No Fuss Pudding Pie

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Me on my seventh birthday with my mom’s homemade Pudding Pie. It was my special request!

Everyone in my family has a sweet tooth, and we have been experimenting with different desserts since as far back as I can remember.  There is one dessert, however, that we continue to make for every occasion.  It is a family classic and crowd favorite, and it is so incredibly easy (aside from a bit of math involved) and absolutely delicious.

Ingredients:
1 Graham Cracker Pie Crust (we like the Keebler brand)
1 8oz container of Cool Whip
2 packages Jell-o Instant Chocolate Pudding Mix
2 cups of milk

Preparation:

1. Combine milk and pudding mix in medium bowl powder disappears completely.  The resulting mixture will be thicker than regular pudding.

2. Divide in thirds and layer 2/3 of the mixture into the graham cracker crust.

3. Divide Cool Whip in thirds and add 1/3 of Cool Whip to remaining 1/3 of chocolate pudding.  Mix until combined completely; this mixture should be light brown and somewhat fluffy.

4.  Add Cool Whip/Pudding mixture as the second layer in the pie crust.

5.  Spread remaining Cool Whip as the third layer of the crust.  Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours before serving.  The longer it sits, the more the crust will absorb some of the moisture and be less likely to crumble when serving.

6. Bring to parties and hear your friends and family admire the delicious chocolate pie that you *slaved over* for years to come 😉

Breakfast Problems

I have a huge problem.  I hate breakfast.  I hate eating breakfast, I hate thinking about breakfast, and I especially hate cooking breakfast.

When I was younger, I had a real problem eating breakfast before school.  Starting around sixth grade, I stopped eating breakfast entirely, and that lasted about five years.  By the time I was a senior, I was able to grab a granola bar or some crackers to go, but that was about it.

In the summer, my go-to breakfast is cereal.  Our house is usually stocked with Cheerios, Kix, and Frosted Flakes, and since I don’t get up until 8 or 9 every morning, breakfast is a little easier to stomach (compared with six in the morning).  My favorite cereal is Lucky Charms, but my mom won’t buy them, so I only get them when I’m away at school.

I don’t mind pancakes and french toast and bacon, but eggs? Forget it.  I have always had a huge problem with eggs. I can tolerate omelets on occasion, but straight up scrambled eggs are public breakfast enemy number one.  Something about the texture and the taste just gross me out.

Today, I came downstairs for breakfast and took a peek into the pantry.  We have a pretty big Cheerio collection right now, so I grabbed the box of Honey Nut and made my way to the fridge.

That was when I found out the worst news: no milk.  I was pretty disappointed.  My brother has swim practice in a few minutes, so with one of my quick breakfast options depleted, I was going to have to get creative.  I didn’t have time for pancakes or waffles, there is no bacon in this house, and I’m pretty sure if there were any granola bars left I’d have eaten them yesterday.

I made my brother eggs to fuel him up for practice, and while I had the cheese out, I decided to make myself a breakfast quesadilla.  I have a hard time eating a lot in the morning, especially heavy stuff, so all that went into my quesadilla was Kraft Four Cheese Mexican.  I grilled it on the skillet, and it was done in time to sit down and enjoy breakfast with my brother.

Sometimes you have to think outside of the box a little to get what you want.  I wanted breakfast, but traditional breakfast food wasn’t working for me.  Hopefully, though, I’ll have time to go get milk today.

Maybe I’ll even grab a box of Lucky Charms while I’m at it.

Going Out: Friendly’s

Today is my birthday, and we celebrated it by going to Friendly’s for lunch.

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My brother Ryan and I at Friendly’s for lunch

Friendly’s is far from fine cuisine, but here, it is a family favorite.  There is something about going to Friendly’s that just gets everyone excited and puts us all in a good mood.  We have celebrated everything there, from birthdays to little league championships to dance recitals to the last day of school, and it has always been a popular hangout for me and my friends after school dances and youth group meetings.

