Friday, February 27, 2009

Friday 2/27: Sloppy Joes

Oh, my, the guys are excited about this one. (I skipped the chicken, you may note. A client provided dinner Wed. so the employer provided dinner Thurs. instead.)

I used this recipe, doubled. (Yes, it says it serves 10, but this is Sloppy Joes we're talking about, and a bunch of guys mostly in their 20s. They love this stuff. I planned for 2 to 3 each. I sent 24 hamburger buns. Yeah. I don't know that there will be leftovers.)

I mostly followed the recipe but like another reviewer the mustard just seemed really strong. Also the texture was a bit too much meat, not enough sauce, and just not tomato-ey enough. (Okay, that's not a word but I used it anyway. Whatcha gonna do about it? :p ) So I added in (to the double recipe) about 10 ounces of canned tomato sauce. At that point it looked just right.

I hope there's a taste left for me, I've been jealously thinking of their dinner all day. ;) The recipe says this freezes well so it may be something I'll have to make ahead some time and freeze in individual or 2-4 person portions. (It's also a great meat-stretcher, in the tradition of Sloppy Joes. 2 dozen servings from 2.5 lbs. of meat? Not bad at all!)

Review of L'hamraak Garagh

Review of Moroccan Pumpkin Soup

It was okay. Pretty good. I might make it for the family some time, maybe on the stove, but it wasn't really a crowd-pleaser. I'd say out of 10 stars it rated 6 or 7. Good, but not great. Nothing to write home about. I've had other vegetarian soups, even with similar ideas, that I liked much better. Eh. I wouldn't really change anything-- although it might be better with chicken rather than veggie stock-- but it just was a great idea that in real life I don't think turned out as well as it could have.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Review of Moussaka

Review of Moussaka

Mmmm, it's really good. There are a few things I'd do differently next time:

-More garlic. Everything can use more garlic, IMO...

-It turned out a bit soupy. I might coat the eggplant in seasoned flour next time.

-I was glad I hadn't gone to the trouble of a bechamel but it could have used more creaminess. I think next time I make it I might add some mozzarella on top of the feta for a really creamy cheesy topping.

The flavor is excellent though and even the non-eggplant-eater said the eggplant wasn't bad at all. ;)

Tues. 2/24: L'hamraak Garagh (Moroccan Pumpkin Soup)

I used this recipe.


-Made 1 1/2 recipes' worth

-Used canned instead of dried beans; since dried beans approximately double their volume, used about twice as much.

-Used 2 leeks and a large onion, since leeks are expensive and it's a strong onion. I skipped sauteeing them, just put them straight in the crockpot (after washing of course-- have to be careful washing leeks, dirt can get trapped in them as they grow.)

-Used vegetable broth

-Used canned pumpkin for an easy no-puree smooth texture; will leave beans whole though

-Used allspice AND cloves AND nutmeg, because you can't have too much flavor. ;) Used ground cinnamon.

It will be served with yogurt to dollop in and chunks of "finger bread" which is just a plain, sturdy-textured wheat bread that's excellent with soup.

Menus for weeks beginning 2/23 and 3/2

All meals include salad with assorted veggies, croutons, and dressings and assortment of juices. Foods listed for each day are main dish and side or other menu items if applicable. Menus subject to change.

Week of 2/23-2/27

Mon. 2/23

Tue. 2/24
L'hamraak Garagh (Moroccan Pumpkin Soup)
Yogurt to top soup with
Bread or rolls

Thur. 2/26

Bacon Wrapped Chicken

Fri. 2/27
Sloppy Joes (buns on side)

Week of 3/2-3/6

Mon. 3/2
Spinach-Stuffed Pasta Shells
Garlic bread

Tue. 3/3
Split Pea Soup
Crusty bread

Thur. 3/5
Slow Cooker Latin Chicken with Sweet Potatoes and Black Beans

Fri. 3/6
Meatball Subs
Rolls and cheese for subs on side

Monday 2/23: Moussaka

I went with this recipe. Notes:

-Doubled it, of course. Made for a VERY full crockpot, but fit.

