Thursday, November 14, 2013

Thanksgiving Meal Plan

As I'm looking over the most insane To Do list I've ever had in my life, I keep reminding myself that I can't lose sight of one very important fact: I am hosting Thanksgiving Dinner this year.  *insert face-paling look of panic here*

Last time I hosted the single most amazing meal known to food-dom I was newly pregnant.  And not just "oh you're GLOWING" newly pregnant, rather the kind where any smell that I'd previously taken comfort in was suddenly betraying me and turning my stomach upside down and inside out.  I remember that Thanksgiving vividly and it's not necessarily with fondness.

That was seven years ago.  I've been that afraid to host again.

But now I'm over it!  Now I'm ready to host this giant turkey feast again.  AND I'm ready to do this with hardly any baking on Thanksgiving.  Oh yeah, you read that right. I'm making my dinner ahead of time!!  Because honestly the only way anything ever gets done around here is with some advance-prep.

So here's what's on my menu and approximately when I plan on making it:

Any Day Now
Cranberry Sauce.  Actually this is already done and in the freezer.  And if you try and tell me that you're just going to pick up the canned, gelatinous mass and will actually enjoy eating every last bite of it I might have to call for an intervention.  Cranberry sauce is THE EASIEST dish that will every appear on your Thanksgiving table.  It also has the potential to be the biggest WOW.  Who ever expects this dish of crimson goodness to be, well, good?!  And not just good, but kick-ass good.  So good you are actually reconfiguring your dinner plate layout so you can allot a larger area for this.  Don't believe this recipe is that good?  Make it.  This weekend.  I dare you. ;)

Weekend Before
Mashed Potatoes.  Yup, I'm going to be boiling up potatoes ahead of time and mashing them with some cream cheese and a whole lot of butter.  They'll stay happy in a casserole dish until they hit the oven shortly before Meal Time for a quick reheat.  And if Rob asks me nicely I might even top them with cheddar cheese and crumbled bacon.

Two Days Before
New Recipe! Brined Citrus Turkey.  Last year I experimented with brining a turkey.  I will never make turkey another way again.  It is pure, glorious, HEAVEN.  And honestly it's not difficult to do at all; it just needs a little pre-planning.  This one needs to soak about 24 hours before roasting.  So yes, I am roasting the bird the day BEFORE Thanksgiving.  No, I'm not going to Foodie Hell for this.  I'm going to spend my Thanksgiving Day relaxing and playing games with my family, and knowing my turkey is safely warming in the slow cooker, ready to eat when we are.
Pumpkin Pie. I cannot eat warm pumpkin pie.  Ew.  This baby's going to bake while my turkey begins it's bath.

Day Before
New Recipe! Herbed Oatmeal Pan Bread. Yes, I'm making up some old-fashioned yeast bread, in addition to everything else.  Time-consuming?  Sort of.  Difficult?  Not really.  Totally worth it because it can sit in the fridge for 24 hours before baking?  You betcha!!  And I'm going to be honest: you have not lived until you've had my mother-in-law's oatmeal pan bread.  Dinner's at 4:00.  I'll look for you about 3:30.  Be here. Eat this. You're welcome.

Guests Are Bringing (One of the biggest rules of hosting a dinner party of any kind is DON'T make all the food yourself if you don't have to.  And since side dishes are usually my stumbling block, my fantabulous parents will be bringing these wonderful delicacies)
Green Bean & Corn Casserole
Mandarin Orange Spinach Salad with Sweet & Sour Vinaigrette
Extra dessert, possibly something with apples or pears

And there you have it!  That's what we'll be enjoying come Thanksgiving Day.  There's been talk too about various appetizers to munch on earlier in the day but I'm not too worried about that right now.  All I'm focusing on is the few minutes of effort in the days leading up to this meal.  Because with those few minutes of advance-prep, I will have an almost completely stress-free holiday! :)
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Thursday, November 7, 2013

This Week's Menu

With this whole craft business thing, you could say that I've returned to the Working Mom world.  Even though the hours are supremely flexible and my office totally ROCKS, I'm working to balance deadlines and family again.  And when it comes to crocheted items, the next few weeks is high season for me!  So you're going to be seeing even easier, faster recipes in my meal plan for a while.  And if it's something that takes a bit longer than 30 minutes, it's probably something I've stored away in my freezer for only the craziest of nights.

