Category Archives: cooking

Recipes — from me, the one who barely gets to the grocery store anymore

Perhaps I am posting recipes because I wish I had a stocked refrigerator and pantry in order to cook real meals.  Lately, I have been fortunate to make it to the grocery store to buy milk.  Cereal and other daily staples have been in short supply because I have just had other things to do with my Saturdays, and going to the store on a weeknight after work is also just not appealing.  But I popped on over to Annie’s blog, and she was, as usual, posting some great recipes.  Some of these recipes were for her crockpot, and I was inspired to share a recipe that I love for the crockpot.

My sister-in-law, Tricia, sent it to me probably ten years ago, and I have made it pretty often since then.  At some point, I lost the recipe she sent, so I searched on-line to find one very similar to it, if not exactly the same, and the taste was very close.  So, here it is (Of course, for my crew, this has to be doubled.):

Crockpot Porkchops

3/4 cup flour, divided
1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
1/2 teaspoon garlic pepper blend
1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt
4 boneless pork loin chops (1/2 inch thick)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 c. chicken broth
1 C. sherry

Preparation method
1.     In a shallow dish or pie pan, whisk together 1/2 cup flour, mustard, pepper, and salt. Dredge pork chops in mixture.

2.     Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Fry pork chops in hot oil until browned on both sides, about 4 minutes,   then place in a 5-quart slow cooker.

3.     Whisk 1/4 cup flour into chicken broth and sherry, then add mixture to slow cooker. Cook on LOW for 3 to 3 1/2 hours.

4.     Serve pork with pan juices poured over each.

(I am thinking of trying this recipe with chicken breasts instead of pork tomorrow, since I happen to have chicken breasts in the freezer.  I think it will work well!)

Another source of recipes I use all the time is a cookbook called Quick & Healthy Recipes and Ideas. I have had this cookbook for at least 15 years, and some of my “regulars” come from this book.

Since I am linking the cookbook’s website and the Amazon link to the book, I am going to post a couple of the recipes from the book with little fear of copyright infringement.

I use this first recipe for Mexican Style Chicken and Rice at least 3 times a month.  I LOVE it, and my family likes it.  It is easy and quick as the book title promises, and it is obviously tried and true.

Mexican Style Chicken and Rice

1 medium onion, chopped

1 green pepper, chopped

1 tsp minced garlic

1 can diced tomatoes

1 can chopped chiles (We don’t eat chiles at our house, and it is great flavor without them.)

1 can chicken broth (low sodium, if you want to be super healthy)

1 3/4 C quick cooking brown rice (I use white rice sometimes)

6 drops tabasco sauce (I never use this)

2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts

2 oz grated, lowfat cheddar cheese (true confession–we use regular cheddar most of the time 🙂

Preheat oven to 350.  Cook onion and pepper in skillet sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.  Add the next 6 ingredients.  Mix well and bring to a boil.  Remove from the heat and spoon into a 9×13 baking pan sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.  Arrange chicken on top of rice mixture.  Cover with aluminum foil, and bake for 35 minutes or until rice is cooked.  Sprinkle cheese over chicken.  Let stand for 5 min or until cheese is melted.

I often skip the cooking of the onions and peppers and boiling of the rice in the chicken broth when I make this because of time and a desire to keep the number of cooking pans to a minimum.  When I do this, I bake for another 5 – 10 minutes.  It turns out fine using this method, but the chicken is not quite as moist.

I serve this with sour cream as a garnish.

Also from the  Quick & Healthy Recipes and Ideas cookbook is the recipe that my 13-year-old son made for me for my birthday dinner.  It is really yummy.  Since Nevin made it, I found a variation of it for the crockpot on line, so I am sharing that version here.  I haven’t tried it in the crockpot yet, but I am sure it will be as good as it was baked in the oven.

Chicken a la Soda

3 skinless boneless chicken breasts (or eqiuvalent of boneless tenders)
1 can orange soda
1/4 cup of water
1 cup diced celery
1 can of sliced mushrooms
3 cups cooked instant brown rice

place chicken in crock pot
pour soda over chicken
add 1/4 cup of water
add veggies
cook on LOW for 6-8 hours or HIGH for 4-6 hours. (check internal temp of chicken to make sure done)
Cook rice in microwave or stovetop.
When done, place .5 cup of rice on plate. Place chicken (4 oz) on rice and spoon juices w/veggies on top of chicken and rice.

(The recipe Nevin used was practically identical to this.  If you want to cook it in the oven, place in a covered 3qt casserole, and bake it for 35 – 35 minutes.)

Reflecting on all these tried and true recipes may have motivated me enough to have a plan for meals for the next few days.  Maybe they’ve inspired you, too.

