Thursday, July 30, 2009

Creamy Peanut Butter Pie

If you are a peanut butter lover, you've gotta try this easy pie. Its rich, thick and creamy filling matches perfectly with the graham cracker crust.

This recipe is a variant of a Grave Yard Peanut Butter Pie that I created for Moms Menu for Halloween.

Creamy Peanut Butter Pie

4 oz. cream cheese, softened at room temp.
1/2 of a small jar of peanut butter (does not
have to be exact amt. I just "eyeballed" it)
1/2 C. powdered sugar
1/3 C. milk
8 oz. Cool Whip, thawed - divided per directions
1 graham cracker crust

In a large bowl, Beat together cream cheese, peanut butter, powdered sugar and milk until very creamy. Fold in 6 oz. Cool Whip until all ingredients are completely mixed together. Pour the mixture into the crust - I used a store bought graham cracker crust. Reserve leftover Cool Whip for decorating the top of the pie.

Cover pie and stick it into the freezer for at least 2 hrs. Thaw for approximately 1 hour before serving.

I've made this pie up to 3 days ahead of time and it is perfect as long as you thaw it for 1 hour before serving it.

Repeat with freezing and thawing any leftovers. I wouldn't recommend doing this more than this one time.

Now, grab a spoon or fork and dig into it! Yum!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Greek Potatoes

I think that we are all finally back to normal after dealing with a strong case of the stomach flu. Everyone seems to have their appetites back, too.

My son is getting to be quite the helper in the kitchen. I don't mind the help at all. He's even learning to clean up the messes that he makes when he's cooking. ;)

Tonight's dinner, Greek Souvlaki, has become a family favorite. I wanted some form of potatoes to go with the pork so I came up with an easy roasted potato dish with Greek seasonings. This dish turned out lightly seasoned by using the amounts in the recipe below. If you are looking for a stronger taste, double the seasonings but not the lemon juice. IMO, you need the sugar to cut the tartness of the lemon juice. The potatoes were crispy on the outside and soft on the inside -very tasty. My "potato-hating" children complained quite a bit before trying the potatoes but in the end they actually said that it wasn't so bad after all.

Greek Potatoes

10 red potatoes, cubed into medium-sized pieces
1/3 C. olive oil
1/4 C. lemon juice
2 tsp. sugar
1 TBSP no salt Greek seasoning
1TBSP no salt lemon pepper seasoning
1 tsp salt (can add more to taste)
1 tsp oregano

Lightly spray the bottom of a large baking dish with cooking spray. Cover the bottom of the baking dish with parchment paper.

Wash & cube potatoes and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together all of the remaining ingredients. Dump the potatoes into the olive oil mixture and toss to coat.

Pour the potatoes into the baking dish and cover with foil.

Bake at 350* for 30 - 4o minutes. Remove foil and stir potatoes. Bake at 400* for another 30 - 4o minutes or until desired crispiness.

I served corn on the cob to round out the meal. :)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Taco Chicken & Pasta Casserole

One great thing about casseroles is that it is usually super easy to change the flavors of the dish around to suit your mood without changing most of the ingredients. You can switch from Italian to Mexican to Chinese flavors by changing a sauce and a few herbs and spices but the meats, pastas or rice, and vegetables remain the same.

That was the case when I came up with this casserole for last night's dinner. I was planning on an Italian casserole --meat, pasta, red sauce - but neither of my kids were in the mood for it. That's when I decided to change it up a bit and make it a taco casserole. Just a few additions to the red sauce was all that was needed. My husband dubbed it one of his favorite lunches for work - he wasn't really awake to take it all in for dinner. Such is the life of a 3rd shifter. My daughter is back on her "I HATE tomatoes" kick so it was only after she picked out all of the tomatoes from the salsa, did she eat some of the chicken and pasta. My son gave it two thumbs up.

Taco Chicken & Pasta Casserole

1 lb of pasta (your favorite shape), cooked Al dente and drained
1 large can of crushed tomatoes
1/2 of large can of water
12 oz salsa - I used med. temp
1 packet taco seasoning
1 tsp Mexican chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp onion powder
2 C. cooked, chopped chicken
shredded cheddar cheese

Cook pasta to al dente. Drain well and set aside.

In a medium-sized pot, stir together tomatoes, water, salsa, taco seasoning, chili powder, cumin and onion powder. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes. Stir in cooked chicken and cook for another 10 minutes.

Add pasta to a 9 x 13 baking dish. Pour sauce over pasta and stir to coat. Sprinkle with cheddar cheese.

Bake at 350* for 15 -20 minutes or until cheese has completely melted.

