Friday, July 30, 2010

That’s one a-spicy meat-a-ball!!

I didn’t always appreciate my Mom’s cooking.

Let me e’splain.

I used to think it was weird when she would use the same 3 seasonings over and over again.  Salt and pepper, garlic salt, and lemon pepper. In every meal, all the time.

Once she mixed spaghetti noodles and de-hydrated onions with scrambled eggs and her signature spices all cooked together. I’m sure I refused to eat it. (I exaggerate…slightly)

I discovered later as a grown up, that sometimes when you don’t have a lot of money and a few staples in the pantry and fridge, that you can cook up a delicious meal for one and it’s not weird! It tasted REALLY GOOD!  I had the epiphany that my Mom DID know what she was doing and I could do it too!

That day in the kitchen, I warmly remembered a time when her food was made with love and flavor. I smiled and silently thanked her. (Her cooking is still made with flavor and love today, I just don’t get to eat her cooking all that often. Mom? I miss your cooking!)

Then I ate my yummy dinner! 

Some of the most beloved dishes I grew up with-

  • Mashed Potato Salad
  • Leg of Lamb on Easter
  • Spinach Torta
  • Broccoli and Chicken over Rice
  • Zucchini and Red Potatoes
  • Joe Special
  • Meatloaf (I still can’t make it like she used to!)
  • Chicken Cacciatore
  • Chicken Soup with Dumplings
  • Wine Cake (she did not use those spices, but it’s the best cake ever!)

That’s just a short list of my favorite foods!!  I have a ton more!

As an adult, I’ve learned to appreciate the foundation of spices she used to make all those great dishes.  I find myself reaching for the garlic salt and more recently the lemon pepper to use in almost every savory dish I make. I’ve added some more to my cooking repertoire and I’d like to share them with you and how I use them. spices collage

  • Garlic Salt, California Style (with parsley flakes)

    I used garlic salt in about 80% of my meals. Here’s another bullet list of what I use Garlic Salt in:

    • Tuna salad
    • Salad dressings- specifically my Mom’s homemade Thousand Island dressing (it’s THE best!) and sprinkled over a green salad with olive oil and red wine vinegar (my Sister taught me the oil and vinegar dressing trick and it’s become my most recent favorite! Thanks Leslie and our trip to Florence!)
    • Meat marinades or sprinkled over the meat with grill seasoning
    • Anything with a cream gravy or mushroom style gravy or sauce. It has a stronger flavor that minced garlic and I am a salt fiend. I guess that’s why I have high blood pressure.


  • Wildtree Herbs Dill Blend (dill weed, sea salt, onion, and pepper)

    This is a product I discovered a couple of years ago while at a home party for Wildtree Herbs. It makes a wonderful Dill Dip that I adore!! I used it in other recipes or where ever I love that dill flavor. I seem to be the only person I know who loves the flavor of dill in a form other than pickle.

    • Egg Salad
    • Tuna Salad
    • Salad dressings
    • Seasoning for Salmon
    • Marinade for fish
    • Always in sour cream because I LOVE it as a dip!

  • Lemon & Pepper Seasonings Blend

    Lemon Pepper has been in my life as far back as I can remember. I don’t think my Mom has ever cooked without it. She probably has used it in recipes I can’t even think of! Here is what I use it the most for.

    • Lemon Pepper Chicken (It’s one of the most requested meals when my Mom comes to visit my Sister. In second place is probably Spinach Torta and it’s used in there too.)
    • Tuna Salad ( I use a lot of spices in my tuna salad and my Mom taught me that too. This would be why my husband says I make the best he’s ever had!)
    • Meatloaf
    • Sprinkled on chicken, beef, and fish
    • Pasta dishes with a cream sauce


  • Ground Cumin
  • Chili Powder

    More recently I’ve been cooking with Cumin and Chili Powder in a lot of my Mexican style dishes. It has a smoky pungent smell and sometimes reminds me of B.O., but I like what it brings to my soups and meat marinades!  Here’s what I used it in lately.

