Thursday, August 30, 2012

This Week's Menu

I have been SURROUNDING myself with new recipes the last few days. Recipes from Pinterest, borrowed cookbooks, new-to-me cookbooks from library book sales (those are dangerous events my friends. DANGEROUS), my mother-in-law, cooking shows....  Omg, I swear I need more stomachs to enjoy all the new dishes I want to try!!

Gotta pace myself...
  • Friday: Pizza and popcorn.  Gavin picked out a cheddar cheese powder on our recent trip to the Spice House.  So I guess I'm testing out cheddar popcorn recipes!
  • Saturday: New Recipe! Meatball sandwiches and tossed salad.  I want to try out a meatball recipe that's made for freezer storage and they can be used for any meatball recipe you want. *fingers crossed!*
  • Sunday: Leftovers
  • Monday: It's Labor Day!  And we have a freezer full of options purchased from a butcher recently so I'll let my Grill Master pick something out and go from there.
  • Tuesday: My new little kindergartner (!!!!) requested Cobb Salad recently.  I have no problem indulging him.
  • Wednesday: Chicken Parm Casserole, garlic bread, and either steamed veggies or a Caprese salad if my garden yields some ripe tomatoes.
Happy planning!!
Pin It

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Spaghetti with Bacon, Mushrooms, & Herbs

This dish is kind of a liar.

Oh sure, it drew my attention because it has bacon in it.  Uh, hello!  Everything is better with bacon.  Plus I wanted to play around more with mushrooms and my herb garden is exploding so making this was really no-brainer.

I was expecting a simple dish.  An easy, humble plate of pasta to serve my kids after a long day of playing and running around.

Easy? Yes.  Humble? HA!!  Since when is rich, flavorful, worthy-of-having-company-over yumminess ever humble??

Spaghetti with Bacon, Mushrooms, & Herbs
Recipe adapted from Food Network Magazine
Prep time: 10 minutes   Cook time: 20 minutes

3-6 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces [NOTE: if you use 6 slices, drain off some of the bacon grease before adding the onion]
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp tomato paste
12 ounces mushrooms, sliced [NOTE: I used cremini mushrooms because I like their beefy flavor]
2-4 tbsp red wine
1 cup pasta cooking water, divided
12 ounces spaghetti
2 tbsp butter
1/4-1/2 cup chopped fresh herbs [NOTE: I used basil, parsley, and a little oregano]
Grated parmesan cheese, for topping (optional)

1.  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until it begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the onion, garlic, red pepper flakes and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft, about 5 minutes.
The onions and garlic just MELTED into the sauce.

2.  Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, until the mixture is brick red, about 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook until they begin to brown, about 3-5 minutes.
I love that deep red color

3.  When the water boils, add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 6 minutes. After a couple minutes, scoop out a cup of the pasta water.

4.  Splosh the wine into the skillet with the bacon and mushrooms and let the alcohol cook off a minute.  Add about 3/4 cup of the pasta water to the skillet with the sauce; stir and bring to a low simmer over medium heat.
Let it thicken a minute or two while you drain the pasta.

4.  Make sure you have about 1/4 cup pasta water left, then drain the pasta and add to the skillet along with the butter and herbs. Cook, tossing, until the pasta absorbs some of the sauce, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the reserved pasta water to loosen, if needed. Divide among bowls and top with cheese.
My goal was about 2 tbsp parsley, 3ish tbsp basil, and a little bit of oregano.

This dish is rich. It's flavorful. It is so gloriously decadent.  I almost felt guilty that it turned out so well, tasted so fancy and fabulous, yet easily came together in under 30 minutes.  I love when supper comes together so beautifully AND quickly! 
Pin It

Thursday, August 23, 2012

This Week's Menu

It's Thursday!  That means tomorrow's Friday.  It also means I hit the grocery store.  Which means I first need a meal plan for the upcoming week.  Yay for getting something accomplished!
  • Thursday: Leftovers. It's a little mortifying to see just how much food there is in my fridge. 
  • Friday:  On the road again!
  • Saturday: Still out of town, but not for long
  • Sunday: Snacks. We're having friends over so it'll be one big potluck-esque snack night.  I've got some dip and cheese ball mixes that I'm dying to try out anyway. ;)
  • Tuesday: New recipe! Spaghetti with bacon, mushrooms, & herbs, and a tossed salad.
  • Wednesday: I must be ready for fall because I'm craving chili.  However I reserve the right to change my mind at the last minute and make a more summer-friendly pasta salad instead. Fortunately both recipes use mostly pantry-staple ingredients so I'm all set with either one I pick.
Happy planning!!
Pin It

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Chicken, Bacon, Cheddar, & Rice Casserole

I know I really try to present a positive face here, but I have to be honest.  I have good days, I have bad days, and I have INSANELY MANIC days, just like anyone else does.

