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 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 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'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'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:


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


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 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


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 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!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Jen B's Top Secret Cheesy Potatoes

I think it's clear by now that we have a love for cheese at our house. It runs pretty deep. One of the first times I cooked for the husband I was making something with cheese in it and asked him if I should add more. He retorted that, "There's no such thing as too much cheese." Obviously our relationship was meant to be. If nothing else, we'll always have cheese.

So, a few months ago Jen B. and I along with our friend Laura went on a crazy road trip to San Diego. Why crazy you ask? Because it was us and our three two-year-old boys and Laura's baby girl who was only two or three months old. All of us in a one bedroom condo. For four days I think it was. We were all pretty ready to come home by the end of the trip. We had a good time, but we were ready for the boys to have some daddy time.

Anyway, we each took a turn making dinner while we were there, and these potatoes were part of Jen's dinner. They were AWESOME. I was so excited when she posted them on her blog. Not that she wouldn't have given me the recipe if I asked (well, I assume she would have but who knows...), but this way I don't have to remember where it is, I can just find it on her blog. God Bless cooking blogs, huh. ;)

Jen's Top Secret Cheesy Potatoes
2 cans of Campbell’s cheddar cheese soup, undiluted
5-7 medium Russet or Yukon Gold potatoes, sliced into thin disks
1 cup Shredded cheese (Colby, Mild Cheddar, or Monterrey jack), divided
1 Tablespoon Paprika
1 Tablespoon Onion Powder
1 Tablespoon Garlic Powder
Salt and Pepper to taste (don’t be shy)
Cooking spray

Preheat over to 400 degrees.

Coat glass 9x13 casserole dish with cooking spray and set aside.

Peel and slice potatoes into thin disks and place in mixing bowl. Season the potato disks with ½ cup of shredded cheese, onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, salt and pepper. Mix to combine so each piece of potato is coated with spice/cheese mixture.

Combine seasoned potato mixture with both cans of undiluted Cheddar Cheese soup. Mix until potato mixture is well coated with spices and soup.

Dump cheesy potato mixture into greased casserole dish, spread in an even layer. Sprinkle top with remaining ½ cup of shredded cheese.

Cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes. After 40 minutes has elapsed, remove foil and bake and additional 20-30 minutes uncovered (top should be golden brown in spots, cheese should be melty, and potatoes should be fork tender). Total cook time should be approx. 1 hour, but can be a little longer depending on if the potatoes are done.

Let sit for approx. 5-10 minutes until potatoes are set and they are cool enough to serve.


Mmmmm...don't they sound so good? Are you jealous? Don't you wish you were here with us for dinner tonight? Mmmm...I can't wait. They were ridiculously easy to put together, too, which I love. I of course added more cheese, but only becauase the bag of cheddar I had on hand didn't have quite a full cup, so I put that in with the potatoes and then topped the potatoes with a Colby Jack blend. Mmmmm. Lots of cheese!!


The potatoes were yummy, but they weren't as good as when Jen made them. She and I discussed it today, and I maybe should have put in more seasonings or more cheese. I don't measure out spices, so I just eyeballed what I thought was right for the garlic and onion powder. I also maybe should have left them in a few minutes longer, just so the cheese on top could brown up a bit. The potatoes were cooked enough, the cheese on top could have just been a little more brown. This was a really easy way to do potatoes, so I'll definitely make it again but just add more seasoning and/or more cheese next time.

Jen A/B's Sloppy Joes

Yeah, yeah...I still haven't updated the last few posts with pictures and reviews like I keep saying I'm going to. Cut my some slack...I'm eight months pregnant and needed a nap today. As soon as the husband gets home, I'm hightailing it upstairs to upload pictures and get that done!

So tonight is Jen B Night at our house. She's been copying me so much, I figured I should copy her. I figured I'd try something new in the Sloppy Joe realm and give her "from scratch" recipe a try instead of my usual Sloppy Joe recipe. While I was making a Jen B. main dish (she got the recipe from our friend Jen A., by the way, hence the name of the recipe), I figured I should make a Jen B. side dish as well, so after I post this it's going to be Jen's Cheesy Potatoes. She made them when we went to San Diego together a few months ago, and they were AWESOME.

Jen A/B's Sloppy Joes
1 lb ground beef
1 T onion, chopped
1 tsp salt
1 T vinegar or Worcestershire
2 T prepared mustard
2 T sugar or brown sugar
1 C ketchup
Onion powder to taste
Garlic powder to taste
1 Green peppers, diced (optional)
2 T water (if needed)
1/4 cup Beef or chicken broth (for extra liquid)
1-2 T Heinz 57
1-2 T Dijon Mustard to taste
6-8 hamburger buns

Brown ground beef and onions; drain. Add remaining ingredients and simmer. Serve on buns.


I hope I have beef broth, but if not I'll throw in some chicken broth and hope for the best. I also don't have Heinz 57 sauce, so I'll have to come up with something creative for that substitute. Honestly I have no idea what Heinz 57 tastes like, so not sure what I'll do there.

Now, for cheesy potatoes...


The sloppy joes were really yummy. The husband and I agreed we like these better than the version I usually make. I didn't end up needing to add in any extra liquid, so my lack of beef broth wasn't a big deal. I was down to the end of a bottle of ketchup, so I did add some water into that after I squeezed out all I could to get some of the ketchup off the sides of the bottle, then poured that in, but that was it for extra liquid. I put in some BBQ sauce instead of the Heinz 57, and it was yummy. Thanks Jen A/B for a great recipe!

(Unfortunately I forgot to take pictures...sorry!)

