Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Slow Cooker Mushroom Beef Stew

Another successful slow cooker recipe! This was very yummy (even though it's not very beautiful to look at), and it smelled good all day long as it was cooking.

*Note: The original recipe is called "Wild Mushroom Beef Stew" and calls for shiitake mushrooms. Shiitake mushrooms were way expensive, so I just got regular ones. It was still yummy. :)

Slow Cooker Mushroom Beef Stew
1 1/2 to 2 lbs. beef stew meat, cut into 1 in. cubes (we bought ours already cubed at the grocery store)
2 T. flour
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper
1 1/2 c. beef broth
1 t. Worcestershire sauce
1 clove garlic, minced (I used two ;) )
1 bay leaf
1 t. paprika
1/2 package sliced mushrooms (or 4 shiitake mushrooms, sliced...see note above)
2 medium carrots, sliced
2 medium red potatoes, diced
1 small white onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, sliced

*Side note: I thought all the different words used for cutting things up in this recipe were humorous. Sliced, diced, chopped...ha ha ha. Okay, maybe I'm just silly. ;)

Place beef in slow cooker. Mix flour, salt, and pepper in a separate bowl. Sprinkle over beef and stir to coat beef evenly. Add all remaining ingredients to the slow cooker and stir to mix well. Cover. Cook on low 10-12 hours, or on high 4-6 hours (I did about six hours on high). Stir stew and remove bay leaf before serving.

I just love slow cooker recipes! So easy! This was a nice, fall meal. Very warm and comforting. We had bread and butter with ours, but I wish I had thought of making homemade rolls. That would have been even better. :)

Monday, September 29, 2008

Hayashi Rice

Yes, after three weeks on the menu, we finally had our Hayashi Rice! Now, after all this anticipation, I hope you aren't let down by this "recipe". I asked Paul how to make it so that I could type up the recipe, and he said, "Just like the curry recipe except with hayashi rice mix instead of curry." I said, "Exactly like that?" And he said, "Yep." So there you have it. If you want to try hayashi rice (and I highly recommend it), just buy an onion, a couple carrots, a large potato, some thinly sliced beef or some chicken, and a box of hayashi rice mix, and follow this recipe.

You may be wondering, "What is hayashi rice, and why should I try it?" Well, in consistency and taste, it's a lot like curry. It's not spicy like curry, though. It has a much milder taste. In Japan, hayashi rice is considered "kid food" (much like we consider mac and cheese kid food). It is quite delicious! In Japan it would be made only with meat and onions (the carrots and potatoes are Paul's addition). So, if you can get your hands on hayashi rice mix (you may have to go to an Asian grocery store to find it...it would be next to the curry mix), I highly recommend it!

Chicken and Spinach Penne

This meal was surprisingly fast and easy. We were a little frantic as we were throwing it together because we didn't have much time, but it came together quickly in the end, and it was quite yummy. It's another Chef Britta masterpiece!

Chicken and Spinach Penne
8 oz. penne pasta
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch chunks
2 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced (Okay, I don't know how to seed tomatoes, and I didn't have time to figure it out, so I just diced them and threw them in. It worked just fine.)
4 T. tomato paste
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 T. olive oil
1/4 t. red pepper flakes
6 c. baby spinach
2 T. fresh lemon juice (I just had the bottled kind, so I used it. Also, it gives a pretty strong flavor, so I'd put in a bit less than two tablespoons.)

In a large pot of boiling water, cook penne for 3 minutes. Add the chicken and continue to cook until both the chicken and pasta are done. I don't have much experience boiling chicken, so I had no idea how long this would take. I set the timer for 7 minutes (because the box of penne said it took 10-11 minutes total to cook), and it was done when the timer went off. Reserve 1/4 c. pasta water. In Chef Britta's recipe she didn't specify a measurement for the water. She just said reserve 1/4 pasta water. Since 1/4 of the total amount of water would have been so much, I just took some out and estimated when the time came. In hindsight, 1/4 c. to 1/2 c. works out well. Drain pasta and chicken. Return pot to stove and heat oil and garlic over medium high heat for about one minute. My garlic got pretty dark pretty fast. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, red pepper flakes, spinach and reserved pasta water. Stir to combine. Cook until spinach is barely wilted. I swear, this happens almost immediately. Our spinach was a little overcooked. Next time I'm going to just stir it all together and then add back the chicken and pasta immediately. Add the chicken and pasta. Add lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper. Toss and serve.

Here's the link directly to Chef Britta's recipe: Chicken & Spinach Penne.

Paul really liked this meal (and so did I). We were both surprised by the flavor. It's a quick and refreshing meal!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Menu: September 28 - October 4

I cooked my 3 days off last week! Woo hoo! I did change one of the recipes because I just didn't feel like making the bombay chicken. Maybe another time.

I was thinking of where I'd get some more ideas for dinners when I remembered I have like 5 billion cookbooks. I spotted the Budge Family Recipe Book on my shelf. My Grandma gave this to me and Eli for Christmas and I've tried 1 or 2 things out of it. It's a book of recipes that has been compiled by the relatives of my Great Grandma Blanche Budge. I never met her, but I hear she was a great cook and taught her kids well!

This is the perfect week for me to try some really good stuff because Eli's old mission companion is coming down to visit. I think it'd be a good chance to show off my mad cooking skills...even if it's only 3 days worth.

Tuesday: Ground Beef Stroganoff over Noodles
Wednesday: Hamburger Rolls
Thursday: Sweet Sloppy Joes

Red Beans and Rice

I tried this recipe a few years ago and kind of forgot about it until now. I forgot how easy and yummy it was! It was one of the recipes on the Discovery Health National Body Challenge. Sorry about this picture. As you read the ingredients you'll see that there's a few things different. First, I couldn't find a green bell pepper. Second, I forgot to add the beans. I was in a total hurry and forgot, but I did add them later. Still yummy!

