May 28, 2011

Easy Lasagna Casserole

Don't let list of ingredients fool you--it really is easy, even if it does have a huge list of ingredients.  If you're looking for something that tastes like lasagna, this isn't really it.  But it does taste great!  Don't believe me?  Just wait one more day and the flavor gets even better.

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Easy Lasagna Casserole
(adapted from the Lion House Cookbook)

1/2 lb egg noodles
1/2 lb ground beef (or more, depending on how meaty you like your meals)
1/4 large onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp oil
8 oz. tomato sauce
3 cups tomato juice (I personally think pure tomato juice tastes better, but you can use V8 if that's all you've got)
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp basil
2 tsps oregano
1 tsp chili powder
1 Tbsp Parmesan cheese
2 cups cheddar cheese

1. Cook noodles according to package directions until just tender.  Meanwhile, preheat oven to 325 degrees.
2. Heat oil over medium heat in a skillet and saute meat, onion, and garlic until ground beef is browned and onions are tender.
3. Add noodles and all other ingredients but the cheddar cheese.  Pour into an ungreased 9x13 pan.  Cover with foil and bake at 325 for 45 minutes.
4. Uncover, sprinkle with cheddar cheese, and bake for 30 minutes more.
5. Eat it now or wait until tomorrow when all the flavors blend deliciously.

May 27, 2011

Better Than Sex Cake

In my opinion, nothing beats this cake.  It's rich and delicious--the perfect mix of chocolate flavors.  Served with whipped cream, it's to die for!  If you're feeling creative, try switching up the ingredients.  Try a German chocolate cake mix with vanilla pudding.  Try white chocolate chips instead.  As long as you keep the main ingredients the same, playing with the flavors can result in amazing combinations.  And the best part is, it gets better every day.  My only word of caution is that sometimes this cake falls in the oven if you're not careful.  Take a little extra care with this cake and it will be totally, completely worth the effort once you take the first bite. 

Better Than Sex Cake
(an old family favorite)

1 package yellow cake mix, unprepared
1 large (5 oz.) package instant chocolate pudding mix, unprepared
2/3 cup oil
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
4 eggs

1 cup sour cream
3/4 cup chocolate chips
Whipped Cream

1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Combine cake mix, pudding mix, oil, sugar, and water. 
2. Add eggs, one at a time, using electric mixer. Stir in by hand the sour cream and chocolate morsels. 
3. Pour into well greased Bundt or tube pan. Bake 350° for 50-60 minutes. Let cool before removing from pan.
4. Cut yourself a big slice, top with copious amounts of whipped cream, and revel in the deliciousness.

Chicken Broccoli Stuffing Casserole

I used to make this casserole a lot when I first moved away to college.  It's easy to throw together and makes a tasty, balanced meal.  It's become one of my comfort foods, and I've recently discovered that it also freezes well (as long as you cook the chicken before freezing it).  I hope you like it as much as I do.

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Chicken Broccoli Stuffing Casserole

1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, cubed
1 box stuffing, prepared
1 1/2 cups broccoli, cut into bite-sized pieces (or a 14 oz package of frozen broccoli works just as well)
1 can cream of chicken soup
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Cook broccoli, covered, in a pot with a few inches of water until broccoli is tender.  Meanwhile, prepare stuffing according to package directions.
2. In a separate bowl, combine cream of chicken soup, milk, and cheese.  Pour into a 9x13 casserole dish and add cubed chicken and broccoli.  Mix well.
3. Top with prepared stuffing.  Make sure the stuffing covers the casserole as evenly as possible.  Cover and bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.  If you'd like, you can uncover the casserole for the second half of the baking time for a crispy topping.
4. Bon appetit!

May 25, 2011

Tomato Chicken (Italian & Mexican Styles)

This is a recipe that I got from my in-laws and their family that is healthy, delicious, and inexpensive, since it only has two main ingredients.  Depending on how you spice it, it could be adapted to all kinds of tastes.  Here are two varieties.  Enjoy!

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Italian Tomato Chicken

3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 tsp lemon pepper OR 1 tsp lemon juice and pepper to taste
1 can Italian diced tomatoes
1/2 Tbsp Italian seasoning

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place chicken breasts in an 8x8 square baking dish.
2. Sprinkle lemon pepper seasoning on top of chicken OR brush chicken breasts with lemon juice and sprinkle with pepper to taste.
3. Spread diced tomatoes and evenly on top of chicken and top with Italian Seasoning.  Bake uncovered for 45 minutes to one hour or until juices run clear.
4. Be proud of yourself for making a healthy and inexpensive meal.

