Friday, September 30, 2011

Hit or Miss, Mostly Miss

So the last couple of days of trying some new recipes were rather hit or miss.  The Korean Rice Bowl was a hit with Sweet Pea and I, Rosie Jane said it was not bad (hopefully that means she'll eat it again) and of course Bob thought it was too spicy.  I think I'll make it again, but for lunch when Bob's not here.  That recipe came from Family Circle magazine in an article about 10 things to do with ground beef.  I'll be trying a few of the others as well soon.  We also tried breakfast burritos from one of Ellie Kreiger's cookbooks.  Again, Sweet Pea and I thought they were really good and filling, something to make again, Rosie Jane took a pass that morning, and Bob...too spicy (he doesn't do salsa, even the mild kind).

Yesterday since we were going to be gone all day and come home needing a quick dinner before having to head out to drop Rosie Jane at dance, I had dinner cooking in the crockpot.  I found a recipe on Better Homes & Gardens website and thought I'd try it; worked out even better since Giant had the country ribs that I needed on sale.  I think this one was pretty much a bust on all sides.  It was Ale-Sauced Pork Ribs and Vegetables.  I didn't think the "sauce" turned out very well, it really lacked flavor, but I thought the ribs and veggies were fine.  Sweet Pea and Bob wanted BBQ sauce on the ribs, Rosie Jane doesn't really like veggies cooked in the crockpot with other stuff (now she tells me!).  The dog did enjoy her portion, I gave her what Rosie Jane had left on her plate.

I'll post the Korean Rice Bowl recipe later, it's one I don't want to lose.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Spanish rice

This is one of those comfort foods, at it a lot growing up foods.  I'm sure it's not terribly "Spanish" as we think of it, but that's what we called it.  It's good, simple, and pretty quick to pull together.  After the main recipe, I'll put the healthier version that I usually make and some other optional add-ins (that Mom would roll her eyes at but we enjoy them).  I usually serve this with biscuits.

Spanish Rice
serves 4-5

1 lb. hamburger
1 onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 can diced tomatoes
3/4 cup-ish rice
salt and pepper

Put the hamburger, onion, and green pepper into a large pot and cook until until the meat is browned.  Add the tomatoes, rice, and a little less water per the rice directions (you'll have liquid from the tomatoes so you won't need all the water called for in cooking the rice).  Cook until the rice is done; salt and pepper to taste.
*you can add more or less of any of the ingredients to suit your taste

Healthier take on Spanish rice - I will more often use ground turkey instead of hamburger and brown rice for white.  Using turkey and brown rice gives it a more earthy flavor, one which I really like.

Stuff I add in - I usually throw in a clove or two of garlic, sometimes frozen corn, a can of drained and rinsed black beans, a few dashes of hot sauce.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Mexican Pizza

I'm sure there are lots of variations on this but Mexican pizza was on the menu for lunch today.  I had some pizza dough in the freezer which I pulled out last night.  I thought it was regular dough but nope, it was cornmeal dough.  No problem, we always seem to have shredded cheddar around and salsa so Mexican pizza it was.  Easy as pie!  Now that I think about it, I think the dough was leftover from making Taco Pizzas one night.  I'll have to find that recipe and post it as well.

Mexican Pizza

cornmeal pizza dough
salsa (spicy or not, your choice)
shredded cheddar
black beans, about 1/2 can

Preheat the oven to 425* and roll out the pizza dough.  I use a pizza stone for our pizzas.  Bake the crust about 10 minutes.  Pull it out and top with salsa, the black beans, and a couple of good handfuls of cheese.  Bake about 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted.

And good news!  I found the recipe for the Cheddar, Maple, and Apple Pie I mentioned.  Very excited!  We'll be trying it out this weekend since it's supposed to be nice and fall like and will let you know how we like it.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Dinner and a movie

So the gang's still gone and it was just me at home again for dinner tonight.  I passed on the shrimp I mentioned yesterday since I found a pork chop in the freezer.  Why there was only one pork chop, I have no idea, but I pulled it out this morning.  I was thinking of doing the pork chop with apples, but didn't have any cider (I have a great recipe for pork chops with apples in a cider sauce).  It was a pretty simple dinner.  Since I still wanted apples I made a Waldorf salad (alas, no celery), cooked the pork chop with salt and pepper in the cast iron skillet in olive oil and butter, and sliced zucchini and cooked that up with salt and pepper.  Very good.  I'm going to use the leftover zucchini tomorrow morning in an omelet.