    • Black Bean “Soup”
    • Yogurt sauce for fish tacos (sprinkle some of that in plain yogurt and add some garlic salt and pepper, and you’ve got a YUMMY addition to fish tacos with cabbage slaw)
    • Seasoning for Chicken for black bean soup (Mix cumin and chili powder together on raw chicken, with salt and pepper and olive oil. Toss to coat, then cook in hot pan or grill, then add to soups and stews. Have it grilled fajita style-that’s always good!)
    • Tortilla Soup
    • Sometimes I put it in pico or salsa that I make. All depends on my mood and how smoky I want the flavor.


I’m sure there are a ton more uses for those spices and blends, but those are all I can think of for now! I use them so much, I keep then all crowded together on my counter next to the stove. The other spices tend to migrate there as well, and every once and a while I have to redistribute them all back to where they came from. I used to have the whole upper cabinet, bottom shelf full of spices and seasonings before we did the kitchen makeover.

Are they trying to tell me something? Maybe they all come out at night and have a party next to the stove while I’m sleeping?! That would be yummy! Maybe someday, those spices and seasonings will cook dinner for me while I take a nap! That would be awesome!!

What are your go to spices and seasonings? What can’t you live without?


Love and heartburn,


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Devil Makes Frosting

Seeing as how I’ve turned a corner on my past unhealthy eating habits and lost 22 lbs, it’s quite confusing why I would be obsessed with frosting lately. Not just any frosting...

Cookie Dough Frosting!!

I should just stop here. But I can't so, you can already imagine what it would be. It looks like chocolate chip cookie dough. It tastes like it too!
Now take that image and plop a thick layer ON TOP of a decedent dark brown fudgy BROWNIE!!

(I think I just fainted.) 
Behold the Devil’s temptation…

cookie dough brownies
Picture Courtesy of Beantown Baker
I know right??
Ok, so I saw this recipe and kept dreaming about it. Wanting to make it, but not wanting to be tempted by the 3 sticks of butter!! Just makes my heart hurt thinking about it, but again…the temptation was STRONG and the pull was great.
I broke down and made the brownies from a box mix.

brownie making
I have no doubt that the Ghirardelli Brownie Mix will be nothing but stellar. I just didn’t want to go through the trouble of measuring everything from scratch to make brownies. I’m lazy. Turns out I’ll have to make another batch of brownies anyway because the frosting makes a HUGE amount!! Way more than should be legal on a brownie.

So onto the frosting recipe! Hang on kids, it’s gonna get buttery!

Cookie Dough Frosting
3 sticks of butter, softened
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
2/3 cup sugar
9 Tbs. milk
3 cups flour
3 cups chocolate chips, semi sweet
*I think it would be tasty to add a teaspoon of vanilla and a pinch of salt, just like you would in regular chocolate chip cookies. I think it would bring out the flavors more. I'll do that next time and let you know!*

1. Add 3 sticks of butter and both sugars to the mixer and cream until light and fluffy. CIMG4662
2. Add milk one Tbs. at a time until mixed in.
3. Turn mixer to low and add 1 cup of flour at a time, stopping to scrape the bowl after each cup of flour. CIMG4671
4. Add chocolate chips and mix in by hand. CIMG4672
5. Top completely cooled brownies with frosting. (store the rest of the frosting covered in fridge until ready to use. Make another batch of brownies and give it away to a friend!!)CIMG4682
6. Cover with clear wrap and let set up in fridge for at least 2 hours or until firm. Cut and enjoy!

7. Go immediately work out after enjoying 1 brownie!

I’m totally sorry I had to expose you to this type of temptation. I don’t want to be a stumbling block, so I’ll make sure to dispose of them properly! I’ll give them away! One piece for everyone and then the rest go to other people. I promise!!

Jon took a picture of the sinful yet delicious temptation! Again, I'm sorry. You might want to look away. You've been warned!

My husband made a video review of my recipe. Check it out if you dare!

Want to see an even cuter review of my brownie? I give you MJ, the cutest darn brownie eater ever!

I’ll only allow you to make them if you promise to give some away too! Enjoy!!

