Friday, July 26, 2013

Thai Chicken Noodles

I love this meal. It is reminiscent of the food that I ate during my 18 month mission in Japan and is super quick and easy. My sister-in-law, KaraLynne made it for us years ago and I just recently dug it out and have started making it regularly. I hope you enjoy it too!

1 lb. pkg. linguine or fettuccine noodles
1/2 green pepper
1/2 orange pepper (I just use a whole green one instead of doing the orange)
Any other veggies you want (In an effort to get more veggies in my kids I added steamed broccoli last time and it was great. This time I will try baby corns, carrots and bamboo.)
2 chicken breasts
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/3 cup soy sauce
1 T cornstarch
5 T sugar
1 heaping T crunchy peanut butter (I use creamy)
1/2 tsp Thai curry (Truthfully, this ingredient is why I didn't make this for years. I finally decided to search it out and found some at Walmart for about $2. I bought the green curry because I didn't know which to buy and it tastes great. Here is a picture so that it doesn't stop you from trying it.)

  • Boil water and cook pasta.
  • Chop up peppers and saute. Meanwhile cube the chicken and add to the peppers. Saute together.
Put the following in a bowl:

  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1 T cornstarch
Mix together with a for then add:

  • 5 Tbs sugar
  • 1 heaping Tbs crunchy peanut butter (I use creamy)
  • 1/2 tsp Thai curry
Mix all together. Add to chicken and peppers and heat through. Add noodles  until the sauce covers noodles evenly (will take almost all of the noodles).

Thursday, July 25, 2013


I use this recipe as a guide, but ratios and ingredients are incredibly flexible with granola.  Basically, I just dump whatever oats and nuts I have into a bowl and toss some honey and olive oil over the top and bake them. I love the fact that it is healthy, delicious, and my whole family loves it. I originally got this recipe from (“Megan’s Granola”), but have tweaked it according to our family's preferences.  If you are looking to boost the nutrients in your granola, try adding 1 ½ cups each of wheat germ, flax seed, and oat bran. For a cheaper granola, cut back on the nuts and increase the oats. Pumpkin seeds are also an inexpensive, nutrient-boosting addition.  I find that when I make this size batch, our family of four goes through it in about the same time it takes us to eat one gallon of home-made yogurt (this easy crockpot recipe, doubled).
Home-made Crockpot Yogurt that we
enjoy with our granola

Prep time:  20 minutes
Cook time:  20 minutes
Servings: 30

8 cups rolled oats
1 cup sunflower seeds 
1-2 cups sliced almonds
1-2 cups chopped walnuts
1-2 cups sweetened coconut
1 ½ teaspoons salt
According to my cost-analysis, making
home-made yogurt is about 1/3 the price of
buying yogurt in quart size containers.
¾ cup brown sugar
¾ cup honey
½ cup olive or vegetable oil
½ cup applesauce
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
2 cups raisins or sweetened dried cranberries

1.  Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.  Line two large baking sheets with parchment or aluminum foil.

2.  Combine the oats, sunflower seeds, almonds, walnuts, and coconut in a large bowl. Stir together the salt, brown sugar, honey or agave, oil, applesauce, cinnamon, and vanilla in a separate bowl.  Pour over the dry ingredients, and stir to coat.  Spread the mixture out evenly on the baking sheets. 

3.  Bake in the preheated oven until crispy and toasted, about 20 minutes.  Stir once halfway through.  Cool, then stir in the raisins or cranberries before storing in an airtight container.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

My Meal Planning Method

There is more than one way to skin a cat, as they say.  There are countless ways to meal plan.  I wanted to share my method of late that has proved successful for me.  It requires a chunk of time and planning at the beginning of the two weeks, but it saves me a great deal of stress, money, and time in last-minute trips to the supermarket to pick up needed ingredients.

Step One:  List meals you want to make.  I usually peruse blogs and my recipe books to come up with a good mix of old favorites as well as new recipes to motivate me to cook.

Step Two:  Make list of items to pick up at the store.  I use a cheap $1 magnetic list on my fridge and divide it into four sections:  produce, grocery, fridge/frozen, and other.  I love the magnetic list, because when I realize I need something as I am cooking, I can easily and quickly add it.

Step Three:  Plug meals into calendar.  I like to take a look at my calendar and schedule in meals that fit my time constraints.  I allow days with no meal plan for left-overs. I try to plan for sides as well as main dish.

Step Four:  Gather recipes. If I have printed versions of the recipes, I clip them to my fridge for easy access.

I have found that if I only go to the store once a week that it is much easier to stay within my budget. I have to admit that I am not perfect at this, and there are some weeks that we are lucky to have mac n' cheese from a box on the table.  As you can clearly see from my picture, I failed to meal-plan for the first week of July (it was my daughter's birthday that week and that is what I get for signing up to throw her a friend party). But when I DO make the effort to plan, my life is much easier and things go more smoothly in the long run.  

I learned how to meal plan from my incredible Mom. I'm sure that she is much better at it than me, as are many of you, so I would love to learn from you.  What tips do you have in meal-planning?  What works for your family?

