Monday, December 5, 2011

Slow Roasted Pork Shoulder


I am finally, FINALLY done with P90X!! There has been much rejoicing from me today, let me tell you. I need to have the husband take after pics of me so I can compare with the before pics to see how I improved. I'll post them on my fitness/weight loss blog once I have them. So now my afternoons are free to do things around the house (I'm fairly certain I've accomplished more in the hour Boy #2 has been napping than I have on most days total while doing P90X) and update my blog. Again, much rejoicing!

In one of my many recent catch-up posts, I once again professed my love for the Meal Planning 101 blog. As I was scouring it for recipes at one point I saw this one for a pork shoulder. Conveniently soon there after I found a pork shoulder on sale, so I figured I'd buy it and try this out. I had never been steered wrong from there before...don't you love finding blogs like that?!

Slow Roasted Pork Shoulder
Source: Meal Planner 101 blog

4 to 5 pound pork shoulder, bone-in
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp cumin
1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tbsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium yellow onions, peeled and cut into wedges
4 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 28 oz. can of diced tomatoes
1 12 oz beer (use chicken stock or water here if you prefer, but we used a brown ale and it was perfect)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees

If the pork shoulder has any thick layers of fat you want to trim that off. Mix together the cumin, paprika, brown sugar, salt and pepper and rub it all over the pork shoulder. Let it rest with the spice mixture on for about 30 minutes.

Once the pork has rested, heat up a dutch oven with the olive oil over medium high heat. Place the pork inside and brown on all sides. Once it has a nice brown crust all over, remove from the pot and add the onions, garlic, tomatoes and beer. This is the part where you scrape up all the delicious bits off the bottom. Place the pork back in the dutch oven, cover and slow roast for 3 1/2 to 4 hours until the pork is extremely tender and pulls apart with a fork.

Remove the pork roast from the dutch oven to a cutting board. Using two forks, shred the meat and place on a platter. Remove any bits of fat. Serve the pork with mashed potatoes and steamed carrots and spoon the delicious sauce over the top. You can also puree the beer/tomato/onion mixture to get rid of any big chunks...it becomes a beautiful thick gravy that is just delicious. Enjoy every bite of this incredible roast.

*****

I had never cooked a pork shoulder before, so I was a little excited to try something new. This was super easy to put together, too. Mix rub, rub on meat, walk away and do something else. Heat oil, throw in roast, put away some dishes, turn roast in pot, put away some more dishes, turn roast in pot, put dirty dishes in dishwasher, turn roast in pot, finish loading dishwasher, finish roast steps. I'm all about multitasking.

This smelled AMAZING while it was cooking, I could not wait for dinner. And, folks, let me tell you, this did not disappoint. Oh man...it was so good! We all really loved it. It yielded quite a lot of meat, too, so we had pulled pork sandwiches with it later in the week. The meat was so tender from the slow roasting, it literally just fell apart once I started shredding it.

One of my local grocery stores had these on sale recently so I picked up another and can't wait to have this again, although the husband just got a smoker and wants to smoke it, which I would probably be okay with too. He can have part of it, and I'll slow roast the other.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Mary's Tortilla Soup


Last year when my dad passed away, my BFF Jen Clementine set up meal support for my family, which was a huge lifesaver. Honestly it's the only way my kids were going to get fed because I was not functioning at all. My friend Mary brought us this soup one night, and it was so good. My vegetarian brother was tempted to give up his non-meat eating ways to have some, he thought it looked and smelled so good. I was really excited to make it again, but given my family's soup aversion I never had. Plus it always seems weird to me to make soup in the summer in Phoenix. Who wants to eat soup when it's over 110 degrees outside?! But, after the Ham and Beans was decently received, I figured it was worth making. Our Wednesday and Thursday nights for the past month and half have been crazy busy with my bible study group meeting at our house on Wednesday nights and Boy #1 having soccer practice on Thursday nights, so I have been on the lookout for crockpot meals to make my life easier.

Mary's Tortilla Soup


Chicken Tortilla Soup

3-4 chicken breasts (frozen ok)
2 cans corn
2 cans chicken broth (14oz)
1 pkg taco seasoning
1 can stewed tomatoes
1 can cream of potato soup
1 can green chilies
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
1 can tomato sauce (8oz)
16 oz sour cream (I use the light)
1 handful of cilantro

Put it all (except sour cream and cilantro) in the crock pot on low for 6 hours or high for 3 hours. Take out the chicken and shred it, then add back in. Add the tub of sour cream (you need to temper it so it doesn't curdle). Garnish with cheese, avocados and chips.

*****

I'm not sure if the husband had any of this last year when Mary brought it over since he wasn't that hip on soup, but he LOVED it this time. He requested this be the only tortilla soup I ever make again. Boy #1 thought it was okay, Boy #2 devoured it and asked for seconds. Woo hoo! It was really so easy to make, especially being able to just throw frozen chicken breasts in with everything else. I also added in a can of black beans because I had them on hand and thought they'd be a nice addition. I used regular tomato sauce, but I bet using El Pato sauce instead would be tasty as well. Hmmm...I'll have to try that next time.

I picked up some ciabatta rolls the same day we were having this, sliced them in half and put them under the broiler to brown them a bit, then spread with butter and sprinkled on some shredded cheddar cheese and put back under the broiler to melt the cheese. I figured Boy #1 wouldn't be that excited about the soup, so I wanted there to be something with the soup that he'd like. He thought the cheese rolls were the best thing ever. He kept saying, "Mom this cheese bread is just too good!" Ah, bless him.

This soup will probably be in high rotation in our house this winter. Thanks, Mary, for such a great recipe!

Oh, and the amazing cheese bread:

Fancy Baked Sweet Potatoes


I was reading through a recent issue of Martha Stewart Living (I told you I love Martha!) and saw these amazing looking sweet potatoes. There wasn't really a recipe, just a one page thing about how fantastic sweet potatoes are. The picture was gorgeous! I decided I must try them, and the opportunity presents itself shortly thereafter when I received a bunch of sweet potatoes from my produce co-op one week. I knew there was no way my kids would eat these, so I slated them for a date night dinner for the husband and me.

Fancy Baked Sweet Potatoes

Per serving:
1 baked sweet potato
1 cup roasted Brussels sprouts
2 Tbsp blue cheese
2 Tbsp dried cranberries
1/4 cup toasted pecans

Split baked potato lengthwise and top with Brussels sprouts, blue cheese, dried cranberries, and pecans. Serve.

*****

Doesn't get a whole lot easier than that. The sweet potatoes I had were pretty little, so I baked two for each of us. All other ingredients are estimated because I'm really not sure how much of each I used. These looked GORGEOUS--the orange potatoes, green Brussels sprouts, crimson cranberries, flecks of white and little bits of blue from the cheese. I was so excited to eat these...then I took a bite and was so disappointed. It was not at all what I expected and honestly I thought it was kind of gross. So did the husband. But we didn't really have anything else we could make for dinner at that point because it was late on a Friday. So we muscled through it, and surprisingly we discovered that the more bites we took, the more we liked it. The trick was to have a little of each component on each bite. We ended up both really liking it and cleaning our plates. I'm so glad it worked out because I was really apprehensive after that first bite and debated running out to get us a pizza. I'm glad we stuck with it and finished them off. It ended up being so tasty!

Fresh Apple Cake With Brown Sugar Glaze


I love my neighborhood. We've lived here a year and a half now, and I've never once regretted our decision to move here. There are so many young families, a ton of families from our church live near us, our neighbors are all super friendly. It's such a complete opposite of our last neighborhood where we couldn't leave toys out in our backyard or the kids across the street would climb over our wall and steal them. Seriously. Anyway, we recently had a neighborhood picnic put on by the HOA. They provided lunch and residents were asked to bring desserts. There were pony rides, a bounce house...it was super fun. Since I'd been going crazy with Pinterest.com (see, I'm not exaggerating when I say I'm obsessed with it...I'm probably a few pins away from an intervention) I figured I'd make one of the desserts I'd pinned. This one seemed especially tasty and I had all the ingredients for it.

Fresh Apple Cake With Brown Sugar Glaze
Source: Lick The Bowl Good blog via Pinterest.com

Apple Cake:
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 eggs
1/2 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups finely chopped apples
1/2 cup pecans or walnuts, chopped (optional)

Brown Sugar Glaze:
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
3 Tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 Tablespoon heavy cream

For the cake: Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8-inch pan (round or square) and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Stir with a whisk to mix everything together.

