Saturday, November 29, 2008

Meal Plans

I'm doing my meal plans post a little early this week. It'll be a busy day tomorrow, so I figured I'd get it out of the way. Tomorrow is my sister's 18th birthday and we're having her family party at my parents' house tomorrow afternoon. Plus, we'll be preparing for a full week at work next week... its going to be rough for me... it'll be my first full week at work in 6 weeks now. :Sigh: I haven't really made definite decisions about what we'll eat this week, but here's an idea of what I'm thinking right now.

Sunday ~ family party, I believe we're having tacos and nachos
Monday ~ leftover pigs, baked potatoes, corn
Tuesday ~ ultimate ham 'n cheese sammies as long as my bread is still ok and since we didn't do them last week (ended up eating leftovers to clear out the fridge before Thanksgiving) chicken spinach cheese ravioli with tomato basil ricotta sauce, green beans
Wednesday ~ some kind of soup... minestrone or chicken tortilla or chicken and black bean leftovers
Thursday ~ it'll be a long day (I'll be in Windsor, Ontario all day for meetings) so probably just leftover soup chicken tortilla soup in the crockpot
Friday ~ lobster ravioli and green beans
Saturday ~ not quite sure yet, depends on what our plans entail... but possibly crockpot chicken cordon bleu

As far as extras this week, I'll be working on finishing up using all of the sweet potatoes (yes, I still have a ton of them left... ok probably more like 15-18 very big sweet potatoes). Probably just par-boiling them and freezing them in chunks and fries. I do want to try freezing some thin slices, too, so that I can do home-baked sweet potato chips sometime. I also have a few more apples to use... I'm not sure what I'll do with them yet, but I've got to figure something out this week. I didn't get any of the baking done this weekend like I'd hoped, so depending on what we end up doing next weekend, maybe I'll make some vanilla wafers or crackers then. I guess I should start thinking about the Christmas cookie baking and maybe plan out what and when I'm going to make cookies (and freeze them till Christmas). Anyone want to come over for a cookie bake in the next couple of weeks???? P.S. I'm excited that I can now easily say I can freeze this or that... Kevin and I bought ourselves an early Christmas gift yesterday... a stand-up freezer. We haven't plugged it in yet since I don't absolutely need it yet, but I'm excited to have the possibility of yet another freezer to fill! I'll be getting a hormone-free, grass-fed lamb in January and hopefully we'll be able to go in on a quarter of a hormone-free, grass-fed cow with my SIL and BIL sometime next summer.

Shepherd's Pie

I decided to make a shepherd's pie with some of our Thanksgiving leftovers for lunch today. I had planned to do it for dinner tonight, but we're now going down to Rochester Hills to have dinner at Bravo! with our friends Ben and Kati. I used an Emeril recipe with just a few modifications. I generally shy away from Emeril recipes because they just seem too complicated with a super long list of ingredients. This one has a long list of ingredients, but its not complicated at all and came together very quickly. Best of all, it tastes awesome! Kevin, Carson, and I all enjoyed this for lunch today. I'll definitely be using this as a basis for future shepherd's pies.

Shepherd's Pie with Thanksgiving Leftovers

1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
4 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup chopped yellow onions (I just used one small white onion, about 1/2 cup)
2 carrots, peeled and chopped, about 1 cup (I used three carrots)
1/4 teaspoon Essence or Creole Seasoning
1/4 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon salt (I just did a couple shakes from the shaker)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (I just did a few turns of the pepper grinder)
1 teaspoon minced garlic
4 ounces mushrooms, stemmed, wiped clean, and sliced (I just threw in a can of mushrooms)
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves (I used dried and only one shake)
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons tomato paste
2 to 2 1/2 cups chopped or shredded roast turkey, white and/or dark meat (I used about 3 cups so that I could just use it up)
1 1/4 cups chicken stock or canned chicken broth
1/2 cup green peas (I used about a cup)
4 cups leftover mashed potatoes (I only used about 2 cups since that's what I had left)
3/4 cup grated sharp or medium Cheddar (I only used about 1/4 cup)
chopped parsley leaves, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9-inch square or 2.2 quart baking dish with the butter and set aside.

In a large saute pan or skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions, carrots, Essence, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring, until the onions are soft, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 20 seconds. Add the mushrooms, thyme, and bay leaf and cook, stirring, until the mushrooms are soft, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the flour and cook, stirring, until thick, about 1 minute. Stir in the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the meat and stir well to combine. Gradually add the stock and then the peas, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the mixture is thickened, 6 to 8 minutes.

