Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Best of 2012

It is the end of the year which means it is time for me to share some of our favorite "new" recipes of 2012.

I have been teased for always trying new things, and in the age of Pinterest, I find more and more "new" to try. Don't get me wrong, we have some tried and true favorites that have been in our family for a while now and are part of our regular routine. But I do like to try new recipes, and as I was gathering this list while looking over the year, I am thankful I did. I would have missed out on some really good food otherwise!

So here is my list...

Bubble Up Enchiladas (I am missing these...due to dietary restrictions, one of my kiddos isn't eating tomato products right now which means no enchilada sauce. :(  Hopefully soon)

Korean Beef (quick and delicious, kind of a cheap version of Mongolian beef, great for a quick dinner kind of night)

Pot Roast Pizzaiola (crockpot, 3 ingredients, and delicious)

Salisbury Steak (a comfort food, very filling)

Skillet Steak (great for when we can't get out to grill)

Taco Pasta Bake (easy and tasty, I hope to make it again soon)

Cheese Stuffed Rolls (one of the most delicious breads I have tried yet)

Cinnamon Swirl Bread (a favorite of the kids for breakfast, wonderful treats to make for others)

Garlic Parmesan Crusty Bread (fairly easy though you have to plan ahead, I hope to try some new combinations this next year)

French bread (one of my very favorites...have I said lately how much I LOVE bread?)

Baked Sweet and Sour Chicken with Fried Rice (time consuming, so it is usually a weekend treat but there are rarely leftovers when I make it)

Butter Cream Chicken (on the menu for this is so yummy)

Creamy White Chili (Oh, yum!)

Oreo Cupcakes (my daughter started us on these, they are really "pretty" and taste good too)

Panko Encrusted Swai (panko and swai are two of my favorite "new" finds for the year)

Swai in Lemon Butter Sauce (by far, according to my stat counter, the most viewed...I don't know who is looking for swai recipes but it is the most "searched" for by non-regular readers from what I can tell!)

Key West Shrimp and Chicken Kabobs (VERY easy and VERY yummy)

 Grilled Shrimp Boil Kabobs (a family favorite, rarely any leftovers)

Bubble Up Pizza (made very much like Bubble Up kids love this meal)

Skillet Sausage and Potatoes (the ultimate in comfort food)

Herbed Pizza Crust (which I use for my favorite 4 Cheese White Pizza...just had this tonight)

Pizza Bread (quick and easy, my favorite of my hubby's favorites of the year I think)

Pizza Grilled Cheese (I usually make these for myself only but it is a favorite quick lunch of mine)

Side Dishes:
Almond Rice Pilaf (jazzes up white rice a bit)

Cole Slaw (just happened upon an easy recipe that I loved, very easy!)

Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes (my "go-to" potato recipes)

Parmesan Baked Potato Halves (classy but easy)

So, what was new and loved from your kitchen for 2012?

PS I don't know about you but I am looking forward to seeing what kinds of foods 2013 brings...

A Challenge for Myself

You may notice a change in the menus in the next month or so.

That is because I have a challenge before me.

This is a challenge for myself. And I guess it is for my family too since it will affect them. :)

Here it is...

For the month of January, we are going to TRY (as in make every attempt) to eat on 1/4 of our usual food budget.  I actually don't have a true budget (which is another challenge for 2013) but I am basing this on what we normally spend a month.

The kind of funny thing is what I am proposing is what actually was the total food budget for hubby and me when we first got married.  Now that is what we spend in a typical week!


I don't know.

The other day I was driving home from my umpteenth grocery store stop feeling a bit ill about all I spend a month.  That on top of the holiday spending that takes place in December, and I was feeling a bit overwhelmed. 

I LOVE to cook and have had so much fun trying new recipes, making favorites, cooking healthier and more from scratch this past year.  And we eat at home more now than ever; eating out is a rarity.

But with that (along with a child's food sensitivities), our spending has gotten out of control.

I know that housing is supposed to be like 30% of your monthly income (or less) but should food be that high on the list?

So as I was driving, I thought to myself, "Why not live out of the pantry and freezer as much as possible for the next month?"

The ironic thing is I had a friend do this in the past and thought she was a bit crazy. :)  But now it makes perfect sense.

My freezer is still full of beef and some other foods I have bought while on sale.  Our pantry is rather stocked.  Hubby just stopped at a specialty food store and picked up some much needed supplies for our food sensitive kiddo.  And we got some of our favorite (and more expensive) treats for Christmas (like pistachios, Ghirardelli chocolates, Red Bull for the hubby, etc).  So we are stocked up.

We are not going to starve.

We just need to use what we have.

I tend to plan for the week by going solely on my cravings.  I don't have to be pregnant to have those. I just get in the mood for a food and decide that will be on our next menu.

The problem is that I go out and buy for the week, ignoring the items we already have that we have stocked up on.

Which comes back to why I need to do this challenge.

Don't get me wrong.

This is not a long term solution. We can't do this forever.  With six of us, our pantry and freezer will eventually be empty. And those people around my table will still expect some kind of meal on the table.

But maybe for just a month, we will see what we can live with food wise and what we can't.

I don't expect us to have a lot of extra money at the end of the month to go live it up with...I am pretty sure my December spending already used up part of January's anyway.

But I like a good challenge.

I am eager to see what we can do.

Even if that means no shrimp for me. :(  (I almost got some the other day since it wasn't technically January but felt like that was cheating, so I put them back)

So I am putting it out there, in print.

Now I have people (all 3 or so readers :) to hold me accountable.

I do have a few guidelines for myself:
Paper products/personal care will NOT count in the total.

While I want to be frugal, some things are non-negotiable.  Things like milk, bread, and fresh fruit.  I may try to be more economical buying them but they will have to be bought. I will just have to be careful about the extra stuff I get.  I cannot skimp on the healthy stuff just to stay in budget.

Hubby is heading to the store in a bit and that total WILL count for January since the bulk of the food will be used in January.

Eating out will not count in the total. We rarely eat out any more other than an occasional sushi night.  But that is a separate part of the budget, so if we do, it will not count against us.

I can always use coupons to help but that is not my strong point. :)  Plus coupons are almost always for processed foods which we are not as likely to use these days. But it is a possibility.

Snacks and supplies for school do NOT count in the total.  

While I don't want to share how much my total is for the month (mainly because I am embarrassed to admit what I typically spend :), I will give occasional updates with a percentage.  If I can remember how to do the math to figure that out.

So there it is.

It is out there.

Now it is up to me to meet that challenge head on.


Saturday, December 29, 2012

Rhodes Cinnamon Rolls

If you have been reading for a while, you know that one of my favorite brands is Rhodes.  As in Rhodes bread.  I use it for braided spaghetti bread, bread/rolls, breadsticks, pizza, and calzones.  I just discovered their products in the last couple of years and have come to love them BIG time.  I even got a Rhodes "cookbook" for Christmas that I am itching to look through and use.

In the past few months, we have changed up the diets of one of our kids. I am SOOOO thankful that Rhodes products are still in the diet plan.  Or I would be really sad.

By the way, I get nothing from Rhodes for saying all of this. Not even a coupon. But that would be a nice treat.

I just really like their products.

