Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

I guess technically I can't really say that until tomorrow, huh. Oh well. It's my blog, I'll do and say what I want...within reason. My mom reads this, and I wouldn't want to offend her. ;)

This is a weird New Years Eve, probably because we have absolutely nothing planned, and for the first time in at least 18 years I most likely will not be staying up until midnight. For the past several years the husband and I have opted to stay home and celebrate by eating king crab legs and having cocktails. The boy usually stays at my mom's house, but this year with the new baby we're all just hanging out here. The husband and I are still having king crab legs, but no cocktails for me...which is kind of too bad because a vodka and sprite sounds really yummy to me right now. Oh well...all in due time. When I was at Trader Joe's a couple weeks ago with Jen B., I bought some Fondue Brie. They were giving samples of it, and it was oh-so-yummy. So we'll have that as an appetizer and then the crab legs later on.

To show that I wasn't always such a New Years Eve fuddy-duddy, here are a couple pics from year's past. Most of my fun NYE pics were on film, and I don't feel like busting out the scanner, so this will have to do. But, I will say that one year I was skinny and hot enough to wear vinyl pants and be on a VIP guest list at a club in Seattle. Sigh...those days are long gone.

This is my friend John and me celebrating NYE 2000 I think it was:


This is the husband and me NYE 2002 in San Francisco (see...I used to even travel to cool places to celebrate!):


And, no, I am not wearing the same thing in both pictures.

So, happy new year everyone!! I'll be back in 2009 with more yummy dinners! ;)

Ham and Pasta Casserole

The baby boom in my MOMS Club continues. Within three weeks of my baby being born, there were two more babies born--also boys. I'm beginning to wonder who exactly all these boys are going to date because no one in our area seems to be having girl babies. My friend Danielle (Hi, Danielle!) had her baby boy three weeks after mine. Our club took her dinner, but the only night that worked for me to take her dinner was already spoken for by the time I responded, so I lived vicariously (not really) and took her dinner on a random night. I asked her what night would be good--I don't just show up randomly at people's homes with dinner in hand. But wouldn't it be sweet if someone did that for you?! Actually I'd only like it if I had seen the person's kitchen first. I don't like not knowing where my food comes from...call me crazy.

Anyway, I gave Danielle the choice between a chicken and rice casserole or this ham and pasta casserole, and she chose the ham. That worked out great because we had ham for Christmas dinner at my mom's house, so I just brought home a bunch of the leftover ham to use. Win-win-win becuase 1) my mom didn't have to eat ham from Christmas until Valentine's Day, 2) I didn't have to buy ham to make this, and 3) Danielle and her family got dinner. I had made this casserole one time before when my friend Andrea had her baby earlier this year (I'm telling you...stay away from this area unless you want to get pregnant) and also made a batch for us at the same time. We really liked it, but it's not often I have ham on hand, so I hadn't made it since then. It really comes together easily, and it's super tasty.

Ham and Pasta Casserole
6 ounces spaghetti, cut into small lengths
2 cups diced cooked ham
3 tablespoons butter
4 to 6 ounces mushrooms, sliced
4 to 6 green onions, trimmed, thinly sliced
4 tablespoons flour
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic seasoned pepper or other pepper blend
dash cayenne or other hot pepper, as desired
salt or more seasoned salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

Cook spaghetti in boiling salted water, following package directions. Drain and rinse in hot water; combine with ham in a large bowl.

Heat butter over medium low heat; add sliced mushrooms. Cook, stirring frequently, until mushrooms are tender; add green onions. Stir in flour until blended in thoroughly. Gradually stir in chicken broth and milk. Add seasoned salt, pepper, and hot pepper. Cook, stirring constantly, until thickened. Taste and add more salt and pepper, as needed. Stir into the spaghetti and ham mixture; stir in cheese. Bake at 325° for 25 to 30 minutes, until bubbly and cheese is melted.

*****

I don't think I deviated from the recipe at all, although I did add in a bag of frozen peas to give it a little more color. I had said last time I made this that I thought it would be good replacing some of the chicken broth with white wine and using gruyere instead of the cheddar. But, since Danielle and I are both nursing mommies, I figured I'd stick with the original recipe, even though the alcohol would cook out. Really I was just lazy and didn't notice that comment until after I had gone to the grocery store and got the ingredients listed. So next time I have ham, I'll have to try it that way. Oh, and I used penne instead of spaghetti because it's what I had on hand. I'm telling you, I love Safeway's organic whole wheat pasta!!

Since we already ate it, I can tell you it was great. Danielle said they liked it, too. There was only one serving left after dinner Monday night...I think the husband had thirds at dinner, and I had seconds. Plus a couple bites while I was doing the dishes. ;)

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Balsamic Chicken Drumsticks

So, one of the things I find most annoying about having a newborn is putting them down to sleep, thinking they're goign to sleep so you go to bed, only to have them not actually go to sleep and you have to get right back up once you're comfortable. I hate that. It was worse when the boy was a baby because I'd go back to my room to go to sleep and find the dog sleeping in my spot. At least she kept it warm for me. Anyway, I figured I'd sit up a bit and make sure the baby is actually going to sleep to avoid that whole mess, so I figured while I was up I might as well update the blog with what I'm making for dinner tomorrow night (Sunday). Although I'd be lying if I said I wasn't thinking about hunkering down with the last Twilight book and reading some more of it before I konk out for the night. Or for a few hours until the baby needs to eat again.

This is from Giada's latest cookbook. I've only casually flipped through it so far, but this was one of the first recipes I saw. I have everything on hand for it and thought it sounded good. I heart Giada. This is only the second cookbook of hers that I have, and I can't wait to try more stuff from it. Now if I could just get to be as skinny as she is, I'd be a happy lady. I found the recipe on the Food Network website which is nice because I hate typing recipes and try to avoid it if I can.

Balsamic Chicken
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup soy sauce
5 sprigs of rosemary
5 garlic cloves, halved
10 to 12 chicken drumsticks
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Combine the balsamic, honey, brown sugar, soy sauce, rosemary sprigs, and garlic cloves, in a large, re-sealable plastic bag. Shake and squeeze the contents of the bag to dissolve the honey and the brown sugar. Add the chicken drumsticks to the bag and seal with as little air as possible in the bag. Place in the refrigerator and marinate for 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Place the chicken drumsticks on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake until the skin is caramelized and very dark in spots, about 30 to 35 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the marinade in a small saucepan. Bring the marinade to a boil (in order to kill bacteria). Reduce the heat to simmer and cook over low heat until thick, about 15 minutes. Reserve.

Use a pastry brush to brush some of the cooked marinade on the cooked chicken. Place the chicken on a serving platter. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds and the chopped parsley.

*****

I don't have fresh rosemary, but I do need to go grocery shopping tomorrow, so either I'll pick some up then or just used dried and call it good. Of course, this recipe assumes that my chicken defrosts in time. I put it in the fridge this morning, so my fingers are crossed.

I got my menu all figured out for the coming week and am excited to start cooking again, although I have to admit I was at a bit of a loss for what to make since it's been so long.

*****

Finally, a review! We ended up having this just last night. First the chicken wasn't defrosted in time for Sunday night's dinner, then Monday when I went to make it, I didn't have enough honey, so I had to go to the store yesterday and get the honey. It was worth the wait though. I really liked it! The husband thought it could have used more sauce, but that was really my fault for two reasons. One, we weren't home for me to flip the bag I was using to marinate the chicken because we went to the park with Jen B. and her son after naps, and two, I didn't read the directions all the way through to know the sauce had to simmer for 15 minutes to thicken. We were hungry, so I brushed it on before it was really thick. I think had I done both of those things correctly, there would have been more sauce stuck to the chicken. It was super easy to prepare, and putting the foil down on the cookie sheet made it super easy to clean up because you just threw away the foil. I love it!! I will definitely make this again. I'm always looking for chicken drumstick recipes because they're so cheap when they go on sale.

Catching Up

I'm too lazy to do separate entries for all the things we had while my in-laws were in town, so I thought I'd do one post to cover all of them and just link to previous blog posts with the recipes. Okay...you got me...the real reason is that I started the last book in the Twilight series, and I'm dying to get back to reading. I'm uploading all of our Christmas pictures onto the computer, so while I'm stuck sitting here (342 pictures takes awhile...) I thought I'd update the ol' blog. I do have a couple new recipes to add, but those will have to wait for later. I think it's just two--a salsa recipe my MIL made and some cookies I made.

Eggplant Parmesan: just as good as the first time I made it. Time-consuming to prepare but so totally worth it!!

Homemade Pizza: We used this dough recipe for pizzas but did them on our fancy new grill. They turned out great! This was, I think, the first time I'd used this dough on the grill.

Chili Cheese Tortilla Wraps: good as usual...this is one of the husband's absolute favorite dinners.

Aurelia's Lasagna: I can't take credit for this because my mother-in-law made it for us for dinner on Christmas Eve, but I do have the recipe on my blog.

That's all I remember making. Tonight we just had leftover lasagna. Tomorrow night I'm trying a chicken recipe from my new Giada cookbook. The baby is having a growth spurt which means he wants to eat ALL THE TIME, so if I can ever get him to stop eating I may try to run to Target and pick up the new Barefoot Contessa cookbook. Actually they had it at Costco last time I was there, and I do need a few things from there. Maybe I'll brave it alone with both kids sometime early in the week.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

New cookbooks!!

I'm so excited...I got three new cookbooks for Christmas. One I already mentioned, one is the new Giada cookbook which I can't wait to look through, and the other was from my brother from a website I'd never heard of but can't wait to check out: hungry-girl.com. I've been looking at that cookbook since we got home. it's all healthy recipes which is great. The only cookbook I didn't get that I really wanted was the newest Barefoot Contessa book, but luckily I got Christmas money and will go pick it up with that...hopefully tomorrow.

So, be on the lookout for lots of yummy new recipes coming your way in the next few weeks!

