Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Something to think about...

I realize that my posts are almost exclusively about food, but I wanted to share this. My dad told me this story about a year ago and I think of it often. He went on a short-term missions trip to India to visit an orphanage about 4 years ago and while there he heard a whistle echo throughout the orphanage every night around 3am. After a few nights, he decided to ask the significance of the nightly whistle-blowing. It was explained to him that because of the frequent occurence of nightmares in small children's lives and the lack of parents available to orphans, the whistle served as a reminder to the young children. The whistle signifies the presence of God in their lives, and that even if they awaken with a nightmare, that God is there to protect them and to comfort. Every time one of my children wakes with a nightmare (like last night), I am reminded of this lesson: not only is God always there for each one of us, but that I also have the privilege of comforting my children. In this hectic season of life that I find myself in, I need to daily be thankful for my children and to thank God for every opportunity to comfort, nurture, teach, and to love each one of my children.

I would encourage you today to be attentive to the blessings that God has given you [in the form of children, husbands, family, and friends]. It is so easy to take our blessings for granted.

Vegetable Enchiladas

I really enjoy vegetables. I often notice that there is a lack of flavor in vegetarian dishes, however. I think sometimes a few extra spices or herbs can make all of the difference in added taste. Last night I was asked to make veggie enchiladas for a community dinner. I tried to create a recipe that used lots of flavor but also tasted really fresh. I searched my go-to website for ideas: and didn't really have much success. So I decided to instead "build" added layers of flavor. I think it was pretty successful. For the true test, I will feed this to my carnivores sometime in the near future!

Even though this takes a little bit more time to create, it is a one-dish meal and some of the ingredients take no more effort than to open a can!

Veggie Enchiladas
10 whole wheat tortillas
2 large red peppers, sliced
2 medium onions, sliced
2 T olive oil
smoked paprika
"Goya" yellow rice, follow package directions
1 can black beans
1 can chipotle peppers (in adobo sauce), chopped
1 can pickled jalapenos, chopped
1 jar pico de gallo (I used "Goya"but you could also use salsa)
3 T butter
3 T flour
1 cup milk
4 cups shredded cheddar, divided
3/4 cup chopped cilatro, if desired
1 can enchilada sauce (green or red, personal preference)

1. Combine peppers, onions, and next four ingredients. Grill or saute over medium-high heat or until nicely browned (but still firm). Set aside.
2. Mix prepared rice and next four ingredients. Set aside.
3. Prepare cheese sauce: Create a "white" sauce by melting butter, stirring in flour and adding milk slowly until thickened. Stir in 3 cups shredded cheddar and stir until melted. Stir in half of the cilantro. Set aside.
4. Assemble enchiladas: tortilla, rice mixture, peppers and onions, and a spoonful of cheese sauce. Fold in half and place "upside down" (seam down) in a 9x13 baking pan. After the pan is assembled, pour enchilada sauce over filled tortillas. Sprinkle cheese over the top.
5. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. After the enchiladas are finished baking, sprinkle with cilantro and serve with guacamole, salsa, and sour cream.

Monday, September 28, 2009

What the world eats in a week....

I just watched this slideshow and thought it was very interesting. I usually don't budget what I purchase for food, but it would be interesting to lay out what we eat in a week and figure out the cost. How about you? Do you budget a certain amount for groceries?

I couldn't believe (well, I kind of could...) the horrendous things the U.S. family was eating. I counted maybe one or two fruits in that pile of processed foods, sodas, take-out pizzas, and juices. Also heartbreaking, but in a different way, were the pictures of those precious kids [in Ecuador and Mali] who really don't have much food to eat in a week.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Sesame Ginger Flank Steak and Creamy Cole Slaw

My kids love steak. While I sometimes splurge on ribeye's, usually I buy flank steak or skirt steak. Both cuts are much less expensive, cook quite quickly, and are fairly lean. I have found that "Newman's Own" sesame ginger salad dressing is the perfect marinade for flank steak. It's that simple:marinate the steak, grill, and eat it!

Coleslaw is more of a summer salad, but with cabbage in season and the grilled meat, I think it would be a nice side. My mom always made the sweet and sour version of "pepper slaw" and we ate it with things like oyster pie and pot pie. I like the pepper slaw, but I love creamy coleslaw, especially on pulled pork sandwiches.

I'll also include a recipe for "root veggie chips", although I am not sure anyone will rush right out and and make them. I happen to think they're rather tasty, but let's just say I'm the only one in this house who eats them. Either way, if you're feeling adventurous, I say go for it.

Sesame-Ginger Flank Steak
"Newman's Own" sesame-ginger salad dressing
flank steak (1/2 lb per person)

1. Marinate steak at least four hours.
2. Grill over medium-high heat for 8-9 minutes per side.
3. Let rest at least five minutes, then slice diagonally into thin pieces.

