Tuesday, March 31, 2009

For Tue. 3/31: Salsa, Chicken, and Black Bean Soup

Since they all loved the chicken tortilla soup so much but I am far too lazy to make that again, I thought I'd do something similar but, you know, easier. They're happy, I'm happy that way, right?

So I found this recipe over on A Year of Crockpotting (which is a really awesome blog, btw) and adapted to my needs.

I mostly just doubled it, but I did use canned beans (it's getting toward the end of tax season, I'm getting too lazy for dry!) I also subbed cans of corn for frozen (no room in my freezer!) and I only used half the chicken broth called for (if you doubled it) because after doubling everything else, there was only room for about 4 cups. (I think they will like a thicker soup anyway, and since I'm using canned beans they don't need as much liquid.) I don't intend to thicken it, oh, and after cooking (8 hrs. on Low) the sour cream, instead of being stirred in (because it sits on warm afterward, it would separate or curdle) will just be served on the side for people to put in. I used La Victoria salsa because it's my fave, I feel it has the most flavor. But the store only had Medium so I added a dash of chipotle to up the heat juuust a smidge. I loved that the chicken was the only cutting I had to do! (I used frozen boneless, skinless thighs-- half of a 4 lb. package, no measuring necessary. ;) )

On the side, I sent the sour cream, some shredded Mexican blend cheese (made with 2% milk) and some organic tortilla chips (same price as regular, may as well go organic!) They can crumble them in or eat on the side, as they wish. :)

I wasn't sure how to categorize this but it seems more Tex-Mex than Mexican to me so that's what I'm going with.

Review of Ravioli Casserole

They liked this one pretty well too, it seems; I didn't get to taste any because none came back...

Jeff said his only complaint was that it barely fed the 10 of them, he doesn't know how much people took but take that into consideration if you make it. Oh, and he forgot to put out the garlic bread at the beginning. ;) No one complained about the sauce.

So I could make it again, but only for a smaller group!

Monday, March 30, 2009

For Mon. 3/30: Easy Cheesy Ravioli Casserole

I used this recipe, almost as written...

I skipped the wine, doubled the tomato sauce. (After the last wine fiasco, well, wasn't messing with it again!) I didn't cook up onions and garlic. I wasn't feeling well. Instead I just mixed dried onions in with the sauce mixture. I did use Italian seasoning.

I made my layers like this:

sauce (a bit less than 1/3)
mozarella (a bit more than 1/3)
sauce (a bit more than 1/3)
mozzarella(a bit more than 1/3)
sauce (the rest)
mozzarella (the rest)
parmesan (fresh grated, not canned; about 1/4 cup)

It will cook 6 or so hours on Low and be served with garlic bread.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Review of Spaghetti

Well, the spaghetti went over well!

So well, in fact, that I did not get to taste much! Only about 1 bite came back, and only because I scraped it down from the sides with much effort! LOL!

The taste was great. Any blandness complained about by reviewers was taken care of by the sausage-- and browning them together, those boys didn't even suspect there was turkey in there! LOL! I think the V8 may also have contributed to the niceness of the sauce.

The texture was actually perfect. I think if it had not been whole wheat it would have been a little too gummy and overcooked but with whole wheat pasta it came out perfect.

I wonder if you could do this with penne as well...

Friday, March 27, 2009

For Fri. 3/27: Crock Pot Spaghetti!

I started with this recipe. I doubled, of course. I made as written except:

-used half hot Italian sausage and half ground turkey for the meat
-used V8 instead of plain tomato juice for the liquid
-omitted the garlic powder, used fresh garlic
-omitted mushrooms
-used whole wheat spaghetti (and a whole 12 oz., not just 8. That just doesn't seem like enough!)

The spaghetti I broke up and put in a bag; Jeff's only job is, after cooking on Low for 8 hours, to stir, add spaghetti, stir again, and cook for 1 hour on High.

Garlic bread to go with. They love that garlic bread.

