Sugar Cookies with Buttercream Frosting

I don't bake. I'm pretty sure I've mentioned that before. But I was having an "Aunt Michelle" moment and felt like I should do cutout sugar cookies with my kids. All I can say is...she makes it look easy. But--the cookies turned out delish and my four year-old did cut out three eggs and frosted two (eating them immediately). My husband ate 5 cookies after dinner and our neighbors enjoyed a couple too when they stopped by so overall my cutout cookies were a success.

I found the recipe for the cookies on Our Best Bites and she has a greeat recipe. The frosting is just a traditional buttercream.

Sugar Cookies

1 C real butter
1 C sugar

1 egg

1 1/2 t almond extract (I used vanilla)

3 C flour

1 1/2 t baking powder

1/2 t salt

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy- about 2 minutes. Add in eggs and extract and mix to incorporate.

In a separate bowl combine flour, baking powder and salt and whisk to co
mbine. Slowly add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix until completely combined.

Shape the dough into 2 flat disks and wrap in waxed paper and place in the fridge to chill for 1-2 hours.
Preheat oven to 350. When you're ready to roll out dough lightly sprinkle flour onto your work surface and roll out dough with a rolling pin. Cut out your cookies and placed on a greased cookie sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes. Cool completely before frosting.

Buttercream Frosting:

  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup milk

    Cream butter, vanilla and powdered sugar. The mixture will be dry. Slowly add in milk until the frosting is at desired consistency.

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Sweet Potato Fries

I never thought I liked sweet potatoes. Turns out I just don't like maple syrup laden marshmallow topped sweet potatoes. I actually really like sweet potatoes that are prepared the "right" way. Sweet potatoes are lower on the glycemic index and lower carb than regular white potatoes which is why I first tried using them.

The fries in the picture were made with a lighter sweet potato, usually I use the darker more orange ones but there weren't any left at the store and these taste almost the same so--use either kind.

The sweet potatoes I come across are usually pretty large so I usually do 2 and it's plenty for 3 adults. But the sweet potatoes I got in my produce basket yesterday are smaller so I'd say 2 lbs for 2 adults and a couple kids or 3 adults is good.

Sweet Potato Fries
2 lbs sweet potatoes (or more for a crowd)
olive oil for drizzling or cooking spray works too
Sea salt or Kosher salt (about 1 tsp)
cracked black pepper
granulated garlic

Preheat your oven to 425. First wash the potatoes and peel them. Then slice the potatoes long ways in half and then each half in half. Lay the long halves out and slice into thin pieces. Toss the potatoes with olive oil on a baking sheet and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and garlic. Bake for 20 minutes, stirring halfway through.
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Steak Sandwich with Jalapeno Pesto

So as promised, here's the recipe for the steak sandwich. Yum. This was really good. This is a copy cat recipe of the sandwich we saw on Diners Drive-ins and Dives one day and Rob begged me daily until I made it. We didn't get to try to the original recipe, but we loved this! I guess I'm on a bit of a sandwich kick lately
You can definitely play with this recipe a bit. The other day I just mixed some leftover jalapeno pesto with some mayo and put it on a turkey burger and it was super yummy too.

Steak Sandwich with Jalapeno Pesto

  • 1-1 1/2 lb flank steak
  • 1 packet Montreal Steak marinade mix (super gourmet)
  • 4 slices provolone
  • 1/2 cup jalapeno pesto
  • 1 jar roasted red peppers (or roast your own easily)
  • 4 fresh bakery rolls

The morning of: mix up your marinade and toss the steak and marinade into a ziploc and marinate in the fridge for the day.

Prepare your jalapeno pesto. Grill the steak to the doneness of your liking. (We like medium rare). Important: let the cooked meat rest at least 10 minutes before slicing or all of thejuice will run out of it and the steak will be dry!! While the meat is resting toast the buns in the oven. Slice the steak against the grain and lay out the steak on the bottom bun, top with provolone, roasted red pepper, and 2 Tb pesto. Enjoy! These sammies would be great with some oven fries.

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Jalapeno Poppers

I never would have made this recipe because I would've been afraid of it...don't be afraid. My neighbors make this for all of our get togethers, mostly because if they didn't, the rest of us would riot. One night when I was pregnant with my daughter I ate so many of these that I didn't sleep well for two days.

