Recipe book giveaway number 1!!

One of my most favorite wedding presents that I received was a handmade Cookbook binder from my brother. It was a three ring binder filled with page protectors and on the outside he had inserted food related cartoons  he had torn out from some of his favorite Calvin and Hobbes books. (that’s love right there let me tell ya!) He also filled it with some great recipes. It was an awesome gift to me, a new bride, who hadn’t done much more than cooking mac n cheese from a box before then! He knew I was gonna need all the help I could get! And you know what? After 12 years, I STILL have that cookbook, and it is STILL my main one I always turn to! I won’t post photo’s of it, as in 12 years of dedicated and faithful use its seen it’s share of spills and wear. But that’s why the page protectors are so great!none of the actual recipes ever got messed up! And It’s now also filled with with recipe clippings and recipes on scratch paper, and others of all different shapes and sizes. Another plus to this method of cookbook, you can use any size paper and not worry about loosing it! Even if it’s written out on a paper napkin! 😉 I still have all the original recipes that he added right in the beginning of the book.

So let me just stop for a min and say again ” THANKS JOHN! I LOVE IT! AND USE IT CONSTANTLY!”

Recently I combined my love of cooking with my love of Rubber stamping. (wait did I just say my love of cooking? the reluctant chef loves cooking? WOW I’ve come a long way!) anyway, I wanted to pass on the gift and share the binder cookbook idea with others! So I have whipped up some new handmade recipe binders to give away, complete with 20 page protectors to start you off, and I will also include in a few family recipes to get the ball rolling for you!


So here’s the first one that I am giving away. And I need to give it away soon or I’ll keep it!! I just love these colors! I’m hoping someone out there will too. This one is made out of pretty Purple and Aqua colors. It’s adorned with a really cute chef holding a cupcake (I had to put my love for cupcakes in there somewhere!



here’s a pic of both sides



I don’t think the winner will be dissapointed!

So the question is, would you like to have this recipe binder?

If so, and in celebration of Memorial day weekend , just leave me a comment and tell me what’s your favorite summer food? What are you looking forward to eating the most this summer? is it ice cream? corn on the cob? watermelon? what do you crave on hot summer days? For me I think it’s going to be grilled shrimp this year. I can’t stop craving it! A nice cool fruity drink sounds sooo good too! ok back to you, what does it for you in the hot summer months?? Be sure to leave me a way to contact you!

One entry per person please, if you’d like to be entered twice you may tweet the contest and link back to the blog post for a second entry  (my twitter name is Reluctant_chef) you must add me so I can see it!

Contest will end at Midnight Monday May 25th. (I’m giving it several days since I know many of us will be in and out doing fun memorial day activies and getaways (yours truely included 😉

Winner will be picked by a random number generator and announced on Tuesday May 26th

I have more on the way if purple and aqua don’t do it for you 😉





Fishing cake

This is a purely selfish blog post. My husbands birthday was yesterday and I knew I wanted to make him a special cake that was all about HIM. His most favorite place in the entire world is in a boat on a lake with a fishing pole in his hands. So it was no question what his cake needed to look like! I quickly sketched up exactly how I wanted it to look. It actually took me all of five min. to figure it out, which was good because I only had about 7 min before our church service was starting! It took me two days to make this cake from start to finish. Not whole days though, I was out of the house with it at 11 am to deliver it on day two. I took it to his office so he could share. When the cake was completed I busted out in a fit of giggles and couldn’t stop. It looked exactly like I had planned it out.  I couldn’t believe it. It was cute!  lol. So without further ado, here is my hubby fishin on a lake, lol!





I definitely intend to get more practice in on making people.  (need to work on my people skills, ha ha) This was my first time, and he came out kinda blocky, but I needed to make sure that he was going to be stable enough. Cause we women like our men stable 😉



Close up of the cat tails. Everything on this cake is completely edible, minus the fishing pole and fishing line




Close up of the bass fish that he caught, splashing out of the lake 🙂



the lilly pads. I wanted to make tiny frogs too, but ran out of time. I was tickled the flowers turned out so well



Back view of the cake, notice the fish in the boat that he already caught.



Here’s a better view of the fishing line.




The boat was cake that I carved out and covered with fondant.




I only use homemade Marshmallow fondant on my cakes. I won’t use anything else. Not only is it edible, but it actually tastes great! (think cereal marshmallows)


So there you have it, my hubby’s fishing cake. It was so much fun ( i have to laugh here, because I originally typed FIN instead of fun, lol pun intended I suppose!)  to make and gave us all a big smile. It made it in perfect shape, even after a 45 min drive on the bumpiest interstate you could ever drive on! It didn’t last long AFTER it arrived though 😉

Thanks for looking!



