Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Potato Pancakes & A New Book Club

Tonight I will be making potato pancakes from a Hungry Jack box mix, you just add water and eggs. It is a simple and cheap meal - the box costs under $2. I will serve them with applesauce and sausage patties. Yum! Someday I will attempt to make potato pancakes from scratch, but I just know I'll cut my knuckles grating all those potatoes! I have heard of using frozen shredded potatoes - maybe I'll try that instead. :)

My newest friend Lissaloo from the blog One Step At A Time suggested that we start an online blog book club, so we did! We also have a third co-author, Jen, who is new to blogging. It is called One Book At A Time and I really hope you will all go and check it out. I really like this idea because I love to read and I am excited to be exposed to new authors.

Happy eating!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Black Bean Chili & Cornbread

It is a cold, grey, windy day here in the Windy City! haha! I have been waiting awhile now for the perfect day to make chili and this is it. I am pretty sure I got this recipe from Rachel Ray, but I cut WAY back on the chipotle powder. I vaguely remember the first time I made this chili - I couldn't eat it because it was SO hot (but my husband loved it).


1.5 lbs. ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
1 can petite diced tomatoes with green chiles
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 - 8oz. can tomato sauce
1 can of beer
1 tbsp. chili powder
1 tbsp. steak seasoning
2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. chipotle powder

In a large pot, brown the ground beef with the onion. Drain off fat. Add black beans, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce and all seasonings. Pour in only half the can of beer, add more as needed until chili reaches desired consistency. Heat to boiling over high heat. Then reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Sometimes we have beer in the fridge, but most of the time we don't. Instead of buying a whole 6-pack I will just buy one of those large cans, and I never end up using the whole thing in the chili. Also, I always make elbow macaroni on the side, then I mix some together with my own bowl of chili. Some people call this chili-mac, which is fitting. My mom always served her chili with elbow mac and it is weird for me to eat chili without it.

I am also making cornbread from a box mix; just add an egg and milk. I like the Jiffy brand, but today I am using the Aldi brand (Baker's Corner) which is really good too. I think it is a great side dish for many fall/winter meals because it is yummy of course, but also because it is so cheap! The box of mix costs about .35 cents and I always have some milk and eggs in my fridge. Can't beat that!

Happy eating!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Chicken Patties

I was going to make chicken patties tonight and serve them on hamburger buns with lettuce and tomato. Then I realized that my husband had WAY more sloppy joes than I thought he would the other night and we only have one hamburger bun left. Time to improvise! I grabbed a gravy packet and instant mashed potatoes from the cabinet and voila! Problem solved. I have salad in the fridge to serve on the side.

On Friday night I made frozen chicken kievs with rice. On Saturday night we had Subway subs. Last night I threw a frozen pizza in the oven. My meal plan for the week is: Black Bean Chili, Burritos, Potato Pancakes with Sausage Patties, and Chicken Parmesan.

My daughter's school takes the kids on various field trips through the year and, of course, every parent signed up to be a chaperon. The teacher said that since so many of us volunteered we would only get to go on one trip per parent, which is fine by me, sounds fair. I am happy to report that I was chosen to go on the trip to the pumpkin farm in October! I haven't been to a pumpkin farm since I was a little girl and I am so happy I get to do this with my daughter! I am also looking forward to getting to know her classmates, since she'll be in class with them for the next 8 years. :)

Happy eating!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Smoked Sausage, Sauerkraut, & Potatoes

This meal is an old favorite that my mom made for years. I mistakenly thought it was something only she made, silly girl! I made it for my husband shortly after we were married and he said his mom made (pretty much) the same recipe. There must be a 1960's cookbook out there with the original recipe, but I haven't found it yet.

Anyway, my mom would rinse the sauerkraut to get rid of the sourness and she would add way more brown sugar than I use, but we like it a bit on the sour side - it is sauerkraut after all! Also, she used regular smoked sausage, but I use skinless - we just prefer it that way.