Breakfast Casserole

Merry Christmas everyone!!! Here I promised to get back to blogging and haven't posted anything. what can I say...I've been busy caring for a newborn and toddler and having my in-laws in town. I figured I'd start with the egg casserole I made for breakfast this morning and work my way back from there as I have time. My in-laws go home tomorrow morning, so then I'll for sure have to get back to cooking. And doing dishes. And picking up toys. And all the other household things they've been doing for us while they've been here. Sigh.

I hope everyone's having a nice Christmas! We're heading to my mom's for dinner, and I'm off the hook for taking anything except my brood and presents. My husband calls it "Second Christmas" with my family because there's an insane amount of gifts...especially for the boy. He's the only great-grandchild (well, he and the baby now) for my two grandmas, the only grandkid for my parents, and my aunt & uncle and our family friend that celebrates with us don't have grandkids either, so my kids are surrogate grandkids for all of them. You can imagine the gift insanity. We had a great Christmas morning at our house; Santa brought the boy roller skates, which he loves. He took a twirl around the block in them...sort of. They're "learn to skate" skates, so one of the wheels stays locked so he can walk in them and get the hang of it. he looked so cute in his skates, helmet, and knee pads! My entire downstairs looks like a Toys R Us puked in it. The husband and I got each other GPS so that wasn't too exciting since we already knew what it was. I bought myself a Coach purse recently and had the store wrap it so I could put it under the tree. Oh, and my in-laws got me a fantastic cookbook. I've probably mentioned how I love cookbooks that are from churches or moms groups or whatever group where people submit their own recipes. I figure every recipe is good because no one is going to go to the trouble of submitting something that sucks. My mother-in-law is a teacher at a Christian school, and she gave me a cookbook the school put together. I'm chomping at the bit to read through it and get cooking!

On that note (since I want to be reading my cookbook), here's the breakfast casserole we had. I've made it before, so it's really nothing exciting.

Weekend Brunch Casserole
1 pound Bob Evans or Owens® Original Recipe Sausage Roll
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 (8 ounce) can refrigerated crescent dinner rolls
8 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Crumble and cook sausage in medium skillet over medium heat until browned. Drain.

Line bottom of greased 13 x 9 inch baking dish with crescent roll dough, firmly pressing perforations to seal. Sprinkle with sausage. Combine remaining ingredients in medium bowl until blended; pour over sausage.

Bake 25-30 minutes or until set. Let stand 5 minutes before cutting into squares; serve hot. Refrigerate leftovers.

*****

I've found if you use Eggbeaters instead of real eggs, the cooking time is 5-10 minutes longer for whatever reason.

and with that, I'm off to read! Merry Christmas to all!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Creamy Parmesan Orzo

Ah, back to the daily grind of cooking. Well, only sort of. We got a fancy schmancy new grill and cooked ahi tuna steaks on it. Yum! They were already marinated, so all I did was cook up some orzo and broccoli. I had kind of forgotten about this recipe until Jen B. made it recently. I don't know how I forgot about it--it's one of my favorites! And it's so yummy. I'll have to get it back in the rotation.

Creamy Parmesan Orzo
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup orzo
1 1/4 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 1/4 cups water
1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 teaspoons pine nuts, toasted

Heat butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add orzo, and cook 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in broth and water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer until liquid is absorbed and orzo is done (about 15 minutes). Remove from heat; stir in cheese, basil, salt, and pepper. Sprinkle with the pine nuts. Serve immediately.

*****

I could have sworn the recipe called for 1/2 cup of parmesan. Oh well. A little extra cheese never hurt anyone, did it? :) I didn't have fresh basil, so I just used some dried. I think it's good either way.

It was definitely challenging trying to get dinner on the table at a decent time since the baby is ALWAYS hungry. I had to stop feeding him to work on dinner, which meant I was working on dinner with a screaming baby in the background. Fun stuff.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

4-Layer Bars

I'm dying to do more holiday baking, but I'm forcing myself to clean the kitchen before I get to do anything fun like that. My kitchen has an insane amount of clutter in it right now. Everyone keeps telling me, "You have a new baby--your house doesn't have to be clean" which I mostly agree with, however the clutter is driving me up the wall. And I want to get things ready for Christmas decorations (mostly our tree...I think that's all that is left to put up) and can't get all that out with an already cluttered house.

So, I think as the boy is zoned out watching Christmas specials off the DVR, I'll clean the kitchen. Then either tonight or tomorrow, the boy and I can make these. This is my most favorite treat to make at Christmas-time. There's no good reason you couldn't make them any other time of year, but I always just make them in December. I need to make up a "treat list" of things to make because I really want to be baking! Plus the boy likes helping when I bake, so that makes it more fun. If he was just old enough to do the dishes, it would be perfect. Anyway, I saw this recipe pictured in the Kraft Food & Family magazine years and years ago (well, 2004) and have been making it ever since. The husband could eat the whole pan in one sitting, so consider yourselves warned as to how tasty these are!

4-Layer Bars
1 pkg. (2-layer size) yellow cake mix
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, melted
1 egg
3 cups JET-PUFFED Miniature Marshmallows
1 cup candy-coated chocolate pieces (i.e. M&Ms)
1/2 cup PLANTERS COCKTAIL Peanuts, chopped

PREHEAT oven to 375°F. Combine cake mix, butter and egg. Spread into lightly greased 13x9-inch baking pan.

BAKE 16 to 18 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

TOP immediately with remaining ingredients. Bake an additional 2 minutes or until marshmallows begin to melt. Cool completely. Cut into 32 bars to serve.

*****

Mmmmmmm. I can't wait to make these. I heart them so much.

I'm going to be making dinner tomorrow night, kind of. I bought marinated ahi tuna steaks (hooray...I can have ahi tuna again!!!!!) at Trader Joe's yesterday, so we're going to grill those on our brand new fancy schmancy grill. I think I'm going to make some orzo to have on the side of it because we haven't had it in forever. Monday will be the last night we're getting meal support from anyone, so it's back to the grind of cooking for me. Well, kind of. My mother-in-law will be here, and she may very well do some cooking while they're visiting. But, Tuesday night I have a super yummy "getting back in the saddle" dinner planned. It's a repeat recipe, but one I've only made once and LOVED. The main ingredient was reasonably priced at Trader Joe's yesterday, so I couldn't resist.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Cheesy Ranch Chex Mix

So do you guys miss me? I miss my blog. I kind of miss cooking dinner, but it's been so nice to have people bringing us meals. We've been really spoiled, too, with some good food. I have been making some Christmas treats here and there--I just can't resist. I figured I might as well post those recipes. Actually I think I've only made three things, but I have plans for more in the coming week. My in-laws are coming to visit, so I may be cooking dinner some in the near future, but the husband thinks his mom will probably do a lot.

Anyway, I saw this in a cooking magazine my mom had, and I had everything on hand to make it. I heart Chex Mix, so I figured it was worth a try.

Cheesy Ranch Chex® Mix
9 cups Corn Chex®, Rice Chex® or Wheat Chex® cereal (or combination)
2 cups bite-size pretzel twists
2 cups bite-size cheese crackers
3 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
1 package (1 oz) ranch dressing and seasoning mix
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1. In large microwavable bowl, mix cereal, pretzels and crackers. In small microwavable bowl, microwave butter uncovered on High about 30 seconds or until melted. Pour over cereal mixture; stir until evenly coated. Stir in dressing mix and cheese until evenly coated.

2. Microwave uncovered on High 3 minutes, stirring each minute. Spread on waxed paper or foil to cool. Store in airtight container.

*****

This stuff is pretty good, but I like the regular ol' Chex Mix better. I realized that I didn't microwave it after I had mixed everything together. Honestly I don't know what difference that would make. Oh, and I ended up using six tablespoons of butter. Three just didn't seem like it was going to coat all of it.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Out of business for awhile!

I'm sure you've picked up on the fact that my baby boy has arrived since I haven't posted anything in the last several days. He was born on November 19th at 9:36 PM weighing 10 pounds and measuring 21.5" long. We make big babies, what can I say. Some of my friends (and my mom) have very graciously been bringing us dinner which has been so nice. With my first son we ate a lot of take-out because we didn't have friends in this part of town, and it has been SO NICE to have awesome, yummy, home-cooked meals delivered to us at dinner time.

Here's a picture of the newest love of my life (in addition of course to the husband and the boy):

Monday, November 17, 2008

Pioneer Woman's Favorite Sandwich

Let me tell you how hard it was to come up with a menu for this week. My due date is Thursday. Last Thursday my doctor told me I was 5 centimeters dilated, which I took to mean, "This kid is coming soon, and this kid is coming fast." Here I am on Monday still pregnant with few signs my next son is going to make his grand appearance any time soon. I go to the doctor again on Wednesday and fully plan on saying, "Aside from some kind of drug, do what you can to get this kid out of me!" So I figured I'd plan dinners through Thursday and call it good.

I wanted to try to add in at least one vegetarian dinner since we'll be mostly relying on meals from friends over the coming weeks (that is, if this kid is ever born!). I remembered how much we loved these sandwiches the one other time I made them, so I figured it was worth having them again. I'm excited. I heart Pioneer Woman. She's one of my Facebook friends but only because I saw a link for her FB profile on her website and decided to be a stalker. Really, she's the only one of my friends on there that I don't actually know. Anyway. I have yet to be disappointed with anything of hers that I've made. I kind of take that back, her lasagna was only okay, but it wasn't bad. Plus I'm hoping enough chilies on my sandwich might get things going and start labor. Fingers crossed...I wouldn't mind this being my last meal before becoming a mom of two!