In a large bowl, mix the eggs with a hand mixer til light in color and foamy. Add the oil and vanilla and beat well.

Stir in the flour mixture with a spoon and continue stirring the batter til the flour disappears. Add the apples and nuts (if using) and stir to mix them into the batter.

Scrape batter into prepared pan and bake for 40-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Place the hot cake on a wire cake. While it's still hot, prepare the glaze.

For the glaze: Combine all the ingredients into a saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the mixture comes to a gentle boil. Cook for 3-5 minutes.

Spoon the hot glaze over the still hot-from-the-oven cake. Let the glazed cake cool completely before serving straight from the pan.

*****

I had to improvise a bit for the glaze because I didn't have cream, but I used some half and half instead. It probably wasn't quite the same, but it seemed to do the trick. I was a little disappointed when the boys and I went to pick out dessert that no one had cut into my cake yet. So I figured I'd be the first. I was really pleased with how it came out--dense and sweet and awesome, basically. This is a great fall cake. And I loved that the glaze went on the cake while they were both still hot. One of the things I hate about cake making is having to wait for it to cool before you can frost it, so this solved that problem.


Don't mind the other dessert remnants on the plate there.

Crockpot Cornbread Stuffing


I guess I should have worked a little harder to get this particular recipe posted before Thanksgiving in case anyone was short on oven space and needed a crockpot side dish. Oops. This is another recipe I found via my friend Heather. She shared a link from recipes inspired by the book and movie, "The Help." I've read the book (fantastic!) but haven't seen the movie. I love southern food and culture, so I was all over the link and went crazy pinning (as in, pinning to Pinterest.com) most of the recipes featured. Normally I prefer regular stuffing, like with normal bread, not cornbread. But I'm game for anything when it comes to stuffing/dressing, so I figured it was worth a try.

Crockpot Cornbread Stuffing
Source: MyRecipes.com


5 cups crumbled cornbread
1 (14-oz.) package herb stuffing
2 (10 3/4-oz.) cans cream of chicken soup
2 (14-oz.) cans chicken broth
1 large sweet onion, diced
1 cup diced celery
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon rubbed sage
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons butter, cut up
Preparation

1. Combine first 9 ingredients in a large bowl.
2. Pour cornbread mixture into a lightly greased 6-qt. slow cooker. Dot with butter. Cover and cook on LOW 4 to 6 hours or until set and thoroughly cooked.

*****

I'll be honest, I was a little nervous this was just going to be a soggy, disgusting clump when I opened the crockpot to serve this up with our dinner. I'm happy to report that I was proved wrong and it was quite tasty! I love stuffing, so it was great to just let this cook all day and then serve it up with a pork roast for dinner. I made up two boxes of Jiffy cornbread and used a box of Stove Top for the bread components. I forgot to dot the top with butter, but I don't think it made a huge difference. This would also be tasty with some Craisins and toasted pecans mixed in at the end, maybe even some cooked, crumbled sausage. I'll definitely make this as a side dish again. But be warned--it makes A LOT!

Benah's Pumpkin Crumb Cake


I feel kind of like I'm cheating posting this because I've posted it before, but it was a long time ago (I was pregnant with Boy #2 who recently turned three) and there aren't any pictures on the post. This cake is amazing and definitely worth of being posted again with pictures, so here it is. I have yet to meet someone that doesn't like this cake. I was never a pumpkin fan, but this cake made me see the light. Hallelujah!! My dear friend Benah shared the recipe with me years ago, like before the thought of Boy #1 ever crossed my mind. I recently needed something to take a a birthday brunch for my MOMS Club and thought of this cake. then it turned out I needed something the next night for a snack for my bible study group, so I made it again. Yes, I made it two days in a row. It's that good. My kids were disappointed on the third day when I didn't make another one. Sorry, kiddos, we can't have cake every day. I know, I'm such a mean mom.

Benah's Pumpkin Crumb Cake

Crust:
1 pkg (18 oz) yellow cake mix (take out one cup for topping)
1 egg
1 stick butter, melted

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

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

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

Beat filling ingredients; pour over crust.

Combine topping and crumble over filling.

Bake for 45-55 min. Watch it be devoured.

*****

I love this cake. I have pumpkin in my pantry right now but alas no cake mix. It's probably for the best since I'm the only one home for most of the day, I'd just end up eating the whole pan of it. Not that I'd mind, but I probably would regret it tomorrow when none of my pants fit.

Ham and Beans


When I was growing up, my grandpa would love it when he'd have a ham bone because he could make ham and beans. Honestly I was never really a fan growing up because of my bean aversion, but now that I'm learning to embrace and love the bean I figured it was worth a shot, mostly because I came across a ham bone in my freezer that I needed to use and we were low on grocery money this particular week. Grocery prices lately are driving me nuts, by the way.

I asked my mom about my grandpa's recipe but she didn't know specifics, so I did some searching on Food.com. This sounded good and like what I remembered my grandpa making. Good enough for me!

Ham and Beans
Source: Adapted from Food.com

1 lb great northern bean
1/2 onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
8 garlic cloves
1 bay leaf
7 cups water
4 teaspoons chicken bouillon
1 ham bone

Rinse and sort thru beans (has anyone ever really found a rock in these?). Cover with water and let sit overnight.

In the morning, drain water, rinse again and place beans in the crockpot. Dump in all of the other ingredients (except ham bone) and give it a few good stirs.

Put the ham bone in the crockpot, cover and cook on high for 6-8 hours.

Remove the bay leaf, ham bone and fish out any bones that may have fallen off during cooking. Stir the beans a few times. Remove 1 cup of the beans and place in a bowl, mash them with a potato masher or back of a spoon, then return to the beans and stir; this helps thicken it up a bit.

Take off any meat left on the ham bone, chop and return it to the crockpot.

Stir again and serve!

Nutritional info:
Calories 106.2
Calories from Fat 3
Total Fat 0.4 g
Saturated Fat 0.1 g
Cholesterol 0.0 mg
Sodium 51.8 mg
Total Carbohydrate 19.9 g
Dietary Fiber 6.0 g
Sugars 1.5 g
Protein 6.7 g

*****

I really didn't know how my family would react to this as none of them are big soup fans. Turns out the husband and Boy #2 love soup! Boy #1 not so much, but as Meatloaf says, "Two out of three ain't bad." this will be my go-to recipe when I have a ham bone that needs to be used up. Not that it happens very often, but now at least I can hold on to them and use them instead of passing them on to my mom. Sorry, Mama!

Pesto Chicken Stuffed Shells


My love for Pinterest.com has not waned while I've been slacking on updating my blog. Food, crafts, decorating ideas, projects for my kids...what's not to love about it?! Although probably I could have gotten a few blog posts done in the time I spend on it, but I'll try to not think about it. In fact I'm trying really hard to resist the urge to go look at it now. I try not to think about all I could get done around my house if I didn't have a computer the internet.

Anyway, I love stuffed shells, but I don't make them very often because they're messy. And I generally try to only use whole wheat pasta, and either they don't make whole wheat pasta shells or I just can't find them in my limited selection of grocery stores. But these sounded so tasty and I had some pesto I needed to use up, so I figured it was worth having regular pasta shells.

Pesto Chicken Stuffed Shells
Source: What’s Cookin’ Chicago, via Pinterest

12-16 jumbo pasta shells
water for boiling pasta
4oz cream cheese, softened
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan or Asiago cheese + 1/4 cup for topping
3 tablespoons prepared pesto (homemade or store bought)
2 cups shredded cooked chicken
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot over high heat, boil water and prepare pasta shells as directed on package. Cook pasta shells only until al dente. The pasta will finish cooking when the dish is baked. Drain the pasta shells and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients, except the 1/4 cup of cheese for the topping. Fill the pasta shells with the filling and place in a baking dish. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of cheese over filled shells.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake shells uncovered for 30 minutes or until shells are bubbling hot and cheese melts.

To make ahead/freezer meals - Prepare as directed but place filled shells in an oven- and freezer-proof baking dish. Top with remaining 1/4 cup of cheese over filled shells, cover and freeze. When ready to prepare, defrost. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake shells uncovered for 35-40 minutes or until shells are bubbling hot and cheese melts.

*****

My only complaint was that there could have been more cheese. You know how we love cheese at my house. This would be a great use for leftover chicken. I loved the creamy, pesto filling of the shells. I loved this take on stuffed shells, instead of my usual recipe I use that has the shells stuffed with cheese and then topped with a red sauce. My whole family really liked these, so it's definitely something I'll make again...especially if I can find whole wheat shells somewhere!