-Used no-salt-added canned tomatoes. I always do. The regular are so high in sodium, and it doesn't change the flavor.

-Used ground lamb, drained after browning.

-Used Italian seasoning instead of oregano because it's mostly oregano and I think I used mine up.

-She didn't say how to slice the eggplant so I quartered it, peeled, then sliced the long way. I sliced the onions in half rounds and then halved again to get quarter rounds. After seeing how much space they took up next time I might dice the onions (if there is a next time-- which there might be, since it smelled delicious.)

-I used green bell pepper since no color was specified. It seemed a bit bitter and with long cooking I didn't want it to get more so so to cut any possible bitterness I added about 1/2 Tbsp. honey.

-I put the Feta (I used reduced-fat tomato and basil, it was on sale and, well, reduced fat, you know I never use full-fat cheese if I can help it) on the top, just crumbled all over. I figured that would let it kind of melt down for a more traditional moussaka topping without going to the work that reviewer did of making a bechamel. I'm not a bechamel-in-the-crockpot kind of girl most of the time. ;)

It will cook about 8 hours on Low.

I am categorizing this under lamb, because that is what I used, but also under beef because it could easily use ground beef instead if you don't have access to/can't afford ground lamb. (She says you can also use turkey, feel free but I'm not going to categorize it under every possible substitution. If I substituted, I would do beef. ;) ) I was surprised to see, though, that ground lamb at Vons was actually not much more than ground beef and was fresh and looked very good.

Sunday, February 22, 2009


So we've been at the hospital. Emma had to go back in Sunday. We got back yesterday. My husband and I have been keeping a thread going on one of our forums we frequent with information and I will just link it here rather than re-hashing: here you go.

Because I missed a whole week (poor guys) I will just be using last week's menu this week. I'll post a new two-week menu when I get next week's planned.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Skipped a day, here's why...

Emma (our four year old) had a febrile seizure (apparently she had a UTI and her fever spiked suddenly from 99 to 104-ish) and we spent the night dealing with that, her in the ER and then the PICU.

So no meatball sandwiches. Sorry guys. We'll do it soon.

The Company Chicken Casserole was apparently well-liked by my husband. He didn't have time to get reactions before he was running out the door because I called saying Emma had a seizure. For what it's worth. ;) I am hopeful the others liked it as well. It certainly made me drool while I was making it. Jeff said the predominant flavor was "chicken." Which is good, I suppose, in a chicken casserole.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Thursday 2/12: Company Chicken Casserole

I doubled this recipe, with the following changes/notes:

-whole wheat pasta. It's such a simple thing to do, doesn't change the taste much, but it really is much healthier-- more fiber, more heart-healthy. (For this one, I used penne.)

-I used boneless skinless breast halves. Each one, cooked and diced, was about 1 cup. I bought the frozen ones and stuck them in the microwave with some water, covered, nuked for about 15 minutes and let stand covered until poached through, as I did for the tortilla soup.

-I omitted the musrooms, since there's an allergy.

-I used twice the amount of basil called for since I was using fresh instead of dried (the recipe doesn't specify but I assume they meant dried.)

-Since some reviews complained of lack of flavor, I added some fresh-ground pepper (they may still want more) and about 4 cloves of minced garlic.

-I used low-fat Cheddar and low-fat small curd cottage cheese.

-I used a leeetle less chicken broth than called for, since to get the perfect amount I would have had to open a new 14 ounce can to get 2 ounces out... Yeah. Not doin' it.

-Being lazy, I did not melt the butter. I drained the pasta, put it back in its pan (not a bowl-- again, lazy) and threw the chicken and veggies in. Then I broke the butter in little pieces and mixed it around, letting it melt on the hot pasta. Then I added in the cheeses, mixed again, and then the cottage cheese, soup, and broth.

The double batch completely filled my 6 qt. crockpot with really no room to spare. It will go for about 8 hours on Low.