And I'm pretty sure I will be having nothing but INSANELY MANIC days until Gavin starts his first day of kindergarten.  So if my posting becomes a little sporadic in the next couple weeks, please know it's not you. It's me.  It's me trying squeeze the living daylights out of these last two weeks of summer.  It's me trying to teach Gavin that stomping, screaming, and throwing a temper tantrum is not an appropriate reaction to my asking him to pick up his toys.  And it's me trying to keep my newly-walking Kieran from figuring out every child-safety lock I've put in place around here.  Because he can.  It's frightening.

Is it any wonder with all this insanity around me that I need such amazing comfort food right now?

Chicken, Bacon, Cheddar, & Rice Casserole
Recipe from What's Cooking in the Burbs
Prep time: 20 min   Cook time: 45 min total

4 tbsp butter
1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tsp seasoning salt
1 tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
4 tbsp all-purpose flour
3 ½ cups chicken stock
3 ½ cups milk
1 ½ cups uncooked rice [Note: I used arborio because I didn't have enough long-grain. Use what you have]
3 cups cooked chicken, shredded or cubed
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
1/2 cup cooked crumbled bacon [Note: I used 3 strips of bacon, but 4-5 would have been even more tasty]

1.  Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat and cook onions until translucent. Add garlic, seasoned salt, and pepper. Whisk in the flour and cook until the flour begins to brown a little, 2-3 minutes.
I love the smell of onions cooking in butter.
2.  Whisk the milk and stock into flour mixture.Turn heat to medium high and add 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese and continue to stir as mixture comes to a simmer.
It's a LOT of liquid, but trust me, it's necessary.
3.  Add rice and lower heat to medium low. Cook until the rice absorbs most, but not all, of the liquid and is tender, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes.
Wrong pic for this step but I just like taking pictures of bacon.
4.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
5.  Add chicken and bacon to the rice mixture. Pour mixture into a lightly greased 9 x 13 inch casserole. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup of shredded cheddar on top of the casserole. Place in oven and cook for 20 to 25 minutes or until cheese is melted and casserole is bubbling.
I split this between two 8x8 pans and put one in the freezer for later.

This casserole was just what I needed.  It's hearty, comforting, and TAAAAAAAAAAAASTY.  And I managed a little Get Ahead option by freezing half of it for another night.  I love that!!  Although I have to say the best part about this is that Gavin was so excited about it.  The entire time I was cooking he kept popping his head into the kitchen to check on my progress, or to say how excited he was about the bacon and chicken.  Gotta love it when a picky eater looks forward to dinnertime!
Gavin also helped chop onions with my new little manual food chopper.

Pin It

Thursday, August 16, 2012

This Week's Menu

It's really difficult coming up with a varied meal plan when your in the mood for one particular ingredient.  Some days I'm only inspired by chicken recipes. Last week, I looked back and realized I was on a pork kick.  *sigh* Sorry about that!  Whenever this happens I need to take a step back and think through what I need for meals (1 chicken, 1 beef, 1 pork, 1 pasta, 1 seafood, 1 vegetarian even if Rob gives me The Eye for it, and 1 leftover night).  I think I got the variety right this week:
  • Friday:  New Recipe! Pizza Monkey Bread..............and yes, popcorn too.
  • Saturday: Heading to a friend's house for the 2nd Annual Rib Cookoff.  Rob won last year's Best Overall, and I'm still trying to get him to hand over his rub and sauce recipes!  I'm excited to see what he does this year.
  • Sunday: Date night!!  And I think just some simple sandwiches for my boys.
  • Tuesday: Sloppy joe's, fries, and fresh carrots (or any fresh, crisp veggies I happen to have in my fridge)
Happy planning!!
Pin It

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Whole Wheat Chocolate Peanut Butter Swirl Doughnuts

I have a confession to make.  I am a recovering Nutella addict.