The menu is pretty big, and a lot of it is actually really good.  My absolute favorite is the Turkey Club Supermelt, but I also love their wraps, burgers, salads, and quesadillas.  In my opinion, their french fries are not all that great (super mushy), so I usually sub a cup of soup or applesauce instead.

Whatever the food may be, the dessert is really the best part of going to Friendly’s.  My family hardly ever gets dessert when we go out to eat, but it is an unspoken family law that we will get ice cream at Friendly’s.  They probably have over thirty different flavors of ice cream to choose from, with the option to order one of their predetermined sundaes or create your own concoction.  Nothing compares to a Friendly’s sundae.  Their milkshakes are also incredible, and not only do they fill your glass to the top, but they bring out the entire half-full metal mixing cup along with it.  My personal favorite is the Friend-z, which is comparable to a DQ Blizzard or Sonic Blast, but with more stuff and better tasting ice cream.

Whenever I go to Friendly’s I get to be a kid again, if only for an hour or so.  I love the atmosphere and the ice cream, and I love that it is chock full of memories from my childhood.  I hope to someday bring my children to Friendly’s on their birthdays and sing along to the Friendly’s Birthday Song: “If you’re good you’ll get your wishes/if you’re bad you’ll do our dishes.”

Thankfully, I’ve never had to do their dishes.

Microwave Hash Brown Casserole

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This was the first time I cooked this dish – for a dorm friendly food contest. It won 2nd place!

Today, I have been making a lot of preparations for my return to school in August.  I submitted my early move-in request, signed up to volunteer for freshman move-in and work the Strong Women Strong Girls table at the Activity Fair, and sent my RSVP to the Service Learning Partnership Orientation for the class I will be TAing in the fall (I like to do it all!).

Doing all this college-y stuff has inspired me to share a college girl friendly recipe for the day.  I love this recipe because it’s easy, inexpensive, and it can be cooked in the microwave! (Good news for anyone living in a traditional dorm).  I made it quite a few times during my freshman year, and even submitted it in a contest where it won 2nd place!

So here it is, Microwave Hash Brown Casserole!

Ingredients:
2 cups frozen tater tots
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup each chopped bell pepper and onion
1/2 medium sized ham steak, diced
1/3 cup grated cheddar cheese (or your favorite grated blend – I like the Kraft Four Cheese Mexican!)
Salt and pepper

Preparation: 

(Quick note: I like to make this dish in a round Pyrex glass bowl.  The four cup one is the perfect size and it transitions easily from microwave to refrigerator if there are leftovers.)

1.  Start with your tater tots in a medium sized microwavable dish.  Add chicken broth and microwave on high for five minutes.
2.  Remove from microwave and stir together until broth disappears completely and the tater tots lose their individual form.  Add onion and pepper; stir together and microwave on high for another five minutes.
3. Remove and add ham.  Lightly salt and pepper, and stir again.  Layer cheese on top of the dish; you can add more or less than the suggested amount to taste.  Microwave for 2-3 minutes, or until cheese is melted.
4.  Give it one more good stir, and serve.

This works as a great dinner for 1 or 2 people to share, or a side dish for 3-4 people (I like to omit the ham if I’m cooking it as a side).  Also tastes great with bacon bits!

Another quick note: measurements are not super important for this recipe.  I pretty much eyeball everything, and just cut up whatever pepper and onion I happen to have on hand at the time.  As long as your tater tot to broth ratio is good, you will have a perfect, dorm friendly microwave casserole!

Happy Eating!

Eating Out: Husk

Victoria and I with her friends Devon and Katie outside of Husk in Charleston, SC.

Last week I was on vacation in Charleston, South Carolina (more on that here), and my friend Victoria, with whom I was staying, took us to this fabulous restaurant downtown called Husk.

The restaurant is a little bit pricey and VERY trendy, so Vickie made a lunch reservation about a month in advance.  The lunch prices were much more reasonable, around $12 a plate.  The restaurant is all about locally grown southern food, and when you walk in, they have a huge chalkboard with all of their ingredients listed next to the local supplier from which they were purchased.

