Friday, June 3, 2011

June 3, 2011 it June already? Where is the year going? Liam is just about 17 months now, and school is almost out for the big kids. With Memorial Day behind us, I guess the summer really is just about here!

This week I spent time going through some of my recipe binders to meal plan for the week, and came up with quite a few to try. I wanted to find a few keepers, and man, did we; we ended up with 5 this week! 3 dinner recipes, a pancake recipe and homemade Oreos! Ryan suggested we have fish this week, so we had one shrimp dinner and one night had tilapia. Hannah doesn't like shrimp or tilapia (but she does like the pasta and rice that went with the fish), but Owen, Ryan and I all enjoyed those dinners, and I hope you do too!

I will admit that I love sun-dried tomatoes, and you will notice 2 recipes this week have them in the ingredient list. I usually have the dry packaged ones in my pantry, but one of the recipes specifically called for the kind packed in oil, and then used the oil in the recipe itself. I followed that exactly and was happy with the results. If you don't want the kind packed in oil, then use the dried and season the olive oil you use in the dish with some Italian herbs.

Saturday was a total wash out weather-wise, so our plan of grilling out hamburgers was replaced with chicken fajitas. I usually use a pre-mixed packet for seasonings (typically Lawry's or McCormick), but had a recipe for fajitas, so it was one of my new recipes this week. I always marinate my chicken in freshly squeezed lime juice when I use a packet, but this recipe marinate called for both fresh lime and orange juice. We all agreed it had decent flavor profile, but not enough heat. Hannah loved it (she doesn't like all that much heat), but Ryan and Owen loaded their fajitas with Frank's Red Hot sauce to kick it up. I enjoyed it, but it isn't going to get a place in my recipe box, so I didn't post it here.

The chicken dinner keeper had a smokey flavor due to the bacon in the dish. It is a great recipe for left over cooked chicken breast. Next time you cook an oven-stuffer, reserve a few slices of the chicken and try this recipe. Or if you are grilling out this weekend, throw a few extra chicken breasts on the grill and save them to use during the week. I didn't have any leftover chicken on hand, so I poached 2 chicken breasts with Italian seasoning and used those. It worked out well, and the recipe came together pretty quickly. I used skim milk in the sauce, and it would create a thicker sauce if you use whole milk, or if you have cream on hand you could try that. We liked the dinner with the skim, so I think we'll stick with that. If you do use skim milk and want to make the sauce a bit thicker, you can always add 2 tbs water and 1 tsp cornstarch at the end. I think I am going to try that next time!

I have had this apple pancake recipe for a few years, but never gave it a try. One morning this week I told the big kids I was going to make them. Liam and I were going to try them and if they wanted to, they could as well. At first the big kids turned up their noses, but then they smelled the cinnamon and vanilla, and in the end - they each ate three! We all thought they were delicious! I had all the ingredients on hand, and they came together in a flash.

And finally, when I came across a Homemade Oreo cookie recipe, how could I not try it? I found it on Thursday morning, and Thursday after school Hannah helped me make them. I am going to try to find a new filling recipe, but even with the filling recipe here they were very good. At first I didn't think there was enough cream to fill all the cookies, but when I was done there was some left in the bowl. Following the recipe we ended up with 26 good sized sandwich cookies. They are probably best eaten within 2 days of baking, so we shared ours with some friends in the neighborhood. Thank goodness we got them out of my kitchen...I think I would have eaten 10 if they were available!

Well, it was a very good week for keepers...we'll have to see how next week turns out!

New Recipes

Tilapia with Lime Sauce
Spicy Shrimp Pasta
Chicken Fettuccine with Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Apple Pancakes
Homemade Oreo Cookies

Tilapia with lime sauce


* 4 4-6 oz. tilapia fillets
* 1/4 tsp. salt
* 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
* 2 tsp. olive oil
* cooking spray
* 3/4 C. fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth
* 1 Tbs. brown sugar
* 3 Tbs. freshly squeezed lime juice, divided
* 2 tsp. Dijon mustard
* 2 Tbs. water
* 1 tsp. cornstarch
* 1 Tbs. butter


1. Heat oil in a large non-stick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat.
2. Sprinkle tilapia with salt and pepper. Cook 2-3 minutes on each side or until cooked through. Remove from pan; keep warm.
3. Add chicken broth, sugar, 2 tablespoons lime juice, and mustard to skillet; cook over medium heat, scraping pan to loosen browned bits.
4. Combine water and cornstarch in a small bowl, stir well with a whisk. Add cornstarch mixture to skillet. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; cook 1 minute or until sauce thickens slightly.
5. Whisk in remaining 1 tablespoon lime juice and butter, stirring until butter melts. Return tilapia to skillet; simmer 2 minutes or until fish is thoroughly heated.

