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 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. 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: 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.