Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I want to try this recipe!

Arwen posted this on her site recently. I'm going to try it out the next time someone has a birthday.

Starlight Yellow Cake (from Betty Crocker)

2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups sugar
½ cup butter or margarine, softened
1 ¼ cups milk
3 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 large eggs

1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour bottom and sides of rectangular pan (13-inch x 9-inch), or 2 round pans (9-inch diameter), or 3 round pans (8-inch diameter).
2. Beat all ingredients with electric mixer on low speed 30 seconds, scraping bowl constantly. Beat on high speed 3 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. Pour into pans.
3. Bake rectangle 35-40 mins, 9-inch rounds 25-30 minutes, 8-inch rounds 30-35 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean or until cake springs back when touched lightly in center. Cool rectangle in pan on wire rack; cool rounds 10 minutes, then remove from pans to wire rack. Cool completely, about 1 hour.
4. Frost as desired.

I can't really think of a frosting I've tried and didn't enjoy, but the frosting I grew up with is buttercream. It is tooth-achingly sweet but delicious. It is what frosting from a can aspires to be.

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting (from Betty Crocker)

3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla 1 to 2 tablespoons milk

1. Mix powdered sugar and butter in medium bowl with spoon or electric mixer on low speed. Stir in vanilla and 1 tablespoon of the milk.
2. Gradually beat in just enough remaining milk to make frosting smooth and spreadable. If frosting is too thick, beat in more milk, a few drops at a time. If frosting becomes too thin, beat in a small amount of powdered sugar.

(For Chocolate Buttercream Frosting, increase the vanilla to 2 teaspoons and the milk to 3-4 tablespoons. Follow directions above, adding 3 ounces melted and cooled unsweetened baking chocolate with the vanilla.)

Monday, November 26, 2007

Recipes from Kara

Over the holiday we visited with our dear friends Nate and Kara and Kara was kind enough to send me these recipes that I'm dying to try!! They told us all about these Governor Bars ... I can hardly wait until Christmas to try them out (we're on a STRICT South Beach Diet until then, dangit). She made us the casserole for breakfast and it was SO GOOD. Why does food have to be SO GOOD sometimes?? AHHH!

Governor Bars:
1 cup honey
1 cup sugar
1 cup peanut butter
6 cups Rice Krispies
6 oz. Semi-Sweet Chocolate chips
12 oz. Butterscotch chips

1. Put Rice Krispies and peanut butter in a bowl.
2. Put honey and sugar in a pot and bring to a boil (just so it bubbles once).
3. Pour honey mixture into bowl with rice krispies/peanut butter and mix it with a spoon.
4. Put mixture into a 13x9 greased pan. I press it down a little bit...not to much.
5. Melt chocolate chips and butterscotch chips in the microwave (about a minute or so) and stir until all melted and mixed together.
6. Spread on top of the rice krispy mixture.
Done! YUM!

Sausage and Rice Casserole:
2 lb. rolls bulk pork sausage
1 lg. onion chopped
2 1/2 c celery sliced
1 1/2 c rice
2 pkgs Lipton chicken noodle soup
5 1/2 c water
1 tsp salt
Toasted almonds slivered

Preheat oven 375
-Brown and drain sausage. Add onions and celery. Cook 5 min till softened.
-Meanwhile, boil water, add rice and soup, cook 20 min covered. Stir a few times, will be moister then regular rice.
-Combine all together in 9x13 casserole. Sprinkle with almonds and bake 20-30 minutes. Can also refrigerate and bake one hour.

Monday, September 17, 2007

My favorite of-the-moment kitchen tool

This is a The Pampered Chef garlic press. I was first introduced to this tool by my best friend Lily, who is a big-time Pampered Chef fan (and also a big-time garlic fan). I'd tried to use fresh garlic before but it was too hard to chop and my hands would stink for days, so I just resigned myself to garlic salt or dried garlic granules. Then one day John's sister Candice told me that she was going to a Pampered Chef party and asked if I wanted her to order me anything ... I jumped at the chance!! This thing amazes me because you can just stick a clove of garlic in it UNPEELED and it minces it perfectly. It also has a little tool to clean the teeny holes and get the garlic peel out of the compartment. I love this thing! When I'm done I just rinse it and throw it in the dishwasher. Love it.

