Categories
Food

Reviving a 50’s era recipe: Grandma’s Chocolate Texas Sheet Cake

So, I’m going to do something a bit different.

I’m going to post the recipe here. Yup, right upfront. Without boring the people searching for a Texas Sheet Cake recipe about my stories and memories of this thing. It’s definitely been a hit at parties and potlucks that I’ve brought it to, so go ahead and give it a shot! Let me know what you think I could tweak or improve on this in the comments.

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And here’s the more legible version below. This thing looks like it’s been handed down a few generations.

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With love and sprinkles, of course. And yes, that is the family cookbook behind it.

And that is the recipe, folks! If that was all you wanted, then you can stop reading here. But I guess there is not much more to tell, just that it was a favorite of mine while growing up. We ate this stuff at picnics, graduation parties, wherever there was a casual enough family gathering, basically. I fondly remember this dish as a nice summer dessert. I actually liked this cake cold, since it was either kept cold in a cooler or in the refrigerator before it was served.

One tip though: It is best to frost this thing while it is still warm. This seems to help the icing really get into the sheet cake and helps make it moist and sweet. I’m definitely not an expert baker by any means, but this was just my experience with it.

Happy baking! Let me know if you end up giving it a try sometime.

Categories
Food Money

Eating down the pantry to save money.

Canned potatoes? Sounds gourmet, right?

Hey, don’t knock ’em until you’ve fried them in a skillet with some oil and spices. Delish.

So we’re not exactly living a Pinterest-worthy lifestyle at the moment, but we are managing to get by during a slow season for work. While Dan and I are looking for full-time gigs, we are doing jobs here and there to help get us through the lean months.

Which means less Costco splurges (you can easily drop $200 there and not even notice), and more planning meals with sale/clearance items from the local grocery store or food pantry.

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My first time in a Costco was like a grocery wonderland. I couldn’t believe how big everything was!

Another friend of mine had dropped by recently with a nice care package from her church – bags filled with canned and dry goods, which are pantry essentials. I’ll be sure to use up every last item and not let one thing go to waste. I’m so thankful for the people in my life that will come help us when times get a bit tough.

Rummaging through the bags, I felt a bit of nostalgia as I picked out a few cans of mixed vegetables, canned potatoes, and canned fruits like pears and peaches. We used to have cans of peas and green beans lying around the family home in Maumee to toss in with pasta and soups. Some days, I would just eat them out of the can or heat them up in a bowl with some butter, salt, and pepper. It was something quick and easy for me to eat.

Today I would like to share some recipes that are cheap and easy to make, and some that I grew up with. They may not be fancy or look like much, but they helped us use up every last thing we had in the house, and we ate pretty well. Most of these things we had in our pantry.

And we were either lazy or had other things to do, so we didn’t spend a whole lot of time cooking. These could be made in just under a half an hour most of the time.

Rough Day Spaghetti

This was a treat for us when we had ground beef to use. It was one of my family’s favorite dinners.

  • 1-2 cans spaghetti sauce/Ragu/diced tomatoes
    • whatever tomato-based product you have can work when made into a sauce
  • 1 small box of spaghetti/pasta
    • if we didn’t have spaghetti, we used elbow macaroni
  • 1/2-1 lb ground beef (whatever you have is fine)

Fill large pasta pot with water and heat on high until boiling. Meanwhile, brown ground beef on medium-high heat in a small saucepot. Drain grease (NOT IN SINK!), then return to saucepan. Dump spaghetti sauce into saucepan and heat on medium-high heat until simmering, about 8 minutes.

Once the water in pasta pot is boiling, cook pasta in water according to the box instructions or until al dente (firm bite), about 6-8 minutes. Drain pasta.

Now you can either serve the pasta and the sauce separately or do what we did and just dump the sauce with the pasta together and just go from there.

Pantry Soup

This is basically what it sounds like. Use any canned veggies you have on hand. Tomato juice on its own or from canned tomatoes would act as the broth to the soup.

