Easy Freezer Friendly Baked Ziti

If your looking for  the perfect meal to feed a crowd of hungry people, here is one of the best Italian meals I’ve come across.  We made this for our family reunion this weekend and it was a huge hit.  The great thing about this meal is it’s super tasty, filling and fairly inexpensive. We fed 65 adults and kids and it was so good we’re adding it to the menu again next year!

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1 pound ground beef
1 box penne pasta
1 (15 oz.) jar Alfredo sauce
1 (24oz.) jar Marinara sauce
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup shredded parmesan cheese

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Preheat oven to 375° F.  Spray a 9 x 13-inch pan with nonstick spray; set aside.  Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain.  Return cooked pasta to pan; do not return to heat. Brown and drain your ground beef and add your jar of marinara sauce and set aside.20140527-131908.jpg

Add Alfredo sauce, to pasta and mix well and pour into a prepared pan.

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Gently layer marinara sauce on top of pasta and sprinkle with mozzarella and parmesan cheese.  Bake uncovered for 15 to 20 minutes or until heated through and cheese is melted.  We served this up with a wonderful chop salad and fresh garlic bread and it was delish!

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Cream Gravy

Knowing how to whip up cream gravy is a southern necessity. To be honest, I have always struggled to get it just right….. Until recently when I asked my mom for a lesson. No more lumpy gravy here!

Here is what you’ll need:

Grease
Milk
Flour
Salt
Pepper

You know that any recipe that starts out with grease has to be good….right? ( Just don’t tell your doctor. 🙂 )

I hate to admit this, but I have started keeping a small Tupperware container in the refrigerator with bacon grease in it. I always have some on hand if I need to make some gravy. If I am making chicken fried steak, I just use the grease I fried the meat in. It doesn’t really matter what grease you use.

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Mix a couple of cups of flour and 2 cups of milk together in a bowl. Make sure to whisk it so that there are NO LUMPS!

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In a large pan, heat up about 1/4 cup oil on medium heat. Pour your milk/flour mixture into the pan.

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STIR, STIR, STIR!  Whatever you do, don’t stop stirring! It will be lumpy and kind of dry…. that is good!

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Add a little milk at a time.

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Add  salt and pepper.

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Lumps…the enemy of gravy! I take my spoon and squish them into the gravy until it is smooth. If your gravy is too thick, add a little milk. If it’s too thin keep cooking it. It will thicken up a little as it cools.

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Pour over some homemade biscuits or chicken fried steak….YUUMMMMMM!

Copycat Chick-fil-A Cookies

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I am an addict.

I love Chick-Fil-A chocolate chunk cookies. I can attribute at least 5 pounds on my hips totally to these circles of deliciousness.

That being said, I am a frugal gal who hates to throw down just over a dollar every time my craving wins out. So what did I do? I scoured the web along with the Chick-Fil-A ingredient list and tried to come up with an equally delicious cookie.

I think my experiment was a S.U.C.C.E.S.S! (The house full of teenagers that come to bible study at my house on Wednesday nights agreed. Three of them actually work at Chick-Fil-A!!)

When digging around online I came across two blogs that have also attempted a copy cat. Check them out here and here. I tried both and they were pretty good! The recipe I landed on is a little different than theirs. After WAY too many batches, I think it is as close as I am going to get without hacking into someone’s computer system! (No…of course that thought never entered my mind…..)

Stop by and let me know what you think!

Here is the Recipe: (Step by Step Pictures are below)

2 1/2 Cups All-Purpose Flour
1/2 Cup Quick Oats
1 tsp. Baking Powder
1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
1 1/3 C Dark brown sugar
1/3 C Sugar
1/2 C Crisco or Lard
8 TBS Butter at room temperature (NOT Margarine
3 TBS Honey or Corn Syrup
2 tsp. Vanilla
2 eggs (at room temperature
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet Chocolate Chunks
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips

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Mix the flour, oats, baking powder and baking soda

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In a different bowl combine the dark brown sugar, sugar, crisco, butter, honey (or corn syrup) and vanilla

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Add room temperature eggs.  This helps the cookies to rise better than using cold eggs.   You also want to wait to add the eggs after your have beat your other wet ingredients so the eggs don’t get over beaten.  This keeps the cookies from getting too dense or tough.  (I know…seems tedious but amazing cookies are in the details!)

