Monday, December 13, 2010

Greek Pasta

This will feed an army and still have leftovers.  The ingredients aren't cheap but it makes a TON, it's on the table in 30 minutes and it tastes so good that you won't mind the cost.  

This is adapted from Tyler Florence's recipe "Mediterranean Pasta in Minutes" - it's quick, easy and tastes fantastic.

1 8oz jar sun-dried tomatoes, include the oil
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts (or the meat of a rotisserie chicken)
1 can black olives, drained (I prefer whole/small, but if you're not feeding kids, Kalamata would great!)
1 can artichoke hearts, drain & trim any icky bits
1 cup crumbled feta
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 pound penne, ziti or rigatoni
6-8 fresh basil leaves, snipped into ribbons

Start the penne water and, when ready, toss in the pasta (before you drain it, use a glass measuring cup to pull out a cup or so of the cooking water & set aside).

Pour 1-2 TB of the oil off of the tomatoes into a large (really big) skillet.   Get it hot and saute the garlic 1-2 minutes.  The add the chicken and cook it through (or heat it through if using rotisserie chicken). 

Add in the drained artichoke hearts, olives and tomatoes and allow to heat all the way through. 

Pull about a cup of the cooking water out and then thoroughly drain the pasta.  Toss the drained pasta in the pan with the chicken, tomatoes, etc.  Add in approx 1/2 C of the reserved cooking water and toss with the pasta.  Allow it to absorb - if things seem really dry add more, but you probably wont' need it.

Add in the feta and cream and toss until creamy.  Serve in bowls, top with snipped basil, and serve with bread and a salad dressed with balsamic vinegar.

Yummy!  Enjoy!

Slow cooker pork ribs with sauerkraut. Also dressing (on the side).

Last night was boneless pork ribs with sauerkraut and stuffing.  Mashed potatoes would've been great except that I forgot to buy/make them.  Whoops!

Boneless Pork Ribs with Sauerkraut
1 pkg boneless pork ribs
1 large jar sauerkraut
1/2 C brown sugar
1/2 onion, sliced into thin rings
1 apple, sliced thin
Creole Seasoning (yeah, it works)

Sear the pork in a HOT pan with salt/pepper.

In a large slow-cooker, layer 1/2 each:
brown sugar,  sauerkraut,  onion and apple. Sprinkle liberally with creole seasoning
Nestle in the pork and top with the remaining sauerkraut ingredients.  Cook on high 4-6 hrs or low 8+

1/2 stick butter
2 ribs celery, sliced thin
1/2 onion, diced
1 tsp dried sage
2 eggs
1/2 C Chicken Broth
1 bag Pepperidge Farm stuffing cubes

saute the onion, celery in the butter until translucent.  Add salt, pepper (lots) and sage.  Pour over the bread cubes and toss.  Add eggs and then the broth (you can use more broth but my husband loathes soggy bread).  Push into greased casserole dish and bake in oven at 350 for about 30 min.

Sorry for the delay - forgot to post this last night!!

I'll put up the menu & todays recipe for Mediterannean Pasta later today.

Monday, December 6, 2010

This weeks menu!

Another crazy December week at our house.  Family in town, Girl Scouts, etc so meals this week are all super easy.  However, with all the parties, snacking & baking of the holidays, these are also fairly light. 

Sunday: Chili at Aunt Kims
Monday: Dinner out with Grandpa
Tuesday: Chicken Noodle Soup & Toast
Wednesday: Chicken Ranch Salad
Thursday: Oven Baked Pork Chops, Broccoli & Sweet Potato "fries"

Thursday, December 2, 2010

I wonder... what wine goes with eggs?

This week has been absolutely crazy busy for me with work so meals have been heavy on leftovers & quick/easy.

My sainted husband has actually been on dinner the past two nights and he did a great job heating up soup on Tuesday.  Wednesday's dinner was more challenging but he really knocked it out of the park. 

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts sprinkle with "Rub" seasoning mix (whatever you have leftover or some jar of stuff from the spice aisle) - put them on a rimmed sheet and bake at 350 for about 25-30 minutes.

1 Lg or 2 small Sweet Potatoes.  Peel & slice into thin "planks"  - toss with cinnamon, salt, pepper & olive oil.  Bake at 350 for 15 min each side.

1 head of broccoli, trimmed.  Steam for about 5 min.  top with butter, salt & pepper.

Tonight it's breakfast for dinner.   Eggs will be scrambled, the English will be muffin'd and life is good & easy at our house.  I had aspirations around Eggs Benedict for tonight but I'm going to give it up right now and admit that we'll be doing scrambled with a side of Canadian Bacon and toasted English muffins. 

I wonder what wine goes with eggs?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Pork Stir Fry

1 pkg thin cut pork loin chops - trim away all fat and slice into tiny strips
1/2 Onion sliced into thin half moons
2 sm zucchini sliced into thin half moons
1 Red Pepper in bite sized strips
1 sm can water chestnuts, chopped

1 Cup rice - make whatever kind you like.

SAUCE:  The sauce here is key and you can use that Kikoman Baste & Glaze (or whatever) if you want - or you can make your own.  Whatever works for you.  I don't have measurements for this because I stand at the stove and toss it in and taste it, adjusting as I go - so if you make your own sauce, I suggest you do what works for you.  Any of these ingredients can be increased, decreased or omitted at your convenience.  All amounts are guesses based on experience.

3 TB Soy Sauce
3 TB honey (or brown sugar)
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp minced ginger
1/4 tsp fish sauce
1 tsp sesame oil

Heat skillet with some canola oil (a TB or so) until shimmering and HOT.  Put in the pork and stir fry - do NOT crowd the pan.  It's okay to do this in batches but if the pan cools off too much you won't get a crispy, caramelized glaze on the pork.  Cook until the moisture has released from the pork and then continue until it's tightened up into a nice, brown color on your pork.

As soon as the pork is browned and yummy looking, pull it out and set aside.  To the hot pan, add 1/2 TB more oil and then the onion.  Saute for 1 min then add the rest of the veggies.  If you like (but it's not critical) you can add additional garlic & ginger now as well).

Keep stirring the veggies until they are brightly colored and crisp/tender.  Add in the sauce and use it to scoop up any browned bits on the bottom.  Saute another 30 seconds then add back the meat (and any accumulated juices) and saute another minute or two - just to get everything melded together.
If you like your sauce a bit thicker, you can stir a tsp of cornstarch into a TB of cold water and add that to the pan.  It will thicken up nicely and very quickly. 

Serve over the rice.  I like to sprinkle on some toasted sesame seeds at the end - but not critical.  Bob likes chopped green onions too.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Curried Turkey Pot Pie

I honestly think I could eat Thanksgiving dinner, exactly as served, every day.  It's SO good.  My family, however, is done with leftovers.  But we had a big bird so here's how I used up the last of it.

This is Alton Brown's recipe - I've just tweaked as needed.