Review of black beans and rice

Black Beans and Rice with Cumin

Well, my husband liked them. His co-workers ate some of it. I needn't have doubled, waaay too much came back. And I didn't even like it. :( I'm not sure why. I think it was the texture of the rice that got me. I'm not a big fan of brown rice in general and instant seems to be worse. My husband, like I said, liked it, saved leftovers and everything, but I just am not into them. I won't repeat it unless he specifically asks for it.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

For Thur. 3/26: Black Beans and Rice with Cumin

I started with this recipe, doubled. I made the following alterations (to the doubled recipe):

I quick-soaked the beans (boiled with some water-- and baking soda, our water is hard-- and as soon as they were boiled, put the lid on and let it sit for an hour with the heat off.)

I used 1 1/2 cups of dried onions (I'm sick and didn't feel like chopping onions after I did a whole head of garlic.)

Instead of fresh jalapenos, I used a can of green chiles (drained) and a few Tbsp. of ground chipotle (which is smoked dried jalepenos.) I was going to use one can of green chiles and one of jalapenos, but Emma lost the can of jalapenos. Good job, Ems. ;) So I improvised; I figure the slight smoky flavor might make this a little more like Moros y Christianes, the classic Cuban dish, which I am fond of. I decided that was not a bad thing.

Toward that end (and also because it would not all fit) I reduced the water to 6 cups. I want it more like beans and rice and less like beans and rice soup.

Oh, and I omitted the pepper, because I'm sick and lazy tonight.

It will cook for 6 hours on Low (the beans were already pretty soft, I think I may have overdone the quick soak...) and then go to High for 15 minutes after Jeff removes the bay leaves and stirs in the instant brown rice (which Uncle Bens makes, if you were wondering-- and one box is a perfect size for this recipe, well, two if you double it, because one box is 2 cups.)

So yeah, less the soup it started out as, and more like Moros. Not a bad thing, IMO. Now, hopefully it works... So I'm classifying this as "Cuban" though it might not be so much really, because the flavors remind me of Cuban flavors. :) (Though I could throw a bit of cloves in there and make it even more Cuban-tasting, yummy.)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Review of Chicken, Chickpea, and Apricot Tagine

This one was a good one.

I really would probably not change a thing next time, except remembering the tomato paste. The flavor was excellent, though. I loved it. Well, I might cut back the ginger a bit, because it kind of overwhelmed some of the other spices, but not by too much. It was "warmer" than I anticipated, but most of the "heat" was ginger heat-- not hard on your tummy, ginger heat. It reminded me more of a curry than I expected.

It was very good and probably will get made again. :)

The guys all liked it too. The mortgage guy says, "This one has the mortgage department's seal of approval!" LOL!

For Tue. 3/24: Beef Stew

Beef stew is a crockpot classic. I don't really use a recipe; I kind of make it the way my dad always did, modified for the crockpot. I split of a little less than 1/3 for our dinner tomorrow. Here's what I used (total, between the 2 crockpots):

-Trim the fat from and cut up a 4 1/3 lb. beef shoulder roast (pot roast meat is a lot cheaper than pre-cut stew meat, and cooks the same, and is often better quality. Look for something marked "pot roast.") You want about 1 1/2 inch chunks.

-In a Ziplock style bag (gallon size), toss about 1/2 cup flour with about 1 tsp. salt and 1/2 Tbsp. pepper (or to taste; can also use seasoned salt.)

-Toss beef chunks in flour. Then brown in a small amount of hot oil, just until the beef is beginning to take on some color. (Reserve the extra flour in the bag!)

-In the crockpot(s), toss 2 onions, diced, 6 large or 10 small potatoes, peeled and diced, about 45 baby carrots, halved, 3 stems celery, sliced, 2 medium-ish turnips, peeled and diced, 4-5 cloves garlic, minced, and about 3 Tbsp. rosemary, crushed between your fingers. (You want your dices pretty large, almost the size of the beef chunks, except the onions a little smaller.)

-Add the browned beef.

-In the bag with the flour, add 2 14 oz. cans beef broth, 2-3 Tbsp. gravy browning (this is important! Don't skip it, it gives a stew that "certain something") and about 1 tsp. Worchestershire sauce. Close bag and shake (and mush if necessary) until flour is all mixed in. Pour over stew ingredients. (If you're doing this on the stove you'd add some water, too.)

