Sharing our food successes and failures, new recipes and old favorites
...and throwing in some great money-saving deals here and there!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Feb. 27 - Uncle Joe's Spaghetti Casserole

This is a recipe that spans three generations - my great-uncle Joe gave the recipe to my grandmother, who passed it down to my mother, who passed it down to me. It's a great cold-weather comfort food, and although it's a bit of a long process to make, it's well worth it! Make it the night before because it needs to sit overnight before baking.

Uncle Joe's Spaghetti Casserole
2 lbs. hamburger meat
6 slices of bacon
2 medium onions, chopped
2 green peppers, chopped
2 garlic cloves
1 large can tomato paste
2 large paste cans of water
4 small cans tomato sauce
2 sauce cans of water
Thyme, whole allspice, pepper, 3 - 4 bay leaves
23 oz. rotini pasta
Salt & pepper

  1. In a large pan, fry bacon.
  2. Remove bacon, drain grease, and add beef, onions, peppers, garlic and salt and pepper.
  3. In a large saucepan, simmer paste, sauce, water and spices.
  4. Boil pasta; drain and rinse.
  5. Strain sauce and add meat. 
  6. Place pasta in casserole dish. Add sauce/meat mixture and mix thoroughly.
  7. Crumble bacon on top.
  8. Let sit overnight. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese.
  9. Bake at least one hour at 325 degrees F. (You may still need to nuke it a little to have it completely warmed.)

Feb. 26 - Book Club Night

I didn't cook since it's Book Club night! Linds and the boy ate some Wawa macaroni and cheese and I got to enjoy all the treats at my friend Sarah's house. Buffalo chicken dip, spinach dip, cheesecake ball, chocolate cake, baked brie crescent roll...everything was absolutely delicious! And, of course, we had wine :-)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Feb. 25 - The Big Salad

Every time I have a "big salad," I think of the Seinfeld episode when George buys Elaine the big salad, but his girlfriend at the time takes credit, much to his dismay. It also reminds me of "The Soup" episode when they go to Reggie's Diner and Elaine orders a big salad. The waitress (Hilde) looks at her confused and Elaine quips, "It's a salad. Only bigger. With lots of stuff in it." Hilde then offers her two small salads.

Alas, if Hilde actually understood the concept and delectability of the Big Salad she would have realized two small salads just doesn't cut it. The Big Salad must come in a large bowl and contain lots of different add-ins. We started our salads off tonight with some bagged romaine salad with shredded carrots and purple cabbage. The boy added a grilled chicken breast, tons of cheddar cheese, croutons, and an inordinate amount of 1000 Island dressing to his. I used some of the leftover rib meat, corn, bleu cheese and a dressing mix of bleu cheese and Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce (the same I used on the rib meat) was an odd combination of things, but all together it tasted pretty darn good!

Of course, I had to wash it down with a brickle drop cookie for dessert.

Brickle Drop Cookies

We're heading toward yet another snow storm and are stranded, car-less, at home. After putting Luke down for a nap, I figured we might as well bake some cookies or else we'll head into our gazillionth game of Memory. I'm so tired of chocolate chip, peanut butter, oatmeal, etc. and when I was at the grocery store yesterday, I came across some Heath Bits O' Brickle Toffee Bits, which are absolutely delightful little mix-ins for cookies. I wound up using the recipe on the back of the bag for Brickle Drop Cookies. I love me some toffee, and how could toffee cookies not be great?! They turned out perfectly (I can attest to that by the 3 or 4 I've eaten already today). Here's how the kitchen looked after Lindsay and I created our masterpieces:
 The mess was worth it, though - here's the recipe!

Brickle Drop Cookies
1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1-1/3 cups (8 oz. pkg.) HEATH BITS 'O BRICKLE Toffee Bits

  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease cookie sheet.
  2. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, vanilla and salt in large bowl until blended. Add eggs; beat well. Stir together flour, baking soda and cream of tartar; gradually add to butter mixture, beating until blended. Stir in brickle. Drop by heaping teaspoons onto prepared cookie sheet.
  3. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned. (Took mine more like 13 minutes.) Cool slightly. 
Yield: about 6 dozen cookies.

 From Hershey's Kitchens.


I'm beginning to get tired of breakfast - I got into a groove where enjoyed it there for awhile, but now, I'm just so sick of all the breakfast foods. Cereal doesn't fill me up enough, I've done yogurt so much, waffles/pancakes/french toast/etc. are just too calorie-heavy, oatmeal isn't my favorite...yada, yada, yada. When I woke up this morning, I started searching through my cabinets and decided I was hungry for pumpernickel bread, Heidi Ann swiss cheese (my FAVORITE from Wegmans' deli!) and eggs. I decided to toast the bread, split the eggs into yolks and whites, made Luke the yolks and myself an egg white omelet, topped mine with the swiss cheese and tossed it on the pumpernickel bread. It actually was super yummy - I loved my little sandwich and Luke totally dug the yolks. Finding a new finger food that he enjoys and can feed himself is always exciting to me!

Feb. 24 - Kraft Mac-n-Cheese

I know two good meals in a row was too good to be true! I so was not in the mood to cook last night, and with the impending snow storm, I needed to get to the grocery store for (of course) milk and some other minor necessities. I figured, what the heck? Might as well do up a couple boxes of Kraft Mac-n-Cheese! After I got home, I snacked on some "grown-up" food that I picked up at Giant (didn't even bother going out to Wegmans): Rosemary and Olive Oil Triscuits topped with Gouda cheese. YUM!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


After working in Hershey for nearly six years straight, I pretty much lost all taste for chocolate. I wasn't much of a fan to begin with, but after six years of picking at the bin of reject chocolate in the break room of Chocolate World, forget about it. I couldn't stand another taste.

