Saturday, January 30, 2016

On the Menu - Week of 1/30/16

When I was meal planning this week, I tried to focus on making dual use of ingredients. One dish I had in mind called for some cilantro, so I found another dish to make that also uses cilantro so it doesn't go to waste.

Not only do I try to plan based on ingredients, I also like repurposing leftovers. My husband isn't a big fan of straight leftovers unless it is chili, meatloaf, or stew. So I'm always trying to get creative with mhy leftovers. Some examples -
 - Roasted or grilled pork tenderloin can become these Chinese Pork and Mushroom Wraps
 - Any type of risotto can become Arancini, risotto balls
 - Make extra rice one night and use it for Fried Rice another night
 - Leftover mashed potatoes can be used to make Potato Pancakes or Shepherd's Pie
 - Leftover cooked chicken can be used in a variety of soups or casseroles
 - And of course, meatballs make great Meatball Subs!

So when you are planning, think about how you can cook extra of a side to make it into something else later in the week, or how you can repurpose your main dish into something else. I hope this tip will help you with your meal planning!

Now here is our menu for the week -

Saturday: Meatloaf, Scalloped Potatoes and roasted broccoli

Sunday: Leftovers!

Monday: Creamy Chicken Chili - a new dish I'm trying based on a friend's recomendation

Tuesday: Leftovers. I may make some taquitos or enchiladas out of the leftovers depending on how the dish turns out

Wednesday: Breaded Pork Chops, buttered noodles and a veg

Thursday: Chicken Parm, spaghetti, and salads

Friday: Cheesesteak Stuffed Peppers - I have been carrying these over for a while and hope I can finally make them this week.

Soup for the week - something with Quinoa and cilantro, using up ingredients from the Creamy Chicken Chili

Happy Cooking!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Escarole & White Bean Soup


When I was buying the escarole for this soup recipe I realized that I had never cooked with it before. It's not a green I would think of to just saute with dinner, and I have mostly seen it used in soups and salad mixes. I knew what sort of flavor to expect, so I was looking forward to using it in this hearty but healthy soup.

I found the recipe on the Eating Well site. I read the recipe and immediately changed some things, including the amount of broth. They called for two 14-oz cans of broth, but I knew there was no way a full head of escarole and 2 cans of beans mixed with 28 oz of broth would end up a soup. I wanted something brothy (and you can see from the picture it is still a veggie packed soup) so I doubled the amount of liquid and changed the amounts of the veggies.

I really, really liked this soup as it was very filling and satisfying. The garlic added a great kick and the escarole really held up, adding nice texture. This is a perfect vegetarian soup, but if you want to turn it into a meaty meal, saute some hot Italian sausage and add it to your bowl. I prefer cooking the sausage separately, anyway, instead of in the soup so the soup doesn't get too greasy.


Escarole & White Bean Soup
Adapted From: Eating Well

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
  • 1 sm carrot, finely chopped
  • 1/2 c grape or cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 48 oz vegetable broth
  • 2 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 can small white beans
  • 1 head of escarole, washed well and chopped
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Optional: shredded Parmesan cheese for serving
  • Optional: cooked, crumbled hot Italian sausage, for serving


Directions

  • Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat
  • Add the onions, garlic, celery, carrots and tomatoes; saute 4 minutes
  • Add the Italian seasoning and broth; bring to a simmer and let cook until the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes.
  • Stir in the beans and escarole, season with salt and pepper to taste, and simmer until the escarole is just tender, about 5 minutes. 
  • Optional: serve with cheese and/or sausage



Monday, January 25, 2016

On the Menu


I started a new type of post last week - On the Menu.  I shared my menu for the week and a tip for meal planning - be flexible. I had to take my own advice last week. After shopping for a week of fresh meat and ingredients, my daughter got sick and it all went out the window. 
I immediately froze the chicken and short ribs, used the fresh veggies and herbs for different dishes later in the week, and ended up making my weekend meals at the end of the week. You always have to be ready to adjust because, well, that's life!
This week I have some carry over meals from last week, as well as a few new things. Here's what's cooking this week - 
Sat/Sun during the blizzard: Guinness Beef Stew and No-Knead Crusty Bread
Monday: French Onion Braised Chicken and sauteed baby greens
Tuesday: Chicken Pot Pie Pasta
Wednesday: Guinness Pulled Pork and Cole Slaw
Thursday: Leftovers made into nachos
Friday: Cheesesteak Stuffed Peppers
Soup for the Week - a new recipe, Italian Orzo and Spinach with Fire Roasted Tomatoes
Have a great week!! 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Snowed-in? Let's Cook!


