Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Italian Stuffed Acorn Squash

I got a bounty of vegetables from my produce co-op last time, and there were two acorn squash in there. Like I've said before I'm still learning to embrace the squash, but my friend Jen had made a stuffed acorn squash recipe awhile back that looked really good. I was excited to have acorn squash so we could try it. I also had everything on hand for it which was a double bonus.

Jen originally found this recipe on RecipeZaar.com. She modified hers for the oven instead of the slow cooker like the recipe calls for, so if you want to know how to do it that way, check out her post on it.

Italian Stuffed Acorn Squash

1 large acorn squash, halved and seeded
olive oil
1 cup water
1/2 cup wild rice
1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds or pine nuts (I have used sunflower seeds too)
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 cup vegetable broth
1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese or feta cheese

Cut squash in half and scoop out seeds. Brush squash halves with olive oil and place in slow cooker (slice off bottoms to level, if necessary). Pour 1 cup water into the cooker, around (not into) squash.

In a small bowl, combine wild rice blend, pumpkin seeds or pine nuts, minced garlic, tomato paste, salt, pepper, and spices; stir until well-mixed. Stuff rice mixture into each squash half.

Slowly pour about 1/2 cup vegetable broth into each squash cavity until full (don't let stuffing overflow). Pour any remaining broth around squash. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 3-4 hours. Just prior to serving, sprinkle with crumbled cheese.


For some reason, I was really hesitant to make this. I don't know why, but the day we were going to have it I kept putting off adding everything to the slow cooker. i don't know why, Jen and her family had really liked it. Perhaps my squash aversion. I finally got around to it, although since I had two squash I doubled the recipe--only to find out that just three halves would fit in my crockpot. Jen had said her son, who is the same age as the boy, ate a quarter of one, so I figured the kids could split a half.

I was concerned the squash itself wasn't cooking, but I checked it at one point (I know, I know...never take the lid off a slow cooker) and stuck a fork in it to find it was already pretty tender. I think my total cooking time was about 3.5 hours on low. It maybe could have gone a little longer for the rice, but we had to eat at a certain time to get to our Bible study groups.

The husband and I really liked it. REALLY liked it. I loved the feta sprinkled on top, it added a great creamy flavor to the other ingredients. The husband and I found that 1/4 of a squash was really filling. I realized as I was cutting a half in half for the kids that the baby hasn't had nuts yet, and since there are some nut allergies in our family I was hesitant to give it to him because of the pine nuts, so he got chicken nuggets. The boy I don't think even took a bite. Whether he didn't like the look of it or he was jealous his brother was getting chicken nuggets I don't know. But, really one squash would have been enough for our whole family which makes this super economical.

I don't know if I'd make it again because of the kids, but I might do it when it's just the husband and I eating. I definitely recommend the recipe, though!!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Frosty Fruit Smoothie

We were in desperate need of a new blender. The one we had we had received as a wedding present, and it was one of those smoothie maker ones with the spout on it, but the spout would always get clogged up or it would leak. I was just tired of it. So the boy got me a really nice new blender for my birthday. Isn't he sweet? Then it happened that we were at my friend Jessica's for a breakfast party last week, and she has an orange tree in her backyard that is producing copious amounts of oranges this year. So she gave us a bag to take home. I told the boy we could make smoothies out of some of them, so I went about looking for a recipe. I found this one on RecipeZaar.com, and thought it would be a good one to try, but I changed it up a bit.

Frosty Fruit Smoothie

1 cup orange juice, chilled
1/2 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
1 medium banana, cut into chunks
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup small ice cube or crushed ice

In a blender, combine fruit juice and yogurt; add banana and vanilla. Add ice cubes, Cover and blend until nearly smooth.


I ended up using two bananas and probably slightly more juice and yogurt so I could get two smoothies out of it. The boy and I both really liked these! The original recipe called for milk instead of yogurt, but I liked the idea of the yogurt better. Plus Greek yogurt is so yummy.

The downside of this? Now every day the boy asks if we can make smoothies! Not that it's a bad thing necessarily, just more work for a snack than I usually like to do. :) But we both really liked the smoothies, and I like controling what's in the snacks/treats/drinks we have.

My cool retro juicer. It was my grandma's.