Oatmeal Cream Pies





Today I made these homemade oatmeal cream pies. Let me tell you, they taste even better than they look! My kids are in sheer heaven. Who can resists these soft sweet cookies filled with gooey goodness?? Not me! I have been dying to try this recipe and it did not disappoint! Wanna learn how to make these yummy treats? Well follow me!!….. 




The cast and crew

you’ll need Flour, Sugar, Salt, Molasses, DARK brown Sugar, powdered sugar, Shortening, eggs, Vanilla, butter, flour, baking soda, cinnamon, & rolled oats

I tweeked the original recipe just a bit for a sweeter filling that was less salty than the original, but not too sweet, the cookie holds most of the sweetness itself!






In a bowl, combine 1 3/4 cups of flour, 1/2 tsp of salt, 1 tsp baking soda, & 1/8 tsp cinnamon, mix it all up



In a seperate mixing bowl, cream together  1 cup of softened butter (2 sticks) , 3/4 cup dark brown sugar, & 1/2 cup granulated sugar






Add in 2 eggs, one at a time, beating after each.



Mix in 1 Tbsp Molasses and 1 tsp Vanilla





cream well



Now slowly add in flour mixture a little at a time until just blended.




Now hand mix in 1 1/2 cups whole rolled oats (NOT quick oats! they are too mushy)





Spoon tablespoon sized dough balls onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Two important things to remember here. Don’t go bigger than a Tablespoon size or so, these cookies will SPREAD, so don’t use too much at once. Also, using parchment paper on your pan will allow the cookies to pop right off while still holding their shape, very important to be able to make these into pies




 Space them out well to give them lots of room to spread, you don’t want to cram these together


Bake cookies at 350 for 8 – 10 min. Watch them carefully. You want just the edges to start to brown, the middle will still look wet/uncooked, and thats OKAY! it allows the cookie to fall flat and get that oatmeal pie look. It will be fully cooked don’t worry.



let cookies cool completely


Now let’s make the filling!



Place 1/4 tsp of salt in a small cup. Add in 3 tsp of very hot water and stir allowing salt to dissolve. Set aside to cool.


in a mixing bowl add in one 7 oz jar of marshmallow cream fluff





Now add 1/2 cup of shortening. STAY WITH ME! I know I know, eww ick, ack, but your going to have to TRUST ME on this! No, unfortunately you can not substitute with butter, it just won’t work. Dump in the shortening real quick and do what I did, just pretend it is now marshmallow fluff and don’t give it another thought! lets move on, quick…….




add 3/4 cup of powdered sugar, and 1 tsp of Vanilla




Mix on high 3-4 min until fluffy.




Now pour in salted water and mix well again




Ta-da, we have marshmallowy cream for our pies




Now take one cooled cookie and slather on the good stuff



Top with another cookie and EAT!



Whew! and we’re done!

 Store in a closed container to keep cookies soft.


My review of this recipe:


The cookies are sweet and soft, just the way a cream pie should be. The filling is oogy gooey and (WARNING) messy! I was planning on sending these to the Hub’s office, but the tops kept wanting to slide off, and  the filling kept slowly oozing out the centers. It was like it was continuously trying to expand. No big deal really, just not the greatest for presentation wise. So unfortunately for us (HA!) they had to stay home to be eaten by the family 😉  After sitting in a sealed container for several hours I think the filling has finally set enough to where its not moving around anymore, but they are still ooey gooey!

The kids all say these are better than the store bought ones hands down.

I give it an A for taste and a B- for presentation. Trust me, no one’s gonna care how they look once they sink their teeth into them! 🙂
Oh and I got 18 oatmeal pies out of this recipe




Oatmeal Cream Pies

Based on a recipe from Recipe Zaar.  Adapted for taste


  • 1 cup butter (softened)
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp molasses
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats
  • Cream Filling
  • 3 tsp very hot water
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 (7 ounce) jar marshmallow cream
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla


1. Combine flour, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon in a bowl.

2. In large mixing bowl, cream margarine and sugars. Add in eggs, beating after each. Finally beat in molasses and vanilla.

3. Add to the flour mixture to creamed mixture and beat until just blended; mix in the oats with a wooden spoon.

4. Drop dough by tablespoons on parchment lined sheets, with plenty of space in between.  Bake at 350 degrees (F) for 8 – 10 minutes, or until just starting to brown around the edges. They will look moist; don’t overcook ( Let sit on cookie sheet for about 5 minutes and then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

5. While the cookies are cooling, prepare the filling. In small bowl, dissolve the salt in the hot water. Set aside and allow this to cool.

