Tag Archives: homemade

Kick the Can! Homemade Tomato Soup From Scratch

I learned recently, after reading this popular article, ¬†that canned tomato products are really, really bad. Like, enough for me to boycott anything with tomatoes that is not in glass. BPA leaching out into my family’s food? Ugh. No. Here’s a great article talking about why it’s bad and what else we can do.

So in my effort to do away with this evil in our lives, I have to find a boxed or glass-jarred equivalent to the Campbell’s soup my family loves so much. No luck yet. But I looked at all the tomatoes in my garden and on my counter, and I had an idea. I went in search of a recipe to try. I thought I would have to get all witches cauldron on it to make it taste like Campbell’s. As soon as I smelled the first step of this recipe cooking, I knew I already had a winner. So here you are, the freshest, BPA-free, Campbell’s soup fake-out that had my family begging for seconds. The key to that memorable tomato soup flavor? Cloves!


I chopped up my tomatoes, between 2-3 cups worth, and added some homemade chicken stock. A friend suggested using bone broth for added nutritional benefits, which I think is a spectacular idea. Next time I will plan ahead and use bone broth. I was so thrown off by the call for cloves that I almost didn’t put them in. I’m glad I did!

Once they had simmered for a while, I used my stick blender to help things along. I then ladled it into my sieve and used the back of the ladle to push everything but the seeds and skins through.


I put the seeds and skins back into my garden. Maybe we’ll get volunteer tomatoes. ūüôā

This beautiful tomato juice was what I got. But there’s another important step. Roux.


You’ll make a light brown roux of butter and flour, 2 tablespoons of each. I almost let mine go too far while I was taking pictures. Plus I had a screeching toddler on my leg. This is a bit forgiving though. Mine turned out delicious nonetheless.


Slowly add the tomato-ey liquid, making sure everything is smooth and creamy before adding more. It’s so interesting to me how the roux seizes up and then smooths back out again. Cooking is cool.


When I was all done, I tasted it and added salt and sugar until it tasted right. Mine needed more sugar than the recipe called for. I’m sure it will be different for every batch and for every cook. We spooned in a dollop of sour cream, added some fresh basil from the garden, a sprinkle of pepper (for the adults), and dipped gooey grilled cheese into our soup.



I followed the recipe I found exactly, aside from the amount of sugar at the end. You can find it at this link.

Throw out those disgusting cans. Try this delicious soup and you’ll give your family the chemical-free dinner they deserve! Added plus: this freezes well (according to my bone broth offering friend, thanks V!) so it’s just as easy to pull out and heat up as a can of soup.

For the love of food…


Cheese Burger Pockets

SAM_1590Author: Cassie Stevens

Cheese burgers baked in the bun! Oh yes I did!! I seen a similar post about this on Pintrest the other day while I was browsing, so of course, I had to try it out.

I started with my basic white bread recipe. Then cut one of the halves into eighths, because I had four hamburgers.

SAM_1575Four tops and four bottoms.  I then added the meat and cheese to one side and sealed the dough rounds together.

SAM_1579The next time I do this I am going to try another cheese like mozzarella, and use a little more.  I like a cheesy burger.

SAM_1582Once I sealed it up, I used an egg wash to cover the top of the buns.  I then let them rise while the oven was heating up. So, just a few minutes.  Here is all four of them before the egg wash:

SAM_1586I baked them until they were a beautiful golden brown on top.¬† I think they were very good for the first time making them. They tasted great. I seasoned the burgers with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder. I accompanied these cheese burger pockets with mashed potatoes and baked beans. YUM!!!!! Try it out tell me what you think….~ C


Chicken and Handmade Noodles

chnAuthor: Cassie Stevens

One of my favorite dishes my mother makes for Thanksgiving is her turkey and homemade noodles. OMG! They are so good, she makes them the day before and lets them dry out overnight. Although I have tried many times, I don’t make them the same as my mama.¬† Well, this is a similar recipe to hers.¬† My chicken and noodles has veggies in it unlike my mama’s, but I think it adds a lot of flavor to the stock.

