Saturday, January 31, 2009

No dinner!

we were supposed to go to a birthday party tonight for one of the boy's friends, but the friend's dad is sick, so it got cancelled. Instead of having to come up with something last minute, we're going out. So far it's between a Cajun restaurant we haven't gone to in quite awhile or our favorite Chinese restaurant. Either way, I'm excited!! Tomorrow we're going to a Super Bowl party at a friend's house, so I'm off the hook then, too. I'll be back on Monday--using the bounty of goodness I bought at Sprouts yesterday!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Tomato Feta Salad

When I was at Trader Joe's the other day I was struck with the brilliant idea of the husband and me having a mini date night at home tonight, eating dinner after the boy goes to bed. I picked up some ahi tuna steaks and some brie, so that's what we're having. I thought we needed something to go with the tuna but wasn't sure what to have with it. Sprouts had beefsteak tomatoes on sale three pounds for $1 (!!!!!) today, so I got me some of those. My mom had mentioned that part of their sale when I talked to her earlier today and said we were going there. I remembered the Barefoot Contessa had a tomato salad with feta and red onions, so I picked up some red onions and hoped I had everything else. Turns out I do, except for fresh basil. I'm going to just use dried because it's not worth hauling two kids to the store to just get some basil. I've wanted to try this for awhile, so I'm really excited about it.

Tomato Feta Salad
4 pints grape tomatoes, red or mixed colors
1 1/2 cups small-diced red onion (2 onions)
1/4 cup good white wine vinegar
6 tablespoons good olive oil
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 1/2 pounds feta cheese

Cut the tomatoes in half and place them in a large bowl. Add the onion, vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper, basil, and parsley and toss well. Dice the feta in 1/2 to 3/4-inch cubes, crumbling it as little as possible. Gently fold it into the salad and serve at room temperature.


The recipes says this makes 12 servings, so I'll cut it in half at the very least. The reviews on the Food Network website said it wasn't as good refrigerated as it was room temperature, so I don't want to have a lot of it left over.


This was really good! I will definitely be making it again, especially in the summer when tomatoes are better than they are now. It was super easy--I'd say I had it all mixed together in five minutes max. The recipe was in the Barefoot Contessa at Home cookbook, and in the book it was half of what is listed above, so that's what I made. Even that was quite a bit for just two people. I haven't had any today to see how it tastes after sitting in the fridge over night, but last night it was super tasty!

Grilled Red Pepper Relish and Goat Cheese Sandwiches

We've had a big day today, and I really need to be getting some stuff done around my house, but since I didn't post this yesterday I wanted to get to it today. Two of my friends and their husbands are opening a preschool, and this morning was the ground-breaking ceremony. Sounds impressive, doesn't it? "Yes, I spent my morning at a ground-breaking ceremony." I'm soooo upper-crust, don't you think? Yeah right. Anyway, it was fun and exciting to see where their school is going to be because it's been a long time in the works. Plus there was cake made by my friend Tina--she makes AWESOME cake. I had two pieces. Hey, I'm nursing...I need extra calories.

Near where the ground-breaking was is this way cool grocery store, Sprouts. They have a lot of natural foods and organics, and they usually have great deals on produce and meat. There aren't really any close to where I live, so when I remembered there was one out that way I planned on stopping on my way home. Turns out Jen B. had the same idea, so we went together. When we got there they were having a huge sausage sale (as in "huge sale on sausage" not selling overly large sausage). I almost had to throw down with an old woman in a penguin sweater (seriously, penguins?!) because she tried to cut in front of me in the sausage line. Don't mess with a woman standing in line for cheap meat!!! Or at least don't mess with me. I told her who's boss though, don't worry. She threw more of a tantrum than the boy usually does. Anyway, I stocked up on andouille, sweet Italian, and a chicken parmesan sausage because it was all $1.99 a pound. In hindsight I should have bought more andouille, but I did get some at Trader Joe's the other day, so I should be okay. I also got a ton of yummy vegetables, so I'm excited to plan meals for the week based on what I bought today.

Anyway, if you also read Jen B's blog you can easily tell I read through her blog to get meal ideas for this past week. I think three of the things I've made have been recipes she's done recently? It's only fair since she does the same thing with my blog. ;) Plus the whole co-dependency thing, I can't always come up with my own ideas. I figured since I still had 3/4 pound of goat cheese left these would be a great dinner idea--and easy. Red peppers were on sale, too, so everything came together perfectly.

Grilled Red Pepper Relish and Goat Cheese Sandwiches
sliced bread
1 package of soft goat cheese (4 oz.)
softened light cream cheese(2 oz.)
1-2 roasted red peppers (jarred or fresh)
1 onion, quartered
4 cloves of fresh garlic
Extra virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Place roasted red pepper, onion, garlic, some juice from the pepper (or pepper jar) to the bowl of a food processor and pulse to finely chop. Add the vinegar and salt and pepper. Pulse to combine. In a separate small bowl, combine goat cheese and cream cheese until well mixed. On an indoor grill pan, grill the bread until toasted (about 2 minutes per side). Drizzle a little olive oil onto warm bread slices. Spread softened goat cheese mixture onto grilled bread slice. Top with red pepper relish and cover with a second piece of grilled bread. Cut in half and serve immediately.


Now, when I mixed up the relish part of this I was a bit nervous because it tasted really onion-y to me. Like REALLY onion-y, like all I could taste was onion. And I only used 3/4 of an onion (because the other 1/4 dropped on the floor and I didn't notice for was way beyond the 5-second rule). But, after it sat awhile and the flavors had time to combine, it wasn't nearly as onion-y as it had been. Paired with the goat cheese, it was AWESOME. This will definitely become a vegetarian staple in our house, especially since Costco has goat cheese for so cheap. I ended up using both of the red peppers I roasted. The last time I roasted peppers I had a hard time peeling of the skins, so I looked up on the Food Network website how to do it and found a great tutorial on how it should be done. This was super easy. I roasted mine under the broiler, then tossed them in a bowl, covered with plastic wrap, and forgot about them for awhile. When I remembered them, they were perfectly cooled off, and the skin came off really easily.

I did mine slightly different than Jen did hers. I had bought par-baked ciabatta rolls at Trader Joe's the other day, so I used those. I baked them for three minutes to crisp them up, then cut in half and put face down on my panini maker to toast the inside a little. I didn't want them to get soggy from the relish. I brushed the inside with some olive oil, then spread the relish on one side and the goat cheese on the other side. I stuck them together and put the whole thing back into the panini maker. Super easy. The second batch I brushed the tops of the rolls with some olive oil before putting them in the panini maker; I didn't notice too much of a difference, but I think those ones were slightly better.

Like I said, these were fantastic and definitely something I will be making again. The recipe made quite a bit of relish, so what we didn't use I stuck in a bag and put in the freezer. Especially since that part is already done, these will be even easier to make the next time we want them. Thanks, Jen, for a great dinner!!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Slow Cooker Minestrone

This was actually our dinner last night, but I ran out of time to post. Jen B. and I both wanted to get out of our houses as we've been stuck at home with sick kids for longer than we'd like (really, isn't more than a day stuck at home with a toddler--regardless of their health--too much?!), so we went to the mall, lunch, and Trader Joe's. With all of that running around I just didn't have time to post my recipe. What about after the fun, you say? Or after the boy went to bed last night? Well, when we got home I was busy throwing stuff in the crockpot for dinner, then after dinner I spent 45 minutes on the phone with my friend Jess. Then there was stuff on the Tivo to know how it goes.

Anyway, this is another recipe from Meal Planning 101 blog via Jen B's blog. The husband is taking a bible study class on Wednesday nights for the next 12 weeks (well, I guess 11 weeks since last night's is done), so I'm going to be doing crockpot dinners on Wednesday nights to make sure he gets to eat before he leaves. Jen had really liked this, and I had all the vegetables on hand that needed to be used up, so I figured what the heck. It met my vegetarian criteria and furthers me along in my "embrace the bean" mentality I'm trying to adopt...even though minestrone has never been my favorite soup.

