Funny Muffin Friday: Baby, You’re a Firework!



Funny Muffin Friday

For the Fourth of July this year, we visited my sister.  On the day we chose to go purchase fireworks, it poured buckets.  So, we waited out the storm as well as we could in the huge seasonal fireworks warehouse.  Muffin decided to pose as a firework while he waited (and while he and his cousins helped us decide which fireworks to purchase).


And so, to quote one of his favorite songs (known as “circus song” because it comes from Madagascar 3), “Baby, you’re a firework!”

Thoughtful Thursday: Review of Dinnertime by Ree Drummond

Thoughtful Thursday

What are the odds of having a not-rant-filled Thoughtful Thursday post.  I can feel the breeze caused by the collective eye rolls, y’all.  Truly, this one is more gushy than rant-y.  (Disclosure:  I received a copy of the cookbook that I will review below as a birthday gift from my parents.)

I promise.

For my birthday, my mom gave me three cookbooks, two on my birthday and one after (because it came out after my birthday).

Today, I will review for you the one that arrived after my birthday, allowing for the recency effect.

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Yup.  My mom handed it to me in the open package from Amazon.  She had to take a peek.  I now have all four of her cookbooks.

I love all three of the ones I had before, but the first one was the one I have always referred to as “the best.”  After skimming through (okay, absorbing every word, graphic, and photograph) the “new” cookbook, I have this to say:  the first one has a run for its money at last.

I LOVE IT!!!!!!

Most (if not all) recipes are available on her blog, and many have been featured on her TV show on Food Network.  This would be an excellent cookbook for the beginner cook for several reasons.  1) She photographs each step of the cooking process. 2) She has suggestions in the beginning to help streamline the cooking process (advanced prep, etc.).  Nothing new, but it is explained in the type of detail you would get from your bestie. 3) She offers serving suggestions and variations for each recipe.

So, it would (like her first cookbook) make a great bridal, housewarming, or college gift.

Her book is divided into breakfast, soup, salad, freezer food, 16-Minute Meals, pasta, comfort food, new favorites, veggie sides, starchy sides, and quick desserts.

Some of the highlights I’m looking forward to trying/trying again:

Greek Yogurt Pancakes


Huevos Rancheros

Homemade Enchilada Sauce

Croissant French Toast (once the croissants from Sam’s go stale)

Breakfast Quesadillas

Lazy Chiles Rellenos

Cobb Salad

Chicken Taco Salad

Buffalo Chicken Salad

Tomato Soup with Parmesan Croutons

Potato Soup

Sausage, Potato, and Kale Soup (like Olive Garden’s Zuppa Toscana)

Cheesy Cauliflower Soup

Ready-to-Go Freezer Meatballs (including variations for Sweet-and-Sour, Sweedish, and BBQ meatballs)

Ready-to-Go Grilled Chicken

Ready-to-Go Chili Packets

Ready-to-Go Taco Chicken (with a variation for Chicken Nachos)

Ready-to-Go Beef Taco Filling (with variations for Salad Tacos)

Baked Ziti (that uses meat…I know!  Shocker!)

Lasagna Roll-Ups

Chicken with Mustard Cream Sauce (Every once in a while a recipe comes along that screams “TRY ME!” This is one of those recipes!)

Pan-Fried Pork Chops

Orange Chicken (Otherwise known as, I have now after tears, angst, massive feelings of failure, self-doubt, and much bad feelings, finally created Orange Chicken successfully)

Beef with Snow Peas

Cashew Chicken

Chow Mein

Pasta Puttanesca

Bow-Tie Chicken Alfredo

Pasta with Vodka Sauce

Cajun Chicken Pasta (This is truly an awesome recipe.  Adjust spicyness to taste.  I feel the need to make it.  Like now!)

Skillet Lasagna

Shrimp Scampi

Quick Shells and Cheese

Salisbury Steak

Tuna Noodle Casserole

Oven-Barbecued Chicken

Red Wine Pot Roast

Chicken Enchiladas

Pork Chops with Wine and Roasted Garlic

Pollo Asado

Chicken Marsala

Pork Chops with Pineapple Fried Rice

Chicken Milanese

Pawhuska Cheesesteaks

Green Chile Chicken

Burrito Bowls

Roasted Asparagus

Roasted Grape Tomatoes

Broccoli Cauliflower Casserole (I detest cauliflower and broccoli is not my favorite, but I want to try this one!)

