Saturday, September 15, 2012

Homemade Jambalaya

Homemade Jambalaya

  • 1 c. Penne (or other pasta noodles) cooked according to package directions
  • 1/2 package Hillshire Farms Smoked Sausage
  • 1/2 c, chopped onions
  • 1 c. chopped green & red bell peppers
  • 1/4 c. chopped celery
  • 2 tsp. oil
  • 3. tbsp bacon grease (I always have some on hand, frozen in a mason jar in my freezer)
  • 1. tbsp butter
  • 4 small potatoes diced
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 c. small cubes sharp cheddar cheese
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Franks Red Hot Sauce - or other hot sauce of your choice
  1. In a large skillet, melt down your bacon grease, butter, & oil.  Add potatoes, and toss until coated.  Put on the lid, and cook on Medium/Medium-High for about 10 minutes, until potatoes start to soften.
  2. Remove lid, and cook on Medium-High, tossing occasionally, to brown and crisp up.
  3. Meanwhile, put your sausage, onion, peppers, and celery in a skillet, cover with a lid, and cook on medium high for about 10 minutes until veggies soften.  Remove lid and continue to cook until the meat browns slightly.
  4. Add your diced tomatoes and a few splashes of hot sauce to the sausage mixture, and stir until it's all heated through.
  5. Salt & Pepper everything, and sprinkle Parm cheese liberally over the sausage mixture.
  6. At this point, you may mix the potatoes in, or you can serve them seperately if you wish.
  7. After plating the dinner, top with some sharp cheddar cheese cubes.
  8. Serve with dinner rolls and/or a salad =)  Enjoy!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Clams in Red Sauce w/ Homemade Garlic Breadsticks

Unfortunately I did not get a photo of last nights dinner because I was too busy shoving it into my face with both hands. No lie! I asked my husband if it tasted so good because I was starving (I don't eat much all day, between the baby and cleaning the house I forget to eat!), or if I really am as awesome of a chef as I thought! He agreed that it was very delicious.

Scroll doooooowwwwwwwnnnn for the recipe if you'd rather avoid my rambling =)

Where did I get the inspiration for this dish you ask? Well several years ago, my husband and I went on what I like to call a dream vacation, AKA a Cruise! If you've ever been on a cruise, you would understand what I mean when I say there are MOUNTAINS of food. They will keep feeding you until you burst, literally, I think I saw a news story one time where that happened.... I'm sure it wasn't pretty! Anyway, while I was slurping down snails, frozen strawberry soup, and volcanoes of chocolate heaven, my husband was enjoying a delectable dish that consisted of clams, red sauce, and various other things that he cannot remember but insists it was one of the best meals he's ever had! It must have been if he still talks about it years later!

Occasionally I would try (not very hard I admit) to replicate this for him. You see, while making our weekly shopping list/meal plan, I always consult my husband with a "What would you like to eat this week dear (please pick something that's on sale)?" and he always replies with a "I don't know", "I don't care", or a "...(zoned out playing Black Ops)", SO, I make my list based around weekly specials/sales/what seems yummy! Occasionally, like I said, I would come across a can/jar of 'Red clam sauce' in the grocery store, a little lightbulb would go off in my head, and I'd hope and pray it didn't taste like the last 3 'Disappointments in a can". Alas, it did, so like any good wife I'd empty half of my spice rack into the pot in hopes to salvage a half-decent dinner, and say better luck next time!

Well all that changed about a week ago, I had an epiphany. My husband's grandmother makes Clam-Pie, which is basically Chicken-Pot-Pie but with Clams. And let me tell you right now, that woman can COOK HER SOCKS OFF! I think she'd give Julia Child a run for her money in all honesty.

