Friday, September 30, 2011

Carol's Minestrone Soup

Posted by Susan:

This soup is so good and besides having to fry up the hamburger, the crockpot does all the work.  If it's too warm in your home, plug the crockpot in at your garage or on your porch. Yet, on a cool day, I love the smells and the warmth that a crockpot offers. It makes your family aware that love is brewing in the crockpot.

Carol's Minestrone Soup

1 1/2 pound ground beef (I use ground vension)
onion to taste (I use a whole onion, chopped)
2 cans Ranch Style Beans-undrained
2 cans Rotel (chopped tomatoes and chilies)
2 cans minestrone soup
1 can beef broth (I use the beef cubes and make my own-I make one cup but I prefer my beef broth to be strong so I added extra to it)
salt and pepper to taste

Brown beef with onion. Add everything else. Put in your crockpot on low for 4 to 6 hours. I prefer this recipe with homemade crescent rolls.♥

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Here's a submission from a reader and friend.  This one's posted by Cindy from, who has great tips on the running of your household, as well as keeping the right spirit of loving service in your family.  Check out her blog when you're done reading the recipe!

Hey there!

This isn't my own recipe--but it is my absolute favorite soup I've ever made! It is a Rachael Ray recipe. It has alot of ingredients, and looks intimidating at first, but if you make a couple of adjustments it really is a great tasting, healthy soup. Just use a box of frozen corn instead of grilling your own, and chop up the bell peppers (calls for red, but I've used every color with the same results) raw instead of grilling those. Since I've never grilled them, then I don't know if it affects the taste--we like it the easy way. Also, I didn't have zucchini the first few times I made this so I just shredded a carrot or two. Having tried it now both ways, we don't tell much of a difference. To me, the can chipotle peppers are the key ingredient--and just a little goes a long way! I buy the little can and use only 2 or 3 peppers out of it. I divide up the leftovers in small baby food jars and freeze for the next time I make the soup. (They cost about $1.80, but I get enough out of one can for about 4 pots of soup.)

Usually I put the veggies, chicken and spices in a skillet on Saturday night, cook them through. Add the tomatoes and sauce just to heat them up, then pour it all into the crock pot with the chicken stock. The house smells amazing on Sunday morning, and we're excited to get home from church for lunch that afternoon! Feeds our family of 6 once, then I always leftovers for lunches during the week.

Anyway, enough about's the recipe!

:) Cindy

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Broccoli Cheese Soup

Posted by Susan:

This is the most requested soup at our church. When we have a church fellowship, one crockpot of this soup will not's another crockpot soup that does the work for you!

Broccoli Cheese Soup

2 cans cream of potato soup (I make my own)
2 cans cream of celery soup
2 cans cream of broccoli soup
1 large jar cheeze whiz
1 pkg frozen broccoli
1 stick real butter
1 quart milk

Put all ingredients into a large crockpot. Cook over low heat all day.♥

Monday, September 26, 2011

Taco Beef Soup

Here is the first of our soup recipes.  There's still time to send me yours if you want to post.  Just type out your recipe and send it to me at

Posted by Susan:

This is an inexpensive soup to make, yet it is so filling! I love the garnishes for this soup and think it really makes it special. You can also use your choice of ground beef, venison, or turkey.  Give it a try!

Taco Beef Soup
1 pound ground beef (I use venison)
1/2 cup chopped onion (I prefer a whole onion)
1 1/2 cups water
1 can (16 oz) tomatoes (I use my canned tomatoes)
1 can (16 oz) can kidney beans (I use my canned kidney beans)
1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
1 envelope taco seasoning mix or 1 recipe Homemade Taco Seasoning Mix
shredded cheddar cheese
corn chips
sour cream

In a large saucepan, cook beef and onion until meat is browned; drain. Add water, un-drained tomatoes, un-drained beans, tomato sauce and taco mix. Simmer, covered for 15-20 mins. Put chips in bottom of bowl, ladle soup over chips and top with cheese and sour cream.♥

Friday, September 23, 2011

Okay, everyone...

I'd just like to officially let you know that we're starting a soup stretch on Monday.  I've received several yummy soups from our contributor Susan and I've got a few of my own, but I'd love to include some others.  If you have a soup you'd like to have included, feel free to email me the recipe at  I'll post it with your name and link, if applicable.  Thanks for your input and readership!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Baked Brown Rice


Here's an easy way to make brown rice to go along with your dinner.  It comes out of the oven with perfect individual grains instead of all mushed together.  Now that it's practically fall, you should try this out to warm up your house...or stick it in the oven along with that roast you're planning. 

Just so you know, brown rice is practically the same price as the regular, not-so-great-for-you rice, so this time eating healthier is not more expensive!