I also have a Pampered Chef chopper and pizza wheel (more gifts from Candice). I really need to find a Pampered Chef rep!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Easy Chicken Sautee (adapted from The South Beach Diet)

The basic recipe for this dish does not call for rosemary or mushrooms. Actually, I've modified it so much it's very different from the original. Here's my version: easy and good!

4 chicken breasts
3-4 T. olive oil
3-4 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1 med onion, sliced and quartered
1 T. rosemary (fresh or dried)
1 cup chicken broth
salt and pepper

Heat up the olive oil in an iron skillet on med-high heat. Rinse and pat dry chicken breasts and sautee in the oil until browned and sealed (3-4 mins each side) add garlic to pan and brown. Add onions and mushrooms and briefly sautee next to chicken. Add chicken broth, rosemary, salt and pepper to taste and cover pan. Cook until the onions are translucent and the rosemary is soft (if using dried). Serve in shallow bowls with broth. John loves this one!!

Friday, June 1, 2007

Lemon Bars

This is my most popular and most-requested recipe (butter cake is a close second). I got it from Mom's cookbook, and I believe it's the Nordstrom recipe, but I'm not sure. I go heavier on the lemon juice because we like them a little more lemony. GOOD STUFF!

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (divided)
1/2 cup sifted powdered sugar
3/4 cup butter
1/2 tsp. baking powder
4 eggs, beaten
2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp. grated lemon rind (optional, I never add this)
1/3 cup lemon juice
Powdered sugar

Combine 2 cups flour and 1/2 cup powdered sugar (I don't sift). Cut butter into flour mixture with a pastry blender until mixture resemles coarse meal.

Spoon flour mixture into an ungreased 13x9x2 in. metal cake pan (I use one with a plastic cover for easy transport later). Press the mixture down into an even crust with fingertips. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes or until crust is lightly browned (if the crust is uneven, it will overcook in certain spots so be diligent).

While the crust is baking, combine the remaining 1/2 cup flour and baking powder, set aside. Combine eggs, 2 cups sugar, lemon rind if desired, and lemon juice (I use at minimum 1/2 cup. I wouldn't recommend using more than 2/3 cup). Stir dry ingredients into egg mixture with a whisk, and pour over baked crust.

Return pan to oven and bake for another 25 mins at 350 degrees (until lightly browned and set). Cool on a wire rack (I have stuck it in the fridge to cool it faster too). Dust lightly with powdered sugar before cutting into squares. Delish!

Make Your Own Pancake Mix from RealSimple Magazine

This mix has made the best pancakes... and it's a lot cheaper than buying Bisquick! Everyone loves the result, including Henry and Juicy, who have come to expect their miniature "puppy pancake" when John and I sit down to eat ours.

8 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cups sugar
2 tablespoons salt

Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl. Mix well. Transfer to a large-mouthed sealable jar or a large resealable plastic bag. May be stored in the pantry up to 6 months.

To make pancakes (makes enough to feed 4, we usually make a half recipe):

Place 2 1/2 cups pancake mix in a large bowl. In a small separate bowl, whisk together two eggs 1 3/4 cold cups milk, and 4 tablespoons butter melted and cooled (I use room temperature vegetable oil and get the same result). Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix. Gently stir until thorougly combined but DO NOT OVERMIX. You want some lumps. Let the batter sit for 5 mins so that baking powder can do its work. Use a measuring cup to pour out 1/2 to 1/2 cup of batter on a clean, hot, medium-heat buttered skillet. Flip when the pancake is dotted with airholes throughout. Once you've turned the pancake, wait about 2 minutes and press lightly on the center of the pancake with spoon. If it feels mushy, it's not done, but if it springs back it's done. EAT!!

