Friday, December 14, 2012

Taco Party Menu

Recent taco party for our friend Cheryl (she's a Sea Hawk fan)
Tacos are an easy crowd pleaser and you can pretty much do everything the day before and enjoy the party. The only cooking to do is heating up the tortillas.

Here's what I had to make my party a big hit.

Hamburger (browned and seasoned the night before)
Taco Seasoning
Refried beans (Taco Bell fat-free)
Spanish Rice (will post recipe later)
Salsa (green, red and homemade cabbage salsa)
Shredded cheddar cheese
Sour cream
Tortilla chips to dip in cabbage salsa
Tortilla shells (corn and flour)
Parmesan cheese (to sprinkle on fried flour tortillas)

Ice cream or sherbet

Root beer, Sprite and Cola (remember to pick up ice)
Always have a fresh pot of coffee on

When I'm having friends over for a party, I do ask each to bring something to contribute. My friends brought the tomatoes, homemade cabbage salsa, cheese, chips, ice cream and soda. I placed the meat, beans, and Spanish rice in my 3-pot crock pot to serve buffet style. I will definitely do this theme party again. It was easy and everybody loved it. I always keep all the ingredients on hand just in case a guest can't make it to the party unexpectedly or arrives late. I've learned from experience that missing an important element of the meal can really make for an anxious cook. 
Notes: I prepared the meat the night before, adding the seasoning and placing it in the crock pot in the fridge overnight. I also made the Spanish rice and it went into the crock pot. The night of the party, I opened up 4 cans of refried beans into the third crock pot. I got home from work and heated each crock pot in the microwave for about 10 minutes and placed them on the warmers. Everything was piping hot when my guests arrived. A friend helped me fry up the corn tortillas and we warmed the flour shells in the microwave for a minute. Instant party!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Party on a Plate Cream Cheese & Crackers

1 tub of fat-free cream cheese
1 tsp. dry Italian Seasons salad dressing
1/4 c finely chopped walnuts or pecans
Mix the cream cheese and seasoning together and refrigerate for at least an hour if you can. Fat free cream cheese is much softer than regular and harder to form into a ball but it can be done! You can even place it in the freezer for 30 to 45 minutes to get it good and cold.
Form mixture into a ball and roll in the chopped nuts. Place on a plate and serve with your favorite crackers.
This is a great potluck item that you can throw together quickly. I like to keep a good supply of the above ingredients on-hand during the holidays so I have nice, quick dish to take along. You can place the cream cheese mixture in a bowl if you are in a hurry and don't have time to cool it down enough to form a ball.
You can add finely chopped baby shrimp to this. 
Get creative. Don't have nuts on-hand? Try rolling your cheese ball in some dried parsley.  Or serve it without the nuts. 
This is a party favorite!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Easy Peazy Hawaiian Chicken

You'll need:
Chicken pieces
Flour for dredging chicken
Butter or oil for frying
Garlic (a clove or two, minced)
Bottle of your favorite BBQ sauce
Can of pineapple (crushed or pieces)

This recipe is so easy.

First, rinse your chicken pieces (I like boneless breasts or thighs). Dredge them in flour and brown in a large, oven-safe pan in either butter or oil or a mixture of both. I add the minced garlic before I turn the chicken over. You may have to add butter or oil as the chicken browns. No worries.
Once you're satisfied with the degree of browning, simply pour the entire bottle of BBQ sauce and entire can of pineapple, including the juice, into the pan and gently stir the two together. You can mix the bbq sauce and pineapple in a separate pan and heat it before adding but I skip that step in an effort to make this much easier.  
Place the pan in the oven at 350 for approximately one hour. I don't cover it because I like some of the liquid to evaporate. You'll want to watch this dish as it can easily burn if your oven cooks a little hot. Since the chicken is mostly cooked when you place it in the oven, you can get away with 45 minutes. 
If you don't have an oven-safe pan, simply place your browned chicken in a large baking pan and pour the bbq sauce/pineapple over the top.
Serve with rice. There will be plenty of yummy sauce to pour over the rice.  Enjoy!