Pioneer Woman's Favorite Sandwich
whatever type of sandwich bread you like...I used wheat (PW likes rye)
mild cheddar cheese slices
provolone cheese slices
sliced tomato
thinly sliced red onion
canned Hatch whole green chiles
1 Tablespoon of mayo
1 Tablespoon of Dijon mustard
Lots of softened butter or margarine

Directions:

1) For spreadable sauce: Thoroughly combine 1 Tablespoon of mayo and 1 Tablespoon of Dijon mustard in a small bowl.
2) Spread a very thin layer of sauce mixture on the inside of both pieces of the bread that you will be using to construct your sandwich.
3) Place two slices of tomato and some thin red onion slices on one side of the bread. Then, top that bread piece with 2 slices of provolone cheese and one or two slices of whole green chiles. Don't be shy with the green chiles.
4) On the other piece of bread, place 2 slices of cheddar cheese, and very carefully close your sandwich. Be gentle.
5) Now, spread a generous amount of butter on each side of the tops of the bread, not missing anything. Really butter 'em good! Seriously, use the butter...it is okay.
6) Heat a non stick skillet over LOW heat, and cook on each side (flipping once)...5 minutes per side. You can turn the heat up to Medium-Low (but do not heat past Medium) to get your desired brown/toastiness accomplished.

I started mine on low and then turned it up during cooking to get my bread nice and toasted. THE TRICK IS TO BE PATIENT AND NOT TURN THE HEAT UP TOO HIGH. I promise your patience will be rewarded.

Also, these babies are tricky to flip. Be careful.

7) Remove ooey-gooey delectable sandwich from skillet and cut into halves. Serve immediately. Say a prayer and go to confession quickly after consuming this masterful sandwich. They are so good you will feel dirty.

*****

Last time I did them in my electric skillet, but they were still kind of hard to flip because of the deep sides. I think I might bust out my rarely-sees-the-light-of-day electric griddle and try them on that. We're not having anything fancy as a side, just some crinkle fries and salad.

Cajun Smothered Chicken

Mmmm...sounds yummy doesn't it? It was! We had it for dinner last night. Although I have a confession...it was a mix. All I did was cut up some chicken breasts, brown them, pour in the mix, and add water. I'd recommend the mix though! :)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Brinner

I had absolutely no desire to make for dinner tonight what I had originally planned, so I found myself scurrying for something else around 3:00 this afternoon. I got tired of trying to find something and decided to just make pancakes, hashbrowns, and scrambled eggs. Who doesn't like breakfast for dinner?! I did, however, look up a real pancake recipe instead of using the mix I normally go to when the boy wants pancakes for breakfast.

Good Old Fashioned Pancakes
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 1/4 cups milk
1 egg
3 tablespoons butter, melted

1. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Make a well in the center and pour in the milk, egg and melted butter; mix until smooth.
2. Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each pancake. Brown on both sides and serve hot.

*****

The only thing I changed was I added in a teaspoon of vanilla. I like the flavor it adds to pancake mix. They were really yummy...way better than my usual boxed mix. If I'm feeling up to it at some point, I may mix up all the dry ingredients and keep those bagged up and on hand for when we want pancakes.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Quick Homemade Pizza

Ah, Friday. Even though I don't work anymore, I still love Fridays and the promise of the weekend lying ahead...which means I don't have to deal with a bi-polar toddler by myself all day for two whole days. Daddy can take some of the duty too! :) Of course, this weekend is completely up in the air since kid #2 could make his grand appearance at any time.

I'm still not totally motivated to cook, but since I know my cooking nights are numbered for awhile, I'm plugging along with it. My friend Jen B. posted this pizza recipe recently on her blog that she got from our friend Jen A.. I couldn't believe how fast and easy the dough was, so I wanted to give it a try. I've had Jen A's pizza before, and it's quite tasty, I just didn't know how super easy it is to make. The boy and husband are both pizza fanatics, so I know dinner will be well received tonight, which is always a plus.

Quick Homemade Pizza
For Dough:
1 package of active dry yeast
1 tsp sugar
1 cup warm water
2 1/2 cups of flour
2 Tablespoons of olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon of Italian Seasoning (optional)
1 Tablespoon of garlic powder (optional)

Sauce
Cheese
Toppings of choice

1. Preheat oven to 450. In a medium bowl, dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water. Let stand until creamy (about 10 minutes).
2. Stir in flour, salt, & olive oil. Beat until smooth. Let rest 5 minutes.
3. While dough is resting, combine all sauce ingredients in a food processor, and blend until smooth.
4. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and pat or roll into a round. Transfer crust to a lightly greased pizza pan dusted with corn meal. Spread evenly with sauce. Cover with toppings in an even layer.
5. Bake 15-20 min. Let cool 5 minutes. Cut and serve!

*****

Jen B. made her own sauce (she's such a show-off...), but I bought a jar of sauce to use because I'm lazy. ACtually I had planned to make her sauce (I think it was her recipe, not Jen A's, but if I've given false credit I apologize!!), but I forgot to look at the recipe before we left this morning. I think I used the last of my canned tomatoes the other night for the goat cheese pasta, and I know I don't have any tomato paste like it called for, so jarred sauce it is.

I wasn't really sure what I wanted to top it with, but basil was a decent price, so I figured I'd go with a basil, tomato, and fresh mozzarella. Then I decided I'd make two and do the second one with just cheese...plain ol' bagged pizza blend cheese. I'm such a mean mommy, but I just don't know if I want to introduce fresh mozzarella to my toddler. There are some things he just doesn't need to try until he's older...mostly so the husband and I don't get jipped out of yummy things like fresh mozzarella. Brie and Lucky Charms are two other things that fall into this category. King crab legs would be another. A few years ago we were in Ireland with the husband's family, and the husband gave one of our nephews a mussel to try. I think he was five at the time. To this day, our nephew still wants mussels if they go somewhere that has them. The husband's sister was pretty pissed she had to go from her son being satisfied with chicken nuggets kids' meals to demanding mussels. I don't want that to happen yet.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Chicken and Yellow Rice

I wasn't really "feeling" the dinner I had originally planned for tonight, so I consulted the menu plan to see what I could move around and make tonight instead. This was originally slated for Monday because the husband was going to be gone, but his plans changed, so I also changed dinner plans. I decided it sounded good for tonight because it's super easy, and I didn't feel like cooking. I would have tried to convince the husband to get some kind of take-out (which would not be a hard sell), but my days of cooking dinner are numbered. I had an OB appointment today and am dilated to 5 cm!!! This kid is coming ANY TIME NOW. So, given that, I figured I might as well make dinner while I'm still relatively feeling up to it.

This isn't something we have very often because I don't think the husband is a big fan. Or I never think to make it, not sure which. It's insanely easy and pretty cheap, too, so I don't know why I don't have it in higher dinner rotation. My mom would make chicken and yellow rice when I was growing up, and I had mentioned it to my friend Nanci (Hi, Nanci!!) one time, and she said that her family had it too only they added black beans to it. Actually she may have told me that's what they were having one night and we got to talking about it. I don't know, it was a long time ago. I just don't want her to feel slighted if I got the story wrong. ;) Anyway, I love black beans, so I figured I'd try it that way and have been including black beans ever since. The husband doesn't like them, so I scoop some out for him before adding in the beans. I know, I know...I'm such a good wife.

Chicken and Yellow Rice
1 package saffron rice mix
1 or 2 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

Cook rice mix according to package directions. Mix in chicken and black beans.

*****

See? Insanely easy. I'm almost embarassed to include it, but I had included it before so what the hell. I was worried it wasn't going to be enough but there's at least one--if not two--servings left. The boy eats it pretty well, too. We didn't have anything fancy with it, just some peas and salad.

I think it would be good in a vegetarian version as well with just black beans and no chicken. Not sure how filling it would be, but it would at least be a good side dish.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Pasta with Creamy Tomato and Goat Cheese Sauce

Wow, yesterday's post was #400!! I had no idea I had that many. Exciting!

This is another recipe from the cookbook Jen B. gave me as a baby shower gift. I have some goat cheese in the fridge from our anniversary "dinner" a few weeks ago. I say "dinner" because I couldn't come up with anything to make last minute, the husband didn't want to grill, so I ran to the store and got a bunch of yummy appetizer stuff. Really that was probably a better choice than anything I would have come up with to make. They had some herb goat cheese I couldn't resist buying, but we had so many other snacks not a lot of it was eaten. I think I'm probably shy on the four ounces, but I don't think by much. I also don't think I have any complete boxes of pasta, so it will be one of those "throw all these random pasta types into the pot" nights. I kind of feel like I'm coming down with a cold, so I'm totally digging that this is going to be a fast dinner to put together.

Pasta with Creamy Tomato and Goat Cheese Sauce
1 16-ounce box farfalle or rotini pasta
2 cups favorite prepared pasta sauce
1 4-ounce log goat cheese, cut into four pieces

In a large pot of lightly salted boiling water, cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain and transfer to a serving dish. In a small saucepan over medium heat, heat the pasta sauce for 5-10 minutes or until lightly bubbling, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low. Add the goat cheese to the pasta sauce and stir until melted and smooth. Pour the hot sauce over the pasta; toss to coat.

*****

I just realized I'm not sure if I have pasta sauce. I know I have some in the freezer, but I don't want to deal with defrosting that, plus it's way more than I need. I know I have some canned tomatoes and some tomato sauce, so if nothing else I'll just whip up my own really fast, unless I come across a jar of Ragu in my pantry. I think we're just going to have bread and salad on the side.

*****

This pasta was awesome!!! We all really liked it. I did end up having some Ragu in the fridge, but there was a clump of fuzz on the inside of the lid, so I opted not to use it. Instead I poured two cans of diced tomatoes into my food processor and added some basil, oregano, and a touch of crushed red pepper, then pureed. It turned out great. Using two cans gave me more than the two cups called for in the recipe, but I actually used a little more than two cups because we like saucy pasta. The goat cheese gave it a nice creamy boost and added yummy flavor. And, since I hate washing dishes, I mixed it all together in the pot I had used to cook the pasta, not a separate serving dish.

