Thursday, December 20, 2012

This Week's Menu

I cannot believe Christmas is upon us and I'm planning for The Dinner this week.  Where has the time gone???
  • Saturday: New Recipe! 5-Hour Beef Stew.
  • Sunday: Freezer Find.  I'm about to do a whole lotta cooking in the next two days.  I'm keeping my prep day SIMPLE.
  • Monday: It's Christmas Eve!!!  Clam chowder is my little Christmas tradition.
  • Tuesday: Merry Christmas!  After starting the day with our usual, I'll spend some time after presents working on dinner. Gavin has requested turkey, and I have my eye on a brining recipe that I'm dying to try.  I'm keeping the rest of the meal simple with mashed potatoes, steamed veggies, and hot rolls.
  • Wednesday: Leftovers
I'll be taking some time away from my camera and kitchen after Christmas, but will be looking forward to getting back to it after the New Year.  Happy planning!!
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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Teriyaki Chicken Sub Sandwich

I've always been one for a big smorgasborg at a party.  This though has me wanting to plan a party just so I can make this sandwich and have all my friends partake in it's deliciousness.

Teriyaki Chicken Sub Sandwich
Recipe from Jeff Mauro
Prep Time: 15 minutes   Marinating Time: 1-2 hours   Cook Time: 15 minutes

1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1/2 cup prepared teriyaki marinade [OR make your own!]
2/3 cup mayonnaise
1 tbsp Sriracha (Asian chile sauce)
2 scallions, white parts only, thinly sliced
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 small pineapple, peeled, cored and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
2 12-inch sesame seed loaves of Italian bread
2 cups shredded red cabbage

1.  Place the chicken breasts between two pieces of plastic wrap and pound to about 3/4 inch thick. Remove the plastic wrap, then combine the chicken and teriyaki marinade in a large freezer bag OR bowl and refrigerate 1 to 2 hours.
Truth: I took some extra help on this one and used bottled teriyaki sauce.

2.  Preheat the broiler OR grill. Mix the mayonnaise, Sriracha and scallions in a bowl; season with salt and pepper.
I. LOVE. This. Sauce!!!!!  I might put this on everything from now on.

3.  Broil or grill the pineapple slices until charred, about 2 minutes per side. Remove the chicken from the marinade and season with salt and pepper. Broil the chicken until cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes per side. Let rest a few minutes and then thinly slice on the diagonal.
More store help: a peeled and cored pineapple that I only have to slice.

4.  Sandwich build: Split the baguette in half lengthwise and lightly toast. Schmear the mayo mixture on the baguette. Layer the chicken on the baguette bottom. Top with the grilled pineapple, cabbage and the baguette top. Cut into individual sandwiches and serve.
A HEALTHY schmear of sauce.

Yummy, sweet chicken...

Ok, now I'm drooling...


It was pretty obvious to me that the men in my life were skeptical of this one.  So in making this for dinner, I made it a little more customizable.  Gavin and Kieran each had a little sandwich with just chicken and pineapple.  I would have been open to putting a little plain mayo on theirs had I thought they wanted it.  Rob was giving me The Eye about the cabbage so preferred his without that little dash of purpley crunch.  No matter what variation we ate though, the result was unanimous: Make This Again Please!!
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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Apple Dip

It's CHRISTMAS!!!! That means Christmas parties are coming.  That means I can make Apple Dip.  Because this is the ONLY time of year that I allow myself to make this.  And I only make this for parties.

That way I'm not left gorging on an entire bowl of it myself.  Because I can.  And I would. 

Apple Dip
Recipe from Quick Cooking Magazine
Prep time: 15 minutes

8oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup mini marshmallows
1 jar hot fudge ice cream topping
Lots of super tart apples, like Granny Smith
2 tbsp lemon juice

1.  In a small bowl, beat the cream cheese, peanut butter, brown sugar and vanilla until smooth; stir in marshmallows.

Use kitchen shears to quarter big marshmallows into minis.

2.  Spoon half into a 3-cup bowl; spread with half of the hot fudge topping. Repeat layers.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Chocolate fudge is NOT like Hot Fudge topping!!
THIS is the good stuff.

