It is the chocolate and kisses of life that make us rich. Enjoy what brings a smile to my face and love to my life.....

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Sausage & Potato Casserole

Are we noticing a pattern here? Maybe you aren't but I know I am, and it's not a big surprise. I am a true potato lover. Yep, I admit it. Mashed potatoes, roasted potatoes, baked potatoes....just smother all my food in potatoes, please?!?

Back when I was a teenager like yesterday I worked at a restaurant that served a warm smashed potato salad. It was AMAZING! A bed of fresh local greens and vegetables topped with a heaping load of scrumptious mashed potatoes, hot sauce and balsamic vinaigrette. Well I'm pretty sure it wasn't written like that but it doesn't matter.

My husband doesn't believe me that a restaurant served this. He doesn't understand why I would eat it every.single.meal if I could. I don't really care, it is fantastic. Try your own version, I's a sin if you do not.

Moving on with the point of this lovely potato introduction, I give you my latest creation.

3 cups of boiled potatoes (skin removed and cut into cubes)
3 tbsp of butter
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tbsp white sugar
2 cups sliced onions
1 lb skinless smoked sausage
2 tbsp flour
2 cups skim milk
12 ounces grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 tsp garlic powder
1 1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp paprika
1 tbsp dried parsley

Directions: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Peel potatoes and place into pan covering with water and boil until a fork is easily inserted into potato. (Do not overcook, you do not want potatoes falling apart.) Heat 1 tbsp butter and 2 tbsp of olive oil in large saute pan, add onions and white sugar, caramelizing onions for approximately 15-20 minutes. Cut sausage in half moons, add to onions and brown sausage. In a saucepan melt 2 tbsp of butter over medium heat, adding flour to make a roux. Slowly add milk into pan, whisking continuously. When milk is heated and slightly thickened, reduce heat to low and add 8 ounces cheese while whisking until smooth. (You do not want to add cheese into very hot milk, you will get a grainy cheese consistency.) Add black pepper and garlic powder. When potatoes cooked, allow to cool a few minutes and then cut into cubes, placing into a baking dish coated with nonstick spray. Add caramelized onions, sausage and cheese sauce, mixing all ingredients well. Season top with paprika and dried parsley, topping with remaining cheese. Bake for 30 minutes until top lightly browned.

Serves 6 at around 446 calories, depending on the type of sausage you use. We had a salad on the side, but this meal would taste good mixed with cooked vegetables as well. It's pure comfort in a bowl and must be good if the husband goes back for seconds!


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Chinese Fried Rice

It is a very hard toss up to decide what flavors encompass my favorite cuisine. I am a food lover so I like a variety. If I had to choose, it would be between Italian and Asian flavors. I love them both and on the days I don't have a clue what to cook, they are always an awesome back up plan. About a month ago, I stumbled upon this recipe from the Life as a Lofthouse blog (which I love!) Both recipes are absolutely delicious! We are a big fans of the simplicity and tastiness of this chinese rice!

3 cups cooked white rice (leftover rice works best but we've made it right before and it's still great!)
4 tbsp sesame oil
1 onion, chopped
1 cup frozen peas and carrots
2 tsp minced garlic
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce

Directions: Heat the sesame oil on medium high heat in a large saute pan or wok. Add the chopped onion, peas and carrots, and minced garlic, cooking until tender. Turn heat down to medium low, adding egg to pan and scrambling. Mix in rice and add soy sauce, blending all ingredients until heated through.

I don't need chinese take out anymore because of this recipe. So it's good on my wallet as well as my waist since we know all the ingredients!


Monday, October 15, 2012

I Smiled Because.....

This week I smiled because.......

I got to spend a lot of time with this guy.
 I was allowed Peachwave frozen yogurt, twice! Don't's healthy, right? 

I found a new love of my life.
And paired it with my morning oats!

I learned that these are delicious.....I might be bias because they are named after my hubs!

The caramel is the best, definitely going to have to enjoy that again!

Tried a few new recipes which turned out to be big hits.

The man made me dinner which was awesome!

Once the chef perfects and writes a recipe for his chinese barbecue sauce, I'll be sure to share.

Most importantly, I smiled because I'm here living this life and learning to make every day count. It isn't perfect, but it's perfect for me.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Tomato, Basil & Parmesan Soup

There are so many different varieties of tomato soup out there, it is very hard to choose a favorite. I'm sure you would all agree that on a crisp fall day, tomato soup and grilled cheese sounds like a winner combination!

It's an easy meal full of flavor! I found this recipe on my morning Pinterest search one day and saved it for a dreary, cool day. While I followed the recipe, I added a secret ingredient that brought this soup to a whole different level! I hope you give it a try, it is an amazing soup!

1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped onion
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tbsp dried basil
1 bay leaf
2 cans diced tomatoes with juice
4 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup flour
2 cups light cream or skim milk
1-1 1/2 cups of grated parmesan cheese
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper

Drum roll please......the secret ingredient...........oh the suspense........

1 can of condensed tomato soup!

Directions: Heat oil in a 4 quart+ pot, add onions, celery and carrots. Let cook for 5-10 minutes until onions are translucent. Add oregano, basil, bay leaf, tomatoes and chicken broth. Bring to a boil and turn down to a simmer for 15-20 minutes until vegetables are tender. In a small sauce pan, melt butter and add flour to make a roux. With continuous mixing, slowly add 1 cup of soup broth, then add 2 more. (The mixture will still be thick, don't be afraid!) Add the mixture back into the soup and stir until soup is thickened. Remove the bay leaf before continuing.

At this point, I used an immersion blender to puree the soup. If you do not have one, you could add the soup to a blender.
Next add cream/milk, condensed tomato soup and parmesan cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Allow to simmer for 20 minutes so flavors can combine.