OK so my husband goes "Why don't you ever make clam pie?!"
and I'm like "... I can do that sometime, just let me find a recipe"
and he's like "Just call mommom and ask her how she makes it!! I want it to taste like hers!"
and I'm thinking 'Iwannadoitmyselffffff *Stewart from MADTV voice*' but I say "OK" -> See, I have this complex where I don't want people to think there's anything I can't do!! I don't know where it came from, but I'm slowly letting go of it in order to be the best me I can be! So I am letting other people teach me stuff and admitting I don't know everything!

She says "Why don't we make it together! That way I can show you and you can learn from doing!" (which is soooo much better, I'm definitely a hands-on type person!)
So she brings the ingredients over and blah blah blah.... Long story shor---- Well still long but not as long as it could be =) ---> We have some extra ingredients left over, and several days later that lightbulb in my head dinged again, and this time it felt more like one of those lights at the football field as night approaches! BAM!

 So here we go =) It turned out AMAZING! Next time I make it I want to play around with the idea of adding some shrimp into the mix aswell!

Clams in Red Sauce

  • 1-2 cans of 6.5oz Chopped Clams in Clam Juice
  • 8oz Clam Juice
  • 3 Cloves Garlic, minced
  • 3tbs Olive Oil
  • 2/3 c. Dry White Wine
  • 1 Cubanelle Pepper minced or sliced very thin
  • Red Pepper Flakes
  • Salt / Pepper to taste
  • 1.5tsp dried Thyme
  • Linguine or other pasta
  • 1 Large tomato - blanched w/ skin removed, & chopped.
  • 1 can (16-20oz pasta sauce - store bought or homemade)
  1. Heat oil in a large deep skillet over med-high heat.
  2. Add garlic and cubanelle pepper and sautee for 1 minute until garlic is fragrant.
  3. Pour in wine, red pepper flakes, and thyme.
  4. Cook ~5minutes until the wine has reduced to 1/3.
  5. Add Clam Juice & Canned Clams and bring to a boil.
  6. Reduce to a heavy simmer and cook for 5 minutes.
  7. Add tomato & sauce, & simmer for 25-30mins until thickened.  Add salt & pepper to taste.
  8. Serve over prepared Linguine or other pasta of your choice.

Homemade Garlic Breadsticks

  • 1 1/4 c. flour
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 2/3 c. milk
  • 1/2 stick of salted butter, melted to liquidy goodness.
  • Parsley
  • Parmesan Cheese -> try to get the good stuff if you can =)  if not, the shaky kind will do.
  1. Mix all flour, 1/2tsp. garlic powder, sugar, & baking powder in a bowl.  Add milk until a soft ball of dough forms.  Dump out onto a floured surface, & knead several times (no more than 10, you don't want to make it tough do you?)
  2. Roll out dough to 1/2in. thickness, and using a dough cutter, pizza cutter, exacto knife, or whatever you got, cut into even 'sticks' about 3/4in. width.
  3. In a bowl, mix together your melted butter, remaining 1/2tsp garlic powder, and parsley.
  4. While your dough is laying there all cut up and vulnerable, slather it real good using a pastry brush (or your kid's watercolor brush - shh I won't tell) with your butter mixture.
  5. Carefully slide a flat object under the uncooked breadsticks, and gingerly transport them to a greased cookie sheet where you will flip them so they are buttered side down.
  6. You got it.  Butter the other side now.
  7. Pop those babies in a 450 degree oven for 10-12 minutes (check them after 8, everyone's oven is different!)
  8. When they come out immediately slap the remaining butter on them (just eat some Cheerios in the morning - it'll cancel this out, trust me!) and while they are still hot, sprinkle some freshly grated Parmesan Cheese on top!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Homemade SwissBurger Helper

        You know that feeling you get when you have NOTHING planned for dinner, you open your freezer in a panic and there's a frozen lump of hamburger staring at you so you grab it and shuffle to the pantry for inspiration, but all that you find is an empty box of Apple Jacks, 28 cupcake liners scattered about, and a box of Hamburger Helper Mix with an ungodly expiration date sometime in the next century (that can't be healthy...)?  And then do you know the feeling when you make up that Hamburger Helper, and as it's nearing completion your husband shouts from the other room, "Wow, dinner smells amazing I can't wait!" and as you dish it out the kids are tripping over nothing (you keep your floors clean right?)  to get to the table fast enough because it's their favorite meal of all time???  No??? Me neither.... That's why I've slowly been shying away from boxed/processed foods, and making things from real (mostly.....) wholesome ingredients.

