Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Day 38: Parmesan Tilapia

It used to be that whenever I was under the weather (whether a simple flu/cold or a chronic condition), we'd have to order out, or worse, make something quick and easy like pre-packaged burritos or Banquet pot pies. The problems with any of those solutions are they get old really fast and they aren't really healthy, like, at all!

Then, I got the brilliant idea to teach Jay (he was 13 at the time) some simple meals that he could make when I was worthless. That idea blossomed into my own personal chef that can probably out cook me! He also is way more willing to try pretty much anything! Win-win!

Seriously, Jay (who is almost 16 now) made this meal! He also is able to make pretty much anything I've posted so far, and is scouring the cookbooks and internet for his own ideas so he can show me up.

I love that even when I am unable or unavailable to cook, my family doesn't have to resort to unhealthy choices! And that Jay is gonna make some girl REALLY happy some day! And not starve when he's in college!


6 Tilapia filets
3/4 cup butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup dry Italian seasoned bread crumbs
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
2 Tbsp basil
2 Tbsp thyme
2 Tbsp oregano
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp salt


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Either in a microwave or a small saucepan, melt the butter with the garlic. Allow to cool slightly.

3. In a separate bowl, stir together the breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, thyme, basil, oregano, salt and pepper thoroughly.

4. Dip a tilapia filet in the butter mixture then the bread crumb mixture. Place into a 9x13 baking dish. Repeat with the rest of the filets.

5. Bake until golden brown and flaky, about 15-20 minutes.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Day 37: Irish Stew

We had a good friend from church bless us with something like 30 pounds of beef. (Not really sure, but it seemed like that much!) My freezer is stocked!! 

Some of that beef was stew meat, which was perfect for this recipe! (Also the stroganoff I made a few nights ago!) 

The beef was the best cut I've ever seen! It didn't take a lot of effort to cut, which is really saying something since all my knives need sharpened pretty badly! And after it was cooked, it simply melted in your mouth! If she wants to keep blessing us with this stuff, who am I to complain?! From the bottom of our hearts (and stomachs), we thank you, LeAnn!

And, look at the first thing we did with it:

Part of this recipe involved Guinness beer. I know some people frown on the use of it, but since the alcohol cooks off, I don't see the harm in it. (If you do have an issue with it, you can substitute non-alcoholic beer or even just water with no big problem.)

Guinness is a very... let's say flavorful beer. Definitely not a weak drink! I admit I did try some when I went to Ireland a few years back, and I gotta say, it was awful! So, I was kind of worried the stew would retain too much of the beer strength so I added potatoes to help soak it up a bit with their starch. And, really, what is an Irish dish without the potatoes??

Worked like a charm! And the Guinness made the celery (a veggie low on my likes list) so tasty! Seriously, folks! This stew brought tears to my eyes, tears of joy! So, so good!! Every hearty bite melts in your mouth!

I am totally adding this recipe to my list of all-time favorites!

This also gave me an excuse to use the cast iron dutch oven that used to be my Dad's bean pot! I love that pot!

(I think I need an exclamation point intervention!)


1 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 pounds beef (or lamb) stew meat (I cut mine into 1-inch chunks)
3 cups beef broth
1 1/2 cups (12 oz) Guinness beer (we used draught in a can)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
4 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
4 large potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
3 celery stalks, sliced into 1/2-inch chunks
1 large onion, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1/3 cup water


1. In a large soup pot, heat oil over high heat. Stir in stew meat and cook 8 to 10 minutes, or until the meat is browned.

2. Stir in the broth, beer, garlic, salt and pepper; bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.

3. Add carrots, celery, potatoes, and onion; mix well, then cook for 1 hour, or until meat is tender.

4. In a small bowl, mix flour and the water; stir into the stew and cook for an additional 2 to 3 minutes until the sauce is thickened.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Day 36: Nutella Filled Sugar Cookies

Saturday, I had a couple of friends over knowing these friends have a love for Nutella that equals my own. I'm always on the lookout for recipes involving Nutella! So when Karly over at Buns in My Oven posted this recipe, I had to invite my Nutella-lovin' friends over and make these!

My husband had a similar reaction to hers. In fact, I had to force him to get this picture before he ate them, and it about killed him!

It's a simple stuffed cookie recipe that absolutely will knock your socks off! So so good!!!