Since I was by myself again I decided to watch a movie and pulled out Julie and Julia.  Sweet Pea took me out to see it for my birthday when it was in the theaters a couple of years ago and we really enjoyed it.  I have a copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, I'm sure from one of the first printings.  My grandmother had a large collection of cookbooks and I got quite a few from her collection, including this one.  One of the ways I take after her is my large cookbook collection.

After we saw the movie, Sweet Pea and I decided to make the Boeuf Bourgonine (perhaps I should go find out how to spell that!).  We followed Julia's recipe and it turned out really good.  Now that it's finally getting cooler again, perhaps we'll pull that recipe out to make again.  Hm, I'll have to add that to our menu plan in a few weeks. Sounds like a good Saturday night dinner when we have time to make it, and time to enjoy eating it.

Bon Appetite!

Friday, September 23, 2011

On my own

Tonight is one of those dinners that I love.  My family is gone for the weekend to a huge Christian concert/festival and won't be back until Sunday afternoon.  That means that I've got two dinners on my own and it always means that I fix things that I love that no one else likes.  So on tonight's menu is salmon, potatoes, and maybe spinach.  I'll probably bake the salmon, maybe put on some teriyaki sauce.  The potatoes will be cut into chunky fries and baked; the spinach is just frozen spinach, dolled up with a bit of butter, pepper, and shredded Parm cheese.  Not sure what I'll do tomorrow night, maybe I'll head to the grocery store and get some shrimp.  I do enjoy the occasional quiet house so that I can cook things that I normally wouldn't fix.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Corned beef (a two-fer)

One of our favorite dinners easily becomes one of our favorite breakfasts, if there's enough leftovers. Bob called this a boiled dinner, Rosie Jane for a long time was asking for dinner in the crockpot meaning this (although I cook many other things in the crockpot).  We all enjoy corned beef, potatoes, carrots, and cabbage.  It's an easy fix in the morning, cooks all day in the crockpot, and is ready to enjoy at dinner time.

Corned Beef (dinner)

corned beef
4-5 potatoes, cut into chunks
3-4 carrots, cut into chunks
1 onion, quartered (I don't always put this in)
1 small cabbage, cut into quarters or eighths

Put the veggies on the bottom of your crockpot then put the meat on top.  If there's a seasoning packet add it as well.  Add about 2 cups of water.  Cook on low for about 8 hours or high for 4.  Take out the meat and veggies and keep warm; add the cabbage to the crockpot and cook on high for 30 minutes.

If there's leftovers, they can become:

Corned Beef Hash (breakfast)

the leftover corned beef, potatoes, and onion

Cut all into dice, roughly the same size.  I don't usually use the leftover carrots in this and if I didn't have onion in the original dish I'll dice some extra for this.  Using a skillet (cast iron is best), melt some butter in it and add the diced leftovers.  Cook until it becomes crispy and browned, stirring occasionally.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  You may not need much salt at all as the corned beef is kind of salty to begin with.

We don't always have enough leftover corned beef for this, we all love it and eat it at dinner.  I don't usually find a large enough one so that we have leftovers.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Apple Cake

Just for the record, I'm getting a little tired of sweet apple things.  I'm going to have to find some savory dishes, like pork chops and apples. 

I made this the other night, it's yummy and easy.  It could either be a dessert cake, good after dinner or with tea in the afternoon, or coffee cake in the morning for breakfast.  I got the recipe from my mom.

Apple Cake

1 3/4 c. sugar
3 eggs, beaten
1 c. oil
1 tsp. vanilla
2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
4 c. chopped apples
1 c. chopped walnuts

Beat sugar and eggs together.  Add oil and vanilla.  Add dry ingredients and combine with creamed mixture.  Add nuts and apples.  Sprinkle with the topping: 1/2 c. brown sugar, 2 Tbsp. butter, and 2 Tbsp. flour, mix until crumbly.

Bake at 375* for 45 minutes.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Easy summer to fall meal

We had an easy dinner today; it being Sunday it was at lunchtime but it was dinner.  Later it'll be "get whatever you can find" to eat for supper, cereal or soup or sandwiches.  This was a season transition meal as well.  We had grilled flank steak, mashed potatoes, and spinach.  This meal was about as easy as can be.  For the flank steak, I marinated it in McCormick's Meat Marinade, then cooked it on the grill to medium-rare.  Slice flank steak against the grain.  Sweet Pea peeled and diced the potatoes and got them started while I was working on the meat.  When done, the potatoes were mashed with milk and butter, a sprinkle of salt and pepper.  The spinach was frozen, chopped spinach, cooked in the microwave with a little butter and shredded Parmesan cheese.  I'm making apple something for dessert, maybe apple cake, if I can find the recipe.  It's one from Mom so I know it's around here somewhere.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Apple, maple, and cheddar pie

This is exactly why I started this blog.  I saw a great recipe for apple pie with a touch of maple syrup and cheddar cheese.  Sounded delish and we've got a bunch of apples still to go through.  Now I can't find the recipe.  I could swear that it's in one of my fall magazines, especially since I've already gone through the three new cookbooks that I got recently and didn't find it there.  I guess I'll keep looking until I find it.

