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Sunday, January 30, 2011

What's on the Menu Jan 30 Feb 5

As I look on our weekly schedule, I am already tired.  Might explain the drinking coffee at 10pm!  Looks like another full week!  But I am one step ahead of insanity with my weekly meal plan!

Baked Potato

Bourbon Chicken
Steamed Broccoli

Spinach Pie
Roasted Cauliflower

40 Clove Garlic Chicken in the Crockpot
Mashed Potatoes
Steamed Carrots


Zuppa Toscana
Fried Polenta Cubes

To be decided!

This menu and many others linked to Menu Plan Monday.

I'mmmmm Melting! Crayons that is!

So far this winter, the South has been blanketed with more snow and ice than normal.  Personally, I enjoy seeing the white precipitation covering the trees and creek - it slows down our lives just enough!  As I have gotten older in age, I enjoy being at home more and more.
One activity we did during a recent snowfall was to melt crayons.  I will admit, we had to actually break our crayons - most crayons were unbroken.
 So we snapped and broke our crayons into small pieces.

  Mix them into a mini muffin tin sprayed with cooking spray.

 Melted in a low temperature (250/275 degrees) oven for a few minutes.  Watch after 5 minutes.  It took our crayons about 12 minutes to completely melt. Keep a watchful eye on them.

Allow them to cool.  I took a butter knife and gently pushed them out.

I just LOVE the multitude of colors!  Enjoy!

A page from Prego's Italian Restaurant - Fried Polenta Cubes

Photo courtesy of Google Images
 Last night Big Guy and I enjoyed a few hours at our local Italian Restaurant, Prego's.  Not just a spaghetti and meatball kind of place at all!  Fabulous wine - we always enjoy the house Montepulciano (red wine).  Beautiful salads, breads, and overall food!   Big Guy enjoyed a delicious Veal Scallopini.  I can confirm it was delicious as I stole a few bites!  I enjoyed a wonderful fish dish with a white wine tomato sauce accented with olives, capers and white asparagus.  I can't recall the name but it was so flavorful and heavenly!
One of the features we look forward to eating when we visit Prego's is their fried polenta cubes.  They are brought out for patrons to enjoy prior to ordering.  So crispy with a taste of creamy polenta inside - it's just yummy goodness!  Big Guy asked last night if I could duplicate it at home.  This recipe is going to be my first attempt.  Let's hope it's as good as Prego's!

Pan Fried Polenta Squared (as featured on Reenie's Recipes)

Recipe Details:
4 cups whole milk
1 tbsp rosemary, finely chopped
1 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1 1/2 cups polenta
1/3 cup plus about 6-8 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups parmesan, finely grated

Lightly grease a 9"x11" high-rimmed dish with PAM.

In a large saucepan, bring milk, rosemary and salt to a boil over medium-high heat, watching carefully that it doesn't boil over. Add polenta in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook about 20 minutes, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon. Remove from heat and stir in 1/3 cup olive oil and parmesan. Pour polenta into greased baking dish, cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

In a large sized skillet (preferably non-stick), heat 3-4 tbsp olive oil over high heat, until almost smoking, coating skillet evenly and completely. Make sure the pan is hot enough or the polenta will stick. Remove the polenta from the refrigerator and cut into squares with a sharp knife. Carefully transfer pieces to skillet. Fry the polenta in batches, about 4-6 pieces at a time (do not overcrowd), for 5-6 uninterrupted minutes per side. Drain on paper towels. Cover with foil while frying the remaining pieces. Your first batch may not turn out as nicely as the remaining batches since the oil may not be hot enough etc. Replenish oil after each batch.

Serves 8

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Beef Stew the Mediterranean Way in the Slowcooker

The beauty of cooking is being able to experiment, change a recipe.  Ever since trying and loving Lamb Stew, I have been wanting (craving) it again!
I adapted this recipe for Lamb's Stew to use the crockpot as the other was "one of those" days!  It was so delicious - even better the next day for lunch!
Beef Stew the Mediterranean Way
1 1/4 pounds beef stew meat
Garlic Powder
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 onion coarsely chopped
1 cup 1/2 cut peeled carrots
1 15oz can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained
1 cup chicken broth
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 10oz bag ready to use spinach leaves

1 - Heat olive oil in saute pan over medium heat.  Add meat.  Season with garlic powder.  Brown on all side for a total of 5 min.  Remove to slowcooker.
2 - Toss onions and carrots in pan that browned meat. Add chicken broth. Cook over medium heat for about 5-8 minutes. 
3 - Add vegetables and broth to slowcooker.  Add drained beans, tomato paste, lemon juice, and cinnamon.  Cook on low for 6-8 hours, high 4-5 hours.
4 - Last hour of cooking, add spinach leaves into stew.  Stir thoroughly.
Serve over rice!