It was making me drool as I mixed it, it looked so rich and creamy... I hope there's a taste left for me to try!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Review of Kohlsuppe

Review of Kohlsuppe

It was reeeealy good. The pepper was enough to give it a nice kick on a cold day, though I would probably still prefer less pepper and some more delicate caraway seed if I had had it. I gobbled my bowl (which had no meat left in it-- silly men-- but still tasted like the sausage) without even stopping to put sour cream in it... Oops. Would have been even better with the sour cream. ;) It reminded me a little bit of the Zuppa Toscana that Olive Garden serves, flavor-wise. (That's a good thing, I love that soup!)

It went over well, apparently. Even a self-professed cabbage-hater tasted a little bit, and then went and got another bowl and said, "I guess I do like it this way!"

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Tuesday 2/10: Kohlsuppe (Cabbage Soup with Polish Sausage)

Okay, so I really modified the recipe on this one. But I hope it will be good anyway. ;)

I took this recipe as my jumping-off point.

I started by sauteeing a large onion with one pound of kielbasa, sliced rather thin, until the onions were just turning golden.

Then I peppered it pretty heavily (so the pepper would get through everything.)

I stirred in as I chopped 2 small heads green cabbage (I sliced in half, removed the cores, and THEN rinsed before cutting, in case dirt was trapped between the leaves.) I chopped them in about 1 to 1 1/2 inch squares/rectangles, just a rough chop. I wilted down the leaves so they would all fit; adding them a bit at a time gave room for them to shrink. I kept stirring until they were wilted down to about half their original volume.

Then I dumped in one 2 lb. package frozen hashbrowns (the kind that are just diced potatoes and something to keep them from browning.) Mixed them all up. Transferred to the crockpot.

Then I poured chicken broth over; I ended up using 7 cups (4 14 ounce cans.)

I did not salt because I prefer, when using such salty foods, to let people salt to taste.

I would have thrown in some caraway seed but apparently mine is lost... No clue where it is, I thought I had some but couldn't find it. :( If you do this, caraway seed would be good.

It will cook about 4 hours on High or 8 on Low, I think. Cabbage is one of the few veggies that takes well to long cooking; the longer you cook it the more tender and almost creamy it gets in texture. In a soup like this all the nutrients that leach out when you overcook veggies go right into the broth, so it doesn't really matter, they'll still be eaten. :) Definitely will need stirring before serving.

It will be served with Ukranian rye bread (dense and slightly dry, perfect with soup) and sour cream to dollop on top.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Review of Ratatouille

The ratatouille was really good. I thought it was just great, with or without cheese (though better with cheese.) Sopping up the juices with bread is just delicious! The zucchini was tender, the eggplant was meaty, the whole thing was just YUMMY. I might have increased the eggplant-to-zucchini ratio had I known how it would turn out, but it was good as is too.

I highly recommend it, though it was a LOT of chopping and might have gone better had I spread the chopping out over several days (the onions in one go, the bell peppers in another, the olives in another, eggplant in another, basil in another, etc.)

One of the people eating it commented, "I've never had this before but I'd eat it again!" Another, who just joined up this week, commented, "It's official-- this is really, really good!"

Monday 2/9: Ratatouille

So, I started off doubling this recipe, but it was so much that it didn't fit. So a quarter of the double batch (half a batch) went in our home crockpot, and they're getting a 1 1/2 recipe batch.

As some reviewers did, I also put the tomato paste and the olives in from the beginning. I used fresh instead of dry basil. I chopped up extra basil to go in at the end and put it in a baggie in the bag with the cheeses (besides feta crumbles I'm sending shredded mozzarella for anyone who wants it.) I used 1 green, 1 red, 1 orange, and 1 yellow bell pepper. And, um, the full amount of olives may not have made it in, due to me, um, eating them out of the cans as I chopped... *looks innocent*

Other than that I didn't really change it. Besides the cheeses I'm sending wheat french bread (pre-sliced for them); I was going to send rolls but they were sooo expensive and the bread was on sale, so they get bread. Whatever, it's all bread anyway. ;)

It will go in for about 3 hours on high, then have the extra fresh basil stirred in just before serving.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Review of Mac and Cheese

The mac and cheese was enjoyed, apparently.

Only a little bit came back-- less than a serving for sure. (I had a feeling...)

