Category Archives: Thrifty Thursday

Make-Ahead Freezer Breakfast Burritos

My busy family always needs easy-to-grab breakfasts. Often, my husband gets up with the girls while I sneak in one more hour of sleep. What a lucky girl am I! The way that I make sure that everyone eats something healthy and filling, while I am checking the backs of my eyelids for holes, is to make freezer-friendly breakfasts up ahead of time that my husband can heat up quickly. I most often have homemade waffles, muffins, ham/sausage and egg breakfast sandwiches, and these delicious breakfast burritos waiting in the freezer. Here’s where I got the original idea many moons ago.

Tips for make-ahead meals:

  • Start with a clean kitchen. 
  • Get all your bowls, pans, and utensils ready. Huge bowls come in very handy.
  • Get all your ingredients washed and prepped.
  • Have a kitchen helper to wash as you go. My sweet hubs tackles this job.
  • Make it easy on yourself and cut up extra potatoes, onions, and peppers that you can store in the freezer (cooked or uncooked, as you prefer), and cook extra meat for later meals in the week or month.

The ingredients and method:

Make-Ahead Freezer Breakfast Burritos :: Pen Pals and Cookin' Gals Blog

How much of each to use? Well, it depends on how many you want to make. I make as many as possible. Last night, we made 30 burritos. We used 18 eggs, 2 lbs of ground sausage, 3 peppers, 2 cups of chopped onion, and a whole 5 lb bag of potatoes.

Exact quantity of the ingredients doesn’t matter so much. But about 10 burritos would take about 6 eggs, about 1/2 to 1 lb of sausage, 1 to 2 bell peppers, about 1/2 to 1 onion, and about 2 to 3 med potatoes (give or take). And then whatever you add or subtract and how you measure out the ingredients in the wrapping process change how many you get from this. We do huge batches and just cook up as much stuff as we can so that it’s one night, rather than many.

Make-Ahead Freezer Breakfast Burritos :: Pen Pals and Cookin' Gals Blog

OVEN ROASTED POTATOES: Start your potatoes first because they take the longest. I am a make-it-easy gal, so we use the food processor to grate our potatoes quickly. I have cut them into cubes and roasted them that way, but honestly, it’s very time consuming. My kids make it hard to spend lots of time in the kitchen, so quicker is better at this point in my life! When using the food processor, you must drain the shredded potatoes. Or do what I do and enlist your helper’s strong hands to squeeze out the extra liquid that comes from the potatoes. No one wants a soggy burrito.

I toss my potatoes with thyme and lightly spray with olive oil; but any of your favorite herbs and spices will bring it to the next level. I then spread the potatoes on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Easy clean up is also a priority. Bake at 425 degrees F for about 15-20 minutes or until softened and lightly browned, turning once.

SCRAMBLED EGGS: I crack all my eggs into a large bowl, add sea salt, pepper, and sour cream for a creamier, less watery texture than milk. The best way to cook bright and fluffy scrambled eggs is to never turn the heat above medium, depending on your stove, and to keep stirring and gently scraping the cooked eggs off the bottom of the pan. I have to do two pans simultaneously when I use 18 eggs.

SAUSAGE/OTHER MEATS: Cook the ground sausage according to package directions until browned and crumbled. Drain. I have also added cooked and crumbled bacon and ham to my burritos. We left out the bacon to cut the fat (I don’t even buy it anymore), and I didn’t have any ham. It does add a lot to the flavor. So add what you like. You can’t go wrong.

BELL PEPPERS AND ONIONS: After I remove my sausage for draining, I add the peppers and onions to the sausage pan,. Might as well use that pre-seasoned pan! Cook on medium-high heat, covered, until they are softened, and then uncover until all the liquid has cooked off.

Here’s a make-ahead tip: Take a bag of onions, remove the skin and cut into quarters, then use your food processor to grate the onions in a giant batch. The onions will put off a lot of water. Squeeze out the water with your hands or a fine sieve, and store the shredded onions in freezer bags. Press score lines for easy removal of portions from the bag later. These can be added to any of your cooking preparations. And save the onion “water”. It can be added to stews, soups, and marinades for extra flavor that plain water just doesn’t provide. From one 5 lb bag of onions, I got 2 quarts of onion “water”. I like prepping these easy-to-grab onions as I’m making my burritos because the large batch accommodates using many onions anyway. We might as well take these extra few minutes while everything is out, right?