Working . . . Cooking

So I have been at the full-time job for 10 months now.  Wow.  When I was working full-time at home taking care of the house and children, I was always wondered how all those women who work full-time outside the home do everything.  I always thought it would be very hard.  And, I was right.  But, I have found with 10 months under my belt, that it is ok to let stuff go sometimes, and planning ahead really does help with getting more stuff done.

So a few weeks ago, I got just a little more deliberate in my meal planning.  In 3 weeks, I have done much better than I was doing, with just a little planning.  If I have all the grocery shopping mostly complete and a planned menu for every night, we save time and money.  I know.  It is nothing new.  I just rebelled against it for a long time.  I am in danger this next week of not being prepared, but I am giving myself grace until Monday night to get the full plan for the week underway.  Plus, my planning over the past month has me armed with a chicken enchilada casserole in the freezer.

I leave you with this recipe that I tried during week one of my “more deliberate meal planning” experiment . . .

Savory Grilled Pork Tenderloins with Herbed Vegetables


 2 teaspoons onion powder

2 teaspoons dried thyme leaves

1 teaspoon garlic salt

1/2teaspoon pepper

 2 to 2 1/4 lb pork tenderloins

 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 large red bell peppers, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

16 medium green onions, diagonally sliced (1 cup)

2 medium bulbs fennel, cored, thinly sliced

1/4 teaspoon dried thyme leaves

1/4 teaspoon salt


  • Heat gas or charcoal grill. In small bowl, mix onion powder, 2 teaspoons thyme, the garlic salt and pepper. Sprinkle thyme mixture on all sides of tenderloins. Immediately place on grill over medium heat. Cover grill; cook 15 to 20 minutes, turning 3 times, until meat thermometer inserted in center reads 160°F.
  • Meanwhile, in 12-inch skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat until hot. Cook remaining ingredients in oil 4 to 7 minutes, stirring frequently, until vegetables are tender.
  • To serve, cut tenderloins into slices. Spoon vegetable mixture over slices

When I made this, I used the broiler, and it worked great.  I also did not have fennel available, and we liked it fine without. Enjoy!

Wassup Wednesday – 9

Books:  Didn’t read any more Simply Christian because I was having too much fun reading the rest of HP3.  Already over 100 pages into HP4.  The rest of the series will go much more quickly for me–I am finally hooked!  I promise to do some more “spiritual” reading this week.

Kids: This week has been busy as usual, but we had the extra fun of celebrating Nevin’s 12th birthday.  Here’s a pic from the birthday lunch at home:

I am really at a loss of other things to say, so I’ll leave you with the recipe for the Birthday Cheesecake:

Cheesecake Supreme from the Better Homes and Garden New Cookbook (c. 1989)

1 3/4 C crushed graham crackers

1/4 C finely chopped walnuts

1/2 t. ground cinnamon

1/2 C melted butter or margarine

3 8 oz packages cream cheese

1 C sugar

2 T flour

1 t vanilla

2 eggs

1 egg yoke

1/4 C milk

Mix graham cracker crumbs, nuts, butter, and cinnamon together for crust.  Reserve 1/4 cup of mixture for the top of the cheesecake.  Press remaining mixture into 8 or 9 inch springform pan.

In a mixer bowl, combine cream cheese, sugar, flour, vanilla, with electric mixer until fluffy.  Add eggs and yolk all at one time and mix just until combined.  Stir in milk.  Pour into crust-lined springform pan.  Sprinkle reserved crust mixture on top of the cheesecake mixture.  Bake at 375 degrees for 45 – 50 minutes (8 in pan; 35 -40 for the 9 in pan).  Your cheesecake is done when the center appears nearly set but jiggles slightly when shaken gently.

Cool for 15 minutes.  Loosen crust from sides of pan with a kitchen knife.  Cool for 30  more minutes, and then remove springform pan sides.  Cool completely and chill for 4 hours before serving.

I used my food processor for mixing, and it worked beautifully.  I also sped things up at the end of the process by not allowing as much cooling before putting the cheesecake in the refrigerator, and it worked out fine.  I also only refrigerated the cake for 2 hours as we needed it for a birthday lunch!  There were no complaints!!  Here’s a pic of my finished product:


Obsessed with Soup? Perhaps!

It has been chilly in St Louis.  Today is gray again, too.  All this cold fall weather has soup on my brain . . .

So I was thinking about the recipe I posted last week, and I realized that some friends, like Abby, are not big into the canned soup as a base for a more substantial soup.  So I thought I would share a couple of homemade creamed soup recipes.

This recipe is very similar to one I used to keep on hand.  Now that I am thinking of it again, I think I’ll mix up a batch soon.  This is a good way to save some money, and it is very handy to be able to use this as a base for soup or when a casserole recipe calls for a can of creamed soup.  (I got this one from, but there’s also a good one in the Once a Month Cooking cookbook.)