1 package skinless smoked sausage (Eckrich or Hillshire Farms are good)
1 - 27 oz. can sauerkraut, drained well
8 small red or white potatoes
1/2 cup water
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 cup brown sugar

Pour the oil into a pressure cooker to coat the bottom. Add the sauerkraut, brown sugar, and water; stir well. Scrub the potatoes, then cut them into quarters and place on top of sauerkraut. Cut the sausage into 6 equal pieces and place on top of potatoes. Put the lid on the pressure cooker and cook over medium heat for 30 minutes. Release steam before opening.

I have a new pressure cooker that has a dial on top which I set to 1 when cooking this meal. My mom had an old school pressure cooker with a weight on top; when it would start jiggling she would then start timing the meal to cook for 20 minutes (it took about 10 minutes to get there). I can't wait to inherit my mom's old pressure cooker! But my dad loves this meal and makes it for himself, so I won't be getting it until he joins my mom in heaven.

The other great thing about this recipe is that you can easily double the recipe for a large family or party and it is pretty cheap, especially if you get the sausage in a 'buy one, get one free' sale. (If you do this you will have to add to the cooking time and add water.) If you prefer a sweeter meal, then you can rinse the sauerkraut or add more brown sugar or both (like my mom). I serve this meal with mustard, regular or spicy brown, to dip your sausage in for an added kick.

This is one of only two meals I make in my pressure cooker; the other is beef stew. I really should find more recipes for this wonderful contraption. If you have any that you love PLEASE share them! Thanks!

Happy eating!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Italian Sausages

I am dragging George out of the cabinet tonight and using it to cook italian sausages. (George would be my George Foreman Lean Mean Grilling Machine.) I will serve them on hot dog buns with a cucumber-red onion salad dressed with salt, pepper, rice vinegar, and olive oil. I wish I had some sweet & spicy sauce, but I don't. :(

Across the street from my husband's company is a cheese distributor where we buy sliced american cheese in bulk for a great price. Their company has been there as long as my husbands company, and the families have become friends over the years as the businesses passed from generation to generation. Anyway, sometimes the owner will give us samples of things like different cheeses or Vegeta, and one time we got a jar of oriental sweet & spicy sauce. I didn't think I would like it (and only tried it after much coaxing from my husband), but I loved it. What have you tried lately? Did you love it or hate it?

Funny story: Many, many years ago, I was out to dinner with my parents and brother and I ordered calamari for an appetizer. My brother asked if he could try it and I said yes. He really like it and I was happy to share. As the plates were cleared away, he asked "so, what is calamari anyway?". When I replied that it was squid he turned the palest shade of green. hahahaha!

Happy eating!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Sloppy Joes & Mac 'n' Cheese

When my husband called at 3:30pm to let me know he would be home around 4:15pm I asked if he was hungry and he said he was ravenous! So I rattled off the dinner plan and he chose sloppy joes with mac'n'cheese.

We prefer to make the sloppy joes with ground beef (brown it and drain off the fat), a can of tomato paste, water, and a McCormick's Sloppy Joe seasoning packet. For some reason we don't like the canned sauce, and honestly we haven't had it in so long I can't remember why. :) The mac'n'cheese was the deluxe variety from Aldi for $1.30; techinically it was shells'n'cheese - whatever, it was yummy! For extra cheesy shells'n'cheese I don't use all the noodles in the box. I always take out about 1/4 cup of the noodles and throw them in a noodle box I have in my cabinet.

The noodle box is where I throw macaroni, shells, rotini, etc. when I am not using all the noodles that come in a box. When I have enough I use them in my cold tuna salad or serve them with chili. My daughter thinks it is so silly to have different kinds of noodles together!

Happy eating!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Soup & Grilled Cheese

It is a fairly cool day here, cloudy and breezy and we'll be lucky if we reach 72 degrees. For dinner I am going to make Campbells soup, minestrone for me and tomato rice for my husband, along with grilled cheese made on thick sliced Vienna bread with American and Cheddar cheeses. Yum!