1 lg bag frozen mixed veggies (peas, carrots, corn, beans - I pick out all of the lima beans ahead of time because ... well ... eeew.)
1 sm sweet potato, peeled & chopped small
olive or canola oil - a couple of TB
3 TB butter
1 onion, chopped
4 ribs celery, chopped
1 1/2 C chicken broth (that's not quite the whole can - freeze the rest in small bowls or ice cube trays for those times you just need a little)
1/2 C milk
3 TB flour
1 tsp curry powder (I use a heaping teaspoon, but do it to your taste)
2 cups chopped leftover turkey
1 Pkg Puff Pastry (like the frozen Pepperidge Farms kind)

Thaw the veggies while you peel, chop the sweet potato.  Toss the mixed veggies with the sweet potato, drizzle with oil and roast them all together at 400 until starting to caramelize. About 30 min or so (pull them out and toss every 10 min or so).

In a large measuring cup, combine the milk & broth and microwave until hot through (you could do this in a saucepan, but why dirty another dish when you've already dirtied the measuring cup??). 

In a large saute pan, melt the butter and then sweat the onion & celery.  Add the flour & curry powder and then stir to combine (it'll be a very fragrant pasty kind of mess).  Continue to cook for about a minute so the floury taste gets cooked out of it. 

Pour in the hot broth/milk and whisk/stir until it's not lumpy and sauce gets thick & silky.  Stir in the chopped turkey and the veggies.   Pour the whole thing into a casserole dish and top with the thawed, rolled out pastry dough.

Bake at 350 for 20-25 min.  mmmm...

You can do this with a rotisserie chicken ANY time and it's fantastic. 

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Cranberry Chutney

This is fantastic with turkey or pork.  It's also a wonderful hostess gift in a nice glass bowl/jar.

It is quite intensely flavored.  A small amount goes a long way & it's not for everyone.  A deep crimson color, fantastic smell in your house and cranberries makes it a natural for this time of year. 
1 bag fresh cranberries, rinsed & picked over
1 7 oz bag dried apricots, roughly chopped
1 1/2 C brown sugar, packed
2/3 C dried currants
1/4 minced fresh ginger (peel it and then put into food processor until finely minced)
1/4 C apple or cranberry juice (or water or wine or brandy... I'm easy)
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cayenne

Combine it all in a large, heavy bottomed sauce pan and heat over medium until all of the sugar is melted and glossy (no visible grains when you stir).  Turn up the heat and bring to a rolling boil.  Allow it to boil hard for 3 full minutes.  Remove from heat and allow to cool in a glass bowl. 


Mommy isn't cooking this week!!

We're having leftovers, pizza & chinese food this week while we prep for Thanksgiving.

I will post my recipe for Cranberry Chutney again for anyone interested.  Here's the Thanksgiving menu:

Turkey: Brined & Roasted by my amazing husband, Bob
Stuffing: Sausage Stuffing from my mother in law
Stuffing: Vegetarian version of Giada's Chestnut stuffing with roasted chestnuts, Craisins, Apples, onions & celery.
Mashed Potatoes: Yukon Gold, butter, cream, salt pepper...
Gravy: giblets, turkey stock.
Squash Casserole
Cranberry Chutney
Bacon wrapped green beans
Sweet potato casserole

Cake & Pies provided by my friend (and pastry chef!) Annie West (cannot wait for this!)

Hope that you have a happy & blessed Thanksgiving.  I am grateful for many things in life, not the least of which, being having an outlet for my food passion here, with you. 

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Chicken Piccata

This is really the most basic version of this technique where you pound the meat, dredge it in some flour and saute it.  As with many things in life, basic/simple means GOOD.

2-3 boneless/skinless chicken breasts
1 C flour (S&P to taste)

2 TB Olive Oil
2 TB butter (plus 1/2 TB to swirl in at the end)

1 tsp minced garlic (shallots are nice too if you have 'em)
2-3 lemons, juiced
1 Cup dry white wine (Pinot Grigio is my usual)
1/4 C capers (drained)
sliced mushrooms (optional)

Pound your chicken between two sheets of waxed paper until they're an even thickness (maybe 1/4 inch?)
In a shallow bowl or pie plate, mix the flour, salt & pepper (use more S&P than you'd think).  Lightly coat the chicken in the flour mixture.

Place a large skillet over med-high heat and melt together your butter & olive oil.   When it's shimmering, gently place the chicken, one piece at a time, into the hot oil.  Be careful not to crowd the pan.  It is FINE to work in batches.  Cook 4-5 minutes per side, turning once. 

Remove chicken to a plate padded with several paper towels and then drain off all but a tablespoon or so of the fat & drippings.  To this add the mushrooms (if using) give it about 30 seconds to cool off the pan a bit then add the garlic.  Saute for about 10 minutes (the mushrooms will release all their moisture and pick up the flavor of the bits of yummy chicken that were stuck to the pan).  Then add in the lemon juice and capers, heating through.  If you happen to be drinking a glass of white wine, now would be a great time to splash a good bit of that in there too.  Allow it to cook together for a couple of minutes to reduce a bit and get some of the acid/alcohol out.  Then take your chicken and put it back into the sauce for about 1 minute per side.  This will reheat the chicken and allow some of that flour coating to help thicken your sauce.  Remove the chicken and add another small knob of cold butter and swirl into the sauce.

Place the chicken over pasta or sauteed spinach, top with sauce and serve.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Taco Night!


I just LOVE taco night.  Everyone loves taco night.  I try to limit it to once a month because it's not the healthiest meal but it really makes everyone happy.

We do it Taco John's style... smear a warm flour tortilla with refried beans, stick a crispy corn taco shell in there, fill it with meat, cheese, sour cream and tomatoes.  Happy Taco Night!!

*** On a side note ***  Harry Potter in 3 days.  Cannot wait!  Then a houseful of folks on Sunday and then Thanksgiving.  My favorite day of the year. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Everyone loves breakfast for dinner.  This is just a way to sneak some veggies into it and it's totally freeform. 

Tonight we're doing a Denver-ish Frittata with Canadian Bacon, red bell pepper, onion and cheddar cheese.  I may sneak in some spinach.

Another favorite of mine is to do it with Asparagus, Canadian Bacon, Red Pepper and Laughing Cow cheese.  It has a totally decadent feel to it with those little baby swiss cheese chunks dotted through it.  Bob isn't a fan though...

Heat an oven proof, non-stick skillet over med-high heat and saute your pepper & onions.  Add the bacon and get it heated through. 

Beat 6-7 eggs with pepper and about a tablespoon of water.

Turn on your broiler on HIGH and make sure your top rack is about 5-6 inches (so your pan will fit and it'll be close enough to heat the eggs). 

Get the sauteed veggies evenly spaced towards the center of the pan and then pour over the eggs.  Allow it to set for about 10 seconds and then start lifting up the edges gently so the raw egg can flow under.  Keep doing this until it starts to become difficult to get the top to flow any more.

Put the pan in the oven and keep an eye on it.  It will puff and start to set.  This is when you pull it out and sprinkle about a handful or two of cheese over the top and pop it back in just long enough to get the cheese melted & bubbly.

Slide it out onto a cutting board, slice into wedges with a pizza cutter and serve with fruit salad and toast.

Good news - if you mess up and it doesn't come out nice & smooth?  Just scramble it and call it a day.  :)


Monday, November 15, 2010

Soul Food... for a Yankee girl

Okay, I am the first to admit that I am the whitest girl in America.  I have zero "soul" -- no rhythm at all.  And I'm sure any Southern cook worth her grits would mock tonights dinner.  However, it's super easy, tasty, not awfully fattening and on the table in 30 minutes.  Can't beat that!

