A Northern Michigan Escape

Ahh, pure Michigan.
Well it's no surprise that I went silent again last week. (And before I go further, it will be happening again shortly) Last week J & I escaped to Northern MI for a family (2 families actually) filled week.  J's mom rented a beach house to celebrate her 60th bday. 17 of J's family members made it from all over to celebrate. One house, 13 adults, 4 children, 6 dogs & 3 bathrooms. It was quite the week!

View of town from my parents condo.
 But, before J & I got to that crazy madness, we spent a few days with my family who were vacationing only 2 hours away.  My family has been going up to Charlevoix since I was a kid, but unfortunately, when you move across the country, it's not easy to get up north. 

Murdicks is THE BEST hands down. 
You can't go "up north" without stuffing your face with fudge. J & I ended up buying 6 slices to take for his family, but I am pretty sure I ate at least half of it. 

It was awesome showing J around Charlevoix since it has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember and it really is a special place.

After a few days with my family, it was time to join in the birthday madness. Duke was able to tag along which was awesome. Life at the beach without a leash suites him well. 

You can always count on J's family to keep the drinks coming. Sitting outside, watching the sunset over the water & drinking wine. What more could a person want?

There was also a bonfire on the windiest night of the trip. It's a miracle the fire stayed contained!

On the last full day, the "in-laws" (well, 2 in-laws, one cousin & one future in-law) went off to explore some wineries that were nearby.  One of our stops was all sparkling wine! Absolutely delicious.

We affectionally named ourselves the runaways.
This picture just about sums up the trip.  What an awesome family-filled memorable week!  


{Recipe} Hash Brown Hash

Yesterday I introduced one of my new favorite skinny recipes, Skinny Potato Bake.  After eating potatoes for 2 days, J & I still had half the dish leftover.  Feeling lazy & wanting breakfast for dinner, I decided to get a little creative with the potatoes. Enter turkey sausage crumbles & eggs.  I always love a good egg based dish because it fills me up without feeling stuffed.  What's so great about this dish is how easy, delicious & satisfying it really is.  It took all of 10 minutes to make & was pretty cheap!  We already had eggs on hand, all I needed to get was the meat.  I had grand visions of adding in peppers & onions...but that idea got lost somewhere between my couch, the grocery store & my laziness. Guess I have an excuse to make this again!

Serves: 2 (large portions...hey it was dinner!)
Cook time: 10 minutes (+ 1 hour if making potato bake from scratch)
How difficult was this for Rachel? Couldn't have been easier!

1/3-1/2 Skinny Potato Bake (Just depends on how much potato you like, I used about 1/3) If you haven't made the Skinny Potato Bake yet, get the recipe here.
4 eggs (I used egg beaters)
1 cup pre-cooked turkey sausage crumbles



In a large skillet over medium heat, cook your eggs.  

I added the sausage in a bit pre-maturely.  I would wait until the eggs are almost fully cooked then add in sausage.

Let sausage cook with the eggs for a few minutes.
Add in potatoes. Cook an additional few minutes until everything seems cooked through.



Skinny Potato Bake

I warn you all now, brace yourself for some major gushing. I am IN LOVE with this recipe!  Not only was it SUPER easy to make...it was absolutely delicious.  You would NEVER KNOW this was a "skinny" recipe.  There was SO much flavor...I'm craving some now! I had to control J & I from  polishing off the entire pan.  I made the recipe as a side dish for dinner...and then I proceeded to eat it for breakfast the next morning. I love a dish that can be served any time of the day!

The original recipe came from The Spotted Lamb (she's a GENIUS) and at first, after reading the reviews, I was nervous to make this dish.  Some people had no problem, others had issues with their dish being too watery.  I modified the amounts of liquid just a tad, and mine was PERFECT.  Follow my tips & you should have no problems at ALL.  The only thing I might have done differently was cut the recipe in half since it was a bit much for just J & I.   Check back tomorrow to see what I did with the leftovers!...well what was leftover after eating this for 2 days & 4 meals!

Skinny Potato Bake
Serves: 8-10
Cook time according to Rachel: 1 hour
How difficult was this for Rachel? Easy!

Ingredients:   (No photo...Blogger hates me sometimes)                                    
1 (32oz) bag frozen shredded hash browns, THAWED
1 1/2 cups plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup fat free chicken broth
1/4 cup skim milk
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 cup shredded cheese (I used 4 State Cheddar)

Note: It is important not to use fat free everything because then your dish will be too watery.  The fat helps blend everything together. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

In a large mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients. Mix well.

In a 9x13 greased baking dish, spread potato mix evenly.

Bake uncovered for 55 mins. Let sit for 5 minutes & serve!

That's it!


A Berry Happy 4th of July...a week later.

Well, it's been almost a week since the 4th, so I figured it was time to post the biggest from the day.  J & I spent the 4th eating, sunning & swimming with our friends. It was the perfect 4th!  The temps in LA have been in the 90s the past few weeks so coming up with a light yet tasty & thematic dessert was a bit of a challenge.

This dessert was a bit of an accident.  I found the recipe for Berried Treasure from Mr. & Mrs Pear and just briefly skimmed it. Enter big screw up.  The original recipe has  different layers of whipped goodness. The fruit is supposed to be buried under a layer but I totally disregarded that. Now looking back..the name actually makes sense.  Anyways, while I may have only had one layer & had to skip making the 2nd layer because I used too much cool whip on layer 1, it was still DELICIOUS and EASY.  It doesn't taste like a screwed up dish at all. 

