Tuesday, March 31, 2009

An Exceptional Foodie Gift

I am preparing to go on a little trip to see my parents, so the posting might slow for a few days, but I am still alive and kickin, just in the frozen tundra where my fingers will be so cold they might not type!

But here is an exceptional gift that I received yesterday from my college friend Lauren. She got to work with Tyler Florence at a trade show for her job, (I know! how cool!!!) and she surprised me with a great gift: a signed Tyler Florence cookbook! I think if I was given that kind of opportunity, I would be such a stammering mess I would forget my own name, let along remember my friend's name to be signed in a cookbook!

I read through the cookbook last night, and have marked a few recipes to try! There is even a whole chapter for baby food recipes since he has two young kids, like Banana Brown Rice, and Sweet Peas and Green Peas with Mint, and other cute creations that brought me back to my days of food processing for my little one.

So this is a huge THANK YOU to Lauren (and a bit of bragging to all my foodie friends!!)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Crockpot Roast & Veggies in foil

I saw this post at Lynn's Kitchen Adventures about putting your crockpot veggies in foil on top of the roast and thought it was a great idea. I hate mushy potatoes that taste like the roast, although I love the carrots that have absorbed all the juices. So I thought I'd give it a try!

So I put my roast in my crockpot and seasoned it like usual, and placed my carrots on top.

Then put my cut potatoes on a big piece of foil, seasoned them with salt & pepper and wrapped it up.

I placed it on top of the roast and carrots in the crockpot:

It cooked on Low for 8 hours, and when we couldn't take the wonderful smell anymore, I opened up the potatoes and they were perfect!

It worked so well that I'm planning on trying other veggies on top of crockpot meat and see how they all turn out!

Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking

Friday, March 27, 2009

Thai Chicken Pizza

Like I mentioned in my Menu Plan for the week, when I'm having a busy week or I don't feel like cooking, I put pizza on the menu. My husband could eat pizza everyday, but I get a little sick of it. So last night, when I couldn't bear to eat another tomato-cheese pizza, but didn't have the energy to whip up anything besides pizza, I made some Peanut Sauce, scraped together some almost-Thai toppings (cabbage and shredded carrots) and *voila* Thai Pizza!

The peanut sauce has a lot of ingredients, but I've left out a few of them every now and then and it still turns out yummy. I usually make a double batch, and stash half in the freezer with a pizza crust for another night. If you are planning to freeze some, leave out or reduce the red pepper flakes, because it will thaw out MUCH hotter!

This recipe came from my Top Secret Recipes cookbook, but the grill method is mine. We grill all of our pizzas, and the pre-made crusts from the store work great when you don't want to heat up the house and gives it a very crispy crust.

I am sharing this at The Grocery Cart Challenge Recipe Swap, so go there to see some recipes, also!

Thai Chicken Pizza
Makes 4 servings

1 16 inch pizza shell

1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
2 tablespoons teriyaki sauce
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons minced onions
1 teaspoon minced ginger root

1 chicken breast cooked and diced
1 1/4 cups mozzarella cheese
1 green onion sliced
1/2 cup bean sprouts (or thinly sliced cabbage)
1/4 cup shredded carrots
2 teaspoons minced cilantro
1 tablespoon chopped peanuts

Prepare the crust following the directions.

Mix together the ingredients for the peanut sauce in a small bowl. Pour this mixture into a microwavable bowl and heat for 1 to 2 minutes. The peanut sauce should be darker now.

Pour 2 Tbsp of the peanut sauce over the chicken. Let set while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. Spread a thin coating of the remaining peanut sauce on the pizza crust. You may have sauce left over.
Sprinkle mozzarella over the peanut sauce. Spread the onions, chicken, cabbage, carrots, cilantro, and chopped peanuts over the cheese.

Bake the pizza for 10-12 minutes or until the crust turns light brown. Or grill method: Preheat grill as hot as it will go. Put pizza on grill and reduce heat to low. Rotate pizza after a few minutes so it doesn't burn. Remove when cheese is melted.

Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Quilt in the Breeze

There is nothing better than a quilt line-drying in the breeze!

If you like my son's baby quilt above, go check out The Quilt Ladies. We are lucky to receive so many "handmade with love" quilts from my mother-in-law. I truly treasure the one that she made just for me - I don't have to share! My son calls his quilt "bee-bee." I think it's a combination of "Baby Blanket" but whatever he calls it, he loves it!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I'm hoping for Limes!

