Ally's Sweet & Savory Eats: January 2010

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sickness = Baking

Ah....Sunday. Husband's sick, baby is still sniffling and coughing, it's a wonder I haven't gotten this yet. We didn't have much going on this weekend, nor did we really go anywhere since 2/3's of the family is under the weather.

So being stuck in the house usually puts me in the kitchen. This weekend was not an exception. I tried a new cookie recipe, that incorporated the agave nectar I purchased a few weeks ago. Love that stuff! I had no idea if it would turn out, as the recipe didn't actually call for it, I just simply replaced the sugar it called for and used the agave nectar instead. It was a success!

I also threw together a pan of my homemade granola bars, so we'd have them for the coming week. Here they are all wrapped up and ready to go!

Brown Sugar Oatmeal Cookies
1 c. unsalted butter, softened
1 c. sugar (I replaced this with 1/2 c. agave nectar)
1 c. brown sugar
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla
2 c. flour
1 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
1 1/2 t. cinnamon
3 c. oats

Cream together brown sugar, agave nectar and butter. Add egg one at a time and then vanilla. Stir all other dry ingredients in, oats being last. Cover and chill the dough at least 1 hr.

Roll small pieces of the dough into balls and place on baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 8-10 min. Allow to cool and then place on cooling rack.
These turned out great! Soft, chewy, but still light and airy, definitely a keeper. I put almost the whole batch in the freezer (for later eating!) as we can't be trusted with cookies laying around. Can you? As for tonight, a "good home cooked meal" has been requested. What does he think he gets every night I'm wondering? Regardless, I am going to try Christina's Honey Mustard Baked Panko Chicken. Stay tuned!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Mesquite Grilled Chicken Panini w/ Spinach Herb Spread

Yesterday was one of those days where nothing looks good to eat, your fridge is running empty, and you really just don't have the ambition to make all. But, our hunger got the better of us, so I forged ahead and made dinner.

I had put out two frozen chicken breasts to thaw that morning, not having any idea what I was going to do with them. By mid-afternoon, I finally decided to think about them (by then they were back in the fridge), and I eventually landed on some grilled chicken.

I seasoned them up, cooked them on my handy grill pan, and cut them into strips. Mind you, I still had no idea what I was going to do with them, until I noticed some pepper jack cheese that needed to be used up and some spinach/herb dip mix sitting among my spices. Bingo....panini!

I LOVE a good sandwich, anyone knows that, so anytime I get the chance to change it up a little I do. And I LOVE my panini press, which I think I've already told you....

Now, the spread I made is from a Tastefully Simple seasoning mix. I know some of you out there (especially if you aren't from the Midwest) haven't heard of Tastefully Simple, so upon reading the ingredients on the bottle it is very doable to make on your own - all it contains is spinach flakes, onion, minced green onion, dill and garlic. Next time I might just make it homemade myself.

Mesquite Grilled Chicken Panini w/ Spinach Herb Spread
2 chicken breasts rubbed with Lawry's, cumin and chili powder
4 slices whole grain bread
4 slices pepper jack cheese
2 T. spinach/herb spread

To make the spread: combine 2 T. of seasoning mix (Tastefully Simple's or your own) along with 1/2 c. light sour cream and 1/2 c. light mayo. Set in fridge to chill.

Spread bread with spinach herb mix, sliced mesquite chicken and cheese. Press into panini maker (or griddle if you aren't fortunate to have one!), and grill until golden brown and both cheeses are oozing out the sides.

Trust me, it is delicious. I wish the picture I had did it better justice.

Now, after all this hard work on my meal idea for the day, my husband comes home and announces he'll just have a "salad and leftover meat from our french dip sandwiches yesterday". Ugh. Thankfully he added some of my chicken to his salad. I'm proud to say I had a panini AND a salad, as I wasn't going to eat roast beef for the third meal in a row.

Can you eat leftovers over and over again? I can eat them about twice and then I'm done. Unless it is chili, then that rule is thrown out.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

A Man's Kind of Meal: French Dip Sandwiches

I am sad to announce this was the last beef roast I had in our freezer. And I'm also sad to announce that I only make one thing with our beef roasts - French Dip Sandwiches. I know some people do beef and noodles, beef stew, etc., but I just can't imagine putting a roast in the crock pot and it not developing into mouth-watering french dip sandwiches. So that is what I make.

