Category Archives: Once a Month Favorites

Meals I love to make routinely.

Salad with Hard-boiled Egg and Honey Mustard Vinaigrette

The pool. Boy, I love our neighborhood pool. We can walk there. We can, and have, spent 7 hours a day there. Being a stay at home mom allows me this luxury… if you can call catching your child as he jumps in the pool nine thousand times a luxury. I swear some days I had bruises on my arms from him landing awkwardly. I was also stabbed in my thigh by a toenail once or twice. So fun. I also got kicked in the … um, let’s just call it the “if I was a man, I’d have probably drowned area”… twice in one day. Oh and every 45 minutes there is a break for 15 minutes. During those 15 minutes my kids eat like I haven’t fed them in days. I pack a cooler with water and snacks. You’d think some pretzels and a sip of water would be good. No… not for my family. My boy can eat everything I’ve packed for him in ONE break. Sheesh. Slow your roll, monkey. We have another break in 45 minutes! I have ONE snack for each kid for each break.

Anyhooooo… I ate during those breaks too. And I ate whatever my kids didn’t finish. You better believe a couple potato chips, two bites of a cheese stick, half a bag of Swedish Fish did NOT go in the trash can. Momma ate it.

Fast forward to September and momma is a little larger than she used to be. And I do NOT have money or the desire to go buy larger jeans for the winter. So I’m making some changes. I’m putting the kids on the bus and exercising in the mornings. And at night, when I usually eat a big fat bowl of ice cream, I am using the Wii Fit to do Step Aerobics. Last night I stepped 2700 times. (That is NOT a typo.) And I’m making changes to my diet. No more lazy days at the pool stuffing my face with pizza and soda and cheese curls!

homemade honey mustard vinaigrette drizzled over a simple salad

homemade honey mustard vinaigrette drizzled over a simple salad

“Salad!?” you ask. Yes. A simple salad. I need to make this recipe public. It’s my desire to teach those of you that drown your lettuce in ranch dressing and croutons (as I REALLY love to do) that there is a better, healthier version that’s just as tasty. And guilt-free!

Salad with Hard-boiled Egg and Honey Mustard Vinaigrette

a nice pile of romaine lettuce – chopped or torn into bite size pieces

1/4 cup roasted almonds – chopped if you’d like. I eat them whole

1 hard boiled egg – chopped (tips on how to make the perfect hard boiled egg follow)

2 pieces of lunch meat – rolled up and sliced to make long slivers. I used roasted chicken today but honey ham would be delicious! And of course, if you have leftover rotisserie chicken or ham from dinner the night before, use it!! It’s a healthier option than lunch meat. I just used what I had.

1/4 cup of chopped monterrey jack cheese – I chopped up a cheese stick that I had. Momma’s gotta’ do what momma’s gotta do.

honey mustard vinaigrette – recipe follows


place the washed and drained lettuce in a large bowl, top with almonds, cheese, lunch meat, chopped hard boiled egg and vinaigrette. Eat promptly. Lick the bowl. The end.

Hard boiled egg – the secret to a perfect hard boiled egg

Place cold water in a sauce pan. Place eggs in sauce pan so they are covered with cold water. Put a lid on it. Bring it up to a boil. Allow to boil for a minute and then turn off the heat. Leave the lid on and set the timer for 12 minutes. When the timer goes off, drain the hot water and add a huge pile of ice to the eggs in the sauce pan and fill the pan with cold water. The ice water shocks the egg shells and the egg shrinks and the shell expands. I think. I don’t know. It’s too scientific to explain. Just do it. Allow to cool as you make the dressing. Do not peel them yet!

Use local honey, spicy brown mustard, and low sodium soy sauce for salad dressing!

Use local honey, spicy brown mustard, and low sodium soy sauce for salad dressing!

Honey Mustard Vinaigrette

1 T spicy brown mustard

1 T low-sodium soy sauce

1 T honey (locally grown is best!)

whisk thoroughly

This can be made in larger quantities and kept in a small jelly jar tightly closed in the fridge. The trouble with this is you might use more than you are supposed to for your salad. Trust me. The recipe as written above is enough for a nice size salad. I suppose you could just measure out two to three tablespoons per salad.

Now go back and peel and chop that egg. Place it on the salad and drizzle with dressing. Now stuff your face.

You’re welcome. A simple salad you can feel good about.





French Toast Bread Pudding

BRINNER!!! One of my favorite go-tos when I’m menu-planning.

Breakfast for Dinner! Yes. Such a simple meal. No brainer!