Because I always have, and always will believe that eating delicious, healthy, homemade food does NOT have to be difficult or stressful.  It's all in how you prepare. :)
  • Thursday: Leftovers. This is probably the fastest meal ever.  And with my tendency to cook especially big over the winter, this means I can often have leftovers 2-3 times a week.
  • Friday:  Yes, I'm doing the same thing, but I'm playing around with different crusts.  Mostly because my trusty breadmaker pan is busted and we haven't replaced it yet.  I think I've got a new one just about figured out and will share soon!
  • Saturday: Polla alla Cacciatora, and rice.  I tend to stock up on chicken thighs when I see them on sale.  It's time to use some of them!
  • Sunday: Between the CSA and my parents, I found myself inundated with bell peppers recently.  So I picked up a flank steak and added two gallon-sized bags of New Recipe! Steak Fajitas to my freezer.  And yes, I'm already going to pull one back out to cook up.  
  • Monday: Out latest CSA delivery (and yes, I know I need to catch you up on those) included spinach.  So of course I have to make Chicken-Mushroom Quesadillas!  Just one recipe makes up at least four meals for us.
  • Tuesday: Rob might be on his own with the boys for dinner.  So I'll give him a break and just tell him he's making sandwiches.
  • Wednesday: Looking over this spread, yup, I think another night of leftovers is in order!
Happy planning!!
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Thursday, October 31, 2013

This Week's Menu

Ok so after two straight weeks of living off my pantry and freezer (minus a quick weekend trip to my parents' house and my mom's luscious cooking), I am SO FREAKING READY to get back into my kitchen and COOK SOMETHING again!!

  • Thursday:  I have been daydreaming about Papa's Pot Roast for weeks.  It's time to make that dream a reality.  With mashed potatoes and steamed veggies to go with it, of course.
  • Friday: Have you figured out that I rarely change our Friday Menu yet?
  • Saturday: New Recipe! Four Cheese Chicken Lasagna, steamed veg and possibly some garlic bread.  We'll see how ambitious I get.
  • Monday: Leftovers
Happy planning!!
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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Parmesan Chicken in Cream Sauce

It's recipes like this that remind me that good food does not have to be complicated food.

Nor does it require many hours in the kitchen.  How does 20 minutes sound?

Parmesan Chicken in Cream Sauce
Recipe slightly adapted from Kraft, by way of my mother-in-law
Prep time: 5 minutes   Cook time: 15 minutes

2 tsp canola oil
1/4 cup Panko (or breadcrumbs, or cracker crumbs, or leftover oven-toasted quinoa)
2 tbsp Parmesan
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup chive and onion cream cheese (or another savory flavor of your choice)
1/2 cup chicken stock

1.  Preheat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
Panko is the easiest for me to keep on-hand

2.  Combine the Panko and Parmesan in a shallow dish.  Season both sides of the chicken breasts with salt & pepper.  Dredge the chicken in the Panko mixture, coating evenly.
That looks pretty even to me, don't you think?

3.  Cook the chicken in the hot oil about 5-6 minutes per side, or until cooked through (lower the heat to medium if the outside gets too brown).  Remove chicken from the skillet and keep warm on a plate.
Golden brown, crispy chicken.  *DROOOOLING*

4.  Add the cream cheese and chicken stock to the skillet and whisk to combine, gently scraping up any brown bits from the chicken.  Bring to a boil and simmer about 3 minutes until thickened.  Spoon the cream sauce over the chicken and serve!
Just cream cheese and stock; no need to get complicated.


I love this one.  I love this recipe for it's simplicity, it's ease, and it's versatility.  I can switch up the sauce flavors just by changing the cream cheese.  My boys can enjoy their crispy chicken un-sauced while my husband and I go for an extra spoonful or two.  AND I can have it done, ready, and on the table in less time than it takes to watch the evening news.  BONUS!!
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Friday, October 18, 2013

This Week's "Menu"

Sooooo, when I said last week that I would soon be doing without a formal meal plan to use up the food I've already got stored around here I honestly didn't think it would be the following week.

But such is life I guess!

It's no secret that despite the relatively small stomachs around here that I cook Big.  I like big meals.  I like knowing that everyone can eat their fill.  And I like leftovers.  But know that for every Big Meal you've seen in the past few months on my meal plans, more often than not at least half to two-thirds of that dish was stuck in the freezer.  It's really an awesome way to stock up!

However at some point I need to seriously use up what's in there.  And when I went to find room for the lasagnas I just made up, it became seriously obvious that I need to clean things out before I can keep adding.

At a glance I know that I have half a dozen meatloaf muffins hiding in the kitchen freezer.  They're right next to the bag of meatballs and the carton of bacon sauce.  From our deep freezer, I already pulled out a container of black bean quesadilla filling to thaw, and noticed a few things of potato soup tucked away that need to be eaten soon.  I also seriously need to pull out the two turkey carcasses and make some stock to use for soups and whatnot this winter.  That will free up lots of space!

And this is just what I have cold.  I'm quite proud of how well-stocked I keep my pantry and know that I could whip up just about anything at a moment's notice.  Between the giant tubs of various pastas, cans of beans, several varieties of grains (regular rice, basmati rice, arborio rice, quinoa,...), vinegars, ready-made sauces, ...dinner really doesn't have to involve a frantic run to the store.  In fact, I'm already thinking some Chicken Biryani would be quite yummy this week.