This recipe is SO easy. It only requires 4 ingredients, minus the bun. So, to all my fellow mothers out there, you can't pass this one by, as it is another set and forget meal. As I'm typing this, I can't wait to have a leftover sandwich for my lunch today!

French Dip Sandwiches w/ Au Jus
1 beef roast
1 bottle beer (I used Samuel Adam's Boston Lager)
3 T. minced garlic
Lawry's Seasoning Salt
*For you gluten intolerant folks, just buy gluten free beer (use one and drink the rest), or use beef stock, but I do find the great flavor comes from the BEER*

Rub Lawry's generously over entire roast. Place frozen roast (yes, I said frozen!) in crock pot. Smear on garlic and pour in beer. Set crock pot to low and let cook for 6-8 hours. About 2 hours before you eat, I usually flip the roast over, so the other half can soak up all the juices, at which point it's so tender it falls apart anyway!

When ready to eat, take two forks and shred meat and let it sit in the au jus. Serve on a bun, with a side of au jus for dipping. And yes, that is ketchup on my bun as well.....sorry I just can't go without it!

Cooking Tip: Always ask your husband WHICH beer you should use in this recipe. I guess I was supposed to use his cheap beer. Honestly though, I really think the dark lager beer made this taste perfect.
Do you use any recipes that require beer?
I love a good beer, especially an ice cold one in a frosty mug.
So when I don't drink it, I cook with it.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The 3 GREAT Things that Happened to Me Today

It's been a GREAT day in our household. Or technically, I should say a GREAT afternoon, as they all happened past noon.

1. I received my food blog prize package in the mail!
2. I watched Oprah!
3. I saw a preview of Celebrity Apprentice and learned that Curtis Stone will be on there!

Okay, so first. I was a little upset when the UPS driver rang our doorbell and ran off. Why does it seem like they are playing that game we used to play as kids? Ringing the doorbell and then running? What was that called? Regardless, it got the dogs barking and woke a sleeping baby. Not fun.

But then, I remembered this could be my food blog prize package on my doorstep! And I was right. Just look what it contained:

Thank you Laura, over at Hey, What's For Dinner Mom! I was picturing in my mind a simple box of panko breadcrumbs, but I was wrong! Not only did it have that but also some chicken stock, a cookbook, two utensils, measuring cup and a nice baking sheet. Can't wait to use it all!

Now, second. Did anyone see Oprah today? I saw the preview yesterday so I made sure to sit down and see it today. It was all about what we eat, why we eat it, where it comes from and every other fact in between. VERY interesting.

This show also featured Alicia Silverstone (the actress) and her new book, The Kind Diet. Now...she is vegan, and that is SO not me, but she did have some very good tips about healthy eating. I just might have to read this.....has anyone else read it?

Thirdly, while I was watching Oprah, a preview for Celebrity Apprentice came on, showcasing their new season to start in March. I'll admit I was a faithful watcher of this show when it first started, but then got very annoyed with it, as the "You're Fired" slogan got used way to much. But, I might have to start watching again. Curtis Stone is one of the celebrities! For those that don't know who he is, he's a chef (a very cute one in fact). I first saw him on his show The Take Home Chef on TLC a few years back....but I'm not sure if that show is even on anymore? I also see him doing segments on The Today Show quite a bit.

Well, last year my mom and I attended the Celebrity Food & Wine Festival in Des Moines, and we received the pleasure of sitting in on one of his cooking shows. It was so much fun! Here's the picture to prove, I actually was there......

Isn't he cute? And he's Australian....nothing better than that. So overall, a good foodie afternoon.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

To-die-for Vegetable Beef Soup

Yesterday in Iowa was filled with snow, wind, blah, blah, blah.....same story, different winter. For those of us that live here, we do often wonder....why?

In my opinion, the only solution to a dreary day like that is soup. Who doesn't LOVE a bowl of hot soup on a cold day? I personally like that kind that makes your nose run every time you take a bite. If only I could puree it and put it in little man's bottle, maybe it would help his cold!

What is your favorite kind of soup?