Oh, and I just have to rave about Safeway's brand of organic, whole wheat pasta. I buy whole wheat pasta since it's better for us, but I'm not a fan of the texture of it. I was walking down the pasta aisle at Safeway last week and saw that organic, whole wheat penne was on clearance, so I grabbed a bag. Turns out that was the only pasta I had in the pantry, so I'm glad I had bought it. I was really surprised at the taste and texture--you couldn't even tell it was whole wheat pasta. I told the husband while we were eating that it was whole wheat, and he was surprised, too. I think I've found my new pasta of choice!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Herb Crusted Pork Roast

I totally thought I had posted this earlier when I posted last night's recipe, but then I realized I hadn't because I wasn't 100% sure what I was going to make tonight. I was so confident I had posted it, when I was getting out the recipe for the potatoes I made to go with it I thought, "Oh shoot I forgot to post the potato recipe with the pork roast recipe." Pregnancy brain, I tell ya.

This has been on our menu for I think three weeks now and kept getting pushed back for whatever reason. I don't know why, it's super easy to make and really tasty. Of course my lack of cooking recently probably accounts for most of the reasons why I've been pushing it back. I bought the potatoes last week for the potato recipe I wanted to make with it, and I wanted to get them used up, so tonight was the night.

Herb Crusted Pork Loin

1 (4-pound) boneless pork loin, with fat left on
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme or 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon dried basil or 2 teaspoons fresh basil leaves
1 teaspoon dried rosemary or 2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary

Preheat oven to 475 degrees F.

Place the pork loin on a rack in a roasting pan. Combine the remaining ingredients in a small bowl. With your fingers, massage the mixture onto the pork loin, covering all of the meat and fat.

Roast the pork for 30 minutes, fat side up, then reduce the heat to 425 degrees F and roast for an additional hour. Test for doneness using an instant-read thermometer. When the internal temperature reaches 155 degrees F, remove the roast from the oven. Allow it to sit for about 20 minutes before carving. It will continue to cook while it rests.

*****

I buy three or four pound pork loin roasts when they're on sale and cut them up into one pound increments, so the roast I used was roughly one pound. Honestly for the three of us, it was the perfect size. The leftovers of this recipe don't taste nearly as good as when it's fresh out of the oven, so I try to use a smaller roast and avoid having leftovers. The only pieces left tonight were two skinny end pieces. Woo hoo! Since I use a much smaller roast than what's called for, I reduce the cooking times by half, so I do 15 minutes at 475 and then 30 minutes or so at 425. When I put my meat thermometer in it, it registered 170 after the 30 minutes, so that was perfect. I forgot to scale back the ingredients for the herb crust, but I think it was a good amount, gave the roast lots of flavor.

My side dish with this were Barefoot Contessa's Parmesan Smashed Potatoes from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, although the recipe is also on the Food Network website. I don't remember what the original occasion was that I wanted to make these for, maybe my anniversary at the end of October? No idea. But since I heart all things Ina, I kept moving them on the menu with the pork roast (or the elusive whole chicken I kept meaning to make last week but never actually got around to taking out of the freezer). I didn't use quite the whole three pounds of potatoes that it called for, so I scaled back all the other ingredients, too. These were AWESOME. There was just enough parmesan to give the potatoes a little oomph and zing of flavor without overpowering them. I was worried they were going to be really gummy when I was adding in the half and half, butter, and sour cream, but they weren't at all. The recipe calls for you to mix them up in the bowl of a stand mixer, but that was going to just be one more pan I'd have to wash, and frankly I had enough pans to wash tonight without adding one more to the pile. So I mashed them up in the pot I cooked the potatoes in and added everything to that.

Overall this was a really yummy down-home, good for cooler fall weather type dinner.

Herbed Chicken and Dumplings

This was our dinner last night, but I was so busy nesting yesterday I didn't get a chance to post it. Seriously, my family room has never been cleaner than it is now. Well, there's toys that somehow migrated out of the toy room and some clutter on the coffee table, but the room itself almost sparkles. We had our carpets cleaned yesterday, and I was motivated to clean with all the furniture out of the way. I cleaned baseboards (insert mental image of a pregnant woman with nine days until her due date on hands and knees with a bottle of 409 scrubbing), vacuumed the blades of the ceiling fan, vacuumed up the corners of the room to get rid of dust and cobwebs. I still need to Magic Eraser some spots on the walls, but the room looks great. Our kitchen floor, however, was a casualty to the whole carpet cleaning process. Our couch and loveseat stuck to the linoleum or something and tore it up in a couple spots. Only one is REALLY noticeable and deep. We've always said we wanted to put tile in there, so I guess this is a sign that now is the time. Anyway, in my cleaning frenzy yesterday I also completely cleaned out my car, brought in the baby swing and washed the cover, washed the boy's laundry. I don't remember what else, but I have more on my list to get done today.

On to the whole point of my blog! I was looking through October's issue of Cooking Light over the weekend (somehow I had never gone through it!) and found a recipe for chicken and dumplings that looked really good, and I already had most of the ingredients on hand to make it. Of course at the grocery store yesterday I realized I had forgotten to check the recipe before we left to see what the ingredients were that I didn't have. Oops. Turned out it was only parsley, so that's not too bad. I heart chicken and dumplings, but this was my first time making it myself. My mom made some really good ones when I was little, but she hasn't made them in years. Or at least she hasn't made them for me.

Herbed Chicken and Dumplings
Cooking spray
8 ounces skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
3/4 cup (1/4-inch) diagonally cut celery
1/2 cup (1/4-inch) diagonally cut carrot
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/8 teaspoon dried thyme
3 parsley sprigs
1 bay leaf
3 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
2.25 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1/2 cup)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup 1% low-fat milk

1. Heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add chicken to pan; cook 4 minutes, browning on all sides. Remove chicken from pan; keep warm. Add celery and next 5 ingredients (through bay leaf) to pan; sauté 5 minutes or until onion is tender. Return chicken to pan; cook 1 minute. Add broth to pan; bring mixture to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes.

2. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, chopped parsley, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Add milk, stirring just until moist. Spoon by heaping teaspoonfuls into broth mixture; cover and simmer 10 minutes or until dumplings are done. Discard parsley sprigs and bay leaf.

*****

Like I said, I forgot to buy parsley, so I left that out of the soup mixture and used dried parsley in the dumplings. I also used chicken breasts instead of thighs, and I doubled the recipe since it only made two servings. I'm not sure if it's really a recipe that doubles well. I think next time I'd cut down on the amount of broth--six cups was a lot, I think four or five would have sufficed. It also needed a little something more for flavor. The broth/chicken/veggies was kind of bland. I think next time I might toss the chicken pieces in some seasoned flour before browning to give it a little extra oomph and help thicken the broth some. The dumplings, however, were FANTASTIC. The husband said he could have left the soup and just had the dumplings. The boy liked it well enough, although I don't know if he ever tried the dumplings. All in all, I'd try making this again to see if I could jazz it up a bit so there was a bit more flavor to it, but if I still couldn't get it right after that, I'd probably stop trying.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Chilaquiles

We're apparently having Benah week at our house...the pumpkin cake (which is gone, by the way), this recipe tonight, and we'll see her tomorrow for dinner, and Will and I are going to see her at the zoo on Sunday. Those last two events of course are contingent on when this baby gets here. Hopefully he at least holds off until tomorrow night so we can catch the LSU vs. Bama game (GEAUX TIGERS!!) and make it to dinner because it's at one of my most favorite places, and I'm worried if I miss it, this kid will have that held over his head for his whole life. I don't want to put that kind of burden on him.

Anyway, I've wanted to make this for awhile, but I'm not sure why I haven't. Pretty much all of the ingredients are things I normally have on hand. I was trying to come up with some new vegetarian options to have for dinner because I feel like I'm in a rut with all the veggie dinners I make. The husband said he likes all of them when I mentioned that to him last night, but I get tired of having the same things over and over and over. I'm just not a "Thursday is meatloaf night" kind of girl. I meant to post this earlier, but I've gotten sucked into reading the Twilight books and couldn't tear myself away this afternoon.

Chilaquiles
Sauce:
1 cup salsa
2 cups tomato sauce
1/2 cup water
4 ounce can chopped green chilies, undrained
14 ounce can pinto or kidney beans, rinsed and strained
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp dried oregano

Fixings:
1 11-oz bag tortilla chips
1 cup sour cream
2 cups grated Monterey Jack cheese
2 Tbsp minced cilantro, optional

Preheat oven to 350. Combine all sauce ingredients in a large bowl. Pour half the sauce into a shallow baking dish (Pyrex 12x7x2) and top with half the chips. Drop small spoonfuls of sour cream all over chips, then sprinkle on half the cheese. Top with remaining chips, sauce, sour cream, and cheese. Bake 35 minutes or until bubbly hot around the edges. Sprinkle top with cilantro.

*****

It sounds really similar to the Taco Crescent Bake I've made before, only no crescent rolls and meatless. I didn't really change anything up in the recipe, although I didn't have enough sour cream, so I used some sour cream and some plain yogurt. I had already run to the store earlier today to buy cheese because I didn't buy enough on my weekly grocery trip on Monday, and no way did I want to brave a grocery store at 5:00 on a Friday. NO THANKS!! Oh, and I did the layers a little differently. Instead of chips, sauce, sour cream, and cheese for the order the second time, I did sauce, chips, sour cream, and cheese to match up with the first. I also spread the sour cream around instead of leaving globs. Tricky business when spreading over chips (oh, which I broke up a little), but I got it to work.

I'm excited to try this and hope it turns out. Especially since I think Benah reads my blog, and I'd hate to give it a bad review and have her read it. ;)

*****

I just realized I never reviewed this. I liked it, the husband and boy weren't quite as sold on it. The husband thought it would be good as a dip, or at least he wanted tortilla chips to dip into it. The boy ate it okay but had to be prodded along (which isn't really anything new for dinner with him at our house).

