Monday, December 31, 2012

Easy Veggie Side

So lately, the posts are just quickies - but whatever works, right?  

I was making kind of a bland chicken/rice/veg dinner for the recovering sickie.  I needed something different for the veg side, and I needed it quick.  Here's what I came up with (and believe it or not, the kids ATE it):

Quick Roasted Veggies

1 red bell pepper, sliced thin
1/2 any kind of onion, sliced thin
1-2 crowns of broccoli, sliced thin (leave the stems on)
a handful of asparagus stalks, trimmed
a handful of carrots, sliced thin lengthwise
salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Throw all of your veggies in a bowl (or skip it and just mix it up on the baking sheet), drizzle with a little EVOO, sprinkle with some salt & pepper, and toss to coat.  Spread the veggies on a baking sheet. Roast the veggies, turning every 10 minutes or so, until they start to take on some nice color and soften, maybe about 30-40 minutes, or if you need to fast forward things a bit, throw the oven into Broil mode, and broil, turning the veggies every 5 minutes or so, for about 15-20 minutes (that's what I did).  Yum.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Steak, Blue Cheese & Caramelized Onion Flatbreads

These. were. so. good.

For Christmas Day this year, we were HOME.  TOGETHER.  WITH NO PLANS.  It was great!  We had spent time with one side of the family at Thanksgiving, a few days before Christmas we had 2 days of fun with the other side, and on Christmas Day, it was just us.  We slept in, stayed in our jammies for too long, went sledding, watched Christmas movies (and NBA basketball, of course), and enjoyed a couple of apps.  We did meatball sliders, pizza dip, and these amazing flatbreads.  

We grabbed some Cybros sprouted pizza dough (check out their awesome products - we're huge fans!), and I stretched it out into some "rustic" shapes, and baked them for a few minutes - maybe 5 or so -  at 425 degrees.  Before they were totally done, I pulled them out, rubbed a little garlic on the tops of each flatbread, spread on some caramelized onions, some thinly sliced NY strip steak and of course a liberal sprinkling of blue cheese crumbles.  Then I put them back in the oven for a few minutes until the cheese was melted.  We sliced them up, put them on a platter, and within minutes, they were history.  

It's easy to caramelize onions - just put a little EVOO into a pan, and add in about 2 whole sliced onions - I had one yellow onion and one sweet onion, so I used a combination.  I sprinkled a little salt and pepper on, and then you need to stir them frequently, so they brown, but do not burn.  Burned onions are bad.  I'm guessing it took about 15-20 minutes, but it was worth it!

Meatball Sliders

These are too easy!

You can make these great little sliders for dinner, appetizers, or even just a hearty snack.  I made a big batch of meatballs a few weeks ago, and froze half.  This week, I took out a few, tossed them in some sauce, and simmered them until they were heated through.  Try them on Hawaiian bread dinner rolls (you can find them in the deli) - we love the soft, sweet rolls with the hearty meatballs, with a little extra dab of sauce and some mozzarella cheese.  Good stuff!  

Friday, December 21, 2012

Christmas Cookies

In a good year, I usually make about 10 different kinds of Christmas cookies.

I didn't bake much this year - there wasn't time, it seemed, but mostly the motivation wasn't quite there. I made banket, and I made some sugar cookie cut-outs with the little Baker, and today we whipped up a batch of the classic Peanut Blossoms.

Here are a few of the recipes I had WANTED to make, but didn't get to this year:

Cranberry Walnut Pinwheels 
Wisconsin Electric Cookie Book (2002)

Dough1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Filling1/2 cup finely chopped fresh cranberries
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
3 tablespoons orange marmalade
In a small bowl, combine cranberries, walnuts and marmalade.

In a medium size bowl, combine flour, baking power and salt; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla; continue to beat until well mixed. Gradually add the reserved flour mixture, beating until the dry ingredients are moistened. Shape into a ball, cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour or until easy to handle. Make Filling.

On a lightly floured surface, roll chilled dough into a 15 x 9-inch rectangle. Spread filling to within 1/2 inch of edges. Roll up tightly, beginning with the long side. Cut roll in half; wrap each half in plastic wrap. Chill several hours or overnight.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Slice cookies 1/2-inch thick; place on parchment lined or lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 to 13 minutes or until lightly browned. Makes 4 to 5 dozen. Great recipe for the holidays.

Cherry Almond Surprises 
Wisconsin Electric Cookie Book (1952)

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
6 tbsp. powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup evaporated milk
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup almonds, finely chopped
1 pound candied cherries
Powdered sugar to coat

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Sift flour, powdered sugar and salt together. In a separate bowl, cream butter. Add evaporated milk to butter a little at a time; mix until smooth. Add almond extract, vanilla, sifted dry ingredients and nuts. Blend well. Flatten a level teaspoonful of dough in palm of hand. Place cherry in center. Bring dough around cherry to form a ball. Roll between palms until smooth. Place on greased cookie sheets. Bake at 400 degrees about 10 to 12 minutes. Roll cookies in powdered sugar while hot. Makes 4 to 5 dozen.

Peppermint Bark
1 pound (16 ounces) chopped bittersweet chocolate
½ teaspoon (or more to taste) peppermint extract
1 pound (16 ounces) chopped white chocolate
¾ cup chopped candy canes

Line an 11 x 17-inch baking sheet with foil and set aside.  Melt bittersweet chocolate in the top of a double boiler over lightly boiling water, stirring constantly. Stir in ¼ teaspoon of peppermint extract (or more to taste). Spread chocolate evenly onto the prepared sheet, using an off-set spatula. Chill until set, about 1 hour. Melt white chocolate in the top of a double boiler over lightly boiling water, stirring constantly. Stir in remaining ¼ teaspoon of peppermint extract, (or more to taste) then add candy canes and stir to combine.  Spread white chocolate mixture over chilled dark chocolate, spreading to the edge of the pan with an off-set spatula -wait until it's hard enough, or you'll get a "muddy" white chocolate layer.  Chill until set, about four hours or overnight. Refrigerate until just before serving, then break into pieces and serve or package as gifts. Will keep in fridge for about a month (if it lasts that long!).

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Spaghetti & Meatballs

Did you ever eat spaghetti & meatballs.....from a CAN?

I admit it, I have I my lifetime - I think I've blocked out the memories, though - ugh!  Those creepy mystery lumps and salty, orange sauce.... Our kids dig spaghetti, so I usually just make a meat sauce and serve with spaghetti noodles, but I was inspired to make some meatballs to change things up a little bit from a piece in the Sunday paper Food section.  I figured I could make meatball subs or little meatball sliders with some, too.

