Easy Fried Rice – Just Like Take-Out

Chinese take-out was the first major budget cut that we made.  We used to get Chinese take-out every Friday night.  Every.single.week.  I learned to make a lot of the dishes we liked (like General Tso’s and Chicken Teriaki), but for me, it wasn’t the same without fried rice.

I tried the instant flavored rice packs, but it wasn’t the same.  Take-out fried rice isn’t fluffy or sticky.  It has that nice yellow coloring and it’s so yummy!

So I tried frying it.  Yes, it’s that easy.  Easy-peasy.

Instant Brown Rice
Instant rice, made in the microwave

Make some rice.

Any kind of rice.  Sometimes I make instant white rice.  Sometimes I made instant brown rice.  Sometimes I make good ol’ fashioned rice… but not usually, because it takes forever.

If I do make “ol’ fashioned rice”… I make a whole stock pot full of it and I freeze some for next time.  If it’s going to take 20 minutes to make two servings of rice, then I’m going to made eight servings of rice while I’m at it!  I let the rice cool, in the fridge, and then I put it in gallon freezer bags.  I flatten the bags and lay them in the freezer.  That way, if I only want enough rice for one person, I just break it in half and thaw half of it.

add soy sauce to rice in skillet fried rice in nonstick skillet

Fry the rice!

I know, it’s almost too easy.

I heat up a nonstick skillet and toss the rice in.  I’ve never done this with a stainless steel skillet or a cast iron skillet, so I’m not sure how well it would work.  I don’t add oil or anything.

Stir the rice around until it’s no longer sticky.  Add some soy sauce for a nice color and flavor.  Add some stir-fry veggie mix, if you’re husband isn’t as picky as mine!

homemade fried rice

All done!!  Enjoy!!




Pasta with Tomato & Garlic Sauce

When it’s just me at home for lunch, I get to play with new recipes and things I’ve never tried before.  That being said, I’m still a pretty conservative cook… So here is my new favorite pasta sauce for my lunches.

1.  Cook 1 box of pasta (I used Rotini) according to package directions.  Reserve 1/4 cup of pasta water.

2.  Heat 4 tbsp of olive oil in a sauce pan over medium heat.  Add 6-8 sliced garlic cloves.  Yes, I love garlic. Cook until fragrant.

3.  Add 1/4 cup of reserved pasta water.  Add 1 can of diced tomatoes.  Cook until reduced to desired consistency.  I cooked mine until the tomato chunks were visible under all the liquid.


4.  Add sauce to pasta.  Stir.  Eat.


Confession:  I also added a ton of garlic powder when I poured in the diced tomatoes.  I’m sure no one else likes garlic that much.

Try adding any veggies you like and have to the sauce.  Enjoy another quick and easy lunch!!

DIY, freezer cooking, recipes

Waffles: Mix vs. Scratch

I used to make waffles from scratch.  I rarely made waffles because I had to drag out all of the ingredients, make the waffle mix, heat up the waffle iron, stand in the kitchen to make each waffle, burn a few, clean the waffle iron… I hated it.  But, my kid loves waffles.

Anything for love, right?

We were facing the possibility of a one-income household, so I was trying to cut corners anywhere possible.  When I took a look at our grocery budget, I noticed that a huge chunk of our monthly expense was PopTarts.

Yes, PopTarts.

But, it wasn’t just the kid.  It was all of us.  Especially me.  Between my son and I, we would go through a big box (6-packs) of PopTarts every two days.  Oops.  But they are sooo good with a tall glass of milk.

I’m trying to lose baby weight.  DH is trying to get in shape.  And the last thing our seven-year-old needs is sugar.  So, I started making waffles and freezing them to eat for breakfast.  And snacks.  And dinner when I’m feeling super lazy.

I read an article online (can’t find it now), explaining that it costs $2.00 to make waffle mix from scratch (yields 10 waffles).  And I thought I was saving money!!  Yikes.  So I grabbed a box of waffle mix at Aldi and did a calculation of my own.

