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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Easy Chicken Cordon Bleu by The Food Nanny

Dinner #3: Easy Chicken Cordon Bleu
Time: Long
Price: $$$$
Servings: 4

My Thoughts: A-maz-ing!  This is, so far, my FAVORITE meal.  Oh my word, this turned out so yummy!  The chicken was so sweet and succulent, seriously.  Anthony was bummed he worked the late shift on the night I made these . . . I took a picture of it with my cell phone and sent it to him (ruthless I know!)  He did have it for leftovers the next day and said it was fabulous.  This dinner just made my Top Ten.

What I loved:  Making my own bread crumbs!  Wha?  Whoda thunk it was so easy and cheap?  I also really liked learning a little bit more about how to keep chicken moist when cooking.  A tip I'll use in the future for sure.  Thank you Food Nanny!

2 slices white or wheat bread
4 slices deli ham
8 T cold butter
4 small chicken breasts (I used two large, and cut them in half lengthwise)
6 thin slices swiss cheese

Tear bread into uniform pieces and pulse in blender to make crumbs.  Set aside.  If you are using frozen chicken breasts, while they are still slightly frozen, place breasts between sheets of wax paper or resealable plastic bags and pound with a meat mallet (I used freezer paper and a hard ice cream spoon!) to 1/8 inch thickness; don't pound too thin or the breast could fall apart in rolling.  If you are using fresh breasts, remove the extra fat and cut into the breast to remove the gristle.  Then pound to flatten.  Lay the flattened breasts side by side on a platter, sheet pan, or a sheet of wax paper.  Preheat oven to 350 and grease a small baking dish (see mine in pic).  Sprinkle each breast with salt.  Add 1 slice of ham, 1 slice of cheese, and 1 T butter.  Roll up the breasts tightly and tuck in the ends.  Place them seam side down in the prepared baking dish.  When you have all the breasts in the dish, top each with 1T of butter and 1/2 slice of remaining cheese (butter helps keep the chicken moist!).  Bake 40 to 50min.  Cover the dish with foil when the chicken browns, to prevent it from drying out.  The chicken is done when it is no longer pink and is tender.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Chicken and Potatoes Italiano by The Food Nanny

Dinner #2:  Chicken and Potatoes Italiano
Time: Long
Price: $$$$ (I found my drumsticks on sale for less than .50 cents each!)
Servings: however many pieces of chicken you use!

My thoughts: A delightful comfort food.  I've never cooked with drumsticks before, so I was pretty nervous I was going to mess things up.  But to my advantage, I didn't.  Again my dinner turned out! Round of applause for me!  This recipe was soooo easy.  And super simple.  I stuck this in the oven before I left to take my daughter to dance, and when I returned it was nearly done.  We paired this entree with Green Bean Casserole*, a family favorite).

What I loved: Using fresh rosemary - and realizing just how much that little amount of Rosemary really does flavor it!

6 medium russet potatoes (2 pounds) peeled and quartered lengthwise
1/4 cup olive oil, divided
6 chicken drumsticks
6 chicken thighs (I omitted these, and just did drumsticks)
1 freshly ground black pepper
2 medium white onions, thickly sliced
2 T fresh Rosemary leaves or 2 teaspoons dried coarse salt

Preheat oven to 400.  Place potato and onion pieces in a sheet pan or other large baking pan, drizzle olive oil over them, saving 2T for chicken.  Remove the skin from the chicken pieces if desired.  Rub the remaining 2 T of olive oil over the chicken and place in the pan between the potatoes and onions.  Sprinkle the rosemary on the chicken.  Sprinkle the salt and pepper generously over all.  Bake for 30mins.  Turn the potatoes and onions and continue baking until chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are tender, 15 to 25 mins more.

