Sunday, December 30, 2012

Crock Pot Taco Dip

Someone Toby works with brought this to a work pitch-in one time & he asked for the recipe. It's good & it  makes a fairly large batch. It's a great New Year's Eve party idea if you are still planning your menu :)

Crock Pot Taco Dip

3 lbs hamburger, cooked & drained
2 pkgs taco seasoning
8 oz cream cheese, cubed
2 lbs. Velveeta cheese, cubed
2 large or 4 small jars of Pace Chunky Salsa (or your favorite salsa)

Add taco seasoning to hamburger & mix well.
In a 6 qt crock pot, add salsa, hamburger & both cheeses.
Heat til melted & serve with tortilla chips.

Olive Garden Toscana Soup

My bestie, Steph, came across this recipe somewhere & made it for me while we were studying for a nursing final one semester. So, I haven't actually made it myself, but I have eaten it & it is every bit as delicious as the Olive Garden version (if not better)!

Olive Garden Toscana Soup

2-3/4 cup chicken stock or broth
1/4 cup heavy cream
1-2 medium russet potatoes
2 cups chopped kale
1/2 lb. of spicy Italian sausage
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Combine the stock & cream in a saucepan over medium heat
Slice the unpeeled potato into 1/4 in. slices, then quarter the slices & add to soup
Add the kale
Grill or saute the sausage. When cooked & cooled, cut the sausage at an angle into slices about 1/2 in. thick. Add the sausage to the soup
Add the spices and let the soup simmer for about an hour, stirring occasionally.

Serves 4 as an appetizer or 2 as an entree.
(I think Steph doubled it when she made it for 3 of us & she had leftovers for their dinner that night.)

**I've seen some versions of this that add bacon pieces & since bacon is like cheese to me (as in it makes everything better :) , I wouldn't be opposed to throwing in some bacon pieces.**

Grandma Ann's Shepard's Pie

When Toby & I first got married, I was always looking for budget friendly yet delicious meals. Funny, almost 15 years later, I'm still looking for the same thing :) Anyway, my Grandma Ann raised 7 kids (5 of which were boys) so I knew if there was anyone who could tell me how to cook on a budget it was her. This is one of the 1st recipes she gave me. I haven't made it in ages, but I came across it the other day & I think it is definitely worth sharing.

Grandma Ann's Shepard Pie

3-4 lbs. ground round (I think if I was to make this today, I'd try to cut this back to 1.5-2 lbs.)
6 cans of vegetarian vegetable soup (drain 3 of the cans)

mashed potatoes

Layer in a 9 x 13 baking dish in order of:
veg. soup (3 cans)
veg. soup (3 cans)
put mashed potatoes on top

Bake at 375 for about 45 minutes.

**I think in this original recipe the beef was uncooked as it went into the dish. If I was to make this today, I think I'd precook the meat & cut down on the baking time. I've also seen this made & topped with cheese which I would definitely give a try. I love cheese :) **

Homemade Pizza

One of Toby's favorite meals I make is my homemade pizza. It's easily adaptable to whatever your family likes on their pizza.

Homemade Pizza

1-2 pkgs of pizza crust
1 lb. ground beef, cooked & drained
green peppers, chopped
2 cans mushrooms, drained
onions, chopped
banana peppers
1/2-1 jar of spaghetti sauce
1 pkg of bacon pieces
1-2 pkgs of pizza cheese

Prepare pizza crust according to package directions. Press into 15 x 10 x 1 baking sheet/pan. (You could also prepare this on a round pizza stone, but I've always made it in my old handy dandy metal baking pan).

Put crust into oven (at whatever temperature package directions state) & allow to cook until mostly done.

Remove from oven & spread with spaghetti sauce. Then layer beef on top of sauce & add other toppings in layers. Top with cheese.

Return to oven & cook until heated through & cheese is melted.

Mushroom Salisbury Steaks

This is a yummy meal in which the main meat is made in the microwave. I usually serve it with mashed potatoes, but you can also serve it over egg noodles.

Mushroom Salisbury Steak
From Quick Cooking Magazine, Sept/Oct 1999

Photo from
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 cans (10-1/2 oz) beef consomme, undiluted
1 jar (6 oz) mushrooms, drained
4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp dried basil
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup soft bread crumbs
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/2-1 tsp seasoned salt
1/4 tsp pepper, optional
1-1/2 lbs. ground beef

Hot mashed potatoes or cooked egg noodles.

In a bowl, combine cornstarch & beef consomme until smooth.
Stir in mushrooms, Worcestershire sauce & basil; set aside
In another bowl, combine egg, bread crumbs, onion, seasoned salt and pepper (if desired)
Add beef & mix well.
Shape into size oval patties; place in a shallow 1-1/2 qt microwave safe dish.
Cover & microwave on high for 6 minutes; drain.
Turn patties, moving the ones in the center to the outside of the dish.
Pour consomme mixture over patties.
Cover & microwave on high for 8-10 minutes or until meat is no longer pink.
Let stand for 5 minutes.
Serve with potatoes or noodles.

Makes 6 servings.

Tator Tot Casserole

This is another one that I've had since Livi was little. It's one of those meals that kids just seem to like. Maybe it's the tator tots on top....I'm not sure...We usually eat it with a little A-1 or ketchup on the side :)

Tator Tot Casserole

1 lb. ground beef
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
1 (2 lb.) bag frozen tator tots
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (I always use more because we like cheese :)

Optional: add fresh or frozen peas &/or chopped carrots (I usually add peas or a package of frozen mixed vegetables)

Cook ground beef & drain.
Put cooked ground beef into bottom of a greased 13 x 9 x 2 pan.
Spread soup over meat.
Add vegetables if using.
Cover with cheese.
Top with tator tots.

