Thursday, January 29, 2009

Sandra Lee

I feel all Sandy Lee with this post. Now I realize my blog hasn't been updated as frequently as some would like. This isn't because I am not cooking, I am just making things I have made in the past, so they aren't really blog worthy.

I am using up some leftovers (one big batch of chili equates to chili for lunch, baked potatoes topped with chili for dinner, chili fries; you get the idea) We have been eating soup & sandwiches (chicken phillys; grilled sandwiches, etc...) So really, nothing all that exciting. January was a month of the grocery store boycott and I did really well on the spending. I look forward to February, but I must say, its a lot easier to eat semi-healthy & save money than to eat super healthy & save money.

(Ok focus now. This whole pregnancy thing has my mind wandering.)

The reason I say this dinner is Sandy Lee is that I barely made anything from scratch. I had some frozen Italian meatballs in the freezer & wanted to use them up. But I didn't want to make spaghetti & meatballs. While I searched for recipes that involved meatballs, Swedish meatballs seemed to make the the top of each list. A dinner that was easy enough to make & came together quite quickly.

Jule-Lee's Semi Homemade Swedish Meatballs
20 frozen meatballs
1 jar beef gravy
1/2 packet of onion soup mix
1/2 cup to 3/4 cup light sour cream
a little flour or cornstarch & water
extra wide egg noodles

1. Cook the meatballs according to the directions on the package. Mine said to cook in an oven at 375 for 15-20 minutes.
2. In skillet, add beef gravy & onion soup mix. Heat for about 5 minutes, then add the sour cream. Continue to stir until well incorporated.
3. Start a pot of water boiling for the noodles, cook according to package & preference.
3. Once the meatballs are done, add them to the beef gravy mixture. Sprinkle with parsley. Bring to simmer for about 5-10 minutes. Now if you'd like your sauce to be thicker, add a mixture of cornstarch & water & simmer for an additional 5 minutes.

(So there are ways to make this healthier, like making your own meatballs using ground turkey.) This made 4 meals, 5 meatballs per meal.

I served this with peas only b/c every recipe I found that had a picture of Swedish meatballs included peas on the side. Can someone explain to me why peas are THE side to go with Swedish Meatballs??

Friday, January 23, 2009

Help me Readers!

As some of you know, the Hubs & I are expecting our first child in April. Since I know he will be taking up much of my cooking & baking time, I would like to get a headstart on some meals & baked goods that I can use during the first few months.

Now, I have this problem where I make things, freeze them, then never use them b/c for some reason their I think they won't taste as good as if I make them right away. So help me get over my fear and post some tried & true recipes. I have somewhat overcome the freezer/baking fear with the icebox cookies I made over the holidays, but I would love some more recipes.


Chicken Chow Mein

I suppose this could be classified under "fake out take out", but then I would have to classify all Chinese food as fake out take out.

When I was making my menu for the week, I knew I would have some extra chicken breasts that would need to be used, not enough to just grill them individually, but enough to put in a pasta or casserole. I think this recipe came across my hotmail & when I saw that it called for snow peas, I was pumped. (This is because I still have snow peas in my freezer from the garden). So not only would I be utilizing the extra chicken I had on hand, I would also be using up some of the items in the deep freeze.

Chicken Peanut Chow Mein
Cooking Light

1 cup precut matchstick-cut carrot
1 cup snow peas, trimmed
2 (6-ounce) packages chow mein noodles
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil, divided
1/2 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast
3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce, divided
3/4 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 cup presliced mushrooms
2 teaspoons bottled fresh ground ginger (such as Spice World)
1 cup (1-inch) sliced green onions
2 tablespoons dry-roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped

Cook carrots, snow peas, and noodles in boiling water 3 minutes; drain.

Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Cut chicken crosswise into thin strips. Add chicken and 1 tablespoon soy sauce to pan; stir-fry 3 minutes. Remove chicken from pan; keep warm.

