We Plan Wednesday: The Work Lunch Conundrum

We Plan Wednesday

This doesn’t deal with Muffin’s lunches for next year when he enters kindergarten.  My Pinterest board School Lunch Recipes is full of ideas to make his lunches appetizing.

I’m talking that mad scramble to find something to heat up in the microwave at work but that must be packed at 5 or 5:30 in the morning.  I’ve learned that it’s best not to bring metal cutlery or non-disposable plates.  My tendency is to forget to bring them home until the point after which they become a science experiment or a bio-hazard.

After we finished our suppers of leftovers from Canadian Thanksgiving, we still had a lot left.  Yay!  After being heartily sick of Chef Boyardee and other super processed items, I decided to make my own Canadian Thanksgiving leftover TV dinners.

With various mixups and matchups, I had over ten meals ready to go in the freezer.


Josh foil wrapped each of them, so they were ready to go to the freezer…and then in my lunch bag.


Other than the usual uneven heating of the potatoes in the microwave (ice chips in the potatoes when everything else is piping hot), they have been delish…and lunch-envy-worthy.

What is lunch-envy-worthy?  Do you remember when, as a child, the great lunch comparison would occur at lunchtime?  The-I-Have-a-Lunchable! conversations.  I was in third or fourth grade when Lunchables first came out, and I rarely was allowed to bring one to school.  Bringing a Lunchable in your lunch was a huge status symbol.  It’s sad…or maybe just human nature…but that same great lunch comparison happens when you bring your work lunches.  (Plus, after my previous lunches composed of processed snack cakes and other processed items that unfortunately now turn my stomach…I’m trying to convince her that, yes, I do eat healthy food sometimes.  We can debate the healthfulness of some of the items on that plate later.)

And yes…sometimes at 5 or 5:30 in the morning, a sandwich is beyond me.  For those mornings, it’s great to be able to get everything ready in advance so that it is grab ‘n go.

Sometimes I try to do purposed leftovers, but I usually don’t prepackage them for lunches and freeze them.  I really liked the ease of this, so I may do this with the jambalaya leftovers later this week.  Anything too liquidy does not do well with the paper plates.  Think limp, scary nightmare.

As far as snacks and sides, I usually do pre-portioned items from Sam’s or fruit.  The beauty of the Thanksgiving leftovers is that there is already a set of sides, so literally I just add in a plastic fork, a drink, and sometimes a dessert.

Note:  if you buy items from Sam’s, it is best to pre-portion them after getting home from Sam’s so that people don’t just start munching at random and then everything is gone.  I’ve even gone so far as to separate portions meant for lunches from those meant for snacking.  Let’s just say that really scary things can happen if you don’t portion the 55 ounce bags of tiny candy bars in our house.  Or the big plastic jar of jelly beans.  Just sayin’.

Bad, horrible things.

And, yes, I’m one of those people that meticulously counts out an exact serving portion of jelly beans.  On a previous diet (yes, I’ve done those, with about the same amount of success as roughly 80% of the population) I portioned out my 100 calorie snack packs meticulously and slightly obsessively (and most definitely compulsively).

What do you pack in your work lunches?

Tip Tuesday: Sometimes It’s Best to Recreate Old Specialties

Tip Tuesday

As the title suggests, sometimes it’s best to tweak those old specialties.  I’m not talking about Family Heritage recipes; those should be set in stone.  I’m talking about your own recipes.

For years, I’ve been fairly successful with chili.  Fairly successful=Josh and Muffin eating it.  I even thought once about entering it in a chili cook-off.  And chickened out.  (Still kicking myself for that one)

But…while it was tasty…I’ve never been truly happy with it.

We are now (whether Josh likes to admit it or not) in soup and chili weather.  Soups and chilis are great for many reasons:  1)  They tend to be one pot meals.  (Cough cough) That means fewer dishes to clean.  2)  They tend to produce lots of leftovers.  3)  (And these are the only ones I bother with)  They tend to be very filling.  4)  They tend to be cheap.

What’s not to like?

I couldn’t find my most recent recipe incarnation of chili seasoning, and I purposefully bought only taco seasoning at the 25 cent sale at Albertson’s last week.  Packets of chili seasoning taste like salt lick, even more than the taco seasoning does.

So, what’s a girl to do?  Pinterest!