-Cover and cook low and slow until done-- about 8-10 hours on Low, usually.

I made biscuits to go with. Mmmmm. Stew and biscuits. I'm drooling already.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Chicken, Chickpea, and Apricot Tagine

I used this recipe, doubled. Doubled, it was too much. I pulled a third of it off to a second crockpot for our dinner at home.

I mostly followed the recipe, but skipped the preserved lemon, the carrots (they would have been good but I was tired) and the cilantro for the top (well, what can I say, I'm lazy. And they won't care.) I used a whole bag of frozen chicken breasts. Also I somehow managed to lose the tomato paste, so it didn't make it in. I cooked the onion mixture a bit longer, until it thickened well, to hopefully make up for that. And I threw in a few Tbsp. of ketchup too. Hopefully I didn't ruin it-- I don't think I did. It smells awfully good.

Jeff will cook his for 8 hours on Low. I didn't have room in the fridge so I just threw mine straight in on Warm. Maybe it will be ready in time for lunch tomorrow (we have an 11:15 doctor appointment for Emma so hopefully it will be ready when we get home-- after a stop-off for some pita bread, I forgot to get pita bread. Jeff is picking some up on his way to work for the guys there to eat with it. I decided couscous was too much work for me this weekend. Were I having guests to serve this to, I'd make couscous, though.)

Review of BBQ Pork Sandwiches

I never thought I'd like a pulled pork sandwich. But I DID!

There was enough left over for them to be Sunday dinner. With some fresh coleslaw and a bit of the extra sauce added back in before re-heating the leftover pork, it was really, really good!

I think when pork roast goes on sale I might even make this again. Or try it with brisket or another beef roast! I never thought I'd say that...

My husband, who grew up in Texas and has been deprived of barbeque since marrying me since I despise anything smoked, loved it. The kids liked it okay. They mostly ate it with forks, it was too messy for them. That's fine. Anyway, the lack of smoke flavor means that this is a barbeque sandwich I can get behind! I really liked the sandwich with coleslaw ON the sandwich as well as on the side. My husband, being from TX, prefers just the meat on the sandwich, with coleslaw on the plate.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Menus, Weeks Starting 3/23 and 3/30

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 3/23-3/27

Mon. 3/23
Chicken, Apricot, and Chickpea Tagine
Couscous? Flatbread? (One or the other.)

Tue. 3/24
Beef Stew

Thur. 3/26
Beans and Rice with Cumin

Fri. 3/27
Garlic bread

Week of 3/30-4/3

Mon. 3/30
Easy Cheesy Ravioli Casserole
Garlic bread

Tue. 4/1
Salsa, Chicken, and Black Bean Soup
Tortilla chips, grated cheese, avocado for toppings/sides

Thur. 4/3
Mashed potatoes

Fri. 4/4
Corn tortillas
Soft taco toppings (soft cheese, lime wedges, onions, radishes)

Friday, March 20, 2009

Review of Coq Au Vin

The (almost) Coq au Vin went over pretty well. The onions were not as big of a hit as the rest of the dish but it was all very good. There was a lot of sauce left over; I could probably have not doubled the sauce, just added more chicken, and been fine. The sauce was wonderful though, thick and smooth and rich. I've really never seen one like it come out of the crockpot!

I would definitely make this again; it would be a beautiful dish to serve company and they probably would not even know you made it in the crockpot!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

For Fri. 3/20: BBQ Pork Sandwiches with Coleslaw

I started by doubling this recipe for barbeque sauce. Didn't really deviate from it at all (okay, a LITTLE bit extra garlic. Like 2 cloves.) I use Heinz ketchup and chili sauce and Lea & Perrins Worchestershire sauce, of course. I am using, for my meat, 3 large pork butt roasts, fat trimmed, cut off the bone and the big slabs of meat thrown in with the sauce. He'll cook it 6-8 hours on Low, then shred and mix before serving (with buns to put the meat on.) The beauty of this is that you could use really any meat-- skinless chicken or turkey, beef brisket, anything you like. I don't even like barbeque sauce but this stuff smells good (probably because it has no smoke flavor in it, I cannot STAND smoked stuff, especially liquid smoke, blech!)
To go with it I made just a classic cole slaw. Here's the recipe for that:

