Sunday, July 12, 2009


When I make tacos, I always purchase the taco kits that have taco sauce in them. My family does not put taco sauce directly on their tacos, so I always mix the sauce into the ground beef.


approximately 2 1/2 - 3 lbs ground beef (we have extra for leftover taco salad), browned
Add to the browned ground beef and simmer until done:
2 Homemade Taco Seasoning Mixes
1 1/3 cups water
The two taco sauce packages from the two Old El Paso taco kits OR 1 cup Old El Paso taco sauce (I used mild)

I throw out the taco seasoning packages that come with the kits.

Homemade Taco Seasoning Mix

The great thing about this Homemade Taco Seasoning Mix is that it has no MSG, and the Old El Paso packages I was using had MSG, and I didn't realize it before. Here's the recipe that equals one commercial packet:

1 T chili powder
2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp oregano powder
1/2 tsp salt

The nice thing about this is that some of these items come in organic versions. I didn't try using fine sea salt, but I will in the future now that I know what the original version of this recipe tastes like and how it compares to a commercial packet.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Basil Grilled Chicken

Basil Grilled Chicken
reprinted from a Southern Living recipe card I got in the mail years ago

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
3/4 tsp coarsely ground pepper
1/3 cup butter or margarine, melted
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
2 Tbsp minced fresh basil
1 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
Fresh basil sprigs (optional)

Press 3/4 tsp pepper into meaty sides of chicken breast halves. Combine 1/3 cup melted butter and 1/4 cup chopped basil; stir well. Brush chicken lightly with melted butter mixture.

Combine 1/2 cup softened butter, 2 tablespoons basil, Parmesan cheese, garlic powder, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Beat at low speed of an electric mixer until mixture is well blended and smooth. Transfer to a small serving bowl; set aside. (I just mixed it up really well with a spoon. I also used regular basil from the spice aisle here, even though I used fresh basil in the first step. I know, I'm a rebel.)

Grill chicken over medium coals 8 - 10 minutes on each side, basting frequently with remaining melted butter mixture. Serve grilled chicken with basil-butter mixture (I didn't do this; we used it all basting). Garnish with fresh basil sprigs, if desired (I didn't do this either).

I served the chicken with fresh vegetables and ranch dressing, and a spinach salad. For the spinach salad, I put sliced strawberries, some almonds, shredded cheese from a bag and Marzetti's spinach salad dressing on it. I mix the dressing up half dressing/half water so it's not quite so thick before I toss the salad.

I bought the big bag of frozen boneless, skinless chicken breasts from Sam's Club and doubled everything in the recipe. My kids loved this! We only had two pieces of chicken left.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Blueberry Muffins

The Best Blueberry Muffins
(according to Lora's recipe, which came from her friend Sandy)

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups flour
1/2 cup milk
2 1/2 cups frozen blueberries
2 T sugar
1/2 tsp nutmeg
Beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
Beat in eggs; then add vanilla, baking powder and salt.
Fold in half of the flour and milk, then add remaining flour and milk.
Dust blueberries with flour and fold into the mixture.
Scoop batter into a greased muffin tin.
Mix together the 2 T sugar and nutmeg and sprinkle on top of the muffins. Bake at 375F for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown.
Makes 12 large muffins.

Beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
Since my butter wasn't softened enough, this is as light and fluffy as it got.
Beat in eggs;
then add vanilla, baking powder and salt. Looking creamier now.
Fold in half of the flour and milk,
then add remaining flour and milk.
Dust blueberries with flour and fold into the mixture.
Scoop batter into a greased muffin tin (I used paper liners). Mix together the 2 T sugar and nutmeg and sprinkle on top of the muffins.
Bake at 375F for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Makes 12 large muffins.

So now I get to tell you about all the little idiosyncrasies along the way. First, I didn't know whether to use fresh blueberries or frozen blueberries. Since a very small package of fresh blueberries at Sam's was over $7.00 at the time I made this, I went with frozen. I did not thaw them first. I found out after the fact I was supposed to use frozen, so I was correct with what I put in the recipe.

Those frozen blueberries — they made that batter really cold and firm and sticky. It was difficult to get into the paper muffin cups, I had to smoosh it in because I had so much batter but I followed the recipe and only made 12 large muffins, and every time I did I was pulling the paper cups back out of the muffin tin.

If I had to do it again, I'd probably thaw the blueberries at least a little bit, and I would probably cut them back to 2 cups. There were a lot of blueberries in there. I suppose I'm used to them skimping in the boxed mixes.

Chicken Spaghetti

Chicken Spaghetti

2 cups cooked & cubed chicken
1 box (16 oz) cooked spaghetti
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can diced Rotel
1 can chicken broth
Shredded Cheddar (I use a finely shredded mix Kraft makes)
Shredded Parmesan

Mix soups, Rotel, and chicken broth. Combine with chicken and noodles. Pour into a 9 x 13 ungreased pan. Cover with shredded cheddar cheese (I use at least 2 cups) and sprinkle with shredded parmesan cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 40-60 minutes or until bubbly around edges. (I actually think mine only takes about 30 minutes.) I think the Rotel gives it a different flavor so it doesn't taste all "chicken-y."

