Goodbye Summer, Hello Fall Food

Ever get a craving for something?  Maybe an externally influenced craving, like someone talking about a new great flavor of ice cream.  Be it a friend or an ad on tv, something in the mere name of it conjures up a taste in your mouth so potent nothing will do but for you to have a taste of it, and soon.   Maybe it comes from a memory of making a dish with a relative or friend.   Or it can be a food that you come across strolling down the grocery store aisles and the next thing you know you’re at the checkout, box of sinful goodies in one hand, wallet in the other.

On a recent grocery store trip, I walked into the store that exactly happened.  There they were.   Vibrant, fresh, and beckoning me…  “Take me home!”   Ah, you rich red raspberry you.   Tempting me with your bright color and unique sweet-tart flavor.   (At least it wasn’t while I was on the chocolate bar aisle.)

It’s nearing the end of raspberry season and they were on sale.   What else could I do but buy them and plot for how to make good use of them in my next meal, or two?

Thinking about what I could with them, plus remembering a recent purchase of some incredibly good local grown blueberries, I thought there had to be a way to make great use of both berries in one dish.   Besides my staple breakfast of greek yogurt, fresh fruit, and some almond granola, I was looking for something a little more hearty and maybe even warm.  In my area, the heat of summer is beginning to fade, school has begun, and every restaurant has their perfectly positioned peripheral vision tv’s tuned to the all-football networks.  Those all are signals it’s time to break out the warmer meals in a bowl like soup, chili, and oatmeal for the upcoming weeks.

Time to kick off a farewell to summer and it’s glorious bounty of berries and welcome in fall with some warm oatmeal.

Berry Good Baked Oatmeal


Mix the dry ingredients plus the maple syrup.

1 cup rolled oats
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon (or Penzey’s Baking Spice*)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup blueberries
1/4 cup roughly chopped pecans
1 cup skim milk  (almond or coconut are good here too)
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 banana
a few raspberries (optional)



The oatmeal is assembled, just about to go in the oven to bake.

Heat oven to 350 F.
Mix together the oats, cinnamon, baking powder, maple syrup, half the blueberries and half the pecans. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, egg, and vanilla until completely blended.
Lightly coat a baking dish with cooking spray and dump the oat mixture into the dish.  Spread it out evenly as possible.   Pour the egg & milk mixture over the top.  Sprinkle the remaining blueberries and pecans over the dish. If you want to add raspberries, add a few on top.   Slice the banana (I use about 1/2 a banana total) and place on top of the dish.
Bake for 20 minutes, rotate the dish, then bake for another 15-20 minutes until it is set.

A little tip on how to determine if this dish is done- think about how you like your oatmeal.  More liquidy?  More firm?   After about 35 minutes, press lightly near the center of the dish with the back of a spoon.   You can see the consistency from that and decide if you want to cook it more or stop there.  I bake it the full 40 minutes for my preference.  At 30 minutes it’s done enough if you like a more liquid consistency.

Also this is a dish that works great with Penzey’s Baking Spice.  It’s billed as an “all-purpose baking blend” and it really is just that.  There’s a ton of possible dishes this works well with, but it takes fruit pies, muffins, coffee cakes, scones, and other similar baked goodies to a whole new level of deliciousness.   I don’t use it year-round, but in the fall and winter it goes in most muffins I make as well as any spice cookies.  You can check it out here or in one of their stores.  Nope, I’m not paid to promote the stuff. It’s just that good and versatile.  And it makes for some muffins that will have you fighting your spouse for the last one.


Yum! Berry Good Baked Oatmeal – the raspberries made their appearance on only one side because I had to share the dish and I’m the only one who likes raspberries. Just means more for me!

If you want to make a larger portion or see the original recipe (without my modifications and scaling to smaller servings, you can check it out here on Broke and Bougie here.

Old Dish – New Size

Sometimes there’s just nothing quite like comfort food.  We all have our favorite comfort foods, those dishes that we enjoy when we want a relaxing night, be it by the fireplace on a winter night or enjoying a blast of a/c on a hot summer day.    For me my idea of comfort food has changed some over time.  As a teenager, pizza was the go-to for any day, any time.   Then once my body got past the age of 21 and realized that eating pizza at midnight, every night, might not be so good for that body, it started to change.   Now I have a pretty eclectic set of choices for comfort food, and while a few things on the list I most often get at a restaurant, the majority are things I make at home.