1/2 cup Nutella
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups plus 1/3 cup granulated sugar, divided
14 Tbsp (1 3/4 sticks) butter, softened
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla


1. Using a teaspoon measure, scoop out Nutella and place in small drops on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Place in the freezer for 15 minutes.

2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

3. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.

4. In the bowl of your stand mixer, beat together the butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar on medium until light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and add in the vanilla.

5. Turn the mixer to low and gradually beat in the flour mixture until just combined. Make sure to scrape the bowl to ensure everything is mixed in well.

6. Place 1/3 cup granulated sugar in a small bowl. Use 2 tablespoons cookie doug for each cookie. Split the piece of dough in half and slightly flatten the bottom half by pressing it together with the palms of your hands.

7. Use a small metal spatula to lift the mounds of Nutella from the baking sheet and lay on the bottom half of the flattened dough. (If the Nutella starts to soften, place it back in the freezer for a few minutes.) Cover the Nutella with the other piece of cookie dough and seal the edges with your fingers and roll the ball in the sugar to coat it. Place on the prepared baking sheet.

8. Repeat with the remaining dough and Nutella mounds, spacing the cookies about 2 inches apart from each other.

9. Bake the cookies, one sheet at a time, rotating from front to back halfway through the baking. The edges will start to turn brown when they are finished, about 10 to 13 minutes. The centers should still be soft and puffy.

10. Remove the cookies from the oven and cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes then cool on a rack. They can be served warm.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Day 35: Beef Stroganoff

It's been an amazing March weather-wise! So warm, in fact, that I don't want to run my oven. (Which is a shame since I have a zillion recipes that call for baking!)

So, I scoured my list of dishes I want to blog about for something that didn't require the oven. Stroganoff jumped out of the box and into my hand, forced my feet into the kitchen and placed itself onto my microwave. (I magnet the recipes on the microwave since it's over the stove.)

The only place I've had "from scratch" stroganoff has been restaurants. I did make stroganoff from a Hamburger Helper box a lot before my skills improved, but that really does not count in the "from scratch" category! So, I was sufficiently intimidated by this meal.

I totally shouldn't have been intimidated! It was simple and the pre-packaged stuff just doesn't compare to this!

Plus, I got to use fresh mushrooms and onions, which I've been craving, so win!

Look at those lovely freshly chopped beauties!
This was simply sautéing the onions and mushrooms, adding the beef, then the other ingredients and simmering for 40 minutes. The sour cream gets added after you take it off the heat and then you pour the stroganoff mixture over the noodles and viola!

I'm loving the "no pre-packaged if I can make it myself" rule! It's revolutionized my meal plan!


1 pound beef stew meat, cut into 1" cubes
3 Tbsp flour
Kosher salt to taste
Black pepper to taste
2 1/2 Tbsp canola oil
1 small white onion, sliced
14 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 1/2 cups beef stock
3 Tbsp sour cream (additional for garnish may be necessary)
8 ounces egg noodles, cooked and drained


1. Toss beef in flour, salt and pepper. Set aside.

2. Heat skillet on medium heat. Add 1/2 Tbsp oil. Sauté onions until almost transparent and add the mushrooms. Continue to sauté until the onions are transparent.

3. Add remaining oil and, once heated, add beef. Brown on all sides.

4. Add the tomato paste and cook to carmelize. Add the beef stock and deglaze the pan. Lower heat to a simmer.

5. Simmer for 40 minutes, until beef is tender.

6. Turn off heat and add sour cream, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

7. Top cooked noodles with stroganoff mixture and garnish with additional sour cream, if desired.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Day 34: Irish Grilled Cheese

In honor of St Patrick's Day, I thought I'd dress my food up in green.

All you have to do is mash 4 tablespoons of softened butter with 2 tablespoons each chopped parsley, scallions, and chives. Spread the mixture on 4 slices of white bread. Top each slice with sliced cheddar cheese and bread-and-butter pickles. Cover with 4 more bread slices. Spread plain butter on the outside of the sandwiches and fry in a skillet until golden on both sides. Spread the remaining herb butter on the warm sandwiches; slice into quarters and press the cut sides in more cut herbs.

It was an easy way to pep up a simple everyday grilled cheese!  And it was so so tasty!

Idea courtesy of Food Network.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Day 33: Sausage and Peppers

This Saturday is St Patrick's Day and growing up, I was never really a fan of the traditional corned beef nor cabbage. (Although now, I love them!) My mom, having a large group of children who wouldn't eat the traditional Irish meal, fed us sausage! Usually, it was in the form of Lil' Smokies, you know, the tiny smoked sausages, and macaroni and cheese. Not very Irish, but we loved it, and since they weren't the cheapest item, it was a rarity! Also, when the house smelled of cabbage, we knew we were gonna get the little wienies.