Lemony Green Beans

Peas and Carrots

Colorful Coleslaw

Roasted Carrots with Vinaigrette

Veggies and Three Dips

Stovetop Mashed Potatoes

Breakfast Potatoes

“Slice-Baked” Potatoes

Rice Pilaf

Buttered Parsley Noodles


Cheese Biscuits

Refrigerator Rolls

The Bread

Pudding (Vanilla, Butterscotch, Chocolate)

Quick Caramel Sauce

Slice and Bake Cookies

Quick Fudge

Rice Pudding

Dessert Panini

We Plan Wednesday: The November 2015 Meal Plan (with Links!)

We Plan Wednesday

If you’ve been tuning in for the last few months, you know that I’ve created a meal plan for the rest of the year.  So far, I haven’t exactly followed them, but I know they are available as old standbys if I need them.  As November begins Sunday, it is now time to share the November menu.

1:  Salmon Patties (Deep South Dish)

2:  Nacho Casserole (Buns in My Oven)

3:  Bacon Cheeseburger Tatchos (Frugal Foodie Mama)  This link seems to be broken, but if you message me I will send my file to you through e-mail.

4:  Breakfast Croissant and Potatoes (Life in the Lofthouse)

5:  leftovers (It’s Thursday, after all)

6:  Chicken Ranch Pizza (Life in the Lofthouse)

7:  Crock Pot Asian Chicken (Country Cook)

8:  Easy Chicken Breasts with Creamy Mushroom Sauce (Foodie Crush)

9:  Arroz con Pollo (Make Ahead Meals Busy Moms)

10:  Taco Time Crisp Bean Burritos (Let’s Dish)

11:  Marinated Root Beer Grilled Chicken (6 Sisters’ Stuff)

12:  leftovers

13:  Slow Cooker Pizza Chicken (Heather Likes Food)

14:  dinner at hotel for anniversary

15:  snacky dinner from Central Market:  cheese tray

16:  anniversary dinner out

17:  Mexican Pollo Spud (My Name Is Snickerdoodle)

18:  Chicken and Cornbread Casserole (Bread, Booze, and Bacon)

19:  leftovers

20:  Pizza Pasta (How Sweet It Is)

21:  Frito Chili Cheeseburger (A Spicy Perspective)

22:  Sweet Tea Fried Chicken (Growing Up Gabel)

23:  Parmesan Chicken (Broke Ass Gourmet)

24:  Avocado Chicken Enchiladas (Six Sisters’ Stuff) through their My Recipe Magic Site

25:  Eggnog French Toast (A Beautiful Mess) and Homemade Sausage

26:  Thanksgiving dinner

27:  leftovers

28:  leftovers

29:  Slow Cooker Garlic Chicken (Recipe Girl)

30:  Chicken Pecan Fettuccine (Deep South Dish)

How do you see your November shaping up?

Tip Tuesday: Homemade Candy Faves!

Tip Tuesday



Growing up, I loved Almond Joys and Mounds bars.  Well, sort of.  This is going to sound very high maintenance of me, but I hated dark chocolate growing up and wasn’t too fond of nuts (including almonds).  I used to always whine ponder why they couldn’t make a coconut candy bar coated in milk chocolate without nuts.

When I saw several three- and four-ingredient Mounds bar recipes online, I knew what I had to do.  I had to make it with milk chocolate chips.

That was the first recipe correction to the one I found on Back for Seconds.  The other problem?  Like dipping truffles, dipping barely-held-together bars of coconutty gooey goodness resulted in a lot of tears.  I decided to force them into balls and dip the balls.

So, basically, I made milk chocolate Mounds balls or almond-free Almond Joy balls.  Or, as Back for Seconds so efficiently put it, 4 Ingredient Coconut Cream Bars (errr, Balls).

Tip Tuesday Tip:  Clone your favorite candy bars for a less-expensive and/or more desirable product.

4 Ingredient Coconut Cream Balls

Adapted from Back for Seconds

20 ounces shredded coconut

14 ounces sweetened condensed milk (Plus more, you know, to get your fix on with a spoon.  I know I’m not the only one who does this!)

2 cups powdered sugar

2 bags milk chocolate chips, approximately 22-24 ounces, melted

In a large bowl, combine the non chocolate ingredients.  Press into a 9×13 pan and freeze for 1 hour (Be sure to grease the pan.).  Meanwhile, slurp sweetened condensed milk by the spoonful.  You know you want to!

Slice into small squares  haha!  Scoop and press into balls and dip in melted chocolate.  Set dipped balls on waxed or parchment paper on a pan to set up.  Store in an airtight container (preferably in the fridge).

Other great candies to make at home (that I’ve made and posted here)?

