Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Caillou's Fruit Salad

If you have young kids, you probably know who Caillou is. If you don't have kids, you're not missing anything. He's a whiny, bald four year old cartoon character from a PBS show. I can't stand it--nor can most parents I know--but for some reason kids really like it. Thankfully we don't watch it very often, but Boy #1 likes to play Caillou games on the PBS Kids website. There's some game where Caillou cooks with his grandma, and then you can print out recipes. Boy #1 LOVES to print things when he plays on the computer. Recently he printed out a fruit salad recipe and said he wanted to have it at his birthday party. he turned five this past weekend, by the way. FIVE!!! I can't believe it. So I made it for his party, but I changed it up slightly.

Caillou's Fruit Salad

2 apples
2 oranges
1 melon
1 basket of strawberries
1 bunch of grapes
2 kiwis
Fruit of your choice: banana, mango, watermelon, etc.
1 cup powdered sugar
Juice of one lemon
Juice of two oranges
A few mint leaves

Skin or peel fruit and cut into small cubes. Place all cut fruit into a large fruit or salad bowl. In a small bowl, mix together powdered sugar, lemon juice, and orange juice. Pour over fruit and toss lightly. Allow to set in refrigerator. Decorate with mint leaves and serve cold.


I guess it's pretty basic as far as fruit salads go, but I really liked the addition of the sugar/juice dressing. It was pretty sweet, so the amount of powdered sugar I'm sure could be reduced. This was super kid friendly, and the moms at the party all liked it too. I was worried it wasn't going to be enough fruit, but it really was. I only used half a cantaloupe for the melon, and I cut up two bananas, in addition to what else was listed in the recipe.

Oh, and thanks to my friend Jessica for oranges from her yard that I used for this! They are so tasty!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Cookbook Project Update

Just wanted to check in that I haven't made anything remarkable lately. In fact, the cookbook I used last week I think I'm going to get rid of. The recipes I've made from it that I like are already on here and nothing we tried last week was noteworthy. It was Southern Living's Light and Easy Comfort Food. I was pretty disappointed because up until last week, the recipes I'd made from it were all pretty good, but it's just not worth having a cookbook I don't like or really need taking up precious space on my cookbook bookshelf. So, adios, Light and Easy Comfort Food! Perhaps you'll find a good home somewhere else.

This week I didn't choose a cookbook, I was trying to use up things I had on hand or that required minimal ingredients. yet somehow I still managed to spend $90 on my weekly grocery trip. Ouch. I thought at first it was just because I didn't take the time to meal plan effectively (i.e. plan based on what was on sale) or use coupons or because my list wasn't very thorough and I bought a few impulse items, but then my friend Jen pointed out that produce prices are higher because of all the freezes and prices of regular food have gone up with the hike in gas prices. That made me feel a little better, but I still hate spending that much and feeling like I didn't come home with $90 worth of food.

Freezer Inventory

Oh my freezers are out of control! I just did an inventory to see what all I have on hand, and I've decided I'm not allowed to buy anything (aside from frozen veggies when we run out and waffles for my kids) until they've been mostly emptied. It's ridiculous. It's beyond ridiculous actually. My cookbook project might have to get put on hold a bit so I can use up some stores of what I have. Or maybe I should extra challenge myself to stick with it and still use up what I have already. Don't believe me that it's out of control? Here's my list:

Guacamole - 2 packages
Organic ground beef - 1 lb.
Grilled veggies
Vegetable egg rolls
Mango chunks
Chicken breasts - 11
Tortilla soup
Clam chowder
Chicken carcass (note to self: buy celery to make stock)
Chicken tenders - 5 lbs.
Slider buns
Cube steak
Sweet potato fries
Pea pods
Pork roast - 2 (1.5 lb each)
King cake (that will be consumed this weekend)
Vegetarian sausage
Chicken stock
Boca burgers
Fish sticks
Pork chops - 3 (packages with 3 chops each)
Green beans
Brussel sprouts
Sicilian sausage
Shrimp - 2 lbs.
Ahi tuna steaks
Turkey (yes, a whole turkey)
Italian sausage
Chicken thighs
Turkey stock
Black bean soup

See? I'm not kidding. It's kind of nice putting this list here because I can always come back and cross things off it as I use them. My mind is swimming with ideas for what I can do to use up some of this stuff, but if you have any good ideas for any of it, please leave me a comment with your suggestion!