Chicken Spaghetti is one dish on that list.   There’s probably at least fifty variations on it, but in the southern fare style of the dish, the basic elements tend to be essentially the same.   Cook spaghetti, add some canned cream of whatever soup, add a can of Rotel, add some Velveeta, stir, and bake.     Since I’ve been aiming to remove more of the processed foods and ingredients from my kitchen and my life,  I went looking for a better mostly can-free version.   I found a variation that fit my requirements but as usual, it was described as 8-10 servings.    Time to break out the math skills and trim this dish down both in processed stuff and serving size!

Trimmed Down Chicken Spaghetti 

8 oz spaghetti noodles (uncooked)
2 tsp canola or other vegetable oil
1/4 cup diced onion
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 can Rotel (approx 5 oz)
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup cream
1/4 cup skim milk
(or 1/2 cup half & half in place of the milk & cream)
1 1/2 tsp arrowroot powder
1 oz cream cheese
1 1/4 cup cooked chicken (diced, shredded, whatever you prefer)
1 1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Cook the spaghetti according to package directions and drain.
While the spaghetti is cooking, heat the oil in a large skillet and saute the onions until tender.    Add the garlic powder, rotel, chicken broth, and salt to the skillet and bring to a simmer.
In a bowl, mix the cream, milk, and arrowroot powder.   Stir into the mixture in the skillet.
Add the cream cheese and stir over medium-low heat until the cheese is melted and the the mixture is thickened.   Next add half the shredded cheese and chicken and stir.  Add salt & pepper to taste and the noodles, stir to combine it all.

Pour the mixture into an 8×8 baking dish or pan and sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top.
Bake for 30 minutes, or until the cheese on top is melted and the sauce is bubbling around the edges of the dish.


Serves 4-6.  (In this case, four BIG servings or six moderate sized ones. Goes great with a salad!)

It sounds like a bit of a complex dish, but it really took minimal time to prepare,especially since it makes enough for a round or two of tasty leftovers.   While I did trim back the number of servings and remove the highly processed stuff, I can’t say it is a low-calorie dish.  Especially with the cream.  However, the cream and cream cheese are small amounts overall and are needed to give it that creamy texture that you just can’t get from skim milk.   The indulgence in a few calories seems inconsequential when I consider all the benefits of skipping all the canned soups and “cheese product.”

Recipe adapted from Chicken Spaghetti without Velveeta and Cream Soup on From this Kitchen Table.

Iced Coffee, an Update

It’s summer, and I’m left like some other southerners who enjoy coffee contemplating how best to get my cuppa’ joe fix without having to drink something hot.   While frappes and similar drinks are tasty, they’re not usually economical or kind to my waistline.   Making them at home is doable, but not as mindlessly simple as firing up the coffee pot.   Enter Iced Coffee.

If you’ve read my blog previously, you may remember my post in early May about making your own Iced Coffee.  The results were well worth the moderate effort, and no special equipment was needed, short of a large pitcher and some cheesecloth.   Thanks to discussion of this concept with a good friend and connoisseur of all things coffee, I’ve revised the process a bit for something that works exceptionally well and the cleanup is quick.   It does require the purchase of one specialty item that can be purchase for about $7 on Amazon.  (For those like myself who don’t live in a huge metro area, the internet has made getting quirky kitchen gadgets a lot less work.)   That specialty item is a nut milk bag.   In a nutshell (pun intended) it’s reusable cheesecloth, stitched up to make a bag shape.    There’s a number of them to choose from online, but for the price, I think this one does a pretty good job.

Pitcher of Iced Coffee, brewing via cold brew

Pitcher of Iced Coffee, brewing.

So to revisit and revise what I did previously, let’s look at the previous recipe.   It started with adding 6-8oz of coffee to the pitcher, and filling it with water.  Wait several hours, then use a cheesecloth lined strainer to slowly strain the liquid goodness through, leaving the grounds behind.   That works, but admittedly it can get a bit messy.   I’ve tried since then other ways to improve on the process.  Then my friend came across the idea on LifeHacker to try this technique with the bag.   After a couple of tries, I’ve made some tweaks and I think I have it down to a way to easily and satisfactorily make iced coffee, with minimal fuss and cleanup.

Just as before, you’ll need some ground coffee.   I use about 3 to 4 oz.   Also you’ll need a 2 1/2 quart pitcher (or larger), water, and your nut milk bag.  Fill the pitcher with about 2 quarts of water.   Place the bag in the top of the pitcher, with the top open.   You can use the pitcher sides to help keep the bag open.   Measure out 3 to 4 oz of your ground coffee and pour it into the bag.   Close the bag and place the lid on top to hold the bag in place.  (Mine has a draw string, so I drape it out of the pitcher and use the lid to secure it.)

Set the pitcher somewhere out of the way.  Wait as little as 8 and up to 24 hours, depending on how strong you like your iced coffee.   I usually let to sit for about 12 hours.

