Stuffed Texas Peppers

These stuffed peppers are fun to make and great for you! If you are a vegetarian, substitute ground meat for black or pinto beans instead. Super healthy and low-fat.

Involve your children in the preparation and I'll bet they won't even complain when you serve them this dish.

Now, don't let the directions limit your imagination either. Add in olives, top with sour cream, sprinkle with chopped nuts.... Delicious!

4 large bell peppers (red, yellow and/or green)
3/4 lb. ground beef, or ground turkey
2 T taco seasoning
1 cup prepared Minute Rice
3/4 cup black bean/corn salsa
1 cup shredded Mexican cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Tabasco sauce (optional)


Wash peppers, slice off tops and remove seeds
Microwave peppers on high with the cut side down, covered with plastic wrap, for 2 minutes. Remove and set aside- leaving the plastic wrap on for now.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium heat, brown the meat and drain off excess fat. Add taco mix and 2 T water. Stir well. Add in prepared rice (if you like, you can use brown rice for extra fiber and a healthier choice!) Finally, stir in the salsa and cheese. Add salt and pepper and/or Tabasco to taste.

Remove the prepared peppers and turn cut-side up. Fill each with about 1 cup filling. Microwave again for about 30 seconds - 1 minute. We actually prefer to broil the peppers for 2-3 minutes.

You may want to double the recipe - at my house, we each have 2 peppers!


Homemade Tomato Rice Soup

Winter is soup time. When the chill seems to seep in through the windows and under the doors, its time to think about a warm bowl of soup. This recipe is great for a light lunch, or as the start to a more hearty dinner.

I really love soup. Somehow, I just feel healthier eating homemade fare like this. Hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

  • 1 c. long-grain white rice
  • 1 1/2 c. water
  • 1 28-oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 1 15-oz. can tomato sauce
  • 1 c. chicken broth, low-sodium
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 6 cloves peeled garlic
  • 1/2 t. basil (fresh is best, but dried works too)
  • 2 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 T balsamic vinegar
  • 1 c. fat-free half and half (warmed to room temperature)
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary

Combine the rice and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to simmer and cook for 20 minutes (alternate, but not quite as tasty, prepare 2 servings of Minute Rice). Remove from heat and let stand for 10 minutes.

Drain the can of diced tomatoes through a mesh strainer over a medium bowl. Press the tomatoes against the edge to juice completely. Set tomato juice aside. Now, place the diced tomatoes on a rimmed baking sheet. Add onion, garlic, basil and olive oil. Strip the rosemary leaves from the stem and add. Season with salt and pepper. Broil in the oven on a high heat setting for 4 minutes - do not place too close to the heat!

Remove from the oven and carefully place into a blender or food processor. Add reserved tomato juice. Puree until smooth.

Finally, add tomato mixture to rice, then tomato sauce, chicken broth and balsamic vinegar. Heat well. Stir in half and half before serving.

This recipe makes 4-6 servings, depending on how deep your soup bowls are. Like any warm fare, you might want to serve with crusty rolls or french bread. Fresh, sweet, softened butter makes the meal. The beauty of soup is that it can fill you up, without weighing you down. You can count on not being hungry an hour or two later after enjoying homemade tomato rice soup.

I almost don't want winter to end.


Garlic Pork Stew

Ahhh.. winter and snow. Let's curl up with a delicious bowl of stew to warm up with next to the fire. You'll love how easy and tasty this dish is. And, for you garlic lovers out there... this is your answer. Stoke the fire and let's get cooking!

This recipe will give you 6 generous servings. You may want to double it if you're having guests. Be sure to serve with crusty french or sourdough bread and sweet, creamy butter. Especially delicious with any leftover ale from the recipe.... be sure to buy enough to quench the thirst of all your guests!

One of the best things about this stew is that you don't need to add unnecessary starches, like potatoes, or serve it over rice. It is pretty low-carb - especially if you skip drinking the beer and eating bread along with it. Oh... what the heck, its winter time! You're not going to be in a swimsuit anytime soon!

Shopping list:
  • 3 T olive oil

  • 2 pounds boneless pork loin, chopped into 2-inch cubes

  • 1 yellow onion, chopped

  • 12 cloves of garlic (that's not a typo)

  • 3/4 cup quality ale (reserve 1/4 cup for the cook) - best bets include amber ale, with some body, but not overly bitter or hoppy

  • 2 pounds Roma tomatoes

  • 1 8 oz. can tomato sauce

  • 1/2 c sliced green olives (stuffed with pimentos)

  • 1 can diced green chiles

  • salt and pepper to taste

Optional: 1/3 c. fresh cilantro (chopped) and 2 T cumin powder


Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Slowly add the pork and brown well. We've found that it works best to brown the meat in small batches and remove it as it is done. Set aside meat and add the chopped onion to the pot. Saute about 5 minutes, until your kitchen smells absolutely wonderful.