Slow Cooker Minestrone Soup
1 onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
3 Carrots, chopped
3 cloves chopped garlic
4-6 cups of Vegetable Broth or Chicken Stock
1 can diced Tomatoes
1 can of Red Kidney Beans
1 can of Great Northern Beans
2 tbsp tomato Paste
2 tsp Italian Seasoning (or 1tsp oregano, 1tsp basil)
Salt and Pepper to taste
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (or combo of cheese and Parm-Reg rinds--see notes)
1/2 cup basil pesto (premade or fresh)
1/2 jar leftover marinara sauce
1 cup macaroni (cooked)

Finely chop onion and slice carrots and onion and add them to your slow cooker. Chop garlic and add. Gradually add stock, tomatoes, mixed beans, tomato paste, spices, Parmesan cheese and pesto. Turn on low heat for 6-8 hours.

After cook time is complete:
Fill a large stove-top pot with water and season with salt and bring to a boil. When boiling add macaroni and simmer according to package directions. When macaroni is done, drain and set aside. Scoop macaroni into bowls and ladle soup over top. Serve immediately.


I can almost guarantee that no one in the history of slow cookers has thrown the ingredients for minestrone soup into the crockpot faster than I did yesterday. We had just gotten home from our day out, the baby was screaming because he was hungry, and I realized I needed to get dinner in the crockpot ASAP so we'd be able to eat before the husband had to leave. If you've never breastfed a baby, you may not understand the urgency with which this task needed to be done, but if you HAVE breastfed a baby and know what it's like to hear them screaming and not be able to feed them right away, know why I hurried. I didn't have any marinara sauce to throw in, nor did I have pesto. I used the whole can of tomato paste to try and make up for the lack of marinara sauce. I put in some basil to try and make up for the pesto.

The result? It was okay. Jen said she thinks my not using real pesto probably impacted it a lot. Since I'm not a big minestrone fan to begin with, I thought it was good considering. However, I have a TON left...almost a whole crockpot full of it. The boy didn't eat it, the husband didn't have a whole lot (he doesn't like soup which I totally don't understand). I made ham and cheese paninis along with the soup, and he liked the sandwich a lot better. I think I'm going to freeze most of what was left because it would take me at least two weeks to eat what's left on my own. I don't think this is one I'd make again, but that's only because it's not my favorite soup, and I already have a lot of it left.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Vegetarian Tamale Casserole

I had a major "mommy brain" moment when I was grocery shopping the other day. One night last week when I was making dinner I noticed a recipe on the back of the bag of cheese I was using. It sounded good, so I threw it on the menu for this week. As I was writing out my grocery list I thought, "Oh I need to look on the bag of cheese to see what I need for that recipe." Did I do it? Nope. Did I realize that before I got to the grocery store? Nope. Did I realize it as I was walking around the store? Yup. I knew I needed a couple cans of beans for it, but that was it. Then, as I was walking out to my car, my mommy brain moment happened. I had shopped at Safeway, and the recipe had been on the back of a Safeway brand bag of cheese. I could have gone over to the cheese aisle (where I had been at one point anyway) and looked on the package to check the recipe. Sigh. So I ran to Walmart last night and got the missing ingredients, since I needed to go buy a second humidifier so both kids have one in their room. Yup, my kids are still sick. I'm pretty tired of hanging out at home.

Anyway, I'm kind of nervous to try another new recipe since last night's dinner was such a failure, but I have high hopes. I'm not a super huge bean fan, but I'm trying to embrace the bean since we're trying to eat more vegetarian dinners. I really like black beans, but the husband doesn't. I like pinto beans, too. So I guess I'm on my way to being a bean lover.

Vegetarian Tamale Casserole
1 can (8-3/4 oz) whole kernel corn, drained
1 can (15-1/4 oz) red kidney beans, drain half the liquid
1 can (8-3/4 oz) garbanzo, pinto, or black beans, drained
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup green onions with tops, sliced
1 Tbsp chili powder
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1 package (8-1/2 oz) cornbread mix

In a large bowl, stir together all ingredients but cornbread. Pour into a greased or sprayed 2-quart baking dish or casserole. Make cornbread according to pacakge directions. Pour over top and spread evenly. Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes or until top is golden.


I think I may mix in a little salsa to the bean mixture to give it a bit of sauce, I'm concerned otherwise it would be really dry. Jen B. made us a really good tamale pie when the baby was born. I looked up her recipe and saw that it calls for canned tomatoes and chipotle peppers. I think I may have a can of chipotle peppers in the pantry; if I do, I think I'll chop up one or two to add in. I have canned tomatoes, but they're all slated for other uses, so I figure a little salsa will make up for that. Not sure what we'll have with it...some kind of frozen vegetable or just salad.


Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. This was YUMMY!!! I will definitely be adding this in to our vegetarian dinner rotation. Easy, inexpensive, and tasty...what could be better?! I ended up adding in one chipotle pepper chopped up and some of the adobo sauce it was canned in, and I added 8 ounces of salsa. It was awesome. I was worried it was too liquidy when it came out of the oven, but after it sat awhile it was fine. I think I'd modify the recipe to sit 5-10 minutes before cutting into it. Oh, and I skipped the chili powder and cumin because I figured adding in the salsa and chipotle pepper would give it enough extra flavor. I saw that Jen uses two boxes of cornbread mix when she makes hers, but of course I didn't have a second box on hand. I think the next times I make this I'd use two boxes as well, as the topping on it was a bit sparse. The husband and I both had seconds, and the boy even ate all of his--without being prodded along!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Easy Chicken 'n Greens

In an effort to try and be more productive during the day (note that the key word in that sentence is TRY), I think I'll start updating the blog while the boy watches his morning shows. I'm on the computer then usually anyway, so it makes sense. Oh, and I still have two sick kids in case you were wondering. We're heading to the doctor's office this morning. Hopefully it's nothing serious.

Over the weekend when I was planning meals for the week I went through all the recipes I've posted on here to see if I could find a chicken dish we had liked but hadn't had in a long time. I was surprised to find that there weren't any, and it didn't even seem like we ate chicken that much. Which is weird because I think we have it once a week at least. So I broke out one of the new cookbooks I got for Christmas, the one my mother-in-law gave me that's from the school where she teaches. I had a lot of the stuff called for in this one, and I had seen that bok choy was on sale, so I figured it was meant to be.

Easy Chicken 'n Greens
8 skinless bonelss chicken thighs or 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 large garlic cloves
1 head bok choy or broccoli
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. white wine or chicken broth
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp salt
2 c. baby or sliced carrots or other vegetables
2 tsp sesame oil
2 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds

Remove skin and fat from chicken and discard. Thinly slice garlic. Thickly slice bok choy or cut broccoli florets (about 4 cups). Heat oil in large frying pan over medium heat. Dip chicken into flour and shake off excess. Saute until lightly golden, about 5 minutes each side. Add garlic and continue to saute for about 3 minutes. Add wine or broth, red pepper flakes, and salt. Bring to a boil and add carrots. Partially cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer 10 minutes, turning chicken partway through. Add bok choy or broccoli and sesame oil. Continue simmering, uncovered and stirring often, until vegetables are done as you like, from 5-10 minutes. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.

For a more concentrated sauce, remove chicken and vegetables to a heated serving plate. Boil broth until reduced to about 1/2 cup. Pour over chicken and serve.


I think it sounds super yummy!! I'm going to cook up some rice to go with it and call it good since there are vegetables mixed in it. I think I may use the other half bag of stir fry vegetables I have in the freezer that was leftover the from Pork Katsu the other night instead of slicing up carrots.


Eh. That's really all I have to say about this. I was concerned that it would be kind of bland, so I added some Chinese 5-Spice Powder to the flour to spice it up a bit. It helped a little but not much. I'm sure with proper tweaking this could be good, but I don't think I'll take the time to make it again to figure out what to do with it. I got a late start on dinner, too, so since we were already going to be eating late I didn't take the time to play around with anything tonight either. At least I didn't have to buy a lot of ingredients for it.

The husband just finished having a plate of the leftover pasta from last night, I had some blueberry coffee cake. That's how unimpressive this was. I had really high hopes since I assumed people would have submitted their best recipes for a cookbook like this, but I guess not. Or whoever submitted it likes bland food. Sigh. So disappointing.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Cranberry Nut Bread

I've had a hankering to make some kind of quick bread ever since Jen A. brought me an awesome thank you gift for hosting her baby shower--a Le Creuset loaf pan!! Don't I have the most awesome friends ever?! It was entirely too generous of her, but I'm so excited to own it. I had two bags of cranberries in the freezer that I bought around Thanksgiving when they were super cheap. I didn't know why I bought them, I just felt I should since they were cheap. Jen B. was telling me recently that she's been turning to instead of, so I figured I'd check there for some kind of cranberry bread recipe. This one got good reviews, so I went with it.