Hello, fresh squeezed orange juice. Thanks Jessica and Dashel for sharing your oranges with us!


I don't know why it didn't occur to me to take a picture of everything in the blender. Oops!

Grilled Vegetable Paninis

Recently I somehow stumbled on a food blog dedicated solely to paninis, PaniniHappy.com. Actually I think I found out from a link on Aggie's Kitchen. We love paninis, and I'm always looking for new variations. After my cheese making class I had some goat cheese (which at some point will be its own post) I wanted to use, so I checked out the panini blog for some ideas. I found a recipe for a Grilled Vegetable Panini that was pretty similar to what I wanted to do, so I used it as a basis. We needed to go to Trader Joe's, so I planned on picking up a bag of their frozen grilled zucchini and eggplant mix, but wouldn't you know they were out of it. So I bought an eggplant and a package of zucchini (really reasonably priced, by the way) and figured I'd grill my own. I still had some TJ panini rolls left in the freezer, so I used those for the sandwiches.

Grilled Vegetable Paninis

1 eggplant, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
3 small to medium zucchini sliced lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices
4 Tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
4 cloves garlic, minced
Goat cheese (chevre)
Slices of mozzarella
Panini rolls

Combine eggplant and zucchini slices in a large bowl. In separate small bowl, combine oil, vinegar, basil, oregano, and garlic. Whisk to combine, then pour over vegetables in large bowl and toss to combine. Let marinate at least one hour.

Prepare grill or grill pan. Grill vegetables in batches, approximately 3-4 minutes per side or until grill marks appear. Remove to plate and finish grilling vegetables.

To assemble sandwiches, spread layer of chevre on bottom half of panini roll (or bread of your choosing). Top with layers of vegetables, then a slice of mozzarella. Place top half of sandwich roll on sandwich and place the whole thing in a panini press for 3-4 minutes or until grill lines appear and mozzarella is melted.


Mmmmmmmmm...this was so good!! We had a bit of a grill mishap, so I ended up having to use my grill pan inside. Some of the crazy storms we had this winter kept knocking over our grill, so we need to do a little maintenance on it to get it ready for grilling before we can use it. It worked out okay on the grill pan, just took a lot longer since I had to do smaller batches.

The chevre I used was what I had made at my cheese class. It was really yummy, although it was slightly more work than the other cheeses because you have to let it sit for longer, and it requires a special packet of something. I'll probably have to post about the cheese class tomorrow because I still have two posts left to do today, and the boy is getting antsy being in his room for quiet time.

Anyway, these were super tasty!!! The husband and I loved them. They were really filling, too. I did two layers each of zucchini and eggplant. I would definitely make this again--filling, healthy, vegetarian--love it!! Although I much prefer the convenience of the frozen veggies from Trader Joe's over having to do it myself.

The panini rolls I like:

My vegetables marinating. I tossed them around every now and then during the course of the hour.

Grilling the veggies on my grill pan. God bless the inventor of the grill pan.

Mmmmm...big pile of grilled veggies!!

Even more mmmmmm...cheesy, yummy grilled vegetable panini!!

Santa Fe Burgers

I just want you to know that I stayed up late last night cleaning my house so that I could update my blog today during naptime without feeling guilty about the state of my house. It was bad. So after the kiddos and husband were in bed I cleaned. Now I can get all caught up here. I think I have four posts to do, and I think I have pictures for most of them, or at least some!

For most of my meal planning last week I used a Cooking Light cookbook I forget to use. It's Cooking Light Superfast Suppers. It has some really good stuff in it, and all the recipes are quick to put together. Since I wanted to have mostly new stuff on the menu AND be healthy, I figured it was a great place to start.

I always have Boca Burgers on hand because the husband takes them for lunch a lot, so when I saw this I figured it would be a great dinner since we already had the protien piece, we had hamburger buns, salsa, and I had gotten several avocados from my produce co-op last weekend. All I needed was the cheese!

Santa Fe Burgers

4 (2.8-ounce) frozen meatless soy protein burgers
4 (2.8-ounce) whole grain hamburger buns
4 (3/4-ounce) slices 2% Monterey Jack cheese with peppers
8 thin slices avocado
1/2 cup chunky salsa

Cook burgers in a nonstick skillet according to package directions. Place 1 burger on bottom half of each bun; top with 1 cheese slice, 2 avocado slices, and 2 tablespoons salsa. Cover with top half of bun. Serve immediately.

