Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sunday Burritos

Tonight I am going to make burritos, but I am not going to use my regular recipe, I want to try something new. My usual recipe is this:

1/2 lb. ground beef
1 can refried beans
1 can petite diced tomatoes with green chiles (undrained)
1 packet burrito seasonings

Brown the ground beef, drain off fat. Mix in the beans, tomatoes and seasonings, stir well to combine. Heat through, about 5 minutes over medium heat.

That is the main filling for the burritos. Then we would top that with shredded lettuce, shredded mexican blend cheese, and sour cream. Yum!

But tonight I am going to use the following as the fillings:

refried beans
yellow rice
pico de gallo
shredded lettuce
sour cream
shredded mexican blend cheese

It's vegetarian, but not for any special reason. I had a burrito made with these ingredients from Chipotle Mexican Grill and it was SOOO good, I decided to replicate it. Now if only I could figure out how to properly roll the burritos without ripping the tortilla. They put the tortilla in some sort of heating/steaming machine at Chipotle before they put your filling in, maybe the steam makes it more pliable. Maybe I should try pressing them with my iron on the high steam setting? Just kidding! If any of you out there know the trick, please share.

Sorry there was no post yesterday, I did not even go on the computer. And I did not cook anything. I bought Cream Cheese Iced Cinnamon Rolls from the grocery store bakery on Friday, so we had those for breakfast. We went to Red Robin for lunch - VERY yummy! They have a delicious Bruschetta Chicken Burger which is served with Garlic Parmesan Fries. They also have a drink called Freckled Lemonade which is lemonade with strawberries in it and you get free refills. It is heaven! Then for dinner we got subs from Jimmy John's and although I keep saying I am going to try their veggie sub, I always get the Turkey Tom with turkey breast (duh), mayo, tomato, lettuce and alfalfa sprouts, plus a jumbo dill pickle. I probably gained 10 lbs., but it was worth it!

Happy eating!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Pizza & Chicken

Hey all, we are ordering pizza tonight, but I did cook something today that I will share with you. My daughter loves to eat chicken, but instead of serving her nuggets all the time I make 'chicken bites' for her. I simply take boneless, skinless chicken breasts and season them with Rotisserie Chicken Seasoning from McCormick, then I cook them in some olive oil in a covered skillet, about 8 minutes per side over medium heat. I let them cool and cut them up into bite size pieces. That's it! She will eat them cold from the fridge for lunch or a snack. I also use them tossed on top of a salad for a light lunch for myself. The seasoning tastes just like the whole rotisserie chicken you can get in the deli section of the store.
Happy eating!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Chicken Kebabs

Tonight I made Chicken Kebabs on the charcoal grill and they were yummy! First I soaked my wood skewers in water. Then I waited for my coals to get nice and hot and covered in grey ash. I put cherry tomatoes, green pepper, red onion and chicken on the skewers. Then I drizzled them with olive oil and sprinkled them with Kickin' Chicken seasoning from Weber Grill Creations, which I got from my MiL awhile ago. I could have just used salt and pepper, it doesn't matter because veggies on the grill are so good! I made a side dish of Knorr Butter Noodles because sometimes my husband doesn't like my chicken dishes, but he seemed to like this one as much as me (it was the veggies).

My daughter asked if we could roast marshmallows since the grill was going, but we didn't have any. So I sent a text to the hubbie asking him to stop at Kmart on the way home and get some, but they only had 'toasted coconut' ones. Have you ever heard of these? I never have, but you can be sure I'll be checking them out at the store tomorrow myself. Anyway, he brought us home some Lindt chocolate instead - sweet!

Happy eating!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Italian Sausage and Paninis

I really wanted to make Chicken Kebabs tonight, but we are supposed to have thunderstorms later and I really don't want to grill in that kind of weather, so I will make those tomorrow. Instead I will throw the Italian Sausage I bought on George. The George Foreman Lean Mean Grilling Machine, that is. We simply call it George* and yes, we still use that relic from the 90's. It is great to use in the winter or on rainy days like today. I also use it as a panini press since 1) I don't have one, 2) I don't have the room for one, and 3) they are expensive and George works just as well. So if you have a George collecting dust in your basement or attic, go find it and make a panini. I am going to have to give you a panini recipe now, aren't I? Okay, here is my favorite one:


8 slices sourdough bread
lunch meat turkey breast slices
swiss cheese slices (or Gruyere if you want to be fancy)
4 garlic cloves
6 tablespoons Dijon mustard
6 tablespoons butter, softened
olive oil

