I have in my veggie bin. If I'm running low on potatoes, I add more carrots. If I'm out of celery, I skip it. It's really a fool-proof recipe.
Also, the only other liquid I add to the stew, is just a bit that I add to the can to get as much of the soup out of the can as possible. I use one or two cans of soup depending on how much of the veggies I use.

~ Corn Dog Casserole ~

Hot dogs and beans is a comfort food meal in our house. It's such a hearty and simple meal. So simple, that when I worked, we had this just about once a week.

Then, I simply emptied a can of Bush's Beans into a microwave safe bowl and heated them while I boiled some hot dogs.

Now that I am home most days, I've tried to fancy-up some of our old stand-by meals.

I originally got the idea for this recipe in one of those small cooking magazines at the check out register at the grocery store. I used to be a sucker for those things! But, I've been really good at controlling myself when it comes to impulse purchases.

I've made several changes to the original recipe to make it to our liking. But it's really fool-proof and can be easily changed according to likes and dislikes or according to what ingredients you have on hand.

~ Corn Dog Casserole ~


6 cups of our favorite baked beans

1 (16 oz) pkg. cocktail sized hot dogs**

several squirts of ketchup and mustard (approx. 1/4 cup total)

1/4 cup finely chopped onion (optional)

1 box of Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix (prepared as directed on package) Directions:


1. Heat oven to 375 degrees.
In large saucepan, combine beans, ketchup, mustard, hot dogs and onion; mix well.
Cook over medium-high heat until bubbly, stirring frequently.
Pour into ungreased 2-quart casserole.

2. Prepare corn muffin mix as directed on packing.

Spread batter evenly on top of hot bean mixture.

3. Bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until topping is golden brown.

makes 6 servings.

***I usually use regular hot dogs since they are usually cheaper than the cocktail sized hot dogs.
I cut them into 1 1/2 inch pieces.

We really enjoy this meal. It's really a perfect meal for us, since we usually have the ingredients on hand. Not always the case with a traditional hot dog meal. We don't always have rolls and would often make an extra trip to the grocery store, which would often result in purchasing additional items that weren't "on the list". The corn bread topping is a wonderful hot dog bun alternative!