Thursday, March 31, 2011

Baked Potato Soup

Because it's freezing and raining outside when it's supposed to be SPRING, I made a last minute decision that I had to make Baked Potato Soup for dinner.  I didn't have every necessary ingredient to have the Southern Living Baked Potato Soup that I usually make, so I improvised with what I had.  It turned out great.  But what isn't great when served with cheese and bacon?!

1 (1 lb. 8 oz) bag of baby yukon gold potatoes
1 white onion
1/2 cup diced carrots
3 cloves chopped garlic
5 slices bacon
1 tablespoon flour
2 cups of grated cheddar cheese
salt and pepper
milk and chicken stock

"Bake" the potatoes in the microwave for 5 minutes, or until tender.  Meanwhile, cut up the bacon and cook in a dutch oven until crispy.  Remove bacon from pan and drain off some of the oil (if you want to).  Saute the onions and carrots for about 5 minutes in the bacon drippings, until soft.  Add the garlic and cook for a minute more.  Chop up the cooked potatoes and add to the pan (I didn't peel them), add salt and pepper, and stir.  Add a tablespoon of flour to the pan and cook for a couple of minutes.  Add half milk and half chicken stock to cover and bring to a boil.  Once it's all thickened up, puree in the food processor (or use an immersion blender) until smooth.  Add it all back to the dutch oven and add more milk until it's as thick as you like it.  Add a cup of cheese, let it melt, and then serve the soup with grated cheese and the bacon from earlier.   Sour cream would have been great, too, but I didn't have any..

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Stir Fry Beef with Peppers

I was planning to cook something completely different for dinner, but this Pioneer Woman recipe jumped out at me as I was scanning my google reader this morning.  I had to make a special trip to the store for the beef, and had to figure out what to substitute for sherry (red wine vinegar),  but it was so worth it.  I also threw in some of those haricot verts and left out the red pepper flakes.  Anyway, make this for dinner.

I'll let you read PW's recipe, because it's perfectly detailed with pictures. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Lemon Tilapia with Roasted Haricot Verts

Ohh la la, right?  Haricot verts.   Here's how you say it in Franch, y'all:  \ˌär-ē-kō-ˈver\

They're just green beans,  but they are skinnier and more flavorful than regular green beans and you don't have to trim the ends (bonus!).  Love them!

Roasted Haricot Verts
Drizzle beans with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Roast on cookie sheet for 10-15 minutes at 450.
Lemon Tilapia
Sprinkle salt and pepper on dry tilapia fillets.  Cook on high heat in nonstick skillet until brown on one side (2-3 minutes), flip, and cook for a minute or so more.  Remove fish from pan, turn off heat, add 1 tablespoon of salted butter and the juice of a lemon to the skillet.  I also added some chives from my "garden".  Pour sauce over tilapia.

By the way, my kids even ate this meal! Yes, I told Beta and the Baby that it was chicken, but the point is that they liked it!

Creamy Rotisserie Chicken Salad

John wasn't home for dinner and I'm still EXHAUSTED from our spring break trip to Disney World, so I had a no-cook dinner.   The kids ate the rotisserie chicken as well, but with carrots and ranch dip.

Creamy Rotisserie Chicken Salad

Sams rotisserie chicken
Homemade Ranch Dressing (thinned with buttermilk)
salad greens
salt and pepper
I probably could have added carrots, peppers, nuts, or something else to make it prettier, but I was just too darn tired. It was really good as is. 

Here's my menu for the week:
Sunday- breakfast tacos
Monday- creamy rotisserie chicken salad
Tuesday- tilapia, green beans, quinoa (maybe)
Wednesday- chicken, potatoes, green beans
Thursday-grilled mahi mahi sandwiches
Friday-Chicken Berry Salad
Saturday- out to dinner

Monday, March 28, 2011

Fruit Salad and Quick Breakfast Tacos

I got some beautiful blackberries at Sams, but they were so tart! So I made a fruit salad to sweeten them up a bit.

Fruit Salad (I can't see those words without thinking about the Wiggles.  The Blue Wiggle is my favorite. Yep, I have a favorite.)