Martha Stewart's Potatoes That Taste Better Than The Chicken


I'm not afraid to admit that I love Martha Stewart, felon background and all. She makes some great dishes and comes up with some really crafty stuff. I don't strive to be her or anything, but I do like her website and magazine. My friend Heather recommended this roasted chicken recipe, and since she was also the one to introduce me to polenta lasagna, I completely trust her when it comes to recipes. My friend Jenn made a similar chicken when I had dinner at her house one time, and it was fantastic. Plus I love a good roasted chicken. I think there are few things that are more homey than a roasted chicken. And I can generally get two meals and stock from one chicken. Since I only buy them when they're on sale, they're super economical too. We don't eat potatoes very often because they have such little nutritional value, so I consider it a real treat when we have them.

Martha's Potatoes That Taste Better Than The Chicken
Source: MarthaStewart.com


6 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 tablespoons grapeseed oil
2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 whole (2 1/2-to-3-pound) chicken, wings removed
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 chicken liver
4 sprigs fresh rosemary
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 head garlic, halved crosswise
Fleur de sel, for serving
Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Butter a medium roasting pan with 3 tablespoons butter and 3 tablespoons oil. Place potatoes in a single layer in roasting pan. Season chicken inside and out with salt and pepper. Place liver, rosemary, thyme, and garlic inside cavity of chicken; using kitchen twine, tie legs together to enclose. Rub chicken with remaining 3 tablespoons each of butter and oil. Place chicken on top of potatoes on one of its sides.

Transfer roasting pan to oven and roast for 20 minutes. Turn chicken onto its other side and continue roasting 20 minutes more. Turn chicken, breast side up, and add 2 tablespoons water to pan; continue roasting until juices run clear and the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, 10 to 20 minutes more.

Carve chicken in roasting pan allowing the juices to combine with the potatoes. Serve from the roasting pan, spooning pan juices over potatoes. Sprinkle with fleur de sel.

*****

I wasn't sure how difficult it would be to find grapeseed oil since I did my grocery shopping that week at Walmart, but surprisingly (well, surprisingly to me anyway) Walmart had it and the price was really reasonable, too.

Like I said above, I love a good roasted chicken, and this was a good one. But, just like the recipe title claims, the potatoes were indeed better than the chicken. Roasted potatoes that have been cooking in chicken drippings--yum. I followed the advice of some of the comments on the recipe on Martha's website and let them roast for a bit longer after removing the chicken to let them crisp up a little. Delish! I've actually made this chicken a few times since then, only without the potatoes since we don't generally have them on hand. The butter and oil combo makes the skin nice and crispy and tasty. I didn't used to be a chicken skin fan, but man alive do I love it now. Especially when it's super crispy and salty--yum! This has become my go-to roasted chicken recipe.

Sorry for the crappy pictures I have to get my Speedlite issues figured out so I can get decent pictures again. Sigh. This was a particularly bad camera night.

Creamy Beef Taquitos


I know I've shared my love of the Meal Planning 101 blog before. I don't think I've had a single bad recipe from her website, so I go to it a lot when I need meal ideas. My Bff, Jen Clementine had made these awhile ago and really liked them, so I thought I'd give them a try. I'm always game for a new Mexican food recipe.

Creamy Beef Taquitos
Source: Meal Planning 101 blog


1 lb lean ground beef
2 tbsp taco seasoning (homemade or store-bought)
1/3 cup light cream cheese
1/4 cup salsa
1 tbsp lime juice
3 tbsp cilantro, chopped
2 tbsp green onions, chopped
1 cup grated cheese (cheddar, mozzarella or pepperjack)
12 small flour tortillas (can also use corn tortillas)

Heat oven to 425. Line a baking sheet with foil and lightly coat with cooking spray.

In a large frying pan over medium-high heat, brown the ground beef and break it up into crumbles as it cooks. Add the taco seasoning and cook the beef about 8 minutes until cooked through.

Heat cream cheese in the microwave for about 20-30 seconds so it's soft and easy to stir. Add salsa, lime juice, cilantro and green onions and stir to combine. Once the beef is browned, add the beef and cheese and combine well. You can prepare up to this step ahead of time. Just keep the mixture in the fridge.

Place 2-3 tbsp of beef mixture on the lower third of a tortilla, keeping it about 1/2 inch from the edges. Roll it up as tight as you can. If your tortillas are cracking or breaking, you can microwave them for 10-20 seconds with a damp paper towel over top. Once rolled, place seam side down on the baking sheet. Lay all of the taquitos on the baking sheet and make sure they are not touching each other. Spray the tops lightly with cooking spray or brush with a bit of oil and sprinkle some kosher salt on top. Place pan in oven and bake for 15-20 minutes or until crisp and the ends start to get golden brown.

Dip taquitos in salsa, sour cream, guacamole, or Chipotle Ranch dressing.

*****

The only thing I changed up was to use ground turkey instead of ground beef because I had it on hand, and the husband was going through a "let's lay off the red meat" phase for awhile back when I made these.

Like I expected, these were super easy to put together, fast to cook, and really tasty!! Winner winner, taquito dinner! I love those frozen taquitos that you see a lot at parties, but these were so much better. I'll definitely make them again. Actually I'm wishing I had some ground beef or turkey on hand so I could make them this week!

Blue Cheese Stuffed Pork Chops with Pears


Have I mentioned how done I am with P90X?! I'm tired of my precious afternoon quiet time being taken up with stupid Tony Horton. I like the workouts, but I'm just annoyed I have to spend Boy #2's naptime every day doing them. You've probably noticed I haven't updated the ol' blog here in almost a month. The husband has been helping me meal plan, so we've had some tasty dinners, I just haven't had a chance to update anything. Sigh. I made a list this morning of posts I want to write, and the total was 17! SEVENTEEN!! Thankfully the husband took today off work and took Boy #2 out for some quality daddy time so I could work on my blog. God bless him!

So, get ready for some massive updating!

This was originally going to be a family dinner, but I suggested to the husband we have a date night dinner instead a few nights before Boy #2 turned three back on the 19th. I wasn't sure how excited my kids would be about it. This was in last month's Cooking Light, which I haven't read yet. The husband and I were meal planning and I just looked through the index to get some ideas. It sounded tasty, and I had blue cheese and an abundance of pears. I had a Costco trip planned, and I love their pork chops, so it was a pretty easy decision to add it to our meal plan.

Blue Cheese Stuffed Pork Chops with Pears
Source: Cooking Light, October 2011


4 (4-ounce) boneless center-cut loin pork chops, trimmed
1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled blue cheese
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons butter
1 ripe pear, cored and cut into 16 wedges

Cut a horizontal slit through thickest portion of each pork chop to form a pocket. Stuff 2 tablespoons crumbled blue cheese into each pocket. Sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper evenly over both sides of pork. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add olive oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add pork to pan; sauté for 3 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness. Remove pork from pan, and let stand for 5 minutes.

Melt butter in pan; swirl to coat. Add pear; sprinkle with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Sauté 4 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring occasionally. Serve with pork.

Nutritional Information
Amount per serving
Calories: 246
Fat: 13g
Saturated fat: 5.5g
Monounsaturated fat: 1g
Polyunsaturated fat: 4.8g
Protein: 24.4g
Carbohydrate: 7.3g
Fiber: 1.4g
Cholesterol: 81mg
Iron: 0.8mg
Sodium: 493mg
Calcium: 98mg

*****

The magazine had this pictures with some roasted Brussels sprouts, which we love, so I figured that was an easy side dish. When we saw the magazine, the husband and I both thought this sounded tasty, but it really blew us away with just how awesome it was. I got a perfect sear on the pork chops, so the outside was a little crunchy and the inside was perfectly cooked. The creamy, tangy blue cheese was awesome with the sweet pears. At first, before tasting it, I was wishing I had made some kind of pan sauce to go with these, but after taking my first bite I realized they really didn't need it. There was a lot of ooh-ing and aah-ing as we took bites of our dinner. Even better, it was SO EASY to make. If you've never bought pork chops at Costco, let me tell you that they're huge. Each one was around eight ounces. I asked the husband if he'd want me to slice them in half to get to the recommended four ounce portion size, but we figured at just 246 calories, it was fine to leave them big. Plus for just 500 calories this was really filling and tasty.