Creamy Coleslaw
1/2 head of green cabbage, sliced thinly
1/2 head purple cabbage, sliced thinly
2 apples, chopped finely
3 T chopped chives
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped coarsley
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tsp whole-grain mustard
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp celery seed

Mix dressing ingredients into large bowl, then add the chopped apples, veggies, and chives. Stir to coat, and refrigerate for at least four hours, stirring every so often.

Root Vegetable Chips
sweet potatoes
gold potatoes

1. Thinly slice veggies into "chips". I use a mandoline slicer and try to use the setting that would produce chips 1/8 inch thick.
2. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. I keep the beet slices separate, as the juice will bleed into the other vegetables.
3. Roast veggies at 395 degrees for 25 minutes, stirring once. The result will be crispy and browned deliciousness--no, really they are delicious!
I dare you to try them :)

Friday, September 25, 2009

butternut-spiced pancakes--and a pie, too!

Whenever I make pancakes, I follow my [well-worn and terribly stained] Betty Crocker basic recipe. A few years ago, I experimented with different additions and alternatives. Our favorites were: lemon-ricotta, pumpkin-spice, and banana oatmeal.

The basic recipe is just that, basic- and begs for creativity! The pumpkin-spice pancakes are made simply by substituting pumpkin puree for the 1/2 cup of vegetable oil. A few shakes of pumpkin pie spice round out the flavor, and pure maple syrup is the perfect topping.

It is super simple to make your own pumpkin (or butternut squash, interchangeably) puree. Basically, all I do is stick the whole thing in the oven [on a cookie sheet] at 370 degrees for about an hour or until tender. I then scoop out the flesh, puree it in a blender, and then voila- it's finished.

I have also included Rob's grandmother's pumpkin pie recipe. I love to top the pie with fresh whipped cream; all you need to do is whip heavy cream into peaks, add the desired amount of sugar and freshly grated nutmeg and you have the ideal compliment to a perfectly chilled and creamy piece of pie. I hope you enjoy these tastes of fall!

Butternut-spice pancakes
2 large eggs
2 cups all-purpose or whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups milk
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1 T brown sugar
4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 T pumpkin-pie spice

1. Beat eggs in large bowl with whisk until fluffy.
2. Beat in remaining ingredients until just smooth.
3. After cooking in non-stick skillet, top with plenty of butter and maple syrup. For a little extra decadence, top with fresh whipped cream!

Grandma Teague's pumpkin pie
2 cups pumpkin puree
1 1/2 tsp salt
3 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp [additional] cinnamon
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 cups whole milk or evaporated milk

1. Place pumpkin in skillet. Mix and add the dry ingredients to hot pumpkin. Stir well.
2. Beat eggs in large bowl and add milk. Slowly add pumpkin mixture to egg mixture. Add to your favorite prepared crust.
3. Bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes; reduce heat to 300 degrees and bake for 45 minutes, or until knife comes out clean.

***I use the very basic pie crust recipe: 1/3 cup (plus 1T) shortening/butter, 1 cup flour, 1 tsp salt, 5T ice water (this is a rough estimate...I just look for the right's just a practice thing***

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A Naughty Sandwich....and some cabbage

I've decided to take pity on you! This is one of my favorite sandwiches of all time, and the naughty part is the Velveeta melted on top. I am fully aware that the packaging on the box describes the product as "pasteurized processed cheese food"....I agree that this also scares me and I've never looked at the ingredient list because I like to use it every once in a while. There is nothing else that imparts such a salty,smooth, and [let's face it] naughty taste. The great news is that you only need a very thin slice to top the sandwich and that you will be in control of the rest of the ingredients. I'm sure all in all this is a healthier choice than most restaurant sandwiches. (and, it's super easy!!!)

When we visited Wisconsin with friends, we enjoyed porchetta. After some research into how to create this at home, (in WI they sell the seasoned and raw version in grocery stores) I discovered that this is basically an Italian pork roast. I prepare mine in the crockpot and it is perfect for a weeknight dinner or would also work well for a casual get-together.

I buy the "dark" meat version of the pork roast. (not sure what it's termed, I just ask the butcher) I think it's more tender, but it's all a personal preference. The spice rub is a combination of dried herbs, most importantly, fennel seeds and rosemary. I searched and searched in the spice section and could not find fennel seeds, so I decided to use "herbes de provence" and was thrilled with the results. For those not familiar with this, it's basically a spice blend combining ingredients commonly used in french provincial cooking (thyme, basil, savory, fennel, and lavender).

Also, as promised, here is the recipe for my sauteed cabbage....I'll give you two ideas to try cabbage (and hopefully find that you'll like it!).

Porchetta sandwiches
3 lb pork roast (with or without bone)
olive oil
salt, pepper
3 garlic cloves, sliced thinly
herbes de provence
dried rosemary

1. Slice into meat of roast. Slide garlic slivers into each slit.
2. Liberally cover meat with spices (including salt and pepper) and drizzle with olive oil. After massaging spices and olive oil into meat, cover and refrigerate for at least two hours or overnight.
3. Place into crockpot and cook on low all day.
4. Shred meat and place onto crusty rolls, (be sure to include plenty of juices) top with Velveeta and brown sandwiches (open-faced) in oven at 300 degrees until cheese is melted.