So yeah...because I have other recipes I'm dying to make up and add to my freezer, I need to make some space first.  And this is the week to do it!  Wish me luck as I attempt to take on this week without a plan...I just might need it. ;)
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Thursday, October 10, 2013

This Week's Menu

We are fast-approaching a week where I might have to NOT make a meal plan.  Instead I'll force myself to cook entirely from my pantry and freezer.  I have so much food in this house...

But this is not That Week!  This week I have a plan.  YAY!!!  I'm always so much happier with a plan...
  • Saturday: It's time for my annual Lasagna Day!  Since we don't eat lasagna every week, or even every month, I've found that if I spend one day making four half-pans of it that we're pretty much set for the year.  I'll pair this with some tossed salad and garlic bread
  • Monday: Tacos
  • Tuesday: Freezer Find
Happy planning!!
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Monday, October 7, 2013

Roasted Vegetable Pasta Bake

So how many successful, tasty dishes does it take before I have to admit that I like something?  Because I'm still not willing to say that I like zucchini.  In fact, just the thought of doing so makes me want to gag.

But *sigh* it's happened again.  I found yet another recipe that incorporates this vegetable that I detest so much in such a gloriously wondrous way that I can't stop myself from having seconds.

Or thirds.

Or fourths.  Please don't judge.

Roasted Vegetable Pasta Bake
Recipe from Kristen Nelsen
Prep time:  10-15 minutes   Marinating time: 15 minutes to 2-3 hours   Cook time: 50 minutes

1 lb short-cut pasta, cooked to just under al dente
1 zucchini, chopped
1/2 red onion, diced
1 container sliced Baby Bella mushrooms
1 1/2 tbsp Italian seasoning
1 tbsp salt
2-4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup red wine
1 (24oz) jar marinara sauce
1/4 cup grated or shredded asiago
1/4 cup Parmesan
Shredded mozzarella

1.  Place all the chopped and sliced vegetables in a large, resealable bag.  Add the Italian seasoning, salt, oil, and red wine.  Seal the bag and smush around to coat everything.  Refrigerate at least 15 minutes, or up to 2-3 hours in the fridge if you have the time.
There is no way this combo could go wrong.

2.  Preheat the oven to 400 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Dump the contents of the bag onto the prepared baking sheet and spread out in an even layer.  Roast for about 20 minutes.  Reduce oven temp to 350 if you're going to bake the casserole right away.
I kid you not, this smells like PIZZA as it roasts.  *drooooool*

3.  In a large bowl, combine the roasted vegetables, cooked pasta, marinara sauce, asiago, and mozzarella.  Spread this mixture into a greased 9x13 baking pan and top with Parmesan.  Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes.
You bet I halved this and stuck one in the freezer for later!

What I seriously love about this recipe is it's versatility.  You can use whatever vegetables you want, whatever seasonings for roasting, whatever cheeses you like, fresh herbs if you have them.....the options just keep going!  When my friend made this for lunch at a play date, she used sliced zucchini and squash, plus a few other veggies, and my brain went to it's usual, horrified "but I hate zucchini/squash" place.  But then I smelled it baking, and I was intrigued.  And then I tasted it, and I was shocked.  And then I couldn't stop myself from getting a second helping that I inhaled just as quickly as the first one.

Something truly magical happens when you roast vegetables; all those flavors get concentrated and sweeter.  But when you first soak them in something as delicious as wine and seasonings, well...can you see how I fell in love with this one?

And yes, this is totally Freezer Friendly!!  So feel free to split this in half, like I did, or double it since it doesn't take any more time to make twice as much.
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Thursday, October 3, 2013

This Week's Menu

I said I'd have my meal plan ready for you, and here it is!

I like to keep my promises. :)
  • Thursday:   Leftovers
  • Saturday: "Roasted" chicken, and New Recipe! Cheesy Zucchini Rice.
  • Sunday: New Recipe! Pineapple-marinated flank steak, some kind of a potato, and some CSA veggies (spinach salad perhaps?)
  • Tuesday: New Recipe! Lemon chicken soup and fresh bread
  • Wednesday: Gavin requested pancakes.  I suppose I can indulge my boy :)
Happy planning!!
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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

CSA Week 9

Been wondering what I've been playing around with the last few days?  Here's our latest CSA haul!

And yes, it's a little smaller than previous weeks.  We put a few more things in the swap box this time for a more manageable amount of veggies.

For Week 9 we have:
  • Potatoes
  • Onions
  • Tomatoes
  • Winter Squash
  • Peppers
  • Beans
  • Spinach
  • Parsley
  • Kale
  • Eggs

We are supporting LOTFOTL Farm by purchasing a Seesaw Share, plus a dozen eggs.  This means we will get a box of produce and a dozen eggs every other week. To learn more about CSA's and how to participate, visit 
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Thursday, September 26, 2013

This Week's Menu

I'm just going to admit the obvious and outright state something that you've probably already noticed.

My recipe posts are just going to be sporadic for a while.

