Friday, April 29, 2011

Cheesy Potatoes

Cheesy Potatoes

Serves about 20-24.

Ahh yes, Cheesy Potato Season has pretty much arrived. You know... backyard barbeques, family cookouts, potlucks with friends. Cheesy Potatoes often make an appearance, they're always devoured, and guests never tire of seeing them on the spread.
I have failed you by not offering a photo of the wondrous, cheesy middle... I apologize for that.
Source: My mom

2 lbs. frozen hash browns, thawed
1 pt. sour cream
1 small onion, chopped (about 1/2 c.)
1 can cream of chicken soup
2 c. shredded cheddar cheese (8 oz. package)
1 t. salt
3/4 c. melted butter (1-1/2 sticks)
2 c. Corn Flakes, slightly crushed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix all ingredients together besides butter and Corn Flakes; combine well. Transfer potato mixture to a 13x9 baking dish. Top with Corn Flakes and melted butter. Bake for 1 hour.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Happy Ever After

Happy Ever After by Nora Roberts

We finally arrive at book 4 in the Bridal Quartet by Nora Roberts. The first three, in case you're interested, are Vision in White, Bed of Roses, and Savor the Moment. This final book focuses on Mac, the organized wedding planner of the girls. Her focus on progress and accomplishments has driven her away from commitments in the past, but she keeps getting drawn back to one guy in particular. Of the four books, this was probably my least favorite -- a little too predictable and cheesy (although they all have the cheese-factor to a certain extent!), but how could I not complete the series?? If you're an avid reader and planning a wedding, aim to read the whole quartet -- you will enjoy the content, you won't be burdened by the length or difficulty, and, who knows? You may even pick up some new ideas!

Booklist review from

As wedding planner for Vows, Parker Brown manages to make every wedding the perfect day for her clients. From demanding brides to feuding guests to last-minute menu changes, Parker can handle anything and anyone with aplomb. Nothing and no one rattles her, until Malcomb Kavanaugh unexpectedly kisses her one day after helping her fix a flat tire. At first, Parker dismisses the kiss as just another twist to Malcomb’s always flirtatious nature, but as it turns out, the sexy auto mechanic really is interested in starting something with Parker. Somehow, though, the whole idea of a serious romantic relationship with Malcomb is enough to rattle her. Roberts, the reigning Queen of Romance, brings her Bride Quartet series to a splendidly satisfying conclusion with another deliciously sexy and delightfully humorous contemporary romance that perfectly celebrates the importance of love, friendship, and family in any woman’s life. --John Charles

Monday, April 25, 2011

Peanut Butter Chewies

Peanut Butter Chewies

Makes about 4 dozen.

Appropriately named, these cookies are chewier than your typical peanut butter cookie. Personally, I like the addition of the chocolate chips, but do whichever you prefer!
Source: Best-Loved Cookies cookbook

1 Butter Flavor Crisco stick or 1 Butter Flavor Crisco all-vegetable shortening
1-1/2 c. creamy peanut butter
1-1/2 c. firmly packed light brown sugar
2 eggs
1 can (14-oz.) sweetened condensed milk
2 t. vanilla
2 c. all-purpose flour
1 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
1-1/2 c. pecans OR chocolate chips, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine 1 cup shortening, peanut butter, and sugar in a large bowl. Beat at medium speed of electric mixer until well blended. Beat in eggs, sweetened condensed milk, and vanilla.

Combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Mix into shortening mixture at low speed until just blended. Stir in pecans or chocolate chips, if using.

Drop rounded tablespoonfuls of dough 2" apart onto ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake one cookie sheet at a time for 12-13 minutes or until lightly browned on bottom. Do not overbake. Cool 2 minutes on cookie sheets. Remove cookies to wire racks to cool completely.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Grill season!

Grill season!

One of my favorite things about spring is firing the grill back up and eating dinner on the patio. Grill meals usually require little preparation, yet are almost always hugely satisfying. Maybe it's because we don't have the opportunity to grill year-round. Well, we do, but WE, personally, choose not too. For me, it's the experience of grilling I love. Sitting outside and sipping a cold drink while the food cooks. Eating outside afterward. Ahh... I love it all.

Here are some personal GRILL FAVORITES:
- pictured above: Grilled brats with a fresh side salad

Happy grilling!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson

The main character, Ruthie, experiences a few different caretakers after her mother's mysteriously death. Both she and her sister struggle to figure out themselves, their situation, and their lives. This isn't a light, happy book. But it's real and it's written very well. Although not set in the same time period, it has a Laura-Ingalls-Wilder-feel to it. Something about the quest for survival in a rural area.