We planted a lime tree in our backyard, right after we moved in, almost 4 years ago. It has produced a SINGLE lime in all those 4 years. This year, it appears we might have a bumper crop growing on the tree back there. There are tiny little lime-like bulbs growing all over the tree! I have already started dreaming and planning of all the things I will do with the limes, like:
  • Fresh lime juice for homemade salsa, whenever I need it!
  • Faux Key Lime pie
  • Chicken Tortilla Soup
  • Tequila Lime Chicken
  • Mojitos
  • Margaritas
  • Coronas and limes (I'm beginning to see a trend here!)

Keep growin' ya little suckers!

Does anyone have any great recipes that include limes? Looks like I'm going to have a lot of them to use!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Menu Plan for Monday, March 23

I have been in a un-creative funk all weekend, so that translates into some pretty boring, un-inspired meals. And to top it off, it's gray, rainy, and breezy here, which is unusual for Florida. It fits my mood perfectly. YUCK!

But, back to the menu - it's a good thing my husband loves pizza, because I can bookend our menu with them and I won't get too sick of eating it! Please check out Organizing Junkie for lots of great meal plans!

Penne, Jarred Spaghetti Sauce, Broccoli

Spinach Enchiladas
, Refried Beans

Poppy Seed Chicken Casserole, Broccoli

Toasted "West Street" Sandwiches, Chips


Pizza (2)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Backup Car Bag for Kids

My Mom's Club playgroup met at a playground last week, and I totally forgot to slather my son in sunscreen. Oh, and to top it off, I forgot a hat. And I realized it as I was getting my son out of his car seat and the sun was already beating down on me at 10 am. Yes, I was THAT disorganized mom at the playground. So we left early after an hour. At least my son wasn't old enough to know WHY we were leaving!

So in order to hopefully stop that from happening again, I finally am putting together my "Car Backup Bag." I know what all you moms are thinking..."You don't have a backup bag in the car? Sheesh...get on the boat!" OK so I'm finally figuring out this mothering thing when my son is 1 1/2.

Obviously I still carry items in my gianormous mommy purse for the immediate needs of the day like snacks, sippy cup, one diaper, wipes, Wet Ones, and various toys.

These are the items that I put together in my Backup Bag:

Mini-First aid kid (bandaids, triple antibotic ointment, Q-tips, diaper cream)
Hand Sanitizer
Change of clothes and socks/shoes for son
Wipes (I have an unopened travel wipe package so they won't dry out)
Old towel (primarily for wiping down playground slides)

Everything fit pretty well into a small canvas bag:

I am going to peruse the travel size aisle at the store this week and see if there are any more items to throw in. I love that aisle, so any chance I get to dig through all those bins gets me giddy!

Moms out there - What am I missing? Any ideas for items I need to add?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Black Bean Slow Cooker (Crock Pot) Soup

This soup was simple, but good. This would be great as a Cuban meal and serve the soup over rice with Cuban sandwiches. Because it was just a little too simple by itself. If you're looking for some great Cuban recipes, check out The Columbia Resturant. They also have a great "1905 Salad" and the yummiest Sangria that might get you into trouble!

This soup was originally from allrecipes as Spicy Slow Cooker Black Bean Soup, but I did not add any of the cayenne pepper or hot sauce from the original recipe because my son was going to eat the beans, so the next go round I might also add a can of Rotel to spice it up.

Black Bean Slow Cooker Soup

1 pound dry black beans, soaked overnight
4 teaspoons diced jalapeno peppers
6 cups chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Drain black beans, and rinse.
Combine beans, jalapenos, and chicken broth in a slow cooker. Season with garlic powder, chili powder, cumin, cayenne, pepper, and hot pepper sauce.
Cook on High for 4 hours. Reduce heat to Low, and continue cooking for 2 hours, or until you are ready to eat.

Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking

Monday, March 16, 2009

Busy, Busy...

It's been a busy few days and weeks, so I apologize for totally slacking on posting. I haven't been cooking anything fun or interesting so my family did eat pizza for 3 meals straight this weekend! It's just been one of those weeks, and it's turning into one of those months. Yikes! Stick with me and I'll post something worthwhile soon!

