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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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Shepherd's Pie

Are you married to someone who, technically, "doesn't like casseroles"?  Yeah, me too.  And I take quite a bit of enjoyment in pointing out, every time I make this, that this dish is a casserole.  I always get The Look when I do.

Because what Carnivore can resist good ol' browned meat, mixed with vegetables, swimming in gravy, and baked with a sinfully creamy mashed potato topping??

Shepherd's Pie
Recipe kind of a mash-up adaptation from Pampered Chef and Rachael Ray
Prep time: 5 minutes   Cook time: 15 or 45 minutes

1 lb ground meat
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 cup stock or broth
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 to 1 tsp dried herb of choice
2 cups frozen vegetables
3-4 cups prepared mashed potatoes
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese, optional

1.  Preheat the oven to 375.

2.  Heat a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add the ground meat and crumble it as it browns.  Add the onions and cook until translucent.  Add the minced garlic and cook another minute.
I usually use beef, since that's what Rob likes.

3.  Sprinkle the flour over the meat mixture and stir to coat.  Let this cook a couple minutes to get out the flour taste.  Slowly pour in the stock or broth, while stirring.  Bring to a simmer and let bubble a few minutes until the gravy is thickened to the consistency you like.  Season with salt, pepper and your herb of choice.
I used beef stock and 1/2 tsp dried rosemary.

4.  Add the vegetables and simmer until heated through.  Pour the meat and vegetables into a baking dish and spread out evenly.  Scoop spoonfuls of potatoes around the edge of the baking dish and top with a little cheddar cheese, if desired.
I try to get more vegetables into my boys so I'm using mixed veggies

5.  Now you have some options!!  If you are pressed for time, you can simply put the casserole under the broiler, about 6-8 inches, and brown the potatoes a few minutes.  Everything's already hot and cooked.  OR you can bake this in the preheated oven (to 375) for about 30 minutes, until bubbly and browned.
And yes, I stirred a little cheese INTO my potatoes too. ;)

Yup, I was intentionally vague up there with the ingredients... because I think you should be free to make this using whatever flavors you like.  Not into red meat?  Use ground chicken, or turkey.  Someone in your family only like certain vegetables but not others?  I don't see anything wrong with 1-2 vegetables in this.

And about those mashed potatoes, that's how you can totally take this flavor to a whole other level.  A typical mashed made with butter and milk is quite yummy.  What about making sour cream and cheddar potatoes?  Or perhaps use up some instant roasted garlic mashed potatoes that your husband had leftover from his guys' weekend.  I'm also a big fan of stirring in some garlic/herb cream cheese into potatoes.  Whatever you like, putting that on top of a comforting blend of meat, vegetables, and gravy absolutely MAKES this dish.
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Thursday, November 8, 2012

This Week's Menu

I feel like I'm becoming a broken record here.  Honestly though, I cannot believe how busy my life has become! Every week I keep expecting things to slow down, and that soooo doesn't happen.  In fact, I think next week will actually be even busier than this week!  So a little less experimentation, and a little more reliable and EASY TO ASSEMBLE dinners are in order:

  • Friday: On the road again....just can't wait to get on the road again
  • Saturday: Celebrating my cousin getting married!  CONGRATULATIONS AMANDA & JARED!!!!
  • Sunday: My fridge is freshly stocked with leftovers again.
  • Tuesday: According to the calendar this day will be insane so I think a Freezer Find is in store.
Happy planning!!
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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Pumpkin Spice Mini Muffins

Soooo thankful that a friend of mine mentioned to me beforehand that for our boys' little Halloween party last week, parents were to bring a snack to share.  Yeah, I totally glossed over that part of the invitation; oopsy!

So thank you Nicole!  And thank you God for my well-stocked pantry that enabled me to make these little last-minute gems for our toddlers:

Pumpkin Spice Mini Muffins
Recipe adapted from Ree Drummond
Prep time: 10 minutes   Cook time: 15-17 minutes

1 cup all-purpose flour [OR use 1/2 cup AP flour and 1/2 cup whole wheat flour for some added nutrition]
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1-1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
4 tbsp butter, cut into pieces
1 cup (heaping) pumpkin puree
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1 egg
1-1/2 tsp vanilla

2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Generously grease 24 cup muffin tins OR line with paper liners.
I love the little spice bombs.