Iced Coffee

Iced Coffee – how to get your coffee fix in the heat of summer.

When you simply can’t stand it any longer, carefully remove the bag from the pitcher.   Discard the grounds, or use them in your garden/composting.

Depending on how willing you are to tolerate very fine grounds and how good the nut milk bag is at filtering the grounds, you may want to filter the coffee a bit further.   If so, you likely already have the perfect device for filtering it – your coffee maker.   Put a filter in the basket and slowly pour the iced coffee into the basket, letting it drain into the coffee pot as you go.  This may take a few minutes but if you want to avoid the grounds entirely, this is a simple way to do it.   Plus the only cost is a single coffee filter.

Refrigerate the coffee once you’ve filtered it to your satisfaction and once it’s chilled, pour yourself a glass.    I suggest you try the same ratios as before – 1/2 glass of ice, cover the ice with coffee, then top off with cream & sugar, or your favorite coffee creamer, either to taste.

Looking for the original recipe?  Get it here.


Double Good Recipes

It’s summer and that means often it’s too stinking hot to cook much more than the essentials. However just last weekend I came across two gems that are perfect for this time of year.

First off is a great way to use some of the fresh fruit that fills up the farmers market and some folks gardens. My garden skills are meager so far filled with herbs and veggies, but there’s always next year. In the meantime, it’s summer and time to enjoy the fruit while it’s in season! One great way is to make a sauce or jam, and usually that takes eons, plus it makes a lot. I don’t know about you, but I don’t need 80 jars of jam. Nor do I have a long enough Christmas list to disperse said jars. Then there’s the whole matter of burning a day or two just making jam. I like to cook, but… Enter the microwave jam. It takes 15 minutes to make, literally. If you start this jam and aren’t washing the bowl to clean up in 20 minutes or less, I’d like to know! You can alter it to suit your preferred level of sweetness, and use a variety of fruit or fruit combinations. It can even be made into a sauce, that goes well with just about anything, even a spoon.

Being in the south in the summer means two things: it’s hot outside and I want to avoid heating up the kitchen and making it warm inside too.  So out come the cold salads and dips we southerners love to make and share.   One that I never realized was a southern thing is Pimento Cheese.   I grew up eating it all the time as a kid – so much so that I got burned out on it.    I’m not entirely sure how that was possible, but I have memories of eating a lot of pimento cheese sandwiches in elementary school.

As a grown-up and one who is trying to watch my figure, something I knew nothing about at the ripe old age of seven, I wanted to find a way to lighten up the dish a bit.   Typically the recipe at its bare basics includes shredded cheddar cheese, mayonnaise, and pimentos.    As you can imagine, that has more than a few calories and isn’t exactly health food.     One great ingredient that can fill the role of mayo, sour cream, cream cheese, and other such heavy hitters in some recipes is yogurt, and especially greek yogurt.     So I searched out some recipes for a way to replace at least some, if not all, of the mayonnaise with yogurt.    Without the mayo it would lose some of its tangy zip, so it needed a bit of flavor enhancements.   Plus, I didn’t need enough to feed half the neighborhood.     After a bit of research (I searched Pinterest and found at least 503982 pins, all from about 15 recipes) I found one that sounded like it would fit my requirements.   So I’m sharing with you the recipe for this summertime “salad” as it’s often billed in southern restaurants.


My Microwave Jams

2 cups (10 oz) of berries
3 0z sugar (or to taste)
pinch of salt
1 oz fresh lemon juice (about half a lemon’s worth of juice)


Strawberry Jam on my breakfast toast. Yum!


Mix all ingredients into a large microwave-safe bowl.   Make sure the bowl is very large, as it will bubble and expand as it heats, and cleaning up a microwave full of jam is no fun.
Microwave on high for 5 minutes and stir.
Microwave on high for another 5 minutes and stir.
*At this point, if you want a sauce, you’re done.  Simply refrigerate and serve over ice cream, cheesecake, or any other delectable that needs a dose of berry good stuff.
If you want to make jam, check the consistency of the mixture.  If it’s still quite runny and thin, microwave up to another 5 minutes, microwaving and stirring in 1 minute increments until it is somewhat thicker.  It will thicken considerably as it cools.

You can choose any kind of berries, fresh or frozen.   I’ve used blueberries and strawberries, both yielding good results.  Next time I’ll use a variety for a mixed berry version.   Frozen berries will probably require a little longer cooking time.

This will make about 1/2 cup of jam or sauce.  Since the flavor is pretty concentrated, a little goes a long way, especially if you use it as a sauce.  A half-cup is enough that you can make it on a whim if you have surprise guests and not end up with a ton left over.   It’s also a small enough batch you don’t get sick of it before it goes bad.  I simply can’t eat an entire jar of fresh preserves before they start to resemble a science experiment gone bad.