6. Combine marshmallow cream, shortening, powdered sugar, and vanilla in a bowl; mix on high until fluffy , about 3-4 minutes

7. Add the cooled salt water and mix well

8. Spread filling on flat side of one cookie, press 2nd cookie on top.

Makes 1 1/2 – 2 dozen

    Store in a closed container to keep cookies soft. 

Shrimp Pasta

The Flavor that is my Lunch*

Want to know what I’m eating RIGHT NOW? at this VERY MOMENT?




And let me tell you, it’s heaven. Sheer heaven!  I could live off of three food items for the rest of my life. Just three. Chocolate, Potato’s, and Shrimp.  That’s it! those are the three most luscious ingredients that mean the world to me. I would be perfectly happy if that’s all I got to eat for the rest of my life. Ahhh bliss just thinking about it ! To even further prove to you, it is 9 am and I’m eating shrimp. for breakfast.  I’ve never been real big on breakfast foods. I’d much rather eat leftovers for breakfast.

So this blog post is an impromptu one. I wasn’t planning on writing this one, I just wanted shrimp and wanted it NOW, so I set forth to cook some. I didn’t feel like using a recipe, as to be quite honest there are millions of recipes out there for shrimp, especially shrimp and pasta. I didn’t want to get all complicated, I just wanted to use stuff that I like and that I already had. Oh and it had to be quick easy , and yummy 😉 I’m thinking that seems to be my angle on this food blog. Quick and easy foods. I certainly like them! If only my baking was quick and easy, but that’s a whole other post! So I just decided to play in the kitchen and cook what I like. After my first bite I just KNEW I had to share. Share what I did anyway, NOT the shrimp 😉 It turned out sooo good. Let’s get started:



To even further my point on it being so yummy, I was in such a hurry to get it done, I actually took this picture AFTER i was done eating it!


The cast and crew

raw shrimp, peeled & deveined

Pasta ( I used vermicelli, I like thin stringy noodles) I used half a pound, so that I will have leftovers, (half a pound  will easily feed 2 – 4 people )

Olive oil

Lemon Juice – about 1/2 – 1  Tbsp

Old bay Seasoning – about 1/2 – 1 Tbsp

Worcestershire sauce – about 1/2 tsp ( you want just a dash of this)

Butter (not pictured)


Again, because I didn’t start out planning to blog this I don’t have step by step photo’s but it’s easy enough you can figure it out 😉  also my measurements are round about, just go with what you like, trust your instincts!



Boil your noodles until tender, and drizzle with olive oil, set aside, (oh I also added a little bit of butter to the noodles as well for that yummy flavor)


Heat a skillet on medium and throw some butter . Place shrimp into a bowl and add lemon juice. Mix shrimp well to coat. Now add old bay seasoning and toss again. Now add just a dash of Worchestershire sauce


Now I left my tails on, as these were pretty big jumbo shrimp, and I use them for handles. If you prefer to eat the whole dish with a fork, be sure to remove tails before  cooking



When skillet is hot drop the shrimp in. Don’t forget to pour in remaining juice and seasonings left in the bowl over the shrimp. Shrimp cook REALLY fast. You only need to cook them for about 3 min on one side then 2-3 min on the other.  You want them to be nice and pink, but cooked to long and they will be rubber




When shrimp is cooked, pour entire contents of skillet into noodles



Be sure to toss pasta and shrimp well to coat noodles with all the seasonings on the shrimp.




Simple, Quick, and DELICIOUS!


* you’ll notice the title says the flavor that is my “lunch” even though I cooked it at 9 am. thats because I love it so much I’m having it again for lunch! 😉






2 for 1 – Thick and Chunky Chicken Noodle Soup

Are you feeling the pinch of the economy? Looking for ways to stretch your grocery budget? Let’s face it, who couldn’t stand to save more money? Well here’s a wonderful recipe that not only saves you money, its EASY! Oh and did I mention its delicious too? This is a recipe that I have adapted over time starting with a soup that my mother used to make me when I was sick. I tweaked a bit to fit my current cooking style/ needs, and it’s been a hit every time!  What’s really great about this recipe is that it uses leftovers!

let’s begin!

Day 1:   

Start with two whole chicken fryers . Fryers are cheap! they run me about $3.50 – $4.00 at wally world. Rinse chickens very well inside and out. Place in baking dish breast side up.




drizzle them with olive oil



Now grab you a bottle of this:


McCormick Grill mates Chicken Rub



Evenly coat both sides of each chicken



Until it looks like this





Bake Chickens at 375 degrees for 1 1/2 hour – 1 hour 45 min



Carve chickens and serve!