I'm sure the fact that I've had a love affair with the popular chocolatey hazelnut spread comes as no surprise.  But that I'm trying to recover from it may leave some of you wondering why on earth I'd actively try to give up something so decadently delicious.

Two words: hydrogenated oils.

Let's be clear here, I'm NOT a nutritionist.  What I am is an ordinary Family Cook who's trying to make some simple diet changes to better my and my family's health.  But when I made the decision to cut out hydrogenate oils, little did I know that my favorite spread would be leaving my life as well.


But..... I've found a replacement.  I can't believe I'm going to say this, but I like my new chocolate peanut butter spread BETTER than it's hazelnut counterpart! 

Now I can play around with amazing recipes like this one without missing a single thing, except those unhealthy fats. ;)

Whole Wheat Chocolate Peanut Butter Swirl Doughnuts
Recipe adapted from Gingerbread Bagels
Prep time: 10 minutes   Bake time: 9 minutes

1 cup cake flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup buttermilk [NOTE: Or plain yogurt. Or milk with a little lemon juice. Or 3 tbsp powdered buttermilk with 3/4 cup water]
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tbsp butter, melted [NOTE: You could also use 1 tbsp butter and 1 tbsp unsweetened applesauce]
1 tsp vanilla extract
6 tbsp chocolate peanut butter spread, divided

1.  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

2.  Sift the flours, sugar, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. Mix it up.
The usual Dry Ingredient Suspects

3.  Add in the buttermilk, eggs, melted butter and vanilla extract. Gently mix and fold everything together. Be careful to not over mix the batter.
Flour lumps never hurt anyone. Dense doughnuts from overmixing can though.

4.  Put the batter into a large resealable plastic bag and snip off the corner. Pipe the batter into a lightly greased doughnut pan.  Could you spoon or pour the batter into the pan to save the plastic bag? Sure, but be prepared for an UBER mess.  Piping is easier, faster, and cleaner. Trust me. ;)

5.  Put 1/2 tbsp [NOTE: don't have a 1/2 tablespoon? It's the same as 1 1/2 teaspoons] of chocolate peanut butter spread on each top of each doughnut. Using a knife, toothpick, or wooden skewer, swirl the spread around in the batter.
This brand also has many other PB spread flavors. I want to try them all!!

Use the knife to put little globs around the circle.

Gently coax the PB to loosen up and swirl around.

6.  Bake the doughnuts for 9 minutes.  Remove the doughnuts from the pan to cool and enjoy!

Though I tried to inject as many healthful alternatives into these as I could, trust me, they taste ANYTHING but healthy.  They are sweet, cakey, chocolatey, peanut buttery, puffed golden disks of pure heaven.

And in the 20 minutes since I've pulled them out of the oven, Gavin has told me no less than 23 times how much he's looking forward to snack time and he CAN'T WAIT to have a doughnut.  Because they are as good-for-you as I can make them, I'm more than happy to let my son snack on them!

p.s. Subject change! If you're keeping track of the new dinners I try out each week, I want to let you know that the Tandoori Shrimp turned out fine the other night.  But I'm sure I can make it better. ;)  So I'm holding back on that one until I can try it again.  Thanks for your patience!!
Pin It

Thursday, August 9, 2012

This Week's Menu

I cannot believe it's Thursday already.  This week has been FLYING!!  And everyday has been so much fun.  We've been busy baking a pineapple upside-down cake, swimming, playingplayingplaying, exploring the hands-on Pioneer exhibit at the local history museum, painting t-shirts, making patterns on bags using flowers and leaves.... the list goes on!  Yeah, I'm exhausted just rereading that. 

But I promised I'd get you my meal plan for next week, so I'm happily taking a few moments from our little vacation to clue you in to what I'll be making when we get home:
  • Thursday: Still on vacation
  • Friday: Enjoying a night out with friends!
  • Saturday: Last full day of fun before back to real life
  • Sunday: Brats, tossed salad, and baked potatoes.  I want to keep it to something that Rob can pull out and get started since the boys & I will be on the road much of the afternoon.
  • Monday: New Recipe! Tandoori shrimp with rice and peas
Happy planning!!
Pin It

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Camp Nana

No meal plan today as I'm taking the boys to my in-laws house next week for Camp Nana.  But I'll sneak in a plan later next week so ya'll know what I'll be making when we get back!

Happy summer!!
Pin It