Publisher's Weekly review from

Their lives spun off the tilting world like thread off a spindle," says Ruthie, the novel's narrator. The same may be said of Becket Royce's subtle, low-keyed reading. The interwoven themes of loss and love, longing and loneliness—"the wanting never subsided"—require a cool, almost impersonal touch. Royce narrates natural and manmade catastrophe and ruin as the author offers them: with a sort of watery vagueness engulfing extraordinary events. Occasionally this leads Royce to sound sleepy or to glide over humor. But she expresses Ruthie's story without any irksome effort to sound childlike, and she avoids the pitfall of dramatizing other characters, such as the awkward sheriff, the whispery insubstantiality of Aunt Sylvie or the ladies bearing casseroles to lure Ruthie away from Aunt Sylvie and into their concept of normality. Originally published in 1980 and filmed in 1987, Housekeeping is finally on audio because of Robinson's new Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Gilead. The novel holds up remarkably and painfully well, and the language remains searching and sonorous. Anatole Broyard wrote back then: "Here is a first novel that sounds as if the author has been treasuring it up all her life...." And because the author's rhythms, images and diction are so original and dense, this audio is a treasure for listeners who have or haven't read the book.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Beef Enchiladas II

Beef Enchiladas II

Serves 6.

Basic, basic. Easy, peasy. But perfect for families with kids... and families that rely on make-ahead meals... and families like us -- two adult "kids!"
But you've been warned, enchiladas are hard to photograph! I've gotten an "F" every time I've tried!
Slightly adapted from:

8 flour tortillas
1 lb. ground beef
1 small onion, chopped
1 can enchilada sauce
2 c. shredded Cheddar cheese

(This photo shows 4 enchiladas in an 8x8 baking pan.
You can bake half and freeze half for another meal.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a skillet over medium high heat, cook the ground beef and chopped onion until the beef is evenly browned and the onion is tender. Remove from heat and stir in 1 to 1-1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese.

Pour 1/4 cup of enchilada sauce in the bottom of a baking dish. On each tortilla, place an equal amount of the beef mixture. Roll up and place, seam side down, in the baking dish. Repeat with remaining tortillas. Top with enchilada sauce and shredded cheese.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until sauce is bubbly and cheese is completely melted.

A Note From The Little Lady: If making ahead of time and refrigerating, increase cooking time to 40-50 minutes. If making ahead of time and freezing, thaw overnight in refrigerator and increase cooking time to 60 minutes.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Fruity Pebbles Treats

Fruity Pebbles Treats

Makes about 24.

Rice Krispies Treats... with a twist! These are fun, colorful, and super sweet! A great thing to make with kids, because it's so easy. I like to increase the amount of butter and marshmallows to achieve an extra gooey treat.
Slightly adapted from: Fruity Pebbles box

6 c. Fruity Pebbles cereal
1 stick butter
1 (10-oz.) mini marshmallows (about 4 cups)

Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add marshmallows and stir until completely melted. Remove from heat.

Stir in cereal and mix until evenly coated. Press mixture into a greased 13x9 pan. Cut into squares when cool.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Such a Pretty Face

Such a Pretty Face by Cathy Lamb

This one's a little longer than most, but it's a great read! I never found myself bored and wishing the book would move faster. The jumps back and forth between past and present help keep you attention as you follow the life of Stevie Barrett as she comes to terms with her experiences, her body, and herself.

Booklist review from

In Such A Pretty Face, author Lamb does not skirt around her heroine’s many problems. The book opens with a tragic memory from Stevie Barrett’s childhood that would go on to define her life, and she eventually finds herself entirely alone and dangerously overweight. Her life is a restricted one in which she contantly feels secluded and lonely. After she undergoes weight-loss surgery and loses so much weight that she is literally half the woman she once was, Stevie slowly begins her own healing process. However, her path to healing is not a smooth one, and she soon finds herself facing many troubles: she runs into difficulties at the law office where she works, suffers from a crippling shyness around the opposite sex despite her new slim figure, realizes that her best friend is unsupportive, and must deal with a strained relationship with the aunt and uncle who took her in so many years ago and whose anniversary party she now must plan. Lamb writes Stevie’s story with humor and brutal honesty, and the result is an affecting portrait of one woman’s heroic journey from tragedy to her own version of happiness. --Claire Orphan

Monday, April 11, 2011

Rosemary Chicken Salad Sandwiches

Rosemary Chicken Salad Sandwiches

Makes 5 sandwiches.