1.) Make the cornbread.  I use the old-fashioned box of Jiffy mix and I follow the directions.  Fantastic.

2.) In an oven proof, hot skillet, sear the outsides of the pork chops (I bought the thicker ones this time).  Then pop it in the oven alongside the cornbread until it registers done on a meat thermometer.

3.) Open up a can of Glory brand mixed greens and heat on the stove.

4.) Open up a can of Glory brand butter beans and heat on the stove.

15 minutes later you're serving dinner.  I'm not ordinarily a big fan of canned vegetables but I have tried to make my own greens and they are NOT as good as these Glory ones.  You can find them in the supermarket in the canned foods aisle. 


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Moroccan Chicken

Bobby Flay's Chicken & Chickpea Tagine with Apricots and Harissa Sauce.

I basically follow the recipe but with a few tweaks.

I use bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts.  Sear in the hot pan and follow the directions.
Don't drain the tomatoes -- you need the moisture.
I skip the parsley and just use cilantro.
You can't find creme fraiche at my grocery store so I use sour cream and Harissa from Williams-Sonoma and it's great.

When you pull it out of the oven (your house will smell fantastic!) - I pull out the chicken and get rid of the bones/skin and chop it into bite sized pieces and mix back into the sauce.  Serve over rice or cous cous.

I looked around online and found the ingredients for Ras Al Hanut - it makes a TON.  The first time I did it I reduced everything down to a small amount.  Now I do the whole thing and store it in an old spice jar.  Saves a ton of time if this meal becomes a staple at your house.  If you don't have the more esoteric ingredients (mace, cardamom) - I think that's fine.  It may not hurt to pick up a few but I think it can be SUPER expensive to build up your spice cabinet with things you won't use again.  If you live nearby, just call me - I have them all and could just give you some.  :)

ras al hanut
1 TB allspice
2 TB cumin
3 TB ground black pepper
2 TB ground cardamom
1 TB cayenne pepper
2 TB Cinnamon
1 TB ground cloves
3 TB ground coriander
1/2 TB ground ginger
1/2 TB ground mace
1/2 TB ground nutmeg
3 TB turmeric
1 TB thyme
2 bay leaves
It makes a lot and this is reduced from the recipe I found that called for 4 TB of things and you had to toast/grind it yourself.  You can find this online or in spice markets (if you live somewhere that they have that sort of thing.  Flower Mound, TX most definitely does not have a spice market.)

Here's Bobby's recipe.

I actually met Bobby when I was on vacation in the Bahamas a few years ago and I told him how much I loved this recipe.  Then I hugged him and insisted on a photo... Not sure he's MY biggest fan but I sure did enjoy meeting him!

The Menu: November 14, 2010

Sunday: Moroccan Chicken
This is my absolute favorite meal.  Savory, sweet, spicy, fresh and I've made it so many times that I don't have to look at the recipe anymore. 

Monday: Pork, Greens, Butter Beans & Cornbread
Possibly the easiest meal on the planet thanks to those Glory canned greens.  I'm sure a "legit" Southern cook would be appalled, but as a Minnesota girl - I think it's fantastic!

Tuesday: Frittata
Basically this is breakfast for dinner, but if you tack a fancy Italian name on it, it sounds cool and still tastes awesome.  We're doing it with red peppers, Canadian bacon, asparagus and baby Swiss cheese.

Wednesday: Taco Night
Honestly, who doesn't love taco night?

Thursday: Chicken Piccata
Pounded, breaded chicken sauteed with butter, garlic, capers & mushrooms then tossed with pasta & lemon juice.  Yum.  One more reason to make this week go by fast!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Smoked Brisket Nachos

So I'm going to be really upfront about this recipe.  It's a ripoff of my black bean & chicken nachos except our friend, Grant, smoked a brisket and we did nachos with the leftovers.  It's absolutely fantastic.  But you need to have a source for the meat.  Any smoked meat would work - but this is how we make it...

Tostitos - the round ones - plain
1 can black beans, rinsed/drained
1 can corn, drain/rinse
1 bunch cilantro, wash/chop (optional)
1 jalapeno, seeded/minced (optional)
shredded Mexican blend cheese
leftover smoked brisket, chopped

Spread the chips in a single layer in a wide, shallow plate/platter.  Sprinkle with a small amount of cheese.  Top with beans, corn, meat, cilantro and then a generous layer of cheese.  Repeat if desired.

Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes or a bit longer if you're doing two layers.

Serve with sour cream & salsa. 

This meal, and the many variations we've come up with... always, always a hit.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Ratatouille Pasta

Okay, I've tweaked this quite a bit from a few different ideas.  The big revelation for me came from Food & Wine where a guy made subs with ratatouille and a goat cheese spread.  It's a really terrific combination.   The ratatouille can be tweaked to your hearts content. 

I like to chop all of the veggies into bite sized pieces and then saute them individually.  That's for a couple of reasons: I can get started cooking one while I'm chopping the next and because it makes a ton, I think it's good to do it in smaller batches so that you can get each thing properly cooked (and room in the pan = caramelization and that means flavor). 

Prep (you can do this a day before or, if you're a fast chopper, while your water is heating for the pasta).

1 med eggplant, peeled & cut into bite sized pieces (NOTE: if you have time, I like to toss it in a colander and put a TB or so of kosher salt over it and allow it to set for 30 minutes or so.  This will pull a lot of the moisture out of the eggplant and seems to remove any of the bitter taste that eggplant can sometimes have.  Then just rinse it off and proceed.)

2 red peppers
1 zucchini
1 onion
4 cloves garlic
thyme - to taste but several sprigs or about a TB dried
olive oil

saute each item in olive oil & garlic.  Add thyme, salt & pepper and set aside. 
(you can do everything up to here a day or two ahead of time and just reheat the night you make the pasta)

Once it's all done, add it back into the pan and add a can of diced tomatoes (drained) and some more thyme.

Cook your pasta (I like Rigatoni - but whatever works for you) and when it's almost done, pull out about a cup of the cooking water and set it aside, then drain the pasta.

Into the hot pasta pot, pour the veggies, the pasta and one log of goat cheese, sliced into small chunks. Toss it all together and allow it to melt and get all silky.  If things seem a bit dry, add in about half of the pasta water and keep tossing.  The moisture will absorb and you'll just have a beautiful pasta.

Some additions that could be really good in this?  A can of black olives and maybe some sauteed mushrooms? 

Let me know if this recipe is confusing ... it's kind of convoluted to type out but really simple when you're tossing it all together.  This will feed an army and still have some left for lunch the next day.  I haven't tried it but I'm guessing it'll freeze well too.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Restaurant Night

It sounds much fancier than "leftovers" and goes to the idea that everyone chooses what they want to eat (or they do buffet style and have a little of several things). 

A quick scan of the fridge/freezer (and a comment from my husband about needing to lighten up his lunches a bit) made me realize that I could afford to take a night off from cooking.  (Good thing because we have a girl scout meeting at six!).