I have a hard time eating the little things today, not to mention the way I find boxed mac n' cheese gritty. My taste buds have matured. (Or I'm a food snob, whatever!)

Now, at least once in the month of March, I make sausage and peppers! This meal is so simple, yet so flavorful and, well, just yummy! So tasty, yet so simple, too!

I have it pictured up there with mashed potatoes, but that was because we had leftovers. Usually, I'd serve these with roasted, however, we are having a very warm March and that means the least amount of time I can have my oven on the better.


1 pound Ekrich Smoked Sausage, sliced
1 green bell pepper, sliced julienne
1 yellow bell pepper, sliced julienne
1 medium yellow onion, sliced julienne
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt and black pepper to taste


1. In a large skillet, heat the oil.

2.  Add the garlic and cook until slightly browned.

3. Add in the bell peppers and onion. Cook, stirring occasionally for two minutes.

4. Add in the sausage and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sausage and peppers are heated through.

5. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Day 32: Frozen Peanut Butter Pie

Happy Pi Day!! (3-14)

To celebrate, I made frozen peanut butter pie! (I've mentioned before my love of peanut butter?) The recipe called for a normal 9 inch pie, but that wasn't enough for me. So, I doubled the recipe and made it in my 9x13 Pyrex.

Now that I've tasted this heaven, I wish I would have made two...

Sticking to my "if I can make it, I don't buy the pre-made" plan, I whipped the heavy cream myself. It was my first time doing that, and it really wasn't as hard as I was thinking it was. Which really is a scary thought cause I could have whipped cream all the time now!

I didn't make the peanut butter or the sandwich cookies, even though I do have recipes for them. I just really wanted to make sure this turned out first before I started playing with what I could or could not make happen.

Also, I topped it with a crushed king-size Snickers bar. Also have a recipe for that, but see the previous paragraph.

I used my Ninja blender that I got for Christmas (I've been using this for so many things and I LOVE it!) to crush the cookies for the crust, but you could simply use a quart-size Ziploc baggie and a rolling pin.

Then, I whipped up the cream, added the peanut butter and some condensed milk, crumbled the Snickers (also using the Ninja) on top. Voila!

Hardest part of this lovely was the four hour wait time as it froze. Why must all good things have a wait time?? Perhaps so we won't be tempted to make an excess of them?


3 cups finely crushed Oreo cookies (about 30 cookies)
6 Tbsp butter, melted
2 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup peanut butter
1 (3.29 oz.) king-sized Snickers candy bar, coarsely crushed


1. Either in a food processor, blender, or Ziploc baggie, crush the cookies until they are finely crushed.

2. In a medium bowl, combine the cookie crumbs and butter; mix well. Press into the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish; set aside.

3. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat heavy cream until stiff peaks form. Add sweetened condensed milk and peanut butter, and beat until thoroughly mixed.

4. Spoon peanut better mixture evenly onto the cookie crust. Sprinkle chopped candy on top, cover and freeze at least 4 hours before serving.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Day 31: Worcestershire and Butter Steak

So, I recently celebrated my 38th birthday. When Jason asked what I wanted, I thought of three different meals that I truly consider my favorites. Two of them I would have to cook myself and I didn't want to do that on my birthday!

I went with the third option: steak! However, I didn't want just any steak. I wanted a steak that was well-planned and executed to perfection! I mean, I deserved that on my birthday, especially after all the other meals everyone gets to enjoy, right?

What better solution than mixing up some Worcestershire and butter to marinate it in all day before grilling it to awesome! It was so juicy! And, just what my anemic self needed!

The best part of this meal: two really good friends from Kentucky came up and surprised me! Thanks, guys, for making my birthday all the more special!

Also, the leftovers made an excellent salad!

Sun-dried tomatoes with grilled steak salad, yummy!


4 8-ounce sirloin steaks
2/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/2 stick butter, melted
Garlic salt to sprinkle on each side *optional*


1. Place the steaks into a quart-sized Ziploc baggie.

2. Melt butter either in a sauce pan or microwave and let cool. Mix in the Worcestershire thoroughly and pour into the baggie with the steaks.