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Vegetable Calzones

Have you guys missed me? Wondered what happened to me? Did I drop off the face of the earth? Go into labor early? Nope...just haven't had to cook dinner for the past four nights. I have to say it's been awesome. I don't remember what happened Wednesday night that I didn't cook. The husband brought home some frozen pizzas from Whole Foods that were quite tasty. Thursday he had a big celebration at work and ate a bunch of food around 2:00 and wasn't hungry, so the boy and I had mac and cheese and hot dogs. Friday night we went to an Oktoberfest. One of our friends' companies was the main sponsor, so he hooked us up with wristbands for free food and drinks, so the boy and I took the husband and stayed to have free dinner, then we came home while the husband imbibed on free beer. Last night we went to my aunt and uncles, and my uncle grilled up some amazing steaks. Oh man, were they good.

So, now that you're all caught up on our goings-on for the past few nights, on to tonight's dinner. This was originally slated for Friday night. Since I had all the veggies for it, I figured I should make it tonight while they were still in good condition. This was from one of my many Weight Watchers cookbooks. Not that I'm doing WW right now, but it has good recipes in it, and I hadn't used it in awhile. There's no notes on it, so I don't think this is something I've ever made before.

Vegetable Calzones
3/4 cup warm water
1 tsp sugar
1 packet active dry yeast
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 tsp salt
1 large egg
1 cup shredded mozzarella
3/4 cup ricotta cheese
2 plum tomatoes, chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
3 scallions, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
1/4 tsp black pepper

Combine the water and sugar in a small bowl. Sprinkle in the yeast and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.

Combine the all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, and salt in a food processor. With the machine running, scrape the yeast mixture and the egg through the feed tube; pulse until the dough forms a smooth ball, about 1 minute.

Spray a large bowl with nonstick spray; put the dough in the bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free place until it doubles in size, about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, combine the mozzarella, ricotta, tomatoes, bell pepper, scallions, basil, and pepper in a medium bowl.

Preheat the oven to 400. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray; set aside.

Punch down the dough. Sprinkle a work surface lightly with flour. Turn the dough onto the surface and cut into 6 pieces. Knead each piece lightly, then with a lightly floured rolling pin, roll each into a 6-inch circle. Mound one-sixth of the cheese mixture on half of each circle, then brush the edges lightly with water. Fold the dough over the filling; crimp the edges to seal. Transfer the calzones to the baking sheet; make three 1-inch slashes on top of each with a sharp knife. Bake until golden 20-23 minutes.


They're in the oven now and almost done. I'm excited to try them. I'll tell you everything I did when I write the review (I know, I know...I still haven't done those for the last two dinenrs I made).


The calzones were good, but they could have used some more fillings. Maybe less ricotta and more mozzarella? I think next time I'd add more veggies, too. Mushrooms, black olives. Also the dough needed a little something, but I don't know what. I'm not much of a yeast user, so I really don't know how much tampering you can do with a yeast dough. I think maybe a little more salt or some Italian seasoning would have helped. Also, I only had enough filling for five calzones, not the six called for in the recipe. I don't know if I overstuffed or what, but it worked out. I had some of the leftovers for lunch today, and it reheated decently. Definitely better the first time, but not bad. I'd make these again, just tweak them a little so there was more flavor.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Stuffed Shells

I need to go back and edit last night's post about the Shepherd's Pie so you can all stop waiting in suspense as to how it worked out and all that. I even took pictures!! I'm going to start being like Jen B. and combining the review post with the recipe post so it's all in one place. Then you don't have to scour everywhere to find out whether or not something was good. And when I remember (or more likely, when my camera is downstairs) I'll take a pic of the finished product. Don't worry, I already cleared it with her that I can copy her new format.

So tonight we're having Stuffed Shells. I heart them. Who doesn't heart a cheesy, saucy, pasta dish? According to the ol' blog here, the last time I made this was last October. Yikes. We used to have this pretty often, I'm surprised it had been that long. I got a hankering for it a few days ago and threw it on the menu plan for the week because when a pregnant lady gets a hankering, she goes with it. I was too lazy to find the actual recipe, so I looked it up on here and remembered I did some serious tweaking with it last time due to lack of an ingredient. My review said that I liked it better, so as to not be made a liar on my own blog, I went with the changes I made last time. If you want to see the original recipe, follow this link to see what it was.

Stuffed Shells
20 jumbo pasta shells, cooked and cooled
1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
2/3 cup reduced fat sour cream
4-5 ounces reduced fat cream cheese
1 tsp salt
2 tsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp Italian seasoning
1 jar spaghetti sauce
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 375. Mix together ricotta, sour cream, cream cheese, salt, garlic powder, and Italian seasoning. Spread a few spoonfuls of tomato sauce on bottom of a 8x8 pan. Fill each shell with cheese mixture and place in baking dish. When all shells are in dish, pour remaining tomato sauce over shells. Top with mozzarella. Bake for approximately 20 minutes.


Now, on both the original recipe and my last post about it, I noted that the cooking time wasn't long enough. It calls for the pan to be covered, but I left it uncovered this time to see if that helped. It's coming up on 20 minutes, so we'll see how it's doing. Oh, and the original recipe didn't call for mozzarella, but I just think a pasta dish like this NEEDS cheese on top!!

Oh, and stuffing shells is a messy business (or at least it is for me), so I keep a paper towel nearby to wipe off my hands as I'm going. Otherwise cheese mixture gets everywhere.


Mmmm...stuffed shells. I honestly have no idea why we haven't had this in so long because we all love it. I think there were only three or four shells left when all was said and done. This is definitely something I'm going to bring back into rotation more often. It's fairly easy (although a bit messy) to put together, but it's so easy. Leaving the pan uncovered totally worked. I don't think I had to add on any extra time.

I forgot to take a picture before we dished up, but this just goes to show how much we liked it.