Friday, July 31, 2009

Lemonade Cake

It is Friday so we had a frozen pizza for dinner, big whoop. However, I did make something new called Lemonade Cake. I got the recipe from my daughters preschool cookbook and it is VERY good! I knew from reading the ingredients that this would be a winner and it did not disappoint!


1 - 3oz package lemon Jello
3/4 cup boiling water
1 box lemon cake mix
3/4 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
1 - 6oz. can frozen lemonade mix, thawed
1/2 cup sugar
powdered sugar, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour bundt pan.

Dissolve lemon Jello in boiling water, set aside. Combine cake mix, oil and eggs; mix well, then add Jello mixture. Beat for 5 minutes with a hand mixer on low. Pour into prepared pan. Bake for one hour. Let cool in pan for 20 minutes, then invert cake onto wire rack to cool completely.

Poke cake with a fork all over the top. Mix 1/2 cup of sugar with thawed lemonade mix, pour over cake. Sprinkle with powdered sugar if desired.


Sounds good, huh? It tastes even better! My husband loves it, half the cake is gone already.

The meal plan for the next week was thought up by my husband. I was feeling very bored with all my usual recipes and none of the new recipes were inspiring me, so I asked him what he wanted and this is what he said: Klewski Noodle Soup with Grilled Cheese Sandwiches, Big Salad & Garlic Toast, and BLT's. THEN I got inspired and added in Nachos ala Krista's Kitchen, the Lemonade Cake, Fake Apple Pies from Sandra Lee of the Food Network, and Pepper Cheese Bread. Plus I have not made the Grilled Beef Kebabs, Oven French Toast & Sausage, or Chicken Finger Tacos from last weeks meal plan yet. Whew! It will be a busy week in the kitchen - just the way I like it!

Happy eating!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Chicken Quesadillas (And A Confession)

I love these quesadillas! They are so yummy and easy to make. Many people will place one tortilla in the skillet and top it with ingredients and then place another tortilla on top, but I find that they are very difficult to flip when they are made that way. So I place my ingredients on half the tortilla and fold over the other half, like a taco shell, and they are much easier to flip. Here is my recipe:


2 cups cooked, diced chicken breast (make your own or use store bought)
1 pkg. tortillas (I use medium burrito/fajita size)
1 green pepper, diced
1 onion, diced
2 cups shredded cheddar or mexican blend cheese
1 jar salsa (I use homemade pico de gallo, click here for my recipe)

Put some chicken, green pepper, onion, salsa, and cheese on half of a tortilla and fold over the other half (like a taco shell). Place in an ungreased skillet over medium heat until browned, then flip and brown the other side. Make sure the cheese is melted. (I usually do two at a time.) Repeat until desired number of quesadillas are made.


The fresh green pepper and onion gives them a nice crunch you don't get from jarred salsa. I cut the quesadillas into thirds and serve them with sour cream and more salsa for dipping, plus spanish or yellow rice on the side. You could also serve these as an appetizer. I like to order the chicken quesadilla appetizer at Ruby Tueday's for my dinner.

I just finished reading my first Gourmet magazine and I loved it! I do not consider myself a gourmet, but it is a great magazine for anyone who loves to eat and cook. The articles were great for foodies of all kinds and the recipes aren't too intimidating to try. I received an "invitation" to subscribe to the magazine with the "professional discount rate" of $10 for a year, and so (since I am a magazine junkie) I decided to give it a try. I have no idea how they got the idea that this stay-at-home mom is a "professional" anything, but I was not about to argue with them since the newsstand price is $4.50 an issue.

My confession is that I am a magazine junkie; aside from Gourmet I also currently subscribe to Everyday With Rachel Ray, Good Housekeeping, People, Midwest Living, Redbook, Marie Claire, and Parenting: School Years. Last year I also subscribed to Reader's Digest, Woman's Day, Family Circle, and Parents, but I reluctantly let those subscriptions lapse after many protests from my husband. What can I say? I love to read, I love to learn new things, I love to be informed, I love new recipes, I love new cleaning tips, and I really love to get mail.

Happy eating!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Hot Dogs, Potatoes & Baked Beans

My mom used to make hot dogs, hash brown patties and baked beans as a meal for us growing up, and it is a go-to comfort food for me to this day. When I was still a novice cook I thought I would be fancy and use the cheesy hash brown patties, but they mysteriously disappeared from store shelves. That turned out to be a good thing because now I make my own potatoes and they are so good they make me feel better about eating hot dogs. :)

Throw your favorite hot dogs on the grill, in the microwave, or in a pot of water to cook. Grab your favorite can of baked beans, we like Bush's, especially their new Grillin' Beans, and heat them in a pot. But first make these potatoes:

1 - 1 lb. bag diced potatoes (refrigerated not frozen)
1 white onion, diced
6 tbsp. butter, divided
1 tbsp. steak seasonings

In a large skillet over medium heat, melt 2 tbsp. butter and saute onion until golden. Transfer onion to a dish, set aside. In the same skillet over medium heat, melt the remaining 4 tbsp. butter. Then add in potatoes and steak seasoning; use spatula to mix well. Press potatoes into pan, cover, and cook for 7-8 minutes. Flip potatoes over, press into pan, cover and cook another 7-8 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the cooked onions.

