Thursday, March 29, 2007

Roasted asparagus

'Tis the season for my favorite spring veggie...

olive oil
kosher salt (you can use regular salt, too)

Rinse the asparagus. Snap the woody ends off (they will snap just where the tender part meets the woody part, leaving you just the tender part). Put in a pile on a baking sheet. Drizzle olive oil over the top and sprinkle with kosher salt. Moosh them around a bit to distribute the oil and salt evenly, and then spread out on the sheet so that the asparagus is not touching.

Bake at 425 degrees for 12 minutes. The flower part will get nice and crispy, and the stems should be crisp-tender.

Buttermilk Chicken

For some reason, I tend to reserve this recipe for special occasions, but there's really no reason to do that. It's easy and extremely tasty!

4 boneless, skinless, chicken breasts
1 1/2 cups buttermilk, divided
1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/8 tsp. ground red pepper (gives it a little heat, but not too much)
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 cup butter
1/2 large onion, chopped
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 can cream of mushroom soup

1. Place chicken and 1/2 cup buttermilk in a ziploc bag. Squoosh it around and then let sit 15 minutes.
2. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Melt the butter in a 13x9x2 pan.
3. In a pie plate or large, shallow bowl, mix the flour, salt, pepper, red pepper, and garlic powder. Squoosh the chicken in the bag one more time, then dredge the chicken in the flour mixture and place in the pan with the melted butter.
4. Bake the chicken for 20 minutes. Turn and bake for 20 more.
5. Mix the remaining cup of buttermilk with the onions, mushrooms, and mushroom soup. Pour over the chicken and bake 15 minutes longer. Serve with the extra sauce from the pan spooned over the top.

This makes the best tender, falling apart chicken. The buttermilk is a great tenderizer. You could use bone-in chicken, too, but you'll want to cook it longer at a lower temperature (probably 375 or so). Hubby doesn't like bones, so I always use the boneless skinless stuff.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Another cool garden link

Ever since I started reading the forums over at Mrs. Survival, I've been pointed to the COOLEST gardening links.

Today's feature? Origami seed starting boxes

Monday, March 26, 2007

Granola Bars

Now, I won't insult your intelligence by trying to convince you that these are healthy, but at least they have a lot of fiber in them! And besides - what food involving the word granola is healthy??? :-)

1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted (I prefer butter in these)
2/3 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup corn syrup
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
3 tablespoons wheat germ
2 tablespoons ground flax
1/2 cup flaked coconut
1 cup butterscotch chips (could use chocolate, hubby doesn't like it that way)

In a medium skillet, melt the butter. Add the peanut butter and corn syrup, stir to combine (this melts the peanut butter a little and makes it easier to stir). Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine brown sugar, combine all remaining ingredients except chips; add the butter/peanut butter mixture and stir to coat. Let stand 15 minutes, then stir in the chips (this cools it off so the chips don't melt so much). Press into a greased 13x9x2 baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Cool in the pan 20 minutes, then cut into bars while still warm (leave them in the pan after you cut them because they'll still be soft and crumbly till they cool completely. Makes however many bars you cut!

The original recipe also called for sunflower seeds and sesame seeds. I've never put them in simply because I never have sunflower seeds, and sesame seeds in granola bars sounds weird to me.


Sunday, March 25, 2007

busy busy busy

I seem to be unable to sit still for more than 15 minutes today. That's weird for me. Normally I have no problem at all being completely lazy! But, I got up at 7:00 and so far I have:

Run two loads of dishes
Cleaned and flushed my new coffee maker (had to buy another Senseo to replace the one that didn't survive the ants)
Done two loads of laundry (not folded yet, though - I prefer to do that all at once)
Cooked a real breakfast (pancakes and bacon)
Done a major grocery shop and put everything away
Cut chuck steaks into stew meat
Changed the oil in my car
Played with the dogs
Cleaned out the produce bins in the fridge
Taken out the compost
Washed the pots and pans and knives
Written up our menu plan
Made up a spreadsheet of financial info for hubby in case anything ever happens to me (he asked me for this - here's hoping he's not plotting my demise, LOL!)

And it's only 4:25! I still have a few more loads of laundry to do, and a certain craft project that I have been procrastinating on far too long...

UPDATE: 6:47 p.m. I've also
Done two more loads of laundry (still not folded)
Browned two pounds of ground beef with onions and garlic, then divided it to make three meals (one for tonight's casserole, two bagged for the freezer)
Made granola bars (recipe to follow, but probably not tonight)
Made dinner
Got my milk mixed and ready to start a batch of yogurt (just have to time it right so it doesn't interrupt me in the middle of dinner, and so it's ready before I leave for work in the morning).

