Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Karen's Veggie Soup Revamped

I'm not a lover of vegetable soup.  

That said, I don't NOT like it, it's just not on the top of my list.  My husband likes it, and lots of people love it.  I was going through my recipes and saw this, I had a flashback of watching people slurp up reheated cans of vegetable soup in lunch rooms at work, and had to share this - it's so much better than a can of soup, and you can package and freeze in in individual servings if you like to take soup to work.  This is a revised version of a recipe of a family friend.

1 lb. ground beef or turkey, browned & drained (you can skip the meat, too)
1/2 tsp. EVOO
1/2 c. onion, diced
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp.  dried thyme
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 c. carrots, diced
1/2 c. celery, diced
1 bay leaf (remove after cooking)
1 28 oz. can tomato sauce
1 14.5 oz. can petite diced tomatoes
6 c. water (or 3 c. water, 3 c. vegetable broth)
1 c. frozen peas
1 c. frozen corn
1 c. frozen green beans
1/4 c. fresh parsley, chopped (Italian flat leaf)
1/4 c. rice or barley

Have on hand: 1 c. red potatoes, diced evenly

Brown beef, drain, set aside. In a Dutch oven over medium heat, heat EVOO. Add onion, and cook about 2 min. until softened. Add herbs and spices, and cook about 1 minute. Add carrots and celery. Add tomato sauce and water or broth, and bay leaf (remember to remove before serving). Add frozen veggies and rice or barley. Bring to a simmer, cook about 1 hour, or until veggies are tender (just underdone if freezing and reheating). Remove from heat, and let cool completely. Freeze.

To serve: Thaw in fridge. Add 1 c. diced potatoes, if desired (I don't like to freeze - they tend to get soft and sometimes have a weird texture).  Bring soup to a simmer, and cook until heat through and potatoes are tender.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Balsamic-Garlic Crusted Pork Tenderloin

Know what I like about pork tenderloin?
You can make it fancy, or you can keep it simple.  You can slice it and put it on a platter and serve it as a nice sit-down dinner, or you can slice it and throw it on a roll and serve a platter of casual sandwiches.  It's usually reasonably priced, and you can often find it on sale.  It's a great main dish for feeding a crowd, too.  Over the holidays, I had a dinner and we grilled six tenderloins.  Once again, I found a keeper on Pinterest - seriously, I never should have started with that, but anyway....  Here's the original post, to give credit to the artist.

Balsamic-Garlic Crusted Pork Tenderloins

4-5 garlic cloves, finely minced or crushed
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (I might up this a bit.... we drizzled the cooked meat with more)
2 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 pork tenderloins (about 1¼ pounds each)
2 tablespoons canola oil (if preparing in oven)

Stir together garlic, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, and olive oil in a small bowl. Rub the paste all over pork, and marinate overnight, or as long as you can before cooking.

Freezer Meal prep:
(Kind of obvious, but just to make it official...) Complete the steps above, and then freeze in a Ziploc bag.  Thaw in fridge, then prepare on the grill or in the oven.  You COULD brown it, and then put both loins in a foil pan, cover with foil, and freeze that way, if you want to make it an oven meal.  For me, that's too much fuss.

Grill prep:
Sear the tenderloins on all sides, then grill for about 20-30 minutes, rotating every 10 minutes, until the internal temperature is 160 degrees. Tent with foil and let the meat rest before slicing - it's worth the wait.

Oven prep:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Heat canola oil in a large, heavy saute pan over medium-high heat.  Working in batches if necessary, add pork, and brown all over, about 4 minutes.  Transfer pan to oven. Roast pork, turning occasionally, until the internal temperature is 160 degrees, about 20 minutes. Transfer pork to a cutting board, and try to let it rest 10 minutes before slicing.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Meal Plan Monday

Every Monday I'll try to share my planned dinners for the week - it may or may not pan out, but but it's a good idea to have a plan, and remain flexible.

This week, we're at the end of the month, and we're pretty much at our budgeted amount for groceries, so I need to make what we have stretch as much as I can.  True, half-way through the week it's a new month, but I want to try to make it work without shopping.  We've got a decent stock in the freezer and pantry, so we'll see what happens!

Monday: Chicken Stir Fry with rice
Tuesday: Taco Tuesday with tortilla chips and veggies or fruit
Wednesday: Pork Tenderloin with roasted red potatoes and green beans 
Thursday: Spaghetti with side salad or veggies, bread 
Friday: Stromboli maybe (have some leftover meats and cheese I threw in the freezer)
Saturday: Dinner plans, so we're goin' out and the kids will get leftovers
Sunday: Sloppy Joes & sweet potato fries (I got a giant bag at Costco - it's lasting FOREVER)

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Mediterranean Menu

I love Mediterranean flavors. 

