Gross Domestic Product

Home Economics and Kitchen Engineering

Posts tagged recipes

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Here is the awesome take-away from my recent glamping adventure: You can use your car as an oven in the summer!

Surely you’ve seen all the information warning us about leaving pets and kids in the car - how even on an 80-degree day the car gets deep in triple digits inside? Well, I decided to use this to my advantage!

Click here for the meal plan I used.

While on our trip, I sliced some sweet potatoes super thin (think chip thin), put them in a storage bag with salt and pepper and shook them up. Then, I lined a dark baking sheet with foil, oiled it, spread the potato slices on the baking sheet and put it on the dash of the car. I did this Sunday afternoon, but it was raining so there wasn’t a lot of action. It wasn’t until Monday morning while we went on a 3-hour kayaking trip that the real action happened. Basically, I sun-dried the potatoes. Sweet potato chips, anyone?

Then, that afternoon we took three small pre-cooked pizza crusts, spread my homemade pesto on them, sprinkled blue cheese, feta, and mozzarella on top. I added chopped orange peppers, mushrooms, and candy onions and put the pizzas in the dash of the car while we went hiking! (Also, I made one pizza with leftover eggplant caponata from lunch that day as the sauce and topped it with mozzarella - yummy!)

When we returned to the car, it smelled like a pizzeria inside!


While we only glamped for two nights, I am super relaxed and refreshed thanks to the entire week of vacation.

We had a fun week. We slept in, puttered around the house (cleaned the garage!), went to a theme park AND a water park (thanks to free tickets Boyfriend got at work). We hiked and kayaked and even explored a cave … Seriously, best week of fun ever!

To get ready for our glamping trip, I hit my favorite thrift store and picked up a tablecloth and a fabulous crystal plate set with punch glasses for a mere $8. I packed a picnic basket, a glass pitcher, a couple of chargers to use on the table, and a couple of other plates. We took a small tv and our Wii and had a lovely air-conditioned escape.

Don’t be fooled - hardcore glampers go to a lot of trouble to make an amazing escape for themselves. From what I read, an investment of about $700 can get you a tent large enough to walk through, an airmattress that is as big and as tall as your bed at home, fancy linens, shower stuff, a camping kitchen and more. I just can’t justify spending that much when I’m about to move and don’t camp more than a few days at a time.

If you’re interested in more about glamping, check out these resources:

Here are a few pics from my glamping trip:

Our cabin’s interior. Yes, we brought the tv, tablecloth, and dogs!

The table set for dinner. I moved the cabin’s table to the front porch so we could enjoy the rain. We left it there for breakfast, too.

Blueberry pancakes, Greek yogurt and orange juice for breakfast.

Eggplant caponata on a croissant with car-made sweet potato chips.

Car-made pesto and veggie pizza with blue cheese, feta, and mozzarella.

Left-over eggplant caponata pizza picnic with old-fashioned rootbeer.

All clean and ready to head home, happy and well-rested

Filed under glamping camping vacation food recipes

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Something to crow about: Chicken burgers!

I’m shifting our weekly burger night to Sunday nights (for now, at least!) and this week I featured Buffalo chicken burgers - um, yeah, they were AMAZINGLY TASTY! The burgers are very moist and the blue cheese that gets mixed in pretty much melts in your mouth.

I even ground the chicken myself (see below recipe to learn how), how’s that for grossly domestic?