It's not that I'm not cooking (come on, you should know that much about me by now right?!), and it's not that I'm not finding some really amazing recipes.  I seriously do have almost a dozen recipe posts started that I just cannot WAIT to share with you!  But that's the problem, I have to wait.  I'm a stay-at-home mom to two adorable, active, entertaining, and exasperating little boys.  I have new, budding friendships to nurture and old, stable ones to continue.  I have a daily yoga commitment for my mental and emotional health.  I started a crochet business in the Spring that is happily growing.  And somewhere around here I have my beloved husband who I really do love spending time with. ;)

So yeah, my life is wonderfully, blessedly FULL.  I don't regret any single thing going on in it, however I do wish I could spend just a smidge more time sharing with you.  I ADORE talking about food, and I love coming to a space with my fellow Food Lovers and do just that.  I will continue to come here, it just won't be as often as I like.

One thing you can ALWAYS count on me to post though, is my meal plan. :)

  • Thursday: New Recipe! Tandoori Shrimp, rice, and steamed edamame. Omg what happened to the price of shrimp?!?!  It doubled???  Yeah...feeling thankful for an impulse buy of frozen gyozo a while back.  
  • Saturday: We're off to an evening birthday party for an adorable little two-year-old!
  • Sunday: Grilled brats/hot dogs, roasted potatoes & carrots, and a CSA veggie
  • Monday: New Recipe! Cinnamon Oatmeal Pancakes, and fresh fruit
  • Tuesday: New Recipe! Quinoa-Crusted Chicken, fresh bread, and a CSA veggie
  • Wednesday: Sandwiches for my boys as Rob and I are off to a Beer Dinner!
Happy planning!!
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Friday, September 20, 2013

Blueberry Vanilla Chia Seed Jam

As someone who has no problem saying that she doesn't really care for peanut butter & jelly sandwiches (I know, shocking), I find my growing obsession with jams amusingly ironic.

Actually if you stop and think about it, jams are incredibly versatile!  I mean, sure, you can stick with the universally accepted sweet jam to use on sandwiches and toast.  Or you can shake things up and make something a little more savory.  And from there, the possibilities are truly endless....

I stumbled across this obsession with jams after my PB&J-obsessed son decided to take several months last school year to explore other sandwich combinations.  Last summer I spent weeks amassing pounds and pounds of fruit, cooking it, and canning or freezing it so I'd be ready when school started.  And then Gavin began to ask for peanut butter and honey sandwiches, or just plain peanut butter sandwiches.  And my dozens of jam jars just sat on the shelf.  It didn't take me long to realize that I'd need to start cooking with jam just so I could use it up!  So my search for recipes began...

Blueberry Vanilla Chia Seed Jam
Recipe from Oh She Glows
Prep time: 2 minutes   Cook time: about 30 minutes

3 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
3-4 tbsp pure maple syrup
2 tbsp chia seeds
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

1.  In a medium-sized non-stick pot, bring the blueberries and 3 tbsp maple syrup to a low boil.  Stir frequently, and reduce heat to medium-low to simmer for about 5 minutes.  Lightly mash the blueberries with a potato masher or fork, leaving some for texture.
I just missed the peak season so used frozen blueberries instead.

2.  Stir in the chia seeds until thoroughly combined and cook the mixture down until it thickens to your desired consistency, about 15 minutes.  Stir frequently so it doesn't burn.
Use the best quality vanilla you've got; in my case it's homemade.

3.  Once the jam is thick, remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract.  Add more maple syrup to taste, if desired.

See how my search has paid off?!  I love the creativity of this jam!  I think it's easy to assume that jam is just simply fruit, cooked down with tons of sugar and some pectin to make it jam-y.  But that's simply not the case!  Don't use refined sugar in your diet?  Make jam with maple syrup or honey instead.  Not real keen on pectin?  Chia seeds totally help create that same gelatinous effect, while adding a ton of health benefits too!

So now I'm back to stockpiling jam again; but not just for sandwiches this time!  One of Gavin's favorite treats to take to school last year was the Fruit Oatmeal Bars.  I learned that a certain popular toaster pastry is really just pie crust and jam so we've had quite a bit of fun make various versions of those, with FAR less sugar and junk than the grocery store kind.  I've swirled jam into Greek yogurt and cottage cheese for a fast, easy, yummy protein-packed breakfast (or snack).  Some jams (like this blueberry one) I use as toppings for pancakes or waffles.  I've also recently discovered that jam makes for an AWESOME barbecue sauce ingredient.

Starting to see those endless possibilities yet?
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Thursday, September 19, 2013

This Week's Menu

I've got a couple of blog posts in the works that I'm trying finish up (and five more after that I'm still roughing out).  I have several crochet orders demanding my attention.  My oldest was sick yesterday so my boys are EXTRA energetic today from being cooped up inside when it was gorgeous outside.  The dog got into an argument with a skunk last night and lost.  I learned that it's difficult to sleep in a house that smells like skunk.

