Saturday, February 28, 2009

Layered Vegetable Soup

I love soups! I love that they are tasty and the fact that they are a meal! I made one of my favorites tonight. It is a vegetable beef soup, like they have at Make-A-Meal. If you don't have one in your area, you are really missing out. On those nights when you need a good meal fast, you can drop by and pick up a delicious and healthy entree for the house. I had gall bladder surgery earlier in the year, and my friends at school brought over dinner for about two weeks. It was really, really helpful! One of the meals was a vegetable sop recipe that I really enjoyed, but thought, I could really make this myself. I think I have finally perfected it, so I am going to share now. This recipe will make three family-sized servings. One to eat now, and the contents to make two more to be frozen. It may seem like a lot of ingredients up front, but since it makes three meals you save in the long run.

3 gallon size freezer bags
2 lbs of ground beef
1 onion, diced
2 tablespoons of diced garlic
2 cans of diced tomatoes
2 cans of tomato paste
3 cups of elbow macaroni
6 cups of frozen vegetables (1 family size bag)
3 tablespoons of beef boullion (powder form)
1. Brown ground beef, onion, garlic, and a bit of salt in a large pan. (drain off fat)
2. Take the mixture off the heat and add in two cans of diced tomatoes, and 2 cans of tomato paste (it will look a lot like a very thick spaghetti sauce)
3. Now, here comes the layering part of the recipe- very easy- don't make it harder than it is. :)
  • Open three gallon ziplock bags
  • Spoon in 1/3 of beef mixture into each bag (around two cups each)
  • Allow the beef mixture to become the base (it can allow the bag to "sit")
  • Add in one cup of elbow macaroni on top of the beef mixture in each bag (do not mix the layers)
  • Add in two cups of mixed vegetables on top of pasta
  • Add 1 tablespoon of beef boullion into each bag to top it off (powder form)
  • Seal bags and freeze up to three months

To cook: Allow the bag to thaw in the fridge for at least 24 hours before cooking. Empty the contents of the bag into a soup pot. Add 6 to 8 cups of water (depending on how thick you want your soup- I typically do about 7) to the mixture. Stir mix and bring to a boil. Allow to boil, while stirring, for about five minutes. (Pasta will stick if you don't stir in the beginning) Then simmer for about an hour. Serve with bread!

Now the key to the homemade goodness is the simmering for an hour- if you don't do that the vegetables will taste frozen. By allowing them to simmer you allow the flavors to really become one.

Fruit Salad

I helped to throw a baby shower for one of my nearest and dearest friends today. We had a baked potato bar with salad and fruit. It was easy to put together (especially since there were three of us) and very tasty. I am going to try and add pictures later. I made a fruit salad recipe that I make to take to different events. I have a friend who frequently makes it for her house to keep fruit as an easy snack. I put it in a trifle bowl. It is colorful, easy to put together, and most importantly, delicious.

Note: My mom called and told me that she got the recipe from family friends the Keifers. This is a dish that Tracy would take with her to events and my mom begged the recipe off of her. Thanks for sharing this family secret!

1 can of peach pie filling (secret ingredient)
1 can of sliced peaches, drained
1 can of Mandarin oranges, drained
1 can of pineapple tidbits, drained
1 tub of frozen sliced strawberries (with the juice)
2 sliced bananas (put in right before serving)
2 sliced apples (put in right before serving)

Mix ingredients and chill for at least one hour before serving. Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Freezing Herbs

Pam and Louis gave me an Aerogarden for Christmas. It has been really fun watching everything grow! The first group that I planted was a variety of herbs. Well since some of my plants were reaching the lightbulbs I decided I needed to trim everything back. I wanted to save the herbs so that I could use them as I cooked. I looked up how to do this and found this great idea to freeze them in ice cube trays so that you can simply pop an herb ice cube into whatever dish you are cooking. Genious!! It was super easy. I froze mint, purple basil, and italian basil. The website (wikihow) recommended freezing the basil in olive oil, not water.

Here's the Aerogarden before I cut the herbs.

The website recommended blanching the herbs (I only did the mint only) to make them last longer...up to 6 months. To blanch them, you dip them in boiling water and then immediately into ice water. I then put the mint into the food processor to chop it up finely.

This is the basil. I added olive oil and chopped away!

Here's the final product. Mint cubes on the right (frozen in water). Purple basil in the middle (in olive oil) and Italian basil on the left (also in olive oil).