In a large bowl or other container (I used an 8 quart Tupperware-type thing I got at Smart and Final, which I use mostly for making massive amounts of three-bean salad for parties) mix 4-5 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice with 1/2-2/3 cups Best Foods/Hellman's mayonnaise until smooth. Add sugar to taste (about 2-5 Tbsp.; this will depend on the acidity of the lemon, among other things.) Stir until well mixed. Add 1 1/2-2 Tbsp. grated white or yellow onion (I actually use the zester face of my grater, not the regular grater face) and salt and pepper to taste (I use about 1 1/2 tsp. salt and about 16 turns of my pepper grinder.) Stir well and add 2 bags of coleslaw mix (or equivalent hand-shredded cabbage and carrots.) It will look like a lot but as it mixes down it will shrink. Fold it all together or, if you're using a sealable container, put the lid on and shake it well. Refrigerate at least 6 hours (longer is good), stirring (or shaking) occasionally. Mmmmm. Perfect with hot dogs, burgers, or any other barbeque-type food.

I know the guys are going to ADORE this one...

For Thurs. 3/19: Coq Au Vin (um, without the vin...)

Well, I had everything set to make this recipe, doubled (using 12 thighs instead of breasts, because I got thighs on sale for $0.59/lb. the other week and they've been waiting in my freezer for a nice crockpot recipe) and using full-grown portabellos, halved before slicing (because they were 1/3 cheaper than the baby ones per lb.-- I bought them by the lb., the babies were only available in packages; btw, 4 medium-to-large portabellos are about a pound) and I was all ready to go. I even got a nice white wine, on clearance because something had spilled on the label for half off.

Now the thing you have to understand about this story is that we are non-drinkers. We got 2 "kitchen tools" sets when we were married that had corkscrews in them; we gave one to the thrift store and the other has been bouncing around our house unused and continually snatched away from the toddlers who always seem to find and play with it, for fear they will poke someone's eye out... Anyway, I saw it last month but when we went to look for it it was not there. Nor was it anywhere else we could find it. At this point it was 2 in the morning so it was not like I could call my dad to bring over his corkscrew and open the bottle for us (and then probably take the rest of the unused wine away with him.) So, we were in a jam.

Well, I ended up substituting. I used the substitution someone else said they had done with it-- 2 Tbsp. of apple cider vinegar with apple juice to make 1 cup. Everything else went smoothly and hopefully after 6 hours on Low, with some rice on the side, no one will know the difference... It smells very good, I'm sure it will taste fine. And I guess the unused bottle of wine will go to my mom, who has been wonderfully helpful this tax season, taking us to Emma's doctor appointments, keeping the kids while she was in the hospital, and coming over when Bridget was too cranky for words and I was overwhelmed (and bringing dinner.)

Note: the recipe has mushrooms. It was just too good to pass up. I'm sending leftover roast chicken for the guy who doesn't eat mushrooms.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

St. Patrick's Day Dinner

It's St. Patrick's Day, and in our family that means one thing. No, not corned beef (though we'll have that some other time, and actually my dad served it to us on Sunday evening.) Colcannon!

I love colcannon but it's a bunch of work so I don't make it often-- but I ALWAYS do for St. Patrick's Day. It's, like, a tradition and stuff. ;) It's my favorite Irish food, and since I don't drink and am not Catholic the main point of my St. Patrick's day celebration is to celebrate my Irish heritage (I've got a lot of it, and am fond of it.)

So no crockpot cookery today, the crockpot will just be used to keep the colcannon warm.

I also made a baked ham to go with. I used the same recipe I did last year. You can view that recipe, and my colcannon recipe, on this blog post from last year at my personal blog. The ham will be served cold.

Have a happy St. Patrick's Day!