The choices for tonight include:
Chicken Chili
Chicken Noodle Soup
Pork & Stuffing
Cheese Soup

I really have been cooking my "Autumn Favorites"!  


Monday, November 8, 2010

White Chicken Chili

Yay for the crockpot on a busy, chilly day!!  I found this recipe in a low-carb cookbook years ago and it's a stand-by in our house.

1 lb Dry White Northern Beans (soaked overnight)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 white onion, finely chopped
1 TB oregano
1 TB cumin
1/2 tsp ground cloves (go ahead - it seems weird but really subtle and good)
1 BIG can chicken broth (5 cups)

Put all of the above together in crockpot and cook on low all day.

When you get home, add:

2 cooked chicken breasts, chopped
1 can diced green chilis
1 jalapeno, seeded & finely chopped

Serve with monterey jack cheese, sour cream and Frito scoops (they're so wrong, but SO right!)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Roast Pork, Stuffing & Cranberry Chutney

I will do a whole post about Cranberry Chutney when we get closer to Thanksgiving.  It's become my signature item on the big day, but it's equally as wonderful with roast pork, chicken or turkey.  I got this recipe from a friend many years ago and my only tweak has been to consistently double the recipe.  So here's my version, amd sometimes I even double this.  The ginger in it acts as a preservative so it keeps for weeks at the back of the fridge.  It's also a wonderful hostess gift this time of year, in a nice glass jar.

1 bag fresh cranberries, rinsed & picked over
1 7 oz bag dried apricots, roughly chopped
1 1/2 C brown sugar, packed
2/3 C dried currants
1/4 minced fresh ginger (peel it and then put into food processor until finely chopped)
1/4 C apple or cranberry juice (or water)
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cayenne

Combine it all in a large, heavy bottomed sauce pan and heat over medium until all of the sugar is melted and glossy (no visible grains when you stir).  Turn up the heat and bring to a rolling boil.  Allow it to boil hard for 3 full minutes.  Remove from heat and allow to cool in a glass bowl. 

I was thinking of a more "roasty" roast, but all they has was a loin.  So I'm going to coat the outside with pepper, sage, salt and thyme and then sear it in a heavy cast iron pan on all sides.  Then into the oven at 375 for about an hour (I use a meat thermometer and follow the instructions on it).

This is how my grandmother made it, except she made her own breading.  I buy the Pepperidge Farm cubes.  Everything else is same:

1 stick butter
1 white onion, finely chopped
3-4 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 eggs - scrambled
Bread cubes
Salt & Pepper

Saute the onion & celery in the butter.  Pour the bread into a large bowl, pour over the butter & onions/celery.  Stir to coat everything in the butter.  Pour over the raw eggs and season with sage (1-2 tsp) and then ground pepper (put in pepper until you think "that's too much" then do a bit more) and a bit of salt.  If the cubes are still really dry you can add in some chicken broth but my husband HATES soggy bread so I usually err on the side of drier stuffing.

Put the stuffing into a casserole dish, cover tightly with foil and bake alongside the pork.  Yummers.

This weeks menu!

It is finally cool enough to cook like it's autumn.  Yay!

Sunday:  Pork Roast with stuffing and cranberry chutney
  A simple pork roast seared then roasted in the oven until it's tender.  Served with a simple sage/bread stuffing and cranberry chutney. 

Monday: White Chicken Chili 
  A little prep on Sunday night and then this simmers all day.  Perfect after a late season soccer game when topped with sour cream, cheese and Fritos!
Tuesday:  "Restaurant Night"
We call it "Restaurant Night" because that sounds so much fancier than "Leftovers" - and everyone gets to pick their favorite so it's like a restaurant.

Wednesday:  Ratatouille Pasta
I'll prep most of the Ratatouille ahead of time then let it rest.  On Wednesday, we just cook the pasta, toss in the cheese & veggies and it's a wonderful, quick weeknight meal.
Thursday: Brisket Nachos
We got some leftover smoked brisket from a friend.  It will hold in the freezer a few days and then we use it to top black bean & corn nachos with a smoky twist.  This is a definite fan favorite!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Chicken Soup

My husband has a cold.  This is the male equivalent of a woman dealing with the flu, breast cancer and malaria.  At the same time.  Needless to say, he is laid low for the weekend by the sniffles.  In an attempt to revive him for his poker game tonight (and rescue my chick-flick night with our daughter) I am making him chicken soup. 

Seems like it could be handy this time of year so here's a bonus Saturday recipe for you:

1 whole chicken cut up (if you can get a "roasting chicken" it should have more flavor than a fryer and you could probably ask your butcher to cut it up... or go all caveman/Julia Child like I did today with the bonus of truly horrifying any nearby first graders by butchering the chicken yourself.)
I also added an extra package of chicken breasts because the meat will be so yummy and I like a LOT of chicken in my chicken soup...  OKAY - so:, start by making the broth:

Chicken parts - bones & skin intact
1 onion - skin & all  - just wedge it
3 carrots - cut in half (or just the tops/bottoms - saving the good parts for later)
bottom & tops of a bunch of celery (save the salks for the actual soup)
1 TB whole peppercorns
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp coriander seeds (optional)
5-6 whole cloves (optional)
2-3 smashed garlic cloves

Put all ingredients into a large, heavy bottomed stock pot, fill with COLD water to just cover everything.  Cover and place over med-high heat.  As soon as it starts to boil, turn it back to simmer and simmer about 45 minutes. 

As it boils, there will be a frothy scum on the top - that's perfectly normal.  Just scoop it off and toss it away. 
after 35-45 min, pull out the "good" pieces of chicken (breasts, thighs) and set aside.  Allow the rest to come back up to a good simmer and cook another 45 min or so. 

When the "good" chicken is cooled, pull it from the bone and set aside (in fridge).

Once the broth has cooked and the chicken is falling apart, veggies are super soft/over-cooked, pull out as many large bits as you can and throw them away.

Strain the broth (cheese cloth works great but just passing it through a strainer would be okay too) into a bowl or other pot. Throw away the solids. 

Clean out the pot you started with.  In some butter, at the bottom of the pan, saute:
1 onion chopped fine
3-4 stalks celery, chopped fine
3-4 carrots chopped fine
once the veggies are translucent, pour in the chicken stock and add some additional veggies (all of these are optional):
1 chopped red pepper
1 handful green beans chopped
1 C frozen corn
1 zucchini chopped
1 poblano pepper
Sm bag of cheesecloth with: rosemary, thyme, sage, parsley, tarragon or whatever is left in your garden.  Or - if you have whole/fresh herbs, tie them with some kitchen twine.

Simmer all together for 10 min, add back in the original chicken and simmer another 10 min.
Remove the boquet garni and serve over freshly cooked noodles.

Okay - here's a weird thing of min, and you can do what you want here.  You CAN add the noodles right into the soup and simmer until they're soft (about 10-15 min).  This is great, tastes fantastic and works beautifully that first day.  However, I find that the noodles don't hold up very well even until the next day, let alone if you freeze the soup.  So... I like to actually cook the pasta separately in very salty water and add them to the bowls and then pour the soup over the noodles.  But you're free to do whatever you want here.  It's really just my OCD tendencies that drive me to do this extra annoying step. 

