Sunday, March 3, 2013

Recipe: Baked Leek and Parmesan Dip

I got a couple of leeks in my Bountiful Basket a couple of weeks ago and still had not used them.  I've never cooked with leeks before but I knew it was related to onions and garlic so I decide to make a hot dip with it.  I make a hot Parmesan dip at Christmas time with my mom so I thought I'd try it with the leeks.  Turned out very delicious!

Baked Leek and Parmesan Dip

2 Leeks - white and light green parts only
1 Medium Onion, chopped
3 packages Cream Cheese, softened
3/4 cup Mayonnaise
3-4 cloves Garlic, minced
1 1/2 - 2 cups Parmesan, shredded
Salt and Pepper to taste

Split leeks and rinse well.  Chop leeks and onions and in saute in small pan with some butter for 8-10 minutes until soft.  (If you don't like them sauteed, you can also put them in a saucepan with some water, bring to a boil and lower to a simmer for about 15 minutes).  

In baking dish combine leeks and onions with remaining ingredients saving a 1/2 cup of Parmesan to top)  .  Cover with remaining Parmesan.

Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown at 400 degrees.

Note:  This would be really good with artichokes added to it too.

I put the leek tops and some other vegetables (and garlic and herbs) I had left from my recent Bountiful Baskets into about 8 cups of water and brought it to a boil.  Turned it down to simmer for about an hour and I now have vegetable broth.  Once it cools, I will put some in ice trays and freeze so that I can have small amounts when needed and the rest I will put into approx 2 cup containers and freeze.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Recipe: 5 Basic Pasta Sauces from Rachael Ray

Below is a link to 5 Basic Pasta Sauces by Rachael Ray.  The one I think is missing is a Pesto Sauce but that's just my opinion!  Enjoy

Rachael Ray Pasta Sauces Here

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Recipe: Chuckwagon Cheddar Chicken

This recipe is from the Steamboat Entertains cookbook.  It is hard to find but there are a few used copies on Amazon here.  My family loves this recipe and I don't know why I don't make it more often as it really is pretty simple!  It reminds me a lot of the Kraft Fresh Takes Italian Parmesan but the cheddar cheese just adds another layer to the flavors.

Looks very similar to this once baked.  I'll try to remember to take a picture tonight.

Chuckwagon Cheddar Chicken
(I cut this recipe in half except for the cheese - I use more :-) )

8 Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts
1/2 cup Butter
4 cloves Garlic, minced
3/4 cup Italian Seasoned Breadcrumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
1/8 tsp Pepper
1 1/2 cups grated Cheddar Cheese

Melt butter, add garlic,  Mix breadcrumbs, Parmesan, pepper and cheddar cheese in a bowl.  Dip chicken in garlic butter, then dip in breadcrumb mixture, coating well.  Put into a baking dish. Pour any extra butter or breadcrumb mixture over the checken.  Bake, uncovered in a 9" x 13" baking dish at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.  Serves 8.

I am serving this with garlic mashed potatoes tonight.

Menu Plan Sunday (well actually Tuesday)

Last week was our first real week of doing a menu plan.  It went pretty well, due to some unscheduled activities and more leftovers than expected we skipped the Homemade Pizza on Friday and moved the Taco Salad to Saturday.

This week, I put out all my entree cards and asked my husband and sons to pick out 2 items each that they would like this week.  From that we narrowed it down to 3 meals and a couple of lunches (we don't normally plan those).

