Monday, August 31, 2009


Tonight I cooked up what I'm calling a rustic country hash with a twist. It's simple and inexpensive that anyone can easily do. I heated oil in an iron skillet and cut up about five medium potatoes. I let the potatoes fry up while I then cut up one onion and two green peppers. Everything was thrown in the skillet with the potatoes to cook for about 20 minutes. Then a spicy cheese sauce was prepared. In a sauce pan I boiled 2 cups of milk, two jalapenos, a mixture of equal parts flour and melted butter*, and two cups of shredded American cheese. That boiled till thickened and then simmered until the vegetables were cooked. Place mixture on top of fried tortillas or rice and top with cheese sauce. That's it, and it's so good! My mouth is watering while I'm writing this.

*See: Tips to Eat or Cook By

Friday, August 28, 2009

Stretching Pennies

OK so tonight's dinner was all about stretching your pennies. We had a simple pasta dish by using a jar of organic spaghetti sauce. I used Meijer brand because it happens to be one of the cheapest organic sauces I could find, but of course you don't have to use organic. To stretch this simple and inexpensive sauce I added fresh vegetables (I had green peppers, mushrooms, and an onion), garlic, red wine, and dried oregano and basil. After I let the sauce simmer for 15 minutes I happened to have mascarpone cheese (almost like and Italian cream cheese which can have a bunch of uses*) that I added at the end to make the sauce slightly creamier and richer. I tossed in whole wheat spaghetti, and that was the meal. This meal gave us 5 large helpings.
Take this idea to stretch a jar of spaghetti sauce; it's an easy, healthy, and yummy way to feed your family or to make for a romantic dinner.

*See: Tips to Eat or Cook By

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Richness and Thoughtfulness in Every Bite

Tonight's dinner was an unexpected and extremely thoughtful surprise from a good friend. She brought over chicken stir fry and chocolate chip banana nut bread. The dinner was an incredibly special treat, and the banana bread became the star of the meal. Eating the soft, chewy, rich banana bread reminded me of my momma's and the days where I would smell it baking in the kitchen when I came home from school.
Baking my momma's banana bread always reminds me of my childhood; when I would eat it for a late night snack by warming it up and smothering it in cream cheese.
Whenever you happen to have leftover bananas that are too ripe to eat don't ever throw them away. My momma's recipe will put those bananas to good use. You have got to try this it makes a great breakfast, desert or snack!

Momma's Rich Banana Bread

1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups of bananas smashed (6 fully ripe)
1 cup chopped nuts
1 cup sour cream
3 cups four
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine ingredients in order listed, mixing after each addition. Beat one minute. Bake in two greased and floured 9x5 loaf pans for 1 hour.

The difference between my momma's banana bread and my friend's is the sour cream that adds to it's richness, but the chocolate chips would be a nice, sweet addition which she uses.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Still Yummy

Though I have been studying "Mastering the Art of French Cooking", thanks to my wonderful sister-in-law Mary Lea, I don't plan on cooking from it till next month. So till I begin to try to "master the art of French cooking" as "The Pennyless Cook" I will continue to cook "pennyless" meals till the month is done.
Tonight's meal came from my good friend Emily and here it is....

Stuffed Pepper Explosion

2 large bell peppers, any color
1 med. onion
1 garlic clove
6 roma tomatos
6 oz ground beef
1 tsp. olive oil
1 1/2 cups cooked rice
1/2 cup grated parmesean cheese

Preheat oven to 350. Chop peppers, onion, garlic and tomatoes. (cut tomatoes in half). Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute beef until mostly cooked through, about 2 mins. Add peppers, onions and garlic. Saute until tender, about 5 mins. Remove from heat and stir in tomatoes, rice and half the cheese. Place mixture in a 9-by9-inch baking dish, cover with foil and bake 30 mins. If your skillet is oven safe, you can cover and bake in it. Remove foil, sprinkle with remaining cheese and bake uncovered 15 more mins.

serves 4

My version, due to my absentmindedness, left out the rice and for flavor added basil, salt, pepper and hot sauce. After that we placed the meat mixture on buns and served them up as as sandwiches, similar to a Sloppy Joe. Even without the rice this version was still cheap and yummy!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Dirty, Dirty