Use the ale to deglaze the pan - be sure to scrape in and stir pieces of cooked meat and onions. Add the meat back in, and now let's have fun! Next comes the garlic (peeled and halved), tomatoes, tomato sauce, olives and chiles.

Bring everything to a boil, cover and reduce heat. Simmer about 1-1 1/2 hours until tender. Then, remove the lid and raise the temperature to boil down the sauce and thicken it. Add additional seasoning if desired, and salt and pepper to taste.

Your family will be asking you to cook this at least once a week, if they're like mine. It freezes very well for leftovers. We've also found that a few days in the fridge allows the flavors to deepen and mellow. Delicious!


Homemade Garlic Paste

Don't spend extra money on pre-made garlic bread at the store! With this easy recipe, you can always have delicious garlic paste to use for homemade garlic bread. Its versatile enough to use for appetizers, salad dressings and more.

Homemade garlic paste is so easy - no wonder stores don't want you to have the secret. But we'll share!

Shopping list:

1 cup peeled garlic cloves (about 40) - tip: buy a carton of peeled garlic cloves at Costco or other warehouse stores
1/4 cup olive oil (extra virgin is especially delicious)
1-2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste


Roast the garlic cloves by placing them on a sheet of heavy aluminum foil, formed into a shallow roasting pan. Before roasting, drizzle with olive oil and add some salt and pepper (DO NOT add the vinegar yet)

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes, until the garlic is soft and turning golden brown (oh yum.... I can practically taste it right now!)

Remove from the pan and let cool.

Scrape the garlic cloves with the remaining olive oil into a blender or food processor, add the balsamic vinegar, and pulse until relatively smooth. Add a bit of oil, salt and pepper if needed.

That's it! You'll have about 1 cup of Homemade garlic paste. It keeps very nicely in the refrigerator for up to a month.

Add your garlic paste to sandwiches or burgers. Put it out with baguette slices for super easy evening treats. Stir it in with chicken or veggie sautes, or in creating your own salad dressings. Spread on crostini, add diced tomatoes and shredded parmasen cheese and broil for 2-3 minutes for a quick appetizer....

Your imagination is the limit!

BBQ Pork Ribs in the Crock Pot

Given that I live in a home with boys, I'm always searching for quick, easy and hearty menus to feed the boys -- especially on cold weekends when they have been outside playing or doing yard work. So, I often whip up some zesty ribs. No question this is one meal that tastes so good and will stick to their ribs!
Here's a family favorite BBQ Pork Rib recipe. This one ranks top on my list because its so much simpler than most BBQ rib recipes:

Grocery List:
  • 8 bone-in country style pork ribs (8 oz) each

  • 1 cup ketchup

  • 1 cup barbecue sauce (your pick - go as bold or sweet as you want!)

  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar

  • 1/4 Worcestershire sauce

  • 1 T balsamic vinegar

  • 1 T molasses

  • 1 garlic clove, minced

  • 2 T dried minced onion

  • 1 t Cajun seasoning

  • 1 t ground mustard

  • 1/2 t salt

  • 1/4 ground pepper

Place ribs in a 5-qt Crock Pot, aka slow cooker. Combine remaining ingredients, pour over ribs. Cover and cook on high for 3 hours or low for 6-7 hours until meat is tender.

C'mon.... you might be saying! It really cannot be that easy! Don't I need to brown the meat first? Nope. How can I make sure they are tender? Trust me - the meat will fall off the bones in this savory sauce.

Is your mouth watering yet?

Herb-Marinated Feta and Olives

I came across this old recipe in my recipe box and it brought back many memories. My husband made this when we were first married. It was our first Thanksgiving together and my parents were coming to visit us in Lake Mills, Wisconsin. It was -17 below, we lived in a tiny apartment and just learned we were expecting our first son in June.

This was also a time where I was still fighting all things domestic, which in my mind, included cooking. I had not learned that I didn't need to follow the recipes -- that they were merely "suggestions," and that I could let my artistic side flow through my recipes.
On this particular day, my husband took it upon himself to plan the menu for the entire weekend. He did an outstanding job. As any good Wisconsinite knows...evenings are complete with appetizers, preferably of the cheese variety, drinks and a meal. My husband, hearkening his Greek roots, decided on the following appetizer for the night before Thanksgiving.

As the recipe states, you should prepare the herb-marinated feta and olives in advance. This truly makes it the perfect appetizer for those hectic family gatherings, holidays or impromptu cocktail parties.
Hope you enjoy!