Natalie’s Amazingly Tasty Buffalo Chicken Burgers


  • 1 pound ground chicken (SEE BELOW to learn how to make this yourself!)
  • 1 c bread crumbs (you can make this by putting three pieces of toast in your food processor and letting it do its magic - but do this BEFORE you make your ground chicken!)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 crumbled blue cheese, plus extra for your burgers
  • Frank’s Red Hot Wing Sauce (for your burger!)
  • Slices of lettuce and tomato


  1. Mix chicken, bread crumbs, egg white, 1/4 c blue cheese together. Let rest 10 minutes.
  2. Form into patties (I use a spoon to scoop the mixture onto a greased pan and then use the back of the spoon to smoosh it into a patty.
  3. Pop patties into freezer for about ten minutes so they are easy to put on the grill
  4. Grill 6-8 minutes on each side.
  5. Serve on toasted buns with Frank’s sauce as your condiment and the extra blue cheese

Makes six patties that have: 179 calories, 4.5 g fat, 22 g protein, 12 g carbs

Home “made” Ground Chicken

Step 1: Chop chicken to small pieces, about 1-inches square. Four breasts should make about a pound.

Step 2: Put in food processor (Apparently, it helps to freeze the blade for a couple of hours beforehand - keeps the meat from sticking to the blade. I did this and nothing stuck to any blades, so I’ll do it every time).

Step 3: Pulse until ground.

This worked using my little $10 Wal-Mart food processor so don’t be intimidated or anything.

If you don’t want to grind your own, ask your butcher to do it for you. It should cost the same as chicken breast since that’s what it is. It’s like asking them to slice your deli meat - they don’t charge extra for the service. I buy my breasts in bags at a discount grocery store so there isn’t a butcher to ask.

Filed under chicken buffalo chicken frank's sauce chicken burgers ground chicken recipes food cooking recips griding meat

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Summer Recipes: Cool and Collected

I’m sitting on my front deck with my feet up blogging from my laptop. Boyfriend is working the grill making wing magic happen and I’ve spent the day reading recipes. Basically, I am in my happy place! Life is good and summer stretches before us …

As planned, I went recipe shopping today. I keep a notebook full of interesting recipes I find and tear from my magazines. From those, I was able to compile a list of summer-friendly food ideas. I was very surprised and pleased by the number of non-salad ideas I found!

Armed with my new list of ideas I’m feeling better about my summertime meal planning for the next few weeks. (Here is a reminder of my requirements and why I made this list.)

I’ve decided that we are going to make hamburgers one night a week - Fridays for now and we’ll see how that works going through the summer. I’m not talking normal burgers either - turkey burgers, pork burgers, chicken burgers, mushroom burgers, bean burgers … There are many, many options! (This article was my inspiration and I’m very excited to try these out!). Last summer we made pizza one night a week and had a blast trying out new toppings.

I have a dream of one day having a house with an awesome outdoor kitchen and dining area. I want counter space for prep work, maybe a even a minifridge and a sink. Also, a nice table and chairs set and even a chiminea or other outdoor warmer. Wouldn’t it be great to have entire days that didn’t involve heating up your kitchen? This is why I’m so tight with my budget - I want to make my dreams into my reality!

That being said, I need to get my meal plan made for tomorrow …


Not Salads:

And a couple of smoothies recipes I came across:

Filed under burgers cooking grilling kebabs links recipes salads summer cooking summer recipes hamburgers

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Smooooothe operator

I mentioned that I’ve been eating smoothies every morning for the past couple of weeks so I figured I would dedicate a post to my new fave way to start the day.

First of all, let me make it clear that the idea of “drinking” my food has never, ever appealed to me. I like to chew. I like my brain to know my body is being fed. Because of this, my smoothie-drinking habit has three unique traits:

  1. My smoothies are SUPER THICK! Think banana-bread-batter-thick.
  2. I refuse to use a straw. Straws make you drink faster and don’t require eye contact. I want to watch the food go into my mouth. Otherwise, it’s too easy for me to feel like I didn’t EAT.
  3. My smoothies use 1/2 cup of oatmeal. It makes them thick, and FULL of fiber and protein.

Second, before smoothies came into the line up, my breaksfasts consisted of oatmeal, eggs, or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches made with frozen waffles (YUM!). I rarely took it into consideration when meal planning because eggs always go on the grocery list and oatmeal costs $1.50 for a tube that lasts a month (though the waffles were a consideration). The smoothies have increased my spending by about $5 a week, but I’m now keeping my eye out for deals then chopping and freezing what I can’t use quickly.

