Recipe For A Simple Life

Simplify your life, one day at a time

Tator Tot Pizza Casserole

My friend, Dana, posted this recipe that she tried the other week.  I’m so going to try this with my family.  If you are vegetarian, just leave out the meat and I think you’ll still have a great meal.  Dana is a former co-worker of Carrie’s and a fellow Harley lover 😀

1lb. lean ground beef
1/4cup chopped onion
1(10 3/4-oz.) can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1(8-oz.) can pizza sauce
2oz. sliced pepperoni
1/2cup chopped green bell pepper
4oz. (1 cup) shredded mozzarella cheese
1(16-oz.) pkg. frozen potato nuggets (about 3 1/2 cups)
Optional – I think any ingredient you would put on pizza would be a fantastic addition to this recipe – italian sausage, mushrooms, olives, chopped chicken, red peppers, jalapenos, etc.
Heat oven to 375°F. Spray 8-inch square (2-quart) glass baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. In large skillet, cook ground beef and onion over medium-high heat until beef is thoroughly cooked, stirring frequently. Drain.
Reduce heat to medium; stir in soup. Cook until mixture comes to a boil, stirring occasionally.
Spoon beef mixture into sprayed baking dish. Spoon pizza sauce evenly over top. Arrange pepperoni and bell pepper over sauce. Sprinkle with cheese. Arrange potato nuggets over cheese. Cover with foil.
Bake at 375°F. for 30 minutes. Remove foil; bake an additional 15 to 20 minutes or until thoroughly heated.
Plus, once you know that your family loves this recipe, the next time you make it, double the batch and put half of it in the freezer for a quick and easy meal when you’re running late in the future 😀  The dollar store has big aluminum disposable pans just for this.  Or if you don’t have a family to feed, use the original recipe amounts and split it into single/double servings and freeze the remainder.  Just remember to change the amount of time you cook it so you don’t burn it 😀
Go HERE to see the original recipe at
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Chocolate Zucchini Bread

Oh, this is another recipe where you can hide veggies, in bread!

3 eggs

1 c. oil – I used 1 c. applesauce

2 c. sugar

1 T. vanilla

2 c. peeled zucchini, shredded

2 1/2 c. flour

1/2 c. cocoa

1 t. salt

1 t. baking powder

1 t. cinnamon, optional

In mixing bowl, beat eggs, vanilla, oil/applesauce and sugar.  Stir in zucchini.  Mix in dry ingredients.  Pour into 2 greased loaf pans, or 5 mini pans.

Not going to lie, I just added all the ingredients together with the flour last, and it turned out just fine.  I think I would have baked them a little less since I used the applesauce.  Or maybe I s


hould have checked them when the timer went off and not kept watching The Biggest Loser on tv 😀

2 loaf pans – Bake 350* for 60 minutes

5 mini loaf pans – Bake 350* for 25-30 minutes.


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Hiding Veggies – Onions

I’m really getting into hiding veggies in our food.  I know how great they are nutitionally.  So I decided to try one of the veggies I can’t personally stand 😀  Onions.  Ish.  The thought makes me cry lol

So I decided to chop up an onion and hide it in the ground beef along with the mushrooms.


I had about 10 pounds of ground beef to freeze.  So after I added the chopped onions and mushrooms, I decided to make burgers for dinner that night, and then make extra patties and freeze them for two dinners and the extra beef can be saved for meatloaf.




I bought freezer paper, cut them into squares and put patties in between them.  I had meant to add 2 eggs to the mixture before I formed the patties, but I forgot to.  They still turned out just fine, so I didn’t undo the freezer patties I formed.  I love burgers, but I hate forming them, so this was a great idea for me to freeze two different batches of patties for future meals.

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Freezer Cooking Part 2 – Vegetable Broth

My friend, Katy, gave a great guest post yesterday on freezer cookingHere’s a continuation of that post.  I absolutely LOVE this kind of freezer cooking and I’ve been doing it for months. 

Here are a few of my favorite freezer items:

  • Chopped veggies: carrots, onions, celery, cauliflower.
  • Homemade veggie broth (recipe below)
  • Extra loaves of bread/buns/English muffins
  • Green onions in a bottle
  • Cooked beans from dried beans
  • Cooked shredded chicken – We buy 20-30 pounds when it goes on sale for $0.79-$0.99/pound, and have a marathon cooking/de-boning/portioning session over the next 1-2 days, and then we have chicken for 2 months.
  • Some sort of baked good, whether we make a double batch of waffles and freeze half, or a half dozen muffins.  I’ve heard you can freeze brownies and cookies too, but those never seem to last long enough in our house…
  • Frozen pizzas.  These are one of my husband’s favorites, so we usually have a couple in there.