Combine remaining 2 tablespoons soy sauce, broth, oyster sauce, sugar, and pepper, stirring well. Heat remaining 1 teaspoon oil over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and ginger to pan; stir-fry for 3 minutes. Add broth mixture, and cook for 1 minute. Add noodle mixture and chicken to pan; cook 1 minute, tossing to combine. Sprinkle with onions and peanuts.

With a few modifications, the only thing I had to buy was mushrooms. I used fish sauce in place of oyster sauce; spaghetti noodles for chow mein noodles & I omitted the onions.

This tasted just like the chow mein I eat at the chinese buffet, but way healthier. I think it could have used a little more sauce or more red pepper, I would have liked more of a kick. Also to note, if you are using noodles other than chow mein, do not cook your veggies with the noodles. My poor peas were so overcooked.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Sqaush Bisque

If you follow my blog, you know that every summer my husband & I have a garden. Well last summer we decided to plan one squash & one zucchini plant. And well, they did QUITE well. I have a deep freeze full of squash & zucchini that I couldn't use. The only problem with this is that I can't use them to saute or anything, they are too mushy. They work best in soups or baking, where they can be pureed or intended to be mushy. This creates a bit of a challenge, because when you search for a soup with squash or minestrone, the number one result is Minestrone. I enjoy minestrone, except I have about a gallon of minestrone in my freezer already.

I found this squash bisque on I haven't ever made a bisque, but I figured I had nothing to lose but one of the 8 gallon sized bags of squash in my freezer. I surely wouldn't be devastated if it didn't turn out well.

Squash Bisque
3 quarts

2 medium potatoes
1 large onion
3 carrots
1/2 cup butter or margarine
4 cups sliced yellow squash
1 quart chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 cup milk
Garnishes: sour cream, chopped fresh chives

Peel and cube potatoes; chop onion and carrots.

Melt butter in a Dutch oven; add onion, and saute until tender. Add potato, carrot, squash, and next 3 ingredients; cover, reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, 1 hour.

Process vegetable mixture in batches in a blender or food processor until smooth, stopping to scrape down sides; return mixture to Dutch oven. Stir in milk, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and cook, stirring often, just until soup is thoroughly heated. Garnish, if desired.

To my surprise, we both really enjoyed this and it was quite filling. I don't know that I would make it again, maybe for a dinner party as it seems quite elegant, but I was very happy with the outcome. It also didn't make 12 servings, which is a huge plus for me!

Baking Saturday

In keeping up with my Saturday morning baking, this week I made apple spiced coffee cake. I have apples frozen from this summer that calling my name from the deep freeze. Since Williams-Sonoma was such a choice last week, I went right there to find a recipe for this week.

Apple Spiced Coffee Cake
Courtesy of Williams-Sonoma
For the cake:
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
3 tart cooking apples, such as Granny Smith or
Braeburn, 1 lb. total, peeled, cored and
coarsely chopped
2 Tbs. strained fresh orange juice, lemon juice
or apple juice
1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
8 Tbs. (1 stick) unsalted butter, at
room temperature
8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 eggs

For the vanilla glaze:
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2 Tbs. condensed skim milk, warmed, plus
more as needed
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat an oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 9-inch round springform pan or square baking pan or baking dish (see Note).

To make the cake, in a bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder and salt.

In another bowl, toss the apples with the juice. In a small bowl, stir together the brown sugar, cardamom and cinnamon. Add to the apples and toss to coat. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, combine the butter, cream cheese, granulated sugar and vanilla and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the flour mixture in 2 or 3 additions and beat well until smooth. Using a large rubber spatula, gently fold in the apples just until evenly distributed, no more than a few strokes. Do not overmix. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly.

Bake until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 60 to 70 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the glaze: In a small bowl, whisk together the confectioners sugar, the 2 Tbs. milk and the vanilla until smooth and pourable. Adjust the consistency of the glaze by adding more milk, a few drops at a time, if needed.

Remove the sides of the springform pan, if using, and place the cake on a wire rack set over a piece of waxed paper to catch any drips. While the cake is warm, drizzle with the glaze. Let the cake cool to room temperature. Cut into wedges or squares to serve. Makes one 9-inch cake.