Greek yogurt
lemon juice

I used 1/2 cup of yogurt, 2 tablespoons of honey, and the juice of half a lemon.  I poured the "dressing" over the strawberries, blackberries, and pineapple.  Excellent.

Breakfast Tacos
When I want to get all complicated with breakfast burritos, I make them like Pioneer Woman.  But on a Sunday night when I have a mountain of laundry, hungry kids, and a bit of a headache, this is how I do it.  It's always a winner, and using only a little bacon it makes them slightly more healthy.  These proportions make 7 tacos in our house.

3 slices of bacon
10 eggs, sometimes I use half whites and half whole eggs
grated cheddar cheese

Cut up the bacon (I like to use scissors for this) and cook in a nonstick pan until crispy.  Remove bacon and drain most of the oil from the pan, and scramble the eggs until done.  Toss in a handful of cheese, stir it up.  Serve eggs on warm tortillas and sprinkle with a little bacon. 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Red Beans and Rice

adapted from Southern Living

1  pound  dried red beans
3/4  pound  smoked sausage, thinly sliced
3  celery ribs, chopped
1  red bell pepper, chopped
1  onion, chopped
3  garlic cloves, minced
1-2  tablespoons Creole seasoning (gotta put some Tony's in it! Laissez les bon temps roulez, y'all!)
chicken stock and water
Hot cooked  rice

Soak the beans overnight.  Rinse beans and put them in the crock pot with everything else.  Add one box of chicken stock and water to cover.  Cook on low for 10 hours or more.  Serve over cooked rice.

I put some cheese on it for the kids and they just gobbled it up.  We barely have enough leftover for my lunch tomorrow!

Oh,  and I picked the sausage out of my bowl because, well, I don't eat sausage.  I have a mental scar from reading Upton Sinclar's The Jungle in the 11th grade. Anyway....

I actually did all the chopping after dinner the night before while the kitchen was already a mess from that night's dinner, and put the veggies in the fridge overnight.  Then in the morning, I just rinsed the beans and added the liquid and spices.   Easy.  I don't enjoy chopping onions while I'm having coffee in the morning!

Homemade Granola

This granola is not exactly low in calories, but it's so much better than store bought granola.  And you know what's in it....
I like to eat a handful over Greek yogurt and fruit for breakfast or a snack, like in this picture.  The kids like it with milk for breakfast and John just grabs handfuls. I've even made it for teacher gifts.  Everybody loves it.

Homemade Granola

4 cups oats (not quick cooking)
2 T brown sugar
1/3 cup canola oil
1/3 cup honey or maple syrup (not pancake syrup)
everything else is to taste
milled flax seed*
wheat germ
almonds, walnuts, or other nuts 
golden raisins, craisins, other dried fruits
Combine oats, nuts, brown sugar, flax seed, wheat germ, salt (don't leave out the salt), and cinnamon. Mix canola oil and honey with vanilla and pour over dry ingredients.  Mix well and spread on cookie sheet.  Bake at 300 degrees for 20-30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so until brown.  Let cool then add dried fruits.  

*The flax and wheat germ are tasteless, but they bump up the vitamins, protein, and fiber.  I use about 1/2 cup of each per batch of granola.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Homemade Ranch Dressing

My kids love ranch dressing, and it's a condiment that will get them to eat almost any vegetable.  Aside from the general health concerns about ranch, I think it's gloppy and gross, so I make my own much tastier (and healthier) version.  I mix it up and just keep in the the fridge to eat throughout the week.  The kids like to dip carrots in it, and I really like it with raw red (or orange or yellow) bell peppers.  And radishes. I love radishes.  I'm weird like that.

3 parts fat free Greek yogurt
1 part real mayo like Hellman's (I hate mayo, btw, but it's necessary to make this taste like dressing)
1-2 cloves of garlic grated with a microplane (don't chop it or you'll bite into raw garlic)
juice of one whole lemon
salt and pepper to taste
various fresh herbs to taste (in the winter I don't add herbs, only because I don't have any)

Just mix it up with a wisk until combined.  To make the dressing thinner to use as salad dressing, add a little skim milk or better yet, skim buttermilk.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Bloggie Vacay

Man. We've been passing a little stomach bug around here. Not much dinner cooking this week.  I'm taking a blogging break next week, but I'll be re-posting the most visited posts.  Seriously, I cannot believe anybody at all is looking at this blog!  This is so fun to me! Please know that I read every comment, notice every retweet, and am excited about every LIKE.  Thank you for reading, and I'll be back to blogging after Spring Break.