This recipe along with many others have been shared at Miz Helen's Full Plate Thursday and Prairie Story: Recipe Swap.

Monday, January 24, 2011

What's on the Menu this week!

I did a marvelous job of pushing my grocery shop trip back day after day last week - pulling items from the freezer and pantry that needed to be used.  I am very blessed with extra freezer space.  But prior to the holidays, we had it all packed!  I can now see the bottom of the 2 refrigerator freezers I use! 
Needless to say though, today's grocery shopping trip was quite a doozey!

For this week, we will be enjoying:

Linguine with Alfredo sauce topped with Grouper cheeks, shrimp and mussels
Garlic Bread

Chicken quesadillas
Black Bean Salad
Blue Corn Chips

Meatball Subs
Roasted Cauliflower

Shrimp and Grits

Hot Dogs
Baked Fries


Fried Fish
Baked Potatoes

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Baked Brie - simple and fast appetizer

Our family had the pleasure of attending a surprise party for a wonderful neighbor the other evening.  Nothing was required to bring but I enjoy taking food - and a bottle of champagne!  I have my old stand by appetizer recipes but wanted to try something new.  Having found this before Christmas (you should see my "to try" list - wow!), I decide to make Baked Brie.  Such an easy appetizer, and so delicious!  Flaky crescent rolls encased the creamy brie that had been topped this time with apple butter.  And even easier to make - unroll a tube of crescent rolls, place brie in the middle, top with apple butter (or other preserves, whole cranberry sauce, or even hot pepper jelly).  Wrap breading around the cheese and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  Serve with crackers and apple slices!  How beautiful, tasty and oh so simple!

Baked Brie (adapted from Simply Recipes)

-1 large sheet of puff pastry dough or t tube crescent rolls
-1 round of Brie cheese - just take off paper or plastic wrap but not the rind.  Leave whole
-Jam or preserves of your choice - let your imagination go wild - apple butter, whole cranberry sauce, fig preserves, raspberry jam, etc.  Have even seen hot pepper jelly as a suggestion.
-Optional brown sugar to sprinkle over top of breading
-Optional maple syrup to drizzle over as well

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
Unroll crescent rolls in one large sheet.  Press seams of rolls together to make a whole sheet of dough. 
Place cheese in the middle of dough.

Top with jam, preserves, apple butter of your choice.  I used apple butter that my Sister in Law had brought from the mountains of Virginia (yummy!).  Top with 2 tablespoons.

Bring bread up around cheese to cover.  I did a partial twist of the dough on top.

With all that excess dough on top, it would take forever for the top to bake so I just grabbed my kitchen scissors (if you don't own a pair, go buy some, they are a lifesaver!) and sniped a bit.  Like giving a haircut!  Here's the excess that I cut off.

After the "haircut"

Pop into the oven at 350 degrees for 30 min.  Looks so yummy!  Let sit for about 10 minutes but serve while it is still warm.
I could take a picture of it cut - we were taking it to a neighbors.  But the apple butter complimented the brie so nicely!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Creamy Garlic Penne Pasta


Creamy Garlic Penne Pasta was the perfect side to the Herbed "Baked" Fish.  This was one of those weeks when I didn't make it to the grocery and stock all the sides I was planning. Thus it was "look in the pantry" time!  Whole wheat Penne Pasta was in the pantry - worked perfectly!  After cooking the pasta, this dish whipped up together in less than 10 minutes.  Very delicious - so much so the two year old ate spoonful after spoonful of it!  Big Guy even had an early bite prior to dinner and commented how yummy it was!

So to make Creamy Garlic Penne Pasta:(adapted from
(this recipe makes for 6-8 servings - for us, I halved it for a side)

Melt Butter and Garlic in a Sauce Pan.
Cook for a minute.  Add flour and whisk together constantly for a minute - you are making a roux!  Basically the "glue" or base for a cream sauce.

Stir in broth and milk.  Cook to thicken but stir often.  Add parsley, salt, pepper and Cheese.  Stir till cheese is melted.
Add sauce to the pasta and toss!

grab the code!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Chicken Ring - Beautiful Presentation and So Tasty!

Chicken Ring - this has been one of my "go-to" recipes for years!  From the very first Pampered Chef product party I attended, I was hooked!  Fast and easy, this dish can be used as a main entree for dinner or for a brunch. 
I typically have cooked chicken ready to go in the freezer.  It's a lifesaver for many  meals.  And so easy to do - just plan ahead.  When I buy a whole chicken, split chicken breast, or any chicken on the bone, I cook in a stock pot with carrots, onions and celery and water.  Save the stock after the chicken is cooked to make yummy chicken broth for future dishes (including using it to cook your rice!).

