Sunday, September 26, 2010

Double Apple Cookies

In an effort to A.) feed my children healthy things, B.) stay on budget, and C.) use up what needs using, I created this cookie recipe. They are soft and fragrant, and the girls love them. They use real apples, applesauce, and just a touch of sugar. I made them for their lunchboxes. I try to include a yummy treat each school day, and I'm a few days away from shopping day, which means that the cupboards are getting to the bare mark. I had two apples that needed to be used up. I needed a sweet treat for lunches. So, these cookies were born.

Double Apple Cookies

What You Need:
  • 2 apples, cored and shredded
  • 1/2 cup applesauce (I used natural, unsweetened)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups flour (whole wheat is great here, but 1/2 and 1/2 would do just fine)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
How it's Done:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a couple cookie sheets with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Combine shredded apples, applesauce, egg, and oil. Mix well.
  3. Stir in the brown sugar and vanilla extract.
  4. Combine flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Add to the wet ingredients, and stir until all are combined.
  5. Drop by heaping spoonfuls onto the prepared sheets. Bake 10 to 12 minutes, or until the bottoms are beginning to brown and the cookies spring back when pressed gently.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Meatless Italian Stromboli, sort of

This is a corrupted Stromboli. You've been warned.

It doesn't use Italian dough, and instead, it relies on something I seldom use: canned dough from the refrigerator aisle at the grocery store. However, in a moment of weakness, I bought some, and I've used it for various purposes throughout the month. It performed wonderfully here.

Zucchini Stromboli

What You Need:
  • 1 can crescent roll dough
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp minced fresh basil
  • 1 cup shredded zucchini
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • a sprinkling of sea salt
  • 1 beaten egg
How it's Done:
  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Carefully roll out the crescent dough into a rectangle on a sheet of parchment. Pat together all the seams, being sure no seam is visible before moving on.
  3. Spread the dough with the olive oil, the garlic, and the basil. Now, spread the zucchini and mozzarella over the dough evenly, and sprinkle with salt.
  4. Fold the longest edges in, then fold one short end in. Now, roll up very tightly, jelly-roll style. Double-check that all the seams are secure.
  5. Brush the dough with the beaten egg.
  6. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove and let stand ten minutes before slicing and serving.

Low-Fat, Filling Mexican Pizza

As you all know, I started Weight Watchers last week. I had a tremendously successful week! I went to my 2nd meeting today, and weighed in 5.6 pounds lighter! I feel wonderful about it! If you're unfamiliar with Weight Watchers, and all you see are the products for sale in the supermarket, you might think Weight Watchers stresses the use of packaged foods. Nothing could be further from the truth. I am so pleased with the program. It fits in perfectly with my family's lifestyle. I made this for lunch today and it's delicious, low-fat, and very filling. Plus, it's minimally processed -- just my style. Oh, did I mention that it took me about five minutes to put together?

Mexican Pizza Bagels

Per serving, you will need:
  • 1 Bagel Thin (or Sandwich Thin)
  • 1/2 cup "refried" black beans (cook 'em without fat and smash the leftovers!)
  • 1/4 cup chopped raw onion
  • 2 Tbsp salsa
  • 1/3 cup shredded cheese made with 2% milk (I used a Mexican blend)
  • 2 Tbsp low-fat sour cream
How it's Done:
  1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees (if I had a toaster oven, I would have used it instead!).
  2. Toast the bagel thin. While it's toasting, warm up your beans.
  3. Top the bagel thin with the beans, then salsa, then onions, then cheese.
  4. Stick it in the oven for 3 or 4 minutes -- you just want the cheese to melt a bit and the food to heat through.
  5. Top with sour cream and enjoy!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Menu Plan Monday 9/20 - 9/26

This is going to be a GREAT week! I've got my first Weight Watchers weigh-in. Some of my favorite TV shows come back (Dexter, anyone?). Autumn begins (although no one seems to have notified the weatherman of this. It's supposed to be 100 degrees here today and tomorrow).

Here's my plan for the week. For lots more, visit each Monday morning.

  • oatmeal -- with cinnamon & brown sugar, or apples & honey, or whatever concoction we devise
  • Bagel Thins (my new favorite breakfast item) with cream cheese or an egg
  • peanut butter & jelly on whole grain bread
  • Pot Roast with some sort of bread
  • Roasted Chicken, Wild Rice, and Steamed Vegetables, again, with bread
  • Italian Potatoes (simple recipe follows)
  • Tortilla Soup with cornbread
  • Chicken & Noodles
  • Steak Parmesan
  • Leftovers
Planned Baking:
  • granola
  • bread pudding

Italian Potatoes:

This is a simple meal that's filling and fast.