Nutritional Information
Calories:367 (23% from fat)
Fat:9.4g (sat 2.8g,mono 2.2g,poly 0.5g)


I happened to take dinner to my friend Jen on Monday night, and I took them Mexican Chicken Casserole. The husband was VERY disappointed that they got that while we were having Boca burgers. He didn't realize they were "fancy" Bocas, so I think he felt a little better once I told him that, but he was still jealous of their dinner.

These were really good burgers. I ended up mixing the salsa with a little mayonnaise for a creamier sauce. The combination of that with the pepper jack cheese was realy good, with the creamy mellowness of the avocado to balance it out. Yum!! I had planned on doing some kind of potatoes with these, but Jen's dinner ended up taking me longer to put together than I anticipated, so instead I made up some guacamole and we just had tortilla chips and guac on the side.

I'd probably make these again, especially since most of the ingredients are things I had on hand. It was a really good, really fast vegetarian dinner to add to my arsenal. The cookbook actually has a whole section on doctored up Boca burgers, so I may try out more of them. Surprisingly both my kids ate the Bocas as well. I wasn't sure what they'd think, but both kids ate their burgers just fine, although they just had regular ol' American slices on theirs.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Still here!!

Oh man, I was doing so well there for awhile at updating my blog in a timely manner. Then my birthday hit and I did nothing. Well, I did a lot of stuff, but none of it included updating the blog. I turned the big 33 last Wednesday, and pretty much feasted for five days straight. My actual birthday the husband took the day off work, and we had a great family day. I was served breakfast in bed (bacon and eggs, with the eggs cooked in the bacon grease...be still my beating heart...which may be the actual outcome if I ate that too often), we went to lunch at one of my favorite restaurants, Kona Grill and feasted on sushi and a huge piece of the tastiest red velvet cake I've ever had compliments of the restaurant for my birthday. Nice!! For dinner we went to another favorite restaurant of my mom, courtesy of my awesome mom, TexAZ Grill. I may have mentioned it before. My friend Benah and I used to go for lunch fairly often when we were pregnant and indulge in their amazing chicken fried steak. The husband questioned my restaurant choice, but he questioned no more once he tasted the prime rib he got. Lordy mama, it was some of the best prime rib I've ever had. I, of course, stuck with my usual chicken fried steak because it was my birthday and I could indulge all I wanted.

Moving along, Thursday night I cooked something but now I don't remember what it was. It was supposed to be a roasted chicken, but I forgot to take it out of the freezer in time. Friday night was my birthday present from my husband, we went to see "Avenue Q" which was freakin' hilarious!!!

Saturday I had my cheese class which was totally amazing--you have no idea how easy it is to make cheese! Well, some kinds of cheese anyway. I'll have to do a cheese post at some point. I don't remember what we had for dinner that night either because we were going to have something that used the leftover chicken from Thursday night, but since that didn't happen I had to come up with something else. Must not have been too overly exciting.

Sunday night was my birthday dinner with my family, and my almost 92 year old grandma made her amazing fried chicken and gravy for it. I swear I could eat my weight in that. Okay maybe not that...maybe my ideal weight. So of course I overindulged then, too. After all was said and done, I weighed myself on Monday morning and found I was up 10 pounds. YIKES. Thankfully, though, after a day of healthy eating and massive water consumption I was down seven pounds on Tuesday. Phew! I don't feel so bad about three pounds given the insane indulging I did.

So now I have this whole last week's worth of dinners to post, all of which were new recipes to me, so I definitely want to get them done. However I've felt all week like I'm going in a million different directions at any given moment and not getting anything accomplished. I hate when that happens. My blog hasn't been updated, my house is a disaster, I need to do laundry. Seriously, I don't know what's been going on with me. I'm going to be gone all day tomorrow, so I'm thinking Monday during naptime I'll devote to getting the blog updated. I had planned on doing it tonight, but a friend of ours is over and I got busy chatting with him and the husband, and now I'm exhausted and have to be out of the house by 7:15 tomorrow morning. I think the cards are stacked against me tonight, but hang tight because just about everything I'm going to post is worth reading!! We've had some tasty, tasty dinners this past week!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


I just signed up for a beginning cheesemaking class at Sur La Table this weekend!! I'm so excited, I just had to share. Here's the info on the class, in case you're curious:

Learn the foundational basics of cheesemaking and ways to use fresh cheeses from Chef Instructor Mary Karlin. Mary will share tips from her upcoming book, Making Artisan Home-crafted Cheeses, being published spring 2011. Students will taste sample cheeses that have been made ahead then discuss the styles and flavors. Students will work in teams to make all of the cheeses then share what they've made to take home. *Note: Price includes containers to take cheeses home.