Shopping List:
  • 1 T whole cumin seeds

  • 2 t whole coriander seeds

  • 1 t dried crushed red pepper

  • 2 garlic cloves, minced

  • 2 t grated/zested orange peel

  • 1 1/2 cups extra-virgin olive oil *(Drain a bit of excess before serving).

  • 10 ounces assorted brine-cured green and black olives.

  • 3 T minced fresh basil

  • 2 T minced fresh cilantro

  • 8 ounces feta cheese, cut into 1/2 inch squares

  • 1 French-bread baguette, sliced on the diagonal.

Combine cumin, coriander and crushed red pepper in a heavy small skillet over medium-high heat. Shake skillet gently until spices are fragrant -- about a minute. Transfer to a bowl. Add in garlic, orange peel, and oil and stir to combine. Mix in olives, basil, and cilantro. Gentry stir in Feta. Cover and refrigerate at least one day (this can be made a week in advance--just keep refrigerated). Bring olive an cheese mixture to room temp. before serving.
Transfer mixture to a serving bowl and place on platter. Surround with baguette slices. Makes 6 appetizer servings.
Hope you make some of your own special family memories with herb-marinated feta and olives!


Brussels Sprout with Bacon

Since you are reading this post, you must be brave. Really. I mean who would really want to make Brussels sprout on purpose?

Still, I PROMISE you that you and your family will like this recipe. I can say that because I am one of the pickiest food eaters on the face of the earth. This is not an exaggeration. I used to have to sit at the table and "finish" my meal while my sisters got to watch the Muppet Show. I use "finish" in quotations, because I had help from my dog, Chewy.

So...when I say you will like this recipe for Brussels Sprout with Bacon, you can be assured I've tried it and like it! Just like Mikey (Life cereal commercial for those of you over 30). If you need a reason other than taste to try this recipe, consider that Brussels sprout are chalk full of vitamins and calcium. It is one of the best foods for a woman to eat. So if you're worried about your calcium intake or lactose intolerant - try the sprouts! You'll love it.

Did you know that Brussels sprout are the vegetable of the year? Its true!

My Aunt Suzie made this Williams-Sonoma knock-off recipe for Christmas in 2007. Like always, I've played with my food and tweaked it a bit to make it my own. Here's my revised recipe for Brussels sprout with bacon.

  • 1 1/2 lb. Brussels sprouts

  • 6 oz- 1b. bacon

  • 3 T olive oil (or bacon fat - you choose).

  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 2 T garlic chopped

  • 1 1/2 T marjoram

  • Salt and pepper to taste

  • 1/4 cup low sodium chicken broth (plus more if needed).

First, cut or pull off any dry or discolored leaves from the Brussels sprout. Slice off the dry end and quarter (or use a food processor and shred the sprouts). Set aside.

On the stove top, heat a roasting pan or large saute pan over medium heat. Cook the bacon until crispy. Transfer bacon with a slotted spoon. Pour out all but about 3 T fat (or drain off all fat and replace with 3 T olive oil). Saute onions and then add in garlic and Brussels sprout and toss until coated. Add in marjoram and salt for 2 minutes. Stir in 1/4 cup broth. Continue cooking, adding more broth as needed until the sprouts are soft -- about 5 -10 minute

Once done, crumble bacon (or pancetta) on top and stir to incorporate. Transfer to a warmed serving bowl and serve immediately.

Makes 6-8 servings.
Bacon not your thing? Omit the bacon, reduce the chicken broth and add in 1/4 cup of soy sauce. This is a great stir fry Asian-fusion-type side dish with the soy sauce.

***Kid Trick/Picky Eater*** My son always asks "what is this?" We don't say brussels sprout in case someone has told him they are disgusting, gross or good for you. Instead, we tell him they are little heads of lettuce. Since there is bacon on it -- that's all he needs to know. When I take this dish to a party, I say that the shredded sprouts are cabbage. People will eat and love it before they know they are having something healthy!

Marinades For Tasty Meals

As a busy mom, I try to keep things simple - especially my cooking. I do a little bit here and there, so I don't have to spend all day in the kitchen. When I go to the grocery store, I normally buy meats based on what is on sale. (coupons.com), manager's specials. Typically, I plan ahead my menu for the week with help from cost-cutting measures.