Did I mention these were tasty and awesome? Just in case you missed it above I wanted to reiterate. We will definitely have these again!

I love the sight of ooey, gooey cheese dripping out of meat!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

New posts coming soon!!

I don't know how it's been an entire month since I've updated my blog. I miss it so much! Stupid Tony Horton and P90X, ruining my afternoon computer time. I begged the husband for some time this weekend to get my blogs updated (and clean my office, but the blogs are taking priority), so by Monday afternoon I should have quite a few new posts with lots of yummy things for you to try!

In the meantime, I hope you're enjoying this Thanksgiving weekend! I know I am! (Said as I sit here in my jammies at 3:00 PM on Saturday afternoon...)

Friday, October 21, 2011

Oven Hot Dogs


We had these for dinner last night, and they were SO GOOD I could not wait to post the recipe. I only kind of found it through Pinterest.com. Something I had pinned took me to foodgawker.com and that's where I discovered this. Let me tell you, foodgawker.com is a pretty cool website too. I could spend hours and hours looking at pictures of tasty food. It actually makes me sad when I think about how many amazing recipes there are out there that I'll never try. Sigh.

Anyway. Even though I know how awful hot dogs are, I can't stop eating them. I know they're full of nastiness, but it's one of the few foods that I don't care what the ingredients are. Okay, it may actually be the only one. I went through a long phase when I was younger of not eating hot dogs. Then I had a grilled one at a barbecue at one point in college I think it was, and I was reeled back in. Why are hot dogs even more awesome when cooked on a grill? I don't know. When I saw this recipe I thought it looked super tasty and definitely worth a try. She has great step by step pictures on the original blog post, too.

Oven Hot Dogs
Source: In The Wabe blog via foodgawker.com

8 hot dogs
8 hot dog buns
1 can of chili
1/2 an onion, diced
cheddar cheese
mayonnaise
mustard
sweet relish

Line inside of hot dog buns with mayonnaise and sweet relish. Evenly add mustard. Fill with hot dogs and squish into a 13×9″ baking pan.

Top hot dogs with chili, cheese, and diced onion. Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350F for 45 minutes.

Carefully remove from the pan with a spatula.

*****

There were some mixed reactions when my family saw what was for dinner. Boy #1 had soccer practice last night, and the husband is the coach, so they weren't home while I was getting dinner together. The husband was ecstatic when he saw these. Boy #1 was less than enthused to say the least. He said he wasn't going to eat dinner. I told him then he could go to bed. What can I say, sometimes I'm mean mommy like that. He decided he'd just eat the hot dog. When he was done with the hot dog I said he at least needed to try the bread. Wouldn't you know he ended up loving it and eating every bite. Darn kids. So this ended up being an overwhelming hit at our house and definitely something I will be making again. Oh, and since we count calories in our house, in case anyone is curious these worked out to just be 321 each--using whole wheat hot dog buns, turkey hot dogs, turkey chili, and reduced fat cheese. I thought that was a pretty good calorie count for something as decadent as chili dogs!

Now, you'll have to excuse me as I go eat one of the leftover dogs for lunch...

Monday, October 17, 2011

Chicken Enchilada Pasta


I've decided to try a new format and put a picture of whatever I made at the top of the blog post. We'll see how I like it. Let me know via comment if you feel passionately about it one way or the other.

We've been having some amazing dinners lately (thank you, Pinterest.com!), but I just haven't had a chance to update my blog. Normally my blog time would be done in the afternoon while Boy #2 naps, but I've been having to workout then, so my computer time ends up getting considerably shortened. Okay, except for Pinterest because I'm marginally obsessed with it. So as I get some time here and there in the next couple weeks, hopefully I can get a few of these awesome dishes posted!

This is, of course, a recipe I found via Pinterest. It sounded fantastic just from the name and then when I read the blog post about it I knew I had to make it. I had slated it for the husband and I to have for dinner on one of our Friday date nights.

Chicken Enchilada Pasta
Source: Pears, Handcuffs, and Happy Hour blog via Pinterest.com

2-3 chicken breasts, cooked & shredded
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium onion, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 {4 oz.} can diced green chiles
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
2 {10 oz.} cans green chili enchilada sauce
2/3 cups red enchilada sauce
2 cups shredded cheese {I used colby & monterrey jack}
1 cup sour cream
Penne pasta

Optional toppings:
Avocado
Green Onions
Black Olives
Tomatoes
Sour Cream

Cook chicken, drain, and shred. Meanwhile boil pasta according to package and chop the veggies. Heat the olive oil in a deep skillet and cook onions for about 3-5 minutes. Add garlic & red pepper and cook for another 3-5 minutes. Add cooked chicken, green chiles, cumin, chili powder, salt, & enchilada sauces. Let sauce simmer for about 8-10 minutes. Add cheese and stir until the cheese is melted and heated through. Now toss in the sour cream, but whatever you do, DO NOT bring to a boil! Cook on low heat or the sour cream will curdle. Stir until sour cream is well mixed and heated through. Drain pasta & return to pot. Pour sauce over pasta and mix well. Serve and garnish with avocado, tomato, green onion, and a dollop of sour cream.

*****

This was so, so, so, so easy. And it was so, so, so, so tasty! Obviously it made a ton, so we were eating it pretty much all week for lunch, but neither the husband nor I minded. It was that tasty! the only thing I would change would be to maybe add the cheese in before the shredded chicken. The cheese kind of made the chicken stick together in large clumps which was a little annoying.

Oh man, this was so good. Just thinking about it and typing this out makes me want it again. You know that's the sign of a good meal!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Chicken and Mushrooms in a Garlic White Wine Sauce

*GASP!*

A blog update?! Can it be true?! We've been having a lot of yummy dishes lately, but I just haven't had time to get on my computer and give my blog some love. I started doing the P90X workout series a few weeks ago (today was Week 4, Day 5, to be exact), and I have to do it during Boy #2's naptime which is when I would normally update my blog. The things I give up for fitness. Using up precious naptime for exercising is starting to get old, but what am I going to do. Tonight I got an early start on the component of dinner that will take the longest, the husband and Boy #2 are watching a show about sharks (or "darsh" as my baby calls them) that my brother sent, and Boy #1 is upstairs showing King Koopa who's boss. I figured it was the perfect chance to get in at least one entry.

So, with that all out of the way, I've wanted to try this recipe for quite awhile, but I always ended up coming across it when I was doing no carbs. I guess technically I could have substituted the wine for chicken broth, but since the wine is part of the title of the recipe, I figured it was pretty necessary. One night last week we opened a bottle of white wine that neither the husband nor I were really excited about, so I figured it was a perfect time to try this. It's from one of my favorite blogs, skinnytaste.com. I don't know why people seem to have the idea that healthy food can't taste good. Goofballs.

Chicken and Mushrooms in a Garlic White Wine Sauce
Source: skinnytaste.com

8 chicken tenderloins, 16 oz total
2 tsp butter
2 tsp olive oil
1/4 cup all purpose flour
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
12 oz sliced mushrooms
1/4 cup white wine
1/3 cup fat free chicken broth
salt and fresh pepper to taste
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 200°. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Lightly dredge in flour.

Heat a large skillet on medium heat; when hot add 1 tsp butter and 1 tsp olive oil. Add chicken to the skillet and cook on medium heat for about 5 minutes on each side, or until chicken is no longer pink. Set aside in a warm oven.

Add additional oil and butter to the skillet, then garlic and cook a few seconds; add mushrooms, salt and pepper stirring occasionally until golden, about 5 minutes.

Add wine, chicken broth, parsley; stir the pan with a wooden spoon breaking up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook a few more minutes or until the liquid reduces by half. Top the chicken with the mushroom sauce and serve.

*****

I love a dish that comes together quickly and easily. And it smelled fantastic while it was cooking. My parents always used to saute mushrooms in white wine, so the smell is a fond memory for me. Yum. Boy #1 isn't big on sauces (weird kid...but he's my weird kid, so I can say that), so I just gave him chicken, but the rest of us LOVED the sauce and the mushrooms. Boy #2 couldn't stop eating the mushrooms. he kept trying to steal them off my plate. I didn't have chicken tenderloins to use, so I just used chicken breasts and sliced them thin and into tenderloin-type pieces. This was really fantastic, and it's definitely something I'd make again! It looks really fancy (and tastes fancy), but it was super easy. Those are some of my favorite things!