Sauteed cabbage
two very informal recipes:

version #1
1/2 head of cabbage, sliced thinly
2 slices bacon, chopped coarsley
1 T olive oil

Brown pieces of bacon until almost crispy, add olive oil and cabbage and saute until cabbage is barely wilted.

version #2
1/2 head of cabbage, sliced thinly
2 T olive oil
pepper to taste
soy sauce

Saute cabbage in olive oil over medium heat until barely wilted and a little browned. Add pepper and soy sauce to taste, remove from heat while still crunchy.

***one more idea for using cabbage: create a chicken stir-fry with julienned carrots, cabbage slivers, onions, mushrooms, snow peas, chicken and soy sauce over brown rice***

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Be Warned.....

Since this usually works so well for my kids, I'm going to challenge you to try something, I'm really tired of calling my insurance company and talking about "pos" codes, (I have my own little theory about what that actually stands for) out of network visits, deductibles, etc.

Yesterday I went to the butcher shop (a family farm that also raises fruits and vegetables) and stocked up on some "undesirables": cabbage, eggplant, turnips, parsnips, butternut squash, and lima beans. I'm assuming that each one of you is under the impression that you hate at least one of these items. I would like to challenge you to try one of these veggies.

Over the next few days I will post a few recipes starring this cast of characters.

Today: Lima beans in cream

I know what you're thinking, "that sounds fattening"...maybe, but the truth is, you only need to use a small amount of naturally occuring fats to achieve a very tasty result. The result in this instance, is tender and creamy deliciousness. I found this recipe on "orangette", and I believe her inspiration was Edna Lewis. I think she also uses the same technique for brussels sprouts.

Lima Beans in Cream (courtesy of "orangette" and Edna Lewis)
1 1/2 qts fresh or frozen lima beans (peeled or thawed, respectively)
enough water to boil
1/8 cup heavy cream
2 T butter
salt, pepper

1. Boil lima beans in a covered saucepan for about 20minutes, or until tender. I used fresh limas and would suggest this if possible.

2. Drain lima beans and place back into saucepan. Add heavy cream, butter, salt, and pepper and heat through until butter is melted and lima beans are silky and creamy (about 3 minutes).

stay tuned for: "fall butternut-spice pancakes", "sauteed cabbage with bacon", "penne with roasted eggplant, mushroom, and fresh tomato sauce", "roasted parsnip chips", and "turnip gratin". I really hope you discover that you actually like trying new things and that it is worth the extra effort to buy local!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Easter in September

I think it's because my family is largely "Pennsylvania Dutch", we enjoy dinners like: potpie, roast chicken with mashed potatoes and stuffing, roast beef, ham, etc. It drives Rob crazy, he says he would be happy with "Thanksgiving dinner" just once a year. Instead, we'll often have "thanksgiving" in February, April, August, etc. I was at the butcher shop last week and saw a really nice ham piece and thought, "you know, I could eat a little 'Easter in September'"! So, last night we had baked ham, sweet potato casserole, steamed green beans and apple cake[with raisins and pumpkin] (the cake was horrendous...another story for another day).

We ate after soccer practice and you know what? It tasted delicious! It's starting to get a little cooler at night and this was just very satisfying (plus it kept well, covered, on 250 degrees for an hour and a half while we were at practice).

I've heard many people say that they use coke or ginger ale on their ham, but because I didn't have any of that I just used Pellegrino (truthfully, I'm not sure if it's the carbonation or the sweetness in the soda, but it's all I had!).

I always use ham with a bone-in because it's cheaper, and I love to use the leftovers to make ham and bean soup.

Baked Ham

1 large piece of ham (approx 1/2 lb per person)
brown sugar
some sort of jelly (I used apple because that's what I had)
1 cup carbonated liquid

1. Pour soda over ham. Sprinkle brown sugar and spread jelly on the skin.
2. Bake, covered, at 350 degrees for about 1 1/2 to 2 hrs.

Sweet potato casserole
3 cups mashed potatoes (I baked mine whole and then mashed them)
1/3 stick butter, melted
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 T butter, melted
2 tsp cinnamon

1. Mix mashed sweet potatoes and next five ingredients until smooth and place into baking dish.
2. Combine pecans, melted butter (3T), brown sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle on top of sweet potatoes.
3. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes.

How we eat healthy....