Yesterday we celebrated the life of Granny Mac; a woman, that as the pastor described, had a wealthy life that lived out Proverbs 31. We had laid her down to live on that Monday, under the warm sun, where she was surrounded by her wealth. I could have celebrated her life forever with my husband's warm, hilarious family, but today it was back to life, and now a life that is remembering her.
We traveled back home where I would go back to being the stay-at-home mom, and where my husband would go back to working hard at ministry. Along with life back in Louisville is my comfortable spot in the kitchen where I started another meal for my family.
Tonight's meal was something that anyone could easily cook up with, leftovers or whatever you have in your pantry or fridge. I made dirty rice, and it was filling and delicious. I used the leftover roasted chicken that I cooked up last week and browned it in an iron skillet with canola oil, onion, salt, pepper, and chili powder. Rice cooked in chicken broth and and then more vegetables were thrown in the skillet (I happened to have a tomato, green pepper, and jalapeno). I poured in a half cup of white wine and let that cook out. Then the cooked rice was poured in the skillet with 1/4 cup of chicken broth and cooked until rice was browned. Then sprinkle in parsley and oregano. Next thing you'll notice is a clean plate!

Guess what!?!? An incredible sister-in-law and even better friend bought me "Mastering the Art of French Cooking". I will be studying the book the rest of the month and cannot wait to integrate "The Pennyless Cook" and Julia's masterful recipes! Stay tuned for next month's menu....

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Not Julia, but Grandma Mollie

Without the coveted "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" cook book Julia hasn't entered my household yet, but other "masters" of their own art are teaching me in the meantime, like Grandma Mollie.
Leftovers were tonight just as I planned, but for a little treat we had her homemade Oatmeal Raisin Chocolate Chip Cookies. I'm not the best baker in the world, but I'm learning. These cookies are pretty straightforward and easy to make, but getting the baking time on my stove was the challenge. Some ended up a little overdone and burnt on the bottom, but with mistakes come the "mastering" of cooking or baking....eventually.
So this recipe, which came out of Country Living, made about 40 cookies. The top rack of cookies I baked came out perfect, chewy and melt-in-your-mouth delicious. The bottom rack, however, should have been taken out of the oven earlier because they were definitely not perfect.
The recipe called for a 15 minute cooking time, which would've been correct for the bottom rack, but the top rack would've been undercooked. I ended up cooking the entire batch for 19 minutes. It's always smart to just consider your first baking adventure on a recipe a test run.
These cookies aren't incredibly healthy, but they make a good energy snack or a sweet end to a savory meal with a tall glass of ice cold milk. They also can make a tasty, cute gift* for friends and family.

Grandma Mollie's Oatmeal Raisin Chocolate Chip Cookies
"Reader's Recipe" Karen Lelbowitz of Stony Brook, New York

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened*
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups old fashioned oats
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1 1/4 cups chocolate chips
1/4 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. In a medium bowl, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Stir in eggs until well combined. In separate bowl, combine all dry ingredients, plus raisins, walnuts, and chocolate chips. Add dry mixture to wet mixture and stir to combine. Stir in milk. Drop dough in heaping tablespoonfuls, about 1 inch apart on the baking sheet. Bake until golden brown and slightly crunchy, about 15 minutes.

This was an original recipe of a Country Living reader. If you have any original recipes that you're proud of please share them with me and you can also go to

*See: Tips to Eat or Cook By

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A Mix of Giada and Rahael Ray

Tonight's meal came from the inspiration of Rachael Ray and Giada de Laurentiis. For the main course I did my own take on Rachael Ray's "Lemon-Glazed Roast Chicken" from The Rachael Ray Show. I happened to have in my freezer two large chicken breasts, on the bone*, that I paid $2.32 for at Meijer. I placed those in a roasting pan and covered in salt and pepper. I sliced a lemon, garlic, and onion and put that on top of the chicken. I drizzled on oil and threw in bay leaves. With the oven preheated to 350 degrees I covered the chicken and roasted it for an hour. Than I made a sauce of honey, white wine, and lemon zest which I poured on top of the chicken and roasted for another 15 minutes.
For my side dish, Giada came to my rescue with her "Rigatoni and Vegetable Bolognese". To get her exact recipe check out
Both are delicious. The chicken dish is juicy and tender, with the brightness of the lemon. The pasta dish is exceptionally meaty, though no meat is in the dish, and creamy because of the wonderful addition of mascarpone cheese and the nuttiness of the Parmesan.
The pasta would be great as the main course, which is what we will have tomorrow night for dinner with a mixed green salad. Always try to creatively stretch your leftovers into a meal for the next day. Enjoy!

