Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Bacon Cheeseburger Tater Tot Casserole Recipe and Cookbook

Would you believe me if I told you I know how to make tater tot casserole over 30 ways?

I do.

And I put them all into an ebook cookbook then threw in a baker's dozen dessert recipes for good measure. Check it out in ebook or print versions (awesome Christmas gift for someone hard to buy for!)! 

In the meantime, here's one of my family's favorite recipes:

Bacon Cheeseburger Tater Tot Casserole

1 ½ pounds ground beef
2 10.5-ounce cans cheddar cheese soup
½ pound bacon, cooked crispy
1 c. shredded cheddar cheese
2 pounds frozen tater babies
1 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
1 12-ounce can evaporated milk
1/2 cup chopped onions

1.                   Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray the bottom of a 9 x 13 pan with cooking spray.
2.                  In a skillet, cook bacon on medium heat until crispy, then put it on a couple of paper towels to soak up some of the grease.
3.                  In the same pan, cook ground beef and 1/2 cup chopped onions on medium heat until meat is brown. Drain the fat, then put meat/onion mixture in the bottom of the 9 x 13 pan.
4.                  Dump the bag of tater babies over the meat and arrange them so the meat is all snuggly and covered up.
5.                  In a bowl, mix the evaporated milk and soups. Pour mixture evenly over the top of the tater babies.
6.                  Top with cheeses.
7.                  Bake uncovered for about 30 minutes.
8.                 Take out of the oven and let cool for a few minutes before serving.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Kid-Friendly Recipe: Easy Pizza Casserole

1 pound ground beef
1 14-ounce can black olives
1 package pepperoni (we like turkey pepperoni and I cut the pieces in half with scissors)
Onions if you like them
12 oz. bag egg noodles
2 10-ounce jars pizza sauce or one 28-ounce jar spaghetti sauce
1/3 cup of milk
8-12 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese

1. Boil egg noodles to almost done, then drain and put in 9 x 13 baking pan that you have sprayed with pan spray.

2. Brown ground beef (in some diced onion and/or minced garlic, if you like). Drain the fat, then put in 9 x 13 baking pan.

3. Mix in remaining ingredients, then top with more cheese if you like.

4. Bake at 350 degrees for about 1/2 hour.

As always, modify how you see fit because you know I'm doing the same.


Check out my cookbook, The Tater Tot Casserole Cookbook!

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Mexican Cornbread Casserole

I am a lazy cook. Or maybe I am a smart cook.

I don't want to stand in the kitchen for an hour assembling a meal. I love to take shortcuts and make meals quickly so I can move on with my evening. I prefer to spend time with my kids and husband, writing, reading, staring out my back window at my country landscape, walking in the outdoors, playing with our new kittens.

I was worried my kids and their friends (they always have friends over) would not like the taste of the cornbread or maybe it would be too spicy for them, but they all loved it. Enjoy! And scroll to the bottom for hacks, tips and other information about the meal.

Ingredients for the filling:

2 pounds ground beef

1 10-ounce can Rotel-style tomatoes

1 15-ounce can of whole kernel corn (if you prefer, you can put the corn in the topping instead)

3 large eggs (recipe called for whisking or food-processing them but I did neither ... I just tossed them in)

2 cups grated cheddar cheese

1 package taco seasoning (or you can make your own)

1 box of Jiffy cornbread mix


1. Brown ground beef in a large skillet until it's not pink anymore. Drain fat.
2. Spray 9 x 13 baking pan with cooking spray and spoon ground beef into it.
3. Stir in drained can of corn, Rotel tomatoes (not drained), 3 eggs, taco seasoning and cheese until mixed well.
4. Prepare Jiffy cornbread mix according to package directions and spoon over the top of the casserole. Don't worry if it doesn't cover it completely.**

You can make a gluten-free version of this by making your own taco seasoning (they sneak gluten into packaged taco seasoning sometimes) and your own topping:

Ingredients for the cornbread topping, which I have made, and my family also enjoyed this version:

3 eggs (original recipe called for 3/4 cup egg whites)

3/4 cup Trim Healthy Mama baking blend (or you can make your own here)

1/4 cup water

2 tablespoons melted butter (I doubled that)

1 teaspoon sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

A pinch of salt

I did not add any of the following, but if you are a non-lazy cook, you should do it: 1/3 teaspoon mineral salt, 1/4 teaspoon paprika, "scant" 1/4 teaspoon turmeric

**I have tried this recipe with two boxes of Jiffy cornbread mix and it was too much. It might seem like one box is not enough, but it works. Or you could always use 1.5 boxes and just make a few corn muffins on the side as well with the rest of the batter.