The Pinteresting Blogosphere came through…sort of.  I figured if I started with a basic recipe, like the one from Budget Bytes, I could probably add to it to make an ultimate recipe, adding and subtracting amounts as I went.  Do you remember Tyler Florence’s show on Food Network, Tyler’s Ultimate?  I took that approach, and then crossed my fingers that I wasn’t mixing up too many contrasting flavors.

For the meat, I used a bacon-infused breakfast sausage roll that I found at a steal at Super 1 for 99 cents.  You could really use any kind of ground meat (although chicken might be a bit dry), ground sausage (wouldn’t do Italian probably), and of course hunk-o-beast (really would love to try this with venison…hint hint).

The beans?  Instead of canned red kidney, I used some canned pintos that I bought on clearance at Albertson’s last week.

My issue with my previous attempts?  Everything that I had produced thus far was soupy…not even stew-y.  I wanted something THICK…like canned chili…but I kept producing soupy masses of beans, tomatoes, and meat….that tasted pretty good…just not quite there yet.

So I combined a bunch of stuff (including more flour)…and added in some lime because one recipe suggested it and it sounded like fun (and I had a cup of lime juice sitting in the fridge from when the limes were 5 cents each at Super 1 last week–and I price matched at Walmart)…and tried something I never had before…because I had been afraid to.

I had seen…quite a bit before…making a slurry out of masa harina corn flour or corn meal and water and adding the slurry to the bubbling chili mixture.  One blogger said that it added a depth of flavor.  I was petrified that it was going to add a whole lotta grit.  I was the Southerner that hated HATED grits until I was an adult and teaching and my first principal made shrimp and grits and they were wonderful.  Seriously.  One of my earliest memories is traveling from the New Orleans area (where we lived at the time) to visit my grandparents (up here) and stopping to eat breakfast and trying grits…and vomiting profusely.

Do you know how embarrassing it is for a Southerner to admit that she hated grits?

So, when I mixed up that happy slurry of corn meal and water (because I don’t have masa harina)…I was expecting chili-flavored little bits of gravel that Muffin and I would choke on.

And…instead…it gelatinized (If it’s not a word, I’m claiming it), making what would normally be broth-y into a thick, fragrant, chili stew!


Even now it brings happy tears to my eyes.

I didn’t really even taste the cornmeal (or one of the other surprise ingredients that is going to not go well in Josh land if he picks it out…hearkening back to his one experience with chicken mole), but it tasted GOOD.  The yeasty hoppiness from the beer, the sweetness from the browned and caramelized onions, the sausage, the beans, the spices…muah!  (Kissing fingers in triumph)

The parts list is a bit long, and I know I could have whipped it up together faster, but Muffin wanted to help (and we got sidetracked when a bottle of Frank’s hot sauce lost a battle with the ceramic tile…but the good news is…my foot stopped bleeding!) with the seasoning, so it took a bit.  Plus, gathering the ingredients took a bit.  To save your sanity, I will start with the chili seasoning.

But first…a picture…


Chili Seasoning

(an amalgamation of several recipes…to follow my inspiration check out my Sumptuous Salads Soups and Stews board on Pinterest…at all of the chili seasoning pins…yes…I went there)

In a salad bowl, mix together:

1 tablespoon chili powder (I used Tone’s)

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (more if you have people consuming the chili that are not spice-phobic)

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon oregano

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon paprika (Again, I used the Sam’s-size of Tone’s)

1 tablespoon flour

1/4 teaspoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon allspice, ground

1/4 teaspoon basil

1/2 teaspoon coriander

1/4 teaspoon cocoa powder (unsweetened)

1 teaspoon seasoned salt

1 teaspoon dried parsley

1/4 teaspoon thyme

(I wanted to use 1/2 teaspoon of cilantro, but I can’t find my little tin of cilantro)


(again, an amalgamation of my previous attempts and my Pinterest boards)

1/2-1 pound meat (bulk sausage, ground beef, ground turkey, ground venison, hunk-o-beast, stew meat, etc.)

