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Sunday, March 20, 2011

What's on the Menu Birthday Week 3/21 - 3/26

This week, we celebrate the Big Guy's birthday and our oldest son's birthday.  Somewhat a bittersweet week each year.  Big Guy's father passed away 3 1/2 months before our first son was born.  It was the same year Big Guy would turn 40, the same age his father was when he was born.  Our first son, Patrick, was born on this grandfather's birthday (which would have been his 80th) thus he was named - Patrick - for this Granddad.  Funny how life is - my Patrick (Pat, we call him both names interchangeably) has many similarities to his Granddad physically and in his personality.
But we enjoy celebrating in our household - a big birthday bash with family and friends is planned for our Patrick (turning 4 on Saturday) as well as a little party at Playschool.  Then the weekend will end with a luncheon with my extended family where great aunts and uncles as well as 4 great-grandparents will be.
So meal planning is key for me this week to keep my sanity!

Hot Dogs with Big Guy's Chili (recipe to follow - SO GOOD!)

Twice Baked Potatoes

Birthday Dinner Surprise (trust me, it will be good!)

Chicken Divan (that we never had last week)
Steamed Carrots

Crustless Quiche with Sausage, Onion and Cheese

Beer Braised Chicken
Collard Greens
Roasted Sweet and Red Potatoes

Party Time

Shared at Menu Planning Mondays - go check out other menu ideas!

Oh So Good, White Chicken Chili

Our menu this week was rearranged a bit - but change is good.  In this case, Oh So Good!  Having had Blue Fin Tuna lightly seared with wasabbi the night before, and Corned Beef was planned for St Patrick's Day, the Big Guy requested White Chicken Chili instead of the beef soup planned.  And I was glad he did!  Oh So Good!
This soup would be easy to throw together one evening after work.  Bonus would be if you already had chicken cooked (super easy, check out this post).  Open a couple of cans of beans, green chiles and chicken broth.  Throw in some cumin, cayenne pepper and cilantro.  Stir and top with Monterrey Jack cheese and a dollop of sour cream.  Done!  Really - it was that easy!  Finding a beer to go in the Beer Bread was more difficult.  (Not really but you get the idea). 

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

  • 1 onion, chopped

  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed

  • 1 (4 ounce) can diced jalapeno peppers (I used 1/2 this amount.  For me this was enough)

  • 1 (4 ounce) can chopped green chile peppers

  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin

  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano

  • 1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (I used 1/2 - just a taste of heat, probably could have used more but the kids I wanted less not too much.  Adjust to your taste)

  • 3 Tablespoons (or more) of coarsely chopped fresh cilantro (LOVE cilantro!)

  • 2 (14.5 ounce) cans chicken broth

  • 3 cups chopped cooked chicken breast  (I used 3 cups of cooked chicken - dark and white mixed)

  • 3 (15 ounce) cans white beans (I took dried, soaked and cooked my own - super easy)

  • 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

  • 1 - Heat oil in bottom of pot (one large enough for everything in the end, I used a large stock pot).  Chop onion and add to oil.  Saute till onion is clear.
    2-Chop Jalapenos.  This is how much I used.  Just took them from a can - Big Guy likes his jalapenos on hot dogs, pizza, and nachos so we normally have a jar opened in the fridge.
    3 - Add peppers, chiles, cilantro and spices to the cooked onion.  Cook together for another 5 minutes or so.
    4- Add chicken, chicken broth, and beans.  Stir and cook over medium heat for 15 minutes.
    Spoon into bowls, topping with cheese and sour cream!  Enjoy!