I thought it tasted too "cheesy" for me, personally. That would probably be the sharp cheddar. But then, I don't like cheese, so... If I was planning to consume it I'd probably use mild cheddar. But I am not planning on it any time soon, since the only mac and cheese I like is from a box, much to my mom's dismay. ;)

It could maybe have used a smidge more pepper too. But I have to say, using the non-and low-fat products did not hurt anything. It was still CERTAINLY rich enough.

It was maybe a bit too eggy too. Maybe bring it down to one egg if I make it at home? (For a single batch-- that would be 2 for a double batch.)

It LOOKED mushy when I looked in the pot, but the texture was actually very firm, like a classic baked mac and cheese. So it tasted firmer than it looked.

Overall, it was liked, if they want it again I'll make it for them again. It ended up pouring rain today so it was a nice kind of "comfort food" day.

Friday, 2/6: Macaroni and Cheese

I used this recipe, with the following changes:

-I doubled it (it fit perfectly in my 6 qt. crockpot, with a bit of headroom over it even.)
-I used fat free evaporated milk instead of regular
-I used 2% milk low fat sharp cheddar instead of full fat cheddar
-I used non-fat milk instead of regular, and because I was using no whole milk products and fat free tends to be thinner, I shorted the milk a bit-- 2 1/2 cups or so instead of the 3 cups that a doubled recipe would usually call for
-I used organic, whole wheat macaroni. It cost $0.50 more a box (store brand) than the other brands of pasta, and it ups the fiber from 3% of your daily requirement per serving to 9% with that one simple change. More on the health differences later.
-I mixed it in the pot I cooked the macaroni in. Why get a bowl dirty?
-For that matter, I beat the eggs in an empty can from the evaporated milk, too. And also, I used the can as my measuring cup for the milk. Seriously, why get more dirty than you have to?

The changes I made, other than doubling, were mostly for health reasons. Here's a look at how the changes I made affected the nutrition of the dish (based on the un-doubled recipe making 8 servings):

Original recipe (full fat products, regular macaroni)

Per serving (1/8 of recipe):

Calories 438
Calories from Fat 227 (51%)
Amount Per Serving %DV
Total Fat 25.3g 38%
Saturated Fat 15.4g 76%
Monounsaturated Fat 7.3g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1.0g
Trans Fat 0.0g
Cholesterol 130mg 43%
Sodium 728mg 30%
Potassium 317mg 9%
Total Carbohydrate 28.6g 9%
Dietary Fiber 1.0g 3%
Sugars 0.9g
Protein 23.8g 47%

Modified recipe (non-fat milk, low-fat cheese, whole wheat pasta):

Per serving:

Calories 259
Calories from Fat 51 (19%)
Amount Per Serving %DV
Total Fat 5.7g 8%
Saturated Fat 3.0g 15%
Monounsaturated Fat 1.8g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.5g
Trans Fat 0.0g
Cholesterol 67mg 22%
Sodium 721mg 30%
Potassium 309mg 8%
Total Carbohydrate 28.9g 9%
Dietary Fiber 2.4g 9%
Sugars 6.8g
Protein 23.8g 47%

See what a big difference a few different choices in ingredients makes? And I'm sure that it will still taste delicious. :)

This will cook for 5 hours on Low, then stay on Warm for a few more hours. It should make 16 servings, with 10 people eating it, there ought to be some left over, but we will see what happens with that. ;)

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Review of Cranberry Chicken with Potatoes

Review of Crockpot Cranberry Chicken With Potatoes

So, the potatoes on the bottom worked out really well. :) They ended up just lighly scented with cranberry, with a slight chickeny taste. I love the way Yukon Golds hold up in the crockpot. They don't get mealy like Russets can; they stay firm but get very smooth when slow-cooked.

The chicken, of course, was a hit. I've never served that chicken to anyone who didn't like it. :)

And it was so easy to have the side cook at the same time as the chicken, I think I will do that again. You may have to increase the cooking time by about 1/2 an hour from the recipe for just the chicken, and it certainly doesn't hurt to let it sit on Warm after that, which is why I love a programmable crockpot.