Menu Plan for week of February 24-March 2:
Sunday - Leftovers
Monday - Chicken and Dumplings
Tuesday - Leftovers
Wednesday - Chuckwagon Cheddar Chicken
Thursday - BBQ Pork (from the freezer)
Friday - Leftovers
Saturday - Pizza Wraps (Lunch) and Orange Chicken (Dinner)

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Recipe: Meatballs

My boys and I made meatballs today with hamburger I picked up at my local King Soopers a couple of weeks ago for .98/lb.  I froze the meat and then thawed it out yesterday.  Our recipe is pretty loose, throw in some spices/herbs (whatever you like), eggs and bread crumbs.  There really isn't much measuring going on, I just throw in whatever looks good.  6lbs is a lot of meat so make sure you season it enough :


6 lbs Ground Beef
6 Eggs
1 cup Homemade Bread Crumbs or Crackers
1 cup Parmesan Cheese
Onions (Chopped)
Garlic Salt
Onion Powder
Liquid Smoke
Italian Seasoning

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Combine all ingredients in large mixing bowl until well mixed.  Form into even sized balls (so they bake evenly) and put on large cookie sheet (if you put cooling racks on the cookie sheets the grease will run down into the cookie sheet making these a bit more healthy for you). Bake for 20-30 minutes until no longer pink in the center.  You can also fry these on the stove until all sides are browned and no longer pink in the center.

We made fairly large meatballs so we only got about 60 from our 6 lbs.  They were delicious in our spaghetti for lunch.

Menu Plan Sunday

I finally finished my menu planning board.  I think it took more time to figure out the papers to use than to actually make it.  I'm still thinking about more I might want to add to it, but it is functional.  Now I am finally ready to do my first menu plan with it!  I will do a separate post with a few photos and details of how I made my board.

Today was a Bountiful Basket pick up so I got lots of fresh fruits and vegetables so while planning my menu for this week, I tried to think of a few meals I could make using what I got.  Later today, my boys and I will be making meatballs with 80/20 hamburger I got for .98 cents per pound. We will also fry up some of it for taco meat.

Menu Plan for week of February 17-23:
Sunday - Spaghetti with meatballs
Monday - 40 Cloves Garlic Chicken (in the crockpot)
Tuesday - Taco Salad
Wednesday - Leftovers
Thursday - Meatballs
Friday - Homemade Pizza
Saturday - Leftovers

I am only menu planning dinners as I usually just eat left overs for lunch.  I anticipate that Tuesday may end up being a left overs night too and that is ok with me.  I would rather eat up the leftovers than throw away the food.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Recipe: Crockpot BBQ Pork

I purchased a pork butt roast for $1.79/lb on Monday.  I brought it home and put it in my new Elite pressure cooker.  Added spices and seasonings below and BBQ sauce and turned it on.  When the timer went off after 30 minutes of pressure cooking it was not done inside (i.e. raw) so I put it in again.  This time after another 30 minutes (plus about 10 minutes to come up to pressure) it was done but not "fall off the bone tender".  We pulled some off and made sandwiches and then I threw the rest of it into my crockpot for 2 hours on high.  I should have only put it in for an hour but it still turned out well.  I normally cook this is my crockpot but wanted to try the new pressure cooker.  Now I have 2 appliances to clean up :-(.

Crockpot BBQ Pork

1 Pork Roast/Shoulder/But (trim off fat)
1 Package Lipton Onion Soup Mix (or make your own)
1 Bottle Dark Beer (or whatever kind you have on hand)
Water to cover roast
Garlic Salt
Chili Powder
Whatever Seasonings/herbs you want to add

1 Bottle Light Beer (or whatever you have on hand)
1 Bottle BBQ Sauce

Put roast in crockpot fat side up (so that fat runs down through the meat giving it good flavor)
Add 1st bottle of beer and the seasonings.  Cook on high for 4 hours or low 8 hours.
When meat is literally fall of the bone tender, drain liquid, shred meat and add the 2nd bottle of beer and BBQ sauce (I sometimes add 2 bottles of BBQ sauce depending on how much meat I have).  Cook on low for hour or until you are ready to eat (really just heating up the sauce).  If you have kids in the house you should eliminate the 2nd bottle of beer as the alcohol will not cook off - I don't usually add a replacement liquid.

