Hot and Sour Chinese Eggplant

I am always looking for new ways to incorporate more vegetables and healthy foods into our diet. Before I tried this recipe, I didn’t care for eggplant at all. I decided to make this for my husband who is a big fan of just about all vegetables and pretty much anything spicy. I was pleasantly surprised when I tried this! Not only it is a change of pace from the usual eggplant dishes…It is a flavorful and healthy addition to your summer meals.

Typically, this recipe is made with Chinese eggplants which are longer and skinnier than the version most of us are used to. Since they are difficult to obtain in my area, and I don’t make it into the Asian market very often, I have learned to adapt my recipes with local ingredients.

You will need:

2 long Chinese eggplants or 1 large American classic eggplant

2 Tbsp soy sauce

1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 Tbsp lemon juice

2 Tbsp sugar

2 Tbsp flour

1 tsp olive oil

1 tsp chili paste


First cut the eggplant into cubes and sprinkle with salt.

Add just enough water to cover the eggplant. I put a plate on top to push the eggplant under the water. Soak for 30 min.

Thoroughly rinse the eggplant and pat dry with paper towels.

Mix remaining ingredients together for the sauce.

Coat the bottom of a pan with oil and brown the eggplant cubes.

Add the sauce and cook about 7 to 10  min or until sauce thickens a bit.

Serve immediately. 🙂

Linking to:

Tip Junkie handmade projects
Cast Party Wednesday

German Chocolate Brownies

This week has been one of those weeks when everything has been slightly hectic and a little stressful. My dryer died right when I finally decided to tackle the mountain of laundry that I’d let pile up all week. I thought maybe that meant I wasn’t supposed to wash laundry anymore. 😉 Thanks to my dad and husband it is up and running! 🙂 I guess I don’t have an excuse to put it off any longer. 😉

In short, this is a week for chocolate and LOTS of it! To feed my chocolate craving I whipped up some super chocolaty German chocolate brownies.

For the brownies you will need:

4 squares unsweetened chocolate
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup flour

Microwave chocolate and butter in large microwave bowl at high 2 minutes or until butter is melted. Stir until chocolate is completely melted.

Stir sugar into chocolate. Mix in eggs and vanilla until well blended. Stir in flour.

Spread in greased 13 x 9 inch pan.

Bake  at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out with fudgy crumbs.

For the topping you will need:

2 TBSP butter, melted

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1 cup flaked coconut

1/2 cup chopped pecans

2 TBSP corn syrup

2 TBSP heavy cream

Combine butter and brown sugar in a large bowl. Add the coconut, pecans, corn syrup and milk; mix well.

Drop by teaspoonfuls onto warm brownies; spread evenly. Broil 6 in. from the heat for 2-4 minutes or until top is browned and bubbly.

Boy did they ever hit the spot! I just hope I have enough self control not to eat them all! 😉

Linking to:
Cast Party Wednesday

Creations by Kara


Five Minute Garlic Spread

When I was a kid my mom began teaching me how to cook at a very early age. By the time I was 7 I was able to do quite a bit. I wanted all of my children to know how to cook and bake and so I have been teaching my kids.

Tonight I decided to teach my 7 year old how to make spaghetti. To go along with it I decided to whip up some homemade garlic bread. This spread is so easy! It is just a matter of putting everything into a food processor.

You will need:

1/2 cup butter or margarine (I prefer Best Life or Smart Balance)

1/3 cup parmesan cheese

2 tsp onion powder

1 tsp garlic powder

2 tsp parsley flakes

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)

Simply soften the butter or margarine and blend it in a mini food processor.

This spread is especially good with this bread recipe, but just about any bread will do. Simply spread a layer on the top and toast in the oven for a few min.

Linking to:
Tip Junkie handmade projects
 Cast Party Wednesday


Lemon Pound Cake with Strawberries and Cream

I have been in the mood for sweets lately. Anyone who knows me will tell you, I have a major sweet tooth. My husband was not big into sweets when we first got married, but now after nearly nine years of me constantly baking lots of goodies, I have converted him (Insert maniacal laughter).