Menus for weeks starting 2/9 and 2/16

All meals include salad with assorted veggies, croutons, and dressings and assortment of juices. Foods listed for each day are main dish and side or other menu items if applicable. Menus subject to change.


Mon. 2/9
Cheese for topping

Tue. 2/10
Kohlsuppe (cabbage soup with Polish sausage)
Rye bread with butter

Thur. 2/12
Company Chicken Casserole

Fri. 2/13
Meatball Subs


Mon. 2/16

Tue. 2/17
L'hamraak Garagh (Moroccan Pumpkin Soup)
Yogurt to top soup with
Bread or rolls

Thur. 2/19
Bacon Wrapped Chicken

Fri. 2/20
Sloppy Joes (buns on side)

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Thursday, 2/5: Crockpot Cranberry Chicken (with potatoes!)

Crockpot Cranberry Chicken is another family favorite. It started as a Recipezaar recipe, originally from a cookbook, but I have since made some significant changes, so what follows is my "improved" version of the recipe. It's very simple and VERY impressive. I serve it to company quite often. I'm making an alteration but I'll give you my regular recipe first:

4-12 pieces of chicken, bone-in, skin removed (depending on size and how many you want to serve; use less breasts or more thighs, for instance. The recipe originally called for thighs, but I have found that just about any kind of chicken pieces except wings works quite well. Breasts, thighs, drumsticks, a mixture-- whatever you have or like. You can use boneless skinless chicken pieces, but you'll need to adjust the cooking time accordingly. If you had them frozen, you should probably defrost them first.)
1 can whole-berry cranberry sauce (I only eat Ocean Spray for eating, but for this recipe, store brand will be fine)
1 tsp. prepared mustard (spicy brown is best, yellow doesn't do much for the flavor; Dijon would be fine, or Cajun or whatever you like)
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar (but white will do in a pinch)
1 Tbsp. beef boullion powder or granules
1/4 cup dried minced onions (you can omit these if you want though; I did when I was pregnant and couldn't stand the smell and it was okay.)

Put chicken pieces in the bottom of the crockpot. Mix all other ingredients, and pour over chicken, ensuring there is some on each piece. (You may have to lift pieces and use a spoon to spread it around to ensure this.) Cook about 5 1/2 hours on Low or 3 1/2 on High, until chicken is tender.

I usually serve that over rice, with a salad or veggie. That's where the difference is coming in: I'm going to try some potatoes in there. Before I put in the chicken, I'm going to put some Yukon Gold potatoes in, cut into quarters (the long way, like wedges) and lightly seasoned with salt and pepper. We'll see how that goes, since I've never done it before!

Review of Chili

Okay, not so much a review since it's my tried-and-true recipe, but comments on yesterday's chili:

First off, it was all gone. I don't mean that most of it was gone. I don't mean that they left less than a serving in there like they did with the lasagna last week. I mean it was ALL gone. There was about a Tbsp. left spread around the bottom, and probably only because they couldn't get it out without scraping it with a teaspoon (not a ladle), which is what I had to do to get a taste. LOL.

It turned out as good as it always does-- nothing special, but good. Apparently they really like chili and cornbread though, and it's so easy I think I will have to do that one again.

A few people put hot sauce in it, of course; I cater to people who like it milder because you can always add heat but it's darned tough to take it out.

Everyone Jeff asked said it was quite good. Again, it's not one of those things that gets raves-- but it was all gone at the end of the night. To me, that speaks for itself!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Tuesday 2/3: Chili and Cornbread

I made my standard "crockpot chili." Sometimes I make it without beef, in which case it is "food storage chili" because it uses only ingredients I keep in my shelf-stable food storage. It makes a huge batch; believe it or not, I actually always make this much, because it freezes well or will feed us all for about 5 days if kept in the fridge, and it is so easy. And it's not expensive, so why not do the work once for quite a few meals? I make it pretty mild, you can add more chili powder or red pepper or hot sauce as you like to up the heat level if desired.