For dessert, we had Crockpot Blueberry Grunt. If you like dumplings and fruit, you really should try this dessert. It is so good and you don't have to slave over it all day to make it.

Mini Diet Cola Cake Loaves

I love trying weird-sounding recipes. When I'm craving chocolate, lookout...I might try just about anything. I'd even take a chance on the new rage of chocolate covered bacon but I can't find it anywhere around us yet. (By now, you're either saying "HHHMMM" or "EEEWWW", right? Keep reading....this recipe isn't nearly as bad. I promise!)

When I saw a recipe for diet soda cake at Melody's Cheat Day Cafe blog, I knew that I had to try it.

I baked my cakes in mini loaf pans. I just took the first batch out of the oven and they look so good. I used a devil's food cake mix and diet cola. As an extra treat, I added 1/2 a bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips to the batter. You can never have enough chocolate, right?

Here is my version of this recipe. I've posted the link to the original recipe below it.

Mini Diet Cola Cake Loaves
makes 6 mini loaves

1 box of chocolate cake mix
10 oz. diet cola soda
2 egg whites, lightly whipped

Combine cake mix diet cola, and egg whites. Mix together according to the box directions.

Spray a mini loaf spay with cooking spray and lightly flour.

Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of one comes out clean. Keep a close eye on them so that they don't overbake.

Remove from oven. Go around the edges of each loaf with a knife to loosen the cakes. Allow to cool in the pans for 5 minutes before removing. Cool completely. Enjoy plain, with frosting or dusted with powdered sugar.

Here is the original recipe on Melody's blog.

**notes** I'm happy that I decided to add the chocolate chips to the cake mix. It kept the cake very moist. I didn't bother to add frosting or powdered sugar on any of the cakes. They were plenty sweet just plain. The cola taste is nonexistent. Although the cakes appear to be heavy and dense, they are not. They are light and airy.

These cakes would work great in lunch boxes. I'm thinking of making some ahead of time and freezing them.

There won't be any leftover from this batch to freeze. ;) Anything made out of chocolate doesn't have a long survival rate at my house.

If you try this recipe, please let me know what flavors you really liked or didn't like.

Sunday, July 19, 2009


How many different types of meatloaf recipes do you think there are out there? Way too many for me to even begin counting. I like trying different meatloaf recipes to see which flavors my family will like.

I used ingredients from my pantry in tonight's meatloaf. It's baking now and sure does smell good. Here it is just out of the oven....

Here's the recipe:


2 lbs. 85% ground beef
1-6 oz. package of dried stuffing mix, crushed
1 egg
1/4 C. ketchup
2 TBSP Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup water
1 med. onion, diced small
garlic powder

Mix altogether until combined. Do not over mix.

Shape into a loaf and place into a 9 x 13 pan for 1 hr. or until no longer pink in the middle.

Remove from oven and wait 10 minutes before cutting it into slices.

It's important to note that we like brown gravy on our meatloaf so I do not use any type of red sauce topping on the loaf when I'm baking it. If you prefer a red sauce on it, you could spread one on top of this loaf before baking.

Thoughts after eating:

Everyone liked it. My son was crazy about it. He said that it's the best meatloaf that we've had in a long time. My daughter hated the onions in it so the next time I will reduce it to a small onion and make sure to chop it up really fine. I would eliminate it but I like the onions in it for the flavor and texture.

I used fresh just a little fresh Thyme in this recipe. The flavor really stands out in it. If you don't like the taste of Thyme, you can easily sub. it for something else or leave it out. The meatloaf would still be just as good.

This recipe is a keeper!

Saturday, July 18, 2009


While looking around on Frugal Upstate, I came across a bread machine recipe for a clone of Pizza Huts' pizza crust. I must say that I am not a fan of Pizza Hut's pizza at all, but this recipe was getting rave reviews. She uses this dough to make pizza, bread sticks and calzones. This is one of those recipes that was found on yet another blog and it was tweaked to their liking. And on...and on... The more I read about it, the more my curiosity was peaking.

There's just a handful of ingredients involved in making this dough and since I had everything in the cupboards to make it, I decided to get it a try. Five minutes is all that it took to layer everything into my bread machine. I set it on the "dough" setting and then 1 hr. and 50 minutes later I had a really nice, pliable dough waiting on me.

It's been a while since we've eaten really good calzones. It's hard to find good Italian food around our area so we were really hoping that these would turn out great. I'll let the cat out of the bag early.....this recipe didn't disappoint!