Review of Lentil-Veggie Soup

It was good, but needed salt for sure. Very filling, only half got eaten. The bread was not great but decent, not as good as it smelled! In the future the only change I'd make is a different kind of bread with it, and some salt at the end!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Mon. 3/16: Lentil-Veggie Soup

I used this recipe. Doubled, of course. The only change was that I put the pepper in at the beginning.

It looks to be very hearty. It will cook probably several hours on Low and then finish up on High. I have some kind of interesting bread I found at the bakery called schwartz brot. It's a sourdough made with part rye and part wheat flour. Looks good. Smells good too!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Lasagna rematch: TURKEY lasagna!

Well, the guys liked the last lasagna I made so much I figured I'd do it again.

But, this time, in addition to using whole wheat noodles, I got a good deal on ground turkey ($1/lb.) So, omitting the mushrooms (since there's an allergy, apparently) I had room for my 2 1/2 lbs. of cheap ground turkey. I browned it up with some garlic (like 8 cloves) and the Italian seasoning.

Of course I used low-fat cheese, and I also used some spaghetti sauce with spinach in it (not like I'm trying to sneak nutrition into them or anything... *looks innocent*) In fact if you had the mind to I bet you could sub, or add, frozen spinach, squeezed dry, for the mushroom layer, or mix it in with your ricotta. That could be very yummy.

I already know that this turned out perfect at 5 hours on Low so we'll do that. I baked up 2 loaves of garlic bread to go with. Now to see if anyone notices the turkey and spinach...

Review of Aloo Rajma

Oh, my, the Aloo Rajma was everything I expected. Apparently the guys thought it was good too. No complaints, even in jest, this time about it being vegetarian. ;)

I really can't think of anything I'd do differently on this one, other than if I was making it for just us maybe making jasmine rice or even a pilaf and some naan to go with it. The flavors were just right and tasted every bit as good as a curry from my favorite Indian restaurant.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

For Thurs. 3/12: Aloo Rajma (Potato-Bean Curry)

I used this recipe (doubled) with the following changes:

-My onions were really strong, I used half as much. But then, I added like 8 cloves of minced garlic, so...

-I used half curry powder and half garam masala, upped the ginger, added coriander (did you know coriander seed is the same plant as cilantro? But they taste way different), and added a bit of turmeric (because I like a really nice strong turmeric color and flavor in a yellow curry.)

-I used half red and half white new potatoes and garbonzo beans.

-I used store-brand tomatoes with chiles, not Rotel. Because I'm cheap that way. ;) I almost used tomatoes with jalepenos instead of tomatoes with green chiles but I thought that might be too much for a few of them to handle.

It will cook on Low for about 8-9 hours. I made some steamed rice to serve it over and I'm sending some yogurt to cool it off for those who are wusses in the heat department. ;) (I know at least one person will put hot sauce on it. And really, I didn't put NEAR as much heat in as I would if I were cooking just for me. But, you know, some people just can't take spicy the way I can.)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Review of Pasta E Fagioli

The Pasta E Fagioli was very, very good. Probably would have been even better had I remembered to get real beef stock. ;)

Really, I can't think of much I would do differently except that I was right it could have done with half the beef. And maybe more pasta. I think if I made it again I'd use half as much beef and twice as much pasta, for my personal preference. (And real beef stock or broth. ;) )

But this one is a keeper for sure! Really good, hearty soup, a big pot full that everyone enjoyed.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Review of Spanish Chicken

Review of Spanish Chicken With Olives

This would have been great-- except it was undercooked.

The flavor was good and the guys didn't complain, but the rice was gritty.

It tasted like, well, Spanish rice with chicken, pretty much. Very nice, but if I make it again I'll either shell out for the converted rice or cook it longer. Jeff didn't think to CHECK before serving it so... The guys didn't complain though. And the chicken was cooked through, at least.

I would like to make this for company some time, I'm sure they'd be impressed, but like I said, I'd make sure it was cooked through!

For Tue. 3/10: Pasta E Fagioli

I used this recipe (a recipe I didn't have to double! Wow!)

I added 2 cloves of garlic.

I subbed a dash of cayenne for the Tabasco.