Cover & bake at 350 for 45 min. Then uncover and bake another 15 min.

Chicken Quesadillas

These make a great lunch or lighter supper.

Chicken Quesadillas
(From Taste of Home Magazine, Aug/Sept. 1999)

2-1/2 cups shredded cooked chicken
2/3 cup salsa
1/3 cup sliced green onions
3/4-1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dried oregano
6 flour tortillas (8" size)
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 cups (8 oz) shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Sour cream & guacamole, optional

In a skillet, combine the first 6 ingredients. Cook, uncovered, over medium heat for 10 minutes or until heated through, stirring occasionally.

Brush one side of the tortillas with butter.

Spoon 1/3 cup chicken mixture over half of unbuttered side of each tortillas. Sprinkle with 1/3 cup cheese; fold plain side of tortilla over cheese.

Place on a lightly greased baking sheet.
Bake at 475 for 10 minutes or until crisp and golden brown.

Cut into wedges; serve with sour cream & guacamole, if desired.

Makes 6 servings.

Chocolate Mousse Pie

This is one of the 1st recipes I remember making from Quick Cooking Magazine. I'm not a huge pie person, but this one is easy & delicious.

Chocolate Mousse Pie
(From Quick Cooking Premiere Magazine)

Photo from
1 milk chocolate candy bar with or without almonds (7 oz) (I use Original Hershey's Chocolate Bar without almonds)
16 large marshmallows or 1-1/2 cups of mini marshmallows
1/2 cup milk
2 cups whipping cream, whipped (I use 2 cups of cool whip)
1 pastry shell, baked or graham cracker or chocolate crumb crust (8" or 9")

Place the candy bar, marshmallows & milk in a heavy saucepan; cook over low heat, stirring constantly until chocolate is melted & mixture is smooth. Cool. Fold in whipped cream; pour into crust. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

Garnish with additional chocolate pieces or curls.

Makes 6-8 servings.

Chicken Pot Pie

This recipe is one I've had laying around for years. I made it a lot when Livi was littler. It's quick, easy, budget friendly & really good. I found it originally on an ad for Campbell's Cream of Chicken Soup. I've seen numerous versions of it over the years, but I'm going to record it here anyway just for the sake of having  our family favorites in one place...

Chicken Pot Pie
Photo from

1 can (10-3/4 oz) cream of chicken soup
1 pkg (12 oz) frozen mixed vegetables (the recipe says "thawed" but I always just throw them in still frozen.)
1 cup cubed cooked chicken
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
1 cup Bisquick All-Purpose Baking Mix

Preheat oven to 400.
In a 9" pie plate mix soup, vegetables & chicken.
Mix milk, egg, & Bisquick.
Pour over chicken mixture..
Bake 30-40 minutes or until golden.

Serves 4

Saturday, December 29, 2012

A-1 Chili

This one is another one of those rare, great finds from It's a wonderfully different take on the usual winter chili. 

A-1 Chili
Photo from

1-1/4 lb. 90% lean ground beef
1 large green pepper, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 Tblsp garlic powder
3 Tblsp. chili powder
1 can (14-1/2 oz) tomatoes, undrained
1/2 cup water
1 can (16 oz) kidney beans, drained
1/3 cup A-1 Original Steak Sauce

Cook meat, green pepper, onion & garlic in large heavy saucepan on medium heat 8-10 minutes or until meat is no longer pink, stirring frequently. Add chili powder; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. 

**NOTE: if you do not use the 90% lean ground beef you will need to cook the beef first & then drain & then return to the pan & keep going with other ingredients. Otherwise, the chili gets very greasy.**

Drain tomatoes, reserving liquid; chop tomatoes. Add tomatoes, reserved liquid & the water to meat mixture. Bring to a boil; cover. Reduce heat to low; simmer 15 min, stirring occasionally. 

Add beans & steak sauce; stir until well blended. Cover & simmer an additional 5 min. 

Makes (6) 1 cup servings. 
Each serving= 300 calories

Steak Diane

This is a recipe I often forget I have but it is really tasty. It comes from Taste of Home Magazine, Dec/Jan 1999. I usually serve with a baked potato or potato wedges.

Steak Diane
Photo from

4 beef ribeye steaks (1/2 in thick)
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/8 tsp salt
4 Tblsp butter, divided
2 Tblsp finely chopped green onions
1/2 tsp ground mustard
1 Tblsp lemon juice
1-1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Tblsp minced fresh parsley
1 Tblsp minced fresh chives

Sprinkle steaks with pepper & salt. In a skillet, melt 2 Tblsp of butter. Stir in onions & mustard; cook for 1 minute. Add steaks; cook for 3 minutes on each side or until the meat reaches desired doneness. Remove to a serving platter & keep warm. Add lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce & remaining butter to skillet. Cook for 2 minutes. Add parsley & chives. Pour over steaks.

Makes 4 servings.

Pizza Lasagna

I came across this recipe when I was doing Weight Watchers several years ago. It's a healthier take on lasagna & satisfies even the worst pizza craving. It can also be made with Boca Ground instead of ground beef without changing the taste much. Either way, it's a delicious, healthier meal!!