Serve on buns with pickles, cheese, whatever condiments you like on your BBQ.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Recipe: Crockpot Mashed Potatoes

A couple weeks ago I found a recipe on FirstADream blog for making mashed potatoes in the crockpot.  I had a bunch of potatoes from Bountiful Baskets that I needed to use up and this recipe sounded delicious but in reality it was OUT OF THIS WORLD.  I have some more potatoes that I need to use so I'm thinking this will be part of our dinner tomorrow night!.

I pretty much followed the recipe but I saw other recipes that added cream cheese in place of some of the milk.  I did not want the extra calories and the original recipe was outstanding as it was.

Picture from

Crockpot/Slow Cooker Mashed Potatoes

5 lbs potatoes, diced with peel
1 cup water
1 cup butter, cut into chunks
1 tablespoon salt, plus
¾  teaspoon ground black pepper
1 1/3  cups milk, warmed

1. Place the potatoes, water, and butter into a slow cooker.
2. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Cover, and cook on High for 4 hours.
4. Do not remove the excess water from slow cooker. This adds to the creamy texture.
5. Mash potatoes with a masher or electric beater, adding the desired amount of warm milk to achieve a creamy consistency.
6. Keep warm on low until serving.
7. Potatoes keep consistency for a couple of hours after mashing. Just keep the lid on the slow cooker and serve directly from there.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Bountiful Baskets

In my quest to cook more at home using fresh ingredients, I happened upon a website called Bountiful Baskets.  If you have not experienced Bountiful Baskets, you have no idea what you are missing.  Bountiful Baskets is a food co-op in which participants contribute $15 (plus $1.50 processing fee) and they will receive a basket of fresh fruits and vegetables.  The value of the baskets is at least $35-$50.  They even offer organic baskets for an extra $10.

Here is a photo of the items I received in my basket one week.  Try buying all that at the grocery store for $16.50.

Bountiful Baskets was started by 2 women in Utah who were just trying to find reasonably priced fruits and vegetables for their families.  It has now expanded to 20 states and is growing every week. The site where I pick up my baskets just went from an every other week (always on a Saturday) pickup to now being available every Saturday.  They rely on volunteers to sort the fruits/vegetables into baskets and handle the distribution.  I used to volunteer every time I did a pick up but I enjoyed it so much that I am now a site coordinator and oversee the operation at my site every other week.

On the Bountiful Baskets website, they have a blog with recipes for several of the items you will receive in your basket.  They also have a facebook page.

Check out Bountiful Baskets to see if they have a location near you.  I guarantee that once you try it you will be hooked and will never pick up produce at your grocery store again.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Recipe: Double Crunch Orange Chicken

I found a recipe for Double Crunch Orange Chicken and knew I had to try it.  Here is the link to the original recipe.  I followed it pretty closely except that I only had 2 (large) chicken breasts (that is really all the 4 of us will eat in a single meal) so I had to cut it down so I would not have waste.  I'm going to try it baked next time to lower the calories.  Mine was not quite as dark as the picture below, I was afraid of it being too dry.  They also have a recipe for Honey Garlic Double Crunch Chicken that I plan to try soon!

Double Crunch Chicken a L'Orange

I served it with rice and a spinach salad with strawberries and feta cheese.  My boys declared this recipe a keeper.

Double Crunch Orange Chicken

6  large boneless chicken breasts
Place the chicken breasts between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and using a meat mallet, pound the meat to an even 1/2 inch thickness. Alternatively, you can slice the breasts by placing them flat on a cutting board and using a very sharp knife to slice them into halves horizontally.

Sift together:

2 cup flour
4 tsp salt
4 tsp black pepper
3 tbsp ground ginger
2 tbsp ground nutmeg
2 tsp ground thyme
2 tsp ground sage
2 tbsp paprika
1 tsp cayenne pepper 

Make an egg wash by whisking together:

4 eggs
8 tbsp water

Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper, then dip the meat in the flour and spice mixture. Dip the breast into the eggwash and then a final time into the flour and spice mix, pressing the mix into the meat to get good contact.  
 Here is where I changed the recipe - instead of dipping into flour mixture again, I put them in Panko to which I added a bit of garlic salt and onion powder.  Made the chicken very crunchy.