Note: If using a glass baking dish, reduce the oven temperature to 325°F.

I think either my glaze wasn't thick enough or the cake was still too warm when I put the glaze on. It doesn't look as thick as the picture on their website. This was really good & it made the house smell AWESOME!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Salmon Cakes

I had some salmon fillets in the deep freeze that I needed to use up. I was tired of the same old grilled salmon and really wanted to make something a little different with them.

The original recipe I found was a Cooking Light recipe. I have linked it below, however, I altered it quite a bit. My only complaint is that my cakes didn't stay together all that well. I am chalking that up to the fact that I used fresh salmon as opposed to canned salmon.

Cajun Salmon Cakes with Lemon-Garlic Aioli
2 tablespoons fat-free mayonnaise
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon bottled minced garlic

3 salmon fillets
1/4 cup sliced green onions
1/4 cup fat-free mayonnaise
2 tablespoons panko
1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning blend
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 cup panko
1 tablespoon canola oil

To prepare aioli, combine first 3 ingredients in a small bowl; set aside.

To prepare the salmon, spray a large skillet with olive oil (I use my Misto) and heat. Cook salmon until it flakes when you touch it with a fork. Remove from skillet. In a bowl, separate the salmon as best you can.

To prepare cakes, combine salmon and next 5 ingredients (through mustard) in a medium bowl. Divide salmon mixture into 8 equal portions, shaping each portion into a (1/2-inch-thick) patty. Dredge patties in 1/2 cup panko.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Place patties in pan; cook 3 minutes on each side or until lightly browned and heated through. Serve aioli over salmon.

To compliment the meal, I steamed some broccoli & made a pasta creation from my pantry. I had whole wheat rotini, butter, garlic & onions. So I carmelized the onions & garlic, then tossed the cooked pasta with them. I added a little bit of the pasta water to give it a little sauce & I topped it with parmesan cheese. This was super easy & a good way to use up my ingredients in the house. I won't post a picture but really, whole wheat pasta is not very photogenic.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Best Banana Bread Yet!

As this pregnancy progresses, I find I can no longer sleep in. I am lucky if I make it until 7am on a Saturday. So I find myself baking some kind of breakfast goodie while the hubs sleeps. This past weekend my friend came out to help paint the baby's room. With a 9am start time, I thought banana bread would be a good quick snack.

I had some frozen bananas to use and b/c I actually had the forethought to make banana bread, I pulled them out of the freezer the night before & put them in the fridge. Now, I have never used frozen bananas in my banana bread so I was a little bit skeptical.

I remembered, from years ago, that I had printed out a recipe for banana bread from Williams-Sonoma & that it contained buttermilk. So I went on a search & found this one. Now I didn't have any buttermilk in the house, but I knew there was some concoction you could use to make buttermilk at home. (Its 1 cup of milk & 1 Tbsp of white vinegar or lemon juice.

Banana Bread
6 Tbs. (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, at room
1 cup sugar
2 or 3 very ripe bananas, coarsely mashed
(about 1 1/2 cups)
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, pecans
or hazelnuts

Preheat an oven to 350°F. Grease and lightly flour a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, beat together the butter and sugar on medium speed until creamy, about 1 minute. Add the bananas and eggs and beat until smooth. Add the buttermilk and beat just until combined.

In a bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, nutmeg, salt and nuts. Add the flour mixture to the banana mixture and beat just until combined. The batter should be slightly lumpy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. It should be no more than two-thirds full. Bake until the loaf is dark golden brown and dry to the touch and the edges pull away from the sides of the pan, 55 to 60 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean. Let the bread rest in the pan for 5 minutes, then turn the loaf out onto a wire rack and let cool completely. Cut into thick slices to serve. Makes one 9-by-5-inch loaf.

This was awesome & by far the best banana bread I have made. I ended up using the 2 frozen bananas and another almost too ripe one I had on the counter. I omitted the nuts this time around b/c sometimes, nuts are just too much! This will definitely be my "go-to" banana bread recipe from here on out. It took longer than 60 minutes, more like 75 minutes.

