please leave your comments, criticisms, recipe ratings & requests or input for future posts! comment or email me at with any of the above.

Monday, December 20, 2010

no-bake berry smoothie cheesecake

cheesecake is one of those crowd-pleasing, beautiful desserts. but, let's be honest - it's pretty much terrible for you.

i found this version by philadelphia (like the cream cheese) that i absolutely love. made with 1/3 less fat (neuschfatel cheese - have i mentioned i use this in everything. i never ever ever use real cream cheese) and cool whip, it's far lighter than the original. and you don't have to bake it so it whips up in no time.

theirs is a berry smoothie version which is amazing, but try your own add ins - swirl in peanut butter and chocolate, other fruit, or just top with pie filling. i'm going to do it plain and top it with red raspberry pie filling for a festive feel.

no-bake berry smoothie cheesecake
16 servings

2 cups graham cracker crumbs (make your own!)
6 tablespoons butter, melted (you can't escape the butter, so we'll cut back elsewhere)
3 tablespoons sugar
4 (8 oz) packages 1/3 less fat cream cheese, softened (never pay more than $1)
3/4 cup sugar
1 12 oz package frozen mixed berries, thawed and drained (or your own topping)
1 tub whipped topping lite or fat free

1. line 13x9 pan with foil with ends extending over the edge of the pan. mix graham cracker crumbs, butter and 3 tablespoons sugar, press onto bottom of prepared pan. refrigerate while preparing filling.
2. beat cream cheese and 3/4 cup sugar in large bowl with electric mixer until well blended. add berries, beat on low speed just until blended. gently stir in whipped topping. spoon over crust; cover.
3. refrigerate 4 hours or until firm. use foil handles to remove cheesecake from pan before cutting to serve. store leftovers in refrigerator.

what dessert are you serving for christmas/christmas eve dinner??

Sunday, December 19, 2010

raspberry bread pudding

there's this quaint little sandwich shop in provo, ut (where i went to college at BYU) that has delicious.... everything. for the most part its a pretty healthy place to lunch, too.

with the most delicious exception - kneaders' raspberry bread pudding. wow. it's too good. but it's also too bad, made with whole cream.

so after too much time craving it i found a copy cat recipe on the sisters cafe, deciding i just had to have it since it isn't down the street anymore. but when i went to buy half and half to make it a bit lighter i made an amazing discovery. did you know that wal-mart has fat free half and half? i didn't. (i'm not sure what is in it to make it half and half since half and half is 1/2 cream, 1/2 milk. don't ask don't tell.) but now i do and i would gladly take this drastically fat and calorie reduced version of this delicious dessert over the original any day.

it makes a ton - a perfect dessert to serve at a big Christmas dinner. i hope you enjoy it at yours.

i keep forgetting to take a picture. it gets eaten too fast. and you can make it without the vanilla sauce. it's still amazing and then there is no butter or oil in the whole thing. you decide how to splurge.

kneaders' raspberry bread pudding
healthified from the sister's cafe
10-12 servings

cream mix
1 1/2 loaves aged, french bread
1 quart fat free half and half
3 cups sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla

in large bowl combine cream, sugar, egg and vanilla. cut bread into 1 1/2" cubes (or do this ahead and let it sit out and get stale to "age" it!) and add to cream mixture, coating bread well. let stand 30 minutes stirring every 5 minutes to allow cream to absorb completely.

fruit filling
5 cups frozen raspberries
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup apple juice

combine raspberries, sugar and apple juice, stirring until sugar is dissolved.

layer a roasting pan (13x9 is too small!) 3/4 full with bread mixture, pour fruit filling over bread mixture, spreading evenly, top with remaining bread. bake 40 minutes at 375 degrees. serve warm. top with vanilla sauce.

vanilla sauce (makes enough for 2 batches of bread pudding with how much we put on!)
1 1/3 cup butter
5 tablespoons flour
3 cups fat free half and half
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/3 cup sugar

over medium heat melt butter, and add flour stir 10 minutes until it has a nutty aroma, do not brown. add cream and sugar and boil till mixture is thick, remove from heat adding vanilla. serve this wonderful sauce cold.

store leftovers in fridge and eat for breakfast. but don't tell anyone i told you to do that.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

10-minute chicken tortilla soup

with all of the fun holiday activities going on i'm finding myself needing quick meals. this is one of the quickest, yummiest meals, and it won't hurt your wallet too bad, either! and it will take you 10 minutes including opening cans. can't beat that.

it's compliments of trader joe's. i love that place. i wish i could afford to buy more things there.

trader joe's 10-minute chicken tortilla soup
suggested bovine modifications in parentheses
5-6 servings

1 box chicken broth (or 32oz or 4 cups)
1 can chunk chicken (or 1 chicken breast cooked and shredded)
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can corn, drained
1 12 oz container pico de gallo (the tjs one is good!)

toppings - crushed chips, cheese, guacamole, sour cream, cilantro

1. put broth, chicken, beans, corn and pico de gallo in large pot. cook 5-7 minutes until heated through. serve with toppings of choice.

Friday, December 10, 2010

kick me in the pants and call me slacker banana pancakes

kick me in the pants and call me slacker. i haven't abandoned this blog. have you abandoned me? i have no comments!! ahh!!

hubby's new job has him working late most nights, so he eats at work. why would i cook for just me and two little kids who'd probably rather have pasta or cheerios anyway? needless to say, i haven't been cooking much.

since he's sometimes around for breakfast though i have made these a few times. they are amazing! kick me in the pants and call me slacker, but at least i'm back on the posting band wagon!

stay-tuned - i'll post some desserts that won't do you or your budget in over the holidays.

kick me in the pants and call me slacker banana pancakes
4-6 servings
modified from, here
1 cup whole wheat flour (or 1/2 white 1/2 wheat)
1 tablespoon white sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
1 cup skim milk
2 tablespoons applesauce
2 overripe bananas, mashed (i used really overripe that i defrosted from my freezer)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1. mix wet ingredients (including banana) well. add dry ingredients and mix until just wet. batter will be lumpy.
2. heat griddle to medium heat. pour about 1/4 cup on griddle for each pancake and cook slowly until both sides are light golden brown.
3. the most important part: serve hot with a tiny layer of peanut butter spread on top and then your favorite syrup. (i used maple... my husband used berry, with no peanut butter. weirdo.)

