Banana Cream Pie

When I first started baking and cooking, I focused most of my attention on making cupcakes. I intended on making the cupcakes for my wedding so I wanted to try to master a few recipes. As a result I have made a lot of cupcakes over the past few years. And while I do enjoy a cupcake now and then they aren’t my favorite. Without any hesitation, I would rather have pie.

For as long as I can remember, I have loved pie and I have requested pie instead of cake on my birthday more than once. So it seemed logical that the next thing on my baking to do list should be to master making pie.

As luck would have it, I stumbled upon this recipe for Banana Cream Pie. It quickly became my go to recipe because it only has a few ingredients, comes together fairly quickly, and is a big hit at family gatherings.

First combine the graham crackers and sugar in a bowl. Stir in the melted butter until evenly distributed. Press the crumb mixture onto the bottom and up the sides of a lightly greased 9 inch deep dish pie plate.

Banana Cream Pie from Cooks My Books

Prepare pudding in a bowl by whisking the milk and pudding mix together. Refrigerate to set.

Banana Cream Pie from Cooks My Books

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar together.

Banana Cream Pie from Cooks My Books

Fold in half of the whipped topping and the banana pudding until the mixture is well combined.

Banana Cream Pie from Cooks My Books

Banana Cream Pie from Cooks My Books

Arrange the banana slices in the graham cracker crust.

Banana Cream Pie from Cooks My Books

Pour in half of the filling.

Banana Cream Pie from Cooks My Books

Repeat with remaining bananas and filling.

Banana Cream Pie from Cooks My Books

Put the remainder of the whipped topping into a piping bag with tip.

Banana Cream Pie from Cooks My Books

Pipe whipped topping around the edges of the pie and in the center. Or if you prefer, spread the whipped topping evenly over the top of the pie.

Banana Cream Pie from Cooks My Books

Refrigerate until set, about 1 to 2 hours. Serves 8.

Banana Cream Pie

Category: Dessert

Yield: 8

Banana Cream Pie

Ingredients

  • For the Crust
  • 1 3/4 cups of crushed graham cracker
  • 1/4 cup of sugar
  • 1/2 cup of butter, melted
  • For the Filling
  • 1 and 3/4 cups cold milk
  • 1 package (3.4 ounces) instant banana cream pudding mix
  • 1 package (8 ounces) of cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 1 carton (8 ounces) frozen whipped topping, thawed
  • 3 to 4 bananas, sliced

Instructions

  1. In a bowl, combine the graham crackers and sugar. Stir in the melted butter until evenly distributed. Press the crumb mixture onto the bottom and up the sides of a lightly greased 9 inch deep dish pie plate.
  2. Prepare pudding in a bowl by whisking the milk and pudding mix together. Refrigerate to set.
  3. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar together. Fold in 1/2 of the whipped topping and the banana pudding until the mixture is well combined.
  4. Arrange the banana slices in the graham cracker crust. Pour in half of the filling. Repeat with remaining bananas and filling.
  5. Put the remainder of the whipped topping into a piping bag with tip. Pipe whipped topping around the edges of the pie and in the center. Or if you prefer, spread the whipped topping evenly over the top of the pie.
  6. Refrigerate until set, about 1 to 2 hours. Serves 8.

Notes

Adapted from: Six Sisters Stuff

https://cooksmybooks.com/2018/09/16/banana-cream-pie/

Banana Bread

My little boy seriously loves fruit. I have to keep the fruit hidden at mealtimes until he is done eating other things otherwise he will only ask for fruit. Honestly, that is probably all he would eat if I let him. His favorites fruits to eat are strawberries and blueberries, or any other type of berry he can get his hands on. He never met a berry he didn’t like. I try to throw in other fruit, such as bananas, to mix things up, but he isn’t quite as enthusiastic about eating them. As a result, some of the bananas were looking a little sad and brown in the fruit bowl the other day. Since he was napping, I decided to make some banana bread.

I had never made banana bread before, so when I started making this recipe I was a little surprised with how many steps were involved. Looking at some other recipes after the fact, I realized this recipe is a little more complicated than other recipes. But it is definitely worth the effort because this banana bread turned out fantastic.

To get started, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

Banana Bread from Cooks My Books

Place peeled bananas in a microwave safe bowl, and then cover it with plastic wrap. Use a paring knife to cut a few vent holes in the plastic. Microwave the bananas for about 5 minutes, so they will get soft and release some liquid. Line a strainer with cheesecloth, and place it in a similar sized bowl. Pour the soft bananas into the strainer lined with cheesecloth. Let the bananas sit for about 15 minutes, stirring on occasion, until ½ to ¾ cup of liquid has drained.