    Thursday, March 17, 2011

    Luck of the Irish Corned Beef and Cabbage

    Luck of the Irish - a traditional "Irish" meal, at least here in America was served at our home tonight.  Corned Beef, Cabbage, and Roasted Sweet and Red Potatoes.  All that was missing was Irish Soda Bread and a Guinness Chocolate Cake that I have a recipe but lack the energy and willpower not to devour if they were in my house.   Therefore, they were not baked - I spent my day outside in our beautiful sunny weather planting new shrubs and plants in my front beds.
    Several weeks ago, we bought 1/2 of a cow that we then split with a family member, leaving us with 125 lbs of beef.  One of the cuts of beef that we received was Beef Brisket.  We decided to turn our Brisket into Corned Beef courtesy of Alton Brown's recipe.  Following this recipe required some special purchases - Juniper Berries, Allspice Berries, and Saltpeter.  Saltpeter was a tricky product to locate but a local pharmacy was able to order it for me (you have to love service like that!).
    Essentially, you create a brine for the Beef Brisket, leaving the meat to soak for days.  Pretty simple.
    To cook the Brisket, I finished following Alton Brown's recipe
    Add cut veggies of celery, carrot and onion to a large pot with the brisket.
    Add enough water to cover the vegetables and meat.
    Bring to a boil then lower to simmer for 2 1/2 to 3 hours.
    Smelled Heavenly in my kitchen today!

    Monday, March 14, 2011

    Greek Comfort Food - Pastitsio

    It only took my soon to be 4 year old about 7 tries to say "Pastitsio" correctly to a family friend tonight over dinner.  Although the friend thought he was say "Facebook".  Quite a bit different!
    Pastitsio is truly comfort food - a mix of macaroni and cheese and lasagna, but with a mediterranean flair.  SO GOOD!  The two year old was silent for 5 minutes while he savored two servings of Pastitsio tonight.
    Warning - don't be scared of the length of the recipe.  It is not complicated.  Just creates a few dirty dishes to wash.   The preperation time is similar to lasagna with an additional 10 - 12 minutes to create the Bachemel Sauce (egg yolk, butter, milk and flour cooked together - can we say YUM!).  So this definitely would be a dish to plan to prepare when you have a little bit of time.  Clean up though can happen while the dish is baking for 45 minutes.  And it is such a filling dish, your sides can be minimal - we had salad and steamed carrots.
    Ummm, golden brown deliciousness!
    For the complete recipe, check out my very first blog post 6 months ago.

    Shared at Tuesdays at the Table
    Tuesday Night Supper Club
    Mouthwatering Mondays

    Sunday, March 13, 2011

    What's on the Menu March 13 - 19

    Planning this week's menu has been difficult.  I am enjoying a recorded version of this past weekend's Saturday Night Live.  I seem to be having the attention span of a 3 year old.  Luckily, two of this week's meals are already planned - Pastitsio and St Patrick's Day Corned Beef and Cabbage.  And Big Guy has requested Easy Hamburger Soup again but I think I've convinced him to try another soup a try!
    So here is the plan for this week's dinner menu!

    Fish Nuggents with homemade tartar sauce
    Roasted Red Potatoes
    Baked Beans
    Cole Slaw

    Steamed Carrots

    Chicken Divan
    Rice Pilaf

    Beef, Potato and Quinoa Soup

    Corned Beef and Cabbage
    Roasted Potatoes
    Irish Soda Bread


    Chicken Stir Fry with Veggies

    Saturday, March 12, 2011

    Honey Touched Cornbread Muffins

    Confession time.  I can not make cornbread.  At least not like my Mother.  This is her recipe:
    White Cornmeal
    Mix a bit of both till it looks like a mudpie.  Bake in cast iron pan till golden brown.

    I've tried - a couple times.  No luck.  And my oldest son loves my Mother's cornbread.
    So I have resorted to using a boxed cornbread muffin mix.  Totally different from Mother's - touch of sweetness and golden.  But the family loves them.
    The other evening when I was preparing Meatless Chili Mac, the aroma made me crave cornbread muffins.  But I did not have a box of mix in the pantry and about 20 minutes before dinner would be ready.  What to do????
    Search the good 'ole internet and discovered a reason to never buy a box of mix again!  The Neely's from the Food Network Channel have a fabulous Honey Cornbread Muffin recipe.  These were so simple to prepare, were in the oven baking in no time flat.  And they were a HIT!
    This recipe is entirely the Neely's. The only changed I made was to half it - I did not want 6 extra muffins staring at me, calling my name in the middle of the night when I woke with the baby.