Cranberry Nut Bread
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup butter
1 egg
3/4 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon grated orange rind
1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1. In large bowl, combine dry ingredients.
2. Cut in butter until crumbly.
3. Beat egg, juice and rind; add to dry ingredients.
4. Mix just until blended.
5. Add cranberries and walnuts.
6. Spoon into greased and floured loaf pan.
7. Bake at 350* for 65 minutes, until pick comes out clean.


I happened to notice there was a cranberry bread recipe on the bag of cranberries that was almost identical to this one, only it called for oil instead of butter. That would have been easier--I hate cutting in butter. It's in the oven now, I'm excited to see how it turns out.

And I think I'm done baking for quite awhile now!


The bread is yummy. I've had two pieces to test it and make sure it's okay. I used pecans instead of walnuts because those are what I had on hand. I think something is weird with my oven because I had to bake this for at least 80 minutes, if not longer. The coffee cake took longer as well too. Hmmm. Good thing I'm not baking any time soon. ;)

Blueberry Coffee Cake

I had almost a whole container of blueberry pie filling left after the baby shower last weekend, and I hated to see it go to waste. I checked out the website for the brand of pie filling and found some great recipes. It was between this, a blueberry pie with a crumb top, or blueberry snack bars. I printed all three recipes but could only find this one when I wanted to make something today. Darn little hands running off with my important things! I was pretty undecided on which to do, so I guess I should thank the boy for deciding for me.

Blueberry Coffee Cake
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 cup plus 1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream
1 (21-oz.) can Comstock® or Wilderness® More Fruit Blueberry Fruit Filling or Topping
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a bowl and set aside.
2. Combine butter or margarine and 1 cup sugar in a large mixing bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat until mixture is light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in vanilla and sour cream. Add flour mixture and stir until just combined. Spread half the batter in the bottom of a greased 7 x 11-inch baking pan. Top with Blueberry Fruit Filling and carefully spread remaining batter over filling.
3. In small bowl, combine ½ cup sugar, brown sugar, and cinnamon; sprinkle over top of coffee cake.
4. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool on rack before serving.


When I was mixing it all up I thought it would probably be good with some lemon zest mixed in, but I didn't feel like zesting. I just had a piece, and it's really yummy! Mine kind of fell in the middle...not sure why. It's still tasty though. I don't normally have pie filling on hand, so I probably wouldn't randomly make this again, but it would be good to take to a breakfast of some sort.

('s now 8:40 PM, and over half of the coffee cake is gone. The husband is in love with this coffee cake. Granted I've had my fair share, too, but it seems everytime I go into the kitchen, he's cut himself another small piece. So I guess it is a keeper...I'll just have to watch for pie filling to be on sale. I have some cherry pie filling left, I'm wondering if I should make another one with that!)

Pasta with Creamy Tomato and Goat Cheese Sauce

Well, it's another day stuck at home with sick kids. Unfortunately the baby seems to have caught the dreaded cold the boy has. :( I tell ya, there are few things more pathetic sounding than a baby's cough. Poor little guy. I think tomorrow we may make a trip to the pediatrician. We found out one of the boy's friends has pneumonia and another has a sinus infection, so I'm thinking it's worth it to have both my boys checked out to make sure they're okay. We did venture out last night for a birthday party, but before I get jumped on for taking a sick kid to a birthday party, the boy seemed to be doing better yesterday, and I knew the party was going to be outside, so I figured it was okay. Not like I was taking a sick kid to a small, enclosed space...which is why I'm home with him this morning instead of at church.

Anyway, since we're watching more TV (I've resorted to videos instead of TV shows...), I figured I'd update the blog since I'm just sitting on the couch too. Back before Christmas I was at Costco and saw they had a smokin' deal on goat cheese. I think it's an eight ounce log of goat cheese for only $4! I was beyond excited. I got it not really knowing when I would use it, but I couldn't pass it up. Of course it turns out they always have it, but whatever. I made this pasta once before, and we all really liked it. The goat cheese kind of melts into the sauce and pasta making it more of a creamy tomato sauce (dear lord, I just typed potato instead of tomato...can you tell it's been a long few days?!).

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've stopped buying jarred pasta sauce. I don't think I have any plain sauce tucked away in my freezer anymore, so I bought two jars of diced tomatoes--one is "Italian style"--and am going to make my own sauce. I'll just throw them in the food processor with some tomato paste and seasonings. Apparently that's what I did last time, and it turned out well. I think on the side we'll have some bread and maybe broccoli.


YUM. This was so good, just like the last time we had it. My sauce turned out really yummy. I used one can of petite diced tomatoes, one can of Italian-style diced tomatoes, a can of tomato paste (to thicken it up a bit), some Italian seasoning, onion powder, and garlic powder. I threw all of that into my food processor and turned it on. Yum. I used most of it because we like saucy pasta. This comes together so quickly, I love it. If you used jarred spaghetti sauce it would be even faster. I didn't bother heating up my sauce, I dumped everything into the pot I used to cook the pasta. Oh, and I used whole wheat penne.

Oh, and the goat was actually a pound, not eight ounces. What a smoki' deal. That's cheaper than a one pound bag of Kraft shredded cheese. I'm going to play on and look for goat cheese recipes. I have another goat cheese meal slated for Thursday, but that will still leave me with eight ounces. Not that I'm complaining--I heart goat cheese!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Pork Katsu Donburi

I have a sick kid in my house. We've spent yesterday and today on the couch watching TV and movies. Normally I don't let him sit and zone out to TV all day, but I figure lazing around will help him get better. I think I've watched enough Disney Channel, PBS Kids, and Noggin over the past two days to last me quite awhile. Actually I've just been hanging out reading food blogs, playing on Facebook, and basically being incredibly unproductive. Plus being home for two days straight is helping me get the baby in a routine which I've been dying to do, so that part of it all has been pretty nice.

I'm super excited for the dinner I'm making tonight. Jen B. made it last week and got it from the blog Meal Planning 101, which thanks to Jen, is now one of my favorite cooking/food blogs. Good find, Jen! When I saw the recipe on Jen's blog I knew I had to make it--and soon! Luckily I was planning on buying pork chops at Costco this week, so I knew I'd have everything for it. There was a little Japanese take-out restaurant near my house growing up, and they had awesome chicken katsu donburi. My whole family loved it. I don't know if I've ever had it with pork, so I'm excited to try this.

I have to mention the benefits of meal planning since I linked to a meal planning blog. I've been doing it for years now. It used to be--back when the husband and I were DINKs--I'd make whatever sounded good on the way home from work, which a lot of times meant stopping at the store to get ingredients. It got very expensive. It wasn't that we couldn't afford to eat like that, I just thought it was ridiculous how much we were spending on groceries each month for two people. So I started planning out meals for the week. Then after awhile I took it one step further and planned out our dinners based on what was on sale at the grocery store that week. That's how I still do it. Normally I spend around $50 a week on groceries, if I'm buying meat (which I only buy when it's on sale) it's usually around $70. I try to match coupons to items that are on sale as well, but I don't buy a whole lot of packaged/processed foods, so I don't always use that many.

Anyway, on to the recipe. I'm so excited for this!!!

Pork Katsu Donburi
2-4 pork loin chops
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup flour
1 1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs (try not to substitute or the result will not be the same)
1 tbsp canola or vegetable oil
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
1 cup chicken broth
6 shitake mushrooms, sliced into strips (you can substitute regular button mushrooms)
1 carrot, julienned (I am using a frozen Asian Veggie Blend with carrots instead)
2 tbsp white sugar
4 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup chopped green onions
4 eggs, beaten
2 cups cooked rice

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Cover the pieces of pork in plastic wrap and using a meat tenderizer, bash the meat until the piece is about 1/4 inch thick. Make sure you flip it over and do the other side as well. Do this to all your pieces. Then cut pork into cutlet sized portions, if needed. Now that your pieces of pork are cut and tenderized, season both sides with salt and pepper. In three separate bowls put flour in the first, beaten eggs in the second and Panko breadcrumbs in the third. Dredge each piece of pork in flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs, and place on a baking sheet with a baking rack on it. Drizzle lightly with oil and place in the oven for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, flip the pork, drizzle the other side lightly with oil and then place back in the oven for another 10 minutes.

