Thursday, September 27, 2012

This Week's Menu

While I'm scouring the internet for a good Red Beans & Rice recipe because now I'm obsessed with trying this popular Southern dish (if you have one, please share!), here's what I'm making in the meantime:
  • Friday: Pizza and popcorn. Need to go replenish my cheese powder because this popcorn is a mega hit for us!
  • Saturday: New Recipe! French Onion Soup.  I'm spending the day with some girlfriends cooking for our freezers so I'll be THRILLED to get home to this slow cooker beauty already done for me.
  • Tuesday: Leftovers.  It's a BUSY DAY. I need the ease of leftovers on this night.
Happy planning!!
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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Tomato Baked Chicken

So I totally vanished on you and I really didn't mean to!  Honest!!  Rob and I had plans to get away for a long weekend in New Orleans (OMG FUUUUUUUUN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!), and my prep time last week totally got insane. Just crazy town at my house.  And unfortunately, as a result, getting up this post about this dish I made last week went straight to the bottom of my list.

But I have it here for you now!!

(p.s. In case you're wondering, yes, my tastebuds are still in a Food Coma from the weekend.)

Tomato Baked Chicken
Recipe slightly adapted from Kraft
Prep time: 10 minutes   Cook time: 30 minutes

1 small onion, thinly sliced

1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast halves

1 1/2 (ish) cups chopped tomatoes, OR 1 can diced tomatoes, drained

1/4 cup balsamic vinaigrette dressing

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1.  Preheat oven to 425ºF.  Spray a 13x9-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

2.  Scatter onion slices onto bottom of the baking dish; top with chicken. 

I used a smaller baking dish because I was working with less than 1 lb of chicken.
Can you tell I forgot, AGAIN, to thaw my chicken ahead of time?

3.  Combine tomatoes, dressing and garlic powder; pour over chicken. Sprinkle with cheese.  Bake 30 min. or until chicken is done. 
I could probably eat the tomatoes just as they are. With a spoon. Not kidding.


I'm in a funny place with my garden right now.  I have a LOT of tomatoes, but they taking their sweet time ripening up for me.  There are TONS of green ones on the vine right now... and everyday I pick a few blushy pink ones, but not enough to really do anything with.  So slowly but surely I get some ripe ones and need to do something with them.  Like make this dish.  Which I think you should make it too.  Because it's awesome.  Even Gavin, my resident Picky Eater proclaimed this as good!
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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Taco Pizza

I am always on the lookout for new ways to make my absolute favorite kind of pizza.

And this one is SO EASY, I can't believe I didn't figure this one out on my own:

Taco Pizza
Recipe adapted from Real Mom Kitchen
Prep time: 10 minutes   Cook time: 15-17 minutes

1/2 recipe pizza dough
1/2 can refried beans (I like the kind with jalapenos)
Leftover taco meat
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup shredded cheddar
1 medium tomato, chopped
1 green onion, chopped
1 small can sliced black olives
Crushed tortilla chips, optional
Taco sauce, optional

1.  Preheat a pizza stone in the oven to 425 degrees.

2.  Dust your rolling surface with a bit of flour, and roll or pat out your pizza dough to your desired size and thickness.  I like my pizza crust fairly thin so my pies tend to be a bit larger.
Blank canvas

3.  Stir up the refried beans to loosen them a bit, or heat them in the microwave briefly.  Spread a thin layer of beans over the raw pizza crust. Top the beans with as much or as little leftover taco meat as you like.

Yes, those are black beans mixed in the taco meat.

4.  Sprinkle cheeses on top of the taco meat and follow with tomatoes, black olives, and green onion.

5.  Bake on the preheated pizza stone for 15-17 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown.  Slice into wedges and serve each wedge topped with crushed tortilla chips and a drizzle of taco sauce, if using.
LOTS of toppings

I absolutely loved this recipe because I could customize it to what's easiest for me.  I make pizza dough every Friday in my breadmaker, so using a hunk of that is healthier/easier/cheaper than buying the recommended tube of crescent rolls.  Also, as much as I love taco pizza, I'm not going to go out of my way to cook up a topping just for a pizza.  So using up leftovers became the way to go for me!

