Meal Ideas from the Archives

From the Archives

Are you looking for some new recipe ideas? In that case, let’s take another look back through the archives for some of our favorite family meals. Print or pin away!

Poppy seed chicken is a delicious meal to serve to your family and / or company. It’s easy to prepare and it freezes well! I have given this meal to many new Mothers and they (like us) always enjoy it.

Poppy Seed Chicken - Joyfully Thriving

My husband is always happy when I make this easy enchilada casserole for dinner. It’s very tasty! The thing I like about this recipe is that it makes for great leftovers. We enjoy it just as much for lunch the next day, as we do for dinner on the first night.

Easy Enchilada Casserole - A quick, delicious meal made in easy casserole form.

If you’re looking for a more traditional enchilada recipe, I like these chicken enchiladas. The filling is made with a cream of chicken soup and sour cream base so it is milder than some recipes. Again, this is another recipe that freezes well! I’ve even frozen them individually for a quick lunch meal.

Easy Chicken Enchiladas - A simple and delicious meal that freezes great!

Since chicken is needed for all these meals, I plan ahead by cooking my chicken in the slow cooker and freezing it. That simple trick means I can mix together any of these meals in a matter of minutes. The other amazing thing? By cooking chicken in my slow cooker, I am saving myself lots of time and money!

How to Save Money and Time by Cooking Chicken in the Slow Cooker

Now, for dessert? If you like chocolate, I highly recommend this triple chocolate bundt cake. The beauty of this recipe is that it starts with several mixes and turns into a delicious chocolate treat.

Triple Chocolate Bundt Cake

Or, if you need chocolate quicker than that? Do what I do. Mix up a batch of no-bake chocolate oatmeal cookies. They are the perfect quick chocolate fix!

No Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

Does that give you some meal ideas? I hope you enjoy these recipes as much as our family does!

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Drink Recipes from the Archives

From the Archives

As my blog has continued to grow, I realize there is a wealth of information shared here that many people have not read – or might want to reread. From time to time, I’m going to share some of these past articles for your enjoyment. Follow the links below to the original articles. Take time to read (and pin!) these recipes. These are some oldies but goodies. Let’s start today with some drinks from the archives.

One of my absolute favorite recipes is for Frugal Homemade Chocolate Syrup. This simple recipe has only 4 ingredients and makes delicious chocolate milk or hot chocolate. I always have a jar of this chocolate syrup in my refrigerator. Always.

Homemade Chocolate Syrup

When the weather is cold and I’m not in the mood for hot chocolate, hot wassail is the perfect way to start my morning. (I’m obviously not a coffee drinker.) If you don’t want to mix a big batch of wassail, you can follow my recipe for a single serving of wassail. It’s a bit tangier than apple cider and a family favorite.

Single Serving Recipe for Wassail - Joyfully Thriving

This is a fun one. I made this recipe up when it was the middle of winter and I was craving a Sonic cherry limeade. I’m happy to report that this snow cherry limeade is a great copycat recipe – with only 4 ingredients. No snow? You could pour this over crushed ice.

Snow Cherry Limeade - A perfect snow day recipe for a copycat Sonic drink.

Finally, because this list includes drinks, take a look at my green themed food list in preparation for St. Patrick’s Day. If you have children, wouldn’t it be fun to surprise them with a green meal in honor of the day? You’ve got time to make it happen since St. Patrick’s Day (March 17th) is next week!

Green Themed Foods for Saint Patrick's Day

Were some of these new discoveries to you? I hope so! Thanks for letting me share some of these recipes from the archives.

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How to Make Caramelized Onions in Your Slow Cooker

How to Make Easy and Delicious Caramelized Onions in Your Slow Cooker - 3 simple steps to a pot of delicious caramelized onions! Plus, they freeze great!