Heat a skillet on the stove with about a half inch of canola oil covering the bottom. You will want to carefully regulate the temperature here so that the chicken does not brown too quickly. The thinness of the breast meat practically guarantees that it will be fully cooked by the time the outside is browned. I find just below medium heat works well. I use a burner setting of about 4 1/2 out of 10 on the dial and fry them gently for about 4 or 5 minutes per side until golden brown and crispy.

Several comments on the website suggest that for baking, that you should spray a baking pan lightly with oil and then spriz some on top and then turn the chicken over about half way through. Bake at 350 degrees for approx 25-35 minutes.  Internal temperature should be 165 degrees.

Orange Sauce 

Begin by adding to a medium saucepan over medium low heat:

3 cloves minced garlic
3 tbsp peanut oil
Sauté for a couple of minutes until the garlic is softened but not browned, then add:

3 cups orange juice
finely grated zest of one small orange
3/4 cup honey
1/3 cup rice vinegar

1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp chili flakes or 2 tsp crushed chili paste ( more or less to taste, use 1/4 of this amount if you don't like spicy sauces) - I left this out completely as my sons don't like spicy.

Simmer together slowly for about 20 minutes or until the volume has reduced by about half. Skim off any film that may come to the surface.
Mix together:

1 1/2 tbsp corn starch
1/4 cup water

Pour slowly into the saucepan stirring constantly to thicken the sauce to a glaze-like consistency. You can use a little more or less cornstarch mixture to bring it to the consistency you want. Boil for only another minute and remove from the heat.
Coat the chicken breasts with the sauce before serving. Serve with rice or noodles.

Be sure to check out Rock Recipes for more recipe ideas!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Menu Planning Made Easy

While working on my menu planning board, I thought of another idea to share with you.  Problem is I have SOOO many thoughts/ideas around menu planning that either this could be a REALLY long post or I am going to have to break it down into several posts.  I'm going for the several posts idea, although this will still be a long post!

So this post will be about the websites/blogs that can help make menu planning easier for you.  Some of the sites go so far as to prepare not only the menu for you, but also a shopping list based on what is on sale that week.  If you aren't into couponing, at least by buying items that are on sale, you can save your family significant amounts of money each month.  And, buy multiples of items that are on sale and store in your pantry or freezer so you don't have to pay full price next time.

I do not take advantage of most of these services however I have done a trial period for a few and have incorporated several ideas into my system.  Since I already have a large stockpile I like to use what I have on hand.  I'm also a fairly picky eater and sometimes just don't care for the menus they have planned out.

Below is a list of some of the sites I've discovered that do the menu planning for you.  Some are free and many have a nominal fee (check them out via their trial period if offered).  Some offer just basic menu planning for a week or a month at a time (WHOA!) and others will create your shopping list for you.  Some even have pretty printables you can download and print to write out your plan for the week.  Be sure to check out their recipe pages too for even more ideas.

If you know of a menu planning site/service that should appear in this list, please send me their link and I will add it.  If you need more ideas, go to Google or even better is Pinterest and type in Menu Planning in the Search box.  Be prepared to spend a few hours looking through all the sites and on Pinterest understand up front that you will go off on many tangents as you keep clicking on pins not related to menu planning.  Don't say I did not warn you!!