Incorporate the dry ingredients and the chocolate.  Don’t over mix, just until all the flour is mixed in.

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Use a BIG FAT Ice Cream scoop and dish out on your cookie sheet.

Bake at 350 for 8-11 minutes.  You want to pull them out when you just start to see browning on the edges.

Let cool…….If you can wait 🙂

 

Blueberry Bread

Yes!! It’s finally blueberry season! As a frugal gal, I typically try to choose fruits and vegetables that are in season to use in making our meals. If you’re not quite sure what’s in season, check out our grocery sale cycle to learn more!

In my house, I can sit a container of blueberries out on the counter and before it even seems possible, they’re gone! While these are great to eat by themselves, I decided to try a new recipe for our breakfast this morning. It was really good right out of the oven and extremely moist (the yogurt must have done that?). I’ve tried many recipes in the past and this will defiantly be one I will do again. The most important part, it went over great with the kiddos! Thanks to Baking Bites for this wonderful recipe!

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 Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 cups blueberries (12 oz)
2 tsp lemon zest
½ cup plain yogurt, regular or low fat

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Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Spray a loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.
In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together your flour, baking powder and salt.

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Add the blueberries and lemon zest and toss to combine.

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In a seperate bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the yogurt then the dry ingredients, mixing only until incorporated and being careful not to crush the blueberries.

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Scoop batter into your prepared loaf pan and bake for 1 hour 10 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes before inverting gently onto a plate.

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If you want to make it super simple and bite sized for the kiddos, after refrigerated (it’s a bit difficult when hot) a few hours, use sharp, serrated knife and make long strokes to cut each slice.  And slice again down the middle. Enjoy!

You may also like these posts!

Blueberry Coffee Cake Recipe

Extending the life of Summer Fruits

 

Chicken Fried Chicken (or steak)

When I was a kid, if my mom asked my dad what he wanted for dinner he always gave her the same answer: Chicken Fried Steak.

My mom’s CFS recipe was amazing! I have tried different ways to get a perfect crunch and I always go back to her secret ingredient…..Club crackers! Seriously, if I am going to consume the calories of fried meat I better makes sure it is the best. Here is what you need:

1-2 sleeves of Club crackers

1/2 cup flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

2 eggs

1 cup milk

Chicken breast or round steak

oil

 

Heat about a cup of oil on medium-low in a deep pan on the stove.

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Dump your crackers in the blender and pulse until they are a fine powder.

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Mix together your crackers, flour and baking powder. (The baking powder is what makes the crust get fluffy!)

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Whisk together your eggs and milk.

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Dip your meat into the liquid mixture.

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Roll the meat into the dry ingredients.

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Do a double coat! DIp it back into the egg mix.

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Coat one more time in the cracker/flour mix.

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Drop your meat into your pan of oil. Cook it on medium-low heat. Don’t be tempted to turn up the heat– The outside will cook too fast and leave your meat raw in the middle.

Enjoy!

These are perfect with some loaded mashed potatoes!

Birthday Freebies

20140507-115737.jpg Retailers

ACE Hardware: Sign up for ACE Rewards and get a $5 off coupon on your birthday.

American Eagle Outfitters: Sign up for AERewards and get 15% off during your birthday month.

Aveda: Become a member of Aveda.com and get a free gift every year on your birthday.

Bare Minerals: Become a Friends and Benefits member and get a gift customized to your personal profile on your birthday.

CVS: Register for a CVS ExtraCare Card and get $3 in ExtraCare Bucks every year on your birthday.

Disney: Register for Disney Movie Rewards and you’ll receive a credit for a free Blu-ray movie on your birthday.

DSW: Join DSW’s rewards program and receive a $5 gift certificate on your birthday.

Old Navy: Sign up for Old Navy’s email newsletters and you’ll receive a free surprise on your birthday.