  • Any canned veggies (I like to used mixed veggies, canned potatoes, and canned tomatoes)
  • 1 16 oz can tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 can chicken or ham, drained (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste or favorite seasonings (I like cumin and taco seasoning)
  • Saltine crackers or bread (optional)

Drain canned veggies and put into a pot or microwaveable bowl. Add canned tomatoes and preferred spices. Drain and add canned meat. Heat on high heat until simmering, about 8 to 10 minutes, or microwave until hot, about 4-5 minutes.

Serve with crackers or bread that would otherwise hit the bin in a few days. Great way to use up leftovers.

Pantry Chili

Okay, this one probably takes the most patience. This has to simmer for about a half an hour at least, but it makes fantastic leftovers. It is probably the most involved recipe on this list.

  • 2-3 16 oz cans of beans of choice, drained and rinsed (kidney, black, pinto – whatever you like or have on hand)
  • 1 29 oz can tomatoes, undrained. Or 2 16 oz cans will do.
  • 1 16 oz can corn, drained (optional)
  • Chili powder to taste or 1 packet taco seasoning
  • 1 cup water (leave out if you like thick chili)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Dash of cumin (optional)

Throw all ingredients in a pot and put on high heat until boiling. Once boiling, turn down heat to medium-low and let simmer for 30 minutes. You can serve this with crackers, bread, or cheese and sour cream if you happen to have those on hand.

Just Woke Up Egg Sandwich

Okay, this doesn’t involve canned food, but it’s a good and quick recipe. Eggs are cheap. Bread is cheap. So are American cheese slices. My mom would make a simple breakfast sammie out of these ingredients. Good for when you need to make something for breakfast and then run out the door with it.

  • 1-2 eggs
  • Dash of milk (optional)
  • 1-2 slices bread
  • 1 slice American processed cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Scramble eggs with milk with salt and pepper in a skillet over medium-high heat. Avoid breaking the egg up into tiny pieces as it cooks in the skillet (use butter or cooking spray to prevent sticking, or use a non-stick pan).

Once the bottom of the eggs has firmed up, use a spatula to turn the eggs over to cook the other side. Think of it as if you are making a pancake, but with eggs.

While the eggs are cooking, throw some bread of your choice into the toaster to the desired toastiness level. When the eggs are no longer wet and are nice and firm, take the egg pancake and throw it immediately on the toast with the cheese slice.

The cheese will melt into the egg and you can wrap it up to go or just eat it once done. Simple and tasty.


Sorry about the lack of pictures this time around, I’ll upload some and edit this post when I actually make this stuff instead of just stealing images from Google!

I don’t usually write recipes, so hopefully, some of this makes sense. Like I said, these aren’t gonna be perfect recipes, but serve as great rough guidelines when scouring the pantry to find something to whip up for dinner.

What are some recipes growing up that you loved? I would love to try them! Feel free to share with me in the comments below!

Categories
Health

My postpartum body, 9 months later.

 

The weight loss resolutions for the new year hit me a little harder now than they did in the past.

After encouraging everyone to load up their plates with extra helpings this holiday season, it’s time to get people to feel bad about their life choices and get them to the gym to repent for the excessive eating and drinking. Hooray.

(I’m nibbling on some dark chocolate as I’m typing this one, guys. The struggle is real.)

But how have things gone with my weight since I’ve delivered? Unfortunately, I’ve hit a plateau. I’m lucky enough to have lost some weight, but I am definitely far from my goal.

Before discovering I was pregnant, I was already quite overweight according to the Body Mass Index (BMI) chart – clocking in at around 180 pounds. I didn’t gain a whole lot of weight until the last trimester of my pregnancy – my final weigh-in before the big day was about 240 pounds!

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Me with a big belly.

I immediately lost about 15 pounds after delivering PJ, who was about 8 pounds and 2 ounces of all that. I lost quite a bit of blood, fluids, and the placenta of course. I don’t think I need to go into too much more detail with that – let’s just say my delivery was pretty badass.