Check out my cookbook, The Tater Tot Casserole Cookbook! Only $6.15 in print.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

The Easiest and Fastest Meal in the History of the Universe

So this family does meatless meals on Fridays for sure during Lent but also usually one other meal during the week as well. It saves money. Also, I was just diagnosed with Hashimoto's hypothyroidism and one of the things I need to check on is: should I be gluten-free? So I'm giving that a shot and so far my biggest temptation is the Little Debbie snack cakes I get for the kids for our weekly Poetry Snacktime. And I've only been doing it one day. Ugh.

Anyway, it's nice to have some GF options that are also meatless and yummy and fast and cheap and which the kids love!

Cans of chili beans, depending on the size of your family. Probably one can will feed 2-3 people depending on how old they are :-)
Fritos or off-brand corn chips in regular or chili cheese (again, depends on the size of your family)
Sour cream
Cheddar cheese
Rotel tomatoes and diced chilis

1. Heat up the chili beans on a stove in a pan.
2. Put Fritos in a bowl.
3. Put cheese on top of Fritos.
4. Put chili beans on top of the whole she-bang.
5. Top with sour cream and Rotel if you wish.
6. Enjoy!

Here's the cost breakdown of Frito Pie and sides and I even have some leftovers for a couple of people for the next day, or else it helps us to feed the extra kids we usually have over:

Chili beans (5 cans) = $2.95

Fritos (2 bags) = $3.00 (Got them on sale at Price Chopper but they may normally be even cheaper at Aldi every day)

Sour cream = $0.50 we only use part of a container

Cheddar cheese = $1.00 we don't use a whole lot

Canned green beans or carrots or some other fruit or veggie side; even applesauce = $2.00 or sometimes I might sneak in a can of diced tomatoes or some Rotel to spice it up for those who like it spicier

Total = $9.45 if we all drink water with dinner, which comes out to $1.35 per person. That is one cheap meal, the beans and Fritos are filling, AND it includes a fruit or veggie! No, it's not super healthy but we all need some fat in our diet and we don't eat this way all the time.

Just put Fritos in the bottom of a bowl, cover with warm chili beans and garnish the way you like with cheese, sour cream, hot sauce, anything!

What are your favorite meatless or GF meals?

Friday, April 20, 2018

Simplify Your Pantry for Summer

I don't know about yours, but my pantry is a cluttered mess, and I end up wasting food because I can't even see it all because things are in front that we don't use much. I went looking for tips and found this gem from Frugal and Thriving:

A well-stocked pantry is one where you have an ample supply of foods you regularly eat – at least on a weekly or fortnightly basis. A cluttered pantry is full of foods you rarely eat.

Because we still do a little "homeschooling" and I work from home AND we spend a lot of time swimming, I want to prepare my pantry so my family can have a relaxing summer. So here are things I am using up before summer because I rarely use them, they take up too much space, or I bought them on a whim and nobody cares about them anymore:

  1. Coconut sugar — right now regular sugar is just fine, or honey is awesome, and also sometimes (under extreme duress) ...
  2. Trim Healthy Mama Super Sweet packets — I'm sorry, but I can't stand fake sugar. I mean, I know a lot of it is NATURAL ... I have tasted a Stevia leaf and it has that aftertaste! I need to just figure out how to eat LESS sugar and not SUBSTITUTED sugar.
  3. Coconut flour (nobody has a gluten problem in my house but this flour is AMAZING in chocolate chip cookies so I can see myself restocking in the fall!)
  4. Trim Healthy Mama Baking Blend ... again with the nobody has a gluten problem so I'm just going to use regular white and wheat flour once I use this up.
  5. Cranberry sauce — this was left over from when one of my kids worked on a Thanksgiving-themed meal for cooking class at co-op. Here's what I plan to make to get rid of it from Gluten Free on a Shoestring so I can also use up maybe my THM Baking Blend ... I'll let you know how it goes because I do like to substitute things. But also check out 7 Tasty Ways to Use a Can of Cranberry Sauce here!
  6. Treats like brownie mix, dream bar mix-ins, cookie mixes — summer is all about the FRUIT, people. Plus we are walking around in bathing suits ... enough said.
  7. Fancy hot chocolate mix from Christmas that we got as a gift. Time to drink it up. Maybe I can put it in a shake or something.
I'm curious to know what your pantry looks like and what you need to get rid of!