3.  Toss the apples with lemon juice. Serve immediately with dip. 
Layer 1

Layer 2

Layer 3

Layer 4

There are two things I've learned about this dip in the last 8ish years I've been making it:
  • Even if you prefer to eat sweet apples, you MUST get the tart ones for this.  This dip is rather rich and very sweet.  Tart apples have that bite to balance out the sweetness.  A sweet apple is just going to make this taste like sweet overkill. 
  • Not all fudge ice cream toppings are created equal.  A couple times now I have been lured into saving .10 and buying chocolate fudge topping instead of hot fudge.  NEVER AGAIN!!!  Chocolate fudge has a thinner, looser consistency that's easier to spread, but not dense enough to hold up that second peanut butter layer.  You really do need that slightly more expensive, thicker hot fudge topping.
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Thursday, December 13, 2012

This Week's Menu

I need reasonably nutritious dinners to balance out all the treats I have staring at me from the top of the china cabinet.  So. Many. Treats.

Anyone want to come over and eat cookies?

  • Thursday: New Recipe! Crispy Beef & Bean Tacos
  • Sunday: It's Christmas party time!!  So we're dining on Festivus Food this evening.
  • Monday: New Recipe! Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Sandwiches and salad.  Couldn't for the life of me find pork shoulder at the store so I'm going to make Papa's Pot Roast instead.  Still a new recipe for you!!
  • Tuesday: New Recipe! Oven Fried Ranch Chicken, corn bread, and steamed veggies
  • Wednesday: I better have a whole lotta Leftovers in the fridge after all this cooking!
Happy planning!!
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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Autumn Pork Chops

I've officially taken away all excuses about dinner.  There truly is NO REASON why you can't have a good, home-cooked meal at least once in a while.

3 ingredients.  About 30 seconds hands-on time.  VOILA, dinner is served. :)

Autumn Pork Chops
Recipe from I think Fix It and Forget It but no clue which one
Prep time: 30 seconds   Cook time: 8-10 hours

4-6 boneless pork chops
2 cups apple OR cranberry juice
Cinnamon, optional

1.  Sprinkle the pork chops with a little cinnamon.

2.  Lay the chops in the bottom of your slow cooker and cover with juice.  Cook on LOW for 8-10 hours.

These chops turn out tender and moist every time!  And after spending 8+ hours baking the previous day, I looooooooooooved that I could toss these into my slow cooker, splash in the juice, and walk away.  Absolutely one of my favorite, EASY recipes!
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Monday, December 10, 2012

Peanut Butter Popcorn Balls

I made these for Gavin's snack day today at school.  SUPER cute. SUPER fun to make.  SUPER easy!!

Peanut Butter Popcorn Balls
Recipe from Dig This Chick
Prep time:  20 minutes   Cook time: 10 minutes

15 cups popped popcorn [This is about 3/4 cup unpopped kernals if you're doing your own popping]
1 cup sugar
1 cup honey
1 1/2 cups peanut butter
2 tsp vanilla extract
1-2 tbsp canola oil

1.  Mix honey and sugar in a pot and cook over medium heat until melty and boiling. Turn off heat, add peanut butter and vanilla and mix well.
Keep stirring until smooth

2.  Pour the canola oil on a plate so it's easier to get the oil on your entire palm. Pour the hot peanut butter mixture over popcorn and mix as gently as you can.  You will crunch some of the popcorn and that's ok.  Just try to get everything fairly evenly coated.
I had to use my largest soup pot for all this popcorn.

3.  When you are able to stand touching the popcorn (it’ll be hot!), palm the oil with both hands. Grab a clump of popcorn and firmly shape into a ball. Keep it up, dipping in oil as necessary (to prevent popcorn from sticking to hands). Makes about 20 three-inch balls.
A plate makes oiling your hands SO MUCH EASIER

One of my favorite things about kindergarten is Snack Day.  I actually don't often get a chance to play with snack recipes as my boys are satisfied with fresh fruit, goldfish crackers, cheese sticks, and the occasional granola bar.  So when Gavin has to supply his class of 18 students with a snack once a month, I get pretty giddy about it and hit up my cache of snack recipes.  This one I mentioned to Gavin when I found it, and after he finished drooling he immediately requested I make them for his next Snack Day.  Happy to oblige!
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Thursday, December 6, 2012