Well, that was up until I was pregnant with Luke. Since then, I've been a chocoholic. I'm pretty picky, though, about the kind I eat...and coincidentally, I prefer Hershey's. But, my mama took a trip to Altoona to meet my aunt a few weeks ago and brought me back the BEST present ever: Mallo Cups!! The sweet marshmallow center, with the crispy coconutty chocolate shell is, without a doubt, my favorite candy. Hands down. They aren't easy to find (although I have seen them in some Wawas!), but I found them through Amazon in bulk - and am damn tempted to order some more. They're only 60-ish calories a cup, too, so it's a perfect dessert - enough to quell the sweet tooth, but not laden with calories.

My other chocolate obsession includes these two Hershey kisses: mint truffles (of which I bought two bags back in December and have rationed myself so that I can still enjoy some now) and Irish cream (I have to beg, borrow and steal these from Sarah!). I can't even begin to explain the rich, creamy goodness that these embody without sounding pathetic, so I'll leave it up to your imaginations. I'm also dorky enough to seek out the different types of limited edition kisses that Hershey has put out before and was shocked at all the different kinds! I bolded the ones I would seriously give my left arm for. Go ahead and make fun...but if you do, let me know which ones YOU want to try!

* New York Style Cheesecake
* Orange Creme
* Vanilla Creme
* Lemon Creme
* Coconut Creme
* TRIO (dark, milk and white chocolates in one Kiss)
* Chocolate Marshmallow
* Cookies 'n' Creme (has little nonpareil bits - not the same as the European ones, they have little Oreo bits)
* Vanilla Yogurt Creme (not to be confused with the Vanilla Creme)
* Chocolate Truffle
* Mint Truffle
* Special Dark Strawberry
* Champagne Truffle
* Neapolitan (chocolate, vanilla and strawberry flavors)
* Milk Chocolate Filled with Marshmallow Creme
* Caramel Apple
* Candy Corn
* Pumpkin Spice
* Hot Cocoa Creme
* Candy Cane (Peppermint)
* Chocolate Mint
* Dark Raspberry
* Milk Chocolate Filled with Strawberry Creme
* Chocolate Meltaway (Milk Chocolate with velvety smooth chocolate center)
* Irish Creme (milk chocolate filled with irish creme)
* Buttered Cream
* Espresso

Feb. 23 - Ribs!!

Okay, so I have this bizarre fear of cooking ribs. I think it's because I've never met a rib I didn't enjoy - whether from Chili's, Tony Roma's, Damon's, T-Bonz (Myrtle Beach), etc. Hell, even the premade kind you get from the grocery are half-decent and nearly impossible to screw up.

So when I came across a crockpot ribs recipe, I'll admit it...I was nervous. I didn't want to spend $15 on meat that ended up trashed. I didn't want to take the effort to make the marinade, just to have it poo-poo'ed by the rest of the family. But, I wanted to conquer this inane trepidation, and figured I better have at it.

The recipe I found was on - one of my absolute favorite recipe sites! It had well over 600 reviews, with an overall rating of 4.5 (out of 5) stars. I always read the reviews on the front page, too, for changes or suggestions (these are the ones voted most helpful), and used those in fixing up my recipe. Here's what I ended up with:

Slow Cooker Ribs
4 lbs. pork baby back ribs
salt, pepper, minced onion and garlic powder to taste
2 cups Cattleman barbecue sauce
1 cup ketchup (only Heinz in this household!)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 dash of hot sauce

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
  2. Season ribs with salt, pepper, minced onion and garlic powder. Place in a shallow baking pan. Brown in oven 15 minutes. Turn over, and brown another 15 minutes; drain fat.
  3. In a medium bowl, mix together the barbecue sauce, ketchup, brown sugar, vinegar, oregano, Worcestershire sauce, and hot sauce. Place ribs in slow cooker. Pour sauce over ribs, and turn to coat.
  4. Cover, and cook on low 6 to 8 hours, or until ribs are tender.
  5. About 30 minutes before serving, place back in baking pan at 400 degrees F and the sauce will caramelize to the meat and finish them to perfection.
They turned out SO, SO DELICIOUS! Oh my word, I can't believe how easy they were, and how scrumptious they tasted. I swear, this was better than I ever could have imagined! I roasted corn in the oven to go with them and that tasted great, too. It was just frozen corn, 2 tablespoons of butter, and a little salt and pepper sprinkled on top. I roasted it at 400 degrees F for about 30 minutes (same as the ribs), and it turned out perfectly. Veggies in the oven, I've learned, taste much better than microwaved, steamed or boiled veggies.
If you need one more reason to try these, even the little man ate nearly an entire rib?!? He can barely tolerate applesauce and mashed bananas, but give him some rib meat and he's in heaven! Linds devoured it happily, too.
So, yeah, two days into the week, and two phenomenal meals down. I'm almost worried about tomorrow's dinner - it will probably be quite a let-down after cornbread enchilada casserole and spare ribs- but that's okay, I conquered my fear of cooking ribs and have a great new meal to add to the collection!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Feb. 22 - Cornbread Enchilada Casserole

My friend Katie kept hounding me to try out her crockpot cornbread enchilada casserole, sending me the recipe at least twice. I know the boy's feelings on cornbread (dislikes), so I put off making it, but now I'm kicking myself for not trying it earlier. It was FANTASTIC! I seriously think I ate half the casserole by myself. The boy even looked at me at one point and asked, "wow, hungry today?" And let the record state, I worked out for over an hour and did a ton of crunches, so, yes, I was hungry! :P

Anyhoo, the entire prep time was maybe 10 minutes (easy to make the night before, too, if necessary) and then 5 hours of collective cooking time. The mixture is almost a chili consistency and then with the cornbread and cheese on top, it was very reminiscent of a chili dinner, but with a completely different twist. I loved it! Did I mention it was delicious? Yep, thank you Katie for suggesting a winner! Linds ate all of hers and even the boy ate most of his (I finished his bowl just so none went to waste). This is absolutely one you must try!