I just made about 1/3 of this recipe, because it made a lot, and well, I was trying it for the first time.  I used a 1:1 ratio of Italian sausage, and based on the feedback of my son, I would likely made it a 2:1 beef to sausage ratio next time.  I also used a jarred sauce, because I thought I had tomatoes to make some sauce, and ended up not having any (time to straighten up the cupboards!).

I baked the meatballs in the oven, then tossed them in a pot of sauce to kind of finish cooking and add a little flavor.  I froze half of the batch, so we can either do another batch of sauce and meatballs over noodles, or do some sliders or subs.  I think this could be a decent freezer meal for a swap, to....

Here's the recipe I used, based on the one in the article (which by the way, says his recipe makes 24-30 meatballs - um, they must have been giant - I filled a whole jelly roll pan with 1/3 of the recipe)!


1 lb. ground beef
1 lb. Italian sausage (bulk or removed from casings)
1 egg
1 c. Panko breadcrumbs
2  tbsp. garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tbsp. Italian seasoning (I have a rosemary plant, so I minced up some fresh and added it, too)
1-2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place all ingredients in a large bowl. Mix well with your hands. (I actually added it all to a gallon-sized bag, and kneaded the mixture to avoid gross raw meat hands.  Fashion into small meatballs. (I love the Playtex disposable gloves they sell at the grocery store - they help me dig in to raw meat projects.)  Place in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheets. Bake in preheated oven 45 to 50 minutes or until cooked through. Serve with hot cooked spaghetti and spaghetti sauce (or freeze, or make meatball subs).

Sunday, December 2, 2012

My Go-To Cranberry Sauce

This is not from a can, baby - it's just about as easy, though!  This is my favorite recipe for cranberry sauce - simple, and really tasty.

Simple Cranberry Sauce

16 oz. fresh cranberries
1-1/2 c. granulated sugar (I even go as low as 1 c.)
1/2 c. water
1/2 c. fresh orange juice
1 tbsp. fresh ginger, finely chopped (I just use my microplane grater)
Zest from 1 orange (again, breaking out the microplane grater) - be sure to avoid the bitter white stuff

Combine all ingredients in a heavy saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the berries pop
open, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat.  It will smell AMAZING in the kitchen!  If you're creeped out by it, you can skim any foam off the surface with a metal spoon and discard, but I don't usually do that.  Cool to room temperature, and refrigerate, covered, for up to 3 months.

Saturday, December 1, 2012


Banket is a traditional Dutch treat that my family has enjoyed for as long as I can remember. 

It takes some work to make it, so you don’t see it around as much as you used to.  This recipe is from a friend at school – the closest I can get to my Grandma Hoekstra’s banket.  It was always out at Christmas, and it was sooooo good!  It can be frozen, but usually it’s totally consumed before there's a chance.   I tend to make this during the holidays, and make 8 sticks at a time.  I'll add some photos when I make it again this year.


1 cup almond paste                                       
¼ cup cornstarch
1 cup sugar                                                     
 2 cups flour
1 egg                                                               
1 cup butter
1 egg separated                                              
¼ cup water (ice cold)

Let paste, sugar, egg, egg yolk and cornstarch stand in bowl for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 400°F.  Blend flour, butter and water in bowl like pie crust.  Dough may be refrigerated overnight if desired.  (I usually keep one part chilled in the refrigerator-while working with the other part)  When ready to prepare, divide dough into 2 equal parts.  Roll each part on floured board to 8”x 13” rectangle.  Cut lengthwise into 2 equal strips (4 strips, each 4”x 13”, in all.)

Prepare the filling by mixing the almond paste, sugar, eggs, and cornstarch.  Form into 4 cylinders, each 12” long and the diameter of a dime.  Place filling rolls on length of dough.  Fold over the ends and then the long sides, moistening one side to seal before pressing.

Place with the seam side down on cookie sheet.  Prick holes on top for air.  Beat egg white and brush the top of the rolls.  Bake for 14 minutes, then reduce heat to 325°F and bake for 20 minutes more, or until light brown.  Place each stick on a piece of cardboard cut to the right size, wrapped in foil, and wrap the entire stick tightly in plastic wrap.  

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!!

 I am so very thankful today.

We are so blessed! We're having a great time with family, and the smells starting to come from the kitchen are intoxicating...  Here's what we're trying for the turkey this year:  Turkey with Lemon-Sage Butter.  We even grabbed some fresh sage from the garden.  It. smells. awesome.  We're keeping it really basic this year with all of the varied tastes in the extended family.  We've got mashed potatoes with gravy, Grandmother's Stuffing, green bean casserole, corn and rolls on the menu, with homemade Dutch apple and pumpkin pies for dessert.

Time to go baste that turkey....

Have a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Feeding Hungry Teens

Pizza?  Burgers? Again??

Even my teenage boy gets sick of those from time to time.   It's true.  We're having a bunch of teenage dudes over tonight, and I decided to go outside the comfort zone of cheap, take-out pizza and do a build-your-own taco or nacho bar.

This works out really well, since we have a variety of tastes and dietary restrictions - everyone can customize their own!  Here's what I did - it's so very easy:
  • Shredded, seasoned chicken (a bunch of breasts in the crock pot with some garlic, onion, broth and taco seasoning, then shredded when cooked until tender)
  • Seasoned beef (a.k.a. taco meat!)
  • hard and soft tortilla shells, as well as tortilla chips and lettuce for alternatives (you can also do rice for a rice bowl or "naked" burrito)
  • cheese - shredded cheddar, jack and cotija (you coudl also use a nacho cheese sauce)
  • sour cream
  • shredded lettuce
  • sliced black olives
  • diced Roma tomatoes
  • taco sauce/Tabasco/salsa
  • sliced jalapenos
  • black beans
  • for the more adventurous you could add some picked red onions, sliced radishes, chopped fresh cilantro, etc.  (I didn't have those this time)
For the sides, we have chips & salsa, fruit, veggies, etc.  You can customize the toppings and sides to your liking.  Try it sometime, and put your own spin on it - this also works for a big crowd - I've done lunches for my husband's work team, a big ladies luncheon, etc.  Somewhere on here, I did a post on feeding a crowd, and there are a few other menu options - when I find it, I'll link it here.  In the meantime, enjoy a build-your-own taco bar!

P.S.  We built giant platters of nachos for a late night snack using the leftovers - it worked out perfectly!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

No Special Occasion Needed

On Monday night, we had a really fab steak dinner.

On a random Monday evening, for no reason at all.  We had some Ney's steaks (our favorite beef) thawing, so I marinated them, and grilled by flashlight, hence the medium-well appearance (oh, Daylight Savings...).  For the sides, we kept it simple with baked potatoes and roasted asparagus with blue cheese sauce.  It. was. awesome.  Sometimes it's nice to splurge for no reason, or to make up a silly reason.  We would have waited until Tuesday night and celebrated the end of the endless political ads, but we had a busy night scheduled. 