So yeah.  My life is a little wacky right now.  But no matter what, you know I'm still going to get a meal plan together! Because I'm stubborn like that... ;)
  • Saturday: We're helping a friend roof his Goat Shed so I believe a cookout at their house is in the works.
  • Sunday: Grilled tilapia, balsamic kale salad, fresh bread, and some other kind of side dish that I'll come up with later maybe after a trip to the farmer's market.
  • Monday: Meatball sandwiches, a CSA veggie, and oven fries
  • Wednesday: Leftovers
Happy planning!!
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Thursday, September 12, 2013

CSA Week 8

Not going to lie, as much as I love all the incredible produce we're getting twice a month, I seriously contemplated whimpering and then having a drink before dealing with our haul this week.

There's SO MUCH of it!!
One of these days I'll take my knife block off the counter before arranging the veggies.

For Week 8 we have:
  • Watermelon
  • Kale (should have had brussel sprouts but we swapped those for more greens)
  • Potatoes
  • Tomatoes
  • Kohlrabi
  • Green peppers
  • Onions
  • Edamame
  • Eggplant
  • Acorn squash
  • Rutabaga
  • Eggs (not pictured)

We are supporting LOTFOTL Farm by purchasing a Seesaw Share, plus a dozen eggs.  This means we will get a box of produce and a dozen eggs every other week. To learn more about CSA's and how to participate, visit 
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This Week's Menu

Looks like we are finally getting a little taste of Fall over the next few days!  I'm totally taking advantage and cooking a little heavier this week.  I'm also going to continue to make the most of my meal prep time by splitting most of these meals in two so I can freeze them for later.  Since it's rather difficult (and exhausting) for me to stock my freezer in one day's meal prep, I prefer to freeze things as I go along in my usual cooking routine.

  • Thursday: Quesadillas. Either this one, or this one, or plain.  I'm keeping an eye on a friend's little boy so I need some options.  And since I stashed containers of both fillings in the freezer, it makes for a super easy meal, even with three boys running around! (I hope)
  • Friday: Our usual but with a twist.  As the pan for my breadmaker decided to turn in it's resignation (that's a story for another day), I'm picking up some Papa Murphy's instead.
  • Saturday: Thanks to a little stash of peach jam, I'm actually going to follow the original recipe for Berry Whiskey BBQ Chicken!  I think keeping the rest of the meal simple with tossed salad and fresh bread will be awesome.
  • Sunday: Meatloaf, potatoes (mashed or baked, depending on the size of the ones we get from our CSA), and some kind of CSA veggie.
  • Monday: New Recipe! I'd like to play around with Pork Chops in Apple Butter since I have a couple jars left in the basement.  I haven't quite decided on the sides yet for this as I'd like to see what my fridge and pantry offer up to me by Monday.
  • Tuesday: Leftovers
  • Wednesday: One of the "drawbacks" of using fresh bread all the time is it gets stale quickly. I don't necessarily find that a bad thing though as I just cube up what's left and toss it in a bag in the freezer.  When the bag is full, it makes things like French Toast Bake a super easy meal option!
Happy planning!!
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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Crispy Southwest Chicken Wraps

At long last I have found the elusive pictures of this truly AMAZING wrap filling.

And when I say wrap, honestly you could use this filling for whatever you want: wraps, quesadillas, nacho topping, just plain on a spoon..... there's no judgement here!

So easy. So good!

Crispy Southwest Chicken Wraps
Recipe slightly adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe
Prep time: 15 minutes   Cook time: 5 minutes

1 cup cooked quinoa, warm or at room temperature
1 cup cooked, shredded chicken
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 green onion, finely sliced (white and green parts)
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
Juice of 1 lime
1/2 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp garlic salt
2 cups shredded cheese
Sour cream (optional)
6 burrito-sized flour tortillas

1.  Mix quinoa together with chili powder, cumin and garlic salt. Add remaining ingredients except for cheese and sour cream. 
Quinoa is so much like rice. But BETTER.

Admit it. You could eat this as is.

2.  Sprinkle cheese over tortillas, leaving 1/2-inch border around edges, then arrange chicken and rice mixture down the center of each tortilla. (Option: dollop little bits of sour cream over the cheese before arranging chicken mixture down the center for a creamier filling) Roll stuffed tortillas, leaving edges open and slightly flatten the wraps with the palm of your hand. Spray seam-side of the wrap lightly with cooking spray.

Special thanks to my 6 year-old for helping me with the pics of this process.

3.  Heat a large non-stick skillet (or griddle) over medium heat for 1 minute. Arrange wraps, seam-side down, in pan or griddle and cook until golden brown and crisp, about 2-3 minutes per side. Cooking them seam-side down first helps seal the long edge so they don’t fall apart. Transfer to a plate and repeat with remaining wraps. Serve warm.

Cooking seam-side down first ensures they won't open when you flip them.

