Halloween Treats

This year for Halloween we're doing a block party with chili & cornbread. Then we're passing out adult "treats" too--homemade hot Apple Cider OR Pumpkin Spice Lattes. The adult treats were Rob's idea, which I think is just an awesome idea!

Of course I needed to test out the pumpkin spice lattes just to make sure they weren't poison so I made a batch the other day and drank them in the morning for two days. SO yummy. Almost as good as Starbucks, pretty darn close actually and definitely much more thrifty and healthful. The recipe is found on the crockpot blog.

The only changes I made to the original recipe was to up the coffe to a little over 1 cup (I'm one of those crazy people that actually likes the taste of coffee.) And I also used half splenda, half sugar. If you do 4 1/2 recipes of the lattes it makes about a gallon.

I already know the apple cider is completely delish so I decided not to try those out since one batch makes close to two gallons and it's a little sugary for my typical 2-cups a day habit. Although tomorrow I definitely plan on having a couple of cups of the hot cider drizzled with caramel and a shot of whipped cream. I better hit the gym during the kids' naps tomorrow!

Hot Apple Cider

1 gallon apple juice or apple cider

2 qts. cranberry juice

1 qt. orange juice

3/4 cup sugar

4 whole cinnamon sticks

Pour all juices into a big stockpot or a large crockpot. Stir in sugar and break the cinnamon sticks in half and add those. To make the cider on the stove: bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce heat and let the cider simmer for an hour. Keep on low heat as long as you need. To cook cider in the crockpot: Turn the crockpot on high 1-2 hours and turn heat down to "Keep Warm" as long as you need.


Beef Provencal

I'm not even really sure how to pronounce the name of this recipe...and, I know I say this about almost every recipe...but this is SOO good!! Seriously. You must make this during the fall season or else. It SO beats hamburger helper and it is pretty easy and quick to put together. I ripped this recipe out of a Cooking Light issue at least two years ago and never made it. Then the other day when I was rifling through old recipes looking for the baked potato soup recipe, I found this one. AND I had just bought a roast at Fry's on sale for $1.97/lb and needed to use it up. I altered the recipe a bit. So good. Make this.

As a note, this recipe calls for red wine. If you aren't a wine drinker you can buy a 4-pack of little mini bottles for less than $5 and keep it in your pantry for future wine-recipes. I used Cabernet but Merlot or really any red wine that isn't a sparkling wine would work fine. Coming soon is a chili recipe using red wine--so right there you have another red wine recipe! I guess you could make this without the wine....but don't. It adds such great depth of flavor.

Another great part about this recipe is that it's made in the crockpot. I love the crockpot.
Beef Provencal
2 tsp. olive oil
one head garlic, cloves peeled
1 boneless beef roast trimmed and cut into 1'' cubes. (1 1/2-2 lbs)
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1 c. red wine
1 lb. diced carrots (about 2 cups)
1 large chopped onion
1/2 c. water
2 heaping Tbs tomato paste
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes w/juice
2 dried bay leaves
egg noodles (I used wheat)

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over low-medium heat. Toss in whole garlic cloves and cook until they start to brown. Keep an eye on them that they don't burn. Remove garlic and set aside. Increase heat and brown beef on all sides, sprinkling with salt & pepper. Add red wine and bring it to a boil, scraping bottom of pan. Pour the wine/beef mixture into the crockpot. Add garlic, and all other ingredients. Cook on high for 4-5 hours. Boil egg noodles directly before serving and serve stew over the noodles.


Pinto Beans & Refried Beans

Beans, Beans the musical fruit, the more you eat....ahem.

Beans are very inexpensive to make. VERY. I used to think it was difficult and time-consuming to make dried beans. And then I did it once....and it is really not difficult. At all. BUT making your own beans does save a ton of money. Really truly.