5 Dinners 1 Hour
Chocolate on My Cranium (no menu planning but lots of delicious recipes)
Crockin Girls (just starting to post menu plans but check out their recipes!)
Deals to Meals (menus based on what is on sale that week)
Eat at Home Cooks
Jamie Cooks It Up (she has some great monthly meal plans)
Oh So Chi Chi (Great Menu board tutorial)
Menus for Mom
Once A Month Mom (Now this is SERIOUS menu planning - holy grail of menu planning)
Semi Homemade Mom
Shrinking Kitchen (Healthy meal plans)
Six Sisters Stuff (they have just started posting menu plans, but check out their list of recipes!)
Sout hern Mom Cooks (lots of printables too)
The Fresh 20
The Shabby Creek Cottage (simple menu planning printable)
Whipper Berry (LOVE this Chalkboard menu planning board - this is the one in the picture above)

My advice to you is try a few of the services and then start small.  Plan a week at a time rather than trying to plan out the whole month.  Also be flexible. Sometimes you will forget to pull out the roast to thaw, just switch days then. Sometimes you will decide to eat out or just are not in the mood for whatever you planned.  It's ok!  This is a plan, it is not set in stone.

One more piece of advice, do a Google search before buying the paid services to see if the service you are interested in is offering a code (usually promoted on blogs).

Friday, February 1, 2013

Menu Planning Board

I've been looking at blogs and website about menu planning for the last several months.  Every time I think I've decided on a method, I change my mind and decide it isn't the right one for me.  I will only plan my dinners but some people plan breakfast, lunch and dinner.  More power to them, I am going to start small.  Here is the menu planning board I saw on Pinterest that I keep going back to and I think I've decided on.

Check out the post on this blog:

Let's be clear, this was not my idea/creation.  I am going to modify theirs to fit my needs and will post photos when it is done. I plan to do mine on a magnetic board that I got at IKEA.  I will cover it with some crafting paper in colors to match my decor and use magnets for the clothes pins (if I use them) and the card holding boxes. If you do yours in with a glass picture frame like they did, you could change it out the background every season if you wanted.  Make a few extra of the card holding boxes in other patterns/colors and use velcro so you can change them out as you wish.  Also if your picture frame has glass, you could write on it with a dry erase marker.

Do you menu plan?  What works for you?

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Organizing My Freezers and Batch Cooking

I am very lucky in that I have not only a side-by-side refrigerator in my kitchen, but I also have another in my garage (we got it from a neighbor for cheap) and a large deep chest freezer.  Just a couple of weeks ago I reorganized my freezers so that the garage side-by-side freezer holds all the already prepared "heat and eat" foods that I have made in the past couple of months.  The chest freezer holds the "raw/has to be cooked" foods and the kitchen freezer holds odds and ends.   Now that everything is reorganized so they don't have to dig in the chest freezer, it makes it very easy for my sons to go out to the garage side-by-side and grab out a burrito, calzone, or meatballs and just heat them in the microwave for a quick snack or lunch.

Tip:  Be sure to label the bag/container with what is in it along with reheating instructions.

I purchased 18 lbs of hamburger for $1/lb a few days ago.  I am cooking up some of the hamburger with taco seasoning and will make burritos to freeze so my sons can heat in the microwave whenever they are hungry.  I also had several chicken breasts that I got on sale a couple weeks ago that I boiled and shredded.  I also made refried beans in my crockpot a month or so ago (I'll post that recipe - soooo easy!) so I will just thaw those out and add to my burritos.  I individually wrap each burrito in plastic wrap (tin foil works too) and then label it with the filling ingredients.  I then put about 10-12 burritos (depending on the size of the tortillas I used) in a gallon freezer bag and freeze.

Here are some burrito fillings my family likes:

Seasoned Hamburger
Shredded Chicken
Shredded Pork
Refried Beans/Black Beans
Cheese (of course)
Green Chili
Rice/Spanish Rice
Green Pepper

*Don't forget that you can also make breakfast burritos (with eggs/egg beaters, hashbrowns, etc.)