I just have to say again how much I love the versatility of this recipe.  Even if you stick with using this as filling for wraps, you can still play around with it!  The recipe calls for burrito-sized tortillas, however I used smaller, taco-sized ones and thought they were perfect for small kids OR appetizers at a party.  I also found myself wishing I had the bigger ones to wrap up some extras for my freezer.  And a couple days later when it was leftover night, I was too tired to even make wraps.  But slapping the filling in between tortillas and cheese for quick quesadillas was just as good!  Sadly I think we finished this off that night so I could really test the nacho idea but rest assured I will!
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Monday, September 9, 2013

Balsamic Kale Salad

With all the kale we've been getting from our CSA lately, this one is fast becoming one of my favorite ways to prepare it.  Not just because it's fast and easy, but my husband likes it and even my two year-old shoves the dark green leaves into his mouth!

Balsamic Kale Salad
Recipe from Noelle Chave
Prep time: 2 minutes   Cook time: However long it takes your microwave to steam kale

**This is a Make Ahead salad.  You want this to sit as long as possible, up to 24 hours.

1 bunch of kale, washed and stems removed
2-3 cloves of garlic, smashed
2-4 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1-2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1.  Tear or chop the kale into bite-sized pieces.  Place into a microwave-safe bowl with a splash of water.  Cover and cook for a minute or two (NOTE: I have a micro-steamer bowl and a Fresh Vegetable button on my microwave so this step is insanely easy and fast for me.  If you don't have these things, use any container and cover you have and start with a minute. You want the kale to look really bright green and be slightly wilted but still retain some crunch).
Before steaming (maybe don't pack your container quite so full)

After steaming.  LOVE that bright green color!

2.  Drain steamed kale and put in a large bowl with the smashed garlic cloves.  Douse with as much balsamic vinegar as you like and toss to coat.  Drizzle with EVOO and toss again.  Salt to taste.
Throw everything in a bowl and toss.  See? EASY

This salad is everything a leaf-y green salad should be.  It's dark, it's crunchy, the balsamic vinegar is intense but doesn't overpower the kale, and the garlic adds just enough punch too.  Honestly, I fill up at least half my plate with this "side" dish and try to make my little bit of whatever protein we're having fit around it.  I. LOVE. This. Salad!!!

And I'm pretty sure that every time I eat kale, my internal organs do a happy dance.  It's a dark, nutritionally-rich green that I love to eat as often as possible.  My family?  Not so much.  So when Rob tells me that he liked this salad I wanted to stand up and cheer.

Now, for the really important piece: do my kids like it?  Well I've already said that my two year-old pretty much inhales this.  That didn't happen the first time I made this but I've learned to be patient with my children's taste buds.  My Picky Eater of course still claims to hate this BUT I've learned his cues, and he doesn't gag on it.  That means progress!  That means that eventually he just might learn to love this as much as I do.  So this salad will just have to keep appearing on our dinner table.  Yay!!
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Thursday, September 5, 2013

This Week's Menu

My son has been back in school for two days and I. Am. LOVING IT!!!!!!!!  And the best part is, so is he.  He is a kiddo who loves to learn, and thrives on structure and routine.  So being back in school, surrounded by his friends, and challenged for seven hours a days in perfect for him.  For me also since it means I can focus even more on my little man, my home, my business, and my kitchen.

Believe me, I haven't forgotten about my kitchen!  Here's what I've got in mind for this week:

  • Thursday: Leftovers.  The amount of food I have in my fridge is staggering...
  • Saturday: New Recipe!  Polla Asado, fresh rosemary bread, and garden-fresh tomato slices (because boy are they coming in now!)
  • Sunday: With football on TV all afternoon, it's easier to just go with the flow and plan snacking as dinner.  I'm thinking some chips with salsa and queso, fresh veggies with dip, fresh fruits, maybe some meatballs or mini hot dogs in barbecue sauce.
  • Tuesday: Tator tot casserole (with some pureed broccoli "hidden" inside), and steamed green beans OR a kale salad
  • Wednesday: Leftovers. Yes, when you make big meals you too can have leftovers twice in one week and not bat an eye. ;)

Happy planning!!
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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Zucchini Brownies

Anyone else out there becoming inundated with zucchini?  Yeah, me too.  And much as I like zucchini bread, I'm always on the look out for something new to try.

Yes, I know, this one still involves chocolate. But it's brownies!!  And honestly, these taste just as good as any box mix you'd get at the store.  And they're better for you too!

Zucchini Brownies
Recipe slightly adapted from
Prep time: 15 minutes   Cook time: 30 minutes

For the brownies:
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 cups shredded, fresh zucchini
1/2 cup semi-finely chopped walnuts

For the frosting:
1/4 cup butter
6 tbsp cocoa powder
2 cups confectioners sugar
1/4 cup milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1.  Preheat the oven to 350.  Grease a 9x13 baking dish and set aside.

2.  For the brownies: In a large bowl, mix together the oil, sugar, and vanilla until well-blended.
It's not easy taking an interesting picture of applesauce.