*See: Tips to Eat or Cook By

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Sweet Asian Meal

Asian was the theme on tonight's menu for the "pennyless cook". The recipe is a simple vegetable stir fry. What makes this certain dish so unique is the the sauce, which was given to me by my dear friend April. This sauce takes only four ingredients: soy sauce, fresh grated ginger, pepper, and low sodium chicken broth. You make the sauce first and let the flavors mingle while you saute your vegetables. This Chinese dish is easy, inexpensive, healthy, and flavorful. Although stir fry is well-known it is made original in this dish with this special sauce that is cooked in at the end with the vegetables and already cooked rice for about 5 minutes.
You can use fresh vegetables or stock your fridge with frozen. You can even add scrambled eggs and meat, which is what I sometimes do (depending on budget for the month). It is excellent with Siracha Hot Chili Sauce* (you can find in the Asian food isle at your local grocery store) and juicy, sliced oranges for dessert, which Chinese eat at the end of meals to signify a sweet life.

*See: Tips the Eat or Cook By

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Pantry Pie

My kitchen had a much needed rest for the weekend, but it was back to work full force today. Without the much treasured cookbook "Master the Art of French Cooking", I got inspiration today from my favorite design magazine "Country Living". There was a recipe that grabbed the attention of my taste buds, and also got my mind searching for a way to make this certain recipe my own with ingredients I would already have in my pantry. So for lunch we set down to what I call a "Pantry Pie". Here it is....

Prepared pie crust thawed and baked
4 large tomatoes
1 medium onion finely diced
1 cup lite mayonaise
1/2 cup freshly grated parmasean cheese
6 slices of deli sliced Harvarti cheese
1 tsp lemon juice
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Slice, thinly 1 tomato for garnish and set aside. In a mixing bowl mix mayonaise, parmasean cheese, and lemon juice together. Chop up rest of tomatoes into wedges. Line the bottom of the baked pie crust with half of the tomatoes and half of the diced onion. Sprinkle salt and pepper and basil on the top. Spread half of the mayonaise mixture on top of that layer, then three slices of the Harvarti cheese. Repeat layers again starting with tomatoes, onion, salt and pepper and basil, mayonaise mixture, and three slices of Harvarti cheese. Top the pie with the tomatoes for garnish and more basil.
This pie was delicious and fed our family for lunch and dinner. It costs next to nothing, was extremly filling and was great with a side salad. The neat thing about this pie is (hence the name) you use whatever you happen to have in your pantry. As long as you make layers and have some sort of cheese and mayonaise mixture you can put whatever you want in the pie. Any vegetable or even meat would be great in it, and if you don't have a frozen pie crust you can make your own; most everyone has those ingredients on hand. Try it out, it's also a great way to use up leftovers!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Closer to Paris

I didn't "master the art of french cooking" tonight (still don't have my hands on that cookbook), but I did start on my passport for my trip to France. The beginning of my passport was tonight's dinner, which was something you might enjoy in a Parisian cafe; a Croque Monsieur with a side salad and vinaigrette.

A Croque Monsieur is a hot, open-faced sandwich of ham and Swiss cheese with a Dijon bechamel sauce, a sunny-side up egg and fresh thyme. The side salad was a simple mix of greens, but what makes it special is the homemade vinaigrette of olive oil, minced garlic, balsamic vinaigrette, honey mustard, salt, pepper, and the surprise ingredient is a splash of soy sauce.

This meal is also an absolutely perfect lunch, late night snack, or even a late night meal for a casual dinner party, and it is extremely friendly on the bank account. Couldn't we all use some assistance when comes to budget friendly menu planning....I mean how cheap are eggs? This entire meal; Croque Monsieurs and cafe salad cost around about $7 and could easily feed a family of four.

For complete recipes check out under Rachael Ray and Mellisa d'Arabian.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

A Little Richer After This Poorman's Dinner

Still haven't gotten my hands on that sacred cook book. So as I foresaw, after an evening of swimming with the family we sat down to leftovers, but not just any leftovers, I kicked up last nights casserole just a little. With freshly chopped jalapenos and freshly grated* Parmesan cheese, this Cheesy Macaroni Mushroom Casserole tasted like a different meal. It had just the right amount of heat from the peppers and saltiness from the Parmesan that it was a simple orchestra of flavors. On the side was my grandparent's homegrown tomatoes again. For dessert I must give credit to Food Network's newest addition Melissa d'Arabian for her Applesauce Granita with Maple yogurt that cooled us down on this hot summer night. You have got to try this meal. It is so inexpensive it's not even funny; for our family of three we will have three meals from it, and it is so simple. Here it is.....