When I get home from the store, I put the meat I plan on using in the next two days in the refrigerator. All other meat goes into portion-controlled zip-loc freezer bags with a quick marinade. Later in the week, I just pull my pre-marinated meat from the freezer, let it thaw and then only worry about the side dishes. This trick works very well for impromptu summer grill outs or BBQ parties -- what host doesn't mind you bringing over marinaded steaks or chicken? You can even try these with tofu or veggies, if you are a vegetarian.
Believe me. Once you start whipping up these marinades, your dinners will be even more delicious and carefree! Just throw together a nice salad or some rice or potatoes and your family will be asking for seconds.

My second cousin, Mary Ericksen gave me the following marinade recipes for a bridal shower. We've tried them with shrimp, lamb and various cuts of chicken to pump up the recipes from your own books!

Pineapple Chipotle:

In a small bowl combine:

1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/3 cup frozen pineapple juice concentrate
2 Tbs. chipotle peppers in adobe sauce
Use 1/2 of the recipe to marinate protein (chicken, pork or shrimp) and reserve 1/2 for basting. Never baste with left-over marinade in which your meat has been sitting!

Makes 1 cup for 4-8 servings.

Coffee-Balsamic Marinade:

In a small bowl dissolve:

1 1/2 tsp. instant coffee in 1/2 cup of hot water

Stir in:

3 T balsamic vinegar
3 T dark brown sugar (try molasses!)
1 T olive oil
3 minced garlic cloves
2 T crushed black pepper
3/4 teaspoon salt

This recipe is an excellent marinade for beef or lamb cuts. Be sure to reserve some for basting.

Lemon Pepper Marinade:

In a small bowl combine:
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice and a bit of zest
1/4 cup dijon mustard
1 T olive oil
1 T sugar
1 T crushed black pepper
1 teaspoon salt

We love this lighter marinade for shrimp, swordfish, tuna, chicken or veggies!

Rosemary-Red Wine Marinade:
In a small bowl combine:

1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/3 dry red wine (plus one generous glass for the cook!)
1 T olive oil
4 minced garlic cloves
2 T chopped fresh rosemary
1 t. salt 1/2 t. black pepper

Especially delicious for chicken thighs, beef or lamb.
Too cold to grill? You can still cook up your meat in the oven (350 degrees for approximately 10 minutes each side to desired temperature). We also love our Foreman Grill! Dinner could not be easier... or tastier!


Groovy Meatballs

This recipe is circa 1960's and it is oh so groovy. Put on your most comfortable polyester pants and tuck in a scarf. Even Austin Powers loves these balls. (grrrrrrllll!!!!!)

While I won't be borrowing mom's white patent leather belt, I have permanently adopted her Groovy Meatballs recipe. I often bring them along to potluck parties. Just keep an eye on these balls... they have a tendency to disappear quickly. Oh, and men especially love this dish -- it's perfect for Super Bowl parties or tailgate parties. Yeah baby!

Go ahead! Put on some disco music and start whipping up your own groovy meatballs!


2 jars Taco Sauce

1 tsp. Lemon juice (add a bit of zest of lemon too!)

1 10 oz jar grape jelly


  • 2 lbs. ground beef

  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs (plain)

  • 2 eggs

  • 1 pkg. onion soup mix (a pantry staple!)

  • 1/2 tsp. oregano

  • 1/2 tsp. parsley

  • 1/2 tsp. Johnny's seasoning salt

  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. basil

    *I use fresh herbs in the summer. I think fresh herbs always add more flavor and color, and are - hands down - the best to use for most authentic tasting recipes. You can grow your own herbs in the winter with an indoor herb kit. Now, isn't that groovy?

Mix and simmer sauce ingredients in saucepan

Mix meatball ingredients and form into bite-size balls

Place meatballs into sauce and let simmer for 30 minutes or until cooked thoroughly (turning to coat)



Individual Chicken Pot Pies

My family loves this recipe for individual chicken pot pies. It's my husband's favorite football or weekend sports meal. On cold or rainy days, this recipe is hearty, satisfying and makes the entire house smell delicious. Simple and tasty, chicken pot pies will feed the bellies and the souls of your family.

I don't know what I like best - the ease of preparing this meal, or the smiles on my family and friends' faces when I make this hearty dish.

Shopping List:

1-2 boneless chicken breasts

1 medium yellow or white onion

1 bag frozen veggies

1-2 can cream of chicken (low sodium)

1-2 cans chicken stock (low sodium)

1-2 tsp chopped garlic

a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce

a few dashes of salt and pepper

a dash of garlic salt

a dash of nutmeg

a few dashes of hot sauce (if you like it spicy).

1 can Pillsbury grands biscuits.