I was looking at pics from last year at this time, and can you believe it was snowing?!  This is my baby Japanese Maple tree during Spring Break 2010.


2 cloves of garlic 
1 can of chickpeas/garbanzo beans drained, liquid reserved
1/2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons tahini*
juice of one lemon
1 tablespoon water or liquid from the chickpeas

Add the garlic first and grind it up in a food processor.  Add the chickpeas, salt, tahini, and lemon and mix it up.  Add liquid from the chickpeas (or just water) until you get the consistency you like.

*Tahini is a sesame paste that I buy at the natural food store (Wal Mart doesn't carry it).  Hummus just doesn't taste like hummus without it, but you can leave it out to cut calories or if you can't find it.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Greek Turkey Meatballs

I actually made these up during naptime and put the cookie sheet in the fridge until dinner.  Then, I just popped them in the oven when it was time for dinner.  Fast, healthy, pretty, and delicious! And 2/3 of the children liked them, too. 

Greek-ish Turkey Meatballs
1 pound ground all white meat turkey
1 box frozen, chopped spinach, thawed
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (leftover from the grilled pizzas)
1 whole egg
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Add ground turkey, spinach, garlic, feta, egg, oregano, salt and pepper to large bowl and mix well. Make small meatballs by either rolling in your hands or using a ice cream scoop (I used the small ice cream scoop I use for cookies).
Place meatballs on a lightly greased cookie sheet and place in oven for 10 minutes. Turn the meatballs over and return to oven for 10 more minutes.
I served them with grilled pita bread and tzatziki sauce.  We also had a little hummus, but I'll post on that later.

Tzatziki Sauce
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/2 seedless cucumber, peeled grated on box grater
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon champagne vinegar
juice of one lemon
2 cloves garlic, grated
fresh mint, to taste
fresh dill, if you like dill. I do not. If you know about my pickle aversion, you don't need to ask why I hate dill.

Mix it all together.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Irish Soda Bread

I'm no good at baking bread.  I don't have the patience for it, I think.  But Irish Soda Bread is no usual kneading, no rising, no yeast, no waiting.  And it's supposed to be ugly once it's baked!  I can handle that.  So in honor of St. Patrick's Day, we had some Irish Soda Bread to go with Panera Broccoli Cheddar Soup from Sams (and our pot o' gold from the end of the rainbow).

I found this recipe on Tasty Kitchen, but I left out the caraway seeds 'cause I don't like 'em.   Oh, and even my little boy with a stomach bug devoured it! Who doesn't love fresh bread out of the oven?

4-¾ cups Flour
½ teaspoons Salt
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
3 Tablespoons Honey
1 whole Egg
1-½ cup Buttermilk
3 Tablespoons Butter, Melted

To a bowl add together dry ingredients: the flour, salt, and baking soda. Mix well.
Now add in the honey, egg, and buttermilk. Stir it up until a dough just begins to form.
Add in the melted butter and knead dough until all ingredients are combined. Don’t overknead.
Form into a ball and cut a plus sign at the top of the loaf. Put dough on a baking sheet and place in an oven preheated to 350ºF for 50 minutes to an hour.

John's Smoked Brisket

John went to Sams again.  Since he came home with enough beef to feed a small third world country,  we had his Smoked Brisket on Saturday (um, and Sunday, and probably again for lunch a couple of times this week).

Spice Rub for Brisket
3 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons  pepper
2 tablespoons tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon cayanne
Smoke the brisket, fat side up, over hickory wood for 1.5 hours per pound. 

It's really good, but better, I think after it's been in the refrigerator overnight.  It's just like the fabulous brisket from the Benton deli, Breitweiser's (doesn't have a website). 