Happy eating!!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

My Mom's Cheddar Cheese Soup

This soup makes me happy.  It just does.  It's nothing like "Beer Cheese Soup", which I happen to find very thick, gloppy and kind of gross.  This is fairly light and full of yummy vegetables.  I like the flavor of chicken broth in the base, but you could use vegetable broth or (like my mom) use water.  It's super easy and very adaptable.  Also a GREAT way to use up the little bits of vegetables that you have left over at the end of the week!

3 C Boiling Water (you get to use that fancy kettle!)

1/4 Onion (finely chopped) (mom uses the dried onion in a bottle, but I prefer fresh )
1/4 C Butter
1/4 C flour
2 C milk
8 oz shredded cheddar cheese
VEGGIES - chopped to bite sized, whatever floats your boat but here's what's going into my soup: asparagus, green beans, corn, red pepper, zucchini, red potato, broccoli, mushrooms, carrots, celery and maybe a jalapeno (if it isn't squashy - it's leftover from last week)

Bring the stock (or water) to a boil and toss in all veggies except the onion.  cover and simmer for 10 minutes.  DO NOT DRAIN!

In a separate sauce pan, saute the onions in the butter until translucent.  Add the flour and cook for about a minute (just to get that raw floury flavor cooked out) then slowly add in the milk and stir until all the lumps are gone and it's a thick, velvety sauce.   Add the shredded cheddar cheese to this sauce and stir in until all lovely and melted (mouth is watering).  Pour the cheese sauce into the soup and mix to combine.  Let it come to hot, but NOT BOILING. 

Serve with a nice, hot loaf of crusty bread and a little pot of butter. 

And a big glass of wine.

About all of those veggies: I literally grab one or two of things.  Like, 1 potato (and it's small), I've got some leftover carrots & celery.  I held back a few stalks of asparagus from dinner earlier this week -- but if you do use a TON of veggies and it's too much veg to broth - just increase things proportionally.  I will often do this with 1/3 C each of the butter/flour and increase it to 3 cups of milk and add an extra handful of cheese.

This is a VERY forgiving recipe.  You can use whatever you have on hand and alter to suit.  I happen to have some left over thyme in my fridge so I'll add some of that - but whatever works for you and you happen to have handy, will probably taste excellent.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Chicken Parmesan

Mmmm... it's like chicken nuggets for grown ups.  Everyone loves this stuff... and it's actually pretty easy, just a little prep work, a few extra dishes and some planning but it's SO worth it.

Heat oven to 375 & start the water for the pasta

1 Pkg boneless/skinless chicken breasts - trim & pound these so they're an even thickness
2 eggs - beaten
1/2 C flour (season with salt & pepper)
1/2 C breadcrumbs (seasoned or add some Italian seasoning - thyme, oregano, basil)
1/2 C grated parmesan cheese

1 jar pasta sauce
1 box spaghetti
mozzarella (fresh or shreds or slices - whatever you've got handy)

put out three shallow bowl:
A): flour, salt & pepper
B): 2 eggs beaten
C): breadcrumbs & cheese

dip your trimmed, pounded chicken into the flour so there's just the slightest coating over the whole piece.  Then into the egg, making sure it's fully coated, and then into the breadcrumb mixture.  This is very messy and I find that tongs are the best tool for me. 

Lay your coated chicken out on cookie sheet and repeat with the rest of the chicken. Bake for 15 minutes then flip the chicken.  The chicken should be cooked through - if so go ahead & top each piece with a spoonfull of spaghetti sauce, then top with fresh mozzarella cheese and pop back into the oven for 5-10 min (cheese should be bubbly).  If you find that the chicken isn't quite done at that 15 minutes, flip it, pop it back in the oven for 5-10 min before the sauce/cheese step.

While the chicken is baking, get the pasta in the water and heat up your spaghetti sauce.

Drain the pasta & toss with the remaining spaghetti sauce.  Serve the chicken next to the pasta, add a salad and maybe some garlic bread if you're "carbing up" and enjoy!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Pasta Fagioli - Crockpot version

I found this online somewhere a year or so ago and have tweaked only slightly...

Brown up a pound of ground beef (or turkey)
add a diced onion and cook until onion is translucent then put into crockpot with the following ingredients:

1 can Cannelini beans (rinse/drain)
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes (do not drain)
1 C leftover spaghetti sauce (or small can of Ragu or tomato sauce with the Italian herbs)
3 carrots - chopped
3 ribs celery - chopped
1 box of beef broth
1 tsp EACH: oregano, thyme, parsley

cook on low for 8 hours. 

When you get home, add 1/2 box of pasta shells, crank the heat up to high for 30 minutes.  The pasta will have cooked and soaked up much of the broth.

Serve with a salad and a nice, hot loaf of Italian bread.

SO satisfying after a soccer game on a chilly night!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Tandoori Chicken

I think I mentioned that I found this in Family Circle magazine a year or so ago.  They had you do it in chunks and skewer it, but that's a bit too much effort most evenings.  So I just do the whole chicken breasts and then chunk them after cooking.

1 pkg boneless/skinless chicken breasts
1 TB minced Garlic
1 TB crushed Ginger
2 TB Canola Oil
1 TB (or to taste) Curry Powder
Mix all the above together and let sit for 5-10 min while you start the rice, heat the grill, etc.

Make one pot brown rice (I make the 45 minute kind so plan accordingly - but whatever works for you).

Take 1 bunch of asparagus, trim the ends & wash it well.  Drizzle with olive oil and grill - just until bright green with little char marks. 

While the chicken is grilling and the rice is cooking, take 1 cup (1 carton) of plain, fat free yogurt and add the zest & juice of one lime.  Mix well & set aside.

Bring the chicken in off the grill and allow to rest for 3-5 minutes then chop the chicken and asparagus into bite sized pieces.  Put the rice in a shallow bowl, top with chicken & asparagus then a good dollop of the sauce. 


Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween & Election Week Menu

It's STILL 80 degrees & sunny here in Texas so I've decided to cook like it's Fall, even if the weather won't cooperate.    Here's the menu:

Halloween: Moroccan Beef Stew
A sweet & savory quick stew with dried apricots & currants.  Sounds exotic but it's easy and smells amazing.  Added bonus of an excuse to open a bottle of wine and a "spooky" purple color make this a perfect meal before heading out to Trick or Treat!

Monday: Tandoori Chicken
Found the original for this recipe in Family Circle magazine and it's SO quick & easy that I don't even have to look it up anymore, I've got it memorized.

Tuesday: Pasta Fagioli
A classic Italian soup, but in an easy, slow-cooker version with a little bit of cheating to make it SUPER simple.

Wednesday: Chicken Parmesan
Baked, not fried, so it's actually a pretty healthy meal.

Thursday: My Mom's Cheese Soup
Chock full of whatever veggies looked good at the store, a rich, warm, comforting soup.  I love this stuff SO much that I don't even mind having to stop by the store that night to pick up fresh bread.  It's one of my favorite meals ever. 

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Cheez-it Chicken

Yep, it's what it sounds like!  Yummy.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

1 package chicken tenderloins (or boneless skinless breasts, sliced into tenders)
Cheez-its (approx 2 cups whole, 1 cup crushed)
1 C. shredded cheddar
2 eggs

Scramble the eggs in a bowl and toss in the raw chicken so it all gets coated.