1 onion, chopped

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 recipe chili seasoning (see above)

12 ounce can beer (I used Coor’s light)

1 can tomatoes, undrained (14.5 ounce can) (I used petite diced)

1 can beans, drained (I used pinto beans)

2 tablespoons corn flour (masa harina) or corn meal (I used corn meal)

1/4 cup water

In a heavy enameled cast iron Dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat.  Add onion, stirring every so often.  I cooked the onion while I compiled the ingredients and made the seasoning.  Note:  The onion will take a while.  Muffin does not like onion.  I promised him that I would cook it until it was sweet, and that’s what you need to do.  Think diner patty melt onions.  You want them with a few crispy edges, with brown and golden bits.  After the onion is done (and you may have some browned onion residue in the bottom of the pot and that’s great), add the meat.  (Next time, I plan on making the chili with stew meat, and I think at this point I would brown the meat, add the beer, and braise it in the oven for a few hours.  After that, I would add in the remaining ingredients.)  Cook the meat until done.  Drain any excess fat.  Add the seasoning (still over medium heat), and stir briskly.  Add in tomatoes, scraping the bottom of the pan to get up any stuck-on bits.  Add in the beans.  Stir.  Add in beer.  Stir.  Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer for 45 minutes.  After at least 45 minutes (after allowing as much of the alcohol to cook off as possible), mix together the corn flour (or corn meal) and water in a small bowl.  Pour it into the bubbling chili.  Allow the chili to cook at a bubbling simmer for at least 10 minutes.

Serve as desired.  For this particular serving, I drizzled mine with ketchup, added a dollop of sour cream, and some shredded cheese.  I’ve also seen it with lime wedges, extra tomato or onion, jalapenos, chips, over rice, on a hot dog, etc.


I also am including this picture of Muffin.  After we bought the limes last week at Walmart (price matching with Super 1’s price of 5 cents per lime), I zested all 20…and Muffin and Josh juiced them for freezing.


Did I mention this recipe was Muffin Approved?  As in, Muffin ate an entire bowlful.

Muffin Approved

What’s your fave way to eat chili?

Meal Plan Monday: A Recipe Tease

Meal Plan Monday

Saturday, I tried a new recipe.  I’m not going to give you the recipe here, but I will mention what it is below (and tease you with this picture):


And it tasted better than it looked!

If you read Saturday’s Cent Saving Saturday post about Super 1, you may have noticed that I talked about buying the breakfast sausage for 99 cents (one of their e-mail advertised only Price Shockers).  I used that sausage as the meat for the dish above (that is mentioned below).  While I might next time switch out the meat, I think this will be my new go-to recipe for that dish.

But here…we…go…

This is Halloween week, so I hope to do what I did last year on the big day…hot dogs.

Saturday:  chili (the recipe shown above)

Sunday:  jambalaya

Monday:  leftover chili

Tuesday:  leftover jambalaya (notice a pattern here)

Wednesday:  tacos

Thursday:  taco pizzas on Texas toast…kinda winging it on this one…I hope it works out

Friday:  hot dog bar with leftover chili, apple slice bar (with caramel and goodies), Cranberry Raspberry Ginger Ale Punch, hot chocolate bar/cider bar (weather permitting)

Saturday:  Six Sisters’ version of Alice Springs Chicken (found in their first cookbook, given to me on my birthday by my parents…my mom and I are hoping this recipe works out…I think she made a copy of it)

Sunday:  orange chicken (collective groan from those who have heard of my previous recipe epic fails!) using Pioneer Woman’s recipe…my last hope… and crab rangoon wontons (again winging it)

What’s on your meal plan this week?  I promise to blog Sunday’s results (with tears, if necessary)

Minecraft Lava Punch


Recently, in perusing my feed in Pinterest, I came across a pin for Minecraft Lava Punch from Southern Revivals.  The description on the pin said that it was made from orange sherbet and red Hawaiian Punch.  I saved it to my Delish Drinks board.  I thought that would be a pretty cool treat for Rene for when he has friends over (later this week…cough cough).  Then, yesterday, I clicked on the link and found out that it was made with orange sherbet/vanilla swirl ice cream and strawberry soda.  I fumed a bit because I figured that the description on the pin sounded pretty cool.

So, I asked Josh to get some orange sherbet and Hawaiian Punch on the way home from work.  He called me from Target to tell me that they did not have JUST orange sherbet; they only had rainbow (orange, yellow, and green for orange, lemon, and lime) sherbet.  Then, the other Minecraft-obsessed person in the household asked me what was up with the ingredients.  When I told him, he said that he thought that the yellow sherbet would go great in it because there is yellow in the lava in the game.

So, that is how I ended up with rainbow sherbet and Hawaiian Punch.