Pizza Lasagna
Taken from Light & Tasty Magazine, Aug/Sept. 2003

1/2 lb. lean ground beef
2 cans (14-1/2 oz each) diced tomatoes, undrained
1 can (15 oz) ready to serve creamy tomato sauce (I used a can of tomato sauce instead. Light & Tasty test kitchen recommended Healthy Choice Creamy Tomato Soup)
1 can (16 oz) tomato paste
1/2 cup water
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tsp. each of dried oregano & garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
9 uncooked lasagna noodles (I cooked mine before assembling the dish)
4 oz. sliced turkey pepperoni
1-1/2 cups (6 oz) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided
1/2 lb. fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 medium red pepper, diced
6 green onions, chopped
1 can (2-1/4 oz) sliced ripe olives, drained

In a nonstick skillet, cook beef over medium heat until no longer pink; drain.
For sauce, in a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, soup, tomato paste, water, onion & seasonings.

Spread 1/2 cup sauce in a 13 x 9 x 2 baking dish coated with nonstick cooking spray. Top with 3 noodles & a third of the sauce, then pepperoni. Sprinkle with 1 cup cheese. Top with 2 noodles & a third of the sauce. Top with mushrooms, red pepper, green onions & beef. Top with remaining noodles, sauce & cheese. Sprinkle with olives.

Cover & bake at 350 for 1 hour (if noodles are precooked or 70-80 min. or until noodles are tender if noodles are uncooked). Uncover; bake 10 minutes longer or until cheese is melted. Let stand for 10 minutes.

Spaghetti Skillet

Another delicious recipe from Quick Cooking Magazine before them, Taste of Home, & Light & Tasty Magazines went downhill (in my opinion). This ones comes from back when the magazines were completely ad-free, full of color photos & you couldn't hardly find a recipe in any of the issues that wasn't good....

Anyway, this recipe comes from the Annual Quick Cooking 2000 Book.

Spaghetti Skillet

Photo from
1/2 lb. ground beef
1/4 lb. bulk Italian sausage
1 can (15 oz) tomato sauce
1 can (14-1/2 oz) stewed tomatoes
1 cup water
1 can (4 oz) mushroom stems & pieces, drained
2 celery ribs
4 oz uncooked spaghetti, broken in half
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
salt & pepper to taste

In a skillet over medium heat, cook beef and sausage until no longer pink; drain. Add the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover & simmer for 14-16 minutes or until spaghetti is tender.

Makes 4-6 servings.

Grandma Patton's Potato Salad

One of my all time favorites!

Grandma Patton's Potato Salad

Unfortunately, I don't have measurements for the ingredients on this either but I'll try to give you some estimates to get you started. The rest you have to use your taste tester to figure out :)

Potatoes (for the 3 of us, I might use a 5 lb. bag mainly because I always want leftovers of this; for a family gathering I'd use at least a 10 lb. bag)

**Side note, my mom always said when making potatoes (like mashed, potato salad, etc) you peel 2 for each person & throw in a couple for the pot. That works for normal people, but I have an addiction to potatoes so I usually throw in a few more just because :) **

Other ingredients:
Mayo (you truly have to eyeball this to get the consistency of potato salad you want)
Relish - dill not sweet, (2-4 Tblsp., maybe a little more)
Eggs (2-3)
Onion (1/4-1/2 cup, chopped)
Salt & Pepper to taste
American Cheese Slices (2-4)

Dice, cook & drain potatoes. Lay the cheese slices on top of the hot potatoes. Cover & allow cheese to melt. Add remaining ingredients & mix. Enjoy!!

Velveeta Chicken and Vegetable Stir-fry

I rarely find a Kraft Foods recipe that I like (sorry, Kraft). I love Kraft brand foods, but I generally find their recipes lacking. This recipe, however, is one of those rare finds. It is advertised as a "healthier" meal & the original recipe uses Velveeta Light. I usually use the Kroger brand version of "Velveeta" & therefore don't use a "light" version.

Velveeta Chicken & Vegetable Stir-Fry
Photo from

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (1-1/4 lbs), cut up (You could also use the pre-cooked, frozen chicken breast strips)
2 Tblsp. Kraft Light Done Right House Italian Reduced Fat Dressing
3 cups fresh broccoli florets
1 medium red pepper, cut into strips
1 medium yellow squash, cut into slices
6 oz. of Velveeta cheese product, cut up
1 Tblsp. milk

Cook chicken in dressing in large nonstick skillet on medium-high heat 5-7 minutes or until chicken is cooked through, stirring occasionally.

Add vegetable; stir. Reduce heat to medium; cover. Simmer 5 minutes or until vegetables are crisp-tender. Meanwhile, mix Velveeta & milk in a small microwavable bowl. Microwave on high 2-3 minutes or until Velveeta is melted, stirring after 2 minutes.

Place chicken mixture on serving plate & top with Velveeta sauce.

Makes (6) 1-cup servings.
**If you make this with Light Velveeta, the Light salad dressing & fat free milk, each serving only has 200 calories!!!

Mom's Pea Salad

Mom's Pea Salad recipe has been a much requested hit at our family gatherings for years. She always made it in one of those ginormous Tupperware bowls. You can actually halve the recipe & make it in a smaller bowl.

Mom's Pea Salad

Layer the following in a large, non-metal container.

Head of lettuce (torn into pieces)
Chopped onions
Grated carrots
Green peppers
2 (16oz) bags of frozen peas, thawed
2 cups salad dressing spread over the peas (use more if needed to cover the peas entirely)
Bacon, crumbled or bacon pieces
6 hard boiled eggs
Parmesan cheese
Grated cheddar cheese

Refrigerate over night.