Pour banana liquid into a small pan. Boil over medium heat, stirring consistently, for about 5 minutes or until it has reduced by about half. Make sure to watch it because it can bubble over easily.

Stir reduced banana liquid back into the bananas, mashing the bananas until there are no large chunks.

Banana Bread from Cooks My Books

Using a stand or hand mixer, combine the banana mixture with the butter, eggs, brown sugar and vanilla.

Banana Bread from Cooks My Books

Add the flour mixture, and stir with a spatula until only some streaks of flour remain.

Add walnuts, if using. Mix until combined. I don’t like nuts in my baked goods, so I skipped this step.

Pour the banana bread batter into a greased loaf pan. Sprinkle the sugar over the top of the uncooked batter.

Banana Bread from Cooks My Books

Bake for 55 to 75 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow the bread to cool in the pan for 15 minutes.

Banana Bread from Cooks My Books

Remove from pan and continue to cool on a wire rack.

Banana Bread from Cooks My Books

Banana Bread

Category: Bread

Banana Bread

Ingredients

  • 1¾ cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 5 very ripe bananas, peeled
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 eggs
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup walnuts, coarsely chopped (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
  3. Place peeled bananas in a microwave safe bowl, and then cover it with plastic wrap. Use a paring knife to cut a few vent holes in the plastic. Microwave the bananas for about 5 minutes, so they will get soft and release some liquid. Line a strainer with cheesecloth, and place it in a similar sized bowl. Pour the soft bananas into the strainer lined with cheesecloth. Let the bananas sit for about 15 minutes, stirring on occasion, until ½ to ¾ cup of liquid has drained.
  4. Pour banana liquid into a small pan. Boil over medium heat, stirring consistently, for about 5 minutes or until it has reduced by about half. Make sure to watch it because it can bubble over easily.
  5. Stir reduced banana liquid back into the bananas, mashing the bananas until there are no large chunks.
  6. Using a stand or hand mixer, combine the banana mixture with the butter, eggs, brown sugar and vanilla.
  7. Add the flour mixture, and stir with a spatula until only some streaks of flour remain.
  8. Add walnuts, if using.
  9. Pour the banana bread batter into a greased loaf pan.
  10. Sprinkle the sugar over the top of the uncooked batter.
  11. Bake for 55 to 75 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow the bread to cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Remove from pan and continue to cool on a wire rack.

Notes

Recipe adapted from: Brown Eyed Baker

https://cooksmybooks.com/2018/03/05/banana-bread/

Hot Chocolate Mix

I have been thinking about hot chocolate a lot lately. Probably because it has been snowing here for a few days and I’m freezing my buns off. I have always loved hot chocolate. Even the thought of taking sips from a big mug on a cold day makes me grin.

When I was a kid, I remember happily making hot chocolate from the little Swiss Miss packets. But when I was a little older, everything changed one day when my mom said “I found this recipe for a hot chocolate mix in an old cookbook. Let’s give it a try.”

It took a couple of times to get the mixture just how we wanted it, but after that I was hooked. I never wanted anything else. And with only 4 ingredients, it is super simple to make.

To make the mix, stir the dry milk, powdered creamer, powdered sugar, and Nesquik together in a large bowl until combined. That’s it. You’re done. If you want the mix to have a more uniform look, like the ones you get at the store, you can put the mix in a food processor or blender and process it in batches. Return to the bowl and mix together again. Store in an airtight container. I use quart size mason jars. The mix will fill up about 4 of them.

Hot Chocolate Mix from Cooks My Books

To make the hot chocolate, add 3 to 4 tablespoons of the mix to 1 cup of hot water. Stir until the mix has dissolved. Add marshmallows or whipped cream, if desired, and enjoy.

Hot Chocolate Mix from Cooks My Books

Hot Chocolate Mix

Category: Beverage

Ingredients

  • 25.6 ounce package of instant dry milk (about 8 cups)
  • 8 ounce jar of powdered non-dairy creamer
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 6 cups of Nesquik (instant chocolate drink mix)

Instructions

  1. To make the mix: Mix everything together in a large bowl until combined. Store in an airtight container.
  2. To make the hot chocolate: Add 3 to 4 tablespoons of the mix to 1 cup of hot water. Stir until the mix has dissolved. Add marshmallows or whipped cream if desired.

