Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Creme de Menthe Chunk Cookies

1/2 cup salted butter, softened
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 package (10 oz) Andes Creme de Menthe Baking Chips
2 2/3 cups flour

Blend butter, sugars, baking soda, baking powder, vanilla and eggs until mixed. Stir in Andes Baking Chips and then flour. Chill approximately one hour in refrigerator. Measure out approximately 1 oz of dough. Form ball and slightly flatten. Raise oven rack one level above middle and bake on non-stick baking pans.

Bake at 350 for approximately 8-10 minutes. Cool on pans for two minutes before removing.

What I did differently from the recipe:
I didn't chill the cookie dough. I assumed that was in the recipe just to make it easier to roll into balls (chilled dough is much easier to make cookies with!) but I don't have that kind of time!

What I'll do differently next time:

Thumbs up! Mom has made these before, but I never had. They were incredibly simple and really good. I made about 1 1/2 dozen of the cookies and I'll freeze the rest of the dough for later use, so that's always handy. Also, when our exterminator came over today he wasn't able to resist taking a bagful home with him. They're just too good.

This recipe actually didn't cost me anything. Mom bought the Andes mints for me when they were marked down to $1.20 and everything else came straight from my pantry. Cheap dessert choice!!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Fruit Leather

5-10 apples or pears
1/4-1/2 cup water
1 tsp cinnamon

Peel, core, and slice fruit. Place the slices in a 3-quart saucepan with water and cover. Simmer until fruit is tender and begins to appear translucent. Add cinnamon.

Remove from heat and zip through your food processor. Store in the refrigerator (if not making fruit leather same day). You can also mix in fruits like strawberries or peaches prior to cooking. Please note: you can stop here and have delicious pear sauce or applesauce!

Use one piece of aluminum foil to form a boat approximately 9x6 with sides 1" high. Place the foil boat on a shallow cookie sheet. Pour two cups of apple or pear sauce into the foil. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes, then turn the oven down to 150 (or lowest setting) and cook for 8-10 hours.

Peel the fruit leather off and store it in the refrigerator.

What I did differently from the recipe:

What I'll do differently next time:
Stephen suggested leaving out the cinnamon because he doesn't like it. I couldn't taste it at all, so I guess next time I'll just exclude it. Also, next time I think I'm going to puree strawberries and mix them in with the sauce before cooking it. There's so many options with this recipe!

Thumbs up!! The reason I made this is because we are always buying Fruit by the Foot (at triple coupons of course). Even when I buy it on sale with coupons it's still costing much more than this recipe. With mom and dad's generosity, I made this recipe completely free. I got pears from their pear tree :) Even so I believe buying pears, apples, strawberries, peaches, etc. when they are in season and cheap it would save you buying snacks like that. And no added sugars - the fruit was definitely sweet enough on its own!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Thai Beef and Noodles

2 pkg (4.4 oz each) Thai sesame noodles
12 oz boneless sirloin steak, cut in thin strips
1 bag (16 oz) California stir fry vegetables

Cook noodles as package directs. Remove from heat; cover. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in large nonstick skillet. Season beef with 1/4 tsp each salt and pepper. Add half to skillet and, turning once, cook 2 minutes until browned. Remove to a bowl with a slotted spoon. Cook remaining beef; add to bowl.

Add 1/2 cup water and vegetables to skillet. Cover and cook 4 minutes until crisp-tender. Remove from heat.

Add beef and noodles, toss to mix.

What I did differently from the recipe:
Everything. Seriously, I would love to know how this recipe is supposed to taste. I've made it for years, but only as a guide for the recipe I actually end up making. I omit noodles and make rice instead. Instead of sirloin steak, I use whatever is in the clearance bin at the grocery store. For example, today I was able to get boneless beef tips on sale for $1.68. Cha-ching! And California style vegetables were only $1.28, so this was a great cheap-o meal! When I spice the beef, I use one to five of the following ingredients (depending on my mood I mix and match): salt, pepper, garlic salt, Italian seasoning, and onion powder. SO tasty!!

What I'll do differently next time:
The same thing I do every time!

Thumbs up! This is such a simple recipe but Stephen says our house smells as good as Mt. Fuji (Japanese restaurant) when this is cooked. It's great as leftovers too.