I got the tip to cook the onions alone from America's Test Kitchen, although I can't remember exactly why they suggest cooking them separate from the potatoes. Something about better flavor for both parties. Tonight I was in a hurry so I cooked the onions in a small skillet while the potatoes cooked in a large one. These potatoes are also excellent with eggs and sausage for breakfast.

We went to the library today and I checked out Barefoot Contessa: Back To Basics and Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook (which is not really a handbook, it's big and heavy and could be used to bean someone over the head). I love Ina Garten; I have her At Home cookbook, it is wonderful. And I thought it might be useful to learn more about baking and I like Martha's recipes, so her book got added to the pile too. I'll let you know if I find anything exciting in them!

Happy eating!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Caprese Sandwiches

Tonight we are having Caprese sandwiches for dinner. These are a super easy, light meal perfect for a hot day like today. Years ago when I worked as a project coordinator, we used to order sandwiches like these for lunch from a local pizzeria. They were so good! And it's very easy to copy the recipe.

I have a loaf of LeBrea Bakery Artisan Roasted Garlic bread, a 1 lb. ball of mozzarella cheese, and 2 ripe tomatoes, all to be sliced up for the sandwiches. I will get some fresh basil from my neighbors garden (and bring her one of these sandwiches in return). The bread will get a light drizzle of EVOO and a sprinkle of salt and pepper before the toppings are laid on and that is it - voila!

You can use any bread you like; I was originally going to use ciabatta rolls, but they were on sale so naturally they were sold out by the time I got there. You can also substitute pesto for the fresh basil leaves. You could even brush the outside of the sandwich with olive oil and throw it on your George Foreman grill (or panini press) to make a panini out of it, which is a good option for winter when you want something warm, and serve it with a bowl of soup.

Tonight I will serve a salad of sliced cucumber and red onion tossed with salt, pepper, and rice vinegar along with my sandwiches. Simple, tasty, cool.

Happy eating!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Porcupine Meatballs

I meant to make these last week, but I never got around to it and I had to use that ground beef before it went bad. My husband knew I was planning to make these and when he got home from work he was happy to see them on the stove, this is one of his new favorite meals.

You can find the official recipe here, and if you want to see my original post about these you can find it here.

Basically you take 1 lb. of ground beef mixed with one egg and the rice from a box of Beef Flavored Rice-A-Roni and squish it together. I also add some steak seasoning to the meat mixture for extra flavor. Then you form the meat into meatballs and brown them in a skillet with a little oil. Next mix the seasoning packet that comes with the rice with 2 1/2 cups water and pour it over the browned meatballs. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook for 30 minutes. I served them over egg noodles and with a green salad.

Now the last time I made these the skillet I used had an ill fitting lid and most of the steam escaped and I had very little of the water left. However it had made a nice gravy and I thought that next time I would add more water so there would be more gravy. This time I used a different skillet with a tight fitting lid and I added an extra 1/2 cup of water. Of course since the lid fit better there was a lot of gravy, but it was very watery. No biggie, I just added a cold water/cornstarch mixture and simmered it for a few minutes and voila! It was a nice, thick gravy for the noodles and went very well with the meatballs.

Happy eating!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Red Robin - Yummmmm

I can't help it, every time I think of Red Robin I hear the jingle in my head. We went there for dinner tonight and I had the Blackened Chicken Burger. It was very good, but a little too spicy for me. My husband can handle spicy, but I am more of a wimp. A 10 on my spice-o-meter would only register a 2 on his. One thing that impresses me about Red Robin is that even though the chicken on their burgers is thick it is always juicy. I have had the Bruschetta Chicken Burger twice and it is fabulous! They also have Freckled Lemonade, which is lemonade with strawberries in it, with free refills. I drink at least two glasses every time, it is SO good. My daughter loves the kid size cheese pizza and my husband has not had a burger he didn't like yet.

Earlier today my dad dropped off a lawyers cabinet that belonged to my grandmother, who was a doctor, not a lawyer. :) We found a home for it in the basement computer room and got some cleaning done while our kid played at the neighbors house. Thanks again J.! After dinner we went to Target and got a princess pool for the backyard along with other needed household items. It was a very nice Saturday; I hope yours was wonderful too!

Happy eating!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Friday Pizza

Tonight we ordered two pizzas, one cheese and one sausage - yum! It was good with some ice cold RC soda. Do they sell RC everywhere, or is it a regional thing like Vitner's chips or Vienna beef? That also has me wondering, do you call it soda or pop where you live? Why do I wonder about such bizarre things? LOL

I got my grocery shopping done and I went a little over budget. Oops! In my defense, there were a lot of good deals out there today and so I grabbed a few extras. The dinner ideas for the next week are: Hot Dogs with Hash Browns and Baked Beans, Chicken Quesadillas, Caprese Sandwiches, Grilled Beef Kebabs, Oven French Toast with Sausage Patties, and Chicken Finger Tacos.