So when I saw this recipe on Pinterest,  I knew I had to try it.  It's not hard, but it's something different to do with chicken, healthy, and the kids like it.

Chicken Gyros

Friday, February 24, 2012

Chicken Noodle Soup

An all-time favorite comfort food...

In the early years, we made grilled cheese and chicken noodle soup pretty often - and we loved Mrs. Grass and her mysterious flavor nugget.  But, as time went on, I started making more things from scratch, and found that chicken noodle soup is pretty hard to mess up, cheap to make a giant batch and freeze, and great to share.  I remember getting a container of soup and a crusty loaf of bread when little Baker was born, and it TOTALLY hit the spot - simple and delish, and the whole family liked it. 

Chicken Noodle Soup

This makes a huge batch.

4 cups chicken, cooked & diced
4-6 c. water
6 c. chicken broth (we use Swanson Natural Goodness or Kirkland's Chicken Stock)
2 bay leaves
2 tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
2 tbsp. fresh dill, chopped (a tsp of dried works, too)
2-4 sprigs fresh thyme (leaves fall off during cooking - tie them together for easy removal)
1 tsp. salt (or leave out, and let others adjust it before serving - be careful with sodium in stock)
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
6-8 stalks celery, chopped
10 carrots, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1-1/2 c. onion, diced
1 tbsp. EVOO
1-2 packages egg noodles (kept separate – not prepared or added to soup if freezing)

Heat 1 tbsp. EVOO in Dutch oven, add onions, carrots and celery, and cook 2-3 minutes.  Add garlic, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds - don't burn!  Add broth, water, chicken, and remaining ingredients (except noodles). Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat and simmer about 2 hours or until veggies are tender. Remove bay leaf and thyme stems.  To prepare immediately, add noodles, then serve once they've cooked (we like the skinny egg noodles that look like broken spaghetti noodles, but you can also use the wide ones).  To freeze, cool completely and place in 2 Ziploc bags (or containers) and include a package of noodles (freeze flat for easy storage).

To cook: Thaw (stick it in a bowl or on a tray in case it leaks in the fridge!). Heat on stove to desired temperature. Add noodles to soup and let them cook in the liquid - may need to adjust seasoning or liquid.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Easy Waffles

Here's the recipe I used for waffles last night - I combined one from Alton and one from Martha, and they got rave reviews.  You can make the batter in advance, and stick it in the fridge until you're ready to make them.  I am going to make a few and stick them in the freezer as "frozen waffles" and see if they reheat in the toaster ok for breakfast in the morning.  I'll get back to you on that.

Quick note:  I really did measure the flour with my food scale - I do that with a few other recipes when the weight is specified, too.  It's more precise than filling a measuring cup - you'd be amazed at how much the actual amount will vary when you do it that way. 

Easy Waffles

4 ¾ ounces all-purpose flour, approx. 1 cup
4 ¾ ounces whole-wheat flour, approx. 1 cup
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons brown sugar
3 whole eggs, beaten
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
16 ounces buttermilk, room temperature
½ tsp. pure vanilla extract
non-stick spray for waffle iron

In a medium bowl whisk together the flours, soda, baking powder, salt, and sugar. In another bowl beat together eggs and melted butter (make sure it has cooled, or you'll end up cooking the eggs), and then add the vanilla and buttermilk. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until combined. Allow to rest for 5 minutes.

Ladle the recommended amount of waffle batter onto the iron according to the manufacturer's recommendations. Make sure it’s hot!  Close iron top and cook until the waffle is golden on both sides and is easily removed from iron. Let waffle iron reheat between each batch, or you'll get soggy waffles.  I tried hurrying things along and it's not worth it.  Serve immediately or keep warm in a 200 degree F oven until ready to serve.

***UPDATE***I made the Cook's Illustrated Buttermilk Waffles tonight, and they win, hands-down.  SO good.  Crispy, light, delish.  Check it out, here.

Mediterranean Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Spinach

I really love this combination of flavors.

I was always wary of goat cheese, until I had it at The Green Well in GR several years ago and loved it.  Combining it with the cream cheese and adding all of these delish ingredients also mellows out the flavor, so for those of you who were skittish, this is a good gateway recipe for goat cheese.  This comes from a weekly email I get with healthy recipes from AICR.  I had a similar, but more decadent version of this at Vino Cappuccino a long time ago, and they served with with risotto.  I think some couscous would be good (and easier), too. 