Pumpkin Bread

This is another recipe from one of Mom's old church cookbooks. Tiffany LOVES this stuff. Super easy recipe, just make sure to mix in a huge bowl (I use our popcorn bowl, it's the only one that will fit all the batter because this makes 2 loaves). The book's credit is: Linda Murray, another St. Andrew's lady.

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 cups sugar
2 tsp. soda
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ginger
16 oz. pumpkin (1 can)
1 cup cooking oil
2/3 cup water
4 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease (not oil) and flour 2 loaf pans. Lightly spoon flour into measuring cups. Combine all ingredients. Beat at low speed until moistened. Beat a medium speed for 3 minutes. Bake 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Cool five minutes. Remove from pans.

Banana Bread

This is one of Mom's classic church cook book recipes. She's probably made it hundreds of times and I've made a few loaves myself when the bananas don't get eaten...John just loves it! The book's credit is: Rini Fuller, probably a lady who went to St. Andrew's Presbyterian in Raleigh, N.C. I'll admit straight-away that I never, ever sift...I don't have a sifter!! It still tastes great!

1 3/4 cups sifted flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs, well beaten
1/3 cup oil
4 mashed bananas

Use old, over-ripe bananas (almost rotten). Heat oven to 350 degrees. Sift dry ingredients together. Combine eggs, oil, and mashed bananas; add to dry ingredients and beat until smooth. Bake in greased loaf pan for 60 mins. Cool thoroughly before slicing. NOTE: Over-ripe bananas may be purchased at mark-down price then frozen in their skins till ready for use. Thaw on a plate.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Faker's spaghetti sauce

I made this last night and I thought I'd take a minute to type it out since Ash called me recently and asked me how to make it step by step. There's not a thing wrong with making your spaghetti sauce from scratch, but this is a lot quicker and just as good (in my opinion).

You'll need:
1 lb. lean ground beef (dark ground turkey works too...when I make a big recipe I use both together).
1 medium onion, chopped
2 jars spaghetti sauce (the cheap stuff in cans works fine)
1 big can petite diced tomatoes
garlic salt
chili powder
can of mushrooms (optional)

Saute the ground beef in a big pot or saucepan with the onion until the beef has no more pink and the onion is translucent. If you want additional veggies like green peppers or carrots, saute them with the onion with some oil before you add the meat. If there's a lot of fat, rinse the meat and drain (if you're unsteady draining the meat over the sink freehanded, just dump it into a collander with small holes. Just make sure to rise with warm/cool water so you don' t melt the plastic). Return meat to pot. Add spaghetti sauce and tomatoes and stir (if you want mushrooms, drain them and add at this point too). Add garlic salt and chili powder to taste (1-2 tablespoons of each should be plenty). I also add a few dashes of red pepper flakes at this point too because John likes it a bit spicy.

Serve over thin spaghetti or angel hair (Or whatever!). Voila!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Turkey Meatballs (From The Food Network's Giada Delaurentiis)

I watched this gal whip these up on her cooking show years ago and tried it out from memory. My early versions were ok, but when I finally found the recipe I blew John away! Apparently, Italians normally use dark turkey for their meatballs in some measure. It definitely makes the meatballs more light and tender... I love the recipe! Here's Giada's site if you want to check her out. http://www.giadadelaurentiis.com/

Turkey Meatballs & Pasta

1 lb. ground turkey (dark meat)
1/2 C. plain bread crumbs
1/2 C. grated parmesan cheese
~ 1 t. garlic salt (less)
1 egg
1 tsp dried parsley

Mix all ingredients together in bowl with hands. Form into 2-inch balls. Sautee in HOT light olive oil, browning the meat on all sides. Add 2 jars of spaghetti sauce (any kind) and simmer while you cook pasta (penne or spaghetti). Remove meatballs from sauce and set aside (keep warm). Add drained pasta to sauce and combine. Serve pasta with meatballs on the side. Makes a lot!