I may actually start making twice as much taco meat now for Taco Nights, just so I can have enough for my favorite pizza on Movie Nights!
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Thursday, September 13, 2012

This Week's Menu

It's that awkward time of year where some days the weather just SCREAMS for me to make soups, stews, and roasts.  But then the weekend hits and maybe a cookout and pasta salad would be more appropriate.  These days, I'm checking out weather forecasts almost as much as my cookbooks and recipe sites as I plan my meals:
  • Thursday: The weather is cool and overcast today.  Between that and the fact that the Packers play tonight, if that's not an omen to make chili then I don't know what is.
  • Saturday: It's going to be a busy day so I really want to do something in the slow cooker, but have no idea what yet.  I'm hoping the grocery store sale bin will inspire me.
  • Sunday: Grilling 
  • Wednesday: Pancakes! I'm thinking maybe whole wheat with some kind of fruit topping.
Happy planning!!
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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Cinnamon Honey Iced Coffee

Welcome to my latest vice.  Lately, this is truly how I make it through the latter half of my day.

Cinnamon Honey Iced Coffee
Recipe adapted from How to Make Iced Coffee cookbook
Prep time: 5 minutes   Chill time: 8 hours

3 1/2 cups cold water, divided
1/2 cup coffee grounds
Milk, optional

1.  Pour 2 cups of cold water into a jar and add 1/2 cup ground coffee.  Close the jar and shake it a little to mix it up.  Refrigerate at least 8 hours, or overnight.
I used my canning funnel to make sure I don't get grounds everywhere.

2.  Add 1 1/2 cups of cold water and shake to combine.  Line a sieve with a coffee filter and slowly pour the coffee over this to strain out the grounds.

Pour slowly so you don't overflow the filter.

3.  Pour the strained coffee into a covered pitcher or jar and add enough milk, if using, to reach your preferred lightness.
Yes, I like my coffee LIGHT and SWEET.

4.  The amount of honey you add will vary depending on how sweet you like your coffee.  I add about 1/4-1/3 cup, but admittedly, I don't measure this.
A little cinnamon goes a long way.

5.  Sprinkle in 1/8-1/4 tsp cinnamon and shake well to mix.  Pour over ice and enjoy!
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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Cheddar Popcorn

I've talked about my love of the Spice House here before, right?  I love that place!  It is sooo easy though to get myself into trouble and buy WAY MORE than I intended to get.  And of course spending WAY MORE money in the process.  Lately I've been better at keeping myself in check because I decided to allow myself one, reasonably-priced, splurge item per trip.

Well, my last visit there I let Gavin pick out the splurge item.  He immediately zeroed in on cheddar cheese powder.  And very quickly began to beg for me to make cheddar popcorn with it.

And a new family-favorite has been born in our house:

Cheddar Popcorn
Recipe adapted from The Spice House
Prep time: about 5 minutes   Cook time: about 5 minutes

6 tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 cup cheddar cheese powder
1/4 tsp mustard powder
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 cup popcorn kernals

NOTE: This is how I make this popcorn using the tools I have available, which happens to be an air popper.  If you make popcorn on the stovetop or in the microwave, you may need less, or no, additional butter.

1.  I have learned the hard, soggy way that when it comes to buttering your popcorn with the real deal, you need to remove the water from it first.  You can do this one of two ways: clarifying or browning.  I happen to really like the nutty flavor of browned butter so I usually do the latter.  To do this, melt the butter in a small skillet over medium heat. As it melts, the butter will foam up a bit (these are the milk solids, which you want to go away), then subside. Watch carefully as lightly browned specks begin to form at the bottom of the pan. Once the butter begins to brown, it can burn rather quickly so don't walk away!! Smell the butter; it should have a nutty aroma. Remove from heat and place on a cool surface.
Beginning to melt

Foaming! Just let the butter do it's thing.

Yummy browned butter

2.  In a small bowl, combine the cheddar cheese powder, mustard powder, and cayenne pepper.
Mustard deepens the cheese flavor and cayenne gives the corn a subtle warmth.

