Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Party Time

I love to throw parties!  It's wonderful to be surrounded by friends and family.  Laughter filling the air, smiles on every one's faces, what's not to love?  But, a lot of people freak out when they entertain.  They let the stress of it all rattle them to the point where they don't have any fun at all.  Why do you want to have a party if you're not gonna have fun?  Isn't that the point of a party?  To relax and enjoy yourself?  One tip is not to overdo it.  You don't have to make a seven course meal.  Have a cocktail party.  Pick a few simple, but delicious items and put them out so everyone can help themselves.  They key to a successful party is a relaxed host.  If you're having a good time, everyone else will, too.  .  and just think, if something disastrous does happen, you'll have a great story to tell at the next party!

Here are a few tried and true recipes that are always a hit.


1 (16oz) bag small pretzel twists
1 envelope ranch dressing mix
3/4 cup oil
1 tsp dill
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder

In a very big bowl, whisk together oil, ranch dressing mix, dill and garlic powder.  Make sure it's mixed well. Add pretzels and gently stir to coat them with the mixture.  Pour pretzels onto a 15x10 baking pan (a large cookie sheet).  Bake at 200 degrees for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.  Make these the day before the party.  Let cool and store in an airtight container.  Then put them out in several small dishes all over the place.  That way everyone can mingle and still snack along the way.  You might want to make two batches, they're that good!


1 large pkg frozen meatballs (or make your own- but small so you can pick them up with a toothpick)
1 bottle BBQ sauce
1 can cream of mushroom soup

Bake meatballs according to package directions.  Put cooked meatballs in crock pot on low.  In a bowl, mix BBQ sauce and soup.  Pour over meatballs.  Stir well.  Let warm in crock pot for a few hours.  You can serve these in chafing dishes, to keep them warm, or serve right out of the crock pot.  They are substantial enough to help fill you up, but still a finger food if you put them on a toothpick.


1 loaf King's Hawaiian Bread (this can be hard to find-you can also use a round loaf of sour dough bread)
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar
1 1/2 cups sour cream
1 TBS Worcestershire sauce
1 (2oz) jar diced pimentos
1 bunch green onions
1 (4oz) can mild green chilies

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Combine all ingredients except bread.  Set aside.  Cut top off of bread and reserve.  Remove the insides of the bread, forming a bowl.  (use this bread to make bread crumbs for another recipe)
Stuff the loaf with dip mixture and replace the top.  Cover completely with foil (all the way around).
Bake at 325 degrees for 1 1/2 hours.  (I know that's a long time, but it's worth the wait!  Go do your hair while this bakes!)
Serve with Melba toast or Fritos scoops.


1 gallon Hawaiian Punch, chilled
1 (2 liter) bottle lemon-lime soda (7 up), chilled
1 (1/2 gallon) container sherbet (lime, orange or pineapple - your favorite)

Keep the punch and soda in the fridge to chill.  When ready to serve, pour them both into a large punch bowl.  Stir.  Using an ice cream scoop, drop scoopfuls of sherbet into the punch.
Easy!  This punch is sort of retro, which is fun.  Both kids and adults love it.

I'll end with a funny story that happened to me.  I bought this fancy punch fountain and thought it would be elegant to fill it with champagne.  Everyone could fill their glasses at the fountain, how fun!  Well, I filled it with champagne and it wouldn't work.  The champagne would not flow.  I didn't know what to do.  I had all these guests standing around waiting for the wow moment, but no matter what I did it wouldn't work!  I thought maybe there wasn't enough liquid in the fountain, so I sent my husband out for more champagne.  As soon as he left, it started working!  When he returned, I added more champagne to be on the safe side...and it stopped working again!  So I gave up and starting ladling the champagne out for guests.  Then it starting flowing again!  I finally figured out that the carbonation was preventing the pump from working properly.  As soon as the bubbles settled down a bit, it would flow.  We all got a big laugh and I have a funny story to tell every time I bring out that fountain.  So, the next time you throw a party, try these recipes...and relax.  What's the worst that could happen?

Monday, July 30, 2012

Meatless is not a four-letter word

My husband is old school Italian, sort of set in his ways.  I'm his weird wife who likes yoga and hummus and forces him to take reusable shopping bags to the grocery store.  To him, the word "meatless" is a four-letter word.  He'd rather have a foot-long meatball sub.  I'm not a vegetarian, but I don't mind going meatless now and then.  Here are a few of my favorite meatless recipes.

I love hummus, but I'm not a fan of the prepackaged ones in the grocery store.  I wanted to make it myself, but I couldn't find Tahini (sesame paste).  So, I went online looking for a substitute and found that you could use peanut butter and sesame oil instead.  It works great!  This also doesn't use olive oil, it has much less fat than the original, but still tastes really good!


1 can chickpeas, do not drain
1 TBS peanut butter
1 TBS sesame oil
1 clove garlic
Juice of 1 lemon
salt/pepper to taste
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
chicken broth, if needed

Puree everything but chicken broth in food processor until smooth.  If it's too thick, add a little broth to thin it out.  Serve with crackers, celery & carrot sticks or pita chips.


1/2 onion, chopped
2 small cloves garlic (or one large)
2 (15oz) black beans, drained and rinsed
3 big leaves basil, torn (or 1 tsp dried basil)
1 TBS chopped parsley (don't use dried parsley-it's gross)
1 egg
1 tsp cajun seasoning or season salt
1/2 cup bread crumbs

Drain the beans and rinse them well in a colander.  In a food processor, pulse onion and garlic until finely chopped.  Add 1 can of beans, basil, parsley, egg and cajun seasoning.  Pulse to combine.  Transfer to a big bowl.  Add the remaining can of beans and bread crumbs.  Mix well.  Divide into 6 portions, about 1/2 cup each, and form into patties.  You can cook them right away in a skillet sprayed with cooking spray on medium-high heat for 5 minutes on each side.  But I find it's best to make these ahead, put them on a cookie sheet and freeze them for about an hour.  Then transfer them to a big freezer bag.  Then you can just pull one out whenever you want it.