Finally, a full month into winter, we are expecting our first big snowstorm of the season. And from the looks of it, this could be a BIG one! 
The very first thing I think of when a big snowstorm is coming is what will I cook? We will be snowed in for a day or two, and with lots sledding, snowball fights and snowman making expected, we will be hungry! Here are some of my favorite things to make while looking out my kitchen window at a beautiful winter wonderland. Most of these meals also make great leftovers and are even better on day 2. 

Hands down, my favorite cold weather dish is this Guinness Beef Stew. It has a slight kick from the cayenne, and deep, rich flavor from the Guinness. 


This no-knead crusty bread pairs perfectly with the stew. Even better, it's such an easy recipe that even a non-baker like me can't mess it up. 



Sticking with the Guinness theme, this Guinness Pulled Pork is my favorite way to prepare pulled pork. Put it on a sandwich with some homemade cole slaw, BBQ sauce, and pickles. 



Chicken and dumplings. My mouth waters just thinking about this dish! Creamy and delicious with easy homemade dumplings.



I love lasagna (who doesn't?). Instead of a traditional recipe, try this Sausage, Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna



Grilled cheese and tomato soup for lunch is a must. I love the heat from this Fire Roasted Tomato Soup. 


Want something that will really warm you up and make your house smell amazing? This homemade chicken soup is just that. And with all the extra time you could even make your own noodles (it's easy!!!).




I personally love a good chowder for a hearty lunch. Bacon makes everything better, and it is just perfect in this Potato and Corn Chowder with Bacon


We can't forget about a hearty breakfast before going out to shovel and snowblow. I love a good fritatta, like this Asparagus Ham Frittata or a Broccoli-Red Pepper-Potato Frittata.  



These Whole Grain Apple Cinnamon Pancakes are made with flaxseed and will definitely fill your belly (without the guilt!).

And what is a snow day without some baking? These Krispies cookies are perfect with a mug of hot chocolate.






Happy Cooking! 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Chicken Kiev


My husband requested Chicken Kiev for dinner a few weeks ago and I honestly had no idea what it was. Before I looked it up, I pictured Chicken Kiev being one of those old fashioned chicken dishes you would find on an early-bird diner menu. However, after googling I was really excited to try it - crispy rolled chicken stuffed with a savory butter? Ok!




I went in search of the best recipe. My friend at The Way the Cookie Crumbles recommended the Cook's Illustrated recipe. I liked a lot about the recipe, didn't like some (like making my own bread crumbs and using tarragon in the butter), so I wanted to read a few more before deciding. That's when I found Alton Brown's recipe. It was a touch simpler and called for frying the chicken, whereas the CI recipe baked the chicken for 45 minutes. I decided to take what I liked from each recipe, added a few things of my own, and used a combination of frying and baking for a total of 15 minutes cooking time.

Although there are several steps, this dinner can easily become a weeknight meal if you prep everything ahead of time. I made the butter the day before we planned on having this chicken for dinner - here is what it looked like after being in the fridge overnight:





I also trimmed my chicken and got it pounded out. An hour before dinner I stuffed and rolled the chicken and put them in the fridge, so all that I had left to do was bread and cook the chicken. You could easily roll the chicken the night before and just store it in the fridge until you are ready to start cooking.



We liked this so much that we made it twice in a month. I'm glad we decided to fry the chicken - it got so crispy and sped up the baking time. And the butter - oh that butter kept this chicken so moist and tender. You could really season the butter any way you like - I see a lot of options for changing up the flavors with this one.