I make a very conscious effort to feed my family as naturally as possible. I do not, however, buy organic (simply because I can't justify the cost). I prefer to call our eating style authentic. I shop locally, utilizing a great butcher shop, dairy, and farmstand that are all located within ten minutes of my home. I love the fact that I know where our food is coming from and I really appreciate being able to support local farmers.
I do have to supplement from traditional grocery stores with things like: cereal, "snacks", juices, pantry staples, etc. When I do this, I buy very selectively. I avoid trans fats, high fructose corn syrup, and generally anything that appears to be concocted in a labaratory. I have found that even if labels suggest that there are no "trans fats" or are "all natural", this can be very deceiving (legally they can claim 0 trans fats if there are less than .5g per serving). I just read today that even if 2% of daily calories include trans fats, the result is a 23% increase in heart disease! I read each list of ingredients before buying a product. Before you think I am the picture of health, I do this so that we only have healthy choices at home....last week we "inherited" some chips and starburst...and guess who ate most of them?? I have no self-control unless the junk is not around!
When preparing meals, I try to serve at least two vegetables and/or fruits. We usually don't have a problem reaching the recommended amount of fruits, but sometimes struggle with all the veggies we should be eating. To make this a little easier, I will prepare two vegetables with dinner, not necessarily something that everyone likes, but I try to get my kids to try different foods prepared different ways (sometimes they are surprised that they like something they thought they hated!). Another "trick" I use to up our veggie intake is to prepare soups or include different veggies in a pasta sauce.
When cooking or baking, I use butter and sugar (I think margarine and sorbitol are of the devil), olive oil, and canola oil. I have not fully switched over to lard from shortening, but I'll get there, as soon as I find a great product!
I also do not buy any "boxed" foods (cake or brownie mixes, store-baked items, etc). I try to bake every other day so that we have a better alternative to candy. I can regulate what I put into my baked goods, subsituting ingredients when possible (sometimes this does not turn out, like the hideous cake I made last night). The pre-packaged goods are filled with extra ingredients, preservatives, many cases, it is almost as easy to mix a few more ingredients and have a homemade version. I also keep ice cream on hand, from our favorite dairy (which uses no growth hormones). I realize that I am blessed to have extra time at home and I had a little taste of how working parents feel last week, but even if you can incorporate some new healthy ideas into your food consumption, it will be beneficial.
Feeding my family healthy food is very important to me, but not so much that it is an obsession. I think health can become an idol very easily. I know people that are so focused on eating healthy, that they lose sight of enjoying life. I simply am intentional about making everything from scratch (that I can) and ensuring that my family has a well-rounded and balanced diet. Truthfully, I realize that if I spent as much time feeding our soul(s) as I do our stomachs, we would be spiritual giants (I'm working on that, is a constant struggle).

Sunday, September 20, 2009

BBQ Ribs and Pierogi

Last week was kind of a crazy one for me. As many of you know, I occasionally work as a personal chef. My neighbor (and friend) just bought a really cool home and accessories boutique and was having a cocktail party on Thursday night. I was able to make some food for the evening. We had: smoked salmon crostada, bruschetta, potato and cheese pierogi, veggie tray (with hummus and red pepper dip), grilled chicken skewers, fruit tray, cheese tray, apple cider punch, mini lemon meringue tarts, molasses cookies, and cowboy cookies (for 100). It was tiring, but so fun and very rewarding...everyone really enjoyed everything and she had a great "opening"! Then, just when I thought I could relax on friday....

My "main" client called and needed, I went to the grocery store for the fifth time that week and got to work. Oh, and did I forget to mention that my boys and their friends headed up to the cabin to do some four-wheeling on Saturday so...I also had to shop and prepare food for them (cause they're helpless ya know!) So on Friday I made: chicken corn soup, grilled sausage sandwiches and strata (for the boys)...and for my client: fresh fruit, greek chicken salad, pasta salad, BBQ ribs (with pierogi and green beans), Grilled veggie ravioli, Grilled balsamic chicken (with fried potatoes and cauliflower), Lemon-caper tilapia (with wild rice and broccoli), and Meat Loaf (with baked sweet potato and corn).

Two things: I was tired of cooking (and more than a little grumpy) and it reminded me that I go through "phases" in my cooking....usually very seasonal and when I find something I really like, I kinda go crazy. (like with the balsamic chicken and the pierogi) I make the same things until I get sick of them or until I find something else to fall in love with. Since I've already told you about the chicken, I'll share the recipe for my beloved (for now) potato and cheese pierogi and because I had a special request, the rib recipe. As a side, one of my standby veggie recipes, roasted cauliflower with smoked paprika!

BBQ ribs (super easy and very yummy)
baby back ribs (I usually prepare 1/2 rack per adult)
1 cup sliced onions
1 cup ketchup
1/3 cup water
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 T worcestershire sauce
1/4 c vinegar
1/2 c brown sugar
2 T dry mustard
1 tsp paprika (the recipe for the sauce, I believe, is "Uncle Fun's"...thanks, Mike!)

1. Grill ribs on high heat until browned or blackened (whichever you prefer).
2. Remove ribs, cut into smaller pieces, and place in crockpot.
3. Mix remaining ingredients and pour over ribs.
4. Cook ribs in crockpot on low all day.