*Green Bean Casserole
2 cans green beans
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can Frech's French Dried Onions
1/3 cup milk

Mix all ingredients, except for half of the dried onions, in a 9x13 pan.  Top with remaining half of dried onions.  Bake uncovered at 350 for 30 minutes or until heated through.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Chicken Salsa Casserole by The Food Nanny

And we're off!  I've started my Food Nanny challenge and am so far very pleased.  Here is dinner numero uno:

Dinner #1: Chicken Salsa Casserole
Time: short
Price: $$$$
Servings: 6

My thoughts: A south of the border hit.
I really liked this dish.  I invited my mom over for dinner on the same night I tried this recipe out, crossing my fingers it would turn out.  And it did.  We paired this yummy Mexican dish with our famous trio: salsa, sour cream, and tortilla chips.  I'll be making this dish again.

What I loved: The texture from the corn tortillas and the Monterrey Jack cheese, instead of using plain ol' cheddar.

18 corn tortillas, cut into wedges
1 can water
3 chicken breasts, cooked, skinned, cubed
2 cans cream of chicken
1 can green chilies
1 pound Jack Cheese, grated

Combine tortillas, cream of chicken soup, can of water, chilies, and chicken in a 13x9 baking pan.  Cover top of mixture with one pound of grated Jack Cheese.  Bake at 350 for 30 min or until it is hot throughout and cheese is golden.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Bringing Families Back to the Dinner Table: The Food Nanny

I'm sure a lot of you have heard about, even tried, BYUtv's The Food Nanny.  I was just introduced to her by my sister in law, and have challenged myself to do her NANNY PLAN.  It's an organized meal decision-making / grocery-shopping application.  It was extremely simple to use. You can even add your own recipes to the app and link up with your friends and use their recipes as well.  Then once you've chosen all your recipes for the two week spread, you can print out an organized shopping list.  Wha?!  Yeah, that's what I'm sayin'.  It this works, my life just got easier. (Oh!  And you can narrow your recipe search to "cheap meals" by clicking on the dollar signs $$ or "fast meals" by clicking on the little clocks.)

I plan to journal each step of the way; what failed, what was fantastic, would I do it again?  I unofficially challenge you to the Food Nanny as well . . .

Meanwhile, here are the meals I chose and will be preparing within the next two weeks.  Wish me luck! (And I had nearly ALL of the ingredients already! No weird things here! Simple and easy.)

Chicken Rice Broccoli Bake
Creamy Broccoli Soup
Bow-Tie Pasta & Cherry Tomato
Sweet and Sour Baked Chicken
White Pizza with Chicken
White Sauce Chicken Enchiladas
Easy Chicken Cordon Bleu
Roast Chicken with Gravy
Six Can Tortilla Soup
Chicken and Potatoes Italiano
Orange Chicken
Breakfast Casserole
Chicken Salsa Casserole
Crock-Pot Roast Beef Dinner

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Blueberry Zucchini Bread

I didn't have my camera when we made these, but when thinking of fruit "characters" I always go back to some of my favorite fictional characters of my childhood (next to G.I. Joe, Transformers/Gobots, and He-Man and She-Ra). Strawberry Shortcake of course. So, thank you Blueberry Cupcake for representing today.

I spent Saturday with my favorite little red headed three year old, and since he loves cooking with me, I decided to look through the Parents Magazine his mom subscribes to. I thought I'd find a fun, kid friendly recipe. Here is the one we tried. It went over so well, I made it again this morning to take to my Primary class. Today we talked about the Word of Wisdom, and I thought they'd like to take home something delicious and healthy. I was surprised, they even weren't disappointed that I didn't bring candy (truth be told, I am against any food in class and never bring it.) The six and seven year old kids were actually excited for the bread. Yeah!

Blueberry Zucchini Bread

1 c flour
1 c whole wheat flour
1/4 c brown sugar
1/4 regular sugar
1 t baking soda
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t salt
1/2 t baking powder
3 eggs
3/4 c canola oil
1 t vanilla
2 c shredded zucchini
1 c blueberries
2 t sugar (optional)

Mix the flour, sugars, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and set aside.
Mix the eggs, oil and vanilla. I added the zucchini to the liquid mixture as well.
Mix the two groups together. Add the blueberries.
Scoop into a bread pan. You can sprinkle with 2 T sugar if you like.
Bake at 350 for an hour.
(If you have mini bread pans, you can cook at 350 for 40 minutes.)

ps - yesterday I used fresh blueberries, today I used frozen blueberries that I'd defrosted before using. Both worked well.