Friday, November 12, 2010

five ingredient fridays: bruschetta chicken pizza

my darling sister-in-law is quite the gourmet camping chef, so when the family got together to go camping at the end of the summer she, of course, wowed us with something amazing - bruschetta pizza. the veggies were all fresh from her garden and it was so good.

i thought it would be fun to do a version of my own at home instead of over the campfire. she did hers with red wine vinegar, but since i have a love affair with balsamic i stuck with my old friend.

the results were amazing. and so easy to throw together for homemade pizza. every tomato you bite into feels like it bursts an explosion of balsamic in your mouth. definitely give this one a try!

prepare ahead though and really marinate the tomatoes for at least 8 hours. it really makes a difference.
bruschetta chicken pizza
1 pizza

2 small chicken breasts, seasoned generously with salt and pepper, cooked and sliced
bruschetta (my recipe below)
10 large fresh basil leaves, chopped
1 to 1 1/2 cups shredded part skim mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
pizza crust of choice (i did a half recipe of my favorite with 3/4 white, 1/4 wheat flour)

1. roll out pizza dough to fit desired pan. bake as instructed (if you're using mine cook at 400 degrees) until bottom and top of crust are starting to brown, but not quite done. this is important as you don't want the marinated tomatoes to make the top soggy.
2. put bruschetta in a strainer for a few minutes and let most of the liquid run off.
3. on partially baked crust, add bruschetta. top with basil and chicken. add mozzarella and parmesan cheese.
4. return to oven. bake until toppings are hot, cheese it melted and crust is done baking and is golden. sprinkle with sea salt and pepper before serving or put it on the table for people to add themselves.

if you're vegetarian you can try this without the chicken.

bruschetta ala bovine - prepare ahead - marinate at least 8 hours!
8 on-the-vine tomatoes (good sized - but still smaller than a baseball. my price point for these is $0.69/lb - they are normally $1.88/lb at my wal-mart. ouch!), chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup minced red onion
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper

cut tomatoes. add garlic and onion. pour oil and vinegar over the top. season with salt and pepper. stir well. cover and refrigerate, letting the tomatoes marinate for at least 8 hours.

Friday, November 5, 2010

five ingredient fridays: chicken tacos

chicken tacos have got to be one of my all-time favorite meals. and i just realized they qualify for 5-ingredient fridays. pretty sure that makes them yummier.

chicken tacos
8-10 tacos

2 chicken breasts, butterflied
marinate most of the day in: enough lime juice to douse them, a few dashes of olive oil and a few cloves of garlic
grill to perfection seasoned generously with salt and pepper

double wrap in corn tortillas (2 tortillas per taco)

top with lots of cilantro and other toppings of your choice (cheese, sour cream, hot sauce, salsa, guacamole, shredded lettuce, etc!)

this is delicious with mexican rice on the side. enjoy!

Friday, October 29, 2010

five ingredient fridays: your perfect halloween sidedish

tomorrow night i'm hosting a small halloween harvest dinner. here's our very orange menu:
  • jamaican chicken breasts (not festive, but we needed a main dish - i'll post these soon as they are amazing!)
  • sweet potato fries
  • bones and blood (bone-shaped breadsticks and marinara - idea from our best bites)
  • amazing orange jello (again, recipe to come)
  • pumpkin and bat sugar cookies cut and decorated by my 2 year old
  • carrot puree
okay... the carrot puree sounds scary, right? let me tell you right now, it's not. my friend carole served it at a fabulous lunch at her house last month and we're all still drooling. and it's the star of five ingredient fridays because it's sooooo easy!

carrot puree
from martha stewart
picture from martha stewart

2 pounds carrots, cut into 2-inch lengths
coarse ground salt and pepper
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream

1. cover carrots with water by 1 inch in a sauce pan. add salt. bring to a boil and then simmer for 25-30 minutes or until carrots are very tender.
2. drain carrots and transfer to a food processor or blender. add butter and sour cream. season with salt and pepper. process until smooth, scraping the bowl/blender when needed. serve.

are you doing a festive dinner? what are you serving?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

don't be afraid to create!

do you ever have a million random ingredients in your fridge/cabinets and don't know what to make for dinner? i know that happens to me pretty frequently.

these are the instances you should never be afraid to get creative! there are some ingredients that, when combined, you really can't go wrong. here are a few things i like to get creative with when i'm in a bind for dinner or i have random leftovers coming out my ears. i can't tell you how many leftovers have been saved from going bad with this simple dinners. no recipe needed - just get creative!