You could also try using puff pastries, as shown in this Expert Village video, but I prefer the biscuit topping:


Place chicken in an oven safe dish, salt and pepper on one side and cook for 1/2 hour at 350 degrees. While the chicken is cooking. Saute your onions in 1/2 Tbs. olive oil. While you dice up your onions, get your saute pan sizzling hot (when the oil shimmers). I usually drop one little piece of onion in to see that it sizzles. If it doesn't, then wait for the pan to get hot. Once hot, put your diced onions in and reduce to medium-low heat and let the onions wilt until they become translucent.

Once the chicken is done, remove and let cool for about 10 minutes. I take this time to open up my cans of soup and get out all my spices so they are ready.

After it has cooled, cut up the chicken into cubes. As an aside, I normally will bake 4-5 chicken breasts at once and use the leftovers in another recipe (like my BBQ Chicken Pizza). Put the chicken in with the onions and the garlic.

To that add one can of chicken stock/broth. Next, add in one can of cream of chicken and whisk together to get out all the lumps. Add in your frozen vegetables and check the consistency. If it is too soupy or runny, add in another can of cream of chicken (cream of broccoli would be nice too). If it is too thick -- add a bit more chicken stock/broth. Once you've reached your desired consistency (should be thick like a stew), then add in the salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, nutmeg and hot sauce (Tabasco, or your choice). Nutmeg gives this dish the "homemade" feel.

Let the chicken mixture combine for 1/2 hour on low heat. You want to give time for the flavors to incorporate together and "marry". While you are waiting, open your Biscuits can and follow the instructions for baking. I normally place my biscuits on a non-stick silpat liner. Before placing in the oven, I like to sprinkle just a bit of garlic salt and nutmeg over the top of the biscuits.

Once the biscuits are done, spoon the mixture into large mugs (I personally love the Starbucks Mugs -- perfect for this recipe and for collecting. I have a mug from every city I've ever visited!) Place a biscuit on top of each mug and serve!

Using a spoon, dig through the biscuit to the filling. Enjoy the delicious home-baked goodness of your own individual chicken pot pie!


Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes

My friend, Jackie, made this appetizer at a baby shower and everyone raved about it. This is a perfect summertime recipe -- especially if you grow your own tomatoes. It is very easy, but does take some assembly.

However, if you don't have the patience to drain the tomatoes and "stuff" them, see the end of this recipe for a speedy alternative version with the same flavor.

Shopping List:
24 cherry tomatoes
1 pound bacon, fried crisp
1 bunch scallion, thinly sliced
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon pepper, freshly ground

Cut off bottom of tomatoes (opposite stem end) one-third of the way down. Hollow out seeds (small end of a melon baller works well) and place upside down in a paper towel-lined plastic container to drain.

Fry bacon until crisp; drain well on paper towels. When cool, break into small pieces and refrigerate. These steps can be done a day ahead.

A few hours before serving, combine bacon, scallions, mayonnaise, basil and pepper. Fill the cherry tomatoes and refrigerate. Serve on a bed of parsley. Serves 12.

*Leftover filling? Serve on pumpernickle bread and slice crosswise for cute little tea sandwiches. I also made the filling and chopped up tomatoes and put in the filling and skipped the entire tomato draining process.


Gigi's Party Mix, a.k.a. Nuts and Bolts

My mom used to make this party mix every fall. I almost couldn't wait for Halloween to be over because I knew she'd be making her nuts and bolts. Every day I'd come home from school and take a deep breath in when I walked through the door to see if she had made them. If I was lucky, I'd catch a batch just coming out of the oven and sneak a few handfuls before getting caught.

Now that I'm a mom, I make sure to whip up this recipe at least once a year. This year, my son came home from school and cheered: "yeah! nuts and bolts!" I love passing down recipes and love from one generation to the next.

This will no doubt become a family favorite in your home. A word to the wise...nuts and bolts are highly addictive and not so friendly to the waistline.

Shopping List:

  • 2lbs mixed salted nuts

  • 1 12oz pkg wheat chex

  • 1 10oz pkg cheerios

  • 1 6 oz pkg rice chex

  • 2 pkgs slim pretzels

  • 2 cups salad oil (vegetable oil). *DO NOT try other oils. It tastes terrible. Stick with this recipe.

  • 2 TBS Worcestershire Sauce

  • 1 TBS garlic salt

  • 1 TBS Seasoned salt


Mix everything in large pan.... bake at 250 for 2 hours. Stir every 15 min.

Super Bowl is right around the corner - this party mix is far better than the stuff you buy pre-packaged at the store. Chex Mix is such a classic, even the Peanuts characters enjoy it!

You will too!

Gourmet White Chicken Chili

Is it getting hot in here? Whooo Eeeee! This chili has some kick, so be careful! The heat sneaks up on you too, so be sure to serve with ice cold water, beer or what have you.