Remove from the heat and discard the bay leaf. Carefully transfer to the prepared dish and spoon the potatoes over the meat mixture, spreading to the edges. Sprinkle with the cheese and bake until the cheese is bubbly and the potatoes are crisp around the edges, 22 to 25 minutes.

Let sit for 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve.

Corn Souffle

This year I actually was able to make something to contribute to my family's Thanksgiving feast. I decided to make a corn souffle recipe that my SIL Julie had made for a family gathering back in October - its from one of those Kraft Food and Family magazines. Its very easy to make and very good, too. Its a corn bread, not a souffle, but that's what the recipe is called. I was able to throw it together on Thursday morning before we left for my Aunt Jeri's house.

Corn Souffle

2 Tablespoons butter
1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese, cubed (I used the 1/3 less fat stuff)
1 can (15-1/4 oz.) whole kernel corn, drained
1 can (14.75 oz.) cream-style corn
1 pkg. (8.5 oz.) corn muffin mix (I used Jiffy brand)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

Microwave butter in medium microwaveable bowl on high for 30 seconds or until melted. Add cream cheese; continue microwaving 15 seconds or until cream cheese is softened; stir until well blended. Add both cans of corns, muffin mix, and eggs; mix well.

Pour the mixture into a greased 13x9-inch baking pan; sprinkle with cheese.

Bake for 40 minutes or until golden brown. Cool slightly

~ This dish is versatile enough to pair with your favorite barbecued meat, beef stew, chicken soup or even chili.
~ Add 1/4 cup sliced green onions along with the corn, muffin mix and eggs.
~ Prepare as directed, using 1 can (11 oz.) whole kernel corn with chopped red and green peppers.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Golabki a.k.a. Pigs in a Blanket

Yesterday we went over to my Aunt Jeri's house to participate in the annual tradition of making pigs/golabki (which is actually pronounced more like gwumpkees). Every year a bunch of my family get together the week of Thanksgiving and make up an enormous batch of these. My mom's dad is 100% Polish and this recipe is an old family recipe of his parents' families. We've always had pigs at Thanksgiving and sometimes at Christmas, too. Golabki are basically just stuffed cabbage rolls that are cooked for a long time - the longer the better... the more black the cabbage becomes (it doesn't taste burnt) the better they are. There are so many different variations in cabbage rolls and they're called different things depending on the culture. They're generally from the Slavic cultures. We generally just call these pigs in a blanket - and up until the time that I met Kevin I never knew the "american" version of pigs in a blanket (the hot dogs wrapped in crescent rolls). To this day, I can't refer to those as pigs in a blanket... golabki will always be pigs in a blanket to me.

Golabki a.k.a. Pigs in a Blanket

6 pounds hamburger
2 1/2 pounds sausage
2 large onions, chopped
4 large cabbage
5 teaspoons sage
salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 cup uncooked rice

Begin by steaming the cabbage in large pots on the stovetop (core out the center and then plop the entire head into the pots to steam). Cook the rice as directed on the package - you can use minute rice or the long-cook stuff as long as you cook it first. In a very large pan (we use a huge roaster), mix together the hamburger, sausage, onion, sage, salt, pepper, and cooked rice (use your hands).

Once the cabbage has steamed, use tongs to peel each piece away from the head. We lay the cabbage leaves on cookie sheets.

Roll some of the meat mixture into each cabbage leaf, folding in the ends and place them seam side down into a large roaster coated with cooking spray. Make one layer across the bottom then top with bacon strips. Then layer more cabbage rolls, then more bacon, etc. Until your roaster is full. Squirt a lot of ketchup on top of the last layer of bacon and cabbage rolls. Put the lid on the roaster and bake them at 350 for at least 3 hours. The longer they cook, the better they get. These freeze well.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Uptown Pork and Apples

Tonight I tried another recipe from Rachael Ray's Big Orange book. It was so good and so easy, too! Love these kind of recipes. This will be a great one for us to have on hand for work nights as its so easy to throw together. Both Kevin and I both really liked this one. We had it with leftover garlic spinach mashed potatoes. This serves 4-6 people, so we had a lot of leftovers. I've saved some for lunches this week and cubed up a bunch and have it freezing for use later on in other dishes. I'll update later with a picture.

