Monday, April 30, 2012

Dry Rub for Pork

Last year we got into smoking meats at our house. I'm too impatient to babysit the smoker, so that's my husband's job, but I get the meat ready for him to smoke. Depending on the meat, that may mean brining, marinating, or simply seasoning. We went to Costco this weekend and bought five pounds of pork chops, so this afternoon we're smoking pork chops, and they just need a dry rub. Ideally, I would have put the dry rub on last night, but well...I was tired and didn't feel like it. So I got up and did it this morning. We're going to smoke our pork chops, but I have no doubt that this dry rub would be awesome for grilling or even using in the slow cooker, which I actually have done. I used it in a recipe for slow cooker barbecue pork and it turned out great. We also use it mostly for pork (ribs, chops, butt, tenderloin, etc.), but I'm pretty sure I've used it on chicken before and it was great.

Dry Rub for Pork

3 Tbs. brown sugar
1 1/2 Tbs. paprika
1 1/2 Tbs. salt
1/2 Tbs. black pepper
1/2 Tbs. garlic powder

Mix ingredients together and rub on pork. For best results, let it marinate overnight, but 6-8 hours is better than nothing. Grill or smoke as desired. One batch should easily season 5 lbs. of meat, if not a little more.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Diet Soda Apple Cobbler

I got a lot of apples in my Bountiful Basket again. It's not that I don't like apples, but to get through them all I'd have to eat like two a day and I don't like them THAT much. I do, however, love any dessert that includes apples. Apple pie, apple crisp, apple cobbler...the problem with that is my husband doesn't like baked fruit. I know, he's a weirdo. Luckily, my in-laws came over for dinner last night so I had someone to help me eat an apple dessert!

Since I started back on Weight Watchers last month, I've made a couple cakes with diet soda. All you do is mix a cake mix with a can of diet soda and bake it. I've tried lemon cake with diet lemon-lime soda and devils food cake with diet cherry cola. They were both good! When my family goes camping, they make cobbler in the dutch oven with diet soda, but they use canned pie filling. I didn't want to do that because it wouldn't use up my apples, plus it would have added sugar, which means the points value for the fruit would no longer be zero. I saw another recipe on Pinterest that used frozen fruit. That wouldn't work either, and besides, a lot of people complained that the frozen fruit made it watery on the bottom. Unhappy with my recipe options, I decided to wing it. It worked! I'm pretty sure you could use any fruit you wanted to. Cherries would be a pain because you'd have to take the pit out of all of them, but I'm thinking cherries with devils food cake mix and diet cherry cola would be freaking awesome...

Diet Soda Apple Cobbler

10 apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
apple pie spice to taste (I'm guessing I used 1-2 tsp. but I really don't know)
1 (18.25 oz.) box yellow cake mix, unprepared
1 (16 oz.) bottle diet lemon-lime soda

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place apples in 13x9 pan sprayed with cooking spray. Sprinkle with apple pie spice. Spread dry cake mix evenly over apples. Pour soda over cake mix, trying to cover as much cake mix as you can (any cake mix that doesn't get wet won't cook and will remain dry). Bake for 50-60 minutes or until toothpick inserted just into cake part comes out clean (if you poke the toothpick all the way into the apple mixture it will never come out clean). I highly recommend serving with vanilla ice cream!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Italian Stuffed Peppers

Eating bell peppers is a new thing for me. I didn't like them when I was a kid, but I've been trying very hard to try things that I didn't like back then. Red, orange, and yellow bell peppers were easy for me to like, but green bell peppers still aren't my favorite, especially if they're raw. Last week I got four green bell peppers in my Bountiful Basket and I wasn't sure what to do with them. I decided I wanted to try stuffed peppers.

I looked at at least a dozen recipes on the internet. There are so many variations! Italian, Southwestern, Creole, traditional...and I bet they are all pretty good! I saw a few that called for sausage instead of ground beef, and that sounded really good, so I knew I wanted to try one with sausage. I finally settled on one I found on Pinterest. It called for turkey Italian sausage, which I happened to find on "manager's special" at the grocery store. Perfect!

Many recipes said to boil the peppers before you stuff them, but some recipes and several reviews of other recipes said to skip that step. You know me, I'm all about doing things the easy way, so of course, I did not boil the peppers. I stuffed them raw and threw them in the oven. After 40 minutes they were crisp tender, which is how I like vegetables. Next time I might try leaving them in the oven for an extra 10 minutes, but that's more to please my hubby, who thinks a vegetable isn't cooked if there's any "crisp" left to it.