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Onion Baked Pork Chops

Since Jen B. is keeping me honest about updating every day I thought I'd better post before I get an angry phone call from her after naptime. ;) I was trying to find some new recipes for this week--or even some older ones I hadn't made in a really long time--and came across an email full of budget friendly recipes someone sent me years ago. It's ridiculous the number of recipes I have saved in my email. Actually it's ridiculous the number of recipes I have everywhere. And it makes me sad when I think about how many of them will never be made. Sigh. Anyway...I had everything on hand for this except the pork chops, but they were on sale this week and I was planning on buying them anyway, so I thought it worked out well.

Onion baked pork chops
1 envelope Lipton Secrets onion soup mix
1/3 cup bread crumbs
4 pork chops
1 egg, well beaten

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In small bowl, combine soup mix, and bread crumbs. Dip chops in egg, then in breadcrumb mixture, until evenly coated. In lightly greased 9x13 in baking pan, arrange chops. Bake uncovered 20 min or until done, turning once.

*****

I'm thinking I may cook them on a rack in a roasting pan so the bottom doesn't get all soggy. I don't know what we'll have with this. Maybe some kind of pasta side dish and frozen mixed veggies. The starch side is what's up in the air, which isn't too big a deal.

*****

Well, the pork chops were okay. I like my other pork chop recipes better, but they weren't bad. If I needed a quick dinner one night and had everything on hand, I'd probably make them again, but I don't think I'd plan on making them, if that makes sense. I peeked in the oven at one point and thought they weren't even cooking because the color of the breading looked like the raw pork chop. Turns out they were mostly cooked, but I did leave them in for probably closer to 30 minutes because the inside was still pink and the temperature on my meat thermometer wasn't high enough. The boy really liked them and ate his whole serving without having to be prodded along which was pretty amazing.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Macaroni and Cheese

I'm having dinner issues this week. I had planned on making a Giada roast chicken recipe tonight, but I keep forgetting to take the chicken out of the freezer for it to defrost. Have I taken it out yet? Nope. So maybe we'll have it Saturday night at the rate I'm going. This dinner was slated for tomorrow night. I could eat macaroni and cheese multiple times a week, so I have to say I'm not disappointed we're having it a night early. Plus I need to clean up my kitchen a little, and just making mac and cheese will be easier than a whole chicken.

This mac and cheese is my mother-in-law's recipe. It's so yummy. She makes it as a Thanksgiving side dish, and there are never any leftovers. The husband's family are all cheese lovers, so it's always ooey-gooey-cheesy, which is just how I like it! Mmmm...the more I think about this, the more excited I am for dinner tonight!

Aurelia's Macaroni and Cheese
(these are "unmeasured ingredients", add to your taste)
hot boiled macaroni (8 to 12 ounce bag)
1 bag of shredded cheddar cheese (~8oz)
parmesan cheese (1/4 cup)
butter or margarine (1/2 stick)
few tablespoons of milk
salt/pepper

boil macaroni, drain. mix all other ingredients into the hot macaroni. place in 350 oven for about 10 minutes or until cheese is melted.
(toss in other cheeses as you like. ie american is good)

*****

It's totally easy and so yummy. I usually add in two bags of shredded cheese, I think this time I bought a bag of sharp cheddar (I heart sharp cheddar) and a colby-jack blend. I kind of want to start making it now and just eat ridiculously early, it's sounding so yummy to me. I think I'll cook some carrots to go along with it so we're having something more substantial with it.

Benah's Pumpkin Crumb Cake

As I was driving home after an OB appointment this morning (3 cm dilated, by the way, and the doctor said the kid could literally come any day now!) I was suddenly struck with a craving for pumpkin pie. Like I almost turned the car around to go to the nearest grocery store and buy one that I could eat for lunch. "Big deal," you're probably thinking. "She's pregnant, doesn't she get cravings all the time?" Yeah, I do...but generally not for foods I hate. I think the last time I had pumpkin pie my age was in single digits. I just don't like the stuff. But, I really wanted some and didn't want to have to drive to the store. I had a can of pumpkin in the pantry and a frozen pie crust in the freezer, so I thought I'd see if I had everything to make one.

Then I remembered this recipe.

A lot of things pumpkin I could take or leave, but I do like a good pumpkin bread, and I LOVE this cake. Some of my friends and I used to do a monthly supper club. Then we all started having kids, and it fell to the wayside. Anyway, whoever was hosting it would make the main dish, and the rest of us would bring a side dish, salad, or dessert. When we had a fall themed dinner, my friend Benah made this cake for dessert. To be honest, I was skeptical given my dislike for most things pumpkin. But to be nice I had a piece...plus it's rare I turn down dessert. The cake was AWESOME. I've been making it every fall since we had that supper club, which was December 2004.

I thought this would be a great substitute for pumpkin pie since I actually like it and had everything on hand to make it. Now I just can't let myself sit and eat the whole darn thing this afternoon. I was seriously giddy when I realized I could make this cake.

Benah's Pumpkin Crumb Cake
Crust:
1 pkg (18 oz) yellow cake mix (take out one cup for topping)
1 egg
1 stick butter, melted

Filling:
1 lb can pumpkin
3 eggs
½ c granulated sugar
¼ c brown sugar
1 ½ tsp cinnamon (or 1/2 tsp each of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger)

Topping
1 cup cake mix
½ c granulated sugar
½ c chopped nuts (optional)
3 tbsp butter

Preheat oven to 350. Mix crust ingredients; pat into greased 9x13 pan.

Beat filling ingredients; pour over crust.

Combine topping and crumble over filling.

Bake for 45-55 min.

*****

Mine is in the oven now and smells fantastic. I can't wait to have some. The husband never remembers this cake until he eats some of it, then he also wants to eat the whole darn pan of it.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Spicy Cashew Chicken Bundles

Happy Election Day, everyone! I hope you all are getting out today to vote, even if you are tired of hearing about this election. I did my part last week and mailed in my absentee ballot. Much easier than taking an unruly toddler with me to vote.

In an effort to avoid getting yelled at by Jen B. again, I think I'll start updating my blog during my morning computer time while the boy watches his shows. Maybe I overstated it a bit when I said she yelled. I think she was just trying to motivate me to stop being so lazy. She did the same thing when I was painting baby's room.

Last week I was going to make Taco Crescent Bake for dinner one night. I was going to move it to this week, but since we had meatballs on Sunday I didn't want to use hamburger twice. So I went to the Pillsbury website to look up recipes that used crescent rolls. This was one of the first ones taht came up, and I thought it sounded yummy. PLus I have some cashews that need to be used (i.e. I want them out of my pantry), so this works out great.

Spicy Cashew-Chicken Bundles
1 1/2 cups chopped cooked chicken
1/4 cup finely shredded carrot
3 tablespoons sliced green onions (3 medium)
3 tablespoons chopped cashews
1/2 teaspoon grated gingerroot or 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
1 can (8 oz) Pillsbury® refrigerated crescent dinner rolls or 1 can (8 oz)Pillsbury® Crescent Recipe Creations™ refrigerated flaky dough sheet
Additional sliced green onions, if desired

1. Heat oven to 375°F. In medium bowl, mix all ingredients except dough and additional sliced green onions; set aside.
2. If using crescent rolls: On ungreased large cookie sheet, unroll dough; separate into 4 rectangles. Press each into 7x4 1/2-inch rectangle, firmly pressing perforations to seal. If using dough sheet: On ungreased large cookie sheet, unroll dough; cut into 4 rectangles. Press each into 7x4 1/2-inch rectangle.
3. Spoon about 1/2 cup chicken mixture onto one end of each rectangle. Fold dough in half over filling; firmly press edges with fork to seal. With fork, prick top of each to allow steam to escape.
4. Bake 13 to 18 minutes or until deep golden brown. Immediately remove from cookie sheet. Garnish with additional sliced green onions. Serve warm.

*****

I guess I'll have to stop somewhere for green onions since I wasn't able to get them yesterday, but that's not a big deal. Those were the only ingredient I didn't have on hand for this. I think they sound yummy, so I'm hoping they turn out well. I havea bag of Asian veggies in the freezer, so I think we'll have those on the side.

*****

These turned out to be really yummy. I wasn't up for a trip to the store with a toddler for one item, so I skipped the green onions. I did find a red pepper in my produce drawer that needed to be used, so I diced that up and added it instead. My only complaint is that they weren't super filling. It made four, I had one, the boy had a half, and the husband ate the rest. He and I were both still hungry after finishing dinner. Granted, he ate an early lunch and was starving when he got home from work, and I'm pregnant and hungry all the time lately, so for "normal" people they could be just fine. These were definitely something I'd make again. The filling would also be good in a tortilla as a wrap I think. There was some filling left over, I may try that for lunch tomorrow. Or a snack later today. ;)

Monday, November 3, 2008

Chili Cheese Tortilla Wraps

Okay...after this post I'm all caught up! I told you I didn't cook much last week, and I wasn't lying! Plus I gotta get this done so I can fold laundry--baby clothes--and get them put away so I'm ready for this baby to get here and everything's done and put away. All I have left to do is pack my hospital bag. Oh, and potentially buy a new coming home outfit for the little buy since the temperatures here in AZ are still in the freakin' upper 80s!! Somehow I don't think a cute fleece outfit will work if it stays that warm for the next couple weeks.

Talk about digressing! Anyway, I wasn't motivated at all this morning to come up with dinner plans for the week, but I pushed on through and did it. I saw that my store had refried beans on sale, so I thought we'd have this tonight. I'm not super excited for it, but it's always good, and the husband absolutely loves it. He had me make this for his birthday dinner last year, that's how much he likes it. Plus it's easy, just throw everything in the crockpot and let it do its thing.