MENU Panir from India: a dense, firm cow's milk cheese - Queso Fresco from Latino cuisines: a mild, crumbly cow's milk cheese - Chèvre from France: a soft, tangy goat's milk cheese - Ricotta from Italy: a creamy, mild cow's milk cheese

Now let's just hope enough people sign up for the class that we get to make all of them!! Last time I took a cooking class at Sur La Table there were only two of us signed up, so we had to pick and choose which of the menu items to make. Actually I've never had panir, so I could probably take or leave that, so let's just hope there are enough people to make the chevre (yum!!!), queso fresco (so I can make more Rick Bayless recipes!!), and ricotta (fresh ricotta is AWESOME!).

Monday, March 8, 2010

Pesto Pasta Surprise

One of the other women on the message board I belong to has a food-based blog I follow, FrostedFingers.com. Every Tuesday she posts a new recipe, and last week's looked super easy and good, Angel Hair Pasta. The only downside was that it used store bought pesto and alfredo sauce--both things I love but don't generally eat because of the high fat content in both. When I was doing my meal planning for the week I thought of that recipe and decided to make something similar but with ricotta instead of the alfredo. Then when I was thinking about it more, it sounded a lot like a recipe my mom made recently for my brother when she was visiting him. I called her today and got the recipe, so I think mine is going to be a combination of the two.

Pesto Pasta Surprise

1 package whole wheat penne
1 jar marinara sauce
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1 cup mozzarella
1/4 cup pesto
Additional mozzarella for topping

Prepare penne (or pasta of your choice) per package directions; set aside. Combine cheeses and pesto in medium bowl; set aside. In 8x12 pan, layer as follows: half of the cooked pasta, half the marinara sauce, all the cheese/pesto mixture, remaining half of the pasta, remaining marinara, additional mozzarella.

Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until heated through and cheese is melted.


I'm really excited to try this tonight. I have some pesto leftover from making Veggie Pesto Pizza last week, so however much of that I have in the freezer is what I'm going to use. I may use a bit more ricotta, too, because I like cheesy pasta.

Along with this I'm going to make Barefoot Contessa's Garlic Ciabbata Bread and a salad. Yum!!

Baked Orzo with Fragrant Lamb

Man alive, did we have a crazy weekend!! Our realtor called Saturday with some houses she wanted to show us, so my mom ended up coming over to stay with the kids while we went looking at houses. Some were okay, some were horrible. We're still holding out hope that the one we put the offer on will come back approved from the bank. The waiting game sucks!! We should have an answer in four weeks or so at least, so we just have to hang in there. Anyway, the boy and husband went to a hockey game Saturday night, so the baby and I didn't really do anything special for dinner.

Yesterday was just about as crazy. Church, taking lunch to and visiting my friend Jen and her new babies. The boys were both melting down when we left, so we came home for naps. The husband went grocery shopping for me while I took a much needed siesta, then the husband and boy went to get haircuts, the husband went shooting, I made dinner, we ate, kids went to bed, husband and I watched a movie. Man! Not much time in there for updating the blog here. But I'm just a day late so I don't feel that bad.

Awhile back I found some ground lamb on manager's special at the grocery store and scooped it up. I didn't know what I wanted to do with it, but it was a good deal and I thought it would be something new to try. I checked one of my Weight Watchers cookbooks and found this recipe that used ground lamb--perfect! I was really excited to try something new, and this sounded really easy.

Baked Orzo with Fragrant Lamb

1/2 pound orzo
6 ounces lean ground lamb
1 onion, chopped
1/4 cup chopped fennel bulb
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp dried mint
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes
3 Tbsp tomato paste
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
3 ounces reduced fat feta, crumbled
2 Tbsp grated parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350. Spray an 8-inch square baking dish with nonstick spray; set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the orzo and cook according to package directions. Drain and transfer to a large bowl.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add the lamb and cook, stirring to break up the meat until browned, 3-4 minutes. Remove lamb with a slotted spoon and transfer to the bowl with the orzo.