Sun Dried Tomato Pesto & Chicken Pasta

As I have mentioned in the past, my husband & I used to be members of the Tuscan Club with Viansa Winery. We ended that membership when Baby Rush came along, but I still had a ton of food/pantry items that remain. As I work through my pantry, I am trying to use up some of those. I came across a Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto.

I found a few recipes to use it in. First up, a pasta dish I found on Cooking Light, although I wouldn't categorize this as light. The pesto was very oily. I linked the original recipe below, however, the typed up version is what I did.

Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto and Chicken Pasta Toss
6 servings (serving size: 2 cups)

Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 packaged sliced mushrooms
1 (12-ounce) can evaporated fat-free milk
1/2 cup diced swiss cheese (you can use whatever you want)
4 cups whole wheat rotini pasta


To prepare pasta, heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle chicken with 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper. Add chicken to pan; sauté 5 minutes or until chicken is done. Remove chicken from pan. Add minced garlic; sauté 30 seconds. Add balsamic vinegar and mushrooms; cook for 2 minutes. Stir in pesto and evaporated fat-free milk. Bring to a boil, and cook for 2 minutes. Add diced cheese; cook until cheese melts, stirring constantly. Return chicken to pan; cook 1 minute or until thoroughly heated. Combine chicken mixture and pasta, tossing well to coat.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Parmesan & Sage Crusted Chicken

I came across this recipe on Stacey's Blog. I figured I could substitute chicken in pretty easily. Stacey is known for her killer baking skills & itty bitty body. We always ask how she stays so thin, well she actually gives away her baked goodies!

Parmesan & Sage Crusted Chicken
1 (1 1/4-ounce) slice white bread, torn into pieces (I also used Panko)
1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon prepared mustard
2 large egg whites (I used one reg egg)
4 (4-ounce) boneless thin-cut pork loin chops, trimmed
(I used 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts)
1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil

1. Place bread in a food processor; pulse bread 10 times or until coarse crumbs measure about 1 cup. Combine breadcrumbs, cheese, sage, salt, and pepper in a shallow dish. Place flour in another shallow dish. Combine mustard and egg whites in another shallow dish, stirring with a whisk.

2. Working with one pork chop at a time, dredge pork in flour, shaking off excess. Dip pork into egg white mixture, allowing excess to drip off. Coat pork completely with breadcrumb mixture. Set aside. Repeat procedure with remaining pork, flour, egg white mixture, and breadcrumb mixture.

3. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add oil to pan, swirling to coat. Add pork; cook 3 minutes on each side or until browned and done.

My Notes: I don't know if my chicken was extra thick or what but the outsides were nice & brown & the insides were super raw. So I placed the chicken in a small baking dish & placed in the oven on 400F for 5 minutes per side. This seems to do the trick & it didnt dry out the chicken.

For an all around healthy meal, I made baked sweet potatoes & steamed cauliflower.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Italian Sausage & Zucchini Soup

In a effort to use up the zucchini & squash I have frozen from our summer harvest, I came across this soup at Kalyn's Kitchen.

This was super easy to throw together, I made mine in our slow cooker as opposed to the stove top mostly b/c we were in and out of the house all day & I didn't want to worry about the stove being on. I also made quite a bit less. The link above is the original recipe. Below is how I adjusted it to what I had in the house.

Italian Sausage and Zucchini Soup
2 links Italian Sausage, mild
olive oil
1/2 small onion, diced small
1 T finely chopped fresh garlic
2 cups sliced zucchini
3 cups beef broth
4 cups frozen diced tomatoes with juice
2 tsp. dried oregano
2 tsp. dried basil
1/2 -3/4 cup macaroni
3 T minced fresh basil (optional, or you can use frozen basil)
fresh grated parmesan cheese for topping soup

Brown sausage in olive oil in large nonstick frying pan until well browned and firm. Remove sausage to cutting board and cut in 3/8 inch slices. Mine only browned on the outside, so I ended up browning the outside, then slicing. Put sausage back in the pan and add the onions, garlic & olive oil. Cook until sausage is no longer pink.

