Saturday, July 4, 2015

July 4, 2015

Happy July 4th!!! Wow - where is the summer going?  It is rushing by like sand through my fingers; yikes!  But we are immensely enjoying the summer so far, and have many more fun plans ahead of us still to go.  We had a family wedding on the lake, swimming lessons, lacrosse tournaments, tennis games, sleep-overs, fire-pit nights, bike rides.  What's not to love about the summer?

Summer meals have been mostly grilled, so we haven't had too many opportunities to try out lots of new dishes.  But there have been a few keepers so I've finally found the time to archive them here.  Is your garden bursting with zucchini and tomatoes?  If so - try spiralized zucchini and tomatoes.  Is your sweet tooth looking for something other than summer popsicles and ice cream?  If so - try white chocolate chip oatmeal cookies or cookies and cream Rice Krispy treats.  Feeling like mixing Italian and Mexican food?  If so  - try tex/mex lasagna

Happy Cooking!

New Recipes
Sprialized zucchini and grape tomatoes
White chocolate chip oatmeal cookies
Cookies and cream Rice Krispy treats
Tex/Mex lasagna

Spiralized Zucchini with Grape Tomatoes

* 2 tbsp olive oil
* 3 garlic cloves, chopped
* 3/4 lb grape tomatoes, cut in half (quarter them if needed)
* pinch red pepper flakes
* kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
* 1 tsp chopped fresh basil
* 1 large zucchini, spiralized

1. Heat the oil in a large non-stick pan over high heat.  Add the garlic and cook until fragrant and golden, about 30 seconds.  Add the tomatoes, crushed red pepper, salt and pepper.  Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes until the tomatoes soften.
2. Increase the heat to medium-high and add in the zucchini and basil.  Toss the zucchini in the sauce to coat and cook for 2 minutes.  Serve right away and enjoy!

I love spiralized zucchini!!  I love tomatoes!!!  A recipe that combined the two?  Sign me up! As your harvest both zucchinis and tomatoes from your garden this summer, give this side dish a try.  You will love it! 

White Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

* 3/4 cup AP flour (95 g)
* 1/2 tsp salt
* 1/2 tsp baking soda
* 1/2 tsp baking powder
* 1/2 cup butter, melted
* 3/4 cup brown sugar (150 g)
* 1 large egg
* 1/2 cup cookie butter (example, Biscoff spread)
* 2 tsp vanilla extract
* 2 cups quick oats (160g)
* 1 cup white chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 F.  Line cookie sheets with parchment or baking mats.
2. Mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl.  Set it aside.
3. Whisk together the melted butter and brown sugar in a medium bowl.  Then whisk in the egg.  Then whisk in the cookie butter. Whisk in the vanilla.  Everything should be very well combined. 
4. Pour the wet ingredients onto the dry ingredients and combine.  The dough will be very soft and slick.  Fold in the oats and then the white chocolate chips.  The dough will now be very stiff and thick.
5. Roll the dough into heaping tablespoon balls and place on the cookie sheets.  Cook for 8-10 minutes, keeping an eye on them until you know the amount of time needed for your oven.  The cookies should look very soft and a bit under-baked when they are ready to come out of the oven.  Let them cool on the cookie sheets for 10 minutes before removing them to a wire cooling rack.

Watch out...these cookies are FANTASTIC!!!!  Quite possibly they are my favorite cookie, at least at the moment.  :)   If you do not have quick oats - don't despair!  If you have regular or old fashioned oats in your pantry just  measure out how much you need by weight (if possible) and then pulse them in a food processor or blender 4 or 5 times.  Now you have quick oats!!!