On the note of being busy, here is an interesting article from the NY Times about self-imposed "busy-ness." Some food for thought!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Eggplant Patties

Here is another attempt at a vegetarian main dish. They were pretty good on their own, but would work great on buns as a mock-burger! I think if we continue to get more eggplants on our produce basket, I will serve these again on hamburger buns with all the fixins (a slice of cheese would do this wonders!) My son didn't really care for them, but *sigh* who knows what the kid will eat these days.

Here is the recipe at allrecipes.com, since I followed it pretty closely. I actually fried them in a cast iron skillet, and that gave them great crispiness.

Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking 

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Super Easy Window Upgrade

So we had new windows installed in our house a few weeks ago, and since we had to take all the window treatments down for installation, it was a perfect time for an update and upgrade.

I saw this post at Nester and just fell in love with her attitude about window 'mis'treatments. So here is my kitchen window - it's a pretty empty "before." Yes I didn't clean up before I took this photo, and I wish I shoved the coffee pot back in the cabinet.

So my mother-in-law and I tackled all the valances in my kitchen and dining room. We had a great trip to the fabric store, and although I don't usually like flowers, this fabric seemed graphical and simple enough to work for my style. Plus, it was my favorite fabric in the WHOLE fabric store. I swear I looked at every...single...bolt of fabric. We also picked up some upholstery tacks.

Here are the valances mid-install. This is with a tack in each end. Check out Nester's post to get the best tutorial, because I am horrible at taking photos mid-project!

This was so easy, and I love how it makes the rooms seem taller. I lean towards a tailored look, so I was nervous it would be too "fluffy" but it turned out great! Thanks to Nester for the fabulous inspiration!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Pesto Roasted Potatoes

So I made this up as a way to use up that little bit of pesto that sits in my refrigerator. I always have half bottles or less of condiments from all my random recipes, so I like to use up those "bits" to free up some frig space!

It made the house smell great while it was baking, and it was a great side dish that didn't require a lot of last minute work. Enjoy!

Pesto Roasted Potatoes

4 medium baking potatoes, peeled and diced
2 tablespoons prepared basil pesto

Preheat oven to 475 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine potatoes and pesto. Stir until evenly coated. Place potatoes in a single layer on a roasting pan or baking sheet.
Roast for 20 to 30 minutes in the preheated oven, turning occasionally to brown on all sides.

Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking 

Monday, March 9, 2009

Pork Orange Kabobs

I apologize for the long pause in my posting! My in-laws are in town, and I always have so much fun that it's hard to drag my butt back to the computer. But here is a great meal I made for them!

These kabobs were so good, and looked so pretty on the plate. These oranges look a little burnt, but it's just from the glaze. It was so good and so easy! This recipe came from Everyday Food, in the January/February 2009 issue. I was pretty lucky to get the latest issue at the library, since I usually get some from 6 months ago!

Pork Orange Kabobs
Makes 4 servings

1 pound pork tenderloin cut into 1 1/2 inch chunks
1 naval orange cut into chunks
Salt and pepper
4 teaspoons vegetable oil

1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup spicy brown mustard

Alternately thread pork and orange chunks onto eight 6 inch skewers; season with salt and pepper. In a small bowl, whisk together honey and mustard; season with salt and pepper. Reserve half of sauce for dipping. Grill over medium heat until pork is opaque throughout, 4 to 6 minutes per side. Turn grill up to high, brush kababs with sauce, until glazed, about 2 minutes. Serve with reserved dipping sauce.

Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking 

Friday, March 6, 2009

Just in time for Easter: Ham Balls!

These Ham Balls are a sweet glazed meatball that's a little different from usual meatballs. What is up with all the "ball-formed" food I've been making? Must be a theme.

My husband's grandmother always made these for Easter, and I was able to have them once before she stopped cooking. This is a recreation of her recipe because she always bought the Ham Ball mix from the meat counter at the grocery store. I made a few different variations, tweaked it and this is pretty close to her Ham Balls. We eat them for Easter, sometimes for Christmas, and for big family dinners.