My Vegetable Beef Soup recipe is so easy, I promise even the "non-cook" can do this. It is simply dump, turn the crock pot on low and forget. Especially for those that work outside the home, it can easily be assembled the night before, placed in the fridge and set on low before you walk out of the door the next morning. So simple, it is almost a joke.

Vegetable Beef Soup
1 lb. ground beef, cooked and drained
1 bottle V-8 low sodium vegetable juice
1 can low sodium beef stock
1 can green beans
1 can diced tomatoes
1 c. chopped carrots
1 c. chopped celery
1/2 lb. pasta of choice (I used bow ties)
1 T. minced garlic
1 t. basil

Place all ingredients in crock pot, except for pasta. Cook on low for 6-8 hours. 30 minutes before serving add pasta to cook and stir every 15 minutes or so until pasta is al dente.

Tell me your favorite soup and share the recipe!
Oh, and I tried a Chocolate Mint Larabar last night after dinner....yuck! Not my favorite by any means. Has anyone else had this flavor? The mint had too much of a alcohol taste for me (which I usually like!) I think I'll stick to my favorite flavor so far - banana bread.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Tuna Melty Goodness

I don't think I've had tuna for over a year. Being preggo most of last year, made me shy away from it, but I'm happy to say yesterday I introduced it again!

It was a lazy Sunday (minus, caring for a rambunctious lab and our two dogs), so for lunch I whipped together some Tuna Melts. Yum. So simple, so easy, so delicious.

Tuna Melts

4 slices whole wheat bread
2 cans tuna (packed in water)
2 T. miracle whip
1 T. mustard
1 T. dill pickle relish
mozzarella cheese slices

Mix together tuna and condiments. Butter both sides of bread. Lay cheese and tuna on bread to make a sandwich. Place in pan and brown on each side, until cheese is melted.

Oh, and later this morning, Gauge (the dog we're sitting) found the empty tuna cans in the recycling bin outside and proceeded to throw them up in the air (while it's snowing) and use them as his new found beloved toy. What a dog.

Well, it's snowing here.....I'm off to make some homemade Vegetable Beef Soup....stay tuned!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

What's For Dinner Blog Giveaway!

Head on over to What's For Dinner and enter to win a $50 online shopping spree to! Leave a comment and you'll be entered into the drawing. Simple as that. sells a zillion products, so here's your chance to to get them for FREE!

Good luck!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

A Simple, Yet Delicious Brunch Item

Whoa....finally home. Three full days on the road traveling with a 4 1/2 mo. old sure is a lot of work. Especially when it's just mom traveling.....but it was fun and we got to see a lot of great friends (that we miss!) and of course family.

A definite highlight was our "play date" on Friday afternoon with some of my former co-workers and their kids. To think that two years ago none of us had kids and now there are 5 between us! We've been busy.

Pam, the gracious host that she was, provided a fruit bar with fresh pineapple, strawberries and bananas, and of course chocolate to dip it all in. Who doesn't like fruit dipped in chocolate? Honestly, I would probably take one of my shoes, dip it in chocolate and lick it off. That is how much I like it.

That morning before we left my mom made one of her stand-by breakfast items, Cinnamon Crescents. I'm not sure where this recipe came from, but I remember having them, well, for as long as I can remember. They are so simple, anyone could make them, and they are always a hit. Unfortunately, I think I had three. Two are only shown on the plate below....yeah, I admit it, I'm pretty sure I went back for a third.

Cinnamon Crescents

1 tube Pillsbury crescent rolls
1/4 c. butter, softened
1/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. brown sugar
1/4 t. cinnamon
dash salt
1/2 c. flour

Frosting: 1/2 c. powdered sugar, 1 T. soft butter, 1/4 t. vanilla and 1-1 1/2 T. milk

Combine butter, sugars, cinnamon, salt and flour and sprinkle over the unrolled, flattened crescent rolls. Bake on a greased cookie sheet at 400 degrees for 8-12 minutes. Mix together frosting and drizzle over crescents while they are still warm.