Monday, July 22, 2013

Cilantro Hummus

Combine the following in a food processor or blender:
2 cans garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained
½ cup tahini (I didn't have any and it was really good w/o it too)
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
juice of two lemons
½ bunch cilantro
½ cucumber, peeled and cubed
1/4 cup of pickle juice
1 tsp. garlic powder
½ tsp. each salt and paprika

I found this on pinterest and my whole family loves it! I changed a couple of little things. Enjoy it with pretzels, on homemade bread, or in your sandwich wrap.

This is the site it was on:

Friday, July 19, 2013

Red Lentil Soup with Lemon

Super flavorful, easy, healthy, and inexpensive . . . I think this is the perfect recipe!  It says it takes 45 minutes, but 30 minutes of that is just letting it simmer. If your local grocery store doesn't carry red lentils on the same aisle as the beans and rice, check the ethnic food section.  I bought mine at Wal Mart, so they should be readily available and easy to find.  I usually double this, just because we love it so much and go through the left-overs really quickly.  According to my cost analysis, one serving costs only $1!  I would highly recommend this one.

Time:  45 minutes
Yield:  4 servings 

3 tablespoons olive oil, more for drizzling
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp salt, more to taste
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
Pinch of chili powder or cayenne, more to taste
1 quart chicken or vegetable broth 
1 cup red lentils (found at most grocery stores in the dried beans section)
3 large carrots, peeled and diced
Juice of 1/2 lemon, more to taste (I used concentrated lemon juice, 1 tsp)
3 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (I used more to taste b/c we love cilantro)

1.  In a large pot, heat 3 Tablespoons olive oil over high heat until hot and shimmering.  Add onion and garlic, and saute until golden, about 4 minutes.

2.  Stir in tomato paste, cumin, salt, black pepper and chili powder or cayenne, and saute for 2 minutes longer.

3.  Add broth, 1 cup water, lentils and carrot.  Bring to a simmer, then partially cover pot and turn heat to medium-low.  Simmer until lentils are soft, about 30 minutes.  Taste and add salt if necessary.

4.  Using an immersion or regular blender or food processor, puree half the soup then add it back to the pot. Soup should be somewhat chunky.  (We like our soup chunky, so I skipped this step completely.)

5.  Reheat soup if necessary, then stir in lemon juice and cilantro.  Serve soup drizzled with olive oil and dusted lightly with chili powder if desired.

Image courtesy of 

Saturday, July 13, 2013


 Ken and I traveled to Italy a few years ago.  Michelle was on the BYU folk dance team and we followed them around and watched them perform.  It was a wonderful trip, and the food was so delicious.  We got hooked on Bruschetta. It is served as an appetizer in nearly every restaurant and we LOVED it!  Part of Why it was so good is they used those sweet Italian tomatoes that are almost like candy.  But it's good here, too.  We love it with our fresh garden tomatoes.  There are so many ways to make it, and all of them are delicious.  Here is the basic recipe, then some suggestions for variations.  Please share any of your ideas.
Slice a baguette or french bread into about 1 " slices.  Place the slices on a baking sheet.  Paint or spray on some extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle on some garlic salt.  Toast the bread under the broiler.  Watch it carefully.  In a bowl, combine:
2 or 3 tomatoes, chopped
1 sweet onion, diced fine
Fresh basil, several leaves, chopped
Fresh oregano, chopped
Fresh parsley, chopped
1 (more or less to taste) clove garlic, minced or pressed
About 2 T. olive oil

Mix well and put the mixture on the bread.  Some like to put it back under the broiler (especially if you add cheese) but you don't have to.  We like it fresh.  Okay, here's some variation ideas.
 1)Put fresh mozzarella on the bread,  then add the tomato mixture. Broil until the cheese softens.
2) Sprinkle parmesan cheese over the mixture on the bread and broil another bit until the cheese browns
3.  Add ground mustard to the mixture
4)Use dried herbs instead of fresh (Basil, Parsley and Oregano) or Italian seasoning works great.
5) Add a pinch of red pepper flakes to add a bit of heat.
6) Add a splash of Balsamic Vinegar (we love this one!)
7) Use a garlic/ herb soft cheese spread (Boursin).  Put that on the hot bread, then spoon the tomato mixture on.  This is good, people!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Brown Sugar and Garlic Chicken

This is a yummy and VERY easy dinner.  It only has four ingredients and you can prepare it in just a few minutes, then prepare the rest of the dinner while it bakes.  It's delicious with mashed potatoes or rice.

Baked Garlic Brown Sugar Chicken
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or equivalent in chicken tenders)
4 cloves garlic, minced or crushed (I use the kind in a jar)
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 Tablespoon (or so) olive oil.

Heat your oven to 500.  Spray a 9x9 casserole dish. Place the four chicken breasts in the pan.  In a small pan, heat the oil and add and saute the garlic.  Remove from the heat and stir in the brown sugar.  Cover the chicken with the garlic/brown sugar mixture.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Bake uncovered for about 20 minutes (may need 30 or more if the breasts are thick).