Chocolate-Covered Strawberries

Chocolate-Dipped Licorice

Cranberry-Pistachio Bark

Cream Cheese Mints

Easy Peanut Butter Fudge


No-Bake Peanut Butter Bars (Think homemade Reese’s cups)

Orange Truffles


Sweet and Spicy Pecans

What candies and sweet treats do you like to make at home?

Meal Plan Monday: This Week Looks Like Last Week

Meal Plan Monday

Yes, this week is going to strongly resemble last week.  Why?  Because the only item on the meal plan that got cooked last week was the baked ziti.  Even a last minute pizza meal was put on hold for Friday because a little muffin came down with strep.  Yes, sickness visited the LFam house at the worst possible time.

So, this meal plan will look (with very few variations) very familiar.

Saturday:  pizza ball things from Reddit (recipe forthcoming), salad

Sunday:  chicken nuggets and fries

Monday:  meatloaf, poutine, and greens

Tuesday:  taco Tuesday (LEGO Movie anyone?)

Wednesday:  breakfast for dinner (Hoping to do French toast sticks and sausage)

Thursday:  leftovers

Friday:  pineapple pizza grilled cheese, corn

Saturday:  Happy Halloween hot dog bar!

Sunday:  tourtierre, fries, salad (poutine fries if we still have cheese curd)

And Muffin’s lunches for this week:

Monday:  chicken nuggets, apple, grape tomatoes, chocolate milk, cheese balls, cookies

Tuesday:  leftover pizza ball thing with sauce to dip, fruit cup, yogurt, cookies, Hi-C

Wednesday:  taco with sour cream, cheese, olive, tomato; tortilla chips (possibly cool ranch); apple sauce; water; fruit snack

Thursday:  french toast sticks and syrup, ham roll up, grape tomatoes, apple, pineapple juice, candy

Friday:  Halloween Lunchable, fruit, olives and tomatoes

What’s on your meal plan for the week?

Cent Saving Saturday: Meatless Meals?

Cent Saving Saturday

Yes, I know it has been forever since the last CSS post.  It’s not that I’ve forgotten CSS posts.  It’s just that, for the most part, sales in our area have been kind of “meh.”  Okay, but nothing to write home (or a blog entry) about.  And, I was stumped on what to write as the main part of the blog entry.

And then…I tried a recipe that a reader had recommended.  It was as if the heavens opened, the birds tweeted softly, and cotton candy started dancing.  Not really.  But close.  Yes, it was that awesome.

It was a recipe from Serious Eats, “Baked Ziti with Two Mozzarellas and Parmesan Cream Sauce.”  We ate it last Sunday.  It was Muffin Approved.  It was Josh Approved.  It was Me Approved.  Daisy really wanted to make it Daisy Approved.  I love it because even though Serious Eats says that it makes six servings, we are still eating on it.  I’ve eaten it for dinner a few times (because the meal plan went to “hockey sticks”) as well as lunch and even (for those of you who don’t know of my secret vice of eating leftovers from the day before for breakfast) breakfast for several days.

It makes A TON!  It’s awesome!  Which brings me to my focus for this piece.

You can save money through meatless meals.  The baked ziti does use some pretty pricey ingredients, but I managed to find them mostly on sale.  And, did I mention the recipe makes a ton?  After we pigged out on it Sunday, there were still two plasticware containers FULL and a plate for me for lunch the following day.  The cost-per-serving is tiny.  And, it freezes well in individual servings and reheats well.

What about other dishes?  We’ve all heard the anti-frugalista’s lament:  eating frugally only allows you to eat rice and beans.  Rice and beans make a complete protein, first of all.  And, moreover, if you use a very tasty bean recipe, beans and rice can be pretty awesome.  And, they can be used for burritos (with the beans left whole or smashed to become “refried”) as a reinvented leftover.

Scary thought:  I just realized that I have very few meatless meals listed on the blog, other than the Crockpot Baked Ziti and Crock Pot Macaroni and Cheese.  So, to my readers, I issue you this challenge:  what are your favorite meatless meals?

Now, on to the show (with the recipe and the week’s deals).

Baked Ziti with Two Mozzarellas and Parmesan Cream Sauce

Source:  Serious Eats (altered only slightly)

Baked Ziti Whole

1 1/2 pounds dry ziti pasta (I used a pound of ziti and a half pound of penne before I realized that I had purchased another pound of ziti)

4 cups tomato(-based pasta) sauce (I ended up using 6 cups or three jars), divided

2 cups shredded low-moisture part skim mozzarella

2 cups diced fresh mozzarella, divided (I bought one of the eight-ounce balls, and it was sufficient)

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 cups heavy cream

2 ounces Parmiggiano-Reggiano cheese, about 2 ounces, grated to a “snow drift” with a microplane

fresh basil leaves, torn, for serving

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Rack should be in the center.  Boil pasta in salted water (think seawater is what I was always told) for 6 1/2 minutes.  The pasta will not be al dente!  It will finish cooking in the oven!  Reserve 1/2 cup of the starchy pasta water.  Drain pasta.