Add the onion, fennel, garlic, mint, and oregano to the same skillet. Cook, stirring until onion begins to soften, 3-4 minutes. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, and cinnamon; cook until mixture thickens, 6-8 minutes.

Combine the tomato mixture with the orzo and lamb. Stir in the feta and mix well. Pour mixture into the baking pan. Sprinkle top with the parmesan. Bake until hot, 25 minutes.

Points Value: 6 (makes 6 servings)


So, I had a bit of a mishap. The baby was standing next to me while I opened the package of lamb, and I checked the baby's diaper because the air smelled pretty gross. It wasn't him, it was the lamb. I was a bit skeptical of using it but went ahead and defrosted it and started cooking it. Then I called my mom to see if she knew if ground lamb was supposed to smell like a baby's dirty diaper. She didn't know, but we both agreed it probably wasn't a good sign. At this point the smell of it was making me want to puke, so I decided to scrap it. Luckily I had some ground veal in the freezer--the only other ground meat I had on hand--and quickly defrosted it and browned it. So, that was substitution #1. I ended up using the whole pound of veal because I needed to be using it up and really had no other ideas for what I could do with it. To compensate for the additional meat I added in more crushed tomatoes (conveniently I bought a 28 ounce can of tomatoes instead of 14) so it was a bit saucier. I also used fresh mint instead of dried.

I took a bite of it all mixed together before I put it in the baking dish and LOVED IT. I wasn't really sure how the cinnamon would play in when I was adding it, but it really accented the flavor of the tomatoes and feta. Who knew! Honestly I took quite a few bites before putting it in the baking dish...I couldn't stop eating it. Even once it was all heated up and baked it was so good!!! We all really liked this. I think it could easily be made with ground beef or turkey, which I would probably do in the future since it's pretty rare for me to have ground veal on hand. This was really so easy and tasty!! I'm glad I tried it--and I'm glad I had the lamb mishap. :)

Friday, March 5, 2010

Rick Bayless' Chipotle Meatballs (Sandwich Style)

Oh man...words do not express how freakin' excited I am to try this dinner tonight!!! Months and months ago when I was holding the Rick Bayless Mexican Everyday cookbook hostage from the library I saw this chipotle meatball recipe in it. Sounded good and then I thought, "Hmmm...you could probably make a Mexican version of a meatball sandwich with those." And then the idea just had to sit in my brain for a long, long time. I don't know why I haven't made this sooner given my excitement for it!!

So, first I'll post the recipe from his cookbook and then how I'm doing my sandwich take on it after the recipe.

Rick Bayless' Chipotle Meatballs
Copyright 2005, Rick Bayless' Mexican Everyday

3 slices bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
3 garlic cloves, peeled (divided use)
2 large eggs
1/2 cup dried bread crumbs (3/4 cup if they're the coarse-textured panko)
1-1/4 pounds ground pork
1/2 cup (loosely packed) coarsely chopped mint leaves, plus extra leaves for garnish if you wish
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice (preferably fire-roasted)
1-2 canned chipotle chiles en adobo, stemmed and seeded
1-2 Tbsp chipotle canning sauce
1 tsp dried oregano, preferably Mexican
About 1-1/2 cups beef or chicken broth

Turn on the oven to 450 degrees. In a food processor, combine the bacon and 1 garlic clove. Process until finely chopped. Add the eggs, bread crumbs, and 1 teaspoon salt. Pulse several times to combine thoroughly, then add the pork and mint. Pulse the machine a ew more times until everything is well combined--but not at all processed into a paste. Remove the blade.

With wet hands, form the meat into 16 plum-size spheres, spacing them out in a 13x9 inch baking dish. Bake until lightly browned (they'll be browned more underneath than on top), about 15 minutes.

While the meatballs are baking, combine the tomatoes, with their juice, chipotles, canning sauce, oregano, the remaining 2 garlic cloves (cut in half) and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a blender or food processor. Process to a smooth puree.