There is a contest over at one of my favorite blogs Crumbs In The Minivan, so go check it out! The Crumbs are a great family and the posts by Mrs. Crumb always make me smile. It's nice to know there are other families out there going through the same craziness as we are, right?

Happy eating!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Sausage Potato Bake

My dad owns two houses, the one I grew up in and one across the street where my grandmother lived. He is going to rent the extra house, since this is not the time to try to sell a house, but it needs some cleaning before the renters move in. So yesterday I spent 3 hours scrubbing the bathroom over there; it was a disaster. I was so exhausted when I got home that I just threw a frozen pizza in the oven for dinner. I was in bed by 9:30pm - I am old! haha! I will be going back next week to work on the kitchen which is another disaster. Ugh.

Tonight we are going to have Sausage Potato Bake which is from Allrecipes and you can get the recipe by clicking here. Basically you throw some potatoes, smoked sausage, condensed beef vegetable soup, and cream of mushroom soup in your slow cooker. I am also going to add a chopped onion. This recipe got rave reviews and it is so easy I had to try it. I'll admit that it sounds a little weird to me, but those usually tend to be the recipes that I love, so I'll give you my review tomorrow.

Today we are going to take a walk to the library to pick up two books that are on hold for us, and from there we will walk to my husbands work to drop off a surprise letter for him from our daughter. Then this afternoon we are babysitting for our neighbor because she is going to run in a 5K race tonight - good luck J.! I am sure you'll do great! Have a wonderful day everyone...

Happy eating!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Popcorn Chicken

I love popcorn chicken! It's cute and small and tasty. Tonight I am going to make the frozen variety from Redi-Serve. I am also going to make cornbread with a Betty Crocker mix, and I have a salad with green pepper and cucumber in the fridge.

Is this the world's shortest post?

Happy eating!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Pomodoro Pasta

I love this easy, delicious dinner; especially when I can make it with tomatoes and basil from my garden. However, the garden is not cooperating with me this year, so sadly the tomatoes are store bought. >sigh< Plus, my own basil plant is still very small, so I am using fresh basil from my wonderful neighbors garden. She is letting me use her basil for the promise of cucumbers from my huge cucumber plant, which has tons of baby cukes growing.

I cannot remember where I got this recipe, but I think it was from Food Network. Anyhoo, here is the recipe:


1 box thin spaghetti
8 large tomatoes, diced
4-5 cloves of garlic, minced
6-8 basil leaves, chiffonade
1 cup white cooking wine
6 tbsp. olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

Cook spaghetti according to package directions. Drain well.

In a large skillet over medium high heat, add all other ingredients and cook for 5-7 minutes until tomatoes soften.

Serve over spaghetti with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese and garlic toast on the side.


I originally posted this recipe in my very first post, which you can go to here. It seems like such a long time ago! Isn't it amazing (and depressing) how the older you get the faster time seems to fly by?

I can't wait to eat all those cucumbers that are growing! Sliced with a sprinkle of salt, or with dill and sour cream for a salad. Yum! My dear aunt K. also gave me this wonderful tip for cucumbers that I will share with you: When you are done with a jar of Claussen pickles, cut your cucumbers first in half and then lengthwise to get 4 spears per half (8 spears total), and put them in the leftover pickle juice for a day or two. The resulting "pickles" have a much milder flavor that is just wonderful.

Now a question for the gardeners out there: I would love to grow garlic. Does anyone know how to get that started? I have heard you can just put a head of garlic in the ground, but that seems too easy.

Happy eating!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Egg & Cheese Sandwiches

What a great Sunday! My husband ran out for McDonalds breakfast sandwiches this morning, I know, very bad - but so yummy! Then I got my butt in gear and got showered and started cleaning. I also had some repairs to make to two of my favorite quilts and the cool weather was perfect for having a quilt in my lap. Yes, cool weather in July - today's high was only 70! And it was cloudy and breezy so it felt more like 65 to me. Anyway, then I did a bit more cleaning and then gave my kid a bath. Oh, and I did multiple loads of laundry too. Whew!

For dinner I made egg & cheese sandwiches, which I have posted about before (click here to see it). It's basically scrambled eggs in a grilled cheese sandwich. Here is the recipe I use:


4 slices country style hearty white bread
3 eggs
2 tbsp. milk
salt & pepper
3 slices american cheese
3 slices cheddar cheese

In a bowl, beat the eggs with the milk and salt & pepper to taste. Cook the eggs in a skillet until done (scrambled eggs). Butter one side of each piece of bread. Place two slices, butter side down, in a skillet. Place 1 1/2 slices of american cheese on one slice of bread, top with half the scrambled egg, top the egg with 1 1/2 slices of the cheddar cheese, then top with the other slice of bread, butter side up. Repeat for other sandwich. Cook over medium heat until bread is golden, then flip and cook other side until golden.

I served them with cottage cheese tonight. They were the perfect easy dinner to make after all my work around the house today. My little sous chef helped crack the eggs and then beat them in the bowl. Then she stole a piece of cheese and ran out of the kitchen! lol

Happy eating!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Chicago Style Hot Dogs

Today we went to my friends graduation party in Beloit WI, which is a bit of a drive from here, about 2 hours. But it was great fun! I got to see my dear old friends and their parents and siblings that I have not seen for a looooong time, so it was worth it. That picture is of me and my two best friends, plus my daughter trying to sneak into the picture. Can you guess which one is me???