P.S. - We are dog sitting a lab for the next week while our good friends are on vacation in the Bahamas. Yeah, I feel sorry for them......and in case you don't know we already have two BIG dogs - a black lab and a golden retriever. I'm scared. He is a great dog, but still somewhat a puppy (or wait, aren't labs ALWAYS puppies?), I have a feeling my week will be event filled - 3 dogs, small house, baby, husband.....ugh.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Travel, Cookies & Fun

I'm blogging from a different computer this morning....little man and I are on a road trip. Between yesterday and tomorrow we'll be visiting both sets of grandparents, many friends, old-workers (mine, not his), and we'll have eaten lots of yummy food (again, me, not him).

Last night as I waited for my friend Jenelle to arrive at my parents, my mom put together a yummy cracker and cheese tray. Oh, and wine of course. Smoked swiss, muenster, and pepper jack, along with a cream cheese pepper jelly combo. Perfect snack before I headed to dinner.

Dinner was the legendary taco pizza from Zeno's in my hometown. Sorry no pictures! But, trust me it was GOOD. Again, I cannot get enough of their homemade taco sauce.

When I came home I got right into baking my Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies. I am meeting 3 old co-workers of mine later this afternoon and we're having a "play date" with the I figured I better bring them all a treat! A plate for us to nibble on while we're there, and a plate for each of them to take home.

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

2 1/4 c. flour
1 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, partially melted
3/4 c. sugar
3/4 c. brown sugar
1 t. vanilla
2 eggs
1/2 bag of chocolate chips
1 c. oatmeal

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Let butter sticks soften on counter, or partially melt them in the microwave - they need to be really soft! Add sugars, vanilla and egg to butter mixture. Sift together flour, salt and baking soda and add gradually to butter mixture and combine. Fold in chocolate chips and oatmeal. Drop by small spoonfuls on greased baking sheet and bake for 9-10 minutes or until just browned at edges. Do not over bake. Let cool on wire rack before storing.

Now I'm off for breakfast (cinnamon crescents, yum!) and a day of traveling and visiting!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

I Won!

I have officially won my first food blog contest! Laura, over at Hey, Mom What's For Dinner, recently held a variety of giveaways....and low and behold I won one of them! This is very exciting for me. Can you tell? I am the winner of a panko pack.

Do you know what panko is?
Panko is a variety of bread crumb used in Japanese cuisine as a crunchy coating for fried foods. Panko is made from bread without crusts, thus it has a crisper, airier texture than most types of breading found in Western cuisine.

Now, I have never cooked with panko breadcrumbs, but have always wanted to here's my chance! See what a little wandering about on food blogs will get ya?

On to dinner last night. I needed to use up some flour tortillas and I had made a batch of my Snob Salsa, so I threw together Taco Lasagna. Here it goes!

Taco Lasagna

1 pkg. flour or corn tortillas
snob salsa
shredded cheddar cheese
Fat Free re fried beans
1 skinless, boneless chicken breast

Cook chicken in boiling water, or in oven, whichever you prefer. Once cooled, shred with a fork, mix with some of the salsa and set aside. Spread 1/2 c. of salsa in bottom of 8x8 baking pan. Begin layering like lasagna - tortilla, re fried beans, chicken, salsa, cheese, and so on, until you've reached the top of the pan. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes, or until browned and bubbly. Serve with a side of Mexican rice (1 cup of brown rice to 1/2 cup water and 1/4 cup salsa - cook as directed).

This is great dish to throw together the day before and keep in the fridge overnight, or even if you need a dish to take to a loved one. Serve with whatever toppings your heart desires - sour cream, lettuce, tomato, crushed tortilla chips (my favorite!), etc.

So, that was my night. Later....little man feel asleep in my arms as I was walking around the house picking stuff up.

Don't you wish you could just fall asleep anywhere?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Top 10 Favorite Foods

So yesterday as I was browsing some food blogs, I came across Carrots 'N' Cake, and she had listed her Top 10 Favorite Foods. What a great idea, Tina! I started to think what mine were, and well, this is a challenge.....

I'm afraid none of them are too healthy, but what the heck it's not like I eat these everyday. These are just my favorite foods. Here it goes.

10. Cake - any kind really, as long as it's moist and fluffy and topped with creamy frosting

9. Garlic - not to eat just plain silly...but in things - pasta, casseroles, on bread, in dips, the list is endless

8. Hamburgers on the grill - my favorite birthday meal is a grilled hamburger with pickle, mustard, tomato and ketchup, served with a side of potato salad and baked beans. Yum.