Roasted Pork Tenderloins with Escalloped Apples

1 Tablespoon grill seasoning
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
2 Tablespoons EVOO
2 pork tenderloins (1 package), about 1.5-2 pounds total, trimmed of silver skin and sinew
3 Tablespoons butter
5 Gala, Honey Crisp, or Golden Delicious apples, quartered, cored and sliced
salt (I used Golden Delicious and had plenty just using 4 of them, but they were on the large side)
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
2 Tablespoons flour
2 Tablespoons sugar

Preheat the oven to 425.

Combine the grill seasoning, lemon zest, and thyme in a small bowl, then coat the tenderloins with the mixture. Drizzle with EVOO and rub into both sides of the chops. Place the pork on a rimmed baking sheet and roast for 25 minutes. Let the pork rest for 10 minutes to redistribute the juices, then slice at an angle.

Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the apples and saute for 12-15 minutes until very tender. Season with a pinch of salt, then sprinkle the flour over the apples and toss to combine. Squeeze the lemon juice over the apples and sweeten with the sugar.

Arrange the apples over the pork to serve.

Recap and Meal Plans

This past week I've just been enjoying our time together as a family. For those that don't already know, Kevin is kind of out of a job at the moment again... its a long, complicated story, but hopefully he'll get some news tomorrow as to when he can get back to work (at TRW). So its been extra nice to be home this weekend (I was in Toronto last week) and to have the time together with Kevin and Carson. On Friday, during Carson's nap, I chopped, par-boiled, and froze a ton of sweet potato chunks (2 gallon size ziploc bags full!). Other than that, I haven't done much else other than our meals and the apple clafoutis.

We'll be spending Thanksgiving with my mom's family this year (Kevin's family will be in Grand Rapids). We're looking forward to seeing everyone and spending some time together. I'm working Monday through Wednesday at this point, so it'll be typical easy weeknight meals.

Sunday ~ uptown pork with apples (since we didn't have it yesterday)
Monday ~ golabki, baked potatoes, peas
Tuesday ~ ultimate ham and cheese sammies, sweet potato fries
Wednesday ~ possibly minestrone soup
Thursday ~ Happy Thanksgiving! turkey and stuffing, pigs/golabki, mashed potatoes and gravy, baked sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, corn souffle, rolls, apple pie (dutch and regular), pumpkin pie, lemon merengue pie
Friday ~ Thanksgiving leftovers! possibly a shepherd's pie or just plain ol' leftovers
Saturday ~ more leftovers! plain ol' leftovers if we didn't have them Friday... otherwise a shepherd's pie made with the leftovers

I'm looking forward to another long weekend together as a family next weekend. I'm practically done with my Christmas shopping - I think I just have one person left now, so I'm not sure if I'll end up going out on Black Friday or not this year... it'll be very strange if I don't, so we'll see what happens. I'm hoping to do some baking over the long weekend. I'd like to try making homemade vanilla wafers for Carson and maybe some homemade crackers, too. Also would like to use up the rest of my apples somehow - applesauce or apple butter. I need to use up my sweet potatoes, too. I'll probably do another canner load and freeze some fries then see where I'm at... though I'm afraid I'll still probably end up having lots of sweet potatoes left. So maybe I'll end up doing two canner loads. We'll see.

Apple Clafoutis

Today we went over to my Aunt Jeri's for the annual tradition of making golabki (pigs in a blanket - post to come later). So this morning I decided to make up an apple clafoutis to take over there. This was the first time I've made a clafoutis and just because its french, I kind of expected it to be labor-intensive or difficult... but it wasn't at all. It was so easy! And it tasted very good - everyone really enjoyed it. Its not super sweet, but its very light and airy and just tastes good. In retrospect, I guess I should have looked for a polish dessert rather than french, but oh well! :)

Apple Clafoutis

1 cup plain flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 eggs
3 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (plus more butter to use on pan)
2 lbs apples or pears, peeled seeded, and chopped

Sift flour, sugar and baking powder into a bowl. Make a well in the center of mixture and add the eggs, milk and vanilla extract. Mix in well to form a smooth batter. Add 4 TBS of the melted butter. Let batter stand for 30 minutes while preparing the fruit.

Pre-heat the oven to 450°F.

Butter an 8 inch round cake tin. Stir the fruit into the batter and pour into the tin. Bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack.