Anyway, I was trying to plan a Christmas breakfast.  And having cinnamon rolls sounded like fun.  While I want to attempt some homemade rolls at some point, I knew that it would be too hectic for that this time of year.  So my next thought was "What about Rhodes cinnamon rolls?"  A quick web search brought up a recipe that I ran with.

And I need to run.

 I mean, these babies are NOT low calorie or low fat.

But they are full of yumminess.

They were a nice way to start our Christmas day.

One frozen roll of dough (I used Rhodes white bread dough)

1/2 cup butter, softened (1/4 for the dough, 1/4 later for the filling)

1 cup brown sugar

3 Tbsp cinnamon

3 oz cream cheese

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla


Thaw the frozen roll dough. (I just set mine out on a plate or in a bread pan on the counter, covered with wax paper)  This takes a few hours typically, so plan ahead.

Roll the dough out in a rectangle shape.  I just rolled it until I couldn't really roll it much more.

Spread 1/4 cup of the softened butter over the dough. 

Mix the brown sugar and the cinnamon and sprinkle over the dough.  Leave a little space around the outer edges for sealing.

Roll the dough into a "log" and "seal" it.

Cut the log into slices, about 1 inch wide.

Place the slices in a covered 9 x 13 inch greased pan.  Cover with clear plastic wrap. (I will often spray the wrap so the dough doesn't stick.)

Let the rolls rise on the counter until doubled in size.  In my case, I made the dough the night before, so I let them rise in the refrigerator overnight, then I pulled them out about an hour before cooking to let them finish rising on the counter. That would be a good time to pull out the other 1/4 cup butter to soften.

Remove the plastic wrap and bake the rolls at 400 degrees for about 15-20 minutes.

Meanwhile, using a mixer, mix the cream cheese, 1/4 cup softened butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla until creamy.

Once the rolls are out of the oven, spread the mixture over the rolls.



Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Menu for Christmas

Last week was a blur to me. Hubby was out of town for part of it. We were all still in school until Friday.  Throw in sports activities, Christmas parties, making treats for teachers, etc, and there was little time for blogging.

I did cook most of the week...even when Hubby was gone.

What did I cook?

I don't know.

Like I said, the week was a blur.

I think it went something like this.

Sunday:  Tacos (I think), salsa, refried beans

Monday:  On Your Own

Tuesday: Rotisserie Chicken (a new crockpot recipe), Hashbrown potato casserole, rolls

Wednesday:  Pancakes and Bacon

Thursday:  Korean Beef and rice (and some kind of roll or bread...I just can't remember what kind :)

Friday:  Bubble Up Pizza, chips

Saturday:  Pork Chops and Rice, Cheese Stuffed Rolls

And then there is this week:

Sunday:  Chicken Spaghetti, leftover cheese stuffed rolls, salad

Monday: Baked potato soup, salad, Crusty Parmesan Garlic bread

Tuesday: Skillet steaks, skillet hashbrowns, black eye peas, soft garlic breadsticks (new recipe)

Wednesday:  On Your Own night (Date night for Mom and Dad...sushi :)

Thursday: Meatballs and Gravy over rice, French bread, carrots/Ranch

Friday:  Homemade Pizza (cheese and meat)

Saturday:  Not sure yet...we are having Christmas with my family this weekend so plans are still in the works.

I also have been making a lot of cinnamon bread, peppermint marshmallows, holiday pretzel sticks.  And there is a lot more in the works. 


All caught up.

Now I can go to sleep.

What are you eating this week?


Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Pork Chops and Rice

 Another Pinterest Recipe.  I loved the appeal of how simple it is (as in few ingredients, few steps).  Since Hubby was gone and I was in full "get ready for Christmas mode", I wanted things as simple and easy as possible. So I thought I would give this a try.

Well, it was a hit.

My oldest child (a teenager) couldn't stop eating it.  He LOVED the flavor of the rice. 

I just smiled and said "Thank you". I felt a little guilty.  I mean, it really was simple and nothing I did beyond assembling it.

That being said, this will become a "go to" meal on those nights I don't have much time to spend in the kitchen but want a good hot meal.

I will be making it again.

(The true sign it was well-liked?  NO leftovers. Oh, there were the first night but my teenager who normally doesn't touch leftovers finished it off the next day...that says a lot. :)

4 pork chops (The original recipe called for bone-in, I ended up buying boneless because it was more available AND it was a little worked.  If hubby had been home, I would have thrown in a couple more.)

salt and pepper to taste

2 to 3 tbsp vegetable oil

1 cup uncooked long grain rice

1 packet Lipton's Recipe Secrets Onion Mushroom soup mix

3 cups water

Note:  The original recipe used 2 cans of French Onion soup.  Due to some dietary restrictions, we couldn't do that so I decided to use this was wonderful!

Salt and pepper pork chops liberally.

Brown both sides of the pork chops in the vegetable oil in a skillet.  Note: You do NOT have to cook it through. Just brown it.

In a 9 x 13 inch dish, spread the cup of rice out.

Mix the water and the onion soup mix and pour over the rice.

Place the browned pork chops on top.

Cover tightly with aluminum foil.

Bake at 375 for 1 hour.  Don't remove the foil or the rice will NOT cook through.


We ate this with salad and the cheese stuffed rolls I mentioned in the last post.

Good meal.



Sunday, December 23, 2012

Cheese Stuffed Rolls

I have been wanting to try these ever since I saw them on Pinterest. Cheese and bread. My favorite combination. 

So last night since I had a little free time (not really but I pretended like I did), I decided to give them a try.

I have just started dabbling in the world of bread making.  And I am actually starting to enjoy it. There is something therapeutic about kneading bread with my hands. I can't explain it but it is just relaxing to me.  And of course, in the end, I get to eat my product.  There are few foods I love more in the world than bread. Especially bread hot out of the oven.

And this one? Worth every second.

I ate two of them!

Since I am careful with calories, I really try to limit my bread intake.

But I couldn't resist.

And honestly, if I hadn't already indulged on other treats that day, I would have had three. Or four.

They were that good.

They literally melted in my mouth.

Throw in the cheese, and I was in food heaven.

And honestly, they were not that much work.

Even a bread newbie like me can make them.

In less than an hour.

Convinced yet?

1 cup hot water (just hot from the tap)

2 Tbsp yeast (I used Rapid Rise for this one)

2 Tbsp sugar

2 tsp garlic powder (You will really be able to smell it but it is not overpowering at all in the end)

1/4 cup melted butter (I used salted for this one)

1/4 cup olive oil

2-3 cups all purpose flour (I used King Arthur's unbleached.  The original recipe called for 3 but 2 1/2 was plenty for mine.  I am learning that you just have to work with the dough until you get the right consistency rather than trying to stick with a certain measurement on flour)

8 oz. mozzarella, cut into chunks

shredded Parmesan

Note:  The original recipe also added other cheeses to the top. But in the interest of calories, I stuck with Mozzarella and Parmesan. And honestly, that was enough for me.

Add yeast to water.  Set aside for a few minutes. The yeast (if active) will kind of foam in the water after a few minutes.

In a separate bowl, mix the sugar, the garlic powder, the melted butter, and the olive oil.  Stir in yeast mixture.

Slowly add flour. I added half a cup at a time.  Mix thoroughly. You can use a mixer with dough hooks.  I actually prefer to mix by hand.  Add flour until the dough becomes less sticky and more elastic.  Add in the salt.  Knead for 10 minutes. I don't really think I kneaded it that long. But I did really work the dough to make sure all ingredients were mixed in. Oh, and I just kneaded in the same bowl I had mixed in.  I didn't even oil it since there was a little extra flour. I didn't have any trouble with stickiness.