Chicken Ring adapted from Pampered Chef
2 cups cooked  and diced chicken
1/3 cup  chopped broccoli florets
2 tbsp diced onion
1/4 cup chopped red pepper
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 small can water chestnuts diced
1 cup shredded Colby Jack cheese
2 tubes of Pillsbury crescent rolls

1 - Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix together all ingredients except crescent rolls in large mixing bowl.

2- Here's the fun part!  Making a sunflower with crescent rolls!  Open the cans of crescent rolls and separate the two halves.

3- Separate the triangles individually.  Place triangles with small points out on baking pan (pizza pan).  Overlap large parts as you go around and make a ring.

4- Press the rolls together to form this lovely sunflower.  Scoop your chicken mixture around the circle to be able to overlap the triangles.
5 - Bring the smaller point over the chicken mixture toward the center.

6 - Bake in 350 degree oven for 35-40 minutes.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Herbed "Baked" Fish

Herbed "Baked" Fish was the entree for tonight's dinner.  So simple and flavorful it was quite fabulous!  And I can not stress how easy it was!  Basic concept - take fish (we used flounder, could be talapia, wahoo, striped bass).  Dip in egg white was and coat with herb mixture.   Pan fry in either cooking spray or a bit of butter - hence the "Baked" not fried.  So GOOD!
Recipe adapted from

  • 1 cup mixed fresh soft herbs (sage, parsley, basil, chives), coarsely chopped

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • Four 4-ounce striped bass or rockfish fillets, skin off

  • 1 egg white, lightly whisked

    1. Herb mixture - I used Basil, Garlic Salt, Parsley, and Oregano
    2. Spread the herbs and salt and pepper on a large platter. Brush each fillet with the egg white, then dredge in the herbs.
    3. In a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, sear the fillets 3 to 4 minutes per side, or until cooked through and the flesh just begins to flake.

    Served with a simple salad and Creamy Garlic Penne Pasta.


    Monday, January 17, 2011

    What's Cooking in the Kitchen Jan 16 - 22

    Back to the world of Blogging and oh how I've missed it!  I have been attempting to be more productive with my time.  With the flexibility I have with our days, structure is sometimes hard, causing valuable time to slip away.  So I am trying to carve out special "computer" time similar to what the Teen has, in limitation.  Have made progress in being more organized with other household duties, so it seems to be working!
    And menu planning is one time saver I enjoy!  And even if our menu changes, as it did at the end of last week, I at least have guidance and am not rushing to the grocery store every day!  That would be a time killer!
    Our game plan for this week:

    Gyros using lamb from roast (Sat's dinner)
    couscous with sauteed mushrooms and onions and tossed with feta cheese
    Lettuce, tomatoes, onions and Tzatziki sauce

    Sourdough bread
    cut veggies

    Peanut Chicken Slow Cooked
    Stir Fry Veggies
    Basmati Rice

    Italian Meatloaf
    Mashed Potatoes
    Green Beans

    Herbed Baked Fish
    Rice Pilaf

    1/2 and 1/2 Pizza (half his, half mine!)

    Chicken Pot Pie
    Creamy Potatoes

    This menu has been shared with Menu Plan Monday

    Tuesday, January 11, 2011

    Pumpkin Cranberry Bread

    With ice outside, baking is the perfect afternoon activity to warm up the home and soul!  I had both fresh cranberries and cooked pumpkin on hand.  This recipe seemed to be just perfect! Let the bread set, cool, and "sweeten" a bit!  The tang of the cranberries and sweetness of the pumpkin created a delicious combination of flavors.  Enjoy with a cup of coffee!

    Pumpkin Cranberry Bread   adapted from Beta Sigma Phi cookbook
    1 cup canned or cooked pumpkin
    3/4 cup sugar
    1/2 cup milk
    2 eggs
    1/4 cup butter, melted
    2 tsp vanilla
    2 tsp baking powder
    2 cups flour
    1 tsp cinnamon
    1/2 tsp baking soda
    1/2 tsp nutmeg
    1/2 tsp ginger
    1 cup chopped walnuts (I omitted)
    1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries

    Combine pumpkin, sugar, milk, eggs, vanilla and butter in a large mixing bowl.

    Beat until smooth.

    Combine baking powder, flour, cinnamon, baking soda, nutmeg and ginger.  Mix well.  Combine with wet ingredients.
    Stir.  Fold in nuts and cranberries.

    Pour into 2 greased loaf pans or 4 mini loaf pans.

    Bake 2 loaf pans for 70 min or 4 mini loaf pans for 30 min at 350 degrees (or until cake tester/toothpick comes out clean.)  Let cool.

    Recipe linked along with other great ideas at Tempt My Tummy Tuesday

    Fried Cabbage

    Fried Cabbage - probably should really be called Sauteed Cabbage.  Or Skillet Cabbage.  But I took the basic recipe from Pioneerwoman and it was named "Old Fashioned Fried Cabbage."