While pork is cooking chop veggies (or follow stir fry directions for cooking frozen veggies). In a large frying pan set to medium-high heat saute the onion in oil for 3-5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and carrot and stir-fry a couple more minutes. Stir in the chicken broth, sugar, soy sauce and salt and let simmer for 3-5 minutes. Sprinkle in half of the green onions, stirring gently.

When pork comes out of the oven, cut into strips.

Turn the heat down to medium-low for the veggies and pour beaten eggs over the mixture, stirring a bit to incorporate the sauce and egg. Gently add the pork over the top and let simmer for about 10 minutes or until the eggs are cooked. You may need to add a lid for part of the cooking time to get the eggs to cook through on top.

To serve, scoop rice into four bowls. Divide pork and veggie mixture into four, and place on top of rice. Garnish with a little more chopped green onion. Serve immediately!


Doesn't this sound sooooo yummy?! I seriously cannot wait for dinner tonight! I have a bag of frozen stir-fry veggies I'm going to use, and I bought regular button mushrooms because they were on sale. Although I don't think I bought green onions this week, so mine will just have to do without. Jen said that she toasted some sesame seeds and sprinkled those on the top before serving, so I may give that a go. If we weren't all wearing jammies today I'd maybe run to the store and pick up some green onions, but that would require me wearing something other than yoga pants, a t-shirt, and fluffy pink socks.


Mmmmm...this was really good!! I will definitely be making this again. Jen had said she mixed some chili paste into the egg wash, and I think next time I'll try to remember to do that. The pork was good on its own, but a little extra kick would have made it even better. I used half a bag of frozen stir-fry veggies which worked out fine. Under normal circumstances I think this would all come together really fast, but the baby needed to eat, so I fed him while the pork was cooking, which meant I didn't start on the veggie/egg mixture until after the pork was done. Overall we really liked it. The boy didn't eat much, but he's had a nasty cold, but I think under normal circumstances he would eat it and enjoy it.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

New pan!

My friend Jen A. stopped by this morning to drop off a gift she got me for throwing her baby shower this past weekend. I was beyond excited when I saw what it was and just had to share:

How cool is that?! A Le Creuset loaf pan!!! She has one and showed it to me last time I was at her house. I wanted to get one but kept forgetting to look online for one, so I'm glad I didn't. I can't wait to use this. I have some zucchini in the fridge I need to use, so I think my big plan for tomorrow will be whipping up some zucchini bread of some sort to break in this new pan!

Thanks, Jen!! You're awesome!!!

New look

I'm playing around with a new background for the ol' blog here. What do you think?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Chicken Soft Tacos

What a freakin' day. I had to take the baby in for his two month check-up today, so my mom came and stayed with the boy which was so nice of her. The morning was fine, but this afternoon I've spent wanting to rip my hair out...or find a job. The baby isn't napping, the boy has a cold and didn't nap. I came upstairs and found him in the office--where he isn't supposed to be unless Mommy or Daddy is with him--standing on the desk chair pulling paper out of the printer. UGH. I stuck him in the toy room and put "Robin Hood" on for him just so he'd be out of my hair for awhile. I may run away from home tonight. Oh yeah, and the husband is working late.

The husband had told me last week that he may need to stay late tonight, so I figured a crockpot dinner was in order since I didn't know when he'd be home. I realized last week that I haven't made this recipe in a long time (last time it was posted on the blog was for the boy's birthday last February!). I honestly don't know why we haven't had it more recently--it's really good and super easy to make. I kind of forgot I needed to throw it in the crockpot, so I hope it's done in time as I put the chicken breasts in still frozen.

Chicken Soft Tacos
1.5 pounds frozen boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes with green chilies
1 envelope taco seasoning
Various taco fixings

Place chicken breasts in slow cooker. In small bowl, combine tomatoes and taco seasoning. Pour over chicken. Cook on low 6-8 hours. Remove chicken and shred. In a medium bowl, place shredded chicken and add sauce from crockpot until saucy-ness level of chicken is to your liking. Serve in tortillas with whatever taco toppings you like.


I don't mix up the tomatoes and taco seasoning first...I just toss it all in the crockpot, cover it, turn it on, and call it good. This has been hit or miss with the boy--sometimes he really likes it, other times not so much. Since he's a little sick, I'll maybe cut him some slack tonight. I know before I've mixed some sweet potato puree into this to add some vegetables, but I'm not sure if I have any on hand right now. I don't remember seeing any in the freezer. I also have no idea what I'm going to serve with this. Maybe just a frozen veggie of some sort. I'm not feeling super creative.

I'll be back on Friday with a new dinner recipe. Well, new for us...Jen B. made it last week and it sounded really good, so I'm dying to try it. I wanted to make it tonight but since I didn't know when the husband would get home I figured it was better to wait. Tomorrow I have a fun girl's night out with some friends which I'm really looking forward to, even though the baby has to come with me. The downside of breastfeeding. :(

Monday, January 19, 2009

King Cake

It's king cake season for those of you who didn't know. Once the husband realized that, he and the boy--who has been watching the Three Kings Day episode of Dora the Explorer over and over and over--both requested I make it. Since it's only a couple months out of the year that it's acceptable to make it, I figured I'd comply. Last year I have no idea how many batches of this I made--it seemed like I was always making king cake. Not that it's a bad thing, it's just time consuming. If you don't know the origin or history or what the heck king cake even is, check out Wikipedia king cake entry.

I think mine are sufficiently cool enough to apply the frosting and sugar. Normally I go to the trouble of coloring the sugar to be the appropriate green, purple, and yellow, but I asked the husband if he minded if I skipped that part, so I'm just going to sprinkle on whatever colored sugar I have on hand, which is probably red and green because I seem to buy those every single year at Christmastime, thinking I don't have any on hand. Oye.

This is from The Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook which has all sorts of fabulous recipes in it. I really need to bust that bad boy out more often because in flipping through it today, there's a whole lot of good stuff in it. Thankfully I found this recipe online somewhere last year because there is no way I would sit and type all of this out on my own. Enjoy!

Southern Living magazine's King Cake
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1 (16 ounce) container sour cream
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 (.25 ounce) envelopes active dry yeast
1 tablespoon white sugar
1/2 cup warm water (100 to 110 degrees)
2 eggs
6 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1/2 cup white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/3 cup butter or margarine, softened
Colored Frostings (see below)
Colored Sugars (see below)

Colored Frosting:
3 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons butter, melted
3 tablespoons milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 drops green food color
2 drops yellow food coloring
2 drops blue food coloring
2 drops red food color

Colored sugars:
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 drops green food color
2 drops yellow food coloring
2 drops red food color
2 drops blue food coloring

COOK first 4 ingredients in a saucepan over low heat, stirring often, until butter melts. Cool mixture to 100 degrees to 110 degrees.

DISSOLVE yeast and 1 tablespoon sugar in 1/2 cup warm water in a large bowl; let stand 5 minutes. Add butter mixture, eggs, and 2 cups flour; beat at medium speed with an electric mixer 2 minutes or until smooth. Gradually stir in enough remaining flour to make a soft dough.

TURN dough onto a lightly floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Place in a well-greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85 degrees), free from drafts, 1 hour or until doubled in bulk.

STIR together 1/2 cup sugar and cinnamon; set aside.

PUNCH dough down; divide in half. Turn 1 portion out onto a lightly floured surface; roll to a 28- x 10-inch rectangle. Spread half each of cinnamon mixture and softened butter on dough. Roll dough, jellyroll fashion, starting at long side. Place dough roll, seam side down, on a lightly greased baking sheet. Bring ends together to form an oval ring, moistening and pinching edges together to seal. Repeat with remaining dough, cinnamon mixture, and butter.

COVER and let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, 20 minutes or until doubled in bulk.

BAKE at 375 degrees for 15 minutes or until golden. Decorate with bands of Colored Frostings, and sprinkle with Colored Sugars.

COLORED FROSTINGS: Stir together powdered sugar and melted butter. Add milk to reach desired consistency for drizzling; stir in vanilla. Divide frosting into 3 batches, tinting 1 green, 1 yellow, and combining red and blue food coloring for purple frosting.

COLORED SUGARS: Place 1/2 cup sugar and drop of green food coloring in a jar or zip-top plastic bag; seal. Shake vigorously to evenly mix color with sugar. Repeat procedure with 1/2 cup sugar and yellow food coloring. For purple, combine 1 drop red and 1 drop blue food coloring before adding to remaining 1/2 cup sugar


I'm taking the easy way out tonight and using a Tony Chachere's mix for jambalaya. Although I realized I haven't made jamabalaya from scratch in a long time. Nor have I made gumbo in a long time or shrimp creole, so I need to bust all of those out here soon. I bought some sausage on sale a few weeks ago and stuck it in the freezer, and I always have chicken on hand. I think I'll just heat up some frozen veggies to go with it.