Clearly, this dessert was a hit!  This dish was GONE in less than 20 minutes.  I will have to go back & try the original recipe at some point...but in the meantime, I will absolutely make it this way again! 

Berries & Cream & Crust
Serves: 15
Cook time according to Rachel: 45 mins
How difficult was this for Rachel? Easy! (Even though I didn't follow the instructions)
Yes, the jell-o was for the layer I screwed up 
1 graham cracker pie crust
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter, melted
1.5 tubs light cool whip
1 (8oz) package light cream cheese, softened
2 tbsp skim milk

Berries of choice to top
I used strawberries, raspberries & blueberries.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium mixing bowl, break up pie crust.

Mix in butter & sugar. Mix well.

In a 9x13 greased baking dish, spread out crust mix.  Bake for 8 mins. 

Before putting the filling on, the crust needs to cool. I put mine in the fridge for 15 mins to speed up the process.

While the crust cools, combine all the ingredients listed under filling.  The trickiest part is making sure the cream cheese is COMPLETELY mixed in.  I recommend mircowaving the cream cheese a bit to make sure it is really soft.

Once the crust is cooled, spread the cool whip mix over the top of the crust.

Top with berries of your choice. Fridge an additional 15-30 minutes so filling hardens up just a bit.


Slow Cooker Enchilada Tacos

Enchilada Tacos. ENCHILADA TACOS! Hello genius! Lately I've been feeling incredibly lazy in the kitchen but still craving home cooked meals...aka bring on the slow cooker! I found this recipe a while ago on Pinterest but as some pins are, it was mislabeled as a slow cooker recipe when this version is actually made in the oven.  Still being in my lazy state, I decided to turn this into a slow cooker recipe & let me tell you...it was SO delicious!!!!  The picture really doesn't do it justice.  It was simple & easy & pretty cheap to make! What could be better?!  I can't wait to make this again!!

Slow Cooker Enchilada Tacos
Serves: 6-8
Cook time according to Rachel? 6 hours
How difficult was this for Rachel? Easy

Ingredients (Yep, forgot to take a photo...told you I was feeling lazy)
4 Boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/2 Pkg taco seasoning
20 ounces (2 cans) Enchilada sauce 
1 cup Shredded cheese (I used 4 state cheddar cheese)
Toppings of your choice (we kept it simple with just a little sour cream)


Pour 1 can of enchilada sauce in the bottom of your slow cooker.  Place chicken on top.

Add in taco seasoning.  I added seasoning to both sides.

Cover chicken with 2nd can of enchilada sauce.  

Cook on low for 5.5 hours.  I moved the chicken around a few times but it wasn't really necessary.

Remove chicken from sauce & shred.

Place shredded chicken back in the slow cooker.  Mix in cheese.

Continue to cook on low for an additional 30 minutes.

Place in tortillas & serve!


Spinach & Artichoke Mac N' Cheese Bake

Do I even have to explain why I made this? I've had this dish pinned on Pinterest for quite some time and was just waiting for the perfect excuse to make this giant tray of goodness.  J & I had some friends over this past weekend as almost a sendoff to our current house (though our friends don't realize this was probably the last gathering we would have at our current home) because J & I are moving!  Things aren't final yet...but once they are, I will be sure to update you all. 

I had pretty high expectations for this dish and let me tell you...it lived up to every single standard I had.  I'd go far enough to say the Budget Savvy Diva is a freaking genius.  You get all the flavors of Mac & Cheese (which you all know I love) but then throw in the spinach & artichoke and it reminds me of a dip. 

I made the full size dish and we literally have one serving left.  There were only 5 of us here total...it was that good! A few of them even said this was one of the best dishes of mine they have ever tasted! Too bad I can't take credit for it.  Overall, this dish was relatively easy to make. Follow my steps & you should have no problem! I CANNOT WAIT to make this again!

Spinach & Artichoke Mac N' Cheese Bake
Serves: 8
Cook time according to Budget Savvy Diva: 25 minutes
Cook time according to Rachel: 35-40 mins
How difficult was this for Rachel? It got hectic for a minute, but tips below so you don't experience the same issues I did

16 oz shell pasta
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
10 oz spinach (if frozen, squeeze excess liquid out when thawed)
1 13.5 can artichoke hearts rinsed & chopped
1 cup mozzarella, divided
1 tsp salt,
Cheese Sauce:
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp mustard powder
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp onion powder
2 cups milk (I used skim)
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (I used reduced fat)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F

In a large stock pot, cook shells according to directions. 

While noodles cook, in a medium bowl, combine artichoke, spinach, 1/2 cup mozzarella, garlic & salt.

You will eventually be adding in 1/4 cup cooking water from the pasta. 

Mix thoroughly and set aside.

While the noodles continue to cook, time to tackle this cheese sauce. 

In a medium sauce pan over medium heat Melt butter.

Add in flour and mix until golden brown (or as seen above)

Very slowly add in milk.  Make sure to continuously stir.

It will clump up, but as you continue to stir and add milk, it will smooth out.

Add in pepper, mustard powder, & onion powder. Mix well.

Slowly add in cheese & again, continue to stir until completely blended in.

By now, your noodles should be done. Make sure when draining to set aside 1/4 cup of cooking water.

Add cooking water to spinach & artichoke bowl. 

Add spinach & artichoke mix to pot with noodles. Stir thoroughly.

Add in 80% of the cheese sauce & mix well.

Pour mix into a greased 9x13 baking dish.

Make sure pasta is evenly distributed.

Pour on top the remaining cheese sauce then top with the parmesan cheese & the rest of the mozzarella cheese.

Bake for 20 minutes or until the cheese is melted & golden brown.