Cheesy Macaroni Mushroom Casserole
(Here's my own lighter version of the recipe, and with bigger flavor)
3 cups of boiled whole grain macaroni
1 cup light mayonnaise
1/2 cup of sweet onion
1 large can of mushroom with juice
1 can cream of mushroom soup
2 cups Swiss cheese
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 jalapeno finely chopped
1 sleeve of whole wheat Ritz crackers finely crushed
6 tbsp of butter melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix macaroni, mayonnaise, mushrooms, soup, and Swiss cheese together in a large bowl. Pour in a large casserole dish that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Mix crackers and butter together and cover the top of the casserole. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese and jalapeno on top for a finishing touch. Cook for 25 minutes and let sit for 5 minutes.

Applesauce Granita with Maple Yogurt
check out under Melissa d'Arabian
(only 5 ingredients which you probably already have in your pantry; so simple and refreshing)

*See: Tips to Eat or Cook By

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Poor Man's Dinner

Already ran into my first dilemma and I haven't even started cooking yet.....I can't find this Julia Child cookbook "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" anywhere for a decent price! Actually I can't find it at any price for that matter. Any suggestions?

Dinner was poor man's style cheesy macaroni and mushroom casserole with homegrown tomatoes thanks to a friend for the recipe and my grandparent's garden for the tomatoes. Later it was Gelato in one of my favorite places, Norton Commons, and than back home to make some fresh guacamole with blue corn tortilla chips for a late night snack. The casserole was good, but it was no Julia Child recipe. I have got to find that cook book because tomorrow night is going to be leftover cheesy macaroni and mushroom casserole which is economically ambitious, but not culinary.

I'm not for sure if Julie or Julia would be proud of tonight's dinner, but what's a servantless cook supposed to do without her beloved cookbook?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Mirror Image

Okay, so I think doing this blog has been predestined or it's like destiny or something. My husband and I just saw the movie Julie & Julia the night of August 11th, which is the exact date that Julie Powell started blogging through Julia Child's infamous book "Master the Art of French Cooking"! Very weird if I must say so my self so.....I have come to the conclusion, that with no certain deadline, I will buy her cookbook and work my way through French cooking for the servantless cook.

I saw myself completly in Julie Powell; I felt like she was living my life right in front of me. We both live in an apartment, we both love to write and don't feel like writers because we're not published, we both are married to wonderful men, we both absolutly love food and love to eat it, and we both want to follow through with something for once in our lives!

Thanks to my friends and readers for more inspiration in unexpected places I have been totally and utterly encouraged to do this! This, meaning cook my way through Julia Child's cookbook and blog about it. Saying this is a large feat in itself because of the well known fact that I never finish anything; I mean NEVER excluding my plate at dinner of course. I know Julie Powell did this exact same thing, but I want to learn how to cook the way the French do, and I did take four years of French in high school and traveled to France after I graduated. Maybe this is why? Is it weird that I'm doing what was just done and what an entire movie is in the theater about this very thing which I drew inspiration from? I guess it doesn't really matter. It's what I want to do, and it's now a goal I have, at this very moment the same date several years later that started Julie Powell's quest for salvation through the art of cooking.

What better way to celebrate two of my top five loves writing and food (the others are none other than God, my dear husband, and my son). Writing and food give me such a sense of joy and contentment. With the right meal all is right in the world.

So tomorrow I will venture to a used bookstore to search for this cookbook and begin cooking. I will strive everyday to write about my adventure and journey through her book, but for now Bon Appetite!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Inspiration in the Unexpected

For so many years I have longed to mesh my passions together and share it with the world. Beyond my passion for Christ, my family, and the treasures of motherhood there is one passion that flows from my mind to my fingertips and the second from my mouth to my stomach....writing and food. From my childhood I have loved the two and have dreamed of fusing these two together. To have the title of food critic has been a life long dream, but that's all it has been-a dream and I am no closer to that dream then when I was a child. I get jealous when I read food reviews or see cooks and chefs on the Food Network and wonder how they got to where the are. Most is originality, good ideas, and hard work, but there always seems a special ingredient that I still have not figured out.
Today I am filled with joy because of the life I have today, but there is a small part of me that aches. I want to give to my family and others my love of food and writing. In whatever form that is I want to release that passion for these two that is inside of me.
I have been inspired by the new movie Julie & Julia. The idea of cooking through a favorite cookbook and writing about it may be overdone especially with the arrival of this new movie this month, but I am dying to pursue my passion by going on a journey through cooking and writing about this food that I find so much emotion mixed throughout.
What should I write about or cook? I have no answers any of you? How are you pursuing your passions currently and how can I pursue these two passions regularly? Please give your feedback!