Heat up your panini press or George grill. While it is heating, mix together the butter and mustard in a bowl with a fork. Use a garlic press to press the garlic cloves right into your butter/mustard mixture; again mix well with the fork. Spread this mixture on one side of each slice of bread. Top four of the slices with desired amount of turkey, then with desired amount of swiss cheese. Top the cheese with one slice of bread, mixture side in. (The outside of the sandwiches are dry, the butter mixture goes inside.) Lightly brush the top side of the panini with olive oil and place it olive oil side down on the grill, then lightly brush the other side with oil. Repeat with remaining sandwiches and close the grill lid. (You may not be able to get all the sandwiches on the grill at once. I can usually do two at a time.) Grill until the bread is golden and the cheese is melted.

I got the original recipe from Giada DeLaurentis on the Food Network and changed it slightly to please my tastes. I have served this to a few friends and they all rave about it, so I hope you like it too. I also have a panini recipe that calls for leftover turkey and cranberry from Thanksgiving and you add in some cheddar cheese slices. Another good idea is to make a Caprese panini with pesto, mozzarella cheese and tomato slices. The possibilities are endless.

Tonight I will cook the Italian Sausage on George for 25 minutes, turning them every 5 minutes. We eat them on hot dog buns and I will serve them with coleslaw from Memorial Day and pasta salad that I have in the fridge. The pasta salad is one of those boxed kits where you cook the noodles and add Italian dressing. I always seem to have a 1/4 of a box of bowties or radiatore leftover from something in the cabinet, so I throw those in with the noodles that come in the kit. I also try to change things up by adding chopped olives or tomatoes or salami in there too.

So, does anyone have any other ideas for paninis? Or something fun they add to their pasta salad? I'd love to hear from you!

Happy eating!

* "I'll love him and hug him and squeeze him and name him George." Anyone else remember that Looney Tunes cartoon with Bugs Bunny and the Abominable Snow Monster?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Taco (Salad) Tuesday

What a nice lazy day! After a weekend filled with running around and working on the house, it was nice to take it easy. My daughter and I didn't get out of our jammies until almost noon! I did get some laundry done, did dishes and changed the bedsheets, but I also got to spend part of the day reading the mom-lit book I picked up at the library: Mommy Tracked by Whitney Gaskell.

The lazy day called for an easy dinner, so I decided to make my version of Taco Salad. I have cobbled together the ingredients in my recipe from other recipes for this dish from Allrecipes, which is my favorite website. We also used to make a version of this dish in Girl Scouts and called it Mock Tacos because all the ingredients for tacos are present, but you don't serve it in taco shells or tortillas.

1 lb. ground beef
1 packet taco seasonings
1 can black beans, rinsed
1/2 cup Catalina/French dressing
1/2 cup water
half a head of lettuce, chopped
1 tomato, chopped
1 bag shredded cheddar cheese
sour cream
tortilla chips

Brown the ground beef and drain off the fat. Add the taco seasonings, beans, water and dressing; mix well. Cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring often.
Crush desired amount of tortilla chips in the bottom of a large soup bowl, top with desired amount of beef mixture. Top with cheese, lettuce, tomato and sour cream. Enjoy!

The black beans add some healthy fiber, and of course you can go low-fat or low-cal with the cheese and sour cream. Maybe use baked chips too, if you are really on a health kick. We are not and I only buy full fat, full calorie products. :)
Happy eating!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day/What's For Lunch?

Happy Memorial Day! I hope the weather where you are was better than it was here. We had cold and rainy weather starting in the late afternoon, which is why I am happy that we used the grill for lunch, not dinner. We threw on some hot dogs and some burgers I made with steak seasoning, steak sauce and worchestershire sauce. I bought some potato salad and coleslaw that I dressed up with some extra mayo, seasonings, etc. so it was semi-homemade. My dad came over and ate with us, it was good to see him again. He also brought with him more of the stuff we wanted from the 'empty' house that we could not fit in our car; a shelving unit and large mirror and bench to name a few. Thanks dad!

The rest of the day has been spent rearranging things to fit in the 'new' stuff so my husband suggested getting fast food so I don't have to cook. Thanks hon! We are having Taco Bell for dinner. Happy eating!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Chugga-chugga, choo-choo!