ADD-ONS or SUBSTITUTIONS: Beans, tofu, tomatoes, summer squash, quinoa, rice, meat substitutes, gourmet cheeses, TVP (soy protein), tempeh,  and pretty much any veggies – shredded or cut small and cooked. You can also add whatever sauces or dips you’d like with these to the inside for easier on-the-go eating. Think: Ketchup, hot sauce, salsa, Sriracha, etc.

Make-Ahead Freezer Breakfast Burritos :: Pen Pals and Cookin' Gals Blog

Mix everything together in a giant bowl. I use large flour tortillas, but you can use small ones if you prefer. 1/4 cup cheese and about 3/4 cup of the “filling” is the perfect amount for my burritos. Below is my process:

Burrito assembly :: Make-Ahead Freezer Breakfast Burritos :: Pen Pals and Cookin' Gals Blog

Layer cheese and filling. Turn up sides. Turn up the edge closest to you. Roll to the other edge. My kitchen helper (hubs) wraps these in paper towel for easy individual microwave cooking later. Then we place them in the bag that the tortillas came in (re-use, re-cycle!), write the date, and freeze!

Make-Ahead Freezer Breakfast Burritos :: Pen Pals and Cookin' Gals Blog

We pull them out one (or three) at a time. Then we re-heat them in the microwave for 1.5 minutes, flip it, and another 1.5 minutes on the other side.

The hubs and I once figured up what this saves us per month. He used to buy breakfast burritos (or another gas station breakfast) about 2-3 times per week. These cost anywhere from $3-5 each. That’s $24-60 per month, and $288-720 per year. At the very least, we’re cutting out the cost of at least one bill! What do they cost to make? That depends on where you live and what time of year it is. Do you get free eggs from your chickens, or buy in bulk at a club grocery store? Ours run about .75 cents to  $1.00 per burrito. We’re saving quite a bit and feeding our family food that will not only be healthier than greasy gas station food, but will also fill their tummies better. Adjust these to make them vegetarian, gluten-free, high protein, spicy, kid-friendly, gourmet, whatever you like.

*The nutrition will vary depending on what you put in them. I figured mine up and if you did it exactly as I did, the nutrition info is as follows. Rough estimate only.

Nutrition Info: ~400-450 calories, ~40 g carbs, ~20 g. fat (use low fat sausage or substitute to lower this number), ~20 g. protein, ~1000-1500 mg sodium (use low sodium whenever possible to minimize this impact), ~5 g. sugar.

Happy eating! I hope you try these and that they make your life easier. That’s always my goal. We made a party out of it last night and got the whole family involved. Kids eating, chopping, stirring, and mixing. Husband washing, wiping counters, and kid wrangling. It’s really better to do this with company, music, and help. Making memories in the kitchen is the best part.




Bird Seed (Quinoa) Energy Bars

Bird Seed (Quinoa) Energy Bars :: Pen Pals and Cookin' Gals

Do your kids come running when you tell them that quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) is on the menu? Yeah, mine either. But here’s why they should be eating it;

1.) Quinoa is super high in fiber. Fiber is filling, prevents overeating, and helps prevent constipation and diarrhea. It can also be protective against some cancers.

2.) Quinoa is a complete protein. Why is that important? Well, My kids don’t eat a lot of meat, so I worry about making sure they’re getting enough protein. 

3.) Quinoa is high in Lysine, Magnesium, Iron, and Manganese. Think, healthy teeth and bones, energy, and antioxidants!

4.) Quinoa is high in Riboflavin, better known as vitamin B2. Riboflavin is good for a healthy metabolism. It’s good for hair, skin, eyes, and liver. And it also helps the body change folate and vitamin B6 into more useful forms.

5.) Quinoa is heart-healthy and protects against diabetes.

So, any reason to add quinoa to my kids’ tummies (and my own!) is a good one.

My friend recently introduced me to the Super Healthy Kids blog. They’ve got SO many recipes and ideas on there. You should really go check them out and pin all the things!

I spent a few hours -ahem- little while lurking about their blog one day and found this; a recipe for Quinoa Coconut Granola Bars. The thing that caught me… you don’t cook the quinoa! What? But won’t it break your tooth? Surprisingly, no. You toast it so it’s all nutty and scrummy umptious as my daughter would say. So bear with me here, I promise, your kids will scarf it down.