As suggested by reviewers, I cooked the pasta (Bertolli Piccolini Mini Farfalle) separately and Jeff will add it in at the end.
I somehow managed to leave the store without buying the beef broth. And, I am somehow out of beef boullion (which I ALWAYS keep on hand, I don't know what happened, really.) So I flavored some water with 2 or 3 Tbsp. of Worchestershire sauce, to add color and meatiness. I doubt they'll notice. (I also decreased the water by about 2 ounces because I'm not putting the pasta in dry to soak up some of the liquid. The pot still ended up full to the VERY top. This is a HUGE recipe, folks.)

They'll eat that with some rolls we got. (And they'll like it. Or else. ;) No, just kidding, but I'm sure they'll like it.)

My first impression is that I could have done with half the beef. But we will see when it is cooked.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

For Mon. 3/9: Spanish Chicken With Olives

It actually has rice and beans in it, too. :)

I doubled this recipe. (Except I used 10 pieces of chicken.)


-Like a reviewer, I used regular rice and doubled the water.

-I also subbed minced garlic and fresh pepper for the garlic powder and garlic pepper seasoning.

-I used a jar of pre-sliced green olives instead of "roughly chopping" them. Because I'm lazy that way. 1 jar is about 1 1/4 cups which is close enough to 1 1/3 for me. I put half in the bottom and sprinkled half over the top.

-I used frozen chicken breast halves and just put them in frozen. I figure it will be defrosted by the time it goes in.

-I sprinkled dried parsley on the top instead of garnishing at the end.

-I used 1 yellow and 1 green bell pepper because that is what my mom had and I forgot to get it at the store.

-I borrowed saffron (the really good stuff) from my dad. I'm not up for buying a bottle of really expensive stuff I never use just for one recipe. ;) If you don't have a dad who's a gourmet cook you can borrow some from and aren't up for buying it, you can use 1/4 tsp. turmeric instead. It will change the flavor somewhat, but it will give the right color, and the flavor difference won't be THAT noticeable.

It will cook for 6 hours on Low and hopefully not sit too long after that.

Review of Meatball Subs

As expected, the Meatball Subs were a big hit.

In fact, not one whole meatball came back. A few little pieces and some sauce did, and the one I tasted was good. It was a weeee bit mushy. Probably because I didn't bother to brown it. No one complained and I didn't really mind. However next time I might put a bit more breadcrumbs, make it stiffer so it wouldn't be quite as mushy. But they cooked through quite well.

I think I would like meatballs cooked like this, and the sauce, over spaghetti (like I said I'm not a meatball sub person.) The guys want this one again!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Menus weeks beginning 3/9 and 3/16

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.

Week of 3/9-3/13

Mon. 3/9
Spanish Chicken with Olives

Tue. 3/10
Pasta e Fagioli

Thur. 3/12
Aloo Rajma (potato and bean curry)

Fri. 3/13
Garlic Bread

Week of 3/16-3/20

Mon. 3/16
Lentil-Veggie Soup
Crusty Bread

Tue. 3/17*
Colcannon (kept warm in crockpot)
Baked Ham

Thur. 3/19
Coq Au Vin (chicken in white wine sauce)

Fri. 3/20
BBQ pork sandwiches
Buns for sandwiches
Cole slaw (for sandwiches or side)

*St. Patrick's Day. Dinner is for entire office, will be cooked at home and served at dinner time.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Friday 3/6: Meatball Subs

Ah, the meatball sub. I'm not sure whether to list it as Italian (it purports to be) or American (it actually is.) I guess I'll do both.

I doubled this recipe. Omitted the parmesan, like I said, I'm out. Used dried minced onions. Added breadcrumbs until the texture was right. Seasoned up the sauce with extra Italian seasoning (again, cheap brand.) Didn't brown them, just threw them in to cook for 8 or 9 hours. To be served with buns (not hot dog, good sub buns) and shredded mozzarella cheese (and a slotted spoon, for the meatballs, and a ladle, for the sauce.)

I anticipate that much as I am not a fan of meatball subs, the guys will adore it.

Tomorrow I am also having Jeff pass around a list of what they've had so far so they can vote for up to 4 favorites to be repeated.

Review of Spinach Stuffed Shells

The stuffed shells are excellent.