I think my energy is suddenly starting to wane...

Menu, March 25 - April 6

Well, I went to the store today and I *think*, if I play my cards right (and hubby doesn't eat anything he's not supposed to, LOL!), that I should only have to buy milk and produce (and hopefully not too much produce) over the next two weeks. This is good because my grocery budget is SHOT. I just spent $90 at Winco!

I'm realizing that I need to make sure I have some leftovers each day for my lunches, too, because they've been sparse lately (mainly because we've been eating out too much, as usual).

Here's a list of what I'm planning to make for dinners during that time - I'm not assigning them to days because that hasn't worked out so well the last couple of weeks.

1. Tamale Pie
2. Beef Stew
3. Kielbasa and Cabbage
4. Baked Ziti
5. Tacos
6. Chicken and Black Beans
7. Irish Sundaes
8. Chicken and Stove Top
9. Hamburger Helper
10. Tuna casserole
11. "More" casserole (sorry gang, can't share this recipe with you because it's a family secret and hubby would be really, really mad)
12. Teriyaki chicken
13. Chicken and dumplings casserole
14. Chicken and broccoli calzones

Now, to stick to the plan!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Upside-down tomatoes

We are SO going to try this this year - it will save us TONS of garden space!

Upside-down tomatoes


Made some changes to the blog today that will hopefully make it easier for people to find what they're looking for. I added labels, so you can just look to the label list on the right to select categories. Also added some of the blogs and websites I've been spending lots of time at lately!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Hamburger stroganoff

First off, a note for Amy - I have no idea how this will translate using ground turkey and chicken broth. Give it a try sometime and let me know!

1 pound ground beef
1/2 large onion, chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
3 cups beef broth, stock, or reconstituted bullion (I like the Wyler's crystallized bullion instead of the cubes)
8 ounces sliced mushrooms
2 tablespoons dried parsley
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons cold water
1 cup sour cream (regular or light - fat free doesn't work too well in this)
Hot cooked egg noodles

In a large skillet, brown beef with onions and garlic. Drain fat. Add beef broth, mushrooms, parsley, and salt and pepper. Cover. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes.

Mix the cornstarch and cold water in a small dish. Stir into beef mixture; heat and stir until thickened. Stir in sour cream, mix well. Do not let it boil once the sour cream is in it - it will separate.

You can serve this on top of the noodles, but I like to mix it all together, cover, and let it sit over low heat for a few minutes to let the sauce soak into the noodles a bit.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Pumpkin Oatmeal Bread

This is REALLY good - moist, dense, and pumpkiny! Good way to sneak a veggie into your kids, too...

1 cup all purpose flour (see note)
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 heaping tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1/8 tsp. ground ginger
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs
1/3 cup shortening (I get the trans-fat free shortening, or you could substitute butter)
1 cup old-fashioned oats

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9x5x3 loaf pan.

Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, baking soda, and spices. Add all remaining ingredients except oats. With an electric mixer, beat on low speed until blended, and then on high speed for two minutes. Stir in the oats.

Pour batter into loaf pan. Bake for one hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the loaf comes out clean. Remove from oven but leave in pan, on a cooling rack, for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool completely.

This tastes even better the next day, once the flavors have had a chance to meld.

Note: to make it even healthier, you can substitute whole wheat pastry flour, cup for cup, for white flour in quick bread and muffin recipes. Doesn't work so well for yeast bread recipes, though.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Menu, March 18 - 24

Here's this week's menu. As always, subject to change!

Sunday: leftovers (pizza and chicken and black beans)
Monday: Potato and chicken vinaigrette
Tuesday: Hamburger stroganoff
Wednesday: Chicken enchiladas
Thursday: Cube steak and mashed potatoes
Friday: Tuna casserole
Saturday: Pork Roast

Always fun to see how we come out at the end of the week!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Spinach and fontina pasta sauce

I made this for dinner Thursday night and, since I made the recipe up as I went along, I need to write it down before I forget it because it was AWESOME!!!

I do have to say that hubby didn't particularly care for this because it didn't have any meat in it. Originally, I was going to put some chicken sausage in it, but it tasted so good that I didn't want to screw it up by adding anything else. So take that for what you will...