Stir well before serving the next day. Makes 20 servings.

**Now you'll notice that there are no measurements for many of these ingredients. You can thank my mom for that. She's one of those....the eyeballers, dash of this, pinch of that, "until it looks right" type cookers. So,  basically for this recipe you're making a layer of each item in the bowl. If you like onions, make a thicker layer. If you hate carrots, omit them or make a thinner layer. You get the picture. Sorry that's not much help when you are buying ingredients for the 1st time, is it?**

This is a pretty & delicious side dish. Enjoy!


Years ago I thought I'd win mother-of-the-year if I homemade Livi's birthday cakes. I made one...when she was 3...and I've bought one ever since. I have the utmost respect for people who do cakes for a living. They are creative, talented, patient people and I have absolutely no problem paying them to do all my cake making for me.

However, in the process of trying to be cake baker/decorator extraordinare, I did discover some good icing recipes that I wanted to hang on to & pass along.

Buttercream Icing

*(From the original author): "This is an egg-free frosting. If you need to add coloring, use color paste. If you use liquid color, you may need to add more confectioners' sugar. Makes 2-1/2 cups."

1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup butter
1 tsp. vanilla
4 cups confectioners' sugar
2 Tblsp milk

In a large bowl, cream together the butter, shortening, and vanilla.
Blend in the sugar, one cup at a time, beating well after each addition.
Beat in the milk, and continue mixing until light & fluffy.
Keep icing covered until ready to decorate.

**This is a decorating icing & will harden as it sets**

Butterfly Icing

*(From the original author): "This is a great recipe to put into your cake decorator attachments for making letters, borders, flowers, etc. Use any food coloring. Makes 1-1/2 cups."

2 Tblsp. butter
3 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
1 egg white
1 Tblsp. cream
3/4 tsp. vanilla
1/8 tsp. salt
3 drops of any food coloring

Cream butter. Add part of the sugar, gradually, blending after each addition. Add remaining sugar, alternately with egg white, then with cream, beating after each addition until smooth. Stir in vanilla & salt. Divide into different bowls if you wish to make different colors, and tint delicately with coloring. Keep frosting covered to avoid crusting. If necessary, one or two drops of cream or milk may be added to maintain consistency.

*This is a great recipe & can even be made the night before as long as you keep it covered.**

French Buttercream Frosting

*(From the original author): "This buttercream is great for icing cakes & writing on them. It gets hard when refrigerated, so you have to let it come to room temperature before serving. You CANNOT make flowers with this recipe. Makes 2 cups."

1 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup shortening
2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. butter flavored extract
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup all-purpose flour

Mix heavy cream and flour in a small bowl. Heat the mixture in the microwave for 45 seconds on high. Set aside to cool.
In a mixing bowl, combine butter, shortening, confectioners' sugar, vanilla & butter extract
Using an electric mixer, beat on low until combined. Then beat on medium for 6-8 minutes.
Next add the heavy cream mixture and beat on medium for another 10 minutes. (Mixture will appear soupy at first, but then will become fluffy).

**This is a good, not-too-sweet icing. Don't make it ahead though because it will not warm up to room temperature & be spreadable**

Decorator Frosting

Makes 2 cups

2/3 cups butter, softened
4 cups confectioners' sugar
2 Tblsp. milk
1 tsp. vanilla
4 drops any color food coloring

In a medium bowl, cream together the butter, confectioners' sugar, and milk until light & fluffy (about 3-4 minutes). Beat in vanilla & food coloring.

**Hardens when set**

Wedding Cake Icing

*(From the original author):  "Very easy!! Add a little more water to the ice the cake & a little less to make the decorations. Makes 4 cups."

1 cup shortening
1/2 tsp. salt
1-1/2 tsp clear imitation vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. almond extract
1/2 cup water
8 cups sifted confectioners' sugar

Mix shortening, water, vanilla, almond extract and half of the powdered sugar with a mixer for 5-10 minutes (It's very important to mix this long).
Add the rest of the powdered sugar and beat just enough to mix in
Add additional water for desired consistency.

**Use an offset spatula dipped in water to smooth icing on cake**

Glazed Apple Pan Pie

I haven't made one of these in years, but I use to make them every Christmas. It's basically a delicious apple pie made in a 15 x 10 x 1 baking pan. It's great for taking "apple pie" to a large family gathering because it makes 24 servings. My Dad is probably the pickiest apple pie connoisseur I know & even he said it was delicious.

The original recipe came from Taste of Home Magazine, Oct/Nov. 1998 issue. Unbelievably, I haven't really tweeked this recipe.

Glazed Apple Pan Pie

5 cups all-purpose flour
4 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1-1/2 cups shortening
2 egg yolks
2/3 cup ice water

14 cups thinly sliced peeled tart apples (I always use Jonathon apples..It takes about 10 lbs. for this recipe).
4 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
3 Tblsp. butter
2 Tblsp. milk

1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1 Tblsp. water
1/8 tsp. vanilla

In a bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt & baking powder.
Cut in shortening until crumbly.
Beat egg yolks & water.
Add to flour mixture, tossing with a fork until dough forms a ball.
Divide dough in half.
Roll out one half to fit the bottom of an ungreased 15 x 10 x 1 baking pan.

Toss apples with lemon juice & vanilla; set aside.
Combine sugars, cinnamon, & salt.
Place half of the apples over the crust.
Sprinkle with half the sugar mixture.
Dot with butter.