Baked Brown Rice
1 cup brown rice
1/2 tsp. salt
2 1/2 cups water

Toast the rice in a skillet over medium-high heat, stirring frequently.  Rice will brown and maybe even puff up and pop slightly like popcorn.

Pour rice into a 1 qt. casserole dish with a good lid.  Stir in the water and salt.

Bake covered at 325 degrees for 1 1/2 hours.

***You can subsititute tomato sauce for all or part of the water to get a spanish rice type of dish for Mexican, if you wish.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Note on Rice...

Here's something I've learned over my years of the package directions!  Now there's some rocket science for you!  There are some things that this matters with more than others.  One of these things is rice.

Did you know that there are many different types of rice?  There's the cheapie enriched white rice that most of us are used to using, but there's also jasmine, basmati, brown rice, short grain rice, medium grain rice, wild rice...the list is almost endless.  Here's something to keep in mind: the type of rice you have should determine the cooking method.  Short grain rice, for instance, is less than ideal for stir fry, because of the gluey texture when it's steamed like jasmine rice.  Put in a risotto, however, it's absolutely divine. 

Reserve short and medium grain rices for risottos and creamier rice dishes.  Long grain rices are best if you're eating it plain or as a side, such as burritos or stir frys.  Then there are the brown and wild rices.  They come in short and long grain as well, but the cooking times are much longer.  Instead of steaming for 18-20 minutes, they require 45-55 minutes...even longer for wild rices. Make sure you're planning for that extra time when you're cooking.

The moral of this post is know what type of rice you have, and learn to cook it properly so you can enjoy it to its fullest, then feel free to branch out and experiment with some others.  Keep in mind that nutritionally, the brown and wild rices are considered a whole grain, something we should always get more of!  Experiment and let me know how it goes!  I'll post a baked brown rice recipe tomorrow!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Chocolate Pecan Pie

For those of you who don't yet know, I have a real weakness for pecans.  It's one of the reasons I love Thanksgiving, actually.  Most people look forward to the pumpkin pie, but for me it's pecan pie that makes my heart beat a little faster.  Combined with some chocolate, it's the stuff of dreams!  <<sigh>>

Here is another recipe from Susan that sounds absolutely amazing.  Minus the crust, it almost sounds like a Derby Pie, for those of you who are from this neck of the woods.  Hope you enjoy!

Chocolate Pecan Pie

 1/2 (15 oz) pkg refrigerated piecrusts
4 eggs
1 cup light corn syrup
6 TBSP butter or margarine (melted)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar (packed)
1 TBSP vanilla
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1 cup (6oz) semisweet chocolate chips
hot fudge topping (warmed)
frozen whipped topping
chopped chocolate

Fit pie crust into a 9 in deep pie plate according to pkg directions. Fold edges under and crimp. Whisk together egss and next 5 ingredients until mixture is smooth; stir in pecans and chocolate chips. Pour into piecrust. Bake on lowest oven rack at 350 degrees for one hour or until set. Drizzle each serving with hot fudge topping, dollop with whipped topping and sprinkle with chopped chocoalte. Serves 8.......♥

Friday, September 16, 2011

Cheese Fries

Here is the first of the recipes I grabbed from Susan.  I'm going to try these hubby and I adore stuff like this!  They never seem as fresh as they should when you order them from a restaurant, though...I bet these will really hit the spot!  Just a head's up...Aldi's sells frozen fries for $1.89 around here, so this doesn't have to be a $10 splurge thing!

Cheese Fries (reminds me of Tucson)

32 oz pkg frozen french fries
1 TBSP chili powder
1/2 cup sliced green onions
1/2 cup crispy cooked and crumbled bacon (about 7 slices)
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese 
ranch dressing

Bake fries according to pkg directions for crisper fries. Place baked fries in a broiler pan and sprinkle with chili powder, green onions, bacon, and shredded cheese. Broil for about 2 minutes or until cheese is melted. Serve with Ranch dressing. Serves 8.♥

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Welcome to Susan!

I'd like to say a big welcome to our new contributor, Susan!

I've known her for many years, and she's a pro at cooking delicious, nutritious food for a budget.  In fact, she says she feeds her family of seven for $250 per month.  Wow!  That's pretty amazing...

Some things she does to economize?  They eat a lot of deer meat, she grows and cans her own vegetables, and makes use of their three apple trees.  I know not everyone has the space or ability to save in this way, but she's got great recipes and tips that just about anyone could learn to save with.  In fact, right now she is already putting aside $5-$10 worth of food a week for the upcoming holiday season, so it's not such a big hit all at once.  I never would have planned that far ahead, but what a great idea!

I'll be posting some of her recipes and tips for her via email and facebook, since she does all her typing via phone.  The first will be on Friday, so tune in again!

Some other features that we've got coming up in the next few weeks...

