Friday, May 28, 2010

Poppy Seed Chicken

Happy Birthday, Jack! My baby boy turned ONE year old yesterday - and we celebrated with a family dinner & some cake tonight! I tried to make it a very Jack-friendly meal so he could eat & enjoy to his heart's content. The little monkey had no appetite for dinner tonight! Oh well - the food was delicious & the company was wonderful - all in all a good evening! The menu: Poppy Seed Chicken, Peas, Silver Dollar Potatoes & Cake!!

Sorry - I have no pictures of any of the food tonight. But let me share a recipe!

Poppy Seed Chicken

5-6 chicken breasts
2 cans cream of chicken soup (light, if desired)
1 cup sour cream (light, if desired)
1/2 cup chicken broth (light, if desired - I just use some of the water that's left after boiling the chicken)
2 1/2 rolls of Ritz crackers, crushed (light, if desired)
..... do you see a theme here!? LOL feel free to go full fat or lighten it up!
1/2 cup butter, melted (light, if desired)
1 or 2 TBSP poppy seeds

Cook chicken slowly in water, season with season salt, pepper, garlic & onion. When tender, remove chicken from water cut chicken into pieces . Mix together soup, broth and sour cream and chicken and place in a 9x13 dish. Mix crushed crackers with melted butter and poppy seeds. Cover casserole with crumbs. Bake at 350 degrees until bubbly, about 30 minutes. Serves 8-10.

And here's a picture of my little Jack Jack. I made him his own personal little cake - a round 6-inch, 2-layer cake. I frosted it blue & drew on a yellow *1*. We sang to him & sat the cake on his high chair tray, anticipating the moment he'd dive in & destroy it & enjoy the mess.... NOTHING! He hated it! LOL He wouldn't touch it - wouldn't taste it. In fact, he cried when I had him taste the icing! Whatever.... it was still a fun moment. Us grown-ups had a scratch chocolate cake with homemade chocolate frosting - both recipes from the back of the Hershey's Cocoa canister! Yumm!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

"Wet Burritos" (Salsa Verde Pork)

Hubby made dinner tonight. (It's funny how such a simple sentence can put such a big smile on my face!! LOL) As most of you know, Hubby is a firefighter & firefighters know how to cook! This is a dinner he makes for the guys at the station & he wanted to try it out on the family tonight. Good stuff! Even baby Jack had a good share of the meat! The guys at the station call these Wet Burritos - I'm not sure if I can get on board with such an unappealing-sounding name, so in this house I think it'll be Salsa Verde Pork!

Get out your crock pots again!!

Get a pork shoulder/butt.... yes, I know. I just had that blurb about not liking to cook with the 'yucky' stuff but Hubby was the hands that had to touch/see this stuff - I just got to see/eat the finished (delicious) product! And, because Hubby cooked this, you'll notice no crock pot liner *grumble grumble*. Just makes for more work at clean up. Oh well.

Anyway - back on topic!! Get a pork shoulder/butt, 2 cans of black beans (drained & rinsed), a jar of salsa verde (hubby says Herdez is the best - we used Pace tonight & it was fine) and a can of green enchilada sauce (the smaller size). Throw it ll in the crock pot together & set on high for about 7-8 hours (until it pulls apart easily). Then pull it out & shred it with two forks. While you have the meat out of the pot, use a spoon to skim the grease/oil/fat (whatever you call it!) off the top. Then throw it all back into the crock & give it a good stir. Let it go for another 2 hours, or so.

Serve this with a slotted spoon. There is a lot of liquid in there (thus the name Wet Burritos!) and you don't want your tortillas to get *too* soggy. Put a heap of meat on a tortilla & top with you favorite toppings - cheese, onions, cilantro, sour cream.... whatever you think sounds good!

Roll it up & enjoy!!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Spaghetti Sauce

I make spaghetti sauce once a year - and when I make it, I go big! I made enough today for 14 dinners & my freezer is now full & ready to serve us a tasty, preservative-free, QUICK dinner on the nights where I've either forgotten to thaw any meat or am craving a baked spaghetti.... like we had tonight! You could make this as a single batch, but really, it's just as easy to double it, triple it, or, in my case times-5 it!! LOL

Here are your ingredients:

Diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, onions, garlic, bell peppers, parsley, lots of spices & some ground beef (go 1/2 beef 1/2 ground Italian sausage for an extra delicious combo!) Generally speaking I'm not brand specific about many things, but I think Contadina is the best sauce to use in this.