Potato and cheese pierogi (interestingly, I checked,and "pierogi" is the plural form of the word....)
won ton wrappers
russet potatoes (1/2 for each person) peeled and coarsely chopped
sour cream
cheddar cheese
salt, pepper
1 small onion, finely chopped (and browned in butter in a small skillet)

1. Cook russet potatoes until very tender.
2. Mix potatoes with remaining ingredients, except wrappers, until thick and smooth (add as much sour cream or butter as you like, you won't need too much). you know I'm not about the details, sorry!
3. Unwrap won tons, fill with mashed potato mixture and wet the outside of the wrapper, close to seal and refrigerate for at least an hour.
4. In the same skillet you browned the onion in (if you've already washed it, I admire you!!), "fry" the pierogi in canola oil over medium heat until browned. You won't need much oil, just enough to coat the bottom of the pan.
5. Drain the pierogi on plate lined with a paper towel.

Roasted Cauliflower with smoked paprika
salt, pepper
smoked paprika
olive oil

Toss cauliflower with all ingredients and roast in a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes or until slightly browned.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Chicken Piccata and roasted green beans

I am not the most organized person. I love to proscrastinate. I love a clean and uncluttered house, and I go through phases....last week we replaced the carpeting in our hallway and in the girls' room (anyone that had seen it previously will know how monumental that was). Since then, I have been a crazy clean freak- laundry every day [and put away immediately], making every bed in the house, (I know I should be teaching my kids to do their own chores...) fully cleaning up the kitchen several times a day, and generally putting everything in it's place countless times a day. (as an aside...I hope I can keep up with this, because, really, it's not that difficult if I just devote maybe an hour a day...instead of procrastinating, avoiding, etc....anyone out there struggle with this???)

I shared that to tell you this...I never procrastinate on dinner, meals, etc.
I just happen to love to prepare (and eat) food, and I love to take care of [and serve] my husband and kids in this way. I realize that I have the luxury of being a full-time caretaker for my family and this allows me extra time. After many years of practice, though, it really does not take me much time to prepare a full meal (maybe 30-40 minutes).

Before you think this is some amazing feat, realize this: I plan and prepare meals in the way I run my life....somewhat haphazard, definitely disorganized, and only because I love it! My meal planning goes something like this...

1. I buy what looks great at the butcher shop/market stand
2. I buy what's on sale :)
3. I feel inspired to try something new or I'm hungry for something specific.....then...
4. I forget to get all of the ingredients (because I never make a list...drives my mom crazy) so I use what I have at home...
5. I forget to thaw something for dinner [in the morning] and have to make something on the fly.
6. I try to incorporate healthy eating habits while deciding what to make.

(I'll write tomorrow about what goes into this thought process...but, I don't feel like health should be an "idol"...I eat healthy things because I like them...I don't deny myself things, because I feel like God has blessed us with: food, the beauty of creation, family, and sex (sorry! :) as a foretaste of what heaven will be like...not in that order, and I know we won't have all those things in heaven...but it's the "pleasure", people!)

Well, I've written this to try to inspire you...meal planning and preparation is not rocket science, you can be disorganized(!), and as long as you're intentional, you and your family can enjoy a healthy dinner together a few times a week!

After all's the chicken piccata....(a great meal to throw together in a short amount of time, with a short list of ingredients)

Chicken Piccata
6-8 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (I prefer the thin perdue...)
salt, pepper
1/3 cup capers, drained
4T olive oil
1/4 cup dry white wine
lemon juice and rind of two lemons

1. Dredge chicken in flour, salt, and pepper.
2. Saute chicken in oil and butter [in saute pan] over medium-high heat until browned, turning after 3 minutes or so.
3. Remove chicken to plate (may not be fully cooked). In the saute pan, pour white wine, lemon juice, rind, and capers, making sure to scrape up browned bits from pan.
4. Place chicken breasts back into pan and simmer, uncovered, for about 10 minutes. The sauce should thicken and reduce slightly due to the flour and heat, respectively.

Roasted green beans
1 qt fresh green beans
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
10 button mushrooms, washed and sliced
2 slices bacon, chopped (raw)
salt, pepper
olive oil

mix all ingredients and roast [on a cookie sheet] in a 400 degree oven for 25 minutes or until veggies and bacon are browned.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Cheeseburgers and Tomato Bisque

There are very few dinners that we (the kids) all like. I make cheeseburgers fairly often, they are great to prepare ahead of time and you can just grill them when you need them. I have made them a few different ways, and this is one of my favorites.

The tomato bisque is the easiest soup I make, and even tomato haters may not hate it (I have two in my house, and they both like it). It is an adaptation from my trusty Betty Crocker cookbook (the one I learned to cook from as a new the ripe old age of 21).

Because we had two soccer practices tonight, we had peaches as a side. I freeze applesauce, peaches, corn and green beans [in the summer] to use as a quick side dish in the busy fall months and cold winter months!