    Honey Cornbread Muffins


    • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
    • 1 cup all-purpose flour
    • 1 tablespoon baking powder
    • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1 cup whole milk
    • 2 large eggs
    • 1/2 stick butter, melted
    • 1/4 cup honey
    • Special equipment: paper muffin cups and a 12-cup muffin tin


    Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
    Into a large bowl, mix the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. In another bowl, whisk together the whole milk, eggs, butter, and honey. Add the wet to the dry ingredients and stir until just mixed.
    Place muffin paper liners in a 12-cup muffin tin. Evenly divide the cornbread mixture into the papers. Bake for 15 minutes, until golden.

    Thursday, March 10, 2011

    Easy Hamburger Soup - the name says it all!

    The actually name of this soup truly is Easy Hamburger Soup - and it was simple as pie!  I adapted it to the slow cooker.  Great dinner, super "EASY"!
    Served this with hearty bread and a salad.  Everyone enjoyed it - kids and adults!

    Easy Hamburger Soup (adapted from Taste of Home)

    1 pound lean ground beef
    1 medium onion, chopped
    1 can Diced Tomatoes, undrained
    2 cups Beef Broth
    1 cup water
    4 celery ribs, diced
    2 carrots, diced
    1 tsp thyme
    1 tsp garlic salt
    1/2 cup barley (quick cooking or pearl if you are using slow cooker)
    Pepper to taste
    1 tsp parsley

    1 - Brown ground beef with onions over medium heat until no longer pink.
    2 - Add beef and onions into crockpot.  Add beef broth, water, diced tomatoes, celery, carrots, thyme, salt, barley, pepper and parsley.
    3- Cook on high for 5- 6 hours.
    4 - Serve with Parmesan cheese.  Enjoy!

    Wednesday, March 9, 2011

    Asian Roasted Chicken

    Asian Roasted Chicken - this smelled heavenly and looked beautiful.  For me, this was a perfect recipe to roast chicken to serve with stir fry vegetables and Basmatic Brown rice.  Simple dinner that everyone enjoyed!
    I adapted this recipe from Asian Roast Turkey with Sticky Rice Stuffing.

    Asian Roasted Chicken

    1 whole Fryer Chicken
    2 tablespoons mince garlic
    1/2 cup soy sauce
    2 tablespoons honey
    1 tsp ground ginger
    1 Tablespoon Asian hot sauce (Sriracha sauce)
    1/2 cup cilantro chopped
    Salt and Pepper to taste
    1/4 cup white wine (or apple juice)

    1-Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
    2-Rinse chicken with water.  Take knife and separate skin from from chicken breast and underneath of chicken if possible.
    3-Mix together all ingredients (garlic thru salt and pepper - not wine/juice).
    4-Place Chicken in a roasting pan or large casserole dish.
    5- Rub marinade inside skin onto the meat - top and bottom of chicken.  Pour extra marinade over outside of  chicken.
    6- Cover chicken with lid of roasting pan or foil tent.
    7-Place in preheated oven for 50 min to 1 hour with last 10 min leave uncovered.

    Sunday, March 6, 2011

    What's on the Menu - week of March 6 - 12

    I've had the chance to sort through many, MANY magazines that my Mother has saved for me this weekend.  I literally flip through them till I get to the food sections!  And clip and rip out the recipes I think my family will enjoy.  This week, I am adding several into our menu rotation.

    Ham, Broccoli, and Feta Quiche
    Swiss Onion Bread (thanks to Costco)

    Lamb Chops in Balsamic Reduction
    Mashed Potatoes
    Green Beans

    Asian Roasted Chicken (adapting this from a Turkey recipe)
    Stir Fry Veggies

    Easy Hamburger Soup

    Meatless Chili Mac
    Steamed Broccoli

    Fried/Broiled Fish
    Baked Potatoes

    Moroccan Beef

    Shared this menu with a ton of other ladies at Menu Plan Monday!