    As I already had cooked bacon for the Bacon Wrapped, I didn't cook anymore.  Just use some of that "goodness" (aka grease) from the pan and omitted adding meat to this dish.  Teen and her friend enjoyed it just as much as Big Guy and I did.

    Fried Cabbage
    Head of cabbage, cored and chopped into 2 in pieces
    Medium onion, sliced
    Bacon (I omitted but did use some of the grease)
    Salt and pepper to taste
    Can eliminate bacon totally and use 2 tablespoons of butter

    In a large skillet, cook bacon till crispy.  Remove bacon from pan.  Either use some, all or none of the bacon grease.  Or if not using bacon, melt butter in pan.  Add cabbage and onion.
     Stir. Salt and Pepper to taste. Cook over medium heat with lid over pan for 20-25 minutes.  Stir every 5 minutes or so to prevent cabbage from burning on the bottom. 
    It's that simple!

    Bacon Wrapped Cheesy Chicken

    Bacon and Chicken - how tasty does that sound!  Add a cream cheese, garlic salt and chopped onion mixture in the middle - and you have a definite YUM!  This recipe was so easy, looked great on the plate and tasted WONDERFUL!  Big Guy gave it two thumbs up!  Definite Keeper!
    I paired it with Roasted Red and Sweet Potatoes and Fried Cabbage.
    Adapted From Taste of Home

    Bacon Wrapped Cheesy Chicken
    Ingredients: (serves 6)
    12 slices of Bacon  (I only used 6 as Big Guy had depleted my bacon supply ;))
    6 boneless skinless chicken breasts (4 oz each)
    1 package cream cheese, softened
    1 medium sweet onion, diced
    2 tablespoons minced garlic
    Dried dill, parsley, thyme to dash over top of wrapped chicken

    In a large skillet, cook bacon over medium heat until cooked but not crispy.  You want to be able to still bend the bacon.  Remove from pan.

    Flatten chicken breasts to 1/8 in thickness.  If you don't own a meat mallet, you can easily place chicken individually in ziploc bags and flatten with a small pan or pot.  A rolling pin will work as well.
    Mix together cream cheese, garlic, onion.  Spread down the center of flattened chicken.  Roll up from the larger end, wrapping with bacon.  Place chicken ends down in 9X13 in pan.  Secure with toothpicks.

    Season chicken with herbs.  Bake covered on 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  Remove foil and cook another 5-10 minutes till juices run clear.

    Recipe linked to

    Monday, January 10, 2011

    Menu for Jan 10 - 18 Steak, Chicken, White Chili

    Much to the dismay of my 2 year old who said we should have marshmallows for dinner......
    Recipes to follow

    Steak Fajitas with yellow and orange peppers
    Sour cream

    Bacon Wrapped Cheesy Chicken
    Roasted Red and Sweet Potatoes
    Sauteed Cabbage

    Spaghetti and Meatballs

    Chicken Marsala
    Steamed Broccoli

    Crock Pot White Chili
    Cornbread Muffins

    Lamb Roast with Tzatziki sauce
    Mashed Potatoes
    Steamed Broccoli

    This post has been linked to Menu Planning Mondays

    Sunday, January 9, 2011

    Devil's Food Chocolate Cupcakes with Fluffy Peanut Butter Frosting

    I'll admit it - I'm a Geek.  Probably fall in the "un-cool" category.  When I have down time in front of the television, I watch one of 4 networks typically - Bravo, TLC, HGTV and FoodNetwork.  Big Guy is "cool" - he watches Sports or the News or a HBO series like Dexter.  LOL!  So this afternoon, Cupcake Wars was airing on FoodNetwork.  My adorable 2 year old woke from his nap, sauntered into the living room and said, "I want to do that"  pointing to the tv as they were mixing their cupcakes.  How can I say NO to a face like this???
    Those are "his" glasses - Teen's that she decorated with duct tape!
     Ventured to my downstairs pantry to see what quick and easy cake mix was on hand - Devil's Food!  Sounded like a winner to me! 
    After the cupcakes were baked
    I choose to make Fluffy Peanut Butter Frosting.  So yummy and simple!

    1 stick softened butter
    1 cup peanut butter
    2 cups confectioner's sugar
    3 tablespoons milk or as needed

    Blend together all the ingredients (I just whisked by hand), using milk as a thinner as needed.  If you want a stronger peanut butter taste, use more peanut butter and less sugar.  This recipe is very forgiving.
    Once smooth, I filled my little icing gizmo I purchased several years ago from Pampered Chef. Just for fun, I injected the center of the cupcakes with a bit of icing.

    Topped them off with a bit more icing.  Sprinkled crushed Butterfinger candy ice cream topping over them!  To be enjoyed tomorrow!