Notes: I wish I could remember who gave this recipe to me some 20+ years ago. I suspect it was my wonderful mother-in-law but I wouldn't make a bet on it.  Regardless, it is a winner!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Susan's Special Spaghetti Feed Menu

We had 12 good friends over for a spaghetti feed on Friday night so I thought I should write down my menu for next time. Everything went perfect and our guests loved it. I don't think it's necessary to re-create the wheel so I will defnitely use this menu again!
Spaghetti Sauce:  I served two kinds of sauce. One was an Italian spicy sausage/hamburger sauce and the other was a plain-Jane sauce with meatballs. See my sweet spaghetti sauce recipe. (Note: make a lot, you can always freeze any extra sauce for later.)
Noodles: I always cook too many noodles but that's okay. I have a 3-pot slow cooker so I am able to put the noodles in one pot along with the two different red sauces. Perfect. I store the extra noodles in a big ziploc bag and we eat spaghetti for as many meals as we can stand. After that, if I still have noodles, I will eat them cold with a lite basalmic vinegar dressing tossed with cherry tomatoes, a little green onion and anything else I have sitting in the crisper, sprinkled with a little grated Parmesan cheese.
Garlic Bread:  Depending on how much time I have, I will make my own garlic bread but I'm not above buying the pre-buttered, seasoned kind.
Tossed Green Salad: I have a big beautiful glass bowl that I love to fill with a salad that has everything I can think of in it. Leaf lettuce, mushrooms, carrots, green onions, cherry tomatoes, sugar snap peas (chopped), and broccoli slaw (if I need to stretch it). The leftovers get placed into serving size bowls and I have salad for my work lunches.
Salad Dressings: We eat lite dressings but most of our friends don't. I try to buy a regular Italian dressing and a good bleu cheese dressing to serve.
Dessert: Dreyer's makes a fabulous Spimone flavored ice cream and it is a big hit with folks who have never had it before. My 2nd choice for dessert would be Rainbow Sherbet. You wanna keep it light after such a heavy dinner.
Drinks:  Remember to have ice on-hand. If a guest asks what they can bring, I let them bring liters of soda. Rootbeer was a huge hit at my last spaghetti feed and the runner up is 7-up. Water, orange juice and coffee are always available at my house.
Notes: 10/26/12 Had a party for our friend, Marty. It was awesome. We had 12 people and really could not put more than that comfortably in our house. It's hard sometimes to limit the guest list so I guess we just need to have more parties and mix it up.

Susan's Sweet Spaghetti Sauce

While I love the idea of cooking from scratch, sometimes it's just not practical and it's really more about having friends over and enjoying their company than trying to impress them with something that I really think can be just as good from a jar. 


1 lb. Italian sausage (mild or hot, depending on your taste)
1/2 lb. ground beef
2 cloves minced garlic.
Drain off any grease.

Pour in:
Prego (or whatever kind you like) spaghetti sauce
1 tsp. basil (adjust to your liking)
1 tsp. Rosemary (adjust to your liking)
1 tsp. oregano (adjust to your liking)
2 Tbsp. sugar (try just 1 T and see if it needs more. Trust me, it needs it)

Place the sauce in a crock pot and leave it on high until it almost simmers and then turn it down and let it cook for a couple of hours.


Prego spaghetti sauce
basil (adjust to your liking)
rosemary (adjust to your liking)
oregano (adjust to your liking)
sugar (adjust to your liking)

Place your sauce in the crock pot, add the spices and then add your meatballs. I buy the frozen meatballs for convenience.

Bring to almost a simmer and then turn down and let it cook for a couple of hours until your guests arrive.

Serve with grated Parmesan & Romano cheese and garlic bread.


Saturday, October 27, 2012

Susan's Freaky Friday Frittata

I adapted this recipe from a couple of recipes I read online and took my inspiration for getting creative with what I have on-hand from  CSA Mom.  The base of this is leftover mashed potatoes and eggs. What you add to it puts the "freaky" in it!
Here's what I did:
Mix together:
2 cups of leftover mashed potatoes
2 eggs
In a small 6 inch cast iron skillet:
Saute 1 green onion, 1/2 jalapeno, 1/2 red pepper for just a minute or two in a pat of butter.  Add that to the potato/egg mixture.
Stir in:
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese.
Wipe out the cast iron skillet and add the entire mixture back into the skillet.
Bake in 350 degree oven for about 25 to 30 minutes.
Notes: This turned out so yummy and I would make this for a brunch. I served with chopped up green onions and I had some black olives in the fridge that I put on the table with it along with some grapes on the side. Nice combo of sweet, salty & a little spicy with the jalapenos. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Susan's Simple Turkey Dinner Menu