Saturday I made a fresh double batch of the lemon cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and did some house cleaning. That night we went to LaVilla Restaurant and used the gift card we got from my FiL for our anniversary. We also had a coupon for a free appetizer, so we got the bruschetta which was delicious. They also bring you olive oil with roasted garlic in it and warm fresh bread for dipping. I ordered the angel hair pasta with garlic and oil sauce and it was SO good, and my husband got the fettucini alfredo. He was able to finish his, but I had to get a doggie bag. We also got dinner salads with our meals, so I was practically stuffed before our food even came!

On Sunday was my daughter's birthday party. The morning was spent cleaning the house and cleaning up and decorating the yard. Our good friend T. loaned us her big bouncy house, which took up most of the yard. :) Then I made homemade pizzas and the guests started arriving. The girls had a BLAST bouncing around! We sang happy birthday and opened presents and about a half hour before the party was to end it started raining! So we ran inside and boy was I glad the house was clean! The girls had fun playing (destroying) our daughter's playroom until their moms arrived. All in all, it was a great success. Hooray! But I'm glad I only have to do that once a year. :)

Happy eating!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Omelets, Sausage, Biscuits

Hello all! So, what excuse do I have for not posting since Tuesday? None! Dinners have not been all that exciting around here, so I got lazy and didn't post them.

On Wednesday morning I worked at my daughter's school which fulfilled a few of the service hours we are required to perform. Her teacher had me cutting and correlating and gluing and stapling. Then I took my kid to lunch at McDonalds and then we went to the library and checked out 20 new books for her. That night I made a frozen Palermo's Six Cheese Thick Crust pizza in the oven. It was really good!

Last night we both ate leftover Veggie Pitas; my husband had a veteran's committee meeting from 5:30-6:30 and I had a school open house/PTL meeting from 6:30-7:30, plus we were babysitting our neighbors kid.

Tonight I am making breakfast for dinner. I will make cheese omelets, sausage gravy and biscuits from a can. Easy and yummy! Have a great weekend!

Happy eating!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Veggie Pitas

Tonight we are having Veggie Pitas for dinner. Last time I posted this recipe I called them Veggie Gyros, which I found out was incorrect; really it was the fault of the magazine from which I got the recipe. You see, to be called a gyros they must have gyros meat in them, and seeing as these have veggies only they must be called pitas. Are we all clear on this now? :) The recipe can be found by clicking here. It also contains the story of how my husband annoyed me and led to my vow never to shop with him again.

Today after I dropped off my daughter at school, I came home and did the dishes before running out to Target. I figured I would let the morning rush hour die down before heading to the closest Target, which is a little further into the city. BIG mistake. I should have jumped on the expressway OUT of the city to the next closest Target in the northern suburbs. But no, I got about halfway to the city one when I ran into serious traffic and it took me almost twice as long to get there. Ugh. But I got there and it would not have been a big deal, except they didn't have the dress size I needed at that location and I had to go to the suburban one anyway. Sheesh! Thank goodness the outbound expressway was open, I made it in record time.

The dress is a dress-up ballet dress for my daughter, and I was buying it for my father-in-law to give to her. He had asked for my help in the shopping department for birthdays and Christmas, so I called and told him I would be going to Target and would he like me to pick something up for him, to which he of course said yes. I knew she really wanted that dress because we saw it at the store on Sunday, but I told her it was too expensive. I should have just gone back to that suburban store, but no, I had to try to save time by going to the closer one. What is that saying? If you want to make God laugh, make a plan. Or would this be more of a Murphy's Law moment? Ugh. The things we do for our kids!

Happy eating!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Tacos & A Winner

I have not posted since Friday, hoping for lots of comments for the giveaway, but there were only five. You all must have had very busy weekends! Good, you should be out having fun, not inside on the computer. :)

So, without further ado, the winner is.... Heidi from Tried & True Cooking With Heidi! She will receive the September issue of Chicago Magazine, featuring The 30 Greatest Burgers. Congrats!