Mac and Cheese

This is not how Mom made it, but this is based on her original instructions. It's so good. Dang.

Mac & cheese

Preheat oven to 350.

Boil and drain about ½ box of macaroni noodles and leave in drainer.

Add butter to hot pot(1/2 -1 stick) and melt it. Turn burner down to medium heat.
Add flour to the pot a tablespoon at a time, and work it in with a whisk until it is all dissolved. 4-6 tablespoons adding one at a time, depending on how thick you want it to be. Salt and pepper to taste while it’s in the pot.
Add milk(if you want it to be amazing, use whole! But you can use 2% too) to pot, about 1/2 gallon...a bit less. Whisk the milk until steam is rising up. Add shredded cheddar (2 cups or so) a handful at a time while whisking. Don't add more until what you just added is mixed into the sauce. If if glops up a little persevere and keep whisking until it combines. When all the cheese is added, turn off the heat and add the pasta back to the pot. Coat with the sauce.

Put into a 9 x 13 or other deep dish. Add chunks of block cheese – 6-8 chunks, and cover with shredded cheddar cheese.

Bake @ 350 for 20-30 minutes (melt cheese).


Now this one I'm gonna be irritated about if you don't give me credit. :) I made up this recipe myself and it's good stuff! We eat a lot of avocados down in Texas and there are lots of versions, but we prefer the K.I.S.S. method (keep it simple, Stupid!). The more avocado flavor you let through the better, and if you overdo the lemon juice the only way to save the batch is to add more avocado, so be light-handed there.


Mash 4 avocados with a fork or potato masher.
Add 2-4 T of lemon juice.
Garlic salt to taste.
A few dashes of Tabasco sauce.
You can add chopped tomatoes and onion (white or green) if you want.
If you want smoother guacamole add 2T of mayo or sour cream.


I have no idea how to spell it, and I know there are lots of versions of this one, but this is how my Mom made it and how I still make it today. We loved it so much as kids we'd eat a bowl in the morning for breakfast before school the whole week after we'd had it for dinner. It helped to face the cold Illinois winter with a hot bowl of this in your stomach!!


In a soup pot over medium high heat sautee the following while you cook ½ box of macaroni noodles (al dente) in a separate pot:

1 lb. hamburger
1 med. Onion
Celery (3 stalks at the most)

Drain grease and rinse.

Add 1 BIG can of V8 juice and ~4-5 cups of cooked macaroni.
Add garlic salt, chili powder, or red pepper flakes to taste. Simmer about 30 minutes.

Fancy Cornbread

If you're cooking for a man, whip up a side of this with the meal and he'll think you're a genius (worked for me!!). I found this on the back of a box or in a magazine somewhere and wrote it down later from memory. So good.

Fancy cornbread

1 8.5 oz. box Jiffy corn muffin mix
1 can cream style corn
1 can whole corn (undrained)
1 stick melted butter

Pour into a greased 9x13 pan. Bake at 350 for 30-35 mins.

Cowboy Food

I sometimes describe this dish as "baked beans on crack." It is definitely the main course of the meal! This recipe came from a friend of my mother's. I have no idea what it was originally called because we re-named it as soon as we tried it as a family...we could just see cowboys out on the range scraping it up off tin plates with biscuits (and we'll tell ya right now, it tastes better when you use a biscuit as a spoon!).

Cowboy Food

1/2 lb. browned bacon (8 slices) crumbled, set aside

1 1/2 - 2 lbs. hamburger
1 med. onion
Cook together, rinse and drain, set aside.