2.  Sift flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt. Cut in butter with two knives or a pastry blender until it is fully incorporated.
Looks like wet sand.

3.  In a separate bowl, mix together pumpkin, evaporated milk, egg, and vanilla. Pour pumpkin mixture into the flour mixture. Fold gently until mixture is just combined.
A little more folding and I'll be ready to eat this as is.  But I shall resist the temptation!

4.  Using a cookie scoop, fill the cups of your muffin pan. In a small bowl, combine the topping ingredients and sprinkle a little over the top of each unbaked muffin.  Bake for 15-17 minutes. Allow to cool in pan for 5 minutes, then remove and cool completely.
Aren't these just the CUTEST little things?!

These were totally perfect for little toddler hands!  And though, yes, there is sugar, I felt good about giving my son a treat that's also has vegetables in it.  I love these for an afternoon snack, or alongside an omelet in the morning to sweeten up breakfast.

p.s. Don't throw out the leftover pumpkin!  Scoop it into an ice cube tray, freeze it, and use the cubes to add to other batters, sauces, or mac & cheese.   Nothing like hiding a little extra nutrition in something, right? ;)
Save it!
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Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Pear Ginger Breakfast Cake (Gluten & Dairy Free!)

If you are not fortunate enough to vote at my polling place, and therefore have access to our PTA's bake sale right when you walk in the doors, rest assured you can still enjoy at least what I donated!  This year I made some chocolate zucchini bread AND two of these lovely cakes.  By the time I voted at 8:15, only one of the cakes was left.  How's that for an endorsement??

Pear Ginger Breakfast Cake (Gluten & Dairy Free)
Recipe adapted from I have no idea what website anymore because I've had this for so long
Prep time: 15 minutes   Bake time: 45-50 minutes

2 ripe pears
2 tbsp finely chopped crystallized ginger
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
2/3 cup brown rice flour
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp vegetable oil
Powdered sugar, optional

1.  Preheat oven to 350. Grease a medium-sized loaf pan. 
I made two cakes so I of course used double of the ingredients.

2.  Peel, core and dice the pears. Spread in baking dish and top with the crystallized ginger.  
My kids LOVE to snack on crystallized ginger!  That's probably why I'm low on it now.

3.  Beat eggs and sugar until pale in color and very thick. Add vanilla.  
Such a sunshine-y color

4.  Combine rice flour, cornstarch and baking powder. Sift over egg mixture and fold in. Drizzle oil around edge of bowl and fold in. Spread batter over diced pear.  
The consistency is similar to pancake batter.

5.  Bake for 45-50 minutes, until the top is lightly golden. Dust with powdered sugar, if desired. 
Ready for the oven!

This cake is AMAZING!!!  The cake part on top cooks up moist and delicious, with this thin crackly, crunch layer just at the top where it's golden.  And I swear pears and ginger are just about the most perfect pairing; they are juicy and succulent and oh-so-delicious underneath all that cakey goodness.  Whether you have this for breakfast or not, whether you have a gluten or dairy allergy or not, THIS cake is WORTH MAKING!
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Thursday, November 1, 2012

This Week's Menu

I am totally feeling refreshed after a week of cleaning out the fridge of leftovers, and even enjoying some of those Make Ahead Meals I stuck in our freezer. But now it's back to reality, and that means I need to get back to the kitchen:

  • Thursday: New Recipe! Salisbury Steak, peas & carrots, and baked potatoes
  • Friday: Our Movie Night Usual
  • Saturday: Heading out to eat tonight!!  Restaurants are a great source of inspiration. :)
  • Sunday: Feeling the need to keep things simple with grilled cheese sandwiches and some roasted tomato soup.
  • Tuesday: New Recipe! Shepherd's Pie and fresh bread or rolls (have I seriously never posted about Shepherd's Pie??  Oh I am soooo sorry!)
  • Wednesday: New Recipe! Forgotten Chicken, steamed veggies, and some kind of starch.
Happy planning!!
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