Here is the recipe:

Pizza Hut Style Pizza Dough

1 1/3 cups water
2 tsp sugar
1 1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp cornmeal
3 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1 1/2 tsp yeast

Add ingredients to bread machine, according to manufacturer’s settings, and run dough setting. After the machine beeps, roll out the dough.

You can roll the dough into two 9×13″ pizzas (great for kid’s lunches!) or into two medium pizzas or a large pizza and an order of breadsticks (as instructed above).

Parbake the crust with a drizzle of olive oil on it at 450 degrees for ten minutes. Remove the crust and add sauce and toppings.

If making breadsticks, add your breadsticks at this time. Place into the oven for another ten to fifteen minutes or until golden and bubbly.

What I did to make calzones:

I cooked red sauce* and sauteed the sausage and mushrooms* and then set them up, along with shredded mozzarella cheese, assembly style on the table, along with 2 large baking sheets.

Recipe for Sauce:
2 lg. cans of crushed tomatoes with basil
1/4 C. olive oil
1 TBSP Italian seasoning
2 tsp onion powder
2 tsp garlic powder

In a medium-sized pot, warm olive oil and seasoning. Stir in crushed tomatoes. Cook over medium heat until heated through and then turn heat down to low. Continue to simmer while preparing the rest of the meal. Do not cover with a lid.

Recipe for sausage and mushroom filling:
1 16oz. container of sliced button mushrooms, chopped
3 links hot sausage
3 links Emeril's chicken sausage with spinach

You will need two frying pans for this.

In one pan, heat 1/4 C. olive oil until hot. Add mushrooms and sautee until soft. Remove from heat and set aside.

Remove the casings from the hot sausages. Add 2 TBSP oil to the second pan. Cook sausage, breaking it into small pieces as it cooks. Do not brown sausage, cook until it is no longer pink. Remove from heat and drain off any excess grease. Add the sausage to a bowl, along with half of the mushrooms. Stir together to mix.

Wipe out frying pan and repeat process with chicken sausage. Stir remaining mushrooms into the bowl with the chicken sausage.



This recipe will make 4 large calzones or 8 mini calzones.

I turned the dough out onto a lightly floured table and rolled it into a log with my hands. I cut the log in half. With one half, I cut it into 4 pieces. I made 4 mini calzones out of this dough - 2 hot sausage, mushroom and cheese and 2 chicken/spinach sausage, mushroom and cheese. These were for my husband and me.

I cut the other log into 2 pieces. One hot sausage calzone for each of them. At the time, they wanted no part of chicken/spinach sausage in their calzones.

On the table, line up sauce, hot sausage and mushrooms, shredded mozzerella cheese and chicken sausage.

Roll out dough, fill and close, making sure to seal the ends.

I placed the two larger calzones on one baking sheet and the 4 minis on another baking sheet.

Brush the top of each calzone with olive oil .

Bake at 425*

Large calzones baked for 20 minutes.

Minis baked for 25 minutes.

Serve with a side of sauce for dipping.

**notes** We like red sauce in our calzones, as well as, for dipping into. Along with the hot sausage, mushrooms and cheese, I added some sauce.

I did not add any sauce to the insides of the chicken/spinach sausage calzones.

I served a simple green salad alongside the calzones. Everyone was really happy with the way these turned out. I will definitely make this recipe again.

This is also a great way to clean out the frig. You can fill this dough with just about anything that you like to mix together.

The mini calzones are the perfect size for lunchboxes, too!

You can easily freeze any leftovers by wrapping them with plastic wrap and then again in foil. Make sure to label them so that you can remember what's inside them.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Thrifty Thursdays - Whole Roasted Chickens Provide Multiple Meals

For this week's Thrifty Thursday, let's talk about chicken....

We eat a lot of chicken. I'm always hoping to see a good sale pop up in the weekly sales ads. This week, I found whole chickens on sale for 59 cents a pound. For under $12.00, I was able to buy 10 lbs of chicken. Granted, that ten pounds is not all chicken but I will get enough off of it for 4 meals....and I hear that you can cook up some great chicken stock if you cook the carcasses. I cannot bring myself to cook the bones and other parts to make broth. The thought is revolting to me so I do lose out a bit on that.

It seems that everyone has their favorite way to roast a chicken. My way is simple: rinse the bird inside and out and then pat dry with some paper towels. I rub a little butter under the skin of the chicken and then all over the top and sides of it. Then I sprinkle it with garlic powder, poultry seasoning and onion powder. Pop it into a baking dish and bake at 375* for 1 1/2 -2 1/2 hrs -depending on the size of the chickens.

MMM! Crispy on the outside, yet very moist on the inside.