Roll out remaining pastry to fit top of pie. (This does not have to be smooth & pretty. You can actually piece a top together & it will look fine after it's baked.)
Seal & flute edges. (Okay, let's be honest, I didn't "flute" the edges. I sealed them & called it good. Homemade crust & I do not always agree :/)

Brush with milk.
Bake at 375 for 50-55 minutes or until golden brown.
Cool for 10 minutes.
Combine glaze ingredients & drizzle over pie.

Grandma Ann's Fudge

Today I'm going to do something I seldom, if ever, a recipe I haven't made myself.

Here's why: I am not a fudge maker. Anything that has to "set up" causes me great distress. (Need proof? Ask me to make some No Bakes/Cow Patties).

Anyway, these 2 fudge recipes are my Grandma Ann's (Livi's Great-Grandma on my Dad's side). I KNOW they are delicious & I KNOW they set-up if you are a fudge maker & the "set-up" gods do not hate you like they do me. So, even though I haven't personally goofed up made these, I can attest to their goodness.

Grandma Ann's Chocolate Fudge

4 cups white sugar
1 can (12 oz) PET milk
1 bag (12 oz) semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 bar German Chocolate
1/2 stick butter
small jar of marshmallow creme
2 tsp. vanilla
Tblsp. of peanut butter (optional)

Boil sugar & milk for 8 minutes.
Melt chocolates.
Remove from heat - add other ingredients.
Stir & put in a 9 x 13 pan.

Grandma Ann's Peanut Butter Fudge

3 cups brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1 can (12 oz) PET milk
3-1/2 Tblsp. butter (stick)
small jar of marshmallow creme
2 tsp. vanilla
1 small jar of peanut butter
2/3 of a big jar of peanut butter

Boil sugars & milk for 10 minutes.
Remove from heat - add other ingredients
Stir & put in 9 x 13 pan.


This recipe was given to me years ago by Toby's sister-in-law. Although they are super yummy, unless you have a small village to help you roll the peanut butter balls, I'd recommend you drastically cut this recipe down. I don't remember exactly how many it makes, but it's gotta be somewhere in the neighborhood of 1 million...ok, I makes about 900,000 ;)  However, if you are making candy for a lot of people, this is great recipe for making lots of candy on a budget.


Photo from
3 lbs. powdered sugar
2 lbs peanut butter
1 lb. soft butter

1-1/2 package of chocolate chips
1 stick paraffin

Mix powdered sugar, peanut butter & butter. Roll into small balls & chill.

Melt chocolate chips & paraffin in sauce pan.

Dip rolled balls in to chocolate by stabbing peanut butter ball with toothpick & then dipping.
Cool on wax paper.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Crack Potatoes

I originally found this recipe here after coming across it on Pinterest. It sounded like it made several servings so I was waiting for a family function that I could test it out share it at. That opportunity came in the form of Christmas at my Mom's. Turns out they were a BIG hit so here's the recipe.

Crack Potatoes

2 (16 oz) containers of sour cream
2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
2 (3 oz) bags real bacon bits
2 packages Ranch Dip mix
1 large bag frozen hash brown potatoes

Before baking...
Combine first 4 ingredients, mix in hash browns. Spread into a 9 x 13 pan. Bake at 400 for 45-50 min. 

**Personally, I thought this dish was WAY too salty. Everyone else said it was just fine to them. Regardless, I think I'll try it next time with 1 Ranch Dip mix & 1 Ranch Salad Dressing mix (because the dressing mix is less salty).**

After baking...
picture thanks to
because mine were gone so fast I didn't have time to snap a picture! 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Easy Skillet Lasagna...My Way

Today's recipe is one I originally found here. While it's delicious when made as described in this link, I've tweeked it a little to make it better suited to our tastes & easier to make. ('Cause we all know I am all about easy-to-make recipes :)

(One side note, my changes do affect the nutritional value so making it "my way" will not result in the same Weight Watchers Point Value if you are a WW person.)

Easy Skillet Lasagna...My Way

1-1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 to 1 pound ground beef, browned & drained
1 large onion, chopped (I about 3/4 to 1 cup frozen chopped onions)
1 can mushrooms (or you can use 1 cup of chopped fresh mushrooms)
1 tablespoon garlic powder
2 cans (14.5 oz each) Italian diced tomatoes, drained
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1 tablespoon basil
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup cottage cheese
1-1/2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons parsley
7-9 lasagna noodles (fully cooked & cut into 1" peices)
Personally, I think this would be much better with macaroni, but for some reason Toby has a great aversion to macaroni shaped pasta (don't ask me why, I have no idea) so he suggested bow tie or penne pasta. I agree any of these options would probably be good as well.

Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.
Add onions & cook until softened, about 4 minutes.
Add garlic & mushrooms & cook for about 1 minute.
Add in cooked hamburger, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, basil, sea salt, & pepper.
Cook mixture until it thickens up a bit & mixture is heated through.

Add noodles to skillet & stir well.
Add cottage cheese, mozzarella cheese, & Parmesan cheese.
Stir in parsley.
Cook another 2-5 minutes or until mixture is thick.

Serve immediately with additional basil or parsley if desired.
Makes approx. (4) 1 cup servings.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

5 Minute Chocolate Mug Cake

Since getting this recipe in a email years ago, I've since seen similar ones on websites via Pinterest. Including a site here that has about 2 zillion types of cakes you can make in mugs...ok, maybe not 2 zillion but A LOT! Anyway, this is the only one I've personally tried (& I only post recipes on here that I've tried myself) so I'm going to share this one. If you try one of the others from the above website, let me know how they turn out :)

Labeled as the most dangerous cake recipe ever ('cause let's be honest, do we really NEED to be able to make chocolate cake in 5 minutes with stuff we usually always have around the house?)