Apple recipes
Pumpkin recipes

These are all great money savers that just scream fall!  Get your recipes ready, and if you think you've got a keeper for the upcoming categories, email them to me at  I'd love to have some more reader input!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Products I Love

Here is a random list of things that I personally consider worth the money.  We're generally very un-picky when it comes to products, but there are a few things that are just the best...

Honey Maid Graham Crackers
GM Cheerios
Ritz crackers

What are your favorites?  Get out your list and let us know!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Peanut Butter Fudge

I want to start this post out by saying, "I'm so sorry, Christine, but I'm going to swipe the recipe you gave me and post it before you have a chance to do so yourself."  There...I feel a little better.

Our church had a bake sale recently to raise money for devotional books for the children.  It was really way too hot to turn the oven on, so I whipped up a batch of this amazing fudge, cut it into squares, wrapped them in wax paper packages, and decorated it with a pretty little ribbon.  They were sold out before I even had a chance to make it to the church door (that always makes you feel good!).

Here is my slightly adapted recipe, which I got from our contributor Christine, who got it from Alton Brown.  Try it's amazingly easy and super delicious.

Peanut Butter Fudge

1 cup butter or regular stick margarine
1 cup peanut butter
1 tsp. vanilla
3 to 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Microwave butter and peanut butter 2 minutes.  Stir and microwave 2 minutes more.  Add vanilla and sugar.  Stir to combine.  Pour into a buttered 8 x 8" pan lined with waxed paper.  Place a second piece over top and smooth it out.  Refrigerate until firm.  Store up to 1 week.

slightly adapted from Alton Brown

Friday, September 9, 2011

Homemade Lunchables

I have thought about posting something like this before, but never quite got around to it.  To my surprise, I'm not the only clever Mom who thought of this!  My friend, Cindy, had this post on her new blog (which, by the way, is full of great tips and Mommy motivators), and her post included neat-o pictures, which we all know I'm too lazy to include at this point in my blogging career.

Try this link out if you want to try out your own: Cindy's Homemade Lunchables.

Let me know if you have any other clever variations...the options are limitless!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Another Cheap Protein...But Will It Work For Us?

I was browsing around Trader Joe's the other day when I saw something that shocked me.  I found a cheap protein I had never thought about before.  They had all manner of Tofu for $1.50 per package, which is supposed to be the equivalent of 5 servings of protein.  The price at Meijer was a little higher at $2.00.  I had always assumed that those kinds of  'healthy' foods would be completely out of my budget so I have never even thought about using them, but $2 or less for a full meal's worth of protein? Hmmm...

So, I've been trying to decide if I'm daring enough to attempt using some.  First of all, I know nothing about actually cooking tofu. I do know that it's used a lot in Asian cuisine (a field I'm still trying to get the hang of).  I've seem some chefs use it marinated in teriyaki, then grilling it like a piece of fish or something, but I don't think that will work for us...I'll have to find a way to hide it somehow or a certain vegetable-suspicious member of my family won't touch it.  I'm thinking of dicing some firm tofu up and pitching it into a stir-fry instead of some meat.

Does anyone have any suggestions or ideas?  It's so good for you and it's actually very affordable...I think I'll give it a whirl.  If I figure out a good use for it, I will by all means post a follow-up.  Here's to being daring!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Build Your Burrito Recipe Links...

I've realized that it would be helpful to have ready access to all the parts and recipes for burrito night.  Here is a list of what we love to have on hand for a really good deluxe burrito.  Don't be intimidated by the many parts...feel free to use what you want and leave out what doesn't work for you.

Burrito Night!

Heated Tortillas
Cilantro Rice or Easy Spanish Rice
Seasoned Pinto Beans or Black Beans
Chicken or steak seasoned with Grilled Mexican Chicken Rub
Jar salsa or Pico de Gallo
Sour Cream
Sauteed onions and green or red peppers (this is worth the really makes it special)
Shredded lettuce
Cheddar or Mexican blend cheese

Monday, September 5, 2011

Grilled Mexican Chicken Rub

Okay, this recipe is what I use when I'm looking to make a more special burrito.  I used to do this pasty, dried ancho chile recipe to marinade the chicken until I improvised one day with some of my typical pantry spices.  In a burrito, no one could tell the difference!  I vowed then and there to forgo the more expensive dried chiles and their night-before preparation in favor of easy and cheap.  This would also work great on steak for burritos. 

Grilled Mexican Chicken Rub

1 Tbs. chili powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. cumin
pinch of black pepper

Mix the spices together and rub onto boneless skinless chicken breast (or steak).  Refrigerate a few hours if you can.  Immediately before grilling, add a sprinkle of salt to the meat.  Grill, then let rest a few minutes before cubing the meat for your burritos.