By the time we got back into the city it was 8pm, so my husband ran out to a local place to grab some hot dogs for me and a cheeseburger for him. It is one of the great things about living in the city: all the beef/hot dog stands/restaurants. Want a beef, juicy or dry, sweet or hot peppers? Gyros? Italian sausage? It's no more than 5 minutes away. It is such a pleasure to not have McDonalds, Taco Bell or KFC be the only fast food choices. The place we got our food from tonight has been around since I was born and the owner is always working the register and always remembers you.

Tonight I had a taste for good old Chicago style dogs, which have pickle, tomato, mustard, relish, onion, sport peppers and is served on a steamed poppy seed bun. I never get the sport peppers - too hot for me. Some people joke that it is like eating a salad on a hot dog, but I think they are the best.

Happy eating!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Tacos Tonight

Sorry I do not have anything great planned for tonight - it's tacos for us. Ground beef browned and drained of fat, taco seasoning packet and water added, served with taco shells, lettuce, cheese, tomatoes, taco sauce and sour cream. No biggie.

I did the grocery shopping today and my total was $99.19; my budget is $100, so that was great! The meals for the coming week are: Egg & Cheese Sandwiches, Popcorn Chicken, Sausage Potato Bake, frozen pizza, Pomodoro Pasta, and Porcupine Meatballs.

My husband was teasing me about being excited that our daughter is going to kindergarten because I want them both out of the house (which is only a little bit true, LOL). The real reason I am excited is because we are lucky enough to be able to send her to a private Lutheran school where I know she'll get a top-notch education in a safe environment with small class sizes. There is a public school practically across the street from us, but the over-crowding is ridiculous. A local newspaper recently reported that at the public school there are about 960 students and 18 classrooms; if you do the math that is 53 students per classroom. How is that even possible?! There were other problems mentioned in the article, but that is the one that stuck with me. And it makes me wonder if all the neighborhood schools are this overcrowed, not just ours. I hope that all your children go to safe, good schools where they get the attention they deserve.

Happy eating!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Pizza On The Grill, Take 2

My first attempt at cooking pizza dough on the grill went relatively well, so I am doing it again. I learned a few things the first time, such as: don't roll the dough out too thin, and adding the sugar to the warm water helps proof the yeast. It is a beautiful day in the neighborhood; mostly sunny, high of 80, strong lake breeze - gorgeous! In other words a perfect day to be outside using the grill.

The recipe for the Grill Dough can be found at Allrecipes by clicking here. I will separate the dough to make two crusts so I can make two kinds of pizza. One I will top with tomato sauce, green pepper, red onion and lots of mozzarella cheese. The other will get garlic oil, fresh tomato slices, fresh chopped basil and lots of mozzarella cheese.

I don't follow the exact recipe for the Grill Dough - using the sugar in the water is the first thing I do different. Splitting the dough to make two pizzas is the second. I also followed the advice at This Stop Willoughby and cooked the dough about 3-4 minutes per side first, then added my toppings and put it back on the grill for the cheese to melt. If you have never cooked pizza on the grill you really should try it; 1) it's fun, 2) it gives the pizza crust a really great flavor, and 3) you don't have to turn on your oven! (anyone who reads this blog regularly knows I hate turning on my oven in the summer!)

I went to the store earlier today to get a card and gift for my good friend A. (who I have known since we were knee high to a duck). She recently graduated from nursing school, passed the NCLEX, and is now an official RN! CONGRATS A.! I am so proud of you - I knew you could do it! I can't tell you what I got her since she reads this, but I can say that I cannot WAIT to see her at the party this weekend.

Happy eating!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Fancy Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

I love these grilled cheese sandwiches because I like to think of them as the 'adult' version of the tried and true kids favorite. I don't remember where I got the recipe, not that you need a recipe for grilled cheese, but here ya go:

FANCY GRILLED CHEESE (to make 4 sandwiches)

8 slices rye bread
6 slices cheddar cheese
6 slices muenster cheese
6 slices provolone cheese
6 pieces of sliced tomato

Butter one side of each piece of bread. Put four pieces butter-side down in skillet. Top each with 1 1/2 pieces of each cheese and tomato. Then put the other pieces of bread on top, butter-side up. Heat on medium low until bread is golden, then flip the sandwiches over and heat the other piece of bread until golden.


Did I really need to type out directions? We all know how to make a grilled cheese, right? Anyway, these are super yummy with a salad in summer or a bowl of soup in winter.

P.S. The Veggie Gyros last night were DELICIOUS! We loved them!