Sunday, April 10, 2011

Spinach Calzones

1 package (10 oz) frozen chopped spinach
1 1/2 cup shredded Swiss cheese (I used mozzarella because my husband doesn't like Swiss)
1/2 cup fat-free ricotta cheese
1 green onion, chopped
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 tube (10 oz) refrigerated pizza crust (I made pizza dough...see recipe below)
1 egg white
1 tsp. water
1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
Pizza sauce, warmed

Cook spinach according to package directions.  Drain well.  In a bowl, combine the spinach, Swiss cheese, ricotta cheese, onion and spices.  Roll pizza dough into a 15-in x 10-in rectangle; cut into six 5-in squares.  Spoon 1/3 cup mixture onto the center of each square.  Brush edges of dough with water.  Fold one corner over filling to the opposite corner, forming a triangle.  Using a fork, crimp edges to seal.  

Place on a baking sheet, coated with nonstick cooking spray.  Prick tops with a fork.  Lightly beat egg white and water; brush over dough and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.  

Bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes or until golden brown.  Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.  Serve with pizza sauce. 

You can also make calzones with your choice of sauce and favorite pizza toppings.   

Homemade Pizza Crust:
1 TBSP yeast
1 tsp. salt
1 cup warm water
2 TBSP oil
2 1/2-3 cups flour

Mix yeast, salt, 1/4 cup flour, then add warm water and oil.  Mix on low speed, adding flour as needed.  Rest 10 minutes.  Spread in pans (or in the case of calzones, roll out and cut up as needed) and poke with fork.  Bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes.  If making pizza, top with sauce and your favorite toppings.  Bake again until cheese melts.  

Tortellini Soup & Breadsticks

This version of tortellini soup is a nice soup for spring!  

9 oz. package frozen broccolli, steamed
7 oz. package three-cheese tortellini
3 cups chicken broth OR 3 TBSP chicken bouillon with 32 oz. water
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 cup chopped onion
2 sliced carrots
1 cup water
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. basil 
1/2 tsp. oregano
2 cups cooked chicken, cubed

Boil onion and garlic in chicken broth.  Add spices, water, cream of chicken soup and carrots.  Add tortellini and boil 7 minutes or until done.  Add steamed broccoli last.  **we like more tortellini and a little less oregano**

Breadsticks  **these are some of our favorites!**
Dissolve 1 TBSP yeast and 1 TBSP sugar in 1 1/2 cups warm water.
Add 3 cups flour (I often do half wheat, half white...full wheat don't rise well, but still taste good) and 1/2 tsp salt.

Mix and knead dough for 3 minutes.  Cover and let rise for 10 minutes.  Roll out to 1/2" thick.  Melt 1 cube butter on a cookie sheet.  Cut dough into strips and put on buttered cookie sheet.  Sprinkle with garlic salt and parmesan cheese.  Let rise for 15 minutes.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.  

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Simple & Healthy Kids Lunch II

Hard Boiled Eggs & Toast Fingers

This lunch was so easy and simple, but most importantly: my kids loved it.  They loved the idea of having a hard boiled egg for lunch.  And the Toast Fingers were a hit.  I think just calling them Toast Fingers and cutting them into little bite-sized 'fingers' made them cool.  Sometimes giving something very ordinary a cool twist will make kids super excited to eat it.  Like Ants On a Log or this yummy treat I discovered a while ago.  We'll definitely be having this lunch again. (And did I mention I loved it too?)

PW's Spicy Pulled Pork, Beans and Cornbread

OK, so I guess I am still cooking out of the Pioneer Woman cookbook. Tonight we discovered that Pioneer Woman's idea of spicy..., not spicy. But it still is really, really yummy pulled pork.

Oh, and warning, after you rub down the roast, your hands will smell like garlic and onions ALL DAY, no joke. So I would recommend using plastic gloves or saran wrapping your hands.