Today we went to the Illinois Railway Museum in Union, IL. It was really fun! They had six different trains running, diesel and electric, that you could ride as many times as you wanted for the $12 admission (kids $8), and a bunch of trains that you could walk through, such as the old Pullman sleeper cars and dining cars, to see what they looked like when they were in operation. There were also some HUGE old fashioned engines that you see in the old movies; you just don't realize how big they are until you are standing next to one.

We grabbed breakfast at the McDonald's in the oasis on I-90 on the way out there at about 9:30am, and we didn't eat again until we left at around 3:30pm. I had packed a small cooler with water, string cheese, pepperoni, and Goldfish which my daughter devoured upon entering the car. My husband and I got some singles with cheese from Wendy's and I tried their new Coffee Toffee Twisted Frosty. It was good, it had a nice coffee taste with bits of toffee in it, but I will stick with a plain Frosty next time.

Now we are home and it is almost 6pm and I am not hungry. I guess I won't be making dinner tonight, we'll just have some snacks later if we are hungry before bedtime.
Happy eating!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Christie's Restaurant

I did not cook dinner tonight, we went out to eat at Christie's Restaurant in Wood Dale. I had the most delicious bowl of Creamy Reuben Soup, which sounds weird, but if you love Reuben sandwiches like I do, it's a bowl of yummy. My 'main course' was a Caesar Chicken Wrap which was quite good, with a side of fries, a slice of cantaloupe and a slice of pineapple.

We went to my dad's house this afternoon and had a nice visit, and then we trekked across the street to my grandmother's old house, which was then my brother's house, and is now empty. Well, empty is the wrong word to use because the house is still full of stuff, but no one lives there. My dad has been asking us to come take a look to see if there is anything we want to take for ages and I am glad we finally made it out there.

After going through everything, which took longer than any of us anticipated, it was dinnertime. So after much debate about where to go, I said "Let's just go to Christie's already" and we did. It is a small, local place where everyone is super friendly and the food is consistently good. My mom used to love the place, and I would go there often when I worked out that way. The best thing on the menu are their soups, which are homemade and delicious. Happy eating!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Friday Night Pizza

In the past we have always ordered a pizza on Friday night with pepperoni or sausage on half. Sometimes with onion rings on the 'cause you need a veggie, or cheese sticks on the side 'cause you can never have enough cheese. :) But with the economic downturn in full swing we sometimes just throw a frozen one in the oven.

We really like the Palermo brand and Tombstone's Garlic Bread pizzas, but I will buy whatever is on sale especially if I have coupons. Red Baron is another good one, and California Pizza Kitchen, DiGiorno, and Freschetta are not bad either. I almost always end up adding some shredded cheese on top during the last five minutes of baking because, like I said, you can never have enough cheese.

Lately we have been ordering from LaVilla, which is where our wedding reception was held. No, it wasn't in a pizzaria; they have a nice restaurant, a small party room, and a beautiful banquet room that seats 300 too. We had my dad's 70th surprise birthday party in the small party room. Can you tell we like the place? Oh! And my husband had my 30th surprise birthday there as well. However, there is a place called Martinos that has a pizza called Capricciosa that they describe as "a marinated mixture of tomatoes, garlic, onion, basil, olive oil and spices" that is like eating a piece of heaven! We say it is like bruschetta toppings covered with mozzerella cheese - it is SO delicious! I also love a good Margherita pizza (which is similar to the Capricciosa) and Marino's in Wood Dale (my hometown) has a great one.

As a kid, we always had pizza night on whatever night our Girl Scout meeting was on; my mom was our co-leader. My parents would ALWAYS get sausage, onion, green pepper and if my brother and I didn't like it, we could pick off the toppings (which is what we did) or eat something else. I was in GS from 1st grade thru 12th grade and my mom was always a co-leader, and then after I graduated I became her co-leader and we had a junior troop together for a few years. Ah, the memories! I miss you mom! I am still best friends with two girls from Troop #710, D. and A., I love you guys!

I have a Palermo's in the freezer that we will eat tonight, with salad on the side. The weather has cooled off considerably, today it is only 65 out here with the lake breeze, although I heard on the news that it was closer to 72 further inland. Never underestimate mighty Lake Michigan...

Happy eating!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Breakfast For Dinner

It is getting to the end of the week and I do my grocery shopping on Fridays, so there are not many choices for dinner. I don't want to turn on the oven for frozen pizza even thought I don't feel like cooking because it is supposed to be in the 80's again today. I don't want to stand in front of the stove forever to make Fried Ravioli either. The only two options left on my list are Dirty Rice and Breakfast. Since the breakfast items are more perishable (the ground beef for Dirty Rice is frozen), breakfast it is! Although this still means standing in front of the stove...

Now, what will I do with those eggs? I also have a can of cheddar cheese soup in the pantry, frozen broccoli and cauliflower in the freezer, and half a roll of pork sausage and english muffins in the fridge. Would it be gross to put all those things in a casserole? Maybe, and I would have to turn on the oven. I have a recipe for a frittata that calls for diced potatoes which I would substitute with cut up english muffins, but again I have to turn on the oven. >sigh< Looks like stove-top scrambled eggs or omellettes, sausage patties and toasted english muffins wins. Maybe I'll pour some of the cheese soup over scrambled eggs and top it with the homemade fresh tomato salsa I have in the fridge! Now THAT sounds yummy! And worth standing in front of a stove for too.

I have to finish my grocery list for tomorrow. We are on a budget, like everyone these days, and I pour over the sales papers circling things we need or use a lot. I also try to match up coupons with sale items for extra savings. Then I make a list of the meals I want to cook next week and look at the recipes to see what I have in the pantry and what I need to buy. I also have a list of everyday things we use like butter, milk, shampoo, etc. that I use to jog my memory so I don't forget anything. The best idea I have implemented is to have a legal pad on a clipboard with a pen attached hanging in my pantry. Whenever I run out of something or notice we are getting low, I immediately write it on the list. This has been the biggest help to me because otherwise I forget we are out of dryer sheets, or worse, toilet paper.

I pretty much know the price of everything we buy, and use the sales papers to fill in the blanks, then I write down the prices on my list and add it all up. If I am over the budget (and I am always over the budget) then I have to start crossing things off the list, like those macadamia nuts I was craving or the bag of Funions for my husband, until I get to my magic number. On rare occasions I have to change my menu plan and pick cheaper meals.

So far I have the following planned for next week: Chicken Kabobs with Cherry Tomatoes, Onion and Green Pepper, Taco Salad, Italian Sausage on Rolls with Coleslaw, and Burritos. Nice, light summery foods and not one thing that has to go in the oven!
Happy eating!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Do I have to turn on the oven today? (What was I thinking?!)

Today is going to be the hottest day of the year (so far), hitting 82 degrees; do I really have to turn on my oven for an hour? Yes, I do. "Why would you do such a thing?!" you may ask. Well, last week when the weather was still relatively cool I invited my recently widowed father-in-law to come over for dinner on Wednesday, and I wanted to make him some of my yummy pork chops. So here we are.

Yes, I am making pork chops! Some people don't like them because they have only ever eaten dry, tough pork chops. But mine are always juicy and tender; they take awhile in the oven and they are worth the wait! So this is how I will make them tonight:(this is my mom's recipe and again, this is a non-recipe recipe):

pork chops
black pepper
caraway seeds
olive oil
1 cup beef broth

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut any excess fat off the chops. Season chops on both sides with pepper and caraway seeds. Coat the bottom of a large skillet with olive oil and heat over medium high heat. Add chops to skillet and sear for 3-4 minutes per side. Transfer chops to 9x13 pan. Deglaze the skillet with the beef broth, then pour broth over chops. Cover the pan tightly with tin foil and bake for one hour.

(Deglazing a pan is to pour in a liquid and stir up the browned bits on the bottom to make a sauce. Searing meat helps to seal in juices and adds color.)

These come out so tender you don't need a knife! I like to eat mine with some of the pan juices poured over them, my husband likes some italian dressing on his. I will be serving them with a garden salad and Rice-A-Roni spanish rice. I am getting hungry just thinking about them!

I guess it is good that I made guacamole before I started writing this post, I am gonna put a serious dent in it now! I got my guac recipe at the mall, of all places. There was a kiosk set up by Hass Avocados from Mexico with free chips and guac and recipe cards, so I grabbed some. I used to hate avocado as a kid, my mom was always trying to get me to eat some because she loved it. So that day at the mall I thought "Why not try it now? Maybe my tastes have changed..." and I am so glad I did. I do love it now, and here is the guacamole recipe from Hass:

2 ripe Hass avocados
1/4 cup diced onion
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup fresh salsa

Mash up the avocado and stir in the other ingredients. Easy-peasy!

