I am a newlywed on a budget, just trying to make healthy and inexpensive meals for my husband and I to enjoy. He eats a lot, so cost is a big factor. Though I work 3 jobs, I manage to find time 6 nights a week to cook a full dinner for us both. I am constantly looking for new recipes that are moderately healthy, taste great, and won't break the bank.

On the side, I also own a brownie business called Gersheybars. My passion and love for cooking started when I was just a small child, baking with my mom and grandmother. The brownie recipe has been passed down through 5 generations and I am thrilled to finally have an outlet to share them with everybody else. Friends and family have helped spread the word and made my business as successful as it is today.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Justin's Birthday Cake!

He requested a GIANT cupcake this year for his birthday. So off to Michael's I went, coupon in hand, and picked up the pan to make said cake. I made a chocolate mocha cake, and plan to do chocolate icing on the bottom, and vanilla buttercream on the top. I haven't iced it yet, that's tomorrow's project. But I ended up with the giant cupcake and 12 regular sized cupcakes leftover. Damn tasty.

For the cupcake pan, the bottom part bakes much slower than the top, because of the cavity size difference. I filled the bottom about 2/3 full, baked for 10 minutes, then filled the top and continued baking for 40 minutes at 325. It came out perfectly. You'll see in the pictures, where the nonstick spray discolored the cake slightly, but it's getting covered in icing, so I don't care too much...

Cake recipe:
From Sandra Lee
  • 1 cup ground espresso
  • 2 2/3 cup water
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 boxes of chocolate cake mix (I used a Dark Chocolate mix)

1. Brew espresso and water in standard coffee pot. Set aside.

2. Combine other ingredients in large bowl and mix on low until combined. Slowly add in hot coffee, while mixing on medium. Mix for 2 minutes until batter is light and fluffy.

3. Fill pans accordingly. Bake at 325 for 40 minutes. Cool in pan 15 minutes, then invert to wire rack and cool completely before frosting.

Frosting Recipe
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups confectioners sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons milk
  • food coloring, if desired.

1. Combine butter and vanilla in medium bowl. Use whip attachment and mix on medium-high for 4 minutes, until butter is light and fluffy.

2. Add in confectioners sugar and milk. Whip another 5 minutes, until frosting is fluffy and sugar has completely dissolved (taste the frosting -- if it's still grainy, mix a little bit longer). Mix in food coloring, if desired.

** Depending on the thickness you require (thicker for piping, thinner for frosting), you may need to add milk and/or sugar to achieve the desired consistency.
We also had some incredible, homemade cinnamon ice cream.

  • 3 cups half and half
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 5 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1. Heat medium sized saucepan over medium-low heat. Add sugar and half and half. Stir occasionally, and remove from heat just as it begins to simmer (takes about 10 minutes or so). Slowly combine half of the mixture with the beaten eggs, whisking quickly to combine, preventing the eggs from scrambling. Pour egg mixture back into saucepan with remaining half and half mixture. Bring to 170 degrees, over medium-low heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, add in vanilla and cinnamon. Whisk quickly to combine. Set aside to cool. When mixture reaches about 70 degrees, refrigerate 2-3 hours.

2. Pour cooled mixture into ice cream maker, and freeze according to manufacturer's directions.

** Note: I used the Kitchenaid 2 quart ice cream maker. This recipe has to be made in 2 parts, because it is too large an amount for the KA attachment. If you place the full recipe in the ice cream maker, it won't freeze properly.

Finished cake, without the candles

Unfinished...still needs frosting!

Leftover batter I made into cupcakes. Also added some chocolate chips to them.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Four Cheese Macaroni

This was sort of a last ditch attempt to get rid of a lot of cheese left in the fridge. I had a bag of 65 cent pasta, some leftover broccoli from the 2lb/$1 sale, and 4 different kinds of cheese that needed to be used.

  • 2 cups macaroni
  • 1 head of broccoli, cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup Mexican blend cheese (cheddar and jack)
  • 1/4 cup mozzarella cheese

1. Bring large pot of water to a boil. Add macaroni and boil 8-10 minutes until tender. When pasta has about 1 minute left, add broccoli to the pot. Once pasta is tender, drain liquid.