Also, I made the beans the night before, as well as the rub for the roast. On a weekend, I could make it the day of, but I don't have that luxury during the week. Also, because I leave between 6:30 and 6:45am, the roast was in the crock pot around 6:15 and we ate around 7 - so 12 hours roasting. It was super tender.

Spicy Pulled Pork
(but don't let the name fool you,
this isn't spicy)

5-7lb pork shoulder (I only used a 2lb, I was feeding three adults and 1 child and we had plenty left over)
1 whole onion, cut into quarters (I cut into eighths)
1 T chili powder
1/2 c brown sugar
4 garlic cloves
1 t oregano
2 t cumin
1-2 T salt (I misread this one, and only added 2 t)
Freshly ground black pepper
3 T olive oil
2 T white wine vinegar (I only had red, so that's what I used)
Lime wedges
Flour tortillas

Mix everything but the pork, limes, and tortillas in a food processor. This will be your rub.

Spread the rub all over the roast, cake it on.

PW recommends placing the roast in a roasting pan or dutch over. Add 2 cups of water, cover and bake at 300 for 6-7 hours, turning over the roast each hour. Once the roast is cooked, turn the oven up to 425 and roast uncovered for 20 minutes.

As I mentioned, I cooked this in a crock pot. I cooked it on low for 11 hours, and on high for the last hour. I cover the roast in the rub. I then put the remaining rub in the bottom of the crock pot and added the 2 cups of water.

I am not sure if it is because I used a smaller roast, but I don't think 2 cups of water is necessary. Though the roast was incredibly tender. I tried to take of picture so you could see how it just fell apart. I also like how you can see the steam coming off the roast in this photo.


4 c dried pinto beans
4 slices bacon, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 t salt
2 t black pepper
Chili powder, optional (I used 2 T)
Cayenne pepper, optional
Garlic powder, optional
Oregano, optional (I used 1 T)

Rinse the beans well.

Put the beans into a large stock pot with the bacon. Fill with water until it just covers the beans (about 2 inches above)

Boil for 2-3 hours, checking about once an hour to be sure there is still enough water. (I cooked mine for 2 1/2 hours and added water only once. I refrigerated them overnight, and then reheated them on low for an hour before serving.)

Add extra seasonings you desire before serving (I added mine while cooking so the flavor would be well absorbed into the whole pot.)

Skillet Cornbread

1 c cornmeal
1/2 c flour
1 t salt
1 T baking powder
1 c buttermilk
1/2 c milk
1 egg
1/2 t baking soda
1/3 c + 2 T shortening

Preheat the over to 450.

Mix the cornmeal, flour, salt and baking powder together.

In a separate bowl, mix the buttermilk, milk, egg and baking soda.

Mix the dry with the wet, but don't over mix.

Melt 1/4 c shortening in the microwave (I've never done this before. It took over a minute for mine to melt all the way.) Add to the batter until combined well.

In your iron skillet, melt the other 2 T shortening on the stove top. Pour the batter into the hot skillet, and cook for 1 minute. Then put the pan into the oven and cook for 20-25 minutes. (mine was done after 20 minutes, I'd almost recommend cooking for only 18 minutes, the bottom was pretty dark.)

You can kind of see the dark bottom.

If you don't want to make cornbread, you can eat the meat and beans with tortillas. You can add green chilies to the beans for a more Latin flair.

It was really tasty, but again, it wasn't spicy.


Monday, April 4, 2011

Pioneer Woman's Brother's Chicken Tacos

Have I talked about fried food before? Did you know before I went to college, the only fried food I'd eaten at home was our family's secret recipe for french toast (yup, deep fried deliciousness.) I'm sure when we went out to eat, the french fries were fried, but we didn't eat fast food really. Oh, but crisp meat burritos and crisp bean burritos from Taco Time, those were a yummy treat we rarely got to enjoy, but boy did we enjoy them when we had them. Maybe it is an Oregon thing? But fried food, just not a regular item on our menu. And to this day, I don't really eat fried food. Family french toast can only be consumed at the most, 3-4 times a year (for the sake of my waste line). Taco Time crisp burritos... maybe once a year. I made home-cut french fries last night, they were baked though. No oil involved.