A couple of years ago I bought this cute little Bella Blender. It’s like the Magic Bullet, only it was available at Target for $20. It’s not the best blender in the world, but it does the job and has accessories perfect for smoothies on-the-go. I am able to make my smoothie in a 16-ounce cup, put a lid on it and throw it in my bag to be enjoyed at work. My commute is about 30 minutes and I think it helps the oats absorb the fruit juices.

I’ve been kinda scared to calculate the nutritional values for my smoothies, but I’m glad I did. I’ve always tried to keep breakfast at about 300 calories and my smoothies are right in there!

Super-Thick Fruit Smoothie

  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 4 T Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 c sliced fruit* (such as: strawberries, bananas, pineapple, peaches, blueberries, blackberries or any combination!)
  • 1/4 c skim milk
  • 1 t Agave syrup (honey would work too)
  • 1 t flax seeds
  • dash of cinnamon (optional - depending on your fruit)

Combine all ingredients in blender and, you know, blend. Enjoy!

Nutrition information (*fruit stats NOT included!): 239 calories, 38 carbs, 4 grams fat, 14 grams of protein, 5 grams fiber


  1. If it is too thick for you (I like mine thicker than cake batter!), then add more milk and/or use fewer oats.
  2. If the oats are too “obvious” you can blend them into a powder first, them add and blend the other ingredients. If you’re doing this, might as well add the flax seeds too.
  3. If you want your smoothie colder, use frozen fruit. It takes longer to blend, but is great on hot days!

Filed under smoothies breakfast fruit recipes recipe cooking healthy vegetarian oatmeal

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I’m not spoiled

Maybe I need a farmer’s market friend … one who can split the spoils with me to avoid, well, spoils.

Apparently, the deals on tomatoes and potatoes have just been too great - I’m up to my ears in them and have been frantically scouring the interwebs for ways to preserve them before they go bad. Thanks to the fruits of my Internet search, I feel a lot less pressure to use the food in my house. I seriously cannot stress enough how much I HATE throwing away food!

First, I know how to preserve tomatoes, but with the temps being what they are, I just can’t muster the energy to get out the canning stuff, peel the tomatoes, pack them in jars, and process them. It gets hot in the kitchen with all that boiling! I know, I know, lame … but I discovered a new recipe from my lameness: Tomatoes Gratin! Doesn’t that sound amazing? (No, Mom, not au gratin … Google it!) Layers of sliced tomato, cheese, basil and a topping of toasted bread crumbs. I know, your mouth is watering like mine did when I saw the recipe! It’s REALLY easy to make, too.

Tomatoes Gratin


  • 4 medium to large tomatoes
  • Shredded cheese
  • 6 leaves of Basil
  • 2 pieces bread, toasted and turned into crumbs (you can use the blender for this, but do it with bread and toast the crumbs on a cookie sheet)
  • Optional: salt and pepper


  1. Preheat over to 450 (thank goodness this only takes about 20 minutes - the kitchen is gonna get hot!)
  2. Spray medium casserole dish with non-stick spray.
  3. Slice tomatoes into 1/2 inch slices.
  4. Layer tomatoes, cheese, and basil in casserole dish (add salt and pepper, if you wish, to each layer).
  5. Bake ten minutes
  6. Remove from oven, top with bread crumbs, return to oven.
  7. Cook 10 more minutes.
  8. Serve immediately

Also, since I have about 2 pounds of potatoes left from last week and a fridge that is already overflowing with leftovers and side dishes, I was thrilled to learn how to make frozen french fries. It’s so easy, I can’t believe I didn’t know it before.

Home-Frozen French Fries

  1. Cut potatoes into French fry-like strips.
  2. Simmer in salted water until half cooked.
  3. Drain well, then place in a single layer on a baking sheet.
  4. Stick in freezer.
  5. Once frozen solid, transfer to bag and remove as much air as possible.
  6. Store in freezer (duh!).
  7. When you’re ready to cook them, toss the fries with some oil (just pour it in the bag and shake, shake, shake!
  8. Place single layer on baking sheet and cook at 425 for 15-20 minutes. Turn occasionally, and when they’re a lovely brown, you know they are done!