Notes

Recipe adapted from: Make-A-Mix Cookery

https://cooksmybooks.com/2018/02/25/hot-chocolate-mix/

Teriyaki Chicken and Vegetable Rice Bowls

I won’t hesitate to admit that I’m a bit of a Pinterest addict. Before I had my son, I could easily browse garden tips, home decorating ideas, and recipes for hours. During one of these sessions, I came across a recipe for teriyaki chicken. I decided to give it a try because it was pretty similar to recipe I made with shrimp, only it had an awesome homemade teriyaki sauce. And I already had all of the ingredients to make it, which was an added bonus.

This recipe quickly became one of my husband favorite things to eat. And I don’t feel guilty about eating it often. It’s even great leftover. You can’t go wrong with chicken, vegetables, and rice.

First, make the teriyaki sauce by adding the soy sauce, 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons water, brown sugar, honey, rice vinegar, and garlic to a small saucepan. Mix  everything together and bring to a gentle boil over medium heat.

In a separate bowl, whisk together cornstarch with the remaining 2 tablespoons water, then add to the saucepan. Reduce heat to medium-low and allow to a boil for 1 minute longer, making sure to stir continuously so the sauce doesn’t burn. Remove from heat.

To cook the chicken, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut the chicken breasts in half in order to make 2 smaller chicken breasts. I do this so the chicken will cook faster, but you can skip this step if you want. Just adjust your baking time.

Place breasts in a lightly greased 9 by 13 baking pan, then season with salt and pepper. Next, brush the chicken breasts with some of the teriyaki sauce.

Teriyaki Chicken from Cooks My Books

Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until an instant read thermometer reads 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Let the meat rest for about 5 minutes, and then cut into strips or cubes.

Teriyaki Chicken from Cooks My Books

To cook the vegetables, place the butter and chopped vegetables in a large pan with lid over medium heat. Next, season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste. Cover and cook until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.

Teriyaki Chicken from Cooks My Books

To assemble the bowls, first scoop a layer of rice into the bowl. Next, add a layer of vegetables, then a layer of chicken. Finally, drizzle the desired amount of teriyaki sauce over the top. Serve and enjoy!

Teriyaki Chicken from Cooks My Books

 

Teriyaki Chicken with Veggies and Rice

Category: Entree

Teriyaki Chicken with Veggies and Rice

Ingredients

    For the Teriyaki sauce
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • ½ cup water, divided (1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons, and 2 tablespoons)
  • 3 tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons cornstarch
    For the Chicken, Vegetables, and Rice:
  • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 2 breasts)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, small chunks
  • 1 cup carrots, shredded
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 bell pepper
  • 1 medium zucchini
  • 1 8 ounce package mushroom
  • Salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste
  • 4 cups cooked rice of your choice

Instructions

  1. For the teriyaki sauce: In a small saucepan, add the soy sauce, 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons water, brown sugar, honey, rice vinegar, and garlic. Mix together and bring to a gentle boil over medium heat. In a separate bowl, whisk together cornstarch with remaining 2 tablespoons water, then add it to the saucepan. Reduce heat to medium-low and allow to a boil for 1 minute longer, making sure to stir continuously so the sauce doesn’t burn. Remove from heat.
  2. For the chicken: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut each chicken breast in half in order to make 2 smaller chicken breasts. Place breasts on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Season with salt and pepper. Brush the breasts with some of the teriyaki sauce. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until an instant read thermometer reads 165 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. Let the meat rest for about 5 minutes, and then cut into strips or cubes.
  3. For the vegetables: Place butter and vegetables in a large pan with lid over medium heat. Season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste. Cover and let cook until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.
  4. To assemble the bowls: First scoop a layer of rice into the bowl. Add a layer of vegetables, then a layer of chicken. Drizzle teriyaki sauce over the top. Serve immediately.

Notes

Recipe adapted from: https://www.cookingclassy.com/teriyaki-grilled-chicken-and-veggie-rice-bowls/

https://cooksmybooks.com/2018/02/18/teriyaki-chicken-vegetable-rice-bowls/

Sugar Cookies

Last year in early spring, we went to visit one of my sisters in Arizona. We had so much fun while we were there. We saw a road runner and butterflies while visiting the Botanical Gardens,  and soaked up some much needed sun at the pool. It was almost Easter, so as a fun treat my sister made some sugar cookies from a recipe that she had gotten from a family member on her husband’s side. They were so good that I asked for the recipe. With Valentine’s Day coming up in a few days, I thought this would be a great opportunity to share the recipe with the world.

First, pre-heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Sift together the flour, salt and baking powder in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Sugar Cookies from Cooks My Books

Cream together the butter and sugar using a stand or hand mixer.