Adapted from King Arthur Flour (all hail the King of baked goodies)

Lighten Up, It’s Just Pimento Cheese


1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1/3 cup plain greek yogurt
1 oz  pimentos (approx half a small jar)
1/2 tsp white vinegar
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 to 1 tsp fresh ground black pepper  (yes, fresh ground does make a difference here and adjust the amount to your taste)
Dash hot sauce – optional

Dump all the ingredients into a bowl and stir.  Refrigerate for at least an hour and serve.   Allowing this to sit overnight makes a world of difference too, so if you can keep your spoon out of it for one night, your patience will be rewarded (nod to Alton Brown.)

This will make less than 2 cups of pimento cheese, which will easily make 4 hefty sandwiches or 8 smaller ones.  I also like to just serve it with a variety of crackers or you can plop some onto one of those hamburgers you’re grilling in place of a slice of cheese and prepare for something unbelievably tasty!     How does this taste so good minus the typical mayo?  The combo of greek yogurt and vinegar gives it the consistency and flavor similar, which then gets enhanced with the garlic & onion powder.   The hot sauce pares well with the cheese, but use it sparingly.

Very slightly adapted from Bran Appetit.

So there you have it, two recipes that won’t leave you slaving for hours in the kitchen or with enough leftovers to feed a family of eight.     What are you waiting for?    The recipes are easy but those berries aren’t going to leap into the microwave on their own.  Nor will that pimento cheese stir itself!   Considering neither take much more effort than a quick stir, pressing a few buttons, and opening the refrigerator door, these are just the right choice for lazy summer days.


Fluffy Buttery Goodness

I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus due to a vacation, followed by damaging storms, which was then followed by illness. Yes folks, life has a way of getting in the way of things you might otherwise be aiming to accomplish. Little things like making at least an occasion appearance on your blog! So without further ado I’m back to cooking and sharing the good things I make tailored to not serve 8 to 10 giants.

As much as I love to cook, there are times I simply don’t want to.   Nights when I’m worn out, or especially when it’s the hottest days of summer.  (Those aren’t far away I’m sure.)   However I’m not a fan of fast food and in an effort to eat somewhat healthy I often avoid the frozen or processed quick-fix meals.    And there are times where I’m just not that hungry, so something snack-worthy becomes dinner.   One of my go-to favorites for those nights is popcorn.

If you’ve read much of my blog so far or know me personally, you know packaged microwave popcorn just won’t cut it.   Something else to know – I’m frugal cheap.   So a recipe to make good popcorn that’s tasty, somewhat healthy, and costs less is a winner all around in my book.    If you remember going to the theater in the days where you could get really good popcorn versus the stuff they pass off at absurd prices and call it “popcorn,”  this recipe heralds back to those days of fluffy, buttery goodness in paperboard container.    Make it once and you’re in for a treat.  And you’ll be entirely hooked, so consider yourself warned.

Hot Buttered Popcorn

Let me say first thing, this makes a questionable number of servings.  With popcorn, how do you gauge a “serving?”  One cup (are you crazy!)?   This will easily feed two plus a dog.  If you’re particularly hungry or it’s a long movie, don’t share with the dog.    Leftovers can be stored and enjoyed later, if there are any.

3 tablespoons oil  (canola, vegetable, or peanut – don’t use olive oil here)
1/2 cup popcorn kernels
1/4 tsp popcorn salt or fine sea salt  (or to taste)
2 tbsp unsalted butter (also to taste)

Heat the oil and 3 or 4 kernels in a large uncovered pan over medium-high heat until all the kernels pop.
While the oil is heating, melt the butter in the microwave (approx 30- 45 seconds.)  Set aside.
Remove the pan from the burner.
Pour in the rest of the popcorn kernels.
Cover the pan and wait 30 seconds (OFF the burner. )
Return the pan to the burner, tip the lid slightly ajar to let steam out but not enough to let popcorn escape the pan.   (Otherwise you get soggy popcorn, which is no good.)
Continue cooking over medium-high heat until the popping slows to about 2 seconds between pops.
Remove popcorn from pan into a bowl sprinkle with salt and toss.   Drizzle with butter and toss.

The only tricky part of this recipe is not burning the popcorn.   The best thing I’ve found to avoid burning it is to give it a shake or two as it is cooking.   Also if you see a single burned kernel remove it from the heat right away.    The exact timing varies a bit with the heat level, pan, and even from one brand of popcorn to the next.   My suggestion is to pick one setup you like and use it consistently.  It will make for the most consistently good results.