I didn't even miss ricotta (usually I would LOATHE using non-fat cottage cheese instead of real whole-milk ricotta-- oh, did I mention it was non-fat? It was) and eggs, which are two things that usually go in my shells. The slow-cooking fixed any potential textural problems. The flavor was awesome despite the cheap sauce. This one's a keeper, folks.

Comments included:

"Very filling"


"I don't know what's in this but it tastes great!"

And from my husband, "They always say it's good, they've come to expect great food from you at this point." (Hmmm, maybe I should throw some stinkers in there so they stop taking me for granted. Just kidding! :p )

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Thurs. 3/5: Spinach-Stuffed Pasta Shells

I doubled this recipe.

I added 4 cloves garlic and fudged the parmesan because, um, I forgot to buy it, so I dumped in what we had and a bit extra mozzarella, and hoped no one noticed. ;)

I added some dried onion and Italian seasoning to the spaghetti sauce because I bought the cans of store-brand and, well, not so flavorful. ;)

I poured in 1 26 ounce can of sauce, layered shells, poured in a bit more than half of a second can, layered shells, poured the rest of that can and another half, layered shells, and then the rest over the top. It seemed like the right amount to me. I did have cheese mixture left over when no more shells would fit in the crockpot, but all my shells left were broken anyway, so I just dumped them. It wasn't THAT much left over.

I boiled the shells "al dente" and then drained in a colander, rinsed, and put straight back into the pot, but this time filled with COLD water. That's a trick my dad taught me. It keeps the pasta from getting sticky while you're filling it. A great technique for any kind of stuffed pasta (shells, manicotti, etc.)

Jeff cooked it 4 hours on Low then let it sit another 2 or so on Warm. I sent 2 loaves of pre-sliced garlic bread with him. Hopefully they enjoy it but not so much that none comes back for me to taste. ;)

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Review of Pea Soup

I'm eating a bowl of Split Pea Soup right now.

It's awesome. It's thick and creamy and everything, really, that a pea soup should be. I might tweak the flavor a weeee bit next time-- maybe a dash of caraway, a bit more celery, and a finer dice on the ham, or even a bit of bacon. But it was excellent as is. Especially with sourdough, sourdough and pea soup are just made for each other! I was glad I did not bother do mince the carrots, they fell apart as it was. They were fine sliced.

It got eaten. One person even said he wouldn't mind a repeat, but overall not RAVE reviews but well-liked. I mean, it's pea soup. It's not flashy but it's comforting and comfortable and filling and yummy. :)

I would definitely use the recipe again, and recommend it. Good pea soup. Excellent pea soup.

Now I'm going back to my bowl of pea soup. ;)

P.S.-- the Black-eyed Peas were also good. No extra water needed today, it was just the right amount. And the kids even ate them. It was nice to come home to after a doctor's appointment. We had it with fruit, actually, because after making banana pudding for dessert the kids were fussy so I opted to get them down for a nap rather than make cornbread. But it had meat so I figure we're good on protein. ;)

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Bonus Recipe: Black-Eyed Peas with Soup Bones

Soup bones were on clearance and black-eye peas take a lot of the same ingredients as pea soup so I decided to put some in our crockpot for our lunch or dinner tomorrow (no room in the fridge so it will just cook overnight.)

Here's what I did:

Put about 3 lbs. beef soup bones or pork or ham or other meaty bones in the crockpot.

Add 16 ounces dried black-eyed peas, rinsed.

Add 2 carrots, sliced (or equivalent baby carrots), 1/2 medium onion, diced, 2 stalks celery, sliced, 2 cloves garlic, minced, and black pepper to taste (I prefer to add salt at the end.) If desired, add chili or chipotle powder to taste. If desired, add 1 can diced tomatoes. (I didn't add either this time.)

Pour over about 1 1/2 quarts water, or more if needed (judge it by eye, remember you won't lose as much in the crockpot as on the stove.) Cook on Low until done, adding water and stirring as needed. Season with salt, remove bones, and stir before serving. Serve with rice or cornbread. Mmm.

Tue. 3/3: Split Pea Soup

I looove split pea soup. Hopefully the guys will too.