I had my first real fried chicken my freshman year of college. Another item I'd heard about from others was the taco served by Jack in the Box. So while visiting family in CA, I had my first tacos from Jack in the Box. Have you had chance to try them? Deep fried tacos. They are actually pretty good. Seeing this post by Pioneer Woman made me think of the tacos from Jack in the Box, so tonight, in honor of the NCAA National Championship basketball game (since championship games call for unhealthy food) we made the tacos. Oh, and they were good. Here's the recipe with my additional recommendations.

My (well, Pioneer Woman's) Brother's Chicken Tacos

Corn Tortillas
4 chicken breasts (I only used 2)
Salt, cumin, chili powder or taco seasoning to season chicken (I used taco seasoning)
2 T Canola Oil + more for frying the tacos
2 - 4 oz cans diced green chilies (I used one since only cooking 2 chicken breasts)
1 1/2 c grated cheese (I used pepper jack)
Sour Cream
Hot Sauce
2 c thinly sliced lettuce (I prefer cabbage for tacos and used 1 c)
4 Roma tomatoes, diced (I used one regular hot house tomato)
Green Onions

She recommends preparing the chicken as such: Cut raw chicken into small pieces. Season the chicken liberally. Heat 2 T canola oil in skillet. Add chicken. Cook for a couple minutes. Add the chilies and continue cooking until the chicken is done. Set aside.
I boiled my chicken, then shredded it. I put the chicken, chilies and 2 T taco seasoning into a bowl and mixed. I put the mixture in the fridge overnight. I then microwaved it for two minutes before using.
Dice/cut the rest of your ingredients and have them ready for assembly.

The frying:
Have a plate with a bunch of paper towels on it next to your frying pan. I also warmed the tortillas before using. They were brand new, nice and fresh and soft, but I still had some tear, so warming them helped. Microwave for 20 seconds five at a time in a wet paper towel.
Put a couple spoons of the chicken mixture in the middle of the taco. fold the taco over, and using a pair of heat resistant tongs, carefully lay the taco into warm oil.

Now she says to set the burner at medium high and to cook each taco for 30-45 seconds on each side until the taco becomes a golden brown.

I had my gas burner on medium low (between 3 & 4) and I cooked them for 10 seconds per side and that was plenty for me - definitely golden brown when done. Tip: Don't drip the oil off into the pan. The juices from the chicken and chilies will drip into your oil - hot oil + water = no good!)

A blurry picture, but still - see all that smoke and steam?
When my cousin tried to take the photo,
the red eye reducing red light gave both of us the impression
that the taco was on fire.
It looked like there was a flame in the pan.
But this smoky pan now has juicy chicken and chilies
dancing in the hot oil.
Do not repeat this error in your home.
Open all the windows if you do.

Allow the taco to drip onto the paper towels. Turn the taco sideways so the oil comes out of the inside of the taco.

Take your taco to the assembly line. Slightly open the taco and layer on the cheese first (so it melts), lettuce or cabbage, tomatoes, onions, avocado, sour cream -and whatever else you want to add.

Here is our assembly line

This is an eat as you make it item. Good for a standing meal or a social meal where you are on your feet a lot. (Not being a big fan of fried food, I am especially not a fan of cold fried food.) We each assembled our own taco, so that helps too. One person can fry and then the rest (those old enough) can pick up a hot taco and fill 'er up. Once you finish your taco, you can join the line for another fresh one.

Enjoy! (but only on rare occasion, for the sake of your waste line - wink, wink, nudge, nudge)

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Gooey Toffee Butter Cake

With all the healthy lunch recipes we should be posting right now, I tried to resist posting this wicked dessert. But it is the last recipe I have photos from to post and I will now be all caught up. So, I am sharing. This is a recipe from Paula Deen. So what does that mean? Well, besides the fact that it is totally NOT good for you, it is full of butter. I don't like butter on toast, etc, but I do cook with a lot of it. This recipe is no exception.