3. Shake to coat the steaks with the marinade and place in a bowl or pan and chill in the fridge for at least two hours.

4. Heat your grill. (We use a charcoal grill, so I have no idea what to set a gas grill to. Sorry.) For a medium doneness, cook about 5-7 minutes per side. (Feel free to cook it to your preferences.)

Friday, March 9, 2012

Day 30: Spaghetti

I've always been one to use time-savers. Spaghetti was no exception to this rule. If I could buy a jar of sauce, box of pre-made noodles, pre-shredded cheese, and pre-made bread, all the more time to surf mindless hours on the Internet!

When I decided to check into little dietary changes that could possibly improve our health, I started reading labels. Boy, was I shocked! Do you know how much sodium is in the average jar of spaghetti sauce?? And just what is that stuff coating the pre-shredded cheese to preserve it?? Not to mention what that stuff they call butter substitute on the garlic bread! I was appalled at what my culinary laziness was doing to us! I mean, it's not like I had a job that took up any time. I'm a stay-at-home mom!

Something had to give! Both Jason and I struggle with chronic diseases that, if left unchecked, could disable us! Jason has Rheumatoid Arthritis, and I've yet to be diagnosed (insurance pending). I've read all sorts of ideas about dietary changes that could improve our situations, and really, it's completely been worth it to make these little subtle differences.

The easiest has been to stop buying stuff in jars or boxes that somebody had to stuff with artificial crud like preservatives. Just this change helped take some of the weight off and that alone has helped with the feeling better!

I haven't learned quite a lot about making my own ingredients yet, but I'm in this for the long haul! While I can't make the noodles, yet, the sauce is completely in my realm of do-able, as is the bread.

Growing up, whenever we were tight on money, Mom would take the time to make her own spaghetti sauce. It was pretty good. She simply put in tomato paste and sauce and some spices. (I'm sure I'm simplifying what she put in, but these are the ingredients I remember!) Voila! Meal for our large brood relatively cheap!

I wasn't happy with the recipes I could track down, so I tweaked one from an old cookbook I've had forever. It's not totally healthy, but WAY better for you than the sauce you get in the jar and didn't really add too much to the cook/prep time of spaghetti!

Jason calls this stuff "Awesome Sauce" and swears I could market it under "Cindy's Awesome Sauce," so, coming from a guy who never wanted homemade sauce before, that's a pretty good review!

This sauce can be made ahead of time. It will keep for several days covered and refrigerated, which saves me time and gives me a meal I can whip up quickly on days I need something fast that won't compromise my new motto of "a little more healthy."


1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 6-ounce cans tomato paste
1 8-ounce can of tomato sauce
1 large tomato, chopped
1 Tbsp Italian seasoning
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 cup water


1. Brown the beef in a heavy-bottomed pot. Drain off the fat.

2. Add the onion, green pepper, and garlic and sauté until the onion is tender, about 5 minutes.

3. Add the tomato paste, tomato sauce, tomatoes, seasonings, Worcestershire and water. Simmer for 30 minutes.

4. Serve with spaghetti or your favorite pasta.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Day 29: Turkey Enchiladas

While trying to come up with ways to use the tons of leftover turkey we ended up with, my Aunt Nicky mentioned how easy enchiladas were. I had never made them, so it was worth a shot. We love Mexican food just as much as any other here, and since the best authentic place closed down recently, we've really been craving it.

I altered a couple recipes (all I could find were for chicken so I improvised) to match what we already had on hand, 'cept the tortillas which Jason had to run to the store for. These quite possibly are the best I've ever eaten. I'm not sure if it was the way the turkey was cooked or I'm getting better at figuring out what ingredients go with the others. Either way, these rocked!

I simply mixed the turkey, butter, cheddar, sour cream, and onion in a bowl; rolled 'em into tortillas; put them in a prepped baking dish, topped with homemade salsa, covered in aluminum foil and baked.

Then, I removed the foil topped with more cheddar and back into the oven to let that melt and the edges to get crisp.

Very simple but oh so good!!

I'm starting to find it difficult to buy pre-made meals anymore; and that's OK!


1 Tbsp butter, softened
4 cups cooked and shredded turkey
3 cups grated cheddar cheese
1 1/2 cups sour cream
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
Salt and black pepper
6 8-inch flour tortillas
2 cups salsa (I made my own, but store bought is fine)


1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Grease a 9x13 baking dish with the butter and set aside.

3. In a large bowl, mix the chicken, 2 1/2 cups of the grated cheese, sour cream, onion, and some salt and pepper. Mix well.