Add guacamole and sour cream to your burrito once you are ready to eat it (after heating).  If you add it to the burrito before freezing, the sour cream has a tendency to separate and the guac can get an unpleasant texture.  I also prefer to add lettuce on top of the burrito after it is heated.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Recipe - The Most Wonderful French Bread

The first recipe of my new blog!  One of my favorite things to make is French Bread.  I found a great recipe on a blog called Chocolate on My Cranium (and she has several other great recipes I've also used).  She calls this her Not-So-French French bread but if it is "Not-So" then I don't know what is.  I get lots of compliments on this bread and requests to make more.  Because it is so dry here in Colorado, I store these in Armor plastic bread bags (make sure completely cooled) that I get from Ace Hardware.  The bags are fairly expensive ($3.99 for 4 bags), so I give my friends a loaf a bread in the bag and tell them to save it and return to me for refills. You can find the bags on Amazon here but they are more expensive.  If you live in a climate with humidity a paper bag would probably work for you.  This bread usually does not last for more than a couple of hours around my house so storage really isn't an issue.

Here is the recipe with my modifications.

French Bread (modified from Chocolate on My Cranium)
2 1/2 cups warm water
2 Tbsp Yeast
2 Tbsp Sugar or Honey
1 Tbsp Salt
2 Tbsp Oil
6 cups All Purpose Flour
1 Egg

I Add (optional):
Onion Powder
Parmesan Cheese
Italian Seasoning
Dried Onion Flakes

In a large mixing bowl combine water, yeast, and sugar/honey.  I use a small whisk to make sure it is well mixed.  Let sit for 5 minutes to allow yeast to soften and bloom.  If your yeast does not foam/bubble, then it is dead and you will want to get some fresh yeast before proceeding.  I buy yeast in big vacuum packages from Costco and keep it in my refrigerator in a sealed container (like Rubbermaid) once I've opened it.  I bake often enough that I don't have to worry about it going bad but if you don't cook with yeast often you can get individual packages of yeast from your grocery store, Walmart, etc.

My bloomed yeast looks most like this picture but other people don't get quite the same result.  As long as there appears to be some bubbling you should be ok.

Add salt, oil and 3 cups flour; beat well. Add remaining flour (here is where I add my herbs/spices and other items I want IN the bread - jalapenos anyone??), stirring well with a heavy spoon (or in the mixer with the dough hook). If too dry, add a small amount of water (1 Tbsp at a time).  

Allow dough to rest for 10 minutes; stir down with spoon; allow dough to rest for 10 minutes; stir down with spoon again. Repeat this process until dough has been stirred down a total of five times (I don't always remember to do it every 10 minutes and it still turns out fine). 

Turn dough out onto floured surface; knead two or three times to coat entire surface with flour. Divide into three equal portions. Roll each portion into a rough 9x12 inch rectangle. Roll rectangle up starting with a 12 inch side, pinch edge of loaf to seal. Arrange seam side down on a large baking sheet that's been sprinkled with cornmeal. I usually bake two loaves on one sheet and the last loaf on a sheet of its own. Allow to rise for 30 minutes. 

With a very sharp knife, cut three gashes at an angle in top of each loaf; brush entire surface with egg wash (1 egg beaten slightly with 1 Tablespoon water - I also add some minced garlic or garlic salt).  Sometimes instead of an egg wash, I use melted butter with minced garlic and some garlic salt sprinkled on time.  The crust is not as crusty when I do this but it is DELICIOUS.  Other toppings might include poppy seeds, sesame seeds, dried onion flakes, caraway seeds, the list is endless.  You just need something like the egg or butter to hold them on the bread.

Bake at 400 in the center rack of the oven for 20 - 25 minutes or until a nice golden brown. Cool. Makes three loaves.

NOTE: For a crustier loaf, a pan of water may be set on the bottom rack of the oven while bread is baking.  

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

My Favorite Knife!

