Thursday, October 23, 2008


I am not going to be posting for a bit as my husband is having surgery tomorrow. Between taking care of him for a few weeks and trying to keep my business up and running, I am going to have my hands full. But never fear, I shall return. Until then..............

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Supper Corn Chowder

Between the economy taking a bite out of my tutoring business and my husband's surgery offering him a 3 to 4 week unpaid vacation, I really have to get serious about budget meals. I am tapping into my great resources of will power and pantry to avoid hitting the supermarket. Making meals out of what you have on hand is a great yet satisfying challenge. The one imperative that you must obey is have an ample supply of basics on hand. Items such as rice, pasta, potatoes, canned vegetables, frozen vegetables, cream soups, bouillon or broths, dried beans, canned tomato products, and, if you have a separate freezer, chicken and ground meat. I also like to keep several packages of bacon. Oh, and cheese..gotta have cheese. I try to get to Costco once a month to replenish anything I have run low on. But to make Costco cost effective you have to be aware of prices at other grocery chains. Certain items are worth the trip, others are not. I also use WalMart and another huge grocery store here in the northwest called Winco. Taking advantage of the offerings of these 3 stores in keeping my pantry stocked with basics really helps in creating cost effective meals. (I am not even going to get into the baking items.)

The following recipe is one from a 35 year old Betty Crocker cookbook. The book long ago met its demise, but the recipe lives on. This was titled "Supper Corn Chowder". I would rename it "Super Corn Chower" as it really is super. I make this at least once a month. It's easy, economical, and very tasty. And you should have everything on hand.


5 slices of bacon sliced into small pieces
1/2 medium onion diced
1 cup diced cooked potatoes (I like to use either red or Yukon gold...they hold up better)
1/2 can whole kernel corn
1 10 1/2 oz. can cream of mushroom soup
2 2/1 cup milk
salt to taste

Cook bacon in a large pot until crisp. Remove the bacon from the pot to a paper towel. Drain off the bacon grease reserving 2 TBS. Add onions to the grease and cook until tender. I like to let mine slightly carmelize for more flavor. Add the corn, potatoes, soup, and milk. Stir until thoroughly mixed. Add in part of the bacon, reserving some for garnish. Add salt to taste and heat through. Be careful not to scorch. When dished up top with a bit of the reserved bacon.

This recipe is easily doubled. I don't think I have ever made just the single recipe. As with most soups, it definitely is better the next day. And again, it is flexible. You can absolutely add more potates, corn, bacon...whatever makes you grin. And this is really good with hot biscuits. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

What Do You Mean...Budget? Tater Tot Casserole

Since times are getting a little tough for many people, and it appears that it may last for awhile, I started thinking about how to cut expenses. Food is often one of the first places we start. One of the websites I follow, Simply Recipes, posted about this and it inspired me to look at my own cooking habits. I actually was pretty good at feeding a family of 6 on a shoestring for years. Then as the kids began to leave home, I was able to be a bit more extravagant. The last few years I have really gone all out with my cooking. Haute cuisine isn't my cup of tea, but I did get a bit fancier. For awhile we subscribed to cable, and I lived on the sumptuousness of the Food Network. I learned so many new things about cooking from Rachel, Paula, Giada, Tyler, and the rest. Sadly, cable is one of the cuts we've made, so now I search PBS for cooking shows, and devour Rachel and Martha on network television. And I pick up cooking magazines and peruse the internet for cooking sites. Gotta love the internet! So now, I will try to take the many lessons I have learned and apply them to budget cooking.

One of my methods for keeping a tight control on the grocery budget years ago was to make a weekly menu and then make my purchases accordingly. But I have totally lost sight of that little technique. I have for the last few years just peered into the pantry to see what I "wanted" not what I "needed." So, new resolution...plan, plan, plan. When I was planning meals ahead I seldom had to make extra trips to the store. Over the last several years it seems as though I have been going daily. And do you ever just pick up the one thing you go after? I think not. I can end up spending 3 times what I should have. As of this weekend (I go shopping mostly on the weekends just so I can fight the crowds...good for getting out hostile aggression) I am going to plan the work and work the plan. I'll keep you posted on how that goes.