Chicken Kiev
Adapted from both Cook's Illustrated and Alton Brown (see links above)

Ingredients

  • 1 stick (8 Tbsp) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp minced shallot
  • Juice from 1/2 of a lemon
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Salt and pepper
  • Flour for dredging (approx. 1/2 c)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 c breadcrumbs seasoned lightly with salt and pepper
  • Light olive oil for frying
  • You will need one pan for frying. For baking you will need a cookie sheet with a cooling rack resting on it. 
Directions
  • Make the butter: Mix the butter, parsley, garlic, shallot, lemon juice, 1/2 tsp Kosher salt, 1/4 tsp black pepper. Once mixed, place on a large piece of plastic wrap and form into a log. Roll the wrap around the butter and plan in the fridge overnight. 
  • Prep the chicken: trim your chicken (if needed) and pound it out as thin as possible without ripping (approximately 1/4 inch). 
  • When you are ready to roll the chicken, cut the butter into 4 equal sections. Lay one piece of chicken on a cutting board lined with plastic wrap and season the chicken lightly with salt and pepper. Place one section of the butter just below center of the chicken. Fold the side edges of the chicken in over the butter, fold the end over, and then roll the chicken to completely enclose the butter (use the plastic wrap to help you roll it tightly). Seal with a toothpick if needed. Repeat with remaining chicken. Refrigerate the chicken for at least 30 minutes or as long as overnight. 
  • Once you are ready to cook, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Place a cooling rack on top of a cookie sheet. 
  • Put out three dishes for breading. Place the flour in one, the eggs, beaten, in the second, and the breadcrumbs seasoned with salt and pepper in the third.
  • Heat the oil in a large saute pan. You want just enough to coat the pan generously, but not too much that you are deep frying sections of the chicken.
  • Roll each chicken breast in the flour, shaking off any excess. Coat in egg, and then roll in the breadcrumbs. 
  • Once the oil is hot (about 350 degrees), place the chicken in the pan. Cook chicken on each side until brown, about 1-2 minutes per side. 
  • Once browned, place the chicken on the cooling rack and put in the oven to finish cooking, about 10 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees. 
  • Let rest 5 minutes before serving. 




Friday, January 15, 2016

On the Menu

I'm going to start a new series of posts this year - On the Menu. I'll share with you my meal plans for the week, along with a few tips on meal planning with each post.

I start my meal plan by writing out the days of the week and making notes about our schedule. If my husband has a dinner meeting one night I know I only need to plan a meal for 2 or eat leftovers. When my daughter has her weekly dance class on Wednesday night I know that we will have leftovers or my husband will cook if he is home. I like being able to look at my week and pick which days I'll make big meals that will give us leftovers for those busy nights when dinner may have to happen later.

This week I was able to plan for a full week with everyone being home. I know that may change, so the plan has to be flexible. But for now here is what I have - 

I hope you all have a great weekend! If you have a meal plan for the week or even the next few days, please feel free to share it! 

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Salisbury Steak Meatballs with a Mushroom Gravy


Trying to save some time on busy weeknights? This recipe can be prepped in advance and doesn't require much active/standing at the stove cooking time.


I was really craving Salisbury steaks last week - it's something about that mushroom gravy! But the thought of standing at my stove frying the steaks, all of that splattering grease on a clean stove, and then the smell your house gets after frying beef was enough to make me rethink that plan. Then I had an idea - why couldn't I just turn the steaks into meatballs? I could bake the meatballs and then just simmer them in the gravy.



It worked perfectly. I was even able to prep a quick pot of soup for lunches for the week while my meatballs were baking.



Salisbury Steak Meatballs with a Mushroom Gravy
Original Recipe by Mary Ellen of Mary Ellen's Cooking Creations