Red Beans and Rice

1/2 c red kidney beans
2 oz turkey keilbasa (or sausage)
1/2 c fresh or frozen bell peppers and onions
1/2 c diced tomatoes ( I use fresh, but you can use canned)
1 tsp oregano
1 c cooked brown rice

Prepare rice according to package. If it isn't instant rice, prepare beforehand. You can also use white rice if you'd like instead.

Heat pan over medium heat. Cut keilbasa into 1" slices and heat in pan until browned on edges.

Once keilbasa is cooked, add drained kidney beans, vegetables, and tomatoes. Add oregano.

After cooked and heated through, serve over rice and enjoy!

*FYI* This is enough for one person. If you want to serve two, double everything! It's really filling and yummy and totally good for you!

Oven Fried Vegetable Sticks

I loved this side! I've been on a side kick I guess. Eli and I were given a ton of veggies including squash from a friend's garden. I got confused and though we had zucchini, but it was an orange squash (the one that curls around). It still tasted good, but I bet it would taste better with the zucchini.

I served this with pork that I rubbed with olive oil and an herb-bell pepper rub. It's from pampered chef. Definitely a good investment. We also had regular egg noodles with a little butter, salt, and pepper. It was all yummy and way easy.

Oven Fried Zucchini Sticks

½ cup seasoned bread crumbs
2 Tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
3 medium zucchini
1/2 cup milk or water
1 cup spaghetti sauce or low fat ranch dressing (I didn't use this, but I bet it would be good!)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Spray baking sheet with nonstick spray. Place crumbs, cheese and seasoning into plastic bag; shaketo combine.

Cut zucchini into sticks. Fill shallow bowl with milk (I used the water for less calories). Dip sticks into milk and shake in crumbs to coat. Bake on sheet 10-15 minutes or until brown.

Serve with spaghetti sauce or dressing.

Steak with Crispy Potatoes

Yum! I loved these potatoes! They had just enough hint of garlic. I think this would be good on french fries too. I have a french fry cutter, but you could just slice the potatoes.
On Britta's website she uses skirt steak cooked medium rare. I like my meat a cooked medium well. I used a dry canadian steak seasoning for my marinade. I rubbed some olive oil on the meat and the rubbed on the seasoning and cooked on a skillet.

Crispy Potatoes
2 garlic cloves
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound red new potatoes, sliced 1/4-inch thick
Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Finely chop garlic, and sprinkle with salt. Using a chef's knife, press flat side of blade back and forth across garlic to make a paste. Transfer to a small bowl; add thyme and oil and stir to combine.
On a large, rimmed baking sheet, toss potatoes with garlic mixture; bake until browned, 20 to 25 minutes.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Menu: Sept 22 - Sep 25

I have been meaning to post my menu for the past couple days.  It's a short week this week because we're going out of town on Friday for the weekend. 

Monday: Chili and cornbread (in celebration of the first day of fall)
Tuesday: Pitas (w/ turkey, lettuce, cheese, tomato, and cucumbers)
Wednesday: Orange chicken stir-fry (I took 2 of Jennie's ideas this week!)
Thursday: Tomato soup with grilled cheese sandwiches

As you can tell I have been going for mostly easy meals these days.

Soft Gingersnaps

I've been feeling festive because of the crisp fall weather here, and I wanted to try making gingersnaps. I prefer them soft, so if you're like me, this recipe is for you! I found it at allrecipes.com. They turned out really yummy, though I undercooked the first batch because I was paranoid I would overcook them.

Soft Gingersnaps
1 1/2 c. (3 sticks) butter (no substitutes), softened
2 c. sugar
2 eggs
1/2 c. molasses
4 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
3 t. baking soda
2 t. ground cinnamon
1 t. ground ginger
1 t. ground cloves
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. ground nutmeg
additional sugar (to roll the cookies in)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream together butter and sugar. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Beat in molasses. Add spices, baking soda, and salt and mix well. Then add the flour and mix well. (As you might guess, the recipe has you mix the dry ingredients separately, but you know me, I'm an impatient baker.) If the dough is too sticky, you may want to refrigerate it for a bit (the recipe says to refrigerate it for an hour...again, I'm too impatient). I just put mine in the fridge between batches. It wasn't too hard to work with. Roll dough into 1 inch balls, and then roll them in sugar. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 8-12 minutes. It takes some experimentation to get them perfectly baked. Ten minutes worked just right for me and my oven. I just waited until there were large cracks in the cookies.

Here's a link to the original recipe: Soft Gingersnaps.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Menu: September 23 - September 30

OK, so, my streak has ended. Sad, but true. It was all my fault, too. I forgot I had the car last Wednesday because I had a dentist appointment, so I forgot to pick up Paul after work. He also forgot, and didn't realize until he walked out of his office building at 5:06 to leave. By the time we forged through rush hour traffic and made it back home, it was dinner time and we were starving...the Burger King drive-thru proved too hard to resist. Sigh. That was the only eating out mess up. Otherwise, things came up on two other nights, and thus I still have three meals for next week's menu. On top of that, Paul's going to Utah tonight for a recruiting trip, so I have two dinners on my own, and I really don't like cooking big meals when they're just for me.