Here's my menu for the week:
Monday: Broccoli Cheddar Soup and Irish Soda Bread
Tuesday: Greek Turkey Meatballs with Tzataki; Hummus and Pita Bread
Wednesday: Salmon with Roasted Cauliflower
Thursday: Breakfast Burritos
Friday: Refrigerator clean-out buffet

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Double Dose of Cute

Ever have a night when you eat a Tootsie roll, half a bag of daughter's Skittles, 5 m&ms, and a bowl of cereal for dinner?  I spent the evening at a school dance instead of at home chain watching Sons of Anarchy (our new fave show).   I see more Friday nights of eating cereal while my kids are having fun in my future...

Here are Alpha and one of her bffs headed into the dance.  They closed the place down!  Such fun.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Feta, Potato, and Rosemary Grilled Pizza

Have you ever grilled a pizza?  You must try it!

The dough:
I've made dough from scratch before and I've also used the refrigerated dough, but really, that's all just too much for a weeknight dinner as far as I'm concerned.  The Walmart bakery has a premade thin pizza crust they call "napoli style" that is perfect for grilling.  It's thick enough that it doesn't burn and thin enough to get good and crunchy. 

The toppings:
I made a cheese pizza for the kids that was just spaghetti sauce and mozzarella.  For John and me, I copied a pizza I love at ZAZA in Little Rock: Feta, Potato, and Rosemary. The ingredients are olive oil (instead of sauce), caramelized onions (I made these earlier in the day because it takes 20 minutes or so), feta cheese, leftover potatoes, cherry tomatoes, fresh lemon juice, and rosemary (also leftover from Tuesday). 

After grill is hot, grill top side of pizza crust first until brown.  Turn down the grill to low, flip the crust, put on all the toppings, and close the lid.  Cook until everything is hot, checking to make sure the bottom doesn't burn.  If it is burning, you can move the pizza off the direct heat. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Fish Tacos

I love fish tacos, but had never made them before, so I researched a lot of recipes and they all seemed too complicated (not to mention unhealthy with the fried fish and the heavy cream sauce).

I ending up adapting several recipes and the tacos turned out SO great! And it only took me 35 minutes from start to sitting down eating, including thawing the fish. Not bad, considering I spent 5 minutes or so looking for my camera so I could take a picture of the darn thing!

For the fish:
2 large tilapia filets (this fed 2 adults and 1 child; 2 children ate cheese tacos instead)
salt and pepper
1 teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon flour

For the sauce:
1/3 cup Homemade Ranch Dressing (no herbs added)
juice of 1 whole lime
2 teaspoons honey
cilantro to taste
a pinch of cumin and chili powder

For serving:
6 inch corn tortillas (I'll use flour tortillas next time)
shredded red cabbage
salsa (I made a quick pico de gallo with grape tomatoes, onions, lime, cilantro, and salt.)
lime wedges

Thaw and pat dry tilapia.  Season with salt, pepper, and cumin.  Sprinkle with a little flour and shake off the excess.  The flour will create a little crust on the fish.

Heat a nonstick skillet over medium high heat and add 2 tablespoons of canola oil.  Cook fish 2-3 minutes and then flip and cook an additional 2-3 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish.  Remove fish from pan and assemble tacos.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Lemon Chicken with Rosemary Potatoes

Lemon Chicken
boneless, skinless chicken breasts
salt and pepper
olive oil
1 lemon
1 tablespoon butter

Remember the Pan Roasted Chicken from a couple of weeks ago?  Use the same technique to cook the chicken for Lemon Chicken.  When cooked, remove the chicken from the pan to rest and make the sauce.  Pour about a cup of chicken stock into the pan and cook until reduced by half, 3-4 minutes. Add the zest of one lemon, the juice of the lemon, and a tablespoon of butter.   When the butter melts, taste for salt and pepper and add some if necessary.  Spoon over the chicken (and the potatoes, too!). 

Rosemary Potatoes (adapted from Ina Garten)
In a dutch oven or big pot with a lid, heat a tablespoon of olive oil.  Add whole fingerling or new potatoes, salt and pepper, and toss well. Cover the pot tightly and cook over low heat for 20 to 30 minutes, until the potatoes are just tender when tested with a small knife. From time to time, shake the pot without removing the lid to prevent the bottom potatoes from burning. Turn off the heat and allow the potatoes to steam for another 5 minutes. Toss with fresh rosemary, and serve hot.