"kitchen sink" enchiladas - because i throw everything in them but the kitchen sink. possible ingredients (as many or as few as you'd like):
  • leftover or frozen shredded chicken, ground meat of various varieties
  • flour/corn tortillas
  • red/green/white/yellow onions
  • garlic
  • beans - black, pinto, whatever you have laying around
  • rice - leftover white/brown (am i the only one that is always making too much), mexican rice (this makes a huge amount so i always have leftovers)
  • sauce - homemade red enchilada sauce, leftover canned green enchilada sauce, the last of your salsa, sour cream, cream cheese, cafe rio-style cilantro lime ranch dressing (this is soooo good just thrown into the filling - yum!), plain ranch dressing, the sky is the limit!
  • fresh/frozen spinach
  • leftover canned tomatoes (do you ever make something that calls for 1/2 a can! argh!) or fresh tomatoes that need to be used
  • peppers that need to get used - bell, jalapeno, serrano
  • cheese - whatever you've got
  • spices - if you're mixture is feeling a little bland toss in some garlic salt, cumin and chili powder
combine all ingredients. roll up in tortillas. top with sauce and cheese. bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

goulash - basically meat and beans and tomatoes with pasta
  • pasta - any variety
  • tomatoes - canned or fresh, or tomato sauce
  • onions - any kind, and garlic
  • meat of some sort (ground is best)
  • beans - kidney or pinto are my favorite here
  • bell peppers
  • spinach - fresh or frozen
  • hot sauce
  • cheese
  • sour cream
  • spices - season with garlic, chili powder and salt and pepper
saute veggies/onions/garlic dash of olive oil. add meat and brown. stir in "sauce" (tomato sauce/canned tomatoes/fresh tomatoes) and simmer for 10 minutes. stir in cooked pasta. top with cheese/sour cream/hot sauce to serve.

veggie pasta skillet/bake - use whatever you have!
  • pasta of any variety
  • jar of cheap pasta sauce
  • garlic, black pepper and crushed red pepper
  • whatever veggies you need to use up! i.e....
  • broccoli
  • eggplant
  • peppers
  • onions
  • zucchini
  • yellow squash
  • mushrooms
  • carrots
  • cheese
saute some garlic and a dash of crushed red pepper in a dash of olive oil. add pasta sauce - heat through and add some black pepper (makes it taste more like homemade pasta sauce!). in a separate skillet, saute veggies in a dash of olive oil til tender. season with salt and pepper. combine sauce, cooked pasta and sauteed veggies in large bowl and serve as is or put in 13x9 inch baking dish, top with cheese and bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

do you have any meals like this? please share!! we all need quick fixes like these in our dinner arsenals. :)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

sour cream chicken enchiladas

last night i tried a different white enchilada recipe - just for fun. i got it from another food blog i really like. sometimes it's fun to make a different version of a classic meal, right?

well, we were disappointed. they just weren't as good as my normal recipe. i guess i'm happy to say, then, that mine are lots better than the alternative we tried! :) i posted this deliciousness over 2 years ago. it's so good it's time for a repost. attribution to my bff who basically taught me to cook, with a few modifications by me, of course.

sour cream chicken enchiladas
6-8 servings

3 chicken breasts, cooked and sliced/cubed (i pan fry it in a tiny bit of oil, lime juice and sprinkled with garlic, pepper and cumin)
1 cup fat-free or reduced fat sour cream
1/4 cup green enchilada sauce
1 can green chilis
1 cup grated cheese
8-10 flour tortillas (depends on how packed you like your enchiladas, whole wheat are good with these)

1/2 can 98% fat free cream of chicken soup
1/4-1/2 cup enchilada sauce
milk (for thinning the sauce for the top)
more cheese!!

1. combine cooked chicken, sour cream, 1/4 cup enchilada sauce, green chilis and 1 cup cheese in a large bowl. spoon mixture into tortillas and pack into 13"x9" pan.
2. make sauce for top by combining 1/2 can of cream of chicken soup, 1/4-1/2 cup enchilada sauce (add until it tastes right to you!) and milk if you'd like your sauce thinner.
3. spread sauce over the enchiladas and top with desired amount of cheese.
4. bake in oven at 350 F for 30-35 min.

Saturday, October 2, 2010


have you ever been behind one of those crazy couponing ladies at the grocery store. you probably found yourself really irritated - "why is she doing so many transactions?", "is she seriously buying 16 boxes of cereal and 16 boxes of granola bars?", "how many coupons are in that stack?". then remember how her total went down and down and down... and then you felt jealous instead of irritated?

i'm one of those crazy couponing ladies. i'm not going to try and convince you that everyone should coupon, but i figure if i can make you a little jealous you might at least think about trying it. :) one of the greatest highs (natural only... no idea what an unnatural one feels like but i promise you this is much better) i've ever had is getting food for free or ridiculously cheap.

what i paid for the above items (per item) at albertsons (keep in mind some of this isn't a usual purchase for me - but poptarts, hot dogs and capri suns are great camping food and we went camping a few times recently!):

item regular price sale price i paid
kelloggs fruit loops $ 3.69 $ 2.00 $ 1.00
kelloggs frosted mini wheats $ 3.49 $ 2.50 $ 1.00
oscar meyer franks $ 3.99 $ 1.50 nothing
cool whip $ 2.19 $ 1.00 nothing
nutrigrain bars $ 3.69 $ 2.50 $ 1.00
poptarts $ 3.49 $ 2.50 $ 1.16
kraft salad dressing $ 3.49 $ 1.99 $ 0.50
kraft 8oz cheese (block & shredded) $ 4.99 $ 2.00 nothing

i paid $28 for over $270 worth of groceries! that's over 90% savings!

do i have your attention now? here's the idea:
  • buy things that are on sale with the coupons available
  • use a website like to match coupons with sales in your area
it isn't brain surgery. the website does it for you! it's definitely the easiest way i can think of to obtain 30 free bags/blocks of cheese. :)

happy... happier shopping is in your future! give it a try!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

breakfast for dinner: baked breakfast taquitos

we almost always each exclusively hot cereal for breakfast so sometimes real breakfast foods sound really good - for dinner. like scrambled eggs or cheesy waffles. so a few weeks ago i made these baked breakfast taquitos with lime chipotle dip for dinner. they were to die for! and besides, any meal that bakes something that is supposed to be fried is a winner in my book. :) these would be great for a breakfast or brunch with friends or family. very impressive, yet easy (and the main ingredient is eggs - cheap!!)!