Cookies and Cream Rice Krispy Treats

* 4 tbsp butter
* 10.5 oz mini marshmallows
* 6 cups rice krispies
* 1.5 cups crushed Oreo cookies, divided
* 1 cup white chocolate chips

1. Melt the butter over medium heat.  Add in the marshmallows and stir until melted.  Remove the pot from the heat.
2. Add the cereal to the marshmallow mixture.  Stir to combine.  Add in 1 cup of crushed Oreos and again stir until combined.
3. Press into a 9x13 prepped with cooking spray.
4. Melt the white chocolate chips and spread over the treats.  Sprinkle the final half cup of crushed Oreos over the white chocolate.
5. Set the bars to rest for an hour before cutting.  Enjoy!

Almost as fast as traditional Rice Krispy Treats but a fabulous and easy twist!  Bookmark this recipe for your next bake sale or make them for the lunch boxes for back to school!  Easy and delicious!

Tex-Mex Lasagna

* 1 lb lean ground turkey or ground beef
* 1 can (16 oz) refried black beans
* 1 can (15 oz) black beans, rinsed and drained
* 3/4 cup frozen corn
* 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
* 1 envelope of taco seasoning (or 3 tbsp of your own)
* 1 can (15 oz) tomato sauce
* 3 cups salsa
* no cook lasagna noodles (12-16)
* 3 cups shredded cheese (whatever kind or kinds you want!)
* chopped green onions, sour cream, avocado, all optional

1. Cook and drain the meat.  Stir in the beans, corn, jalapeno, taco seasoning and 3/4 cup tomato sauce.
2. Combine the salsa and remaining tomato sauce.  Prepare a 9x 13 pan with cooking spray and then spread 1/4 cup or so of the salsa sauce onto the bottom of the pan.
3.  Layer the noodles on the bottom (have them overlap slightly), then put some of the meat mixture, salsa mixture and then some cheese.  Continue to repeat these layers until you run out of either ingredients or space in the pan.  Reserve a little cheese for the top, but do not put it on yet.
4. Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350 F for 45-50 minutes. Remove the foil and spread on the remaining cheese.  Turn the oven up to broil and watch for the cheese to melt, maybe 2-4 minutes.
5. Remove the lasagna from the oven and let it stand for 10 minutes before cutting. 
6. Serve and pass with green onions, sour cream and avocado is desired!  Enjoy!

Delicious!!! I do not like refried beans but I had never had refried black beans and they were great in this dish.  We will definitely make this again.  I imagine making it the night before and cooking it the following evening.  Probably will need to up the cooking time if it is coming out of the fridge but it would be great to have a hot all in one meal ready without any day-of prep or cooking!

Friday, May 22, 2015

May 22, 2015

Hello!  It has been quite a while since I've been able to sit down and write up a summary about our week and review a new recipe or two.  It feel wonderful to be sitting here, not only with another great week behind us, but three keepers to post!

I completed student teaching in early May, and now am job searching.  The school I was placed at for student teaching is down-sizing teachers, but a few districts around me are hiring so I am hoping that something works out sooner rather than later.  I'll keep you posted.  While student teaching this blog was actually a fantastic resource - I knew the recipes from here would be welcome on our dinner table and that we could enjoy dinner and conversation without wondering if all of us would be happy with the meal.  So while didn't try any new recipes while I student taught I relied on my recipe archive a lot!

This week we had a bit of a cold snap - here in late May we had 2 days that we didn't even get out of the 40s!  So I made slow cooker French onion soup; it was a keeper!!!  If you like onion soup I think you will really like this soup and because it is made in the slow cooker (just finished off under the broiler) it couldn't be easier!  However, maybe you should book-mark this for the fall?  Either way, it was delicious!

We had a few baking bananas on the counter (you know them - the kind that are too dark and spotty for anyone to enjoy unless added to a smoothie or baked goods).  I made a banana snack cake that you could eat either as "banana bread" in squares, or make it into a layer cake if you add cream cheese or vanilla frosting.  It was a keeper both ways!