Love, buttersticks, and chocolate chips!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Baked Mac ‘N Cheese if you please…

I tried a new recipe last night. It’s a recipe I found on an obscure recipe site and they just happen to have WW friendly recipes, so I wrote a couple of them down.

I’m always looking for ways to spruce up my menu, so I chose a WW version of Mac ‘N Cheese. It’s supposed to be 5 points value per cup. Of course it didn’t specify how many cups it made, so we’ll just go with what it said. “That’s what IT said!”
Ahem…sorry. Michael Scott just creeped in there a little.

Anyways…I followed the recipe. It was fairly simple and I made sure I had all the ingredients.

Baked Mac ‘N Cheese

mac n cheeseI’m a Wal-mart kind of gal, but feel free to use any brand you like.  

Elbow macaroni, 12 oz – I used 16 oz (that’s 1 lb. for all you crazy math lovers out there! I used my digital scale to weigh the pasta and the cheese), cuz I’m a rebel and I already told
you I’m not good at following recipes.
Low fat Sour Cream, 1/2 cup – I used almost 3/4 of a cup.  :D
Fat Free Evaporated Milk, 2-12 oz cans
Fat Free Shredded Cheddar Cheese, 6 oz.
Mexican Style Shredded Cheese; Colby Jack, 6 oz
Dijon Mustard, 1 Tbs.
1/8 tsp. Nutmeg
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
Plain Bread Crumbs, 2 Tbs.
Parmesan Cheese grated, 2 Tbs.
Garlic Salt, couple of shakes
Paprika, a couple shakes for color

1. Boil the macaroni for about 6 minutes until Al Dente.
2. Drain macaroni and mix in sour cream. 
3. Heat Evaporated Milk until scalded ( until bubbles form around the edge of the pan. Stir in Cheese until melted, whisking until smooth.  Add seasonings and dijon mustard and stir until incorporated.
4. Add to macaroni and mix.

mac n cheese 3

5. Spray bottom and sides of pan (use either 9x13 or I used a rectangle non stick pan. I don’t know what size I used. Sorry!) and fill pan with macaroni. Sprinkle seasoned bread crumbs evenly over the top.
 mac n cheese 6

6. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20 min.
7. Eat and enjoy.

mac n cheese 5

I’ve adjusted the recipe to make more cheese sauce. I found the original ingredient amounts made for a tasty albeit dry outcome as you can see from the picture above. I really like it more cheesy and moist (I hate that word). I think it’ll make it more points, but it’s got to be better than a full fat version of any Mac ‘N Cheese! 

It got rave reviews from the boys, which is saying something! They usually only like the boxed stuff!

I sound like a broken record, but try it! You’ll like it! Then come and tell me about it, so I can be happy that my cooking makes other people happy!! Oh and are you seeing a trend here? I make easy stuff. It’s not rocket science, just Good(er) Eats! (Is that copy write protected? Ooops! There I fixed it with parenthesis! I love those things!!


Love, Cheese, and Happiness!


Friday, July 23, 2010

Let’s break this blogs all time record!

I was looking through the archives, you know, all 15 of the blog posts and I got a wild idea! I’m going to break the current record held in February of 5 posts!! You heard me right…5!

Tying for second place is January and July with 4 posts each. Poor May and June only got 1 and I completely forgot about March and April! They must feel totally unloved.

I would like to make July the month I blow it out of the park with lots of recipes and meal ideas! What do you think??

Here’s what I’m currently working on:

Slow Cooker Chicken and Dumps
Baked Mac ‘n Cheese
Taco Casserole
Cola Chicken ( I can’t wait to try this )

I really need to add more desserts to my repertoire, but that is a tricky bag of slippery slopes. I don’t need to be eating desserts…all that OFTEN. So maybe I can whip up something every once in a while and squeeze it in here. That’s my plan. We’ll see how THAT goes! 

Here’s to taking what’s left of July and getting in as many recipes and meal plans as I can! I can do it! I know I can!!

See ya sooner!

Love and cheese puffs,


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Let's get ready to Rummmmmble!!