Gooey Toffee Butter Cake

1 box yellow cake mix (mix only)
1 egg
1/2 c butter, melted

1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, room temperature
2 eggs
1 t vanilla
4 c powdered sugar
1/2 c butter, melted
1 c toffee bits (I use the Heath chips you can buy near the chocolate chips at the market)

For the cake: Mix the dry cake mix, egg and melted butter. Press into the bottom of a cake dish.
For the filling: Mix the cream cheese until smooth. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix until smooth. Add the powdered sugar a little at a time. Add the butter and mix. Finally add the toffee bits. Pour over the cake mix crust.
Bake at 350 for 40-50 minutes. (I usually do 45 minutes.) Remember this is a gooey cake. Your toothpick or fork must come out of the center of the dish with a gooey covering.

You can see the gooeyness.
I cut into it warm so you can see this gooeyness,
it won't be quick this gooey when cooled.

Allow to cool completely and cut into squares, small squares. This is a super, super rich dessert.


Pioneer Woman's Simple, Perfect Enchiladas

Who doesn't already have a gazillion recipes for enchiladas? I do, and I like all of them. So why would I try another one? Seriously, you can only have so many versions for the same item, right? Well, this is one worth trying. Pioneer Woman received this recipe from a family member from Mexico. So they may be more authentic than some of the other recipes you have.

This is another recipe that I looked at and thought I could show Rachel Ray a thing or two about quick food preparation. Um, nope. I had planned to make these to eat (by 6:30 at the latest) before we went to watch my cousin's Special Needs Mutual Roadshow. I got all the way to the assembly point and had to leave. I finished making them when we got home. When did we eat? At 10pm. Needless to say, we were starving. Needless to say, we ate the pan clean. And we were so anxious to eat, I didn't get a single photo. (thus the stock photos from the Internet...) But it isn't only because it was so late and because we were so hungry - these are really good enchiladas. We ate more than we should have, but they were too good to leave anything behind (plus I didn't make any veggies or anything for the side as planned because I was too tired, so all we ate was the enchiladas.) My additions and notes are in italics.

Simple, Perfect Enchiladas

1 T canola oil
2 T flour
1 can (28 oz) enchilada sauce (I used red enchilada sauce, I don't see why you couldn't use green if that is what you prefer.)
2 c (or one can) chicken stock
1/2 t salt
1/2 t pepper
2 T Cilantro, chopped

The Meat
1 lb ground beef
1 onion
2 cans (4 oz) green chilies
1/2 t salt

The Rest
Corn Tortillas
Canola Oil, for frying
1/2 olives. diced
1 c green onions, chopped
3 c sharp cheddar cheese, grated (I used Pepper Jack Cheese and of course, used a lot more than 3 c)
Cilantro, chopped

Make the sauce: Whisk the oil and flour in a saucepan over medium heat for a minute (until starts to bubble.) Add the enchilada sauce, chicken stock, salt and pepper - do not add the cilantro yet. Bring the sauce to a boil, reduce heat and allow to simmer on lowest temperature while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

The meat: Brown the beef. She recommends cooking the onion with the meat while browning. I again don't like my veggies to absorb the fat. So I cook the meat, drain the fat, and then add the onions. Add salt and set aside. At this point, also turn off the heat on the sauce.

The rest: Warm canola oil in a smaller skillet, deep enough to fry the tortillas in. You aren't actually going to fry the tortillas as in to a crisp. Once the oil is hot enough, using tongs, set a tortilla in the oil, the max time I had a tortilla in the oil was five (5) seconds. Lift the tortilla and allow it to drip off excess oil. Set on paper towels. The recipe recommends doing this to all your set aside tortillas before proceeding. Because I do not know how many enchiladas I'll end up making, I went through the assembly process one tortilla at a time. Dip the tortilla in the enchilada sauce, I used my hands and quickly covered both sides. Set the tortilla on a cookie sheet, I lined mine with wax paper because the first stuck so badly. Place a spoon full of meat mixture on one side of the tortilla. The recipe recommends adding the olives and green onions as well, I sprinkle these on the top once everything was in the pan. Not everyone likes olives in our household (crazy, I know.) Top with a good amount of cheese and roll the tortilla around the filling. I don't know about you, but I am notorious for not adding a lot of filling because I worry I won't have enough. I was pretty good this time though. I think I added 2 T filling to each enchilada.