Filed under cooking farmers market freeze potatoes french fries frozen french fries potatoes recipes tomatoes tomatoes gratin vegetarian preserving freezing

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No day of rest for my kitchen

As you read in my earlier post, I had a very successful trip to the farmer’s market today, but I didn’t tell you the most exciting part. While hitting the “bruised and abused” (my nickname for them) sections of the vendor’s stalls I hit upon the necessary ingredients for tomato sauce - for $4! Following a recipe from one of my canning books, I spent the 3 hours following my shopping trip making Roasted Garlic Spaghetti sauce. It yielded 2.5 quarts. Considering how fresh it is and low in sodium, that much would normally cost about $10 at the grocery store.

I saved all the ends and pits and seeds and skins from my vegetables (as I usually do) and pulled the frozen pieces out to make vegetable broth. I used the frozen vegetables for a regular broth and boiled the stuff from today’s recipe to make an Italian broth. I put the broth in wide-mouth jars and freeze them (have yet to try canning broth - more research is necessary).

Since I had the water bath going for the sauce(it takes a long time to get that much water boiling!), I decided to be efficient and reprocess the dandelion jelly from last month and make a batch of cream soda jelly I’ve been planning to make since last fall! Seriously, I wanted that bottle of soda out of my fridge.

I also bought the stuff to make pickles (great deal on cucumbers from a local farmer!), but by the end of it all, I was just too exhausted and my kitchen was practically an over.

I was in the kitchen for about 6 hours, but at the end of the day, I have 2 quarts of spaghetti sauce to store, 1 pint to eat in the next couple of weeks, 4 jars of dandelion jelly, 5 jars of cream soda jelly, 4 jars of Italian vegetable broth and 5 jars of normal vegetable sauce. Not too shabby, right?

Cream Soda Jelly


  • 1 12-oz bottle of cream soda (I get the classic kind that isn’t made with high fructose corn syrup)
  • 3 c sugar
  • 1 3-oz bag liquid pectin


  1. Mix sugar and soda in large pot. Stir until sugar dissolves and bring to a boil. If you let it rest for a couple of minutes, the bubbles from the carbonation will settle.
  2. Once it’s boiling, add liquid pectin. Let boil for 30 seconds. 
  3. Pour into sterilized jars. I like the cute 1/2 pint jars.
  4. Process in water bath for 5 minutes. 

Notes: I first made this with root beer and it was fantastic on graham crackers! We also love it on PBJs. I’d like to make it with Dr. Pepper, but I want to stick with no HFCS, so I need to get myself to Dublin, Texas for the perfect bottle (so long as they are still making the original recipe). To get my sodas, I go to World Market because they have the “classic” versions of a lot of old drinks - and most use case sugar. Today’s cream soda was a sugar-free bottle that used Stevia as a sweetener.

Homemade Vegetable Broth

  1. Whenever you are cutting up vegetables, save the scraps. I use my celery bag and just keep adding veggie scraps until it’s full (keep it in the fridge). Onion layers, the end of the celery stalk, green pepper seeds and membrane. Anything works. Seriously.
  2. When the bag is full, I pull out my big pot, pour in the vegetables and fill it with water. Then I bring it to a boil and simmer for about an hour. 
  3. Strain into bowl. The broth should be translucent and a pretty golden color.
  4. Pour into your desired container. I use wide-mouth jars (easier for thawing quickly since you don’t have to wait for it all to thaw to get it out of the jar) or muffin pans. If you use muffin pans, each is about 1/2 cup in volume and keeping them in a Ziploc bag makes them handy to grab whenever you just need a little broth. 
  5. Let cool, then freeze until ready to use.