For each serving, you will need 1 baked potato, 1/2 a cup of meat sauce, and 2 Tbsp shredded mozzarella cheese.

Cut the potato in half lengthwise, almost all the way through (leaving the bottom skin intact). Slice almost all the way through the other way, 3 or 4 times. Top with the meat sauce and mozzarella. Bake at 350 (or microwave) until heated through and cheese is melted.

Have a great week! :)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Please Be Patient with Me

I'm navigating a new part of life: that which I follow Weight Watchers. I will be incorporating some healthier recipes here shortly. I just needed this week to learn the program. Stay tuned for exciting changes around here. I might be getting healthier, but you know that won't mean eating anything that's not delicious!


Thursday, September 16, 2010

Rotini with Kielbasa and Vegetables

Light and filling, this dish also goes together in under 30 minutes, making it a good choice for busy school nights (like tonight, so please forgive me for being so brief).

Rotini with Kielbasa & Veggies
Serves 4

What You Need:
  • 4 cups cooked rotini (I used whole wheat)
  • 8 oz kielbasa, cut into round "coins" (I used turkey kielbasa)
  • 1 large bell pepper, cut into strips
  • 1 cup sliced onions
  • 2 cups cooked broccoli
  • 1 Tbsp fresh basil (chopped)
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic (minced)
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese, divided
How it's Done:
  1. Heat the oil in a skillet. Saute the sausage, pepper, onions, and broccoli for five minutes.
  2. Add the garlic and basil and cooked pasta. Cook and stir until the pasta is coated with olive oil and the dish is well-combined.
  3. Plate four servings and top each with a tablespoon of grated cheese.
What shortcuts do you take to speed up your meal prep on busy days?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Harvest Chicken Salad

After several days of nothing new, I finally have a great new recipe to post. This one has been whirling around in my head for a while now, just waiting for the right name and the right weather. It uses leftover cooked chicken. A roasted chicken is perfect. I used leftovers from a home-cooked rotisserie lemon-pepper chicken.

Harvest Chicken Salad

What You Need:
  • 2 cups cooked chicken, chopped roughly
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries or cherries
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
  • 2 green onions, diced
  • 1/2 of a large green apple (tart), diced (for color and texture, I leave the peel on)
  • the juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • a dash of salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup plain yogurt
How it's Done:
  1. Simple: combine everything. Stir it up and serve on bread or with crackers. Store in the fridge tightly covered.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Eggs Benedict (Arnold). Also, some questions posed to me.

Eggs Benedict is a classic breakfast dish, common on buffet lines, that combines an English muffin half, a poached egg, some Canadian bacon, and some hollandaise sauce.

Benedict Arnold was an officer in the American Revolutionary War. He defected to the British Army. He was a traitor.

So why do I call this dish Eggs Benedict Arnold? Because this dish is, in fact, a traitor. An impostor. A fake. The eggs aren't poached. The meat is ham, not Canadian bacon. And there's cheese. Plus, it's so perfectly fitting, seeing as how we're using an English muffin, and Arnold defected to the English. Ahh, duplicity. Good for traitors and recipe names alike.

Oh, and it's delicious.

Eggs Benedict Arnold

What You Need:

for each serving:
  • 1 toasted English muffin (top and bottom)
  • 2 scrambled eggs (cooked, scrambled in butter)
  • 1 slice of uncured deli ham, heated
  • 2 Tbsp prepared hollandaise sauce
  • 1 Tbsp shredded cheddar cheese
How it's Done:
  1. This is simple once you have all of your ingredients prepared.
  2. On the bottom half of your English muffin, place the scrambled eggs. Top with ham, then hollandaise sauce, then cheese.
  3. Cover with top half of the English muffin and serve. We had these lovelies with bacon and hash browns: breakfast for dinner.
Now, Mary, the Food Floozie, has tagged me to play this eight questions game called Eight to the Eight to the Eight. I won't usually do these sort of posts, since my focus here is on food, but I'm up for a little fun this morning. If you're tagged, I'd love it if you'd participate, but fully understand if you opt not to do so.

The idea is that I'm supposed to answer Mary's eight questions, then pose eight of my own, and tag eight people to answer those. And so on and so on.

Here goes:

1. What is your favorite work of art?

The Creation of Adam - Michelangelo

2. What do you collect, if anything?

Nothing on purpose. I love to get rid of things, so I'd be a terrible collector.