Gorgonzola Filled Meatballs and Garlic Spinach Mashed Potatoes

On Friday night, I tried out a couple Rachael Ray recipes for Gorgonzola Filled Meatballs and Garlic Mashed Potatoes with Spinach. I thought everything was awesome! Kevin really liked everything except the gorgonzola cheese. He'd never had gorgonzola and didn't know if he liked it or not... well he doesn't. I love it, though I bought some very good, expensive stuff rather than the cheaper stuff, so it did seem a bit stronger than the cheaper stuff. I'll make these again for sure, just will probably fill them with a different cheese that Kevin likes - havarti or mozzarella most likely. Anyway, these were so easy to make and tasted so yummy! I'll update later with pictures.

Gorgonzola Filled Meatballs with Bay and Onion Creamy Tomato Gravy

1 1/2 pounds ground veal
1 pound ground beef (I just used 1 pound total of ground meat - and used Laura's Lean)
Salt and pepper
2 cloves garlic, grated or minced
1 large egg, plus 1 egg yolk
2 handfuls grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 handfuls plain bread crumbs
3 tablespoons sliced or finely chopped sage leaves
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
8 ounces Gorgonzola
1 tablespoon butter
2 fresh bay leaves
1 onion, finely chopped
1 cup chicken stock
1 (15-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup cream

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Place meat in a mixing bowl and season with salt, pepper, add in garlic, eggs, cheese, bread crumbs and sage. Mix meat, roll into 8 large balls and arrange in a baking dish. Coat balls with 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil. Using the end of a wooden spoon, make an indentation half way into each ball and fill the cavity with some Gorgonzola. Bake until golden and cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes.

Heat 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil and butter in a sauce pot over medium heat, add bay and onions and season with salt and pepper. Add chicken stock and tomatoes and heat through, stir in cream, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer to thicken slightly 8 to 10 minutes.

Ladle sauce into shallow bowls and top with big stuffed meatballs and potatoes alongside, if desired.

Garlic Mashed Potatoes with Spinach

4 large Idaho potatoes, peeled and diced
2 boxes chopped spinach, defrosted
4 tablespoons butter
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup cream
Salt and pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Place potatoes in a pot and cover with water. Salt water and boil potatoes until tender 12 to 15 minutes.

Squeeze the water from spinach in a clean dish towel.

Drain potatoes and melt butter in the hot pot, then add the garlic and cook 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in cream, add the spinach, separating the greens as you do. Season greens with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Add potatoes to the pot and mash to desired consistency.

Monday, November 17, 2008


I made goulash yesterday so that Kevin would have lots of leftovers to eat during the week. I don't really follow a recipe when I make goulash, but I'll try to jot down the process that I use. I used the crockpot yesterday, but this can be baked in the oven or just made on the stovetop, too.


1 pound ground meat (yesterday I used Laura's Lean Ground Beef, but I generally will use half beef and half ground turkey)
1 or 2 cans of diced tomatoes, to your taste
1 or 2 cans of tomato sauce, to your taste
chopped green pepper
chopped onion
sliced mushrooms
2-4 cloves finely chopped garlic
spices of your choice (I used Mrs. Dash Italian Medley this time)
1/2 - 1 pound whole wheat elbow macaroni

Brown the meat. Cook the pasta to al dente. Dump all ingredients into the crockpot, stir together, cover and cook on low for 2-4 hours.

Recap and Meal Plans

A little late with this post this week. Its been a busy weekend, though, and now that I'm in Toronto, I finally have a few minutes to catch up on blogging. (I updated posts with pictures back to the Salsa Chicken post) I was able to do some canning this past weekend... 18 pints and 1 half-pint of applesauce and 6 pints and 1 half-pint of pearsauce. I still have more pears to use, but only took out some of them to use over the weekend. The others will stay fresh till I have time to deal with them again. I'm hoping to do some baking with a few of them. I also have lots of apples left still. About half of the box of Cortlands that I got from my brother-in-law's parents, about 12 McIntosh, and about 10 Galas. They'll keep till I can deal with them after my trip, too. I'm also hoping to do some baking with some of them.

As far as meals go this week, Kevin is on his own most of the week. He has a fridge full of leftovers to either take for lunch or eat for dinner, as well as lots of options in the pantry or freezer. So I really only have to think about meals for three days this week...

Sunday ~ goulash, leftover cornbread for Sara, leftover rolls for Kevin
Friday ~ not totally sure yet, but I'm thinking maybe gorgonzola filled meatballs with garlic mashed potatoes
Saturday ~ again not totally sure, but maybe uptown pork chops with apples

I don't think I'll do any canning this weekend. I'm just looking forward to seeing Carson and Kevin again and spending time together as a family. I would like to do some baking, though... maybe an apple or pear clafoutis.