I did make king cake today, so I'll have to post the recipe for that after I get back from grocery shopping. For some reason I'm trying to convince my toddler to come with me. Right now he's on the stairs having a screaming fit. Why did I want to take him with me again? Sheesh.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Floating Island Punch

Last one! I guess all these posts today make up for the fact that tomorrow I don't have to make dinner. We're going to my aunt's for my cousin's birthday dinner, and my grandma is making chicken and noodles. Yum!

This punch was served at my baby shower back in October and my friend Danielle's shower in November. I think Jen found the recipe for it on Jen A. requested it specifically, and who am I to turn down a pregnant woman's request? I know better than that! ;) Just kidding, I would have chosen this one anyway because it's just so darn tasty.

Floating Island Punch

2 cups water
2 cups white sugar
1 (12 fluid ounce) can frozen lemonade concentrate
1 (12 fluid ounce) can frozen orange juice concentrate
1 pint orange sherbet
1 liter ginger ale
1 liter carbonated water
1 (4 ounce) jar maraschino cherries
1 orange, sliced in rounds
4 cups ice

Bring water to a boil. Add the sugar and boil until it becomes a syrup. Let cool.

In a punch bowl combine lemonade, orange juice, ginger ale, and carbonated water. Mix in the sugar syrup. Add ice and sherbet. Just before serving add cherries and cherry juice and float orange slices on top.


Believe it or not, this was my first time making a simple syrup. I didn't read the directions first and poured the sugar in the saucepan then added water and turned on the burner. It turned out fine. And it really was super simple. I let it boil for 5-7 minutes or so. I couldn't remember what size maraschino cherries the recipe called for when I was grocery shopping, so the jar I got was 16 ounces. Jen B. was helping me make it this morning and dumped the whole thing in, so ours might have been a tad bit sweeter than it usually is. But it was still good. Also, I didn't put the ice in the punchbowl--I had it in an ice bucket because I didn't want the punch to get watered down as the ice melted. Plus I figured the sherbet would keep it cold, and everything else had come straight out of the fridge.

Blintz Souffle

Now, on to shower food. My friend Jen A. is having her second baby--another boy just like everyone else I know--in March, so I threw a baby shower for her today. It was very fun, if I do say so myself. I was lucky and a lot of our friends offered to bring food to help out, which was a huge lifesaver. It was quite the feast...egg casserole, potato casserole, blueberry muffins, scones, orange cinnamon rolls, Amish friendship bread, fruit with dip, baked brie, and this blintz souffle. All I had to do was this, the brie, and the punch. And clean my house--which was probably the most daunting task but a very much needed one.

I was at my mom's a couple weeks ago, and we were talking about what food to have at the shower. Well, I was talking about it and she was suggesting things. She said that a friend of hers had made this, and it was really good. I'm not usually big on trying out new recipes for the first time on big groups of people, but I trusted my mom.

1-16 ounce carton small curd cottage cheese
2 egg yolks
1 Tbsp sugar
1-8 ounce package cream cheese, softened

1-1/2 cups sour cream
1/2 cup orange juice
6 eggs
1/4 cup margarine or butter, softened
1 cup flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Cherry and blueberry pie filling

Grease a 9x13 pan. Beat all filling ingredients until well blended. Set aside. LIghtly spoon flour into measuring cup; level off. In blender or food processor with metal blade, place the sour cream, orange juice, eggs, margarine, flour, sugar, baking powder, and cinnamon. Blend until smooth, scraping sides often. Pour half of the batter into the prepared pan. Drop filling evenly over batter; spread carefully and evenly. FIlling will mix slightly with the batter. Cover; refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake, uncovered 50-60 minutes or until puffed and light, golden brown. Serve topped with pie fillings. Yields 8-12 servings.


I mixed it all together last night and then threw it in the oven this morning. Mine baked for close to an hour. I was pretty disappointed last night that I over-estimated the size of my food processor AFTER I got half the ingredients in it and realized it was too small. You know how I hate doing extra dishes. I broke out my blender instead.

This ended up being pretty good. Although I'll admit I didn't really taste it as much as I should have since I was mostly interested in the baked brie. There's less than half the pan left, so it was received pretty well. I'll have to try more once I'm ready for sweets again. I have a ton of the pie filling left, so I may have to look up cherry or blueberry pie recipes. There's more of the blueberry left than the cherry, and I do have a pie crust in the freezer. Hmmmm...a project for tomorrow!

Hoisin Pork Medallions

Good lord, according to the ol' blog I haven't made this in almost a year! Unless I made it and forgot to update which is entirely possible. I really like making things with hoisin sauce. If you aren't familiar with it, it's almost like Chinese ketchup. It's the sauce that's used when you order mu shu to get all that yummy goodness to adhere to the pancake. Oh how I love mu shu. Now I wish we were having that for dinner.

I threw a baby shower today for my friend Jen A. today, so really all I've eaten today is shower food. Since somehow the only items left at my house were sweets, so I've been on a major sugar high all day. Okay, not really, but I do feel kind of sick from all the sweets I've had. Since the shower ended I've had probably five glasses of water because all I'd had before that was my customary morning diet Coke (which I'm trying so desperately to replace with coffee but can't because I forgot to buy coffee last week at the store. I should go put it on my grocery list for next week right now.) and punch (recipe coming shortly). the punch was yummy but super sweet. It probably didn't help that after everyone left and the punch was all gone that I got out a fork and ate the maraschino cherries in the bottom of the punch bowl and some of the orange slices. I'm not embarrassed--they were yummy! Anyway, after all of that sweetness all day, I'm ready for a good non-sweet dinner. Not that we ever have sweets for dinner, but you know what I mean. Kind of like when all I eat is junk all day, a really good salad always sounds the best to I need a lot of vegetables to balance it all out.

So, this is what's on the dinner plan for tonight. I'm excited for it now that I have realized how long it's been since we had it. The recipe calls for pork tenderloin, but I always use a portion of a pork loin roast instead because, well, I'm cheap, and pork loin roasts are a whole lot cheaper than pork tenderloin.

Hoisin Pork Medallions
Cooking Spray
1 Tbsp dark sesame oil
1/4 to 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1-pound pork tenderloin, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch thick slices
6 Tbsp water
1/3 cup dry sherry
3 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
3 Tbsp hoisin sauce
2 cups hot cooked long-grain rice, cooked without salt or fat
1/4 cup sliced green onions

Coat a nonstick skillet with cooking spray; add oil, and place over medium-high heat until hot. Add pepper and garlic; saute 1 minute. Add pork; cook 4 minutes on each side or until browned. Remove pork from skillet. Wipe drippings from skillet with a paper towel.

Combine water and next 3 ingredients in skillet; cook over medium heat 1 minute, stirring constantly. Return pork to skillet, turning to coat. Place rice on a platter; spoon pork mixture over rice and sprinkle with green onions.


I think the only item I don't have are the green onions, but I'm not too concerned. I'm going to make some brown rice to go with it, as well as a package of Asian vegetables I have in the freezer, and I also have a couple Trader Joe's eggrolls left in the freezer to use up.

Friday, January 16, 2009

My universal dinner back-up plan

So, the dinner I had slated for tonight backfired on me. I had bought stuff to make lentil tacos awhile back (before the baby was born I think) and put that on the menu for tonight. Only, I had absolutely no idea where I had seen the recipe, nor could I find it when I searched for it today. Sigh. I'm hosting a baby shower for my friend Jen A. tomorrow, so the husband suggested we just get pizza for dinner so I had one less thing to do tonight (well, several...figure out dinner, make said dinner, and do dishes from dinner). Bless his heart. ;) So, Little Ceaser's pizza it is.

Tomorrow after the shower I'll post the recipes I'm making for it.

Foodie BlogRoll

My blog has been added to the Foodie BlogRoll website! I submitted mine after reading about it on Jen B.'s blog, and I just got the notification that it's now listed. Woo hoo!! Right now it's even listed as one of the newest blogs on their little widget (somewhere to the right of this post) and the website. Exciting!!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Ravioli in Brown Butter Sauce

Ah, Giada. I love you even though you're so skinny. And really that's just me being jealous because deep down I know I'll never, ever, ever be that skinny. Especially if I consistently cooked like she does. My friend Jen B. always says you shouldn't trust a skinny cook, but I think Giada is the exception.