When the meatballs are ready, spoon off any rendered fat from the baking dish, then pour on the tomato mixture, covering the meatballs evenly. Bake until the sauce looks like tomato paste, 15 to 20 minutes.

Microwave the broth for about a minute to heat it (or heat in a small saucepan). Divide the meatballs among four dinner plates, leaving most of the sauce behind. Stir enough broth into the sauce to give it an easily spoonable consistency. Taste and season with additional salt if you think the sauce needs it. Spoon the sauce over the meatballs, decorate with extra mint leaves, if you wish, and serve.


My mouth started to water a bit there while I was typing out the recipe. Rick has yet to do me wrong, so I cannot wait to try this! The only substitution I'm making is to use ground beef instead of pork. I have 1.5 pounds of ground beef left in my freezer, and I gave the husband a couple options that I could do with it, and this is what he chose. We're trying to get back to no (or very little) red meat, so we won't be having anything like this for awhile.

So, now my sandwich take on them. These sounded really similar to meatballs in marinara my friend Laura makes and then uses for meatball sandwiches. So I thought why couldn't I do a Mexican version, using this sauce instead of marinara, and queso fresco instead of mozzarella. So that's what we're having for dinner tonight! I was telling my friend Jen about these last night when I talked to her, and she thought they sounded awesome, too. She suggested putting avocado or guacamole on them, too. I do have an avocado that needs to be used up, so I might try that and see how it is.

I can't wait to report back to you on how these turn out!!


Oh man...oh MAN!!! I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Rick Bayless is a god among men, or at least when it comes to food. These meatballs were AMAZING. The sandwiches were so-so, but I think that's mostly because I forgot to toast or somehow heat up the sandwich rolls before assembling. Oops. They were so filling, too. Neither of us finished the sandwich.

I ended up using one chipotle pepper and a few spoonfuls of the canning sauce because I didn't want it to end up too spicy. I figured better to start with less and then go from there if I needed to, but I think that was just the right amount for our taste. Smokey with a little heat but not overpowering.

I loved the hint of bacon and mint in the meatballs. The flavor was fantastic and captivating. The smokey sauce really added to them as well. This is something I will definitely make again, although since we're giving up ground beef for awhile I may try them with ground turkey, or I'm hoping to get a food grinder attachment for my Kitchenaid mixer for my birthday, so if I do I could grind up a lean cut of pork and make them that way. As it was I used 93% lean ground beef, and they turned out fine. Oh, my food processor was not going to be big enough to add the meat with the bacon/bread crumbs/egg/garlic mixture, so I added the mint in with all that and then combined that mixture with the ground beef in a bowl and mixed it by hand.

Just thinking about them makes me want to go over to the fridge and have one cold!

(I took pictures, but they're on my phone, so I'll upload them later.)

Thursday, March 4, 2010


The husband is meeting a friend of his after work this evening, so it's just me and the boys for dinner. We have a ton of stuff in the fridge that needs to be eaten, so I think we're just going to have a clean up night. Or I'll make them grilled cheese or chicken nuggets.

Check in tomorrow, though, because I'm SUPER excited for the dinner I'm making!! I had the idea months ago and am finally getting around to making it. I seriously cannot wait for dinner tomorrow night!!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Easy Chop Suey

How's this for back on track...new recipes, posting daily. I guess I shouldn't brag on it too much in case it doesn't last.

I was flipping through a Betty Crocker vegetarian cookbook I have to get ideas for dinners this week and saw this one for Easy Chop Suey. I had most of the ingredients and had just bought veggie sausage at Costco. I've made other recipes from this cookbook and really liked them, so hopefully this one is a success too.

Easy Chop Suey

Cooking spray
1 medium onion, chopped
2 medium stalks celery, coarsely chopped
2 cups frozen sausage-style soy-protein crumbles
1/3 cup uncooked regular long-grain rice
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup reduces sodium soy sauce
2 cups water
1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1 bag (1 lb) frozen seven-vegetable stir-fry, tahwed
4 cups crisp chow mein noodles

Spray 4 to 5 quart slow cooker with cooking spray. Generously spray 12-inch skillet with cooking spray. Add onion and celery; generously spray with cooking spray. Cook about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until crisp-tender. Stir in remaining ingredients except stir-fry vegetables and noodles. Spoon into slow cooker.