Happy eating!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Veggie Gyros

Tonight we are having Veggie Gyros, I got the recipe from a magazine - I think it was Good Housekeeping. I really need to keep track of these things better! Anyway, just to clarify: this recipe does not have any gyros meat in it. My husband was with me at the grocery store when I was looking for the pitas and he asked what they were for, so I told him Veggie Gyros. He asked if there was any meat in them and I said "no, they are VEGGIE gyros." He said that they can't be called gyros if there is no gyros meat in them. I wanted to smack him. Why is he arguing with me about what is technically in a gyros when I am trying to get my shopping done?! Did I name the recipe?! Sheesh! Men! Anyway, here's the recipe:


1 container (6oz.) plain yogurt, liquid drained (if any)
1/2 cucumber, peeled, seeded, diced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. dill
pinch salt & pepper
4 pitas
1/2 head iceberg lettuce, sliced
1/2 small red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
2 large plum tomatoes, sliced
1 package (8oz.) garlic and herb flavored feta cheese, crumbled

To make sauce: stir together yogurt, cucumber, garlic, lemon juice, dill, salt & pepper in a small bowl. Cover and chill at least 30 minutes.

Assemble gyros: wrap pitas in damp paper towel and microwave for 20 seconds. Place puffed-side down on plates. Down the middle of each, evenly layer lettuce, sauce, onion, tomato and feta. Fold up sides like a taco.

Sounds good to me! Light and refreshing ingredients, easy to make, and I don't have to turn on my oven. I am going to go make the sauce now so the flavors have time to get all happy with each other in the fridge. haha!

Happy eating!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Baked Potato Soup

This is one of my newer favorite meals, I LOVE this soup! I got it from the Everyday With Rachel Ray magazine in the fall of 2008. I also love that it calls for the use of my immersion blender which otherwise sits sadly in a drawer. The immersion blender is fun to use, but make sure you keep the head IMMERSED in the soup or you will learn the hard way (like I did) that soup will go flying around your kitchen. Oh, and keep an eye on that potato and milk mixture at the beginning otherwise you will learn the hard way (once again, like I did) that hot milk boils over quickly and is not fun to scrub off your range. Are you laughing at me yet? You should be, I was a mess the first time I made this soup, but it was fun! Since then I have made it a couple of times with much less of a mess.


2 large baking potatoes, peeled, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
4 cups whole milk
salt & pepper
1/2 head cauliflower, cored and chopped
1 bunch scallions, white and green portions thinly sliced separately
4 cooked & crumbled slices bacon or Bac'N'Bits
shredded cheddar cheese
sour cream

In a large saucepan, combine the potatoes, 3 cups of milk and 1 tsp. of salt. Cover and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Lower the heat to medium-low, add the cauliflower and scallion whites, cover and simmer until tender, 10-15 minutes. Add the remaining 1 cup milk, then puree the soup with the immersion blender. Season with salt & pepper to taste.
Serve with bacon, cheese, sour cream and green scallions to top your soup like you would top a baked potato.
Note: The original recipe called for 3 cups of milk; I like it better with 4 cups.

The only other thing I can think to tell you is that the soup is a little blah at first, so keep tasting and adding salt and pepper at the end to really brighten the flavor. My favorite toppings are sour cream and cheese, then I mix it all up so I get soup and cheese and sour cream in every delicious bite!

So far the only other soup I have made is French Onion. I have tried a few recipes, but have not hit on The One yet. You know, The One that tastes like the Baked French Onion soup I would eat when my grandmother would take me to that little French cafe after shopping at Marshall Fields, The One I will keep and make over and over forever. The last time I made French Onion soup we convinced our then 4 year old daughter that it was Worm Soup - LOL! I have six Oneida ramekins that I got at a resale shop for $2.00 that are perfect for Baked French Onion soup. Now I just need to find that perfect recipe. I found one from Paula Deen that I will try next and of course you, dear reader, will be along for the ride when I eventually make it.

Happy eating!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Spaghetti & Garlic Bread

Tonight I made spaghetti with Barilla Tomato and Basil jarred sauce, which was very basil-y and had nice chunks of tomato. I added a little salt, pepper, and garlic powder. We were not that hungry so I did not make any garlic bread, although I have a recipe from Rachel Ray that I love. Somehow I always forget to buy frozen garlic bread at the store, but I always have the ingredients to make this:

4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 loaf crusty bread, split (I use french bread)
3 tbsp. grated parmesan cheese
chopped parsley, fresh or dried

Combine garlic, butter, and oil in a microwave safe dish; heat for 1 minute. Toast bread under broiler. Remove read when it is toasted golden brown. Brush bread liberally with garlic oil. Sprinkle with cheese and parsley. Return to broiler to brown for 30 seconds.

I always have french bread in the fridge. I love to eat sandwiches made with it, I love to have butter on it as a side to soup or stew, and I love to make garlic bread with it too. Tony's Grocery store usually has fresh twin loaves in the bakery for $1.30 - can't beat that!

My tomato plants are not doing as well as I'd like, they aren't growing very much. My neighbors plants are huge, up to my shoulder, and mine are still down by my knees. >sigh< The cucumbers are doing very well though, lots of little yellow flowers. The basil seems to be fighting back against whatever was eating it to death and is getting bigger. The parsley and chives are huge. The jalapeno plants are hanging in there, but they too are very small. I think I am going to have to do some serious composting this fall to get the dirt 'healthier' for next spring. Oh well, my neighbor said she'd share her tomatoes if I share my cukes - deal!