After you have used up all your filling and have filled your dish, add the 2 T chopped cilantro to the sauce. Pour the rest of the sauce over the top of the enchiladas. Top with more cheese, I then sprinkled with the olives and green onions, and sprinkle with the remaining chopped cilantro.

Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.

I served with avocado. Also recommend, of course, serve with rice and beans.

We went to bed quickly with our nice full bellies that night.


Our Best Bites Natchitoches Meat Pies

I actually answered that we were eating Sweeney Todd's Meat Pies when my family asked what was for dinner. Disclaimer: No humans were harmed in the preparation of this yummy meal.

Oh, and per the cookbook, natchitoches is pronounced: nack + it + esh

1/2 lb ground beef
1/2 lb ground pork
1 green pepper, chopped
1 red pepper (I used 1/2 jar of roasted red peppers I had leftover from another meal), chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
5-6 cloves garlic, minced
2+ t Creole or Cajun seasoning (I used 4 t)
Tabasco sauce, to taste (I used 1/2 t)
1 can (14.5 oz) beef broth
Pie Crust, your favorite recipe or my favorite recipe follows the instructions
1 egg
1/4 c water

In a large skillet brown the sausage and beef. The cook book suggests cooking both together, halfway through to drain the fat and add the chopped veggies then. I didn't want the veggies to absorb the rest of the fat not yet cooked out. So I browned each meat separately as they don't cook at the same pace. I drained the fat and removed one from the pan and then cooked the second, drained. I then put both cooked meat and all the veggies back in the pan. Cook until the veggies are tender and onions translucent.

Add Creole or Cajun seasoning and Tabasco Sauce. Add beef broth, bring mixture to a boil and then cook for about 20 minutes, or until the liquid has all evaporated.

Divide pie crust into 4-8 sections (depending on how many meat pies you want and the size of pie you want.) Roll out each pie crust into a circle. Scoop about 1/3 c of the filling, if making 8 pies, onto one half of the crust. If you have counter space, you can lay out all the crust circles and use up all the filling before you start forming the pies. Fold the crust over and seal the edges. I pinched and then used a fork for a pattern.

Whisk the egg and water together and then brush over the pies.

Bake at 400 for 25-30 minutes (until golden brown). I put tin foil on the cookie sheet to both avoid the pies sticking to the pan and to help in cooking a flakier crust.

These are best fresh from the oven, not so good reheated (they get soggy.) The cookbook says that once you form the pies, if you know you are not going to eat them all, skip the step of brushing the egg/water mix atop, place the extra pies in the freezer until frozen solid, then put into a freezer bag (I like to use my food sealer) and they can be cooked when needed at 400 for 40-45 minutes. Not a bad idea...

Flaky Pie Crust

***when I made this meal, I used the suggested recipe from their cookbook. I didn't like it so much - way too much shortening for me, I could actually taste the shortening. So this is my favorite pie crust recipe, plus it is from my Great Good Food cookbook which is one of my favorite cookbooks and it is full of healthy recipes (in fact, I think I am going to start experimenting with more recipes from that book next, watch out!***

2 2/3 c flour
1/4 t salt
4 T sugar
1/2 c canola oil
6 T ice water
1 t skim milk

Mix dry ingredients
Add oil and mix with pastry blender (or your hands) until becomes crumbly mix
Sprinkle with water and milk and blend with pastry blender (or hands).
This will make two full pie crusts.


Our Best Bites Thai Chicken and Noodle Salad

Well, the Pioneer woman isn't the only one with recipes that will feed the masses. The recipe also made a ton, two bowls full in fact (only one pictured above, and that bowl has already been served from by 5 people...) So the recipe below is as in the cook book, but I recommend halving it for sure. This is a great option for a healthy lunch.