The original blog post suggested serving this with baked rice and peas, so I gave it a go. I have found my new favorite way of cooking white rice. I don't know if I've shared that I have issues when it comes to cooking white rice, and her method was super easy and really good. Boy #1 isn't usually a rice fan, and even he ate it this way.

(Please forgive my less than stellar pictures...I'm having some issues with the speedlite on my camera that I can't quite figure out, so I haven't been able to use it.)


Saturday, September 17, 2011

Smoked Salmon and Pesto Sandwich

This was another sandwich creation that stemmed from mine and Clementine's recent visit to Postino Winecafe. They had a bruschetta with smoked salmon and pesto that was incredible. I couldn't stop thinking about it. I love the combination of pesto and salmon. My mom makes a really tasty pesto salmon, but since the husband doesn't like salmon I don't get it very often. Clementine came up with the idea of making a sandwich version of the bruschetta. When she told me about it when she had the idea, I was tempted to run out and buy the ingredients to have it too. Last weekend I was able to go to Trader Joe's, so I figured I'd pick up some smoked salmon there to make these sandwiches for the husband and me.

Smoked Salmon and Pesto Sandwich
Source: My BFF Clementine

olive oil
1 par-baked ciabiatta loaf
1 4-ounce package smoked salmon
1/2 package of softened cream cheese
3-4 tablespoons of pesto (store-bought or homemade)
1/4 red onion, minced finely
1/2 small jar of capers

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the whole ciabiatta loaf directly on the oven rack for 10 minutes, so the crust may get crisp and the inside may get warm. Remove from oven with tongs and let cool slightly on a cutting board. (Note: if your ciabatta loaf is fully baked, use a 350 degree oven for more like 5 minutes.)

Once bread is cool enough to handle, slice the entire loaf lengthwise and brush some olive oil on both the top and bottom halves. Spread 1/4 cup of softened cream cheese on each half. On the bottom half, sprinkle capers and red onions over the cream cheese. Layer the smoked salmon on next. On the top half of the bread, slather pesto sauce over the cream cheese layer. Place top and bottom halves of the loaf together to assemble one large sandwich. Cut into individual sandwich servings and serve immediately.

*****

Wow. Wow. Wow. This may have been the best sandwich I have ever had. It's at least one of the top five. It was so good, I was tempted to run to the store to get more smoked salmon and ciabatta bread. I may have gone if I hadn't already consumed a few glasses of wine at that point. Jen Clementine put tomatoes on hers when she made them, but I wasn't sure I'd like it with tomatoes, so I left them off. I have to say, this was the perfect combination of ingredients. My bread was perfect--crunchy on the outside but soft inside, creamy from the cream cheese, salty with the smoked salmon and capers, the rich pesto. Wow. This is something we will definitely have on a regular basis.

Best. Sandwich. Ever.



Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Pintrest Chicken and Broccoli Casserole

I know I waxed poetic about my love for Pintrest.com recently. I think my addiction is growing...I may need an intervention at some point. There are just so many yummy recipes, crafty projects, neat house ideas, cute outfits. Sigh. Complete time sucker, let me tell you.

Anyway, if you have a Pintrest account, chances are you've seen this recipe. I'm fairly certain everyone I know on Pintrest pinned this at some point in the last couple weeks. I love a good casserole, so I was excited to make it. Plus my brood loves broccoli, and I loved finding a casserole recipe that didn't include cream of something soup. Turns out it's from a blog called Get Off Your Butt and Bake. I haven't checked out many other posts, but I think I probably will. She calls it Chicken Broccoli Supreme. I changed mine up a bit from how the recipe appears on that blog, so the recipe below is how I made it.

Pintrest Chicken and Broccoli Casserole
Source: Adapted from Get Off Your Butt and Bake blog

1 lb. broccoli (steamed slightly if fresh, thawed if frozen)
3 cups cooked chicken breasts – Break up in small pieces
3 cups Grated Cheddar Cheese, divided
1 tube Ritz Crackers
1/2 stick melted butter
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder

SAUCE:
1/3 C. Butter melted
1/4 C. Cornstarch, dissolved in 1/2 C. COLD Water
1/3 C. Chicken Broth
1/4 tsp. Salt
1/4 tsp Pepper
2 Cups skim milk
1 1/2 cups of the above Cheddar Cheese

Directions:

In greased 13×9 pan, layer the broccoli and chicken, then set aside. In saucepan over medium heat, combine the sauce ingredients--melted butter, cornstarch dissolved in water, chicken broth, seasonings, and milk. Stir well, and continue stirring until sauce has thickened. Turn heat down to low, and add 1- 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese. Stir until melted. Pour over the chicken and broccoli. Top with 1- 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese.

Melt the half stick butter, and add the poppy seeds, garlic and onion powders, and stir well. Crush Ritz crackers in large zip-lock bag with a rolling pin. Don’t crush too small. Add crumbs to the melted butter. Sprinkle crumbs over the top of the grated cheese.

Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until hot & bubbly.

*****

I used frozen broccoli for mine, so I just threw some in a microwave steamer for a couple minutes so it wouldn't be frozen. I didn't want to completely heat it for fear it would get soggy in the casserole. The original recipe calls for two sleeves of crackers and an entire stick of butter for the topping. I thought that was a bit much (plus my kids are cracker monsters and had eaten all but the one sleeve of crackers I stashed away, so I really didn't have much choice), so I also cut down the amount of butter too. I was worried it was going to be a bit bland, so I threw in the garlic and onion powders to give it a little kick. It really helped. I think next time I would probably season the chicken a little, too. I baked mine earlier in the day and just threw the chicken breasts in a pan into the oven; in hindsight I should have done something to them so there'd be a little more flavor. You could easily add some seasoning to the sauce as well.

All in all, this was a casserole that we really liked. Boy #1 put up a bit of a stink about eating it, but the rest of us all enjoyed it. I think he was just having an off day--chicken, broccoli, and cheese are all things he normally loves. Who knows with five year olds. Am I right?! This is definitely something I'd make again, especially since most of the ingredients (aside from the crackers, which my family just tears through too quickly) are things I normally have on hand.


Thursday, September 8, 2011

Grilled Shrimp and Sausage Skewers with Smoky Paprika Glaze

I was cleaning out some stuff from my nightstand recently and happened across an issue of Bon Appetit magazine (or as the husband likes to call it, Bone Ape Tit) from last summer that had a tasty looking shrimp skewer on the cover. I love a good skewer, but my kids aren't big on shrimp, so I figured this would make a great dinner for the husband and me some Friday night.

Grilled Shrimp and Sausage Skewers with Smoky Paprika Glaze
Source: Bon Appetit, June 2010 issue

3/4 cup olive oil
4 large garlic cloves, pressed
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
5 teaspoons smoked paprika
4 teaspoons Sherry wine vinegar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
12 uncooked extra-large shrimp (13 to 15 per pound), peeled, deveined
12 1-inch-long pieces andouille or other fully cooked smoked sausages (such as linguiça; about 16 ounces)
12 cherry tomatoes
12 2-layer sections of red onion wedges
Nonstick vegetable oil spray

Whisk oil, garlic, thyme, smoked paprika, Sherry wine vinegar, salt, black pepper, and crushed red pepper in medium bowl to blend for glaze. Transfer half of glaze to small bowl and reserve for serving.

Alternately thread shrimp, sausage pieces, cherry tomatoes, and sections of onion wedges on each of 6 long metal skewers. Arrange skewers on large rimmed baking sheet. DO AHEAD Can be made up to 6 hours ahead. Cover and chill skewers and bowls of glaze separately.

Coat grill rack with nonstick spray and prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Brush skewers on both sides with glaze from 1 bowl. Grill until shrimp are opaque in center, turning and brushing occasionally with more glaze, 6 to 8 minutes.

Arrange skewers on platter. Serve with remaining bowl of glaze.

*****

I absolutely love grilled cherry tomatoes. Regular cherry tomatoes I can really take or leave, but when they're grilled...oh man. This dinner came together really fast which was great. I've discovered something about paprika, too. It's worth the money to buy good quality paprika, not just whatever is the cheapest spice at the store. I really don't like the flavor of cheap paprika, but this was fantastic! The glaze had a great smokey quality to it from the paprika and a kick as well from the red pepper. The husband and I both gobbled this up. It was so good! It's definitely something I'd make for another date night dinner.