Super tasty and easier on the waistline than traditional mayo-laden chicken salad. You won't miss it!
Source: Cooking Light magazine

3 c. chopped roasted skinless, boneless chicken breasts (about 1.5 lbs. uncooked)
1/3 c. chopped green onions
1/4 c. chopped smoked almonds, optional
1/4 c. plain fat-free yogurt
1/4 c. light mayonnaise
1 t. chopped fresh rosemary
1 t. Dijon mustard
1/8 t. salt
1/8 t. freshly ground black pepper
5 sandwich buns

Combine first 9 ingredients, stirring well. Spread 2/3 cup of chicken mixture over each bun and serve.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Laughing Cow Alfredo Sauce

Laughing Cow Alfredo Sauce

Serves 2

I love this sauce! It's rich and creamy but not all that bad for you. Serve over penne, add chicken and some garlic bread and you've got yourself a very tasty meal!
I can't remember where I originally got this recipe, but here's one source: SparkPeople

3 wedges Laughing Cow Light Creamy Swiss cheese
1 T. parmesan cheese
1/2 T. margarine
1/2 c. skim milk (or fat-free half-and-half)
1/2 t. garlic powder

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and heat over medium-low, stirring occasionally until cheese is completely melted and mixture is smooth. This will take 15-20 minutes.

Serve over cooked penne pasta with grilled chicken strips, if desired.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Easy Labor

Easy Labor by William Camann, M.D. and Kathryn Alexander, M.A.

I'm expecting a wee baby girl on July 14 and The Mister and I could not be more thrilled. In an attempt to educate myself on the different options out there, I decided to read this book, among others. Out of all the books I read, I thought this one did the best job of offering the most trustworthy information without trying to sway you one direction or the other. A great read for first-time moms wanting to know more about the labor and birth process, and the different options available to you. It also stresses the importance of speaking up for yourself and being knowledgeable as a patient, and when to question doctors orders/suggestions.

Reviews from

A superb book that gives anyone who is pregnant a great understanding of the choices and rationale for those options that make birth easier.
~Dr Michael Roizen, MD, co-author of New York Times #1 bestseller, YOU: The Owner’s Manual

Gives pregnant women a comprehensive overview of all their options for making labor more comfortable.
~ Newsweek

"Down-to-earth prose provides compelling descriptions of labor from moms, doctors, and midwives. A “Great Read”."
–FitPregnancy Magazine

"Provides a road map through the thorny thicket of labor — no matter what path you choose."
–ePregnancy Magazine editor’s book pick

“Best Bet” for labor literature!"
–Pregnancy Magazine

"A thoughtful and thorough look at epidurals, narcotics, hypnosis, acupuncture, and other traditional and nontraditional methods of pain relief, so your choices can be well informed. The authors believe that knowledge is power — in this case, the power to choose pain-relief methods that reflect one’s own values, priorities, and preferences. They deliver the facts and options in a meaningful and easy-to-understand way, while acknowledging feelings and providing reassurance."
–National Parenting Publications Gold Medal Award

“A common sense, down-to-earth approach to discussing pain-relief options during childbirth . . . a must for women wanting the straight scoop on what to expect during delivery!”
–Joy Hawkins, M.D., director of Obstetric Anesthesia and professor of anesthesiology, at the University of Colorado

“Reassuring and informative . . . a detailed and readable presentation of maternal stress, fear, and pain during childbirth.”
–Penny Simkin, co-founder of Doulas of North America International, and author of The Birth Partner

Monday, April 4, 2011

General Tso's Chicken

General Tso's Chicken

Serves 2 (take-out-sized servings)

General Tso's is one of The Mister's favorite things to get at Chinese restaurants. Actually, it's the only thing he gets. But we all know that the fried chicken, among other things, in General Tso's is not exactly a picture of health. My revisions make it a little bit better for you and, while I'm not expecting my version to completely replace the need for take-out, I will say that this got rave reviews! It still relies on some modern conveniences, so it's not that hard either.

1.5 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breast, chopped into 1" cubes/pieces
3 c. mixed chopped veggies of your choice (I used onion, broccoli, red pepper, green pepper, and carrots)
Olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan
General Tso's sauce (find it near the soy sauce)
Asian or fried rice, prepared to package directions

Add olive oil to a large skillet -- enough to just cover the bottom of the pan -- and heat the skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken to the skillet and, when it's just about cooked through, add chopped veggies to the skillet. Continue cooking until veggies are crisp tender, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to low, add General Tso's sauce (about 3/4 cup?), and toss to coat. Let flavors fully blend by allowing to cook a few minutes longer.

Serve chicken mixture over prepared rice.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Chewy Brownies

Chewy Brownies

Makes about 24.

April Fools! These "brownies" are actually made with a cake mix!
Okay, that was kind of a stretch...
Either way, these are tasty. They are much more cakey than traditional brownies, though, so don't expect the dense, fudgey brownies that you may or may not prefer.
Source: 101 Things to do With a Cake Mix cookbook

1 chocolate cake mix
1/2 c. margarine, softened
3 eggs
3/4 c. semisweet chocolate chips
1 can chocolate frosting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix together cake mix, margarine, and eggs until the cake mix is completely absorbed. Stir in chocolate chips. Press the stiff dough evenly into a greased 13x9" pan.

Bake 25-28 minutes. When cooled, frost and cut into squares.