1/3 C. brown sugar
1/3 C. white sugar
½ C. catsup
1 T. prepared mustard
2 T. molasses
2 cans pork and beans
1 can (16 oz.) butter beans or lima beans
1 can (16 oz.) Northern beans

Mix all ingredients together and bake in 3 quart dish at 350 for 45 mins. (I sometimes make it on the stove like chili, just keep an eye on it while the sauce thickens so you don't get scorched beans on the bottom of the pot)

Corn Pudding

This was my Grandmother Spickard's recipe. It is a Southern traditional dish served with the turkey at Thanksgiving, the ham at Christmas, and don't forget Sunday dinners! It just doesn't seem like Thanksgiving at our house without this dish. It reminds me of home and childhood and my Grandmother in her kitchen letting me dress the spinach salad or pop the tomato aspic out of the aluminum tins she refrigerated it in. My mom knocks this recipe out of the park!!

p.s. As in most Southern recipes, this one is not even close to low fat, sugar free, or low carb. YUM!

Corn pudding

In greased baking dish (butter or margarine) put ¼-1/3 C. sugar and 1 T. flour - combine.
Add margarine (size of a walnut)
Then beat into this one egg
Add one can cream style corn; mix
Stir in ¼-1/3 C. milk

(Always double this recipe!)

Bake in fairly slow oven on center rack until set.
Oven should be about 325-350 for about 45 mins. to an hour.
Pull in sides to the middle with a spoon to make it cook faster.

Chicken Divan

Another classic, this one is John's most requested dish! I think this one actually might have been the clincher to getting the ring. :)

Cook 2 packages frozen broccoli spears and
3 chicken breasts (cook separately... I poach them in boiling water with a little salt)
cut into thirds or halves and layer in buttered casserole, broccoli first, then chicken.

Mix 2/3 C. mayonnaise, 1 tsp. lemon juice, I can cream of chicken soup, 2/3 C. milk and pour over chicken and broccoli.

1 C. sharp cheddar cheese on top, then one cup fresh bread crumbs.

Bake about 35-45 mins. at 300 (until it bubbles).

Butterscotch Spider Cookies

This is hands-down my favorite cookie of all time. I remember having them as a kid and taking forever to eat them because I liked to bite down the chow mein noodles on every cookie! We make them at Christmastime in our family, and I'm pretty sure this recipe is always on the back of the bag of chow meins! Some people like them with chocolate or half-chocolate-half-butterscotch, but I'm a butterscotch girl all the way on this one. You can substitute white chocolate and any kind of nuts you like...it's easy to be creative. So super easy and a great one to make if you have little kids in the kitchen who like to help out!

Spider cookies

12 oz. butterscotch bits
2 c. chow mein noodles
1 c. dry roasted peanuts

Melt bits in microwave. Add chow mein noodles and peanuts. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto a cookie sheet covered with wax paper. Refrigerate until set, about 30 minutes. Will keep in refrigerator a few weeks, or can freeze.

Black Bean Soup

My friend Rebecca (the only vegetarian that I have ever met and stayed buddies with, ha!) gave me this delicious recipe! I have made it a few times for John and myself and it's very filling and good.

1 C. salsa (plus extra for garnish)
2 15 1/2 oz. cans black beans, drained and rinsed
2 c. broth
sour cream
1 lime
dry sherry

Heat the salsa in a large saucepan over medium heat, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes.
Stir in the beans and broth. Reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer about 15 minutes. Cool slightly, then spoon half the soup into a blender and puree.
Return the pureed soup to the saucepan and heat through.
Serve with sour cream, additional salsa, and a squeeze of lime (if using). Or stir in 1 to 2 T. dry sherry into each serving.

Beef Stroganoff

This is hands-down my most-requested to Mom. When she asked me what I wanted to eat for any special occasion, this was it!