This can be a really cheap meal if you get the meat on sale. Try different cuts of meat - they'll probably all taste similar but you can almost always get beef tips or western grillers for less than $2. Happy hunting!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Chicken with Sun-Dried Tomatoes

3 Tbsp olive oil
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1 shallot, finely chopped (you can substitute 1 Tbsp onion for this)
1 can (10 3/4) oz condensed cream of mushroom soup
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup thinly sliced sun-dried tomatoes
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp chopped fresh basil leaves
4 cups hot cooked extra wide egg noodles
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook 10 minutes or until well browned on both sides. Remove chicken from skillet. (You can cook your noodles during this time, according to package directions.)

Heat remaining oil in skillet over medium heat. Add shallot (or onion) and cook and stir 2 minutes. Stir soup, water, tomatoes, vinegar and basil in skillet.

Return chicken to skillet and heat to a boil. Reduce heat to low. Cook 5 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Serve chicken and sauce over noodles.

Sprinkle with cheese and basil if desired.

What I did differently from the recipe:

What I'll do differently next time:

Thumbs up! This was a really easy recipe that looks like it belongs in a restaurant. The sun-dried tomatoes added a zing to the flavor, and I've always loved a mushroom sauce with chicken.

You can definitely make this meal for under $10! I estimate that it cost me about $8 to make this meal and it easily served (stuffed!) three of us. The most expensive items were the chicken and the sun-dried tomatoes. I was able to get almost 2 pounds of chicken on sale for just over $3, and the tomatoes were $2.99 for the bag but I only used about 1/4 of the bag.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Baked Crescent Churros

2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 can (8 oz) Pillsbury refrigerated crescent dinner rolls
2 Tbsp butter, melted

Heat oven to 375. In small bowl, mix sugar and cinnamon; set aside. Unroll dough; separate into 4 rectangles. Press each to 6x4-inch rectangle, pressing perforations to seal.

Brush tops of 2 rectangles with some of the melted butter; sprinkle with about half of the sugar mixture. Top each with remaining rectangle; press edges lightly. Brush tops with melted butter.

With sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut each rectangle stack lengthwise into 6 strips. Twist each strip 3 times; place on ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown and crisp. Brush tops with any remaining melted butter; sprinkle with remaining sugar mixture.

What I did differently from the recipe:
Not much. I used a smaller can of crescent rolls because there are only two of us (eating solid foods) and we just wanted a light dessert. I didn't measure out the amount of cinnamon and sugar I used because I have a jar of cinnamon sugar on hand and I just poured it on there. In my opinion, you can't overdo the cinnamon sugar.

What I'll do differently next time:
More cinnamon sugar! I STILL didn't use enough! I'd sprinkle more on the outside as well.

Thumbs up! Too easy and a very light dessert or fast breakfast idea. I have a really good recipe somewhere for a sugar dip (like Domino's has for their CinnaSticks) and if I find that I'll post it to go with these. But don't be fooled, these are definitely "crescent churros", not churros from a vendor in New York. But they'll do.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Wacky Cake

1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
3 Tbsp cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
6 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 Tbsp vinegar
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup cold water

Preheat oven to 350. Sift together dry ingredients into un-greased 9x9 baking pan. Pour in oil, vinegar, vanilla, and cold water. Mix well, avoiding overzealous mixing.

Bake 25-30 minutes. Let cool and cut into squares.

What I did differently from the recipe:

What I'll do differently next time:

Neutral. I made this because I just had all the ingredients and didn't have to buy anything. But I'm not sure why it's called "Wacky Cake". It just didn't do much for me. I sprinkled powdered sugar on top because the middle of the cake sank! I'm not sure what I did for that to happen. It just tasted like a plain old chocolate cake to me. I poured caramel over a piece and that tasted good, and then on another piece I put raspberry preserves and that was good. But the cake alone didn't impress me. Now that I think about it, if it was frosted it would probably be better. But this recipe is going in the trash. (The verdict is neutral because it wasn't bad, I just don't prefer this type of cake. You might actually love it!)

Fried Chicken

1 broiler-fryer chicken (2 1/2 to 3 pounds), cut up
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup all-purpose flour
salt and pepper
cooking oil

Place chicken in a large flat dish. Pour buttermilk over; refrigerate 1 hour. Combine flour, salt and pepper in a double-strength paper bag. Drain chicken; toss pieces, one at a time, in flour mixture. Shake off excess; place on waxed paper for 15 minutes.

Heat 1/8 to 1/4 inch of oil in a skillet; fry chicken until browned on all sides.

Cover and simmer, turning occasionally, for 40-45 minutes, or until juices run clear. Uncover and cook 5 minutes longer.