Set the bowl in a warm place, covered with a wet towel.  Allow to rise for about 30 minutes or until doubled in size.  I put my bowl on top of the oven which was preheating (to 375).  It gave it warmth but not too much.  I think mine doubled in around 20 minutes.

Divide dough into pieces (whatever size you want).  I flattened the dough into circles that fit into the palm of my hand. Take a mozzarella chunk and place in the middle of the flattened dough, then wrap the dough around it to make a ball.  Place the "balls" on a greased cookie sheet. I used my pizza stone.  I got around 14 "balls" from my dough.

Sprinkle shredded Parmesan (or any other cheese of your choice) over the top.  That was a little difficult because they are balls, so the cheese slid off. I kind of pressed the cheese into the top instead.

Bake at 375 for 11-15 minutes until rolls are golden brown.

Take out of the oven and brush with butter. I also sprinkled some Italian seasoning on top.


PS This is probably my favorite bread recipe to date...and that is saying a lot because I have tried some good ones recently.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Cinnamon Swirl Bread

Another case of the picture NOT doing this food justice.  It is a travesty, I know.  I would love to be a professional food photographer OR have my own personal food photographer. But honestly usually when I cook things, we are rushing to get things on the table so we can eat.  And my pictures are taken in "drive by" style.  
 I am just thankful I got a picture of this before the kids got hold of it.  Because they love it.  And if I had waited, I might have had just crumbs left to snap photos of...
Yes, another Pinterest recipe. I saw it and thought, "Why not?"  It reminds me a lot of the coffeecake I make.  But a much simpler version for days that I need a much simpler recipe.

I have also decided that they make good gifts or products for a bake sale.

Best of all, you are encouraged to make these the night before, so it is ready and waiting. Just warm it up in the morning (re-heat) and enjoy.

2 cups all-purpose flour (I have been using King Arthur's unbleached when I have a chance)
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup white sugar (granulated)
1 egg, beaten
1 cup milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil

Cinnamon swirl ingredients:
1/3 cup white sugar
2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease a loaf pan (9 x 5 inch).

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar.  Add in the egg, milk, and vegetable oil.

Stir just until moistened. Do NOT overstir.

Pour half the batter into the loaf pan.  I don't know if "pour" is an accurate word because it was more like "spoon" to me...not that runny.  But it worked.

Sprinkle with the cinnamon swirl ingredients.

Pour remaining batter over the top.

Sprinkle a little more cinnamon/sugar if you wish (like you could go wrong with more cinnamon and sugar :).

Bake in the oven for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Let the pan cool for about 10 minutes.

Move to a wire rack to finish cooling completely.

I will admit, I totally skipped the wire rack. I just let mine keep cooling in the pan.

Wrap up with foil and save for the next day.  (It will be very crumbly to cut right after it comes out of the oven)  We microwave a slice or two for around 10 seconds the next day.


Friday, December 14, 2012

Menu Mania

Well, it is Friday and I am just now posting a menu for the week. Not that anyone was complaining :) But still, this helps ME remember what we had. 

Even in the Christmas craziness, we have been cooking and eating at home.  Mostly. :)

Sunday: Shakes and Popcorn/Movie night

Monday: Shrimp scampi (new recipe), angel hair pasta, French baguettes (new recipe), carrots and Ranch

Tuesday: Chili con carne (new recipe), chips, rice

Wednesday:  On Your Own night

Thursday: Grilled Cheese Breakfast Sandwiches (new recipe), fruit

Friday:  Seasoned chicken strips (new recipe),  french fries, one hour rolls (new recipe)

Saturday:  Christmas party

I have also been baking away for a bake sale (cinnamon swirl bread-new recipe...YUM!).

Throwing together some Ranch oyster crackers (Yum!).

And even attempting to make my own sauces and dips.

Lots of cooking going on here. 

 How about at your house? What is cooking these days?


Sunday, December 9, 2012

Cole Slaw

Yes, another post. Two in one weekend!

Yesterday we had Child 1's birthday celebration. I made Chuck Roast Barbecue.  We had chips for a side. But I was really craving some cole slaw.  So I thought, "Why not?" Cole slaw and barbecue go together.  Even in December.

I have never made Cole Slaw other than using a bagged slaw and a nice slaw dressing, all pre-made.

However, with some diet changes in our household, buying the jar of dressing was a big no-no.

What to do, what to do.

I went to a message board and found a recipe that I thought would work. And it seemed simple. Plus it fit our diet restrictions.

Please know when I say diet, I am not referring to losing weight. I am referring to avoiding certain foods due to reactions. :)

I say that because once you will see the recipe you will wonder what kind of diet we are on. It is not low calorie, though I did calculate them and it wasn't horrible.  The bun for my Chuck Roast was actually higher.

Anyway, here is the recipe with my modifications.

1 bag of shredded cabbage/carrots (A slaw mix but no dressing).  You could also shred your own but I didn't need any extra chores.

1 Tbsp minced onion (I cheated and used dried minced onion)

1/3 cup white sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1/8 tsp black pepper

1/4 cup milk

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup sour cream

2Tbsp vinegar (I just used white distilled)

2 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice

Place cabbage, carrots, and onion in a large bowl.

In a separate bowl, mix together remaining ingredients until smooth.

Pour over the cabbage mixture.  Chill in the fridge until time to serve it.

The original recipe was actually double of all of the sauce ingredients and that is how I made it. Then I ended up pouring off a LOT of the dressing. So I would definitely halve it (what you see above) next time.  It is probably because I didn't use a whole head of cabbage but rather the bagged stuff.

Either way, it was good. In fact, it was one of my favorite slaws I have ever tasted.

I will be making this again...


Cheesy Potato Sausage Casserole

One of our favorite new dishes this year has been the sausage and potatoes skillet meal.  I have only one child who won't eat it (doesn't eat potatoes in ANY form) but the rest of us devour it...TWO skillets worth! 

So when I saw this on Pinterest, part of me thought, "I already have a meal like that...I don't need another."  But what I couldn't get past was the fact that cheese was involved.  The only thing that can make foods better for me is cheese (or chocolate, depending on what kind of food it is :).

So I gave it a try.

And I loved it.

I have a feeling I will be alternating between the two from now on. Still love that skillet meal in all of its simplicity and with the right herbs/spices involved.  But there is something about gooey cheese on potatoes too...

It is hard to see much of the cheese in the picture; it all just kind of melted into the dish.

But it was there.

Dancing on my taste buds.


6-8 potatoes, peeled and sliced (I used my mandolin on a medium slice, I think I used 6 and had PLENTY of potatoes)

1 lb smoked sausage.  I like the beef.  The one change I would make to this recipe is that I would use TWO lbs. instead. I wanted more sausage. :)

1 medium onion diced (I do not like cutting onion, so I totally cheat with frozen chopped onion :)

salt and pepper to taste

1/2 stick butter

1/2 lb (around 12 slices) American cheese or other preferred cheese. I got REAL American cheese from the deli for this. Oh yum.

Boil sliced potatoes until tender.