5 Minute Chocolate Mug Cake

4 Tblsp. flour
4 Tblsp. sugar
2 Tblsp. cocoa
1 egg
3 Tblsp. milk
3 Tblsp. oil
3 Tblsp. chocolate chips (optional)
a small splash of vanilla extract
1 large coffee mug

Add dry ingredients to mug & mix well. Add the egg & mix thoroughly. Pour in the milk & oil & mix well. Add the chocolate chips, if using & vanilla extract & mix again.

Put your mug in the microwave & cook for 3 minutes.@ 1000 watts (high). The cake will rise over the top of the mug, but don't freak out!

Allow to cool a little & tip out onto a plate if desired.

This is enough for 2 if you really want to share....

Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies

I enjoy Christmas baking (when I have the time) & I have an absolute FAVORITE Christmas goodie: Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Years ago, Crisco came out with Crisco Sticks & on the packaging was a recipe for the Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies. You can still find a similar recipe here.  These quickly became known in our house as the best chocolate chip cookies ever. I've given them as gifts to teachers at Christmas time & had them request them again even after they no longer had Livi in class LOL! And, in case your wondering, Santa LOVES them! :)

Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies

3/4 cup (3/4 stick) butter flavored Crisco shortening
1 1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 Tblsp. milk
2 Tblsp. vanilla
1 egg
1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (6 oz)
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans, optional (I've never put nuts in my chocolate chip cookies)

Heat oven to 375. Place sheets of foil on countertop for cooling cookies. 

Combine butter flavored Crisco, brown sugar, milk & vanilla in large bowl. Beat at medium speed with electric mixer until well blended. Beat egg into creamed mixture. 

Combine flour, salt, & baking soda. Mix into creamed mixture just until blended. Stir in chocolate chips (& nuts if using). 

Drop rounded tablespoonfuls approx. 3 in. apart onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake one sheet at a time at 375 for 8-10 minutes for chewy cookies or 11-13 minutes for crisp cookies. DO NOT OVER BAKE!! 
(This I can not stress enough!!! We prefer chewy, gooey cookies. I usually bake mine for 8-9 min. Take them out & let them sit on the cookie sheet for approx. 1 min. Then I take a spatula & literally slide them off onto the foil on the countertops. They are still squishy & appear to not be done. You could not pick them up at this point. When they cool completely they are perfect!)

Makes about 3 dozen cookies. 

**If nuts are omitted, add an additional 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips...let's be frank, I just dump the whole bag of chocolate chips in :) 

"Organizing is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up." ~ A. A. Milne

In most cases, the quote above rings true. However, in the case of this blog, I'm doing things a little backwards. When I started this blog, I was new to blogging. There's a lot I didn't know (& a lot I still don't know - LOL - about blogging). One thing I didn't understand was the use of labels. Since I've now realized how much easier it is to search when posts of have labels, I'm going back through & adding labels to the old posts. I'm attempting to label posts with main ingredient (ie. chicken, pork, etc), if it's a dessert, soup, main dish, etc. & if it's a crock pot recipe, microwave recipe, etc. Hope this helps with finding recipes :)

Robert Redford Dessert

I've heard this recipe called "The Next Best Thing To Robert Redford Dessert", "The Next Best Thing To Sex Dessert", "Better Than Sex Dessert" & I'm sure it has many other names. Personally, being better than Robert Redford in my opinion doesn't take if it was "The Next Best Thing To Ian Somerhalder (or Adam Levine)"...well, anyway, the point is this is a fairly simple dessert that tastes INCREDIBLE!! I got the recipe from the wife of an old boss.

I know you won't be surprised to hear I've modified it a bit. I've increased the powdered sugar, cream cheese & cool whip so that that layer would be thicker in a 9 x 13 pan. You could cut the amounts of these 3 ingredients in 1/2 if you want a thinner layer. I also came across a picture of this dessert made with BOTH a layer of chocolate & a layer of lemon pudding. I'm not a big fan of lemon pudding, but it might be interesting to put double pudding layers in. I don't see any reason you couldn't use other flavors of pudding as well.

Robert Redford Dessert

1 cup flour
1/3 cup nuts, optional
1 stick of margarine, melted
2 cups powdered sugar
16 oz of cream cheese
2 cups of cool whip
2 small packages of instant pudding mix (chocolate or lemon - I've always used chocolate)
2 3/4 cups milk
cool whip to top with (the recipe uses a total of 2 tubs of cool whip)


Mix flour, nuts & margarine & press into bottom of a 9 x 13 pan. Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes. Cool. Mix powdered sugar, cream cheese & cool whip. Place over cooled crust. Beat pudding & milk til smooth & thick. Place over previous layer. Top with whipped cream.

Refrigerate for several hours or over night.


Friday, September 28, 2012

Grandma's Chili

As I looked through the recipes on this blog trying to decide what to fix for dinner a couple weeks ago, I realized one of our favorite recipes was missing...Grandma's Chili. Since Oct. is just a few days away & that fall nip is once again in the air, I thought it would be the perfect time to introduce you to my family's favorite chili recipe.