I guarantee this is a crowd pleaser and people will be begging you for seconds and thirds. Nothin'....I say nothin' is better on a cold night than this chili. So round 'em up and get your family into the kitchen for some spicy fun.

Shopping List:

2 cups (one medium) onion

3 cloves chopped garlic

2 tsp. ground cumin

2 tsp ground oregano

1 tsp. chili powder

1 tsp. red pepper (flake if you like it really spicy)

2 Tbs. olive oil

3-4 (or more if you dare) dashes hot sauce

salt and pepper to taste


Bake chicken breasts in 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. [Shortcut -- buy rotisserie chicken at market and slice up chicken breast into chili]. Cool and cut into bite size pieces. In a large skillet, cook onions in olive oil until wilted. Add everything else and cook over medium heat for 1 hour.

Ladle into bowls. You can serve with nacho chips, cheese, jalapeno peppers, sour cream or your favorite topping. I like to put the toppings in little dishes on the table and let everyone "create their own recipe" with the toppings.

I serve my chili with cornbread. For a super homemade cornbread shortcut, I buy the jiffy cornbread mixes. http://www.jiffymix.com/. To the mix, which requires milk and water, I add in a 1/2 cup of canned corn and a 1/4 cup of canned chopped jalapanos. You can also substitute the canned corn with creamed corn for a sweeter version.

Who's ready for a hearty winter meal? Whoooo heeeee!!!

Speedy Swedish Meatballs

My Swedish Meatballs have become a hit with my husband and son. I originally found a recipe from Sandra Lee in her first Semi Homemade recipe book (http://www.semihomemade.com/). However, one day I found I was missing sour cream, so I made up my own recipe. As an aside, my husband likes my recipe better.

Sorry, Sandra!

Whether for an appetizer or a meal, Swedish Meatballs are always a hit!

Shopping List:

Frozen Swedish Meatballs

Egg Noodles

1 can Beef Broth

1 can Cream of Mushroom

Salt and Pepper

Olive Oil.

Cooking Instructions:

In a large pot pour 2 Tbs or more of olive oil to coat the pan. Turn the heat on high. Pour in meatballs (I normally portion out 4-5 meatballs per person). If you want to be safe, put in 20-25 meatballs.

In another pot, I bring my water to a boil. Add in egg noodles. Again, the amount depends on the size of your family. If you really like to follow the letter of the law, add in a pound of egg noodles.

After the meatballs have browned, add in the cream of mushroom and beef broth (beef bouillon cubes also work well if you don't have beef broth). I whisk this together to get the clumps out. Then play with your food! I add in Worcestershire sauce and salt and pepper to taste.

Once the noodles are almost done -- or slightly al dente, transfer them with a slotted spoon over to the meatballs and sauce. Let them all hang out and "marry" for about 10 minutes before serving.

This is a quick and easy recipe that satisfies. I always make sure I have the above ingredients because this is the best "in a pinch" recipe.


Stocking the Pantry and Other Time and Money Saving Tips

Wonder how some people always seem to have a homemade meal on the table without effort. Yep, I'm one of those people that can do it - and you are too! Read on for a list of the essential items you'll want to have in your pantry and freezer. By keeping these basic meal-building essentials on hand, you’ll always be ready to throw together a meal or a party at the last minute. Shazaam!! Meals will materialize before your family's eyes. You will be the new kitchen Superhero!

Canned soups are the staple to many of my “famous” recipes. I stock up on cream of chicken, cream of celery, cream of mushroom, tomato and chicken and beef stock whenever it goes on sale. I use these items all the time, so I buy in bulk whenever possible. Holiday seasons are a great time to add these to your cart. From Thanksgiving through New Years', stores often put soups and stocks on sale.

Canned Veggies/Fruit:
Tomato sauce and tomato paste are also foundational to many of my recipes. I use in my hamburger casserole and spaghetti. Canned corn is always great if you can find it on sale, as are artichoke hearts. I use artichokes on my homemade pizzas and in dips.

Seasoning Packets:
Italian seasoning packets, Lipton onion soup mix, au jus packets, chili packets, taco/enchilada seasonings – these are great “go to” seasoning packets when you need something in a flash. Another cheap trick I have is that I use these seasoning packets as a marinade. I’ll buy chicken, pork, or steak at the store and then mix the packets together with a little bit of olive oil and put the meat in a zip lock bag with the mixture. Refrigerate overnight and then you are ready to grill, bake, fry or whatever the next day! The seasoning packets are great to throw into a crock pot with a roast or pork shoulder roast and create some tasty pulled pork, or whip together with cream cheese or sour cream for an instant party dip. You can’t go wrong stocking on up these babies when they go on sale.