Drain and rinse (until the water runs pink is good enough; it's not like 3 bean salad where you want it to run clear so it won't stain the other food) 3 27 ounce cans kidney beans (dark or light makes no difference; can also use 1 no. 10 can, which is what I usually do, I get them at Smart and Final, or you can cook dried; you shouldn't use dried straight in the crockpot unless you adjust the liquid accordingly, which I don't have room for since I'm making a huge batch but on the stove it's completely feasable, or if you have a working pressure canner, which I don't right now, you can can your own dried beans to make it even cheaper.) Dump them in the crockpot.

Add 1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes and 1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes (for soupier chili; for more stew-like chili use 1 28 oz. and 1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes), undrained.

Add 1 lb.-ish browned and drained ground beef (I did 4 lbs. all at once the other night, might as well; used 1/2 of it for the Nogales Pie and then used 1/2 of what was left tonight; the other part will be Hamburger Helper or something later in the week.)

Add about 1/2 cup dried diced onions, 1/4 cup dark chili powder, 2 Tbsp. cumin, and a shot (about a Tbsp.) of Worchestershire sauce (I only use Lea & Perrins, I just think it tastes better.)

Mix (I just use my hands for this...)

It will cook on Low for at least 6 hours. Ideally it would be stirred once or twice in there, but if not, just stir before serving.

To go with I made a pan (in a disposable cake pan so it doesn't have to come home) of Marie Callender's just-add-water cornbread mix. Yes, I am that lazy. It tastes great and they won't care (or probably know) it's not from scratch. And it's a lot less work and less messy than "real" cornbread (no eggshells, etc.) and tastes just as good! Plus it's shelf-stable too, I keep it as part of my food storage. It's an easy, tasty way to make a complete protein with the beans if you're going vegetarian (though of course it's not vegan.)

Monday, February 2, 2009

Review of Nogales Pie

The Nogales Pie turned out well. :)

Jeff ended up cooking it on Low for 7 hours, then letting it sit on Warm for a few more hours.

It wasn't quite as spicy as I could have had it, but spicy enough my kids would probably have called it spicy. ;) It could definitely have used a bit of sour cream and some avocado (or guacamole) served on top of it for color, texture and "zest." It was good though. Reminded me of a Tex-Mex lasagna. Quite a decent casserole, definitely suitable for a potluck, and I'm sure it will be made again. It didn't really dry out despite sitting on Warm for quite a while. About 2 servings were even left over.

Some comments:

"It was very very good."

"It smells really good!"

"It's a good thing you're already married to your wife, otherwise we'd have a problem..." (I guess because he'd run off with me? LOL.)

"Can she come cook at my house?"

(They really like this having dinner made for them thing, if you can't tell. ;) )

Edited to add: Emma tried it and just asked for seconds! :o This is the child who lately has shunned anything remotely spicy, including chili. She also claims to not like corn or olives. I guess it's really a winner!

Monday 2/2: Nogales Pie

I started with this recipe.

I made a few changes:

-used 2+ lbs. of beef
-used a whole (2 cup) package of shredded 2% (aka low-fat) Mexican blend cheese
-used 2 onions
-used 5 cloves garlic
-used 3 Tbsp. chili powder and 2 1/2 Tbsp. cumin; omitted oregano (forgot it...)
-used one can tomato sauce and 1 drained 15 oz. can of diced tomatoes (I forgot to double the amount of sauce I bought; it's not something I keep around)
-used 2 cans Ranch Style beans
-used 2 cans no salt added corn
-used 5 corn tortillas on each layer, and ripped into quarters instead of cutting into sixths
-used 2 4.8 ounce cans of sliced olives
-used 2 4 ounce cans of green chiles

Here's how I did the layers:


Half of beef mixture topped with about 1/3 of cheese


One can of beans, one can of corn, one can of olives


Rest of beef mixture, topped with 1/3 of cheese


Other can of beans, other can of corn, other can of olives, topped with rest of cheese

It just filled up my 6 qt. crockpot. It will cook for 5-7 hours on low.

I think it will be pretty mild; people will probably want to put some hot sauce on it.

The lady who posted the recipe calls it Mexican but it feels Tex-Mex to me (despite the lack of liquid smoke) so that's how I'm classifying it.