This next recipe is great for a party or just for dinner.  It's always a hit!


2 cans crescent rolls
1 (14oz) can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped (or you can use the marinated ones in the jar)
1 (9oz) pkg frozen spinach, thawed and drained
3/4 cup parmesan cheese
2/3 cup mayonnaise
2/3 cup sour cream
1/8 tsp garlic powder

Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Unroll dough into 4 long rectangles.  Place crosswise in a 15x10 in baking pan.  Press over bottom to form a crust.  Press perforations to seal.  Bake 10-12 minutes or until light golden brown.  Meanwhile combine all remaining ingredients.  Mix well.  Spread over partially baked crust.  Bake for an additional 8-10 minutes.  Cut into small squares for appetizers or large squares for dinner.  Serve warm.

So, I'm still trying to get my husband not to cringe when he hears the word "meatless".  Not sure that'll ever happen, but here's to hoping.  In the mean time, maybe some of you will enjoy these recipes.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

In the Kitchen with the Kids

Some days the whole family will be home together, but we aren't really together.  Do you know what I mean?  One kid's on the laptop, another is texting.  Dad's doing yard work and I'm in the kitchen, cooking.  I wanted to figure out a way to get us all together, interested in the same thing.  Candy, cookies & cupcakes!  No one can resist that.  So, we all spent the day in kitchen making yummy treats and lasting memories.

Bringing your kids into the kitchen, no matter what age, can bust the boredom of the day, but it can also teach them about fractions (two halves make a whole) and science (how baking powder helps biscuits rise).
If your kids are too old for those lessons, like my teenager and soon-to-be teenager, tempt them with treats!  Then get in the kitchen and have fun!  It doesn't matter how the dish turns out, it only matters that you had fun making it together.


1 pkg (4 serving size) lemon pudding mix
1 cup baking mix (Bisquick or make your own - I have a recipe in my Biscuit post)
1/4 cup oil
1 egg
1/2 cup powdered sugar
Zest from 1/2 a lemon
juice from 1/2 a lemon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl, combine pudding mix and baking mix with a whisk.  Add oil and egg.  Mix until dough forms a ball.  It will be a thick batter.  Shape into balls (about 1 tablespoonful).  Place on ungreased cookie sheet about 2 inches apart.  Using a glass dipped in powdered sugar, flatten each ball.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 8 minutes or until just lightly golden brown on edges.  Cool completely. 
To make glaze:  Mix powdered sugar, lemon zest and lemon juice together with a whisk.  Adding more sugar or juice as needed to reach glaze consistency.  Dip cooled cookies into glaze and let sit until glaze hardens a bit.
*I call these Lemon Blossoms because they look like flowers! :)


25 caramel candies (about half a 14oz bag), unwrapped
1 1/2 TBS water
1 cup rice krispies cereal
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips(you can use milk chocolate if you like that better)
1/2 TBS shortening

Place caramels and water in a microwave-safe bowl.  Microwave to melt, stirring every 15 seconds.  This doesn't take long!  Keep an eye on it.  When melted, stir in rice krispies.  Drop by rounded tablespoonful onto wax paper sprayed with cooking spray.  Put in fridge to chill.

Meanwhile, melt chocolate chips and shortening in the microwave (same as caramels- stir often.  Doesn't take long)  Dip chilled candies into melted chocolate.  Place on wax paper.  Chill until set.  Store in an airtight container.

These taste like a 100 Grand Candy Bar! 

This next recipe was kind of made up by my daughter.  She saw a picture of tie-dyed cupcakes online, but no recipe.  So she figured out how to do it.  They are so cute and fun to make!


1 box white cake mix
4 egg whites
1/2 cup oil
1 1/4 cups water
food coloring

Mix cake mix, egg whites, oil and water in a large bowl with an electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds, then medium speed for 2 minutes.  Divide batter into 6 small bowls (about 1 cup batter each).  Using food coloring, tint each bowl of batter a different color.

Here's the Color Chart we used:
Red = 20 drops of red
Turquoise = 9 drops blue, 2 drops green
Peach = 9 drops yellow, 3 drops red
Yellow = 20 drops yellow
Purple = 7 drops red, 5 drops blue

Starting with one color, spoon about 1 TBS of batter into greased muffin tin, off center toward one side.  Repeat for all 12 cups.  Then, using a different color, spoon 1 TBS of batter toward the other side of the muffin cup, but also overlap the first color a bit.  Keep alternating the colors of batter 1 TBS at a time, slightly overlapping colors, until all muffin cups are full. 

 Bake at 350 degrees for 19-23 minutes.
They come out looking like this:

So get your kids in the kitchen and have some fun together.  They may hate it at first (teenagers), but you will all end up laughing and enjoying yourselves.  How can you not when you're eating candy, cookies and cupcakes?

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Chinese Food at Home

Let me start by saying I've never really liked Chinese food.  I know what you're thinking, "Why are you blogging about it then?"  Well, my husband and my daughter love it.  They go to the Chinese Buffet together a lot.  It's their "Daddy Daughter Time", which is fine by me.  They get to bond and I don't really like Chinese food, anyway.  It just doesn't sit well with me.  I always end up with a tummy ache when I eat at a Chinese restaurant.  Well, one day I was watching Food Network and I saw a recipe for Pork Fried Rice using left over pork.  I always have left over pork tenderloin or chops and I never know what to do with it, so I tried the recipe...and I liked it!  So, then I tried cooking a few more Chinese dishes at home and I liked them, too!  I liked that I could control the quality of the ingredients and the amount of sodium in the dishes when I made them myself.  When food is fresher, it is obviously better.  So make your own Chinese food at home.  It's easy and delicious.  Plus, you'll save a lot of money compared to the Buffet.  "Daddy Daughter Time" still happens, but we all get to enjoy Chinese more often when we make it at home.