I also streamlined a couple things from the original recipe. The original recipe said to slice the tops off the peppers and stuff them upright, but I opted to cut them in half lengthwise to create eight servings instead of just four. It really wouldn't make a difference, so you do them however you'd like! The author of the original recipe said to chop up the tops (stems excluded of course) of the peppers, but since I didn't cut the tops off my peppers, I added in 1/4 of a red bell pepper I had in my fridge. I omitted the olive oil in the original recipe and just lightly sprayed the baking dish and the frying pan with olive oil cooking spray. I also added a can of tomato sauce.

Italian Stuffed Peppers

adapted from Kalyn's Kitchen

1 c. uncooked long-grain rice (I only had white, so that's what I used)
4 large bell peppers (I had green but any color would be fabulous)
1/4 large onion, finely diced (if you love onions, add more)
1/4 red bell pepper, finely diced 
10 oz. Italian seasoned turkey (that's half a package)
1/2 tsp. ground fennel OR fennel seeds
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
salt & pepper to taste
1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce
1/4 c. shredded mozzarella

Cook rice according to package directions. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Halve the green peppers lengthwise and hollow them out by removing the seeds and white membranes. Trim a little off the backs of the peppers so they lay flat. Place in a baking dish sprayed with cooking spray.

Spray a skillet with cooking spray. Add turkey, onion, and red bell pepper. Cook until turkey is no longer pink and onions and peppers are soft. Add fennel, oregano, Parmesan, rice, tomato sauce, and salt & pepper. Cook just long enough to heat through.

Stuff mixture into peppers, packing it in tightly with a spoon. Bake for 30 minutes. Top with mozzarella and bake another 10-15 minutes.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Saturday's Basket

Sorry, I'm a little behind. I realized last night that I forgot to post anything about the Bountiful Basket I got on Saturday. It was a good one! I also have quite a bit of stuff left over from last week's basket, so we should eat pretty well this week! Hopefully some of it will last into next week since I'll be out of town this weekend and will have to go without a basket!

Saturday's basket included celery, romaine lettuce, roma tomatoes, onions, spinach, yellow squash, corn, strawberries, bananas (not pictured, my bad), lemons, grapefruit, and apples. Here are a few ideas for everything:

Celery: chop into sticks and eat with dill dip, spinach dip, or peanut butter, or chop and freeze in 1-cup portions for future use in recipes

Lettuce: green salad, Fritos salad

Tomatoes: green salad, Fritos salad, sandwiches, summer vegetable tian, fresh salsa, omelettes

Onions: onion rings, uglies, summer vegetable tian, fresh salsa, stuffed peppers (recipe coming soon)

Spinach: smoothies, omelettes, spinach dip (although I must say I prefer to use frozen spinach over fresh spinach in dips)

Yellow squash: breaded & fried, summer vegetable tian, steamed

Corn: steamed, grilled, or however you like to cook corn on the cob

Strawberries: eat as is, smoothies

Bananas: eat as is, smoothies, tropical banana bread, frozen chocolate peanut butter bananas (I'll try to make these this week and post them because they're so awesome)

Lemons: sliced or quartered and served with ice water, lemon coconut sugar cookies (recipe coming soon), freeze juice in ice cube trays for future use (like in wheat pizza crust)

Grapefruit: eat as is, or maybe with a little sugar

Apples: eat as is, smoothies, apple pie, apple crisp

Saturday, April 21, 2012


As I mentioned before, my in-laws raise cows, so we always seem to have a freezer stocked with ground beef. One of my favorite recipes for ground beef is Uglies. Funny name, huh! I didn't come up with it. Whoever submitted the recipe to did, but it's a good one, because they really aren't very pretty. But they are yummy. And fast, and easy. Just what I like. Oh and if you have some left over, just throw them in the freezer! They reheat really well.


adapted from

1 package Grands! refrigerated biscuits
1 lb. ground beef
1/2 c. onion, finely diced
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 c. barbecue sauce
8 Tbs. shredded cheese (I've used cheddar and mozzarella and they're both great)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Brown ground beef, onion, and garlic in frying pan. Season with salt and pepper if desired. Meanwhile, pat or roll out biscuits into 6-inch wide circles and press into lightly greased muffin tins, forming cups. When beef is done, drain it and add barbecue sauce. Stir to coat well. Spoon beef mixture into biscuit cups. Top each cup with 1 Tbs. cheese. Bake for 15 minutes, or until biscuits are golden.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Summer Vegetable Tian

My husband has been out of town for longer than we thought he would, and since I pick up a new Bountiful Basket in a couple days, I thought I better start using up some of our vegetables. The kiddo and I have no problem going through fruit, but when I don't cook, our vegetables tend to get left out. What's particularly awesome about this recipe is it uses four items from my basket! I love recipes like that!