In the mean time, I've made several apple crisps, Sweet Pea made a couple of apple pies yesterday, the apple butter is done (and good), but like I said, we've still got a bunch of apples to take care of tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Spaghetti Carbonnara

I'm sure there's a bazillion versions of this Italian dish out there.  Bob's roommate from way back when made an awesome version of this and I've never been able to replicate it nearly as good.  This is one my family likes a lot (it's got bacon!) and since it's quick and easy we eat it often.  It's a dish that I almost always have the ingredients on hand.  I found this version in the Better Homes & Garden Plaid Cookbook.

Spaghetti Carbonnara
modified from BH&G Plaid Cookbook
serves 4

this is one of those technical recipes with lots of exact measurements :)

3 or 4 handfuls of spaghetti, enough for 4 servings
an egg
some milk
grated Parmesan (in the green can is fine)
6 pieces of bacon, cooked to crispy and broken into small pieces

Cook the spaghetti according to the package.  When it's done, drain and put it back in the pot.  Whisk the egg and some milk together (maybe about 1/4 c).  Add about 1 Tbsp of butter to the spaghetti and turn the heat back on low.  When the butter is melted and coats the spaghetti, add the milk/egg.  When it's cooked add a couple of good shakes of Parm and the bacon bits.  Stir to mix in the cheese and bacon.  Enjoy!

I'm also working on some apple butter now to use up more of our apples.  If it works out well, I'll have a report tomorrow along with a recipe.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Apple time!

We've still got plenty of apples around.  Sweet Pea is making another apple crisp and hopefully there will be enough leftover for breakfast.  Tonight we're going to have it with ice cream.  The applesauce I made last week was good, if a bit thick.  I may make more and turn it into apple butter.  I need to find a good recipe for that.  We've got lots of apples to get through and do something with before they go bad.  This morning was another breakfast favorite, an apple pancake.

Apple Pancake
from The Breakfast Book by Marion Cunningham ("Fannie Farmer")

6 Tbsp butter
2 large apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
3 Tbsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp cinnamon
about 5 Tbsp confectioners' sugar (depending on the sweetness of the apples)
3 eggs, room temperature
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c flour
1/2 c milk

Preheat the oven to 425*.
Melt the butter in a 10-in oven-proof skillet or shallow pan and take off the heat.  Remove 2 Tbsp melted butter and set aside in a small bowl.

Put the apple slices in a large bowl with the lemon juice.  Stir the cinnamon into the sugar and sprinkle the sugar mixture over the apple slices.  Toss to mix.  Put the skillet back on the burner and turn the heat to medium.  Add the apples and cook, stirring often, for about 3 or 4 minutes, or until the apples are tender but still hold thier shape.

In a separate bowl (or blender or food processor), combine the eggs, salt, flour, milk, and the 2Tbsp melted butter.  Beat until smooth.  Spread the apples evenly over the bottom of the skillet and pour the batter on top.  Bake for about 20 minutes, or until golden and puffy.  Turn immediately onto a warm platter so the apples are on top.  Dust with a little confectioners' sugar and serve at once.

I make this in my cast iron skillet and it works great except for the turning out.  I just cut it into four pieces, dust with the confectioners' sugar and serve.

Something a little different

Thought I'd do something a little different today.  Our anniversary was on Friday (9/9) and Bob and I went to Williamsburg, VA for the weekend.  Our anniversary dinner was certainly nothing to write home about (McDonald's on the road) but the rest of the weekend was great to awesome so I thought I'd do some restaurant reviews.

Lunch at The Cheese Shop - on Duke of Gloucester Street  They carry high end food stuffs and cheeses but at the back of the shop they sell sandwiches, chips, and drinks.  The sandwiches are awesome!  We stop there every time we're down there for lunch.  I usually get either roast beef, provolone on rye or Virginia ham, cheddar on French bread.  They make a great house dressing.  You can buy the house dressing to take home along with bread ends.  The girls always get grilled cheese, which looks good.