3.  In a medium bowl, combine the flours, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt.  Blend into the sugar mixture. [NOTE: at the point, the batter will be very dry and will more closely resemble sandy dirt than an actual batter.  THIS IS FINE.  DO NOT ADD ANY LIQUID OR EGGS].
See what I mean?  THIS is what you're looking for: DRY

4.  Fold in the zucchini and walnuts.  Spread evenly into a prepared pan and bake 25-30 minutes; cool before frosting.
Brownies before baking.

Brownies after baking.  Notice the little dry patches?

5.  For the frosting: Melt together the butter and cocoa powder, whisking to combine.  Set aside.  In a medium bowl, blend the sugar, milk, and vanilla.  Stir in the cocoa mixture.  Spread the frosting over cooled brownies.
Frosted.  No more dryness here!

Several months ago I resolved to give up hydrogenated oils in my diet.  As a result, my beloved brownie mixes were one of the many things I nixed from my shopping trips and have been struggling to find a recipe that is as easy, fudgy, and delicious.  These brownies fit all three of those criteria AND have the added bonus of being pretty durn good for you, all things considered.

Now, I know you're probably skeptical of the moisture issue in this recipe.  But please TRUST ME on this one.  Do not add an egg unless you prefer cake-like brownies.  Do not add any water or milk.  The zucchini gives off a LOT of moisture as it is cooked and that will turn your pan of dark brown sand into this vessel of fudgy delicious-ness.

As a little aside before you dash off to your kitchen to make these, I am not normally a Frosted Brownies kinda girl however these need the frosting.  Despite all efforts to fully incorporate the zucchini, there will still be some drier patches on the top.  The frosting smooths over all that to give these a final layer of moisture to seal in all that chocolate heaven.
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Thursday, August 29, 2013

CSA Week 7

I think this is the week that I'm gonna get creative with fruit.  Why?  Because I have so stinking MUCH of it!!

A smart person would have made special note of the two melons listed in our "head's up" e-mail and maybe only purchased one or two other fruits to supplement.  But no.... I went ahead and caved to my (and my boys') fruit obsession.  I bought five.  I know.

It's ok though!  Because there's a watermelon & feta salad I've always wanted to try.  And I'm pretty sure there are a few cantaloupe popsicle recipes out there.  I'll get it used up!

For Week 7 we have:
  • Onions
  • Potatoes
  • Tomatoes
  • Kale
  • Cucumber
  • Scallions
  • Corn
  • Melon
  • Watermelon
  • Purple carrots
  • Basil
  • Eggs (not pictured)

We are supporting LOTFOTL Farm by purchasing a Seesaw Share, plus a dozen eggs.  This means we will get a box of produce and a dozen eggs every other week. To learn more about CSA's and how to participate, visit 
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This Week's Menu

After a summer of "meh" and even downright flop recipes, I'm finally seeing some successes again!  I just added a whole bunch of drafts to my post line up and can't wait to figure out when on earth I'm going to sneak some time away from my crazy kiddos to finish writing them.  I'll figure it out. They have to sleep eventually, right?

Well, until I can get those posted, I'll leave you with this week's plan:
  • Thursday: New Recipe!  Roasted Zucchini Pasta Bake, fresh CSA veggies, and maybe some bread too.
  • Saturday: Last weekend's rib cookoff wasn't quite enough for my winner of this year's Best Rub.  He's cooking more ribs for us and who am I to complain? ;)  I think loaded baked potato casserole and salad would be good.
  • Sunday: New Recipe! Parmesan-Crusted Chicken with Cream Sauce, rice, and steamed veggies.
  • Monday: Happy Labor Day!  We're celebrating with more cooking out... burgers, fries, and some CSA veggies
  • Tuesday: First Day of School for my big 1st grader!!  I think he needs some mac & cheese for dinner.
  • Wednesday: Freezer Find.  I regularly add things to my freezer, I need to make sure I periodically go through and use them up so they don't get freezer burn.
Happy planning!!
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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Pasta with Corn & Kale

I am seriously loving this CSA and all the awesome veggies we get every other week.  Truly, I enjoy the excitement and mystery of "what's in the box this time" and "how am I going to use these.

But MAN it's overwhelming too.  I mean, how on earth can I use up all these veggies and herbs before they go bad??

So when I stumbled across a recipe that used not one, but THREE, of the CSA veggies from our most recent pickup I thought "WOOHOO."  Nevermind the fact that I would normally completely bypass this one, was convinced my boys would hate it, and wasn't even sure I would like it.

Let's hear it for experimentation!!  Because this one is so good I'm seriously contemplating eating this for breakfast.

Pasta with Corn & Kale
Recipe slightly adapted from Food Network Magazine
Prep time: 35 minutes   Cook time: 45 minutes

3 ears of corn
2 1/2 cups uncooked, short-cut pasta [I used whole wheat rotini]
2-3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2-3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 bunch kale, stems removed and chopped or torn into bite-sized pieces
2 scallions, chopped
2 tbsp butter
Salt & freshly ground black pepper

1.  Get out your rarely-used Bundt pan and stand the corn up in the middle of it.  This little tube will hold the corn steady while the kernals fall beautifully into the dish below it.  Using a sharp knife, cut the corn kernals off the cob. Then scrape the sobs with the back of your knife to extract the liquid.  Set aside.
Picture courtesy of my 6-year-old, with the help of a chair.