Notes: we served this with rice. The sauce was tasty over the rice and the fish!

Spicy Shrimp Pasta


* 8 oz. dried pasta of your choice (we used penne)
* 3 cups fresh broccoli florets
* 6.5-oz. jar sun-dried tomato strips with Italian herb packed in oil
* 2 shallots, finely chopped
* 1 lb. frozen, peeled, and deveined shrimp with tails, thawed and drained
* 1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper
* 2 tsp dried basil


1. In 4-quart Dutch oven cook pasta according to pasta package directions. Add broccoli during last 3 to 4 minutes of cooking. Drain; return to Dutch oven. Cover to keep warm if pasta is finished before the shrimp.

2. Meanwhile, drain tomatoes, reserving oil. If necessary, add olive oil to equal 1/4 cup (I had plenty from the jar and didn't need to add any). In large skillet heat oil over medium-high heat. Add shallots; cook and stir 1 to 2 minutes or until tender. Add shrimp and ground cayenne pepper; cook and stir 2 minutes. Add sun-dried tomatoes and basil; cook and stir 1 minute more or until shrimp are opaque.

3. Toss shrimp mixture with cooked pasta. Season with salt and pepper.

Chicken Fettuccine with Sun-dried Tomatoes


* 8-10 oz. dry fettuccine
* 2 strips thick bacon, diced
* 1/3 cup sin-dried tomatoes, packed in oil (or re-hydrated if dried), drained, minced
* 2 chicken breasts, cooked and cut into bite sized pieces
* 1 Tbsp garlic, minced
* 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
* 1/2 cup dry white wine
* 1 cup chicken broth
* 1/2 cup milk


1. Cook pasta in salted, boiling water, drain, and set aside.

2. While the pasta cooks, saute bacon and tomatoes in a large nonstick skillet for about 3 minutes, or until the bacon browns. Add the chicken, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Cook together for about 1 minute.

3. Deglaze the skillet with the white wine, scraping the bottom. Add the chicken broth, cream, and cooked pasta, stirring and bringing to a simmer. Continue cooking for about 3 minutes or until the sauce thickens slightly. Season with salt and pepper. Serve over fettuccine.

Note: If you want your sauce thicker, you can add 2 tbsp of water mixed with 1 tsp of cornstarch. Whisk that in at the end and the sauce will really thicken up!

Apple Pancakes


* 2 cups biscuit/baking mix
* 2 tsp sugar
* 1 tsp baking powder
* 1 tsp ground cinnamon
* 1/4 tsp salt
* 1 egg
* 1 cup milk (whatever kind you have on hand)
* 2 tsp vanilla extract
* 1 tart apple, peeled and grated


1. Heat electric griddle to about 300.
2. In a large bowl, combine the biscuit mix, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.
3. In a small bowl, combine the egg, milk and vanilla; stir into dry ingredients.
4. Fold in grated apple.
5. Pour batter by 1/4 cupfuls onto griddle coated with cooking spray; turn when bubbles form on top. Cook until second side is golden brown.

Homemade Oreo Cookies

Ingredients for the chocolate wafers:

* 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
* 1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa (I used Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa)
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 1 1/4 cups sugar
* 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons room-temperature, unsalted butter
* 1 large egg

Ingredients for the filling:

* 1/4 cup room-temperature, unsalted butter
* 1/4 cup vegetable shortening
* 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
* 2 teaspoons vanilla extract


1. Preheat to 375°F.
2. Using an electric or stand mixer, thoroughly mix the flour, cocoa, baking soda and powder, salt, and sugar.
3. On low speed, add the butter, and then the egg. Continue mixing until dough comes together in a mass.
4. Take rounded teaspoons of batter and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet approximately two inches apart. With moistened hands, slightly flatten the dough. Bake for 8 minutes. Cool completely.
5. To make the cream, place butter and shortening in a mixing bowl, and at low speed, gradually beat in the sugar and vanilla. Turn the mixer on high and beat for 2 to 3 minutes until filling is light and fluffy.
6. To assemble the cookies, frost one cookie with the cream, then place another cookie, equal in size to the first, on top of the cream. Continue until all the cookies have been sandwiched with cream.