I pinned this recipe a while ago, and on Saturday when I picked up my basket one of my friends told me she had seen that I'd pinned it, and she had made it before and it was delicious! She was excited that we'd gotten all the ingredients for it so she could make it again. Since my husband thinks the only way he can eat squash is if it's battered and fried, I thought this recipe would be great to try while he's gone. Let me just say, it was a hit. I will be making it again, even when he is home!

The original recipe called for a potato. I left it out for two reasons: one, I'm back on Weight Watchers and potatoes cost points, and two, I didn't have a potato. The original recipe also called for one whole onion, but since I don't love onions, I only used 1/4 of one. If you love onions, feel free to use a whole one! If you got a basket and are using the squash and roma tomatoes, you'll have to cut up three squash (I cut up one yellow and two Italian) and three tomatoes because they are so small.

Summer Vegetable Tian

adapted from Budget Bytes

1/4 c. onion, finely chopped
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 medium zucchini, thinly sliced
1 medium yellow squash, thinly sliced
1 medium tomato, thinly sliced 
1 tsp. dried thyme
salt & pepper to taste
1 c. mozzarella cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat oil in skillet. Add onion and garlic and saute until softened, about 5 minutes. Spray 8x8 baking dish with cooking spray. Spread onions and garlic on bottom of dish. Arrange other vegetables in a vertical position in an alternating pattern. Season with salt, pepper, and thyme. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil, add cheese, and bake for another 15-20 minutes or until cheese it melted and starting to brown.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Chore Chart

I'm guessing that everyone reading this post is probably better at cleaning than I am. I cannot emphasize how much I hate cleaning. When I quit work to stay home with our daughter, I thought that maybe I wouldn't mind cleaning so bad anymore because I'd have more time to do it. I was wrong. I've been a stay at home mom for nearly two years now, and my house is still not spotless (in fact several rooms are still messy) and I still hate to clean. I struggle every day to make myself get on top of the mess.

On Pinterest there are several chore charts. I thought it would be a good idea for me to have a list to work from, something to help me stay focused. I saw this one and it seemed to fit my house pretty well, plus it's thorough and includes things like wiping down baseboards, which quite honestly, would never occur to me to do. Yeah, I suck that bad at cleaning. It has daily tasks then breaks the house into sections so that each day you complete daily tasks plus work on one room or area. The chart says "30 minutes" under each section, and I thought yeah right! I can't do all that in 30 minutes! Initially I thought maybe after I got on top of things that I could do all that in 30 minutes, but after reading the blog it came from, I realized that's not what the author meant. What she meant was that you work on each section for 30 minutes, get done what you can, then next week, you work on what you didn't get to. That made a lot more sense to me and made me feel better about not being able to get everything done in 30 minutes.

Eager to try something, I printed out the chart and took it to Staples to have it laminated. I bought a dry erase marker and hung the chart on my fridge. As I complete tasks, I cross them off.  At first I cleared it off every day so that the only things crossed off would be what I did that day. Soon I figured out that on some days, I didn't get to much at all, but that I could usually catch up on the major things I missed on another day. Once I figured out that it worked a little better for me on a weekly basis, I erased the daily tasks every day, but left the weekly tasks alone until Sunday night. I liked being able to see what I'd accomplished each week.

After using this chart for a few weeks, I realized there were some things that I could change to make it fit my house and my routine better. For example, the original chart lists three bathrooms, and I only have two, so I wanted to list another room on Friday. The author didn't list any kids' rooms because her kids clean their own rooms. My daughter is two so while she can help pick up her room, the actual cleaning falls to me, so I wanted to include her room on my chart. I also wanted to slimline it a little. Instead of listing the various items that need dusting in a room, I just wanted it to say "dust."