I received the Rachael Ray Furi Gusto Grip 8" Knife for Christmas from my future sister-in-law.  It has quickly become my most favorite knife.  It cuts through chicken breast like it is soft butter.  Vegetables stand no chance against this knife.  It is very reasonably priced on Amazon (currently $14.29

Batch Cooking for the Freezer

One of the ways I like to save money is to buy a large quantity of something, say hamburger, at a really good deal.  Like this week, I picked up 80% lean hamburger for $1/lb.  I don't know about you, but around here that is an awesome deal!!  My local King Soopers had marked the hamburger down this evening because it expires tomorrow (well now today since it is 1:30 am).  So I bought all 18 lbs they had available and put it in my freezer.  The hamburger will last approximately 4 months uncooked in the freezer according to the USDA (it doesn't go bad per se if left a bit longer, but will develop freezer burn, eventually it will go bad though) but my plan is to cook it all up this weekend and then put back in the freezer.

I am planning on making some meatballs with my sons (they LOVE making meatballs) and cook some up seasoned with garlic, onion, and a few herbs for meals like spaghetti.  I will also make some up as taco meat for quick nachos or burritos.  By freezing it in individual containers or freezer bags in approx 1 lb increments, I can just pull out what I need and thaw it for a quick dinner.  Since I also have about 4 bags of tortillas in my freezer, I will pull out a couple bags and make up some beef and bean burritos that my sons can just heat up in the microwave.

Two of my goals this year are  to 1) do a better job of menu planning and 2) use up the fresh ingredients I get from Bountiful Baskets (watch for a separate post about Bountiful Baskets soon) so I don't waste food.  I've been planning on menu planning for several months and think I've come up with a system I can work with. It's been a process because I wanted to have a stash of recipes I could pull from to create my weekly menus.  If I succeed in meeting this goal, I will post my menu plans and recipes on this blog.  Cross your fingers with me???

Monday, January 28, 2013

Welcome to my blog!

Welcome to my new blog!  If you haven't figured it out, the title "I'm NOT Rachael!" is referring to Rachael Ray and I WISH I was her.  I love the fact that she is not a trained chef, but rather grew up working in restaurants.  To me it just says you don't have to be classically trained to be a good cook.  I already knew that, my Aunt Leoma is an AWESOME cook and she taught herself.  So while culinary school is not in my foreseeable future, I can cook for my family and friends who seem to enjoy it.

I'm a rather late bloomer to the world of cooking.  It wasn't until this last year that I really fell in love with cooking.  Prior to that, I could make some decent food but other than when we had family and friends over (not often enough), it was more of a chore.  My husband does not care to eat a big dinner (he would prefer a bowl of cereal), my daughter no longer lives at home, and until this last year, my twin boys did not eat much.  Now that the boys are tweeners (almost 12), their stomachs have become bottomless pits.  Feeding them, and hearing their appreciation of my efforts, along with their wanting to learn to cook themselves, has really made me want to cook more.  When they often compare the food they eat elsewhere to my cooking and tell me it mine is better, not only do they score bonus points but it truly makes me happy.

So this blog is going to be a place for me to post recipes I've tried, recipes I want to try, maybe some tips and tricks in the kitchen and around the house and just a place to babble.  I am not a good photographer, much to my dismay, but I'll try to share some pictures of my successes and failures (maybe).  Most recipes are not of my own creation, I do make the recipes of other people and may modify them to my likes and what I have on hand.

It is HIGHLY UNLIKELY that you will ever find recipes with fish, liver, weird animal parts, gluten or lactose free or fancy schmancy foods on this blog.  I do make some stuff from a box still. I do try to cook more with fresh ingredients but I'm not perfect and do rely on convenience occasionally.

I am also a fairly avid couponer.  I don't consider myself an extreme couponer but others might.  I have a pretty good stock pile of foods in my kitchen pantry, garage and basement.  What we won't eat or use I donate to my children's school or the local shelters.  I am able to get a lot of personal hygiene products for free or nearly free so we've sent boxes to the troops oversees.  So it is possible you might see some posts about my couponing trips along the way.

So welcome to my new little world - let's enjoy the journey together!
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