This Week's Menu

I'll be honest: I am WAAAAAAAAAAAAY MORE EXCITED about the cookies this week than the dinners.  Just so you know...
  • Thursday: New Recipe! Baked Sweet & Sour Chicken
  • Saturday: COOKIE BAKING DAY!!!  My current (read: insane) list has me making seven different kinds of cookies.  I know, I know.  But do you think I'm cooking after a day of baking?  Hello Takeout Menu!
  • Monday: Leftovers
  • Wednesday: It's Girls Night for me so it's Daddy Dinner Night.  You'll have to ask him what he's going to make. ;)
Happy planning!!
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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Beef with Broccoli

Dear Chinese Food Restaurants,

I'm very sorry but... I'm breaking up with you.  I know this may come as a shock, but let's be honest here.  There's been a growing distance between us.  I know we've both tried to pretend the silence wasn't there, that things were just fine.  But they're not, and they haven't been for a long time.

You may not quite realize this but you've changed.  In the beginning, things were great!  They were amazing actually.  But now....  it's just not working anymore.

You see, I like my beef and broccoli untainted, simple, pure.  When I order B&B, I don't want bamboo shoots, onions, carrots, and a host of other veggies.  I truly just want broccoli.  And the beef?  Well, you have to admit that you've been off there too.  The flavor is just not the same.  It's not tender, and often overcooked actually.

Please know that I cherish the times we had together.  We had fun!  But it's time I moved on.  I found something else, and it works for me.  I wish you all the best, and know you'll find someone new.

With love,


Beef with Broccoli
Recipe adapted from Rainy Day Gal
Prep time: 10 minutes   Marinating time: at least 1 hour   Cook time: 10 minutes

For the marinade
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp water
2 tbsp canola oil
1 to 1 1/2 lbs flank steak, thinly sliced

For the stirfry
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 tbsp brown sugar
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
1 tsp orange zest
2 tbsp flour
1 tbsp dry white wine
3 tbsp canola oil, divided
4 cups fresh broccoli florets

1.  For the marinade: In a resealable bag, whisk together the baking soda, sugar, cornstarch, soy sauce, water, and canola oil.  Add in the steak strips, close the bag, and smush things around to get everything coated.  Refrigerate for at least one hour.
Beef: it's what's for dinner

2.  For the stirfry: In a small bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic, ginger, orange zest, flour, and wine.  Set aside.
It helps to have everything ready to put in the pan.

3.  Heat 2 tbsp canola oil in a large skillet or wok over high heat (when you can see it shimmer, it's hot enough).  Carefully add the broccoli to the skillet and cook, stirring frequently, until they are bright green but still crisp, about 3 minutes.  Pour the broccoli onto a plate and set aside.
LOVE LOVE LOOOOOOOVE that bright green color!!

4.  Heat the remaining tbsp of oil in the skillet; again you want it shimmering hot.  Add the marinated beef and half of the sauce mixture.  Cook, stirring often, about 3-4 minutes until the meat is cooked through.  Stir in the broccoli and the remaining sauce and heat through, about 1 minute.  Serve over hot rice.
Pardon me while I go mop up my drool

I won't embarrass myself by telling you how much of this I ate.  Let's just say I was really full when I went to bed.  So not only was this flavorful and contained ONLY the ingredients I wanted, this came together in less time than it would for takeout to be delivered to my door.

Oh yeah, I found something new and I'm sticking with it!
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Monday, December 3, 2012

Greek Layered Dip

It's the holiday season!!!  Do you know what you're making for the company party?  For the traditional gathering of friends (in my world that's called the Festivus of Christgiving)?  Oh sure, you could take something expected.  You could take something to munch on.  Or you could take something a little bit different.

Be different.

Greek Layered Dip
Recipe adapted from Sandra Lee
Prep time: 20 minutes   Cook time: 15 minutes

1 14-ounce package pita bread OR flat bread [use whatever you can find or is on sale]
Olive oil cooking spray
4 tsp Greek seasoning, divided [Don't want to buy a whole bottle? This makes just enough for this dip]
1 lb ground lamb
1 tsp garlic salt
2 cups hummus
1 to 1 1/2 cups tzatziki [You bet I made my own!]
1 cup shredded iceberg lettuce
1/2 cup chopped tomatoes
1/4 to 1/3 cup diced red onion
1/2 cup kalamata olives, chopped
1 4-ounce container crumbled feta cheese

1.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Cut the pita rounds into eighths. Split each piece in two and place on the prepared baking sheet, with the inside of the bread facing up. Spray with the olive oil cooking spray and sprinkle with 2 tsp of the Greek seasoning. Bake 7 to 10 minutes, or until golden.
Whole wheat flat bread on sale?  Yes please!