 In this corner we have 4 hungry kids and 1 hungry husband.

In this corner we have 1 frazzled Mom who doesn't know what to make for dinner again!

Welcome to the Ultimate Dinner Dilemma!!

Tagging in for Mom is Ultimate Crock Pot Beef Stroganoff- a heavy weight with sour cream!

No seriously, this summer has been a fight of major proportions when it comes to what to make for dinner. I know I'm not the only one right??  I've talked about this recipe before here. It's super easy and economical. I posted a link over in the Recipe Love section to the right. (Let me know if the link isn't working-sometimes bloggers change where they keep their posts and so that means I need to update too!)

I spent $8.99 on 2.51 lbs of beef stew meat. This kind that's already cut up. I could probably save more by buying it in bulk and cutting it up myself, but let's face it. I won't do that. The recipe is so simple, I didn't even have to buy anything else for it but the meat.


2-3 lbs. beef stew meat, cut in bite size pieces
Salt and Pepper the meat
1 onion finely minced, or sliced (your preference- I finally added onion finely minced and I hope it disappears so my kids won't notice!)
Sliced fresh mushrooms, optional
Sour Cream, optional but recommended

In a 2 cup glass measuring cup mix the following:
1 1/2 TBS of Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. garlic salt
1 1/2 TBS ketchup
1 1/2 -2 cups beef broth - either made by beef granules or canned (depending on how much sauce you want and if you want to thicken it with whatever you have in your pantry *see added notes below*)

1. Salt and Pepper meat, throw in bottom of crock pot. Mix in onions. Add mushrooms if using.

2. Pour beef broth mixture over meat and wait for it....COVER. Turn on High and WALK AWAY for 7-8 hours!! 

That's it! Told you it was easy.

I plan on serving it with spaghetti noodles and a small salad. Like I said before, the cost of the meat was $9.00 and I had everything else on hand in my pantry. So my family of six can eat this meal at a cost of $1.50 per person! You can't eat anywhere for that! And honestly it tastes so good, you don't even mind eating it when it's 104 degrees outside because you made it in the crock pot and the house stayed cool from not using the oven! 

Here is a picture from the blog I originally got the recipe from-

Via My Kitchen Cafe
all rights reserved

I can't take any pictures of it, because it's all gone!! But it looked a lot like this, but more shredded and we put parmesan cheese on top!

**Added after the fact**
Ok, so I think I may have told you to put too much liquid in this recipe. See, I forget that liquid doesn't evaporate from the crock pot, it only multiplies; like gremlins. So, after it cooked for 5 hours on low, I cranked it up to high and cooked it another 4 hours. It was very tender and shredded as I stirred it, but I like it that way. I added two big dollops of sour cream and some corn starch and water to thicken it. When THAT didn't thicken it enough, I added a package of Garlic Alfredo Sauce and microwaved it for 5 minutes or so. I totally flew by the seat of my pants. It gave it an awesome flavor, so I knew I was pretty much using it as a thickening agent. Then I topped the spaghetti with it and added some parm cheese. Not really the typical recipe for Beef Stroganoff, but it was sure good! And, since I sunburned the heck out of my legs today, I didn't have to spend an hour cooking in the kitchen. I liked that. Liked it enough to take my youngest boy out on a date.
How ever you choose to thicken it, you really can't mess this dish up. I hope you're not scared to cook it! Go experiment, I won't tell!


Peace, Love, and Tender Beef,

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Pork and Black Beans

This is a wonderful recipe from a WW cookbook I got from Angie and/or Jon for Christmas a few years ago.  After going through the book and marking all of the recipes that looked good (aka like something Dad would make for me), this one has definitely become a favorite.   Pair this with low-carb flour tortillas, corn tortillas or baked Tostitos and fat-free sour cream and fresh cilantro (add points accordingly for the extras).  I love this recipe!