In a large plastic bag, mix the shredded cheese and the crushed Cheez-it's.  Then add in the egg-coated chicken strips.  Do these one at a time for the best coating. 

Lay the strips out on a cookie sheet and bake in a 400 degree oven for 20 min.  Serve with Ranch & BBQ sauce for dipping.

As sides, I serve steamed broccoli and sweet potato fries -- you can eat the whole meal with your fingers! 

SUPER kid friendly and, if you use the whole grain Cheez-it's, probably fairly healthy.  :)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Jungle Salad (the dangers of multi-tasking)

I remembered thinking about Madeira Pork and put it on the menu... but was distracted and forgot that we actually have gorgeous weather (still 80 degrees and sunny!) and decided on a salad tonight.  Whoops!  Since I somehow managed to buy the stuff for both meals and the salad fixings won't keep... here's how to make Jungle Salad.

This salad was inspired by one that Houston's serves, but I've gone off on my own to create what works for my family... you can do the same.

1 bag salad greens
Leftover steak (rare, sliced thin - or jsut grill it rare & slice it super thin)
Peanut Dressing (bottled is fine, but I often mix leftover peanut sauce with rice vinegar & make my own)
Toppings (all the below would be chopped into bite sized pieces, vary these to whatever floats your boat and happens to be in your fridge)

Green Onions
Red bell pepper
Water chestnuts
Carrot (matchsticks)
Mandarin Oranges
Fresh Mint & Cilantro (we use TONS, but whatever works for you)
Sliced Almonds
Toss it all together and top with peanut dressing and serve.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Black Bean & Chicken Nachos

Preheat oven to 350

1 can black beans rinsed/drained
1 can corn drained
1 jalapeno, seeded minced
Leftover grilled chicken, chopped
Fistful of fresh cilantro, chopped
shredded cheese
Sour Cream

Put out shallow, oven proof plates/platters for each person (I use the Corningware ones we got for our wedding.  If you got married in the US in the past 20 yrs, you have 'em too.)

Layer tortilla chips out in a single layer on each platter.
Sprinkle lightly with cheese.  Top with black beans, corn, jalapeno & chicken then sprinkle again with cheese (helps hold all the toppings on). 

Bake for approx 15 min (cheese should be nice & melty).  Remove from oven & sprinkle with cilantro. 

Serve directly from the platters - set on trivets instead of placemats - give each person a small dish with sour cream & salsa. 

This is obviously just one way to do it.  We've used leftover smoked brisket and it's fantastic.  You could skip the meat altogether or add other fun stuff like black olives, green chilis, tomatoes (get 'em really dry first though or you'll have gross, soggy chips).   Get creative (or desperate) with what you've got on hand... you never know when you'll have an inspired combination. 

Monday, October 25, 2010

Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup

For an evening when we have to get dinner on the table fast, not everyone is home and it's supposed to be a rainy evening, seems like Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup is a natural.

I really like the Wolfgang Puck canned soups.  The Tomato Basil is really good (and certainly better than my one attempt at homemade tomato soup thickened with croutons... but that's a long & relatively disgusting story of a recipe gone horribly, horribly wrong).

I really don't do anything too special for Grilled Cheese but one little trick I use is to do them on the griddle (do 3-4 sandwiches at once) and, instead of buttering the bread, I take a cold stick of butter and rub it on the hot pan in each place I'm about to place a sandwich.  Saves time, tastes just as good.  I will probably put a slice of ham into each sandwich tonight for a little extra protein but it's certainly not necessary.

A big bowl full of bread & butter pickles and this is a quick meal that makes everyone feel happy & loved.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Rigatoni with Butternut Squash

1 Butternut squash - peeled, seeded and chopped into bite sized pieces
1 box Rigatoni (or other large, hearty pasta)
6-8 slices bacon (or the whole pkg - whatever) - chopped into bite sized pieces
2 shallots sliced very thin
6-8 fresh sage leaves (1 tsp dried sage)
leftover grilled chicken chopped into bite sized pieces (Optional)
1 cup grated parmesan cheese

** This is a cool technique where you cook the pasta most of the way, then pull about a cup of the cooking water out, toss the drained pasta with the ingredients & the cooking water.  It enables the pasta to soak up the oils & flavors of the ingredients and make it's own sauce.  Once you figure this out you can do tons of different things using the same idea. **

Toss  squash pieces with olive oil, salt & pepper.  Roast 10 min at 400, toss and cook another 10 min.

Start the water and boil the rigatoni the lowest amount of time on the package (if it says 11-13 min - just do the 11 - you want it very al dente because it'll cook more after you take it out).

In a pan fry the chopped up bacon.  When it's crispy, add the shallots and cook another minute.  Add in the chicken (if using) and toss to get everything coated and heated through. 

Wearing an oven mitt, use a heatproof measuring cup to remove about a cup of the water from the pasta & set aside.   Drain the pasta and then toss into pan with bacon.  Add about 1/2 of the reserved water and stir up all the bits from the bottom of the pan.   The pasta will soak up the bacon & water, giving it tons of flavor.  If the pasta isn't quite done or you need more time - add the rest of the water.  Then toss in the squash pieces and gently toss to combine (some smooshing will happen & that's okay).  Add in 3/4 of the cheese and the sage.  Toss to combine.  Pour into large bowl, top with the rest of the cheese and serve. 

** If you wanted to do this without bacon, you could brown butter and follow the recipe.  If you wanted to go vegetarian, you could brown butter and then, instead of bacon, you could toss in about 3/4 cup of walnuts and saute them in the butter as it browns.  I've not tried it but I bet that would be fantastic! **

October 24 - Menu

Sunday: Rigatoni with Butternut Squash
Rigatoni tossed with fresh sage & shallots, roasted butternut squash, parmesan and bacon. 

Monday: Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup
Just what it sounds like... it's a busy night and this is quick & easy.

Tuesday: Black Bean & Chicken Nachos
Tortilla chips topped with grilled chicken, black beans, corn and cheese then baked to yummy goodness

Wednesday: Madeira Pork
Pork tenderloin sauteed with shallots & Madeira wine sauce, with asparagus & rice.  It's like fancy restaurant food, but actually a simple technique & fast enough for a weeknight.

Thursday: Cheezit Chicken
Yep, a favorite with the kiddo (and husband).  Chicken nuggets, broccoli & sweet potato fries. 

Friday, October 22, 2010

Go Rangers!!!

Our hometown team, the Texas Rangers, are one game away from the World Series and tonight we will be grabbing a quick dinner at one of our favorite local restaurants, Johnny G's, and then heading home to watch the Yankee's go DOWN!!

Johnny G's is a  Cajun/Italian place (sounds weird but it's fantastic) owned by a friend of ours.  Johnny is a great, natural cook and he learned to do really good, authentic Cajun food while stationed in Louisiana.  His mother, who cooks at the restaurant some nights, is from Italy - hence the odd combination. But it works and it's one of our favorites.  