Sephora: Sign up for Beauty Insiders and receive a complimentary gift during your birthday month.

Victoria’s Secret: Sign up for their mailing list and receive a coupon for $10 off a purchase of $10 or more on your birthday.

Restaurants, Fast Food, Ice Cream and Coffee

Baskin Robbins will send you a coupon for a free scoop of ice cream on your birthday when you join the Baskin Robbins Birthday Club.

Marble Slab Sign up for Marble Mail and receive exclusive offers, birthday surprises and more. Kids under age 13 can join the Marble Slab Kids Club and get a free ice cream cone on their birthday.

When you register a Starbucks card, they will send you a free drink or food reward on your birthday!

If you have a child ages 2-10, sign them up for Geoffrey’s Birthday Club at Toys R Us. They will receive a birthday card and surprise gift from Geoffrey.

Enjoy a free sub on your birthday when you join the Firehouse Subs Birthday Club here. Or, just show an I.D. with your birth date on your birthday and you’ll get a FREE medium celebratory sub.

Join the Fudds Club to get the latest news and perks from Fuddruckers – Like a special gift for joining, plus a birthday treat and a surprise on your anniversary date!

Join the So Connected club at Ruby Tuesday’s and you’ll get an email for a free burger on your birthday.

Join Jason’s Deli’s email list and you’ll receive a $5 gift card on your birthday.

Subscribe to IHOP’s email list to receive a free meal on your birthday. You will also receive a free meal just for signing up.

Keep your Chick-fil-A Email Insiders information up to date for exclusive promotions to your inbox.

Abuelo’s: Join their eClub and receive a free gift for signing up, plus gifts on your birthday and anniversary.

Applebee’s: Sign up to receive their email updates and you’ll get a dessert shooter on your birthday.

Atlanta Bread Company: Join the Atlanta Bread Company VIP eCLub and you’ll get a free cookie on your birthday.

Baker’s Square Restaurant & Pies: Sign up for their email newsletters and you’ll receive a coupon for a free entrée right away, plus a free slice of pie on your birthday.

Ben & Jerry’s: Become a Chunk Spelunker and you’ll get a free scoop of ice cream on your birthday.

Bennigan’s: Become a Bennigan’s eClub member and receive a free dessert and buy one, get one entrée on your birthday.

Black Angus Steakhouse: Join their Prime Club and receive a free steak dinner (with purchase of a second entrée) on your first birthday as a member.

Brio Tuscan Grille: Sign up for Posta Toscana at Brio Tuscan Grille and you’ll receive a coupon for free food on your birthday.

Buca di Beppo: Register for their eClub updates and receive a free brownie on your birthday and a free dessert on your anniversary.

Captain D’s Seafood Kitchen: Become a Captain D’s Seafood Restaurant Insider and receive a free fish or chicken dinner for joining, plus more freebies on your birthday.

Charlie Brown’s Steakhouse: Join their Handshake Club and receive a free gift on your birthday.

Chili’s: Sign up for their email list and get a free order of chips and salsa or guacamole or queso just for joining, plus a brownie sundae on your birthday.

Cold Stone Creamery: Join their club to receive a coupon for free ice cream on your birthday.

Dairy Queen: Join their fan club and receive a free Blizzard on your birthday.

Del Taco: Join their Raving Fan eClub and receive a free premium shake on your birthday, plus two free Grilled Chicken Tacos just for signing up.

Denny’s: Join their rewards club to receive a free Grand Slam on your birthday (includes two eggs, two slices of bacon, two sausage links and two pancakes).

Don Pablo’s: Join their Hab Club and receive a free $10 gift card on your birthday.

Famous Dave’s: Join the Be a P.I.G. (Pretty Important Guest) Club and receive something free on your birthday.

Flat Top Stir-Fry Grill: Join their eClub and get a free stir-fry dish on your birthday.

Friendly’s: Join their BFF Club and get a free three-scoop sundae just for enrolling, as well as free birthday offers for your entire family.

Fuddruckers: Join the Fudd Club and get a free treat on your birthday.