Boy #1's birthday is Sunday, and we ordered an ice cream cake for his party on Saturday. At this point, I have no idea where I'm going to store it between Friday night when I pick it up and his party on Saturday. Yikes!

Monday, February 7, 2011

World Nutella Day

What's that? You didn't know Nutella had it's own day? What's that again? Some of you don't even know what Nutella is? Oh lordy...that must be rectified immediately. First, here's what it looks like so you can get yourself to the store as soon as you finish reading this so you can try it. Unless you're allergic to nuts, then it's probably not a good idea. Another bad idea apparently is dipping pretzels in Nutella as a snack right before bed, unless you want really strange dreams all night. I'm just sayin'...

If you want to learn more about it, the website has a ton of interesting information. In fact I learned that the same company that makes Nutella makes Kinder Surprise Eggs. There might not be as many people that know about those as I'm not sure if they're sold in the US. I'm pretty sure for awhile they weren't but who knows now. they're marvelous goodies--a chocolate egg with a plastic egg inside and in the plastic egg is a toy. Awesome.

Anyway, I digress. Saturday, February 5th was World Nutella Day.

Because of a lot going on that day (mildly hungover from a fun girls night out Friday night, then a kids' birthday party at Pump It Up on Saturday morning, then an afternoon of shopping for new clothes for me without my kids in tow) I didn't have a chance to make anything for the blessed day. So I told Boy #1 as we were leaving church yesterday that we needed to make a yummy treat at some point. He was all in--he's always game to bake something. I found a couple options to let him choose from, and this is what he went with. God bless whomever thought up a cookie with Nutella, peanut butter, and oatmeal.

Peanut Butter and Nutella Oatmeal Cookies

1 cup flour
1 cup old-fashioned or quick-cooking oats
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
3 giant spoonfuls of Nutella (maybe somewhere around 3/4 cup???)

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside. Mix butter, sugars and peanut butter. Add egg and vanilla and mix well. Add into flour mixture and stir. Slowly stir nutella into the mixture.

2. Place batter in spoonfuls onto baking sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool shortly before serving! Enjoy!


If you check out the blog where I got this recipe from, you'll see that her cookies looked a lot different than how mine turned out (pictures below). My dough was really dry and crumbly. I read over the ingredients after I was done with the cookies to see if I'd missed something or put in too much or too little of anything, and I followed the recipe to a T. Maybe I did too much Nutella? I don't know. I also don't know if too much Nutella is even possible. I doubt it. My cookies are still good, they're just a bit crunchy. Think grocery store bakery cookies vs. homemade. Mine fall more on the grocery store bakery end of the spectrum. But we're still eating them and enjoying them. I may be eating and enjoying them a bit too much, but at least I went for a run and did weights at the gym this morning.

These were definitely yummy and came together really fast. I got a little under three dozen, and I probably would have yielded more had I not snacked on so much dough. I think I need one of those to wash down my lunch.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Deceptively Delicious

We had kind of a rough time at our house last Sunday morning. Boy #2 kept scratching Boy #1's face, and Boy #1 was really upset about it. So I let him choose the cookbook for last week. i have no idea how he chose, but he picked jessica Seinfeld's "Deceptively Delicious." i took it one step further and let him pick the recipes, too. However, later in the week he never thought the recipes he'd chosen sounded good. Frankly, neither did i. one night i made the chicken nuggets recipe in there, and they were okay but pretty bland. i ended up doing a lot of spur of the moment dinners because whatever we'd chosen from DD just didn't sound good when it came time to make it. So i think i'm done with the cookbook. i think it's a great idea for people whose kids don't eat vegetables and need to sneak the nutrients to them somehow, but my kids love veggies. i usually have to fight with them to eat the other items on their plate before they can have more of whatever vegetable we're eating.

i didn't want to leave everyone guessing as to what the cookbook was for last week, but really nothing was worth posting. So don't worry, you didn't miss anything!