I start by making the dough for the noodles. It’s really very easy, all you need is

2 cups of flour

1/3 cup water

1/2 tsp salt

2 egg yolks and one whole egg beaten

1 tsp olive oil

Prep: In a large bowl stir together the flour and salt, then make a well in the center.  In another small bowl mix egg yolks, whole egg, water, and olive oil.  Add egg mixture to flour. Mix well. add a tsp of water at a time if too dry. On a floured surface roll out dough and knead until smooth and elastic. (8 to 10 minutes). Cover and let dough rest for ten to fifteen minutes.  Cut dough in half and roll out as thin as you want your noodles. Dust with flour on each side so the dough does not stick to the counter and cut with a knife, pizza cutter, or the nifty little roller cutter that I found at a thrift store never opened for fifty cents.

chn2I love that thing. I’m glad I picked it up. It also has another roller blade that tenderizes meat. I use it for pastas only. I tenderize my meat other ways.

chn3So after all your pasta is cut, it’s time to set it aside to dry.¬† I just place it on a parchment lined baking sheet to air dry. I turned it after an hour to help it dry out more evenly.

chn4I let mine dry for about two hours. It was dry enough by that time. As soon as it was dry I started the stock. I added a Tbsp of minced garlic and enough olive oil to cover a stock pot. Then I added the veggies:

chn5About three carrots, half an onion, and two stalks of celery. Dice them all up and sweat them out in the stock pot. I also, added two Tbsp butter, cause I can never cook without it. I love butter, real butter!¬† Once your veggies are sweatin’ add 3 cups water and simmer.

Next in a cast iron skillet or whatever pan you have (I love my cast iron skillet) brown your chicken. I used 3 boneless breasts and I seasoned my chicken with salt and pepper and a little bit of minced garlic in the bottom of the pan. Once browned on each side I set aside to rest for a few minutes. Then cut into small cubes and put inside stockpot to finish cooking for about ten to fifteen minutes.

chn7Drain the liquid from the stock pot into the skillet and bring to a boil, then add your noodles. Cook for about three minutes. Noodles will be done. Cook a little longer for thicker noodles.

chn6Once the noodles are done, add them to your stockpot. Before you add more water, make a slurry to thicken to a gravy.

chn8Add 1 Tbsp cornstarch and 1 Tbsp flour and mix well in a measuring cup with just enough water to dissolve. Add to stock pot, then add more water to desired consistency. Let simmer for a few minutes and it will thicken up to a gravy consistency.


Looks yummy right? Time to eat! Pair it with your favorite dinner rolls and you have a great dinner your family will be talking about for a while!

chn10I hope you enjoy as much as we all did! Happy cooking!

Oatmeal Cranberry Coconut Chocolate Chunk Cookies

cookies2Author: Cassie Stevens

Oh wow! What a mouthful! I know it’s a lot for one cookie, but these power packed energy boosting cookies will win you over when you hear what goes into them and just how good they are for you!¬† These little cookies go great with coffee in the morning for a quick breakfast, or just an anytime snack with milk.

cookiesCranberries, Coconut, Honey, Oatmeal, and Chocolate chips.  All super foods for energy and health (in a cookie), with no added sugars. My one year old loves them. I think she really likes the chocolate chunks in them more than anything, but they are a big hit with my family. So, lets take a minute to review how healthy these great ingredients can be for you health and happiness.

Oatmeal can lower blood cholesterol, because of its soluble fiber content.¬† An oatmeal bath, made by adding a cup of finely ground oatmeal to one’s bathwater, is also commonly used to ease the discomfort associated with such things as chickenpox, poison ivy, eczema, sunburn and dry skin.

Cranberries are a source of polyphenol antioxidants, phytochemicals that are for benefits to the cardiovascular system and immune system, and as anti-cancer agents.  There are benefits from cranberry consumption against bacterial infections in the urinary system.


Coconut peel may contain novel anticancer compounds.  Inside a coconut is a cavity filled with coconut water, which is sterile until opened. It mixes easily with blood, and was used during World War II in emergency transfusions.  Also, young coconut juice has estrogen-like characteristics. There are countless other healing properties and wonderful uses from coconuts.

Honey has been used by humans to treat a variety of ailments, from gastric disturbances to ulcers, wounds and burns, through ingestion or topical application.  Honey has also been used for centuries as a treatment for sore throats and coughs.

cookies4Chocolate can help reduce the risk of certain cardiovascular problems and also reduce blood pressure in adults.  Chocolate boosts cognitive abilities.  Cocoa or dark chocolate positively affects the circulatory system.

Now, with all that said here is the recipe.