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Cilantro Lime Pesto Chicken Fajitas with Low-Carb Tortillas

When my friend Maureen made this for my family recently, we all attacked it and could not believe how yummy it was! I’m not much of a cook, though, and just knew it would be too difficult for me to make. Boy, was I wrong! Check out this terrific recipe, perfect for a day when you are busy, perfect for doubling and freezing, or perfect for doubling and giving some to a friend! Let me know what you think!

Cilantro Lime Pesto Chicken Fajitas
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Salt, pepper and garlic powder
1/2 cup cilantro lime pesto (see below)
1 medium onion
1 pepper (whichever color you love best)
Tortillas (I love Mission brand’s carb control version, which is whole wheat also, but you can choose corn tortillas for a gluten-free version)
Taco sauce/picante sauce/salsa (whichever you prefer)
1 ripe avocado
Sour cream (omit for dairy free diets)
Shredded cheese (omit for dairy free diets)
I like for things to be super easy, so I love to cook the chicken breasts in the slow cooker for a few hours on high. When they are cooked through, I take them out, chop them up and toss the pieces in a bowl. Then I sprinkle on some salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste. 

Then I cook my chopped peppers and onions in a skillet with a little bit of olive oil. That’s when the cilantro lime pesto comes in (see recipe below). I take about 1/2 cup of that and stir it into the chicken mixture. Ready to serve! If you love the pesto, you can just add more to your fajita for a refreshing take on a fajita.

Cilantro Lime Pesto
1 bunch fresh cilantro leaves
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons sliced, toasted almonds
4 tablespoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons lime juice
1/2 cup shredded Romano cheese
2 teaspoons salt
The chicken broth from the slow cooker, about 1/4 cup
Using a food processor, blend ingredients together until smooth.

I like to get Mission Carb Balance tortillas to eat with my creation. 

Check out my cookbook here in print and Kindle!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Take Your Lunch to School or Work and Save Big!

Yes, this has been said so many times and it's common sense. Spend a couple of bucks at the grocery store on ingredients to take your lunch somewhere or spend $5+ on a meal out. Let me give you a glimpse into what this means for my family if I could get my crap together on this one.

So we homeschool and only go to co-op one day a week. But that one day a week ... oh, it is easy to hit Chik-fil-A for lunch while my bigger kids are in Mass. And I end up spending at least $45 including drinks, and I never work it into the budget. My salad I love there is $8+ alone. So here's my plan for the rest of the school year, starting today:

  1. I went to Aldi on Monday and made sure I remembered to put on my list LUNCH FOR CO-OP TWO WEEKS. Conversely, I also knew we were going to the zoo on Thursday and I'm planning on packing in all our food for that as well. A key to planning stuff is REMEMBERING. EEK! Always keep an ongoing grocery list in a prominent place in your house!
  2. For the kids: I got bread at 25 cents a loaf, already have peanut butter and jelly, got some Pringles, got a package of Hershey bars (splurge) for $4 for for 6 (the extra bar is either for my husband or for the sweet little kid who always comes to me for sweets in the lunchroom ... or maybe for our buddy who sits with us at our table!). I have things like oranges and carrots at home.
  3. For me, I had some huge packages of these cool salads that I get at WalMart Neighborhood Market for $2.50 each. I can eat the entire bag if I have time and it fills me up and gives me energy for the day.
  4. I also grabbed juice pouches at Aldi.
Let's figure this up:

My food = $2.50 (I drink water)
Bread = $0.25
Peanut butter = $1.00
Jelly = $1.00
Bag of baby carrots = $1.00
Hershey bars = $4.00
Pringles = $1.45
Juice pouches = $2.45 for 10 of them ... we like to share them or the bigger kids might have two

Total for lunch AND dessert = $13.65 versus $45 eating out ($2.28 per person)

What could this save us in a month? $124. And if I did that three months in a row I would theoretically have enough to make an extra payment on my van.

I know I could save even more if we drank water and I got a $1 bag of cookies for our treat but I'm starting small for now with where my brain is. I'm not trying to make saving money painful for my family. I just want us to be more aware of what we mindlessly spend money on just because it's EASY or QUICK.

P.S. I changed my mind at the last minute and we are having hot dogs instead. $1.99 for the cheese hot dogs and $0.85 for the buns.