1 box of waffle mix $1.49
8 tbsp of oil $0.24 ($2.89/48 oz)

This recipe (doubled the instructions on the box) yields between 32-40 waffles.  So, even if I come out on the short end of that, it’s $0.05 per waffle.  I was paying $0.19 per PopTart and we were all eating TWO at a time.  Now we all eat breakfast for less than a dollar.  Score!

Other Waffle Tips:

I use cooking oil to grease my waffle iron.  I use a spray bottle, even though the users manual says to brush it on the plates.  I hate washing my brush.

Cook waffles until the steam stops coming out of the sides of the waffle iron.  If you open it any sooner, the waffle top & bottom layers will separate and your picky seven-year-old will complain.

Freeze waffles.  If they last that long in your house… they don’t in mine.  No matter how many I make, they’re all gone within a week 🙂

Another short cut I like to use, is to mix up the recipe in a pitcher, for easy pouring.




Egg Surprise

I love the Sorted videos on YouTube.  This one makes my mouth water every time…!/recipes/eggsurprise/  DH isn’t a big fan of cooked veggies, so I make my own version.

Egg Surprise:

4 potatoes
2-4 tbsp oil
4 eggs

Dice potatoes.  Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat.
Add potatoes to skillet and cook until soft.
Crack eggs on top of potatoes.  Cover with lid.
Cook until eggs are white and are no longer runny.
Serve with bacon!!  Because bacon makes any dish better!!

{As you can see, I ate most of the bacon while I was cooking…}

I love making this for brunch.  If DH isn’t around, I add green peppers, onions, and sometimes squash.  This recipe is quick! and cheap!


Shrimp Scampi

I love butter.  Ask anyone who knows me.  Usually I like bread with my butter.  Literally.  I use fresh homemade bread to scrape butter out of the container.  Sometimes I like noodles with my butter.  Tonight it was noodles.

I made shrimp scampi pretty early in our marriage.  Then I lost my recipe.  I made several attempts but nothing really came close.  Most recipes I tried were too “lemony”.  So, I took those recipes and tweaked them to make this one.

Shrimp Scampi

2 sticks of butter (yes, 8 tablespoons)
2 tbsp vegetable oil
6 large cloves of garlic (we love garlic)
1/8 tsp dried parsley
4 tbsp white wine
2 lbs shrimp (peeled and deveined)
2 tsp flour
juice from 1/2 lemon
1 box angel hair pasta
Thaw shrimp and dry with paper towels.
Cook pasta according to instructions on box.
Heat butter and oil over medium heat in a skillet.
Cook garlic (chopped or sliced) and parsley in butter and oil (do not let garlic brown).
Add wine to skillet.  Add shrimp to skillet and cook 3-5 minutes.
When the shrimp is almost pink, add flour to skillet to thicken butter sauce.
Add lemon juice and cook one more minute.

Pour shrimp and butter sauce over cooked noodles and serve.

Note:  This is what the skillet looks like when I add the flour.  Some of the shrimp is pink and some of it is still clear/gray.  Add lemon juice when all shrimp is pink and cook one more minute.
Shrimp can get expensive, compared to the other meals we eat.  But, a whole bag of shrimp (3 lbs) is cheaper than the chicken scampi at Olive Garden and much cheaper than most shrimp dishes I’ve seen at restaurants.  So, if we can get our fix of this at home, we’re still saving some money.  At least I tell myself that 🙂

freezer cooking, recipes

Buffalo Chicken Meatloaf

I had never heard of this, but found it once while I was looking for low-calorie meals and it sounded like something my picky-eater-husband would like.  I’ve adapted it a little (probably adding calories) and we eat it at least once a month.  It’s also good if you mix up two batches at once:  eat one and freeze the other!  I heard my husband telling someone on the phone, “Yea, it’s great!  It’s just ground chicken, hot sauce, and an egg!”  Not quite, sweetie…
1 lb ground chicken {if you can get “lean” ground chicken, go for it… I have trouble finding ground chicken at all in some stores}
2/3 cup of old-fashioned rolled oats
1/3 cup of 1% milk {I was out of milk once and used water… no one noticed}
1/3 cup of hot sauce
2 egg whites
1/2 cup of bleu cheese crumbles

Step One:  Combine oats and milk.  Let sit for several minutes until oats are softened.  Sometimes I add the hot sauce here, sometimes I don’t.