I used some Christmas money to beef up my cookbook it really needed beefing up. One that I bought is Giada's "Everyday Italian." Flipping through it I can't WAIT to make a lot of the stuff. There's a ton of yummy sounding recipes. This recipe caught my eye because I have a bag of frozen raviolis in my freezer I've been wanting to use for something (it's from Costco and taking up quite a bit of space), and she mentioned this is a great sauce for raviolis. Plus I heart brown butter. My friend Danielle brought us spaghetti with cheese and brown butter (like they make at Spaghetti Factory) after the baby was born, and it was so good. Brown butter is just so tasty, and I love how it smells. Yum.

Brown Butter Sauce
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
6 fresh sage leaves (torn into pieces) or 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
1/2 tsp salt, plus more to taste
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper, plus more to taste
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese

In a large, heavy frying pan, melt the butter over medium-high heat until pale golden, about 4 minutes. Add the sage or basil leaves and cook until crisp, about 2 minutes. Stir in 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, and the nutmeg. Season the sauce with more salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with the parmesan cheese and serve.


This is my first time using fresh sage. I'm excited to try it. I was tempted to make it with basil, but I thought I'd branch out a little and expand my horizons. I forgot to buy whole nutmeg, so I'll just have to use a sprinkle of the stuff I have on hand.


Mmmmm...this was yummy. Jen was right in her comment about fresh sage--I did want to rub it on my face. It was so soft. It didn't smell anything like dried sage, which always reminds me of my grandma's stuffing for Thanksgiving. It almost smelled like a Christmas tree. I think I let the butter cook a little too long, but it was still really good. I was kind of tempted to lick the pan if it hadn't still been hot. I'd like to make this more often, but it was pretty decadent, so I think it will be a once in awhile dish. But it was super easy and definitely worth making again. Once again, Giada comes through!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Meatball Sandwiches

Tonight we're going the easy route. I was at Fresh & Easy at the end of last month, and they had all of their frozen appetizers on sale. I hadn't planned on buying anything, but I ended up getting a 1.5 pound bag of frozen meatballs for $2 I think it was. I thought that was a pretty sweet deal, and I couldn't resist. So tonight I'm throwing those in with some of the tomato sauce I have in my freezer (last time I checked, I had four Ziploc freezer bags of tomato sauce...why I have so much, I don't know), putting it on toasted buns with some mozzarella, and dinner is done. Well, not totally...I think I'll heat up some fries or tater tots--whichever I have in the freezer--and a real vegetable of some sort and then call it good.

White Girl Enchiladas

This is actually last night's dinner, but I felt guilty not posting it since I'm trying to be better about posting everything I make. And now that I've come out and said it, I'm that much more likely to actually do it since I don't want to get angry comments along the lines of, "You said you were going to be better about posting...why haven't you posted in three days?" But, rarely does anyone leave me a comment so it's probably not a valid concern.

Anyway, I call these my white girl enchiladas because 1) I'm a white girl, and 2) I don't think any Mexican would actually make enchiladas this way. Both kids are napping right now (or at least they're both in their rooms being quiet), so I'm not going to be overly verbose today so I can enjoy this peaceful time alone before the madness begins again.

White Girl Enchiladas
1-2 lbs chicken (depending on how much you are making)
1-2 small cans of diced green chilis
8 oz block of cream cheese
8-10 flour tortillas
15 oz. can Green Chili enchilada sauce
1 pkg. Cheddar/Mexican Cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cook chicken and shred or cut into small pieces in a pan on the stove. Cut up 8 oz. of cream cheese into small pieces so it melts easier. Mix chicken with cream cheese and 1-2 cans of diced green chilis (depending on how spicy you want them) in the pan on medium heat.

Fill each tortilla with mix and fold up. Place into a lightly greased cooking pan, folded side down. Pour cheese and sauce over the enchiladas and put in the oven for 20 minutes.


I had a bit of a chicken mishap over the weekend, so I had chicken meat to use from that. remember that roasted chicken I kept planning on making last week? I was finally going to cook it on Saturday night, but then we talked about going out to dinner, so I threw it in the crockpot in the morning because I didn't want it to sit out another day. We went about our day, took the boy to Zoo Lights because the first time we went it was rainy and horribly cold, then I went to hang out with Jen B. while her husband came over here to hang out with mine. I got home around 10:30 and smelled something in the kitchen. was the chicken. Oops. Thankfully it had been cooking on low all day. It literally fell completely apart when I pulled it out of there. I had planned on making stock with the bones, but I have a big container now of bones, skin, fat, and some pieces of chicken, so I can't decide if I should go ahead and have my first attempt at making my own stock or wait until I have a more intact chicken carcass to use.

Anyway...these enchiladas were really good, as usual. They're so easy to make--especially if using leftover chicken. I didn't have quite enough cream cheese, so I threw in some sour cream as well. I didn't notice much of a difference.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Mock Vegetable Risotto

The new vegetarian recipes continue! Are you excited? I am. And a little scared. I'm branching out beyond my comfort zone and using zucchini tonight. I don't like zucchini, and I never have. Just ask my mom. She and my dad love zucchini and always knew people that grew it in the summer and had too much and would pass it along to us (how's that for a run-on sentence?!). She tried to sneak it into everything. My mom wasn't ever a baker (she said she didn't want to have cookies around because she'd eat them, which as a child I never understood but now I completely get!), so when my brother and I came home one day and found a batch of cookies on the counter, we were understandably skeptical. Yup--she had put zucchini in them. But, I'm going to try and embrace the zucchini because a lot of the vegetarian recipes I've found include it. I figure it can't be that bad mixed in with other stuff, right? Right?!??! I sure hope so.

This is another recipe from the almost-got-rid-of-it vegetarian cookbook. I had slated it for last week and then decided I'd do something else instead and wait to make it until red peppers were on sale. But, when I got to the grocery store last week, they were on sale! So I got one and the zucchini, but then I never made it, which worked out great for this week because that was one less dinner I needed to figure out when planning my meals.

By the way, I'm trying to use up stuff I have on hand this week, which is kind of killing me because I want to be using all my new cookbooks. The three I got for Christmas weren't enough--I bought another Giada cookbook and the new Barefoot Contessa. I haven't even had a chance to sit down and read through them yet. Arrgh! I hate having unread cookbooks!

Mock Vegetable Risotto
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 medium onion, minced
1 cup converted white rice
2-1/4 cup vegetable stock
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 red bell pepper, cored and finely diced
1 medium zucchini, cut lengthwise into sixths and thinly sliced
1/4 tsp fennel seeds, crushed
1/2 cup seeded, diced tomato, either fresh or canned
1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
liberal seasoning of freshly ground pepper
2 Tbsp white wine or dry vermouth
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese
1 Tbsp minced fresh basil

Heat the butter in a 3-4 quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and saute for 5 minutes. Stir in the rice and saute for 2 minutes, stirring often. Pour in the vegetable stock and salt and cover the pan. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute. Do not let it brown. Stir in the red pepper and saute 3 minutes. Add the zucchini and fennel and cook 5 minutes, stirring often. Add the tomato and saute 2 minutes. Stir in the peas and a generous seasoning of freshly ground pepper. Remove the pan from the heat.

After the rice has cooked about 17 minutes, it should be tender, not mushy, and there should be a little stock left over that has not been absorbed. At this point, stir in the wine and then all the sauteed vegetables.

Sprinkle in the two cheeses and the basil, then gently stir to incorporate them. Cook 1 minute and serve.


I don't have any converted rice, so I'm going to use brown. I'll let you in on a secret--I have a hard time making white rice. I don't know what it is, but it always comes out too sticky and over-cooked, no matter how long I cook it for. I do much better with brown rice. I prefer brown, but I keep white on hand for those nights where I forget to start the brown rice early enough. Apparently, Uncle Ben's rice is converted, so I looked up the cooking directions for that. It says cook 20 minutes then remove from heat and let sit 5 minutes, so I figure I'll stop my brown rice from cooking about 5-7 minutes before it's supposed to be done. Actually I'll probably just check it after 30 minutes and every five minutes after that. I don't have any white wine, but I do have dry vermouth. I think. I'm pretty sure I bought it at Trader Joe's one time and haven't ever used it. Either that or I bought marsala wine. Now I'm not sure which I bought. I'll have to check. I doubt the husband would mind having to stop for wine on his way home, if I need it.