You will need:
1 lb. stew beef (you can get pre-cut meat in packs at the grocery store…it will be marked “stew” or “kebab”. I’d get between 1.5-2 lbs.)
1 medium onion
Beef boullion cubes or beef broth (2 cans)
8 oz. sour cream
Dried parsley
Dry mustard
Salt and pepper
1 package egg noodles (No Yolks for less cholesterol)

If your meat is not already pre-cut, cut into bite sized pieces.
Cut up one medium onion.
Sautee together with a small amount of oil over medium-high heat.
Add one T flour and stir. Then add one and a half cups of water. Mix.
Melt beef boullion in a small amount of boiling water (in microwave). Or just open up cans of beef broth. Add to mixture.
Add one or two T sour cream to mixture. You will add the remainder of the 8 oz. container at the end just to heat.
Add one T dried parsley.
Add one T dry mustard ( I use more!! Add to suit your taste)
Salt and pepper to taste.
Simmer (low heat) while you cook the noodles in a separate pot. Drain noodles.
Add the remaining sour cream and heat but don’t boil.
You can always add a little water and simmer if it gets too thick.
Serve on top of noodles. Goes well with spinach!

Friday, March 9, 2007

Tortilla Soup Giraud (From Cooking With Texas Highways)

I have made this recipe several times for our college and career discussion group (who John and I lovingly call "Our Friday Night Kids"). It's always a hit! The first time I made it I followed the recipe exactly and it was a little bland...needed salt. Since then I've amped up the spice requirements and I use chicken breasts and boullion to make a quick broth while poaching the meat. I also use the Pampered Chef chopper that John's sister Candice got for me on ALL the veggies (including the potatoes and the chicken when I'm feeling lazy!). It makes quick work of all that chopping!

According to the book, this recipe is Lady Bird Johnson's. I like that it's tortilla soup without the tortillas (traditionally, the recipe actually has dissolved corn tortillas in it...not my cup-a-tea, which is why I prefer this one).

Tortilla Soup Giraud

Serves many...can be stretched far!!

1 1/2 medium onions, diced
1 green pepper, diced
vegetable oil
2 carrots, sliced in thin rounds (I dice these...they cook faster that way)
1/4 bunch celery
2 potatoes, diced (Yukon Gold works well)
3 1/2 qt. chicken stock, heated
2 T. chili powder (more)
2 T. ground cumin (more)
1 tsp. white pepper
1 tsp. granulated garlic
3/4 C. garbanzo beans (which is about half the can, but I use the whole can)
1 lb. cooked and boned chicken, cut into bite sized pieces
2 T. chopped fresh cilantro
salt to taste (a tablespoon?)

tortilla chips (Tostito's Gold work best...they don't get soggy as quickly)
thinly sliced lime
Mexican blend cheese

I start this one by poaching 2 lbs. of chicken breasts in my big stock pot (about half full of water). I add some salt and a few bouillon cubes with the chicken. When the chicken is done, remove it to a cutting board so it will cool. When it's cool-ish I roughly chop and shred it with a sharp knife and a fork into bite sized pieces.

While the chicken is cooking:
Saute onion and green pepper in a small amount of oil 1 minute. Add carrots, celery, and potatoes; saute 2 minutes. Then add to hot chicken stock and add your spices; simmer 5 to 10 minutes or until veggies are tender.

Stir in garbanzo beans, chicken and cilantro; heat an additional 5 mins. or until ready to serve. Ladle into warm bowls and garnish with tortilla chips, lime, cheese and avocado.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Butter Cake

I might get in big trouble from my mother-in-law Melody for sharing this special recipe on the internet, but I have to! To set the record straight, this is her version of the church recipe swap classic that goes by many names (I've also heard it called "Gooey Butter Cake"). I've made so many butter cakes (sometimes multiple Butter Cakes in one day!) that I long ago lost track...I haven't met a single person who has said "Ew, I don't really like this" but instead am usually met with demands for the recipe after someone has become addicted! All our friends and family are familiar with this one. It's thin and buttery, sweet and salty and has this inexplicable crunchiness to the top with gooeyness underneath. Try it and you'll understand why it's called Butter Cake!

