Thursday, May 29, 2014

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

There are some desserts that make me nostalgic for my childhood. Like most women in her generation, my mother didn't work outside the home.

I was lucky enough to have good home cooked meals every night, two parents that, though they weren't perfect, made sure our home was secure, and a place I never had to worry about losing. They both worked hard, and of course, I took it all for granted as most kids do.

Both my parents have passed on, and the older I get, the more I wish I could have recognized all they did for me, and said thank you.

Family life is complicated. We all know that, and it's hard sometimes to get the words out that we want to say. Or we say the words that we wish we could take back, and sometimes they can alter the course of our lives.

So today I made my mother's Pineapple Upside Down Cake. Or at least a version of it, because I don't have her original recipe.

But this recipe is pretty fabulous, and I think she would have approved. Whenever I make this, I think of her in the kitchen, in her apron, and I'm so glad she was my Mom.

Recipe for Pineapple Upside Down Cake


 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
grated rind from 1 lemon
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick)
1/2 cup dark or light brown sugar
1 20-ounce can pineapple slices
1 small jar Maraschino cherries


 Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a mixing bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add the oil and milk to the bowl and beat with an electric mixer for 1 minute. Add the vanilla, egg, lemon rind, and lemon juice, mixing just until well combined.

In a 9-10 inch round cake pan, on the stove, melt the butter over low heat. Remove from the heat and sprinkle the brown sugar around the pan. Arrange the pineapple slices and cherries on top.
Pour the batter evenly over the top, and bake for 30 minutes.

Remove cake from the oven and cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Turn cake out onto a circular platter.

 Serves 6.


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Find Great Budget-Friendly Meal and Snack Ideas From Kraft

I am a member of the Collective Bias® and Social Fabric® Community. This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper amplification for Collective Bias and it's advertiser.   

As the mom of five grown-up children, you can bet I've made my share of dinners, breakfasts, and afterschool snacks.

Things haven't changed all that much now that I have four grandchildren. I'm still looking for balanced, delicious meals that they will eat, and will be friendly to the budget.

I was recently babysitting the grandkids while their parents when out for the evening for dinner and a movie.

I was going to be cooking the kids dinner, and I know how much they love Kraft Macaroni & Cheese. So I went to Walmart to pick some up, and a few other things I knew they would like.

The other night on the news, I heard about how the cost of groceries is skyrocketing. It's tough to make the budget stretch all the time, and so I'm happy that Kraft offers lots of $1 or less food items that my family and I enjoy eating.

These are items that we have had in our pantries for as long as I can remember. My own mom used to make my beloved Jell-O chocolate pudding for me for dessert. So I really love making it for my grandchildren too, and it's still as budget friendly as it was all those many years ago.

I added some sliced sausage to the macaroni, which the kids love. They are actually pretty good about eating raw veggies like broccoli and baby carrots with a Ranch dip.

They usually have milk with their dinner, but I thought it would be fun to have Tropical Punch flavored Kool-Aid Bursts.

It's very often a challenge for families to stay on their food budgets, but with Kraft dollar or under a dollar food items, it can be easier. Our dinner was under $10, and the kids and I loved it.

Ashley adores macaroni and cheese as you can see, and would eat it for dinner everyday if we let her.

I said the same thing to my grandchildren that I said to my own kids, that if you want dessert, eat your dinner!!

It might take Ashley awhile to eat, but she's a pretty good eater. And when you know chocolate pudding is for dessert, you eat up!

Jell-O pudding is one of the tastiest, and least expensive desserts around. It's made with milk, which I always encourage the kids to drink for healthy bones and teeth.

It didn't take long for us to eat up all our pudding, and then settle on the couch for some story reading and a couple episodes of their favorite cartoon, before bed.

You can find Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, Kool-Aid Bursts, and Jello-O pudding all at your local Walmart.

You can also find many other great tasting, and budget friendly items made by Kraft, that will help you to stretch your food dollars.

It's not always easy to create tasty, family friendly meals on a budget. But with careful shopping, and buying Kraft #1DollarDeals items, it can certainly be made easier.