For now, I'm off to explore the underground part of Toronto. And to find some dinner.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Apple Pie Filling

I canned a batch of apple pie filling today. It was pretty easy and tastes pretty good, too. This will be nice to have on hand to make danishes or apple turnovers. I followed the recipe in my Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving and ended up with 7 pints.

Apple Pie Filling

12 cups sliced, peeled, cored apples, treated to prevent browning and drained
2 3/4 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup ClearJel
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/4 cups cold water
2 1/2 cups unsweetened apple juice
1/2 cup lemon juice

In a large pot of boiling water, working with 6 cups at a time, blanch the apple slices for 1 minute. Remove with a slotted spoon and keep warm in a covered bowl.

In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine sugar, ClearJel, cinnamon, nutmeg, water, and apple juice. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Cook until mixture thickens and begins to bubble. Add lemon juice, return to a boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Fold apple slices into hot mixture. Before processing, heat, stirring, until apples are heated through.

Ladle hot pie filling into hot jars, leaving 1-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles, wipe rim, place cap on, screw band down to fingertip tight.

Process jars for 25 minutes in a boiling water bath. Remove canner lid, wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, cool for 24 hours, and store.

Makes about 7 pints

Turkey and Cornbread

Tonight I roasted my first turkey. I couldn't believe how easy it was to cook a turkey. I don't know why I always thought it was some difficult, time consuming thing to do... because it wasn't at all. I bought one of those Rival roaster ovens this week, so I wanted to try it out with the turkey. It turned out awesome! I made a 12-pound turkey and we invited my parents over for dinner. We still have tons of leftovers, which I'm happy about. I put the leftovers in different containers to freeze - some shredded for BBQ turkey sandwiches, and most of it is chopped for use in casseroles, soups, etc.

I tried out a new recipe for cornbread today, too. My ambition was to make cornbread stuffing, but when it came time for it, I just didn't feel like doing it. So we just had cornbread with our turkey... and some StoveTop stuffing that needed to be used up (not buying that stuff anymore). Back to the cornbread. I got this recipe off of the cornmeal package (Bob's Red Mill Organic Medium Grind Cornmeal). I think I will make it again, just with some modifications (more sugar and maybe throw in some creamed corn, too). I thought it was really good as is, but Kevin thought it was too crumbly and needed to be sweeter. My dad thought it was good as is, too, but would like a little more sugar.

I'll update with pictures later on.

Golden Cornbread

1 cup cornmeal
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 egg
1 cup milk
1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened

Sift together the dry ingredients into a bowl. Add egg, milk and butter. Beat until smooth, about 1 minute. Do not overbeat. Bake in a greased 8-inch square pan for 20-25 minutes at 425 degrees.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Steak Pizzaiola Burgers

Last night I tried out another recipe from Rachael Ray's Big Orange Book for steak pizzaiola burgers. According to the cookbook, RR came up with this recipe for Donald Trump and she characterizes the burger as big, bold, and badass. I have to say she is right on. These were excellent, Kevin and I both thought they were awesome, and we'll definitely have them again. The recipe in the book is supposed to be 4 servings, but I cut it in half (using only one pound of meat) and still got 4 large servings out of it. I can't imagine only having 4 servings with two pounds of meat... that's a half-pound burger each... I don't think I could eat that.

I'll update later on with a picture.

Steak Pizzaiola Burgers
(pg. 125 of Rachael Ray's Big Orange Book)

3 Tablespoons EVOO
2 large onions, thinly sliced
salt and pepper
3 Tablespoons tomato paste
3/4 cup dry red wine
2 pounds ground sirloin
1/2 cup pepperoni, finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
4 Tablespoons butter
3-4 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
4 slices sesame semolina bread, about 1 inch thick (I just used some sliced french bread b/c that's what I had on hand)
1/2 - 3/4 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano
8 deli slices provolone

Heat 2 tablespoons of the EVOO in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and season with salt and pepper. Cover the onions with a piece of aluminum foil and cook, stirring occasionally, until they start to soften, 2-3 minutes. Remove the foil and continue cooking until fully softened, about 5-6 minutes.

Add the tomato paste to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until it smells sweet and has carmelized, about 2-3 minutes. Add the wine and scrape the pan with a wooden spoon to loosen any browned bits that may be stuck to the bottom. Cook until the wine has almost completely evaporated, about 1 minute. Turn off the heat and reserve.