Monday, July 8, 2013

Mama's Meatloaf or Sunday Meat

I make the best meatloaf in the world.  But it's not my meatloaf, it's my Mama's Meatloaf.  Well, really it's not my Mama's Meatloaf.  She learned how to make it when she lived in Detroit (On scholarship at Merrill Palmer) from the black Southern lady that was the cook at their dorm.  She stood by her and watched everything she did and wrote it down.  She then made that recipe all while we were growing up.  I stood by her and watched how she did it, and now you can stand by me and watch how I do it!

My kids called this Sunday meat because I make this on Sundays a lot.  I mix it up before church and put it in my oven on time bake with some potatoes greased and wrapped in foil.  I set it to be done when we get home from church.  Or you can serve it as shown here with potato salad which can be done the day ahead.  Both are yummy. 

Mama's Meatloaf or Sunday Meat
2 lbs. lean ground beef
1 egg
3/4-1 cup crushed saltine crackers (I've tried Ritz, but they aren't as good in this)
1 pkg. dry onion soup mix
Ketchup- a couple of good squirts (you can substitute barbecue sauce)
Very hot water- about 3/4 cup.  I microwave it until almost boiling
Dash of Worcestershire sauce
about 1 tsp. Better than boillion, beef flavor- mixed in the hot water
a good sprinkling of Montreal Steak Seasoning  (my mom used salt and pepper)

Put the meat and egg in a large bowl.  Top with ketchup and Worcestershire Sauce.    Put the cracker crumbs in on the side of the meat.  Put the onion soup mix on top of those.  Pour the hot water on the soup and crackers and let them soak for a bit.  The cracker crumbs will swell up.  That Southern lady said that is what makes it good. I believe her.  They should be swollen and bursting.  Then mix them in with the meat. Your hands are the best tool for this!   Form into a loaf and put into a loaf pan.  Bake at 350 for an hour or so.  Turn out onto a serving dish and slice. Oh, yum!  This makes a soft, moist, flavorful meatloaf.  I like to serve it with chili sauce or pepper jelly.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Mexican Haystacks

A new favorite at our house are these Mexican Haystacks.  They are just delicious.  I've made them several times.  I doubled the recipe and made them for our family reunion.  It makes a huge batch.  With the recipe doubled, we fed 15 people with leftovers. This might be my new favorite home cooked Mexican dish!

Mexican Haystacks
1 8 oz. cream cheese
1 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon cumin
1 onion, diced fine
1 1/2 teaspoons Better that Boillion or Boillion granules
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt (more or less to taste)
1 package Hidden Valley Ranch Dip mix
3-4 chicken breasts ( or you can use a Rotisserie chicken and remove and dice the meat)
1 can diced green chilis
2 cups frozen corn or equivalent canned
1 can black beans, drained
1 can Rotel (diced tomatoes with Mexican seasonings added- choose a flavor that appeals to you)
To top: Diced tomato, Diced Avacado, Grated Cheese Cilantro (All are optional except the cheese)
1 bag Fritos or tortilla chips
Cooked Rice (you'll need about 2-3 cups cooked rice)

Now you have two choices on cooking method here.  I've tried them both.
Method 1: If you want to use the crock pot, spray the crock pot.  Add the cream cheese, milk, water, sour cream, cumin, onion, boillion, garlic salt, salt and  pepper, and dip mix.  With an immersion blender, blend it all up.  You could use a hand mixer, too.  Add frozen chicken breasts and cook on low all day until the chicken shreds.  Shred it.  You can remove it from the pot, or just do it in there.   OR
Method 2:   you can mix the sauce just the same in a large pot on the stove and heat up, then add the diced, cooked rotisserie chicken.  Both ways work and I didn't notice a huge difference.
Either way, after you mix in the cooked chicken, add the green chilis, corn, black beans and Rotel and mix well.  Heat well.  Serve over crushed tortilla chips and cooked rice.  Top with cheese and cilantro and avacado and tomato, if desired.

Monday, July 1, 2013

What's For Dinner?- July

So what's for dinner in July?   Here's what's on my plan to give you some ideas:
1. Salisbury Steaks  (this is one of my husband's favorite meals)
2. Oven Shrimp Scampi/ Roasted Potatoes  (SO easy and so delicious!)

3. Thai Coconut Curry over Rice
4. Oh, Baby Sandwiches (use those garden tomatoes!)  This sandwich is affectionately known around here as BELTCH_ Bacon, Egg, Lettuce, Tomato,  Cheese.  Other options we've tried are onion and sliced avocado.
5.Mad Hatter Meatballs over Mashed Potatoes/ Carrots

7. Nectar of the Gods/ Grilled Cheese Sandwiches  (If you haven't tried this soup- it's time, people!)

9. Curried Chicken Salad (I just made this today for tonight's dinner.  LOVE this salad!)
10. Tomato Sandwiches/ Potato Salad

12. Crockpot Teriyaki Chicken over Rice

Recipe to Try:
Monterey Chicken
Kalua Pork/ Coconut Rice

1. Sugar Cookie Bars with Lime Cream Cheese Frosting

2. Maple Walnut Blondies 
3. Salted Caramel Butter Bars