Glazed and ready to go on the grill

Mmmm...skewers

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Spinach and Feta Quesadillas

Have you discovered Pintrest.com yet? I'm pretty addicted to it. It's a cool way to keep track of things you come across online that you want to remember. It links up to Facebook so you can have friends and see what they're pinning too. My friend Jenn had pinned this spinach and feta quesadilla recipe recently, and I thought it looked super tasty and like it would be a great summer, hot weather, meatless dinner.

Spinach and Feta Quesadillas
Source: ClosetCooking.com

(makes 1 quesadilla)

Ingredients:
1/2 cup spinach (steamed and squeezed to drain)
1 tablespoon herbs (chopped, I used mint, dill and parsley)
1 green onion (sliced)
1 handful feta (crumbled)
salt and pepper to taste
2 (8 inch) tortillas
2 handfuls kasseri or mozzarella or jack (grated)

Directions:
1. Mix the spinach, herbs, green onions, feta, salt and pepper in a bowl.
2. Melt a touch of butter in a pan.
3. Place a tortilla into the pan, swirl it around in the butter and repeat with the second tortilla.
4. Sprinkle some cheese on the tortilla followed by the filling and then more cheese and finally the other tortilla.
5. Cook until the quesadilla is golden brown on both sides and the cheese is melted. (I placed a plate onto the quesadilla and flipped it from the pan to the plate and then slid it back into the pan.)

*****

Obviously I increased the amounts so it would feed my whole family. I steamed my spinach in the microwave which was super easy and fast. I have a microwave steamer that I put the spinach leaves in with some water and then just let it cook for a couple minutes. So easy! You could easily use frozen spinach that you thawed and drained, too. I pulled out my electric griddle to cook them so I could do more than one at a time, and it worked great.

The husband and I LOVED these. My kids, not so much. Boy #2 ate his okay, but Boy #1 said (and I quote), "This tastes like poop." To which of course I had to ask, "How do you know what poop tastes like?" Nothing like stumping a five year old. Needless to say, he was not a fan of this dinner. I thought it tasted fantastic. There was enough filling left over for a fifth quesadilla, and the husband had one for lunch the next day. I'd definitely make this again but probably just for the husband and me.



Brie, Prosciutto, and Fig Jam Panini

I'm pretty sure I've mentioned that I'm training to run a half marathon. The race is now a week from tomorrow, and I'm completely freaking out, but that's not the point. A few weeks ago, Jen Clementine and I went up north to do a long run in cooler temperatures. We were ready to rock out 12 miles, and I figured the change in altitude (I think it's around 5,000 feet) would be balanced out by the cooler temperatures. I was wrong. The altitude kicked our asses, and it really wasn't that much cooler than when we do our early morning runs here. Lame. We left feeling pretty defeated. We had planned on eating lunch up there before heading back, but when we gave up it wasn't really lunch time. We figured we'd eat somewhere in Phoenix before heading home. Clementine suggested Postino Winecafe which was fine with me because I'd wanted to try it for a long time.

We got there and were overwhelmed with tasty options. First overwhelming thing: all wines are $5 a glass from 11 to 5 every day. Once we got our wine choices figured out, we had to tackle the menu. Bruschetta...panini...salads...desserts...oh my. We ended up sharing one of the bruschetta boards and splitting a sandwich. I loved Postino so much that I decided the husband and I needed to eat there the following weekend when we were doing a staycation at a local resort. He and I shared the same combination of food but with different bruschetta flavors (I guess toppings would be a better choice of word) and a different sandwich. The sandwich we went with was the Prosciutto with Brie--Prosciutto with triple cream brie, fig jam and arugula
with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Holy moly. The husband is a huge fan of figs, so it was an easy sell. I knew after eating it I needed to recreate it. Clementine had recreated it before, so I read what she had done and kind of went from there. I don't have exact measurements of what I used, so you'll have to wing it a bit if you decide to make this.

Brie, Prosciutto, and Fig Jam Panini
Source: adapted from Postino Winecafe

2 cups arugula
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Juice from one half a lemon
1 loaf ciabatta bread
Fig jam/preserves
Prosciutto
Brie

In a medium bowl, toss arugula with drizzles of olive oil and balsamic vinegar and juice from half a lemon. Set aside.

Split ciabatta loaf into two halves then slice each half horizontally (or use ciabatta rolls). Spread fig jam on inside halves of the bread. Top with prosciutto, arugula, and brie. Place top half of bread onto sandwich. Grill on a panini press until cheese is melted.

*****

I think I had a three ounce package of prosciutto and used the whole thing between the two sandwiches. This was super tasty. The salty prosciutto, the sweet figs, the creamy brie...oh my goodness! It's pretty rare that we have fig jam, and it's not cheap when we do have it, so I doubt this is something we'll have very often (unless we go to Postino), but oh man, was it ever tasty!!



Friday, August 19, 2011

Hot Crossed Tuna Casserole

Recently on the parenting message board I belong to there was a discussion about tuna casseroles. It made me think of this one my mom used to make when I was little. It was our neighbor Julie's recipe. It's not your typical tuna, cream of mushroom, noodle casserole either. I was glad my mom knew where to find the recipe because once I started thinking about it, I couldn't stop. I also couldn't stop thinking about cheddar and sour cream potato chips because one of my friends said her mom topped tuna casserole with those. Damn...now I'm thinking about cheddar and sour cream chips again. Sigh. At least they come in a baked variety so I don't have to feel as guilty when I eat them.

Anyway, once my mom gave me the recipe I had to make it within days. Thankfully all I really needed for it were the crescent rolls. I'll admit I was a bit nervous about it since the last time I remembered having it I think my age was in single digits. I liked spam a lot, too, when my age was in single digits, but I doubt I could stomach it now.

Hot Crossed Tuna Casserole

3 cans tuna, drained
1 16 oz. package frozen peas, thawed
1 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1 c. celery, sliced
1/2 c. bread crumbs
1/4 c. chopped onion
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
1 cup mayonnaise
1 tube crescent roll dough

Cucumber Sauce:
1/2 c. chopped cucumbers
1 T. chives, chopped
1 T. chopped parsley
1/4 t. salt
1/4 t. dill weed
1/2 c. mayo
1/2 c. sour cream

Combine tuna, peas, cheese, celery, bread crumbs, onion, seasonings, and mayonnaise; mix well. Spoon into 106 baking dish. Separate crescent roll dough into 2 rectangles. Press perforations to seal. Cut dough into 4 long and 8 short strips. Place strips over casserole in lattice design. Bake at 350 for 35 to 40 minutes or until crust is brown. Serve with cucumber sauce.

To make sauce, combine all ingredients and mix well. Chill. Pour over top of each serving.

*****

I modified the original recipe slightly; what's posted above is how I made it. I just added more tuna and peas. I like peas. I thought the sauce recipe was kind of funny--sounds like tzaziki (I have no idea how to spell that, by the way) to me, but perhaps in suburban Seattle in the late 70s and early 80s it was easier to just call it cucumber sauce. Who cares, it's tasty.

I'm happy to report that this dish was in fact as tasty as I remembered it. My bff Clementine (she's decided we're too codependent on each either so we've come up with new monikers for each other to make it appear that we have other friends. We really do have other friends, but I thought it would be fun to call her Clementine.) was over one day last week to make plum jam (aptly named Jamfest) and sampled some of the leftovers because she was skeptical when I told her about it. She approved and told me to post it so she could make it. I love me a good casserole, and this totally fits the bill. My kids loved it, too. Boy #2 actually had leftovers of it twice for lunch and cleaned his plate each time he ate it Winner winner, tuna dinner!



Friday, August 12, 2011

Pizza Loaf

And my updating continues! Boy #2 has taken to getting up at the ass crack of dawn, so while he's engrossed in an episode of Word World I figured I'd do some blog updating. For my meal plan last week I went through some older clipped recipes I had. For years my mom got me a subscription to Taste of Home magazine. I'd doggy-ear a bunch of recipes in each issue and then usually forget about it. I got tired of having years' worth of magazines around, so I finally went through each one and looked at all the recipes again (the husband has gotten more adventurous in his eating over the years, so I knew there'd be stuff I had originally passed up but that he'd eat now) and cut out all the recipes I wanted to try. Then I stuck them in a folder and forgot about them there. Not really, I just rarely pull that folder out to go through the recipes in it. I figured I was probably missing out on some tasty stuff, so I got it out last week and did the bulk of my meal planning using recipes from there.

Boy #1 had his first friend sleepover last week, and I thought this would be a good dinner to have while his BFF was here eating dinner with us.