Here's the steak marinade recipe, ripped out from a Martha Stewart Magazine circa July, 2002, I believe. We used NY Strip Steaks, so we went all fancy with the meat this time.

For the asparagus, I preheated the oven to 425 degrees, then put the asparagus spears on a hot baking sheet, sprayed with some evoo and seasoned with a little salt & pepper, and roasted until they were tender, about 15-20 minutes, maybe?  I shook the pan a few times to turn them, too.  Here's the blue cheese sauce recipe, from one of my friends.  We left out the chives just because I didn't have any on hand, and it was too dark to go out and see if there were any left in the garden!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Kid-Approved Copycat Recipes

Sometimes, re-creating a restaurant favorite does the trick!

I've been struggling with the kids and their tastes lately, so I resorted to making some of their restaurant favorites.  It's an easy way to know they're going to eat their dinner - without always serving pizza, tacos, spaghetti, burgers and steak.  None of the restaurants we frequent are in any danger of losing our business, either - they still do it best - but sometimes a mom has to try to save a buck (or a few hundred calories!). 

We all love Penne Rosa at Noodles, which we've sort of re-created (see the post here).  That one is a family favorite across the board. 

Most recently we made "CBR's" (their nickname for a Chicken Bacon Ranch sub from Subway).  I hate Subway - sorry, but I've had one too many gross experiences there.  The kids, however, love this sub.  So the other night, I made my version at home, and they raved!

I used a soft roll (I actually grabbed a day old loaf from Jimmy John's - they're like 25 or 50 cents, and they still taste GREAT!), with chicken strips I sliced and cooked up, seasoned with salt, pepper and a little garlic powder,  some shredded jack cheese, bacon, and yogurt ranch dressing.  I threw them under the broiler to melt the cheese before adding the dressing.  My daughter likes sliced black olives on hers (ew), so I added those to hers.  We served with some fruit and carrots, and some oven fries, and they were happy campers.

Another favorite is the "Billy Barou" nachos from Moe's - we call them Jilly Barou's (har, har).  We honed our nacho-building skills during a volunteer stint at the stadium 2 summers ago, and are now we are nacho experts.  These ones just have shredded chicken mixed with Frank's Red Hot Buffalo sauce (plain chicken for the little Baker), some shredded cheese (or a cheese sauce), and then whatever toppings one likes on their nachos - sour cream, jalapenos, shredded lettuce, chopped fresh cilantro, salsa, etc.

For the Olive Garden fans, we have a version of Zuppa Toscana - (see my post here) - and it's delicious! 

Other easy copycats we've tried include a buffalo blue cheese bacon burger (yeah, I know - our version is smaller, at least!), a favorite sandwich from a little cafe with turkey and havarti, homemade chicken nuggets, and beef barbacoa burrito bowls with cilantro lime rice. 

Feel free to share your favorite restaurant copycats or makeovers!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Cookin' Up Some Comfort (in Pot Pie Form!)

I love comfort food.  

With some caution, I'm going a little comfort food-crazy in the kitchen this weekend.  I feel the desire to prep some freezer meals and do some cooking, so I need to take advantage of that feeling, as it has become more rare recently.  I'm making 2 chicken pot pies a la my friend Amy, some skinny chicken parm, some more apple sauce, some cranberry sauce, some soup(s), and maybe a loaf or two of bread.  Then I want to try to find some dessert recipes to use up some of those trick or treat remains - we have a fairly aged neighborhood, I guess, so we ha a big stash leftover.

I'll be balancing the heavier meals with some lighter fare, so I'm prepping veggies and ingredients for stir fry, some light broth-based soups, and some open-faced sandwiches and things.  I'm going to attempt a meal plan for TWO weeks, and see what happens.  I'm not a fan of planning out the whole month, but I'll see if 2 weeks is the happy medium.  I'll share any favorable results next time I have a chance to hop on here.

Here's the pot pie recipe I really like - we don't like too much sauce - they can get soupy and soggy - and I really like making the sauce and chopping the veggies myself - it just FEELS more comforting!   I did these for a freezer meal swap once, and honestly, this is the first time in over a year I've been able to face it - I made 16 pot pies that time, and it did me in.    Just 2 this time, thank you very much.

Amy's Chicken Pot Pie
This recipe makes 2 pies.  Make one for dinner and freeze the other, or invite some friends over for a comfort food feast!

• 2 cups diced peeled potatoes (or use red potatoes, skin on)
• 2/3 cup chopped onion
• 1 cup butter (2 sticks)
• 1 cup all-purpose flour
• 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
• 1 teaspoon dried thyme
• 3/4 teaspoon pepper
• 3 cups chicken broth (Swanson Natural Goodness works great)
• 1 1/2 cups milk
• 4 cups cubed cooked chicken (leftover rotisserie chicken or Thanksgiving turkey works great)
• 3-4 cups frozen mixed veggies (we like corn, peas & carrots for this)
• 2 double pastry for 2 (two) 9 inch double crust pie (try Pillsbury)
• 1 egg, lightly beaten (optional)

Place potatoes in a large saucepan; cover with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 8-10 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain and set aside. In a large skillet, saute onion in butter until tender. Stir in the flour, salt, thyme and pepper until blended and flour taste is cooked out, about 2 minutes. Gradually stir in broth and milk. bring to a simmer; mixture will thicken. remove from heat. Add the chicken, potatoes and frozen veggies.

Line two 9-in. pie plates with bottom pastry. Fill pastry shells with chicken mixture. Fit remaining pastry to top of pies. Cut slits or decorative cutouts in pastry (to release steam). Brush top crust with egg wash for a golden finish when baked (optional). Trim, seal and flute edges. Wrap in foil, and place in freezer bag.

To prepare, thaw in fridge. Bake potpies at 425 degrees F for 35-40 minutes or until crust is lightly browned. Let stand for 15 minutes before cutting (so the slices will hold their shape).

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Take Back Your Fridge Day (Tomorrow)


We needed to go to a lighting store downtown for a part, and there happened to be a great burger place right across the street, so we decided to go there for lunch.  Totally worth it.  AND, when we got home, it appears our crock pot shut off early (?!) while we were gone, so it's not likely going  to work for dinner :(.  I think TOMORROW will be "Take Back the Fridge Day".....


Our fridge is a wreck right now.  I'd take a picture, but I'm too embarrassed.