Pork and Black Beans
  Makes 4 serving
  3 WW points per serving

2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 t. hot paprika (I use regular, non-hot)
1/4 t. ground cumin
1/4 t. salt
5 ounces lean pork tenderloin
1 t. extra virgin olive oil
2 T. white vinegar
One 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 carrot, finely diced
2 T. fresh lime juice
1/2 tomato, diced
1 red onion, chopped
2 T. chopped cilantro

  1. In a small bowl, combine the garlic, paprika, cumin and salt; rub into the pork.
  2. In a medium nonstick skillet, heat the oil.  Saute the pork until browned, 2-3 minutes on each side.  Reduce the heat and cook, covered, turning occasionally, until cooked through, about 10 minutes.  Transfer to a plate.  Halve the pork lengthwise, then cut crosswise into thin slices.
  3. Add the vinegar to the pan drippings and simmer, stirring, until the acidity cooks off, about 2 minutes.  Add the beans, carrot and lime juice; cook, tossing, about 1 minute.  Transfer to a medium bowl.  Add the pork, tomato, onion and cilantro; toss to combine.
I love this recipe because it's so good and so low in points.  Even if you eat the whole thing, it's only 12 points!  Eat half and it's a lot of food and less points than most other dinners.  Gotta love the fiber!  I have used more pork and increased the points and then ate only one serving for about 5-6 points.

Try it and tell me how much you loved it! 

Monday, July 12, 2010

Beans, Beans, the Magical Fruit...

I won't finish the song, but I know you know it!

Today I want to talk about yummy black beans. I am by no means an expert, but I've come to really like and appreciate this little bean.

The internet says this:

An oval bean with a black skin, cream-colored flesh, and a sweet flavor. Black beans have long been popular in Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean and the southern United States. Also called turtle bean. Matches well with: avocados, bacon, cheese, chilies, cilantro, coriander, cumin, garlic, ham, jalapenos, mint, onion, oranges, peppers, rice, sour cream, tequila, tomatoes.

Me and beans haven't always gotten along. It's not because of it's magical properties (although I've been known to make some pretty loud "magic", if you know what I mean!), but more of a texture thing. When I was a little girl, I would sit in front of a pile of stewed tomatoes and gag at the thought of eating them. I may or may not have actually gagged, but you'll have to confirm that with my Mom. I'll never tell.
I had issues with many foods and their textures growing up. Peas (canned- still don't like them. I prefer frozen.), stewed tomatoes (LOVE tomatoes and always have, just not the slimy whole kind. Now I love any kind of tomato, stewed or fresh.), LIVER (ewww, who really "likes" liver besides my parents? I will NEVER grow to like liver...*shudder*) garbanzo beans, kidney beans, any beans except green, and that's really all I can think of now. But other than that, I loved food. Probably why I wanted to be a chef and have been fat all my life. Food is awesome and tastes REALLY good!! And it's fun...but let's move on shall we?

My Sister, Leslie has loved black beans for many many years ever since she was a Missionary in Guatemala and has some great recipes to share. Maybe if we encourage her, she'll post them here for all of us to try?

So, why black beans? Well...I was talking with my Mom yesterday on Skype and she was eating what she called "Speedy Black Bean Soup". I wasn't familiar with that recipe (like if she cooked it herself or bought it that way), and maybe she can guest post on here too and give us all the recipe?!

Anyhoo...this morning after I went to the bank, I got to thinking. "I have to package up some chicken for the freezer, why don't I just cook up some chicken with some black beans and tomatoes? Oooh yum, that sounds good", I said no one in particular. I was alone in the room, ok? Like you don't talk to yourself? I do! And viola! Easy-Peasy Black Bean "Soup" was born. Right there in my kitchen. It cooed at me and I tickled it under the chin and put it though college. Seriously though, anyone can make this. It's just that easy.

So onto the recipe right?? I know you are dying to hear my latest and greatest culinary discovery right? Riiiight??!!

No culinary discovery here, but this is some good eats!

Easy-Peasy Black Bean "Soup"

I call it "soup" because you can add more liquid, i.e. chicken broth or water to make it more soup-y, but I liked it thicker like a stew or thick soup. It's all about preference. Yours, not mine. I aim to please. 
Serves generously 2 or less generously 4
Time: about 30 min. or 45 if you want to simmer it longer


Chicken breast, cut into bite size pieces
Onion, chopped
2 cans black beans, 
2 cans diced tomatoes
chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper, garlic salt, and minced garlic to taste
Olive oil
*optional* sour cream or plain yogurt and shredded cheese.