Chili Cheese Tortilla Wraps
1 16-oz can nonfat refried beans
1 8-oz package nonfat cream cheese, cut into cubes and softened
1 4-oz can diced green chilies, drained
3/4 cup chopped green onions
1 cup nonfat shredded cheddar cheese
4 98% fat free flour tortillas

Spray inside of slow cooker with cooking spray. Combine refried beans, cream cheese, chilies, and green onions in slow cooker and mix well. Cover and cook on low heat for 4 hours or high heat for 2 hours, stirring once or twice during cooking. If cooking on low heat, increase to high. Stir in 3/4 cup of the cheesse and sprinkle 1/4 cup cheese over top. Warm tortillas. Spoon bean mixture into tortillas; roll and serve immediately. Can be served with tortilla chips instead of tortillas.

*****

I've probably posted this at least 15 times before, so I won't go in to too much detail. I didn't have any green onions. Rather, the grocery store didn't have any. For the life of me I couldn't find them anywhere, and I walked around the produce section three times searching. There was an older woman there looking for them too and didn't have any luck. Weird, right? So we're doing without the green onions, but I don't think it should make too much difference.

There you go Jen...all caught up. ARe you happy now?!

Spaghetti and Meatballs

I'm sure I've mentioned before that I heart spaghetti and meatballs. I heart it so much. We rarely had spaghetti when I was growing up because my mom doesn't like it. She claims she ate too much of it in college and can't eat it anymore. Same goes for macaroni and cheese, which is odd because personally I ate a TON of that in college (and my whole life really) and still could eat it multiple times a week. Who knows. Occasionally we would get spaghetti but we'd never get meatballs. I was so excited when I found out my mother-in-law makes meatballs and even more excited when she gave me her recipe for them.

For whatever reason, I don't make this all that often, even though I love it. Probably because we don't eat a lot of red meat, and soy meatballs just aren't the same thing. They'll work in a pinch, but they don't even come close to real meatballs. Originally I had planned on making just spaghetti sauce last Tuesday for the boy and me for dinner, but that's when our family crisis came to a head, and by the time the boy and I got home from my mom's house, I was completely drained and exhausted and didn't have it in me to cook dinner. So I figured I'd bump it to Sunday night dinner and add in meatballs since the husband loves them too. The meatball recipe is my MIL's, the sauce recipe is from a cookbook put together by members of a message board that I belong to. I've made it before and loved it.

Meatballs
lean ground beef – 2 pounds or more
Italian bread crumbs ( 1 to 1 1/2 cups)
chopped onion – 1 chopped fine
parsley (1 1/2 tab minced)
grated Parmesan cheese (3/4 cup)
eggs –2
salt/pepper
garlic powder

Mix ingredients for the meatballs (ground beef, italian bread crumbs, chopped onion, parsley, grated parmesan cheese, and eggs. Salt and Pepper. Shape into balls and fry in a little olive oil.

*****

Tomato Sauce
3 cans crushed tomatoes
1 medium onion
3 cloves garlic
Oregano
Salt
Pepper
Fresh basil

Mince the garlic and onion. Add a tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and saute onion and garlic until onion is translucent. Add cans of crushed tomatoes plus half a can of water and bring to a boil. When it's boiling, turn the heat way down and let it simmer. The longer you let it simmer, the better it will taste. For three cans, let simmer about 90 minutes. Add salt, pepper, and oregano to taste. At the very end chop up some basil and stir it in (dried basil would work too).

*****

I forgot to add the parmesan cheese to the meatballs. I could tell something was missing, but the husband didn't say anything about them being off. They were still good, just not as good as they could have been. Also, my sauce turned out really watery for some reason. It was fine in the pot, but then once it was on our plates it was super runny. I didn't rinse off the pasta--which is what I always thought caused the problem--so I have no idea what happened.

Oh, and here's my fancy way of doing this. I cook the meatballs in the same pot I use to make the sauce. Then you get yummy little bits of meatballs stuck to the bottom of the pot. I deglaze the pot with some red wine, let it cook like that for awhile to get rid of the alcohol, then add in the sauce ingredients. Mmmmm...gives it just a little extra flavor that's super yummy.

Creamy Chicken Casserole

I just got an angry call from Jen B. wondering if I had given up on my blog. I told her no, I've just been lazy and really all I'm doing at this point is trying to come up with ways to get this kid out of me sooner rather than later. I'm so done being pregnant. Cooking and updating the blog both require energy and motivation, and those just aren't things I really have anymore these days. But, I'll try to do better these last couple weeks until baby gets here since I'll have a hiatus after that.

So, like I said in my preivous post, we had some family issues last week, so I didn't do a whole lot of dinner cooking. I did however make this casserole last Monday night I think it was (before the drama started), so I'll start with that. It was in one of my Southern Living cookbooks, and I had written a note by it at some point saying "Really good, really easy." Sweet...I'll take both of those things when it comes to dinners! That's why I love making notes in my cookbooks. Who knows when it was I made it, and it might have gone overlooked had it not been for my note to myself.

Creamy Chicken Casserole
3 cups chopped cooked chicken
1 can cream of chicken soup, undiluted
8 ounces sour cream
1 Tbsp poppy seeds
1-1/2 cups crushed round buttery crackers (40 crackers...I used Ritz)
1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted

Combine first four ingredients; spoon into a lightly greased 11x7 baking dish. Combine crushed crackers and butter, and sprinkle over chicken mixture. Bake, uncovered, at 350 for 30 minutes.

*****

Totally easy, see? Definitely somehwat of a trash-erole, but then don't all casseroles have a hint of that by their very nature? We all really liked it. I like finding casserole recipes for 11x7 pans because then you're not eating for a whole week, it's a manageable amount. This is definitely one I'll try to get in rotation since we all liked it, and it's quick and cheap to prepare. It would be a great use for leftover cooked chicken!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Quick Update

Wow, I can't believe it's been a week since I updated my blog! The past few days have been crazy with a family emergency, so that took precedence over everything else. I'll try to think back to what we've had recently and update with those recipes tomorrow since it's almost my bedtime now. All I can remember is a chicken casserole we had Monday night and a quiche we had towards the end of last week. This may require some serious thought.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Mock Coq Au Vin

This past Saturday some of my friends threw me an amazing baby shower!! All my friends that came were so generous and definitely spoiled new baby. Even though Will (the boy...I'm tired of using "the boy" all the time when talking about him) is still pretty young, it amazes me how small baby clothes are. This baby's going to be born at a different time of year than Will was, so we got some really cute winter/cold weather outfits for him to sport. Actually I'm doing a load of baby laundry right now. I heart baby laundry detergent. The pre-baby-arrival laundry loads are the ONLY form of laundry I enjoy. The clothes smell so sweet from the baby detergent and they're so tiny and cute! Once they're covered in spit up and poop, not so fun.

Anyway, my friend Jen B. was one of the friends that hosted the shower. She did an amazing job with the food spread--I wish she'd post the recipes for some of the stuff on her blog. Well, the finger sandwiches anyway. I'm digressing again. Her present was one of my favorites. She and her son went with Will and me to register at Babies R Us, and while we were standing around waiting to get the scanning gun, she was looking at the bookshelf they have up front with parenting books and stuff like that. Of course she honed in on the one cookbook they had displayed and brought it over for us to look at. We were both in love with it, so of course I registered for it. And, being the super duper friend that she is, that's what she got me for my gift. The book is called, "The One-Armed Cook" and is full of parenting tips (especially for new parents) and recipes that are easy to prepare when your kid/baby needs to be held the whole time you're supposed to be making dinner. Cool, huh? And the recipes in it are really yummy sounding.

So, I was flipping through it and came across this recipe and thought it would be perfect for tonight because 1) all I needed to buy for it were the mushrooms, 2) it's a crockpot recipe, and 3) the husband and I are going to a "tour" of the hospital where I'll be delivering so it's something that could be ready ahead of time for us to eat. So far it smells awesome!

Mock Coq Au Vin
1/3 cup red raspberry jam
1/4 cup red wine
3 Tbsp soy sauce or tamari
1 tsp prepared mustard
1 8-ounce package sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup frozen chopped onions
12 skinless chicken drumsticks
2 Tbsp cornstarch
2 Tbsp cold water
3 cups cooked rice

In the bottom of slow cooker, place the jam, wine, soy sauce, and mustard, stirring well to mix. Add mushrooms and onion to the mixture, stirring well to mix. Add the chicken; stir to coat with the sauce. Cover and cook on low for 5 hours.

Place cooked rice on a serving platter. Remove chicken from slow cooker and arrange on top of rice; cover to keep warm. Turn slow cooker to high. In a small mixing bowl, combine the cornstarch and water until smooth. Add the cornstarch mixture to sauce, stirring well to mix. Cook an additional 15 minutes until sauce thickens. Spoon sauce over chicken and rice and serve.

*****

I only made some slight modifications. For one thing, I used Dijon mustard, and I added in a few teaspoons worth of chopped garlic. I also skipped the real onions and just shook in some onion powder. It was almost naptime, and I didn't want to take the time to cut them up myself. And my package of chicken only had eight drumsticks, but I think that should be fine. I'm excited to try this. It smells and looks really good. I just hope Will eats it. We're going to have it with the rice (but no platter...we're a buffet style kind of family...plus a platter is one more dish to wash) and either carrots or peas, whichever I happen to pull out of the freezer first.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Portobello Penne Pasta Casserole

Alright, back to cooking!! Yesterday I just felt blah and tired and pregnant and lazy, so we had brinner (breakfast for dinner). Pancakes, scrambled eggs, and sausage. I heart brinner. I had a whole list of chores I wanted to do, and all I accomplished was planning dinners for the week and making up my grocery list. The husband wants to get back to more vegetarian dinners, so I looked at the recipes I'd saved on allrecipes.com and found this one. I thought, "Portobello mushrooms haven't been on sale in FOREVER!" Then I looked at the grocery ad, and lo and behold...portobellos were on sale!! I was tempted to eat them all week because we haven't had them in so long, but I settled on one dinner. I kind of wanted to make Portobello Parmesan because we haven't had it in forever, but this got good reviews.