ANYHOW, long story with a short point, this week's menu pretty much planned itself. Here we go:

Tuesday (today): leftover chili
Wednesday: mac and cheese or some other such throw together meal
Thursday: chicken and spinach penne (Chef Britta)
Friday: Swedish meatballs
Saturday: Paul makes Hayashi rice (third time on the menu's the charm?)
Sunday: sweet and sour chicken (the recipe Paula posted)
Monday: wild mushroom beef stew (slow cooker)
Tuesday: vegetable quiche (in my new quiche pan!)

Three-Bean Turkey Chili

I really enjoy slow cooker meals. They usually take very little hands-on time, and I love the feeling of a meal just cooking itself. This recipe is another good one for the slow cooker.

Three-Bean Turkey Chili
1 lb ground turkey
1 small onion, diced
1 can (28 oz) petite diced tomatoes, juice included
1 can (15 oz) garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 can (15 oz) black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can (15 oz) kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce
1 can (4 oz) diced green chiles
1 to 2 T. chili powder

Brown turkey with onions in a skillet on medium-high heat. Cook until onions are tender and turkey is no longer pink. Drain the fat. Pour into slow cooker. Prepare to make use of your can opener. ;) Pour all three cans of beans into a colander and rinse well. Add beans, and all remaining ingredients to the slow cooker. Mix well. Cover and cook on high for 6-8 hours.

There are a few things I especially liked about this recipe. Using ground turkey instead of beef was a nice change of pace (although beef would work just as well). I've never used garbanzo beans before, and Paul and I both decided they were very yummy. And, like I said, it was a very easy recipe. You can serve it over rice (that's how Paul likes his chili), with cornbread, or on its own. We sprinkled cheese on top, and we also would have added a dollop of sour cream, but we didn't have any (shocker!). Good stuff!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Black Bottom Cupcakes

Brian and I have made these twice now and we love them! We buy Western Family cream cheese and each time I would see this recipe on the inside of the box. I didn't look at the recipe for a long time because the idea of a black bottom cupcake didn't seem very yummy to me. Anyway, it's very easy and very tasty! Just so you know, this time we only had medium eggs and it made the cheese cake part a little runny and made it brown a little more as well. They tasted the same, they just looked prettier the first time we made them.

Sunday Desserts 026

Sunday Desserts 025

Black Bottom Cupcakes

8 oz. package cream cheese
1 egg
1/3 c. sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
6 oz. chocolate chips (about 1 cup)
1 package Devil's Food Cake Mix (plus ingredients cake calls for)

Preheat oven to 350. Combine cream cheese, egg, sugar, and salt. Mix until well blended. Mix in chocolate chips and set aside. Prepare cake mix according to package instructions. Fill cupcake liners 1/3 full with cake batter. Top with heaping tablespoons of cream cheese mixture (you can be generous). Bake for 30-35 minutes. Makes 24 cupcakes.

*We were generous with both the amount of cake batter and the amount of cream cheese mixture.

Sweet and Sour Chicken

This is another recipe from my sister-in-law and is one that we enjoy a lot. As you can see from the picture, I like to serve it with fried rice. But just a warning, my fried rice is nothing compared to Paul's! But, I will give it points for quick and easy.

Dinners 063

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts*
Lemon pepper or black pepper
garlic powder
1/2 c. cornstarch
2 eggs
1/2 c. sugar
3 tbsp. ketchup
1 tbsp. soy sauce
1/4 c. vinegar
1/4 c. chicken broth
1 tsp. salt

Mix batter (pepper, garlic, salt, cornstarch, eggs). Dip chicken pieces into batter, fry in oil until golden brown. Mix sauce. Place chicken in baking pan and pour sauce over chicken. Bake 30 minutes at 350. Turn over once during baking.

*When I make this I cut my chicken breasts in a few pieces and then pound them until they're a bit thinner (I have been trying to stretch our meat lately).
*I also recommend serving some sauce on the side for dipping.

Fried rice: I feel dumb posting how I make my fried rice when more than one of you have a better recipe for fried rice. But, I make it this way because it's quick and easy and I like how it tastes.

I just heat a little oil in a pan. I then add some chopped green onions and minced garlic. After a couple minutes I add the frozen peas and carrots (if you use fresh carrots, grate them and add them with the onion). Then I add the rice and one scrambled egg. I let that fry up for a couple minutes and then I add some soy sauce for flavor (however much you like). The end!

Menu: September 21-27

Last week's menu didn't work out so great, so I'm gonna try again this week. I've got 3 days to cook this week. I am SO excited!

Sunday: Skirt Steak with crispy potatoes (Chef Britta)
Wednesday: Bombay Chicken and rice (A Man, A Can, A Plan)
Thursday: Red Beans and rice with turkey keilbasa

I know three days doesn't sound like a big deal, but wish me luck!

Friday, September 19, 2008

What to do when your pitas grow mold...

It seems we are cursed when it comes to veggie pitas. Last week it was the sprouts and avocado that went bad. This week we got new sprouts and avocado. We chopped up all our ingredients, opened our bag of whole wheat pitas, and found MOLD! So sad! Instead, we had pita-less pitas!

We had salads (thank goodness we had a bag of spinach), and they were delicious! We grilled a chicken breast (that was marinated in zesty italian), and put it on top of all our delicious pita ingredients. The only thing we couldn't use was the hummus. I'm not sure what we'll do with the rest of it now.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Poor Man's Food (aka: Tuna Bunnies)

I have told Brian many times that tuna bunnies just isn't an appetizing name, but well, he doesn't care. We've brainstormed, with one of my sisters, what would be a good name for this meal. We came to the conclusion that it's almost impossible to come up with an appetizing name for something that involves tuna. So, I've stuck with Poor Man's Food. This meal is another one that I grew up with and love.