Let's pause for a moment to see just how awesome you will be:

Frozen veggies:
I really like pearl onions to “dress up” a recipe. I always have a bag or two of pearl onions stocked away in the freezer. Another fantastic help for the harried mom or lazy chef is chopped onion. I normally keep a few bags on hand in case I: (a) forget to buy an onion or two at the store; or (b) simply want to cut down on my preparation time. My mom used to say “there’s nothing better than the smell of onions sauteing." That's all it takes! Whenever I start to saute some onions, my five year old comes up from the basement and asks: “What smells so good? Are you cooking dinner?” A little savory smell goes a long way.

I also buy frozen mixed vegetables for my individual chicken pot pies, as well as the steamed corn with butter. Whenever I find those on sale, I stock up too. The buttered corn with a bit of salt and pepper during the cold winter months lets me bring back a little bit of summer time. Kids love it too.

Being the parent of an infant can force you to grocery shop at odd times. However, we've learned that this can work to our benefit! If you arrive first thing in the morning (5:00-6:00 a.m.), that is usually when the butcher is putting out his or her manager specials. They are normally the “freshest” then. I tend to buy boneless skinless chicken breasts, pork ribs, beef ribs, and flank steak whenever it goes on special. Pop them in the freezer and then you can defrost and make up quick and easy dinners later without a trip back to the store. I always buy on sale, and try to use coupons as well.

Other Tips:
Coupons are now back in STYLE! In fact, my husband asked for a coupon organizer this Christmas. You can get them in the paper, at the store, or go to coupons.com. We save on average $60.00 or more off bills around $150 or more. Why not take advantage of free money? We have turned it into a game for the whole family. We all go to the store, and give my 5 year old the coupon. He is then told to search the aisle for that particular brand. Then, we do a price per unit check to ensure that the “sale” or coupon price is really the best deal. If not, we buy the best price per unit.
With just a little bit of planning ahead, you can avoid the last minute trips to the fast food joint, and impress your family and friends with wonderful, homemade meals in a flash.
Disclaimers: Do try this at home. Superhero cape is not included with this offer.

Easy Pork Tenderloin

Pork Tenderloin is so easy and good for you too! Today, I cheated and bought the pre-seasoned pork tenderloin at the grocery store. The store offers a variety of flavors, including peppercorn, but I had envisioned a P.F. Chang’s inspired meal.

The pre-seasoned tenderloin was $5.99. It could feed a family of 3 for two nights, or a family of 6 one night. If math is correct, this meal is right around $1.00/$1.50 per person.

The instructions are on the back of the Pork Tenderloin package. Of course, I did what it said, and cooked it in an oven-safe dish for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

While the pork cooked, I sliced up a bunch of green onions/scallions on a diagonal and pulled out some sesame seeds. In a small sauce pan, I put about a tablespoon olive oil in to coat the pan. Once hot, I added the green onions and sesame seeds. To that, I added a two tablespoons soy sauce, a tablespoon of hot chili sauce (spicy heat), and 2 tablespoons of peanut sauce (sweet). It made a perfect topping for the Pork Tenderloin.

Here's another alternative recipe for Pork Tenderloin:

As a leftover option, cut up the leftover pork, and make stir fry the next night. Just saute onions, peppers and the pork in a bit of soy sauce or stir fry sauce and pour over white rice. You can also make pork tacos or pork quesadillas with the leftovers.

Tasty and good for you!

BBQ Chicken Pizza

I have a quick and easy recipe for BBQ Chicken pizza. Rather than spend $12-14.00 on take out, I can make mine from things I have in my pantry and garden. My pizzas are not only “homemade” but I’ve even heard guests toss around the word: “gourmet.” This is my go-to recipe that is always a crowd-pleaser at dinner…or even at cocktail parties (when cut into squares).

I use Boboli Pizza crust, although you can also use Pillsbury Pizza dough or even buy pizza dough from your local pizza place. I personally think Boboli is the easiest. I also like the thin crust as well as the whole wheat Boboli pizza crusts. You save over ½ the calories and fat if you use the thin crust, and wheat is always the best health option (try switching to whole wheat pastas, pizza crusts, breads etc. and you’ll find you cut out almost half the calories, fat and sugar).

First, cook one to two boneless skinless chicken breasts in the oven at 350 for ½ hour. I salt and pepper my chicken and put in an oven safe dish. *** I also usually make this pizza with left over chicken. Great way to reinvent last night’s chicken meal! Once cooked, cut into bite size pieces.