2.  Meanwhile, in a large skillet, brown the ground lamb with the garlic salt and the remaining 2 teaspoons Greek seasoning. Drain and set aside.
Make sure to drain off the excess fat!

3.  In a shallow 1 1/2-quart dish, spread the hummus on the bottom. Top with a layer of ground lamb, then the tzatziki. Layer with the lettuce, tomatoes, onion, olives and feta. Serve the dip at room temperature with pita chips.
Layer 1: I used a basic, store-bought hummus

Layer 2: Ground lamb

Layer 3: Tzatziki (you don't have to take the layers to the edge)

Layer 4: Shredded lettuce

Layer 5: Tomatoes

Layer 6: Olives

Layers 7-8: Chopped onion and feta

If you like layered dips, you will LOVE. THIS. DIP.  The flavors were soooo yummy, and all the textures perfectly balanced one another.  I'm honestly not sure who ate more of this at Thanksgiving: me or my dad.

And don't think that because the recipe calls for lamb, that you need to use it.  I get it, lamb is CRAZY EXPENSIVE.  So use ground beef instead.  Use ground turkey.  Use some leftover gyro meat from Saturday night's takeout.  Be creative!

p.s. Because of the nature of some of these layers, I would NOT recommend making this ahead of time.  Rather, prep each layer in advance and then assemble just before serving.
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Thursday, November 29, 2012

This Week's Menu

Know that while I was drafting this week's menu, I've also been working on my holiday baking list.  The fun begins next week!!  Oh there are sooooo many goodies to make....
  • Friday: Finally get to sit down with my boys for Movie Night with Pizza & Popcorn after a month of doing other things
  • Saturday: Lasagna, steamed veggies, garlic bread.  And yes, I'm doubling the recipe and stocking my freezer with extras! 
  • Tuesday: Leftovers
Happy planning!!
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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie

I am not above bribery.  If I'm making something for dinner that I'm not sure Gavin will eat, I like to have something truly decadent for dessert to see if he'll go for it.

Behold!  Something outrageously decadent!!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie
Recipe from Ree Drummond
Prep time: 15 minutes   Chill time: at least 1 hour

For the crust
25 whole chocolate sandwich cookies
4 tbsp butter, melted

For the filling
1 cup peanut butter
1 (8oz) pkg softened cream cheese [psst! Use Neufchatel cheese if you're concerned about calories]
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
1 (8oz) container Cool Whip, thawed

1.  For the crust: In a food processor, crush the chocolate sandwich cookies until they’re fine crumbs. Pour melted butter over the top and pulse until the crumbs look like moist potting soil. Press into pie pan and bake at 350 degrees for 5 to 7 minutes, or until set.  Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.
My camera didn't like the sudden BLACKNESS of the crust.

2.  For the filling: Beat the peanut butter with the cream cheese until smooth. Add powdered sugar and beat until smooth. Add in the thawed Cool Whip and beat mixture until smooth, scraping the sides as needed.
Be careful beating in the sugar that you don't cover yourself in a fine white coating.

3.  Pour filling into crust, evening out the top with a knife or spatula. Chill for at least an hour before serving.
Omg.  I could lick the screen.

Gavin likes to keep me on my toes.  As much as my Picky Eater loves sweets, if there's something on his dinner plate that he Really Doesn't Like, the absolute best I can hope for is that he'll consume his required minimum bites with as little drama as possible.  BUT, I'm getting sick of the drama.  I'm getting tired of his squeamishness over trying new flavors and textures.  So yes, you could say that I  decided to fight dirty by making a pie out of his two Most Favorite Flavors in the Entire Universe.

I don't care.  It worked!!
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Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!!

I hope you all have a blessed, loving, and SAFE Thanksgiving Day.  Like so many others, I am spending the weekend with family and will be back to the kitchen next week! :)

Funny Thanksgiving Ecard: Given the amount of food I plan to gorge on this year, I'm not confident in the integrity of this chair's construction.
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Monday, November 19, 2012

Cranberry Muffins

With all the Thanksgiving meal-prep craziness this week, don't forget that a good day starts with a good breakfast!