See? All neatly contained.

2.  Put the corncobs in a large pot and fill with water.  Cover and bring to a boil; salt, then add the pasta and cook as the label directs.  Reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water before draining.  Discard the cobs.
These help give the cooking water SO MUCH extra flavor!!

3.  Meanwhile, heat 2 tbsp EVOO in a large skillet over high heat.  Add the chopped mushrooms in a single layer and cook, undisturbed, until golden, 4 to 5 minutes (psst! You may need to do these in batches if you have a lot of mushrooms).  Season with salt, stir and continue cooking until tender, about 5 more minutes.  Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
I went for the "rustic" look and just hacked away at the 'shrooms

Don't salt until AFTER they get some color; salt brings out the water.

4.  Add the remaining 1 tbsp oil, the garlic, and pepper flakes to the skillet.  Cook, stirring, until the garlic is soft, about a minute.  Stir in the kale and season with salt.  Cover and cook until wilted, about 3 minutes.  Add the corn kernels, mushrooms, scallions, and butter.  Cook, stirring, until the butter is melted and the mixture is heated through, about 2 minutes.
Kale: before wilting

Kale: after wilting.  So pretty!!

5.  Add the pasta and 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta water.  Cook, stirring, until heated through, adding more pasta water as needed to loosen the sauce.  Season with salt and pepper.
Just start tossing everything back into the pot.

About 2/3 of the way through cooking this I really couldn't decide how this dish was going to go.  I mean, it's got mushrooms and kale in it.  But it smelled SO GOOD!!  But it has weird ingredients in it.  But it smelled SO GOOD!!  I was in some serious inner turmoil.

I scooped this into bowls and served it with some crusty, whole wheat bread.  I don't think I ate the bread though, as I was too busy inhaling this garlicky, corny, pasta-y goodness.  I truly could not eat my first bowl fast enough because I wanted a second so badly.  I did look up long enough to notice my youngest chowing down on the pasta bits and mushrooms.  And even my Picky Eater, who declared he didn't like it, didn't make that Super Gross Painful Gagging face as he ate his required six bites.  I sense an opportunity there to change his mind.

Because there will be other opportunities as I am SO MAKING THIS AGAIN!!
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Sunday, August 25, 2013

Bacon-Wrapped Cilantro Chicken

It's back-to-school time!  Kids are heading back into the classrooms, back onto sports teams, back into organized groups and activities......

In other words, let the REAL insanity begin.

Now, just because we're all racing around from school to practice to scouts to some other such thing does NOT mean dinner has to be equally rushed and crazy.  By now, y'all should know that it pretty much doesn't matter to me how crazy my life gets.

I WILL figure out a way to get a nutritious, home-cooked meal into my family.  And recipes like this one totally make that easier.

Bacon-Wrapped Cilantro Chicken
Recipe slightly adapted from You Hunt, I Gather
Prep time: 5 minutes   Cook time: 30 minutes

1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped
3 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/4 cup honey
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
12 - 16 chicken tenders
6 - 8 strips of bacon, cut in half

1.  Preheat oven to 400.  Heat a large skillet over medium high heat.

2.  In a large bowl, whisk together the cilantro, mustard and honey.
Basically, you want equal parts honey and cilantro, with slightly less mustard.

3.  Add the chicken to the bowl and toss to coat.  Wrap each piece of chicken in a half strip of bacon and carefully lay in the hot skillet (No toothpicks required?!?!?  HALLELUJAH and PRAISE JESUS!!!).  Quickly brown the bacon-wrapped chicken on all sides and then remove to an ungreased baking dish.  You don't want to cook the chicken in the skillet, just get the bacon starting to crisp.
No need to get fancy; use your hands to coat the chicken.

4.  Bake for about 20-25 minutes or until the juices run clear.
I may have gotten distracted unloading the dishwasher while the 2nd batch was in the pan.

When I first saw the measurements for this recipe, I was super skeptical.  I mean, I like cilantro but this really calls for that much?  So glad that I actually followed the recipe for once and didn't reduce it.  The Dijon totally stands up to cilantro's distinct flavor while the honey plays mediator and calms everyone down.  And with the salty bacon coming along and giving everyone a group hug, how could this dish not have a happy ending?!

Seriously, it takes seconds to whip up this marinade and minutes to wrap up the chicken.  And there's no reason why these couldn't be assembled in the morning, waiting to be cooked up when you get home at night.  See?  Homemade dinner is totally doable, even on the busiest of evenings.              

p.s. If cilantro truly isn't your thing then use another herb you like instead.  Just remember that you might need more or less depending on what you pick.  Parsley might need a larger measurement, while rosemary might need to be cut down a bit.  Play around with it!                                                                                                                                                                                                            
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