Mediterranean Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Spinach
4 (4-oz.) chicken breasts, boneless and skinless
1/2 tsp. dried Italian spices, divided
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, divided
Salt to taste, optional
4 tsp. extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 garlic clove, minced       
1/2 cup frozen spinach, thawed, drained and squeezed dry
3 Tbsp. chopped and drained sun-dried tomatoes
2 Tbsp. herbed goat cheese
2 Tbsp. reduced-fat cream cheese
16 toothpicks (or however many are needed)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice into chicken breasts at thickest part to create a pocket, being careful not to cut all the way through.  Season chicken with 1/4 teaspoon of the Italian spices, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and salt, if using. Cover with clear wrap and set aside. 

In large skillet heat 2 teaspoons olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic. Cook for about 1 minute or until light golden brown, being careful not to burn. Add spinach and stir with oil and garlic. Then add tomatoes along with remaining spices and pepper. Stir well and cook for about 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Add cheeses and fold well to create stuffing for chicken breasts.  Divide stuffing evenly among chicken breasts, using toothpicks to secure the opening with about 4 per breast to ensure stuffing remains inside. Work with each breast until all are stuffed and closed with toothpicks. 

In heavy bottomed, oven proof pan, heat remaining olive oil over medium-high heat for 1 to 2 minutes, making sure pan is really hot but not smoking. Lower heat to medium and add one breast at a time, making sure there is enough room in pan to thoroughly brown breasts. Cook on first side for about 4 minutes and then turn over for another 4 minutes. Do not flip chicken more than once or meat will dry out and filling might fall out. Brown chicken in batches if necessary.  Once chicken is browned, turn off heat.

Place pan in oven. Bake for about 15 minutes or until thermometer in the thickest part reads 170 degrees.  Take chicken out and let rest for about 5 minutes covered with tented foil before serving. Make sure to remove toothpicks. Spoon any juices left in bottom of baking dish over top of chicken. Makes 4 servings.

Per serving: 220 calories, 9 g total fat (3 g saturated fat), 3 g carbohydrate,
29 g protein, 1 g dietary fiber, 190 mg sodium

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Parmesan Sage Pork Chops

Sick of plain pork chops?

I have a funny (now) story about pork chops.  When we got married, we were young, and inexperienced in the kitchen.  I wooed my man with a crisp grilled cheese and a side of Pringles in the dorms, but that was about the extent of my skills.  I often purchased those super thin boneless, skinless pork "chops", and baked the daylights out of them, and served with potatoes and a veggie (in the early years, I think canned corn was the only one he would eat).  Finally, after several months, he said something about maybe not wanting to have them again for a bit (I blocked out the original comment, apparently), and we never had pork chops again.

Fast forward about 10 years, and we have brought them back into the rotation, although they're usually a thick, bone-in or boneless chop, and they're marinated and grilled, or carefully baked, so they're not too dry.  He always manages to compliment them, every. single. time.  No. matter. what.  I kid, but here's a recipe I tucked away from an old email, and tweaked a teeny bit.   These could be made for a freezer meal - we've done another one, Peppered Pork Chops, in our swap before.  Got any fun stories from your early cooking years?

Parmesan Sage Pork Chops

4-6 bone-in pork loin chops (boneless are fine, too)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt (I cut this in 1/2 from the original recipe)
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper (original recipe said a dash, so you pick)
1 c. soft, plain bread crumbs (I prefer Panko - crispier!)
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese (you know how I feel about the green can)
1 tbsp. rubbed sage (could also add some rosemary)
1 tsp. grated lemon peel (definitely put this in - it makes the recipe)
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tbsp. olive or vegetable oil
2 tbsp. butter (I leave this out)

Set up your breading "station": in a shallow dish, combine the flour, salt and pepper. In another shallow dish, combine the bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, sage and lemon peel. Place egg in shallow bowl. (Using cake or pie pans, or saving the foam trays you sometimes get from produce, etc. can come in handy when you're breading meat.)  Try using only one hand for the messy job, so you have one clean, unbreaded hand to turn on the faucet and manage any other tasks before you can wash up.  Coat pork chops with flour mixture, dip in egg, then coat with bread crumb mixture. Let stand for 5 minutes.

In a skillet, brown chops in oil (and butter) for 2 minutes on each side. Transfer to a baking dish and bake, uncovered, at 425 degrees F for 10-15 minutes or until juices run clear and a meat thermometer reads 160 degrees F.

To freeze: just transfer the browned chops into a foil baking pan, cover, and freeze.  You COULD skip the browning altogether, and just place the coated chops into your foil pan - saves some calories, and they will brown up nicely in the oven - might need to increase baking time just a little bit more.