Sugar Cookies from Cooks My Books

Add eggs and extracts and beat until just combined.

Add flour mixture to wet ingredients and mix well.

Sugar Cookies from Cooks My Books

Scrap dough onto well-floured surface. Roll out thick.

Sugar Cookies from Cooks My Books

Cut desired shaped and place on lightly greased cookie sheet.

Sugar Cookies from Cooks My Books

Bake for 8 minutes, and then let cool on a wire rack.

Sugar Cookies from Cooks My Books

For the frosting: Cream the butter using a stand or hand mixer on medium-high speed for 5 minutes, scraping the bowl as needed.

Reduce speed of mixer to low, and add the powdered sugar slowly. Mix until incorporated.

Add the vanilla and mix until combined, then increase the speed of the mixer to medium-high for around 2 minutes, or until frosting becomes light and fluffy. Add food coloring if desired.

Frosting from Cooks My Books

Frost cookies and serve.

Sugar Cookies from Cooks My Books

Sugar Cookies

Sugar Cookies

Ingredients

    For the Cookies:
  • 2 ½ cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup softened butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ teaspoon almond extract
    For the Frosting:
  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 ½ cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • Food coloring (optional)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Sift together the flour, salt and baking powder in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  3. Cream together the butter and sugar using a stand or hand mixer.
  4. Add eggs and extracts and beat until just combined.
  5. Add flour mixture to wet ingredients and mix well.
  6. Scrap dough onto well-floured surface. Roll out thick.
  7. Cut desired shaped and place on lightly greased cookie sheet.
  8. Bake for 8 minutes, and then let cool on a wire rack.
  9. For the frosting: Cream the butter using a stand or hand mixer on medium-high speed for 5 minutes, scraping the bowl as needed.
  10. Reduce speed of mixer to low, and add the powdered sugar slowly. Mix until incorporated.
  11. Add the vanilla and mix until combined, then increase the speed of the mixer to medium-high for around 2 minutes, or until frosting becomes light and fluffy. Add food coloring if desired.
  12. Frost cookies and serve.
https://cooksmybooks.com/2018/02/11/sugar-cookies/

Quick and Easy Cheeseball

Yesterday, I was watching the Super Bowl with my husband when he said “We need some finger foods. We usually have snacks during the Super Bowl.” I racked my brain for something that would be quick to make. I wanted to make something that we already had all of the ingredients for so I didn’t have to go to the store. It took a minute, but then it came to me. A cheeseball.

I went to the kitchen and grabbed my family cookbook. I could look up the recipe – butter, cream cheese, black olives, and green onions. Seemed simple enough. And then I remembered there was some leftover bacon in the fridge from breakfast. Everything is better with bacon right?

Before you start mixing anything, make sure that your butter and cream cheese are room temperature. To do this, I usually leave the butter out on the counter. For the cream cheese, I put in it the microwave using the  softening function.

Once they are softened, cream together butter and cream cheese in a bowl using a stand mixer or hand mixer.

Quick and Easy Cheeseball by Cooks My Books

Stir in olives, bacon, and green onions with a spatula until well incorporated.

Quick and Easy Cheeseball by Cooks My Books

Scoop the mixture onto a sheet of wax or parchment paper. Roll into one large ball or two small balls. Usually, I will do the one large ball.

Roll the ball(s) in the chopped walnuts until completely covered, if desired. You can skip this step if you just aren’t a fan of nuts, or have an allergy. This is also were having two smaller cheese-balls comes in handy, because you can roll one in the chopped walnuts and leave the other plain. I skipped this step this time because we were out of walnuts.

Place on plate(s) and chill in the refrigerator until set.

Quick and Easy Cheeseball by Cooks My Books

Serve with your favorite crackers. I usually use wheat thins because they are sturdy and won’t crack when I’m trying to scoop up some cheeseball.

Quick and Easy Cheeseball by Cooks My Books

 

 

Quick and Easy Cheeseball

Category: Appetizer

Quick and Easy Cheeseball

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 8 ounce package of cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup sliced black olives
  • 1/2 cup cooked chopped bacon
  • 3 to 4 green onions, chopped
  • chopped walnuts (optional)

Instructions

  1. Mix together butter and cream cheese in a bowl using a stand mixer or hand mixer until incorporated.
  2. Stir in olives, bacon, and green onions with a spatula until evenly mixed.
  3. Scoop the mixture onto a sheet of wax or parchment paper and roll into one or two balls.
  4. Roll the ball(s) in the chopped walnuts until completely covered.
  5. Place on plate(s) and chill in the refrigerator until set.
  6. Serve with your favorite crackers.
https://cooksmybooks.com/2018/02/05/cheeseball/

Parmesan Chicken

A few years back, I was trying to decide what to make for dinner. I was bored with my usual go-to chicken dinners, so I decided to try something new. After poking around on the internet for a bit, I stumbled across this recipe for Parmesan Chicken on Simply Recipes. After looking over the recipe, I decided to make it for two reasons.

