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?