2 c. nonfat milk powder
3/4 c. cornstarch
1/4 c. low sodium chicken bouillon granules
2 tbsp. dried onion flakes
1 tsp. dried basil, crushed
1 tsp. whole thyme
1/2 tsp. pepper

Mix all ingredients and store in airtight container. Makes 3 cups.To substitute for 1 can cream soup, combine 1/3 cup dry mix with 1 1/4 cups water. Heat to boiling. Cook and stir until thickened. Equivalent to 9 cans soup.

If you’re looking for an even more homemade taste, click here for another you might want to try.

More Soup

So I needed to get dinner on the table quickly last night, and I had a few conditions to meet: I didn’t want to use all our chicken; I wanted it to be something Mark, the kids, and I would all eat; I wanted to use ingredients I had available; and I wanted it to have some substance/staying power.

Here’s what I came up with:

Easy, Tasty Chicken Taco Soup

3 large chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch chunks

1 packet taco seasoning

2 T oil

2 cans cream of chicken soup

2 cans diced tomatoes (rotel or chili style if you have them)

1 16 oz. container sour cream

2 C water

1 C milk

chili powder to taste

Place  oil in skillet with chicken and 1/3 of the taco seasoning.  Mix together and cook for about 15 minutes.

While the meat is cooking, mix together all the other liquid ingredients with a wire whisk to remove lumps.  Place on the stove at medium heat stirring at regular intervals to eliminate scorching.  When the chicken has finished cooking, stir it into the soup mixture and let it simmer for another 15 minutes on low heat.

I served this to the kids with cheese quessadillas grilled in the skillet and apple slices, while Mark and I just had the soup, keeping the carbs to a minumum.  It turned into a tasty fall meal.

Soup for Lunch

I made this soup for lunch today.  Yummy.  It is basically a “leftovers” stew.

About 1 pound leftover pulled pork roast

1 cup leftover long green beans

1 15 oz. can beef broth

1 15 oz. can mixed vegetables

1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes

1 can cream of celery soup

1 15 oz. can of black beans

1/3 cup heavy cream

In a large pot, mix together liquid ingredients and celery soup until smooth. Add meat, mixed veggies, and diced tomatoes.  Mix together gently.  Simmer on low-medium heat for 15 -20 minutes.  Very tasty.

Tasty Tuesday

 (I am sure this won’t be a regular thing, but I could resist the opportunity to alliterate.)

Jennifer’s Scrumptious Spaghetti Squash

1 medium spaghetti squash
1 medium onion
3 small zuchini
1 8 oz . pckg. mushrooms
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 lb. ground turkey or beef, browned
30 oz. spaghetti sauce

Cut spaghetti squash in half, scoop out seed, and place meat side down on baking sheet.  Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.  Brown 1 pound ground put aside.

Chop vegetables while meat is browning and squash is baking.  Big chunks are fine.  In a large frying pan, sautee onion, mushrooms, and zuchinni in 1/4 cup olive oil until soft  (your preferred consistency).  Salt and pepper to taste.  Add other italian seasonings like garlic, oregeno, and basil as you like them.  Drain extra excess liquid from the vegetables, then add diced tomatoes and spaghetti sauce and heat for a few minutes.

When the spaghetti squash is finished baking, scrape meat of the squash from the outside peeling.  It will come off in clumpy shreds.  Mix the spaghetti squash thoroughly with the vegetables and browned meat.

If you are a cheese lover, this dish is tasty topped with shredded cheddar.

This is a great low-carb alternative to pasta.  It gives you the flavors of an Italian dish without the carbohydrates.  The consistency of this dish also sort of reminds me of ratatouille.

Horne Gruel

Last night, I made spaghetti for dinner.  I decided I wanted to “take it up a notch,” so I added some things to my normal boring spaghetti.  The result was pretty yummy.  Mark liked it so much he requested that I make it in large batches to keep on hand as “Horne Gruel.”  This made me think about how cheap it was to make, and now I am sharing it with you.


½ pound thin spaghetti

2 yellow squash (chopped in large chunks)

1 small yellow onion

2 – 4 T olive oil

1 pound ground turkey

1 26 oz. jar spaghetti sauce

Ground parmesan cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions.  Put aside.

Sautee onions in olive oil.  As they start to become a little transparent, add chopped squash.  Sautee until squash begins to soften.  Add ground turkey.  I push the veggies to the outer sides of the pan and brown the turkey in the center of the pan until it is fully cooked.  When the meat is cooked, mix the meat and veggies together.  Do not drain.  (There ‘s not much excess oil from the turkey, and by now, the olive oil has been absorbed by the squash.)  Add the jar of spaghetti sauce, and simmer for a few minutes.