On Saturday night I made 4 of the Pepperoni Pan Pizzas because it was my dad's birthday and that is what he wanted for dinner. We only ate two of them so he took one home and left one for us (and it is already gone). Then we ate the lemon cupcakes I made Thursday for dessert.

On Sunday it was my daughter's birthday so I let her eat doughnuts for breakfast, then we went shopping. She had received cash from her aunt in FL and a gift card for a bookstore from my dad and she couldn't wait to spend them. We got Subway for dinner and I split a 12" tuna on wheat with lettuce and tomato with my daughter.

Tonight we are having tacos for dinner, nothing fancy. Store bought shells, ground beef seasoned with a taco seasoning packet, and the usual toppings of cheese, sour cream, tomato, lettuce and taco sauce.

Happy eating!

Friday, September 11, 2009

100th Post! Giveaway

Wow, I cannot believe this is my 100th post! I knew it was coming, but now it is here! I do not have a big, fancy giveaway, but I do have a little, plain one for you. :) I am giving away a copy of Chicago Magazine, so please leave a comment before Monday and you will be entered to win! It will be very scientific, we'll be putting your names in a hat and my daughter will draw one. Good luck! And be sure to check back here to see if you won!

It is Friday so we are having pizza. Tonight we ordered a party-size pizza, half extra cheese and half pepperoni from LaVilla. As I (think) I have said before, LaVilla is a restaurant/pizzeria and also has a lovely banquet hall, which is where we had our wedding reception. My FiL got us a gift card to the restaurant for our anniversary, which I thought was very sweet of him (and apt!).

The goulash last night was really good, but a little overwhelming with the 3 bay leaves. Maybe I'll only use one next time. While I was eating it my daughter looked in my bowl and asked if it was chili. I told her "No, it's goulash". She wrinkled her nose with a confused look on her cute little face and said "I thought you wore those on your feet?". LOL

Happy eating!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Lemon Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting & Bobby's Goulash

Tomorrow my daughter is Star Of The Day at school and we have to bring the snack. We are supposed to bring healthy snacks, but because her birthday is on Sunday the teacher said I could bring homemade cupcakes! I had to check about the homemade part because at the public schools here you have to bring store-bought only. The only warning I got was that they could not contain any peanut product, so I thoroughly checked the boxes and I am safe. I am using Duncan Hines Moist Deluxe Lemon Supreme cake mix for the cupcakes and making the frosting myself. Here is the recipe I use:

2 sticks butter, softened
1 - 8oz. package cream cheese, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

With hand mixer on medium speed, beat together the butter, cream cheese and vanilla. SIFT the powdered sugar into the mixture about 1/2 cup at a time, beating well in between each addition.

Sifting the powdered sugar will give you a nice smooth frosting. I also use food coloring to tint the frosting, usually pink since that is my daughters favorite color. I also have colorful flower shaped sprinkles and the cupcake liners have Disney Princesses on them. She is definitely a girly-girl! I make these every year for her birthday. I have a cool, chrome 3-tiered tray from the 1950's that I got from my great aunt's estate that I serve them on every year, but I won't be bringing that to school.

Dinner last night was leftovers. My husband didn't get home from work until 6:45pm and I was not in the mood to cook. Tonight I am going to make Bobby Deen's Goulash. My husband is going to have another long day at work, but this recipe can sit for awhile and still be good. I am only making half this recipe; it says it makes 8 servings and that is way too much for us.


2 lbs. lean ground beef
2 lg. yellow onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3 cups water
2 - 15oz. cans tomato sauce
2 - 14.5oz. cans diced tomatoes
3 tbsp. soy sauce
2 tbsp. Italian seasonings
3 bay leaves
1 tbsp. Paula Deen House Seasoning (or 1/2 tsp. each garlic powder & pepper)
1 tbsp. Paula Deen Seasoned Salt (or your favorite brand)
2 cups elbow macaroni, uncooked (or your favorite small noodle)

In a 6-quart Dutch oven, cook ground beef on medium-high heat until no pink remains, stirring occasionally and breaking up meat with a spoon. Drain off fat. Add onions and garlic to beef, and cook until onions are tender, about 10 minutes.
Stir in water, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, soy sauce, Italian seasoning, bay leaves, House Seasoning, and Seasoned Salt; heat to boiling. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Stir elbow mac into beef mixture and simmer on low, covered, for 25 minutes longer or until macaroni is tender, stirring occasionally to prevent macaroni from sticking.
Remove Dutch oven from heat. Discard bay leaves and allow beef mixture to sit about 30 minutes before serving.