Dinners 049

Poor Man's Food

1 can tuna, drained
1 can cream of mushroom or chicken (whichever you have)
1/2 can milk
frozen peas
cheese (I forgot to sprinkle ours with cheese :()
butter or margarine (I use a margarine spread)

Start by taking your bread and buttering both sides of each slice. Then push each of them into a cup of a muffin pan. You have to sort of form them into a cup and your hands will get all buttery. Put them in a 375 degree oven.

Put the tuna, soup, and milk in a pan and heat to a simmer. Add the peas and let heat until peas are thawed and mixture is hot. Keep an eye on the bread cups. I have never timed it, but I think it takes about 15-20 minutes. They will be golden. Pour tuna mixture over a bread cup, sprinkle cheese on top, and enjoy!

* If you're in a hurry you can just toast some bread and pour the mixture on that. I like the cups because they're fun and the butter makes them yummy, but toast is very good too.
*I tagged it as 30 minutes just because I can't remember how long the cups take. But I think it's more like a 20 minute meal.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Menu: September 16 - September 22

Oh yes, I have cooked all my planned meals for THREE weeks running. I think that's a personal record. Our only blip happened on Saturday (once again when Paul was going to make Japanese food...am I'm sensing a pattern here? ;) ) when we had a really late lunch and didn't end up getting hungry for dinner at all.

Tuesday (today): Tuna Melts
Wednesday: Veggie Pitas again (Sad story about our pitas last night--We bought an avocado and sprouts last week (in addition to tomato, cucumber, and hummus) to have on our pitas, and they both went bad before we got to them. The pitas were yummy last night, but we both agreed that avocado and sprouts would be delicious on them, too. Well, we still have pitas and hummus, so I figured we'd give it another shot. :) )
Thursday: Paul makes Hayashi Rice
Friday: Burritos with the leftover fiesta chicken and rice from last week
Saturday: "Swedish" meatballs (the recipe Paula posted a while back)
Sunday: Chicken and spinach Penne (Chef Britta)
Monday: Three-Bean Turkey Chili (slow cooker)


So, for the first time since we started this blog, I have a recipe that I not only wouldn't recommend, but I feel the need to anti-recommend it. I thought it would be a good idea to have a category for these recipes, so here it is!

The first recipe I'd like to add to this new category is Double Peanut Butter Paisley Brownies. I found the recipe on the side of a bag of peanut butter chips. It sounds like it should be delicious. But I was very much let down. The peanut butter flavor is artificial tasting, the chocolate is artificial tasting, and the texture is very strange. Maybe I mixed the dough too much, I don't know, but it seems that Hershey's Syrup doesn't bake well. It was oddly chewy and bland. Overall, I was sad that I stayed up late last night to make them.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Menu: Sept 15 - Sept 19

Since I pretty much failed last week I think I'm going to once again schedule a short week of food with a couple alternatives this week to see how many dinners I will make! I only made a couple things on our menu last week.

Monday: Poor man's food. My grandma named this meal after the fact that it's basically the cheapest meal that exists. It involves a tuna mixture over toast. I'll post the recipe even though I'm not sure if people will be interested.
Tuesday: Italian dressing chicken with mashed potatoes and a veggie
Wednesday: French toast and sausage. I like having breakfast for dinner every once in a while!
Thursday: Sweet and Sour chicken and fried rice.
Friday: BBQ chicken (I just cook the chicken in store bought sauce), rice pilaf, and broccoli.

Alternatives: Mexican tortillas (leftover recipe from last week); chicken quesadillas with refried beans

Now that should make it so that I have an option that I feel like each night! Let's hope...

Wild Rice Casserole

I got this recipe from my mom back in April when Lisa (remember my vegetarian friend? ;) ) came to visit. It's delicious and quite hearty. It's one of those things I would never have liked when I was younger (mostly because of the mushrooms), but I find that I'm not as picky as I used to be, and I even like the mushrooms in this recipe.

Also, the recipe my mom gave me has no directions other than length of time cooking (covered and uncovered) and temperature of the oven. So, these directions are how I chose to put it together. I'm sure you can do it however you prefer.

Wild Rice Casserole
1 c. wild rice (Note: Wild Rice seems to come in 4 oz. boxes, so you need two. Also, the boxes have a spice packet inside which I just discarded.)
1 can (14.5 oz) petite diced tomatoes, juice included
1 bell pepper, diced (any color works, we used green this time)
1 package mushrooms, sliced
1 small can (2.25 oz) sliced black olives
1/2 onion, diced
1/4 c. olive oil (this seemed a bit much, so I put a little bit less)
1 c. boiling water
1 t. salt
pepper to taste
1 c. sharp cheddar cheese (we only had medium cheddar, and it tasted good, too)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Start boiling some water on the stove. Cut up your bell pepper and onion. Pour rice into a 9x13 pan in an even layer. Sprinkle onions, bell peppers, mushrooms, and olives on top. Next, pour on tomatoes. Add the olive oil and boiling water, making sure all the rice is moistened. Sprinkle salt, pepper, and cheese on top. Cook, covered, for about 1 hour. Uncover and cook for 20-30 more minutes. Rice should be tender.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Menu: September 14 - 20

I'm back! I can't wait to try all of the new recipes that have been posted. It makes me excited because I've realized that cooking makes me happy. So, here's my new thing. I'm just gonna plan my menu for the days that I'm not working in the evenings. It'll be easier for me to post recipes that way. I'm thinking about quitting, so maybe I'll have a 7-day menu soon. And also, I will be looking for ways to cut back on fat and calories (my sister is getting married in November), so any advice would be helpful!