While I was still in shock and swollen, I would spend the next several hours in the recovery room at the hospital with a hungry, crying baby and a very sore and bloated body. I felt like my stomach was a giant, deflated balloon. My boobs basically went up several cup sizes overnight, and not in a good way. The transformation was pretty painful.

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April 3rd, 2017 – She’s here!

Of course, I didn’t expect to bounce right back after that ordeal. I figured, it took months to get to that point so it would take a few months or longer to get “back to normal”, right?

I got lucky and lost more weight in the first three months postpartum. I wasn’t even exercising yet. For me, it might have been a combination of drinking lots of water, and pumping and nursing PJ almost constantly. Also, I think it helped that I somehow stayed on my feet once I returned home, easing myself back into daily chores like laundry and loading the dishwasher, but I was lucky to have Dan do the bulk of the housework while I was recovering.

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Generational photo with my mom and grandma at Easter. I felt like the Michelin Man.

A few months later, I noticed that I was beginning to notice the more permanent changes to my body as it healed – the tiger stripes I’ve earned all along my lower abdomen and around my butt. Those areas were quite red and swollen for a number of weeks before they faded into pale slivers, but they were still very noticeable.

Not only that, but there was also a lot of extra skin. Enter the dreaded “mom pooch”.

Despite this, my clothes were starting to fit better around the 6-month mark. But even still, as I managed to squeeze back into my pre-pregnancy jeans (a miracle!!), they just didn’t fit the same without shapewear. I would just have this big mound of extra skin hanging over the waist area. It looked worse than just your run-of-the-mill muffin top. And that killed me and my already floundering self-esteem.

Still, the postpartum shapewear did wonders to make me look a bit more like my former self. Even if it felt like a crutch sometimes, it was definitely needed to make me feel like… well, me again.

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Top left, still pregnant. Bottom left, 3 months postpartum. Right, 6 months postpartum.

Now I’ve only been able to rock a bikini once in my life. Once. Back in my high school days. And even then I was pretty shy about it. After a baby with how I look now? I’m not even close to ready for a bathing suit, much less a bikini.

But I would love to be able to show off my stretch marks in a cool way someday when I get closer to my goal weight. Maybe I’ll get some ink to make them even more beautiful. When I can afford a good piece, of course. Girl’s gotta eat. (in moderation, now.)

I’m thankful to be where I am at now. Also, I’m blessed with a husband that not only thinks I’m still beautiful, he makes sure to tell me on a regular basis, even if I don’t always agree with him.

Currently, I’m at 200 pounds, and my goal is to get to 150 by the end of this year. Not a new year’s resolution, since those fail a lot. This is a goal for myself to be healthy for me and my family. Until then, I’m doing my best to celebrate even the smallest changes within me and embracing my body today with its curves and all.

I mean, my breasts are probably never going to look this great ever again. For real. Gotta celebrate that win while I can!


How about you guys? Have any wins or struggles you’d like to share? Feel free to comment below – just know I’m rooting for you!

Categories
Food

College food hacks you can use now that you’re a parent.

You needed to be crafty when all you could afford was ramen.

And you couldn’t eat this stuff exactly the way you’re supposed to make it every single day without getting sick of it. Even if you love ramen, there has to be a little variety so it doesn’t feel like you’re depriving yourself completely… even though you might be.

Here are some tips and hacks I use to stay afloat while managing the chaos. These little gems have served me well while in school, and have proven to be quite useful during the moments of parenthood when you just can’t even anymore.

1. Get ingredients that work hard.

Here’s my personal list of pantry staples for when things get tight. Good staples are non-perishable and versatile ingredients that can be used in many recipes.