Thai Chicken and Noodle Salad

8 oz Linguine
6 c shredded greens (I recommend 2 c of each: green and red (purple) cabbage and spinach, cook book also suggests romaine lettuce)
1/2 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 carrot, julienned
1/2 cucumber, halved and sliced
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
3 c diced chicken
1/2 c honey roasted peanuts
1 Thai Peanut Salad Dressing recipe, as follows

1/2 peanut butter, creamy
1lime, juiced and zested
2 1/2 t sesame oil
1 T rice wine vinegar
2 T soy sauce
3 T honey
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 T minced ginger
1/2 c chopped cilantro (stems and leaves)
1/4 t salt
2-3 t Sriracha chili sauce (I used 4 or 5 t, we like hot food)
1/2 c vegetable oil (I used canola)
2-4 T water (I just used 4)

Put all the dressing ingredients except the oil and water into a blender or food processor and mix for about 30 seconds. Slowly start to add the oil. Once all oil in blended in, add water.

Boil the pasta

Chop the veggies while the pasta cooks.

Drain the cooked pasta and rinse with cold water. Add a little bit of the dressing to the noodles and toss. (refrigerate until using if still chopping.)

To assemble, I didn't follow the cookbook (suggests noodles, then veggies, then chicken, then dressing.) I did multiple layers: greens, noodles, veggies, green, noodles, veggies and then tossed the salad a little. I put the dressing on the table so that we could add as much as we liked (plus that helps in storing the leftovers so they don't get too soggy, especially with the pasta in the bowl.)

We ate 2-3 plate fulls each. It is really yummy. And the dressing is delicious.


Friday, April 1, 2011

Pioneer Woman's Sour Cream Noodle Bake

I know I have mentioned this before, but I do not believe that Rachel Ray's 30 minute recipes only take 30 minutes to make. Even with everything out on the counter, ready to go, yup, over 30 minutes. I am a pretty darn quick chopper of veggies and the like, but still, over 30 minutes. I look at a recipe and think, oh that will be a quick meal to prepare, nope, not the case. I hope you are better than I at preparing meals because this one looked quick. (I suppose in my defense, though I multitask and say chop veggies while pasta is boiling, being quite OCD, I clean up every little mess that I make and wash my dishes as I go. So that probably adds to my prep time, but really cuts down on the post dinner clean up.) This is a really simple recipe I found on the Pioneer Woman's website, with as usual, a couple of my alterations as seen in italics.

Sour Cream Noodle Bake

1¼ lb ground chuck (and I did use ground chuck)
1 - 15oz can tomato sauce
½ t salt
Freshly ground black pepper
8oz egg noodles (I used the whole bag, I think it was 12 oz)
½ c sour cream (um, the recipe name has sour cream in it and the recipe only calls for 1/2 cup? I just put the full carton - I think that is 2 cups worth.)
1¼ c small curd cottage cheese (like the sour cream, I just added the whole carton)
½ c sliced green onions
1 c grated sharp cheddar cheese (I used medium cheddar, and a lot more that 1 cup)
Basil leaves, I chopped up about 15 basil leaves I had left over from another meal


Cook egg noodles until al dente. Drain and set aside.

Brown ground chuck in a large skillet. Drain fat, then add tomato sauce, basil, salt and plenty of freshly ground pepper. Stir, then simmer while you prepare the other ingredients.

In a medium bowl, combine sour cream and cottage cheese. Add plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Mix with the noodles. Add green onions and stir.

To assemble, add half of the noodles to a baking dish. Top with half the meat mixture, then sprinkle on half the grated cheddar. Repeat with noodles, meat, then a final layer of cheese.
Spread the green onions a top the cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, or until all cheese is melted.

The picture at the top, well, I didn't read the last part of the instructions. So I did a layer of noodles, but didn't want too much noodle because I wanted the sauce to be on the noodles, so I added about half the sauce and cheese and then I just made a second dish. It would have fit in one dish if I'd read to layer it, like a lasagna. We ate up the first dish really quickly. I quickly snapped a photo of the second dish before we dug in. Yummy stuff.