baked breakfast taquitos with lime chipotle dip
recipe by our best bites
with a few very minor, healthy changes by yours truly

cooking spray
12 large eggs
1/2 cup reduced fat sour cream
1/2 teaspoon kosher/sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 1/2 cup grated pepperjack cheese
1/4 cup chopped roasted red bell peppers
1/4 cup sliced green onions
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1-2 teaspoon hot sauce

16 6" flour tortillas
cooking spray or olive oil

dipping sauce:
1 1/2 cup reduced fat sour cream
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

preheat oven to 425 degrees. line a rimmed baking sheet with foil for easy clean-up. spray with cooking spray and set aside.

heat a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. crack eggs into large mixing bowl. whisk in 1/2 cup sour cream, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. when skillet is hot, spray with cooking spray and add egg mixture to pan. using a rubber spatula, gently scrape bottom of pan and fold eggs over to scramble. remove from heat when slightly undercooked. add cheese, roasted red peppers, green onions, cilantro, and hot sauce to taste. gently fold to combine.

warm tortillas in microwave to ease rolling process. working with a few tortillas at a time, place a scant 1/4 cup egg mixture into the center of each one and roll up into a cylinder. place rolled tortillas on prepared baking sheet, seam-side down, so they are not touching each other. when all tortillas are rolled and filled, lightly spray tops with cooking spray, or lightly brush with olive oil. bake for 15 minutes or until edges are golden brown and crisp.

while taquitos are baking, coming 1 1/2 cup sour cream, lime juice, chipotle chili powder and kosher salt. stir to combine and store in fridge. remove taquitos from oven , let cool for 5 minutes, and then serve with dipping sauce.

Monday, September 20, 2010

discovering your dollar store

when i moved less than a year ago some other frugal ladies from church introduced me to something i now rely on weekly for my cooking ventures: the 99 cents only store. this amazing dollar store sells nothing for more than 99c and they have some great fresh produce, some of which i definitely can't find cheaper anywhere else. here's a list of some of the things i've found there (over the course of time - not all in one trip):
  • 2 pack of red/orange/yellow bell peppers
  • container of mini bell peppers - multi colored and just red
  • 3 pack of green bell peppers
  • 2 lb bag of peaches/plums/nectarines
  • 2 lb bag of dole bananas
  • 6-8oz container of raspberries/blackberries/blueberries
  • 3 pack hearts of romaine lettuce
  • 5 lb bag of potatoes
  • 3 pack of mangoes
  • 3 pack of avocados
  • 3 lb bag red/yellow/white onions
  • 2 lb bunch broccoli/cauliflower
  • 2 pack of large cucumbers
  • 8 oz package of brown/white/baby bella mushrooms
  • 2 pack of portobello mushrooms
  • 2 lb bag carrots
  • 6 pack roma tomatoes
  • 1 pint cherry/grape tomatoes
  • bagged organic spinach
  • 4 pack large bunches of cilantro
  • bag of green onions

i've also found some other non-produce items that i've been happy to find there too:
  • 1 lb lasagna noodles
  • bottle of oyster sauce (for asian cooking... see my asian label for more)
  • 4 pack unsweetened applesauce/berry applesauce (good baby food to go)
  • gerber meals for toddlers - 3 for $1
  • boxed gerber granola bars - 3 boxes for $1
  • wheaties fuel cereal
  • large bag twizzlers nibs (confession - i love these)
  • jelly flops (real jelly belly jelly beans that are funny shaped or stuck together)
  • 6 pack large pita breads

i've been really happy with the quality of nearly everything i've bought from my dollar store. my hearts of romaine are even fresher and last longer than the ones i buy at other stores.

and of course i love that shopping at my dollar store makes meals like the one below possible. we loved this salad at our house - and it is as beautiful as it was delicious. packed full of beautiful (and usually) expensive veggies, this one is a keeper as long as my dollar store keeps providing bell peppers. :)

thai peanut noodle salad
find recipe here at our best bites
(i left out about 1/3 cup olive oil, though!)

just for fun, a few other great non-food items i've found at the dollar store:
  • halloween costume stuff (including really cute wings - usually so expensive!)
  • nick jr and disney books (like diego, backyardigans, disney princesses, etc.)
  • awesome coloring books (discovery channel, disney)
  • silk flowers
  • picture frames

so discover what dollar stores are near you - you never know what you'll find!!

Friday, September 10, 2010

five ingredient fridays: creamy avocado pasta salad

i whipped this up the other night for a church function and it was a hit! just thought i'd share it since pasta salad is such a great warm weather food!

i know it's a few over 5 ingredients, but it's super simple. promise.

creamy avocado pasta salad
8 servings (main course, lots more as a side dish)
1 lb pasta of choice, i used macaroni
1 chicken breast, butterflied and heavily covered on both sides in taco seasoning, then pan-grilled and chopped
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained.
1 green peppers, chopped
2 roma tomatoes, chopped
1/4 of a red onion, minced

kroger brand (from smith's) lite creamy avocado ranch with lime dressing, to taste
chopped fresh cilantro to taste
salt and pepper to taste

next time i'd also add sliced black olives. yum.

1. cook pasta according to directions and cook chicken.
2. combine pasta, chicken, beans, peppers, tomatoes and onion. start with 1/2 cup of salad dressing and stir to combine. continue to add 1/4 cup at a time until you are happy with the taste/consistency. stir in cilantro and salt and pepper to taste. chill in fridge until ready to eat.