This was really yummy. At first I thought it was just okay, but it grew on me as I ate it. The husband at first said he thought it was only "so-so" and that it would be better with some seafood added into it. I told him that defeated the vegetarian aspect of it, then he said for a vegetarian dinner it was pretty good and one we should have again. My rice ended up cooking for close to 45 minutes I think it was. I busted out a little algebraic equation to figure an approximate cooking time based on the cooking time listed for converted rice compared to brown rice. I'm a geek, what can I say. My equation said equivalent cooking time would be about 42 minutes, and I think that was about right on. I'll be adding this one in to the vegetarian dinner rotation for sure. It was really easy to put together which I love.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, it was cream sherry I bought at Trader Joe's. Oops. I think Jen B. bought vermouth that trip, and that's what I was thinking of. I told you were entirely too co-dependent.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Quick and Easy Mexican Chicken

What a day. My avocados were finally ripe yesterday (yes, I know you can speed up the avocado ripening process), so I made Tortilla Pie. It was yummy. I'm too lazy to do a second post on it right now. I need to update our family blog later tonight, and the thought of that is daunting because it's been awhile, so I need to conserve my blogging energy. And it's been a long day. The grand idea I had for the boy's birthday party next month bombed because I called about it too late. And we made the decision to give our dog away. We had decided it awhile ago, and she's been staying at my mom's house, but the time had come to find somewhere else for her to go. I could use a few cocktails, to say the least.

I had meant to start getting the chicken I was going to roast ready to go around 4:00. I looked at the clock at 4:30 and went, "D'oh!" I thought of this recipe I had slated for Sunday night and at first had a minor freak out because I had used all the salsa in the Tortilla Pie. Then I remembered I had some in the pantry. Phew! Jen B. had made this chicken recipe awhile back and really liked it, so I thought I'd give it a go. It's from

Quick And Easy Mexican Chicken
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1 cup salsa
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1 clove garlic, minced
1 pinch salt
1 pinch ground black pepper
1 pinch ground cumin

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).

Heat a greased skillet to medium. Rub chicken pieces with garlic, salt, pepper and cumin to taste and add to hot skillet. Cook until brown on both sides and no longer pink (10 to 15 minutes).

Transfer meat to 9 x 13 inch baking dish or casserole dish, top with salsa and cheese and bake at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) for 15 to 20 minutes (until cheese is bubbly and starts to brown.) Serve over rice or buttered noodles.


Sounds totally easy and should be good. And if we like it, it will be easy to have again because these are all things I always have on hand. I'm making a rice dish with it from the cookbook my mother-in-law gave me for Christmas; I'll post that separately.

(I'm embarrassed to admit I never hit the Post button last night after typing this out. Oops!)


This was AWESOME. Definitely a keeper and also probably one of my all-time favorite ways to cook chicken. I was out of garlic, so I put all my chicken on a cutting board and sprinkled with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and cumin. I love the smell of cumin when it's on something that's cooking. On its own, I think it smells like BO, but cooking it smells great. This was super easy to make, too. The boy doesn't like spicy, so I just put cheese on his chicken breast and skipped the salsa because the salsa I had was medium, and I didn't think he'd dig it.

You could probably skip the oven step and top the chicken breasts with the salsa and cheese in the skillet, then cover and let the cheese melt. This didn't occur to me at the time. Darn, I could have saved myself a pan to clean.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Greek Spaghetti with Tomatoes and Feta

Chicken update: still frozen
Avocado update: still rock hard

Sigh. I hope at some point this week I can use the chicken and avocados. Instead I'm just rearranging my meal plan every night until one of them is good to go. Actually tonight's dinner is my back-up back-up dinner. I was going to do something else but realized I didn't have enough sour cream. This had been my "I might as well grab canned tomatoes at the store to have stuff on hand to make this if I need it" recipe. I've been dying to have it since the baby was born because feta, to be perfectly honest, tasted like puke to me while I was pregnant. It was a sad time in my life. I bought a thing of feta at Costco before Christmas and have been antsy to use it. I generally don't like to have two pasta dishes in a week, and since I made stuffed shells earlier this week, I was going to have to put this on the back burner until next week. And then my chicken was still frozen, avocados were still hard, and I didn't have enough sour cream. Obviously the Good Lord wants me to make this for dinner tonight.

Greek Spaghetti with Tomatoes and Feta
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 large garlic clove, minced
3 cups diced tomato
1/2 cup sliced green onions
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley, divided
2 tablespoons lemon juice
4 cups hot cooked thin spaghetti (about 8 ounces uncooked pasta)
1 cup (4 ounces) crumbled feta cheese, divided
Freshly ground pepper
Lemon slices (optional)
Green onions (optional)

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add oregano and garlic; sauté 30 seconds. Add tomatoes, green onions, 2 tablespoons parsley, and lemon juice; cook 2 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

Combine tomato mixture, spaghetti, and 3/4 cup cheese; toss gently. Top with remaining cheese and parsley, and serve with pepper. Garnish with lemon slices and green onions, if desired.


I'm so seems like forever since we've had this. Really it's been at least 11 months probably--nine months of being pregnant and the baby is almost two months old now. I know, can you believe it?! Where is time going??? I'm glad I got two cans of tomatoes at the store because I thought it only called for one, but three cups is really more like 1.5 cans. I'll probably live on the wild side and just use both full cans instead of having half a can left over. Darn it...another recipe I planned on making this week called for one diced tomato, and half a can would have been about that. Too bad I already bought tomatoes for it. Shoot.


I'm so glad I can eat feta again because this was yummy. Two cans of tomatoes was a bit too much sauce, and I think I was a little shy on the amount of pasta, but it was still good. This is so easy to make and so tasty. The feta melts and makes the sauce all creamy and delicious. There were hardly any leftovers.

Split Pea Soup #2

Jen B. told me the picture didn't show up for the split pea soup post below, so I thought I'd do a blog update the old fashioned way and just add in a picture. I'm too lazy to go back and edit the other post to change it up. It came up fine on my computer, so who knows.

Split Pea Soup

I went to college in a cool town called Bellingham, WA. I loved it...a total college town. I really miss it and wish there was some way I could live there, although maybe it doesn't hold the same appeal after college? I don't know. There are tons of good restaurants (and cool bars, but that's a post for a different time or maybe never. You may lose all respect for me if you knew how often I frequented the bars in college...and how many of them.), so whenever I'd go back up there prior to moving to AZ it was always a tough decision where to eat.

There's a part of town called Fairhaven that has all these funky shops and restaurants (not so many bars though). Very artsy and kind of hippie (I couldn't decide if hippie was the right spelling or hippy...seriously, I went back and forth between the two about five times). There's a bookstore there that has a restaurant in the downstairs of it, Colophon Cafe. I heart Colophon! One of my most embarassing moments happened there. I'll tell you the story so you can feel a little more clued in on my life. ;) My roommate Courtney and I had gone there to get dinner one night and study. I had really bad body image issues in college, so I was complaining about how fat I was (and in reality I wasn't at all but I thought so at the time and now I'd give just about anything to look like I did then). Courtney busts out with--in a pretty loud voice for a mostly empty restaurant--"Claire, I've seen you naked and you have nothing to complain about." Nice, huh?


My mom really liked Colophon when she'd come up to visit me, and she bought (or I got her as a gift, I don't remember) their cookbook. I stole it from her awhile back and scanned a bunch of the recipes from things I loved there. This recipe I'd had for awhile and made on occasion. I was moving some stuff around in my pantry today and discovered a bag of split peas and thought, "I'm going to make soup!" i don't think this is quite as good as it was at the restaurant, but it's pretty good. And completely vegetarian!


I'm trying a new feature I saw in my Picasa Photo Viewer. It had a link to "Blog This!" so I did. It brought up a window to type my blog entry and had a link to the picture already on it. Hopefully it's big enough that you can see the recipe.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Potato Gnocchi and Mushrooms in Gorgonzola Sauce

I had a near dinner disaster tonight. Well, not really. I had planned on having roasted chicken, but the chicken was still frozen. I thought about doing Tortilla Pie but the avocados I bought last night were still hard and need to ripen up a bit. That left me four other dinners to choose from, from what I had planned out for the week. We had a park play date this afternoon, so I figured I'd see what stuck my fancy when we got home from that.