Yesterday was a sad day for my creations: it seems everything I tried turned out badly.   Perhaps it was because I didn’t really feel very well, or maybe it was this freaky weather we’ve been having…Let’s just say, it’s not a good sign when one of your kids looks at the white chocolate mousse pie you made and says “Mom! You made a sheep pie!” He was of course referring to the top of my pie which had curdled enough to resemble  lamb’s wool. But my kids enjoyed the pie even if it was botched and that is enough for me. 🙂

Today I was in the mood for strawberry shortcake. And while this isn’t a proper strawberry shortcake, it’s what I grew up eating. 🙂

You will need:

Pound cake

1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
2 Tbsp butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp lemon extract
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup vegetable oil

Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.

Mix eggs, sugar, butter, vanilla, lemon extract and lemon juice in a medium bowl. Pour wet ingredient into dry ingredients and blend until smooth. Add oil and mix well.

Pour ingredients into a well-greased 9×5-inch loaf pan. Bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick stuck into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Strawberry Sauce

1 lb fresh or frozen strawberries

1 cup hot water

2/3 cup sugar

2 Tbsp corn starch

Mix hot water and sugar together until sugar dissolves. Pour into blender and add 4 or 5  large strawberries and cornstarch, blend well.

Pour ingredients from blender into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove immediately and cool.

Cut your pound cake into slices and serve with strawberry sauce, the remaining fresh strawberries and homemade whip cream.  Yummy! 🙂

Linking to:
Tip Junkie handmade projects

Cast Party Wednesday

Creations by Kara

Frugal Tips – Feeding Our Family of Seven For $150 a Week

The only thing that seems to be a certainty these days is that gas and grocery prices are going up. While my husband has a good job in a reliable field, we are working on becoming debt free, so every penny counts. Frankly, even if I was filthy, stinkin’ rich I wouldn’t want to spend more money than I had to. So, here is how my family saves money on groceries each month without scrimping on the quality or healthfulness of our food.

There are seven people and one very large (130 lbs) dog in our family. That means diapers, formula, and dog food along with the regular groceries for meals and snacks. For all of this we spend approximately $150 a week on average.

1. The first thing I do is make a menu for two weeks worth of meals and a list of desserts and snacks I want to make for those two weeks. Here is a sample of our  Menu and a Desserts and snack list.

2. I try and incorporate at least one meatless meal per week into the menu. I try to make it a fun and healthy meal that I know my kids will like, for example, broccoli ranch pizza is a kid favorite around here.

3.I make a lot of homemade breads and other baked goods.While there are a few convenience items that I do regularly purchase, I try to keep them to a minimum…like one or two items.  Not only does this save money but it is healthier.Especially where bread is concerned. Bread prices are creeping up, and most breads still have high fructose corn syrup and an ingredient called L-cysteine which is derived from human hair and bird feathers (yuck). Read more on that  here or simply type it into a search engine and see what comes up…it’s gross.

4. Drink water, iced tea, lemonade that you can make yourself and avoid sodas and other beverages that can add extra cost to your bill and aren’t very healthy anyway. We do purchase fruit juice (100 % juice…not juice blends) if they are the frozen kind you mix yourself or if it is on sale.

5. I make a grocery list from my menu and lists (I also keep a running list on the fridge where I can jot down items that I need throughout the week). I try and incorporate meals into my menu that I already have some ingredients for in my pantry.

6. Try to keep the pantry stocked with staples like flour, sugar, yeast, cornmeal, etc. I have two ways that I accomplish this. One is to pick up an extra item or two for the pantry on each shopping trip to keep from running out. We also make the occasional trip into Sam’s Club for bulk items. We try to make those trips only once every three months which keeps our overall grocery bill lower (but is higher than normal for that particular month).

7.Shop “no frills” stores like Aldi and use coupons when you can. Typically, we use coupons for items like toothpaste, soap and razors. Coupons are difficult to use in the town in which I live.  Our local retail managers seem to have acquired the unsavory practice of watching the circulars to see which coupons are out and raising the prices accordingly so that we do not save any money. This is why my money saving methods do not rely on coupons.

8. Shop every two weeks. This works well for us because my husband’s workplace is on a bi-weekly pay scale. Also, the less times you run to the store, the less money you will spend overall.