They suggest serving this with garlic bread and a tossed salad, which I will do, except I have garlic breadsticks. I will also be using little shells ILO the elbow mac. It's a bit warm here to be making such a hearty dish, but I have to use the ground beef. Last week, when I planned this meal, it was much cooler here. Oh well! I'll just crank up the AC - haha!

Happy eating!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Dirty Rice

Tonight's meal is going to be Dirty Rice. I do not make it from scratch, I use Zatarain's Dirty Rice mix and a pound of ground beef. First you brown the beef and drain off the fat, then add 2 1/2 cups of water and the rice/seasoning mix and bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 25 minutes. It is not a super-fast meal, but you can walk away from it while it is simmering to do other things. It is on the spicy side, but not too spicy. I am not a big fan of spicy - my mouth has a tolerable burn after eating a bowl of this stuff and it's perfect with a cold glass of milk.

Today was picture day at school and I hope the picture is nice. Sometimes my daughter does that 'robot smile', all kids have their own version of it, you know what I mean. It's more like they are trying to show you their teeth rather than a true smile. Anyway, she didn't have to wear her uniform for the picture, so I tried to pick a shirt that was not to 'busy' with stripes or a pattern, but that also went with a bottom that worked for the weather and the dress code. It was no small feat, but I found an acceptable yet cute ensemble and of course my daughter did not want to wear it. After cajoling then yelling then threatening, she finally put it on. >sigh< Thank goodness she has to wear a uniform 99% of the time!

Happy eating!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Happy Labor Day Weekend

We have been enjoying a lovely long weekend and I hope that you have been doing the same! In fact, you are all having so much fun that you haven't noticed I haven't been posting, right? You are all too busy doing fun things outside that you haven't even turned on your computers! Ha ha!

Friday night we had pizza as usual. We had another Tombstone Garlic Bread cheese pizza; I really love those. I threw on some extra shredded cheddar and it was delicious. Even my picky daughter who will usually only eat pizzeria pizza will eat this one.

Saturday we got up and out early and went down to Lincoln Park and just strolled around. We went to a toy store and picked out some things for our daughters birthday. They won't be a 'surprise', but she doesn't care. Then we stopped in Starbucks for coffee and croissants. We wandered around a little more and admired the architecture, and then hopped in the car and drove over to Wicker Park where we let our daughter run around and play. Then it was back in the car for a trip up to the northern suburbs where we had lunch at Al's Beef. I found out that they are discontinuing their subs, but will still do the veggie sub since they still have all those ingredients - yea!. Then we went to Menard's for home project supplies and checked out all the fun Halloween decor that they have set up (already). We also got a new swing and a set of rings to hang from the backyard tree for our daughter.

On Sunday I got some work done around the house upstairs, while my husband got some projects done in the basement. Then we went to dinner at Ruby Tuesdays; I had the top sirloin with broccoli and mashed potatoes and salad bar - yum! I also had the strawberry lemonade, but it was very tart - I won't order it again. My daughter ordered the grilled cheese and it was made with hamburger buns - very disappointing. Can't they even use real bread for cryin' out loud? It just seemed very cheap to me. My husband had a burger and salad bar and was very happy with it. When we got home our daughter played outside on her new swing and rings until it was dark.