While it does take more time to do this than just simply tossing a bag of microwave popcorn in and rip open about three minutes later, the giant leap forward in taste alone makes it worth it.  If you want to capture more of the “movie theater” taste, use peanut oil.   I typically use canola because it has minimal flavor and I have it handy for these sort of applications.    I also think the popcorn salt is worth using.

For those like me who look at the list of ingredients in a typical microwave popcorn bag and cringe,  you can feel vastly better knowing there’s a whopping 4 ingredients going into your snack.   Go hard-core and make your own butter, or change it up entirely and skip the butter.   Cooked this way it’s honestly good sans butter.   It might break Paula Dean’s heart to see you do it, but trust me, she will move on.

So with the summer season on us, have a cheap date night complements of this new recipe in your arsenal of culinary skills.   Queue up a good movie on Netflix, break out the popcorn, and enjoy!    Your spouse or date will be impressed, and the dog will love you even more.


Original Recipe is a combination of two sources: Simply Recipes and Cooks Illustrated, with some adjustments.  


Blueberry Good Dog Biscuits

This week has gone to the dogs.  Well, maybe not gone to the dogs, but it has been rainy and utterly blah outside.  That leaves my somewhat pampered pooch stuck indoors instead of out on one of our walks.   We both miss the outdoors and the fun times to be had there.

So to cheer both of us up a bit I decided to make some new treats for him.   Yes, I make my own dog treats.     My view on it is this; if I’m going to make a point to buy him a high quality dog food (which I do) why would I buy him treats that are sub-standard?   So while a small portion of his treats may be store-bought, the majority are things I make for him.     Cooking for my husband and is often cheaper than eating out or “complete meal” kits, and the same applies for dog treats.    Also the dog has easier-to-please tastes and doesn’t require a lot of exotic ingredients.    He isn’t even all that picky about texture.    It’s also nice to be able to incorporate what’s seasonal and give him a little variety to his diet.   I know I’d get sick of eating the same thing day in, day out.  Borrrrrring.   It’s also kind of fun to see how he examines and studies the treats before making short work of consumption.


Yummy Doggie Treats Not the best photo every, but you get the idea. Yes, I used cookie cutters. He’s spoiled.

Keep  reading to see just how easy it is to make your own doggie pawsitively happy over these tasty goodies.   I have to be honest and provide fair warning, if you ever make homemade treats like these once, expect someone to be looking for a second batch!


Blueberry Good Dog Biscuits


1/3 cup frozen blueberries
1/3 cup natural peanut butter
1 tbsp honey (local / raw is great)
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup oat flour*
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp oil **
1 egg
2-4 tbsp water


Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Whisk together the peanut butter, honey, egg, and oil until smooth.   Add the oat flour, wheat flour, and cinnamon and stir to combine.   The dough will be dry, so add water, one tablespoon at a time and mix after each spoonful until the dough holds together enough you can roll it out to cut.   I added about 3 tablespoons.  (Humidity can play a huge role in how much you need to add.)    Stir in the blueberries.

Sprinkle a little wheat flour onto a work surface (in my case the kitchen counter) and roll out the dough.   Cut into squares or use cookie cutters to make fun shapes.   Another case where the dog won’t care, but you might. I willingly admit I like my dog bone shaped cookie cutters.

Place the biscuits on the cookie sheet and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, rotating the pan once halfway through cooking.   The goal for these should be crunchy and somewhat golden.  Once removed from the oven, allow them to cool completely on a rack before you give any to Fido, and store whatever isn’t immediately scarfed down either in the freezer for long-term storage or in a sealed bag/container.

* Don’t have oat flour handy?  Yeah, neither did I.    There’s an easy no-cost fix for that with an item you likely have in your pantry.   Take the same amount of old fashioned rolled oats (or quick oats) and toss them in your food processor or blender for a quick spin.   It shouldn’t take long before you have gone from oats to a powdery substance, a la oat flour.

**  Your choice on the type of oil.  I use organic coconut oil for a lot of my cooking, and have used it in this recipe.  Olive oil works well too, but save the Extra Virgin premium money and use regular olive oil in this recipe.  Trust me, your dog will not care.   I would avoid grapeseed oil as grapes are on the “do-not-feed-fido” list from the ASPCA and I am not one to take a chance.

If your dog doesn’t love these, well… I’ll be really surprised!

Adapted from a recipe found here at Monster Cookie Cooking.