**For gravy:
After you cook the chicken for the 5 minutes, remove and keep warm. Drain all but 1/4 cup drippings; stir in 3 tablespoons flour until bubbly. Add 1 cup milk and 1 1/2 cups water; cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Cook 1 minute more. Add more water if necessary. Season with salt and pepper and serve with chicken.

What I did differently from the recipe:
I didn't refrigerate the chicken in buttermilk. I put my own twist of buttermilk (1 Tablespoon of lemon juice and fill up the rest of the cup with milk) in a bowl and just dipped the chicken before shaking it in the flour mixture. I also put it right in the skillet rather than laying it out for 15 minutes. I didn't make the gravy so I can't vouch for it.

What I'll do differently next time:
I really liked how simple this recipe was, but I like my chicken crunchier. Maybe next time I will dip the chicken in milk, then flour, then milk, and flour again, or crush some crackers or Frosted Flakes in there to make it a bit crunchier. Maybe that's why you're supposed to let it sit for 15 minutes? I don't know.

Thumbs up. I just thought it was okay but Stephen really liked it which means it's a keeper! It was definitely good, I just happen to prefer KFC.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Sweet BBQ Crockpot Ribs

3-1/2 lbs pork loin back ribs
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 cup cola beverage
2/3 cup barbecue sauce

Cut ribs into 2 or 3 rib portions and place in slow cooker. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and pour cola over. Cover crockpot and cook on low for 8-9 hours until the ribs are tender.

Drain liquid and discard. Pour barbecue sauce into crockpot and mix so ribs are coated.

Cover crockpot and cook on low 1 hour until ribs are glazed.

What I did differently from the recipe:
We had beef ribs in the freezer, so I used those instead of pork. I almost used cherry Pepsi instead of regular but I wasn't brave enough. I really don't think the taste would have changed much. I used Smoked Hickory BBQ sauce because that's what we had open. I also squeezed ketchup in the crockpot with the sauce, about two squeezes. Then I put about a teaspoon of liquid smoke in there, because I love that flavor!

What I'll do differently next time:

Thumbs up!! This was the easiest thing ever (love the crockpot!) and it was so delicious. The ribs were really juicy and the flavor was incredible! I highly recommend this recipe for you guys that don't have time to fix dinner after work!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Chicken Pot Pie

1 can (10 3/4 oz) Campbell's Condensed Cream of Chicken Soup
1 pkg (about 9 oz) frozen mixed vegetables, thawed
1 cup cubed cooked chicken
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
1 cup Bisquick

Preheat oven to 400. In 9" pie plate, mix soup, vegetables, and chicken.

Mix milk, egg and baking mix. Pour over chicken mixture.

Bake 30 minutes or until golden.

What I did differently from the recipe:
Besides not measuring, nothing. I had some leftover chicken from the chicken noodle soup, so I just threw that in there along with however many veggies fell out of the bag as I shook it. Not very scientific!

What I'll do differently next time:

Thumbs UP! This was one of the easiest recipes I've ever done, and it was surprisingly good! I have been spoiled for years by mom's chicken pot pie (easily the best ever) so I didn't think this would satisfy me. I was surprised at how good it was - in fact, Stephen finally told me to quit telling him how good it was. It probably took all of 5 minutes to dump in all the ingredients, and then just about 25 to cook it. Great for when you're in a hurry!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Chicken Noodle Soup

3 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 medium carrot, sliced
1 stalk celery, sliced
1/2 cup uncooked extra wide egg noodles
1 cup shredded cooked chicken
salt and pepper

Heat broth, pepper, carrot and celery in 2 quart saucepan over medium-high heat to a boil.

Stir in noodles and chicken. Reduce heat to medium. Cook for 10 minutes or until noodles are tender.

Things I did differently from the recipe:
A BUNCH more carrots, as you can see!

Things I'll do differently the next time:
The same.

Thumbs up!! Such an easy recipe, and is absolutely delicious. A classic!!

Easy Chicken and Dumplings

salt and pepper

Boil chicken until it's falling off the bone. I used a few pounds of chicken quarters because we had some extra in the freezer, and it took about 1 1/2 hours. I added butter (about 2 Tbsp) to the water even though most people I talked to didn't add any butter, stating that it's greasy enough on its own.

After the chicken is cooked thoroughly, let it cool enough so that you can remove the meat from the bones. Add enough water to the broth so you have about 5 quarts of broth. Bring to a boil.