This first recipe is the Pork Fried Rice.  The first time I made it my son called it "Chinese Jambalaya".


1 TBS Canola oil
1/2 onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp fresh ginger, minced (Tip: peel your ginger root and keep it in a zip top bag in the freezer.  It'll keep longer and you can grate it easier when frozen)
2 cups left over cooked pork, cubed
2 eggs
2 cups cold cooked rice (use left over rice or make ahead and chill in fridge- must be cold)
1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce 
2 TBS sesame oil
pepper to taste
1 green onion, sliced

Heat large skillet to medium-high heat.  Saute onion, carrot, garlic and ginger in canola oil for 2-3 minutes.  Add pork and cook for 2 more minutes.  Push everything to one side.  Beat eggs in a bowl then put into skillet (where you made room).  Scramble eggs.  Mix everything together.  Add rice to skillet and saute till heated through.  Add soy sauce and sesame oil.  Stir to combine.  Season to taste with pepper.  Garnish with green onions.

I always make this next recipe to go with the Pork Fried Rice.  My son loves it!


2 cans chicken broth
1/2 cup left over meat (pork, chicken, etc.), finely diced
1 carrot, finely diced
1 green onion, diced
1 tsp low sodium soy sauce
12 won ton wrappers (I find these in the produce aisle for some reason, they are refrigerated)

Mix meat, carrot, green onion and soy sauce in a bowl.  Spoon 1 tsp of filling into the center of each won ton wrapper.  Dip your finger in a little bowl of water and wet the edges of the wrapper, all the way around.  Pull corners up to the center and twist, forming a "beggar's purse".  It should look like this:

Let them sit for a few minutes or they'll fall apart in the soup.  Meanwhile, heat broth in a pot to a simmer.  Gently place won tons in simmering broth.  Let them gently simmer for 5 minutes, without stirring.  Garnish with extra green onions, if desired.

Another fun side to make with this meal is Crispy Sesame Won Tons.  These are very tasty and addictive!  But don't worry 'cause they are low fat, too!


12 won ton wrappers
2 TBS low sodium soy sauce
2 TBS brown sugar (or honey)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
sesame seeds

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.  Place won ton wrappers on baking sheet.  In a small bowl, combine soy sauce, brown sugar and garlic powder.  Brush this mixture onto the won ton wrappers.  Sprinkle with sesame seeds.  Bake at 400 degrees for 7 minutes (or until brown and crisp).

Here's one more main dish recipe that's quick and easy.  It's delicious, too!


2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced into strips
1 small can mandarin oranges (do not drain - you need the juice, too)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 TBS grated fresh ginger
1 TBS sesame oil
2-4 TBS low sodium soy sauce
1 TBS canola oil

In a large skillet, heat canola oil on medium-high heat.  Salt/pepper chicken.  Saute chicken in skillet until brown.  Remove chicken and set aside.  Add sesame oil to skillet.  Stir in garlic and ginger.  Cook for a few minutes, careful not to burn.  Add soy sauce, mandarin oranges with juice, green onions and parsley.  Add chicken back to skillet.  Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer 10 minutes. Oranges will break up and melt into the sauce.  Yum!  Serve over rice or noodles.  I like it with rice.

It's funny, I never thought I liked Chinese until I made it at home.  Now I eat it all the time.  One day I even attempted to make my own fortune cookies from scratch!  That was fun!  I'll have to give you that recipe another day because the Olympics are on and I don't want to miss Michael Phelps.  Good night!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Kid Stuff

I was a stay-at-home mom for many years, which means I heard the phrase, "I'm bored", about 275,000 times...a day.  I had to find fun things to do to keep my son and daughter occupied.  (There's only so much Barney you can watch without pulling your eye balls out!)  But, we pinched pennies to be able to afford me staying home with the kids.  So, instead of taking them to the movies or going out to the ice cream shop, I made up cheap and cheerful things to do at home.  The kids didn't know we were trying to save money.  They just knew we were having fun.  And I knew we were making memories.

I've divided these recipes into two groups:  Edible and Non-Edible.  Let's start with the Non-Edible stuff.


1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup salt
1 1/2 tsp oil
1 pkg unsweetened Kool-aid mix
1 cup boiling water

Mix everything together.  Will keep for weeks in a covered container or zip top bag.  No need to refrigerate.  Make several batches, each with a different color Kool-aid.  Let your kids roll it out and cut it with cookie cutters or make animal shapes to play zoo.  Fun!


Mix flour and water together in a bowl with a whisk until you get the consistency of paint, adding more flour or water as needed..  Add food coloring to get the desired color.  Make several different colors by dividing the flour and water mixture into the compartments of an ice cube tray and then coloring each.  Use as you would finger paint or paint with a  brush.  This kept my kids occupied for hours and it literally costs pennies to make!  You can't beat that!
Color Blending Chart:
Purple = 5 drops red and 1 drop blue
Orange = 3 drops red and 5 drops yellow
Brown = 3 drops red, 4 drops yellow and 3 drops green
Turquoise = 4 drops blue and 1 drop grees
Peach = 1 drop red and 3 drops yellow
Lime Green = 3 drops yellow and 1 drop green


1 cup water
4 TBS liquid dish soap (use a good quality brand)
2 TBS clear corn syrup (Karo)

Mix everything together.  Use a straw to blow bubbles.  My kids and I would always experiment with different things to see which one blew better bubbles.  Straws, pipe cleaners, wire hangers shaped into a circle, circle cookie cutters, etc.

Now time for the Edible Stuff:


1 (12oz) pkg chocolate chips
1 stick margarine or butter (equals 1/2 cup if you're using spread)
1 cup smooth peanut butter
1 (15oz) box Rice or Corn Chex cereal
1 (1 lb) box powdered sugar

Melt chocolate chips, margarine and peanut butter in a large microwave-safe bowl.  Stir.  Add cereal and mix well.  Put powdered sugar in a large paper bag (or zip top bag) add cereal mixture to bag and shake well!  The kids love to do this!  The end result looks a little like dog food, but tastes like a Reese's Cup!  Yum!