1 1/2 lbs of ground chuck
1 pkg french onion soup mix
2T dried parsley
4 slices bacon, crisped and crumbled, plus the grease :)
1T worchestire sauce
pinch of cayenne pepper

1. Mix all ingredients and form into patties. Should make four to five generously-sized patties.
2. Grill over medium-high heat until fully cooked, top with cheese--any kind you like!
***also great, putting blue cheese or cheddar cheese in the middle of the patty***

Tomato Bisque

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
4 T butter
2 t olive oil
1 T paprika
1 T dried basil
4 oz cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups milk or heavy cream
1 can progresso hearty tomato soup

1. Cook onion, garlic, oil, and butter in saucepan over medium heat until onions and garlic are transclucent.
2. Add cream cheese, spices and milk and stir until smooth (I sometimes use a small whisk).
3. Add soup, stir, and serve. Sometimes I'll add chopped fresh tomato if I have some that need to be used. If you add fresh tomato, cook soup over low heat for at least 20 minutes before serving.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Balsamic chicken with orzo salad

I'll be honest, I think Giada DeLaurentiis is quite attractive and loves to wear "flattering" clothing, but until tonight I've never had any success with her recipes. Well, let me tell you, this dinner was insanely good. We had a very nice evening with Rob's family and everyone loved the chicken and salad. Included in the "Everyday Italian 'Dressing up BBQ' " episode was a summer tomato salad which I did not make, but am dying to (I'll keep you posted). It was pouring all day today, so I decided to just grill the chicken briefly and then bake it to finish cooking. It was moist, flavorful and just downright addictive. The salad I tweaked as I do not really like ricotta salata cheese and decided to substitute dried cranberries for dried cherries. I'm honestly a little sad that summer seems to be drawing to a close, because this is a perfect summer evening meal.

Balsamic BBQ chicken (courtesy of Food Network)

1 cup balsamic vinegar
3/4 cup ketchup
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Combine all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat and cook until reduced by 1/3, about 15-20 minutes.
2. Salt and pepper desired chicken (I used a "whole cut-up chicken, and split chicken breasts). Spread 1/2 of bbq sauce over chicken pieces.
3. Grill chicken about 5-6 minutes over medium-high heat on skin side, or until skin is partially charred.
4. Remove chicken to baking pan and top with remaining sauce.
5. Cover and bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes or until cooked through.

Orzo salad (courtesy of Food Network)

pound orzo pasta
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus 1/4 cup
2 cups fresh arugula (about 3 ounces), chopped roughly
3/4 cup crumbled goat cheese
1/2 cup dried cranberries
12 fresh basil leaves, torn
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Cook pasta until al dente in salted stockpot.
2. Drain and place in serving bowl, drizzle olive oil over to prevent clumping. Cool.
3. Mix remaining ingredients and refrigerate for at least two hours.

Here is the recipe for the tomato salad...if anyone tries it, let me know how it is!

1 cup balsamic vinegar
1 cup pitted green and black olives, halved
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
3 anchovy fillets, drained and chopped
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
8 fresh basil leaves, shredded
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound vine-ripened tomatoes (about 3 tomatoes)

1. Cook the balsamic vinegar in a small
saucepan over low heat until thick, syrupy, and measuring 1/4 cup, about 20 minutes. Set aside to cool.
2. Combine the olives, parsley, anchovies, capers, garlic, basil, pepper, and olive oil in a small bowl and toss to combine.
3 To serve, slice the tomatoes into 1/4-inch thick rounds and place, slightly overlapping, on a serving plate. Spoon the olive and parsley mixture over the tomatoes. Drizzle the reduced balsamic over the salad and serve.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Super Easy "Friday night dinner"

I think there's almost nothing better than going out for stromboli and fries on a Friday night....the only thing that might be better would be eating said stromboli and french fries [for way less money] and in your pj's while watching a movie or playing a game with your family. I have included two of my favorite variations on stromboli and also a "healthier" version of french fries.

Stromboli Version #1 (aka the "boy" version)

pizza dough, thawed
italian herbs, dried
garlic powder
marinara sauce

1. Sprinkle cornmeal on pizza stone or cookie sheet. Roll out pizza dough to large rectangle.
2. Layer all ingredients, any way you like
3. Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes or until browned on top and cooked the whole way through (gummy dough is really gross).
4. Let rest (so all the cheese doesn't slide out) about 5-10 minutes, then slice and serve.

Stromboli Version #2 (aka the "girl" version)

pizza dough, thawed
jar of artichokes (marinated or not...) chopped
jar of roasted red peppers
1 large onion, sliced thickly and sauteed briefly
garlic powder
dried italian seasoning

Assemble and bake the stromboli as described above.

Oven fries

red or russet potatoes (I prepare one for each person)
olive oil
season-all salt
old bay
dried italian seasoning
ground black pepper

1. Cut potatoes into large "french fry shape".
2. Toss with 4T olive oil and spices, as many as desired.
3. Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes or so. I like mine rather brown, and sometimes I add parmesan during the last five minutes for a little extra crunch and flavor.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Pasta with Bolognese Sauce

This recipe is very similar to the PW Cooks recipe for Bolognese sauce. The addition of veggies in the sauce creates a colorful and very fresh-tasting dinner. I typically serve this with rigatoni (a family favorite from when our littlest could more easily spear the tubes of pasta as opposed to a strand-like shape). I still haven't figured out why the recipe calls for a cup of milk, but the result is so delicious, I really don't care!
Also included: "Aunt Sue's Chocolate Cake". This recipe is my never-fail chocolate cake recipe and is courtesy of that very handy Brethren cookbook I was telling you about. I'm not sure who Aunt Sue is or even if she's still with us, but I'm sure glad she shared this recipe.