As we all try to curb our lifestyles a bit, I will give tips that I find useful and links that have recipes and ideas. Today's link is the Simply Recipes one from above. She also has several links that are great for this. I checked them all out and actually bookmarked them. With a little researching you all will be able to help yourselves cut some corners.

Now...FOOD! I find that often those cost cutting recipes are comfort foods in disguise. With all the kids around I did a fare share of casseroles. One of their favorites was "Tator Tot Casserole." I mean, really, who doesn't like tator tots. The following is my version and I have now idea where it came from. I've been making it for over 30 years and my kids still like it.


2 cups cooked rice (I use brown rice)
1 cup chopped onion
1 large clove grated garlic
1 lb. ground meat (beef, chicken, turkey, pork, mixture....knock yourself out)
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 box frozen peas
2 cans cream of chicken soup (you can use the healthy stuff)
1 cup milk
approximately 1 lb. tator tots or tator rounds (I accidently picked up a bag of the rounds instead of the tots but they worked fine) enough to cover the top
1 cup grated cheddar cheese

Saute the onions and garlic in EVOO. When tender add the ground meat and brown. Add the oregano and cook for about a minute. Drain off any excess water and grease. In a large bowl mix together the meat, rice, peas, soup, and milk. Spread in a 9x13 casserole dish. I usually spray my dish with a cooking spray just to be on the safe side. Top with the tots and finally sprinkle the cheese over the tots. Bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes. Yummmmm.

There are so many ways that this can be changed. The veggies are purely based on preference. I just really like rice and peas together, but I have seen green beans in this also. Any cream soup can be substituted. So do whatever floats your boat and take comfort in eating with your family.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Which Came First? Red Pepper, Spinach Omelet

OK, I'm not one for breakfast foods. Cereal is at the bottom of the list...unless it's Captain Crunch right out of the box. But I haven't indulged in that little sin in years. Over the last couple of years I have found, what the experts are now espousing (yea! I was ahead of the curve), I need protein in the a.m. I now pretty much avoid carbs in the morning. As a result I eat many eggs, although occasionally I have been known to chow down on hot dogs or leftover meat from the night before, but that isn't very often. Brother! I would never make it as a vegetarian. So what I am going to share with you is my favorite way to cook my eggs.


1/3 cup of chopped red peppers
2 cups of baby spinach
2 eggs beaten
1 slice American cheese torn in small pieces
a sprinkling of red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste

When I make this I use a non-stick 7-8 inch skillet. I found an Emeril one at Bed, Bath and Beyond that is great! Do a couple of rounds of EVOO. Heat skillet to a medium heat. Add the peppers and cook for a 2-3 minutes. Add the spinach and cook until wilted. Slowly pour the egg/cheese/pepper flake mixture over the top of the veggies. Lower your heat to medium low.

Do NOT stir the eggs in the pan. As the eggs cook, gently lift the edges of the omelet and tilt the pan to let eggs in underneath. Continue to do this until all liquid has been distributed. Does this make any sense at all? The top of the omelet will still be soft and shiny. Let it slowly cook for a few minutes. Then fold the omelet over and let cook to a golden brown. Flip it and repeat. Then slide on to a plate. Now, I love heat so I drizzle some Frank's Red Hot sauce over the top. And that is breakfast! I do this many times a week. Sometimes I add a tablespoon of minced shallots or mushrooms. This little omelet keeps me from running to the fridge mid-morning. I promise it works! Enjoy!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

New Age Chicken and Dumplings

I had originally planned to post a different recipe this weekend, but after making it I decided it needed some more tweaking. It is a really delish dish, but it just needs some refinement. Now you have something to look forward to.

Instead you are getting my take on a recipe Jessica Simpson made for Rachel Ray on TV last month. This is incredibly easy to make and quite flavorful. And on a chilly autumn night very comforting. Boy, with the world in the mess it is right now we could all use some comforting.
3 cans crescent rolls (use the Pillsbury. I initially was going to make this a few days ago with some Walmart brand rolls and ended up throwing the rolls out. Sometimes you just have to use name brands.)
12 oz. cream cheese softened
1/2 cup sour cream
1 TBS. minced chives
2 TBS. minced parsley
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. salt
2 cans chicken breast meat (I get the 6 pack from Costco) you could also use 2 cups of cooked chopped chicken
1 can cream of chicken soup
Pre-heat oven to 400 degreees. In a bowl mix cream cheese and sour cream until smooth. Add in chives, parsley, onion and garlic powders and salt. Mix well. Fold in chicken.