The one thing I've learned about chili is that every family has their own "best" recipe. Some people say that chili isn't chili if you put pasta in it. (In fact, my Grandma also makes something called "Goolash" that always seemed a lot like a variation of chili to me...) Then there's those who say it HAS to have pasta or it has to have a little sweetness to it. And, of course, there are those who aren't happy unless it's so hot your nose is running, eyes running tears like 2 rivers & sweat is popping out on your forehead.

This is our favorite chili recipe. It's simple, inexpensive to make & easily adapts to feeding 4 or 40. For years, if I wanted good chili I always went to my Grandma Patton's (Livi's great-grandma). One day a few years ago, I was with her at the grocery store & she was looking for Campbell's Spaghetti in a can. Knowing she wasn't one for canned pastas like this I couldn't help but ask her what on earth she wanted that for. "I'm making chili," she said. I know I must have looked at her like she'd grown another head. My grandma, the one who makes the best chili in the world, uses canned pasta in it!?!?!? I knew right then, I HAD to know how she made her chili.

Right about now, you're thinking I've lost it. I know, I thought she had too :) Trust me, give it a try. You'll love it (& how easy it is to make).

Grandma's Chili

1 can of Campbell's Spaghetti in a can 
 (NO MEATBALLS...this is very important as it will NOT taste the same...even if you pick the meatballs out (Grandma has tried))
1 can of chili beans
We like the hot because we like a little kick to our chili, you should use whichever "hot" level suits your family
1# of hamburger, browned & drained
1 packet of Chili seasoning mix 
Sorry, Kroger. You dropped the ball here. Your chili mix use to be great, but the past 3 times I've used it my chili was BLAND :( And, yes, I know that Kroger doesn't read my blog, but it's my blog so I can gripe about their chili mix if I want :)
1 jar of home canned tomatoes (or you can use 1-2 cans of diced tomatoes from the store)
Tomato juice (or water) as needed to thin chili to the consistency your family prefers
Shredded cheese & Crackers :) 

Combine the 1st 5 ingredients in a pot on the stove or crock pot (oh, yes, this great recipe is crock pot friendly :-)  Add water or tomato juice or a combination to thin based on what your family prefers. I LOVE tomatoes so I could easily use the whole big can of tomato juice, but my family thinks that makes it too "tomato-y". So I usually use about 1 cup of water & maybe half of the can of juice. Just be warned that if you use too much water, you'll water down the flavors & the chili will be blander.

The above ingredients makes enough chili for about 5-6 adult servings. I usually double this so we have leftovers. I have also frozen it before & it freezes & reheats well too.  One time I multiplied the recipe by 5 or 6  & made HUGE stock pots full for a family gathering. It multiplied well.

We love ours topped with shredded cheese & served with Saltines & pickles on the side. :) ENJOY!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Toby's Favorite Roast

Today's recipe is another one I found on Pinterest. Unfortunately, the "pin" linked only to a picture & not to an original source (it happens sometimes). (If this is your original recipe & you want credit, message me & I'll gladly link to you here:)  Here's the "pinned" pic:

I used the Kroger brand of Zesty Italian dressing mix, McCormick's Brown Gravy mix & Hidden Valley Ranch Salad Dressing mix. My roast was a little over 2 pounds.

Place the roast in crock pot, mix the mixes with 3/4-1 cup of water & pour over the roast. I let mine cook on low for abut 8 hours.

The result:
No knife needed! Super tender & easily cut with a fork!

Toby doesn't care much for roast, but I love it.  Usually, I just throw the roast in the crock pot, add some carrots & potatoes & a little water & let it cook. I love it that way. Toby: not so much. Not the case with this roast. He said it was quite possibly the best roast he'd ever eaten. (He also requested that I never cook roast  my old way again :) 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Most Amazing Pork Chops Ever

Ok, I don't know if I'd say "most amazing EVER", but these are pretty darn good chops. (And that's saying something coming from me, because I am not a big fan of pork chops!) This recipe is one that my bestie, Steph, found on Pinterest a while back. Here's a link to the original recipe, including a great picture of the finished product. The best part: this is a CROCK POT recipe!!! (Love my crock pot!!) :)

Most Amazing Pork Chops Ever

4 Bone-in/thick cut pork chops (I used 6-8 smaller boneless pork chops)
1 can of cream of chicken soup
1 envelope onion soup mix
1 envelope dry pork gravy mix
1-1/2 cups chicken broth

Place the pork chops in the bottom of the crock pot. Mix the other 4 ingredients in a bowl & pour over chops. Cover & cook on low for 6-8 hours.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Crockpot Ranch Chicken

This one is for Mom since she recently requested I add something to my blog that was new & good to eat :) I pulled the basics for this one off a forum I came across this morning, but (like most of my recipes) I've tweeked it a little...

Crock Pot Ranch Chicken

6-8 chicken breasts (I used the frozen ones which are generally large in size)
2 packets of Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing Mix
1 can of cream of mushroom soup
1 can of cream of celery soup
1-1/2 - 2 cups of sour cream
4 Tbsp. bacon bits (I used Kroger Real Bacon Pieces)
2 tsp. garlic powder

Put chicken in crock pot. Combine everything else & pour over chicken. Cook on high at least 6 hours. Serve over noodles or rice. 


Sunday, March 4, 2012

Ranch Pork Chops

Found this recipe on Pinterest (yep, again :). Originally, it came from here. I did make the Parmesan Mashed Potatoes, but my 2 critics like my mashed potatoes best so I've stuck with my old tried & true mashed potatoes ever since. 