To prepare: Thaw in the fridge, then bake, uncovered in a preheated oven at 425 degrees F for 10-15 minutes or until juices run clear and a meat thermometer reads 160 degrees F. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Meal Plan Monday

Meal Plan Monday

I got totally sick this weekend, with one of those colds with a cough that totally saps all of your energy, and I'm still fighting it.  So, I'm sort of phoning it in here, sorry - lots of thawing freezer meals unless I get my energy back.  Here's the plan, so far...

Monday: Broccoli Chicken Asiago Skillet with a side salad (I've got a lot of broccoli I need to use up)
Tuesday: Minestrone Soup with salad and bread on the side
Wednesday: Buttermilk Waffles with fresh fruit (and probably some bacon!) - here's a recipe from Alton and one from Martha, or use your own.
Thursday: Tarragon Chicken with some steamed asparagus
Friday: Leftovers! We'll also have deli sandwiches available (great combo: turkey, Havarti, sprouts, and horseradish sauce on sourdough.)
Saturday: Italian Beef Sandwiches with sweet potato fries
Sunday: Spaghetti (or something)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Turkey Tetrazzini Soup

Another tasty soup recipe for chilly weather...

I got this one from a cooking class I attended with my mom several years ago.  It's a good comfort food kind of soup...  An easy freezer meal, too, if you leave the noodles out and include the topping in a separate bag.  I noted my changes in the directions if you're prepping for the freezer.

Turkey Tetrazzini Soup

1 tbsp. butter
1 c. bread crumbs (fresh are great)
2 tbsp. grated Parmesan
1 tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
1 tsp. lemon zest, minced
salt & pepper to taste

4 oz. medium shell pasta (keep separate if freezing)
4 tbsp. butter
1-1/2 c. onion, diced
8 oz. button mushrooms, stems trimmed, sliced
1/4 c. flour
2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. dried thyme (fresh is great, too)
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/3 c. dry sherry (look by wine, not the grocery shelves)
4 c. chicken broth
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/2 c. Parmesan, finely grated
1/4 c. pimientos, sliced (optional)

Melt 2 tbsp. butter over medium high heat, then saute onions and mushrooms, about 5 minutes.  Whisk in flour and seasonings, and cook about 1-2 minutes, or until raw flour taste cooks out.  Stir in sherry, broth and fresh lemon juice.  Add turkey, pimientos, Parmesan, and cooked pasta (leave pasta out if freezing).   Toast bread crumbs in 2 tbsp. butter over medium heat.  Cool crumbs, then stir in Parmesan, parsley, lemon zest, salt, and pepper, and include in a baggie if doing this as a freezer meal, or set aside.  Cook pasta according to package directions and set aside (or just include package if doing a freezer meal).  Top with bread crumbs and serve.     (To prep after freezing, thaw soup in fridge, bring to a simmer.  Cook pasta, drain, and add before serving.  Top with bread crumb mixture, then serve  could throw under the broiler for a few seconds to brown the bread crumbs if you like).

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Tarragon Chicken with Mushroom Cream Sauce

I love the taste of tarragon in a sauce with chicken.  

So when I saw this recipe on Facebook today, I had to tweak it and share.   This is going on next week's meal plan.  Chicken thighs go on sale often, so grab a few packs and toss them in the freezer when they do. I bought skin-on, bone-in, and got 8 big ones for $3.  I just rip the skin off and trim myself to save some cash.  I wrote out some instructions for how I'd do it as an oven freezer meal, and also a slow cooker freezer meal, and I also included the original slow cooker instructions.

Sauce note:  I went ahead and used my gravy separator to get rid of some of the fat in the juices, and then I used my stick blender to puree the veggies with the juices - my kids are picker-outers, so they would have just left behind all of that roasted veggie goodness.  It looked so pretty, I had to take a picture!  I'm a dork, I know...

Tarragon Chicken with Mushroom Cream Sauce

6 bone-in thighs, skin removed (or boneless, skinless thighs)
1 c. green bell pepper, finely diced
2 c. baby bella mushrooms, finely diced (or white button mushrooms)
1 small onion, diced (I used 2 shallots instead)
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried tarragon leaves
2 tsp minced garlic
Salt and Pepper
2 bay leaves
1/2 c. chicken broth
1 Tbsp soy sauce
4 Tbsp butter (not margarine)
4 Tbsp flour
6 Tbsp heavy cream (or half and half or milk to make it healthier)

My tweaked freezer meal instructions:
Pour chicken broth and soy sauce into a foil pan, and add the bay leaves and chicken thighs, seasoned with salt & pepper (go easy on the salt).  Add peppers, mushrooms, onions and garlic over top of chicken, then add herbs.  Drizzle with EVOO.  Cover with foil, and freeze.  Note: I roasted the veggies while I was babysitting another dish in the kitchen, and it was no biggie, but if you REALLY don't want to, then skip it.  I like it roasted.