If you're using Anne's Old Fashioned Flat Dumplings like I do (easiest way!), drop 8-10 in the broth, stirring to separate them. As the broth begins to boil again drop 8-10 more in the broth. Do that for as many dumplings as you want (I used half the pack). Cook at a full boil for about 6 minutes, stirring lightly. Add cooked chicken back to the pot. Boil 2 more minutes. Remove pot from heat, cover and wait 20 minutes before serving - for thickening purposes.

What I did differently from the recipe:
Nothing. I kind of made up this recipe along with my grandmother's advice.

What I'll do differently next time:
Make sure ALL the bones are out!! Nothing worse than stuffing your face and trying to spit out bones at the same time.

Thumbs up! This didn't last very long in our household. The longest part was boiling the chicken, but other than that it was a very easy recipe. One day I'll make these with real dumplings, but for now, this is the recipe I will continue to make!

Cheesy Chili Dip

1 8-oz package cream cheese
1 can (10.5 oz) chili
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
2 Tbsp chopped cilantro

Place unwrapped block of cream cheese in microwaveable dish; top with chili and cheese. Microwave on high 45 seconds to 1 minute, until cheese melts. Sprinkle with cilantro.

What I did differently from the recipe:
I've never made this with cilantro.

What I'll do differently next time:

Thumbs up! I make this pretty much every time we have a party. It's SO easy and addictive! The best part is you can just keep reheating it over and over as it cools. And it refrigerates really well, so you can snack on it for days - if it lasts that long!

Cream of Corn Soup

2 1/2 cups cream-style canned corn or 2 1/2 cups corn, cut from the ear and simmered until tender in 1 cup milk
3 Tbsp butter
1/2 sliced medium-sized onion
3 Tbsp flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
white pepper
3 cups milk

Melt butter. Simmer onions in it until translucent.

Stir in flour, salt, white pepper, and nutmeg. Stir in corn and milk. Heat thoroughly. Serve with chopped parsley or chives.

What I did differently from the recipe:
I used more onion than I was supposed to. My soup is more like "Cream of Onion and a Bit of Corn Soup". I didn't use any white pepper. I only used 2 cups of milk instead of 3.

What I'll do differently next time:
More corn, less onion.

Simple, and good. A classic recipe. But nothing fancy. I would recommend eating this with crackers and cheese to spice it up a bit. I almost threw some green beans in there as well, which would have added a good flavor. If you throw in a bag of mixed veggies, I think that would taste good. This recipe isn't anything spectacular, but it was definitely thrifty. I bet the whole thing didn't cost me $4. The corn was $0.57, the onion was $0.49, and the amount of milk I used was around $0.50. Definitely a penny-pincher's delight!

Thursday, September 3, 2009


Pillsbury pizza crust (original or thin)
shredded cheese (mozzarella or Italian or Colby Jack or any mixture!)
garlic salt
any pizza ingredients of your choice

Roll out the pizza crust. Cut into two halves. On the bottom part of each half, sprinkle a layer of cheese, then pepperoni (or other ingredients), then cheese. Make as many layers as you are hungry. Close up calzones by pulling the tops down over the pizza mixture.

For original crust, bake at 350 for 10 minutes. For thin crust, bake at 375 about 8 minutes. Take out of the oven and cut a few slits across the calzones. Spread butter all along the tops of the calzones, and sprinkle garlic salt on top. Put back in the oven for approximately 5 minutes. If you like the tops a bit brown and crispy, broil at the very end on low for 1-2 minutes.

We eat these at least once a week. I make them a different way every time, so feel free to play with them. I have found that cheese and pepperoni work the best out of all the ingredients I have tried.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Smores Balls

2 Tbs butter or margarine
2 cups mini-marshmallows
chocolate chips
3 cups Golden Grahams cereal

Over low heat, melt butter with marshmallows, stirring constantly.

When marshmallows have melted down to 1/2 of their original size remove from heat. Add cereal and mix well. Don't let the marshmallows melt completely.

Spray hands with a cooking spray. Divide mixture into 15 parts. Roll each part with hands and form into balls. Place chocolate chips throughout each ball. Set each ball on wax paper and let cool completely.

What I did differently from the recipe:
Nothing, unless you count the fact that my "balls" look completely abnormal.

What I'll do differently next time:
Use a little bit more marshmallows, a little less cereal.

Thumbs up. They are great for snacking on, and probably fun to make with kids. I'm really not sure how in the heck you're supposed to make balls out of these, though. Mine are falling apart. But still good, as long as you're not going for a blue ribbon in the looks department!