4. Place the tortillas on a work surface and spoon about 1 cup of the chicken mixture onto the center of each one. Roll them up and place into the prepared baking dish, seam side down. (It will be a tight fit.)

5. Scatter the salsa over the top.

6. Cover with aluminum foil and bake until heated through, about 40 minutes.

7. Remove the foil and sprinkle the remaining cheddar cheese over the whole top. Return to the oven until the cheese is melted and the edges of the tortillas are just beginning to get crisp, about 5 to 8 more minutes.

8. Serve hot.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Day 28: BLT

This week, Jason and I got in on a ginormous meat sale! Seriously, it was like Black Friday in there! So many people wanting meats! All together, I think we scored 20 pounds of chicken, beef, and steak each as well as 15 pounds of bacon for less than $80!

We're all set in the meat department! :^D

So, after we realized that we had to try and fit all 75 pounds of meat in our regular freezer (because our deep freezer seems to not want to work right now), I had to work my mad puzzle skills to squeeze it all in! Even then, I couldn't find space for 2 pounds of ground beef, 4 8-ounce sirloins, and 3 pounds of bacon! However, there was an unplanned cleaning out of the fridge and freezer. Science experiments were growing in there!

Anyway, I needed to use up some of that unfrozen meat. What better way to use bacon than BLTs? There isn't one, that's what!

Pshaw! You say BLTs are too tame for this blog adventure? Did you see that pic up there?? No? Go, scroll back up. I'll wait here. Did you see it? The bacon is woven into a perfect square! That's right! Now it fits on your bread and none of it falls off as you eat every delicious bacon-y bite!

The first time I saw it (on Pinterest) I was amazed! Also kind of skeptical. I mean, how does one fry that up? Well, one doesn't! One bakes it! Which makes the cooking a little less messy, to boot! A-maz-ing!

You simply take 3 pieces of bacon, cut them in half, weave them together, and bake on a baking sheet in a 350 degree F oven for 18-20 minutes depending on your bacon doneness preferences. It's simple!

This method is great for not easily burning the bacon, which sometimes happens when I cook it in a skillet. I prefer my bacon that way anyway, but neither Jason nor Jay do, so (I'll admit) I sometimes let it burn on purpose so I'd get a couple extra slices! (I know, for shame!) We're talking bacon here!

Make sure you let the extra grease drip into a pan or on some paper towels for a few minutes before you put it on your sandwich, though.

Simple as that! Just toast some bread and assemble the sandwich to your liking! Personally, I prefer mine toast, mayo, tomato, lettuce, bacon, mayo, toast. Oh, and a little bit of pepper sprinkled on the tomato. Delish!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Day 27: Peanut Butter Pound Cake

Today is National Peanut Butter Lovers Day!!

I think I've established my love for peanut butter already. For those of you just tuning in: I LOVE PEANUT BUTTER!! Maybe it's my low-iron count. Maybe it's my nuttiness that draws me to the nutty. I don't know. I just love it!!

So, I scoured my recipes, but I already posted a couple of them, and the ones I haven't yet I didn't have the necessary ingredients to make. Boo! A thorough scouring of the internets was warranted! But then, I was saved by Mr. Food! His Facebook page was posting a peanut butter recipe for every 100 likes they got today! Yay! I just had to wait for one I had the stuff for!

I didn't have to wait for long. This pound cake was the first one they put up!

I did discover the peanuts I had on hand were stale. I didn't know that could happen! Lesson learned! Don't save the peanuts for anything; eat them right away! Got it!

Of the two loaves I made, one burned slightly on the bottom, but that was easily cut away. The other one, well:

Simply fantastic cake! Just enough peanut butter to satisfy even the biggest fan's cravings, yet subtle enough to not be overkill. You could even put some of your favorite jelly or jam and make it a PB & J cake! Fun times!


2 1/2 sticks of butter, softened
2 cups sugar
6 eggs
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup chopped roasted peanuts


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat two 9x5 inch loaf pans with cooking spray.

2. In a large bowl, combine butter and sugar; beat with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in the peanut butter and the flour.

3. Spread equal amounts of mixture into prepared loaf pans. Bake for 20 minutes.

4. Remove loaves from oven and sprinkle with equal amounts of chopped peanuts. Return to oven and bake 30-35 more minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

5. Allow to cool slightly before removing from pans and place on a cooling rack to cool completely before slicing.