Ranch Pork Chops

6-8 boneless pork chops (1/2" to 1" thick)
1 packet of ranch dressing mix
1 can of cream of chicken soup

I put the cream of chicken soup & dressing mix in the crockpot & mixed thoroughly. Then tossed in the pork chops. Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 6 hours. 

Serve with mashed potatoes. 

**Let me just say, I don't normally like pork chops. These, however, are REALLY good! You can easily cut them with a fork & they just melt in your mouth.**

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Crock Pot Chicken & Dumplings

Today's recipe is another great find on Pinterest...I just LOVE that site! 

This one comes originally from here and below is her picture of the finished product, because it is much prettier than any I took :)
 She has several other recipes that look worthy of trying (like Zesty Pasta Salad & Lone Star Steak House Cheese Fries - can't wait to try these!!!) so be sure & hop over there & take a looksie for yourself.

I love chicken-n-dumplins' (as we always called them), but I had never made them myself. I just figured they were one of those meals that only a grandma could do the right way :) I made these today & they are delicious, super easy to make & a fairly budget-friendly meal. 

Crock Pot Chicken & Dumplings

1 lb. boneless, skinless, chicken breasts (3-5)
2 Tablespoons of unsalted butter
2 cans (10.5 oz ea.) condensed cream of chicken soup
1 can (14 oz.) chicken broth
1 medium white onion, diced
4 large flaky refrigerator biscuits

(I also tossed in a little pepper & salt, but that's up to you & your family's personal preference.) 

Place chicken in crock pot & top with butter. Add cream of chicken soup, chicken broth & diced onions. (I used frozen diced onions - maybe 1/2 - 3/4 cup & added a little extra chicken broth about halfway through cooking that I will add at the beginning next time - maybe an additional 1/2-1 cup). Cook on high for 4-6 hours. 

Remove chicken from crock pot & use a fork to shred. Return chicken to crock pot. Cut each uncooked biscuit into 9 pieces & stir into the chicken mixture. Continue to cook on high for at least 30 minutes (I let mine cook longer). 

I love using my crock pot & I'm super excited that not only have I found another "keeper" crock pot recipe, but I've found a superb chicken-n-dumplins' recipe as well! 

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Hot & Sour Soup

One of Toby & I's favorite Chinese restaurant menu items has always been their Hot & Sour Soup. Recently, though, our local restaurants' versions just haven't been the same. So when I came across a recipe for Hot & Sour Soup in a Taste of Home booklet that came with the cookbook I got for Christmas I was super happy!! 

One note I need to make 1st: in a small rural area like ours, finding some (one in particular) of the ingredients wasn't all that easy. Fortunately, once you find them, they are ingredients that you can use more than once for future batches. 

Hot & Sour Soup

3/4 lb. pork tenderloin, cut into 1-1/2-inch x 1/4-inch strips
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/2 lb. sliced fresh mushrooms
6 cups chicken broth (it actually takes 1 & 1/2 of the boxes shown above)
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 Tablespoons chili garlic sauce 
** This is the hardest one on the list to find in our area - I eventually settled on this: 
Sriracha Sauce

but really, it's suppose to be this:

Chili Garlic Sauce

3/4 teaspoons pepper

1 package (14 oz) extra-firm tofu, drained & cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1 can (8 oz) bamboo shoots, drained (I cut these in half lengthwise - that's just personal preference)
1 can (8 oz) sliced water chestnuts, drained (I cut these in half, again just a personal preference)
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/3 cup cornstarch
5 Tablespoons water
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1/4 cup finely chopped green onions

In a dutch oven, brown pork in oil until no longer pink; remove meat & keep warm. Add mushrooms; saute until tender. Set aside and keep warm.

Add the broth, soy sauce, chili garlic sauce and pepper to the pan. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat; cover & simmer for 10 minutes. Return meat & mushrooms to pan. Stir in tofu, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts and vinegar. Simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes. 

In a small bowl, combine cornstarch & water until smooth; gradually stir into soup. Bring to a boil; cook & stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat; gently stir in sesame oil. Garnish with onions.

Makes about 2 quarts. 

Nutrition facts:
Serving size: 1-1/2 cups
240 calories
10 g fat
37 mg cholesterol
1,779 mg sodium
18 g carbohydrates
2 g fiber
21 g protein

**Although this doesn't taste exactly like the old restaurant version we remember, it is VERY good. We had plenty left over for tomorrow & I'm anxious to see how it tastes then because I have a feeling the overnight marriage of flavors is going to make for an even better soup tomorrow.  I do think having the right chili garlic sauce would make it even better so maybe I'll see if I can find it online & order it.**

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Crockpot Baked Potatoes

Pinterest is quickly becoming one of my very favorite internet past times. (As if I needed another way to waste time on the internet! HA!).  I have found some really great ideas & recipes on there. Today I tried something I read on there a couple weeks ago....baking potatoes in the crockpot.
You can read about this technique at the original place I found it (if you like) here...

Or I can just briefly tell you how it works :) 

Wash potatoes

Wrap in aluminum foil

Place in crockpot
Cook on high 6-8 hrs

Remove from crockpot, unwrap & load 'em up with all your favorite toppings!

Doesn't get much easier than that, does it?!? No heating up the kitchen with your oven & no waiting your turn to microwave your potato while everyone else is eating (and, I have to add, these are WAY better than microwaved ones anyway!)

*Note: you have to wrap them in foil & you do NOT add any water to the crockpot...this seems to be the 2 main questions asked over at the blog linked above*