The 4 meals that I will be making are:

Chicken and Noodles - tonight's dinner
Chicken Tacos
Chicken Stir Fry
Chicken Barley Soup

After picking every last bit of chicken from the bones, I mixed the white meat and dark meat together and then divided them among three freezer bags.

I hope that you've had a wonderful, thrifty week. Check out Amanda's Cookin' for more thrifty ideas.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

All Day Crockpot Macaroni & Cheese

My daughter LOVES mac 'n cheese. Since I've been cooking some dishes lately that have certainly not been here favorites, I decided to cook mac 'n cheese for her to make her really happy.

If you follow the directions to this recipe, you will end up with a delicious meal. Even my husband, who is VERY picky about mac 'n cheese, really liked it.

Here is what it looks like in the crock once it has finished cooking

One tip that I will add before you get started.... Make sure to undercook the macaroni before you add it to the crockpot, otherwise I believe that you would end up with mushy macaroni.

All Day Crockpot Macaroni and Cheese

16 oz cooked and drained Pasta - Elbows are classic, but you can use anything.
4 Cups Shredded Cheddar Cheese
1 Can (12 oz) Evaporated Milk
1 1/2 C Milk - I used powdered skim milk that had been reconstituted into 11/2 C. of milk
2 Eggs
2 TBS Flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp Black Pepper

Spray crockpot with nonstick spray.

Mix everything together and pour into crockpot.

Cover and cook on low for 5-6 hours**-Do not stir, it will cook and firm up.

I found this crockpot mac 'n cheese recipe on a blog called Frugal Upstate. I don't know the owner, Jen, personally but her blog is really nice.


This recipe cooked for 5 hours and was completely done. I haven't tried leaving on longer but I don't think that I would leave it for more than 6 hours without being afraid that it would be overcooked.

I used regular cheddar cheese in this recipe. I'm using sharp cheddar next time for more flavor. I also add 1 tsp of red pepper to it. I don't think that it made a difference so I will leave it out next time.

I served this with broiled Talapia fillets and a side of green beans.

Broiled Citrus Talapia

6 - 8 Talapia fillets, thawed if frozen
Citrus Seasoning
butter flavored baking spray
lemon juice

Turn on broiler. Spray a baking sheet with butter flavored baking spray.

Rinse and pat dry the Talapia fillets and then lay them on the baking tray. Lightly spray the tops of the fillets with baking spray. Sprinkle liberally with citrus seasoning. Flip fish over and sprinkle again with the citrus seasoning. Sprinkle with lemon juice.

Broil for 5 -8 minutes depending on the thickness of the fillets.

We like an extra sprinkle of lemon juice on our fish before eating it.

I'm happy to report that everyone in my family really enjoyed this meal.

Fried Pickles

My family and I never knew what fried pickles were before moving to North Carolina. Here, it seems, they like to deep fry everything. Some things are really good, while others are a bit out there.

In this case, if you like dill pickles, these deep fried nuggets are a tasty treat. Depending on who is making them, the pickles might be coated in a batter coating (think fish batter) or they might be coated in a cornmeal and flour mix. We prefer the crispy cornmeal and flour breading.

They are really easy to make at home and it's much cheaper, too. The price of one appetizer of fried pickles in a restaurant usually costs $5. - $7.

Fried Pickles

2 C. of dill pickle chips, drained well on paper towels
1 C. flour
1/2 C. corn meal
1 tsp. creole seasoning (optional but it adds a nice kick)
1/2 tsp. Hot Shot pepper (red and black pepper) - if you
don't want the spice, use all black pepper
1/2 C. milk or buttermilk
1 gallon-sized plastic bag

Lay pickles on layers of paper towels to drain.

Heat your deep fryer to 400*

Pour the milk or buttermilk into a small bowl. I used milk with this batch and it worked out fine. I'm going to try buttermilk for a thicker coating the next time that I make them.

Mix the flour, corn meal, and seasonings in the plastic bag.

Working with a few pickles at a time, dip them into the milk and then add them to the flour mixture. Shake well to completely cover the pickles.

Remove the coated pickles from the bag and drop them into the deep fryer basket. Deep fry for 1-2 minutes or until light brown and crispy. Drain well in a single layer on paper towels before serving.

Serve with a side of tangy ranch dressing.

Tangy Ranch Dressing

1/4 C. of your favorite ranch dressing
1 - 2 tsp of Frank's Red Hot hot sauce

Mix together right before serving.

**note** The white specks that you see on the pickles in these pictures as a result of using white cornmeal. That's what I had on hand so that's what I used.
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