Mexican Tomato Chicken

3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 tsp lemon pepper OR 1 tsp lime juice and pepper to taste
1 can Mexican-style diced tomatoes
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place chicken breasts in an 8x8 square baking dish.
2. Sprinkle lemon pepper seasoning on top of chicken OR brush chicken breasts with lime juice and sprinkle with pepper to taste.
3. Spread diced tomatoes and evenly on top of chicken and top with cumin and cayenne pepper.  Bake uncovered for 45 minutes to one hour or until juices run clear.
4. Be proud of yourself for making a healthy and inexpensive meal.

Finnish Pancakes

Once upon a time I was sitting in Teaching Language Arts class in my elementary ed program.  Our professor handed out some writing done by 4th graders and asked us to read through it and make comments and suggestions for them.  He handed out the papers at random.  Lo and behold, the paper that I got was an instructional essay teaching how to make Finnish pancakes.  I was intrigued!  I wrote down the recipe in my planner, took it home, and made it a few days later.  I thought it was surprisingly filling and a fun break from the traditional breakfast.  And so, dear readers, this delicious breakfast recipe is brought to you by some 4th grader who knows how to cook.  Enjoy!

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Finnish Pancakes

1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
4 eggs
2 cups milk
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Place butter in a 9x13 baking dish and put in warm oven just long enough to melt the butter.  Remove the baking dish from the oven and set aside.  
2. In a separate bowl, whisk together sugar, flour, baking powder, salt, and eggs.  Add milk.  Pour mixture over melted butter.  Bake for 18-20 minutes.  Let cool for 2-3 minutes.  
3. Top with cinnamon sugar, powdered sugar, or syrup.
4. Enjoy your surprisingly filling breakfast.

May 24, 2011

Creamy Chicken Florentine

I found this recipe on a package of chicken and didn't have all of the ingredients it called for, so I improvised a bit.  The result was, in my opinion, absolutely delicious.  This is one of the most flavorful chicken dishes I've ever made, and I love it.  I will definitely be making this one again!

Creamy Chicken Florentine

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 Tbsp olive oil (or any other kind of cooking oil you have on hand)
Salt and Pepper to taste
1/2 tsp lemon pepper (optional)
1/2 cup chicken broth (I substituted broth for white wine here)
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 cup half and half (or heavy cream, but half-and-half is cheaper and healthier)
4 cloves garlic, minced (or 1 tsp garlic salt)
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1 1/2 cups packed, fresh spinach
1 tsp basil

1. Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat.  Season chicken with salt, pepper, and lemon pepper (optional) and cook for 8 minutes per side or until juices run clear.  Set aside.
2. Add chicken broth to hot pan and let reduce by half.  I know this sounds like it will take forever and be pointless, but it really only takes about 2-3 minutes because the pan is so hot, and it makes the flavor amazing!
3. Add mushrooms and saute 4-5 minutes.  Add half-and-half (or cream), garlic, and parmesan cheese.  Mix well and bring to simmer.  Add spinach and basil and cook until spinach is tender.
4. Put chicken back in the pan with the sauce and simmer for another 5 minutes.
5. Prepare yourself for the flavor explosion.

May 13, 2011

Melt-in-your-mouth Pot Roast

I love pot roast.  Growing up, my family had pot roast for dinner every Sunday night.  If I were rich, I would do the same thing now.  Roasts aren't cheap, I know, so why am I including this recipe on a blog about inexpensive recipes?  Well, every now and then, a pot roast might end up in your life.  The Easter Bunny brought me one last year--no joke.  And when you've got that rare occasion to eat a pot roast, you don't want to waste it.  You want it to be GOOD.  That is why I've included this recipe.