  1. I had all the ingredients
  2. Little bites of paremsan chicken baked in butter sounded delicious.

Since then, I’ve made it many times and it has always been a big hit. I’ve even had family members request that I make it for special occasions. But don’t take my word for it, give it a try for yourself.

(This post contains affiliate links)

To get started, melt the butter in a bowl or pie plate. Add the minced garlic and stir together. Then, combine the breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, dried parsley, salt, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, and black pepper in a separate bowl or pie plate.

Dip the chicken chunks into the garlic butter to coat. Be sure to reheat the butter if it starts to thicken.

Parmesan Chicken by Cooks My BooksIMG_0058
Pieces in garlic butter

Next, move the pieces to the pie plates with the breadcrumb mixture and coat. When I first started making this, I would use small bowls, but I’ve found it’s easier to use pie plates.

Parmesan Chicken by Cooks My Books
Pieces coated in breadcrumb mixture

When coated with the breadcrumb mixture, place the chicken into a greased 9 by 13 baking dish (or whatever size you have), leaving a little bit of space in between each piece. Depending on the amount of chicken, you might need to use more than one baking dish. When all of the chicken is in the pan, drizzle the remaining garlic butter over the chicken pieces.

Parmesan Chicken by Cooks My Books
Ready to go in the oven

Bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until an instant read thermometer reads 165 degrees Fahrenheit (75 degrees Celsius).

Parmesan Chicken by Cooks My Books

We usually eat this with spaghetti marinara and corn.  Yum!

Parmesan Chicken

Category: Entree

Parmesan Chicken

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 8 Tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup dried bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 teaspoons dried parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 pounds of skinless boneless chicken breast, cut into small chunks

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit (230 degrees Celsius).
  2. Stir the minced garlic and the melted butter together in a pie plate.
  3. In a separate pie plate, combine the breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, dried parsley, salt, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, and black pepper.
  4. Dip the chicken chunks into the garlic butter to coat. Be sure to reheat the butter if it starts to thicken.
  5. Next move the pieces to the pie plate with the breadcrumb mixture and coat.
  6. When coated with the breadcrumb mixture, place the chicken into a greased 9 by 13 baking dish, leaving a little bit of space in between each piece. When all of the chicken is in the pan, drizzle the remaining garlic butter over the chicken pieces.
  7. Bake the chicken for 10 to 15 minutes or until an instant read thermometer reads 165 degrees Fahrenheit (75 degrees Celsius) or higher.
  8. Serve with spaghetti marinara. Enjoy!
https://cooksmybooks.com/2018/01/28/parmesan-chicken/

Pollo Rey Fiesta Veggie Burrito Copycat

I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I remember being  surprised when I took my first bite of the burrito. It was was heaven on a flour tortilla. After that day, whenever I would go to Pollo Rey I would order the Fiesta Veggie Burrito. So when I heard that Pollo Rey would be closing in the fall of 2017, I knew that if I wanted another veggie burrito I would have to make it myself.

When I was working as an auditor, I would eat out quite a bit. Mostly because I was really bad at remembering to pack my lunch. But it was also because my downtown Boise office was within walking distance of TONS of great restaurants. On any given day of the week, I could eat whatever my little heart desired, from bagels to sushi and everything in between. But when I got pregnant, there was one thing that I wanted more than anything else – a burrito.

Luckily for me, there were multiple burrito options that I could choose from depending on what kind of burrito I wanted. If I wanted sweet pork, I would walk to Costa Vida. If I wanted chicken, I would make the short drive to Parilla in Hyde Park. On the days I wanted a veggie burrito, I would head to Pollo Rey.

I had never had a veggie burrito before I went to Pollo Rey. One day, some of my co-workers were going so I decided to tag along. I remember staring up at the menu and trying to decide what to get, when one of the ladies I was with ordered a fiesta veggie burrito. Shortly after it was my turn, so I panicked and ordered the same thing.

I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I remember being  surprised when I took my first bite of the burrito. It was was heaven on a flour tortilla. After that day, whenever I would go to Pollo Rey I would order the Fiesta Veggie Burrito.