I figured to make it random and “swirly,” I shouldn’t do scoops, but should instead use a fork to rake out bits of the sherbet.  I filled the glass halfway with the sherbet, alternately layering the orange with the lemon.  Then, I topped the drink with Hawaiian Punch.  And tasted it.  Um.  It was very…very…sweet.  And it needed carbonation.  In other words, it was not something I could drink.

Batch 2 was much better.  I made it by adding a bit of seltzer to the sherbet before topping the glass with Hawaiian Punch.

Notice I said to the glass.  Most of the pins for Lava Punch (and there are several different versions of it) place the lava punch in a punch bowl or punch “urn” for mass consumption.  I think this version is best done on a glass-by-glass basis.  If you are thinking about this for a large party, you could set up a drink station in which people make their own.  I would recommend clear drink ware, however, to allow for viewing of the “lava.”

Minecraft Lava Punch

Adapted from a Pin Description for a Pin from Southern Revivals

Makes 1 (Multiply amounts as needed)

One clear glass or plastic cup

One container rainbow sherbet or one container each orange and lemon sherbet (You will not use all for one drink)

Hawaiian Punch (If you are only making one serving, you will not need the entire gallon.  However, if you are serving more, or if your household drinks Hawaiian Punch, buy the gallon rather than the singles.)

Seltzer water (Either use a SodaStream, cans of seltzer, small bottles of seltzer, or a 2 L of seltzer.  I only had cans of Schweppe’s at the moment, so I made it with a can of seltzer.  You will not use the whole can.  For a 6-8 ounce portion, you will use only an ounce or two.)

Garnishes as needed:  I’m planning on adding red Nerds or red Pop Rocks to the mix.  If I add Nerds, I will add them in the mix.  If I add Pop Rocks, I will rim the glass with a bit of corn syrup, dip the rim in the Pop Rocks, and then fill the glass.  You could also use other small red, orange, or yellow candies (as well as sprinkles or jimmies).

Rim the glass with corn syrup and Pop Rocks/other candy/sprinkles if desired.

Using a fork, rake bits of sherbet into a glass, alternating the orange and the lemon sherbet.  You should have sherbet at least halfway up the glass.  The sherbet should NOT be packed down.  The “less packed” the sherbet is, the higher up the glass you will need to go.  If you are adding candy garnishes into the mix, sprinkle them on top of the sherbet.  Splash seltzer on top of the sherbet…no more than an ounce or two.  It is only there to lighten the drink and cut some of the sweetness.  Top to the rim with Hawaiian Punch.  Add additional sprinkles or garnishes as desired.

Serve, like any good float (since, essentially, that’s what this is), with a straw and a spoon.  Enjoy!  Repeat as needed.

Note:  For the alky-minded (and for those adults who play Minecraft and enjoy adult beverages), a bit of flavored vodka, rum, or liqueur may be added over the sherbet before any other ingredients.  Some flavor possibilities include:  pineapple, orange, lemon, berry, citrus, raspberry, tropical punch, cherry, peach, pomegranate, red berry, rainbow sherbet (quoting from the Pinnacle Vodka website…I have not seen this one before nor have I tasted it), orange whipped cream (ditto), Burnett’s fruit punch (I really like what I’m seeing on the website because it looks red and therefore will not turn the mixture pale), and orange cream.  I am not advocating this, mind you, but sometimes the Creepers are coming after you…and the spiders…and you just might want to indulge a bit (possibly with pineapple vodka).

I will be making one shortly (sans any alky) for Muffin.  I have a feeling I could put anything red, orange, and yellow in a glass, call it Minecraft Lava Punch, and it would be Muffin Approved.  I am going to jump the gun (since he was bouncing on the bed, begging me to make this) that it will be Muffin Approved.

Muffin Approved

Have you ever made any of the Minecraft treats mentioned on Pinterest?

Cent-Saving Saturday: Birthday Freebies

Cent Saving Saturday

I just celebrated a birthday.  No, I’m not telling you this to receive a slew of “Happy Birthdays.”  I’m telling you this because, in honor of becoming one year older, businesses will give you free stuff.

I’ve seen several “birthday” postings on savings blogs before, but I’ve only halfway taken advantage of it.  Some of these can save you a whole slew of money.

My sister is probably the expert at it.  Her birthday is filled with free stuff.  Luckily, she lives in a major metropolitan area, so her variety of stores (such as Godiva) tends to be greater.