I am falling more and more in love with my slow cooker. It’s amazing what complex things you can do with one simple kitchen tool! First it was homemade yogurt in my crock pot, and now it’s caramelized onions. Yes, you’ve read that right. I have now discovered how to caramelize onions in my slow cooker. Like the yogurt, it takes time but so little effort. You’ll be amazed at how simple it – and how tantalizing your house smells as the onions cook.

Have you used caramelized onions before? I’ve started using them in the past year because a little bit adds a big flavor to my dishes. I started making them for patty melts but now stir them into countless things. I like to toss them in with some sauted peppers, beans and corn for a tasty veggie burrito. I also put caramelized onions on my grilled cheese sandwiches, any type of panini, and even with my homemade macaroni and cheese. It’s a classy way to dress up simple meals. And of course, you need caramelized onions to make french onion soup!

Onions are cheap so there is little expense for big flavor. It’s a great frugal cooking trick. I recently picked up 3 pounds of yellow onions for $1 and gave this a try. It worked perfectly the first time and I’ve made several more batches since then. Normally, you have to stand watch by your stove for a good 45 minutes to get truly caramelized onions. With your slow cooker, you can toss the onions in and leave them all day to caramelize to perfection.

The other wonderful thing about this method that you can make a large batch of caramelized onions in your slow cooker and then freeze them for future meals. I freeze them in 1/2 cup serving sizes. I scoop the onions into a square of foil, roll them up and freeze them until I need them. They taste just as good when they are thawed!

It takes 3 simple steps to make caramelized onions in your slow cooker. Here’s what to do.

Caramelized Onions in Your Slow Cooker. First, Peel your onions.

First, peel your onions and slice the ends off. This is the most time consuming part and yes, tearful part. Just remind yourself that by doing a large batch at once, you’re saving yourself tears later! You can do as many onions as fit in your slow cooker. I have found that a 3 pound bag is the perfect size for my regular slow cooker.

Caramelized Onions in the Slow Cooker. Put onions in the slow cooker all day.

Next, slice your onions. If you have a (food) mandolin, you can make quick work of this task. I just got one this Fall and am loving it! Otherwise, use a sharp knife and slice your onions in 1/4 inch rounds. Don’t worry about separating the rings of onions. They will fall apart as you toss them in the slow cooker.

Put a stick of butter in the bottom of your slow cooker. (It works with a half stick too, but I think the onions caramelized a bit nicer with a full stick.) Toss all the onions on top. Put the lid on. Turn your slow cooker on low and leave it to cook for 8 to 12 hours. 8 hours is the minimum but the longer they sit, the more they will caramelize. You can stir them once or twice if you would like to prevent any sticking but it is not necessary.

Caramelized Onions in the Slow Cooker. After all day cooking, you'll have no fuss, beautiful, caramelized onions!

Now you’re done! Wasn’t that simple? The hardest part is waiting as you smell the onions cook all day. You can use them right away or freeze them for future use. I recommend freezing the onions in small portions so you can easily get out what you need.

What do you think? Will you give this a try? For what do you use caramelized onions?

How to Make Vanilla Yogurt in Your Crock Pot

A Simple Way to Make Homemade Vanilla Yogurt in Your Slow Cooker - So simple and delicious! It's a great way to save money and be healthy at the same time.

Here is something I never imagined myself doing. I am now making my own yogurt! You see, I’ve always liked yogurt but started eating it more in the past couple of years. I regularly eat it for breakfast with granola or as part of my lunch. It’s a good source of protein and dairy. When I started to feed Nathan solids, yogurt was one of those foods that he loved. However, I quickly realized how expensive yogurt has become. I also realized that many of the yogurts have lots of artificial ingredients in them. This got me thinking.

In my quest to being more frugal, two years ago, I had started buying the large tubs of yogurt and dividing it into containers myself. It is much more cost efficient than buying the individual containers but it still wasn’t cheap. The regular price for a quart of yogurt is now $3. I had heard of people making their own yogurt and decided to give it a try. Guess what? I’m hooked. It’s simple and delicious and so much cheaper! When I get my milk on sale, I can now much 4 quarts of homemade yogurt for under the price of $3. (Yes, I can easily get a gallon of milk for under $3 in the wonderful state of Indiana.) Plus, I know that my yogurt is made of milk, sugar, vanilla and the live cultures. That’s it! No artificial ingredients in this homemade yogurt.