I've actually just shoved something into the fridge to fit, and slammed the door shut. A few times this week, in fact.  Our life is crazy lately, so we end up having lots of leftovers that don't get taken for work lunches, stuff that's thawing for meals that don't end up getting made when planned, handfuls of fruits and veggies and things left from meals... There are just lots of random things in the fridge right now (and all over the outside to - school newsletters, tickets to various events, artwork, etc.  Yikes).  I have declared today "take back the fridge day." All of our meals and snacks have to use something from the fridge, and I am intent on freeing up some major shelf space so there will be no more shoving and slamming.  Here's the plan - I'd love for you to share some of your "usin' stuff up" ideas, too!!

I happen to have a partial container of chicken stock and a lonely bunch of cilantro in the veggie drawer, so I'm throwing some barbacoa beef with a roast I was thawing into the sow cooker. We can do that for dinner or lunch tomorrow.  We have about 1/2 cup of taco meat left, and a small chunk of cheddar cheese, so someone can have a taco snack, or we can make some nachos.  There's a small amount of fresh guac left, so that's going on the taco or nachos, too.  There's 3/4 of a green pepper and about 1/4 c. of diced red onion in there - I'll dice the pepper and throw it in the freezer into the container of random diced veggies I have (great for chili, soup, pasta, etc.), or top some pita with some pizza sauce, mozzarella and make a little personal pizza. 

There is about 1/4 loaf of 2 different breads, so that could be grilled cheese (there are never fewer than 4 kinds of cheese in our fridge, and that's probably on the low end), or a someone can have a deli meat sandwich with the 2-3 slices left from school lunches.  There's 1/2 of a heart of romaine, so that can be a side salad or a small lunch salad.  Or a taco salad with the taco fixings... or top some monster nachos.... or get used up on some sandwiches... There's 1/2 a giant red onion - that will get sliced and used on the sandwiches, and then the rest will go into the fajita/stir fry veggie bag in the freezer (I just used a few handfuls of those the other night when we made burrito "bols.")

Well, that's the plan so far - I'll report back with the results, or any other creations we concoct throughout the day!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Weekly Meal Plan

Here's what we had this week - it worked out well:

Monday: Homemade Lasagna with bread & salad

Tuesday: Breakfast for Dinner -  breakfast sandwiches (eggs, bacon, cheese on sourdough toast), hash browns, applesauce

Wednesday: Broccoli Cheese Soup

Thursday: Beef Roast with potatoes & asparagus

Friday: Good ol' concessions food!  Taco boats, slices of pizza (we were at a basketball tourney)...

Saturday:  Shredded BBQ Chicken Sandwiches

Sunday: We've planned leftovers or grilled cheese & soup

Slow Cooker Beef Stroganoff

I'm sad to see summer go, but cool weather means some old favorites return to the rotation. 

With the busy schedules, the crock pot comes back into play more frequently, too!  In fact, tonight we're having Slow Cooker Beef Stroganoff, a recipe I use often as a freezer meal, too.   Here's the recipe - I'll add a photo later if it's not too creepy looking! 

Slow Cooker Stroganoff

1-1/2 lb. beef stew meat (I'm using Ney's meat again - sooo good)
1 8-oz. pkg. sliced white mushrooms, finely chopped (as small as your family needs!)
1 med. onion, sliced, diced or however you like it
1 to 1-1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard or dry mustard (add a little more to taste after it cooks)
1-1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce (splash in a little more before serving to taste if needed)
1 pkg. egg noodles

Have on hand:
2 tbsp. corn starch or arrowroot powder
2 tbsp. water
1/3 c. sour cream (or more if you like)

To freeze: Add the meat, veggies and seasonings to a gallon storage bag, close, and “knead” gently to evenly distribute the marinade.  Include a bag of egg noodles for each bag.  To prep in bulk, add about 1 c. finely chopped mushrooms, and a heaping 1/2 c. diced onions. A food scale is helpful to distribute meat evenly.  

To prepare:  Take out the frozen meat mixture the night before, or a day in advance.  The day you want to have it for dinner, toss the meat mixture in your crock pot with about 1 c. of broth or water.  Cover & cook until beef tips are tender, about 6 hours on low or 3 hours on high (depends on your slow cooker).  Can cook frozen, but add a few hours.  About 20 minutes before dinner, throw on some water, and cook your noodles.  When it’s time to eat, ladle the beef mixture over the noodles, and voila!  Dinner is served. 
Feeling adventurous?  Stir 2 tbsp. of cornstarch into a small bowl with 2 tbsp. water (keep stirring, it thins out).  Whisk in about 1 c. cooking liquid, then pour into a saucepan, and boil about 1 minute until thickened.  If you want to punch up the flavor, add a little Worcestershire sauce and/or mustard into the sauce to your liking.
Right before you eat, stir that back into your beef mixture, and you’ve got more of a thickened, gravy-like sauce.  It’s fine without it, just a little juicier.  If you’re feeling crazy and have about 1/3-1/2 c. light sour cream, stir it in right before you eat, and now you have easy beef stroganoff!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Spinach, Feta & Tomato

Spinach + Tomato + Feta = DELISH.

I needed some dinner inspiration this afternoon, so after whipping through my Pinterest food board, I found one, but the link was gone.  So I Googled "Spinach, Feta, Tomato Chicken" and clicked on the first recipe that came up, and voila!  Dinner!  Here's my adapted version of that recipe.

BTW, I really stink at making any sort of "package" with chicken - pretty much fails every time.  So yeah. Good thing ugly still tastes good!

Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Spinach, Feta & Tomato

For breading: 
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
 2 c. bread crumbs (seasoned are fine, or season plain with a little salt & pepper and some dried herbs)
1/2 tsp. garlic powder (not garlic salt!)
a dash of cayenne powder (optional, but we like the kick)

For chicken:
4-6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, butterflied and pounded thin (or not, if you're lazy like me) 
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 c. feta cheese, crumbled (I used reduced fat)
1 c. grape  tomatoes, diced (I had those from our garden; seeded Romas would be great, too)
1 c. baby spinach leaves, chopped (I thawed some that I had steamed and frozen, and squeezed it dry and chopped it up roughly with my knife)
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
a splash of balsamic vinegar (1-2 tbsp.)
EVOO to mist or drizzle

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a small bowl, combine feta, spinach, garlic, tomatoes, pepper and balsamic vinegar and stir to combine.  Set aside.  Prep your breading station: I use cake pans or pie tins - one of the egg wash, one for the bread crumbs.  Throw some parchment on a baking sheet, and set that at the end of the line.  Dip chicken (both sides) into the egg wash, lightly shake off and then coat with bread crumbs.  Shake off, and place breaded chicken onto your prepared baking sheet.