Wash Your Quinoa :: Bird Seed (Quinoa) Energy Bars :: Pen Pals and Cookin' Gals

First, rinse your quinoa. The original recipe skipped this step and went straight to the toasting. However, quinoa is coated with a  plant chemical called saponin. Saponins help protect the plant from being eaten; they don’t taste very good. So rinse your quinoa well. I always put mine in a bowl, add warm water to cover, let it sit for about 5 minutes, then pour it out into my mesh strainer that I’ve lined with cheesecloth, otherwise it falls through the mesh. I then run warm water through it for a minute or so just to be sure I’ve gotten all the bitter taste off. Be aware though, once quinoa is wet, it sticks to everything! Just pull out the cheesecloth and wring it out as much as possible before scraping the seeds into your bowl. Did you know quinoa is a seed? Sure is. Many people assume it’s a grain. Nope, seed. There’s a nice little trivia fact for you.  Oh, also, quinoa comes in lots of colors. Mine is red and a little white added in because I ran out of red. I like them both. Anywho… on to toasting.

Bird Seed (Quinoa) Energy Bars :: Pen Pals and Cookin' Gals
Add whatever other nuts or seeds you have on hand. I added sesame seeds for all of these reasons, chia seeds (we’ve talked about those benefits before), and pumpkin seeds because of all of this. Walnuts and almonds went into the mix too, along with the oats and shredded coconut. So many omega-3’s in these bars!

Bird Seed (Quinoa) Energy Bars :: Pen Pals and Cookin' Gals

Spread it all out on a pan to toast for a little while. I don’t watch the clock when toasting nuts. I just keep my nose alert. And the original recipe didn’t say to, but I put all my dry ingredients on the pan to toast. Easier that way.

Bird Seed (Quinoa) Energy Bars :: Pen Pals and Cookin' GalsI chopped up the walnuts a bit because I know my kids, and they would have a hard time with whole nuts. Just roll with it and do whatever your family will like. The original recipe called for dried fruit too, but I know that would throw my kids off. They’d rather eat their dried fruit by itself. Snobs. 😉

Bird Seed (Quinoa) Energy Bars :: Pen Pals and Cookin' Gals

Simmer the wet ingredients and then add them to the dry. Mix like crazy and then spread it in a greased (for me that’s misted, thanks Misto!) 9 X 13. I used coconut oil instead of canola. No canola in our house. Ick. Most canola oil is GMO. That’s pretty much the only reason why I don’t use it. Do your research and know what you are eating, is my only advice.

Bird Seed (Quinoa) Energy Bars :: Pen Pals and Cookin' Gals

Here’s a tip; wet your hands. If you don’t, this sticks to you like fly paper. Go ahead and get  your hands wet and spreading this stuff in the pan and getting it flat is a breeze. Bake at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes. Then LET THEM SIT! I can’t stress this enough. You have to let them sit for the full 2 hours. Forget them!

Bird Seed (Quinoa) Energy Bars :: Pen Pals and Cookin' Gals

If you wait, you have these beautiful bars that slice relatively easily. They remind me a lot of a Clif Bar. I topped mine with drizzled chocolate (almond bark, no need for the oil that the original recipe calls for). I’m the queen of that stuff lately! Once that dries and hardens, they are super scrummy! That’s 4 year-old talk for flippin’ awesome!

Bird Seed (Quinoa) Energy Bars :: Pen Pals and Cookin' Gals
I hope you all enjoy these bars! We’re calling them Bird Seed Bars because, well, they look like bird seed. They would be great for taking on a car trip, bike trip, to church, camping; anywhere where you will be out of the house when the “Mahm! I’m hangry!” starts to happen. Little Miss 4 has already gobbled down 2 of these today. So I can totally start with, “Neener, neener! My kid ate quinoa!” Heh. No really. She ATE quinoa. Voluntarily. Plus, they cost way less than a Clif Bar or a Larabar; those are all the rage these days.

I had my friend over today, the one who introduced me to Super Healthy Kids, so I forced her to be my guinea pig and try one of these bars. She liked it! Well, she ate it all and didn’t die, so I assume she liked it!  🙂

Here’s the lowdown on the nutrition, per bar (when cut into 25 smallish bars):
Calories: 158, Fat: 8g, Sat. Fat: 2g, Cholesterol: 0mg, Sodium: 124mg, Carbohydrate: 20g, Fiber: 2g, Protein: 4g

For the original recipe, in case you missed it, just click HERE.

Edit (6/7/13) It seems people are missing the hyperlinks to find the recipe, so I will post my recipe to show you what I did. But you really should visit the original recipe on Super Healthy Kids that I linked to twice above.