Slice sausage and heat in the skillet.  The original recipe had the sausage and the onions sauteed separately.  I just did it all together. :)

In a casserole dish, alternate layers of potatoes, sausage and onions, and cheese.  So I had potatoes, sausage and onions, cheese, potatoes, sausage and onions, and cheese.

Top with salt and pepper.

The original recipe called for using the butter by dotting the top with it.  I honestly think I forgot to do that.  The cheese on top was enough richness for me. :)  I don't think I used butter at all.

Tightly cover with aluminum foil.

Bake at 400 degrees for 30-40 minutes.


Happy cooking!


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Mid-Week Menu (Yet Again)

Here it is, mid-week. And I am just now posting a menu.

But I am cooking.

Well, mostly. :)

As much as is possible this time of year...

Sunday:  Cheesy Sausage and Potato Casserole (new recipe...yum!), rolls

Monday:  Grilled Cheese Sandwiches (I was actually at a social event, so my crew and hubby were on their own)

Tuesday:  On Your Own  (smoothies for the little ones and me, just for fun)

Wednesday:  Braided Spaghetti Bread

Thursday:  Crockpot Cream Cheese Chicken, rice

Friday:  Pizza (4 cheese, ham, and pepperoni/Canadian bacon)

Saturday:  Chuck Roast Barbecue sandwiches, chips, and chocolate pie for Child 1's birthday "party" (with family)

That is what is going on at our house.  How about at yours?


Friday, November 30, 2012

Taco Pasta Bake

 I apologize for the lighting.  My kitchen light is not very photography-friendly...
Not long ago, I posted a recipe for Taco Pasta Shells.  It was good stuff. I really, really, really enjoyed it.

Unfortunately, we are taking a break from tomato products for now.

Which means that recipe is on hold. :(

And I had only made it once!


I do hope to make it again.

In the meantime though, I wanted something similar.  Minus the tomato sauce.

I was quite delighted to click on Pinterest not long ago and see this recipe.

Just what I wanted.

Very similar but NO tomato products.

Tonight, we gave it a try.

It probably didn't help that I was hungry before I even started cooking.

By the time it came out of the oven, I was salivating.  Maybe even drooling.

And it was exactly what I wanted.  Exactly.

Except I wanted to eat much more.

Dumb calories.

Anywho, we will be having this again.  Soon.

You know what it is like?  It like a Mexican twist on the family favorite Mostaccioli!

In fact, for today's recipe, I used ziti. But next time, I would like to try mostaccioli noodles instead...

Here is the recipe.

 1 to 1.5 lbs ground beef, browned

1 envelope taco seasoning (we actually make a homemade taco seasoning mix these days)

1 cup water

ziti or other large noodles (I definitely want to try with mostaccioli)

1/2 block cream cheese

1 1/2 to 2 cups shredded cheese (I used Sargento's four cheese Mexican blend)

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Boil pasta and drain.

Meanwhile, brown ground beef.  Drain if needed. 

Mix the seasoning and the water.  Pour over the ground beef.  Let it simmer around 5 minutes.

Mix the cream cheese into the ground beef.  Stir until melted and mixed.

In a casserole dish, pour the pasta.  Mix in about a cup of the shredded cheese.

Top with the ground beef mixture.

Then sprinkle remaining shredded cheese on top.

Bake uncovered for around 30 minutes.

Very easy.  Very simple.



Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Week After Menu...

Oops!  That last post wasn't really supposed to be on this blog. It should have been on my CloudCrew blog.  Just in case you were wondering what on earth I was doing.  I can't really answer that.  I don't know what I was doing either. :)

Anyway, here is the menu for the week after Thanksgiving at our house.  At least this year.  Always subject to change...

Sunday:  Turkey and gravy over biscuits, mashed potatoes, leftover salad, leftover dressing, leftover desserts

Monday:  Breakfast for dinner...pancakes and bacon.  I don't know why something so simple is as exciting as it is to my crew, but this is one of their favorites.

Tuesday:  Beef Stew (new recipe), crusty rolls (new recipe)

Wednesday:  On Your Own/Mommy and Daddy sushi night :)

Thursday:  Pan Fried Swai, brown rice, carrots/Ranch, and Parmesan garlic bread

Friday:  Taco Pasta Bake (new recipe), chips

Saturday: Cheesy sausage and potato casserole (new recipe), rolls, and possibly salad

So, this week it was back to life, back to reality, back to cooking.

What are you having for dinner this week?


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Thanksgiving Highlights

I hope you had a happy happy Thanksgiving full of food, family, and fun.

Ours was full of...something. :)

I am just joking.

It was a good little "break".  No, that isn't the right word.  Vacation.  No, that isn't the right word either.  Anyway, it was a nice 5 days at home.

Here are a few of our highlights:

  •  We were really supposed to be in Mississippi for Thanksgiving.  However, whenever it was announced that the LSU/Razorback game would be here in Fayetteville this year (this game is typically at LSU or in Little Rock), my hubby sweetly invited his family here and announced we would be staying home.  They didn't get to come but we still stayed home and enjoyed our time together.  Even though the Hogs lost.  Again.
  • I cooked my first turkey!  I was terrified. It wasn't as much the cooking as it was the cleaning.  That grossed me out. I can pull my children's teeth out all day long without blinking my eyes.  But pulling a neck out of a turkey's cavity...well, that made me a bit queasy.
  • I totally "cheated". I used a roaster (as in an electric one).  The whole timing of side dishes with the timing of the turkey and with very limited oven space...well, it was worth it.  It didn't get as brown as it would in the oven but it cooked very nicely and very quickly.  And it was yummy.  
  • I also attempted my Mother-in-law's cornbread dressing recipe.  It was good but not as good as hers.
  • The whole meal (or at least my portion) was "clean" for my diet restricted child.
  • My favorite part of the meal was by far the pumpkin cake with caramel sauce. I make it about once a year.  And that is the reason...I would eat it all of the time if I made it any more than that.
  • We were able to visit with friends who once lived here but now reside in Florida. They stopped by with their children.  It was cool outside but the kids spent most of the time outside anyway which gave us a chance to just chat.
  • Though none of my kids is perfect (or ever will be), I couldn't help but marvel at how they really are growing up.  The youngest sat throughout the entire Thanksgiving meal.  That in itself is a HUGE accomplishment.
  • I read a book (Mindset) in about three days for school.  I learned a lot from it. I think there is a future blog post coming for that...
  • The girls had carpet put in their newly painted room which was completely the wrong carpet.  So a few days later, the company came back and took that out and put in the correct carpet.  Totally messed up "my plans" but in life, we have to be flexible.  Like it or not.
  • We are in the process of redecorating the girls' room. The furniture is basically set up.  Beds are made.  Now we just need to decorate and accessorize...
  • Hubby and I assembled the shelves that are now the bed bases for the girls without any arguing. There may have been a little sarcasm thrown around but no arguing.  That would never have happened 15 years ago.  Dare I say it...we might be growing up. :)
  • One night we needed a break from turkey (plus I was limited on time), so I made our favorite Korean beef.  I also decided I really wanted a French type bread. So I visited the very handy Pinterest and found a recipe.  90 minutes later, we had French bread on the table.  Who knew I was capable of these things? :)  I certainly didn't.
  • Last Wednesday (the first day of our break), I was feeling very ambitious.  I put together our Christmas photo card and sent it in to be printed.  There was a coupon for cards for THAT day so I went with it. About 20 minutes later, I had an e-mail that the cards were ready. I hopped in the car and drove down the street and had cards in hand in just a few minutes. Now let's see when I get them sent...
  • I did not go shopping on Black Friday.  At all.  
  • We did nothing fancy over the break, nothing extravagant, nothing that exciting. But I enjoyed it.  Each and every moment.
More soon,

Monday, November 26, 2012

French Bread

The other night we needed a break from turkey and dressing and mashed potatoes. I had actually planned on making gravy to eat with the leftovers and serving that over biscuits. But we had some company, time got away from me, and before long it was 5:30.  And I was out of mashed potatoes. 