Can't wait until the rest of my herbs get a bit bigger and I can freeze some more!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Vegetable Beef Stew

This is one of our favorites and it totally starts with a package. It is one of the best tasting soups you can buy, and it is not expensive. It cooks in the crock pot all day and is ready to serve when you get home. I add a couple of things to it, but you can totally eat it alone. You can find the mix on the soup aisle in plastic bags. There is also the chicken noodle and other flavors, but the vegetable beef stew is my favorite.

  • Mrs. Grass Vegetable Beef Stew Mix
  • 1 lbs of stew beef (or 1 lbs of cooked ground beef or turkey)
  • 2 cups of frozen mixed vegetables (or canned)
  • 9 cups of water (one more than suggested b/c of the added ingredients)

Mix all ingredients in the slow cooker. Cook on low all day (8 to 10 hours) or high for 3-4 hours. Serve with bread or crackers. (You can also cook on the stove, but it does not have near the taste as the slow cooked method.)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Girl Scout Mint Cookies

If found this and thought it would be appropriate right now, but then again maybe I should post it about June, when the Girl Scout Cookies are gone!


1 box Devil's Food Cake Mix
2 Eggs
2 Tbl. Water
2 Tbl. Cooking Oil
1/2 Cup Cocoa
1 pkg. Chocolate Chips
2−3 drops Wilton's Candy Mint Flavoring

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine cake mix, eggs, water, cooking oil,
and cocoa. You will need to blend this together well, this will be a
very sticky mess. Let stand for 20 minutes, and then shape into very
small 1/2 inch balls. Place these balls on a cookie sheet 2 inches a part,
and smash down flat. You will need to spray a large spoon with Pam to
make them flat. Bake for about 8 minutes. Let cool until they reach
room temperature.
Heat chocolate chips in either the microwave, or in a double boiler.
When completely melted add a couple drops of the mint flavoring.
Be careful not to add too much, it is a powerful flavoring.
You can either spread the melted chocolate on the cookies,
or you can dip the cookies into the chocolate.

Baked Squash

This is one of my favorites in the summer, but even better right now as I pull my squash and stuff out of the freezer. This recipe makes quite a bit, so for just our family, I would half it.


5 pounds medium−size yellow squash
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup bread crumbs plus additional bread crumbs for topping
1 stick butter or margarine
Salt, to taste
2 tablespoons chopped onion
Dash of pepper

Cut tips off squash and cut each squash into 3 or 4 pieces. Drop squash into
a large saucepan with enough boiling water to cover. Return to boil, reduce
heat and cook until tender. Drain in colander and mash. Combine with beaten
eggs, 1 cup bread crumbs, butter, sugar, salt, onion and pepper. Turn into
3−quart casserole that has been lightly greased or sprayed with nonstick
spray. Cover with light layer of bread crumbs. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to
25 minutes or until lightly browned.

(Valentine's) Swirled Fudge

Ok- taken a bit of a hiatus. I am currently taken two master's level classes to finish my Master's degree in Reading in July. That with two kiddos, a job, and husband has taken priority. I promise to put some more stuff in later this weekend. Have a Great One! Kelli

Submitted by: Ami Griggs, Fort Smith, AR

So I've been meaning to send you this recipe for a long time. I make it all the time for school potlucks. You know teachers love sweets, and this is really rich. Doesn't really have to be called "Valentines"'s good any time of year! And it's the easiest fudge I've ever heard of or made.

1 jar creamy peanut butter
1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 pkg almond bark

1. Microwave choc chips until melted, stirring occasionally.
2. While chips melt, heat the jar of peanut butter in a nonstick saucepan over medium heat until it reaches a creamy consistency you can easily stir with a spoon.
3. Stir melted choc chips into peanut butter and remove from heat.
4. Melt almond bark either in microwave or in a double boiler.
5. Line a 9x13 pan with wax paper or parchment paper. Be sure to cover the sides of the dish as well.
6. Pour peanut butter/choc mixture in lined pan.
7. Drop large spoonfuls of melted almond bark randomly into the mixture. Use as little or as much as you like.
8. Use a knife or skewer to "swirl" the almond bark around in the fudge mixture. Don't mix it too much or you will lose the swirl effect.
9. Cool on counter for 2 hours, then place in fridge for 2 more hours or overnight.
10. Lift out fudge using wax paper and cut into bite size squares.
11. Enjoy!!!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Easy Beef and Bean Burritos

This is a quick dinner that I make every now and then. It's always good. I've also made it using ground turkey or shredded chicken.