Melt-in-your-mouth Pot Roast
(a recipe from my fabulous mom)

1 beef roast (Chuck is a good pick if you can get it.  Just make sure it can fit in your slow cooker.)
1 Tbsp cooking oil
2 cups hot water
1 pkg onion soup mix (I find that the generic brand works just as well here)
2-3 potatoes, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Montreal Steak seasoning (if you're feeling bold)

1. Heat oil in a frying pan over medium heat.  Brown roast on all sides in hot oil. Place in slow cooker.
2. Add hot water and onion soup mix, and mix thoroughly.  Cover and cook on low for 7-8 hours. (Yes, you can half the cooking time and cook it on high, but your roast will only be half as tender, so cooking it on low is best if you can find the time).
3. Add chopped potatoes and carrots.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Cook on low for another 1-2 hours or until the roast is so tender it starts falling apart in the slow cooker.  If you're feeling bold, try adding Montreal Steak seasoning instead of the salt and pepper.  Just be careful not to overpower the taste of the roast with the seasonings.  Remember, the onion soup mix has a lot of flavor to begin with.
4. Attempt to remove the pot roast from the slow cooker in one piece.  If you've done it right, this will be nearly impossible because the roast will be so tender.  Save the broth for gravy or soup.
5. Eat!

Poppy Seed Challah

I have always had a fear of yeast.  What if I kill it?  What if it doesn't get warm enough and nothing happens?  Ridiculous?  Most certainly.  So last year I decided to conquer my fear of yeast by making bread that did not have to come out looking like a perfectly risen loaf of bread.  I decided to ease into the world of yeast by making a braided bread.  I searched online for recipes, and here is the one I picked.  It turned out to be a great find because every time I've made it, it has tasted (and looked) incredible.  I love to make this bread for company because they are always impressed, even though it is very easy to make.

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Poppy Seed Challah
(adapted from but basically the same as Miriam's Not-So-Secret Challah on

1 cup water
1/4 cup margarine or butter
3 1/2 cups flour
2 Tbsp white sugar
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp + 1/2 tsp yeast
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs

1/2 egg, beaten
1 1/2 tsp poppy seeds

1. Combine water and margarine (or butter) in a small saucepan and heat until margarine is just melted and water is warm but not boiling.  If it starts to boil, just let it cool off a bit.  This is the trickiest stage for me because it's hard to get it just the right temperature that yeast is supposed to be.  It should feel slightly warm but not hot to your wrist.  I tend to err on the side of it being too warm, since nothing will happen if it's too cold.  If you need help, ask someone or google it, but really, this is something I think you have to get in there and do yourself or you'll always fear this stage...if you're anything like me.
2. In a large mixing bowl, combine 1 cup of the flour, white sugar, brown sugar, yeast, and salt.  I use SAF Instant yeast, so you don't have to proof it first.
3. Add warm water and margarine mixture to flour mixture.  Beat well.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Slowly beat in the remaining 2 1/2 cups flour until well mixed.  When dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 8 minutes.
4. Form into a bowl and toss in a lightly oiled bowl.  Cover and let it rise until doubled in size (about an hour).
5. Punch the dough down and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface.  Follow the directions in this video for how to braid it into a loaf.  Cover and let rise until doubled in volume.  Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees.
6. Brush the loaf with beaten egg and sprinkle with poppy seeds.  Bake for approximately 45 minutes until loaf is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped.
7. Enjoy your delicious and fabulous-looking loaf of bread.

May 11, 2011

Ultimate French Toast

Let's get one thing straight before we even begin.  This is NOT a recipe for people who want healthy French toast.  This is a recipe for people who want ever-so-delectable and absolutely amazing French toast who are going to forget about calorie counting while they eat it.  And they're going to love it while they do!  My family used to make French toast every Sunday morning for breakfast, and after trying multiple combinations of toppings, this is my ultimate favorite.

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Ultimate French Toast
(Note: this recipe includes ingredients amounts per person, not what you'll need for everyone you might serve, so you may have to double, triple, etc. the recipe)

4 slices French bread, sliced into thick slices (In my opinion, the bread makes all the difference.  You can make this with regular old sandwich bread, but it's not going to be as good.)
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup milk
butter, oil, or bacon grease
1/2 banana, sliced
cinnamon sugar

1. Melt butter (or bacon grease) in a frying pan over medium heat.  Meanwhile, combine eggs and milk in a shallow container, such as a square tupperware.  Do NOT add vanilla to the egg mixture, even if you're tempted.  Just trust me.
2. Dip slices of french bread into egg mixture and cook in frying pan over medium heat until browned, turning once.
3. Top french toast with butter, syrup, cinnamon sugar, and sliced bananas.
4. Forget all about calorie counting.  If you're still concerned, just decide to go exercise later and clear your mind of healthy thoughts.
5. Revel in the deliciousness.
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