My Ingredients:

Quinoa 1 Cup
Oats 1 Cup
Coconut (Shredded) 1/2 Cup
Walnuts (or nuts of choice to equal 1 Cup) 1 Cup
Salt 1/4 tsp
Oil (Coconut) 1 Tblsp
Peanut Butter 1/2 Cup
Honey 3/4 Cup
Brown Sugar 3 Tblsp
Chocolate Garnish

My Method:
Rinse quinoa well. Add all the dry ingredients (minus dried fruit if you intend to use it) to a sheet pan to toast at 350 degrees F for about 10 minutes, while you are cooking the wet ingredients. Add oil, peanut butter, honey, and brown sugar to a saucepan and bring to a boil. Pour peanut butter mixture over the dry ingredients (add dried fruit here) in a large bowl; stir to incorporate well. Spread with wet hands into a greased 9 X 13 dish. Bake at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes. Let it cool 
completely, about 2 hours. Cut and remove squares. Add chocolate, if using. I melt almond bark in the microwave for about a minute or in a double boiler until melted. Let the chocolate harden before storing. Store wrapped in wax paper in a zipper bag or seal-able container. These will keep longer when kept in the refrigerator and can be made ahead in larger batches and frozen. 

Now it’s up to you guys. Will you try them? Do you like quinoa?


Thrifty Thursday ~ Toasted Coconut Pudding Pie

tcppAuthor: Cassie Stevens

I always enjoy dessert, especially when it’s good and cheap. Those are two things you don’t get enough of these days.  I make this dessert when I’m pressed for time or just need a quick and easy dessert fix. One graham cracker pie crust, ( I found a sale buy one get one free for $1.79).  I also found a sale on Jello instant pudding at Food City buy ten get 5.00 off making the pudding .50 a box.  I used homemade whipped cream, a quart costs around three dollars, I used 2 cups.

There are 4 cups in a quart, making the whipped cream cost around $1.50.  So including the little bit of sugar I used to sweeten the whipped cream and the little bit of coconut I used to top it with.  I would say this dessert only cost around $3.50 for the whole pie. How’s that for cheap, easy, and so delicious.

tcpp2Looks good right? Oh yeah! It’s a little heaven in your mouth!

Mix it up, you could use an Oreo pie crust and Oreo pudding or chocolate pudding and chocolate whipped cream.  Also, you could add things into your pudding say you wanted chocolate chips inside your chocolate pudding or crushed up vanilla wafers, or sliced bananas in your vanilla pudding. You could be so creative with this quick and easy dessert.

What’s your go to dessert?

Homemade Bit O’ Honey Candies


Author: Cassie Stevens

Do you remember Bit O’ Honey? The peanut butter and honey lightly crunchy candies. They were good! I don’t even know if they make them anymore. I rarely visit the candy aisle these days. I used to love them!

My husband loves peanut butter so these are gonna go fast.  I start with one jar of creamy peanut butter, and one cup of honey. Put it in a microwaveable bowl and nuke for one minute.  The peanut butter will become liquid I then added 2 teaspoons almond extract and mixed it in.  I then mixed 4 cups dry milk powder. I thought it was too dry so I added another half cup honey and half a jar of chunky peanut butter. Then I microwaved it all one more time for a minute to make sure the peanut butter was melted again and mixed, and it was perfect.  It will look like this:          YUMMY!SAM_0984

The recipe I found online used 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter 1/2 cup honey and 2 cups dry milk powder, but I wanted to make a lot more so I just winged it! I have made them before so I know about how the consistency should look.

So all in all, my recipe is as follows: Makes about 60 wrapped candies

1 jar (18oz) creamy peanut butter

1/2 jar (18oz) chunky peanut butter

1 1/2 cups honey

4 cups dry milk powder

2 teaspoons almond extract

I then put the mix on a parchment lined sheet pan and evenly spread it out with a spatula.  Place it in the freezer for a few minutes to take the heat out and it will firm up a bit. Then cut it up, and wrap it. That easy for great healthy candy or an energy boosting snack.SAM_0985SAM_0987SAM_0988SAM_0989

Cut parchment paper to fit your candies and wrap. If you have kids they will have so much fun with this step. Mine love to help! Easy and fun and simple! Hope you enjoy making them!bohc

30 Minute Rolls

Author: Veronica Hilliard

30 Minute Rolls :: Pen Pals and Cookin' Gals

There is nothing like that first, hot-from-the-oven roll. In all it’s steaming, fluffy, warm, goodness, it is so close to home. When I bake, my oldest daughter waits impatiently in front of the oven waiting for that first, delicious, oven-fresh taste of whatever we’ve just made. It’s one of my goals in my mothering to make sure that my girls have memories of being in the kitchen with me. And tossing a hot roll back in forth from hand to hand as they take the first steaming bites tops my list.