Cornbread Enchilada Casserole
1 small can diced green chiles (4 oz i think)
1/2 cup of your favorite salsa
3 to 4 chopped scallions (I used 1/4 cup onion)
2 cups shredded cooked chicken
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can corn with red & green peppers, drained
1 (10 oz.) can enchilada sauce
1/2 cup egg substitute (I used 2 eggs)
1 (8.5 oz) package corn muffin mix
2 Tblsp chopped roasted red bell pepper
1 1/2 cups (6 oz) shredded Mexican cheese
for garnish - sour cream, fresh cilantro

  1. Place salsa, scallions, chicken, beans, corn, half the chilies, and enchilada sauce into the cooker; stir well. Cover with lid and cook on LOW for 4 hours.
  2. Combine the other half of the chiles, corn muffin mix, egg substitute, and chopped red pepper in a bowl. Spoon batter evenly over the bean mixture in the cooker. Cover and cook 1 hour until the crust is done.
  3. Sprinkle the cheese over the corn bread, turn off the crockpot and let it sit 5 minutes until the cheese melts. Top each serving with a tablespoon of sour cream and additional cilantro, optional. Makes about 6 servings (unless you're me, then it's like 3...haha!).

    Sunday, February 21, 2010

    Feb. 21 - Cashew Honey Chicken

    I bought a bulk-box of Purdue shortcuts for an incredibly cheap price from BJs a few weeks ago, but when I got home I realized they were the Honey-flavored and probably would taste a little funky in fajitas or enchiladas like I was planning to use them for. I debated what I could use them in and came across the cashew honey chicken recipe on the Purdue site. It was one of the quickest meals ever (seriously, like 30 seconds prep and about 5 minutes cook time) and I served mine over rice (which actually took about 1/2 an hour in my rice cooker, but there is no work involved with that). The boy didn't like the beans (go figure), but Linds begged for seconds after eating her entire bowl-full. Definitely a keeper!

    Cashew Honey Chicken
    1 package PERDUE® SHORT CUTS® Carved Chicken Breast, Honey Roasted, 6 oz.
    1 cup chicken broth
    2 tablespoons soy sauce
    1 tablespoon brown sugar
    1 tablespoon cornstarch
    1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
    1 box (9 ounces) frozen cut green beans, thawed
    1/3 cup cashews

    1. In small bowl, whisk together broth, soy sauce, brown sugar, cornstarch and ginger. 
    2. In large nonstick skillet, stirring frequently, bring broth mixture to a boil over medium-high heat.
    3. Add chicken and green beans and heat, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes.
    4. Sprinkle with cashews and serve, if desired, over hot rice.

      Saturday, February 20, 2010

      Feb. 20 - Alfredo Pasta w/ Broccoli

      After eating out and snacking for dinner over the past few days, I was desperate for a home-cooked meal. I only got home from my dear friend Katie's bridal shower around 4ish, and was wrapped up in playing with the kiddos for an hour...and by 5 I was ravenous! I figured I'd do the fettuccine alfredo with broccoli. The alfredo sauce is so easy to make and comes from a diabetic cookbook, so it's much lower in calories than the jarred stuff and a far healthier alternative. I sometimes top it with chicken or shrimp, but the veggies just sounded good for tonight, so that's what we did! Linds refused to eat it (she was in a mood today), but the boy even managed to force down some of that dreaded "green stuff" he hates so much.

      Alfredo Sauce
      6 tablespoons reduced-fat butter/margarine
      2 tablespoons flour
      1 cup milk
      1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

      1. Melt butter in medium saucepan on medium-low setting.
      2. Stir in flour until mixture is smooth.
      3. Pour in milk, stirring constantly until mixture thickens and begins to bubble.
      4. Stir in Parmesan cheese and stir until cheese melts.

      Feb. 19 - Chili's

      The boy was still traveling yesterday, and my mom decided to come down and spend the night, so we ate at Chili's for dinner last night. We split nachos and fajitas and got a margarita each (yum!). As good as it was, I'm looking forward to actually eating a "real" meal again come Saturday?!?

      Thursday, February 18, 2010

      Feb. 18 - Cheese & Crackers

      The boy is traveling, so we are on our own for dinner! After spending an afternoon with Sarah, Gina and all the kiddos, eating ridiculous amounts of food, I wasn't even hungry when 6:00 rolled around. We had grilled paninis, filled with turkey, ham and swiss cheese, with sourdough and pumpernickel breads...absolutely fantastic! We also had spicy Doritos (yummmm) and chocolate fondue with marshmallows, pretzels and strawberries to dip. Sarah also pulled out macaroons that she had taken to a playdate the day before, and I tell you what - dipping those in the chocolate fondue was like making gigantic mounds bars - pure food bliss.