Pioneer Woman's Enchiladas

When I saw this recipe in PW's cookbook I knew it had to go on my meal plan for the week, and I knew i needed to slate it for a weekend night because it was going to be time consuming. I originally planned it for Saturday night and then remembered that the husband and i were having a date night, so it got bumped to Sunday. I love good Mexican food, and I was excited to try a new enchilada recipe. this laptop is a pain to type on, so i have to keep it short and sweet. my lack of capitalization is starting to bother me.

Pioneer Woman's Enchiladas
source: The Pioneer Woman Cooks

1 Tablespoon Canola Oil
1 Tablespoon All-purpose Flour
1 can (28 Ounce) Enchilada Or Red Sauce
2 cups Chicken Broth
½ teaspoons Salt
½ teaspoons Ground Black Pepper
2 Tablespoons Chopped Cilantro

1-½ pound Ground Beef
1 whole Medium Onion, Finely Diced
2 cans (4 Ounce) Diced Green Chilies
½ teaspoons Salt

10 whole (to 14) Corn Tortillas
½ cups Canola Oil

3 cups Grated Sharp Cheddar Cheese
½ cups Chopped Black Olives
1 cup Chopped Green Onions
½ cups Chopped Cilantro

Step #1 – The Sauce
In a large saucepan over medium heat, add oil and flour and whisk together to make a paste, cooking for one minute. Pour in the red sauce, chicken broth, cilantro, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 30-45 minutes.

Step #2 – The Meat
Brown the meat with onions in a skillet. Drain off fat. Stir in 2 cans diced green chilies and seasoned salt. Set aside.

Step #3 – Tortillas
Heat canola oil in a small skillet over medium heat. One by one, using tongs, fry tortillas in oil until soft, not crisp – about 30 seconds per side. Remove to a paper—towel lined plate. Repeat until all tortillas have been fried.

Step #4 – Assembly
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pour ½ cup red sauce in bottom of baking pan. Spread to even out. Dip each tortilla into red sauce, then remove to work surface. Spoon meat, a little grated cheese, a little black olives, and green onions in the center of tortilla. Roll up and place, seam down, in baking pan. Repeat until pan is filled. Pour extra red sauce over enchiladas. Top with remaining cheddar cheese.

Bake for 20 minutes or until bubbly. Sprinkle cilantro over enchiladas before serving.


To make this even more time consuming I decided to make my own corn tortillas. I finally figured out how to keep the tortillas from sticking to my tortilla press--spray the wax paper with non-stick spray! Normally I just use wax paper and the dough ends up sticking in one spot and gives me misshapen tortillas. I usually get very frustrated with the process. This time I nearly drove to the store to just buy corn tortillas when I got frustrated, but then my brilliant idea came to me. Since i made my own tortillas, i skipped the step of frying the tortillas to soften them up since i knew mine were soft from having just made them. Everything else I did like PW.

My family watched "Despicable Me" while I made this dinner. I figured I could watch part of it with them, but it took me pretty much the length of the movie to assemble this. It's definitely a labor intensive recipe, BUT it was worth it. These were some tasty enchiladas. The actual rolling and assembly was pretty messy, but they were fantastic and totally worth it. This isn't something I'd make on a regular basis just because of the time factor, but they were definitely tasty and worth the time investment. My oldest (whom I think I will start refering to as Boy #1 and the baby as Boy #2 since he really isn't a baby anymore) thought they were too spicy, but I didn't think they were at all. i even made sure i used mild enchilada sauce so he wouldn't complain. But aside from that, the rest of us really liked these. Way to go, PW...another winner!

Pioneer Woman's Macaroni and Cheese

i love me some macaroni and cheese. When i was little i'd only eat the stuff out of the box, never homemade. Now i much prefer homemade to the blue box. Even though there are several good mac and cheese recipes i've discovered in the past few years, i'm always game to try a new recipe because what if it's the best ever?! So when I saw this recipe in PW's cookbook I figured we'd have it one night during Pioneer Woman Cookbook Week.

Pioneer Woman's Macaroni and Cheese
Source: The Pioneer Woman Cooks

4 cups Dried Macaroni
1 whole Egg Beaten
1/4 cups (1/2 Stick Or 4 Tablespoons) Butter
1/4 cups All-purpose Flour
2-½ cups Whole Milk
2 teaspoons (heaping) Dry Mustard, More If Desired
1 pound Cheese, Grated
1/2 teaspoons Salt, More To Taste
1/2 teaspoons Seasoned Salt, More To Taste
1/2 teaspoons Ground Black Pepper
Optional Spices: Cayenne Pepper, Paprika, Thyme

Cook macaroni until very firm. Macaroni should be too firm to eat right out of the pot. Drain.