Deals that I know about:

Newk’s Eatery:  free entree and drink (dine-in only) for e-mail subscribers

Rotolo’s:  free medium specialty or up-to-3-topping pizza for e-mail subscribers (this is a $14.99 value!)

iHop Pancake Revolution:  free Rooty Tooty Fresh n’ Fruity

The goal is: if you have a favorite eatery or place you like to shop, join their e-mail club because you might be able to get treats on your birthday!

IMG_0261 IMG_0260

(We went on the Wednesday after my birthday because Rotolo’s has calzones for $5.99)

Here is how the stores looked this week.  I’ve already gone shopping today, so I can, in the interest of full disclosure, tell you that I did not buy everything on the list.  I also discovered a few items at Super 1 that were part of their unadvertised-in-the-circular-but-sent-in-their-e-mail Price Shockers (Gawaltney breakfast sausage roll for 99 cents) as well as some completely unadvertised specials (Hormel maple bacon Little Sizzlers breakfast sausage for 87 cents).  For us, Super 1 is a bit further out of the way, but it is always worth it to go (They also had limes last week 20/$1, but I price matched with Walmart).


cheese, shredded or block, 8 ounce $1.99 (Kroger brand…not a great price, but I needed more cheese)

Big K 2 L soft drinks 67 cents each wyb 4

Kroger sour cream, 16 ounce 3/$4 (again, not a great price, but I am using sour cream in most of the dishes planned this week)

Coke, Dr. Pepper, 7-Up, or Mug 2 L 10/$10

Kroger cream cheese, 8 ounce brick 10/$10 (I had to get a rain check)


large pumpkins 3.99 (Fri-Sun)  In the interest of full disclosure, these pumpkins were labeled “Medium” and were by no means “large”

Best Choice sugar 99 cents (4 pounds) limit 2 (Fri-Sun)

Best Choice flour 99 cents (5 pounds) limit 2 (Fri-Sun)

Nestle, Wonka, Spree, Sweettart candy 39 cents (limit 6 with coupon)

Dr. Pepper 2 L 88 cents (limit 4 with coupon)

Calidad tortilla chips–big bag (12 ounce) 99 cents (limit 4 with coupon)

Prego pasta sauce 99 cents (limit 2 with coupon)

Red Gold tomatoes 39 cents (limit 8 with coupon)

Best Choice apple juice 99 cents (limit 4 with coupon)

Super 1

tomatoes on the vine 88 cents/pound (I found ones that had “fallen” off of the vine…the vine is heavy…therefore adding to the cost of the tomatoes)

Brookshire’s thick sliced bacon 3 pound package $8 (limit 2 with coupon and must have $10 non-coupon purchase)–Brookshire’s thick sliced bacon is the best!  I am not being paid for this testimonial, but when I can find it this cheap, I buy!  Luckily, both Super 1 and Brookshire’s sell it, so that’s twice the opportunity for sales.  I will say that it is $3.99 at Brookshire’s this week, and I have been known to pay $3.99 for it.  The regular price is $5.49, so when I find it on sale (as I mentioned above), I buy!  Seriously.  It’s better than Tyson, Hormel, Oscar Mayer, or any of the other brands…even my previous favorite Wrights!

Bar-S franks 87 cents

What were the sales like this week in your area?  Do you enjoy the benefits of birthday clubs?


Canadian Thanksgiving: Cranberry Relish

My sister and brother-in-law use two recipes at holiday time from The Commander’s Palace Cookbook:  Yams Richard and the cranberry-orange relish.  Both are amped up versions of holiday classics.  Yams Richard is an uber sweet potato casserole complete with pecans, marshmallows, butter, and, of course, that yummy Louisiana starchy vegetable roasted to syrup-oozing-out-of-the-steamholes perfection.

The cranberry orange relish, in contrast, is a tartly sweet, slightly boozy complement to the ubiquitous canned jellied cranberry sauce.  From previous experience I have seen leftover relish further blended and further booze-infused to create a cran-orange margarita or daiquiri.  Delish!

I have been buying up and freezing bags of cranberries post-holiday season in order to make this relish for Canadian Thanksgiving (otherwise as the time that occurs too early for the southern United States to stock bags of fresh cranberries).

But I should be glad that we don’t have a surveillance camera trained on the fridge in the kitchen because I have been guilty (quite a few times) of scooping out a surreptitious spoonful of relish before Monday.