    Life made easy - Whole Chicken in the Crockpot

    Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy - that's one of my mottos for life!  Say it often and you'll smile! Trust me - how can you not smile saying words like Peasy and Squeezy!  In the past, when I purchased a whole chicken, I would place in a stock pot with onion, carrot and celery. Add water and cook for about 45 minutes to an hour.  Then I had an AHA! moment!  Why not do the same thing in the crock pot?  I can just put it all together and walk away.  We were away from home for most of the day and had something else planned for dinner (fish tacos).  The smell of the chicken was fabulous!  Had the fish for the tacos not have marinaded all day, it would have been a change of menu plans!
    But, the reason for cooking a whole chicken (and not for dinner), was essentially to have cooked chicken ready in the freezer for soups and casseroles.  Chicken cooked on the bone has so much flavor!  And it made such a great broth for later use as well.

    Whole Chicken in the Crockpot

    1 small fryer (thawed), rinsed with water (remove all the "extras" - livers, neck, etc)
    2 carrots, cut into 2 inch sections
    1 small onion, cut into pieces
    1 rib celery, cut into 2 or 1 in chunks
    1 tablespoon minced garlic

    That's it!  Place some carrots, celery and onion in the cavity of the chicken.  The rest of the veggies that don't fit in the cavity, place in the bottom of the crockpot.  Place chicken in crockpot.  Turn on low for 6-8 hours.  Take out of crockpot.  Let cool and pick chicken off bone.  Save and freeze for later use.  Strain the broth through a strainer to remove veggies.  Great for later use as well.

    Sweet and Savory Stuffed Pork Chops

    I have to admit.  I have never paired apples with pork.  In recent conversations, it seems most people have at some point - either eating it or cooking it.  So when I read a recent article of using fruits with meat to pair and compliment the sweet and savory taste buds, it seemed to be fate.  Big Guy had stopped by the local grocery store on his way home for lunch one day.  Pretty sure he had stopped to buy himself some potato chips - I don't normally buy those, therefore they are not in the house and no tempting anyone.  But Big Guy likes to have chips with his sandwiches.  He is dangerous in a grocery store and Costco.  Always buys good and needed items - just don't send the man in for 3 items and expect less than 6 to be bought!
    Thick, juicy pork chops were begging to be stuffed (or breaded and fried - but you know, have to go with the healthier choice!).  Here is my adaptation of several recipes from the Internet with the main inspiration being this one.

    Sweet and Savory Pork Chops
    (this recipe served our family of 3 adults and 2 kids eating with equal amount leftover)

    6 thick cut pork chops
    1 apple, chopped
    1/2 cup white wine (I used a Chardonnay)
    1/4 cup raisins
    1/3 cup chopped onion
    1/3 cup Italian Bread crumbs
    4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
    2 tablespoons dried Parsley
    1 tablespoon Rosemary
    Salt and Pepper to taste

    preheat oven to 350 degrees.
    1-Heat white wine over medium heat in saucepan.  Add apple, raisins, onion.  Cook for about 5 - 8 minutes or till wine reduces quite a bit. You don't want too much liquid but enough to make the breadcrumbs moist.
    2-Turn off heat.  Add crumbled bacon and bread crumbs.  Mix together. 
    3-Add herbs, salt and pepper.  Set aside.
    4-Take pork chops and cut a pocket into them for stuffing.  I cut on a long side of the chop, leaving the short ends still closed but enough room to stuff easily.  If you cut too much, don't worry.  Just close with a toothpick while cooking.
    5-Stuff pork chops with wine/breadcrumb mixture, about 1/3 cup of stuffing in each chop.
    6-Place stuffed chops in 9x12 baking dish. Cover with foil.
    7-Place dish with chops in preheated oven.  Cook for 30 minutes covered. 
    8-Remove foil and bake for another 15 minutes.
    Served with collard greens and steamed carrots.  Enjoy!