When you're done, wash your hands, and then spoon a heap of the filling into the center of each butterflied breast.  Roll it, mangle it, do what you have to do to wrap the chicken around the filling, and stick some toothpicks in there to secure it.  Spritz with some evoo (remember, I told you to get an olive oil mister in one of my previous posts?), and then slide into the oven.  Bake until golden, and the temp is to your liking.  If you like the people you're feeding, remove the toothpicks before serving. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Makin' it Work...

So working outside the home again means a LOT less time to do things I like to do, but it's a good thing.

I will eventually post a meal plan on here, but I can't stick to Mondays every week.  This week, the hubs got sick (I admit, I thought it was man sick at first, but it was legit, and gross and horrible) so he wasn't hungry or able to eat much, or do some of the usual things he does to help, so we ended up improvising a lot by the end of the week.  Here's a first-thought plan for meals, but also my "recipe" (it's pretty much too easy to call a recipe) for the beef roast dinner we had tonight...

Broccoli Cheese Soup
Pasta with Chicken & Veggies
Taco Salads
Pizza Night

Old School Meat & Potatoes Dinner

1 (totally not old school grass-fed, organic, awesome Ney's) chuck roast, between 2-4lb.
2 medium onions, quartered
3-4 carrots, cut into 2-3" chunks, or a few handfuls of baby carrots
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup-ish of water or beef broth
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 - 1 tsp. Kosher salt

You can sear the roast for a little extra flavor, or just toss it in the slow cooker with everything else.  Then set it, and forget it!  If I do it in the morning before work, I go with 6 or 8 hours (probably medium if yours has low/med/hi) - my cooker goes to "warm" once it's done - and make sure I add a little more liquid.   If you like, toss in some potatoes, and those will cook right along with everything else.

Or, you can make up some mashed potatoes and some gravy with the cooking liquids.  It's super easy - I just pour off the juices in a gravy separator to get rid of some of the grease, and then heat to boiling over med-hi heat in a saucepan.  I love arrowroot starch - it makes a very smooth gravy.  Mix a teaspoon or two in with a little water or juices, and stir until smooth, then whisk into your cooking liquids to prevent lumps.  Then reduce heat, and season with salt & pepper to taste.  So easy!

Tip: You can buy double of everything, prep one set for the slow cooker, and then prep the second set of ingredients in a freezer bag, and freeze it for another date.  Then you can put it in the fridge to thaw overnight, and throw it in the slow cooker with no searing or chopping!   I just wouldn't freeze the potatoes, unless you make some mashed and  then freeze them that way.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Meal Plan Monday (yep, late again)

Meal planning is better done late than never (I seem to be saying rather often)...

I was on the road this weekend, so when I got home last night, we ate out - it was my husband's idea, and I was not about to say no.  I just did a quick peek in the fridge and freezer to see what we have to work with, and this is what we've got planned for the rest of the week:

Tuesday: Brats on the grill with baked beans, fresh fruit & veggies (we LOVE brats from Ney's)
Wednesday:  Key West Chicken (I've got some thighs to use) with salads, grilled veggies, and maybe some rice
Thursday: Beef Barbacoa with fresh guac and salsa, and some fresh fruit & veggies
Friday: Pasta tossed with homemade roasted tomato sauce and veggies, with salad and bread
Saturday: BLT's
Sunday: Leftovers, most likely!

I'll post the recipe for the tomato sauce I made soon, and I will be try to recreate a ridiculously amazing French puff pastry dish that I sampled over the weekend in Seattle.  It. was. amazing.  If it works, I'll definitely share.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Meal Plan Monday (a day late)

Oops - getting a late start on this, but it's better to plan late than not at all!

Here's the plan for our fam this week (only 3 days are set in stone due to our schedule, so I've listed some ideas for you below - we have the supplies to whip up a number of meals without a store run during the week in case things change):

Tuesday: Cheese Steak Sandwiches, sweet potato fries, fruit & veggies
Wednesday: Chicken Fajitas with rice & beans
Thursday: BLT's breakfast for dinner

Other options:
  • Grill some brats or burgers, serve with potato salad, baked beans, fresh fruit, fries, etc.
  • Grilled chicken wraps - add your own insides - choose a sauce, some veggies, maybe some cheese...
  • Spaghetti with meat sauce, bread, salad
  • Taco salads with rice and beans

For lunches, we have these things on hand:
  • chicken salad for sandwiches from leftover chicken
  • deli turkey sandwiches or wraps
  • possibly dinner leftovers

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Ridiculously Easy, Lighter Chicken Parm

I apologize for the cheesy basil garnish.... :)
Chicken Parm can be messed up.  It can.

Ever had a reeeaally thick chicken breast, with a heavy, soggy breading and a thick, chewy covering of cheese?  Yeah....  not my favorite.  We made this version last week, and it was awesome - just the right amount of tender chicken, crisp breading, a taste of cheese and bright sauce in each bite.  This was so light, and we all really enjoyed it.   

Ridiculously Easy, Lighter Chicken Parm

 2-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced in half for 4-6 thin cutlets
EVOO to mist or brush onto chicken (you can also melt some butter and brush that on - about 2 tbsp. or so)
your favorite marinara sauce (1-2 c. )
grated parm for garnish if you like - or if you need more cheese, mozzarella or provolone
fresh herbs for garnish if you like, minced

For the breading:
1/2 - 3/4 c. breadcrumbs (make your own, use store-bought, Panko, whatever)
1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp. garlic powder (NOT garlic salt!)
1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning (or mix up your own from the ol' dried spices collection)
couple grinds of pepper
pinch of salt
teeny pinch of cayenne pepper if you like

We like the chicken very thin -maybe 1/2".
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with foil, set aside.  Start boiling some water for your noodles.  Mix up the breading ingredients in a shallow dish.  Grab your chicken, and spritz with a little EVOO on each side.  Then dredge (dip/coat/cover/you get it) in the dry breadcrumb mixture on each side, and place on the foil-lined sheet.  Spritz the breasts again with a little EVOO, then stick the tray in the oven for about 10-15 minutes, then check on your chicken, and flip to brown the other side, or just leave 'em alone. 

Heat up your marinara sauce.  Cook your noodles according to the box, drain, and set aside.  If you like lots of cheese, lay a slice of fresh mozzarella or provolone on top of each chicken piece, and heat until bubbly and golden. When the juices run clear/temp measures safe for poultry, then pull out the chicken, and plate it on a bed of noodles, or without.    Spoon a little sauce over top, garnish with fresh basil or parsley, and you're ready to rock!  Serve over pasta, or skip it if you prefer.

*To prep for a freezer meal, bread the chicken breasts, place them on a shallow disposable foil baking sheet, and wrap with foil.  Include a packet or jar of sauce and some noodles if you like.   The chicken can be thawed in the fridge, and then prepped as directed above. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Meal Plan Monday is back!