We also tried a new way to cook our favorite stand-by, boneless skinless chicken breast.  Not only a new method but I also tried a sauce the pair with it!   I browned it on one side, and then when I flipped it to briwn the other side, I put it in the oven at 375 F for about 9 minutes.  Easy!  The chicken was still juicy and it was browned on both sides.  I am going to try this with pork chops next time we have those.  The sauce was definitely a keeper.

I'm back to cooking and experimenting with new recipes!  We'll see what happens this week!

Happy Cooking!

New Recipes
Slow Cooker French Onion Soup
Banana Snack Cake
Tomato-Garlic Cream Sauce

Slow Cooker French Onion Soup

* 1/4 cup unsalted butter
* 6 sprigs thyme
* 1 bay leaf
* 5 lbs of yellow onions (about 16 cups), sliced
* 1 tbsp sugar
* 6 cups unsalted beef stock
* 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
* 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
* 1 tsp black pepper
* sliced french bread
* shredded Swiss cheese

1. Place the butter, thyme and bay leaf in the bottom or your slow cooker.  Add the onions, then sprinkle the sugar over the top of the onions.  Cover and cook on high for 8 hours.
2. After 8 hours, remove and discard the thyme and bay leaf.  Add the stock, vinegar, salt and pepper.  Cover and cook on high an additional 30 minutes.
3. Preheat the broiler to high.  Arrange bread slices to toast under the broiler, about 30 seconds on each side.
4. Ladle 1 cup of soup into a crock or mug or oven-proof bowl.  Top with toasted bread (one or two slices) and about 2 tbsp shredded Swiss cheese.  Place under the broiler for 2 minutes or until you like the look of the melted cheese.  Serve and enjoy!
5. If you want to freeze the soup, place it in the individual crocks/bowls/ramekins and freeze without the bread or cheese. 

Oh wow - yummy and easy!!!  Do be prepared for your home to smell like onions for a day or two, but what can you expect when you've just slow cooked 5 lbs of onions for over 8 hours! I made it for myself with the plan to individually freeze the remaining portions.  It made about 10 freezer portions for me, which will be fabulous to pull out one day, thaw in the fridge and reheat.  Then I'll just top it with the bread and cheese, broil it, and delight in my ridiculously easy fabulous meal!  I did find that it needed a bit more salt and pepper, so when you make this, put the salt and pepper on the table for your friends and family to add to their soup as they desire.  The recipe here is adapted from the April 2015 Cooking Light Magazine.  

Tomato-Garlic Cream Sauce

* 1 tsp butter
* 1 garlic clove, sliced
* 1 tsp white wine vinegar
* 2 tsp tomato paste
* 1/2 cup heavy cream
* 1/8 tsp kosher salt

1. Melt the butter in a small sauce pan over medium heat.
2. Add the sliced garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes.
3. Stir in the vinegar, tomato paste, heavy cream and salt.  Bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes, or until reduced by 1/3.
4. Strain the sauce through a fine-mesh sieve, then transfer to a squeeze bottle.
5. Decorate your plate with the sauce, and serve with roast chicken, and garnish your plate with chopped chives.

Yum!!!  This sauce was delicious and went great with roast chicken.  The sauce made it seem like restaurant quality meal, but since you didn't need too much sauce there wasn't the guilt factor of eating a heavy cream sauce.  I will definitely make this again!  The recipe here is adapted from a recipe in the May 2014 Food Network Magazine.  

Banana Snack Cake

* 1/2 cup butter, softened
* 1 1/4 cup sugar
* 2 eggs
* 1 cup sour cream
* 1 tsp vanilla extract
* 2 cups AP flour
* 1 tsp baking soda
* 1/4 tsp salt
* three ripe bananas (1 cup), mashed
* frosting, if desired

1. Grease two 7 x 11 baking pans (I use glass).  Preheat the oven to 350 F.
2. In a large bowl, cream the butter ans sugar until light and fluffy.  Add in the eggs, sour cream and vanilla.
3. In a separate bowl combine the flour, baking soda and salt.  Gradually add this flour mixture to the batter,  Stir in the bananas.
4. Spread the batter into the two greased baking pans.  Bake for 25-28 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
5. Cool and frost if desired, or just enjoy!