        Now, I'm not knocking Hamburger Helper or anyone who eats it, and I won't lie I occasionally jump on the high-sodium train myself and rock this out for a last minute meal idea.  But. . . like I said, baby steps!  I'm doing so much better lately!  Like I said in my previous post, I've been experimenting with creating my own recipes lately, because sometimes I like to clear out my pantry without the use of C4!  This leads to some interesting and fun concoctions, of which I'm about to share another with you!

        What would a new recipe be without a name?  A name can make or break something.  Imagine if Leonardo DiCaprio's mom had decided to name him Herbert.   Or what if Taco Bell was named Wanna-be-mexican-food-that'll-have-you-farting-flames?  Ok that's a bit extreme, but my point is, people pay millions of dollars for OTHER people to name things for them, so it must be pretty important, yes?

        Anyhow... I wanted to stick with the 'Hamburger Helper' sounding theme for this one, since it's basically a homemade version of just that.  So I'm going to call it.... SwissBurger Helper!  That one took me awhile... Ok on to the recipe!


  • 1lb ground turkey, chicken, or beef
  • 6oz penne, elbow macaroni, or pretty much any small cute noodle is fine!
  • 8oz Swiss Cheese (you can buy a block or pre-shredded) shredded
  • 2 c. Milk
  • 3 tbsp. butter
  • 1/4 c. flour
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 1 sm. onion, chopped


  1. Cook pasta according to package directions, but 2-3minutes less, you want it a bit chewy because it will also cook in the oven.  Drain.  Set aside.
  2. Brown your ground meat and drain grease very well.
  3. Sautee' your onion in 1 tbsp. of butter until carmelized
  4. In a small saucepan, melt 2 tbsp. of butter, mix in flour, add milk and swiss cheese, stirring constantly until a thick and smooth sauce is created.  Add salt & pepper as desired to taste.
  5. Mix sauce in with the noodles, then add your onion and browned meat aswell.
  6. Put everything into a casserole dish, and bake on 350 for 25-30minutes until hot and bubbly.
  7. You can add a topping if you like.  Some ideas are:
            • Crushed French's Fried Onions
            • Crushed Ritz Crackers
            • Seasoned Panko Breadcrumbs
            • anything else crispy would be good too =)
Let me know if you enjoy this recipe!  Again, it's a homemade version of Hamburger Helper, so it's not a gourmet meal or anything!  Probably don't want to serve this one for Christmas Dinner!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Cheesy Crock Pot Chicken

Sometimes the best things in life are surprises!  This can be extremely true or extremely untrue when talking about food!  I've made some delicious award-winning (according to my panel of judges - my family) creations by messing around in the kitchen with random ingredients.  However this has also occasionally resulted in some horribly, disfigured creations that our dog wouldn't even eat.
While the latter is a pretty rare occurrence, there's always that ping of fear as I wait with my finger on speed-dial to the nearest pizza joint, for my newest creation to finish cooking.
Luckily tonight's dinner was a pleasant surprise, and my husband (who I consider my biggest critic - damn Italians, spoiled by good family cookin'!) even said it was great!
PS: On a side note, I found French's Fried Onions in Cheddar flavor in the store last week, I was extremely excited to take them home and try them!  Yes I sometimes snack on them straight from the container while making dinner.. don't judge me!

Ingredients (2-3 servings):

  •  5-6 Chicken Tenderloins (I used frozen)
  • 1 can Cream of Chicken
  • 6oz Whole Milk Ricotta Cheese
  • 1/2 C. Milk
  • 1 C. Frozen Broccoli
  • 2-3 All-Purpose Potatoes, cubed
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Shredded Cheddar Cheese
  • French's Fried Onions (Cheddar flavor!)