AFTER DINNER:  Allow chicken carcasses and stock to cool completely




De-bone chicken carcasses. Be careful of small bones!



Tear into bite sized pieces and place pulled chicken as well as any leftover chicken from tonight’s meal into a dish. Now I must say, I feed a family of 5, and that includes a husband well over 6 feet tall, and two growing boys, (one a teenager, and one a pre-teen) PLUS we also had a guest for dinner, and we STILL managed to have this much meat left over. If for some reason you end up with not enough, it’s simple to throw in a couple cheap chicken thighs or a chicken breast if need be.



Now your left with all of this wonderfully SEASONED chicken stock. Carefully go through the stock one more time checking for small bones




Pour stock on top of chicken pieces




Cover and refrigerate for the next day. If you are planning to freeze for a later day, I suggest refrigerating it over night first, as it makes the next step easier




Here is the chicken & stock after sitting overnight in the refrigerator. We want to now skim off all the yellow fat that has risen and settled on the top.



So with a spoon, start skimming off the fat. It will be soft like pudding



It will now look like this . The stock will have formed into a gelatin like substance. (  I know, this has not been a pretty process so far, but it gets better I promise!)  Now if you want to be able to remove even more fat, you can skip the step of pouring the stock in over the left over chicken and refrigerate them separately, but I didn’t want the chicken drying out, and preferred for them to marinate in the seasoned stock over night. Plus I don’t consider a bowl of pasta a very low fat meal to begin with, so a tiny bit of fat only adds to the flavor in my opinion, but you do whatever works best for you!


 Pour chicken & Stock into a large pot. I tend to use my (OLD)  pressure cooker shown here, because it is a nice tall pot, which helps when doing lots of boiling. HOWEVER, if you do choose to use a pressure cooker, do not put the lid on the pressure cooker! we are just using it as a normal pot!



Cover chicken and stock with water and turn on stove to medium high. (if you have numbers on your stove I use around 7 or 8  )  don’t fill the whole pot as we need room for the carrots, and you can always add more water later. As you can see here I still have a little bit of fat  in there. That part is up to you.



Now Unwrap 14 or 15 Chicken flavored bouillon cubes




Add Bouillon cubes to pot.



While the pot starts to boil and melt the  stock, Slice you up a bunch of carrots. Again, how many you want is up to you. We like carrots so I use close to all of a small bag



Don’t cut them too thick or they will take a long time to cook. Try to get them as even and uniform as you can so that they will all be done around the same time.



Now add your carrots to the boiling pot. Let boil.



Add water if needed



After about 10 min or so check the carrots. You want them to be soft and cooked through.




Once your carrots are soft, grab you a 12 oz bag of spiral noodles



and dump the whole bag into the pot. yup the whole bag. The noodles cook the fastest, so it’s important to wait until the carrots are done before you add the noodles



Stir everything up (hey where’s my spoon?)  And continue to boil. Stirring occasionally so that nothing sticks and burns to the bottom.



Add water again whenever needed. Now we like our soup thick and chunky so I tend to let it boil down. I don’t care for soup that’s too brothy.



When noodles are soft, this is what you get!  Nice thick and chunky homemade comfort food Chicken noodle soup!


This one pot feeds all five of us, usually with a bowl or so left over for tomorrow’s lunch. It tastes as great the next day as the day you cook it, however, after it sits overnight it does soak up all the liquid. I actually like that it does that. So if you were to cook the soup the night before, you could actually use it as a noodle side dish! This meal is so versatile!



So there you have it! Two chickens, two very cheap meals! Money saved with happy tummies!

I hope you will try it!


Lets take another look at how easy it was using such few a(and inexpensive) ingredients! TWO MEALS with only SIX  inexspensive ingredients!



Thick and chunky Chicken Noodle Soup


2 chicken fryers

McCormick Chicken rub

Olive oil



14 chicken bouillon cubes

12 oz bag of spiral noodles



Wash chickens and pat dry. Place chickens in baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil and cover with chicken rub seasoning. Bake at 375 for 1 1/2 hours to 1 hour 45 min

Carve and serve

Cool chicken carkasses 

De bone

Pour chicken stock over remaining chicken (or skip this step and store them seperately, you choose)

Refrigerate , or freeze


Remove chicken fat from stock, and pour chickens/stock in large pot. Cover with water and turn on medium high. Add 14 bouillon cubes. Slice carrots and add to boiling water.  Once carrots are soft add 12 oz bag of spiral noodles. Add water if needed. Boil until noodles are soft