2. Add 1 type of cheese at a time, mixing vigorously with a wooden spoon to avoid clumping. Make sure cheese is fully melted and has evenly coated pasta before adding the next one. Continue stirring vigorously until all cheeses are added.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Quick Ribs

You guessed it...back ribs were on sale! $1.49/lb instead of the usual $2.99/lb. So I picked up a rack and found a recipe on allrecipes.com that sounded pretty good. They were quick and easy to make, and surprisingly tender for only cooking for 2 hours. I usually cook ribs all day in the oven, so this was a nice change.

I served it with some garlic & basil polenta that I just fried in a bit of oil. We had a big lunch, so we weren't super hungry by the time dinner rolled around...

  • 2 pounds beef back ribs
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 dash hot pepper sauce

1. Cut ribs into serving-size pieces; place in a large kettle and cover with water. Simmer, uncovered, for 50-60 minutes (I recommend 90 minutes) or until tender. Meanwhile, combine remaining ingredients in a small saucepan. Simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Drain ribs; place in a greased shallow 2-qt. baking dish. Cover with sauce. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees F for 50-60 minutes.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Cornish Game Hen & Potatoes

While shopping at our new "budget grocery store" a.k.a. the sketchiest place on Earth, I came across some cornish game hens, on sale 2 for $5.00. I had some potatoes left from our giant 10 pound bag (only cost 97 cents for the whole bag!) and broccoli was on sale 3 pounds for $1.00. So all in all, I knew I could create a pretty tasty meal, for about $6.00 total. I didn't have a recipe for the hens, and I've never made a whole roasted chicken, so I sorta winged it. They actually came out really tender and juicy and quite flavorful! And as always, my famous potatoes were deliciously spicy and perfect.

  • 2 Cornish Game Hens
  • olive oil
  • garlic powder
  • Lawry salt
  • Paprika
  • 2 teaspoons Rosemary
  • 2/3 cup chicken stock
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon jarred garlic (yes, I use cheater garlic!)
  • 2 baking potatoes, cut in large chunks
  • 1/4 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 small head of broccoli
  • Old Bay seasoning (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1 Tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 Tablespoon paprika

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place defrosted hens on a broiling pan lined with foil. Drizzle with olive oil, then sprinkle all sides liberally with garlic powder, Lawry salt and paprika. Cover loosely with tin foil and bake approximately 25 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, combine chicken stock, rosemary, 1 Tablespoon olive oil and garlic in separate bowl. Set aside. Baste hens with chicken stock mixture after 25 minutes. Recover with foil, and return to oven an additional 10 minutes. Baste again, remove foil, and bake until hens reach 165 degrees, approximately 15 minutes more.

3. While hens are cooking, heat large skillet over medium high heat. Combine Old Bay, garlic powder and paprika in large plastic bag. Coat potato slices with spice mixture. Add 1 Tablespoon olive oil to pan. Fry potatoes over medium high heat, stirring occasionally, approximately 4 minutes, until brown on all sides. Turn to medium low, cover, and cook an additional 4-6 minutes until potatoes are tender. Add onion to pan, cover, and cook 4-6 minutes until onions are caramelized. When hens are just about finished, turn heat off on the potato pan and add the broccoli. Cover, and turn off heat, leaving pan on the burner to continue cooking.

4. Slice hens in half and serve.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Cauliflower Garlic Mashed Potatoes

This recipe came from a girl in one of the recipe exchanges I participate in. Not sure where got it from, but it's darn tasty! I figured it would be healthier than regular potatoes, and because yellow cauliflower was on sale this week, this recipe was added to the menu pretty quickly. The texture is great -- they really do taste like mashed potatoes!

  • 1 medium head cauliflower
  • 1 tablespoon cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/8 teaspoon straight chicken base or bullion (may substitute 1/2 teaspoon salt)
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh or dry chives, for garnish
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1. Set a stockpot of water to boil over high heat.

2. Clean and cut cauliflower into small pieces. Cook in boiling water for about 6 minutes, or until well done. Drain well; do not let cool and pat cooked cauliflower very dry between several layers of paper towels.

3. In a bowl with an immersion blender, or in a food processor, puree the hot cauliflower with the cream cheese, Parmesan, garlic, chicken base, and pepper until almost smooth.