3.  Pour the popcorn kernals into an air popper and turn it on.  As the popcorn pops into a large bowl, slowly drizzle the brown butter over and toss to coat.
Thoroughly butter the popcorn before seasoning or you'll get cheese powder clumps

4.  Working carefully, sprinkle some of the cheese mixture over the buttered popcorn and toss.  Keep sprinkling and tossing the popcorn until everything is coated to your preference.  Taste the popcorn and salt as necessary (toss the popcorn again after salting!).
Getting closer to that perfect orange color!

Ok so though I have been known to eat cheddar popcorn, it's never been one of my favorites.  I'd much rather have the classic buttered-and-salted, caramel, or kettle corn.  This was the first time I'd ever eaten fresh, homemade cheddar popcorn.

Now I see what all the fuss is about.  I have been converted.  This stuff is ADDICTING!!
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Monday, September 10, 2012

Shrimp Scampi

I know, I know, I know.  I've already done this one here.  And I love that version!  I really do.  But sometimes, even with simple recipes, you try to find simpler versions.  Or healthier versions.  Or both!

This one is both.  Very little oil (heart-healthy oil, no less). NO BUTTER. And cooks in 6 minutes.

Yeah. WOW!

Shrimp Scampi
Recipe from Cooking Light
Prep time: 3 minutes   Cook time: 6 minutes

2 tsp olive oil
1 lb peeled & deveined shrimp [NOTE: if you peel and devein the shrimp yourself, expect prep time to be about 20 minutes]
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 tbsp lemon juice

1.  Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add shrimp and saute 1 minute.
Naked little shrimps!

2.  Add the garlic and cook another minute.  Stir in wine, salt, and pepper and bring mixture to a boil.
I love the freshness

3.  Reduce heat to medium; cook 30 seconds.  Add the parsley and lemon juice; toss well to coat.  Cook 1 minute until shrimp are done.
I'm not sure a healthy dinner could be made any faster than this one.

You could totally spoon this over some hot angel hair pasta.  But I absolutely love to tear off a hunk of warm french bread and use that to soak up all of this lovely sauce.  And if you're feeling guilty toss together a quick salad so you can honestly tell your mom that you do eat your vegetables. ;)  See?  Dinner on the table in 10 minutes.  Faster than takeout!
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Thursday, September 6, 2012

This Week's Menu

My boys and I are adjusting to new schedules! Gavin's in school all day. Kieran has finally given up that morning nap.  And I'm in the process of figuring out which extracurriculars Gavin wants to sign up for.  Which of course means meshing those practice schedules with the rest of our life schedules.  Ack!!

Before my head spins off from all this scheduling, let me give you our meal schedule plan for the next week:
  • Thursday: New Recipe! Shrimp Scampi, fresh bread, and tossed salad
  • Friday: Pizza and popcorn
  • Sunday: Grilled cheese sandwiches and fruit salad. Rob heads out of town again so I'm going to try and simplify my meals to make life easier while he's gone. 
  • Monday: Leftovers
  • Tuesday: Tacos
Happy planning!!
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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Get Ahead: Freezer Meatballs

My garden is just now starting to burst forth it's glorious bounty.  So my mind has totally gone off the PRESERVATION MODE deep-end.  I feel driven to put up as much food as I possibly can.  I just canned a whole bunch of marinara sauce. I'm anxiously waiting for more Romas to ripen so I can roast and freeze them.  I'm keeping an eye out for various salsa recipes that I could can as well.  I'm obsessed. Maybe I need therapy?

So is it any wonder that I'm thinking of Make Ahead meal options for my freezer too?  Just because I'm a stay-at-home mom now doesn't mean I don't need dinner on the table in under 20 minutes on occasion.

Freezer Meatballs
Recipe slightly adapted from Real Simple
Prep time: 10 minutes   Cook time: 10-15 minutes

3 slices sandwich bread, white or whole wheat, torn into large pieces
1/2 medium onion, cut into wedges
1/4-1/2 cup fresh parsley
1/2-3/4 cup fresh basil [You want about 1 cup total in fresh herbs; use what you like]
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1/4 cup milk
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 lbs lean ground beef or turkey
2 large eggs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1.  Combine the bread, onion, herbs, and garlic in a food processor; pulse until finely chopped.  Transfer to a medium bowl, add the milk and Worcestershire sauce, and let stand for 5 minutes.
I love when my food processor does the work for me.