It’s addictive.

And here’s what I did:

Cranberry-Orange Relish

Source:  The Commander’s Palace Cookbook

1 pound cranberries

2 oranges, peeled (peel discarded)

1 cup sugar

1 ounce rum

1 ounce orange liqueur (The recipe calls for Grand Marnier, but I don’t live on a Grand Marnier budget.  I live on a orange liqueur budget)

Blend until “relish”-sized pieces and refrigerate at least overnight.

Sample judiciously and surreptitiously.


Serve with turkey or on dressing/stuffing.  Serve by the spoonful in a big bowl.  Or just serve a big bowl and get out of my way!

Yes.  It’s that good.

Canadian Thanksgiving: Nanaimo Bars


Can you identify this famous bar?

I first ate these, oddly enough, at a local restaurant.  Josh and I were newly married (pre-Muffin), and were making a rare splurge out to eat.  This is the same restaurant known for its tomato-basil soup (that…well…if you remember from the post…it definitely isn’t Le Mad’s), but they have a big to-go refrigerated case.

I had heard Josh mention (quite a few times) Nanaimo bars.  I had heard them mentioned in Corner Gas (well…Nanaimo-style Saskatchewan Bars).

I had never seen them before.  And I had never tasted them before.

I should note that, just as with the tomato-basil soup, this restaurant didn’t quite corner the market on Nanaimo Bars.  They were missing something…namely custard powder, I believe.

They were good…just not what I now know to be more Nanaimo-like…Nanaimo-esque?

So, I went on the hunt.  The site that was still then Recipezaar (now Food.com) had a large Canadian contingent.  Someone on there had to have a good Nanaimo Bar recipe.

After a few misses, I located it:  Kittencal’s Best Nanaimo Bars (No Bake).  I do make some alterations.  But, for the most part, I keep the recipe as pure as I can make it.

Nanaimo Bars

Adapted from Food.com

Bottom Layer

1 stick unsalted butter, softened

1/4 cup granulated sugar

5 tablespoons cocoa powder (unsweetened)

1 egg, beaten

1 3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs (I actually purchased crumbs specifically for this)

1/2 cup finely chopped pecans (Her recipe calls for almonds)

1 cup finely chopped (“fancy” shredded) coconut

Middle Layer

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

3 scant tablespoons whipping cream

2 tablespoons vanilla custard powder (I use Bird’s brand which my sister recently informed me is available at Cost Plus World Market)

2 cups confectioner’s sugar (icing sugar to some)

Top Layer

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon whipping cream (She says optional.  I think it’s completely necessary)

For bottom layer:  On low heat in a saucepan, melt the first three ingredients, remove from heat.  Let the saucepan cool for a few minutes.  Stir in egg to combine and thicken (I’ve not let the mixture cool and had chocolate-flavored scrambled egg before).  Stir in remaining bottom layer ingredients.

Press firmly into prepared ungreased 8×8-inch square Pyrex pan.  The mixture will be crumbly but will appear to become a solid layer once tamped down.

For the middle layer:  cream the middle layer ingredients.  I used my Kitchen Aid for the first time on this attempt and it creates a smoother product than a hand mixer.

Spread over bottom layer.  Refrigerate 10-15 minutes while preparing the top layer.

For the top layer:  microwave chips, cream, and butter for one minute.  Slowly stir or whisk together until the consistency of slightly thick chocolate syrup.

Pour evenly over the middle layer, smoothing out with a spoon, a spoonula, a spatula, or a knife if necessary.

Refrigerate 1 hour before cutting.

The recipe says it makes 16 (which would be 2×2 bars).  I would recommend much smaller squares because at over half a pound of butter, they are very rich.

This recipe is completely Muffin Approved (and the only dessert that I prepped for Thanksgiving that my mom or I would eat).

Muffin Approved

Family Heirloom Recipes: Spinach Madeleine AKA Spinach Casserole

Family Heirloom Recipes

Okay.  It’s confession time.  I hate raw spinach.  I don’t like my lettuces to be sweet…unless I am adding something sweet (dressing-wise or add-on wise) to them.

That being said…I love frozen chopped spinach (once it’s heated, of course).  I absolutely adore (formerly) frozen spinach sauteed in lightly browned and golden garlic and olive oil.  I could bathe in (and devour) a tub of creamed spinach.