And who doesn't love chocolate pudding??



Sunday, May 25, 2014

#ad Grilled Cornish Hens Made With My Favorite Honey Soy Sauce Chicken Marinade

With the unofficial start of summer already here, it's time to pull out some of my favorite grilling recipes, starting with this one for a yummy chicken marinade.

But instead of using it on chicken, I bought Tyson Cornish Hens to put on the grill, and serve a dinner that was a little more special than the usual burgers we make this time of the year.

Sometimes I get in a cooking rut, and tend to cook the same things over and over again, so when I had a couple of friends over for dinner this weekend, I thought it would be fun to grill the hens, and make my favorite honey soy sauce marinade.

I always make it with Kikkoman Soy Sauce, a brand I have been using forever. The marinade gives poultry a sweet flavor that my family and I just love.

The Tyson Cornish Hens come in a twin-pack at Walmart. I picked up four, thinking one each would be a generous portion size for each person.

I have eaten Cornish Hens over the years, and always really enjoyed them. They seem a little fancy to me, and I've seen them served formally. But really, they are just as simple to cook and serve as other poultry, and putting them on the grill is easy.

I always cut up lemons when I serve poultry made with this marinade. Squeezing some lemon juice over the top of the hens, gives it a bit of a lemony kick, and I think it compliments the honey flavoring.

The recipe for this marinade is very simple. It includes the Kikkoman Soy Sauce, honey, oil, minced garlic, and salt and pepper.

Make sure you baste the hens well with the marinade, and let them set for at least 3 hours in the refrigerator. I have actually let chicken sit overnight in the marinade, with delicious results!

I think the key to grilling the hens is to let them cook slowly, to make sure they cook all the way through. I hadn't actually grilled in awhile, because my sons or son-in-law does it.

But I was totally up for it, and wanted to be able to cook dinner for my friends by myself.

And I did it!!

You can find the Cornish Hens in the twin-packs in the open freezer section at Walmart. I always like looking inside these freezers because you never know what you might find!

You can find Kikkoman Soy Sauce at Walmart too, and it comes in various convenient sizes.  There is also the Kikkoman Teriyaki Sauce available, that I use to make  delicious Teriyaki dishes.

Starting Jun 1st, look for a coupon on Kikkoman sauces that lets you save $2.00 when you buy a 10oz. bottle, and a Tyson Cornish Game Hens twin-pack. This combo will really let you #Grill4Flavor, and create a delicious meal.

Recipe for Grilled Cornish Game Hens and Honey Soy Sauce Marinade


4 Cornish Hens, defrosted

1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
salt and pepper to taste
lemon wedges (if desired)


In a bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, honey, oil, garlic, and salt and pepper.
Reserve half of marinade in another bowl, to brush on hens while they are grilling.
With a brush, baste hens generously with marinade, let sit in the refrigerator at least 3 hours.
When the charcoals are medium-hot, place the hens on the grill. Cook slowly until they are done, turning about every 10 minutes. Place lid on grill to cook, but check to make sure they don't burn.
Baste well with reserved marinade in last 5 minutes of cooking.
Take off the grill when done, and cover with foil for 10 minutes so juices can settle.
Squeeze lemon on hens if desired.

Serves 4.

For great cooking ideas, be sure to follow Tyson Foods on Facebook and Pinterest. You can also follow Kikkoman on Facebook and Twitter.


Friday, May 23, 2014

Make Your Own Chicken Yakisoba Recipe

Chicken Yakisoba is one of my very favorite take-out dishes, and I usually buy it a couple times a month.

But at almost nine dollars a plate, it gets expensive. So I decided to try making it at home, and I was very happy with the results. Super yummy!!

As you can see, this recipe makes a nice family sized portion. Pair it with rice, or eggrolls, and it makes a delicious dinner.

The recipe comes from the Budget Bytes blog, and comes with lots of great step-by-step photos.

If you love Chicken Yakisoba as much as I do, and you want it to be budget friendly, try this recipe, and I think you'll love it!!