I finally got around to creating my own chart last week. While looking for backgrounds for this blog, I found some really cute banners. I picked one I liked and slapped it in a new document on my word processing program. I played around with it until I got it all to fit on one page and liked how it looked. It may seem silly to spend so much time designing a chore chart, but I swear that getting to cross things off a cute chart makes me feel more accomplished. I included the link to the original chart I used as well as posting the chart I created so if you want one, you can pick the one that works for you. Or, you can create your own!

I'm proud to say that since I started using a chore chart, I've managed to make our bed every day, change our sheets on a regular basis, mop the kitchen floor every week, and clean the bathrooms every week. I realize that most of you already do that, but it's been a big deal for me. Every week my house gets a little cleaner, and I'm just going to keep working on it. One day, I will not feel self conscious when someone drops by unexpectedly. That day may not be today, but I'm getting there!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Budgeting and Cash Envelopes

This week my husband is working out of town, so I won't be cooking much. I thought I'd take this opportunity to blog about a few non-food items I've found on Pinterest that have been helpful in my life. Maybe they'll be helpful to you too!

The very first project I made from Pinterest was a cash envelope. Actually, it was five cash envelopes. Some time last summer or fall, I can't really remember when, we decided we needed to be on a budget. My husband was making pretty good money, but it never seemed to last as long as it should, and we never seemed to get ahead. At the time he was working out of town permanently, and the only way we could get him home was to put ourselves in a better financial situation.

We'd tried budgeting before, back when we were newlyweds. It didn't work out really great. We just continued to use our debit card for whatever we were buying, regardless of what the money was supposed to be set aside for. This time around I was a little more desperate to make it work, so I decided that cash would be the way to go, at least at first, until I could get everything figured out. (I should mention that I'm saying "I" because my husband is involved in the decision making process, but when it really comes down to it, I handle our money on a daily basis.)

I remember that my grandma kept her money in little envelopes. When day planners became fashionable, she got one that had little zippered plastic bags in it, and then she kept her money in those. I don't know how she broke down her budget, but I'm sure there was one for groceries, one for gas, one for bills, etc. I pay all my bills online through my bank's bill pay service, so I didn't need cash for everything, just for certain things. I'll break down how I did our budget, and maybe one or two ideas will work for you.

When my husband gets paid, the first thing I do is log in to my bank's bill pay system and pay all the bills that are due before the next pay day. As I go, I subtract everything I pay from the amount of the paycheck. Next, I subtract the amount that I set aside for fuel. At most places it's more convenient to pay at the pump, so I didn't want to use cash for that. Next, I figure out how much cash I need. The first time I did it I had to guess, then I've just adjusted it as needed. Now I have it pretty exact, so I take out the same amount of cash every time. If there is money left after all that, I transfer a certain amount into savings for Christmas, and if there's still money left, my husband and I discuss what we want to do with it. Usually it goes into savings. After budgeting this way for a few months, we were able to save up $5,000.

I take cash out for groceries, dog supplies, entertainment/dining out, gifts, and personal spending money. At first I just used regular envelopes that I had in my desk drawer. They worked okay, but they didn't fit very well in my wallet. Then, one day on Pinterest, I saw a template for cash envelopes! Someone took the time to design it and post it on the internet, so all I had to do was print out five copies, fold them up, glue them, and label them. They are just wide enough to fit money in. They fit perfectly in my wallet. They are awesome.

I'm sure you noticed they have a place on them for you to track what you've spent so you know how much you have left. I don't use that. For one thing, I don't really feel the need to know what I spent it on. If I took money out of my groceries envelope, I spent it on groceries. The other reason I chose not to track my money like that is I didn't want to have to continually make new envelopes. I printed mine out on card stock, so they've lasted for a long time.

At Christmas time, my sister-in-law made one for Christmas shopping money. She's a scrapbooker, so she printed hers out on cute paper. I wish I had thought of that! After that I bought cute paper so I could make mine cute, but as you can see, I haven't done it yet. When these ones start to fall apart, I'll replace them with the new and improved version. When I do it, I'm going to fold them so the writing is on the inside, since I don't use it anyway.