For example, I bought a 10 lb. bag of pintos at Costco for $5.97 which would be the cost of 6 cans of pintos. I cooked 6 lbs of the beans the other day in about 10 minutes of hands-on time and it equalled at least 14 cans. CRAZY savings! Beans are also super healthy and high in protein, but fat-free so--if you're not sold on the idea yet just try a batch of your own refried beans they're so good!

I bought all of these beans because we're inviting our entire neighborhood over for chili and apple cider before trick-or-treating Saturday and of course I'm trying to make chili for 40 people on a budget. But it has to be good chili. So we went to Costco after the Fair and I bought 2 enormous food-service sized cans of tomatoes for $2.27 each and 2 cans of tomato sauce for $3.19 each and a huge bag of pintos for $6....which makes much less expensive chili for 40!

I cooked the pinto beans and put a huge tupperware container int he freezer for the mass quantities of chili this weekend. Then I put 6 "1-can" bags in the freezer for future use in chili, taco soup, taco salad, ... Then I cooked the snot out of a crock-pot full of the already cooked pintos and made refried beans---lots of refried beans. AAANNNDD I have 4 lbs of pinto beans left in the pantry. So, just try to make your own beans. This recipe to cook pinto beans will work to cook any kind of dried beans except lentils and split peas which are much smaller and cook faster and differently.

*Note: I cooked 6 lbs of beans in a huge roaster but for the recipe I'll put a 2 lb recipe on because that's obviously a more practical amount that will fit in a regular crockpot.
Now, finally for the recipes:

Pinto Beans

2 lb bag of dried pinto beans
1 onion
2 tsp. Salt

Dump the bag of pintos into your crockpot and cover with water. Let stand over night soaking up the water. In the morning rinse the beans in a collander and filter out any funky looking beans. Put the beans back into the crock and cover with fresh water. Peel the onion and slice in half and drop in the crockpot, sprinkle in 2 tsp. salt. Cover with the lid and cook on low 5-6 hours or high 2-4 hours. You don't need to stir them at all, but you will want to check them because every crockpot cooks differently. Just taste one, you'll know they're done because there will be no more brown spots left and it doesn't have a crunch.
Let cool. To freeze, separate into 1 2/3 cup increments and put in ziplocs or freezer containers.

Refried Beans

2 lbs pinto beans
1 onion
4 whole cloves garlic
2 tsp. chili powder or taco seasoning (check for allergens)
1/2 tsp. cumin

Soak the beans overnight, rinse them and drain them. Put them into the crockpot and cover with water. Slice the onion in half and add that to the pot. Add garlic, salt, and other seasonings. (A couple strips of bacon never hurt either!) Cook on Low 6-7 hours or High 3-5 hours. Just cook and cook and cook the beans. I guess you could overcook them, but it would take a loooonnng time. Then fish out the garlic and onions and discard them. Drain off most of the cooking liquid and reserve a little in case you need to thin out the beans. Mash the beans with a potato masher, adding liquid if you need it. Add extra salt or seasoning to your taste.

These beans will knock the socks off of canned beans. No offense Rosarita! You can freeze them in 2 c. increments to use as needed. They are good in burros, as a snack, add some velveeta and homeade salsa and you have a delish dip. The possibilities are endless.

Baked Potato Soup

This soup is based off of a Cooking Light recipe that I tried a couple years ago and it is sooooo gooood. The coolest part is it is really inexpensive and super low fat/low cal. I bought a 10 lb bag of potatoes for $1 and needed to use them up and my poor sister-in-law who lives around the corner had H1N1... so I made this soup. AND I had also gotten a gallon of milk on sale for $1.47 so it was extra cheap for me!
It's a really hearty soup...hearty enough to feed my husband as a meal.

You need to be careful when boiling the milk, because milk scalds easily and will make all of the soup taste burnt...which is a total bummer. Also, the original recipe called for bacon and I used turkey bacon instead which turned out really well when I chopped it up and fried it up in a hot pan with a little bit of Pam. BUT then the neighbor came to the door and I burnt the first batch of bacon...so keep an eye on the bacon too!