Happy eating!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Taco Dip & Pizza

Today I made a taco dip for no other reason than that I had a taste for it. I put refried beans on the bottom of a 9x9 dish, then I made a mixture of sour cream, cream cheese and taco seasoning and spread that on the beans. Next came a layer of canned chili (no beans), and shredded cheddar cheese to top it off. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes; easy-peasy. Sometimes I will top it with diced tomatoes, chopped green onion and sliced olives, but not today.

At 3:30pm my husband suggested we leave at 4:30pm for dinner at a pizzaria. We had a gift certificate that he got at a fundraiser, so we decided to give it a try. It was good, not great. We got a thin crust and the edges were too hard, but the sauce was more like crushed tomatoes than a 'sauce' which I really liked. Plus they had paper covering the red-checked tablecloth which my budding artist 5 year old had a blast covering with a crayon mural. The iced tea was good, not too strong or too watery. The best part about the evening was discovering a certain Mexican restaurant also in the area; we have been to the location in downtown Chicago and loved it, so we were happy to find one in a less congested area.

Happy eating!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Let's Talk Books/Friday Night Pizza

We had pizza again for Friday night dinner, a frozen Extra Cheese Tombstone. We added some extra cheese, as well as green pepper and onion. Yum... but boring. So I want to talk about books.

I absolutely love the Chicago Public Library's website. You can search for books by author or title and, if they have the book, you can click to see a summary and/or reviews. They have a great home page with a book blog, a Recent Arrivals section, a We Recommend section, and of course they offer books, CD's, DVD's, audiobooks and more. Plus I can put books on hold and have them sent from any other library in the city to my neighborhood branch for pick-up. Isn't that wonderful? Well, it is for me because I love to read.

When I was young I loved to read Sweet Valley High and other teen romance books. Then I got into scary stuff by Stephen King and Anne Rice. Actually one of my favorite books it still The Witching Hour by Anne Rice. Very historical and slightly spooky about witches in New Orleans. Then I got into chick lit by Jane Green, Jennifer Weiner, Madeline Wickham, and the like. Now I still like that stuff, but I love the mom-lit which Jane and Jennifer have branched into as they got older too.

Finally, I find myself branching out a bit into travel books and food books (other than cookbooks). I recently read the travel book Undress Me In The Temple Of Heaven, which I highly recommend and awhile ago I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver about eating locally for a year, which again I highly recommend. I currently have on hold Farm City: The Education Of An Urban Farmer, and The Food Of A Younger Land: A Portrait Of American Food Before The National Highway System.

What do you like to read? Read anything good lately that you could recommend? I'd love to hear from you!

Happy eating!

Thursday, July 9, 2009


Tonight we will be eating up some leftovers in the fridge. I know we have italian beef, a hot dog and hamburger from the grill, cheesy potato casserole, coleslaw, potato salad, macaroni salad, and tuna salad in there.

Sorry there is no recipe, but how about if I share my meal plan with you for the next week instead? Here goes: Red Baron frozen pizza, Pizza On The Grill, Tacos, Veggie Gyros, Baked Potato Soup, Spaghetti, and Fancy Grilled Cheese. I will also be making Cold Pasta Salad and Taco Dip.

Happy eating!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Tuna Salad & Meat On The Grill

I went out to my dad's house in the suburbs today for a visit. I haven't seen him since Father's Day, so it was good to catch up with him. While I was there we made my mom's delicious tuna salad. My dad bought a HUGE can of tuna from Sam's Club (seriously, it's as big as your head) and our end product weighed 9 lbs.! He kept a little less than half and I got to take home a little more than half. Here's the normal size recipe:


1 1/2 cups elbow macaroni, uncooked
1/2 diced green pepper
2 diced celery stalks, plus some chopped leaves
1/2 white onion, diced
6 cans tuna in water, drained well
2 hard boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
1 dollop mayo
1 dollop sour cream
mustard to taste
pepper to taste
celery salt to taste

Cook macaroni according to package directions. Drain, rinse with cold water, drain well.

First mix together the tuna, pepper, and celery salt. Taste to see if it is to your liking. Then mix in the green pepper, onion, celery, mustard and egg. Next add the mayo and sour cream, in equal amounts, until mixture reaches desired creaminess. Taste again and add any extra seasonings. Finally, stir in the macaroni. Refrigerate.

This is so good, and it's nice to have in the fridge for a quick lunch or dinner. Too bad my husband won't eat tuna; more for me and my kid!

When we got home, I immediately lit the grill because my FiL was coming over for dinner. I threw on some hot dogs and hamburgers left over from the BBQ, as well as some skinless smoked sausage. Normally I use skinless smoked sausage in a casserole with sauerkraut and potatoes in the winter or in Zatarain's Jambalaya mix, but it was excellent on the grill. I served it all with buns and potato salad and coleslaw. I also sent my FiL home with a container of the tuna salad.