Iced Coffee

Iced Coffee, Done Right

I like coffee.  As much of an admitted foodie as I am, it’s been a very gradual process to start drinking it.   Honestly it’s a somewhat recent development and a surprise to those that have known me for a long time, as I would wrinkle up my nose and leave the room at the smell of it, much less consume it in any form.   Then, as fate would have it, on a long road trip a few years ago I needed a boost of energy.   Our train of cars stopped for a stretch and snack break at a McDonald’s and I decided to get one of their frappe beverages.   So yes, my first coffee consumption was from McDonald’s.  Don’t judge me.   I had to start somewhere!   I wasn’t keen on the flavor, but the milk, ice, whipped cream, and caramel sauce covered up a lot of the coffee and I managed to drink it all.  Plus I really needed to wake up for the drive.

So fast forward a few years and now I’ve become a once-a-day some-sort-of-coffee-product person.  Usually in the morning, and I still can’t drink it black.   My husband would argue that I’m not entirely a coffee drinker yet, as I do require a liberal amount of cream and sugar.   It is a process, so maybe in a few years I’ll be drinking it straight up.  Who knows.

Since we’re going into summer, I like my coffee in some cold form, and I’ve been looking for a while for a good way to make frappes and iced coffee.   While it’s possible to brew coffee and simply pour it over ice, anyone who has tried it will tell you that the watered down end result is just not all that good.     I suspected that most coffee shops use either espresso or a coffee concentrate of sorts.   Something strong, so it could stand up to the ice and milk.    In my research, I stumbled onto the idea of a slow, cold brew.    I found a blog entry from The Pioneer Woman, with a recipe for the Perfect Iced Coffee.   Her idea was excellent!  However it sounded like it would make enough coffee concentrate to last a month or more, and that’s with both my husband and I drinking it daily.    Time to…wait for it…. HALF the recipe!


Cold Brewed Coffee Concentrate

Ingredients / Tools Needed
6 to 8 ounces ground coffee, choose your favorite
1 gallon water (4 quarts for the math challenged)
Fine mesh strainer
1 gallon container (or slightly larger if you have it)
a BIG pitcher – 1 gallon or close to it – for storing the end result coffee

Start by pouring the 1/2 pound of coffee into the large container.   Add 1 gallon of water, about 2 quarts at a time.  Stir to make sure the coffee is distributed throughout, although it will settle later.
Put a lid on the container or cover it and set it aside at room temperature for at least eight hours.  Longer if you want; the longer it sits, the stronger the concentrate.

After you can’t wait any longer, but you’ve been patient enough to wait at least eight hours, open the container.   Place a double-thick layer of the cheesecloth over the strainer, and put that over the pitcher or a large bowl.   Scoop off any coffee grounds that have floated to the top of the container and let them drain through the cheesecloth/strainer.   Discard the grounds (or use them in your landscaping).   Pour the coffee concentrate through the cheesecloth/strainer into the pitcher or bowl until you get near the bottom, where more grounds likely will have settled.  You can decide if you want to put the last of the grounds into the strainer to get every last drop of coffee, or just discard the remainder.

Chill the coffee concentrate for an hour or so before using.


How to use the coffee to make Iced Coffee:

This is how I make my iced coffee using the concentrate described above.


Start with a glass 1/2 full of crushed ice.



Add coffee creamer like you would any other cup of coffee in the same quantity.  Stir.



Add milk to fill the glass.  Stir.

Sit back and enjoy your tasty iced coffee!


What makes this concept and recipe so great is that it makes enough concentrate for a week or more, depending on how much coffee you drink and how often.  For just me, it would probably be enough for about two weeks.  For a couple who both drink it once a day, it’s about a week.

It’s also nice alternative when you want coffee in the summer but not a hot beverage.

To me two of the biggest benefits are how this can be customized to any taste and it’s very inexpensive.   The original recipe from The Pioneer Woman blog suggests using sweetened condensed milk.  Sounds delicious and just a wee bit high calorie for my waistline.   My husband and I got on a kick one evening experimenting with the combinations of milk, cream, simple syrup, coffee creamer, and even chocolate syrup.   The chocolate syrup was a good for a sweet treat, but the overall winner for me was a combo of coffee creamer and milk.   The creamer gives it that creamy texture and sweetness, while the skim milk made it more filling.  As for cost,  a Starbucks iced coffee in the smallest size starts at about $2.  So at $4 for a half pound of good coffee, which will make enough concentrate for easily a dozen or more iced coffees, the savings is pretty substantial.   That’s not accounting for the milk and/or sweetener you may add, but since that varies and you’re not using a lot, it still adds up to a lot less money.

For those like me who prefer to be able to pronounce most of what they eat or drink, this recipe gives you total control over what goes in your iced coffee.  I’m a bit picky about ingredients, to the point I’m one of those annoying folks standing there reading a label at the grocery store.  (Actually I’ve done it long enough I can know pretty quick if it’s something I’m going to buy or put back on the shelf.)