I needed a change of plans.

So I decided that Korean beef sounded really good.

It always sounds good to me.

That is because there are NEVER leftovers.  NEVER.  So the night I make it is my one shot to eat it.  And with a growing teenager in my house, I truly do only get one shot.  I blink, and it is gone.  Literally.

Once I had that settled, I started thinking about bread.  I really wanted a good bread to eat with it. But we were almost out of our Thanksgiving (Rhodes) rolls. And I didn't have much in the freezer that was quick.  Even more, with one of our kids on a limited diet, I was even more limited in my choices.  So I did what any cook in that situation would do.  Started surfing Pinterest.

My "Rolling in Dough...Bread Dough That Is" board.

I quickly perused several recipes. Some I didn't have ingredients for. Others I didn't have time for.  I was getting a little panicked.

On a whim, though, I visited the site for this Easy Homemade French Bread.  Easy is a favorite word of mine in cooking.  And I LOVE French bread. It was the homemade part that scared me a little. I haven't done much baking and am still learning.  However, desperate times call for desperate measures.

I went to work.

I threw my ingredients together.  Kneaded it.  Gave it a little time to rise (not really the right amount of time but it worked :).  And then shaped it and baked it.

I think I broke several of the recommendations on the recipe, mainly due to lack of time.

But guess what?

It worked.

The bread was delicious.

I kept sitting there, truly basking in each and every bite, saying, "Did I really make this???"

The bad thing is that I don't think any of my children truly appreciate what a feat that was...I threw dinner AND some French bread together in an hour and a half.

They just think it is normal.


Anyway, here is the recipe with some of my own notes.  I will be making this again. I actually have one of the loaves-since it made two- in the freezer, ready to warm up one day. It is taking all I have to NOT warm it up right now and eat each and every bite.  Myself.

2 1/2 cups warm water (not too cold, not too hot...just right :)

2 Tbsp yeast (The original poster used instant. I only had rapid rise.  It worked.)

3 Tbsp sugar

2 Tbsp white vinegar

1 Tbsp salt

1/3 cup oil (vegetable)

6-7 cups flour (I was running low on my regular flour so I used my King Arthur's unbleached all purpose)


Add the warm water, the yeast, the sugar, and the white vinegar together and let it sit for 3-5 minutes (until bubbly).

Add in the salt, oil, and flour.  Add the flour a cup at a time.  Knead together.  The dough should be soft but still easy to mold/shape.  I added 6 cups easily but then added just a bit more. The dough was sticky but it was fairly easy to shape.

Place the dough and a pot of boiling water in the oven.  Let the dough rise.  Punch down if/when the dough reaches the top of the bowl. 

The oven is supposed to be off (per the original recipe).  However, I knew my time was limited. I turned my oven just above warm (around 175 degrees) and put the water (which keeps the dough moist) and the dough in the oven.  I only had time to punch it down once.  It worked for me.

Remove the dough from the oven once it has risen and been punched down a few times.  Or one time if you are like me. :)

Spray the bottom of a large cookie sheet. Sprinkle with cornmeal.

Divide the dough into 2 or 3 portions.  Shape into loaves.  I made 2 large loaves, mainly because my family is full of bread eaters.

"Slash" (cut diagonally) the tops of the loaves 3 or 4 times.

"Whitewash" with a beaten egg.

You can then let the loaves sit on the counter for about 30 minutes to rise or if you are in a rush (like me), you can put it back in the oven at 175 degrees with a pot of boiling water.  Don't put the water in or ON the loaves.  Just in the same oven. :)  Let it rise until it is the size you would like.

Then take the pot of water out of the oven and turn the oven up to 375 degrees. 

Bake for 30 minutes.

Remove from the oven and enjoy.

Putting butter on a warm piece...Oh yum. My mouth is watering!

Though it wasn't fast fast, it was still about 90 minutes (of my time) total.  (If I ever had more time though I would let it rise a little more)

90 minutes for the pleasure of eating warm homemade bread...totally worth it.


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Garlic Parmesan Crusty Bread

I have been trying my hand at baking bread lately. I really want to bake bread.  I mean, I love eating it. I might as well learn how to make it.

But thus far, my attempts have been ho hum.

Tastes pretty good but not "I want to eat the whole loaf" good.

Until I tried this recipe.

One day this week we were going to eat baked potato soup. I love having a crusty bread to go with it. (I usually dip it in olive oil...yum).  But with some diet restrictions, I couldn't just go buy what I normally buy. So I decided to give the recipe above a try.

This recipe does require planning ahead. That is because the dough sits and rises for about 18 hours.  (12-18)

The night before the baked potato soup meal, I mixed the ingredients, covered the bowl, and left it until the next afternoon.

I will admit, the dough looks funny. It is kind of dry and "bumpy".  And it does rise but not like a Rhodes roll will.  When I put it in my pan to bake, I did NOT have high hopes.  It just looked like a glob of dough.

And then partway through the baking, I started to smell it. And it smelled kind of good.  Actually really good.

When time was "up", I removed it from the oven and held my breath.

It actually looked like bread.  And kind of pretty for bread.

And the taste...well, it tastes like (better than actually) anything I have bought at the store.

I really did have to contain myself to not eat the whole loaf.

It is dense but crusty on the outside.  Yet not so dense that you have to really work to eat it.

And the possibilities for what you can add to the bread are endless.

I ended up throwing in some minced garlic and shredded Parmesan when I mixed it together.


I will be making this again.  I may just try the plain version or we may try something else. I don't know yet.

In a way, I wish I had never tried this is going to be SOOO hard to not make it all of the time!

3 cups of all purpose UNBLEACHED flour (I honestly had never noticed unbleached flour at the store but sure enough, there is was. I ended up going with King Arthur)

1 3/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp yeast (the original recipe called for instant.  I only had a rapid rise and used it just fine)

1 1/2 cups water (I used warm since I was using rapid rise yeast)

Whisk together the dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Add in the water.  Mix (but don't overmix).  At this point I added in the garlic and Parmesan.  If I were adding cheddar cheese (and I plan to sometime) I probably wouldn't add it in until later since it sits out so long.  That is just me though. :)  Know that this is a fairly dry mixture. I really thought I had done something wrong but it does get more moist as it sits.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap then leave it alone.

After 12-18 hours, place your empty baking dish in an oven set at 450 degrees.  The baking dish was my biggest challenge. It has to be 3+ quarts AND have a lid of some sorts. AND it has to be able to go into an oven at 450 degrees which eliminates a lot of pans I have.  The original poster used a cast iron pot with a lid.  I want one...saw one in a Thanksgiving ad just today. But they are also pricey for just one dish.  I ended up using the mixing bowl from my mixer and covered it with aluminum foil. It was the best I could do. And it worked. :)

Meanwhile pour the dough out onto a floured surface and shape into a ball of sorts.  I used parchment paper...totally forgot to flour. And it was kind of sticky. I will do better next time.  This dough does NOT need a lot of kneading. I did little beyond shaping it. Then I covered it with plastic wrap and let it sit a bit longer. 