You may be in disbelief but give it a try. It takes some time but the effort and supplies involved couldn’t be simpler. I read dozen of recipes and combined a couple of them to come up with this recipe. The main reason being that I wanted vanilla yogurt and almost all the recipes I found were for plain yogurt. Also, I didn’t want to mess with a thermometer if I didn’t have to. With this slow cooker method, homemade yogurt is truly a make it and forget it recipe.

Ingredients:

1/2 gallon milk (I used 2%. Most recommend whole milk for thicker yogurt but 2% works fine.)

1/2 cup yogurt starter (Any yogurt with live cultures works. I’d recommend plain or vanilla. I used Stonyfield Organic Vanilla Yogurt for my original starter because that is what I was feeding Nathan. Once you make your first batch, simply save 1/2 cup of the yogurt to use as starter for your next batch.)

1/2 cup sugar (I’ve read that honey works too. I stuck with a simple sugar. You can add more or less to taste. This amount was just about perfect for us.)

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract (I use my pure Mexican vanilla which I love! We buy ours at El Mercado in San Antonio but you can buy a similar bottle on Amazon, although not as cheap. It is so delicious!)

Cheesecloth and colander (Optional and explained below.)

Directions:

Pour 1/2 gallon of milk into your crock pot and turn it on low. Let it sit for 2 hours and 45 minutes. Set a timer and walk away from the crock pot at this point.

When the timer dings, turn the crock pot off and unplug it. Whisk in sugar and vanilla. Let the yogurt sit for 3 hours. Again, set your timer and resume your regular activities.

After the 3 hours are up, spoon 1 cup of the milk into a small mixing bowl. Whisk in your yogurt starter. Add this mixture back to the crock pot and whisk it all together.

Put the lid back on the crock pot and wrap the entire crock pot in one or two beach towels. I wrap one around the outside and cover the top with another towel. The reason being is that it allows the temperature of your yogurt to slowly cool and culture.

Let your wrapped crock pot sit for 8 to 12 hours while the yogurt cultures. The longer the yogurt cultures, the tangier the taste. 8 to 9 hours is what I generally do.

When you unwrap your crock pot, you will now have yogurt! See how simple? The yogurt is delicious but my yogurt turned out slightly thinner than store bought yogurt. It tasted fine and can be eaten as is. Simply spoon into jars and store your homemade yogurt in the fridge. If you prefer, you can add one more step as I now do to thicken the yogurt.

After the 8 hours are up, I line my colander with 2 or 3 squares of cheesecloth. I place the colander on top of a metal bowl and pour all my yogurt into the cheese-lined colander. I carefully place the bowl in the refrigerator for a couple hours. After trial and error, I believe 3 hours is the right length of time for this straining. You can check the thickness of your yogurt by stirring it. Whenever you think it is ready, scoop the yogurt out of the colander and put it in glass jars or storage containers.

The cheesecloth step is not necessary and a matter of preference. It will reduce the amount of yogurt you get from your milk but I think it nice to have a slightly thicker yogurt. When you lift the colander out from the metal bowl, you will notice a clear, yellow liquid. This is whey. You can save your whey in the refrigerator for up to 6 months. Whey can be used in place of buttermilk in recipes or to make ricotta cheese. That is next on my list of projects, once I collect enough whey.

Additional Notes:

I think vanilla yogurt is the perfect flavor for the addition of fruit or granola. If you don’t want vanilla yogurt, simply omit the sugar and vanilla in this recipe to make plain yogurt.