Step Two:  Add everything but the bleu cheese (chicken, eggs, and hot sauce if not already added).  Mix well.  Stir in bleu cheese crumbles last.  {The cheese can get gooey if added too early}.

Step Three:  Pour mixture into loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.  Allow loaf to rest/cool for at least 10 minutes before serving {or it will fall apart!}.

This makes about 8 pieces (4 servings).  Sometimes we sprinkle more hot sauce on top – sometimes we dip it in bleu cheese dressing… depends on the mood!  

Note:  I don’t like crunchy things in my meatloaf (or stuffing for that matter).  You can definitely add celery or carrots or onions or all three to this and it would still be delicious.  I leave them out as a personal preference, but I know I’m weird!!

Menu Planning Tip:  I always try to serve this in the same week as I serve pasta carbonara.  I use two egg whites here and two egg yolks in the pasta carbonara ~ so this way there is no wasted food!!

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General Tso’s Chicken

This is one of my husband’s favorites!  We used to get Chinese take-out every Friday night… When we started trying to cut back, take-out was the first thing cut.  I tried so many different recipes trying to find one that tasted just like the Chinese take-out.  I accumulated quite the collection of Asian ingredients that I will probably never use again.  Each recipe was good, but nothing like take-out.  Finally I discovered the “missing ingredient”.  Hoisin sauce!  I have no idea what it is, or what is in it, but it’s the perfect consistency to make really good General Tso’s.

I always serve this dish with rice– either fried rice or a Knorr’s Rice Side.

Step One:  Marinade Chicken
1/2 cup hoisin sauce
1/4 cup white vinegar
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1&1/4 cup water
ground ginger to taste
1 lb chicken breast


Whisk these ingredients together in a container that has a lid.  Add 1 lb of boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch pieces.  Close the container and refrigerate for at least one hour.

{I usually get this ready around lunch and let it marinate until supper time}

Step Two:  Coat Chicken

2 large egg whites
3/4 cup cornstarch
3/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
chicken from marinade
In one bowl whisk egg whites until foamy.  In a second bowl, mix cornstarch, flour, ginger, and baking soda until well blended.  Remove chicken from marinade (but keep the marinade!).  Pat chicken dry with papertowels.  Dip chicken in egg whites and dredge through flour mixture.  
{I usually have a lot of extra flour mix when I’m done, so I freeze it for next time}
Step Three:  Cook!
olive oil
4 cloves of garlic
ground ginger, to taste
red pepper flakes, to taste
marinade from chicken
In a medium sauce pan, heat a tablespoon of oil over medium heat.  Add 4 chopped cloves of garlic, ginger, and pepper flakes to the oil.  Cook until fragrant.  Add marinade from chicken to sauce pan.  Cook until sauce thickens and darkens, whisking often.
{I can’t eat this if I use more than a sprinkle of pepper flakes!}
In a skillet, heat 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil.  Add chicken to oil and cook for 5 minutes.  Turn chicken, add more oil if needed, and cook until no longer pink (165 degrees).
To Serve:
When the chicken is cooked and the sauce is done, combine the two in the saucepan to thoroughly coat the chicken.  Serve over rice with stir-fry vegetables.  

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Pasta Carbonara

I don’t remember how I discovered this delicious dish.  I never had it growing up and we’ve never ordered it in a restaurant.  The first recipe I tried used all of my favorite foods:  butter, bacon, wine, cheese, eggs, spaghetti, and onions.  It’s always a little scary cooking something you’ve never eaten before.. you don’t know what it’s supposed to look like.. or taste like.  But, it was amazing!!  An instant favorite.

I’ve since simplified the recipe, drastically.  Here is my super-simple Pasta Carbonara recipe:

Pasta Carbonara


1/2 pound of bacon
1 box of spaghetti
4 eggs (2 whole, 2 yolks)
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup parmesan cheese

  1. Cut bacon into 1-inch pieces.  In a skillet, fry bacon until crispy.  Note:  You can’t do it in the microwave or use precooked bacon because you’ll need to use the grease from cooking in the skillet.