9x13 glass dish
Preheat oven to 350F

1 pound lean ground beef
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 can (16 oz) refried beans
1 can (10 oz) enchilada sauce, divided (use mild...the hot is really really hot!)
6 flour tortillas, 8 inch
Garnish: shredded cheese, sour cream, salsa, chopped tomato, olives...whatever you like!

In a large skillet cook ground beef, onion, and garlic until ground beef is no longer pink, stirring to break up meat. Drain well.

Add chili powder, oregano, cumin, salt, and pepper; simmer for 5 minutes. Add refried beans, and 1/2 cup enchilada sauce. Cook until heated through.

Spoon beef and bean filling into tortilla (sometimes I add a little cheese when I do this). Fold the ends of the tortilla and wrap. Place in dish seam-side down. When all burritos are made, spoon remaining enchilada sauce over burritos. Garnish with cheese.

Bake at 350F for 15-20 minutes, or until hot. Serve!

Chili's-Like Salsa Recipe

I've been wanting to make fresh salsa for a while now. Our Grandmother, Nannie Stauffer, used to make really good fresh salsa and I always thought it was so neat. Joe really loves the salsa that is served at the Chili's, so I searched for the recipe and was able to find it! I was disappointed that the ingredients weren't fresh, but decided to give it a try anyway. I think it turned out really great! It does have a bite to it, but it's not unbearable. You can cut out some of the jalapenos if you are worried about it. The best thing about this recipe is that it took me all of 5 minutes to make! You can make this for a party and I'm sure everyone will be super impressed.

I would still like to find a good salsa recipe that uses fresh ingredients, so if anyone has one, please share!!

SERVES 32 , 4 Cups

1 (14 1/2 ounce) can tomatoes and green chilies (Rotel)
1 (14 1/2 whole canned tomatoes(plus the juice)
4 teaspoons jalapenos (canned,diced, not pickled)
1/4 cup yellow onion(diced)
1/2-3/4 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon sugar

1 In food processor place jalapenos and onions.
2 Process for just a few seconds.
3 Add both cans of tomatoes, salt, sugar, and cumin.
4 Process all ingredients until well blended but do not puree.
5 Place in covered container and chill.
6 A couple of hours of chilling will help blend and enrich the flavor.
7 Serve with your favorite thin corn tortilla chips.

Monday, February 2, 2009


I made this for a Super Bowl Party that Joe and I went to at the Hearn's house. It turned out well. I did not add the ham, but it would be good. I also served it with pita chips in addition to the bread's easier for dipping. For the bread, I got a sour dough loaf at Walmart. I think next time I will try and make something in my bread maker, but the sour dough loaf was easy and available.

Makes 6 cups.

2 c. (15 oz.) Ricotta cheese

1 c. sour cream or plain yogurt (I used sour cream)

1 pkg. (10 oz.) frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained

1/4 lb. ham, diced

3/4 c. shredded Parmesan cheese

1/2 c. chopped green onions

1 round loaf of bread, unsliced

In food processor, blender or electric mixer, combine Ricotta and sour cream; process until smooth. Stir in thawed, drained spinach, ham, Parmesan and green onions.
Cut a 1 inch slice off top of bread; reserve. Remove bread from inside loaf, retaining a 3/4 inch shell. Cut bread from inside loaf into bite-size cubes.
Pour cheese mixture into bread shell set on a rimmed baking sheet. Replace bread top and wrap in foil. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 1 1/4 hours or until heated through. Arrange bread loaf and bread cubes on a large serving platter.

Oven Fried Potatoes

My friend Ami introduced me to this recipe in college and I had a request from my mom to post it. You can make it with different variations of seasoning like: dry ranch dressing mix, dry Italian dressing mix, or even seasoning salt. I served it with German Cabbage and pork tenderloin. I will post the other recipes later.