Genghis Grill: Become a member of the Khan’s Club and get a free birthday stir-fry bowl.

Gold Star Chili: Join their eClub for free surprises on your birthday.

Great American Cookies: Join their Cookie-Mail Club for free birthday surprises.

Houlihan’s: Join their email club and get a free appetizer for joining, plus a free entrée on your birthday.

IHOP: Join their Pancake Revolution and receive a free meal for signing up, on your birthday and on the one-year anniversary of joining.

Johnny Rocket’s: Join the Johnny Rocket eClub and receive a free hamburger on your birthday.

Krispy Kreme: Join the Friends of Krispy Kreme eClub and get a free doughnut and coffee on your birthday.

Menchie’s: Join the mySmileage rewards program and recieve a $5 credit towards frozen yogurt on your birthday.

Moe’s Southwest Grill: Join their eClub and receive a free gift on your birthday.

Outback Steakhouse: Join their rewards program and receive a free dessert on your birthday.

P.F. Chang’s: Sign up for their email updates and get a free dessert on your birthday.

Qdoba Mexican Grill: Sign up for their rewards program and receive a free chips & salsa or a free regular drink for registering, plus a free gift on your birthday.

Red Lobster: Join their rewards club and get a free gift on your birthday.

Red Robin: Join their eClub and get a free burger with bottomless fries on your birthday.

Rita’s Ice: Join their birthday club for a free treat on your birthday.

Schlotzsky’s: Join their eClub to get a free small sandwich on your birthday.

Sonic Drive-In: Sign up to become a Sonic Cruisers member and you’ll receive a free surprise on your birthday.

Spaghetti Warehouse: Join the Warehouse Club and get a free appetizer for signing up, plus a complimentary meal on your birthday.

Starbucks: Join their rewards club for a free drink on your birthday.

Taco Cabana: Become a TC Fanatic and get a free fajita taco for joining, plus a free TC Fanatics flauta plate on your birthday.

TCBY: Sign up for the myTCBY eclub and recieve a free small yogurt on your birthday.

UNO Chicago Grill: Join their rewards program and get a free meal on your birthday.

Freebies for kids

Barnes & Noble: Sign up for their Kids’ Club and your child can receive a cupcake on their birthday.

Bashas’: Register your child in their Birthday Club and they’ll receive a free cake every year through age 10.

Bob Evans: Sign your children (12 and under) up for the Bob Evans Birthday Club and the’ll receive free kids’ meals on their birthday.

California Pizza Kitchen: Sign your children (10 and under) up for the CPKids Birthday Club and they’ll receive a free meal during their birthday month.

Chuck E. Cheese’s: Join their email club and receive special offers and freebies for your child’s birthday.

Kmart: Join their Birthday Club and get a $5 gift card for your child’s birthday, plus a birthday gift pack.

Local freebies

Make an account at BirthdayFreebies.com. You can search for freebies at retailers and restaurants in your area by typing in your zip code.

 

 

Video

Copycat Starbucks Iced Lemon Pound Cake

Thought for the day…very little is needed to make life happy:)

Starbucks Lemon Loaf 5

1 box yellow cake mix
3.4 ounce instant or cook and serve Lemon pudding mix
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 large eggs
1/2 cup milk
8 ounces sour cream
6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Icing
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3-4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. and spray 2 loaf pans generously with cooking spray. Place all cake ingredients in no particular order into stand or electric mixer, beating until well combined, about 1 1/2 minutes. Divide cake batter between two prepared loaf pans spreading evenly. Bake for 45-55 minutes, until golden brown and cooked through
Remove and let cool for 15 minutes before removing loaves from pans.

To prepare icing, place powdered sugar into a large bowl. Drizzle in lemon juice stirring until smooth and thick. Should be a good drizzling consistency. Drizzle icing over cakes and let set for 20 minutes for a firm icing. Otherwise slice while still wet if desired. Makes about 24 slices
Note: You can make this same recipe into cupcakes, small loaves and even a layered cake. Adjust baking time accordingly. removing loaves from pans and Enjoy!

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