To prepare: thaw in fridge, bake in preheated 400 degree oven about 30 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.  While it's cooking, prepare to make up the sauce.  Remove the chicken from the pan and loosely tent with foil.  Melt butter over medium heat, and whisk in flour. Cook 1-2 minutes to remove raw flour taste, add 1/4 tsp. each thyme and tarragon if you like, then stir in some pan juices, about 1 cup total.  Pull out the bay leaves - don't want to eat those.  Whisk in the half & half (cream, milk), and season to taste with salt & pepper.  Serve chicken with sauce spooned over top.

My tweaked freezer meal/slow cooker instructions:
Roast the veggies, as she does below, or skip it if you don't feel like it, and then toss everything except the butter, flour and cream into a freezer bag.  Freeze.

To prepare: Thaw in fridge, and then toss in the slow cooker for 4-6 hours on low. Make the sauce as listed above.  Serve, and eat!

Slow cooker instructions from the post:
lace chicken in bottom of 3-5 quart slow cooker.  Salt and pepper.  Place peppers, mushrooms, onions and garlic on a cookie sheet.  Salt and pepper.  Drizzle with oil.  Sprinkle with thyme and tarragon.  Stir until veggies are coated with the seasonings and oil.  Place pan in a 400 degree preheated oven.  Cook for about 15-20 minutes.  Scrape the veggies off the sheet and place onto the top of the chicken.  Pour chicken broth into the slow cooker and slip the bay leaves into the bottom of the slow cooker.  Drizzle  the chicken with soy sauce.  Cover and cook on LOW for 4-6 hours until chicken is tender.  Remove chicken from slow cooker and place on a plate.  Loosely tent it with foil. In a pan melt the butter over low heat (it should be frothy).  Slowly whisk in one tablespoon of flour at a time to form a roux.  After all the flour is added the mixture will be really thick.  Slowly add in the juices from the slow cooker (1/4 cup at a time).  Whisk until the mixture is nice and thick and creamy.  Then slowly add in 1 tablespoon of cream at a time.  Season with extra tarragon and thyme, if needed.  Salt and pepper to taste.  If you're ready to eat, place chicken on individual serving plates and top generously with the creamy sauce.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Meal Plan Monday

Every Monday I'll try to share my planned dinners for the week - it may or may not pan out, but but it's a good idea to have a plan, and remain flexible.

Monday: Stromboli with a side salad
Tuesday: chicken stir fry with brown rice
Wednesday: BCS Chili Cook-Off - so we're bringing some chili!
Thursday: chicken phillys with sweet potato fries
Friday: basketball tournament - eating out, most likely, or we'll grab something throw together
Saturday: beef & pea pods with brown rice OR sloppy joes
Sunday: loaded baked potato soup with a side salad

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Crockpot Honey Sesame Chicken

Time for some new crock pot meals.

So this one looks tasty, and the blogger is funny - check out the post about the gross meal - made me chuckle. I also happened to pick up some chicken thighs on sale and tossed them in the freezer 2 weeks ago, so yay!

Crock Pot Honey Sesame Chicken

• 5 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 1 1/2 pounds)
• salt and pepper
• 1 cup honey
• 1/2 cup soy sauce
• 1/2 cup diced onion
• 1/4 cup ketchup
• 2 tablespoons vegetable oil or olive oil
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
• 4 teaspoons cornstarch dissolved in 6 Tablespoons water
• 1/2 tablespoon (or more) sesame seeds
• 3 scallions, chopped

Lightly season both sides of chicken with salt and pepper, put into crock pot.  In a medium bowl, combine honey, soy sauce, onion, ketchup, oil, garlic and pepper flakes. Pour over chicken. Cook on low for 4 hours. Remove chicken from crock pot, leave sauce. Dissolve 4 teaspoons of cornstarch in 6 tablespoons of water and pour into crock pot. Stir to combine with sauce. Replace lid and cook sauce on high for ten more minutes or until slightly thickened.  Cut or shred chicken into bite size pieces. Then in individual bowls, place chicken pieces over cooked rice and spoon some sauce on top. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and chopped scallions.

To make as a freezer meal, throw everything in a Ziploc except the cornstarch mix, scallions and sesame seeds.  Include a little snack bag of sesame seeds with the meal, and then people just need to have scallions and cornstarch on hand... You could go nuts and freeze some cooked rice and include that, too.