1/2 gallon is 8 cups. If you don’t strain the yogurt, you will end up with 8 cups of yogurt. When I am done straining it, I end up with around 4 cups of yogurt. If you strain out too much whey and the yogurt is too thick for your liking, it is easy to stir some whey back in to make your yogurt thinner.

I found my cheesecloth at Meijer. You can also buy it on Amazon here or here (affiliate links). I have heard that coffee filters work too. Since I plan to continue making my own yogurt, I spent the couple dollars and invested in cheesecloth.

Due to the amount of time it takes, I have decided it is best to start the yogurt 6 hours before I want to go to bed. I put the yogurt into my slow cooker around 4pm so that it can culture overnight. Then, first thing in the morning, I put the yogurt into cheesecloth to strain and my yogurt is ready for a late breakfast.

If you find a good deal on milk, remember that milk freezes really well so you could buy your milk and freeze it until you are ready to make yogurt. Just pour a little bit of milk out before freezing so the jug can expand. I buy a whole gallon of 2% milk to make yogurt. I use half of the milk to make yogurt and freeze the other half until I’m ready to make another batch.

I have read that you can easily double this recipe but I have not tried that yet. Please let me know if and when you do! I hope this answers many of the questions you might have. If you have others, ask them in the comments below and I’ll do my best to answer them. It might seem intimidating but if you eat a lot of yogurt and are looking to save money, give this a try!

What do you think? Will you try making your own yogurt?

How to Make Homemade Vanilla Yogurt in Your Crock Pot

Parmesan Garlic Rolls

Oh, bread! How I love bread! I could never be one of those people who gave up eating carbs because I enjoy my bread too much. I have recently re-committed to baking our bread instead of buying it. I can control what goes into it that way. Plus, it really isn’t all that hard to bake bread and it tastes so good when it’s homemade! I am also baking our own rolls for special occasions. My two favorite rolls to make are the best ever homemade crescent rolls and these parmesan garlic rolls.

The recipe for these parmesan garlic rolls came to my Mom from her friend, Rosalie, at church. They are delicious! This recipe alone makes a bread maker worthwhile. True story. I bought my first bread maker used at a church rummage sale for $4. It lasted me for 7 years so was money well spent. It recently died and I replaced it with another used bread maker. This one cost me $10 at my Uncle’s garage sale but I still consider it money well spent because now I can make these rolls again!

I like to serve these rolls along side sausage crepes or poppy seed chicken. These would be great with any pasta meal, too! They are a simple recipe and the use of the bread machine makes it even simpler. Dump everything into your bread machine and once the dough is ready, divide them into little balls. Allow the rolls to rise again and bake. The deliciousness comes from the topping of parmesan and garlic butter, so don’t forget that step! The other wonderful part of this recipe? These rolls freeze wonderfully. You can enjoy one pan now and save one for later!

Parmesan Garlic Rolls - A delicious roll recipe made simple by using the bread machine. Plus, they freeze great!

Ingredients:

1 cup water
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon Red Star brand active dry yeast (add another teaspoon if you use Fleishmanns)
1 1/2 tablespoons butter or margarine
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons dry milk powder
1/4 cup melted butter or margarine
1 clove garlic, crusted
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Place first seven ingredients (water, flour, salt, yeast, margarine, sugar and dry milk powder) in bread machine. Select Dough setting and press start. Allow your bread machine to work it’s magic!

When the dough has risen long enough, the machine will beep. Turn off bread machine, remove bread pan, and turn out dough onto a floured countertop or cutting board.

Knead the dough once or twice before using a sharp knife to divide the dough in half. Roll each section of dough into a long rope. Using a sharp knife, divide dough into 24 pieces (12 pieces per rope).

Shape each section of dough into a ball. Place rolls in two 8-inch greased pie pans – 12 rolls each in each. I usually put 9 around the outside with 3 in the middle, leaving space between the rolls for them to rise.

In a small bowl, combine butter and garlic. Pour over the rolls. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Cover rolls and let rise in a warm oven 30 to 45 minutes until doubled.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden. Remove from the oven and serve warm.