If your kids have an Easy Bake Oven but you don't have any of those little cake mixes left (or you don't want to buy them anymore), make this recipe and bake with your kids.  This makes 10 cake mixes, so let your kids open their own bakery!


1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 TBS cocoa powder*
1/3 cup shortening

In a big bowl, combine sugar, flour, baking soda, salt and cocoa.  Stir to blend.  Cut in shortening with a fork or pastry blender until mixture resembles corn meal.  Spoon about 1/3 cup of mixture into each of 10 small zip top bags.  Use within 12 weeks.
To make:  Empty contents of bag into a small bowl.  Add 4 tsp water.  Mix until smooth.  Bake in Easy Bake Oven according to manufacturer's directions.
*If you want a lemon cake mix, substitute 1 tsp lemonade drink mix for the cocoa.

I got this next recipe out of a magazine and my daughter begged me to make it for her 8th birthday party.  It was a big hit!


1 box instant vanilla pudding mix
2 cups milk
green food coloring

Prepare pudding according to package directions.  Add green food coloring to get desired "slime" color.  Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Pour this slime on a cake or eat it like a pudding.  Boys especially love this one, but girls like to get gross, too.  You can even throw some gummy worms in the slime.  The grosser the better!

So, the next time your kids say, "I'm Bored!", feed them some Puppy Chow and Slime them!  They'll love it!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Make Your Own

Today's post is all about making your own convenience items.  I'll share recipes for marinades and seasoning packets, cleaners, even homemade baby wipes.  Why spend a ton of money on these products when you can make them yourself with things you may already have on hand?  A little time and effort can save you a lot of money!


1 TBS chili powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp paprika
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper

Mix everything together.  Store in an airtight container.  This replaces one packet of taco seasoning.  Mix with cooked meat and 3/4 cup water and simmer for 5-10 minutes.


1/3 cup soy sauce
2 TBS vegetable oil
1 TBS brown sugar
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp season salt

Mix everything together.  Great for marinating pork, chicken or beef.


4 cups flour
4 cups ground saltine crackers (crumbs)
4 TBS salt
2 TBS sugar
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp onion powder
3 TBS paprika
1/4 cup vegetable oil

Combine everything.  Mix well.  Store in a ziploc bag.  Will keep for 6 months.  Can freeze for longer storage.


1 (12oz) bottle beer
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp cajun seasoning

Mix together.  Dredge fish in batter then fry.

CONDENSED MILK - this is equivalent to one can.  You can use this in recipes!  Works great!

1/2 cup very hot tap water
1 cup sugar
1 cup instant dry milk powder
3 TBS melted margarine

Put water in blender.  Add remaining ingredients.  Blend for a full minute.  It will be thin, but let it stand for about an hour and it will thicken up.  Will keep in the fridge for 1 week.


Pour 1/4 cup rubbing alcohol into a spray bottle.  Add 3 drops dish soap and swirl gently to mix.  Fill bottle very slowly with water.  Try to avoid making suds.  Spray on granite and wipe with a soft cloth.


1/2 cup ammonia (you can find this on the cleaner aisle)
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup baking soda
2 TBS liquid dish soap
2 quarts water

Mix all ingredients in a spray bottle.  Spray on stain and let sit for a few minutes.  Launder as usual.

My Aunt Sue gave me this next recipe with all of the ingredients in a basket when I was pregnant with my first child.  One of the best gifts I ever got!  I made these homemade baby wipes for years.  It's all I used when my kids were babies.  They work great and smell a lot better than some of the wipes on the market!  Plus they can save you a lot of cash, which helps when you've got money pits, I mean kids.


1 1/2 cups Hot water
1 TBS baby wash
1 TBS baby oil
Roll of Bounty Plain White Paper towels (regular - not Big size)
a #5 Rubbermaid container *

*Here's a picture of the Rubbermaid container.  This is almost 17 years old so it's a good investment - they last!

First thing you do is cut the roll of paper towels in half horizontally, so you have 2 shorter rolls.  (You get 2 containers of wipes from one roll of paper towels).
Then put the hot water, baby wash and baby oil into the container.  Place one of the 1/2 rolls of paper towels into the container.  It will fit snugly.  Put the lid on.  Let the liquid soak halfway up the roll.
Then, make sure the lid is on tight and turn the container over and let it soak until totally saturated.
Turn right side up, remove lid and pull the cardboard tube out.  Start pulling wipes out from the center.

I hope you found something you can use today.  Maybe it'll save you a trip to the store or a few bucks.  Either way, it's a win!  Have a nice day!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Sweet Treats

Whenever I'm invited to a potluck or party, I always offer to bring a dessert.  Why?  Well, for one thing I have, like, a gazillion dessert recipes to choose from!  Seriously, I collect cookbooks and they are taking over the kitchen.  I think they multiply when I'm not looking.  Anyway, another reason I always bring something sweet is that a dessert is always a winning dish.  Everyone loves a sweet treat.  You're never stuck  with a full dish at the end of the night because no one wanted to try it.  If you bring a vegetable or side dish, there's always someone who hates broccoli or has an aversion to asparagus.  But you never hear anyone say, "Sorry, I'm just not a fan of cookies."  That just doesn't happen.  So, here are a few of my many dessert recipes.

I am a big time Daddy's Girl!  To this day I still think my Daddy hung the moon.  He and I both love coconut, so I make this for him all the time.  Tomorrow is his birthday, so I just finished making him one!