Baked Potato Soup adapted from Cooking Light recipe

3 lbs baking potatoes, baked & peeled (I baked mine in the microwave)

2/3 c. flour

6 c. milk (I used 1%)

1 c. Reduced-Fat sharp shredded cheese (plus extra for sprinkling on top)

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

4 cloves garlic, chopped

1 c. fat-free sour cream (Only use Name-brand fat-free sour cream. Store brand fat-free is gross)

4 green onions sliced

6 slices bacon chopped and fried crisply

Mash the potatoes in a bowl, set aside. Measure the flour into your soup pot and sloooowly whisk in the milk. Heat milk mixture over medium heat stirring frequently until thick and bubbling. Add the cheese, potatoes, salt, pepper, and garlic. Reduce heat to low and add sour cream and half of the sliced green onions, cooking just long enough to heat through. Sprinkle each individual bowl with bacon, green onions, and extra cheese.


1-2-3 Dip

I have insomnia very rarely--usually I'm hitting a REM cycle about the time my head hits the pillow. But tonight I can't go to sleep, I've tried everything so I got up to do a blog post on my regular, family blog and now I'm eating some more of this leftover dip so I just have to put up the recipe.

I recently had all of the girls from my small group over for a chance to chat without children--or men-- and my friend Jen made this dip. When she told me what it was I thought, "hmmm, that sounds...interesting." Then I tried it. That was the end of that. This dip is amazing. I think the possibilities are endless with this. You could smear this on some garlic toast and sprinkle some parmesan cheese over the top and toast it up under the broiler. You could pound out some chicken breasts and stuff the dip inside and bake to perfection, maybe drop a giant dollop on your next baked potato, use as a pasta topping, make an entire batch and sit down with a spoon and scarf it down like a ravenous wolf---endless possibilities. I pretty much can't be trusted with this dip in my house ever again so I don't know whether to thank Jen for her genious concoction or never allow her in my home again with a casserole dish. I actually just threw the last of it away so that I wouldn't be able to eat it anymore. I. Must. Stick. To my diet. From now on anyway.

There is no picture. Just trust me, it's really really really good. Perfect for a party, get-together, show, any opportunity to stuff your face and go over your daily calorie goals--whatever. Also the greatest thing about this dip is that there are only three ingredients, all of which I usually have on hand. So if you need an appetizer to bring somewhere in a snap--here you go! I almost added a few crushed garlic cloves or a drizzle of truffle oil, but I decided it was just perfect as is and needed no additions.

123 Dip

1 c. chopped onion

2 c. Mayo (Neeeever use store brand mayo. You MUST use Best Foods or Kraft mayo. Just because. But you can use the reduced-fat kind made with olive oil if you're watching your waistline.)

3 c. Shredded cheddar cheese (Don't use store-brand shredded cheese this time. Try to use Tillamook or Cracker Barrell and shred it yourself.)

Heat oven to 420. Mix all ingredients together in a pie plate or small casserole dish. Bake 25 minutes. Serve with baguette slices. Or really anything.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes

I find that roasting almost any vegetable in the oven makes it delicious. You don't even have to do much to it. But it does take time so if you can multi-task you can do this!
I used to think I didn't like sweet potatoes because I didn't care for mashed sweet potatoes with maple syrup and brown sugar covered in browned marshmallows. I know this sounds un-American, but I hate them. However, I have found there are so many other ways to prepare sweet potatoes that I do like. Roasting them is one way I do like.

Sweet potatoes were on sale for $.59/lb which is a steal and since sweet potatoes are lower in glycemic index and carbs than white potatoes I try to use them at least once a week. Especially when they are so cheap!