Ham Balls
Makes 8 servings

1 1/4 pounds ground smoked ham
1 pound ground pork or ground turkey
1 cup milk or less
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups crushed saltine crackers (about one sleeve)

1 10 3/4-ounce can tomato soup
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon dry mustard

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.If you can't find ground ham, buy diced ham and process in a food processor until finely ground.
In a large bowl, combine the ground ham, pork OR turkey. Stir in eggs and cracker crumbs and mix well. Add about 1/2 of the milk, mix well and add only enough milk to make a firm mixture. The mixure shouldn't be soupy and firm to keep its shape as balls. Form into large balls about 2 inches in diameter and place them in a 9x13 inch baking dish. I use an ice cream soup to make evenly sized balls

In a separate medium bowl, combine the soup, vinegar, brown sugar and mustard powder. Mix well and pour over the meatballs.Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until internal meat temperature reaches 160 degrees F.

Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking 

Thursday, March 5, 2009

My recent thoughts on Food Network

I don't watch Food Network anymore. Wish I did, wish I Tivo'ed more shows to watch in my leisure (ha!) time, wish I found more ideas for recipes from there, but alas, it's kinda lost some of its shimmer lately.

Now when I was on maternity leave, I had the station on for about 8 hours a day and I had some of the most blissful naps through Bobby Flay in the morning. I'd watch Molto Maria around lunchtime, and Ina would come on 4:30 pm, and I would chop in the kitchen with my son in his swing listening to her go on about French food I'll never serve but always enjoyed hearing about. And don't get me started about how much I watched Rachel Ray while I was in college.

Here is Anthony Bourdain's view on some of the Food Network chefs, and I agree with most of his opinions. (oh Sandra Lee put the dry onion soup mix away!) I had a good laugh this afternoon. Thought you might, too!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Potato Soup (psssst...something's hidden in it!)

When I saw this post at Bloom Where You're Planted about subbing out potatoes for cauliflower in potato soup, I thought it was a fantastic idea. I am always trying to fit more vegetables in wherever I can, and although Potato Soup is yummy, I always feel a little reluctant to serve it because....well it's JUST potatoes! (and cream, too!)

So I thought I'd ease my way into it. I replaced one large potato in my favorite Potato Soup recipe from Paula Deen with 2 cups of chopped frozen cauliflower.

The verdict?
I didn't spill the beans....or the cauliflower..... until we were halfway into our first bowl of soup. My husband was surprised, and loved the idea of an extra vegetable being in there when he couldn't tell. Next time I'll add even MORE and maybe puree up a couple cups of cauliflower in the food processor and add them too.

Fake-me-out Potato Soup

1/2 stick butter
1 small onion, diced
2 medium carrots, diced about the same size as the onion
2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
8 medium russet potatoes, peeled and cubed (or approx 2 large potatoes)
2 cups frozen cauliflower, thawed and chopped
4 cup milk: whole, reduced fat (2%), or low fat (1%)
2 chicken bouillon cubes, dissolved in 1/2 cup hot milk
1 cup half-and-half
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

crumbled bacon bits, for garnish
grated sharp cheddar cheese, for garnish
sprig of dill, optional garnish

In a 4-quart saucepan, melt the butter and saute the onion and carrots until both are slightly tender, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Add the potatoes, cauliflower, milk, and dissolved bouillon cubes. Cook over medium heat for 15 minutes, until the potatoes are very soft and some of them have begun to dissolve into mush. Add the half-and-half, salt, and pepper. Serve soup sprinkled with bacon bits and grated cheddar cheese.

Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking 

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Garlic Spinach Balls

I found this recipe as a vegetable side dish, but we eat them as a vegetarian main dish. I have also seen them at The Motherload as appetizers! Very versatile!

Garlic Spinach Balls
Makes 4 servings

1 cup crushed seasoned stuffing mix
1/2 cup finely chopped onions
2 eggs lightly beaten
6 tablespoons butter melted
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic minced
3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
10 ounces frozen chopped spinach thawed and squeezed dry

In a large bowl, combine the first nine ingredients. Stir in chopped spinach untl blended. Roll into 1 inch balls. Place in a greased 15 inch by 10 inch by 1 inch baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until golden brown.
Rita's notes: One 10 oz pakage of spinach makes about 9 ice cream scoop balls. I use the food processor to chop the stuffing mix, onions, garlic, then add the egg and pulse once or twice. Add spinach and pulse a little too - makes it easier to combine. Then put it in a bowl to scoop into balls.

Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking