Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Breakfast For Dinner, Again

I must start by saying that the spaghetti sauce last night was delish! We each had seconds, it was SO good. That recipe definitely makes it into the rotation!

Tonight we are having breakfast for dinner. I will make omelettes stuffed with American cheese and my pico de gallo for me and the hubbie, and scrambled eggs for my kid. I have a roll of pork sausage to make patties, and a box of english muffins too. Nothing fancy, but it will be good.

I was reading all the blogs I follow this morning and I found a lot of new recipes I can't wait to try. Some people are just so creative when it comes to food, such as Heidi who thought of putting string cheese into manicotti noodles for Easy To Stuff Manicotti; how great is that?! Or Krista who sprinkles the bread with balsamic vinegar for her bruschetta; doesn't that sound wonderfully yummy?! Or Bakerella who turns a ruined chocolate cake into Triple Chocolate Trifle - heaven in a bowl! These are truly inspired people and I hope someday I am half the cooks they are. Thanks for sharing, ladies!

I am also trying to tame my "main cookbooks" this morning. I have two 3-ring binders; one for dinners, breakfasts, soups, appetizers and side dishes, and another for cookies, cakes, pies, desserts and drinks. I don't like to buy cookbooks, I prefer to borrow them from the library and copy out the recipes that I want to try. I also tear recipes out of magazines and the newspaper, and print them from the Internet. Then I put them all in the front pocket of the binders and it ends up a big mess. So I am trying to organize all these loose recipes by taping them to paper and 3-hole punching them and putting them in the binders under the correct categories. It's a work in progress to say the least. But it also saves me from having 500 cookbooks and never being able to find that one recipe I am looking for...

Happy eating!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Creamy Spaghetti Sauce

My daughters preschool put together a cookbook with recipes they got from all the moms (and one dad) and sold it as a fundraiser. It was the first time they did this and we all learn from our mistakes, so I am sure that next time there won't be two practically identical recipes for veggie pizza, side by side no less, in the book. LOL
They sold a ton of them and hopefully raised a bunch of money.

There are a few recipes I am looking forward to trying and Creamy Spaghetti Sauce is one of them, so I am making it today. The quote in the book is "I never thought much of spaghetti until this recipe." Her comment intrigued me for some reason.

1 lb ground beef (or turkey)
1 small onion
1 packet spaghetti seasoning
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can diced tomatoes
1 small can tomato paste
1 can tomato sauce
1 can mushrooms

Cook meat and onion together - add garlic once meat has turned brown. Drain mushrooms and tomatoes, and add all other ingredients in large pot. Salt and pepper to taste. Cook on low heat or slow cooker for a few hours - add water as needed. Always better the second day.

That is exactly how it is typed in the cookbook. I did not add the can of mushrooms since my husband is not a fan of them. It does not say how big the tomato sauce can should be, so I used an 8oz. can, and I did not drain the diced tomatoes.

I threw it all in the slow cooker after browning the beef with the onion, and after letting it cook on low for an hour I tasted it. It was good, but needed a bit more seasoning for my liking so I put in a 1/2 tsp. of each: salt, pepper, oregano, basil, and garlic powder. I like it much better now. The cream of mushroom soup does add an extra flavor and creaminess that is nice, and the house smells wonderful. I'm sure it will be terrific later served on spaghetti noodles with garlic bread and salad.

We went to the library today to report on books for the summer reading program and there was a regular police car and an un-marked outside. I thought maybe it was for the aldermans office next door, but there were 4 officers inside the library. Apparently someone dropped off their autistic or handicapped child at the library and left. Librarians are not babysitters, so they called the police. It makes you wonder about some people.

Happy eating!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Cheeseburgers & Pico De Gallo

Tonight I made cheeseburgers on the grill, which I have been doing a lot lately it seems. But they are so yummy! I put steak seasoning, steak sauce, and Worcestershire sauce in them. I really need to try some new toppings or something new in the mix. I will have to look for some interesting ideas on my favorite websites soon.

Today my wonderful neighbor J. had my daughter at her house most of the day. The girls were playing so nicely and they had two 'babysitters' because J.'s step-sister (who is 20) and J.'s cousin's daughter (who is 13) were there visiting, while J.'s cousin cut and colored her hair. I took the opportunity to get some weeding done and make pico de gallo. Then my husband went out for awhile and after checking that my kid was not overstaying her welcome, I put the Sex & The City movie in the DVD player and had some nice 'me' time.

Have I shared my pico recipe with you? I can't remember, so here you go:

8 plum tomatoes
1 jalapeno
1 medium red onion
2 limes
4 cloves garlic
1 tsp. salt

Dice the tomatoes into small bits that will fit nicely on a chip. As you chop, place them in a colander in the sink so the excess juices drain off. Then finely chop the garlic and onion and put that on top of the tomatoes. Then finely chop the jalapeno, preferably wearing a rubber or latex glove. The oils will stay on your skin long after you are done. The real heat is in the white rib and seeds inside, so add as much or as little of that as you like. Now transfer the mix from the colander and the jalapeno to a large bowl. Squeeze in the juice of the two limes. I add a little bit of zest too, because I love limes. Add the salt, and mix well. This always tastes better after it sits for awhile and the flavors blend.

I use this in omelettes, mixed with avocados for guacamole, and anywhere else I think it might taste good. I think my husband put some on his burger tonight. That's all for now, I have a headache and am going to bed.

Happy eating!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Fast Food For All

Today was spent cleaning the kitchen, from top to bottom. I took everything off the tops of the cabinets and washed it; vases, candles, pitchers, bottles. Then my hubbie washed the ceiling and the walls. We have that plastic tile from the 40's in a pretty white/yellow/green combination; it's easy to clean. Then I cleaned the ceiling fan, he did the countertops, and I mopped the floor. Whew.

We also have a house guest for a week - my husband's brother's dog, Molly. She is a medium sized mutt, 13 years old, and very lovable. She spent most of today pacing around, I would guess looking for her daddy, poor thing. I hope she isn't too anxious all week.

So after working in the kitchen and worrying about the dog we had to run to Target and while we were out we got McDonald's for my girl, Taco Bell for me, and Subway for my husband. Sorry there is no recipe! Tomorrow - I promise!

I checked out Paula Deen's The Deen Family Cookbook from the library and it has some really great seafood recipes in it that I can't wait to try. Of course, it's Paula Deen so every recipe has cheese, butter, bacon or a combination of those things - oh, and it will also need to be fried! Joking aside, I love dear Paula and her wonderful recipes. And I never miss a show when her son Jamie is on, he makes things extra yummy (if you know what I mean!). LOL

Happy eating!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Enchiladas & Spanish Rice

It is Friday night, but no pizza for us! We just had it on Wednesday, remember? :) So I made cheese enchiladas and spanish rice for dinner. The enchiladas are my husband's recipe and I'm sure he won't mind me sharing it with you. It also has a little quirk that is so cute and husband-like:

1 brick pepper jack cheese
1 package shredded cheddar cheese
1 can enchilada sauce
5 flour tortillas

Do NOT preheat the oven. Pour a little of the enchilada sauce in the bottom of a 9x13 pan. Cut the pepper jack brick into 15 pieces (across the width of the cheese, not the length). Grab a tortilla and place 2 slices of the cheese end to end close to one end of the tortilla, then top those with one more piece of cheese centered on the first two. Roll up the tortilla and place it seam side down in the pan. Do the same to the other four tortillas. Pour the rest of the sauce over the rolled up tortillas evenly. Top with a generous sprinkle of cheddar cheese; cover the pan tightly with foil. Put the pan in the oven and THEN turn on the oven to 350 degrees; bake for 20 minutes. Serve with sour cream and spanish rice.

The quirk is not preheating the oven. I have no idea why he did that, my guess is he always forgot to preheat it. One time I did preheat the oven and pepper jack got too melted and ran out of the tortillas, it was not good. I guess you could preheat the oven and not bake them for as long, but I like to do it his way - it makes me smile.

I have tried many kinds of boxed spanish rice mix and my favorite was the Jewel store brand, but they discontinued it. >sigh< I like Zatarain's and Rice-A-Roni brands, where you add a can of diced tomatoes. I always use petite diced tomatoes with green chiles for an extra kick.

For those of you who might have been interested: The meatballs from Aldi were good, not great like homemade (nothing ever is), but good. I will use them again.

I also have to share this: my little sous chef peeled her first cucumber today with the veggie peeler, with minimal help from me. I was so proud! She was so proud! I must admit, I don't remember cooking with or helping my mom in the kitchen when I was little. I don't know if this is because I didn't or if I just don't remember it; I have very few memories from childhood. Not that is was bad, it was pretty great actually; I just have a bad memory. And it isn't getting any better! LOL

The dinner ideas for the next week are Shrimp Scampi Pasta, Chicken & Bowties, Fried Ravioli, Creamy Spaghetti, Hamburgers On The Grill, and Breakfast. Are you hungry yet?

Happy eating!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Meatball Sub Sandwiches

Today I am gonna throw some frozen meatballs into the slow cooker with a jar of pasta sauce and call it dinner. I would normally make homemade meatballs, but I wanted to try the frozen kind from Aldi. The 16 oz. bag was $2.00 and it says there are approx. 32 meatballs inside.

Hopefully they taste good and I can use them for other things in the future when I am in a hurry. I have french bread for the sandwiches, and leftover shredded mozzarella cheese from the pizza yesterday to top the sandwiches.

Because I like to share and they are truly yummy, here is my homemade meatball recipe (which I got out of Martha Stewart Living magazine ages ago):
1 lb. ground beef
4 tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
2 eggs
6 tbsp. breadcrumbs
1/4 cup milk
1 1/2 tsp. salt
olive oil

In a large bowl, combine beef, parsley, Parmesan, eggs, breadcrumbs, milk & salt. Mix together well with your hands. Form the mixture into meatballs with your hands (or use a melon baller) and place them on wax paper. Heat about 1 tbsp. of olive oil in a large skillet; add the meatballs and cook, turning occasionally until they are brown all over.

Now you can finish cooking them one of two ways:
#1: Put the meatballs in a large pot or slow cooker with 1-2 jars of pasta sauce. In the pot, cover and simmer for 1 hour. In the slow cooker, cover and cook on low for 4 hours.
#2: Line a 9x13 pan with foil. Add meatballs to pan and cover tightly with foil. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Option #2 is good for recipes where you put meatballs into cocktail or BBQ sauce. Or you can freeze them on a cookie sheet and then throw them in a plastic bag to use at a later date.

Does anyone have a cure for bugs eating your plants? My poor little basil plants, that I started from seeds, are not doing well. They are chewed full of holes. My sunflowers are not doing good either, same problem. I bought some Garden Safe insecticide soap to spray on them, but it doesn't seem to be working.

I need to go work on my grocery list. I need to come up with 6 dinners for next week, plus any breakfast and lunch items, plus snacks, plus any cleaning supplies, plus personal things like shampoo and deodorant, plus the staples like butter, tin foil, and mustard; all for $100. Wish me luck!

Happy eating!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Pizza On The Grill

Pizza made on the grill is delicious! My kitchen is a disaster because my 5 year old sous chef was VERY helpful with the flour and because I was in a hurry and just throwing things around, but we had a lot of fun. I had heard of grilling dough before, but did not have the nerve to try it until I saw it on the blog This Stop Willoughby. It was an adventure to say the least and now that I have done it once I know next time will be easier.

I had tried to make this once before, but my yeast was very old and did not 'proof'. This means that after adding yeast to warm water it will bubble and foam, it takes 5-10 minutes. Another good tip is too add your sugar to the water, then add the yeast; it will foam up a lot more. I also tested the water temp with my candy thermometer and after running the hot water tap for a couple minutes, it came out at a perfect 110 degrees. If the water is too hot it will kill the yeast, too cold and it won't work.

Anyway, this time it worked! I put all the other ingredients into my KitchenAid stand mixer with the dough hook and it did all the work for me. The full recipe for Grill Dough is at Allrecipes, if you are interested. Then I placed the dough in an oiled bowl, covered it with a towel, and put it in the attic (a very warm place) to rise. While it was rising, I made garlic oil and started the grill. After the dough was done rising, I punched it down and tore the dough in half. Then I was trying to get it to stretch out so it wasn't too thick or too thin and I ended up making it too thin. So when I threw it on the grill I folded it in half. The second one went much better. I grilled it on both sides and brought it back into the kitchen to top.

I put pizza sauce, red onion, green pepper, and a dash of S&P on one; the other one got garlic oil, fresh sliced tomato, basil, and S&P, and of course they both got lots of Italian blend shredded cheese. Back on the grill they went, and after about 8 minutes they were done. My FiL was here for dinner and we all gave the pizza rave reviews. Triumph! I was afraid the dough would be under-cooked, but it was perfect and the grill gives it a nice layer of flavor that you can't get in your oven.

I will definitely make this again, maybe doing a BBQ chicken topping with Gouda for me and a sliced jalapeno with a cheddar/mozzarella blend for my husband. Yummmm...

Happy eating!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Crunchy Tacos

Boy, is it HOT here today! I know it is really hot because my daughter went outside to play and came back in after only 10 minutes. That NEVER happens. LOL

Tonight I am making tacos for dinner. I bought Old El Paso Stand'n'Stuff taco shells partly to see if they are any easier/better for stuffing and partly because they were on sale. I will brown the ground beef and add water and a McCormick Taco Seasoning packet, and I will serve lettuce, cheese, tomato, taco sauce, and sour cream for toppings. I also have a half a pouch of yellow rice (leftover from something) that I will throw in the rice cooker.

My aunt got me the rice cooker; I think she said it was only $7 at Walgreens. I don't remember if I have sung the virtues of the rice cooker on my blog before, but here goes: I never used to cook rice because I could never get it right; it was either too watery or too dry. This little rice cooker machine is wonderful! It always comes out perfect and you don't have to hover over it, just turn it on and walk away. I had seen these little contraptions before and thought "Oh, I never cook rice so I don't need one". And although I still don't cook a ton of rice, I have used it a few times; twice to make rice pudding which my husband loves. And it is on the small side for an appliance which is always a plus. Thanks again auntie!

Happy eating!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Longhorn Steakhouse (& A Rant)

We are taking my dad out to dinner tonight to Longhorn Steakhouse as a belated Father's Day gift. My FiL came over last night and we gave him some books about Chicagoland that we knew he would really enjoy. The Grilled Sub I made yesterday came out great, I will definitely make that again. The Dreamsicle Ice Cream Cake was so good that we ate almost all of it, although I will add more orange sherbet next time; it was about 1/3 sherbet and 2/3 cream filling and I think it should be a 1/2 and 1/2 ratio to be perfect.

Someone posted awhile ago about the size of toilet paper shrinking while the cost remained the same. They said that the roll width was shorter in the new package of TP. I have not experienced the TP thing myself, but I did notice that the box of dryer sheets I buy at Aldi for $2 now has only 70 sheets per box instead of the 80 sheets per box it used to contain. Has anyone else noticed anything like this? It bugs me that they are doing this to consumers.

The other thing that has me upset are the eggs at Jewel. They were selling them for $2.30 per dozen, which is just ridiculous. I would pay $1.40 at Aldi. But now Jewel has "slashed prices across the store" and their eggs are now $1 per dozen. What upsets me is that they were very obviously price gouging on the eggs because you know they are STILL making a profit selling them for a buck.

We went to Target yesterday and I checked out the prices in their grocery section. They have some really great prices on name-brand things and I really like their Market Pantry house-brand stuff too. One example was Bush's Grillin' Beans that Target had for $1.77. I know that at Jewel they sell them for over $3. It really goes to show that it helps to know the prices of what you are buying.

Of course not everyone can run from store to store all day to get the best prices on everything, but most of us are at Target for something or other on a weekly basis. I am a crazy lady when it comes to my grocery shopping and I think nothing of going to 4 or 5 different stores on Friday mornings when I do my shopping. We are on a very tight budget and I am willing to get every single sale price I can find so I can buy what I want and not go over the budget. Anyway, good luck out there and...

Happy eating!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Grilled Subs & Dreamsicle Cake

Happy Father's Day! (to any dads out there who might be reading this.)

My own husband is laying on the couch snoozing, while I simultaneously type this post and play the Tinkerbell Memory game with my daughter. I am losing big-time folks. :)

Tonight I will be making Grilled Sub Sandwiches; I got the recipe from Krista's Kitchen, although I have changed a few of the fillings for the sandwich. Here's how you do it:

1 big loaf Italian bread
Italian salad dressing
mozzarella cheese
provolone cheese
green pepper
olive oil
salt & pepper

Heat up your grill. Slice the green pepper and onion, place in the center of a large sheet of tin foil. Season with olive oil, salt & pepper; fold up foil to create a packet. Grill the packet for 12-15 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare your bread. Slice it in half and remove some of the soft inside bread from the top half. Brush the inside of the bread with the Italian dressing; grill dressing side down for 3-5 minutes. Then layer all your fillings on the bottom half of the bread (grilled onion & green pepper, salami, pepperoni, tomato, and cheeses) and top with the lid. Wrap it securely in more tin foil and grill it until the cheese is melted.

Doesn't that sound yummy? I can't wait to make them tonight! Thanks for the great idea Krista!

Earlier this morning, my little kitchen helper (aka my daughter) helped me make a Dreamsicle Ice Cream Cake for dessert. She is 5 1/2 and is getting really good at using the hand mixer. This recipe is from Kraft; they have a newsletter full of great recipes that gets delivered to my inbox about every two weeks. It is at www.kraftfoodscompany.com if you are interested. Here is the recipe for the cake:

2 cups orange sherbert, slightly softened
1 - 8oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
1 - 14oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup orange juice
1 - 8oz. Cool Whip, thawed

Line a 9x5 loaf pan with tin foil. Spread sherbert into the bottom of pan; put in freezer. In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Beat in the milk and juice. Gently stir in the Cool Whip. Spread this mixture over the sherbert; cover with plastic wrap. Freeze for at least 3 hours. Remove plastic wrap, invert cake onto a serving plate, remove foil.

We licked the spoon (of course) when the Cool Whip mixture was done - yum! I don't know what I am looking forward to more, the sub or the cake.

Sorry I haven't posted the last couple of days, but there was nothing exciting to report. On Friday night we had a Tombstone Garlic Bread Cheese Pizza. Last night we had Subway subs; I had Tuna on Wheat with tomato, lettuce and red onion. I made American Cheese Omelettes this morning. Okay, I gotta go clean the grill for later!

Happy eating!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Chicken Sandwich

Tonight's dinner will be chicken sandwiches. There are only about a million ways to make chicken sandwiches, and this is the way I am gonna make 'em this time:

4 chicken breasts
salt & pepper
8 oz. cream cheese
2 tsp. dill
1 tbsp. fresh minced garlic
4 kaiser rolls

Season chicken with salt and pepper. Cook on the grill until done. Meanwhile, mix the cream cheese, dill, and garlic together until well blended. Serve chicken on a kaiser roll with lettuce, tomato, and a healthy smear of the cream cheese mixture.

I got the original recipe for this from Allrecipes, but the dill and garlic it called for were overpowering, so this is my version. Now that I am looking at it I think a squeeze of fresh lemon juice in the cream cheese mixture might be a nice, bright addition. Hmmm... I'll have to experiment with that later. Of course, you can always use a different bread too, maybe ciabatta or a croissant?

Happy eating!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Baked Mostaccioli

Tonight I wanted to make Pizza On The Grill, but my yeast would not proof. So I tried again; nothing. Then I noticed that the package said Best If Used By Feb. 2008. Oops! I thought it was fresher than that. My bad.

My FiL is coming for dinner again, so plan B is Baked Mostaccioli and Cheesy Garlic Bread. I am going to add some roasted garlic that I have in the fridge to the jarred sauce, which should make it better, along with salt & pepper. Oh, I'll serve Green Salad too. We STILL have some left from our Big Salad night which was over a week ago (it was a really big Big Salad), but for some reason has not yet wilted in the fridge. Weird, huh?

Thinking about how to jazz up the pasta sauce made me remember a recipe I recently came across in the cookbook that my daughter's school sold for a fundraiser. All the mom contributed recipes for it; this recipe had ground beef, onions, tomato sauce, and cream of mushroom soup in it to be simmered in a slow cooker. Cream of Mushroom Soup in a spaghetti sauce recipe? I was intrigued at the time and I am glad I thought of it again - it is going on the Dinner Ideas List for sure.

Today I had 3 of my daughters school friends over for a playdate. It went really well! The girls got along great; they played with the dress-up clothes, then had a tea party, then they did a puzzle together, and then I served lunch. The preschool set is not known for their culinary tastes, so I gave them hot dogs, grapes, watermelon, and Goldfish. After that we built castles for the Barbie dolls with cardboard blocks and played with the dolls. Then we went outside to the backyard where I had set up the princess tent, tunnels, sidewalk chalk, and balls. They had a great time and no one got hurt, which is always a plus. It was a bit crazy at times, but I'll definitely do it again.

Happy eating!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Egg & Cheese Sandwiches

I have been getting majorly distracted today. Earlier I grabbed my sewing kit and started repairing all my daughters dress-up princess dresses that had tears in them because 1) 4/5 year olds do not know how to be gentle and 2)I invited three of her school friends over tomorrow for a playdate, so I want the rips fixed before they get bigger. The rips, not the kids. :) I was working on the last dress when the phone rang, so I put it down and took the call. Then I decided to check email. Then I wandered into the kitchen for something to drink and I discovered my notepad, main recipe book, and sales papers all over the kitchen table. I had been working on the grocery list because when I checked email this morning I saw that Krista had a new post about Grilled Sub Sandwiches which look SO yummy that I had to go and write it down on the grocery list so I wouldn't forget to make them. I had walked away from that because I heard the dryer stop, so I went downstairs to get the laundry and saw my sewing box. So I grabbed it and brought it up with me to work on the dresses, which is how that started. Now the kitchen table is still covered with the grocery list stuff and the last dress is still sitting half finished on the couch. And what am I doing? Why, ignoring all that and posting to my blog, of course! Oh, and the laundry is still sitting on my bed waiting to be folded. LOL!

Tonight I am going to make the Egg & Cheese Sandwiches I read about on Heidi's blog, which she got from Krista. (Their blogs are listed under My Blog List and you should really check them out if you have not done so yet.) I have 'country-style' thick sliced white bread in the cabinet, a dozen large eggs, and sliced American, Cheddar, and Pepper-Jack cheese. Not that I will use all those cheeses on the sandwiches, but it's good to have options. I will serve it with a green salad, which we still have a ton of left because we did not eat any salad yesterday with the Hash. I am going to make scrambled eggs, instead of easy-over or hard-over, for our sandwiches because it's easier for me and then my daughter can have scrambled eggs for dinner. I must say, I am really looking forward to trying these sandwiches tonight - I just know they will be yummy!

Oh, I have a funny story to tell you. My husband woke up on Sunday with a swollen uvula, which is that little thing that hangs down at the back of your throat. Apparently this can happen to people who snore a lot (like him). He checked out some medical websites and found that Benadryl and ibubrofen can help. My daughter overheard us talking about it, so we told her what was going on. The next day my kid wanders next door through the backyard, and while my neighbor is making breakfast, my daughter proceeds to tell her that 'daddy is sick and that his vulva isn't feeling good'. LOL! When my neighbor questioned her about the word, she said 'well, it's something like that'. She is only 5 years old and does not know the word vulva, but that is how she pronounced uvula - too funny!

Happy eating!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Cheesy Hamburger Hash

It is a beautiful day in the city! We ran some errands this morning and I finally picked up cherry tomato plants for my garden. After I finish this post I will eat lunch and then go get those babies in the ground.

One of our errands was to return some books to the library and sign up my daughter, J., for the summer reading program. The place was mobbed! Who knew kids really DO like to read?! haha! Each week the kids have to report on books they have read and they are entered in a raffle to win a book, then at the end if they have read 25 books they get a t-shirt. This years theme is Land Of Lincoln, which I personally think is pretty boring. Last year was Going Green about recycling and such, and was much more interesting for the kids.

I also made more of those Lemon Bars from Bakerella's blog. They are SO good! And so easy too. I had to have the oven on, but only for 40 minutes and it was still early so it was not hot out yet.

Anyhoo, I have some ground beef I need to use so I am going to make Cheesy Hamburger Hash. It is a stove-top meal - no oven! haha! I do not remember where I got this recipe and I haven't had it that long, maybe 5 or 6 years. My brain just does not work like it used to... >sigh<

1 lb. ground beef
2 tablespoons butter
1 bag frozen O'brien diced potatoes
1 can petite diced tomatoes with Italian herbs, undrained
2 tablespoons parsley
1/2 tablespoon garlic-pepper-salt
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

In a medium saucepan, brown ground beef and drain off fat.
Meanwhile in a large skillet, melt the butter then add the potatoes. Cover and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
To the potatoes, add in beef, tomatoes, and seasonings; stir well. Cover and cook for 5 minutes. Stir well, then pat mixture down. Sprinkle with cheese, cover, cook 5 more minutes.

You could buy regular diced tomatoes and add your own Italian seasonings, or use mozzarella cheese instead. A lot of times I have half used bags of different shredded cheeses in my fridge and I just use those to get rid of them. My husband really loves this dish. Tonight I will serve it with a big green salad.

Happy eating!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

B.L.T. Sandwiches

Yesterday morning was cold and rainy and I was glad I had nowhere to go. My husband left the house at 8am to have breakfast with some friends, and my daughter slept until 9:30am. So I picked up the awesome book I have been reading and made some progress with it. It is called Undress Me In The Temple Of Heaven by Susan Jane Gilman. It is a really good book based on a true story; in 1986 after graduating from college, Susan and her friend Claire, decide to backpack around the world, starting in China. It is before 9/11, before cell phones, even before the Tiananmen Square massacre.

Anyway, we didn't really get motivated to do anything until the sun came out in the afternoon. Then we went in the yard; the husband cut the grass, I pulled weeds from my gardens, the kid was on her swing. Before we knew it, it was 6pm and we were hungry. So instead of rushing to cook something, we decided to use the Chili's gift card we had and go out to dinner. We totally lucked out too; first we found a killer parking spot right in front of the door. The wait was 30-45 minutes, but a table was just opening up in the bar area. The kid was thrilled at the prospect of sitting up high on a bar stool/chair around a table and the bar area was filled with people on dates, not drunk idiots, so we took it. The food was really good and the portion sizes were huge. I had Fire Roasted Chicken Quesadillas, the kid had Cheese Pizza and Corn On The Cob, and the hubbie had Mini Burgers with Onion Straws and Fries. Mine came with rice and beans, which were excellent.

Today was a beautiful day, sunny and warm. We went to the cemetery to visit my mom and grandma. Then we came home and played in the yard some more. I made B.L.T.'s for dinner. I am sure I don't need to give you the recipe for bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches. My husband usually cooks the bacon, but he was finishing a project in the yard so I did it myself, and I did a pretty good job. Now I have to go clean my stove from the splatters.

Happy eating!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Fend For Yourself

Yes, it is Friday, but we will not be having pizza tonight. I'll give you a moment to recover from shock... feeling better? I did not buy any frozen pizzas today and the funds are low so we won't be ordering one either. The hubbie and I looked over the Dinner Ideas list, but nothing struck us as "oooh, I want that!" so we are fending for ourselves.

This basically means that you can eat whatever you want to eat; leftovers, a sandwich, a salad, a can of Chef Boyardee. My hubbie has already eaten a can of Corned Beef Hash and some of those Cheese Squares from last weekend. I am drinking a beer which is making me feel full, so I have not eaten yet. Of course the beer is going right to my head (empty stomach), so I hope I don't get too silly on you. :)

I did do some cooking today. I made the Lemon Bars from the Bakerella blog with my daughter, which threw my "no oven" rule out the window, but oh well. I also made chicken breasts seasoned with salt, pepper and paprika in the skillet, and cucumber/sour cream/dill salad. I also cut up a huge watermelon that I bought and gave half to my neighbor. I also bought an extra head of garlic which I plan to roast tomorrow; is there anything better tasting than sweet roasted garlic? Yummm...

The Dinner Ideas List is a list of the meals I have planned to make for the coming week. This way I am not staring into the fridge or cabinets thinking "what did I want to make with THAT?" while my hungry family waits forever. I can just look at the list and say "that one!" and start cooking. The list is usually based on what is on sale, the weather, and my mood. As you may know, it really helps to know what you are planning to cook when making your grocery list so you can check your pantry for items you may need. It sure beats wandering the store for hours trying to remember if you have egg noodles for Beef Stroganoff.

Happy eating!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Teriyaki Noodles with Broccoli & Chicken

First, I must say that the burgers and cherry tomatoes came out so yummy last night! My husband usually does the grilling, but he was working late so I manned the grill and I did a damn good job if I do say so myself. haha!

Tonight we are going to have something a little different for us. I don't usually make Asian-type food, but I bought this box of noodles and it has inspired me. The brand is Asia Specialties and I found it at Aldi, it was an impulse buy because it was on sale for $0.89. The box says Sesame Teriyaki - Noodles with Sesame Teriyaki Sauce & Sesame Seed Topping. I figured I would make the noodles for myself for lunch one day, but my husband saw the box and asked if we were going to have them for dinner, so now we are.

I am going to make the noodles according to package directions and then add in some diced cooked chicken and broccoli, which I always have on hand for my daughter to eat. (Yes, she loves to eat broccoli; cauliflower too. I am SO lucky.) Anyway, it sounds good to me, I'll let you know tomorrow how it tastes and if the husband liked it too.

I need to work on my grocery list because tomorrow is shopping day. I have to come up with three more dinner ideas and I am looking to try some new things, so I am going to check out all my favorite websites and blogs for inspiration. You know I love to share so here is my list:

The Websites:
Allrecipes at www.allrecipes.com
The Food Network at www.foodnetwork.com
PBS Everyday Food at www.pbs.org/everydayfood
America's Test Kitchen at www.americastestkitchen.com

The Blogs:
Tried And True Cooking
This Stop Willoughby
Marvelously Mundane
Krista's Kitchen

(you can click on those blogs under My Blog List to get to them)

I was reading the blogs this morning and got two great ideas; grilled cheese with egg inside from Tried And True (which she got from Krista's Kitchen), and pizza on the grill from This Stop Willoughby. Two down, one to go...

Happy eating!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Burgers On The Grill

My FiL is coming over for dinner again and tonight I am making Cheeseburgers and Cherry Tomato Kebabs on the grill. I will put steak seasonings, steak sauce, and Worcestershire sauce in the ground meat for the patties so they come out juicy and tasty. I have sliced sharp cheddar cheese to melt on top, it's a nice change from American cheese, along with lettuce, sliced tomatoes and onion to pile on. The cherry tomatoes will get a splash of olive oil, plus salt and pepper, the wood skewers are already soaking in water. I also bought coleslaw and potato salad which I will doctor up with additional seasonings and stuff.

One of my neighbors dogs, Lyric, is visiting me and right now she is making whining and moaning noises in the kitchen. I am not sure if she wants to be let back outside or if she just wants some attention. I'll go check on her... she just wanted some belly rubs, she rolled over and showed me her tummy as soon as I walked in. She is a golden lab and kinda looks like Martha from Martha Speaks, which is both a kids TV show and series of books. Her brother, Luke, is larger than her and looks a lot like Skits (the other dog in the show/books) except Luke is white, not brown. We have a gate in the fence that separates our backyards and the dogs are always in our yard and house. They are beautiful, friendly dogs and I don't mind picking up poop and having dog hair on my couch because they make me feel safer. I will let my daughter play alone in the yard if the dogs are out there because they bark at everyone. Of course I am always in the kitchen when they are out there, which has a door to the backyard, to keep an eye on them all. Pets are such wonderful things to have in your life. My dear black cat of 18 years, Endora, died last year in May. I miss her a lot, and I hope to adopt two cats from one of the local shelters soon. I love dogs, but I prefer to have cats.

Today is my daughters last day of preschool! She is not signed up for any summer classes, although I am hoping to find some swimming lessons for her. I bought pretty pink flowering plants as Thank You gifts for her teachers and I need to get them into the pots I have for them. Which means I need to stop blogging and get some work done before it is time to go pick her up.

Happy eating!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Potato Pancakes & Sausage

Tonight I will be making Potato Pancakes and Sausage Patties because the sausage has been in the fridge awhile and must be used ASAP. I would love to say that I make homemade potato pancakes, but I don't. I tried to make them once and I didn't like them.

Instead I use Hungry Jack boxed mix and they are very yummy, and cheap. There are two packets inside, but I use them both for one dinner, and it costs under $2. The breakfast sausage roll is from Aldi and costs $1.50. I like applesauce with my potato pancakes and we always have applesauce cups in the fridge for my daughter, 4 for $1 at Aldi. So as you can see, this is a very economical dinner, and I don't have to turn on the oven. haha!

The weather today has been cool and gray and has me in a lazy mood. I have not accomplished much except for dishes and two loads of laundry. I am close to finishing a book called Prayers For Sale by Sandra Dallas, which is about a small mining town high in the mountains of Colorado in 1936 and two women who form a close friendship. The next book I read will be Jane Austen In Scarsdale by Paula Marantz Cohen which is about a high school guidance counselor who runs into "the one who got away" because his nephew is one of her students. Anyone read anything good lately?

Happy eating!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Big Salad

Does anyone remember the Seinfeld episode where Elaine wants a big salad? That was such a great show.

Anyhoo, tonight we are having Big Salads for dinner. I have a head of lettuce to chop up, plus cucumber, green pepper, tomatoes, shredded cheese, and croutons to add in. I also have to check my garden because I think my spinach is ready to be picked, so I can add that in too. We also have a large assortment of salad dressing to choose from due to the cosmic alignment of having four $1.00 off coupons at the time of a 2 for $4.00 sale on Kraft and Ken's Steakhouse dressings. That's right, I got four bottles of dressing for $1.00 each! Woo-hoo! I might also throw a few pieces of Cheesy Garlic Bread in the toaster oven. I do NOT want to turn on the oven today, the high is 83 and it is SO humid! Ick.

One of the blogs I read, This Stop Willoughby, recently posted a bunch of wonderful tips for saving money on groceries. She shops a lot at Sam's and the prices she listed were amazing. I don't know if my little family of 3 could use those big size containers before they went bad. I guess I could freeze stuff, I will have to check out our local Sam's Club soon. I have been shopping more at the non-union grocery stores, such as Tony's and Aldi, and have noticed that they are more crowded than they used to be. The savings just can't be beat and everyone is finally figuring that out, I guess. Jewel still has some good prices, especially when they have a Buy One Get One Free sale, if you have two coupons you can use them both, and my Jewel accepts expired coupons. I have no brand loyalty and have found that most of the store brands are just as good as the name brands. Good luck out there.

Happy eating!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Graduation Dinner Out

Today was the closing program/silent auction at my daughter's preschool. The kids, ages 1-5, did a wonderful job singing and otherwise entertaining the audience. They also had a quick "graduation" ceremony for the 3 kids going to kindergarten in the fall, one of which was my daughter. Then the potluck food was devoured and bids placed on items ranging from a handmade mission-style table to Kid Snips gift cards. My aunt bid on, and won, a few hours of plumbing service. We all entered the split-the-pot raffle, but were not so lucky.

Afterward we went to Leona's Italian Restaurant for dinner. Leona's has a few locations around Chicagoland and has been one of my favorite restaurants for years. Their food is consistently good no matter which location you are at and the service is always quick and friendly. And they deliver! I had the Five Cheese Lasagna that comes with a Psychedelic Salad, which is just a bunch of lettuce and veggies arranged in an artful way, but it's fun. My daughter was looking forward to the Fried Ravioli appetizer, but it was no longer on the menu - bummer. She devoured the kid size Cheese Pizza, which she proclaimed was better than my homemade ones (traitor). New on the menu were .80 cent brownie cupcakes with a cheesecake topping and a swirl of raspberry sauce - yum!

I had intended to make a simple Jello dessert today, but time got away from me and I never did. Maybe I'll make it tomorrow. I also want to add that yesterday while the hubbie and kid were out I made the Venetian Paninis I blogged about on May 27th. I love them so much I will eat one everyday this week for lunch!

Happy eating!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Cheese Squares

Today I made Cheese Squares for the closing program at my daughters preschool, which is tomorrow afternoon. I signed up to bring an appetizer-type food and I wanted to pick something that did not have to be kept either warm or cold. I found this recipe in a book I checked out of the library called Ethnic Chicago Cookbook and it says this rich pastry appetizer is from restaurateur Ivan Kenessey from Hungary.

As you may recall, in a previous post I was looking for cake flour and thought it was flour with baking soda and salt added. I was wrong, that is how you make self-rising flour. After Googleing it I learned that you can add some cornstarch to regular flour as a substitute for cake flour, but it is not highly recommended. On my first trip to my grocery store I looked for cake flour, but didn't see any. So I did the Google search and then went back to the store for cornstarch and that is when I found the cake flour - right next to the cornstarch! On the cake flour box it says it is sifted 27 more times than all-purpose flour. So my question is this: How does adding cornstarch to all-purpose flour make it like cake flour? I have no idea. I guess that is why it isn't highly recommended.



4 sticks unsalted butter, softened and cut into chunks
2 3/4 cups cake flour
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon whipping cream
3 large egg yolks
1 whole large egg
1 1/2 cups Parmesan cheese, divided

In a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment, combine butter, flours, cream, egg yolks and 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Beat on low speed , gradually increasing to medium speed until a ball of dough forms. Gather dough together, flatten between two sheets of wax paper, refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.

Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Roll out into a 1/4 inch thick rectangle with a floured rolling pin. Transfer dough to freezer for about 5 minutes to allow dough to firm up.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Return dough to work surface. Beat whole egg, brush over top of dough. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Cut into 1 1/2 inch squares. Transfer squares to ungreased cookie sheet, leaving 1/4 inch between squares. Bake until golden, about 15 minutes. Transfer to cooling rack, cool completely.


They turned out really good, very pastry-like dough, with a salty taste from the cheese. My daughter had fun helping me measure and pour the ingredients into the stand mixer bowl, and she giggled like crazy when we turned it on and she got a puff of flour in the face. It was also the first time I let her use a knife; it was a butter knife with which I let her cut the butter into chunks.

After they were all done and the kitchen was clean, my husband took our daughter to a fire station where a friend of his works. On the way home they stopped at Portillo's and brought me a juicy beef and cheese fries. Isn't he the best?!

Happy eating!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Pizza (Again!)

It's Friday and that means pizza night! I will be tossing a Culinary Circle Rising Crust Pepperoni pizza in the oven later. Culinary Circle is a fancy store brand that Jewel came out with a few months ago. The line has other frozen foods too, but I have only tried the pizza.

The Porcupine Balls came out great last night and went really well with the egg noodles and salad, although I did make some changes I want to tell you about, and I have a suggestion.

First, I added about 1-2 teaspoons of steak seasoning to the ground beef mixture because the recipe only calls for the meat, egg and rice. I wasn't sure how much flavor the seasoning packet, which is added to the water, would impart to the meat and I didn't want them to be flavorless. When the meatballs were done cooking I scooped them out of the skillet and added a mixture of 1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon cold water to the pan juices and heated it up to make a gravy. There were not a lot of pan juices though, so my suggestion would be to add more than the 2 1/2 cups water the recipe calls for so you get more pan juices to make more gravy at the end. Maybe 3 1/2 cups water? I wonder if this would screw up the cooking of the meatballs. Thoughts anyone?

Happy eating!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Porcupine (Meat) Balls

I have finally had success with a pot roast! Last nights dinner was delicious! Hooray! I did not mention it yesterday because I didn't want to jinx myself, but I have made other pot roasts and they were awful. One was done in the oven and it came out too tough. The other was done in the slow cooker and it smelled great, but had no taste and was very chewy. This one came out perfect and made the most delicious creamy gravy all on it's own. Third time is the charm, I guess. If you want the exact recipe for yourselves, which I highly recommend, it is at allrecipes.com under Kathy's Roast & Vegetables. You know, I think it was the fact that I used a bottom round roast, instead of a chuck roast.

Tonights dinner will be a recipe from Rice A Roni called Porcupine Balls. Along with cleaning out the freezer, my FiL also cleaned out the cabinets and I got four boxes of Beef Rice mix (among lots of other goods). I like rice as much as the next guy, but four boxes of beef flavor? So I went to www.ricearoni.com and found this recipe, among many others, that turn a box of rice into a meal. Who knew?

Basically you combine 1 lb. of ground beef with the rice and an egg and form meatballs. Then you brown them in a skillet. Mix the seasoning packet with water, pour it into the skillet and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 30 minutes. (The exact recipe can be found at the above website.) I am going to make egg noddles to go with it, and serve a garden salad too.

Our house was built in 1920 and had ONE kitchen cabinet (under the sink) when I moved in. There were no wall cabinets. The pantry used to be where the icebox was kept and it had a window that opened to the back porch because that is how the ice delivery man got the ice into the ice box. My husbands grandma (who grew up in this house) used to tell him that it was a treat to get ice chips from the ice man in the summer. Anyway, we had a hutch where we kept the dishes, with two drawers and a cabinet below it, plus a small table. I had exactly 4 square feet of counter top next to the sink. My husbands great-grandmother, whose kitchen this was, used to cook huge family dinners in there; I have no idea how she did it. Oh, and our house has exactly TWO closets, one in each bedroom. My wonderful husband renovated the kitchen for me in 2006, adding lots of floor and wall cabinets, moving the oven, adding lots of counter top space, and he laid down a new floor. The following year brought us a new refrigerator and oven.

The point of this story is that I have never had a ton of space to store things, so four boxes of rice is a lot for me. I keep what I need in my cabinets and there is no room to squirrel items away. I hate to waste food so you will never find a box of expired anything in my cabinets. A third of the food my FiL brought to me was expired and had to be thrown away, and a third of it will expire this year and you can be darn sure I am gonna use it up.

Happy eating!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Slow Cooker Roast and Veggies

My FiL is coming for dinner again tonight. A few weeks ago he cleaned out his freezer and gave me a 3 lb. boneless bottom round roast, so I am making it for him tonight. I found a slow cooker recipe on Allrecipes that had a ton of great reviews and since the weather is cool (high of 65 today and cloudy) I decided to use it now instead of waiting for the fall.

I don't know about you, but I really prefer to have roasts and casseroles in the fall and winter when the weather is cool or cold. I just can't get excited about a pot roast in July when the temp is 90, even if it is done in a slow cooker and I don't have to turn on my oven. It is one of the reasons I love living here, the seasons change dramatically.

Anyway, I decided yesterday to make this today because the weather is unseasonably cool and I didn't know if the meat would make it until fall in the freezer. I am lucky the roast appeared to be defrosted after only 24 hours. So after I dropped my daughter off at preschool this morning I had to stop and get the potatoes, carrots and 2 cans of cream of mushroom soup. Then I rushed home and seasoned the meat with salt and pepper and seared it in a skillet with olive oil. Then I peeled the carrots and cut the baby potatoes in half (unpeeled). Then I checked the recipe and found I was supposed to season the meat with pepper and garlic powder. Oops. The recipe said to mix the 2 cans of soup with a dry onion soup mix packet in the bottom of the slow cooker, then put the meat on top and then the veggies. I thought I had a Lipton Dry Onion Soup packet, but I only had vegetable. But I did have a Knorr Onion Chive Dip Mix packet, so I threw that in instead. I hope it works. And because I had not seasoned the meat with garlic powder, I mixed some into the soup mixture. I had read some of the reviews of the recipe and one lady said she deglazed her pan with red wine and added that, so I used some red cooking wine I had and did the same, only about a 1/4 of a cup. I don't like to cook things on high in the slow cooker, but I don't want to eat at 7pm either, so I turned it on high and away we go. I really hope this works.

Speaking of things that work, thank you Willoughby for the tortilla in the microwave with water tip; it really helped soften them enough so they didn't rip when I rolled them.

As some of you know, the reason my FiL cleaned out the freezer is because my MiL died in April. She had been sick for a long time and then in March she went into the hospital and never recovered. It was a long, hard month, but I am glad we all got to say goodbye. I miss her very much. And I keep thinking I see her everywhere; walking down the street or at the grocery store. I also miss the phone calls full of family gossip and the pop-in visits that used to drive me crazy. My own mother died 5 years ago in May, so I have been feeling very sad lately, missing them both. We also lost my uncle, suddenly to a heart attack, in March. I wish I had been able to see him one last time, he was a really great guy. I miss him too.

I was pretty close with both my grandmothers, who taught me so much, and who I was lucky enough to have in my life until my late 20's. They could not have been more different as people, and I loved that about them. I cannot believe my daughter will grow up without either of her grandmas teaching her and spoiling her and just being there for her. >sigh<

I will let you all know how the roast turned out tomorrow. Happy eating!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Dirty Rice

It is Tuesday again and I am babysitting. You know what that means: easy dinner. My pick for tonight is Dirty Rice because 1)I have ground beef I need to use and 2)it is really easy to make. Of course that means I am using a boxed mix because homemade Dirty Rice is not that easy. I have seen a few recipes and there are usually lots of spices and lots of veggies and one even called for chicken gizzards (ick).

I like to use Zatarain's New Orleans Style Dirty Rice Mix. You just brown 1 lb. ground beef (drain off fat), add 2 1/2 cups water and the seasoning mix and rice, bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat and simmer for 25 minutes. It is slightly spicy, but even my 5 year old daughter loves it. It makes more than enough for the three of us and is a cheap, easy meal.

I need to go to Allrecipes.com today (like I need an excuse) to find out what cake flour is and if I can make it myself. I have a feeling it is just flour with baking powder and salt added, but we will see. I need it for a recipe for Cheese Squares that I am making for my daughters schools closing program. I also acquired a jar of Savory, which is a seasoning that looks and smells a lot like oregano to me, but I want to find out exactly what that is too.

I love Allrecipes.com and read a few of the blogs they have recently added. I also receive a Daily Recipe email from them. It is a great community for getting and sharing cooking ideas. If you haven't checked it out, you should.

Happy eating!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Liar, Liar, Plants For Hire

Okay, I lied. But I didn't mean to lie! I never made the burritos last night - I'm sorry! I asked my husband at 5pm if he was hungry and he wasn't (neither was I). Then I asked him again at 6pm and he was a 2 on a scale of 1-10 and I was still not hungry. So around 7pm he made himself a sandwich and I didn't eat until closer to 9pm, at which point I made a turkey and swiss on a kaiser roll and then had a cinnamon roll.

However, I fully intend to make the burritos tonight. And now I can use Willoughby's suggestion of putting the tortillas in the microwave with a cup of water to soften them. I'll let you know how it goes.

The title of this blog is from a Spongebob Squarepants espisode, in case you were wondering. I watch way too much TV with my kid, and as a result I know way more than I should about Spongebob, Caillou, Martha Speaks, Curious George, Mighty B, and Olivia than any adult should be allowed. (I never miss Grey's Anatomy and Gilmore Girls re-runs.)

Happy eating!