1 graham cracker pie crust
1 pkg instant vanilla pudding mix
3/4 cup canned coconut milk (I like Thai Kitchen brand- it's usually in the ethnic food aisle)
1 cup cold milk (whole or 2% -don't use skim)
half an 8oz container cool whip
1/2 cup shredded coconut, toasted

Whisk together pudding mix, coconut milk and cold milk until thickened.  Pour into pie crust.  Carefully spread cool whip on top.  Refrigerate for at least an hour.  Meanwhile, toast coconut by putting it in a dry skillet over medium heat, stirring constantly, until light golden brown on the edges.  It happens quickly; be careful not to burn it!  Take it out of skillet and let it cool.  After the pie has set up for an hour, sprinkle toasted coconut over top.

The next recipe is for hot fudge sauce.  Of course it is perfect on ice cream, but you can also use it as a glaze over a cake.  I needed a last minute dessert so I made a regular boxed chocolate cake mix in a bundt pan and poured this hot fudge sauce over the cake instead of frosting it.  It was delicious and it looked pretty, too!


2 TBS butter
1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 TBS powdered sugar (you can use more if you like it sweeter, but I'm a dark chocolate fan)

Melt everything together in a small saucepan over low heat.  Whisk until smooth.

I'm sure you've heard of white chocolate and macadamia nut cookies.  Well, my Mama loves cashews so I made up this recipe for her and I gotta say, it's pretty tasty.


1 stick butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped cashews

Preheat oven to 375 degrees (350 for a nonstick pan).  Cream butter, sugar, brown sugar, egg and vanilla with electric mixer until fluffy.  Sift together flour, salt and baking soda.  Stir the flour mixture into the butter mixture.  Stir in chips and cashews.  Drop from a teaspoon 2 inches apart (these cookies spread a little) onto an ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake for 7-8 minutes or until golden brown.

My Mama makes a Peach Cobbler that is so simple you wonder how it can be so good.  But it is the best cobbler ever!  She's been making this for as long as I can remember and once you try it, you'll see why.


1 stick butter
1 cup self-rising flour*
1 cup sugar
1 cup milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 (15oz) can sliced peaches in heavy syrup

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Melt butter and pour into a 9-inch square or round baking dish.  In a large bowl, mix flour, sugar, milk and vanilla just until lumps are gone.  Do not over mix!  Pour the batter over the butter in the baking dish.  Pour peaches and juice into a bowl.  Chop peaches coarsely.  Pour peaches and juice over batter, evenly distributing peaches.  Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

*If you only have all-purpose flour, you can make your own self-rising flour:
Mix 1 cup all-purpose flour, 1 1/2 tsp baking powder and 1/2 tsp salt.

This next recipe is so incredibly decadent.  And it ought to be... it's got a stick of butter and a block of cream cheese in it!  So if you are on a diet, look away.


1 box yellow cake mix
2 eggs
1 stick butter, softened
1 box powdered sugar
1 8oz block cream cheese
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat  oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 9x13 pan.  Combine cake mix, eggs and butter with a mixer.  It will be thick.  Press into bottom of pan.  In another bowl, combine powdered sugar, cream cheese and vanilla with mixer until creamy and smooth.  Spread over cake mixture.  Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.  Cool then cut into small squares.

So, there you have it!  Just a few of my gazillion dessert recipes.  Try one out the next time you get invited to a potluck and you'll be bringing home an empty dish!  Now if you could only get someone else to wash it.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Cajun Cooking

Being from South Louisiana, I have to write about Cajun Cooking.  It's my favorite type of cuisine.  I cook it all the time.  I grew up eating it.  In fact, my first solid food as a baby was red beans and rice.  My family has a tradition of making gumbo every Christmas Eve and Easter get-togethers always include Crawfish Boils.  Needless to say, this type of food plays a big part in my life.  But there are a lot of misconceptions about Cajun food.  The first and biggest is that all Cajun food is super duper spicy.  Not true.  Cajun food is very flavorful, but not necessarily hot and spicy.  It can have a kick, but it doesn't have to make your lips burn and your forehead sweat!

The second misconception is that it's complicated and difficult to cook.  Again, not true.  The Cajuns were a simple people living off the land and using what they had to make delicious food.  Many dishes are one-pot meals, like the two I'm sharing with you today.

Jambalaya (pronounced Jum-ba-lie) is a one-pot wonder!  Meat, rice and seasonings mingle together to make a filling, delicious meal!  It's easy to make a little or a lot.  That's why when people down here get together, jambalaya is almost always on the menu.  My Mama made jambalaya once a week.  It was a staple in our house, like meatloaf.  When I'm cooking it and I smell the sausage and onions, I can't help but think of home.  It reminds me of a simpler time in my life when Mama and Daddy took care of everything.  That's why it's a staple in my house, too.  


1/2 lb pork smoked sausage, sliced
2 boneless chicken breasts, cubed
1 large onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 cups long grain rice
3 3/4 cups chicken broth
Cajun seasoning (Tony Chachere's)
1 capful Kitchen Bouquet browning sauce (secret ingredient)

In a dutch oven (cast iron if you have it), brown sausage on both sides until very brown.  Remove and set aside.  Season chicken with Tony's then brown chicken in sausage drippings.  Remove and set aside.  Saute onion, celery and bell pepper in drippings (add a little oil if needed).  Season with Tony's.  When they are cooked down and brown, add meat back to pot.  Add rice and toast it up a little (stirring often).  Add in Kitchen Bouquet for color.  My Mama would never use this!  My Maw Maw called it "cheating".  But I find it gives the jambalaya the brown color you want every time!  Our little secret!
Add broth.  Bring to a boil.  Give it a good stir then put the lid on and lower heat to a simmer.  Do not open the lid again for 25 minutes!  Stirring will make it gummy and that's not what you want!  After simmering for 25 minutes, remove the lid and let it sit for 5 minutes.  Then fluff it with a fork before serving.

The next recipe involves crawfish.  If that freaks you out, you are not from Louisiana.  We love our "mud bugs" down here and you will too, once you try this recipe.  It is an easy Etouffe, which is a French word meaning "stewed" or smothered, and it's another one-pot dish.  It's easy because you don't even have to make the usual roux (oil and flour mixture used to thicken a stew).  You can find crawfish all over the country now, but please be sure to buy Louisiana crawfish.  Support our local fishermen!