While the onions cook, place a large skillet over medium-high heat with the remaining tablespoon of EVOO. In a large mixing bowl, use your hands to combine the ground sirloin, pepperoni, parsley, oregano, and red pepper flakes. Season with salt and pepper, then score the meat into 4 parts using the side of your hand. Form 4 large patties thinner in the center than the edges for even cooking and to prevent the burgers from bulging. Cook 4-5 minutes per side for medium doneness.

Preheat the broiler.

While the burgers are cooking, heat the butter and garlic together in a small pot over medium heat. When the butter melts, remove the pot from heat to infuse the butter with the garlic flavor. While the butter is melting, place the bread slices on a baking sheet and toast them under the broiler until golden brown on each side. Brush the toasts with the garlic butter and sprinkle with the grated cheese. Place the toasts back on the baking sheet and top each with a burger. Divide the onion mixture among the four burgers and top each with 2 slices of cheese. Slide the burgers under the broiler to melt the cheese, about 2-3 minutes.

Serve the burgers with a knife and fork, and with your favorite salad on the side.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Creamy Parsley & Pistachio Fettuccine

Tonight I tried out a new recipe from my new Rachael Ray cookbook - The Big Orange Book - for creamy parsley and pistachio fettuccine. It was very tasty and I'll definitely make this one again. It'll be a quick work-night meal since I have lots of the parsley-pistachio pesto in the freezer... though I did make it fresh tonight since I am still trying to use up tons of parsley that continues to thrive in the garden. Kevin enjoyed this, too... and didn't even complain about spinach noodles! :) According to the cookbook, this is supposed to make you want to make out... we weren't really affected by it in that way, though. I'll update with a pic later.

Creamy Parsley and Pistachio Fettuccine

1 pound fettuccine pasta (I used spinach fettuccine)
1 lemon
3/4 cup heavy cream (I just used 2% milk)
1 packed cup fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup shelled natural pistachios, lightly toasted
1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 large garlic clove, grated or minced
3 Tablespoons EVOO
black pepper
(I added about 2 cups of chopped grilled chicken that I had in the freezer)

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt it, add the pasta, and cook to al dente.

Zest the lemon and combine it with the cream in a small sauce pan. Heat over medium-low until hot but not boiling.

Place the parsley, nuts, cheese, and garlic into a food processor. Squeeze the zested lemon into the bowl. Turn the processor on and stream in the EVOO with the motor running to make a pesto.

Drain the pasta.

Place the pesto in the bottom of a large pasta bowl and season with salt and pepper. Stir the hot cream into the pesto, then add the hot pasta and toss to combine (I also added my grilled chicken). Adjust the salt and pepper.

Sweet Potatoes

This afternoon I canned 8 pints of sweet potato chunks for Carson. Canning them will save me lots of freezer space and some prep time in the future. I followed the method in my Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. First I steamed the whole sweet potatoes for 20 minutes, then peeled them and chopped them into chunks. I then filled the pint jars with the sweet potatoes and covered them with fresh boiling water. Into the canner they went to be processed at 10 pounds of pressure for 65 minutes. I'll update later with a picture.

Recap and Meal Plans

We had some changes in our plans this weekend. We'd originally planned to just stick around the ranch and get some things done around the place. Instead, yesterday morning, we took a trip down to Ikea in hopes of picking up a dining room table they had on a great sale. We ended up getting it and were able to get some more Christmas shopping done while we were there. After we got home, we went over to my grandparents' house to visit and to pick up a trailer they were giving to us. We had dinner over there and had a good visit with my parents and grandparents.

Today I canned a load of sweet potatoes. I also froze some sweet potato chunks. I'll be doing more of them throughout the week. I never did get the apple pie filling done since we were gone all day yesterday.

This week I'm off on Tuesday for Veteran's day and Friday is my flex day. And we're taking it kind of easy this week and next weekend since I'll be gone Monday-Thursday next week to Toronto.

I picked up the new Rachael Ray cookbook that was released last week - The Big Orange Book. There are so many recipes that I've already flagged to make in the book - I think this will probably end up being my favorite RR cookbook so far. Many of the recipes in this book, I've seen her make on her 30-Minute Meals show, or have seen in her magazine, but there are tons of additional recipes that I've never seen. So I figured I'd give a few new ones a try from her new cookbook this week.