  • Pasta, rice or ramen
  • Flour, sugar, salt and pepper (the basics people take for granted)
  • Canned or frozen veggies/fruits
  • Canned cream of something (Cream of Mushroom, Chicken, etc.)
  • Canned meats (I haven’t resorted to Spam yet, but chicken, tuna, and ham are great ones)
  • Dry or canned beans
  • Broths for soups or bouillon cubes to add for soups
  • Favorite condiment of choice, like ketchup or soy sauce

Some ready to eat canned foods are great to have on hand as well, such as soups and ravioli. Whatever you like is fine, as long as you will be able to eat it.

2. Add veggies to feel a little healthier.

I actually just used this one for dinner tonight. There was about a cup’s worth of leftover frozen broccoli, and I threw that together with a box of (maybe ancient?) Hamburger Helper I had lying in the depths of my kitchen pantry.

You can do this with just about any pasta or soup dish. Just follow the instructions on the packaging of the pasta you are using, then either add a can of drained veggies or thawed and drained frozen veggies.

Who cares if it’s covered in sauce or some cheese to hide the weird textures? You’re still eating them. Go you.

3. Hack your ramen.

Tired of your standard instant ramen? Play it up with other ingredients you have on hand. I love to put a fried or hard boiled egg in with my ramen, along with some scallions, some pork and some other veggies like carrots and onions.

You can also ditch the flavor packet and put in your own sauce or condiment. This opens up a new world of flavor you can have with your little square of nourishment. Or you can try putting the noodles in a salad. I absolutely love this recipe for crunchy ramen salad here.

4. Break the rules.

Here’s a little confession – I know I just said I was making Hamburger Helper for dinner tonight, but I didn’t have any hamburger. But I did have some canned chicken. It was a cheesy pasta mix, so it ended up working out pretty well! Heck, I could have probably made it without any meat. You could probably also use canned tuna for boxed pasta like that and be fine.

You don’t always need to follow the recipe every time to the letter – Try throwing a bunch of stuff you like on its own in a bowl and see what happens.

OK, I’m not saying you throw some vanilla ice cream in with some sriracha sauce, but if that’s your thing, I’m not gonna judge. I’ve thrown someone else’s leftover puppy chow on top of a Arby’s roast beef sandwich before – and I liked it.

5. Breakfast for dinner.

Who says that toast is just for breakfast? Along with the classic buttered toast, you can top that warm and crusty bread with jam and peanut butter, or some egg and avocado for breakfast, tuna and tomato for lunch, or just have it with some soup for dinner.

Also, leftovers from dinner were also packed for lunch many times. I would make enough to pack quickly the night before to take with me to work the next day.

6. Take advantage of free stuff.

You know when you go to Taco Bell every once in a while and see all of the sauces in their little bins near the napkins? Go grab a bunch of those. You can use them at home when you manage to make your own tacos. I’ve also used some of these to spice up bowls of instant ramen, chip dips, and even thrown it on my eggs for breakfast.

Of course, you can also browse for other condiments at other restaurants (maybe pay for something so you don’t get in trouble). Ask for extra ketchup and mayo packets, and you will never have to go buy a bottle of those things ever again. I still do this today.

Have I mentioned that I’m a bit of a cheapskate sometimes? Though I prefer the term “thrifty”.

You can also go to events on college campuses for free food, or go to your local church – some might have soup kitchens or events where you can get free food at. If you’re in need, they may also let you leave with some leftovers, or point you to some other resources that you can use, like food banks. Speaking of those…

7. USE your local food bank.

Finally, if you are really hurting to make due, try and contact your local food bank. They may need you to fill out an eligibility form or something, just to prove you are in need of food assistance. Some criteria they may look for are:

  • Job loss or being laid off
  • Change in household that affects income
  • Flood, fire or other natural disaster

There’s absolutely no shame in making sure you are fed and getting the nutrition you need. Some college campuses even have their own food pantries now. Check with your college to see if they have a program on campus that provide food assistance – they may be able to hook you up with other resources as well if you are struggling financially.

Have any other tips to keeping food on the table? Share them! I’m always interested in finding new ways to not spend all of my money on food.