My love affair with cooked spinach began well before my teen years when my mom decided to make again an old family favorite from River Road Recipes (the official cookbook of the Junior League of Baton Rouge) for Thanksgiving.  Being a child, I turned up my nose at the idea of anything called “spinach casserole.”  Forget the fact it had jalapeno cheese in it.

And then I ate at least half of the offering.  (Keep in mind:  Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners have one purpose in mind:  who cares how much you eat day of…it’s the leftovers that matter.  And I’m not talking about let’s stack all of the leftovers between two slices of bread.  I’m talking about reliving the day of with a recap of the meal…leftovers-style…for as many days as possible…if possible three times a day.)  I think, if I remember right, leftovers lasted four days.  So four days of eating spinach casserole breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Yup.  Breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

It’s that good.

In recent years, it’s become a toss-up between the kicked up green bean casserole from Vintage Vicksburg which will probably be on the table at American Thanksgiving at my sister’s and making the spinach casserole (referred to formally as Spinach Madeleine).  Both are labor intensive; and the spinach casserole is a bit pricey to make.  Worth every penny as every morsel of food will be gone from the pan (in this case, a Pyrex loaf pan), but still pricey.

It all boiled down to one very key ingredient whose discontinuance almost led to the end of Spinach Madeleine (or at least a hiatus that lasted a few years)…Kraft’s Jalapeno Cheese Roll.  You see, Kraft used to make a jalapeno cheese roll with a black wrapper and a garlic cheese roll with a green wrapper.  A while back, they discontinued both…first the jalapeno cheese log and then the garlic one.

It wasn’t until I was an adult that I noticed (after pouting for years about the demise of the jalapeno cheese roll) that Kraft began making a Mexican Velveeta (insanely pricey, like most of their Velveeta has become recently).

So, I went about attempting a substitution.  And it worked…it was doable…but, it wasn’t the same.  I keep hoping the bigwigs at Kraft will hear the collective cry of those who love the recipe and bring the cheese roll back.

In making the list for Canadian Thanksgiving, I decided I needed to add it to the list.  Have you ever noticed how starchy Thanksgiving meals tend to be:  dressing or stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes of some kind, rolls of some kind, and possibly even other starches.  Yes, we always serve broccoli and cauliflower with cheese sauce (as well as the raw crudites…called relishes), but I wanted…well…I wanted an excuse to make spinach casserole.

But, here’s what I did this time:

20 ounces frozen spinach (I ended up with 12 ounce package bags…so I ended up with 24 ounces)–Make sure you get chopped!

4 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons flour

1/4 cup white onion, chopped finely

1/2 cup whipping cream (I still had some left over from truffle making a bit ago.  The original recipe calls for evaporated milk)

1/2 cup “pot likker” (made from preparing the spinach–I microwaved mine sans extra water and ended up with exactly 1/2 cup–once I squeezed the spinach in a wire mesh strainer bone dry)

1/2 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground

3/4 tablespoon garlic salt

3/4 tablespoon celery salt

a dash of cayenne or red pepper, or to taste (optional)

6 ounces Mexican Velveeta, cubed

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Cook spinach according to package directions, drain, and reserve liquid.  Pour spinach into greased final baking dish (I used a loaf pan).  I microwaved two packages’ worth for 8 minutes.  In a large saucepan, melt butter over low heat.  Add onion and cook slowly until softened.  While the onion is cooking, pour the cream/milk into the pot likker.  Add flour to the butter and onion, blending until smooth, and cook about 1 minute.

Slowly add creamy pot likker, stirring constantly.  Cook until thickened and smooth (think Alfredo sauce consistency or a bit thicker).  Add seasonings and cheese.  Stir.  Pour over drained spinach into appropriate casserole dish (I used the loaf pan).  Stir to blend completely.

*At this point you would want to refrigerate for at least one day or freeze, covered in foil.  On the cooking day, bring to room temperature before baking in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes (or until hot and bubbly).

Note:  I have seen several post-Kraft-catastrophe recipe substitutions for the cheese roll.  Some use Velveeta or Cheez Whiz with cut up pickled jalapeno peppers.  Some use pepper jack.  I haven’t tried either.  In some places, a company is producing a jalapeno cheese roll clone, but it looks wrong to me, somehow.  Maybe one day I’ll try it, though.