In the hugest mixing bowl you have, no…seriously, combine the following:  pasta, reserved pasta water, shredded mozzarella, 1 cup fresh mozzarella dice, 2 1/2 cups of pasta sauce (I used one jar, a total of three cups), salt, and pepper.

Scrape into a large flat baking dish, either rectangular or squarish.  Press down into an even layer. Drizzle remaining sauce over the pasta.  (I used another jar, so another three cups, but I love things saucy).  Scatter remaining fresh mozzarella artistically over the top.  COVER WITH ALUMINUM FOIL!  (Guess which step I forgot the first time for about five minutes until I read through the next instruction that says to uncover the ziti?)  Bake 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, gently simmer cream over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until reduced to 1 1/2 cups, about 20 minutes. Sprinkle in Parmigiano-Reggiano into cream and whisk until completely melted and sauce is smooth. Season with salt. Keep warm.  Taste repeatedly then castigate yourself that there may not be enough sauce left for the ziti.  Then, cover up your guilt by tasting again.

Increase oven to 450°F, uncover baked ziti, and cook until just starting to brown on top, about 10 minutes. Let stand for the longest 10 minutes of your life–not kidding here. Top with basil leaves, spoon onto plates, and drizzle with Parmesan cream. Serve immediately.

Baked Ziti Plated

Guess what I’m having for breakfast?


whole chicken, drumsticks, or thighs 79 cents/pound, limit 2 chickens or packages with $10 purchase

red, yellow, or orange bell peppers 99 cents each

Kroger milk or orange juice, one gallon $2.99

Kroger sour cream or cream cheese 10/$10

Bartlett pears 99 cents/pound

Coca-Cola, Dr. Pepper, or 7-Up 2 Liter, $1 each when you buy 5

Betty Crocker cake mix 10/$10

Old Orchard juices, 64 ounces 10/$10

Lunchables 10/$10

Kroger frozen waffles, 10/$10


Best Choice flour or sugar 99 cents (limit 3, Friday-Sunday)

Prego Pasta Sauce, 99 cents wyb 6

Campbell’s chunky soups, 99 cents wyb 6

Red Gold salsa 99 cents wyb 6

Kraft 8 ounce salad dressing 99 cents wyb 6

Red Gold tomatoes (canned) 29 cents wyb 6

Hormel chili $1.49 wyb 6

boneless skinless chicken breast $1.47/pound

strawberries, 1 pound package 2/$4


pork butt roast, 99 cents/pound, limit three packages

Jonagold, Fuji, Granny Smith, or red delicious apples 10 pounds/$10

What are the deals in your area this week?

Funny Muffin Friday: My Date for My Birthday Supper

Funny Muffin Friday

One week ago today, I turned 35.  I know!!!!  Turning 30 didn’t bother me.  I was a new mama at that time and barely blinked when the big 3-0 hit.  But 35 I approached with apprehension.

Locally, the pizza restaurant Rotolo’s offers as a member of their loyalty program a free pizza for your birthday.  Last year, this was when we ate out at the restaurant shortly after my birthday:


I think last Friday, Muffin and I sat in the same booth when we went for my birthday.  The pizza this time was pineapple.

This time Muffin was my sole pizza date because Josh had to work.  He ordered a sour green apple Sprite drink which he proclaimed to be “Sour like lemon!!!!”

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And the pizza we shared…


I truly enjoyed my birthday this year, despite reaching the dreaded 3-5!

Happy Friday, everyone!

A Catch-Up Post: Apple-Pecan Pork Chops

First, let me say, this recipe was Muffin Approved.

Muffin Approved

Are you enjoying these catch-up posts?  I’m trying to make it all about food.  I know that I sometimes get ranty on some posts and seem to have forgotten what it’s like to cook at times, but I’m appreciating catching up with you on recipes I’ve planned in MPM, made, photographed, and…never posted.

I know.

I’m trying to get better with it.

As I was saying, this recipe was Muffin Approved, but it wasn’t really Josh Approved.  My dear sweet husband really doesn’t like food mixing with his meat much.  I once suggested making poultry with orange glaze for Canadian Thanksgiving (one of our first CT’s together, in fact), and he was quick to veto it.