Roasted Sweet Potatoes
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
olive oil
cooking spray
salt & peper
granulated garlic

Preheat your oven to 425. Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray. Put the diced sweet potatoes on the cookie sheet and drizzle with olive oil, tosssing to coat. Sprinkle with kosher salt & cracked black pepper & granulated garlic. Bake for 50 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.


Fruit Dip

This stuff is so addictive. I have to seriously exercise self-control to keep from eating it with a spoon. I highly recommend making a double batch because it will go fast! I prefer to eat it with granny smith apples because they are nice and tart and the dip is so sweet it is the perfect pairing. Although grapes, strawberries, pretzels and graham crackers are delicious with this. Or even a little bit on a peanut butter sandwich. Or just a bowl full with a glass of milk. You name it, the possibilities are endless.

When I was in college one of my friends would make this any time we were having a get-together and I'm pretty sure I single handledly ate half of it every time. Hola Freshman-Fifteen!

I also love this dip because it has very few ingredients, super affordable, and most of the stuff you have on hand all the time.

Fruit Dip
1 block cream cheese, softened
3/4 c. brown sugar
1/3 c. sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
Cream all ingredients together. EEEEASY.


Parmesan Truffle Cauliflower

I bought some white truffle oil recently. It has pretty much changed my life. Almost everything tastes good with a tiny drizzle of truffle oil on it. I say almost only because I haven't tried it on everything yet, but everything that I have tried it on is totally delicious. You don't have to go to a specialty store to buy truffle oil. You can buy it at Super Target in the olive oil section. I bought a huge bottle of it at a little bistro in NYC, but you certainly don't need to get it there.

The other night I made some oven roasted cauliflower with a little bit of sea salt and cracked black pepper. Then when I took it out of the oven I drizzled just a little bit of the truffle oil on top and added some parmesan cheese and tossed it all up. It was so yummy. We ate every single piece. I highly recommend this recipe!

Parmesan Truffle Cauliflower

1 head cauliflower cut into flowerettes
2 tsp. olive oil
salt & pepper
1/2-1 tsp. truffle oil
1 heaping Tbsp. parmesan cheese

Pre-heat oven to 425. Arrange cauliflower on a cookie sheet and drizzle with olive oil and salt & pepper. Toss to coat. Bake 30 minutes, stirring with a spatula every 10 minutes. When the cauliflower is browned put into a bowl and drizzle with truffle oil and parmesan cheese.


Chocolate Chip Cookies

Have I mentioned I really don't enjoy baking at all? When cooking, I love to just make up recipes as I go and throw it all together. Baking requires exact measurements. Following recipes. I'm not into that. BUT, don't get me wrong-- I do love eating baked goods! I usually try to avoid them because of, well you know...the perpetual diet. But I now have a part time job baking cookies. I've gotten the recipe down for greeeaaat puffy chocolate chip cookies thanks to a couple of tips from my mother in law. So, here's my chocolate chip cookie recipe. Try it, I can almost guarantee that you'll love them.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 sticks Blue Bonnet Margarine

3/4 c. brown sugar

3/4 c. sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

3 1/4 c. flour (Yes, I typed that correctly. 3 1/4 cups flour)

2 c. chocolate chips
Cream the margarine. Add in sugars and mix well. Add eggs and mix well. Mix in vanilla, soda, salt until incorporated. Add in flour gradually and then stir in chocolate chips. Bake at 350 10-12 minutes depending on your oven. Mine is 11 minutes 30 seconds exactly.

It should be noted that although a Kitchen-Aid mixer is not necessary to make great cookies....it sure makes life a lot nicer. I seriously LOVE my Kitchen-Aid mixer.


Roasted Tomato Soup and Cheesy Garlic Bread

My friend Laurie told me about this soup on Sunday. I thought about it all day Sunday and on Monday promptly went to the store to buy the ingredients. Unless you are allergic to tomatoes... make this. It is deeeelicious.
The garlic bread isn't too shabby either.
Unfortunately by the time I had baked 20 dozen cookies, roasted the vegetables for an hour, prepared the soup....there was NO daylight left to take a good picture. So just trust me. This bread and soup is so yummy. And fall-y. And comforting. And...great. I think I am in love.