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

please cheat

please cheat on your diet with this to-die-for stack of simple carbohydrate goodness. i never imagined pancakes could taste so amazing. i'm not much of a pancake person, but i could eat these every day (but i don't... that would be a bad idea!). and don't drink the syrup... or do.

spicy apple pancakes with cider sauce
from my dear friend lulu (and family)
4 servings

2 cups bisquick
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 egg
1 1/3 cup milk
3/4 cup grated apple (1 apple)

mix all ingredients accept apples together until moist - don't over mix. fold in apples. batter should be fairly thick - do not thin! cook pancakes on griddle or stove as you usually would until cooked through.

cider sauce (enough for 2 batches of pancakes)
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons corn starch
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 cups apple cider or apple juice
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup butter
put in dry ingredients first, add lemon juice & apple cider/juice, stir on medium/hot, boil for one minute while stirring, take off the stove and add butter. stir until melted.

Friday, August 27, 2010

five ingredient fridays: pesto bowties with feta and tomatoes

the heat doesn't seem to be subsiding at all where we are. except for last night when it rained - for 5 minutes. wow. i'm heading to utah next month for 10 days where it does start to cool off this time of year.

wherever you are and whatever the temperature, pasta salad is such a great thing to eat (especially when it's hot). it's even better with only 5 ingredients!

this one is fun since it combines two of my favorite ingredients - pesto and feta cheese. i can't live without either of them - money and health aside. i love them. what ingredients can you not live without?

pesto bowties with feta and tomatoes
from the pioneer woman here
6 servings
1 lb pasta (i used rotini)
1 cup basil pesto (i used more like 3/4 cup) - try the classico brand - $2.08 at my wal-mart. not bad!
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved (got mine at the 99cents only store - more on this later)
4 oz feta cheese, crumbled (did you know they make low fat feta? not quite as good, but if your really trying to watch what you eat try it!)
salt and freshly ground pepper

cook the pasta according to package directions in a large pot of salted water. drain the pasta and run it under cold water just until it cools slightly. drain the pasta well.

transfer the pasta to a large serving bowl. stir in the pesto and gently mix until the pasta is coated. season with salt and pepper to taste (about 1/4 teaspoon each). add the halved tomatoes and feta cheese. toss to combine.

cover the pasta and refrigerate up to an hour before serving. if the pasta seems at all dry before serving, you can stir in additional olive oil to moisten the pasta (i didn't!).

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

sweet and sour pineapple chicken

remember my not-so-fried orange chicken? this is a sweet and sour version of that. i really like asian food, but i really don't like how greasy it is. this version is delicious with almost no oil... it doesn't just taste good, but it will make you feel good too.

sweet and sour pineapple chicken
4+ large servings

2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into chunks
3/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

stir fry in:
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons pineapple juice (from the can of pineapple)
1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 soy sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon ginger
rest of the juice from the can of pineapple (minus the above 2 tablespoons)

1 20 oz can chunk pineapple
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 green pepper, sliced thin
2 carrots, julienned
1-2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 medium yellow squashed, thinly sliced


1. combine flour, salt and pepper in a bag. add chicken pieces and mix them around to coat.
2. combine 2 teaspoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 2 tablespoons pineapple juice (from the can of pineapple) and 1/2 teaspoon sugar in large skillet or wok. heat for a minute.
3. add flour-coated chicken to skillet/wok. stir to coat with sauce. let chicken brown on one side, then stir and let brown again. repeat until chicken is almost done inside. add the pineapple, garlic, green pepper, carrots, onions and squash. stir to coat then cover and let steam for 2-3 minutes.
4. combine all sauce ingredients (ketchup, soy sauce, brown sugar, vinegar, ginger, pineapple juice) and pour over contents of skillet/wok. let sauce get hot and help finish cooking the veggies until they are crisp-tender.
5. add cornstarch a little at a time to thicken sauce.
6. serve with steamed white rice.

Friday, August 20, 2010

five ingredient fridays: traditional taco salad

there are those traditional meals that just always taste good. taco salad is one of those for me. i like it just the way we've all always made it. and it's a great summer meal - fast and cool!

traditional taco salad
romaine lettuce
1/2 to 1 lb lean ground beef - cooked and seasoned with taco seasoning (or garlic, cumin and chili powder)
black olives
light ranch dressing (i love kroger brand at Smith's -super cheap too!)

other delicious, but optional ingredients: cheese, tortilla chips, avocado, hearts of palm, anything else that sounds good to you!!

top shredded lettuce with taco meat, tomatoes, olives, dressing and any other topping of your choice. easy as that!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

just reposted....

the thai chicken wraps below... i forgot the soy sauce in the sauce in the original post. ahhhh!!!! i'm so sorry to anyone who made these. they are fabulous... i promise. with the soy sauce though!

Friday, August 13, 2010

five ingredient fridays: make-ahead lunch wraps

happy friday! and happy blogging. summer is too much fun to find time to blog much. i'm sorry for abandoning you so much!

i've recently ventured into the land of crisped wraps. they are great for summer since they require minimal cooking. the thing i like best about these, though, is that i can freeze them and they make a perfect lunch to-go for my hubby for work.

here is a 5-ingredient variation first and then another that we liked. the possibilities are endless with these. combine some of your favorite ingredients and i'm sure they'll be a winner at your house too!
make-ahead lunch wraps

4 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
2 cans pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 can corn, drained
1 can diced tomatoes with green chilis
cooked brown rice (amount suggested - 2 cups rice cooked in 5 cups water for 45 minutes)

cheese and tortillas

1. combine beans, corn tomatoes, rice and desired amount of cheese. may season with chili powder, cumin or garlic if desired. roll up in tortillas and crisp on both sides in pan on stove to seal ingredients inside.
2. let cool. wrap in plastic wrap and then tin foil. store in freezer. reheat in microwave. serve with salsa, sour cream.... or ketchup if you're ridiculous like my husband.
here's another recipe we love at our house. these freeze pretty well, too, but they are extra yummy fresh!! i made them for while i was gone this last week and my husband was in heaven every day for lunch!