I use my own homemade fresh salsa and omit the onion because my salsa has enough onion in it for me. I also like to eat avocado in a panini I get at a local restaurant which has grilled chicken breast, tomato, mozzarella cheese and avocado on french bread. Ooooh! Now I am really hungry! I have to go eat!
Happy eating!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Simple Tuesday

Tuesday night dinners are usually very simple for two reasons. First, this is the night of my husbands Civil Air Patrol meeting, so he is home from work extra early at 3:30pm since he has to leave again at 6:30pm. Second, I am usually babysitting my neighbors daughter, and cooking dinner while refereeing the girls leads to burned meals.

My neighbor J. and her daughter D. are the best neighbors ever. We like them so much we put a gate in the fence between our yards so the girls and J.'s two golden lab dogs can run back and forth. She is a single mom so I babysit once or twice a week and have been doing so since D. was 3 months old. The girls are like sisters, which is wonderful. My earlier referee comment was unfair, since they usually get along great. They have learned to share and take turns because of each other and also to be good friends. My daughter will start kindergarten this fall, which is 5 days a week, so my babysitting will come to an end. I know we will still see them a lot since they live next door, but I will miss D!

Anyway, dinner tonight will be hot dogs on buns with traditional Chicago toppings: yellow mustard, a dash of celery salt, pickle, and tomato. My husband will put hot giardiniera on his, but that is too spicy for me. Some purists would spank me for not using poppy seed buns or Vienna hot dogs or bright green relish. Sorry, but my buns are seedless, the hot dogs are the Farmland brand because they were on sale, and I am out of relish. And I must admit I love that un-naturally green, sweet, crunchy stuff.

One side dish will be Bush's Steakhouse Grillin' Beans, which are much better than regular baked beans, but expensive so I only buy them on sale. The other side dish will be Cucumber/Dill/Sour Cream salad and here is my non-recipe recipe:

2 cucumbers
lemon juice
sour cream

Peel the cucumbers, then slice them very thin. Put them in a bowl and generously sprinkle them with salt. Toss, sprinkle with more salt and toss again. Put in the fridge for at least two hours. While the cukes are in the fridge, mix about 1 cup of sour cream with a splash of lemon juice, a generous sprinkle of pepper and a bunch of dill. Mix well and put in the fridge. When two hours are up, drain the liquid off the cucumber slices. Then mix in the sour cream mixture, stirring well. Now taste it and adjust seasonings as needed.

I call that a "non-recipe recipe" because I make this from memory; it's something my mom taught me how to make and she never used a recipe either.

Happy eating!

Monday, May 18, 2009

First Dinner

This is my blog about what is for dinner every night at my house. We live on the north side of Chicago in a bungalow with a backyard big enough for a small garden. "We" are me, a 36 year old stay at home mom, my 5 year old daughter, and my husband who I have been happily married to for 7 years.

I have been cooking for a long time. I learned how to cook from my mom when I was in high school. She went back to work as an accountant, so during tax season if I didn't cook we didn't eat until 10pm. My brother and father were no help in the kitchen, so it was up to me. But that was okay because I would try all kinds of new recipes that my mom never made, like Mexican food. I didn't really learn to love to cook until I was married and had my own kitchen, but I had fun using my family as guinea pigs. :)

Since this is my first post, I'll give you tonight AND last nights dinners! (I hope you can handle the excitement.) Tonight I made homemade pizza. I used two boxes of Jiffy crust, which is good and easy. I made garlic oil for one crust and used Dei Fratelli canned sauce for the other. I sprinkled both with salt, pepper and chopped basil. The garlic oil pizza got fresh chopped tomatoes, then they both got topped with shredded italian blend cheese. Yummy! I also made rice pudding for dessert, which I will only make because my wonderful aunt gave me a rice cooker.

Dinner last night was my version of Pomodoro Pasta. I like to use fresh ingredients from my garden, but since this is Chicago and it is only May I had to use store bought.

8 ripe tomatoes
6 large basil leaves, chopped
6 tablespoons olive oil
salt & pepper to taste
1 cup white cooking wine
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 package thin spaghetti

Cook spaghetti according to package directions. While spaghetti cooks, dice the tomatoes. Put them in a large skillet with all the other ingredients. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 5-10 minutes. Serve with garlic bread and generous sprinkle of parmesan cheese.

I cannot remember where I got the original recipe for this, but I know I did a lot of tweaking to get it to my liking. I once tried to use pinot grigio wine in place of the cooking wine, but it was too dry. Happy eating!