Ingredients
  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 1 sm onion, minced
  • Approximately 2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tbsp ketchup 
  • 1 egg
  • Approximately 1/2 c breadcrumbs
  • A few pinches each of salt and pepper
For the gravy:
  • 1/2 sm onion, thinly sliced
  • 8oz of fresh mushrooms stemmed and sliced; I used baby bellas. White mushrooms would work too. 
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp flour
  • 16 oz of beef broth or stock
  • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Directions
  • Line a cookie sheet with tin foil and spray with cooking spray; heat oven to 375 degrees F. 
  • In a large bowl, mix the beef, onions, Worcestershire, ketchup, egg, salt and pepper. 
  • Slowly add the breadcrumbs, using more or less as needed until you have a moist mixture that comes together when you form a ball.
  • Form meat into small meatballs; I was able to make 20 small meatballs with 1 lb of beef.
  • Place meatballs on the cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes, turning once. 
  • In the meantime, make the gravy - heat butter and oil in a large saute pan over medium heat (I used a non-stick pan). 
  • Add onions and mushrooms; saute 3-4 minutes.
  • Add the flour and stir for 1 minute
  • Add the broth and Worcestershire - stir to mix well. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a low simmer. NOTE: to really thicken your sauce, add the broth a little at a time instead of all at once. Add some, stir, repeat until you have used all of your broth. 
  • Once the meatballs are done, add them to the gravy. Allow to simmer, partly covered, until you are ready to eat (simmer at least 10-15 minutes). 




Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Chicken with Broccoli and Bok Choy


Stir fry is the ultimate quick and easy weeknight meal. The prep is easy, it cooks quickly, and you can change up the ingredients based on what you are craving or what you have on hand. 
This stir fry uses chicken, broccoli, and bok choy and the sauce is a mixture of sweet and spicy. Bok choy is one of my favorite vegetables to use in a stir fry. You get crunchy and leafy in one veg, and the flavor is just slightly bitter. The steps to a stir fry are simple - marinate meat, cook, add veggies, add sauce, simmer, serve. This recipe would also work well with shrimp, beef, or even tofu. 
Chicken with Broccoli and Bok Choy

Ingredients
  • 3 chicken breasts (approximately 1.25lbs) cut into chunks
  • Marinade: 3 Tbsp soy sauce, 1 tsp rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1/2 sm onion, sliced
  • 1 sm head of broccoli cut into florets
  • 1 bunch of bok choy, chopped (cut off the very bottom part and a few inches of the top greens, leaving you mostly white stem and white stem with leafy greens)
  • 1/2 c chicken broth
  • 3 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp Hoisin sauce (or more if you want it sweeter)
  • 1 tsp (or more) hot sauce, like Sambel Oelek (chili paste) or Sriracha 
Directions
  • Toss chicken with the marinade and set in fridge for at least 30 minutes. Toss with cornstarch when you are ready to cook.
  • Heat the olive and sesame oils in a large wok or saute pan over medium high heat
  • Add the chicken and cook until almost done
  • Add the garlic and onions; saute 1 min
  • Add the broccoli and bok choy; saute 2 minutes
  • Add the chicken broth, soy sauce, rice vinegar, hoisin and hot sauce
  • Lower heat and let simmer 5 minutes
  • Serve over rice or noodles

Friday, January 8, 2016

Caramelized Onion and Barley Soup




Every now and then I'll treat myself and order French Onion Soup at a restaurant. I love the broth, but the melted cheese is my favorite part, without a doubt. I love when they use so much cheese that it melts all over the outside of the crock - you can't leave that cheese there! 
But let's be honest, it's not the healthiest soup. The soup I made a few weeks ago brings all the flavor of that rich French Onion broth even though it has a chicken stock base. And instead of a hunk of bread and lots of melted cheese, the barley adds some texture, flavor, and is good for you. 
This recipe was adapted from an onion soup I made a few years ago. I added a few things for a richer flavor and turned it into a healthy soup to satisfy the French Onion cravings without the guilt. 

Caramelized Onion and Barley Soup

Ingredients
  • 2 yellow onions, sliced
  • 2 Tbsp butter and 1 Tbsp light olive oil
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/4 c dry white wine
  • 6 c low sodium chicken stock
  • 1/4 c barley
  • Salt and pepper
Directions
  • Heat the butter and olive oil in a heavy-bottomed soup pot
  • Add the onions and a pinch of sugar (low to medium heat) and cook 30-45 minutes, stirring every few minutes, until they are a deep golden brown color. Be careful not to fry them - if they start to crisp at all, turn down your heat. 
  • Once the onions are completely caramelized, add the wine. Stir, scraping up all of the brown bits. 
  • Add the thyme, broth, salt, pepper (to taste) and barley. Bring to a boil and then simmer, covered, 30 minutes. 
  • Remove the lid and continue to simmer on low for 30 minutes to allow the broth to reduce slightly. 