crispy southwest chicken wraps

see recipe at mel's kitchen cafe

Saturday, July 24, 2010

summer cooking

the faces of summer

i love summer - swimming, parades, the way cold treats taste so good on a hot day, all of the fun free stuff to do, watermelon for 12c/lb, peaches for 33c/lb... (i'm the bovine - i just had to throw those in there)

that being said, there are some things i don't love about summer. putting my babies in a 140 degree car, for example. and honestly, cooking. sometimes it is hard to get myself cooking motivated when it is 117 degrees outside - yes, i said 117. i've been trying to think of ways to cool off your kitchen in the summer (less oven, less stovetop) and here are some ideas i've come up with:
  • crockpot - my crockpot doesn't make me feel like i'm baking in my own house, so i'm trying to use that a little bit more.
  • barbeque - use more recipes where you can bbq your meat instead of use the oven or the stove top. keep the heat where it belongs - outside!
  • prepare ahead - freeze stuff. i bought 6 whole chickens for 67c/lb a few months ago, boiled them all, shredded them and then froze them in quart-sized freezer bags (2 cups of chicken in each bag). enchiladas? salads? sandwiches? you name it and i can grab a bag of this out of the fridge and never have to turn my stove on to cook the meat. i also froze 12 lbs of straberries last month (got them for 75c/lb, thank you very much), which brings me to my next point.
  • make smoothies - they cool you off, fill you up and they are a great way to get your fruits and veggies for the day. yes - your veggies. green smoothies only at our house. i make a really big smoothie almost every day that fills 2 whole glasses with about 5 strawberries, 4 chunks of pineapple, a banana ice and water. some days i throw in a pear. i made one the other day with a peach, a handful of blueberries, a banana, ice and a dash of soy milk that was amazing. add a teaspoon of sugar if it's a bit tart for you. and never forget your veggies - spinach and kale are my favorite greens to add. if you're looking for something a little more on the dessert side try my avocado shake (below) if you haven't already. it's to die for.
so if i'm trying to avoid my oven and stove top as often as possible, what am i eating?
  • sandwiches - i actually don't eat lunch meat so i'm talking chicken salad type sandwiches. try this one (chipotle chicken salad). it's yummy!! any meat you can do in the crock pot is great too. like french dips. i'll post a bbq pork sandwich some time soon as well that is out of this world good.
  • pasta salad - i'll post a good one soon.
  • salads - refreshing. the best hot weather food.
  • anything off my grill - grill chicken and put it in corn tortillas for some awesome chicken tacos. one of my all time favorite meals.
  • smoothies, smoothies and more smoothies.
  • u-swirl and yogurtland - this is what i wish i was eating every day. darn budget. have you tried either of these? holy cow. so good. and 30 or less calories an ounce. love it.
what do you love to eat/cook when it's hot? please share!!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

happy 4th of july - wave your flag cheesecake!

happy 4th of july. i majored in early american history in college, so this time of year gives me warm fuzzies. hope it does you, too!

worst. picture. ever. i know.

celebrate with this delicious and festive dessert... and you're much better off eating this than lots of other things you could be eating this weekend!

and yes, i realize this is the worse. picture. ever. ever. ever. yikes. in my defense i was participating in the annual traditions of sit in the sun for 3 hours and watch the parade and then spend the rest of the day in and out of the water. lovely. the cheesecake looks delicious, though, right?

wave your flag cheesecake
modified from

4 cups fresh strawberries, divided
1-1/2 cups boiling water
2 packages (3 oz. each) strawberry flavor jello
ice cubes
1 cup cold water
1 boxed yellow cake mix, baked according to directions accept use applesauce for oil and sliced into strips
1-1/3 cups blueberries (or blackberries), divided
2 packages 1/3 less fat cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1 tub (8 oz.) fat free cool whip (or the store brand!)

slice 1 cup strawberries; halve remaining strawberries. set aside. add boiling water to gelatin mixes in large bowl; stir 2 min. until completely dissolved. add ice to cold water to measure 2 cups. add to gelatin; stir until ice is completely melted. refrigerate 5 min. or until slightly thickened.

meanwhile, line bottom of 13x9-inch dish with cake. add sliced strawberries and 1 cup blueberries to thickened gelatin; stir gently. spoon over cake. refrigerate 4 hours or until gelatin is firm.

beat cream cheese and sugar in large bowl with whisk until well blended. stir in cool whip; spread over gelatin. arrange strawberry halves on cream cheese mixture to resemble stripes of flag. add remaining blueberries for stars.



by the way, i've been brunette for 3 1/2 years now, but as of next week, the blonde is back in town. i'll post pictures.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

mexican rice

you know that delicious, fluffy, reddish-colored rice you get at mexican restaurants? it isn't spanish rice. it isn't a cilantro-lime type rice. it's a perfect side dish with burritos, tacos or its great in salads. you know the one i'm talking about.

well, i found it. then i made it healthier. and quicker. you're welcome. :)

mexican rice
8-10 side dish servings
modified from here, where everyone said it was the mexican rice they'd been looking for for years!