But my husband makes pancakes with the kids every weekend so I wanted something different. Sausage patties, dippy eggs (I’m from South-Central Pennsylvania. Dippy eggs = over-easy eggs. I’m tired of pretending I’m sophisticated. I’m calling them dippy eggs.)

But what can I do instead of pancakes?

I have a loaf of French bread that I got at the grocery store in the bakery for NOTHING. Literally. It was on sale for $ .97 and it had a one dollar off coupon on it because it was baked yesterday. So I got it for NOTHING. Yeay me!

My mind starts racing. French toast? Ehh, that takes a lot of focus and attention. Baked French toast? Hmm… maybe. Bread pudding? Hmm…. maybe. Both? Hmm…. absolutely.

French Toast Bread Pudding

French Toast Bread Pudding

French Toast Bread Pudding

Requires 4 hours to overnight to soak so plan accordingly.


  • 4-5 cups torn pieces of French bread
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 C maple syrup (you may use any syrup you have but I highly recommend some HIGH QUALITY maple syrup.)
  • 1 C milk – I used vanilla almond milk which is sweetened so if you use whole milk, you might want to add a tablespoon of sugar to the milk.
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 C chopped apple – I used Gala just because I had it. It was approximately half the apple. You can add more apple if you want. Or use another fruit. Blueberries would be good.
  • 2 ounces cold cream cheese
  • sprinkle of cinnamon


Crack and whisk 4 eggs in large bowl. Pour in the maple syrup, milk, vanilla and pinch of salt. Stir well to combine. Prepare an 8×8 baking dish by spraying it with non-stick spray or slather it up with butter. I won’t tell. Now place chopped apple (or whatever fruit you choose) in the bottom of the pan. Top the fruit with the torn bread and then pour the egg/milk mixture over the bread. Press the bread down into the egg/milk mixture. Now take the two ounces of cold cream cheese and just tear it apart with your fingers and dollop it over the top of the bread and egg/milk mixture. Sprinkle it all with cinnamon. Place foil on the pan and place in the fridge for 4 hours, or overnight.

When you are ready to bake it, bring it out of the fridge and let it sit on the counter while the oven preheats to 350F. Bake 30 minutes with the foil on and then remove the foil and bake another 15 minutes. Allow it to rest 15 minutes before serving.

We loved this. I especially love the different textures of a good bread pudding. I like the crunchy top layer but LOOOOVE the custard layer on the bottom. And the apples added a nice tart, flavorful, juicy bite. I was so excited about it that we sat there at the table and kept nibbling at it and then I was like, “Oh crudballs! I forgot to take a picture of it!” So this is all you get.

Oops. I ate all of it.

Oops. I ate all of it.

I hope you try it. It was such a great addition to BRINNER!

Ramen – My Interpretation

My version of easy home-cooked "Ramen" using store-bought Ramen noodles. Cheap, easy, tasty.

My version of easy home-cooked “Ramen” using store-bought Ramen noodles. Cheap, easy, tasty.

Most evenings I have a plan. But this one evening I did not. I ate leftovers for a very late lunch so by the time dinner rolled around I had no desire to cook nor did I have ANY clue what to make. Usually on nights like this the kids eat cereal and I make something special later after the kids are in bed for daddy and mommy. But this evening Josie asked for Ramen noodles. So I got out two packages. I had an idea!

My version of Ramen was born. Now, I am fully aware this is not a traditional Ramen noodle dish that you would eat in an authentic Asian restaurant. The broth and noodles are homemade in a true Ramen dish. This is simply MY version. Frugal, quick, and tasty.

Ramen – Jessie’s Asian Noodle Experience


Check your fridge for yummy goodies to add to the soup. I used sliced leftover baked sweet potato, which I reheated a bit. Very thinly sliced beef barely cooked in a bit of olive oil with a splash of  low-sodium soy sauce. (If you check the butcher case you can find thinly sliced ‘steak sub’ quality steak. That will be perfect for this dish.)

Bean sprouts would be good. Sliced mushrooms would be good. Slivers of carrot would be good. Finely diced jalapeno pepper or pickled banana peppers would be good.

  • Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a saucepan that has a lid.
  • Add 2 packs of Ramen, BUT ONLY ONE packet of flavoring.
  • Turn the heat to low and sprinkle in a handful of baby spinach and submerge the spinach so it wilts.
  • Add a tablespoon of fresh lime juice OR rice wine vinegar to the pot and place a lid on it.
  • Meanwhile, get two big bowls ready because this comes together quickly.
  • Poach or pan fry 2 eggs. You want that yolk to spill out into the broth.
  • Place the broth and noodles in the bowls. Top with the sliced sweet potatoes (or whatever veggies you have), the steak, and the egg.
  • Drizzle the whole dish with toasted sesame oil, a few shakes of red pepper flakes, and some prepared teriyaki wok sauce/marinade. (I have a bottle of prepared stuff. The prepared stuff is thicker than straight teriyaki and is often blended with other flavors like sesame or sweet chili or mandarin orange.)

This isn’t really as much of a recipe as it is a suggestion.

The end result is bursting with flavor and makes you think you are eating a fancy restaurant quality meal. Don’t forget to eat it with chopsticks! It’s Umami at it’s finest. That ‘fifth taste’ that is hard to describe. It’s rich, savory, deep, mmm…. so delicious.





Sweet & Tangy Roasted Veggies & Pork Chops

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Do it. Now. You won’t be sorry.

Sweet and tangy pork chops and veggies!

Sweet and tangy pork chops and veggies!


2 thick cut pork chops – I did boneless but you can do bone-in. My chops were over an inch thick. If yours are thinner, lessen your cook time!!

sprinkle salt on both sides and sear in hot cast iron skillet with preheated vegetable oil. Once lightly browned on both sides,  turn off heat.

Mix together the following:

1/3 C Catalina dressing

3/4 C cranberry relish (I had my own leftover homemade relish from Thanksgiving so used it here)

and drizzle over the chops.

Add thinly sliced sweet onion (one small onion) and thinly sliced sweet potato (one medium potato) over the chops and sauce.

sear off the chops and add sauce, veggies, bacon lardons and place in oven.

sear off the chops and add sauce, veggies, bacon lardons and place in oven.

Place 4 slices of raw bacon (sliced into small chunks) over the onions and potatoes. I did NOT do this in this original recipe but often add raw bacon to my veggies when roasting them and after I was finished with this meal, the hubs and I decided it was too sweet and needed some more salt and richness. So bacon should be added. Just trust me. Just like when you turned the oven on. Add the bacon. Do it.

Place skillet directly in oven for 20 minutes on the bottom shelf at 375 degrees F.

Once the timer went off I added previously roasted brussels sprouts just because I had them.

I added brussels sprouts after twenty minutes just to add some color and rich flavor.

I added brussels sprouts after twenty minutes just to add some color and rich flavor.

Move the skillet to the top shelf and up the temp to 425F for 20 more minutes.

Internal temperature of chops should be 150F and can be removed from the oven to rest in the skillet for about 15 minutes. Slice thinly and serve with the veggies and sauce atop the chops.

This meal was impressive and will wow your guests.

finished! Toss veggies and sauce with pork chops and allow to rest in skillet for 15 minutes before slicing and serving.

finished! Toss veggies and sauce with pork chops and allow to rest in skillet for 15 minutes before slicing and serving.




Pork & wild rice soup

I love making soup.  It’s one of my favorite comforts during the cold months; warm soup. It’s so easy and delicious. And it’s different every time. And it freezes well. And it makes a great gift in a big canning jar. Aaah soup. I love you. And really, it’s so easy to make… unless of course you are trying to imitate some thick concoction with little tiny sirloin burgers in it… you need not buy another can all your life.

pork and rice soup

pork and rice soup

This is what I did:
Pork with wild rice.

Crock potted my chili lime (dry rub from Pampered Chef) pork shoulder with a large sliced onion, 1 Cup orange juice & 1/2 Cup water until it shred easily with a fork. Pulled some pork for sandwiches and gobbled them up. Put the leftovers in the fridge overnight to cool.

Soup day: Removed fat. Put orange juice, water, pork broth & onions in pot over low heat with a bunch of stuff*. Used the immersion blender to purée the onions in the orange juice, water, pork broth from the crock pot. Added raw carrots, uncooked wild rice, & shredded pork …that’s it. Bring to a boil and cover so rice cooks in the broth. So yummy.

*stuff = spices and liquids to add layers of flavors. I never follow a recipe exactly so… for this one I’d guess I added garlic powder, sherry wine vinegar, worcestershire sauce, cumin, red pepper flakes, etc. until it had a flavor I liked. The point is, TRY MAKING SOUP. Once you cook the meat, you just have to skim the fat off (waiting a day after it sits in the fridge is the easiest because the fat just pops off like a hockey puck) and add what you want to the broth. Voila! Soup is served!