In a small bowl, beat egg.

In a large pot, melt butter and sprinkle in flour. Whisk together over medium-low heat. Cook mixture for five minutes, whisking constantly. Don’t let it burn.

Pour in milk, add mustard, and whisk until smooth. Cook for five minutes until very thick. Reduce heat to low.

Take 1/4 cup of the sauce and slowly pour it into beaten egg, whisking constantly to avoid cooking eggs. Whisk together till smooth.

Pour egg mixture into sauce, whisking constantly. Stir until smooth.

Add in cheese and stir to melt.

Add salt and pepper. Taste sauce and add more salt and seasoned salt as needed! DO NOT UNDERSALT.

Pour in drained, cooked macaroni and stir to combine.
Serve immediately (very creamy) or pour into a buttered baking dish, top with extra cheese, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until bubbly and golden on top.


I added some Lawry's seasoned salt to mine for some additional flavor. The husband was pretty impressed and intrigued when he saw me making a roux for mac and cheese. What can i say, he's from louisiana...he likes a girl that can make a roux.

i had to sample a bite before putting it in the oven. It was AMAZING. I could have just kept eating it from the pot instead of baking it with additional cheese on top. My whole family loved this. Both my kids had seconds. I had seconds. I was disgustingly full afterwards but it was worth it. My kids had leftovers for lunch the next day...this is the only thing I can think of that they've willingly had leftovers of for lunch the next day. My theory of trying new mac and cheese recipes paid off because i think this is my new favorite!!

better pics are available on PW's original post.

Penne ala Betsy

I busted out the laptop today so I can get caught up on blog entries while I watch the Super Bowl. The only problem is that one of the shift keys doesn't work very well, so let me go ahead and apologize in advance for any capitalization mistakes there might be. it's not me, it's the computer...i swear! See?!

i'm going back two weeks here. I have no idea how i fell so behind on updating. if you recall, my BFF jen and i decided to justify our outlandish cookbook collections this year by choosing a cookbook each week and planning multiple meals from it. Two weeks ago i chose The Pioneer Woman. Surprisingly i haven't made that much from it, mostly because a lot of it is not at all healthy.

I had it out for Thanksgiving 2.2 for her mashed potato recipe and then decided I'd use that for my first cookbook. Penne ala Betsy is a recipe i'd always wanted to try, so i thought it would make a great dinner for the husband and mine's friday night date night dinner.

PW's Penne ala Betsy
source: The Pioneer Woman Cooks

3/4 pounds Penne Pasta
1 pound Shrimp
3 Tablespoons Butter
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 whole Onion (small)
2 cloves Garlic
1/2 cups White Wine, Or To Taste
1 can Tomato Sauce (8 Oz)
1 cup Heavy Cream
Fresh Parsley, to taste
Fresh Basil - To Taste
Salt To Taste
Pepper To Taste

Cook the penne pasta until tender-firm, also known as al dente.

Peel, devein and rinse (under cool water) 1 pound of extra large shrimp. Heat about 1 tbsp. butter and olive oil in a skillet. Add the shrimp and cook for a couple minutes until just opaque. Do not overcook them. Remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes. Now, put the cooked shrimp on the cutting board and pull off the tails. Chop the shrimp into bite –sized pieces and set aside.

Finely dice one small onion. Mince two cloves of garlic. In a large skillet heat 2 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the garlic and onion and sauté, stirring occasionally. After the garlic and onions have cooked a bit add your white wine. Let the wine evaporate for a few minutes, stirring occasionally. If you would rather not use wine, you can use low-sodium chicken broth instead (about ½ cup).

Now add an 8-ounce can of plain tomato sauce. Stir well until combined. Then add 1 cup of heavy cream. Continue stirring. Turn heat down to low and let simmer.

Now chop your herbs, about a tablespoon of chopped parsley and about the same amount of chopped basil, or if you’re feeling very proper, chiffonaded.