After about 30 minutes, take the hot pan out of the oven (carefully) and place the dough inside.  I just kind of dumped it from the parchment paper.  Cover and return to the oven.  Bake for 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes, remove the cover and bake for an additional 15 minutes.  Remove bread and let it cool.

Then enjoy!

I really am amazed that something so simple produced such tastiness. 

Happy cooking!  (and Happy Thanksgiving!)



Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Menu of Thanks...

Hubby was gone last week.  I did cook but I didn't get the menu posted. Not that I think many people were disappointed with that. But it is a good record for me about what we are eating.  So I am going to try to remember last week and then will add this week's menu.  Try being the key word there. :)

Note:  I haven't made many new recipes, though I have been making some new ingredients (like the sauce for sloppy Joes).  I hope to try some more recipes after the Thanksgiving holiday. Life has just been too busy; I am sticking to my comfort zone until it settles down. :)

Sunday:  Sweet and sour chicken, fried rice
Breakfast:  Overnight coffee cake

Monday:  Sloppy Joes (new recipe), french fries, Oreo cupcakes

Tuesday:  On Your Own night

Wednesday:  Chicken Spaghetti, garlic bread, carrots

Thursday:  Eggs and cheese, sausage rolls (store bought)

Friday:  shakes and popcorn (Movie night!)
Breakfast:  pumpkin muffins (same recipe but some more "natural" ingredients)

Saturday:  Grilled shrimp boil kabobs, homemade bread

Sunday:  Butter cream chicken, angel hair pasta,  carrots
Breakfast:  Cinnamon roll crescent rolls

Monday:  Easy cheesy beefy crescent squares, salad

Tuesday:  Baked potato soup, crusty bread (new recipe...YUM!)

Wednesday:  On your own night

Thursday (Turkey Day!): turkey, cornbread dressing, 7 layer salad, rolls, mashed potatoes and gravy, green bean bundles.  Dessert:  Pumpkin cake, chocolate eclair

Friday:  Pizza snowballs, chips

Saturday: Turkey and biscuits with gravy (new recipe)

I am sure there will be a lot of leftovers in there... :)


Sunday, November 18, 2012

Cheesy Garlic Breadsticks

I know, I know, I have been MIA.

It was a long (and exhausting) week. Not a bad one, just a long one. I did cook though.

 And I even have a recipe or two to share.


 Not today but soon.

 But just so I don't leave you hanging, here is one recipe from the week.

 Cheesy Garlic Breadsticks.


My mouth waters just thinking about them.

I have been craving some sort of garlic bread.  And since we were having mostaccioli one night not long ago, I wanted some even more.  However, due to the diet of one of our kids, I had to make some adjustments. The normal frozen garlic bread I buy in the stores would not do. I needed to do something different.

I have taken regular French bread and made it into garlic bread.

Toasted regular bread and sprinkled garlic or spread garlic butter.



I wasn't sure what to do, so I pulled some Rhodes dinner rolls out of the freezer to thaw and rise.

As I did, my eye happened to catch the back of the Rhodes dinner roll bag.


garlic/cheese breadsticks.

Well, that sounded yummy.

And it was.

Rhodes White Dinner Roll dough, thawed

garlic salt to taste

melted butter (amount depends on how much dough you are using)

Parmesan cheese, finely grated

Open the bag of dinner rolls and take out however many you need.

Let them sit out on a cookie sheet or plate to thaw.  I usually spray some plastic wrap with cooking/baking spray to keep the dough from sticking.

When they are thawed but still cold, take them out and shape them into 6 inch breadsticks. Okay, mine looked more like a little bun. I think I waited too long and let them rise a little.  They were resistant to shaping more into a stick than a log.

Oh well.

After they are shaped, let them rise.

The back of the package actually has you roll them in butter at this point and sprinkle with cheese, but I waited until they had risen.  It worked.  So it is your choice

After they were doubled in size, I then melted some butter and brushed the dough with it.  Then I sprinkled garlic salt on top and topped with shredded Parmesan ("fresh" of course...I love that stuff).

After that, I baked them in the oven for about 15-20 minutes at 350.

And then we devoured them.

Yum.  Yum.  Yum.


PS I am getting no favors or coupons or free products from Rhodes. I just happen to like their products a lot.  And even better, they are "clean" products...made out of good and natural ingredients.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Angel Hair Pasta with Shrimp in a Cream Sauce

I have been in the mood for some shrimp. And angel hair pasta.  So when I perused Pinterest, this recipe caught my attention.  As a bonus, it has a cream sauce.  Seriously, how can you go wrong with cream, shrimp, and pasta?  (Well, unless you don't like shrimp...then you may want to skip this one :)

One thing I love about shrimp is that it cooks quickly. That and I love the taste.  The one thing I don't like about shrimp is the peeling and cleaning.  I mean, mine does come "easy peel" and has basically been de-veined but I still have to clean them up.  In the end, the anticipation wins me over and I just suck it up and clean away.

3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup chicken stock (I didn't have stock; I just used chicken broth)
3 Tbsp lemon juice
1 package angel hair pasta
1or 2 pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined
 1/2 cup chopped parsley (I didn't use quite that much...I just chopped a handful)
1/4 cup chopped chives (honestly, I didn't use any :)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
zest of a lemon (totally forgot that...I even had a lemon for it!)
salt and pepper to taste

I also added a couple of minced cloves of garlic, mainly because I love garlic.

Heat the cream, chicken stock/broth, and lemon juice to a low simmer.  Simmer for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, boil the angel hair pasta in salted water according to package directions.

Add the shrimp to the simmering cream sauce.  Salt and pepper (lightly).  Cook the shrimp about 5 minutes (until it is a cooked pink).

Add the herbs and garlic to the sauce.  Add in the Parmesan cheese. 

Let simmer about 1 minute.

Remove from heat.

I did not mix the angel hair pasta (drained at this point :) with the sauce because not all of my kids are shrimp eaters.  Some prefer just the plain pasta.

Those who desired topped the pasta with the shrimp/sauce and added additional Parmesan...mainly because you can NEVER have too much Parmesan. :)

We ate this with a garlic and cheese breadstick and a salad.

And I loved every bite.


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A Vote for the Menu...

Here it is, election week.

The vote is over.

The ballots are counted.

And the cooking continues at the Cloud house.

With food in our stomachs, we all come out winners.

Yes, cheesy, I know, but it is hard to "spruce" a menu/plan up every single week.  Work with me here...

Here is the menu for our family for the week...better late than never. :)

Sunday:  Mostaccioli, garlic breadsticks (new recipe), carrots/Ranch

Monday:  Angel Hair Pasta with Shrimp and Lemon Cream Sauce (new recipe...YUM), crescent rolls, salad

Tuesday:  Skillet pork chops, oven roasted potatoes, parkerhouse rolls, salad (leftover)

Wednesday:  On Your Own Night (But I did bake something new for breakfast:  peanut butter chocolate chip muffins :)

Thursday:  Crockpot tostadas, salsa, chocolate chip cookies for dessert

Friday:  Homemade pizza (pepperoni/sausage and white cheese)

Saturday:  Sweet and Sour Chicken, fried rice

I have also been baking for a fundraiser at Hunter's school:  Oreo Cupcakes and Mint Chocolate Brownies.