If you’re having to run out the door and grab your coffee on the go, this recipe works great!  It requires so little time to assemble, so you can be armed with your iced coffee and ready to tackle the world in far less time than you’d spend at the drive-thru.   (And you’ll save money.)

So in short, this recipe is:

  • Incredibly Easy
  • Inexpensive
  • Uses ingredients you likely already have
  • Makes enough for a week, or something similar
  • Tastes great
  • Saves time on busy mornings
  • Saves money compared to buying them at the coffee shop

All that adds up to a winner in my book.   Hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Shrimp Penne

I’m a huge fan of seafood.  I also live stupidly far inland to get really good, fresh seafood as often as I’d like.   There’s a company that brings fresh seafood up from the coast on the weekends, but I have to drive 80 miles one-way to get to them, and it’s only on the weekends.

So I’ve tried grocery store frozen (and “fresh”) seafood and usually I’m left thinking that is just okay at best.   However, I have finally found a brand of frozen shrimp I can get locally on occcasion that is pretty good.  It actually tastes like shrimp!   (It’s Ocean Gift, and I am not being paid to share that.)

What to do with this tasty shrimp?  I was feeling the need for some pasta and came across an inspiration from a Taste of Home recipe, combined with a little of my own twist.   And of course, it was about half the recipe.   Warning: if you’re on a diet, this isn’t really low-cal, but it is really good!  Again I know the lack of photos is disappointing, but I can assure you the recipe won’t disappoint a bit.


1 cup uncooked penne pasta (or similar size pasta, something that can handle a hefty sauce)
8 – 10 oz uncooked medium shrimp
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 -2 tbsp olive oil
3/4 cup marinara sauce (make your own or a good store-bought)
6 tbsp butter
1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
16 oz heavy cream (you can use half-and-half, or cut the calories by using half skim milk and half cream)
Pinch of salt
Two pinches of fresh pepper (to taste)
Fresh Parsley (optional)


Cook pasta according to package directions.

While the pasta is cooking, heat the heavy cream over low – medium heat in a sauce pan.   Add 4 tbsp of butter and gently whisk as it melts.   Stir in the Parmesan cheese until smooth.   Season with fresh pepper, to taste.   Set aside on very low heat, just to keep it warm.

In a large skillet,  saute the shrimp, garlic, and pepper flakes in oil until the shrimp turn pink.   Add the cream sauce from the sauce pan, the marianra sauce, the remaining two tbsp of butter, salt, and pepper to the shrimp and stir to combine.

Drain the pasta and serve with the shrimp mixture.  Top it with fresh parsley if you’re feeling fancy, just like parsley, or have an herb garden overflow that needs to be used up.

There’s a few really great things about this recipe.   It’s easy to double or triple this recipe to make it work well for serving 6 to 8.    Add a salad and fresh bread and you’ve got a very nice dinner.    Don’t like your dinner coming from the ocean floor?   Replace the shrimp with chicken.   If you’re in a real rush, you can even skip the homemade Alfredo (the cream sauce bit) and swap in about 5 oz of store-bought Alfredo.  Homemade Alfredo is so simple and tastes so much better, I think it’s worth the extra five minutes of prep time.  Also you can adjust the creamy / tomato-y ratio easily on this by simply using more or less of either ingredient.   There is so much room to play with this recipe to make it fit your tastes exactly.  It’s very good as it is too, fresh off the computer screen!

Grilled Sweet Potatoes

It’s that brief time of year where I get to enjoy my grill.   The mosquitoes aren’t out in full force trying to either carry me away or hitch a ride into the house to wake me at 2am.   It’s not so hot that just looking at the grill from indoors makes me sweat, yet.   It’s no longer so cold that I need thick gloves to keep my fingers from going instantly numb.  (These are the same gloves that also render my hands into two nearly useless appendages.)

I take advantage of the three weeks out of the year that we get such blissful weather and spend whatever spare time I can scrounge up outdoors and it’s a good excuse to fire up the grill.    I love the taste of grilled food and the often simple preparations.   Toss whole corn on the cob onto the grill cold, and by the time it’s heated up and you’ve cooked the rest of the meal, the corn is done.   Potatoes are another east choice to pair with whatever else you may be grilling.    Then to finish things off, grill some fresh fruit (try pineapple, or peaches sliced in half.)    Try once making your whole meal on the grill and you’ll see the reason I enjoy my grill so much!

I had to do some research into how to best cook sweet potatoes on the grill.  Because of their longer cooking times, I wasn’t sure of the right approach.   I found quite a few recipes, many of them first saying to boil the potatoes to a certain point, then put them on the grill.   However I wanted to just cut them, slap them on the grill and be done with it!  Forget this boil, peel, then grill shenanigans.   Cut, grill, eat.   That’s my idea of an easy side dish.