Check it out at:

Hope you have some relaxing & yummy plans for the evening.  GO RANGERS!!!!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Pork Milanese

Last night of the week for cooking and this one seems like more effort but it's worth the bit of prep it takes.  This is a simple, classic preparation for pork but you can do the same thing with almost any piece of meat or meaty vegetable (eggplant, zucchini). 

Start with your boneless, thin cut pork loin chops - trim them very well - no fat or icky bits left.
Working one at a time, pound each between two sheets of waxed paper (if you don't have a meat pounder, get one but the side of a can will work in a pinch).  The cutlets should be pretty thin but not see-through or shredded.  Looking for uniformity more than anything.   This process ensures even cooking and super tender meat.

Take out three shallow bowls (I use pasta bowls) and line them up:
   Bowl A: 3/4 cup flour,  1 tsp salt, several grinds of pepper & mix with fork to combine
   Bowl B: 2 eggs beaten with a fork
   Bowl C: 3/4 cup panko (you could use bread crumbs but panko is TOTALLY worth it).

Start a pan on the stove with about 1/3 inch of canola oil over medium heat. 

Working quickly, take pork and coat each in flour, shake off the excess and then into the egg.  When fully coated, press into the panko.  Scoop some panko out from the sides and press it on top, flip it over and do again.  Looking for a nice, even coating.  Gently set on a plate and repeat. 

Once oil is hot (drop a few bits of panko in there - if it sizzles, you're ready to go).  Gently place cutlets into oil one at a time. Do not crowd the pan - you don't want to cool the oil down too much.  You will probably need to work in batches.  Cook approx 4-5 min per side -- just go by the golden brown color.  The pork is so thin that you shouldn't have any problems with undercooking.  You want the coating to be an appealing, nutty/golden/brown.

When the pork is done, remove to a plate covered in paper towels and sprinkle liberally with salt.

While the pork is cooking, do the beans.
In a saucepan, heat 1 TB Olive Oil and add 1 clove chopped garlic - simmer 1 minute then add
2 cans Cannellini Beans - rinsed & drained
1 can diced tomatoes (it's totally fine to use the Italian seasoned ones)
add additional Thyme, Oregano if you like and then salt & pepper to taste.
Allow it all to come up to a slight simmer and then turn down the heat and keep warm until serving.

When you're done with the pork, pour off remaining grease.  There should still be a good coating in the pan.  Allow it to cool SLIGHTLY (med heat) and toss in 1 clove chopped garlic and stir up the bits for about 30 seconds.  Toss in entire bag of baby spinach and toss, toss, toss until fully wilted.

Serve with sliced lemons and squeeze the lemon over the pork and spinach.  A little drizzle of red wine vinegar is also super good if you don't have lemons.

That's it... enjoy!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

BBQ Ranch Chicken Salad

I am NOT complaining... but (okay, maybe it is complaining) ... but it's 85 degrees and sunny.  Again.

I am so ready for Autumn.  For soups and risotto and stews and lots of carbs... but none of those sound good when it's so beautiful outside.  SO... here's tonights dinner: BBQ Ranch Chicken Salad

I got the idea for this from a fantastic salad at Chili's.  The ranch dressing at Chili's is the best and nothing else comes close - but all the other flavors in this salad help to make up for the lack of excitement in the dressing.

1 bag of salad greens - rinsed & chilled
1 handful of fresh cilantro, rinsed/chopped (I toss this in the salad spinner with the lettuce but don't chop it too small or it'll flow out the vents.  Trust me on that one.)

Grill 2 boneless/skinless chicken breasts and baste with BBQ sauce (Sweet Baby Ray's is my favorite). 
Chop & set aside (this is also GREAT for leftover chicken - just chop & toss with BBQ sauce).

1 can black beans, rinsed/drained
1 can Niblets, drained
1 avocado, chopped
1 lime - juiced

toss the avocado with the lime & ranch dressing.  Then toss it all with the salad/cilantro and place into bowls.
Top with a handful of corn/black beans and then the BBQ chicken.

Easy peasy.  Great additions would be: chopped peppers, BACON, cheese - you could surely sub out taco meat -- but this is a big favorite in my house and my six year old ALWAYS eats several bowls of salad when I serve this. 

That's it!!  Hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Taco Tuesday!!

I'm really not sure why, but Taco Tuesday never fails to make me happy.

Simple dinner, happy family... I guess it's not a big mystery.

We do our tacos "Taco Johns' Style"  - meaning that we take a soft, flour tortilla (warmed in the microwave for a few seconds) - spread it with some refried beans and then wrap it around a crispy, corn taco shell filled with meat, cheese, sour cream, tomatoes, lettuce & salsa. 

It's easier for kiddos to handle, less messy for the adults and, honestly, don't refried beans just taste SO good??

For the taco meat, I don't use the taco seasoning packets, but you can if you like.  If you want to do your own, here's how:
Brown the beef
when browned but still with some juices in pan, add:
- 1/2 tsp granulated garlic
- 1 TB cumin
- 1 TB chili powder
- 1/2 tsp oregano
- dash of dried onion (if you like)
salt & pepper to taste
then just brown it off until the juices are fully evaporated & serve it up.

In case you don't agree with me about the refritos... here's my secret:  Bacon fat.  Yep, not gonna lie.  I buy the vegetarian refried beans (because I read the ingredients once).  I feel SO virtuous at the grocery store and then I come home, plop that mess into a sauce pan with a dollop of bacon grease.  Melt it all together and enjoy the happiness that only pork-fat can render (pun intended). 

Happy Taco Tuesday!!  Enjoy

Monday, October 18, 2010

Jewel's Jasmine-Turkey Burgers

This one sounds like a lot of ingredients but it's actually pretty quick & easy.

I posted the link to the original recipe on the "Recipes" page - but I've tweaked it a bit by grilling (healthier and it doesn't stink up the house the way frying does). 

These burgers go a long way - they're dense and full of flavor.  Even my 6-yr old scarfs down this whole meal every time.  The pickles are a HUGE hit and even the mayo gets rave reviews - I recommend starting with the pickles so that they have time to marinate.  Make more than you think you need because they are SUPER yummy!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

This weeks menu!

Sunday:  Amazon Chicken
Grilled boneless skinless chicken breasts
Corn/Blackbean Salsa
Cilantro/lime rice
"Amazon" sauce - cilantro/garlic mayo

Monday: Turkey Burgers
Turkey burgers
Ginger/Wasabi Mayo
Japanese pickles

Tuesday: Taco Night!!
Hard shelled tacos wrapped in soft-shells

Wednesday: Chicken Ranch Salad
Bagged salad, grilled chicken with BBQ sauce
balck beans, avocados, corn, cilantro & ranch

Thursday: Pork Milanese
Sauteed & breaded pork cutlets
Sauteed spinach
Cannelini Beans & tomatoes

Shopping list is on the link at the top of the page.

I'll post recipes & techniques through the week. 

Enjoy!!  Please let me know if you have thoughts, ideas, comments...

Friday, October 15, 2010

Friday Free Day!

As you may have gathered from the title of my blog - I do not cook on Friday.  Like... ever. 

Tonight we headed over to Marcus High School with a rowdy crew of friends to partake in a Texas tradition: Friday Night Lights!  Marcus VS. Plano in high school football.  Good times, lousy food.  Popcorn, ballpark nachos and no beer.  (How did I not remember that they don't serve beer at high school football games?)