Cover; cook on low 6-7 hours.

Stir in stir-fry vegetables. Increase heat setting to High. Cover; cook about 15 minutes longer or until vegetables are tender. Serve with noodles.


Once I got this all together I really wasn't sure how it's going to turn out. I went and saw my friend Jen and her new babies today and was telling her about it. I said it's either going to be awesome or gross and we'll need to go get pizza for dinner, I don't think there's going to be any halfway on this one. Even know I'm still not sure how it's going to be, and it's been in the slow cooker for 5.5 hours. It actually looks pretty done, so I may go ahead and add in the veggies. I'm starving, so I really hope this isn't totally nasty.

Oh, and since I've sworn off canned soups (have you ever read the ingredients for cream of mushroom soup?! Gross!!), I made my own. What?!, you may be asking. She made her own cream of mushroom soup? I did. It was really easy. I was looking through the Make it Fast, Cook it Slow slow cooker cookbook and saw that she had a recipe in there for an alternative you make yourself. It's really more like a quick little cream sauce, but I chopped up some mushrooms, sauteed them and tossed them in the mix so it would be slightly more authentic. I'm so ridiculously excited to have found a substitute for the nasty canned stuff. I really don't like to eat foods that have ingredients I have to struggle to pronounce.

Interested in making your own cream of whatever soup? Check out the Crockpot Chicken Cordon Bleu recipe on the Year of Slow Cooking blog. She has the ingredients and instructions listed with that.


Did you know that Domino's Pizza is having a two medium two topping pizza for $5.99 each special right now? Guess how I found out...that's what we had for dinner. I tasted this before putting the vegetables in, and all I could taste were the veggie grounds. The husband said the texture was weird--I think partly because the sausage broke down so much it was like mushy rice with veggie sausage particles. I decided to save the bag of stir-fry veggies for another use and went to my UDBP (universal dinner back-up plan): pizza.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Chicken Ceasar Wraps

I've decided to scrap the whole stuffed pepper idea. The thought of the filling having been sitting in my freezer for six months kind of skeeved me out. I went to check my freezers for ideas and saw a bag of Naked Nuggets I bought at Costco last week. I knew I had tortillas, salad mix, and Ceasar dressing, so my dinner idea was born!! It will be super easy to put together which is nice because I'm taking dinner to a friend that just had a baby, so I can throw these together when I get home from that.

A quick note on the Naked Nuggets. I had tried them at Costco months ago and really liked them but didn't buy any at the time. Of course--like is so often the case at Costco--the next time I went they didn't carry them anymore. I was so freakin' excited to see them giving samples of them when we went this past Friday. I snatched up a bag and then after we left regretted not getting one for my friend Jen since she had sampled them originally too and also really liked them. Both my kids loved the samples, and I love how healthy they are! Seven nuggets have only 140 calories, 3 grams of fat, and 25 grams of protein. I really hope Costco continues to carry these!!

Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

Awhile back (okay, it was September so it was quite awhile ago I guess) I made up the filling for qunioa stuffed peppers (the link will be below). The husband thought it looked gross, so instead we ended up having some vegetarian lasagna that had been in the freezer. I couldn't let it go to waste, so I put the filling in the freezer. Once it all came together it tasted good, but by that point the lasagna was already heating up. I'd kept it in the back of my head that the filling was still in the freezer, and when I saw red peppers at Costco last Friday I decided it was time to break this out and have it. Although honestly now knowing it's been in the freezer for almost six months I'm a little hesitant. I'll have to see how it's doing once I defrost it...I may need a last minute dinner back-up plan.

Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

Strangely enough there was a stuffed peppers recipe I came across in my Weight Watchers magazine I was reading at the gym yesterday, so maybe if this isn't going to work out I'll go with that instead.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Veggie Pesto PIzza

I realized I forgot to mention a couple other recent happenings around here that have contributed to my lack of blog posting. I finally had Lasik done!!! I was beginning to wonder if I was not meant to ever get it because I had to change from my original date so we could go to a seminar at church (that totally wasn't worth it), then both my kids got pink eye and they wouldn't let me get it done in case I ended up getting it too (which I did). So Friday was the day, and I have to say my life has been changed!!! It was definitely creepy--reminded me entirely too much of this scene from "A Clockwork Orange"--but so worth it in the end!