If you are thinking about budgeting, I highly recommend using cash. It makes you realize how much you really spend. Now when I go to the grocery store, I'm more careful about planning out my meals so I only buy what we really need. When I want to stop and get lunch on my way home from the grocery store, I ask myself if I really want to spend that money, because once I've used up my allowance, there's no eating out until next payday! I'm not going to lie, at first it is miserable. I felt like we were so broke! In reality, we had the same amount of money we always had, but it was all tucked away and set aside for what we really needed it for. No more spending the dog food money on pizza! At Christmas time, we paid cash for every gift we bought because we'd budgeted for it. We'd been setting money aside just for that for a few months. This year we'll have even more when Christmas rolls around. There are just so many positive aspects to cash budgeting! I can't imagine going back to using my debit card to pay for everything.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Homemade Pizza with Wheat Crust

I love food in general, but if I had to pick a favorite food, it would probably be pizza. It's probably a good thing that my husband doesn't care for pizza because if he liked it as much as I do, we'd probably have pizza once a week. Instead I try to keep it to once a month for his sake.

I used to buy prepackaged pizza crusts and bottled pizza sauce, but like most things, one day I decided I should try to make my own. I've tried a few different recipes for each, and I finally found recipes that I absolutely love. The best part is that both the crust and the sauce recipes make enough for two pizzas, so I always have pizza dough and pizza sauce in the freezer.

Homemade Pizza with Wheat Crust


1 2/3 c. warm water
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 tsp. lemon juice
2 Tbs. sugar
2 Tbs. nonfat dry milk powder
1 tsp. salt
2 1/2 c. bread flour
2 c. whole wheat flour 
2 tsp. active drive yeast

Place ingredients in bread machine pan in order suggest by manufacturer. Select dough setting and start. Check after 5 minutes and add 1 to 2 Tbs. of water or flour if needed. While dough is mixing, you can make the sauce. 

When cycle is completed, turn dough onto a lightly floured surface. Divide in half (I find a pizza cutter works well), cover, and let rest for 10 minutes. If you're going to freeze half of it, wrap it well in plastic wrap, place it in a freezer bag, and put it in the freezer while the dough you're going to use is resting. Roll dough into a circle to fit your pizza pan. I have a 14-inch pizza stone, so I actually roll my dough out on my stone. It's easier than transferring it, I think. 


1 6 oz. can tomato paste
1 1/4 c. warm water
3 Tbs. grated Parmesan
1 tsp minced garlic
1 Tbs. honey, or to taste
3/4 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. oregano
1/4 tsp. basil
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp. dried red pepper flakes
1 tsp. salt, or to taste

Mix all ingredients in small bowl. Let rest for 30 minutes before using. Use half on pizza and freeze remaining half.

Brush pizza crust with olive oil or spray with olive oil cooking spray. Add pizza sauce and toppings. Bake at 400 degrees for 20-30 minutes, or until cheese is melted and crust is golden brown. 

My favorite toppings include mushrooms, sliced red bell pepper, and pepperoni, or pineapple, jalapenos, and pepperoni. If you've never tried turkey pepperoni, go for it. Trust me, it is not the disappointment that turkey bacon is. I really can't tell a difference, other than my pizza doesn't drip with grease like it does when I use regular pepperoni.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Today's Basket

Wow, today I got an awesome basket. I volunteered this morning and let me just say that distributing nine apples a piece into ninety-six baskets kicked my butt. I happened to distribute the Italian squash too, but it wasn't as bad. The good news is I got in a good workout and I got extra brussels sprouts for my trouble!

Today my basket included brussels sprouts, onions, green bell peppers, Italian squash (like zucchini), yellow squash, tomatoes, romaine lettuce, bananas, pears, Minneola tangerines, lemons, kiwis, and apples.

I think everything is pretty simple to use up this week, just as it was the last time I got a basket two weeks ago. I envision eating most of the fruit as is, and as for the vegetables, I am seeing dishes that use multiple items like kabobs or green salad. Nothing too complicated this week!

My only suggestions are really for the lemons: if you don't use them, squeeze the juice into ice cube trays and freeze it. I like to measure mine so I know how much is in each cube. I find most recipes use 1 tsp. If you freeze it in 1 tsp. portions, whenever you have a recipe that calls for lemon juice, all you have to do is thaw the amount you need and ta da! You have fresh lemon juice. Besides that, I have a fun recipe for lemon coconut cookies, or you can always just slice a lemon and serve it with your water.

If you got a basket an need ideas for any particular item, let me know! I'll see what I can come up with!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Fritos Salad

I get romaine lettuce from Bountiful Baskets a lot. That's not a bad thing, but my husband has never really liked leafy green lettuce. He's an iceberg lettuce kind of guy. He is a pretty good sport about eating romaine lettuce because he appreciates how much money we save by buying a basket, but I know he still really doesn't like it. For some reason, romaine lettuce seems to be less noticeable in Fritos salad.