The older I get, the more I rely on lists and the written word. While I was preparing dinner for friends on Saturday, I got the idea that I should start a section on this blog dedicated just for menus. As I put together dinner parties, I can record what worked well and then rely on this blog to jog my memory the next time I have a party. So here is my first installment.
Turkey, fruit salad, pies, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, corn, whole wheat rolls, cranberry sauce, green olives, cheese & crackers. 
Turkey:   Putting together a turkey dinner isn't hard but it is time consuming. And so worth it.
First, find the turkey you want. I like to thaw mine in a sink full of water. You can thaw a turkey in the fridge but it takes about 3 days.  I go in for the cheap birds. Turkey is turkey, to me. What I do with it after the party is make it into different dishes and believe me, nobody knows it's not a Butterball when I get done with it.
Next, think about what time you are going to serve dinner and count backwards to figure out what time you gotta stick that bird in the oven. I add an extra 30 minutes to that because sometimes the bird doesn't cook as fast as I think it should plus you gotta let it "rest" when it comes out of the oven before you can carve it. I really like to serve meals when I say I'm gonna serve them. 
Pies:  Pecan pie and a berry pie. Pumpkin, if you must.
Fruit Salad: Pineapple, grapes (red & green), kiwi fruit, oranges, and one lime just for fun.  No whip cream. Just fruit. It's refreshing!
Deviled Eggs:  They are so easy to make that it would be a crying shame to leave them out.
Mashed Potatoes:  Make the real ones. They are so easy to make.  And be sure to make extra so you have enough leftovers for a day or two.
Stuffing: I'm terrible at making stuffing so I use Stove Top right out of the box. Perhaps this is something I'll work on this year.
Other Stuff:  Green olives, cute little cut-up pieces of cheddar cheese and Triscuits. Whole wheat rolls. Real butter.
Optional:  If I have time, I like to make ham roll-ups for an appetizer.
Drinks:  I try to find out what kind of beverages my guests like and have that on-hand. If nothing else, Cranberry Cocktail Juice is nice. Don't forget to buy ice if you don't have an ice-maker.
Coffee:  It's nice to have a pot coffee ready to brew to go with the pie.
Notes: 10/20/12 Dinner went well. I used my big 3-pot crock pot to keep the potatoes, stuffing and gravy hot and a small crock for the corn. Worked very well.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Speedy Oatmeal Cookies

Speedy Oatmeal Cookies

1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup oil
1 egg
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 t vanilla
1 cup flour
1 cup oatmeal
Optional: raisins, chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, craisins, nuts.

Mix together in order and bake on an ungreased cookie sheet at 350 degrees for approximately 10 or 11 minutes, depending on how done you like them.

Note: I usually double this recipe. This the BEST oatmeal cookie recipe of all time. I have never ever had a batch fail. It's quick and easy and my hubby loves these cookies. (will add photos next time I make them.)  Also, you can make this up, form the dough into ready-to-bake balls and freeze. It makes it easy to pull them out of the freezer and place right onto a cookie sheet to make cookies when surprise guests show up.

Hope you'll try it!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Hopped Up Hashbrowns

I am inspired by a cook we met when we lived in Yuma, Arizona who slung hash at Penny's Diner. It was our favorite place to go for a cheap meal. Gene always ordered .99 cent hotcake that would cover the entire plate and I loved the "hopped up hashbrowns".
So, here's what you need:
Make your hashbrowns however you like. We buy the frozen shredded ones for ease but in the wintertime I've been known to bake a whole 5 lb. bag of taters, put them in the fridge and shred them up for hashbrowns on the weekend.  Anyway ... fry up your taters and set them aside for a minute so you can do the "hopped up" part.
I use whatever I have in the kitchen. You can add or delete anything from this list and it will still work:
Tomatoes (chopped)
Jalapeno peppers (chopped)
Red and/or green and/or yellow peppers (chopped)
Onion (chopped)
Mushrooms (chopped)
Butter (a couple of pats) (you could use olive oil but I prefer butter)
Get your skillet good and hot. Put a couple of pats of butter in and before it all melts and burns, slide in your chopped up veggies.  Saute them to your liking. I like mine done on the less cooked side.
Warning: if your jalapeno is a hot one, you're eyes are gonna burn. Remember to turn the fan on.
Slide this mixture over the top of your hashbrowns and you've got a steaming hot plate of yumminess. You can add a little shredded cheddar cheese on top if you can afford the fat. I like to serve with a side of scrambled eggs. There is so much color to this that you'll want to go into the breakfast business!
- Oct. 6, 2012, I made this today because I had a lot of red and yellow cherry tomatoes given to me along with a variety of hot peppers I picked up from a co-worker. I didn't add any red or green peppers and it was just fine. We hadn't had this in a long time and we enjoyed remembering our days in Yuma, Arizona over breakfast this morn. Oh my, the flavors were fresh! Thank goodness for good friends who keep me in tomatoes this time of year.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Raspberry Freezer Jam


I'm not going to post the recipe for this online but I wanted to post this here so if anybody reads it they can take it from me that freezer jam is so easy that a 1st grader could make it!