Notes: Store-bought, low sodium vegetable broth is about $4 for 32 ounces. When I realized how easy (and FREE!!!) it is to make myself, I refuse to buy it. I like that it lessens my waste and I can control what’s in the broth. Take today, for example: I used the scraps of tomatoes, garlic, and green peppers to make my Italian broth.

Filed under canning preserving tomato sauce cooking recipes jelly cream soda vegetable broth homemade rootbeer jelly root beer jelly

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Fancy-schmancy, Easy-peasy Dinner-winner

Let me introduce you to the easiest fancy-sounding food you’ll ever make for dinner:

Quinoa-Stuffed Peppers with Artichoke and Garlic!


  • 4 peppers (red, yellow, green, orange, poblano - any will work!)
  • 1/2 c quinoa (rice and cous cous work also!)
  • 1/2 c black beans, drained (again, any bean can be swapped)
  • 1/2 c artichoke and garlic salsa (or your fave salsa, of course. Just make sure you change the name)
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Cook quinoa according to box.
  3. Cut peppers in half, remove seeds (set seeds aside to save in freezer for veggie broth)
  4. When quinoa is done, mix in beans and salsa. Feel free to add other veggies too. Corn is great.
  5. Spoon into pepper halves and place in casserole dish. I won’t tell anyone if you want to top them with cheese - it’s pretty tasty.
  6. Cover dish and bake 45 mins., or until peppers are easily pierced with a fork.
  7. Enjoy!

Yield: Four servings

This can easily be assembled Sunday night, refrigerated and cooked Monday for a wonderful Meatless Monday dish!

Filed under recipes vegetarian meatless monday beans peppers vegan recipe

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Brinner is served!

It’s brinner night so I whipped up a batch of my mother’s “biscuits for two” recipe and some bacon grease gravy! Sadly, we ate it before I had a chance to take a picture, but it was TASTY (and super cheap)!

Whenever we have bacon (not tonight, sadly), I set the grease aside in a special jar I keep in the fridge. It stays good up to 6 months and can really add a burst of flavor for simple dishes. Worried about the fat? Fair enough - don’t eat it every day! As for calories, no matter the oil, it’s all the same: vegetable, bacon, olive - they are all about 120 calories a tablespoon. Seriously, look it up. I did.

Mom’s Biscuits for Two

  • 1 c flour
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1T vegetable oil
  • 1/2 c milk

Combine dry ingredients in medium mixing bowl. Mix milk and oil in separate bowl then combine into dry mix. Stir until “almost smooth.” Turn onto lightly-floured surface and knead lightly. Roll to 1/2 thickness and cut with biscuit cutter. I don’t have a biscuit cutter do I improvised … Bake on lightly greased sheet at 425 for 15 minutes (or until golden brown).

Bacon Grease Gravy

  • 1/4 c bacon grease
  • 1/3 c & 1T flour (can you tell this is a recipe I halved?)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 c milk

Melt grease in pan, whisk flour, salt and pepper in bowl. Pour into hot grease and cook until brown - 5 to 10 minutes. Slowly add milk to avoid clumps. Stir well then bring heat to just boiling until it thickens.


Filed under brinner recipes biscuits gravy bacon breakfast

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Dough! Why didn’t I think of this before?

Some days you just need cookies, you know? Not a dozen - just one or two. Though, on days like today I’m sure I’d eat a dozen if I had it - so it’s all the better that I don’t. Well, I kinda don’t. Let me explain …

Awhile back I bought a box of pink lemonade cookie mix on sale. It sounded tasty and Springy and like something that we’d really like around here. But the mix made 3 dozen cookies and I rarely have the need for three dozen cookies (wants and needs being two different things). So, in my pantry the box has lived. Until this weekend when it hit me - I can freeze the dough!

After some online research, I learned that freezing cookie dough is super easy (why didn’t I think of it before?!?). So, I made a dozen little cookies for Easter and froze the rest of the dough. It’s perfect because when a tidal wave of drama crashed over me this evening, a girlfriend dropped by and I was able to brew some coffee and bake 4 cookies for us. Heaven.