      When we got home, I fed Linds some pizza and fruit, and miraculously got both kids to bed. I munched on some wheat crackers, Heidi Ann swiss cheese (my new favorite from the deli at Wegmans), Dijon mustard and cashews. It was enough to fill me up, but not feel like any more of a cow than I already do. I think the box of merlot is beckoning, so I'll probably wash this down with a small glass before bed :)

      Feb. 17 - Wine and More Wine

      Wednesday was just the ultimate crap day. Luke screamed all morning and fussed all afternoon - there was nothing that could soothe this child. Lindsay was well-behaved in the morning, but proceeded to melt down all afternoon. By the time 5:00 rolled around, I was planning on fettuccine alfredo, topped with chopped broccoli, but shortly thereafter I realized I'd be lucky to get a pot of water boiling, much less make the alfredo and broccoli?! By 6:30, the kids were in their absolute worst form, and it was all I could do to just put the pasta in the water and pour myself a glass of wine. By the time the boy got home, I didn't even have an appetite, so I just drank a second glass and ate a couple of rice cakes. The boy and Linds had some spaghetti and jarred sauce, but that was as much as effort as I could muster.

      Tuesday, February 16, 2010

      Cooking FAIL

      Soooo, I had a major cooking FAIL yesterday that I didn't have a chance to post about. It's almost too embarrassing to put out there - I haven't screwed up much food lately (used to in BIG ways, but I've gotten much better). It was when I was cooking some Pillsbury garlic crescent rolls. How in the heck can you screw those up? Well, after they were finished, I pulled them out of the oven and tossed them on top of the stove to let them cool for a few minutes.

      Next thing I know I smell something burning and look back to the stove - somehow the back burner was on (either I nudged it on with the pan accidentally or I forgot to turn it off when I was cooking the meat for the ziti). The heat conducted through the metal baking sheet and it totally burnt all of my crescent rolls. I love those darn rolls and when I saw them crispy black on the bottom I thought I could salvage them and just eat the top halves...well, that was FAIL #2. I took a bite of the top half and of course the nasty char-grilled flavor had seeped its way through the entire thing. All of them ended up in the trash. ::sigh::

      Like I said, I used to be an awful cook...the butt of all cooking jokes in my family.
      • There was the time my sister and I made chocolate chip cookies and I forgot to add in the flour - a completely runny mess.
      • There was the time I mixed up salt and sugar (1/2 a cup of salt did seem like a tad too much at the time, but what did I know?). 
      • There was the vodka pasta sauce that got me tanked after the bowl of spaghetti was finished (I thought cooking with alcohol burns the booze off?). 
      • There was the crockpot chicken that was supposed to be cooked in sherry (which I thought was red wine), and I didn't have any, so I cooked it in merlot. It turned purple. That was way off.  Sherry is white wine, by the way.
      Oh, lord, so many more dishes I've destroyed (coq au vin, chicken marsala - this is why I hate cooking chicken, by the way)...I could go on and on and on. So, even as you read all these blog posts and think to yourself, "gee, Erica can cook a helluva meal," please remember that I can really screw up a meal, too! Make me feel better - *please* share YOUR food fails with me.

      Feb. 16 - Pork BBQ, Potatoes & Carrots

      I had a container of pre-made pork BBQ in the freezer, so I defrosted that and decided to make sandwiches, roasted garlic red potatoes, steamed carrots and sugar-free banana pudding for dessert. The pork had that defrosted taste - probably not a good idea to freeze it next time I buy it (although I don't think I liked that brand anyways), but the potatoes and carrots were delicious!

      Here's my potato recipe!

      Garlic Red Potatoes

      2 pounds red potatoes, quartered
      1/4 cup butter, melted
      2 teaspoons minced garlic
      1 teaspoon salt
      1 lemon, juiced
      1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese

      1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
      2. Place potatoes in an 8x8 inch baking dish.
      3. In a small bowl combine melted butter, garlic, salt and lemon juice; pour over potatoes and stir to coat. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over potatoes.
      4. Bake in preheated oven for 60 minutes (or until golden brown).

      Monday, February 15, 2010

      Feb. 15 - Baked Ziti (again!)

      We just had some ziti casserole last weekend, but one of the mamas in the club had a baby and I signed up to deliver her a meal (a few days late because of the snow, but at least we finally got it to her!). It's the same recipe as before, but I'll post it again. I made some of the Pillsbury garlic crescent rolls and salad to go with it, and some of the brownies from scratch for dessert!

      Baked Ziti
      1 lb ziti noodles
      1 lb ground sausage
      1/2 lb ground beef
      3 cups mozzarella cheese
      3 cups marinara/spaghetti sauce
      1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

      1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
      2. Cook ziti in boiling water; drain.
      3. Brown meats; drain off fat.
      4. In a large baking dish, layer ziti, meat, cheese and sauce; repeat until everything has been used.
      5. Top with Parmesan cheese.
      6. Bake about 30 - 40 minutes until bubbly.

      Best Brownies
      1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
      1 cup white sugar
      2 eggs
      1 teaspoon vanilla extract
      1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
      1/2 cup flour
      1/4 teaspoon salt
      1/4 teaspoon baking powder

      1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8 x 8 pan. If you use a glass dish, turn heat down by 25 degrees and bake a few minutes longer.
      2. In a large saucepan, melt butter. Remove from heat and stir in sugar, eggs, vanilla extract, cocoa powder, flour, salt and baking powder. Use a wooden spoon to mix and do NOT use a blender (they won't be as fudge-y if you blend).
      3. Bake in preheated oven for about 30-35 minutes, making sure not to over cook.

      Feb. 14 - Wine & Popcorn

      The children were in monstrous form on (of all days!) Valentine's Day. Ugh! By the time dinner rolled around, everyone was grouchy and tired. We stuffed a grilled cheese in Lindsay's mouth and hurried her through it, putting her to bed immediately upon finishing. After that I was so fed up with the day that I popped a bag of popcorn, drank a small bottle of white zin (thank you, Jody!) and went to bed.