4 cups Oats

1 1/2 cups flour

3 eggs

1/4 cup cream or whole milk

2 tsp vanilla extract

2 tsp baking soda

1 cup chocolate chunks

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1 cup shredded coconut

1/2 tsp salt

1/2  cup butter

1/2 cup honey

First mix all your dry ingredients then in a separate bowl mix all your wet ingredients then mix the two together. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. Drop cookies on a parchment lined baking sheet pan 1 tablespoon at a time. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Makes about 5 dozen cookies.

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 Calzones


Author: Cassie Stevens

A calzone is folded over like a pocket pizza. A calzone has sauce inside, like a pizza. Not to be confused with the Stromboli, which does not contain any sauce and is usually made with Italian dough and stuffed with meats and cheeses only. Were as, the calzone is made with pizza dough hence, a pocket pizza, and stuffed with everything you would put on a pizza.  I love either, meat and cheese wrapped in any kind of dough, sauce or not, and you can count me in.

Start by getting your stuff together. I used the same recipe I use for my pizza dough.  Only, I added another 1 Tbsp of yeast for a thicker crust. Let the yeast sit a few minutes in warm water until it gets foamy.

SAM_1233Olive oil, Italian seasoning, yeast, sugar, bread flour, warm water, salt, and love.  Mix and knead on a flour surface until dough is smooth. Place in a well oiled bowl in a warm oven to let rise for about an hour.

SAM_1242I always turn on my oven to as low as it gets (170) then shut it off once it hits temp.¬† I place it on a hot pad on a sheet pan so my bowl doesn’t melt in the oven. Once it has a chance to rise, pull it out and divide in half for two large calzones or into four equal parts for four smaller ones.¬† Egg wash the tops then sprinkle with sesame seeds. I baked them as high as my oven would go 500 degrees F for about ten minutes or so. Keep an eye on them they will brown fast.

SAM_1244My husband and I split one and we saved the other for lunch the next day. There was more than we could eat in one of them. They were very big, and very good.¬† I didn’t get a chance to take pictures while I was stuffing them. They are filled with chicken, pepperoni, marinara sauce, ham, Colby jack cheese, and mozzarella cheese.

SAM_1257Oh yeah! Looks real good huh! Oooey Gooey Goodness!  Ah, I think your drooling. Ha! Ha! Ha!

SAM_1258Fill them with whatever you like and enjoy! Easy personal pocket pizzas! Sandwich-sized calzones are often sold at Italian lunch counters or by street vendors because they are easy to eat while standing or walking.

SAM_1265As a rule, calzones are usually stuffed with cheeses such as ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan, Provolone or a type of regional cheese. The dough is folded into a half-moon shape then sealed with an egg wash mixture, or formed into a spherical shape and baked or fried. After cooking, calzones are typically served smothered in marinara sauce or topped with a combination of garlic, olive oil, and parsley.

SAM_1263In the United States, calzones are characteristically made from pizza dough and stuffed with meats, cheeses, and vegetables. Traditional calzone dough consists of flour, yeast, olive oil, water, and salt. Calzones are similar to Stromboli, but traditionally the two are distinctly different dishes.

SAM_1261However you enjoy your calzones, they are sure to please. So enjoy them with your family for dinner. They don’t take too long to make!

SAM_1248and they are so delicious…..How do you eat a calzone?

Copycat KC Masterpiece BBQ Sauce

Copycat KC Masterpiece BBQ Sauce :: Pen Pals and Cookin' GalsI’ve become addicted to making things homemade now. It’s truly an addiction. As I’m planning dinner I see an ingredient and think, hmm… I wonder if I can¬†make¬†that? And here’s the thing, I usually can. How have we come to an age where we think there’s no way we can make our own dressings, sauces, and marinades?¬†

Occupy Easy Food! Lol, just kidding. Kinda. I want real food. I’m crying for real food. Give me things that I can pronounce. Give me comfort food that I can feed my children, without worrying that they will end up with terrible side effects of the very food that has attempted to nourish them all their lives. Let me nourish my family!

So tonight I decided to copycat KC Masterpiece BBQ Sauce. Yeah!

But before we get to that, let me tell you something…

Anniversary Flowers :: Pen Pals and Cookin' Gals

It’s my anniversary. ūüôā Hubs and I have been married for 5 years now. Those are my flowers! Swoon… We had big plans to stay in the theme hotel that we spent our wedding night in. But that is all the way in Idaho, and although my mom lives there and could watch the kids, we’d have to get there… 8 hours’ drive. With two small kids and the traveling we did last week, we nixed that idea. ¬†And because we don’t have a fancy restaurant very nearby (and because littlest girl has bad separation anxiety – no sitter), I made us a fancy dinner. We always joke when we go out for dinner that I could have made it better at home.