Sunday: Pork Tenderloins with Oven-baked Zucchini sticks
Tuesday: Cluck Finn on a Raft (from Eli's cookbook A Man, A Can, A Plan)
Wednesday: Bombay Chicken n' Rice (From Eli's Cookbook)
Thursday: Red Beans & Rice with Turkey Keilbasa

French Breakfast Puffs!

I decided I wanted to bake something yummy for breakfast this morning. :) I really wanted to make these, but I didn't have the vanilla yogurt they called for, so I couldn't. (By the way, check out that blog (Baked Perfection)! She has baked some really delicious looking things. I'm going to try a lot of them.) When I found out I couldn't make the recipe I wanted, I went to allrecipes.com to search for something similar and found this recipe.

French Breakfast Puffs


1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup white sugar
1/3 cup butter (the recipe called for shortening, but I used butter and they were very good)
1 egg
1/2 capful of vanilla (not in the original recipe, but almost every baked good can use a bit of vanilla for flavor :) )
1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 tablespoons margarine, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line 12 muffin cups with paper liners (or grease 12 muffin cups). The original recipe calls for you to mix the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg) together in a separate bowl, but I'm always too lazy to do this. ;) Cream together butter and sugar in a medium bowl. Beat in egg and vanilla. Add the dry ingredients alternately with the milk. (Since I don't mix mine separately, I added the small ones first (baking powder, salt, and nutmeg), then half the flour, then the milk, and then the last half of flour.) Spoon batter into the muffin cups. Bake for 20-25 minutes. While the muffins are baking, melt the butter for the topping in one bowl and mix together the sugar and cinnamon in another bowl. When the muffins are done, remove them from the pan and immediately dip the top of each one in the butter and then the cinnamon-sugar. (They're really hot, so be careful.) Serve warm.

They were very fluffy and quite tasty! I would definitely make them again. In case you prefer official wording or just want the original recipe, you can find it here.

Fiesta Chicken

This is the easiest dinner I've made in a long time. The active preparation time was less than ten minutes, and that was only because I defrosted the chicken enough to be able to cut it into smaller pieces. You can even put the chicken in frozen.

Fiesta Chicken

2 lbs. chicken pieces (that's what the recipe calls for...I actually just used about 1 lb)
1 1/2 c. uncooked rice*
1 jar (16 oz) salsa
2 jars water
1/2 bag (1 lb) of frozen corn

*We used Japanese short-grain rice and it was pretty mushy in the end. It's probably best if you use long grain.

Pour uncooked rice in the bottom of your slow cooker. Place chicken pieces on top of rice. Pour salsa on top of chicken, and then pour on the two jars of water. Sprinkle corn on top. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours (on high for about four). Stir together before serving. We topped ours with sour cream. :)

Overall review:
This recipe was just too easy not to post here, but it really wasn't that amazing taste-wise. It was mushy (like I mentioned--probably due to the type of rice I used), and it tasted a little bit bland. I bet with a little tweaking (adding spices or using a different type of salsa) it could be quite yummy. FYI- I used Pace Picante Medium Salsa.

Friday, September 12, 2008

BBQ Chicken with Tomato, Corn, and Avocado Salad

We have another winner! This chicken was delicious, and so was the salad! Thanks once again to Chef Britta and to Mandy for introducing us to her.

Also, Paul and I finally got around to spending our last gift card from our wedding($100 to Crate and Barrel), yes two years later, on Wednesday night. One of the things we purchased was this grill pan which made it possible for me to try this recipe in the first place (we don't have a grill). I highly recommend it even after only one use! I'm looking forward to lots of new grilling endeavors in the upcoming weeks and months (and years). :)

BBQ Chicken with Homemade Rub and Sauce
4 chicken breasts (Really, you can use whatever chicken pieces you want. I used three large chicken breasts cut in half because I like smaller pieces.)

Spice rub:
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Barbecue Sauce:
1 and 1/2 cups ketchup
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup unsulfured molasses (Don't be scared by the "unsulfured". It says that on all the types of molasses we saw at Safeway.)
1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup water
1 and 1/2 teaspoons paprika
1 and 1/2 teaspoons onion powder
1 and 1/2 teaspoons mustard powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

First make the barbecue sauce. (Note: You should make this a bit earlier in the afternoon because it simmers for a half hour and then you have to let it cool to room temperature.) Mix all the ingredients for the sauce in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium low and let simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes. Cool to room temperature.

Heat your grill (or grill pan ;) ) to medium and lightly oil the grates. Mix all the ingredients for the spice rub together. Cover both sides of your chicken pieces with the spice rub (be generous! it's tasty!) and place on the grill. Cook the chicken, flipping it over frequently until done, about 15-20 minutes. In the last five minutes of grilling, baste both sides (I used a brush) with the barbecue sauce. While the chicken is grilling, prepare the salad. Serve chicken with extra barbecue sauce on the side, for dipping.

Tomato, Corn, and Avocado Salad
1 ear corn (husk and silk removed, tip cut off)
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved (I don't think we had a whole pint. We just bought a bag of them.)
1 avocado, halved, pitted, peeled, and diced
2 scallions (green onions), thinly sliced - green parts only
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice (from half of a lime) (My lime wasn't very juicy, so I used both halves.)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Cut the kernels of the ear of corn off into a medium size bowl. Add the halved tomatoes, sliced avocado, scallions, lime juice, and oil. Season with salt and pepper. Toss lightly and serve.

It was a great dinner! :) We will definitely make it again. There was a lot of barbecue sauce leftover, so we put it in the fridge. The chicken was so juicy and tender! The spice rub sealed in the juices as it was grilled. VERY good recipe!