      Saturday, February 13, 2010

      Feb. 13 - Brickside Grille

      Tonight is Parents Night Out at Hopewell (Lindsay's soon-to-be preschool, starting September), so the boy and I are going on a "date night" - dinner and mattress shopping! We're upgrading our queen to a king-size bed (if all four of us are going to sleep in it, we might as well have a little more space) long as we find what we want. With all of the President's Day deals going on right now, we better! After we purchase the mattress, new bedding, etc., we'll probably head to Brickside Grille in Exton for dinner. I've been there once before and the food is delish!

      Friday, February 12, 2010

      Feb. 12 - Valerie's Chicken

      When I was a kid, we had some family friends who made this chicken during a get-together and we all loved the recipe. Instead of calling it by name, my mom called it, "Valerie's Chicken" so we would remember which chicken recipe it was. The name stuck and now we only refer to it as Valerie's Chicken. It's super easy to make (with only six ingredients, how could it not be?!?), takes only about 30 minutes, and is delicious over pasta or rice. It calls for cream of mushroom soup, and although the boy and my mom detest "fungus," they love the recipe - it's not at all a strong mushroom flavor.

      Tonight, we paired it with pasta (the boy's preference) and had a side of peas with it. Linds loves this chicken and even proclaimed, "this is the best dinner ever!"

      Valerie's Chicken
      2 boneless chicken breasts
      2 tablespoons butter
      1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
      3 oz. cream cheese
      1 can cream of mushroom soup
      1/4 cup of cooking sherry/white wine

      1. Melt butter in pan over medium heat.
      2. Brown chicken breasts; season with Italian seasoning.
      3. Simmer 10 minutes.
      4. Combine cream cheese, soup and wine and pour over chicken. 
      5. Let simmer for 20 minutes.
      The recipe originally calls for 4 chicken breasts, but I find there isn't enough sauce if you do that many. If you need to do 4 pieces of chicken, DEFINITELY double the sauce (6 oz. cream cheese, 2 cans soup, 1/2 cup wine). Give it a shot with pasta and rice - I like it both ways!

      Thursday, February 11, 2010

      Feb. 11 - Leftover Lasagna

      I bought a 12-serving lasagna a few weeks back and made the entire thing. Since we surely weren't going to eat all of it even if we ate it as leftovers, I froze half. I need to hit the grocery store tomorrow because we're running low on stuff to make for meals and this was one of the last things we had left to eat. Nothing exciting, but it tasted okay (not as good as homemade lasagna, nor as good as I remembered frozen ones to be). A mini-trip to the grocery store is in order for tomorrow!

      On another note, I think Luke is teething because he is miserable and is refusing most foods except yogurt and applesauce. He needs to get some veggies in, and I know he enjoys green beans, but he refused them when the boy tried feeding him yesterday. Since he devours the applesauce, I mixed the two, and the kid housed two full bowls - I couldn't believe it?! He was definitely hungry. I guess for the time being we'll try combining his different foods so he'll eat least until whichever teeth are on their way pop up.

      Feb. 10 - Shrimp Scampi

      Another low-cal meal was on the docket for Wednesday night (less than 325 calories for this one!). I did a shrimp scampi  over white rice...and was planning to do green beans and almonds as a side, but completely forgot until dinner was on the table. I figured an extra cookie for dessert would fill us all up in place of the veggie?!?

      The prep for this is simple - the rice takes the longest (if you use regular rice), but the rest is just a snap. I can't eat rice anymore unless it's cooked in my rice cooker...I loooooove that thing, so that's why mine took a little extra time. Everyone in the family loves this one - in fact, Miss L (who seems to have expensive taste in food) devours the shrimp. It's always a fan-favorite.

      Shrimp Scampi Over White Rice
      1 lb shelled and deveined large shrimp (thawed if frozen)
      2 teaspoons olive oil
      1.5 tsp jarred chopped garlic
      1 tablespoon lemon juice
      1 tablespoon butter

      1. Rinse shrimp and pat dry with paper towel. 
      2. Heat oil in skillet, ad shrimp, and let cook over medium heat for a minute or two until the underside turns pink. Turn shrimp over and cook an additional minute. 
      3. Add garlic and lemon juice and heat through about one minute. Swirl in butter. 
      4. Meanwhile, cook rice according to package directions.
      Serve one cup of rice with a quarter of the shrimp. 4 servings; 321 calories, 7 g. fat/serving. Enjoy!

      Wednesday, February 10, 2010

      French Toast

      We are getting MORE snow (already almost a foot has fallen and we've got at least 8 hours to go), and the boy was even called off work (quite possibly the first time the company has EVER closed for the winter). Since we're all snowed in, I wanted to make a hearty breakfast and decided to put the milk, eggs and bread to use! I use the basic Joy of Cooking recipe which is my absolute favorite and simple to make.

      French Toast
      2/3 cup milk
      4 eggs
      1 teaspoon vanilla
      2 tablespoons sugar
      1/4 teaspoon salt
      bread (original recipe calls for 6 slices, but I got a dozen out of  my egg mixture)

      1. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in pan over medium heat.
      2. Whisk together milk, eggs, vanilla, sugar and salt.
      3. Dip bread in mixture until soggy, but not falling apart.
      4. Once browned on one side, flip over and brown the other side.
      5. If you want to keep it warm and serve all slices at once, you can put it in the oven at 200F to keep warm.
      Linds loved hers (ate a slice and a half), but Luke (again) was less than thrilled with eating pieces of it. I'm wondering what his aversion to food is at the moment - he doesn't seem to like a lot of stuff we're trying. Even the boy scarfed down two slices and he isn't much of a breakfast person.