  1. Turn your SlowCooker to High, and add frozen chicken tenderloins.
  2. In a small bowl mix: Cream of Chicken, Milk, Water, Ricotta, Salt & Pepper
  3. Pour overtop of chicken tenderloins. 
  4. Let this cook for about an hour, covered.
  5. Turn heat to Low, add potatoes, and continue cooking, covered, another 2 hours.
  6. Add Broccoli, and continue cooking, covered, another hour.
  7. Serve with a spoon (You'll want to get plenty of that delicious sauce on your plate!)
  8. Sprinkle generously with Shredded Cheddar & French's Fried Onions.
  9. Enjoy!
Let me know if you tried this recipe and if you enjoy it =)  Also if you have any tips, suggesitons, or questions, feel free to ask!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Convert your baby swing from battery power to AC!

If you're like us, you've probably purchased batteries for a gadget/toy before, and probably more than once.... In this modern day and age, I'd bet that every single person has atleast one item in their home that requires battery power to operate... Remotes, radios, table fans, reading lamps, toys, the list goes on...  It literally blows my mind when I think about how much we've probably spent over the course of our lives on disposable batteries!  Luckily, I've lately been very frugal minded, and I've been getting my husband in on the action also!  Among my many projects (which I frantically and absentmindedly jump between like I have a bad case of ADHD) I have tried incorporating some cost/energy-efficient methods into our home life!  We slowly have been stocking up on rechargeable batteries of different voltages when we find a good sale, (I refuse to pay retail for anything!)  but in the meantime we find other ways to pinch and save!  We were looking to replace the batteries in our daughter's swing the other night, so we took a trip down to Target to see what we could find.  The cost of 4 rechargeable D batteries, AND a charger for said batteries was definitely not in our budget right now so we had to get creative!  Now I'll admit that using electricity isn't the most energy-efficient (obviously) path to take, but in comparison with upfront cost of batteries (rechargeable or not) and the charger, it seemed like our best bet financially.  Also take into consideration that rechargeable batteries need electricity to charge (although it doesn't use as much energy as a 5-6V transformer powering a swing would.... let's not grasp at straws here!!).  So we already had everything we needed on hand which worked out great!  I've included a video of the rundown, it's a very simple process, which I will also outline below.  Let me also mention that not having to change out batteries all of the time is a wonderful thing when your baby just wants to swing, and gets fussy when the party stops!

What you'll need:

  • A baby swing that currently runs on batteries!
  • A simple phone/bluetooth charger (anything 5 or 6 volts will work)
  • A wire cutter/stripper
  • Heat Shrink Tubing or Electrical Tape
  • A screwdriver

What to do, what to do:

  1. Remove the outer top shell from your swing, typically this will consist of removing anywhere from 8-12 phillips-head screws, then popping the casing off.
  2. Find the red (+) & black (-) wires that run from the motor to the battery casing.
  3. Cut both wires somewhere along their path (preferably an inch or two from the battery casing.)
  4. Cut the phone-jack end off of your phone charger also.
  5. Strip both the red&black swing wires & the red&black charger wires about an inch or two.
  6. Slide a 3-4inch section of heat shrink tubing onto one of the red wires, and one of the black. (optional)
  7. Match up the colors and do the twist. (red goes with red.... and - yea you got it.)
  8. You can now cover the exposed wires with electrical tape if you didn't go with the heat shrink tubing.
  9. If you used the heat shrink tubing method, go ahead and heat it up and watch it shrink! So magical..
  10. Now make sure that the combined wires are aligned so that they aren't squashed when you replace the top shell (there's usually a small hole that the battery cover snaps into, you can just feed the wire out of there.
  11. Replace the top shell, replace the screws.  Voila!

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