Bread Machine Pizza Dough II

My bread machine is the BEST!

This afternoon, the little  Baker and I tossed in this recipe for bread machine pizza dough, and made some Stromboli for dinner.  It turned out great - I'll definitely use it again.  I'm going to make some more and form some pizza crusts to keep in the freezer this week.  I tweaked 2 things - I used closer to 2 tbsp. of evoo instead of veggie oil, and I squeezed in some honey instead of sugar.  This makes enough pizza dough for two 12-inch thick-crust pizzas, or I made 2 "loaves" of Stromboli (one with lots of veggies, and one without).

  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil (I used 2 tbsp. evoo)
  • 3 3/4 cups bread flour
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sugar (I used about 1 tbsp. honey)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
Add ingredients to your bread machine in the order recommended by the manufacturer. (Click here to find out what that is if you don't have your manual anymore!) The general rule is:

1. Liquid ingredients (water, eggs, milk, fat, honey)
2. Flour, to “seal” in the liquid
3. Other dry ingredients (dry milk, salt, sugar, seasonings)

4. Add the yeast last.

Choose the dough cycle.  Take the dough out, let it sit for about 15 minutes in a bowl, lightly coated with evoo.  THEN, do with it what you will, or wrap and freeze.

To bake a pizza:  remove dough and fit dough into pizza pans, forming a 1-inch thick edge. Brush with a little olive oil or vegetable oil, then let the crust rise for 10 to 15 minutes. Spread with tomato sauce or toppings of choice.  Bake pizza at 400° for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until crust is browned and cheese is melted and bubbly. Makes 2 to 3 12-inch pizzas, depending on the thickness of the crust, or one thick-crust 12-inch deep-dish pizza. If you're only making 1 pizza, shape the remaining dough into 1 or 2 balls, wrap in plastic wrap, and freeze.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Perfect Short Ribs

I'm hungry for some new freezer meals.

I'm kind of getting tired of the ones we've been doing for the past few years, so I'm on a mission to find some new ones.  I'm going to try these this week - found the recipe for Perfect Short Ribs on a deviation from a Pinterest pin. The cool thing here is the amounts to do it x7 are listed next to the single meal ingredients. 

Perfect Short Ribs

4 lbs short ribs / 28 lbs short ribs
salt / salt
pepper / pepper
8 oz can tomato sauce / 56 oz tomato sauce
2 T molasses / 14 T or 7 oz molasses
2T cider vinegar 1/ 4 T or 7 oz cider vinegar
1 onion sliced / 7 sliced onions
1 tsp liquid smoke / 7 tsp liquid smoke

Assembly: Sprinkle the short ribs with salt and pepper. Mix ingredients in bag and then add ribs.  Freeze.

To Serve: Thaw and place on 9x13 pan. Cover tightly with aluminum foil. Bake at 250 degrees for 5 to 6 hours or place in slow cooker.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

M&M Sugar Cookies

My daughter LOVES to bake. 

When asked, she told someone our last name was Baker because her mom bakes a lot.  I love it.  I don't always love baking with little hands helping, since it makes a gigantic mess 99% of the time, so I need to be relaxed and in a good mood to bake with assistance.  Today we baked a few of these, and we're going to bake some fresh for the school bake sale in a few days, so a batch was tossed in the freezer until then.  She did a great job placing the candies on the cookies before baking - the perfect job for little helpers.

I get sick of the baking part when making big batches of cookies, so I usually freeze 1/2 the dough in the correct portions, and bake the rest.  I like to include a dessert with meals I bring to families, so I bake up some brownies or cookies, or send a bag of frozen cookie dough they can bake fresh at home.  It's nice to have the frozen dough on hand.

M&M Sugar Cookies      

2-1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1-1/4 sticks unsalted butter, softened (room temp)
1-1/2 c. sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
2 large eggs
2 c. plain M&M’s

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and baking powder and set aside.  In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed.  Beat until creamy, approx 3 to 6 minutes. Add vanilla. Add eggs and beat until well blended.  Then add the flour mixture a little at a time, and mix until just combined.  (I have also just mixed the M&M's in at this point - if you want to place them on the cookies, great, but I found this to work just fine.)  Prepare cookie sheets with parchment paper.
Form 1 to 2 tablespoonfuls of cookie dough into a ball and place on cookie sheet, leaving space between to allow for spreading. Place as many or as few M&M’s as you like onto each ball (or if you already mixed them in, you're done!).