Thankfully, we were able to grab some Chinese take-out at Empress before the game.  Singapore style curry noodles with chicken and some lo mein starts an evening off right. 

That's it!  Happy Friday!!  I'll post a menu & grocery list on Sunday.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Pasta Carbonara is oh so good!

The first time I made pasta carbonara, my family loved it but they refused to eat the salad I had made to go along with it, indulging, instead, in second helpings of the pasta.  So when I saw a recipe that included spinach IN the dish - I had to try it.

I put the recipe on the "Recipes" page but it's super easy, fast and tastes great.  The spinach goes really well and didn't detract at all from the flavor. 

One note - as you work in the spinach, it starts out looking like a LOT of spinach - as it wilts, you'll have no problem but I did drop several leaves out on the floor.  My dog was VERY disappointed to discover that, although he could smell bacon, eggs and cheese ... what fell on the floor was spinach.  Not his favorite moment of the day.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Stubbs Pork on the grill!

Okay... it's not actually Wednesday YET... but I figured I'd get directions for dinner out early since it is best if you give it time to marinate.

I didn't put Stubbs Marinade for Pork on my grocery list or staples because I happened to have WAY over-bought not too long ago (somehow I have two unopened bottles and a half in the fridge).  So ... if you don't have it, use something else or just do some salt & pepper... it's a simple meal for a night when you really, really just need to get through it.  But, I gotta say - it is the BEST pork marinade I've ever had.  Props to Mr. Stubbs.  It's the goods.

SO... if you have the marinade, shake & pour into a plastic gallon bag (about a 1/2 bottle or so).  I use the thin cut, bone in pork loin chops - but whatever floats your boat.  These are fast cooking and have TONS of flavor because they have so much surface area.

Wednesday Night: 
Preheat the oven to 375
Peel the sweet potatoes and slice into thin (1/4 in or slightly thinner)  rounds.  Toss in a bowl with olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder, cumin and a dash of cayenne.  Pour onto a rimmed baking sheet and pop into oven for 15 minutes.   Then flip 'em and do another 15 min.

While that's cooking, clean the broccoli and chop into florets.  Steam it until just bright green but still crisp.  Toss the broccoli to dry it a bit, put into serving bowl, crack some pepper ovre it and then put a generous handful of parmesan cheese over top of the broccoli.
In a SMALL saucepan, melt 2 TB butter on medium heat - keep an eye on it once it's gotten past that bubbly/frothy stage.  It'll start to brown and then it'll froth again - kinda keep swirling it - once it's turned a nutty brown color pull it off the heat and pour it over the cheese/broccoli.  Trust me - it's so good.

Somewhere about the time you're starting the broccoli - send your husband out to grill the pork chops.  They should be over high/direct heat for about 3 min per side.  I usually serve this with a side of apple sauce because I dig apples & pork together - but it's not critical.

Toss the sweet potatoes with some sea salt and plate up dinner.   It's easier than it sounds and the whole thing should be ready in about 30 mintues -- as you get used to the rhythm things will flow... I promise.

That's it... enjoy!!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Shredded potato crusted pie

So last night we wound up drinking our dinner with friends Annie & Ryan.  It was fun and totally worth it, but that meant that tonight we had the salmon (and it was fantastic).

BUT if you're making the potato pie - here's what you do:

Preheat oven to 425.
In large bowl combine bag of Simply Potatoes, 2 eggs and 1/3 C Parmesan cheese.  Press into greased high sided casserole dish and pop in oven for 15 min (the edges may have started to brown & it should be fairly dry)... if it cooks a bit longer, it's not a big deal.

While that is cooking, saute together:
1 zucchini sliced
1 sm summer squash sliced
1/2 sweet yellow onion
1 red pepper chopped
1/2 bag frozen corn
1/2 C chopped ham (optional - I do a bunch of slices of honey ham and just chop 'em)
-- you can pretty much do anything here - I LOVE the crispy/sweet of the corn/peppers but whatever floats your boat.  I've done green beans, asparagus, mushrooms - you name it.  it worksl

once that's all sauteed  and crisp/tender (approx 10 min), pull off heat.  Stir in 1/4 Cup milk beaten with 2 eggs, 1 tsp dried basil (or a few chopped fresh leaves if you've got it) and about 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese.

Pour the gloppy mess into the potato crust and top with more cheese.  Back into the oven for about 20 more minutes (typical doneness characteristics - should be set firm, browning but not browned).  I"d let it cool on the counter about 5 min before slicing so it can settle.

This is adapted from an ad I saw for Simply Potatoes about 15 years ago... (credit where it's due) but I've tweaked it a lot. 

That's it... hope you like it.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Shouldn't it be colder outside?

Fifteen years in Texas and it still throws me to have 80+ days... I feel like I should be roasting, braising and stewing... but it's just too nice outside for that.  I'm not complaining about our fantastic weather... it's just throwing off my menu mojo a bit.

Here's this weeks' menu.  It's kind of a crazy week with soccer games and my boss in town, so all easy/fast and very low on creativity.  It'll get better... I promise!  

I'll post recipes/techniques later in the week.  For now, here is the menu:

Sunday: Salmon grilled with an Asian glaze, rice with sesame/orange and sauteed spinach.

Monday: Potato pie (shredded potato crust filled with zucchini, ham, sweet corn and red peppers)

Tuesday: Soccer game, I'm out and a fundraiser for Becca's school so they're going to Schlotzky's

Wednesday: Pork chops on the grill, broccoli and roasted sweet potatoes

Thursday: Pasta Carbonara (but I'm going to try to add a tiny bit of redeeming value by adding in some fresh spinach - idea from Food & Wine).

Here's how to make dinner tonight:

zest & juice two oranges - put half aside for rice
to the remaining zest/juice add:
2 TB dark brown sugar
1 tsp grated ginger (I buy the jarred stuff in the produce section)
1 tsp crushed garlic (fresh is better but I often use the jarred stuff)
1 tsp sesame oil
1 TB soy sauce
all amounts are approximate - it should be kind of thick/glossy

grill the salmon and brush on the glaze, heat remainder on stovetop as a sauce.
Prepare white rice and when it's done, stir in the juice/zest and about a teaspoon of sesame oil, stir and set aside for about 5 min.

heat olive oil & garlic in pan, toss in the spinach and saute for about 2-3 min - until JUST wilted. 

Done.  Hope you enjoy...

Friday, October 8, 2010

Pantry Items

Organization is the best tool in the world for a working mom.  One system we have in our house is a list on the fridge of things we need to add to the weeks list.  Every year I seem to get a few of these little magnetic pads from real estate agents, garnders and financial planners so they get stuck on the fridge.  Whenever we run low on any basics (Olive Oil, peppercorns, etc) that we wouldn't normally even check for, we just put it on the list and when I sit down to figure out the menu, I always grab that list for the grocery list.  Simple step but saves a Wednesday night meltdown when I realize that we don't have any crushed tomatoes and I'm making pasta, right?

As I figure out this blog thing, I'll put together a list of basics for the pantry that could be used when you're embarking on a new mission of home-cooked meals, better organization and calmer evenings.

Happy Friday!!