Rinse and pat dry chicken breast, cut into bite size pieces, season with chili powder, cumin, salt, pepper, garlic salt. Drizzle with olive oil and mix in shallow bowl to distribute spices.
Dice onion. Heat skillet to medium high heat and drizzle with olive oil. Brown chicken for a few minutes and add onion and stir around until it looks good. :o) 

Sort of looks like this: 

Then add canned diced tomatoes with all the juice. Stir and admire your work.

It'll look something like this:

So far this isn't rocket science and most of my readers (all 3 of you...ok 5 since I know my FAMILY reads this) know how to do basic cooking, like browning meat, and stirring around some canned ingredients. 

Then I added the black beans. The first can I kept all the liquid, but the second can, I drained off some of the clear stuff on the top. Probably would have kept that in since I ended up adding some water because I let it cook too long and some of the liquid evaporated. 

And it looked like this: 

Lower the heat to simmer and cook with lid on until liquid is somewhat reduced and the flavors have had time to mingle and date. You'll thank yourself for it later when you taste its goody goodness!

Here you'll have to use your imagination. I forgot to take a picture of the finished product. I know, I'm a dork. I did post about it on Facebook though...without a picture. 

Angie said: "I wish you had smell-a-vision or taste-a-vision because I just made killer black bean and chicken soup for lunch!! I impress myself. Thanks Mom for having black bean soup yesterday for lunch so I could today! ♥"

It was really tasty, and very easy to make. My Mom later told me she made hers with corn and balsamic vinegar. I'm thinking to myself, "Why didn't I think of that?" I guess I'll have to do some more experimenting and play with it some more!

I hope you give it a try. It was even better for dinner cold with some tortilla chips! It's like so versatile. And like, so like yummy! Oh muh gosh! For realz! (Did you hear my best valley-girl accent? You did? Yay, that is LIKE so radical!!) Ok, like enjoy your magical beans you guys!! They're good for your colon!

Tootles!  (Ha! I said "toot"!!! LOL)

Monday, July 5, 2010

You say Potato, I say HEAVEN!!

Nothing says 4th of July like BBQ and potato salad. One of my favorite potato salad recipes is from a dear friend of mine, Debbi. She introduced me to this sinful dish a couple of years ago at our annual Kaboom Town Fireworks Celebration. Its creamy, sweet, tender goodness is a welcome addition to any bbq or main meat dish. It's so simple to make and only 6 ingredients! 

Debbi's Potato Salad

New Potato Salad
Prep time: 30 minutes
Yields: 6-8 servings
6-8 new potatoes (enough to yield 6 C when cooked and cubed)
1 C celery slices
1/2 C chopped onion (white works best, but you can also use red)
1/3 C chopped sweet pickle
1 C mayonnaise
2 eggs, hard boiled
salt, pepper, and paprika

Cut potatoes into cubes and place in a large pot of boiling water. Boil, covered, for 20-25 minutes, or until potatoes are soft enough to prick with a fork. Drain and let cool. (I did not rinse my potatoes, I cooled them on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper for about 30 min.)

While potatoes are cooking, dice up onion, egg, pickle, and slice celery. Combine vegetables, pickle, egg, and mayonnaise; mix lightly. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Chill in fridge at least 1 hour. Best the next day. 

The thing I love about this salad is the ease of prep and the few ingredients it takes to make a creamy delicious side dish. I hope you try it out and I think you'll put it on your favorite list too! 
Feel free to substitute fat free mayo or low fat mayo for a WW style recipe. I haven't tried it myself as I allowed myself to have it this holiday weekend without guilt. I made point friendly sweet and spicy beans and had fat free hot dogs (only 1 point each!). Not sure it would be the same with ff or lf mayo, but it sure wouldn't hurt to experiment!

Happy 4th of July!!