Sunday ~ creamy parsley and pistachio fettuccine
Monday ~ leftover salsa chicken in the form of tacos
Tuesday ~ steak pizzaiola burgers
Wednesday ~ sweet and sour stir-fry
Thursday ~ chili in the crockpot Kevin brought pizza home
Friday ~ chicken with brown rice in the crockpot leftovers
Saturday ~ maybe applesauce chicken in the crockpot with baked potatoes and peas roasted turkey, stuffing, and cornbread

I'm going to make some more applesauce this week and I'd really like to do a second batch of apple butter, but we'll see how much applesauce I get done first. And since I didn't get the apple pie filling done, that's on the list again this week. More sweet potatoes, as well.

Crockpot Salsa Chicken

Last week I made Salsa Chicken in the CrockPot from A Year of Crockpotting. This was very good, definitely will be a keeper. So easy, too. And I had the chance to use some of my home-canned black beans and home-canned salsa! We're having the leftovers this week, but I'll shred up the chicken and use them in whole wheat tortillas with some guacamole, sour cream, and cheese for a different kind of taco.

CrockPot Salsa Chicken

6-9 chicken thighs, or equivalent body parts (I used boneless skinless chicken thighs and they were quite large, so I only did 4 of them)
1 can rinsed black beans
1 cup chunky salsa
1 cup frozen white corn (I used a 1-pound bag of golden corn)

Put your chicken in the crockpot; mine was still frozen. Top with the rinsed black beans, salsa, and corn.

Cover and cook on low for 6-9 hours, or on high for 4-5. Cooking time will vary depending on whether or not your chicken is frozen, and how big the pieces are.

If you decide to use breasts, increase your salsa by 1/2 cup. Breasts are drier than thighs.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Peas & Cheese Tortellini

Last night I tried another Rachael Ray recipe that I'd seen in one of my RR magazines a few months back. But what tempted me to try it was a post I saw on Busy Mamas. This was very good - even Kevin liked it, which I was really surprised by since he always complains when I make anything with tortellini. I'll be keeping this recipe, but will probably add some meat next time and probably some carrots, too.

Peas and Cheese Tortellini

1 pound frozen tortellini
1 cup frozen peas, thawed (I used an entire 1 pound bag of frozen peas)
2 tablespoons butter
5 scallions, white and green parts thinly slice separately (I just used one small white onion)
2 tablespoons flour
1 2/3 cups milk
Salt and pepper
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more for sprinkling

In a large saucepan of boiling, salted water, cook the tortellini until al dente; drain.

Meanwhile, add the peas, butter and scallion whites to another large saucepan and cook over medium heat for 2 minutes. (I held off on the peas) Whisk in the flour and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Gradually whisk in the milk and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Stir in the scallion greens and season with salt and pepper. (This is when I added my peas since we like them a little crispy and not over-cooked)

Stir the tortellini and 1/3 cup cheese into the sauce. Divide the pasta among 4 serving bowls and sprinkle with more cheese. (I did not sprinkle with more cheese)

Apple Cake

We are having a belated Bosses Day celebration at work today, so yesterday afternoon I decided to bake an
apple cake to bring in. Its a new recipe I found on RecipeZaar which sounded good and easy. We haven't cut into the goodies yet, so I'm not sure how it tastes yet... I'll update later with the verdict. UPDATE: It is very, very good! Very moist and flavorful, definitely a keeper!

Also, just a note... I updated all the posts with pictures... all the way back to the peanut butter brownies on 10/19!

Apple Cake

3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs, beaten
1 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups finely chopped apples
1/2 cup apple juice
1 cup chopped walnuts (I left these out)

Glaze topping for cake:
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup butter (only used about 2 1/2 T)
1/3 cup whipping cream (I used 1% milk)

In a large bowl combine flour, sugar, soda and salt. Make a well in the center and set aside.

In a medium bowl combine eggs, oil, apple juice and vanilla. Stir in apples and nuts. Add the egg mixture to dry ingredients, just until moistened.

Spread batter in a greased and floured 9 x 13-inch pan. Bake at 350°F for 45-50 minutes. (I wanted to use a bundt pan b/c I think they look nicer for presentation. I had to increase the baking time by about 12 minutes.)

In a small saucepan combine the brown sugar, butter and cream. Cook and stir till bubbly and all of the sugar is dissolved. Cool slightly. Drizzle warm sauce over cake, when it has cooled for 5 minutes, so it can seep into the cake, keeping it moist.