Bottom layer:
1 softened stick of butter
2 eggs
1 box yellow cake mix

Whip all this up with a hand mixer and spread evenly on a cookie sheet (a normal sized one with raised sides) with a spatula.

Top layer:
1 lb. powdered sugar (half of a 32 oz. bag)
1 8 oz. package of cream cheese
2 eggs

Whip it all up with a hand mixer and spread on top of bottom layer! Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes, depending on how gooey you want it to be (less baking equals more goo). Place some foil on the rack underneath it in the oven because it might drip over the sides a little bit. Let it set and cool before you cut it into squares and eat it! YUM!

Taco Soup

I got this recipe from Angela Sesin, who is one of our former YoungLife committe members here in McAllen and is also a straight-up, down-home, Texas gal at heart. She had two Crock Pots full of this delicious soup waiting for us one night when we had a staff night at her home. It was so good I had to ask her for the recipe...she just told it to me that night and I ran out to the car to write it down. So simple and so good! My husband's brother-in-law Jonathan just loves this one.

Taco Soup

(serves 6-8)

1 pound ground beef -- sautee in your soup pot (if it's not lean, rinse and drain all the fat),
then add the following (DON'T DRAIN ANY CANS!):
1 can corn
2 cans diced tomatoes
2 cans whole pinto beans
1 packet of taco seasoning
1 packet of ranch dressing mix (dry)

Stir and simmer on med-high heat for 20 mins or so, until it's hot throughout. As it cooks more liquid will come out of the veggies and beans, but if you want a "soupier" soup you can add a half a can of water.

Serve topped with thick corn chips (Frito Scoops or Tostitos Gold) and top with Mexican blend shredded cheese and sour cream if you want. YUM!

Greek Fritatta (from RealSimple mag)

(serves 4)

3 tablespoons olive oil
10 large eggs
2 teaspoons kosher salt* (less)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 5-oz. bag baby spinach
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
4 scallions** (white and green parts), thinly sliced
8 oz. feta, crumbled

Heat toaster oven (if you don't have one a regular oven will work fine) to 350 degrees F. Add the oil to a 2-quart casserole and transfer to oven for 5 mins. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, salt, and pepper. Add the spinach, tomatoes, and scallions and combine. Gently stir in the feta. Remove casserole dish from oven. Pour egg mixture in the casserole. Bake until the frittata is browned around the edges and slightly puffed and a knife comes out clean, 25 to 30 mins.

*I used the full amount of salt for this and it was a little salty, probably because of the feta. I'll use a bit less next time.
**my mom tells me that green onions and scallions are most likely the same thing :)

Easy Minestrone (From RealSimple mag, with my adjustments)

(serves 4)

1 28-oz. can diced tomatoes undrained
1 32-oz container low-sodium chicken broth
1 15-oz. can kidney beans (optional)
1 15-oz can white (cannelonni) beans
1 9- or 16-oz. bag frozen green beans1 5-oz. bag fresh spinach OR one 9- or 10-oz. box frozen chopped spinach, thawed and excess water squeezed out
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
garlic salt or minced (I used freeze-dried) garlic to taste*
1/2 cup shaved or shredded parmesan
crusty bread

In a large pot, over medium heat, bring the tomatoes and their juices to a simmer. Cook for 2 minutes. Add the broth, white beans, and kidney beans (if using) and bring to a simmer. Add the green beans and cook until heated through, about 3 mins. Add the spinach, salt, and pepper (if you want garlic, go ahead and add it at this point) and stir until wilted. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with the parmesan. Serve with slices of the bread.

*The original recipe for this one does not call for garlic but I added some because it didn't have enough kick for me! I figured that all Italian cooking has garlic in it anyway so it couldn't hurt. I ended up adding a few dashes of garlic salt and about a teaspoon of minced freeze-dried garlic and the result was good! If you prefer fresh garlic you'll probably want to sautee it in the bottom of the pot before you add the tomatoes with a little olive oil.