Here's a link to Chef Britta's recipe in her own words: BBQ Chicken and Tomato, Corn, and Avocado Salad.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Menu: September 9 - September 15

I've cooked all my planned meals for two weeks running! We had one little mess up last week...we went out for Japanese food instead of Paul making it on Saturday. I still have my streak going, though! (Two whole weeks. Woo.)

Here's the lineup for this week:

Tuesday (today): Beef enchiladas
Wednesday: Paul has a work gathering for dinner (He was nominated by his peers as best PIT (Project Implementation Team) employee of the quarter. Go Paul!)
Thursday: BBQ chicken with tomato, corn, and avocado salad (Chef Britta)
Friday: Fiesta Chicken (slow cooker)
Saturday: Paul cooks Hayashi Rice
Sunday: Wild Rice Casserole (my mom's recipe)
Monday: Veggie Pitas

Pasta Primavera

This is one of our favorite meals. Brian even asked for this for his birthday dinner last year. Amanda first made this meal for our dinner group in college and I think all of us like to make it now. I called it, "Amanda's yummy pasta dish", until Amanda informed me that it had an actual name! Who would have known! This recipe comes out of the checkerboard cookbook (Better Homes and Gardens). It's very light and summery and I love the vegetables that it calls for.

Pasta Primavera

14 oz. asparagus spears
8 oz. rotini, or other spiral pasta (about 2 and 1/2 cups)
1 red or yellow bell pepper
1 cup chopped baby pattypan squash or yellow summer squash
10 oz. Alfredo sauce (whatever brand you like)
Chicken, cooked and cubed
Dash of cayenne pepper

*With the asparaus I just chop up the whole bunch that I get from the store and put it in (I have no idea how much it is). Same with the squash, I buy a small squash, chop it up and put the whole thing in.

*The recipe doesn't actually call for chicken. That was Amanda's addition and it's SO good with the chicken. But, it's a great vegetarian dish without.

Start the water boiling for the noodles. Snap off and discard woody bases from asparagus spears. Chop remaining spears into 1-inch pieces. Chop other vegetables to desired size. Add noodles to boiling water and cook according to package adding the vegetables to the water for the last 3-4 minutes. Drain and return to pot. Add chicken, sauce and a dash of cayenne pepper.

*This recipe is really forgiving. You can add as much or as little veggies/sauce/chicken as you want. I was really intimidated by the recipe at first because I had never cooked those vegetables before. But, it has always come out great!

Thanks again Amanda, for introducing us to such a yummy and easy dish!

Slow Cooked Pork Chops

You should all be very proud of me. ;) I did something with this meal that I have never done before. I took a recipe and completely changed some ingredients in it. I've made tiny changes in recipes before (in amounts or with something small and safe like the breaded pork chop recipe), but usually I don't mess with the spices because I don't know enough about them to know what is good. This time I did a bit of research online and made adjustments accordingly.

I got the original recipe here (another cooking blog I've come across). I first made it for Paul on Father's Day this year. Paul liked it, but I didn't like the dijon mustard taste. I thought it wouldn't come through, but I could still taste it. So, this time I tried to find substitutions for dijon mustard online with no success. Then, I found a couple recipes for homemade dijon mustard. I took some key spices from those recipes and used them instead of dijon mustard in this recipe. It turned out pretty good! The spices I added gave a good flavor, and it was nice not to have to taste the mustard.

Slow Cooked Pork Chops
4 thinly sliced pork chops
salt and pepper to taste
1 apple, diced
1 medium onion, diced (the original recipe calls specifically for a yellow onion, but this time I used a white one because I prefer white onions)
1/4 c. apple cider vinegar
1/4 c. brown sugar
3 garlic cloves, minced*
2 bay leaves*

*These are the ingredients I added. The original recipe calls for 1 T. dijon mustard instead.

Place diced apple and onion in the bottom of your slow cooker (CrockPot). Season both sides of the pork chops with salt and pepper. Place the pork chops on top of the apples and onions (mine overlapped a little, it depends on how big your slow cooker is). In a separate bowl mix together the vinegar, brown sugar, garlic and bay leaves. Pour over the pork chops in the slow cooker. Cook on low setting for 4 hours. Remove and discard bay leaves before serving.

The main thing I like about this recipe is that the pork chops are so tender. They just fall apart with a fork. Overall, though, it's not my favorite recipe. I'm going to continue to look for slow cooked pork chop recipes, though.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Menu: Sept 8 - Sept 12

Wow, I have been SO bad.  Last week I only felt up to cooking on a couple nights.  I ended up making spaghetti one of the nights and then Diana's tamale pie the other night.  I really liked the tamale pie and Brian seemed to as well.  So, I have 5 dinners planned for this week so far and we'll see how much I stick to them.  The meal for the day may just make me want to vomit and I'll switch things around.  We'll see!

Monday (today): Chicken marinated in Zesty Italian Dressing and mashed potatoes.
Tuesday: Fettuccini Alfredo with chicken and broccoli.  I love how easy and yummy that meal is (I use sauce from a jar).
Wednesday: Breakfast skillet 
Thursday: Mexican tortillas (I've made this recipe a couple times and I like it.  I'll post the recipe later on)
Friday: Hawaiian Haystacks (I don't get tired of this...hopefully Brian doesn't either :)).

Eggplant Parmesano

This ended up being SO delicious! It's my favorite of all the new recipes I've tried lately. :) Paul was also a big fan. I got the recipe from a friend's blog (it can be found here); it's a family recipe of hers.