4 lg. baking potatoes, unpeeled
4 tbsp. olive oil
1-2 tbsp. Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. pepper

Wash unpeeled potatoes and cut into small cubes. Pour oil and other dry ingredients into a gallon Ziploc bag. Pour in potatoes and seal bag. Shake bag until all potatoes are coated with seasoning. Place potatoes into a cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for one hour. Turn potatoes over for last 15 minutes.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

"Homemade" Spagetti

I am home with a sickly kiddo today, so I have some extra time this morning. It has allowed me to do some cooking for this week and post on the blog. I am beginning to figure out that the weekends are going to be my best time to post for this semester. This is as close to homemade as I get. It is extremely easy, but it adds so much flavor to store-bought sauce. My family also likes meat sauce, which I hate to buy, due to cost. This makes more and it is cheaper. This morning I doubled the sauce recipe and made the Old World Manicotti recipe too. It really took just about 20 extra minutes of time since the sauce that I used is the same. I put four meals in the freezer (2 manicotti- 7 shells in each container, and two spaghetti with sauce).

2 aluminum pans (I like roaster pans for spaghetti)

1 bottle of store bought spaghetti sauce (Traditional works well)
1 can of dice tomatoes
1/2 lb of lean ground beef
1 cup of chopped onion
1 tbsp of Garlic
1 tbsp of Italian seasoning (takes all Italian spices and puts them together for you)
1 box of spaghetti (I like using Angel Hair)

1. Brown meat, onion, garlic, and Italian seasoning in a large pan. Drain off the grease.
2. Add diced tomatoes, allowing them to cook down a bit.
3. Add bottle of store bought sauce to the mix.
4. Allow to simmer on very low heat at least 30 minutes to fully blend the flavors.
5. Cook spaghetti while sauce is simmering.

Drain the spaghetti and divide into two containers. Top each container with half of the sauce. Serve one, place other in the freezer covered with aluminum foil.

Freezer spaghetti: Thaw in the refrigerator overnight, top with Parmesan and cook in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes, or until center is warm.

Easy Barbecue Crockpot Chicken

I cooked this last night because it was quick- but boy was it a hit. My kids really don't like a heavy barbecue sauce, so I was surprised that they enjoyed it so much. I think the reason is because of the crock pot the barbecue sauce marinated in the meat and it wasn't so strong. I would recommend using chicken on the bone, as it will take longer to cook and not dry out as much as boneless chicken. I used chicken legs (another kid favorite), but most of the time I use chicken breast.

Slowcooker or Crock Pot

4 lbs of chicken (either a whole chicken, whole chicken cut up, chicken breast, thighs, or legs)
1 bottle of favorite barbecue sauce (we love KC Masterpiece)

Place chicken in the Crockpot. Pour the bottle of barbecue sauce over the meat (may want to save a bit for dipping later). Cook on low for 5-6 hours. Serve.

Thai Beef and Broccoli Stir Fry

There is a restaurant in Little Rock called Lilly's that we love! It serves Thai food. I have been looking to find a recipe that has that same taste and I finally found one that I really like. I also love stir-fry. No, let me rephrase that, I love one pan meals, and stir-fry fits the bill perfectly.

1 lbs of beef sirloin steak, sliced into strips
3 tbsp of soy sauce mixed with 1 tsp of sugar (*key)
1 large head of broccoli, chopped into florets (or tress as my kids say)
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 tbsp of fresh ginger, chopped
2 tbsp of sesame oil
2 tsp of oil for the wok

1. Pour the soy sauce and sugar mixture over the strips of beef. Season with black pepper and salt. Marinate for about 20 minutes.

2. Add 2 tsp of oil into a wok (or skillet) and allow time to heat. Add meat mixture, onion, and ginger to wok. Cook down until meat is medium to well done.

3. About 5 minutes before serving add broccoli to mixture, cover and allow to steam. You want to keep the bright green color of the broccoli.

4. Serve in bowl over rice (I use jasmine rice in my rice steamer, but any rice would work), drizzle with sesame oil.

Poor Man Steak

Submitted by: John Gibbons (Fort Smith, AR)

1 Family pack of Cube steak
1 bottle of worchestire sauce

Fill bottom of skillet with worchestirepan sear cube steak until desired doneness while continuing to add worchestire sauce.Can use cooking stock as a tart gravy, adding corn starch.

Serve over noodles.

Hamburger Helper and Taters

Submitted by: John Gibbons (Fort Smith, AR)

We all hate boxed dinners, but here are some twists:
Hamburger Helper and Taters:
Family of four.
Fry up about 3 Lbs. of red potatoes
Prepare 1 box of Cheese Burger Macaronni
Top potatoes w/ Hamburger helper
Cover with parmesean Cheese

Quick, easy, and great for families with both parents working.

(On a personal note, when I am desperate- I open a box of Hamburger Helper and my family thinks it is great- Strange!)