They are surprisingly not very spicy (unless you're pregnant and have reflux)...but SUPER delicious.
AND very simple.
AND inexpensive. So make some for your next party, get together or barbecue. Heck we'll be sitting in the pool and Nick will serve them poolside. They go with anything.

Jalapeno Poppers

  • 12-16 jalapenos
  • 1 8 oz block cream cheese (more if you're super generous with the cream cheese)
  • 1 package bacon OR turkey bacon

Preheat your oven to 425. Wearing gloves slice the jalapenos lengthwise down the middle and scoop out the ribs and seeds with a spoon. Make sure you wash your hands veeery well and don't touch your eyes for a while! Next using a spoon scoop cream cheese into the jalapeno halves and place on a baking sheet. Slice all of the bacon in half and wrap the bacon around the jalapenos, securing with a toothpick. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the bacon is crispy. I don't like the peppers to be mushy so don't overbake! ENJOY!

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Cowboy Burgers

As you probably know if you've read my blog more than once I'm very frugal. So I'm always surveying the meat case to see if there's anything they have on clearance. You can find amazing deals on meats that need to be sold in the next 48 hours. I either freeze the meats I find or use them in the next day or two.

I love to use turkey products to save on fat/calories and I was able to find some JennieO turkey burgers for $1.79 so I was super excited and grabbed all three packages. I made these burgers with one package and they were really yummy. In fact my husband was kind of irritated at the sound of turkey burgers because he looooves burgers, but he was NOT disappointed. Somehow topping turkey with bacon, colby, an onion ring, and mayo makes it a little less turkey-y.

Cowboy Burgers
4 burgers
worcestershire sauce
barbecue sauce for basting
4 strips crisply cooked bacon (I used regular pork for Rob's, and turkey bacon for mine)
4 slices colby or cheddar cheese
1 batch oven fried onion rings (Or I suppose you can use a frozen onion ring, but why?)
4 fresh bakery rolls

The afternoon you're going to make the burgers sprinkle them with worcestershire sauce and let them marinate in the fridge. Get your onion rings all prepped and into the oven. Grill the burgers, basting with barbecue sauce on both sides. A minute before you pull the burgers off top with the cheese and close the grill to let it melt. In the meantime slice the rolls and toast them in the oven under the broiler. (Watch them closely--they burn fast!) Once the burgers are cooked, place them on the bun, top with bacon and an onion ring, and spread some mayo on the top bun. Enjoy with the leftover onion rings and a cold beer. (Or a diet coke if you hate beer and are pregnant, like me.)

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Chicken Alfredo Pizza

Making homemade pizza is such a great way to use up leftover meat and whatever veggies you have in your fridge. I recently saw that the Pioneer Woman had shared her pizza crust recipe and I'm always game for a new pizza crust so I tried it. It was good. Although I must say that the fresh pizza dough ball at Trader Joe's is really good too and you don't have to deal with flour. BUT I didn't have to drive to TJ's to get this dough so that was cool.

This time I had a leftover chicken breast from grilling a day or two before and I also had made the Guiltless Alfredo Sauce from Our Best Bites site and it was suuuper yummy and I had some of that leftover too.

Chicken Alfredo PizzaCrust:
1 teaspoon Instant Or Active Dry Yeast
1-½ cup Warm Water
4 cups All-purpose Flour
1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
⅓ cups Olive Oil
Preparation Instructions
Sprinkle yeast over 1 1/2 cups warm water. In a mixer, combine flour and salt. With the mixer running on low speed drizzle in olive oil until combined with flour. Next, pour in yeast/water mixture and mix until just combined.
Coat a separate mixing bowl with a light drizzle of olive oil, and form the dough into a ball. Toss to coat dough in olive oil, then cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and store in the fridge until you need it. At least 24 hours, up to 3 days.
OR a ball of crust from TJ's.
Pizza: (this makes one pizza)
1/2 of the pizza crust
1/4-1/2 cup alfredo sauce (I made my own, recipe here)
1 chicken breast thinly sliced
1/4 cup sundried tomatoes, julienned
1/4 of a small red onion, thinly sliced
small jar of artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 1/2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 475. Set out the dough and let it come to room temperature. Separate into two balls. Spread out the dough evenly on a pizza stone or cookie sheet and stick it in the pre-heated oven for 5 minutes, just to let it start cooking. Pull out the pizza crust and top with sauce, chicken, tomatoes, onion, artichoke hearts, and cheeses. Put the pizza back into the oven for 7-10 more minutes until the dough is done and the cheese is melted.