Eggplant Parmesano
2 medium eggplants, sliced (about ½ inch thick)
2 beaten eggs w/milk (I just prepared these as if I was making scrambled eggs)
1 cup Italian bread crumbs
olive oil (a few tablespoons)
1 jar spaghetti sauce (I picked a tomato and basil one, but any kind will work)
1 pound Italian sausage
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 bunch Italian parsley, chopped (Ok, I don't know anything about using fresh parsley, so I just chopped up the leaves and threw away the stems of half a bunch of parsley)
1/2 pound mozzarella cheese, sliced (This is funny--I could have sworn it said 1 lb., so I accidentally used a whole pound. It was very cheesy, but it was delicious. Then again, I love cheese! If you ask me, 1/2 lb wouldn't be quite enough. ;) Grated mozzarella would probably work just fine, too.)
1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese (Yeah so, I didn't buy fresh parmesan cheese. I just sprinkled the powder stuff on top because that's what I had. Works for me!)

Directions: (I'm writing the directions in my own words. I changed the order that she did things to try and save time and failed miserably. However, I still think some things should be switched around to make the best use of your time, so this is how I would do it in the future.)

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice the eggplant and place in a large bowl of salt water. (I didn't really know how much salt to put, but the four teaspoons I used was definitely not too much. Then again, I used a LOT of water.) Soak for about 30 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, sautee the onions in a little bit of olive oil until they start to get tender. Add the garlic and sautee for a minute or two more. Add the sausage and cook and stir until the sausage is done. Drain the grease. Add the spaghetti sauce and parsley. Reduce heat to medium low and let simmer, stirring occasionally.

3. Drain and rinse the eggplant slices. Dip each slice in the egg mixture and then the bread crumbs, making sure the whole piece is coated evenly. Place the eggplant slices on a cookie sheet greased with olive oil. Sprinkle olive oil on top of each slice. Bake (at 400 degrees) for 15 minutes, turn them over, and then bake for 15 more minutes. They should be lightly browned on both sides. Once you remove the eggplant slices from the oven, reduce the temperature to 350 degrees. (While the eggplant slices are baking, slice your cheese and keep watch on the marinara sauce. Lower the heat or turn it off completely at your own discretion. I would let it simmer for at least 15 minutes, if not the whole time.)

4. Arrange half of the eggplant slices in one layer on the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish. Add one layer of mozzarella slices (1/2 of what you are using). Top with half of the marinara sauce. Repeat this process with the other half of the ingredients: first eggplant, then cheese, then marinara. Top with parmesan cheese. Bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.

(I took this picture before I baked it. I forgot to take a picture when it came out.)

I'm giving this recipe a medium difficulty level just because it's more involved than our easy ones. It's still straightforward and easy to make. I highly recommend it!

Also, the sausage adds a really nice flavor, but you can leave it out for a nice vegetarian meal or substitute hamburger if you want. I recommend the sausage, though.

As far as the length of time needed, I'm going to say 90 minutes. It took me longer, but that's because I sat and did nothing for 30 minutes while the eggplant was soaking.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Blueberry Coffee Cake

I have made this coffee cake a couple times and I love the flavor and it is so moist! The only thing is I have never taken a picture of it. So the picture here is from the website that I got this recipe from (dineandish.net). When I make the recipe, my blueberries sink to the bottom and it doesn't look nearly as pretty. I don't remember at all how I found that website and she said that she got this recipe from Cooking LIght. So now that all credit is given where credit is due...


Blueberry Coffee Cake

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
6 tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large egg white
1 1/3 cups low-fat buttermilk
cooking spray
2 cups fresh blueberries
1 tablespoon turbinado sugar

Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder, soda, and salt, stirring with a whisk. Place granulated sugar and butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended (about 2 minutes). Add vanilla, egg, and egg white; beat well. Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture; mix after each addition. Spoon half of the batter into a 9-inch round baking pan coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle evenly with 1 cup blueberries. Spoon remaining batter over the blueberries; sprinkle evenly with remaining 1 cup blueberries. Sprinkle the top evenly with 1 tablespoon turbinado sugar. Bake at 350° for 50 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack.

* I used brown sugar instead of turbinado sugar and it's great that way! I, strangely, don't keep turbinado sugar on hand.
* I also buy the smallest buttermilk (which happens to be 1 cup) and then I add regular milk for the remaining 1/3 cup. I don't use buttermilk very much, so I didn't want leftovers.
* When I remove mine from the pan I put a plate on top and then flip it over and then put a plate over that and flip it again to make it face up. Like I said, my blueberries sunk to the bottom, so I couldn't really just cool mine on a cooling rack so I put the plate on the rack :).
* The first time I made it mine was undercooked. Make sure the toothpick comes out clean. Yum!

Pisto Manchego with Eggs

So, this week's dinners have gotten all switched around. I'm no longer even paying attention to what day I had planned on making something. I'm still on track for cooking them all, though! Last night I took a deep breath and decided to give this recipe a whirl. My vegetarian friend, Lisa (how do you like that title, Lisa? ;) ), linked to this recipe in a comment on my last menu when I asked for vegetarian suggestions. It's a recipe from the NY Times, and it can be found here.

I'm going to post it here as well with my own words tossed in for clarification and insights into my experience last night.

Pisto Manchego with Eggs
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 pounds zucchini, or a combination of green and yellow summer squash, diced
2 pounds tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped, or 1 (28-ounce) can, drained and chopped (see note below)
1/4 teaspoon sugar
Salt to taste (a generous amount, at least 1 teaspoon)
Lots of freshly ground black pepper
6 eggs

Note: When you seed the tomatoes, set a strainer over a bowl. Squeeze the seeds into the strainer, then press the pulp and juice through the strainer into the bowl. Discard the seeds and use the juice as described below.