The boy was having fun, and I was catching up with some friends I hadn't seen much of recently, so it was 5:15 by the time we were leaving the park. I decided to make what ever was going to be the fastest. Since most everything else required defrosting some form of protein, I went with this because I knew the gnocchi would cook quickly. This was one of the recipes from that vegetarian cookbook I meant to get rid of for years and am now insanely pleased that I did not. Looking through it a second time, I found even more recipes I want to make. I don't think I've ever been so excited about eating vegetarian!

Potato Gnocchi and Mushrooms in Gorgonzola Sauce
1 Tbsp olive oil
12 ounces mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 pound frozen potato gnocchi
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup milk
3 ounces gorgonzola or other blue cheese, cut into small dice
2 Tbsp minced fresh parsley
1/4 tsp salt
Generous seasoning freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large stockpot of water to boil. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and saute until they render their juices, then reabsorb them and begin to get dry, about 10 minutes. Stir often.

Drop the gnocchi into the boiling water and cook until tender, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic to the mushrooms and cook 2 minutes, tossing frequently. Pour in the milk and bring to a boil. Stir in the blue cheese, parsley, salt, and pepper and toss.

Drain the gnocchi and add it to the skillet. Toss 1 minute, or just until the cheese melts. Serve immediately.


I had freeze-dried gnocchi from Trader Joe's, not frozen, so I followed the package directions on that for cooking them. Let float to top and boil two minutes after that. Super easy. The hardest part of all of this was slicing the mushrooms.

I wasn't sure what the husband and boy would think of this because of the blue cheese (I used regular blue cheese because there was no gorgonzola to be had when I went to the store last night). I loved the first bite I took of it, the husband didn't look too sure of it. He said later that he did like it and would eat it again, it was just an unfamiliar texture (gnocchi) and tase (blue cheese) so it took some getting used to. The boy ate it reluctantly at first but then he ate pretty much all I had served him, except one or two gnocchi.

This is definitely something I'd make again. I'm excited to have more things to do with gnocchi because they're inexpensive and super easy to cook. I have a recipe to make my own, so maybe some day when I have a little more time (i.e. my baby isn't a newborn anymore) I'll try to make my own. Anyway, I love easy, inexpensive dinners, and it's also great to have another vegetarian dish to add into the rotation.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Sweet and Sour Ribs

Ah, the start of a new year. I know it's five days in, but the husband is back at work, and now it's back to the daily grind. I have big plans for 2009, we'll see if any of them happen. Not really big plans, plans for things I want to start doing around the house. My friend Kelly has a blog for getting organized, so I'm hoping to implement some of her ideas to get things in order around my house. I need to formalize my plan, though, otherwise it won't ever happen. When I first started staying home I made a schedule for myself of what laundry got done on what day (I swear I do laundry every freakin' day) and what chores happened on one day. Then I started slacking. I figure with two kids I need to get back in the habit of being organized, and I want a clean house again. Now that baby stuff is everywhere, the clutter is driving me crazy. So one of the things on my list for today is to work up a schedule.

But, since I am a first class procrastinator, I thought I'd update the blog with tonight's dinner. This was on my to do list for today, so I guess I'm not really slacking. :)

So, sweet and sour ribs. I used to make this all the time, and it was one of our most favorite dinners. What's that you say...don't remember seeing this on my blog before? Well, you probably haven't. I haven't made it in years because for some reason grocery stores stopped having boneless ribs on sale. And I'm entirely too cheap to pay full price for them, even though we love this recipe. I was at Costco last week (by myself!! What a treat!) and walked past the meat section to see what their prices on various things were. I stopped dead in my tracks when I saw boneless pork ribs for $1.89 a pound. Lordy mama...I was so excited!! I even called my mom to tell her. I have to share when I get excited, what can I say. I'm so excited we can start having this on a regular basis again. I heart crock pot dinners because it minimizes the craziness of getting things together at dinnertime. I had a minor panic attack when looking for the recipe because it wasn't in my recipe folder like I thought it would be. Then I thought, "Maybe I actually filed it away in my recipe box." Sure enough...there it was! Crisis averted. Not really--I could have just called my mom and gotten the recipe from her.

Sweet and Sour Ribs
1 can Contadina sweet and sour sauce
1 cup barbecue sauce
Dash of soy sauce
3 T. brown sugar
Boneless ribs

Cut fat from ribs and boil 10 minutes. Mix first four ingredients together. Place ribs in crockpot and pour sauce over to coat. Cook six hours on low. Or, place ribs in baking dish, pour sauce over ribs, and bake uncovered at 350 for 20 minutes, cover and bake for 40 more minutes.


My crockpot cooking time is estimated, but I'm pretty sure six hours on low is right. I remember coming home at lunch one day when I worked to put them in the crockpot, and we usually ate between 6:00 and 7:00. Also, I have only been able to find Contadina sweet and sour sauce once in all the years I've been making this, so I usually just buy the bottle of Kikkoman sweet and sour sauce and call it good.

We were going to have baked beans with this, but I forgot to buy them yesterday, so I'm not sure what we'll have. I need to go through the pantry and see what all is in there. I saw a Pasta Roni mix I'd like to get rid of, so maybe we'll have that, a vegetable, and I might make some corn bread if I have a mix or have everything on hand for it. Actually I just got a recipe for some kind of corn casserole, so if I have everything maybe I'll make that instead of corn bread.


These ribs were just as good as we remembered them!! I think I cooked them a little too long (I ended up doing four hours on high because I had a baby to deal with and couldn't get them in the crockpot in time for six hours on low) because if you got a bite without much sauce, it was a bit dry. but the sauce was oh-so-yummy. I could have eaten it with a spoon. We had pasta roni, corn bread, and salad with it. I'm glad I found cheap boneless ribs so we can have this more often.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Stuffed Shells

Anyone know where I can get a contraption that will stop time so I can actually get things done? I'd be willing to pay top dollar for it if such a thing existed. Then my blog could get updated every day, my house would always be clean, and I'd have enough time to do fun stuff ( blog is fun, but cleaning house is not) each day AND play with my kids. Sigh. We had a great message at church today on time management, so I think I just need to take that to heart and hope everything works out how it needs to. Or start praying for a cleaning fairy to dance her way through my house!

I'm actually at my mom's house right now where we'll be having a birthday dinner tonight for my uncle. I figured it was a great time to update the ol' blog since it's just me and the baby here right now. And, I'll be honest, I'm putting off writing some very overdue thank you notes. However I could also be reading Breaking Dawn so maybe I should get my butt in gear so I can get some reading done before the husband gets over here. He has this silly notion I should be reading a parenting book we read when the boy was a baby. Obviously he hasn't read any of the Twilight books and isn't DYING to know how it all turns out...Edward or Jacob, who's it going to be?!?!? What's going to happen to Bella? The thank you notes may once again get put on the back burner now that I've started thinking about the book.

I digress (as usual). When my in-laws were in town, I checked the pantry to see if I had lasagna noodles for my MIL to use. I didn't, but I saw an opened box of large shells, so I thought, "Hey, I wanted to put stuffed shells into rotation more often...we'll have that for dinner one night." So, lo and behold, we did. Plus there was ricotta left in my fridge from the lasagna, so I really didn't need to buy much at all for this.

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.

***** was yummy. I love tomato-y, cheesy pasta dishes. I ended up making my own spaghetti sauce. It's cheaper than buying the stuff in the jar, and I can control the ingredients since the only thing packaged in it is the canned tomatoes which are just tomatoes. I used my Basic Tomato Sauce recipe. Alright, it's not really my recipe, but it's the one I use whenever I need tomato sauce. Plus it makes quite a bit, so then I can freeze what's left and have sauce in my freezer.

I worked out my menu for the coming week, and there are some yummy things on it. I'm following Jen B.'s lead and trying to work in three vegetarian dinners a week. Can you tell we're entirely too co-dependent on each other? Anyway, I had a vegetarian cookbook in my pantry I've thought about getting rid of for years because I never use it, so I busted it out yesterday to have a look-see and see what was in it. There were some YUMMY recipes! So I'm making two dinners from that this week. I need to have the husband and boy try polenta to see if they like it because there were some great polenta main dish recipes in there too.

On the way into my mom's house I spotted a 1970s looking casserole cookbook in the garage. I'm dying to have a look at that and see what's in it!!! Shoot...that's one more thing to keep me from reading Breaking Dawn. Maybe I'll look at the cookbook after the husband gets here. ;)