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Chocolate Brownie Cupcakes Made With TWIX Bites Candy

One of my very favorite candies, TWIX, now comes in packages of bite-size pieces. And if you are a candy lover like me, this is great news!!

Of course I love eating my TWIX Bites right out of the bag, but I've also been having some fun with using candy in my baking recipes lately.

Brownies are a big favorite around my house, so I decided to pair my best brownie recipe with new TWIX Bites for a yummy treat that my whole family would love.

I adore chocolate and so do my grandchildren. They quickly figured out that the TWIX Bites are the perfect size for those little fingers to pop right in their mouths!!

I was grocery shopping at Walmart when I found the TWIX Bites, and I saw they come in Milk Way, Snickers, and 3 Musketeers varieties, as well. I bought a few bags, thinking these would be the perfect treat for our family movie nights.

When I made my chocolate brownie cupcakes, the first thing I did was to chop up the TWIX Bites. Since they would be going inside the cupcakes and on top, I used the whole package to make sure they tasted really fabulous.

I made my favorite, super-easy brownie recipe, and filled the cupcake liners about a third full. Then I dropped in three pieces of the cut Twix Bites, and then added more brownie mix.

I filled the liners about 3/4 full because I like a big cupcake, and I'd rather have fewer and have them be big and fabulous, than more smaller ones.

My cream cheese frosting recipe is from Martha Stewart, and it really is delicious. I use this frosting for so many baked goods, including cakes, carrot cake, and cookies.

The brownie cupcakes came out of the oven and sank a tiny bit, but it turns out this just made them even more chocolaty. And they smelled so good!!

Recipe for Chocolate Brownie Cupcakes With Twix Bites

Makes 16-18

1 cup butter 
1 cup cocoa  powder
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

8 ounces (1 bar) cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 Bag of TWIX bites, chopped


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cupcake pan with paper liners. Melt butter in a small sauce pan, then pour into a medium bowl. Add cocoa powder and stir until well combined.
Add eggs and stir into mixture. Stir in vanilla, flour, and salt. Do not over mix. Fill liner with batter 1/3 full. Drop in chopped TWIX pieces, and fill about 3/4 full. Bake 20-22 minutes.

With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat cream cheese, confectioners' sugar, and vanilla until fluffy. Spread frosting on top of cupcakes when they are cooled, and top with chopped TWIX pieces.

The cupcakes ended up tasting super good, so rich and chocolaty, and with TWIX as a delicious center. My family and I ate them for dessert that night, and I snuck one for breakfast the next morning!

This really is an easy recipe, and well worth the effort of making brownies from scratch. They can also be made with the other varieties of candy, and I'm thinking I'll make them with Snickers Bites for my grandson's end of the year barbeque. I'm sure they would be a hit with the kids and the parents, too.

You can find all four varieties, including TWIX Bites, at your local Walmart.

There is also a great coupon at Social Twist that lets you save $1.00 off when you buy two 2.83 oz. or larger bags, or $3.00 off when you buy two 6 oz. or larger bags.

What a great reason to #EatMoreBites, right?


Monday, May 19, 2014

Baked Zucchini Sticks With A Kick

Last year our garden was a little overrun with zucchini. But that was okay because we found some really great recipes to use it for, and we gave away some to friends and family.

I always like to find ways to get my grandchildren to eat veggies, but sometimes that can be a real challenge.

My daughter Samantha came up with this yummy recipe that the whole family loves. It has a nice spicy kick that the grown-ups love, but isn't too spicy for the kids.


3 medium or in our case 1 extra large zucchini, sliced into thin sticks
2 large eggs, beaten
3 Tbsp. flour
1/2 cup bread crumbs (we used panko)
2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. paprika
Salt and pepper, to taste
1tsp. Emeril's Essence


Preheat oven to 425°. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray so the sticks won't stick.
In a small bowl, beat the eggs. In another bowl place the flour. In a third bowl, place bread crumbs, garlic powder, paprika, Parmesan cheese and Emeril's Essence, mix well. Dip the zucchini sticks into the flour, then egg, and then into the bread crumb mixture. Roll the sticks around to make sure all sides get coated well. Place the sticks on your baking sheet. Bake at 425° for about 20 minutes, or until they are golden brown and crispy.