7. Cheese - again, I'm not picky, any kind will work - on sandwiches, in pasta, eaten plain

6. Milk - I don't think I can go a day without it, whether it's in my cereal, or in a glass all by itself

5. Strawberries - quite possibly the best fruit in my opinion

4. Chips-n-Dip - salsa and tortilla chips, potato chips and a creamy dip, all works for me

3. Pasta - noodles are my friend!

2. Bread - what girl doesn't love bread? That's all I'm saying.

1. Pizza - I'm pretty sure anyone could have guessed that about me. I think homemade pizza is made in our house at least once a week!

What are your favorite foods?

This below is becoming one of mine lately. Baked oatmeal with almond butter and agave nectar. So good. With a glass of milk of course.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Two Days of Shopping and Good Food

I did some shopping these last few days and I ate some good food. Hooray, for me. On Friday, I finally visited the New Pioneer Food Co-op. It is an organic grocer, deli, bakery, winery, etc. all wrapped into one. The smell hits you as soon as you walk in the door...

If it would have been around meal time, I would have definitely stopped at their deli to grab a bite. Or their bakery, for a "dessert only" meal. Just look at the goods!

I had a few things in mind that I wanted to look for, and for the most part found all of it. Although I could have probably spent more $$$$ and more time there....

I'm anxious to try the agave nectar in my oatmeal, and other baking related items. And check out the Larabars! I've never seen the "dessert" kind - I snagged a German Chocolate and a Chocolate Mint one. I'll be sure to let you know how they taste:) The garlic hummus (not pictured) was very good as well. I dove into that with some of Stacy's Garlic & Herb Pita Chips. Yum! I will tell you though.....I did have to explain to my husband what hummus was....he wasn't that impressed. Other items I snagged were Jalapeno Food Should Taste Good Chips, some organic garlic herb salt, and some almond butter with honey.

Oh, and the best part was today. Little man and I went to my nephew's basketball game. In between games we all went out for lunch and since my niece's birthday was a few days ago, my mom (as always) baked the cake. She always asks what cake we want (mine is ALWAYS yellow cake with chocolate frosting), and my niece usually picks my mom's coconut cake, but this time she told Grandma to "do whatever you want". So my mom picked a new recipe - something chiffon....can't quite remember the exact title....sorry. Anyway it had four layers with cherry and chocolate bits and tons of light, creamy frosting in between each layer. I thought it was great! Some people weren't as fond of it as me, but I certainly thought is was a keeper. Here it is before we dug in.

Did your mom bake your birthday cake growing up?
Still do it today? Or did you order one from a bakery?

Friday, January 15, 2010

My 2nd Favorite Kitchen Appliance

I love a good kitchen appliance. I'm not talking fridges and stoves here, I'm talking about the appliances that make something just a tad bit easier. Top on my list is my Kitchen Aid stand-up mixer. My husband got it for me for Christmas a few years back and I think after my engagement was the best present he ever got me. Coming in a close 2nd is my Cuisinart Bread Machine.

Does anyone else have a bread machine they use? We had one growing up, and I remember my mom usually putting in a mix on the weekends so we could enjoy homemade bread with our meals. I think it may have died, and I'm pretty sure she hasn't replaced it, but I do remember it fondly.

Yesterday I decided I really needed to smell that wonderful aroma of homemade bread baking, so I got ours out. I flipped through the recipes that came with the bread machine (genius!) and came across one....Three Cheese. I happened to have all the ingredients (shocking), so I dumped them all in, walked away and within the hour my house smelled like a bakery.

Three-Cheese Bread (makes a small 1 lb. loaf)

7 T. water (80-90 degrees F)
1/4 c. part skim ricotta cheese
1/2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 c. parmesan cheese
1 T. sugar
3/4 t. salt
1/2 t. tabasco sauce
2 c. + 2 T. bread flour (I used regular flour and it worked just fine)
1 t. yeast, active dry, instant or bread machine
1 t. wheat gluten (I've found this makes it rise better)

Place all ingredients, in the order listed, in the bread pan, fitted with the kneading paddle. For my bread machine, I selected the small loaf size, medium crust, and the "white bread" cycle. Depending on your bread machine you may have different settings. This loaf took close to 2 hours, start to finish.