Black Beans

On Monday, I canned two batches of black beans for a total of 20 pints (about a year's supply). I had bought about five and a half pounds of dry organic black turtle beans at the Whole Foods Market a couple of weeks ago (did not use them all canning these 20 pints... about 5 pounds probably). Canning beans is a very long process, but its really not that time consuming, if that makes sense. First I soaked the beans in water overnight (about 12-18 hours). Then drained them, rinsed them, and put the first batch into my largest stockpot (a 12-quart) and covered them with water by about an inch. You then bring them up to a boil for 30 minutes and remove from heat. Using a slotted spoon, I filled the jars with the beans, then used a ladle to add the cooking liquid, leaving a 1-inch headspace. Then I processed the beans for 75 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure. And voila! Home-canned black beans! Not only does this save some money (using the organic beans, it ended up being about 30 cents per pint), but it will limit our exposure to BPA tremendously since the beans only touched the metal lid during the processing time.

Mac & Cheese

Last Thursday, I tried a new recipe for homemade macaroni and cheese. My mouth was still quite tender and I had some trouble chewing things, so I figured mac and cheese would work well. I found this recipe on RecipeZaar and figured I'd give it a try. When I make homemade mac and cheese (which is pretty rare), I usually use a Giada DeLaurentis recipe, but this one was much easier and I think probably a little less fattening, too. It was good, I'll keep the recipe in my files to make again sometime.

Baked Macaroni & Cheese

2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni (I used whole wheat cavatappi noodles)
1/4 cup butter or margarine (I used light margarine and only about 3 T)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground mustard
1/4 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
2 cups milk
8 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese, cubed (I used shredded 2% sharp cheddar)
1/8 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs (next time I'll leave these off, I think)
1 tablespoon grated parmesan cheese

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Cook elbow macaroni as directed on package.

While macaroni is cooking, melt butter in a 3 quart saucepan over low heat. Stir in flour, salt, pepper, mustard and Worcestershire sauce. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is smooth and bubbly.

Remove from heat. Stir in milk. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil and stir for 1 minute. Stir in cheese. Cook, stirring occasionally, until cheese is melted.

Drain macaroni when done. Gently stir macaroni into cheese sauce and pour into ungreased 2 quart baking dish.

Mix together bread crumbs and parmesan cheese; sprinkle over macaroni and cheese.
14Bake, uncovered, for 25 minutes or until bubbly.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Recap and Meal Plans

I'm running a little behind with my blogging lately. I still haven't uploaded pictures and still need to update several posts with them once I finally do get them uploaded. And I'm late on this post. Just have a lot going on lately, plus I've been home from work since Wednesday afternoon (and not returning to work till Wednesday (tomorrow) morning this week) so I haven't wanted to be on the computer too much. I've done some canning - carrots and black beans (post to come later), some baby food making - carrots, and some baking - apple pie and apple cake (post to come later) during my time at home. I had hoped to do a lot more than that, but Carson keeps me very busy now getting into EVERYthing and traversing throughout the house. Carson and I have had some time to shop while I've been home, too. We went to the mall today with my mom and had lunch in the food court (and found myself really disgusted with the nasty, completely unhealthy choices in our mall's food court) - Carson thought he was a big shot having lunch on the road today. He's so funny. We've got a good start on our Christmas shopping and I picked up my sister's birthday gift today.

Anyway, this blog is supposed to be about food and cooking... so on with the weekly menu...

Sunday ~ Buffalo Wild Wings with my parents
Monday ~ leftover B-dubs
Tuesday ~ tortellini with peas and cheese
Wednesday ~ salsa chicken in the crockpot
Thursday ~ totally undecided here still... I need to look through my recipes and see what I have all the ingredients for already
Friday ~ I'm thinking maybe goulash in the crockpot
Saturday ~ totally undecided here, too... maybe applesauce chicken with baked potatoes since we didn't have it last week or else chicken with brown rice in the crockpot

I know I've said this for weeks now, but I WILL can a batch of apple pie filling at some point this week! :) I'm planning to make a trip out to Porter's orchard to pick up some more utility (the half-price apples that are perfect for canning) on Friday so I can do up yet more applesauce for Carson. I've still got the 26 pounds of pears in the fridge in the basement waiting until I can get to them - maybe this weekend, but if not they'll be good for quite a while longer in the cold storage. I've also got about 40 pounds of sweet potatoes to deal with - baby food purees, canning them in chunks, and freezing some fries and maybe some thin slices to make sweet potato chips. I'll deal with the sweet potatoes before I hit the pears. I'd also like to do some more baking this week. We'll see what time allows... considering we're already almost half-way through the week I'm doubting I'll get any more baking in till the weekend, if even then.