3. What faith were you raised in? And do you still belong to that one, or have you found another, or ...?

I was raised Catholic. I am no longer Catholic. I consider myself Christian, no denomination required.

4. What is your favorite flavor of jelly/jam to use for a PB&J?

Grape all the way, but it has to be real grape, not that weird purple jelled substance that doesn't spread.

5. What song did or would you play for your first dance together at your wedding reception?

Didn't have a wedding reception. Didn't have a formal wedding. Don't dance. However, Keeper of the Stars is "our song."

6. What is your favorite charity?

The ASPCA: American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

7. Nuts in brownies -- yea or nay?

I must be all grown up, because, yes, nuts belong in brownies. Especially walnuts. Yep, it's offical. I'm an adult now.

8. What is your favorite cookbook, the one you rely on time after time?

Cookbooks mostly bore me. They're so generic! I'm going to put one together one of these days, I hope, and I promise it won't be generic.

Now for my questions and my victims prey guests. I'm keeping a cooking bent.

Will you answer the call?

April at Angel Foods Kitchen

Keli at Feeding Four

SnoWhite at Finding Joy in my Kitchen

Michelle at Girl Gone Granola

Mandy at Mandy's Recipe Box

..and that's it. I'm a rule breaker.

Now for the questions:

1. Who inspires you in the kitchen? Why?

2. To sift or not to sift?

3. How do you feel about white chocolate?

4. How do you feel about Teflon?

5. What dish are you famous for?

6. What's the biggest cooking disaster you've ever experienced?

7. If you could cook with any one person, alive or deceased, real or fictional, who would it be and why?

8. What dish would you consider your pièce de résistance, and have you mastered it yet?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Hash Brown Casserole

I'm a fan of serving hot breakfast, especially to people who have to go out and work all day or go to school all day. I find that a hot breakfast keeps people fuller longer. Also, most of the time, serving a hot breakfast is more economical than milk & cereal. Eggs are certainly an example of that.

Today, it's hash brown casserole. Breakfast? Side dish? Dinner? Whatever you serve this as, it's tasty. Plus, the hands-on time is less than 15 minutes, freeing you up to get ready for your day while it bakes in the oven.

Hash Brown Casserole

What You Need:
  • 1 lb hash brown shredded potatoes (homemade, frozen, or refrigerated, your choice)
  • 1/2 lb bulk breakfast sausage
  • 1/2 a large onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • salt & pepper to taste
How it's Done:
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a 10" square baking dish.
  2. Melt the butter in a skillet with high sides. Add onion and sausage and cook until the sausage is no longer pink.
  3. Sprinkle the flour over the onion and sausage. Cook and stir until no flour is visible. Pour in the milk. Cook and stir until thick (should only take a couple of minutes). Remove from heat.
  4. Stir in potatoes, sour cream, and cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Turn mixture into the prepared baking dish.
  6. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until heated through and top is lightly browned.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Not Enough Hours in the Day!

All summer, you gazed wishfully upon your untidy abode, reminding yourself that soon, school will start, and you'll have more time to get things done. For now, you told yourself, I'll just enjoy my children and ignore what can be ignored.

Then, school started, and you found yourself wondering where all of that free time you were promised had gone. PTO meetings, soccer practice, driving kids to cross country meets, attending parent-teacher conferences, baking cupcakes to share with the class for your child's birthday, meeting new parents, shopping, driving.... Oh! So that's where the time went!

What? Is it only me? I swear that I should have more free time in my days! I envisioned myself completing a present I'm working on for a friend who's expecting (and I'm running out of time!), finishing my braided rug, going to the gym... There's simply no time!

So, I look to my kitchen to provide shortcuts where I can. One reliable way to cut time in the kitchen is by using my slow cookers. Here's what's for dinner at my house tonight. I'll upload the final product later (after school, play date, homework, cross country practice, study time, laundry, and cleaning).

Slow Cooker Lasagna
makes a 5 quart crock full

What You Need:
  • 1 box uncooked lasagna noodles
  • 1 1/2 lb ground beef, cooked and drained
  • 1 jar pasta sauce
  • 2 cups water
  • 15 oz ricotta cheese
  • 3 cups mozzarella
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan, grated
  • salt & pepper to taste
How it's Done:
  • Grease the inside of your slow cooker's crock.
  • Combine cooked beef and pasta sauce. Separately, combine ricotta, 2 cups of mozzarella, and the Parmesan cheese. Salt and pepper this mixture to taste.
  • Layer in the crock in this order:

First, lay down a small amount of meat & sauce.