Here's the plan for the week - my husband and I sat down yesterday, talked through our schedule and freezer contents, then made a meal plan and a grocery list to go with it.  We're keeping it simple since we have something going on 3 of the 5 nights of the week, and it's the first week of a new schedule.  We're also using what we've got on hand, so here goes:

Monday: BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwiches, farmer's market sweet corn, watermelon, baked beans
Tuesday: Pizza, salad
Wednesday: Spaghetti with meat sauce, salad
Thursday: Grilled Chicken, steamed baby red potatoes, farmer's market green beans
Friday: leftovers or going out  - depends on the weekend schedule
Weekend: We've got Labor Day plans, so the menu is someone else's responsibility! Whoo-hoo!

For lunches, since we're starting school and work this week, we have a variety of things on hand:

"Main Event" options:
sandwich bread & lunch meat
wraps - tortilla, Laughing Cow cheese & thinly sliced turkey/ham/leftover chicken/veggies
leftover BBQ pork in a Thermos with a roll
leftover spaghetti in a Thermos
summer sausage, cheese & crackers
lettuce and veggies for salads

various crunchy things (veggie chips, Goldfish, pretzels, tortilla chips w/salsa)
fruits, veggie sticks and dip
low-fat string cheese
"dessert" items - baking some cookies today

Teriyaki Flank Steak

Tried a super easy recipe last night...

While paging through a magazine yesterday, this recipe caught my eye.  I needed something for dinner, so rather than put it off, I just went to the kitchen and went for it!  The recipe was for skewers, and called for you to slice the meat into 1/4" strips, and then thread them on to skewers, but I'm lazy, so I just threw the whole thing in a bag and sliced it up afterward.  You do what you need to do.

Teriyaki Flank Steak
1 flank steak (about 1 lb.)
1/2 c. Teriyaki sauce
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1-1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1-2 scallions, thinly sliced
a good squeeze of a fresh lemon (about 1-2 tbsp.)

Add the above items to a freezer bag or dish to marinate meat, at least 30 minutes, or overnight (or toss in the freezer for another night - even better, make one for tonight, and one for another time!).  Heat your grill, and grill until done to your liking.  Let rest for a few minutes, then slice thinly, against the grain.  If you do the skewers, stick the raw meat in the freezer for a little bit to help you slice, and slice the strips before you marinate them.  Then thread the marinated strips onto skewers and grill.  Serve over rice, rice noodles, quinoa, or lettuce.  Top with a few more sliced scallions, and some toasted sesame seeds (toast them in a skillet, it takes just a minute or so). 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Presto Pesto!

Pesto isn't hard to make.

I had it in my head that it was, for some reason, until I finally tried it.  It just takes a few minutes!  I'd been meaning to makes some with almonds, instead of pine nuts for 2 reasons: (1) pine nuts are expensive, yo! and (2) I had a big bag of almonds from Costco that we haven't attacked with as much gusto as I thought we would.  We had some bad luck with basil this year, and I scrounged up enough for a packed 1/2 cup, but not a whole.  Shoot!  Then I saw a recipe that combined parsley and basil - problem solved!  Here's what I did, and another recipe with just basil, in case your crop fared better.

I plan to toss some angel hair pasta with pesto and some little grape or Sun Gold tomatoes from the garden, and toss in whatever else makes sense from the fridge or garden, and maybe throw on some grilled chicken strips or something for dinner tomorrow.  I'll also do some little toasts and spread them with the fresh pesto  and spoon on a little bruschetta topping (also from those great little tomatoes that keep on coming from the garden).   Feel free to share your favorite pesto uses in the comments!

Basil-Parsley Pesto
1/2 c. basil leaves, packed
1/2 c. parsley leaves, packed
1/2 c. whole almonds, toasted*
2-3 garlic cloves
1/4 c. Parmesan cheese, grated
2 tbsp. feta cheese
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
a squirt of fresh lemon juice if you want

Here's the best part - just throw everything but the olive oil into the food processor bowl, pulse until it's finely ground, and then stream in the olive oil until you get a nice, creamy consistency.  You might need to scrape down the slides of the bowl once or twice to make sure everything is combined.  Makes about a cup of pesto. Keep it covered in the fridge, or freeze in cubes (use an ice cube tray for neat little portions) to use as needed.

*Throw the almonds on a pan in a 350 degree oven for a few minutes, until they start to brown - shaking the pan occasionally (every 5 minutes or so), so they don't get too brown.  You'll smell the difference.  You can do then before making almond butter, too, to add a little depth of flavor.

Basil-Almond Pesto
1 c. fresh basil leaves, packed
1/4 c. olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 c. toasted almonds
1/4 c. Parmesan cheese, grated
1/8 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Add all ingredients to a food processor and pulse, scraping down sides of bowl as needed, until thoroughly combined.  Store covered, in the refrigerator or freeze.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Farmer's Market Veggie Medley

This is the most versatile side dish ever. 

I think you could literally serve it with everything.  Last time at the farmer's market, we picked up some carrots, zucchini, squash and onions.  Right away, I washed everything up, grabbed a knife, and sliced it all up.  Then I made a big bag of mixed veggies, added a few cloves of minced garlic, and a splash of basil-infused olive oil.  I tossed it in the freezer, and I've been grabbing a few handfuls, tossing the mix into a hot pan, and I have a simple, healthy side dish in just a few minutes.  Last night, I ran out to the garden and grabbed some fresh basil, chopped it up and tossed it in before serving.  YUM.  You can add whatever you like - just do it now, while the fresh veggies are plentiful, and you can enjoy the tastes of summer for months to come.

Farmer's Market Veggie Medley

1-2 zucchini, sliced
1-2 squash, sliced
3-4 carrots, sliced
1 medium red onion, sliced
1 tbsp. EVOO, basil-infused or plain
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
salt & pepper to taste
fresh basil, dill, rosemary, or whatever you like

Slice everything, mix it in a freezer bag, and save or another day, or just add it all into a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add some fresh basil or other herbs, if you like.  Season with salt and pepper and serve!  If you freeze it, don't thaw before cooking.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Gearing Up

It was good to take a break this summer...

This summer, I just kind of felt like winging it in the kitchen, which was good and bad, and I didn't try out a TON of new recipes since it was so darn hot so many times, so there was just a lot of grilling and old standards goin' on here.  We were on the road a ton, too, so lots of times, we were eating on the run or on vacation.

I like my little space in the blogosphere, because I don't feel like there's anyone out there hanging on my every last word, depending on me to write a new post.  (And if there was someone like that, well, then I failed you miserably this summer.)  I love it when people comment and share, and I love seeing my page views increase, but I haven't wept miserably that I haven't become the next Pioneer Woman with my own show (love her - she is awesome!).