4. Garnish with chives, and serve hot with pats of butter.

Saucy Pork Stir-Fry

This recipe is from the free Kraft foods magazine that comes quarterly. I love pork stir-fry dishes, so of course we had to try this one. I was a bit skeptical, because there aren't a ton of seasonings in it, but it actually came out very flavorful and saucy, just like the recipe says!

We served it with Cauliflower Garlic Mashed Potatoes.

  • 1/4 cup Zesty Italian dressing
  • 1 pound pork tenderloin, cut into thin strips
  • 1 red pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 8 oz sugar snap peas
  • 3 green onions, diagonally sliced
  • 2 Tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger - I was so not in the mood for ginger, so I used some sesame oil instead!

1. Heat dressing in large skillet on medium-high heat. Add meat; cook and stir 2 minutes. Add peppers and peas; cook 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add onions; cook and stir 1 minute.

2. Mix soy sauce, cornstarch and ginger until well blended. Add to meat mixture in skillet; cook 1 minute, or until sauce thickens, stirring frequently. Serve over rice, if desired.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Cajun Catfish Salad

This is probably one of the easier dishes we've made. While shopping at our new grocery store, I came across a ton of bagged ceaser salad marked down to only $1.24. The only reason is because it expired on 4/6, Sunday. So I bought a bag, and we had it tonight. Usually I grill some chicken to add to those bagged salad mixes, but this time I used catfish. A nice change! And pretty cheap.

Bagged Salad kit - $1.24
2 catfish fillets - $1.00
Total Cost - Approximately $2.24

  • 1 bag of Ceaser salad mix
  • 2 catfish fillets
  • 4 Tablespoons Cajun breading (we like the fish fry that comes in a yellow package)

1. Coat the catfish in Cajun breading. Fry in a non-stick skillet for about 3 minutes on a side, until fish is flakey. 2. Add salad fixin's to a large bowl. Toss with dressing. Place salad in bowl and top each bowl with a sliced catfish fillet. That's it...pretty easy, huh?!

Friday, April 4, 2008

Root Beer Cookies

As Justin continues to work 16 hour days in front of the computer, feverishly writing his thesis, I continue to bake random goodies that I think will keep his spirits up. His all time favorite flavor is root beer. So I made my basic sugar cookie recipe, but substituted root beer flavoring for the vanilla extract. They actually came out pretty well! Not a super strong root beer flavor, but they definitely leave an aftertaste of root beer. He liked them, so I guess that's all that matters with this recipe!

  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons root beer flavoring

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine flour, baking soda and powder in a bowl.

2. Cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add egg and flavoring, mix to combine. Slowly blend in dry ingredients. Mix just until flour is absorbed, being careful not to overmix.

3. Using a cookie scoop, place rounded scoops onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 8-10 minutes. Let cool on pan 10 minutes before moving to wire rack.

Catfish Chowder

In the past few weeks, I've found incredible deals on both frozen catfish (2 pounds for $6) and baking potatoes (10 pounds for 97 cents). So my recipes have been revolving around catfish and potatoes, this week.

I found a recipe for Catfish chowder on Allrecipes.com. While the recipe has 5 star reviews, I wasn't too thrilled with it. It came out very thin and watery, definitely not a chowder. We ended up making some rice and served it over rice, so it was more of a Chicken a la King (with catfish) dish, or like a pot pie over rice.

However, today we heated up the leftovers and it was delicious! Thick, creamy, and just full of flavor. So I would definitely recommend the recipe, but it's much better the 2nd day.

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 small onion, chopped
  • 1 (14 ounce) can chicken broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup sliced baby carrots
  • 2 medium potatoes, cubed
  • 3 cups milk, divided
  • 1/3 cup cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1 teaspoon salt - I ended up using about 3 teaspoons of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds catfish fillets, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese

1. In a Dutch oven over medium heat, melt butter and saute the onion until tender. Pour in chicken broth and water. Mix in celery, carrots, and potatoes. Cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender.

In a small bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 cups milk and cake flour. Mix into the Dutch oven.

Mix remaining milk, celery salt, salt, and pepper into the Dutch oven. Stirring occasionally, continue cooking the mixture about 10 minutes, until thickened.

Stir catfish into the mixture, and cook 5 minutes, or until fish is easily flaked with a fork. Mix in Cheddar cheese, and cook another 5 minutes, until melted.