Walk away, enjoy the aroma, and devour the bread later!

What is your FAVE kitchen appliance?

Blogger Alert: I'm doing some shopping today, so check back later to see my great finds!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Baked Elvis Oatmeal & Last Day of Freezer Challenge!

First off, Happy Birthday to my niece Jordan! Cannot believe you are 12 today...

I have seen on other various food blogs that many people are now baking their oatmeal. I've always been a microwave girl, but I thought I'd give this a try instead. Let me just say, when I have the time, I will ALWAYS be baking my oatmeal from here on out. It gives it a crispier texture on the edges, and just seems to be more fulfilling.

Does anyone out there use agave nectar in their oatmeal? That seems to be the "in" thing now, instead of sugar. Do I need to put it on my grocery list?

This mornings ingredients were:
1/2 c. whole wheat oats
3/4 c. skim milk
1 spoonful peanut butter
1 spoonful brown sugar
1 sliced banana

Honestly, it smelled like peanut butter cookies were in the oven. Even my husband asked what I was baking this early! I could probably eat this every morning when I have the time, and it is so filling, that I'm sure it'd be a great breakfast for those that need to stayed FILLED up till noon. Elvis would be proud.

Freezer Challenge Day #5. Tonight is ravioli night! I made these ravioli probably a month ago. We ate half of the batch that night and the other half I placed in a large Ziploc bag for later use (i.e. tonight). A very simple pasta topped with a simple jarred pasta sauce. I wanted to make my own sauce tonight but I don't have the ingredients on hand, so jarred sauce it is. Boo. And I don't have a final picture of them either. Boo. Sorry, camera batteries are dead! Don't you just hate that? Trust me though....these are yummy! A little time consuming, but worth it.

Homemade Ravioli

1 pkg. won ton wrappers
1 pint part skim ricotta cheese
1/2 c. parmesan cheese
1/2 c. garlic alfredo sauce
1 t. garlic salt
1 T. parsley
1 small bowl of water (for sealing edges of ravioli)

Mix all ingredients together, except for the won ton wrappers and set aside. Take one wrapper and put 1 t. of the mixture in the center. Take finger, dip in water, and dab all edges of the wrapper. Fold corner edges together (to make a triangle) and seal the edges with your fingers. Place on large baking sheet. Once baking sheet is filled place in freezer. After 30 minutes (or longer if needed), they will be frozen and you can boil them to eat immediately, or put in a larger freezer bag to use for later use. If eating immediately only boil for a few minutes. They are done once they float to the top. Don't overcook - they will become very mushy! Serve with any pasta sauce you desire!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Freezer Challenge Day #4 - Oink, Oink

I'm almost done with my Freezer Challenge.....and it feels good. Love having more space in my freezer. But of course it was short lived, since my husband shot a deer this winter and now it is again FULL with jalapeno and cheese deer sausage and deer sticks. I really HATE this hobby of his.

Yesterday was all about the pig in our house = pork cutlets. I got these on sale at the meat counter a few weeks back, just couldn't pass up a good deal! I will admit this isn't one of the healthiest meals I've made, but I did try and substitute in a few good ingredients (whole wheat flour, skim milk instead of cream, etc.)

Italian Style Breaded Pork Cutlets

4 tenderized pork cutlets
1 c. whole wheat flour
1 egg
1 c. Italian Style breadcrumbs (panko would be better, but I still haven't bought any!)
1/2 c. parmesan cheese

Cream Sauce (adapted from Rachael Ray magazine)

3/4 c. skim milk
2 T. unsalted butter
1 T. parsley
1/2 c. parmesan cheese

In large skillet heat 1/2 c. canola oil on medium-high heat. Meanwhile dredge the pork in flour, then beaten egg, then breadcrumb/parmesan mixture to coat. Place in skillet and cook on each side until browned and crispy, about 3 min. a side. They will cook fast as they are very thin. In another saucepan, heat milk and butter to a gentle boil and then turn down to a simmer, while continuing to stir. After a few minutes it will thicken, take off heat and stir in parsley and parmesan cheese. Keep warm and serve over the pork.