Dice up your parsley, garlic, onions & bell peppers. The size you cut them is the size your chunks will be so if you don't like big pieces of onion/peppers be sure to go for a finer dice.

Next, just pour everything - except the ground beef - into the pot. Or, as Rachael Ray would say, everyone goes into the hot tub together! LOL Don't forget the spices!!

Bring that to a boil over high heat, then cover & reduce the heat to low. Simmer it for an hour, stirring once or twice. About a half hour into it you should get your beef browning.

Then when the hour is up add it to the pot. I mentioned I "times-5'd" this recipe... perhaps I should have just times-4'd it!! LOL I had to pull a little liquid out of the pot to fit all the meat! (This pic is just the first scoop!)

If you think it smelled good simmering without the meat wait 'til you get a whiff of it with the meat! Divine!

Now cover it again & let it go another 20-30 minutes.



Once it's cooled for a little while I divide it into 3-cup portions in quart-sized freezer Ziplock bags, lay them flat on a cookie sheet & stick them in the freezer overnight. Once they're frozen you can easily store them in a nice stack on any shelf of the freezer. When you want to use it, just fill the sink with some warm water, drop the sealed bag in & let it thaw for a bit before reheating.

Spaghetti Sauce

2 cups canned diced tomatoes
2 cups tomato sauce
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced green bell pepper
2 cloves garlic, diced
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
1 1/2 tsp seasoning salt
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 small bay leaves
1 - 1 1/2 pounds ground beef &/or ground Italian sausage

In a stock pot combine all ingredients except for the beef. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to low & let simmer, covered, for an hour.

Crumble beef in a large skillet. Cook over medium heat until fully cooked - no pink remaining. Drain the fat & add to the pot. Cover & simmer an additional 20-30 minutes.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Weekly Menu, 5/24 - 5/30

Monday: (Z @ work) Sub sandwiches, chips, yogurt

Tuesday: (Baseball game) Blueberry waffles, cinnamon apples, fried ham

Wednesday: Baked Spaghetti, garlic bread, steamed green beans

Thursday: (Baseball Game, Zac @ Scouts) Salsa verde pork burritos, peaches, salad

Friday: (Jack's b/d dinner!) Poppy Seed Chicken, silver dollar potatoes, peas

Saturday: (Z @ work) Eating out with family

Sunday: (Z @ work) Grilled Chicken, Mac & Cheese

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Beef Stroganoff

Beef Stroganoff

1 pound sirloin
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 cup butter
1/2 an onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 10-oz can beef broth
1/2 cup water
(optional) 2 cups mushrooms
1/2 cup sour cream
4 servings egg noodles, cooked

Cut sirloin into strips. Mix flour, salt, paprika & pepper in a gallon Ziplock bag. Add steak & shake to coat.

Melt butter in a large skillet over med-high heat. Remove steak from bag & saute in the butter with the onion & garlic, until just-browned. Add water, broth & mushrooms (I leave them out). Mix well. Bring to a boil; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 30 minutes, until meat is very tender.

Stir in the sour cream. Heat to a serving temperature but don't let it boil.

Serve over hot egg noodles.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Pulled Pork

Crock pots. Who doesn't love a crock pot!? We had a baseball game tonight so I threw dinner in about 10:00 this morning & knew we'd be all set with a nice, hot, ready-to-go meal just before our game! And it's one my kids love... even cheer for some nights - Pulled Pork Sandwiches.


Step 1: Get a chunk of pork! Tonight I used a small pork roast. I've also used tenderloin. Haven't used chops yet, but it's all the same meat so I'm sure they'd work. But I'm a meat snob. I hate gristle, the sinew, veiney stuff... If you're less of a snob - which I'm confident most normal people are, you could easily use a shoulder or butt to save some money. This will be in the crock pot long enough to soften all the nitty-gritty connective tissue that make my wussy spine shiver.