Additional Notes:

These rolls freeze very well! Simply allow the rolls to cool before removing them from the pan. If you are careful, all the rolls should come out attached to one another. Wrap in foil and freeze until ready to use. Place the foil wrapped rolls in the oven to reheat them before serving.

Simple Chocolate “Dump” Bars

Simple and Delicious Chocolate Dump Bars - When you are in the mood for chocolate, here's a recipe where you can dump everything in a bowl and end up with a delicious chocolate treat.

You know the moments when you want something sweet for dessert and you don’t have a brownie mix in your pantry? If so, this is the recipe you need to know! These chocolate dump bars are thicker than a brownie with a slight cake like texture. This is a handy recipe to have on hand when you need to make a quick chocolate dessert.

These chocolate dump bars use simple ingredients that are already in your pantry. You don’t need a mixer and you won’t dirty many dishes. You just dump all the ingredients in a bowl, stir it together and bake. Hence, the fancy name of this recipe!

With no further ado, here’s the recipe to make these chocolate dump bars.

Ingredients:

2 cup sugar
1 3/4 cup flour
5 eggs
1 cup oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup cocoa
1 cup chocolate chips

Directions:

Dump all the ingredients (except chocolate chips) in a large bowl. Mix with a spoon until all ingredients are moistened. Spread in greased 9 by 13 pan. Sprinkle chocolate chips on top. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool and cut into bars.

Oven Baked Caramel Corn

Simple and Delicious Oven Baked Caramel Corn

Yum. Caramel corn! Along with our famous buckeyes, this was one of the Christmas treats that my mother baked each year. Now, I do the same because it is such a delicious treat – and really, very simple. I’ve tried other caramel corns but unless the popcorn is coated in caramel (like this recipe), it’s not caramel corn to me! With this recipe you can make your own batch of delicious caramel corn. This recipe can be made in advance of your festivities because as long as it is stored in an airtight container, it will keep. It will keep quite awhile although I think it’s safe to say you’ll eat it before too long goes by. It really is that good!

Ingredients:

8 or 9 quarts plain popped corn
1 cup butter
1/2 cup corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions:

Pop corn on the stove. Do not salt or butter. Pour popcorn in a larger roaster. (I fill the roaster with popcorn, rather than measuring out the exact quarts.)

Boil all ingredients in saucepan except popcorn and baking soda for 5 minutes, mixing well and stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and add baking soda. Stir quickly. Pour caramel over popcorn, mixing well.

Place roaster with popcorn in 250 degree oven for one hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Cool. Store in a tightly closed container.

Simple Candy Corn Sugar Cookies

Candy Corn Sugar Cookies - No Mix! A simple & delicious homemade recipe for this fun fall treat.

It’s Fall which means cool weather (if you live up North), pumpkins (of course) and if you’re my husband, candy corn. I’ve never been a big fan of the actual candy corn candy so I decided to put my spin on it by making candy corn cookies. The original recipe came from Betty Crocker but I was disappointed to see it used a mix. I’m not a big fan of cookie mixes because I think homemade cookies always taste better. So, I went to my stand-by Texas Sugar Cookie recipe and adapted it to make these cookies.

This sugar cookie dough is the easiest cookie dough you will ever roll out. Even if you’re not rolling it out (like for these cookies), it still handles well and of course, tastes delicious. The nice thing about these cookies is that they become a slice and bake cookie, so you will end up with lots of mini candy corn cookies in no time at all. The other good thing? These cookies freeze great so you can make them ahead of time and serve them at any of your upcoming Fall parties! Here is the recipe.

Candy Corn Cookies

Ingredients:

1 cup butter or margarine
1 1/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 Tablespoons milk

Directions:

Cream butter and sugar in mixer. Add in eggs, vanilla and milk. Slowly add in baking powder and flour. Once you have this dough mixed, it’s time to make the candy corn cookies.