In the summer of 2017 I heard horrible news. Pollo Rey would be closing the coming fall. I knew I had to go have one last burrito. So I packed my little boy in the car and we met some friends downtown for lunch. As we were eating, I paid special attention to what was in the burrito. I knew that from then on if I wanted a veggie burrito I would have to make it myself. Here is what I came up with.

(This post contains affiliate links)

The first thing I did was chop the vegetables. I used a mandolin for the zucchini and summer squash so they’d have a more uniform size, and the remaining vegetables I chopped by hand, except for the carrot because I bought a bag of shredded carrots at the store. Then I threw them in a big pan with a lid along with some butter, salt, black pepper, and garlic powder. I covered the vegetables and let them cook, stirring occasionally until they were tender.

Fiesta Veggie Burrito by Cooks My Books

Meanwhile, I opened a can of black beans and put them in a separate pan to warm up. I also made some Cilantro Lime Rice to include in the burrito. If you prefer Mexican Rice then you can make that instead.

When everything was ready, I warmed up some flour tortillas on our cast iron griddle. When the tortilla was ready, I added the rice beans, cheese, vegetable mix, sour cream, salsa, and avocado into the tortilla and wrapped it up.

Fiesta Veggie Burrito by Cooks My BooksFiesta Veggie Burrito by Cooks My Books

Not to pat myself on the back, but it was just as good as the ones I used to get at Pollo Rey.

Pollo Rey Fiesta Veggie Burrito Copycat

Pollo Rey Fiesta Veggie Burrito Copycat

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium zucchini, chopped
  • 1 medium yellow summer squash, chopped
  • 1 cups carrots, chopped or shredded
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 or 2 bell peppers, shopped
  • 8 ounces of mushrooms, chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • garlic powder
  • 15 ounce can of beans of your choice
  • Prepared rice of your choice (either cilantro lime or Mexican rice)
  • cheese
  • sour cream
  • salsa
  • guacamole or avocado chunks
  • Tortillas

Instructions

  1. Place butter and vegetables in a large pan with lid over medium heat. Season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Cover and let cook until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally.
  2. Meanwhile, warm your choice of beans in a small pan, and prepare your choice of rice.
  3. Warm the tortillas, either in the microwave for one minute or using a flat cast iron pan on the stovetop.
  4. Assemble your burritos by adding the above ingredients into your warm tortilla, and wrap it up. Enjoy!
https://cooksmybooks.com/2018/01/21/pollo-rey-fiesta-veggie-burrito-copycat/

Homemade Broccoli Cheese RiceARoni

Have you ever made a boxed version of something and thought to yourself, “I wonder how hard it would be to make this from scratch?” I had that exact thought as I was making a box of RiceARoni a while back. So I decided to do some poking around online to find a recipe.
Guess what? I found a recipe on Pinterest by Life Currents. And guess what else? It was super easy to make. Turns out RiceARoni is a combination of rice and Orzo pasta. Honestly, I think the hardest part for me was finding the Orzo pasta. Mostly because I kept accidentally walking past it in the pasta aisle at the grocery store.
I’ve made this recipe a few times now, and have made some tweaks. There has even been a few occasions where I thought I had broccoli in the fridge but didn’t, or I forgot to put the cheese on, and it was still super good. I usually make a double batch of the recipe to make sure that we have leftovers. 🙂
Before I start cooking, I like to chop up the veggies first. I try to make the onion bits on the smaller side, but usually leave the broccoli a little larger. If you’d like the final product to look like the boxed version, then I would recommend chopping the broccoli into smaller pieces.
To get started, put the oil and onion in the pan over medium heat. Cook until the onions start to get tender. This will take a few minutes. Then add the garlic and cook for a minute longer.
Note: Make sure the pan you choose has a lid, as you will need to cover it later on.
Broccoli Cheese RiceARoni By Cooks My Books
Next, stir in the rice and orzo pasta until they are coated with oil. Let the rice and pasta cook for a few minutes. The pasta will brown and the rice will start to look translucent.
Broccoli Cheese RiceARoni By Cooks My Books
Next, stir the broth into the RiceARoni mixture. I’ve used both chicken broth and vegetable stock when I’ve made this, or a combination of the two. It is delicious either way. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to low  (it should still boil on low). Cover and cook for 10 to 15 minutes until a majority of the broth has been absorbed.
Broccoli Cheese RiceARoni By Cooks My Books
Stir in the broccoli. Re-cover and cook until all the liquid has been absorbed and the broccoli is tender. (If you accidentally wait too long to put in the broccoli, don’t panic. You can always add a little more broth to help the broccoli cook and it will turn out just fine.)
When the broccoli is tender, remove from heat. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the cheese to melt, or serve as is and let each person add as much cheese as they want. Or both. Enjoy!