By the way, it's much easier to prepare dinner if your husband is home to entertain your 2.5 year old that's been a total terror all day instead of trying to make dinner and deal with the boy at the same time. Kudos to single parents who have to do this all the time!! The husband had a meeting that ran late tonight, normally he's home to deal with the boy. Of course the boy wanted to sit on the potty while I was trying to get everything together. I hate to deny him potty time because I'd REALLY like him out of diapers, but what can you do. At least he went potty while he was sitting there. Small blessings I guess.

Portobello Penne Pasta Casserole
1 (8 ounce) package uncooked penne pasta
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 pound portobello mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/2 cup margarine
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
2 cups milk
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 (10 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1/4 cup soy sauce

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a 9x13 inch baking dish.
2. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Place pasta in the pot, cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until al dente, and drain.
3. Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the mushrooms, cook 1 minute, and set aside. Melt margarine in the saucepan. Mix in flour, garlic, and basil. Gradually mix in milk until thickened. Stir in 1 cup cheese until melted. Remove saucepan from heat, and mix in cooked pasta, mushrooms, spinach, and soy sauce. Transfer to the prepared baking dish, and top with remaining cheese.
4. Bake 20 minutes in the preheated oven, until bubbly and lightly brown.

*****

When I first read the recipe I went, "A quarter cup soy sauce?!" but several of the reviews said they thought the same thing but it turned out fine. We'll see. It seemed like there were a lot of calories that could be cut, so I used cooking spray instead of oil to saute the mushrooms, 1.5 cups skim milk and 0.5 cups 2% milk. Oh, and even though it didn't say to do so, I drained the spinach.

And can I just say I hate cooking with margarine? I've become a butter girl through and through I guess. Normally I have some in the freezer, but I used the last of it in my cake over the weekend (which I just remembered is out in our garage fridge...it's probably lonely, I should make sure I have some tonight), so all I had was reduced fat tub margarine. Ugh. It's so oily and there's so much water in it, which means it splatters everywhere when you're heating it up. I hate cooking with it, but I had no choice.

Dinner's in the oven as I type this, we'll see how it turns out! I can't decide if I have high hopes for it or low expectations. Generally I'm a low expectations kind of girl because if you don't expect much, you won't wind up disappointed. Trust me...I've been lectured on this philosophy MANY TIMES in my life.

*****

The results? Yummy. You couldn't really taste the soy sauce like reviewers had said on the website, but I think next time I might scale it back a little anyway. The husband and I both liked it and agreed it's one to keep. The boy didn't really eat it, but he hasn't been eating much lately anyway. I think next time I might add some parmesan in as well to give it a little extra flavor. Definitely one I'll add to my portobello recipe repertoire (sp?)!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Tiramisu Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

We are having a great weekend here at our house (aside from the boy getting up at 4:30 this morning)! Some of my amazing, awesome friends threw me a great baby shower this morning, and I was very spoiled. My mom took the boy home with her to spend the night, and the husband and I are having a date night. Woo hoo! We got to take an uninterrupted nap this afternoon, hang out and watch college football uninterrupted...it's been great! Tonight we're going to dinner at The Melting Pot to celebrate the husband's 30th birthday and our fifth anniversary next weekend. I heart the Melting Pot!! Last time we were there I was pregnant with the boy.

Tomorrow evening we're going to my aunt and uncle's house for a family birthday dinner. October is a big month for us--my mom, one of my grandmas, the husband, and my cousin (although she lives on the east coast, but I didn't want her to feel left out in case she reads this) all have birthdays in October. My grandma (the one not having a birthday this month) is making her lasagna which is super yummy. I'm excited. I volunteered to bring the cake. The last time I made this was I think Mother's Day 2004. Poor neglected cake recipe.

Back in my working girl days (does that sound too off color?), my boss' wife would often make cakes he'd bring in for birthdays. Or she did it for some people anyway, I don't think she did it for everyone. I'd always tell him he was the best boss ever, so maybe that's why his wife made me this awesome cake. Really he was quite a jerk (when I gave my notice, he stopped talking to me for my last three weeks there), but he did give me a 10% raise one year, so he must have bought it. Anyway. I emailed her after having a piece of cake and asked her for the recipe. I've only made it the one time and have been dying to make it ever since. It's ridiculously time consuming (especially since I'm used to making cakes that come in a box and only require the addition of eggs and oil) and sooooooooo incredibly unhealthy (I think it was something like 25 Weight Watcher points when I calculated it out before...that's like a daily point intake for those of you unfamiliar with WW), but it's fan-freakin'-tastic. So, without further ado or babbling from me, here's the recipe:

TIRAMISU CAKE WITH CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

Cake
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
5 large eggs
1 1/3 cups whipping cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325°F. Butter and flour 2 9-inch round cake pans. Whisk flour, baking powder and salt in large bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat sugar and butter in another large bowl to blend. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in cream and vanilla. Stir flour mixture into butter mixture. Divide batter equally among pans. Bake until tester inserted into center of cakes comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Cool completely.

Frosting / Filling
3 1/2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
2 1/3 cups powdered sugar
1 cup chilled whipping cream
1 1/4 tablespoons vanilla extract

Using electric mixer beat cream cheese in large bowl until light. Gradually add sugar and beat until fluffy. Add cream and vanilla and beat until well blended. Cover refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Soaking Syrup
1 1/3 cups KahlĂșa or other coffee liqueur
1/2 cups water
1/8 cup instant espresso powder or coffee powder

Combine.

Assembly
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 9-inch-diameter cardboard cake round
2 cups assorted berries (such as raspberries, blueberries, blackberries and strawberries)

Finely grind chopped chocolate in processor (do not over process or chocolate will clump together). After cakes have cooled completely, take about half a cup of frosting and spread it on a cardboard round or what ever you will be placing the cake on.

Cut the cakes in half horizontally. Place bottom of one cake on cardboard round, cut side up. Brush with 1/3 of syrup. Spread out about 1 cup of frosting and then sprinkle with 1/3 of the chocolate. Place top of cake on top - repeat syrup, frosting, chocolate. Place bottom of 2nd cake on top, cut side up - repeat with the remains of the syrup, 1 cup of frosting and remains of the chocolate.

Now, to tidy it up - take a serrated knife and cut around the cake to make it even all around, this made it very easy to frost the cake.

Frost the entire outside of cake. Decorate with berries, icing or chocolate.

This cake is best when allowed to sit for a day or so.

*****

See? Time consuming and unhealthy...but worth it and oh-so-tasty. I just realized I only used three packages of cream cheese, not 3.5, but hopefully a missing four ounces won't make a big difference. The batter and frosting were both so yummy...I had to sample, of course. My cakes are still in the oven, and in my oven they're taking closer to 45 minutes than 35. I think I'm going to wait and assemble the cake tomorrow because, frankly, I'm tired of being in the kitchen.

I'll make sure I take pictures so you can see this amazing dessert!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Jazzfest Crawfish Bread

I went back through my blog and didn't see this recipe, so that means you can hear the whole background story behind it. You're thrilled, aren't you? This is one of the husband's favorite dinner. Tomorrow is his big 3-0 birthday, and this is what he picked for dinner. Now, on to the story.

The husband and I met in February 2001. In April of that year, I got laid off. Oh, if I haven't mentioned it before, the husband grew up in New Orleans. Well, a suburb of New Orleans but close enough. I got laid off on a Monday, and while we were out that night drinking away my sorrows about being unemployed, I suggested we go to New Orleans for a few days. He had his own consulting business at the time and didn't have any real committments, so we figured what the heck. By the way, my parents were none too pleased I was setting off cross country with some guy I'd only known a few months. Not that it plays into the story at all, just a random side note.

We set off for New Orleans on Saturday morning, stopped in El Paso for lunch at my parents' house, and then drove on to San Antonio to spend the night at my in-laws'. I don't advise driving from Phoenix to San Antonio in one day if you can avoid it. It was horrible. Awful. One of the worst days of my life. There is absolutely nothing except one little town between El Paso and San Antonio. I take that back...there's lots of dirt.

I don't remember how many days we stayed in New Orleans, but while we were there the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival (or Jazzfest) was going on, so we went. The husband was excited because it was one of the things he missed most about living there. It was awesome--we saw great music performances including BB King, but the food was amazing. We had some crawfish bread that was one of the best things I've ever eaten. Ever. Seriously. And I think I've eaten a lot. Here's what it looks like:



DOn't you want to dive right in to that bad boy? Mmmmm...looks tasty. To be perfectly honest, most of that trip is pretty hazy. Hey, we were in New Orleans with no responsibilities, so we were free to imbibe as we wanted. We did go to Mississippi and drink at a bar called Bubba's with John's best friend. We toured a plantation. I can't tell you a whole lot past that. I maybe could, but my mom reads this (just kidding Mom...it wasn't anything bad). The point is, it was an awesome trip, we survived a drive across Texas (880 miles on I-10 if you were wondering...and that was just across TX) which pretty much proved we'll be together forever, and I came back wanting to make all things Cajun.

So when we made it back to Phoenix, the husband (or I guess at the point "the boyfriend") and I were reminiscing about the awesome crawfish bread. I did some searching and found a recipe online. We were probably back less than a week before I made it. I switched it up some because the recipe called for making your own dough, and I didn't dig that back then. Actually, this may have been when I found out about the husband's love for cheese. The recipe listed is how I make it, not the one I found online. Emeril has a pretty good recipe for it, too, but it's a lot more time consuming. I don't like time consuming.

By the way, the picture above I found online when I was trying to see if I could find the actual official crawfish bread recipe. It was listed as one of the top five foods to eat at Jazzfest. Man, how I want to go back there!!