For the soup recipe click the link below. The only thing I did differently was use dried herbs instead of fresh, add a few extra cloves of garlic, aaaaand add a little splash of cream in each bowl to finish it off. Next time I may try a little drizzle of white truffle oil.

Roasted Tomato Soup

Cheesy Garlic Bread
1 loaf french bread--or ciabatta which I used
3-4 Tb butter or margerine (I use Smart Balance Light)
Granulated Garlic
Salt, Pepper
1 cup mozzarella cheese
1 cup cheddar cheese
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
Slice the loaf of bread in half lengthwise. Spread on butter or margarine. Sprinkle with a healthy dose of garlic and a little salt and pepper. Put the cheeses on top of the butter. Bake at 400 5-7 minutes and then turn on the broiler for a minute to brown the top.


Breakfast Sandwich

Lately I've been taking my diet a little more seriously. Elise is almost a year old and I still have 10 pounds to go. The thought of getting pregnant again while still chubby makes me throw up in my mouth a little bit because I remember all too clearly how difficult it is to lose the weight after the baby. SO I'm going to be posting healthier recipes than I probably would normally. BUT I promise to only post recipes that are delicious.

This sandwich is healthy, low in calories but tastes reeeaaalllly good. AND it is less expensive than McDonalds. AAAND it takes less time to make than sitting in the drive-thru. It took me five minutes to make this sandwich, so YOU can make this for breakfast....you do have time!

Bacon Egg and Cheese Sandwich
1 English Muffin (use light or double fiber if you're watching your waistline)

1 strip bacon, cooked crisply (I used turkey bacon which doesn't really taste like real bacon, but it's good)

1/2 cup egg beaters OR 2-3 egg whites

1 slice 2%milk American Cheese

1 tsp. mayo (I use the olive oil low-fat mayo it tastes good)

salt, pepper, garlic powder

Stick the muffin in the toaster while you scramble your eggs with a little salt, pepper, and garlic. When the eggs are done, place your cheese on top and let it melt. When the muffin is toasted add mayo, bacon and carefully put the eggs and cheese on. You seriously don't even need a recipe for this---it's sooo easy.



Calling me a novice blogger would be a little generous. I'm a little bit technologically challenged. I don't know where it comes from. My dad is a computer engineer. Actually, I know exactly where it comes from--It comes from my mom. Every time we see her she has a list of questions to ask Rob about her ipod, computer, email settings....etc. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree I guess.

Anyway, all that to say that I somehow deleted my previous post with the salsa recipe. So here it is again. Maybe my blog will obey me and space the recipe correctly this time.

This salsa is so delicious and fresh-tasting. It is also less expensive than buying salsa and makes a ton. And best of all, it keeps in the fridge for a month. Although usually we scarf it immediately and have to make more. Which is no big deal because it takes 2 minutes to make this salsa.


1 28 oz can whole tomatoes
1 jalapeno, seeded (OR a few fork-fulls of jarred jalapenos)
4-6 green onions cut in thirds
2-3 garlic cloves
1/2 bunch cilantro
1 small can diced green chiles
salt to taste
Throw everything into the blender except the green chiles. Blend. Add the green chiles. Eat it on everything. Seriously--everything. Chips (Preferably My Nana's which are the best chips on the face of the earth and have the same calorie count as baked chips!), eggs, tacos, mixed with ranch on salads....the possibilities are endless.


My blog seems to be copping a 'tude about spacing. I have it all perfectly spaced and then I publish it and it all smooshes together and then I try to edit the spacing and it won't let me. So if you're thinking...."Wow, it'd be a lot easier to read this recipe if it weren't all smooshed together"...you're not alone. Who knew blogs had pms too!