Homemade Broccoli Cheese RiceARoni

Homemade Broccoli Cheese RiceARoni

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • ½ cup jasmine rice
  • ½ cup orzo pasta
  • 2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • 2 cup finely chopped broccoli
  • ½ cup shredded sharp cheddar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Place olive oil and onion in a large pan (that has a lid) and warm over medium heat until the onion starts to get tender. Stir in the garlic and cook for about a minute.
  2. Add the rice and orzo to the pan, stirring to coat in the olive oil. Allow to cook for a few minutes until the orzo starts to brown and the rice becomes translucent. Don't let it sit for too long without stirring or it will burn.
  3. Add the chicken broth to the pan and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cook covered for around 10 to 15 minutes, stirring once or twice.
  4. When a majority of the broth has been absorbed, stir in the broccoli and cook covered until tender, about 3 to 4 minutes.
  5. Remove from the heat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in cheese to melt and/or sprinkle on top. Enjoy!
https://cooksmybooks.com/2018/01/15/homemade-broccoli-cheese-ricearoni/

Making a plan to get out of debt

Happy New Year Everyone! It’s that time again, when we look forward into the unknown with optimism and make goals for ourselves. It’s New Year’s Resolution time.

(This post contains affiliate links)

I don’t know about you guys, but my resolutions are generally the same stuff every year. I thought maybe I should try some different resolutions this year, so I did a quick google search to see the top resolutions of 2018. According to statista.com, the top 3 resolutions this year are:

  1. Eat Healthier
  2. Get More Exercise
  3. Save (more) money

Looking at this list made me think back to January 2010, when I was in my second semester of graduate school. I can’t remember for sure, but I would bet money that one of my resolutions that year would have been to save more money. I was working part-time while going to school, but I didn’t make much. I made so little that I had to move back in with my parents in 2009. I just couldn’t afford rent by myself. To be completely honest, I couldn’t really afford anything.

As a result I had accumulated about $5,000 in credit card debt. Add that to my car loan and I had about $11,000 in total debt. I knew I needed to do something about the situation. I was constantly stressed about it. I felt as an accounting major I should have been better at managing my money. In late January, classes started for the semester. I was particularly excited about my Financial Planning class. I was hopeful that we would learn something that I would actually be able to apply to my situation.

Have you ever sat in class while a teacher was lecturing and thought to yourself “When are we going to use this in the real world?” I have too. However, that was not my reaction to this class. In fact, here were some of my reactions to this class on the first day: This is freaking awesome. I’m going to use this crap all the flipping time. Why is this graduate class? Seriously, why didn’t they teach this in high school?

Through the semester we covered budgeting, taxes, investments, different types of insurance, and estate planning, in addition other topics that I can’t think of off the top of my head. But don’t worry, I won’t bore you with everything we covered in the class. Instead, here are a few things that I remember most that helped me get out of debt.

To get to where you want to go, you first have to know where you are

One of the first projects the professor assigned was to look over our own finances, and make our personal financial statements. that show our income and expenses, as well as any assets and liabilities. The professor explained his reasoning for assigning this task by telling the following story (this isn’t word for word, but I think you will get the point).

A businessman had received a call from his superior that informed him that he needed to be in an important meeting in another city the next day. Knowing that he didn’t have much time to get an airplane ticket, he called a travel agency.

“I need a ticket on the next plane to New York. I need to pack my suitcase; I will call back in an hour.”

The man called the travel agency back in an hour and asked if they had booked him a seat on a flight to New York. They informed him that they were unable to get him a seat.

“Why not?” He demanded.

“Because, you told us you wanted to go to New York, but we have no idea where you are right now.”

The moral of this story is: In order to get where you want to go, you first have to know where you are.

In order to determine financial standing, you need to know the following:

  • What is your income?
  • What are you expenses?
  • What assets do you have?
  • What liabilities or debt do you have?

Once you know the above information, you can make your own financial statements. Income and expenses are shown on the Income and Expense Statement, while Assets and Liabilities are shown on the Balance Sheet. In case you are wondering what those might look like, here are extremely simplified versions of both.