The menu was small albeit slightly overwhelming, since there was a lot of unfamiliar territory in traditional southern food.  The bacon cornbread they ordered as an appetizer was not my thing (I’m not a cornbread person) although they seemed to like it a lot.  I had a hard time deciding between a few things on the lunch menu, but in the end I went with the most boring dish you can imagine – the cheeseburger.  Sometimes it’s better to be safe.

What I didn’t expect was that this cheeseburger would be far from safe.  Ordering the burger turned out to be the best decision I made that day, since it was probably the best cheeseburger I’ve ever had in my life.  It was a double cheeseburger, complete with sauteed onions, homemade pickles, melted cheddar cheese, and secret sauce (it felt almost like a honey mustard, but more savory and not quite as thick).  I wish I could effectively describe to you the incredible flavors this burger brought to the table, and I wish even more that I had taken a picture so that you could see the fresh cheddar cheese just oozing out of the homemade bun.

I also loved the staff at the restaurant, who were friendly and accommodating.   Vickie had booked her reservation through Open Table, and in the comments section had asked them to do something special for my birthday, which is coming up.  They brought out a pudding dessert in a miniature mason jar, complete with a candle and four spoons, at no extra cost.  It was absolutely precious and I was so thankful for the experience.

All in all, I highly recommend Husk if you are visiting Charleston anytime soon.  I also suggest that you make a reservation in advance, and stick with lunch if you are on any sort of budget.

You definitely will not be disappointed.

Creamy Garlic Pasta Sauce

Delicious, creamy, and sooooo easy to make! I made it this time with leftover grilled shrimp and homemade salsa, served over whole wheat penne.

I found a recipe awhile ago online for a creamy garlic pasta sauce.  I have since tweaked the recipe a lot and it has become my favorite homemade pasta sauce.  It is super easy to make and only takes about as long as the pasta does to cook.

Since I have mostly been cooking for myself this summer, the ingredients list is for a single serving.

Ingredients:

A single serving of your favorite pasta (I have tried it with linguine, penne, and thin spaghetti, and it works well with all of them.  It tastes great with whole wheat pasta, too!)
1 tbsp butter
1/4 tsp garlic powder (you can always use fresh garlic if you have it on hand)
3/4 tbsp flour
1/4 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup milk
Salt
Pepper
Parsley Flakes
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (not the Kraft kind in the green bottle, it doesn’t have the right consistency)
Optional: your favorite meat or veggie addition – I like to use bacon bits or grilled shrimp and homemade salsa  (make sure you cook or heat up anything else that you are going to add to the sauce BEFORE you add it)

Preparation: 

(1) Start by boiling the water for the pasta.  While you wait for it to boil, gather your ingredients and measure out your chicken broth, milk, and Parmesan cheese.  You will need to have these ready to grab with one hand when the time comes.

(2) When the water boils, add the pasta and cook according to box directions.  In a separate, small saucepan, melt butter over medium heat.  Once the butter is about halfway melted, add garlic powder.

(3) Once the butter has melted completely, grab yourself a fork, add the flour, and stir constantly for about 30 to 45 seconds.  It is going to turn into a thick, chunky mush.  Keep smashing it with that fork until the butter and flour are completely mixed.

(4) While continuing to stir, add the chicken broth, followed by the milk.  Combine completely until the butter/flour mixture disappears into the liquid.  Turn the heat up to just above medium and stir frequently until the sauce thickens and begins to boil slightly.

(5) Add salt, pepper, and parsley to taste.  I like just a dash of each.

(6) Add the Parmesan cheese and stir until it melts completely.  If you like bacon bits, now would be a good time to add them.  Anything else you can just add when you serve it.  Your pasta is probably just about done now, so turn the heat on your sauce down to just below medium and let it cook awhile longer while you strain the pasta.   Once the pasta is ready, the sauce is too!  I like to serve it to myself in a big bowl with a little extra Parmesan cheese on top.

Like I said, this is my favorite pasta sauce recipe.   It doesn’t take more than ten minutes, and it works with any kind of pasta or add in.  One time I served it with shrimp and salsa (pictured above) and the veggies were a nice addition to the creaminess of the sauce.

Hope you like it! Happy Eating!