I serve this as a big meal side dish.  I refuse to do what one of my mom’s coworkers once suggested when Mom brought the casserole to a work holiday potluck:  use it as a spinach dip for chips or crackers.

That still causes my stomach to curl in on itself.  Almost as the thought of the newest Pinterest pumpkin monstrosity does:  pumpkin rice.

Here was the casserole (before baking):


It’s all I can do not to go invade and conquer the loaf pan in the fridge right now.

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving, everyone!  🙂

Meal Plan Monday: The Canadian Thanksgiving Edition

Meal Plan Monday

Meal Plan Monday for this week is kind of a joke.  It’s a game of “how long can we make the Thanksgiving leftovers last?”

Josh was on call this last week, so the weekend ended with Muffin and me playing catch meals as catch can.

Here’s what the plan is for the week:

Saturday:  Muffin had hot dogs; I had leftover taco meat and toppings.

Sunday:  Meatball Sub Casserole, baby kale and brussels sprouts casserole

Monday:  Canadian Thanksgiving:  turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing/dressing, gravy, broccoli and cauliflower with cheese sauce, spinach madeleine, Yams Richard, green bean casserole, jellied cranberry sauce, cranberry-orange relish, rolls, relishes (raw veg) and dip, tea, soda, cran-raspberry ginger ale punch, pumpkin pie, Nanaimo bars

Tuesday:  leftovers

Wednesday:  leftovers

Thursday:  hopefully leftovers; if not turkey and gravy over toast or breakfast for dinner (waffles or pancakes)

Friday:  out to eat for my birthday

Saturday:  grilled burgers

Sunday:  chicken with basil cream sauce, rice, gravy

Hopefully the leftovers will last through Thursday.

Have I mentioned today how much I love leftovers?

What’s on your meal plan for this week?

Meatball Sub Casserole

As I posted on Facebook earlier, I guess I needed to cook an actual dinner.  Josh managed to eke an hour for dinner out of his work schedule, and he gave me VERY.  LITTLE.  NOTICE.  Luckily, I pulled out what I had originally planned for yesterday:  the meatball sub casserole from Big Oven and a kale-and-brussel-sprouts salad kit (from Sam’s for only $1.29…not a reduced produce item price).

I didn’t realize this, but this casserole goes together to go into the oven in just under 10 minutes (It probably would have been fewer if I hadn’t gotten frustrated in the rush to have everything ready) and then into the oven for 30 minutes (27 at 350 degress and 3 at an open-door broil).

Muffin loved this…he loves anything with meatballs.

There was one small problem:  we had spaghetti and meatballs not too long ago, so we didn’t have quite a full pound of meatballs.  I added a few cut up bits of breakfast sausage from breakfast this morning.  I thought it was great, but Josh thought that maple sausage didn’t really go with the mix.  He thought a not-maple variety would have worked, however.


By the way…guess who didn’t follow the recipe exactly?  Me.

Meatball Sub Casserole

5 slices Texas toast, toasted (I used Kroger brand, but Sunbeam would also be great)

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/2 teaspoon each salt, pepper (freshly ground), basil, oregano, and parsley

1 (28 ounce) jar spaghetti sauce (I used Classico’s Cheesy Spinach Florentine…it was yummy!)

1 cup water

1 pound frozen precooked meatballs, thawed (or zapped in the microwave for a minute from frozen…you may add chunks of sausage, too)

2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In an ungreased 9×13 pan, arrange slices of toast.  I had to cut up a few of the pieces to make them fit.

In a bowl, combine cream cheese, mayonnaise, and the seasonings.  Spread the mixture over the bread.  Cover with 1/2 cup of the shredded mozzarella.

In a larger bowl, combine the meatballs (and sausage, if using), spaghetti sauce, and water.  I poured the water into the spaghetti sauce jar when I emptied it, lidded the jar, shook it, and was able to get out most of the tomatoey bits.

Slather the sauce and the meat over the layers in the pan.  Cover with remaining shredded mozza.

Bake, uncovered, for 27 minutes.  In the last three minutes, turn the heat up to broil to brown the cheese a bit.

Serve with something green to feel wholesome.

This recipe, if the ingredients are in-house, goes from start to oven in fewer than ten minutes.  That’s a very important recipe to have in your arsenal.  If you make homemade meatballs and freeze them, the good-for-you factor is upped by a lot.

Muffin Approved

What is a quick, go-to recipe for you?