      Tuesday, February 9, 2010

      Feb. 9 - Turkey Mini-Meatloaves

      On the recommendation of a friend, and needing a dose of healthy eating (snowed-in snacking, Superbowl junk food and eating out are not friendly to the hips and thighs!), I made turkey mini-meatloaves and roasted root vegetables. The entire meal was under 450 calories and very filling - I still feel full an hour and a half later (which is not usually the case). If you're looking for something low-cal but that is full of flavor, I definitely recommend it!

      The boy enjoyed it, although picked around the spinach in the meatloaf. Lindsay devoured it - I didn't even have to beg or force her to take another bite. In fact, she ate a half of a loaf herself - pretty big portion for a three year old! I blended it and watered it down a little for Luke, figuring it was even healthier than just one veggie and one fruit, but he did NOT like it...screamed and fussed and refused to even swallow it. Oh, well, can't please them all?!?

      I forgot to take a photo, but here's the photo from the site:

      Turkey Mini-Meatloaves w/ Roasted Root Vegetables
      For the meatloaves
      1 slice whole-wheat bread
      1/2 cup skim milk
      1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
      1 onion, diced
      5-ounce bag baby spinach leaves
      1 1/4 pounds ground turkey
      2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan
      1 large egg
      1/2 teaspoon salt
      1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
      1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

      For the glaze
      3 tablespoons ketchup
      2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
      1 teaspoon hot sauce

      For the roasted root veggies
      3 large carrots, cut on the bias
      2 Yukon Gold potatoes, cut on the bias
      1/4 cup asparagus (about 4 stalks)
      1 teaspoon chopped parsley
      1 teaspoon chopped chives
      1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
      1 teaspoon salt
      1/4 teaspoon pepper

      1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
      2. Grind the bread in a food processor until fine crumbs form. Transfer to a large bowl, and pour milk over crumbs.
      3. Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a large skillet, preferably nonstick, over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and golden, about 5 minutes. Add spinach, and stir until just wilted, about 30 seconds. Transfer to bowl with soaked crumbs. Add the turkey, cheese, egg, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Combine the mixture with your hands until well mixed; it will be quite wet.
      4. Pack 1 cup of the mixture into a 1-cup dry measuring cup. Invert the cup onto a rimmed baking sheet, gently shaking the cup to release the mixture. Gently pat the mound to smooth its shape. Repeat three times with remaining mixture. Bake mini meatloaves until cooked through and golden, about 45 minutes.
      5. While the meatloaves are cooking, make the glaze: In a small bowl combine the ketchup, Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce. Brush over meatloaves.
      6. To make the roasted root vegetables: On a baking sheet, toss all the vegetables in the olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Add to the oven along with the meatloaves and roast for 35 minutes, stirring midway through baking. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with herbs.
      The prep time wasn't too bad - maybe about 20 or 25 minutes, but you can easily make the loaves ahead and refrigerate/freeze until you're ready to bake them.

      Feb. 8 - Girls Night Out!

      Since my girls night out/birthday celebration with good friends, Gina and Sarah, was canceled on Saturday, we took advantage of the one night of good weather and went out on Monday. We went to Marget Kuo's Mandarin Restaurant - an authentic Chinese/Japanese restaurant that serves unbelievably fantastic food! We ordered two appetizers - crab California roll and steamed spinach and seafood dumplings, and two entrees - General Tso's chicken and a beef/chicken/seafood medley. The restaurant is a BYOB, so we were able to enjoy some of the wine we brought, too! We topped off the evening at Friendly's for some ice cream (and snuck in some Cabernet Sauvignon - tee hee). Such a great, relaxing night with fantastic company!

      Sunday, February 7, 2010

      Feb. 7 - Super Bowl Junk

      It's Super Bowl day! All thoughts of a home-cooked, healthy meal are STRAIGHT out the window. We ordered 2 dozen hot wings, a dozen mozzarella sticks, half  a dozen jalapeño poppers, and half a dozen chicken cordon bleu poppers from Triple Fresh and gorged on fried goodness. YUMMM! Go Saints!

      Feb. 6 - Baked Ziti

      After being snowed in with more than TWO FEET of snow (yes, TWO!), we were going completely stir crazy and invited our good friends and neighbors, the Wawrzyniaks, over to enjoy dinner and games with us. I had all the fixings for a baked ziti and figured that would be an easy and delicious cold-weather meal. Joy and Kortney brought over broccoli and the most fantastic multi-grain "fancy" bread. The meal was absolutely scrumptious and we had enough leftovers for everyone for lunch today. Prep time with this is about 20 minutes or so.

      Baked Ziti
      1 lb ziti noodles
      1 lb ground sausage
      1/2 lb ground beef
      3 cups mozzarella cheese
      3 cups marinara/spaghetti sauce
      1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

      1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
      2. Cook ziti in boiling water; drain.
      3. Brown meats; drain off fat.
      4. In a large baking dish, layer ziti, meat, cheese and sauce; repeat until everything has been used.
      5. Top with Parmesan cheese.
      6. Bake about 30 - 40 minutes until bubbly.

      Saturday, February 6, 2010

      Some Munchin' Mamas Recipes

      Here are the divine recipes of the 1st installment of the Munchin' Mamas Club - they were all absolutely fantastic and come HIGHLY recommended! The theme for February was, "a dish I love" - so these are all dishes held near and dear to the members' hearts. Bon appétit!