Adding chopped nuts as a garnish on top of the apples?  That really didn’t endear this dish to him.

I liked it, but I was wanting it to have more flavor…and a pan sauce with a bit more body.  As you can tell from the picture above, the consistency was more…runny.

Runny usually doesn’t make me think yummy for my tummy.

This recipe came from Better Homes and Gardens’s website (originally found inside a BHG magazine cookbook perusal), and just like the oven-fried pork chops, it starts with four chops (BHG wants thick cut; since I cut mine from the pork loin, I couldn’t guarantee that).

Apple-Pecan Pork Chops

Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens

4 boneless pork chops (see above), trimmed of fat and seasoned with salt and pepper

1 medium red apple, sliced (skin-on) thinly

salt and pepper (fresh-ground on the pepper, if you please)

2 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup chopped pecans

2 tablespoons packed brown sugar, plus extra for sprinkling at the end

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat until it becomes bubbly.  Add apple.  Cook and stir 2 minutes (try not to make apple mush).  Remove apple from skillet (you’ll thank me later).  Add pork chops.  Cook pork chops.  Turn pork chops.  Sprinkle with brown sugar.

Cover and cook 2-4 minutes more until pork reads 240 degrees on a meat thermometer.  Now, spoon the apples on top and sprinkle with pecans and additional brown sugar, if desired.

Note:  I followed the directions on the website when I made it, and the apples turned into mush.  Removing them after sauteeing them would probably help.


We Plan Wednesday: The Halloween Edition

We Plan Wednesday

It’s that time of year again.  Halloween.  If you’ve been down the Walmart, Target, grocery store, any type of store aisles, really, you’ve seen the melee ensue.

Houses have a host of pumpkins before them.  Little boys and girls (as well as big ones, too) are readying their costumes for the season.

We host a very informal get together with my parents and a couple of our mutual friends.  Josh is the delegated person who walks Muffin around trick-or-treating.  I get to be the one who deals with the scared little ones who walk through Josh’s sidewalk or terror.

Josh loves Halloween.  I like it, too, but Josh loves to go all out on the decorating scheme.  Spider webs, creepy lighting, a spider that jumps out from its den of cinder blocks with fog.  A graveyard.

Traditionally, we have a hot dog bar with caramel apple wedges to dip and decorate.  This year, I think we are going to do the hot dog bar but with an ice cream sundae bar (that everyone usually loves).  Then, the trick-or-treaters get ready and head out for the fun.  And I don a mask and get ready for the fun of passing out candy.

One recipe I’m hoping to revive is one that didn’t quite make it to fruition last year, even though it was on the menu:  Minecraft Lava Punch.

Hope you have a Happy Howloween and a safe one, too!



Tip Tuesday: Lunch Week Chart

Tip Tuesday

Ever since well before Muffin was born, I’ve been obsessed with the fact that one day, I would have to make his lunches for school.  (Those two links, by the way, are to a list of possible lunch items ideas and his first week of lunches.)  Seriously.  Even before there was a Muffin, there were lists of what I could pack in his lunches.

As I said, uhb-sessed!

I wanted to make sure his lunches had splashes of (preferably natural) color and that they were balanced.

After the first week, I created a chart that I am now (after way too many weeks) ready to share with you as a printable.

Click the photo below to access the printable!

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This way, I can see at a glance if there is too much repetitiveness in Muffin’s lunches, make sure he has the required meal components, and make sure that I have the ingredients, if necessary, to replenish (if I need to get them before that day or if I should be fine to wait until the weekend to replenish).  The Packing column is important because I can at a glance see what needs to be bagged or containered.  I also mention if I need a spoon or a fork for Muffin.

Here is this week’s form completed:

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So, what does all this translate to for Muffin’s week?

Monday:  Pizza Kabob Lunchable, applesauce, olives, Capri Sun from the Lunchable, treat from the Lunchable

Tuesday:  chicken nuggets (leftover from Saturday) with ketchup, chocolate milk, fruit cup, carrot/celery sticks, goldfish crackers, fruit snack

Wednesday:  taco with cheese, sour cream, lettuce, tomatoes, and olives; bag freeze-dried apple fruit chips, fruit punch Hi-C, tortilla chips, candy

Thursday:  sub sandwich lunchable, cheesestick, 100% fruit juice drink from lunchable, carrot/celery sticks, treat from Lunchable

Friday:  hot dog on a bun with ketchup, pear, cheesestick, olives, water, “tree” cookie

How do you plan your lunches or those for your loved ones?