Here’s how you do it:

  1. Follow directions on the box to make the cookie dough. Or just whip up your own dough from scratch.
  2. Get a large cookie sheet and a stool (or chair - just get comfy) and wash your hands.
  3. Start balling. No, not bawling - we eat cookies to avoid bawling! Take about a teaspoon of cookie dough and roll it into a ball (yes, you can make the cookie balls bigger if you want). Set it on your cookie sheet. Repeat placing each ball so that it doesn’t tough another.
  4. Place cookie sheet in freezer until the cookie balls are hard.
  5. Place all cookie balls into a freezer bag. Return to freezer. It helps to write the type of cookie, the temp for the oven, and the baking time on the freezer bag (when cooking frozen dough, add a couple of minutes to the time).
  6. Bake as needed (again, wants and needs being two different things!).
  7. Enjoy!

I love this because it really stretched recipes and comes in handy for those cravings you just can’t deny. By baking a few at a time, my portions are under control and I get the repeated experience of smelling (and eating!) fresh baked cookies!

Filed under cookies recipes baking freezing storage budget

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Do I deserve a Grahammy?

I surprised even myself with this: I just finished making 4 dozen graham cracker squares from scratch. It would cost about $4 at the grocery store, but only cost me some baking staples. I can’t even add it up, it was so inexpensive!

By now you’ve probably figured out that I make A LOT of things from scratch. I’m not some crazy DIY freak. I’m not that obsessed with avoiding preservatives (though it’s definitely a happy side effect!). Yes, I avoid high fructose corn syrup, but that’s not why I make so much myself. …

It’s simple really: I make it because I have the time and I don’t have the money. I like making my own yogurt. I love canning. But truthfully, I make things myself because it’s cheaper that way.

I didn’t grow up this way. All of my from-scratch food habits are recently developed. Sure, I learned to crochet, quilt and make the tallest meringue you’ve ever seen thanks to my grandmothers. I learned to stretch a dollar from my mother. Everything else I’ve learned from Google.

Take tonight for example - I decided to host a fire pit party at the last minute. Groceries were already bought for the week and I had $2 left to my weekly allowance. We have marshmallows and chocolate, but no graham crackers. Well, you can’t host a fire pit party and not offer s’mores, right? So, I turned to Google.

No, it wasn’t the easiest of recipes (rolling takes a lot of energy), but it was fun and it makes tonight’s gathering more special. I find I truly enjoy making my own foods and I hope I can maintain some of these habits when I get my law license and a job.I also hope that day comes sooner rather than later. Until then, s’mores anyone?

Homemade Graham Crackers

  • 1 stick light butter, softened (I wonder if apple sauce will swap for this?)
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar (going to try a substitute next time)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon or ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup milk (fat free worked fine)

1. Cream butter and brown sugar together. Add vanilla.

2. In small bowl, mix flours, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.

3. Slowly add dry mix to creamed sugar, alternating with milk until everything in incorporated. Don’t be afraid to get your hands in there. That’s what makes it fun, right?

4. Roll into ball, cover and refrigerate until chilled - about an hour.

5. Preheat oven to 350. On a floured surface, roll a handful to about 1/8-inch thickness. When you think it’s thin enough, you’re wrong. Keep rolling.

6. Using a pizza cutter, cut into desired shape. I did squares because they are perfect for s’mores. But when I figured I had enough of those, I started experimenting with rectangles and perforations. If you want to perforate, use a fork.

7. Place cut dough on greased cookie sheet, about 1 inch apart. Bake 10-15 minutes, until edges start turning golden brown. Let sit about a minute then transfer to drying rack.

8. Repeat until you’ve used all the dough.

I’m going to make these again, but will be trying some swaps to make it healthier for the waistline. I’ll try to remember to post it when I get that perfected.

Filed under baking recipes graham crackers smores s'mores