Add cooked spaghetti to the sauce.  Mix to cover.  Sprinkle liberally with parmesan cheese.  Mix in.

With buying all my ingredients at Aldi, the total cost for 8 servings was: $4.50 — less than 60 cents per serving!

My friend Lori is what I dubbed a “snooty cook.”  She is a terrific cook, and has great recipes that everyone should try.  However,  I am not that at all.  I am a “plain cook” who likes good flavors.  So I appreciate all the work that goes into snooty cooking, but I want the same sorts of flavor without all the work.  I think this recipe does just that.

One last thing, if you haven’t shopped at Aldi for groceries, you should.  I first shopped there when we first came to St Louis in 1995 for Mark to go to seminary.  Limited funds were a big issue to the family of a student, and I would often say we wouldn’t have made it through seminary without Aldi.

I think the prices now are a bit higher, but they are still lower than the big grocery chains.  All their store brand foods are of great quality.  Plus, they have double back guarantee if you buy something that doesn’t meet your standard.  I am not a spokesperson for Aldi, but I am a fan.  I found this blog entry that lists  some of their standard prices.  The prices may have gone up since the time of this entry, but these are certainly in the right ballpark.


Recipe Time

I don’t post recipes very often, but this one is so good, I wanted to share it.  My oldest is doing an oral report for school on Paraguay, and for a little extra credit, most students usually distribute a snack that is related to the country of the report.  Calvin told me that he read about sopa, a type of cornbread when he was researching the report.  So I did a web search for a recipe, and I found this great one at

The steps are a little complicated, but the end product is worth it.  This bread is hearty and savory, and just plain yummy:

Paraguayan Corn Bread (Sopa Paraguaya)
Yield: 8 servings (serving size: 1 wedge)


* Cooking spray
* 2  tablespoons  grated fresh Parmesan cheese
* 1  tablespoon  butter
* 1  tablespoon  vegetable oil
* 1  cup  chopped onion
* 1/3  cup  chopped green bell pepper
* 2  cups  fresh corn kernels (about 4 ears), divided
* 1/2  cup  1% low-fat cottage cheese
* 1 1/2  cups  yellow cornmeal
* 3/4  cup  (3 ounces) shredded Muenster or sharp cheddar cheese
* 1/2  cup  fat-free milk
* 1  teaspoon  salt
* 1/2  teaspoon  black pepper
* 4  large egg whites
* 1/2  teaspoon  cream of tartar

Preparation: Preheat oven to 400°.

Coat a 9-inch round cake pan with cooking spray. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, and set aside.

Heat butter and oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add onion and bell pepper; cook 5 minutes or until soft. Place onion mixture in a food processor. Add 1 1/2 cups corn and cottage cheese; process until almost smooth, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Place pureed mixture in a large bowl. Stir in remaining 1/2 cup corn, cornmeal, Muenster cheese, milk, salt, and black pepper.

Place egg whites and cream of tartar in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at high speed until stiff peaks form. Gently stir one-fourth of egg white mixture into batter; gently fold in remaining egg white mixture. Spoon into prepared pan.

Bake at 400° for 30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean (cover loosely with foil if it becomes too brown). Cool in pan 10 minutes on a wire rack. Place a plate upside down on top of bread; invert onto plate. Cut into wedges.

In the cold weather when we eat a lot of soups and stews, this bread is a great compliment to make those meals more hearty.  Enjoy.

Jennifer’s Mexicali Casserole

“Hey Mom, what are we having for dinner?” Nevin asked.

“Jennifer’s Mexicali casserole.”

“Oh.” (Eyes rolling.)

So, here’s last night’s dinner creation.  Despite the disappointment and eye rolling that came before it, everyone liked it.

Jennifer’s Mexicali Casserole

1 pound ground beef or turkey

1 t. cumin

1 t onion powder

6 – 8 10 inch tortillas cut into strips

2 cans diced tomatoes (use the ones with chillis in them if you like things hotter.)

1/2 cup salsa

1 12 oz can of refried beans

1/2 C sour cream

1 C shredded cheddar

Brown the ground meat, adding the onion powder and cumin as you are cooking (you could also use taco seasoning).

Drain meat and put aside.

Mix together tomatoes and salsa; put aside.

Mix together refried beans and sour cream.

Layer ingredients in a slightly greased 9 1/2 X 11 pan in the following order:

tomato mixture, tortilla strips, bean mixture, meat, 1/2 c. cheese – repeat.

Bake in 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.  You may want to cover the pan with foil for the first 20 minutes and take it off for the last 10.  I was out of foil, so I just baked it without and it turned out fine.

Serve w/dollop of sour cream, tortilla chips and dip, and fruit.

Makesabout 12 servings.