As usual, I just improvised.  After reading a few more recipes (thank you internet) I found that a few recipes suggested slicing the potatoes and simply grilling them.   I opted for this method, then added a glaze after cooking to further the flavor.    Simple, easy to scale for more or less portions, and inexpensive to boot.   That’s a winner in my book!


1 medium size sweet potato

1-2 tsp oil (canola, vegetable, coconut, something with minimal flavor)

1 tbsp butter

1 tbsp light brown sugar

1/2 tsp cinnamon


Heat up the grill.   Slice the sweet potato into approximately 1/4″ thick slices.    Drizzle the potato with the oil, enough to lightly coat the slices and toss to coat.  Place potato slices onto the hot grill and cook until tender, about 4-5 minutes per side.   They will develop a few brown or black spots, and that’s good.  It just makes them taste even better.

While they are cooking, melt the butter and mix with the brown sugar and cinnamon.  Set aside.

Once tender, remove the potato slices from the grill.  Drizzle with the butter mixture and serve.


One medium potato should be about two servings.   You can also adjust the amount of cinnamon, sugar, and butter to your tastes.   This was enough to give the potatoes a sweet glaze without covering up the taste of the potatoes.   Pair this up with some grilled chicken and a salad and there’s dinner!

Fruity Oatmeal

Clearly I’m on an oat kick.  From the bars I’ve been making to this tasty breakfast, I can’t seem to get enough of oats.   I suppose that’s good, since they are considerably healthier than any number of other cravings I’ve catered to over the years.

So my latest oat fix came from this recipe, which is more of a true breakfast item than a potential snack.    While I found the original recipe here, naturally I couldn’t leave well enough alone.   I also think there’s plenty of room for variation, and its tasty enough I’ll want to do just that.   I also wanted to lighten it up but with more of a natural ingredients approach.    I’m not a big fan of artificial anything in the food I cook.

Do you have one of those smaller slow cookers, the kind really intended to either keep dip warm for a small party, or to cook exactly enough cocktail sausages for the same small gathering of friends?   Mine is a 1 1/2 quart cheap one I bought after the first one I had met an early demise involving a screwdriver, too much curiosity, and way too much free time.  Anyway, this is a real recipe that will make ideal use of that slow cooker!  And here you thought it just worked for dip and cocktail sausages.   Nope, this time you can cook something gasp healthy in it!

So dust off that smaller cooker, or if you’re single or a small family like us, go get one.  It’s the perfect excuse and they’re cheap.  Like $14 on Amazon kind of cheap.   Just a suggestion for other recipes you may try in this cooker – it will overcook or burn foods faster than a regular slow cooker.  At least that’s been my experience with the two I’ve had.

This recipe is also an excellent opportunity for those who don’t do a lot of cooking to impress overnight guests with their culinary skills, or at least they’ll think you can whip up a good breakfast!

On to the recipe…

Fruity Oatmeal


2 cups milk (skim, 1%, or 2%, I used organic skim and it works well)

1 cup rolled oats (not instant or quick-cook)

1 cup sliced peaches, canned is ok but avoid anything that says “in syrup” on the label

2 tbsp light brown sugar

1 tbsp butter

2 tbsp honey – use the good tasting stuff here, try to get locally sourced if you can

1/4 cup chopped nuts – walnuts or pecans are good

1/2 tsp cinnamon (sweet kind, see my previous No-Bake Bars recipe for a few details about Cinnamon)

Heavy pinch of kosher salt


Mix everything in a bowl.   Pour into the slow cooker.  Cook on low for four hours.   Dish up and eat!
Seriously, it’s that simple.   If food tends to stick to the sides of your cooker, spray it with a little cooking spray before pouring in the ingredients.   I didn’t need to in mine.   According to the original recipe this can be cooked for 8 hours on low as well, but I’d use oats with a bit more chew for that, such as steel cut oats.

This will make enough for four generous servings, or about 5 to 6 smaller portions.   So technically this is more than just two of us will eat in one sitting, but we can eat it in two or three days, and it reheats exceptionally well.

If you’ve got a busy week ahead, make this on a Sunday afternoon and you’re good for a few days of quick, healthy breakfast, or if you must share with someone, maybe just a couple of days.   If that’s the case, make some No-Bake bars while this is cooking in the slow cooker!

Sorry I don’t have pics for this one.  My brain is not alert enough yet at breakfast to think “Oh yeah, I need a picture of this for my blog.”   Besides, oatmeal isn’t exactly photogenic.