  2. Boil spaghetti according to package instructions.
  3. Mix 2 whole eggs, 2 egg yolks, 1/2 cup of milk, and 1/4 cup of parmesan.  Whisk these ingredients until well mixed.

  4. Drain pasta and return to pot.  Add egg mixture to pot.  Stir immediately and mix well.  Note:  Yes, raw eggs.  The heat from the noodles is enough to cook the eggs and the heat from the pot is some added insurance.

  5. Add bacon and grease to pot.  Stir until well mixed and serve with extra parmesan or toasted bread crumbs on top.

Voila!  Enjoy!

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freezer cooking, recipes

Fill Your Freezer: Potatoes

I LOVE MY NEW KITCHEN SINK!!  I could never have washed and diced 10 lbs of potatoes on my old countertop.  I am so blessed to have a handy dad (and father-in-law) to help out!
Today’s menu includes diced potatoes & twice-baked potatoes:
Most families would probably prefer homemade french fries, but we could eat homemade home fries 7 nights a week!  Sometimes I fry them in infused oil to add some favors, other times I just fry them plain.
Most of my freezer cooking is done to make meal prep easier and faster.  This method, however, probably takes longer than just making the fries normally.  That brings up another great benefit of freezer cooking:  You can cook large amounts of cheap food that would have spoiled otherwise!  I can buy 10 lbs of potatoes at a really good price and I don’t have to worry about where I will keep them (cool, dark place) or how long it will take to use them up!
Freezing potatoes raw can sometimes turn them funny colors.  To stop that from happening, I cut the potatoes (in whatever shape you like, french fries, home fries, curly fries, wedges, etc.) and toss them in boiling water for 10 minutes (or until tender).
Then, rinse them with cold water to stop them from cooking.  Space the potatoes out on baking sheets and pop them in the freezer to flash freeze.  Once frozen, transfer the potatoes to freezer bags in portions that work for your family.
While my husband would love it if I made 10 lbs of diced potatoes, I decided to use the other 5 lbs to make twice-baked potatoes.  I loved these as a kid — butter-flavored only!!  They are the very first thing I learned to make-ahead and freeze.
According to the Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book (everyone should own this), you can bake four potatoes by microwaving them for 10-15 minutes.  I nuke four potatoes at-a-time and let them cool down.  Then I scoop the insides into my KitchenAid and I add a ton of butter.  I baked 12 potatoes today and used almost a whole stick of butter (but I could have used more!! Yummmmm…).  I mix it on a low speed for a minute or two, then slowly add milk until it’s mashed-potato-consistency.  Scoop that into your empty shells, cram them on another baking sheet, and flash freeze!  Again, once frozen, transfer to freezer bag or individually wrap.
I have to admit that my family is a little disappointed that there isn’t room in the freezer for ice cream right now!  I’m sure they’ll be thankful in a week or two when the baby is screaming, we’re all exhausted, and we still have yummy home-cooked food to eat for dinner!!
If you’re interested in how I will use my {almost} fully stocked freezer during my postpartum weeks, make sure you subscribe!

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error, recipes

Trial & ERROR: The “Sandwich” Setting

This is what my kitchen looks like right now.  But, I still wanted to be productive today so I planned to make more Sandwich Bread.  I got it in the bread machine before my son left for school.. I also used up the rest of the wheat flour I had in the pantry.

Oops.  What happened?  Well… I mixed it up without even looking at the recipe – but I’m almost positive I got the ingredients all correct!  My guess is that I shouldn’t use the sandwich bread recipe AND the sandwich bread setting at the same time.
After the first knead/rise cycle, I restarted the machine like I always do with this recipe.  Except, this time I decided to try the sandwich bread setting.  Don’t do that.  If you use the sandwich setting, just trust the machine to make good sandwich bread.  Don’t try to out smart it by adding a knead/rise cycle.  Lesson learned!!
I froze the bread anyway and will use it to make bread crumbs for our favorite chicken parmigiana recipe.
Pictures of the new kitchen sink & countertop coming soon!!
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