This morning I let my husband sleep late and I kept our kid occupied with coloring, breakfast, and a new TV show on PBS called Dinosaur Train. Then our neighbor J. called and asked if our kid could come over and play with her kid for an hour or so. Woo-hoo! The husband and I spent some quality time together! The rest of the day was spent being lazy. For dinner I made Cajun Chicken Sandwiches, which are just chicken breasts sprinkled with Cajun seasoning and cooked in a skillet. I served them with sliced onion, tomato, lettuce and mayo on french bread. I meant to make a cold pasta salad to go with it, but I forgot. My daughter, who loves spicy things, even ate the chicken - cut up in pieces, not in a sandwich. Her top two front teeth are loose and can be painful when she bites into things, like sandwiches.

Now I am finally posting and plan to check all the blogs I read and check some other websites while enjoying a glass of wine! It was a great weekend, but I look forward to getting back to our routine. I hope you all had wonderful long holiday weekends too!

Happy eating!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Thank You

Thank you all so much for the anniversary wishes - you are too sweet! My wonderful husband brought me chocolate and roses and a silly sweet card. Smart man! He also got me a book full of Mom-isms like "No means no!" and "This hurts me more than it hurts you" with little explanations of each -ism and it is pretty funny, I laughed out loud more than once.

He also said "let's order a pizza, you shouldn't have to cook", so needless to say the meatloaf didn't get made. However it will be made tonight.

Happy eating!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Cheeseburger Meatloaf

Since Lissaloo voted for Cheeseburger Meatloaf and I actually remembered to defrost the meat and it is another of my husbands favorite meals and it is our 8th wedding anniversary... I will make Cheeseburger Meatloaf tonight! I would also like to send a big Happy Birthday to my wonderful neighbor J.!

This meatloaf recipe comes from Paula Deen over at the Food Network and comes with a sauce, but I never make the sauce. I just spread about 1/4 cup ketchup over the meatloaf before baking and call it done.


1 lb. ground beef
1 tsp. garlic pepper salt seasoning
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium green pepper, chopped
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup crushed crackers (recommended: Ritz)
1 tsp. seasoned salt
2 slices bread

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix all ingredients together, except bread slices. Shape into a loaf. Line a 1 1/2 quart loaf pan with the bread slices, place the meatloaf on top. Bake for 45 minutes. The bread absorbs the grease and should be discarded after loaf is removed from oven.

1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1 cup milk
1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese
chopped onions, optional
1 bunch fresh parsley, chopped

Heat the soup and milk over medium heat; add the cheese. Add the chopped onion and parsley to the sauce, if desired. Pour sauce over the meatloaf or pass at the table.

I really like this recipe better than the Lipton Onion Soup one, which I used to make. First of all, it is smaller using only 1 lb. of meat, second it doesn't have the overpowering onion flavor, and third it has a nice crunch from the onion and green pepper. I will serve this with mashed potatoes and a salad.

Happy eating!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Cheesy Hamburger Hash

This is one of my husband's favorite meals; I really like it too. I posted this recipe once before and you can find it here. I am looking forward to the fall weather and trying new recipes for casseroles and stews and cookies and pies. Lately I have been doing the same old thing and simply adding links to the originally posted recipe. It feels like cheating! Tomorrow's recipe will be new, I promise. Either Cheeseburger Meatloaf or Blackened Chicken Sandwiches.

My daughter was feeling better today and went to school, but she has come home very grouchy! She said she wasn't hungry, but I am forcing her to eat lunch now and hopefully that will help. I have to get her birthday party invites into the mail tomorrow - she will be 6 soon! Our dear friend T. is loaning us her bouncy castle for the party so I am praying for nice weather. I don't care if it's chilly as long as it doesn't rain.

My computer was acting up earlier; it kept crashing while I was trying to download First Day Of School photos to my Facebook page. Thank goodness it is behaving now - gotta get my blogging done! haha! I was thinking of doing my own 5 year Timeline at the suggestion of This Stop Willoughby; a few others have done theirs and it is a great idea. But as I was writing out a rough draft on paper I realized that a lot of sad things have happened in my life exactly 5 years apart and I really don't want to depress you all, so maybe I'll wait until next year to start it. :)

Happy eating!