      Round Steak in Mushroom Gravy
      1 lb round steak
      Flour to coat meat
      1 tablespoon Crisco
      1 tablespoon butter
      Salt and pepper to taste
      1 can cream of mushroom soup

      1. Cut one "slice" of round steak (approx. 1 lb.) into pieces (trim off fat).
      2. Cover in flour.
      3. In pan, melt 1 tbsp of Crisco lard and 1 tbsp of butter/margarine.
      4. Put meat in pan, and salt and pepper meat.
      5. Brown meat quickly on both sides.
      6. Add 1 can of cream of mushroom soup (10 3/4 oz.), plus one can of hot water.
      7. Lower heat and stir.
      8. Simmer with lid until meat is tender (1 1/2 to 2 hours); can be served over anything (mashed potatoes, noodles, rice, etc.).

      Cheese Potato Casserole
      2 lbs. frozen hash brown potatoes (or fresh shredded)
      1/2 c. melted butter
      1 tsp. salt
      1/4 tsp. pepper
      2 cans cream of chicken soup, undiluted
      2 c. cheddar cheese, grated
      2 c. sour cream
      2 c. corn flakes, mixed with 1/4 cup butter

      1. Thaw potatoes and combine with all ingredients except corn flakes. 
      2. Sprinkle corn flakes (buttered) on top. 
      3. Use a 3 quart casserole or large flat glass baking dish. Bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees. Makes 2 dishes.
      Serves 10 to 12 people. This is a wonderful potato dish to serve with ham or brisket. It freezes well, so you can make this recipe and freeze half.

      Cream Puffs
      2 (3.4 oz) packages jell-o brand vanilla instant pudding mix
      2 cups heavy cream
      1 cup milk
      1/2 cup butter
      1 cup water
      1/4 tsp. salt
      1 cup all-purpose flour
      4 eggs

      1. Mix together vanilla instant pudding mix, cream, and milk. Cover and refrigerate to set.
      2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
      3. In a large pot, bring water and butter to a rolling boil. Stir in flour and salt until the mixture forms a ball.
      4. Transfer the dough to a large mixing bowl. Using a wooden spoon or stand mixer, beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each. 
      5. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto an ungreased baking sheet.
      6. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in the preheated oven, until golden brown. Centers should be dry.
      7. When the shells are cool, either split and fill them with the pudding mixture, or use a pastry bag to pipe the pudding into the shells.

      Makes about 2 dozen.

      Braised Chickpeas
      2 teaspoons olive oil
      2 onions, chopped
      3 garlic cloves, minced
      One 19 oz can chickpeas rinsed & drained
      One 14oz can diced tomatoes
      1/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley (I used dried b/c I don't like the texture of fresh)
      3 tablespoons chopped mint
      1/2 teaspon freshly ground black pepper
      2 teaspons fresh lemon juice

      1. Heat oil in skillet, add onions, cook 5 minutes until soft.
      2. Add garlic, cook 1 minute.
      3. Stir in remaining ingredients except for lemon until boiling; reduce heat and simmer uncovered until thinckened, 10-15 minutes.
      4. Stir in lemon juice
      Makes 4 servings. 3 WW points per serving.

      Baked Brie
      Wedge of creamy Brie
      Jam of choice
      Tube of refrigerated crescent dough

      1. Line a baking pan with 3/4 of the crescent dough.
      2. Break up wedge of brie into smaller chunks and place on top.
      3. Cover with half a jar of jam.
      4. Piece the remaining dough on top.  
      5. Cook on 350 approx 20 minutes or until light golden brown.

      Creamy Macaroni & Cheese
      2 Tablespoons Butter
      1 Cup Cottage Cheese (Not Lowfat)
      2 Cups Milk (Not Skim)
      1 tsp dry mustard
      Pinch Cayenne
      Pinch Nutmeg
      1/2 tsp salt
      1/4 tsp black pepper
      1 pound sharp or extra sharp cheddar, shredded or grated
      1/2 pound elbow macaroni, UNCOOKED

      1. Heat oven to 375F and position rack in upper third of oven. Use 1 tsp butter to butter a 9 inch round or square baking pan.
      2. In a blender, puree cottage cheese, milk, mustard, cayenne, pepper, nutmeg, and salt together.
      3. Reserve 1/4 cup shredded cheese for topping. In a large bowl, combine remaining shredded cheese, milk mixture, and uncooked pasta. Pour into prepared pan, cover tightly with foil and bake 30 minutes.
      4. Uncover pan, stir gently, sprinkle with reserved cheese and dot with remaining tablespoon of butter.
      5. Bake, uncovered, 30 minutes more until browned. Cool 15 minutes prior to serving.

      Feb. 5 - A little of this and that

      The excitement of the storm prevented me from cooking (as did the big lunch with the mamas - 6 adults, 8 kiddos, 5 babies...a LARGE group!), so we just ate a little of this and that - Kraft Mac & Cheese, a Smart Ones, spinach casserole, cookies, chips, etc. Healthy eating goes out the window when the snow arrives! Since there is no recipe to share, I'll post the Munchin Mamas recipes next :)

      Thursday, February 4, 2010

      Feb. 4 - Chicken Pot Pie

      I love this chicken pot pie recipe but don't make it nearly's one of those that you can tweak each time you make it and it still tastes as good as it did before. I used the veggies listed below in tonight's pot pie, but it could have used some corn. Also, the prep is a bit long, but it's one you can make ahead, freeze and then pop in the oven when you're ready for it. I highly recommend it if you're a fan of pot pies.