Cranberry Muffins
Recipe adapted from AllRecipes
Prep time: 15 minutes   Bake time: 35-40 minutes

1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup plain yogurt
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups chopped frozen cranberries, thawed

1.  Preheat oven to 375.

2.  In a mixing bowl, cream butter and brown sugar. Add eggs and vanilla; mix well. Fold in yogurt.
I love using applesauce in baking.

3.  Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg and salt; stir into the creamed mixture just until moistened. Fold in cranberries. 
Standard dry ingredients

4.  Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups two thirds full. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until muffins test done. Cool in pan 10 minutes; remove to a wire rack.  
Yummy yummy batter!

This is the PERFECT time of year to make these because cranberries are on sale!!  I like to crab a few bags and toss them in my freezer to enjoy all winter long.  The best part about making a batch (or double batch) of muffins is you're set for breakfast for a least a few days.  Just grab and munch as you assemble the prep for the rest of your Thanksgiving meal!  Or, if you have more time, savor the deliciousness of these, hot and buttered, with a glorious cup of coffee or tea.  Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm............
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Thursday, November 15, 2012

This Week's Menu

I CANNOT believe we are in the final countdown to Thanksgiving Day.  Really?  Really?!?  REALLY??!!  I've just realized I need to make sure I have all the ingredients for the dishes I'm contributing to our annual potluck-style Turkey Dinner.  Holy CRAP where does the time go????  I think my kids have something to do with time vanishing on me.

Oh well, at least I have a few days for any last minute trips to the store, although I'd rather get it all in one go:

  • Thursday: Date night for us!! :D
  • Friday: I'm heading out for some much-needed girl time, but my boys are going to enjoy some pizza pockets and popcorn with their movie.
  • Sunday: Pulled pork bbq sandwiches (I discovered some shredded pork in my freezer; yay!!), baked potatoes, and steamed veggies
  • Tuesday: Leftovers.  Need to clean out the fridge before the big Turkey Day!
  • Wednesday: Spending my day preparing for the biggest food day for the year.  My contributions include pumpkin pie (of course!), cranberry sauce, and some New Recipe! Greek Layered Dip to snack on before the big meal.
Happy planning!!
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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Pasta with Bacon, Tomatoes, & Cheese

I heard a few months ago that thanks to the drought we experienced over the summer, that not only will the cost of produce be going up, but also bacon prices.  So the last few weeks I've been doing what any normal bacon-love would do: stocking up every time I get groceries.  I haven't seen the price change yet at my grocery store, but until I do I'm going to keep buying packs and storing them in my freezer.

As a result, I have a nice little Bacon Stash living in my deep freezer.  And since I still have some tomatoes slowly ripening on my china cabinet, I figured that was Fate's way of telling me to make this dish.

You're welcome. ;)

Pasta with Bacon, Tomatoes, & Cheese
Recipe adapted from Rachael Ray
Prep time: 10 minutes   Cook time: 15 minutes

1 lb whole wheat penne
4 slices bacon, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup chicken stock or broth
1 pint grape tomatoes
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella
2 tbsp chopped fresh basil OR 1 tsp dried basil
1/2 grated Parmesan

1.  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.  Add the pasta and cook according to package directions.  Before draining, reserve about 1 cup of the starchy pasta water

2.  While the pasta cooks, preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the chopped bacon and cook, stirring every now and then, until crispy (5-7 minutes).  Because you never remove the bacon, and keep adding liquids that will soften it a little, you want it extra crispy.

3.  Add the onions, garlic, red pepper flakes, and a little salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes, or until the onions start to brown.
By this point you may need a towel to wipe up the drool.

4.  Add the white wine and cook for 1 minutes.  Add the chicken stock, bring up to a bubble and let simmer for 2 minutes.
Ok so not much to look at now but AMAZING to smell!

5.  Add the grape tomatoes and cook for a few minutes, just to start them getting hot and ready to burst.  Add the cooked, drained pasta and toss to coat in the sauce.  If it looks too dry, add some of the reserved pasta water.
I also have these pear-shaped heirloom tomatoes that need eating.

6.  Turn off the heat and add the cheeses and basil.  Stir to combine.
Cheese! Glorious cheese!

This is a comforting, carb-alicious dish with BACON and CHEESE.  Anything else I need to say to convince you to try this? ;)  I do like to cut the richness of this by serving it with a tossed salad.
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