Spinach and Fontina Pasta Sauce

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons oil (I use canola, but olive would work fine too)
1/2 large onion, chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
8 ounces sliced mushrooms
2 bunches fresh spinach, stems removed, washed and spun to remove excess water
2 1/2 cups milk (I confess I didn't measure this, but I think that's about right)
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
4 ounces cream cheese (1/2 of a block), cut into small pieces
4 ounces fontina cheese (fontina is a mild, white, semi-soft cheese, available just about anywhere (even Winco!))
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons cold water

In a large skillet over medium heat, melt butter and oil together. Add onion, garlic and mushrooms, and saute until the onion is translucent and the mushrooms are soft, about seven minutes. Add spinach, cover, and let cook until spinach is fully wilted, about five minutes.

Add milk and basil and heat until the milk just starts to bubble. Add cheeses; cook and stir until melted. Add salt and pepper to taste.

In a small dish (I use a custard cup), mix cornstarch and water. Slowly add to the sauce. Cook and stir until thickened. Serve over hot cooked pasta (we had bow ties, just for fun!).


Menu recap

Well, as Amy pointed out to me, we ate out of order this week! But we did pretty well, right up till today...

Here's what we ACTUALLY ate:

Sunday: Tacos
Monday: Stuffed peppers (my sister-in-law was over and she really likes those)
Tuesday: Burger King
Wednesday: Corned beef hash
Thursday: Spinach and fontina pasta
Friday: Chicken and black beans (my friend who does South Beach was over - she can actually eat that).

And today, not only did we eat lunch out (we had to go out to the farm to borrow the truck, and when we go down there, we always take the opportunity to eat at our favorite burger joint in the whole world), but we got a Papa Murphy's pizza for dinner. And Blizzards from Dairy Queen for dessert. Yes, I could have made the BBQ chicken pizza, but we've been hauling dirt and working in the garden all day and it was just easier to whip out the Entertainment Book and get a half price pizza!

Now, to work on the menu plan for next week! Looks like I may even stick to my grocery budget for this pay check - payday is on Friday, and I think we have enough that I may only have to buy milk and bread! Yay!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Stuffed Peppers

Here's a new recipe. Please note that, in all my recipes, ground turkey can be substituted for ground beef with fairly good results. This may not be the case all the time, but I think it's pretty universal.

Stuffed Peppers
serves 4

4 green bell peppers (you want decent size ones that can stand up straight)
1 pound ground beef
1/2 large onion, chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic (this is probably the equivalent to two or three cloves)
1 1/2 cups cooked rice (I prefer brown, but white works, and even Minute Rice will do)
2 cans condensed tomato soup (like Campbell's)
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
salt and pepper to taste

1. Cut the tops off of the bell peppers. Remove seeds and as much of the ribs as you can with your fingers. Rinse well.

2. In a large pot, bring enough water to a boil to cover the peppers. Add 1 tablespoon salt; when dissolved, add peppers. Boil for four minutes. Remove with tongs, taking care not to tear or puncture them (careful! They'll be full of hot water, drain them carefully!). Place them in an 8x8x2 baking dish.

3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

4. Brown the ground beef with the onions and garlic. Drain the fat off the beef. Add rice, soup, and salt and pepper to taste. It should be fairly loose, but not too soupy. If it's too soupy, you can add more rice or spoon some of the soup out.

5. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until bubbly. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add one cup of cheese and stir until melted.

6. Spoon the mixture into the peppers. Top with remaining cheese. Bake for 35 minutes.

Note: If you make extra filling, it freezes wonderfully. This makes for a quick and easy dinner later on down the road - just thaw the filling, boil the peppers, fill and bake.

Monday, March 12, 2007

BBQ Chicken Pizza

By request...

This isn't really a recipe, more of an ingredient list. First, make your favorite pizza crust. My favorite recipe is out of The Tightwad Gazette, and I'm happy to share it if anyone wants it. It's a yeast crust that requires no rising. And it's good!

Anyway, to make BBQ chicken pizza, I usually use the following ingredients. You can substitute whatever you want based on what your family will eat!

BBQ sauce (whatever is your favorite. We like Bulls Eye)
Cooked, chopped chicken*
Chopped bell peppers
Chopped green onions
sliced olives
sliced mushrooms
shredded cheese - I use a blend of mozzarella, cheddar, and pepperjack

Use the BBQ sauce in place of the tomato sauce you'd normally put on pizza. Top with the remaining ingredients. Some people put the cheese on the bottom, some put the cheese on the top. I do a little of both. Bake according to your pizza crust instructions.

*note: I always keep a supply of cooked, chopped chicken on hand in the freezer. I buy legs and thighs when they go on sale for 59 cents a pound. Then I boil them up, let them cool, take the meat off the bones, return the bones to the pot, and simmer it some more (voila! Chicken broth!). I chop the meat and freeze it in two cup portions. Two cups is about right for the two of us for casseroles. I use a little less on pizza.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Back to menu planning

I figured the best way to tackle this project is to track what we actually eat, and write down the recipes if they aren't already (some stuff I just make up out of my head). This means I'm back to menu planning, which is fine because seriously, I need to be more organized about it!