1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
1 medium white onion
2-3 medium jalapenos
2 cups long grain white rice
1 tablespoon olive oil (or none if you prefer really low cal - original recipe was 1/3 cup!)
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, minced
1 lime (optional)

1. process tomato and onion in processor or blender until pureed and smooth. transfer mixture to measuring cup and reserve exactly 2 cups. save excess to use in something else (a smaller batch of rice, the filling for your enchiladas, dump it into a tortilla soup).
2. remove ribs and seeds from 2-3 jalapenos and discard. mince flesh and set aside.
3. place rice in a fine mesh strainer and rinse under cold running water until water runs clear - about 1 1/2 minutes. shake rice vigorously to remove excess water. this step removes the starch from the rice so it will not stick. if you omit this step your rice will not be dry and fluffy.
4. heat oil in large skillet (or just heat skillet) over medium heat. add rice and stir fry until rice is light golden and translucent, about 5 minutes.
5. reduce heat to medium, add garlic and jalapeno and cook, stirring constantly until fragrant, about 1 1/2 minutes.
6. stir in broth, pureed mixture and salt. increase heat to medium high and bring to a boil.
7. cover pan with tight fitting lid and reduce heat to low. cook 20-25 minutes until liquid is gone and rice is done.
8. stir in cilantro and squeeze lime over the top if desired.

this rice is amazing in a cafe rio style salad with this sweet and spicy slow cooker chicken and cilantro lime vinaigrette dressing. okay, now i'm drooling.

up next - a super yummy 4th of july desert i made 4 years ago... yes it will include a terrible picture of the skinny bovine. :) look for it thursday so you have time to make it for this weekend's festivities!

Monday, June 14, 2010

wheaties fuel no bake cookies

sorry for the lack of blogging, but we got some weird stomach bug and didn't eat pretty much all last week. we just felt yucky.

luckily, we're back to our favorite family activity - eating. :)

i've been wanting to create something delicious with wheaties fuel cereal since i got a couple of boxes really cheap couponing. they have a super yummy honey flavor and i like to eat them as a snack with a tiny spoonful of peanut butter mixed in. add a few more ingredients and you've got a seriously show stopping cookie. i like these lots better than regular no bake cookies (our friends we shared them with last night did too) and they don't have any butter so they are way less unhealthy for you! and they were super easy and quick. enjoy!

wheaties fuel no bake cookies
2 1/2 dozen cookies

3/4 cup light caro syrup
3/4 cup white sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 heaping cup old fashioned oats
1 1/2 heaping cup wheaties fuel cereal

1. combine caro syrup, sugar and cocoa powder in good sized sauce pan (you're going to add the rest of the ingredients to the pan so make sure you have enough space). stir frequently over medium heat until it begins boiling. stir constantly once boiling and only leave it on the heat long enough that all of the ingredients are combined and smooth.
2. remove from heat. stir in peanut butter and vanilla until melted and smooth. add oats and cereal. stir until combined.
3. drop by rounded tablespoonfuls (i used my cookie scooper) onto wax paper and let cool. store in an air tight container.

Friday, May 28, 2010

five ingredient fridays: homemade dry onion soup mix and french dips

this might be cheating because onion soup mix isn't a meal, per se, but french dips are... so i'm reposting. and since they both have 5 ingredients i think it counts! we had them again the other night and they were amazing, as usual.

and making your own onion soup mix definitely will save you some bucks. that stuff is expensive!!!

the best french dip sandwiches
(originally posted here)

sandwich is falling apart with deliciousness.

1 recipe onion soup mix (see below)
1 package zesty italian dressing mix (or homemade mix here)
a roast (i usually use rump or whatever i got on sale for $1.89/lb or less)

put roast in crock pot. fill with water so the top of the roast is poking out of the water. pour in mixes. slow cook on low for 8-10 hours. it is done when it falls apart. (depends on your crock pot and the size of your roast.)

serve on yummy french rolls (don't go stingey here - get good ones!), broiled in the oven to toast with pepper jack cheese on them (broil with the cheese on them). carmelized onions are also delicious on them. dip in the juice from the crock pot.

dry onion soup mix
from (here)
  • 4 teaspoons beef bullion granules
  • 8 teaspoons dried onion flakes
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon seasoned pepper

Monday, May 24, 2010

homemade baby food

big sister who likes to eat watermelon in the back yard = happy little brother who sneaks it while mom isn't looking :)

i make my kids' baby food when they start eating solids. it isn't difficult in the slightest, but it is certainly more time consuming than pulling it off the shelf and dumping it in your cart.
so is it worth it? here are a few numbers that will prove just how worth it it is:
  • with my $200 a month food budget (+$40 for longer term storage/bulk items) i have $7/day to feed my family. a very cheap 4 oz jar of baby food costs $0.42. my 7 month old could easily cost me $2.52/day to feed. ahhh!!! imagine when he's pushing a year. i once calculated that my daughter would be costing me $4/day in baby food at her peak if i bought it.
  • my baby food jar equivalents: i can make 4 0z of carrots for $0.10, 4 oz of peas, green beans or sweet potatoes for $0.22, 4 oz acorn squash for $0.26 and that isn't even with sale prices. during peach season when peaches are on sale for $0.50/lb you can make peaches for pennies.
  • it's really easy to mash a banana yourself with a fork. why buy it in a tiny cute bottle? my buddy happily downs a banana every day for breakfast.
  • oatmeal cereal: $1.50 for a box of oatmeal cereal? just put some oats through your blender.
stuff i don't make:
  • applesauce: there is nothing magical about baby applesauce. it's just apples. and why make your own? wal-mart brand unsweetened applesauce is $1.86 for 50 oz. that's $0.15 for your 1 jar equivalent.
  • rice cereal: i don't have a grinder and i can't "iron fortify" it at home so this is the one true baby food item i buy.

so how do you do it? it's easy - i just use as my home base and go from there. i feel like a baby chef when i whip up a little dessert for my little man to follow his peas (applesauce + sweet potatoes + cinnamon + rice cereal = dessert!) - it's so fun and he loves it! use their recipes and freeze in ice cube trays. each cube is 1+ ounce. cover with saran wrap and then put the cubes into big freezer bags when frozen solid. and don't forget to reuse your freezer bags!

and here's my funny little squash face. this was the the mad face he made if we didn't get the squash in his mouth fast enough!!

i also make my own baby wipes... but that isn't a food recipe! i swear by them. want my recipe? email me at!