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Sweet and Sour Sauce

Forgive my hiatus--my husband is traveling for three weeks so last week I went to visit my mom and then to visit my aunt and uncle who were on business in Vegas. So, I'm back now and here's a yummy recipe for homemade sweet and sour sauce with a really bad picture. Maybe someday I'll be famous and someone will take all of my pictures for me. Until then you're all stuck with whatever comes out of my little Nikon pocket camera.

I have been craving Asian food so I've experimented a lot with homemade take-out style food. I got some really great frozen egg-rolls at Trader Joes for a great price and they're big and good and low fat so you should definitely try them out! I adapted this recipe from a recipe I found on Allrecipes.com. It makes a lot and keeps a while in the fridge, it would be great as a dipping sauce OR as the sauce in a stir fry or with some pieces of fried chicken over rice.

Sweet and Sour Sauce

1 c. pineapple juice
2/3 c. vinegar
1 1/2 c. sugar
8 oz tomato sauce
2 T soy sauce
1/2 tsp dried ginger
3 T cornstarch

Mix all ingredients together except for the cornstarch. Bring it to a boil and reduce heat to allow the sauce to simmer. Mix the 3 T cornstarch with 3 T of the sauce and slowly pour the cornstarch mixture into the simmering sauce. Continue simmering 20 minutes, the sauce should be thickened nicely. Store in a jar or tupperware.

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Jalapeno Pesto

So my husband and I have this probably unhealthy obsession with food and where we can get "famous" food so we love to watch the Travel Channel and Food Network shows that showcase little restaurants around the country and their culinary goodness.

Usually my husband will see something on one of these episodes and insist that I figure out how to make it. This is one of those things. We were watching Guy on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives and he was sampling a steak sandwich somewhere with a jalapeno pesto and Rob couldn't get it out of his head for days and continually insisted that I make it. So...this recipe is thanks to the inspiration of Guy Fieri and whichever "dive" he was showing that day.

I have to say it turned out really good. I mean tas-ty. I've made it a few times already and put it on sandwiches, tossed with pasta and chicken and tomatoes, and mixed with mayo on a turkey burger. So--give it a whirl. It didn't turn out that spicy the first time so I added the ribs and seeds the second time and it was much more "kicky". So if you like it spicy add the whole jalapeno. If you don't like it spicy, cut out the seeds and ribs.

Stay tuned for the upcoming recipe for the steak sandwich...yumm.

Jalapeno Pesto
  • 1/3 c. pine nuts
  • 1 large bunch cilantro
  • 1 large bunch parsley
  • 5-8 garlic cloves (just go for it!)
  • 1 jalapeno
  • 1/2 c. shredded parmesan cheese (NOT out of a can!)
  • salt to taste
  • half a lemon, juiced
  • 1/2 c. olive oil
In a food processer, (I love mine) blend the nuts, parsley, cilantro, garlic, jalapeno and cheese until coarsely chopped. Add salt and lemon and pulse a few times. While the processer is running on low slowly stream in the olive oil until incorporated. Taste and adjust salt if needed.

**Note--this freezes really well so if you don't use it all the first time toss it in the freezer for later use.


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Money Saving Monday: Produce Co-op

I've had several friends tell me about the produce co-op they use and how wonderful it is--but I am so frugal with my grocery budget that I thought I could really buy on sale produce for a better price. Then one day I was at my friend Terah's house and saw her basket full of produce and i was pretty amazed. So I had to try it out. The co-op that I chose to use in our area is called bountiful baskets. There are loads of pickup sites and the one I went to is just one neighborhood away so even though I had to be there at 7 am on a Saturday, I was back home by 7:20.

I was so amazed at how wonderful the basket was--so FULL of vegetables and fruit (it was actually two baskets full of stuff). And to top that off, all of the produces has been delicious! Super fresh and tasty and juicy. Every week the basket comes with different stuff, all depending on what's available. This time I got 10 lb bag of potatoes, broccoli, tons of little garden cucumbers, swiss chard, a huge gorgeous head of romaine lettuce, baby carrots, asparagus, strawberries, huge apples, oranges, lemons, loads of bananas....for the bargain price of $15. So if you're in Arizona, Nevada or Utah check out the bountiful baskets website OR google and do some research on local produce co-ops in your area. Because I'm so frugal about food I made sure we ate lots of veggies and fruits so that nothing goes to waste so not only was it a great deal for lots of produce, it forced us to eat healthfully.