Like I said, we are not missing any meals at our house this week...

What are you having for dinner this week?


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Parmesan Honey Pork Roast

I am always looking for a good pork recipe.  Pork mixes things up for us.  Though I like chicken and beef, sometimes you just need something different. 

My favorite pork recipe is fall pork tenderloin.

Mmmm...been craving that lately.

But one of our kids is on an elimination diet for the time being. And that includes 2 of the 3 ingredients in the fall pork tenderloin.

So that will have to wait.

When I saw this recipe on Pinterest, I was intrigued.

A new pork recipe.

And it sounded yummy...

Plus, I love crockpot recipes.

So I gave it a go.

And it was good.

My only regret is that there was just a little left over.  And we ate a lot of good meals that week.  The leftovers went to waste. :(

But other than that, it was good. :)

1 pork tenderloin, boneless (2-3 pounds)

2/3 cup grated Parmesan (only freshly grated for me...I am picky like that)

1/2 cup honey

3 Tbsp soy sauce

2 Tbsp dried basil

2 Tbsp minced garlic

2 Tbsp olive oil

1/2 tsp salt

2 Tbsp cornstarch (unless you are me and you just kind of add until you think it is enough...)

1/4 cup cold water

Place roast in a slow cooker.  (I used a crockpot liner but if not, you probably want to spray with cooking spray first.)

Mix together the Parmesan, honey, soy, basil, garlic, olive oil, and salt.   Pour over the roast.

Cook on low for 6-7 hours.  The meat temperature should read 160; however, I go by the way it looks on the inside and usually have a little taste test. :)

Once the meat is cooked, remove the pork from the crockpot and keep warm in a separate dish.  Skim the fat off the remaining juices, then move the liquid to a saucepan.  Bring the liquid to a boil.  Mix the cornstarch and cold water until smooth.  Slowly add the cornstarch mixture to the boiling liquid.  Bring to a boil. Cook and stir for 2 minutes.  Serve the liquid over the roast.

I actually went a little overboard on the cornstarch, so mine was really thick. 

But it was delicious.

I will be making it again.

I served it with fried hashbrown potatoes, blackeye peas, and rolls (I has been a week or so).
Happy cooking!


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Boo...It's a Late Menu!

Yes, I am late.

Even later than usual.

But even in the midst of busyness, we are eating around here.

Sunday:  On Your Own night (Mark and I were away for the weekend, so the kids had tacos with my parents; we had pizza on our way home)

Monday:  Korean beef, basmati rice, carrots/Ranch, rolls

Tuesday:  Parmesan honey pork (new recipe), hashbrown potatoes, rolls

Wednesday:  Baked potato soup, asiago garlic bread

Thursday:  Grilled cheese sandwiches, deli meat, pineapple

Friday:  Leftovers (football game)

Saturday:  Fried chicken tenders, mashed potatoes, rolls, molten chocolate lava cakes for dessert

I know, I know. It is almost the end of the week.

But even if it wasn't written, I have followed it.

What has been for dinner at your house this week?


Monday, October 29, 2012

Chicken Avocado Salad

I will be upfront here.

This recipe was totally for me.

I am the only person in the family who eats avocados.

But when I saw this recipe via Pinterest, I just knew I had to try it.

So last week I gathered the necessary ingredients, put them together, and chowed down for lunch/dinner the next few days.

For me (one who loves avocados), it was delicious.

Not low in calories or fat, but it is all good fat, right? :)

2 cups cooked chicken, shredded or cut into small pieces (I followed the recipe above and used it from a rotisserie chicken but I will try it just with boiled chicken next time...much cheaper :)

2 medium avocados, diced

2 T fresh squeezed lime juice (divided...1 T each)  Note: I did not add that much. I used one lime and got all of the juice I could from it.  It was plenty for me)

1/4 cup thinly sliced green onion (I just cut with kitchen scissors)

1/2 cup chopped cilantro (as finely or as coarsely as you want)

2 T mayo (or light)

Place the shredded chicken in one bowl.

In another bowl,mix 1 T lime juice with the avocado in another bowl.  Season with salt to taste.

Mix the mayonnaise and remaining lime juice to make the dressing.

Add the sliced onions and dressing to the bowl of chicken, mixing until the chicken is coated with dressing.

Add the avocado and cilantro to the bowl, gently stirring.

Either serve right away or chill in the fridge. I did keep mine overnight in the fridge, and it was just as good the next day.

The original recipe suggested serving with pita bread or on a leaf of lettuce or just alone. I really wanted a little crunch. So I placed mine upon a "bed" of chips.  Then I topped it with Parmesan.

And I loved every bite.

Every fattening bite. :)


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Meatball Sandwiches

I made Meatball Sub Casserole one night which was very good.  Yet when I saw a slightly different version (Meatball Sandwiches) on Pinterest, I thought I would try that too.  Because honestly, how could you not like something with meatballs, bread, and sauce? :)

So earlier this week, I decided to give it a try.

I did make my own meatballs but I am sure store bought meatballs would work too.

And due to the changes in diet for one of our kiddos, I made our own "tomato"/ spaghetti sauce (which actually has no tomatoes in it but you would never know...e-mail me if you want the recipe :).

I didn't make the buns though.


Cooked Meatballs (Here is the recipe I use...I didn't make the gravy)

Pasta Sauce

Buns (The original recipe uses a bun split only on one side; I actually used a hoagie instead and would do that again...with a modification. I will share that in a minute :)

Shredded Mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Spray a cookie sheet. (Note:  I forgot to spray and really wished I had!)

Place meatballs in a sauce pan.  Cover with sauce.   Heat over low/medium heat, gently stirring.  Don't stir too much or you will break up the meatballs.

Here is my hint that I learned AFTER we ate was SO good but the buns were a little soggy from the meatballs.  Take the buns, spread a little butter on them, and toast them on a skillet to make them crispy and better able to hold up against the meatballs/sauce.

Place a few meatballs on the buns, spooning an extra sauce over the top.

Sprinkle generously the mozzarella cheese over the top.

Top with the top part of the bun (if using a hoagie).

Bake until the cheese is hot, bubbly, and melted (not too long :).


I will definitely make these again, making sure to toast the buns this next time.  Other than the soggy bread, it was YUMMY.


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Mid-Week Menu...Again

I am supposed to be finishing report cards.

But I really feel the need to share the menu. For whatever reason, I get more comments on menu posts than any other one. :)

Here is what we have had/are having this crazy fall week.

Sunday:  Meatball sandwiches (recipe coming soon), chips

Monday:  Swai in Lemon/Butter Sauce, almond rice pilaf, cheesy bread (from Panera:), and carrots

Tuesday:  Pot Roast Pizzaiola, penne pasta, rolls

Wednesday:  On Your Own night (I did make a chicken/avocado salad I will share soon...YUM)

Thursday: Not sure...our night is crazy.

Friday:  Potatoes and Sausage casserole, carrots, rolls

Saturday:  Dinner out (anniversary celebration :)

We are continuing to modify foods for one of our kids but most of the recipes worked just fine with minor changes.  In fact, nobody really could tell the difference.  :)

What is for dinner at your house this week?