Pizza Loaf
Source: Adapted from Quick Cooking Magazine, September/October 2003

1 loaf (1 pound) frozen bread dough, thawed
2 eggs, separated
1 Tbsp grated parmesan cheese
1Tbsp olive or vegetable oil
1 tsp minced fresh parsley
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp pepper
8 ounces sliced turkey pepperoni
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
8 ounces sliced mushrooms
1 medium green pepper, diced
Marinara sauce for dipping

On a greased baking sheet, roll out dough into a 15-inch x 10-inch rectangle. In a bowl, combine the egg yolks, parmesan cheese, oil, parsley, oregano, garlic powder, and pepper. Brush over the dough. Sprinkle with pepperoni, mozzarella cheese, mushrooms, and green pepper. Roll up, jelly-roll style, starting with a long side; pinch seam to seal and tuck ends under.

Place seam side down; brush with egg whites. Do not let rise. Bake at 350 for 35 to 40 minutes or until golden brown. Warm the marinara sauce and serve with sliced loaf.

Yield: 10-12 slices

*****

First of all, make sure you allow enough time for the frozen dough to rise, if you're using that instead of making your own. There are three thawing options on the package, including a "quick" rise that takes around three hours instead of overnight. I didn't have that problem this time, but it has happened to me before.

This was a HUGE hit at my house. Boy #1 isn't a fan of pepperoni or anything on pizza except cheese, but even he ate it (admittedly it was somewhat begrudgingly). The husband kept going back for more pieces, and the BFF had two pieces of it. This was definitely a fun twist on pizza and something I'll make again since we all loved it so much.

(Sorry again for the cell phone pic!)


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Grilled Beef Fajitas

I recently picked up quite a bit of flank steak on sale, and I was kind of tired of marinating it in something and throwing it on the grill. Okay, not really, but I wanted to do something different with it. I once again pulled out my trusty Cook's Illustrated 2009 Summer Grilling magazine for an idea. Grilled Beef Fajitas sounded pretty darn tasty and worthy of a try.

Grilled Beef Fajitas
Source: Cook's Illustrated Summer Grilling 2009 magazine

1 large flank steak (about 2-1/2 pounds)
1/4 cup juice from 2-3 limes
Table salt and ground black pepper
1 very large onion (about 14 ounces), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch-thick rounds (do not separate into rings)
2 large red or green bell peppers, seeded, ribbed, and cut into large strips
16 flour tortillas

Turn all burners to high on gas grill and heat with lid down until very hot, about 15 minutes. Use grill brush to scrape cooking grate clean.

Generously sprinkle both sides of steak with lime juice and salt and pepper. Grill steak with lid down until well seared and dark brown on one side, 5-7 minutes. Using tongs, flip steak; continue grilling until interior of meat is slightly less done than you want it to be when you eat it, 2 to 5 minutes more for rare or medium-rare (depending on heat of fire and thickness of steak).

Transfer meat to cutting board; cover loosely with foil and let rest for 10 minutes.

While meat rests, lower grill burners to medium heat. Grill onions and peppers, turning occasionally, until onions are lightly charred, about 6 minutes, and peppers are streaked with dark grill marks, about 10 minutes. Remove vegetables from grill and separate onion rounds into rings and cut peppers into long, thin strips; set aside. Arrange tortillas around edge of grill; heat until just warmed, about 20 seconds per side. Take care not to dry out tortillas or they will become brittle; wrap tortillas in a towel to keep warm and then place in basket.

Slice steak very thin on the bias against grain; adjust seasonings with salt and pepper. Arrange sliced meat and vegetables on a large platter; serve immediately with tortillas, guacamole, and salsa.

Serves 6 to 8.

*****

I really love fajitas. I think maybe it stems from being fascinated with the sizzling fajita plates that would go by in Mexican restaurants when I was little. Or I just liked Mexican food. Or grilled Mexican food. Anyway, I didn't really change this up a lot. I had never grilled all portions of fajitas before. A lot of times I'll grill the meat or protein for them but do the peppers and onions in a skillet on the stove. Well...NO MORE! The grilled vegetables were amazing. They added so much flavor to the finished fajita with the hint of smokiness the grill gave them. Oh man...TASTY! This is definitely my go-to way to prepare fajitas going forward!


Panzanella

I've somehow found myself with another night to myself. The husband and his buddy went to a baseball game, my kids are in bed. Woo hoo! More blog updating! And Spotify listening. A friend of mine had mentioned Alison Krauss in a Facebook status today, and I'd never heard of her. I pulled her up on there and am grooving to her amazing voice!

I was pretty pleased to get three blog posts knocked out the other night, but I still have seven on my list. Yikes! I'd better get to focusing. I tried to use some of my lesser used cookbooks when meal planning recently. One I pulled off the shelf was Ellie Krieger's So Easy. I find Ellie Krieger recipes to be kind of hit or miss. Sometimes they're good, sometimes they're just "eh" and still other times if I change them up a bit we really like them.

This recipe was basically for the panzanella, although the official title was "Panzanella With Chicken Sausage." Since it didn't require you actually make your own chicken sausage, I'm just going with panzanella. I had some sausages in the freezer from a grill pack I bought over 4th of July weekend. I was really excited to try panzanella because I'd never had it before, much less made it. Plus I love a good salad in the summer!!

Panzanella
Source: So Easy by Ellie Krieger, Copyright 2009

8 medium ripe tomatoes, cut into wedges (about 1-1/2 pounds)
1 small English cucumber, cut into half moons
1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced into half moons
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 small whole-grain baguette or other crusty bread (preferably day-old; about 8 ounces), cut into 3/4-inch chunks
1/3 cup basil leaves, coarsely chopped

In a large bowl, toss together the tomatoes, cucumber, onion, oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Add the bread chunks and basil and toss well so all the bread is well moistened.

*****

I couldn't find a whole grain baguette, so I just got a regular, grocery store bakery baguette. I bought it a few days before I needed it, but somehow it was still soft when I went to use it. I won't discuss how mildly grossed out I was about that. Shouldn't bread get stale when it sits out for a few days? Anyway...I cut the bread up into chunks, then threw all the pieces onto a cookie sheet and toasted them for a bit, just so they weren't super soft and would get all soggy in the salad.

This was one of the Ellie Krieger recipes that I didn't have to modify at all. It was so tasty!! I kept taking bites out of the salad bowl once I'd assembled the salad. The tomatoes (oh this would have been amazing with either fresh, local tomatoes or with heirlooms), cukes, onion, vinegar and basil would soak into the bread a little--not so much that it was soggy, just enough to infuse some flavor into the bread--and it was this amazing bite of summer in my mouth. Yum! Wow that sounds dorky and overly poetic. But it was so good! In the summer I generally have all of the ingredients except the baguette on hand for this. I'm so excited to make it again!


Saturday, August 6, 2011

Grilled Pork Cutlets

This is completely unrelated to anything having to do with food, but have you discovered Spotify yet? Oh man...I'm so in love with it. It's similar to Pandora except if you search on a song or artist or album, you get to choose what you want to listen to instead of getting a mix based on that. Oh man...it's freakin' fantastic! Right now I'm listening to one of the Glee soundtracks. The only problem is that I get overwhelmed with music choices thinking of everything I could possibly listen to. The other day I listened to the entire Annie soundtrack. Oh how I love Annie, you have no idea. Then Boy #1 came downstairs when his afternoon quiet time was done and said, "Mom, what are you listening to? Turn it off, this isn't good." He's five. Sheesh.

Anyway, I've tried to stick with most of our dinners coming from the grill or crockpot. I remembered a Cook's Illustrated magazine I bought a couple summers ago that is aptly named Summer Grilling. They're clever folks there at Cook's Illustrated when it comes to naming things. I couldn't remember ever having grilled pork before, so I wanted to give this a try. Plus I had just about everything on hand for it which is always a plus.

Grilled Pork Cutlets
Source: Cook's Illustrated Summer Grilling 2009 magazine

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp minced fresh thyme leaves
3/4 tsp sugar
3/4 tsp table salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
12 thin-cut boneless pork chops (about 2 pounds), trimmed of excess fat and pounded into 1/4-inch thick cutlets

Combine vinegar, oil, garlic, thyme, sugar, salt, and pepper in large zipper lock plastic bag. Transfer chops to bag and refrigerate for 30 minutes or up to two hours.

Turn all burners on gas grill to high and heat grill with lid down until very hot, about 15 minutes. Scrape grate clean with grill brush. Dip wad of paper towels in oil; holding wad with tongs, wipe cooking grate.