To prepare: preheat oven to 350 degrees, then bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Let cookies cool on baking sheet for 10 minutes.  Leaving on them on the tray will ensure soft cookies.  Let them cool completely, then store in an airtight container.

To freeze, prepare the cookies, but rather than putting them in the oven, stick the whole tray in the freezer.  Once the cookies are frozen through, you can place them in a freezer bag, and then take out as many as you like to bake.  Just bake them as directed, right from the freezer.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Meal Plan Monday

Every Monday I'll try to share my planned dinners for the week - it may or may not pan out, but but it's a good idea to have a plan, and remain flexible. I've added a few alternative ideas below in case you happened to do any of these last week or want something different.

Monday: baked ziti, side salad (I added some notes to the recipe)
Tuesday: away game - maybe eat sandwiches here, maybe on the road
Wednesday: carnitas, fruit, chips & salsa
Thursday: breakfast for dinner - (Canadian bacon, eggs & cheese on an English muffin), fruit
Friday: dinner plans with friends, whoo-hoo!
Saturday: chicken stir fry with brown rice
Sunday:broccoli cheese soup, side salad


BLTs - I recommend Cybros sprouted breads - they make FANTASTIC toast - romaine or red lettuce, and whatever tomatoes look the best at the store.  We use regular bacon, just not a ton of it, but you could use turkey bacon, too.  Serve some sliced veggies and dip or sweet potato fries on the side.

Homemade Pizza - no, Cybros doesn't pay me (but feel free to, in free bread!!!), but they make a great pizza dough, or you can pick up a lump at lots of grocery stores - Sendik's has some in their deli area.  You can also whip up your own - SUPER easy when you have a bread maker, too.  Try some unusual toppings, or make a bunch of small pizzas, so everyone can sample some different combinations.  Serve a chopped salad on the side.

Paninis - it's ok if you don't have a panini press - we've used our old Foreman grill, but now we use a bacon press I picked up years ago.  You could also use a (clean) brick covered with foil, etc.  Pick your favorite bread, spray lightly with some olive oil (or butter it), and then layer your favorite fillings - sliced turkey or chicken, swiss cheese, thinly sliced tomatoes, and spinach leaves is a fave.  Or a classic: (chicken), mozzarella, fresh basil leaves, and thinly sliced tomato...  Serve with a small cup of tomato soup or veggies on the side.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Super Good Food

Time to break out the "Thanksgiving Pants."

Ok, so it wasn't THAT bad,  but we did indulge in some seriously tasty dishes tonight.  I tweaked things here and there to make a LITTLE healthier (reduced the cheese, subbed reduced fat, skipped the butter, etc.).  We had an awesome pizza from the Food Network - blue cheese+steak+balsamic drizzle=yum.  And I made some boneless buffalo chicken tenders a la Martha - the teenager's fave - with some homemade blue cheese dip. We also broke out the pizza dip, and a plate of fresh veggies.  We were happy with the resulting menu, barely watched the game, liked the halftime show, and thought the commercials were OK.  What was your favorite commercial?

Pizza Dip

This is our very favorite dip.  We make it for most of our big sporting events, and serve it with triscuits and rye chips.  You can make it ahead of time and stick it in the fridge, and bake before serving.  Enjoy!

1 8-oz. package cream cheese, softened (I use Neuchatel)
½ c. sour cream (I use ff or light)
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/8 tsp. garlic power
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (or more!)
½ c. pizza sauce
½ c. pepperoni, chopped
¼ c. green onions, sliced
¼ c. green pepper, chopped
½ c. mozzarella cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 350°.  Beat together the cream cheese, sour cream, oregano, garlic powder and red pepper flakes.  Spread into a 9-10” quiche dish or pie plate.  Spread pizza sauce over top, and sprinkle with pepperoni, green pepper, and green onions.  Baked until heated through, about 10 minutes.  Top with mozzarella cheese, and bake until cheese is melted and starts turning golden brown.  Serve warm with crackers, rye chips, veggies, or any of your favorite dippers!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Blue Cheese Dip

You're welcome.

Blue Cheese Dip

4 oz. cream cheese, room temperature (I used Neufchatel/reduced fat)
1 c. sour cream (I used light)
4 oz. blue cheese crumbles (use reduced fat if you must)
2 tbsp. chopped fresh chives (use fresh, ok?)
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper

Serve with veggies and/or potato chips (REALLY good with Fritos!).