Jazzfest Crawfish Bread
1 container Pillsbury refrigerated pizza dough
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried sweet basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, to taste (or Cajun seasoning)
1 pound crawfish tail meat, coarsely chopped
1 4-ounce jar pimientos, drained and chopped
3/4 cup chopped green onions
3/4 cup grated monterey jack cheese (or jalapeno pepper jack cheese for a bigger kick)
1/4 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 egg, lightly beaten

Roll out pizza dough until it's a nice rectangle shape, about 10"x14". In a large bowl, mix together the cheeses and spices (obviously I use way more cheese than is called for in this recipe). Scatter the crawfish lengthwise over the center third of the dough. Top with pimientos, green onions and shredded cheese. Fold sides of dough over and seal down the middle of the bread. Fold ends up so none of the cheesy crawfish awesomeness leaks out the ends. Brush loaf with egg wash. Bake in a preheated 400-degree oven until done and golden brown, 30-35 minutes.

*****

Mmmmm...doesn't it sound yummy? I stopped making it because all the cheese and crawfish wasn't good for the husband's cholesterol. Actually when I first started making it, I used shrimp instead of crawfish because I just couldn't find crawfish for a somewhat reasonable price in Phoenix. I've since discovered that Walmart sells it. It's not really cheap, but every once in awhile it's fine. I think it's $6 for 12 ounces of crawfish tail meat.

Tomorrow night we're going out for the husband's actual birthday, and Friday night is his boy's night celebration, so we're having his dinner request tonight. Actually Saturday we're going out just him and me as a combo birthday/anniversary dinner. Oh, and then Sunday we're going to dinner at my aunt's because there's an insane number of October birthdays in my family, so we're having a family dinner to celebrate. I gues I'm off the hook for dinner until Monday! Woo hoo!! Although I am making an amazing cake for the birthday dinner, so I'll post the recipe for that for sure.

I won!! I won!!

Okay, it's not a super big thing I won, but my friend Benah gave me a Kreativ Blogger Award! How exciting!!



Benah's post when she won said she had to spread the love, so I assume I have to do the same. I have to list six things that make me happy and then pass along the award to six other bloggers.

My six happy things, in no particular order:

1. Eating. Is this a surprise given this is a cooking blog? I love to eat, and I'm really not super picky about what I eat, although I don't like zucchini. But now we're delving into things that don't make me happy. What are my favorite foods, you may be asking? Probably not, but I'll answer anyway. Brie...I heart brie so much, dips (I don't think I've ever passed up a dip), macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes (I could eat them every day), cookies.

2. Hearing the boy say, "I love you mommy."

3. Spending time alone with my husband. He's awesome, and spending time one on one with him is always such a pleasure. It also makes me happy seeing him play and interact with the boy. He's a great dad.

4. My friends. I have amazing friends, and they all have such diverse backgrounds and beliefs. They really enrich my life.

5. Seattle. It's where I grew up, and I love it. There's this one spot on I-5 when you're driving to the city from the airport, and you go around a turn and all of a sudden, there's the downtown Seattle skyline. I love that. It's a way cool city with a ton of eclectic neighborhoods, fun things to do, great places to eat. The longer I'm away, the more I miss it. Especially this time of year when it's still hot in AZ and I know it's fall there. BTW, when I come home from Seattle trips I'm usually depressed for a week or so.

6. The boy. Even though lately he drives me crazy A LOT (terrible two's...I think I can leave it at that), he brings me so much joy. He's a funny little kid, and the stuff he comes up with just cracks me up.

So, there's some insight into me! :) Now, six blogs I think should get the same award:

Jen A. at Nifty Thrifty & Thriving

Jen B. at Notes From the Table

Joanne at First There Were Two

Tara at Keator Photo

JoEllen at My 2 Great Kids and Our Great Life

Becca at The Pikula Family

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Tacos

It was another dinner crisis tonight. I had gotten out some chicken drumsticks to make using a recipe from The Pioneer Woman, but I got the chicken out too late, and it was still frozen when I needed to start working on it. Oops. Maybe Friday night. I remembered seeing a box of Boca grounds in my garage freezer, and I just bought tortillas at the grocery store yesterday, so I think it's going to be taco night. We don't have much in the way of fixings, but I think that should be okay.

My taco recipe--if you can call it that--isn't even worth posting. Pound of ground beef (or Boca Grounds in our case tonight), packet of taco seasoning, tortillas, cheese, sour cream, salsa, etc. Pretty humdrum, but I'm actually excited about it. I heart taco night.

Get ready for an exciting dinner tomorrow night! The husband's big 3-0 birthday is on Thursday, so we're having his choice tomorrow night because we're going out on Thursday. It's something that I'm not sure I've posted before, or if I have it was quite awhile ago. I'm already excited for it!!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Nothing New...

Wow. I seriously sat here for two minutes staring at the keyboard trying to come up with something witty to write. I got nothin'. Just a quick update to let everyone know that nothing exciting is going on in my kitchen. Last night we had leftover Baked Ziti that I had put in the freezer when I made it awhile back. It was nice to have something easy that just got thrown into the oven. The boy and I went to a birthday party yesterday morning then both took two hour naps when we got home. I could have easily slept another hour or two or seven, so I was glad I didn't have to think about dinner since it was already sitting out defrosting. I need more meals like that, but that would of course require effort on my part to make things to stick in the freezer. These days I'm all about minimal effort.

Now tonight, the husband is going to our friend Steve's house for a night of college football. GEAUX TIGERS!! He's leaving around 3:30 I think, so the boy and I are on our own for dinner. Fine by me, since I forgot to buy some of the main ingredients for two of the meals I had planned this week. I have yet to figure out what it is we're going to have. I have a bag of Trader Joe's gnocchi in the freezer, I may just heat up that because we both really like it, but there's not really enough in the package for three people. Wow, I'm glad I thought of that...I think that is what we'll have tonight! By the way, this is a great website for finding out info about Trader Joe's products. There's reviews of just about everything they sell. Since it's so rare I make it to a TJ's store these days, I like to look it over before I go so I can look for new things to try while I'm there.

Tomorrow night's dinner is up in the air. My parents are getting home today from two weeks at the beach in Florida (must be nice to be retired!). The husband is playing golf with my uncle tomorrow afternoon, so the boy and I may go to my parents' house while he's doing that. BUT, last night the boy wasn't asleep until 9:30 (two hours past his usual bedtime) and was awake at 5:30. Ugh. You get it now why I stared at the keyboard for two minutes and couldn't think of anything witty. Anyway, if tonight is a repeat of last night, we're not going to my mom's because that kid will desperately need a nap. In which case I'll be forced to come up with something to make for dinner. Guess I should start formulating an idea now so I don't wind up with another "It's 5:30, what the heck are we having for dinner" crisis like on Thursday.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Texas Ranch Chicken

I had a bit of a dinner crisis tonight. I went to start making dinner at 5:30 and realized I didn't have the breadcrumbs that the recipe called for. I ALWAYS have seasoned breadcrumbs on hand, but I did remember I had used the last of them making hamburgers a couple weeks ago. No big deal, I thought I had some panko crumbs I could use. Nope. No idea what happened to those. I guess I could have made my own breadcrumbs, but instead I stressed myself out by finding a new recipe to make. We still had some cheesy potatoes in the fridge, so I figured that could be our side dish. I hate dinner panics so close to when we eat...I try to have dinner on the table at 6:00 every night.

So I turned to allrecipes.com to see what I could find. I had some packets of ranch dressing in the pantry, so I thought maybe I could do something with that. I put in chicken and ranch dressing as two ingredients and searched. This is one that came up and it sounded easy enough.

Texas Ranch Chicken
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken parts
1 1/2 cups Ranch-style salad dressing
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Spread the olive oil in a 9x13 inch baking dish.
2. Arrange chicken in the dish, and cover with the dressing. It's best to place chicken pieces close together so that the cheese and the dressing do not burn on the bottom of the pan.
3. Bake for 20 minutes in the preheated oven. Remove from heat, top with mozzarella cheese, and return to the oven. Continue cooking for about 15 minutes, until the cheese is melted and lightly browned and the chicken is no longer pink and juices run clear.

*****

Instead of doing the olive oil I just sprayed the dish with cooking spray. The cooking time was more like 45 minutes, and I even started it at 375 and then bumped it up to 400. The boy had chicken nuggets because the chicken was taking so long to cook. Overall it was okay...nothing spectacular.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Biscuits and Vegetarian Sausage Gravy

I just realized I never posted last night's dinner. I'll have to come back and do that later because it was really yummy, and I'd hate for you to miss out on it. But of course I forgot to take a picture of it...this picture thing is harder than I thought. Plus I'm lazy about uploading pictures and it forces me to be on the ball. I guess that's not a bad thing.

Anyway, I've made this before, and I bought more veggie sausage last week at Costco, so I figured we'd have it again. Plus the biscuits were free after a coupon, so this dinner was super cheap...and lately with the insane price of groceries, I'm all about cheap dinners. I'll save my rant about grocery prices for another post.

Biscuits and Vegetarian Sausage Gravy
1 (16.3-ounce) can reduced-fat refrigerated biscuit dough
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 (14-ounce) package meatless fat-free sausage (such as Lightlife Gimme Lean)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups 1% low-fat milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Prepare biscuits according to package directions.
Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausage; cook 3 minutes or until browned, stirring to crumble. Remove from heat; cool slightly. Crumble sausage into 1/2-inch pieces; return to pan.

Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour and 1% low-fat milk, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Add milk mixture, salt, and freshly ground black pepper to pan; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 3 minutes or until thick. Split the biscuits in half. Top each serving with about 1/3 cup gravy. Serve immediately.

*****

I use Morningstar sausage patties instead of what's called for in the recipe, then I just cut them up. Super easy. This dinner was really tasty. I had meant to buy hashbrowns to have with it and forgot, then I meant to scramble some eggs to go with it but forgot. So this was all we had. I did take a picture though!