Remove cutlets from bag and discard marinade. Grill cutlets with lid down until bottoms begin to turn opaque around edges, about 2 minutes. Flip cutlets and grill until just cooked through, about 30 seconds. Transfer to platter, tent with foil, and let rest 5 minutes. Serve with Spicy Fruit Salsa.

Spicy Fruit Salsa
Spicy Fruit Salsa:
1 jalapeno chile, seeded and minced (don't seed if you want it spicy)
1 shallot, minced
2 tsp cider vinegar
2 tsp honey
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 ripe peaches, pitted and chopped fine
2 ripe plums, pitted and chopped fine
1 Tbsp finely chopped basil leaves
Table salt

Whisk jalapeno, shallot, vinegar, honey, and oil in small bowl. Let sit until flavors combine, about 15 minutes.

Combine peaches and plums in a large bowl. Add 1/2 cup of fruit to bowl with jalapeno mixture and mash with potato masher until smooth. Add mashed fruit mixture and basil to bowl with cut fruit and stir until combined. Season with salt and let sit until flavors combine, about 15 minutes.

*****

Let me tell you...I mashed and mashed my fruit and never got it smooth, so I finally gave up and kept it chunky. I know a lot of people don't dig on meat with a sweet accompaniment, but some combinations don't bother me. Like this one. The fruit salsa was so tasty with the jalapeno and the bite it gave the salsa, mixed with sweet peaches and plums. Yum! I don't think I read the recipe for the salsa all the way through before starting dinner, so I didn't let it sit as long as was recommended, but it was still tasty. Boy #1 didn't want any of the "sauce" on his meat, but Boy #2 had it and loved it. The husband and I loved it, so I call it a success! If you plan ahead enough for the fruit salsa, this really comes together fast. We had it with some steamed broccoli and super tasty Rick Bayless Barbecue Baked Beans. This was a great tasty summer dinner! There were actually two variations included in the magazine, too. One used rosemary and red wine vinegar for the marinade, and the other called for cumin, cilantro, and lime juice. I may have to try one of those at some point too!

(Sadly my camera was upstairs, and instead of making my family wait to eat while I went to grab it, I took a picture with my phone.)


Summer Drink Series #3: Paloma

In my quest to expand my adult beverage recipe collection for my Summer Drink Series, I stumbled upon a great boozy website: Drink Of The Week. You can search by all sorts of things; I chose to click on the tags over on the left side of the website based on what I had available on the liquor shelf of my pantry. We had a pretty random mix of libations, so I chose a bottle that was mostly full: silver (blanco) tequila. Actually I last used it for Summer Drink Series #1: Blackberry Margaritas. I didn't want to have to buy a ton of ingredients, and this one came up towards the top of my search and sounded tasty. It calls for grapefruit soda (or juice), and I love grapefruit soda. I think it's an often over-looked soda or at least not very popular because Safeway is the only place I can find it. I don't drink soda very often--and hardly ever buy it--so it may very well be available tons of places, but I've always only ever seen it there. I'm not a fan of grapefruit juice. Actually I'm not a fan of grapefruits in general. My grandpa always liked grapefruit soda, and I think I got my love of it from him. The whole point of that was that I was excited to get some grapefruit soda.

Paloma
Source: Drink Of The Week website

2 oz. Tequila (blanco or reposado)
1 oz. Lime Juice
4 - 5 oz. Grapefruit Juice or Soda
pinch of salt

Build in a tall glass over ice. Start with the tequila, lime juice and salt and then fill with grapefruit juice. Garnish with a lime wedge.

*****

I love easy boozy drinks that don't require a bunch of ingredients you're only going to use one time. The husband and I both really liked these, although I got Diet Grapefruit soda to help save on calories, and I'd recommend going with the regular soda, not diet. I don't know, I swear I could taste the artificial sweetener in it so that kind of ruined it for me. These went down really smooth, so be warned. Definitely a great pool drink or if you're having a fiesta and want something different than margaritas.

Cheers!

Grilled Chicken Salad with Rustic Guacamole, Romaine and Queso Anejo

It seems like forever that I've been away from my blog! Hello, blog...have you missed me? Two weekends ago I went to Tucson, AZ with some friend on a scrapbooking weekend retreat. The last time I really sat down and scrapbooked, I was nine months pregnant with my youngest son (who will be three in November). Yeah, it had been awhile. My house and family were somewhat neglected for probably two weeks leading up to said weekend while I went through years of pictures on my computer to get prints made, planned out what pages I needed/wanted to do, organized my supplies, etc. I had a fantastic time and ended up doing something like 30 pages and made an album for our Santa pictures, so it was definitely productive. Anyway, once I got home from that weekend I was excited to get back into the swing of my blog, but I had a couple weeks' worth of chores to catch up on, so the blog kind of fell to the wayside. Then this past week was Boy #1's last week of summer vacation (my baby is starting kindergarten on Monday...how is that possible?!), so I was trying to cram in one on one time with him and do lots of fun stuff before he starts school.

So here it is Saturday night...the husband is out celebrating a friend's birthday, my kiddos are in bed, and I'm going to get caught up on blog posts. I have eight nine (forgot about the next Summer Drink Series beverage!) posts to do, which I'm guessing won't all get done tonight, but I'll slog my way through as many as I can. I had meant to start sooner, but I've recently discovered Pintrest.com and have a tendency to get sucked into that since finding out about it.

Anyway, I had a hankering for some Rick Bayless recently while working on my menu plan, and I came across this salad. I'm all about salad in the summer because it's so ridiculously hot here. I knew I couldn't go wrong with something from the Mexican Everyday cookbook, and I was surprised at how many salads were in there!

Grilled Chicken Salad with Rustic Guacamole, Romaine and Queso Anejo
Source: Mexican Everyday by Rick Bayless

DRESSING:
½ cup vegetable or olive oil, plus a little more for onion
4 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
Fresh hot green chiles to taste (I like 2 serranos or 1 large jalapeno), stemmed and halved
½ cup fresh lime juice
¾ cup (loosely packed) cilantro, roughly chopped
Salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

GRILLED CHICKEN SALAD:
4 medium (about 1¼ pounds total) boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1 medium white onion, cut into ½-half-inch slices
2 ripe avocados
8 cups romaine hearts, sliced crosswise at ½-inch thick
1/3 cup grated Mexican queso anejo or other garnishing cheese (Romano or Parmesan)

Directions:
Heat oil in small skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and chiles; cook, stirring frequently, until garlic is soft and lightly browned (usually 1 to 2 minutes). Pour oil, garlic and chiles into blender jar or food processor. Add lime juice, cilantro, black pepper, and 1 scant teaspoon salt. Process garlic mixture until smooth.

Pour 1/3 of garlic mixture over chicken breasts, spreading it evenly over all sides.

Heat a grill pan or gas grill to medium to medium-high heat (or start a charcoal fire and let it burn until coals are medium hot and covered with white ash). Lightly brush or spray onion slices with oil; sprinkle with salt. Lay chicken and onion on grill pan or grill. Cook until chicken is just cooked through and onion is well browned (3 to 4 minutes on each side). Chop onion into small pieces and scoop into bowl. Set the chicken aside to cool.

Pit and peel avocados, scooping flesh into bowl with onion. Add another 1/3 of garlic mixture, then coarsely mash everything together with old-fashioned potato masher, large fork or back of spoon. Taste and season with salt (usually about ½ teaspoon).

Scoop the sliced romaine into large bowl. Drizzle on remaining 1/3 of garlic mixture and toss to combine. Divide between 4 dinner plates. Scoop a portion of guacamole into center of each plate. Cut each breast into cubes and arrange over guacamole. Sprinkle each plate with garnishing cheese. Serve.

*****

I ended up doing mine a little differently. I had planned on making something different for dinner in the crockpot, but I realized it wasn't going to happen because I had forgotten to put what I needed into the crockpot. So I already had some cooked, shredded chicken on hand, so instead of grilling the chicken in the dressing, I just mixed some into my shredded chicken. I knew this wasn't something my kids would eat, so I only made half the guacamole called for. I loved using the dressing to flavor the guacamole, by the way.

The husband and I thought this was FANTASTIC. The dressing was fresh and spicy and wow! Having it on the chicken, mixed in the guacamole, and as dressing on the salad made sure that you always had some of its spicy kick on your bite. I will definitely make this salad again. Yum!