We also had a spinach salad dressed with just balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper.  I went a little crazy with the little tomatoes, but we all love them, except for Beta.  She proudly stated that while she likes tomatoes, she doesn't like grapes, and those little tomatoes look like grapes, and she wouldn't try them...that's 5 year old logic for ya.

Monday, March 7, 2011

White Bean Turkey Chili

There are a lot of recipes out there for Turkey Chili, so I combined a few I've tried in the past to make my own version of White Bean Turkey Chili using ground extra lean all white meat turkey. 

1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound extra lean ground turkey
1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground oregano
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 cans cannellini beans (drained and rinsed)
chicken broth to cover,  5-6 cups
cilantro to taste

In a large pot over medium heat, combine the onion, garlic and ground turkey and saute for 10 minutes, or until turkey is cooked through. Add all the spices, stir to combine, and then add the beans and chicken broth.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes or longer. Add cilantro and taste for salt and pepper before serving.  Top with shredded cheese and sour cream.    

This recipe makes a lot, so you can share with a neighbor or freeze the leftovers for another day.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Spaghetti Carbonara

I really can't look at Rachael Ray anymore.  At least I try not to, but good grief, she's everywhere.  Back in 2000 when I was a newlywed and learning to cook, I watched her 30 Minute Meals show on Food Network every night when I got home from work.  She taught me to chop onions, how to use olive oil, and to deglaze a pan, along with how to prepare a meal from start to finish.  If you don't know how to do those things, I would suggest tuning in to her show once or twice (if you can stand it).   And please, if you do watch her show never say EVOO.  Ever.  Please.  Annoying.

One of my favorite recipes of hers is the classic Spaghetti Carbonara.  It's so fast to make that it takes longer to get the pasta water to boil than to prepare the actual meal.  And the kids liked it, too. But check it! You have read the directions very carefully. 

Spaghetti Carbonara* (adapted from Rachael Ray)

1 pound spaghetti (use whole wheat or Barilla Plus)
3-4 slices of thick cut bacon, chopped
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
5 to 6 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine (I used champagne, because I'm fancy. Really, I just had it leftover from New Years, but it worked just fine. You can use chicken stock, too, if you don't do wine.)
2 large egg yolks
Handful of finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (I didn't have any, so I left it out. It's better with.)
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese


1. Put a large pot of water on to boil. Add a liberal amount of salt and the pasta. Cook to al dente, about 8 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add bacon and brown for 5-7 minutes. Add red pepper flakes and garlic and cook 2 to 3 minutes more. Add wine and stir up all the pan drippings.

3. In a separate bowl, beat yolks, then add 1 large ladleful (about 1/2 cup) of the pasta cooking water. This tempers the eggs and keeps them from scrambling when added to the pasta.

4. Drain pasta well and add it directly to the skillet with bacon. Pour the egg mixture over the pasta. Toss rapidly to coat the pasta. Remove pan from heat and add a big handful of cheese, lots of pepper, and a little salt. Continue to toss and turn the pasta until it soaks up egg mixture and thickens, 1 to 2 minutes. Garnish with parsley and extra cheese.

*One serving of pasta is just half a cup, which is about the size of your fist. Don't eat too much! Fill up your plate with salad first (ours was just spring mix with yellow peppers and homemade balsamic vinaigrette), before plating the pasta.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Honey Lime Salmon

Marinade for 2 salmon fillets.

1/4 cup soy sauce
juice and zest of one lime
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 olive oil
2 cloves garlic, smashed

Marinate salmon for 15-30 minutes in big ziploc bag (you can marinate for less time, but not much more time or the acid from the lime will break down the fish and make it mushy).  Heat a nonstick pan over medium high heat, and place salmon in pan and cook until crusty, about 5 minutes or so.  Flip fish, reduce heat to medium, add about 1/4 cup of the marinade, tent pan with aluminum foil,  and cook 7-10 minutes until salmon is cooked.  Spoon a little of the sauce and a squeeze of fresh lime over the salmon before serving and sprinkle with a little salt (be careful and don't over-salt sauce is salty) and pepper.

We ate the Honey Lime Salmon with roasted asparagus and a green salad.   To roast the asparagus, just drizzle olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Cook at 400 degrees until brown, about 15-20 minutes.