Go to the store and buy pectin (check the box to make sure it is for freezer jam) found in the food canning section. Open the box and read the directions.  I can tell you what you'll need to have on hand, if you're not brave enough to open the box right there in the store:

Crushed berries (you can use other types of berries, check the box)
Karo light syrup
Lemon juice (either fresh or concentrate)
Plastic containers to freeze the jam in!

Easy peazy!

On this particular day, we (Nancy and me) decided to make 4 batches at one time. We simply placed 4 bowls on the counter and went to town.  It took us about an hour to complete the mashing and stirring and waiting. The jam has to sit on the counter for 24 hours before it goes in the freezer. This is to make certain the sugar is not crystalized.

Make sure to make some little containers that you can give away to your favorite neighbor, friend, and relatives.

You'll be so happy you made this when winter rolls around.


Monday, May 28, 2012

Fruit Pizza


1 tube of Pillsbury Sugar Cookie dough
Spread cookie onto a pizza pan or you can use a regular cake pan
Bake a 350 until cookie is nice and brown. It takes longer than you think it will. Let cookie cool in the pan. Use a spatula to lift cookie from the pan as it is cooling to make sure it doesn't stick. 

1 cube cream cream cheese at room temp. (you can use reduced fat if you want)
1 tsp vanilla
Powdered sugar.  I don't measure my powdered sugar but start with one cup and keep adding until it is as sweet as I want.
I sometimes add a scant amount of milk or orange juice if I get too much powdered sugar mixed in.

Spread the frosting on the cookie. 

Add your favorite fresh fruit. Go crazy with the design!  This pizza is better when it has been sitting in the fridge for a couple of hours and it is over-the-top good the next day!


July 2012 update:  Nancy and I made some "mini" fruit pizzas to take to a bbq.  They turned out very nicely but they get soggy fairly quickly so I think I'd make the cookies a bit thicker next time and make them up just before I'm heading out the door to any event with them or before serving to company.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Simple Salads

Salad for Lunch

Obviously there's no recipe to throw together a salad but I wanted to post up this photo to remind myself how easy it is to package a week's worth of lunch salads and snacks to throw in the fridge. In the morning, I just pick what I want to throw in my bag and go. I have saved so much time doing this, I hope someone else can benefit from this tip. I've found my salads stay fresh even at 5 days. There's no excuse for me to eat bad lunches.

I use a mixed green lettuce that comes in a plastic box. It's very dry so it stays well when packed up with other veggies. Here is a list of some of the things I throw on my salads, or whatever happens to be in the fridge:

Carrots, red & yellow pepper, cucumber, zucchini, celery, garbanzo beans, black beans, gargonzola or feta cheese.

I keep a couple of different salad dressings in the fridge at work along with some crunchy stuff to add to my plate in case of sheer boredom. Crunchy stuff: chinese noodles, almonds, Fiber One cereal (try it! you'll be surprised), sunflower seeds, home-made croutons, etc.

I've found that cutting up oranges and strawberries and adding them to my grapes kicks it up a notch. I am a grape lover and eat them every day of the week. 

What do you eat for lunch?  I love new ideas so please leave a comment!

love, susan  

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Firecracker Shrimp

Firecracker Shrimp
(adapted from The Pioneer Woman's recipe)

2 tablespoons hot chili sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 minced garlic cloves
pinch of salt
fresh ground pepper
2 teaspoons sugar (optional)

Mix marinade and pour over shrimp in a ziplock bag and place in the fridge at least 30 minutes.

Place shrimp on skewers and grill on bbq or any hot surface about 2 1/2 minutes on each side. Make sure to turn your overhead fan on ~ this is a very hot, spicy aroma! It'll set off your firm alarm.  Serve with rice and fresh grilled veggies.

I am including the link to The Pioneer Woman's recipe here:

NOTES:  I liked this so much I tried it with the chicken the next night. Yummy!!!  I will definitely be making this again in 2012.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Home-Made Croutons

Homemade Croutons

You take stale bread and the heels and cut them up into cube size pieces. I like mine a little larger but cut them however you like. Place cubes in a big bowl.

Melt 1/4 cup of butter in the microwave and drizzle over the bread cubes.  Toss to distribute butter.

Sprinkle 1 teaspoon dry Italian Seasoning Salad dressing over bread cubes and toss.

Spread bread cubes on a cookie sheet and bake in pre-heated 350 oven for 15 to 18 minutes.  Let cool and store in container.

YOU'RE GONNA LOVE THESE!  A great use for old bread and heels. With the cost of bread rising, I can't stand to throw it out. Plus, you get to control the amount of butter & salt on your croutons.  Enjoy!

If you have something you add to yours, please leave a comment. I'm up for new ideas!