 

Income and Expense Statement
Income
Wages Xxx
Interest Xxx
Dividends Xxx
Total Income xxx
Expenses
Mortgage/Rent Xxx
Utilities Xxx
Food Xxx
Car Payment Xxx
Credit Card Payment Xxx
Entertainment Xxx
Fuel Xxx
Total Expenses Xxx
   
Income – Expenses = Discretionary Cash Flow Xxx

When making your income and expenses statement, it helps to look over your spending for the last few months so you have an accurate idea of what you are spending your money on, so bust out those bank statements. You will more than likely have more categories than the ones shown above so don’t be afraid to add them in. Try to avoid general categories like “Other” or “Miscellaneous” because they are non-descriptive and won’t really let you see when your money is going. And I can tell you as a former auditor, very few things send up a red flag faster than see a giant number in a miscellaneous category. Also, make sure you include everything. You are making these statements for yourself. If you want to change your situation, you need to be completely honest about your financial situation right now.

Once you have your income and expense statement put together, it is easier to see how much you are spending on each category, and where you might want to cut back. For example, when I looked at my statement I saw that I was spending way more than I should have been on eating out and getting coffee. But I hadn’t really thought about it until I saw the numbers there in my spreadsheet. I made a goal to cut back in those areas. I also switched cell phone plans which made my phone bill drop dramatically. These like small things, but in my situation they had added up. Making these changes helped me make my first step in the right direction.

 

Balance Sheet
Assets
Cash Xxx
Investments Xxx
Personal Use Assets Xxx
Total Assets Xxx
Liabilities
Car Loan Xxx
Student Loan Xxx
Credit Card Debt Xxx
Total Liabilities Xxx
Net Worth Xxx
Total Liabilities and Net Worth xxx

You know how on TV, they sometimes talk about a celebrity’s net worth? Well, making a balance sheet will help you figure out what your net worth is. Don’t be discouraged if it isn’t as impressive as a celebrity’s. The first time I figured out mine, it was negative.

Pay yourself first

As part of the class, we were assigned to pick 2 financial planning books to read and write a summary of. The list included books such as “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, “Smart Women Finish Rich,” “The Total Money Makeover,” and, my personal favorite, “The Richest Man in Babylon.” I know that sounds like an odd title for a financial planning book, but I seriously loved reading this book and would recommend it to anyone trying to figure out their finances. The author uses stories set in the time of Babylon to give readers a simple way to achieve financial success. If I remember correctly, there are around 9 stories in the book. For each story, the reader learns a simple straightforward lesson about financial planning.

The story that made the biggest impression on me was in chapter 2. Arkad is telling a story of how he learned to be wealthy. He was working as a scribe when he became acquainted with a very rich man named Algamish. As part of a bargain, Algamish agreed to tell Arkad how he had become wealthy. Algamish’s stated that he “found the road to wealth when [he] decided that a part of all [he] earned was [his] to keep.” This was so simple that it surprised me, and I had a similar reaction to what Arkad demanded on the next page – “But all I earn is mine to keep, is it not?”  Algamish then explains how this is not true and that most people pay everyone but themselves.

It was so simple. I realized I hadn’t been paying myself. This was a good place to start making a change. I made a resolution to put aside 10% of my paycheck in a savings account every time I got paid. It wasn’t much but it was another step in the right direction.

After you look at your finances, decide what you can save per paycheck and stick to it. It doesn’t have to be massive. Pick an amount that you know that you will be able to save, that won’t put a huge strain on your budget.

Use the Debt snowball

If you do a google search for “Debt snowball” a TON of website will pop up about the subject. Like 1.4 million pages. It is a huge part of the “Total Money Makeover” by Dave Ramsey. But back in 2010 I had never heard of it. When the professor, who also worked as a financial planner, started to tell us that he recommends that his clients use this method there must have been some confused faces in the classroom. He went on to say that he would have his clients use the following steps:

Step 1: List your debts from smallest to largest.
Step 2: Make minimum payments on all your debts except the smallest.
Step 3: Pay as much as possible on your smallest debt.
Step 4: Repeat until each debt is paid in full.

So I went home from class that day and made a list. Here is a simplified version:

Name Amount owed Interest rate Minimum Payment Due Date
Credit Card 1 2,100 18% 50 22nd
Credit Card 2 200 25% 30 15th
Credit Card 3 1,900 12% 40 22nd
Credit Card 4 800 10% 46 22nd
Auto Loan 6,000 8% 160 15th

Looking at my list, I knew that I would start by paying off credit card 2. Since my balance on that card was only a couple hundred dollars, I knew it would only take a few months to pay it off. Then I could move on the next one. And it worked. But just like it took time for me to dig the pit I was in, it took time to get out of it as well. If I remember correctly, it took about 2 and a half years before I was debt free. This wasn’t a quick fix, but it was effective. It helped me establish a habit of always knowing what was going on with my money.

I hope this information was helpful to you, and have a great 2018!