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Zesty Chicken Chili

I always think that you can never have enough chili recipes, and I love eating chili year-round, not just when it's cold outside.

Lots of people prefer a beef chili, and though I love that too, this chicken chili is a nice change. It isn't real spicy, so if you'd like more heat, I suggest you sprinkle in some red peppers flakes when it's done.

This recipe makes six generous dinner size portions, and paired with hot buttered corn bread, it's an easy, and delicious meal.

Recipe for Zesty Chicken Chili


3 tablespoons olive oil
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts cut into cubes
4 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 large onion, chopped
1 medium green pepper, seeded and chopped
1 can (10 3/4oz.) condensed cream of chicken soup
1 cup water
1 1/2 cups frozen corn
1 can (15oz.) diced tomatoes, drained
2 cans (15oz. each) cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese


Heat oil in large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add chicken, chili powder, cumin, onion and pepper, and cook until chicken is cooked through and vegetables are tender, stir often.
Stir soup, water, corn, tomatoes, and beans into pot and heat to a boil. Reduce heat to low.
Cover and cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve in bowls, sprinkled with shredded cheese.


Monday, May 5, 2014

Weekend Cooking With Veggie Pizzas

I started making homemade pizzas with my own dough a few years ago. I really love pizza, and making them from scratch lets me control exactly what is on top of them, and lets me be frugal in the sense that I can use whatever veggies are in the fridge, and still make a delicious pizza.

This weekend it was cold and rainy here in the Seattle area, more like winter than spring. Perfect weather to stay in and make some pizzas for my family to enjoy. This veggie pizza was my favorite.

It had spinach, mushrooms, browned onions, and black olives with a white pizza sauce. I made my super easy pizza dough, and in less than an hour my pizzas were done. And so good!!

Recipe for Veggie Pizza


For pizza Dough:

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 package all purpose yeast
1 cup warm water
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup white (store bought) pizza sauce
1 cup fresh spinach leaves
1 large onion, sliced and fried until lightly browned
6 mushrooms, sliced
1/2 black olives, sliced in half
1 cup mozzarella cheese


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
In a medium bowl, dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes. Stir in flour, salt, and oil. Stir until smooth. Let dough rest 5 minutes.

Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and pat or roll into a round. Sprinkle with extra flour if the dough is sticky. Transfer crust onto a lightly greased pizza pan.
Spread evenly with pizza sauce, then add toppings and bake in a preheated oven for about 20 minutes, or until crust is golden brown. Let pizza set 5 minutes before slicing.

Makes one large pizza.


Friday, May 2, 2014

Glazed Strawberry Cookies

Seeing all the strawberries that are available is inspiring me to want to start baking with them. These cookies are one of my favorites, and are really delicious.

They are perfect with a cold glad of milk at home, but also great to pack up for a picnic. Moist and flavorful, they didn't last long at my house.

Recipe for Glazed Strawberry Cookies


1 cup diced strawberries
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small cubes
1/2 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
zest of 1 lemon

For glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract


 1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
2. Place strawberries, lemon juice, 2 tablespoons flour, and 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar into a small mixing bowl and toss together until well coated. Place in refrigerator and set aside.
3. In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the remaining flour, remaining sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Cut in the butter until a fine/even, grainy texture forms.
4. Stir in the Greek yogurt and vanilla and mix until just combined. Fold in the strawberry mixture and lemon zest and mix until well combined.
5. Line a baking sheet with parchment and spoon on 2 tablespoons of dough at a time, about 1 inch apart.
6. Bake for 17 to 20 minutes or until the cookies have barely started to brown on top. Remove from the oven and transfer cookies onto a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.
7. While the cookies cool, make the glaze: Place the sugar, milk and vanilla into a small bowl and gently stir together with a fork until no lumps remain. Drizzle glaze over cookies and serve or allow to set, about 30 minutes, before serving.

Makes 20-24 cookies.

Inspired by Spoon Fork Bacon

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