I served these with our twice baked potato recipe I blogged about last week. Yum! I thought about baking these piggies, instead of sauteing them in the canola oil, but I was worried they might get soggy. I HATE soggy I didn't. I think this recipe would also be very good with chicken. Any other ideas?

We are eating leftovers tonight, so FC Day #5 will have to wait until tomorrow. It will be pasta night!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


Amy's Kitchen is having a Giveaway!

Have you ever tried her products? I haven't, but I see them everytime I go into the store.

Head on over to Iowa Girl Eats and enter now! You have until 3pm on Thursday, January 14th!

Freezer Challenge Day #3 & Books!

I was beyond ecstatic yesterday when my box from Barnes & Noble arrived. Does anyone else get so excited when a package arrives in the mail? It's like being a kid on Christmas morning in my opinion....

I had about 6 gift cards to use up after Christmas (I'm not kidding), so last week I went online and ordered books - 7 to be exact! And you all should be SO proud, only two of them where cookbooks. Has anyone read any of these?

  • Love the One Your With - Emily Giffin
  • True Colors - Kristin Hannah
  • Y'All Come Eat - The Deen Bros.
  • Fortune's Rocks - Anita Shreve
  • A Three Dog Life - Abigail Thomas
  • The Glass Castle - Jeanette Walls
  • Top 100 Baby Purees - Annabel Karmel

Now on to my Freezer Challenge Day #3 = mushrooms. I had a 1/2 bag of these frozen beauties in a Ziploc left over from something.....hmm.....can't quite remember what it was, but I know it wasn't from long ago. Tip: Always date your Ziploc bags! I knew exactly what I was going to make, as it is one of our FAVES.

Chicken Tetrazzini

1/2 lb. pasta (I used bow ties)

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 can cream of mushroom soup (98% FF, low sodium)

1/2 bag mushrooms

1 T. minced garlic

2 c. shredded cheddar cheese

1 c. broth

salt/pepper, to taste

Fill saucepan with water and place chicken breasts and garlic in water and bring to a boil. This will need to boil for at least 10 minutes or until chicken is cooked all the water through. In another pot, boil noodles till al dente. Meanwhile combine soup and 1/2 of the cheese in a large mixing bowl. When noodles are done, add to mixture. When chicken is done, shred with fork and combine to mixture. Keep the broth that the chicken was cooking in and put mushrooms in broth, just for a minute. This helps them to "unfrost" and soak in some of the good flavor. Add mushrooms and 1 c. of the broth to the mixing bowl. Stir all to combine and place in greased casserole dish. Cover with foil and bake at 375 degrees for 30 min. Take foil off, top with remaining cheese and bake an additional 10 minutes or until browned and bubbly.

After this meal I only have two more items in my Freezer Challenge to use up....ravioli and pork cutlets. Which one should I make tonight?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Freezer Challenge Day #2 - Homemade Granola Bars

Before I start talking about my challenge of the day, I have a more important question. Has anyone gotten pulled into the show Jersey Shore on MTV? Ugh. My hubby and I literally sat in front of the TV yesterday and next thing you know I've wasted 2 hours of my life. This show is wrong on so many levels, but you just can't stop watching! There life is crazy out there, a little over the top, but gosh some of their one-liners had us cracking up! Okay....enough about the Jersey girls and boys....

As mentioned a few days ago, one the items I had in my freezer upon cleaning it out, was a 1/2 bag of sliced almonds. Now these could be used up in SO many ways - a topper for a salad, crushed up and coated on chicken, a topper for yogurt, the list is endless. But, I had another idea. A few years back during my WW (Weight Watcher) days, I had a recipe for homemade "good for you" granola bars. Have you ever looked at what is in the granola bar you are taking to work everyday? Probably high fructose corn syrup, sugar, sugar, and more sugar. So here is a simple and easy way to replace that boxed granola bar you are eating.....and save money!

Homemade Granola Bars

1/4 c. unsalted butter
4 c. mini marshmallows
1 c. oats
1 c. crushed saltines or graham crackers
1/2 c. wheat germ
1/2 bag sliced almonds
1/4 c. unsweetened coconut
1/2 c. mini chocolate chips
*Anything can be added in these bars (dried fruit, more nuts, flax seed, etc.), these are just the items I had on hand.