1 lb peeled crawfish tails with fat
Cajun seasoning (Tony Chachere's)
1 onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup green onions (scallions), chopped
1 stick butter
1 cup chicken broth

Season crawfish with Tony's and set aside.  Saute onions, bell pepper, and green onions in butter until tender.  Add crawfish and broth.  Cook on medium heat for 30-45 minutes.  Serve over rice.
So easy, but so good!

So there you have it, simple, delicious Cajun food.  Try these recipes and who knows, maybe they'll become part of your family memories, too.

Monday, July 23, 2012

I love my crock pot!

We are a Baseball family.  My daughter plays softball.  My son plays baseball.  My husband coaches and I keep the score book.  So, between practice and games, we are at the ball park almost every night during the season.  This means one of two things:
1.  We can eat an incredibly healthy diet of hot dogs, nachos and Frito pies.  Or
2.  I can break out the crock pot.

I choose option 2.  I love my crock pot!  It is the most under utilized kitchen appliance.  Talk about convenient!  You don't even have to be home while it's working!  Just throw some stuff in it in the morning and then you come home after a long day to a hot home cooked meal!  Who doesn't love that?

Another thing I love is that it doesn't heat up my kitchen like turning on the oven or standing over a hot stove.  If you've never visited Louisiana in August, then you don't understand how weather can hate you!  Heat and humidity stalk you and try to kill you!  This is no horror film, this is real!!!  So, it's beyond nice to keep the kitchen cool.  Also, it uses very little energy and costs pennies to operate.  Gotta pinch those pennies nowadays!

But the best thing about the crock pot is that I can make "Two-fers" with it.  A "two-fer" is what I call it when I can make two meals for the price of one protein.  Like when I cook a roast beef, I use the leftovers to make grilled steak and cheese sandwiches.  Just make it like you would a grilled cheese, but throw on some shredded roast.  So simple, but my kids think it's the greatest meal on earth!
When I make Chicken Creole, I shred up the left over chicken and use it to make quesadillas or chicken soft tacos.  When I make red beans and rice, I use some of the beans to make a big pot of chili.  Making Two-fers can save you a lot of time and money and nothing goes to waste.

Here are a few tried and true crock pot recipes:


1 1/2 lbs chicken thighs (bone-in)
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 can diced tomatoes
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp creole seasoning (Tony Chachere's)*
hot sauce to taste

Put chicken in crock pot.  Combine remaining ingredients and pour on top of chicken.  Cook on low 7-8 hours or on high 4-5 hours.  Serve over rice.

*Tony Chachere's is my favorite seasoning.  My Mother-in-law lives in New York City and she can get it up there, so it's pretty readily available.  Here's what it looks like:


2-3 lb chuck tender roast
1 (14oz) can tomato sauce or diced tomatoes
1 pkg dry onion soup mix

Put some cut-up carrots and celery in crock pot.  Add roast.  Stir together tomato sauce and onion soup mix.  Pour on top of roast.  Cook on low for 8 hours.
This is a simple recipe, but it is so tasty.  The tomato helps to tenderize the beef.


1 pork shoulder
1/2 bottle bbq sauce
Tony Chachere's (or season salt)
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 TBS worcestershire sauce
1 onion, sliced

Season pork with Tony's.  Put onions and water in crock pot.  Place pork on top.  Mix bbq sauce, brown sugar, and worcestershire sauce together and pour on top of pork.  Cook on low 8 hours.  Remove and shred meat.  Add shredded meat back to sauce in crock pot.  Serve on buns.
This is so delicious!  My family loves it!  And it makes a lot!  You'll definitely have leftovers!

And make any kind of beans in the crock pot!  You don't have to baby sit them like you do on the stove top.
So, the next time you want a cool house and a hot meal, break out the crock pot!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Doll it Up

One of my favorite quotes is from Dolly Parton.  She said, "It costs a lot of money to look this cheap."  That makes me giggle every time.  What she meant was that she always wants to be "dolled up".  And why not?  Who doesn't like to get all dressed up?  It makes you feel good.  It changes the everyday ordinary into something special.  Well that's what I'm writing about today.  How to "doll up" ordinary things that you have in your pantry or fridge.  How to change the everyday weeknight meal into something that feels a little more special.

I want to start with dessert, because, frankly, who doesn't?

If you have brownie mix in your pantry, you can make a fun dessert.  First of all just doll up regular brownies with whatever you have on hand.  Throw in some shredded coconut and almonds to make almond joy brownies.  Or chocolate chips and walnuts to make them a little more fancy.  Today I put in some chopped roasted peanuts and white chocolate chips.  They tasted completely different from regular brownies, almost like peanut butter fudge!

Another dessert I make with brownie mix is:


1 pkg brownie mix
ingredients to make them
candies (kisses, m&ms, caramels, whatever ya got)

Mix up the brownie batter by following the directions on the package (they are all different).  Grease a mini muffin tin.  Distribute batter evenly among muffin cups (about a tablespoon in each).  Place a candy in the center of each.  Bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes.  These are so much fun to make with the kids or for a party.  And they taste great!

If you have a box of instant pudding mix, you can use it to make cookies.


1 pkg instant chocolate pudding mix (4 serving size)
1 cup baking mix(like Bisquick or you can find my recipe in an earlier post)
1/4 cup oil
1 egg
chocolate chips (or candies or coconut, etc)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix pudding mix and baking mix in a bowl until well blended.  Add oil and eggs.  Mix until dough forms a ball.  Shape into one inch balls.  Place them about 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.  Press your thumb into the middle of each to make a well.  Put 3 chocolate chips (or a candy) in each well.  Bake about 8 minutes.  Remove to a rack to cool.  These are good because they aren't overly sweet.