Divide the dough into three equal-ish piles. Just do your best to make it even! Leave one bowl as is. Using food coloring, dye one bowl yellow and the remaining bowl orange.

Line a bread pan with seran wrap. On the bottle of the pan, evenly press the white dough. Next, layer on the orange dough with the yellow dough on top. Fold the remaining seran wrap over the top and refrigerate the dough for 3 to 4 hours.

When the dough is firm, remove it from the refrigerator and cut the dough into slices (like bread). Then, using a knife, cut the dough into small triangles, alternating angles of cut. You can view all the steps below.

4 Simple Steps to Candy Corn Sugar Cookies

Careful place candy corn cookies onto a cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 8 minutes. Cool on a baking rack. Enjoy your candy corn!

Sally’s Baking Addiction Links

Links I Love Button

I have a theme to my links today because I’d like to introduce you to someone. Everyone, I’d like you to meet Sally of Sally’s Baking Addiction. Sally, meet everyone! I stumbled across Sally via one of her recipes on Pinterest and one recipe quickly lead to another and another and another. Since I have so many of her recipes on my to make list, I thought I’d share a couple that are on my current list.

Starting with breakfast, I want to try this chocolate peanut butter lover’s granola. It looks delicious for breakfast – or a snack! I also want to try making Sally’s raspberry swirl sweet rolls. What a fun twist on a cinnamon roll!

I’d eat this cinnamon-swirl chocolate chip bread for breakfast or at anytime. Yum! I’m also curious to try her sky high apple pie muffins. She has lots of delicious looking muffin recipes but this one is at the top of my list. Plus, these are made with greek yogurt and applesauce which really makes them a healthier muffin treat!

Now, onto delicious looking desserts. The gorgeous pictures Sally takes of her desserts will instantly entice you to make countless of these recipes. Here are some of the desserts I want to make.

Peanut butter stuffed brownies. Need I say anything more? S’mores brownie pie looks like a fun twist on a classic s’more.

Pumpkin chocolate chip cookies are going on my fall baking list. I love pumpkin chocolate chip muffins so am excited to find a cookie recipe for the same flavors!

Fluffernutter cake intrigues me since it’s a combination of peanut butter and marshmallows. I’ll probably make cookie dough lovers ice cream pie first because cookie dough is another one of my favorites.

Although Sally  is known (at least to me) for her desserts, she does have other recipes – main dishes and healthy ones, too.

I want to try her honey bbq chicken fingers that are actually marinated in bbq sauce. Why have I never thought of that as a marinade before? I’m going to try her crustless 110 calorie quiche with some of our garden goodies. The quiche recipe is for me, but the cheesy garlic breadsticks for me and my husband!

You see why I needed an entire links devoted to Sally? I might have to do this with a couple of my other favorite blogs soon. For now, go check out Sally’s Baking Addiction. It’s great cooking inspiration!

More New Recipe Links

Links I Love Button

Yes, I’m back with more recipe links because I’ve discovered lots more that I want to try. I simply can’t help myself! Don’t these look delicious?

Edie shared her recipe for best ever blueberry cake with lemon glaze. Since it’s blueberry season, it’s the perfect time to bake this.  I also want to try making chocolate covered blueberries.

Ree showed how she makes her own veggie cream cheese. Yes, it takes more work but you can easily customize it to your taste.

Jen reminded me of one of my Mom’s recipes with this no-bake chocolate eclair cake. What a perfect summer treat!

Ruth made a 5 minute ice cream cake which is another great summertime dessert.

Adriane shared her recipe for rhubarb cherry crisp. I don’t think I’ve ever had this rhubarb combination but it looks delicious!

Brenda made her take on rhubarb with her recipe for grilled angel food cake with rhubarb sauce. Another winner, I think!

Lynette intigued me with her recipe for juice pie. Yes, the frugal filling comes from juice.

Now, the ever important question. Which one shall I try making first?

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