I doubled this recipe. I had like 3 but this looked the most like my on-the-stove recipe, plus I'll admit I was swayed by the "don't stir" directions. ;)


-I Don't Do whole carrots. I'm lazy like that but I ABHOR peeling. For your future reference, 5 baby carrots are equivalent to 1 whole medium carrot. I usually mince them for pea soup but for this recipe I followed directions and sliced. They'll fall apart anyway, it's the crockpot.

-I bought pre-diced ham. It was the same price per pound as ham steak. Did I mention I'm lazy? If you got other ham on sale it would be cheaper but no ham was on sale so I bought pre-diced. I only used 1 lb. and I think that was about 1/2 the amount the (doubled) recipe would have called for but it looked like plenty to me.

-I ran out of seasoned salt. Regular salt it is.

-I couldn't find my pepper grinder. I love how things disappear around here. I used pre-ground instead and since it was really old (hardly ever use it) doubled the amount.

-Obviously I didn't use hot water, what's the point? I did use filtered, we have hard water around here. 3 qts wouldn't all fit in the crockpot with the other stuff. I used 2 1/2 quarts 'cause that's what fit.

Jeff will cook for 5 hours on High (then Warm for 2 or 3 hours) or 9 hours or so on Low, then remove the bay leaves, stir, and serve with sourdough break-off rolls we picked up at the bakery. Mmmm.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Review of Bacon-Wrapped Chicken

This one went over well! Surprisingly so!

I thought, based on reviews, that without cooking the bacon it might not cook right, etc. Apparently the flavor went nicely through the dish and no one minded the texture. (Then again, they're guys in their 20s-- mostly-- and not picky.)

Several people said this is among the favorite recipes so far, actually. One guy said he's not a fan of water chestnuts (well then TELL ME these things when I ask for allergies or dislikes!) but he liked the chicken itself. My husband said the chicken was tender, falling apart after so long on high, and the sauce was delicious over the rice.

I'm thinking we need a survey to see what they want me to repeat. This one was fairly simple, if they want it again I think that can be arranged.

Revised menu week of 3/2

Obviously I am doing chicken today, not shells... I had to move the chicken from last week, it needed to be eaten. So this week's menu will be as follows:

Mon. 3/2

Bacon-Wrapped Chicken

Tue. 3/3

Split Pea Soup
Crusty Bread

Thur. 3/5

Spinach-Stuffed Pasta Shells
Garlic Bread

Fri. 3/6

Meatball Subs
Buns on side

Hopefully the guys will not mind marinara sauce 3 days in a row (they almost always get Italian food for their Wed. dinner, too.)

(Honestly, I'm sure they won't complain.)

Mon. 3/2: Bacon-Wrapped Chicken

This recipe was my springboard...

I started by pretty much tripling it. I used half half breasts, actually, because I had a package of 5 huge half breasts that I cut in half.

Of course we have a mushroom allergy so I switched the soup out to 98% fat free cream of celery. I omitted the mushrooms and put in 3 cans (well, minus what I ate-- I can't resist those suckers) of sliced water chestnuts for crunch. And it looked kinda bland so I threw in about a Tbsp. of soy sauce for color and flavor, and about a tsp. of Worchestershire sauce. I tossed them around a little bit when I dumped them in so each piece would have some sauce around it, hopefully. I'm tired (after 4 hours in the emergency room) so I wasn't really loading them neatly in each surrounded by sauce.

Oh, and I couldn't find my toothpicks, which have disappeared to some mysterious place, so I used bamboo skewers, cut in thirds.

It will cook about 8 hours on high (and hopefully not overcook.) And I made white rice to serve it over. And I hope everyone will get their skewers out before they eat them. ;)

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Review of Sloppy Joes

The Sloppy Joes were a huge success.

There was even a little left over for us to eat. I LOVED it. So did Bridget. (Emma did not try it. She is still not eating well.) The flavor was SO much better than canned stuff. I will be doing this again, possibly for a party or something some day, possibly just for us! And I think the guys would not mind if I made this again, not one bit. Thumbs up all around on this one.