9. I have a dog breed that must have some amount of meat in her daily diet and cannot rely on plain dry dog food alone. However, feeding only canned dog food would cost a fortune for a dog her size. So we mix can food with dry food which makes it go farther, and keeps her healthy and happy. We buy dog treats in our bulk shopping trips and they usually last until the next bulk shopping trip.

10. You can cut cost by buying generic formula from Costco or some other warehouse club. If you have a baby with digestive issues (like we do) and must use a brand name formula (like Enfamil) you can usually sign up on their website and they will send you a stack of coupons each month for about $5 apiece usually about $20 worth  each month.

Also, this doesn’t really help save money, but I find it useful to keep my shopping list fairly well organized. This keeps me from getting confused and missing items on my list, or from buying duplicates by accident and also saves me time in the store.

These methods have drastically reduced our grocery bills. It takes a little time to find all the methods that will work for you and your family, but you can work on one small area of your grocery bill at a time until you get the bill down.

I’m sure there are a lot of other ways to save money and I’m interested in hearing yours! 🙂 So…how do you save money on groceries each month?

KFC Style Coleslaw

I love this time of year! Cooking outside on the grill and eating outside on the porch are ways we spend relaxing evenings together. It’s this time of year that I start thinking about grilled foods, fried chicken, big buttery biscuits, oh…and KFC coleslaw! Here is a recipe that tastes just like the KFC coleslaw and is really easy to make!

You will need:

2 Tbsp and 1/4 tsp vinegar

3 Tbsp and 1/4 tsp oil

2/4 cup chopped onion

1 1/4 cup Miracle Whip

1/2 cup sugar

1 carrot, shredded

1 medium to large head of cabbage,  finely shredded

Mix the first five ingredients together.

Then add in the shredded cabbage and carrots. Mix well. Refrigerate overnight so that the flavors blend well.

A great addition to any cookout! 🙂

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Creations by Kara


Lemongrass Pork Banh Mi – Sandwiches

It’s been beautiful weather here in the Carolinas! Time to get out the grill! Today I’m making lemongrass pork banh mi. Banh mi is very similar to a sub or hoagie, but in my opinion, much better! It’s very healthy and full of flavor! 🙂

There is a little bit of prep time required for this sandwich, but it is well worth it.

First you will need to make the carrot and radish pickles.

You will need:

1 cup warm water

1/4 cup distilled white vinegar

2 Tbsp sugar

2 tsp salt

1/2 pound carrots (peeled and cut to match stick size) I buy pre-cut ones

1/2 pound daikon radish (peeled and cut to match stick size) If you don’t have daikon you can use regular red radishes

Mix the water, vinegar, sugar and salt until the sugar and salt dissolves. Place the carrots and radish in a container and cover with the liquid. Let sit in brine for at least and hour and store in the fridge for up to a week.

Next begin on your meat. For this you will need:

1/4 cup fish sauce

1 Tbsp soy sauce

3 Tbsp sugar

2 Tbsp oil

2 stalks grated lemongrass, or if you buy the frozen kind you’ll need about 1/4 cup

2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 lbs pork tenderloin, cut into pieces

Mix all the ingredients together.

Allow to marinate for at least one hour (though I’m usually in a hurry and never give it more than 20 min. and it still tastes fine). Place on the grill until meat is done and beginning to brown.

There are several variations on the mayonnaise that you can use. You can use plain mayonnaise or you can mix it with other ingredients like lime, chili paste or soy sauce. I usually choose just soy sauce. For that variation you will need:

5 Tbsp real mayonnaise

1Tbsp soy sauce

Blend until smooth.

Once you’v done all the prep work, you can start assembling your sandwiches,

For the banh mi you will need:

Lightly toasted baguettes

Carrot and radish pickles

Mayonnaise spread

Cucumbers, peeled, chopped long-wise and seeded, then sliced

Cilantro sprigs, with long stems cut off

Lemongrass pork

Jalapenos, sliced and seeded

Spread the mayonnaise on the baguettes. Layer on meat, pickles, cucumbers, jalapenos , and cilantro.