Everything is portioned out in smaller containers, usually 1-2 cups.  I label these with masking tape and permanent marker on the lids with the item, the measurement, and the date.  When I’m making my meal plan, I can look to see what I have, and plan accordingly.  When I’m cooking, I just pull out the ingredients I need and dump them in.

How to Make Homemade Broth:

When you’re ready to begin your veggie chopping session, get out a large bowl for the peelings, stems, and whatnot.  Wash all of your veggies.  Carrot peels, celery stems, onion skins and tops, squash skins and ends, can all go into this bowl.  The only thing I wouldn’t save is a part that is already going bad (hopefully you don’t have too many of those).
If you’re not going to make the broth right away, put all of this in either a container with a lid or a big ziploc, and store it in the freezer.  Otherwise, you can either make your broth on the stove or in a crockpot.  Dump all your veggie bits in and add water until everything is covered, plus enough to fill your pot up to an inch from the top.  Add seasonings of your liking.  I usually add a large sprinkle of garlic powder, oregano, dill, salt, and pepper.  Cover, and simmer on low for at least 2 hours.  If you’re using a crockpot, put it on low in the morning, and strain out the broth after dinner.  The longer, the better, as it gives the flavors more time to develop.
Using a slotted spoon or a sieve, strain out your veggie bits, and you’re left with awesome broth.  I usually portion this out in smaller containers of 1 to 3 cups, because that’s what most recipes call for.  If I’m making a soup that uses more, I can always use 2 containers.  These go into the freezer once they’re cooled as well.
Now that your freezer is full of ingredients, get cooking!  Here are some of my favorite recipes:


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Freezer Cooking Part 1

My friend, Katy, and I are very similar in the ways we “freezer cook.”  Katy is a wife of a future pastor and stay-at-home mom of two energetic little boys.  She loves coffee, crafts, organizing, and finding new ways to use old things.  She blogs over at Kate’s Great CraftsHere’s what Katy has to say about freezer cooking…

There are two main ways to do freezer cooking. The first is to prepare an entire meal and freeze it, either in one larger dish or separated into portions. The second is to do ingredient freezer cooking, where you prep some or all of the ingredients for the meals, and freeze those. I personally do the second method.

Whichever method you choose, here are a few tips for effectively using your freezer.

1) Know which method works for you. We tried preparing extras of meals, freezing individual portions to grab when we needed quick meals. And they sat there. And sat there. Until we threw them out.
2) Know what you eat. If you find a great sale on cauliflower, and stock up your freezer, but everyone in your family hates the taste, it doesn’t make much sense. After awhile you’ll figure out which ingredients you like to have ready to pull out of the freezer, and which ones you probably don’t need up there.  You’ll also discover how quickly you go through certain ingredients, and you can stock up when they’re on sale, and save money.  Bonus!
3) Know how you organize things. Whether you use containers or ziploc bags, you need to know what’s up there. You could group items by which meal they’ll be used for. You could put all the chopped veggies on one side, all the meats in the middle, and the breads/baked goods on the top. You could put a list on the fridge, or go take a peek before you make your grocery list. Whatever works for you.

Benefits of Freezer Cooking:

1) Waste Less.  I no longer find half an onion rotting in the back of the fridge, or wilted celery, or moldy peppers.  It’s all preserved in the freezer.
2) Save Time.  Yes, getting home from the store and chopping up bags of veggies takes a chunk of time.  But then it’s all done.  It’s pretty nice going to make soup, and simply having to dump a few containers in a pot and let it simmer for awhile, knowing that the ingredients are fresh and simple.
3) Save Money.  By ingredient freezer cooking, you can stock up on meat and produce when it’s at it’s lowest price, and not when you remember that you need or want it.  And, a full freezer uses less energy than an empty one.

Come back tomorrow for Part 2!

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Hiding Veggies – Mushrooms

I know how nutritionally awesome mushrooms are. Has anyone done the research to figure out which mushrooms are the best to cook with?  I chatted with the produce manager at Hilltop Hy-Vee and learned that the darker the mushroom, the higher the vitamin content is.  So the brown portabellos are better than the white mushrooms.  But I know there are other types – shiitake, crimini, etc.

I chop up mushrooms, in this picture I used baby portabellos, and add them to ground beef. I fry up the mushrooms right along with ground beef. Then I put a pound of browned beef and mushrooms into freezer bags. Then it’s super easy to just grab one bag out of the freezer, add to spaghetti, tacos or chili.


I had three pounds of 93/7 ground beef that I split into two freezer bags of browned ground beef with mushrooms, and the other third I mixed with mushrooms, minced onion and an egg and put it in the ‘frig for a meatloaf dinner tomorrow 😀

What do you hide in your ground beef?

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