Now, if you're like me you have a can of crescent rolls in your fridge.  I love those things just as they are.  But I doll them up to make this next recipe.  I also use canned chicken.  A lot of people think that's gross, and I used to, too.  But I had some in my hurricane supplies (Louisiana thing) and as luck would have it we've been pretty quiet on that front, so I needed to use it.  And it's not bad at all.  Especially when you put it in a delicious recipe.  But if you don't have it just use some left-over chicken diced up.


1 8oz can chicken (or leftovers diced up)
1/2 cup shredded Swiss cheese
3 TBS Mayonnaise
1/4 cup onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup celery, finely chopped
1 pkg crescent rolls

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Spray a mini muffin tin with cooking spray.  (If you don't have a mini, you can make these for a regular muffin tin, just cook longer)
Roll crescent roll dough into a large rectangle.  Press seams together.  Cut the dough into 24 squares (I like to use a pizza cutter for this).  Roll each square into a ball and place into muffin cup.  Press dough down and up the sides to form a little tart shell.  In a bowl, combine chicken, cheese, mayo, onion and celery.  Spoon a tablespoon of the chicken mixture into each tart.  Bake at 375 degrees for 13-15 minutes.

These are great for a party or for an appetizer for the family.  I even like to eat a few with a salad for lunch.

Another thing we can "doll up" is boneless chicken breasts.  Now, they are very healthy and we all buy them, but honestly they can be a bit boring.  Baked or grilled chicken is good, but if you're like me, you make it a lot, so it can get tiresome.  Here are a couple of ways you can doll it up.


4 boneless chicken breasts
1/4 cup Italian salad dressing
1/4 grated Parmesan cheese

Place all ingredients in a large zip top bag.  Turn to coat chicken well.  Put in fridge for a while (I like to do this in the morning and let it marinate all day, but you can do it for 30 minutes or so).  Remove from fridge and let sit at room temp while you preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Remove chicken from marinade and arrange on a foil-lined baking sheet.  Bake for 20 minutes or until cooked through.  Yummy!

You can adjust the amounts up or down depending on how many mouths you have to feed.


4 boneless chicken breasts
season salt
3/4 cup bbq sauce
1/4 cup peach preserves

Season chicken on both sides with season salt.  Grill chicken on medium heat for 5 minutes per side.  Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, heat bbq sauce and peach preserves.  Whisk together to form a glaze.  After chicken has cooked brush glaze on and cook for a minute or two on each side.

There you go, two easy ways to Doll Up chicken.

So, the next time you get a little bored with your food, just try dolling it up.  It'll make any old weeknight feel like a special occasion!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Super Simple Suppers

Isn't it nice when you spend all day in the kitchen, slaving away, making a gourmet meal?  You serve it on fine china in your formal dining room.  Your family gives you a standing ovation.  Then your kids politely take turns telling you how much they appreciate everything you do for them.  Ha ha ha ha ha!  I almost got through that with a straight face.  That would be wonderful, but we live in the real world where we have jobs or school or housework or all of the above!  Some days we are just too darn tired to spend all night in the kitchen!  That's why it's so tempting to head to the drive-thru or call for take-out.  But, all you need are a few Super Simple Suppers (fun with alliteration) that you can go to on nights when you are Too Tired to Tackle dinner.  Because the drive-thru and take-out can be a Big Budget Buster (ok, that's enough).  Here are a few recipes that take little time and effort, but taste pretty good!

(With Or Without sour cream Noodles - I know it's lame, but that's the best I could come up with at the time.  Maybe you can think of something better to call it when you make it.)

1 lb ground beef
1 lb pasta (I like rotini, but any short cut of pasta will do)
1 can diced tomatoes
1 packet dry onion soup mix
sour cream

Cook Pasta.  Meanwhile, brown ground beef in a large skillet.  Drain.  Add tomatoes, 1/2 tomato can of water, and soup mix.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.  Add in cooked pasta (that has been drained).  Serve with or without a dollop of sour cream (hence the name).


4 boneless chicken breasts
1 small jar salsa

Brown chicken in a little oil in a skillet.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Pour salsa on top of chicken.  (If it's a very thick salsa, add a little water to skillet.  If not too thick, just use salsa)  Bring to a boil.  Lower heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until cooked through.

(This is not Pastalaya, which is a cajun dish.  This is just a quick pasta dish with some of the flavors of a Jambalaya)

1/2 lb smoked sausage, diced
2 cups diced cooked chicken (great use for left overs)
1 can Italian diced tomatoes (or stewed tomatoes, or Rotel)
1 packet dry onion soup mix
1 lb Penne pasta, cooked (any short cut pasta you have will work)
1 bunch green onions, sliced

Cook pasta.  In a large skillet, cook sausage until brown.  Add chicken to pan.  Add tomatoes and 1/2 tomato can of water.  Sprinkle in onion soup mix and stir to combine.  Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  When pasta is done, drain and stir into sauce.  Garnish with green onions.

Here is a recipe for a quick bread stick that you can make to go with any of these Super Simple Suppers.


1 can of refrigerator biscuits (Pillsbury, for example)
1/2 stick butter, melted
sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Roll each biscuit into a log or bread stick.  Pour half of the melted butter into a baking dish.  Place bread sticks in pan.  Pour remaining butter over bread sticks.  Sprinkle with sesame seeds.  Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes or until lightly browned on top.
You can make these garlic bread sticks by adding a little garlic powder to the melted butter and sprinkling Italian Seasoning on top.

So, try one of these recipes the next time you need a Super Simple Supper.  They have helped me out many times and my family loves them.  I hope you do, too.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Biscuits (just like Popeye's)

Since my first post was about Sweet Tea, I figured the next one should be about Biscuits.  You can't get more Southern than those two things.  But don't panic, these are not difficult to make at all!