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Happy New Year! My Thoughts and Hopes for 2016

Happy New Year! I hope that all of you had a wonderful holiday season and have had a good start to 2016. 
How do you celebrate or get ready for the near year? Do you make resolutions?
I'm not one for resolutions, but I am looking forward to making some positive changes to make 2016 a happy, low-stress and successful year.  I want to focus on the little things, live in the moment, be easier on myself, and do things that help me to relax. 
So what does that mean for me? 
Well, my daughter is now five-and-a-half and halfway through kindergarten (and doing great - I am so proud of her!!!). Everyone told me the time would fly, but wow - I never thought it would go this quickly. Just yesterday I was holding my 5lb 13oz peanut and now we are writing and reading and doing math and dancing and swimming.

I think this hits me harder after struggling with secondary infertility and a recent miscarriage. She is my one and only. I will never get these times back again or have these times with another child. So even when the days get busy and hectic I want to enjoy them, taking in every conversation and smile, every sweet moment of curiosity (she's so inquisitive - I love it), and everything in between. I want to say yes more. I want to smile more. I want to see her thrive and be happy. Most of all, I want her to look back on all of this and be thankful for her childhood the way I am thankful for mine.

With everything I had going on last year I really let stress take over my life. How can I be a good mom or wife or friend if I am constantly thinking, worrying and overthinking everything? I needed some ways to calm my mind and body, so I started acupuncture last year and plan on continuing it this year. I was very skeptical at first, but truly believe that it has helped with my anxiety. There is nothing like an acupuncture nap! It's amazing that you can have needles inserted all over your body and still easily drift into such a deep and heavy sleep for 30-45 minutes. I also started a one-day a week strength class that I really love - I feel so energized and clear-headed afterwards, and that energy keeps flowing all day. Once we get back into the routine of this year I am going to start yoga again.  And then if there is leftover time in the day I'd love to read some mindless romance or chit lit books (or watch The Bachelor :) 
My husband and I will be celebrating our lucky 13th wedding anniversary this year (that's us on our honeymoon in St. John). It's hard to believe that we met almost 24 years ago as young 17 and 20 year olds (and I knew that weekend that he was the man I was going to marry)! We have had so much fun together traveling and experiencing new things, making a home, and starting our family. I am so thankful for him and everything he does for us. That doesn't mean things are always easy - we have definitely had our ups and downs and often let everyday life get in the way. Making time to be a family and also time to just be us is something we have to focus on. 
Every time I think of how we let life get in the way it reminds me of an experience I had. A few years ago I had the opportunity to meet with a highly sought-after medium. One family member came through and the first message she had for me was to let the house go. So whenever I'm stressed out about the laundry or the messes, or when I'm nagging my husband about something with the house, I hear her voice. The house will always be here. Those everyday moments though - they won't. So while an organized house makes me so happy (seriously, tearing apart and reorganizing a closet makes me giddy), the moments with my daughter and husband are much, much more important. 
How does all of this relate to my blog? I started taking pictures of my food and posting recipes almost 9 years ago as a way to keep track of what I was cooking. I would share my posts with a small group of friends and was surprised when I saw my stats - I had actual strangers reading my blog!. This was so much fun for me for a while, but I did get to a point where it became a source of stress for me. When making my meal plans for the week I would get upset if I didn't have a new recipe (or 3) on the plan for that week because that meant nothing to blog. I would get upset that my pictures weren't "good enough." Or I would cook something new and just not have the time or inspiration to write the post. 
So after taking a step away last year (I only shared a handful of new recipes - it was my quietest blogging year by far) I found that I really miss it. Cooking is therapeutic to me and I love cooking for others. So I promise that I will be back this year, and already have several drafts in the works. 
I'm excited to get back in touch with all of you, share my love of cooking, and hear all of your comments and advice. Thank you for sticking with me!
Best wishes to all of you that 2016 is everything you want it to be!