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We love Mexican food. Of all kinds. Texmex, ground beef and crunchy shells, authentic carne asada from a stand in Mexico...anything. I have several mexican recipes listed here , here , and here as well as the Carnitas listed today which is one of our favorites. My husband is a big pork fan. (In fact when Pei Wei took their pork option away he tried to boycott.) The leftovers are delicious and are great made into enchiladas or taco pie. The leftovers also freeze well which is what I did this time. I pared down the recipe for 2 lbs, but I actually used a huge 4-5 lb pork loin from Sam's Club--whatever you have is great.

Carnitas2 lb pork loin

2 tsp chili powder
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1 1/2 tsp oregano
1 1/2 tsp granulated garlic
3/4 tsp salt

Rinse the pork loin and dry with paper towels. Mix all seasonings together in a small bowl and rub generously all over the pork loin. Toss the whole thing in your crockpot and cook on low 6-8 hours, until the pork falls apart with a fork. You could cook it on high, but because the pork loin is so lean it can dry out easily so it seems to do better cooked more slowly.

Serve the shredded meat on corn tortillas with fresh tomatoes and cilantro and homemade salsa. Yum. Or fry your own tostadas and make tostadas. Yum Yum.

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Bolognese Sauce

I first had bolognese at Cheesecake Factory which is a strange place to stumble upon authentic Italian food...but it was SO good. I just had to figure out how to make it. After studying loads of recipes I gathered up all of those, including of course Pioneer Woman's bolognese sauce and made this. It was good. It's a really heavy sauce so I recommend putting it on a short-cut pasta. Angel Hair would just disappear under this sauce.

This sauce takes a bit of time but it's worth it---and it isn't difficult. A lot of recipes call for a mixture of ground beef, lamb and veal but I'm too cheap to go for $7.99/lb ground meat so I just stuck to beef and turkey.


2 Tb olive oil
1 lb ground beef
1 lb ground turkey (or 2 lbs combined of your ground meat of choice)
3 carrots, finely diced
1 onion, finely diced
6-10 garlic cloves minced, depending on your garlic tolerance
2 6 oz cans tomato paste
1 c. red wine (or 8-10 wine cubes)
2 Tb dried basil
1 Tb dried oregano
salt, pepper
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
2 Tb worcestershire
1 c. milk (I used 1%, I think anything would work great)

Heat oil in a pot over medium-high heat. Add in veggies and meat. Brown meat and veggies together until meat is cooked and vegetables are tender. Add in tomato paste and stir together with meat mixture, cooking several minutes until it starts to change to a darker color. Season with basil, oregano, salt and pepper. Add in wine, bring to a boil and cook a couple minutes. Then add in the diced tomatoes and crushed tomatoes, and worcestershire, bring to a bubble and simmer twenty minutes or so, stir in the milk and keep over medium-low heat for up to three hours. Serve over pasta with lots of parmesan cheese.

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Fish Sandwich and Homemade Tartar Sauce

We've traveled to Alaska three times since we've been married and we LOVE fish and chips. The greatest part of being in Alaska is you can find halibut and chips everywhere...it's sooo good.

This isn't really fish and chips. Nor is it halibut. But whatever. We like fish and especially tartar sauce. Please disregard the burnt outer edge of this bun. Again with the bad photography...what do I say?

Fish Sandwich with Tartar Sauce
1/2 c. mayo
2 Tb sour cream
1 Tb minced or grated onion
3 Tb minced dill pickle
2 tsp lemon juice
pinch of dried dill
salt, pepper to taste

Mix everything together, refrigerate until ready for use.

4 4-5 oz fillets tilapia (or any white fish)
3 c. crushed potato chips
1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. milk
Seasoning salt, pepper

Season the fish with the seasoning salt and pepper. Pour the milk into a shallow bowl. Put the flour into another shallow bowl, season with seasoning salt and pepper, stir to combine. Dip fish in milk, then dip into flour, dip in milk again, and then dip in crushed chips. Put fish on a sheet pan and bake at 450 for 10 minutes or until fish flakes.
Toast four rolls and place fish on the rolls with tartar sauce, sliced tomato, and lettuce.

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