Now, my Maw Maw Fannie (that's Grandmother to those of you not from Louisiana) was the Biscuit Queen!  She would get out all her ingredients and make a giant pile of flour with a well in the middle and just start adding things.  Then she would mix it with her hands till it felt right (no recipe or measurements) and knead it and pat it out in a giant circle.  Then she would use a glass to cut them out - no fancy biscuit cutter for her!  I remember standing by her in the kitchen and just watching in awe while she performed her Biscuit Magic!

Well, my biscuits use short cuts and don't take nearly as long to make, but they still taste magical!

JUST LIKE POPEYE'S BISCUITS (Popeye as in Chicken - not the cartoon character :)

4 cups Baking Mix (Bisquick)*
3/4 cup Club Soda
8 oz Sour Cream
1 stick butter or margarine

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  In a large bowl combine baking mix, sour cream and club soda.  Stir well.  Melt butter.  Pour half butter in baking dish.  Knead the dough on a floured surface a few times.  Press out the dough evenly till about a 1/2 to 1 inch thick.  Cut out with a biscuit cutter (or a glass or an empty can).  Place on top of the butter in baking dish.  Bake at 450 degrees for 14-15 minutes.  Once baked, pour the other half of the butter on top.  

These are so good!  

*Baking mix - you can make your own and save a lot of money!


6 cups all-purpose flour
3 TBS baking powder
2 tsp salt
3/4 cup shortening

In a very large bowl, combine flour, baking powder & salt.  Cut in shortening with a pastry blender (or two forks) until well blended.  It should look like sand.  Then store it in an airtight container.  Use it in place of Bisquick.  This cost pennies compared to buying the pre-made stuff.  And you can do a lot with it!

If you want to make a less fattening biscuit than the one above:


2 cups Baking Mix
2/3 cup milk

That's it.  Just mix those two ingredients together and knead and roll out then cut out with a glass.  Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes.  If you're really lazy just make drop biscuits.  you don't have to knead or roll out the dough or anything!  Just mix and then drop the dough by tablespoonfuls onto the baking sheet and bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes.  Boom Zoom Easy!  A great quick bread to go with supper.  
If you're feeling particularly energetic you can jazz it up with green onions or cheese.  But I mostly just drop 'em.  They are ugly, but who cares...you're just gonna slather them in butter and eat 'em!

You can also use this mix for pancakes, waffles, anything you do with Bisquick.  I hope they don't sue me for telling you this.  Oh well, I don't have much to take anyway...can I offer you some Sweet Tea and a Biscuit?

Another thing you can do with this Baking Mix is make Dumplins.  If you aren't from this neck of the woods you may be saying to yourself,  "What's a Dumplin'?  It's pretty much just a biscuit that's simmered in a broth of some sort.  Sounds weird, but it is delicious!  Like Chicken and Dumplins.  Oh heck, I guess I'll give you that recipe, too.


2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
1 large onion, diced
2 stalks celery, sliced
2 carrots, sliced
1 quart chicken broth
2 cups baking mix
2/3 cup milk
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Season chicken with salt & pepper.  Heat a little oil in a dutch oven (big pot with a lid).  Brown chicken for a few minutes.  Remove and set aside.  Saute onion, celery & carrots in oil until limp.  Season them with salt & pepper, too.  Add chicken back to the pot.  Add broth.  Bring to a boil.  Meanwhile, in a bowl, mix baking mix, milk and parsley until combined (don't over mix!)  When broth is boiling, drop dough by teaspoonful into broth.  Be careful not to burn yourself.  I do all the time!  After you've dropped all dough, put the lid on and lower the heat to a simmer.  Simmer with the lid on (don't open the pot!) for 12 minutes.  Then turn it off, remove the lid and prepare to eat the ultimate comfort food!  There is nothing better on a cold or rainy day.  But I make it on sunny days, too because it is my favorite meal!

I don't have a picture of this because I just thought to add it.  But I'm sure I'll make it soon and I'll show you one then.

Now, go make some baking mix and save yourself some dough.  (Corny joke)

Sweet Tea

Hello everyone!
This blog is called Hot Southern Mess because I am hot, but that's mainly due to hot flashes.  I am Southern, born and bred in South Louisiana.  You can't get more Southern than that, bless my heart.  And just ask anyone who knows me and they'll tell you I'm a big ole mess.  I have had 4 ankle surgeries so I'm usually on crutches or in some sort of brace.  I'm very clumsy so I'm always bumping, bruising, or burning something.  Plus, I was a stay-at-home Mom for years so I know how to pinch a penny!  But I love to cook and entertain!  That's what this blog is about.  I will share recipes, tips and hints that might make your day go a little smoother.  If any of this sounds interesting, great!  Keep reading!  If not, keep reading anyway, it gets better.

The first thing I thought I'd share with you is how to make Sweet Tea.  This is a very Southern thing.  Iced tea with lots of sugar, sounds like a no-brainer.  But there is an abundance of really bad sweet tea out there! And since I am known to have the best Sweet Tea ever (not to toot my own horn but Toot-Toot!) here's how I do it:


Put 6 cups of cold water in a tea kettle or just use a pot.

Add 3 Family Size tea bags.  Note:  Family size tea bags are much bigger than regular tea bags.  If you can only find small ones, use 9 tea bags.
I love Community Tea Bags.  They have a wonderful flavor and are specially made for iced tea (Black tea and Orange Pekoe).  But out of the South they can be hard to find, so just use Lipton or something like that.

Bring to a boil, then take it off the heat.  This step is very important:  Let it sit there for at least 20 minutes!  The tea has to steep.  You can let it sit for longer if you want.  I wouldn't leave it longer than 45 minutes.

Pour the tea into a gallon-sized pitcher.  Add 1 1/2 cups sugar.  OK, I know that sounds like a lot, but we are making a gallon of tea.  And keep in mind that it is called "Sweet Tea".  The name should have been a warning.  Stir until the sugar dissolves.

Add cold water to reach the gallon mark.  Refrigerate until cold.  Serve over ice.