      Chicken Pot Pie
      1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast halves - cubed
      1 cup sliced carrots
      3/4 cup frozen green peas
      1/2 cup sliced celery
      3 medium potatoes
      1 bullion cube
      1/3 cup butter
      1/3 cup chopped onion
      1/3 cup all-purpose flour
      1/2 teaspoon salt
      1/4 teaspoon black pepper
      1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
      1 3/4 cups chicken broth
      2/3 cup milk
      2 (9 inch) unbaked deep-dish pie crusts

      1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
      2. In a saucepan, combine chicken, carrots, peas, potatoes and celery. Add bullion cube and water to cover and boil for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, drain and set aside.
      3. In the saucepan over medium heat, cook onions in butter until soft and translucent. Stir in flour, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Slowly stir in chicken broth and milk. Simmer over medium-low heat until thick. Remove from heat and set aside.
      4. Place the chicken mixture in bottom pie crust. Pour hot liquid mixture over. Cover with top crust (making a dome on top), seal edges, and cut away excess dough. Make several small slits in the top to allow steam to escape.
      5. Bake in the preheated oven for 40 to 45 minutes, or until pastry is golden brown and filling is bubbly. Cool for 10 minutes before serving. 

      Wednesday, February 3, 2010

      Feb. 3 - Sloppy Joes

      I pulled out hamburger meat for last night's dinner, but we wound up eating leftovers from recipe club. I didn't trust the meat to sit another day (I had defrosted it in the sink and wanted to avoid any spoilage), so we had a nice, quick meal tonight - sloppy joes and tater tots! Nothing special involved - a can of Manwich, a pound of ground beef, hamburger rolls and frozen tater tots make for a simple meal that's ready in about 20 or 25 minutes. I admit I love nights like this!

      Feb. 2 - MM Smorgasbord

      We decided not to cook since we had tons of Munchin' Mamas leftovers...I'll add the recipes for all the dishes when I get them!

      Tuesday, February 2, 2010

      The Munchin' Mamas!

      A bunch of friends and I decided to start a recipe club where we pick a theme each month and rotate houses, bringing a dish that correlates to the theme. This was the first installment and since it's February and Valentine's Day is approaching, we thought we'd do a dish we love. There was an amazing variety (a vegetarian dish, a few main dishes, desserts, sides, etc.) and everything was SO amazing! I think I'm going to post all of the recipes Since they were all things I'd definitely make again.

      I did Sheila's Spinach Casserole (a spinach dish perfected by my grandmother and passed down to my mom and eventually to me) - and it was a hit! Here's the recipe:

      Sheila's Spinach Casserole
      3 boxes of spinach, thawed and drained
      1 cup of sour cream
      1 package dried onion soup mix
      4 tablespoons butter
      1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs
      1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

      1. Mix sour cream and onion soup mix; stir into spinach.
      2. Melt butter.
      3. Combine bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese, mixing in the butter.
      4. Top the spinach mix with bread and cheese.
      5. Cook at 325 for 30 - 40 minutes.

      Monday, February 1, 2010

      Feb. 1 - Corn Chowder & Bread

      Today I made a new bread in my bread machine! I was super excited to try something new - a beer cheese bread...and, boy, was it FANTASTIC! It was a cinch to make (I adore that machine) and I could have easily eaten the entire loaf if I had the appetite. I paired it with a low-fat/low-cal corn chowder for a pretty healthy dinner.The soup was a little bland, but with some extra salt and pepper, it made it a lot better. And at 205 calories/serving, and filling after just one bowl, you can't get much better than that! Lindsay and the boy enjoyed the soup and bread, too, and even Luke devoured little bites of the bread. Here are the recipes:

      Corn Chowder
      1 tablespoon olive oil
      2 tablespoons finely diced celery
      2 tablespoons finely diced onion
      2 tablespoons finely diced green pepper
      1 package frozen whole kernel corn (10 oz.)
      1 cup peeled, diced, 1/2" raw potatoes
      2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
      1 cup water
      1/4 teaspoon salt
      black pepper to taste
      1/4 teaspoon paprika
      2 tablespoons flour
      2 cups low-fat (1%) or skim milk
      1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced

      1.  Heat oil in medium saucepan. 
      2. Add celery, onion, and green pepper and saute for 2 minutes. 
      3. Add corn, potatoes, water, salt, pepper, and paprika. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium; and cook, covered, about 10 minutes or until potatoes are tender. 
      4. Place 1/2 cup milk in a jar with tight fitting lid. Add flour and shake vigorously. Add gradually to cooked vegetables and add remaining milk. 
      5. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil and thickens. Serve garnished with chopped fresh parsley.
      Beer Cheese Bread
      1 package yeast
      3 cups bread flour
      1 tablespoon sugar
      1 1/2 teaspoons salt
      1 tablespoon butter
      10 ounces beer, flat
      4 ounces American cheese
      4 ounces Jack cheese, cut in 1/4" cubes

      1. Warm beer and American cheese over low heat on top of stove or in microwave. Cheese doesn't need to melt completely. Stir. 
      2. Add all ingredients in the order listed. 
      3. Use basic bread cycle for 1.5 lb. loaf.

      Jan. 31 - Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup

      We all ate late lunches, so we opted for a light supper - grilled cheese and tomato soup! I've tried all sorts of canned tomato soup, and I rarely taste differences between brand and generic, but when it comes to tomato soup I will only eat Campbell's! There is just something that makes it taste so much better than the others.

      I didn't have deli cheese (which is what I prefer on my grilled cheese), so we ended up using slices of Kraft singles (the boy and Lindsay's preference). They still tasted great - a quick and easy favorite of ours!
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