Next, I slice up a red onion. I leave them in bigger pieces instead of chopping it up. In a saute pan, I pour a little bit of olive oil in the pan to coat the bottom. Once the pan is sizzling hot (or the oil shimmers), I add the onions. Turn the heat down and let them caramelize.

While your onions are caramelizing, I pour out some BBQ sauce (you choose!). I’ve tried spicy, mild, sweet, and tangy – whatever you like. It really is a personal choice. My son doesn’t like the spicy, so I tend to go with a sweeter BBQ when serving to children, and then kick it up when serving adults. I’ve never measured the amount of BBQ sauce either. I pour a bit on, take a spoon and cover the surface of the crust/dough. A little goes a long way – especially if you’re using a spicy BBQ sauce. Cheap shortcut: Save sauces from McDonald’s or other fast food places – use them here! I always ask for a couple “extras” when ordering chicken nuggets.

To the BBQ sauce I then add cilantro. In the summer I grow my own herbs so I’ll just go clip a bit, do a rough chop and sprinkle it on. In the winter, however, I’ve found that the “fresh” herbs at the grocery store are not all that fresh and are also expensive and do not last. Instead of using “dried” herbs, I found tubes of my herbs in the produce section of my grocery store. These tubes last a long time, and are worth the cost. I squeeze a dime to quarter size amount of cilantro paste onto the crust/dough and mix it in with the BBQ sauce.

Another version of this is Artichoke Chicken Pizza. I put a bit of olive oil and basil on my crust (enough to coat). I then add on cooked chicken, canned artichoke hearts, black olives and cheese (I prefer a white cheese).

This is a great recipe. My son loved it so much that he told me I should be on the Food Network. Love it!


Chicken and Broccoli Bake

I will admit that this recipe is one of my favorites, but Leslie may not agree. Growing up, I recall this Chicken and Broccoli bake fondly. My sister was a lot pickier than me! Still, I can tell you that my kids, ages 5-11, love this!

Times are tight and we're all looking for a simple, inexpensive meal that will be filling. Here's one that you can plan for Sunday dinner, or anytime of the week. It's cheap and fast. Even though we are not....

Shopping list:

6 boneless chicken breasts (or 1.5 pounds of chicken pieces)
1 package of frozen broccoli (or 2 cups chopped fresh broccoli)
2 cans of cream of chicken soup
1 cup mayonnaise
1 T. curry powder
1 T. lemon juice
1/2 cup bread crumbs
2 T. melted butter
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

Let's Get Cooking!

First, brown the chicken in a fry pan or skillet
While the chicken is browning, mix up the cream of chicken soup, mayo, curry and lemon juice.
Place the broccoli in a 13x9 baking dish
Place the cooked chicken over the top
Spoon the soup mixture over the chicken and broccoli
Sprinkle bread crumbs on top, then pour the melted butter over top and finally, sprinkle shredded cheese at the end.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Serve with salad and bread or rolls, if desired.

The leftovers work well for up to a week! I especially love the rich broccoli sauce and cheese! YUM!


French Onion Soup in 15 Minutes

Winter time is the season for soup. Its a hearty meal that will fill you up but won't add to your waistline. One of my favorite soups to enjoy is French Onion. My mom has an excellent recipe to make from scratch, but we're going to tell you how to create a delicious homemade meal with a few shortcuts.

Pull these ingredients together:

  • 4 cups Campbell's French Onion soup
  • 1 medium onion
  • Thick french bread, sliced
  • 2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
Let's get cooking!

Pour the soup into 2 or 3 bowls that are oven and microwave safe. Microwave the soup base for 2 minutes or until desired temperature.

Slice the french bread and place into toaster oven, or broil on high for 2-3 minutes each side.

While the soup is warming and the french bread is toasting, slice an onion in half and then into strips about 1/4 inch thick. Saute on medium high heat until soft.

Divide the sauteed onion among the soup bowls, top with a toasted bread slice and then about 1/2-3/4 cup of grated cheese.

Broil for approximately 5 minutes until cheese is bubbly and starting to brown.

Be sure to carefully remove and handle the soup bowls. We've found that its best to place them onto plates at the table. Warn guests that the bowl will be hot. Do not serve to children under age 6!

A few other alternatives to the steps above. Instead of Campbell's, try another soup base. We enjoyed Pacific Natural Foods Organic french onion. Each serving is only 30 calories (before bread and cheese!).

Instead of french bread, use thick croutons. This will speed up your serving time by several minutes.

Finally, experiment with different cheeses. When we enjoyed French Onion Soup today, we added a three cheese blend - Parmesan, Romano and asiago. Its easy to adjust this meal to suit your individual tastes!

Do you have any other alternatives for this basic recipe? Please share in the comments below. Enjoy!