2.  Add the beef, eggs, 1 tbsp salt (yes, it's a lot but you're using TWO pounds of meat here), and 1 tsp pepper and gently combine.
Be careful not to over mix the meat.

3.  Scoop about two tablespoons worth of beef mixture into your hands and roll into a ball.  I used my cookie scoop (aka melon baller) to make this part easier and faster.
I sterilize my scoop in the dishwasher after such non-cookie uses.

TO COOK IMMEDIATELY: Place however many meatballs you're using on a foil-lined broiler pan and broil, turning once, until cooked through, 8-10 minutes.
A dollup of marinara sauce + cheese + favorite sandwich bread = GREAT meatball sandwich

TO FREEZE AND COOK LATER: Freeze the uncooked meatballs on a wax paper or parchment-lined baking sheet(s) until firm. Transfer to a freezer bag and freeze up to 3 months. To cook, broil the frozen meatballs as above, adding 2-4 minutes to the cooking time.  No thawing necessary!!!!
Ready to go for later!!

I cooked up 10 of these right away to eat as meatball sandwiches and then freeze the rest.  I have to say that it never ceases to amaze me how YUMMY simple recipes can be.  There are no weird ingredients here; just run-of-the-mill things you probably have on-hand.  And the fresh herbs? Using fresh will definitely make a difference but if it's the dead of winter and your grocery store is charging an arm and a leg for them, use a couple tablespoons of good quality dried ones. 
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Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Cheesy Chicken Fingers

It's the first day of school around here!!  So it's only fitting that today's recipe be totally kid-friendly.

Or maybe I should say kid-exciting? Because Gavin kept checking on my progress of making these once I told him what dinner was.  I'm not sure I've ever seen him so excited to try a new recipe!

Cheesy Chicken Fingers
Recipe adapted from Food Network Magazine, Kids Edition
Prep time: 20 minutes   Chill time: at least 30 minutes   Cook time: 17 minutes

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, each about 6 oz
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 pieces of string cheese, halved lengthwise
1/2 cup flour
1 egg
Splash of milk
1 cup panko
1/2 tsp paprika, optional

1.  Place each chicken breast in between two pieces of plastic wrap and pound to about 1/4" thickness.  Season with salt and a little bit of pepper (if your kid doesn't like pepper, leave it out).
Got some aggression you need to get out?  Beat up some chicken!

2.  Place 1/2 of a piece of string cheese along the edge of the chicken. Using the plastic wrap, lift the chicken up and over the cheese and roll into a tight log; tuck in the edges.

It's kind of like making sushi, but not really. ;)

3.  Prepare your breading station by placing the flour in one dish and season it with salt and pepper.  Break the egg in the next dish and beat it slightly with a splash of milk.  Mix the panko and paprika, if using, in the last dish.

4.  Holding the chicken log carefully so it doesn't unroll on you, dredge it first in the flour, dip into the egg mixture, and roll in the panko.  Place breaded log on a baking sheet and finish with the remaining chicken breasts and string cheese.  Chill the raw, breaded chicken fingers at least 30 minutes.
I only made up 3 for us as Rob was working late.

5.  Preheat oven to 450.

6.  Bake the chicken fingers on a greased baking sheet until the chicken is cooked through, about 17 minutes.
Cute little crispy chicken log!

Some things I really like about these little guys:

  • They are super fun and got my resident Picky Eater excited about dinner for once.  I lost count how many times he said he was SO EXCITED to eat cheesy chicken.
  • Because of the need to chill them a while, I could make them up ahead of time while my boys napped and the house was quiet.
  • They used things I keep on-hand always, like chicken and string cheese.
  • You can make these as flavorful as you like by just adding more seasonings and flavor combinations to your breading station.  This one is one of our favorites if you need an idea.
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