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Homemade Granola

Homemade Granola

3/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup honey
5 cups oatmeal
1/2 cup dry milk
3/4 tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt
1/2 cup raisins
(but if you think I'm putting food in my food, you're crazy; I just put this here in case someone else happens to want this recipe and likes raisins; you can add other stuff, too, like it says in the directions below)

Mix brown sugar, oil and honey in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and heat until the sugar is dissolved. Combine dry ingredients in a large cake pan. Pour syrup over dry mixture and mix well. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes. Stir occasionally. Let cool in pan. Add raisins (if you must) and stir. Store in an airtight container. I use pretty glass canning jars. It takes me two 4-quart jars.

You can also add wheat germ, coconut, nuts, dates and other dried fruit. Of course that's just what the recipe said. That would again qualify as food in my food. Makes 5 cups. Mine makes more than that without the food in my food, maybe because it's not pressed down in the jars.

Here's what it looks like in my pan that I fix it in. I haven't been quick enough to take pictures in the jars.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Farmer's Breakfast

Farmer's Breakfast

Russet or white potatoes, maybe 10 or 12
1 lb bacon
1 dozen eggs
2 cup package of shredded cheese (I use Colby-jack or Mexican four-cheese)

Cube potatoes. Fry in vegetable oil, seasoning with salt and *a lot of* Mrs. Dash's garlic and herb. I cook enough potatoes that it takes my family-size 12" skillet.

While potatoes are cooking, fry bacon, either in another skillet or in the microwave. Crumble the bacon when it is cool enough to handle. Crack eggs and get them ready to cook when everything else is done.

When the potatoes are done, I put a few paper towels in the bottom of a large bowl and then place the potatoes on top to drain. I scramble the eggs in the skillet without washing it since it is already oiled up.

When the eggs are done, lower the heat and put the potatoes, crumbled bacon, and shredded cheese in with the eggs. Stir it all together until it is mixed up well. Turn off the heat and serve immediately. This is good leftover, too.

Note: Since I first posted this recipe, I have a preteen boy that has become a human garbage disposal. I now have to make more food than I even did before. This recipe as written will make a lot with leftovers for most people. Now if I want leftovers I have to use two packages of bacon, 18 eggs, and three to four cups of cheese. And a lot of potatoes, although I can't tell you how many because I just know when I've cut up enough. As opposed to maybe 10 to 12 small-medium, now it's maybe 10 to 12 medium-large. Don't you just hate it when people are vague like that in recipes.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Buttermilk Biscuits

Buttermilk Biscuits
from Learning the Frugal Life

2 cups all purpose flour
1 T baking powder
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup butter, shortening or margarine
(of course I used butter, softened in the microwave until it was the consistency of shortening)
3/4 cup buttermilk

In a bowl stir together all dry ingredients. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Make a well in the center. Add buttermilk and stir just till dough clings together.

On a lightly floured surface knead dough gently for 10-12 strokes. Roll or pat dough to 1/2 inch thickness. Cut with biscuit cutter (I used a glass) dipping in flour between cuts (I didn't do). I'm also lazy and only try to do one dough re-roll, so sometimes the edges aren't perfectly circular when I get close to the dough edge.

Place biscuits on greased baking sheet (I used my Pampered Chef stone so I didn't have to). Bake at 450 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.

Makes 10-12

I made two batches so I'd have leftovers. Oddly enough, the first batch made 11 and the second batch made 12. Next time I'll make it all together, but for the first time I wanted to make it just like the recipe was written so I could see exactly how it was supposed to be.

And if you don't have buttermilk on hand, which I don't a lot of times, you can put a tablespoon of lemon juice in a one cup measuring cup and then add milk to equal one cup. Since this calls for 3/4 cup, I suppose you could just use 3/4 T lemon juice in a 3/4 cup measuring cup and add milk to equal 3/4 cup. I see no reason why not. No need to throw away perfectly good milk. I think you're supposed to let it sit for a few minutes to let it activate or something, too. Don't really know why I think that, but I usually do because it seems like I read it once.

If you like a good biscuit or two, or like me, five, make these. Or if you have a big family, more than one batch so you can have five.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Crispy Chicken Tenders

Crispy Chicken Tenders

1 1/2 lbs chicken tenders
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk (the substitution is to use 1 T lemon juice and add milk to equal 1 cup for each cup of buttermilk I works perfectly when I don't have buttermilk)
1/8 tsp red pepper sauce
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/4 tsp paprika
Pinch cinnamon
1 cup vegetable oil

1. Combine buttermilk and red pepper sauce in a large bowl. Add chicken; let stand 10 minutes.

2. Combine flour, salt, pepper, paprika, and cinnamon in another large bowl. You can remove your chicken from the buttermilk and dredge each piece, then place them on waxed paper prior to cooking them, or you can do it as you go and put them straight in the pan.

3. Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat until oil is very hot. Cook chicken in batches until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes per side. I sprinkle them with a little salt while cooking, but this isn't called for in the recipe. Transfer chicken to a cookie sheet and keep warm in a preheated 300 degree oven (I don't do this; I just put them on paper towels to dab out the oil as much as possible).

Note ~ I buy two large packages of the frozen Tyson chicken tenders when I make these and then we eat on them for a couple of days. I have to multiply this recipe by four (except for the vegetable oil) when I make this many, and I cook them in two large square grill pans on the stove to save time.