The purpose for this little space is to share my favorite recipes and things with my friends and family if they want to look, store our freezer meal swap recipes and instructions, and to have a place to keep all of my go-to recipes, and occasionally rant and rave about things.  I also like doing my meal plan on the blog, because there's a teeny bit of accountability there.  So, I'll be starting up some meal plan posts again soon, and I will be trying some new recipes out as the weather turns cooler.

This fall, I am going to take a seasonal job, so I will be out of the house most of the school day - that will require more meal planning on my part, fo' sho'.  We also purchased a hunk of cow this summer (yay), so I now have a freezer of awesomeness to go dig into when I need some beefy inspiration.  Feel free to throw out some comments if there are things you'd like to see, or kinds of recipes you'd like us to road test in the kitchen this fall.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Broccoli Salad...with Bacon!

I love this salad.

It starts out all healthy and great with broccoli, cauliflower and onion, and then you go ahead and de-healthify (totally a legit term) it with bacon and cheese.  And mayo.  Yeah, baby!  This is a favorite wherever I bring it, and sometimes we whip up a little batch at home for lunches or dinners.  You can customize it, too - throw in some julienned carrots, some toasted sunflower kernels, or sprinkle in some chia seeds. If you hate cauliflower, it's no biggie - we've made it without before, too.

Just a note - I don't usually follow these amounts exactly.  I like to kind of mix things until they taste right, or look right, consistency-wise.  The dressing for this salad can be REALLY spicy, REALLY sweet, or anywhere in between -  you should make it to your family's tastes.  Keep in mind the flavor of the hot sauce intensifies with time.  For the broccoli-cheese-onion-etc. ratio, just start tossing in handfuls or spoonfuls, and see how it looks - maybe you like 1/2 c. cheese, or 3 lb, of bacon - whatever floats your boat.  Just use these amounts as a general guidelines, and go from there!

Broccoli Salad...with Bacon!

2-3 large broccoli crowns, chopped or broken into florets
1 medium head cauliflower, chopped or broken into florets
1/2 red onion, diced (or you can add a whole onion or none!)
1 lb. bacon, cooked & crumble (don’t use turkey bacon, please)
1 c. longhorn or sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 c. mayonnaise (can use low fat or fat free, but it’s sweeter, so adjust the sugar in the recipe as needed)
1/4 c. sugar (the old recipe calls for 3/4 cup sugar!!  Start small; you can always add more)
6 tbsp. white vinegar
1-2 tsp. hot sauce (I use Tabasco - again, start with a few shakes, unless you know your family likes it hot.  The original recipe called for tablespoons, but I'd rather start light and add if needed...)

Combine mayo, sugar, vinegar and hot sauce in a small bowl and beat until frothy, or use a shaker and shake to combine.  Refrigerate until just ready to serve.  (I make it ahead of time – the day before works great). You could probably get away with cutting the dressing recipe in half - we go fairly light, so we usually only make 1/2. 

Wash and cut broccoli and cauliflower into bite-size (or smaller) pieces.  In a large bowl, combine with onion and cheese.  Refrigerate until just before serving.  Before you serve it, add the bacon (stays crispiest this way), and then add the dressing.  I like to add a bit at a time, so it's not over-dressed. 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Build-Your-Own Kebabs

Food on a stick isn't just for the fair!

I was just paging through a few magazines, trying to thin out the pile, and I found a great list of ingredients to combine for kebabs.  Kebabs are fab for parties - you can have big platters of ingredients, and people can put together their own combinations.  I love that this particular list of ingredients includes foods that are either already cooked or don't need to be, so you don't need to worry about cross-contamination like you might with raw chicken or beef.  If you want to go that route, marinate the chunks of meat in advance, and then have a hand-washing station for guests once they've skewered their meats. 

Here's a list to get your started - just pick a variety of ingredients you'd like to try, put out a pile of skewers, a mister with some evoo, some salt & pepper, and have some fun!

slices of baguette
fresh mozzarella balls
cubed Halloumi cheese (it's kind of like Feta, and it's good for grilling)
grape tomatoes
zucchini rounds
pineapple chunks
watermelon cubes
cantaloupe cubes
sliced bell peppers (red, yellow, orange)
sweet onion wedges (or red onion)
baby red potatoes (pre-cooked)
sliced chicken sausage (pre-cooked)

For a fun twist on dessert, put out cubes of brownies and pound cake, all kinds of fruits, and then have a fruit dip or chocolate to drizzle over the grilled kebabs.  Yum!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Slow Cooker Beef Barbacoa

I love beef barbacoa. The best I've ever had was from Cocina DeLeon in Brookfield, which is now closed.  I was inspired to experiment on my own, and I've combined about five different recipes from the Internet with some of my own tweaks (yes, I used a spreadsheet to compare ingredients).  The results were met with very positive responses, so much so, that I had no photos. [Update: added a new photo!  Also, make a double batch of the marinade, and freeze 1/2 so it's super easy to make next time.]

Slow Cooker Beef Barbacoa

2-3 lb. chuck roast
1 medium white onion, diced
3/4 c. chicken stock
4-6 avocado leaves (hojas de aguacate)*
3 tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice (juice of 2)
1/2 c. cider vinegar
4 chipotle chiles and a little adobo sauce from the can
1 bunch of cilantro, chopped (remove big pieces of stem)
4 garlic cloves, minced
1-1/2 tsp. salt
1-1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
2 tbsp. ground cumin
2-1/2 tsp. Mexican oregano

Put the roast in the slow cooker with the onions and avocado leaves (you'll want to leave them whole so you can fish them out later). Put the remaining ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend together then pour over top of meat.  Cook on low 8-10 hours or high 4-6 hours until fork tender.  I removed the juices and used my gravy separator to get rid of some of the fat, and screen out some of the undesirables (i.e. avocado leaves) and then shredded the meat.   Add back some of the juice to keep moist.  We served it on tortillas with our green salsa, and it was REALLY GOOD.  Pico, queso fresco, fresh cilantro, diced white onion all would be good as condiments.

 *Locally, try Woodman’s - also found them on Amazon. 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

A-MAZING Cucumber Salsa

I just had a taste of an amazing cucumber salsa this morning (yes, this morning - there's never a bad time for salsa).  SO good.  It was so refreshing, and I could see myself consuming an entire batch alone.  So off to the store I went to get what I needed to make it ASAP.  It's the perfect taste for a hot day like today!