Open the crescent rolls. Stretch each one a little and then put a small spoonful of the chicken mixture in the middle of the roll.
Roll it into a little pillow.

Place in a 9x13 casserole dish. I sprayed mine with some canola oil spray. Use 2 of the cans of rolls. That will fill your dish. You should have a cup or so of the mixture left. Add the can of cream of chicken soup to this, and then spread that sauce over the top of the little pillows. If you don't feel you have enough of the chicken mixture left you can either add sour cream to the soup or another can of soup. It's whatever you prefer. Now take that final roll of crecsent rolls and cut them into strips and lattice them on top of the sauce. Bake for 40 minutes. If the lattice begins to brown too much cover with foil.

This turned out very yummy. Even my son who still has to everything blended threw some in the blender. Both he and my hubby said it was blog worthy and said it definitely needs to be repeated. So, Enjoy!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Veggie Heaven...Roasted Veggies with Pasta

Just so you know, I haven't neglected my blog because I'm lazy, or because I have nothing to say. I've been a bit busy with worrying and doctor's appointments for my hubby. It turns out that little mass in his lung that I posted about a few weeks ago is cancer...a melanoma to be exact. Who knew that skin cancer can actually be on the inside of the body? There isn't anything on the outside to indicate that he had any problems. So anyway, we're dealing with that now. Waiting to hear about treatments. But since I have to cook, I might as well continue to post.
On to cheerier topics.

I have newly discovered roasting veggies. WOW!!! I love this way of cooking them. I seriously doubt I will ever pot a veggie again. I can't believe how tasty they are. So tonight I decided to combine them with pasta and cheese. I have to say this was really good. The recipe is pretty loosey goosey, but, then, that's what makes cooking so exciting!

Ingredients (subject to change depending on your taste)

2 baking sheets full of assorted veggies cut to uniform size....I used broccoli, zucchini, mushrooms, and red peppers but any of your favorites could be used...any squashes, parsnips, turnips, cauliflower, carrots. Well, you get the picture.
kosher salt
rosemary or any other herb you like
5-7 large clove garlic chopped
3-4 cups baby spinach
about 1 TBS balsamic vinegar
2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
1 cup grated fresh Parmesan
1 pound pasta cooked according to package directions reserving 1 cup of cooking liquid
salt and pepper to taste

This is so super easy, and healthy to boot! Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees. Adjust the oven racks to the center of the oven. You are going to need both racks.

Drizzle EVOO over the bottoms of the baking sheets and spread to ensure the sheets are thoroughly covered. Place the veggies on the sheets, drizzle more oil generously over them, sprinkle with the chopped garlic, herbs of your choosing, and kosher salt.

Place on 2 racks in the oven and cook for 30 to 40 minutes rotating the racks once

While the veggies are roasting cook your pasta, reserving a cup of the liquid. It's fun to use different shaped pastas for this dish. I used a radiatori. Place the pasta in a HUGE bowl. Quickly wilt the spinach in olive oil and the balsamic vinegar in a large skillet. Add all the veggies and the reserved cooking liquid to the pasta along with the cheeses and any salt and pepper you think you need (I didn't add any), and toss. And there you go! A healthy, delicious and economical meal. All you need (well, maybe not "need") is some yummy bread. Dinner!

This is really versatile. Tonight I sauteed some chopped chicken breasts seasoned with salt, pepper, grill seasoning and garlic powder in olive oil. After they were cooked on the outside I added about 1/2 cup white wine and cooked it until it was reduced a bit. Then I dumped it all into the leftover pasta from last night and heated individual portions in the microwave. And we still have enough for a couple of more meals. But my hubby says that is fine. He was very happy with this dish. If he will eat something more than twice, you know it's good. Enjoy!