The end result is a creamy, slightly rich bowl of tomato and parmesan goodness!
 Pair it with a grilled cheese and fill that tummy up!

Friday, October 12, 2012

How to Budget and Meal Plan: Topic #2

For years, my husband and I just spent what we wanted. If we knew there was money in our account, then we were fine. All we had to do is take out that little evil card we had tucked away in our wallet.....our debit card. The one tiny piece of the puzzle that stands between you and your checking account.

My husband always said he never had a debit card until after he met me. He always kept cash in his wallet for the things he might need. I've heard some people still in the year 2012 refuse to have one, for it takes away from the human interaction, and they are correct. It also burns a hole in your pocket if you use it for every.single.little.thing that you may need or think you need. It's easy to do, but if you take the time and break down your monthly bank statements to see what your debit card is REALLY costing you, it's an easy thing to change.
Topic #2: Tracking Your Spending

I know we all live crazy busy schedules and the thought of doing one more tedious task every month, might make you cringe. It is a task though that I support 150% because it allowed me to see that our $2 coffee runs really add up! So do your measly $5 purchases, $10, $20, etc. It all adds up, to a lot in a month. Especially if you are taking that card out multiple times a day. So here is what I did...I tracked every single purchase for three months in a row.

Being that we are a technology based world these days, online banking made it easy for me. To be able to see every transaction and place it into categories, let me see where we were way over spending. I broke it down into these categories:

-Restaurants/Take Out

You don't realize how much you spend when you wing it! My mouth dropped the first month when I saw we spent $1700 on extras! What?!?!?! I won't get into details about any of our purchases, but to see that number flash in front of my face, it was a jaw dropping moment. So I made sure it changed. It has been a slow steady decline over the past few months. I am proud to say that our extras are now about $100 a month.

Just by seeing all those numbers in front of me, I knew what needed to change and it will be the same for you. We all have different financial situations, but in the end we are all trying to live. The goal in life is to do what we can while we are here and enjoy it. Just by taking these little steps, you can save yourself a lot of money and be happier. We are.

We also put the debit card away. When we do our grocery shopping, we stop at the bank and draw out the amount we have allotted ourselves in our monthly finances. If for some reason we have any left over, than maybe we can treat ourselves to a coffee or save it for next time! It makes you stick with your budget if you only have X amount of dollars because you have not left yourself any other choice, right?

SO PUT THE DEBIT CARD DOWN! It's a life saving step, I tell you.

Until next time,

Pierogi Lasagna

When I was little, my grandma use to make pierogis and they were delicious! I remember sitting at the table with the big bowl in front of us with both of my grandparents, who I miss dearly. While we still enjoy pierogis in our home, I decided to take a different approach and make a lasagna! It is a great recipe and I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

12 cooked lasagna noodles
2 cups ricotta cheese
2 eggs
2 cups grated cheddar cheese, 
1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
*2 1/2 cups mashed potatoes (prepared to your liking)
2 cups caramelized onions
12-16 oz diced ham
1 tsp onion powder
salt & pepper
Bacon- crisp & crumbled for topping (You can also use bacon bits)

*I prepared my mashed potatoes with a little salt, black pepper, garlic powder and milk. It was just the right amount of seasoning.

Directions: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cook lasagna noodles according to packaged directions. Prepare mashed potatoes. In a saute pan, caramelize onions. In a bowl mix ricotta, eggs, onion powder, salt & pepper. Mix cheddar and mozzarella cheese together. Mix mashed potatoes with onions, ham and 1/2 cup cheese. Layer lasagna...noodles, ricotta, noodles, potatoes, and cheese. Repeat ending with noodles and topping with cheese and bacon. Bake for 30 minutes until cheese is golden brown.


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Chicken Enchiladas

I cannot tell a lie....I never had tried enchiladas before making this recipe. It just never was put on my yum I want to eat that radar. Until a few weeks ago and I'm so glad that we chose to make it. It was f.a.b.u.l.o.u.s. It is a quick and easy meal that took about 35 minutes to make, of that only 10 minutes worth of hands on cooking.

**2 cups of cooked shredded chicken
2 cups of monterey jack cheese
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 jalapeno peppers, minced (ribs and seeds removed)
8-10 flour tortillas
3 tbsp butter
2 tbsp cornstarch
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup sour cream
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
Juice of 1/2 lime

**Cook chicken beforehead to your liking. You can put it in the crock pot, boil it, use left over chicken or buy a rotisserie chicken to have on hand!

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine chicken, 1 cup cheese, 1 minced jalapeno pepper, and minced garlic. Fill tortillas with chicken mixture, roll and place into 9" X 13" baking dish. In a saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Add cornstarch and mix until well combined. Then add chicken broth and allow to thicken. Mix in sour cream, the other minced jalapeno, your seasonings and the lime juice. Bring heat to a simmer and allow flavors to combine. You may need to thicken the sauce if you feel it is too thin at this point. Make a slurry, combining equal parts cornstarch and water, stirring until cornstarch is dissolved. Add to sauce, stir continuously for 2-3 minutes. Pour sauce over the tortillas, top with cheese and bake for 25 minutes. (I will put the oven on broil for a few minutes to brown the cheese a little more.)
Then take some of that yummy sauce and smother your enchilada with it! You won't be disappointed by the flavors in this dish!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Our Very 1st Date

October 1st, 2004, our very first date.....

The first meal we ate together.

The first restaurant we dined at together.

The first movie we saw together.

The first conversation we ever had.

The first kiss I gave him on the cheek.

The first day, of the rest of my life.

To us......

The man who stole my heart on the second date, my best friend and the love of my life. To many more wonderful years together.
I love you!

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