This freezes well.  You can either freeze individual slices or freeze the entire snack cake.  This was delicious, super moist, and was satisfying without any frosting!  It worked great as a banana cake when I layered tow pieces together with frosting in the middle and on top.

Friday, January 23, 2015

January 23, 2015

What a disappointment...we tried two new recipes this week but neither were very good, and certainly were not blog-worthy.  We tried a new chicken casserole (too much thyme and it really drowned out the other flavors), and a new banana muffin recipe (much too dry).  We'll have to see what gets on the menu next week and if I have a chance to try anything new.

I've loved doing this blog for the past few years, but now I am especially thankful for it!  I have an electronic repository of meals that I know most, if not all, of my family will enjoy.  When I meal plan now that I am student teaching I pull out the old stand-bys (tacos, spaghetti), but I have a great resource for other dishes.  It is fabulous.  It came in really handy on Saturday morning when my fridge and pantry were so depleted I was not going to be able to feed the five of us breakfast.  We had just a couple of eggs, but no milk, no bread or English muffins, no yogurt, no granola, no frozen waffles, not much of anything.  But then I remembered that I have a waffle recipe that uses club soda instead of milk!  I had seltzer on hand so I substituted that, and everyone loved them.  It was excellent to be able to grab a recipe and save myself from having to run to the store even before we were all out of our pajamas.

Wish me luck that I find the time to try out something new, and really cross your fingers that we can vote it to keeper status!

Happy Cooking!

Friday, January 16, 2015

January 16, 2015

A full week of student teaching in the books.  It was a whirlwind week, and although I didn't try any new recipes, we all made it out the door in the morning on time and had a good meal each night. I had a great week at school and also managed to get to O's school concert, H's volleyball game and  my bookclub.  The meal planning and super prepping (from dinner stuff to picking out clothes the night before) made evenings more enjoyable and easier on all of us.  I'm definitely going to keep it up!

I'm making a new recipe on Saturday; here's hoping it's a keeper!

Happy Cooking!

Friday, January 9, 2015

January 9, 2015

Happy belated New Year, happy early birthday to my little guy, and whew...I made it though my first week of student teaching.  To be fair, it was only 3 days since we had 2 days off for extreme cold, but all 5 of us survived!  It is a big adjustment for the whole family, but so far it is going well.  Ask me again next week after 5 consecutive days of work.

One thing that really helped back at home was doing lots of cooking and prepping on Sunday for the week ahead. Getting home-cooked meals on the table in very little time with minimal effort was amazing.  One of my sisters does this almost every Sunday, and she learned it from our mom who used to cook like this.  My Sunday plans already include lots of cooking and prepping!

This week I only made one new recipe and it was a unanimous keeper.  Although it was my first time making it, it is a family recipe from Ryan's side - farm style baking powder biscuits.  Delicious, and really so so so much better then Bisquick biscuits, even when I use my own DIY Bisquick mix.

I'm going to prep again on Sunday...what about you?   Maybe think about it!!!

Happy cooking! 

New Recipe
Farmhouse Baking Powder Biscuits

Farmhouse Baking Powder Biscuits

* 2 cups flour
* 4 tsp baking powder
* 2 tsp sugar
* 1/2 tsp salt
* 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
* 1/2 cup shortening
* 2/3 cup milk

1. Mix the ingredients and knead 8-10 times, about 2 minutes.
2. Pat the dough to 1" thick, and cut the dough with biscuit cutters.
3. Bake 10-12 minutes at 450 F, or until lightly golden brown.  Serve with butter, jam, or eat plain.  Enjoy!

I had all the ingredients on hand because the O-man requested we make Ranger Cookies for school lunches.  It was the first time I made these, though the recipe has been in the family for years and years.  Talk about delicious!!!