Bolognese Sauce

1 lb ground beef
2 medium carrots, pretty finely chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped
5 slices bacon, cut into small pieces
1/2 tsp fresh-ground black pepper
1/4 tsp kosher salt
4 cloves garlic, chopped finely
12 button mushrooms
1 jar pasta sauce (I use Barilla marinara, usually)
2/3 cup dry red wine
1 cup milk

1. In a large stockpot, brown ground beef for 3 minutes on medium heat. Push meat to the outside of the pan, creating a well, and add the carrots, bacon, salt, pepper, and onion, sauteeing for 3 minutes.
2. Add garlic and mushrooms and brown for 2 minutes. Stir all together and add red wine, taking care to scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan.
3. Add pasta sauce and stir. Cover the stockpot and simmer on low for 4o minutes.
4. Add milk and recover to simmer for an additional 5-10 minutes.
5. Add desired amount of parmesan cheese and serve with cooked pasta, your choice and shape.

Aunt Sue's Chocolate Cake

1/2 cup cocoa
2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups water
3/4 cup oil
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

Mix ingredients and beat for 2 minutes. Bake in a 9x13 pan for 30 minutes or until center springs back up when touched lightly.

Chocolate buttercream frosting

3/4 cup cocoa
4 cups powdered sugar
7 T butter, softened
3 T milk
1 tsp vanilla

[using a hand-mixer] Mix above ingredients until smooth and spreadable, adding more milk or sugar as needed.

I love this time of year

This picture is a great illustration of why I love this time of year. The yellow and red tomatoes are from my backyard, and the rest of the yummy fruits and veggie (pears, apples, stanley prune plums, and butternut squash) are from my favorite fruit stand. I am always sad when the "harvest" time is fading, but I am also learning to enjoy the winter veggies (cabbage, turnips, parsnips) and I'll try to post some recipes for ways to cook with these.

Later today I'll post my favorite pasta sauce, Bolognese, which is a variation of a PW Cooks recipe.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Smoky Mountain Chicken

I happen to really like chicken. My husband and son happen to really hate chicken. This recipe is a result of trying to pile so much on the chicken so they can't really taste it!
This butternut squash recipe is super-simple and tastes great. I have a mandoline slicer which I use to slice the squash into equally thin slices. You could also use a box grater (the large "slicer" side) or if you're really great with a knife, go for it! Just try to make sure the slices are the same thickness (I make my slices about 1/4 inch thick).

Smoky Mountain Chicken

6 thin-sliced chicken breasts
10 button mushrooms, sliced thinly
1 small onion, finely sliced
bbq sauce
deli ham slices
bacon, partially cooked
shredded cheddar cheese

1. Layer chicken with: mushrooms, onions, bbq sauce, one or two ham slices, two slices of bacon, and cheddar cheese.
2. Bake, uncovered, at 375 for 30 minutes or until bacon and cheese are browned.

Roasted Butternut Squash

1 large butternut squash
olive oil
salt, pepper

1. Peel butternut sqash and remove seeds.
2. Place slices of squash onto cookie sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
3. Roast sqash at 395 for 20 minutes. Drizzle honey over slices and stir.
4. Continue roasting for an additional 5-10 minutes or until honey has caramelized and butternut sqash is browned.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Bear for dinner

This is not to be confused with "beer" for dinner, Rob's dream come true!
No, my husband and son killed a poor, defenseless girl bear last year (we named her "sherry" because it rhymed with: beary, scary, and hairy). So, last night, we ate the tenderloins, grilled. She is actually quite tasty and we'll enjoy her rug when it's finished in November (at the family cabin, thankfully!). Anyway, I share this in order to tell you about my very easy way to prepare steak (the beef variety). We also enjoyed lemon-herb potatoes. I had these for the first time at my sister-in-law's house and have loved them ever since. I made steamed broccoli and then we topped the evening off with a delicious apple cake. The cake recipe is from my trusty "brethren" cookbook which I've had since before we were married. The only problem with the recipe is that it makes a laughable amount of icing. Otherwise, truly delicious!

Grilled steak: I typically use ribeye or strip steaks with this recipe

I simply marinate the steaks (for at least an hour) with drizzled olive oil, and plenty of kosher salt and ground black pepper. I then grill the steaks to our preferred doneness (medium) and allow them to rest for five minutes before serving. That's it!

Lemon-herb potatoes

small red or white potatoes (2 per person)
5 T salted butter
fresh herbs, minced (I used what I grow: oregano, basil, chives, parsley)
1 lemon, juice and grated rind
salt, pepper

1. Boil potatoes in large stockpot until tender. Drain and place back into pot.
2. Add remaining ingredients and cover. Turn stove to high and cook for about 3-5 minutes. I keep the lid on and shake the pot every so often to insure even browning.
3. Remove from heat and serve.