So here's this week's menu which, as always, is subject to change:

Sunday: BBQ chicken pizza

Monday: Hash

Tuesday: Tacos

Wednesday: Sausage and pepper calzones

Thursday: Spinach Fontina Pasta

Friday: Stuffed peppers

Saturday: Corned beef and cabbage

A new project

My friend Amy wants me to write a cookbook for her. Easy recipes that taste good (she has a first grader). Unfortunately, our diets are drastically different, but what the hey, I'll give it a shot. I'll have more information about this little project after I have lunch with her on Tuesday, but my brain is already working on it. I think what I'll do is set her up with a few recipes to start, and then give her a couple more each week till she begs me to stop.

Of course my problem is, I'm not exactly an original cook. My typical M.O. is to find a recipe I want to try, and then modify the heck out of it to suit my tastes. So technically they're my creations, but they started from someone else's. So I don't want to be blatantly stealing from others when I pass recipes along, but I guess in fact they're not the same, right?

I've decided to use my blog as my staging area. Who knows, maybe some others of you out in blogger land need some new ideas too. I welcome any comments or suggestions as I go along through the process!

Sunday, March 04, 2007

At least we can laugh about it...

...because if we didn't, I'm sure we'd have to cry.

So my friend Carla and I had a birthday party last night. I think maybe Carla and I shouldn't have parties anymore!

We had a fairly simple plan - dinner and a play. The play was wonderful! We saw the Forest Grove community theatre's production of Into the Woods, which is a musical based on a whole bunch of different fairy tales. They did a fabulous job, I thought.

Dinner, not so good.

We were at a 50s-style soda fountain across the street from the theatre. Nobody'd eaten there before, Carla's mom had suggested it because it's close to the theatre and we couldn't come up with any good ideas (and she'd never been there before either). We had reservations, they knew nine of us were going to be there. We got in, sat down, and proceeded to order. It's mostly a soda/ice cream place, but they have hot dogs and salads and sandwiches and stuff.

Angela wanted a chef salad, but she doesn't eat ham so she asked for just turkey. The waitress (who was probably about 16) said that was perfect because they were out of ham. Carla also ordered the chef salad without ham. Jenn wanted a chicken salad sandwich. Diane, Heidi and I all ordered pastrami. Carley ordered soup and salad. Laurel and Peggy ordered hot dogs.

So the waitress comes back and tells Jenn that they're out of both chicken salad and tuna salad. So she changed her order to a chef salad minus the ham, since, remember, they were out of that too.

Then the waitress comes back and says basically, they're out of meat, except for hot dogs. So everyone who ordered chef salad will basically be getting a dinner salad. At which point I offered to run to Safeway for her, and I wasn't entirely kidding. She said they have enough pastrami for one sandwich, so the other two will have to reorder. Diane and Heidi decided I should get the pastrami since it was my party. So Heidi ordered soup and salad and Diane asked if they had chili, and she said yes, so she ordered a chili dog and coleslaw.

Meanwhile, we're being very good natured about it, and making jokes and stuff, and just trying to make it bearable. The waitress was SO embarrassed. She just cringed every time she came to our table.

She comes back a few minutes later to Diane, looking all sheepish. Diane said "I asked if you had chili before I ordered it!!!!" She said "no! We have chili! But we're out of coleslaw!" At which point Angela says "PLEASE tell me you had a big group in today or something!" The waitress said yes, they did. Which explains the lack of food!

So then a few minutes later she comes back to Heidi and Carley, who'd ordered soup and salad (and by that time I'd given Carley a quarter of my sandwich), and said they were out of soup! So Heidi ended up not ordering anything at all, because by now she just wanted to beat her head against the table. There were only four of the nine of us who actually got what we ordered the first time around!

What a DISASTER! But we had a good time in spite of the lack of food, lots of laughs, and I can pretty much guarantee you that nobody's going to forget this party any time soon!

Oh, and one more thing - thanks to the play, I now know what I need to do to get pregnant. The whole premise of the first act is that this baker and his wife want a baby but can't get pregnant. So all I have to do is find a witch, a cow white as milk (Jack and the Beanstock's cow), a cloak red as blood (Little Red Riding Hood), hair the color of corn (Rapunzel), and a shoe pure as gold (Cinderella's slippers were gold, not glass). Feed the cloak, shoe and hair to the cow, and let the witch drink its milk. Presto! Pregnancy! Now why didn't I think of that...