We had breakfast twice and lunch once at Aromas. The breakfasts were really good.  I had a garden veggie quiche and fruit one morning and a Southwest omelet the next.  Both were really good, the omelet had chicken, black beans, cheddar cheese in the omelet and salsa on top.  Bob had the scrambled egg breakfast both days, scrambled eggs, hash browns, toast (a really good multi-grain thick sliced toast), and bacon one day, sausage the next.  We stopped by yesterday for lunch.  Bob had the BLT and I had a huge sesame chicken salad.

Probably the best meal we had there was at The Trellis.  It's pretty upscale, but perfect for an anniversary dinner.  The dress was casual (there were people there in shorts) but nice. We started with a garden greens salad (greens with parm cheese and a vinaigrette dressing).  Bob had a duck dish which he said was really good.  I had planked salmon with green beans and fingerling potatoes.  For dessert I had key lime pie and Bob had a chocolate tart with caramel something.  I didn't taste his tart, but my pie was delicious.  Instead of being a pie, it was made in a small rectangular tart pan.  It was then thinly sliced across the short way.  My plate had 3 slices with some graham cracker crumbs across the top and a raspberry sauce on the side.  There were two things that made the dinner really nice (besides the food and company!), first, the waiter didn't ask us 100 times if everything was good.  He didn't ask at all.  He was very attentive to our needs and was there when we needed something but wasn't always interrupting.  The second thing was that the meal was filling but we didn't leave feeling stuffed which was really nice.  It was a change to be able to eat a salad, meal, and dessert and not feel like it was Thanksgiving.

So now when you go to Williamsburg you know where to eat.  Enjoy!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Sausages with Green Pepper and Onion

Another quick and easy dinner.  I was told when I was making up my shopping list that I had to get potato chips as it's tradition to have them with these sandwiches.  These are just like the ones you can get at the county fair.

Sausages w/green pepper and onion
Serves 5

1 pkg. of Italian sausage (we like sweet but you can get hot, whichever you prefer)
1 green pepper, sliced
1 onion, sliced
olive oil
steak rolls

Cook the Italian sausage (a bit of water in a skillet covered for about 10 min, then uncovered until browned).  Heat some olive oil in a second skillet and when hot add the green pepper and onion.  Cook until softened and slightly brown.  Split the rolls, put in one sausage and some onions and peppers.  Enjoy!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Menu planning = saving money

Since I don't really have any great recipes to share today and my brain is getting overloaded with apple thoughts, I'll share a few tips that I hope will help my girls when they're on their own in a few years.

First off, make a menu plan for the week.  Or month.  One way to plan for the month is to designate each day a specific type of meal then you can pick from that.  A few examples, Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday (anything Mexican works), Fish Friday (I think I'd have a revolt on my hands is I did this).  This way, if you know on Wednesdays you cook a pasta dish, it takes a bit less thinking to menu plan since you only need to think through pasts dishes.  I don't tend to plan this way.  I usually try to sit down on Sunday and plan the meals for the week.  I made up a chart in Excel that had each day down the left side and Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner across the top.  I found a really cool one online but couldn't find it again so I had to make my own (which isn't as pretty).  I do pretty good getting stuff for dinner, I just forget about breakfast and lunch which is why they're on the menu.  Since the girls and I are home for lunch most days, I need to remember to plan for this.  Plan the weekly menu, then only buy what you need. 

Tip #2, use coupons judiciously.  Don't buy stuff just because you've got a coupon, buy it because you need it/eat it/will use it.  If you need more tips on couponing, there's lots of websites/blogs out there.  I'm not a fanatic about it but I do try to coupon.  I run into problems because of tip #3, buy store brands.  For most things, I find store brands to be indistinguishable from national brands.  There are some things I like store brands better, like boxed mac & cheese.  There are a very few things that I only buy the national brand.  Chocolate chips are one, must have Nestle, Cheerios are another; the store brand just isn't as good. 

I try to shop at Aldi when I can although I don't try to go out of my way to shop there.  You need to be careful shopping at places like Aldi and BJs/Costco.  Sometimes although Aldi is inexpensive overall, you can sometimes find better deals at the grocery store.  For example, pasta on sale is always cheaper at the grocery store than Aldi.  You just need to be price aware and know what's a good deal and what may not be.

OK, I lied, I do have a a quick recipe to share.  My girls love veggies, all sorts of veggies.  I had bought a really nice head of cauliflower at the farmer's market on Sunday.  I fixed a roast, roasted cauliflower and apple sauce for dinner.  For the cauliflower, I cut it into thick slices, drizzled with olive oil, salt and pepper, and cooked on a baking sheet for about 20 min. in a 425* oven.  Yum!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Apple Crisp

This is a two-fer recipe.  Apple crisp is great for dessert, hot out of the oven with some vanilla ice cream alongside.  It's also great the next morning for breakfast, if there's any leftover.  There usually isn't in our house but I made it in a 9 x 13 pan this time so there had better be leftovers for breakfast!