In your crockpot, place frozen zucchini, tomatoes & juice, beef broth & spices. Add the sausage mixture to the crockpot. Cover & leave on high for about 3-4 hours. Once the mixture is at a gentle boil, add the pasta. Cover & set to low for about 1 hour. Check periodically to ensure there is enough liquid. If you need to add more beef broth, go ahead.

Serve soup with fresh grated parmesan cheese.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Cleaning out the house

Someone told me that the average household has enough food in their house to live off of for a week or two. It may not be food that you want to eat, but its there. On New Year's Day, I decided to inventory our deep freeze, lazy susan, pantry, fridge & normal freezer.

Lord do we have a lot of stuff, like 3 excel pages worth of food items. One of the many goals of 2009 is to spend money more wisely. So for January, I am trying to avoid the devil that is the grocery store, only going for milk, bread, eggs & fruit. I am also avoiding the grocery store I love & going to Wal-Mart. I hate going to Wal-Mart. Its so big & I hate having to walk around the whole freakin store to find one thing that isn't in a logical place. But, this will deter me from falling into the "Deals". I spent $40 this Sunday on items that should make it through the next two weeks. It will be a miracle if i can make it to February spending less than $100 at the store.

Since I spent like $200 on a baking sale on my last trip to the grocery store, I looked up some recipes for baked goods for breakfast. Saturday morning I woke up and made these cinnamon raisin biscuits. I got the recipe from a friend who had gotten it from a Cooking Light cookbook.

Cinnamon-Raisin Biscuits
Courtesy of Cooking Light

2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup chilled stick margarine, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup raisins
3/4 cup 1% low-fat milk
1 tbsp all purpose flour
1/2 cup sifted powdered sugar
1 tbsp 1% low-fat milk

Combine first 5 ingredients in a bowl; cut in margarine with a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add raisins; toss well. Add 3/4 cup milk, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened.

Sprinkle 1 tbsp flour evenly over work surface. Turn dough out onto floured surface; knead 4 or 5 times. Roll dough to 1/2 inch thickness; cut into rounds with a 2/12-inch biscuit cutter. Place on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray, with sides slightly touching. Bake at 400 degrees for 13 to 14 minutes or until golden.

Combine powdered sugar and 1 tbsp milk; stir well. Drizzle over hot biscuits. Serve immediately. Yield; 1 dozen

These totally reminded me of the Hardee's Cinnamon Raisin Biscuits, but with far less fat. I was super excited b/c I got to use my pastry blender as well! Mine made more like 16 biscuits and I used a square cookie cutter instead of a circle. I may have doubled the icing, but hey! I had 4 extra biscuits to top!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Happy New Year!

First off, Happy 2009!! I hope everyone had a safe and happy holiday season. If you are like me though, you are happy its all over. Not b/c I don't enjoy the holidays, I just don't enjoy the disarray that life is around the holidays.

I am sure everyone is blogging about their new year's resolutions & I am so proud to say that this is one year that I don't have to say "lose weight & work out more". That will all come into play after Baby R is born, right now, I will just stay the course. And by "stay the course", I mean continue to cook healthy delicious meals at home.

I have had this recipe marked for awhile & finally got around to cooking it. It sounds all fancy, but is super easy.

Pollo con Mojo de Ajo
"Translated from Spanish is 'chicken with garlic sauce'"
4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 tablespoon butter
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
3/4 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro
4 lime wedges

Place each chicken breast half between 2 sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap; pound to 1/2-inch thickness using a meat mallet or rolling pin. Sprinkle chicken evenly with salt and pepper.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add chicken; cook 6 minutes on each side or until done. Remove chicken from pan; keep warm.

Melt butter in pan over medium-low heat. Add garlic; cook 1 minute (do not brown). Add broth; bring to a boil, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Cook until broth mixture is reduced to 1/2 cup (about 4 minutes). Remove from heat; stir in lime juice. Serve sauce over chicken; sprinkle with cilantro. Serve with lime wedges.

I served this with black beans seasoned with cilantro & a few diced tomatoes. And the stand by Mexican rice recipe.