Now add your chopped shrimp back into the tomato cream sauce. Give it a stir and add salt and pepper to taste. Throw in your herbs and stir until combined. Finally add your cooked penne pasta and give it a good stir.


of course for awesome pictures of it, you can see the recipe on pw's website.

I didn't change a whole lot of this. i did use half and half instead of cream to make it a bit healthier. i actually cut the recipe in half (except for the shrimp) since it was just the husband and i eating it. i figured that way we'd be less likely to go overboard eating it. let me tell you, i was glad i did because we definitely would have eaten too much.

This was really tasty. It reminded me of a vodka tomato cream sauce recipe i used to make in college. it was probably the only real thing i could cook in college, but I haven't made it in quite some time. This came together really quickly and easily, too, which was nice. It's definitely something that I'd make again.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Polenta Lasagna

I have some major blog catching up to do (what else is new?!), but I wanted to start with this because it was probaby the most amazing thing we've eaten recently. As I've mentioned before, I belong to a pretty amazing parenting message board. Someone posted recently asking what to do with polenta and my friend Heather (who could potentially be one of my BFFs if she and her husband weren't Alabama fans and we didn't live across the country from each other) said she had made polenta lasagna. She filled me in on the basics of how she'd done it, and since I had a tube of polenta in the pantry I slated it for dinner this week. I was pretty giddy about trying it. Heather didn't have an exact recipe of what she did, so I followed her lead and just winged it as I went along.

Heather's Polenta Lasagna

1 tube polenta (mine was 18 ounces)
1 lb sweet Italian sausage
3 cans fire roasted diced tomatoes
1 onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
8 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced and sauteed

Heat large skillet sprayed with non-stick spray over medium high heat. Slice polenta into 1/2-inch rounds and place in skillet. Cook 4-5 minutes per side, then flip. Remove from skillet and chill in the refrigerator.

Remove sausage from casings and brown in a large pot. Once cooked through, remove sausage and add onions and garlic. Cook until browned (you may need to deglaze the pan...I used a bit of beef broth). Add tomatoes to the pot (do not drain tomatoes) and add sausage back to the pot. Let simmer 2-3 hours for maximum flavor.

Once polenta slices have cooled, remove them from the fridge and cut the slices in half.

Preheat oven to 375.

Spray an 8x8 baking dish with non-stick spray. Spoon some sauce into the bottom of the dish and spread it around. Place a single layer of polenta slices on top of the sauce to cover bottom of the dish. Spoon sauce to cover polenta layer. Top with a layer of mozzarella cheese. Spread sauteed mushrooms over the cheese. Repeat layers with remaining polenta slices, sauce, and mozzarella, finishing with mozzarella.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until heated through and bubbling. For best results, let the lasagna sit for 5-10 minutes after removing from the oven.


This was SO EASY. It was really a lot easier than regular lasagna because the polenta cooks a lot faster than lasagna noodles. Plus since it bakes in a smaller dish you aren't eating lasagna for days and days. Don't get me wrong--I love lasagna, but a 9x13 pan of it lasts a loooooooooong time for us. The only real planning ahead was to cook the polenta early enough to give it time to cool and to let the sauce simmer, if you're making your own. You could, of course, use jarred sauce to speed it up, but I just prefer to make my own. You could probably slice the polenta thinner to begin with, but I found it a lot easier to slice after it had cooked some than when I was initially slicing up the tube.

I hadn't ever used polenta before. I'm not entirely sure why I had bought the tube of it at Trader Joe's, but I'm sure glad I did. In fact, I went there yesterday and picked up another tube while I was there. I feel the need to embrace polenta now. The husband didn't know what it was, and since he's a southern boy, I told him "Italian grits." :)

My kids ate this pretty reluctantly, but I think that was more due to me giving them snacks too late in the day so they weren't that hungry at dinner time. The husband loved it. In fact he was just sitting here next to me a few minutes ago and commented on how much he loved it. He had some of the leftovers for lunch yesterday and raved about it again after having that. This is definitely something I'll make again!

Tube of polenta:

It was very shiny. In fact it's shininess disturbed me a bit, but I got over it.

Sliced, ready for cooking:

Post-cooking, post-second slicing, ready for layering:

The process begins...

Mmmm...polenta lasagna...