In a large saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Add marshmallows and stir constantly until mixture is smooth. Stir all other ingredients to combine. With greased fingers press mixture in a greased 8x8 pan. Let mixture cool before cutting. This will yield 9 bars.

Make this on a Sunday night, cut into 9 squares and wrap them individually in plastic wrap. They will last you all week!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Freezer Challenge Day #1

Since we live in a small town, any chance we get to "go out" to eat or to "order in", is celebrated. Friday night, I didn't feel like cooking, and we'll it's Friday night so we ordered pizza. If you are from the Midwest you probably know of the convenience store that is dotted on every highway and intersection, in towns small and big - Casey's General Store. Why would we order pizza from there? Well, it's GOOD. Simple as that. Our favorite is the taco. Fresh pizza crust layered with refried beans, sausage, cheese, lettuce, tomato and nacho cheese flavored chips. Served with about 20 packets of taco sauce. Some people don't think it should be called "pizza", be we sure do. It was great! And eating this calorie laden food every once in awhile is OK.

Although I didn't cook Friday night, I did start my Freezer Challenge yesterday. Day #1 = Peaches. My father-in-law had brought down two bags of frozen, fresh peaches for us a few months back, and when cleaning the freezer on Friday, I found them. Not because they aren't important, but well because everything always seems to just get shoved to the back.

I knew right away what I'd do with these - Peach Crumble. This is the same version of my Apple Crumble I've made before, just substituted out with peaches. Delicious!

Peach Crumble

1 bag thawed out peaches (probably 3 cups worth)
*Mix this with 1 T. cinnamon, 1 t. vanilla and 1/3 c. brown sugar

For crumble mix together:

1/2 c. sugar
2/3 c. oats
1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 c. wheat germ (trust me, it's healthy, and you CAN'T taste it!)
1 t. cinnamon
1/3 c. brown sugar
1 stick of unsalted butter, melted

Pour peach mixture in bottom of 8x8 greased pan. Mix together all ingredients for the crumble and lay on top of the peaches. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until it is bubbly and golden in color.

Oh - and serve with ice cream!!! Below is my small bowl I had last night after dinner. Small bowls don't have calories.

Are you cleaning out your freezer yet???

Friday, January 8, 2010

Twice Baked Potatoes and a Challenge to You!

For some reason, I never eat twice baked potatoes. If they are on a menu, I never pick them. So when I saw this recipe for them in my new Taste of Home Best Holiday Recipes cookbook, I decided it is about time I try them. I mean what is not to love?

I remember a friend of mine always getting this as her side at The Brown Bottle. This restaurant is a FAVE of many in Iowa, and I can say I truly miss going there!

Here's the Taste of Home version:
4 baking potatoes
1/2 c. light sour cream
2 T. butter
1/8 t. each garlic powder/onion powder
1 c. cheddar cheese
1 c. mozzarella cheese
1/4 c. chopped green onions
salt, pepper to taste
*Note: I omitted the green onions and just doubled the cheddar cheese, as I didn't have any mozzarella on hand.

Rub washed potatoes with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Place on baking sheet and bake for 1 hour at 375 degrees. When done, take out of oven and let cool. Meanwhile mix all other ingredients in bowl. Cut each potato in half and with a spoon scoop out the pulp. Mix the pulp with the other ingredients. Refill the potatoes with this mixture and bake an additional 15-20 minutes or until heated through.

And now.....what you've been waiting for......My 5-Day Freezer Challenge!

I first saw this challenge on another food blog - Dinner at Christinas - and well, it only made sense! Dedicate 5 days to cleaning out your freezer. Now, that doesn't mean throwing 5 items away - USE THEM!

Here are the items I found in my freezer this morning:

  • A bag of fresh, frozen peaches
  • 1/2 bag of sliced almonds
  • 1 pkg. pork cutlets
  • 1/2 bag of fresh, frozen mushrooms
  • 1 large Ziploc bag of frozen homemade ravioli

I challenge you all to take part in this. Trust me, you will feel better once you have used your items and also when you can actually see the back of your freezer! So, stay tuned to see how I use these 5 items!

What's in your freezer?

Post a comment and tell me your 5 items and what you plan on doing with them!