Jennie's additional Note: This whole tomato process seemed too complicated for me, so I just bought a 28 oz. can of diced tomatoes and drained the juice. ;)

Heat the oil in a large, heavy, nonstick skillet over medium heat, then add the onion. Stir often, until just about tender — about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for another minute or two until fragrant. Stir in the squash and 1/2 teaspoon salt, and toss together for five minutes, until the squash is coated with oil and beginning to soften.

Add the tomatoes and sugar, then salt to taste (3/4 to 1 teaspoon) and turn the heat to medium-high. Stir often for five to 10 minutes, until the tomatoes have slightly cooked down.

Add the juice from the tomatoes plus 1/4 cup water, stir together, and turn the heat back down to medium-low. Cook uncovered for 30 to 35 minutes, until the vegetables are soft and easy to mash. Stir often, and add water as necessary, every 10 minutes or so, until the mixture cooks down and begins to stick to the pan. (Note from Jennie: I didn't add water the entire time other than the first 1/4 cup. I think canned tomatoes have plenty of liquid. It probably would have even been fine without that first 1/4 cup as mine ended up a tad runny.) From time to time, press on the squash with the back of your spoon so that it breaks down. (My squash did break down a bit, but I think it would have been better if I had been patient and chopped my squash into smaller pieces.) Taste, adjust the salt, and add lots of pepper.

Using the back of your spoon, make six wells in the vegetable mixture and break an egg into each well. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover the pan, and cook until the eggs have set, about six to eight minutes (the whites should be set, but the yolks should still be runny). Serve, using a spatula to dish out portions of pisto topped with an egg (we ate ours in bowls).

Ok, my experience with the eggs was a little different. My vegetable mixture wasn't thick enough to form wells and have them stay that way. Instead, I made a well with my spoon and had Paul crack an egg into it, one at a time. Also, I was paranoid about the eggs being cooked all the way, so my yolks ended up being cooked through. I let it cook for the whole eight minutes and I had the heat between medium and medium-low. I think they would have been perfect after six minutes.

Despite not being much to look at, this dinner was very flavorful and delicious! I enjoyed it a lot. I must admit that I didn't expect to like it as much as I did (I usually don't like squash that much). I highly recommend it, and it's not as hard as it looks.

*I'm giving this one a medium difficulty level. However, if you ask me, it would move into the hard category if you seeded and juiced your own tomatoes. But maybe that's just me. ;)

**Also, the website says you can use this recipe as a side dish without the eggs. I don't know if I'd want to put that much effort into a side dish, but if I got it to the simmering point and then cooked a main dish, it might work out just fine.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Teriyaki Marinade

I've only tried this marinade with chicken, but I'm sure it would be good with other types of meat as well. It is very flavorful and very easy.

Dinners 005

1/4 c. soy sauce
1/4 c. water
2 cloves garlic (minced)
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
salt and pepper
green onions and/or regular onions
2 tbs. sugar

Mix ingredients together and pour over meat (I like to pour mine in a ziplock bag but whatever works). Marinate for about 2 hours. I double it every time because a single batch just doesn't seem like enough. But, I usually have left over marinade at the end if I'm just cooking for the two of us. Cook meat as you usually do. I think it would be really good barbequed (we don't have one of those).

*I just bake my chicken in a 350 degree oven (on a pan covered with foil) for about 20 minutes .

Menu: September 2- September 8

Tuesday (today): Teriyaki Chicken and Fried Rice
Wednesday: Chicken and Broccoli Casserole
Thursday: Homemade Chicken Nuggets, Rice and Corn
Friday: Left Overs (Poor Jeff has to be home alone tonight)
Saturday: Chicken a la King
Sunday: The Hansen's Meatloaf, rice, veggies (Thanks, Jennie for posting it. Jeff and I have been wanting this recipe, but we kept on forgetting to ask for it)
Monday: Easy Chicken Cutlets over noodles with green beans

Pa-Pa's Meatloaf

This is a Hansen family recipe that's been passed down through the generations! We also use this recipe for meatballs (Paul and Brian call them "Meatloaf Balls").

Pa-Pa's Meatloaf
1 lb. hamburger
1/4 c. butter or margarine**, melted
1 can Chicken with Rice soup
1 egg
1/2 medium onion, diced
2 c. Wheaties

**My meatloaf came out too greasy this time, so I called my dad and asked if he uses extra lean meat. He said no (he gets 85% lean), but that he doesn't usually add butter. So, we decided either you should not add butter or you should buy extra lean meat.

Break up hamburger in a bowl. Pour on melted butter and onion. Add egg, soup, and Wheaties. Mix with hands (get messy! squeeze it through your fingers! gross!). Shape into a loaf pan. Spread ketchup on top. Cook at 350 degrees for about an hour to an hour and a half (it will be pulling away from the edges of the pan and the meat will not be pink when it's done).

Edit: Meatball Directions
If you want to make meatballs, just mix all the ingredients together and form 1 1/2 in. balls. Place them on a cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. They will turn brown and you can cut into one to check and make sure it's cooked all the way through. One recipe makes quite a lot of meatballs. :)

Menu: September 2 - September 8

Big news! I actually cooked every single meal that I planned last week! I know, it's a shocker. ;)

Let's see if I can do it two weeks in a row:

Tuesday (today): Pisto Manchego (the vegetarian recipe Lisa linked to on my menu last week)
Wednesday: Eggplant Parmesano (a new recipe from a friend's blog)
Thursday: Tamale Pie (thanks, Diana!)
Eat out (Paul's softball night)
Saturday: Paul cooks Japanese food
Sunday: Chicken a la King
Monday: Slow Cooked Pork Chops

I'm still on the lookout for more vegetarian ideas. I haven't actually done much looking yet. I've made a renewed effort to have one vegetarian meal each week, so that will be fun.