Sunday, October 21, 2012

Skillet Steak

 (The yellow looking stuff is just the fat...not sure why it photographed like that)
A steak with a half potato

I wish I had gotten better pictures. But honestly, I was so hungry at this point, I just snapped a couple then chowed down.

I really wanted steaks...have been in the mood for a while. And I had some in my freezer just waiting for me.  But it was cold, and I knew time would be limited.  So no grilling.  What to do? Use my cast iron skillet of course!

I have made steak in the skillet before with success and wanted to do it again. 

But I wasn't using filet mignon this time, I was going to use rib-eye (from our half a cow) instead. 

So I decided to do a quick Internet search about how to cook rib-eye on the stove.

Lots of recipes out there.

I wanted simple.

So I just a little bit here, a little bit there, and then went from there.

I am glad I did.

I got just what I wanted. A juicy steak with just the right touch of flavor.

These are very general directions because I didn't really measure anything. 

Rib-eyes (we had 6 :)
Sea Salt
Peppercorns (in a grinder)

A few hours before cooking, Cover the rib-eyes with coarsely ground sea salt.  Place in a covered dish or in a gallon ziplock and refrigerate.

About thirty minutes prior to cooking, remove the rib-eyes and rinse off.  Set out on the counter...well, not directly on the counter but on something.   (I placed them on waxed paper, then covered them with more waxed paper which is much cheaper than aluminum foil is right now).

Preheat the oven to 400+.  Most things I read said to preheat to 500 if possible. However, I had potatoes cooking, so that was out for me. I kept mine at 400-425 the whole time.

Place skillet(s) in the oven to preheat.

Meanwhile, sprinkle freshly ground peppercorns and sea salt (but not coarse) over the steaks.

Right before cooking, remove skillet(s) from the oven and place on a hot burner.  Don't forget those oven mitts or you will burn your hand. :)

I did spray mine with just a basic cooking spray.

Place steaks in the skillet(s).  I actually turned mine over on the side where a little fat was and cooked it first, then I put the whole thing in.

Let the steak cook for about 2 minutes over medium high heat.  Warning:  It will smoke up a lot but I never set off any alarms. :)

After about 2 minutes, flip the steaks over and do the same.

Because my steaks were a little thicker, I also held them with tongs on the sides for just a bit to brown those.

Then immediately return the skillets to the oven.

This is the very nonspecific part.  Cook for a few minutes on each side in the oven.  How long depends on the size of your steak, how hot your oven is, and how you want your steak done.  I didn't time mine. I do know that the ones in the cast iron skillet cooked faster than the ones in a regular oven-safe skillet.

You do want to pull them out when they are ALMOST to the point you want them.  (By the way, you can google appropriate temperatures)  The steaks will continue to cook in the skillet for a bit.

Oh, and right before you pull them out, put a slice of butter (I used unsalted) on top of each steak.  Yum.

Let the steak rest for about 10 minutes before slicing.

Like I said, simple but yummy.

Obviously not something we can eat regularly (though I would love to), but a special treat in the middle of the week. :)


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Banana Nut Muffins

 I have mentioned that we have been "cleaning" up the way we eat.  A little more organic, less preservatives.  And in doing that, a lot of "mixes" are out.

So yesterday I glanced in our fruit bowl and noticed that we had a couple of bananas that were nearing the end of their life.

I hated to see bananas go to waste (though I NEVER eat them by themselves), so I decided we really needed some banana bread or muffins.  I decided muffins would be a good (and easy) way to go.  Even better, I had already planned a "breakfast for dinner" kind of night so this would be a perfect addition.

I immediately googled and fell upon a recipe that is supposed to be very kid-friendly.  Perfect for me. :)

I didn't really have any kids around at the time so I just made the recipe myself.

And they were yummy.

I don't think I have ever made homemade banana bread before.

Now that I have, I don't think I will ever be able to go back to a mix again.

And honestly, it didn't take me but a few more minutes than a mix would...and these were so much better.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 large bananas, mashed
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1/3 cup butter, melted (I used unsalted)
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
Nuts (to taste...I used about half a cup of chopped pecans)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray muffin pan OR use fun muffin/cupcake liners. That is the way I went.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, soda, and salt.  Set aside.

In a separate bowl, mix together bananas, sugar, egg, butter, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and nuts.  I just hand mixed.  I also made sure not to overmix after reading comments by others on the original recipe's site.

Fold in the flour mixture.

Again, don't overmix (but make sure ALL of the flour is mixed in).

Scoop into muffin tins (I used my cookie dough scooper).

Bake for 10-15 minutes for mini muffins and 25-30 minutes for regular size muffins (mine made 12 regular size muffins).



Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Mid-Week Menu...Again

We are trucking along over here.  Slowly but surely. 

But even in the midst of the chaos, and there seems to be plenty of that :), I am cooking much of the time.  Even when I know my family would rather just run through a drive thru somewhere (though they never complain when they eat what I made).

So I am going to be dutiful and share the menu for the week even though, once again, the week is half over.

Saturday:  Shakes and Popcorn.  Like REAL popcorn. With oil and everything. It was oh so good.  And we just did homemade shakes. My daughter made mine...she used vanilla ice cream, milk, some organic chocolate syrup, and a little spoonful of PB2.  It was one of the best shakes I have ever had.

Sunday:  Homemade pizza (one meat, one "white" cheese) with herbed crust.  I also tried a new "sauce"; I will have to share that soon.

Monday:  Garlicky shrimp, angel hair pasta, garlic asagio bread, carrots

Tuesday;  Eggs and cheese, banana nut muffins (recipe coming soon...yum), and bacon (and a strawberry smoothie for me :)

Wednesday:  On your own night

Thursday:  Steak, potatoes, garlic bread, black eye peas (maybe?)

Friday:  Football!

Saturday:  I really have not thought that far ahead. I am trying to make it through the week :)

What is for dinner at your house this week?


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Cheeseburger Flatbread Melts

Recently I wanted a quick "sandwich" type meal.  But not just a regular sandwich.  I saw a picture of this (but photographed much better :) on Pinterest and decided to give it a try.

In some ways, it is similar to a sloppy joe. But different.

Either way, it is good stuff.

I changed little of the recipe except for adding more meat for our family. I didn't add any more ingredients (meaning I didn't double anything else) and I was fine with the flavor.  But that is just my opinion.

1-2 lbs of ground beef, browned (I think the original recipe used a half pound but I used 1.5)
1/4 cup water
1/2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 envelope dry onion soup
1/4 cup ketchup
1 Tbsp mustard
1 garlic clove minced
2 Tbsp canola or vegetable oil
thin crust pizza dough (I used Pillsbury)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

After browning and draining the beef (I rarely have to drain), add in the water, vinegar, soup mix, ketchup, mustard, and garlic.  Simmer over low heat.

Meanwhile, in a different skillet, heat the oil over medium heat.

Divide the pizza crust into 6 equal portions and shape them. I tried but I didn't ever accomplish much of a circular shape. Mine were more rectangular. And I am okay with that. :)

Fry for one minute on each side in the oil until they are a nice golden brown.

Drain on a paper towel.

Top with meat mixture and cheese.


Very easy and fairly quick.  Nothing fancy but it was fun to try something new.  We will be having these again one day...