Fritos salad is something that my mother-in-law makes. I don't know if she found a recipe for it or just made it up, but it's delicious. I was a little unsure about it at first because I haven't always been a huge fan of beans, but I'm coming around to them. Now it's one of my favorite salads to make. It's a great way to use up a head of romaine and my daughter loves beans, so it's a great way to get her to eat some vegetables! Plus there's something about the saltiness of the Fritos and the sweet Catalina dressing that just tastes so good.

Fritos Salad

1 head lettuce, chopped (any kind will do)
1 bell pepper, thinly sliced (pick your favorite color!)
1 cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, and sliced
1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup Fritos (I usually just dump some in, so I'm guessing I use about a cup)
1/2 bottle Catalina dressing (I usually use light Catalina but if you're not watching what you eat, go for Kraft Honey Catalina!)

If you're taking this to a pot luck, throw everything in a big bowl and mix! I think it tastes the best like this. However, leftovers don't survive like this because the dressing makes everything soggy. So if you want to eat it for a few days, just mix up the vegetables, then add the Fritos and dressing as you eat it. I did that last night, which means I get to have some for lunch today. I can't wait!

Monday, April 9, 2012


I have been making these cookies since I was in the 5th grade. Yep, the 5th grade. In my 7th grade English class we had to demonstrate something to the class. I demonstrated how to make snickerdoodles. They're my go-to cookie. They're a wee bit labor intensive, but they're not hard. They're easier if you have a standing mixer, but I made them for years with an electric mixer and a sturdy wooden spoon. This recipe came out of a Better Homes & Gardens cookbook that my mom had, but I've never seen the same recipe anywhere else, even in newer Better Homes & Gardens cookbooks. So, this might be the only place you can get this recipe for snickerdoodles. I hope you like them!


3 3/4 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 c. butter, softened (DO NOT microwave! Be patient and let it soften on the counter!)
2 c. + 2 Tbs. sugar, divided
2 eggs
1/4 c. milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In medium bowl, mix together flour, salt, baking soda, and cream of tartar. Set aside. In large bowl, beat butter for 30 seconds. Add 2 c. sugar and beat until fluffy. Add eggs, milk, and vanilla; mix well. Add flour mixture. If you have a standing mixer, this is where it really comes in handy. If you just have a handheld mixer, don't use it to mix the flour mixture in! Put it down, get out a trusty wooden spoon, and give your arm a good workout. Mix until all the flour mixture is incorporated and a dough forms. In small bowl, mix 2 Tbs. sugar and cinnamon. Roll dough into 1-inch balls, then roll balls in cinnamon-sugar mixture. (This is the labor intensive part, it takes awhile to roll all that dough into little balls.) Place on greased cookie sheet and flatten slightly with the bottom of a glass. Bake 8-10 minutes (my oven usually takes 11) or until edges just barely start to turn golden. Just barely! Don't overdo it. Remove to cooling rack to cool completely.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Avocado Deviled Eggs

I am not a big fan of eggs. I don't mind the occasional scrambled egg, particularly if it has bacon and potatoes in it, but that's where my tolerance of eggs ends. Like a lot of things, I'm trying to acquire a taste for eggs, as they are easy to fix and a great source of protein. Last night I decided to dye Easter eggs with Bonnie Mae at the last minute. She had fun and the Easter Bunny hid them while she was sleeping so she could hunt for them this morning. And then I had a dozen eggs staring at me, saying, "Please don't let us go to waste!" (Being less wasteful is something else I'm working on.)

Since we were having a hot dog roast at my in-laws today, I decided at the last minute to try to make deviled eggs. It was the eggs' only chance at getting eaten. I vaguely remembered seeing some jazzed up deviled egg recipes in magazine and on Pinterest. I'd never really paid attention to them, of course, since I never planned to make such a thing. I thought that maybe if I tried something fun that included a flavor other than egg yolk, maybe I could talk myself into trying a deviled egg. The first recipe I pulled up on Pinterest was for avocado deviled eggs. Since you use avocado in place of most of the mayonnaise, it seemed like a great one to try.

Amazingly enough, I didn't hate them! I actually ate one whole egg! That being said, I'm not entirely satisfied with the results, but that's not the recipe's fault. When I was making them the internet at my in-laws house wouldn't work, so I made the recipe from memory. They were a little bland to me, but that's probably because I didn't remember the pepper or the ground mustard. I wanted to share the recipe because like I said, I think it's so great that avocado takes the place of most of the mayonnaise. I know avocado is still fattening, but it's got to be a healthier alternative, right?