In bowl, using electric mixer or immersion blender, or stirring super fast, beat cream cheese on medium speed until soft & creamy.  Reduce speed to low, add sour cream, and beat until combined.  Add blue cheese and beat until cheese is crumbled and no large lumps remain.  Stir in chives and pepper.  Transfer to serving dish, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 30 minutes for up to one week.  Serve with potato chips or crudités.  Makes about 2 cups.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Tomato-Avocado Salsamole

Game Day Goodies

I still haven't decided on a menu for Super Bowl Sunday, but I think we need to have this one - it's basically guac & pico deliciousness.  I'll probably also make some baked chicken wings, and maybe try some baked mozzarella sticks with fresh marinara (which, by the way, is a FREEZER-FRIENDLY recipe, so when I try it, I'll share!), and maybe a blue cheese & steak flatbread.  What's on your game day menu?

Tomato-Avocado Salsamole

1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1 teaspoon minced jalapeno, or more to taste
1tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted, and coarsely mashed
1 medium tomato, chopped
¼ c. chopped cilantro

Combine onion, jalapeno, lime juice, vinegar, garlic, and salt in bowl.  Add avocado, tomato, and cilantro, stir well.  Serve immediately or, to store, reserve avocado pit, add to the mixture to prevent browning, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate.  Serve with lightly toasted whole wheat pita cut into triangles, or tortilla chips.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Savory Pork Carnitas

Love these carnitas!

We had these this week with our freezer meal swap (and by the way, this is a great "gateway meal" to make in bulk - I cranked out 12 of them in less than 30 minutes).  I got this recipe from my mom, who clipped it from the newspaper.  I like to serve with some queso fresco, scallions, and diced tomatoes, and sometimes a little avocado or sour cream.  I just watched an old episode of America's Test Kitchen, and they had a delish recipe for carnitas, too, so if you want to get a little fancier, look that one up.

We make it pretty regularly, and I've brought it to a number of families - either thawed and ready to go in the crock pot, or cooked and ready to serve.  When I bring it, I include shells, containers of sour cream, cheese, diced Roma tomatoes, an avocado, and sliced scallions.  Then I include a bag of chips and a jar of salsa, and either veggies & dip or fresh fruit for a side.  It's a little departure from the typical taco meal.  It's also a good one to make to feed a group - once I fed about 20 people with this - fairly easy and affordable.  Costco has these lean pork roasts in 3 packs that work well.
Savory Pork Carnitas

1 Boston butt pork roast (3- 4 lb.) trimmed of fat
1 pkg. (1.25 oz.) taco seasoning (or use your own)
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1 large onion, diced (I use about 1 cup, or 1/2 a large onion)
1 can (4 oz.) whole green chiles, drained (I use diced, and go medium for more kick)
1 cup water

Include with meal: 1 pkg. flour (or corn) tortillas

Optional garnishes: shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes, sliced avocado, sour cream,
lime wedges, chopped green onions, fresh cilantro

Place roast, taco seasoning, garlic, onion and chiles in 4 1/2 - 6 qt. slow cooker. Add water. Stir to combine. Coverand cook til tender enough to shred (6 hours on high, 10 hours on low). Remove from the cooker and shred meat with a fork. Spread evenly down the center of the tortillas and roll. Repeat. Serve with your favorite garnishes.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Taco Soup Revamped

You know how I feel about soup.

So here's another one for ya - most kids like it, and it's a reasonably healthy, affordable option for dinner.  We first did it for a freezer meal, and the original recipe we tried was ridiculously salty - lots of packaged things with lots of sodium.  So I've tweaked it, and here's what I came up with:

1 lb. ground beef or turkey, browned & drained, or shredded chicken
1 onion, diced
1 pkg. taco seasoning (to cut down on sodium and mystery ingredients, make your own - it's easy)
½ c. water
2 15-ounce cans petite diced tomatoes
1 15-ounce can tomatoes with chiles
2 8-ounce cans tomato sauce
1 15-ounce can whole kernel corn, drained
2 15-ounce cans kidney beans, drained & rinsed
1 15-ounce can black beans, drained & rinsed
1 15-ounce can pitted ripe olives, drained (optional)
1 14.5 ounce can chicken or vegetable broth (Swanson Natural Goodness)

Have on hand: garnishes such as shredded cheddar, chopped avocado, sour cream, tortilla chips or baked tortilla strips, fresh cilantro, fresh lime slice

In a Dutch oven or large saucepan over medium-high heat, brown ground beef with onions until meat is no longer pink. Remove from heat and drain. Stir in taco seasoning with ½ c. water. Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, corn, beans and broth. Stir to combine. Cool completely, and freeze in freezer-safe containers or storage bags, leaving room for expansion. Include a can of olives, if desired.

To prepare: thaw in fridge and reheat until simmering. Serve with garnishes.