I found this awesome recipe on Pinterest one day. It’s a beautiful and easy recipe that has made excellent rolls every. Single. Time. These are also a great bread to start with if you’re a beginner since they are quick, easy, and relatively fool-proof. You also get fast results so you can see how you’ve done right away.

Start with some hot water, oil, sugar, and yeast. That’s where the magic is…

30 Minute Rolls :: Pen Pals and Cookin' Gals

After 5 minutes…

30 Minute Rolls :: Pen Pals and Cookin' Gals

After 10 minutes…

30 Minute Rolls :: Pen Pals and Cookin' Gals

After 15 minutes…

30 Minute Rolls :: Pen Pals and Cookin' Gals

Add your egg, flour, and salt and mix away.

30 Minute Rolls :: Pen Pals and Cookin' Gals

The dough needs no first rise so you go straight to shaping your rolls. I made a double batch, which made me 24 good-sized rolls. Half of those went to the freezer for later. I had to break them into smaller batches to work easier.

30 Minute Rolls :: Pen Pals and Cookin' Gals

My beautiful rolls, ready to slip into the toasty oven after a 10 minute rise… sexy. 🙂

30 Minute Rolls :: Pen Pals and Cookin' Gals

A short 10 minutes later, gorgeous, soft, melt-in-your-mouth rolls. My poor kid had to wait a few minutes while I got these next few shots. It was really hard for her. I told her my friends in the computer wanted to see how pretty they were. She says, “You’re welcome.”

30 Minute Rolls :: Pen Pals and Cookin' Gals 30 Minute Rolls :: Pen Pals and Cookin' Gals

Can you smell them now?

30 Minute Rolls :: Pen Pals and Cookin' Gals

You can do no wrong with these 30 minute rolls. has also tempted me with this recipe that adds herbs and cheese to the 30 minute recipe. Be still my soul.

Why haven’t I made them yet? I would eat ALL the rolls. Yes, every one, before my family could try one. Therefore, I resist. Plain it is for now. But they are so much more than plain.

30 Minute Rolls :: Pen Pals and Cookin' Gals

Try these yourself and tell me what you think. Oldest Monkey’s first bite of strawberry jam-smeared deliciousness was met with smiles and hugs. “Thanks mom. These are my favorite!” Oh, my little heart… mine too.

What is your favorite kitchen memory?

Clean Your Oven Naturally and Cheaply

Author: Veronica Hilliard

“I have sporadic OCD cleaning moments around the house. But then I get lazy and I’m cured. It’s a very inconsistent personality trait.” —Chris Hemsworth

Yep. That’s me. Sporadic OCD. I have one day or one week where I get a wild hair (well, in my case it’s always wild!) and I feel the need to CLEAN ALL THE THINGS!

That happened today. I had a good friend and her boys over for pizza dinner tonight. She doesn’t care that I’m not the best housekeeper (love her for it!) but it was good reason to do a deeper clean than I normally do. I managed to focus my lasers on the oven that I mentioned in this post. It’s been smoking me out for long enough. Want to know how I cleaned it?

.  Clean Your Oven Naturally and Cheaply :: Pen Pals and Cookin' Gals Blog

My secret cleaning weapon for almost every situation is baking soda and vinegar. Together or apart they are just about all you need. I mix half vinegar and half water and 5-10 drops of my favorite essential oil in a spray bottle for sanitizing and cutting through grease.

I keep a little jar of baking soda in just about every room and I buy it in bulk at Sams.

Clean Your Oven Naturally and Cheaply :: Pen Pals and Cookin' Gals Blog

A quick sprinkle of baking soda.

Clean Your Oven Naturally and Cheaply :: Pen Pals and Cookin' Gals Blog

Spray vinegar and it’ll start to bubble. Yep, just like the crazy science class volcano.

You’ll still have to apply a little strategic elbow grease. Can’t get out of it that easily.

Clean Your Oven Naturally and Cheaply :: Pen Pals and Cookin' Gals Blog

And Tadaa!! You have a (mostly) clean oven and no harmful chemicals. Come on… that’s where you put your FOOD! Don’t you want to clean it with something you could technically eat? Yeah, me too.

I was really glad to have a clean oven to cook my pizza in. Want a super duper and easy pizza recipe? Here’s mine. I let my bread machine do all the work. Easy!