Next time I think I will use a little Miracle Whip Light in place of the mayonnaise and add a couple pieces of cooked and crumbled bacon. I suppose you could use turkey bacon if you wanted, but I'm pretty sure whoever decided that turkey bacon would make a good substitute for pork bacon had never actually tasted bacon before. Hello! Turkey bacon tastes nothing like regular bacon. Period. Anyway, maybe you can play with the recipe a little too and come up with something super duper delicious! Or you know, just make the recipe with the pepper and ground mustard like you're supposed to. I bet that will work fabulously too.

Oh yeah, about my eggs are not pretty. All the pins on Pinterest were of these gorgeous eggs that had filling piped back into them in pretty designs. I thought about whipping out a pastry bag, but then I decided that was silly. Who really does that? Not me! And since I want this blog to be about things that are EASY to do, piping filling into perfect little egg cups doesn't really seem to fit. 

Avocado Deviled Eggs 

from Mother Thyme

6 peeled hard boiled eggs
1 ripe avocado peeled and pit removed
1 1/2 tsp. fresh lime juice
2 Tbs. mayonnaise
1/2 tsp. freshly chopped parsley
1/8 tsp. ground mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

Halve eggs lengthwise. Remove yolks and set whites aside. In small bowl, combine yolks with the rest of the ingredients. Mash together until smooth. I used a potato masher but I bet a fork would work great too. Spoon yolk mixture back into egg whites. Sprinkle with more parsley if desired. I doubled the recipe to use a dozen eggs.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Bird Nests

Many years ago, my aunt brought little bird nests made out of chow mein noodles to our Easter picnic. A few years later when I asked her about them, she couldn't remember making them. Go figure, right? A couple months ago it occurred to me that someone probably put the recipe for them on their blog! I was right! I don't know if it's the same recipe as my aunt's because to be honest I really don't remember what they tasted like, I just remember that I liked them. Aren't they cute? I can't wait to eat one, but I'm saving them for our picnic tomorrow!

Bird Nests

adapted from The Curvy Carrot

6 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
6 oz. butterscotch chips
1 c. peanut butter
1 1/2 (5 oz.) cans chow mein noodles
candy eggs (I used Cadbury ones)

Spray a muffin tin with cooking spray. In medium bowl, combine chips and peanut butter. Microwave at 30 second intervals, stirring between each one, until smooth (mine took 1 1/2 minutes). Add chow mein noodles and fold in gently until evenly coated.  Divide evenly among muffin tins. You might have to use your fingers to create a little indentation in each one to hold the eggs. Refrigerate until set. Use a butter knife to loosen each nest from its tin. Place a few candy eggs in each nest. Ta-da! Adorable!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Slow Cooker Chicken Taco Soup

This is one of my all-time favorite recipes. It's easy, everyone loves it, I almost always have all the ingredients on hand, and it freezes well. I buy all the canned ingredients by the case whenever there's a case lot sale, and I always have chicken in the freezer, so it's super easy to throw together in the morning. And if you buy everything on sale like I do, it's cheap too!

Slow Cooker Chicken Taco Soup
adapted from

1 can black beans
1 can chili beans
1 can corn, drained
1 can diced tomatoes
1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce
1 can chicken broth
1 (4 oz.) can diced green chiles (or 1/2 c. of the BB chiles you roasted and froze)
1 packet taco seasoning (or 2 Tbs. of this)
1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs (you can even throw them in frozen)

 Optional garnishes: shredded cheese, tortilla chips, and sour cream

Mix together black beans, chili beans, corn, tomatoes, tomato sauce, chicken broth, green chiles, and taco seasoning in slow cooker. Add chicken and press into mixture until completely covered. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours. Before serving, remove chicken, shred, and return to slow cooker. If desired, garnish with crushed tortilla chips, shredded cheese, and sour cream.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Slow Cooker Funeral Potatoes

I love funeral potatoes. For those of you who aren't from Utah, funeral potatoes are basically scalloped potatoes with a corn flake topping. They're commonly served at funeral luncheons, hence the name. I'd never actually made my own funeral potatoes, but when I saw this recipe I had to try it. Technically it's a recipe for scalloped potatoes, and the original recipe called for cream of potato soup. I thought, "Hey! I can use cream of chicken soup and it will be just like funeral potatoes!" So that's what I did. Granted, they don't have the corn flake topping, but I don't really miss it. What I really like is that you can throw these in a few hours before dinner, then you don't have to worry about cooking a side dish and your main dish at the same time.