Happy eating!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Chicken Kievs

Tonight we had chicken kievs (the frozen, just pop in the oven kind), instant mashed potatoes with powdered packet gravy, and a sad looking salad that has been in the fridge too long. I really do love to cook, but sometimes you gotta take the easy route. My disclaimer is right up there at the top of the blog! LOL And the kievs were definitely edible, tasty even. The potatoes were okay, and any salad is good if you drown it in enough ranch dressing. :)

Happy eating!

Monday, July 6, 2009

An Award & Italian Beef Sandwiches

I would like to start by thanking This Stop Willoughby and Krista's Kitchen for sending me the Kreativ Blogger award! I have not been blogging for very long, so I am honored you gals thought of me. Thanks again!

The 'rules' for this award are as follows:
1. Thank the person who nominated you for this award.
2. Copy the logo and place it on your blog.
3. Place a link to the person who nominated you for this award on your blog.
4. Name 7 things about yourself that people might find interesting.
5. Nominate 7 Kreativ Bloggers.
6. Post links to the 7 blogs you nominate.
7. Leave a comment on each of the blogs letting them know they have been nominated.

Seven interesting things about me? Here goes:
1. I have two metal rods in my back from scoliosis surgery when I was 16 years old. The scar runs from my neck down to my hips on my back. (No, I don't set off metal detectors.)
2. At 5'9" I am the shortest person in my immediate family. My mom was 6'1", my dad and my brother are 6'2". I would be taller if it weren't for the scoliosis.
3. I met my husband when I was 16 years old (he was 18) at a teen dance club. We dated on and off for 10 years before we got our act together and got engaged. Our wedding video is titled "A Decade Of Progress".
4. I have no fear of public speaking, which scares the bejesus out of most people.
5. But I am terrified of spiders.
6. The reason I learned how to cook in high school was because my mom went back to work as an accountant and it was either learn to cook dinner or starve during tax season.
7. I think I have a slight case of OCD and I am a neat-freak, but I am also very optimistic and friendly.

Now for the 7 bloggers I would like to nominate. They are:
1. girl, outnumbered
2. Tried & True Cooking With Heidi
3. A Dash Of Life
4. Crumbs In The Minivan
5. Marvelously Mundane
6. Buried With Children

There is no #7 because I don't follow enough blogs to send it to, sorry. Can I still keep my award? LOL

For dinner tonight I made Italian Beef sandwiches. Well, I didn't really make anything, I just heated up a container of Papa Charlie's Italian Beef with Gravy and served it with french bread from the grocery store bakery. We have tons of leftover sides from the BBQ and we both ended up having coleslaw. I am still tired from all the activity over the weekend, so this was easy and tasty.

Happy eating!

4th of July Weekend: Fried Ravioli & Cheesy Potato Casserole

I hope everyone had a wonderful 4th, we sure did! My husband had Friday off so I got to go grocery shopping alone which was nice, although I did miss my little helper while picking out garlic and limes and such. We were having a backyard barbecue on Sunday afternoon, so we did a lot of cleaning the house and prepping the yard for the party on Friday and Saturday.

On Friday night for dinner I threw a frozen pepperoni pizza in the oven, it was the Market Pantry brand from Target and it was good. On Saturday night we made Fried Ravioli which is one of my hubbies favorite meals. I had my daughter and husband both helping me; the little sous chef dipped the ravioli in the egg wash and the big sous chef dipped them in the breadcrumbs. I was in charge of frying them up in the oil and simmering the pasta sauce. Here's what you do:


1 package frozen cheese ravioli, thawed
2 cups breadcrumbs
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1/4 cup water or milk
1 jar pasta sauce, seasoned to taste
4 cups olive oil

Mix the eggs and water in a pie plate. Put the breadcrumbs in another pie plate. Heat the oil over medium heat in a saucepan; it is ready when you sprinkle a pinch of breadcrumbs in the oil and it sizzles. Dip the ravioli in the egg wash first, then in the breadcrumbs, pressing gently so they adhere. Then place the breaded ravioli, 4 at a time, into the hot oil. Remove when they get golden brown and transfer to a paper towel covered plate. Serve with pasta sauce for dipping.

Saturday was cool and rainy, but cleared up enough by night-time for us to go see the fireworks in Morton Grove, IL. They were fantastic! Every year their show is just amazing and I think that the next year cannot be any better, but somehow they always out-do themselves. Chicago always has their fireworks on the 3rd, but going down to the lakefront is a traffic nightmare because of the Taste Of Chicago. The last few years they have had a problem with gangs showing up, and I read in the Sunday Suntimes newspaper that someone was caught with a sawed-off shotgun in their backpack trying to get into the Taste - unbelievable! And scary.

Sunday was a beautiful day, mostly sunny and 80 degrees. The BBQ started at 4pm and most of the backyard was in the shade of the house, so we weren't baking in the sun out there. Everyone brought a side dish and some beer and we had a great turn-out, about 25 people. We provided hot dogs, hamburgers, guacamole and pico de gallo with tortilla chips, toppings and condiments for the meat, cheesy potato casserole, brownies, lemon bars, soda, and some more beer. The food was great and everyone had a good time! I got a bunch of requests for my Cheesy Potato Casserole recipe, so here it is:


1/4 cup butter
1 large white onion, diced
1 - 32oz. bag frozen diced potatoes, thawed
1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1 can condensed cream of chicken soup
1 - 16 oz. sour cream
1 teaspoon black pepper
4 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In medium skillet, melt the butter. Cook the onion until soft.
Meanwhile, in a very large bowl, combine the potatoes, sour cream, both soups, 2 cups of cheese and pepper. Stir in the onions, blend well. Transfer to a 13x9 baking dish.
Bake for 50 minutes, stirring halfway through baking time. Top with remaining cheese and bake 10 minutes more. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.