The other exciting happening is that my friend Jen had her twin baby girls on Friday!!! I guess it really has nothing to do with my lack of blogging, but it's very exciting!! I got to spend a good chunk of the day at the hospital with them yesterday, and aside from my own kids, they are some of the cutest babies ever!! Warning: snuggling with two cute newborn baby girls that have red bows in their hair WILL induce baby fever. And if it doesn't, there might be something wrong with you.

Anyway, I figured Jen would come home from the hospital today or tomorrow, so I slated this dinner in case they wanted me to bring some to them, as I know it's one of their favorites as well. Jen's mom is coming to stay with them for awhile, and Jen thought she'd probably want to make them dinner, but I kept it on the menu for tonight just in case. I'm really excited to have it!! It's been awhile, and lately all we've had is pepperoni or cheese pizza, so a good, homemade, veggie pizza will be fantastic!!

Veggie Pesto Pizza

Ranch Chicken Panini

Man, it has been a crazy couple weeks here at my house. The boy turned four, so we had his birthday party, my brother came to visit for the weekend for that, and somewhere in the middle of all of that we decided to buy a new house, so we've been busy pouring over real estate listings online and going out to look at houses with our realtor. We put an offer on one, and the seller accepted it, now we're just waiting on the bank to approve it since it's a short sale. What a long, drawn out process!! Blogging hasn't been very high on my to do list lately, and when I've been menu planning I've been sticking with things I've made before and not really branching out at all. This week, though, I have mostly new things planned, and I'm hoping to get back to posting on a regular basis.

I think it was last Monday I was over at my mom's. Yeah, because my brother was still here visiting. She had recently come home from a trip to California, and on her way home bought 25 avocados for $5. She generously shared the wealth with me and sent me home with a huge bag of avocados. Want to know something interesting? I used to hate avocados. When I was pregnant with the boy there was one on a veggie sandwich I got for lunch one day and the texture of it almost made me puke. But after he was born, I loved them!! Who can explain it. Anyway, some of them were already pretty ripe, so I wanted to use them up quick. We had been saying recently that we hadn't had paninis for dinner in awhile, so I swung by the store on the way home from my mom's and picked up some ciabatta rolls. Other than that I had no ideas. I'm pretty pleased with the recipe I came up with--we really liked these sandwiches!!

Claire's Ranch Chicken Paninis

2 chicken breasts, pounded thin and cut in half
2 avocados, peeled and sliced
4 slices cheese of your choice (I used provolone)
2 tomatoes, sliced
Ranch dressing (I made The Pioneer Woman's Ranch Dressing because I cannot find any store bought ranch dressing that does not contain MSG)
4 ciabatta rolls (or panini bread of your choice)

Using grill or grill pan, cook chicken breasts until done. Slice rolls in half. Spread each half with ranch dressing (be pretty liberal with it). Place chicken breasts on bottom half of roll, top with avocado and tomato, finish with cheese (so it holds everything together). Place top half of roll on rest of sandwich. Throw them on your panini grill (or press, whatever) until cheese is melted.


Mmmmmm...these were so good!! I was wishing I had some bacon to fry up and add to them. It all came together pretty fast, too, especially with having pounded the chicken out so it was thinner.

I have to say that PW's ranch dressing was AWESOME. FANTASTIC. MAGICAL. WONDERFUL. The boy likes ranch dressing on his salads, and we were almost out of the bottle we had on hand. I was reading ingredient lists on all the different brands at the grocery store--seriously, ALL the brands--and every single one had MSG as one of the ingredients. I couldn't believe it. I knew the packets of the dry mix had it as an ingredient, but I hadn't ever checked the bottled stuff before, which is weird in itself because I always read ingredients before buying something. Anyway, I remembered reading PW's recipe when she first posted it, so I quickly pulled it up on my phone when we got to the store so I could get the necessary ingredients. Turned out all I needed were chives, so that was easy. And I have to tell you that this was the best ranch dressing I have ever had!! It was super easy to put together, too, and I love knowing what goes into it and not having a bunch of crazy weird things in it that I can't even pronounce. I'm trying to do away with bottled salad dressings in general, and this is a great step in that direction as ranch was really the last dressing hold out.

Sorry the picture is lacking in quality, I had to resort to taking it with my phone.