Slow Cooker Funeral Potatoes
adapted from

1 can cream of chicken soup, undiluted
1 c. sour cream (fat free works just fine)
1 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
2 lbs. potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced (about 6 medium ones)
1 1/2 c. shredded cheese (I used cheddar)
1/2 tsp. paprika
3 Tbs. chopped chives (which I omitted)

In large bowl, combine cream of chicken soup, sour cream, and Worcestershire sauce. Add potatoes and stir until coated. Add 1/3 of potatoes to slow cooker sprayed with cooking spray. Add 1/2 the cheese. Then add half of remaining potatoes, all of remaining cheese, and top with all remaining potatoes. Cover and cook on high for 3 1/2-4 1/2 hours. In my experience, 3 1/2 hours is plenty of time but your slow cooker may be different. Stir well and sprinkle with paprika and chives, if desired.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Meatloaf For People Who Don't Like Meatloaf

Meatloaf strikes fear into the hearts of many people. I think a lot of people have had really nasty meatloaf over the years, and it's turned meatloaf into something scary in our collective consciousness. As a general rule, I don't care for meatloaf. I think baked ketchup is disgusting and most meatloaves are chock full of onions, something that no matter how hard I try, I still dislike, especially in large amounts. But this meatloaf is different. My Grandma Elaine gave the recipe to my mom years ago, and we've been enjoying it ever since. Over the years I've shared the recipe with several other people who said they didn't like meatloaf (my husband included), but changed their minds after trying this recipe, hence the name!

If you do try this recipe and decide you like it enough to make it again in the future, I suggest investing in a 2-piece meatloaf pan. The smaller pan has little holes on the bottom of it so as your meatloaf bakes, the fat from the ground beef drips down into the larger pan. I bought mine at Wal-Mart a few years ago. I think I paid $10 but I really can't remember. It's especially nice if, like me, you slaughter your own beef and end up with ground beef with a higher fat content. (Okay, technically I don't even have cows, much less slaughter my own beef, but my in-laws have cows and every year I end up with a freezer full of ground beef.) The point is if you just use a normal loaf pan, sometimes your meatloaf ends up swimming in fat and it's just kind of gross.

Meatloaf For People Who Don't Like Meatloaf

1 1/2 lbs. ground beef
1 c. soft bread crumbs (2 slices of bread broken into itty bitty pieces)
1/4 c. grated carrots (about 1 carrot)
1/2 c. milk
1 egg
1 1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper

1/2 c. ketchup
4 Tbs. brown sugar
2 Tbs. honey
2 Tbs. mustard

In medium bowl, combine bread crumbs, carrots, milk, egg, salt, and pepper. Add ground beef and mix thoroughly (you can do it with a fork, but I recommend digging in with your bare hands). Press into 9x5" loaf pan sprayed with cooking spray. In a small bowl, combine sauce ingredients and mix until smooth. Pour 1/2 to 2/3 of sauce on meatloaf and bake at 375 degrees for one hour. Serve with remaining sauce.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Homemade Fabric Softener

I know a lot of people don't bother to use fabric softener, but I've always loved it. I think it makes a definite difference in how my clothes feel. Last week I made my own laundry soap with great success. I figured if that worked so well, maybe I could make my own fabric softener too. There are lots of recipes out there. I picked the simplest one I could find: vinegar and essential oil. To be honest I can't remember where I found it, so there won't be a link back to the original site.

I've only used it on a few loads so far, but for the cost, I'm very happy with the results. My clothes don't smell as strongly as I'd like, but strong fragrances irritate both my husband's and my daughter's skin, so I guess that's not a bad thing. Everything seems to come out soft. I've also read a lot of things about vinegar lately that say it gets rid of residues and smells on clothing, so I figure it most certainly can't hurt to use it!

Homemade Fabric Softener

1 gallon white vinegar
20 drops essential oil (I used lavender, but I think you could use whatever you want, like a citrus oil or tea tree oil)

Add essential oil to vinegar and shake to combine. Add 1/2 c. to rinse cycle. My fabric softener dispenser happens to measure 1/2 c. exactly, so I just add it to the dispenser. Shake before each use, as oil and vinegar will separate.