Apple Cake- a perfect fall dessert

1 cup oil (I used a cup of plain yogurt, to reduce the fat, and because it was almost expired)
3 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1 t baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup walnuts (I have never added these, but I usually add raisins)
4 cups sliced apples (I do not peel these)

1. Mix wet ingredients, slowly add dry ingredients.
2. Stir in apples and walnuts and/or raisins.
3. Place in 9x13 and bake at 350 for one hour

Icing: (I usually triple this recipe, at least...we really like icing!)
1/2 T soft butter
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup confectioner's sugar
3 oz cream cheese

beat together until smooth and spread on cooled cake

Thursday, September 3, 2009

my favorite snack, and a salad (for good measure)

This snack is something so easy, yet so satisfying! I usually crave this [for whatever reason] after a nice, long run.

Simply spread a Kashi cracker (I either use the original seven grain crackers or the larger "party" whole grain crackers) with goat cheese and place a dollop of jelly on top (I am in love with the stonewall kitchen jams and jellies...especially the roasted garlic and onion or apricot).

My next very easy salad idea involves: mixed greens, pomegranate seeds, gorgonzola, finely chopped apples, toasted pine nuts with drizzled olive oil and a splash of lemon juice.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Greek Tilapia and Lentils

Our family really enjoys seafood and I'm always looking for new ways to serve it. I happened to have leftover ingredients for a greek salad, so I decided to top the tilapia with that. It was very fresh-tasting and light. I think the lentils are a nice complement.

Greek-style Tilapia

6 tilapia filets
2 medium-sized tomatoes, cored and seeds removed
1/2 can of black olives
1/2 cup crumbled feta
2 T capers
1/8 cup parmesan cheese
small jar of roasted red peppers
2 tsp lemon juice
slivered mint

1. Mix all ingredients except tilapia, chopping the tomatoes, olives and peppers into similar-sized pieces [as the crumbled feta].
2. Top filets with mixture and bake at 375 for 25 minutes.
***I usually prepare one filet for each of the kids and 2 each for the adults, depending on the size and thickness of the filets***


1/2 bag of lentils, rinsed and picked through
ham hock
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped coarsely
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, chopped finely
2 T olive oil
1/2 bag frozen spinach
salt, pepper to taste (the ham hock will impart some saltiness)

1. Saute onion, carrot, and garlic in large stockpot [in oil] for one minute. Add spinach (can be frozen) and stir for one minute.
2. Add lentils, ham hock, and enough water to allow for the lentils to expand.
3. Cover and allow to simmer for about 40 minutes or until lentils are tender. You may need to add more water.
4. Remove ham hock and serve.
***I think this could probably be done in the crockpot, after the vegetables are sauteed. Also, if you don't want to use a ham hock, you could use smoked turkey "parts"***

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

three ingredient beef brisket

Well, fall seems to be upon us, the nights are getting quite chilly, and nothing warms like a beef roast (and baked pears!). The brisket recipe is an old one from my mom (via Southern Living, I think) and I love it's weird simplicity. The sides are pretty self-explanatory, who doesn't love mac and cheese? (and the baked tomatoes are a nice alternative to the stewed ones) Hope you enjoy!

Beef Brisket

equal parts: coffee, ketchup, white wine (I always use beer, because, like the uncultured family that we are, we always have beer around the house)

1. mix all ingredients and pour over brisket.
2. bake for at least 3hrs, covered, on 350 degrees. Slice and serve.
***I'm sure you could put this in the crock-pot...probably high for at least 8hrs***
you can figure 1/2 lb per person-

Baked mac and cheese

1/2 lb elbow macaroni, cooked and drained
5 T butter
4 T flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 T prepared mustard (I use whole-grain)
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
2/3 cup sharp shredded cheddar
bread crumbs
salt, pepper to taste

1. Melt butter in large saucepan, sprinkle flour and stir until smooth. Slowly add the milk until starting to thicken and very smooth.
2. Add remaining ingredients except breadcrumbs. Allow cheeses to melt.
3. Stir cheese mixture into macaroni. Sprinkle desired amount of breadcrumbs on top. Add milk into mixture if it appears too thick.
4. Cover and bake at 350 for 45 minutes, remove foil and bake for an additional 15 minutes.
serves 4-6

Baked tomatoes

4 large tomatoes
salt, pepper
brown sugar

1. Blanch tomatoes. Remove skin and core.
2. Slice horizontally and place into oven-safe dish.
3. Sprinkle tomato slices with flour, salt, pepper, and 1 T brown sugar each.
4. Bake, uncovered, for 40 minutes at 350 degrees.

Baked Pears

4 Whole Pears (a bit underripe)
flour (I happened to have oat flour and used that)
brown sugar

1. Half and core pears (I left the skin on).
2. Sprinkle with cinnamon, flour, oats, brown sugar, and butter (in that order).
3. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.