We went apple picking and I told everyone I only wanted 2 bags (1/2 bushel) today.  When we went to find the Gala apples, there weren't any (all picked already and the few that were left were split) so Bob and Sweet Pea went and got more Jonagolds, a lot more!  They were only supposed to get enough to fill the rest of the second bag but got enough for probably most of another bag!  Oh well.  Guess I'll be really busy this week.  Besides tonight's apple crisp, I'll be making apple sauce, slicing some apples for pie, trying apple butter (I love it, Bob not so much), and I'll have to find some other things to make before the apples go bad.  Hopefully some will get eaten!

Apple Crisp  modified from a recipe that I got from my mom

2 1/2 lbs. apples peeled & sliced
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
a sprinkle of water

1/2 lb. brown sugar
1 c. flour
2/3 c. rolled oats
1/2 Tbsp. cinnamon
1/3 tsp. salt
3/4 c. butter

Toss the apples with the lemon juice and water then spread in baking dish.  For the topping, mix all the ingredients together and sprinkle over the apples.  Bake in a 350* oven for about 40-45 minutes until the apples are soft.  Enjoy with ice cream.

I use Pampered Chef's Cinnamon Plus Spice Blend instead of cinnamon because I've got it but it doesn't really matter which you use.  I think the Cinnamon Plus just adds a little bit of extra spice since it's a blend.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Zucchini, Tomatoes, and Mozzarella Cheese

This is a yummy, easy summer dish.  My mom found it years ago when my vegetarian aunt and uncle were coming to visit.  We all enjoy it a lot here.  It's another of those dishes that don't have specific measurements, just adjust to how many you are cooking for that night.  For the four of us tonight I'm using:

Olive oil
2 zucchini, sliced
1 onion, half moon slices
2 tomatoes (you can also use a can or two of diced tomatoes), sliced
a few sprinkles of Italian seasoning
salt and pepper, to taste
a couple of handfuls of shredded mozzarella cheese

In a large skillet (I use my large cast iron one), to some olive oil add the zucchini and onion.  Cook until softened (we like them on the browned side) then add the tomatoes and seasonings.  Cook for a few more minutes until everything is warm.  Put a couple of handfuls of mozzarella cheese on top and cook until melted.

I usually serve this with some kind of bread; rosemary foccacia would be really good.  I should have bought some at the farmer's market this morning.  I don't have any tonight and didn't have time to make any today so we'll do without it.  I just thought that this would be really good if you put it under the broiler a few minutes at the end to finish melting and brown the cheese.  Think I'll give that a try.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Macaroni and Cheese I

This is my special occasion mac and cheese.  We call it the ewey-gooey mac and cheese because it's got lots of cheese and is plenty gooey.  I only cook it occasionally since it's definitely not low cal!  I have a different recipe I use much more often for homemade mac and cheese.  This recipe came from the wrapping of a pasta package from The Pasta Shoppe.  Can't wait until it gets cool enough out so I can make this!

Macaroni & Cheese
Serves 6-8 as an entree; 8-10 as a side dish.

14 oz. pasta (I usually just use a 16 oz. package of something smallish)
7 Tbsp. butter
1/4 c. plus 2 Tbsp. flour
4 c. whole milk
1 1/2 tsp. dry mustard
1/8 tsp. cayenne
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
3 c. extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 c. sour cream
1 1/3 c.  grated Parmesan cheese
1  1/2 c. fresh bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350* and butter a 3 to 4 quart baking dish (9x13).

In heavy saucepan, melt 6 Tbsp. butter over med-low heat.  Add flour and whisk for 3 minutes.  Add milk in a stream, whisking and bring to a boil, whisking.  Add mustard, cayenne, salt and pepper, and simmer, whisking until thickened, approximately 2 minutes.

Cook pasta until al dente.  Drain pasta and in a large bowl gently combine pasta, sauce, cheddar cheese, 1 cup of the Parmesan, and sour cream.  Put into the baking dish.

In a small bowl, combine bread crumbs and remaining 1/3 c. Parmesan and sprinkle over the pasta. Cut up the remaining 1 Tbsp. butter and top bread crumbs.

Bake pasta for 25-30 minutes until golden and bubbling.

I changed the amount of bread crumbs for the topping.  When I made this again it's just too much to use a full cup of bread crumbs plus the cheese; 1/2 c bread crumbs will be enough.