Break two noodles in half and press them into the meat sauce.

Dot with some cheese mixture.

Repeat until you run out of noodles.

Sprinkle with the remaining mozzarella.

Pour two cups of water over the top.

  • Cover and cook on HIGH one hour, then LOW six hours or until dinner, whichever is later.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

For more menu plans, visit

Here we are, at another Monday. It seems like the weeks are flying by, one big blur of time. I've been away from my blog for several days because I needed to take care of home first, and home has been hectic! Soccer and cross country, elementary and middle schools, homework, class projects, cooking, cleaning, driving, meeting...Thus is my life at the beginning of the school year. I think my system is settled now. This week, I have to drive two kids to and from NINE practices and meets and games each week. My husband's in an Army school that's super-intense so he can't help till the middle of October. So, days have been full and busy and are about to get fuller and busier as my children play their chosen sports. I don't know how people with kids in more than one sport each handle it. I'm good with one per kid. Anyway, on to the weekly menu.

I'm going to have to rely on cooking ahead, slow cookers, my rotisserie, and other shortcuts to get me through mealtimes this month. I have plenty of time each morning, so breakfasts aren't a problem. It's dinner that's going to be the struggle. I'm going to do as much prep work ahead of time as I can!


Eggs Benedict Arnold
Sweet Potato Pancakes
Breakfast Pizzas
Banana Coffee Cake
Breakfast Burritos
Banana Bread Crepes
Hash Brown Casserole

Weekday Lunches: Posted at 360 Lunch Boxes

Weekend lunches:

Frito Chili Cheese Wraps
Chicken Salad Sandwiches

Beef Stew
Steak Parmesan
Breakfast for Dinner
Macaroni and Cheese
BBQ Beef

Planned Baking:

Apple Cake
Buttermilk Bread
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Sausage Balls
Ranch Roll-Ups

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Guest Post: Paying Homage to Mom's Cooking

We all remember the cooking of the women in our lives, right? I have fond memories of oat bran muffins, Thanksgiving feasts, and blueberry coffee cake. Stephen is here to talk to us about good ol' pot roast. A while back, I discussed why I never use canned cream of mushroom soup. Were I to make what I call a Heritage Recipe -- that is, one from my culinary heritage, I wouldn't be inclined to change it. If it called for cream of ___ soup, that's what I'd use. Stephen gives us a good example of a recipe from his culinary heritage that uses such a soup.

Stephen, by the way, writes at The Obsessive Chef. He lives in Denver, Colorado. Thank you, Stephen, for sharing this mouth-watering dish with us.

Pot roast Mom's way

Talk about brown food! When I was a kid my mother regularly made pot roast for Sunday dinner. It went into the oven before we went to church and was ready to eat by about 1 pm.

You can see this hunk o' meat was pretty big (took this snap after dinner). About 4 pounds in fact. It's original price was just over $16. I got it on sale for $5 from the manager's specials bin at Safeway. The reason the price was reduced was that it's "last date of sale" was yesterday. But with beef or lamb I don't consider the date specific deadline to be of any importance whatsoever. With pork or poultry I feel differently of course.

The meat has been chilled and you can see more residual congealed fat in the bottom of the container. I'll skim off more of that when I reheat it for dinner tonight.

After researching various pot roast methods I happened on one that I just had to do. It mimics the way my mom cooked our pot roasts lo these many years ago. The only real difference is the wine. She didn't use it. Whether or not she used some chicken stock or not I really don't remember.

When the casserole came out of the oven, I was surprised by how much liquid there was.

Solution? Gravy.

Pot roast mom’s way

1 7-bone chuck pot roast, about 4 lbs.

1 package dry onion soup mix

1 can undiluted mushroom soup

1 ½ cups red wine

water and flour as needed

Preheat oven to 300°.

Place pot roast in a casserole just large enough to hold it. On top of meat put onion soup mix and mushroom soup concentrate. Pour wine around meat.

Cover with foil and seal tightly. Bake for 1 hour then reduce oven to 250°. Continue baking for 3 more hours.

Remove from oven and allow to cool to room temperature (or put it outside if the weather’s cold). Refrigerate until the fat congeals. Scrape up fat and discard. Pour liquid into an adequately sized sauce pan for gravy.

Taste and dilute with water as necessary (mine was extremely salty and strong – I added about ¾ cup of water). Bring to a boil. Whisk in about 1 tbsp flour per (estimated) cup of liquid. It takes more time and more flour here in mile-high Denver). Keep at a strong simmer and keep whisking until the gravy thickens.

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