I don't remember where I got it, but every time I make this I get lots of requests for the recipe. It is so cheesy and creamy and yummy!

Happy eating!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Chicken & Bowtie Pasta

This is one of my favorite recipes to make because I love ALL the ingredients a lot. Plus, I got the best compliment ever from my neighbor on this dish; she said it was restaurant quality! I know you aren't supposed to toot your own horn, but I think so too. haha!

The original recipe only called for chicken, bowtie pasta, and broccoli and half the sauce. I added in the roasted red pepper and doubled the sauce. Sometimes I make my own roasted red peppers, but today I am using jarred. I am pretty sure I got the original recipe from the Food Network site, but I recently searched their site for it using the term "chicken and broccoli" and I could not find it. Oh well.

3 broccoli heads, cut into bite-size pieces
1/2 lb. bowtie pasta
6 tbsp. butter
6 tbsp. olive oil
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 lemons: juice from both and 1 tbsp. zest
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. salt
1 jar roasted red peppers, cut into thin strips OR 2 freshly roasted red peppers, cut into thin strips
3 chicken breasts, seasoned, cooked and diced

In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the broccoli for 3 minutes. Remove the broccoli with a slotted spoon (do NOT dump out the water!) and place in a colander set in a large bowl; cover with tin foil and set aside.

In the same water used for the broccoli, cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain well.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the butter and oil. Add the garlic and lemon zest and cook for one minute. Off the heat add the salt, pepper, and lemon juice; stir well. Then add the red pepper and chicken, stir well to coat. (You may need to heat it all up over low heat if your chicken or peppers are cold.)

Return pasta and broccoli to the large pot used to cook them, then add the chicken mixture and stir well.
red bell peppers (however many you wish to make)
olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place whole peppers in a 2" deep pan. Coat with olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Use your hands to move them around so they are really coated.

Roast the peppers for 30-40 minutes, turning twice during the roasting time. Remove the pan from the oven and immediately cover with foil. Set aside for 30 minutes, or until peppers are cool enough to handle.

Discard the stem, seeds and peel. Save as much juice as possible to store peppers in until ready for use.
boneless, skinless chicken breasts
olive oil

Season chicken breasts with salt, pepper and paprika. Coat a large skillet with olive oil over medium-high heat. Add chicken breasts and cover; cook for 8 minutes. Lower heat to medium, turn breasts over, cover again and cook an additional 8 minutes. Let cool, and cut into bite-size pieces.

My mouth is watering just thinking about it! I always have seasoned, cooked, diced chicken in the fridge; it is one of my kids favorite snacks. I love the taste of fresh roasted peppers, but when they are on sale for $1 a jar and you are short on time, jarred wins.

My FiL never came over for dinner yesterday, my husband had to work really late so he called his dad and re-scheduled for today. It actually works out better for my FiL because after dinner tonight I will send him home with the leftover scampi from yesterday.

Happy eating!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Shrimp Scampi Pasta

Tonight my FiL is coming to dinner again, it's become a regular Wednesday night thing, and I am making Shrimp Scampi Pasta. I made this recipe once before (way before my blog), but I used chicken ILO shrimp; it was really good, so if you are not a seafood fan use chicken. I know I got this recipe from a magazine a few years ago, but I have no idea which one. My guess is Woman's Day or Good Housekeeping. Anyway, here is the recipe:

1 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 can (14oz.) chicken broth, divided
3 tbsp. flour
1 lb. peeled and deveined shrimp
1 tbsp. lemon juice
2 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. chopped parsley
12 oz. linguine
red pepper flakes (optional)

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain well.

In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion, cover, and cook until soft, about 6 minutes. Add garlic and cook one minute more.

Pour 1 cup of broth and the flour into a jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake to blend. Pour remaining broth and broth-flour mixture into saucepan; bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in shrimp and cook 3 minutes more. Stir in lemon juice, butter and parsley. Pour over cooked pasta.

If you are using chicken you would obviously have to cook it way more than the 3 minutes the shrimp need to be done; I think I cut up chicken tenders into bite size pieces and cooked them in a separate skillet with some EVOO and S&P. When I make this later I will add a little S&P when I add in the lemon juice, butter and parsley. Also I will not shake the broth and flour in a container, but whisk it in a bowl instead. I will serve it with a green salad and cheesy garlic bread - yum!

Shrimp scampi always reminds me of our honeymoon because we ate the BEST shrimp scampi appetizer one night at dinner - it was SO good! That was almost 8 years ago so you know it was good if I still remember it. LOL I also remember the first time I referred to him as "my husband" on that trip and it was weird and exciting and the memory still makes me smile. :)

Happy eating!