Thursday, May 13, 2010


we're moving!!!! and my next cooking adventure will be on granite counter tops. they installed them today. they are amazing. i'm completely in love. i realize that's a very shallow thing to be in love with, but at least i'm honest.

so, no five ingredient friday. sorry, but i have to disconnect my computer and internet right... now!!!

let's all celebrate heat proof, cut proof stone counters with a completely non-healthy cookie recipe!

these cookies made with graham cracker crumbs are amazing - don't forget to undercook!

have a great weekend!

Friday, May 7, 2010

five ingredient fridays: chipotle chicken salad sandwich

wow. friday again already? i haven't posted in a week. i have a good excuse - promise! we bought a house! a repo. they took the carpet, the doors, everything. and we're trying to get in fast so we don't have to pay rent and a mortgage for more than we have to.

so i've been busy spending hours and hours at home depot. and picking out my granite counter tops. i think i'll sleep on them instead of in our bed. i'm so excited. i'm sure they will make my food taste better. okay, maybe not, but they will decrease my prep time since i don't have to wash a million cutting boards and find hot pads to put on my counter when things come out of the oven.

if you've been busy too, throw this together and impress whoever you're cooking for. it was amazing!

chipotle chicken salad sandwich
3+ servings

2 cups copped cooked chicken (not canned, never canned)
a little less than 1/4 cup light mayo with olive oil (kraft)
1/2 a chipotle pepper*** (canned in adobo sauce), minced

combine above, mix well.

serve on favorite bread (we used homemade foccacia - drool), with avocado, tomato and lettuce.

done! hope this makes your weekend easier!

***note about chipotle peppers: they come in a tiny can with a million peppers in it, but they stay good in a tupperware in your fridge for forever so just open a can and decide to commit yourself to something chipotle once a week for a month or more. or just eat this chicken salad sandwich every other day. i've considered it.

Friday, April 30, 2010

five ingredient fridays: strawberry poppyseed salad

this is all i ate for a week straight at the beach with my best friend in december. i love it. my husband loves it equally as much - dubbed his new favorite salad! and it's a super quick and easy meal. my 2 year old had a few bites of mine and then needed her own plateful. i'm not sure there's anything cuter than a 2 year old eating a salad. adorable.

and try to go easy on the dressing. it's the only unhealthy part of this, but if you take it easy it isn't too bad!!

strawberry poppyseed salad

lettuce of choice (spinach is best, but romaine was good, too!)
sliced strawberries (wait until they're $1 a lb)
a hard boiled egg, sliced
shredded/chunked cooked chicken
poppyseed dressing (i used kroger brand that i got for $1!!!!!!)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

cilantro lime vinaigrette

salads are one of my favorite foods on the planet - my all time favorite being the cafe rio-style salad. the more ingredients the better. pile it high.

when i went dairy free for my baby boy i was devastated not to be able to eat the cafe rio ranch dressing and was forced to try their other dressing.... which was shockingly delicious!
so of course i tried to replicate it at home. i think i like mine better than cafe rio's. and it's soooo easy. try it with the sweet and spicy slow cooker chicken, above, and your choice of beans and rice. then top with all the salad toppings you can handle. a perfectly delicious, healthy and well-balanced meal.

cilantro lime vinaigrette dressing
5-6 servings

1 cup bottled lite balsamic vinaigrette dressing (i use kroger brand that i got for $1)
juice of 1 small lime, or 1/2 of one large lime
1 large clove or 2 small cloves garlic
1/2 a bunch of cilantro

combine all ingredients in a small food processor/chopper and mix until all ingredients finely chopped and combined. serve over your favorite mexi-salad.

Friday, April 23, 2010

five ingredient fridays: sweet and spicy slow cooker chicken

welcome to the 1st edition of five ingredient fridays! thanks again for the suggestion, katja. it will be a good challenge for me!

this is so yummy and so easy it's almost ridiculous. i make it to put in all kinds of things now - burritos, tacos, enchiladas, salads - the sky is the limit. the 2 year old loves it too!

sweet and spicy slow cooker chicken
from mel's kitchen cafe (here)

1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 (14 ounce) can petite diced tomatoes, undrained
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (i use 1/4 teaspoon)

coat the inside of your crockpot with non-stick cooking spray. place all ingredients in the crockpot. cook on high for 4-6 hours or on low for 8-10 hours, or until chicken shreds very easily with a fork. season to taste with salt and pepper. (chicken will absorb liquid after it is shredded.) serve in tacos or however your little heart desires.

another note from mel:

*freezable meal: i freeze the leftovers in a freezer-safe container and let thaw in the refrigerator overnight before serving the next day. i reheat over medium-low heat in a saucepan on the stove.

healthy cooking on a budget

disclaimer: i don't claim to be an expert on cooking, weight loss or even healthy eating, but i do love to cook, find healthy, taste bud-friendly tricks and most of all, i love to eat!

qualifications: what qualifies me to blog on cooking healthy on a small budget? well, as my husband is still a student, my budget is not what you'd call large. and as for the healthy part, when i was 10 i was diagnosed with pancreatitus - a disease that doesn't effect me much anymore unless i eat food that is too greasy or has too much fat (in which case, well, let's just say i get really sick). this had steered my experience and limited cooking expertise in a health-conscious direction.

please feel free to comment, criticise, rate recipes, try ideas and make requests for future posts!