It had garlic scapes in it - and I had seen them at the farmer's market this weekend, but didn't know what they were, or what I would do with them.  Enter my mom, who introduced me to the salsa, and Google, where I figured out exactly what they are!  Here ya go:

Garlic scapes are the curly flower stalks snapped off the garlic plants (which is done to increase the size of the garlic bulbs for harvest).  Garlic scapes can be chopped and used like garlic, or used as garlic-flavored scallions (mmmmmm - stir-fry?!).  You should store them in the fridge, unwashed, loosely-wrapped in a plastic bag for up to 2 weeks.

So here's the recipe - amounts are guessed on - you know how I cook - I chop, toss and taste - so adjust to your own personal preference - enjoy!

Cucumber Salsa

1 cucumber, seeded and diced
2 jalapenos, seeded and minced
½ white onion, minced
1-2 tbsp. EVOO
1 tbsp. vinegar
1-2 tbsp. fresh cilantro, chopped
garlic scapes, chopped (taste one, see what you think - I used about 4)
1 tbsp. flat-leaf parsley, chopped
juice of 1/2 a lime (more or less, your call)

Combine all ingredients, toss gently to combine, cover and then refrigerate to let flavors combine.   Serve with tortilla chips, or on top of a delish beef barbacoa, like I will be!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Watermelon & Feta Salad

Watermelon and Feta?  Really?

Yes.  REALLY.  The salty and the sweet, with a little heat from the pepper, is seriously good.  It's super refreshing in the summer, too. Try it - I think you might be surprised!

I'm no carver of fruit, but it was kind of fun to serve the salad in the hollowed-out melon at a shower we did - I think next time I'd slice the melon the long way, though, for a longer, lower "bowl".  It looks great in a Pampered Chef "Simple Additions" square bowl, too.  (You're welcome, PC friends, and again, Pampered Chef, feel free to hook a lady up!)  

Watermelon & Feta Salad

3 c.  2"chunks watermelon, seeded (I'm lazy - I use seedless)
1 c. crumbled feta cheese (reduced fat is fine, just get a good brand)
Coarsely ground black pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes (optional) OR chop up some arugula and add that for a little peppery taste
1/4 c. red onion, thinly sliced (optional)
In a large bowl, combine the watermelon, feta, and a few generous grindings of black pepper. For a little more zing, add the red pepper flakes or the arugula.  The onion is optional - not everyone is an onion lover, so add only if you're a big fan! Chill in the fridge until it's time to serve. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Freezer-Friendly Calzones

I whipped these up the other night when I needed to use up a handful of leftover pizza ingredients in the fridge.  I made my own dough, but you can usually buy some in the deli section of your grocery store.   I didn't measure, so I am kind of guessing on the quantities here - that's the beautiful thing about these, though - you can just wing it with the filling, and it usually works out fine.  Feel free to use what you have on hand, or get creative with your filling ingredients.  I ran out to the garden and just grabbed a few handfuls of fresh herbs, so you can use what you have in your garden, too. 

Either par-bake the calzones, and then wrap and freeze for another night (thaw and then bake until golden), or just throw them in the oven for dinner (even better, make a double batch if you have enough ingredients, and do one batch for dinner, and one for another night!). 

Freezer-Friendly Calzones

1 recipe bread machine pizza dough (or whatever you prefer)
1/2 c. Mozzarella cheese
1/4 c. Parmesan cheese
1-1/2 c. Ricotta cheese
2 tbsp. fresh basil, chopped
1 tsp. fresh rosemary, chopped
2 tbsp. fresh arugula, chopped
2 tbsp. onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 c. chopped pepperoni and/or Italian sausage (browned and drained) - more is fine - whatever you like

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, and set aside.  Divide your dough into 4 smaller balls, and then roll each one out into a small circle.  Place 1/4 of your topping onto one half of the dough, and fold over the dough to make a half-circle.  Crimp edges with your fingers or a fork to seal, and poke a few slits in the top to let steam out.  You can brush the tops with a little EVOO.  If frozen, thaw par-baked calzones  in the fridge before baking.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Bake until golden, about 30 minutes.  Serve with your favorite marinara or pizza sauce on the side.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Marinated Pork Tenderloin for the Grill

I found some pork tenderloins on special a few weeks ago, so I bought a few, made some into freezer meals and left the rest "plain."  I'm thawing the last one out today for dinner.  Here's the marinade I'm trying, using fresh flat-leaf parsley from our garden - tried to make it easy with the measurements, but you can tweak here and there to your liking.  We're going to grill it, but you could prepare it in the oven, too. 

Marinated Pork Tenderloin for the Grill

1⁄3 c. olive oil
1⁄3 c. soy sauce
1⁄3 c. c. red wine vinegar
Juice of 1 lemon (about 2-3 tbsp.)
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
2 tsp. dry mustard
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 1-lb. pork tenderloin

Whisk together all ingredients, and either pour over tenderloin in a non-reactive dish, or put it all in a Ziploc bag and marinate in the fridge for at least 3-4 hours.  You could toss it in the freezer for another night, too (or even better, make one for tonight, and another for the freezer!) - just don't thaw it out and then re-freeze it without cooking the meat.  

Preheat your grill, and then grill tenderloin until meat reaches 160 degrees.  Toss some veggies or potatoes in a grill pan to do the whole meal on the grill. 

To prepare in the oven, preheat oven to 350 degrees.  If you're feeling fancy, you can sear the pork in a skillet with a teeny bit of oil before you put it in the oven.  It adds a little flavor and helps keep it moist.  Place in the oven and cook for 30-40 minutes or until the meat has reached 160 degrees. Let rest for at least 5 minutes before slicing.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Stopping By....

I miss sharing new recipes, but life has been nuts!  I promise this summer, I will be trying out a few new ones every month, and try to post things.  In the meantime, I have been coming back to the archives here for the tried and true recipes, especially things that we can throw in the slow cooker on baseball nights! 

Our family's eating habits have evolved, and I realized it when I was looking in the cupboards for some nonperishable foods for a food drive.  And we really didn't have much to give.  The fridge and the freezer on the other hand, have been well-stocked (not so good when the fridge decides to go on the fritz, but that's not a story worth reliving). 

So I definitely need to come up with some new freezer meals and good family-friendly dinners that utilize fresh ingredients, and organic or almost organic meats without breaking the bank.  It's been a good thing to reduce the amount of meat in our meals, regardless.  I haven't been doing freezer meal swaps as much, either, since it's so much more expensive to do them when you don't use the ginormous chicken breasts that can feed a family of four with a single breast, etc. and people seem to balk at a higher cost exchange, even if it's healthier.  We'll see what happens!

Please feel free to share your recipes and ideas for eating better on a budget (and when life is busy) in the meantime, and you can most likely find something you haven't tried in the archives... I'll be back!