Throw it in the crock pot & cover with ..... *drumroll* ..... Root Beer! Put on the lid & cook on low for about 7-8 hours. Don't worry if you think it smells not-awesome as it simmers in the soda. The first time I made it I though 'What have I done!?' But just trust the process! I promise you'll like it!

Pull it out & shred it with 2 forks. Shred it good so it'll soak up all the sauce it's about to bathe it!

Discard root beer & return meat to the crock pot & cover with a full bottle of BBQ Sauce (yes, I use crock pot liners! Try them - you'll fall in love!) We like Sweet Baby Ray's Brown Sugar & Hickory for this recipe. Let it go on low for another hour, stir it a time or two.

Toast up some buns - check out these adorable mini buns by Sara Lee! Perfect kid-sized sandwiches! Put a heap of meat on each bun & inhale these babies! Well - I guess you should take responsible bites - but really, you won't want to. These bad boys are DELICIOUS!!!!

Oh - and an added bonus!? My kids know that rather than the usual milk we serve with every other dinner, they get to finish off the 2-liter of root beer with this meal!

Pulled Pork:

Small pork roast/loin/a few chops
1-litre Root Beer
1 bottle BBQ Sauce

Place pork in slow cooker & cover with root beer. Cook on low for 7-8 hours.

Remove from crock pot & root beer. Shred pork with 2 forks, return to crock pot & cover with BBQ sauce. Stir & cook on low 1 more hour.

Serve on toasted buns.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Rainbow Cupcakes

It's birthday time again... well, sort of. Nolan will be turning 5 this summer - July 1st. His Pre-K class celebrates every kids' birthday throughout the year by allowing the kid to bring some sort of sweet treat - it's all healthy snacks every other day of the year. They get to enjoy the goodies together, the child wears a crown that day in class, the kids all sing to you & you get special *birthday hugs* from the three teachers! It's a pretty big deal when you're 4-turning-5!

Well, to be fair to the kids with summer birthdays, they celebrate them the last couple of weeks of school. And since next Wednesday is their last day, tomorrow will be Nolan's celebration day! And what better way to celebrate than with Rainbow Cupcakes!!??

Start out with a box of cake mix (I'm usually a from-scratch kind of a girl but this is a somewhat time consuming project so I like to trim some time off the front end!) Whatever your prefer - white or yellow. Get it all mixed up and then split it evenly into however many bowls/colors you'd like to use. A standard box of cake mix usually yields between 4-6 cups of batter - mine was 5 this time around so, for ease of math, I went with 5 colors! One cup of batter per bowl.

Then add your color. I prefer to use gel dye. So much richer than the 4-color box of drops I grew up on! Wilton makes a great 12-color variety box.

Now get your cupcake pan all set with the liners & start adding the batter! Carefully layer a small amount of each color into the cups. Use the back of the spoon to gently move the batter to cover evenly.... or don't! If you DO, you'll end up with a rainbow arch. If you DON'T you'll get more of a tie-dye look.

Once you get through the process of filling them all (about 2/3 full) just pop them into the oven (set to the temp on the cake instructions) & set your timer (for however long the box told you!!)

Mmmmmmmmm.... DO YOU SMELL THAT!!??

There you have it! A very impressive looking treat that will amaze toddlers & grown-ups alike! Experiment with the colors - having a sports-event party? Dye them the colors of your favorite team! Easter? Go pastel & dust them with a little powdered sugar to look like eggs. Or, if you've got the patience of a saint & the urge to channel your inner Martha you can bake each color individually in a 9-inch round pan, stack all 5 layers with a little frosting in between & turn out a pretty cool cake! Whatever you do, just make sure you have fun & have a bite for me!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Tuna Casserole

Tonight it was Tuna Casserole! The kids are kinda hit-or-miss on this dish. One day they love it, next time they act like it's poison!! I always think it's delicious.... and I am NOT a tuna (or any fish, for that matter) person. I think the garlic, potato chips & cheese help to make this fantastic (and completely unhealthy! LOL)

Let's take a look at your ingredients:

Egg noodles, tuna, onion, milk, cream of mushroom with garlic, peas & carrots, shredded cheese & potato chips!

Put everything but the chips & noodles in a bowl together:

Then boil up the egg noodles until done, then drain them. Add them to the bowl & mix well.
Pour this all into an 8x8 pan (I'll give doubling instructions if you're more of a 9x13 family!).

Crush up a bunch of potato chips all over the top of it.

Some people cook with wine so they can take a sip here & there while in the kitchen.... I'm more of a chip girl myself! I'll admit I had one (or a few) while making this dish!

Now top it all with some more cheese & pop it into the oven!

Now that it's in the oven you should check on that baby you've been neglecting (and by you I mean ME!)

Helloooooooo gorgeous!

(Yes, I have the Ove-Glove! You know you're jealous!)

Dig in & enjoy! Even if you're not a tuna casserole lover I think you'll change your mind on this one! And if you get through it & take that first bite & decide you don't love it... well, it's nothing a little hot sauce won't fix!!

Ohhhh the steamy goodness!

Tuna Casserole:

1/2 a bag of egg noodles (6 oz)
1/8 cup diced onion
1 cup shredded cheddar or cheddar/jack, divided
3/4 cup frozen peas & carrots
1 6-oz can of tuna, drained
1 can cream of mushroom with roasted garlic
1/4 cup milk
potato chips

Preheat oven to 425.

Boil up some water to cook the egg noodles. Drain after cooking.

While the noodles are going mix onion, 3/4 cup of cheese, veggies, tuna, soup & milk in a medium bowl. Add cooked noodles. Give it all a good mixing.

Pour into an 8x8 baking dish, Top with crushed potato chip. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.

Bake 15-20 minutes, until cheese is good & melted & just starts to brown.

***For 9x13 pan just double everything, but use 1 can cream mushroom with roasted garlic & just plain old cream of mushroom for the second can!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Weekly Menu, 5/17 - 5/23

This is my first menu posting so I figured I should explain a few things. My hubby works a rotating schedule and misses dinners with us regularly. When it's just me & the little mouths I go fairly simple. Hubby also works with the Boy Scouts so every Wednesday evening we need a fairly easy dinner. I also coach baseball so on the nights we have games I try to either go for a crock pot meal or something that comes together with nearly no evening effort! Ready? Here we go..... I'll be sure to take pictures so I can shre the recipes in the coming days/weeks!

Monday: (Z @ work) Tacos, corn

Tuesday: (Z @ work, Baseball game) Tuna casserole, toast

Wednesday: (Scouts) Orange chicken, peas, pasta-roni

Thursday: (Baseball game) Pulled pork sammies, steamed green beans

Friday: Beef stroganoff, steamed broccoli

Saturday: (Z @ work & kids @ cousins for dinner!) Mommy's night off!!

Sunday: (Z @ work) Ham steaks, tater tots, carrot sticks

Happy Birthday, Luke!

I'm much too frugal to pay for an over-priced, under-flavored store-bought birthday cake, so I always make them at home (often to my kids' dismay!) They beg & plead for the cakes they find in those laminated catalog pages at the bakeries - loaded with plastic figurines of their favorite characters. However, by the time I've taken the characters & put my own Mommy Magic on it, the end result always leaves a smile on the kids' faces. :o) This is the cake we enjoyed at Luke's 7th birthday party this weekend.

I love you so much, Luke! Thanks for making me a mom. I cannot believe you are already SEVEN! It has been a pleasure to watch you learn & grow & become such an amazing young man!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


I've been a follower of a few food blogs for quite a while now. I love reading them, drooling over the recipes they post & imagining the soul-warming smell of the fresh-from-the-oven photos that accompany the posts. I love to cook. Good, homemade food is such an easy way to make someone happy. A good dinner to say you're worth the effort. A plate of cookies to put a smile on a friend's heart. Being the only mom to bring homemade treats in for a school holiday party... others can feel the love you put into good food. And I love to feel the pride in turning a bunch of random single ingredients into a beautifully married plate of goodness.

And with that - I would like to kick off my own food blog. Some of these recipes will be original creations. Some will be recipes I've found & tweaked a bit to turn them into something my family will love. And I may even post the occasional exact copy of a recipe I stumble across that is just perfect as is! I hope that, by posting my weekly menu, I will keep myself more accountable so I don't get lazy & order a pizza or just grab something quick while we're out & about.

I look forward to welcoming you all into our kitchen! I've loosely coined my cuisine as kid-friendly food that grown-ups love, too! I hope you enjoy....