This is the perfect meal for a Spring or Summer day! 🙂

Linking to:
Tip Junkie handmade projects
Tempt my Tummy Tuesdays
Cast Party Wednesday

Happy Husband’s Spicy Drink

When my husband was in college he liked a drink called Snappy Tom. It was a drink he craved. Unfortunately, it is no longer available in stores. A while back when he had one of his Snappy Tom cravings, I decided to see if I could come up with my own version. I wasn’t successful in mimicking the flavor but kind of stumbled onto my own recipe that he likes just as well. It doesn’t taste at all like Snappy Tom, but it’s now the drink he craves. 🙂

There is no alcohol in this recipe, neither my husband nor I drink alcohol of any sort. There is however quite a bit of spice in this, so it’s not for the faint of heart. 🙂

The recipe is very simple. You will need:

8 oz. tomato sauce

1/2 cup water

1 Tbsp lemon juice

1 tsp lime juice

1 1/2 tsp soy sauce

1 tsp Tabasco

1 tsp sugar

1/2 tsp onion powder

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1/4 tsp salt

Simply mix everything together. It can be served warm or cold.

This drink will wake you up! 🙂

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The Prettiest Bird Churches Ever

On Easter Sunday we spent the day with our church family. After the service there were lots of fun activities for everyone to participate in. Three of my five children painted bird houses…I mean bird churches. After all, (according to the 7 and 6 year-old) even birds need a church to go to. 🙂

This pretty one was painted by Happy Q, my seven-year-old.

He said the egg was so that the birds would come and lay their eggs in the little house and he would be able to see the babies when they hatch.

Happy K, my six-year-old, painted this one pink because he thought I would like it. I like it very much! 🙂

He added the cross so the birds would know it was their church.

Little Happy H, my three-year-old had some assistance with the painting, but according to him  “I did it all by myself!”

He was so excited to tell me about all the things he did to make such a cute little bird house.

I think they all did a wonderful job!  🙂

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Novice’s Guide to Purchasing Asian Ingredients – Fish Sauce

I remember trying to figure out how to stock my kitchen with staples to cook some of my husband’s favorite dishes and feeling very overwhelmed.  There are so many different things, so many varieties…it can be confusing. In fact, sometimes it’s still confusing.

If you are interested in cooking Asian foods this guide may help you sort it out. I can’t offer a comprehensive guide encompassing all the different ingredients…frankly, that would take more days and pages than I could possibly put together. Instead I will try and tackle one or two ingredients at a time.

Fish Sauce

Fish sauce is a staple ingredient in most Southeast Asian foods. There are also Japanese and Korean varieties.

If you are buying fish sauce to cook a Vietnamese dish, try and find one that is a dark amber color and has the words nuoc mam on the label. It is made from fermented anchovies, salt and water.

The delicious sauce (also called nuoc mam) served in Vietnamese restaurants  along with the fried egg rolls and some of the other dishes that are often popular is made from fish sauce, vinegar, lime or lemon juice, sugar and sometimes chilis and garlic. This sauce is primarily used for dipping but the plain fish sauce is typically used for cooking.

In the Philippines, anchovies, shrimp or other small fish are fermented in a process that takes many months to make a paste-like substance called bagoong. The by-product of this is a yellowish liquid called patis…the Filipino fish sauce.

In Laos fish sauce is called nam pa and in Thailand nam pla. Both are very similar to the Vietnamese version. There is also another version in Laos called padaek which has some solid fish pieces in it.

Fish sauce in Japan is called Ikanago shoyu. Miso (seasoning) is usually made from fermented soy, rice or barley.  Ikanago shoyu is a regional version of miso made from the sand lance and used to season hot pot dishes. This is

Fish sauce in Korea is called Jeotgal and is made from anchovies, but is primarily used in kimchi.

I’m sure there are probably a lot of other varieties and uses that I did not include, but hopefully this will give you some idea of what to get so that you do not feel overwhelmed in the Asian market.

Also, I know I’ve said in the past that there is no substitute for fish sauce, and in my opinion that holds true. However, in a pinch there is a recipe you can use if you can’t find fish sauce or if you run out suddenly.

Mix one part soy sauce to four parts anchovies and simmer in a saucepan for 10 min. Strain this through a sieve to extract the solids. I do not guarantee the flavor of this recipe, as I’ve never actually tried it…never been in that bad of a pinch. 😉

And here are a few online sites you can buy fish sauce:

Pacific Rim Gourmet (expensive)

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