This is one of those cases.

When we were in Billings, we went to Texas Roadhouse. I ordered a rack of ribs, my favorite! ¬†They were burnt; and I like a little char on my meat. No, they were near inedible. We said this to the waitress, and she did try to fix it by bringing me a new rack (a little better). Then the manager graciously comped us a half rack. I gotta say though, my ribs are way better. And now… they are AMAZING with homemade BBQ sauce. No HFCS. No preservatives. Take that KC Masterpiece and Roadhouse! ūüėõ

Copycat KC Masterpiece BBQ Sauce :: Pen Pals and Cookin' Gals
Start by sauteing onions and garlic.

Copycat KC Masterpiece BBQ Sauce :: Pen Pals and Cookin' Gals

Add the rest of the ingredients, taste, then give it a good zhjuzz (how the heck do I spell that?) with your hand blender. If you don’t have a hand blender, please, invest in one. I use mine on a daily basis. This is my favorite. I’m waiting for my cheap Walmart one to die so I can justify getting myself an awesome new one. Stainless steel suckah! I’ll take the green one, thanks.

Simmer for a little while so the flavors can marry. Ah, marry. You see what I did there?

Add it to all your favorite BBQ applications. For us, it was a delicious rack of ribs, cooked with my uncle’s finger-lickin’ recipe.

Copycat KC Masterpiece BBQ Sauce :: Pen Pals and Cookin' Gals

Littlest girl enjoyed her anniversary dinner. Thanks for getting married mom and dad! She got to chew all the bits of meat off our bones. She happily scraped each one clean. Not hard since the meat falls right off the bone. We handed her a few half-eaten ones to make sure she got to have some of the good stuff too.

Copycat KC Masterpiece BBQ Sauce :: Pen Pals and Cookin' Gals

I paired these with a side of garlic green beans (simmered for a few hours on the stove with a few cloves of smashed garlic), and basil roasted red-skin potatoes. Mmm! Want the recipe?

Masterpiece BBQ Sauce (from scratch)

1 Tbl oil (olive)

2 cloves garlic diced

¬Ĺ onion diced

3 Tbl white or apple cider vinegar

1 Tbl worcestershire

1 Cup ketchup

1/3 Cup salsa (one recipe I saw called for¬†4 Tbl minced chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. I think that this would make a more spicy, warmer sauce. As I didn’t have this on hand, I used salsa, but I don’t think it added much to the recipe as it was mild. Next time I will plan ahead and try the chipotle!)

1/3 Cup brown sugar

1/3 Cup molasses

1/3 Cup honey*

1/8 tsp paprika

Heat the oil, then saute the onions and garlic for about 5 minutes or until softened. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir well to combine. Simmer for another 10-15 minutes. Blend to a smooth consistency (be careful with hot liquids in the blender!).

*This is a sweet BBQ sauce (like KC Masterpiece). You can make it less sweet by leaving out the honey, increasing the amount of vinegar (1 T at a time), add heat by adding chili peppers or red pepper flakes. Make it your own. It’s a pretty forgiving sauce, so play with it!

For the ribs: Cut a rack into even pieces, about 2 bones per piece. Boil in water until the meat is almost falling off the bone (about 3-4 hours on the stove top). I cook mine in my crock pot on high, my 6 hour setting. Remove the pieces, being careful not to let them fall apart, to a sheet pan. Here they will dry out a bit (about 5 minutes) so that the sauce will stick. Brush the sauce on all over. Heat the grill. Add the ribs and cook on both sides just to add some grill marks and grill flavor, about 3-5 minutes on each side, depending on your grill temp. Remove, and add more sauce if you like. Enjoy!

I didn’t figure up the cost of the sauce, but I can bet it’s cheaper than store-bought. It makes a ton. I’m freezing the rest of mine. I’ll tell you how it comes out. But the ribs? Those cost $0.50 per rib. That’s $2.00 per serving, as we like to have about 4 ribs per person. Try to get that at a¬†restaurant! Mama win!

Please let me know what you think. This is a well-loved dinner here. I’m sure your family will love it too!

~Veronica Hilliard